Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook

The only thing more exciting than getting a package in the mail, is opening that package to discover it contains The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook

Within the first five minutes of flipping through those exciting, gorgeous pages I made a variety of very important discoveries: 

1. Eggless cookie dough. Eggless. As in I can make a batch of cookie dough, put a quarter of it towards a recipe and eat three quarters of it without risking getting sick thanks to the raw egg component. Sheer. Genius. 

2. Although we have never met, author of not only this cookbook, but also the voice behind Love and Olive Oil, Lindsay Landis totally gets me. Why or how you may ask? For years, I have endured the whole, "You know that's not really breakfast?" or "Seriously, tell me that's not all you're having..." nonsense, upon making cookies a standard part of the first meal of the day. Instead of smiling and continuing to eat my cookies, I can avoid this all together! From now on, I have options. I can hide my cookies in French Toast, in a cinnamon roll, in waffles in all sorts of "typical" breakfast items! 

3. Cookie Dough is not limited to a future of becoming a cookie. What?! You know that whole, "when you grow up you can be whatever you want to be," speech we've heard at some point? Well Lindsay made this applicable to cookies! They don't have to simply be scooped onto a baking sheet anymore. They can be cakes, sandwiches, truffles, pies, brulee, donuts, even granola bars! The possibilities are seemingly endless.

4. Remember my excitement over pizza muffins? Yeah, Lindsay totally surpassed that level of awesomeness in four words. Cookie Dough Dessert Pizza. Wow.

Beyond those initial few minutes worth of discoveries there was even more to love!

So rarely is there a cookbook where I want to make every recipe. Literally, every. Single. Recipe. And while many who look at the title or concept behind it may believe it to be one dimensional, it truly is anything but. This isn't just another cookie anthology, streamlined for the cookie lover, with a few alterations to each recipe but inevitably a cookie at the end. This cookbook will take you from snacks to desserts to indulgent breakfasts embedding cookie dough among ingredients right in there with the flour and butter you'd expect. The cookie dough recipe itself comes with a handful of variations, so if you want to experiment beyond the traditional chocolate chip variety, you're given the means to do so! Add to that syrups and sides to supplement your creations and you have a comprehensive cookbook ready to put into work!

Before embarking on these fantastic recipes, just make sure you have some time to set aside. A few of the recipes help you to break down the steps into different days to help assembly run smoothly, however plenty of the recipes require at least a few hours of commitment. The cookie dough itself takes approximately 15 minutes to whip up, but you'll have to add that to the time needed to make cinnamon buns or a cake. The recipes have an active and total time gauge at the very top helping you decide what's great for a quick snack and what needs a bit more dedication. The extra time may seem daunting but it's definitely worth it and no longer than you'd expect for most cakes, yeast dough etc.

The entire cookbook is beautifully photographed by Lindsay herself, a feature which I believe speaks volumes as to the quality and voice you'll come to discover on each page. Her enthusiasm, passion and clear skill with cookie dough is as visible in her crisp and engaging photos as it is in each recipe itself. The short introduction preceding each recipe is written in a clear and friendly tone, frequently eliciting either a laugh or an exclamation of, "exactly!" You're not given endless facts or dry information, rather it's as if you're discussing a recipe with a friend, touching on the ingredients, inspiration and tips pertaining to what you're about to bake with a few puns and tips thrown in here and there. It isn't often that the acknowledgments page in a cookbook is included as one of my favorite parts, but between the raisin and dishwashing sentiments, I was hooked and knew this was my kind of cookbook.

The Key Ingredients section includes tips on substitutions (note the salt tip!), locating ingredients and general usage tips. These tips extend into each recipe, in the form of a "Quick Tip" ranging from presentation to substitutions and techniques. As far as equipment goes, it's pretty much everything you'd expect you'd need to make cookies. For the home baker, you're very likely to already own all of them already! One should note however, that the ice cream section requires the use of an ice cream maker (an investment I've yet to make) making that part a bit tricky.

