Cinnamon Spritz Cookies

I’m pretty picky when it comes to cinnamon. I tend to only really love it in warm, cozy fall recipes with pumpkin and apple (SOON!). I don’t really like it paired with chocolate, I’ll never add it to a savoury recipe, and my most hated cookie of all time is the dreaded Snickerdoodle. So I was prepared to not really be a fan of these Cinnamon Spritz Cookies and I was right. It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not for me!

I had some major problems with the meringue filling for this cookies; it didn’t firm up enough to pipe, even after whipping far beyond the suggested five minute timeframe. There are lots of reasons this can happen, and this morning I didn’t really have an interest in figuring it out.

So that brings us to the end of the Cinnamon section of Baked Elements! Here’s a little recap of what I made, and my favourite recipe from this section.

You can find the recipe for the Cinnamon Spritz Cookies here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Balloon Bouquet

A few months ago, my little niece Charlotte told me she wanted a Penguin Cake for her birthday. I had started to think a little bit about how I would execute this, when my brother asked me a few weeks ago if I would make her cake this month for her birthday party with her friends, instead of for her family party on her actual birthday in August. I was all – sure! – she still wants a penguin, right?

Turns out she changed her mind and wanted a swan cake. Then changed it again and wanted a frog cake. But not just a frog, a frog holding a balloon! And then the final verdict came via an email from my sister-in-law: “Lots of balloons with faces on them and the balloons all different colours”. BOOM.

This was Charlotte’s easiest birthday cake to date! No Wilton pans, no fondant butterflies, nothing 3D. I normally write a lengthy “here’s how I did it” list, but it was truly so simple:

  • I made a dozen of my favourite vanilla cupcakes (recipe from Joy the Baker Cookbook) and a dozen chocolate cupcakes (recipe from Annie’s Eats, as recommended by Danielle, and they were perfect).
  • I made a full batch of My Favourite Buttercream, divided it into six bowls, and used my Americolor gels to tint it. I iced four cupcakes (two vanilla, two chocolate) in each of the six colours.
  • I piped smiley faces on top with a small round tip.

That’s it! I picked up a foam board at the dollar store, brought scissors, tape and ribbon with me, and set the whole thing up at the art studio where her party was held. Charlotte loved it, and she and her little friends could each choose the colour and flavour they wanted.

Charlotte’s Previous Birthday Cakes:

6th (Castle Cake)

5th (Rainbow Cake)

4th (Blue’s Clues)

3rd (Big Greeny-Blue Cake)

2nd (Elmo)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Margarita

Last week, our Gastropost Mission was all about Perfect Pairings. Obviously you can see where this is going!

Here on Planet Byn, there is no better summer pairing than Strawberry & Rhubarb. If they were a celebrity couple we’d call them Strubarb. Or Rhuberry. I can’t decide which one I like better! This was the perfect chance for me to try this Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Margarita.

I know it sounds odd: jam in a cocktail? But it actually makes so much sense! I first became intrigued by jam cocktails back in December when Megan talked about a Pear Jam Smash – mixing homemade pear jam with pear infused vodka, ginger liquor and soda water. The jam basically takes the place of the simple syrup, and if you’re like me, you have homemade jam in the fridge at all times during the summer.

In this case, I mixed my strawberry rhubarb jam with lime juice, cointreau and tequila and it was sweet & sassy. The fruit flavour came shining through, which is sometimes problematic when you’re trying to make fruit infused simple syrups, and the colour was a summery hot pink. I’m loving this idea, and I can’t wait for Peach Jam Margaritas next month!

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Margarita

Source: Stir & Scribble

Yield: 1 cocktail

Ingredients

2 tbsp strawberry rhubarb jam (read this post for how I make my favourite skillet jam)

1 tbsp lime juice

1/2 tbsp cointreau

2 tbsp tequila

+ soda water if needed (this makes one very small, potent cocktail, which I loved, but you might find a bit sweet or too boozy. Adjust with soda water as needed)

Directions

  1. Stir or shake everything together and pour over ice. Garnish with lime slices, rhubarb sticks and strawberries if you feel fancy!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Squares

We had a big day here on Planet Byn last week. After exercising remarkable restraint for a whole month, I brought treats into my new office for the first time.  Based on some life advice from my baking spirit guide (Danielle: “You can’t show up on the first day with a six-layer cake”), I decided to go with these Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Squares. Simple, seasonal, delicious.

I handed out a few to some people around me, and then left my container in the designated spot for leftover food that my new friends told me about. I heard a few “who made these?” and “are there any more of these?” and within an hour, they were gone. I exhaled. I really don’t feel I’m being overly dramatic here; I was honestly worried that people might not be into baked goods. And then what would I do? Despite one co-worker with a severe nut allergy, I think I’m good to go!

