Being a student in pastry school means exactly what you’d imagine: that I get to spend 8 hours a day in a kitchen, making delicious pastry. It also unfortunately means that I’m no longer home on weeknights, so weekend dinners with the boy have become an extra special affair.
I decided that the best way to toast to our new home was to make some kind of stellar springtime-inspired dessert. My favourite seasonal combo? Strawberries, rhubarb and cream. But how could I take these three ingredients and turn them into something dazzling? Easily! Whip up some custard, chop up a pound cake, and layer it all into a trifle, just like the one on the cover of Canadian Living’s April issue. Lacking a trifle dish? No worries! A big glass bowl propped up on a cake stand will work well. Or, be super resourceful and scoop them into tall drinking glasses. The colourful, layered presentation remains intact, and each person gets their own individual serving. Brilliant, right?
Canadian Living suggests using a pound cake, which is easy to find at any grocery store, but also very easy to make at home. Coincidentally, we recently spent an entire class making various pound cakes, so I’ve become quite the pro. (I’ve included a simple recipe below!)
I love the versatility of the pound cake – you can add virtually any flavour to it, and one simple recipe can yield a different flavoured cake every time you bake one. The pound cake manages to retain it’s form nicely when soaked in the tangy rhubarb sauce, and it’s dense texture compliments the airy cream and the velvety custard.
You don’t have to be a pro to make this stellar trifle, though making custard might seem a little intimidating for some. Follow the recipe quantities exactly as shown, and you’ll be a-ok! Still nervous? Don’t be!
Here are a few helpful tips that will help you achieve the velvetiest of custards.
Custard is a type of pastry cream that is thickened using eggs and cornstarch. It’s important that your eggs don’t get too hot, or else they will curdle & scramble, which is why you can’t just throw all of the ingredients into the pot right off the bat. You absolutely must temper the eggs (by pouring the tepid milk into them in a steady stream while whisking.) This is a crucial step to follow for a nice texture.
Once the eggs are added, your custard should always be cooked on medium heat.
Do. Not. Stop. Whisking. Whisk that custard! Build those pastry muscles! Once you’ve tempered your eggs and poured them back into the pot, whisk it all until it boils, then continue whisking for one to two minutes. You know your custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon. Make sure to strain it as the recipe instructs, to ensure that you don’t have any hidden lumps.
If your mixture starts to curdle, remove from heat immediately and whisk. Return to heat once the curdles are broken up. Your burner was likely too hot.
How to cool your custard faster : Line a baking sheet / cookie tray with plastic wrap, hanging it well over the edges. Pour your hot custard onto the plastic. Fold over the plastic wrap to cover custard. Place in fridge for about an hour. Voila! Cool as custard. Use a spatula to remove from plastic after. If custard turns gelatinous in the fridge, just give it a quick whisk and it’ll be smooth as silk.
If you don’t have a vanilla bean as the recipe suggests, you can substitute vanilla extract – just make sure that you beat it in at the very end, once the custard is off of the heat. Extracts will vaporize in the cooking process and will leave you with very little flavour if you add them too early. 1 tbsp is all you need. (An extra tbsp of dark rhum or rhum extract would also be sinfully delicious.)
I’m not a huge fan of orange, so I substituted with lemon zest (I even used a lemon pound cake!). The acidity balanced out the sweetness very well.
You can find the original trifle recipe over at Canadian Living, or pick up a copy of the April issue for even more yummy stuff.
For my pound cake recipe, see below!
Basic Pound Cake
Pound cake is made using equal quantities (in weight, not in volume) of eggs, butter, sugar and flour. Historically, pound cakes were made using a pound of each ingredient, which, as you can imagine, meant they were huge. I’ve cut down the quantities, but I’ve kept the ratio intact. The recipe below will yield 2 standard loaf pans.
what you’ll need
200g eggs, beaten (approx 4 eggs)
how to do it
Cream butter and sugar together until light. Beat in eggs. Add vanilla. Fold in flour until completely incorporated. Grease or parchment-line 2 loaf pans. Divide batter equally. (Fill about 1/2 to 3/4 way up the pan, your cakes will rise!) Bake at 350F, 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
VARIATIONS: You can add any extract of your choice (almond, maple, rhum), nuts, seeds, raisins, chocolate chips, citrus zest, or any combination that you like, such as lemon-poppy-seed. Mix your desired quantity of add-ins after you fold in the flour. Tip: If you’re adding dried fruits, toss them in flour before they go into the mixture. This will help them spread out evenly and not sink to the bottom as the cake bakes.
