WE'VE MOVED

Hello!

Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!

Sincerely,
Syl

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stanley

547 Saint Ann Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 587-0093

We had some time on Friday morning to explore New Orleans before the exhibits officially started. There were a few places on my "visit" list that included Chef Scott Boswell's restaurant, who also operates Stella! (don't you love it? Stanley and Stella!).

Stanley is at the north east corner of Jackson Square, there's tarot card readings, caricature drawings, city tours, and music.

Seat with a view!

There's a great view no matter where you sit. I really love how there are big, tall windows in most restaurants here. Come on in natural light!

I had a tough time choosing what to get, everything sounded good. When it came time to order, I asked for the Breaux Bridge Benedict and the server cheered. An excellent pick!

Isn't it pretty? I love the plating of my breakfast. Charlie T’s Boudin, smoked ham, American cheese, poached eggs (I love poached eggs), and creole hollandaise. YUMMY!!! And you can see that there are hot sauces on the table too.

Howard got a burger for breakfast. Yes, this is normal for him (rolling my eyes). Please meet the Big Stanley: grilled 10oz. certified Angus burger with two slices of American cheese, three strips of smoked bacon, Stanley special sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard, and ketchup.

A wonderful place to have breakfast/brunch if you're in town. We highly recommend it, and make sure you also check out the po-boys there!

A view of Jackson Square from the river side.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gumbo Shop

630 Saint Peter Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-1486

For our first day in New Orleans, we didn't have any plans aside from setting up our booth at ALA. We were all pretty hungry as our flights had taken up the whole morning and we didn't have lunch. We had checked into Hotel Monteleone and started walking through the French Quarters in search of creole food. That's when we found the Gumbo Shop.

I was lured in by the beautiful garden courtyard, but since it was very warm and humid, we decided to sit inside. The dining room is in a 1795 building with high ceilings and murals along the wall. Some of the scenes are from Mardi Gras and the French Market.

We also noticed that the condiments on each table included Tabasco Sauce, creole seasoning, and perfect pepper blend. While not every restaurant has their own seasonings, we soon learned that most restaurants include Tabasco sauce. If you would like ketchup, you'll have to ask!

To start, we asked the server to recommend an appetizer. He told us that the blackened fish nuggets were his favourite, so we tried it! It instantly became our favourite dish from the entire meal. The seasoning and flavours were bold and delicious.

I had ordered the "complete creole dinner" so I chose the chicken andouille gumbo to start. This was also very good. I believe Howard's exact words were "I could have this gumbo every day."

Howard's entree was the crawfish etouffee. This was crawfish tails simmered in a spicy sauce of onion, bell peppers, celery, garlic, and cayenne pepper - served with rice.

My entree was the creole combination platter which included shrimp creole (top), jambalaya (middle), with red beans and rice (bottom).

For dessert, I had the incredibly rich chocolate brownie pie. The chocolate sauce was warm and gooey and the vanilla ice cream really hit the spot.

Look at that brownie!

Howard didn't pick a dessert (he was quite full already), but my colleague picked the praline sundae. I just had to take a photo of the roasted pralines and caramel sauce - yum!

The service and hospitality here was full of spirit and the casual atmosphere made this dining experience a great start to our trip!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ALA 2011 Annual Conference and Exhibits

Hello friends! If you're wondering why it has been a little quiet here, it's because Howard and I went away last weekend. I had a work trip for ALA's Annual Conference, and upon hearing that it would be in New Orleans this year, Howard wanted to tag along. We'll be sharing our wonderful eats soon, but for now, I wanted to share the book part of the trip first.

I had some time to explore the other exhibitors and decided to show you some old and new baking cookbooks! First up is Workman Publishing Company:
Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies was published last fall, but it still drew me in. One can always use a collective cookie cookbook! Plus, look at the books behind it:
Last year we also saw The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free by Anne Byrn release (don't forget about our review of The Cake Mix Doctor Returns!).

The poster that caught my eye was Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski, this book was a very recent release.

