CarrotMisoMaple5

With the exception of this past year (when I was extremely pregnant), we always practice the same traditions at Christmas.  I’ve spent 26 of my 30 Christmases waking up in my childhood home, yet Easter is always a bit random.  Probably not as random as spending Thanksgiving in Las Vegas several years in a row, but every year seems to be a different story.  I’ve spent Eater with my family in Northern Cali, at my aunt’s house in Monterey, with just my husband while my parents were away, in Vancouver with just my brother – you get the idea.  This Easter will be the first major holiday we will be spending with our baby boy.  Not only will it be the perfect opportunity to dress him all up in pastel plaids, but a time to start some new traditions.

One easy way to introduce a new tradition is with food.  Ginger crinkles at Christmas and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving – it is about time Easter in our household has its own set of treats to help recall moments of such a special holiday. Certain smells and tastes bring back memories in an instant.  Perhaps it will be the scent of cinnamon and other spices being baked up in these Carrot Cupcakes that my children will associate Easter with one day.

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If I am being 100% honest here (which I generally try to be), then I will admit that this recipe started out as a side dish to some baked teriyaki salmon.  I’ve always cooked carrots with a touch of brown sugar or maple syrup.  On a whim a few weeks ago, I tossed in a spoonful of white miso paste to the mix to pump up the flavor.  And boy did that do it!  The salty miso mixed with maple and natural sweetness of the carrots created the most delicious savory/sweet combination a vegetable has ever seen.

Since it worked on carrots, I thought – why not with carrot cupcakes?  I imagined it could go one of two ways – either a strange, salty combination that would be reminiscent of a sushi cupcake or a complex, perfectly balanced salt/sweet treat.  I am glad it was the latter.

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The carrot cupcakes are a riff off my classic carrot cake – but with half wheat flour, half coconut oil, and half coconut sugar.  I threw in some oats and a touch of ginger as well.  While the cupcakes themselves ended up closer to something in the muffin family, I certainly was not missing the extra oil and sweetness once they were iced in the rich, flavourful buttercream.  To make things a bit more decadent, I started with a French Buttercream.  Using egg yolks, real maple syrup, and real butter, this buttercream is almost too sinful for Easter.  The added white miso balanced out some of the sweetness and added the perfect amount of unexpected savouriness.

Add in the miso according to taste.  There should be a pleasant, salty taste at the end of each bite.

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Yields 10-12 cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes + Maple Miso Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown or granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/4 quick oats
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-2 teaspoons white miso paste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the oils and sugars.
  4. Add in the eggs and stir until combined.
  5. In two batches, stir in the dry ingredients until combined.
  6. Fold in the carrots and oats.
  7. Evenly distribute into the cupcake liners and bake for about 20-23 minutes or until done.
  8. For the buttercream, place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high with the whisk attachment until they double in volume and are pale in color - about 5 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, place the maple syrup, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Heat over high until mixture reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  10. Once the sugar mixture is hot, remove from heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
  11. With the mixer on low, carefully pour in the sugar mixture into the egg yolks.
  12. Slowly bring the speed up to high and mix until the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
  13. Add in the butter, a couple tablespoons at a time, until smooth and creamy.
  14. Meanwhile, mix the miso with a teaspoon or so of hot water to dissolve slightly.
  15. Add in the miso mixture - according to taste.
  16. Frost cooled cupcakes with the maple miso frosting.
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LemonMeringue2

We are having the most gorgeous spring so far up here in the Pacific Northwest – knock on wood.  I know months of rain are still in the forecast, but it has not been nearly as cold as it usually is.  I’ve only had to bust out my calf-length puffy jacket a handful of times and Baby H has not even had the chance to use his one-piece, fuzzy snowsuit (add that to the list of clothing items that he quickly grew out of before hardly using).

