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!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Vanilla Flan

We celebrated my parent's 30th wedding anniversary this past weekend. There was a whole dinner and slideshow-viewing party with friends and family. There were lots of laughs and great memories. I can't wait for the 35th party!

Thinking that everyone would be too full after dinner, we didn't serve dessert during the slideshow. I know, that is one mistake we won't be repeating. What were we thinking? No dessert? There will be a cake for my parents to slice next time!

Instead, back at home, I made one of my mom and dad's favourite desserts - flan (crème caramel or caramel custard). A reminiscent dessert from their childhood in Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The first time I tasted flan was when my dad's relatives brought over easy-to-make kits from the States. They weren't even from scratch!

I flexed my (non-existence) muscles and cracked my fingers (I actually don't know how to do that). Let's do this. Let's tackle flan. It can't be hard to make!

And you know what? It wasn't! Yes, timing is key and things got dicey when I was trying to pour hot caramel and snap photos or prepare the water bath (bain-marie). But with a few extra hands helping me, I managed to avoid any accidents.

The Perfect Flan
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit Desserts
(Makes about 6)

1 3/4 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 vanilla bean
1 cup + 7 tablespoons of sugar
1/3 cup of water
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 F. Have six ramekins (or cocottes if you need more) ready, make sure they fit in a large metal or glass baking pan (about 13x9x2 inches).
  2. Combine the cream, milk, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, add to mixture, and include the scraped bean in the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove and let it steep while you make the caramel.
  3. In another heavy medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water. Increase heat to high and let it boil - do not stir! 
  4. Keep watch as the caramel will go from light to amber to dark to burnt! In about 10 minutes, it should be a nice amber. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the six ramekins. Tilt to coat the bottom entirely. Place ramekins back in baking pan.
  5. Whisk eggs, yolks, and the remaining 7 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream mixture, try to avoid creating foam (air bubbles don't create smooth flans!).
  6. Pour the custard through a small sieve into the ramekins equally.
  7. Carry the baking pan with the ramekins to the oven. Pour warm or hot water into the baking pan so that they reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to spill any into the ramekins!
  8. Bake flans until the center is gently set, about 40 minutes. Carefully take the baking pan out. Remove the water and let the ramekins cool.
  9. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, but overnight is best.
  10. To serve, run a sharp knife around the sides of the flan. I tried both flipping it out onto a plate and dipping the bottom of the ramekin in hot water for a few seconds to loosen the caramel. Both methods worked out fine for me!
Mmm, you can see the vanilla beans!

Love the extra caramel sauce that runs out!

Did you ever stop to think that flan and crème brûlée are sort of reversed? Caramelized sugar on the bottom versus caramelized sugar on the top!

My dad has already requested that I make a coffee flavoured flan. True to how he had it as a kid. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Coconut Tapioca Pudding

My mom made coconut tapioca pudding the other day, so I asked her to teach me how to. It's such a refreshing dessert during the summer! And you care pair almost any fruit with the pudding, in fact, my parents make a pumpkin purée to go with their's.

You can make tapioca from scratch, but we simply went and bought ours. Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava. When cassava is dried and the starch is extracted, it becomes tapioca. If you've had bubble tea, the bubbles or boba is tapioca.

Follow closely now, here are the few quick and easy steps for tapioca pudding!

Boil about 4 cups of water. When it starts bubbling, pour in 1 cup of tapioca pearls. Have it boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally as the tapioca will start to thicken and may stick to the bottom of the pot.

Then, turn the heat off and take the pot off the burner. Let it sit for 10 more minutes undisturbed.

Using a sieve, drain the hot water.

Run cold water through and then let the tapioca sit in iced water for another 10 minutes. Transfer the tapioca to another container and refrigerate for about an hour.

In between all the 10 minute intervals, you can make the coconut milk.

Boil 200 mL of milk, be careful and watch it so it doesn't boil over. Take it off the burner when it boils and add 80 grams of sugar. Stir until combined. Add a pinch of salt and 12 ounces of coconut cream. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour minimum.

To assemble, scoop out the chilled tapioca into your bowl. Pour enough coconut milk to cover the tapioca. Dice up your favourite fruit and mix it into the bowl. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bike and Birds Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Terra, a typesetter at work is getting married at the end of summer and her department organized a wonderful bridal shower for her. Erin, her partner, used to work at our company before she decided to become a freelance editor. The both of them are hardworking, lovely people - I couldn't be happier for them!

