Food

Kouign Amann, The First Time

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Mini Kouign Amann

I was flipping through David Lebovitz’s Flipboard articles on my iPad when I came across a recipe for Kouign Amann. I’d never heard of it before, but the photos, his descriptions – I wanted!

I had the ingredients on hand. I read and reread the recipe. I studied the comments from people who’d actually tried making it and that included useful information. I perused the photos. And I can say that it’s absolutely worth the effort. But I discovered that sometimes knowing too much is not a good thing. I know how to make puff pastry and croissants, and on the surface this seemed like the same sort of thing. Not so. Yes, you fold like you do with puff pastry, but I don’t believe the point is to fully incorporate the butter. It’s impossible! Instead, although Lebovitz’s photos were not definitive to my eyes, it seems that the butter is meant to stay in pieces.

Finished Dough

Despite me going off in the wrong direction, I corrected quickly enough.

I made the dough with 1/4 cup of whole wheat bread or hard flour because I like the flavour of whole wheat. Whole wheat though can turn this kind of dough into a hockey puck, so I wouldn’t use more than that even though I use all whole wheat pastry flour in my baking. I didn’t use as much flour as in the recipe. Go figure. That’s why adding flour gradually is a must to ensure the right level of stickiness. But Like another commenter, I did three folds, and like many others, the sugar melted during the chilling process. Since it didn’t seem to affect others’ results, and though I’m not sure how sugar melts in the fridge, I figured this was part of the process…although Lebovitz’s dough didn’t look like that.

I remained skeptical of my efforts, and so I tore off a piece of dough, dropped it into a buttered ramekin, and baked it according to his and a commenter’s directions for 20 minutes at 425F. My oven is running a little cold, and so 425 is probably 420. I may try a lower oven temperature next time for the larger one; for the smaller one, it worked well.

Small, Perfect, Addictive

Caramel is hot, hot, hot for too long once you take it out of the oven. And you do need to unmould this within a minute or two of taking it out of the oven. It smells so good, it’s a real effort of will to keep hands off. At the earliest moment, I could, I tried it. Oh my. It was like melted-caramel-soaked dough underneath, crunchy on top, caramelly delicious, addictive, more-ish.

I felt confident about the large one now.

Lebovitz warns that the dough may break up as you transfer it to the baking dish. But it is easy to patch together, as he had said. I used a 23cm pyrex dish and made the dough slightly smaller in radius than the dish. That way the caramel wouldn’t overflow as had happened to others. One commenter used brown sugar; since the sugar on top of my small one had not melted, I used some brown sugar for some of the 1/4 cup granulated on top of the large one. I think next time I’ll use all brown sugar as it still didn’t melt fully. If you like crunchy sugar, granulated works well.

Ready for the Oven

It looks, uh, dreadful going into the oven. But never fear, it works! Since the small one had baked according to the directions, and I have a habit of underbaking, I followed Lebovitz’s directions for time and temp. It baked way, way darker than the small one. (Next time, I’ll check it ten minutes before “done.”) The edges were burnt. I didn’t get the layers (next time, I will roll the dough thicker so the butter bits will not shoot out of the dough). And it absolutely didn’t want to slide out of its dish like the small one had. I had to use two implements to coax it out within a minute or two of taking it out of the oven. But when it fully cooled, inside the burnt edges it was oh so crunchy caramelly while the soft interior melted into sweet goodness in the mouth and the underside exploded in caramel addiction.

The results were scarfed up in no time.

Out of the Oven

It was interesting that though the small one had no burnt edges and the big one did, the cake interior of the two was practically the same, neither undercooked nor overcooked to dryness. So go check out Lebovitz’s recipe for Kouign Amann.

Essay

Baked Good Deliciousness at the Vegetarian Food Fair: A Few Reviews

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The Vegetarian Food Fair down at Toronto’s Harbourfront this year was a cornucopia of good food, good-looking food, fake grass, and lots and lots of sunshine and people, unlike previous years I’ve been. I grazed my way from booth to booth, filling myself up on free samples and emptying my wallet on specials and baked goods. Lunch too. Most fare was vegan. These things seem to skip right over vegetarian delights on their way from meat to vegan. But never mind, as long as the vegan is good.