So… you know that feeling when you’ve got so much going on that it feels like you’ve got no time to think of cooking, let alone baking, but all you really want to do is eat cheesecake? Or maybe, you just generally want to eat cheesecake? In either case, I’ve got the solution for you! I present to you my super easy, five ingredient cheesecake. Though, technically, this is more pie than cake, as it’s baked in a pie shell. In any case, it’s delicious, and you should probably go ahead and drop whatever you’re doing and make it. Now.
Easy As Cheese Pie
an original recipe by Allison Sklar
what you’ll need
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
1 block light cream cheese (250g), at room temperature
1 can light sweetended condensed milk
topping: 1 can pie filling of your choice
note: to make this pie even EASIER, you may substitute a ready-to-bake deep dish graham crumb shell (available at most supermarkets in the baking section.)
how to do it
combine crumbs and butter. Press into 9” deep dish pie plate.
combine cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Beat until fluffy. Add in eggs, beating well after each addition. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 310F for about 45 minutes or until set. Note: oven times and temperatures may vary. Let cool. Top with your choice of any of the following; canned pie-filling, jam, chocolate sauce, spiced nuts, whipped cream or fresh fruits. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
What is the most logical thing to do after making a vow to eat healthier? Bake a zucchini
cake loaf, obviously. Because, hey! Zucchini is green, and it’s a vegetable, and I’m supposed to eat more green vegetables, right? Thought so. So, what inspired me to make such a loaf today? Alas, I’ve been living in this little town village in Australia for the past few weeks, and well, when I’m not working, there’s not much to do. To give you a general idea, I’ve compiled a list of my daily leisure activities…
read my book.
curl my hair.
slingshot pebbles at a road sign.
hold a flashlight while a drunk guy shoots kangaroos.
do 5 pushups
recover for a few days from those pushups.
discover that there is a bag of flour in the fridge.
The thing about working in exchange for food and accommodation is that the types of food and ingredients that are kept in stock are more limited than what I’m used to. As are the baking dishes. I’m learning to live with less: I’ve got access to a 9 x 9 pan, a roll of discount parchment paper, a few measuring cups and some mixing bowls. And as for ingredients, well there is definitely no cinnamon. Nor do they keep baking soda on hand. But, they do have self-raising flour, which by the way, is my new favourite discovery. And, there’s this giant container of shredded coconut. What’s more, like all good country folk, we’ve got 4 chickens (called chooks here!), and a whole lot of eggs. I’ve decided that this is plenty to work with, and that I’d make the most of it. I’ve decided even to be thankful for this, as I’ll surely come out of this experience an extremely resourceful baker! Oh… and did I mention that the temperatures on our oven dial have been completely worn away? Disclaimer: the temp that I suggest in this recipe is an estimate based on how far I’ve turned the dial.
Now, you may still be sitting there thinking, zucchini loaf? Why would you do that? Well, you might remember my butternut squash cake, which was a hit all around. So I think you’ve just got to trust me on this one. But, if you’re still thinking, nah, this can’t be good (which is pretty much the look everyone gave me when they saw me making it), hear me out! Zucchini is 95% water. Water = moisture. Moist cakes = delicious. Also, you can play around with this recipe and throw in some add-ins to suit your taste – my suggestions are any of the following: raisins, chopped dates, dried cranberries, lemon zest, cinnamon, or chocolate chips. Oh, and it’s delish with a dollop of yogourt on top (in the name of health, I chose yogourt over ice cream. But I’m sure ice cream would be
even more equally as scrumptious.)
Outback Zucchini Loaf
original recipe by Allison Sklar
what you’ll need
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup grated zucchini (squeeze out the excess water!)
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup shredded coconut
how to do it
Preheat oven to 325C. In a medium sized bowl, combine eggs with sugar, vanilla and oil. Beat with a fork vigourously until well blended. Add zucchini & coconut, mixing briefly. Slowly incorporate flour, folding it into the wet ingredients. Line a 9” x 9” pan with parchment paper. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes (ovens differ, so check it frequently after 40 minutes. Once the top is golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, it’s done. Do not over-bake!)
There is one fantastical creature in the world that has blood running throughout it’s body, and it is still considered to be vegetarian fare. Ah yes, the sweet, the juicy, the refreshing – blood orange. Blood oranges offer a magical pop of colour among the drab whites and greys of winter. They also offer superior antioxidant power compared to their plain orange counterparts, thanks to their anthocyanin content, which is the compound that is also responsible for their distinctive colouring. This peculiar citrus fruit is sweeter than a regular orange, and is about ten times as beautiful when you cut into it. It’s mystical crimson-coloured segments make for lovely dried pot-pourri, and it’s peachy marbled zest makes for an even lovelier olive oil cake!
