Beef Bourguignon – Inspired by Julia Child’s Recipe

This year for Valentine’s Day, I decided to cook the hubby a French inspired meal. To read more about the French meal that I whipped up that night, check out the post here.

For the main dish, I decided to make the infamous Beef Bourguignon, inspired by none other than Julia Child.

I decided to make this dish the day before as I read online that the flavours develop a lot more overnight. It also alleviated the amount of stress work that went into preparing the rest of the dishes the day of the dinner.

First, I preheated the oven to 400F. Then, I paper towel dried my beef to remove all excess moisture (forgot the cut of the meat – we got it from Costco) and cut them into ~2 inch cubes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

In a large stainless steel skillet, add some olive oil and cook the cut up bacon over medium high heat until nice and brown. This will help render out the bacon fat for more flavour. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside for later use.

Now, add in the beef cubes in the pan with all that bacon fat and sear them on all sides until nicely browned. You will likely have to do this in batches as you do not want to overcrowd the pan. Take the beef out and set aside.

Add the onions and carrots and cook them down until onions start to turn brown. In the last minute, add the chopped garlic. Remove everything and set aside.

You’ll notice that a nice fond has developed on the bottom of your pan. It is now time to deglaze it with red wine. I used about 2/3 of a bottle (750ml) of red wine (pinot noir specifically). Scrape all the fond off the bottom of your pan and set aside.

In a dutch oven over medium high heat, add the seared beef, cooked vegetables, bacon, and wine sauce. Then, add in enough beef broth to just cover the beef (for me, approximately 2 cups). Add in thyme, bay leaf, and tomato paste and bring the dish up to a simmer. Quickly do a quick taste test to see if additional seasoning is required. Once satisfied, place in the oven at 325F to braise for approximately 3 hours.

Beef Bourguignon – Inspired by Julia Child's Recipe

Yield: 6 people

Beef Bourguignon - Inspired by Julia Child's Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 strips of thick cut Bacon, cut into small slices
  • 2 lbs Beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 3-4 Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1.5 Yellow Onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp Chopped Garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2/3 of a 750 ml bottle of Red Wine (we used Pinot Noir)
  • ~2 cups of Beef Broth
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
  • 1 Bay leaf

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel pan and add the bacon. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned (approximately 8-10mins). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to set aside for later use. Keep the rendered bacon fat in the pan.
  3. Dry the beef with paper towel and cut into 2 inch cubes. Generously sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In the same pan over medium high heat, sear the beef cubes on all sides until nicely browned. Do this in batches as to not overcrowd the pan. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add the carrots and onions to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper. Stick occasionally until onion is lightly browned. In the last minute of cooking, add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Remove everything from the pan and set aside.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and scrape the fond off the bottom of the pan. Save this for later and turn off the heat.
  6. In a large dutch oven (ours was 5.5 qt) over medium high heat, add the seared beef, cooked vegetables and red wine sauce. Top it up with beef broth until it just covers the beef. Add thyme, bay leaf, and tomato paste. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  7. Cover the pot with the lid and place it in the oven to braise for 3 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
  8. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with toasted bread.
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An Evening in Paris – Valentine’s Day Dinner

This is our first year celebrating Valentine’s Day as a married couple. Not that we do anything special on Valentine’s Day to begin with but this year, I felt like going the extra mile. I decided to make the hubby a full course French meal with the theme of the evening being “An Evening in Paris”.

I found this Valentine’s Day menu template from a blogger and customized it slightly to accommodate the Paris theme. It took me several days of research consisting of looking up various cookbooks to come up with a full course menu. In the end, I settled on the following dishes:

Appetizers

  • Bacon and Parmesan Gougère
  • Charcuterie Plate consisting of Tapenade Noire, Pork & Chicken Liver Pâté, Homemade French Bread, and Grapes
  • House Salad

Entrée

Dessert

Chocolate Soufflé with Espresso Crème Anglaise

We started the night with some French music playing in the background to set the mood. We listened to the “French Cafe Lounge” playlist on Spotify which was pretty good! Then we started the evening with the appetizers and a bottle of red wine of course 🙂

Yes, I even busted out napkins – we usually use paper towels but decided to be classy tonight 😉

The Tapenade Noire turned out really good! It only consisted of black olives, anchovies, capers, and olive oil. I should’ve used a food processor but was lazy and ended up using the Vitamix instead with mediocre results. Luckily, it still tasted great. To see the full recipe, click here.

Next was the Bacon and Parmesan Gougère. A gougère is essentially a French cheese puff made with choux pastry mixed with cheese. I added in the bacon to make it extra savoury 🙂 For the full recipe, click here.

For the Main, we had the Beef Bourguignon with Cauliflower Gratin on the side. This Beef Bourguignon recipe was inspired by Julia Child and ended up tasting super delicious! It’s very rich though so it won’t take much to fill you up. For the full recipe, click here.

