Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marzipan Fruit

I have just completed a class on Almond Paste at Algonquin College, and honestly, for something I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy, I really surprised myself and loved it. And, yes, I actually made all of the fruit and vegetables in the photos by myself - with absolutely no previous experience (not even a day).

I really enjoy the way it makes me feel when I do something I don't think I will like and then it turns out that I want to start a new career! I mean, who couldn't love the perfect little specimen that were created with my own hands. It's crazy, I didn't want the class to end.

The only other time I felt like that was when I was at college studying Commercial Cookery and Butchery classes were looming. It wasn't that I didn't like meat, it was just that I thought how interesting could butchery, of all things, be? It turns out that I loved it too.

I think I enjoy things the most where I have the opportunity to learn something completely new. I absolutely love a challenge, and that love combined with my incessant strive for perfection leads to me to create these perfect little edibles.

And, just in case you can't tell, from left to right, there are red peppers, bananas, carrots, Granny Smith apple, bosc pear in the back, plum in the front, red delicious apple, grapes in the back, lemon in the front and then oranges at the far end.

Almond Paste
recipe from Karen Barr, Pastry Chef at Algonquin College
Makes 1.9kg (that makes a lot of fruit & vegetables - let me tell you! The fruit above weigh approx. 10g each)

910g almond paste (you can make your own, but commercial product is so much smoother)
120ml glucose* or light corn syrup

910g sifted icing sugar

Place the almond paste and the glucose, or corn syrup, into bowl of stand mixer. Using the hook attachment, mix at low speed until combined.
Start adding the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Add enough sugar to make a fairly firm, yet workable dough. In class, we added half the sugar in the mixer, then added the rest by hand, by kneading it on a clean work surface. (It's a great workout.)

Wrap the marzipan in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container. Store in a cool place until ready to use (not the refrigerator).

Colour small portions with water soluble food colouring or gel food colouring. The gel food colouring gives a more vibrant hue.

When rolling to form shapes, roll in icing sugar to keep from sticking.

*You can purchase glucose from Artistic Cake Design on Merivale Road.

Enjoy, and have fun!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The best Garlic Bread - ever!

There's a new baker in town and I am in love with their bread. Oh my GOD - it's GOOD! I can't even begin to describe my love affair with great bread. I have been known to drive all the way across town to pick up an Art-is-In baguette, and just have a taste on my way home in the car, and serioulsy, by the time I get home, it's gone. Now I buy two!
The same goes for driving through Kingston, I will always detour to Pan Chancho and buy multiple $6 loaves of bread. My poor husband is in disbelief every time we go that way that we have to stop, and that I'll pay so much just for bread. I think he secretly hopes that two hours into our drive I will be asleep just so we don't have to stop.
But, Art-is-In is not the new bakery I'm talking about, I am talking about fabulous bread baked here in Ottawa and delivered to hotels, restaurants and yes, the Produce Depot. It is just as good as Art-is-In, and I feel kind of sorry that there is such good competition out there for Keith Mathieson, but it's great for people like me who just cannot get enough great bread. You know, now that I think about it, I have no idea what this new baker calls himself. I will find out and let you know.
Obviously, I'd do no good on the no-carb lifestyle! So, just to top it all off, here is my recipe for killer garlic bread.


Garlic Bread
makes enough butter for one baguette, split lengthwise and spread on both sides

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise (yes, I said mayonnaise - I like Hellman's, and the full fat variety please)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 baguette

Mix it all together in a small bowl, excpet the bread, of course. It's important to have the butter at room temperature otherwise it won't mix in nicely with the mayonnaise. Trust me, I didn't think it would work either, but when you run out of always have mayo :)

Cut bread in half lengthwise and spread cut sides generously with the garlic butter. Heat broiler and cook, buttered side up on a baking sheet, for 3-4 minutes until the bread is all golden and bubbling and smelling delicious.

You can keep the butter, wrapped tightly, in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

That's it! Super simple and sooooooooo delicious. And, yes, I could eat the whole loaf, without a doubt :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Oh My! Oh Pie!

What do you do with a case of apples? I think that equals about 88 apples..hmmm...a friend of mine decided she had an unwanted case of apples and was going to throw them away when I said I'd take them. You know me, I like to give everything a second chance. But, a case of apples - where other to begin than with pie!

I think I'd take a piece of pie over chocolate cake any day. I like cake, I love chocolate, but I like home made fruit pies even better. There's just something about them that makes you feel loved, and you never get that bogged down feeling like you do after eating a wedge of cake.

I have made this pie plenty of times, it is relatively simple, but has a few steps. I encourage you to read through it first, because from start to finish, it takes about 3 hours, but you are not working the entire time, just waiting for delicious pastry to rest and sweet apples to macerate.


Apple Raspberry Pie
Makes one 9" double crust pie
Adapted ever so slightly from The Joy of Baking
Crust: You can make the pastry up to two days in advance (just keep refrigerated)
225g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½” pieces
350g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
¼ – ½ cup ice water

Pie Filling:
3 large tart apples (I use Granny Smith), peeled, cored and sliced ¼” thick
3 large sweet apples (I use Gala), peeled, cored and sliced ¼” thick
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (if using only apples, increase cinnamon to ½ teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
170g (1 pint) fresh raspberries

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon white sugar

To make crust:
Place into bowl of food processor all ingredients in the same order listed (ie, butter on the bottom, flour next etc), except water. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pour in ¼ cup water in slow stream and process until the dough JUST comes together. If necessary, add a little more water.
Turn dough out into a large bowl. Press into bottom of bowl until dough comes together. It may look a little dry at this point. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half and place one half on top of the other, press down to make one piece again, and repeat twice more.
Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour to relax the gluten.

