Category Archives: Desserts

Mock Cherry Pie

Mock Cherry Pie
Mock Cherry Pie

I’m not sure of the origins of Mock Cherry Pie but my grandmother made a version of this delight when I was a small child.  Sometimes called cranberry pie, it’s not an altogether common pie (at least in my circles) these days but it is very tasty and colorful with its deep ruby red color. It lends itself well to a lattice top crust but is often made with a standard full top crust.

Mock Cherry Pie
Mock Cherry Pie

Either fresh or frozen cranberries can be used for this filling.  I like to coarsely chop up most of the cranberries for the filling but leave some whole to give texture to the filling. The idea behind chopping the cranberries in half is that it quickly releases the juice from the berries in the cooking process.  But, don’t get crazy and chop them too finely as the pie won’t have texture if the berries are ground up too fine. Adding the raisins to the filling enhances flavour complexity and also makes the filling more substantial.  The sweetness of the raisins counters the tartness of the cranberries.

The cranberries I am using in this filling came from Mikita Farms in Farmington, near Souris in the eastern part of Prince Edward Island. To my knowledge, this is the only cranberry producer that wet harvests the berries on the Island.  To see photos I took in 2014 of the wet harvesting of cranberries, click here.

Corralling the Cranberries
Corralling the Cranberries

Cranberries freeze really well so I keep a large bag of cranberries in my freezer for use year-round. This time of the year, many farm markets will have bags of these tasty berries available so don’t hesitate to pick up a bag and store them in the freezer for later use.

Fresh PEI Cranberries Charlottetown, PEI
Fresh PEI Cranberries

The key to making the filling for this pie is to get it thickened so that it does not run when the pie is cut.  It takes a little patience but is worth the effort.  It’s important to cool down the filling before putting it in the unbaked pie shell as, otherwise, it will break down the fat in the pastry causing it to be a soggy crust.  About 30-40 minutes of cooling time will be just right. Remember to stir the filling as it cools as this will help it to cool faster and also aid in its thickening.

Mock Cherry Pie
Mock Cherry Pie

This is a lovely rich dessert, perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas. A scoop of high quality vanilla ice cream goes particularly well with Mock Cherry Pie.  The wine I have selected to pair with this dessert for my Thanksgiving dinner this year comes from Benjamin Bridge Vineyards in Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia.  I discovered this wine through the 2015 PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival for which Benjamin Bridge was this year’s wine sponsor.  Benjamin Bridge wines were served at the signature culinary events during the month-long festival in September.  My wine selection is Nova 7. This is the perfect wine to pair with this dessert because it has a hint of sweetness to compliment the tartness of cranberries and a beautiful pale blush color. I think I will seriously have to go on a field trip and pay this winery a visit!

Mock Cherry Pie Paired with Benjamin Bridge's Nova 7 Wine
Mock Cherry Pie Paired with Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 Wine

Mock Cherry Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry for 9” double pie crust

2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup sultana raisins
½ cup boiling water

1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch salt
1/3 cup cold water

1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond flavouring
1 tbsp Cointreau
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 tbsp butter

Method:

Chop 1 1/3 cups cranberries in half. Leave remaining 2/3 cup whole.

In medium-sized saucepan, combine the cranberries, raisins, and boiling water. Cook over high heat to the boiling point. Reduce heat to medium and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch with 1/3 cup cold water. Whisk until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp of the hot mixture to temper the sugar-cornstarch mixture (don’t worry if a few cranberries get scooped up, too) and pour it into the hot cranberry-raisin mixture. Stir well.

Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, until thickened – about 11-13 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, almond flavouring, Cointreau, grated orange rind, and butter. Stir well. Let cool for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare pastry for bottom crust and roll to desired thickness. Transfer pastry to a greased 9” pie plate. Trim pastry.

Pour cooled filling into crust.

Roll out pastry for top crust. If desired, cut into strips for lattice top.

Dampen edges of bottom pie crust.

Place top crust (or, alternatively, lattice strips) over filling, gently pressing the outside edges to seal to bottom crust.

Using kitchen shears, trim excess pastry.

Crimp pastry edges or press together with the tines of a fork. If using complete top crust, cut vents in pastry to allow steam to escape as the pie cooks (omit this step if using a lattice top since there are obviously already lots of spaces for the steam to escape).

Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 10 minutes at 400° then reduce heat to 375° and bake for 45-50 minutes longer or until the crust is lightly browned and juices start to bubble from the filling.

Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Yield: 8 servings

Mock Cherry Pie

Yield: 1 - 9" pie, apx. 8 servings

A rich and flavourful pie that combines cranberries and raisins with a hint of orange flavour.

Ingredients

  • Pastry for 9” double pie crust
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup sultana raisins
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond flavouring
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Chop 1 1/3 cups cranberries in half. Leave remaining 2/3 cup whole.
  2. In medium-sized saucepan, combine the cranberries, raisins, and boiling water. Cook over high heat to the boiling point. Reduce heat to medium and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. In small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch with 1/3 cup cold water. Whisk until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp of the hot mixture to temper the sugar-cornstarch mixture and pour it into the hot cranberry-raisin mixture. Stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, until thickened – about 11-13 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, almond flavouring, Cointreau, grated orange rind, and butter. Stir well. Let cool for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare pastry for bottom crust and roll to desired thickness. Transfer pastry to a greased 9” pie plate. Trim pastry. Pour cooled filling into crust.
  5. Roll out pastry for top crust. If desired, cut into strips for lattice top. Dampen edges of bottom pie crust and place top crust (or, alternatively, lattice strips) over filling, gently pressing the outside edges to seal to bottom crust. Trim excess pastry. Crimp pastry edges or press together with the tines of a fork. If using complete top crust, cut vents in pastry to allow steam to escape as the pie cooks (omit this step if using a lattice top since there are obviously already lots of spaces for the steam to escape).
  6. Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 10 minutes at 400° then reduce heat to 375° and bake for 45-50 minutes longer or until the crust is lightly browned and juices start to bubble from the filling.
  7. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting and serving.
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Visit to Beamish Organic Apple Orchard and Deep Roots Distillery

Today, I’m taking you on a tour with me to Beamish Organic Apple Orchard and Deep Roots Distillery in Warren Grove, PEI. Owner, Mike Beamish, has been growing apples since 1990 when he started with 200 trees on his hobby farm near Charlottetown.

Mike Beamish Checking on his Apple Crop
Mike Beamish Checking on his Apple Crop

Mike’s goal was always to grow apples organically although he did initially grow them using conventional methods in the early years because it was difficult to find non-chemical controls for some pests. Once more research was done and non-chemical controls were available to growers, Beamish transitioned his orchard to be organic in 2003 following the standard three-year period to be certified organic. During the three-year period, no chemical applications can be used. Beamish is certified under Atlantic Certified Organics (ACO), a certification body which is accredited with the Canadian federal government. This body enforces the national organic standards such as buffer zone requirements from surrounding farms using conventional farming methods and it provides a list of approved substances that can be used in organic farming. The orchard is subject to annual audits by the ACO to ensure only approved substances and organic farming practices are used. Certified organic farmers are required to keep records of any products or substances used and the farmers must be re-certified each year.

Beamish Organic Apple Orchard, Warren Grove, PEI
Beamish Organic Apple Orchard, Warren Grove, PEI

Growing apples organically does come with its challenges since farmers don’t have access to the traditional chemical treatments non-organic apple growers can use. Beamish says the biggest challenges are dealing with pests such as bugs and rodents, disease in the trees and apples, and ensuring soil nutrition. Any products applied to the ground or trees must be certified organic products only. He counters these challenges by buying and applying organic compost around the trees, installing little ground fences around each tree to deter rodents, and hanging certified organic products in the trees to fend off pests such as moths, apple fruit flies, and railroad worms.

At one point, the Beamish Orchard had 800 apple trees; however, Island winters can be harsh and, in 1999, the orchard cut back to 500 trees in its U-pick orchard. The orchard currently has about 300 apple-producing trees. Beamish grows four varieties of apples – Red Free, Novamac, Liberty, and Freedom. The biggest seller are the Red Free, an early variety ready in mid-September.

The Red Free variety is particularly good for cooking as these apples  keep their shape and, because they are non-acidic, there is no need for a lot of sugar.

Red Free Apples
Red Free Apples

This year (2015) will mark the first year that the Beamish Orchard will not operate as a U-pick. They will still have apples for sale at the farm but, because they have reduced the number of trees in the orchard, there will not be enough apples to operate a U-pick. In addition, Beamish has also created another usage of his apple crop as he has started a distillery.

Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI
Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI

When Beamish retired three years ago from Holland College, he was looking for a retirement activity. Since he already had a ready supply of apples, he began making sweet apple cider and selling it at the Farmers Market in Charlottetown. His interest in distilling grew so he pursued a course hosted by the Bio-Food-Tech Centre in Charlottetown that focused on the science of distilling. In addition, he received some technical assistance from the New Brunswick Community College in Grand Falls. In June, 2014, Beamish obtained his license to distill and it wasn’t long before he began producing liquor, using local raw products whenever possible.

Mike Beamish at his Warren Grove, PEI, Distillery - "Deep Roots"
Mike Beamish at his Warren Grove, PEI, Distillery – “Deep Roots”

Today, Beamish has four products on the market: Island Tide (a cane-sugar spirit), Blueberry Eau de Vie, Maple Liqueur, and his newest, Camerise Haskap Liqueur.

Deeproots Distillery Products
Deeproots Distillery Products

Beamish says the Island Tide liquor moonshine, with an alcohol content of 45%, is a cross between rum and vodka and would be best suited for martinis and mojitas. Historically, much of the moonshine made in PEI was made from cane-sugar. However, with more modern distilling techniques, it is somewhat smoother than what some folks may remember!

Mike Beamish says the Blueberry Eau de Vie does not have a strong blueberry taste but rather has the essence of blueberry. It has 45% alcohol content and is best served as an after dinner beverage over ice or in a fruit-based cocktail.

The Maple Liqueur is made from New Brunswick maple syrup and, with 25% alcohol, is stronger than most liqueurs. It is also suitable as an after dinner drink or served over vanilla ice cream or in baking.

The Camerise Haskap Liqueur is a new product from the distillery and has just been released this summer.

This liqueur, with 26.5% alcohol, is made with haskap berries which come from Phyto Cultures Inc. in nearby Clyde River. This liqueur is developed using a method by which the alcohol is infused with the whole haskap berries which sit in the alcohol for four months before being crushed. The Camerise Haskap Liqueur also is an after dinner drink and is meant to be served straight over ice.

Producing liquor is government-regulated and the products have to be analyzed by a certified lab in the same way as any big brand liquors.

Boxes of product ready for shipping
Boxes of product ready for shipping

The products are labelled under the Deep Roots Distillery label and can be purchased at the Charlottetown Farmers Market and at the Distillery located at 2100 North York River Road, Route 248, in Warren Grove just outside Charlottetown. You can also find them on the shelves of many local liquor stores on the Island.

Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI
Sales Outlet at Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI

Tours of the apple orchards and the distillery are available for a nominal fee and Mike welcomes visitors to learn more about his organic apple orchard and new distillery. For more information, and hours of operation, visit the websites for Beamish Organic Apple Orchard and Deep Root Distillery.

Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

As is my standard practice when I visit a local food producer, I develop a recipe using the producer’s product(s). In my Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce, I have used the Red Free apples from the Beamish Orchard along with the Deep Roots Distillery Maple Liqueur.

Red Free Apples
Red Free Apples

The Red Free apples are great in this recipe because they keep their shape and don’t go to “mush” or a sauce-like consistency in the pudding which would make it too soggy. The key is to sauté the apples enough that they are softened before adding them to the pudding batter. Adding some maple liqueur as the apples sauté provides additional flavour.

It’s a matter of opinion as to whether a bread pudding should be baked in a hot water bath or not. I have made bread puddings both in a water bath and without and, to be frank, don’t see any appreciable difference in quality of the baked pudding. So, for this recipe, I did not use the hot water bath baking method and the pudding was lovely and moist.

Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

1 – 1 lb loaf French bread
3 cups whole milk
1 cup less 1½ tbsp Blend/cream (10%)

2½ cups thinly sliced baking apples (about 3 medium-sized apples)
½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple liqueur

3 extra-large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
Pinch cardamom
¾ cup raisins soaked in 1½ tbsp maple liqueur

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.

In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all.

Pour the milk and blend (cream) over the bread.

Cover and let sit for 30 minutes then handcrush mixture until well blended.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and thinly slice the apples.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sauté apples for another minute. Remove pan from heat and add liqueur. Return to heat and sauté the apples for 5-7 minutes, or until they are softened and a golden color.

In medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again. Beat in the maple syrup, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the spices and stir well. Pour over bread-milk mixture in large bowl and mix well.

Lastly, gently fold in the sautéd apples along with the raisins.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan.

Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until it springs back to a light touch and/or a cake tester (or knife) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.

Remove pudding from oven and transfer pudding pan to a cooling rack to rest for 20 minutes. Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with maple sauce (recipe below), crème anglaise, or ice cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Maple Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
dash of salt
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp maple liqueur
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup butter

Method:

In saucepan, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together well. Add the boiling water, maple syrup, maple liqueur, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Cook until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve hot over Apple-Maple Bread Pudding.

Yield: Apx. 2½ cups

Maple Sauce on Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Maple Sauce on Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

 

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Bread Pudding
Apple Maple Bread Pudding

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Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

Yield: 12 servings

Apple and maple flavours combine to make a delectable bread pudding

Ingredients

  • Pudding:
  • 1 – 1 lb loaf French bread
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup less 1½ tbsp Blend/cream (10%)
  • 2½ cups thinly sliced baking apples (about 3 medium-sized apples)
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple liqueur
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • Pinch cardamom
  • ¾ cup raisins soaked in 1½ tbsp maple liqueur
  • Sauce:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • dash of salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp maple liqueur
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup butter

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  3. Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.
  4. In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all. Pour the milk and blend (cream) over the bread. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes then handcrush mixture until well blended.
  5. Meanwhile, peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sauté apples for another minute. Remove pan from heat and add liqueur. Return to heat and sauté the apples for 5-7 minutes, or until they are softened and a golden color.
  6. In medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again. Beat in the maple syrup, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the spices and stir well. Pour over bread-milk mixture in the large bowl and mix well.
  7. Lastly, gently fold in the sautéed apples along with the raisins. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan.
  8. Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until it springs back to a light touch and/or a cake tester (or knife) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.
  9. Remove pudding from oven and transfer pudding pan to a cooling rack to rest for 20 minutes. Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with maple sauce, crème anglaise, or ice cream.
  10. To make the maple sauce, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in saucepan. Add the boiling water, maple syrup, maple liqueur, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Cook until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve hot over Apple-Maple Bread Pudding.
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Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

 

Blueberry Buckle

There are so many ways to use blueberries, including an endless stream of desserts.

