sad day

chocolate french macaron

This week, my plan was to share a few photos of French macarons with you.

Chocolate macarons, with a white chocolate raspberry filling.

Instead, while I tried to finally download the 4,000+ photos off of my camera because my memory card finally couldn’t take any more, the card got a little lot confused and deleted everything.

While most of the 4,000 are already on the blog or filed away safely on an external hard drive, the last few weeks no longer exist in jpeg form. I’m a little devastated.

Luckily, I posted one photo on Instagram, and I’ve still got a few macarons left to cheer myself up.


White Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream Icing

Recipe for the chocolate macaron shells from David Lebovitz.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks (or 6 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
  • Cream (amount will vary)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate and raspberries together, stirring slowly to prevent the bottom from burning. Once all of the chocolate is melted, set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and icing sugar (and vanilla powder, if using) until well combined. Pour in white chocolate raspberry mixture, and continue mixing. Slowly add cream until you reach the consistency you’re aiming for (for the macarons, I just spread the icing on with a butter knife rather than piping it, so I went for a thicker icing and didn’t use any cream).

Store any extra icing in an airtight container in the fridge.


In other news, I’m taking a few weeks off the blog to wind down these last few weeks of summer in style. I’ll see you back here after Labour Day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

 

kids these days

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I’m starting to see the light at the end of my quarter-life crisis, and apparently that means starting to think about having kids.

(Maybe that’s not the light at the end of the quarter-life crisis after all.)

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While I’m not planning on having children in the remotely near future (relax, Dad), a co-worker and I were recently discussing how different childhood is now compared to when we grew up.

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I got my first cell phone in grade 8. The screen was black and white and it was the size of a banana. By grade 9, all my friends had phones – much smaller ones than mine. With some money saved up from babysitting, I got a new one to match theirs (consumerism and planned obsolescence started early). As an aside, it’s funny to think now that phones got progressively smaller those first few years, and now the iPhone 6 plus is probably about the same size as my original (but wider and flatter).

I didn’t get Facebook until grade 11 or 12. It terrifies me a little that not only do I have to tell my future offspring how old they have to be before they can date or drive or drink, I have to figure out how old they have to be before they can be on Facebook.  (Not that they’ll probably listen. I’m not that far removed from my teenage years to have forgotten all the things I was too young to do yet that I did anyway.)

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At the same time, I can’t really remember what it felt like to be 15. My only opinion of that age now is that I realize I was a mess and my mother was actually right about everything. (Sorry, Mom.) I already feel so disconnected from how I was at 15, and by the time I have kids and they’re 15 I’ll be… old.

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But since nothing on the internet ever dies, maybe they’ll read this blog one day and realize that at one point in my life I was kind of cool.

Okay, maybe not. I’m not very cool.

But maybe they’ll read this blog one day, and make these raspberry white chocolate scones, and they’ll forgive me for not being cool, because these scones are amazing.

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Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup white chocolate chunks (chips are also fine)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (sugar through salt). Using a pastry knife, cut in butter (keep it as cold as possible!) until the biggest piece is about the size of a pea. Stir in sour cream and milk until combined.
  3. On a floured surface, roll out dough to about a 12″ square. (Mine was pretty sticky so I used a lot of flour.) Sprinkle with raspberries and white chocolate, and fold in thirds so the raspberries and chocolate are on the inside.
  4. Cut the log into 4 equal rectangles, and then cut each rectangle diagonally to make a triangle. Move the triangles to the prepared baking sheet, leaving at least an inch or so between them.
  5. Bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, about 25 minutes.

love and chocolate

stack of brownies

brownie batter

brownie batter in pan

caramel sauce

“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” – Alan D. Wolfelt

caramel sauce

 

stack of brownies

stack of brownies

Chocolate Caramel Brownies

These contain gluten, sugar, eggs, dairy, love… all the things.

I believe at one point this recipe was adapted from the Best of Bridge, but it lives on in my kitchen on a wrinkled notecard in my mother’s scribbles.

