Cooking Classes



The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

 Paris and macarons are synonymous. These are then filled with something yummy like a chocolate ganache or a rosewater buttercream, sandwich style and served.  You can garnish the top with some edible gold foil.

2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.) icing sugar
2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.) almond flour or very finely ground almonds
2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.) granulated sugar
5 (Have at room temperature) egg whites

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. 
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 11 minutes. Turn the oven off and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Last Day of Chocolate Making Class - Butter Truffles with Vanilla

Last day is always bittersweet, pardon the chocolate pun, isn't it?  So sad to leave the school, all the new friends and our wonderful teacher but on the other hand, my feet are killing me and I have eaten so much chocolate that I won't be able to face the 5 pounds I am taking home with me.

Rather than ganaches, we made truffles today.

We piped, formed and enrobed truffles.  We made a fabuous Mediterranean flavour which had pureed raisins that were plumped in port.  They were by far my favourite flavour of the entire class.  So Yummy!  I will be making them again.

At the end of the day, we were all awarded with our certificates!  It is definitely something I will be hanging in my kitchen.

Butter Truffles with Vanilla   adapted from recipe by Jean-Pierre      Wybauw

350 gm heavy cream
2 vanilla pods, split and seeds scraped into cream
130 gm butter
80 gm invert sugar (or honey)
500 gm tempered dark chocolate

Bring the cream with the split vanilla bean pods and seeds, invert sugar and butter to the boil.

Let it infuse until the cream cools to room temperature.  Pour the mixture through a sieve (to remove vanilla bean) into the tempered chocolate, mix well.  Be sure the butter chocolate mixture crystallizes before piping into shapes.

Dip in tempered dark chocolate and finish by rolling in granulated sugar.  These could also be finished by rolling in powdered chocolate rather than granulated sugar.

Good bye, Orlando!  Sorry I missed you, Mickey!  Sad I didn't get to the Salvadore Dali museum in St. Petersburg   :(             But, we did have a fabuous Cuban dinner at Padrino's!


Second Day in Chocolate Making Class

I wish I could post more pics but they would only be of interest to me, I'm sure!  It was another packed day of making molded chocolates - make the chocolate shape, fill with ganache, cap off, remove from mold, and, the best part, EAT!  Yum.

We had a demonstration on making liquid centres, as in liqueurs.  And a demo on what I call, sandwiches.  Two wafers of chocolate filled with a lovely ganache.  And the top layer is decorated with a transfer sheet.

We had another demo on filling chocolate cups and capping and decorating.  Beautiful!

We made a chocolate with Gianduja base (hazelnut chocolate puree with crisps) and an anisette ganache.  Then this delectable delight was dipped in milk chocolate and decorated with a flourish of dark chocolate.  I didn't get a pic of the totally finished product.  I'll have to remember to do that tomorrow before we eat them all.

And we filled our dark chocolate molds with a chocolate ginger ganache, capped them, and turned them out of the mold.  Piece of cake!  These are the actual chocolates made by moi!  Woo hoo!

Chocolate Ginger Ganache

500 g  cream
100 g  glucose
100 g  butter
15 - 20 g  grated ginger
700 g  dark chocolate

Boil the cream, glucose and butter.  Add the grated ginger and let infuse until lukewarm.
Pour through a sieve and pour it over the tempered dark chocolate.  Mix well.

Pour the ganache into a frame.  Set until the ganache has crystallized and is firm.

Put a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom side after it has become firm.  Cut into desired pieces and dip in chocolate.  Decorate. 

Amid all of this tasty testing, we learned the science of sugar, chocolate, fat, crystallization and more on tempering.  Tempering all of a sudden is the easiest thing we are doing.  Funny how that works!


First Day at Belgian Candy Making class in Orlando - Mocha Ganache

I was so nervous to attend this class because it is the first chef level class I have taken.  But I should not have wasted my time with worry.  It is very comfortable and there are students of different interests.

The instructor is Chef Jean-Pierre Wybauw from Belgium - world class bonbon maker.

Today we learned about tempering chocolate and were told that it has nothing to do with 'temperature'.  That was news to all of us but he uses his two thermometers, ie. his eyes, to judge the chocolate.  Since I had never taken a chocolate class, I didn't have any unlearning to do as many of the students did.

We made three ganaches - mocha, praline and ginger chocolate.  We rolled them and cut one with a 'guitar'.  The praline is hand cut with a form.

We also had a demonstration on molded chocolate.

Now, he said, we will pick up the pace tomorrow.  Oh, did I mention, our class was from 3 - 10pm with only a couple of 5 minute breaks!

Delice Mocca Ganache  adapted from a recipe by Jean-Pierre Wybauw

400 g  whipping cream
50 g glucose (corn syrup)
40 g finely ground coffee
60 g honey
1200 g milk chocolate
200 g butter

Bring cream, corn syrup, honey and coffee to the boil and add butter.  When butter has melted, cool to the same temperature as the tempered chocolate (approx room temp is ok).  You can strain if you want to remove the coffee bits.

