The other week I dropped by my local coffee shop and picked up a delicious cookie featuring cinnamon and sea salt. The place is Ezra’s Pound (Annex location) and although the coffee and food are fantastic, the attitude in there generally leaves something to be desired. I typically get the stare down from the too cool for school (or work?) people hanging out- maybe it’s just too cool in there for this boisterous baker. Either way, they made a great cookie that day and I was left inspired to create the recipe that I’m sharing with you now.
These cookies are a bit too good. As if cookies aren’t delicious and addictive enough already these guys are chocolately, sprinkled with sea salt and even contain a stimulant. OK, only half a teaspoon of instant espresso in each batch but still…They’re pretty damn dangerous and I’m at the point of checking into cookie rehab. I kept telling myself last week that I needed to bake batch after batch in order to perfect my recipe but deep down inside I knew that Fatty Natty had gluttonously evil intentions and plans.
Go ahead and test out the recipe- but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Add more butter if you really want to misbehave.
Chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon and sea salt
- 1 cup flour (all-purpose or cake/pastry)
- 3/4 cup of sugar (half brown, half white)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp (rounded) instant coffee
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbs flax seeds, slightly crushed
- 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- sea salt (to sprinkle)
- Preheat oven to 350
- In large bowl cream sugars and butter together very well. Add vanilla and egg. Mix until combined.
- In another bowl stir together flour, cinnamon, instant coffee, baking soda and salt.
- Add dry ingredients to wet batter in a few additions, stirring gently after each addition. Add in chocolate chips and flax seeds.
- Place balls of dough on cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt (gently pressing down to make sure the morsels don’t fall off!)
- Bake for around 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden. Sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon right out of the oven.
P.S. Thanks to Devon for the mesmerizing cookie gif find- I will repay her with 5 real cookies.
I can’t blab on and on as usual because it’s a pretty busy time right now. Don’t fret though- Chatty Natty may be on a slight hiatus but Fatty Natty is getting ready to hog the spotlight. You see, as busy as things may get, I will always make time for my stomach. After fall comes winter (in case you forgot) and hibernation dictates that I cook and bake more, despite whatever else I may have going on in my life.
The recipe that I will be posting today is something that Adrianna and I baked for our respective thanksgiving gatherings. I got to know the awesome Adrie because her man Paul and I have some common buds (despite what my baking persona may convey, I am typically an Elaine and not a Martha) and since then we have bonded over many common interests- she’s even been the impetus to get the book group going! I am extremely proud to admit that over the last couple of years, between the two of us, Devo and I have probably started 5001 novels and finished 14… Whatever man, at the moment we’re tied up reading how social and cultural factors intersect with health disparities and we’re busy developing, implementing and measuring the impact of different interventions. Internetting has absolutely nothing to do with this lack of finishing. Absolutely nothing.
Anyways, thanks to Ade we are rediscovering our love for Frantz Fanon and she is sharing in the love of creating culinary delights! She suggested a Williams-Sonoma recipe for pumpkin spice cupcakes and we stuck to it quite closely. The variations we made were: omitting the raisins, using pecans instead of walnuts, adding in ginger (as well as adding in a bit more of every spice), making our own frosting and making the cupcakes bigger than suggested: the recipe is supposed to make 36 cupcakes but we had more like 24 (we like ‘em big). The cupcakes were positively wonderFALL. Yes, I’m bringing that one back again. I am too punny for words huh?
…Hey, where’s all that groaning and booing coming from?
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg- we also added in some ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans (and reserve a handful more for garnish!)
- 1 3/4 cups solid-packed pure pumpkin
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 package of Philadelphia cream cheese
- A few cups of icing sugar (it depends on what you want the consistency & taste to be like, we made the frosting like a true team- one of us stirred while the other poured and we both tasted every so often until we achieved perfection!)
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Preheat an oven to 350°F.
- Line muffin tins with holders.
- To make the cupcakes, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a bowl. Then toss in the nuts.
- In a bigger bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk after each addition.
- Add the flour mixture in three additions, stirring with a large wooden spoon until just combined.
- Fill each muffin holder about 3/4 full.
- Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the tins to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool completely.
- To make the frosting beat cream cheese and add icing sugar until the frosting is at your preferred consistency
- We iced the cakes with a piping bag and added a sprinkle of cinnamon & pecan piece on top of each one.
Alert the press! Alert the press! Natty bakes something savoury!