So these bars are insanely easy and SO GOOD. If you’re a person who thinks the crumble topping is the best part of a fruit crisp, this is the square for you. Deb even includes instructions on how to mix everything up right in the pan, although I didn’t do that since I needed to cut and remove the squares to bring to work.  I can’t think of a better way to enjoy these last few weeks of rhubarb goodness.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Squares

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 16 squares, many happy co-workers

Ingredients

1 cup oats

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, melted

1 cup diced strawberries

1 cup diced rhubarb

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp cornstarch

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and line an 8×8″ square baking pan with foil. Spray the foil with non-stick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the melted better and stir until well combined, and the mixture is crumbly. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture, and add the rest to the pan, and press it into an even layer.
  3. In the same medium bowl, toss together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Pour over the crust and spread into an even layer. Crumble the reserved 1/2 cup of the crust over the top of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and amazing. Let cool completely and then cut into squares.

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Lemon Parmesan Cookies

Our assignment this week was a savoury shortbread cookie with three flavours: lemon, pecorino cheese and black pepper. This actually didn’t seem strange to me, as Barefoot Contessa has a recipe in one of her books for a parmesan thyme savoury shortbread, which she refers to as a cracker. My more pressing concern was all the lemon up in this recipe (I’m not the biggest citrus fan) and the full tablespoon of cracked black pepper.

I wimped out a little bit and put about half the amount of lemon zest and a quarter the amount of black pepper in the dough. I also substituted parmesan for pecorino, because I had it in the fridge. I had my usual problem with slice and bake cookies, which is that I can never seem to roll my dough into a nicely shaped log, and then it usually has a flat edge from where it sat in the fridge. Anyone have any insights on how to deal with that?

This is a weird little cookie. Even with the fraction of the lemon zest I added, I found the lemon was the overpowering flavour. I couldn’t taste the parmesan at all, but it probably just added a bit more of a salty edge. I also thought they were a bit too sweet. I didn’t really like them on their own, but channeling Ina, I considered them as a cracker, and paired them with some green grapes, sliced apple, and honey cheddar. They were great this way, and now I can see them as part of a cheese board or platter.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

 

 

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Meg2_01_01

Our sweet friend Meg is having a baby! What better way to celebrate than with a virtual baby shower in her honour. Meg’s expecting Baby Girl #2 at the end of this month, and we’re all so excited for her.

I love that we’ve been there for all the fun parts of Meg’s pregnancy, from her announcement, to her cute gender reveal treats, to her intense cravings for banana baked goods. I can’t wait to meet this little one and to see all the amazing birthday cakes Meg will make her two lucky little ladies.

Strawberry Sprinkle Ice Cream Sandwiches

When I was brainstorming what to bring to this party, I knew I wanted to make something pink, and when I saw these ice cream sandwiches on Annie’s Eats, I knew they were it. Pink AND sprinkles? Perfect party combo right there! I used the Funfetti Cookie recipe from my archives, and the easiest recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream from Annie’s post (basically just whisk and freeze).

So congratulations Meg! I’m so excited for you and your family!!!

Make sure you check out what everyone brought to the party:

Tangent alert! Way back in 2005, my Mom and I threw a baby shower for my sister-in-law, and it was early days into my baking obsession (which means everything was an Anna Olson recipe). I remember making her chocolate chip cookies, sandwiching them together with vanilla ice cream, and rolling the edges in chocolate chips. I had no idea what I was doing and assembling them was a huge mess. I actually ended up forgetting about them in the freezer until the end of the party. Whoops!  I also made a Twix type square in which the caramel hardened like toffee and I couldn’t even slice them up. Luckily the cupcakes I made were edible! I’ve come a long way guys!!!

Strawberry Sprinkle Ice Cream Sandwiches

Source: Annie’s Eats

Yield: 7 ice cream sandwiches; the ice cream amounts below are half of the original recipe

Ingredients

8 oz fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 tsp lemon juice

+ a batch of Funfetti Cookies

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the strawberries and sugar, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for an hour.
  2. Whisk in the sour cream, whipping cream and lemon juice.
  3. Use an immersion blender to slightly puree the mixture, leaving some small bits of fresh strawberries throughout.
  4. Chill mixture overnight, then churn it up in your ice cream maker. Transfer to a tupperware container and freeze until scoopable.
  5. Smoosh a scoop of ice cream between two cookies and go nuts, or wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

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Easy Candy Bar Tart

As much as I love baking my way through Baked Elements with the Baked Sunday Morning team, I noticed something strange today. Everything we’ve been making from this book lately has been brown or beige. There’s nothing wrong with that as it usually means chocolate or caramel is involved, but it’s a such a contrast to what else is going on in my kitchen these days. The farmer’s markets near my place are bursting with ruby red strawberries, tomatoes, and cherries, bright yellow and green zucchini, and vibrant blueberries that I can wait to eat and bake with. I wait all year to eat those colours, but on to the task at hand: Easy Candy Bar Tart.