Blueberry Buckle
Blueberry Buckle

Today, I am featuring Blueberry Buckle using high bush blueberries that I picked at the Tryon Blueberries U-Pick in North Tryon, PEI.

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Blueberry Buckle consists of three parts: A cake base, a sprinkle of fruit, and a streusel topping.  The origin of the name “Blueberry Buckle”  is not definitively known.  However, it seems it may have something to do with the cake base rising up around the blueberries and meeting with the streusel ingredients that, together, form a crumpled or buckled looking appearance on the dessert top. Whether that’s truth or fiction, this is a tasty dessert!

A Blueberry Buckle is very similar to a coffeecake.  It is a dense cake with a moist crumb that can be served either warm or cool (i.e., at room temperature). It can also be served plain, just as it is, with its streusel topping or, alternatively, dressed up with ice cream, whipped cream, and/or drizzled with a sauce. I often serve it with brown sugar sauce or sometimes with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with blueberry sauce, as I have today. I call this blueberry overload! I maximize the use of fresh local blueberries when they are available.

Blueberry Buckle with Vanilla Ice Cream Drizzled with Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry Buckle with Vanilla Ice Cream Drizzled with Blueberry Sauce

While Buckles can be made with other fruits, the most common one is made with blueberries. This dessert also freezes well so it’s a handy one to have on hand in the freezer. When I am using it from its frozen state, I take the buckle out of the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature, then heat it for just a few seconds in the microwave. Tastes like it is fresh from the oven!

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Blueberry Buckle

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup flour
½ tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter

Cake Batter:

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 extra-large egg
2 tbsp orange juice
¾ tsp vanilla
1½ cup all-purpose flour
2¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
1½ tsp grated orange rind
½ cup milk

2 cups high-bush blueberries

Method:

Grease or line an 8” square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare the streusel topping by mixing the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream the butter and add the sugar. Beat until mixture is smooth.

Add the egg, orange juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and grated orange rind. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture along with the milk in three parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (i.e.,  three additions of the dry ingredients alternated with two additions of milk).

Spread batter in prepared pan.

Sprinkle mixture evening with the blueberries.

DSCN0781-001

Sprinkle the streusel topping over entire mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Do not overbake as cake will become dry.

Serve plain or add a dollop of ice cream and, if desired, drizzle with blueberry sauce.

Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry Sauce

Yield: 9 servings

Here is my recipe for the blueberry sauce I used over this Blueberry Buckle.

Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry Sauce

¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange rind
2 tbsp orange juice
1/3 cup water
2 cups high bush blueberries

1½ tbsp butter
¼ tsp vanilla

Method:

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind, orange juice, and water in medium-sized saucepan. Heat to boiling point then add blueberries and reduce heat to medium low. Cook mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened to desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm over ice cream or pudding. Refrigerate unused sauce.

Yield: Apx. 1¾ cups

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Blueberry Dessert

 

Blueberry Buckle

An old-fashioned coffeecake-like dessert studded with blueberries and covered with a streusel topping. Best served with vanilla ice cream drizzled with blueberry sauce.
Course Dessert
Keyword blueberries, Blueberry Buckle, blueberry dessert
Servings 9
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitachen

Ingredients

Streusel Topping

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp butter

Cake Batter

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • ¾ tsp vanilla
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • tsp grated orange rind
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups high-bush blueberries

Blueberry Sauce

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated orange rind
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups high bush blueberries
  • tbsp butter
  • ¼ tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Grease or line an 8” square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Streusel Topping:

  1. Prepare the streusel topping by mixing the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Set aside.

Cake Batter:

  1. In large bowl, cream the butter and add the sugar. Beat until mixture is smooth.
  2. Add the egg, orange juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and grated orange rind. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture along with the milk in three parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (i.e., three additions of the dry ingredients alternated with two additions of milk).
  4. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  5. Sprinkle mixture evening with the blueberries.
  6. Sprinkle the streusel topping over entire mixture.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Do not overbake as cake will become dry.
  8. Serve plain or add a dollop of ice cream and, if desired, drizzle with blueberry sauce.

Blueberry Sauce:

  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind, orange juice, and water in medium-sized saucepan. Heat to boiling point then add blueberries and reduce heat to medium low. Cook mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened to desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm over ice cream or pudding. Refrigerate unused sauce.

Recipe Notes

Yield: 9 servings and apx. 1¾ cups blueberry sauce.

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Blueberry Buckle

Yield: 9 servings

A moist and flavorful coffeecake-like dessert

Ingredients

  • Streusel Topping
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Cake Batter
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • ¾ tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp grated orange rind
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups high-bush blueberries

Instructions

  1. Grease or line an 8” square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare the streusel topping by mixing the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, cream the butter and add the sugar. Beat until mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the egg, orange juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  5. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and grated orange rind. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture along with the milk in three parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (i.e., three additions of the dry ingredients alternated with two additions of milk).
  6. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  7. Sprinkle mixture evening with the blueberries.
  8. Sprinkle the streusel topping over entire mixture.
  9. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Do not overbake as cake will become dry.
  10. Serve plain or add a dollop of ice cream and, if desired, drizzle with blueberry sauce.
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Blueberry Dessert

Jelly Roll

Title Slide

I grew up with jelly rolls being regularly made in my home.  They’re a quick dessert, best eaten on the day they are made.  This is because a jelly roll is really a sponge-type cake and, when the jam or jelly is spread on it, it tends to seep into the cake and after several hours can become somewhat soggy.  Jelly rolls don’t take a lot of ingredients. So long as you have basic baking supplies and some jam or jelly, you can make a jelly roll.

Here are my tips for making jelly rolls:

1.  Use cake and pastry flour as it gives a finer texture than all-purpose flour.

2. Don’t let the cake cool for too long before spreading it with jam or jelly as it may crack as you try to roll the jelly roll up. About 15-20 minutes cooling time is about right.  If you put the jam or jelly on the cake when it is still too warm, though, it will cause it to seep into the cake too quickly, creating a soggy jelly roll.

3. Use a good quality jam or jelly.  If using jam, choose one that does not have big chunks of fruit in it; otherwise,  it will make it more difficult to slice and plate presentation will not be optimal.  I prefer colorful red jams and ones that are seedless – for example, seedless raspberry jam.

4.  The jelly roll may be dusted with either granulated sugar or icing sugar.  However, icing sugar stands up better than granulated sugar which tends to dissolve into the cake more quickly.

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 Jelly Roll

1 cup + 3 tbsp cake and pastry flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond flavouring
2 tbsp cold water

¾ – 1 cup jam or jelly
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Grease, or spray cooking oil on 10”x15” rimmed baking sheet, ensuring sides are well-greased. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray parchment paper with cooking oil.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Beat eggs until frothy.

Slowly and steadily add the sugar and beat until light-colored and slightly thickened.

Beat in vanilla, almond flavouring, and water.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg-sugar mixture. Stir just until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 9-12 minutes or until cake tester inserted into cake comes out clean and cake springs back to a light touch. Do not overbake.

While cake is baking, lay a clean tea towel on counter and generously sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.

Remove cake from oven and run knife around all four edges to loosen cake from pan sides. Invert baked cake on sugar-dusted tea towel.

Peel off parchment paper, being careful not to tear cake.

Trim off outside edges of cake.

Rolling from the narrow end of the cake, roll up cake and tea towel together.

Transfer to wire rack and cool for about 15-20 minutes.

Carefully unroll the cake.

Spread cake with jam or jelly, leaving about ½” on sides of cake free of jam or jelly.

Using the tea towel as a guide, re-roll the filled cake.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar, cut, and serve.

Yield: Apx. 10-12 servings

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Jelly Roll

A Jelly Roll is an impressive dessert made with a thin sponge cake spread with a favorite jam or jelly and then rolled up, dusted with icing sugar, and sliced.
Course Dessert
Keyword jelly roll
Servings 10
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 3 tbsp cake flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp almond flavouring
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • ¾ - 1 cup jam or jelly
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Grease, or spray cooking oil on 10”x15” rimmed baking sheet, ensuring sides are well-greased. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray parchment paper with cooking oil.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  4. Beat eggs until frothy. Slowly and steadily add the sugar and beat until light-colored and slightly thickened. Beat in vanilla, almond flavouring, and water.
  5. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg-sugar mixture. Stir just until incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 9-12 minutes or until cake tester inserted into cake comes out clean and cake springs back from a light touch. Do not overbake.
  7. While cake is baking, lay a clean tea towel on counter and generously sprinkle with sifted icing sugar. Remove cake from oven and run knife around all four edges to loosen cake from pan sides. Invert baked cake on sugar-dusted tea towel. Peel off parchment paper being careful not to tear cake.
  8. Trim off outside edges of cake. Rolling from the narrow end of the cake, roll up cake and tea towel together. Transfer to wire rack and cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully unroll the cake and spread with jam or jelly, leaving about ½” on sides of cake free of jam or jelly. Re-roll. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar, cut, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 10-11 servings

NOTE: Be sure to read the accompanying blog post to this recipe as it contains tips for making the jelly roll successfully as well as step-by-step photos of the method used to make the jelly roll.

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Jelly Roll

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Jelly Roll - Yummy sponge cake with a red jelly/jam filling

 

Individual Baked Alaskas with Raspberry Coulis

Baked Alaska with Raspberry Coulis
Baked Alaska with Raspberry Coulis

One of my all-time favorite desserts is Baked Alaska. I first had Baked Alaska on a cruise many, many years ago and I have loved it ever since. Many people think Baked Alaska is difficult to make but I don’t find it is. It does, however, take a little planning and time since it is prepared in stages.  Baked Alaska can be made as a large dessert to serve several or it can be tailored down to serve one or two.  My recipe is for two individual servings, perfect for a special intimate dinner such as Valentine’s Day, or anytime as a nice treat.

There are options for the cake base of a Baked Alaska. Brownies or pound cake are my preferences and they can be either bought or homemade. I like brownies because the dark contrast is eye-appealing with a light-colored ice cream. Whatever base is used, it needs to be cut out with a 2” cookie cutter and it should have a depth of about ½” to ¾ “. Now, at first glance, this might appear to be a rather miniscule dessert but, as you’ll soon discover, the meringue adds a lot of volume to the Baked Alaska.

Choice of ice cream is important for the Baked Alaska. Choose a high quality ice cream with a high percentage cream content for this dessert because it will freeze hard. Some of the lower fat or cheaper ice creams tend to be softer and, because this ice cream is going into a 475° oven, it needs to be able to stand up for itself! Any flavour of ice cream of your choosing will work. My favorites are vanilla, coffee, or strawberry. Let the ice cream soften slightly at room temperature for 5-7 minutes before scooping it out.  You want to try and get as perfectly a round scoop as you can because this is what will give the Alaska its dome shape.

It’s important that both the cake base and the scoop of ice cream be frozen super hard so plan ahead to have them frozen for at least two hours or longer before serving time.  I use a couple of small pieces of wooden boards covered with tin foil on which to bake the Alaskas because the boards don’t heat as fast as a metal cookie sheet would which could cause the Alaskas to start to melt down too quickly in the oven.  The idea is to keep the Baked Alaskas as cold as possible.  The Alaskas are only put in the oven for 2-3 minutes solely to tan the meringue.

The Raspberry Coulis can be made a day or two ahead and kept refrigerated.

I find I have greater success with whipping egg whites for the meringue when they are at room temperature.  Allow the separated egg whites to come to room temperature for about 30-40 minutes before whipping.

It’s super important to completely cover the ice cream and base with the meringue as, otherwise, heat will reach the ice cream which will simply melt and ooze out of the Alaska when placed in the oven.  The meringue acts as an insulator of sorts which prevents the ice cream from melting for the 2-3 minutes it is in the oven.  I have found that even the smallest gap in the meringue will cause the ice cream to melt in even the short time it is in the oven.  Work as quickly as you can to apply the meringue so that the ice cream does not soften and melt.

Individual Baked Alaskas with Raspberry Coulis

Raspberry Coulis:

1¼ cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
⅓ cup sugar
¾ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp water

In medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients.

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Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until raspberries have broken down and released their juices.

Remove from heat and pour mixture into a fine sieve over a bowl.

Press mixture with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Discard raspberry seeds left in the sieve.

Cover coulis tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled.

Yield: ½ cup

Baked Alaskas:

2 pieces of brownie cut into 2” circles and sliced ½“ – ¾” thick.
2 round scoops of ice cream, your favourite flavour

Meringue:

2 large egg whites, room temperature
⅛ tsp salt
⅛ tsp cream of tartar
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp almond flavouring

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with tin foil. Using the rimmed baked sheet allows for easy transport to and from the freezer and keeps the Alaska bases from accidentally sliding off.  Place the brownie circles on the baking sheet and top each with a scoop of ice cream. Place in freezer for at least 2 hours, until very firm.

At the same time, cover two small boards with tin foil and place in freezer.

When ready to prepare the dessert, place oven rack about 8” from broiler and preheat oven to 475°F.

In bowl of stand mixer, beat egg whites just until frothy then add the salt and cream of tartar.

While beating the egg whites, add the sugar slowly, about a teaspoon at a time.

Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form when wire whisk is lifted from the egg whites.

Add the almond flavoring and beat for 10-15 seconds longer.

Remove brownie and ice cream rounds along with the foil-covered boards from the freezer. Transfer the brownie and ice cream rounds to the foil-covered boards.  Quickly cover the ice cream and brownie completely with the meringue.

With the tip of a knife, twirl the meringue into decorate tips.

Place the Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet for ease of transfer to and from oven.  Bake in the pre-heated oven until the meringue browns, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove from oven and plate. Drizzle with Raspberry Coulis and garnish with fresh raspberries. Serve immediately.

Serves: 2

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Raisin Puff (aka Plum Puff)

Today, I’m sharing the recipe for a real old-fashioned vintage dessert. Some of you may remember your mother or grandmother making Raisin Puff (aka Plum Puff) dessert or, perhaps, you have made it yourself.