Yes folks, it’s true. This is my first post involving a non-dessert item. Don’t worry though, this recipe still includes butter! I am diving into the delicious world of biscuits… Now I don’t mean biscuits in the cookie sense. I’m talking about the Southern quick breads. You know, the ones closely related to the British scone.
The main difference between biscuits and scones are that scones have more sugar than biscuits do and are typically are made with cream and served at tea time with butter, jam and cream. Biscuits on the other hand are made with buttermilk or regular milk and are served with the main course or AS the main course. Biscuits and gravy for breakfast anyone?
Back in the first season of “Good Eats” Alton Brown devoted one full episode (watch here) to biscuits and in his usual style offers interesting scientific and historical tidbits on the subject. Incidentally I also discovered that there’s an entire documentary on the Southern biscuit and this article which is part of the NYTimes “United Tastes”- a series of interesting articles exploring the historical roots and ongoing evolution of US cuisine. But back to Alton Brown…
So, during this episode AB bakes with his (now late) grandma “Ma Mae” who barely cracks a smile during the entire episode. As always AB is extremely helpful to viewers and offers many tips. He explains that Ma Mae and his great grandmother used to bake biscuits with lard and while this may be great for texture, those who want to avoid the gamey taste should stick to using vegetable shortening, butter or a combo of both. He also tells viewers to keep the batter very loose and wet and warns not to overmix. Another good tip to follow is to use a combination of “soft flour” i.e. cake or pastry flour and all purpose flour instead of just the latter in order to avoid tough and heavy biscuits.
After studying the biscuit basics I felt a bit rebellious and wanted to bake a more flavourful variety. I checked out tons of great-looking stuff and settled on a tasty-sounding cheddar biscuit recipe. Besides the obvious perk that it has cheese in it, I also like that it has some heat and smoky flavour from the chipotle pepper. The recipe comes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and I can sum these biscuits up using a simple mathematical equation: Mmm cheese+mmm bread=Mmmmmm cheesy bread
I would also like to endorse another cheesy quick bread recipe: Cheddar Herb Muffins. You can find this recipe in The Stop’s Good Food For All cookbook and apparently they go well with the Seafood Chowder recipe which is also included in there. I really like this cookbook! All of the recipes are organized by season, for the most part include inexpensive, fresh ingredients and each recipe has a story behind why it was included.
Most of the recipes have been made and served by The Stop’s staff, volunteers and community members at the great programs and events that they host. These dishes have also been prepared for and by people who come out to participate in meetings, rallies and other community gatherings. I enjoy being involved when I can and always look forward to the delicious food whether I am teaching and making it with a class of children or eating it and enjoying it with my friends at events they host. What’s really awesome is that the Stop moves past the idea of charity (though of course they do provide essential services like a food bank and drop-in programs for those who need it) towards more of a social justice model of helping those in need- one which emphasizes dignity and empowerment.
Social justice. Sigh. Sadly, you may cringe at the word (maybe also empowerment) because it’s overused and often discussed in a purely intellectual context, many times in an act of self-aggrandizement. This makes the concept seem like all the other academic bandwagon buzzwords: annoyingly broad, abstract and elusive.
The thing is, places like the Stop actually do work to make certain ideals a reality, even if on a small scale. Actions speak much louder than words (did I mention overused words/phases?!) and there are so many instances here that promote equal access to resources. It’s done in a way that encourages active involvement and knowledge & skill-building and this applies to all community members who participate at the centre. This kind of model seems to actually build social connection and to reduce the usual power divide that exists between the givers and receivers of charity.
OK whoa, sorry about the mini-preach fest out of left field there but yeah, I guess I truly believe it and in the words of Martha Stewart: “It’s a good thing”.
On a more natty bakes related note, the cookbook is super awesome and one night I cooked a meal for a group of friends based only on recipes from the book. The menu included: buttery cornbread with jalapenos, jerk chicken, classic rice & peas, an easy coleslaw and mini sweet potato pies for dessert. Mmmm! Now I’m getting hungry again…better go get a biscuit!
- Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits
- Recipe yields about 20 good-sized biscuits
- 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used some cake & pastry flour for a lighter texture)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chipotle powder (use less if you don’t like things that spicy, also feel free to add bits of a chipotle pepper instead of the powder)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups grated and tightly packed sharp cheddar cheese (I used extra old cheddar)
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk add about 1 Tbs of vinegar to regular milk)
- 1 large egg
- Kosher salt for topping
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
- Line a baking sheep with parchment paper or grease it well
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pepper, chipotle powder, sugar, baking powdy, cream of tartar and teaspoon of salt
- Add the butter and, using your hands or the back of a wooden spoon, work the butter into the dough. The mixture should look like coarse sand. Add the cheese and stir to thoroughly incorporate it into the dough.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
- Use a small ice cream scoop or a 1/4-cup measuring cup to scoop the dough and drop it in mounds onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a biscuit comes out clean.
- Transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack. The biscuits can be served slightly warm or at room temperature
- Store the biscuits in an airtight container for up to 2 days
We’re in the last stretch of summer and I wanted to quickly endorse a great recipe for peach cobbler. My mom and granny went to a farmers marker together the other week and they gave me a bunch of fresh peaches to take home when we met up later that day. I like to pretend that the peaches are from Georgia because I associate cobblers with the South but of course they are actually Ontario peaches.
I found a decent-looking recipe and its ingredient list conveniently matched what I already had in my house. I modified it a bit as there wasn’t enough topping for my liking and adjusted the amount of sugar and spices. I also tried making a whole wheat flour-spelt topping and it was quite successful. Purists may not add any spices to the filling but I think that a bit of cinnamon can never hurt. Finally, for some truly good eats it’s essential to warm up a piece and serve it with vanilla ice cream. It’s not essential, however, for you to play these songs while baking this cobbler.
I would highly recommend it though.
*Shoutouts to Devo!*
Peachy Keen Cobbler
- 6-8 large fresh peaches sliced into small wedges (I keep the skin on, why not?)
- 1/4-1/2 cup of half white sugar and half brown sugar (adjust measurement according to your taste)
- 1 tbs of lemon juice
- 2 tsps of cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup all purpose flour (or try mixing flours e.g. wholewheat, spelt)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup chilled and cubed butter
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Mix together peaches, lemon juice, sugar, spices and cornstarch and then place in a decent-sized baking dish and bake for about 10 minutes (it depends on how ripe the peaches are).
- While the peach filling is cooking prepare the topping. Stir together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
- Incorporate butter until the mixture looks like a coarse meal.
- Boil water and stir it in until just combined.
- Take peaches out of the oven and place spoonfuls of the topping batter over them.
- Put the cobbler back in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (or until the topping is nice ‘n golden).
- When you take the cobbler out of the oven sprinkle it with some sugar and cinnamon.
My high school boyfriend was a traditional romantic and PROUD of it. From the age of fourteen he was writing, playing and recording songs for me on his guitar (two songs that stick out in my mind were called “Just wanna be with you tonight” and “Paradise”- !) and he also loved treating me. Growing up he had always worked after-school and weekend jobs and by high school he had started entrepreneurial ventures of his own. He just adored being hugely generous with me and I was pretty much spoiled rotten; most importantly with his utter devotion and adoration of yours truly, but also with a lot of the usual material symbols of affection like chocolates, roses and nice dinners.
A vivid memory of this kind of thing is the night of our one year anniversary. I guess in hindsight it sounds pretty ridiculous but he got us a limo for the occasion and we were driven to Sotto Sotto where I was wined & dined…um, yeah just to clarify we were tenth graders! After dinner we were driven to get gelato in Little Italy and then finally we went to the beaches to walk along the boardwalk and sit on the sand. I guess you could say that I wasn’t an unlucky girl.
We didn’t fight all that much…I mean what do couples in high school really have to worry about? (PC alert!: I guess I should qualify that with North American middle class high school couples) In the same vein, who even WAS I back then? My high school diaries suggest a pretty generic teen girl, albeit with a slightly kooky/artsy/rebellious side, who still had a whole lot to learn about…pretty yawn I know. Anyways, a few times when we DID fight my high school bf would drive up to this chocolate place north of the city and then drop off a packet of heart-shaped white chocolates with raspberry filling at my house. They were delicious and definitely made a sweet ending to our little squabbles.
Well the other day one of my SickKids research teams had a summer party and I had a taste of this really yummy white chocolate raspberry pie. It reminded me of the heart-shaped makeup chocolates of my teen years and on my way out I quickly asked how it was made. I wasn’t directed to an exact recipe but a few low-cal/low-fat ingredients such as cream, butter and white chocolate were mentioned. After doing some googling, page-flipping, guessing and trial baking I came up with a very simple but tasty recipe. I hope to serve these tarts or something similar at my Dad’s 60th birthday.
