It has been nearly three months since my last blog entry… It has been a full three months with some high moments and some very low ones too. On the exciting side of things, there was a trip to Spain to plan which ate up pretty much my entire August until we left on September 16th. On the very sad side of things, we came back to face my mom in law’s rapidly deteriorating health. We said our final goodbyes last Friday as she finally let go of all her suffering.
My sweet mom in law Maria has been at the core ofmany of my blog posts and my inspiration in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, both my own mom and her have been my lifelong kitchen mentors. Everything I master well, I have both of them to be utterly thankful for. I make mean soups because Maria showed me how to extract the maximum flavour in broths. I often say that Harvesting Dinner should have been named My Heritage Kitchen instead… So true.
The Funeral is talking place this week and I am honouring my second mom by baking a few things but most specifically, her infamous apple cake. I shared that recipe with you last year and I thought the best tribute I could offer is to share it once again. Please visit and enjoy Omi’s Apfelkuchen
There are a few other recipes that oozes her touch. Her Cabbage Rolls for instance are a family favourite. I made these during this past Thanksgiving weekend. I couldn’t think of a better thanksgiving meal to have while we were enjoying the cottage, this magical place that is the fruit of her and dad’s labour.
I am utterly thankful to have shadowed her in her kitchen all those years, jotting ingredients, measuring all the “a bit of this, a handful of that” so that I can recreate all of her delicious recipes. I know she will be standing by my side on Wednesday while I bake the apple cake. I know she will be tickled pink that it is the cake I chose to bake because of all the scrumptious desserts she baked, nothing was more acclaimed by all than this particular cake. And she made it often, for every occasion because you know, Apfelkuchen cures everything!
I am grateful to have had such a wonderful second mom in my life. She loved unconditionally, showered us with more love than you can possible imagine and spoiled us rotten ALL THE TIME! She was extremely proud of her two grandsons, our Princes and she shared a very special bond with her only child, my very own King. How lucky am I that she treated me like her own daughter. I am already missing her dearly…
Of all the blog posts I publish, desserts are by far the favourite ones! There is something so attractive about everything «sweet»! I think most of us show some restraint when it comes to eating desserts but I think of all the recipes available in the world, dessert recipes draw the most attention, drools and yummy thoughts! I suspect it is because sweet endings are viewed as naughty foods right? Just looking and dreaming right? I mean, we really should eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and good oils daily for optimal health… And for us omnivores, meat should be consumed in moderation… And we really, really should not eat dessert!?! Sugar has become the evil child recently (with reason) but nevertheless, I think we will always have this love hate relationship with sweet stuff! And just like with the consumption of red meat, I say sugar should be consumed in moderation (and not everyday). Yes, in moderation… AND when we do end up eating dessert, it should be delectably, sinfully delicious!! Forget factory made cakes with a questionably long shelf life and a never-ending list of weirdo ingredients. Nooooo, let’s not eat those, they are nasty LOL! Instead, splurge and dive right into the heavenly goodies your mom, grandma, auntie, sister, best bud (the male equivalent of all these titles as well) or your favourite neighborhood sweet shop have lovingly baked! Let’s face it, even those who do not have a real sweet tooth can’t help but be lured by the smell of freshly baked desserts!
In the heydays of my café ownership life, we lured (yes, we were sneaky like that) our clientele in with 2 things: the aroma of freshly baked goodies and bacon! Yup, bacon was as famous back then as it is now although the internet makes us believe it is a new fad or concept. Whatever: we oldies have known the power of sizzling bacon for a very long time. Anyhow, I digress… Back when I worked 14 hour days 6 days a week running my little shop, fresh «out of the oven» treats were my claim to fame. Lucky for me, I not only had my own arsenal of yummy recipes to pick and chose from, I also had access to a slew of amazing dessert recipes shared by my right hand woman, Laura SC. I have mentioned Laura’s talent and amazing recipes in past articles. I think she deserves a lot of kudos for her ability to whip up some of the best food I have eaten. As a matter of fact, some recipes that Laura has shared with me back then have become family classics such as this unbelievably moist carrot cake. And if you knew Laura, not only would you want her to bake for you, you would want to become her bud: she has that «bigger than life» magnetic personality, is full of «joie de vivre», has a contagious laugh and is loved by everyone!!! Since you may not have the opportunity to be served one of Laura’s awesome treats, you will have to enjoy her baker’s touch by osmosis by baking yourself this carrot cake!
You can trust this recipe: it has been whipped together more time than most recipes are tested for any publication. It is quite easy to make but beware: once served to your loved ones, it will be requested over and over again. Until you can make it in your sleep LOL! Yes, the pictures are sparse: I only took a picture of the cake coming out of the oven and of a piece covered in sinfully delicious cream cheese icing.
