I Dream in Coconut Cream

Have I ever mentioned that my ten year old son is odd? I mean, he has the usual quirks of kids his age – not wanting to take a bath regularly, forgetting to do his homework, wanting to stay out playing with his friends when he should be getting ready for bed – but there are some things that I just have to shake my head at. His undying devotion to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, for starters. Neither the husband nor myself listen to either of them with any regularity, but for some reason my son is completely obsessed with them – and the Millionaire Quartet in general. How many other kids can tell you who Carl Perkins was, or can rhyme off the names of the members of Johnny Cash’s band? Then there’s the World War II fixation, which has him lugging home books the size of small countries so he can find out more. I swear, he’s got the soul of a crusty octogenarian. He tells us to turn our music down.

Those things aside, he’s a pretty good kid. Except for his bizarre dislike for certain foods. Not olives or capers, which he gobbles down by the handful, but coconut. How can you hate something so tasty?! I, on the other hand, love coconut . All things coconut – coconut milk, coconut candy, coconut shrimp. It’s the flavour of my all-time favourite pie. But pie, as you may know, can be a hella lot of work. And sometimes, you just need a quick hit of that coconut cream pie flavour without all the hassle

That’s where these cupcakes come in.

I found the recipe on A Delightfully Sweet Life and knew it was the answer to my prayers. All the flavour of my favourite pie in the convenient form of a cupcake. And trust me – the flavour is there. The cake is light and sweet but not overpoweringly so – I would almost say that in a way I actually prefer it to the pie. But please don’t tell the pie that – don’t want any hurt feelings.

As good as the white chocolate frosting sounded, I wanted something a little more…tropical to accompany my cupcakes. So I did like the song says and put the lime in the coconut. However, there was no need to call a doctor – no bellyache came from this heavenly pairing. Just pure coconut perfection. I included the recipe for you so you can have the option too.

Coconut-Lime Frosting 

 1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter 

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/4 lime, squeezed for juice 

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sweetened coconut flakes (more to garnish as desired)

up to 2 tbsp corn starch to thicken 

Stir ingredients together in large bowl until smooth, then frost cakes. Use additional coconut flakes to decorate.

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Shameless Self-Promotion, but hey – it’s in the Name of Art!

So maybe I was on a bit of a roll last weekend, posting more than once in a blue moon. But of course it couldn’t last!

I do apologize. I won’t even say that I’ve been too busy baking to be writing about baking which, although true, has become somewhat trite and redundant. And to say that I’ll make it up to you also sounds a bit worn out. But let’s just leave it at this: I have a whole heap of treats that need writing about, from the coconut cream cupcakes I baked at the beginning of the month to the pumpkin-molasses frenzy of last week in honour of the beginning of fall. I hope to get to them eventually to give them the attention they so richly deserve.

How about for now I leave you with some of my other writing? In case you haven’t made it through the novel on my About page, I have been writing for  Toronto blog  She’s So Savvy for almost a year now. It used to be focused exclusively on beauty and skin care, because that’s where I tend to be most knowledgeable, but the posts of late have expanded to include everything from DIY home restoration, urban exploration and – of course – food. Basically, it’s become a reflection of the direction I’m heading in now. Well, the direction I’m trying desperately to head in, anyway. The most recent post I’ve written is a rundown of something called the Supercrawl, a two day festival version of  the monthly Art Crawls that are held on the 2nd Friday of each month in Hamilton’s artist district, James Street North. It even has a video companion piece that can be found here.

Click here to read Urban Explorer 2nd Edition – Supercrawl on James Street North. Although the event went down a couple weekends ago, it’s being posted to coincide with Scotiabank’s all-night art event Nuit Blanche in Toronto which is going down this weekend: Saturday, September 29th. Or, perhaps, as a direct rebuttal against it… Enjoy!

 

 

Red Velvet Redux

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This is my version of the glorious red velvet brownie I reblogged on Friday. Now I should really know better than to mess with what is clearly already perfection, but obviously I couldn’t help myself.

I started with the basics: swapping the granulated sugar for golden brown instead. This is something I tend to do with every recipe if I can get away with it – I prefer the overall flavour and texture it lends to the finished product, although when it comes to red velvet it means that you won’t get quite as vibrant a result. Speaking of vibrant, I couldn’t bring myself to use as much red food colouring as the original recipe calls for, which is another reason my version is not as brilliantly red.

But I didn’t stop there. I thought to myself now how could I possibly make this red velvet brownie smothered in white chocolate and cream cheese buttercream any better than it is now?