This is a fantastic resource for both the novice and expert baker. The recipes are such, that the level of expertise is accessible to all while the final products are deceivingly elaborate. For the kosher baker, you'll be happy to know that there are few adaptations needed to satisfy the kashrut requirements for all of the recipes! With the exception of swapping out a few ingredients to make the recipes pareve (soy milk, margarine etc.) you're set! It's a fantastic addition to your cookbook shelf and completely accessible!

I am extremely happy with the recipes I've made so far. The directions were clear, comprehensive, yet concise enough that I didn't need to read through them more than once. The quality of the results is fantastic. You're not left with a repetitive flavor at all - somehow the cookie dough blends perfectly into each of the recipes and enhances them, contributing to their flavors, yet not overpowering them. The Cookie Dough Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls are worth buying this whole book for. Definitely my new favorite recipe.

Overall, this is an adorable book that is sure to make you smile before you even open it! Reading the table of contents will only bring forth more excitement and I'd guess that by the time you're through the first section you've already compiled a list of treats you want to make right away! Make sure you have plenty of flour and chocolate chips on hand, pour yourself a glass of milk and open this book and get ready to celebrate (& nourish!) your inner cookie dough lover!

Disclaimer: I was kindly provided a copy of this wonderful cookbook to review by Quirk Books. The opinions and views expressed in my review are completely my own. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kosher Recipe Link Up #1: Frozen Desserts!

I'm just going to say it - I'm not a big fan of summertime. Long, lazy days and temperatures where you can barely stand being outside for more than a few minutes at a time, are not my idea of an ideal season. I can barely wait until Autumn arrives, with its promises of cute jackets and sweaters and beautiful colors everywhere! But in the meantime, I'll take these sunny days if it means I get to eat (endless) amounts of frozen desserts!

As much as I'm not a fan of summer, I do have very fond memories of spending all of my summers from newborn to 15, at my grandparents' house. Whether it meant tying one end of the skipping rope my grandfather had made for me and my sister to a rail, and taking turns, turning it or going on our annual trip to High Park, summer always meant exciting surprises and treats. My favorite? The ice cream truck. We would sit on the front steps of my grandparents house, clutching the loonies and toonies (one and two dollar coins for those of you who aren't Canadian!) my grandparents had divided amongst us and wait for the sound of the music on the loudspeaker. And although we knew that the truck would stop directly in front of their house, we could never resist running to the end or middle of the street to meet it there instead! My grandparents always got a classic chocolate/ vanilla twist cone while my brother, sister and I would undoubtedly either opt for something dipped in that magical chocolate or dipped in sprinkles. Just a couple of weeks ago, M surprised me with a twist ice cream cone dipped in sprinkles and I was literally giddy with excitement. It felt like I was right back on those steps just waiting for the loudspeaker to announce the arrival we had eagerly been anticipating.

The thing is though, that ice cream truck didn't come around until 7 or 8pm and no one can expect grandkids to wait that long for ice cream! So around lunch time we'd get a bowl of ice cream too (if we finished our meal of course - or you know the amount of our age i.e. 10 years old meant 10 more bites...). When that jumbo neapolitan ice cream tub came out we always hoped there was enough chocolate left for everyone. Inevitably, the chocolate would dwindle to the point where only vanilla and then only strawberry remained. I don't know how she did it, but my grandmother would make the best milkshakes for us using the leftover flavors we were always hesitant to eat. Or she'd stir the ice cream in our bowls until it resembled a cold, creamy soup and using straws we'd laugh and walk around with our bowls. I was incredibly, incredibly, incredibly fortunate to have such amazing grandparents. They're missed every day.

Having said so much already about frozen treats, I am thrilled to be participating in the first Kosher Recipe Link Up! Although when I heard the theme was frozen desserts, I was a bit nervous. I've made sorbet exactly once and ice cream once as well. Both were made following explicit directions from an awesome cookbook, Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking. Given that I'm not sure I could create anything akin to this on my own without a recipe I decided to transfer my favorite childhood memories of ice cream into popsicle form!

