Archive | August, 2011

Dulce de leche brownies

25 Aug

I’m trying to lose a few pounds, too many pieces of pie and glasses of wine this summer.  So, when you’re a cook and you are trying to lose weight, what do you do?  Well, if it’s me, I bake a lot, for everyone and anyone who is hungry.  That way I can eat vicariously through others, in particular, my stepdaughter Danielle, who loves these brownies.  Today it was dulce de leche brownies, dark fudgy brownies with a deep vein of dulce de leche running through them.  I make these often and cut them into very small pieces, usually 5 X 5  in my 9 inch square pan, and then I freeze them.

This recipe isn’t mine, it belongs to David Lebovitz who is an American pastry chef/writer/blogger living in Paris.  I love his blog and I love his recipes, they always work.  If you decide not to freeze them, the brownies actually improve in flavour and texture the next day, if you can wait that long.

Apparently a big hurricane is on its way up the American east coast.  I’m on my way to New Brunswick this Friday, with a batch on brownies in my suitcase.  Perfect to share with my friends in St. Andrews as we shutter the windows and wait out the storm.  To everyone in Irene’s path, be well and take care.



Dulce de leche brownies-David Lebovitz

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4 oz. butter (salted or unsalted, whatever you have)

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I splurge and use Valrhona available online from Vanilla Food Company)

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup dulce de leche (I use a generous cup)

Line an 8inch square pan with parchment, no need to butter it.

In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add chopped chocolate and stir until melted and combined with butter (watch your heat so that the chocolate doesn’t scorch).  Remove from saucepan from heat and whisk in cocoa (right into the pot), eggs one at a time, then sugar, vanilla and finally the powder.  at this point, you have a luscious, glistening, thick batter.  Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and dollop with half of the dulce de leche.  using a small knife, lightly swirl the dulce into the batter.  Cover with remaining batter and dollop remaining dulce on top, and swirl again.

Bake for approx. 35 to 45 minutes.  I like super fudgy brownies, so I bake mine for 35 minutes.

These brownies always make me feel happy and content, storm or or no storm.


Dulche de leche brownies on my new cake stand that I bought in Chicago at Posh on State St.



Lunch in Chicago

23 Aug

While in Chicago last week, we had an unexpected, unplanned afternoon off.  That is to say, Danielle ditched our planned  annual back to school shopping excursion to head to North Beach to spend the day with people her own age.  I get it.  So, what to do?  We had heard from a guide on the Architectural tour that the Walnut Room on the 7th floor of the Marshall Field’s on State St. was worth a visit.  Back story;  The old Marshall field’s on State is now Macy’s, but there are those who refuse to recognize it as such and will forever and a day, still call it Marshall Field’s.  Being a bit of a traditionalist/history geek, I’m ok with that.  Anyway, the plan for the afternoon now becomes, lunch at the Walnut Room followed by a trip to the Art Institute.

The Walnut Room  opened in 1907 at a time when ladies who shopped had to return home for lunch as it was considered inappropriate for a female to dine in a restaurant unescorted by a gentlemen.  So, seeing an opportunity, Marshall Field opened a tea room for ladies to dine in and then complete their shopping in his store, rather than having to leave for lunch and then return downtown, possibly to another store.

It is an expansive 17,000 square feet. My inner caterer could picture weddings, and a multitude of corporate events being held there.  The walls are lined with the original Brazilian walnut panels, and Austrian crystal chandeliers sprinkle the room.  It is faded elegance at its best.  The room seemed at bit empty.  How could it not?  It would take a crowded football stadium to fill it.   DJR was skeptical, “it looks too dark and stuffy.”  But the room was cool, the staff seemed inviting, and I was starving.

I could imagine generations of women and their daughters stopping in for lunch after a strenuous morning of shopping for notions, and potions, and undergarments and whatever women shopped for that would take an entire day.

It was a hot day in Chicago so we didn’t try their famous chicken pot pie, instead we each had a salad. I had a salad of peaches, grapes, strawberries, shoestring potatoes and a scoop of cool, white chicken salad in the middle (my vegetarianism momentarily abandoned). DJR ordered the special; a fried chicken salad with roasted corn and buttermilk dressing.  He drank local Chicago beer, the 312 (referring to the Chicago area code) and I had a glass of Proseco.  My salad plate came with three half slices of bread.  The “bread” was actually, date and carrot loaf and the first bite brought me back to my childhood and staying home sick from school watching the afternoon movie, drinking milk tea and eating date loaf.