For the rest of you all, I am truly sorry.  I know some of you suffered from blizzards while my home state of California has already had 90+ degree weather (a preview of how hot summer might be, yikes!).  However, no matter where you are, you can still enjoy a preview of spring with use of some winter citrus.  In particular, Lemon.  I especially love finding and baking with Meyer Lemons.  They tend to be much sweeter and juicier than other types – bringing great, vibrant flavor to delicious, lemony desserts.  So whether you are aiming to match the spring sunshine you may already be having or need to beat your still-winter blues, this Lemon Meringue Cake is your answer.

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I made this cake for The Cake Blog (I’m back, baby!).  The cake itself if extremely light.  I tossed in some poppy seeds for texture and the fresh lemon and cardamom give a punch of flavor to an otherwise simple buttermilk cake.  My kitchen torch got to make another appliance – as evident by the toasty meringue frosting.

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Find the full recipe on The Cake Blog.


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Baking with Baby, part 3.

Two things – 1) I am really starting to think we have the perfect kitchen for a having a family (at least for a moderate-sized apartment) and 2) bananas quickly turn brown when you are not paying attention (i.e. – baby taking up said attention and almost all of your time).

We moved into our new home late summer.  For a downtown apartment in the city, it was a total steal.  All of the newer apartments around town are so small and look like identical little boxes.  When we found our spacious 2-bedroom with an awesome layout and completely remodelled, I knew we were in luck.  We got the square-footage and interesting layout of an older building, but with the perks of a new condo like all wood flooring, stainless steal appliances, modern surfaces, etc.

The living room is my favorite.  It is located in the corner of the building and steps down from the rest of the apartment.  The best part are the bay windows on both the north and west side, making the space extra inviting with an abundance of natural light.  On the south wall, there is a raised countertop with an open passage way to the kitchen.  The counter extends all the way into the kitchen, giving me tons of extra room to cook and bake on.  And let me tell you, I use every square inch of it – no matter what I am making.

From my kitchen, I have the best view of said living room.  Through the “window” I can keep an eye on the baby in his swing and have conversations with the husband while he does his work on the opposite side of the counter.  And when baby is no longer happy in his swing (unfortunately it only keeps him occupied for about 15-20 minutes at a time before he starts protesting), then my giant countertop serves another key purpose – babysitting.

Apparently, Baby Huff loves being in the kitchen as much as his momma.  And while he is not nearly big enough to start cooking (he can’t even hold up his own head yet), he does seem to enjoy watching me cook.  When I was pregnant I was not sure how I would keep up with all of my baking once the baby came.  I still can’t get as much done as before (as to be expected), but some days I am surprised on what I can actually accomplish.  So on days where I am making something fairly quick and simple, like this Chia Banana Bread, I just pop Baby H in his infant seat and put him right on top of the counter – literally baking with baby.  Now that he’s been working on his eye contact and smiles, both of us are pretty happy with this situation.

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On another note, my husband and I are banana buddies.  I love them when they are still partially green and Brett likes them slightly spotted.  So when we buy a bunch, I eat my portion, and whatever I don’t finish, Brett gladly takes over.  And in the instances that neither of us get around to eating the bananas before they turn brown, then we have banana bread.  With a new baby around and our meals being less-planned as I would normally have it, these bananas were destined for this Chia Banana Bread.  I’ve been doing my best to keep up with meal prep and planning, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.  And when things don’t work out as planned, sometimes you end up with something way better than you intended – again, like this Chia Banana Bread.

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With chia, honey, and yogurt, this banana bread is super moist and flavourful.  I don’t know if “healthy” really describes it, but the alternative flours and sugars make me feel a little bit better about eating it for breakfast.  So, when your bananas go bad and you are looking for something to whip up with one eye on your baby, this recipe is for you!  Serve with whipped butter and extra honey, if desired.

