peanut butter sandwich cookies

peanut butter sandwich cookies

there really is something old-fashioned and comforting about peanut butter. when we’re adults, we may snack on peanuts with a cocktail or smear some unsweetened, natural peanut butter on a piece of toast. but thoughts of peanut butter sandwiches and cookies seem to evoke walks home from school to find lunch waiting for us, washed down with cold milk before heading back on our way.

i was inspired to make these cookies because of the amazing peanut butter cookies from mabel’s bakery in toronto. they are chewy and filled with a divine peanut butter fudge. these are a treat, and one goes a long way. perfect with something cold to drink, and a few minutes to remember a time before sugar was bad and eating a cookie was always the right thing to do.

peanut butter sandwich cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 cup roughly chopped, roasted and salted peanuts

simple fudge filling:

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
pinch sea salt
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream

in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. add the sugar and beat until light, about 4 minutes. add the honey and stir to combine. add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides and mixing well. stir together dry ingredients and peanuts. pulse to combine into a soft dough.

preheat oven to 350f. prepare two sheet pans by lining with silpats or parchment. use a 1 1/2″ scoop to portion out balls of cookie dough. roll each lightly into a ball and place 2 inches apart. bake for 15 minutes, switching tray position halfway through baking to ensure even browning. remove cookies to cooling racks and cool completely.

meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, toss in peanut butter and butter, and pulse a few times to combine. add the sea salt and the icing sugar, all at once, and pulse to combine. add the vanilla and cream. scrape down sides and pulse one more time to fully combine. scrape into bowl.

when cookies are cool, measure out a tablespoon of filling into your hand. roll to form a ball. place on the underside of one cookie, then top with another cookie and press lightly to spread the filling. repeat with remaining cookies. store in airtight container.

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ontario maple pecan cake with salted buttercream

ontario maple pecan cake

maple syrup is an absolutely wondrous thing. sweet liquid tapped from a tree is boiled down to make a syrup that is unique in flavour like nothing else i can imagine. it’s one of the many lovely things about living in canada, and in ontario in particular. the season is short, and for that reason the product of maple sugaring is rare and expensive. yet it’s an affordable little luxury, one worth indulging in to enjoy its smoky-sweetness, dripping down a stack of pancakes or fluffy buttermilk waffles on a lazy sunday, or used to make a special dessert.

when we had a special birthday to celebrate, i decided that springtime and maple syrup season should also be celebrated, and so i made this ontario maple pecan cake. the cake itself, studded with pecans, is easy to bake, and at the end, it gets layered with fluffy mounds of the most silky of embellishments, a buff-coloured french meringue buttercream made with pure maple syrup. heaven!

i hope you make this cake at least once. you’ll love the results, and won’t believe how easy the buttercream slides over the cake, or holds a piped peak.

ontario maple pecan cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups ontario syrup
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, divided.

1 recipe of ontario maple french meringue buttercream
flaked sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350º. butter and line 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment.Tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside. Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat the butter until it has a creamy, mayonnaise-like consistency. (Placing warm hands on the bowl while it beats is helpful) Pour in the maple syrup, and add the eggs, one at a time. the mixture will look broken, not smooth. in a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. add the flour mixture all at once, and pulse to combine. pour in the cream and vanilla, and mix a few more times until smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans. divide batter between the two pans, and bake for 20 minutes, then rotate pans and bake 20 minutes more, or until cake tester comes out clean. cool on racks. when completely cool, slice each layer in half horizontally. spread each layer with 1/2 cup of maple buttercream. mask cake with buttercream, and decorate as you wish. we used a naked base and a star tip for the top. sprinkle with remaining nuts and a pinch pf the flaked sea salt.

salted ontario maple french meringue buttercream

i start with unsalted butter because it tastes fresher, then salt to my liking with sea salt.

6 yolks from large eggs
2 cups ontario maple syrup
1 pound of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, and beat egg yolks on high speed until very light and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. place the maple syrup in a large pot and bring to a boil. use a candy thermometer and bring the syrup to 240º, or the soft ball stage. this can take 10-15 minutes.
with the electric mixer running, pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg-yolk mixture, about 1 1/2 minutes. continue beating until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes. switch to the paddle attachment, and toss in the pieces of butter until it is all incorporated. beat a couple of minutes more, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. add the sea salt to taste. use right away.

