Recipe – Brunch

For some reason , adding booze to a desert seems to infuse it with a fun bit of naughtiness.  You could say the same about other kinds of food, with greater or lesser success.  Vodka-laced penne sauce?  Meh.  Brandy-soaked tiramisu?  I’ll take seconds, please.  In my quest to find an excuse to cook intelligently with booze,  I decided to combine Grand Marnier macerated fruit with this nice little Pavlova recipe.

This time 'round I left the whipped cream on the side to accommodate someone with a lactose intolerance.

This time ’round I left the whipped cream on the side to accommodate someone with a lactose intolerance.

A Pavlova, for those who don’t know, is said to have been named for a Russian dancer – Anna Pavlova – after her trip to Australia and New Zealand, which explains why the desert is so popular in that part of the world.  Below is a version of the recipe that I hope will make her – and my Kiwi relatives – proud.



  • 4 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cream of corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Whipping Cream

  • 2 cups of whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of white sugar

Boozy Fruit

  • 4 cups worth of assorted blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
  • 1-2 tablespoons of white sugar


First, set your oven to 300F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In pencil, draw a 9-inch circle on the paper (you can just guestimate the diametre, and your circle doesn’t have to be perfect).

Next, prepare your fruit by placing them all in a deep bowl, and mixing in your Grand Marnier and sugar.  Feel free to put in less sugar if you want the desert to be less sweet – the Grand Marnier is already quite sugary.

While the fruit is absorbing the Grand Marnier and sugar, take you eggs and whisk them with an electric mixer until soft peaks start to form.  You know that you have soft peaks when you remove your whisk and the frothy peak forms but then droops back down.

Gradually add your sugar as you continue to beat the eggs until everything has combined.  I like to then gradually add my vanilla extract an corn starch at this stage, right before you can form firm peaks with your egg mixture.  Alternatively, you can gently (you don’t want to punch out any air) fold in the vanilla extract and corn start after you’ve hit the “firm peak stage”.  Do not beat beyond firms peaks.  You will know you’ve done so because your mixture will look dry and may leak some liquid.

At this point, if you’re ambitious you can put the mixture into a piping bag and make your Pavlova base, but I like to make mine with a large wooden spoon.  I do so by first by filling the 9-inch circle on my parchment paper with about 1/2 of the egg mixture.  Then, with the rest of the mixture, build up some wall on top of the outside of the meringue base so that you get a large, meringue basket.  The magic happens in the basket, ’cause this is where you’re going to pour in your boozy fruit and whipped cream.

Bake your Pavlova in the oven for 1 hour.  A trick I use is to actually keep the oven door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon that I’ve soaked ahead of time (to saturate it with water and make it less likely to burn/char).  You’ll know your Pavlova is properly cooked if you tap it and it sounds hollow.  Let the Pavlova cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

You’re almost done.  Right before serving, make whisk your whipped cream until it start to solidify and gradually add your sugar until you get your preferred consistency.  Place the cream in the middle of the Pavlova’s centre.  Then, drain your fruit (I recommend drinking the delicious boozy run-off…) and decorate your Pavlova.  The effect of the final product is quite lovely, and I can guarantee you’ll be amazed at the positive reactions and comments you get.

Also, this desert is fabulous for dinner parties because you can make the base up to 8 hours ahead of time…if you have the will power to leave it uneaten for that long.


It was minus 30C during my most recent trip home, and that is most certainly mac ‘n cheese weather.

2014-01-02 13.23.10Mac ‘n cheese has had a renaissance these past years, and with it a plethora of recipes have surfaced.  I’ve tried a few of them – all delicious in their own right – and I think that I’ve come up with a nicely balanced one that has the right mix of gooey-ness, cheesiness, and saltiness.  This is not what you ate on Sunday nights in your dorm room.  That said, I will always have a special place in my heart for the fluorescent orange mystery powder and fossilized macaroni that mixed together so beautifully, and that tasted so good.  If cooking is ever to be demystified, I guess the simple preparation of Kraft Dinner is as good a way as any.


  • 2 cups of macaroni
  • 1 glug of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 big clove of garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1½ cups of panko
  • 2-2½ cups 2% milk
  • 1 handful of pancetta slices, chopped thin and short.
  • 2½ cups grated cheddar cheese (smokey if you can find it)


Start by setting your oven to 375F.

Then, boil the 2 cups of macaroni in well-salted water, until tender.  Strain them, put them in a bowl, pour in a glug of olive oil, (just enough to coat the macaroni) and then mix around until the pasta is covered.  This will keep them from sticking together. Set aside.

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika in a bowl.  Next, melt your butter in a frying pan at medium heat, cook your minced garlic for 20 seconds or so (making sure not to burn it), and then mix in the flour mixture until well combined (2-3 minutes).  You’re looking for a thick paste, but not a dry one.  This is like a kind of hoser roux.  Add your milk and the pancetta slices to the mixture, and stir constantly until the sauce is thick and consistent (make sure to break up those clumps).  This should take about 8-10 minutes.  I would recommend you leave the sauce a little loose (i.e., not too thick)- you may need the extra moisture to ensure that the cheese melts properly, and you can always evaporate the extra liquid.

