Thursday, June 30, 2011

Berry Sponge Cake

Birthdays are days of indulgence and what better what to indulge than to go on a vacation? While we were on vacation a couple days ago, my baby brother Kyle turned fifteen years old. Okay, so he’s not really a baby anymore: his feet are larger than mine, he’s taller, and I’m pretty sure that he finally (finally) weighs more than me. He’s growing up, but deep down, he’s always going to be that little brother I have to take care of.

Since we were in a hotel when his birthday passed, the best I could do in terms of celebration food was a latte and a slice of coffee cake from the hotel Starbucks. But now that I have the use of a kitchen, a true celebration cake is in order. Yesterday, I baked him a cake, based on a cake that he had eaten when he broke the 30 Hour Famine. He had liked that berry sponge cake from Richtree so much at the time (although after 25 hours without eating I’m sure he would have liked anything), so I attempted to recreate it. 

The difficult part was that I didn’t know what the different components of the cake were because I hadn’t even tasted it. The cake I made yesterday was solely based on my observations and what my brother was able to describe in between mouthfuls of cake. Truth be told, Kyle doesn’t know what half of the stuff he puts in his mouth is so he wasn’t much help. He had taken a bite of the Vegan Chocolate Torte and said that it tasted good, albeit a tad bit strange. When I informed his that the cream was made from avocados, he promptly shoved his plate in my direction because, apparently, he doesn’t like avocados.

From what I saw, the cake was composed of four elements: the sponge cake layer at the bottom, followed by a layer of cream, some berries on top of the cream, with a top layer of jello filling the spaces between the fruit. I didn’t know for sure, but Kyle confirmed that there was a layer of cream (though he couldn't tell what kind of how thick) and that there was indeed jello on the top of the cake.

this is how the whipped eggs should look.

I took all of this in stride and figured that the cake wasn’t that difficult to make. All I had to do was bake a sponge cake, make some pastry cream, wash some berries, and make some jello. Once everything was mise en place, I began to assemble the cake. I spread a thin layer of pastry cream over the cake, being sure to seal the top. I sprinkled some berries over top, pressing slightly to adhere. Then I brought the cake to the basement kitchen and poured the jello over top before I stowed it away in the fridge.

I had guessed that the pastry cream would act like a barrier to prevent the jello from soaking into the sponge cake. I still can’t tell if my assumption was right or wrong. When I went down to grab something from the fridge five minutes after I had put the cake in, I found that the liquid jello had seeped through the springform pan and formed a viscous pool on the baking sheet I’d placed the cake on (thank goodness I’m that compulsive; washing a baking sheet is a lot easier than scrubbing out the floor of the fridge). I sighed disappointedly but I figured there wasn’t much I could do. 

I was a little wary to see how the cake turned out a couple hours later. I braced myself for what I would find when I opened the door to the fridge. A jello-y mess on the floor of the fridge? A rubbery sponge cake filled with bits of jello? An empty space where the cake once sat? (It was possible that Kyle’s friends, who were sleeping over at our house, could have eaten it. Half a dozen hungry teenage boys and nothing in the fridge but a berry cake...)

I brought the cake upstairs. On closer inspection, it appeared fine. Only a minimal amount of jello remained on the surface of the cake; most of it had leaked out of the bottom of the springform pan (okay, so now I know that that springform pans leak.) When I sliced myself a piece of cake and tried a bite, I was surprised to see and taste that the liquid jello had not mixed in with the pastry cream or absorbed into the cake. It seemed that the jello had merely seeped out the bottom of the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake and cream unaffected. 

This cake wasn’t exactly the version that Kyle had eaten, but it was still quite a success according to the empty plates of half a dozen of Kyle’s friends. I’m not even sure I want to recreate the Richtree version or instead, to just omit the jello entirely.  

Obviously, I need to go to Richtree and actually eat the cake before I try to recreate it.  

