Lemon Meringue Nests


Lemon Meringue Nest Recipe

About a month ago, my boyfriend's sister sent me a link to an online application for The Great Canadian Baking Show. I wasn't sure I would make it but the next day I thought, why not try! I answered questions that asked what kinds of things I liked to bake, who taught me to bake, my favourite thing to bake - stuff like that. A few days later I was in a coffee shop, trying to cross off things on my to-do list, when I missed a call from a strange number. I called back and they asked if I wanted to be directed to "Canada's Worst Drivers" - I laughed imagining those shows where a "friend" reports another friend for having bad style and that person is secretly videotaped to highlight all their faux pas. I hoped that wasn't me! Then the lady said, "or the Great Canadian Baking Show?"

I was put through to someone who asked me some follow up questions - one of them being if I had ever watched the show - the great British bake off or the American version. I had not! That night I YouTube'd some episodes to see what exactly I was getting into, and who Mary Berry really is! The show isn't like most cooking shows- it's not cut throat. Maybe that has something to do with bakers, or maybe it's the amateur component. Either way, after watching it I really wanted to be on the show! If it was more intense, I don't think it would be for me (I like winning, but I'm not the super competitive type!)

Only a few days after the telephone call I got an email inviting me to audition on April 1 - no joke! The instructions said to bring six portions of my “signature bake” and I would have to bake something that day using a recipe they provide.

Lemon Meringue Nest Recipe
Lemon Meringue Nest Recipe
Lemon Meringue Nests Recipe

The time slot was 10:00a.m. and I would be driving from Kingston. So, the signature bake had to 1. Be able to travel and 2. Be baked the night before. I decided on meringues for those reasons!

I made a trial batch early in the week to see if I wanted to pipe them or not. They turned out not bad (I opened the oven door and they cracked a bit but I knew why and that I would show more self-control for the real batch!). Friday rolled around and it decided to rain - a lot! I’ve heard that tale – don’t make meringues when it rains or on humid days but had never before experienced the challenge myself. I ended up making multiple batches, changing this and changing that, trying to get them perfect.

I went to bed with the last batch in the oven. I couldn’t help but think I should have made something else, but convinced myself it would be fine! The next morning, I packed the prettiest ones up and put the lemon curd in the cooler. When I got to the audition, I assembled them in the car, which was pretty hilarious and more awkward than I planned. My hands were shaking and I realized that up until that moment, I was excited, but now I was only nervous!!!

Inside there were ten of us auditioning (and I think 30 total that day). It was at a cooking school, which was really neat because we each had our own work station AND someone did the dishes and wiped the counter when we were done! My signature bake was cut into four pieces and judged – I don’t know how well it did but she mentioned when she saw them she thought who on Earth brought meringues! She noted they were crisp – which I think was a compliment but not sure! That was pretty much it – I talked while she was scoring me and writing comments. I told her why I baked meringues and how I thought meringues represented what a baker should be (I practiced this little speech in my head on the drive down!). I basically said that the nest is the base, and it's sturdy and strong, which represents a baker’s persistence and practice – which I got a lot of the day before with my meringues! And the lemon curd on top is zingy and bright, and this is a baker’s energy and creativeness.

I think I wanted to tell her this because everything I make has meaning or gets meaning once I make it. And thinking about it now, it makes sense because I am slowly making my way through the recipes of my Grandmother’s cookbook. The recipes in her cookbook are so connected to her life on the farm and the stories that come from it. And of course, the ingredients grown around her.

Lemon Meringue Nest Recipe

After it was all done, I was interviewed one last time outside (Tom snapped a paparazzi style pic of me!). Throughout the day I was asked many times what I like to bake and why. After talking about it so much, I think I have an answer. I love to bake things that are meaningful to me – things my mum baked when I was growing up, things that are common in the area, things with fresh fruit like pies and cobblers and bread. And I also like to bake really pretty little desserts, the meringues, mini tarts, and madeleines. Both types of things I like to bake are full of butter, and I often use my giant wooden spoon somewhere in the process!

