5.2.16

Marbled Pink Valentine's Day Cookies

Marbled sugar cookies

There are two types of people when it comes to weekends. The first is the type that refuses to do anything and chooses to soak up that precious free time from a long work week. This type thinks of weekends as optimal nothingness. Then there are the weekend "go-getters." The ones who take full use of those two days and packs in as much as possible with activities, trips and errands. Depending on the week, I usually fall into one of these two categories. Sometimes I want a weekend of nothing and other times I want to go out and do things. This past weekend I felt like I hadn't had pure weekend time in awhile, so I took advantage of it to do some fun things.


One stop was the National Gallery of Canada. If you live in Ottawa, you have to at least claim you have been to most of the museums in the city. I normally save the museum trips for when people come to visit. This time it was nice to go on a leisurely stroll around the gallery and see the collection, as well as the special exhibit of Monet paintings on view until February 15. As well as the Monets, the gallery has their own collection of paintings by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Van Gough and Edgar Degas. 

National Gallery Ottawa

The building itself is a work of art with grand windows overlooking the Parliament buildings, as well as amazing courtyards and arches inside to sit and admire while you take a rest from looking at art. The galleries themselves contain Canadian, contemporary, American, Inuit and European art and I was thoroughly impressed with the scope of the collection. I have now visited the Museum of Nature, Museum of History, National Gallery and the Museum of Science and Technology (three of them since living in Ottawa). 

National Gallery of Canada Ottawa

Because we're crazy enough to do these things during one of the busiest times of the winter in Ottawa--Winterlude--we also went skating on the Rideau Canal. This was our second time going this year. We went for a quick evening skate on the second day it opened and last Saturday was the first chance to enjoy (or battle) the crowds in the afternoon. Now that I'm used to skating on the canal--I'm getting to be a pro at it, seriously--I forgot how neat it is for people trying it for the first time. My endurance has gotten better too and I can skate for 4 or 5 kms no problem. 

Skating on the Rideau Canal

This year they added some art underneath one of the bridges from Library and Archives Canada. The collection represents 100 years of women's suffrage and highlights famous women through Canada's history. You might as well get some culture in between skating, sipping apple cider eating Beavertails. I will miss all of this stuff when we move from Ottawa. Yes, that's a hint that we sadly may not be here for much longer. 

Winterlude Ottawa

After all of that, we treated ourselves to dinner out at Town restaurant on Elgin Street. Town is a cozy little place that serves locally sourced casual food with love. They serve a mix of small and large plates, cheese sharing plates and rustic, Italian food. We started with a refreshing beetroot tartare with creme fraiche followed by a pork ragu and their famous ricotta stuffed meatballs with polenta and cheese. I am still drooling over those meatballs. They were still quite light, but hearty, with the perfect amount of seasoning and cheese. For dessert, we shared the Meyer lemon tart with marshmallows and cream. It was such a nice, satisfying dinner with the right amount of food for two people and a cozy and not too pretentious atmosphere. 


I have to follow a nice dinner and afternoon out with something else romantic. Just like Christmas, I start my holiday baking in advance. I sometimes test a few recipes out or embrace the season and make a few different things celebrating the time of year. My first Valentine's Day dessert this year was these marbled heart sugar cookies definitely inspired by Baked by Rachel. This is one of the only times of the year I can go crazy with red food colouring for a purpose: all the red things! 

pink marbled sugar cookies

Marbled Pink Valentine's Day Cookies
Recipe by Baked by Rachel

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
Red food colouring


Directions:

1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter.
2. Mix in the egg and vanilla followed by the salt and baking powder.
3. Gradually mix in the flour and mix until fully combined.
4. Divide the dough in half and add red food colouring to one half. Mix until the colour does not streak.
5. Chill the dough in plastic wrap in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
6. Take the dough out of the fridge and take off small pinches of the red dough and add it into the white dough until both are combined. Do not over mix or the colour will blend together. 

pink heart cookies

7. Roll out the dough and cut out the desired shapes. Space out the shapes onto a baking sheet.
8. Freeze the shapes on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.
10. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. 

