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naramata-blend

A dash of raspberry farming, gardening, wine touring, gourmet cooking and splash of open water swimming all blend into a life in the glorious Okanagan Valley Village of Naramata in British Columbia, Canada.

5 Reasons To Make Your Own Stock

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Chef Mike Sonier tells us that making your own cooking stock is not all smoke and mirrors and is worth the effort.

Aromas of the best kitchens

A simmering stock pot filling your kitchen with the rich, deep, complex aromas of chicken beef or vegetable stock flavoured with herbs is reason enough to master this basic cooking art. A conversation with Chef Mike Sonier, owner of Naramata’s Knotweed Restaurant reveals other equally compelling reasons to make your own stock.

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  1. Health benefits 

“Take a look at the ingredients in store-bought packaged stock,” says Chef Mike. “You will find MSG, salt and a bunch of other preservatives to make it shelf stable. When you make your own stock there are huge health benefits.”

Stock made from bones is packed with minerals from calcium to magnesium, sulphur to silicon, and things like glucosamine. Basically it contains all the stuff we’re told to buy in expensive synthetic mineral supplement form for joints and arthritis, except it’s cheap, natural food and very easily digested.

If simmered long enough, stock is packed with gelatin. Gelatin supports skin and hair health, digestion, cellulite, tightens loose skin and is awesome for joint pain and inflammation.

  1. Cost effective 

Stock is the cheapest nutrient-dense food per cup.

Chef Mike says stock is an effective way of using materials that don’t have a direct food use without these items going to waste. Bones, chicken carcasses, limp vegetables and wilted herbs can all be used.

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  1. Sustainable cooking practices

In addition to saving money, using the bones, scraps, and less than perfect vegetables reduces food waste. As you cook, save those odd carrot heels, the greens not quite fit for a salad, the stems of mushrooms, ribs of kale and collard greens, and pieces of onion Put all of these things, gradually, as you produce them, into a gallon-sized plastic bag and keep it in the freezer. When it’s full, you make vegetable stock. If you also happen to have the carcass of a roast chicken left over, you make chicken stock.

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  1. Quality of food, quality of taste

There are few other flavoring components that have such a dramatic impact on the quality of finished dishes, according to Chef Mike. Stocks are the backbone of quality soups, sauces and braising liquids.

  1. Amp up your cooking skills

An understanding of stocks and sauces will take your cooking to the next level and learning to prepare them will help build fundamental culinary skills.

Stock and Stir

Now that we have the why covered; Chef Mike will teach us the how at the next Naramata Blend cooking class. Mike will team up with Legend Distilling Owner Dawn Lennie to offer a cooking/mixology foundation course that will teach us how to make beautiful rich stocks and sauces and a Rosemary Swizzle cocktail.

Participants will enjoy a serving of Salt Spring Island mussels in a cream sauce paired with the special cocktail using Legend Distilling’s Doctor’s Orders Gin and Elephant Island Crabapple dessert wine and take home a recipe package.

 

Chef Mike honed his skills in his travels around Canada in the Maritimes, Toronto, Ottawa, Banff and British Columbia destinations such as Whistler, Vancouver and the Kootenays. Working with chefs in restaurants and consulting and catering along the way he compiled dishes and techniques to coax the most flavours out of a wide-range of ingredients before opening Knotweed.

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Some of Legend’s distilling equipment

Legend Distilling produces unique beautifully hand-crafted spirits with premium locally-sourced ingredients.

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Legend Distilling’s killer view

The class will take place at Legend Distilling March 28th and tickets are available at:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/naramata-blend-cooking-class-series-presents-stock-and-stir-french-technique-stock-and-sauce-basics-tickets-32193988085

Post class I will post about making stock and share some of Mike’s tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allegory of Spring raspberry pistachio almond sponge gateaux

 

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Fit for Botticelli’s lovely ladies dancing on the wall’s of Florence’s Uffizi and good buddy Bill’s birthday.

This lovely little light cake serves eight with nary a crumb left. The homemade pistachio paste whipped into the Swiss meringue buttercream gives the cake’s layer’s a primavera hue and a nice nutty flavour that complements the almond sponge perfectly.

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Homemade pistachio paste

Expensive to buy, if you can find it, pistachio paste is not hard to make yourself and the results are pretty great.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams shelled pistachios (If you can’t find shelled, do the shelling yourself as I did…buy about 450 grams of  un-shelled pistachios to give you the 200 grams you will need allowing for snacking while you shell)
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams sugar
  • About an ounce of water
  • A few drops of almond extract

Directions
Using a coffee grinder (my choice), mortar and pestle or a blender, grind the pistachios until smooth.
Transfer the ground pistachios in a large bowl and mix in the almond meal
Add the almond extract. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and heat until the temperature reaches 115-120 degrees C, stirring constantly.
Immediately pour the sugar/water mixture into the nut mixture and mix quickly to prevent the sugar from crystalizing.
While mixing the mixture to form a paste (kneading with your hands is best), you may have to add more water in order to achieve a marzipan-like texture. Add only 1 teaspoon at a time.
Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag. Freeze for longest shelf life.
Makes about 12 ounces of paste so enough for this cake and for the next time you bake it.

