Monthly Archives: January 2011

Oh My Darlin’ Clementine.

  I present to you the magnificent clementine. So sweet and adorable it fits in the palm of your hand. They appear tiny, innocent and unassuming but the scent and taste that explodes out of this fruit is a welcome surprise.

Everyone has a particular way of eating one. A routine. A ritual.

The glossy orange skin gives way when you pierce your fingernail through to the golden fruit hidden beneath. A fine mist of juice laces the air and fills your senses with the delicate orange fragrance. The skin is pulled back and discarded in one continuous spiral to reveal tiny sleeping segments huddled tightly together. Tenderly peel off the bits of pith clinging stubbornly to the fruit and separate the segments one by one to devour them in sequence.

I look forward to clementines every Winter. Our local grocery store has been unlucky enough to be devoid of any edible batch of mandarins or clementines all season. They’ve all been either unripe or overripe. Except now of course. Sweet relief indeed!

To celebrate I thought I’d make some cookies. White Chocolate Clementine Cookies.

Now please excuse me while I continue my love affair with this cute little orange.

White Chocolate Clementine Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: My imagination.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp clementine zest
2 tbsp clementine juice
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cup flour
2 cup white chocolate chunks

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the clementine zest, juice and eggs. Make sure to scrape off any bits of zest that stick to the mixer paddle.

In a separate bowl whisk together the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour then mix it into the wet ingredients. Finally fold in the white chocolate chunks until you have a stiff uniform dough.

Scoop a heaping tbsp of dough for each cookie, form them into rounds and pat them down slightly with your fingers. Bake them for about 10 minutes until the edges brown slightly. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

Made With Love.

Valentine’s Day means either nothing or everything to an individual person. You’re either a skeptic or a romantic. More and more the world is being peopled by skeptics. People who don’t believe in anything they can’t see or touch and make fun of those who dare to.

I was once one of them before I met Lee. I’m not going to tell you that rainbows and butterflies follow us, but we are ridiculously happy. The kind of happy that gives you cavities and your face hurts from smiling too much. He’s my match, my better half, my sweetheart.

A note in a lunch bag. A heart shaped box of chocolates. A bouquet of roses. A romantic dinner on a rooftop. A picnic in the sun. A long distance phone call. A marriage in secret. A well composed email. Whatever love means to you it deserves celebration.

I thought I’d give you all a simple yet sweet recipe for your own sweetheart. Just ganache, raspberries and hazelnuts. These Chocolate Razelnut Truffles are decadent, rich and best enjoyed when made with love.

Chocolate Razelnut Truffles

Makes about 12 truffles

Source: My imagination

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
12 raspberries
1 cup hazelnuts, blanched, toasted and chopped

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Put the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small sauce pan bring the whipping cream and butter up to a boil on medium heat. Once it’s just started boiling pour it over the chocolate and cover it for 5 minutes. Uncover it and whisk it until it’s smooth. Refrigerate the ganache for about 1 or 2 hours to harden it enough to keep it’s shape.

Scoop about a tbsp of semi-hardened ganache and form it around a raspberry for each truffle. Refrigerate the newly formed truffles for another 10 – 20 minutes to make it sturdy enough to roll again.

Spread out the chopped hazelnuts in a shallow dish and roll the truffles in it to coat them. Gently pat the nuts into the chocolate. Enjoy!

Love Muffin: Maple Bacon Cheddar Cornmeal.

There’s about two feet of snow carpeting the ground. Icicles decorate the eaves troughs. The evergreens slouch under the new weight. The streets haven’t been plowed all Winter. A single Autumn leaf clings stubbornly to the frozen ground. The temperature has plummeted to uncomfortable depths.

There’s only one thing to do when the weather turns this chilly. Make Chili! The natural partner for a steaming hot bowl of Chili is, of course, Cornmeal Muffins. These aren’t your average Cornmeal Muffins, folks. They’re Maple Bacon Cheddar Cornmeal Muffins.

A little sweet to compliment the spice. A little hot inside to contrast the cold outside.

How else are you going to work up the nerve to shovel the driveway? Or scrape ice off the windshield? Or risk frostbite to check the mailbox? I suppose you could always just stay toasty warm inside and eat muffins for dinner. Like I did.

Maple Bacon Cheddar Cornmeal Muffins

Makes about a dozen muffins.