It looks like gluten-free is getting very popular in the baking arena!
The Baking Answer Book by Lauren Chattman looked very handy. I did a quick flip-through of the book and liked the Q&A format.
I walked into Dorling Kindersley's booth and asked if there was an advance copy of Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking for me to see. Not yet as this comes out in September!
I think it'll be quite good as I like the art in The Illustrated Step-by-Step Cook. Didn't spot any other baking books, so let's visit the next booth:
The piping bag and cupcake on the cover caught my attention. The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life by Melisser Elliott. When I was snapping this photo, the gentleman working at Skyhorse Publishing also recommended I take a photo of Vegan Desserts by Hannah Kaminsky, which came out in the spring.
Walking an aisle over:
I picked up Cake Boy and was disappointed to find that it was a dummy book (the pages inside were blank). The cake on the cover looks delicious and this is scheduled to be available in October.
Macarons by Berengere Abraham has such a beautiful and soft coloured cover. Lovely photography inside as well.
Over at Chronicle Books, the charming Miette by Meg Ray. You can't see it in the photo, but this book has scalloped edges!
Like I said earlier, can't have too many cookies, here is Milk & Cookies by Tina-Marie Casaceli.

Then there was this petite gem at Random House. Not a cookbook, Pastry Paris by Susan Hochbaum is a collection of pastries photographed in Paris that parallels architecture. Quite clever and quirky!
I know I'm probably missing a whole lot of dessert-like cookbooks, but the convention was huge and I didn't get a chance to visit every booth!

I did end up buying a book (I couldn't resist), the very adorable My Milk Toof by Inhae Lee. I would recommend checking it out as ickle and Lardee do make cupcakes in one of the comic strips!

Publishers don't usually give out cookbooks, so I picked up an advance reading copy of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler for some in-flight reading. While waiting for the plane, I saw someone reading Jonathan Dixon's Beaten, Seared, and Sauced, and well... I kind of wanted to trade. =P

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Learning about Soufflés

For Father's Day, Howard and I wanted to make soufflés for my dad.
My mom had told me that dad ordered a soufflé every night when they went on their cruise. We were also recently inspired by Mary Sue on Top Chef Masters and Dale MacKay on Top Chef Canada.

I spent Friday looking through a couple of cookbooks to look for lemon soufflé recipes. I found one in Ready for Dessert and showed it to Howard. In the short intro to the recipe, the author had written that there are chocolate people in the world and there are lemon people. So true! Howard's a lemon person and I'm a chocolate one. =)

Here's the super lemony soufflé recipe, slightly adapted from the book:

Lemon Soufflés
Recipe adapted from Ready for Dessert
(Makes about 6)

3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
A pinch of salt
2/3 cup of milk
4 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons of butter
Zest from 2 lemons
3 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Extra sugar and butter to coat the molds
  1. Lightly butter the bottom and edges of six ramekin or soufflé molds. Pour some sugar into each, tilt and rotate to coat the interior. Pour out the excess.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, and the pinch of salt.
  3. Whisk in about 1/3 of the milk - whisk until smooth. Then add in the remaining milk.
  4. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens to look like custard.
  5. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks and butter.
  6. Return to the heat and cook until it starts to boil and bubbles appear on the surface.
  7. Turn off the heat, transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and let it cool.
  8. Stir in the 3 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
  9. Using a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to high and add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk until the whites form stiff peaks.
  10. Mix 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the soufflé base.
  11. Then fold in the remaining whipped egg whites, be careful not to deflate them.
  12. Divide the soufflés mixture evenly. Sprinkle each with a light dusting of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice. Bake until the tops are light brown, about 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Our first soufflé didn't turn out properly. It sunk in the oven and deflated when we took it out. I was pretty bummed out, but Howard tried to make me feel better by saying they are known for being tricky and that I shouldn't expect it to work on my first try (but I did expect it to work, I am good at following instructions). Then I debated doing a post about our deflated dessert and decided to. This is all a learning experience after all!

Perhaps you can help us? I do have a convection oven - not ideal for baking, but I've been able to make it work for cakes. Does anyone know if I should use a different setting with my oven?