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Almond sponge cake ingredients 

Almond sponge cake

You will need a 10 by 15 inch cake pan to get the three six-inch round cake layers and you will need and a six-inch cake ring. Alternatively you can use a 9 by 13 inch pan and Macgyver one of the layers by cutting out two half circles and piecing them together to use in the middle layer of the cake (or you can use a hexagonal shaped pan if your husband remembers his math formulas and can calculate the area and compare it to the recommended 10 by 15 inch pan that I didn’t have.)

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Got to love it when a plan comes together.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (85g) icing sugar sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (115 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease a 10 by 15 inch or 9 by 13 inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale in colour. (I cheated and used an immersion blender). Sift in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon zest and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs whites until they start to foam and add the granulated sugar and cream of tarter and mix on high until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread it out with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes, until springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

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Pistachio Buttercream

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Pistachio buttercream and raspberries for the layers.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter at room temperature cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pistachio paste

Directions

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and place over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on to top of the saucepan to make a double boiler. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it is hot to the touch. Fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks.

Change to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter a few cubes at a time then the vanilla and pistachio paste. Once all incorporated, turn the mixer up of medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth.

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Some assembly required

Lift the cake out of the pan using a spatula. Invert it on a clean work surface and peel off the parchment. Using a 6-inch cake ring cut out three rounds of cake. Place the cake ring on a cake board or plate and place the bottom layer of cake inside the cake ring. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round piping tip with the pistachio buttercream. Pipe about a 1/2 cup of the filling and press into sides of the cake ring. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Place half the raspberries on top of the buttercream pressing them in lightly. Fill in the gaps between the berries with more buttercream. Add another cake layer pressing down lightly and repeat with the buttercream and berries. Top the final layer of buttercream with the third layer of cake and refrigerate to set for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Once set, insert a knife around the inside of the cake ring carefully wiggle the cake ring off. Dust the top with icing sugar before serving and add edible flowers to garnish if you like.

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Allegory of Spring ladies just before they sat down to a picnic lunch with my cake for dessert.
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Digressing…hard left…but I love the Florence home to the Botticelli ladies. Favourite city in Europe. Hope to go back some day…
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I think Botticelli would have liked this cake…Bill did.

 

Naramata’s Queen of Green Cleaning making her mark by taking your’s out

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Wayce Bartels making a batch of her All Natural Deodorant in her Naramata kitchen.

Wayce Bartels’ cottage industry making all natural home products, like many such businesses, was born out of a desire for products to meet her own needs which she then shared with family that generated word-of-mouth and voila…Made With Love is cleaning up.

“I’ve always been pretty natural,” says Wayce. “We eat healthy and local, I use little make-up and when I do it’s all natural. I decided to take a good look around the house to see what else I could change. How important is our washing? Think about your clothes and sheets and how they contact your skin.”

Regular detergents are loaded with alcohol, dyes and artificial scents, she says. “The stronger a product smells the worse it is for you.”

Wayce says that many “all natural” cleaning products marketed in stores are not really so natural and devoid of toxins, allergens and carcinogens nor are they sustainable and economical.

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Some of Wayce’s products.

After extensive research and experimentation she settled on using soap berries in her liquid laundry soap.

Soap berries gave her a natural, biodegradable and petroleum-free laundry soap alternative. They grow as a fruit on trees in Nepal and India.  The tree itself is from the genus Sapindus. Soap berries contain large amounts of saponins in their shells, which are a natural surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, and so can be used as detergents or foaming agents.

To get technical, surfactants break the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing, lifting stains from the fabric and leaving dirt suspended in the water that is rinsed away.

Wayce’s Made With Love Soap Berry liquid laundry soap is gentle on both clothes and skin, making them ideal for those with sensitive skin and allergies. Because they are so mild, they are perfect for baby clothes and even cloth diapers. Soap berries are also great for septic and grey water systems. Unlike commercial soaps, that have artificial foaming agents, soap berries do not produce lots of bubbles or foam so will work well in HE washers. While commercial detergents and soaps have marketed heavily around that visual, foam simply is not an indicator of cleaning power.

The berries are wild-harvested, meaning they are gathered from wild trees grown without any kind of chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. Saponin actually tastes bad to insects so no pesticides are needed and the trees naturally love poor uncultivated soil.

That’s all well in good but the stuff’s got to work well. I gave it a six load whirl and so far so good. She adds some essential oils (like lavender, lemon or grapefruit) from Naramata’s Pure Potent WOW to the liquid Soap Berry so your clothes smell nice or you can go with unscented.

“My husband works in mining and getting his socks clean was my ultimate test,” she says. “Whites stay white.”

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Wayce’s deodorant is made with coconut oil, arrowroot powder and organic baking soda. Aluminum-free, it has a nice coconut smell and is soft on your skin.

