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I realize plums aren’t in season right now, but focus on what’s underneath: a crunchy shredded phyllo-wrapped ricotta cheesecake of sorts, which like other cheesecakes can be topped with just about anything, including whatever fruit you currently have in the freezer, simmered with a bit of sugar or honey and spooned overtop. I wasn’t sure what to call this – it’s not really pie, nor cake; I settled on torte (as have others) because it’s a sort of blanket term for a dense cake, and it is baked in a pan and served in wedges. What makes it unique is the kataifi, finely shredded phyllo pastry you can find alongside the frozen phyllo at any Middle Eastern grocery, and even in some grocery stores. It’s lovely to work with.

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Chocolate should really be declared the official food of February, since at some point long ago someone decided it defined love, or professed it, or otherwise made people feel as good as love does. It’s always chocolate season, of course – but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day I tend to want it more. The power of suggestion is strong with me. Of course Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the things you love with the ones you love. The folks at Green & Black’s asked if I’d play around with some of their bars and make a fondue for two, and I was more than happy to oblige. You hardly need a recipe for chocolate fondue, but a little guidance helps, and the ratios of cream:chocolate vary from bar to bar. Once you get the formula down – heat cream, add chopped chocolate, stir – you can play around with it a bit, adding a shot of booze to the cream, orContinue reading

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In general I’m not a very gadgety person, but there are a few kitchen tools I can’t be without, and one is a stand mixer. I was asked to take an Oster® Brand stand mixer for a spin (see what I did there?) and used it as an excuse to also test out a dessert I’ve been meaning to try for ages – a rolled meringue roulade, which sounds far more fancy and sophisticated than it actually is. A roulade is really anything rolled up, and in this case, meringue is spread out and rolled into a log around tart berries and cream – essentially the same ingredients as a pavlova, which just might be my favourite dessert ever. As much as I love plum pudding and the chocolate bundt cake old family friends bring over every holiday, after a big turkey dinner I don’t want something heavy – I love the sweet-tartness and acidity of something made with meringues and tart fruit and cream.Continue reading

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I’ve made this a few times over the years, and like that it’s sort of half cookie half pie, yet called a gâteau. I made it when I have a glut of homemade jam in the house, or all-fruit mincemeat in December. This year I seem to have a surplus of blackberry jam in my freezer, so pulled some out to use in this big sweet sandwich, with jam spread between pieces of buttery cookie-pastry and baked as one giant cookie-pie, and served in thin wedges. You can nibble these out of hand, like a cookie, or serve them on a plate topped with a scoop of ice cream, like a far fancier dessert. The fact that it’s called a gâteau Basque rather than a big cookie-jam sandwich just makes you feel so much more sophisticated as a cook. Most gâteau Basque, named for the region in France, is tucked into a shallow tart pan, but I figured a) less than 50% of the populationContinue reading

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I know the first few frosty weeks of winter isn’t the best time to present late summer cherries, but although I made this in August, my freezer is still loaded with the remains of this same case of now pitted and halved dark BC cherries, and it’s occurring to me that it would make a pretty fab holiday dessert. I mean, look at it – the meringue and cream all billowy and snowy, with brilliant red, juicy cherries on top – it could be raspberries or cranberries, or a combination of any or all of the above, you just want berries that are juicy and tart to contrast with the sweet, soft and crunchy cream and meringue. And although these are fresh cherries, tossed with just enough sugar to help them release some of their juices, I typically simmer fruit just briefly enough to start it breaking down, and releasing more juices, then setting it aside to cool (or refrigerate ahead of time) before pouringContinue reading

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So I got it into my head that I wanted to make pies. Not regular, full-sized pies you eat by the slice, but the kind you eat out of hand. The seed was planted back in (on?) PEI, when a friend and I went on a 3 day road trip and stopped at the Handpie Company as soon as we pulled onto the island (I oddly love that they made handpie all one word) and ate two ridiculously delicious pies, stuffed half-moons you could eat straight from the paper bag, the buttery pastry loaded with meat and potatoes and other things. I know hand pies are not new, but somehow it was like a reawakening regarding the possibilities of pie. Also, it’s apple time. I haven’t managed to make a pie yet. Somehow, these pockets seemed like less of a production. So this afternoon I turned on the oven to make pies. (My new-ish oven takes forever to heat up.) I did some things, andContinue reading

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Do we have time for one more pie? Thanksgiving is early enough in Canada that I can often squeak by with the last of the stone fruits, and often plums, which make a mighty fine (yet mostly overlooked) pie. They get along well with apples and berries and of course rhubarb, and so when we had an impromptu pie party on a recent Sunday morning (I invited some pals over for coffee and pie), I rummaged through the fridge and came up with this combo. It was a winner. I am a huge fan of sweet-tart fruit pies, still warm enough that the ice cream or whipped cream creates rivulets of melted cream finding their way through the nooks and crannies of fruit, landing in pools on the plate. These two – they really get along. And if you have some plums in your fridge that are starting to go squidgy, you won’t be able to tell at all once they’re cooked. And if youContinue reading

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Much of the time, I’d choose a fruit crisp over pie. Not only because it’s so quick to make (and I’m so often the one making it) and because measurements don’t need the same precision, and there’s no worry over whether or not you’ll be able to extract a clean slice, but because I love sweet-tart, juicy fruit, particularly berries and stone fruits, and especially topped with a rubble of butter and brown sugar. It’s the ideal vehicle for vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, which I am an enormous fan of.

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For the record, I take photos of the food I share here before we all dive into it; it’s not styled in a studio, and more often than not people are sitting around while I snap, waiting to eat it. Such was the case this evening, when a handful of family came over for pizza in the back yard. Because there are so many berries in the city right now (the benefit of breaking all records for heat and sun this year) I made a pie. A galette, actually – a free-form pie you assemble and bake on a baking sheet rather than in a pie plate (although a pie plate works well too, and contains any leaks), which is one of my favourite things to do with a chunk of puff pastry. It was one of the items that got ejected from my overstuffed freezer in order to make room for the ice cream insert (priorities) – almost like it was meant to be.

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