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Chia Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • oats for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare loaf pan and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, including the brown sugar, and set aside.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, mash the bananas.
  4. Stir in the honey, oil, eggs, vanilla, and yogurt until combined.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and top with oats, if desired.
  7. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until done and a wooden skewer inserted in to the center comes out clean.
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ChocolateKumquat2

Raise your hand if you baked or cooked something new this week! I did. If you didn’t know, I am really into cooking and baking – duh. I am continually inspired by new dishes and have a running culinary “to-do” list (aka my Pinterest, lol). I feel like I got a late start to cooking, so I find myself wanting to make all of the things all of the time. What’s funny is, I completely missed the basics. I am terrible at frying eggs, have the most unevenly shaped and colored pancakes, and have been known to destroy a grilled cheese sandwich. On the other hand, I am ever afraid to try new dishes or incorporate ingredients that I have never worked with.

My husband and I jokingly fight about this all the time. I am always trying to make something new for dinner or for the blog and am really hard on myself when it does not turn out. Brett thinks I shouldn’t have such high expectations for things I’ve never done before (bless him), but I totally disagree. If I know I have the skill to make it, then it should still turn out perfect – even on the first try, right? Okay, maybe I am a bit crazy. But still – ya gotta try. I look at each meal as an opportunity to stuff my face with new flavours and interesting combos, not the same ol’ – same ol’ all the time. I mean, we can’t have tacos every night.

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Of course there must be a first time for everything. And a certain amount of error should be expected. Over the years, I’ve had my share of culinary pitfalls – like when trying to master macarons in a single weekend or cooking a cornish game hen that was still partially frozen from my overactive fridge. I believe we torture challenge ourselves because when a new recipes works on the first try we feel like superstars – like this Chocolate Kumquat Cake.

If you could already guess where this was going, this was my first time working with kumquats. I always see the mini, vibrant citrus at my local market or in the produce aisle and never before considered taking some home with me until now. As we head into spring and the end of winter citrus, I wanted to take advantage of the seasonal fruit. I threw a few handfuls of the little orange gems into a paper bag and started to think of ways to bake with them on my walk home.

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What do you even do with a kumquat? Do you peel it? Juice it? Pop ‘em straight into your mouth? I was pretty clueless. I first thought I’d make a kumquat buttercream, then kumquats baked right into a cake. In the end, I went with candied kumquats. I love candied lemon slices and figured kumquats would behave similarly. On their own, they are sweet but very tart. Candied with some vanilla bean and they become a refreshing little treat. The stars of this Chocolate Kumquat Cake.

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For the cake, I wanted something simple and not too fussy. No layers of cake or mounds of frosting. I wanted the flavour of my candied kumquats to shine. I went with an easy chocolate bundt cake with almond icing. The cake was moist from a heaping amount of greek yogurt and the chocolatey taste was enhanced with some strong coffee. Chocolate and orange have always been a good match and I love citrus with almond. This combination was no exception. The flavours blended beautifully – a bright burst of citrus flavour in each bite.

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Chocolate bundt adapted from Baked Occasions

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Chocolate Kumquat Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup strong, hot coffee
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cup golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • a few handfuls kumquats, about 20-25
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
  • 1 cup confection's sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, or to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Liberally grease and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan. Set aside.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, mix the cocoa and coffee together. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, sifter together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the oil and sugar.
  5. With the mixer on medium, add in the vanilla, eggs, and yolks - one at a time
  6. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  7. With the mixer on low, add in 1/3 of the dry ingredients followed by the cocoa mixture.
  8. Add in half of the remaining dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk.
  9. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  10. Stop the mixer and fold in the yogurt until combined.
  11. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean or with only a few crumbs.
  12. Let cake cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before inverting out of the pan.
  13. Meanwhile, make the candied kumquat. Line a wire rack with paper towels or parchment paper and set aside.
  14. Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine.
  15. Heat sugar mixture over medium-high until mixture begins to boil.
  16. Meanwhile, slice each kumquat into about 4 thin slices.
  17. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer add in the sliced kumquats, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla bean pod.
  18. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the centres of the kumquats become translucent.
  19. Remove kumquat slices with a slotted spoon and let drain/dry over the wire rack.
  20. For the icing, sift the confectioner's sugar into a mixing bowl.
  21. Stir in the cream and almond extract until smooth.
  22. Drizzle the icing over the top of the cake and top with candied kumquats.
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I’ll admit – I am currently living a caffeine-fuled life.  Now that I am no longer pregnant and am running around everyday slightly very sleep deprived, coffee is my beastie.  I’ve always been a moderate coffee and tea drinker, but now that I’m a mother, I totally understand moms and their caffeine dependency.  Before having a child, I never quite grasped the urgency in other moms stating how they “need their coffee” or “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee,” and the like.  I always knew having child would change everything including sleep patterns, but I am starting to finally get it.  If I am being completely honest, then I will confess that Baby Huff is actually a pretty good sleeper and I know we’ve lucked out a bit in that department – but unless I want to spend my days tending to a newborn as a walking zombie, you better hand over that cup of caffeine.

