Friday, July 30, 2010

Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mr. C and I have been running around all day, trying desperately to prepare for next week's camping trip. Yes, camping. No internet. No beds. I'm talking real, down and dirty, poopin' in the woods camping. All we'll have is a tent, a couple of sleeping bags, and (hopefully) a roll of toilet paper. Oh, and I'm sure Mr. C has packed a couple of Tolkien books - you know, just in case of a emergency.

A couple of days ago, I took on the task of cleaning out all the foodstuffs in the kitchen. God forbid we come home to a mutant pile of fermented fruit and vegetables sitting in the bottom of our fridge. Bananas are one of those things that I'm on the fence about - I could bring them along on the road trip. But, lets face it - once you put bananas into a closed space then everything starts to smell like banana. Smelling that all the way to the Oregon Coast would drive me a little nuts. My other option was to bake them into something tasty. Yes, I'm all about that option.

I had a bit of a Dr. Frankenstein moment in the kitchen that day. I combined a handful of recipes to create one tasty little monster. Banana nut bread is good. Chocolate chip cookies are good too. Banana nut chocolate chip cookies? Holy crap, are they amazing.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kaylee's Cupcake: Matcha Cake with Strawberry Preserves and Strawberry Swiss Buttercream

If you didn't guess from our DnD inspired cake, Mr. C and I are both pretty big nerds. For instance, Mr. C could tell you the individual background history of about 90% of all the characters in Star Wars. Yes, even Kit Fisto. He is also reading the Silmarillion. Again. For fun. I'm more of a comic book nerd. I can explain to you, in great detail, the timeline of all the Robins. This includes how they donned the cape, how much they hated Batman, and how much of a d-bag Jason Todd was. I have also watched the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation enough to name every episode in which Wesley Crusher is there just to be annoying (there's a lot of them).

Being big ol' Nerds (with a capital N), Mr. C and I both jumped at the chance to make cupcakes for an after-party for Firefly convention last month. If you haven't happened to come across this series, think "Sci-Fi" meets "Spaghetti Western". And then add Nathan Fillion. A great series deserved a great cupcake to represent it. This is what we came up with:

Kaylee's Cupcake (6)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mint-Chocolate Brownie Cookies

There's vanilla people and chocolate people. Dog people and cat people. There are even TP-Under and TP-Over people (personally, I'm TP-Under - I do it just to infuriate Mr. C). Within the domain of cookies, there are chewy people and crispy people. Okay, crispy people, I understand your stance - a nice thin biscuit dipped in milk is pretty good. But, come on. Let's be honest. Nothing beats biting into a pillow of perfect chewy cookie-goodness. Especially if it's right out of the oven, dripping warm chocolate chunks all over the ends of your mouth.

To be fair, I think my perfect cookie would remain somewhere in the middle of these two texture profiles. It's gotta have a nice crisp outside, but the inside definitely has to be moist and chewy. The best of both worlds. A cookie everyone could get behind. The recipe I have for you now may not be the recipe - the one that would unite chewy and crispy people - but, man oh man, is it ever close.

Mint Chocolate (6)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caramel Savannah: Rooibos-Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Our first vacation of the summer went wonderfully (except for the long drives through mud-caked highways). We got to enjoy dinosaurshippopotamuses, and - of course- the mighty chuckwagons. Mr. C got to dine on his beloved Alberta steak, which is a pretty big deal up here. For me, the lonely vegetarian, there wasn't much in terms of culinary delights. My kind aren't very welcomed in such a beef-dominated world. I survived on a diet of salads, roasted corn, and Okanagan cherries for the week. To be fare, I could have eaten those cherries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout our trip. Mr. C nixed that idea for fear of the massive intestinal problems that would perhaps follow. (But, seriously, those cherries would be worth it.)

Before leaving for our road trip, I really wanted to visit some bakeries in Calgary. Some lovely tweeters even recommended a handful of cupcake joints, as well as some delicious European pastry chiefs to me. I was so totally ready for that adventure - especially while surviving on a diet of roasted corn. Unfortunantly, due to time constraints (owing completely to the fact that Stampede is huge) we did not have time to stop by any cakeries. Not a single one. I was incredibility disappointed. No amount of Okanagan cherries could fill the cupcake-shaped hole in my heart.

