Friday, November 30, 2012

the cookie advent calendar

As this is my first holiday season as a food blogger, I wanted to attempt a fun little project that incorporated a few holiday elements, plus help me along with my holiday cooking/baking.

So, after playing around with a few ideas, I finally settled on the Cookie Advent Calendar!

As a kid, I loved my Advent Calendar - opening up a little window each day to get a reward (chocolate) and I love the idea of continuing this tradition, especially once I have children. However, in the meantime, this little idea gives me some great baking ideas, lets me connect with some of my favourite online friends and hopefully, gives you some holiday ideas as well!

So, starting December 1 and continuing until December 24, I will be posting a cookie recipe here on kitchen frolic. A few are from me and Paul, but the majority are from my amazing friends - both online and real life ones. The thing I love about the selection of recipes (all of which are perfect for holiday baking) is that they're from all over - I have a few from the UK, one from Asia and of course, a good selection from Canada and the USA.

I had so much fun putting this Calendar together that I'll probably do it again next year (maybe a Cupcake Advent Calendar? A Cocktail Advent Calendar? So many possibilities!). I hope that you'll enjoy the Advent Calendar as much as I enjoyed creating it and I wanted to give a very special THANK YOU to all my wonderful friends who shared a recipe for the Calendar - I couldn't have accomplished this without your support!!!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 26, 2012

haupia (coconut pudding)

Paul and I both have a soft spot for Hawaii. It was where we spent our honeymoon (two glorious weeks - one on Oahu and one on Kauai) and we hope to go back in a couple of years. Although I wasn't as food-obsessed back then as I am now, we still did manage to eat really well while we were there - fancy restaurants, local watering holes and fruit stands on the side of the road - we tried it all. 

The one thing about Hawaii is the fresh ingredients - there's so much amazing local produce and the flavours are so different than what we normally find here in Canada.

To that end, when I saw a photo of haupia on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it. 

Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert that is basically a coconut pudding. It's slightly thicker than custard, but not quite as resilient gelatin (which I found out when I attempted to cut it). The flavour is very subtle, so if you want an intense coconut flavour, this dessert isn't what you're looking for. But, it has a wonderfully true coconut flavour, cool and refreshing. It's actually a perfect dessert for a hot summer day or after a spicy meal.

Haupia is traditionally thickened with pia (Polynesian arrowroot), but since that's hard to find, I've used the more common cornstarch, but I do hope to get my hands on pia soon to see if that makes a difference to the recipe.

p.s. I was watching Hawaii Five-0 and eating haupia while typing up this recipe because nothing goes with a sweet Hawaiian dessert like watching the H50 team in action. (Yeah, you totally just found out one of my guilty pleasures!)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

cocoa meringue bites

As we get closer to December, I've been doing a lot more baking than usual. Partly because I've been trying new recipes ahead of the busy holiday baking blitz, but also because I wanted to try some new cookie recipes for my upcoming Cookie Advent Calendar.

I pulled these meringues out of a baking cookbook that I've never used before (I seem to have a lot of cookbooks that fall into that category). They were super-easy to make, although I have modified the recipe a little for my own tastes.

After posting a photo of these meringue bites on Twitter, I ended up in the midst of a debate (with some really amazing bakers) on whether or not meringues (and macarons) should be classified as "cookies". I have never thought of meringues as cookies, but then again, I had never thought of bar desserts (ie. brownies, lemon bars) as cookies either and apparently they are. That's what I love about this whole food blogging adventure - I'm learning so much every day!

In any case, I think of these meringue bites more of a dessert (or confection) than a cookie. Especially because I think they would make a lovely base for a dessert - either crumbled up with some ice cream or (if you flatten them out before baking) as a base for some jam and whipped cream.

Whether you eat these plain like a cookie (like we have been) or use them as part of a more fancy dessert, they're delicious and very easy to make.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

lemon shortbread bars

I love lemons. I love their scent, their taste and their bright, sunny yellow colour, so it's definitely one of my favourite ingredients to cook with. It's even better if a recipe calls for zesting lemons - then the entire kitchen smells heavenly!

I've never made lemon bars before and I've also never made shortbread before (although Paul makes amazing shortbread cookies), so this recipe was definitely something new for me on all levels. It was a fairly simple recipe to follow (I've tweaked it a bit based on my experience with it) but it does take a while to finish the bars and there's a lot of waiting involved, so make sure you have an afternoon set aside to make these.

Now, my own personal test for any recipe is alwaysPaul's reaction. He's brutally honest when it comes to tasting my cooking/baking, and I can usually tell within 10 seconds if a recipe is a success or not. So, when he tried these lemon bars for the first time and didn't say anything at first, I feared the worst. I anxiously asked him how they were and he said (and I quote), "You can't serve these to people. If they taste them, they'll keep asking for more." Haha - they're a hit!

A couple of things to keep in mind, especially if you're baking these ahead of time for the holiday season:
  • dust them with icing sugar ONLY if you plan on serving them soon afterwards. If you plan on storing these covered, the icing sugar melts into the lemon topping (it leaves a shiny glaze, which isn't terrible, but just not as pretty as the sugar dusting)
  • if you eat the bars on the same day that they're made, the shortbread is almost flaky and crispy; if you store them covered overnight, they lose their flakiness and take on a more buttery and cookie feel (both ways are delicious and highly recommended!)
These bars keep in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 days after baking - although I'm not sure if they'd last that long anyway if you live in a house full of lemon-lovers!