Scrolling down beyond the recipe, I have included a few shots on how to easily line a rectangular (or square) pan with parchment baking paper. As usual, your comments on my recipes are always appreciated. And frankly, since 2 cups of grated carrots and crushed pineapple are used here, I think this recipe should really be labelled salad, not cake!!! Happy baking to all.
Laura SC’s Infamous Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
What you need: (icing recipe follows)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1½ tsp cinnamon
2 cups white sugar
1 cup oil (choose a neutral tasting oil, avoid coconut or olive oils)
1 can crushed pineapple, drained (14oz or 398ml)
2 cups grated carrots
How to make it:
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF and set rack to middle position
Grease and line with baking paper a standard size rectangular pan, 9X13 (pictures follow at the end of the recipe)
In one bowl, mix together using a whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside
In a large bowl, with a hand-held or stand-up electric mixer, cream together the oil and the sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time until well combined and fluffy.
Add the flour mixture and blend until incorporate.
Gently fold in the grated carrots and drained pineapple on low-speed or by hand
Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean
Let cool completely before taking out of pan and icing
Cream Cheese Icing
What you need
*this recipe makes enough to ice the top of two cakes or to fill and ice a layered cake. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a few weeks and taste awesome on top of muffins and cinnamon buns…
1 standard package or 1 cup of cream cheese, at room temperature (the type of fresh cheese used for making cheesecake. In some places, it is called Neufchâtel cheese)
½ cup soft butter
4 cups icing (powdered) sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
How to make it:
In a large mixing bowl, using a hand-held or stand-up electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and the butter until well combined and smooth. Add icing sugar and vanilla and starting at the slowest setting, gently mix in the sugar, increasing the speed as the sugar incorporates. Starting slow will prevent a puff of white sugar to pop out of the bowl and mess up the entire kitchen! Once the sugar is well incorporated, whip the icing at a higher speed until creamy and fluffy! Refrain from eating by the spoonful until you have iced your cake!
It is often flaunted around that success in baking is achieved only by following an exact science. That it is the precise measurement of ingredients and the perfect execution of step by step instructions that will yield the anticipated results. Baking often involves many different steps and tends to mess up the kitchen and dirty a fair bit of dishes. And for the most part, this is absolutely correct! We are often intimidated into trying new recipes because we fear the results… BUT, not all baking projects are created equal. While it is fair to admit that pastry, elaborate cakes, and specialty French desserts can be quite intricate and are truly works of art, there are those scrumptious desserts that are silly easy to make and nearly fool proof. This is one of these cakes. It is so uncomplicated; it almost is a sin it turns out so delicious! It requires zero skills, zero electric appliance, very simple ingredients and will dirty very few dishes. Yet, it is always a hit: it gets gobbled up pretty quickly in my home although it does hold well by staying fresh for a few days. You may be tempted to swap the butter with oil, and it can be done. However, I strongly recommend sticking to butter: it will yield a tender & moist cake with a crunchy crust.
On the subject of uncomplicated cakes that deliver the WOW factor, you may want to explore an older post in which I share two super easy cake recipes: a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and a Chocolate Raspberry Torte. The only way I can even try to convince you that the chocolate cake with ganache is absolutely divine is by telling this little story: last Saturday, I attended a birthday celebration for my dear friend Susan. It was a grown women’s sleep over complete with a potluck of delicious appetizers, copiously drenched with good wine and even better conversation. We were a small group, a total of seven of us. This winter party/birthday celebration has been going on for several years now and we always look forward to this little time out from normal life. These ladies often request I make the Chocolate Raspberry Torte but this time, I was given carte blanche. I know these chicks: they are chocolate FANATICS. I wanted to bring something I had not made for them yet. I was hoping the cake would be enjoyed by all… Well, I shouldn’t have worried: to say it was a hit is an understatement!!! I have brought this cake to many events in the past but never, ever has it been polished off in one sitting. Never say never!!! By bedtime, there was one lonely, tiny piece left which the birthday girl swiftly stashed away to enjoy the next day. They ate nearly the entire cake! Need I say more? I think that counts for complete endorsement of the deliciousness of this cake. Now back to the subject of this blog post: BANANA PECAN CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE
This cake is super-fast to throw together. Pecans are optional! Because you pour it in one cake pan, it is even faster than making muffins. No power tools required!
Tools required: one 9X13 cake pan, 2 bowls, 1 whisk, 1 rubber spatula, 1 banana/potato smasher or a fork, measuring cups and spoons and of course, an oven!