She sells her laundry soap in 500 ml jars for $12 and each jar will do 40 loads of washing. She accepts the mason jars back for a dollar off your next one.

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Pure wool dryer balls

Another product in her green clean arsenal are wool dryer balls that she makes from Alberta wool. Six to nine dryer balls will help fluff up clothes, prevent static and actual reduce dryer time, saving energy, says Wayce.

How dryer balls work

Dryer balls are used to help dry clothes more quickly than usual as well as to soften fabrics in the dryer. When you load a big armful of wet towels into the dryer they will flop and tumble around. Normally fabric will stick together in the dryer, slowing down the drying process.

When you add dryer balls into your clothes dryer the balls will get in-between the towels and clothing. The balls will separate and pull them apart with their weight. This in turn allows more hot air in and around your laundry helping the dryer to heat your laundry more quickly and suck the evaporated water out of the dryer more efficiently.

Good in theory so put it to the test

I washed two loads of six towels and tried them in the dryer with and without the Made by Love dryer balls. The load with the dryer balls was done about eight minutes sooner than the load without. Claim proven. That is a good energy savings right there and the towels in the dryer ball load came out nice and fluffy. Savings are even greater when you think of all the dryer sheets you don’t have to buy. The balls will last from 500 to 1,000 loads before needing to be replaced. A few drops of essential oils on the balls will make your clothes smell nice too.

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“I buy the wool from a custom woollen mill in Alberta and its nice to shape and work with,” she says. “My husband helps me make the balls if I pour him some wine. They are time consuming and hand crampy to make.”

Wayce sells her dryer balls on Etsy and all her products locally at Perseus Winery, pop-up markets at Legend Distilling and through contacting her on fb page.

She also makes and sells canned goods and dried fruit from locally sourced produce. Her salsas are garnering a loyal following and sell-out.

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Wayce and one of her egg laying pals.

Kermit has it all wrong, it’s easy to be green when there are local products that are economical, do the job well and are good for you and the environment.

School of Pastry and Chef Amanda’s lemon meringue eclair

Chef Amanda Perez of The White Apron Pastry Co. in Naramata is a pastry sorceress. She used her magic to teach 20 home cooks of varying skill how to make four different choux pastry creations with fillings and toppings with voluptous names: Pate a choux, vanilla, raspberry and chocolate chantilly cream, chocolate ganache glaze, lemon curd (OK, not sexy but tastes pretty zippy), Swiss meringue and chocolate creme chibout.

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The cooking class series was organized under the auspices of the blog and this class was a sweet success participants tell me because of Chef Amanda’s knowledge, organization, and enthusiasm, the fun group of participants and the tasty bubbles from Bella Wines in Naramata.

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Charlie goes a bit off piste with her take on the St. Honore.

Chef Amanda is happy to share with all you chibouts three of the recipes from the class that miraculously combine to make lemon meringue eclairs.

Pâte à choux

Pâte à choux, or choux paste, is a paste made of flour, water, butter, and eggs — it’s slightly thicker than a batter, but not quite as thick as a dough. It’s pronounced “pat a shoe”. “Pâte” means paste and “choux” means cabbage — the name comes from the resemblance to little cabbages when the puffs come out of the oven.

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The paste is thick enough that it can be scooped or piped into almost any shape you can think of, from puffs to éclair shells to thin straws. It contains no yeast or other leavening; instead, as the liquids in the paste evaporate in the oven, they puff up the pastry, creating a hard outer shell and a nearly hollow interior perfect for piping in creamy bursts of flavour.

The goal, according to Chef Amanda, is a light, crispy delicious pastry.

Ingredients

  • Water  500 ml
  • Butter  225 g
  • Salt       5 g
  • Bread flour  275 g
  • Large eggs  9

Directions

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Fit a star-shapped piping tip into a disposable piping bag. Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium pot. Once boiling add the flour all at once and stir vigorously to remove all the lumps. The goal here is to cook some of the starch out and remove a good amount of the moisture through steam so the dough won’t result in a soggy pastry. Keep stirring until the paste comes away from the sides of the pot and there is a bit of a film on the pot’s bottom.

Transfer the paste to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for about 30 seconds or so to release more moisture. (Don’t skip this first step and add the eggs too early or they will scramble in the hot mixture.)

Add the eggs one by one until the paste comes together smoothly.

Fill a pastry bag with the paste and begin by piping four small dots of choux paste on the corners of your baking sheet under the parchment paper to adhere your paper to the tray.

Using the star-shapped piping tip, pipe 4-inch lines of dough onto your parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Wet down a finger in a bowl of water and smooth out the end tip once piped. (Amanda tells us that the pastry tip makes lines that bring more space for the eclairs to rise and open. If you don’t have a star tip…use a fork to make the lines.)

Bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on a rack while making your lemon curd and Swiss meringue.

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Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is similar to pie filling but the texture is smoother and the flavor more intense. Pie filling is thickened with flour or cornstarch while lemon curd uses egg yolks and natural pectin in the zest and juice of the lemon. The secret to the smooth texture in lemon curd is butter unlike the commercial pie fillings.

