Chocolate Maniac Fire Bread

Chocolate maniac fire bread with smoked salt raspberry butter. I know, it’s a mouthful and probably sounds a little strange. It’s good though, seriously. That is, if you like chocolate and a bit of a kick.

This little treat is bursting with pockets of flavour. It’s a chocolate quick bread with Cacao Barry Extra Brute, a high quality amber cocoa powder from Barry Callebaut that tastes amazing. Then it’s got chunks of bittersweet chocolate for pockets of chocolatey goodness. And it wouldn’t be a maniac fire bread if it wasn’t laced with bits of bird’s eye chili that pack a serious punch while at the same time complementing the intense chocolate flavour. To top it all off is butter mixed with raspberries (from my grandmother’s garden in exchange for vacuuming my grandparent’s house) and smoked salt. Chocolate maniac fire bread with smoked salt raspberry butter is what it sounds like, a symphony of flavour complexity you have to try to understand.

I’m not sure if this maniac bread is a breakfast food or dessert, so I’m just going to eat it as both.

A Pile of Books Cake

I always found it remarkable during my early baking years to see photos of cakes that don’t actually look like cakes. I finally achieved that with this one – a graduation cake shaped like a pile of books! Reportedly during the graduation party, the mother of the graduate asked, “who is going to pick up the cake?” She didn’t know that the pile of books sitting on the counter WAS the cake.

This tiered celebration cake is a vanilla cake in disguise, with raspberry filling and buttercream. The hat is a chocolate cupcake in disguise. While the pages of the books and cake board are covered with a white fondant, the covers are a contrasting chocolate fondant that smell a bit like a Tootsie roll. The books and hat are then decorated with both hand painting and applique to achieve the final detailing. A special shoutout to Skylar for suggesting the second book be modelled after the CISC Handbook of Steel Construction, 11th Edition. Clearly, a Civil Engineering special.

A pile of books cake

Congratulations to Bikram on graduating from Civil Engineering! It was a pleasure to create this special tiered cake for you.

Creamy Artichoke and Garden Tomato Tart

October has come, and summer seems to be long gone. It has been snowing a fair deal already, as if retribution for last year’s mild winter. It snowed last weekend. It also snowed last Friday, causing all sorts of havoc on roads.

Rewind back a couple weeks ago. The tomatoes were still happily growing late in the season, abundant and green, when my sister hurried outside to harvest them amidst the frost warnings. Now, they are ALL getting ripe. A large abundance of fresh, flavorful heirloom tomatoes straight from our backyard. In boxes on the floor, all over the kitchen table, filling up the fridge…

There doesn’t seem a better way to celebrate this bountiful harvest than adorning a homemade quick puff pastry tart with artichoke filling. To top it off, I added a variety of tomatoes including yellow pear and zebra (with green and red stripes), as well as other mystery types. One is a pinkish colour, while another a more conventional tomato red. Just use what is on hand for a delicious treat – layers of crisp flaky pastry, creamy and tangy artichoke, and succulent tomatoes.

Creamy Artichoke and Garden Tomato Tart
Creamy Artichoke and Garden Tomato Tart
All the glorious tomatoes
All the glorious tomatoes

Disclaimer: I have no gardening talent. Luckily my sister does.

Alsatian Tart

I was hungry and it was a Sunday afternoon, so I decided to make an Alsatian Tart, which turned out to be a pastry crossed with pizza sort of too good deliciousness. Too delicious to possibly be good for you, so I need to tell myself not to eat this every day. But hey, it does have all the food groups at least (fruits/vegetables, grain, dairy, meat, pastry).

Alsatian Tart, a savoury goodness from the Alsace region in France
Alsatian Tart, a savory goodness from the Alsace region in France

This tart looks quite akin to a pizza, and the topping pairings would work well on one. But this in particular is not a pizza, as the Alsace Tart has a pastry rather than bread base. I cut some homemade puff pastry out into a circle and baked it to let it rise. My thin piece of rolled dough rose nicely in the oven giving way to flaky layers of golden pastry.

See all those golden puff pastry layers
See all those golden puff pastry layers

I layered the top with thinly sliced potatoes. I believe this is a German influence, as the Alsace region in France is along the German border. (Yes, remember history class where you learned Germany’s prior annexation of Alsace-Lorraine from the Franco-Prussian War was one cause of resentment that led to World War I?) I also topped my pastry with caramelized apples and red onions, spices, Edam cheese and a bit of bacon. Bon appetit!

