Sweet discovery

September 3, 2009


I’ve been using Demerara sugar for quite a few years to sweeten my tea and to add sparkle to cookies, but until this week when I was fact checking a chef’s manuscript, I had never thought about this ingredient’s name. As it turns out, Demerara should always be capitalized since it is the name of a place. This coarse-textured, dry sugar is named after one of the three counties in Guyana, South America where it and rice are the main cash crops.

So, in honour of the good land of Demerara, I offer you this rice pudding recipe that combines its two main crops in a delicious dessert. Enjoy!

Ginger-Lime Rice Pudding

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup (75 mL) whipping cream
1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
3 cups (750 mL) cooked short grain rice
1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lime juice
3/4 cup (50 mL) brown sugar
3 tbsp (30 mL) cold butter, finely diced

Whisk milk with eggs, sugar and whipping cream in the top of a double boiler. Cook, stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in ginger and lime juice.

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Stir rice into custard and transfer to 8-inch (22-cm) casserole dish. (Recipe can be prepared to this point, covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

Cover tightly and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over top of pudding and dot with butter. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Makes 8 servings.

Tip: For optimum texture, undercook rice slightly before assembling pudding.


Pie for Amy

August 28, 2009


Tomorrow is a big day for Amy Snider, my friend, colleague and occasional guest blogger on this board.

I love that she and her fiancé Tim have planned a wedding that reflects who they are and what they like do. The wedding is to be outdoors on Amy’s parent’s sheep farm and instead of formality and dancing, there will be Bermuda shorts, lawn bowling and croquet. On the menu is one of her Dad’s lambs and for dessert they’ll have lots and lots of pies. That’s right, despite intense peer pressure from people like me, they’re foregoing cake to have their favourite dessert instead. I like them all the better for it!

So, in honour of this celebration, I offer you a recipe for one of my favourite pies. I hope you’ll make it tomorrow and toast Amy and Tim’s happiness when you take your first bite:

Silky Lemon Meringue Pie

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 pkg (250 g) softened brick-style cream cheese
2 tbsp (30 mL) icing sugar
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (175 mL) lemon juice
pinch salt
6 egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream

1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar

Pastry: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on low. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined and crumbly. Shape into a ball and knead two or three times or until smooth. Roll thinly and fit 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Poke all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Filling: Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Remove from the stove and whisk the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until thick and mounding on the spoon. Cover and bring to room temperature with waxed paper touching the surface of the filling. Gently stir in sour cream and scrape into prepared pastry.

Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375F (190C0. Place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and beat until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating. Add sugar, a spoonful at a time, until eggs are full and glossy. Spoon over top of filling and spread to the edge of the crust. Place in oven. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden. Makes 8 servings.

Optical illusions

August 19, 2009


Although we had the coolest, wettest July on record this summer, I’ve still managed to over-tan. Truthfully, I blame the economy for my sun-damaged forehead. Most summers I’m so busy whipping up bright ideas in the test kitchen for magazines and food companies that I find very little time to spend outdoors. But, this year has been different. Business has been down, so I’ve had time to play tennis regularly and to ride my bike to work. It seems that just these little changes in routine have helped me to get a very nice tan.

Despite the ugly age spots on my forehead, the rest of me is thankful for the pigment change. As you may know, dark things look smaller and, even though I’ve been exercising, I’ve been eating enough that I’m bursting out of my fat clothes. I can only hope the tan is creating an optical illusion that hides that fact.

The hope that dark objects look smaller is a blessing when it comes to my body but not so great when applied to brownies. If a brownie looks small, why not eat two? (Hence the problem with the fat clothes.)

After that segue you likely will think twice about making brownies but I hope you decide to go ahead. I’ve been making this recipe for years. It’s super easy and so chocolaty and satisfying that you really only need to eat one small square to get your chocolate fix:

Dana’s Saucepan Brownies

4 oz (125 g) chopped unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
3 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour

Place chocolate and butter in a saucepan set over low heat. Heat, stirring often, until chocolate is almost melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Preheat oven to 350oF (180oC).

Stir sugar, vanilla and salt into chocolate mixture. Stir in eggs, adding one at a time. Blend in flour until well combined. Scrape mixture into a greased 9-inch (23 cm) square pan or 7 x 11-inch (1.5 L) baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes for fudgy brownies (my fav) or for 35 minutes for cakey brownies. Cool in the pan on a rack. Slice into bars. Makes 24 bars.

Topline Trends Tuesday: Foie gras in the sweet kitchen

July 14, 2009


Photo credit: Food In Houston

Although no pastry chef I know ever learned how to make profiteroles, macarons, tarte tatin, waffles, milkshakes or doughnuts with foie gras at culinary school, many of them are doing it now in high-end eateries in cities such as Montreal, Chicago, Portland and New York.

I haven’t tried a foie gras-laced dessert yet myself but I did have a foie gras and pear empanada at my husband Martin’s restaurant recently and it was pretty damn good.

Have any of you seen foie gras used as a dessert ingredient in your area? If so, did you try it? And, if you did, what did you think? Hit or miss?