Below you will find the recipes for two types of popsicles, a classic vanilla chocolate twist with sprinkles (a tribute to my grandparents!) as well as something with a bit more fruit for those of you who prefer a somewhat healthier alternative. I love fruit but I love it even more when it's baked into a muffin or covered in chocolate! So I made one of my favorite fruit desserts into a popsicle! A chocolate covered strawberry popsicle! They're also fantastic poured into a tupperware and frozen for a few hours. I did this with the leftovers and it turned out really well! They don't require an ice cream maker, and you can find popsicle molds at any dollar store this time of year (I found this set at my local Dollarama for $1.25!). I wanted to make this frozen desserts contribution as accessible, simple and hassle free as possible, eliminating the need for any extra appliances or more than 15 minutes in the kitchen on a hot day!

 I hope you enjoy and be sure to check out the other recipes in this Kosher Link Up and create some cherished summer memories of your own!

Chocolate Strawberry Pops! (makes approximately 10, 0.5 oz popsicles)

6 tbsp Nutriwhip, slighly defrosted
1/2 cup strawberries (you can choose to either puree them for a smoother texture, or after washing and checking them, cut them in half and add to the mixer while whipping the dessert topping)
2 tbsp chocolate syrup

Using the whisk attachment on a stand or hand mixer, whip the Nutriwhip for 5 minutes in a medium sized bowl. You do not want to over-whip or it will not pour into the molds smoothly! Whip it just long enough that it holds to the attachment for a few seconds and isn't completely liquid.

Add the strawberries and chocolate syrup and whip for an additional 1 minute on high.

Pour the mixture into the molds (I used a tsp). You can either do so by adding a chocolate mixture first to the bottom (before adding the strawberries to the mix) and then the strawberry mix - this will give you more of a chocolate dipped strawberry effect, or you can transfer the combined mixture in at once!

Place in the freezer to set, for approximately 2-4 hours.

Run the popsicle mold under warm water for 10 seconds to help with removing your ice cream pops!

If you plan on also making the next recipe, do not clean out the bowl you used to mix, just yet!

(Neapolitan) Chocolate Vanilla Twist Pops! (makes approximately 10, 0.5 oz popsicles)

4-6 tbsp of chocolate syrup, drizzled
6 tbsp Nutriwhip
a pinch of sprinkles in each popsicle mold

For an extra special treat and to really combine my grandparents favorite ice cream flavors, mix this in the same bowl you used to whip up the previous batch of popsicles. That hint of strawberry flavor will turn this twist into a Neapolitan!

Using a whisk attachment on a stand or hand mixer, whip the Nutriwhip for 5 minutes at medium speed in a medium sized bowl.

Beat for 1 minute on high speed.

You do not want to over-whip or it will not pour into the molds smoothly! Whip it just long enough that it holds to the attachment for a few seconds and isn't completely liquid.

Drizzle the chocolate and with a spoon, mix it in to achieve a marbled effect.

Drop a pinch of sprinkles into the bottom of the popsicle molds. Fill the remainder with the whipped/ marbleized mixture.

Place in the freezer for approximately 2-4 hours.

Run the popsicle mold under warm water for 10 seconds to help with removing your ice cream pops!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Inspiring the Inner Artist... {Part 2}

You know how sometimes you turn on the radio and hear a song and you can't help but feel that it was written just for you?

Well, I'm pretty sure Heather Baird's, SprinkleBakes was written for me. Just saying.

I literally spent hours reading this book, cover to cover, completely captivated by the techniques, images and the sense that I was being given the directions and guidance to make these amazing works of art myself! Every few minutes I'd yell out, "you have to see this!!" and show off the next technique or tip I had just read. This book is more than just a cookbook. It's like an art class, culinary class and motivational speech on your baking abilities all rolled into one.

