Nutella Scones

Today the rest of the BSM crew is making Chinese Five Spice Scones for Chinese New Year. I actually bought the five-spice powder and sesame seeds last week, but just wasn’t feeling it. Five-spice powder is no joke: cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise and pepper. It’s STRONG. I’m not the biggest fan of cloves, and I really don’t like anise, so I just knew that I wasn’t going to like them.

Instead, I made the FIRST EVER Baked Sunday Morning recipe: Nutella Scones! The gang made these back in November 2010, before I found them. They’re a thick, hearty scone, full of toasted hazelnuts, with a thin layer of Nutella inside and a thick drizzle on the top. The scone itself isn’t too sweet, so everything works well together.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Espresso Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Deb on Smitten Kitchen has been talking a lot lately about making things just because you want to make them, “Find a recipe that sounds good to you and make it immediately. Don’t put it in the queue; don’t save it on that to-cook-one-day list, just dive in and dig in”. While I embrace that concept in theory, in reality I’m over here making this banana bread I saw on Brunch at Bobby’s almost A YEAR AGO when I was watching the Cooking Channel in Florida. I’m currently trying to clear out the gigantic bag of frozen bananas in my freezer, so this was a good first step.

I also just got some new espresso powder as my friends and I just placed a mega-order on King Arthur Flour*. I normally buy the one from Williams Sonoma, but I needed a re-up. The King Arthur espresso powder is way more potent, and with a full tablespoon in this loaf, it was super obvious. There’s also an Espresso Cinnamon Butter that goes with it, but I wasn’t super sold on that.  Kristine if you’re reading this — I froze some slices for you for a snack for your flight to LA.

Slice for me

*Notes on ordering from King Arthur Flour: I placed the order last Tuesday, and it was here on Friday, which is pretty amazing. The shipping cost was $43.00 which is why I asked all my foodie friends to go in with me so we could split the cost. Not bad, but we got smoked on the exchange because the Canadian dollar is such crap right now. But I needed black cocoa powder for an upcoming Baked Sunday Morning project, so that was the motivation behind the order.

Espresso Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Source: Brunch with Bobby

Ingredients

5 tbsp butter

1 tbsp espresso powder

4 medium bananas, peeled (super ripe)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and let it bubble and cook, swirling frequently until it starts to turn brown and smell delicious. Remove from heat and stir in espresso powder.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bananas and mash with a fork. Stir in the sugar, brown sugar and egg until combined, then stir in the browned butter/espresso powder.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Add batter to the loaf pan and bake for about an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Sweet Potato Scones

When Danielle and I went to Atlanta last year, one of the places we went for brunch was Highland Bakery. It was actually my least favourite meal of the weekend, but it was saved by one special thing. We bought little mini sweet potato scones from the bakery case up front to snack on while we waited for a table. They warmed them up for us too, so they were toasty, cinnamony and delicious. Kind of an odd thing to eat on a sweltering day in the South, so I mentally bookmarked them to recreate back here when it was cold.

Cinnamon Maple Butter

We’re so used to seeing pumpkin scones as soon as September rolls around, but using sweet potato instead is a nice substitution. Sometimes I get a little ‘canned pumpkin’ fatigue by the end of October, so it was nice to switch it up a bit for these. I didn’t have to search far for a recipe – Annie has one up on her blog that is totally perfect. The cinnamon maple butter is just the right touch to spread on a warm scone straight from the oven. I loved these and have to remember them for next Fall.

Sweet Potato Scones with Cinnamon Maple Butter

Source: Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

Scones

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold

3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

pinch nutmeg

2 tbsp butter, melted

+ raw sugar for sprinkling

Cinnamon Maple Butter

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp maple syrup

pinch salt

Directions

  1. Before you start, stick the butter in the freezer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mashed sweet potato and greek yogurt until combined. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Take the butter out of the freezer and grate it into the flour mixture. Toss with a spatula to combine.
  5. Add the sweet potato mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently with the spatula until a dough forms. Use your hands to knead the dough gently until it comes together in a ball. Turn out the dough onto a floured counter and shape into a rectangle (aim for 12x4x1, but do what you can).
  6. I wanted my scones to be mini, so I cut the dough into squares and then into little triangles. Arrange them on the baking sheet.
  7. Brush the scones with the melted butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until they’re nicely golden brown.
  8. For the cinnamon maple butter, just stir the butter, cinnamon, maple syrup and salt together.

