Raspberry Sweet Rolls

Raspberry Sweet Rolls

These raspberry sweet rolls don’t need much in the way of introduction.  Sticky, sugary glaze contrasts with the tang of bright raspberries, and, served fresh out of the oven with a cup of strong coffee, they’ll ensure you start your day with a smile which, provided you don’t eat five of them in one sitting and experience a devastating sugar crash shortly after consuming them (this is an inherent risk, you should know), will flicker across your lips every time you think about your breakfast.

IMG_5420

Here’s what you need:

For the buns –

1 cup milk

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast (or 2 packages)

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling –

1 10 oz. package of frozen raspberries (or, come to think of it, any frozen fruit you have stashed away with the good intent of using it for flaxseed chia seed spinach kale power smoothies that you just couldn’t bring yourself to make….)

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. cornstarch

For the glaze –

1 cup icing sugar

3 tbsp. heavy cream

Here’s what you do:

To make the dough, start by warming the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until it’s lukewarm.  Or, you could nuke it briefly.  That’s what I did.  Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a regular bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer) and add the sugar and yeast.  Cover with a dish towel and let the yeast proof (get foamy) for 8-10 minutes.

Next, add the butter, eggs and salt, either beating with the dough hook attachment on low speed, or using your own elbow grease.  Gradually add in the flour and stir/beat until a soft dough forms.  Knead on a lightly floured counter/beat until the dough is fully incorporated and is soft and elastic-y.  If using a stand mixer, finish the last bit of kneading by hand.  Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly buttered bowl.  Cover with a dish towel and let it sit in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size (1-2 hours).

Once the dough has risen, grease a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 10″ x 24.”

Toss together the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and spread the raspberries (still frozen!) evenly over the dough.

IMG_5399

Tightly roll up the dough to form a log.  Cut into rolls about 1.5″ thick.  Place the sliced rolls, sliced side up, into your baking pan so they’re smunched up next to each other.

IMG_5401

IMG_5406

Cover the rolls and allow them to rise until they’re puffy (~ 2 hours).  (At this point, you could put the rolls into the fridge and store them overnight, to be baked fresh for breakky in the morning).

IMG_5415

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for about 25 minutes.  Take off the aluminum foil just long enough for the rolls to brown a little on top, and then remove from the oven.

Allow to cool slightly before glazing.  To make the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and heavy cream until you get a smooth, liquid-y mixture.  Drizzle over the raspberry rolls and serve.

IMG_5430

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction.

…on excellent coffee…and my barista days

Once upon a time I worked as a barista – same little French patisserie in New Zealand where I saw my first croquembouche.  While I had always loved cafes (if you know anything about me, you know that at the tender age of 15 or so, I had blue hair, played the bass, and wanted desperately to own my own cafe), I hadn’t really appreciated the coffee part of them.

A lovely latte...

A lovely latte…

Until living in New Zealand, that is.

New Zealand, though you might not expect it, has an incredible coffee culture.  Or at least it did during my time there nearly 8 years ago now (oh my god, it’s been EIGHT years???).

When I was hired at this little place, I was told that I would be taught how to pull espresso, steam milk, and pour drinks properly.  Which would mean that I would not be permitted to make a drink – especially a latte – to a living breathing human being for several months, the time it was estimated it would take to train me.

Did you know coffee was this complicated?  Well, maybe:  we have an increasingly sophisticated (and locally roasted!) coffee culture growing in Halifax.  Places like Two if By Sea, Just Us, Le French Fix and Smiling Goat are really setting the bar (and, after becoming a total coffee snob – so much so that for many years I would only drink tea because I deemed it impossible to get a good espresso in this town – they are my go-to places in town for excellent coffee).

Anyways, I was reminded of my espresso pulling days the other day when I was getting a macchiato at one of the above establishments.  I watched the barista steam the milk in a very small jug for my drink and then pour most of it down the sink, leaving the foam to spoon onto my espresso.

