Saturday, February 6, 2021
Saturday, January 23, 2021
The first time I attempted lemon curd was a complete disaster. I ended up with a sour scrambled egg looking mixture and a lot of laughs with my friends (so maybe it was not ALL bad). Eight years later, I happen to have five extra egg yolks on hand and a much better idea of how to navigate around a kitchen so I decided to try again.
I settled on this recipe from the Food Network mainly because it called for 5 egg yolks, which meant that I did not have to do any math. I made a few adjustments like using bottled lemon juice instead of fresh lemons and using less than a stick of butter (I am actually not sure how much I ended up using; I just eye-balled it until I got the desired consistency). It was delicious! And also much easier than I thought.
|Is it not beautiful? The perfect combination of sweet and tart.|
Having finally achieved a successful lemon curd, I did not know what to do with it. (I am not that good at planning ahead when it comes to working in the kitchen...) I had first considered making macarons as a sort of “redemption” for that first sad attempt from eight years ago. (Clarification: the lemon curd was sad; the other macarons we ended up making turned out very nicely!). However, macarons use only egg whites and I did not want to produce more left over egg yolks (a never-ending cycle!). Instead, I settled on making mini lemon curd pies.
Surprisingly, even though I filled my mini pie crusts to the brim, I STILL had extra lemon curd (I guess it was a generous recipe?). I cubed some cake I had lying around (baked by my cousin, not me), layered the pieces with lemon curd, dolloped whip cream on top and made myself a cute little parfait. No pictures – sorry, it was just too yummy to wait.
The recipe that I used to make my mini pie crusts was enough for 16 mini pies or 2 regular pie shells. I had only used up half the dough at this point but for the second half, I wanted a little variety in my pies. So I dug out a nearly expired can of No Name apple filling from the back of our pantry (that is what happens when you buy things on whim...) and whipped up some mini apple crumble pies.
|I was just making things up as I went along.|
I tossed together the crumble topping using the first recipe that came up on my google search. This allowed me to dig into the ancient bag of rolled oats that had also been languishing in the back of my pantry (there is a lot of stuff back there...). I baked them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes - the house smelled so good.
Tim loves all things apple and surprisingly, my brother was also a big fan of these. It is always nice to have an audience base for one's baking.
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Practise. Practise. Practise.
That is the standard advice when it comes to mastering any skill. For me, achieving the buttery, flaky perfection that is the pie crust has become my latest culinary ambition. The only way I know how to make pie crusts is how Evan Kleiman taught it in her Craftsy class, Perfecting the Pie Crust. She has a copy of her recipe freely available online but as a novice, I found watching the videos of her actually making it very helpful. In her class, Evan suggests multiple possible variations of her core recipe but for me, this is the one that I have stuck to:
· 12 ounces all-purpose flour
· 2 ounces of shortening + 6 ounces of butter (ie. 8 ounces of “fat” in total)
· 4 – 5 ounces of ice cold water
· 2 tablespoons of sugar
· 1 teaspoon of salt
It has not failed me yet.
Each time I have attempted a pie crust, I have mixed the dough with my hands. It is messier than using a pastry cutter but I feel like I have better control over what I am doing. I toss the dough in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes every few steps; it is probably just paranoia on my part but I am constantly worried about my butter becoming too warm. It may be overkill but at least all my crusts have been consistently flaky.
I have changed up the filling each time so I cannot really assess my progress for that part of my pies. My most recent iteration was quiche on the request of Tim. This was a joint project where I was in charge of the crust and Tim took care of the filling. We referenced two different sites for our instructions:
For the Love of Cooking: Broccoli, Extra Sharp Cheddar, and Bacon Quiche (This particular recipe was chosen to deal with the sadly yellowing broccoli that had been sitting in our fridge for far too long)
I chose to blind bake the crust, which is definitely a skill I need to work on as evidenced by the overbrowned (ie. Burnt) edge that you can see in the picture.
For a first attempt, we were quite happy with how our quiche turned out. It made for a very tasty brunch!
Saturday, January 2, 2021
|An encouraging verse to start the new year!|
In 2019, I made my first post on Instagram announcing that I was taking up some new hobbies: calligraphy and handlettering. Despite those bold claims, I made pathetically little progress in this ambition during that year. Every once in a while, I would pick up the brush pen that I had impulsively bought and try to form a few letters. Inevitably, I would become discouraged with how lopsided and uneven my letters looked and then abandon the project. Of course, my discouragement had not stopped me from pinning endless pictures of pretty projects on Pinterest and wishing the writing in my planner was more stylish.
Finally, last summer, with a shiny new subscription to blueprint (now Craftsy) in my hands, I decided to take this ambition more seriously. Fortunately for me, there were several classes on brush calligraphy and lettering and so I binge-watched course after course while procrastinating from my studies (For the record, I still passed my exam!). It was useful to get a sense of the different approaches and styles to brush calligraphy. I discovered just how attached I am to my own style of handwriting when I found myself feeling surprisingly uneasy copying someone else’s lettering. I ended up picking and choosing the techniques I felt most comfortable with from the various instructors and cobbled together the lettering style that I am quite happy with.
|Practise. Practise. Practise.|
|This has become my favourite size to write - I find my lettering looks more natural.|
Like any new skill, I still need a lot more practice but I can definitely see myself continuing this.