Source: Adapted from my family recipe.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
8 – 10 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cornmeal

2 tbsp pure maple syrup for topping

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Note: These muffins are best enjoyed buttered and paired with a delicious chili, but they’re also great on their own.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease a muffin tin with non stick cooking spray or a light coating of oil then set it aside.

In a large bowl combine the melted butter, egg, milk and maple syrup. Lightly toss it with the shredded cheddar and chopped bacon.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cornmeal. Add the dry ingredients to the first bowl and gently fold it together with a spatula. Make sure not to over mix the batter and just stop when it’s moist and all the bits appear evenly incorporated.

Divide the batter between the 12 cups of the prepared muffin tin. Bake them for 15 – 20 minutes until they turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn them out onto a cooling rack and, while they’re still warm, brush the tops with the reserved maple syrup. Enjoy!

When Life Gives You Lemons.

In a family you operate like satellites that orbit around the home. When one moves the others shift to compensate. So when Lee starts working a late shift and doesn’t get home until 2am some nights we all have to make some adjustments.

I miss him in the evenings and I stay up late to welcome him home. It doesn’t feel right to go to bed alone. It’s dark and cold without my personal heater. Go to bed late, wake up late. Being that it’s winter I run out of daylight so I haven’t been able to find the time to bake much.

You have to make the best of a bad situation. Cake helps. Sandwiches too. And texting. Lots and lots of texting. Strangely I’ve been finding myself watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not responsible for the bad late night reruns I watch while in a semi-comatose state.

So when life gives you lemons make Cranberry Pomegranate Lemon Yogurt Cake.

That’s how that goes right?

Cranberry Pomegranate Lemon Yogurt Cake

Source: My imagination

Zest from 1 lemon
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cranberries

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Butter the inside of a 9 inch spring form pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl blend together the lemon zest and sugar with the back of a spoon or a spatula releasing the natural oils of the lemon into the sugar.

In a large bowl with a electric mixer beat the eggs and lemon sugar until the mixture gets thick and turns pale yellow. Add the yogurt, oil and lemon juice and stir it to combine.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt then add it to the wet ingredients and mix it well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake it for about 40 – 45 minutes until the top turns golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake sit in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes until it’s cool enough to release it from the form. Allow it to cool completely on a cooling rack then level off the top with a cake leveler or a long serrated knife.

While your cake is baking prepare the Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce to top it. In a small sauce pan combine the pomegranate juice and sugar then bring it to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cranberries and let it simmer until the cranberries pop and it thickens to a syrup consistency, about 10 – 15 minutes. If it gets a little too thick you can always thin it out with more pomegranate juice. Set it aside to cool and thicken further before serving it atop a lovely slice of cake. Enjoy!

Reservations About Resolutions.

New year’s resolutions. We all make them, but do we ever actually adhere to them? Things like lose ten pounds or volunteer in the community seem to get pushed aside to make room for more interesting goals like dig for the bottom of that jar of Nutella or sit through that Star Trek marathon.

Maybe it’s time for some more realistic resolutions. Here are a few of my highlights.

Resolution #115: Redecorate my kitchen because it’s time the love was reciprocated.

Resolution #223: Bake my own bread instead of buying sliced loaves like a sucker.

Resolution #52: Get a haircut. You hippie.

Resolution #175: Actually finish writing the first chapter of my book. It’s time to stop procrastinating.

Resolution #333: Finally attempt macarons. They’re cookies, not the boogeyman.

Resolution #24: Master the extreme difficulty on Tap Tap Revenge because repeated rhythmic tapping is an important life skill.

Resolution #32: Cultivate an intimate relationship with my new macro lens. We make such a cute couple.

Resolution #517: Try more interesting flavour combinations because you just know that peanut butter and jelly was an accident.

That’s where these cookies come in. Double Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies. They’re filled with deep dark chocolate flavour that’s intensified by the the exotic taste of fresh ground cinnamon. Not your average combination, but one I am so glad I tried. Sometimes you have to try something a little wacky to to discover new favourites. This one is definitely one of mine now. Maybe it could be one of yours too.

Double Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: My imagination.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup demerara sugar
2 eggs
2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I used fresh ground)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks (I used Belgian)

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugars. Lightly blend in the eggs next.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt then combine it well into the wet ingredients. Fold in the chocolate with a spatula.

