Cooking Classes


Ballerina Cupcakes

Today was my Ballerina Cupcakes cooking class.  I had three lovely ladies ages 5 and 6 years old.  They are so adoring!  We cooked the vanilla cupcakes first.  And then we sat down to make the tutu toppers. 

I originally planned to make them all pink. When I bought the construction paper for the bodices, it came in a package of 5 colours.  So I went about finding tissue paper, ribbon and sprinkles in the same colours.  Little did I know that the girls would completely mix and match all the colours!  We had pink skirts with yellow bodices.  We had blue front skirts with green back skirts and pink bodices!  It was wild and wonderful.


How I Love Flat Pie

Last year about the same time my neighbour, Verdella, brought me some of her flat pie.  I had never heard of flat pie!  She makes the best pastry and the fresh apples sliced and seasoned to perfection make this a real treat for me.  Don't tell anyone, but I ate the entire piece the minute she walked out the door!

Perhaps it is her beautiful pastry or the fresh apples or simply hot from the oven, but I love this.  Thanks, Verdella!


Making Your Own Crackers and Crisps

We had lots of fun tonight working with dough and making some savoury crackers and crisps.  These are the bread sticks we made with the lavash dough from Peter Reinhart's book "The Bread Bakers Apprentice".

 This will become Spicy Blue Cornmeal Crackers.  Making these takes a bit of practice.  Sometimes they might be too crispy, or too soft, too floury or too thick.  With practice, you develop the 'touch' to make some nice delicate crackers.  But, don't be discouraged.  It does take practice.

I wish I had thought to take more pictures.  We had flour from head to toe!  These will be onion and poppy seed crackers.  They are one of my favourites.  The recipe makes a big batch so you have to be prepared to spend a bit of time.  But the results will be worth it.


True Confessions

I met Meredith after my friend, Scott, moved to Victoria.  They are cousins!  Meredith lives in Sooke in a most magical location.  Their property abuts a lovely stream that ebbs and flows with the seasons.  The salmon spawn, the river wanes and exposes more of the lovely rocks, it rises and has a lovely breeze with the rushing water.  They have lived here for years.

I love Meredith.  She has such a joie de vivre.  It is always a wonderful day in Meredith's life.  It is so refreshing.

But, I have a confession.  It was none of those wonderful qualities of personality or riverside location that originally caught my undivided attention.  It was her bay tree.

The first time I knew that bay trees grew in Canada was on this very first visit to Meredith's.  Scott picked a bunch of leaves and we went back to the city to make a lovely lamb roast laid upon a bed of fresh bay leaves.  I have always since been so envious.  I would love to go out my front door and pick a handful of bay leaves.

Look at these lovely bouquet garni!  Meredith has made these with a labour of love and I am one lucky recipient of this gift.  They are so adorable!  They are so more adorable than the almost identical bouquet garni that I purchased in Paris at La Grande Epicerie.  I now feel a little ridiculous to have saved these 'petit cher bouquet garni' from Paris.  They are dry and, well, lifeless, in comparison to the wonderfully fresh bundles from Meredith.


Candied Miniature Carrots

My garden took second seat to the Farmer's Market this summer.  That almost does not seem right, does it.  I did use herbs from my little garden in the salads and dips I made for the market, but mostly the garden was for my own use.

I planted the carrots and did not thin the planting.  Now that it is fall, it is time to dig up everything.  To my delight I had a lot of these tiny little carrots!  I have always wanted to make candied carrots for decorating carrot cupcakes iced with cream cheese frosting.

Each carrot is between 1 and 2 inches long.  I washed and cleaned them and then I painstakingly peeled each little one.  I think I have about 3 dozen.

The first step is to blanch them in salted water.  This is necessary so that the cell structure will change and accept the sugar in replacement for the water in the carrot.  But you don't want to cook them either.  This is truly 'cooking by braille'.  I guessed at a short blanching time and drained them and then shocked them in ice water.

I made a heavy sugar syrup of water and sugar.  I boiled the miniature carrots in this syrup for two or three minutes and turned off the heat.  I let them sit in the sugar syrup for 2 days.  After 2 days, I added another 1/2 cup of sugar and heated them again.  When the new sugar was dissolved and the syrup was bubbling, I turned off the heat and let them sit in the sugar syrup for 3 days.  During this time the water in the carrots is being replaced with sugar through osmosis.

After this, I warmed them so the sugar syrup was thin.  I removed the little carrots and dried them on a cake rack for one day.  Now they are arranged in layers separated by parchment paper in an airtight container.  I will keep them in my cold room until I use them in two weeks for my cupcakes at the market.

Everyone is asking how they taste!  That did not even cross my mind!  I was only thinking of appearances.  So I just ate one.  It tastes faintly of carrot in a jellied candy kind of way.  The green part was just as candied as the orange part.  Very pleasant.


More on Culture Days

These are the pictures Jessi Bruntz took for the Prairie Post.  I have never had professional pictures taken in my kitchen.  I think she has a great eye!  What fun!  But look at those hands!  These are my roasted peppers becoming something to serve on crusty bread.

She was so sweet.  " It was great meeting you, too.  I had a great time hanging out in your kitchen and breaking the rules by tasting some of your delicious treats.  Thanks."   

 Checking on my preserved lemons!  They smelled so good.
 I love the way the lights gleams from my table.  This was the 'self quiz on interesting serving pieces'.


The Party is Over

Culture Days / Fête de la Culture, throughout Canada, happened this past Saturday and Sunday.  One of the slogans was "I expressed my creativity on Culture Days   Fête de la Culture.

I expressed my creativity through food.  I had planned to talk about plank cooking and how to roast a red pepper.  Then I had little displays.  Two were interactive, name this flatware piece and name this spice or herb.  The other was a display of kitchen gadgets.

Since people just dropped in, I decided to just cook whatever it was that I wanted to cook.  I pulled out the sage honey I made last summer.  The honey had congealed so I placed it in warm water to liquefy it again.  I tasted.  It was heavenly.  I will be sharing it at my Spices & Herbs class on Tuesday.  I pulled out my preserved lemons to check on them.  Again, very good.  I rearranged them in the jar so they would all cure evenly.  I did roast the red peppers and put them in a marinade of olive oil, tarragon vinegar, garden tarragon and roasted garlic.  And more.

It was nice to have a leisurely day in my kitchen.  I pulled out the salmon that was in my freezer and made salmon cakes with black beans for appetizers.

It was fun to listen to people and their relationship with food and cooking.  And because my brain never stops, I am already planning my program for next year.