A Tour Down the Eaten Path

Target Practice 

I’ve been setting goals, reaching targets and flat out missing them from an early age; no doubt, so have you. For example, at 5 I realized I couldn’t sit at the colouring table and be taken seriously by my classmates with a thumb stuck in my mouth. I set myself a goal to quit and (as far as you know) I no longer suck my thumb. At 12, I decided I was going to make a bunch of cash babysitting and save for something really important which for the next few years, I did. Then we moved to a small town, and at 15 I blew my small fortune on potato wedges and boot legged beer for bush parties. At 17, I decided to save up and move to England after high school; I did and it was more educational than the 4 years I spent in university, though that too, was a significant goal to achieve. I took a yoga teacher training class thinking that I’d like to be a yoga instructor and realized that in fact I simply wanted to deepen my personal practice. I prefer to have that be a place where I can work on myself in the back row vs. leading at the front.

My point, is that we set goals, we visualize targets and we let our arrows fly. There are times we hit the bullseye, gaining the experience and results we initially expected and continue to head in a set direction. Other times we miss by a long shot and our arrows land somewhere unexpected, but no less significant, and reroute our goals entirely. 

My furiously curiously travelling pal Jhyl, writes eloquently on a related subject and it’s worth a read.

I’ve begun to pay attention to where the arrows land when I miss the bullseye, and ironically it’s those perceived misses that have led me to the things I love most. The beauty of taking a shot is that it always lands somewhere new and you can pick up the arrow at any time to take another shot.

A word about these bullseye cookies. Up until I had them rolled out, cut and on the baking sheet, I thought they were going to flop. The dough was so crumbly that calling it dough couldn’t have been farther from the truth. It made me want to curl up and suck my thumb. The next day I gently remixed the dough, adjusting the butter by adding a bit more to help it hold together. The cookies baked perfectly and received rave reviews, but who knows what the next new recipe holds. It’s all just target practice.

Apricot Passionfruit Jam

7-8 apricots (1 lb)

2 passion fruits

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 Tbls white wine

1/2 a vanilla bean pod, split

Remove pits from apricots and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Strain passion fruit well, to extract all the juice leaving seeds behind. In heavy saucepan, over medium heat, combine apricots, passion fruit juice, sugar, wine and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer, while stirring frequently. Cook until the juice released covers the fruit, about 5 minutes.

Pour cooked fruit into a strainer set over a bowl and drain off juice. Return juice to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally until the juice has reduced by half, into a syrup, 7-8 minutes. Return apricots and vanilla bean to the pot with syrup and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently, and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle into a sterilized jar. Set aside to cool.

*If you are making this jam to store for a length of time, be sure to follow proper canning procedures.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Bullseye Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

large pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 

extra icing sugar for sprinkling

In a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sifted icing sugar, salt and vanilla together until well combined, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and add flour, resume mixing at a low speed until just combined. Remove bowl and give the dough a final mix with a spatula. The dough will appear to be quite crumbly.

Transfer the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, fold plastic over top and press the dough out to about a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Chill in the refrigerator over night.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, move the racks to the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove dough from the fridge and cut off 1/3. Return remaining dough to the fridge to wait.

On a flour surface, gently kneed the dough until it has softened a bit and is easier to work with. Again, this dough is very crumbly but it’s worth the aggravation as that’s also why it produces such a beautifully fragile shortbread cookie. Don’t be afraid to press it firmly into itself as you shape it into a rectangular shape. Flour it again and roll it out gently with a rolling pin. If the dough cracks and breaks, simply push it back into itself and continue to roll until about 3/16 inch thick. You’ll see that it does come together and roll out nicely. 

Use 2 - 2 1/2” round cookie cutter and place cookies a few inches apart on a parchment lined sheet. Repeat process with the remaining dough and dough scraps. Cut a 1/2 inch hole from the centre of half the unbaked cookies (I used a large piping tip).

