pretty please?

potato chip rice krispie squares

Before you start to get worried that I’ve been deviating too far from my standard, we will now return to your regularly scheduled programming: how much of a mess I am.

(I feel like I should apologize for this, or something.)

potato chips

My best friend just moved to Florida for 16 of the next 20 months, so I’m currently suffering from a severe case of separation anxiety. After the last time we hung out, my boyfriend picked me up, and I cried in the car on the way home.

marshmallow fluff

He told me he was glad it happened, because he was starting to wonder if I actually had feelings for anyone.

So there’s that.

potato chip rice krispie squares

Anyway, now I’m trying to find people to hang out with until she returns. Unfortunately, my boyfriend may not have been too far off in regards to my feelings towards society: 99% of the time, I would rather hang out with my dog and a mug of hot chocolate than other humans.

potato chip rice krispie squares in pan

That said, I’ve met a few pretty cool people lately. I’ve also discovered that I must have missed the day in elementary school when we learned how to make friends. I have no idea what to do.

So basically I act like a 14-year-old with a crush. I stalk their Facebook pages and invite myself to events they’re interested in. When one girl told me she thought a friend of mine was cute, I organized a gathering and invited him so that she would come.

potato chip rice krispie squares

Just for good measure, I made these potato chip rice krispie squares for that gathering. If these don’t work, I don’t know what will.

potato chip rice krispie squares

Potato Chip Rice Krispie Squares

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 40 large marshmallows
  • 2 cups crushed potato chips (I used Miss Vickie’s Salt & Vinegar)
  • 5 cups rice krispies

Directions

  1. Line a 9×9″ pan with tin foil or parchment paper and set aside. (I used a silicon pan so I didn’t line it with anything).
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  3. Decrease the heat to low and add in the marshmallows. Keep stirring until they’re all melted. Remove from heat.
  4. Add in the chips and rice krispies and stir until everything is evenly mixed.
  5. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan, press flat, and smooth the top. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

drop whatever you’re doing

We now interrupt our regular programming to bring you a special message:

There are not many people in this world whom I trust enough to eat whatever they make for me, no questions asked.

George is one of these people. So is Rosie (but only because I can’t imagine her cooking anything that weird).

The kitchen staff at Wildebeest are the others.

They could (and did) feed me beet sorbet and I’m all over it. Bone marrow? Sure, why not. Bovine thymus glands? I’d like to make note of my slight trepidation for honesty’s sake, but yeah, let’s do it.

I don’t usually write restaurant reviews, because… Well, I don’t really have a good reason for that (seriously, a semi-legit reason to have extravagant food cooked for me? I should be all over this).

Anyway, last week I was out at Wildebeest for Dine Out Vancouver (the hell-season of the restaurant industry, during which our meals and the service still managed to be impeccable) and I enjoyed my meal so tremendously that I a) didn’t even take photos of it and b) immediately went home to draft this post.

In the interest of keeping this short, I won’t say much more, except that if you are in Vancouver, please go try it.

(And if you happen to see me there, you can buy me a drink as a thank you for recommending it.)

Wildebeest
120 W Hastings St
Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8

dating gives me anxiety

Relationships are weird.

slice of caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake

I mean, first you meet someone and you get excited and you do all these things to impress them.

apple base for upside-down gingerbread cake

I wear my favourite clothes when I know I’m going to see him. (Actually, I decide I hate all my clothes, sometimes buy new ones, and then settle on an outfit I can live with.)

I decide to go on a diet, only to start stress-eating m&ms an hour and a half later because he still hasn’t texted me back.

caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake

I make sure I’m more or less up on politics and current events (full disclosure: not in any real detail, but enough that I can at least throw in a few well-timed intellectual-sounding comments. Actually, I’m not sure if these really do anything to improve my image, or if people are laughing at me behind my back. Still, I’ve learned that if you say anything with enough conviction, people will believe you.)

caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake

Of course, if all goes well, a few months later you end up dating. You then have to go on a real diet to lose all the love pounds (why does so much of dating revolve around feeding each other ice cream?), you forego all the pre-planned outfits for sweatpants (god I love sweatpants), and you more or less stop reading the news in favour of pointless Internet lists like this one.

caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake

And somehow it’s at this stage, when he’s peeing with the door open and you’re loudly singing along with Taylor Swift whenever you’re in the car, that you’re supposed to want to take the relationship to the serious let’s-commit-to-eventually-being-committed-forever level.

