Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer Fruit Pies

Cherry Pie 

Let's start with Ina Garten's Perfect Pie Pastry (it really is perfect!) we're using it today in ALL the pie recipes below because it's just that good!


Cut the following ingredients... 

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening, such as Crisco

... into the flour mixture below. Use a food processor, a hand-held pastry blender, or two knives. Whatever you use, don't overmix. You should still see clumps of fat about the size of a large green pea when you're done.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt


1/2 cup ice water

Gather the dough into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc (at this point you can divide into two and wrap separately) wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Additional ingredients for the crust before baking:
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cream (optional)

1 tbsp sugar for sprinkling

Cherry Filling:
Recipe adapted from Inspired Taste

4 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries (2 1/2 pounds, unpitted)
1/4 cup (30 grams) corn starch
2/3 to 3/4 cup (134 to 150 grams) sugar, adjusted accordingly to sweetness of cherries
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares

Instructions: Roll out the pastry and line the pie pan/plate. Mix up the filling by tossing the ingredients together in a bowl and fill the pie, try to work quickly as you want to handle pastry outside of the fridge as little as possible and as quickly as possible.  Roll out the second pastry disk and use to cover the pie or create a lattice work. tuck in the edges and brush with the mixture of egg yolk and cream. Sprinkle pastry with granulated sugar for a beautiful crust.

Place the pie plate on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake ..

Bake Cherry pie at 400 degree F preheated oven for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and continue for another 30-40 minutes until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.  Allow pie to cool for 2 1/2 - 3 hours before enjoying. Be careful if you're transporting it somewhere in a car, for instance, as the filling can spill out and over, it happened to me!

Blueberry Pie (Pictured Above)
Recipe by Ina Garten 

1 recipe for perfect pie pastry (above)

Filling Ingredients:

4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon creme de cassis or a black currant syrup of your choice (check the local European store!)

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash
1 tbsp sugar for sprinkling

Instructions: Assemble same way as cherry pie and bake in a 400 Degree F preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool 2-3 hours before cutting into it.

Fresh Strawberry Pie 
Recipe inspired by and adapted from Inspired Taste 

1 crust recipe (I used Ina's recipe, same as all the pies above) Use only half and freeze the other half for another use (or for mini pies recipe below)

5 cups (24 ounces or 680 grams) quartered and hulled local summer strawberries (I used Ontario Strawberries from local Willow Tree farm in Port Perry

1/4 (30 grams) cup cornstarch
2/3 to 3/4 cup (134 to 150 grams) sugar, adjusted according to the sweetness of strawberries
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the crust: 
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the topping/serving
Whipped cream

Prepare Pie Crust
Roll out pie dough to fit pie dish. Gently press dough down into dish so that it lines the bottom and sides of the dish. (Be careful not to pull or stretch the dough). Then, use a knife or pair of kitchen scissors to trim dough to within 1/2-inch of the edge of the dish.
Fold edges of dough underneath itself, creating a thicker, 1/4-inch border that rests on the lip of the dish. Then, crimp edges. 

Bake Pie Crust
Heat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C). Place a baking sheet on a middle oven rack.
Pierce bottom of the crust with a fork (this prevent air pockets or bubbles from forming while baking). Line the crust with two sheets of aluminum foil. (Be sure to push foil against the edges of the crust). Then, fill foil with dried rice, dried beans or pie weights. Refrigerate 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Place pie crust onto preheated baking sheet and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F (200 C). Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden. (I needed to remove the foil after 30 minutes and bake for another 10 minutes) 

Make egg wash by whisking egg yolk and cream in a small bowl. Then, remove rice, beans or pie weights and foil from pie crust. Brush bottom and sides of crust with egg wash. Bake until egg wash is dry and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. (I baked it for an additional 10-15 minutes until it was baked with a golden crust and the bottom was golden too, which is nice when you use a glass pan to see the bottom)

 Cool crust completely before filling.

