tchotchke – (Yiddish) an inexpensive showy trinketOrigin:
1965–70, Americanism ; < Yiddish tshatshke < Polish czaczko bibelot, knickknack
(now obsolete; compare modern cacko withsame sense, orig. dial.); of expressive orig.
And while admittedly I’m revelling in brown rice, legume soups, fresh vegetables, kashi-krakkling 7-oat health snacks and yes (always) the occasionally hunk of HEALTHY dark chocolate (mmm), there is always a place and a time for a snatched sweet treat. All the better if homemade, and not because it’s always necessarily more delicious at home – although it often is – but because making a batch of something means you get tons and tons of sweets to share with your friends instead of one luscious bakery-gotten bite. Maybe not metric tons and tons, but that “swimming in cookies” feeling, haha, you know what I mean…
Moving backwards in time, because that makes sense to me, just last night I rolled a bushel of tiny PB & J thumbprint cookies with short sandy texture and bellies full of button-bright apricot-cognac jam. Almost grown up but you can’t ever go wrong with peanuts and jam together, and I’m not sure why kid-ish is bad or necessarily unrefined. No, they’re pretty refined actually, and take longer than I thought they would take (ie: slower than chocolate chip cookies, slightly) – make batter, roll 4 dozen cookies, chop peanuts, dredge cookieballs in peanuts, bake, fill with heatened up jamjam, EAT. Then eat more cause they’re SUPER good. And worth a bit of respect and care and time. I kinda wanted to a try a tahini and thai marmalade version, too. Or almond and orange. Cashew and blueberry? COCONUT CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRISPY FUN? Oh wait. That’s a samoa. Moving on…
In other recent news I made a kind of thyme & chocolate cake that was pretty good but I wanted it to be even more drenched in thyme syrup, and with a more velvetty cream, and maybe with a third/fourth layer… you know, like a MMM MELTING HERBAL MOUSSE & FUDGE kinda sensation, totally over the top. That being said, it was devoured in a few hours (gone gone gone without a crumb), so yes, it was good anyway. ^^; I DID appreciate that it wasn’t very sweet, yet deeply chocolatey, light (surprisingly) in texture and fairly grownup-ish. Also, sliced like a freaking dream – perfect layers. Easy to make, too.
Moving back, back back in time, to a place where insanely buttery crusts house tea-poached pears and frangipane…. and then get draped with drizzles of creme anglaise like it’s the most natural thing in the world. My kitchen! And yours, too, potentially! I wish I could tell you exactly how to make this, but it’s more of an amalgam of parts than a single recipe. In that way, it’s actually kind of freeing for the baker at home. All you need is a simple pie crust, 3 or 4 poached pears to slice thinly and arrange in a pretty pattern, and a quick frangipane (almond cream) to spatch all around it like a lilting duvet that hugs the fruit as it bakes… for about 30-40 minutes at 350 C, or until the crust is browned and the frangipane is puffed, golden and set. Warm it’s ambrosial, and good at room temp, too.
More franken-recipes for complicated people, this time in the form of a dirt cake. I rather draw the line at litter cakes, having few to no pleasant olfactory associations to cat pans and all that jazz… but a faceful of warm fresh earth wasn’t out of the question as a cake theme at all. Flowers and moss and berries and … worms! Especially for a birthday boy who’s heart lies with horticulture and gardening. And sugar.
The trick was making it 100% from scratch, which included, I’m afraid, a batch of homemade gummi worms to eventually crawl their way through the chocolate. I just followed this recipe, and used fresh squeezed juice for two of the layers (raspberry and orange), and then made a yogurt-strawberry-banana layer for opaqueness and fun. All striated together, and then sliced up into some of the most delicious and gruesome little bugs ever. Oh, and they stuck like slugs to everything! Fantastic!