I’ve always had sleep troubles, so I am used to regulating my caffeine intake.  No coffee after 2pm – no black tea after 5pm.  Drink plenty of water with each caffeinated beverage, blah blah blah.  Now however, my insomnia issues have been traded in for breastfeeding – keeping the caffeine-intake tango still alive and well.  What I am saying is, now when I crave that cup of coffee more than ever, there are still some things to consider before pounding an entire french press in one sitting.

Fortunately, I have experience in this.  If I have a cup of green tea to perk me up in the morning, then I can indulge in an extra-frothy latte or grande americano should we make it out of the house that afternoon – and vice versa.  If I have the morning shift that day (yes, my amazing husband and I take turns waking up early with our little snuggle bug) and have lost track of how many Keurig cups I’ve consumed, then I can always go with a delicious Matcha Latte as my afternoon treat.

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For years now, I’ve been pretty enamoured by matcha.  In a drink, in a dessert – either way, I am totally intrigued.  I love matcha in Japanese desserts – they tend to be light and not-so-sweet.  I equally love a matcha latte –  with its unmistakable flavor of a creamy, sweetened green tea.  I first came across real matcha (as opposed to just green tea) while in Tokyo nearly a decade ago.  Thankfully for the rest of us, matcha and matcha-flavored items can be easily found everywhere these days.  There are even matcha Kit-Kats, for crying out loud!

Recently, I splurged on a tin of my own matcha powder.  It was pretty pricey, but I knew I would get good use out of it by making my own lattes.  I was wrong.  I’ve tried and tried, but my homemade matcha lattes end up tasting like grass.  Thankfully there is more than one use for the stuff besides beverages.  Since I had the tin sitting in my kitchen, I was determined to find new ways to incorporate the unique flavor into my recipes.  Last year I made Matcha Sesame Macarons and you will even be able to find an awesome Matcha Ganache in my book next spring.  But today, it is all about this Matcha Cake with Coconut Frosting.

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This pound cake is a bit denser than a layer cake yet still moist and extremely flavourful.  The kind of cake best served with a a cup of tea or coffee to get you through the lull of the afternoon.  The cake itself stays moist and tender with a combination of real butter, coconut oil, and coconut milk.  I had a feeling that matcha and coconut would go well together, but I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing the combo ended being.  The mound of fluffy coconut frosting doesn’t hurt either.  So if you are in need of an afternoon pick-me-up or are a little bit sleep deprived like me, make this cake and enjoy a slice with your bagillionth cup of joe or tea of the day.

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Matcha Cake with Coconut Frosting

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 rounded tablespoons matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons coconut cream or coconut milk solids
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a large loaf pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place the butter and coconut oil. With the mixer on medium, mix until combined. Add the sugar and mix on medium for about 3-5 minutes, or until creamed.
  4. Add in the vanilla and eggs, mixing well in between. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on low and working in alternating batches, add in the flour mixture, yogurt, and coconut milk - starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  6. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds or until combined.
  7. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in to the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing cake from its pan.
  9. For the frosting, cream the butter with an electric mixer.
  10. Carefully add in the confectioner's sugar, coconut cream, and vanilla until combined.
  11. Mix on medium until frosting is smooth yet fluffy.
  12. After the cake has completely cooled, swirl on the coconut frosting and sprinkle with shredded coconut, if desired.
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WinterCitrusTart9

