Summer berry tart with mascarpone and lime

Summer berry tart with mascarpone and lime

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With the amount of effort that goes into creating any fruit tart, it can’t help but be marriage material. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I couldn’t sneak through summer without whipping up a pretty little berry tart. This recipe will use up all your berries, plus more, so it’s a nice salute to late August. Sigh, how is time moving this fast?

This recipe is adapted from Test Kitchen. I used additional berries instead of the stone fruit they called for and changed the ratio of crust to berry (more crust equals more love!), especially this one since it’s made with brown butter.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsps cold water

Tart

  • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest plus the juice of 2 limes
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 cups of mixed berries (I used blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, red currants)
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • Fresh mint leaves

Method

Crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium high, stirring occasionally until foam dissipates. Cook the butter, stirring with a heatproof spatula for about 3 minutes until milk solids are golden brown and have a nutty aroma. Remove pan from heat and add water. When the bubbling subsides, add butter to flour mixture and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and let sit for 10 minutes.

Evenly press the dough over the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Use 1/3 of the dough for the sides. Plan pan on a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown, around 25 to 30 minutes. Let the crust cool for about an hour, then leave out a room temperature.

Tart
Microwave white chocolate, cream, lime and salt in a bowl until chocolate chips are melted. Whisk in one third of the mascarpone and 6 teaspoons lime juice, then remaining mascarpone. Pour filling into the tart shell and spread evenly.

Pick out the most photogenic berries from your pints. Evenly space them around the edge of the tart and work inward, making a cute pattern and covering up all of the filling if possible. Sprinkle with fresh mint leaves.

Microwave the apricot preserves and remaining 1 teaspoon of lime juice until liquid. Strain mixture through sieve. Gently paint the glaze onto the berries using a pastry brush. Refrigerate tart for 30 minutes. After this, you can remove the outer ring of your tart pan, slice and serve. The tart can be refrigerated for around 24 hours.

Strawberries & cream cake

Strawberries & cream cake

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Strawberries excite me from a design standpoint. With their red flesh and green stems, they perfectly obey complementary colour theory. They are also triangular, making them more fascinating and photogenic than most fruit. I’m giddy each year when the sun comes out and strawberries are in season. It’s only March, so I’m being overeager. This cake just feels like Summer though, and it’s simple to make. It also has no food colouring since you can use freeze-dried strawberry power to naturally make this as shockingly pink as possible.

Makes one 6″ cake

Ingredients

Vanilla cake

  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 egg whites (from large eggs)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped

Strawberry buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup freeze-dried strawberry powder (or freeze-dried strawberries put through a food processor)

Method

For the cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 6″ cake pans. Lightly whisk egg whites, whole egg, scraped vanilla bean and one third of the milk in a small bowl. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter in pieces and blend on low speed for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the milk and continue mixing on low until incorporated (do not overmix). Increase speed, scrape down bowl of stand mixer and beat on medium for 1 1/2 minutes.

Add the egg and milk mixture slowly in three batches, beating for 15 seconds between each addition. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.

For the icing

Beat the butter in a stand mixer on medium, until light yellow and fluffy. Slowly beat in the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Beat in the cream, vanilla, and strawberry powder until smooth and consistent in colour. Add the chopped strawberries and beat for a few seconds more. Frost cake!

Bitter chocolate coconut milk truffles

Bitter chocolate coconut milk truffles

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Happy January! The last thing you probably need is more chocolate, but I’m going to lay this recipe on strong. If you’re like me, you’ve already severed all New Year’s Resolutions.

Truffles are inevitably simple, but how you serve them and what you serve them with makes all the difference. These pair well with coffee and clementines. And though you wouldn’t guess it, replacing the cream in this recipe with full-fat coconut milk, makes these truffles vegan.

Ingredients

  • 225 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped (use vegan chocolate if desired)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (if using canned coconut, make sure to stir well to incorporate the cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Pinch salt

Method

Chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the coconut milk and vanilla extract on medium until it first starts to boil and small bubbles appear. Immediately remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir until chocolate pieces are fully melted. If the coconut milk is not hot enough to completely melt the chocolate, fit the heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of boiling water to make a double-boiler, and heat the mixture to break up any unmelted chocolate.

Refrigerate ganache for at least two hours. Once firm throughout, use a melon baller to form truffles, roll in cocoa or chopped nuts and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place back in the fridge until right before serving.

Vegan mocha chocolate chip sheetcake

Vegan mocha chocolate chip sheetcake

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Veganism is a tough gig. Butter and ice cream are far too alluring, and you’ll never see anyone writing home about nut-based cheese. But consuming fewer animal products is absolutely a good thing and some vegan desserts can be better than their dairy-based counterparts. This cake is an example. It’s stark, rich, and hits all the notes of a traditional chocolate cake; you wouldn’t immediately guess that it’s vegan. Slather on a generous amount of fluffy mocha buttercream and you have a perfect November snack. Pairs well with an espresso or almond milk latte.

Ingredients

Cake
Makes 1 13×9″ sheetcake

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp pastry flour (can substitute regular all-purpose flour)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Vegan mocha buttercream

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

Method

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly spray a 13×9″ sheetpan, dust with flour, and set aside.
  2. Combine the almond milk and cider vinegar in a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Wait two minutes, and then add the oil, coffee, vanilla and applesauce. Beat until foamy.
  3. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda and stir until combined. Add slowly to the wet mixture as it continues to beat on medium. The batter should have no lumps and be creamy.
  4. Pour the batter into the sheetpan and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool, preferably overnight.