Baking is about so much more than simply cracking a few eggs or sifting flour, the same way art is more than simple brush strokes. It's about feeling something and sharing that with your friends, your family or as in Heather's case, the world. Whether you prefer the structure found in the scientific aspect of baking or the freedom in the creativity to mix flavors and decorate, baking is and can be for everyone.

Now, for the details.

& take a look at Heather's blog SprinkleBakes

The cover for one is absolutely adorable and a table of contents of sorts. It's essentially comprised of artistic renderings of a few of the fantastic recipes you'll come to discover. And if these drawings don't pique your interest, the beautiful crisp images inside will. Each recipe is not only paired with a photo of the final product (that you'd be happy to frame in your kitchen), but there are pictorial guides to the steps as well! I found this especially useful while baking, as it helped to avoid the inevitably stressful, "you think it's supposed to look like this?" question.

I found that my favorite feature of this book lay beyond its directions and instead in its incredible encouragement. If you're in any way deterred because you think that making candy, or tiered cakes, or seemingly fancy desserts is not for you, think again. Each chapter is prefaced with clear, concise information concerning what you can expect, all gradually increasing in difficulty. The cake recipes you learn in the first section will carry you to the end, where you'll be shown how to carve and cover them like a pro. The "Baker's Toolbox" is not nearly as intimidating as you would expect for a book with such visually elaborate desserts, and for the most part Heather helps to give either a directory where you can find these items, or ways to DIY and avoid having to invest in them (although after making these desserts once, you may find that it's an investment you're willing to make!). It also outlines not only what the tools are, but where and when you can expect to use them, further allowing you to make an informed decision as to whether or not it's something you would want to consider purchasing. As for the ingredients, you'd think these cakes were impossible to make, until you realize that you have everything you meed to make a "Genoise Sponge Cake" right in your kitchen already! There's even a recipe for fondant to save you the hassle of running out to search for a ready made version. While a few ingredients such as liquid glucose may be less common, a quick trip to your local craft/ baking store should satisfy all ingredient needs (and having to run out for only one ingredient would be a welcome day in my kitchen, so it's definitely not a big deal!).

Additonally, her "Commandments," offer tips on what helps her to bake successfully (I really need to focus on the "mise en place" tip!) and the tips found within each recipe themselves help to eliminate guesswork. There's even a troubleshooting guide for some of the more elaborate recipes, such as the macarons as well as directions and variations for making small and large batches of a few recipes. And don't be deceived, the table of contents does not do justice to all of the incredible recipes found within. A few recipes come with variations to create completely different desserts altogether, (think Boston Cream Pie!).

Throughout the pages you'll learn tips and techniques you'd never expect ranging from herbs to picking up art techniques I had only ever read about in Art History textbooks and seamlessly transferring them into your kitchen.

When it came time to test out the recipes themselves, I decided to try out one from the beginning of the book, where the basic recipes are provided and merge it with a more complicated recipe from towards the end of the book (as I previously mentioned, I found that as you flip through Heather's book, the recipes become gradually more extensive, always using what comes in the pages before them as a base).

I was immediately tempted by the egg tempera technique. Being an Art History student, Da Vinci was a given in all the intro to art classes, and to think I could take his style of painting (tempera) and translate it into decorating sugar cookies - well excitement doesn't even explain it. It was fairly simple and I had a great time doing it!

I have never had the confidence to decorate using royal icing, but this, this I not only wanted to try but Heather's directions and explanations made me feel like I could! Below is a series of pictures with the results! I used my favorite Wilton Tea Party Cookie Cutter Set and painted away! This would be a great activity for everyone from kids, to teenagers, to expert bakers!

Overall, this book is a fantastic compilation of inspiration, encouragement, recipes and techniques you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere. You don't have to be an art lover, culinary artist or expert baker to love it. It's a staple, all around accessible book that you'll find yourself referring to time and time again to kick all of your recipes up a notch. As Heather writes in her introduction, make dessert the result of your own creative endeavors!

