Kitchen Remodel

You know, I realize I never showed you all the new kitchen. If you are new to my blog let me quickly explain I had horrible water damages (repeatedly) from the ceiling of my 18th floor apartment. Otherwise it is a perfect place which is why I have been there for 10 years. The kitchen was a victim of some of those damages. You can read more about what happened.

Anyways this time around the owner decided to tear down my kitchen completely (walls too) and rebuild it. YAY! Of course since it is a rental I had no say in the process but I got better then before. I also have the WORSE tiny kitchen ever for a food blogger but I have learned to work in it very efficiently. You know it is one of those lab kitchens about  9 by 7 feet.

The before - both sides

The after side 1

The after side 2

Once the construction done I got a chance to organize things to get even more free space; things like where to place the paper towel holder, I got a magnetic bar for my knives and tried to come up with a more efficiently spice rack solution. I actually made mine but I have to say I am not so happy with it.

Finding a store with a large selection of kitchen spice racks is hard t. But I found a great online store so now I am shopping for one. I don’t know about you but I have WAY TOO MANY spices as it is and I know I will always be getting new exotic ones. What kind of spice rack do you have? Do you have too many like me? How long before you toss them?

I already did not have enough room on my makeshift one so I am shopping for a larger wall spice rack. Wish me luck in my shopping!

Boozy Scotch Bread Pudding, Weston and Glymm

About 10 days ago I was fortunate enough to attend an media event for a product launch by Weston Bakeries Canada. The new lined entitled Première Fournée is made of 4 different breads made the old fashion way. The breads are made with unbleached wheat flour, pure water, yeast and salt, and contain zero preservatives, color or artificial flavor. Then each bread has additional quality ingredients added to achieve the fours breads varieties: Stonemilled Wheat, Hearty Grains, Rustic White and Light Rye.

weston première fournée

These breads qualify by the food norms as Artisanal Breads. Although the breads are kneaded by mechanical equipment, each bread is hand shaped – by a human being – and then baked in a stone hearth oven without a mold. Each bread takes 17 hours to make and taste like the bread your grandmother use to make. These breads just hit the shelves this week in supermarkets in Canada.

A fun event and we all got to take home a full loaf of each bread, like close to 5 pounds of bread without preservatives. I live alone! The hearty grains I kept but I divided 3 of the breads in 3 and made a loaf all  flavors and repackaged them. One loaf went in the freezer, one I gave away and the last one I used for an awesome bread pudding recipe. This recipe claims to have its roots in the South, New Orleans more precisely. The original recipe calls for Bourbon but I only had Scotch on hand as a close substitute.


Ξ Boozy Scotch Bread Pudding Ξ

Bourbon Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey (or Scotch)

Bread Pudding:

  • 1 loaf bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch squares (about 6-7 cups)
  • 1 qt milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup raisins, soaked in 1/4 cup bourbon for a few hours (or Scotch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Soak the bread in milk in a large mixing bowl. Press with hands until well mixed and all the milk is absorbed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices together. Gently stir into the bread mixture with the raisins.
  3. Butter generously bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Pour in the bread mix and bake for 35-45 minutes or until set and the edges start getting a bit brown.
  4. While bread pudding is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan; add sugar and egg, whisking to blend well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens a little bit. Whisk in bourbon to taste. Remove from heat. Whisk before serving.

scotch bread pudding

Serve with the bourbon sauce on the side or just slather it on top and let it soak like I did. BEST BREAD PUDDING EVER, hands down!

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Totally unrelated to food but I am so impressed I just had to mention it, plus we stay in the Canada only theme: have you heard of Glymm? It’s a high end beauty product club where you receive your Glymm Box once a month for only 10$ plus tax, shipping included. And you can cancel your subscription at any time, no strings attached.

Every month, your Glymm Box will contain 3-5 luxury samples that span over several beauty categories including cosmetics, fragrance, skincare, tools, spa and body, nails and lifestyle. Month-to-month, the products you receive will be different, and curated according to your beauty profile. I got my first Glymm Box yesterday!

Is that not the cutest pink box? Open it and pull the bow to see the detailed card telling you what sample beauty products are included.

This month I got a a blood orange and vanilla body wash and body milk from John Master, a blush from Vasanti, an Oscar de la Renta perfume, a pretty make up bag and some jelly beans! Of course if you fall in love with a product you can then purchase a full size version on the Glymm website. There is a point reward program too. A small price to pay for a monthly gift in the mail.