At this point, still at medium heat, add your cheese 1/3 at a time, making sure that each batch melts down properly (though a few clumps of delicious cheese never hurt anyone).  Carefully, give the mixture a taste, and adjust the seasoning if required.

Pour the lake of cheesy goodness into your bowl of macaroni, add in 1 cup of panko, and mix everything together properly.  Pour the whole combination into a casserole dish, cover everything with the remaining cup of panko, add a few sprinkles of paprika for colour, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes because your mac ‘n cheese will be lava-hot.  Also, letting it cool will allow the flavours develop (this tastes good reheated the next day, too).  I recommend using a big spoon to ladle this bad boy onto your plate…and don’t be shy about seconds.

It’s been a harrowing week but yesterday I resolved to get my act together and bake one more time before leaving Montreal. Unfortunately, my wife and I have been steadily using up all our remaining food and staples, leaving me with precious little with which to bake. Fear not! As usual, “Quick Bread” – my trusted source of speedy bread recipes which included Mini Cinnamon and Walnut BreadIrish Bread, and Apple  

Bread – answered the call and listed this delicious recipe for Cottage Cheese Bread.

This recipe is dead simple and serves 2. All you need is:

Batch A
100g of all purpose flour, plus 1-2 tablespoons extra in a small bowl
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of baking powder

20g of cold butter, chopped up
3 tablespoons of cottage cheese
1 tablespoon of regular yogurt (though it may be interesting to see what happens if you add flavoured yogurt)
1 tablespoon of milk (2% is fine)

First off, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350 ºF.

Sift the ingredients of Batch A into a bowl. Then, add the cold butter and work it into the flour with the tips of your fingers. I didn’t work the butter in to the point that it completely disappeared into the powder. Rather, I left the powder looking a bit clumpy using a rubbed-dough method. As the seasoned bakers out there know, the less you incorporate the butter, the flakier the dough (see pages 1084-1085 of “The Professional Chef” (8th edition) for more about this technique).

Right…onwards and upwards. Mix in the cottage cheese, then mix in the yogurt, and finally mix in the milk. Kneed gently until all the ingredients are incorporated. You will be left with a moist dough. If, like me, you wanted to dry it up a bit and make it easier to handle, take your messy hands and pour in some of that flour you presciently put aside in a separate bowl.

Roll out the dough until its about 1cm thick. Chop up your dough into 6 equally-sized pieces and then put them on a baking sheet lined with a cookie sheet. If you’re feeling especially fancy, try brushing a quick egg wash over these gems. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bread is baked through and the top is golden.

These little breads are quite delicious on their own, but are also good with jam, butter, or even maple syrup. This entire procedure should only take about 30 minutes if all goes according to plan, so now there are no excuses not to make them! Get to it!

In preparation for my move to Toronto at the end of the month, I am slowly but surely packing away my books. As I was doing so, I came across Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” or “Remembrance of Things Past” and thought of its now famous protagonist:  the madeleine.  Madeleines are, of course, scallop shell-shaped cakes that originated in Comercy, France.  

Incredibly easy to make, these little gems are a sure-fire way to inject a simple tea/coffee break with some class.  They also make for a great (edible!) conversation piece.  Here is my take on the madeleine.  It features a hint of vanilla to play against the cake’s traditional lemon scent.

To make 12 of my madeleines you’ll need:

1 madeleine tray
80g of caster sugar
1 large egg
A tablespoon of vanilla essence
80g of unsalted butter
100g of pastry flour (premixed with baking powder)
1 pinch of salt
The rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tablespoon of icing sugar (for dressing)

First, pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/400 ºF. Melt your butter over low heat and then remove it from the stove to cool. Use a brush to spread the melted butter in the madeleine moulds, and then flour them.

Next, with an electric mixer/whisk, cream the egg and caster sugar. The goal is really to work in as much air so that you get a fluffy batter which will in turn become a light cake. This takes about 5 minutes.

Once that’s done, slowly sift in the pastry flour.  Do not over mix.  Gently add the remainder of the cooled, melted butter and the vanilla essence. Then, carefully mix in the lemon rind. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even add some blueberries to the batter.

Now, fill your madeleine moulds 2/3 full with the batter. Bake for 12 minutes or so, until the tops of your cakes are golden and lovely. Gently remove them from the moulds (I find chopsticks to be the tool of choice), sprinkle with icing sugar, and serve warm – that’s when they’re at their fluffiest.  To be extra hedonistic, serve the warm madeleines with vanilla ice cream, and drizzle the dish with some nice, high quality honey. Delish! 

Around 11pm the other night I just couldn’t sleep. I also noticed that we were low on breakfast goodies, so I decided to break out my trusty “Quick Bread” book and try out a new recipe. The one I chose was apple bread. Though I just happened to have some apples kicking around the fruit bowl, I have to say that this recipe would be best near apple picking time near the end of the summer/beginning of autumn. This bread is a bit denser than I  

thought, and was less sweet than expected (you may want to add an extra tablespoon of sugar) but makes for a nice breakfast

The ingredients for this bread are:

240g of chopped apple (granny smith or other sweet/tart apples), skin on
½ teaspoon of granular sugar
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
10g of unsalted butter

Batter A
2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

Batter B
2 large egg
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of sour cream

First off, get rid of that core, and then chop up your apple into tiny 5mm cubes. Toss the cubes with lemon juice and granulated sugar to coat them. Then, heat up a frying pan at medium heat, put in your butter, and once its melted throw in 1/3 of the apples and sauté for 5-8 minutes (to soften them up).