After that, the rest was easy as whipping up a batch of homemade chocolate wafers, a double batch of moist vegan chocolate cake, loads of chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and topping it all with real seeds, mint sprigs, wild strawberries and flower gummies (admittedly the flower gummies were store bought, but they were already there on my dresser and they looked mega cute, I couldn’t resist at all). Layer inside of a giant planter pot, serve to 40+ guests, enjoy the chocolate goo, crunch and fluff. (Also scraped clean by the end of the night).
There were also, for some reason, some chocolate chunk muffins. With cherry-amaretto-cinnamon preserves. My roommates are currently making vegan ginger-lime-vanilla cupcakes in twee baby blue liners. It’s a miracle I’m not fat. God, I can’t wait for those cupcakes. Yay for dessert!
Chocolate Chunk Muffins
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Yield: 12 muffins
- 3/4 of a stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter / 85 g
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped / 112 g
- 2 cups all-purpose flour / 160 g
- 2/3 cup sugar / 133 g
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted / 33 g
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk / 312 g
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough—a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the centre of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
Resolutions mean nothing to me. But quiet is a resolute panacea. I’ve given up a few things this month to make room for meditation, drawing, reading and the occasional blustery foray into the few hours of sunshine that we get in January times.
No sex. No music, television, alcohol, meat, sugar, diet soda, dancing, makeup/jewellery, staying up late, harsh words, daydreaming, the like. No chaos.
Where I could explain to you in detail the how-it-works of the siphon drip system that Café Falco offers and the origins of it’s countless artisanal accoutrements, I will instead impress upon you that what’s truly important is the expression of inventive serenity that it all adds up to. It’s hidden in an industrial part of Mile End, the ground floor of an imposing, grey-striked building with an uneventful front and a dubious entrance door. The inside reveals, though. Probably one of the nicest places to experience the dead of winter – the warmth and precision of the homespun / futurespun cube-space sets off the snow and slate-sided buildings from across the street well – and really, how better to appreciate the human creation of windows and walls than with hot hands cupped around one of the best kitten-smooth coffees in the neighbourhood? Stronger than the usual but still long (ie: not espresso), like coffee should be (to this non-European, anyway).
Falco also offers repast for those wanting a bit of gentleness and brown rice to hopefully negate greasy memories. A chalk menu lists the Japanese/French fare – rice bowls with tofu or meat, sticky onigiri, miso soup, salads, sandwiches on fresh bread from nearby Boulangerie Guillaume and sweet things (muffins etc) from the same place.
The miso soup was perfect. A cup of energetic stillness, made with a proper dashi and sipped from from a dark umbre bowl. The rice and tofu dish is the kind of thing that I used to eat while vegan, each element (carrots, tofu and lentils) carefully dressed and seasoned individually. While it’s hard to handle with chopsticks for the exact reasons mentioned here – maybe that’s just a clue to either work more patiently on one’s eating technique, or perhaps use the broth from the soup to clean the last few grains from the bowl as monks do.
The most surprisingly delicious thing was the onigiri – made with sticky soft rice and filled with chunks of sweet salmon – it was a delicate but un-shy example of the form. It’s not something very difficult to make, but making them this well is rare, and I really should go back to try the others. I think there were 3 or 4 varieties that day.
There’s a hammock in the corner and shelves of thin brown pottery, sculptures, a falcon, globe lanterns and a happy-looking staff. Few private tables, but then, we’re all eating next to each other anyway when we go out to that third place, might as well be neighbourly about it. And peaceful.
(lunch for one, with siphon coffee, rice bowl, soup and onigiri = 16$. Pricey, but organic and very good)
A long time ago, in a curryshop far, far away, I was tucked warm and cozy with the boyfriend and extended family eating spicy goo and dipping all kinds of flatbreads into it. I think the only reason I hadn’t thought to mention such a good dinner until now was perhaps knowing how vivid it remained in my mind, and thus preserved until such time as Bubble Tea warranted a warming burst of cumin-laden air. WhOOOOSH!
