homemade

Coffee and Baileys Pudding Parfaits

Coffee and Baileys go together like peas and carrots, like peanut butter and jam, like hotdogs and cheese slices.

Coffee and Baileys Pudding Parfaits (adapted from Chow.com)

1/3 C sugar

2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C Baileys

3 egg yolks

1 + 3/4 C whole milk

3 Tbsp butter

2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp instant espresso powder

- grab a strainer and an extra bowl and set aside - in a large, microwave safe bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt

- whisk in the Baileys until smooth - add egg yolks and whisk until smooth - add milk and whisk until smooth

- microwave in 1-minute increments, whisking well in between each minute, until pudding starts to thicken (mine took 5 one-minute zaps) - when the pudding is starting to thicken, microwave in 30 second increments until, well, pudding-like - stir in the butter and the vanilla and continue to stir until butter is melted and well combined

- pour the pudding through the strainer into the other bowl you set aside - divide the pudding in half between the two bowls - mix in the espresso powder in to one of the bowls of pudding - cover each bowl with plastic wrap (I actually lay a piece of Saran Wrap right on top of the pudding to prevent a nasty skin from forming) and chill in the fridge for one hour (minimum)

- to serve, layer the two puddings in glass vessels - top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa

Wild Strawberry Honey Pop

Wild Strawberry Honey Pop from Kelly Neil on Vimeo.

 

This year I discovered a ton of wild strawberries growing around our property so I decided to try my hand at homemade soda using brewer's yeast for carbonation. I'm still getting the hang of the soda thing but thought the strawberries would make a pretty video.

Also featured is Smeltzer's honey from Kentville, Nova Scotia, part of the Taste of Nova Scotia roster.

***Maverick, my 14 year old diabetic cat, who I love pretty much more than anything, makes an appearance in this film. He gets insulin injections every 12 hours and has permanent neural damage from the diabetes so he has trouble walking. Please don't make fun.***

Pudding Pops for Grown-Ups

Along with stickerbooks, jelly shoes and Cabbage Patch Kids, JELLO Pudding Pops, and their spokesperson Bill Cosby, were two of my favourite things about growing up in the 80s.

The texture of a Pudding Pop is something I will always remember - smooth and creamy without the crystallization of a Fudgsicle (although let's get real - Fudgsicles are pretty friggin' awesome too!!).

I came across a recipe for Butterscotch Pudding Pops a couple of weeks ago on CHOW.com and thought I'd give them a whirl. The recipe gave me the chance to try some things I've never had before like Foxhill Cheese's gorgeous unhomogenized milk from the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market.

 

Also, I used gelatin for the first time... (don't worry - it's SUPPOSED to look like this)...

 

made a huge mess in my kitchen... (although that's not new!!)...

 

and used these really cool popsicle molds I bought at the Superstore for $7.

The intro to the recipe suggests adding a couple of tablespoons of Scotch to the recipe to punch up the flavour. Sean and I don't really drink, but we have a fully stocked liquor cabinet, including a barely touched bottle of Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch so I said what the hell?

They were perfect.

No really - these Pudding Pops were one of the most flavourful things I have made in a LONG time. I mean we could REALLY taste the Scotch but it added such an amazing depth to the taste I would never make them without!!

**A funny side note - I doubled the recipe thinking I would freeze half of the batter as Pudding Pops and turn the other half into ice cream but here's the thing. When you put homemade PUDDING batter into the fridge to chill, so you can turn it into ice cream, it actually turns into PUDDING. Man did I ever feel dumb when I peeled away the cling wrap and realized ice cream was NOT an option. It did make me laugh though!! (When I pulled the pudding out of the fridge it was delicious but at the same time, it was really lumpy, which I found visually unappealing. I did a little research as to WHY it was lumpy and so the recipe below is adjusted with the directions I will follow NEXT TIME to hopefully avoid those yucky lumps!!)

Butter-Scotch Pudding Pops

1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

4 Tbsp Butter - cut up

2 Cups Cold Half and Half (this is labelled 'Coffee Cream' on the shelves here, however, I just used half milk, half heavy cream and they turned out great)

2 teaspoons Unflavoured Gelatin

Candy Thermometer

3/4 teaspoon Vanilla

1/8 teaspoon Salt

2 Tbsp Scotch

~ Heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and bubbling - about 8 minutes - cool

~ Put 1/4 Cup of Half and Half into a small bowl - sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the cold cream - do not disturb 3 minutes - it will turn wrinkled and wavy right away

