La Cure Gourmande: Get your Sweet on

The heavenly shop of confections and sweets, known as La Cure Gourmande, is celebrating the 1st anniversary of its Montreal location!

La Cure Gourmande is known for its savoury and sweet artisanal biscuits, but you will also find here traditional Berlandises (sweets made with fruit pulp), Choupettes (lollipops), chocolates, caramels, calissons, nougat flavoured with strawberry paste or candied orange peel, and chocolate olives (chocolate-covered roasted almonds), madeleines and cakes.

La-Cure-Gourmande-4

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Sweetheart Maple Bacon Shortbread

Fact: the real way to obtain your sweetheart’s love is through their stomach…with bacon! And this Maple Bacon Shortbread is a sure fire way to please.

A few weeks ago I attended a most fabulous themed pot-luck party: bacon! Everyone had to bring a dish made with bacon. We had bacon guacamole, a bacon cheddar apple pie, scotch eggs, bacon chocolate cupcakes. That was like a third of the menu. I brought a Maple Bacon Shortbread as one of two contributions.

Looking at my cookie cutter shapes I decided to go for a heart shaped one. And as soon as the cookies came out of the oven I knew this recipe was perfect for Saint-Valentine’s Day.

Maple Bacon Shortbread Hearts

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Sugar Sponge, coulda been a contender

Wow, been a while since I posted by my standards! But it has been a whirlwind past few days. Alas I found out on Friday 2pm that I did not get picked to move on to round 4 of Project Food Blog. I am (more or less) over it, I was actually pretty shocked, saddened, and hurt a little. But it is a competition and that is part of the game. I did still beat out over 90% of the participants. Being top 10% is AWESOME.

This past weekend was the Canadian Thanks Giving so I give thanks. I made it that far because of YOU. So Thank YOU so much for everyone that voted and commented and cheered me on, whether a close personal friend and family (you guys I love you all) or my blogosphere wonderful friends and fans. BIG HUG!

And I support and will vote for my favorite remaining competitors till the very end. I hope this contest takes place next year too. I have learned so much. And since I was heading out of town till Tuesday morning I had prepared my 4th entry which was along the theme of creating a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial. I actually was so torn between two recipes I did them both. So I am presenting you with the first of my would been contender recipes…

Sugar Sponge by Christine Cushing

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons baking soda

Directions

Liberally grease a 10-inch round spring form cake pan with vegetable oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Line the sides of the pan with a parchment paper so that the parchment paper creates a collar that sits 1 to 2-inches above the pan. Liberally grease the parchment paper.

In a deep medium saucepan add sugar, corn syrup, water, and vanilla. Over medium-high heat bring the mixture to a boil (without stirring) and cook until hard crack stage, i.e. until temperature reads 300 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. This should take about 10 minutes. During the cooking process, if there are any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, brush the sides of the pan with a clean pastry brush dipped in water.

Remove the sugar mixture from the heat. Working quickly, add the baking soda and whisk to incorporate the soda into the sugar mixture, about 5 seconds. Note the mixture will bubble up when you add the baking soda so be very careful not to touch the hot toffee.

Immediately pour the hot toffee into the prepared pan. Seriously DO IT QUICK! I did not and had my photo shoot set up in the living room. Good to know: it peels right off ceramic tiles and carpet but needs a nudge on parquet floors. Bet you never thought you would learn that here today.

Let cool and set completely before touching.

Cheese !! ???

Break into pieces and serve as is or store at room temperature in an airtight container. Keep the ‘dust’ for dessert or ice cream toppings.

Better yet, how about a little chocolate dip? Just melt some chocolate slowly and dip all of or part of a piece of sugar sponge. Let cool in the fridge.

I was surprised at how light and easy this sugar sponge was to bite into. The store bought stuff is hard and compact normally. But if you keep it air tight and away from humidity this one stay surprisingly light.

Homemade Speculoos Spread

Last  Day to Vote 6pm PST! Please cast you vote for me to be the next food blog star! Just click here for my official entry Thank you!

A while back I mentioned how I fell in love with a particular product I received from a Foodie Exchange with Mathilde who resides in Bordeaux, France. This product was a sweet spread to be used on toast and it is made of a very popular cookie called Speculoos.

Speculaas is a type of shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for St Nicholas’ Eve in the Netherlands (December 5) and Belgium (December 6). Belgian varieties use no or less of the spices and are sold as Speculoos. I wrote a post about these cookies so click here to read more about them.

I went gaga over this spread….like finished it with a spoon in the jar! I did find some here but at 6.99 a jar it is a luxury treat. But what if I could make my own? Well I found a recipe here on the Seitan is my Motor blog. I can buy the cookies for about $3-$4 and most of the other ingredients I already have at home. Let’s see how it compares to the store bought version…

Homemade Speculoos Spread

150 g speculoos cookies
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (or regular sugar + 1/2 t vanilla extract)
50 g (a bit less the 1/4 cup) coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp canola oil or more if needed (I needed WAY more)

Directions

Grind the cookies into a fine meal using a food processor.