Canelés Bordelais

Have you heard of Canelés? Are they a mystery to you? Well l would not be surprised if you have not, they have been wrapped in mystery since the day they were invented. Like a spy in a cloak this French pastry has slipped in and out of history for 3 centuries, not leaving many clues behind.

I first came across them about a year ago when the social media firm Télégraphe hosted a friendly Canelé blind test competition, an excuse to get together. I found it funny taste testing and grading an unknown sweet treat. But I fell in love with them right away…and also swore at first I would NOT attempt to make them. Well only fools don’t change their minds, right?

Canelés (also often misspelled Cannelés) are a specialty of the Bordeaux region of France. This “cake” is traditionally baked in a small, striated cylinder mold and is characterized by a soft and tender custard center with a dark, thick caramelized crust. The recipe mostly consists of eggs, sugar, milk, flour, rum and vanilla mixed into a light crepe-like batter that is left to rest for 48 hours in the fridge. And they are A-D-D-I-C-T-I-V-E.

 

Legend has it that Canelés were created and invented in the 18th century by the nuns of the convent of Annonciades in Bordeaux. They were so popular that artisan bakers popped up in the streets selling their Canelé version. These special bakers were given the name “Canauliers” and registered a Guild with the Parliament of Bordeaux in 1663. During 19th century Canauliers disappeared from the artisans list of Bordeaux. In the first quarter of the 20th century the Canelé reappears. It is likely that its current shape comes from the similarity (in French) of the word wave with the word “cannelure” (fluting, corrugation, striations). wiki

And the mystery keeps persisting. I wish I could give you a source for my recipe but honestly I cannot. I have tweaked my proportions by comparing about 6-8 different recipes. No two are the same, so I am calling this version my own, adapted from the original recipe that no one seems to own (supposedly stored in a safe in France and known by only a very few pastry chefs who have been sworn to secrecy). Let’s investigate the sweet conspiracy…

 

Canelés Bordelais

Ingredients:

500 ml (2 cups) whole milk
25 g (2 oz) butter
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
255 g (9 oz) sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla pod
30ml (1/8 cup) rum
140 g (5 oz) flour

Directions:

  1. Heat milk to 183°F on the stove, add the butter and let it cool completely to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the yolks, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and rum.
  3. Incorporate the flour. Mix well then mix in the cooled milk gradually.
  4. Let the batter rest (it will be very fluid), covered, in the fridge for 48 hours.
  5. Fill the Canelés molds almost to the top.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 450°F (230°C) for 15min, then lower to 375°F (180°C) and bake for 1 hour or until they are a dark golden brown.
  7. Remove from mold immediately and absolutely let them cool before eating.

Makes 12 big Canelés (2″ x 2″ mold)

Notes:

– It is important to cool completely the milk mixture before pouring it over the egg mixture otherwise it could “cook” the dough.
– YES let the batter rest for 48 hours. No ifs or buts…DO NOT skip this step.
– This recipe specifies cooking times for the big Canelé mold where the cavity dimensions are 2″ x 2″.
– Break with tradition: try other alcohols or liqueurs. I only make mine with absinthe now if I have it in my bar. Awesome!

– The traditional recipe calls for tin-lined copper mold. Prepare to pay about $20 a piece. A better option is purchasing a Canelé silicone mold which is still not cheap ($30 to 40) unless you get lucky on Ebay like I did.

Before investing in a Canelé mold I did try out the recipe in a muffin mold. They totally loose their presentation charm, actually probably closer to what they looked like in the 18th century, but the taste was unchanged. You can see them below. Look at the custard-like insides here. This dessert is heaven!

Body Art Henna Recipe

Yes it is Cheap, yes it is Ethnic, but no no no this is not a recipe to eat. I love doing these unusual posts here.

Did I ever tell you I am a henna freak? I have been doing it for about 5 years now. And it has become a personal right of passage into the warm season. The call of the henna resounds in me as the weather improves. Why? Less clothes and more skin showing, therefore more canvas material to show off my art. I am not a great artist but I love it and so do my friends as every year a few of them ask for a design.

Notice older stains on tips, fresh design on palm w/ white glitter.

Photo by mostaque

Now before I go further some of you may be saying: What is she talking about, what is henna? Henna is a plant used to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool. This shrub is native to Africa, Middle-East, Gulf and Indian sub-continent, and has been used by humans since the Bronze Age. I am sure most of you have seen henna hair dyes at one point in your life at the drug store. But henna is an age old tradition when it comes to marking temporarily the skin, usually used in ceremonies such as marriage. Brides-to-be have henna parties where the bride is adorned with intricate patterns local to the tribe or region where they are from. I once read that after the marriage the bride, who moves into her in-laws home, does not have to participate in the house work as long as there are traces of her henna bridal design.