Ingredients

  • 18.5oz box of devil’s chocolate cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 plus 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • about 40 whole caramels, unwrapped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13 inch pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, melted butter, and the third cup of evaporated milk. This should become really thick. Stir in about half of the pecans and chocolate chips.
  3. Scoop about half of the mixture into the prepared pan, and spread until it covers the bottom.
  4. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the caramels with the remaining half cup of evaporated milk. Stir continuously so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. You want all the caramels to be melted into sauce.
  5. When the oven is preheated and the caramels are about half done, put the first half of the brownies into the oven for 5 minutes.
  6. When the brownies are out and the caramels are fully melted, pour the remaining chocolate chips and pecan bits onto the brownie layer. Then pour the caramel sauce evenly overtop. Then the tricky part: try to smear the remaining brownie batter on top of the caramel. I find I have to make batter pancakes with my hands, and place them on top of the caramel (which is hot – don’t burn yourself!) You may end up with uncovered bits of caramel – that’s totally fine.
  7. Bake for another 15 – 20 minutes until the edges are getting crispy and the centre is just about set, or until you can’t wait any longer. Because of the caramel you can’t really use a toothpick test, but you don’t want to overbake these. I chronically underbake mine and serve them immediately in a bowl with vanilla ice cream. The leftovers get put in the fridge where they solidify a bit more overnight, and are more or less sliceable the next day.

you’re doing it wrong: how to write for a blog*

*Or rather, I’m doing it wrong: how not to write for a blog.

blueberry banana chocolate chip muffins

In the past month or so, I’ve been learning a lot about social media. Perhaps posting to the universe that I suck at social media is coming back to haunt me.

More likely it’s just a coincidence.

blueberry banana chocolate chip muffins batter

I’ve been trying to post regularly on various social media platforms as a volunteer for West Coast Flying Trapeze (quick plug – if you’re in Vancouver, check them out!). I’ve been learning about page titles and descriptions and alt text and SEO keywords. I’ve also been being coached on blog writing – albeit for a very different topic and audience than my usual word vomit about food and travel and occasionally circus. And it seems (no surprises here) that I’ve been doing it all wrong.

blueberry banana chocolate chip muffins batter

Apparently, I was supposed to create a persona or two, and write all my blog posts based on their interests and as though I’m speaking to them. If I were to go about this backward and figure out whom I’ve been writing to based on my past posts, I would say they’re probably most appropriate for my best friend… And possibly my mom.

I’m also supposed to frequently use the word “you” in my writing. If I search the term “you” on this site, the first post to show up is from 2013. Clearly, I am not engaging with my audience.

blueberry banana chocolate chip muffins

Then there are the blog post titles. They are supposed to grab you (aha! That’s one “you”) from all over the internet because of their relevance and catchiness and generally irresistible pull. My blog titles are usually obscure references that only I understand, because instead of going from A to B to C to D like a normal person, I’ve jumped directly from A to D.

Alas, Rome was not built in a day. On the bright side, one thing I have mastered is these blueberry banana chocolate chip muffins. If you (that’s two!) aren’t here for the odd sense of humour and anecdotes about absolutely nothing, I promise these muffins will make up for it.

blueberry banana chocolate chip muffins

Blueberry Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Sometimes I like to throw everything within eyesight into a muffin. Sometimes it turns out well.

(In case that wasn’t clear, this was one of these times.)

Ingredients

  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 scant cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (give or take… I probably used closer to 2 cups)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside (this made 18 muffins for me, but if you only have one tin these can of course be done in batches).
  2. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Add butter and sugar and whip until everything is combined. Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla, mixing well between each addition.
  3. Sift in all dry ingredients (flour through salt). Stir until just barely combined; a few lumps are fine. Fold in chocolate chips and blueberries.
  4. Spoon into prepared tin – I like to fill mine to about a third of an inch below the top of the paper liner so they puff up nice and round in the oven.
  5. Bake for about 22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

hi Mom!

apple and mixed berry 4th of July pie

I just finished reading and laughing at and tearing up over Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui. I’ve never read (or had any interest in reading) LaineyGossip, because my interest in celebrities is minimal at best, but, as a first-generation Canadian raised by an Asian parent, the book totally resonated with me.

Most recent example of my failure to get excited over famous people: while waiting for our baggage on the way back from Lisbon, C pointed out some band members to me. The only thought that ran through my head was “well, I suppose that explains the four skinny dudes with bad hair hanging out together.”

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Anyway. My mom is not as bad as the Squawking Chicken. She has never spoken Chinese to me (though now that I’m older I wish she had), and her English is perfect. She doesn’t text me in all capitals – though I do get the odd Facebook comment (on a circus photo: “Kimmie is that a split can I share it”), and she signs most of her emails “love mon.”

Despite the fact that I am holding it together reasonably well on paper – I am 25 years old with my own property (albeit a shoebox), a real job, an only somewhat scruffy dog, a boyfriend, an amazing group of friends, a blog, productive hobbies, and I don’t do drugs – my mother is still not always convinced of my abilities. When I brought over some sides for a dinner party, my mom went on at length over her own dishes: what they were, how she made them, which ones included vegetables she had grown herself. Finished with her own dishes, she waved an arm toward mine: “and these… Eh. Kimmie made these, so… I don’t know.”

