Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

This afternoon, I made the Smitten Kitchen's cranberry vanilla coffee cake.  OMG...  The only ingredient I had to modify was the 1/2 a vanilla bean.  I wound up using vanilla extract instead.  I will retype the recipe here and I will criticize the parts that I found annoying, not including the fact that for some reason, I can't copy and paste the recipe off her website onto my blog.  This recipe actually came from Gourmet magazine, December 2008 issue.

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups of fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 with rack in middle.  Generously butter a 9 by 2 inch round cake pan.  Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife.  (reserve pod for another use if desired).  Add sugar and pulse to combine.  Transfer to a bowl.

Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not puree).

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.  Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down side and bottom of bowl.  Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.

Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edge.  Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the cranberries and smooth them with as gentle of a hand as possible.

Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips.  Crumble over top of cake.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes.  Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.

Do ahead:  Coffee cake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

What Bugged About This Recipe:
1) Please tell me to use a big bowl when creaming the butter and sugar---especially when later on you tell me to add flour and milk ending with flour.  Something as simple as that would be helping out a poor recipe reader.
2) I wish you told me to me to watch the cake starting after 30 minutes of bake time, because in my oven, 45 minutes was way too long, and as a matter of fact, I started to smell the cake go towards the burning side of things and I pulled it out in the nick of time.
3) Let us know that if we haven't yet sprung for the big Kitchen Aid stand mixer, that it's still o.k. to use our little Kitchen Aid hand mixer with the 2 wire beaters. 

End Result:
This cake tasted great!  I forgot to add the confectioners sugar on top, and it was a little over done in my oven, but the cake texture was unbelievable.  Nice and light.  Not terribly doughy and rubbery.  The cranberry center is delicious as well.  I'd definitely make this again, except this time, I'd make sure to really use 1/2 the batter on the bottom (I used more like 2/3 of the batter on the bottom and it really made me stretch the remaining batter for the top not to mention the crumbly part as well).  


Geronimo Restaurant in Santa Fe (Take 2)

To be perfectly fair, after the disappointing meal I had at Geronimo Restaurant in Santa Fe in August, I wrote a letter to the 3 owners letting them know what aspects of the meal failed and disappointed me.  I had no other hope or intention but to just let them know how they didn't meet my expectations.  Lo and behold, Chris Harvey sent me a letter in apology for my meal and asked me if I would like to come back and have a complimentary meal for 2 on him with his personal touch looking after the service and meal.  Not only that, he let me know that my letter was up on the wait staff's board so that they could learn from what I had written!  How unbelievable is that?  Like my last post about Santa Fe Baking Company, I'd like to let everyone know for the record that Geronimo is also stepping up to the plate, so to speak. 

Santa Fe Baking Company (Take 2)

Wow...I can't believe one of the owners to one of my critiques in August, actually posted a comment in response to my soggy breakfast burrito review.  I would like to commend this owner and let him know on my blog right now that when I go back in June 2009, to Santa Fe, I will go and try out another burrito and let him know how it goes.  So, thanks for writing!  

Mary Macleod's Shortbread Cookies

I went to work tonight and forgot all about going into the green room to see what baked goodies may lay awaiting me.  Holy shit, was I stupid for arriving later to work than usual!  Aya made the most amazing carrot cake!  This girl put's Anna Olson and her "Sugar" show to shame.  It was moist, the cream cheese frosting was tangy yet smooth, and there were enough shredded carrots to feel like I got my veggie intake for the day.  There were no raisins or coconut bits or anything else to hinder or distract the pure perfection of this carrot cake.  I must get her recipe.  (Speaking of recipes, I'll have to write about what I made today that pissed me off about our Miss Smitten Kitchen's blog.)  Ok, now back to the story at room...goodies...this woman named Earlaine Collins brought in a tin of Mary Macleod's shortbread in her classic flavor chocolate crunch and they were not your typical shortbread.  They melted in my mouth like snow falling on your tongue.  There was a hint of nuttyness, a bit of chocolate, but the beauty of these cookies is that they didn't taste rich.  As a matter of fact, it was like eating a Lay's potato chip bag---you couldn't eat just one.  I have never tasted a shortbread quite like this before in my life (prior to this new find, I thought Coach House was pretty decent) and now that I know where this shop is situated (on Queen Street East, just east of the Don Valley Parkway), you know I will be there year-round.  :)  They have a website, so check it out!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Via Allegro Ristorante

If you want to see an award winning wine list the size of a big old book, look no further than in Etobicoke.  Via Allegro Ristorante is a great Italian restaurant with wine all over---on display, in their world class cabinets, cases, cellars, etc.  It is out of control.  Also out of control are their prices for food.  Last month we went there to celebrate a friend's birthday---I've never seen Italian food priced in the $40's and above per entree.  And if you thought price wise, it couldn't get any worse, it could and did.  The appetizers were as expensive as a main course!  I don't even want to go into details about the food here, because it IS good, but I would never go here again because it just didn't provide good value for what it was.  And I can't recommend this place to anyone because of it, either.  

Bagel World

So, I watch Food Network religiously.  One show that just got the boot is called "Restaurant Makeover" and I especially enjoyed it when it first came on air.  Then, the show started to get more and more annoying, with really egocentric interior designers, chef's with a bit too much "know how" and each restaurant I saw renovated looked more and more like the last one they did.  Ok, I'm off on a tangent here, so back to Bagel World.  I pass Bagel World every time I go to Costco Warehouse.  Located on Wilson Ave., just west of Bathurst, this morning, I took Miah there because I have constantly driven by it, and it had been on "Restaurant Makeover".  You'd think after a restaurant's been on t.v. like it has, they would keep up the inside standards not just with the decor but the food as well.  I got the small lox plate with a toasted sesame bagel and it was just, o.k.  Nothing special.  Bagel's here are thick and chewy.  Lox looked like it could use a little more color, it had a sad pale orange pallor.  And the cream cheese---wow, it was a huge ice cream scoop of cream cheese that could be spread on 5 bagels, not just my 1.  Miah got her eggs over easy but they were really runny.  Coffee was just decent.  Service was with a smile.  I can not recommend this place nor would I ever go again.  My curiosity has been sufficiently assuaged.  