When I was given the choice to make cupcakes for their party or forever be known as "evil cupcake girl" by the whole department, I knew I had to make them - I wanted to make them.

I got a look at their wedding invitation and pulled design elements from it. First, the tandem bicycle seemed pretty important to me. They also had ribbons, hearts, and starts which I included along the bike path.

Next, there were birds, branches, and leaves on another part of their invitation that I tried to imitate. I liked how each set was their own theme and I was pretty pleased with how they turned out!

I received amazing thank you notes from Terra, Erin, and some of their colleagues in the department. Absolutely the most rewarding and the best part of every successful cupcake delivery!!!

Congratulations to Terra and Erin!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pine Nut Cookies

My amazing aunt and uncle from New York City are visiting us this month. My aunt and mom went to Costco to pick up ingredients for our dinner tonight and brought back pine nuts. My aunt asked me to make pine nut cookies and my mom was going to attempt it, but she never follows recipes properly, so I took the project over.

Mom pulled out a book I bought her years ago, Biscotti, which happened to have a pine nut cookie recipe!

Pinolate (Pine Nut Cookies)
Recipe from Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome
Makes about 15-20 cookies

200 grams of pine nuts
85 grams of almonds
85 grams + 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 grams of lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 egg white
  1. Preheat your oven to 150°C (300°F).
  2. Spread the pine nuts on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Let it cool.
  3. Using a food processor, pulse the almonds, granulated sugar, and 50 grams of the toasted pine nuts until they become sandy in texture.
  4. Transfer the nuts and sugar to a mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, and egg white. Mix well.
  5. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 160°C (325°F).
  7. Form the dough into cherry-sized balls and roll each ball in the remaining toasted pine nuts.
  8. Evenly space the dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about 2cm (1.5 inches) between each cookie.
  9. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Eat these cookies, they're best on the day of, but will keep for up to 1 week in a sealed container.
I love how the centres are still gooey, chewy, and yummy!

Best of all, my aunt said they were as good as the ones she gets from the Italian bakery in New York! =)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summerlicious: Bymark

66 Wellington Street West
Toronto, ON M5K 1J3
(416) 777-1144

Mark McEwan. Pretty much the reason why we picked Bymark to try during Summerlicious. He's the head judge for Top Chef Canada, so his grocery store and restaurants are pretty much featured for restaurant wars and shopping. Having tried Fabbrica, we thought we would take advantage of the prix fixe deal at one of his fancier restaurants.

Having walked by it in the underground PATH before, it was nice to finally go inside! Our party of four were greeted in the front and led to our table near the middle of the restaurant. I didn't realize how small the place was! The restaurant is dim and quiet before the dining room filled up - we felt like we had to whisper at first. =)

I felt really shy about taking my camera out during the appetizers. The room's ambiance was still hushed and I knew that the shutter sound would be unnerving to me. But regrets now, because the dishes were beautifully plated and delicious. I tried the Albacore Sashimi with shaved and pickled radish, snow peas, plums, and honey mustard yuzu (a citrus fruit). Howard tried the Beef Carpaccio with endive, Saint Agur (a type of blue cheese), herb croutons, and ranch dressing.

As the dining room filled up, our friends pointed out that lots of people had their cameras out. Sure enough, I look behind me and a group will serious camera gear were snapping away. At least my camera is still relatively small and I wasn't going to be out of my seat. . . .

I don't know, what's your take on this? I love taking photos of restaurants, dishes, and food products - but feel that some places, it doesn't seem proper to do so.

Above, Howard's main course was the BBQ Duck Confit and Seared Scallop with sweet peas, cauliflower, northwood mushrooms, passion fruit, and duck sauce. Howard was kind enough to give me a bite of the duck - it was very tasty! Sorry that the scallops are blocking the view in the photo!

I tried the Pan Seared White Fish with green curry lentils, prawns, and coriander scallion chutney. Comparing it to the duck confit, it just wasn't as good. We found the halibut a bit dry (more chutney would have helped) and bland. I should have ordered the duck!

For dessert, Howard's Tart Lemon Slice with honey lavender ice cream. I think he liked the ice cream more than the lemon tart!

