August on Planet Byn {2016}

by byn on August 31, 2016

in Monthly Recaps

angelos

August was long, hot and sad over here on Planet Byn. I won’t get into the details, and instead do what I do best, which is talk about the food:

  • My friend Jenn had me over for a pool day at her new house and I brought this S’mores Pie with me. I haven’t made this in about three years and I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I waited so long because that thing is heaven on earth!
  • I went to hang out with my new 1 week old friend Francis, and I brought his parents a care package of this Summer Squash Pasta Bake, Cheddar Chive Biscuits (to make into breakfast sandwiches!), and Maple Walnut Granola.
  • It was too freaking hot to cook for most of this month, so Kristine introduced me to Maro’s. I just ordered exactly what she was having, which was essentially a delicious burrito bowl with chicken shawarma on top. I swear I could eat shawarma every.single.day and not get sick of it.
  • Tasty G was reviewing Angelo’s Coal Fired Pizza, and I got to tag along. Everything we ate (pictured above) was absolutely amazing: arancini, caprese salad, veal ragu, and pizza with figs, honey, gorgonzola and duck confit. Their pizza has a super thin crust, but it stays crisp as you eat it, which I endorse. We also had a salted caramel and pear gelato and a chocolate budino that were pretty hard to stop eating, even though we were so full.
  • I went to a Jays Game with my friend Kirk who’s a season ticket holder, and this is a Public Service Announcement from him to you: you are allowed to take whatever food you want INTO Rogers Centre. He legit walked in there with a large pizza from Pizza Nova for us to eat. I find this so strange, but so good to know.
  • I got to tag along AGAIN with Tasty G as she reviewed the Me.N.U food truck. We got to try a chicken roti taco, duck poutine and fried rice balls stuff with beef – like an asian arancini.
  • Kristine got a special treat for her birthday: Pretzel M&M Cookies with Pretzel M&Ms that I smuggled back from Chicago (can’t find them anywhere here).
  • My month ended the exact same way it started: in someone else’s pool. The Brunette Baker had us over for a BBQ and pool day and her epic S’Mores Buffet around her fire pit. It’s legendary.

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

  • I feel like Harry Potter & The Cursed Child came and went without even a blip on the pop culture radar. I read it in like two days, and quickly forgot about it as well. I know a lot of die hard HP fans aren’t even reading it.
  • I’m not even ashamed to say my only other pop culture obsession this month was Bachelor in Paradise.

Flashback!

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Cinnamon Sugar Hush Puppies

This week for Baked Sunday Mornings, the gang is frying up these Chocolate Chip Hush Puppies. I tested this recipe for Baked Occasions about three years ago, and it was the first (and probably last) time I’ve deep fried anything.

Hush Puppies are basically doughnuts or fritters, with some cornmeal added for texture and crunch. You fry them up until crispy, roll them in cinnamon sugar, and serve them with a side of maple syrup for dipping. I fried up a few for taste testing, then actually baked the rest in mini muffin tins (a suggestion that actually made it into the book!).  The fried version is of course better, because you eat them warm and crispy, but the baked version was decent too, although to be honest I don’t think I would make these again.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Caramel Banana Cake

by byn on August 17, 2016

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

banana-caramel-cake

I feel like a broken record talking about how old my nieces and nephews are getting, but that doesn’t make it any less true! This year my niece Charlotte turned 9, and she chose a Caramel Banana Cake for birthday, which was just an an excellent decision. This is three layers of a hydrated banana cake with caramel sauce swirled right in, plus caramel buttercream. It was pretty sweet, but served in small slices with a scoop of homemade double chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, it was pretty perfect and there were no leftovers! (For future reference, it served about 20 people)

Caramel Banana Slice

I copied the naked cake look from the original recipe on The Kitchen, but I piped on little starbursts that I thought would look super cute (in my opinion, I was right!). I picked up the candles from Papyrus and they were the perfect finishing touch.

Candles

I’m posting the recipe for the cake below. The icing was one batch of My Favourite Buttercream with My Favourite Salted Caramel subbed in for the whipping cream.

Caramel Banana Cake

Source: The Kitchn

Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (4-5 medium bananas)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

+ double batch My Favourite Salted Caramel (you’ll have enough to swirl into the cake layers, plus make one batch of My Favourite Buttercream)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°, line three 9″ cake pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla and mashed bananas.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the banana mixture, until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter equally into the three pans (I weigh them to make sure they’re even), then drizzle 1/2 cup caramel into each pan, swirling into the cake batter with a knife.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool pans on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then flip out to cool completely before icing.
  7. For icing, I used a small star tip and piped little bursts onto each layer.