Quince Restaurant

Quince Restaurant, located on Yonge St., about 3 blocks south of Eglinton Ave., was seriously impressive.  The food was creative, fresh, unique and right on target with the price point.  I went there with some expectations and I was pleasantly surprised that our meal not only met but exceeded my expectations.  My husband, Maurizio, myself and our friends, Mark and Jacklynn, went on a double date.  Something we don't do.  Ever.  Usually we tag have our kid tag along, who at 1 year old, has a mind of her own.  Thank God for friends like Sarah and Greg, who looked after her tonight like the amazing Aunt and Uncle that they are.  :)  Oh yeah, back to our meal...we started off with poutine frites, that I think they called them "Dutch Poutine".  There were healthy cut french fries, covered in gravy, tender shredded braised beef and chunks of curded cheese.  It was delicious and I wanted to eat all of it by myself without having to share.  We also had a side of rapini, that came roasted, and cooked to perfection.  Usually rapini, a.k.a. broccolini, comes tasting pretty bitter.  Even when I cook it, (and I'm such a pro, NOT!) it always obstinately maintains a bitter edge to the taste no matter how much water and salt I use to semi-boil/steam it in.  Jacklynn and Mark had the same main course of salmon and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Maurizio had the grilled veal flanks and was extremely pleased.  I ordered the chicken.  Boring, I know, but I had heard from my friend, Sandra, that the chicken here was incredibly tasty, tender and juicy.  She was right!  They cook everything in their big wood-fired oven, and my dish was $19 and it had 3 big pieces of chicken plated on top of some mushy root compote and on the side were some roasted 2 toned veggies (I think they were carrots and squash).  I was only able to eat the top piece of chicken, which was the biggest piece on my plate (the breast meat portion) and a few of the veggies.  Truth be told, I ate a lot of the bread and breadsticks from the bread basket before our food arrived because I was starving when we first got to the restaurant.  Probably to help keep me sober enough to maintain conversation because we ordered a delicious $58 bottle of wine from France, a grenache that we all enjoyed drinking.  Of course, those who know me, knows that I always make room for the big D---dessert!  I ordered the chocolate bread pudding, as did Jacklynn.  Maurizio had the apple tartine and Mark had a white and dark chocolate frozen tangine.  Service was good if a bit on the dry side, but the food came out in a timely fashion and it was divine.  I would definitely recommend this place to friends and go back myself anytime!  

Monday, December 8, 2008

William Ashley's Annual Warehouse Sale

So, my Mom and I braved the William Ashley Annual Warehouse sale this past Friday---2 days before it's final closing, and we picked up quite the bang for our bucks at this place.  I couldn't help but notice how jacked we've gotten from other stores like The Bay or Kitchen Stuff Plus for appliances like our new Cuisinart Cordless Tea Pot or the Cuisinart 4 Waffle Iron Maker.  Had I known this sale would have these appliances, I would've told my husband to go there even if it meant having to line up for an hour under the white tent outside the warehouse!  This is my first time coming here, where there has been zero line-up outside the actual building.  I think the recession the States are having have seeped it's way up to Canadaland.

Galleria Market

There's this Korean grocery store waaay up Yonge St., past Steeles Road in Thornhill, called The Galleria Market.  It is out of this world.  The prepared food ranges from a million types of pickled kimchis, but all sorts of comfort foods that bring back those childhood memories of home cooked Korean meals.  At least they do for this big kid.  :)  I come here time permitting, not to mention whenever I have a Korean food craving or am missing my Mom's home cooking and it always does the trick.  There is a bakery inside this grocers, not to mention other little shops and eateries inside.  It's a bit of Korea away from Korea and I can't recommend it enough.

The Good Bite Restaurant

Who doesn't love a good greasy spoon?  I certainly do.  And a tried and true one is The Good Bite Restaurant on Yonge Street, north of Eglinton by a few blocks on the east side of Yonge.  I went there with my Mom the other day around 11:30 AM and we had the club sandwich on brown bread, toasted, and french fries on the side.  It was scrumdillyumptious.  I've had it before and it never fails me.  If I'm in the mood for breakfast food, I always get the 2 egg scrambled special, comes with toast already buttered, choice of bacon, sausage or peameal (I get the peameal for the extra money) and home fries, but my friend, Janice, not only turned me on about this place, but gave the me the secret "in" on getting half tomatoes/half potatoes when ordering.  That way you get less potatoes and a couple slices of tomatoes instead.  It's a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned.  For under $10 including the tip and a cup of joe, you really can't go wrong.  I love this dive.  

Smitten Kitchen

So, Miah asks me one day if I've heard of the Smitten Kitchen.  I said, no, I haven't.  Well, she told me to go look online and check out this woman's blog, it's insane.  Well, it really IS insane!  This woman has a blog that not only does she give you recipes, she takes photographs of the recipes in progress and it's total food porn.  It's amazing the food looks so good.  I've already book marked quite a few of her recipes on my MacBook for future use, like the apple cake.  Heavenly...
For a slice of this heaven go to: 
It puts all blogs like mine to shame.  I merely talk about, she shows it!