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, November 26, 2012

Coconut Macaroon Trees

I was playing around with coconut macaroons again. This time, I gave the 400 grams of unsweetened coconut flakes a little pre-toast before mixing it with the 2 egg whites, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 290 millilitres of condensed milk, and zest of 1 lemon.

I think it worked out. The cookie dough was just right! Sticky enough to hold the coconut shreds together, but not soaking wet that puddles were forming after they were molded.

I even gave the dough a few drops of green food colouring. Then took out my tree cookie cutter for some holiday spirit.

I guess I could have used more green food colouring.

The one on the very right had no food colouring at all. I made that one just to compare. Still it wasn't green enough! I thought that the coconut flakes would help emulate the leaves of evergreen trees. What do you think? They almost look like rice krispie squares in the photo!

Drizzle some chocolate and decorate the trees with sprinkles for some holiday cheer! Yum, I love how these cookies are crispy and nice and chewy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Favourite Cookbooks of the Year

The third time is quite the charm! We're very excited to share with you our favourite cookbooks from this year. There are some stellar new books for bakers and a few outstanding cookbooks from the food blogging community. If you're looking for gift ideas for bakers, cooks, or that friend that instagrams their food, consider these:

Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients
By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Photographs by Tina Rupp
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang
ISBN 9781584799856

Every time they come out with a new cookbook, we can't help thinking about our visit to their bakery. Their desserts are that good. They're memorable. They're delicious. You're probably familiar with them now that Williams-Sonoma carries a lot of their products. But do pick up their books and try baking from scratch! What are the ten featured ingredients in this book? Peanut Butter, Lemon and Lime, Caramel, Booze, Pumpkin, Malted Milk Powder, Cinnamon, Cheese, Chocolate, and Banana. It's highly likely that you love more than seven of these ingredients. This book has a different design from their previous two, but you'll love the infographics that start each chapter!

Bouchon Bakery
By Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel, with Susie Heller, Matthew McDonald, Michael Ruhlman, and Amy Vogler
Photographs by Deborah Jones
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published by Artisan
ISBN 9781579654351

Who doesn't get distracted walking by a Bouchon bakery case? The gigantic-sized cookies, macarons, éclairs, cupcakes, financiers, bouchons, madelines, tarts, and croissants! And what about the bread they use in the restaurants? They're all in this book. Read the helpful tips and create your own memories at home.

La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for An Inspired Life
By Béatrice Peltre
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published by Roost Books
ISBN 9781590307625

Wow. The photographs in this cookbook are stunning. Just stunning! You may know Béatrice from her blog by the same name, La Tartine Gourmande. This cookbook is such a treat to see, flip through it and you'll get it. Everything Béatrice has captured for us to see is just charming, bright, and fresh.

Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe
By Cecile Cannone
Paperback, 144 pages
Published by Ulysses Press
ISBN 9781569758205

Having visited Macaron Cafe in NYC, we placed this book on our holiday wishlist last year. Luckily our Secret Santa did deliver and we've made three batches of macarons following the recipe in this book. They've all turned out nicely and it's such a relief to be able to make macarons at home now! The instructions are clear and easy to follow. There are lots of recipes for the fillings and decoration ideas. It's an inspiring book for all!

One Girl Cookies: Recipes for Cakes, Cupcakes, Whoopie Pies, and Cookies from Brooklyn's Beloved Bakery
By Dawn Casale and David Crofton
Photographs by Iain Bagwell
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published by Clarkson Potter
ISBN 9780307720481

The cover had us at whoopie pies. But there's more inside! Orange Butter Drops with Shredded Coconut, Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Chip Pistachio Pound Cake, Banana Whoopie Pies with Dulce de Leche Filling and Milk Pie. We love all of these updated classics! It's about time that we pay them a visit on our next trip to New York!

Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery
By Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough
Photography by Paige Green
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published by Ten Speed Press
ISBN 9781607741848

Ice cream! We have not made ice cream yet, but we have good inspiration to now. This puts getting an ice cream machine on the top of our list. The book will help you master the basic techniques like making the base for the ice cream, sugar cones, sorbet, granita, ice pops, ice cream cakes, ice cream pie, and ice cream sandwiches. There are step-by-step photos and tips interspersed between the instructions. Trust us, you'll be craving for their ice cream, even in the middle of winter.

