Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

Oh, cottage cheese pufflets. You sounded so promising. Sweet jam spread between a tart and tangy cottage cheese dough, baked and puffed to perfection. I had high hopes.

The end result, however, was an exercise in frustration.

This dough was soft and sticky. And I do mean soft. I have never had to refrigerate a dessert so many times before in the midst of its preparation.

Here's how you do it (at least, here's how I did it): Make the dough, refrigerate it. Roll out the dough, refrigerate it because it's too soft. Roll it out again. Start to cut it into circles. Refrigerate. Cut some more. Refrigerate the remaining dough. Place the cut out circles in the freezer to save time. Bring them out after the oven has preheated and dab on some strawberry-raspberry jam, then fold over and seal the dough. Except, oops, a new Mad Men episode is on! Come up to bake them during the first commercial break and find them completely soft again. Pop them in the freezer for a few minutes. Come up in the middle of Mad Men (sigh) and pop them in the oven. Watch the jam leak like crazy, and watch the dough puff up beautifully.

Alas, it was not a very happy time in the Kait's Plate kitchen while these were being made. The end result was quite delicious - puffy, crispy, with just the right amount of sweetness from the jam. The next day, however, they had softened considerably and lost their perfect texture.

Although the end result was fantastic, I don't think it was worth the overall effort. Sorry, Dorie! Thank you to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for choosing this recipe. Although its preparation was quite taxing, I'm happy I at least got to taste the delicious result.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Orange Scented Scones

Dessert for breakfast - is there anything better (or more indulgent)? I have a soft spot for any baking recipe that I can justify eating for breakfast. It ensures that I use up a recipe before it starts to go bad, and more importantly, it means I get to eat sugar for a breakfast. A total win-win.

As a result, I was really looking forward to this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, Orange-Scented Scones (chosen by Robin of Lady Craddock's Bakery). As a bonus, I had never made scones before.

These scones - with their buttery orange flavour and flaky texture - were a great introduction to the genre. They were very fast and easy to pull together, and for very little effort, yielded a ton of flavour. I loved these for breakfast with homemade strawberry-raspberry jam.

I recently found myself a part-time job for the school year, and I think these will come in handy now that I'll be working mornings four days a week. They're a perfect grab-and-go breakfast. A big thank you goes to Robin for giving me the incentive to make a baked good I've never tried before. I think this is a recipe I'll be experimenting with in the future. Please visit Robin's blog for the recipe.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The culinary side of a vacation: Montreal and Ottawa

In between finishing my internship and heading back to school (my first day back was today, in fact), I had a couple of weeks of vacation. During this time, I fit in a visit at home where I spent some time catching up with friends and family. Then, I was lucky enough to go on a trip with my boyfriend, his grandparents, his brothers, and his cousin to Montreal and Ottawa. I had never been to either city before, so I was very excited to see the local architecture and experience the local culture, not to mention brush up on my French in Montreal. But as always, the one thing I most look forward to on any trip is the food. Without fail, I always come up with a wish list of things I need to try before I leave the city. This time, my list revolved around the following classics: poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, Montreal bagels (suggested to me by my friend Single Betty), and beaver tails. As with any vacation, there were some unexpected treats that we got to enjoy, as well.

The first culinary stop we made in Montreal was at a sweet little bakery on Rue de Mont-Royal. They had a variety of fresh breads and sweets, including one of my favourites, meringues.

They were sweet, crunchy and delicious. I was so inspired by them, I bought a wide pastry tip to make the meringue-forming process easier in my future baking.

Up next was a small grocer, where I bought some snap peas for snacking, and my boyfriend couldn't resist the cheese curds. They're the kind used to make poutine (more on that later).

After a late-night trip to a diner on St. Catharine where we dined on the best poutine of my life and smoked meat sandwiches (no pictures, sorry!), we awoke the next morning and meandered over to the McGill University campus. During our walk, we noticed many vegetable plants lining the outside of the buildings. These tomatoes were the tiniest I've ever seen - the size of a dime.

After we worked up our appetite walking around the city, we had more poutine, and more smoked meat sandwiches. For the uninformed, poutine is french fries covered in special gravy and cheese curds. In the poutine we had in Montreal, the gravy heated the cheese through, but the cheese didn't melt, ensuring that the rich hunks of cheese curds remained mostly intact. Poutine is, simply put, junk food heaven.

We also tried poutine with hunks of smoked meat piled atop it, and poutine with chicken. Both delicious.