After chilling, cut the pastry into two pieces (1/3 and 2/3) and roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface, to fit pie plate, about 30cm round to fit a 9” dish. Brush off excess flour and trim pastry to fit plate. Repeat with pastry for the lid. Cover both with plastic and place back in the refrigerator.

To make filling:
In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, sugars, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt. Let the apple macerate for two hours at room temperature.
Then, place the apples and their juices in a strainer over a bowl, and leave for 15 minutes to catch juices. When you have strained off at least ½ cup juice, place the juices and the butter in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup and the juices are thickened and syrupy. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mix the strained apples with the cornstarch, the fresh raspberries and the reduced juices. Mix well and then place fruit and syrup into pastry shell. Brush edges with a little water and close with pastry lid. Seal edges, and using a sharp knife make five 2” slits from the centre of the pie out to allow steam to escape. Place in refrigerator while oven heats.
Brush with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with white sugar.

Preheat convection oven to 375F (400F standard oven), and place pie on a baking sheet to catch any juices.

Bake for about 30 minutes (turning halfway for even browning) and then cover the edges with a foil ring to prevent over-browning. Bake for another 15-30 minutes until nicely browned on top and you can see the juices bubbling through the slits.

Remove from oven and cool 2-3 hours before slicing. Pie will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Raspberry Almond Friands

Raspberries...almonds....YUM! I love these little oval cakes. They are sweet, but not too sweet, and chewy because of the almonds, but because of their petite size, you never feel as if you have eaten too much. (Says me, who has already eaten three today!).

I think these little cakes, called friands, first appeared in cafes in Sydney about 15 years ago. I bet they are so passé now that you can't even buy them. I love the plain raspberry ones, but you could almost use any fruit, add some zest and whatever other flavourings you like and they would turn out just as delicious. And, I have never seen them in Ottawa, or anywhere I have travelled in North America. Perhaps it's an Australian-French made-up bakery delight.

One place I used to buy them from in Sydney, baked them in a jelly-roll type of pan, cut them into triangles and dusted liberally with icing sugar. They were so good!

I used a non-stick pan which kind of looks like a muffin pan, but with oval holes in it. When I bought it in Australia, surprise surprise, it was called a friand pan. I don't know what else it could be called, or where to buy it here, but I bet mini muffin pans would work just as well. You could probably get a friand pan shipped from Peters of Kensington in Sydney.

My almonds were purchased already ground from the Mid-East store on Belfast. They are relatively cheap and if you are not planning to use them all within a couple of weeks, just wrap tightly and store in the freezer.

I don't know why I had an inkling to make these, it just felt like now was the right time. I had raspberries, I had almonds and I figured this would work out nicely.

Raspberry Almond Friands
Makes 12

1 & 1/3 cup ground almonds
1 & 3/4 cup icing sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
8 egg whites, beaten only to get the whites to a smooth consistency - not to inflate
150g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup raspberries (or other fruit - blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease the pan you are using.
Mix together the almonds, icing sugar, flour and lemon zest. Stir in the egg whites until just combined. Add the melted butter (and it looks like a big greasy mess at this point, but keep stirring - miraculously, it all gets mixed in) and stir until combined.
Portion the batter evenly between the holes in the pan. Top with raspberries (I used 5 per friand) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are just pale golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool in pan for 5 minutes. When cool, dust with icing sugar.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Penne with Arugula and Walnut Pesto

I have been entering a competition using Catelli Healthy Harvest Pasta in which the challenge changes every week. I entered for the first time last week and then challenge was to use whole wheat spaghetti with fruit. It took a while for me to think of something creative enough to prepare. I was thinking peaches, and then I was thinking should I try a dessert, but then I settled on creating a peanut chicken curry with coconut milk and adding fresh pineapple and lime juice. It actually worked out quite nicely.

This week the challenge was to create a recipe using whole wheat penne and nuts or seeds. Immediately I thought of a pesto - classic nuts & herbs with pasta, but the taste of whole wheat pasta is earthy and nutty in itself and I thought it would pair wonderfully with walnuts.

The rest of the recipe came together when I scoured through my fridge (my latest resolution is to never throw food away again. It drives me crazy to think of how much I throw away on a weekly basis...not anymore!). I found parsley which was a good base and then I had a whole container of arugula which would add some peppery bite, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil and it was pretty much done. I added some sauteed mushrooms because they were in my fridge, but also because it seemed to lack something by itself. Turned out, it added another earthy element to the pasta.

For a super easy dinner, this was it. And I didn't buy anything special (except the pasta which you have to include to enter the competition). Feel free to mix up the ingredients - more parmesan cheese, less salt, different herbs, you name it, you could probably do it!

Let's see what they come up with next week to make us all think outside the box! If you like the recipe go to the Catelli website and cast your vote!

Penne with Arugula and Walnut Pesto
Makes 4 serves

1 packed cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 packed cup baby arugula
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
1 package (375g) Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Penne
1 tablespoon butter
1lb mushrooms, thickly sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook penne for 13 minutes, drain and set aside.

In the meantime, combine the parsley, arugula, garlic, walnuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper in the base of a food processor.

Pulse until the mixture is coarsley chopped. With motor running, slowly pour in olive oil and water and process until almost smooth. You may need to add a little more water if too thick. Set aside. You are looking for a smooth-ish paste texture. Soft enough that it will fold through hot pasta, but firm enough that it will hold it's shape if you make it into a ball shape.

Melt the butter in a large pan and brown mushrooms. You may need to do this in two batches so the mushrooms brown nicely.

Combine the pesto and mushrooms with the penne and mix well. Serve with extra parmesan cheese on top.