Chef Amanda gift to us – her super secret lemon curd recipe.

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Ingredients

  • Lemon juice & zest   500 ml (about 9 lemons)
  • Large eggs   6
  • Large egg yolks   12
  • Sugar 400 g
  • Butter (cold)  340 g

Directions

Combine the lemon juice & zest, eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a bain marie (a non-reactive metal bowl set on top of a pot of gently boiling water or double boiler). Cook until thick and foamy. Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks stirring well until all the butter is incorporated. Strain the curd and chill well before use either over an ice bath or in the fridge.

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Locked and loaded…ready for filling.
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Champagne doesn’t hurt or more precisely, sparkling rose Orchard House Gamay from Bella Wines in Naramata.

Swiss Meringue

Ingredients

  • Egg white to sugar ratio by weight 1:2

Directions

Whisk over bain marie (double boiler) until sugar is dissolved. Whisk on high with the whisk attachment in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Some assembly required

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Using a wooden skewer, poke a hole near each end of the top of the eclair.

Fill a pastry bag with a round tip with lemon curd and squeeze the curd into both holes in the eclair moving the bag around to fill as much of the hollow choux pastry eclair as possible. Wipe off any excess on the top of the eclair.

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Fire up the torch!

Using a star tip pipe overlapping dollops of the Swiss meringue onto the filled eclairs. Use a kitchen torch to give the meringue its signature caramelized topping.

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Some suggested resources from Chef Amanda

Local (Penticton)
Bulk Barn – cake boxes and boards, gel food colourings, bulk Callebaut chocolate,
Wholesale Club – plastic deli cups, large bags of flour and sugar

Vancouver
Gourmet Warehouse – pastry tools and molds galore, some specialty ingredients
Williams Sonoma  offset spatulas, Chicago Metallic brand good quality baking sheets, Silpats, the blowtorch that I use
Ming Wo — only the Chinatown location (Vancouver restauranteur secret – the Chinatown Ming Wo has every tool and gadget that a professional chef could need)

Online
www.goldaskitchen.ca – Canada’s leading online resource for specialty pastry and decorating tools.
www.jbprince.com – the most complete tool catalog for pastry chefs. Every specialty product and tool imaginable can be found here!
www.vanillafoodcompany.ca – a great Canadian website for Valrhona and Cacao Barry chocolate, Neilsen Massey extracts, and also quite a good selection of tools.

Which is better? Tom Hanks: “I have made fire!” or two Okanagan chefs: “We have made chocolate!”?

FullSizeRender 6.jpgThere is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.
― Linda Grayson

How sweet it is

When two intrepid Okanagan chefs signed up to head to France to design a bespoke chocolate for Okanagan College‘s Pastry and Culinary Arts programs there was a lot of envy and ribbing of the, “tough job, but somebody’s got to do it,” variety. But renowned Chef Bernard Casavant, Okanagan College’s culinary manager says it required a lot of focus despite jet lag, to keep “your head clear for your palette” and quite a few glasses of water.

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Chef Danny Capadouca (right) and Chef Bernard Casavant (with the water) at the OrNoirTMII tasting lab of Cacao Barry just outside Paris, France. Photo: Okanagan College

Chef Danny Capdouca, head instructor for the College’s Pastry Arts program did some homework for the trip in Vancouver tasting 26 different types of chocolate to narrow the field before the 2016 trip to France. (Maybe there is a bit of methinks thou doth protest too much…)

Then the hard work of the Paris business trip (again Paris and business…oxymoron?) began. Cacao has seven identified organoleptic notes such as aromatic and fruity and further 20 secondary notes such as spicy and floral dependent on the origins and treatment of the cacao beans. Decisions had to be made on the percentage of cacao in the chocolate as well.

The goal was a dark chocolate that could be eaten in bar form as well as used in baking. Casavant says the chocolates they developed are “intense … but not aggressive.”

“It’s not abusive of your palate like some 89 per cent chocolate,” he said. “We are in wine country, we knew we wanted the dark chocolate to pair well with the wine and fruit of the Okanagan.

“Cacao liquor, the pure essence of chocolate is pretty all encompassing,” says Chef Bernard. “At times it was like the scene in Big with Tom Hanks when he tries caviar and uses a napkin to wipe down his tongue.”

 

 

After four intense days tasting, adjusting and refining at the Cacao Barry lab, a chocolate company founded in 1842, the pair narrowed their choices down to three possible dark and three milk chocolates. Computers are also used during the process. “One of our recipes was too close to that of another custom chocolate so we had to reject that one,” says Chef Bernard. “This is how the recipes are protected. In the end, no one else in the whole world will have our exact recipes.”

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Chef Bernard and Chef Danny in front of the chocolate organ where aromas are played with to blend the chocolate. Photo: Okanagan College

In the end, the Chefs chose to use cocoa from Tanzania, Mexico and Cuba and a cocoa percentage of just under 70.