Click below for the recipe.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Vacation 2011: NYC & Princeton

Over the years, I have gone on enough family road trips to figure out how to survive ten hours in a car with four other people who are all breathing the same air as me. The first survival skill is to turn up the AC to keep things cool. The second trick is to attempt to sit in the front seat for the longest period of time. It’s not easy sharing the backseat with two broad-shouldered teenage boys without feeling like a semi-squashed bug.

the hotel at niagara falls where we stayed for a night.

The third and most important thing of all is to bring a charged iPod and a pair of earphones. Or two, in case that first pair breaks. Besides napping, listening to music is probably the only thing I can do in a moving car because I get motion sick so easily. Our family doesn’t really have that common road trip noise problem. Everyone just jacks in their headphones and we pass the time in quiet harmony.

I listen to music. I nap. But ten hours is a long, long time. Whenever I get really bored, I stare out the window. Counting trees or grass is too difficult, but counting the number of animals on the side of the road is feasible. And a little depressing. You’d be surprised how much road kill is lying around on the highways.

This year, we went to New York and New Jersey, the main purpose of our trip being back-to-school shopping (my mom likes being prepared). It’s been a couple years since we’ve gone to NYC to go shopping; everyone in our family has a different schedule and it’s hard to find a week where we’re all free. It’s times like these when I’m glad that I have exams because it means I have about two weeks of “summer vacation” before my next commitment starts. 

Okay, so going to NYC for the sole purpose of buying material items sounds pretty shallow. We also visited Princeton University, which is located nearby. Princeton is my secret dream school, although it’s not really a secret anymore. It’s that school I would like to go to, but in my hearts of hearts, I highly doubt I’m going to make it there. But visiting campus will definitely make the dream more real.

New Jersey is built differently from Toronto. The first thing I noticed was that there are hotels and restaurants and as stations accessible directly by highway. And that a lot of the roads in the suburbs are so new that our GPS doesn’t know they exist and thus, tells us to turn right onto the wrong side of the road.

“Hey Dad,” my older brother asked cautiously. “Are we on the wrong side of the road?”

“Hmm, looks like it,” my dad said nonchalantly, veering back towards the right side. Good thing there aren’t as many cars on the roads in the suburbs.

It also happened to be my younger brother Kyle’s birthday while we were in New Jersey. So I went down to the hotel Starbucks and bought him a vanilla latte and a slice of cinnamon swirl coffee cake. Kyle loves coffee, even though the caffeine isn’t going to make him any taller. But birthdays are like get-out-of-jail-free cards. 

“Why’d you get him Starbucks?” my older brother groaned. “We were supposed to get him that game,” he said, referring to the video game I had refused to chip in for. “That’s what he really wants.”

“No,” Mom said, watching Kyle tear into the coffee cake and slurp down the latte. “This is what he wants right now.” she said, referring to Kyle’s previous complaints of hunger in the morning.

Besides visiting Princeton, the best part of the trip was that we got a new camera. Technically, it’s the “family” DSLR because my brothers and I each chipped in, with my dad being the principle share holder. But it’s the “family” camera in the same sense that the PS3 is the “family” game console, which no one uses except my two brothers. I was definitely the most excited one about the new camera.

It’s my new baby.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Torte

I’m an omnivore; always was, always will be. A thick juicy steak? Yes, please. Sashimi? I’ll definitely eat it. Cheese, eggs, milk, cream? Love them dairy products. I have considered becoming vegan in the past, but I could never follow through. I’d think about the poor fish that were farmed for the sole purpose that we could dissect them in science class, or watch some Youtube video about the unfortunate chickens that are used by KFC and then I would think about becoming a vegetarian. And then I really thought about how that meant I would have to give up eating any dairy products or meat, and I’d give up before I’d even started.

Becoming a vegetarian would be a lifestyle choice that I would maybe like to achieve one day. And this Vegan Chocolate Torte is one step closer to vegetarianism. 