Next, take the contents of Batter A and whisk them all together. You should get a pancake’esque batter.

After that, mix the ingredients in Batter B. Take half of Batter A and whisk into Batter B. Take the other half of Batter A and mix with the apples you did not sauté. Then mix everything together.

Still with me? Ok…. Put the Batters into a buttered and floured bread pan, then top with the apples you sautéed. Now, put the pan in a pre-heated oven at 190ºC/375 ºF for 10 minutes, and then drop the temperature down to 180 ºC/350 ºF and keep baking for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

As I mentioned before, this is a nice recipe but is heavier than your everyday bread. I’d really call it a cake, and as such would recommend eating it with some nice vanilla ice cream and drizzled with honey. Now who can say “no” to that?

The funny thing about party food is that you never know what appetizers will grab your guests’ attention. I put these stuffed mushrooms together almost as an afterthought and yet they disappeared in the blink of an eye. I was attracted by the ease with which they can be made and that they only require 20 minutes in the cooking in the oven before coming out piping hot and full of flavour.  

This recipe is based one I found in Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book. To make it, here’s what you’ll need:

24-30 white mushrooms
2 handfuls of cilantro/flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup of olives (pitted), chopped
¼ cup of sultana raisins, chopped
1-2 hot chillies, seeded and chopped
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan (or store bought, if you have to)
3-4 Italian sausages (about 500g or 1lb)
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt (Kosher, if you’ve got it)
Freshly ground pepper
5-7 sprigs of thyme

First off, prep your non-meat ingredients. Remove the stems from the mushroom and make sure you have nice big wells in which to put as much of the meat mixture as possible. Oil an oven-proof baking pan and put in your mushrooms.

Next, combine your chopped olives, raisins, pepper(s), ¾ cups of breadcrumbs, ¾ cups of the parmesan and a table spoon of olive oil. Mix lightly to combine the ingredients.

With that out of the way, remove the minced meat from within the Italian sausage skin. Season with salt and pepper and add the mince to the non-meat mix you just put together.  Now, roll up your sleeves, get your hands in there, and start mixing the ingredients together. This will take about 2-3 minutes and is the most taxing part of the recipe.

Stuff the meat mixture into the mushroom…and don’t be shy! Next, sprinkle the leftover panko and parmesan on top of the stuffed mushrooms. Then, sprinkle the mushrooms with olive oil and drape some thyme over them.

If you’re having a party, you can cover your baking pan and refrigerate for a day. When you’re ready to go, put the uncovered pan in a 240ºC/500ºF preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve.

 In light of the surprise success of the Irish Bread recipe I posted a week back, I’ve decided to post a cinnamon roll recipe adapted from the same book – Quick Bread – written by Fujita Chiaka (I’ve included a photo of the book below). I made this recipe this morning and these bad boys are really quite delicious. Here’s what you’ll need:  
  • 100g of flour
  • Half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 20g of butter chopped up into small cubes
  • 45g of cottage cheese
  • ½ an egg yoke
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • Cinnamon sugar (1 teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with 3 teaspoons of granular sugar)
  • 10-15g of walnuts finely chopped
  • 1 egg wash (1 egg mixed with a bit of milk)
  Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and add the cold butter. With the tips of your thumb, index, and middle fingers, rub the butter into the flour as though you were feeling the texture of a fabric. After a few minutes the butter should have “disappeared” into the flour. Add the cottage cheese into this powder and mix until it has an even consistency.

Next, mix the ½ egg yoke into the milk and then add it into the cottage cheese-flour mixture. You may be stuck with a pretty mucky paste, so add a bit of flour to make your mixture into something solid enough that it can be rolled out without sticking to a rolling pin.

Kneed your dough until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Then, roll up the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film, and put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to allow it to rest. While you wait, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you’ve got your dough made, you’re 90% of the way there.  Unwrap your dough, roll out your dough ball into a 15cm x 20cm (6” x 8”), half-centimetre (1/5”) rectangle. Take your cinnamon sugar and rub it into the dough. If you’re like me and you enjoy your cinnamon rolls extra sweet, add some extra sugar to the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Next, take your finely-chopped walnuts and gently roll them into the dough with a rolling pin.

Roll your seasoned dough like you would sushi. Now, take a knife and cut your roll into 2.5cm/1” sections. Set the sections so that the swirly bit is facing up, liberally brush on your egg wash to give your rolls a nice brown glaze, and put them in your pre-heated oven for 18-22 minutes.

The recipe is not as sweet as the fondant-caked cinnamon rolls you get at your local patisserie/bakery, so I poured on some maple syrup. I’d also suggest some cinnamon butter to smear on the warm rolls.

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