Monthly Archives: April 2012

Weekend Fluff: Make Marshmallows

Just when you think, “what could be more fun than doing nothing on the weekend” along comes some food blogger to tell you to make marshmallows.  Yes, I know, you can buy  marshmallows at WalMart or the gas station but there is nothing like the satisfaction (and an odd comfort) of making these at home and realizing  you can replicate the texture and and lightness of the industrially manufactured confection from your childhood—but they taste way better.  (You can even delight in squashing these between your fingers and making “ghost gum” –anyone know what I’m talking about?)

These were rolled in coconut.

Homemade marshmallows are more beautiful and delicate than the packaged masses.  They also have real flavour since you can add fragrant vanilla beans (or puréed fruit) and drop in a subtle hint of food colouring to help match any baby shower, bridal shower, man-cave christening or home campfire you’re planning on hosting.

And making them successfully in your own kitchen provides the same kind of fun and slight MAGIC as  when you pop your own popcorn in a pot on the stove.

Plain vanilla bean batch.

I made these from a recipe in Chris Nuttall-Smith’s Man Vs Marshmallow piece in the Globe and Mail recently (which tells you about the origins of mallows and has a great tip about calibrating your candy thermometre).  Just imagine the thrill of  making sea-salt caramel marshmallows or a butter-rum version.  Which I have not yet done but plan on using to kick   bake sale ass at Felix’s school (rum makes the pre-schoolers feel like pirates, fun!!)

This stuff feels pretty cool. Opposite end of the spectrum of homemade playdough.

Yes, I am going to keep showing you pictures until I wear you down.  Believe me, I can keep going, this is the age of endless digital photography.

Finally then, here’s the recipe as adapted from  Marshmallow Madness! by Shauna Sever.   The book includes a tonne of amazing variations on the species–including the buttered rum variety mentioned above.  And BTW, this looks lengthy, but it’s not complicated, just detailed to make sure yours turn out perfect. Just dive in, you’ll be fine.  YOU MUST HAVE A STAND-MIXER FOR THIS RECIPE.

If you want some coaching, here’s the video version of How to Make Marshmallows.

I can fit 14 in my mouth at once, you?

Classic Vanilla Marshmallows

One important tip—don’t trust the measurements on the package of your powdered gelatin.  Measure the powder yourself with a teaspoon.

Have everything ready before you start as once the syrup reaches the right temperature you have to be ready with all the other ingredients in the mixer.



1 cup icing sugar

2/3 cup cornstarch


4 ½ teaspoons unflavoured powdered gelatin

½ cup cold water


¾ cup sugar

½ cup light corn syrup (divided)

¼ cup water

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Make the coating first.  You’ll have enough to use for a couple batches. Sift the icing sugar and cornstarch into a bowl and whisk together.  You want to eliminate any lumps. Set aside.
  2. Spray an 8” X 8” inch pan with no-stick spray. Set aside.
  3. Now bloom your gelatin.  Measure a 1/2 cup cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle the powdered gelatin on top.  Whisk it well and let sit for at least 5 minutes to soften.
  4. Meanwhile for the mallow mixture, measure the sugar, ¼ cup corn syrup, water and salt into a small saucepan.  Set over high heat and bring to a boil until it reaches 240 °F on a candy thermometer.  Stir occasionally.
  5. While the syrup is heating, pour the remaining ¼ cup corn syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Microwave the gelatin for 30 seconds to ensure it’s fully melted and add that to the mixer bowl.  With the whisk attachment on set the mixer to low and keep it running.

TIP: Don’t forget to keep checking your syrup—make sure your thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan when testing the temperature.   And remember that boiling syrup is extremely hot so take care to keep it from splattering. 

  1. Once the temperature hits 240 °F slowly pour the sugar mixture into the mixing bowl.  Increase the speed to medium and beat 5 minutes.  Then increase speed to medium-high and beat another 5 minutes.  Finally, pause to add the vanilla and beat for 1-2 minutes on the highest speed until white and thickening.
  2. The marshmallow mixture will be very fluffy-about triple the volume and will now start to set very quickly.  Pour into the greased 8 x 8 dish and smooth with an offset or spatula.
  3. Sprinkle the top generously with the marshmallow coating and let the marshmallow set in a cool, dry place for 6 hours before cutting.
  4. Once set, run a knife around the edge of the dish and flip the mellow slab onto a surface dusted with the marshmallow coating.