I feel like there are a million and one things on my baking list – and I have so much to learn. Whenever I watch a cooking competition on TV, I always think to myself, “I could never do that”. I would never know what to make, I would not be able to make decisions, I would have too much self-doubt. I don’t think I am the best baker, I don’t think I am amazing – I don’t have confidence like that – BUT I think I could win if I get on the show! Fingers crossed!

Lemon Meringue Nest Recipe

Lemon Meringue Nests

Nests

4 eggs whites

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla)

 

Lemon Curd

4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

½ cup unsalted butter

For the nests: Preheat oven to 200F. Line two baking trays with parchment; set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer, heat egg whites and sugar over a pot of simmering water until sugar dissolves and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes. (Run mixture between your fingers to test for sugar granules).

Remove from heat and whip using whisk attachment until white and fluffy, about 10 minutes. The bottom of the bowl should be room temperature.

Transfer meringue to a pastry bag with a large star tip. Starting at the centre, pipe 5 cm circles, 1 - 2 inches apart. (It helps me to trace a small jar on the back of the parchment). Build the nest up by piping one or two layers (depending how high you want them) around the edge of each circle. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave in for 30 minutes.

For the lemon curd: In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Stir constantly and continue heating until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Add in butter and continue heating until thick, about 5 minutes. You should be able to draw a line in the curd with it staying put. When thick enough, strain into bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd, to avoid a thick skin from forming, and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Use a spoon to dollop curd into nests, or pipe the curd into the centre. Keep meringues in air tight container and keep curd refrigerated, each for up to three days. Assemble as you need them!

Makes about 20 nests

*Recipe adapted from zoebakes.com

Summer Lentil Salad


Summer Lentil Salad Recipe
Summer Lentil Salad Recipe

When I'm in the kitchen, I'm rarely thinking about what I am actually doing. If I'm cutting a pepper I'm thinking about anything else. This is probably why I drop dishes and spill things so frequently! I'm often thinking about the times I made a particular dish or used an ingredient. For lentils, I've never actually cooked them before (!) even though I love them in soups and salads and Indian dishes. I remember eating lentils at my Grandmother's for the first time when I was a teenager - they were not something that my mum cooked. Because of this, lentils have always been some strange, exotic choice for a legume! My Grandma made a simple salad with lentils, peppers, and feta cheese with a balsamic dressing. I remember it being tres yummy!

Since I made this salad, I've cooked lentils three times! Four actually, but the first time I used red (based solely on the idea they would make a pretty salad!), but they turned to mush before I knew it! Both red and yellow lentils tend to get softer and loose their shape. For salads, black and green lentils are better as they retain their shape and remain firm. The trick to cooking lentils is to bring them to a boil quickly and continue simmering thereafter. The orange and mint in this salad make it perfect for Spring and Summer! Lentils have quickly become my favourite new food to cook!

Summer Lentil Salad Recipe
Summer Lentil Salad Recipe
Summer Lentil Salad Recipe

Cutting ORANGES

My knife skills are so-so. When I am cutting things like potatoes or squash or even cheese, I sometimes even scare myself. This recipe calls for chunks of orange, pith removed. So, I decided to learn the technique to cutting oranges (safely!).

I first cut the end off the orange so that it would sit flat on the cutting board. Then, I trimmed the skin off, removing as much as I could without taking too much fruit with it. Next, I held the orange in my hand and carved out the little slices, again making sure I left the pith (the white stuff) behind. Ta-da, cute, juicy orange slices perfect for a salad!

Summer Lentil Salad Recipe
Summer Lentil Salad Recipe

Summer Lentil Salad

4 cups of water

1 cup brown lentils

1 clove garlic

1 bay leaf

½ tsp ground cumin

salt & pepper

1 orange, peeled and seeded

1 lemon

1 lime

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Bring water to a boil in pot. Add lentils, garlic, bay leaf, cumin, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove pith (white part) from orange sections; chop into large bowl. Squeeze juice from lemon and lime and stir into chopped orange.