Tartine: The Boxed Set
By Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Photographs by France Ruffenach and Eric Wolfinger
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published by Chronicle Books
ISBN 9781452107028

A serious addition to your bookshelves! This is a great box set for those who love to bake. Tartine offers sweet treats and Tartine Bread is famous for their bread in San Francisco. These cookbooks will make you gain a whole new level of respect for pastry chefs and bread bakers. The clear instructions are filled with details, cups and weight measurements are both included, and each recipe includes carefully written kitchen notes with practical advice. Both books are designed with clean, simple lines. The burlap-covered box case adds such charm!

The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook
By Lindsay Landis
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published by Quirk Books
ISBN 9781594745645

If you're thinking that her name is familiar, it's probably because Lindsay is the blogger of Love and Olive Oil. She's come up with the perfect, egg-free cookie dough that tastes great and is easy to make. We were scratching our heads and wondering how a whole cookbook could  possibly feature cookie dough, we were pleasantly surprised. The book features treats such as Cooke Dough Crème Brûlée, Cookie Dough Whoope Pies, Malted Cookie Dough Milkshakes, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Deep-Fried Cookie Dough Fritters, Cookie Dough Dessert Pizza, and Cookie Dough-Stuffed Dark Chocolate Cupcakes. Oh there's more, but you're probably drooling already. We love the design of the book and Lindsay's photography knocks it out of the park. We're also quite excited to learn that Lindsay's next book, Breakfast For Dinner, will be out next year!

The Seasonal Baker: Easy Recipes from My Home Kitchen to Make Year-Round
By John Barricelli
Photographs by Ben Fink
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published by Clarkson Potter
ISBN 9780307951878

A follow-up to The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook (we featured it in our first list), this one makes a great companion. There are more stories about John and his family, more mouth-watering recipes, and offers savory recipes as well. This book focuses and explains the diversity of fruits and vegetables - when to buy them and how to prepare and store them. Some of the recipes I've already tagged for trying are Brioche French Toast with Vanilla Filling, Caramel-Apple Tart, Lemon Soufflé Tartlets, Asparagus Tart with Herbed Béchamel and Gruyère, and the Ratatouille Hand Pies.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
By Deb Perelman
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published by Appetite
ISBN 9780449015797

You read Deb's blog, don't you? If there were courses in school about food bloggers, Smitten Kitchen would be on a required reading list. What you'll love is her no fuss approach to food and photography. Cooking from her tiny Manhattan kitchen, she's never been a chef, restaurant owner, or even a waitress, but here we are, in love with her recipes!

Click on the year to view our previous lists: 2010, 2011.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Green Tea Cupcakes

I also made these cupcakes during my weekend. You're probably wondering, What? There's only one photograph?

Yes. I had just started to take the photos when my doorbell rang. One of my best friends was at my door, having just come back from an interview! So I put my camera down so we could catch up and eat cupcakes instead!

Green Tea Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from The Primrose Bakery Book
(Makes about 12 cupcakes)

150 millilitres of semi-skimmed milk
4 green tea teabags
2 1/2 teaspoon of matcha powder
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
225 grams of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
255 grams of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and add in the green tea teabags. Cover and let the tea steep for at least 30 minutes or leave overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F) and line your tray with cupcake liners.
  3. Remove the teabags from the milk and squeeze out any excess milk. Add in the matcha powder and stir.
  4. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. 
  5. Add in the eggs, one at a time.
  6. The original recipe calls for self-raising flour, if you don't have it, add the baking powder to your all-purpose flour. Alternating between the flour and the milk, pour them into the butter and sugar mixture. 
  7. Use an ice cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter into the cupcake liners. Fill the liners to about 2/3 full and bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
I did jot down some notes for this recipe though. Make sure you plan ahead and steep the milk beforehand. Also, having self-raising flour would be useful again! But, unlike the Maple and Pecan Cupcakes, these ones did rise to a good height. Yet, the cupcake could be a lot lighter, it was still too dense in my opinion.

Green Tea Buttercream Icing
(Makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes)

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups of icing sugar
60 millilitres of semi-skimmed milk
1 teaspoon of matcha powder
  1. Using a mixture, beat the butter and icing sugar until smooth. 
  2. Add in the matcha powder and milk. Mix until smooth and creamy.

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Maple and Pecan Cupcakes

    Today, I had a very ambitious Monday afternoon. I made two batches of cupcakes and did a whole lot of washing. I have dry hands to prove it. But I think the results were worth it in the end. There is some tweaking  to do if I were to make them again, but right now, I'm happy that I can just sit back, listen to holiday music on the radio, and enjoy a cupcake.

