Blood Orange Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then I qualfy as insane. You might also say that I am a slow learner, and don’t always see the obvious clues that others spot so readily.

Last March I bought this beautiful heart shaped Bundt pan. I patiently waited 11 months to use it in a Valentines Day post. I decided to make a blood orange poppy seed cake. I used Ina’s recipe for Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Cake as my base and adapted it so that I could celebrate blood orange season.

My pan was heavily buttered and greased and I followed the directions very carefully. I baked it for 45 minutes, cooled it in the pan for exactly 10 minutes. Holding my breath, I gingerly inverted the cake to release it from the pan. Half of it stuck to the pan. I cursed, chopped the broken pieces up and froze them for future snacking and hustled off to the store for more blood oranges and cake flour. Before starting again, I did a quick google search to see what went wrong. The King Arthur website advised me that buttering and flouring was not the way to go. I followed their tips and tricks and baked the cake again, and again and again. My freezer is now full of lots and lots of broken cake for snacking. Come on over!

I finally realized that this heart shaped pan was the problem. I’m not quite sure why. Nordicware baking pans are usually so reliable. But, slow as I am, I was not about to try this pan for a 5th time. I pulled out my trusty round fluted Bundt pan.Fifth time’s the charm! After a brief 10 minute cooling period, the cake slid out like a boss! Cue the fireworks.

While the cake cools, make a blood orange simple syrup. Pour this all over the warm cake to really intensify that blood orange flavour and keep your cake super moist.Once the cake is totally cool, it gets a final drizzle of the most gorgeous pink glaze. I adored this cake. Dense, but in the best possible way, buttery and bright, slightly tangy and not too sweet. A perfect ray of sunshine on a cold February day. Celebrate Valentines Day with this luscious love letter to blood oranges.

Click here to print recipe for Blood Orange and Poppy Seed Bundt Cake.

 

Banana Coconut Cream Cake

When I was growing up, our family’s favourite dessert was Sara Lee Banana Cake. We never even bothered defrosting it. Just ate it straight from the freezer. Someone, not mentioning any names here, would even pick off the frozen cream cheese frosting and leave the cake bare naked and shivering in the freezer. I have since graduated to homemade banana bread and cake, but I never could quite get the texture to be the same as Sara Lee.

My favourite dessert as an adult is Coconut Cream Pie. Not just any coconut cream pie. The very best is in Toronto, at Sacaramouche Restaurant. I got this idea in my head of doing a mashup of these two desserts. I’d fill three layers of banana cake with coconut cream pie filling and then smother the whole thing in cream cheese frosting.

The first time I attempted this concoction, the cake batter curdled in the oven. I’m not quite sure what happened. It ended up in the garbage. The second attempt resulted in cake layers that were too soft and fell apart when I tried to stack them. It tasted good but looked like crap. And then I remembered this banana cake and tried again.

This is now my new favourite dessert. The banana cake is moist, but dense enough to handle the weight of the silky coconut cream pie filling. The tangy cream cheese frosting balances all the sweetness from the cake and filling. It’s perfection.


Start with the coconut cream pie filling, as it needs to chill in the fridge for several hours. You could even make this a day or two in advance. Basically you are making a coconut custard.
As long as you remember to temper the egg yolks, all will turn out perfectly. This involves pouring a little bit of the hot milk-coconut milk mixture into the egg yolk-sugar mixture, before putting it back on the stove to thicken.
Make sure your bananas are very ripe before mashing.
I baked the cake in three 6-inch pans for a tall majestic cake. You could also bake it in three 8-inch pans for a shorter but equally delicious cake.
Assembly of the cake is where you need to take some care. This cake is very much like a teenager. You need to set boundaries or she will run amuck! Before spreading the coconut cream pie filling on the layer, pipe a border of cream cheese frosting. This will contain the filling and prevent it from oozing out of the side of your cake.

 

Click here to print recipe for Banana Coconut Cream Cake.

 

 

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats with Maple Apples

We have been eating overnight oats for breakfast, lunch and dinner this week, as I have been testing different variations. So far, no one has complained. This version is adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. They sweetened the oats with brown sugar but I switched it for maple syrup. I also added chopped apples to the oats while they were cooking. Their recipe used shredded apples but I found that I liked the texture better with little bites of diced apple.

The final change I made to their recipe was to sautee some apple slices in a bit of butter and maple syrup, because, well… butter and maple syrup on apples! It’s a fancier version, and those sliced apples look so pretty on top, but feel free to leave it out if that’s not how you roll. No judgement here.
The night before, bring 3 cups of water and a good pinch of salt to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1 cup steel cut oats. Cover pot and let it sit on the counter all night. In the morning , add apple cider or juice, milk, cinnamon and some diced peeled apples. Cook for 5 minutes. Let sit for a further 5 minutes. Top with sauteed maple apples and some toasted almonds or pecans.

