Monday, January 21, 2013

spiced date, apple and sticky oat slices



Yes, it has been a long, LONG time since my last post. Perhaps you thought that I didn't love my blog anymore and abandoned it. Perhaps I fell into a dark abyss and somehow found a magic stone to make my way out. Perhaps I was captured by evil assassins and used my cunning to trick them and escape. 

Perhaps I was (very) busy with the holiday season. Perhaps I got lazy. 


I did not fall into an abyss. I did not get captured, and yes I still love my blog. I just didn't have the energy to focus on it for a couple of months. The holiday season kicked my butt in the end. Working extra hours that I couldn't take the time to go to the gym (oh the horror!)

I was quite upset at first that I wasn't able to catch up with everything. But then I realized that maybe I don't have to do everything. Maybe it's ok to take a break once in a while. I decided that I would start a fresh in the new year and I have to say that once I came to that decision, I felt so much better and less stressed. 

I see lots of people taking on several projects, but it makes me wonder how they can do it all. I am no super woman. I need time to breathe and think.

And I needed to go back to baking simple treats, just as I have always loved to do. Treats that are quick and delicious with no frills. I hope you enjoy these yummy date and apple bars as much as I (and my family) did.

If you have any tips on how to manage a part-time business with a full-time job, I'd love to know!


These date and apple bars are truly delicious! I've never been a huge fan of date squares but I was drawn to these for some reason. The citrus flavour adds a unique tartness and the texture is just perfect. However, my main issue with this recipe was the sticky oat layer. The recipe for that part just doesn't make much sense to me. The original picture shows a crumbly topping while the recipe describes an obvious creaming method like cookie dough. This presents a problem when trying to spread the layer on top. (See instructions below) I loved the flavour but next time, I will skip the soft butter and go with a classic crumble recipe where cold butter is cut into oats, flour and sugar. Let me know what you think!

date, apple and sticky oat bars

yields approximately 12 bars
recipe adapted from: Weekend Baking by Sarah Randell

ingredients

1 1/2 cups pitted, soft dates, chopped
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped into cubes
zest of 1 orange or lemon
freshly squeezed juice of 2 oranges (about 120 ml) I didn't have oranges so I used lemons and clementines
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom   
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

sticky oat layer:

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup self-rising flour*
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp corn syrup
1 large egg yolk

*replace self-rising flour with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt

procedure

Place the chopped dates, apples, zest, juice and spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once everything has come to a simmering point, reduce the heat to low and gently cook the fruit for 8-10 minutes, covered, until the apple has softened. Leave to cool. If needed , mash the fruit with a potato masher until only a few small chunks are left.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.

To make the sticky oat layer, put all the ingredients in  an electric mixer and beat to combine (mixture will resemble cookie dough). Spread half of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and press down firmly to make an even layer. Spoon the cooled date mixture on top of the oat base and top with the remaining oat mixture.**

Bake for 30-35 minutes until top is evenly brown. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

** This is the part that I found to be a little tricky and didn't make much sense. It's pretty much impossible to spread dough-like consistency onto a soft surface so what I did was spread the remaining mixture onto another piece of parchment paper to approximately 8x8 inches. I then popped it in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes. Once it was slightly hard, I flipped it over onto the date mixture and very slowly peeled the parchment off the top. Honestly, it tasted fantastic but it doesn't make sense to have to do that so that's why I wouldn't use that oat mixture again. But all in all, these squares are super tasty!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

winter white cake


My autumn jacket has made its first appearance. 

Summer is taking its last few breaths and soon it will be a distant memory. The time for apple picking, spiced lattes, caramel cake and pumpkin cookies is rapidly approaching....exciting times indeed. With new boots waiting to be worn and scarves at the ready, I'm all for the change.

I don't know about you, but it feels like my summer just flew by. My last two weeks in Istanbul were just fantastic though. Nothing but sun, beach, sights and lots of reading. In fact, I don't think I brought enough books (time to invest in an e-reader?). I'm so happy to be back though and I'm looking forward to stepping on crunchy leaves....yet, not so much ready for the snow. Sigh, if only autumn could last longer. It always seems to be over too quickly.


This wedding cake reminds me of a winter wonderland, all white with hints of silver and shine. I loved making the different types of flowers. I kept the palette all white because the bride wanted a classic, yet elegant cake. I think this hit the mark quite well. I find that my skills are improving more and more each time I design a cake. 

I hope you are enjoying my designs. Comments and suggestions are always welcome for design ideas. 

I'll be back with some new recipes soon! For now, I'm just going to enjoy these last few days of heat with some nummy frozen yogurt. With mini m&m's. Because I can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

roses and petals: a wedding cake


Can you believe that summer is almost coming to an end? As much as I'll be looking forward to autumn, I'm not ready yet! I haven't worn my skirts and dresses nearly enough and I've only been to the beach once. It's hard to believe how quickly this summer has gone by. It's been very busy but definitely a fun summer. I've had the opportunity to make quite a few different designs for cakes and cupcakes, some of which required a bit of sculpting for the first time. 

I must say that I can never get tired of pink. It's unapologetically girly, but I think it is underestimated in its strength. Pink is vibrant, powerful and always stunning. It has always been one of my favorite colours, whether pale or dark, and I love the look it gave to my hand-made roses.

   


I'm really quite happy with this cake in the end. I think the petals add a whimsical and almost magical touch to this romantic look, while still remaining simple. Inside was a vanilla cake with layers of lemon curd and vanilla buttercream with wild blueberries. Most certainly fit for an elegant summer wedding. 

I hope that you are all enjoying your summer, or at least what's left of it. I still plan on:

swimming at least a couple of more times
eating more ice cream than my stomach can handle
finishing the book I've been reading for ages and at least one more
relaxing
sightseeing
picking vegetables from my garden
and most certainly, baking.

What's your end of summer list?

Thoughts and comments are always welcome. See you all soon!



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