~ Add the gelatin-cream mixture, plus the remaining 1 3/4 Cups of cold cream to the cooled brown sugar mixture - turn heat to medium-low - as the cream heats, the brown sugar and butter will melt and the gelatin will dissolve - whisk until gelatin is no longer grainy (once heated through should take about 4 minutes) - do not heat above 170 degrees or the gelatin will not set

~ Remove from heat - strain through a fine mesh sieve - stir in vanilla, salt and Scotch - pour into popsicle molds and freeze OR for pudding, cover surface of batter with plastic cling and refrigerate 3 hours

After one hour in the freezer, I took my molds out and inserted large wooden popsicle sticks through the centre of each pop. Before I put the sticks in I wrote a message on each one with a Sharpie (U R SO Cool!! - Bite Me!! - Eat Me!! - Me Love You/Long Time - I Love Lamp - the last one is still in the freezer and I forget what I wrote on it!!). In my research I read that in order for Sharpie ink to be toxic to humans, you'd have to drink at LEAST an ounce. I've eaten three Pudding Pops in the last couple of days and I'm still alive.

These were easy to make and a truly nostalgic tribute to my amazing childhood. Sean and I agreed that the punch of liquor would make them a unique and interesting dessert to serve at a dinner party and so we'll probably do that soon. With the recipe for Vanilla Pudding Pops on the CHOW website, the flavour options would really only be limited by your imagination!!

ps - a huge thank you is in order to my awesome husband Sean for taking the shots of me devouring a Pudding Pop - it was very strange being on what I call the 'wrong side' of the camera but he managed to make me look good!!

Holiday Baking

The mall.

Two tiny words that can induce chills down my back at the BEST of times let alone Christmastime. You see, I live in a city where there is no shortage of locally crafted artisanal products yet, at some point or another, I always find myself at the mall.

'This year, things are going to be different', I told myself. 'This year I'm not buying one single mass produced piece of crap for anyone.' My family agreed - 'We've had enough too - let's keep it simple and do a little baking or something like that instead!!' I thought 'Great!! Everybody's on board. I'll find some recipes, test 'em out and pack 'em up as gifts. Easy peasy right?' Yup. Easy peasy. Except for the fact that it took me two weeks of trial runs to get everything right.

Just because I love to bake doesn't mean I am a great baker. Instead, I consider myself a 'baker-in-training'. I love doing it but it doesn't always turn out...

SUGAR COOKIES  

I chose Sugar Cookies as a starting point because, never having made a rolled cut-out cookie in my life, I thought they would give me the most trouble - I was right. It took me FOUR attempts to get the hang of these suckers. I began with The Best Rolled Sugar Cookie recipe from AllRecipes. I love AllRecipes because you can choose a recipe based on user ratings and reviews. Most reviewers suggested increasing the amounts of both sugar and vanilla and so I did. The cookies were absolutely delicious but what were perfectly cut-out Christmas trees going into the oven were puffy misshapen blobs coming out of the oven. I tried the recipe a second time, halving the amount of baking powder and using one egg instead of two in an attempt to reduce the puffiness. The second batch was still not quite right and so I turned to the Queen of Baking herself - Ms. Martha Stewart. Now love her or not, her Perfect Sugar Cookie recipe is AWESOME!!

Martha suggests adding 2 Tbsp of Cognac to the cookie batter for an extra oomph of flavour. I didn't have any Cognac but I ALWAYS have Baileys on hand. Well, let me tell you, I think I could LIVE on Baileys Sugar Cookies - I mean, I would eventually suffer from some sort of nutritional deficiency but it would be totally worth it!!

For the fourth and final gift-giving batch, in consideration of the kids in my life, I substituted milk for Baileys. Once baked and cool, I brushed the cookies with warm clear corn syrup and sprinkled them liberally with red and green sugar. After about an hour, the corn syrup dried shiny and hard, perfect for packing into tins.

 

SNICKERDOODLES

I'll never forget the first time I ate a Snickerdoodle. I was 30 when a neighbour knocked on the door at Christmastime and handed me a tin full of holiday cookies. Nestled within the creases of wax paper was the heavenly Snickerdoodle. What I also refer to as a 'Cinnamon Toast Cookie', a great Snickerdoodle is a puffy, chewy, cinnamon-sugar delight. For me, a shortcoming of the traditional Snickerdoodle recipe is Cream of Tartar. Some people enjoy the weird acrid aspartame-like tang of Cream of Tartar. I am not one of those people. I used this recipe and substituted 2 tsp of baking powder for the 2 tsp of Cream of Tartar - my cookies turned out wonderfully.