I ended the night with a Double Chocolate Cake with minted white chocolate mousse. It looks like a fancy cupcake, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dino-mite in Today's Parent Magazine

Something really cool arrived in the mail yesterday!

Er, no, we're not becoming a parent anytime soon. . . . But this is for all the moms, dads, and soon-to-be parents out there. There's some great things in the August 2012 issue of Today's Parent magazine.

First, there's a great spread about summer books for kids!

Second, a fabulous article about all the wonderful book stores in our area.

And of course a section about food! Yum, I could use some of those right now.

This issue also includes articles like: "How to host an Olympic party," "20 of the cutest kids’ sneakers," and "Coolest apps for kids."

And if you make your way to the last page of the magazine, you'll see all the monthly birthday wishes. Guess who made those cupcakes?

Yes! We did! Our first magazine feature!!

On our blog, you can find the step-by-step fondant instructions for the Tyrannosaurs Rex, Stegosaurus and water creature.

We have to give special thanks to Catherine Doherty, Freelance Prop-Stylist; Jodi Pudge, Photographer; Natalie Russell, Retail Account Manager; and Kate Stewart, Assistant Editor.

Most of all, thank you to Anita Chong and Griffin who received our very first dinosaur cupcakes! These cupcakes went on to inspire others here and here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summerlicious: Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill

100 Adelaide Street East
Toronto, ON M5C 1K9
(416) 366-7827

We're not strangers to Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill this year. This little gem quickly made it to the top of our favourite restaurant list this year. For us, they're mostly saved for "special occasions," but when we saw that they were participating in Summerlicious, we had to make reservations. 

We went for an early seating, but the table by the window had already been requested for a later reservation. That's okay, we still got a view of the park and some sunlight as the diners didn't arrive until near the end of our meal.

There weren't too many people at first, but when our mains were served, the restaurant filled up pretty quickly. It's not a very big space, so there isn't a lot of staff in the front. I think our waiter was working the entire floor! Regardless, he was attentive and automatically gave us extra utensils when we told him we were sharing each dish.

The bar that is almost the whole length of the dining room. Great place to sit if you want to watch them shuck oysters and grate horseradish!

Everyone around us was ordering the ShuckerPaddy’s L’il Shucker-Seafood Tower which came with an oyster, clam, prawn, sashimi, and crab. That was originally what I came for, but Howard pointed out that I don't usually eat prawns or crabs. Which was true, I'm actually not a huge seafood fan - unless it's sushi, oysters, or fish - so we decided to order a plate of P.E.I. oysters on top of our Summerlicious items.

Delicious, the oysters were so fresh and had a very clean taste!

The house-smoked haddock fishcakes with black olives, pickled ramps, grapes, and cucumber. I had to pick out the olives and piled them on Howard's fishcake. The fishcakes themselves were good, consistent with our previous visits. And the grapes! Loved their use of grapes and how this element changes each time we have it.

This was their Spanish style tomato, salt cod, and chorizo chowder. Not as piping hot as we would have liked, but it still tasted good. Howard loves his soups!

For the main dish, we tried the Irish organic salmon with a risotto of toasted barley, vine ripened tomatoes, fresh peas, basil, and Grana Padano. The salmon was quite good, my favourite part was the crispy skin. This was a first for me, I've never had risotto as a meal before!

Following, the Kawartha Berkshire pork loin with a succotash of grilled corn, chipotle cured bacon, black beans, and coriander. While it was good, I think we both missed having the rib-eye!

Starfish frites! We just had to add this to our order. The fries are seasoned so well, making them insanely addictive.

For dessert, Howard had the poached Ontario apricot with a raspberry and Gamay wine reduction, and Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

The first thing he did was take the pit out of the apricot. Then he sliced off a piece for me to try. =) I liked the apricot more than the ice cream, if that's even possible.

The famous sticky toffee pudding. Now, how could I resist?

One thing that did surprise me was that their lunch and dinner menus for Summerlicious were exactly the same. Most participating restaurants change it up, offering lighter courses for lunch. So really, for a lower cost, you could go and have the exact same meal during lunch. I'm wondering if maybe the lunch portions are smaller? Or, we may have been charged the premium for dinner service. Another thing to note, gratuity was included with the bill - perhaps only for Summerlicious, as we never saw it on the bill before.