Bake the cookies until they are firm and have a slightly golden colour. Depending on your oven 12-18 minutes. Rotate the sheets at the 8 or 9 minute mark for a more even bake. You may also want to double pan the bottom tray or simply rotate the top and bottom trays half way through baking.

Allow cookies to cool. Turn the cookies without holes over and spoon on preserves. Sift icing sugar over the cookie tops and place onto the jammed up bases.

Keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

They won’t last that long.

Makes about 24 sandwich cookies

Cookie recipe adapted from Nick Malgieri’s Bake

Photos and Apricot Passion Fruit Jam recipe by Maggie Murphy

Citrus Morning

Each work day this past 2 weeks I’ve been up before dawn. I hop on my bike, peddle through the soft grey morning light and float down the newly lilac scented streets toward the train. The train takes me south over the river, where the first blush of day has quietly begun to arrive downstream; Jose Gonzalez plays in my head. There is no dazzling light, only a peachy pink, citrus glow along the horizon, as if Bob Ross had painted it there, between the happy little green trees that run along the waters edge. In those few moments, I’m not tired and I never have been. 

Then I’m between skyscrapers, a guy with a bag of cans is asking me how much my bike cost, he’s predicting the weather (he was right, by the way, it didn’t snow last week like the weather channel said it would) and I realize I forgot to brush my teeth. The spell is broken and my day has officially begun.

Before I forget to mention it, pound cake is okay to eat for breakfast. It’s totally different from regular cake because…it’s in loaf form…yep, let’s go with that. I mean you eat it with a cup of tea and you can drink tea in the morning so…I’m not selling this very well.

How about this? If you’re looking for a little spark in your morning and you absolutely refuse to wake up with me at 4:30 to watch the sun rise, eat a piece of this pistachio citrus pound cake for breakfast. It’s tart lime drizzle and fresh flavours are an aurora for the taste buds.

Pistachio Citrus Pound Cake

Nonstick vegetable oil spray or butter for greasing pan

2 cups all- purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs

2 Tbsp fresh Meyer lemon juice

2 Tbsp fresh grapefruit juice

2 tsp finely grated grapefruit zest

1 tsp finely grated lime zest

1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Position a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325° Fahrenheit. Coat a 9x5x3” loaf pan with nonstick spray or softened butter. Dust pan with flour and tap out the excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, beat butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. You may also use and electric handheld mixer for this. Add sugar and beat until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture, beating well between each addition. Add juices and zests; beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled), about 3 minutes. Now add the dry ingredients and reduce speed to low beating just until blended. You may also choose to fold the dry ingredient in by hand. Do not over mix! Fold in 3/4 cup of the chopped pistachios. Pour batter into prepared pan and out the smooth top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over the batter.

Bake cake, and rotate halfway through. When your test stick comes out clean from the centre of the cake it’s done, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides and release cake from pan. 

Keeps in an air tight container in the fridge for 2-4 days.

Lime Drizzle (fo shizzle)

1 cup icing sugar 

Juice of 1 lime

Zest of half a lime

In a small bowl mix together the icing sugar and lime juice (you may need more icing sugar or more juice - look for a consistency that will run off your spoon but won’t spread so much that it all becomes one pile of icing). Mix in lime zest.

After the pound cake has cooled and is on the serving dish, drizzle lime icing across the top making a pretty pattern. Allow it to run off the sides for good coverage.

Slice and serve.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Photos by Maggie Murphy

Sun Kissed & Sweet Lipped

I’m enjoying a mug of hot cocoa stuffed with rhubarb marshmallows. Seems like a wintery thing to do but somehow it’s pairing perfectly with my newly acquired sunburn; I’m just missing a blazing backyard fire.

