Review: The Dirty Apron Cookbook and Dirty Twixter Bars

dirty-apron-cookbookThe Dirty Apron is a cooking school and delicatessen in Vancouver. I’ve heard that their classes are great, but I haven’t made it out there yet. I had a great experience at a cooking class I took in Toronto. You get to learn new techniques, but I think the best aspect of those classes is how social it is. It’s fun for everyone to sit down and eat together.

The Dirty Apron now has a cookbook
with fail-proof recipes. So if you can’t make it to there, this book has a bunch of recipes from the cooking school as well as from their catering menu.

The skill level ranges from beginner (smoked salmon bagels with lemon and dill cream cheese) to advanced (crab cannelloni). There isn’t a “mains” chapter, but instead a “meat and poultry” and “seafood”. Looking through the pages, there are very few vegetarian dishes. The ones that are there are mostly salads. If you’re a vegetarian, this book may not be your thing. For me, most of these recipes aren’t simple enough for weeknight fare (especially with a baby!). These are the recipes to pull out for weekends or when company is coming over. I like the chef notes that are accompanied with the recipe like what items can be prepped in advance.

I put a lot of faith in this book and made my Thanksgiving dinner from it. I made the roasted turkey breast and boneless roasted stuffed turkey leg with cranberry compote. It was just R and I (and baby) for dinner, so I just made the turkey breast instead of doing a whole turkey. Everything came together with ease and it was a low stress affair. I brined the breast first for two hours using the Cook’s Illustrated brine that is a sugar and salt solution to keep things simple. For the stuffing, I substituted hazelnuts for the chestnuts because I couldn’t find any in the store. These were game changer recipes for me! The stuffing was better than the one that I always do and the turkey was incredibly moist.

With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to make the dirty twixter bars. They’re described as a combination of a Twix and Skor The recipe is a bit time consuming as you need to make the shortbread base, dulce de leche and then the salted caramel ganache. I guess to simplify things you can always buy the dulce de leche. I broke it up into two days making the base on the first day and then everything else the next day. For the ganache, I simply just stirred everything together. Two reasons: my immersion blender is busted and the baby was asleep. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can do this with a food processor. Just put the chopped chocolate in the bowl and with the motor running pour the caramel mixture in.

For the dulce de leche, it tells you to boil the cans with water. I’ve heard about about cans exploding (this usually happens when there isn’t enough water covering them). Exploding cans make me nervous and I’d be likely to forget to check to see if there’s enough water covering them. Most importantly, on the can of condensed milk it has a warning to not heat the can. So I used the less nerve-wracking oven method. David Lebovitz’s dulce de leche recipe is simple. Pour the contents into a glass pan that’s nested in a deeper dish, add water and in an hour or so you get the same result.

These bars are rich and gooey. Don’t be caught without a napkin when eating these! The mix of dark chocolate with milk and the fleur de sel makes them not overly sweet. People who have eaten them have used the word “amazing” to describe them. Note: it’s best to cut these when they’re cold. My dulce de leche wasn’t that firm so it oozed when I cut them. For the cleanest cuts, use a long serrated knife and wipe clean.

Twixter bars

Disclosure: I received a review copy. As always, my opinions are my own and I did not receive any compensation for this post.

facebooktwittermailby feather

Ginger Pennies, FBC and Nordic Ware

DSC_4322

I’m attending the FBC conference this weekend! Even though I don’t update the blog often, I really wanted to go for the learning experience and to meet other bloggers. I was sent some swag from Nordic Ware (one of the sponsors) and had the opportunity to review some of the products (disclosure: a review gives me a chance to win $500 in product from Nordic Ware). Can I say how impressed I was with what I got?! I had to pick up the package and wasn’t expecting anything big, so I was completely surprised to see a gigantic parcel.

I was sent the big sheet pan, Prep n’ Serve bowls, cookie stamps and a Pinata cake pan.

I’ve been using the bowls on an almost daily basis. They’re lightweight, dishwasher safe and microwaveable. I like the non-skid bottom which helps keep things in place when mixing. The microwaveable feature helps when you’ve forgotten to soften butter:

DSC_4316

The sheet pan is very big. Here’s a comparison with one of my other pans:

DSC_4310

This is excellent for cookies. Usually I get pretty lazy and I try and squish as many cookies in the pan as possible. The bigger pan means more cookies. Perfect for the ginger cookies I made (which makes like 25 dozen teeny tiny cookies!).

DSC_4317

The pan is lighter than my regular ones so I’m not sure how it will withstand extreme high heat. It held up perfectly for these cookies.

I can’t wait to try out the other products. The pinata cake seems like a perfect choice for a smash cake for my soon-to-be one year old (how does time fly so fast?).

Get the ginger pennies recipe here.

Note: While I was sent product, all opinions are my own.

facebooktwittermailby feather

Foolproof small batch biscuits

Strawberry shortcake

I started writing about strawberry shortcake, but quickly realized that the real star was the the easiest and foolproof small batch biscuits I made. Even if you don’t have strawberries, give the biscuits a try.

Whenever strawberries are in season i always plan on baking with them. Except I always end up eating them straight out of the basket because let’s be honest, it is the best way to eat a nice route strawberry. As a kid i would lightly dip them in sugar before eating them letting the sugar dissolve slightly in my mouth before biting into it.

I’ve been seeing strawberry shortcakes pop up everywhere (June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day) and I got a hankering to make some.