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breakfast labneh

labneh with apricots and breakfast crackers

good morning, and happy tuesday to you.

it seems i’m getting into a habit of making tuesdays’ posts about breakfast. which is good, since it will hopefully give you some ideas of what to feed yourself and your tribe as you all head out into the world this week. the day has to be good when you’ve started it off with a lovely and civilized breakfast together!

yogurt is a breakfast natural, and this recipe really shakes it up. labneh is a middle-eastern dish, and is essentially yogurt that has been allowed to drain. it’s most often served in a savoury fashion, scattered with spices and a drizzle of olive oil, but it cries out to be eaten with fruit and cheese for breakfast! when choosing yogurt to make the labneh, make sure you choose natural, plain, full-fat yogurt, free of gelatin and starchy stabilizers. anything from 3% milk fat all the way up to 10% works fine.

it’s a fairly well-known that balsamic vinegar pairs really beautifully with fruit. something else i discovered a long time ago is that if you reduce white balsamic vinegar, it becomes a luscious, amber-coloured nectar, with a perfectly balanced sweet and tangy flavour. that’s how we made the apricots for this. trust me people, you’re going to love this!

to tie is all together, i’ve made some breakfast crackers, full of almonds, flaxseeds, and cranberries. this recipe makes a lot, so you’ll have some left over for snacks. they’re not too sweet, and perfect for scooping up the labneh and those succulent apricots. they are made by baking a batter into a loaf, cooling and slicing it thin, then baking the slices a second time to make them crisp. if you happen to have a little terrine pan or a pullman pan, it’s perfect for this. if not, use a regular loaf pan, but cut each slice into 2 pieces before baking a second time, so they’re not too big. if you happen to have access to a meat slicer, perfect! but a bread knife works just fine to make the thin slices.

this recipe is meant to be made ahead of time, so you have all the components ready to go in the morning. with a breakfast like this to start the day, only good things can happen. xx

breakfast crackers

labneh with star anise apricots + breakfast crackers

1 750g container of plain, full-fat natural yogurt
1 500ml bottle white balsamic vinegar
1 cup dried apricots, sliced in half (or fresh, if they are in season)
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

for the breakfast crackers:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries

line a non-reactive strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. dump in the yogurt, put the whole thing in the fridge, and allow it to drain for 6-8 hours or overnight. transfer the drained yogurt to a bowl, discarding the liquid, and stir the labneh to make it smooth.

gather your ingredients for the breakfast crackers. preheat oven to 375f and grease and line a terrine pan or loaf pan with parchment. mix together all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermik. give the mixture a few good stirs to combine, but don’t overmix. scrape into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. cool completely on a rack.

when cool, use a serrated knife to slice as thinly as you can. lay the slices on a rack and bake in a 350f oven for 10 minutes, or until they are almost crisp (they will crisp more as they cool). cool completely and store in a covered container in a dry place.

empty the white balsamic vinegar into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. add the anise and cinnamon stick and boil down until reduced by half. add the apricots, reduce heat to medium, and cook until juices are syrupy. cool in the syrup, and keep in the fridge. remove anise and cinnamon before serving.

serve the labneh with a spoonful of the apricots and the breakfast crackers on the side. serves 4, with a generous amount of crisps left over for snacking.

**the crackers, (and also the apricots) would enjoy a frolic with some soft, brie-like cheese, or any type of blue cheese on a cheese plate, too.

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pain rustique

pain rustique

happy monday.

and it is happy, because we’re talking about some good, crusty white bread.

pain rustique is probably the most satisfying bread i make. it’s the perfect bread for squishing into a charred panini full of melted cheese, or to toast and eat for breakfast with butter and a fried egg and the morning paper. it’s real and rustic, the kind that you tear apart and reach across the table to dip in olive oil while laughing with friends. it’s the bread you seek out at 2 am when a storm wakes you up, and smear with nutella. its strong coffee and toast bread. it’s what you want to smell when you come home from school. it’s real and rustic, like life itself.

i also use pain rustique as pizza crust. you can shape it into loaves, or make into squares or rectangles for panini, described here. perfect, easy bread.