While in Chicago, we ate at some highly regarded restaurants, including” the super hard to get a reservation at”, The Girl and the Goat (over seasoned, pretentious?? judging by how busy the place was on a Monday night at 9, I guess it’s just me).  Anyway, our lunch at the Walnut Room was delicious, satisfying, uncomplicated and a bargain.  One of our best meals on the trip.  We headed to the Art Institute feeling well fed and all warm and fuzzy, kinda like supper at your Nana’s house.  Good food doesn’t have to be thought provoking or cutting edge or expensive.  Good food is food that just makes you feel good.

The “bread” that was served along my salad was more than just “bread,” as that was how it was described on the menu.  Yesterday, during a particularly serious craving attack I tried to recreate the date loaf.  This recipe is amazing, it’s based on a recipe that I found in my recipe box, that I have never made, but had copied a long time ago.  The method seemed questionable, as in too easy, and I changed it a bit to add more flavour; the texture is not as fine as the loaf from Chicago, but the flavour…  If you love dates or ever loved your granny, make this bread, it will leave feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  And if you’re in Chicago, try the Walnut Room, oh, and when they bring the cheque, you get a little Chicago Frango mint, a surprise ending to a really nice lunch.

Quick Date and Nut Loaf

Oven to 350 defress F.

Butter or spray a 9X5 inch loaf tin

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

4 level tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, because I always have walnuts in the house)

1 packed cup chopped dates

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 egg, well beaten

1 cup milk

3 tbsp. butter, melted

Here’s the ridiculously easy method;

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt, stir to mix.  Add the brown sugar, the nuts and chopped dates, mix well with a fork.  Make a well in the centre, add egg, milk, and butter.  With a big wooden spoon, stir to combine.  Pour into greased loaf tin and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer wet in the centre, you know, stick a toothpick in it.  In my oven, the loaf took 60 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  Let cool completely until you slice it.  Delicious for breakfast, lunch or with tea watching an afternoon movie.

Date and Nut loaf, memories of Chicago and my grandmother.


22 Aug

It was a busy four days.  As usual, I try to cram as much as possible into our annual summer trip to Chicago, a city that I find both easy to navigate and always welcoming.

Highlights of the August 2011 Tour;

Hoosier  Mama Pie Company, awesome key lime pie, but phone ahead as they sell out.

Quartinos, Italian Trattoria style restaurant, loud and fun with good thin crust pizza, 626 N.State St.

The Walnut room on the top floor of Macy’s on State St. (that used to be Marshall Fields) Really good old school food, think chicken salad, iced tea and strawberry shortcake, so worth a visit.

Chicago Food tours, three hours of talking about food, history and architecture.  So worth the money and so good to get off of Michigan Ave. for an afternoon.

Piece Out, a pizza place/brew pub that does over 6 million in sales a year.  Not a “concept” place, just good food and beer that does really well. 1923 W.North Ave

Hot Chocolate, restaurant, dessert bar and pastries, we had their hot chocolate over ice with a homemade marshmallow.   Is it possible to be in love with a drink?  Closed Tuesdays. 1747 N.Damen Ave.

Posh, a small store that specializes in small housewares, linens and glassware from France, beautifully merchandised and affordable.  613 North State St.

Also, Intelligentsia for coffee, Chicago architectural boat tours (again), the Art Institute, the Chicago History Museum, Francescas on West Taylor for our annual last night in Chicago dinner.

I’ve decided to keep writing, and to keep traveling, if only to keep myself interested and connected to a big wide world outside of South Western Ontario.

Chicago from the river on a warm sunny afternoon, with a fruity cocktail on hand.

Hoosier Mama Pie Company

Outside of Hoosier Mama

Getting caught up.

14 Aug

This week has just flown by.  I’ve been working on my cooking classes, baking, getting ready for September and doing day to day life stuff, also a lot of writing.  Hopefully some of it good…

Off to Chicago for inspiration;  The Girl and the Goat, The Purple Pig, Hoosier Your Pie Place and others…

We were at the Pinery last night for dinner with Vanessa, her Mom Lise and her step-father Harvey.  We had a wonderful dinner of grilled lake Huron Salmon, asparagus, chopped vegetable salad, rice and pecan tart.  But what made it special was the campfire, the sunset and most of all the company.

More posts and recipes next week.


Fall Cooking Classes

8 Aug

Sweet Angels Kitchen is celebrating a bountiful fall harvest by hosting four in-house cooking class sessions.  All classes are demonstration, and limited in size.  Classes are three hours in length and will end with a tasting of everything that has been prepared.

Save the Date (classes will be three hours and will run from 1 to 3 pm)

Saturday September 24- Hearty, Simple and Delicious!    Homemade stocks, soups, bread and biscuits.

Saturday October1-Sweet Angels Kitchen becomes Miss Angels Pie Place and Cake Emporium.  Demystifying the craft of baking simple pies and cakes.