What you need:
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt Wet
1 cup melted butter
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (4 or 5 medium)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toasted pecans coarsely chopped (optional) How to make it:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your cake pan with butter. If you have parchment paper, I recommend using some to line the pan. Makes it easier to lift the cake out
In one of the bowls, combine together all dry ingredients using whisk and set aside
In separate bowl, combine eggs, bananas, butter and buttermilk. Whisk until well blended
Have your chocolate chips and pecans ready. If you skip the pecans, you can add ½ cup extra chocolate chips.
Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix well without beating. Once the dry ingredients are almost completely incorporated with the wet ones, add the chocolate chips and the pecans to the batter. Fold until all ingredients are just blended. Do not over mix or beat
Pour batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes, until the top bounces back to the touch or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean of batter (some chocolate may stick to the toothpick). I usually start checking a few minutes before the set time because each oven is different. If the top of the cake is still pale, I increase the time slightly before checking for doneness.
Note: I use mostly organic ingredients, including flour. Neutral oil, such as avocado or sunflower, can be substituted for butter although it may alter the flavour profile as well as the overall texture.
As cliché as it sounds, it is exactly that. Or how about this one: it is the people not the things that make a house a home? We may move our things from one address to another but we bring all our memories along and as corny as these clichés may sound, they sure ring a bell don’t they? The first most dramatic move in my life (I am sure this is shared also by many across the board) was flying away from the nest. I was so young but I felt totally ready to try things out on my own… There was a first attempt at riding solo followed by a brief return back to the nest and then, the big flight out for good. Seems I felt ready to be my own person, even if I was not quite sure who that person was or was going to be. I was eager to tackle the world and experience «it all». Nothing feels more empowering than being the boss of you right? I hardly ever looked back even though there were struggles and growing pains…I was quickly nostalgic for many of life’s familiarities but above all and for many, many years (and I still do from time to time), I missed coming home to my mom’s kitchen.
“The kitchen is the heart (or soul) of a home”… Another cliché but ohhh so true. For as far as I can remember, and I have a pretty darn good memory, there always seem to be something cooking at home. Opening the front door and smelling the aromas of dinner floating out of the kitchen was always the biggest welcome home hug ever. Although my mom could go to extravagant extremes when she was entertaining (and she still does), her day-to-day meals were simple yet full of flavour and über comforting. Once in a while, she would tackle something off the wall in the middle of the week, but for the most part, she prepared what she knew well. I started recognizing and anticipating smells. My favourites were pot roast, spaghetti sauce, pork chops, chocolate cake, roast chicken; mmmm such divine mouth-watering aromas! It is only when I started to live on my own that I quickly realized how much I would long for my mommy’s edible love and hugs… For some, it is arriving to an empty home and hearing the silence. For me, it was arriving in a neutral smelling apartment. Even when I started a family of my own and started to tie my «mom» apron on, even when appetizing smells drift out of my own kitchen, even when my kids (now adults) walk into the kitchen wondering in anticipation what is going to be served for dinner, even then and even still now do I miss being greeted by my mommy’s cooking. I still get the treat from time to time when I visit her but you know, it is not the same as coming home after a day of whatever and walking into a house that smells absolutely divine, yelling “I’m home! Sure smells good in here, what’s for dinner?”
The closest I ever get to that edible hug from my mom now that I am nearly all grown up is cooking up one of her classics. Pouding Chômeur is exactly that. To translate it literally, it means «pudding of the unemployed». It is a truly authentic French Canadian heritage recipe. It is a moist cake baked in a caramel maple sauce. Mmmmmmm, so, so good! I am not exactly sure of the origin of the first ever one made but it seems that it became wildly popular during the depression when basic foods were rationed, especially white refined sugar and butter.The sweetness came from maple syrup or brown sugar or a combination of both and lard was used instead of butter. Most Quebec families have their own heirloom Pouding Chômeur recipes. Even a few big restaurant chains offer this dessert on their menus! These days, it is maple syrup that is expensive, go figure!!! In my younger days, when it was sometimes hard to make ends meet, brown sugar was all I used when making this recipe. It is delicious either way so don’t fret if you do not have maple syrup. And although maple syrup is now a constant staple in my fridge, I like to use equal proportions of syrup and brown sugar. This is my mom’s recipe and it has all the warm and fuzzy you may be looking for and to boot, it is super easy to make using ingredients you probably have in your pantry right now! It’s a big mommy hug I am sharing with the world xo.