So, what do I do my first day back? Hop into the test kitchen and create something mouth-watering. With chocolate. And caramel. Oh yes. Now that's what I'm talking about.

caramelsavannah (13)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Dream of Marrakech: Bittersweet Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

July brings with it another Cupcake Hero challenge. This time our host from Small Town Oven requested that we use coconut - an ingredient that inspires thoughts of summer, sun, and sand. Luckily there are a lot of tropical drinks that that can lend us bakers some tasty inspiration: Puerto Rico has it's piƱa colada, Malibu has it's coconut rum, and you can't forget about the "Blue Hawaii" or "Lime in the Coconut". We've experimented with these lovely cocktail flavours before, but - for Cupcake Hero - we wanted to push this month's coconut cupcake a bit further. We had to get out of the tropical island mentality.

I began to think of what our perfect summer vacation would consist of. We're not so much into the whole all-inclusive beach resort thing. Frankly, Mr. C and his red hair would probably burst into flames. Even with his SPF 7000. If money was no option, we'd love to take a page out of Anthony Bourdain's book - travel to the outskirts of the world and just eat. Give in to local customs and dishes, experiencing life as the country lives it. This isn't saying I'd turn my nose up at a trip to Disneyland or Las Vegas (god, I love Vegas) - traveling the world is a dream we plan on conquering slowly throughout our lifetimes. The first country on my list isn't France or Germany or Sweden - I'd want to visit Northern Africa.

More specifically, I want to visit Marrakech.

chococonut (10)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Homemade Lemon Ice Cream

The sun has been pounding down on us for the last couple of days. Finally, the rain seems to have given up the fight and allowed summer to begin. Hopefully this lasts more than a week - you never know around here.

Our little garden has given me hope that this is, officially, the start of warm weather. Yesterday I peeked out our window and saw an electric yellow zucchini flower bursting out from underneath one of our plants. This made me extremely happy - not just because it meant we would have more summer squash than I will know what to do with, but because I'd like to think these warm, sunny flowers are telling me that only summer days lay ahead.

The only downside of the summer sun is the tropical climate it causes inside our apartment. About half of our walls are windows, and they always seem to catch the morning and afternoon sun. If we don't close all the blinds in the house, our living room turns into a sauna by noon. This is not good - especially when I want to experiment with new cake or cookies recipes in our own kitchen. Putting the oven on is a sin during this time of year - once it's on, you will not be able to cool down for the rest of the day.

This means that I'll have to look for different recipes. Recipes that don't require the oven. Recipes that create tasty treats that help cool the summer heat.

lemon (4)

Ice cream! Of course!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Orange Currant Scones

Everyone has their own Fourth of July tradition. Some people pack their entire family inside a mini van and go to the beach (even when it's too damn cold). Some fire up the BBQ and get too drunk to cook their burgers properly. Others laze about until dusk, then they bundle up and head out for five minutes of fireworks. Americans love their fireworks.

We have our own traditions for the fourth up here in the Great White North. In this household, it means getting up at at the crack of dawn - not to bake apple pies or ready the BBQ - but to watch three hours of this:

This photo (and more awesome ones) from Here

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

Dear America,

Remember us? No? Of course you do! We're that country that sits just north of you. Remember when you were 19 and you crossed our border to get a twelve back of Coors? How about the time you went to Niagara Falls? Oh! I know what will jog your memory!

Of course. Now you remember us. Well, we've got to tell you something - I know you guys are pretty excited this week for July 4th. Yes, we know you beat the crap out of the Brits a while back. We just wanted you to know this week is sorta special for us too. Especially today. July 1st is our birthday. No, we didn't have a war for independence - all we did was ask nicely and sign a few papers. I know. It's not that exciting. But it's a pretty big deal for us.

Since today is Canada Day, we wanted to share a bit of our culture with our neighbours to the south. A bit of tasty culture. You know about our maple syrup and our poutine, but you may not have heard of our best kept secret. A sweet dessert that has our entire west coast (and a bit of yours) drooling. It's called the Nanaimo Bar.

No, it doesn't look like much. But let me tell you a little secret: It tastes like magic and glory. With a chocolate graham coconut crust, sweet vanilla custard filling, and a rich bittersweet ganache on top, these things are absolutely deadly. The good type of deadly, I mean. A lot of people haven't had the pleasure of tasting one of Canada's best kept secrets. Well, because today is Canada Day, C&C has decided to bless America (and the rest of the world) with a special version of this patriotic masterpiece. We are please to introduce you to the Nanaimo Bar Cupcake:
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