This dessert was popular in my part of the world up until about the early 1960s but is not so common anymore. It’s one of those desserts that carries a lot of nostalgia with it. When I first mentioned that I was working on a posting for Raisin Puff, several people said they hadn’t had it in years but it brings back great memories of their childhood days when Raisin Puff was a staple in many PEI households. Some remember grandmothers making this dessert in huge pans for their large families. Others remember going to visit neighbours and being served Raisin Puff. My mother recalls her own mother always having Raisin Puff on hand. I suspect the popularity of this dessert may have been due to it being a very substantial, filling dessert that does not call for many ingredients nor any that are difficult to source. So long as one has raisins and common baking ingredients, it’s a dessert that can be made from pantry stock without having to go on a special shopping trip to the supermarket.

Raisin Puff is essentially raisin pie without the pastry crust. In its place, a cookie dough is used for the base and top into which is sandwiched a spiced, cooked raisin filling.

Following my recipe below, I will offer some tips on how to make this tasty dessert.

Raisin Puff
(aka Plum Puff)

Raisin filling:
1 lb sultana raisins
2½ cups water
1 tbsp orange juice

½ cup white sugar
3 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter

Cookie Dough Base and Top:
½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup milk
3¼ cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt

Sugar for sprinkling on top crust

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Place raisins into a medium-sized saucepan. Add the water and orange juice.

Cover raisin mixture and bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat, uncover, and boil mixture gently over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix white sugar, flour, salt, and spices for the filling together.

Add dry ingredients to raisins and cook, uncovered, over medium low heat until thick, about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly and gently to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Stir well.

Place saucepan on wire cooling rack and let mixture cool completely to room temperature, stirring several times, for a couple of hours or so.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 9”x13” pan.

In large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar.

Add egg and beat well.

Add vanilla and milk and beat until incorporated.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together.

Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, a cup at a time, stirring until combined.

Transfer dough to floured flat surface and knead dough into a disk shape.

Divide the dough into two equal parts.

Form each half of the dough into a rectangular log shape.

Cut a piece of wax paper about 18” long. Sprinkle lightly with flour.

On the wax paper, roll out half of the dough into a rectangle shape the size of the pan.

Lay the pan upside down over the dough. Catch both ends of the wax paper while grabbing onto the ends of the pan and flip the pan and dough over together.

Remove the wax paper and adjust and press the dough to fit the bottom of the pan.

Spread the cooled raisin mixture evenly over the cookie dough base.

On wax paper sprinkled lightly with flour, roll out the remaining half of the dough into a rectangle shape to fit the size of the pan. By catching hold of the ends of the wax paper, carefully lift the wax paper and dough up and flip it over on to the raisin filling. Remove the wax paper. Sprinkle the crust with white sugar, if desired.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire cooling rack before cutting into 2” squares and serving.

Yield: 24 – 2” squares

 

Hints and Tips

Cooking the Raisin Filling

The one ingredient not listed in the recipe is patience! This is not a quick dessert to make. This is because the raisin mixture has to first be cooked then allowed to cool to room temperature before assembling the dessert.

Once the sugar-flour-spice mixture is added to the raisins, it is important to stir the mixture constantly to avoid scorching but do so gently so as not to break up the raisins. The raisins should keep their shape for this dessert.

Let the raisin mixture cool at room temperature as opposed to trying to speed up the cooling process by placing it in the refrigerator. The filling will thicken more as it cools slowly. The filling will be a better texture and  easier to spread if allowed to cool naturally at room temperature. This cooling process will take at least two hours (remember, I mentioned patience!).

It is important to let the mixture cool completely before spreading it on the cookie dough base because, if the mixture is too warm, it will start to melt, or break down, the composition of the cookie dough, yielding a doughy base.

Stirring the mixture occasionally as it cools will also help the filling to thicken. By the time the mixture is cool enough to spread on the cookie dough base, it should be sufficiently thick that it clings to the spoon as shown in the photo below.

Cookie Dough

The top and bottom crusts are made of a soft cookie dough which means only barely enough flour is used to be able to roll it out. Add the dry ingredients to the dough mixture, a cup at a time, blending well before adding the next cup.

Once the cookie dough mixture has been prepared, it needs to be divided into two equal parts – one for the base and one for the top. If you are able to “eyeball” the equal division, great. If not, or for more assurance that the top and bottom crusts are of equal depth, I recommend weighing each dough portion to ensure equal amounts of dough are apportioned for the two crusts. I love my kitchen scales and couldn’t get along without them.

It also helps to shape each dough portion into rectangular-shaped logs before starting to roll out the dough to fit the 9”x13” pan. This will help to shape the dough as it is being rolled out. Lightly flour a piece of wax paper about 18” long. Rolling out the dough on the wax paper will make it easier to transfer the dough to the pan as this is a very soft dough. If you try to pick up the dough in your hands to move it, it will stretch and might tear before it reaches the pan.

Try to keep the depth of the dough even as you roll it out. If the dough starts to roll out unevenly, gently “square” it up by repositioning or reshaping it with your hands. When you think it is about the size of the pan, hold the pan over the dough and make any necessary adjustments to the dough so it will fit the pan.

Place the greased pan, upside down, over the dough. Grasp both ends of the wax paper and the ends of the pan and flip the dough and pan over together at the same time. The dough will drop into the pan. Remove the wax paper and make any minor adjustments needed so the dough covers the bottom of the pan completely. Do not put any dough up the sides of the pan. Sounds easy enough – and the bottom crust is. It’s the top crust placement that’s a bit tricky.

Once the raisin mixture is cooled, evenly spread it over the base. Prepare the top crust using the same procedure as for the bottom crust. Obviously, with the raisin filling now added, the pan cannot be turned upside down over the dough! This means the dough on the wax paper needs to be flipped on top of the filling. This is one of those times where it’s important to get it right the first time as there is no opportunity to remove or re-adjust the top crust once it is placed on the sticky raisin filling and the filling needs to be completely covered with the crust. Bring the wax paper with the dough on it as close to the pan as possible. Grab both ends of the wax paper and flip the dough on to the filling, then remove the wax paper. Sprinkle a light dusting of sugar on top of the crust, if desired.

Baking

Bake the Raisin Puff in a 400°F oven on a rack positioned in the middle of the oven.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes. It’s important that the dough get baked but it is not meant to be hard. It still should have some “give” and softness to it – a fork should easily break through the crust with moderate resistance.

Cooling

Let the Raisin Puff cool completely in the pan on a wire cooling rack before cutting into 2” squares. This dessert is not a finger food because of the gooey filling so is best served plated.

Storing

Store in refrigerator.

Raisin Puff (aka Plum Puff)

Raisin Puff (aka Plum Puff) is an old-fashioned dessert made with a rich raisin filling sandwiched between two layers of soft shortbread.
Course Dessert
Keyword Plum Puff, Raisin Puff
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

Raisin filling:

  • 1 lb sultana raisins
  • cups water
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp butter

Cookie Dough Base and Top:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup milk
  • cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Sugar for sprinkling on top crust

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Place raisins into a medium-sized saucepan. Add the water and orange juice. Cover and bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat, uncover, and boil mixture gently over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix sugar, flour, white sugar, salt, and spices together. Add to raisins and cook, uncovered, over medium low heat until thick, about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly and gently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Stir well. Place saucepan on wire cooling rack and let mixture cool completely to room temperature, stirring several times, for a couple of hours or so.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 9”x13” pan.
  5. In large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and milk and beat until incorporated.
  6. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture, a cup at a time, stirring until combined.
  7. Transfer dough to floured flat surface and knead dough into a disk shape.
  8. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Form each half of the dough into a rectangular log shape. Cut a piece of wax paper about 18” long. Sprinkle lightly with flour. On the wax paper, roll out half of the dough into a rectangle shape the size of the pan. Lay the pan upside down over the dough. Catch both ends of the wax paper while grabbing onto the ends of the pan and flip the pan and dough over together. Remove the wax paper and adjust and press the dough to fit the bottom of the pan.
  9. Spread the cooled raisin mixture evenly over the cookie dough base.
  10. On wax paper sprinkled lightly with flour, roll out the remaining half of the dough into a rectangle shape to fit the size of the pan. By catching hold of the ends of the wax paper, carefully lift the wax paper and dough up and flip it over on to the raisin filling. Remove the wax paper. Sprinkle the crust with white sugar, if desired.
  11. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire cooling rack before cutting into 2” squares and serving.

Recipe Notes

Yield: 24 – 2” squares

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Plum Puff
Raisin Puff

 

Old-fashioned Apple Crisp

One of my all-time favorites is the traditional old-fashioned apple crisp dessert — the sweet apple flavour filling topped with a crisp, crunchy streusel. And, oh, the heavenly scent in the house when the apple crisp is baking!

Apple crisps are not hard to make and basically use pantry staples for ingredients.  The key to a really tasty apple crisp is to use a blend of apples.  I find honeycrisps, cortlands, humes, and ginger gold varieties work really well.  Using a blend of apples allows their flavours and textures to play off of each other.  The honeycrisps and cortlands are  sweet-tart, juicy apples.  The ginger golds and humes are less tart.  The cortlands and ginger golds hold their shapes particularly well when cooked so they don’t cook to mush and the apple chunks or slices are still visible in the cooked crisp, giving it a pleasing texture.

I don’t always put four varieties of apples in a crisp.  Frankly, I’ve made quite acceptable crisps with just one kind of apple.  Essentially, I use  whatever apples I have in the house and, most often, use only a couple of varieties.  The apples I have used in my apple crisp today have come from Arlington Orchards, west of Summerside, PEI.  This is a large apple orchard where many different varieties of apples are grown.  It’s an annual October trek to Arlington Orchards for us and sometimes I get carried away and come home with lots and lots of apples for eating and baking! The photo below is just a sampling!  I think I brought home seven varieties this year!

Apple crisps are best made and allowed to cool for about 30 minutes before eating.  This allows the true flavours of the apples to be appreciated when the crisp is still warm but not too hot to eat.

Apple crisp freezes very well.  I often make the crisps in individual ramekin dishes and freeze them, unbaked.  Crisps can also be frozen after they are baked, then thawed and reheated in the microwave.  However, I find there is some texture deterioration in the latter method.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Apple Crisp

Streusel Topping:
¾ cup flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup cold butter
¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Apple Filling:
2½ lbs apples (e.g., Cortlands, Honeycrisps, Humes, Ginger Gold, individually or in any combination mixture)
2 tsp lemon juice
⅓ cup white sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cornstarch

Method:

Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375°.

Streusel Topping: In medium-sized bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans. Cover mixture and place in refrigerator while preparing apple filling.

Streusel Topping
Streusel Topping

Apple Filling: Peel, core, and cut apples into chunks about ¼”- ⅓” thick or so. Place in large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to coat.

In separate bowl, combine sugars, spices, and cornstarch. Mix well. Add to apples and toss to coat.

Transfer mixture to greased 8”x8″ baking pan and arrange apples evenly over bottom of pan.

Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over apples.

Place baking pan on rimmed baking sheet (lined with tin foil for easy clean-up should apples bubble out).

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until topping is crisp and golden, apples are tender when knife-tested, and juices from the apple filling are bubbling up through the crisp topping. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or your favourite vanilla ice cream.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

Old-fashioned Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp is an easy-to-make baked dessert made with chopped apples covered with a crisp rolled oats-flour-butter-brown sugar topping.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

Streusel Topping:

  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans optional

Apple Filling:

  • lbs apples e.g., Cortlands, Honeycrisps, Humes, Ginger Gold, individually or in any combination mixture
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • cup white sugar
  • cup brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375°.

Streusel Topping: In medium-sized bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon, and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans. Cover mixture and place in refrigerator while preparing apple filling.

    Apple Filling: Peel, core, and cut apples into chunks about ¼”- ⅓” thick or so. Place in large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to coat.

    1. In separate bowl, combine sugars, spices, and cornstarch. Mix well. Add to apples and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to greased 8” baking pan and arrange apples evenly over bottom of pan.
    2. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over apples. Place baking pan on rimmed baking sheet (lined with tin foil for easy clean-up should apples bubble out).
    3. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until topping is crisp and golden, apples are tender when knife-tested, and juices from the apple are bubbling up through the crisp topping. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.
    4. Serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or your favourite vanilla ice cream.

    Recipe Notes

    Yield: 6-8 servings

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    Apple Crisp
    Apple Crisp

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    Blueberry Bread Pudding

    Blueberries are still in season on PEI as I write this posting.  In fact, on the news last week, it was reported that there is an over-abundance of blueberries this year — is there such a thing as too many blueberries????

    High bush blueberries
    High bush blueberries

    I love blueberries and, this year, we have been very fortunate in that the Murray family has a large field of U-pick high-bush blueberries in North Tryon, PEI.

    Tryon U-pick Field of High Bush Blueberries
    Tryon U-pick Field of High Bush Blueberries

    Suffice it to say, I’ve had a steady diet of blueberries for the past several weeks from their U-pick where they grow several varieties.

    I have also frozen a good many to have for winter use in my baking.

    High bush blueberries are very easy and quick to pick.

    Earlier I shared my recipe for blueberry muffins.  Today, I am sharing my recipe for blueberry bread pudding, an old-fashioned comfort food.  This pudding is so tasty, it is hard to believe it is made with little else but bread, milk, and eggs!  But, with a bit of extra flavoring, yummy blueberries, and a Grand Marnier sauce, this makes one luscious, decadent dessert!

    Some cube the bread, place it in a pan, and then pour the custard sauce over top.  The method I use is different in that I tear up the bread into bite-size pieces, put it into a bowl, pour the milk over it and let it sit for about 15 minutes before hand-crushing the mixture.  I find this technique makes for a smoother textured pudding.

    I have baked bread pudding both in a water bath and without.  I find baking it in the hot water bath makes for a more moist pudding and the edges don’t tend to dry out.  To bake a pudding in a water bath, you will need two sizes of pans – one to bake the pudding in and another larger pan that will accommodate the pudding pan.  Fill the exterior pan with enough hot water that it comes up to about 1/2 way on the pan which holds the pudding.

    This is an easy pudding to make and does not take a lot of ingredients or complicated methods.  It also freezes well so, if there happens to be leftovers, they can be stowed away for a later treat.

    I like to serve a warm brown sugar sauce (or a variation thereof, such as Grand Marnier sauce) with this pudding.  However, it would also be tasty with a dollop of lemon curd, crème fraiche, or ice cream.