For the buttercream

Add the espresso powder to 2 tablespoons of boiling water and stir until dissolved. Using a stand mixer, mix the confectioners’ sugar with the Earth Balance and vanilla, until well blended add the coffee and blend briefly until incorporated.

Spread the buttercream over the sheetcake and top with chocolate chips or jimmies. Chill the cake at least 30-60 minutes before cutting and serving…enjoy!

Mini spiced apple caramel cupcakes

Mini spiced apple caramel cupcakes

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These cupcakes are reminiscent of Fall, but you could use the caramel buttercream for cakes all year round. For this recipe, I intended to make a Swiss meringue buttercream, but dropped a couple eggs on the floor at 6 a.m. and there were no nearby stores open. I had to act quickly to make up a new recipe in time to bring them to school with my daughter for her birthday. I improvised by making American buttercream, which doesn’t require egg whites. Lesson learned: Always buy more eggs than you need for a recipe. If you are like me, you will overthink the simplicity of cracking them and wind up with a small spillage.

Makes approximately 48 mini cupcakes

Ingredients

Spiced apple cupcakes
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup milk
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into very small cubes

Homemade caramel
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream

American caramel buttercream
1 1/2 cups salted butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 batch homemade caramel (see above)

Method

For the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Start by creaming together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir into the butter mixture, alternating with additions of milk. Make three additions of dry ingredients and two of the milk. Chop the apple into very small cubes and add to the batter. Spoon into paper-lined mini muffin cups (12 mini cups), making sure to fill only 3/4 to the brim. Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the caramel
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring until the sugar mixture is dark amber. Immediately remove from heat and set pan over top of a small ice bath to reduce temperature. Stir in the cream to loosen the caramel.

For the buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in icing sugar, cream and vanilla. Using a spatula, incorporate 3/4 of the homemade caramel mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat the buttercream until fluffy and homogeneous.

Once the cupcakes are thoroughly cooled, you can pipe the buttercream and drizzle the remaining 1/4 of the homemade caramel on top as garnish.

The elated birthday girl and her cake (made with the caramel buttercream!)

Dark chocolate chunk fleur de sel cookies

Dark chocolate chunk fleur de sel cookies

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September is back to school month, and I needed something quick and delightful to add to my daughter’s lunches. I tried bananas, but she strongly dislikes those and would hide them in secret pouches of her knapsack until I unearthed them a few days later, brown and withered. There had to be a better way. That’s where these cookies came in. They are so simple to make, and chances are very slim I will find leftovers in my daughter’s school accroutrements. She still has to eat fruit and vegetables, but perhaps they will seem less daunting alongside cookies.

There’s no good reason you shouldn’t make these tonight! They are the perfect start to Fall.

Makes about 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 and 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 300 grams semi-sweet chocolate, 250 grams roughly chopped and 50 grams grated

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer on medium, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for about 10-15 seconds after each addition. Turn off the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon. Do not overmix. Add the grated chocolate and 2/3 of the chopped chocolate.
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Form the dough into small balls, about 2.5 tablespoons each. Keep in mind there should be enough dough to make roughly 20 cookies.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are just slightly golden but the centre is still soft
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes. Press the remaining 1/3 of the chopped chocolate onto the cookies while they cool, so the chocolate will be only slightly melted. Transfer to a wire rack.

Orange creamsicle cake with lemon curd

Orange creamsicle cake with lemon curd

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A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon ombré wildflowers on Bowen Island and was inspired to make a vibrant cake that reminded me of Summer. If you imagine how an orange creamsicle in cake form would taste, this would be it.

You’ll need two 6″ cake pans for this recipe and a candy thermometer for the buttercream. If you’d like to break apart the tasks, make the lemon curd and cake the night before and set them in the refrigerator. The next morning, take on the challenge of the buttercream and assembling the cake.

This cake is worthy of dating for several weeks. The only thing stopping me from marrying it is that it doesn’t contain chocolate. A woman has to set parameters.

Makes one three-layer 6″ cake.

Ingredients

Cake
2/3 cup whole milk
3 egg whites
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Citrus meringue buttercream (Italian meringue style)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
4 large egg whites
2 cups unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Orange and yellow gel food colours

Lemon curd (optional but recommended!)
You could use any recipe for lemon curd, really. I used Ina Garten’s here because her method is failproof.

Method

Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 6″ round cake pans with parchment and grease the sides. Set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, blend in the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the milk and mix until just incorporated. Increase the speed to medium, and beat for a couple minutes.

In the meantime, combine the egg whites and whole egg, plus remaining milk and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the batter in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat for 15-30 seconds after each addition.

Divide the batter equally into two cake pans. Bake for 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cakes.

Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for five minutes, then scrape the sides with a knife or small offset spatula. Invert them onto a rack, and wrap in plastic and refrigerate once cooled.

Citrus buttercream
In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water on medium until the mixture measures 258 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until frothy, about 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the sugar in a steady stream. Beat on high for around 10-12 minutes until the steam has dissipated and the bottom of the mixer bowl is room temperature. Reducing the speed to low, add the butter piece-by-piece. You are creating an emulsion, so all the ingredients should be fully incorporated. Beat for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, orange extract, salt and orange juice. Beat until all the ingredients are combined. Refrigerate the mixture for 10 minutes then return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on medium for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened. If the buttercream is curdled, keep mixing it until thick and silky. The last stage is to add the food colouring.

Assembly
Remove the top domes off each cake. Slice the cakes in half so there are four layers. Place the bottom layer on a cake board and pipe a border of buttercream around the circumference. Fill the center with lemon curd. Top with another cake round and repeat the process three times, always ensuring the cake is level.

Add a thin layer of buttercream to the outside and top of the cake. Then apply a thicker layer around the whole cake, making sure to use all the buttercream.