Category: sweet

Stuffed Dates with Pistachios

Quick! You just found out that you have guests coming over and you haven’t had time to cook up any appetizers. You know they’re going to be hungry as soon as they walk in the door. What do you do? Simple. You make these stuffed dates, of course! These babies have been a lifesaver for me, time and again. So quick to throw together, and always a hit. It’s a little sweet and savoury gourmet at your fingertips. Make a couple right now, just to see what all the hype is about. But, be warned. These beauties are highly addictive. I got the idea for these at a NYE gathering one year. The host had put out something very similar, using pine nuts instead. I happened to have pistachios at home when I decided to try it out. If you want to add a really interesting middle eastern twist, you can try adding a tiny drop of rosewater and a pinch of cardamom to the cheese. Note that rosewater isn’t for everyone, though I think it works perfectly in this setting.

Stuffed Dates with Pistachios and Honey
makes 24

24 medjool dates, pits removed
1 tub old fashioned cream cheese (Liberté brand, if you’re in Canada) or plain goat cheese
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
Honey, for garnish
Rosewater (optional)
Cardamom (optional)

Open up your dates on the long side, removing the pit and creating an opening to hold the cheese. (If using rosewater and cardamom, mix into cheese now!) Spread cheese inside and top with pistachios. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with honey.
(Seriously, seriously simple.)

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Pumpkin Cream Pie

Dearest readers,

I know, I know, I’ve been gone for much too long. Sorry for the hiatus. I’ve been busy travelling, eating, baking and new-job-a-workin’. You can catch up with all of that thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram, where you can see my travel food posts (here!) and see my baking (here!)
Hear, hear, it is now time for a brand new recipe. I never grew up eating pumpkin pie, so, in all honesty, I’m not quite sure what defines a “good” pumpkin pie to most North Americans. What I can tell you though, is that THIS pie is the bees knees. It’s the creamiest, fluffiest, pie-i-est pies I’ve ever made, and I just had to share it with you all. And, it’s perfectly in season, perfectly in time for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, and any other fall-themed dinners or dinner parties you may be attending. It comes together quickly, and disappears even faster. I wish I had a photo of the actual sliced open pie, but alas, no time, as it was instantly gobbled up.

Best Pumpkin Cream Pie Ever
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients

pie filling:
1 brick (250g) cream cheese – room temp
1/4 cup butter (approx 56g) – room temp
250g (approx 1 cup) puréed pumpkin*
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
pinch salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp allspice

crust:
1 sleeve of Maria Milk Cookies (Social Tea should work if you can’t find Maria!)
5 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup (56g) butter

Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the Maria Cookies, 5tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter until crumbly. Press mixture into bottom of pan, and up the sides to form a shell.

In stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth, intermittently scraping down the sides.
Add pumpkin, egg yolks, brown sugar and sour cream. Continue beating until fully incorporated. Add spices, beat for another 30 seconds.

Pour pie filling into crust. Bake at 325F for 1 hour. Let cool at room temp, then transfer to fridge and cool for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Tip: try not to eat it all in one serving. Or do. It’s basically happiness on a plate.

*I use E.D. Smith canned pumpkin (NOT the pie filling, just the pure pumpkin.) I absolutely love it. I don’t consider it “cheating” at all. I’ve done the whole “real” pumpkin thing before, and it’s totally not worth the time, the mess or the hassle.

Habichuelas Con Dulce

A taste of the CaribBEAN. (Yes. I am punny.)

Being vegetarian often encourages me to explore new flavours, new textures, and new colour combinations. I’m inspired by exotic dishes, and I love to try new things. If I see a vegetable, a grain, a bean or a fruit that I’ve never tasted, I’m likely to bring it home and experiment. The same goes for interesting, out-of-the-ordinary recipes. For those of you with a limited food-comfort zone, I encourage you to step outside of the box for a few moments and open up your palates to this amazing dessert. The flavours sound unusual, but that is exactly what drew me to it.

My interest in this dish came earlier this week, when a challenge was posted in one of the Facebook groups that I belong to. The moderator suggested that during the month of March, members should each cook some type of Caribbean style food, and should share pictures and recipes with the group. As the week unfolded, I watched as members shared photos of some really interesting creations, from drinks to starters to mains. That’s when I decided to hop on board the bandwagon and make something of my own.