Baking vegan desserts that taste good is no easy feat. You can’t use eggs, butter, milk, cheese, or cream. Making a vegan cake is totally within my scope. One time, I had forgotten to add the egg to the Chocolate Cupcakes that I was making. Besides drying out more quickly, they had tasted fine. However, making creamy vegan desserts is difficult when you can’t actually use milk or butter or cream.

The last vegan dessert I had tried to make was a vegan cheesecake. The “cheesecake” tasted exactly like tofu, which is used in many vegan recipes, and it wasn’t creamy or rich enough. That was the last time I ever used tofu in desserts. The secret in this recipe: avocadoes! Avocadoes are most definitely healthier than heavy cream and creamier and richer than tofu.

To the discerning palette, there is a slight deviation in taste from traditional pudding (thanks to all those avocadoes), but when you consider that the vegan torte is so much healthier than one made with cream, you’ll get over it. The pudding-topping is so good that you’ll lick the spatula anyways. At least I know I did.

Click below for the recipe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

St. Lawrence Market & The Chef's House

For me, the first week after exams are over is always the busiest. It is during this time that I plan all the things I didn’t have time to do while studying, like meeting with friends, going out for dinner, or orthodontist checkups. During those hard weeks of studying, one of my solaces was that my best friend Jenny and I had planned to go eat lunch at The Chef’s House the day after all our exams ended. On Tuesday, that day finally came.

St. Lawrence Market.

We ended up arriving a bit earlier than we’d anticipated, so we decided to take a stroll in the St. Lawrence Market (which wasn’t the smartest idea because we both weren’t wearing walking shoes). I haven’t been to the St. Lawrence Market in years; the last time I’d gone was probably in grade five, when our class went downtown to see a play. I certainly didn’t remember all the butcher shops and bakeries and grocery shops. My mouth watered and my heart yearned to take something home, but I reasoned that buying steaks without a cooler bag in this 24C weather was not a smart move.

We headed back to The Chef’s House. The Chef’s House is a restaurant run by Hospitality and Culinary Arts students of George Brown College. I was really excited to be eating at a student-run restaurant because there was a chance that I would enrol at George Brown College in the future. 

The restaurant is airy and well-furnished with earth tones in a modern way. Located in full view, the kitchen takes up about a third of the restaurant space. If looking across the room to see your food being prepared is not enough, there are cameras which broadcast what is happening in the kitchen on several flat screen TVs placed throughout the restaurant.

I had a quinoa salad to start. The salad, composed of quinoa, diced cucumbers, and cranberries, was served with avocado puree, sour cream, and red pepper coulis. I liked the textural differences between the quinoa, cucumber, and cranberries, and the creaminess that the avocado puree and sour cream added.

The main was my favourite course. I had brown, crisp pork belly confit with steamed spinach and tender roasted fingerling potatoes. A sherry vinaigrette rounded the dish with a touch of tartness. Every component was cooked to perfection and seasoned well.

 Dessert was a slight disappointment. I ordered a crepe served with house made ice cream. Though the flavour of the ice cream was indistinguishable, it was light and smooth and fluffy. Some of the ice cream melted with the maple syrup to create a pool of sauce in which I attempted to soak the dry, rubbery crepe. 

Overall, I had a really great experience at The Chef’s House. Besides the good food, the thing I liked the most was that the staff did not treat Jenny and I in a different manner than the other guests because we were teenagers (probably because the staff themselves were students only a few years older than us). I can’t wait to go back in October to try their fall menu. 

Jenny's chocolate pot.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blueberry Blondies

When I came home on Friday evening, the first thing my dad said when he saw me was, “What happened to the cake?” I smirked—trust my dad not to remember that the square bars were called blondies—but I quickly resumed a neutral facial expression. This was a rare occurrence, my dad asking about my desserts, and I wanted to bask in the triumph of making a sweet treat that even he enjoyed.  