Make Pie Filling
Add 2 cups of strawberries to a small saucepan. Mash strawberries until chunky.
Add sugar, corn starch, vanilla extract, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and glaze has thickened; 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Combine remaining 3 cups of strawberries (keep them whole or slice them into quarters) with cooled strawberry glaze. Stir until strawberries are well coated. Spoon strawberry filling into cooled pie crust.

Refrigerate pie at least 2 hours before cutting to allow filling to set. Top with whipped cream and decorate! Enjoy!

Mini Black Currant Pies 

I make these whenever I have leftover bits of dough and not enough fruit for a big pie or tart ... my mini cherry pies from a couple of summers ago are still a big hit, and attract the most readers to my blog, my husband just loves these little pies and requests them every summer. This year I used our black currant harvest from the bush we have in our backyard which yielded quite a nice amount! I've never made black currant pie before so I used the same guidelines as the blueberry pie and kept it simple, it's truly delicious!

The recipe below is a rough ingredient list, but feel free to use the same ingredients as the blueberry pie if you're doing a full sized pie or if you'd like to make small pies, it's pretty much the same recipe (mix up your fruit filling according to the ingredients from blueberry pie except swap out the blueberry with currants and then roll out your dough and see how many cupcake molds you can fill)
1 recipe for Ina's pie crust (above) 
Black Currants 

Creme de cassis or black currant syrup (optional) 
Lemon Juice

Flour or corn starch (I used flour) 
Pinch of salt
Butter for dotting

Since these pies are smaller I preheated the oven to 400 and then as soon as I put 'em in set the oven to 350 and let them back until browned and bubbling. Don't forget to brush with egg yolk and sprinkle sugar, just like the other pie recipes above.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sour Cherry Quick Cake

Week two at the local farmer's market and all I saw was cherries everywhere! One farm in particular caught my eye because they were selling sour cherries while everyone else had the bing sweet cherries that I used the week before to make a delicious homemade cherry pie (recipe coming up in the next post when we feature some other fruit pies as well!)

I've always been fascinated by these sour cherries because I would see them up in the trees while we picnicked in the Niagara region of Ontario and I would wonder if they were actually edible.  A couple of weeks ago when my family moved to a house we found out that there was a cherry tree in the backyard, and we noticed people picking the same type of cherries off the same trees in the neighbourhood so when I had a taste for the first time I knew they would make for some delicious baking!

The recipe I'm posting today came from a friend on Instagram, I've been eyeing her homestyle Russian recipes for a while and bookmarked this cake for quick summer time baking and sure enough these cherries were PERFECT for the recipe! I'm so in love with this cake that I know I'll be making it again and again with different fruits and trying that warm cinnamon version that she wrote about on her blog Imagelicious, please stop in and check it out!

I won't put the recipe here as you can head over and check out hers, but I'm telling you, this is such an easy recipe ... it's faster to whip up than an omelet!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Roasted Garlic Scape & Tomato Pasta

Spent a fabulous morning at the local farmer's market and picked up a selection of goodies, among them garlic scapes! This is the second year that I discovered these and immediately knew that I wanted to whip these up in a pasta dish. Luckily I already composed a dish in my mind within seconds and upon the recommendation of a nice Italian lady that started chatting me up at the market.

Originally I was intending to sautee the scapes and tomatoes but by the end of the evening, and honestly we were just so full of finishing up all the sweet peas that I threw the previously washed and prepped scapes into a roasting dish and into a preheated 400 degree oven to roast away. Of course I tossed the garlic scapes with the typical roasting seasonings, salt, pepper..olive oil and threw in a handful of halved grape tomatoes and a big clove of garlic which was smashed and roughly minced.

Immediately the pot of water went on the heat to boil and in 30 minutes I had dinner on the table.
I just love days like these!

