Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

As fall is slowly taking its place, pushing aside a summer that was one of the happiest I had in many years, I feel very sure to be at the right place, at the right time. Fall, somehow, grounds me, makes me want to stop and focus, and appreciate what I have and the people who surround me.

The upcoming season also comes with a deep nostalgic rumor. I love taking entire evenings to go through old picture albums, to revisit ancient recipes, and more than anything, to take time to be by myself. Maybe it is because summer is filled with friends, dinner parties, camping expeditions, family reunions… maybe it is actually the earth telling us to slow down as well. I don’t really know. But fall probably is my favourite season.

It also is a season that makes it easier to bake again. Because I don’t know about you, but in the summer I only open my oven when it is absolutely necessary. Let’s not add some heat to the heat!

Last weekend, after picking up those lobo apples at Mountain Orchards, I thought it would be the perfect time to try this spiced apple cake recipe I had cut in an old Globe and Mail newspaper. The cake was cooked in a skillet but turned out it worked perfectly in a ceramic pie pan.

Spiced Apple Cake

When Jacob took his first bite, he said it was probably the “tastiest” cake I had done in a while. May I add that I did a slated caramel to drip on top of the cake. Totally to die for! I can’t take the credit for the recipe, but I am more than happy to share it here. It really is a perfect way to end a meal in fall – not too sweet, a touch of salt, some spiced and the delicious taste of apple. What is there not to love?

So here it is, I hope you will try it and enjoy it just as much as us. Original link to the recipe is here.

You will need:
1 ½ cups of flour
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
6 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2/3 cup of milk
4 lobo apples (or a sweet kind)

In a bowl, mix the flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

In another bowl, beat the butter with the brown and granulated sugar until creamy. Beat in one egg at a time, then beat in the vanilla.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well. Add half the milk. Repeat this step until you have added all the flour and milk.

Spread this batter into a 9-inch pie pan (buttered and floured). Insert you pealed and sliced apple in the batter.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Let it cool before serving – make sure to drizzle some salted caramel sauce on top, it makes it even better!

Spiced Apple Cake

Salted Caramel Sauce

You will need:
¼ cup of water
1 cup of sugar
6 tablespoons of butter
½ cup of heavy cream
Natural flower sea salt

In a pan, pour the sugar in the water. Bring to a boil.

Let the sugar boil until it turns a golden-brown colour. Do not whisk too much, just leave the sugar get hot.

Once you have a golden colour, take out the pan from heat and whisk in the butter until smooth, then whisk in the cream.

Transfer in a heat-proof jar and let it cool in the fridge for a while. Enjoy!

Spiced Apple Cake

My Fall Apple Pie

Apple Pie

When I was young, my grandmother would wait for me to come back from school to start making her pies. She would do several kinds but her apple pie is definitively the one I remember the most.

She would wait in her kitchen, an eye on the road and the other on the clock, ready to start making her dough just as she would see the school bus on the horizon. I would run from the end of the street to her house, throw my backpack in the living room and sit at the table with her.

My favorite part was watching her make the crust and jumping on every little piece that would be left behind. Sometimes she would fake to be upset with me “eating all her dough”, but I know for a fact she loved having me around and teaching me her baking secrets.

My grandmother wouldn’t measure too much – she knew her recipe and had done it hundreds of times. With her bare hands, she would create the best crust and her filling was always out of this world.

Apple Pie

She was 95 years old when she passed away seven years ago. I still remember the smell of her apple pie baking in the oven, the flour all over the kitchen table, her apron around her waist. I remember everything so clearly. These are the kinds of memories that never fade away.

Once she was gone, we all tried to bake apple pie the way she famously made hers. My sister does an amazing job, and so does my mother. I have to say that my mother’s apple pie is divine – no joke it is great. But as much as I tried, I was never able to recreate my grandmother’s recipe.

So here is the way I have learned to do pie. It is not my grandmother’s recipe, but I like to think that she showed me the way to bake in the kitchen. This post is for her.

