Thursday, March 2, 2017

lemon curd

As a teenager, I used to make lemon curd all the time.

I remember pulling out the double-boiler and setting the bottom pot on to boil while I measured out the lemon, sugar, eggs and butter for the top pot.

I'm not sure where I got the recipe — maybe the church cookbook?

In any case, I was smitten. I spooned it thickly between layers of cake and dolloped it on vanilla ice cream. Sometimes, I just spread it over buttered toast.

All that to say: why did I forget about it for 20 years?

As I have just re-realized, there's something about transforming the lemon into a wobbly, rich curd that makes it taste even more intensely of lemon. And it is wonderful.

I got fully back on the lemon curd bandwagon last weekend when I tried Regina Schrambling's lemon-almond butter cake. In it, you make lemon curd, then plop great spoonfuls onto the almond dough. The cake rises up around the curd and it all mingles together to create a homely cake with surprising pockets of lemon flavour. It is very good.

Then on Shrove Tuesday, Scott and I were invited to a pancake dinner. I, of course, offered to bring a pancake topping. Because — really — I'm always up to the challenge of making a new pancake topping.

Lemon curd it was. We had it again yesterday morning on our leftover pancakes. It might be just be our new favourite pancake topping.

At this rate, I'll be making lemon curd every three days. I think we'd both be OK with that.

one year ago: roasted rhubarb with wine and vanilla
two years ago: buttermilk pancakes with apple-pear tops
three years ago: salted butter break-up cookies


lemon curd
very slightly adapted from Regina Schrambling*
makes a scant cup

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
7 tbsp. sugar
2 extra-large eggs**
3 tbsp. butter, cubed

If you have a double boiler, put water in the bottom pot and get it started boiling. If you don't, start a regular pot. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside for later.

In the top pot of the double boiler or a heatproof bowl, beat the zest, juice, sugar and eggs well. Add the butter. Set it over the boiling water pot. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until it thickens into curd, about 5 to 8 minutes. I found mine was ready when the spatula would leave a trail on the bottom of the pot that wouldn't completely fill in with curd.

Strain into the bowl you already prepared. Press plastic wrap over the curd to keep it from forming a skin and cool in the fridge. Put in a clean jar or another container with a lid. Some recipes say lemon curd keeps for weeks in the fridge. Enjoy!

*I halved the recipe. Also, the original recipe (halved) calls for 6 tablespoons sugar. I mistakenly used 7 the first time I made it and I've kept using 7. I find it's just the right amount of sweet —any less and it would be too puckery.

**I do tend to have extra-large eggs on hand because they're a good price at the Italian Centre. However, I'm pretty sure this would work with large eggs, as the difference in weight is usually very small. Try it and let me know?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

old-fashioned scottish shortbread

I've had Scotland on my mind lately.

At the end of January, Scott and I hosted a big Robbie Burns Day party, where we ate Scottish meatballs and everyone wore plaid. Our friend Niall also read Burns poems in Old Scots wearing his Campbell kilt. It was glorious.

When I think of Scotland, I think of mountains and strong black tea and beautiful woolen blankets and ... shortbread.

I've made gluten-free shortbread before, but I was hankering after something a bit more old-fashioned in the shortbread department.

One cold January afternoon, I pulled out my recipe binder for cookies. I kept turning the pages until I found my Great-Aunt Marjorie's recipe for shortbread.

Well, Marjorie gave it to me but I think she got it from her mother-in-law. Although I'm not actually completely sure about that. In any case, it's called "Mom Allison's Shortbread" and Allison is a Scottish name, so I feel good about its authentic Scottish-Canadian roots.

All that to say — it's just what I was looking for. You bake it in an 8-inch tin and then cut it into "petticoat tails," which look like triangles, for the uninitiated.

The recipe says that letting it sit in a sealed tin for a couple of days brings out the flavour, and that is true. However, it was also fantastic an hour out of the oven. So it's good on all fronts: right away, two days later, ten days later. I can't give you any longer time frames because it won't last that long in our household.

one year ago: gluten-free sandwich bread
two years ago: cheesecake in a jar with passion fruit sauce and tomato soup with two fennels
three years ago: nuts and bolts and tuscan white beans


mom allison's shortbread
bakes an 8-inch round you may cut into 8 or 12 pieces
note: whether you use wheat flour or the gluten-free flours, you still also add the white rice flour

vanilla castor or berry sugar to sprinkle on top*
6 oz. all-purpose wheat flour
     or gluten-free: 
     2 oz. millet flour
     2 oz. potato starch
     2 oz. sweet rice flour
     1 tsp. xanthan gum
2 oz. white rice flour
3 oz. berry or castor sugar**
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
5 oz. salted butter, at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk the dry ingredients together. Rub in the butter with your fingers or use a stand mixer to make a stiff dough.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of plastic wrap. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and invert the dough into an 8-inch cake tin. Now, peel off the new top layer of plastic wrap.

