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Ding Dong Cake

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Ding Dong Cake

When the older members of the family get their choice, including my now teenage son, more often than not, they choose a Ding Dong Cake.  What the heck is a Ding Dong Cake?  Maybe remember a spongy chocolate coated, cream and caramel filled chocolate snack cake in a cellophane package that sat on corner store shelves and could likely survive the apocalypse? That was a Ding Dong. What I make may be inspired by that snack, but it is so much tastier!

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Elevated Crispy Rice Squares (thanks to Brown Butter)

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Elevated Crispy Rice Squares (thanks to Brown Butter)

If you have been out to eat at least once in the last few years, you have likely seen Brown Butter something on the menu.  Savoury and sweet chefs' love this ingredient for the nutty, complex flavour it adds to their dishes.  There is good reason for chefs' obsession with Brown Butter…it is delicious!! Beurre Noisette (that is just the fancy French work for Brown Butter) is simply unsalted butter that is cooked to the point that the milk solids in the butter begin to cook and caramelize giving your butter a nutty flavour.  

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Heavenly Treat:  Angel Food Cake

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Heavenly Treat: Angel Food Cake

A true Angel Food cake is only leavened by eggs whites and requires only five ingredients plus some flavouring.   Homemade Angel Food may not be as tall, but it should still be light and airy and it will also have a superior taste to the boxed versions.  In fact, it tastes so good that my son thinks I should change the serving size on the recipe from eight to one to two servings!

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How to Crown your Cookies:  Royal Icing

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How to Crown your Cookies: Royal Icing

Now when it comes to icings, I am all about the buttercream (check out my blog for my Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe).  While buttercream is great in a sandwich cookie or as a dip for sugar cookies, it is not optimal for decorating as it remains soft and will squish and smudge. For detailed decorating you need to use royal icing.  Royal icing is a simple mixture of egg whites, icing sugar and flavour that is easy to pipe with and dries hard so your cookies can be moved, stacked and stored without the risk of smearing. 

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Blitz Puff Pastry

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Blitz Puff Pastry

Working with the butter block and keeping it contained in the dough can be a bit tricky and turns off many home bakers.  But don’t be discouraged, the is a way to get a very tasty homemade puff pastry with a bit less (okay, a lot less) stress….Blitz Puff Pastry.  As the name suggests, this is a faster version of puff pastry. 

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A Cocktail's Perfect Partner:  Pork Rillettes

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A Cocktail's Perfect Partner: Pork Rillettes

When I have friends over for dinner, I want to enjoy their company and not be slaving away in the kitchen.  This is especially true when they first arrive and it is time for a pre-dinner cocktail. I always want to have something ready to go to serve with those cocktails; preferably something slightly salty, something that can be made at least the day before and something with a bit of a “wow” factor.  The answer is often Pork Rillettes.  The French name makes them sound fancy, but really they are simple to make (but no need to tell your guests that). 

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Fromage Fort (aka Strong Cheese)

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Fromage Fort (aka Strong Cheese)

I visit my favourite cheese troll and his shop on a regular basis.  While I have some favourites* that I always turn to, Sean always seems to have something new for me to try and unfortunately I have rarely met a cheese that I don’t like!  This usually means that I end up buying way more than I intended and I am often left with various little nubs of cheese in my refrigerator.  A lot of those little pieces were thrown out.  This seemed like such a waste that I went on a search to figure out what I could do with them.  Of course, the French have a solution; Fromage Fort, literally “strong cheese.”

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A Treat for your Valentine:  Chocolate Lava Cakes

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A Treat for your Valentine: Chocolate Lava Cakes

As a trained pastry chef I have to admit I am almost embarrassed to be offering this recipe.  This once king of fine-dining desserts now gets snickers from chefs and foodies when it appears on a menu.  It is now so common place it is seen as showing little creativity or technique from the kitchen.  Despite the Lava Cake’s fall from fine dining grace, it is still hard to beat that first delicious bite of warm, oozing chocolate!

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Favourite Banana Bread

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Favourite Banana Bread

To use up all those bananas, I have tried banana-oatmeal cookies, banana snack cake, banana pancakes, banana ice-cream and more, but in my family’s opinion those are all a waste of time because chocolate-chip banana bread will always be number one in their hearts.

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Mushroom & Garlic Bliss

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Mushroom & Garlic Bliss

It is the time of year when hosts and hostesses get to shine or collapse from sheer exhaustion.  To keep ourselves out of that latter group, we need to be prepared with tried and true recipes. I came across this recipe for Garlic and Gruyère Stuffed Mushrooms last year when I was helping a friend out with a Christmas luncheon.  Since then, I have made them a dozen times!  These would be perfect to nibble on with a glass of champagne as you toast the New Year!

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A Fruitcake to Love

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A Fruitcake to Love

People can be divided into those who love Fruitcake and those who hate Fruitcake.  It is very polarizing and there is little middle ground!  I was in the latter group until one Christmas season I was reading my December issue of BonAppetit and saw a recipe for, “A Fruitcake to Love.” A light fruitcake that had olives in it!  I present this recipe mainly for the haters in the hopes that you will stick your toe over the line and give it a try.

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Oh Snap!  Ginger Snaps!

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Oh Snap! Ginger Snaps!

It is that time of the year when I am deciding what Christmas Cookies I will be baking this year.  I always try two or three new ones from all those cooking magazines that I subscribe to.  However, there are two that always make my list, my Grandma’s Shortbread and Ginger Snap cookies.  As soon as the first batches of these are in the oven I start to feel the Christmas spirit!! 

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