Apple Pie

You will need:
2 ¼ cups of flour
A good pinch of salt
¾ cup of cold butter cut in small cubes (my grandmother would use shortening)
6 to 8 tablespoons of cold water (the colder the water, the flakier the crust)
5 lobo apples; peeled, cored, and sliced
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of corn flour
½ cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of melted butter
For the crust:
(For tips on how to do a great crust, click HERE).

Combine in a food processor the flour and the salt.

Add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing between each addition.

Add water, one spoon at a time, until you get a wet, yet not sticky, dough.

When the dough starts to stick together, knead it on a floured work surface. Do not over work the dough. Cut the dough in half and make 2 disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

For the filling:
In a bowl, mix the cut apples with sugar.

Using a rolling pin, gently but firmly roll the dough on a floured work surface until you get the shape of a nice circle that will fit in your pan.

Pour the apple filling into it.

Again with your rolling pin, roll the dough until you get a circle big enough to cover the pie.

Press on the side of the pie to seal it. Make some cuts on the top of the pie to let the steam escape while baking.

TIP: Before baking, brush the top of the dough with some egg yolk mixed with a little bit of milk. It will make the crust golden.

Bake 30 minutes at 350F, then another 25 minutes at 375F. Let it cool and enjoy!

Vanilla Swirl Cupcakes

Vanilla Swirl Cupcakes

I will admit I have been very quiet this summer. With the hot days and humidity we had in August, I don’t know about you but I kept my oven off for the most part of the past month. To be fair, I also spent a lot of time away from my computer and as close as possible to nature.

As I haven’t blogged in a long time, I thought I would try to make this post a little special, as a “celebration” of my return to the blogosphere. Am I full of myself or what?! And what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes!

Vanilla Swirl Cupcakes

I like vanilla – actually it is my favourite flavour for ice cream, cake, and icing. I remember the first time I really tasted it. I was in kindergarten and we all had to bring an ingredient from our house to class. The idea was to discover new flavours that our parents used in the kitchen. I do not remember what I brought, but I remember a guy named Robert who brought some vanilla extract. I smelled the black liquid and thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever come across, so I dipped my finger in the vanilla extract and took a good taste. I remember that moment so clearly: it was SO strong! It was SO powerful. I ran to the bathroom to rinse my mouth. I then thought vanilla was the most amazing thing to smell, but I could not imagine eating it.

As time proved me wrong, I have grown into loving and understanding vanilla. I always have vanilla pods in my cupboard and use them very often. I love opening a vanilla pod and scrapping its inside. I like the taste it leaves on my fingers, and I love the way I can see the vanilla in my cream or crepe as little black dots leaving their trace in the batter.

I will still use vanilla extract when making cakes and sometimes cupcakes, and I think it is a great product that everyone should always have handy. After all, you never know when you will want to bake your next batch of cupcakes!

Talking about cupcakes, here is an easy recipe that makes many of these delicious treats. I like to freeze half of my batch (without the icing, of course) and they stay good for about a month. This recipe is from Martha Stewart, as always, my goddess when it comes to cupcakes. I hope you will enjoy them just as much as I do.

Vanilla Swirl Cupcakes

You will need:
3 cup of pastry flour
1 ½ cup of all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
2 ¼ cup of sugar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of butter
5 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
2 cups of buttermilk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

In a bowl, sift both flour with the baking soda, baking powder and the salt.

In another bowl, beat the butter with the sugar on medium-high speed until you get a smooth texture. Add one egg at a time, beating between each addition.

Add the egg yolks and mix well.

Add the flour in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk.

Beat in the vanilla.

In a cupcake pan, line up the paper tray and pour the mixture in the cup.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 325F, then let the cupcakes cool down.

Vanilla Icing:
1 ½ cup of butter
4 cups of icing sugar
(you may need more)
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

Beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until the butter is pale and fluffy.

Add one cup of icing sugar at a time, making sure it is well incorporated. If the texture of your icing is lumpy, add more icing sugar and keep beating until you get a smooth consistency.

Add the vanilla once all the icing sugar has been added. Pipe on top of the cupcakes, and enjoy!