Now I love chocolate just as much as the next person but I’m not one of those crazy chocoholic would-rather-eat-chocolate-than-get-down kind of girls. Even when it comes to picking desserts, unless I’m in one of those chocolate-craving moods, I will easily choose a carrot cake with a rich cream cheese frosting, a tiramisu done right or a homemade strawberry shortcake over a chocolate torte, chocolate layer cake or even a molten chocolate cake. I suppose I would make an exception for chocolate mousse (or a chocolate mousse cake) as well as certain Belgian chocolates I’ve tried which really ARE worth all the hoopla.
Some fast facts and opinions about chocolate:
- Fact: According to my Larousse Gastronomique (best present- thanks sister!) a good chocolate “is shiny brown, breaks cleanly and is free of lumps, tiny burst bubbles and white specs. It melts on the tongue like butter, has a true flavour of chocolate rather than of cocoa and is neither greasy nor sticky”
- Opinion: I have tried chocolate in other parts of the world and can taste a difference even in the cheapest most commercial chocolate- for e.g. I find that basic British and South African chocolate tastes creamier or milkier to me than Canadian or American chocolate bars.
- Fact: Chocolate was first consumed in the form of a drink and this was pretty much it’s edible identity for a long long time. The first solid chocolate bars only started to appear in the early to mid 1800s.
- Opinion: So I don’t currently live in the land of amazing chocolate. So what? We still have some good places. Juliet et Chocolat in Montreal is a fun experience. In Toronto, Chocolate Addict in Kensington is cute, MoRoCo chocolat in Yorkville looks like a chichi chocolate paradise but probably overpriced and I have heard good things about Soma in the Distillery District.
- Fact: Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants.
- Opinion: Peanut butter and chocolate are a SUCH a good combination. Over the years some of my favourite corner store chocolate bars have included Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Wonderbar and Butterfinger.
- Fact: My mom has a tradition of giving me kinder surprise eggs. The toy is the best part and the chocolate is just a bonus (opinion).
- Opinion: If you can, try and support fair trade chocolate. Green & Black is a good example of an easy to find chocolate bar which claims to be using pretty much all fair trade certified cocoa beans for their products.
- Fact: Money DID used to grow on trees. Way back in the day cocoa beans were used as a form of currency.
Another fact that lots of people know is that white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate. Although it contains cocoa butter it is lacking cocoa solids which are also required in order for a substance to be considered chocolate proper. Without the cocoa solids it is super sweet and lacks the depth/complexity of say a dark 70% chocolate. I agree with Nigella when she says that white chocolate can be a bit “sicky” and for this reason, I think it’s nice to pair it with something a bit different. For example, Nigella suggests a white chocolate passion fruit mousse and Regan Daley suggests white chocolate tropical chunk cookies (side note-In the Sweet Kitchen is an AMAZING baker’s companion- thanks again sis!)
I know raspberries are very sweet but they also have a certain tartness to them. I added some lemon to try and bring this quality out a bit, though admittedly I would still call this particular baking and eating experience a pretty sweet tooth affair. The recipe can be done as a large pie, several mini tarts or as bars.
Natty’s Raspberry White Chocolate Tarts with a Shortbread Crust
- 2 cups of flour
- 3/4 cup chilled butter, cubed
- 1/3 rd -1/2 cup white sugar (can use even less depending on how rich or sweet you want this dessert)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- A pinch of salt
- 1 Tbs of ice cold water or cream
- Squeeze of lemon
- 225 grams of white chocolate (this is the amount I used – it is one packet of chips- but you can use more if you want the tarts to be harder and the consistency to be more like biting into chocolate…if you use the amount that I used, the end consistency is a bit softer and more pie-like)
- 125 ml of cream (approximately, again can use more or less depending on taste)
- Squeeze of Lemon
- A pint of raspberries (also reserve a bunch for garnish which as you can see I did NOT do for my trial tarts)
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Put all of the ingredients for the crust in a food processor and pulse until everything starts to combine together into a ball
- Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out
- Prepare crust into the shape(s) you want (depending on whether you’re making bars, mini pies, one big pie)
- Bake crust for 20-25 minutes or until it is golden. Let cool
- Start preparing filling by melting chocolate gently in saucepan (it is easiest to use chips as they are already in small pieces and will be quicker to melt)
- Take off heat and let cool slightly. Stir in cream.