Having a slice!
Having a slice!

2015 Christmas Cookies

This year I made a number of sugar cookies for gifts, and to share with others. I made quite a few, as the cookies from my first batch ran out very quickly! After I brought some to work and they ran out there, I was asked a number of times per day if I had any more cookies. I brought some more later, as I made a double batch the second time. Our family also enjoyed them over Christmas. 🙂

I like the cookie recipe used as it has a tender crumb. It also does not shrink or expand as it bakes, giving a well defined shape for cookie decorating. This is also nice, as you can bake the cookies close together on the pan without worrying about them crashing into each other. Also, you can get them all into the oven quicker. Overall they still do take some time to make. I make the dough one day and chill it, then cut and bake the cookies later. I make the icing and decorate them after that.

Letting the run sugar dry on all my cookies
Letting the run sugar dry on all my cookies

I made a number of different cookies. They were of the very simple theme of “cookies I feel like making”. These included trees covered in snow, “lederhosen und dirndl”, polar bears, snowflakes, crocodilians, king penguins, and various designs from round shapes.

The trees were decorated with run sugar (a thin consistency royal icing, which runs together after a few seconds, but is not so watery that it flows off the cookie). Once the run sugar hardened, the snow was created by stroking a stiffer royal icing with a brush to create the snow effect. This is called the “brush embroidery” technique. This is the first time I’ve used brush embroidery and I like the effect, but I think my icing was a bit too stiff so I’ll have to try it again sometime. I let my mom do some of the brush embroidery too, and she looked really happy about it.

Tree cookies using brush embroidery
Tree cookies using brush embroidery

The cookie cutters for my lederhosen und dirndl (German traditional dress) are two of my favourites, as they have such a unique, funny shape. My sister bought these for me from a shop in Germany when she was working there. This is the first time I’ve really decorated them properly with run sugar. Aren’t they cute?

Lederhosen (pants) and dirndl (dress) cookies!
Lederhosen (pants) and dirndl (dress) cookies!

Here are my assorted animal cookies. This is the king penguin, which has brighter colours than the emperor penguin. I bought this cookie cutter in the Falkland Islands. I also made polar bears and crocodile cookies. I had forgotten about the crocodile cutter but it also makes a cute cookie. These were all decorated in run sugar.

King penguin, polar bear and crocodile cookies
King penguin, polar bear and crocodile cookies

I also made some assorted round cookies. I experimented a bit with these. Some used run sugar, incorporating some of the leftover royal icing colours. I also used fondant on some of the cookies for the first time with good results both in aesthetics and taste.

Assorted round cookies in various elegant designs
Assorted round cookies in various elegant designs
Vintage cameo cookies. Maybe these could have had a border and some gold. Or maybe that's too much cookie OCD.
Vintage cameo cookies. Maybe these could have had a border and some gold. Or maybe that’s too much cookie OCD.

Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte

The Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte is sure to please any chocolate lover. It contains a lot of chocolate, but actually only a couple tablespoons of wheat flour. (Almond flour is used instead). Meringue is used to make it rise, as there are no chemical leaveners (baking powder, baking soda). The texture is crumbly and moist with a slightly gooey centre.

This unique type of cake (Reine de Saba) was first made by Julia Child in her book The French Chef. I used this recipe from famous baker and chocolate expert Alice Medrich, in her book Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate. See my final cake below.

Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte
Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte

This beautiful torte is decorated by first crumb coating with a thickened (slightly cooled) chocolate glaze. Then the glaze is reheated to a liquid consistency and poured over the cake. Milk and white chocolate, as well as a bit of the reserved dark chocolate glaze are drizzled over the top. Finally, toasted almonds fringe the bottom edge of the cake. I love how the milk and white chocolate drizzle matches the colours of the almonds exactly.

Voila! We have an impressively beautiful decadent chocolate cake. 😀

Chocolate glaze and drizzle
Chocolate glaze and drizzle
Side view of the Queen of Sheba with almond fringe
Side view of the Queen of Sheba with almond fringe

Chocolate and Almond Zucchini Bread

A tasty use for zucchini is chocolate and almond zucchini bread! It is a similar idea to banana bread, except it has squash in it instead… also some cocoa powder for extra deliciousness. I promised my mother I would add almonds to my bread as well, as these nuts are high in calcium, so I had to do as I was told. But, they do give a nice crunch to the bread anyways. Almonds are yummy, so it’s okay.