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Dolly's Doughnut

I was so excited, yet so scared for this week’s assignment. Excited because this is a coconut bundt cake, with a chocolate/coconut/cream cheese filling and a white chocolate/coconut glaze, plus the whole thing is dressed up as the cutest doughnut ever in honour of Dolly Parton’s birthday (she loves coconut desserts!).

Scared because my friend Danielle made this cake not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES with disastrous results. The first two times she made it, it stuck to the pan and the final time it turned out raw in the middle. She’s a very experienced baker too, so I approached this recipe with a bit of caution.

Homer's Doughnut

The Baked boys have a note in the recipe that when adding the filling, you have to make sure that it doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. I thought this might have been what went wrong with Dani’s, so I dug a little trench in the cake with a spoon, added the filling to a ziploc bag with a snipped corner, and piped it into the trench. The other thing I did was absolutely spray the hell out of the bundt pan with non-stick spray for extra insurance. One or both of those things worked, because my cake slid out easily in one piece.

Dolly's Filling

My friends and I ate Dolly’s Doughnut as part of our Golden Globes feast last weekend and we all loved it! The cake is super hydrated from the coconut milk, and the chocolate filling is basically a cheesecake running through the middle. Kristine said that it looked like Homer Simpson’s doughnut (lost on me because I never watch The Simpsons), and has already requested it for her sister’s baby shower in March. Personally I couldn’t stop eating this. This is now tied for first place with the Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise as my favourite recipe so far from Baked Occasions.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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My Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies

by byn on January 13, 2016

in Cookies

My Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies

After almost six years of blogging, it’s finally time to talk about one of the most important issues of our time: what makes a good Chocolate Chip Cookie?

Before we get into that though, it must be stated that a warm, homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie is 100% one of the simple joys in my life. I would choose that over pretty much any other dessert offered to me. It’s also the first thing I can remember baking by myself as a kid, so they’re special to me because of that. Last month a few of my co-workers were asking me for a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, and I was kind of shocked when I realized that my favourite one isn’t even on the blog!

Even though this isn’t my childhood recipe (my Mom still makes those ones and they’re delicious, but turn out a bit thin), it’s one I’ve been making for years. It’s from the baking goddess Anna Olson, and it’s the best — to me. The thing is, the qualities that make these my favourite, might not be the ones that make it good for you. These are my requirements of an outstanding Chocolate Chip Cookie: chewy (for the love of god, not crispy or cakey), lots of semi-sweet chocolate (not milk chocolate) and NO NUTS.

There are no crazy baking notes for this recipe, as it’s pretty straightforward. Anna includes a bit of cornstarch in her cookies to keep them chewy, which is genius. The only important thing to mention is the baking time. Pull these out after 8-10 minutes. They’ll still look a bit doughy, but that’s what you want. They’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet as they cool, and that’ll leave you with the perfect chewy cookie.

Now, there are 57382614 recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies that I’ve been intrigued by over the last few years.  I haven’t made any of them, because I always had this recipe in my mind as my favourite, but I’ve decided that 2016 is the year of the Chocolate Chip Cookie on Planet Byn. A few I want to try:

  • Cook’s Illustrated version with browned butter
  • The New York Times recipe with bread flour, chocolate feves, sea salt, and a 24-72 hour resting period
  • Levain Bakery copycat cookies (my co-worker brought me these from NYC last year and they’re transcendent)

If you have a favourite recipe you think I should try, let me know. I think we’re also going to get some guest bloggers up in here to talk about their favourites. It’s going to be a sweet year!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Source: Anna Olson

Ingredients

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

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and stir in until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Scoop heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheets and leave as is for a rustic look, or roll into balls with your hands for a smoother final appearance.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes.

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Ugly But Good

As someone who’s been taking pictures of their food for almost six years, I always want the things I bake to look cute. When they don’t, I’m usually disappointed, but take comfort in the fact that if it tastes good, no one really cares what it looks like. I’ve dubbed this category “fugly but delicious” and the #1 offenders on Planet Byn in the past have been blondies and anything that comes out of the slowcooker.

