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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sweet Dough, How I Adore Your Versatility!

Here is a great sweet dough recipe to make cinnamon buns (rolls). According to my mother, these were the best cinnamon rolls of her life! Which is a compliment, since she's always trying cinnamon buns from anywhere she can get her hands from!

On top of being scrumptious, this recipe is one of the easiest ones I've ever encountered for sweet dough. You throw all the ingredients in your mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment and let it go on medium slow speed till a ball is formed. If not all the flour has been absorbed, you can dump it on the counter and knead it by hand without adding any more flour.

Here's the recipe:

- 1 cup milk (1 minute in microwave)
- 1/4 cup warm water (can be put with the milk in the microwave)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 2 eggs (room temperature and beaten with a fork before putting in mixer)
- 1/2 tsp salt (if using salted butter, omit the salt)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 cups flour
- 3 Tsp Quick Dry Yeast

Now add it all in your mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment and mix on the slowest speed to let all the ingredients incorporate together. As I said before, if it does not mix completely in the mixing bowl, you can always knead it by hand. Here's a video demonstrating a kneading technique. If doing so, do not add more flour to your dough.
Knead the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap so the plastic is in direct contact with the dough ball. Let rest 10-15 minutes.

In the mean time, here's the best thing ever that will transform your cinnamon buns entirely! Caramel anyone?
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
-1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
Combine all ingredients to a small pot and melt till the caramel is free of lumps and the butter is completely melted into the mix to form the caramel. Set aside.

Take your dough and punch it down softly to let the gas' out.

Roll it out into a large rectangle so that the dough is half a centimeter thick (eighth of an inch?) . Take some soft butter into your hand and spread the soft butter onto the dough with your fingers so cover the entire surface. Then add some brown sugar and cinnamon onto the surface as well.

Roll up the down tightly. When getting to the end of the roll, take the edge and bring it over the roll and pinch it into the roll to create a seal.

Let the roll rest on the counter while you prepare the pan.

To prepare the pan, spray an 9" by 13" pan with PAM or other aerosol non stick can. Then line the pan with parchment paper. The non stick spray helps to stick the paper to the pan.

When this is done, pour the caramel mixture in the prepared pan.

Cut the long roll in 12. Place the rolls in the pan to create a 3 rows of 4 (3x4) in the pan.

At this point you can cover with plastic again and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Place in a 350 degrees Celsius oven until the top of the cinnamon rolls are golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool off for 10 minutes.

After cooling off a little, place a parchment paper over the cooked rolls and place a tray or large enough plate, to cover the pan. What you will do is flip them onto a tray to have the caramel that is on the bottom, to become the top. This step can be quite tricky. Please where over mitts.

By this time, you will not be able to restrain yourself any longer to get a bite out of those cinnamon rolls. Please do enjoy responsibly! Always remember to share with friends and family!

NOW... if you feel like experimenting, you can take away a 4 inch strip of dough away from your rectangle of dough after rolling it out. That strip can be cut in long triangular shapes.

Spread with with butter and place a piece of your favorite chocolate on the inside. I used 74% cocoa.

Brush with egg wash (an egg yolk and half cup of milk)

then bake off in a 350 degree oven.

Enjoy! :)

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Can comfort food be healthy?

I say yes!
Combination needed? Bread Pudding and Vegetables. Possible? Very much so.

Today I woke up to many inches of snow on the ground and blizzard conditions. Perfect weather to crank up the oven to 500 degrees Celsius And it just so happens that my favourite local organic bakery released their recipe for "Vegetable Bread Pudding online and in a local foody magazine. Since I adore bread pudding so much and i didn't want to feel bad about breaking my new years resolutions, i though it would be a great things to try. So here is my shot at the recipe.

Here's what you'll need.

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees Celsius.

- 8 cups chopped vegetables (i put onions, mushrooms, celery, zucchini, asparagus and 4 colours of peppers to give it colour)
- 1Tbsp marjoram (i just threw in a few tablespoons of my italian herb mix)
- salt and pepper about a tsp of each
- 3-4 Tbsp of sunflower oil or canola oil

Mix the vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper with the oil in a bowl and mix to coat the veggies. Spread on a cookie sheet which is lined with parchment paper (makes it easier to clean after). Place in oven for 15 minutes to start cooking the veggies.

Next step, you'll want to cube your 12 cups of bread and have it on standby.

Take out:
- 7 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups cream

Whisk together the eggs and the cream. Divide mixture in half and put one aside.

Chop up
- 1 cup of fresh herbs, mostle what you can find at your supermarket if its -30 Celsius outside.
I used some dill, basil and coriander. You can also use rosemary and parsley.

- 1 1/2 cup of mozzarella, cheddar, or marble cheese. Which ever you like best.