 

BUTTER FUDGE

Fudge, fudge oh glorious fudge!!! Has there ever been another confection so capable of bringing my mother to the brink of insanity? I think not!! I have a vivid mental picture of my mother standing over the stove, stirring furiously, glasses steamed up, sweating, cursing like a sailor - all for the sake of fudge that, for one reason or another, never quite turned out. It's this mental image that has stopped me dead in my tracks, time and time again, whenever the thought of making fudge has entered my brain. That is, until I found this. Now, it's KIND of a cheater's recipe because you only boil the fudge for 5 minutes but hey, you still boil it right? And so, technically, it's real cooked fudge, right? Hmmm... my mum may not agree, but who cares because it's so friggin' good!!

 

GINGER SPICE COOKIES

Ginger Spice Cookies - stacked in a Mason jar covered with burlap, tied with Christmas ribbon

These are what I call 'Grown Up Cookies'. They are chewy and spicy, loaded with ginger - not for the faint of heart. The kids might hate 'em but the grown-ups will swoon!! I found this recipe the night before Christmas Eve on the amazing Epicurious. With tens of recipes to choose from it can be daunting to decide on just one. That's why I always check out ratings and reviews. Out of all the ginger cookie recipes on Epi, this one received consistent '4 fork' ratings and rave reviews across the board. With no trial run, these cookies were simple to make and a huge hit with the adults in my family.

 

NUTELLA HAZELNUT BALLS

Who doesn't love a Ferrero Rocher? (If you raise your hand, we probably can't be friends) Knowing that Nutella is produced by the Ferrero Company, I did a little research and came across ALmsot Bourdain's recipe for Ferrero Rochers. I modified slightly and made this incredible homemade version:

4 hazelnut wafer cookies (available at the Italian Market on Young St.)

1 cup whole hazelnuts

2 or 3 large dollops of Nutella

chocolate for melting (I used Hershey's Chocolate Bars)

1. preheat to 350 - spread hazelnuts on baking sheet - bake until you can smell the nuts (about 10 minutes) - cool

2. put hazelnut wafers in a small Ziploc baggie and smash/roll them with a rolling pin - take out of baggie and crumble with fingers into a large bowl

3. in another bowl, lightly roll the cooled hazelnuts between your fingertips to remove skins (some people will recommend you gather the hazelnuts in a tea towel to rub the skins off but I found this to be very messy) once most of skins are off, smash, bash, chop or process hazelnuts into chunky bits - add to crumbled wafers

4. add two or three good dollops of Nutella to nuts and wafers - take your rings (jewellery) off - mix with hands - lick hands - put mixture in fridge to firm

5. once firm, roll into small balls - dip balls in melted chocolate - cool

6. eat!!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this post about the treats I gave to my family and friends for Christmas and that you as well spent Christmas surrounded by delicious food and people you love.

Warmest Wishes!!

Ode to Baskin Robbins

As teenagers, my sister Cindy and I loved going to Mic Mac Mall - but not for the reasons you may think. Yes the mall was a haven of clothing, make-up and boys, but what we truly went for was Baskin Robbins' Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Decadent chocolate ice cream laden with ribbons of smooth, creamy REAL peanut butter - it was SO DELICIOUS!! However, they say all good things must come to an end - the shop closed suddenly and our favourite ice cream was gone.

Over the last 15 years, if you were to ask Cindy or I what we thought was the best ice cream flavour of all time, I KNOW we both would have given the same answer even though it had been years since that pure bliss had passed our lips. Enter the glorious hunk of grey metal sitting next to our tree this past Christmas, otherwise known as the Kitchenaid 600 series Professional Mixer.

Somewhat intimidated by the Kitchenaid, Sean and I didn't really start to use it until a couple of weeks ago. Our love affair began with the 3-pack of pasta roller attachments. Next came the food grinder, and finally, the crowning glory - the ice cream maker attachment!! When I brought it home last week and set it on the kitchen table Sean and I spent a few moments staring at it with quiet reverence.

The main jist of this recipe came from the Dinner and Dessert blog - they have credited David Lebovitz's book 'The Perfect Scoop' for their version.

It begins so simply, as most good things do. Cream, sugar, cocoa and salt.

Baskin Robbin's-Style Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

2 Cups Heavy Cream

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Cocoa

pinch of Salt

1/2 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter

1-2 Tbsp Icing Sugar

~ Whisk cream, coca, sugar and salt in a saucepan to a full roiling boil (should be foamy) - chill

~ mix PB and icing sugar together (adjust amount of icing sugar to taste - I used 2 Tbsp)

~ Churn chocolate batter in an ice cream maker

~ In a container, layer churned batter with dollops of PB - freeze

~ Eat!!

Baskin Robbins has officially made a comeback - well, in MY house anyway. I think I had better tell my sister...