Category Archives: Sweets

Tapping Maples in Edmonton

Even though maple syrup is popularly described as a “Canadian” ingredient, I consider it a highly regional specialty within Canada, as it’s only made on a large scale in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. In contrast to the sugar maples that grow down east, the maple trees around Edmonton produce less, and less sweet, sap. Birch and elm can also be tapped for sap, but they have even lower yields.

These facts notwithstanding, I have a perverse obsession with maple syrup (one of my favourite desserts of all time is pouding chômeur) as well as an abstract, academic nostalgia for the ingredient. Granulated sugar is one of the few highly refined products that I use regularly, and I’m interested in … Continue reading.

Tarte au Sucre – Sugar Pie

Tarte au sucre, or sugar pieIf you are unfamiliar with this dish, let me introduce you by way of an aimless personal anecdote. If you are familiar with the dish, you can skip the next paragraph.

My father’s family lives near Ottawa, my mother’s near Sudbury. When I was little my family would sometimes drive between these two sets of relatives, following the Ottawa River valley, where there are lots of French communities, even on the Ontarian side of the border. Along the way we would always stop at a diner called Valois in the French town of Mattawa. For dessert they offered “sugar pie,” a tidy translation of tarte au sucre. While some versions of sugar pie are made with corn syrup or … Continue reading.

Posset

…I have drugg’d their possets
That death and nature do contend about them
Whether they live or die.

-Lady MacBeth, in the Scottish play (fitting, no?)

 

Dark shortbread cookie and rich eating-posset

Posset is an old British drink of cream curdled with sack (fortified wine) or ale.  Nowadays the term usually refers to sweetened cream curdled so that it sets like a custard.

During the years in which the liquid version was declining in popularity and the solid version was rising, the term “posset” on its own was ambiguous.  Qualifiers were added for clarity, resulting in terms like “rich eating posset.”

Anyways, this is one of the simplest desserts to make.  I often serve it at Burns Suppers with shortbread cookies. The idea is to … Continue reading.

Bûche de Noël – Yule Log Cake

My mom has prepared a yule log cake every Christmas I can remember. I have no idea how this tradition came to my family, as it is extremely French (“bûche de noël”), and we are not.

The cake is a simple sponge. Whole eggs are beaten thoroughly, sugar is added, then a bit of water, and finally flour and cocoa are folded in. The batter is runny, and forms a shallow, uniform, fine-textured cake after baking.

The interior icing is a buttercream made by whipping room-temperature butter into Swiss meringue. Swiss meringue is a mixture of whipped egg whites and simple syrup cooked to soft ball stage.

The exterior frosting is icing sugar beaten into lard, which makes the colour … Continue reading.

Wheat Pudding – Kutia

A sheath of wheatI don’t cook rice very often, but I used to work at a restaurant that let me take home large amounts of leftover rice, and over the years I have developed a taste for rice pudding. My favourite version is made with a blend of brown and wild rice (which adds a satisfying chew to the dish), and dried saskatoons.

Lately I’ve been wondering if I could make a similar dish with a starch that is more common in my kitchen. Take that fifty pound bag of wheat berries in my closet, for instance. The one that I keep threatening to grind into flour if it doesn’t make itself more useful.

I was wary of trying to adapt wheat to … Continue reading.

Mincemeat

A jar of mincemeat, reading to age in the fridgeThis is a dish that confused me for some time. “Minced” means broken up (it’s actually related to the word “minute,” as in exceedingly small). The British use the word “minced” in places we might use the word “ground,” so when I started hearing about mincemeat pies, I assumed they were meat pies.

Then certain people (Lisa, Alton Brown) tried to explain to me that there was no meat in mincemeat pies at all, just dried fruit.

Just as I started grappling with the idea of a meatless mincemeat, I found one of my grandma’s recipes which seemed to combine the aforementioned concepts. The ingredients:

  • beef chuck
  • suet
  • apples
  • dried currants
  • sultana raisins
  • citron (I believe this refers to
Continue reading.

Fruitcake

The waiting is the hardest part.
-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 

I used to revile fruitcake, but in recent years a description by Jeffrey Steingarten has made me more receptive to the dish.

…full of dark, saturated medieval tastes and colors… aged for a year and then set aflame at the very last minute, carefully spooned out like the treasure it is…

I became mildly interested in the idea of aging baked goods, but I still regarded fruitcake as a gaudy curiosity. Then I came across fruitcake in the memoirs of a woman who grew up during the depression in Northern Ontario, called On Turnips, Teas, and Threshing Bees. Her description of fruitcake, and the lengths her family … Continue reading.

Gingerbread Church with Stained Glass

Lisa had a great method for making a stained glass effect on gingerbread houses, so we decided to make a church.

Our gingerbread is this standard recipe. This was my first time making gingerbread, and also my first time realizing that most of the tastes I associate with gingerbread are actually from the molasses.

For the stained glass, we bought hard candies and crushed them to make coloured sugars. After the gingerbread was baked off, we set the cookies on parchment, then filled the window-holes with the coloured sugar. After baking for a few minutes, the sugar melts, and once it cools it resembles glass.

Just as the windows come out of the oven, the melted sugar can be … Continue reading.

Maple Taffy – Tire d’Erable

Winter Food

Throughout late summer I found myself craving winter food. When I was filling my rumpot with fruit and canning my sauerkraut it was twenty degrees outside, but I was thinking of the dead of winter, and the rich, warming, comforting food I would enjoy.

Preservation of food has become central to my idea of local cuisine. I’ve always included meat in my concept of preserving for the impending winter, but I recently realized that this doesn’t make much sense.

Before refrigeration, fresh meat could only be kept in the winter. Of course you could kill a chicken in the summer and eat it for dinner, but what if you were to kill a cow and not have a … Continue reading.

Rabbit Pie

‘Now, my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.’

-from The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Rabbit pie, fresh from the ovenAfter stewing the choice legs and loins of a Trowlesworthy Farms rabbit, I found myself with a lot of trim. Most notable were the forelegs, the belly-flaps from the saddle, and the kidneys. Besides this there was miscellaneous trim pulled from the carcass. I decided that this would become a rabbit pie.

Making the Recipe

A classical rabbit pie (and yes, rabbit pie is a classical preparation…), would use lean rabbit meat and … Continue reading.