Having heard good things about Maison Indian Curry, we braved the considerable sunday night (!) lineup and worked up a good hunger for the north AND south indian food that awaited. For yes, they do offer alternatives to the relentless parade of butter chicken and tikka masala! There are dosas and sambars, idli and fenugreek and lentils, coconut and tamarind and rice, oh my!
It was a rather vegetarian meal this time, it being impossible to ignore the multi-page spread of vegetable dishes that all sounded pretty unique. It was hard to choose just a few, but samosas are a must in our city-wide quest to find the perfect one, so we started with these gems served with creamy minty sauce and tangy tamarind. Passably delicious, if that makes any sense in samosa-talk. A reasonable size, too.
Actually, I need to talk about something IMPORTANT (haha ok). I am looking for a specific kind of samosa here in Montreal. Imagine if you will, a filling that is mostly whole toasted spices, cooked down greens, a few peas and even fewer potatoes, with a noticeable sour taste, and in a perfect world, available in baked format as well as fried. I know I can get them in Ottawa, but has anyone tasted a samosa like that here? It would be amazing to find. ~ Signed, carb-lovin’ mango hot sauce usin’ nommer ^^;;
We also started with a Chana Puri plate, with comes with fried breadstuffs that can be tenderly ripped into chunks and used to scoop up what I’ve heard is an incredibly authentic chickpea curry. Absolutely addictive, light and rich at the same time, and the garlicky yogurt on the side makes for a transporting combo. Please order this!!
Another specialty of the Maison is the dosa, which comes – huge as a battleship – a crispy footlong carapace stuffed with a choice of tandoori chicken, hot masala potatoes, or regular potatoes. Alas, I wanted this to be amazing so badly, having heard such good things about it, but ultimately it suffered from non-integrated oddly yellow chicken inside, and a dosa itself that tasted like the crispy bits on the side of grilled cheese sandwich. Not necessarily bad, but not half as good as some that I’ve made at home, even. It was all much improved by dipping things in the accompanying soup and coconut-ty sauce, but even that was kind of awkward to coordinate. The veggie version is probably better, I do suspect.
Vegetables also stole the show as the mains rolled in, with the okra (the OKRA, people!) winning the little crown as “tastiest thing nestled in an ornate metal vessel on the table,” it was scraped clean before long. The lamb vindaloo was only succulent and complex in comparison, and the eggplant goo (as well as rhyming with “vindaloo,” aw cute) was a rich slather best saved for non-dieting months, albeit really delish on naan bread.
Oh yeah, the naan was average. Good though. Just thought I’d mention.
While not as spicy as some, and having only decent samosa and naan, what Maison Indian Curry DOES have is a delightful sour taste to it’s food, and a fresh, multi-layered and varied palette. A haven for vegetarians! And with more south Indian dishes on the menu, a place to return to for more interesting options than the usual Punjab fare. (The prices are also comparatively good for the neighbourhood… that is to say, cheap).
I’m about to threaten to sanctitude of the January fasting trend. When most post exclusively about oat bran, cottage cheese, steamed vegetables and fatless delights, I’m gonna go all merry on you and post a few pics of our humble home dinner and on top of that a cake. Well….
This isn’t strictly an indulgence. In fact, hidden in our sumptuous feast were a few healthy gems that warrant a shared recipe, c/o of my illustrious and culinarily talented roommates (namely, a food-hangover-curing cucumber salad that washed away the pain in the morning). And so I’ll get to that next post, but before all that, I think what strikes me as most funny about our Christmas dinner (or rather, Skidsmess dinner) is that despite our newschool personalities and post-traditional decisions in life, our food on the other hand put our parents to shame in the category of classic holiday flavorgasmicing. And maybe that was our rebellion. And foodie fist pump in the air, ’cause my parents haven’t gone through the effort to roast things since us kids became fully grown, and some of the “kids” at the table couldn’t go home for dinner at all. So we cooked. And cooked. And cooked.