Saturday October 22-An uncomplicated easy to shop for and easy to cook, yet impressive in flavour; a three course dinner for friends in three hours.

Saturday November 19-Small bites both savory and sweet for the perfect holiday party.


Fee per class is $50.00 or $175.00 for all four.  For an awesome experience, registration is limited to sic per class.

For more information, call 1-519-902-2526 and leave a message.







August,so far.

7 Aug

What I’ve been cooking;

Pies and more pies, and I’ve been eating them too, need to lay off the pie.

Goat cheese, fresh corn grits from Joy the Baker blog, super delicious, but the recipe makes enough for twenty, have also been eating lots of grits.  My supply of stone ground grits is getting low and I’m getting worried as I’m probably one of only a few Canadians that thinks grits is a major food group.

Pasta with homemade pesto, only I’ve been making my pesto with walnuts instead of pine nuts and it has been wonderful.

More corn on the cob.  More corn spoon bread pudding

Peach crisp, peach raspberry crisp, peach blueberry crisp.  grilled peaches on the bbq with sweetened mascarpone.

And tonight; Tomato tart with Belle goat’s cheese from Monforte Dairy in Stratford, heirloom tomatoes from my friend Antony John’s organic farm, Soiled Reputation, I also bought candy cane beets, perfect petit French green beans and shitake mushroom.  (Antony, your mushrooms are gorgeous and inexpensive.)

Tomorrow,  I’m going to saute the mushroom in a bit of butter and olive oil (always use a high heat for mushrooms) add some garlic, a few chopped green onions, finish them off in the pan with a splash of fresh lemon juice and then serve on top of the easiest and most delicious brown bread, toasted of course, with a grating or two of Parmigiana.  Delicious,   with a mixed green salad, also from Soiled reputation, that’s tomorrow’s dinner, a whole 24 hours away.  Until then, there’s leftover tomato tart and lots of peach crisp.

Here’s the recipe for the best brown bread ever, I make it at least once a week.  It’s from the original James Beard Bread cookbook published in 1974.  I bought my copy at a yard sale for 10 cents, it’s one of my favorite cookbooks ever.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit; the original recipe called for 2 tbsp. of  molasses, it was a bit heavy in flavour, so instead I use one tbsp. of molasses and one tbsp. of honey.  The original recipe is from the Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland whose founder was Myrtle Allen.  The recipe is called Myrtle Allen’s’ Brown Bread.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

3 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tbsp. dry yeast, I use instant yeast which is widely available

2 cups warm water, warm to the touch, but not hot (if the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast)

1 tbsp. molasses

1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. salt

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt, give it a mix to incorporate the salt (salt gives the bread flavor and controls yeast growth).

In another bowl, combine the molasses, honey and warm water, sprinkle the yeast on top.  If you’re using instant dried yeast you can go ahead and finish the dough.  If you’re not, allow about 10 minutes for the yeast to proof, then proceed.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix with a heavy wooden spoon until you have a wet dough.  Did I mention that this is a ” no knead” yeast bread?  At this point, grease a 9 X5 inch loaf tin and pour your dough into the pan, cover with a dry towel and let rest on the counter until it has risen by 1/3, depending on how warm your kitchen is, about 25 to 30 minutes.

After the bread has risen, put in your oven and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.  At this point, carefully remove the very hot bread from the pan and put it back in the oven, just on the rack to crisp the loaf, another five minutes is enough.

Let cool completely before slicing.  This bread, wrapped well will probably keep for 3 days?  I don’t know for sure as a loaf goes pretty quick at my house.

Try this recipe, it’s easy, quick. inexpensive and so delicious, toasted plain, with pb&j or with sauteed shitake mushrooms from Soiled Reputation.


Myrtle Allen's delicious brown bread

The humble pie

4 Aug

When I was growing up, pie seemed like a daily ritual, like washing your face or brushing your teeth.  I didn’t give it much thought as it was always there, lunch or supper (we didn’t call it dinner).  The pies at our house were apple, because that’s what my Nana made, because that’s what my Grampa liked.  She probably made three or four a week, always without a recipe.  In fact, she didn’t own a cookbook and didn’t keep notes.  And it didn’t occur to me to take any either.  I’d sometimes watch her, but only if I had nothing else to do.  I took those pies for granted and I didn’t pay attention.  As she got older, and my Grampa passed away, her apple pie only made special occasion appearances, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. And then one day she was gone and there were no more pies.  This was in 1994, and while I knew that I’d miss her, I didn’t give her pies a second thought.  It was the nineties, I had just finished chef school and was making and eating the “tart.” They were French, often complicated, precise, even architectural in its presentation, and requiring specific equipment; the tart ring, of course, made in France and purchased at Dehillerin by yourself or a friend of a friend who you knew was going to Paris and would they mind dragging a dozen tart rings around France?  Pies were too nostalgic and I was too young and full of what I thought was potential to want to look back.