FrenchFix

You see, one of the rules of good milk steaming is that to get a really great foam – like what you would need for a cappuccino or to “mark” a macchiato – you need to start with fresh, ice cold (read: not having being steamed ten minutes ago for someone else’s drink only to be re-steamed for yours) milk.  And, once milk has been steamed, it’s not so great to be re-steaming it for other drinks.

What are some of the other coffee “rules” I learned, you ask?  What should I be watching for at my local java joint?  Here’s my take.  If you’re a barista who’s up on the trends of latte pouring and espresso pulling of the last eight years, please feel free to add more or update!

  • The froth on your latte or cappuccino should be creamy with close-knit bubbles.  It shouldn’t look like a five-year-old took a straw and started blowing bubbles in your drink.
  • A cappuccino is pretty much half foam, with the crema (the caramel-coloured foam that tops a freshly-pulled espresso) ringing the outside of the cup.  The milk for a cappucino is poured slowly into the centre of the drink to achieve this.
  • A latte is poured quickly, usually starting in the middle, working out towards the edge of the cup, and then back into the middle to create a beautiful pattern of crema and foam (this is why lattes are hardest – you have to start pouring, really commit, and get ‘er done quickly and correctly).
  • Espresso should never be bitter.  If it’s bitter, it’s been over-extracted (which means the barista let the water run through the espresso grinds too long).
  • Your espresso beans should be ground when you order your drink (not three hours – or thirty minutes – before)
  • An espresso is properly pulled when the crema begins to pour out of the machine, and should be stopped juuuuuust before the streams of coffee begin to twist into the cup.

Okay, that’s enough.  Maybe you’re not a coffee nerd and maybe you don’t care.  But I just felt like sharing, because I was feeling some love for the excellent coffee that I have the privilege of drinking in this wonderful city!

And then there are some days where whipped cream and chocolate are needed....

And then there are some days where whipped cream and chocolate are needed….

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce.  It’s like a little jar of happiness in the fridge.  You can eat it on ice cream or yogurt, pour some in your coffee in the morning, or stand in front of the fridge in your pajamas eating it out of the mason jar with a spoon.

IMG_4310

Here’s what you need:

1 cup sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Here’s what you do:
Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large saucepan and place on the stove over medium heat. When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a spatula to gently stir it towards the center.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, being careful not to over-stir.  While this is happening, measure out the heavy cream into a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream.  Set aside.  Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.  Now, very carefully and SLOWLY, whisk in half of the cream.  The mixture will steam and bubble violently (hence the SLOWLY part).  Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Stir in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.

IMG_4305

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  If the caramel becomes harder than you’d like, you can just re-heat it briefly in the microwave or over the stove to achieve a nice consistency once more.

Recipe courtesy of  Annie’s Eats

Coffee Bacon Sandwiches with Date Goat Cheese spread

I have wanted to make these sandwiches for forever!  In fact, many months ago, I devised a scheme whereby I would host a brunch and serve these sandwiches and this little Pinterest project that I simply could not get out of my mind:

IMG_5893

They’re white chocolate with a yellow Smartie and two pretzels…irresistably cute brunch party favours.

But then my wee daughter and I needed to go off dairy because she turned out to be allergic to cow’s milk protein and I couldn’t conceive of hosting a breakfast without cheese and so the idea lived in my brain for months and months.

Then, the stars aligned and goat’s milk became an option and St. Patrick’s Day was coming up and the brunch idea was resurrected.  Finally, the coffee bacon sandwiches and tiny little bacon and egg favours would become a reality.

IMG_5939

And what a beautiful reality.  Coffee bacon is my newest, favouritest thing in the world.  Oh my, these sandwiches were delicious.  And once the homemade bread was gone and the last of the whipped cream had been dropped onto Bailey’s sweetened coffees, people were still eating this bacon off the tray like it was candy. (also, I had a bunch of the spread left over, and it has been divine in my lunch this week, spread on a homemade tortilla with roasted red peppers).