Add tempered chocolate.  Spread the chocolate out on a parchment lined frame.

After hardening (at room temp), cover the slab with a thin layer of dark chocolate.  Let that harden at room temperature.

Unmold and cut into desired shapes.  Dip into dark chocolate.  Garnish.


Making a Sandwich with No Knead Bread

Lunch today!  Yum.  This is some bread that I made a week or so ago, sliced and froze.  Brought it out today for lunch.  Toasted lightly and filled with a perfectly ripe avocado and crab salad.


Learning Sushi...

Woo Hoo!  I actually made a spiral roll today!  I can't believe it.  And it tasted just like the real thing!  Cooking the rice was the detailed part.

Rolling it was easy.  It requires 6 fillings so I used roasted red pepper, avocado, fava bean puree, crab meat, fish roe and carrot.  I am still experimenting and I will post more over the next couple of weeks.


Sweet Potato Biscuits with Sorghum

I am the world’s worst biscuit maker.  I have been making them since grade nine and I have a degree in home ec.  You would think I could make a simple biscuit.  

But the big epiphany today was discovering sorghum!  Okay, it was at Dollywood, but sorghum is sorghum, regardless.  It is the most delicious sweet I have ever tasted, outside maple syrup of course (I'm Canadian, after all).  But back to the biscuits...

The only reason I made biscuits is because I have joined the Tuesday’s with Dorie  baking blog.  Each Tuesday we bake a recipe made from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Baking – From My Table to Yours”.

I made two attempts at this recipe.  My first try was totally dismal in many ways.  I have a habit of rolling biscuits too thinly.  The recipe wasn’t specific in how much mashed sweet potato and I felt it was way too salty.  Since I made this recipe twice, I tried a sprinkle of cinnamon in one and nutmeg in the other.  Also, the recipe used canned sweet potato, which I wouldn’t use in a million years.  Who buys canned sweet potato?  So my suggestion is to cube and cook the sweet potato.  Then let it cool in the cooking liquid so it absorbs a bit of the water.  Don’t make the mashed product too dry.   Also, I agree with my friend Ron that lard does a much better job than butter in things that you want to be flaky.  If you substitute lard, I would reduce the amount slightly.

However, I don't believe this recipe can be flaky.  There is a whole cup of mashed sweet potato.  That interferes with the chemistry of flake making.  Instead, they are tender and dense.  As I mentioned, they were delicious served with sorghum .

Tips for Biscuit Making
*  do not overwork
*  the fat must be very cold.  Even refrigerate after incorporating the fat so it can harden before rolling.
*  the dough is better to be too wet than too dry
*  use a sharp cookie cutter and do not twist as you cut
*  try not to incorporate too much flour when rolling out.  Use a rolling cloth and rolling pin cover, if necessary.
*  ok to freeze after rolling, cutting and before baking.  Just defrost on the sheet before baking.

Sweet Potato Biscuits    from Dorie Greenspan

2 c all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
pinch nutmeg
2 T lightly packed light brown sugar
6 T cold unsalted butter
2  15-ounce cans sweet potatoes in light syrup, drained and mashed or 1 c cooked mashed sweet potato

Preheat oven to 425F and put rack in centre of oven.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the brown sugar and stir to incorporate and be sure there are no lumps.  Cut in the butter until the texture of coarse oatmeal and some pieces of the size of small peas.

Add the sweet potatoes and toss gently with a fork until you have a nice soft dough.  Turn onto the countertop and gently knead 3 or 4 times until it all comes together.

Roll or pat to 3/4 inch thickness and cut circles.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 14 to 18 minutes.  They taste best if left to completely cool before serving.



During my stay in Winnipeg I soon became aware that lavash was a local staple.  It was in every deli and specialty grocer.  I thought, because of the Jewish heritage in the city, that it was a Jewish flatbread but it is simply described as Middle Eastern.

It is a very simple flatbread that is served with an artichoke dip or cheeses.  I found them in sesame, rye, garlic and flax flavours.  Now I am looking to reproduce those wonderful lavash breads.

This recipe, although a very stiff dough, replicates closest what I like.  It is such a stiff dough that I am tempted to use my pasta machine to roll it.  It is best if baked when rolled very thinly.  Also, I did not find that this dough rose much at all but it still made nice breads.

LAVASH (Mid-Eastern sesame cracker bread)

1 1/4 lb. (about 5 C.) unbleached all purpose flour

1 envelope dry yeast

2 1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 C melted butter

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 C warm water

3/4 to 1 C sesame seeds
Combine first four ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend butter with 1 C water. Add gradually to dry ingredients, mixing well. Add more water if batter is too dry to hold together. 
Put in greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with towel. Put into warm place until double in bulk - about 1-2 hours.