Easy Roasted Garlic Scapes and Tomato Summer Pasta

1 handful garlic scapes, you can find them at your local farmer's market
1 handful grape or cherry tomatoes, or any roughly chopped fresh summer tomatoes
1 medium clove garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

A big glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the good stuff, like from Olive That!
Salt & Pepper

Pasta of choice, I used spaghetti
1 small bunch of green beans (optional) 

Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved 
(use a cheese tool or vegetable peeler to shave off nice big pieces) 

1 - Prep the veggies by washing and then chopping the garlic scapes in 1 inch length pieces. 
Slice cherry/grape tomatoes in halves

2 - Preheat oven to 400 F. In a roasting dish or glass baking pan toss your garlic scapes and halved cherry or grape tomatoes, garlic clove with the Olive oil. Season with Salt and black Pepper. Roast in pan until it looks like the photo below. 

3 - Bring pasta water to a boil, season with salt and add pasta and green beans. Boil according to package. 
Meanwhile your roasted veggies should be done and out of the oven, add a ladel full of pasta stock, that's the pasta water and stir the vegetables lightly, it should deglaze the casserole and remove all the yummy bits off the edges.

4 - When the pasta and beans are ready, drain (I leave a little bit of pasta stock/water in the bottom, just a couple of tbsps) and add them back to the pot. Add the roasted vegetables making sure to include every last drop of yummy goodness from the pan drippings.  Normally at this point I toss and close the lid on the pot and just turn the heat to the burner off. The pasta absorbs the last bit of juices and kind of "Becomes one" with the sauce.

Plate and top with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese! Now dig in.... Pasta waits for no one!

MMMMmmmm... I really really love pasta, and simple recipes like this just make me so happy :) 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Baby Gender Reveal Cakes!



Here is the baby gender reveal cake we did for my family over the weekend, and below you'll find an adorable ombre cake we enjoyed with my in laws on friday evening!

Our little Pumpkin!

Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake (Recipe courtesy of Sweetapolita
Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake
**OR as I did in the yellow/blue cake above - Use 2 pans that are 9" round and cut each cake into 2 layers to yield 4 layers after it's baked and cooled.


For the Vanilla Layer Cake:

1-1/2 cups (341 g)(3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups (575 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
2 cups (480 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature (**or whisk yogurt with milk to a smoothie consistency in the required amount)
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla bean paste (**I just used REAL Vanilla extract) 
1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract, best quality

** Add desired food colouring to the cake to tint the batter, I used a blue gel adding it sparingly to achieve the desired light baby blue


For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.
Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. (If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.) Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes clean.
Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

Make this recipe of buttercream X3 to have enough to frost the cake above.  Make sure to wash all utensils and bowls between batches with warm soapy water to remove any grease and then wipe down with vinegar as well to remove traces of grease of else your egg whites (first step) will not come together and whip and the recipe will fail.

Yield: 5 cups


5 large egg whites (30g each–total 150g)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

(Yellow food colouring gel) 


Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and vinegar, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool. Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed continuously, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Add vanilla and salt, mix well. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more.

Note: Because it does take some time to make, I always make in batches of 3 (vanilla), because it freezes so well and saves time. A batch of 3 fits perfectly in a 5QT KitchenAid mixer bowl. You can then thaw, divide, add separate flavours, purees, etc. I have recently decreased the amount of butter I use in my buttercream, because I find it has a lighter, fluffier quality to it. I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly, but you can add more butter if you prefer. I’ve also recently started heating the egg whites and sugar to 160° F, rather than 140° F, and I find the meringue comes together so quickly this way (just an observation, however 140° F has worked for me for years). Just a note!

Troubleshooting: After the egg whites are mixed add the butter in small thumb size pieces into the bowl while it whips and make sure it incorporates well, if it begins to split and go "soupy" place the bowl into the freezer for a couple of minutes and then rewhip using the paddle attachment and add the remaining butter in pieces until it looks like a butter cream. 

It helps to watch a couple of videos on youtube too before attempting to make this buttercream recipe. 

When assembling cake add a thin layer of lemon curd or jam onto the cake before the buttercream if desired. Frost and add sprinkles!