Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

Easter is fast approaching and I found a festive idea for dessert in my latest issue of Saveur magazine.  It involves making a regular pie crust, but cutting the scraps into bunny-shaped cookies that are applied to the side of the crust afterwards. The filling, in this case, was lemon curd, so it had a very spring-like colour.

I got a free cooking magazine in the mail on Friday, put out by the French-Canadian Martha Stewart, Ricardo. It actually had some decent recipes and I really liked the layout. One section was about a cake bar with five different types of cake, undecorated, and a selection of toppings to make a DIY dessert.
One of the recipes was for a lemon Bundt cake, which I made, using a cast iron mould that  yielded six smaller cakes.  There was leftover batter, so I put that in a small Bundt pan and cooked them all together. It had a crispy exterior and a crumbly and lemony (very light) interior. I gave a bunch away to a friend who had recently brought dinner over.

Small Bundt cake sandwiched between two mini-cakes.
The cake was even better the next day, so I decided to make mini Lemon Bundt cakes for Easter dessert along with Royal Icing-decorated sugar bunny cookies (already bought the cookie cutter, so may as well use it).  Using Martha Stewart's recipe, I made a half-recipe of dough yesterday and left it in the fridge overnight.

Work station for sugar cookie preparation.
The dough rolled out well and the cookie cutter was easy to work with, so I soon had forty-odd copies rolled out and cut.

Ready for baking.
I didn't get all OCD on them this time around, as it was my first-ever attempt at making sugar cookies and wanted to play around with icing them.  I even bought a set of decorator tips and disposable pastry bags.

The source of bunny anti-matter methinks.
Fresh out of the oven.
They turned out remarkably well, but I realized that I cut out different thicknesses, so had to vary the cooking time from batch to batch. Even the pale brown ones looked good though, and I thought they would be covered in icing eventually anyway, so no worries.

Outlining and Flooding
I made the Royal Icing in my Mixmaster, following Ms. Stewart's directions, but I think the icing was a a bit too runny, so next time I'll cut back on the water.  Regardless, I got the hang of using a fine tip and drawing an outline just within the perimeter, and then flooding it with icing to fill the interior. I've seen some cool pictures on the web where people have used two different colours for this part, but I wanted to keep it simple.

Simple but effective
Close-up.
After getting tired of outlining and filling so many cookies, and realizing I wouldn't have enough icing to cover them all, I came up with an easy but effective decoration that was a winner. I went back to the filled cookies, once they had dried a bit, and did the same for them.

A couple of ideas for decorating.
Next time, I'm going to make the icing thicker, so I have more control with the tips, and will try some different effects and colours, but I was pleased with my amateurish first attempt, and at least they all taste good!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sunrise on spring



January 5, 8:21 a.m.
I work on the 19th floor of a building which has a large, eastward-facing lounge. It's there where, each morning, I have a large Tim's tea (2 milks, bags in, please!) and some heated up porridge with ground flax seed, stewed fruit and yoghurt. There is a curvy bit of glass on the Bay Street side of the building, and on it's south-facing end, you can look down on the intersection of Bay and Dundas.

January 28, 7:06 a.m.
On some mornings, the sky is a beautiful blue, which contrasts nicely with the rising sun's burst of colour. I love the industrial and construction silhouettes against the horizon.

January 29, 7:08 a.m.
On this particular morning, there was a lot of low-lying cloud cover, so the sun rose along a thin, angry line, separating the heavens from earth.

January 29, 7:31 a.m.
Once the sun came up, it underlit the dense clouds and looked menacingly post-apocalyptic. The light from within the building casts reflections on the curved glass, imposing what's behind me onto what's in front of me.

January 29, 7:33 a.m.
When there's a lot of snow in the night or early morning, it muffles the noise from the traffic and brightens the view. I prefer to be on the inside looking out (and down) though.

February 2, 7:42 a.m.
There's a corridor along the south flank of the building, where the offices are, that looks south onto what I think of the city proper. At the west part are buildings with facades that face east and either absorb or reflect the rising sun.

February 6, 7:49 a.m.
There are some mornings when the sun refuses to show its face, but the greyness makes the lit-up buildings stand out more.

February 9, 7:36 a.m.
On briskly cold winter days, the rising sun illuminates the many steam formations and mirror, in appearance, the clouds above.

February 27, 7:10 a.m.
The lounge area has a very organic shape and modern furniture. I liked how the interior pot light mimicked the sun in shape colour and brightness.

March 4, 7:36 a.m.
The crane on a new-build and the distant chimneys seem almost monumental in silhouette.

March 9, 7:40 a.m.
March 9, 7:45 a.m.
This mornings misty, colourful sunrise looked surreal, so I pumped up the clarity in Camera+ to get a more painterly look.

March 10, 7:35 a.m.
March 10, 7:36 a.m.
March 10, 7:45 a.m.
March 10, 7:54 a.m.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Back to the blog

St George's afar

It's been months since I have put anything on the blog, but after a long walk to Guelph Lake and back, I figured I could share some of the shots from that trek.

Goldie Mill Chimney
It was warmer than the frigid temperatures we had been experiencing and with  CC off to O-town, I thought I'd take a long, slow walk to the Dam and back.

