the holy grail of butter cream frosting

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am on a quest for the best vanilla cupcake paired with the holy grail of BUTTERCREAM. With the plethora of cupcake shops out there this should be an easy task –but not so. Many bake shops excel at particular flavours but I have only found a couple of shops that has really delivered on the vanilla butter-cream. Too many frostings are overly sweet , cloying and sickly tasting to me.  There was a time when I was anxious to be seduced by a cupcakes beauty only to be bitterly disappointed. Sadly now, I am weary and jaded!

Finding the perfect recipe is equally difficult….but I have done it!!!

First off I was sucked in by the heading of BEST GOLDEN CAKE RECIPE by a famous baking blog. Against better judgement I ignored my own instincts to forego the mixer when incorporating the dry and wet ingredients together and used the mixer instead. Predictably the cakes were tough, and riddled with tunnels. Like a long-lost friend, I sought out my OLD SCHOOL BETTY CROCKER recipe for DINETTE cake and followed the method my mother had taught me years ago. I have used this recipe on many occasions over the years as it is a perfect easy to pull together basic butter /golden cake. You can see by the picture how well used this cook book is. Publicly I espoused my love of JOY OF COOKING, when I was harbouring my dirty little secret of BETTY CROCKER hidden away at arm’s reach. It kills me to look back at some of the “old timey recipes” I saved in the binder.

Here is the recipe for DINETTE CAKE- according to Terri and then the best  BUTTER CREAM that I searched out on All Recipes.com. (The user comments were very helpful in order to decipher the best method to use, since you will see the original instructions are kind of vague.)  My sister Lori had shared a custard buttercream and I had loved it but lost the recipe.I had tried to recreate it from memory and was not getting the perfect end result I wanted. I have added my own notes (IN RED CAPS) too so you can try it out.

Then tell me if you don’t love it!!

happy eating, terri

DINETTE CAKEadapted from Betty Crocker 

MY VERSION OF DINETTE CAKE:

IN STAND MIXER BEAT:

  • 1/3 c butter
  • 1 c sugar

BEAT TILL SMOOTH and fluffy and add in

  • 1 egg-

CONTINUE TO BEAT UNTIL SOFT then remove bowl from stand mixer

ADD BY HAND —
  •  3/4 c  Milk ( can be sour or buttermilk or whole milk) and vanilla flavouring or paste
THEN FOLD IN
POUR INTO CUPCAKE TINS OR 1 9×9 sq or 1 large round tin.
Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F
Set timer according to your pan size–small cupcakes take approx 15 min but check your over to get the right timing
COOL ON RACKS and ice with  butter cream when ready . You can get fancy and add a raspberry of blueberry or whatever you like–but you really can enjoy as is. 

BEST BUTTERCREAM– adapted from the recipe on this link. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened (UNSALTED IS BEST BUT NOT IMPERATIVE. DO NOT USE MARGARINE)
  • 1 cup white sugar ( TAKE PLAIN WHITE SUGARAND BLEND UNTIL POWDERY IN YOUR BLENDER–OR USE ICING SUGAR. IT IS CHEAPER TO BLEND YOUR OWN THOUGH AND WORKS GREAT)
 Directions
  1. FIRST STEP:  In small saucepan cook flour and milk until it forms a ball, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature. ( I USE A GLASS BOWL AND HEAT UP IN THE MICROWAVE. IT JUST SEEMS LIKE LESS MESS TO ME AND NO POTENTIAL BURNING)

    see how think it is??? very goopy.
    see how think it is??? very goopy.
  2. SECOND STEP: With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. ( LET THE CUSTARD COOL –) 

    grinding my white sugar into a powdery fine concoction
    grinding my white sugar into a powdery fine concoction
  3. THIRD STEP : Beat both mixtures together on high speed until fluffy and smooth. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour (IF NEEDED), until it is of spreading consistency. (USE A STAND MIXER to incorporate the butter mix and custard mix—AND BEAT TO REMOVE ANY LUMPS- YOU CAN THIN A TINY BIT WITH MILK OR CREAM IF NEEDED BUT CUSTARD CAN BE VERY GLUEY. REMINDED ME OF MY FLOURAND WATER GLUE COOKIES I USED TO BAKE OUT IN THE SUN WHEN I WAS A KID–I ALSO TRIED TO MAKE MY DAD EAT THEM AFTER SPRINKLING WITH NESTLES QUICK POWDER ON THE TOP…be patient, it will all come together!)
  4. FOURTH STEP: WHEN READY TO FROST THE CAKES–IT IS EXTRA PRETTY TO USE A PASTRY BAG WITH A STAR TIP–BUT A KNIFE WILL DO IN A PINCH. 

Father’s Day give-away!!!