Mix all together in a very large bowl;
-the cubed bread
-the herbs
-3/4 cup of the cheese
-one of the two halves of the cream and egg mixture.

**The rest is fun to do with your hands if you don't mind getting your hands dirty.**

1. Take half of the bread mixture and press it down not too firmly in the bottom of an 11" by 17" pan ( which i lined the bottom with parchment for easy serving and clean up).
2. Sprinkle evenly HALF of the vegetables
3. Pat down the other half of the bread mixture over the veggies.
4. And the other half of the veggies on top of that.
5. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese on top.
6.Then poor evenly the other half of the egg and cream mixture on top.

Bake the ensemble in a 350 degrees Celsius oven for 25 minutes.
Take it out and then cover with foil and RETURN to your 350 degree oven for another 30 minutes.

I promise you, the aromas coming out of your kitchen will be amazing! And it'll taste just as amazing!

You'll want a piece right away when its nice and hot! It'll fill you up and you won't feel bad about it since you'll have eaten one, maybe two of your daily recommended intake of veggies. Delicious! Also very good for dinner with a nice piece of oven cooked salmon.
This recipe does make a very large amount of savory bread pudding, so you'll probably want to half the recipe. If you feel up to the challenge of making the full recipe, don't hesitate to share with your friends! They will adore you adore you for it!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Galette des Rois, progress achieved!

A week has past since my last posting, mainly due to sickness. now with the sinus cold gone and the runny nose making its exit out of my system, i shall be posting more frequently.

I would like to start by announcing to the world that I have succeeded at making a "Galette des Rois". Since the beginning of January, I have had to make these "galettes" with the direction of my superior but still with a "trial and error" effect to it. I could not seem to seal almond paste inside two circles of puff pastry, not to save my life! This affair was of course very frustrating for me! I tend to want to succeed everything on the first try. Even when attending Cordon Bleu, I did not succeed this particular dessert. Basically, if not sealed properly, or, if there are any air bubbles in the "galette", the air inside rises the dough, unseals the "galette" and the filling runs out, burns, etc... needless to say, i was happy to have succeeded this one by my own. Here's a brief history of this simple dessert that I never could succeed.
"A celebration of Christ being visited by the Magi, the epiphany was set to January the 6th by Pope Julius II. Also known as le jour des Rois, this is the day when the three kings are traditionally added next to the crib. Over the years, this religious festival overlapped with pagan traditions that went back to the Roman Saturnalia.

From the Middle Ages, the epiphany has been celebrated with a special Twelfth Night cake: la galette des rois, literally the King's cake. The galette differed according to the regions: for example it was made of puff pastry in Paris, but made of brioche and shaped as a crown in Provence. Under Louis XIV, the Church considered this festival as a pagan celebration and as an excuse for indulgence, and it was subsequently banned. To get around this ban, it became la fête du bon voisinage (literally, 'neighbourly relations day'). This culinary tradition even survived the French Revolution when it became the ‘Gâteau de l’Êgalité (the equality cake), as Kings were not very popular in those years!

The cake contains a lucky charm (une fève) which originally was a bean, a symbol of fertility. Whoever found the charm in their slice of cake, became King or Queen and had to buy a round of drinks for all their companions. This sometimes resulted in stingy behaviour and to avoid buying a round of drinks, the potential King or Queen very often swallowed the bean! This is why towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the lucky charm started being made of china. The charm can take any shape or form and can either be very plain or more sophisticated (glazed or handpainted). It sometimes represents a religious figure such as the baby Jesus, but it can be virtually anything. Little horseshoe shapes are popular as they are thought to bring luck. Although nowadays very often made of plastic, old-fashioned china charms are still used and they have become a collectable item.

The modern Galette des Rois is made of puff pastry and can be plain or filled with frangipane, an almond-flavoured paste. It is sold in all French bakeries and eating the galetteat the beginning of January is still a very popular tradition and an opportunity for families and friends to gather around the table. The youngest person in the room (usually a child) hides under the table and shouts out which guest each slice of cake should be given to. The person who finds the fève in their slice of galette becomes the King or Queen and is given a golden paper crown. The King or Queen then has to choose his Queen or her King, by dropping the lucky charm in their glass."
In conclusion; with no air bubbles, with it being sealed properly and a fair amount of luck it seems, it came out good (picture of it is above blog entry). There it is, in all its glory. Orders for these are no longer made after the month of January has passed (relieved? maybe...). Only to make room for the Valentines Day orders.

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kick Ass Chicken Noodle Soup

With the weather shifting between -27C and +1C on a daily basis, i have seemed to have woken up this morning with a typical cold. Due to my busy schedule, i can not afford to miss any work days, especially with the weekend (busy days) coming up.