- Mash some of the raspberries and squeeze with lemon. It is up to you whether you want to stir them into the chocolate/cream mixture or if you would prefer to simply place them in a layer on the crust and then pour the mixture over it and then top again with the berries.
- Cool in fridge for at least 3 hours
- Wasn’t that simple? Enjoy!
Hey readers of nattybakes, it’s Devon. You may remember me from Natty’s delicious butter-filled fruit crumble post. Today I bring you a recipe for Blueberry Grunt – a traditional dessert from my home province of Nova Scotia. Ahh Blueberry Grunt — Yes it has a funny name [apparently the "grunt" refers to the sound the blueberries make as they cook (??)] but I can attest to the fact that this old-fashioned dessert has been the mainstay of many an enjoyable and hilarious Proudfoot family get-together and is perfect served warm in the winter or with a scoop of ice cream on a summer day.
However finding a good recipe for this dessert ain’t easy. Natty and I ran into quite a few intriguing yet useless internet deadends until finally settling on this recipe which, for a site that specializes in microwavable desserts, wasn’t that bad!
Hey it’s Nat here now. So yes, back to this website. Devon is clearly underestimating the fun we had on Sandi’s Recipe File. In fact we got such a hoot out of this site (and its high quality design) that it kind of made us nostalgic for the internet circa 1999. Oh how I miss and at times even long for the 28.8 k dial-up “song” that used to excitedly kickoff my young internetting sessions!
ANYWAYS, the actual recipe wasn’t that bad…but it wasn’t that good either (sorry Sandi!). The real authority on this matter– the one who we should have consulted first is Devon’s Dad. He advised her via email that:
“A little whip cream on top of the grunt makes it a hit and a single raw retained blueberry to top off the whipped cream makes it a Maritime masterpiece”
We also learned and studied intensely the subtle yet important distinctions between a crumble, crisp, cobbler, grunt, buckle, betty and flummery (yeah, I’d never heard of that one either). What these desserts share in common is that they are all delicious combinations of fruit, spices, flour, fat and sugar without the more high maintenance nature of a pie, tart or gallete. What makes them each unique is that:
- A crumble has British origins and apparently due to strict food rations during World War II the dish was an adapted version of the standard pie. The folks had to be more frugal with ingredients and so instead of using a thick pastry on both the top and bottom of the filling, a topping was concocted which would simply go on top of the stewed fruit.
- A crisp is virtually the same as a crumble but it doesn’t contain any oats in the topping.
- A cobbler in North America refers to fruit covered with a biscuit-type dough (it is usually more cakey than the topping of crumbles and crisps). The dough is usually rolled into little balls and pressed onto the fruit creating a “cobblestone” effect when it is baked.
- A grunt is a traditional dish for many people from the East coast of the United States and Canada. It is a variation of the cobbler, the difference here being that the biscuit dough is steamed by the fruit stewing on the stovetop. Some recipes call for the grunt to be browned up in the oven right at the end of cooking time and others even suggest you make the grunt entirely in the oven. Traditionally speaking though, the grunt is made on the stovetop. This dish is also sometimes referred to as “slump” because of the way it slumps on the plate when you serve it (um, ok I think that title explanation is tied with grunt one).
- A buckle is a variation of the cobbler. Here, the cake batter is on the bottom while the fruit is placed on top. Once it is baked the fruit falls to the bottom while the batter come up around the fruit, making it “buckle”
- A betty is constructed in layers of fruit and topping and the outcome consistency is quite bread pudding-like. Accordingly, the topping typically contains breadcrumbs.
- A flummery lacks a topping of any kind and is more like a fruit pudding. It is often thickened with a bit of cornstarch and served with milk or cream.
Devon’s dad suggested a recipe that looked quite a bit more scrumptious than Sandi’s (my apologies again sweetie!) and so this is the one that we decided to post. We send him many thanks and shoutouts!
The Blueberry Grunt recipe suggested by Devon’s Dad
- 4 cups wild fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter or shortening
- In a large saucepan with cover, heat berries, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice and water; boil gently until well blended and slightly cooked down. In a mixing bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and add enough milk to make a soft biscuit dough. Drop by spoonfuls into hot berry sauce.
- Cover tightly with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes (no peeking!). The dumplings should be puffed and well cooked through. Transfer cooked dumplings to serving dish. Ladle sauce over top; serve with whipped cream.