Ten years and thousands of tarts later, I’m a bit burnt out, and decide to get a real job, and my precious tart rings become abstract decoration in my kitchen hanging in a tangled mess of a shelf in the corner.  Besides, at this point we’ re baking and eating the galette, or the Italian version, crostata or even the free form tart.  I make them (see my first blog post ever) and serve them when I asked to at caterings, but only because we’re not yet ready for pies.  Or are we?

The world is a scary place right now and people seem to be nervous , pessimistic and seemingly nostalgic for a better day, a day that included pies.  Pies  on the cover of food magazines and shops are opening up devoted solely to them.  Are pies the new cupcake?  I hope not because pies deserve better.  Cupcakes are cute, sassy, and often pink, so in your face everywhere and individual, pies are not.  They’re golden, brown and meant to be shared.    Pies don’t require an explanation or any esoteric equipment from France; just a quick touch with the dough, ripe, fresh fruit, sugar and a bit of butter, simple ingredients that can create a lifetime of memories.  I saw my grandfather eat many pieces of pie.  I never, ever saw him eat a cupcake.  Pies are here to stay, they were always here.  It was the rest of us who lost our way.


So, I’ve been baking pies this summer.  Who doesn’t love a good pie?  My grandfather used to say “that you can’t trust anyone who won’t sit down and have a piece of pie with you.”  Amen to that.  Here’s the recipe for the blueberry crumble pie that I made this afternoon.


Pie Dough (makes 2 single crust pies, or 1 double crust)

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour

3/4 tsp. salt (I always use sea salt)

3/4 cup cold lard (much better for you than hydrogenated shortening, my grandmother was right about this) also produces a flakier pastry.

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, for flavour

2 tbsp. ice water

1 whole egg

1 tbsp. vinegar, I use apple cider( because the only thing i use “white vinegar for is cleaning my windows)

In a large bowl,( always use a bowl bigger than you think you need, it keep from spilling flour everywhere when you get your hands in there).  Combine the flour and salt, give it a mix with a fork.

With a paring knife, on a cutting board, cut the lard and the butter into little pieces, quickly and lightly toss the pieces of fat into the flour to coat.  Then, with your finger tips, smoosh the fat into the flour until it looks like oatmeal.

In a small bowl combine the water, egg and vinegar, mix with a fork to combine, add the flour mixture and using your fork, mix until the dough comes together.  This should take 2 or 3 minutes only.  Divide your dough into two pieces and wrap individually.  Chill for about 20 minutes before rolling.  Chilling allows the gluten to relax.  Gluten resembles elastic bands and forms when liquid is added to the flour.  The vinegar (acid) in this recipe retards gluten formation somewhat, but it’s still a good idea to chill the dough so that the fat is cool and doesn’t melt prematurely producing a heavy/not flakey pie crust

This recipe is a single crust pie, but I rolled out both pie shells while the table was flour covered.  I wrapped the second shell and froze it for an impromptu pie at a later date.

Lightly flour both your rolling pin and your counter, roll out dough and line your pie plate, crimp the edges or go old school and press down with a fork.  I am lucky to own three gorgeous enamel ware pie plates that I bought at the Goodwill for .25 cents each, I know that many bakers prefer glass because it produces a browner crust, but I had a glass pie explode on me once and I’ve yet to get over it.  So use whatever type you prefer.  Chill the crust that you’re using, wrap and freeze the other.


5 cups washed fresh blueberries

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

zest and juice of 1 lemon

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, gently mix and set aside while you make the crumble topping.

Topping (this is a great and easy topping, thanks July Bon Appetit magazine)

3/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour

3 tbsp. brown sugar, (I used dark brown because that”s what I buy, the original recipe calls for light brown, but the dark tastes fantastic)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

(here’s the cool part)  2 1/2 oz. (5tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients with a fork, then add lightly cooled melted butter, and continuing mixing (or sort of chopping at it like I did) until it comes together, which is pretty quick.

Take out your chilled pie crust, carefully fill with your fruit and then sprinkle topping over the fruit.  Bake in a preheated 375 F. oven for approx 1 hour or until golden brown and juices are thick.  I always bake my pies on a foil lined pizza tray, the kind with the holes, it catches the juice and still allows the bottom of the crust to cook


The fat in the flour


My beautiful vintage pie plates.










My humble pie, from my sweet kitchen.