Displaying items by tag: pastries and cakes

There's nothing more romantic than staying home for a special Valentine's Day dinner – especially if the kids aren't around. I developed this menu specifically for the non-cooking partner in the relationship. This is a surefire way to wow your sweetheart. The recipes are easy, as is the shopping. Plus, some of the ingredients (truffles, chocolate, chilies) have an aphrodisiac quality guaranteed to help you feel the love. These are similar to warm chocolate cake, but you can refrigerate them overnight before popping them into the oven. They are large enough to share; save one for breakfast.



3 ounces (90 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar, plus two tablespoons

2 egg whites

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons flour

Orange Cream:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind


Butter and sugar two 4.5-inch ceramic ramekins.

Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Cool slightly and stir in egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until the mixture holds slightly drooping peaks. Fold flour into chocolate mixture and then egg whites. Divide batter between ramekins and refrigerate until needed.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bake cakes for 20 to 22 minutes or until tops of cakes have risen and cracked but are still slightly liquid in the middle. Remove from oven and either serve hot as is or run the point of a knife around the edge to help release soufflés. Invert ramekins onto serving plates and leave for 5 minutes or until cakes release.

Combine whipping cream, sugar and grated orange rind in a mixing bowl and whisk or beat just until slightly thickened. Serve with soufflés. Serves 2.

Published in Recipes

Meat pies are real comfort food. Make this one ahead and reheat when needed. The beef stew can also be served without the pastry topping. The dried mushrooms will give this dish extra mushroom flavour, but they can be omitted.


1/2-ounce dried mushrooms

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon paprika

Pinch cayenne

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound stewing beef, cut in 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup red wine

1 1/2 cups beef stock

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half if large

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

Cover dried mushrooms with boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes or until softened. Strain, reserving mushrooms and liquid separately.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Combine thyme, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Toss meat with half of mixture. Reserve remaining mixture.

Heat oil in skillet on high heat. Add meat in batches (do not crowd pan) and brown on all sides. Reserve and continue until all meat is browned, adding oil if needed.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion and garlic. Saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in reserved spice mixture, rosemary and flour. Cook, stirring, until flour is pale gold, 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour in wine and bring to boil, stirring. Add stock and reserved mushroom liquid. Bring to boil.

Transfer meat and sauce to ovenproof baking dish, cover and bake until meat is just tender, about 2 hours.

Heat butter in skillet on medium-high heat. Add fresh and dried mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Season well with salt and pepper. Combine with meat. Cool.

Place mixture in deep-dish pie plate or ovenproof baking dish. Roll out half of pastry until 1 1/2 inches lager than dish (reserve remaining pastry to another use). Cut 1-inch strip from edges of pastry.

Brush edge of dish with water and lay strips of pastry on edges. Brush with beaten egg. Lay pastry on top, sealing edges. Cut steam hole and brush top with egg.

Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden and filling is hot. Serves 4

Published in Recipes

This is an outstanding grown-up muffin. The beer gives it a moist and cakey crumb, and you cannot taste it. Enhance it with plump cherries or cranberries and crunchy almonds. They will keep moist for two days.

3/4 cup dried cherries

1 cup flat beer

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled slightly

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind

1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Place cherries and beer in a small pot over high heat and bring to boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain, and reserve the cherries and beer separately.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Oil or spray 12 medium muffin cups.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Combine butter, egg, orange rind and 1/2 cup reserved beer in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients into dry, gently stirring together. Batter may be a bit lumpy. Stir in reserved cherries and almonds.

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins  

Published in Recipes

When I tasted these oatcakes from a farm store on Scotland’s remote and beautiful Isle of Mull, I knew I had to try to make them myself. This is my remembrance of them. Isle of Mull cheddar is in a class of its own, but old Canadian cheddar is a good substitute.

2/3 cup steel-cut oats

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces grated sharp cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 325F.

Combine oats, oatmeal, flour, salt and cheddar in a bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and water and mix until well combined. Let stand 10 minutes, or until mixture has firmed up and come together. If it is still crumbly, add a touch more water.