    Maple and Pecan Cupcakes
    Recipe adapted from The Primrose Bakery Book
    (Makes about 12 cupcakes)

    60 grams of pecans, chopped
    1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
    50 grams of brown sugar
    160 millilitres of pure maple syrup
    2 large eggs
    115 grams of all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
    1. Measure out 60 grams of pecans and carefully chop them into pieces. The chopped pecans should be about 0.5 centimetres wide (see photo above).
    2. Preheat your oven to 180°C (355°C) and line your tray with cupcake liners.
    3. Using a mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth. 
    4. Pour in the maple syrup and mix well.
    5. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated.
    6. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder into the batter. The original recipe calls for self-raising flour and next time, I would stick to it and omit the baking powder. I didn't have self-raising flour and guessed at how much baking powder would be needed - I should have used more, the cupcakes did not rise very much.
    7. Then, fold in the chopped pecans.
    8. Use an ice cream scoop to evenly distribute your batter into the liners, filling them about 2/3 full.
    9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
    Caramelized Pecans
    60 grams of granulated sugar
    12 pecans, halved
    1. Heat the granulated sugar in a heavy-based saucepan until the sugar has melted and is a pale golden colour.
    2. Spread out the pecans on a silicone baking mat, then pour the melted sugar over the nuts.
    3. Leave to cool and harden. Once the caramel is ready, break into pieces.
    You know what I learned? I am terrible at pouring hot sugar over pecans. Furthermore, I am terrible at breaking them into even shards.

    Maple Syrup Buttercream Icing
    (Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes)

    1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 cups of icing sugar
    1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
    1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and icing sugar until smooth. 
    2. Gradually add in the maple syrup until creamy and smooth.
    Like I said in my notes above, not having self-raising flour was my downfall! The cupcake turned out short and dense.

    They're also very sweet, so I would omit some of the brown sugar and maple syrup in the future. I did enjoy the crunch of the pecans inside the cupcake though.

    I also loved the caramelized pecan toppings. All those extra shards without a pecan made lovely snacks for me. Ha! I know, I shouldn't be eating so much sugar.

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Blogger Brunch with Smitten Kitchen

    How many of you would wake up early on a Saturday morning and head into your office?
    I'm guessing there's no show of hands.

    But what if I told you that brunch would be served and you would get to meet Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen? And it wouldn't just be a meet-and-greet, you would get to have brunch with her, ask her any question, and have a copy of her cookbook signed? Yes, that early morning is starting to look enticing....

    I was one of the lucky handful of bloggers invited to a brunch at Random House of Canada Limited. Even though I work there, I was sent an official invitation to attend as a blogger! Trust me, I was over the moon when I received it and quickly RSVPed with fan girl enthusiasm.

    I had both my work and guest hats on. Before the day of the brunch, my colleague asked me to make some Smitten Kitchen items from the cookbook. We each called dibs on a recipe, made it, and brought it in for the brunch buffet.

    This was truly a Smitten Kitchen brunch! And when you're with bloggers, you know that no one is touching the food until photos were taken.

    Monique from the production department made these amazing Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns. Who doesn't like cheese? Who doesn't like swirl buns? As Deb writes on page 49 of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, these "are dangerous, dangerous buns."

    I agree, they are highly addictive.

    Mike from sales really outshone us all with Mom's Apple Cake (page 239 of the cookbook). The cake was delicious and I probably could have eaten a couple more slices.

    Our incredible host and organize, Lindsey, of the online marketing department treated us with Big Cluster Maple Granola (page 26).

    Poor Deb! I don't think she got many bites in during all the conversations: we learn which appliances are kept in her tiny kitchen - just four major ones: a food processor, a stand mixer, a blender, and an emulsion blender. It's all about priorities when there's limited space! She recounts that she did not like Brussel sprouts as a child, but has grown to love them now. However, she still doesn't eat fish! And her favourite brunch dishes were all the ones we made. ;)

    After we had our fill of the food, Deb was busy signing copies of her book for us!

    Deb and Syl! Yay!!!

    I would be wrong not to thank my fellow colleagues who also took time out of their busy weekends for this event. Many thanks to Lindsey, Monique, Sheila, and Michael for planning, organizing, and hosting such a lovely brunch.

    Are you wondering what I made for the blogger brunch? Brownie Roll-Out Cookies (page 210 of the cookbook)!

    They are ridiculously easy to make. The dough is so pliable and easy to work with and great at holding their shape after you cut them.