Cut cucumber into quarters lengthwise; slice thinly and add to bowl. Stir in onion slices, chopped tomatoes, mint, and parsley.

When lentils are cooked, remove bay leaf and garlic clove. Drain lentils in sieve. Chill under cold running water.

Stir lentils into bowl. Stir in oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss gently.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: I used a red pepper instead of tomatoes. I also caught myself crumbling goat cheese on top! :)

Summer Lentil Salad Recipe
Summer Lentil Salad Recipe

*Recipe from The Farm and City Cookbook

Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing


Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing
Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing
Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing
Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing
Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing

Spinach & Sprout Salad

4-6 big handfuls spinach

1 cup alfalfa sprouts

1 cup sliced mushrooms

½ feta cheese chunks

2 Tbsp poppy seeds

Honey Dressing

½ cup liquid honey

¼ cup hot water

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground ginger

dash ground cloves

For Honey Dressing, blend ingredients well in a shaker or hand mixer.

Wash and spin spinach leaves and tear into a large bowl. Add alfalfa sprouts, sliced mushrooms and chunks of feta cheese to taste.

Toss with ½ cup Honey dressing and sprinkle with poppy seeds just before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Note: I spread hummus on pita and used the salad to make wraps - very yummy!

Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing
Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing
Spinach & Sprout Salad with Honey Dressing

Chocolate Specials


Chocolate Specials Recipe
Chocolate Specials Recipe

I recently applied to “the Great Canadian Baker,” just for fun! They called me yesterday and asked me a couple follow up questions. On the same day, I made some pretty big changes to my Master’s thesis. And the next day I was put on a new exciting research project where I work. So, I have a lot going on! I instantly feel the need to finish my thesis, bake a million goodies to practice (just in case I get a call!), and work super hard on the project at my job.

Chocolate Specials Recipe

For me, times like these are very exciting, but I should also think about balance, just so that I can keep it all together. I usually go to my mum for advice; she is very grounded and keeps me in check! When I moved to Kingston to start my Master’s she gave me a book by Pema Chordon called “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.” I read the title and couldn’t help but think, “does my mum think my life is falling apart?” But I knew I shouldn’t be offended because of that rule we learn in junior school, never judge a book by its cover!

My favourite chapter is “The Path is the Goal.” It might sound hokey, but it’s a simple reminder that life is lived in the chaotic moments, the happy moments, the crazy stressful days, etc. The journey is what it’s about and it should be enjoyed! So, even though I want to stay up all night to check off everything on my to-do list, just to be done, writing this is my conscious reminder to slow down and enjoy it!

Chocolate Specials Recipe
Chocolate Specials Recipe

Chocolate Specials

3 cups rolled oats

6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

½ cup butter

1 tsp vanilla

Stir together oats, cocoa, and coconut in bowl and set aside.

Bring sugar, milk and butter to boil in saucepan; pour over oats and mix well. Stir in vanilla.

Drop by the teaspoonful onto waxed paper lined baking sheet.

When cool, store in covered container at room temperature. Best eaten within 3 days.

Makes 36 cookies.

Chocolate Specials Recipe
Chocolate Specials Recipe

*Recipe from The Farm and City Cookbook

Pesto


Pesto Pizza Recipe
Pesto Pizza Recipe

Pesto, pesto, pesto! I don’t remember ever eating it until my University days. I lived in house with 4 other girls, one of them being Abbey. I remember thinking how exotic all the food her family ate was. Her dad makes Lebanese recipes and is a great cook (her mum too!). Okra, kibbeh, grape leaves, hummus, and some yummy stews were sent back with Abbey, and of course, she shared!

Abbey and I would grocery shop and cook together, and pretty much everything else, including school because we were in the same program. I remember cooking chicken on the stove and by the end, it was all cut into pieces because we would check every slice to make sure it was cooked all the way through. We were both very anxious cooks!

Abbey introduced me to Pesto Pizza. It is simple, delicious, and requires minimal ingredients (probably why we made it so often in University). We also made scones all the time because most recipes don’t call for eggs (which we would never have on hand for some reason). We even used chocolate milk in substitute for milk (only one time because it was... um, terrible). We were always searching for flourless, eggless or butterless recipes because we could never get it together!

