Christmas Pudding

This year I wanted to try something different and twist up my Christmas baking routine. Instead of ginger cookies and German zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), I went for Christmas pudding — a classic British Christmas sweet that dates back to the Victorian era.
I went online and watched a few YouTube videos (like this one here) and recipes that helped me figure things out. I actually made two Christmas puddings, and for the second one — that I’ll bring to my Uncle’s house on Christmas day — I strayed and made up my own version. Here’s the recipe — along with lots of photos to help you out (I find that helps if you’ve never made something before).

MARY’s XMAS PUDDING 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup dried chopped dates
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup dried sultanas (raisins)
  • (*** note any 3 1/2 cup mixture of dried fruit will work. You can use dried apricots, currants, raisins, dates, even figs)
  • 1 cup sweet vermouth (the red kind)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup organic flour
  • 1 cup golden sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 grated organic apple
  • the zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 sprinkles of nutmeg

Here’s how it’s done: 

1)  Mix the dried fruit together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour the vermouth over it and mix with a wooden mixing spoon. Cover and let sit for 2 hours – 3 days. The fruit will take up the vermouth flavour (*** note you can also use brandy or rum instead of the vermouth, but just use less (1/2 – 3/4 cup) as it has a much stronger flavour).

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Soak fruit in sweet vermouth, brandy or rum for a a minimum of 2 hours. 

2) Add the remaining ingredients to the dried fruit and mix batter well – it will resemble a cake batter. Grease a mold or pudding basin with butter – I used a cake pan that I bought at a flea market in France. It turned out to be the perfect size.

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Use a larger grater for the apple, a smaller one for the lemon zest (the lemon pee). 

3) Pour the mixture into the greased mold and pat down lightly. Next, cut a round piece of waxed paper to cover the cake mold – leave about two inches over the sides – and grease it. Place it over the mold (greased side down so the pudding doesn’t stick to it) and then cover it with tin foil. Using a string, tie the foil so it is as air tight as possible and so no water can get in while the pudding steams.

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This was the only string I could find. It did the trick, but a smaller string will certainly do.

4) Take a large pot (your mold needs to fit in when the lid is on the pot) and place a saucer upside down on the bottom of it to rest the cake mold on (the mold can not touch the bottom of the pot, or it will burn). Place the filled cake mold on it and fill it with water about 3/4 up the sides. Place the lid on and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer or very light boil (I left mine on setting “1”).

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5) Simmer/ steam for 3 1/2 (3.5) hours with the lid on, checking to make sure there is enough water in the pot — at least half of the mold/ pudding basin should be covered. Let cool for at least 45 minutes, and then turn the mold over and tap until the pudding falls out. It should be the perfect shape of the mold you used and slide right out!

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6) Enjoy — typically with brandy butter or egg nog cream or whiskey cream. I didn’t bother with a butter or cream — I like it enough on its own and I’ve never been one for icing or sweet sauces. That said, I do think a nice cream would marry well with this quintessential Christmas dessert!

 

Foolproof Chocolate Mousse – with Rosewater

Yesterday I made chocolate mousse – or mouse au chocolat as the the French would say! I’ve discovered that this classy and classic dessert is easy to make. I had some extra egg whites to use up, so I thought of one of all-time favourite treats and added rosewater to it for a new twist.

It’s quick to make, you just need a bit of time to let it sit and firm up in the fridge (a minimum of 4 hours).

Here’s the ingredients:

  • 3 -4 ounces of dark chocolate (= 3 -4 squares, if you just use three you can add a tablespoon of cocoa powder, as I did. If you use extra dark chocolate squares, add a tablespoon of sugar when you take the melted chocolate off the heat. )
  • 3 egg yolks
  •  6 egg whites (you can use 5 egg whites, dessert will just be less fluffy)
  • 1 teaspoon of rosewater

Here’s how you make it:

1. Melt the chocolate in a double broiler. If you don’t have one, you can also place a smaller pan inside a larger one that’s filled with water, as I did.

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2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.

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3. If the chocolate is still melting, begin to beat the egg whites. If the chocolate has melted already, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.

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4. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate one at a time, stirring well with a small whisk. then add the rosewater and still well until the mixture is shiny and smooth.

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5. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until well blended. I used a large metal spoon. Make sure to scrape the crevices around the bottom of the pan to get all the melted chocolate. The mixture will be airy and runny, but don’t worry, it will set in the fridge.

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6. Pour the mixture into 4 – 6 dessert bowls or a large serving dish. I used ramekins – the same ones I used to make creme brulee. Put these in the on a plate in the fridge – an upper shelf so that nothing falls on them, you can also place them in a container – and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

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7. Remember of course that too much sugar isn’t good! There is also a vegan way to make this – with avocados or soft tofu and cocoa power, I’ve had both before and they are both quite nice. As you’ll find, this delight is easier than you think to make. Enjoy!!

