Sunday, 23 December 2012

Candied Citrus Peel

This Christmas I have been experimenting! With candy making. I love baking (duh) and have been doing it my whole life. However, the whole candy making thing is very foreign, slightly terrifying, and extensively exciting to me. I find it rather mysterious... if that is not weird  And something that I would like to get better at. So far my candy making adventures have come in the form of marshmallows, and chocolate truffles (coming soon)... and today's treat: Candied Citrus Peel!

There was a recipe for Christmas cookies (also coming soon) that I have been eager to make, and as part of the ingredient list it calls for candied lemon peel, and candied orange peel. Yes, you can indeed trot off to the store and buy some pre-maid... but where is the fun, I ask? I have always wanted to try making my own anyways, so it seemed like an appropriate time. 

You can use this recipe for any type of citrus fruit. I have tried it with lemon and orange so far, but I think it would be really interesting to try lime and/or grapefruit... Keep in mind that you should not mix the fruits, because the resulting flavour would be wack (but this is an assumption). Making candied peel is an excellent use for something that you would otherwise throw away! I am a fan of the idea of not letting anything go to waste.

Candied Citrus Peel
Recipe inspired by and adapted from Food Coma and Smitten Kitchen

You will need:
  • citrus fruit of your choosing (I found it easy to use about 3 at a time)
  • 1 1/2 cups water (plus more for blanching)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

There is a reason why we do not eat the peels normally. They are gross and bitter! But by blanching the peels three times in boiling water, changing the water each time, the bitterness will happily boil away.

So, fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Whilst waiting for the water to boil, you can prep the peels for blanching. The easiest way to do this I found was to cut a small piece off of the top and bottom of the fruit. Then, cut long strips from the top to the bottom. Be careful to only cut the peel and not too far into the fruit, otherwise resulting in frustration when you try and separate the two. Not that I know what that feels like...
Peel away the peel from the flesh of the fruit.

Once the water has boiled, place the peel slices in the water and blanch for about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse, then repeat this process but with fresh boiling water. TIP! If you can, have two pots going at a time so you dont waste time waiting for the water to boil. It's Christmas. We are busy. We do not have time to watch water boil. Once the fruit has been blanched three times, it is time for the candy-ing part!

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, boil together equal parts water and sugar to make a simple syrup. I found for working with three fruits at a time, 1 1/2 cups of each worked well.

When the Sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup is bubbling and boiling, add the peels. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and leave the peels to simmer for about 1 hour. Stir the peels every so often.

After an hour, use a slotted spoon to remove the peels from the syrup and leave to cool on a wire rack.

At this stage, there are a few options for the future of your peels. As I was just going to use them inside cookie batter, I left them as is and kept them in an airtight container in my fridge. You could go the Food Coma route and roll them in sugar, or you could go the Smitten Kitchen route and dip them in dark chocolate (Oh yes, I think that is what will happen with the leftovers).

I think a cute little package of chocolate dipped homemade candied peel would make a darling gift for friends and neighbors this Christmas!

Happy Candying!

<3 Lari

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

Chocolate and Mint. Arguably one of the best combinations of all time. And when it is in the form of a chocolate cake with a dark chocolate frosting spiked with peppermint and garnished with crushed candy canes... it is no exception! I first made this cake for somebody else, but I, along with the rest of my family, was slightly jealous that we did not get to indulge in the cake eating experience. So, at our next family dinner my mother requested demanded that I make one for us! It is now going to be a holiday staple around my house... it is simply divine. We served it with some festive peppermint ice cream alongside... ohhh baby! I just love the holidays!

Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

Chocolate Cake:
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1) Stir together the cocoa powder and the boiling water, set aside.
2)Cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the vanilla, then the eggs.
3) In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Alternate adding the dry ingredients to the butter mixture with the buttermilk, mixing until just combined after each addition. Blend in the cocoa powder/water mixture.
4)Pour the batter into two greased and floured 9" round cake pans. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cakes inside their pans for at least ten minutes, then let them cool completely before frosting.

When I bake cake, I usually bake it a few days of even weeks in advance. Once your cake is baked and cooled completely, you can wrap up the individual layers and pop it in the freezer. It can chill out there for up to 3 months! So that when it is time for cake, all you have to do is pull it out of the freezer and decorate it. By the time your guests have arrived and it's dessert time, your cake will be ready to be devoured, and you will have minimal "last-minute-cake" stress. :)

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Frosting:
  • 2 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
Cream the butter, add the cocoa powder, milk and vanilla and peppermint. Gradually add the icing sugar until it is the consistency you dream of.