    Blueberry Bread Pudding

    Ingredients:

    4 cups whole milk
    1 – 1 pound loaf of soft French bread

    4 eggs
    ⅔ cup sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp vanilla
    2 tsp grated orange rind
    ½ tsp cinnamon
    ⅛ tsp nutmeg
    2 tbsp maple syrup
    3 tbsp melted butter

    2 cups high-bush blueberries, fresh or frozen

    Method:

    Assemble ingredients.

    Preheat oven to 325°F.

    Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.

    In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all. Pour 4 cups of milk over the bread. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes then hand-crush mixture until well blended.

    In a separate bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again.

    Add the salt, vanilla, grated orange rind, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and butter. Blend well.

    Pour over bread-milk mixture and mix well.

    Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries being careful not to break the berries.

    Pour into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan. Place pan inside a larger pan. Place on oven rack in upper part of oven. Carefully pour hot water into the exterior pan until the water reaches about ½ way up the sides of the pudding pan.

    Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until top of pudding is nicely tanned and it springs back to a light touch and a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.

    Remove from oven and water bath and transfer pudding pan to a rack to rest for 20 minutes.

    DSC06282 Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with a brown sugar sauce (or my Grand Marnier sauce below), lemon curd, crème anglaise, or ice cream.

    Yield: 12 servings

    Grand Marnier Brown Sugar Sauce

    Ingredients:

    1 cup brown sugar
    3 tbsp cornstarch
    dash of salt
    2 cups boiling water
    2 tbsp corn syrup
    1½ tbsp Grand Marnier
    2 tsp vanilla
    ¼ cup butter

    Method:

    In microwave safe bowl, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together well. Add the boiling water, corn syrup, Grand Marnier, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Microwave until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve over blueberry bread pudding.

    Yield: Apx. 2½ cups

    Blueberry Bread Pudding
    Blueberry Bread Pudding

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    Blueberry Bread Pudding

    Old fashioned bread pudding gets dressed up with tasty blueberries and decadent Grand Marnier sauce for a delicious dessert.
    Course Dessert
    Keyword Blueberry Bread Pudding, Bread Pudding
    Servings 12
    My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

    Ingredients

    Pudding:

    • 4 cups whole milk
    • 1 – 1 pound loaf of soft French bread
    • 4 eggs
    • cup sugar
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 2 tsp grated orange rind
    • ½ tsp cinnamon
    • tsp nutmeg
    • 2 tbsp maple syrup
    • 3 tbsp melted butter
    • 2 cups high-bush blueberries, fresh or frozen

    Grand Marnier Brown Sugar Sauce:

    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp cornstarch
    • dash of salt
    • 2 cups boiling water
    • 2 tbsp corn syrup
    • tbsp Grand Marnier
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • ¼ cup butter

    Instructions

    For the Pudding:

    1. Assemble ingredients.
    2. Preheat oven to 325°F.
    3. Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.
    4. In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all. Pour 4 cups of milk over the bread. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes then handcrush mixture until well blended.
    5. In separate bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again. Add the salt, vanilla, grated orange rind, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and butter. Blend well. Pour over bread-milk mixture and mix well.
    6. Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries being careful not to break the berries. Pour into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan. Place pan inside a larger pan. Place on oven rack in upper part of oven. Carefully pour hot water into exterior pan until the water reaches about ½ way up the sides of the pudding pan.
    7. Bake for about 50 minutes or until top of pudding is nicely tanned and it springs back to a light touch and/or a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.
    8. Remove from oven and water bath and transfer pudding pan to a rack to rest for 20 minutes. Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with a brown sugar sauce, lemon curd, crème anglaise, or ice cream.

    For the Sauce:

    1. In saucepan, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together well. Add the boiling water, corn syrup, Grand Marnier, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Microwave until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve over blueberry bread pudding.

    Recipe Notes

    Yield: 12 servings and Apx. 2½ cups sauce

    For Other Blueberry Dessert Recipes From My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

    Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie
    Blueberry Buckle
    Blueberry Grunt
    Peach Blueberry Crisp

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    Bread Pudding
    Blueberry Bread Pudding

    Caps off to Haskaps – A Trendy New Berry on PEI

    Haskap Berries
    Haskap Berries

    It’s not often that I discover a new food on Prince Edward Island. Until recently, I had never heard of haskap berries and did not know that they were grown on PEI.  Earlier this month, I travelled to Rollo Bay in the Eastern end of the Island to view a five-acre field of haskap bushes and to have a chat with the growers.

    Rows of Haskap Bushes
    Rows of Haskap Bushes

    Mother and daughter duo, Lynn and Becky Townshend, began growing 2500 haskap bushes five years ago. Haskap bushes are very hardy and can withstand cold winter temperatures. They are also fast-growing and, once established, are one of the season’s earliest plants to bear fruit.

    Haskap Bushes
    Haskap Bushes

    Before meeting the Townshends, I did a little research on the elongated-shaped berries which are the color of blueberries. I imagined they would grow on a low bush and, because they somewhat resemble blueberries, thought they would taste something like traditional blueberries. However, that is not the case. Their color is where I find the similarity with blueberries ends. They grow on high bushes like the ones in the photograph below. These are five-year old bushes and they range in height probably between about 3-5 feet.

    Haskap Bush
    Haskap Bush

    Haskaps have their origin in Siberia and are also found in Russia, Japan, and China. A few years ago, Dr. Bob Bors at the University of Saskatchewan developed the haskaps for commercial production. Haskaps are a member of the honeysuckle family and are sometimes referred to as honeyberries.

    Haskap Berries
    Haskap Berries

    The Townshends grow four varieties of haskaps -Indigo Gem, Indigo Treat, Tundra, and Borealis. Some varieties are sweeter than others but, for the most part, I would class these berries as tart and they would not be ones I would be likely to eat in a bowl with milk and sugar as I would, say, blueberries or strawberries. Raw, according to my tastebuds, I would suggest the haskaps most closely resemble Concord grapes in flavour while cooked or baked, they are (in my opinion) perhaps closest to black currants.

    Hand-picking Haskap berries
    Hand-picking Haskap berries

    Picking the berries is a tedious and time-consuming task. At present, there is no mechanical harvester available (at least locally) for haskaps which means they must all be picked by hand.

    Hand-picking Haskap Berries
    Hand-picking Haskap Berries

    As Becky says, “they’re devils to pick”! This is because the berries grow in through the branches and leaves on the bushes and the branches have to be moved away from the plant to reveal the berries.

    This labour-intensive task is what keeps the price of the berries high. At time of writing, Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown sells pint boxes of haskaps for $6.00 each.

    Pint box of Haskaps
    Pint box of Haskaps

    So, what can you do with haskaps? They make a great syrup or sauce for pancakes, waffles, French toast, or over ice cream or as the sauce for a shortcake. They can be used in baked goods, alone or in combination with other fruits such as raspberries or blackberries (I find they pair really well with raspberry – the flavors blend together well). They are suitable for pies, muffins, and baked puddings as well as for jam. Haskap berries also freeze well for later use. Essentially, you could use haskaps in the same manner in which you would use blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.

    The recipe I have chosen to share today using haskaps is for a rich sauce. Adding a mere teaspoon of a high quality raspberry balsamic vinegar and just a dash of cardamom gives additional complexity and flavour to this sauce. This sauce is particularly good in Haskap Shortcake.

    Haskap Sauce

    Ingredients:

    1 cup haskap berries, fresh or frozen
    ½ cup super-fine sugar (aka caster sugar)
    dash cardamom
    1 tsp raspberry balsamic vinegar
    1-2 tsp water
    1-2 tsp cornstarch

    Method:

    Place haskaps, sugar, cardamom, and raspberry balsamic vinegar in small bowl. Stir gently to release juice from berries. Do not break up berries. Let sit for 3-4 hours at room temperature (can be placed in covered bowl in refrigerator for up to 24 hours) to allow sugar to begin to naturally dissolve and for the flavors of the berries, balsamic vinegar, and cardamom to blend.

    Transfer berries to saucepan and add about 1 tsp water or so, just enough so that the berries and sugar do not scorch (do not add too much water as the sauce will be too runny). Over medium-low heat, cook berries, stirring gently, just until mixture starts to boil.

    In small cup, combine 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water to make paste. Temper with about 1 tablespoon of hot berry mixture then stir into berry mixture in saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture thickens to desired consistency.  Note: It may be necessary to add more cornstarch to reach desired thickness – repeat preceding procedure to mix in any additional cornstarch needed. Remove from heat and let cool. Store sauce in covered bottle in refrigerator for up to one week.

    Yield: about ¾ cup

    Serving Suggestion: Serve sauce over pancakes, French toast, waffles or ice cream. May also be used as a sauce for shortcake.

    Hascap Shortcake

    To make Hascap Shortcake, use your favorite sponge cake or biscuits.  Split cake or biscuit in half.  On bottom half, pipe a border of whipped cream around edge of cake or biscuit to form a dam to hold the sauce.  In center of whipped cream border, add about 1 tablespoon of hascap sauce.

    Place top of cake or biscuit over whipped cream and sauce.   Drizzle more hascap sauce over top and add a dollop of whipped cream.

    And, here is the finished product….

    Haskap Shortcake
    Haskap Shortcake

     

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    Rhubarb Custard Torte

    Slice of Rhubarb Custard Torte on white plate
    Rhubarb Custard Torte

    Rhubarb Custard Torte is one of my all-time favorite desserts and it is simply sublime!  While I freeze a substantial amount for use over the winter, there is nothing like scooting out to the garden to pick some fresh rhubarb just at the time I am making a recipe. However, our rhubarb season here in Atlantic Canada is all too short so most of my rhubarb recipes, including this torte, can be made with frozen rhubarb.

    My family has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember.  It’s not overly difficult to make but it does take time since there are three stages to it:  1) the shortbread base; 2) the rhubarb custard filling; and 3) the meringue.

    The most tricky part is making the rhubarb custard and ensuring it doesn’t scorch while it is cooking and thickening.  To ensure this doesn’t happen, cook it at medium-low temperature and stir it constantly.  Some other tips when making this recipe are, first, don’t overbake the base as it will become hard and somewhat tough.  And, second, add the sugar slowly, a tablespoon at a time while continuing to beat the eggs.

    I love the rich, ruby red color of the rhubarb!  Use the brightest red rhubarb you can find as it will give great color to your torte.

    Rhubarb Custard Torte

    Shortbread Base:
    ½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    Pinch salt
    2 tbsp sugar

    Cream butter. Mix in flour, salt, and sugar.

    Lightly grease 8”x8” pan and press shortbread mixture evenly into pan.

    Bake in 325ºF oven for 22-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack while preparing filling.

    Custard Filling:
    1¼ cups sugar
    3½ tbsp all-purpose flour
    ½ cup whole milk, evaporated milk, or blend
    3 large egg yolks
    2¼ cups chopped rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces.

    In medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and flour. Blend in the milk. Whisk in the egg yolks. Over medium-low heat, cook mixture just until hot (not boiling), stirring constantly. Add the rhubarb. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens and rhubarb is softened.

    Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

    Preheat oven to 400F. Spread rhubarb custard over cooled shortbread base.

    Meringue:
    3 egg whites
    1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    ¼ cup sugar
    3/4 teaspoon vanilla

    Place the egg whites and cream of tarter in bowl of stand mixer and beat on high speed until eggs are foamy.  Gradually add the ¼ cup white sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in the vanilla just to blend.

    Spread meringue evenly over rhubarb custard, ensuring custard is completely covered to the pan edges.

    Bake for 5-6 minutes, or just until meringue starts to brown.

    Cool completely before serving.

    Yield: 9 servings

    Close-up of rhubarb custard torte
    Rhubarb Custard Torte

    Enjoy with a fine cup of coffee or tea.

    Slice of Rhubarb Custard Torte on white plate
    Rhubarb Custard Torte

     

    For other great rhubarb dessert recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

    Rhubarb Pudding Cake
    Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
    Rhubarb Pie

    Rhubarb Custard Torte

    Delightful dessert featuring shortbread base covered with a cooked rhubarb custard and topped with a meringue.
    Course Dessert
    Cuisine Canadian
    Keyword torte, rhubarb, rhubarb torte
    Servings 9
    My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

    Ingredients

    Shortbread Base:

    • ½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • Pinch salt
    • 2 tbsp sugar

    Custard Filling:

    • cups sugar
    • tbsp all-purpose flour
    • ½ cup whole milk, evaporated milk, or blend
    • 3 large egg yolks (reserve whites for the meringue)
    • cups rhubarb, chopped into ½” pieces

    Meringue:

    • 3 egg whites
    • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¾ tsp vanilla

    Instructions

    Shortbread Base:

    1. Cream butter. Mix in flour, salt, and sugar.
    2. Lightly grease 8”x8” pan and press shortbread mixture evenly into pan. Bake in 325ºF oven for 22-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack while preparing filling.

    Custard Filling:

    1. In medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and flour. Blend in the milk. Whisk in the egg yolks. Over medium-low heat, cook mixture just until hot (not boiling), stirring constantly. Add the rhubarb. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens and rhubarb is softened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
    2. Preheat oven to 400°Spread cooled rhubarb custard over cooled shortbread base.

    Meringue:

    1. Place the egg whites and cream of tarter in bowl of stand mixer and beat on high speed until eggs are foamy. Gradually add the ¼ cup white sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in the vanilla just to blend. Spread meringue evenly over rhubarb custard, ensuring custard is completely covered to the pan edges. Bake for 5-6 minutes, or just until meringue starts to brown.
    2. Cool completely before serving.

    Recipe Notes

    Yield: 9 servings

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    Rhubarb Custard Torte
    Rhubarb Custard Torte

     

     

    Gingerbread

     

    Gingerbread with Whipped Cream and Brown Sugar Sauce
    Gingerbread with Whipped Cream and Brown Sugar Sauce

    Do you have certain desserts that you associate with different seasons or times of the year?  Gingerbread is one dessert I tend to associate most with the coldest winter months for some reason.  It’s a plain but tasty dessert any time of the year but it’s a particularly good comfort food in the dead of winter.

    Gingerbread is very easy to make and doesn’t take any ingredients that are unusual or difficult to find.  I add a small amount of hot strong coffee to the batter because I find it brings out the strength of the spices.  Adding some applesauce also helps to make the cake moist.

