29 April, 2013

A recipe for flowers

Stumbling upon things can be the best form of discovery. I read about a flower recipe book and tracked it down in the tall fields at Bloor and Bay. It is oh-so-pretty, informative, and very well-designed.  Like many of you when you want to make something, I read a few recipes but then get distracted by a truly inspiring fresh ingredient at the market: artichoke, lemongrass or rununculus...!

The 'poor woman's peony' (compare seven to fourteen clams), the rununculus has layers of petals that enchant me.  Using the book as a guide, I looked for a base flower and some more visual interest beyond the main flower.  What pleased me most was that the scratch I spent went far - two large arrangements plus two smaller ones.

Canada Blooms was an event several weeks ago at a dreary convention centre near the lake.  My dad and I inspected some (questionably) winning arrangements - I sort of felt like we were back in the eighties.  But, a few florists incorporated edible ingredients! Ginger root, limes, and peppers...

12 April, 2013

Baking Inspiration: Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes

It's cold and rainy. There's also some ice pellets. Small piles of snow linger on the ground.  Must be... April in Toronto.

So I want to try my hand at living more frugally.  We have a trip to Paris to save for!  You know, goals like preparing baked goods at home instead of donating to my local hipster cafe's pension fund, or accumulating recipes with ingredients that freeze well, or trying the envelope system instead of the debit/credit card system for daily purchases. Whaaat? Where'd all the cash go?

Also on the list: exclusively using the library for reading urges (but I just signed up for Indigo's Plum Rewards card!), using a budget (that sounds really familiar), and reviving the piggy bank for toonies and loonies.  There's other lists too...

Make my own clothing/make my current clothing feel new by adding fun embellishments that may or may not be good ideas, or remembering to be thankful for literally pounds of personal belongings we house in our very cozy flat when others in the world go without both homes and belongings.  Really people, this last trick reminds me of how blessed-by-the-universe my life is each day.  Suddenly I feel very rich.

Back in the kitchen, I figured I had an hour and a half to pump out something baked and good before an appointment downtown.  I knew I wanted to use ripe bananas and dark chocolate.  To the archive of  Deb's blog I went first, cross-referenced with my treasured Joy cookbook just because.  What did I come up with?

May I present the concoction Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes.  Yogurt cakes are common in Paris, need I say more?  I rejigged the recipe to make it my own - I like things only the tiniest bit sweet, I added banana and omitted almond extract.

These little cakes are the perfect purse companion for a lady on the go.

I couldn't find a muffin tin so I had to use my mini-loaf pan (which I bought a few years ago to make a version of Leslie Stowe's incredible savoury crackers). Could I be a proper lady with cake in her purse that resembled a small loaf of chocolate bread?  Why yes!  But perhaps mini-muffins would be ideal so you don't feel like you're stuffing your face in public like I did on the streetcar. Whatever size you make these you will still stuff your face, so stop thinking about it and just bake.

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
(based on this recipe from SK)

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (room temp) - alternates: sour cream, creme fraiche, ricotta
3 eggs (room temp)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract - alternate: almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
2 ripe bananas - alternate: applesauce
a few tbsp cane sugar - alternate: up to 1 cup if you want them sweeter
pinch of coarse salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Grease the tins. Melt the chocolate with half the oil in a heat proof bowl over simmering water.

In a medium bowl mash the bananas, add the eggs, half the oil, vanilla, and sugar.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well and add the banana mixture.  Stir until just mixed.  Now add the chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.  Pour into the tins and place in the hot oven for about 25 minutes, or until a chopstick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack.  Store half the batch in the freezer for up to 3 weeks - eat the rest today, tomorrow, and the next day.

09 April, 2013

SOMA chocolatemaker Designs

Raspberry Rakia truffle (Photo by SOMA) 
Welcome to SOMA chocolatemaker.  I consider this place to be my favourite chocolate-scented retreat (don't you have one of these?).  Entering the King West cafe - a place to "eat, drink and worship chocolate"- brace yourself to not melt from the aromas and complex cacao inventory on the floor-to-ceiling shelves. Their fair trade products include delicate truffles, elixirs, gelato, bars, and plenty of gift-able and special order items. Not visited as often but equally inspiring is their micro-factory in the Distillery District. These chocolatemakers focus on experimentation and the products prove their dedication to creativity.

At the back of the cafe you can imagine yourself the baker as you stare down stacks of chocolate molds or freshly baked Sweet Cherry Focaccia in Blackbird Baking Co.'s space.  I snacked on a focaccia with caramelized onion, asparagus and feta with a side of single origin Madagascar (70%) dark chocolate truffle.

The interior design of the cafe is worthy of the Design District location - I popped into Design Within Reach to look at all the beautiful furniture beyond my reach - then grabbed the latest edition of Design Lines magazine to rifle through the listings for the city's umpteenth design accessory store I want to visit.
SOMA , King West (Photo by Design Lines)
MADE Design on Dundas West is my latest find.  A showroom/gallery/shop with dozens of Canadian product designers represented, several creators captured my imagination. The Gemstone Carpet by Bev Hisey (scroll down), the Meridian Pendant Light by Propellor Design, and a petite Ceramic Pentakis Vessel by Kristen Lim-Tung.
Photo by kristenlimtung.com
Photos by Propellor Design
Bev Hisey's Everydayhousewife studio-retail outlet is my next stop! You can get a sneak peek into her home on favorite design-DIY blog Design Sponge.

Bev Hisey's home & Gemstone Carpet (Photos by Design Sponge)

05 April, 2013

New York Cheesecake

The Philadelphia Cream Cheese foil package is sentimental for me (never mind the contents). It represented quality branding to my childhood brain and the product maintains a richness of flavour and excellent package design unchallenged by generic competitors. Sometimes you must go for the good stuff. Nick's birthday - plus my procrastination levels this week - required a classic and simple cake to prepare. Knowing there will be a traditional birthday cake in the near future at the in laws, I opted for one of my personal favourites - a light, creamy crustless cheesecake that sits tall on the plate. Trust me, you won't miss any graham crumbs.  We both consider this cake to be irresistible. It's just perfect and rather addictive. I briefly cooked some frozen raspberries with a dollop of agave syrup for a topping (a "rustic" and less sugary version of Martha's raspberry coulis).   Enjoy! (best cheesecake recipe here)