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!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We've Moved!


Dear readers,

It's been really quiet over here.

If you're wondering why, it's because I've started a new blog over at Sincerely, Syl.

You might be wondering why. It's been so many happy years here, why switch things up? Why start all over? Read why on my first blog post here. Still lots of sweets and desserts. Some additional crafting elements, even drinks and travel - but yes, I'm going in the direction of a lifestyle blog as opposed to food blog.

If you want to follow along on social media, here are my new handles for . . .
Instagram - sincerely.syl
Twitter - sincerelysyl
Facebook - sincerelysyl
Pinterest - sincerelysylvi
Goodreads - sincerelysyl

Stay in touch!


P. S. Here are some more details:
The domain - www.abakedcreation.com - will expire on Tuesday, September 27, 2016. The links on this blog are most likely broken because of that. I have closed @abakedcreation on twitter and instagram. I managed to migrate everyone on facebook over to the new page. I changed my username on Pinterest to reflect the new blog.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Roasted Peach and Graham Cracker Crunch Ice Cream

Oh my peaches, what a scorcher we're having here in Toronto. But guess what? No complaints because I complain enough during the icy cold winters we have. I am embracing the hot weather with open arms (because it keeps me cool) and eating lots and lots of ice cream.
It's currently peach season (yay) and I don't even know if I had to roast these, but I was inspired after seeing How Sweet It Is's post here. The peaches were sweet enough on their own, so I felt that roasting them might have made them a tad sour. But I gave it a try anyways. Mixing in 4 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt before laying them out on a baking tray and roasting for half an hour.

But you know what I did love from that recipe? The graham cracker crumble! I need to make this for every ice cream topping! Simply mix 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs with 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter. It'll become nice and chunky, giving you a good crunchy texture in the ice cream.

I didn't follow the recipe fully as I switched to use Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream's base. So there was churning and freezing involved, which means I did not get to taste the fruit of my labours until the next day.

I sprinkled the graham cracker crumble, tossed in some peaches, then poured the ice cream base over. Repeated again with another layer of graham cracker crumble, peaches, and ice cream. Ending with the crumble and peaches on top.
Noticed my new ice cream container? Yes, I thought purchasing one would be a good investment for all the ice cream I'm going to make in the future. I found it at Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma also carried one with a white rim instead of red. Howard firmly made me get the red one from Crate & Barrel because it was cheaper. Hmph! Aesthetically I preferred the all-white Tovolo storage tub, but financially, it just didn't make sense. The packaging does say that it's dishwasher safe, but I found that there was a bit of warping and well, you see the freezer burn on my peaches. Going to hand wash this from now on. The tub also doesn't hold a lot, if I hadn't accidentally spilled some of my ice cream mixture when I was pouring it into the ice cream machine, this would have overflowed in the tub because of the extra goodies I added in.
I wish I could say that the combination was perfect, but the texture of the ice cream came out icy. Noooooo! I wonder if it was all the delicious peach juices that came out after I roasted it? The ice cream is particularly more icy there, but it's fine around the graham cracker crumble. I'm starting to understand why the cookbook mixes jam into the recipe instead of actual fruit. Ah, we live and learn, but I'm still eating it and shivering along the way as it's keeping my body temperature down this summer.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Blog Tour: Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman

Hello, Monday!

Yes, I can feel chipper at the start of the week because I'm taking part of something fun today - the Stars So Sweet blog tour! This middle-grade book releases tomorrow and if you've read the first two books, All Four Stars and The Stars of Summer, then you'll want to know how it all pans out for Gladys Gatsby.

And before we dip in, I just want to say that sometimes it's completely okay to judge a book by its cover because there will be certain aspects in it that just scream out to you. Bunting? Check. Macarons? Check. Madeleines? Check. Cupcakes? Check. Even a cake stand? Yup. I'm pretty sure ten-year-old Sylvia would have picked up this final book in the All Four Stars trilogy. Kids these days are so lucky that there are so many great books for them to choose from. Each geared to their own interests. That's why shows like MasterChef Junior exist, right?