Reduced into a super fine powder, the henna is then mixed with a few other simple ingredients and is left to mature until the dye is released. When applied the paste will stain your top skin layer. As your skin sheds the design starts to fade. A design will last anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks. Of course there are tricks to make it last longer and I will share them with you a bit lower. But rest assured it is not permanent.

Comparing fresh and old stains

 

Although henna paste is widely available in Middle Eastern grocery stores and ethnic decoration stores I find the quality extremely poor. That is why I learned to make my own henna paste. Also some manufacturers add very harmful chemicals to make the stain black. If you get a black stain toss it as it can be very toxic. A natural henna dye should be shades of brown, orange, burgundy, dark cherry or mahogany. I get my henna from Henna Sooq. The quality is exceptional and it was recommended to me by a friend who is a professional henna artist. It is also on this web site that I got my recipe, slightly adapted, and this site is chalk full of amazing advice like which type of henna to use and how long is the dye release time per type of henna. My favorite one is the Jamila Henna. It is the longest one to prepare but it is so worth the wait. Here is my tried and tested recipe with dye release time for Jamila Henna:

Jamila Henna Paste Recipe

Ingredients:

– 1 tbsp fresh body art sifted henna powder
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/2 to 3/4 tsp tea tree or lavender or eucalyptus 100% pure essential oils
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– One 1/2 ounce Jacquard Bottle with a .5mm tip

Directions:

  1. Add your henna powder and sugar in a small bowl and mix well.
  2. Heat your lemon juice on the stove or in your microwave. Add it slowly to your henna powder and mix. Only add enough until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. Cover your bowl and let it sit for 12 hours on the counter (not the fridge).
  3. Add your essential oils (just one or a mix of those mentioned) and mix well. Cover again and let it sit for another 12 hours on the counter.
  4. Add more lemon juice a little at a time until it is the consistency of toothpaste. Cover your bowl and let it sit for 12 hours on the counter.
  5. At this point we can test if your henna is ready by placing a bit of paste onto your palm and let it sit for 1 minute. Wash it off, and see if you have a bright pumpkin orange stain indicating that it is ready to use. If not then let it sit longer and check every 3-6 hours.
  6. Gently place your henna paste in a small zip-lock bag and cut the tip off one corner. Feed your paste into the Jacquard bottle and place the tip on the bottle. To seal I place a pin needle in the whole of the tip. This looks like a small amount but it will last a long time.

Ready paste batch goig into the application bottle

Applying a design

  1. Pick your design, the internet is an infinite source of ideas but keep it simple at first, and pick your body part. Wash and dry the body part.
  2. By holding the bottle downward at angle, gently press the paste out slowly but continuously. The tip should be held about 1/4 inch above the skin. Practice at first on a paper towel.
  3. Trace your entire design and let it dry COMPLETELY. A hair drier can be helpful.
  4. To help the paste stick to the skin I spray it with hairspray and let it dry again. A mix of sugar melted in lemon juice works too and is applied with a Q-tip.
  5. The longer the paste is on the darker the dye. The traditional way of doing it is sleeping overnight with the paste. I wrap the body part in toilet paper and fix it on with scotch tape. Then I wrap the body part with a medical bandage like when you sprain an ankle and wrap it. If it is a design on your back then with good medical tape tape the design down right on the skin. In the morning unwrap (or if you do not want to sleep with it overnight) and just pick and gently rub the dry paste off.
  6. If you find it pale do not worry as it will get darker over the next day or two. Enjoy and show off your design.

Just finished design on my hand

How to make a design last longer: exfoliate 24 hours before, do not wet the body part for a good 12 hours after the paste has been removed and most important moisturize twice a day so the dry skin does not flake off.