Valentine's Day marbled cookies

This is a fun recipe that lets you get creative with mixing coloured doughs. My Mom used to make similar cookies at Christmas by twisting pink and white cookie dough to make swirled candy cane cookies. Keep in mind the colour will lighten slightly after cooking.

13.1.16

Cranberry Bliss Bars and a Christmas Recap

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Let this be a warning to you to be careful about some of the recipes you find online. During my holiday baking bonanza, I bookmarked a ton of recipes for cookies and sweet treats. I don't know if it is somehow an odds games, as in the more recipes you find means you will have more total failures, or if it was purely random chance. Let me tell you, I had some complete flops. It started when I tried to find recipes for "Cranberry Bliss Bars," which are those delicious white chocolate bars you can find at Starbucks. Not naming names, the first recipe I tried was a complete failure. The bars were soggy in the middle and burnt on the outside. Was it my baking conditions or the failure of the recipe itself? I tried a different recipe that called for a different combination of eggs, flour and sugar, and somehow they turned out completely fine.

Christmas cookies

Another recipe I found for "shortbread cookies" called for granulated sugar instead of icing sugar and 2 cups of butter. I should have known that one would end up being a melted butter mess of "cookies." An enticing photograph doesn't necessarily mean the recipe will turn out in your own kitchen. Maybe it is the fault of whomever tries the recipe or maybe it is actually the fault of the food blog? This is why recipe testing is so important. What do you think? I did have many holiday baking successes, such as the Cranberry Bliss Bars in this post that were wonderful (good verified recipe further down the page) and some great cookie recipes like chocolate peppermint ganache cookies (pictured left) and sprinkle sugar cookies (pictured right). Since this is a holiday recap post I will stop being such a downer and move on to more positive things. Fla-ver Candies sent me a sample of some of their artisanal candies to try because you can never go wrong with more candy over the holidays. 

Flaver candies

Fla-ver candies are artisan crafted with natural flavours and low in calories. A 25g bag only has about 95 calories with big bursts of flavours. They are good to impress foodie friends with the interesting flavours, such as popcorn, pineapple jalapeno, or lime chipotle. Just make sure to warn your friends about the spicy flavours! The pineapple jalapeno flavour was actually really spicy. Fla-ver candies would make a neat stocking stuffer or as a "taste test" exercise at a holiday party. Plus they look neat in glass bowls, on candy platters or a in a special Fla-ver dispenser

Flaver candies

I took the cherry flavour for myself and liked the little bursts of flavour. I would compare them to "Nerds" candies with slightly more flavour. I'm not sure I would voluntarily buy some of the other flavours myself, since I don't like chipotle or super spicy things. The candies are a neat foray into interesting flavours you wouldn't normally find in candies. Fla-ver candies are available to buy on their website or Amazon store

Flaver candies

Just like I didn't start this holiday recap like a regular holiday recap, this year's Christmas didn't feel like every other Christmas. As much as the holidays are about joy, peace and happiness, it is strange when those things are turned upside down. My Mom was in hospital for most of December and she was luckily discharged a few days before Christmas. This made the holidays feel a little different because she was not quite her active self and obviously couldn't do the normal holiday prep activities. For me, this made celebrating at a distance different too because I knew my Mom and Dad weren't having a regular old Christmas; it was harder for me to enjoy it when I knew other people were struggling. I saw them for a few days before Christmas and then went back to Ottawa for actual Christmas.

Christmas tree

Other people struggle around Christmas too--people that don't have very much or are missing family to celebrate with--so this made me more aware of those situations too. We tried to make the best of the situation, as I bet many other people also do, by adding some normalcy and traditions to the celebrations. Getting a real Christmas tree is one of those things we have to do every year. It signals the beginning of the season by decorating it, and seeing a lovely tree every day as a reminder of holiday joy. I also love the glow of the lights and cozying up on the couch next to it while watching a Christmas movie.