Stars So Sweet
Written by Tara Dairman
Hardcover | 288 pages | Ages 8-12
ISBN 978-1-10199-648-5

Picking up from the second book, summer is winding down and Gladys Gatsby has to prepare for the next big step in her life - middle school. Will she be able to juggle classes, homework, after-school activities, and critiquing restaurants for the New York Standard? What's going on with her and Hamilton Herbertson? Why is the school newspaper reporter on her tail? At least she still has Sandy, Parm, and Charissa by her side . . . right? Her parents have limited her time in the kitchen again and then, to her complete surprise, Aunt Lydia shows up on their door step too.

What do you think? Enough for any twelve-year-old to handle as they enter a busy fall? Probably more than anyone can handle calmly, but Gladys Gatsby does it with grace and help from her friends and advice from few exceptional adults. Not only is she problem solving her own dilemmas, but she has time to organize bake sales at school to help out the after-school programs.

What I love about these books is that there's no magic miracle that comes to the rescue, every issue is figured out in a timely basis and completely plausible. Things don't just fall in place for the perfect happy ending, the characters have to try and try again. Take Sandy's challenge at earning his reputation at school. Or the fact that friendships need to take time to build - Parm and Charissa didn't start out on good terms at first, but given the chance and their friendship to Gladys, they slowly learn to accept each other.

Of course the main feature that I admire in Tara Dairman's writing is how funny the situations can become and Gladys practical commentary has me in stitches. And the food writing - spot on for any aspiring foodie. It's in the chapter titles, it's in Gladys' restaurant reviews, and in her daily metaphors and similes. Really, I give this series all four stars!
In honour of the scrumptious finale of the series, I baked up some savoury madeleines as a nod to Gladys love for French baked goods.

Cheddar and Scallion Madeleines
(Makes a dozen)

1/2 stick of salted butter
3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons of milk
1/3 cup of grated smoked cheddar (I'm sure regular cheddar will work too)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush melted butter on your madeleine pans or use a cooking spray.
  2. Place the butter and oil in a microwavable glass bowl or measuring cup. Microwave on low until butter has melted. Whisk to combine and let it cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until completely blended.
  4. Add milk and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cheese and scallions.
  6. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper and whisk until the batter is fully combined.
  7. Using a spoon, scoop, or teaspoon, fill the molds on the madeleine pan with the batter. Don't fill it completely, leave a sliver of space so that the madeleine can expand while baking.
  8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the madeleines pull up and the edges are golden brown.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Use a small fork or spatula to remove the madeleines from the pan.
  10. Enjoy!
Just so you know, when these are baking in the oven, your kitchen will smell delicious. Howard was in the den yelling, "I smell bacon!! Give me bacon!" while I was yelling back, "I'm not making bacon!!!"
Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade foodie novel All Four Stars (Putnam/Penguin) which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. The Stars of Summer followed in 2015, and Stars so Sweet (7/19/16) completes the series. Tara grew up in New York and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world's longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her family.

Visit the other blog tour stops here:
The Daily Dahlia >> The Reading Date >> Bookish Illuminations >> Log Cabin Library >> Word Spelunking >> FWIW >> Fic Talk >> Pop Goes the Reader >> Kitchen Frolic >> Creative Spaces

Credits: Blog tour button / Kristin Rae; Book cover / Kelly Murphy

Disclaimer: An ARC of Stars So Sweet was sent to me from Putnam/Penguin for the blog tour.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Graham Cracker Ice Cream

Our family friends gave us an ice cream machine for our wedding and I knew it would be perfect for summer this year. So far we've been having a fantastically hot summer, weather made for ice cream. Not to mention, July is ice cream month too! It was time to take out the machine and give it a churn (plus now Howard can't say I never use it).
I had lots of graham cracker crumbs left from the key lime pie, so what better use than to infuse the flavour into ice cream? I happen to have a lot of ice cream books, but based on word of mouth alone, I knew the first one I would crack open would be Jeni's. I was lucky enough to get a copy two years ago at a trade show and I think I'm going to have to get her first book as well - Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

