Cookie Jam, Toronto?

Remember this? CupcakeCamp in Ottawa, two years ago, was phenomenally successful and raised boatloads of money for charities. Since then, one of the winners – Karen Foster – has planned a similar concept with equal success. Cookie Jam in Dartmouth is happening on April 20.

This is a placeholder post, because I miss baking, I miss community organizing, and gosh-darn-it… I want to plan something like this in Toronto. So, who’s with me?


Stumble and Leap

St. James Park

I’m borrowing the title of this post from Becca’s blog, since it is in effect what I’m about to do. You see, this photo, the one underneath the words “stumble and leap” and above this text here, is a photo that I took of a park in Toronto. This park in Toronto is located across from the building which has this room in it. This park is across the street from my new office. Starting next Monday (no, not this Monday coming), I will be doing something that I love and that I’m good at, in another city, in an office that is adjacent to the room where the National Ballet of Canada rehearsed for a number of years and where P.T. Barnum brought his circus.

Like I said, stumbling and leaping. I’m hoping that P.T. Barnum left out the safety net. All joking aside, I truly am thrilled and delighted to be doing something that I’m passionate about and trained to do. It’s far from a guarantee in this economy. I’m not going to say much more at this point, because I know you mostly come here for the food anyhow. (It’s true, isn’t it…?)

Needless to say, things will continue to be a bit quiet around here until I land on my feet in the Big Smoke. They won’t be quiet in our apartment, where we are planning our move. Nor will they be quiet under my feet, since I’m crazy enough to continue half-marathon training. But, for those of you who don’t follow my every move through other forms of social media, this is what I’ve been up to.

For the Love of Food


I adore food. So many of my memories are based around food. I keep a diary of things that I’ve done and things that I need to be doing, and inevitably food is a thread throughout them. For example- April 17: Make brioche and magic sauce. Get an email. Get jeans hemmed. Groceries. Run 8K. Relax. Pasta for dinner. Buy pens. Do taxes. This is a running list – not chronological by any means.

The thing is, as much as I adore food, it is not the first thing I think about when I wake up, nor the last thing that I think about before going to bed. Unless I’m really hungry. I think that’s a bit what I’m trying to reconcile in my writing at the moment: I can’t write about food all the time, because frankly I don’t want to think about food all the time.

So instead, please allow me the pleasure and privilege of introducing you to two fantastic bloggers who are more passionate about food than pretty-much-anyone-I-know. Both of them deserve all the success in the world in their food writing efforts, and both of them are on the cusp of getting it.

Lynne is responsible for a lot of good things that have come into my life. Like chocolate crack bars. A friend recently tried a batch of these ridiculous easy bars and was floored. I’ve never seen someone’s knees actually buckle under the taste of a pastry.

Lynne writes with sincerity and the authenticity of someone who loves to be in the kitchen, and especially be in front of the oven baking up something sweet. I would liken her to Christina Tosi, in that there’s no amount of sugar and butter that is too much for Lynne. Oreo frosting? Check. She’s not just hot for chocolate. No. Lynne has a deep love for lemon, so of course she and I would get along.

Lynne is also a marvelous person in-person: Bright and bubbly, and sweet as can be. She’s really good at connecting with people. She’s also very chatty. Which suits her really well, given that she’s the new presenter for Rogers TV’s Must. Love. Food. According to Rogers, every week, Must.Love.Food. will feature different local guests preparing their favourite recipes, plus food preparation segments with local ingredients and ideas. From the best in pies to the
most delectable cakes and spicy dishes that will leave you wanting more, Must.Love.Food. is the new TV destination for Ottawa’s best-kept recipes.

Kelly is the perfect compliment to Lynne, the more that I think about it. Her wit is a bit drier, her dishes a bit saltier, her words are more seasoned as it were. That said, I think if I could have any two ladies cooking for me, it would be these two. Also – truth be told – Kelly and I have a similar palate in terms of what we like (everything and anything that’s a bit salty, savoury) and what our partners don’t like. I go to Kelly when I want something that’s delicious, hearty, and feels right at the moment. As a mutual friend has said, she knows what I want to eat before I even open the fridge. If you haven’t been to her blog, The Gouda Life, you should. No, really. Now.

Kelly has the chance to do what she dreams of: Tourism Richmond is hiring a food blogger and they’re doing it by consensus. Kelly was one of 12 finalists, from over 1500 applications, in the competition to write for Tourism Richmond for one year. She would be undertaking the daunting task of eating out everyday for 365 days and writing about all of her experiences. Like I said, I’m not cut out to do that. But Kelly is. She is all kinds of cut-out. (Except for the cardboard cut-out.) There’s some amazing talent that made the cut, but I’m rooting for Ms. Kelly. The next stage is voting: Between now and May 1st, you can vote for Kelly daily here.

Please do. She’s a very talented food writer, as is Lynne. Watching them succeed in their passions has been an absolutely lovely, exciting, tasty process.