10. Now just slice the marshmallows into cubes (or cut using scissors or cookie cutters sprayed with non-stick spray).

11. Toss them in the coating to cover all the sticky sides and serve.

12. Store in a dry cool place and just redust the marshmallows if they get a little moist.

VARIATION: You can also coat your marshmallows with finely ground nuts like pistachio, shredded coconut or graham crumbs.

COLOUR:  Drop in a bit of food colouring just before you beat the marshmallow for the final 2 minutes.


Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Uncategorized

Toast Post: Alberta’s Farmstead Buffalo Mozzarella

I had the pleasure of not only feasting on the above delicacy from Old West Ranch in Alberta, but I also had an amazing conversation with farmer and cheesemaker James Meservy.  At the end of it I was convinced he should host his own radio show, the man is a natural story teller.   But part of it is that he has an amazing story to tell.

You can read the piece in my article  in today’s Globe and Mail, but I never have the space I wish I had to full tell a cheesemaker’s story…….so here’s a little bit about James, his wife Debbie and their journey to cheesemakerdom (they started off as beef farmers) which didn’t make it into the piece.

Patch the Water Buffalo, in the rain. Photo by James Meservy.

In 2003 “mad cow disease” had killed the beef industry and by 2007 the Meservy’s were selling off cattle to make bank payments (therefore cutting revenue at the same time).  They had to do something drastic, “So naturally I thought, we’ll get water buffalo, isn’t that what everyone does?”  says Mr. Meservy.  He’d been fascinated with the animals since he discovered mozzarella was made from their milk during a childhood game of Trivial Pursuit and had already been researching the idea for a number of years. The couple encountered many stumbling blocks—from difficulty sourcing the water buffalos and once acquired, losing precious animals to illness.  When he finally saw his big, spunky beasts for the first time, Mr. Meservy only half-jokes that his stomach sank “ I thought, I’m going to get killed, I can’t survive that.”

With no formal training other than a home cheese book and a half-day spent at a Vermont mozzarella plant he made his first batch of cheese in March 2010.  Popping 10 balls of mozzarella into a jar he started canvassing Calgary restaurants.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, his mozzarella is now on the menu at the renowned River Café (among others) and sold at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese

James’ (and his family’s) perseverence seems like it could move mountains.  Perhaps typical of many agricultural families.   His cheese is pretty amazing.  James says he’s not trying to replicate the Italian version, he’s doing his own thing.  His goal was to create a more robust expression of the flavours normally found in buffalo mozarella and I think he really succeeded.

Take the lid off one of the containers of his cheese and just the wonderful, fresh, milky aroma will convert you.

Contact James Meservy at


Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts, Travel and Food

Forget the a.m. cream cheese, go for chevre.

Memories.  Since it is the weekend and time for languid, lazy breakfasts, I was remembering the cheese and coffee pairings I did awhile back.

And how the chevre and black coffee was a brilliant match.  So I thought I would repost the reminder.  Buy some chevre and make a really good cup of coffee (or hell, buy that too) then sit back and watch someone else slave over the waffles and bacon.  And make sure they promise to do their own breakfast dishes.

And if you’ve promised someone breakfast in bed just add fresh fruit to the menu and you will be the best ever bed chum in as much time as it takes you to grind coffee beans and wash strawberries.

Have a good one!

PS–I just remembered this Ginger Melon salad (see bottom of post) that would step up the chevre/coffee thing and  would totally earn you foot massage (at least in this house).

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Filed under All Recipes, Cheese/Cheese Related, Ruminations on the Edible, Uncategorized

Toast Post: Manhattan Cheese Trail

American Farmstead Cheese on Lower East Side window- by Tad Seaborn

Rather than repeat myself less eloquently in regards to my cheese-a-thon in NYC, I thought I would post  a link to today’s Travel Section in the Globe and Mail where I write about chasing the cheese (thanks Julie!) in New York.  If you would like some ideas on where to go, or just want to get your mouth watering please take a look.