A lot of random tips that I have learned over the years…

  • In between uses I keep my bottle in the freezer. I have used the same mixture for 4 years and the stain is still as deep. Just plan to defrost the bottle early enough before use.
  • Shake the bottle before use and always do a first squeeze on a paper towel as liquid may have accumulated.
  • The pin needle can be useful to fix little mistakes in the design, as well as moist Q-tips.
  • The warmer your body is when you have the paste on the darker the stain will be. So once it is dry wrap yourself in a blanket and drink some tea.
  • The darkest stains will be on the inside of your hands and the soles of your feet. These are warm, moist spots with a constant warm blood flow close to the surface.
  • Art is not about perfection…art can include mistakes which can influence your pattern at times. Your not getting graded on your skill.
  • Dry henna flakes off easily so don’t bend fingers or joints where the paste may be, don’t touch anything with the adorned body part.
  • Feet and vines wrapping around your lower leg in the summer with sandals….AWESOME!
  • Only way to speed up the process of removing a design is by soaking the body part 10 min in water and then exfoliate.
  • Before a shower, bath or swim apply a thin layer of Vaseline to the stain to avoid exfoliation.
  • There are 3 tip sizes but you only need the smallest unless you are a professional.

Past designs I made or received on me

Tipping the Digital Scale

Holiday countdown is at 14 days. Got hard to find items on your list? CSN Stores have over 200 online stores where you can find anything, and I mean anything you need. Whether it is a pet bed, air compressors, a corner tv stand or a wicker chair you will find it at CSNstores.com.

I must admit I recently bought myself a little present recently for no particular reason. I had been coveting the idea of a digital scale for some time. My online foodie blogger circle is really global so measurements can vary from one continent to another. A lot more recipes I make have the ingredients listed in grams. My old fashion small needle scale with the basket that kept falling off on top just was not cutting it anymore. Let me mention here I really bought this scale in a store with my own money and I really am extremely satisfied with this purchase.

Also I needed a scale that could measure really minute weights, like 1 gram at a time, for molecular gastronomy. Digital was the only way to go. I shopped around for a while and settled on the yellow Escali Primo Digital Scale. And I just love it. This scale is very compact, on the lower end budget wise than most digital scales, and very easy to use.

But what I like best is that I can put a recipient on the scale, subtract its weight, and then add my ingredient to weight in the recipient. That is very practical if I need 2 grams of salt but I don’t want to put salt on a large flat surface which would be hard to pick up after wards. Also you can switch between metric and imperial (grams and ounces).

Another great use for it is weight packages for the Foodie Exchanges I do. I try to keep my boxes under 500 gr to keep the cost of shipping down. With this scale I get an exact reading of how much my box weights and I avoid nasty surprises at the postal counter.

Features:

  • Digital Scale
  • Escali Primo digital scale is compact, portable, easy to store and easy to transport
  • Capacity is 11 pounds and measures in ounces, pounds plus ounces, or in grams
  • Accurately measures in 0.1 of an ounce or 1 gram increments
  • Rated Best Value by a leading independent consumer magazine
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Comes is a whole slew of colors
  • Material: ABS Plastic
  • Dimensions: 1.25″ H x 6″ W x 8″ D

Copper Wishes

T-minus 16 days to the holidays. Time is flying back way to fast. I just sent out my wish list to the family and got theirs. Not a single gift has been purchased yet? How about you? Have you done all your shopping yet?

I sent my reality wish list of course, not the imaginary one. My imaginary list contains a DSLR camera, a new bed and mattress set, a car, a 1 year trip around the world. Some items on that list are still a little more realistic though but perhaps I will have to save up for them. One such item is pots and pans. I am getting really tired of the set I bought when I moved out of my parent’s house. It still is good but it is below me now lol. A new kitchen battery is a priority. And how I would love a set copper cookware!

Many top chefs say the best pots are formed of a thick layer of copper with a thin inner layer of tin. The copper is know for its ability to rapidly transfer heat and distribute it evenly. But not all copper cookware is made equal. The weight and lining of copper cookware are the important factors to look out for. For optimum performance the copper should be 1/8 inch thick (2.5mm). As mentioned above the favored lining is tin as it is almost as good a conductor of heat as copper. You’ll find a great selection of quality copper pots and pans on the Ruffoni website.

Chocolate Coconut Cream Squares

Have you tried making your coconut milk yet? The best part is you get a lot of coconut cream out of it too which is great for all kinds of recipes. I briefly told you all about this experiment in this post. But what to do with all that coconut cream when you know you won’t be home eating much? How about a nice chocolate coconut candy bar! Very easy to do and has the texture of fudge.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons coconut cream
6-8 tablespoons cocoa powder
honey to taste, I put like 1 tablespoon

Directions

Melt down the coconut cream until completely smooth.
Slowly add cocoa powder until thoroughly mixed.
Add in the honey.
Pour mixture into a mold, or a bowl and harden in the fridge.

Mixing in the cocoa powder

I used a mooncake mold