Then I blinked, remembering. I had given the remaining blondies to my friends as a good-luck-on-your-life-changing-science-exam charm. I felt slightly bad; on the rare occasion that my dad liked one of my baked treats, I had given them all away. So on Saturday, I decided to make another batch of blondies.

The blondies I had made on Thursday had contained white chocolate, but the taste was not pronounced enough. I debated whether I should add more white chocolate to make a more white chocolate-y blondie, or to omit it entirely. In the end, I decided to omit the white chocolate to see if there would be any difference in taste or texture.

After tasting the Blueberry Blondies, I concluded that the taste of the blondies with the white chocolate tasted so similar to the ones without white chocolate that I couldn’t really tell. My family didn’t seem to notice difference either. My mom did, however, say that the Blueberry Blondies tasted better than the White ChocolateCherry Brownies.  I guess I’ll just have to find a new white chocolate blondie recipe.

Click below for the recipe.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Raspberry Mascarpone Cream Tart

The things I can get done on a Saturday morning before my younger brother Kyle even lifts his head off the pillow:
  • eat breakfast,
  • practice driving to a supermarket,
  • shop at said supermarket for two hours,
  • bake a tart shell and whip up the filling for my Raspberry Mascarpone Cream Tart,
  • bake Blueberry Blondies, and
  • eat lunch.
I’m a do-er. I like doing things, being on the move, and being busy. In that respect, I am as different as can be from my two brothers. Waking up earlier to do these things is a bit tiring, but I like that feeling of accomplishment. If only I could have used harnessed this energy two days ago to study for my science exam...

There’s no point looking into the past when the future is here. With all my exams over, I’m off the hook. I can do whatever I want whenever I want, for a little while anyways. I feel liberated, not tied down to school. Yet, this week seems to be even busier than ever. Meetings, celebrations, dinners, and other things that I have to do are piling up this weekend.

For those who forgot, tomorrow is Father’s Day, another holiday that I use as an excuse to bake a day. Unfortunately, my dad is going to be away for Father’s Day, so I decided to make him the Raspberry Mascarpone Cream Tart a day in advance.

My tart is loosely based on a fruit tart that I had seen on Annie’s Eats. I’m still looking for a go-to shortbread pie crust, so I decided to give Annie’s recipe a try. It was a pain to work with; it kept tearing and melting and sticking onto my marble board. In the end, I just slapped it in the pie tart and pressed in all the holes with extra pie crust. I’m not sure why the dough was so difficult to work with, but the crust tasted amazing. It was buttery and flaky and tender. The recipe also made enough dough for three extra mini tarts, which are the perfect size to give away to best friends named Jenny who still has exams this week.

The filling and fruit topping was inspired by the tub of mascarpone cheese in the refrigerator and the raspberries were on sale at the supermarket. At the last minute, I grated some lemon zest into the cream, to give it a light, lemon-y kick. The cream worked really well with the raspberries and I suspect that it would work well with any other berries or stone fruits.

Happy Father’s Day!

Click below for the recipe.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

White Chocolate Cherry Blondies

I’m a firm believer in blondies; they can fix anything. In a bad mood? Bake blondies. PMSing? Bake blondies. Worried that you might fail your science exam tomorrow because you haven’t studied yet? Bake blondies. (Or, you know, you could just go study...)

Originally, I had planned to make regular chocolate brownies, but I decided to try these White Chocolate Cherry Blondies instead. Blondies are like the albino cousin of brownies. Usually, blondies are butterscotch based, but I love that these have the addition of white chocolate.

Dense and chewy with a touch of cakey, these blondies deliver in terms of texture. The dried cherries add a tart twist which complemented the blondies, but the white chocolate flavour was not quite as pronounced as it could have been. The thing I love the most was that they were super simple to make and came together in about 10 minutes, tops. Blondies are my new go-to study-snack.