Mark into 8 or 12 pieces and prick all over with a fork. Bake in the mid-oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's set and just the edges are slightly golden.

Take it out of the oven and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Mark pieces off again.

Once it's cool, you can try some right away. You can also let it sit in a sealed container for a couple of days to bring out the flavour. We found it just gets better with time but it still great the first day.

* Make your own vanilla sugar by immersing a split vanilla bean into the sugar for some time. If you just think of this right before baking — no problem. It still works and you can use the leftover sugar for future baking projects.

** If you don't have this finer sugar on hand, just whiz it up in the food processor for a little while until the grains look smaller. This worked for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

christmas cookie (and gift) time!

Last weekend, I was suddenly given the gift of time.

You can probably guess what I used it for.

That's right: Christmas baking!

I made hazelnut-almond batons* and thin gingerbread almond cookies* from my favourite new cookbook, Classic German Baking. Of course, I also had to make a loaf of marzipan stollen.*

After two of those recipes called for grated lemon peel, naked lemons started colonizing my kitchen. I thought I should use them up before they multiplied, so I re-adapted my Great-Grandma McNair's lemon loaf to be gluten-free. It was fluffy and soft and buttery — I'll be posting about that soon.

After all that ... I was done. If I don't cook or bake for the next two weeks, I will be a happy camper. (Yes, that includes Christmas. Maybe we could have a cookie plate for dinner?)

If you haven't made your Christmas cookies yet, I thought you might like a round up of my favourites over the years, so here are few links. And do check out Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss — it is a lovely tome of German goodness I will treasure for years. It even has a whole section devoted to Christmas baking.
What's that I hear? Now that I've given you cookie ideas, you're still looking for a few gift ideas? Oh, OK ...
  • The Trudeaus gave these lovely scarves to the Obama daughters when they visited earlier this year.
  • I finally had a chance to see this pretty jewellery in person today at a pop-up downtown. I am especially enchanted with the interesting stud earrings.
  • Not exactly romantic or magical, but who wouldn't want a fat separator for making gravy and stock? I know I do.
* I adapted all these recipes to be gluten-free and they worked perfectly. Let me know if you'd like the details.

one year ago: ginger meringues
two years ago: peppermint lavender balm
three years ago: annie's sun-dried tomato dip

Thursday, December 1, 2016

hitting the road ...

There hasn't been much cooking or baking in my world over the past month.

Instead, I ate many snacks of roasted hazelnuts (a tiny Tupperware container easily fits in my fancy purse) and was lucky to try tacos in Vancouver, dumplings in Toronto and burgers in Calgary.

During the day, I've been putting on a suit and going to business meetings —just call me Corporate Stephanie. During the evening, I've been catching up with my good friends who are sprinkled across Canada. All in all, a pretty great month.

Now that it's December, I'm happy to be back in Edmonton, plotting the German cookies I'll bake for my Christmas cookie plate and settling into the routine of reading Christmas cards after dinner.

But! I thought you might like to know about the restaurants I discovered, so I've updated Hop & Go Fetch It with eight new spots from my travels.

Check it out for that taco bar in Vancouver, not to mention sushi like butter and a hippie lunch spot. For Toronto, look for my new favourite neighbourhood coffee shop and a fancy, independent coffee shop in the heart of all those shiny office towers downtown.

one year ago: wish list
two years ago: shortbread peppermint pattie cookies
three years ago: annie's sun-dried tomatoes

Thursday, November 3, 2016

kladdkaka: sticky chocolate cake

This simple chocolate cake is apparently ubiquitous across Sweden.

I haven't visited Sweden yet, so I think I should probably do a serious research trip soon to confirm that.

But in the meantime, I can make kladdkaka at home in approximately two seconds. (Or half an hour, which is the equivalent of two seconds in the cake-baking world.)

Kladkakka is the original Swedish word and it's pretty fun to say. Kladdkaka is sticky and dense with ground hazelnuts and practically breathes chocolate. It also has a fudgy centre. In other words, it's just what I want in a quick weekend dessert.

The original recipe in the lovely Fika calls for unroasted almonds ... but hazelnuts are my very favourite nut, so I went with them. I also roasted them first because a roasted hazelnut is the ultimate hazelnut.