Lastly, we ended the evening with Chocolate Soufflé. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to capture this… 🙁 If you’re looking for other ideas for sweets, check out our Chocolate Dipped Pretzel recipe!

And that was it! As expected, this French meal was super rich… lots of cheese and butter haha. We wouldn’t mind having this type of meal once in a while but definitely can’t handle it on a regular basis. Hope you guys give these recipes a try and Bon Appétit!

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels – Valentine’s Day Treat

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Whether you’re celebrating with a special someone today, having a Galentine’s day, or just want to treat yourself, we have the perfect easy treat for you 🙂

This is a great last minute treat to make if you’re scrambling for ideas on what sweet treat to make for your Valentine today. You can either enjoy them yourself or package them up in a nice little treat box or cellophane baggies and give them out as gifts! Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Here are all the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Pretzels
  • White chocolate wafers (any white chocolate will do)
  • Pink chocolate wafers (optional)
  • Pink, red, and white sprinkles

First, melt your white chocolate and pink chocolate wafers in separate bowls. We microwaved ours in a microwave safe bowl in intervals of 30 minutes as to not risk burning the chocolate. After each interval, stir vigorously until the chocolate is fully melted.

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Blueberry Crisp Recipe

Several years ago, I stumbled upon and mastered the Apple Crisp recipe which has been my go to dessert. Most people I’ve made this for actually prefer this over Apple Pie and best of all, I feel that there’s less prep work with Apple Crisp as I don’t need to make the pie crust ahead of time.

I’ve since adapted that recipe with other fillings. We bought a bunch of blueberries the other week and since we couldn’t finish them all in time, we decided to make a Blueberry Crisp before they go bad.

To start, combine your pint of blueberries with 1 tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice. Add the zest of half a lemon and 1 tbsp of flour. Toss to coat the blueberries evenly.

Meanwhile – make the crumble topping. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, rolled oats, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the cold butter and with a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the dry mixture until the mixture looks like cornmeal and the butter is cut into really fine pieces and fully integrated with the dry mixture.

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Apple Tart Recipe

Almost 3 hours later.. I finally finished making this Apple Tart recipe from Cedric Grolet.

About a year ago, the hubs got me a cookbook from Cedric Grolet. I’ve never heard of him until I got his cookbook but upon looking at some of his recipes, it appears he is a French pastry chef specializing in fruits.

Sadly, this was he easiest recipe I could find in the book that I dared attempt and the preparation process still took forever 🙁 Luckily I cleared my schedule today to do this!

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Mini Pumpkin Pies (Tarts)

Nothing says Fall is here than Pumpkins! It’s that time of year again and pumpkins are everywhere – whether it be for Halloween or in the form of Pumpkin Spiced flavored food and drinks. My favourite pumpkin dish would have to be Pumpkin Pie. It’s kind of sad because a lot of people I know don’t actually like Pumpkin pie and as a result, I rarely get to eat any of it 🙁

So what I like to do is make mini pumpkin pies (or tarts) so that it’s bite size to allow for portion control.

I like to make a batch of pre-made pie crust and pumpkin pie filling and just freeze them (already portioned) so that whenever I’m craving pies, I can just easily assemble them. In this case, I can easily assemble these pumpkin tarts! The filling is very easy to make and I like to re-use my pie tart recipe that I’ve used in other recipes like my Apple Hand Pies.

For the filling, all you need is a can of pumpkin puree, 2 eggs, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

For the pumpkin puree, I cooked it over the stove for a bit along with the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,  ginger, salt) to help the flavors meld a bit better and to get rid of the “canned” taste.

I set it aside and let it cool. Once cooled, I combine it with the condensed milk and eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined.

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White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies – Fall Recipe

Living in Toronto, we experience erratic weather changes. Although Fall officially began last month, we had temperatures close to 15-20 degrees Celcius for the past several weeks and recently, temperatures have dipped to around 5 degrees! It’s like we just skipped Fall and went straight to Winter…

Anyways, I’m not quite ready for Fall to be over yet so I recently started baking some Fall recipes. One of the few recipes I wanted to try were these White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies. Whenever one hears of cranberries, I feel like they immediately think about Fall – probably due to its association with Thanksgiving dishes (i.e. cranberry sauce)?

Anyhow, I was excited to make these as I usually make the standard Chocolate Chip Cookies. Wanting to switch things up a bit, I leveraged one of our favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from Serious Eats to use as the base recipe for this cookie. What I like about the Serious Eats recipe is that instead of using regular butter, they use Brown Butter which lends a nuttier, butterscotch flavour than regular butter. Browning butter requires patience and a lot of attention as if you don’t watch it, you might end up burning the milk solids which will affect the overall taste of the brown butter. I cook the butter on medium heat for about 8 minutes, whisking occasionally until it turns golden brown and it starts smelling caramel-y. I aim for this color.