Click below for the recipe.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chocolate Pots

Studying: cramming your head full with useless information that you will most likely forget as soon as you complete the exam. I don’t know how much of that knowledge other people retain from studying for exams, but I seem to forget everything by the time summer ends I walk out of the exam room.

Today I met a few friends at the public library to study for our science exam. I smirked when I saw how full the study hall was; it seemed we weren’t the only ones who were studying at the library. People often say that studying at the library is easier as there are fewer distractions, but it’s a different story when it comes to study groups.

Surprisingly, I actually studied at the library today. It was pretty torturous to sit for three hours, reviewing long-forgotten concepts that I’d learned back in September, but I made it through... one of the three units we’d covered in the whole year. Twelve more hours and I might actually feel prepared for the science exam.

Of course, sitting and forcing oneself to read the textbook for hours on end isn’t an easy feat.By the two o’clock, Shaun left for work. At the two and a half hour mark, Zico left for a dentist appointment. When the clock struck three, Jonathan left as well. At three-thirty, Suzy and I decided to pack things up and go back to her house to make Chocolate Pots. Obviously, Chocolate Pots rank higher in importance than studying for our science exam. 

When we began making these Chocolate Pots, I had resolved not to eat one. As we quizzed each other on the structures of a cell, the smell of chocolate wafted throughout the house. Of course, I ended up changing my mind when I saw the Chocolate Pots come out of the over, their tops puffed and slightly cracked.

Click below for the recipe.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Breakfast Brain Food

I dislike "lasts": the last cookie in the cookie jar, the last pair of black flats that my mom bought for me, the last day of school. The last day of school... I can’t believe that my sophomore year of high school has just ended. It seemed just yesterday that I had entered high school, wide-eyed and innocent, fearful of what was to come. In a blink of an eye, two years have passed and my high school career is almost half over.  

I usually feel nostalgic during the last couple weeks of school, but I can’t seem to place that feeling this year. I figure that the people I would miss I would see throughout the summer anyways and that everyone else I would see the following September when we all returned to school as juniors.

I can't imagine what it would feel like to be a senior on the last day of school. The knowledge that commencement would be the last time you would see many of the peers you had gone to school with and essentially grown up with must be frightening. That much I could determine, yet, I couldn’t put myself in a senior’s shoes. Instead, I relished the fact that I had two more years before I’d have to experience it for real. 

This year, nostalgia seemed to have been chased out by exam stress. I earn good grades most of the time, but that’s only because I study and review quite a bit. Lately, I’ve been finding it difficult to sit down and just study. It doesn’t help that one of my neighbours is resurfacing his/her driveway and is currently cutting bricks. The buzzing noise is slowly driving me crazy. 

Whenever my mom sees that I’m stressed, she goes out of her way to make me more comfortable. Hence the whole wheat bagels, orange juice, and fresh fruit—breakfast brain food at its best.

Oh, how I love my mom.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberries

I used to take piano lessons every week for twelve years. I’m slightly ashamed to say that the moment after I finished my grade ten exam, I pushed piano out of my mind and that I haven’t touched it since. People question why I don’t play the piano anymore, but I can’t seem to answer. It’s a sticky subject involving years of forcing myself to do something I didn’t particularly enjoy and cramming masses of now seemingly useless music theory and history into my head and forgetting it immediately after the exam. A lot of time and effort over the last twelve years has gone into piano and I can’t seem to fathom any more for the enjoyment of it. Like I said, it’s a sticky subject, kind of like university.

My former piano teacher Harold... he’s interesting character. He’s really enthusiastic about music and it’s plain to see. Even though some of his students were not all that interested learning about music theory and history, he was ardent nonetheless. At the time, all that enthusiasm had been annoying, but looking back, I realize how Harold really did try his best to teach us what we needed to know. Effort is always nice. 