Pick up this book (good luck putting it down) and "inspire your inner artist". 

Disclaimer: I was kindly provided a copy of this wonderful cookbook to review by Sterling Epicure, a division of Sterling Publishing Co. The opinions and views expressed in my review are completely my own. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Inspiring the Inner Artist... {Part 1}

Before I stepped into the kitchen, I spent most of my time in lecture halls, listening to facts and stories about Caravaggio and his contemporaries. Yes, this itsy bitsy balebusta graduated with an honors degree in Art History. And the most commonly asked question upon this discovery?

Do you paint?

No. No I do not paint. Even my stick figures look like something out of an abstract expressionist era. But appreciation and admiration for those who can indeed represent emotion and passion, all the while leaving a historical foot print - that my friends, I have plenty of.

Truth be told, Art History was no where near my radar when I started at the University of Toronto - wow, 6 years ago?! I went in all ready to come out some fancy, hot shot lawyer. One year of Political Science later and not only was I POSITIVE law was not for me, I was also terrified and confused to admit it. I forged ahead with planning the next year of torturous Canadian Politics courses.  I continued this until a very special person stopped me and asked, "Why?"

I had no legitimate answer. And that was all the answer I needed.

I went home that night and opened the course catalog for the summer session. I figured I would take one random course, if it was even slightly more appealing than law I would leave my program. I'm the least spontaneous person in the world. I like a planned, orderly schedule and if I plan on something, I see it through (everyday I continue to remind my self that, "Man plans, Gd laughs" in an effort to change). This wasn't just spontaneous, it was terrifying.

Clearly, I never planned to fall in love with what I chose.

All that was available in my time slot, between my summer job and commuting, was an intro to Art History class. Art History? The first thing I did was e-mail the program coordinator and make sure I wouldn't ever have to draw anything. Upon receiving that confirmation, I enrolled. Really, a summer studying old pictures in an air conditioned room couldn't be so bad? And it wasn't international politics, so I was willing to give it a shot.

It took all of two classes to have me completely enthralled. The people who were just names, or Dan Brown titles, suddenly became visionaries, producing works which provided an insight and portal to their era, to history itself! I was blown away. Image after projected image, I was no longer listening to someone lecture on the French Revolution, I was seeing what it looked like through the eyes of both the bourgeois and the royalty who commissioned works themselves. It was one thing to listen to and read the history, it was another to see it.

The Books That Started It All

Art moved me, inspired me and forced me to think outside of the box. My absolute best professor throughout my University career, said something in our first lecture that stuck with me. She told us that she would only show us photos of art or architecture in her slides that she had taken and seen with her own eyes. It was remarkably different than seeing a textbook image projected and hearing a lecture on its history. Instead I could see my Professor's pictures and listen to what it felt like to be in the presence of these great works. At the end of that semester I was on my way to England to spend a summer abroad, studying and viewing these pieces in the first person. It was my turn to experience them for myself, and what an incredible experience that was! I saved up all the money from my part time job, and when I handed over the cheque to pay for my tuition and flight, I knew that the adventure was going to be completely worth it.

So what does all this have to do with food? Because we all know, everything always has to do with food! Remember when I said I hold absolutely no artistic talent? I'm like the fan in the stands, cheering and yelling at the hockey players, but who can't skate to save her life. Well, while I don't feel very creative sitting in front of a canvas, once I get into the kitchen the ideas and colors and inspiration hit.

There is nothing like icing a cupcake, making a marble cake or decorating a sugar cookie, to make you feel like you're the master of your canvas. Twirling and sprinkling and decorating and getting lost in the craft, is magical. The fact that baking and cooking require creativity and passion to really flourish makes them art in my book. And even though a paint brush may not be my thing, hand me a piping bag and I can adopt the same concentration and passion needed to transform a blank canvas to a piece of art.