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She came to my new condo a couple days after I took possession to see it for the first time, and brought flowers. She stayed for about an hour taking selfies with the dogs as C and I continued to build Ikea furniture. When I walked her out, I asked her what she thought of the new place. “The flowers I brought look nice,” was her only comment.

When Jehovah’s Witnesses once came to our door, my mom shut the door in their faces. Wandering back down the hallway, she looked at me and said, “I’m 65 years old. I’m not going to change my ways now.”

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A few weeks before Mother’s Day this year, I went shopping with my mom. We were looking through greeting cards (one of my favourite non-food-related indulgences) and she found one that said on the front, “Chef, Stylist, Counselor, Friend, Mother,” and had “Happy Mother’s Day” inside. She informed me that this was the card I should buy for her. (Less than a month later, it is pinned on her fridge… because she has scribbled notes to herself and a couple of phone numbers on the inside below my message.)

Of course, my mother is truly all of those things, and more. And she taught me how to make pie crust (though I don’t think she trusts that it’s half as good as hers… It is, Mom, I promise), so there’s that.

Love you Mom.

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Apple Berry Pie

I made this for when we were down in Seattle for the 4th of July. #notapinterestfail #soproud. (Am I getting better at social media yet?)

Ingredients

Crust (my mother’s recipe; I don’t know where she got it from. It makes enough for three covered pies; separate the pastry into three equal sections and plastic wrap and freeze whatever you’re not using.)

five and a half cups flour
half tablespoon salt
one teaspoon baking powder
three tablespoons brown sugar
one pound (454 grams) shortening
one egg
one tablespoon vinegar
cold water

Filling (makes enough for one pie)

four or five apples
half cup blackberries
generous half cup sugar
half cup flour
quarter cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
half teaspoon ground cinnamon (and maybe a pinch of nutmeg)
one cup blueberries
one cup raspberries (strawberries would also work)

Directions

Crust

Cut together flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and shortening (if you don’t have a pastry cutter, use a butter knife or a large fork) until it has the consistency of meal with a few large pieces.
Break the egg into a liquid measuring cup, add vinegar, then fill with cold water to the one cup mark.
Slowly pour the liquid into the dry mixture, stirring with a fork. Only add enough liquid to make the dough come together (you may not need the full cup). The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl easily.
Wrap tightly and chill until needed. Store in the freezer if you’re not going to use it within a few days.

Pie

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (400 for convection).
Put all the filling ingredients except the blueberries and raspberries into a bowl. Mix them up well.
Lightly flour a counter and grab your pie crust – if you made the full recipe above, take about a third and put the rest back in the fridge or freezer. Split the remaining third in half.
Take one of the halves and roll it out to about a quarter of an inch. Flip it into a pie plate (I like to use my cast iron skillet, because it’s bigger). Leave any overhanging edges – we’ll deal with those after.
Put your filling mixture in the pie. Top one side with blueberries, and the other side with raspberries.
Roll out the second half of the crust, and cut half of it into stripes. Place these on the raspberry side of the pie. Using a small star-shaped cookie cutter, cut stars and place them on the blueberry side of the pie.
Pinch the overhanging edges together and roll in toward the pie. You can use your thumb and first two fingers to pinch around the rolled edge if that makes you happy.
Bake at 425 for fifteen minutes, and then reduce head to 375 (350 for convection). Bake for another 35 or so minutes, until the crust is golden.
Let cool for a while before serving so the juice can thicken.

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Seattle, WA

4th of July cyclist

A few weeks ago I was down in Seattle to watch the man become an American citizen, celebrate the fourth of July, and meet his best friends.

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This was my first time visiting, which is odd because Seattle is only a three-hour drive from Vancouver, but for some reason I’d never made it there (outside of the airport).

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Though I had my doubts about his becoming an American (like any true Canadian, I question the appeal of a belonging to a country without free healthcare and where people say “uh huh” instead of “thank you”), it was surprisingly moving to listen to a number of speakers (the best were the governor and an immigrant from 1976; the oddest was a senator who confusingly talked about being in a movie and invited everyone over to her house for a picnic) and watch these 507 people pledge allegiance to the flag and renounce all their other princes.

4th of July new citizens at Pavilion Park, Seattle

The rest of our trip was mostly spent in true American fashion: barbecuing, lying by the pool, and eating. C’s best friends are an amazing group of people and I not-so-secretly want them to be my best friends as well, which basically means I spent the weekend being incredibly socially awkward while trying to pretend I was normal. It probably didn’t work out in my favour, but they were very kind anyway.