This cake seems pretty forgiving, though  I think you couldn't go wrong with roasted or unroasted almonds, hazels or walnuts, or even a combination of all three.

Kladdkakka also has the fun option of sprinkling poppy seeds on top! How unexpected is that? That's why I love these recipes from other parts of the world. I didn't have any poppy seeds in the house, but I'll definitely put them on next time.

So, if you have some nuts and cocoa, go ahead  make kladdkaka!

one year ago: ginger meringues
two years ago: hazelnut cacao nib granola
three years ago: japan in pictures


sticky chocolate cake (kladdkaka)
slightly adapted from fika by anna brones and johanna kindvall
note that this recipe halves beautifully

1/2 c. (71 g., 2.5 oz) hazelnuts, if possible roasted and rubbed in a tea towel until their skins come off*
1/2 c. (113 g., 4 oz) butter
2 eggs
1 c. (198 g., 7 oz) sugar
1/3 c. + 1 tbsp. (28 g., 1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
 4 tsp. poppy seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius). Grease a 9-inch (23-centimetre) springform pan.

Put the nuts in a food processor and grind until almost fine.

Melt the butter. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder and salt. Then add the almonds, then the slightly-cooled butter. Stir until smooth.

Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with poppy seeds. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until it's set on top but still a bit sticky inside. To check this, carefully lift one side of the pan. It's done if it doesn't move. If it still looks runny, let it bake a little longer.

Cool before serving  either alone or with a dollop of whipped cream.

*The original recipe calls for unroasted almonds. I think walnuts would be good too.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

salted butter crackers

Well, it turns out that starting your own business can leave one a little frazzled and forgetful.

I could tell you all about leaving the locker key on the bench in the change room at the swimming pool instead of pinning it to my bathing suit  but that isn't really food related.

Instead, let's talk about these crackers.

Last weekend, I was supposed to bring a second dessert to our friends William and Nancy for Thanksgiving dinner. It needed to be gluten-free and nut-free, so we settled on salted butter break-ups. They're a crowd pleaser and I've written about them before: basically, a giant butter cookie that everyone can break up at the table.

I got down to work early Sunday afternoon, mixing and rolling the dough onto the pan. I noticed that the dough didn't look quite right and wasn't as big as usual ... but assumed everything would right itself in the oven.


The giant "cookie" came out thin and impoverished looking. Basically, like something that would feed four people instead of 15.

I pulled Scott into the kitchen for a consult. He stumbled in from a nap and looked at it bleary-eyed. Unfortunately, he agreed with my assessment. We set to work on another dessert: sour cherry crumble, this time.

While we were baking our second dessert, I thought we might as well break into the sad cookie and try it ourselves.

It broke with a happy snap and we cautiously tasted a piece. That was when it dawned on me.

I had forgotten the sugar.

No wonder it was smaller and thinner and paler.

It was not a cookie. It was a cracker.

And you know what? It was a really good cracker: buttery and salty and just crying out for cheese.

I threw a few in a bowl and we brought them along to the dinner. After dessert, they became the cheese course. Indeed, with grapes and bellavitano cheese, they were heavenly.

I guess being frazzled and forgetful isn't so bad after all.

one year ago: squash pasta with onions caramelized in maple syrup and apple cider vinegar
two years ago: fresh plum kuchen
three years ago: leek gratin


salted butter crackers
via myself and the little red kitchen 

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
     or gluten-free:
     127 g. (4.5 oz) tapioca starch
     42 g. (1.5 oz) sweet rice flour
     42 g. (1.5 oz) sorghum flour
3/4  1 tsp. sel gris or kosher salt or sea salt
9 tbsp. (127 g./4.5 oz) cold butter, cut into 18 pieces
 5 tbsp. cold water
1 egg yolk, for the glaze

Pour the flour(s) and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Drop the butter in and pulse until it looks like coarse meal with pea-sized and smaller pieces. While the machine is running, slowly add some of the cold water. Only add enough water to make a dough that almost forms a bowl. It will be very malleable.

Move the dough onto a big clean cutting board and form it into a square. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

When it's time to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure your rack is centred. Line your baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Roll the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap until it becomes a rough rectangle that's about 1/4-inch thick and about 5 by 11 inches. Peel it onto your prepared baking sheet.

Whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water, and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the egg glaze.