Preheat to 350 degrees for gas oven, 375 degrees for electric.
Take a piece of dough no larger than a pingpong ball. (Keep remaining dough covered while working.) Roll as thin as possible - put sesame seeds on board and roll as hard as possible. Bake until golden brown with brown spots. Cool on rack.

I'm finally on Foodgawker

I love Foodgawker .  It is a wealth of foodie ideas.  They are very picky on which pictures they use but I have finally been published.  Check out items #40504 and #40508


Mustard Greens

I have never seen so many cooking greens in a store.  Most places here, in Maryville, will have bundles of collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale and spinach and a few more.  The collards come in such a huge bundle that I could never buy them.  The turnip greens didn’t appeal to me.  So I am trying the mustard greens. 

I found an Indian curried recipe with greens and chickpeas, served over rice.  But what I have chosen to make has more of a Southern flair.  Black-eyed peas and greens!

They were delicious!  They didn’t take that long even from scratch but if you are in a hurry, just buy a can of cooked black-eyed peas.  I found the mustard greens to be quite bitter but after a little more cooking than I would normally do, they were just fine.  We usually cook our leafy veggies so the colour is still bright.  I found with the mustard greens tasted better if a little over cooked.

Warm Black-Eyed Peas with Greens

Combine in a large pot:

1 ½ cups dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 smoked meaty ham hock
1 small whole white onion
1 small carrot, peeled
1 leafy celery top
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
6 cups water

Bring to a boil.  Turn heat down and simmer, covered, until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the liquid.  Discard the ham bone, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and celery.  Return the peas to the pot along with the reserved liquid.  Shred the meat from the ham bone and add the meat to peas.  Cut the carrot into ½ inch pieces and add to the peas.

Stir in:

1 head collard greens, mustard greens, curly endive, escarole or Swiss chard, washed, dried and coarsely chopped, stems removed.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the greens are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in:
1 T red wine vinegar
½ t  salt or to taste
¼ t  ground black pepper

Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 4 generous servings.


Oh, the joys of house sittin' in the country.....

Summer is definitely over and if I blink, autumn might turn into winter today.  So you know what that means on the farm?  Critters who normally live outside are looking for a cozy winter abode.  I found a couple of dead wasps on the floor.  No big deal, so I thought.  Then another couple of dead wasps the next day.  I know they have a nest somewhere at the back of the house.  Have they found their way into the basement?

So I go down to check and I could not believe my eyes.  There had to be fifty or more flying around the fluorescent light.  I sprayed.  Hours later I went to check and there were probably a hundred dead wasps on the floor, but still tons flying around the light. 

I found their access spot but there was no way I could get close.  They were hanging on the wall below.  I sprayed again.  Hours later I checked and another hundred were dead in the other room.

So every couple of hours I am spraying wasps in the basement.  Apparently the spray has to touch the insect before it will kill it.  I just pray I can get them all before it creeps me out.

This really trumps my experience yesterday.  On Tuesday as I am doing my mat exercises I catch a glimpse of something black moving outside the leaded glass window in the front door.  Two of Jarvis’ cows thought the grass was greener on my side of the fence.

They were harmless and when I opened the door, they took off like two delinquents.

I checked around the yard to see if they damaged anything.  No they didn’t, but I swear that cows are just ‘poop machines’.  Fresh cow patties all over the front yard.  With all the rain, there is no way they will dry out so I can just pick ‘em up and huck ‘em.  No sir, I was shovelin'  __it.

Green Tomato Relish

I just can’t bear to waste anything.  The growing season is over and there are still lots of little green tomatoes on the vine.  Also, lots of little green peppers.  What a stroke of luck to find a recipe for a relish that uses both.

The recipe was intriguing because it uses a step that is also in my tomato salsa recipe.  The finely sliced tomatoes are left to sit for 12 hours with coarse salt.  This draws out the moisture so that the relish won’t be too watery.  When the water is poured off, the salt goes with it.  It is quite the trick.  I tried some of this relish on my roast chicken, prosciutto and cheese sandwich.  It was great!

Green Tomato Relish

1 lb.           green tomatoes, thinly sliced
½               small onion, thinly sliced

Combine in a bowl with 2 T. coarse salt.  Refrigerate for 12 hours.  Drain and rinse.  Combine in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves:

1 cup          apple cider vinegar
¾ cup         light brown sugar

Stir in:

1                 green bell pepper, sliced
½                red bell pepper, diced
1                 clove garlic, minced
½ t              dry mustard
½ t              salt

Add the tomatoes and onions and stir together well.  Make a bouquet garni with:

½ t              whole cloves
½ t              ground ginger
½ t              celery seeds
1                 cinnamon stick, broken

Simmer, stirring often, until the tomatoes no longer hold their shape, about 1 hour.  If you would like a thicker relish, remove the lid for the second half of the cooking period.  Remove spice bag and process the relish in a hot water bath while it is still warm or keep in the refrigerator up to one month.