Being a pastry chef, I immediately began researching desserts. Because I mean, what’s a meal without a proper dessert, amirite? I stumbled upon a site where someone listed their ten favourite Caribbean treats, Habichuelas Con Dulce being one of them. “Sweet beans?” I thought. Sweet! Beans!

I just happened to have some cooked kidney beans leftover from earlier this week, as well as some left over coconut milk in the fridge. Perfect! A way to try something new and use up my scraps. So, let’s get onto it, shall we? Oh, for the record, the original recipes that I searched up all call for condensed milk, or evaporated milk mixed with coconut milk. I decided instead to use only the coconut milk, making this recipe completely vegan, and completely delicious.

Habichuelas Con Dulce
an original vegan recipe by allison sklar. inspired by El Mejornido.

ingredients 
1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned, rinsed) red kidney beans
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped (about 1 medium sweet potato)
3 cups water
1 tsp cinnamon or 1 small cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
3 cloves (or 1/4 tsp ground)
250 ml full fat coconut milk
2 tsp coconut oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins

method
Bring water with cinnamon stick, cloves and anise to a boil.
Add sweet potato, cooking 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
Remove cinnamon stick, cloves and anise. (Very important!!!)
Transfer liquid and potatoes to blender, add beans. (Keep saucepan aside)
Purée mixture until completely smooth.
In saucepan, add raisins, coconut oil, coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, whisking frequently. Slowly incorporate bean and potato mixture into milk. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is homogenous and raisins are plump.

Serve with shredded coconut and bananas if desired.
Enjoy hot or cold!

You Want This

I proudly present to you my latest creation obsession, Spiced Pepita Cake! Now, you may be wondering, “Pepita cake? Why would I want that?” Trust me, you want this. Just imagine ooey gooey chocolate that melts in your mouth with every bite. Now, imagine that chocolate wrapped in fluffy cake that’s sweet and salty and the slightest bit savoury. I’m telling you, you want this. 
Not quite sold? Let me ask you a few questions. 
1. Do you like cake?

2. Do you like chocolate?

3. Do you like easy recipes?
4. Do you like things that are delicious?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above,  you want this.
This recipe is a heavily adapted version of chef Rick Bayless’ Mexican Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Seed Cake. While Rick uses Mexican chocolate, I used dark baking chocolate and I added some of my own spices into the batter. I also subbed out the butter for Earth Balance Spread, and I added in some sunflower seeds to the mix. Now, without further adieu… The one, the only…
Spiced Pepita Cake with Chocolate
makes one 8″ cake, recipe adapted from Food and Wine

ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
250ml Earth Balance Spread (or butter)
3 eggs
1 tbsp tequila
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground anise (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper 
pinch black pepper
pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter & flour an 8″ round cake pan. (I also like to put a parchment circle at the bottom of mine!) Sprinkle 1/4 cup of seeds + 2 tbsp of sugar directly into pan. In food processor (Robot Coupe), pulse the remaining seeds with sugar until sandy. Add eggs, shortening, tequila and pulse until homogenous. Add dark chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add all dry ingredients and pulse again slowly, but do not overmix! Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and cake tester (toothpick) inserted in centre comes out clean. 
Once cake is slightly cooled, invert to serve. 
Dust with powdered sugar and more cinnamon if desired. 

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014

photo credit: http://thebrunettebaker.blogspot.ca/

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. That’s right, it’s time for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) 2014! I can’t believe it’s already the 4th edition of this amazing Secret-Santa style trade. The tastiest, sweetest gift exchange I’ve ever been a part of, the fbcookieswap is this awesome idea where food bloggers send each other cookies through the mail. Organized and facilitated by the brains behind Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchn, the swap brings together over 500 talented foodies each year to share love and joy through cookies. Added bonus – it’s all for charity! To learn more, visit http://www.fbcookieswap.com, or search the hashtag #fbcookieswap on twitter or instagram.