Peanut Butter Oreos

I’m terribly grateful to have both of these ladies in my life, and truly I’m so excited about their future successes. My sacrificial offering for your support? Why, peanut butter oreos of course. The perfect combination of salty and sweet, gooey, deliciousness.

Peanut Butter Oreos
Adapted from Flour

Icebox cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and the sugar until combined.
Whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate. add the egg and stir until well blended.
In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The finished dough should feel like Play-Doh.
Place the dough on a long sheet of parchment paper. use your hands to shape it into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
Place the log at the edge of the parchment and roll the parchment around the log completely.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or until it is firm enough to slice without crumbling.
Set the oven at 325 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the paper. Cut the log into slices, each a quarter-inch. set them on the baking sheets 1 inch apart.
Bake the cookies for ~20 minutes, or until they are firm when touched in the center. (My oven runs a bit hot, so this is usually closer to 15 minutes.)
Remove from the oven and allow them to cool slightly, but not completely.

Peanut butter filling

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
pinch salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low speed for half a minute.
Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. beat in the milk and salt.
Once the cookies have cooled, place a heaping 1 tablespoon of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies.
Gently press the remaining cookies on the filling, flat sides against the cream, to evenly distribute the filling.
Alternatively, store in an airtight container until your cravings can’t take it any longer.

This weekend (& thoughts on Urban Craft)

Urban Craft Display

Jars upon jars upon jars.

Oh so much food.

A truly inordinate amount of food.

One heck of a happy pup. (via The Gouda Life)

Oh, this weekend was a long and heavy one. Entirely burdensome, but completely worthwhile. There are similarities in launching your own business and running your wedding. Both are labours of love, no doubt, and both occasionally require you to look at your partner and think, and then act. Their support is meaningful, even if to bystanders it appears that they played no part.

Urban Craft was a fantastic experience, and I’m incredibly grateful for the organizers and their volunteers who kept us sane and ensured we had what we needed.

I have come to the realization that I love doing this, even through bouts of frustration at times, that it is a worthwhile endeavour. Most of my frustrations came from the shear mass of stuff that I chose to prepare and less than stellar planning. But, at the end of the day, there’s something incredibly delightful about seeing someone who has never tried an Oreo bite into their first one, a handmade one, and see their eyes open widely. Similarly, there were  a few lovely customers who expressed the utmost excitement when they saw the salted caramel sauce, joy of joys was brought to them.

So, you will likely see me at Urban Craft again, in a few months’ time. In the meantime, I will be offering one type of sauce/spread and one type of baked good for order at the beginning of each month, and I will be taking personal orders.

In the next few days, I will be setting up a page with more details about my offerings, but in the meantime, feel free to drop me a line, if there’s something you’d love.

An ode to Pressed

The best Americano in the city.

I think I’m a bit late on the Pressed bandwagon. Kelly wrote about it two months ago and her collection of photos puts mine to shame. Lana has posted about her three or four trips in a similarly detailed fashion. And I normally don’t do reviews. So, why write about it?

Well, for one, the Americano. It’s the best that I’ve had in the city. The Pressed Americano has ruined me for my Monday-to-Friday coffee from that-local-chain-that-you-all-know-and-maybe-love. I can drink this Americano black. I don’t think that I ever thought that I would be a black coffee drinker, but there you have it. I genuinely wish that we had moved to Centretown, so that I could be in closer proximity to their espresso.

Smoked Chicken Sammich

For another thing, there’s a strong balance of homemade and let’s-not-fuss-too-much here. There’s something really fantastic about having EVERYTHING homemade, down to your mayonnaise. I can appreciate the level of commitment that this requires; as someone who has made pumpkin puree from scratch for pumpkin cheesecake, it takes tenacity and a good amount of heart. And most of what you will find here is made from scratch: The effort and love that goes into the smoked chicken, the homemade aioli, the hand-cut sweet potato chips, is completely appreciated in every bite. They know what they can do and they do it very, very well. Frankly, I love the fact that their bread is ACE baguette, because it’s accessible, and it’s not the same bread that every other sandwich shop in this city uses. In an era in which handmade is becoming the trend, it’s nice to see balance. It’s sane-making.


Also, the brunch. You know by now that I’m a sucker for good brunch. This Sunday, Pressed started serving a selection of waffles. I love that the waffles play on the idea of ‘pressed’, the sandwich press, the waffle iron, there’s a certain amount of imagery at play here that works well, if you care about that sort of thing. If you don’t, let me say this: The waffles are delicious. The ones that we ordered were perfectly cooked, and came with an apple compote, marscapone cheese, lemon zest and maple syrup. It was a great balance of yeasty, doughy, creamy, sweet and fresh. What I’m most excited for, however, are the savoury ones. I have this thing, about brunch, where no matter how much I want pancakes, or french toast, or a waffle, I will inevitably end up ordering eggs benedict or an omlette. Salty, smokey flavours win over sweet. Pressed has five waffle options at the moment, two of which are savoury: Waffles Benedict comes with poached eggs, in-house smoked bacon, and hollandaise sauce, while The Hangover sounds like waffle poutine, with its cheese curds and gravy.