Knead the dough enough to bring it into a ball, then roll or pat out on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut out biscuits. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden around edges. Let cool on baking sheet. Makes 18 biscuits  

Published in Recipes


You can use store-bought fig preserves or use our recipe to make your own. Leftover fig preserves are scrumptious on toast or spread over a wheel of brie before baking.


¼ recipe sugar cookie dough

¼ cup fig preserves (recipe below)

1 egg yolk, beaten

1/4 cup icing sugar

½ teaspoon ground cardamom


Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.

Use a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out. Gather dough scraps together and re-roll as needed until used up.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of fig preserves into the centre of each circle of dough. Lightly flatten jam, then brush the edge of half the round of dough with beaten egg and fold in half to enclose filling. Pinch edges gently to seal.

Place fig turnovers 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and chill for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake cookies, one baking sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden at edges. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully.

Combine icing sugar with cardamom. Dust cooled cookies with icing sugar mixture to coat. Makes about 14 turnovers.


Fig Preserves

Make sure to buy figs that have some life to them. They should be slightly springy and moist. The preserves keep for a month.


1 227-gram package dried figs (about 1½ cups chopped)

¼ cup port

½ teaspoon grated orange rind

¼ cup orange juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch salt


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until figs soften and mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to a blender, or use a hand blender, to puree until smooth. Makes about 1 cup.  

Published in Recipes

You can thicken the peaches with cornstarch, instead of reducing the juices, but my method is lighter and the flavour is more intense. The pastry is rich and delicious.


1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese


1 pound peaches

1/3 cup peach or apricot jam

1 tablespoon lemon juice


1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add mascarpone and pulse until well combined. Remove from processor and gently knead to bring dough together into a ball. Chill for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a 6-inch square on a floured board. Chill until needed.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring a pot of water to boil and add peaches. Boil for 30 seconds, remove from heat and slip off skins. Cut peaches into ¾-inch chunks.

Place jam and peaches in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes or until peaches are cooked.

Strain mixture, reserving fruit and juices separately. Return juices to pot, bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes or until juices are the consistency of jam and have caramelized slightly. Return peaches to mixture. Stir in lemon juice and let cool.

Place ¼ cup of peach mixture onto each pastry square. Moisten edges with cold water and fold pastry in half to make triangles, pressing edges together with the tines of a fork to seal. Use a knife to trim pastry edges.

Place turnovers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Cut a few slits on top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and filling is hot.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream. Makes 4 turnovers.

Published in Recipes

img_0139These tartlets are best if made with really flavourful tomatoes such as heirloom. Grown from ancient seeds, they have the taste and juiciness that tomatoes are supposed to have. If you can't find them, substitute any locally grown tomato.

The goat cheese pastry has a hint of fennel in it. If you have leftover dough, roll it out and cut into biscuits to serve another time. The tartlets make a wonderful first course.


½ cup soft goat cheese

½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cracked fennel seed


4 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped basil

Salt and freshly ground pepper


1 cup watercress leaves

1 cup baby arugula

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 sprigs basil

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine goat cheese, butter, flour, salt and fennel seeds in a food processor and pulse until dough just begins to come together. Remove dough to a bowl and form into a ball.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into 6 4-inch rounds. Prick each round with a fork. Place rounds on a baking sheet and bake 10 to 13 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool on rack.

Salt the tomatoes and combine with olive oil and basil in a bowl. Season with pepper.

Place biscuits on individual serving plates and top with tomato slices, in a tower if possible.

Toss greens (except basil) with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Top or surround tomatoes with a small quantity of salad. Garnish with basil leaves. Serves 6.

Published in Recipes

img_0180Concord grapes make a distinctive tart, but any good, juicy grape can be substituted. We tested this with blue-black coronation grapes. Squeezing seeds out can be tedious, but it makes a great filling. (Seedless grapes were deadly dull.)

We found that the minute tapioca did not completely dissolve on top of the tart. If you don't want to see the tapioca you can substitute the minute tapioca with tapioca flour if available or pulse it in a food processor to grind it up slightly.


