Let’s feel the love friends. We all know I’m never one to turn down an occasion for festive desserts and frankly my dears, Valentine’s is a mighty festive Day. So here are a few ideas for your Valentine-themed baked goods.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Triple Raspberry Eton Mess

Raspberry Ganache Tart

Maisie’s Pink Cupcakes

Happy Baking and Happy Valentine’s Day! xxoo!

This tart is luscious, elegant and absolutely perfect for Valentine’s Day what with all the chocolate, raspberries and liquor it contains.

The key technique with this tart is being able to make a silky smooth chocolate ganache. Now, I know that this sounds like a really tricky, fancy-pants pastry chef technique, but making ganache is quite simple once you’ve done it once or twice. Here’s how: warm heavy cream in a small saucepan until there are bubbles around the edges of the pan; remove pan from the heat and add chocolate; allow the chocolate to sit in the cream for about a minute undisturbed so that the heat gently melts the chocolate; whisk the mixture until you get a lovely smooth paste.

Though I’ve made this tart for birthdays, classy baby showers, and family gatherings, it truly does have the makings of being the perfect star on Valentine’s Day.

Raspberry Ganache Tart (adapted from Everyday Food)

Makes one-10 inch tart

One recipe Chocolate Wafer Crust

1 ½ cups heavy cream

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips

1-2 tablespoons framboise or raspberry liqueur  (optional)

Pinch of salt

1-2 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Prepare wafer crust according to recipe, set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream till bubbles have formed around the edge of the pan being careful not to let the cream boil or scorch. Once bubbles have formed, remove pan from heat and pour chocolate into the hot cream. Allow chocolate to sit in the cream undisturbed for one to two minutes. Whisk chocolate into cream quickly, notice as the liquid starts by looking freckled and then gradually comes together into a cohesive paste. Stir in liquor, if using, and salt.

Pour ganache into tart shell being careful not to overfill the tart shell. Allow tart to chill in the fridge for at least two hours before decorating with raspberries. Serve solo, with whipped cream or with raspberry sauce. Enjoy, Valentine.

Collin Murray loves his granola and I’m often looking for different ways to incorporate it into muffins and cookies. These little cookies, energy bites, whatever you want to call them, are the perfect healthy snack. By combining granola with peanut butter, maple syrup and egg whites, these bites lack a lot of the high fat and processed sugars that your garden variety granola bars contain. Though you can you use any kind of purchased granola to make these bites, I used my Maple Almond Granola and was quite satisfied with the results.

Chewy Granola Bites (adapted from The Lonneyspoons Collection)

Makes about 20 mini-muffin-sized bites

⅓ peanut butter

⅓ maple syrup

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

2½ cups granola

¾ cup dried fruit (your choice of dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries or apricots)

Preheat an oven to 250˚. Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine peanut butter and maple syrup, mix until combined. Add the egg whites, vanilla and spice and continue mixing until combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the granola and dried fruit with a spatula and portion into the muffin tin. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan before eating. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy.

I had heard a lot of yammering online about how great kale chips were but I honestly had a hard time believing that they were any good — sometimes healthy things get a bad rap for not tasting as good as their fattier counterparts. However, I made the chips recently for a cooking class and I was totally hooked. Once the water steams out of the kale in the oven, the result is a delightfully crunchy chip that has tons of flavor without all the fat.

The hardest part of making the chips is preparing the kale (which really isn’t that hard at all). If you look in the centre of the kale leaf, there is a large, pale green rib, if you simply remove the darker kale off the rib and then tear it into chip-sized pieces, you’re set to flavor your chips and start baking.

Though the recipe below is one of my favorites, don’t feel obligated to follow it exactly. In other words, let your imagination guide you when flavoring the chips. Collin Murray and I have tried truffle salt and malt vinegar salt which were both delightful but you could also try curry powder, ras el hanout, zahtar or really any strongly flavored spice you love to flavor these delightful “chips”.