Well leave it to the Baked boys to actually come up with a beautiful name for this category, Brutti ma Buoni, Italian for “ugly but good”. Today we made these chocolate meringue cookies, that are full of toasted, chopped pistachios and mini chocolate chips. What they lack in style, they make up for in personality: a bit crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and very marshmallow-esque.

You make these by whisking egg whites and sugar together and heating until the sugar dissolves, then mixing in a little bit of vanilla, flour and cocoa (I left out the cinnamon), and finally folding in the nuts and chocolate chips. I had a little trouble with my first batch because I didn’t get my egg white/sugar mixture to whip to soft peaks, and I think it’s because I let it get a little too hot. I just started again and everything was fine.

The boys say you can sub in other types of nuts like almonds here, but I think if I made these again, I’d go with hazelnuts. Baked Sunday Mornings is off to a great start for 2016!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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December on Planet Byn {2015}

by byn on December 31, 2015

in Monthly Recaps

Best Instas of the Year

December was totally crazy with holiday parties, dinners with friends, preparing for Champagne & Cookies and getting ready for Christmas. I’ll hit you with the highlights:

  • I had a catch-up dinner at Trevor with my friend Heather, and we ordered all the bar snacks, my favourite of which was the buffalo fried cauliflower with dill pickle ranch for dipping . It had been a hot minute (actually two years) since I’d been at Trevor, and it reminded me to go there more often.
  • The other Heather in my life has been raving about The Craft in Liberty Village for a while, so I picked that as the venue for a co-worker’s birthday dinner at the beginning of the month. I loved it! Just the perfect winter spot, because it’s like halfway in the basement, super cozy, and has big gigantic booths to sit in. I shared with my friend Sarah and we had: lime shrimp guacamole, lumpia spring rolls, and asada fries. I want to try SO MANY MORE things on the menu, so I need to go back there soon.
  • So Cactus Club Cafe has opened in First Canadian Place and after hearing about bouncers controlling the door, two hour waits, and them not taking reservations until 2016, I decided I was launching a personal boycott of this place until minimum 2017. Unfortunately my co-worker chose it for our team’s holiday drinks and I was forced to go against my will. We ordered a bunch of apps (this seems to be the theme so far this month) and I’m not ashamed to admit that everything was SO GOOD that I tried: spicy chicken, szechuan chicken lettuce wraps, flatbread (with caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes, feta, pesto, arugula, goat cheese and balsamic drizzle…all my trigger words) and yam fries. I know they all sound kind of basic, but they were all amazing. Boycott cancelled! (I will overlook the annoying girls with clipboards at the front, the hosts with ear pieces like they’re in the secret service, and the d-bags hanging out by the bar).
  • For Christmas dinner this year, we had the most delicious ham, these scalloped potatoes which are my go-to, carrots, biscuits with butter and copious amounts of mustard pickles. Since it was just my Mom, Dad, Aunt and me for dinner, I cut the recipe for this Sticky Toffee Pudding in half and baked it in an 8×8 pan. It was as good as Deb promised, doused with toffee sauce and dolloped with whipped cream.
  • Side note: my brother made some Nuts & Bolts snack mix and I ate the entire jar he left at my Mom’s house. I NEED to make this! He put: cheese nips, cheerios, shreddies, almonds and little pretzel goldfish.
  • My Mom didn’t feel like making a turkey dinner for our big Christmas gathering on Boxing Day (also her birthday, so she shouldn’t really cook, right?) so I got creative control over this meal! Yes! It was a huge hit! I made: beef stew with mushrooms in the slowcooker (this recipe from Jan, just left out the sour cream), white cheddar mashed potatoes, a big green salad with apple, roasted butternut squash, candied pecans, and this dressing. My Mom also made a chicken pot pie with biscuit crumble topping, which is so, so good. For dessert my Mom and my niece blew out the candles on the Shimmer & Shine birthday cake.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month – Best of 2015 edition:

  • After a lackluster 2014, there were so many movies I loved this year! Shout to Alexis who organized my entire movie-going summer. These were the ones I loved the most: Southpaw, Trainwreck, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton and Creed. Big year for hotties in boxing movies!
  • Hands-down my favourite book of 2015 was The Royal We, which is kind of like historical fiction about Prince William & Kate Middleton. Others I loved: China Rich Girlfriend, Modern Romance, and Luckiest Girl Alive.
  • I feel like I didn’t watch much new TV this year (although I re-watched all of Entourage before the movie came out, and Seasons 4 & 5 of Friday Night Lights because I was having a Michael B. Jordan moment). I would say my cable favourites were The Mindy Project (as always), How to Get Away with Murder and The Good Wife. I was also pretty into Fargo Season 1 for the three days it took me to watch it, and the first Season of Empire, which I’m not liking as much in Season 2. After resisting for oh-so-long, I finally got Netflix, so this paragraph is going to quadruple in length for 2016.