(For those of you who are scratching your heads at my made-up overly-hyphenated codewords, I’m talking about getting engaged.)

caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake

I may as well acknowledge now that it isn’t my rendition of Wildest Dreams that is ever going to win anyone over. It’s probably that I know how to make caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake.

caramel apple upside-down gingerbread cake slice

Caramel Apple Upside-down Gingerbread Cake

Looks kind of disgusting. Tastes good.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Caramel

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • pinch of salt

Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Other

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a deep-dish pie plate (mine is 9″) and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt caramel ingredients over medium heat. Keep stirring until it starts to bubble, and then pour it into the bottom of the pie plate.
  3. Add the apple slices into the caramel. I swirled mine in a fun pattern, but it didn’t really show up in the finished product, so do what you will.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, molasses, and syrup, keep beating until well combined.
  5. Add in the dry ingredients and stir a few times.
  6. Add in the buttermilk, and then stir until everything is just combined. There should be no pockets of dry ingredients, but try not to overmix it!
  7. Pour the batter over the apples. I had some extra apples and batter, so I made an extra mini-cake and some muffins. We make it up as we go, here.
  8. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. This took about 35-40 minutes for the cake, and 20 minutes for my muffins.
  9. Let cool for about 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge and then inverting.

I found this was best served the day it was made (with whipped cream!) The next day it was a bit too dense for my liking.

I like to think it’s fashionable

homemade mars bar

While I have a slight obsession with with showing up on time (and, for some illogical reason, an apparent propensity to make friends with people who are chronically late), I am very much late to the pop-culture party.

melting simple syrup for nougat

(I’d like to take this moment to remind you that on my blog, I am an equal-opportunity segue-user.)

chocolate malt nougat

Not having cable, or, if I’m honest, the attention span, for TV, I’m usually the one sitting off to the side of a conversation about Making a Murderer smiling and nodding like I know what’s going on. If I don’t know the other participants well, I will excitedly claim that I have heard so many great things about it and as soon as I find the time I will sit down and binge watch the whole thing. My better friends will get a more truthful addendum: or, actually, I probably won’t.

nougat pressed into square pan

You, my dear randoms on the Internet, get to know the full truth: I tried to watch the first eight minutes, gave up, and made homemade mars bars.

caramel layer of homemade mars bar

My gauge for whether or not I will continue on with a tv show is whether or not it can distract me from whatever I’m making in the kitchen. I think in this case, we can all appreciate that Making a Murderer wasn’t, for me, everything that it apparently is for everyone else.

melted chocolate

Luckily, I didn’t discover Sherlock until after the mars bars were done. So if anyone wants to re-have those oh-my-gosh-it’s-so-good conversations about Sherlock that I smiled and nodded through about six years ago, I’m ready now.

homemade mars bar in pan

(Except Tami. If you need to re-hash the conversations we had when you were super pregnant about watching Sherlock and finding Benedict Cumberbatch attractive… I’m not there yet. I fervently hope I will never be there.)

homemade mars bars

Maybe one day I’ll be ready to have oh-my-gosh-it’s-so-good conversations about Making a Murderer, but in the meantime, mars bars!

homemade mars bars

Homemade Mars Bars

There are a lot of steps to these, but I promise they’re worth it. Also, you’ll need a candy thermometer.

Ingredients

Nougat

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate
  • 1/3 cup chocolate malt powder (I used Milo)
  • pinch of salt

Everything else

  • About 40 bulk caramels
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
  • pinch of vanilla powder (or seeds from one vanilla bean, or one teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • About 3/4 pound of milk and dark chocolate, divided

Directions

Round 1: Chocolate

  1. Melt about half of the 3/4 pound chocolate (I won’t prescribe how – I melt mine over the stove on low, but do your thing).
  2. Pour it into the base of silicon 9″ square pan. I use silicon because it is by far the easiest to remove the mars bars later, but you can also use a regular pan lined with parchment or foil.
  3. Put it in the fridge or freezer to cool completely. You need it completely solid before you add the next layer.

Round 2: Nougat

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir the sugar, water, corn syrup, and maple syrup until all the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stop stirring, and insert the candy thermometer. Cook until the thermometer reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In the meantime, melt the 2oz of milk chocolate. Set aside.
  4. When the candy thermometer reaches 250 degrees, in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium.
  5. When the candy thermometer reaches 260 degrees, remove it from the heat. With the mixer on high speed, slowly(!) pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl.
  6. Continue beating on high for about five minutes, until the sugar and egg mixture is shiny, white and stiff.
  7. Turn the mixer down to low and add the melted chocolate, chocolate malt powder, and salt. Keep stirring until everything is combined.
  8. Scrape the nougat on top of the chocolate layer in your prepared pan. Use slightly damp fingers to press it flat. It’ll look ugly, but we’ll be covering it with another layer soon.
  9. Let the nougat cool in the fridge, though you can proceed with the next step immediately.

Round 3: Caramel

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the caramels with the whipping cream and vanilla. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn!
  2. When it’s melted, pour it over the nougat.
  3. Let it cool in the fridge, though you can still proceed with the next step immediately.

Round 4: Chocolate

  1. Melt the remainder of the chocolate, and pour it over the caramel layer. I melted the milk and dark separately to get a fun design, but use your creative judgement.
  2. Let it cool completely! I’m talking at least a few hours in the fridge.

To serve, let it sit on the counter for about half an hour, and slice it with a hot knife.