C also spent some time showing me around Seattle, which means he took me to the two circus schools and I figured that was all I needed to see.

(That’s sort of an exaggeration. We also did some quality wandering.)

Gum Wall in Seattle

Final thoughts: loved Seattle; will be back soon.

Space Needle in Seattle

Recommendations

El Gaucho – sit at the bar and listen to the fantastic live music. Ask Brent to make you a drink and tip him very well. I had the chocolate ganache for dessert and it was the first time in my 25 years of life that I could not finish a dessert that I genuinely enjoyed.
The Underground Tour – unfortunately the night tour didn’t fit in our schedule, but apparently it’s brilliant. The day tour was, despite its PG rating, still fantastic. I had no idea Seattle had an underground. Serious street cred in my books (but minus five points for probably being haunted).
Toulouse Petit – such a delicious breakfast. It started with beignets, so I’m not sure how it could possibly go wrong. I’m still regretting not getting the French toast… maybe next time.
Biscuit Bitch – for the biscuits and gravy crowd. They’re American sized. I suggest sharing.
Pegasus Pizza – pizza, root beer on tap, and a waterfront view. Does it get any better?
SANCA – for the circus-ing crowd. No skin off VCS’s back, but this school probably has the best group of coaches ever. (Those would be C’s friends. Is my sucking up working yet?)

s'more

Portuguese custard tarts

Also known as pasteis de nata.

And, less commonly, as oh-my-gosh-I-ate-way-too-many… What was that? Do I want one more? Yeah. Yeah I do.

We took a pastry class in Portugal at Cooking Lisbon and learned how to make these adorable (and apparently famous, though I’ve never heard of them) Portuguese tarts. Being a devout consumer of the Hungarian francia krémes (note to self: make these for the blog at some point) as well as Chinese egg tarts, these are right up my ethnic alley.

Pasteis de Nata, Portuguese Custard Tarts

(Even my secret identity’s ethnicity.)

If you’re in Lisbon, I highly recommend looking up Cooking Lisbon. We had a ton of fun baking (and eating!) and one of the owners gave us a ton of fantastic recommendations from a local’s perspective, which were – needless to say – incredibly helpful.

Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Adapted from Cooking Lisbon

Ingredients

one package (17.3 oz) puff pastry
250g milk
250g whipping cream
175g sugar
50g bread flour
five egg yolks
zest of two lemons
one cinnamon stick
one quarter teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
one empty vanilla bean shell

Directions

The puff pastry should be defrosted in the fridge overnight, but keep it as cold as possible – don’t bring it out of the fridge until you’re ready to roll it out! No mise en place here.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (I recommend conventional heat). Lightly grease a muffin pan and set aside.
Add milk, cream, sugar, flour, and yolks to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all the lumps of flour and sugar are gone, then add the remaining ingredients. Keep stirring (constant vigilance! Don’t let it burn) until it thickens into a thin custard. If you don’t know what this means, I would probably equate it to the texture of a thick gravy. I didn’t check the clock, but I’m guessing this took about fifteen minutes (that means it probably actually only took ten). But since you’re being vigilant and constantly stirring, you won’t need to set a timer. When it’s ready, remove from heat and set aside to cool a little.
Bring out half of the puff pastry (I used Tenderflake, which is pre-cut into two squares). Work quickly! Roll it out in one direction only into a flat rectangle about 1/3″ thick (my long side was about 10-12″ long) and then roll it up along the long side to make a long cylinder. Cut this into about 1.5″ chunks – I got 8 from each half.
I put these pastry chunks into a bowl and threw them back in the fridge, pulling them out one at a time once I was ready. You don’t have to do this, but puff pastry gets gummy if it gets too warm before baking… you’ve been warned.
Take your chunk and put it with the swirls facing up and down in the centre of the muffin cup. Lightly wet your fingers so you don’t stick, and press the pastry into the tin so the bottom and edges are covered. If the pastry comes over the edge that’s fine; they will shrink as they bake. Repeat with the remaining chunks. Since I only got 8 from the first half of pastry, I went ahead and baked the first 8, and did the second 8 with a new pan. It’s all about not leaving the pastry at room temperature for too long.
Pour custard into the prepared pastry cups, but make sure an edge of pastry remains above the custard.
Bake until the pastry has turned golden brown, and dark brown caramelizations are collecting in spots on top of the custard. This took me about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them! (Don’t you love European cooking?)
I let mine cool for a few minutes in the pan on a rack, then gently pulled them out with a fork and let them cool even more.
I prefer these served slightly warm, but definitely try to serve them the day they are made. By day 2 the pastry had lost all its flaky goodness – and we worked hard for that!

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