After all the holidays and the extra rich and heavy desserts that go along with it, there come winter citrus to switch it all up and just the right time.  Once those resolutions are made, decadent sweets are probably the last thing on your mind.  If you are anything like me though, those said resolutions don’t ever completely eliminate all treats (I’m not totally crazy!), but I do try to eat them more in moderation.  Fresh produce this time of year always seems a bit scarce, except for bright, zesty citrus.  Using their natural vibrance and sweetness, winter citrus desserts are the perfect solutions for feeding your post-resoultion sweet tooth.

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I made this Winter Citrus Tart for the last date night my husband and I had before baby.  I actually did not know that at the time, since baby came on his own terms, but I knew we were close and wanted to make something special while it was just the two of us.  Since I was essentially a ticking time bomb, I wanted to get in one last baking sesh before becoming a mom.  Brett and I made plans that evening to go to our favourite Italian restaurant down the street for dinner, while I set out to make this tart to come home to for dessert.  I knew it would be a bit more elaborate and time consuming than the usual treats I whip up last minute for my husband, but I wanted it to be extra special – plus, I was using it as a distraction from my over-due pregnant belly.

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Since I make dessert and pastry for a living, most of the items coming out of the kitchen are designed for a specific project.  Sure we end up with a ton of sweets hanging around, but they usually have been sitting out for photographs, manipulated in some way or another, or are not always what we are craving.  I hardly have time to bake just for “fun” these days, and if I do it is usually just some random cookie or breakfast good – which is totally delish too, but not the point I am trying to make at the moment.  Food is such a big part of my life and I wanted to try and do a little something different this year when it comes to desserts for the family.

Now that we have a new little one in the house, I know that date night means something completely different.  Date night now will mostly be spent in, ordering take-out, and renting a movie off iTunes.  To make those nights special and different from almost every other night that we stay in and catch up on our DVR, I wanted to challenge myself with a new series: Date Night Desserts.  In theory, Date Night Desserts will consist of special, slightly-challenging desserts and pastries made from scratch that are worthy of being served in our nice dishes, under candle-light, and with a loved one.  They are planned and cared for, as opposed to whipping some random brownies with whatever ingredients you happen to have in the fridge/pantry.  Here, I want to tackle more of the recipes on my “to-do” list and really put my heart into them.  If we are going to be under house arrest with a newborn, then at least I know that I can help keep some of the romance alive through food.  I’m talking things like dark chocolate souffle, salted caramel pot de creme, perfect French crepes, fried beignets, and hand-churned, frozen custards.  And in this case, a homemade Winter Citrus Tart.  Make this tart for your sweetie and challenge yourself with the future recipes in this series to show your loved ones – significant other, best gal pal, children, etc. how special they are.

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Back to the tart…One of the best parts about working with citrus is their beautiful colors – or at least when it comes to styling and photographing them.  Of course, it is still important for them to taste good and not just be pretty, so good thing they are still juicy and delicious.  I could live off satsumas, but a variety of citrus makes for a gorgeous flavour palette.  For this tart, I’ve gathered up the freshest tangerines, blood oranges, grapefruits, and even a sweet lime.  I decided to go with a chocolate crust, slightly spiced with a touch of cinnamon.  The crust is not overly sweet nor rich, but deepens the overall flavour of the whole tart.  I poached the fruit in vanilla for extra sweetness to off-set the tangy filling of creme fruit and cream cheese.  What makes this tart great for date night is that the different components like the crust and filling can be made separately ahead of time, thus making the whole dish more approachable and less intimidating to assemble come dessert time.