Christmas place setting

For Christmas Eve dinner, I made salmon with fennel, onions and cranberries based on this Christmas Salmon recipe. On the side I made roasted Brussel sprouts and butternut squash. Of course, as is holiday tradition, every meal starts with a cheese platter albeit a smaller selection than previous years. The biggest success was the Cranberry Bliss Bars for dessert and for bringing over to the in-law's and friend's houses. Everyone seemed to love them: "It's like the Starbucks bars, right?!" 

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Icing:

1 cup white chocolate, melted
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 pan with foil or spray the pan with cooking oil.
2. In a medium bowl, microwave the butter for about 1 minute. Allow the butter to cool slightly, and then add the egg, brown sugar and vanilla.
3. Add the flour and salt and then fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Pour the batter into the baking pan.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until the centre is set and the edges are golden brown. Allow the bars to cool before frosting.
5. For the frosting: In a stand mixer, add the cream cheese, about 3/4 cup of the melted white chocolate, the icing sugar and vanilla, and beat on high for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Ice the top of the bars and then sprinkle the cranberries on top. Then drizzle the bars with the remaining white chocolate. 

White chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies

This recipe was adapted from Averie Cooks. I cut the bars up and then iced them individually instead of icing the whole slab. Alternatively, you could ice the whole slab and then cut the bars up after they have cooled. Another baking success were these white chocolate dipped cranberry oatmeal cookies.


If you feel like there is a common theme with my holiday baking--cranberries, white chocolate and sprinkles--it is merely because I bought way too much of those items at Bulk Barn. Even my husband who does not like white chocolate liked the bliss bars and the white chocolate cookies. Even if there were a few hiccups and shaky starts to December, I still remembered what is important: family. All of the other stuff, although nice to have for that "Christmas feeling" is optional.

Disclosure: I received free samples of Fla-ver candies for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.

17.12.15

Tasty Travels: Toronto

Toronto sign

It's always different when you're only visiting a place as opposed to living there. When you live somewhere, you often forget about what's around you, as you're too engrossed in going to work, coming home and doing your own thing. When you visit a place after not being there for awhile, it takes on a fresh look. A few weeks ago, the husband was attending a four day conference in Toronto and I was like "I am totally tagging along for a mini vacation." The last time I spent an extended amount of time in Toronto was a few years ago when I briefly lived there. This time it was an excuse for me to catch up on new restaurant openings, shopping and city wandering. 

Bahn Mi Boys, Toronto

Sometimes you have to revisit an old friend. I first tried Banh Mi Boys when I lived in Toronto and then introduced my husband to it. When he also had a short work placement in Toronto a few years ago, he ate at Banh Mi Boys about 4 or 5 times a week. This small, busy spot at Queen St. and Spadina serves Vietnamese subs, called "banh mis," as well as steamed baos, tacos and Korean-inspired sides, such as kimchi fries and jicama papaya salad. And everything on their menu is about $5. Who needs Subway when you can have a delicious braised beef or pork belly sub for the same price? As soon as we drove into Toronto, Mike and I practically ran here. 

Bahn Mi Boys Toronto

Afterwards, Mike went to his conference and I had the afternoon to explore. Ever since going to Southeast Asia, I have been obsessed with "jelly" desserts as I call them. They are Hong Kong or Taiwan style desserts that usually involve fruit, jelly, taro balls, coconut milk and sometimes beans. It's like a much better full dessert version of "bubble tea." In the summer, I went to as Asian night market in Ottawa and bought a tub of "herbal jelly." The person selling it to me had to confirm that I knew what I was buying. "Yes, I've had it before. I know what it is." With the jelly, I made a few of my own concoctions at home. I have a hard time finding places that make these kinds of desserts, mostly because I don't know what to look for, although I recently found Honey Town in Ottawa. The good thing about Toronto is you can find almost anything from any cuisine or region somewhere in the city. 

