Tag Archives: summer

Zwetschgendatschi. German Plum Cake.

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Want to know what gets me really excited? Getting packages in the mail.

I have a thing for online shopping. That is, when I do shop. I don’t spend a lot of money but when I do get around to making purchases, I find it much more exciting to buy them online. It’s like getting a present in the mail! One might think that ordering items from the comfort of your home is a good way to over spend but I actually think it helps me spend less. The problem with shopping in person is that, for me at least, it tends to lead to impulse buys or buying something I don’t even want at all, mainly because of pressure from sales people or false advertising. No, none of that with online shopping. I get to spend hours and hours comparing prices, reading reviews, and looking for coupon codes. Some people like to call it a waste of time…but I like to call it smart shopping.

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Now, that leads me to a package I received in the mail yesterday. Oh how I was excited for this one. I had been waiting a good 6 months for these to go on sale. What are they? Dates! Like, the dates you eat. Those brown little shrivelled things that you find in your supermarket in clear plastic containers next to the produce aisle. Yeah, I know it’s weird that I was excited to order dates online. But these were fresh, just picked dates, soft, moist, and juicy. So it was really disappointing when I finally opened up my first date to take a bite out of it and found a long pale maggot squiggling it’s way out onto my hands. Yup. Maggot.

At first I was completely put off by the thought of eating even one date after that, let alone the full 8 pounds that I had bought. But I guess the fact that they’re organic made up for all the grossness of it. That’s the one thing about organic produce though, you never know what you’re going to get. As well, I think waiting 6 months for a fruit to come into season just to be put off by a little bug is a bit silly.

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Which now, finally, brings me to this lovely Zwetschgendatschi. Which is really just a long, fancy, German word for “Plum Cake”. However, Zwetschgen are the German name for Blue Plums, also known as Prune Plums or Damson Plums. Correct me if I’m wrong. However, these little, oblong plums only come into season around here during the end of summer and knowing me, I love to buy way too much produce that’s in season because well, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

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The recipe I have today is a typical recipe for this cake that you can find all over Germany. From what I’ve been told, it’s a popular cake to be had at ‘kaffee und kuchen’ time in Germany. Yes, coffee and cake time, a meal eaten between lunch and dinner, mostly on Sundays or really whenever you feel like coffee and cake. Why don’t we have this in Canada? It seems like it would be a very beneficial meal to get you through the day.

So, back to the actual recipe. This cake isn’t what you’d really think of as a “cake”. The base is made out of a slightly sweet, yeasted dough, topped, with fresh plums, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and a streusel topping. Also, serving with whipped cream is a must. It’s both light from the tanginess of the plums as well as substantial from the dough. Without the streusel, I’d say would make for a delicious breakfast, whipped cream optional.

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Zwetschgendatschi (German Plum Cake)
Makes about 8 servings
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Apple and Blackberry Kuchen and Delicious Days’ Zwetschgendatschi

For the dough:
350g/ 3 cups all purpose flour
50g/ 1/4 cup sugar
1.5 tsp dried yeast
125ml lukewarm milk (2% or Homo)
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g/ 1/4 cup soft salted butter

For the Filling:
Approximately 25 small Damson Plums or half of that if using regular plums
100g/ 1/2 cup brown sugar
50g/ 1/2 cup slivered almonds

For the Streusel:
50g/ 1/4 cup flour
50g/ 1/4 cup cold, salted butter, diced
50g/ 1/4 cup brown sugar

Cream or egg for egg wash

Line an 8.5 inch x 12 inch tray with a piece of parchment paper. You may also use a slightly bigger tray if that’s what you have.

To make the dough, stir yeast into warmed milk and let stand for a few minutes until foamy. Either using a stand mixer with the dough hook or by hand, combine the flour and sugar in your mixing bowl and stir in milk, eggs, and vanilla. Knead for about 5 minutes with the machine or about 10 by hand on your counter. If the dough is very sticky, add a little more flour, a tbsp at a time. Knead in the softened butter until the dough looks springy and doesn’t stick to the bowl or your hands. Form the dough into a ball and place into a buttered bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place, to rise for about an hour and a half or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prep the plums by slicing them into quarters, lengthwise. Make the streusel topping by combining the 3 ingredients with your fingers until the butter is mixed in well with the flour and sugar, to form a crumbly mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 350˚F.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick and slightly larger than your tray. If there is too much dough, just trim off the sides and use the leftover dough another time (I rolled out my extra dough and spread softened butter and sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon over to make cinnamon buns).

Press the dough into the tray and up the sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and place the plums on top, skin facing down, tightly next to each other. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and the streusel topping. Next, sprinkle the slivered almonds over top. Let the Kuchen sit for 15 minutes for the dough to rise a little and then brush with egg wash or cream if you have it.

Bake on the middle rack for about 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. If the top is browning too much, cover with a piece of foil.

Enjoy warm with a side of fresh whipped cream.