Et Voila

Named after Valley lakes, Okanagan Noir is a 69.8 per cent smooth dark chocolate with intense cocoa flavor and a fruity finish. Kalamalka Karamel is a solid milk chocolate with a high cocoa content (45.1 per cent) with sweet notes of caramel and a smooth honey finish.

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More sampling… Chef Danny. Photo: Okanagan College

Choc one up for Okanagan College
“Okanagan College is the only college outside of Europe to have its own brand of chocolate and only the second in the world,” says Chef Bernard. “Just before we went to Paris, a Belgium post-secondary institute completed their custom chocolate recipes. These chocolate recipes are trademarked and it’s completely custom and absolutely exquisite chocolate for our students to use in their training.

“This is pretty cool to have our own chocolate,” he says. “This is just one more initiative to help elevate our Pastry Arts and Culinary Arts programs and will give students another reason to come and study with us.”

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The skinny on why we love chocolate – SPOILER ALERT

It seems that some of chocolate’s ingredients work by affecting the brain’s neurotransmitter or chemical messenger network. Chocolate contains trytophan which causes the brain to make serotonin, high levels of which can produce feelings of elation. Phenylethylamine, also found in chocolate, works by stimulating the brain’s pleasure centres and is believed to induce feelings of giddiness and excitement. And finally anandamide is described as a psychoactive ingredient. Remarkably, this neurotransmitter behaves in the same way as THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. However, many scientists are sceptical that these ingredients can produce mind altering effects because they are present in chocolate in such very small quantities.

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Okanagan College chocolate…not built in a day. Photo: Okanagan College

For now, the chocolate is only available in limited quantities at the Okanagan College cafeteria on Fridays. Ideas are in the works to partner with a winery to produce chocolate bars incorporating wine macerated local dried fruits. Chef Bernard says a student winner of an annual college competition may also have the chance to travel to France to help design a third custom chocolate.

Check out my Okanagan Noir chocolate sozzled cherry cookie post for my recipe using the special Okanagan College chocolate, local dried cherries from CC Orchards in Naramata macerated in Wild Goose wine.

IMG_3787.jpgYour hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.
― Dave Barry

Okanagan Noir chocolate sozzled cherry cookies

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I created this recipe to showcase the unveiling of a bespoke Okanagan chocolate. With this trademarked chocolate the Okanagan Valley has put the frosting on its reputation as Canada’s food and wine capital. Chocolate, wine and orchard fruit…yes!

Until you can get your hands on this beautiful chocolate from Okanagan College, the locally-sourced CC Orchards Naramata dried cherries and special Wild Goose Dunkelfelder wine to create the ultimate gooey, chocolatey, tart cookie I will suggest substitutes…

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Okanagan College is the first post-secondary institution outside of Europe and only the second in the world to create its very own chocolate recipes. The exclusive milk and dark chocolate recipes were created by Chef Danny Capadouca and Chef Bernard Casavant last summer when the pair traveled to Paris to the Or NoirTMII tasting laboratories of Cacao Barry, a chocolate company founded in 1842. More on how you design a chocolate in an upcoming post on the blog with an interview from Chef Bernard…It’s tough work right?

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces Okanagan Noir chocolate (or 70% cocoa dark chocolate), coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dried CC Orchards cherries, firmly packed (9 ounces)
  • 1 cup Wild Goose Dunkelfelder (or other fruit-forward red high quality red wine)
  • icing sugar for dusting (optional)
  • further 1/2 cup of Okanagan Noir or other high-quality dark chocolate for drizzling over baked cookies (optional)

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Directions

The night before you want to make your cookies, macerate (soak) the 1 1/2 cups of dried cherries in one cup of red wine overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Strain the cherries reserving the wine to drink! Chop the cherries into two or three pieces; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed, until just combined. Do not overbeat.

With a wooden spoon, fold in Okanagan Noir chocolate and cherries. (Dough can be frozen at this point, wrapped well in plastic, up to 1 month; thaw completely before baking.)
Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake until puffed and cracked, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar and drizzle melted Okanagan Noir over the icing sugar topped cookies for even more chocolatey flavour.

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Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 3 days. Three days? As if that is going to happen…

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Do not leave this cake out in the rain, takes so long to bake it sure but mostly it will make you happy, two slices happy

IMG_3256.jpg“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!”
― C. JoyBell C.

From start to chocolatey towering finish, this velvety white chocolate, rich dark chocolate, strawberry filled, Swiss meringue vanilla buttercream topped, chocolate glazed, chocolate-covered strawberry four-layer Neapolitan Cake took six hours to bake and assemble. I can’t think of a better way to spend six hours can you?

There are a total of five recipes involved including two cake recipes that will give you a pretty dramatic piece of cake when sliced with alternating layers of white chocolate and dark chocolate cake. I can totally picture an evening dress and a tuxedo to celebrate its formal look whereas expanding sweatpants are probably a better option.