Bake 30  40 minutes, or until golden. It should be firm to touch, but with a little spring when you press its centre. Dorie says the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender on the inside. When it's not too fragile, transfer it to a rack and let it cool to room temperature. Break into cracker pieces   or let your guests break it up  and serve with cheese.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Eating Out from Amsterdam to Vienna

Favourite restaurants in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria

Last summer, we went to the Netherlands, Germany and Austria for the month of August. We cycled, we swam in lakes and the Blue Danube! we hiked, and we walked around the big cities, poking into urban nooks and crannies.

And we ate. So well.


Crusty buns with chewy centres
Perfectly-balanced lunch salads
Crisp croquettes with hearts of melting cheese or tender meat
Chilled cucumber soup with tomato "caviar"
Fresh apricot juice in the afternoon
Creamy German cheesecake with mandarin
Warm plum cake with melting whipped cream
Hot plum dumplings in buttered-breadcrumbs  

Speaking of dumplings and you must speak of dumplings if you speak of Austria have you heard of kasnocken?

It's pure Alpine comfort food: little dumplings swimming in a sharp cheesy sauce that's baked in an oven skillet with slivers of deep-fried onions on top. I could go back to Bärenwirt in Salzburg just to eat their kasnocken and sip my glass of Grüner Veltliner while I sit out on the patio and watch the green Salzach River flow by.

We ate so many good meals that I thought it was high time I share my favourite restaurants with you.

From the little Wink we happened to see down a side street in Amsterdam which turned out to be one of the most exquisite meals of our lives to the photocopied menu at the cozy Gasthaus Jell high above the Danube River to a flight of nine Alpine cheeses at the very modern Meierei in Vienna's city park ...

I've just added my favourite restaurants in Amsterdam, Osnabrück, Cologne, Salzburg, the Wachau and Vienna in the European edition of Hop & Go Fetch It.

And to finish this post, I leave you with two very different dining experiences: sitting in the elegant terrace garden at Loibnerhof in the Wachau wine region and finding amazing dim sum at Mama Lui & Sons in the heart of Vienna.

one year ago: chicken coconut curry soup
two years ago: oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies and vietnamese noodle and chicken salad
three years ago: silken chocolate mousse and super fudge

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

walnut pesto

Sadly, my friend Isabelle recently moved to Toronto.

Happily, she gave me a big bag of walnuts before she left. (Not to mention other pantry treasures: pomegranate molasses! a big vat of olive oil! glass noodles!)

I had never had such a big bag of walnuts before. I knew they wouldn't last forever, so I set about finding ways to use them.

First, I whirled them up with extra asparagus and parmesan. I slathered the sauce over pizza dough with feta cheese and pickled red onions. After that, I roasted a quarter of the bag and took them to work every day as a snack. Next, I added them to my granola recipe.

But then. Then I came across a recipe for walnut pesto on Smitten Kitchen. It looked so easy   the perfect thing for the dinner party we were hosting that weekend.

Sure enough, it was incredibly simple to roast them and throw them in the food processor along with parmesan, garlic, thyme and a splash of sherry vinegar. After I pulsed them, I stirred in olive oil and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, tasted for seasoning and spread it on a cracker.

It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. Well, not exactly beautiful because it's brown with little flecks of red from the sun-dried tomato. But the taste! A beautiful, beautiful thing. Needless to say, our dinner guests agreed and wolfed them down.

Thank you, Isabelle. I now know that my pantry won't be complete without a big bag of walnuts. And if you come over for dinner any time in the next few years, I think you know what we'll be serving you as a little appetizer.

one year ago: pasta with yogurt, peas and chile and martini rosso
two years ago: penne with smoked trout and asparagus and quick zucchini sauté
three years ago: chewy granola bars and asian slaw

print recipe

walnut pesto
slightly adapted from smitten kitchen

1 c. roasted walnuts*
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
couple small shakes of dried thyme**
nice salt to taste
small splash sherry vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 c. good olive oil
3 tbsp. sundried tomatoes, chopped finely (oil-packed or re-hydrated dry tomatoes)

Pulse the walnuts, parmesan, garlic, thyme, salt and a small splash of sherry vinegar together in a food processor. You are looking for a coarse grind, not a uniform paste. Scrape it out into a bowl and stir in the smaller amount of olive oil. Add more olive oil if you'd like it to be looser. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and decide if you need another small splash of sherry vinegar or more salt.

Spread on crackers and eat. Store what you don't use in the fridge for quite a few days.

* To roast the walnuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the walnuts on a cookie tray and roast them for about 10 minutes until they smell good and you can see the nut meat has become golden.  
** Smitten Kitchen's original recipe calls for the leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme. I'm sure that would be even better but I don't always have fresh thyme around.