I hope you'll come back really soon and check out my review of an absolutely fantastic new cookbook that takes all the excitement of art out of the lecture hall and into your kitchen. A cookbook which is certain to help "inspire your inner artist"...

Special Thanks to Sterling Publishing

Friday, July 06, 2012


Not only have I never made pie before... I've also never really tried it.

I know. Just like back with the onion fiasco, I'm missing out.

But if there's any redemption to be had here, I have had cream pies! Chocolate cream, coconut cream - definitely have had one, two or y'know six slices of those before... It's the fruit pies that get me. I don't know what it is about them but I prefer my blueberries in a jam, my apples fresh and crisp and my strawberries covered in chocolate!

Maybe it's all the pictures on Pinterest or the pretty pies at the grocery market recently, but I found my inspiration to give it a shot! And in classic fashion, instead of just testing out how to make a pie for myself, on a day when I have plenty of time, I decided to make my first pie a gift, 4 hours before going to lunch with M's family who happened to be in town. Yup.

It may have been because I repeated to myself over and over again that there was no room for mistakes here, but I actually made a pie. And not just one. Nope. I made 4 mini pies.

Sometimes, crazy just works.

I used super basic recipes. Not that I've ever had pie before but pie crust has never really appealed to me. I should take this time to mention, that not only did I experiment with making a pie for the first time, I also experimented with the moulds for them.

Adventurous much?

Truthfully, I just didn't think that regular pie crust would be able to pop out of the moulds as easily as a shortbread pie crust. Yes shortbread pie crust. How wonderful. The hint of cookie was like my security blanket in this new world of treats.

If you're interested, here's the link to the wonderful recipe I used: Shortbread Crust

When it says it's easy, believe it. 3 ingredients, no need to refrigerate prior to use and tastes great! When you have four pies to make, less than 4 hours and are a beginner, this is a buttery, cookie flavored gift.

As for the filling, I used a basic combination consisting of a pint of blueberries, a dash of lemon juice, flour and sugar, found in the Spice and Spirit cookbook. Again - simple, quick and fool proof!

For the topping, I decided to make a crumble. The shortbread just wouldn't cooperate to make a lattice pattern. I essentially opted for the crumble I usually use on my sweet potato pie.

Now here's where it gets interesting. My main goal was to make individual, small pies. I felt awkward showing up with one large pie and thought that mini individual sized ones would be more casual and cute! (By the way, in my opinion, the kids won out - they got mini Chocolate Cream Filled Cupcakes!)

I made pies in three different forms: a muffin tin, individual tart tins and a fluted mini cake pan.

The winner?

Definitely the muffin tin. It provided a great pie crust to filling ratio, as well as popped out effortlessly. I used vegetable shortening to prep all of the pans and this worked out the absolute best! All it took was a dull knife to pop it out!

Second place, goes to the individual tart tins. These also were easily removed, and without the use of a knife or any other utensil. Due to their disposable nature, you can just peel or cut away the tin without any hazard to the pie. Downside? The shallow nature of the tin doesn't allow for a lot of filling. Having said that though it's still pretty fantastic! This was the option I ended up going with for the gift, given the fact that the pies still had to be packaged and gifted. The muffin tin option would be my go-to for serving as a dessert or on a tray on a dessert table, but as far as transporting goes, the tart tins definitely were the most practical.

Unfortunately, I really had my hopes set on the fluted mini cake pans, but they just didn't pop out at all. Not that it was a complete loss - I mean sitting in the kitchen eating stubborn pie, scraped out of a cake pan isn't a total loss... right?

At the end of the experiment, I had a kitchen full of pie, a gift ready and made with so much effort and love and awesome, awesome recipients who made getting out of the kitchen and going to lunch the perfect way to top off an awesome morning of successful kitchen adventures!

*Given the fact that I had spent the entire morning baking, I didn't have enough time to take a final picture of the gift. I remembered to once we were already in the car, on the way to lunch!