Berry Pudding Cake

Berry Pudding Cake

Some days, it feels like all I do is get up, go to work, come back, make dinner, watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, do the dishes, cuddle on the couch, go to bed. As if in a blink of an eye, the day was gone and another very similar one was about to begin.

Then there are other days when I come back home, more tired. Those days, all I can do is to bake a cake. That’s all I want to do. I want to measure the flour, I want to melt some butter, I want to beat eggs and taste some sugar. I put my apron on, get my measuring cups out of the cupboard and put on some music. Then I get started.

Once in a while Jacob will come around to inspect what I am doing. Very often he will kiss my neck or my shoulder. I always giggle when he does that. He will also try to have a taste of what I am doing; at which point I kick him out of the kitchen. We laugh.

Berry Pudding Cake

This week I decided to try this berry pudding cake recipe I found in an old Chatelaine magazine. I had some berries in the fridge and I thought I would probably love the gooey texture of the cake.

Jacob absolutely loved it. It was sweet, yet the sweetness was mostly from the berries. It tasted a bit like butter (which we love around here) and it was perfect to enjoy late that evening with a cup of tea.

That night I went to bed thinking I was lucky to have found something I loved doing this much. Even if I don’t have time to bake as much as I wish, I should be grateful for the days I do bake. And then I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, it was another day.

Berry Pudding CakeYou will need:

The cake:
2 tablespoons of butter (room temperature)
½ cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 ½ cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt
¾ cup of milk
2 cups of berries (I picked strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)

The sauce:
¼ cup of butter
½ cup of sugar
¼ cup of heavy cream

What to do:
In a bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and vanilla.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter and beat well. Add half of the milk. Add more flour, then the rest of the milk. Beat in the rest of the flour.

Delicately incorporate the berries and mix with a spatula.

Pour the batter into a buttered pan and bake at 400F for about 30 minutes. Once out of the oven, poke the cake with a knife several times.

While the cake is baking, bring the butter, sugar and cream to a boil in a pot, over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low and let it simmer 5 minutes.

Pour on top of the cake and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Enjoy warm.

Raspberry and Cream Frozen Bars

Raspberry & Cream Frozen Bar

Not so long ago, as we were at Jacob’s mom’s, she handed us a piece of a frozen strawberry and cream dessert that she had just made. The recipe, from The Recipe Critic (see the original post here), was absolutely what I needed at that time: something cool, fresh, creamy and fruity.

I had almost forgotten about this dessert when last week, as it was getting hotter and hotter in here, I just thought of how amazing it would be to re-do this with seasonal fruits, which at this point are raspberries.

So over all, it is very easy to do. For those of you who, just like me, like to get dressed-up and go out during the day and come back to a sweet treat, I am pretty sure this recipe will do the trick.

I slightly changed the original recipe to which I added some marzipan, added some almonds instead of pecans and used raspberries instead of strawberries. But over all, it is a great dessert from The Recipe Critic that I am happy to share :

Raspberry & Cream Frozen Bar

You will need:
4 graham crackers sheets
½ cup of sliced almonds
150 ml of melted butter
90 grams of grated marzipan
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup of brown sugar
2 egg whites
½ cup of sugar
1 cup of 35% cream
1 lemon
4 ounces of cream cheese
2 cups of raspberries

What to do:
In a food processor, ground the graham crackers with the almonds. Add the butter and mix well. Add the marzipan, flour and brown sugar and mix until you get crumbles.

Spread the crumble on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring many times. Transfer in a bowl and let it cool.

In a bowl, whisk the egg white until they start to from soft peeks. Gradually add the sugar until the peeks are a little firmer (do not over whisk your egg white).

Still with the whisk, slowly add the cream and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes.

Add the juice of the lemon and the cream cheese and mix on medium speed until it is blended.

With a spatula, add the raspberries.

In a rectangular buttered pan, spread half the crumble. Pour the raspberry mixture on top, and then add the rest of the crumble.

Freeze for about 4 hours. When ready to serve, take the pan out of the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Cut in bars, and enjoy!