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Shimmer & Shine

Today is my niece Rebecca’s 3rd Birthday, and I was convinced for this whole year that I’d be making a Frozen themed cake come December. To my surprise, my brother informed me that she wanted a “Shimmer & Shine” birthday cake. Shimmer & Shine, you say? Turns out this is Rebecca’s new favourite TV show about two cute little cartoon genies.

My brother suggested a magic carpet cake, and if I had more time I might have tried to make that happen, except this year I didn’t take any time off work for the holidays, and we were celebrating Rebecca’s birthday on Boxing Day. Instead, I took some inspiration from this cake, and made my own Shimmer & Shine sprinkle mix, with pink/purple/blue sprinkles from Bulk Barn and edible silver stars I found at Micheal’s.

Sparkles & Sprinkles

The cake was Smitten Kitchen’s classic 1-2-3-4 cake with a hefty scoop of pink/purple/blue sprinkles mixed in and frosted with My Favourite Buttercream tinted purple. I used a large, round, plain tip to pipe the poofs around the top, and then filled in the top with sprinkles. I printed off a picture of Shimmer and Shine, taped it to construction paper, and taped that to a skewer that I stuck in. Overall it couldn’t be easier, and the birthday girl totally loved it!

Rebecca’s Previous Birthday Cakes:

2nd (Thomas the Tank)

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~ Champagne & Cookies 2015 ~

by byn on December 29, 2015

in Cookies

Someone asked me last week how many cookies I make in December. I replied that I usually make about 10 different types of cookies, but she came back at me wanting to know the total volume. I guessed about two dozen of each type, so somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250 cookies. The look of shock on her face made me question my priorities in life for a split second, but then I described my annual Champagne & Cookies party and reaffirmed my belief that there’s really no other way I’d rather spend my December.

I was feeling pretty confident after 2014’s C&C, where I was totally happy with 10/10 of my selections, so I decided to mix it up just a little bit this year. Here’s how it went:

1. Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies + 2. Whipped Shortbread + 3. Pecan Pie Thumbprints

Classics

For some unknown reason, I had issues with these gingerbread cookies this year. Well, I do know the reason, which is that I went against my baker’s instinct. For the first batch, I knew the dough was too soft, but went ahead anyway, and the result was that the cookies spread so much and were too thin. So note to self for next year to chill the dough balls for about half an hour before baking. For the second batch, I think I baked the cookies a couple minutes too long. They weren’t as chewy as I remembered.

I declared last year that I was done with the Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, as pretty as they might be. Instead this year I made these Whipped Shortbread, because they were on our Baked Sunday Morning Schedule, and I knew they’d be delicious. They are absolutely melt-in-your-mouth amazing.

And now, the bane of my existence, the thumbprint cookie. I just don’t have luck with them, EVER. Danielle was raving about these Pecan Pie Thumbprints last year though, so I decided to forgo my usual Maple Pecan Pie Square. The cookie part is a cream cheese dough with ground pecans mixed in, filled with pecan pie filling. So good, but the problem is that the cookies spread like crazy when they bake, and if you put too much filling in, they overflow. Dani has subsequently confirmed for me that even if you freeze the cookies overnight before baking, it still doesn’t solve the spreading problem. So we’ll file these in the ugly but delicious category. I’ll be going back to my squares next year.

4. Pretzel M&M Cookies + 5. Nutella & Caramilk Stuffed Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Salty & Sweet

I almost had a heart attack in the summer when I couldn’t find Pretzel M&Ms at my regular grocery store, and then also had no luck at the Wal-Mart or Superstore near my house. Luckily I found some in another Superstore in September and bought like six bags in anticipation of low attendance at Champagne & Cookies if these were not on the menu. They’re the undisputed champion of the night, for as long as we can still get these suckers in Canada.