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By swirling the buttercream into the red velvet brownie batter, that’s how. To fo that, I only used 1/4 cup of icing sugar with the specified quantities of cream cheese and chocolate, then added the half teaspoon of vanilla. I was afraid it would melt too much if I were to include the butter, and likewise be too sweet if I were to use all the icing sugar.

The result? An incredibly rich, intensely flavoured brownie that is the optimal texture. Chewy and dense, not cake like or crumbly. Almost like fudge. You may want more than one piece, but you don’t really need it. Or you can try to convince yourself of that anyway – I know I’m having a bit of an internal struggle over that issue now.

The original recipe can be found here at Party of Two. With or without my amendments, do something nice for yourself and bake these bitches up pronto.

Sweet lord – not sure what’s better. The actual red velvet brownie recipe or the fabulous commentary about said brownie!

Either way, this demands to be shared!

The Party of Two

For my first recipe, I have to post my favorite. I’ll be honest – there are more calories in this than deleterious asian drivers in San Francisco. Sorry I’m not sorry.

This is by far the most delicious thing I make and it can be yours too.

Guaranteed to get you a hot boyfriend.

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Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Source: Photo and Adapted Recipe from Follow Our Footprints Blog

Brownies Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup (8tbsp) unsalted butter (room temp)
  2. 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 2 large eggs (room temp)
  4. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  5. 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. 2 oz red food coloring
  7. 1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  8. 1/4 tsp salt

White Chocolate Buttercream/Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  1. 1/4 cup (4tbsp) unsalted butter (room temp)
  2. 1 & 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  4. 2 oz white chocolate, melted
  5. 1/4 cup cream cheese

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C is for Cookie. Malted Chocolate Chip Monster cookies

So despite the backlog of baking posts I’ve neglected to write, for some reason the chocolate-dipped potato chip and this one seem to have a sense of urgency to them that the other baked goods – although delicious – just don’t seem to possess. Perhaps it’s just been that kind of week, very much a chocolate and comfort food week. As if to punctuate the emotional rollercoaster ride I’ve been on lately, today it’s been just pissing down with rain. A good thing, because the grass certainly is in need of it, but perhaps not the most effective of mood elevators.

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You can’t see it very well here, but the rain is pouring off the back veranda. And when I stepped outside to take this picture, the air has that damp chill to it that tells you Fall is in the air. Thank heavens for that. However, it also makes you want to curl up in a blankie with some hot cocoa. And some cookies. But not just any cookie.

Malted chocolate chip cookies. A classic, with an elegant old school flavour twist. What could be more comforting?

I stumbled upon this recipe at Portuguese Girl Cooks while looking for the proper ratios when adding malt powder or extract with the intention of using a recipe I had here. But this one just looked so good, I decided to just go with it.

Of course, I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to tweak it in some way to put my own spin on things. But how could you improve upon something so perfect?

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You Super Size it – that’s how. Now, just to give you a little perspective as to the size of this cookie, do you see that plate there? That’s an 8 inch dinner side plate. And on a cookie sheet that can accommodate roughly two dozen normal size cookies, of these I could only fit five. FIVE.

Monster malted chocolate chip cookies, that’s good enough for me!

Milk Chocolate-Dipped Potato Chips. Oh Yes, I Did.

And trust me when I tell you that they are every stinking bit as heavenly as you want them to be, as well as being dead simple to make. But let’s go back and see what brought us to this point, shall we?

I was having a rough day yesterday. Want to know how I know ? Because I found myself itching to make chocolates of some sort. I only tend to do that when I’m feeling at my lowest of lows. And the reason for it is quite simple: chocolate demands your attention in such a way that you have no choice but to give it exactly that. Chocolate won’t let you think about anything else. It’s not its fault – it just is what it is. Unlike the notoriously temperamental fussiness of the macaron, where despite even the most careful blending of almond flour and egg white it could either fall or crack if you happen to look at it wrong. It’s just frustrating for the sake of being frustrating, it would seem. But I think that the French secretly made it that way on purpose whereas chocolate – if I may quote Lady Gaga – was born this way. In short, I am fully aware that chocolate is a demanding mistress, but I will always heed her siren call.

It’s not lost on me that chocolate also contains certain mood-boosting ingredients such as tryptophan, an amino acid that leads to the production of serotonin which regulates our sleeping patterns and moods in the brain. But then, turkey also has an abundance of this chemical- but as good as turkey is it’s not quite so smooth, creamy and delicious.

Can you tell that today may not be so much better? It’s not quite as bad as a chocolate-making day, but still, not the best couple of days I’ve had.  I hate waiting at the best of times, but today finds me waiting not on one but two major things that could have serious impact on my future – for better or for worse. Wow, that sounded a little more ominous than it should have. Let’s move right along to the chocolate dip chips.

