Category: baking

Weekend Treat (Peanut Butter and Toffee Blondies)

How does a single 20-something spend a long weekend? Start it out right with a good workout. Have a healthy dinner (with 2 glasses of wine, good for the heart, right?) Note to self: apply makeup before wine next time. Sing out loud to your iPod on the metro. Arrive at party. Continue to drink, because it’s such a summery wine, and such a nice evening! Flurry of events occur. Wake up. Apply new makeup over old makeup. You’re going for the smudged look. It’s a thing. Slowly stumble, in your party dress and heels, to find the greasiest breakfast possible. Eat sausages. Forgetting you’re a vegetarian. Sleep on the metro. Get back to your own bed. Watch some bizarre indie films on Netflix. Roll in and out of sleep for 24 hours. Wake up and wonder why drinking your early 20s didn’t feel this painful. Is it Sunday already? Where did Saturday go? Vow to yourself to drink less, be healthier. Spoonful of peanut butter. Baking inspiration! Bake some ridiculously delicious, portion-controlled blondies.

I can be healthy on Monday.
It’s still the weekend.

Two-Bite PB Blondies
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
½ cup margarine or softened butter

½ cup peanut butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
¾ tsp baking powder

1/4 cup Skor toffee bits*
handful of chocolate chips
*1 crushed Skor (or Heath or other crunchy toffee) bar would work just as well

how to do it
Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine margarine, sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until  smooth, about a minute. Add eggs, beating another 30 seconds. Add flour and baking powder, mix until just combined. Grease and flour mini muffin tins. Fill about 3/4 of the way to the top with mixture. Top with chocolate chips and sprinkle with Skor bits. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool before eating.

Spring Sweets

Springtime: It’s almost here. The weather is warming, the trees are budding and the sweet aroma of cow-dung fills the air. Ah yes, there is something about cow dung (or perhaps it is melting doggy doo) that triggers something nostalgic in my brain.

I love spring! I love the colours, the warmth and the fashion. Most of all, I love spring because it means that summer is just around the corner! And summer means that my garden will be in bloom. I love being able to go into the backyard and pick a myriad of vegetables to fill up my salad bowl. I love the endless vine-ripened tomatoes, the fresh chives, the large zucchinis and the abundance of mint leaves. The only downside to gardening in the North is the limit to the kinds of fruit that can be grown. Oh, how I long to have a citrus tree. Alas, until I live my dream life in a warmer climate, I’ll have to settle for the lemons at the supermarket.

Incredible things, lemons are. Their smell triggers memories of being a small child and watching my mother dust the living room table. Yet, I still want to eat them. And how! I love to squeeze a little lemon into my iced tea (a summer favorite), over a nice piece of grilled salmon (another summer love), or into a light dressing (to pour over my garden vegetables). But, give me lemons, and I will make cake.  Actually, give me a new mini bundt pan, and I’ll jump around until I can make many little cakes! I have a soft spot for exciting new kitchen gadgets. And pans. And spatulas. I love spatulas. Enough daydreaming, let us bake cake!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cakes
what you’ll need
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp finely grated lemon rind (from two small lemons)

• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 4 large eggs
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 ½ tbsp poppy seeds
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ cup sour cream

glaze
½ cup icing sugar
2½ tbsp lemon juice
how to do it
Preheat oven to 325F. Zest your lemons with a very fine cheese grater or lemon zester. In a medium bowl, pinch sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips, until the mixture is bright yellow. Beat in softened butter until pale, then beat in eggs and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Fold in flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with sour cream. Do not over-mix. Pour into a 6-cup mini-bundt cake pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool, and invert onto countertop or large tray. If your cakes are wobbly, slice off the bottoms in order to stabilize them. In a small bowl, mix glaze by adding the lemon juice a little at a time. Drizzle over warm inverted cakes, serve and enjoy!

Cooking Countdown : Sweet & Salty Bark

Recently, I hosted a highly successful cookie party, where I willingly consumed enough sugar to put someone into a diabetic coma. This inspired me – no, not to diet or exercise, but to bake even more! On that note, I’ll get my exercise by walking around carrying groceries. Let’s face it – the gym might make you feel good in the long run, but food makes you feel good right now.

With classes finally on hiatus for the holidays, I’ve conveniently found myself with some extra time on my hands – perfect for concocting lovely little things in the kitchen. What better way to count down the new year than to offer you all a fantastic recipe for each day left in 2009?!

I’ll begin with a simple holiday favorite of mine – sweet and salty bark. The secret? Soda crackers. No, really. They’re in there, and they’re delicious.

What You’ll Need
1 package soda crackers (salted tops)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet melts easiest, but any type will do)

How to do it
In a small saucepan over LOW heat, melt butter and dissolve sugars slowly, stirring. Once sugars are dissolved, let simmer until the caramel begins to bubble and become a slightly darker brown. Be careful not to let it burn!
Preheat oven to 300F. Lay crackers out flat on a cookie sheet, side by side, salted tops facing upward. Pour the caramel mixture over the top evenly. Spread with spatula if needed, trying to cover as many of the crackers as you can. Sprinkle chocolate over top.
Bake in oven for 10 minutes, or until caramel bubbles and turns slightly white. Remove from oven and spread chocolate with a spatula to form a coating. Refrigerate (or place on your doorstep if you’re in a cold climate!) for about an hour or until hardened. Break into pieces, serve and eat!

Sweet Nothings

One of my favorite desserts is a simple pleasure: plain vanilla cupcakes. In search of the perfect little cupcake – moist, slightly dense but still fluffy, slightly sweet, rich vanilla flavour – I have tried countless white cake recipes. After combining the best of the best and tweaking it to my liking, I’ve perfected my very own recipe. I’ve aptly named it the “Best White Cake Ever.” Tastebuds everywhere tend to agree.

This cake comes out light and fluffy, but it is packed with buttery flavour. And, it’s versatile – want almond cake? Add a couple of drops of extract, and voila! Matcha cake? Add a tablespoon of matcha to the dry ingredients. Fruity cake? Add whatever little fruits or  berries yor heart desires. The possibilities are endless – but at the end of the day, the savvy baker will remember that vanilla is the finest of the flavours.

The Best White Cake (or cupcakes) Ever.
an original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup butter
• 2 eggs
• 2 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 cup milk

how to do it
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Flour a 9×9 inch loaf pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
Cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
Stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour (or spoon) batter into the prepared pan.
For cake: bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
For cupcakes: bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it is slightly golden on the top.