Mom’s Pouding Chômeur
What you need:
For the cake batter
1 large deep dish pan, such as a deep casserole dish. grease well with butter. I use Corningware™
Preheat oven to 350ºF and set rack in the middle
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cups of butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups of white sugar (regular granulated sugar)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup milk
For the sauce:
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tbsp. flour
1 cup maple syrup (amber is best for baking, it has more depth of flavour)
3½ cups of water
4 tbsp. butter (salted)
How to make it:
In a deep saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar and the flour until well blended. Add the maple syrup, mix well then add the water and the butter. Whisk everything together and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
In another bowl, using a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy
Add the eggs in one at the time, beating on high until well incorporated, about 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla
Add 1/3 of the flour, blend until just mixed.
Add half of the milk and blend well
Repeat with another third of the flour, then the remaining milk and then the last addition of flour.
Spread the batter into the prepared dish
Gently pour the hot syrup over the batter. You can use a ladle, it will not disturb the cake batter as much but I go ahead and pour directly from the pot.
Bake for 50 minutes. The liquid will settle at the bottom and the cake will rise to the top. You are looking for a nice golden crust and the syrup should be bubbling on the sides.
Let cool for 1 hour. It is torture to wait that long I know…But show some restraint LOL!
Serve while still warm, in deep bowls with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This dessert is ooey gooey yummy good when served warm but also still impressive cold. Many have been caught digging into the leftovers with a spoon straight from the fridge while standing at the counter. You know who you are 🙂
Freshly picked apples are starting to grace the farmer’s market stalls and the produce aisles of your favourite grocery store. As much as apples remind us that the end of summer is near, there is nothing like the taste of new crop apples: crisp, juicy, sweet, tart… Just like tomatoes in January, that «just picked from the orchard» taste won’t last much past the first few frosts. Apples are one of the most beloved fruits when it comes to cooking and baking. They are so versatile, so easily accessible: nothing beats a scrumptious apple pie or a fragrant apple crisp straight out of the oven! Many families have their own prized apple recipes, from baked goods to jellies, butters, chutneys and sauces. We also have our own: Omi’s most beloved apple cake. If you have been following my blog at all, you know a bit about the Queen Mother (aka mother-in-law) and her East European background. And you also know that I shadowed her (nearly as much as my own mother) in her kitchen, absorbing as much of her culinary heritage as I possibly could. She was «famous» for many things but one dish stand above all the others: Apfelkuchen! A celebration, any celebration, would not be worthy of such a name without her cake gracing the table: it was always asked for, hoped for and gobbled up as fast as it was plated. Of course, she would make over the top huge mountains of this cake and would send off her happy guests with little care packages of the good stuff.
So without much further ado, I am presenting Omi’s infamous Apfelkuchen. It is not difficult to make but most of the ingredients must be weighed instead of being measured in volume. As for the measurements, for this particular recipe, I have been using all metric as per the original recipe: it is a bit more precise. Although Canada has been metric since the mid-seventies, for some odd reason (probably our proximity to Imperial Unites States), our recipes are usually offered in Imperial. Thankfully, most baking tools offer both options here. Not too sure about my American friends but I am sure you can find online conversions if you so wish to make this wonderful cake. And you know, I think you should 🙂
OMI’S APPLE CAKE
What you need:
9X13 cake pan or deep rectangular casserole dish, buttered
500 g flour
225 g sugar
2 ½ tsp baking powder
225 g unsalted butter
Juice of ½ lemon
45ml sour cream
10 Macintosh apples peeled and chopped to bite size
90 ml sugar mixed with 5ml ground cinnamon
1 bit more cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling How to make it
Heat oven at 350°
Mix flour, sugar and baking powder
Add butter and mix with hands until well combined
Add the 3 eggs and lemon juice.
Mix with hands until dough holds like a ball and is easy to handle. If the dough is too dry, add some sour cream, a little bit at a time. This may not be necessary, it always depends of the moisture content of the flour and the yield the half lemon provides in juice
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until dough is nice and shinny and holds well together. Add flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Separate dough in half. Roll out first ball to fix greased baking sheet 9X13 and spread rolled out dough on bottom. press down to fit pan evenly. This dough quite forgiving and can handle a bit of hand manipulation. It is important that the dough is spread evenly and is snug against all the edges of the pan
Peel and cut apples in thin slices. Spread in flat layers over dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix.
Roll out remaining dough and spread over apples, covering all the fruit. Press down firmly, using the back end of a fork.
Sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar
Bake until golden on top, approx. 30-45 minutes.
Turn heat off and leave in oven another 5-10 minutes
This cake is lovely warm, cold and even the next day!