Charlotte’s Previous Birthday Cakes:

8th (Minecraft Cake)

7th (Balloon Bouquet Cupcakes)

6th (Castle Cake)

5th (Rainbow Cake)

4th (Blue’s Clues)

3rd (Big Greeny-Blue Cake)

2nd (Elmo)

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Strawberry Slice

While I may not have figured out my signature summer cocktail just yet, here’s my Summer Sixteen signature dessert. I made this two weeks in a row, and considering I hardly every make the same thing twice, it automatically qualifies.

This is what’s happening in this four layer party in a pie plate:

  1. Graham cracker crust – Classic.
  2. Frozen cheesecake – I’m obsessed with this layer. It’s just cream cheese mixed with sweetened condensed milk and a bit of vanilla. It stays a bit gooey even after freezing, and I’m into it.
  3. Whipped cream – You can add this right before serving so it’s light and fluffy, but both times I made it I froze it too, which I loved.
  4. Fresh strawberry topping – So good. Fresh strawberries cooked down every so slightly with a bit of sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice into a delicious sauce.

Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake Pie

I made this in both a pie plate and a tart pan, and liked the tart pan better. You can pop the tart right out and use a big sharp knife to easily cut clean slices, then spoon the sauce over the top. This was a hit both times I made it, and you could easily switch up the fruit sauces (blueberry! peach!), and I’ve even been thinking of a chocolate version with an Oreo cookie crust and hot fudge drizzled over the top.

Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake Pie

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Crust

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tbsp sugar

big pinch salt

Cheesecake Layer

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla

Whipped Cream Layer

1 cup whipping cream

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Strawberry Topping

1 lb strawberries, hulled and diced

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp cornstarch

juice of half a lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter, then stir in the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt until well combined. Press into a pie plate or tart pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. For cheesecake layer, mix together cream cheese, condensed milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and well combined. Pour into cooled crust, and freeze for 6-8 hours or overnight.
  3. For whipped cream layer, whip cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form, then spread out over top of the frozen cheesecake layer.
  4. For strawberry sauce, add the strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch and lemon juice to a small saucepan, and heat over medium-low until it starts to bubble. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
  5. To serve, pop the tart out of the pan, slice, and spoon strawberry sauce over each slice.

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Fresh Strawberry Margarita

by byn on August 3, 2016

in Cocktails

Fresh Strawberry Margarita

Don’t get excited, this is not my Signature Summer Cocktail. The #1 rule of the SSC, as dictated by my friend Weedy, is that it has to be super simple and quick to mix up. This is definitely not that, but it’s so delicious and vibrant that we have to talk about it anyway.

The first time I made these, I was too lazy to buy a bottle of Aperol, and instead replaced that with more Cointreau. BIG MISTAKE. The whole thing tasted like fake oranges, and you couldn’t even tell there were fresh strawberries in it. Over the past few summers, I’ve made a lot of cocktails with fresh summer fruit, and found the most challenging part is making sure that the fresh flavour of the fruit shines through. This margarita is successful because you use a fresh strawberry puree, which you only have to shake up with a bit of sugar, instead of making simple syrup, which I always find annoying.

Top Shot

Anyway, this was so pretty and refreshing, it will definitely get made again next year as soon as strawberry season starts!

Fresh Strawberry Margaritas

Source: Annie’s Eats

Yield: 3-4 margs

Ingredients

10 strawberries, hulled

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup tequila

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp lime juice

1/4 cup Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)

1/4 cup Aperol

Directions

  1. Use an immersion blender/blender/food processor to puree the strawberries and sugar. Add to a pitcher, then mix in the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau and Aperol. Serve over ice, topped with sparkling water if you like, plus lime wedges and a sliced strawberry.

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Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

by byn on August 1, 2016

in Breakfast

Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

When strawberry season rolls around, I’m usually too busy eating them fresh to bake anything. This year I tried out a couple new things though, and liked them enough to post here. First up are these Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes, which were a lovely long weekend breakfast. I actually had some corncakes for brunch when I was in Chicago that I wanted to re-create, and this recipe was pretty spot on (except for the strawberries, the version I ate had cinnamon, pecans and whipped goat cheese!).

I don’t normally put fruit IN my pancakes, instead preferring it ON them, but the cooked fruit turns into little pockets of jam as Smitten Kitchen says, which is okay by me.

Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp butter

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 cup chopped strawberries

+ butter for pan

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a medium, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave, then whisk in the buttermilk and eggs, then stir in the strawberries.
  3. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and fold gently until just combined and no dry spots remain.
  4. Heat your favourite pancake-making skillet over medium heat, and add a pat of butter. Once melted, drop small scoops of batter, flipping once bubbles start to pop up. I usually make the whole batch, eating what I want, then freezing the leftovers which can be reheated in the toaster like the best Eggo waffles.