London calling

vanilla cream tea scones

A friend of mine’s mother owns this awesome company called the English Cream Tea Company.

vanilla cream tea scone batter

Because I never shut up about Cadbury or tea or biscuits or other things that I think make me sound cultured and up on all things British (why yes, that is Paddington Bear on my bookshelf, right next to all the Harry Potter books. Of course I have a mini-London in my SimCity), this friend gave me some English Cream Tea jam for Christmas.

the english cream tea company strawberry jam

Ohmygosh it’s amazing.

vanilla cream tea scones unbaked

This isn’t really a plug for their company because you can’t actually get their products outside of the UK (yet).

What it is is outright begging for him to bring me more if he ever comes back from London to visit.

vanilla cream tea scones with butter and jam and tea

Of course, if you happen to be in London, feel free to bring some back for me as well.

I’ll make these scones and we can eat them with clotted cream and jam while drinking tea with our pinkies up. We’ll do it up like royalty.

Sharing is caring.

vanilla cream tea scones and strawberry jam

Vanilla Cream Tea Scones

Adapted from my mother’s recipe. Makes 2 large servings or 4 small ones.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • extra whipping cream and vanilla sugar (or other coarse sugar) for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through vanilla powder).
  3. Pour in whipping cream and vanilla extract, and stir until it comes together. I used my hands. There should be no dry ingredients left – add extra whipping cream, one teaspoon at a time, if needed. Don’t add too much though! The mixture shouldn’t be too sticky.
  4. Separate the dough into four roughly equal pieces, and make them into flattened circles. They should be about an inch and a half thick. Place them on the baking sheet.
  5. Brush the tops with extra whipping cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
  7. Serve immediately with jam and clotted cream – or just jam and butter, if you don’t have access to (good) clotted cream.

confession goggles

IMG_9961

When I was in grade one, I had a crush on this guy. He was a grade two student in my split-level class (apparently this thing for older men started early).

vanilla cupcakes

I’m not sure what the point of having a crush is when you’re six years old. I remember lying in bed at night, hoping he’d come in and be like “hey, I have a crush on you.” And then we’d hold hands and he’d share his fruit-by-the-foot with me.

vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing

I no longer keep in touch with him (that’s actually a fairly misleading statement. I’m not entirely sure we ever had a longer conversation than three sentences – if we ever had any conversation at all. I was super shy as a child) but I did run into his brother a few weeks ago, who informed me that my long ago crush was now single, you know, just in case.

vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing black and white

I’m no longer interested (don’t worry, C), but if my six-year-old self had known how to bake, I totally would have made him these cupcakes, because, adorable.

And probably left them in his desk without a note and never told him who made them, because, scary.

vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing and sprinkles

Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add vanilla and stir until combined.
  3. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Alternately add one third of flour mixture into the butter mixture and one half of milk until everything is in one bowl. Stir until just barely combined.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin liners, about three quarters full. Bake for about 22-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Let cool completely before icing, but these are best served the day they are made.

Notes: As always, I used the Wilton buttercream recipe. This time I decided to dye it blue and top the lot with chocolate sprinkles, because I was feeling festive.

kinda, maybe, sorta

pepperoni soft pretzels

12.51am thought process:

I was supposed to go to sleep at least an hour ago so I could get a solid eight hours of subconscious preparation for being practical and smart, as we have an escape room to do tomorrow, and I have a reputation to uphold.

I was also supposed to start eating healthily, because circus training has started up again, and also it’s 2016, and abs.

pepperoni and egg

pepperoni ends

Instead, I’m still awake, lamenting how fat I’ve gotten (I blame these butter tarts), watching a chick flick on Netflix, and eating nachos, chocolate, and gummy bears.

unbaked soft pretzel pepperoni rolls

These pretzel rolls are at least a little healthier, right?

pepperoni soft pretzels

Pepperoni Soft Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (think baby bottle temperature) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 7 grams instant yeast
  • 625 grams bread flour
  • 60 grams melted butter (vegans: use Earth Balance)
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water
  • flaked sea salt
  • pepperoni sticks, cut in half

Directions

In the base of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for about ten minutes, until foamy. In the meantime, weigh out the rest of your ingredients.
Add the flour and melted butter to the bowl. Mix on low speed until combined, and then knead on medium for another five or so minutes, until the dough has formed a ball and doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
Pull out the dough, lightly oil the bowl, and put the dough back. Cover with saran wrap and let sit somewhere warm until doubled in size, about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large saucepan, bring the water and baking soda to a boil. Line a baking sheet (or two) with lightly oiled parchment paper.
Divide the dough into eight roughly equal pieces (or less if you want larger pretzels). Use your hands, forearms, elbows and the countertop to haphazardly swing and roll and poke the dough into a long rope. Make a pretzel shape, wrap around pepperoni stick halves, and place on the baking sheet.One at a time, boil the pretzels for thirty seconds. Remove them from the water with a large pancake-flipper-style spatula, and place them back on the baking sheet.
Brush each pretzel with yolk mixture (or almond milk) and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they’re a dark golden brown.