Savoury

King’s Café, in Kensington, was the Fair’s Gold Sponsor and had a take-out counter. I had my first Chinese bun in years, a veggie one this time. No more barbecued pork buns for me after I went veggie. It was one item I missed. The King’s Café bun was good. Puffy, white, slightly sweet. The veggie filling was not filled with fresh or quickly sautéed vegetables so much as saucy filling of some sort. I would’ve liked more colour and flavour. Their spring roll was like vegetable spring rolls everywhere: crispy and greasy. The other item I had, a mock chicken skewer was bleh.

Bunner’s is on Dundas West and had a delicious-looking booth of cookies and cupcakes with a couple of savoury items: pizza or curry pastry pockets. I bought the pizza one, a red-velvet cupcake, and their Gypsy cookie.

Pizza Pastry Bunners Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-09

The pastry for the pizza pocket was decent, a bit crumbly though. The filling included tomato, mushrooms, and diet mozzarella cheese. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of the latter. I do eat skim cheese or partly skim, but this did not taste anything like as good as what I buy at the store. So I think since the bakery is vegan it was not so much diet cheese as fake cheese. Soy and tofu are good substitutes for some things and can make tasty dishes, but I’m not a fan of many versions of soya milk (gag) and apparently not the cheese either. The mushrooms tasted like those ones from the old days in red-candled, dim pizza parlours. Not good. The tomato sauce was not all that flavourful. And something gave a chemically aftertaste; maybe that was the “cheese.” I don’t know what the calorie count would be, but it looked as hearty as a Cornish pasty. Too bad nowhere near as filling. I definitely needed dessert (well, is there any excuse not good enough for dessert?).

The Sweet Stuff

I stocked up on the sweet stuff from several bakeries and took them home, except for the sweet potato doughnuts from LPK’s Culinary Groove. I am a fan of this expensive-but-worth-it bakery and had not yet tried their doughnuts. And so when I saw they were freshly frying them, I had to try a cone of three. They’re tiny round balls dipped in maple sugar and piled into a paper cone. It’s a very attractive snack. The doughnut itself was crispy on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside, but the maple sugar’s flavour overwhelmed the dough’s. I would have much preferred raw organic sugar, which, I must admit, is what I like dipping my own homemade doughnuts in. A rare miss in LPK’s pantheon of delights.

Cupcake Red Velvet Bunner's Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-11

Bunner’s red velvet cupcake is a dainty confection pleasing to the eye. But in my first bite, I received a strong taste of the fat, non-butter fat. Good butter is yummy. Coconut fat can be awfully good. But oils and other baking-type fats are best left as background tastes not dominant ones. The texture was suitably airy, and the icing awfully sweet, which I know in our sugar-saturated society, many like. Not me. I do have a sweet tooth, and some sweets like Indian sweets are meant to be oh-so-sweet, which is why they come in small sizes and pack strong flavours to balance the sugar. But too much sugar in non-Indian sweets is not a good thing. Cakes and cupcakes are meant to be a flavour harmony that lights up the taste buds and makes the mouth smile and the mind remember pleasurably for a long, long while. Too much fat and sugar just gives one an emotional overload that leads to an emotional trough.

Cookie Supersonic Gypsy Bunners Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-09

I saved Bunner’s Supersonic Gypsy cookie for last. And I’m so glad I did. My stomach was satisfied, my taste buds were singing, and my eyes feasted on the deliciousness of deep red dried cranberries, a surfeit of chocolate chips, creamy-coloured oats, and seeds, all held together with yummy cookie dough. I should’ve bought another. And another.

Pecan sticky bun bloomers bakery Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-10

Next on the sugar express is the pecan sticky bun from bloomer’s bakery. According to the veg.ca website listing, bloomer’s is a delivery-only bakery out of the annex or available only at select stores. And so this was a good way to try out their goodness. The gentleman who served me was the baker’s father and generous. I bought the bun as I was leaving the Fair. Back at home, I had a third of a bun first (I was getting a bit stuffed). My first bite netted me a hit of sweet, uncooked dough. A short stint in the microwave fixed that, a remedy I’ve had to use a few times with my own doughy recipes because I seem to have lost my sense of when bread is done (stupid brain injury). So either the baker is new at this or rushed because of the pressures of the Fair. Experience with bread baking and high-pressure situations will remedy this in time. The taste was yummy. And it wasn’t drowning in cinnamon like some sticky or cinnamon breads can be. Sticky with just-the-right-amount-of-sweet bread and crunch of pecan, it hit the spot.

