Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Worth Your Salt (Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites)



Confession: this recipe was the result of a happy accident. I was originally making a simple caramel sauce for brunch this weekend when I absentmindedly let the caramel cook on the stove much longer than anticipated. Even though i had shut the burner off, I forgot to take the caramel out of the pot. So, doing as caramel does, it continued to cook, until it reached a much harder stage, and then it cooled.  Lo and behold, when I went to serve the sauce, all I had was a pot with a brick of toffee at the bottom. I was in a panic. This was supposed to be the star of my brunch! "No problem," said my easygoing guest. "Just dip it in chocolate and we'll eat it later!"

Making chocolate is quick and simple, if you follow two rules: 1 - use good quality chocolate pastilles. Poor quality (cheap) chocolate will yield poor results. Uneven melting, poor taste, poor texture, etc.
2. Temper. Always, always temper. If your chocolate reaches a temperature above 50 degrees C, it burns, and though you might not see it, you'll definitely taste it. The texture will change once it hardens, and it will have an unpleasantly bitter, charred taste.

To make these, all you really have to do is make caramel, pour it out onto a tray, let it cool & break it up into chunks. Then, you melt the chocolate, pour it on top, and let it harden. Hit it a few times with a blunt knife and voila! Salty caramel chocolate brittle.

I hear brittle and I usually think "Christmas," but you don't really need an occasion to make this.  It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so you can put some in a mason jar, wrap a piece of twine around it and you've got a pretty last-minute hostess gift. You can also just save it all for yourself - it makes a great snack when you're torn between salty and sweet - that is, if you have the willpower not to eat it all in one sitting. Seriously. Make this. This stuff is delicious and dangerous and addictive and full of unadulterated happiness.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Raw! Raw! Raw! (Raw Vegan Chocolate Torte with Berries & Cashew Cream)


I received some delicious homework this week: 

Make a pie. 
Rules? Carte blanche. Do as you wish. Make it interesting.

Challenge accepted!

I decided to take this opportunity to make a raw, vegan, gluten-free dessert. I’ve seen the raw food movement really begin to shine in the past couple of years with the appearance of raw vegan restaurants, quite a few beautiful food blogs, and raw cookbooks. Though it hasn’t gone mainstream just yet (many of my peers had never heard of it), popularity has grown among the foodie community. Search #raw or #rawfood on Instagram or Pinterest, and you’ll see what I mean.

Why raw? Why not! The first thing that attracted me to raw food – the simple fact that it’s a new type of cuisine – which means a whole new world of meals and desserts to try. As an added bonus, the health benefits of adding raw plant-based foods to your diet are countless. The dishes themselves, when prepared properly, can satisfy any craving, from light to hearty, savory to sweet. The majority of the recipes that I’ve seen have been vegan – perfect for me – and are chock full of veggies and fruits. And, if you’re wondering, “what about protein?” Trust me, there is a ton of it. As with many vegan dishes, protein comes from nuts and seeds, and soaked and sprouted grains.

In many raw recipes, nuts and seeds are used in ways that I’d never thought of before, and this really intrigued me. For instance, I’ve seen recipes that involved fermenting wheatberries to create rejeuvelac, then combining them with blended raw cashews to make a savory cheese-type spread. Sunflower seeds and pepitas are ground and pressed together and then dried out to create crackers. My ultimate WOW moment? When I discovered that I could make a whipped cream out of cashews.

Sold.
I decided that I needed to try it out asap.


So I experimented, and then experimented some more. And I came up with the creamiest non-dairy cream I’ve ever had. My favorite part was that it didn’t have that dreaded soy-aftertaste, unlike most of the non-dairy “cream” products that I’ve tried in the past.

Oh, and the WOW factor of this pie is off the charts. 
Seriously. I brought this to my pastry student friends and it disappeared in seconds. In a room full of pies, the raw vegan one disappeared first.

You want to impress (insert name of anyone here)? Make this. 
Don't tell them what it is right away. Just tell them it's pie. 
Let them taste it.
Then tell them how there's no processed sugar in it. 
Then tell them that it's vegan.
Then tell them that it's gluten-free. 
Then tell them that it's raw. 
Then tell them yes, they can have seconds. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stellar Brunch (Oven-baked french toast with caramel sauce)


Springtime peeked it's shy little head out to say hello to us Montrealers this week, and I instantly felt excited & inspired. There's just something about warm weather and sunshine that get me into a crafty mood. Quite a good time to be feeling creative, as I've had a lot of decorating to do recently: we've officially moved into our new apartment! The perfect way to settle in? A good old-fashioned Sunday Brunch!

Though bagels and lox are generally my choice brunch food, I decided to make something a little more decadent this time. Introducing Oven Baked French Toast, and her bff, Caramel Sauce. Make this for your next brunch if you're looking for a dish that is surprisingly quick & easy, and as eye-catching as it is tasty. Bonus: the air will fill with a warm, sweet aroma as your guests arrive.

This is a decadent, salty-meets-sweet, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast - definitely weekend food! Tip: to make it extra yummy, you can prepare it the night before so the bread really gets some time to soak up the eggy goodness. This is also a perfect way to use up some stale bread you have lying around - once it soaks up the egg mixture, it'll come right back to life!

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