If you have the paper, then you will see the above picture (which truly sums it all up) and some other beauties, plus a map of Manhattan showing all the cheese stops I made. Enjoy!  I certainly did.

Purchasing snacks at Saxelby Cheese, Essex Street market.


Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Restaurants and Products, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Hot Cross Buns (cuz it’s Easter don’t ya know)

“Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One-a-penny, Two a-penny, Hot Cross Buns!”

Am I evoking childhood memories?  Apparently this was a popular song and even “street-cry” according to Wikipedia.  I have never encountered it in my childhood but would love to hear people yelling out about sweet, spiced buns all day Good Friday.  And yes, the cross is the cross as in crucifix.  (Not Horcrux, that’s Harry Potter)

And look what other lore I discovered, “If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.”

All to say is that probably someone on the Titanic should have packed some HCB’s in their trunk, and it is a relief to know that if you’re going to hang these buns if your kitchen, it’s a once a year event kind of like cleaning the crumbs out of the little toaster tray I always forget is there (maybe that explains the fires?).

I haven’t even eaten many hot-cross buns in my time but seeing them in the bakeries made me crave them.  They’re slightly sweet, yeast-leavened buns which have raisins or dried fruit in them and are scented with spices like cloves and cinnamon.   And since I knew nothing from a HCB, I turned to Nigella and her recipe.

NOTE: These have to rise in the fridge overnight, so plan ahead!  (also, this recipe uses weight measures and you’ll need a scale, Martha’s recipe looked good to if you want to go “cups”)

Start by infusing 150ml of milk with the zest of an orange, 1 clove and 2 cardamom pods.   Add 50g butter and heat on medium-low until the butter melts and then pull the pot off the stove and set aside.

Now measure 400g bread flour, 1 pack (8g) active dry yeast and 125g mixed dried fruit (I only had raisins) into a bowl.  Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground ginger.  Whisk together.  (I had some medium shredded unsweetened coconut on hand so added only 110g raisins and 20g coconut.  To be honest I couldn’t taste it in the final bun).

Now remove the cloves and cardamom from your milk and whisk in 1 egg (the milk should only be body temperature by now–or BLOOD temperature as Nigella says– hello Sookie!)

Pour the milk/egg mixture into the flour and I mixed it in a stand mixer using the bread hook until it was shiny and smooth. I did find the dough dry and probably added 1/8 cup extra milk when it started combining and needed more moisture.  (You can just add water as well).

Pop this baby into a buttered bowl and seal well with saran-wrap. Do not leave a gap or it will dry out (it happened to me, grrr).  Now it goes into your fridge overnight.

DAY 2:

You’re going to take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (give it at least 30 minutes).  Then punch it down and knead it again until it is smooth and elastic.  (I brought in some help–those small hands really are good workers.)

Then cut up the dough into 12-16 buns (Nigella likes them smaller, I went bigger).  Just cut the dough in half and then half again ect, until you have enough pieces approximately the same size.  Now roll them into smooth, round buns.

Put the buns on your parchment-lined cookie sheet and score them with the “cross” using a table knife.  Nigella suggests using the dull side, but even with the cutting edge I could barely make the cross visible.  You want the buns quite close together on the sheet, almost touching but not quite.  PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 425°F (220°C).  Throw a clean tea towel over them and let them rise on top of the stove for about 45 min-1 hr.

While these are rising you can prepare an egg wash (just beat 1 egg with a little milk) and your “cross”mixture which is 3 tbsp AP flour, 1/2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water mixed til thick.

When the buns have risen,  they should be touching each other, brush them with your egg wash and then use the “cross” mixture and a teaspoon to drizzle  a cross shape in the scored area (if it still exists as mine had all but disappeared).

POP INTO OVEN for 15-20 minutes.  I left mine about 20 (I had fewer, but larger buns).   Remove from the oven and mix 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp boiling water and then brush the buns to sweeten and glaze them.   Let cool, then eat immediately (right after you utter your “street-cry”).