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July on Planet Byn {2016}

by byn on July 31, 2016

in Monthly Recaps

BeerFest

The highlight of this month was my weekend in Chicago, and I’ll have a separate post on that up soon, because I have many things to say about all the food in this great city! In the meantime, here’s what else went on in July:

  • I met my friend Heather down at Harbourfront, and we sat outside on the huge new patio called The Slip. It’s right on the water, there was a nice breeze, and it was pretty much the perfect summer night. The margaritas were delicious, but I have to give a warning about the food (don’t eat here). Still a great spot for a few cocktails though!
  • The Tasty Gardener celebrated her big 40th birthday and after a bunch of us tried out an Escape Room, we went to The Craft, one of her favourites. I love everything about this place! We shared the popcorn chicken, lumpia spring rolls and cider honey flatbread to start, and then I had short rib tacos. I also had a Bodacious Blueberry Blonde beer and it was like drinking a glass of summer. I already want to go back.
  • Kristine and I tagged along with her cousin to get our nails done (more on that below) and afterward we went to Old School for a late lunch. I am now OBSESSED with this place. Kristine and I ordered a General Crunch (fried chicken) Sandwich and The Little Pig (pulled pork) Sandwich and shared. I couldn’t decide which one I loved more (K was partial to the chicken). When we left I saw a couple who each had a gigantic waffle in front of them – one with fried chicken on top, the other with pulled pork – plus a skillet of mac & cheese in the middle of the table to share. Now that’s true love right there.
  • I met my 39 weeks preggo friend Nicole for a last hurrah lunch at Union on one of the hottest days of the summer. We split the amazing Union Salad, which comes with double smoked bacon, potato rosti and goat cheese drizzled with honey and lots of cracked black pepper, as well as another seasonal salad we weren’t as crazy about. Plus fries to share, of course!
  • After a 5+ year absense, I made a (not-so) triumphant return to Toronto’s Festival of Beer, which is now at Bandshell Park at the Ex grounds. This is something I used to go to back in the day when it was at Fort York, and you could kind of leisurely walk around and try different things, and maybe there would be a couple places to get food. Now, it’s so packed with beer tents, food trucks, and people that it’s hard to wander around. I tried a few different things I liked, but it was like 40 degrees with crazy humidity that day, so I didn’t last too long.
  • I didn’t cook much this month (I usually struggle with this in the hot summer months), but pulled it together to try a couple new things: Thai Pineapple Fried Rice from Cookie + Kate, Broccoli Pesto Pasta from Annie’s Eats, and this Kale Caesar Salad Pizza from How Sweet Eats (sounds weird, but I LOVED IT).

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

  • I read so many great summer reads this month, and my favourite by far was Modern Lovers by Emma Staub. Second runner-up is Emily Giffin’s First Comes Love, then Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and The Assistants by Camille Perri.
  • Alexis and I went to see Ghostbusters and we totally loved it, and of course we were there on opening night with Kristine to see Jason Bourne.
  • I binged on Season 1 of UnReal, and as a proud member of #BachelorNation, it was a great faux-behind the scenes look at how that show runs.
  • As I mentioned above, I got my first shellac mani at Wow Wow Nails with Kristine and her cousin Maya. I was going crazy in the week leading up to this because I couldn’t decide what colour or design I wanted! I finally went with a colour changing polish (blush pink when warm, hot pink when cold) with a couple jewels and and silver chevron stamps. I was totally obsessed with it for the week I had it on, but to be honest, I don’t know if I would do shellac again. I was slightly majorly horrified with the way shellac polish is removed (essentially it’s scraped off), and I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t do it myself.

Flashback!

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Take 5 Birthday Cake

by byn on July 28, 2016

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

Take 5 Cake

When one of your foodie friends is celebrating a big birthday, it’s time to bust out the big guns with a special cake. For Tasty G‘s big day, it had to be a Take 5 Birthday Cake.

I wasn’t acquainted with the Take 5 Candy Bar until I met Heather. It’s her favourite, and whenever our friend Jenny goes to the States, she always brings her back a bag of the minis. I somehow once wrestled one away from Heather (kidding, she handed it over willingly) and immediately understood the obsession.