Next up was the Kelly’s Goodies’ coconut cupcake. It didn’t survive the trip home too well.

Cupcake Coconut in Case Kellys Goodies Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-10

But when I took it out of its carton, I found that it was only the beautifully rounded dome of icing that had been smooshed and only on one side.

Cupcake Coconut Kellys Goodies Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-09

The cupcake was fine and oh so moist. I detected banana; it seemed like it was layered in between the icing and chocolate cakey part, but I didn’t take the cupcake apart to inspect it. I was too busy eating to want to pause. The cupcake was decently chocolatey and not too sweet. Even better, the icing wasn’t overly sweet either. I think the coconut sprinkled on top thickly would’ve been better toasted, not only for a nicer crunch but also for the flavour. I noticed near the end of my cupcake feeding frenzy that fake aftertaste I’d noticed so strongly in Bunner’s baked goods. In this cupcake it lingered a few moments after I’d finished, long enough not to be pleasant but not so long that I went hunting for something else to eat to get rid of it.

Brownie Uber Kellys Goodies Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-10

Kelly’s Goodies’ is in Burlington, and its brownies come in at least three versions. At the Fair, they were handing out little samples of the plain-no-icing brownie. Smart. It got me to buy the Über or World Peace brownie — a brownie with a thin layer of chocolate icing. For icing nuts, there was the Mile High brownie with a rising cloud of icing and what looked like a tiny brownie on top. The Über Brownie is chocolatey and moist, so moist it almost clings to your palate like peanut butter. The icing was chocolatey too; its sweetness didn’t cloy, and the sugar didn’t overwhelm the chocolate taste. Best of all, no fake or chemically aftertaste.

Cobbler Strawberry Peach Apiecalypse Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-09-09

Apiecalypse Now! bakery doesn’t have a storefront so the Fair was a great opportunity to sample their fare. I chose an individual fruit cobbler filled with strawberries and peaches and totally covered with pastry so that it would arrive home sans fruit spilling out. I can only eat so many desserts in one day, and so it sat in my fridge for a few days. I heated it up in its foil container, uncovered, in a 200°F oven. Warm is best for pies. And it was good. Its taste and texture were as if I had just bought it. A fluffy topping, full of flavour but not overpowering, its crust a golden bite. The filling was a fruity, not sugary, amalgam of strawberries and peaches. I have to admit I would’ve liked more fruit. But it was a very pleasing pudding, as they say in Britain.

After all this dessert goodness, you’d think I’d have had my fill for a month. Nope. I’m ready for trying another pie from Apiecalypse or maybe one of LPK’s genius vegan Nanaimo Bars that I savoured a couple of months ago from their bakery on Queen Street East. It was worth the special trip.

Food

An Egg-White Frittata To Die For

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Diabetes. Cholesterol. These are the words that send a person to the cupboard searching for what to make that will taste good but not shoot up that glucose, those dreaded triglycerides, or the ever-bad word, cholesterol. Frittata to the rescue. Or to be precise, an egg-white-frittata.

Frittata Veg and Cheese Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-02-20

A vegetarian frittata made with all egg whites, provides lots of protein, few calories, not too much saturated fat (depending on cheese quotient), and lots of comforting winter taste. I’ve experimented with this recipe a few times, beginning with including a few egg yolks and too much oil, and ending with no yolks, less oil, and more cheese. And always, I’ve used a base of cherry tomatoes and artichokes for my veggies. Normally, I use three vegetables, but for my latest, most stomach-satisfying incarnation, I used four. This is the recipe I share with you today.

You may notice the lack of salt and pepper. This is because salt raises blood pressure, and there is enough in the cheese to flavour the dish nicely. If, however, you’re used to a lot of salt in your diet, you may find adding no salt bland to your taste buds. As for pepper, my brain injury means my body does a lousy job of regulating body temperature. Anything spicy – and that includes pepper — makes me way too hot. Try it without pepper, then with, and see which you prefer. The spices and herbs are all about what you like. Feel free too to experiment with the vegetables too. Sometimes, I’ve roasted half a small bag of frozen broccoli florets, straight from the freezer, with the tomatoes and artichokes. If you’re not using mushrooms, then amend the recipe so at the point you heat the pan, add the roasted veggies, stir a moment, add half-a tablespoon canola oil, then the egg whites.

  • Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, one small container or dry pint, leave whole
  • Artichoke hearts, one can (about 240g net weight without the water), rinsed to get rid of the salt, cut up (I use my hands to pull them apart)
  • One onion, medium sized though small will do too, chopped in quarters or eighths, the layers roughly pulled apart
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3T balsamic vinegar
  • dried oregano, generous sprinkle
  • dried parsley, generous sprinkle
  • 1T canola oil
  • Sliced mushrooms, 227g
  • 3T apple cider vinegar
  • 8 egg whites
  • dried oregano, dash
  • dried parsley, dash
  • 9 dashes turmeric
  • dried garlic (you could roast a garlic bulb and omit this in the eggs)
  • 6og part skim-milk mozzarella
  • 12g grated parmesan

Dump the cherry tomatoes, artichokes, and onion on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Sprinkle over the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs. Mix with your hands until all the veggies are coated with the oil and vinegar. Pop into a 425F oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes until they start to look caramelized, maybe with a few edges burnt, no more than that. You can do this ahead of time, even the day before, in which case set aside in the fridge covered until ready to use.

When the veggies are close to done, in a bowl beat the egg whites with the herbs and spices until slightly frothy and the whites have loosened. Set aside.

Put a large oven-proof pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Add one-half tablespoon of the canola oil. When the oil wrinkles but is not smoking yet, toss in all the mushrooms. Spread over the pan evenly and let sit for a couple of minutes or 5 until the bottom ones are browned. Pour in the apple cider vinegar. You could use another vinegar or balsamic again if you prefer, something that will go well with the taste of which veggies you’re using. Do not use wine. Too many calories; too much sugar. Cook until all the vinegar has evaporated and the mushrooms have started sticking to the pan a little bit. Add the roasted veggies. Stir. Their juices will dissolve the brown bits stuck to the pan. Turn down the heat to low. Add the rest of the canola oil and stir.

Spread the veggies evenly over the pan.

Beat the egg whites again for a few seconds then pour over the veggies in a circular fashion to ensure they’re all covered. You  may need to shift the veggies with a spoon to get the whites to every edge of the pan. If the mozzarella is not shredded, cut it into small bits so you can spread it evenly over the top of the eggs. Lastly, sprinkle the parmesan evenly over the entire dish, right to the edges.

Put into the oven. Bake at 424F for 15-18 minutes until set. Turn the broiler onto high (unless your top rack is very close, in which case, set it to low). Broil for about 2-3 minutes. Open the oven door and check. If not yet browned, turn the pan, and broil for another minute. It will puff up a bit and brown evenly. If any veggies are sticking up, they will char, which is yummy.

Cut into four wedges.

The nice thing about a frittata is that if you don’t finish it, it refrigerates nicely, covered with plastic wrap or in a sealed container. You can then eat it cold or warm it up in the microwave. It’s good by itself, or you can serve it with a salad, steamed veggies, or a dollop of fat-free yogurt.

My diet app calculated the nutrition per serving as 226 calories; 2.8g saturated fat; 10.2g fat; 18.9g carbohydrates; 5.8g fibre; and 17.3g protein.

Enjoy!

Food

Chocolate Bread

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Chocolate Bread, originally uploaded by Points North.

Well, over a month ago, I saw this tweet from David Lebovitz, an American pastry chef in Paris: It’s like chocolate cake, only breader!

The pun was irresistible. I had to check it out. Like Cook’s Illustrated magazine, he shows through yummy photographs and writes about the steps he took to perfect his chocolate bread recipe and what the dough should look like along the way. I had to make it. But I was in the middle of a screenplay-writing frenzy, and then a heat wave hit, and who wanted to turn on the oven in the middle of that, and then the memory of that recipe faded — until a few days ago. The weather was perfect, the need to bake intense, and I pulled the recipe up on my browser. Thank goodness I had favourited Lebovitz’s long-ago April tweet.

I pulled out all the ingredients, checked which chocolates I had in stock. I didn’t have enough semisweet. But no matter. I like the depth of bittersweet, and the Cuisine Camino one has yummy cherry notes in it, something I’d never tasted so clearly in chocolate before (it must be the combination of organic and fair trade or maybe they got a talented head chocolatier). But then I worried that would make too strong a chocolate taste, and so I chopped up milk chocolate for the chunks that are folded in after the first rise.