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White Chocolate Cake

  • 5 large egg whites (My eggs came from Bella Wines farm…thanks Jay!)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 3/4 cup (360 g) cake flour
  • 1  1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted room temperature butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces (170 g) white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Note — you will also need a jar of (80 ml) strawberry preserves for assembling the cake and 12 strawberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

Stir together the egg whites and 1/4 cup of the milk in a small bowl, set aside. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until combined. With the mixer on low add the butter, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the mixer to medium and mix for about a minute until combined. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium. Add the egg white mixture in three parts, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition. Stop the mixer, scrape down. Add the white chocolate and mix until just combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Yipeee…you have completed one recipe at this point!

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Chocolate Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened high-quality cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) grapeseed oil (could use canola)
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup hot strong-brewed coffee

Directions

Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Your oven will also be at 350 F for these layers.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the oil and sugar on medium for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla and almond extract. Stop the mixer and scrape bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape bowl. With the mixer on low, stream the coffee. Mix on medium-low for no more than 30 seconds or until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake in a 350 F oven for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.

IMG_3230.jpgChocolate-dipped strawberries

  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces/ 226 g) chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 12 medium strawberries, washed and dried well

Directions

Melt the chocolate in the top portion of a double boiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the chocolate from the heat and dip each strawberry into the chocolate one at a time and set it on the parchment paper to dry and harden.

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Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Note…you may end up making two batches to fully cover your cake and have enough left over for the rosettes…

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Some Assembly Required

Once the cakes are cool, level them and choose which layer will be at the bottom. Place it on a cake plate. Spread on about 1/3 cup of strawberry preserves. Place the second layer of cake on top, alternating between the white and dark chocolate cakes and repeat. Smoothly frost the cake with the buttercream and refrigerate it, uncovered until firm.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 2/3 cup (4 ounces/115 g) chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Place the chocolate, cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low until the cream begins to steam and the chocolate starts to melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt until combined. Cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

More Assembly

Starting with about 1/2 cup at a time, pour the chocolate glaze into the centre of the frosted cake and use an offset spatula to spread it around the top allowing it to drip over the edges. Add more glaze until you like the way it looks.

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Fill a pastry bag with a star tip with the remaining buttercream. After the glaze has set, pipe rosettes around the top edge of the cake. Place the chocolate-dipped strawberries on the rosettes.

Voila!

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“Your good friend has just taken a piece of cake out of the garbage and eaten it. You will probably need this information when you check me into the Betty Crocker Clinic.” Cynthia Nixon

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Why we love to bake – Flour and butter, cream and sugar… It’s all about love… even for the pros

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Strawberry shortcake with basil-infused whipping cream.

A house that smells deliciously yeasty of bread baking, or intensely chocolatey from the rich cake in the oven or of cinnamon from the sticky buns baking are the scents that make us the most nostalgic for our childhood. Dr. Alan Hirsch, a neurologist who studies such things tells us that the smells produced by baking have a particularly powerful effect on memory.

Baking is also about celebrating. Any event is made an occasion with a cake. Audrey Hebpburn was onto something when she said, “Let’s face it, a good, creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people.”

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Baking is also about sharing. A four-layer cake with a filling, buttercream frosting, and elaborate decorations is not made to be be eaten solo.

Baking is also about science that seems more like magic when a sloppy cake batter rises in the oven and turns golden. It’s about the comforting rhythm of measuring, mixing and folding. It’s about taking an indulgent amount of your time to give pleasure to someone else. In the end, it’s very little about the eating.

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For some like Amanda Perez of Naramata’s The White Apron Pastry Co., baking becomes an avocation for many of these reasons so much so that she delved into as second career.

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Work of art right? Photo: The White Apron Pastry Co.

How, why did you end up pursuing your career as a pastry chef?

I came into the culinary world in a roundabout way, as it seems that many chefs do. It wasn’t my first career — I actually already went to Simon Fraser, earned a degree in Communication, and worked in Public Relations/event planning for a number of years. But, I had always harboured a dream of going to pastry school, and I have always found comfort in baking. One day, I realized that although I liked my current job at the time, I wanted to feel passionate about how I spent my work day….and so, the pipe dream of going to pastry school became a reality. Many of the students in my class were career changers as well. After graduating with straight A’s from the grueling but exciting year-long foray into French Pastry, I worked at a number of high-end restaurants in Vancouver, mostly doing 5 pm – 2 am dinner service plating desserts, and then more prep, and eventually, becoming pastry chef for two restaurants in Vancouver.

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Some of Amanda’s fabulous creations

Upon deciding to leave the coast and move to the Okanagan, I was offered the Pastry Chef role at Burrowing Owl in summer 2011. Instead, I accepted a Pastry Cook position at Mission Hill Family Estate, where I did the majority of the prep for the high end Terrace restaurant, as well as the large number of private functions, celebrity dinners, concert events etc. Every day I made beautiful crisp loaves of sourdough bread, which were served at lunch and dinner, as well as all of the desserts. I returned to Mission Hill in 2012, and that summer, found the little spot on Front Street in Penticton, recognizing it as a great spot for a tiny little pastry shop. The White Apron was born at that time.