This tart has three components, none of which are that hard to mix up. First a chocolate cookie crust, followed by a quick caramel mixed with deeply toasted walnuts, and finally a buttery (too buttery?) chocolate glaze. This came together in no time, and will be shared with my co-workers (old or new? I can’t decide) tomorrow.

Candy Bar Slice

So that brings us to the end of the Caramel section of Baked Elements! As we wrap up each section, I thought I’d provide a little recap of what I made, and my favourite recipe from each section.

You can find the recipe for the Easy Candy Bar Tart here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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June on Planet Byn

by byn on June 30, 2014

in Monthly Recaps

Fresh Strawberries

It was a bittersweet month here on Planet Byn as I left my department of the past two years and moved on to a new one. I’m going to miss my co-workers tremendously; they were excellent snackers and eaters of all baked goods I brought in. The first two weeks of June were my last in the department, and then I started my new job right away on the 16th. This is what was going on in my foodie life in the midst of this transition:

  • On my flight home from Ottawa on the 1st, I was brainstorming all of the treats I wanted to bring in for my last two weeks of work. You might remember I did this when I left my last job (see: Byn’s Farewell Tour of Treats). I then showed up on Monday to a beautiful Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake baked by my friend Janelle. This kicked off two weeks of my co-workers bringing in treats to thank me for everything I’ve made them over the last two years. I was so incredibly touched by this. You can see everything that they brought in on Instagram.
  • Tasty G invited me to an event at Smoque N Bones where we got to try just about everything on the menu and tweet our little hearts out. The standouts to me were the ribs, pulled pork and spicy sausage, but I wasn’t really a fan of the brisket. I definitely want to go back with a purse full of wet naps and go to town.
  • For Father’s Day I didn’t cook anything new to blog about, but went with Dad’s requests of steak, twice-baked potatoes with caramelized onion and bacon, grilled veggies and this Rhubarb Custard Pie for dessert.
  • I celebrated/drowned my tears on my last day of work with my friends at Barhop.  They have like 36 craft beers on tap and 100+ more in bottles and cans, plus some delicious snack options. We had the best time.
  • I’ve resumed my Sunday morning trips to the Square One Farmer’s Market, and it’s just bliss there. So far I’ve been picking up strawberries, cherries, plums and tomatoes, and everything has been perfect.  My friend Christina wrote an excellent post about Ontario strawberries; she totally gets it. We’re strawberry soul mates.
  • I find it so hard to cook actual meals in the summer when it’s hot out, but did get it together enough to make this Banh Mi from my friend Gwendolyn’s blog (with turkey instead of pork) and I was obsessed with it. I didn’t take any pictures, so that just means I need to make it again.
  • I met my FBC girls at 7 Enoteca in Oakville after hearing good things from my brother and friend Lydia. They don’t take reservations, but we were able to get a table for 7 with no problems (it was a Tuesday), but it was jam packed. I had a beet salad that was mediocre to be honest, but then a pretty amazing pizza. I gave the girls these for dessert!
  • I went to Pai for lunch with a new co-worker and we split Pad Thai (I believe you have to order it the first time you go to any Thai restaurant; I feel that will tell you if they know what they’re doing) and Panang Curry. Both were delicious. I kind of love how it’s sort of in the basement and has a cozy vibe. I can see this being added to my regular lunch rotation.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I went to see The Fault in Our Stars and just openly WEEPED amongst all the tweens. There was audible sobbing and “awwwwww”ing pretty much constantly throughout this movie and I loved every minute.
  • After reading and loving Eleanor & Park, I picked up Fangirl, and (this won’t be a surprise) LOVED IT. I went to see Rainbow at the Toronto Public Library a couple months ago and she spoke about how Levi from Fangirl was her favourite character to write. I now see why!
  • Okay, this might sound crazy, but I’m among friends, so I’m going to disclose this. Since I started my new job, I’ve been taking selfies of my outfits every morning and putting them in an OOTD folder on my phone. It’s totally making it easier for me to get ready for work now, because I can look through the pictures, remember what looked good/fit properly/was comfortable and throw it on without changing 2698317 times. I kind of feel like Cher in Clueless, but I highly recommend this. It’s also helping to edit my closet, because if I wear something that doesn’t look good/doesn’t fit/needs to be altered, I can either trash it/donate it/alter it and move on with my life.