Sugar Marmalade Toronto

For an after lunch dessert, I stopped at Sugar Marmalade in the Dragon City Mall at Spadina St. and Dundas. If you're looking around for the address, the store is actually inside the mall. I ordered the house special black grass jelly in a mango juice base. It might look kind of weird. I love the combination of textures, the sweetness from the fruit and the refreshing feeling. I mean, why not try something a little different for dessert? My limit is the Durian desserts though. I wouldn't go quite that far. 

Another dessert from the other side of the world mesmerizing foodies like me is cheesecake. Japanese cheesecake to be exact. Before I had heard of Uncle Tetsu, I didn't even know cheesecake was considered a big thing in Japan. It's not a traditional dessert, however, it has become something of a new phenomenon with its light, almost souffle-like appearance. 

Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake, Toronto

You may have heard about the infamous lines at Uncle Tetsu shops. The Uncle Tetsu shop in Toronto is located at Bay St. and Dundas. Some people will line up for hours to get a single cheesecake and that is all you can get--there is a one cheesecake per person policy. They only make about 12 cheesecakes every 15 minutes or so, which is most likely the reason for the line ups. Even if it sounds kind of crazy to line up for a cheesecake, this is the kind of thing I love doing. I am that person who will line up for the latest food trend to say that I tried it. 

Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake

So what was my verdict on Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake? Firstly, I went at a good time of day (around 2:30pm-3pm) because I only waited in line about 15 minutes. Then I walked back to the car proudly toting my warm cheesecake in the cute, white Uncle Tetsu's bag. Compared to other "trendy" desserts I have tried at not so reasonable prices, $10 for a whole cheesecake is a good deal. Secondly, you can't expect something from the Cheesecake Factory or an American style rich cheesecake. 

According to a recipe I found online, the Japanese cheesecake is made with similar ingredients and tastes almost like it was steamed. It is similar to other spongy Japanese desserts with only a hint of sweetness. The cheesecake was nice and made an impressive dessert to bring to dinner. When we went for dinner at a friend's house, they knew what it was immediately. It was nice although I don't think I would wait more than an hour to buy one.


The second night we went out for dinner in Guelph with the same friends at the newly opened Bread Bar on Gordon St. If there was one place that would do a farm-to-table, local pizza place extremely well, it is Guelph, Ontario. On a Friday night, it was buzzing with students and families grabbing some pizza for takeout and a packed restaurant. These photos don't do the food justice. I was starving and ordered some bread for the table, or what I thought was a little plate of bread. This ended up being the highlight of the meal. The waitress brought out an impressive slab with fresh, warm bread, charred rosemary and amazing creamy ricotta and olive oil, hummus and romesco sauce. It was too beautiful to eat. 

Every once in awhile, you could smell the charred rosemary wafting by when the wait staff brought out the plates to other tables. We went for two pizzas to share: the "meat mountain" and the special of the day with seasonal ingredients. So, even though Toronto is thought of an as international culinary destination, there are other smaller cities with impressive food options popping up across Ontario. 

Bread Bar Guelph

The next day it was back to another favourite, Momofuku Noodle Bar on University Ave. The iconic restaurant by David Chang is Momofuku's first Canadian store, which opened a few years ago. You get a heaping bowl of ramen with all of the fixings in a chic, trendy setting inside the Shangri-La Hotel. I strayed from the house special "Momofuku ramen" and went for the "Smoked Chicken Ramen" with similar ramen fixings except there was crispy chicken skin on top. Crispy chicken bits! Sometimes you're like, "I don't know if I should stray away from a classic" and then it turns out you find something else amazing. 

