Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

“Why is it called a coffee cake if there is no coffee in the cake?” I asked Jacob one evening.

“I think it’s a cake you should have with a coffee,” he answered.

Then, there was a pause. “Actually I have no idea,” he admitted.

A quick search of the web would prove his instincts right. Just like we call “tea cakes”, the goodies we serve with tea, a coffee cake is known to be spiced with cinnamon or other spices and serve with coffee. It is as simple as that.

This weekend I got busy baking, taking advantage of the long weekend. This coffee cake was probably the highlight of my time at home. Inspired by a recipe I found in one of Martha Stewart’s books, I adapted it to fit with what I like in a coffee cake (which is almonds, always more almonds).

It was delicious. Definitively something I will do again in our kitchen. And, as I would find out, the perfect partner for a fresh cup of delicious coffee.

Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

For the streusel, you will need:
1 cup of unsalted butter
¼ cup of marzipan
1 ¾ cups of flour
¾ cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ cup of sliced almonds
A pinch of salt

For the streusel center, you will need:
¼ cup of brown sugar
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ cup of sliced almonds

For the cake, you will need:
2 cups of flour
1 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
A pinch of salt
½ cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of sour cream

For the glaze, you will need:
1 cup of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of milk

Make the streusel:
Mix the flour with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Grate the cold butter in the bowl, followed by the marzipan. Add sliced almonds. Mix with your hands until you get crumbles. Set aside.

Make the streusel center:
Mix all the ingredients. Set aside.

Make the cake:
Sift the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream in two batches. Mix well.

Spread half of the batter into a buttered 9-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.

Spread the streusel center.

Add the rest of the batter. Top with the streusel.

Bake at 350 for about 55 minutes. Let it cool completely before drizzling with the glaze.

Glaze: mix the icing sugar with milk. Drizzle on top of the cold cake and enjoy!

Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

It is officially this time of year: the leaves are falling from the trees, everything seems wet all the time, you put an extra layer of clothes on before going out, and you can’t decide which scarf you should be wearing when leaving the house. It is fall my friend.

Fall is also a season to celebrate. Growing up as a French Canadian, we didn’t really highlight Thanksgiving. I mean we would celebrate the harvest season in our own way, but it was never a big deal. Since I have been dating my Anglophone man however, I have learned to embrace this new holiday.

So since it is fall, and since it is Thanksgiving weekend starting very shortly, I thought I would share a pretty easy and tasty recipe that could be the perfect starter to any dinner, or the perfect meal on a cloudy or rainy evening.

I am a bit tonight so my post will be short. I hope you will have a chance to try this recipe and that you will enjoy it. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

You will need:
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 big sweet potato
1 onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Fresh thyme
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 big tomato, shocked and peeled preferably, diced
Fresh basil
Fresh or dry oregano
Salt and pepper
Sour cream to garnish

What to do:
In a big pot, mix about 1 tablespoon of butter with the onion and garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the diced squash and sweet potato with one branch of thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Add two cups of the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, bring the heat to low and cover the pan. Let it simmer for about 8 minutes.

Add the rest of the broth, the tomato, some chopped fresh basil, some fresh thyme leaves, and a good teaspoon of oregano. Cover again and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Once the squash is cooked, puree the soup in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with the garnish of your choice (sour cream or some fresh herbs). Enjoy!

Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

A perfect chocolate cupcake

Chocolate Cupcakes

Growing up, chocolate was always a part of our family celebrations: Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, New Years Eve, birthdays … Chocolate, for me, is somehow comforting. The smell of cacao powder or melting chocolate alone makes me smile.

A couple of weeks ago, I came back home feeling a bit tired and down after my day at work. As I was looking in the cupboard for some inspiration for dinner, I was reminded of this package of Donini Chocolate, a great dark chocolate I had bought at Waupoos winery in Prince Edward County this summer – a great and creamy chocolate made in Belleville in Ontario. As I was craving integrating this chocolate in a dessert, I decided to bake something that makes me happy — cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes

I love cupcakes. I love having to fill each individual paper cup that I chose carefully, smelling the small cakes baking, putting them on a cooling-rack to chill. I love making the frosting, seeing the butter change into a fluffy, creamy, perfect topping for those adorable cakes.