Speaking of Miss Sugar....

Thanks for your asking about how Sugar is doing!  Well, she isn't indulging in southern cuisine.  Although when I bought her canned food, the recipe had changed.  Coincidence?  I don't know?  But she loves loves loves it.  So no problemo.  Also, you can see that she likes gourmet water.  No water sitting in a bowl for a day or so.  Fresh from the tap is the only way.

And she likes to be at the table, as you can see.  Guess which side is up!


Copper Cellar in Knoxville

I finally ate out in Knoxville today.  I drove up and down Kingston Pike looking for a non-chain interesting place to eat.  It wasn't easy!  The Pike is a super-sized Macleod Trail.  I finally stopped at the Copper Cellar and Cappuccinos.  There was only one entrance so I have no idea where Cappuccinos was located.

The Copper Cellar was your typical Caesar's Steakhouse style of eatery.  There was not one window in the entire room, hence the Cellar.  It was very busy so I was very encouraged that the food would be good.

I didn't take my camera in to the restaurant so I don't have pics of my meal but I had the Ground Sirloin Steak au Poivre on Bleu Cheese Grits with one side of my choice.  Sides are a big thing down here.  There are usually at least five or six options.  I chose the Spinach Maria au Gratin.  It was great!  I cannot remember the last time I had a ground sirloin steak.  Bleu cheese also seems to be a big thing down here.  I have no idea why.  The grits were creamy and very tasty with the added bleu cheese.  It was like having mashed potatoes with the steak.

Now, this is not very appetizing, but I just saw a program on television about a woman in Michigan who is paralyzed from the waist down due to an ecoli infection from ground meat.  The program was also very educational.  Apparently when you buy ground meat in the U.S. the meat actually comes from Uruguay or a dozen other places and they could all end up in the same batch.  The only way you are truly safe to eat ground meat is if it is from one source and preferably local fresh beef.  This restaurant actually grinds their own meat daily.  So I felt confident.  Not only do they grind their meat daily but they bring in fresh fish and seafood from three shores daily - Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.  They do not fillet the fish until it is served to preserve freshness.  Now they have my attention.

It was a great little spot.  The food was great.  They had an interesting feature on their tab with a 'quick tip guide'.  They automatically calculate 15%, 18%, 20% and 25%.  I haven't seen that before.  Good marketing.

I would go back, many little time.


Making some Savoury Crackers

I have been intrigued with making crackers for quite some time.  I came across a recipe for a "Lesley Stowe" style of cracker that I found at Dinner with Julie and thought I would try it.  It is very close to the recipe for an American Irish Soda Bread.  And then it is double baked like a biscotti.  You can vary the nuts, herbs, dried fruits to suit your taste.

I would suggest trying dried cranberries or cherries, thyme, caraway seeds, crushed cardamom seeds or what ever your mind can conceive.  Also, this recipe uses 2 regular size loaf pans but next time, I would use the mini loaf pans (and vary the first baking time accordingly) to produce a smaller cracker.  I was also quite happy with the result when I cut the slices in half before the second baking.

Another tip, do not overcook on the second baking.  We want them to be crisp but we don't want them to be burned.  If they are not crisp enough after the second baking, then I would suggest putting them in a very slow oven (250F) to dry them out for about 15 minutes.

Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crackers
2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup milled flax seed

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir.   Add the raisins, pecans, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and stir just until blended.
Pour the batter into two 8”x4” loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.
The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice really thin.   Slice the loaves as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet.  You can slice them so thin as to be almost lacy.  These loaves freeze well so could be sliced and baked another day, if desired.   Reduce the oven heat to 300° F and bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden. 
Makes about 8 dozen crackers.


Hummingbird Cake - a Southern favourite

Today was the charity Feast, Country Store and Auction at the church.  The feast was a traditional southern picnic type lunch - pulled pork on a bun, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and home made desserts.  They had a hot dog lunch, as well.  And even the hot dogs were smoked!  They had a huge smoker on-site.

Anyway, I discovered Hummingbird Cake.  It was up for auction. I asked the woman beside what it was but she hadn't had one in a long time and couldn't put a finger on the flavours and only said that it was REALLY good!  I researched online and found a wonderful baking website.

I would think that something called Hummingbird Cake would be very sweet, such as a hummingbird would like.  Well, it is much like a carrot cake in texture but the flavours are crushed pineapple, pureed bananas and chopped pecans.  This is cooked as a layer cake and held together with creamed cheese frosting that also has pecans added.  It is very rich and a little goes a long way.  Check out this website for a picture and a recipe.