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Restaurant Review – Chef’s Menu

29 Sep

Chef’s Menu – Warm Gingerbread and Carrot Cake

I went to Chef’s Menu recently with a few girlfriends for dessert, and thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase them in a review.

I have been to Chef’s Menu many times since it opened and have always been pleased with the food as well as the service.

Warm Gingerbread

My friends both ordered the gingerbread and were pleased with it. It was nice and warm served with sweet sauce on the bottom and ice cream.  If you like gingerbread – this is worth a try!

Rating: 8 out of 10

Carrot Cake

I have to say that I had high hopes for this carrot cake, because I was trying it the night before I knew I was going to be trying my own – so I was hoping for a few tips!

Unfortunately, this disappointed me, something I had not expected since everything else I’ve had at this restaurant had always impressed me.

My rating of this carrot cake is 6 out of 10.

I enjoyed the cake, but there was something off about the icing. I kept trying to pinpoint what about it was ‘off’ and with my friends help – we determined that the icing was just too tangy and all cream cheese taste with no sweet. Just like a block of whipped cream cheese.

This will certainly not stop me from  returning to Chef’s Menu, however, because everything else I’ve tried there has been excellent.

Have you been there? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Here’s to a Low Stress Baking Adventure!

23 Sep

Sugar Cookies, Turtle Cookies and Caramel Apple Slices

Ok – so you all remember the stress and exhaustion that was last week’s baking adventure? No? Enlighten yourself… The Great Carrot Cake Meltdown of 2012

Now that we’re all caught up, I can tell you about this weekend and you will understand how, on Friday afternoon, I was telling John, “Maybe I need to take a break from the baking for a week, I am really tired out, and we only just finished doing the dishes from last week.”

But I persevered, ever onward, toward the delicious taste of Turtle Cookies and Sugar Cookies, and I am happy to report that this weekend’s experience was, overall, so much better! (less burnt cakes, no tears, no fighting, less freaking out my friends – you get the picture)

I had a new baking assistant, Erin, (since last week’s is still out on stress leave – get well soon Niki), and she was fabulous!

So here goes explaining how we successfully made three delicious desserts in less than 3 hours!

Sugar Cookie Squares

We started with the sugar cookie base because I knew it would be easy and need to cool off for a while, allowing us to move onto the new recipe. *I should note that this is the second time I’ve made these bars – you know they’re good when you go back for a second taste!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 Tbsp sour cream (I just do 1 heaping Tbsp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe vanilla frosting, recipe follows

Vanilla Frosting
Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp half and half
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Several drop food coloring (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish, set aside. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy about 3-4 minutes. Stir in egg and egg white. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until blended. Slowly add dry mixture and stir until well combine. With buttered hands, gently press (so gently almost patting) mixture into buttered baking dish. Bake 17 – 20 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and edges are lightly golden. Cool completely, then frost and cut into squares.
Taken from Cooking Classy

A few notes on the recipe – it will tell you to mix the sugar and butter with a mixer – maybe it’s my mixer or the butter isn’t soft enough, but I usually end up doing this with my hands to get the right consistency.

When spreading dough  over bottom of pan –  you might think there is no way there is enough dough to spread and cover the whole pan – but it works, just keep pressing and patting it out.

 Turtle Cookies

These were a little more involved than the sugar cookies, because there were a few steps to them. Taken from Pixelated Crumb

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine
14 soft caramel candies
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:
  1. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using 1/2-teaspoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
  3. Microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from oven, gently re-press existing indentations. Fill each with 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture. Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Try not to devour them all at once.

Caramel Apple Slices

If you are like me, and made a lot of extra caramel  – cut up an apple and drizzle the sauce over it – yum!

When Life Gives You Burnt Cupcakes, Make Cake Pops!

18 Sep

So, if you follow me on Facebook, you’d have seen my teaser picture of carrot cake, and my plans to try a new recipe this past weekend. Well, I sure did try it and it was definitely my newest baking (mis)adventure!

The back-story…

John: “Why are there so many carrots in the fridge? This is ridiculous!” *You should know that John is particular about cleaning and hates when things go bad in the fridge – I am the more relaxed of the two of us on the cleaning front – just sayin’

Me: “Well John, when Mom was here she asked me to get carrots for her sauce and chili recipes, and we used most of them, not a big deal. It was only a 5lb bag, don’t worry we can use them all up before they go bad”

John: “You mean you bought all these carrots?” *points to crisper in fridge filled with carrots- filled!

Me: “What the wha?? Where did all those carrots come from? I did not buy all those! (Seriously like 20lbs of carrots – clearly my mother cannot pass up a sale, even on carrots she will never use) What are we going to do with them? What can we make with that many carrots?!”

John: “Carrot Cake?”

And so began our journey toward the Great Carrot Cake Meltdown of 2012! *cue dramatic music

Here’s how it all went down… (notice the giant bowl of carrots pictured above)

I decided to make the recipe that Canadian Living calls The Best Carrot Cake in Canada, and because I wanted to get rid of the carrots, I decided to double the recipe and turn them into cupcakes so we could share them at both of our workplaces. Awesome idea, right? I’ve made cupcakes before, I thought, how could any of this go wrong?