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Date Night Dessert: Winter Citrus Tart

Ingredients

  • 3-4 assorted citrus fruits - orange, tangerine, grapefruit, blood orange
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 1 pre-baked tart shell

Instructions

  1. Slice off the top and bottom of the citrus. Cut away the outer peal and pith.
  2. Slice citrus into rounds, about 1/3" thick.
  3. Place the water and sugar in a large pan. Heat over medium-high until the sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
  4. Add in the vanilla bean and seeds. Turn heat down and let sugar mixture come to a simmer.
  5. Carefully add in the citrus rounds and cover. Simmer for about 8 minutes.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit to a drying rack until drained and cooled.
  7. Meanwhile, stir together the creme fraiche, cream cheese, and sugar - to taste.
  8. Spoon the filling into the tart shell.
  9. Arrange poached citrus on top.
  10. Chill until ready to serve.
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Chocolate Tart Shell – adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten

Sift together all of the dry ingredients and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pasty cutter or use your finger tips to blend until the mixture is mealy with clumps no larger than the size of a pea.  Stir in the egg until the mixture starts to come together into large clumps.  Turn dough out until fully incorporated.  Press dough into a 9″ round, greased tart pan then freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray the shiny side of a piece of foil with non-stick spray and place it (greased-side down) on top of the crust.  Bake covered for about 20 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to cake until done, about 5-8 additional minutes.  Let completely cool on a cooling rack before filling.

Who’s surprised to learn that I’ve always had a sweet tooth?  Yeah, I didn’t think anyone would be.  Even well before I started making and baking my own sweet treats, I’ve always been a candy and chocolate lover.  Whether it be sneaking in jumbo-sized candy into the movies and or the occasional special stop by See’s Candy, I loved it all – still do.

While I started out by baking, I’ve learned a lot along the way in regards to candy-making and tempering chocolate as well.  I probably first started making candies and chocolates about a decade ago when I started to make them as edible gifts around the holidays.  Working with boiling sugar is a lot different than baking a cake, but the end results yielded the same feelings – the feeling of making something from scratch at home to share with the people I love.  With the biggest day of love just around the corner, I’ve already been thinking of what treat(s) to make to share with my valentines.

This year, I think I will go with some homemade chocolates.  Those store-bough boxes of chocolates always have a ton of flavors that I don’t actually like (or anyone I know actually likes), so why not make my own?  From chocolate truffles, caramels, and more – there are so many approachable recipes and options for a DIY Chocolate Box.  I haven’t narrowed down my decision of what to make yet, but I did round up some of my favorite recipes from around the web to choose from.

Check out DIY Chocolate Box

by Tessa Lindow Huff at Foodie.com

What are your favorite chocolates to eat and make?  Will you be trying any of these recipes to share on Valentine’s Day?

 

Remember to head over to Foodie.com for more recipes or to make you own collection!

Post sponsored by Foodie, but collection and opinions are my own.

StrawberryAppleCrumb5

We survived week 2!  After multiple check-ups and a get together with out prenatal group, Baby Boy is thriving!  Our sleep routine is getting better and he continues to eat like a champ.  Time both slows and flies by with a wee little one.  I find myself scanning Instagram and Pinterest more than ever during late-night feedings and am usually showered and dressed (even if in sweats – but clean sweats) earlier in the day than I used to be.  At the same time, between appointments, diaper changes, and bath-time, I don’t even know where the day goes.  Time seems to stand completely still while I am cuddling my son, but my husband and I have strangely found more time in the in between, trying to take advantage of his naps to do the little things like take a shower, unload the dishwasher, and even bake a quick cake.

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With that said, this post makes a lot of sense.   While nursing and soothing/cuddling, I find myself on my phone a lot these days.  I didn’t think that would be the case, but somehow I am all caught up on my social media and have read more blogs and articles than before.  Here are some of last week’s favourite reads:

Molly Yeh’s fondue game is out of the world.

This thought-provoking read by The Faux Martha about inspiration/originality + a decadent chocolate cake.

How to boil an egg – according to this Bon Appetite infographic

Style Me Pretty Living’s Caradamon Rose Cocktail – since Valentine’s Day is less than 2 weeks away, I can enjoy a bit of alcohol again, and you know how much I love cardamom.