I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, having seen some in a chocolate shop earlier this year. It had such an effect on me that I couldn’t tell you which shop it was – that’s how focused on the chocolate with chips. It was one of those white light beaming down from the Heavens moments where the only thing that exists is you and that piece of chocolate. And I wasn’t even eating it; I was just imagining the silky smooth sweetness of the chocolate mingling with the salty crunch of the chip. That’s quite the impression, wouldn’t you say? I picked up some chips during this week’s grocery shop, with the intention of baking up this chocolate-dipped potato chip cookie recipe I had stumbled upon whilst trolling foodgawker. And then I thought to myself why am I going to the trouble of making a cookie, when what I really want is just the chips and chocolate? Of course, the cookie looks delicious but it was really just the means to an end. That end being dipping that lovely salty potato chip into some melted milk chocolate and getting it into my mouth in fairly short order.

Did I mention it was easy? In the past when I’ve been in such a state I tended to want to make something more elaborate like truffles or fondant creams, something that requires tempering the chocolate but this time I wanted it quick. Instant gratification. So I grabbed some milk chocolate chips from the cupboard and set to work with a microwave proof bowl, and ten minutes later I was eating the dream.

And if you’ve got ten minutes, so could you. You may notice I say 12 chips. Why not the whole bag or can, you may ask. Because as tasty as they are, unlike what the commercials say, they are decadent that you really don’t want to eat more than one. Well okay, maybe you do – but you shouldn’t. You’ll get what I mean soon enough…

 

Milk Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips 

  •    1/2 cup milk chocolate chips – you could also use dark or even white, depending on your preference
  •    1 tsp neutral-flavoured cooking oil (I used almond)
  •    12 potato chips – Ruffles or Pringles-type ones work best because they tend to be sturdier and more able to carry the weight of the chocolate
  •     1 large baking sheet or tray and waxed or parchment paper, for drying

Prepare the sheet or tray by covering surface with waxed paper, set beside where you plan to dip.

Combine chocolate chips and oil in a microwave proof bowl.

With microwave set at 50%  power begin to slowly melt the chips in 30 second increments, stirring frequently until all the chips are melted and texture is smooth.

Gently dip half of a potato chip into the melted chocolate so that the bottom half is covered. You may need to use a spoon to help evenly coat it – stirring the chip around could lead to breakage. Once coated, place on prepared sheet to dry.

Repeat process with remaining chips until chocolate is gone.

Allow chips to dry for about two hours at room temperature, or place in fridge for an hour to speed up the process. Then enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Locke Street Festival, Hamilton – September 8th

I had drafted this post for my regular Tuesday She’s So Savvy feature, but that Savvy lady is away on business and not able to post from the PC she’s using on her travels. PC – enough said. If it were a Mac she may not have had an issue…

But I digress: I’m not here to discuss the merits of Apple vs Microsoft. I’m here to make sure that the video I created out of this past weekend’s Locke Street Festival experience gets seen! However, I just ask that whilst viewing you be aware that it’s my first time using iMovie and that I put this together using a series of photos because any of the video I did shoot was pretty much unusable – meaning I won’t be entering any TIFF documentaries anytime soon. So please, be gentle.

And this is me, finally shutting up…on to the post!

She’s So Savvy Glamanomics Urban Explorer Edition:

     Locke Street Festival, Hamilton Ontario

It’s easy to get caught up in a city like Toronto, with it’s million plus population and seemingly endless things to do. At times you can forget that there’s anything outside of it. Trust me, I know: when I first lived downtown, I remember thinking for the longest time that there was nothing north of Bloor or west of Dufferin. To go anywhere beyond those borders was unthinkable. But now that I live in a city about eighty kilometres southwest of TO, I’m experiencing what you might call a bit of a cultural renaissance. And, believe it or not, there’s a whole big world out here beyond the 427.

But rather than having you read about my latest experience, I’ve put together a little video to share. It’s from the Locke Street Festival that happened this past Saturday in my newly adopted hometown of Hamilton. Where better to start, I asked myself, than one of my favourite streets in the world? Now please understand that that’s saying quite a lot, considering that it shares company with Via Condotti in Rome where you will find Prada, Valentino,  and Gucci: and London’s Conduit Street – home to Vivienne Westwood and Burberry boutiques, and the original Alexander McQueen boutique which has since moved to another cherished street of mine, Bond Street. Are you sensing a theme here? So maybe I like to shop a little bit. But never mind that – the best part about Locke Street is that it is but an hour’s drive from TO on a weekend. Most days, it would take you that long just to get downtown to Dufferin from Yorkdale.