I have a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, it looks something like this. It's quite easy to use, just give it a good clean and dry. Then pop the bowl in the freezer over night. The bowl is ready to use when you don't hear the liquid inside the walls sloshing around.
Graham Cracker Ice Cream
Recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts
(Makes about 1 quart)

2 2/3 cups of whole milk
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
4 tablespoons of cream cheese softened
1/8 teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of light corn syrup
1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs
  1. Don't forget to freeze your ice cream maker's bowl in the freezer the day before!
  2. Take out two mixing bowls. In the first one, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In the second bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes and remove the sauce pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the first bowl with the milk and cornstarch. Place it back on the heat and bring it back to a boil over medium-high heat. It'll start to feel a little thicker in about a minute. Remove from the heat.
  4. Next, slowly add in the second bowl of cream cheese and salt. Whisk until smooth. Add the graham cracker crumbs and allow the mixture to steep for 3 minutes. 
  5. In a basin or large bowl or pot, fill it with ice and water.
  6. With a sieve, pour your mixture through it and into a large Ziplock bag. Seal and submerge into the ice bath in your basin, bowl, or pot. If you don't have a 1-gallon Ziplock bag, I was able to do this with a container with a airtight lid. Let the mixture cool down for  approximately 30 minutes, add more ice if necessary. I popped mine in the fridge to speed up the process.
  7. Take out your frozen bowl and assemble it in your ice cream maker. Pour the ice cream mixture in and start the machine! Churn for 25 minutes.
  8. Don't worry, an ice cream expert told me that it'll still look soupy after, she told me "the ice cream machine is really just aerating it a bit and dropping its temperature." Using a spatula, pour out the creamy mixture into your storage container, press a sheet of parchment on top of the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until it's firm.
I have to say the consistency and texture of the ice cream was top notch. Yes, just like store bought! Let us all bow down to the ice cream queen Jeni!
It's tempting to also buy another ice cream bowl so that I'll have two canisters at the ready for different flavours. Wouldn't it be great to have a homemade ice cream party this summer?
Mmm graham cracker ice cream - may I suggest dressing it up with mini marshmallows and chocolate syrup?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Key Lime Pie

How is everyone's long weekend going? I am really loving the hot weather that Toronto is experiencing. I can't remember a more glorious summer than the one we're currently having. With above 25°C temperature, I can finally ditch the jackets and dig out the dresses and skirts! It's like seeing good old friends again when I take out my underused shorts and T-shirts. It also makes me feel a lot more body conscious, but then I remember not to care so much and gobble down another piece of pie.
This pie is an homage a publicity intern at work. Hey, I've been there and done that - it's not an easy gig. But despite all the work we have to work together to finish, our publicity intern found the time to make key lime pie (not once, but twice) for us. I have the vantage point of sitting near our kitchen and got to hear a lot of joyful food noises that my colleagues were making upon taking a bite. So Anyka, this is for you!
Key Lime Pie
(Makes one 9-inch pie)
Recipe from Perfect Pies by Michele Stuart

1 1/2 cup of graham crackers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter together. If you have cracker sheets, you can use also place all three ingredients in a food processor to chop and mix. Or you can purchase the graham crackers already chopped, I've tried both methods and they work fine (see photos above).
  3. Spread the mixture evenly across the bottom and sides of your pie tin. Try using something with a flat bottom that you can use to press the crust firmly down. I use a measuring cup (see photo below).
  4. Bake the crust for 5 minutes and cool the pie shell for half an hour before adding the filling.
6 large egg yolks
3 teaspoons of key lime zest
2 fourteen-ounce cans of condensed milk
1 cup of key lime juice
  1. Keep your oven on at 350°F.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the beater blade, beat the egg yolks, lime zest, and condensed milk together. 
  3. Add in the lime juice and mix well until the filling is combined.
  4. Pour the filling into the graham cracker pie shell.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the pie is firm in the middle, but still soft. Allow the pie to cool and set. Cover and place the pie in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.
My pie tin is a bit shallow, so I had leftover filling. Not to waste it, I poured it into some dessert jars and popped those in a water bath for the oven. Same process as the pie, I had it cool and then covered to freeze it.
When it came time to eat it, I took it out to defrost for 5 minutes and added a layer of graham cracker crumbs on top.
Howard preferred the pie version, more graham crackers that's why. You know what? I agree!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Strawberry Matcha Éclairs