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Making Peace with Peach Muffins

One thing about moving is that with new apartments also come new neighbours. I’m not sure if it’s us or if we just have really bad luck. But for some reason we’ve had to deal with some really unpleasant neighbours.
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I’d like to think that Christoph and I are pretty nice and friendly people. But for some odd reason we always seem to have neighbours that dislike us. And they show their distaste for us by leaving their garbage in front of our apartment door or throwing their dug up weeds onto our patio when they think we’re not looking. That’s only half of it. I’m not sure what we’ve done to incur the wrath of our neighbours but it’s starting to make me think that it’s us. Or maybe it’s me.
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Anyhow, it’s the end of summer now and every corner store and farmer’s market is over flowing with peaches. So, when I see fresh ripe peaches I have a tendency to buy way more than I know what to do with. This time around, I decided to use them up in a muffin recipe. Together with sour cream, corn meal, and cardamom for added spice I came up with a lightly sweetened breakfast muffin. For a minute there I had the idea of using these muffins as a peace offering to our neighbours. Unfortunately, I’m not THAT nice and I’ll just enjoy my muffins alone.
 
Peach Cardamom Corn Bread Muffins
Makes about 18 regular sized muffins
 
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup golden brown sugar to 3/4 cup for sweeter muffins
1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 melted salted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup diced peaches plus more for topping
 
Preheat oven to 400˚F
 
Line a muffin tin with muffin liners, you’ll get approximately 18 muffins.

In a large bowl combine sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. In a mixing jug or small bowl, whisk the sour cream into the milk and add the vanilla, and melted butter. With a wooden spoon, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until lightly combined. Gently fold in the diced peaches. Slice up a few more peaches to get 18 wedges.

Portion the muffin mix between the muffin liners, filling up to approximately 3/4 full. Top each muffin with a peach wedge. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the muffins are golden.
 
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Clean Out The Fridge Tacos

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People talk. A lot. And when I say ‘talk’ I mean to say that everyone likes to talk about how they are going to do this and that and all the great things that they have planned ahead of them. More often than not most of these intentions don’t pan out or don’t even come close to fruition. That was me. For months and months and even more months I had been telling myself and everyone that I would get back to blogging. I would blame it on my job, that was sucking the life out of me or really I should have blamed it on sheer laziness. Now that I’m jobless I don’t have much of an excuse since being lazy isn’t really a legitimate reason.
 
Just don’t let me get lazy again when I find a new job.
 
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So, the past year has been interesting. I was working as an assistant pastry chef and moved twice into new apartments. What a change it has been since moving out of my parents’ place. So much cleaning and so many responsibilities! Who knew that vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom should be done more than once a month…or more than once a week if you’re living with a messy guy.
 
Being responsible for groceries and cooking has really opened my eyes to how much food waste I produce. I seem to have a really hard time with buying just what I need and always end up with half empty containers of food and half rotten vegetables that I had planned to use for some new recipe or other. It also doesn’t help that I tend to only shop when I’m hungry. But it actually makes me feel terrible that I waste so much.
 
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The recipe I have today is one of my ways to use up leftovers. Tacos, to me, are great because they can be super simple or as complicated as you want. You can use as little as 3 or 4 ingredients and end up with something that tastes delicious. Here, I wanted to use up some roasted chicken that we had for lunch a few days before as well as some vegetables I had lying around***. From the fridge I pulled out an avocado, some leftover red cabbage, cilantro, and vegan mayo. All that was left was to buy the tortillas and limes. Simple, and much better than wasting perfectly good food.
 
Now I just have to find a way to use up the tortillas and limes…
 
 
*** More often than not I use fake beef for the filling. Yves makes some really good meatless beef tenders that are delicious in tacos when shredded and pan fried.
 
 
Spiced Chicken Tacos with Creamy Lime Aioli  (Can easily be veganized) 
Makes enough for 2 people as a main
 
1 large roasted chicken breast
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 of a small head of red/purple cabbage, shredded
1 large avocado
8-10 small tortillas
powdered cayenne pepper
paprika
juice from 1/2 lime
1 lime sliced into quarters
salt
 
For the aioli:
2/3 cup vegan mayo
juice from 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
small handful of cilantro leaves, chopped roughly
 
First make the Aioli:
In a small bowl, stir the lime juice into the vegan mayo and add the minced garlic. Stir until smooth and then add the cilantro. Let it sit while you make the rest of the tacos so that the garlic has time to flavour the dressing.
 
To make the tacos, start by prepping the cabbage, avocado, and limes, and place them into serving dishes or spread out on a large serving tray. Shred the chicken breast by hand. Heat a nonstick pan on medium and coat with the vegetable oil. Add in the chicken shreds and sprinkle the cayenne pepper and paprika over, about 1/2 tsp of each or to taste. Stir fry until the chicken is crisp. Add the lime juice and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish.
 
Wipe the pan with a paper towel and turn the heat up to high. Add one tortilla to the pan at a time and toast on each side, about 20 seconds per side or until the tortilla starts to scorch.
 