What do you like most about having your business?
It feels good to create something. I worked for years in Public Relations, where my days were spent promoting other people’s products, and I felt like something was missing. It feels very satisfying to create something from start to finish. To work in a trade where there is so much creative license. To own my own business where I can have the flexibility to work around my family’s schedule (and our orchard, as well!) is a blessing to me and my family. And…..not having to do night shifts any more is pretty great. Plus, my husband has a pretty flexibly but demanding work schedule (he is a Financial Consultant with Investors Group), so having the flexibility to be able to stay home and raise our children while still working in the field I am passionate about is worth more than anything.

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What are your future business plans?
After having my Front Street bakery for two years and recognizing the summers are where the business is at (and winters were too slow to even be financially worth opening), I decided that solely focussing on Farmers Markets and custom orders would be where I wanted to focus. I parted with my Front Street shop, moved our family to a property that is zoned to allow having a commercial kitchen on the premises (our previous home in the village wouldn’t allow one), and after a one year hiatus from orders while raising our Sous Chef #2, Zach, The White Apron is getting ready for business.

Currently, our garage space is being renovated into a commercial kitchen. I am at the electrical upgrade stage, and then the fun work begins. I plan to be open in May, and plan to do the Penticton Farmers Market, and quite likely, the Naramata Market as well. I am also taking wedding and special occasion orders now, and will again have a menu of holiday orders, particularly for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I look forward to possibly partnering up with B&B’s to offer my freshly baked brioche cinnamon rolls to guests and possibly even partnering with a couple wineries in the future as well!

Do you still enjoy baking?
I do! I bake as much as I can (which right now, is generally kid-friendly treats baked while the littlest one naps), and I am counting down the days to having my kitchen ready downstairs so that the real fun can begin! I should note that since selling my Front Street location, I haven’t been taking orders, because producing food that is to be sold from a home kitchen, is not permitted by Interior Health (or insurance companies).

Will you teach your kids to bake?
I already am! Clara helps me bake quite often and she is already learning a lot of valuable skills. Pretty impressive for a three-year-old. She loves scooping muffin batter with a portion scooper, cracking eggs and of course, taste testing.

What do you think is responsible for the increasing popularity of baking and cooking?
The Food Network has been instrumental in increasing the popularity for professional cooking. It is a bit of a double-edged sword though, because as great as it has been for increasing interest in the field, and in bringing attention to the effort and art that properly prepared food takes, it only shows the glamour and glitz and not the true experience and cost to those who choose it as a profession. This new popularity in baking and cooking has brought us a newfound interest in food in general, both in the preparation and consumption of it all.

Five tips for the home baker that will make a big difference to what they make?
1. Get a scale and use recipes that measure by weight rather than by volume. A cup of flour, scooped, can vary by as much as 20%, but 250g of flour will be 250g of flour no matter which way you scoop it.
2. Be confident. It’s just food. If you think a substitution or addition will work, try it. Recipes don’t have to be adhered to 100%. Have fun with it. And don’t bake when you’re rushed or in a foul mood!
3. Clean as you go. My favourite way of doing this is fill the sink with hot soapy water before you start cooking. Toss dirty dishes in the sink as you use them. Washing up is a breeze afterwards, and you’ll find you’ll bake or cook more often when you don’t dread the clean up. Also, start with a clean kitchen, with all your dishes put away.
4. Find a few websites and cookbooks that you trust, and use those when trying out new dishes. My favourites are www.food52.com, www.smittenkitchen.com and for baking/pastry, www.davidlebovitz.com
5. If you want to really go pro, scale out your ingredients in advance. At the very very least, gather all of your ingredients out on the counter before you start, and as you add each ingredient, put it away. I can admit to forgetting key ingredients by not doing this.

 

Five tools or pieces of equipment that you couldn’t live without?
Kitchen Aid mixer, bench scraper, my stack of glass mixing bowls, lots of rubber spatulas, and parchment paper.

Why should a home baker take a baking class?
Because it is fun! We don’t often get a chance as adults to take a class and learn something new. You’ll leave with a few new recipes, a few new techniques and an enjoyable afternoon out. Why not! I have taken a few classes myself for inspiration and just for fun, and never regret it.

Good advice. Check out the next Naramata-Blend baking class with Chef Amanda teaching us how to make fancy French pastries.

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One of my creations…having fun learning.

Naramata’s Bella sparkles in the Canadian wine scene

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British Columbia’s only winery exclusively dedicated to bubbles and one of a very few in Canada, Bella Sparkling Wines focuses on single vineyard expressions of classic Champagne grape Chardonnay and Gamay Noir, an underdog BC grape that won’t be for long. Bella is special too as the exceptional sparkling wines are made using traditional and ancestral methods.

Newsflash: Making wine, as everyone in the Okanagan Valley knows, is hard work. It’s dependent on the weather and growing conditions that change from year-to-year. It’s about hard physical, unglamorous, labour. It’s about finicky science with art, research, education, knowledge and risk thrown in. Making sparkling wine? Double, triple, quadruple the work. Making traditional and ancestral (natural) sparkling and the work goes off the scale.