If you are flirting with the idea of trying brushlettering yourself but do not know where to begin, then these are the two courses that I started with:
Sharisse’s course was a short, breezy overview. She covered the basics from how to hold the pen to walking through the fundamental strokes (“thin up, thick down”). Her most useful segment, for me, was when she demonstrated the difference between brush calligraphy and cursive writing; in brush calligraphy, you are constantly lifting your pen to prevent the strokes from becoming too heavy. That was a revelation because I finally understood why I had been so dissatisfied with my early attempts – I had approached brushlettering like it was cursive writing using a fancy pen. Once I learned to give my letters “breathing room”, my attempts looked much more balanced. She ended the course with some neat techniques on how to do some basic flourishes and blend inks. I have not gotten around to trying them yet but I like the effects.
Krislam’s course was much longer, mainly because she took the time to demonstrate how to form every single letter in both upper and lower case. She was also more technical, explaining the different parts of letters (ie. Ascenders, base-line, x-line, etc.) and discussing elements of designing compositions (eg. spacing, hierarchy). Interestingly, in contrast to Sharisse’s teaching, Krislam tried to reassure the audience by saying that brushlettering is very similar to cursive writing. Krislam’s lettering style did have a more cursive writing “look” (if that makes sense) while I found Sharisse’s style more clean and open. However, I liked Krislam’s final projects better than Sharisse’s. They were bolder and more fun.
Of course, there are many, many other tutorials and resources out there (this is such a trendy thing nowadays) including many free videos on youtube. A quick peek around Pinterest will show you drills and worksheets galore.
One of my goals for 2021 is to experiment with more styles and different techniques. It will be interesting to see how my lettering evolves. Onwards to a creative new year!
Thursday, June 18, 2020
|Ready to go!|
I figured since we were experimenting with non-traditional ice cream, we might as well make it vegan! It was quite the experience since my husband and I had never worked with coconut cream before. We were not off to a good start when we dumped the coconut cream out of the package and then tried to blend the solid and liquid parts together to create, what we were hoping, would be a smooth cream base. We panicked when it started to curdle. Good thing we had a friend who likes to bake on speed dial! She coached us through warming it up and stirring the mixture back into something that looked edible. Crisis averted!
|An alternative way of serving (when you are too lazy to scrape it out of the tub...😜)|
Saturday, May 2, 2020
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
- Stracciattella – I have finally learned what this actually is! She started by making a vanilla gelato. She then melted chocolate, placed it in a small ziplock bag, cut a tiny hole in the corner and then piped thin strands of chocolate into the churning gelato mixture. It looks simple but sounds delicious.
- Pistachio – Her recipe involved using roasted, salted pistachios which she blended into a fine powder first before adding the cream and milk. She cooked the mixture to make an infusion and then let it chill overnight before straining out the pistachios. Pistachio is one of those flavours that you only ever seem to find in ice cream shops. My mother and I both love nuts and so this one will definitely be on the to-try list.
- Dairy free ice cream – Although I have never been a fan of dairy free ice cream, so many of my family and friends are becoming lactose intolerant these days. Exploring dairy free desserts seems to be a must if I plan on inviting people over for dinner. Gemma’s recipe involved whole raw cashews, which she soaked overnight and then blended, and coconut milk. I will probably have to do more research before jumping into this one.
- Missippi mud pie ice cream cake – I love ice cream cake but they can be very expensive and since Dairy Queen is the go-to place for them, the flavours can be somewhat limited at times. This very chocolatey cake looked delicious but I am also inspired to try making a tea-flavoured ice cream cake. Oh the possibilities….
- If you do not have a pastry cutter, you can actually mix the flour and fat by hand. You are trying to achieve “a mixture of cornmeal, peas, walnuts and almonds”.
- Adding some apple cider vinegar will help relax the dough
- Using apple juice for the liquid will add an extra depth to the flavour of the pie crust. It is a convenient mixture containing water, sugar and acid.
- You need to let the pie crust cool completely before putting in a wet filling mixture. If you pour in the mixture while the pie crust is still hot, it will get soggy.
- Putting a heavy cream wash on the dough will give it a professional finish.
- When choosing colours for a bouquet, a good guideline to use is to pick three types of colours: an accent colour, a muted colour and a neutral colour
- 40 blooms will make a full bouquet. A good ratio is 20 “thriller” flowers, 10 “spiller” flowers, and 10 “filler” flowers.
- Prepping the blooms are crucial for longevity of the bouquet and preventing bacteria growth in the water. All leaves and foliage below the water line must be stripped.
- Centrepieces should be less than 12 inches tall so that when people are seated, they can still see over the centrepiece. (I remember attending a wedding once where the homemade centrepieces were an awkward 2 feet tall. A lot of people just ended up taking the centrepieces and putting them on the floor during dinner.)
- Use vase tape to make a grid when using a wide mouthed vase; it will help hold the flowers in place better.
- Flower arrangements should not be longer than twice the height of the vase, otherwise, it will look unbalanced.
- Using greens to create a collar will make the whole arrangement look more professional.