Inspired by my one of my favorite food bloggers, and by the handful of blood oranges that I had in my fridge, I decided to have a date with my oven last night. I tried to follow the recipe as outlined on the blog that I was reading, however, I was missing one ingredient – yogourt. And, as you may recall from my previous post, I’m trying a buy-nothing week, I didn’t want to have to go get it. Rummaging through my fridge, I found a substitute – which also might just have been the magical ingredient that took this cake over the top – a tropical vanilla YOP! What does the YOP change, you ask? It makes the cake batter smell and taste like a creamsicle. Yeah. That’s right.
Childhood memories anyone?
Blood Orange YOP! Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
what you’ll need
2 blood oranges
1 cup white sugar
½ cup Vanilla YOP!
3 large eggs
2/3 cup light olive oil
¼ cup orange juice
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
how to do it
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar.
Peel blood oranges with a knife, ensuring that there is no residue left. Peel away membranes. Break up segments with your fingers into small pieces.
Combine YOP! and orange juice. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar mixture and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean.
Look out, boy – I am currently infatuated with another.
Though I hate to admit it, I accidentally fell in love… While I long believed that I hated the nut, our paths crossed one faithful night. It was tough at first to crack him, but once he came out of his shell, I felt completely satisfied. He was more tender than I had imagined, and though at first a little bitter, he became surprisingly sweet in the end. Lately, I’ve been going to him for a late afternoon pick-me-up…
O, Walnut, how I lust for thee…
My mother used to keep walnuts in our pantry. I’ll never forget them – I don’t know what on earth she used them for, but they were there for as long as I can remember – chopped up and stored in a recycled glass jar that was in the shape of a teddy bear. One day – most likely out of rainy afternoon boredom – I decided to grab a handful out of the jar to eat as a snack. Now, perhaps they had gone rancid, perhaps they were simply stale, or perhaps my palette had not yet fully developed… but all that I can recollect is a vivid memory of my immediate heaving and spitting straight into the garbage pail.
For years afterward, this popular nut remained banished from all that I cooked, baked, and consumed.
Recently, I visited a small Italian resto on St. Denis. I was deep into conversation when the waiter showed up to take our orders. As per usual, I hadn’t yet taken a long enough glance at the menu to know what I wanted – feeling pressured as everyone sounded off their choices, I ran a split-second menu scan, spotted the words “cream,” “mushrooms,” and “pasta.”
Done and done.
Half a litre of wine later, a horrifying plate was placed in front of me: I received a dish of pasta covered in… you guessed it… walnuts. Now, I do not like handing anything back at restaurants – if you’ve seen the movie Waiting, you’ll understand why. Moreover, I was not going to let my (relatively new) friends think that I, Allison the Foodie, was a picky eater. So – I dug right in, fully ready to paste on a fake smile (all while I prepared a napkin in my lap, for secretive spitting purposes…)
And that’s when it happened. That was the turning point.
I. Like. Walnuts.
Later that week, I attempted to replicate the mushroom walnut cream sauce (which I did, fabulously, by the way), and served it over a spinach and mushroom tart. Sorry to break your hearts, but you won’t be getting the recipe for that today. You can blame the boy, and I guess you can also blame it partially on myself – we polished that sucker off before I could even fathom taking a second photograph. (Or writing down what the recipe.) Oops.
Instead – I bring you something tantalizing – an autumn twist on a year-round staple. You may have been searching for a superior banana bread recipe for years, and just haven’t found one. Or, perhaps you already have your own recipe for banana bread, and you’re wondering why you should switch away from your tried-and-true. Here are a few reasons why this bread is awesome: three huge bananas, whipped butter, cinnamon and vanilla. And now, here are a few reasons for the health conscious people: fibre(fruits, nuts), protein(nuts), vitamins(fruits), and a ton of added fat-free moisture – in the form of diced apples.
Yeah. That’s right. I put diced apples in my banana bread.
Do it. I dare you. You won’t regret it.
what you’ll need
• 1 cup sugar (½ cup more if a sweeter cake is desired)
• ½ cup + 2 tbsp softened butter
• 3 mashed bananas (about 1 cup)
• 2 tbsp cinnamon
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 2 tbsp vanilla
• 3 eggs
• 2 cups flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 cup walnuts
• 1 tbsp brown sugar
• 3 medium sized apples, peeled and diced
how to do it: bread
• Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 10” angel food cake (or bundt cake) pan.
• Mix sugar and butter together in a medium mixing bowl until completely blended. Add banana, vanilla, 1 tbsp lemon juice and eggs, mixing well.
• Add flour, baking soda and 1 tbsp cinnamon, mixing just until moist.
• Coat apples with the rest of the lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon
• Stir in nuts and apple mixture.
• Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake 50 minutes to 1h.
how to do it: muffins
• Divide mixture among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
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!
• 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