IMG_5923

(oh yeah, and you know what else we ate?  Vanilla Bean Sticky Buns with Bailey’s Caramel Sauce.  Stay tuned for THAT recipe….)

Here’s what you need:

For the bacon –

8 slices uncooked bacon (enough for 4 sammies…cook more if you’re feeding more)

1/4 cup freshly ground coffee

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon water

For the goat cheese spread –

4 ounces goat cheese

4 medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Here’s what you do:

Lay the bacon, overlapping each other with the fatty side facing up, on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap.  In a bowl, mix together the coffee, chili powder, brown sugar, molasses and water.  Spread this mixture on top of the bacon.  The coffee will mostly rest on the fatty top of the bacon.  Cover the bacon with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

IMG_5875

IMG_5871

Meanwhile, add all the spread ingredients to a bowl and mash together using a fork until well incorporated.  While you could certainly do this right before cooking the bacon and preparing your sandwiches, I did it the night before when setting the bacon to marinate and found that the flavours had incorporated into the cheese beautifully by the next day.

IMG_5882

IMG_5918

When you want to make your sammies, preheat your oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or tin foil and place the bacon on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake until browned and crisp.  Remove from the oven and pat any extra grease off with a paper towel.

To make the sandwiches, layer some of the goat cheese bread on fresh bread (toasted and buttered if you prefer), slap some bacon on there, and top with fresh spinach.

IMG_5917

Enjoy!

IMG_5936

Recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker.

Sunday morning muffin and Superbowl Salsa

Hi you guys.

This is what it looks like outside this morning.

IMG_5215

And this is what it looks like inside.

IMG_5211

Yeah, I decided to make those coffee cake muffins from Friday again.  I wanted to take prettier pictures of them for you.  Here they are:

IMG_5196

IMG_5213

I also thought I’d take some prettier pictures of the “Musicians, Memories and Morsels” the cookbook that I am GIVING AWAY (!) to one lucky reader in two weeks.  See here to find out how to enter!

IMG_5208

IMG_5206

And then I wanted to give you a recipe for salsa, in light of the fact that it’s Superbowl Sunday (which is kind’ve a big deal in our house.  Except for the part where we’re Steelers fans.  That’s okay though.  We forgive them).

Here’s a story about the salsa:

After my hubby and bought our first house together, I took it upon myself to start my first garden.  My folks are the most avid gardeners you can imagine, and though I had very little interest in doing any actual gardening, I liked the idea of growing some plants in my yard.  And so it was that I ended up with six little tomato plants from my local farmer’s market.

Apparently I did a pretty bang-up job of growing my first garden, because that fall, I couldn’t harvest my tomatoes fast enough.  We ate tomatoes sliced, still warm from the sun, sprinkled with black pepper and a whisper of sugar, we made pizza sauce, pasta sauce, triple decker sandwiches oozing with sharp cheddar and mayonnaise.  With dozens of tomatoes still hanging low on the vines, I needed something that would use up a large proportion of them without allowing them to go bad.  Salsa seemed like the perfect solution.

I’ve been making this salsa at least once a year since, and if I run out of it mid-winter, this recipe is so delicious that I’m still more inclined to buy a bunch of tomatoes from the grocery store and make it again than to buy a jar of pre-prepared salsa.

IMG_4359

Heres what you need:

8 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 ½ cups onions, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed carefully and chopped

2/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp salt (or to taste)

1 tsp. black pepper

sugar, to taste, if desired

Here’s what you do:

​Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until all the veggies are cooked through.  Now is the time to do a taste test to see if it’s salty enough.  I often add a dash of white sugar to lessen the acidity a little, but that’s up to you.

​Meanwhile, you’ve sterilized about 6 2-cup mason jars and their lids in boiling water.  Once the salsa is cooked, ladle it into the jars and close the lids.  If you’re planning on keeping your salsa for a while, you may want to now place the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

​Enjoy!