    I made this cake in an 8″x8″ cake pan because I was planning to split it into two layers to fill with whipped cream.  If you want to keep it at just one layer, then I recommend baking it in a 9″x9″ pan which will yield a more shallow cake.  Note, however, that the baking time will need to be adjusted as a 9″x9″ cake will take less time to bake.

    Gingerbread is best when served warm and drizzled with brown sugar sauce.

    Gingerbread

    2 c. all-purpose flour
    1 tsp soda
    ¼ tsp salt
    1½ tsp ginger
    1 tsp cinnamon
    ¼ tsp cloves
    ⅛ tsp allspice

    ½ cup butter, room temperature
    ½ cup brown sugar
    2 eggs, room temperature
    2 tbsp applesauce

    ⅔ cup molasses
    ⅔ cup boiling water
    2½ tbsp hot strong coffee

    Method:

    Assemble ingredients.

    1-DSC02881

    Preheat oven to 350º and position rack in middle of oven.  Line 8”x8” pan with parchment paper with two strips of parchment as shown in photo below.  Make sure you leave enough parchment over the edges of the pan so you can easily use the parchment as a “sling” when it comes time to remove the cake from the pan. Set prepared pan aside.

    Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.  Set aside.

    Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

    Add eggs, one at a time and beat into butter and sugar.  Stir in applesauce on low speed.

    Combine the molasses, hot water, and coffee.  Stir to mix well.

    Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture alternately with the liquid ingredients, starting and ending with dry ingredients (process is three additions of dry ingredients and two of liquid ingredients).  Scrape sides of the bowl as necessary to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

    Turn batter into prepared pan.

    Bake for about 45-50 minutes until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean or cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.  If edges start to brown too much, loosely place a piece of foil over top of cake.

    Let cake rest in pan for at least 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan by lifting the parchment paper sling.  Cut into squares.  Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and/or brown sugar sauce.

    Note:  A 9”x9” pan may be used instead of an 8”x8” pan.  This will make a more shallow cake.  Adjust baking time accordingly as the 9”x9” pan will likely take less baking time.

    Yield:  9 servings

    Gingerbread

    A classic comfort food that never goes out of style, Gingerbread is a soft and spicy cake-like dessert. Supremely good served with a dollop of whipped cream and/or brown sugar sauce.
    Course Dessert
    Cuisine Canadian
    Keyword dessert, gingerbread
    Servings 9
    My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

    Ingredients

    • 2 c. all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp soda
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • tsp ginger
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp cloves
    • tsp allspice
    • ½ cup butter, room temperature
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs, room temperature
    • 2 tbsp applesauce
    • cup molasses
    • cup boiling water
    • tbsp hot strong coffee

    Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350º and position rack in middle of oven. Line 8”x8” pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
    2. Sift together the flour, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Set aside.

    3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat into butter and sugar. Stir in applesauce.
    4. Combine the molasses, hot water, and coffee. Stir to mix well. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture alternately with the liquid ingredients, starting and ending with dry ingredients (process is three additions of dry ingredients and two of liquid ingredients). Scrape sides of the bowl as necessary to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
    5. Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean and cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. If edges start to brown too much, loosely place a piece of tinfoil over top of cake.
    6. Let cake rest in pan for at least 15 minutes, then remove from pan. Cut into squares. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and/or brown sugar sauce.

    Recipe Notes

    Note: A 9”x9” pan may be used instead of an 8”x8” pan. This will make a more shallow cake. Adjust baking time accordingly as the 9”x9” pan will likely take less baking time.

    Yield: 9 servings

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    Gingerbread
    Gingerbread

    Chocolate Potato Cake

    We are familiar with cakes made with vegetables like carrot and zucchini.  However, have you ever heard of potato cake?

    We Islanders like our spuds, there is no doubt about it.  Potatoes are a very versatile vegetable and can be prepared and served in many different ways but have you ever heard of having them for dessert?  Well, combine potatoes with chocolate and some light spice seasoning and you have a really tasty cake.

    What follows is my creation of a recipe for chocolate potato cake.  This is a fairly dense-textured cake so don’t look for it to have the same “foggy” and fluffy texture of a typical chocolate cake mix out of a box!  Despite the two cups of sugar in the recipe, it is not overly or sickeningly sweet.  The potatoes are cooked and mashed really well before adding them to the cake batter.  It is important that they be lump-free as, otherwise, you will have lumps in the cake batter.  The mashed potatoes should be warm when added to the batter.

    You may find two or three of the ingredients different in this cake recipe.  For example, I have added a pinch of cayenne pepper because I find it enhances the depth of the chocolate flavor.  The key, of course, is not to overdo it – if you add too much, there will be excessive “heat” in the cake….just a pinch is all it takes.  The addition of the espresso powder is also another good way to draw out the flavor of the cocoa and lend a mocha flavor to the cake.  I have quite a collection of balsamic vinegars from our local Liquid Gold store here in Charlottetown.  One of them is the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar which is delicious when simmered on the stove, reduced down, and drizzled over ice cream.  If you have never tried a good quality balsamic vinegar reduction in this way, you are missing out on a delectable treat.  I added 1/2 tbsp of this balsamic vinegar to the chocolate cake batter.  This is a chocolate all-the-way cake!

    I recommend baking this cake in a 10″ tube or bundt cake pan.  These pans have a hollow tube in the center of the pan and this allows dense-batter cakes to rise and bake more evenly.  There is also less chance of the cake falling in the middle or the outsides of the cake baking too quickly and drying out before the centre of the cake is baked.

    The key to making this cake is not to overbake it.  Start checking it at about the 40-45-minute baking point.  If a cake tester does not come out clean at that point, continue to bake it but check it every 4-5 minutes.  If it overbakes, it will be dry.

    Chocolate Potato Cake

    2½ cups flour

    ¼ tsp salt

    2¾ tsp baking powder

    ¼ tsp soda

    1 tsp cinnamon

    ¼ tsp allspice

    pinch cayenne

    ⅔ cup cocoa

    ¾ cup butter

    1 cup white sugar

    1 cup brown sugar

    3 eggs

    1 cup warm mashed potatoes

    ½ cup milk

    1½ tsp espresso powder dissolved in ⅓ cup hot water

    2 tbsp Swiss Chocolate Almond Liqueur (or your favorite coffee liqueur)

    ½ tbsp dark chocolate balsamic vinegar (optional, but good)

    1½ tsp vanilla

    Method:

    Assemble ingredients.

    Ingredients for Chocolate Potato Cake
    Ingredients for Chocolate Potato Cake

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Line bottom of 10” tube pan with parchment paper.  Grease or spray cooking oil on sides of pan.

    Tube Pan Prepared for Chocolate Potato Cake
    Tube Pan Prepared for Chocolate Potato Cake

    Sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, and cocoa.  Set aside.

    In separate bowl, combine the brown and white sugars.

    1-1-DSC01494

    In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy (2-3 mins on medium-high speed). 

    Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well to incorporate after each addition.  

    Add the mashed potatoes and beat on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes until batter is smooth.

    Add the coffee, liqueur, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla to the milk to make 1 cup of liquid.  (Note – if you choose not to add the liqueur and/or balsamic vinegar, replace them with milk so that the liquid measurement equals 1 cup.)

    Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the liquid ingredients, starting and ending with the flour mixture (process is three additions of dry ingredients to two of liquid), mixing well after each addition. 

    Scrape sides of bowl with spatula as necessary to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. 

    Scrape Sides of Bowl Frequently
    Scrape Sides of Bowl Frequently

    Pour batter into prepared tube pan. 

    Bake for apx. 40-55 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean and the cake springs back to a light touch.  Do not overbake or cake will be dry.

    Baked Chocolate Potato Cake
    Baked Chocolate Potato Cake

    Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

    Ice with your favorite frosting.

    Enjoy!

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    Chocolate Potato Cake
    Chocolate Potato Cake

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    Blueberry Grunt

    Blueberry Grunt

    I don’t know about you but once the Christmas holidays are over, I crave comfort foods.  You know, the foods that are basic, nostalgic, or that you have a sentimental attachment to and that take you down memory lane.  Some might even refer to these dishes as vintage.  Maybe your mom made them for you when you were a child or you remember them from visits to grandma’s house.  I’m talking about foods like macaroni and cheese, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, apple pie or crisp, homemade stews and “boiled dinners“, and baked bread.  Cottage pie, rice pudding, roast chicken dinners, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and fruit cobblers are other comfort foods commonly enjoyed in North American culture.  There are many other dishes that bring us comfort in the cold Canadian winters so this list is not exhaustive and what constitutes comfort food may vary between cultures and regions of Canada.

    These foods, in their traditional content, are by no means gourmet fare nor are they necessarily devoid of calories.  They’re typically plain and simple stick-to-the-ribs kind of fare and they generate feelings of contentment and satisfaction …  you feel warm and cozy when eating the meal.  These kinds of dishes take basic, easy-to-find ingredients and are not usually difficult or complicated to make.  They’re the kinds of foods that, when you walk into a home where they are being prepared, your appetite is immediately whetted and you harken back to early memories of enjoying those foods.  They are hearty classics and endure over time, generation after generation.  Yes, even the old tuna casserole is still considered a comfort food by many!

    This month, I am going to focus many of my blog postings on some of my favorite comfort foods.  Today, I am starting with my recipe for Blueberry Grunt.  I don’t know the origin of this dessert or how it got its name but it’s really just a fruit cobbler – a slightly thickened fruit sauce on the bottom topped by a biscuit-like dumpling.  This dessert is often made on the stove top where the dumplings are put in the pot on top of the bubbling blueberry sauce, covered and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  However, my recipe calls for the dessert to be baked in the oven.

    Baked Blueberry Grunt

     

    My featured Island product in this recipe are the blueberries.  Each summer, I pack away several bags of these sweet little Island-grown morsels for use in my favorite recipes like this one for Blueberry Grunt.

    [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

    Blueberry Grunt

    Ingredients:
    4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
    1/2 cup white sugar
    2 tbsp brown sugar
    1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
    2 tsp lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
    1/2 cup water
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/8 tsp cardamon

    Topping:
    2 cups flour
    4 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    2 1/2 tbsp white sugar
    1 cup milk
    2 1/2 tbsp cold butter

    Method:

    Preheat oven to 400F.

    In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, cornstarch, and spices.  Stir in the grated lemon rind.  Set aside.

    In saucepan, combine blueberries and the sugar mixture.  Add the lemon juice and water.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer mixture for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from heat.

    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.  Add enough milk to make a soft dough mixture that will cling together.

    Grease a 1 1/2 or 2-quart baking dish or 8 individual ramekins.  Spoon the blueberry mixture into baking dish(es).

     

    Divide the dumpling dough into 8 portions.

    Place dumplings over blueberry mixture (close together if baking in one casserole or centered if using individual dishes).

    Bake in 400F oven for about 20-25 minutes or until dumplings are done and lightly golden brown on top.

    Serve hot with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or both!).

    Serves:  8

    What are your favorite comfort foods?

    Blueberry Grunt

    An easy to prepare comfort dessert, Blueberry Grunt consists basically of blueberries baked in a flavorful sauce under tea biscuit dumplings. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream and/or whipping cream.
    Course Dessert
    Cuisine Canadian
    Keyword blueberries, blueberry grunt
    Servings 8
    My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

    Ingredients

    Blueberry Base:

    • 4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 2 tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
    • 2 tsp lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp cardamom

    Topping:

    • 2 cups flour
    • 4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 1/2 tbsp white sugar
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 1/2 tbsp cold butter

    Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 400F.
    2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, cornstarch, and spices. Stir in the grated lemon rind. Set aside.
    3. In saucepan, combine blueberries and the sugar mixture. Add the lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer mixture for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat.
    4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add enough milk to make a soft dough mixture that will cling together.
    5. Grease a 1 1/2 or 2-quart baking dish or 8 individual ramekins. Spoon the blueberry mixture into baking dish(es).
    6. Divide the dumpling dough into 8 portions.
    7. Place dumplings over blueberry mixture (close together if baking in one casserole or centered if using individual dishes).
    8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until dumplings are done and lightly golden brown on top.
    9. Serve hot with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or both!).

    Recipe Notes

    Yield: 8 servings

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    Blueberry Grunt
    Blueberry Grunt

    Plum Pudding – A Favorite Christmas Dinner Tradition on Prince Edward Island

    I thought I knew what the most traditional Christmas food on Prince Edward Island would be.  However, for fun, I decided to use social media to ask Islanders what one food has to be on their tables over the holidays in order for it to be Christmas.  Sure, there were responses that mentioned fruitcake, Scotch cookies, seafood chowder, and meat pies and several other seasonal treats.  However, there was one food item that was repeatedly showing up and that is the traditional plum pudding.  Now, my informal survey is, by no means, scientific at all.  However, it gave a reasonably good indicator that was sufficient for me.  So, this posting is about plum pudding, the traditional Christmas dinner dessert in many Island households.

    Plum Pudding
    Plum Pudding

    Plum Pudding Trivia and SymbolismThis recipe may be halved.

    Plum pudding seems to have its origins in England and has been a popular food for centuries.  In preparation for this story, I did some research and discovered some interesting information about the Christmas pudding, or simply “pud”, as it is sometimes called.  How much of this is truth or superstition or folklore, I don’t know, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

    The making of the pudding was apparently often made on what was referred to as “Stir-up Sunday” which would occur 4-5 weeks prior to Christmas, timed to coincide with Advent.  This allowed time for the flavors in the pudding to blend and mature in time for Christmas. One theory was to have 13 ingredients in the pudding to represent Christ and the 12 disciples. It was also customary for each member of the family to give a stir to the batter and make a wish while doing so on the premise that the wish would then come true.  Each person was to stir the batter from East to West to commemorate the three Wise Men who traveled in this direction to find the Christ child lying in a manger.  It seems that it was common to mix some tiny charms, coins, tokens, or favors into the pudding batter.  Each of those was said to have some significance to the person who discovered them in his or her piece of pudding.  For example, these might have included a ring (signifying marriage prospect), an anchor (safe harbour), mini horseshoe (luck), a coin (wealth), or a thimble (thriftness).

    The pudding was often decorated with a sprig of holly, believed to symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Jesus when he was crucified.  The holly was also believed to have healing powers and would bring good luck. When the pudding was served to the table, it was often soused with liquor and set aflame and this was to signify the passion of Christ.  Who knew that plum pudding had all this symbolism!

    Enduring Popularity

    While many Islanders make their own plum puddings, there are several opportunities on PEI to buy them.  I checked around with some Island bakeries to see if they produced plum puddings and many do.

