Roma’s Doughnuts with Saffron Custard Cream

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The Reveal:

I love doughnuts. We have a few fantastic bakeries in Toronto that make amazing doughnuts. When I get a craving, I walk to Parkdale to visit Glory Hole Doughnuts (great name) with my friends. I once travelled to Yonge-Eglinton to celebrate World Nutella Day at The Rolling Pin. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to have a coworker bring in freshly made treats from Etobicoke’s Sanremo Bakery. Needless to say, I was thrilled with this bake challenge.

The recipe is introduced as an unrecognizable adaptation of Hanukkah sufganiyots, based on an old newspaper clipping from Helen Goh’s mother-in-law, Roma. The family ties throughout this book are fantastic. I already had quality pastry flour in my fridge from a failed croissant attempt, saffron from another “Sweet” creation, and heavy cream. I was ready for this one.

The Bake:

I started with the saffron custard, which called for consistent whisking over the stove. My nerves were on edge as I added the egg yolks over the heat, but the custard held up. There wasn’t very much, but I realized later that extra cream was to be added before the filling was piped into the doughnuts.

It gets crazy when the dough hook comes out. This usually only happens when I’m making pizza. Dough hooks and yeast mean proofing and patience, and patience is not one of my virtues. I followed the book and rested the dough, punched it down (this process is a fantastic stress relief exercise), and left it in the fridge overnight.

I woke up early the next morning so that I could bake the doughnuts before work. Nobody likes a stale doughnut. I took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it into a log, and cut 14 equal pieces. The recipe called for 10 pieces, but I wanted to make a few extra. I also figured that smaller might be better for my first deep-frying experience.

Next came the really tricky part, as the oil needed to be the perfect temperature to achieve a golden-brown shell while cooking the doughnuts through. I think I’d like to invest in a stove-top thermometer. I managed to fry two batches successfully, with only a slight difference in colour and crunch. I whipped up the saffron cream filling which wasn’t quiet as thick as expected, and tossed the doughnuts in the cardamom sugar. I was happy to find ground cardamom in a natural health store – it’s a lovely spice.

The Taste Test:

I quickly demolished the first warm doughnut before rushing to work. I loved the crunchy outside with the cardamon sugar and soft middle. This was unlike any Canadian doughnut I had tried before. When I make these again, I’ll continue to whip the saffron filling for longer to get the right consistency, but it was still a nice delicate flavour. Now I’m tempted to perfect my doughnut technique. Perhaps this weekend!

Pineapple Tartlets with Vanilla Bean & Star Anise

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The Reveal:

The true title of this recipe is “Pineapple Tartlets with Pandan and Star Anise”, found on page 255. As a fan of tropical fruit, tarts (all pastry, really), and liquorice flavour, the mystery here was the pandan. Pandan leaves are a common cooking ingredient in Indonesia, China, Malaysia, and Singapore. The leaves are described as providing a fragrant basmati flavour to dishes. The recipe does suggest vanilla bean as a substitute (which I already had in my pantry), but I would love to try the pandan version at some point.

The Bake:

I started with the pineapple jam filling. I did cheat a bit, as I purchased fresh pineapple rings instead of getting the whole fruit and chopping them up myself. They were juicy and bright yellow… not incredibly fresh (I recently visited Oaxaca, Mexico and strongly recommend a visit! The fruit and honey!), but decent quality for around here. I used my magic bullet instead of a food processor to purée the pineapple, added the sugar, star anise, and vanilla bean, and the mixture simmered for about an hour. Once again, my tiny home was filled with a delightful aroma. My stovetop on the other hand, was a sticky disaster, and the splatters did hurt! It was worth it. I would easily eat this jam by the spoonful.

While the jam was simmering away, I made the sweet pastry dough. I’m already seeing a trend in this book of butter-based sweet pastry crust, made with icing sugar and lemon zest. I’m definitely okay with this.

On day two, I rolled out the chilled pastry dough and buttered my tartlet tin. I actually have one of these! It was a great find at a thrift store over the holidays, when we also found my handy food scale. I put heaping spoonfuls of the pineapple jam into the dough-filled tin, and covered them with a variety of strips of leftover pastry and cloves. Inspiration came from the designs used on the tarts in the book. Mine are a bit messier, but I like the look of them.

The Taste Test:

The pineapple jam itself is scrumptious, with a perfect combination of the fruit, sweetness, vanilla, and star anise. This along with the buttery pastry crust is a balanced tart that is a burst of flavour. Don’t forget to remove the clove before taking a bite!

 

Garibaldis

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The Reveal:

I had no idea what to expect with my second surprise bake. Garibaldis are usually store-bought British “squashed fly biscuits” that come stuck together. As appetizing as this sounds, the recipe did promise a more “decadent” version, and included familiar ingredients to calm my anxiety. I imagine the squashed fly name comes from the oozing nature of the raisin or currant sauce between two pastry-style biscuits. I tend to stay away from raisins (and other dried fruit) in my baking. I was in for an adventure.

The Bake:

The biscuits required two evenings of preparation. The first step was to plump up the flies a bit with sweet Marsala wine, orange zest, and a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice. I happened to select a perfectly sweet orange. Hooray! I mixed all of this with raisins in a mason jar, and left this on the counter overnight. It turns out that Marsala wine is produced in Sicily and is also used for “Marsala chicken”, which I’ll have to make for a meal one day. There was only one size of bottle available at my local LCBO.