Kale Chips (adapted from Williams Sonoma Healthy in a Hurry)

Makes about 4 cups

1 bunch kale, washed and spun dry

½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat an oven to 300˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Take the whole leaves of kale and remove the dark part of the leaf from the light rib and tear into chip-sized pieces. In a medium bowl, combine kale, olive oil, salt and smoked paprika. Using your hands, work the seasoning and oil into the kale until all the leaves appear to have taken on a shine from the oil. Distribute the kale evenly over the two baking sheets being sure to allow ample room for air to circulate around the soon-to-be chips.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the chips have dried out but are not burnt. Enjoy sooner rather then later for ultimate crunch.

Doesn’t poached fruit sound classy and elegant and like something only one would do if forced? Well listen, I thought the same thing until I actually poached fruit at home. I did it at pastry school — but we also made five other fruit desserts that day and so I wasn’t exactly tuned in to how delightful poached fruit was…

So here’s the thing, poached fruit is super easy to make and it’s also extremely versatile as you can flavor the poaching liquid with any thing you desire: ginger, lemon, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, the list goes on and on. Plus, in addition to the spices that you can add, you can also feel free to have a little fun with what kind of liquid you poach in. I started out with a vanilla sugar syrup but you can poach in wine or even add tea to the liquid too (that’s what’s next for me!). Even better, try adding some dried fruit, think cherries, figs, apricots, into the poaching liquid about five minutes before the fruit is tender. This plumps up the dried fruit and makes it oh-so-delicious and juicy.

You can use poached pears as an elegant dessert served with some lovely vanilla ice cream and a little of the reduced poached liquid as a sauce, put it into a salad or you can do what Collin Murray does, dice up the poached pear and eat it with the plumped cherries, Greek yogurt and granola. Classy breakfast.

Vanilla Poached Pears with Dried Cherries (inspired by several vintage and modern sources — mostly by David Lebovitz)

3 pears, not over-ripe, peeled, halved and cored

4 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, spilt

½ cup dried cherries

In a large pan, combine the water, sugar and vanilla bean; heat till the sugar has dissolved. Gently place the pears in the liquid and place a mesh strainer over-top to prevent the pears from floating. Allow the pears to simmer about 20 minutes before checking them by inserted a paring knife into one of them — if it goes in easily, the pear is done. Add the cherries into the strainer making sure that the liquid is covering them and allow them to plump up, about five minutes.

Once tender, allow the pears to cool in their poaching liquid. If you want, take a cup of the poaching liquid and boil it until it is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Use this sauce as a topping if serving the pears as a dessert.

Store the pears in their poaching liquid in a covered container in the fridge for no more then one week. Enjoy.

Since liberating myself from the confines of only baking recipes printed before 1980, I’m finally able to start to share with my lovely readers some of my most favorite recipes. I started making this fro-yo when we lived in New York and since then I’ve made it dozens of times for cooking classes and to satisfy the (many) cravings of Collin Murray. As a little side note, these photos were taken in NYC which is why  if you are reading this in Canada, you might not recognize the labels on the ingredients…

This fro-yo is a really quick, delicious and healthy dessert — one of those, “how can something so simple, be so good” recipes. Though you can use any fat content of Greek Yogurt, know that the lower the fat content, the harder the fro-yo will freeze in the freezer — this is simply because lower fat dairy items have more water in them and water freezes harder then fat.

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt (adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

Makes about 3 cups

3 cups Greek yogurt, any fat percentage

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

In a medium-size bowl, stir together all ingredients. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to allow all the sugar to dissolve into the yogurt. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Enjoy.

 

If you’re looking for a way to dress up your average muffin, try adding a streusel topping. It’s not hard, it’s just a matter of making a chunky buttery topping similar to the ones that top fruit crisps.

After you have scooped the muffin batter into the pan, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on the top of the un-baked muffins and you’re laughing your way to a dressed up delicious muffin.

Streusel Topping (adapted from too many sources to name)

Makes about 1½ cups

½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed

¼ cup brown sugar

¾ cup flour

*1 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients with your hands until you get a nice crumbly topping. Place the streusel in the fridge until ready to use.

Sprinkle about two tablespoons of the topping over the top of the un-baked muffin and bake as the muffin recipe directs. Enjoy.