Raspberry & Cream Frozen Bar


A couple of days in Prince Edward County

Grape Vines in Prince Edward County

I think it’s safe to say that I love food, I love learning how it is locally produced and I also love a glass of wine at night.

Even if I keep track of what I like and what to avoid, I am not a connoisseur when it comes to wine. I am what you can call a “regular Joe”, who loves trying new flavours and imagining the work behind the wine, its story. Do I taste wood or apple? Is it smoky or nutty? I also wonder what the wine makers were hoping to achieve with it?

Last week, Jacob and I decided to go camping — 3 nights in Bon Echo Provincial Park, 2 nights in Prince Edward County. Neither of us had ever visited a winery. I was far from imagining that I would totally fall in love, not only with the region but with the people I would meet.

The morning
I woke up early that morning, excited to hit the road and make the best out of this day. I pushed Jacob out of bed, had a quick bite at the hotel and off we went. We took the Loyalist Parkway out of Trenton and cruised our way to Picton, stopping many times on the way there to take pictures of the beautiful landscape. We then went to a photography exhibition, grabbed a coffee and walked a bit around Main Street. By the time it was noon we were on our way to our first winery.

Waupoos Winery

As we stepped out of the car, still trying to take in all the beauty surrounding us, we started talking with a couple of local residents who gave us some suggestions as to where to have lunch, where to make reservations for dinner, which wineries we should absolutely see, and what was the best wine in their opinion. Again, we ended up with more possibilities than we had time on our hands. We thanked the nice couple, promising to visit their son’s restaurant in Ottawa, Wellington Gastro Pub.

By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery
From the parking lot, all we could see was a barn surrounded by grape vines. As we followed the dirt path leading to a barn, we couldn’t help noticing the peacefulness of the land and how crisp the air was. We made our way to a cozy apple house built in the 1850’s where we would do our first wine tasting ever in a winery.

By Chadsey's Winery - Prince Edward County

The vineyard, now for sale, belongs to Richard and his wife Vida and is located near Lake Ontario. I would learn through some research that the winery was named after an early settler, Ira Chadsey. Ira, over 200 years ago, built stone cairns on the property to guide him home when he would return in the afterlife as a white horse.

The natural light in the apple house made us feel welcomed right away, as if we entered a charming brick house that had been built just to welcome guests. Jacob and I tasted their rosé and their Riesling, looking for a light wine to enjoy on a hot summer day back at home. The Riesling did the trick right away. It was crisp with some notes of apple and wood.

Tasting room By Chadsey's Winery

By Chadsey’s Cairn is also known for making Chardonnay, Muscat, Chenin Blanc and Gewürztraminer. We would learn on our journey through the County that Chardonnay and Riesling are grapes that grow easily in the region, hence the reason why so many wineries choose to grow it and successfully transform it into a memorable wine.

As we walked the way back to the car through the dirt path, I couldn’t help but wish every visit would be longer.

By Chadsey's Winery, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Sandbanks Estate Winery
The next winery on our list was bigger than what we would see in the county in general over the next day. Also located close to Lake Ontario, Sandbanks Estate Winery’s owner and winemaker, Catherine Langlois, grew quite a reputation over the past 12 years. With many of Sandbanks wines available at the LCBO, they also won several awards for their products.

Sandbanks Winery, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada

We did a quick visit inside and then made our way to their beautiful gazebo to taste those wines. We started with their Riesling, which was sweet and easy to drink, and then had a couple of other tastes of their white wines. I believe their Shoreline was my favourite. Easy on the taste, with a spicy finish.

Sandbanks Winery, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada

We tasted their rosé and slowly made it to their red wines. I have to say some of their red wines were impressive. I am thinking of the Mouton Noir and the Baco which both had strong oak finishes. We bought a bottle of Mouton Noir for a friend who absolutely loves and understands wine. We also picked up 2 t-shirts of their Monton Noir – they are kind of cool!

Sandbanks Winery, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada

Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard
At this point of the trip, we were very excited not only to visit Norman Hardie Winery but to try one of his pizzas. Locals had told us his wine was the best in the County and that the pizzas were to die for.