There is a certain guy I know that decided to throw caution to the wind, travel far outside his comfort zone and have a life changing experience. If there is a man in your life that you are looking to inspire or if you want a vicarious life adventure then this is the book for you.

I HAVE A BEAUTIFULLY BOUND BOOK TO SEND FREE TO ONE LUCKY READER – randomly chosen and 2 ebook versions as well ( please specify your preference). All you have to do is subscribe to my email list or just send me a note to enter. If you have a story to share of your own life adventure…even better! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now, back to Bob’s story…I laughed, I cried , I howled…well really I laughed. Not much crying involved. I must admit I was also inspired — but mostly I got into the food descriptions, and I know there are a lot of you out there who will too 🙂 READ ON….

Adventures with Knives: Surviving 1,000 Hours of Culinary School  

by Bob Foulkes 

Staring down a milestone age, Bob Foulkes was not content to experience life from the comfort of his easy chair. From competitive running, cycling, and swimming to travelling the world and extensive volunteering, Bob had experienced his fair share of adventures. Then he turned 60. Semi-retired, restless, and yes, bored, Bob was ready for his next adventure.

Inspired by Julia Child’s passion for food and a certain French animated French ‘Rat’, Bob takes his leap and enrolls in the six-month culinary program at Vancouver’s renowned Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. And so begins his next adventure — 1,000 hours of intensive training in the art of classical French cooking.

In this hands-on program where students are expected to work hard and put in long hours, Bob — the oldest student in the class, by a long shot — faces the many rigorous mental and physical challenges of culinary training with grace, humility, and good humour. As he learns the ropes in the kitchen, he makes some unexpected discoveries about himself, his relationships, and the meaningful role that preparing and sharing food has had in his life.

Filled with technical and personal details of Bob’s culinary education, this behind-the-scenes account of life in a professional training kitchen is both eye-opening and inspiring.

Adventures with Knives is now available from Indigo.ca in paperback as well as fine independent bookstores…and in electronic reader form http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BobFoulkesAdventuresWithKnives

Bob’s book has also been nominated for TASTE CANADA’S CULINARY NARRATIVE CATEGORY. 

Also if you are in Vancouver visit the Pacific Culinary Arts restaurant and or bakery. Both are amazing!

Mother’s day weekend and collateral baking damage

The sun stayed out for Mother’s Day in Toronto and it was a pure decadence to wander around the neighbourhood and be treated to 2 dinners out. I began the morning with a breakfast experiment that had been setting up from the night before. The recipe claimed to be some sort of fancy french toast- but really it was bread pudding dolled up with lots of berries and some creme fresh. I tried to cheap out with the whole wheat bread sitting on the counter, and it was OK,  but I do think using a nice italian bread or brioche or old croissants would have been much more satisfying. I still have plenty of leftovers and I can’t think of where/whom I can pass them on to. Here is the full recipe and it looks great–I suppose I should stop fiddling with things and go by the book at some point. (warning- just don’t try to make it healthy with whole grain bread!) FRENCH TOAST- Overnight

Later, Lindsay treated me to lunch. We have found an “all you can eat Sushi” spot that is actually quite amazing. At $12.99 it is hard to beat. If you are in Toronto, try it out– California Roll on Bayview.  Even Maddie the 2 year old loves the seaweed salad , edemame and rice. She handles chop sticks better than some adults I know.

In the evening we took a neighbourhood stroll and ended up at one of those fresh ground, organic and locally sourced burger joints that opened up last year next to some grotty old school noodle joints. Still it’s fun to see all the variety out there. Madeline insisted on pedalling her miniature bike the entire way. Since she is still pretty shrimpy and the bike is very low, it was quite a feat to keep her on track through the craggy sidewalks and over the street car tracks. 

There are two junk stores that we pass by everyday. It’s hard to believe that purchases have ever taken place in either store, but I must say the fully lit windows in the evening looked weirdly magical tonight. It’s difficult to assertion any regular retail hours since the hand lettered signage is spare on details, but every once in a while a pile of junk ends up on the sidewalk signalling they are open for business.

And finally, bedtime brought out the Gramma Wood wig. It’s a family favorite. This legendary matriarch of the Harker Family, Ione Wood, dyed her hair red almost to her last days on earth. She was one amazing woman and  she always sported good shoes, a matching purse and a professionally styled hair-do that had been sprayed to last a week. The wig apparently came in handy after swimming. For some reason little kids cannot resist it’s charms. She was Gramma Wood to all who knew her, regardless of actual family ties. I miss her always and suspect that she is somehow watching over all the kids still, and likely squirrelling away liquorice and quarters for the next time we all meet. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

roasted mushroom & cauliflower soup

It was time to get rid of the week old roasted veggies in my fridge and I was fighting off the urge to eat out. I don’t know why it is SO hard to cook for myself but it always has been this way. I far prefer a crowd around the table to the drudgery of preparing a solitary meal. It’s been an interesting exercise to think about new postings to add to my blog. I’ve actually been inspired to cook more, even for just moi! I think blogging food for me translates into a dinner party of sorts…Something I get to share with all of you guys if you were here with me right this minute. Even better, it would be great to hear back if anyone tries one of my recipes (I know it might actually be a stretch to call it a recipe) themselves…so please, send me updates if you have tried something or if you were inspired to change it up.