Scoop a heaping tbsp of dough for each cookie and pat it down lightly with your fingers. Bake them for about 10 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Past, Present and Future.

Last night while perched comfortably on the lap of my love with Angel Icebox Dessert in hand and a smile on my face I warmly welcomed 2011. These few months of transition from one year to another is always interesting. It’s when you mistakenly mark papers with last year. It’s when you find confetti and glitter in impossible places. It’s when you eat leftover hors d’oeuvres for dinner just because you can. It’s when you think fondly on the past and look forward to the future.

What better time to review my top ten favourite posts here on Hot Polka Dot? The recipes I enjoyed making. The good times. The challenges. The triumphs.

Angel Icebox Dessert: The single most technically difficult dessert I’ve ever mastered, but still my favourite dessert. Think about it, crispy pavlova slathered in smooth custard, topped with fresh whipped cream and sprinkled with toasted almonds. It’s what I imagine clouds in heaven taste like.

Banana Cinnamon Bread Pudding: I’ve never tried the combination of banana and cinnamon and really I don’t know why. This was a close second with it’s crispy toasted banana bread top and the soft moist middle.

Honey Lemon Pound Cake: A seemingly simple cake with a huge punch of lemon flavour. I made it for my Lee and we enjoyed it during a summer picnic in the park for our one year anniversary. It’s extra special to me.

Lemon Blackberry Mousse Sponge Cake: One of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever made and definitely one of the tastiest. Who wouldn’t like layers of springy cake blackberry mousse and lemon glaze?

Cheddar Biscuits: The tenderest, flakiest biscuits I’ve ever tried. I attempted to make them like the ones at Red Lobster and I like to think I did a pretty good job. Butter, garlic and cheese. What could be better?

Honey Almond Flower Cookies: It’s so hard to pick a favourite cookie, but I think these might be them. They’re modelled after traditional Chinese almond cookies with a sweet honey twist.

Boston Cream Pie: This was the first time I’ve ever had Boston Cream Pie. It really makes me happy to make things I’ve never tried and do them justice. This dessert was impressive and oh so decadent.

Honey Peach Upside Down Cake: This one was pretty popular with all of you and it definitely is with me too. It’s so sweet, moist and filled with my favourite fruit.

Maple Bacon Oatmeal Muffins: Certainly one of the most creative things I’ve ever made. I am fascinated by the idea of mixing salty with sweet and I’m beginning to think that bacon might make everything better.

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns: You know I’ve overcome my irrational fear of yeast when I make up a bread recipe. I’ve never attempted cinnamon buns before and, though they’re a little time consuming, they’re totally worth it.

2010 was an amazing year! It was when I humbly and quietly started my little blogging adventure. I baked, I whisked and I kneaded my way through the year. I learned, advanced and met so many wonderful people. In just a few short months I rose and became a challenge seven finalist in Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog.

Now I’m a nominated finalist in two categories in the Canadian Food Blog Awards! I’m so honoured to be included in such a talented and impressive group of Canadian food bloggers. To be considered for two awards is an even bigger surprise! Best Recipe Blog and Best Dessert and Baking Blog!

You should head on over to Beer and Butter Tarts to see the complete list of nominations and browse some really awesome blogs. I may not be included in the People’s Choice Award but that doesn’t mean you can’t help the other lovely Canadians competing for the coveted spot. The voting opens today and ends January 15th. All nominees in the other categories will be whittled down by a panel of prominent Canadian foodie judges. The winners of all categories will be announced on January 31st so wish me luck!

I find myself planning for the future and looking ahead more than I ever have. We’re all friends here right? I think I can give you a few hints of what to look forward to here on Hot Polka Dot. There will be some definite experimentation in the realm of chocolate and cinnamon. Some marriage of cheddar and apple. Maybe you’ll even find some lemon and poppy seed in an unlikely place. I might even give cheesecake another go and cross your fingers for no cracks this time around.

Shhh. Let’s just keep that between us.

I want to thank all of you for such a rewarding year! To my old friends, new friends, fellow bloggers and loyal readers you have enriched my life and turned this hobby of mine into a passion. I am overwhelmed by the response my little corner of the internet has gotten and even more astonished at the impact it’s had on my life.

Here’s to another great year! Who knows what surprises it will bring.