Momofuku Toronto

The classic ramen has pork belly, pork shoulder, fish cake and a poached egg on top. It also happened to be freezing cold in Toronto that week, so warming up with a hot bowl of ramen was a thing that which dreams are made. There are times I go to a restaurant and I think I can make those dishes myself at home. Then there are instances like at Momofuku where I am alright with paying $14 for a bowl of ramen because no Mr. Noodle crap will even come close. We finished the lunch with a little taste of the "cereal milk" flavoured soft serve ice cream. I also bought a few cookies to take home from the Milk Bar shop. I pretty much spent the entire four days eating and stockpiling food to bring home.

Momofuku Toronto

On one of the days we met my parent's for lunch at Bannock on Bay St. After lunch we stopped by the lit up "Toronto" sign in Nathan Phillip's square for a few photos and then saw the Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen exhibit at TIFF. I'm not sure it was quite my parent's cup of tea. As someone who loves pop culture, art and celebrity culture, I found it kind of neat. My Dad recounted stories from his working days in downtown Toronto and all of the places he went for business lunches and work functions, some of which aren't there anymore or have developed into completely different buildings or condos. They have also moved away from Toronto, so it is also like being a "tourist" for them when they come back to the city to explore. 


On the last day, I went for a hike with my in-laws at Halton Falls. It was a nice end to a week of eating--although I walked around Toronto like crazy as well. The only downside to visiting a place and not living there is you have to squeeze in so much a short period of time that you simply can't do everything. There are just places and people to see I will have to add to my list for next time.

19.11.15

Cookbook Review: Sally's Candy Addiction

Sally's Candy Addiction cookbook

Someone asked me recently what blogs I read. That's like trying to answer when someone asks about your favourite food or type of music. Where do I start? With the blog question I answered "a lot of food blogs." Then the person replied: "Like which ones?" "Oh she Glows; it's a vegan blog." "Oh, are you vegan?" No, I just like the blog." Then there are the healthy living blogs, vegetarian blogs, clean eating blogs, classic cooking blogs and of course, the baking blogs. Sally's Baking Addiction is one of those blogs I have followed for years. I read a lot of blogs and it is neat to see them grow year after year, and grow so much that the authors land cookbook deals, media appearances and thousands of shares. Like many bloggers, Sally started out writing her blog as a hobby and then turned it into a full-time baking empire. 

Sally's Candy Addiction

I was excited to receive a copy of Sally McKenney's newest cookbook "Sally's Candy Addiction: Tasty Truffles, Fudges and Treats for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix." This is actually her second cookbook. Her first book "Sally's Baking Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes, and Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix" included 75+ baking recipes for cookies, cupcakes and treats. The latest book is a foray into candy making, which is something I have little experience with and wanted to try. 

The book I received features many beautiful recipes for truffles, caramels, brittles and barks and also features ways to incorporate pre-made candy, such as Snickers or Oreos, into baked goods. This is a gorgeous cookbook with step-by-step instructions, photos and tips for candy making. Besides classic candy recipes, there are innovative variations and interesting flavours using ingredients you can find at bulk food stores or grocery stores. I love when a cookbook lists recipes with ingredients I already have on hand without having to find something obscure. 

Making candy

One of the essential tools for candy making is a candy thermometer. Candy has to reach a certain temperature to set properly. Depending on the temperature you let the candy cook, the texture can be a soft ball, a firm ball, a hard ball, soft crack or hard crack. Yes, those are candy cooking stages and not baseball terms. In the front of the book, Sally lists the basics, including candy making equipment, cooking instructions and kitchen essentials. 

Cashew brittle

The first recipe I tried from the book was the "Salted Honey Cashew Brittle" (pg. 114). All the recipe basically called for was some sugar, honey, butter and cashews. You combine sugar, honey and a bit of water and cook it down. Then you take it off of the heat and add the butter and cashews. After that, you spread it out into a baking sheet and let it set. I have made barks and brittles before, so this recipe was no problem. 

