baby shower 1 month later

About a month ago I hosted a baby shower.  Remember my friend Gigi?  Well – the last time you saw her she was just about 7 months pregnant … right now I’m just waiting for the phone call telling me I’m going to be an aunt.  She’s ready to pop!

But let’s go back a month; back to that baby shower.

I have to admit something… I am not a baby shower planner extraordinaire :0)

I don’t do games. 

I don’t do balloons and decorating. 

I don’t make savoury, tea-time snacks. 

Nope.  I don’t do any of those things. 

But I do bake (lots of goodies).

I do find the BEST spot in the city to host the event.

I do fill the room with friends and family .

And I do take notes for the mother-to-be as she unwraps all her presents (which, had you been in the room you would have laughed – I couldn’t remember the word for a bib… seriously).

Once I’d offered to host I realized something… I can’t do it at my place!  My apartment fits 4 (maybe 5) people comfortably.  Not really an ideal location for a dozen people and baby paraphernalia. 

Enter Platonic Jeff.  His apartment building has THE GREATEST green room / roof top patio EVER.  For reals – with views of the canal, you couldn’t ask for a better spot.  Thank you Platonic Jeff for coordinating that for me.

I figured since I don’t do games, that the food would have to be pretty darn good.  It had to be something that Gigi would like; but I wanted it to be a recipe I hadn’t tried yet.  And that’s when I decided on this key lime tart.  It’s a-maz-ing!  If you are expecting a key lime pie – this isn’t it – there is no whipped cream / or Italian meringue on top of the lime custard filling – this is all about the crust and the filling.  This tart serves up a real punch of lime – making it nice and tart, with a crunchy graham cracker / coconut base.  Perfect for an afternoon party.

Gigi’s craved my carrot cake throughout her pregnancy – so I made sure I had some carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and mini rounds of my lemon cake (also cream cheese frosting) – another of Gigi’s favourites.  The treats were rounded out with my dark chocolate almond shortbread, and our friend Chloé made mouth-watering mint nanaimo bars and date squares (oh how I heart date squares).  Sounds like a lot of food eh?  Yeah… it was – but everyone left with doggie bags full of little squares and treats – that my friends, is my idea of a great party. 

graham-coconut crust

ingredients:

1 c. shredded coconut

2 c. graham cracker crumbs

2 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 c. butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 300 F.  SPray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray – set aside.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, evenly spread out the coconut, and toast it in the oven, until golden (about 7 minutes).  You’ll want to watch the coconut to ensure it doesn’t burn, tossing it around from time to time.

Grab a large bowl.  Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and toasted coconut; use your hands to toss everything well.  Add the melted butter.  Mix well (again, use your hands), then press the base into your prepared pan.  You want an even layer – so press gently with your palms and fingertips.

Place the crust in your fridge for 15 minutes, allowing it to chill.  Then bake in the oven for 10 minutes – getting the crust golden brown.  Allow to cool before filling with the key lime filling.

key lime tart

ingredients:

1 recipe graham-coconut crust

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

3/4 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. heavy cream

zest and juice, 3 key limes

powdered sugar

Keep the oven at 300 F.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, using your whisk attachment, beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar for about 2 minutes – the mixture will turn pale.  Beat in the cream, lime zest and lime juice.

Pour the mixture into the prebaked crust.  Bake it for about 45 minutes – you want the custard to be set (you don’t want it to jiggle when you move it side to side / back and forth).

Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Just before serving, dust with the powdered sugar.

That’s it.  Simple to make.  It looks beautiful and tastes even better!

Here are a few pictures from the shower… check out those baked goods!  And doesn’t Gigi look amazing!?! 

elimination challenge: black & white

I am really enjoying participating in evilshenanigans’ online Top Chef Just Desserts elimination challenge.  I’ve flambéed for the first time, made salted caramel (three times!), made some gooey truffles (another first) and now… now I own a mini torch and made my very first crème brulée.

Amazing.

Since we follow the show’s themes; this week we were challenged with creating a black & white dessert.  The cheftestants had been asked to make a bold statement with black and white desserts for a special anniversary party for the Los Angeles Times. I loved watching the episode and was super stoked to put my own spin on it.

Admittedly - I didn’t make the white portion.  At least not last night.

I cut it pretty close and started baking late in the evneing: which meant that by the time I actually bruléed the custard (this morning at 7 am), I didn’t have the time (and I was reading a really good book … priorities, priorities) to make a white component… but don’t worry – I have plans to complete this challenge later this week:  think a meringue nest, filled with chocolate custard and then bruléed… you can say it with me… SWEET!

Back to the challenge.  The crème brulée – I don’t know what made me think it would be difficult to make. It’s not.  It’s simple – at least this recipe (adapted from Gale Gand’s chocolate and vanilla) – and although I didn’t have the little Asian spoons Gale recommends using – it still turned out BRILLIANTLY!  The custard is super creamy, not too sweet.  I think I’d add an extra star anise to the recipe – to punch up that flavour next time… but otherwise, I am pleased as punch about how it all turned out.

semi sweet chocolate star anise crème brûlée

ingredients:

1 1/3 c. heavy cream

1/3 vanilla pod, halved lengthwise

1 piece star anise

1 1/2 ounce semi sweet chocolate, chopped

4 egg yolks

1/4 c. white sugar

1/4 c. coarse sugar (raw or Demerara sugar)

Place your rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 300 F.