 

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Bella Wine Maker/Owner Jay Drysdale showing me how his painstaking work riddling has dislodged particles allowing them to settle out at the mouth of the bottle making it possible to remove the sediment during the discorging step

Found a niche

“I love what I do,” says Bella wine maker/owner Jay Drysdale. “It’s hard to get a true sense of the fruit with so much makeup,” says Jay. “I love to see what the ground gives us with nothing added to hide the flavours or strip the colours.

“It may be hard but we have also found a niche.” After a thoughtful pause, Jay says, “I don’t know how to put this properly but it is amazing to share my science experiments, work at making the wine better and better and share my passion with others.”

Mission accomplished. Bella, now five years in, is selling out of all they produce and is garnering a loyal and effervescent following.

 

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Sur lie aging happening here.

Riddle me this?

How many times does Jay touch a bottle to do a process such as hand riddling  and hand discorging before it’s sold? “About 85 times,” says Jay. “All we do has become the norm and we don’t really think about it anymore but the 2,000 cases we produce is a lot to do by hand.”

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Jay says Bella is about using traditional techniques that are a dying art. Jay likens what he does to the pushback in what’s happening with our food. “Our grandparents used real butter in their food. Our generation went to using margarine and all the stuff that’s put into that. Now we are seeing why our grandparents’ generation were healthier and enjoyed better tasting food.”

Of Bella’s 2,000 cases, 500 of them are natural wine made with ancestral methods. When wine was first made 8,000 years ago, it was not made using packets of yeast, vitamins, enzymes, reverse osmosis, cryoextraction, powdered tannins…among other additives and processed used in winemaking worldwide. Wines were made from crushed grapes that fermented into wine. Full stop.

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Wines getting their sparkle on in riddling racks are a beautiful thing.

Traditional and ancestral methods

Jay explains that his wines made with the traditional method involve a first ferment in a tank. The clear wine on top is then racked or siphoned off the murky lees and sometimes aged in oak barrels during or after this clarification and racking. The second step involves bottling with the addition of yeast and sugar for the second ferment. This is where the riddling comes in. Jay grabs each bottle, giving it a small shake, an abrupt back and forth twist, every day over a period of one to four weeks. The shaking and the twist dislodges particles that have clung to the glass and prevents sediments from caking in one spot. (A Gyropalette is on Jay’s wish list…a computer-automated machine that would reduce his workload enormously.) The final step is discouraging where a small amount of wine is released along with the sediment plug.

Natural wine has only one ferment involved and no added yeast, sugar or sulphur.

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Jay pouring me a flute of Orchard House Gamay, a natural wine made with ancestral methods so I could compare it to a glass of traditional Champagne-style sparkling made with Chardonnay.

We compared Bella’s first vintage of Orchard House Gamay with a glass of their traditional Champagne-style sparkling, B2 (Buddhas Blend), 100 per cent Chardonnay from two vineyards, one in Oliver and one in Kamloops to blend two levels of acidity. (Editor’s note – I love my job.) The traditional style was lovely. To quote Dom Perignon, “I am drinking the stars!” Fresh, dry, citrus notes.

Bella’s Orchard House Gamay, with grapes from a small holding on the Naramata Bench was more flavourful with sherry, apricot and peach notes and it was a lovely pale pink. Made with traditional methods, the sparkling wonderfulness was made with Gamay Noir that remained on the lees for a year in a tank. The lees act as a natural preservative and as long as it stays smelling clean no sulphur is required. As Jay says, each sip tasted a little differently. (Editor’s note – for better or worse re the writing quality – I’m sipping a glass as I write this. Worth a typo or two…)

The lucky students at my Naramata-Blend valentine baking class will be among the first to sample Orchard House Gamay, this special sparkling of only 40 cases that will be released for Valentine’s. There are a few tickets left if you want to learn to bake fancy French pastries with Chef Amanda Perez of The White Apron Co.

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Orchard House Gamay will be a treat for students at the next Naramata-Blend baking class just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Champagne love story

For their first date Jay took Wendy Rose and his dog (Bella) truffle hunting just outside of Portland, Oregon. They had a lot in common including a shared rich culinary background. Jay was a retired chef, currently working in the wine industry and Wendy grew up in a household where her mom was a chef and her dad’s only hobby was wine. Long story short, the couple has been celebrating ever since. Wendy and Jay founded Bella in 2011 on a four-acre Naramata homestead that incorporates vineyard, pigs, chickens, bees, organic gardens and heritage fruit.

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I left Bella with a bottle of sparkling and two dozens freshly laid eggs. I love Naramatians –shirt off their back = wine from their cellar. Their view…winter or summer…is stunning.
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The ultimate oxymoron…Beautiful Bella is located on Gulch Road in Naramata which always brings to mind The Wizard of Oz’s Miss Gulch whose alter-ego was the Wicked Witch.
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Got carried away with photos of the bubbly on the riddling racks. Just so cool after all my visits to traditional Okanagan wineries.

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