Well, in all fairness it all went incredibly well… until it didn’t.

Things were going along swimmingly at first. I had the first batch in the oven and was working on the icing and preparing a second batch when the first came out – looking great at first glance…. The tops looked good but the sides and bottom…  not so much!

I have added a few steps to the recipe here. I would not recommend adding them unless your oven plays the same tricks on you as mine does on me. Hopefully your cake will turn out just fine, but these will help you get the picture of what happened next in my kitchen.

Final Step: Once the cake is done (toothpick comes out clean) leave it to cool. Cover in icing once cooled. (This is where most people would stop, satisfied with their creation)

But if you’re me you:

  1. Impatiently pick at the cupcakes until you eventually get one out of the pan, only to discover the worst thing of all… the cupcakes have burned on every edge except the top!

    So remember each time you diligently checked on them and relaxed in the fact that they “looked good”?
    You were living in a dream world in which you are the Cake Boss and people pay you to say “fon-dant!” in a thick Jersey accent! – (Not reality!)
  2. Now try to maintain composure because your friend is there and you don’t want to freak her out. (which only makes things more stressful)
  3. Fail miserably at maintaining composure and give into the crushing need to burst into tears. (Do this for about 5 minutes)
  4. Be angry at those damn cupcakes for being so easily burned and that oven for running too hot! It’s ok! You’ve worked hard for this!
  5. Rack your brain for what the heck you can do with burnt cupcakes. Trifle will come to mind – but everyone knows trifle is what you make when your cake burned!
  6. Remember back to a few days ago, when you were reading about Cake Pops and how all they need is icing (yes, I have that) and pieces of cake (yes, yes! I have that too)
  7. Now the acceptance phase: Decide on Carrot Cake Cake Pops and send John back to the store to get white baking chips and sucker sticks while you and your friend (who did actually stick around through your meltdown and subsequent mini fight with John) get started on the inside of the cake pops.

Here’s How To Make Carrot Cake Cake Pops:

You’ll need: Cake pieces, Sucker sticks, Styrofoam, Wax paper, Cookie sheet, Cream cheese icing, Mixing bowl, Pieces to make double boiler and Food colouring

  1. Take carrot cake cupcakes that burnt to a crisp and peel off burnt edges, leaving you with the lovely soft inside of each. Put them all in a mixing bowl. (You could use carrot cake that wasn’t burnt to begin with, but that is clearly too easy for me)
  2. Mash up the cake so it is not clumped together anymore.
  3. Add in cream cheese icing. You’re looking for the texture of a meatball – moist and sticky, not too runny or wet.
  4. Form into balls using a tablespoon measure (that was the trick I taught you last weekend! See I’ve learned too!) so they are all evenly sized and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
  5. Put them in the freezer for 15-20 minutes so they firm up a bit.
  6. Start a double boiler with white baking chips and melt fully stirring constantly to avoid burning.
  7. Dye it orange because you want them to look like carrots!
  8. Take a baking stick and insert it into the cake ball, so it is about half way through.
  9. Dip it in the chocolate and stick in the Styrofoam so it hardens while standing up.
  10. Repeat with as many cake balls as you have chocolate for. (In my case only about half )
  11. Take some cream cheese icing and dye it green then use a piping bag or sandwich bag (in my case) to put little “stems” on each one.
  12. Put cake pops in fridge and they will set after an hour
  13. Share and enjoy the fact that your cupcake meltdown was so creatively turned around into a wonderful success! Your friends will like cake pops more than they thought they would! (or maybe they feel bad for you? Hard to say)

I must say – I know they are certainly not the most polished or professional looking but for a first try and none of the proper tools needed – I think I turned it around pretty well!

And – they got rave reviews! Most people gave it a solid 10 out of 10!

“Just the way carrot cake should be:  a little kick of cinnamon blending nicely with the cream cheese and moist cake texture.  Yum!”

I did end up making a 9×13 cake with the rest of the batter it turned out amazingly as well – I would agree that it is the best carrot cake recipe in Canada!

Give it a try and remember if the cake burns, give yourself 5 mins to cry and move on to even better, more creative things. You’ll surprise yourself at what you can come up with!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes – love their cream cheesy goodness!

24 Aug

Earlier this week I was at work and had a pretty distinct feeling that it was a cupcake kind of day. (you know… the kind of day that just needs a quick jolt of fun and sweetness!)
I was in luck because it wasn’t just any cupcake kind of day – it was a Wednesday –  one of the days Susie’s Shortbread’s makes Red Velvet cupcakes- only one of of my favorite kinds of cake! Things were looking up!

One email  to another cupcake loving friend later, and we were off to Susie’s at lunch with orders from colleagues to bring a few back for them.

Red Velvet! Yum! I love the cake, but combine it with cream cheese icing and you have a delicious combo!  Aren’t bakers these days brilliant?

I considered getting one for another day, but held back, knowing that it wouldn’t be long until it felt like a cupcake kind of day again soon!

Where to get it: Susie’s Shortbread’s, Halifax, NS
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Have you had this too? What did you rate it – tell me your rating  in the comments!