Abandoned bird house
There was still lots of snow on the ground, but it wasn't too icy, which made walking next to the Speed River more doable.

Fish and Chip

The path also goes alongside train tracks and a small industrial area. There is lots of flowering vegetation in the summer, but in the winter, we have to rely on graffiti. The fish had been painted on before the oh-so-clever tagger left his mark.

Riverside Park
At the upper part of Riverside Park, there is a wilder path, alongside the Speed River. It was at this point that the blue sky started to emerge, giving some colour to the monochromatic landscape.

Gothic sky
It clouded over again near the road-crossing of the next leg of the hike. If you look closely, you can make out a snow-covered bird's nest, low to the ground, and a larger, black squirrel's nest up in the trees. I liked the trinity of those nests with the hidden orb of the sun, top left.

Watercolour shadows
Once the sun came out more solidly, it darkened the snow with soft, grey shadows. The only green is from the washed-out cedars.

Spot the mink
The second sighting. The first time was further south near the weir by Goldie Mill Park. Not sure if it's a  mink or a ferret, but it's long and sleek and rodent-like. The first one dove into the river and caught a long, thin fish in it's sharp little teeth.

Fallen1
A dead, doubled-over tree, with the background trees looking like they're raising their branches upwards.

Icy-spine
Looks like something out of Greek mythology, or from Guillermo del Torro's imagination.

Fallen2
I liked the contrast of the ragged edges of the uprooted trunk with the soft, puffy looking snow and it's blue-grey shadows.

Orange Bark
No, not the edible kind.  At least, not for us. Not sure if it's lichen, algae or what, but it's a beautiful and shocking contrast with the snow-covered trail.

Spent
Spent see casing of the Wild Cucumber vine.  I remember seeing one of these as a kid, in the summertime, when the pods are green. I thought it was from outer space. The seeds are similar to watermelon seeds, and drop out of the hole at the base of the seed casing.

Sunlamp
There were lots of cool (no pun intended) snow formations amongst the tree branches, and the sun managed to leak into some of the more overgrown, dark areas.

Snowlamp
Spot the Red Squirrel
There was a lot of wildlife about that day - saw Blue Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers and lots of Nuthatches and Chickadees. Also saw a few Red Squirrels, who I think of as the Chickadees of the rodents. They are full of a frenetic energy that always makes me laugh.

Are you ready for your close-up?
Trunk maze
I took a different way back on the trail, through the forested part, so it was cooler and darker.  The sun also went behind the clouds, but I was thankful for the cooling off as I was getting warm.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kitchen Day

     It has been a cold weekend, and we have even had our first snowfalls, some of which has remained on the ground!  Yesterday we cleaned, rearranged some pictures on the wall in the front room and then relaxed.  For the first time ever, I started to make Mincemeat, something I have always meant to do.  Well, I can check that one of my bucket list!  It was a two-day process, but quite straightforward, and the result was mouthwateringly successful, if I do say so myself.  I used Delia Smith's recipe as a guide:
http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/mincemeat/home-made-christmas-mincemeat.html, but, as always, tweaked it to my liking. I used a little over a pound of Golden Delicious apples (4, peeled and chopped), added some dried cranberries instead of some of the raisins, and added some finely chopped crystallized ginger. I also left out the nuts.  Basically, you combine all of the ingredients in a large, oven-proof, stoneware bowl, which looks like this:


Then, the bowl is covered with a clean tea-towel and left in a cool place overnight to allow the flavours to combine. The bowl is then loosely covered in foil, and baked in a 225'F oven for 3 hours.  After it's removed, the ingredients are mixed every so often as they cool, to coat them in the melted suet and juices. 

The smell was a combination of Christmas + Heaven!
Once cooled, the brandy was added and I divided the recipe amongst 4 properly sterilized Mason Jars.


I plan to use some in a Mincemeat Wellington for a dessert for an upcoming dinner party.  I thought I'd bake the mincemeat in a large, rectangular puff pastry tart, then serve it with cardamom-infused custard.  Stay tuned for that one!

I also made Carrot Cake cookies, a recipe I got from one of Martha Stewart's cookie recipe books.  I've made them before and they were a huge hit with the household.  They are basically hermit-like cookies chock full of grated carrot, raisins and oatmeal, then cream cheese icing is layered between two cookies to make a sandwich.  A very decadent sandwich!

Cookies ready for baking
After baking
Ready for eating

I also wanted to do a test run of an appetizer I plan to make for this year's Christmas dinner party.  Every year, I try to do a different theme, which gives me a bit of a challenge and also helps tie all of the courses together.  In past years, I have done Morrocan and traditional British, so this year, I thought I'd attempt an Indian-themed Christmas dinner based on a more traditional menu.  I always try to make one hot and one cold appetizer, so I thought of making Indian-style Lamb meatballs. I figure they would be good finger-food if I put toothpicks in them and served them with a mint-cilantro sauce, and the lamb-mint combination is very traditional. I combined a few recipes I found online and in a recipe book, and they turned out wonderfully!

Meatballs with chopped mint and cilantro cooking on the stove
Mint-Cilantro Sauce
The dinner party isn't until the beginning of December, so stay tuned for the full menu, and lots of pictures.