Lastly, it’s the atmosphere. It reminds me a bit of Edgar, if only because Jeff (Pressed’s owner) and Marysol are both incredibly passionate about what they do and are involved in the relationship between the diner and the kitchen. Pressed also gives me the same uncontrollable giddy, happy feeling that I get when I walk into Edgar, and that same resigned sadness when leaving. Luckily, I know that I’ll be back soon.

Stocking the freezer.

Stocking the freezer and fridge with baking goodness; consequently, there’s been a lot of meals in bowls of late.

Nobody tells you that when you start baking as a business – rather than for friends and family – that you will have questions. Lots of questions. Or at least, nobody told me. Also, I was not informed at the inordinate amount of thinking involved. Thank heavens for Rachel and her spreadsheet system for organizing all the things.

My big fret at the moment is how much stock will I need? It’s the type of thing that is a little bit paralysing, particularly (I suspect) the first time. I don’t know how many sales to expect per hour. I don’t know which things are going to be the most popular, the best loved, and which people are going to look at like it has a head growing from it. (Disclaimer: There are no heads growing out of anything that comes from my kitchen.) It’s also a lot of putting-oneself-out-there. Which, as someone with a bit of training in theatre, and a past that included running for political office, is something that I’m generally alright with, once I get past the stage fright. (Also paralyzing? This article, which Kelly of The Gouda Life posted, which made me think “OMG! This isn’t going to work.” And then I remembered to breathe. If it doesn’t work, that’s okay. Sort of.)

My full menu for Urban Craft will be posted as a separate page shortly, but I’m happy to provide you with a sneak peek of what you might find on my table:

Homemade Oreos
Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies

(Packages of six small, truffle-like cookies)
Earl-Grey Meltaways
Lime-Coconut Meltaways

Lemon Bars with Milk Crumb Crust
Carmelized Chocolate Almond Bars

Mini Loaves
Brown Butter Banana Cardamom Chocolate Chip Loaf
Maple Carrot Loaf
Chocolate Tea Loaf

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

I have my favourites, but I’m wondering, which among these appeal to you the most? I don’t know if anyone can predict a best seller, but I think it’s difficult the closer you are to the product.

Keep calm and eat your veggies.

I was going to title this post “Keep calm and have a cupcake”, but I somehow forgot to take pictures of the chocolate-cardamom-nutella cupcakes. I haven’t been baking enough during the daytime, and natural light being essential to decent photos, you’ll just have to wait until the sun stay up later in the day for more frequent baking photos. Which, is also why you’re getting an Instagram photo, for now.

The past week has been a panic-and-freak-out sort of week: I busted my butt to get to Toronto, to interview for a pretty incredible job opportunity, which ended up not working out, despite my best hopes. I’m taking it in stride, but it’s still stressful. Also stressful was the travel: Freezing rain made for delays there and cancellations on the way home. I was pretty happy to have a roof over my head on Thursday night and Via Comfort Class on Friday morning. Oh, also on Thursday, I got an e-mail from Urban Craft officially welcoming me as a vendor for February sale at GCTC. Yay! And then, this morning, my vendor information came.

And then, I was like “Whoa.” This just got real. Very, very real.

This is going to be a huge learning curve for me. I recognize some of the other vendors, like michaelsdolce – a phenomenal company who I mostly know for their preserves – and Pascale’s (Ottawa’s Queen of Ice Cream). Yeah, I’m a bit panicked at the moment. Partly, out of the scope of it all and partly because I want this to be a great big success, and successes are scary, hard, challenging things. I’ll try to blog about the challenging things the best that I can. The trouble is, the challenging things tend to bring me back to the kitchen, to explore a favourite recipe, or make something that doesn’t need a recipe at all, like this galette.

Galette is a general term used to refer to a flat, free-form cake or pastry; in the savoury sense, it often is specific to a buckwheat flour pancake, sold by creperies, filled with savoury fillings. Alyson (of Unruly Things) and Deb (of Smitten Kitchen) jointly introduced me to the concept of a galette as something that wasn’t necessarily made with buckwheat flour. Think of it as a free-form pie, and you’ll be singing.

Pâte Brisée
Makes enough for 1 7-inch galette

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and butter in your food processor; pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea-sized pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again. Too much water makes for a tough crust. Gently shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Savoury Swiss Galette (Swiss chard, carmelized onions & Swiss cheese galette)
Serves 4 as a main, with sides

1 recipe Pâte Brisée (above)
1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned stems removed, blanched and well-drained
1 medium yellow onion, carmelized in 2 tbsp olive oil.
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

Heat the oven to 400F.

Once your pâte brisée has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface (or on a Silipat) into a ten-inch round; don’t fret too much if it’s not perfect.

Leaving a three-inch border, layer the dough with the chard, then the onions, and finally the thyme. Fold the border into the middle and pinch it here and there so it has some form to it. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Allow the galette to cool for a few minutes before serving, lest you burn your tongue.