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Easy Pumpkin Pie

Easy Pumpkin Pie

Here’s my recipe for easy pumpkin pie — a dessert I love as much as fall itself.  This is quite a simple pumpkin pie recipe. You can use a real pumpkin and bake it for about an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (a small one, you cut it in half and take the seeds out first). I was kind of lazy and bought canned pumpkin. Next time I would love to try it with real pumpkin. You can either make your own pie crust (simple pie crust recipe below) or buy one.

Ingredients – pie crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (105 grams)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter (115 grams)
  • 6-8 tablespoons cold water

Ingredients – pumpkin pie filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin (canned or fresh) (330 grams)pumpkin pie spices
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (55 grams)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (125 ml)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

How to make THE pumpkin pie

1. First make the pie crust. In a large bowl mix the flour and salt. Then cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two butter knives. What I did was first shave the butter off with a butter knife and then I mixed it using the pastry cutter and eventually my hands. You want the mixture to be in pea-sized pieces. You can use your hands towards the end, but not too much because it’s important for the butter to stay cold. Once it’s in pea-sized pieces, slowly add the water. First add 6 tablespoons and mix it with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Add more water if necessary until the dough is one big ball. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for about 20- 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

3. In a large bowl, combine all of the fillings for the pie filling – everything!! You can whisk the eggs before adding them in a separate bowl if you wish. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Set side.

4. Take the chilled pie dough out of the fridge. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface using a rolling pin. Place your pie plate over the dough to see how spread out you need the dough to be. For a 25 cm (~10 inches) pie plate, it should be about 27 cm (~10.5 inches) in diameter. Place the pie dough into the pie dish and press it lightly to it it into the pan.

Press the pie dough lightly into the pie pan

Press the pie dough lightly into the pie pan

5. Next, pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour (60 minutes).

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Pour the pie filling into the pie crust.

6. Let cool for about 1/2 an hour (or longer) before cutting. Enjoy ♥

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Salted Crème Brûlée

Wow! I decided I would make crème brûlée the other day. This dessert really is easy to make and its so creamy and delicious. You can make amazing crème brûlée right at home! The dessert is from France, but other variations of it exist in Spain as well (crema Catalana). One day I’ll make the very similar crème caramel and post the recipe here. But for now, here are the steps to make a delicious, creamy, silky creme brûlée . Enjoy ♥!

simple creme brulee

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (35%) (375 ml)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or any other kind of milk) (125 ml)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup white/ granulated sugar (115 grams)
  • some sea salt and about 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Here’s how it’s done:

1.Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).

2.Pour the cream and milk into a small saucepan. Cut the half vanilla in half and scrape out the insides with a butter knife into the cream/milk. Whisk the mixture and bring to a simmer over low heat. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. This will give your creme brûlées a strong vanilla flavour. If you don’t have a vanilla bean just add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cream and milk and skip this step.

recipe creme brulee

First bring cream, milk and vanilla bean to a simmer.

3. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and add the cream/milk-vanilla mixture.

Mix egg yolks, sugar and cream/milk mixture.

Mix egg yolks, sugar and cream/milk mixture.

4.Pour this mixture into 6 small ramekins. Place the ramekins into a baking sheet and fill the baking sheet with water until the water reaches up to about half of the ramekin sides.

Place the filled ramekins into a baking sheet and fill the sheet with water around the ramekins .

Place the filled ramekins into a baking sheet and fill the sheet with water around the ramekins .

5.Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. To see if they are done, insert a knife and see if it comes out clean; if it does they are done, if not they need to go back in the oven. Check every five minutes to see if they are done.

6.When they are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool (for a 1/2 hour or so) before putting them into the fridge for at least 2 hours.

7. Just before serving, pack a thin layer of brown sugar over the creme brûlées and sprinkle some sea salt over the brown sugar. Now comes the flaming part! Use either a kitchen torch and flame the top quickly or broil* them in the oven for about 2 minutes (what I did- place your oven rack as close to the top burner as possible). Be careful not to leave it in too long, or you may end up with creme brûlée that tastes and looks like a burnt marshmallow.

And that’s it! Enjoy!

*Broiling is cooking/ warming something using the top burner in the oven only. You can use the broil setting to melt cheese on toast or nachos, for example.

Hint: You can keep the egg yolks and use them for an omelette or even chocolate mousse.

creme brulee recipe

Simple Chocolate Cake

This recipe is my Grandma’s favourite! It was passed down to her from her mother, who got it from her mother. So, this is a 4th generation recipe. It’s very easy to make! It takes about 20 minutes. Try and work with ingredients at room temperature.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar (250 grams)
  • ½ cup butter at room temperature (115 grams)
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder (85 grams)
  • 1 ½ cup cake flour (165 grams)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup of almond milk (250 ml)
  • 1 cup hot water (250 ml)
  • Coconut oil, butter or any light-tasting oil for pan greasing

Here’s how it’s done:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2) Using  a hand-held or stand-up mixer, cream the butter and sugar at medium-low speed. Slowly add in the eggs one a time and mix well until smooth.

