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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.

In an English Country Garden – and in mine

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Surveying my Naramata garden

England’s Amberley Castle wildlife…

I love English country gardens and my own. Our English relatives John and Ann, indulging me in my passion, always plan a visit to extraordinary gardens when we come and spending time in their own lovely garden with its roses and pond is an enormous pleasure. I bring home inspiration, seeds, garden ornaments, pieces of flint and photos. Here are some of my favourites and how we’ve worked at Canadianizing them.

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Amberley Castle tree fort

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Naramata tree fort…called The Skyroom
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Chartwell House
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Former Calgary garden
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My house…The Handyman built this round gate
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Kent Castle falconry exhibit
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Hunting free in my garden
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Flower border I wish to copy
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Naramata garden in the morning
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English garden path
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Naramata garden path
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English roses
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Naramata rose
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Admitting defeat… this just ain’t going to happen in Naramata

Make your own Petit Ecolier French dark chocolate crowned butter cookies

Petit Ecolier…a petite history

One of the Handyman’s favourite varieties of biscuits is the French treat, Petit Ecolier. They have a butter biscuit base and an embossed chocolate top featuring a little schoolboy.
Made by the LU cookie company, their excellent quality cookies dominate the supermarket offering in France. More than 150 years ago, the LU cookie company was begun in the western city of Nantes by the husband and wife team Jean-Romain Lefèvre and Pauline-Isabelle Utile (the first initials in their last names were combined to name the company).

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At first the company was mostly just a luxury store where people came to buy carefully crafted cookies, served with great show and packaged for gift giving. Over time and as the company’s care was passed from one generation to the next, the company changed over to the industrialized production of cookies.

Their marketing campaigns featured many delightful advertisements created by artists, and the le Petit Ecolier (Little School Boy) painted by Firmin Bouisset became emblematic for the LU company. The company has now been taken over by Kraft but the quality has remained the same.

The Handyman’s go-to Petit Ecolier is now made by Quebec company Leclerc that began making their Celebration version about 15 years ago. The chocolate top features an image of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. This company was formed in 1905.
In a small backroom at his family home on Arago Street in Quebec City, Francois Leclerc baked his very first cookies. These cookies were from  a tried-and-true jelly cookie recipe belonging to his wife, Zelia.

This version, made in Quebec, has a 45% cocoa dark chocolate cookie topper.

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Another Quebec company gives us the tools to hack the secret of the Petit Ecolier.

Ricardo Cuisine makes a butter cookie cutter and chocolate moulds kit that works beautifully to let you make your own version at home and up the ante by adding no artificial flavours or soya lecithin and increasing the cocoa content of the chocolate.

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Adding to the fun element…you can create cookies with the chocolate moulds that have French and English versions of a few sayings…such as “home made”, “made with love” and “yum”.

The butter cookies are easy to make although it takes awhile to make all the chocolate tops with the six moulds provided in the kit (which costs under $20).

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Butter cookie base

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Directions

Place flour, sugar, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. (You could also do this by hand cutting in the butter.) In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla; with motor running, add to food processor. Process just until a dough forms. Form into two discs, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so to chill.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F degrees.

Roll dough out to a bit less than a 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and use the Ricardo butter cookie cutter (which works very well by the way…nice sharp edges). Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.

IMG_3927.jpgChocolate toppers

Ingredients

  • 2   90 gram 70 per cent dark chocolate bars. (I used Godiva Belgian chocolate.
  • 2   250 gram high-quality dark chocolate chips. (I used Ghirardelli 60 per cent cacao chocolate.)

Directions

Place the chocolate in a non-reactive metal bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler) and melt the chocolate stirring occasionally. Once melted carefully pour into the chocolate moulds ensuring the chocolate gets into all the crevices of the mould. Keep the chocolate over the simmering water while you continue to make the six batches you will need. Place the moulds in the refrigerator or in a cool place (I put them outdoors on a winter day) for a few minutes for the chocolate to set up. Carefully unmould the chocolate by loosening the edges. If you break any of the toppers simply put the pieces back into your melted chocolate in the double boiler so you can re-use it.

If you let your cookies cool for just two minutes and then place the chocolate disks on top of them, the chocolate will melt nicely and adhere to the biscuits. (Thanks good folks at Ricardo for this tip.) If like me, you didn’t have all your toppers ready beforehand, you can “glue” them onto the butter cookies with a few dabs of the melted chocolate. (You could also use Nutella.)

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The Handyman’s verdict on these fun to make cookies? “Delicious and they are even bigger than the store-bought ones which is a very good thing.”

Hawaii dreaming on such a winter’s day

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Naramata is a paradise but the refusal of winter to pack up and make way for spring and more anticipated….summer…is bringing on Hawaii dreams. This photo essay of time spent in my second paradise is Vitamin D for our soul.

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View from a towel on the beach after a swim in the Pacific.
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White Sands beach in Kona.
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White Sands beach.

 

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Hello there.
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I liked both of these guys.
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Kona coffee in its homeland.
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How many sunset photos can you take?
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A few for sure.
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Maui sunset.

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Last one…
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White Sands beach.
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Maui windsurfing competition.
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Getting some air.

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Stormy day.

 

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Ultimate gone fishing spot.

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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