Pain Rustique

pain rustique

start the poolish night before, or first thing in the morning to bake bread for supper.

make the poolish (starter): in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 300g flour, 400mls of warm water, and 3g of instant yeast (about a teaspoon). Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. cover bowl with plastic or a towel and allow to ferment overnight, or 8 hours, minimum.

for the dough: to the bowl, add 1 kg of flour, 23g of salt, and 20g yeast. pour in 600mls warm water. place in mixer with the dough hook attachment, and stir on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. remove bowl from mixer and cover with a clean towel. proof in the bowl for 1 hour.

turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a rough square. roll out to 1 1/2″ thick, using a bench scraper or a ruler to shape the sides nice and straight. cut into 5×5 squares and dust with flour. place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and using a sharp knife, score each little pain with a 3″ cut down the middle. allow to rise for 15 minutes.

preheat oven to 450f. bake bread for 5 minutes. rotate pans and reduce heat to 350f and bake for 15 minutes longer. cool on racks.

*for the little loaf pictured, i divided the dough into 4 and shaped it into rounds, a topic which needs its own post.

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handmade brioche burger buns

DSC_2707.NEF

i think these may be the perfect burger buns. most commercial buns are as far from real bread as you can imagine, and usually full of too much sugar, salt, and preservatives. these are soft and airy and not too large, so you can achieve the perfect burger/bun ratio, and you know exactly what you’re putting in them.

these handmade brioche buns are extremely quick and easy to make. don’t be intimidated! once you’ve made them once, you will be so proud that you did this, you will never buy buns again.

this recipe makes 2 dozen good sized rolls. weigh your ingredients and the rolls themselves for accuracy. today i used poppyseeds, but i often use sesame seeds too. freeze while warm, or use leftovers for bread pudding.

i think the pure white AGA would bake these up beautifully, don’t you? 🙂 sigh…

handmade brioche burger buns

400 ml milk
75 g sugar
7 eggs, lightly beaten
20g yeast
1 kg flour
10g sea salt
250g soft butter

1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp. cream or milk
1/2 cup poppy seeds or sesame seeds

line 2 large baking sheets with parchments sheets or silpats.

heat the milk to hand-hot and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. add the sugar and the yeast and mix well. stir in the eggs and then add the flour and the salt. mix on medium speed until a smooth but sticky dough forms. add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated, then mix for 2 minutes.

using a dough scraper, turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a very lightly floured surface. use the scraper to slice off pieces of dough, each measuring 80g (the piece will be a bit larger than a large egg) the dough will be very sticky, you may think too sticky, but don’t panic, it will all work out.

allow the dough balls to sit for a few minutes, then with very lightly floured hands, roll into balls. place 12 to a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds. allow to proof (rise) for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 450f. place buns in the oven gently, so they don’t deflate. bake buns for 5 minutes, then rotate pans, reduce heat to 350f, and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden and puffed. cool on racks.

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brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake. it sounds like i took a bunch of whatever i had in the kitchen and made a cake out of it, doesn’t it? oh, wait…

i rounded up the ingredients, cornmeal…yogurt…limes…i thought, how can i bring these all together into a cohesive whole? the brown butter was the key, adding a lovely toasty, caramely note that complements the cornmeal, and balancing out the acid in the limes and the yogurt.

luckily this worked on the first try despite not having one of these.   i would suggest eating in within a day or so, when it’s supremely fresh. you could easily make this in a loaf pan, but i wanted to use the lovely violet cake plate from dis-a-ray that my special brit friend gave me for my birthday. he’s very thoughtful that way, and was very excited it said “made in england”.  or maybe he knew i would immediately make a cake to go on it. either way, we ate it up with a pot of earl grey and it was delicious.

keep a close eye when browning the butter. it doesn’t take long to go from brown butter to burnt butter.

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp lime zest
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4  cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup brown sugar

for the glaze:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the drizzle:

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest

preheat oven to 350f. grease a 9″ cake pan and line with parchment. grease the parchment and set pan aside.

in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. cook slowly, swirling the pan and watching for the butter to change colour from pale straw to a light butterscotch colour.  when it’s just aproaching a deep amber colour, and smells like toasted nuts, remove from heat and swirl a few times. set aside to cool slightly.

in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of the brown sugar. whisking does a great job of breaking up the lumps in the sugar.

when the butter is cooled, whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and zest. pour all at once into dry ingredients and mix well, but do not beat.

pour into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until dry when tested with a toothpick.

meanwhile, make the glaze. heat the 1/3 cup lime juice with 1/3 cup brown sugar until sugar is melted. pour over warm cake, then cool cake completely.

when cool, mix the icing sugar with the 2 tbsp. lime juice and blend well. drizzle over cake, and sprinkle on the remaining zest. allow glaze to set before serving.

 

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