    However, to find out just how popular the puddings are, year after year, with Islanders, I consulted with Pat Robinson of Charlottetown.  For several years, Pat produced plum puddings in her home kitchen for sale in aid of charity and support to non-profit organizations.  In 2012, Pat made over 500 puddings. From the pudding sale proceeds, Pat donated $4,000 to the Community Legal Information Association, $1,500 to the PEI Humane Society, and $250 to an Island family in need.

    Pat believes that plum puddings have remained so popular because they are nostalgic.  They are typically only served at Christmas so that makes them a special once-a-year treat.  The aroma of the steamed pudding triggers warm memories of a traditional way of life and, for many, brings back fond memories of their childhood and of mothers, grandmothers, or aunts making the family plum pudding at Christmas.

    Plum pudding has been the traditional Christmas dinner dessert in my family and, in my younger years, it was my grandmother’s role to make the pudding along with the brown sugar sauce to serve over the “pud”.

    Ingredients

    There are no plums in plum pudding!  Supposedly, several centuries ago, raisins (a primary ingredient in the pudding) were considered as plums.  Combinations of raisins may also be used – I use Lexia (big sticky raisins) and sultanas.  Currents are also a common ingredient and I do add them to my pudding.

    Lexia (sticky) Raisins
    Lexia (sticky) Raisins

    While some cooks use only sultana raisins in their pudding, a variety of dried or candied/glazed fruits may also be added.  I use mixed peel (lemon, orange, and citron) in my pudding.

    Mixed Peel
    Mixed Peel

    The raisins and fruit are bound together by eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, and suet (raw beef fat).  Suet is often available frozen.  However, my preference is fresh product and I am lucky enough to live near a great butcher shop at the Riverview Country Market so I was able to pick up some suet there.

    Suet
    Suet

    A combination of sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves are common in the pudding and give it its flavour. I also add mace and cardamom. Sugar and molasses are the typical sweeteners used.  How much molasses is used will also determine the color of the final product.  Some puddings are almost jet-black in color while others, like mine, are more of a medium brown color.  I also add a small amount of strawberry jam for both flavor and moistness.

    My Island Bistro Kitchen's Plum Pudding
    My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Plum Pudding

    Not all plum puddings contain alcohol but it is a common ingredient with either spirits or stout being the most typical used.  Citrus juices may be used instead of alcohol, if desired.  The alcohol is believed to increase the shelf life of the pudding.  The featured Island product I use in my plum pudding is Strait Rum produced by Myriad View Artisan Distillery in Rollo Bay, PEI.

    Strait Rum from Myriad View Artisan Distillery, Rollo Bay, PEI
    Strait Rum from Myriad View Artisan Distillery, Rollo Bay, PEI

    The batter for a plum pudding will be almost like a fruit cake consistency.

    Mold

    Special molds of decorative shapes are available for plum puddings.

    Steamed Pudding Mold
    Steamed Pudding Mold

    You do not need a special mold, though.  A metal bowl or clean tin cans can be used. If you are not presenting the full pudding at the table, the tin cans are an ideal alternative as they make the pudding easy to slice.

    Tin Cans Serve as Pudding Molds
    Tin Cans Serve as Pudding Molds

    However, if you are looking for presentation, a specialized mold will give an attractive shape.

    Some still make the pudding in a cloth sack.  I know one cook who simply lays out a large square of a heavy cotton fabric on the counter, sprinkles the cloth with flour, then pours the batter onto the center of the cloth.  Leaving some head room for the pudding to expand, she gathers up the cloth and ties it tightly with string, then places it on a rack in a huge pot of boiling water.  Amazingly, the pudding batter does not leak out nor does water seep into the batter during the boiling process and make the pudding overly wet or soggy.

    Steaming/Boiling

    Plum pudding can be either steamed or boiled.  Both involve a hot water bath.  This keeps the pudding moist.

    If using a mold, cover it with its cover or, if using a metal bowl or tin can, cover with a double layer of tin foil and secure it with string tied around the top of the container.

    Place a wire rack on the bottom of a large pot.

    Rack in pot
    Rack in pot

    Place the pudding mold on the wire rack and add boiling water to reach the level of about ½ to ⅔ the way up the side of the pudding mold or tin. Bring the water back to a full boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a gentle boil. It is important that the water boil gently during the cooking/steaming process, not be a rolling boil.  The pudding will generally take 3-4 hours to cook, depending on the size of mold you are using.  The pudding is done when a cake tester or skewer inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean.  Plum puddings are meant to be very moist, not dry consistency.  Be sure to let the pudding cool to room temperature in the mold before removing it.

    To boil the pudding in a bag, the process is similar.  A rack is placed on the bottom of a large pot of boiling water.  The pudding bag is set on the rack.  After the pudding is placed on the rack, the water is brought back to a rolling boil, then the temperature is immediately reduced to allow the water to boil gently.  The pudding is done when it is firm to the touch, usually after 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the pudding.  The bag is removed from the hot water bath, the pudding removed from the cloth sack, and transferred to an ovenproof pan.  The pudding can then be placed in a warm oven, set on a very low temperature, for about 5 minutes to dry off any excess moisture remaining on the pudding.

    Storing

    Wrap the cooled pudding tightly in plastic wrap and store in a sealed plastic bag.  The pudding will keep for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator or may be frozen for longer storage.

    Re-heating

    The pudding may be put back into its pudding mold and reheated for 1-2 hours in a hot water bath at the time of serving.  However, the easier way today is to simply microwave the pudding for just a few minutes until it is heated.  While you can heat the entire pudding in the microwave, it is quicker to cut the pudding into slices for reheating.

    Serving

    There are many different sauces/toppings served with plum pudding – brown sugar sauce, spiced cream, ice cream, or even a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream.  However, in our home, the tradition is to serve the pudding with a basic brown sugar sauce.

    Plum Pudding Served with Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce
    Plum Pudding Served with Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    To give the sauce a little “kick”, I sometimes add a dash of rum to deepen the flavor.  This, of course, is completely optional.  The liquor can be omitted; however, to maintain the same consistency, simply increase the amount of water equal to the amount of liquor called for in the recipe.

    For many Islanders, they will finish off their Christmas dinner with plum pudding served with whatever topping is traditional in their household.

    I am sharing my recipe for plum pudding with a brown sugar sauce, lightly flavored with rum distilled right here on PEI.

    Is plum pudding one of your Christmas traditions?  Does it bring back memories for you?  What do you serve with the plum pudding?

    (Printable version of recipe follows at end of posting)

    My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Plum Pudding

    Ingredients:

    1 cup sticky raisins (Lexia)
    1 cup sultana raisins
    1 cup currants
    ⅔ cup mixed peel (lemon/orange/citron)
    ½ cup rum

    1 cup flour
    ¾ tsp baking soda
    ¾ tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp salt
    1 tsp cinnamon
    ⅛ tsp mace
    ⅛ tsp nutmeg
    ⅛ tsp allspice
    ¼ tsp ginger
    ⅛ tsp cardamom
    dash cloves
    1 cup fine breadcrumbs

    1 cup suet
    ¾ cup brown sugar
    2 eggs
    ⅓ cup molasses
    ¼ cup strawberry jam
    ½ cup milk

    Method:

    Assemble ingredients.

    Plum Pudding Ingredients
    Plum Pudding Ingredients

    Grease or spray 8-cup (2-quart) pudding mold with cooking oil.

    Pudding Mold
    Pudding Mold

    In bowl, combine raisins and mixed peel.  Add the rum.  Stir.  Set aside while preparing other ingredients.

    In separate bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder, and salt.

    Add spices.

    Add breadcrumbs.  Stir well to combine.

    Stir the raisin and mixed peel mixture into the dry ingredients.

    In another bowl, combine the suet, molasses, brown sugar, milk, jam, and eggs.  Mix well.

    Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the flour and raisin mixture.  Stir to combine.

    Spoon mixture into prepared mold, filling mold about ¾ full.  Cover.

    In large stock pot, place a wire rack.  Place filled mold on rack.  Pour boiling water into stock pot, filling to about ½ to ⅔ the way up the side of the mold.  Bring water back to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a low boil over low heat to steam the pudding.  Cook for about 3 hours or until cake tester inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean.  Make sure the water level stays at the ½ – ⅔ mark throughout the cooking process, adding more water as needed.

    Remove pudding mold from the hot water bath and cool on a wire rack for a couple of hours.  Remove cover.

     

    Invert pudding mold over a wire rack to remove pudding.

    Wrap pudding in plastic wrap or in foil and place in a sealed bag.  The pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or it may be frozen for longer storage.

    To reheat, either place the pudding back in its mold and heat in a hot water bath for 1-2 hours or, more simply, slice pudding and place slices on plate then microwave approximately 30-45 seconds per slice.  Serve with desired sauce.

    Yield:  Apx. 12 servings

    Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce

     ¼ cup flour
    1 cup brown sugar
    ¼ tsp salt
    2 cup water
    2 tsp vanilla
    ¼ cup rum (optional)
    ¼ cup melted butter

    In large microwave-safe bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt together.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir to mix well.  Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes until thickened, stirring after each minute.  Serve hot over plum pudding.

    Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce
    Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce

    Yield:  Apx. 10-12 servings

     

     

    Happy Holidays!

    Steamed Plum Pudding (Christmas Pudding)

    A traditional classic Christmas pudding, the perfect finale to Christmas dinner. Serve warm with a rich brown sugar sauce for a decadent holiday dessert.

    Course Dessert
    Cuisine American
    Servings 12
    My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup sticky raisins (Lexia)
    • 1 cup sultana raisins
    • 1 cup currants
    • 2/3 cup mixed peel (lemon/orange/citron)
    • 1/2 cup rum
    • 1 cup flour
    • 3/4 tsp baking soda
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp mace
    • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp ginger
    • 1/8 tsp cardamom
    • dash cloves
    • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
    • dash cloves
    • 1 cup suet
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 cup molasses
    • 1/4 cup strawberry jam
    • 1/2 cup milk

    Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce

    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 cups water
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/4 cup rum (optional)
    • 1/4 cup melted butter

    Instructions

    1. Assemble ingredients.


      Grease or spray 8-cup (2-quart) pudding mold with cooking oil.


      In bowl, combine raisins and mixed peel. Add the rum. Stir. Set aside while preparing other ingredients.


      In separate bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add breadcrumbs. Stir in the raisin and mixed peel mixture.


      In another bowl, combine the suet, brown sugar, eggs, molasses, jam, and milk. Mix well. Pour into flour and raisin mixture. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared mold, filling mold about ¾ full. Cover.


      In large stock pot, place a wire rack. Place filled mold on rack. Pour boiling water into stock pot, filling to about ½ to ⅔ the way up the side of the mold. Bring water back to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a low boil over low heat to steam the pudding. Cook for about 3 hours or until cake tester inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean. Make sure the water level stays at the ½ - ⅔ mark throughout the cooking process, adding more water as needed.


      Remove pudding mold from the water and cool on a wire rack for a couple of hours. Remove cover and invert pudding mold over a wire rack to remove pudding. Wrap pudding in plastic wrap or in foil and place in a sealed bag. The pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or it may be frozen for longer storage.


      To reheat, either place the pudding back in its mold and heat in a hot water bath for 1-2 hours or, more simply, slice pudding and place slices on plate then microwave approximately 30-45 seconds per slice. Serve with desired sauce.

    Buttered Rum Brown Sugar Sauce

    1. In large microwave-safe bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt together. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to mix well. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes until thickened, stirring after each minute. Serve hot over plum pudding.

    Recipe Notes

    This recipe may be halved.

     

    Christmas Plum Pudding
    Christmas Plum Pudding

    For other steamed pudding recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

    Steamed Carrot Pudding Recipe

    Steamed Cranberry Pudding with Eggnog Sauce 

    Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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    Glazed Strawberry Pie

    Glazed Strawberry Pie
    Glazed Strawberry Pie

    There are so many things I like about summer in Prince Edward Island but one of my very favorite things is glazed strawberry pie made with fresh, local Island berries.  After I have had a couple of “feeds” of plain berries, sugar, and milk, I am ready for them in other recipes.  One of those recipes always has to be fresh strawberry pie.

    Glazed Strawberry Pie
    Glazed Strawberry Pie

    The strawberry pie recipe below is the one my family has used for decades.  I have no idea what prompted us to start making strawberry pie or where the recipe came from.  I just know it has been around for a good long time and I have yet to find any other that matches or beats it.

    To make this pie, you will need the freshest strawberries possible and ones that are not overly ripe.  A slightly firm variety of berry is best.

    A single 9″ baked pie crust will be needed for this recipe.

    Ingredients:

    Apx. 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 qts fresh strawberries, hulled, washed, and dried
    2 tbsp cornstarch
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/8 tsp salt
    1 tbsp butter
    1 tsp lemon juice
    1 – 9″ baked pie shell

    Directions:

    Hull, wash, and dry strawberries (use a paper towel to gently blot the berries dry).  Set aside enough to cover the bottom of the pie crust.

    Cut up berries to prepare them for crushing – it’s hard to say exactly how many because berries vary in size and water content.  Start with a few berries at a time.

    Using a potato masher, crush enough strawberries to make 1 1/2 cups.

    Assemble all ingredients.

    In medium-sized saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt.  Mix well.  Add crushed berries and stir to blend well.

    Place mixture over medium heat and stir constantly until it becomes somewhat clear and it starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes.  Watch that mixture does not scorch as this can easily and quickly happen.

    Reduce heat to low, cover mixture, and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent mixture from sticking to pan.  Remove from heat.  Add butter and lemon juice.  Stir well.

    page 2 - Finishing Sauce

    Arrange whole strawberries in baked pie shell.  If necessary, fill in any gaps between berries with a few cut-up berries.

    Spoon hot glaze mixture over the berries.

    Completely cover berries with the glaze.

    Place pie in refrigerator and let chill several hours (at least 3 hrs) before serving.  Add whipped cream at time of serving and decorate with additional berries as desired.

    Yield:  Apx. 8 servings

    Tips and Notes This pie is best served the day it is made as the pie crust tends to become somewhat soggy the next day.  Leaving the berries whole helps contain the amount of moisture that soaks into the pie crust as cutting the berries up releases their juices and lessens the lifespan of the pie crust.