Here is a twist on every grandmother's favorite cold remedy. Because I am desperately wanting to get rid of this sinus cold, i decided to combine every miracle food in the book into one pot of soup.
So... taking left over from yesterday's quickly pulled together soup, i created what I now call, my "Kick Ass Chicken Noodle Soup". Thought i'd share the recipe with everyone before I go to bed with a box of Kleenex in hand.

***WARNING: This soup contains enough kick to kill anything, but hopefully my cold first. ***

***Kick Ass Chicken Noodle Soup***
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (EVOO)
-1 onion, very finely chopped (any type of onion will do)
-1 red pepper, also finely chopped
-2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp fresh ginger (always keep some of this stuff in the freezer, minced
-2 ribs of celery, finely sliced (i like using the inside ones with the leaves for soups)
-1 jalapeño pepper (with seeds), quartered and finely chopped, you don't want to chomp on a big piece of it, trust me.
-3/4 cup kernels of corn (from frozen is quicker)
-1 Liter of chicken stock (from a box is ok or from powder also)
-1 Liter of water
- 2-3 packages of instant noodles (Any type of fast cooking stir fry noodles is optional if you want substance)

1. Start off by heating up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot. Add to that everything but the chicken stock and noodles. Get all the flavors going by adding a little bit of salt to the pot.

2. Once the vegetables have a nice color to them, deglaze the pot with the stock. Add a liter of water with the stock. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 10-15 minutes.

3. At this point you can either enjoy your soup to soothe that burning feeling in your throat, or you can add in the noodles. If adding noodles, let simmer another 10 minutes.

To enjoy a big bowl of this soup, simply grab a fork and eat the contents of it first. Then grab that bowl with your two hands and drink back all the vitamins left in that hot soothing stock you created. This will raise your bodily temperature and make your sinuses run like the Niagara Falls. Make sure to have a box of Kleenex by your side. Sick or not, this soup will clear your sinuses.

Enjoy this soup with a cup of a Neocitran and head straight to bed. You'll feel better waking up! If not, repeat this process till cured. :) Old fashion medicine is definitely the way to go and will showcase the curing powers of our beloved friend, food.

As sick as I am, i will keep you updated on everything and hopefully get some pictures posted soon to visualize what I'm talking about.

Eat well, sleep well, and till tomorrow,


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Year, New Goals

I have always been a strong believer in "living one day at a time". At the same time, it has always been important for me to set high standards and specific goals for myself to keep me motivated.

Waking up in the morning, you never know what awaits for you. As people go through their daily routines, they never know what may happen or what they could possibly encounter. Amazingly and, thankfully, most of us brave the weather, our moods and the challenges that we meet during the day and go to bed at night simply to await the next morning.

What keeps us going? Would is be the desire to succeed in life? Or to be up to the standards of course set by our "lovely" modern society? Maybe to be the best that we can be in the eyes of others? What ever you do to make it through the day and to fuel your dreams and to be the best that you can be, you need to fuel up.
As fast food has become more and more of a commodity for fueling our busy lives, people have turned to pre-marinated frozen foods and bottled vinaigrette. Through all of this change, the art of cooking is being lost.

I have been very fortunate growing up when it came to cooking. Traditional flavors were always honored of course. It sure didn't stop my mother from taking traditional flavors and combining them in unconventional pairs to create amazing tasting (not always the greatest looking) dishes. It is through this home cooking that I have appreciated and learned thousands of flavor combinations which have taught me the tremendous joys of cooking for family and friends, and of course myself.

Although I am currently in the field of pastry making and baking, cooking still holds an important part of my everyday life. After all, it's all food, and food is life. Just as life is not even close to being predictable, food combinations don't always turn out the way you think they will. Although there is always something hiding in the pantry or bottom drawer of that fridge which can balance the tastes of your favorite dishes.
I.E: Today I was throwing together a pot of vegetable soup with a few things lying around the fridge. Starting with a pot of your most cherished tap water and a package of stir fry noodles isn't always appetizing at first. By simply adding some finely chopped onions, a clove of garlic, a jalapeño pepper and left over kernels of corn, I created a fiesta of a veg. soup. Of course a few spices and condiments were added to make it all happen, but simply to make the point, once you have the first spoonful of a homemade, quickly pulled together, pot of soup, you want nothing but to cherish it. Even if the taste of that jalapeño pepper may have been a little too overpowering...It'll only help clear out your sinuses and protect you through this flu season after all! No harm done.

Now to sum it all up.

Food, has to be cherished for the properties it holds and for the effects it may have on your life. Through understanding a meal and being thankful for all its individual flavors, ones eyes will open up to a whole new world!

As a testament to my love for food, life and everything they have to offer, I will be posting about the flavors I have encountered and the effects it had on my day. Food creations are definitely going to emerge, whether good or bad. Please join me on this quest, for I am most probably going to be publishing a collection of the best creations in a recipe book which will capture food's best attributes with photography.

Eat well, sleep well, and till tomorrow,