Topline Trends Tuesday: The upward spiral of the butter tart

July 7, 2009

Buttertart guyRegular readers of this blog will know that since last summer, I’ve been on a quest to unlock the secrets of the perfect butter tart. It’s been a winding road.

After presenting my preferred recipe for butter tarts I heard mostly accolades but a rebuff, too. One enraged woman recently wrote me an email claiming that my butter tarts were the very worst she had ever tried. Needless to say, she and I are not destined to be friends.

While butter tarts have always been a Canadian favourite, I’ve noticed them being debated and discussed more often during the last few months. Was it the proximity of Canada Day on the calendar that led food sleuth Marion Kane and CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi to discuss butter tart origins and lore on June 29th?  Regardless, their informative chat  can be enjoyed as a podcast.

Likewise, a new Toronto-based blog called Beer & Butter Tarts recently launched. Although it’s a bit shy on butter tart news so far, I’m holding out hope for full-on butter tart coverage on their cyber pages.

Another result of devoting so much time to the discussion of butter tarts is that many people have reached out to share their butter tart love with me. One of these people is Jules Kay, a retired mathematics teacher and the owner of Aftermath Pies. He visited our test kitchen a couple of weeks ago and brought us his very delicious butter tarts. Unlike my tarts, which have a very rich, flaky, lard-based crust, Jules’ perfectly gooey tarts have a firmer, compact crust that features vegetable shortening.

Jules was kind enough to share his pastry recipe with me so you can try it if you prefer a leaner, less fragile crust.

Jules “The Pieman”‘s Original Dough Recipe

Ingredients – flour, salt, sugar, shortening, vinegar, and water.
Utensils – large mixing bowl, measuring cups for dry and liquid ingredients, measuring spoons, fork, plastic wrap, and a pastry blender (ONLY FOR THE UNADVENTUROUS).

Flour – white, all purpose – 5 1/2 cups
Salt – 1 teaspoon
White Sugar – 1 tablespoon
Shortening – 1 package (454 grams)
Vinegar (plus water) – 1 tablespoon
Cold Tap Water 1 1/3 cups when added to vinegar

• In a large mixing bowl, blend flour, salt, and sugar.
• In a measuring cup, add the vinegar and enough water to make 1 1/3 cups of liquid.
Cut the shortening into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles small peas. For those afraid to get dirty hands, use a pastry blender.
Make a well in the centre of the flour/shortening and add all the water.
Stir (DO NOT MASH) with a fork until the flour has absorbed all the water and the ball of dough sticks together.
• If the dough is still crumbly, keep stirring with the fork.
Gather up the dough in a ball and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, do not add more flour. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. You will discover that the amount of water needed varies depending on the temperature and the humidity.
• Your dough is now ready for great tasting pies and tarts. If you intend to use the large (3-pound) tub then multiply the above quantities by 3. You might need a larger bowl.

Let’s celebrate!

July 6, 2009

TracyCupcakeTomorrow is my birthday and for my present, I’d like to hear about your favourite birthday food treat. Do you love chocolate cake or prefer a perfect peach pie? Or, would you rather skip desserts and toast your day with an excellent bottle of champagne or an aged Bordeaux?

As a summer birthday girl, I’ve celebrated many years with light, fluffy cakes filled with whipped cream and berries. Although there are usually still local strawberries around on July 7th, my very fave is a classic Black Forest Cake. I even have a dream to someday sample one just like Heston Blumenthal featured on his BBC television show.

Cupcakes are another favourite of mine and selecting those little yummies for my birthday treat has a benefit for those around me. You see, I find that  eating one cupcake seems to lead to eating another. So, if I have a dozen on hand, my mouth will be full all day. And, since a full mouth is a quiet mouth that can’t complain about wrinkles, spare tires and other disappointments that come with advancing age,  me gorging on cupcakes makes everyone happy!

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what food you enjoy on your birthday.

BTW, photo credit once again goes to the lovely and talented Tracy Cox.

What’s with gooseberries?

July 2, 2009


I’m the first to admit that I don’t know everything about food. In fact, not being able to know everything about food is one of the reasons I think it makes such a satisfying profession. Working in this business is always interesting and offering up new challenges.

But, sometimes, those challenges catch you by surprise. Take yesterday for example. I zipped over to my local fancy supermarket – it was the only store open in my area on Canada Day – to pick up a few things for recipe testing when I saw this hand-written sign: “Ontario Gooseberries are Here!” Excited that there was something newly seasonal in the store, I plunked down $3.99 for a pint of gooseberries grown on Allberry Farm in Jordan, Ontario.

I was excited as I drove home. Here I was, on the precipice of a new food experience. I literally came home, washed them and popped one into my mouth before I even put my keys away. And you know what?  It was awful! Super sour. I admit it;  I spat it out.

Dudes what’s the deal with gooseberries? Do you need to cook them or did I get a woefully under-ripe container?  Or, is the name the key: are they only fit for feeding to geese? As you can see above, they look pretty enough to eat. Seriously, I need you guys to send me your gooseberry advice and recipes.