Putting the frosting on top of the cupcakes is my favourite part. There is something comforting about choosing the tip, filling the piping bag, deciding what shape I want to give the frosting, practicing on a couple before finding the right way to bend my wrist to make the cupcake pretty. For every single one of them, I will dedicate my full attention.

Chocolate Cupcakes

An hour can easily go by without being noticed. I put some music on, my apron gets messy, my fingers get dirty, the kitchen looks like a mess, and I love everything about this process. I picked this recipe in a great book called Butter Baked Goods, a very good recipe book. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I suggest you do.

So this fall, when you’ll feel like baking something very tasty and dedicating some real time to it, bake these cupcakes and try to frost them with patience and attention. Try to bake the perfect chocolate cupcake.

Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes, you will need:
1 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
3 eggs
330 grams of flour
125 grams of cacao
1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 ½ cup of milk
¾ cup of sour cream
½ cup of strong coffee, chilled
2 teaspoons of vanilla

In a bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add both sugars. Add the egg, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

In another bowl, mix the flour with cacao, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl mix the milk with the sour cream, coffee and vanilla.

Add about one third of the dry ingredient to the butter mixture. Add half of the liquids. Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the rest of the liquid and finish with the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into cupcake trays filled with paper line. Bake at 350F about 20 minutes. Once baked, let the cupcakes cool on a rack before frosting them.

Chocolate Cupcakes

For the frosting, you will need:
1 cup of butter
1 cup of dark chocolate, melted
2 cups of icing sugar
¾ cup of cacao
½ cup of milk

Start by sifting the icing sugar with cacao.

In a bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and cacao ½ cup at a time, mixing between each addition. Repeat until you have no dry ingredients left.

Add the melted chocolate and beat well. Slowly add the mix and mix everything until the frosting is creamy. Turn the mixer to high speed and let it run for 10 minutes.

Frost each cupcake, and scrape some Donini Chocolate on top, and enjoy!

Falling for apples, at Mountain Orchards

Mountain Orchard Farm

About two weeks ago, while looking at my calendar, it hit me that summer was pretty much gone. Fall was slowly taking its place and I was looking forward to enjoying my favourite season. As a way of welcoming fall, Jacob and I decided to go apple picking.

I hadn’t been gone apple picking in many years so I was pretty excited. I Googled “Apple picking Ottawa”, and the first result I got was Mountain Orchards. I looked at the location, comments, noticed they were picking Lobo apples that weekend and so this is where Jacob and I would head-out that Sunday morning.

The road to get there was beautiful. I love the Ontario country; it reminds me a lot of New Brunswick, where I grew up. We passed many barns, saw some cows, many freshly cut cornfields, a beautiful landscape. We reached our destination within an hour.

Mountain Orchard Farm

At 10 am, the parking lot (which is actually a field) was half-full already. Kids were running around, dogs were happily following them, parents looked relaxed. While walking towards the little tractor that would get us to the field, I wondered how long this place had been farming apple trees…

Mountain Orchard Farm

Established in 1932, Mountain Orchards grew from a plantation of McIntosh trees to a 25 acre farm with over 10,000 trees, now offering 8 different varieties of apples from the end of August to mid-October. From the traditional Cortland, to the Spartan, you can also pick the large and crisp Lobo (one of my favourites), the Honeycrisp or the Empire. The Silken is available early in the season and the Honey Gold can be picked just at its end.

Mountain Orchard Farm

“We bought the orchard in 1974, knowing nothing about growing apples other than we knew they grew on trees. It was a lot of trial and a lot of error for many years,” explains Shelley Lyall, one of the owners. The Lyall and Hobson families have worked hard since the beginning.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time and being the good hippies we were, the “back to the land” movement was pretty prevalent in those days,” adds Shelley.

Bob Hobson and Phil Lyall grew up together in Manotick, and Shelley joined the group of friends when she was 14 years old. She would marry Phil years later and as she says, the rest is history. “The love of agriculture was more a very big sense of adventure and over the last 40 years we have overcome a challenge or two,” admits Shelley.

Mountain Orchard Farm

Mountain Orchard also offers baked goods such as butter tart, apple cider, and amazingly crispy, incredible, warm apple cider doughnuts. Jacob and I bought six of them when we were done picking and sat at a picnic table enjoying every bite. I would actually go back for the doughnuts alone!

Mountain Orchard Farm

When we got back home, I was very excited and started to bake right away. You can go through my blog to find some delicious apple recipes!!

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!