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A Hallowe’en gone wrong

My post today is a sad one.   Each week, one person in my office brings in treats/food for the rest of us.  We call it  ‘Fat Friday’. I had moved my Fat Friday (snacks for the office) to today (Hallowe’en) so it could be themed.  Unfortunately, only 1 part of my plan made it to work.

I am really getting into cake/cupcake decorating.  My friend and I are planning to take a Wilton class in the winter, and I have done 2 Le Dolci cupcake classes.  So, Hallowe’en = a theme cake.  Out I go to my local kitchen store and buy a bat-shaped cake pan.  I made the chocolate-beet cake from the Globe and Mail.  I iced creatively, outlining my bat in multiple colours.

What it looked like, ready for humans to eat it.

And then my dog ate it.  He and I are still not talking.  There was one wing left (my husband save what he could for me).

But there is more!  I wanted to try something new! Traditional Hallowe’en fare, the caramel apple.

My mom and I tried two ways of melting the caramel (stove-top and microwave, go with the microwave) and quickly dipped the apples.  I haven’t tried one yet, but they looked good 🙂

What are your favourite Hallowe’en treats?  I think next year it will be all chocolate based.

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Easter: then and now

When I lived in France, Easter meant a trip.  Off to Ile Ouessant we went!  The trip wasn’t so great. I got sick on the ferry ride and it rained the whole weekend.  It also became a scary trip for me personally.  You see, cars are not allowed on the island, so we rode bicycles everywhere.  That wasn’t the scary part: the rain and lack of streetlights were.  My bicycle brakes almost failed as I was riding downhill, and I fell off rather than hit a wall.  I survived, but unbeknownst to me, my host family thought it would be funny to hijack my postcard to my parents and draw out me actually hitting a wall!  A panicked phone call the next week ensued to explain that I was in fact fine.   On the upside, I played with spring lambs in the fields any chance I could 🙂

What I do (fondly) remember about France and Easter is the great chocolate I was given.  Coloured, dark, milk, all in great seashell shapes and creamy.  Oh, and Belgian! Mmmmm.  I hoarded that chocolate for a month, doling out small amounts every day as a treat, it was so good.  That was about the only similarity between Easter there and here, because here there are egg hunts, hard-boiled coloured eggs, more chocolate (but not as good) and family dinners.

To celebrate this year, I decided to be baker-ly.  Hot cross buns (2 flavours) and some cute M&M cupcakes were to be made.  And for Passover, meringues with lemon curd filling.

Hot Cross Buns

I cut this recipe out from the now defunct President’s Choice Food magazine they published years ago, hoping one day to have a kitchen big enough to make these in.  Ironically, I now do, but ended up making them at my parents’.  WineGuyTo wanted chocolate chips (like Cobs Bakery), so the dough got divided up; one traditional, one chocolate chip.

Recipe (its long!)

Ingredients:

1/3 (75ml) cup plus 1 tsp (5ml) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water

1 tbsp (15ml) dry active yeast

2 1/2 cups (625ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp (2ml) ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp (2ml) mixed ground spices (such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice) ***I cheated here and just did cloves, adding a little more cinnamon and nutmeg overall

1/4 tsp (1ml) freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp (1ml) ground ginger

1/3 cup (75ml) milk

2 tbsp (25ml) melted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (125 ml) currants ** I used raisins

3 tbsp (45ml) candied mixed peel

2 tbsp (25ml) each milk, water and granulated sugar

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tsp (5ml) granulated sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast.  Let stand 10 minutes until frothy.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup (75ml) sugar and all the spices.  Make a well in the middle.  Add yeast, milk, melted butter and egg.  Combine well.  If dough is sticky, add a little more flour **If dividing, do it as it is JUST combining.  Stir in currants and mixed peel (or chocolate chips|).  On a lightly floured surface, knead 10 minutes or until dough is smooth, shiny and slightly elastic.  Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

***Side-note, my mother tells me that as a child they would leave the bowl on the radiator.  We put ours in the oven at 125° F.

Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead 1 minute.  Roll into a long cylinder, then cut into 12 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a small bun: Bring together the tips of your thumb and forefinger in the shape of an O.  Using your other hand, push a piece of the dough up through the hole to make a smooth ball.  Pinch together the bottom of the ball to seal.  Place pinched side down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with all dough pieces.  For soft-sided buns place 1/2 inch (1cm) apart.  For crusty buns, place 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) apart.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425° F( 220° C).  Just before baking, remove plastic and use a sharp knife to slash a cross into each bun, if desired.  Wait until the crosses open slightly, then place pan in oven and bake buns 15-20 minutes or until browned.  Remove the buns to a wire cooling rack.

Prepare Glaze: in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp (25ml) each milk, water and sugar.  Stir until sugar has dissolved and glaze is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.  Brush glaze over still warm buns.

Chocolate on left, traditional on right

Unfortunately I don’t think the yeast was quite fresh enough (was borrowed) and they didn’t rise to the consistency I wanted.  Will still enjoy them though!

M&M cupcakes

I totally went quick on this.  Saw the recipe from my M&M newsletter (yes I get one, those who know me well know I LOVE M&Ms) and decided to make for the family dinner.  Box of french vanilla cake mix, some green dye in vanilla pre-made icing, and voilà!

so cute!

Meringues with Lemon Curd

I hate eggs.  An allergy as a child meant that I really never acquired a taste, so no scrambled, hard-boiled, over easy eggs for this girl.  But meringue; meringue I love.  So the Jewish connection: those who know Passover, know that there isn’t anything leavened allowed.  So out goes a traditional lemon meringue pie and in comes meringue with lemon curd!

Everyone has their own meringue recipe.  I found that piping out into a cup shape worked, or using a wet finger to make a well is just as good.  I used a lemon curd recipe from Alton Brown, and I don’t put it in until almost ready to serve, or the meringue gets too soft.  I did use the modification in the comments by MRubenzahl and it turned out great!

At the mushy stage, but so delish!


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