Another confession — I am a canned soup hater. I find few things less appetizing than Campbell’s Soup, yet homemade soup can be so healthy and delicious. As a kid I overdosed on canned and powdered chicken noodle soup. I supplemented my regular Kraft Dinner diet with these 2 items growing up. Nothing like multi-taking at an early age, when there was a ton of TV to be watched and only 45 min for lunch.

I will happily eat scratch soups and with the aid of purchased stocks it make the process super fast easy and delicious.

I gathered my mise en place. (my new to me fancy term I must start using for culinary school. It’s mandatory for me to get over my terrible french accent and expand my vocabulary)

5 minute soup- 4 smallish servings

  • Roasted (or fried) cauliflower and onions (approx. 1 -2 cups)
  • Roasted or friend mushrooms (approx. 1 c- leave aside a T for garnish)
  • 3 c of stock ( veggie, beef or chicken)
  • Blend (with blender or immersion blender) 2 c of stock with the veggies til smooth or desired consistency
  • Add into pot and heat–You can add the remainder of stock to make soup as thick or thin as you like.
  • Season to taste with Salt, pepper, 2-3 T of balsamic vinegar, 1 T of Horseradish if desired.
  • Serve with dollop of plain yogurt and tiny chives and a piece or two of mushroom on top

Of course this is not like baking a sponge cake– you can add or delete at whim. Just taste as you go along to make sure you get the proportions right for your taste buds. 

apple pizza with avocado and pulled pork

I know it might sound really weird but I have to say this is an amazing marriage of flavours. I  am on a pizza binge as of late–because it is just so easy to pull together and I am trying to use up what I have purchased previously instead of buying stuff every night. This just happened to be what was hanging around my kitchen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. I  had a bag of dough left over from yesterday that I let rest on the counter to warm up.
  2. there was a HUGE avocado that I had picked up on the weekend and it was finally ready to use along with fresh cilantro that was on its last legs.
  3.  pork loin was thawing the fridge –still a bit frosty
  4. a couple of apples/pears were lying around just begging to be eaten
  5. My cheese choices included some old cheese strings, some paneer, and a small block of aged white cheddar. I opted for the cheddar.
  • First I slathered the skinny lean pork loin with EVOO, salt, pepper and grainy mustard – then roasted @ 450 degree F oven for 20 min…. end then I turned the  oven down to 300, placing foil around it  in order to keep it from drying. I added in some mango juice that was leftover in the fridge as well just to add a bit of flavour and moisture (but you can use apple juice, OJ or even just a bit of water).

When I was ready to do the pizza, I pulled out the heated stone ( i just keep it in the oven with the roasting pork) and placed the thin rolled out dough on it. At this point you should remove the PORK and let it rest and turn the oven to 400 Degrees again.

  • Back to the Pizza Dough: spread some EVOO , salt and pepper, thin layer of cheese, and thinly sliced apples THEN pop into oven again (on the bottom of the oven floor if you have a peel and stone)
  • Set timer for approx 10 min. Remove when crisp on bottom. You can broil the top a for a couple of minutes if the apples need browning up.

Remove from oven.

  • Separate the pork with 2 forks and add on top of apple pizza
  • Top with homemade Guacamole (fresh avocado, cilantro, finely chopped onion, lime zest and juice and salt and pepper to taste) or however you like your Guac.
  • Walnuts would also be a great addition to the pizza and add some extra texture and interest.

I dare you to try it!

 

hump day first week at culinary school

Ok, I admit it. Standing through an entire 3 hour class without leaning, slouching, no hands in pockets and ( WARNING TMI ALERT) oozing buckets of menstrual blood is not my idea of fun. Top it off I had a migraine most of the day; but I still loved my classes and the experience… but  I was very happy to head home on my scooter ( in the rain) by 4 o’clock… but “I digress” 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First up was my baking class. I did not get to make cookies, or pie or anything. Instead we were tortured by the 2nd year students baking next door. The smells were amazing. I did however get to follow along with everyone as we were warned of the perils of the giant mixers, procedures, store rooms, honour codes, and keeping your sh*thole clean…according to my old German Chef instructor. He was amazing. My first 15 minutes of fame resulted from either being old, or smart…but I was the  only student in class who understood how to measure on a counterbalanced scale, meaning I got to tutor one half of the class while Chef helped the rest. I know it really does not sound like a blast, but it was! really …i swear it was.