With 2.5 people in the household, I only need a recipe for 2. I found a recipe in my Small-Batch Baking cookbook and made it quickly. The dough was a bit of a disaster and called for too much liquid so I had to add in more flour. The next day when I re-read the recipe, it was me who messed it up. I like to scale all my flour and I ended up only putting half the amount called for. When I re-did the recipe, they turned out, but I liked my accidental ones better! The extra fat made for a delectable buttery biscuit.

With a bit of recipe testing, I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my tastes. The biscuits are foolproof, just pay attention to cues. You’ll want a batter that’s sticky, but not soupy and you’ll want to bake it until it’s a light golden brown. It’s an extremely forgiving recipe and even this “nervous chef” can still turn out a decent one. You can reduce the sugar (omit to make savoury ones) and probably even omit the baking powder and still have them turn out. I halved the flour and so these are a wee bit smaller than the original. If you want a larger biscuit, double the flour and cream, but leave the rest of the ingredients the same. Because it only makes two, you can get creative without worrying too much about ruining a big batch. They’re so fast and easy to make that you can have fresh biscuits everyday like I have for the last 3 days…

Strawberries vary in sweetness so this recipe is very loosely written so you can do everything “to taste”. Super ripe sweet ones won’t need much sugar.

facebooktwittermailby feather

Review: How to feed a family

How_to_Feed_a_Family
I was really excited to receive How to Feed a Family
for review when I was pregnant. I also received this as a gift (signed by the author!). While my kid won’t be eating the meals in this book for awhile, I don’t have the same luxury of time to be in the kitchen for hours. It’s tiring work growing a human being, so a lot of the cooking was done by R. He can cook, but he doesn’t like recipes. His meals are much more laid back: grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, nachos and cheese, tuna melts or a frozen meal. While he is happy to eat that all the time, I need some variety. So I made him test out the cookbook.

He bookmarked a bunch of recipes to try which is always a good sign.

Apple and chicken curry was simple to make and the directions were straight forward. It’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner and the yogurt gives the dish a nice creaminess. It wasn’t too spicy so it’s very kid friendly. 2 chicken thighs didn’t seem enough, so we used more. I wish the weight for the chicken was given as pieces can vary in weight.

For an easy breakfast, I made the Oatmeal and Strawberry Blender Pancakes. Because all the ingredients are just thrown in, the batter comes together in no time. The pancakes tasted…well…healthy. I’m used to making fluffy, not very wholesome, but delicious pancakes on the weekend. I understand as a parent you want to feed your kids more nutritious meals. Would I serve these to my kids? Absolutely! Would I make them for a brunch with friends? Probably not. Balance is key so I would consider these as everyday pancakes and the version I usually make as a weekend treat.

The last recipe I tested was Risotto, Spinach and Kale Cakes with Parmesan. These are bite sized and easy to take on the go. Once I made it, I had to make it again that same week. Doubling the recipe and freezing it would make an easy last minute dinner option. I’d also mow down these as a snack. I usually take pictures of what I make, but none of the pictures turned out.

There’s a handy legend letting you know which ones are quick to make or my favourite, the ones that make little mess. I would have also liked to see a quick index for the legend. That way I can see a list of make ahead meals at a glance.

The book is geared to older children so you won’t see any first foods like purees. While I still have a couple of years before my baby will be eating any of the food in this book, I like how it’s fast and uncomplicated.

SpinachKaleCakeswithParmesan2
image courtesy of Random House

Thanks to Random House for sending me a review copy. As always, my opinions are my own and I did not receive any compensation.

facebooktwittermailby feather

Baby shower cake and Craftsy class review

DSC_2096

Who is crazy enough to make their own baby shower cake? This gal. I refuse to make my own birthday cake, but I needed to make this.

I wanted an ombre cake in varying shades of purple ruffles, but ended up changing things on the fly. I changed the ruffles to rosettes to make things easier. I used a Wilton 1M tip and you can see a tutorial here on how to make rosettes. It’s really simple and looks fancy. I don’t have much piping experience so this was my first real decorating job. I ran into a problem trying to achieve a purple colour. You’ll want to make sure your purple food colouring isn’t too old as the red dye will fade and you’ll end up with blue. Mixing red and blue together turned everything kind of muddy. I needed to choose a different colour so I chose yellow instead.

DSC_2035

I was inspired by the elephant cake by Hello Naomi and had R create the elephant topper and banner. I didn’t want to buy a styrofoam ball, so I made the balloon out of fondant. This barely held up during the shower, but it’s heavy and was supported by a thin wire. If I were to make this again, I would use the styrofoam to make it lightweight. The fondant toppers were made the day before and weren’t dry by the baby shower happened. I think it takes a week or two to dry out so it’s best to do toppers way in advance.

DSC_1999

I relied heavily on Craftsy for the buttercream techniques. Craftsy is an online learning platform where you learn via high quality videos. You can also ask the instructor questions throughout the video. There’s a free class called Modern Buttercream by Joshua John Russell and he goes through how to cut a cake into layers, crumb coat and decorative techniques. Because this is a free class, the instructors aren’t required to respond, but the community is so big that other students will help answer questions. There are other free classes available that you can take to see what it’s all about. I loved the free pizza class with Peter Reinhart and his pizza dough is now my go to recipe.

I’ve also purchased some of their classes and have found that the instructors respond pretty quickly. If you wait long enough, usually you’ll see that class on sale. Note: I wasn’t paid by Craftsy to do this review, I just really like the site. The only drawbacks is that they say you’ll have the class forever, but realistically that’s not possible. Instructors will eventually move on and you will no longer be able to rely on them for help with your questions.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...facebooktwittermailby feather