Take 5 Slice

The five components of Take 5 are: chocolate, peanuts, pretzels, caramel and peanut butter. I actually made some Take 5 Bars a couple of years ago to celebrate the Tasty Gardener’s five year blog-iversary. They were sugar bombs of the highest degree, and they were glorious. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convert this into a cake formation. Here’s what I did:

  • Baked up three chocolate cake layers (using this recipe from Sweetapolita, as recommended by Danielle)
  • Filled and frosted with Prairie Girl’s peanut butter frosting (you could also use this one)
  • Spread My Favourite Salted Caramel between the layers (one batch was the perfect amount)
  • Sprinkled chopped peanuts on top of the caramel
  • Pressed pretzels on the outside

Inside Peek

It was absolutely perfect! Shout to The Craft (where we went for dinner) for storing the cake while we were at our Escape Room activity, then bringing it out with sparklers for Tasty G! Happy Birthday Heather!

HBD Tasty G

(Apologies to Mom for the profanity on this cake, but it was a hit!)

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Ombre Glamour Shot
I haven’t really done that much baking this month, as evidence by my lack of posts. I’ve been busy outside the kitchen, and also it is so. freaking. hot. I did make a couple of pretty amazing layer cakes in June and July, so I wanted to document them here.

First up is this gorgeous (if I do say so myself) turquoise ombré layer cake I made for Nicole’s baby shower back in June. I wasn’t able to attend the party (I was on a family trip), but I had to make sure I could still contribute to making the day special for Nicole.

Ombre Slice

I told her I was going to make her this cake, and she also requested some squares (I made lemon squares and these strawberry rhubarb ones). The method was pretty straightforward, with a little bit of baking math mixed in:

  • First of all, I remembered to weigh the mixing bowl I was going to be using before I started, and recorded it
  • Then I mixed up Smitten’s 1-2-3-4 cake, which is my go-to vanilla cake
  • I then weighed the mixing bowl again, with the cake batter in it. I took that number and subtracted the weight of the bowl to get the weight of just the cake batter. I then divided it by four, as I wanted to make four equal size cake layers. I can’t remember what it was, but let’s call it x grams. You’ll see why this is important next.
  • With all my cake pans lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick spray, I began the tinting process
  • To start, I added the smallest drop of turquoise gel colouring to the entire bowl and mixed it up. I removed x grams of cake batter into the first cake pan, and spread it out with the offset spatula.
  • I added another drop of turquoise gel colouring to the remaining batter in the bowl, and once I was satisfied it was distinct enough in colour from the first layer, I removed another x grams to the second cake pan.
  • Repeat for layers 3 and 4. Now you can see why the math is important. It allows you to work from the same bowl, tinting as you go, instead of splitting the cake batter into four bowls and mixing each separately.
  • I baked the cakes until done (12-15 minutes, I think), and let them cool.
  • I frosted it with a big batch of My Favourite Buttercream, piped on the detail with a large round tip, and filled the middle with a custom sprinkle mix I made from Bulk Barn.

Treat Table

I had many happy texts from Nicole once the party was over, and she said everyone freaked out over the cake. The funniest thing was that she told me after that she was a little bit disappointed when she saw the cake; she thought it was going to have ombre icing on the outside. So she was super surprised and excited when she cut into it and found the ombre cake layers on the INSIDE!

Meanwhile, Nicole is currently three days overdue! C’mon baby, we’re ready for you!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

by byn on July 20, 2016

in Breakfast

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

This is hands-down the best summer breakfast you’re ever going to have. I started making breakfast crisps at the very beginning of this blog, when I adapted Smitten Kitchen’s Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp with an all-rhubarb version. Deb subsequently updated the recipe in her cookbook, and that’s been my go-to for the last few years. I do make this in the Fall with apples, but this is truly my favourite.

Summer Breakfast

Over the years I’ve realized that a pure rhubarb fruit component is a little bracing for the morning, so now I do equal parts rhubarb and strawberries. I like to make this on Sunday nights before bed, and chill it in the fridge until the morning, then scoop out a bit into a mason jar with a huge dollop of plain Greek yogurt to bring to work, then repeat all week. I’ve been meaning for years to make a peach and blueberry version, so that’s going on the to-do list for August.

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (with a couple adaptations)

Ingredients

Fruit Part

4 cups diced strawberries & rhubarb (I basically use equal amounts of each, enough to fill a large baking dish)

2 tbsp turbinado sugar

1 tbsp flour

Granola Part

4 tbsp coconut oil (the original recipe calls for butter, but I’ve been making this substitution for a few years and love it)

1/3 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

pinch salt

+ Greek yogurt for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Add the fruit to a large baking dish, and sprinkle the sugar and flour over top. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, then stir in the sugar, followed by the oats, then flour, and salt. Sprinkle over the fruit.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, then let cool to room temperature and chill in the fridge overnight.

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