You and me friendly reader, we are friends. So since we’re friends, I guess it’s time to come clean. I’m in love. With Ina Garten. The Barefoot Contessa. My love for her is pure and totally one-sided (I’m quite positive about that one). I have never ever made a recipe from Ina that hasn’t turned out. Honestly people, she’s the best and these lovely blueberry muffins are just the beginning.

Blueberry muffins are classic, aren’t they. Kind of like the little black dress of breakfasts on the go…sort of, kind of. These muffins are sweet and cake-like and not healthy at all but they do taste fantastic.

This is the third recipe from Ina in less then a month…once again, another sign of my love. Please try this one and then immediately go and order some of her cookbooks. They are instant classics and will never lead you wrong — perhaps you will fall in love too.

Best Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

Makes about 16-20 muffins

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract or paste

1 cup Greek yogurt

¼ cup milk, any percentage

2 ½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two standard-size muffin pans with liners and set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until pale and light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at time, beating the batter until the egg is absorbed before adding the next one. Add the vanilla, Greek yogurt and milk and continue mixing for one minute.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture until just combined;  fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.

Using a large ice cream scoop (about two inches across), scoop the batter into the paper liners. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly. Enjoy.

Ok, today we are going to talk about one of my favorite things…segmenting citrus fruit. Once you get the hang of it, segmenting or supreming an orange is an easy and elegant way to class up any salad, fruit or otherwise, or dessert. Who wants to eat the nasty pity anyway? Supreme away!

Begin with the lovely citrus fruit of your choice:

Using a knife, I suggest a paring knife, remove about quarter of an inch of the top and bottom of an fruit. Now you have a flat surface to use as you begin to remove the peel from the fruit.


Use your knife to follow the round of the fruit from top to bottom. Try to remove all the white pith and leave as much of the actual fruit as possible until all the peel is removed. (If you want…you can save the peel to make candied citrus peel and one day Baking Vintage will show you how to do that.)

Now it’s time to remove the fruit from the membrane. There are a couple ways to do this: The first way is a rebellious one. I hold the orange in my hand and use a small paring knife to remove the fruit, carefully cutting between the membrane and the meat of the fruit on either side of what will be the segment. I do this over a bowl to catch the juices and I go slowly and carefully because after all, knives are sharp, people. The second way is the way I suggest to those of you who are less comfortable with knives. Basically, you remove the segment of citrus from the white membrane by cutting on either side same as before, but you do so by resting the fruit on the cutting board and using your hand to stabilize it. You pick your method of removal.

Continue going around the orange till all the segments are removed — you feel classy now, don’t you?

I seem to be on a bit of a citrus theme…and honestly, it shows no signs of stopping, I just bought key limes.  But, you know what? I’m really a-ok with this theme. Citrus is simple, clean, and oh-so flavorful in the month after the excess of December.

This recipe for loaf is infused with lemon three times — there is zest in the cake, juice in the simple syrup that you use to soak the loaf and then more juice in the thin glaze that finishes this little nugget. I eat it as a snack cake but you could always serve it with a lovely Blueberry Sauce for an addition to brunch or afternoon tea.

Triple Lemon Loaf (adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home)

Makes one-1 pound loaf

For the cake:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

Zest of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

½ cup canola or other neutral flavored oil

For the soaking syrup:

⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)

⅓ cup granulated sugar

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a 1-pound loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a spatula. Add the oil and quickly fold into the batter until all the oil has been incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

While the cake is cooking, combine the ⅓ cup of the sugar and the ⅓ lemon juice in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, the syrup will be fairly clear and a soft yellow when it’s complete. Allow to cool slightly.

After the cake has cooled, set it over a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and slowly pour the glaze over the top. The glaze takes a little bit of time to absorb so don’t go too quickly or the glaze won’t sink in. Allow the cake to finish cooling completely

While the cake finishes cooling, combine the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice. If you want a thicker glaze, use less lemon juice; thinner glaze, use more lemon juice. Mix the glaze till no lumps remain. Pour over the cake evenly and allow 10 minutes for the glaze to set. Enjoy.