    Glazed Strawberry Pie

    This Glazed Strawberry Pie is a wonderful summertime treat when the local strawberries are in-season. Add a dollop of whipped cream to dress the pie for dessert.
    Course Dessert
    Cuisine Canadian
    Keyword pie, strawberries, strawberry pie
    Servings 6
    My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

    Ingredients

    • Apx. 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 qts fresh strawberries, hulled, washed, and dried
    • 2 tbsp cornstarch
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 1 - 9" baked pie shell

    Instructions

    1. Hull, wash, and dry strawberries (use a paper towel to gently blot the berries dry). Set aside enough whole berries to cover the bottom of the pie crust.
    2. One and one-half cups of crushed berries will be needed for the glaze. Cut up berries to prepare them for crushing - it's hard to say exactly how many will be required because berries vary in size and water content. Start with a few berries at a time. Using a potato masher, crush enough strawberries to make 1 1/2 cups.
    3. In medium-sized saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Add the crushed berries and stir to blend well.
    4. Place mixture over medium heat and stir constantly until it becomes somewhat clear and it starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Watch that mixture does not scorch as this can easily and quickly happen.
    5. Reduce heat to low, cover mixture, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent mixture from sticking to pan. Remove from heat. Add butter and lemon juice. Stir well.
    6. Arrange the whole strawberries in baked pie shell. If necessary, fill in any gaps between berries with a few cut-up berries.
    7. Spoon hot glaze mixture over the berries. Completely cover berries with the glaze.
    8. Place pie in refrigerator and let chill several hours (at least 3 hrs) before serving. Add whipped cream at time of serving and decorate with additional whole berries, if desired.

    Recipe Notes

    Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

    Tips and Notes: This pie is best served the day it is made as the pie crust tends to become somewhat soggy the next day. Leaving the berries whole helps contain the amount of moisture that soaks into the pie crust as cutting the berries up releases their juices and reduces the lifespan of the pie crust.

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    Belgian Waffles with Strawberries

    Belgian Waffle with Fresh Strawberries, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Sauce
    Belgian Dessert Waffle with Fresh Strawberries, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Sauce

    The first time I had Belgian waffles was in Ogunquit, Maine, a long time ago.  We used to vacation there and we found a wonderful little café that opened only for breakfast and their specialty was the Belgian waffle served with huge, fresh Maine blueberries.  Naturally, a Belgian waffle maker had to be purchased so we could make them at home because waffles are, in fact, quite easy to make and just take standard baking ingredients!

    Waffles are very versatile.  They can be a breakfast food, eaten at brunch, lunch, for dessert or even as a main course for dinner, depending on the topping.  There is nothing like creamed chicken atop a puffy Belgian waffle for good old-fashioned comfort food!

    I love fresh berries, especially strawberries and blueberries, on waffles. Good drizzled with pure maple syrup,  a rich chocolate sauce is also an option and a real treat for waffles.  So, why not take a lowly basic waffle and dress it up for a tasty meal at any time of day.

    Waffle Ingredients
    Waffle Ingredients

    Belgian Waffles

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 tbsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    pinch salt
    1 cup milk
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    2 medium-sized eggs, separated
    2 tbsp melted butter
    Separate the eggs.  Beat the egg whites stiff.  Set aside. 

    In separate bowl, mix the egg yolks and all remaining ingredients.

    With electric mixer, beat until well-blended.

    Gently fold the egg whites into the flour and milk mixture.  Fold just until they are incorporated.  This will yield a light, fluffy waffle.

    Heat waffle maker and cook waffles according to manufacturer’s directions.

    To serve, add sliced fruit, a dollop of whipped cream, and drizzle with your favorite syrup or topping.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

    Yield: Apx. 3-4 waffles

    Belgian Waffles

    Perfectly puffy Belgian Waffles with Strawberries are a fabulous treat especially with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup
    Course Breakfast
    Cuisine Canadian
    Keyword Belgian Waffles, waffles
    Servings 4
    My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • pinch salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 2 medium-sized eggs, separated
    • 2 tbsp melted butter

    Instructions

    1. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites stiff. Set aside.
    2. In separate bowl, mix the egg yolks and all remaining ingredients. With electric mixer, beat until well-blended.
    3. Gently fold the egg whites into the flour and milk mixture. Fold just until they are incorporated. This will yield a light, fluffy waffle.
    4. Heat waffle maker and cook waffles according to manufacturer's directions.
    5. To serve, add sliced fruit, a dollop of whipped cream, and drizzle with your favorite syrup or topping. Dust with confectioner's sugar, if desired.

    Recipe Notes

    Yield: Apx. 3-4 waffles

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    Puffy Belgian Waffles topped with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and a dollop of rich chocolate syrup

    War Cake – A Part of Wartime Culinary History

    Remembrance Day Service at the cenotaph in front of Province House, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada [11 November 2012]
    Every year on November 11th we pause to remember the sacrifices and achievements of those who valiantly and selflessly served our country in times of war and conflict, and in peacekeeping missions around the world.  We remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice – their lives for their country so future generations could have a better, more secure life.  We think about their achievements and the role they played in forming Canada’s nationhood.  We thank them for the peace, freedom, and human rights we enjoy in Canada today.

    Those of us who have been fortunate enough never to have known or experienced war have opportunities to demonstrate our respect and gratitude for, and remembrance of, these acts of bravery and sacrifice.  For example, we wear a poppy on the left breast, close to the heart to signify remembrance of the lives lost.  

    Poppy

    Thousands of people across the country will attend Remembrance Day ceremonies in their local communities where they will respectfully observe a moment’s silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the time the Armistice was signed to end WWI.  Wreaths will be laid in commemoration.

    Remembrance Day Wreath

    One of the most well-known poems about war was written in May, 1915, by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in WWI.  While stationed near Ypres, Belgium, where some of the most horrific and bloodiest fighting of WWI occurred, he was motivated to write about the death he saw around him and of the prolific red poppies growing amidst the devastation of war in the Flanders area of western Belgium.  His poem, “In Flanders Fields” has become synonymous with Remembrance Day in Canada and Lt. Col. McCrae is often credited with being the catalyst that led to the poppy being identified as the symbol of remembrance of the blood shed by soldiers who were casualties of battle.

     

    “In Flanders Fields”

    On this Remembrance Day, I am going to focus my food blog feature story on war cake, a wartime dessert that is still made and served in several Island households today.

    War Cake

    As a small child I well remember my grandmother making war cake and this was long after WWII had ended.  I loved her war cake!  It is such a simple raisin-spice cake that is characterized by the absence of eggs and milk — ingredients that would have been scarce during wartime.  This cake is sometimes referred to as “boiled raisin cake” because raisins form the main content and the majority of the ingredients are boiled, then cooled, before they are mixed with flour and baking soda and then baked in the oven.  Because of food shortages during war time, many foods were rationed. 

    Ration Books, Cards, and Stickers

    Born of necessity, homemakers during wartime became resourceful, frugal, adaptable, and creative in order to feed their families.  Cooking tended to be very basic.  Women were known to have saved their ration stickers so they could buy the raisins and sugar that the war cake recipe called for – thus war cake would have been a very prized commodity. 

    War cake was made for consumption on the home front but many also made the cakes in tin cans and packed them in socks, mittens, and underwear they were shipping overseas for their loved ones serving in the war.  Imagine the excitement when a soldier would have received this package from home and discovered a mother’s or sister’s war cake inside!  Amazingly, with the slow mail and ship service during WWI and WWII, there is evidence these cakes were received as the soldiers would refer to them in their letters home, letters that would have looked much like the July 7, 1914, letter in the photograph below.

    Letter from a soldier written from “Somewhere in France” on July 7, 1914.  In the letter, the soldier encloses two pansies as “souvenirs from France”, one flower each for the young lady he was writing to and her mother.  All these years later, the pressed pansies have still retained their color and are intact.
    Old War Cake Recipes

    In my research for this story, I examined many recipes for war cake and found similarities amongst them all.  Some were very sketchy in terms of amount of ingredients to be put in the batter and many were almost totally devoid of any directions. While the amounts of the ingredients may vary slightly, all of the recipes I reviewed were essentially the same in ingredient content. All called for big, sticky raisins (you may know these as “Lexia” raisins), a variety of spices of the cook’s choice, either brown or white sugar or a combination of both, shortening or lard, boiling water, flour, and soda.  One thing I noted was the significant amount of sugar that the recipes called for – i.e., two cups per cake.  Sugar was one item that was commonly rationed during wartime and a cake taking two cups of sugar would certainly have been considered a luxurious dessert, I am sure.  Flavour may vary from cake to cake based on spices used in the batter.  The choice of spices varies but typically consisted of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, as a minimum, with ginger frequently appearing in recipes.  I added mace and cardamom to my cake  to give it a bit more flavour (recipe follows at end).

    Ingredients for War Cake

    I am told these cakes were often made with lard (as opposed to butter) for a couple of reasons.  First, lard has a longer shelf life than butter would have had and, for cakes being sent overseas to the soldiers, it would have been a long journey for the cakes to reach Europe so shelf life of the cakes was an important factor.  Second, butter was often scarce during wartime because there were no big herds of cattle on local farms so butter would have been used sparingly, even for those living on farms and churning their own.  Lard, on the other hand, would have been much more readily available, particularly on farms.  I found a couple of recipes that indicated either butter or shortening could be used in the recipe; however, butter was called for in a much lesser quantity than the shortening, if the latter was used instead.  For example, I found one recipe that called for 2 tablespoons of butter or 1 cup of shortening which demonstrates how judiciously butter would have been used, if at all.

    While its ingredients are simple, war cake takes some time to make.  All of the ingredients, except the flour and soda, are boiled on the stove for 5 minutes.   Then it is important to let the boiled raisin mixture cool to room temperature as the mixture will thicken naturally on its own as it cools.   This will normally take 4-5 hours.  If the flour and soda are added into a mixture that is too hot, the result is likely to be a gummy cake.  When the raisin mixture is cooled, the flour and soda are stirred in and the mixture turned into the baking pan.  My grandmother made her war cake in a loaf pan; however, traditionally, war cake seems to have been made in some kind of a round pan – usually a tube pan or, in the case of overseas shipping during war time, in tin cans.  War cake is a very dense cake which makes it sometimes difficult to get the center of the cake baked without drying out the outside edges.  It is also a heavier type cake which makes it somewhat prone to falling in the center.  A tube (or Bundt pan, if you have one) removes the baking uncertainty and helps the cake to bake more evenly.  

    War Cake Baked in a Bundt Pan

     

    War cakes take, on average, about an hour to bake.  The old recipes I reviewed didn’t even mention baking the cake let alone at what temperature (in fact, one recipe simply said “to thicken” but didn’t elaborate on what thickening agent was to be used!).  These recipes predate our modern electronic ovens!  While some suggest baking the cake at 350F, I thought that might be a bit high so I baked my war cake at 335F for one hour.  Because there are no eggs or milk in the cake for moistness, it is very easy to overbake the cake and end up with a dry product.  Hence, it is important to time the baking carefully and to use a cake tester starting at about the 45-minute point.  If the cake starts to darken on the top or edges too quickly, simply place a piece of tin foil loosely over the top.  Adding a small pan of water to the lower shelf in the oven while baking the cake will also help to keep the cake moist. 

    Including a Small Pan of Hot Water on the Bottom Shelf of the Oven Helps to Keep the Cake Moist During Baking

    Because of the texture of the cake, it may seem soft on the top and not baked; however, if a cake tester comes out of the cake clean, it’s time to remove it from the oven before it dries out.

    War cake is a “stick to the ribs” substantial, hearty kind of cake.  It goes particularly well with a nice cup of tea. 

    War Cake and Tea

    In keeping with the traditional way war cake was served, I have photographed the cake plain, just as it would have been eaten during wartime. 

    Sliced War Cake

    War cake was not traditionally iced.  However, it would be lovely served with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla or maple ice cream.  It could also be dressed with a brown sugar sauce or, to make a plain cake really decadent, why not serve all three – ice cream, brown sugar sauce, and whipped cream! 

    War Cake on a Tea Table

     

    War Cake

    Regardless where you are in the world, if you have any wartime memories (either your own or those passed down to you from your ancestors) of war cake made for consumption on the home front or to send to the soldiers fighting the war, I would love to hear about them.   War cake is a part of wartime culinary history.

    Here are some photographs of the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the cenotaph in downtown Charlottetown, PEI, this morning.

    Remembrance Day in Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]
    Lest We Forget

     

    Hon. Robert W.J. Ghiz, Premier of the Province of Prince Edward Island lays a wreath on behalf of the people of the Island at the Remembrance Day Service in Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]
    Small Child Watches as a Veteran lays a Wreath at the Remembrance Day Service in Charlottetown, PEI ]11 November 2012]

     

    Remembrance Day 2012

     

    Veterans Laying Wreaths at Remembrance Day Service in Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]
    At the Charlottetown Cenotaph – Remembrance Day 2012

     

    Flag Flies at Half-Mast on Remembrance Day, Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]

     

     

    War Cake

    By Barbara99 Published: November 11, 2012

    • Yield: 1 cake (12-14 Servings)
    • Prep: 5 hrs 0 min
    • Cook: 60 mins
    • Ready In: 6 hrs 0 min

    An old-fashioned cake made with large sticky raisins and a mixture of spices. Common cake during war time.

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. Assemble ingredients.
    2. Into a large saucepan, place the shortening, brown sugar, raisins, salt, spices, and boiling water. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil mixture for five minutes. Remove from heat and set saucepan on cooling rack. Let mixture cool to room temperature (4-5 hours), stirring occasionally.
    3. In bowl, whisk the flour and baking soda together. Set aside.
    4. When raisin mixture has cooled completely, add the flour and baking soda. Stir until dry ingredients have been completely mixed into the raisin mixture.
    5. Spoon mixture into greased pan. Add a small pan of hot water to lower shelf in oven for moisture while cake is baking. Bake cake on middle rack in 335F preheated oven. If cake starts to brown on the top too quickly, loosely place a piece of tin foil on top of cake. Bake apx. 1 hour but begin to test cake for doneness, using a cake tester, at the 45-minute point as cake can dry out very quickly.
    6. Remove cake from oven and place pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes then remove from pan. Allow cake to cool completely before cutting.

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    Lavender – The Trendy New Culinary Herb

    Okay, so I must admit the thought of baking and cooking with something I have always considered a perfume can be a bit daunting but with lavender being the trendy new culinary herb, I thought why not be a bit venturesome.  But can I use just any lavender for culinary purposes?  To find out, I paid a visit to The Five Sisters of Lavender Lane – aptly named because there are five sisters involved with the growing, harvesting, and production of the lavender products.