It’s a soft dough, he said. I wondered what that meant. It meant it’s kneaded right in the bowl, or rather folded by a big spatula. No transferring to the counter; no having to put back in an oiled bowl. An all-in-one process! As usual, I let it rise longer than the recipe. First, because I used only whole wheat flour. I’ve discovered — maybe because of Canada’s terrible food laws governing what is whole wheat — that Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground whole wheat flour has a high gluten content that gives bread a wonderful rise. And second, it was a bit coolish in my kitchen. This bread actually doesn’t rise much, which can be a bit perturbing.

But after the two rises and the last rise in the oven, it comes out with a nice crumb, a melting texture, oozing chunks of chocolate (or smooth chocolate pieces when fully cooled). It comes out the perfect, irresistible snack. And best of all, it freezes nicely.

Food

Cocoa Coconut Banana Cupcakes

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So there it sat: the small banana ripening at warp speed, too ripe too fast, meaning all it was good for was banana cake. But I only had the one. And I wasn’t in the mood for banana cake. No, what I wanted was chocolate. Deep, dark, mind-altering chocolate.

I also had some leftover light coconut milk, and I had no idea what to do with it until I looked over at my banana. Bananas and coconut go well together, I thought. So does chocolate and coconut as I’d discovered when I tried Marcel Desaulniers Cocoa Coconut Cake from his I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas. Oh boy, were those good. Soooo good. Even without the fudge sauce.

I had happened across a chocolate banana cake recipe at Anna’s Table only this morning. I went back to it. I went back to Desaulniers’ recipe. Hmmm. What if I married the two? And even better, I had some leftover pumpkin seed butter centres in the freezer from a Toronto Star Christmas cookie recipe (they were supposed to be peanut butter but I’m not a big fan, shocking I know). I could add those.

With all that in mind, I developed my recipe for Chocolate Coconut Banana Cupcakes then decided a more accurate title would be Cocoa Coconut Banana Cupcakes, though harder to pronounce.

I taste tested the batter. Not bad. I tried adding the pumpkin seed butter centres before and after I’d filled the muffin cup with the batter, and I tried a couple without. Although dropping a small amount into the batter makes for some rather startling visuals, it makes for a tastier cupcake. And adding it in either before or after makes the cupcake rise higher than not adding it at all. How much you drop in is up to you. Note that it is sticky and not easy to get off the spoon or fingers. Next time, I’ll probably use a measurement closer to a teaspoon. But for a subtle addition, a half teaspoon or so works well.

So here it is!

Preheat oven to 350F

Put regular sized cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.

Sift together:

1¼ cups whole wheat cake and pastry flour
6-7 T cocoa (less than ½ cup but more than ⅓ cup)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch salt (less than ⅛ tsp)

Add:

½ cup sugar
1 small mashed banana
2T canola oil
¼ cup buttermilk (I used Harmony organic)

It won’t be liquid like a cake batter at this point but crumbly.

Add:

1 egg
½ cup canned light coconut milk
½ T coconut extract

Beat for 1 minute till fairly smooth. Scrape down with a spatula and beat for a few seconds longer.

I adapted the pumpkin seed butter centres from the Toronto Star recipe by stirring together the seed butter and icing sugar until it became a firm paste. The proportions were not the same as for peanut butter, and I stupidly didn’t write down what they ended up being! But if you mix about  ¼ cup of the seed butter with two tablespoons of icing sugar and then keep increasing the sugar content, you’ll get the right consistency.

Then mix a couple of tablespoons of this pumpkin seed butter and icing sugar mix with about the same amount of batter. Mash together. It will not be smooth.

Portion 1 ice cream scoop batter per cupcake. Drop a half teaspoon or up to a small teaspoon of pumpkin seed butter mix in middle. It will not sink.

Bake 20 minutes on the top-centre rack, turning round halfway through the baking time. If you don’t have a toothpick, test by pressing gently on the cupcake. It will spring back when done. Makes 12. Using my handy-dandy iPod Diet app, I worked out that these are about 157 calories each, depending on how much pumpkin seed butter is stuffed in them. Well worth it, I say!

Enjoy! And please share how yours turned out.