I found these best when still warm, but am still happily eating them two days later and all I do is give each bun about 20 seconds in the microwave to revive it slightly and then they’re great with a cup of tea.

Have Easter everyone.  Have a chocolate-filled  long weekend!

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Filed under All Recipes, Ruminations on the Edible, Uncategorized

swiss chard + bacon + garlic + fiorelle

Not bad for a "grasping for ideas" night....

I must apologize.  Did the “+” sign in the title make you think you were looking at a menu from Colborne Lane?  Yes, I did it on purpose.

I wanted  to make a simple night’s dinner seem more exciting.   I am posting this “recipe” as it really is dead easy and so delicious.  And I thought maybe others would want to give it a try when grasping for a quick, tasty meal one night.  It’s not exactly groundbreaking but I figure sometimes we all need a little inspiration.

I started with the bacon. About 6 slices, chopped and fried in a large skillet (use a large skillet so you can add the pasta to it later).  Drain the bacon but reserve about a tablespoon of oil in the skillet for the Swiss chard and garlic down the road.

Now grab that bunch of Swiss chard, wash it and cut out the stems.  I was inspired by Paula Tiberius’s baby Swiss chard Post.  I threw the leaves (torn into bite-sized pieces) into some boiling, salted water and cooked for a few minutes until they were tender, then I drained them.

Now crush some some garlic (two cloves to be exact in my dish) and throw it into the skillet with the bacon fat and soften it over medium-low heat.  Then add the Swiss chard and bacon back in.  A little bit of olive oil too.   Cook it just long enough to reheat the Swiss chard and bacon and infuse them with the garlic–then pull it off the heat.

Meanwhile cook your pasta in well-salted water (that’s the PC Black Label Fiorelle you see in the bowl) and drain it, reserving some pasta water for later.  Add the pasta  to the skillet and put it back over medium heat. Toss everything around to combine.  You’ll probably need to add a bit of pasta water just to keep it moist.  Add fresh pepper at the table.

The chard leaves absorb the garlic and bacon flavours and the pasta and bacon….is well….pasta and bacon.   This is my “Rachel Ray” 30-minute meal.

And I bet it would even WOW last-minute guests.


6 slices bacon

1 bunch Swiss Chard

2 cloves garlic

350-400 g pasta

tbsp olive oil

fresh pepper

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My iPhone is still sticky from Donut Plant (but it was worth it)

This blueberry glaze is made fresh from real fruit.

Donut Plant. I know, you’re drooling.  Yet you’re thinking, no, it’s too much that donut!  Too sweet, too dense, too purple.  But it was gold, until I took a bite of my Tres Leche (super-gold).

Which ruined my strategy of “only taking one bite “.  My theory was that since we were going to Momofuko Ko that night I could not be eating donuts all morning (especially since I had just eaten a bagel on our walk over and had a lot of cheese to finish back at our apartment).

Apparently I could, and did.  My one-bite plan was quickly abandoned at first taste of the Tres Leche.  This thing is filled with evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream.  PEOPLE, go to New York right now.

I barely had the willpower to remove the above donut from my mouth and take its picture.  My hands were so sticky that the HOME button on my iPhone may never recover.

“My iPhone for a donut!” I may have yelled.

Donut Plant’s Crème brûlée donut has been called a “Boston Cream on crack” by Maxim magazine and I am sure they know their crack.

There are two types of donuts available; the denser “cake” donut and the fluffier, chewier “yeast” donut.  I am cake all the way.  Owner Mark Isreal uses his grandfather’s recipes but spent years perfecting his cake donuts.  The man even invented A square jelly-filled donut so that the filling is evenly distributed between the dough.

Donut Dedication. Checkout the whole history on their website.

Here’s what we saw inside when we finally found Donut Plant which is in the Lower East Side.

I did not go in with a plan and then I panicked.  Luckily my trusty donut instincts drew me to the Tres Leche.  But why did I did not also get a Vanilla Bean or Valrhona chocolate I cannot explain.  Questions that may plague me til my dying day.

(Here is a little review from NY magazine for more info).

And though Momofuko Ko was amazing (more later) this was hard to beat.


Filed under Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible, Travel and Food, Uncategorized