I was out and about on my bike today, delivering marshmallows and running errands which lead to my first official sunburn of the year. I’m a shade somewhere between rhubarb red and rhubarb marshmallow pink. It’s weird and splotchy and I start my first day of work tomorrow at a great local bake shop. Excellent. I’m bringing them some marshmallows in hopes of distracting them from my bizarre burn.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a marshmallow lover by any means but I’ve been curious about them from a purely creative perspective. Turns out they’re fun to make and I quite like the rhubarb twist. Rhubarb is one of the first items in season each spring and as soon as I see it at the market I’m like a moth to a flame. If you recall, last spring I paid way too much for that first batch of rhubarb, this time around I perused each stall at the farmers market for the best deal.

I’ve never heard of a rhubarb marshmallow but it seems a natural couple, no?  Rhubarb is always lookin’ for a little sugar. 

Rhubarb Marshmallows

3 med-large stocks rhubarb (cooked down to a compound)

3 Tbls +1 tsp unflavoured powdered gelatin

1/4 cup rhubarb juice (from the compound)

1 1/2 Tbls rhubarb, cooked (from the compound)

1/4 cup water

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup white corn syrup

1/2 cup hot water

2 egg whites

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp vanilla

*cornstarch for lining trays

Dice up rhubarb and toss into a heavy saucepan with 3/4 cup of water over medium high heat. Cook down until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving you with a watery jam like consistency. Pour the rhubarb and juice into a strainer over a small bowl and press all the liquid out. Measure out the required juice and fruit. (You can use any other fruit compound you like)

In the bowl of your electric mixer, add gelatin, rhubarb juice and 1/4 cup water. Make sure all the gelatin dissolves before you add the heated sugar and that your whisk attachment is in place before you transfer the hot sugar.

* You’ll need a candy thermometer for this next part.

In a heavy saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup and hot water. Allow the mixture to completely melt then crank the heat up to medium-high, bringing it to a boil. Wipe down the sides of the saucepan with a damp pasty brush to avoid crystallization of the sugar and clip on your thermometer. Heat the sugar to 250° F (121° C). 

While the sugar is heating up, beat your egg whites and salt in a stainless steel bowl until they have a stiff peak. I did this by hand (b/c my mixing bowl was already in use) with a whisk but you can also use a hand mixer if you have that as well. Make sure there is no fat present in the bowl or on the whisk, otherwise your whites won’t firm up (also, don’t use a plastic bowl, it has the same reaction as if fat is present). Set the whites aside.

When the hot sugar is ready, turn the mixer on to a medium-low speed and slowly pour the sugar mixture down the inside of the mixing bowl. Once all the sugar has been added, toss in the cooked rhubarb and gradually turn mixer up to its highest speed. When the mixture has started to stiffen and has doubled in volume, add the egg whites, vanilla and 2 drops of pink food safe dye. Continue to mix until light and fluffy.

After this you’ll want to move quickly b/c the marshmallow starts to set or thicken up within about 10 minutes. You want to be able to spread or pipe it while it’s still soft. So prepare your baking trays ahead of time with aluminum foil and a layer of sifted cornstarch.  The marshmallow will stick to any spots that aren’t covered in cornstarch.

If you’d like you can simply spread the marshmallow out over the whole sheet (spray an offset spatula with nonstick spray to spread mixture cleanly). Let it dry over night and then use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the marshmallow into pieces (you’ll need to spray your cutting tool with non-stick spray as well)

Or, you can pipe them as I did by using a piping bag with a medium or large star tip. Pipe onto the cornstarch sprinkled trays in whatever shape you’d like and let them dry over night.  They can be eaten about 4 hours after you’ve piped them but if they sit over night then the tops dry with a nice skin so the marshmallows are easy to pull of the trays. 

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. 

Makes 40 (too many? perhaps)

Recipe adapted from Sugar Baby

Photos by Maggie Murphy

Classic Pesto

A beautiful video from Kinfolk.