When the sauce was finished, it was time for the pastry dough. I set up my mixer since I don’t have a food processor, cut the butter into small cubes, zested lemon, and tossed together the dry ingredients. I adore lemon and used some of the leftover slices for a salad dressing. The dough was VERY crumbly, so I pressed it together into 2 balls, and put the dough in the fridge.

The next evening was caramel time! Caramel is a tricky thing sometimes. I had to make two batches. I carelessly added cold cream to the hot caramel mixture, which instantly hardened into a brittle. Oops.

Once the caramel (Version 2) was complete, I smushed (it wasn’t proper rolling since the pastry kept falling apart) the first dough ball into a relatively flat layer on parchment paper, and I poured the caramel on top. I smushed the second dough ball directly on my baking stone, and covered this bottom layer with the fragrant raisin-wine mixture. Now came the terrifying part… I had to swiftly flip the top caramel layer onto the bottom. I managed to get them together, with only a few “rustic” cracks. My version was definitely more of a thick square than a thin biscuit. The citrus in the crust and sauce smelled delicious in the oven.

The Taste Test:

I was very pleasantly surprised! The citrus added a subtle tart dimension to the very sweet, buttery pastry, and the orange and wine soaked raisins were actually really nice. I’m already gaining a great appreciation for flavour combinations from this book. Orange, lemon, Marsala wine, raisins, caramel, all sandwiched together in a rich pastry have become something that I can’t seem to stop eating.

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Coffee & Walnut Financiers

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The Reveal:

When I opened “Sweet” to page 105 for my very first weekly bake, I’ll admit that I googled “financier”. Traditionally, it’s a small, rectangular French almond cake made with beurre noisette (nutty browned butter). A cake! I can do cakes. Classic chocolate cupcakes for birthday celebrations are my go-to and I always have the ingredients ready in my pantry. Now that I think of it, I have more baking supplies than actual food. This challenge will certainly grow my collection. I might have to get rid of a few mugs.

Before the financiers, I had never baked with coffee before. I love coffee to drink, and I’m a frequent customer of Balzac’s Coffee on my morning commute to work. The employees know my order (large dark with room for a splash of whole milk, in case you were wondering). This recipe called for both instant coffee and finely ground espresso. I’ve been heavily caffeinated lately!

The Bake:

The first step was to roast the whole walnuts in the oven. This made my kitchen smell incredible (I live in 450 square feet, so when I say this I’m referring to my entire home). While the nuts were in the oven, I started to brown the butter on my stovetop. This was a bit tricky. I wanted to brown the butter enough to give it the nutty delicious flavour, but it is very easy to burn. No fires to report here!

After combining all of the dry ingredients which included confectionery sugar and a bit of almond flour, the six egg whites caught my eye. Six for a batch of 12?! Alright. I forgot to froth the egg whites before adding them to the mixture. Knowing that there was baking powder already as a rising agent, I wasn’t too concerned. Bakers are chemists that get to eat their creations, really.

I appreciated that Ottolenghi and Goh changed the traditional look of their financiers to tall and round. I used a boring muffin tin, so I purchased these cute papers to make them stand out a bit. I was supposed to ice them after cooling, but I was too excited to try them so I poured the glaze-like coffee icing over while they were still warm. Fortunately, the papers were tall enough to hold the icing nicely.

The Taste Test:

The smell on its own was absolutely delightful. One of my favourite parts of baking is taking that first bite. The coffee and walnut flavours were a wonderful match, and the confectionery sugar added a melt-in-the-mouth sweetness. This coupled with the crunch of the roasted walnuts… lovely. I would try frothing the egg whites lightly next time, to give the cakes a bit more fluff and height. I would definitely recommend these to anyone as an afternoon snack. Just don’t eat them too close to bedtime, or you’ll be up all night!

Find the recipe here: The Guardian

 

Celebrating the Sweet Things

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Hello! My name is Grace. I’m a 20-something home baker living in Toronto, Canada. I spend a lot of time (and money) tasting the plentiful assortment of cookies, ice cream, donuts, and cupcakes in this city. I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and enjoy sugary treats daily. I started baking as a kid with my mom, sister, and granny. I haven’t stopped. Baking brings joy and happiness, and it’s fun to share this with friends and family.

I have spontaneously decided to bake one recipe per week from “Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi”, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. I love this book. Why? Well, Yotam and I are besties (kidding!). I got this book for my birthday in September. It starts with “Our Sugar Manifesto” which highlights the star ingredient throughout. As an active person who eats many salads, I appreciate treats as part of a balanced life. I also love the final phrase in the preface, “The Ottolenghi way has always been about abundance, inclusion, and celebration”. This is my way, too!

I should also mention that the book was a birthday gift from my boyfriend, who shares my love of sweet foods. He’s currently living in Mexico City, working as a teacher. Perhaps this project will bring us together a bit, while we’re apart.

The rules are very simple. I must select a new recipe each week by opening the book to a random page. If I’ve attempted the recipe before, I’ll open the book to another page. The day may change depending on what’s happening in life, but there is absolutely no skipping of weeks allowed!

Let the baking begin!

Sweet Pic