The second class of the day was Intro to Fine Dining ( Service etc) and Wine ( last 7 weeks). I think I will stick with the under 19 set and smell intently and record other student’s impressions of the wine. Some of you may not know that one of my few claims to fame is that I have never had a drink in my life. It seems pointless to break a streak at this point. There will still be plenty to learn about grapes and regions and blah blah blah…and I am happy to soak it all in. I do have a bloodhound type nose so I should do just fine.

When I walked in the door I flaked out for an hour and still woke up with a headache. I resorted to my old favorite drug of choice, Imitrex and all is well.

topped with balsamic glaze
topped with balsamic glaze

Pizza tonight , using my NEW PIZZA PEEL. When I purchased school supplies yesterday I decided to splurge on the wood pizza peel . I needed to explore the bottom of the oven technique that Jules from Stone Soup recommended. It worked perfectly this time with NO BURNS. For $15 it was money well spent!

  • I made the dough up in the food processor first ( SEE TERRONI PIZZA POST or the STONE SOUP LINK above )
  • Turned oven on to preheat–tried 400 degrees this time
  •  fried up some onions in one pan and mushrooms in another on high heat.
  • Removed the HOT PIZZA STONE ( 400 Degree preheating) from the oven and placed the rolled out pizza dough on it.
  • Top bottom dough with a bit of EVOO.
  • Spread small amount of grated old white cheddar ( or whatever you have on hand) on the dough,
  • top with onions and mushrooms
  • sprinkle feta cheese on top. Season with pepper and salt if feta is not too salty.
  • Pop pizza in oven for approx 12 min. ( check )
  • If using the BOTTOM of the OVEN TECHNIQUE, remove pizza from the stone using the wooden peel
  • –or just remove from the rack
  • squeeze balsamic glaze over the top if desired.
  • MUSHROOMS are amazing when paired with a blue cheese or brie type as well. Just add on when you remove from the heat. The delicate cheese will melt and not burn off this way.

EAT

school dazed

This is DAY 2 of Culinary School . Last fall I applied to the Integrated Learning Program: Culinary Management H116 at George Brown College. Conveniently 10 minutes from my house in downtown Toronto, and ironically next door to my former long time employer’s (Simon and Schuster) newest office digs. I must confess that I am carefully containing my excitement. I’m not really sure where this all leads me but it is the perfect time to stretch myself and I am trying to let the world unfold as it should.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been purchasing and organizing all my equipment for class and I just picked up the most beautiful Japanese knife this afternoon. I am practically overflowing with giddiness. I’m also scrounging around the kitchen for anything that I can pack up so I don’t overflow with duplicates in my already overstuffed house… but happily there are still some mandatory indulgences that I can add to my stockpile. Yesterday was Kitchen Management class and Hospitality Math. Today was English class and I got to hand in my first essay on HOW I AM TOTALLY UN-COOL. Each class is at least 3 hours long and it’s been fun to meet my new class mates and get the scoop on everyone’s raison d’etre. So far every instructor has been exceptionally pleasant and impressive. This is a 2 year diploma and with around 30 to 60 (?-bad with estimating numbers in crowds) people each class with a fairly diverse age range–although I think I may be the 2nd oldest. One dude talked about cooking in the 70’s. I guess technically I ( and Juli) did a stint with crazy Mrs Dean in the Kootenay‘s in 1977, but that’s a whole other story.

Tomorrow will be my first time in the baking kitchen lab and I am definitely psyched!! I hope we make something other than cookies. I’ve been living on a steady diet of them for 2 days. BTW- I will be avoiding full body shots of my chef outfit until the time is right. Tomorrow is my first day wearing this charming outfit. For now, you’ll just have to imagine it.

Turning over a new leaf I plan to cook at home as much as possible. I did not plan well but luckily I had roasted cauliflower , onions and tomatoes on the weekend.

easy dinner with leftovers in fridge- roasted cauliflower soup
easy dinner with leftovers in fridge- roasted cauliflower soup

5 minute ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP

  • Throw a bunch of cauliflower and onions into a blender with some cold chicken stock (measure carefully hah!)
  • Season with salt, lemon zest, horseradish and rooster sauce to taste
  • Blend till smooth

Heat on stove and then serve with:

  • a spoon of thick yogurt
  • roasted tomatoes /lemon squeeze /capers  and FRESH CILANTRO!

Of course season to your liking– if you prefer to mix it up a bit….

Cauliflower is pretty accommodating. The rich colour is really just a result of the roasting and a wee squirt of Hot Sauce.