Category Archives: Dessert

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.

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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.

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Baby shower cake and Craftsy class review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Butter tarts

Butter tarts

Summer always reminds me of cottages and butter tarts. Butter tarts are of Canadian origin and taste similar to pecan pie, but with runnier filling. Every individual has their own preferences about what makes a good butter tart. For me, I can’t stand raisins in mine while for others it’s essential. Pecans or walnuts and a not too runny filling for me is perfect.

This is the easiest crust to make ever. It uses shortening (lard is even better) so it doesn’t lose its shape. For pie crusts I always use butter, but it’s just not the same when making these tarts. I made minis because it was for a party. After making the mini size I found that I preferred this size better. I only end up eating half of a regular sized one anyway.

Here’s a pro tip for getting out your tarts from your muffin pans: use small strips of parchment at the bottom. All you have to do is pull the tabs.

This recipe is a mash up of 2 of Anna Olson’s butter tart recipes.

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Guinness Cupcakes with Irish Cream Frosting

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Originally published on sweetspot.ca

I’m smitten with Smitten Kitchen. Every time I visit the site, there is something that begs to be made.

In honour of St. Paddy’s Day, I tried the chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes. This little cupcake is packed with a chocolate Guinness cupcake, filled with an Irish whiskey ganache and then topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting. An incredibly moist and rich cake with a frosting that’s sweet, but not over the top.

I did run into some problems with this recipe:

  • There is such a thing as too much butter. When making the cupcakes, the batter separated resulting in an oozy layer of butter. I think I let the batter sit too long that caused the separation. Try having the eggs and sour cream already beaten to prevent this. Another solution is to use less butter, maybe 1/2–2/3rds the amount.
  • My ganache turned grainy. This was an easy fix, I just beat the mixture with an electric mixer until it was smooth as silk.

Despite these issues, the cupcakes turned out so well that I’ll be making another go at this for next year. Don’t fear the booze that’s in this recipe. You can only taste the Irish Cream in the frosting (don’t like Irish Cream? Replace it with milk or cream instead).

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