    It's no secret, but these make such good ice-cream sandwich cookies! So if you're looking to make your own at home, make these cookies! They're soft and chewy and are great milk-dunking cookies.
    The best part was when Deb saw them, asked who made them, and was overjoyed that they were similar in shape to her's. Then she proceeded to snap a photo, which I captured. I'm such a dork.

    Oh, one more thing. I don't know if you're interested, but I have a signed copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook to give away. Interested in winning it?

    Giveaway contest regulations and conditions:
    • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook giveaway contest is open on Sunday, November 18, 2012 until Sunday, November 25, 2012. Entries submitted after 12 midnight EST on Sunday, November 25, 2012 will not be considered.
    • To enter, leave a comment below telling me which Smitten Kitchen recipe you would like to make.
    • A winner will be randomly chosen and announced here on A Baked Creation.
    • Please leave an e-mail address or twitter handle, in the case that you are the winner, we will be able to contact you.
    • This contest is available to residents of Canada and the U.S.A. only!
    • There will be one winner. The winner will be chosen in a random draw. The winner will receive a signed copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. If the winner does not respond with an adequate mailing address in a week, their prize is forfeited and a new winner will be chosen. Best of luck!
    • UPDATE: A winner has been chosen and contacted. Congratulations to Stephanie! Thank you to everyone who entered our giveaway!

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    The Feasting Room

    580a College Street
    Toronto, ON M6G 1B1
    (647) 785-3557

    Since this is a pop-up restaurant, I was hesitant to include the address above. But then thought, this is where our dinner was held, so I'm going to provide you with all the information!

    The Feasting Room has a temporary home at the Orbit Room, but is ending their run this week. We jumped to it when we heard that they were closing shop since we very much like their philosophy - serve dishes using a whole animal so that there is less waste. Each week, they create a tasting menu focusing on one animal (for instance: cow, rabbit, duck, lamb). You can check on their website or if you're in the area, the silhouette of the animal is hung under their sign (see the little pig in the photo above). We went for the last Pig tasting menu:

    Loved the attention to detail. The menus are wrapped up like a pork tenderloin!

    There is a drink menu and a "map" for the night. The numbers correspond to the order of dishes and they let you know which part of the animal the food is made from.

    Small and intimate tables for two. There are more tables in the back if you have a larger group.

    Immediately after being seated, we were presented with our first amuse-bouche. Mmm pork cracklings. Nice and crispy, but the best surprise was the pear purée dip. I think the dip could seriously be used as cake frosting.

    Foreground: The Sarah - Collingwood Craft Rye with Kensington Market ginger beer and orange zest.
    Background: The Nigel - Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky with Crème de Menthe, house lemonade, and lemon wheel.

    At first taste, Howard and I both enjoyed the Sarah, nice and zingy with quite a kick to it. Definitely one to sip. But after awhile, we rather enjoyed the Nigel more. But by that time, we had told our server that we preferred the Sarah. It turned out that Sarah and Nigel were our servers and Nigel had heard what we told Sarah about her drink. Oops!

    Another nice treat was that a couple of times during the meal, Chef Noah Goldberg and GM Mathieu Dutan served our dishes. It's always nice to see the people behind the project.

    Our second amuse-bouche were the Devils on Horseback. Howard ate them both and preferred them to the ones we had at The Spotted Pig.

    First up, the soup! Delicious and hearty. I wanted more of this. The crispy pig ears are so good when they have soaked up a little bit of the soup.

    Frisee salad with fried onion rings, pork terrines, and capers.

    Shoot, we can't remember which part of the pig this came from! According to the map, the third dish is from the snout, chin, and foreleg. It was served with a carrot purée and shallot. Busted. We were paying attention, but I guess our hunger overrode everything. We politely nodded and dug in. There were a couple of times during the dinner when I asked Howard if we were eating too fast. But the food was so good! And it's meant to be enjoyed, right?

    Blood sausage on peppers and topped with a quail egg.

    Am I a fan of blood sausage? No. But was this a well composed dish? Yes, the flavours worked well together and I hate the whole thing.

    The main part, which is also the best part of the animal - the cheek! The pig cheek and bread were served on top of kale and accompanied with two slices of apple that were amazingly delicious.

    The crust of the bread soaked up so much of the fat and flavour. Yummy!

    For dessert, something quite different! Powdered pig fat and diced quince.

    They could be used to garnish the chocolate pudding. The bottom layer was milk chocolate and the top was white chocolate. Candied bacon in between. Can we say divine? I want the recipe for this so badly!

    Thank you to the team at The Feasting Room for the fantastic dinner. We wish you the best of luck and hope that there is a permanent location in the future!