Salted Honey Cashew Brittle
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 cups salted, roasted cashews
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
sea salt, for sprinkling on top

Directions:

1. Line a baking pan with a silicone baking mat. Alternatively spray a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2. Combine the sugar, honey, salt and water in a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
3. Once the mixture has dissolved, begin stirring occasionally as you bring the candy to a boil. Once boiling, stop stirring. Lightly stir until the mixture reaches 200 degrees F. Cook the candy until it reaches 305F.
4. Remove candy from the heat and add the butter, cashews, baking soda and vanilla until combined. Pour onto the prepared pan and pull it apart with a fork until the cashews are in an even layer. Sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to cool completely for about 30 minutes. Break the brittle into pieces. 
I still liked the taste even though my brittle didn't quite have the caramel colour of the photo. Getting the right temperatures before you burn sugar is tricky business. The charm of brittle comes in the uneven pieces and bumpy textures. The honey added a nice sweetness to the flavour and of course, a dash of sea salt always elevates things. 

Salted Honey Cashew Brittle

Then there were the truffles. I have never made truffles before, and definitely not by myself. This is the part where I tell Sally that I am sorry these didn't turn out. It was totally me and not you. Your book is lovely and the recipes are easy to follow for beginner candy makers. Unfortunately, this was not my day. Maybe I was being too ambitious when I dove into a meticulous truffle recipe? As you can see, my attempt to make "Chai Tea Latte Truffles"(pg. 86) did not go well. 

Chai tea latte truffles

The ganache was supposed to be a smooth, velvety filling for the chocolate coating. I melted white chocolate and spices together with a touch of milk. Sally might be upset with me because I used almond milk instead of cream, which is all I had on hand and was probably the falling point of the filling. That was my first problem. I let the chocolate mixture set in room temperature for an hour and then transferred it to the fridge for a few hours. It was still not "manageable by hand" as the recipe suggested. 

Apparently I was somehow supposed to roll the ganache between my hands into a little ball and dip it in the dark chocolate. The ganache did not cooperate with any of this so I first attempted to scoop the ganache with a scooper and dip it that way. After freezing the ganache for a few more hours it was still not manageable. I ended up dumping layers of ganache and chocolate into a cake pop pan so the truffles resembled something truffle-like. 

Chai tea truffles

You can see that they did not turn out like the original photo. The longer I left them out on the counter the more they melted into a chocolate mess. I don't blame the cookbook at all. She said in the recipe that these would be a "sticky situation" and that was what happened. The ganache was not in my favour this time. Maybe I will leave complicated truffles to the chocolate connoisseurs. This is why hand crafted truffles are so expensive to buy from a chocolate shop. 

Cashew brittle from Sally's Candy Addiction

The one thing about reading amazing food blogs is you're always like "how did they make that thing look so nice?" With perfectly styled photos, amazing recipes and great results, it makes you think about how much goes behind creating a blog post or recipe. But seriously, how are they so talented that their food and photos look perfect every time? Sometimes things don't work out perfectly and you have to post a photo of a complete fail to keep things in perspective. Just because one recipe didn't work out for me the first time, doesn't mean this book is not good. I loved flipping through the pages of this cookbook and bookmarking things to make, especially near the holidays, with amazing ideas for homemade candy gifts to make. Or you could give this book to someone and ask them to make everything in it for you. 

Sally's Candy Addiction cookbook

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this cookbook for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.

3.11.15

Travel News: Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2016


In my humble opinion, Lonely Planet already scours the globe for the best in travel recommendations. On every single trip, I have relied on a Lonely Planet guide to lead me on an adventure. They have never steered me wrong with restaurants, attractions and advice. Just in time for next year's trip planning, Lonely Planet has released a Best in Travel 2016 guide with the hottest destinations, things to do and travel inspiration for next year. 