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Banana Whoopie Pies

I think I’ve made every whoopie pie recipe that the Baked boys have included in their previous cookbooks. I made the Red Velvet ones for my sister-in-law back in 2010, the Pumpkin version as part of Thanksgiving dessert in 2011, and the Chocolate Whoopie Pies in 2012. Guess 2013 was a Whoopie Pie free year, but they’re back on Planet Byn for this week’s Baked Sunday Morning.

I was excited to tackle this recipe for one main reason: the Milk Chocolate Swiss Meringue Filling. I’ve only made a swiss meringue frosting once before, and it was for the Chocolate Whoopie Pies I linked to above. I re-read that old post and remembered my main issue with it from back then: too much butter. I felt (and my brother confirmed) that it just tasted like whipped butter. Not really ideal. So I compared that recipe with the one on deck for this week, and found they are exactly the same, but with the addition of milk chocolate. I decided to proceed, but to see if I could reduce the amount of butter and not have it affect the texture/structure of the icing.

Whoopie Pies

The way you make swiss meringue frosting is to heat egg whites and sugar over a double  boiler. Once the sugar dissolves (I find the easiest way to test this is to actually just to stick a clean finger in, and then rub it between my fingertips to see if it’s still gritty), you remove it from the heat and whip for 5 minutes, before adding in room temperature butter. I added half the amount of butter that the recipe calls for, then the required amounts of vanilla, salt and melted milk chocolate and whipped again. The reduced amount of butter didn’t affect the structure of the icing: it was still shiny and smooth, didn’t break, and didn’t have that overwhelming buttery flavour.  I’ll always be loyal to My Favourite Buttercream Frosting, but it’s nice to know I can make this too.

There’s not much to add about the banana cookies: they’re very simple to make and I used one bowl and a whisk to mix them up. I liked the milk chocolate filling in them, but I think the peanut butter swiss meringue frosting variation in Baked Explorations would also be great.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday mornings here!

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Bourbon Rhubarb Cocktail - Copy

Summer has arrived in all it’s hot, humid, sweaty glory. After complaining all winter about the polar vortex, I have vowed to embrace this summer, and any time where I start to complain about something heat related, I flash back to every freaking layer of clothing I had to put on back in January, and that shuts me up pretty quickly.

Last weekend I had myself a little Sunday afternoon happy hour on my balcony with a frosty beverage, magazine, sunscreen and my planner (yes, I still use an actual planner). I also found an old CD in my car called “Byn’s Summer Hit Mix 2001″, so I dragged up my little boom box from my storage locker, and put it on blast*.  I only lasted for about half an hour in the sun, but it was all I needed. It totally recharged my batteries for the week, and I made a mental note to try to slow down on Sunday afternoons, as I’m often scrambling to get ready for the week: doing laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, cleaning and just general life maintenance.

I usually make some type of boozy rhubarb concoction each summer, which can be traced back to Gwendolyn’s Foxy Lady Rhubarb Cocktails. Last year I infused some vodka with strawberries and rhubarb, and that was a neat party trick for sure. This year I remixed the rhubarb syrup I usually make, and added a strip of lemon peel and some vanilla bean paste, after seeing Cheri’s post on Kitchen Simplicity. It was unreal. I topped it with sparkling water, and then instead of adding vodka, I went with bourbon, after Gwendolyn and I were chatting a bit about rhubarb/bourbon cocktails on Twitter. I can’t stress enough how well it paired up. This is my go-to summer cocktail of 2014 (so far!).

*Lots of Missy Elliot, Ludacris and Destiny’s Child, in case you were wondering.

Rhubarb, Lemon & Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup

Source: Kitchen Simplicity

Ingredients

4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

2 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler, and try not to get too much of the white pith)

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

+ sparkling water

+ booze of choice (bourbon, vodka, I bet tequilla would be outstanding here as well)

Directions

  1. Add the rhubarb, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, water and vanilla bean paste to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer, and let bubble for about 10 minutes. The rhubarb will totally break down.
  2. Let cool for half an hour or so, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve (I put a bowl on top and a can to weigh it down and let it sit overnight in the fridge so it could drain into a big measuring cup).
  3. Mix rhubarb syrup, sparking water and booze to taste. You can remove the lemon peel and eat the strained rhubarb with yogurt, which is amazing.

 

 

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