Serve each taco with some extra cilantro on top as well as a squeeze of lime if desired.
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Summer Sweet Fry Salad

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Lately I’ve been noticing how expensive it is to go out and eat. Here in Toronto it seems to be common place that a regular salad will cost you anywhere from $9 for a plain garden salad all the way up to $20 for a “fancy” one. Really? $20 for some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and maybe some sort of protein. It’s really quite amazing how much food is marked up in restaurants compared to how much you can make it for at home. But, I’m not really complaining since I do know how much labour costs and everything else that goes into running a restaurant costs. After all, you’re not really just paying for the food when you go to a restaurant. There’s the service, ambiance, experience, etc.

However, just yesterday I went for afternoon tea with my sister in one of the “high end” areas of Toronto. I put high end in quotes because I really just think all the people that frequent those places just like to pretend they’re high end and better than everyone else. They’re not.

Anyway, my point is, I’ve been for afternoon tea a few times before at a bunch of different tea rooms and I’d say that this was one of my worst experiences. You’d think that $100 would get you some nicely prepared sandwiches, some properly brewed tea, and hopefully some really great service. Unfortunately, the service and the quality of the food was incredibly similar to the whole vibe I get from that area in general.

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So, back to salad.

I don’t have much of a recipe today but this is just a salad that I like to eat when I want something filling with lots of different textures, flavours, and colours. It’s a really good meal for a hot summer day when the thought of eating hot food makes you break into a sweat. I never really make it the same way every time but I try to keep a few main ingredients such as sweet potatoes, pecans, and apples in there and then add whatever else I have on hand at the time.

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Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pecan salad
Makes 1 large salad (approximately)

About 2 cups of mixed lettuce greens (spring mix)
Sweet potato fries (recipe below)
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 a medium apple (something crisp such as a honey crisp works well), sliced
small handful of bocconcini cheese or about 2 tbsp of goat’s cheese, chopped or crumbled
about 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
good aged balsamic vinegar, about 2 tbsp
extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tbsp

First prepare the sweet potato fries. Lay out the greens on a plate and top with fries, apples, etc. drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or top with your favourite dressing. I like this Wild Ginger one from Fresh Restaurants.

Note: this is just a rough recipe and the amounts aren’t exact. Feel free to add more, less, or omit or add ingredients.

Sweet potato fries
1/2 medium caribbean sweet potato (the one with a reddish skin and yellow/white on the inside)
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil or any other high heat cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Wash and cut the sweet potato into about 1cm x 1cm x 10cm pieces. Melt the coconut oil in a large bowl and toss the fries in the oil. Lay out evenly onto the tray and bake for 15 minutes and then flip the fries and bake for about another 15 minutes or until golden.

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Lemon Basil Granita

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I know, I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and yes I feel bad. I swear I had a whole post planned out for last week and it was going to be awesome, I could picture it in my head. I was going to post a step by step on how to make a layered vegan chocolate raspberry cake with moulded chocolate sides, chocolate ganache, raspberry preserves, and a chocolate plaque on top. But, somehow even after successfully making multiple layered cakes and actually learning how to make cakes in school I managed to create this. Seriously, right?! The cake was for Christoph’s birthday and how much did he eat? Half a slice. Yes, half a slice. He doesn’t like sweet things. Weirdo.

Don’t worry though, the cake didn’t go to waste. My aunt ended up taking it away to feed the poor. Hopefully they didn’t reject it like everyone else did.

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So instead of my failed attempt at making a vegan layer cake I decided to post a recipe that’s easy, delicious, and dependable. Granita is a great dessert for a hot summer day since it’s light, refreshing, tangy, and sweet; if you’ve never had it before it’s like an italian version of shaved ice but much less sweet and probably a little healthier for you. It takes a bit of planning before hand but you really only need 3 ingredients for this dessert and a bit of time. The original recipe doesn’t call for basil but since I had some on hand I thought it would be a nice addition. It actually adds a great herbal quality to the granita and makes it just a little more interesting.

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Lemon Basil Granita
Makes about 4 (1/2 cup) servings
Adapted slightly from Gourmet Magazine

3 large lemons
1 cup filtered water
scant 1/2 cup of caster sugar*
1/4 cup basil leaves and stems, torn

Using a peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in long strips. The night before you wish to serve the granita, heat the water and sugar in a small pot until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer the sugar syrup into a heat proof bowl and stir in the lemon zest and basil. Cover and chill overnight.

The next day, strain out the zest and basil and add in 1/2 a cup of fresh lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a large flat bowl. I used a large flat metal bowl but a pyrex baking dish would also work. Place the mix into the freezer and after about 45 minutes stir with a fork to incorporate the ice crystals that form. Keep doing this about every 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is evenly frozen and looks like crushed ice. About 4 to 5 hours.

Once you serve it, make sure to eat it immediately as it melts very quickly.

*You could probably substitute the caster sugar with something healthier such as concentrated fruit juice, maple syrup, or coconut sugar. Just make sure to adjust the quantity of sugar and taste the mixture before freezing.

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