When I quit piano, I made a huge four layer chocolate cake surrounded by a blanket of luxurious chocolate frosting for Harold. I usually feel good when I share my baked goods with friends, but I was slightly reluctant to give that cake away because it was so delicious-looking. Harold was overjoyed when I gave him the cake, probably because he now had something to brag about to his other students. Obviously, he thought the cake was a goodbye-I’m-giving-you-this-cake-because-we’ll-probably-never-see-each-other-again kind of gift; when I called him to see when I could drop the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberries off on Sunday, he sounded surprised to hear from me. 

I had actually doubled the recipe and baked three chocolate cakes, two in 8-inch pans and one in a 9-inch pan. I had intended to make two cakes, one to keep and one to give away. I assembled the two 8-inch cake layers with the chocolate ganache and raspberries with no problem, but as I began to slice the 9-inch cake in half lengthwise, the whole thing crumbled. Literally. The bottom was still intact, but the top had broken into many small pieces. I sighed; it looked like Harold would get the assembled cake while I’d be stuck eating cake pieces. 

Let’s just say that after I’d eaten about a quarter of the crumbled cake, I didn’t really mind anymore. The cake itself was deliciously chocolate-y. It was rich in taste, but light in texture and just really, really good. Oh, how I love flourless chocolate cakes. Who needs ganache when they can just eat the cake with raspberries?

Click below for the recipe.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mini Tarts

I love pies. The crispness of the pie crust and the soft filling provides contrast in texture. A few months ago, I had an idea for a mini apple tart, composed of some apple slices placed on top of a round of pie crust. It was quite delicious, but I found that the apples weighed down the crust and didn’t allow for the maximum rise. I had debuted the mini apple tarts during a large gathering among friends and one of my mom’s friends had really enjoyed the tart. With summatives and projects wrapping up, I finally had a some time to study for exams bake something. I decided to make some mini pie crusts for my mom’s friend.

The concept is very simple: I baked the mini pie crusts and after they cooled, I topped them with various jams, creams, and fruits. In retrospect, these mini pie crusts are quite similar to puff pastry. But the process of making this sort of dough is much simpler and less time-consuming than preparing puff pastry.

from top to bottom:
sweetened whipped cream with fresh berries,
mascarpone with soaked dried cherries,
apple butter with parmigiano reggiano.
I didn’t have any apples on hand, so I couldn’t recreate the original apple tart. Instead, I developed three new combinations: sweetened whipped cream with fresh berries, mascarpone cream with soaked dried cherries, and apple butter with parmigiano reggiano.

Parmigiano reggiano and apple butter might sound like an odd combination, but believe me, it tastes good. Even my mom, who’s not a big fan of sweet and salty fusions, agreed that the apple butter and cheese worked well together. The slightly salty bite of the cheese cut through the sweetness of the apple butter and contributed some creaminess to the mini tart.

Who doesn’t love mini desserts?

Click below for the recipe.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thyme, Cheddar, and Ham Biscuits

So I have this friend named Johnnie and it was his birthday on Thursday. Johnnie’s one of the kindest people I know. He’s the one who’s willing to help anyone out of a jam. He acts tough, but I know that he’s just a big softie on the inside. Johnnie is an awesome guy, but occasionally, he irritates me as well. But I can’t be mad at the guy on his birthday. 

In my opinion, birthdays are supposed to be days of indulgence. It’s the one day of the year when people should go out of their way to make it special for you. I love making birthdays special for the people I love; seeing their faces light up in joy is worth whatever it takes.

I don’t have such high expectations of my own birthday. It’s not fair to expect that other people share my enthusiasm for birthdays. For example, my parents view birthdays as just another day of the year. When I ask my mom what kind of gift she would like, she either denies wanting a present or tells me she wants a coffee mug—coffee mug, which we already have at least a dozen of, a coffee mug which will eventually end up in shards on the kitchen floor when someone accidentally drops it. Needless to say, I didn’t really understand. In the end, I decided to bake something for my mom. I bake so often that it’s not really a novelty so I usually try to make something special that I usually don’t make.