Then, I place an ice cube in there and whisk to facilitate the cooling down process and stick it in the fridge until it has fully cooled. You’ll know it’s cooled when it turns opaque and the sides are starting to solidify.

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Unicorn Birthday Cake Recipe

Yesterday, we celebrated our friend’s 30th birthday. Turning 30 is a pretty huge milestone for most people and I wanted to make her a birthday cake that represented her – a unicorn! Because she’s one of a kind 🙂

Originally, I was gonna make her a traditional 3 tiered 6 inch cake for her birthday but we typically stuff ourselves full during dinner and I had a feeling that the 4 of us would not be able to finish all that cake. So as a compromise, I decided to make a mini cake! I think this one is only 3 inches wide but I layered it so it is still 3 layers 🙂 This way, she still gets her unicorn cake but we will likely be able to finish it all!

For this cake, I used my favourite decadent chocolate cake recipe as the base but just halved it since this cake is almost half the size. She specifically requested this cake for her 30th so I couldn’t let her down! It’s definitely my go to cake recipe to date as everyone seems to love it! It’s a very moist cake that’s rich in chocolate flavour – if you haven’t checked it out already I highly encourage you to visit my Decadent Chocolate Coffee Cake recipe here on the blog.

I also previously made Unicorn cupcake which is where I drew the inspiration of the cake decoration from such as the fondant horns and ears. Visit the unicorn cupcake recipe for details on how to make those!

Unicorn Cupcake from my previous post – click to visit!

All in all I’m very happy with my creation! I highly encourage you all to try this and make it for your special someone 🙂

 

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Donuts – using pizza dough!

Sometimes the bf gets a random craving for a specific dessert late at night and he asks me to whip something up for him. Often times, he cannot make up his mind as to what he wants because he lists off 5 things he wants and I told him I’m not making all of that for him when I know he’ll only eat 2 pieces and there’s no way I can finish the rest.

I’m also very lazy – so I opt to pick the option that requires the least amount of effort while also taking advantage of what we already have in stock in our pantry. One of the options we considered was making donuts but I ran out of milk – he suggested I use whipping cream instead since we had that in stock but I am not planning on substituting 1 1/3 cup of milk with whipping cream!

So the alternative was to use pizza dough instead! Ya that is kinda random but recently we ordered some cinnamon stix from Domino’s Pizza and they were pretty good and guess what – made from pizza dough too! It was a good compromise and I thought it’d be interesting to try it out. Hence – Cinnamon Sugar Apple Donuts was born!

The effort to make this was minimal – what took the longest was really just waiting for the pizza dough to proof (which took minimum an hour).

So if you’re ever getting some cravings late at night – give this a try!

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Donuts – using pizza dough!

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 12

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Donuts – using pizza dough!

Ingredients

    Pizza Dough
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100-110F)
  • 3/4 tsp dry active yeast
    Apple filling
  • 1/2 an apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp flour
    Cinnamon-sugar mixture
  • 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
    vegetable oil for deep frying

Instructions

  1. First, prepare your pizza dough. Activate the yeast by mixing it in the warm water and wait a few minutes until it starts to foam. Once it foams, you know your yeast is ready.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Slowly, add about half of the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and drizzle a bit of the extra virgin olive oil as well.
  3. Continue mixing the dough until the wet ingredients are incorporated, and add in the rest of the yeast mixture and olive oil. Mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. If the mixture is still looking a bit dry, add a bit more water.
  4. Knead the dough on a well floured surface until it's smooth and tacky to the touch, about 5 minutes. When you shape the dough into a round ball and it springs back to the touch after pressing on it gently, it's ready. Put it into a well greased bowl with olive oil and cover with saran wrap and allow to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your apple filling. Toss the diced apples with the flour, cinnamon, brown & white sugar mixture. Set aside.
  6. Prepare your cinnamon sugar mixture my whisking together cinnamon and sugar. Set aside until ready to use.
  7. Once your dough has proofed/doubled in size, punch down the dough. Take pieces of dough and form them into round disks and fill with the apple filling. Cinch them up like you would a dumpling, twisting the opening close and reform them into round shape.
  8. Prepare your oil for deep frying. In either a deep fryer or a sauce pot, fill it up with vegetable oil (enough for the donuts to float to the top) and heat it up until it reaches 350F. Drop each donut into the oil and flip occasionally to ensure even browning.
  9. Once they float to the top, they are ready! Remove with slotted spoon to remove excess oil and quickly toss them in the cinnamon sugar mixture and set aside on wire rack to cool. Serve immediately!
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Matcha Green Tea Macaron with White Chocolate Ganache