Some of the top destinations for 2016 include Botswana, Japan, Greenland, Fiji and Latvia. I like how they highlight places you would not normally think to travel and veer you on the path of exploring different and exciting new places. The Best in Travel 2016 website also has feature articles and lists on the various destinations to supplement the guide.

Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2016

The Best in Travel list is now in its 11th edition and carries on the Lonely Planet reputation of expert travel knowledge. Buy the Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2016 book or e-book online. Where will you be traveling in 2016?

26.10.15

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Buttercream Icing


pumpkin whoopie pies with buttercream icing

Remember cupcakes? They used to be THE popular and trendy dessert. That was so 5 years ago. After cupcakes, macarons took over, and then cake pops, donuts and desserts in jars. Somewhere in there whoopie pies had a moment in the spotlight. Whoopie pies--with traditions beginning in the United States when farmers would find them in their lunch boxes and yell "Whoopie!--encompass a lot of those trendy desserts. They can be considered a cake, cupcake or pie and are made with two pieces of cake sandwiched with icing. What is also trendy at this time of year is obviously pumpkin desserts, and pumpkin-themed everything. 

pumpkin whoopie pies

Natural delights sent me a package of date rolls to try, including their limited edition pumpkin spice date rolls. I enjoy eating dates themselves as a snack. The rolls are a little more luscious and almost brownie-like with no pits in the middle! They satisfy sweet cravings if you're not tucking into a huge pumpkin whoopie pie. Keep in mind they are 50 calories per roll, which isn't that bad considering 2 or 3 rolls is about the same amount of calories as a can of pop. 

Natural Delights date rolls

Natural Delights almond date rolls

Date rolls are the newest way to enjoy Medjool dates. They are made of chopped, compressed dates rolled in either coconut or almond. They are a sweet and convenient treat, although not too sweet, and it saves you having to make date rolls or squares yourself. Plus they have added fibre and potassium. I'm not just saying the pumpkin spice was my favourite because this is a blog post about pumpkin. It was my favourite by far and tasted like biting into a pumpkin pie. My close second was the coconut flavour. I found the almond flavour tasty, however the soft texture made them clump together a bit so the package ended up a bit like almond date mush. 

Natural Delights date rolls

Natural Delights pumpkin spice and almond date rolls

Natural Delights date rolls are available in pumpkin spice, coconut and almond flavours at most major grocery stores and online for $4.99 per 8oz tub. I brought some along for Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law's and the date rolls were a nice break from pumpkin pie and cookies. They would look nice on a dessert or cheese tray. Yes, sometimes you need a little break from pumpkin pie. As much as I love pumpkin pie, I also like experimenting with other pumpkin desserts and even savoury pumpkin meals. These whoopie pies are like a fluffy, pumpkin cake with icing. I also sprinkled a few fall-themed sprinkles that I found at Bulk Barn on the icing for some decoration. 

pumpkin whoopie pies with buttercream frosting

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup pure pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in medium bowl.
3. Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs, then pumpkin and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture until combined.
4. Pipe or scoop the mixture onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes and then cool for 5 minutes before piping icing onto them. If you don't have a piping bag handy, cut a small triangle at the corner of a Ziploc bag to use for piping like I did:  

Quick Buttercream Icing

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp milk or water
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. Cream butter for a few minutes and then add gradually add icing sugar.
2. Add vanilla extract.
3. Add the milk or water to achieve the right consistency. 
pumpkin whoopie pies

I threw any plans of making a "mini" dessert out the window when I made these. They will expand in the oven like crazy, which is always a good sign when baking. These whoopie pies were massive. I had to cut them in half and couldn't eat a whole one in one sitting. Man, are they good though. I am glad whoopie pies had their time in the spotlight because I almost prefer them to cupcakes. Instead of a bunch of icing on top of cake, you get a wonderful dessert "sandwich" with even layers of cake and icing.

Disclosure: I received free product samples from Natural Delights for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.

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