There's a whole zucchini in here
There’s a whole zucchini in here

This moist bread also uses pureed black beans as a healthy substitute for butter. The same colour as the cocoa, you can’t tell there are beans in this bread at all! I’ve never made a loaf with beans in it before, but it seems to work out quite well.

A soft moist crumb
A soft moist crumb
Slices of zucchini bread
Slices of zucchini bread

Home Cooked Pizzas from Scratch

Usually my baking topics are on desserts, namely cakes and cupcakes due to my obsession with cake decorating. Today I baked a pizza from scratch, and it was worth the effort. Pizza is definitely a form of baking, since the crust is a type of bread. Here is my finished pizza out of the oven!

My whole pizza
My whole pizza

I find the downfall with many frozen pizzas, or home cooked pizzas is the crust, which tends to become a bit dry and hard. This is different from the pizzeria crusts that have a crispy exterior with a more soft chewy centre that we all love. The trick is that pizzas should be cooked in short intervals at very high temperatures.

Pizzerias have industrial ovens that can handle high temperatures. Home cooks can also purchase pizza stones, which help with a great crust since they are pre-heated and when you place your pizza directly on the hot stone it is in contact with a hot surface and can bake quicker. I unfortunately have no pizza stone, but baked a fairly moist dough on an iron cast skillet at 525°F for no more than 10 minutes. The crust came out surprisingly well. I think the best pizza I’ve made at home! Plus the cast iron skillet can be used for other cooking purposes!

Yum pizza
Yum pizza

This pizza is topped with a homemade tomato sauce, diced sausage, marinated tomatoes, marble cheese, mozzarella cheese, a touch of Parmesan, and finished with a garnishing of garden green onions and parsley. The crust is made with an American-style “Neopolitan” dough.

Cascade of Balloon Hearts – Wedding Anniversary Cake

This whimsical one year wedding anniversary cake is a combination of buttercream with fondant applique. This white cake is coated in a fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream to match the request for the client that the cake be not too sweet. The couple as well as a multitude of hearts were cut from fondant. Then, these were all hand painted in a rainbow of colours. The little heart balloons cascade off to the right and down the side of the cake. Here are some pictures:

The cascade of balloon hearts cake
The cascade of balloon hearts cake
Hearts on the front and side of the cake
Hearts on the front and side of the cake
More colourful little fondant balloon hearts
More colourful little fondant balloon hearts
A bit of a side view
A bit of a side view

Chrysanthemum Cupcakes

These purple chrysanthemum cupcakes were made just for fun! They are a chocolate chip cake, topped with white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. The icing is piped to look like a chrysanthemum flower. Here are some pictures:

A chrysanthemum cupcake
A chrysanthemum cupcake
Decorated with piped leaves and petals
Yum!
Yum!
A few of the cupcakes
A few of the cupcakes
Icing details
Icing details

Put a CAP on Poverty Cupcakes

These are some cupcakes I donated for a fundraiser bake sale at work towards the United Way. They are inspired by the campaign theme “Put a CAP on Poverty” (a graduation cap that is), which focuses on supporting education for those in need. The campaign mascot is a sock monkey, featured as the centre piece of the cupcake collection.

No sooner had I brought these in, our campaign floor representative took a picture and sent it in a mass email reminding everyone to purchase items at the bake sale. Then I got a bunch of emails and people telling me how much they like these. 🙂

A bunch of them together
A bunch of them together
The sock monkey cupcake
The sock monkey cupcake

The cupcakes are chocolate chip flavour, with hand painted fondant for the paper topping and pencils. A fondant and gumpaste mix is used for the sock monkey topper.

A limits cupcake. Interestingly the ones that were nerdy seemed even more popular!
A limits cupcake. Interestingly the ones that were nerdy seemed even more popular!

A photo of these cupcakes were also featured on EPCOR’s Twitter feed, and EPCOR’s internal website:

The United Way is an organization that aims to create pathways out of poverty in the Alberta Capital Region.

1920s Murder Mystery Cake

This was the first first cake order I fulfilled with Amanda Selene!

The finished 1920s murder mystery cake
The finished 1920s murder mystery cake
mmmmmmmm.... blood!
mmmmmmmm…. blood!

This cake was for a 1920s murder mystery birthday party. We baked a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, covered in fondant. We drew inspiration from 1920s art deco style, and created applique designs in gold and black. The cake was then finished off with some fake blood splatter to give it a more sinister look. 🙂

Blood dripping down the side of the cake
Blood dripping down the side of the cake
Art deco and blood splatters in all their glory
Close up :)
Close up 🙂