Melt the coconut fat and let cool down until luke warm. Mix speculoos meal with the sugar and cinnamon  in a bowl. Stir in fat and oil. Mix until well combined.

This spread will harden in the fridge and it is best to let it stand 30 min at room temperature when serving.

Notes:

– Experiment with the oils: play with the quantities or types of oils. if you cannot find coconut oil try using butter, shortening, vegetable oil, etc.
– If the spread gets too oily/runny and one or two additional processed cookies.

OK so it is not quite like the original thing as there is no way a home kitchen appliance can grind the cookies down enough but still it is quite delicious. Warning: this is very addictive stuff!

UPDATE: After retesting the recipe just now following Indigonat’s comment, my version is the crumbly spread version here. Still good but crumbly. For a creamy version check this post at cuisine de Gaelle in French. See the dirrefence in the resulty below when I tried hers.

Miracle Berry: Fruit Dropping Party

Hey, psst…wanna by some Miracle fruit tablets? Have you ever heard of the Miracle berry and the hallucinogenic games it can play in your mouth? This is the coolest thing! The Miracle berry is a fruit originally grown in West Africa and has been used for centuries but of course the word of mouth spread only after the European dropped in for a visit/invasion. This berry makes sour foods taste sweet.

The berries contains a glycoprotein molecule called miraculin which coats and binds to the tongue’s taste buds when eaten. Science has extracted this molecule and successfully created a edible tablet which does the same thing than eating the fruit. Scientists have made the tablet yet they still don’t know why the phenomenon occurs. The one thing they know for sure is that miraculin messes around with your taste bud receptors.

Ever since I read about the Miracle Berry I have been so eager to try it. After some online shopping I found miracle fruit tablets at a very reasonable price. Finally the packet arrived in the mail. Right away I sent out an email to invite a select group of friends to my Fruit Dropping Party.

Why is it called that? Best guess I have is you are meant to eat acidic food so I assume is is a play of dropping acid? Such parties are also nicknamed flavor tripping parties. Let me assure you miracle fruit tablets are not a drug and are perfectly legal. It is however a subject of controversy as well, see last paragraph.

We were a party of 8 guinea pigs for this tasting experiment. Everyone brought a food to contribute. We all took a tablet and let it dissolve in our mouth, making sure we swished it around the whole tongue. The tablet itself tasted quite sour ironically. Then we all felt a earthy/powdery residue on the tongue. Someone volunteered to take the first lemon bite. It worked! We all jumped on the acidic buffet. See Karyn here bite into a lemon…

It was the strangest food spread I had ever seen: oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, tamarind, unripe mango, tomatoes, strawberries, pickled vegetables, sourdough bread, goat cheese, sour cream, salt and vinegar chips, salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, a sour candy called Toxic Waste, red wine and Guiness.

Not everyone reacted the exact same way to all foods but all found foods unusually sweet. A lemon still tastes like a lemon…just really sweet. Same for all other citrus. Tomatoes and unripe mangoes were so sweet ans strawberries were almost to sugary. The sour cream, the bread and goat cheese only had a slight effect but there was an unusual sweetness to it. Vinegary foods were less tangy but still had a bit of kick to them. The toxic candies were still sour..perhaps because it is a chemical sourness? Guiness had a more chocolaty taste to it. Bit I think the biggest shock for all was red wine: it tasted like Kool-Aid made with 5 cups of sugar, it was unbelievable.

We just ate in amazement for about 40 min until we started noticing the effect of the tablets was slowly wearing off. The effects can last between 15 to 60 min. At this point some guest were really happy I had bought antacid tablets. You flavor perception made be different but your stomach sees no difference! Oh boy! Many had a slightly sensitive stomach the next day. But it is totally worth it once to try. We had such a blast.

I highly recommend this experience. It is not expensive so get some and have your own Fruit Dropping Party. Just make sure to supply a bottle of antacid tablets too!

By the way Miracle Fruit tablets are great for those lacking appetite due to the metallic taste resulting from chemotherapy. Diabetic patients and dieters can use it as a way to calm a sugar craving without the calories or playing with their sugar levels.

But the US government has put a stop to any such research. It is legal to grow,buy, sell and consume Miracle berries on their own. It cannot be added legally to foods though because the FDA suddenly decided to classify it as a possible food additive instead of a food (as first planned). Why? Well there are stories that the sugar industry was not to happy about the whole situation. All we do know for sure is that in 1974 the one company developing miraculin for the diabetic market had to close its doors when the FDA slapped the food additive label. Such a label involves years of research and a whole lot of money, more then the Miraculin Company could ever dream of having. Did I mention too that it is a fact the offices of the Miraculin Company were ransacked not log before the FDA stepped in? Hmm, make your own conclusions.