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Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs.

3) Add the remaining ingredients except for the hot water. Mix with a wooden spoon or on very low speed with the mixer. Slowly add in the hot water, mixing until a smooth batter is formed.

The batter should be smooth like this.

The batter should be smooth like this.

4) Grease a 9×9 inch square pan (23×23 cm) or a 9inch (23 cm) bundt cake pan. You can use any shape of pan you like!  Bake for 40 minutes. To see if it’s done, place a long toothpick or something very skinny into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done! If not, the cake still has some baking to do. Place it back in the oven and keep checking every five minutes until your skinny thing comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool before cutting it or taking it out of the pan.

Note: This cake is really pretty when it’s lightly dusted with icing/confectioners’ sugar. Allow the cake to cool ten minutes and then sprinkle icing sugar over the cake with a sifter or mesh strainer.

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Spectacular Peach Crisp

I love peaches! They are in season right now here in Ontario (Canada). I’ve cooked / baked them in two ways recently: I made a peach crisp/ crumble and I broiled them with lemon juice and fresh thyme! Absolutely wonderful.

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fresh Ontario peaches!!

The first thing I had to do was wash them of course. Try to remove as much of the pesticides/ pollutants as possible.

Then I turned on the oven (preheated) to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then I sliced them – about 7 of them and placed them in a 25 cm in diameter glass pie dish. I found this pie dish at a second hand store  a while ago. I like it way better than the tin ones — and will last for a very long time. The peaches felt so soft and fuzzy in my hands.

sliced peaches for peach crisp

sliced peaches for peach crisp

Next I made the crumble. It’s really easy and fast!

Here’s what I used:

the 7 peaches

For the crumble: 

1 cup (100 grams) of organic quick cooking oats (you can also use firm ones since this going in the oven)

1/4 cup (50 grams) of organic white flour

1/3 cup of butter (80 grams)**

1 tablespoon of cinnamon (very important)

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

whipped cream for garnish**

**note, for a vegan version replace butter with margarine and skip the garnish.

Here’s how it’s made: 

You mix this together with a wooden  spoon and then start to use your hands. Make sure the butter is at room temperature, it will mix easier.  You want to have everything about pea sized.

mixing the crumble/ crisp by hand

mixing the crumble/ crisp by hand

Once it’s all mixed together, you spread this mixture over the sliced peaches and TA-DA, it’s ready to go into the oven.

ta-da! peach crisp!

ta-da! peach crisp!

Bake this for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees fahrenheit. Watch carefully to make sure that it doesn’t overcook. The crisp will be crispy when it’s done (:)), and will turn darker in colour.

And lastly, enjoy it! I topped mine with whipped cream and a bit of cinnamon!

serve crisp with whipped cream or ice cream!

serve crisp with whipped cream or ice cream!

Bake off: Popping Popovers out of the Oven!

This Sunday I decided to make popovers. I’ve never tried them before. They were so easy to whip up and bake. I combined a few recipes.

Popovers are called so because they literally pop up out of the muffin tin while they bake. Apparently they are an American version of Yorkshire Pudding. I was so surprised when I saw them — they almost hit the oven rack above them! So be careful — make sure your popovers have enough room to pop up!

The dough reminds me of a choux pastry — it is airy and eggy. I guess you could add herbs to the batter or maybe a bit of sugar to make them sweet. I added a little bit of rum flavouring (the real stuff would be fine too) and a bit of vanilla extract.

Here’s what I used: 

3 eggs

1 and 1/4 cup of 2% milk

1 and 1/4 cups of white flour

1/2 tea spoon salt

1/2 tea spoon vanilla extract

1/2 tea spoon rum extract

3 tablespoons melted butter (2 for the muffin tin and 1 for the batter)

Here’s how it’s done:

All you do is beat the eggs and milk on medium speed for a few minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and beat on low speed until all is blended. You will see tiny bubbles in the batter. Taste it and add more flavourings if you like. Then melt the butter (in the microwave or on the stove), add 1 tablespoon to the batter and mix it. Use the remaining melted butter to brush the muffin cups — this step is VERY important.

Pour the batter into a muffin tin (12). Try to fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full (or less) because they sure will pop up!

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the batter before it went in the over

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Do not open the door while they are in there. When they are done, take them out and prick them with a fork to let the stream rise out.

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pulling the popped popovers out of the oven, they’re done!!

You can eat them alone or with whipped cream. I enjoyed mine with passion fruit and a cup of coffee. I would like to try a herbed version one day – or add a bit of sugar to the batter to make them sweet.

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Yummy in my tummy!

these popovers sure are pretty!

these popovers sure are pretty!