Without further ado, you can watch the video on my Facebook wall here. Please excuse the music; I had originally set this to  ‘Day Tripper’ by the Beatles because, while lyrically it may be somewhat inappropriate, its title and jaunty tune seemed to capture the spirit of the moment. However, Facebook would not allow it to be posted, so I have spent the better part of the day rearranging it with generic Apple=provided music. And at one point I even thought I had to lost the entire project altogether, but let’s not go back to that dark place again.

If you’re looking for more information about the shops mentioned and this fabulous stretch of street, here are some helpful links for you to check out:

Locke Street Farmer’s Market – local produce and crafts provided by area farmers and artists

Nerdbiskit – cheeky little buttons and other adorable accessories, specializing in plush moustaches

Spencer’s Mercantile – probably the most unique store I have ever encountered, this is my son’s favourite store on the strip

La Jardinere – beautiful and unusual flower arrangements along with equally beautiful resident birds

Pure Home Couture – it had me at the pink on pink stripes leading up to its boutique loft, which I think must be what Heaven looks like

Bitten – not just another cupcake joint, they have the Hunka Hunka Burnin Love: banana cupcake with peanut butter buttercream topped with a strip of candied bacon. BACON

 Shirin’s Fine Foods – the aroma wafting from the open doors of this Old World deli-bakery as we walked by was nothing short of intoxicating. Of course, it was perogies

The Vintage Garden Tea Room – over 50 varieties of tea on offer, available for purchase or to enjoy on-site

 Al Simmons Gun Shop – yes, you read that correctly: gun shop. Responsible gun ownership is a civil responsibility

Locke Street Shops – gives you a comprehensive listing of all the shops on this fabulous stretch of street

There are no shortage of deals to be had on Locke, not just at the Festival but all year round. It’s the perfect place to get that special gift for the friend who has everything, and don’t we all have a friend or two like that? Believe me, it’s worth a trip down the QEW, even if it is well past the Dufferin Gates.

Back Again… This Time with Blondies!

No, not the pop icon from the Eighties otherwise known as Debbie Harry…although she is pretty fabulous in her own right. ‘Dreamin’ is one of my all-time favourite songs. But no, that’s not why we’re here. 

This is  supposed to be a food blog, after all. So let’s get on with the food!

 

I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to the blondie; that is , the lighter-coloured version of the chocolate brownie. Not in enjoying them, just in making them. But then all of a sudden, as so often happens  with these things,  the craving snuck up on me and it soon became all I could think about. So off to the Internet I went in search of the perfect recipe. As it turned out, however, I had already had one in my possession all along.

This recipe came from a cookbook I found somewhere on the bargain table for less than a fiver.

 

Now usually I’m of the opinion that you get what you pay for, but not so in this case. I’ve used it as a basis for a number of goodies I’ve baked up in the past, before I started this blog so before I started taking pictures and writing about the things I was making. But never mind that – let’s just focus on the here and now. And here and now I give you the ultimate butterscotch blondie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How tasty does that look? I’m not a fan of adding nuts to things, and for some insane reason I’m constantly running across recipes that call for them. Usually, it’s walnuts which is the nut I’m least fond of. I normally just substitute with pecans or leave them out altogether and compensate with adding more chocolate or whatever other chopped ingredient happens to be going in. In this case, though, I had some little chocolate covered toffee candies from IKEA kicking around, so I thought I’d try smashing those up and tossing them in in lieu of nuts.

And man, let me just tell you how glad I am that I did!

The toffee and chocolate melted into the batter during the baking process in such a perfect way so as to lend it even more of the soft, chewy and slightly fudge-y texture that is one of the hallmarks of The Brownie. It was also intensely flavoured, not only from the candies but also the abundance of the butterscotch and chocolate chips. The only possible complaint I could possibly have had was with how little the recipe yielded having been baked in an 8 X 8 glass dish. But in restrospect perhaps that was a good thing. They didn’t last long, and wouldn’t have done much for the ever-expanding state of my ass if there were any more of them. My husband, who devoured more than half of them, has begun to complain that I’m trying to make him fat. Like I hold a gun to his head or something to get him to eat all the things I make. But despite how phenomenally good these blondies were, the craving wasn’t quite as sated as it should have been. I wondered what else could be made that was ‘blonde’.

I was on FoodGawker when I found it. I’m so addicted to that site that I’ve got the iPhone app AND follow the Twitter feed that alerts you to new recipes. So sad, isn’t it? Actually, not really when you get results like this

Remember when I just typed that I’m not a fan of adding nuts to things? Yeah – this would be the exception to that rule. Blonde Rocky Road Fudge.