Grab a square baking pan (8-inch or 9-inch), as well as a larger baking dish (in which to set the smaller pan into).  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring the cream, vanilla pod and star anise to an almost boil.  Immediately turn off the heat, add the chocolate and whisk everything so that the chocolate melts.

Set aside and allow the chocolate cream mixture to infuse for about 10 minutes.

(It smells so good.  This would make one delicious hot chocolate base.  Sigh.)

Meanwhile, bring a tea kettle to a boil (or, if you’re like me, and you don’t have a tea kettle, bring a saucepan to a boil).

While your water is boiling, whisk together the egg yolks and the white sugar (until just combined).  Slowly drizzle the yolk mixture into the chocolate cream, whisking constantly.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the smaller baking pan.

Put the smaller pan into the larger one and place both in your oven.  Slowly (and carefully), pour the boiling water into the larger pan – you want it to reach halfway up the sides of the 8-inch pan.

Bake for 40 minutes: the custard should have just set, but still jiggle a little in the centre.  Remove the smaller pan from its bain marie  and allow it to cool, about 15 minutes at room temperature (careful not to get water into the pan when you lift it out of the larger pan).

Tightly cover with plastic wrap (don’t allow the wrap to touch the custard) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (apparently you can make this  up to 3 days in advance, keeping it chilled in the fridge until ready to use).

Now for the fun part.

To assemble, spoon out some of the custard into your desired heat-resistant brulée-wear (ceramic Asian spoons – or if you’re like me, a little ceramic bowl), smoothing the surface with a small spatula or butter knife.  Return the prepared custards to the fridge and chill them for a further 30 minutes (although this could be done up to 24 hours in advance).

Grab your kitchen torch.

Sprinkle a layer of coarse sugar over the surface of each custard, ensure that the entire surface is covered.

Aim the torch towards the custard.

Light the flame and let the sugar burn.  It’s AWESOME.

Let cool for 1 minute before serving; allowing the surface to harden, creating that lovely crack everyone likes to push their spoon through!

It was good.  Yes… even at 7 in the morning.  This is a recipe I’ll be making again and again… if only to be able to use that torch.

Marielle… get one.  You (and Papa) will LOVE it.

farbs @ oz

I have a serious crush.  I seriously heart Farbs’ food. 

Last night was my monthly jaunt to Oz Kafeand it was incredible.  As soon as I looked at the menu I knew that I was going to be lovin’ this meal… a tuna duo, followed by an open faced pulled pork sandwich, which was then followed by a prosciutto wrapped chicken, only to be finished off with a banana split

 Holy Heck Batman!  How amazing does that sound?  My mouth was watering… and I had just arrived.

The brains behind the menu was Chef Michael Farber from Farbs Kitchen & Wine Bar - Anna, his sous-chef joined him in the kitchen – those two make some pretty ridiculously delicious food.  For reals.

After enjoying my first course (the tuna duo), I was allowed in the kitchen to take some pictures, chat a little; all while doing my best to stay out of the way.  Farbs and Anna work fast, and efficiently.  It’s a true thing of beauty.

Anna was responsible for the tuna duo and the banana split.  Farbs plated the open faced pulled pork sandwich (I got to observe him plating my actual dish… sweet!) and the prosciutto wrapped chicken.  Brilliant.  Everything looked gorgeous.  Everything smelt incredible.  And the food… Holy heck – it was pure amazingness!

I had so much fun sticking my camera lens in just about everything plated in the kitchen that I figured you’d all like to see what I ate :0) 

(thank you Farbs and Anna for putting up with me!)

I could rave about the freshness of the tuna tartar;  or tout the perfect balance of the pulled pork with the cabbage slaw (seriously ridiculous – my love of pork doesn’t seem to be diminishing anytime soon). I could then gush about the chicken – wrapped and filled, a little parcel of goodness; and make you all envious just imagining that dessert: chocolate brownie, dolce de leche, banana ice cream… whipped cream.   

I could do that.  But I’m not going too.  I’m just going to show you my pictures… the chefs in action.  It’s awesome to see…

tuna duo / tuna tartar / yuzu & lavache / tuna tataki / soy reduction

Anna doing her thang :0)

open faced pulled pork sandwich / bourbon bbq sauce / beer battered onion rings / cabbage slaw

This sandwich is what I would like to call… happiness.  The onion rings were so good I stole one of Charlotte’s off her plate.  Yes.  I admit I am a picker of other people’s food.  I am not ashamed… I got an extra onion ring that way!

prosciutto wrapped chicken / brandy soaked wild mushrooms & leeks / pave

banana split / chocolate brownie / dolce de leche / banana ice cream

Such a satisfying meal.  Seriously delicious.

These pictures really don’t do this food justice.  So this is what I think.  I think you should go to the restaurant and try it yourself.  Seriously go.  Make a reservation and hit up Farbs Kitchen & Wine Bar – and treat yourself.  You won’t be disappointed.  I promise.