Thursday, July 25, 2013

Apricot Upside-Down Cake

Let me be weird for a sec and tell you about my fruit situation.  I know this is the riveting stuff you live to read about on your summer holidays.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Bowls of apricots and peaches, slowly ripening to their juicy glory on the kitchen counter.  Inside the fridge are small pails packed full of cherries - the sweet ones from the farmers market and sour ones - from the tree of a sweet friendWay out yonder at the rear of the garden are not one but two massive raspberry patches, that need daily pickings otherwise the birds or bugs will get to them before IAnd I hate having birds or bugs beat me to anything.  Then there is the rhubarb, that just. won't.  stop.   It's full on fruitpalooza in my house, but I'm not complaining.  This is the best time of year to be an eater.  This is what I long for in the deep dark depths of a frigid winter, when I can't possibly eat another apple or banana.  I'm a total greedy fruit hoarder right now, stuffing my chubby cheeks with the good stuff; making the most of it while I can.  I suppose you can say the same thing for enjoying all summer produce - it's really about embracing the present.  With so much bounty on our hands, it must be enjoyed and dealt with immediately.  You can't sit idle when you have rows of Swiss chard that need picking (ahem) or pails of cherries that need pitting (double ahem) or bowls of apricots on the verge of over-ripening.  To let it go to waste is just so sad.  These are gifts, here for but the briefest of moments.  I don't know about you, but I love me some presents; especially those I can eat.   

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Afternoon: Kale & Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

            Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.  ~ Henry James

True, that.  I hope you are enjoying all of your summer afternoons so far.  We're creeping into late July, and someone please tell me how the heck that happened.  Already.  Do you get the feeling that you haven't done all that you've wanted to do, so far?  I do.  I feel like I'm falling behind on summer; chasing after it, pleading with it, to hold on for just as sec.  Wait for me.  Don't be in a rush.  And for God's sake don't leave before I've gone on at least one road trip, dipped my toes in a lake and curled up with just a book and a glass of iced tea.  Let me catch up to your lazy, hazy days.  I'm sorry I've been working like a madwoman, crazy early hours, with a bedtime that happens before the sun has completely left for the day.  That hasn't happened since 1983. Oh the travails of being an early morning baker.  I am, kind of/sort of, beginning to grow fond of the dawn's early light, and the serene stillness it brings.  There's still a hush over the city, save for the birds chattering away.  I slowly unwind from my slumber, pull a brush through my rat's nest and put the kettle on for tea.  Yes, there is a full work day ahead, but also a good chunk of summer afternoon left for me to do with as I will.  We've got time.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chill Out: Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Whoa Nelly.  I hope to all goodness that you had a better week than I did.  You know those days when all you really want to do is have a mid-day meltdown, throw yourself face-first onto the bed and cry your face off like a two year old? Yeah that.  For a few days last week that's pretty much what needed to be done.  Work was stupid busy, and suddenly our glorious, gluten-free bread which is essentially the talk of the town - the stuff that I make every day - well it stopped being so glorious.  In fact it was crap.  It wasn't rising properly and was a hollow crater inside.  Folks were coming far and wide for a slice and we weren't able to offer them any.  In case you aren't aware - baking gluten free is a different animal.  There's no bag of all-purpose flour to dip into and there you go, carry on with your recipe.  Na-ah.  Gluten free bread requires a carefully orchestrated symbiosis of flours and starches and gums and yeast and vinegar, and if one or more ingredients is defective, well you are in trouble.  I was in the shit.  After a couple of days of CSI: Gluten Free Baking Edition, we discovered the brown rice flour was stale.  Yes, stale.  It's lack of freshness destroyed the product and basically my soul.  Everyone was so kind and supportive, but this bread is essential to the restaurant and if it flops, then that's not cool.  The pressure I felt was my own, dumped onto these shoulders that can only carry so much.  But holy Jesus, the relief I felt when a batch turned out absolutely perfect, made with fresh brown rice flour.  I almost cried, yet again, but this time with joy instead of frustration.  Oh the learning curve of cooking and baking with entirely new ingredients.  As we discovered last week - it can be a steep one.  But this was a good lesson for me - yes about the flour - but also how I need to chill the hell out.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blowtorch Optional: S'more Layer Cake with Salted Milk Chocolate Ganache & Seven Minute Frosting

So if that super long title is any indication, I indeed busted out the big guns for this cake.  While it is quite the production, it should also be noted that this cake is worth every dirty mixing bowl and spatula that will take up residence in your sink.  The lucky recipient was my sweet mama, who recently celebrated a birthday, and seeing as she's the one who gave birth to me and all, she gets a pretty cake on the day she was born.  It's payback time, I suppose, for all of those cakes over the years she bestowed upon me.  My favourite was always chocolate cake with swirls of fluffy white icing.  Tucked away in the cake layers were assorted coins, wrapped in tin foil, waiting to be pulled out by some lucky kid.  If you got the quarter you were golden!  And if it was your birthday and you got shut out, then there was probably some sulking, and possibly tears.  Not that I know this from first hand experience or anything.  Ahem.  Fast forward 30 odd years and while I didn't hide any money in my mom's birthday cake, I'm certain that the love she baked with all those years ago was matched by mine on this day. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

13 Things You Need To Eat This Summer

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. ~ Ada Louise Huxtable

It's true though, isn't it?  How long have we waited for the warm summer breezes to wash over us and carry away our worries and general maladies?  Now that we are in the throes of this most glorious time of year, I hope you are indeed wearing less clothing and generally feeling quite awesome.  Today we delve into the archives for a little summertime fun and food.  It was quite the trip to pick my favourite foods to eat while wiping away sweat from the upper lip.  Look how much my photos have changed!  We've come a long way, baby.  Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me.  I'll be back in a few with a brand new post.  I made cake!  And there may or may not have been milk chocolate ganache involved.  Believe me, you don't want to miss it.  Until then, happy 4th of July to my American friends, and don't forget the SPF. 

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