Category: spring

Cool As Custard (Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle with Pound Cake)

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.

Helpful hints

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.

Substitutions

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.

The Recipes

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 sugar
200g butter
200g eggs, beaten (approx 4 eggs)
200g flour
5g vanilla

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.




Dress Up (Sweet & Tangy Sesame Dressing)

I am aware that you don’t make friends with salad, however… nobody’s ever said that you don’t make friends with salad dressing! This dressing, my friends, is heaven in a mason jar. This dressing, my friends, will make even those salad-haters (you know who you are), want to eat salad. This dressing, my friends, could even be used on things other than salad. (OH! THE POSSIBILITIES!).

This dressing is it.


Having gotten myself into the daily habit of coming home to eat organic carrots dipped straight into the tahini jar, proceeding to declare that this indeed consists of an acceptable dinner (because, you know, it’s summer, and really, who wants to turn on the oven, or move more muscles than needed?) I’ve  decided that I should use my newfound love of sesame paste to experiment.

Inspired by the dwindling contents of my fridge, some vegetables that needed to be consumed, and a craving for something nutty, I concocted this sesame-soy-blow-your-mind-baby.
World, I introduce to you the best salad dressing in existence.
Oh yeah, and the salad I made is pretty decent too.

Sweet & Tangy Sesame Dressing 
on Beet & Citrus Salad

what you’ll need


salad:
1 cup arugula
1 medium beet, sliced thin
1 tangerine, segments cut in half
2 tbsp hulled sunflower seeds
4 radishes (if desired)

dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
3 tbsp light olive oil
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce


how to do it


Combine all salad ingredients. Whisk dressing ingredients all together. Pour about 5 tbsp of dressing over salad, or more, to taste. 

The Sweet Taste of Blood… Oranges

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.

Appreciating Parsley

Ta-bou-lee. Ta-bou-leh. Ta-bou-lay. However you’d like to pronounce it, this refreshing summer salad is a great way to get out of a romaine & iceberg rut. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, tabouleh is a middle-eastern/Mediterranean parsley-based salad often tossed with chopped tomatoes, onions and a generous amount of olive oil.

I became inspired for this little toss during a recent trip to my local supermarket. Seeking dinnertime inspiration, I was rummaging through the produce section when I paused in front of an item that I would have normally dismissed as boring and/or useless: an abnormally large variety of parsley.  Five different types, in fact. Really? Do people REALLY need that much variety of an herb that serves a garnish, often tossed aside, never to be consumed? I started to think that maybe I have been missing something. I decided that this little green leaf was going to make it onto my plate tonight – and not just as a back-up dancer, but as the star of the show. “Parsley!” I said (to myself, and possibly also out loud), “You have been under appreciated.” (Then I began to wonder if under appreciated was indeed one word, two words, or not a word at all. But I digress.)

Soon afterward, I found myself making tabouleh.

I did not use a recipe, just ingredients that I had on hand and an idea in my head of what tabouleh should be. I chopped some grape tomatoes and decided to add something a little unconventional, but not too far off the rocker: a handful of diced cucumber. Traditional tabbouleh has grains mixed in, and I just happened to have a little bit of millet that I’ve been meaning to use up. Very soon, I scooping bite after bite onto my favorite crackers, indulging in the aromas of a delicious summer salad.

Tabouleh 
(mediterranean parsley salad)

what you’ll need
1 bunch italian parsley, stems removed
1 cup diced grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves (about 2tsp) crushed garlic, blanched
1 cup diced (2 or 3 small) cucumbers, peel on
1/2 cup cooked millet (other small grains will work just as well)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp rice (or apple cider) vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt

how to do it
Combine parsley and garlic into food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add millet, cucumber & tomatoes. Pulse one or two more times, careful not to over-chop! Toss with oil, vinegar, lemon and salt. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. The longer it sits, the better it tastes!