Well, since my Totoro puffs didn't turn out the way I imagined them to, I thought I would work on some éclairs instead. The good thing is, the choux dough recipe is the same (so refer back to the Totoro post), the only thing you do differently is how you pipe them out.
And you know what? You're supposed to use a star tip, but I couldn't find mine. It's probably at my parent's house - all my baking supplies are now split apart because my condo can't fit everything. But the éclairs turned out just fine with a round piping tip.
After the éclairs cool, cut them in half so that you have your elongated boats. If you made the choux dough correctly, the interiors should be semi-hollow.
It's strawberry season again (yay) so I chopped them up into tiny little cubes. Then sprinkled a teaspoon of sugar on it, gave it a toss, and had it macerate for a bit. It's sitting in a sieve so that any excess liquids can drain off.
Using tiny dessert spoons, I filled the with the strawberries I so painstakingly sliced.
Then came the fun part, decorating with matcha buttercream! I was originally going to make matcha pastry cream, but realized I finished using all the milk on the choux dough. Oops! Oh well, it worked out in the end as buttercream is so much easier to make and also pipes out beautifully.
Doesn't the smooth matcha buttercream look like avocado? In fact, these éclairs remind me of sub sandwiches or avocado toast. I know you're supposed to put the tops back on the éclairs . . . but they're so much prettier when they're like an open-faced sandwich!
You can also pipe the buttercream in first and then top it with strawberries. Don't forget to decorate! I had sprinkles and milk chocolate crispearls on hand. You can also switch out your piping tip for different designs.

Howard's colleagues are going to have a happy Monday eating these (I hope)! There's too many for Howard and I to finish. There's also a key lime pie in the freezer, but more about that later.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Totoro Puffs

Have you seen the original Totoro cream puffs from the Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory in Japan? They are impeccably made, uniform, smooth, and oh-so-cute! I've heard they taste really well too, but since I am not in Japan, I've been fixated on these recently and finally decided to try and make them. Just one tiny problem: I've never made cream puffs before. I took out one of my favourite cookbooks, Sugar Rush, and flipped to Johnny Iuzzini's cream puffs and éclairs recipe. Gave it a through read through a few times and tackled this seemingly simple dough.
Cream Puffs
Recipe from Sugar Rush by Johnny Iuzzini
(Makes about 1 and a half dozen cream puffs or 12 Totoro puffs)