There were duck fat roast potatoes, two kinds of chili (hemp & sweet potato / chipotle and beef) with sour cream and coriander. There was stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, a non-gravy made with kasserli cheese, edam cheese, apricot jam and cognac. There was an expertly roasted and very juicy grain-fed chicken cooked with butter, thyme, and a whole boiled lemon pierced with zest-vents inside (bread stuffing added after roasting for artistic effect and more sanitary cooking ;). There were piles of warm naan bread, a pomegranate-studded fennel and sprout salad, and a huge jar of sharp pickled cucumbers, and I’m probably forgetting something, too.
Oh yeah! I made tourtiere! Fortunate enough to get a surplus of ground beef recently, I added some fresh pork loin cut into nubbly squares to that, along with some heavy medieval spices, softened vegetables, red wine and fresh thyme, and packed it into an old-school superflaky lard-based crust that tasted ever so slightly of graham crackers, owing to a touch of brown sugar and a touch of spelt flour. With loads of ketchup on top, it was comfort food perfection.
I seriously had not tasted old-school holiday dinner joy like this in years, made all the better for knowing that we scraped this together as a team, and with generousity in our hearts. If one could not cook, one brought wine. Or made Bloody Marys. Or whatever, brought their smiling face. And the wine, of course, flowed, as it always does around here when it’s cold, and despite packing our bellies to bursting, I couldn’t help but suggest just one more edible, and presented the meal finale with a flourish of table-side frosting application: a deeply spiced and impossibly moist gingerbread stout cake flooffed with fresh dollops of pumpkin-pie chantille and scattered with crushed ginger cookie crumbs. The kind of angelic yet sinful cake that comes cut in huge artful slabs and somehow disappears in a few short, gigantic, happy bites.
Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake
Nigella Lawson’s recipe and absolutely fab – the batter is liquid, it seems crazy, but that liquidiness makes it so MOIST it practically melts away as you eat it. I used an Aphrodisiac stout from local microbrewery Au Dieu du Ciel, which has flavours of cocoa, vanilla, bourbon, and roasted malt.
- 1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
- 1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
- 1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 cup stout beer (such as Guinness)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- 2 eggs
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13×9-inch cake pan with aluminium foil and grease it, or grease a 13×9-inch foil tray.
Put the butter, syrup, dark brown sugar, stout, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.
Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and baking soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.
Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.
Pour this into your cake/foil pan, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the pan at the sides.
Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.
Pumpkin Pie Chantille
I concocted this magic fluff by way of using up a leftover 1/2 batch of pumpkin pie truffle filling. The ganache is dense, but the cookies and cream cheese give it a melting softness, and once folded into freshly whipped cream, it attains a barely sweet height that tastes like the essence of pumpkin pie + whipped cream without all that distraction of having to eat two things. It’s fabulous.
Truffle base heavily adapted from a Whole Foods recipe.
- 200 grams white chocolate
- 1/2 cup gingersnap or graham cookie crumbs
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin purée
- 2 tsp confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- Pinch of fine salt
- 1 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 500 mls of heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup crushed ginger cookie crumbs, for topping
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat or in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir often to keep the chocolate from burning. Transfer to a large bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs, pumpkin, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, zest, cinnamon, salt and cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl, cover and let rest on the counter until cool. (You can store in in the fridge at this point, but let it come to room temperature before adding to the cream. It shouldn’t set up very hard at all.)
Whip the cream to stiff peaks, add a splash of vanilla if you like, and fold the pumpkin ganache into it gently but bravely until just a few streaks of orange remain. Store in fridge until ready to adorn the cake. It’s best enjoyed the same day it’s made, or if there must be leftovers, wrapped carefully and refridgerated for one more day shouldn’t hurt.
Scatter the cake with cookie crumbs when ready to serve, and serve generously!
And don’t worry, it’s never too late for a good ginger cake, January or not. Personally, I would still enjoy this in the spring, with a lemon curd perhaps, or some fresh flowers scattered on top instead of the cookies. Ginger, as I’m wont to declare, never goes out of style. Not to me, anyway.
Only one more holiday themed post, I swear!