    The Five Sisters of Lavender Lane, Kelly’s Cross, PEI, Canada
    Lavender Farm in Kelly’s Cross, PEI

    Through the scenic rolling hills of Kelly’s Cross in rural PEI, on the Island’s South side, I find PEI’s only lavender farm.  In 1999, Carol Cook bought the farm and, in 2001, planted her first 100 lavender plants to see how they would ‘weather the winter’ on the Island.  They did well and, today, there are over an estimated 3000 plants of two varieties (Hidcote and Munstead) grown on the farm.

    Rows of Heavenly-scented Lavender at the lavender farm of The Five Sisters of Lavender Lane, Kelly’s Cross, PE

    Carol tells me that starting lavender from seed is not necessarily a guarantee of success.  Instead, her preference is to start new plants by propagating from cuttings.  This is where a long stem of lavender attached to the mother plant is buried under some soil and left to grow its own roots.  The following year it can be cut from the mother plant and, voila, a new lavender plant is started.  Another option is to take a cutting from a plant, cut it on an angle, dip it in a root boost starter product, and place it in a sandy soil mixture to take root.

    Most of us know lavender as a perfume and potpourri product.  However, lavender is actually an herb of the mint family and certain varieties of it are known as culinary herbs.  These are primarily the Hidcote and Munstead varieties.  Lavender is often considered to be similar to thyme, rosemary, and sage and it can, in fact, be substituted for rosemary in many recipes.  If you have ever cooked with Herbes de Provence, chances are you have already tasted lavender since it is a common ingredient in this herb mix along with the typical mixture of thyme, rosemary, and savory.

    Lavender is one of the more aromatic herbs and some say it bears citrus notes or even a hint of pine.  The lavender buds (the stage just before the plants blossom into full open flower) possess a higher oil content and have the most intense taste.  They tend to have a stronger, minty flavour and, when used in cooking or baking will be more pungent and have “more bite” to them.  When crushed or ground, the lavender buds have a sweeter, milder flavour.  While the leaves, stems, buds, and flowers can all be used for culinary purposes, the flower buds are said to give the most flavour.

    Lavender Buds on the left; Lavender Flowers on the right

    In PEI, harvesting of lavender occurs in mid-July.  When at their bud stage, the beautiful purple/mauve buds are removed from their tall spikes, washed, and spread on screens to dry.  They are then ready to be used in various products.  It is possible to get a second, smaller harvest from the same plants late in August or early September.  The photographs below were taken at the lavender farm on July 10, 2012, the day before they began harvesting.  I can only imagine the wonderful scent there must have been during the harvesting process!

    The Day Before the Harvesting of the Lavender at The Five Sisters of Lavender Lane

    The Five Sisters of Lavender Lane only sell their culinary lavender in the small gift shop at their farm in Kelly’s Cross and it is not uncommon for local chefs to stop by to pick up their supply for their restaurants.  If you are cooking with lavender, just make sure that it is the culinary variety you are using and that it has been grown organically, pesticide-free.  Besides the culinary lavender, the farm also produces and sells a number of other lavender products onsite including perfumed products.  This year, they are currently experimenting with the production of lavender extract which can be used in culinary products in the same way that vanilla, almond, or lemon extract is used.

    Lavender is a strong herb so my advice is less is more and to exercise caution in the amount you use in a recipe.  If you use too much, it will not be a pleasant taste because it may seem like you are eating soap or that you used perfume in the dish.  I find a lot of recipes call for 1-2 tablespoons of lavender and that is way too excessive in any recipe for my taste.  When trying a recipe with lavender, I start with a very modest amount and, if I find it is not enough, I will slightly increase the amount the next time I make the recipe until I get it to the point that it pleases my palette.  Like any herb, you want it to accent the dish, not predominate and overpower it.   Rule of thumb is that, if you are using dried lavender, use one-half what you would use fresh.  Because it is not very pleasant to bite into a whole lavender bud, the herb is often ground in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.  It is very important to carefully read a recipe that calls for lavender to determine when the amount of the herb the recipe calls for gets measured – i.e., is it before or after the lavender is ground or crushed. If the recipe calls, for example, for 1 tsp. lavender buds finely ground, first measure the whole buds as the teaspoon measure and then grind them as, otherwise, the flavour will be too strong if you were to use 1 tsp finely ground lavender in the recipe.

    Lavender is now the trendy herb not only in baked goods like cookies, scones, and sweet breads but in ice cream, in vinaigrettes, in rice, on chicken and lamb, in jams, jellies, and honey, and in drinks such as herbal teas and lemonade.  I have done a lot of experimenting with cooking and baking with lavender this summer and I am lucky because I live not far from the lavender farm where I can get my supply of quality culinary lavender.  Not long ago, I prepared an evening tea featuring lavender – a Lavender Blueberry Banana Bread, lavender scones with homemade lemon curd, and Swedish Teacakes filled with the curd.

    An Evening Lavender Tea
    Roasted Beet Salad

    On Sunday evening I made an entire meal with lavender as the focus.  For the salad course, I started with a roasted beet and goat cheese salad on garden greens.  To roast the beets, I coated them with olive oil then sprinkled some fresh thyme, lemon verbena, basil, dried lavender buds, and a bit of minced garlic on them.  I wrapped the beets in tin foil and roasted them at 400C for about 1 hour, till they were fork tender.  I then sliced the beets and laid them on a bed of lettuce freshly picked from our garden, added some orange sections, and tossed some goat cheese and pecans on the top.  I made a simple citrus-based vinaigrette to drizzle over the salad.  The beets had a nice roasted flavour to them, not strong in any herb flavour, which is the taste I was aiming for.

    Lavender Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce served with fresh green and yellow string beans and blue, red, and white fingerlings

    For the main course, I chose a recipe from Sharon Shipley’s “The Lavender Cookbook” for Lavender Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce.  This was delicious.  The chicken breasts were marinated in lemon juice, thyme, and ground lavender buds then cooked in a skillet with a wonderful mushroom and champagne sauce.

     

     

     

    For dessert, I wrapped my homemade Lavender-Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream in a dessert crepe and drizzled it with raspberry coulis made with fresh PEI raspberries picked near Hunter River.  The ice cream, my feature recipe for this posting, is also good with a hot fudge sauce or drizzled with a good quality chocolate or raspberry balsamic vinegar that has been reduced to syrup stage.

    Lavender-Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream in Crepe, drizzled in Raspberry Coulis

     

    The lavender farm at the Five Sisters of Lavender Lane is located at 1433 Route 246 in Kelly’s Cross, PEI.  Check out their website at http://www.fivesistersoflavenderlane.com/ or call them at 902-658-2203.

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    Lavender-Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream

    By Barbara99 Published: August 9, 2012

    • Yield: Apx. 1 quart

    Lavender-infused homemade ice cream

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. In double boiler, over medium heat, heat the whipping cream, half-and-half, milk, honey, sugar, lavender, and vanilla beans and pod. Stir occasionally and heat mixture until small bubbles start to appear around edge of mixture, about 10-12 minutes.
    2. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes to allow the lavender flavour to infuse the warm milk mixture.
    3. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Discard remains in sieve and return strained mixture to a clean double boiler and heat to the scalding point, stirring to prevent the mixture from curdling or sticking to the bottom of the pot.
    4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk egg yolks and salt together. Whisk in vanilla. Add ¾ cup of the hot milk mixture to the eggs and whisk to blend. Pour this mixture into the custard in the double boiler. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens to consistency that it will coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not boil. Be patient as this takes time.
    5. Strain mixture through sieve into a clean bowl. Cool completely then chill, covered, in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or more (can be chilled up to 24 hours). Freeze custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream. Cover and place in freezer for at least 4-6 hours to harden completely.

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    St. Patrick’s Day Dinner – 2012

    Irish Coffee

    So, St. Patrick’s Day 2012 has come and gone.  A belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.   We are all a wee bit Irish on March 17th, aren’t we – either Irish by heritage or Irish at heart!

    My St. Patrick’s Day Menu this year consisted of Prince Edward Island Blue Mussels steamed in Guinness, herbs, and vegetables and served with Cows Creamery Sea-Salted butter, melted; Spirited Irish Stew served with Irish Soda Bread; Irish Cream Cheesecake; and Irish Coffee as an after-dinner drink in front of a cozy fireplace.

    PEI Blue Mussels Steamed in Guinness

    PEI cultivates great mussels.  Local supermarkets sell them bulk by the pound which is good because I am the only one in the household that likes them.  The key to steaming mussels is to use very little liquid and steam them just until their shells open.  If you use too much liquid, it will dilute the flavour of the mussels and they will have a very bland taste.  I have steamed these shellfish in water, beer, and in wine in the past.  However, the Guinness I used yesterday, along with the vegetables and herbs, made the mussels a very rich and delightful treat.  The mussels were infused with the Guinness and herbs but not so much that the seafood taste of these tasty morsels was lost.

    So, for one serving, this is what I used:

    2 Tbsp carrots, very finely chopped

    2 Tbsp celery, very finely chopped

    2 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped

    ½ tsp garlic purée

    ½ tsp. dried dillweed

    1 – 1 ½ Tbsp butter

    Melt butter in saucepan and sauté ingredients 2-3 minutes, then add:

    1 cup Guinness

    Bring to a boil

    Add 9-10 oz. PEI mussels (about 15).

    Cover pot.  Reduce heat to medium.  Steam approximately 3-5 minutes or until shells are open.  Using slotted spoon, remove mussels from liquid and transfer to plate, discarding any unopened shells.  Serve with melted butter.

    PEI Blue Mussels Steamed in Guinness

     Irish Stew

    Spirited Irish Stew

    According to legend, traditional Irish Stew was made with cheap cuts of mutton or lamb and basic root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and turnips. Years ago, these would have been ingredients that were, no doubt, simply what would have been available in Ireland where sheep were raised for their wool and for food and, before the potato famine, potatoes were a primary Irish crop.

    Over the years, Irish Stew recipes have changed according to the locale and what was available in the cook’s local area.  For example, beef is often used in North America today instead of lamb in Irish Stew and other ingredients are added to make a more flavourful, hearty stew as opposed to a broth-like dish.  Purists might argue that these changes result in a new stew recipe altogether and is something entirely different than the original Irish Stew.  Regardless what it is called, I like my version of a Spirited Irish Stew.  It has a nice rich, robust flavour and a splendid reddish-brown color that comes from the addition of tomato paste.  Using Guinness and red wine helps to tenderize the meat and also adds to the flavour of the stew.  I don’t add huge amounts of either as the intent is not to “drown” the natural flavours of the beef and veggies but rather to blend and enhance flavours.  The nice thing about Irish Stew (once you have all the veggies cut up) is that it is an all-encompassing meal with all the vegetables in one dish (no worries about getting different pots of vegetables all cooked at the same time and a real bonus of only having one pot to wash).  It really needs nothing more than a slice of warm Irish Soda Bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter and perhaps some homemade mustard pickles on the side.

    I like to slow-cook this stew in the oven at 325ºF for a couple of hours as opposed to cooking it on the cooktop.  I find oven-cooking allows the flavours to slowly blend and the stew to become nice and thick.  Recipe follows at end of this blog posting.

    Irish Soda Bread

    Irish Soda Bread

    Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread in which baking soda, and often baking powder, are used as the leavening agents as opposed to yeast.  My research revealed that ingredients for a basic Irish Soda Bread would include flour (often both all-purpose and whole wheat), baking soda, baking powder, salt, buttermilk, and molasses.  More elaborate breads might include raisins, currants, or nuts.  I also learned that it was not uncommon for the soda bread to be cooked on a griddle although I am not sure how the bread would have gotten baked all the way through without first getting burned on the bottom!

    Soda bread dough is not kneaded like yeast breads and, in fact, it is recommended that the dough not be handled any more than is necessary for the dough to stick together.  In this respect, it is somewhat like tea biscuit dough except that it is a heavier, denser texture.

    Irish Soda Bread Dough

    Some recipes suggest that Irish Soda Bread should be baked in a pan or casserole dish for a softer crust or, for a more crispy hide, baked on a parchment-lined baking sheet which is how I baked mine.

    Irish Soda Bread Ready for the Oven

    The Irish Soda Bread recipe I used comes from Tea Time Magazine.  I found the bread was a good accompaniment for the Irish Stew but it is a dense, heavy bread and one that is probably best eaten fresh, warm from the oven, and on the day it is made.

    Irish Soda Bread

     Irish Cream Cheesecake

    I figured if I was going Irish on this St. Patrick’s Day, I might as well go all out and make a cheesecake that had Irish Cream Liquor in it.  I have often relied on recipes from Company’s Coming Cookbooks because I find them quite reliable, not containing ingredients I either wouldn’t have in my pantry or be able to readily source locally, and the directions are presented in a clear, easy-to-understand format.  That’s why I turned to Company’s Coming for the recipe for the Irish Cream Cheesecake.  I didn’t want a large cheesecake so I halved the recipe and used a 7” springform pan.

    Irish Cream Cheesecake

    I could not have been more pleased with the result.  The cheesecake had a lovely smooth texture, not over-powered by the Irish Cream Liquor but yet with a pleasing taste.  I served it simply with a dob of whipped cream, a drizzle of rich chocolate syrup, and a chocolate.  A superb and fitting finish to my St. Patrick’s Day meal!

    Slice of Irish Cream Cheesecake Drizzled with Chocolate Sauce

    My Island Bistro Kitchen's Spirited Irish Stew

    By Barbara99 Published: March 18, 2012

    • Yield: (5-7 Servings)
    • Prep: 30 mins
    • Cook: 2 hrs 0 min
    • Ready In: 2 hrs 30 mins

    A rich hearty stew with beef, a variety of vegetables, and flavoured with Guinness and red wine

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. Assemble ingredients.
    2. Chop stew meat and vegetables into bite-size pieces
    3. Brown meat in 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
    4. Place vegetables and meat in roaster.
    5. In large bowl, combine sugar, herbs, garlic, tomato paste, beef consommé, Worcestershire Sauce, red wine, Guinness, and water. Whisk in flour until smooth. Pour over vegetables in roaster. With large spoon, stir mixture to combine. Add bayleaf.
    6. Cover roaster and place in pre-heated 325F oven. Cook for approximately 2 hours or until vegetables are fork-tender when tested.
    7. Serve with Irish Soda Bread, rolls, or French Bread.

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