And of course, we couldn't leave without having another smoked meat sandwich. Before you worry about our health, keep in mind that 7 of us split the poutine and the sandwich! The portions were enormous.

That night, we went to the St-Viateur bagel shop, where we bought a dozen bagels. What makes Montreal bagels unique is the fact that they're poached in a boiling honey-water mixture, and, most significantly, baked in a wood-fired oven. You can read more about how they are made here. They have a very unique taste - they're quite dense and have a faint sweetness to them.

In Ottawa, after touring the Parliamentary building, we visited a nearby farmer's market. Although we were tempted by all of the fresh fruit and vegetables, we ended up going for less healthy fare. We were on vacation, after all.

We bought beaver tails (pictured here with apple pie topping), and sugar tarts, which tasted a lot like butter tarts but had a smoother texture and no raisins.

To me, food defines my vacations. My trip to Montreal and Ottawa was an opportunity to try some classic Canadian dishes in their "natural habitats," and it didn't disappoint. The only problem? Ontario poutine will never measure up now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Souffle

Ah, the souffle. A word with such baggage. When I hear it, I think of a light, airy dish that requires the artful hands and eyes of Julia Child and the attention to detail of Martha Stewart to master. As I am neither Julia Child nor Martha Stewart, the atmosphere in my kitchen during the making of chocolate souffle, this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe (chosen by Susan of She's Becoming Doughmesstic) was, in a word, tense.

I was very concerned with the souffle turning out perfectly, so I decided to use my oven thermometer to make sure that the temperature gauge on the oven in my new/old apartment in London was still accurate. The fact that I couldn't seem to get the oven to reach the listed baking temperature of 400F was worrisome, and more stressful than it normally would have been. When I set the temperature to 400F, the oven went up to 425F. When I dropped it down to 375F, it registered 375F exactly. I upped the dial slightly, and it rested at 390F. My boyfriend didn't understand why I was so concerned about a 10 degree difference. "It's a souffle," I whined. "It's very scientific. It has to be exact." Since this was my first-ever souffle, I of course didn't know for sure how scientific it was, or how exact I needed to be in its preparation. But I did know that souffles are finicky, and I didn't want to take any chances. Eventually, we got the oven to register 400F.

By this point, I had folded two whipped egg whites (I was halving the recipe) into a mixture of melted chocolate, sugar, and egg yolks. I poured the mixture into the buttered and sugared ramekins. I glanced at the kitchen table, where I had stored in ramekins the ingredients I would need. "Why," I thought, "Is there still an unused egg white on the table?"

I looked at the recipe again and realized I was supposed to whip and fold in three egg whites. So much for being exact. Together with my boyfriend, I poured the souffle back into the mixing bowl, hoping the butter and sugar from the ramekins wouldn't ruin it, and folded in the additional whipped egg white. Then I poured the mixture into three newly buttered and sugared ramekins, before baking them for 20 minutes.

Despite my fumbling, they were fantastic. Light and airy as Julia Child's would be, maybe, although not as picture-perfect as Martha's. The chocolate flavour was still rich, and the sugar crust enhanced the chocolate flavour very much. I could eat this again and again, although luckily for my health, there were no leftovers. Just three happy eaters. Thanks for your choice, Susan!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TWD: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

After taking a brief hiatus from Tuesdays With Dorie in order to give myself some time to move back to school and get settled for the new year, I was very excited to dive back in with this week's recipe, Espresso Cheesecake Brownies, chosen by Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell.

I was home for a visit for the past few days (a much easier task, now that I'm not dealing with rush hour Toronto traffic), but prior to that, I was slowly unpacking (I'm still not done!) and taking care of things around the house. One of the things on my to-do list was to bake as often as possible. I spoiled my boyfriend (and myself) with peanut butter and chocolate Rice Krispies Squares, maple sponge toffee, and, of course, these espresso cheesecake brownies.

Of all of the baked goods I made last week, however, I think these take the prize. Fudgy brownies with swirls of creamy espresso cheesecake, topped by a sour cream glaze. The espresso cheesecake is the dominant flavour, I think, which is a real bonus. It provides all the flavour of cheesecake without having to bother with springform pans and water baths. In the future, I would definitely want to make this in a cake pan, perhaps with a drizzle of chocolate sauce over the sour cream glaze. Or try different flavours of cheesecake, too - caramel cheesecake, perhaps.

Thanks, Melissa, for your pick. It was a huge hit here!

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