A treat is a treat is a treat! Since I have embarked on weight loss and weight management nearly 2 years ago, I have overhauled my entire pantry. I have removed highly processed and highly refined food products from daily life. I have also changed my grocery shopping habits to include the semi monthly delivery of a local farmer’s hamper and regular trip to small local shops. I have started gathering several “new” baked goods recipes that are not only deliciously sinful but still manage to pack a decent nutrition profile, for those days when some sweet baking is a must to fulfill the cravings. I have also experimented with several of my all time favourites, trying to substitute less refined ingredients. There has been some successes and of course, some failures. When it comes to my «go-to» and trusted old favourite family cake recipes, swapping for organic is pretty simple with the exception of sugar. I have yet to find an organic granulated sugar that can replace white and brown sugar while keeping the texture intact. Baking is a science and each component has its own chemical reaction and purpose in a recipe. For hardy baked goods, an organic and unrefined white or whole wheat flour works perfectly fine. But when trying to make really delicate pastries and cakes, I still swear by refined white flour and sugar. So keeping with my 80-20 rule, I feel perfectly Zen making the occasional treats my gang loves using sugar and white flour. And since swapping the rest of the ingredients to organic butter, eggs, oils, dairy, chocolate and cocoa powder has no impact whatsoever on the final product, I can convince myself my good ol’ faithful recipes are at least 20% better!
I have two favourite chocolate cake recipes which I am willing to share today: I must be in a very generous mood LOL! The first one is a moist, rich and dense chocolate cake covered in a rich fudgey icing (yes, it does contain corn syrup and I have built a bridge and gotten over it). This recipe, shared with me by a client from my restaurant era, ended a lifelong search for the ultimate chocolate cake recipe that suited my taste. Thank you Velma! The second one is a recipe I discovered years and years ago in a little Holiday baking booklet inserted in a magazine. It seemed easy enough to make and received instant kudos from The Fam and The Friends. I can’t tell you how often I have made that brownie like cake: it has been requested to gatherings, celebrations, BBQ or simply «just because»! I even used to have it as an option for wedding cakes (another past life endeavour). The chocolate raspberry torte is also rich and dense. It doesn’t rise as high as a regular cake hence the name torte and a small piece is often enough but a few of my chocoholic friends have been known to polish indecently large slices!
So if you are in the mood to fill your house with the mouth-watering aroma of chocolate and wish to become today’s kitchen hero, I suggest you dive right in and try one of these recipes. Or both! Happy baking to all.
P.S.: if you ever make both, drop me a line and tell me which one is your favourite
SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE
1½ tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water
½ cup soft butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature and separated
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Heat oven at 350°F, with rack positioned in the middle of the oven
Grease and flour Bundt pan or a 9X13 rectangular cake pan
Mix cocoa and baking soda. Dissolve in boiling water and set aside
Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
In separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form firm peaks. Set aside
In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and mix until well combined. Add vanilla, sour cream and chocolate mixture until all ingredients all well blended
Add dry ingredients slowly to chocolate mixture
Gently fold in egg whites
Pour into prepared pan
Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean or 40-45 minutes if using a rectangular pan
Let cool 10-15 minutes then unmold directly onto serving plate. Let cool completely before frosting the cake.
CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING Tastes just like fudge!
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp salted butter
4 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup 35% cream
Place all the ingredients in large microwave safe glass cup, one that measures at least 3 cups
Heat in microwave* for 1 to 1.5 minutes only. If your microwave is 1000W, 1 minute will be plenty. Without removing from microwave, let mixture sit for about 5 minutes. This will give the chocolate chips the chance to melt completely
Remove bowl from microwave and mix very well until mixture thickens and all ingredients are well incorporated
Pour ganache over cooled cake. Let set completely before serving, about 1 hour
*This can also be done on a double boiler
CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TORTE
3 eggs, separated
⅛ tsp cream of tartar
⅛ tsp salt
1½ cups sugar
1 cup butter melted
1½ tsp vanilla
½ cup flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (use a dark and rich high quality cocoa for better results)
Line a round 9” spring form cake pan with aluminum foil and grease using butter. If you do not own a spring form pan, make sure the aluminum foil is large enough to hang over the cake pan. It will make it easier to lift the cake once it is baked
Separate eggs in 2 large bowls. Combine egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Beat at high-speed until soft peaks form. Set aside
In larger mixer bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, butter and vanilla
Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed, 1-2 minutes
Add flour, cocoa and water. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed
By hand, stir in chopped almonds
Gently fold beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture
Spread into pan
Bake 40-55 minutes or until tester comes out clean
Cool on wire rack 1 hour before lifting from pan
Cover and refrigerate until completely cooled
Remove aluminum foil and spread with jam then garnish with whipped cream and fresh raspberries