Flying in the Wind

Vol-au-vent, a French style puff pastry case, translated to english means ‘flying with/in the wind’. It’s meant to describe the light airy texture of the pastry once it’s been baked; the air that gets trapped between layers and layers of buttery pastry. The French have a way of fluffing up even the simplest of things. I like that about them. If it were up to anyone else it might have been called Pastry #8 or something else rather mundane. 

Puff pastry on its own isn’t very flavorful, and the purpose of vol-au-vent is really to house something delectable. Like, perhaps, a creamy mascarpone mushroom filling with spicy sausage slices drizzled in green onion & pea shoot oil.

For some reason vol-au-vent makes me think of Twitter. I know it’s a bit of a stretch but bear with me.

Twitter is like a vast, fast flowing river, or, for the sake of this post, an intense wind of information. You step on-line and a gust of tweets pluck you up and whisk you away to enlightenment. I have myself, been caught in this wind of illumination, only blowing back to earth when I’m hungry and dehydrated or when the light turns green (I’m joking, don’t tweet and drive). There are layers and layers of information and there is also a lot of ‘air’. Then there is the stuff I’m really interested in, the delectable filling if you will.

It’s kind of like your own informational vol-au-vent, which is truly awesome. 

I’m still trying to determine what kind of tweeter…twitterer…tweetster (?) I want to be. For now I’m enjoying that I can connect with people in the Canadian food community like Julie and Renee. Thanks for the recent support ladies!

Mushroom Vol-au-vent with Green Onion & Sweet Pea Shoot Oil

For the Green Onion and Sweet Pea Shoot Oil:

 3 green onions

1 1/2 cup sweet pea shoots

3/4 cup olive oil

Chop green onions and pea shoots coarsely. Toss in a blender and add oil; puree until smooth. Pour through a very fine strainer (or coffee filter) and let drain at room temp for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Do not push solids through. 

 For the Vol-au-vent and Creamy Mushroom Filling:

6-8 white button mushrooms, sliced

6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 Tbls butter

3 cloves garlic

1 Tbls thyme

1 large shallot

pinch kosher salt

1/4 cup white wine

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup mascarpone

salt & pepper to taste

2 spicy sausages

1 package puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Typically the box instructions don’t have you set the temp this high and find the pastry doesn’t puff up as much as I want it to. You may have to play around with your oven temperature to determine what works best for you.

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat an egg and set aside with a pastry brush. 

Roll out all the puff pastry to anywhere from 1/8 or 14” thick. You’ll need 2 cookie cutters ( I used a 2” and a 1” round). Cut out as many 2” rounds as you can. Divide the rounds in two placing half of them on the baking sheet. With the other half, take your 1” cutter and cut a smaller round from the 2” rounds. You’ll be left with a 2” ring of pastry and a 1” round. It’s the ring you want.

Lightly egg wash each 2” round on the tray and place a corresponding 2” ring over top so the edges line up. Then very lightly, egg wash the top ring. As one of my chefs would say, ‘You’re not making quiche’. Also, you don’t want to have any egg bind up the puff pastry and hinder its rising. Bake 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven heat. You want the vol-au-vent to be a golden brown and feel light as air when you pick them up. Also, if they start to curl over like a slinky, just press them back down a bit as they are baking to help them rise straight up.

In a small pan fry up two sausages until cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool. Slice up into thin round pieces and place a few into the cup of each vol-au-vent.

In a medium pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and toss in sliced mushrooms, saute 5-7 minutes. Once the mushrooms have released their moisture add finely diced shallot, garlic, thyme and salt. Saute another few minutes until the onions become translucent and the mushrooms have begun to get a bit of colour. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of pan to release all the good bits. 

Finally, add mascarpone, milk, salt and pepper and combine well. Remove from heat and spoon a generous portion onto of the sausage and vol-au-vent. Drizzle with a bit of onion and pea shoot oil, garnish with pea shoots.

Perfect for appetizers or for dinner with a side salad.

Makes 10-12

Photos and recipes by Maggie Murphy