So, what did I make? Every year, I try to make something original, using flavours that go above and beyond the traditional. It being winter and all, I’ve been on a chai kick lately. Inspired by my favourite tea, I made some melt-in-your-mouth, sweet and salty and oh so perfectly spiced Cardamom and Anise shortbread thins. 
Hello, delicious!
I hope my recipients enjoyed them as much as I did, because let me tell you, I enjoyed them. Even my boyfriend, a self-proclaimed shortbread hater, liked them. (And that says a lot!) 

One of our teachers at Pastry school suggests that the rule of thumb for cookies is that they are made small. And I mean small! No more than 10 to 12 grams each. Why? His reasoning is that people like to get more for their money. (My reasoning is that it’s more fun to eat something that’s bite-sized!) It’s important to note that shortbread has a tendency to be pasty in the mouth if you have too much at once, so make sure to keep these cookies thin, rolled out to less than a quarter of an inch high. I used a scalloped round 1″ cutter to shape them, but feel free to get creative and use whatever cutters you have on hand. Remember to keep cookies of the same size together on the same baking tray, because smaller ones will cook faster!

Happy baking, and happy holidays!

Simple Shortbread with Cardamom and Anise
adapted from Châtelaine magazine, December 2014

ingredients
1.5 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 tsp ground anise seed
3 tsp ground cardamom

Salted cinnamon sugar: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon & a pinch of salt, for dusting

method
Mix together dusting ingredients and set aside.
Using paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Stop the mixer and add in flour, salt and spices.
Mix on low speed just until blended. (Do not overmix!)
Form dough into a ball and chill for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a few baking trays with parchment paper.
Roll dough out onto floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
Sprinkle with salted cinnamon sugar.
Place cookies onto lined baking sheets and bake in preheated oven, 10 minutes or until very lightly golden. Let cookies cool on cooling rack before eating!

Enjoy!

A Rustic Apple Tarte Tatin

Even though the weather might say otherwise, apple season is in full bloom! Never having been a traditional apple pie kind of girl, I’ve always enjoyed showcasing my freshly picked apples in something slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Whether it is my go-to German apple cake, or cinnamon and spice apple sauce, apple desserts are the epitome of fall comfort food. When I saw that Canadian Living’s October issue was going to feature the “Ultimate Tarte Tatin”, I knew that I had to try it out!

This exquisite tart combines warm skillet apples with a buttery, salty caramel and a melt-in-your-mouth flaky pastry shell. Oh, even writing this description makes my mouth water! A word of warning: make sure to invite someone over when you make this, because you will eat the entire thing in one sitting.

Some tips from the pastry kitchen:

Do NOT overwork your dough. It will come together crumbly, and that’s good! If you work it too much, you may end up making a dough that is tough and chewy, missing out on the flaky, delicate texture that it is meant to have.

DO chill your dough before rolling it out.

DO flour your work surface. And your rolling pin.

DO use granny smith apples as suggested. I made the mistake of using another variety and they nearly turned into apple sauce. While it will still be tasty, you won’t end up with the prettiest of tarts.

DO make this recipe, and do enjoy yourself! Though it takes a little while to complete, it is very, very worth it.

Oh, and a nifty bonus: your kitchen will smell divine!
To get the full recipe, visit Canadian Living’s website here.

Comforting Cobbler

When it comes to summertime desserts, I tend to opt for all things simple and refreshing. Fruits are often the star, especially when they’re fresh and local. So, when I got my hands on a giant container of juicy blueberries last weekend, I knew that I had to make them into something special. In an act of perfect timing, I got the chance to sneak a peak at Canadian Living’s August cover recipe – a deliciously comforting blueberry cobbler.

If blueberry pie and cornbread got together and had a baby, this dessert would be their offspring! When a crispy, crumbly topping sits on top of a mountain of sweet blueberries, it’s a challenge not to devour it straight out of the oven. Not only does this comfort food taste as incredible as it smells, but it’s super satisfying to crack through the cobbler crust with your spoon for that very first bite!

You can whip yourself up one of these babies at home in no time flat, just follow the link below to take you to the original recipe on Canadian Living’s website.

Tip: top with a dollop of ice cream for an extra summery touch!