We will be attempting the soufflé again. I can't let this get the best of me! I did some more research and here are some tips if you're going to making one soon:
  • Just like baking cakes, have your butter and eggs at room temperature
  • After buttering and sugaring the interiors of the molds, let them "set" in the refrigerator
  • Adding a little bit of lemon juice helps strengthen the egg whites
  • To avoid lumpy soufflés, fold in the egg whites until smooth
  • Tap the molds down on a cloth to evenly distribute the batter, then fill the batter to the top and slice off any excess
  • Using your finger, create a mini ring in the batter along the edge
  • Set your oven temperature to be a bit higher, because when the door opens, the temperature drops
  • Don't lower the temperature or open your oven door while the soufflé is baking
  • Work quickly and have your equipment and ingredients ready
Do you have any tips or tricks?

We hope you had a wonderful Father's Day!

Spin Dessert Cafe

Howard and I, along with our friends Mike and Megan, went to our first soccer game on the weekend. It was one of those rare beautiful days in Toronto. Watching the game at the BMO field was amazing, thank you warm sunny weather! Eating brisket sandwiches and giant hot dogs in the stands was fun. I think we even saw a tailgate party in the parking lot - these fans have lots of energy.

Unfortunately, Toronto didn't do so well. Seattle managed to score two minutes before the game ended. Aww well. To end the day on a high note, we checked out a dessert place. Right? Come on, you can't expect us to riot over a game. =P

1060 The Queensway
Toronto, ON M8Z 1P7
(416) 255-7746

Facebook and twitter too!

The interior at Spin was all pink and brown and the hostess was quite nice. We asked for one of the empty booths, but got seated in the middle. While it was less intimate (you're in the center of attention), it was nice and spacious. Learning that it was our first time at Spin, she took us through the menu by reading aloud all the different sections. They offer crepes and waffles, sundaes, cakes, beverages, savoury crepes, and breakfast. The last page of the menu said that alcohol would be coming soon. We also learned that they make all their ice creams in-house and that they have cheesecakes from the Cheesecake Factory.

Most of the dessert names in the menu are named after popular songs and we noticed that the waitresses also had song titles on the back of their T-shirts (also pink and brown).

Howard told Megan to sing her order - challenge accepted and Megan ordered "I Like it Like That" beautifully. Her crepe was a chocolate peanut butter ice-cream topped with Reese's Minis and bananas, with hot fudge sauce on the side.

Spin also has monthly specials, so Mike ordered from the June features, the "Lean on Me" crepes. This was a smore's ice cream topped with graham cracker and marshmallow's, with hot fudge on the side.

Howard and I shared "Irreplaceable," which was crepe with vanilla ice cream topped with fresh strawberries with strawberry sauce on the side. He also got a "Lean on Me" drink from the monthly features, strawberry lemonade (which was delicious).

We soon figured out that the song names didn't really correlate with the desserts, and what surprised me the most was they didn't play any music! With such a musical menu, it would appear to make sense to have all those songs on loop. =)

Overall, it was a nice dessert place to hang out at. The fruits were noticeably fresh and there's lots to choose from, especially if you don't have a sweet tooth. The savoury section looked good too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Last Chinese Chef

The Last Chinese Chef
Written by Nicole Mones

ISBN-13: 9780547053738
ISBN-10: 0547053738
Publisher: Mariner Books
Paperback: 288 Pages

I don't browse a lot of forums, but last year, a discussion about books caught my attention. It was on Food Network's community and people were recommending their favourite food-related titles. It's been awhile now, so I can't remember who brought up the Last Chinese Chef, but whoever it was, thank you! This book introduced me to a whole new genre that I'm quite pleased in discovering.

Nicole Mones introduces us to Maggie McElroy, an American food writer who recently lost her husband, Matt. However, the bad news doesn't stop there, she soon finds out from an old colleague of Matt's that someone has placed a paternity claim on him. A woman in China - Matt met her on a business trip a few years ago.