Pesto Pizza Recipe
Pesto Pizza Recipe

Back to pesto pizza: we would flatten out the pizza dough on a cookie sheet, slather on basil pesto, cover with thinly sliced potatoes, and sprinkle lightly with whatever cheese we had. Potatoes on pizza, how exotic (is probably what I was thinking!). We used to buy pesto in jars, but it is so easy and satisfying to make yourself. You can leave out the Parmesan and freeze it or keep it in the fridge covering the top with a layer of oil.

The only problem I have with pesto is that Pasta Genova’s is better than mine! I love pesto, and more often eat it on pasta. Pasta Genova has a pesto that is so delicious I can (and do) eat it by the spoon, on its own. I don’t know how they do it.

My last attempt was the best pesto I have made to date. I have tried various recipes; some with lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, and various ratios of pine nuts to oil. The next recipe to try is my boyfriend’s mother’s! I hear it’s great!

Pesto Pizza Recipe
Pesto Pizza Recipe

Pesto

My modified version of the recipe

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

4 Tbsp pine nuts or blanched almonds

1 clove garlic

salt

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (not optional)

The Farm and City Recipe

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

4 Tbsp pine nuts or blanched almonds

3 cloves garlic

salt

¾ cup olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Blend basil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in blender or food processor.

Slowly drizzle in olive oil while machine is running.

Blend in Parmesan cheese until smooth.

Makes enough for 1 lb of pasta.

Pesto Pizza Recipe

Pesto Pizza

1 pizza dough

4 Tbsp pesto

1-2 potatoes, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp Parmesan

1 tsp rosemary

4 Tbsp goat cheese

Stretch pizza dough in rectangle and transfer to parchment lined cookie sheet.

Spread pesto on dough, leaving 2 cm border for the crust. Slightly overlap potatoes to completely cover pesto (they shrink up a bit when cooking). Drop goat cheese in 10 dollops on top of potatoes.

Sprinkle Parmesan and rosemary on 2 cm border you’ve created for the crust.

Bake at 400°F for 18-22 minutes until crust is golden.

Pesto Pizza Recipe
Pesto Pizza Recipe

*Recipe from The Farm and City Cookbook

Lemon Bread


Lemon Bread Recipe
Lemon Bread Recipe

When I recall the dessert loaves my mum would bake, I think banana bread, lemon bread, and chocolate zucchini bread. I remember she would sometimes put chocolate chips in the banana bread. Yum! The other time the loaf tin was used was for meat loaf, which we ate for dinner just as frequently as pasta (or so it seemed)!

I wanted something sweet this week, and had lemons and poppy seeds on hand. This recipe is delicious. I made a simple lavender and lemon glaze to drizzle on top. I steeped lavender petals in milk and let cool to room temperature. I added the milk to icing sugar and adjusted the consistency with lemon juice. The glaze was tart and went perfectly with the bread. This lemon bread recipe forms a nice golden crust, is moist on the inside, and not too sweet. We ate this for breakfast and later in the day with tea.

Lemon Bread Recipe
Lemon Bread Recipe
Lemon Bread Recipe
Lemon Bread Recipe

Lemon Bread

1/3 cup shortening or butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 Tbsp lemon juice (and grated peel, if you like)

1 ½ cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup milk

½ cup chopped walnuts or poppy seeds (optional)

Cream butter and sugar in bowl; beat in eggs. Stir in lemon juice and peel (if using).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt, and add alternately with milk to cream mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in walnuts or poppy seeds (if using).

Pour into 9” x 5” (2 L) loaf pan.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) about 1 hour, until top is golden.

Makes 1 loaf

Note: I only used ¼ cup of poppy seeds which I thought was plentiful! I also used a smaller loaf pan, but still cooked it for 1 hour.

 

Lemon Bread Recipe
Lemon Bread Recipe

*Recipe from The Farm and City Cookbook