This is a heavenly concoction comprised of yet more butterscotch chips, peanut butter and marshmallows. There is no bad here, unless of course you happen to be anaphylactic or diabetic. But if neither of these apply to you, then I would strongly recommend you make up a batch as soon as possible. The recipe can be found here – I left it well enough alone. Because, really, how could one improve upon such perfection?

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Flavour of Choice: Lemon-Blueberry Cake

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Well, I did start out well with some semi-consistent blogging. But for the month of August? Not so much. I suppose I could apologize again, but it’s probably sounding a bit like a broken record. And I’ve been busy doing other things, most important and surprising of which is working on The Novel. Lots of changes on the horizon, both in fiction and in my real life. Hopefully.

But as much as I’ve been neglecting my blogging, I’m happy to report that I haven’t been so lax when it comes to baking. Take this luscious lemon blueberry concoction, for example, which started out as two loaves of quick bread. I decided to make more use of my Bundt pan. The result? Lovely and light, with a nice moist crumb. I covered it in a quick glaze of lemon juice and confectioners sugar, which I admit may have been overkill. I just got a little excited about the flavour of the moment, is all. I ended up being able to chip it off – that doesn’t sound good, does it? – without destroying the cake entirely.

The best part of all is that I was able to extend its life thanks to a recipe I found in 1940s cookbook I picked up at an antique market. It featured a great little section on how to use various leftovers to create completely new dishes – something that would be of particular interest for the budding Post-war housewife. I had half the cake left, so sliced it up and layered the pieces in a foul-lined loaf pan alternating with some French vanilla ice cream thinned with almond milk. After an hour in the freezer, I ended up with my first ever icebox cake!

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You can find the original recipe for the lemon blueberry loaf here.

Treatzilla. The End of All Cravings as You Know Them

Some treat recipes are passed down generation by generation as a family tradition. Others come by way of a quick search online or a newspaper or magazine article. And then there are the ones that kind of just…appear, out of nowhere it would seem in your mind, leaving you wondering what the heck that’s all about. That’s the kind of treat Treatzilla is – the kind that gets inside your head and just refuses to leave you in peace until you finally give in and make it.

It started out simply enough from a popcorn ball cake recipe, but the original recipe used jujubes. Now, I know there are many people out there who’d be all over that – and it is a great recipe in its own right, so I will definitely be posting it as well – but I’m not that crazy about fruit candies like that. I was looking for something far more decadent. Something that would be sure to satisfy almost any craving it came across. And so with that in mind I just started digging through cupboards to see what I had on hand that could be considered snack-y, then take it from there. Turns out that I had quite a lot of options, almost enough for more than one treat, but then I thought – Why Choose? Why not just throw it all into one giant Mega-Treat?

And with that, Treatzilla was born.

For those people who can’t live without jelly beans or Gummie Bears, I threw some in on the side to make it complete. Believe me, if I could have figured out how to squeeze some bacon into this, I would have. But I think it’s probably more than enough to handle on its own. However, if bacon is something you can’t live without then feel free to make those necessary modifications. I completely understand

Treatzilla – a Seven Aprons Original Recipe 

(inspired by Popcorn Cake from Bruce County Women’s Institute cookbook – recipe below)

1 and a 1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

250g bag marshmallows, divided into three parts as follows: half bag, then half bag minus 1/4 cup reserved.

1 Tbsp butter (salted, unsalted-doesn’t really matter)

1 cup pretzels, crushed

4 cups popcorn

3/4 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup butterscotch chips

1. Melt peanut butter and corn syrup with half bag of marshmallows over medium heat till incorporated. Add butter and brown sugar, stir till fully blended. 

2. Add remaining ingredients in order and stir until all are covered by the peanut butter

3.  Lightly oil a tube or Bundt pan, then sprinkle 1/4 reserved marshmallows evenly along the bottom. Pour mixture into prepared bundt pan.

 4. Allow to cool and set before unmolding onto plate. Top with glaze and allow to cool before slicing.

5. Serve on a plate with a side of jelly beans, jujubes, red licorice or Gummie Bears  if desired. 

Glaze 

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/4 butterscotch chips

4 Tbsp whipping cream

2 Tbsp butter

1. In one small bowl, combine chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp butter and melt slowly in microwave at 50% power in 20 second increments until combined. Stir frequently.

2. Stir in 2 Tbsp whipping cream until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.

3. In another small bowl, repeat Steps 1 and 2 with the butterscotch chips, remaining butter and cream. 

4. Alternating between the chocolate and butterscotch mixtures,  pour by spoonfuls over the cooled and inverted cake in whatever pattern (or non-pattern) is desired. 

 

Original recipe. As you can see, I made a few modifications…