1½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter

3 tablespoons cold water

1½ teaspoons vinegar

Grape Filling:

2 pounds grapes (about 6 cups)

3 tablespoons minute tapioca

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

½ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons grape or red currant jelly, melted

Add flour, salt and butter to a food processor. Pulse together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water and vinegar and pulse briefly, but do not allow dough to form into a ball. Transfer to a bowl and knead together by hand. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Roll out half of pastry to a 12-inch circle to fit a 9-inch loose bottom fluted tart pan or pie plate. Reserve dough trimmings to make a decorative leaf for top of tart. Prick bottom with a fork, line with tin foil and pie weights and bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is opaque. Remove weights and bake 5 minutes longer.

To remove seeds from grapes, squeeze individual grapes, reserving skins and pulp separately. Press pulp through a sieve to remove seeds. Combine sieved pulp with grape skins, add tapioca, orange rind and sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

Pour filling into pie shell.

Roll out extra pastry dough to make a grape motif or other decoration for top of tart. Place motif on a baking sheet and bake beside the pie for 25 minutes or until golden.

Place pie on lower third of oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until grape juice is bubbling. The filling will firm up as it cools. Brush tart with melted grape jelly and place motif on top. Cool. Serves 6 to 8.

Published in Recipes

A clafouti is an oven baked crepe that is a great dessert any time but especially when you don't want to spend time in the kitchen. I love it with juicy plums and also figs.

3 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons melted butter

12 ounces blue plums

2 tablespoons brandy

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Beat together eggs and ½ cup sugar. Add flour, salt, milk and vanilla and 1 tablespoon butter. Process until smooth. Allow mixture to sit for 30 minutes while marinating plums. Whisk together before pouring over plums.

Halve plums and remove pits. If plums are large, cut in quarters. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and pour over brandy. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Brush an 8 or 9-inch skillet or a quiche pan, with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Lay plums cut side down in dish pressing them close together. Pour over marinating juices.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Lower heat to 375 F and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer or until slightly puffed but still wiggly in centre. Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving. Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6

Published in Recipes

This is a Moroccan chicken pot pie that is spicy, sweet and utterly delightful. Use chicken thighs with the bone in. Bone and skin them after cooking because it makes the broth much more flavourful. This is a spectacular dish for entertaining over the holiday season. Serve with a salad of radishes and bitter greens.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups diced onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon saffron threads

3 pounds chicken thighs

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

2½ cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon harissa or Asian chili sauce, or to taste

¼ cup chopped coriander

¼ cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 eggs, beaten

Almond sugar mixture:

1/3 cup butter

1 cup finely chopped roasted almonds

2 tablespoons icing sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 package phyllo sheets


½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute, then add garlic, ginger, cinnamon and saffron threads. Sauté 1 minute longer.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, add to skillet and sauté 2 minutes per side or until slightly browned. Add stock and harissa, 2 tablespoons each of parsley and coriander and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove chicken, cool and discard bones and skin. Shred chicken and reserve. Reduce liquid in skillet over high heat to 1½ cups and add lemon juice. Reduce heat to low.

Whisk eggs into liquid, whisking until the mixture is creamy, has some curds and is thickened. Season with salt and pepper and stir in remaining parsley and coriander.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in icing sugar and cinnamon. Reserve.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Melt remaining butter and lightly brush a 10-inch cake pan or 12-inch oven-proof skillet with melted butter. Place a circle of phyllo in the pan to cover the base and brush with melted butter. Drape 8 phyllo sheets overlapping slightly to cover centre sheet. They will hang over the side. Brush each sheet with melted butter.

Layer almonds on the phyllo base. Add chicken and top with egg mixture. Fold overhanging pastry sheets over pie and cover with 2 more sheets of phyllo. Tuck edges in and brush top with melted butter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until phyllo is golden brown.

To serve, slide or lift onto a serving dish. Dust top with icing sugar and make a crisscross pattern with cinnamon. Serves 8 to 10.

Published in Recipes