Drizzle with extra maple syrup because you deserve it.

Click here to print recipe for Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats with Maple Apples.

 

 

 

 

Banana Coconut Overnight Oats


When I was growing up, oatmeal meant Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal in the package. We had an instant hot water tap, (the water never really got all that hot) so there wasn’t even any cooking involved. My mom would buy the variety pack, but my sisters and I only liked the maple and brown sugar, and I think we probably added extra maple syrup and brown sugar. My poor dad got stuck eating the unwanted apple cinnamon flavour. I recall that the dried apples always got stuck in your throat.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years and, “We’ve come a long way baby.”Now I’m eating oatmeal made with steel cut oats that you actually have to cook!

So, a little oats primer here. Whole oats, that have been cleaned and hulled, are called groats. They are a little too coarse for oatmeal. Groats that have been coarsely chopped are known as steel-cut oats (bowl on the left). Groats that are steamed and pressed are called rolled oats or old-fashioned oats (bowl on the right). Instant oats are pre-cooked, dried, and then rolled and pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats.Steel-cut oats have a wonderful nutty taste and chewy texture, but they take 40 minutes to cook, and who has time for that? Enter the overnight method. I learned how to make these from those clever folks over at Cook’s Illustrated.

Bring 3 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt to boil. Please don’t omit the salt. Your oatmeal will taste flat and lifeless. Take pot off heat, stir in 1 cup of steel-cut oats , cover pot and let sit overnight while you sleep. In the morning add 1 cup of coconut milk, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until oats are softened but still retain some chew and the mixture thickens slightly. This will take about 5 minutes. Cover the pot and let sit for 5 more minutes. The oatmeal will continue to thicken as it rests.

Mix in sliced bananas, shredded coconut and vanilla extract. Top with banana chips for some added crunch.


Mornings got a whole lot better around here. Stay tuned for an apple-cinnamon version with maple syrup!

Click here to print recipe for Banana Coconut Overnight Oats.

Salted Butter Skor Shortbread


Alison Roman’s Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread has been popping up all over social media during the past two months. These cookies have been monopolizing my instagram and twitter feeds. My favourite tweet was from @hyphenpfeifer, “Fake news that the Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread recipe makes 24 cookies bc you’ll eat a log-worth of dough.” I needed to see what all the fuss was about.
The first time I made them was New Year’s Eve. We had friends visiting and I baked them that afternoon to serve for dessert. They didn’t quite make it to the dessert table. We snacked on them all afternoon. I tucked the few leftover ones into the freezer and we had them for breakfast the next day. We all loved them even more, frozen.

These cookies are made with salted butter. It has long been thought that unsalted butter was the preferred butter for baking. The reasoning behind this had to do with the fact that salt is a preservative, and so unsalted butter was often fresher. This is not the case anymore and blind taste tests have shown that salted butter tastes more buttery, and has a riper, more full-blown flavour than unsalted butter. When butter is a key ingredient, as it is in shortbread, we want to really enhance its flavour, and salted butter does that. You can’t get the same effect from using unsalted butter and adding more salt to the recipe.

This is my twist on Alison’s cookie. I decided to swap out the chocolate chunks for chopped up Skor bars (Heath bars is you’re American). I thought the addition of toffee would take these cookies to a different place, for me, a very happy place! Because Skor Bars are covered in milk chocolate, I also added a handful of cocoa nibs to the dough. Their bitter note would work as a perfect counterbalance to the sweet Skor bars.
Both the toffee and the cocoa nibs added a fantastic little crunch to these cookies. I was thrilled with the results.

These are an extremely versatile cookie, perfect for all occasions. I am a firm believer that what you put out into the universe will come back to you. If you share these cookies you will reap all sorts of unexpected rewards.

Gift a bag to the staff at your hairdressing salon and sit back and luxuriate in the most amazing head massage during your shampoo.

Gift a bag to your noisy neighbour and listen as this,

is soon followed by blissful silence once they go into a sugar/carb coma from ingesting the cookies.

Mail off a package of these to your adult children and sit back and wait for the phone call, or at least a text telling you that they love you and that you’re the best mom ever. (I’m mailing these tomorrow morning so I’ll let you know if it works).

The hardest part about making these cookies is getting the dough to compact into a tight roll. I had to hand knead it, on the counter, for a few minutes before it came together. Divide the dough into 2 and roll each piece into a 2 inch diameter log. Wrap well in waxed paper and chill for several hours or even a few days. Brush logs with beaten egg and coat the logs in turbinado or demerara sugar. Then slice them into cookies.
A final tiny sprinkle of some coarse sea salt. Yes, more salt. Don’t be afraid.

Click here to print recipe for Salted Butter Skor Shortbread.