I have not made macarons in YEARS!! So much so that the almond flour that I bought in bulk a year ago when it was on sale at bulk barn has gone stale and started smelling weird 🙁

I have been inspired to make macarons again this past weekend given I had spare time since I had no access to a car and was essentially house bound. I knew one of the items I’ve been struggling to succeed with is making macarons. They just never turn out right! They either look super flat because they spread too much, or they brown on top, or they stick to the tray and falls apart when I try to take them off. I made 3 batches this past weekend and only the last one was mildly successful. I decided to make matcha macarons since I had lots of matcha powder lying around and saves me from using food coloring

The results were meh. During my last batch, my shells did not spread so they kept their shape (thank goodness) but upon baking, I had a few burst on me and some were even lopsided.

Based on the several trials that I did, here’s what I learned based on the mistakes I made:

  • It’s better to slightly undermix than overmix because once the batter is overmixed, it gets really runny and you can’t control it from flowing out of your piping bag and spreading everywhere.
  • Stop folding the meringue into the mixture once you can start forming short ribbons with the batter that slowly sinks back in over time. It should look like thick goop and not have the consistency of runny cake batter.
  • Pipe macarons perpendicular to the cookie sheet (90 degrees). In other words, the piping bag should be straight and not at an angle. This will ensure a more even shape when it rises.
  • It’s better to bake the macarons at a lower temperature than at a higher temperature. Unless you really know your oven, try it on a slightly lower temperature setting. The recipe asks for 300F but realistically I should’ve done 275F because some of my macarons ended up bursting.

To this point, I have yet to master the macaron recipe but I feel like I’m getting closer. Mind you ingredients for macaron is not cheap – I bought a bunch of almond flour that’s probably only good for 2-3 batches and it ran me $15!! Luckily, although I did not achieve the perfect “Macaron shape”, at least the texture and taste was still good. It was slightly chewy and the shells weren’t hollow, yay!

So until next time… I have a bunch of macarons to give away now haha. See the recipe I used below – this is the Italian meringue method opposed to the French. Supposedly the Italian method tends to yield more consistent results so I may continue this route going forward.

Matcha Macaron with White Chocolate Ganache

Matcha Macaron with White Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

    Almond flour paste
  • 180 grams almond flour, finely ground
  • 180 grams powdered sugar
  • 60 grams egg whites (about 2 large eggs), room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder
    Meringue
  • 180 grams white granulated sugar
  • 45 grams water
  • 60 grams egg whites (about 2 large eggs), room temperature
    White Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 cup white chocolate wafers/chips
  • 5 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F. Make the almond flour paste by sifting together almond flour, icing sugar, and matcha powder. This ensures a smooth paste so the shells won't appear lumpy. Then, mix in the egg white until it is thoroughly combined. It will form a thick paste - kind of like dough like consistency. Cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't get dry.
  2. Then, add water and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Do not stir! Allow it to come up to a boil and with a digital or candy thermometer, wait until it comes to 220F.
  3. In the meantime, put the remaining egg whites in a clean, stainless steel bowl and prep it in the stand mixer. Once the sugar syrup reaches 220F, start whisking the egg whites until it is very foamy. When the syrup reaches 240F, turn the stand mixer to a slower speed and immediately take the sugar syrup off the heat and pour it into your egg whites. Once the syrup starts to hit the egg whites, you can crank the stand mixer to high speed and continue whisking until the sides of the bowl cools and the meringue reaches stiff peak. It should be smooth and glossy, kind of like shaving cream.
  4. Take 1/3 of the meringue mixture and whisk it into the almond paste. Then, add in the remaining meringue mixture and fold to combine. Continue folding until there are no more dry lumps. When you life the spatula and you can form small ribbons with the batter and you see it sink right back in, it's ready. Do not overmix! Batter should not be runny but more like thick goop.
  5. Put batter into a large piping bag with large round piping tip and pipe onto a parchment paper at 90 degrees from the baking sheet. In other words, pipe straight down and when you achieve the desired size, doing a quick flick to minimize the pointy tip of the cookie.
  6. Once fully piped, allow to dry until a "skin" is formed. When the shells look matte, gently touch the shells and if they don't stick to your finger, it's ready to go in the oven.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the shells look hardened and firm to the touch. Allow to cool.
  8. In the meantime, prepare the white chocolate ganache. Bring whipping cream and vanilla extra to a simmer and pour over the white chocolate wafers/chips. Stir continuously until all chocolate has been melted. Allow to cool so that it thickens to a piping consistency. You may put this in the fridge to speed up the process but don't forget about it or it will harden all the way!
  9. Once ganache is ready, put it into a piping bag and pipe onto the macaron cookies. Squish and repeat until done. Store in an airtight container in the fridge to maximize freshness 🙂
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