The one-and-only Dorie Greenspan’s Custardy Apple Squares – as seen on Food 52 – and remembering when I tried to work my way through Baking: from my home to yours when I first started baking nearly a decade ago.

In the daylight hours, I was able to find some time to do some cooking and baking – or at least this week I did.  We had some gorgeous weather this past week and were able to squeeze in a few walks to the park and even a trip to the grocery store sans baby.  Some friends and family think I’m nuts for baking/cooking with a new baby at home, but for me it’s actually relaxing and rewarding – not another chore.  I really enjoy baking/cooking (duh- or else why would I even have started this blog?), I find that in all the chaos of having a new baby at home, I am comforted by being in the kitchen. Where with baby I have so many questions and concerns, in the kitchen I can whip up a cake in 20 minutes and just trust the science behind mixing a couple eggs with some flour and throwing it all in the oven.

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This week’s Baking with Baby recipe is this Strawberry Apple Crumb Cake. I wanted to make a quick, sweet treat that would work for a snack and/or breakfast that used up some of the leftover produce in the house. I knew I would not have time for something with multiple parts (cake+ icing + filling, etc), so this single layer tea cake was the answer. Since I do make so many layer cakes, I sometimes forget the amazingness that lies in the simplicity of a single layer cake. Everything baked up in one pan, making less dishes and more time for baby cuddles. The crumble topping was easy enough and would work wonderfully on its own, but a quick stir of some creme fraiche with orange zest and sugar made the for the perfect addition. Yes, there are healthier things I could be snacking on, but the fresh fruit, whole wheat and almond flours, and yogurt made it feel light, fresh, and a bit better for me than other packaged or preserved snacks that are equally easy to grab ‘n go with.

Did I mention how easy and quick this was to throw together? Just some sifting and slicing while baby naps and you are ready to go. Feel free to add in whatever fruit you have on hand like sliced pears or blueberries!

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Recipe adapted from the Huckleberry Cookbook

Strawberry Apple Crumb Cake + Weekly Thoughts

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 dozen strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • sugar to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine the first 9 ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter between your finger tips until the ingredients start to come together into little clumps. Refrigerate.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment and set aside.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
  5. Add in the sugar and mix on medium until creamed.
  6. Add in the eggs and vanilla.
  7. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  8. With the mixer on low starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate adding in the dry ingredients and the yogurt.
  9. Mix until just combined.
  10. Spread evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan.
  11. Top with sliced apples and strawberries.
  12. Sprinkle top with crumb mixture, leaving some of the fruit to pop out - if desired.
  13. Bake for about 45-60 minutes or until done.
  14. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the cake from the pan.
  15. Stir the orange zest, juice, and sugar into the creme fraiche. Place a dollop of cream on each slice to serve.
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If you’ve been following along, then you know that 2015 was always going to be a BIG year for the Huff household.  Not only will I be editing my book this year (Spring 2016 release) and working on my various freelance gigs, we also welcomed a new baby boy into the world.

A little bit late, Everett James decided to join us last weekend.  Nearly 8lbs of perfection.  He has tons of dark hair, his daddy’s nose, and the sweetest personality.  So far, our favourite new activities include lots of pj’s, snuggle sessions, and making faces at each other in the moments that he is actually awake.  I won’t get into too many details here, but you can follow along for more pics and such over on Instagram.

One baby thing I will be introducing to the blog this year is the series “Baking with Baby.”  Since this is all new to me, I will be talking about the meals and treats I make while caring for a newborn.  I already did some food prep before baby got here that I will share, as well as the energizing breakfasts, hearty lunches, and fresh snacks/dinners I will need to get through the upcoming year as a new mom.  Or at least that is the idea.  I welcome you all to follow along to see what works and what doesn’t.  Hopefully you will be able to learn a thing or two about balance and nourishment.  Also, feel free to share any tips on how you survived the months of nighttime feedings, a sleepy yet demanding little one, and/or trying to go back to regular life while cooking/cleaning with one hand when the other is holding a swaddled baby.