Nutella & Caramilk stuffed cookies also made another appearance for the third year, although I ran out of Caramilk squares halfway through, so some of them just had Nutella inside. I love these so much. I feel like I want to serve them warm next year to up the gooey/oozy factor.

6. Chocolate Mint Cookie Squares

Chocolate Mint Squares

Listen, this mint slot is getting retired for next year, mark my words. I always feel obligated to have a chocolate/mint treat, and I am almost always disappointed with the way they turn out. This recipe was from a random holiday baking magazine that my co-worker brought to work to show me, and my issues with it were as follows: chocolate shortbread base was neither chocolately enough, nor shortbready enough, the mint filling was WAY too thick, the ganache was WAY too soft, and the candy cane pieces you sprinkle on the top started to sort of liquefy/melt. All that said, this was my toughest critic’s favourite (that would be my 4 year old friend Mila), so at least they tasted good!

7. Campfire Squares

Campfire Squares

This summer I finally bought a kitchen torch, which is all you really need to know about why I chose these squares for this year’s party. The recipe for Campfire Squares is brought to us by the lovely Rosie from Butter Baked Goods in Vancouver, and is pretty similar to these S’mores Fudge Squares, except with a layer of actual marshmallow on top, instead of fluff. These were my favourite treat of the night, and I didn’t burn down my home, so that’s a win-win.

8. Champagne Cupcakes

Champagne Cupcakes

This recipe comes from the new Butter Celebrates book, and I thought that OF COURSE I should have Champagne Cupcakes at Champagne & Cookies! There’s champagne in the cupcake base, in the syrup you brush onto them, plus in the buttercream. It made the icing a little grainy, and hard to pipe on, but I thought these were still cute, especially with the little silver stars on top. But the problem is: NO ONE ATE THEM! Barely touched at the party. So that’s a lesson learned for me. Give the people what they want, which is MORE COOKIES.

9. Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are a pretty traditional Christmas Cookie, at least at my Mom’s house. She always made them for my brother, but they were never my fave. Turns out this vegan and gluten-free version is way better. Coconut oil keeps them super chewy, and the oat flour/almond flour combo makes then nice and nutty. My only note for next year is to double the batch.

10. Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

PB Pretzel Truffles

I made these earlier in the year for Aoife’s bridal shower, and knew I wanted to make them for C&C. These are also vegan and gluten-free, and there’s a place by my office now where you can buy little bags of GF pretzels, so this is perfect. I found then a little on the dry side though, so next time I wouldn’t add back all of the nut/pretzel mixture.

Overall, I was happy with the majority of my choices, but I think next year I might revamp the menu completely. We’ll see what my frame of mind is next December. One thing’s for sure though: NO THUMBPRINTS!!!

Hope you had a great Christmas!

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Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

by byn on December 8, 2015

in Drinks

Hot Chocolate Mix

Last week my friend from work had a couple of us over to her house for dinner, and true to form, I spent like a week trying to decide what to bake to bring over. I just find it so lovely when people open up their home to you and welcome you in. I feel as though this doesn’t happen nearly often enough, and it makes me want to host a dinner party every week in 2016. It gives me all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Since I get so wrapped up in my cookie domination plan during this most festive time of year, I decided to go in a totally different direction and make a batch of homemade hot chocolate mix and marshmallows to bring along. To be honest, I was trying to make sure her kids would like me, and I figured this would be a hit (Spoiler Alert: I was right, they loved it). Let me note for the record that this idea was scooped from Nicole who has been saying for YEARS that she wanted to make up little bags of homemade hot chocolate mix to give out to her friends at Christmastime.

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, and takes like 5 minutes to measure everything out and mix up in the food processor. It’s only 6 things: chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. It tastes a trillion times better than anything coming out of a paper packet. I packed it up in a cute mason jar, added a tag I brought back from London, and I was in business. The marshmallows are this recipe from the Joy the Baker cookbook and I totally forgot how easy they are. I’m going to make a few more of these duos for my team at work for Christmas. Annie’s got a bunch of marshmallow variations to try, and Deb includes some options for the hot chocolate on her post (link below). Are we in the Christmas spirit yet?

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3 oz dark chocolate (chunks or chips)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp (big pinch) salt

Directions

  1. Add the chocolate to the food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until combined.
  2. To make one mug of hot chocolate: whisk together 1 cup of milk with 3 tbsp of the hot chocolate mix in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until hot. Top with homemade marshmallows!

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