1/2 cup + 2 teaspoon of whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoon of water
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/4 cups of bread flour
4 to 5 large eggs
Vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. In a large saucepan, pour in the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and wait for it to simmer. Give it a quick stir and then remove it from the heat.
  2. Add the bread flour and stir and knead with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are all combined. 
  3. Return the saucepan to the medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes to dry out the mixture a little bit. The dough shouldn't stick to the sides and when you see a skin form on the base of the pan, turn off the heat and transfer the dough to your stand mixer's bowl.
  4. Using your wooden spoon, spread the dough out along the sides of the bowl (see photo above) to help it cool. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes to cool.
  5. Scrape the dough down a bit (if you really built it up) and attach your mixer paddle. On low speed, add 2 of the eggs until it's completely incorporated into the dough. Stop the mixer and scrape.
  6. Add the third egg and mix until it is fully incorporated again. If your dough is too firm, add the fourth egg and mix until combined. The batter should be firm enough to pipe, but not runny. It has to hold its' shape. If it's still too tough, add a fifth egg.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line your baking pans with silicone mats. Use a large round tip on your piping bag, fill the bag with the batter and hold the bag at a 45 degree angle. Pipe pear-shaped puffs on your silicone mat. Space them out at least 2 to 3 inches apart as the puffs will expand during the baking process.
  8. Help reshape any end tips or points with a wet finger (the dough will stick to your dry fingers). Use a smaller round tip to pipe out two ears. Again, help reshape using your finger.
  9. Spray the surface of the dough with a light coat of cooking spray. Then put the pans in the oven and adjust the temperature to 325°F (160°C). 
  10. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pans and continue to bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the puffs completely cool before decorating or filling.
You know what? Piping cream puffs is harder than piping macarons in my opinion. The pear-shape and those ears took me so much longer than I expected. And they still don't look as perfect as Shiro-Hige's. I wonder how they pipe their's out. Also horizontal or vertical? Do they use some sort of mold?
The ears turned out better than I thought they would after much aggravation piping them. But, my poor little Totoros ended up with crevices on their belly. It's like they went to war and came back slashed. Or they're part of the walking dead. Totoro zombies!
For some of the puffs, I ended up decorating the back because it was a lot smoother than the cracked front. I made some icing with powdered sugar and water and piped little dabs on the face to adhere the white round sprinkles. Then another dab on top to stick on the little brown sprinkle for the eyes. Then using the icing as glue, decorated near the ears with stars, hearts, or leaf-shaped sprinkles.
Tried to do some whiskers using jimmies. And gave this one a nose too. I think this one should be General.
She looks like a Lieutenant General, you can tell by her battle scars.
Next, Major General.
The Colonel has a sense of humour.
Okay, Totoro puffs, now let's get into formation.
Formation into my belly.
Side story: Howard walked in when the puffs were cooling. He peered into the pan and asked if I was making goldfishes. Dishearteningly, I showed him a photo of the Shiro-Hige Totoro cream puffs and he proceeded to laugh for 3 minutes straight. My puffs were apparently that bad. I did save a few and made them into goldfishes for him. =)

Also, I decided not to fill mine with pastry cream, hence I called them puffs in the blog post title instead of cream puffs. But you can by creating a little hole using a chopstick or knife. And then a narrow piping tip to squeeze all that deliciousness into the hollow of the puff. Or you can simply cut off the base and fill it and reapply the base. I did trim the base to help my Totoros stand.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Matcha Canelés

How has your week been? May has become this crazy busy month for me at work. It used to be that summer was a bit quieter for us in publishing, but now that we work with a three season span, there's just no break. There's more books to read and promote than ever. What have been your favourite reads this year? I've started sharing some of the ones I really love on Instagram, so it's become more of a mix of baked goods, books, and food.
Like I said in my last post, I am on my matcha binge to use up all the deliciousness that we brought back from Taiwan. The next thing I really craved was canelés. I missed this delightful treat with its crispy outer shell and custard center. Really good canelés are difficult to find in Toronto, and the places that make them usually stick with the vanilla flavour. So a girl's got to make her own matcha canelés!
I used the original recipe I followed from the Redpath canelés project here and included 3 teaspoons of matcha powder. The only thing I wish I had was a better mold for the batter, these silicon ones make it really difficult for the canelés to pop out. Not quite non-stick and if you try to invert it out, the canelés get little benty sides.
This time, I rested the batter in a pitcher. I simply cover the top with plastic wrap and sat it in the fridge and gave it a few stirs from time to time.

It looks like some freshly squeezed green juice on my counter. But trust me, I am not one to make leafy green drinks.
The recipe yield enough for me to make about 20 canelés in the mold I have. I was able to fill it once fully and then half the next round.
They're a bit wonky shaped due to the silicone mold, but the taste makes up for it. You just pop these into your mouth and revel in the matcha flavour.
It's hard to resist them when you take them out of the oven. Sometimes you just want to ignore the cooling time and be a rebel with a burnt tongue.