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Before baby arrived, I made the Wholegrain Chocolate Muffin mix from Izy Hossack’s  Top with Cinnamon cookbook.  This make-ahead mix is simple to throw together, and even easier to turn into a small batch of muffins when the mood strikes.  Just make the dry mix and store.  When ready to use, just mix in the second half of the ingredients – they will be ready to bake before your oven even finishes pre-heating.

Within the first few days of baby being home, I already made a batch.  I gave Izy’s recipe a twist to create Wholegrain Banana Chocolate Muffins with fleur de sel, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs.  We had some bananas that were over-ripe when we got home from our hospital stay, so they made for the perfect addition to her recipe.  My sleep-deprived husband and I gobbled them up both as a late-night snack and for breakfast to fuel us the following day (they stay super moist if wrapped up overnight).

So whether you have a new baby at home, busy family-life, or just want a quick, sweet yet healthy snack to get you through the day, make this mix!  You’ll thank me and Izy later.

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Recipe adapted from Top with Cinnamon 

Yields about 18-24 muffins; or 3 batches of 6-8 muffins

Wholegrain Banana Chocolate Muffins + Our New Addition

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white spelt or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or melted coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • cinnamon, fleur de sel, cocoa nibs for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Sift together the dry ingredients. Stir until combined.
  2. Add in the oil and rub it into the dry ingredients until evenly distributed.
  3. Store in an air-tight container until use.
  4. When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Mash banana in a medium mixing bowl.
  6. Stir in the egg, milk, and vanilla.
  7. Stir in 1 3/4 cups of the dry mix until combined.
  8. Divide between 6-8 lined muffin cups. Sprinkle with cocoa nibs and flour de sel.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes or until done.
  10. Top with banana slices and cinnamon, if desired.
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Although the holidays have come and gone, I find there are still plenty of winter days left where the classic combo of chocolate and mint are more than acceptable.  Mint does not have to be all candy-canes and red-striped.  In fact, I can get behind fresh mint in my desserts any time of year.  So while this cake may not look like your typical mint holiday treat, it is equally tasty and timely during the cold, winter months ahead of us.

Chocolate and mint remind me of being all bundled up on a chilly day.  The mint is like the type of crisp, cold wind that makes your nose and ears turn red and the chocolate is like a cozy, hand-knitted scarf.  Or the refreshing kick that peppermint adds to a hot chocolate being sipped next to a warm fire.  So snuggle up next to a loved one with a slice of this Chocolate Mint Cake and melt all your worries away…

ChocolateMintBark

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This cake pairs my Classic Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Mint filling.  The cake has been iced in mint buttercream, but a plain vanilla would also pair perfectly – if that is just too minty for your liking.  To finish, I’ve created a White Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Bark to decorate the cake with.  How fun is that!?!

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Chocolate Mint Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 9 ounces white chocolate, chopped (by weight)
  • 3 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter, diced
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the oil and sugar. Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  4. With the mixer on low, alternate adding in the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 batches. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on low, stream in the hot water. Mix on medium no more than 30 seconds or until combined.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans and bake until done or a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean - about 24-26 minutes.
  7. Cool on a wire rack 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
  8. For the filling, place the white chocolate in a heat-safe bowl.
  9. Slowly heat the cream to a simmer.
  10. Pour cream over the chocolate and let sit 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth.
  11. Add in the butter and stir until melted.
  12. Add in the peppermint extract to taste.
  13. Set aside or chill in the refrigerator until a spreadable consistency to use as the filling.
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For the White Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Bark:

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick mat and set aside. Melt 12 ounces of white chocolate over a double-boiler.

Once melted stir in 1/4 – 1/2 peppermint extract, or to taste.  Pour onto the lined baking sheet, reserving a couple tablespoons to tint green. Smooth out into a 1/4-inch layer with an off-set spatula. Tint the remaining chocolate green and spoon dollops of tinted-white chocolate on top and swirl with a wooden skewer. Sprinkle with mini white chocolate chips and sugar peals. Once chocolate has set, break into pieces.