For Johnnie, I decided to make breakfast biscuits because he doesn’t particularly like sweet treats. I find that plain biscuits are generally too plain, so I add cheddar cheese and ham in mine.

Biscuits aren’t terribly difficult to make, but they do take time, effort, and patience. It takes time and effort for me to drive to the supermarket to buy the ham and cheese. Even though I’m using my food processor to grate the butter and cheese, it takes time to cut the cheese and butter into sticks and to chop the ham into cubes. It takes patience to wait for the sticks of butter to freeze before I can grate them. It takes patience to wait for the grated butter to refreeze (it’s really not a necessary step, but it make the biscuit dough much easier to work with).

It takes a lot of patience and effort to bring the dough together when I’m making a double batch: imagine try to combine eight cups of flour, two cups of grated cheese, three cups of diced ham, one pound of grated butter, and three and a half cups of milk. My mixing bowl was barely large enough to hold all the dry ingredients, so I had to work in batches when I added the milk.

But the biscuits are worth the effort because they taste so good. Johnnie has tried my biscuits before so I know he likes them.

I hope you had an awesome birthday Johnnie. Planning a surprise lunch is harder than you think and it doesn’t help when you sneak in through the back door and scare the stuff out of us. You’re lucky my mom knows you already. ;)

Click below for the recipe.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crunchy Spicy Chickpeas

I like baking for a lot of reasons. Some days, like today, I bake because I don’t feel like doing anything else. I have tests to studying for, exams to worry about, and about a million other things that I should be doing, but baking takes my mind off of everything.

The last time I drove to the supermarket (with my mom in the car of course), we bought a can of chickpeas. I remembered watching Claire Robinson from 5 Ingredient Fix make spicy baked chickpeas and I wanted to try it.

She promised crispy little chickpea appetizers and her recipe delivered. Actually, only the concept of her recipe delivered. The chickpeas were deliciously crisp and crunchy, but I had to bake the chickpeas at a 425F, not 400F, for 60 minutes, not 35. You can imagine my impatience at the thought of waiting an extra half hour for these chickpeas to cook before I could go out and practice my driving. Luckily, my mom offered to pull them out of the oven for me so my dad and I could drive with the knowledge that the house would not burn down while we were gone.

Perhaps there was more moisture on my chickpeas which would account for the extra baking time; these variables are difficult to control. But for these little gems, it’s worth playing around until you find a temperature, texture, and flavour you like. If you like spicy foods, add more cayenne pepper. If you don't like cumin (like my mom), then omit it and add something else. Anything goes.

The best thing about these crispy treats is the fact that they are made from chickpeas, so you can feel good about eating them while still enjoying the potato chip crunch. I love the crunchcrunchcrunch of chips, but I don’t like how chips are so processed.   

Click below for the recipe.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Classic Carrot Cake

Carrot cake might possibly be my favourite kind of cake. The hint of cinnamon complements the carrot cake in a subtle but still noticeable way. Besides the incredible texture and moisture that the grated carrots add, I can at least pretend that I’m consuming something relatively healthy in the world of empty calories and refined fats and sugars that is baking. Some people don’t like carrot cake merely because there are carrots in it. Okay, so carrots grow in the ground and are therefore vegetables. So what? Tomatoes are fruits.

Carrot cake is a formidable dessert on its own, but when it is paired with a light cream cheese frosting, it is taken to a whole new level. I don’t like super sweet frostings or anything too heavy; the cake itself should be the star of the show. This cream cheese frosting is lighter than traditional frostings due to the addition of egg whites.


Ever since my older brother contracted salmonella (from lettuce, of all things), I’ve been steering clear of raw eggs. I used reconstituted dried egg whites in place of the fresh ones. I tried this recipe with pasteurized egg whites, but it just wouldn’t whip up. As to why, I’m not sure, but dried egg whites is what worked for me.

Click below for the recipe.

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