That premise alone triggers so many questions. Did Matt cheat on her? Is the child really his? Did he lead a double life? What does the child's family want from her? Was she with him when he died? Were there others?

Sarah, Maggie's editor then proposes an idea, go to China and find out the truth. Meanwhile, take on an assignment featuring a half-American and half-Chinese chef about to open a restaurant and compete in a culinary competition. Sam Liang.

I think this is one of those books that work best if you don't know what's going to happen next, because then you learn about the surprises when Maggie does. I loved that the story gently sweeps you along and before you know it, you're completely wrapped up.

The author uses pinyin for Mandarin phrases and dish names - which I enjoyed because food and words are so important in Chinese dishes. If you are ever invited for dinner during Chinese New Year or for a Chinese wedding, you will learn that each dish represents certain words and meanings. For instance, when Sam is describing it to Maggie:
"It's a literary finish. This last dish creates a word, perhaps the single most important word in the Chinese culinary language - xian, the fresh, clean taste. The character for xian is made up of two characters - the character for fish combined with the character for lamb. In this dish the two are joined. They mesh. They symbolize xian. They are xian."
There are no recipes in the story itself, but this edition included three on the very last pages: steamed clams and eggs, beggar's chicken, and pork spare ribs in lotus leaf. Each recipe is printed with permission from three different chefs, which can be found on the author's website.

Mones writes food very well, try reading this without feeling the comfort of a good chicken meal:
"Maggie couldn't wait. She picked up a mouthful of chicken that fell away from the carcass and into her chopsticks at a touch. It was moist and dense with profound flavor, the good nourishment of chicken, first marinated, then spiked with the bits of aromatic vegetable and salt-cured ham which had been stuffed in the cavity and were now all over the bird. Shot through everything was the pungent musk of the lotus leaf."
As you may already suspect, Maggie learns a great deal about real Chinese food and her relationship with Sam also grows, but very gently. It's not a quick, strong passion - the slow growth between them was believable and realistic.

The Last Chinese Chef is a fascinating look at the art of Chinese cooking. I enjoyed every moment of it and learned a lot of background information about preparing a banquet (not that I would ever be able to cook one).

I still remember telling Howard about how good the book was - when I was only half way into it. I whole-heartily recommend that you pick this up at your local library or neighbourhood bookstore. It's that good!

Disclaimer: This book was not provided by the publisher, author, or anyone affiliated with the book. There was no agreement or expectations that a review would be written and posted on this site.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Key Lime" Cloud Cake

Three things happened this Sunday that led to this post. First, my parents got me a spring-form pan. Second, we had a package of cream cheese to use before it expired. Third, we had lime juice leftover.

My mom suggested that I made a cheesecake and make it lime flavoured. So I took out my copy of What's Cooking (Summer 2011 issue) because I was sure I've seen a recipe in there! Sure enough, they had one.

Sure, we didn't have all the ingredients on hand, but that's why cooking is fun sometimes. We'll just have to test it and see.


"Key Lime" Cloud Cake
Recipe adapted from What's Cooking
(Makes about one 6-inch round cake)

1 cup or 6 Milano cookies
1/4 cup of melted butter
3/4 cup of boiling water
1 package (85 g) of Jell-O lime jelly powder
1/2 cup cold water
1 package (250 g) of softened cream cheese
3/4 cup of lime juice
  1. Mix Milano crumbs with butter; press onto bottom of spring-form pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Add boiling water to the lime jelly powder in a medium bowl or measuring cup. Stir until completely dissolved.
  3. Add cold water and stir for two minutes or until thickened.
  4. Beat the cream cheese in medium bowl until creamy. Gradually add lime juice and lime jelly.
  5. Pour over crust and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or until firm. Optional: top with whipped cream before serving.

The "key lime" cloud cake is very light and I guess it does feels like a "cloud." Flavour wise, not my favourite (really sour since I didn't add sugar) and I would have preferred to bake the bottom crust first. It's too soggy as is.

Although, I can see this being a nice summer treat if you like lime flavoured creamy cheese - it just wasn't for me. Try the actual recipe, my adaptation just wasn't good enough! =(

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