Assembly time!
Place one cake layer on a fancy platter which you are going to present your masterpiece on. Cover the top with about one third of the frosting. Place the other cake layer on top, and coat the top and the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting in an even layer. Use your knife or spatula to make pretty little swirls of frosting on the top of the cake.
For the sides of my cake, I took peppermint flavoured candy canes and crushed them using a rolling pin. Then I took the crushed candy in my hands and gracefully slap it on the sides of the cake, pressing gently to adhere it. Those little bits of candy cane that don't stick to the sides and just fall onto the platter need not go to waste! Just sweep them off the plate and continue adhering them to the rest of your cake.

TADAA! A chocolatey-minty-masterpiece :)

PS I decided last minute to decorate the top of my cake with two little candy canes making a cute little heart. Awe.

<3 Lari

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tarte Tatin

Is this really happening? Am I really making another post after nearly two months? It's a miracle! Tomorrow morning I have my art history exam for school and I should most likely be studying right now. But guys, I have priorities! Pie Priorities, to be exact. And I miss talking about food. So I'm back.

So school is stressful. Yup that is a well known fact. A little too well known by me for my liking. I love the work that I do in school but sometimes (a lot of the time) I MISS BAKING!

There is not a lot of time for baking when you are a student unfortunately. But a miracle happened the other day AND I HAD TIME TO BAKE!

I also had a large bag of apples from our neighbor's backyard that needed to be dealt with. Little late on the fall baking... whateva.

I also have been dying to try my hand at making a classic Tarte Tatin.


Tarte Tatin (pronounced tart tatahn... with my sad attempt at a french accent) is a classic French dessert, that if I am correct, was invented by two sisters with the last name of Tatin. The making of this tart caused a lot of confusion in my house as to how exactly to pronounce the title. My advice is to just pretend you are an elegant french lady (or man when applicable) and say it quickly with confidence. (Note, this advice is applicable to nearly all life situations.)
The tart itself is similar to an apple pie, but you bake it upside-down, which is just whimsical!

The journey begins with a cast iron pan on the stove with lots of butter and sugar and arranged apple slices, we then take the party to the oven to slowly cook the apples, then we add a layer of puff pastry to the top, bake until it is, well, puffed, then out of the oven and FLOP it over (gracefully, please) onto a platter so the pastry is on the bottom and your apples are prettily displayed on top! How romantic, sigh. BON APPETITE!

Tarte Tatin
Recipe is from my dear Martha and her amazing Pies and Tarts book

  • 1/2 box of store bought frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-4 pounds your neighbours apples (If your neighbours do not have apples to give you, you should use store bought and promptly find new neighbours)
  • Cast iron pan, 10 inches in diameter
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the thawed puff pastry dough to about a 10 inch square. Using your pan as a guide, cut out a 10 inch circle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and chill until firm, or about 30 minutes.
As your pastry is chilin' coat your pan GENEROUSLY with the butter. Seriously, use it all. It looks like a lot, and it is a lot. But what were you expecting? It's a dessert. Now sprinkle the sugar all over the bottom in an even layer. Peel, core and quarter (or thickly slice) your apples. Arrange the apple slices in pretty, overlapping circles in the pan. Keep in mind that we are flipping this whole thing over once it is done, so make that bottom layer beautiful!
Place the pan on the stove over medium high heat and cook it (Without stirring!) until the juices are a deep golden colour and it is happily bubbling away. This takes about 18-20 minutes. This stage is to turn your sugar and butter into a delicious caramel type of sauce.
Now, pop the whole pan straight into a 425F preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and place your chilled pastry overtop of the apples. return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 23-28 minutes to brown the pastry.
Take the pan out of the oven and invert the tart onto a large serving platter or plate and have a "tadaa!" moment. My "tadaa" moment was rather anti-climactic, I won't lie, as a few of my apples stuck to the bottom of the pan. Do not fear! Do not get mad. Do not let it ruin your Tarte Tatin experience. Just calmly and gently remove them with a fork or spatula and place them on the tart as if nobody saw.
Serve right away while the tart is still warm so your vanilla ice cream can melt into the apple-y goodness.

Happy French Baking!

<3 Lari