The road leading up to the winery was beautiful and the more we drove, the more we could see the barn. Stepping foot inside, it was refreshing to see so much simplicity, yet so much attention to detail. Jacob held my hand as we climbed the wooden stairs and made it to a simple bar. Some food was for sale, a couple of pictures were on the wall, a magazine was opened at the page where Norman Hardie was interviewed.

Norman Hardie Winery

There is a reason this winery is so successful, we would learn. Norman Hardie’s experience in winemaking speaks for itself: he worked on wineries in Burgundy, Oregon, California, New Zealand and South Africa before coming here. His wines have gained international notoriety and are being sold in restaurants across Canada, Japan, New York, Hong Kong, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

We did a tasting of 3 of his wines and decided to buy their County Chardonnay. We would later be told that that specific wine “is what Prince Edward County tastes like.”

As we made our way downstairs to the patio overlooking the vines, I recognized Norman Hardie talking with some people. As we passed next to him, we took the time to introduce ourselves and tell him how much we liked his wine. He would later come by our table and chat with us about the work on the winery.

Norman Hardie Winery

The pizza was delicious, made in a traditional stone outdoor wood oven. The Chef, David, would later take the time to talk with us about the business and his path.

Making pizza at Norman Hardie Winery

The staff was also great. We had such a good time that Jacob and I decided that we would do a full post about our visit to Norman Hardie Winery later this month. We didn’t want to leave. I wish we could have stayed there to learn more from them. But after our pizza and a glass of wine, we said goodbye and promised ourselves to write them a thank you letter.

Hinterland Wine Company
Located in an old Dairy Farm, this winery produces premium sparkling wine. We had the chance to taste four of their wines, three of them made using the charmat method, and one of them the traditional way. We would learn that the charmat method consists of fermenting the wine in large pressurized containers, which is quicker. The traditional way takes longer and consists of fermenting the wine in their bottles. Our visit to this winery was short but it was interesting to see what they could produce.

Grapes on the vine, Waupoos Winery

The first vines of Hinterland were planted in 2005 and after three years, they were able to release their first sparkling wine. We quickly bought a bottle of rosé sparkling wine made from the traditional method, and hit the road. With only two hours left, we still had 2 wineries on our list to visit.

The Grange of Prince Edward
The first glance at this winery took my breath away; it is truly spectacular. The owner, Caroline Granger, grows seven varieties of grapes on her 60 acre vineyard and takes real pride in her products. While some of her wines can be purchased at the LCBO, she produces wines in three lines that each have their own specialty.

The Grange Winery

The Single Vineyard Line was created for wine collectors and connoisseurs and are made in small batches, making them even more precious. The Select Line was designed for restaurants and are food friendly. The last line, the Estate Line, is more accessible and easy to pair with food or to enjoy on its own. We ended up buying a 2011 Fume Blanc from the Single Vineyard Lane.

Waupoos Estates Winery
From The Grange, I took the wheel to drive to the other side of the County to visit the oldest winery. Waupoos first planted vines in Prince Edward County in 1993. Eight years later, they would officially open their doors as a winery.

Waupoos Winery

Once we passed Picton, I took Route 8. Jacob had fallen into a light sleep as I was driving our car through this wonderful piece of Ontario countryside. We arrived at 5:50 p.m., which is ten minutes before their closing time. Once again, I was speechless in front of so much care, so much attention, so much dedication.

We would come back the next day for lunch with Jacob’s mother and grandmother and would enjoy a perfect day. We would also end-up buying their last bottle of 2011 Riesling, which was the perfect drink to enjoy while writing this post. We also bought some homemade chocolate and a bottle of 2012 Geisenheim. If I ever have something big to celebrate, I think I would go back to Waupoos. There is something magical and unique about it. I guess you have to see it to believe it.

Wineries in Prince Edward County - 2014

We will be back
As we drove back home the next evening, I felt very lucky we had a chance to meet so many people who actually made a difference in the way I see wine and agriculture around here. We truly can be proud of their products and we should share them with the people around us. I know I will be back there soon to visit more wineries and will always be proud to serve our Ontario wines at a our dinner table.