The Sea to Summit Trail – Better than the Chief?

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I have a confession to make: I don’t love the Chief.

That’s not quite true – I love looking at it a lot, but I don’t love hiking it. I get the appeal: it’s a good workout, it’s relatively quick (especially if you’re only after one peak), and the views are highly rewarding. But I find the climb to be a bit of a mind-numbing slog and the exposed parts at the top always make me nervous – I get a feeling of vertigo looking down over Squamish and the Howe Sound. So, I do the Chief from time to time, but I don’t love it.

A hike that I do love is the Sea to Summit trail. And now that I have a Sea to Sky Gondola pass (rejoice!), I can do it whenever I want and catch a ride back down for free. Here’s what I love about it:

  • It’s just the right amount of hard. There’s lots of climbing, but there are plenty of flat bits (and even a few dips) to break it up.
  • Hiking it is like playing in a jungle gym. Swinging through trees, clambering up rocks, skipping through sections of roots – there’s lots of variety, and it’s all fun.
  • The timing is just right. I walk/ran it (walked up the steeps, ran through the flats) in about 2 hours. That’s long enough for me to feel like I got a solid dose of nature, but short enough that I can still put in a full day of work.
  • The reward factor is extreme. Your prize for getting to the top: awesome views, food and beverages if you please, and an easy (and scenic) ride back down the gondola.

If you haven’t done the hike yet, read on for a brief recap.

The first part of the hike consists of the first 15 or 20 minutes of the Chief climb (hence my comparison of the two trails). This is my least favourite part – it mainly consists of stepping up wood stairs, stone stairs, even stairs, and uneven stairs. It’s not unlike the Grouse Grind.

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After a little while, a little sign points you towards the gondola. This is where you leave the Chief trail behind – and, in my opinion, the trail becomes a lot more fun. Instead of going straight up, it starts to meander a little bit.

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Getting lost on the Sea to Summit trail is not an issue. I like to imagine the trail marking meeting: “How many trail markers do you think we’ll need, Bob? A hundred?” “Double it. And double it again. You can never have too many trail markers.” Seriously – there are so many trail markers on this trail that it’s alllllmost ridiculous. If you don’t see one within three seconds of seeing the last, you start to feel a little panicky. But I have to admit it makes it easy and very tourist friendly.

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Relatively early on in the hike, an ominous sign warns you that the trail is about to get really real – so steep you’ll need ropes to help you shimmy your way up. While it is true that there are a few rope assisted sections to contend with, I’d argue that the first 20 minutes is the hardest part. The rope sections are short and not exposed in the least (yay for me) – they’re more fun than anything else.

 

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There are a few noteworthy points of interest along the way. Passing under the gondola lines is novel (be sure to wave if you see anyone floating by). Getting to the falls is a treat, and there’s a nice slabby lookout as you get closer to the top. But really, if you take the time to look around, the whole thing is pretty gorgeous. The trees are tall and lush and green and it just smells so darn delicious – it’s the kind of sight that you can start to take for granted if you’ve lived in Squamish for awhile.

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In my opinion, the closer you get to the top, the easier the trail feels. At one point, it widens to an old logging road – there’s a longer, but easier option that continues along this road if you’re feeling it, or else you can go the shorter (and steeper) regular route. The trail picks up a bit and once again becomes steep right at the end, but that’s when you know you’re almost there.

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Suddenly, the trail opens up and you can see the gondola up ahead – shining like a sweet little beacon. You’ve made it! If you don’t have a pass, you can pick up a download ticket for $15. You can make it worth your while by taking your time to explore at the top.

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I imagine this trail can get a little crowded, but I got an early start on a weekday and I saw exactly two other people: a couple in the first 10 minutes of the hike (on the Chief portion). Otherwise, I had the place to myself – not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

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Baking Fail: Bread Illustrated’s Portugese Sweet Bread

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve got bread all figured out. I pump out a massive loaf of sourdough weekly (note: the taste has improved since I originally blogged about it – gotta love a maturing starter) and I usually whip up some variation of a sandwich bread, too. Predictable, reliable, and always delicious.

But every now and again, a bread recipe comes along and totally humbles me. In this case, it was the Portuguese Sweet Bread.

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Pictured: what it’s supposed to look like.

This bread looked simple enough – a big round loaf made in a cake tin – and it sounded like the perfect slightly sweet bread to enjoy lightly toasted with some blueberry jam. It’s a single day baking affair and I had all the ingredients on hand (flour, yeast, salt, water, eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter) – what could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out.

It started out just like any other bread. I whisked the dry together, I whisked the wet together, then I kneaded it all together in the stand mixer. Things started to go a little sour in step 2: adding the butter. As I added the butter bit by bit, the dough started to get really wet. The mixer was having trouble getting a “grip” on the dough – it was just kind of making a slapping sound and spinning the dough around without kneading it. I knew it would be a finicky dough (as evidenced by this caution in the recipe intro: “We do not recommend mixing this dough by hand”), so I kept stopping it and moving it around with my spatula to get the hook to catch the dough a little better. It worked – sort of – but the dough didn’t quite look like it was coming together. I left it in the mixer a little longer than recommended (about 4 minutes, rather than 3), but then I got worried I was over mixing it.

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You can see how greasy the dough looks here. A buttery mess!

The next step was to knead it by hand for 30 seconds. I gave it a go, but the butter was getting everywhere. I know I used the right amount of butter – I even went by weight, not by volume – but I had to add a little flour so that I could actually get a hold of the bread and knead it. If I’m being perfectly honest, I added quite a bit of flour – maybe an extra quarter cup.

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This is not what a smooth ball looks like.

Finally, the dough was workable and resembled the texture of the dough in the photograph. The problem now was that I couldn’t get a perfect smooth ball of dough. The dough tore as I tried to form the ball and the seam on the bottom gaped open, no matter how much I pressed it together. I even tried wetting it a little, but no dice.

I decided to ignore it and hope everything would sort itself out. I left the ball of dough to rise.

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As it turns out, the tears didn’t magically seal themselves while rising. Huh.

When it came time to flatten the dough and make it into another ball, I had the same issue. The dough just wasn’t cooperating with me, and I think it’s because of the extra flour. At this point, you’re supposed to be place the ball – [gaping] seam side down – into a greased nine inch cake pan. This is what it says: “Place loaf seam side down in prepared pan. Cover loosely with greased plastic…”. It does NOT say (as it usually does) to gently press the dough down so that it fits snugly in the pan. My ball of dough did not touch the edges of the pan, but I hoped leaving it to rise for a second time might just make it naturally puff outward as well as upward.

It did – a little – but not enough to fill the pan entirely. I just let it be.

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Before popping it into the oven, you’re supposed to score the circumference of the dough 1/4 inch deep. I think I scored mine a little too aggressively – more like half an inch.

These are all little mistakes, but they’re starting to add up.

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This is what it looked like when I rotated the pan only halfway through baking.

The directions are to bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the loaf registers 190 to 195 degrees. A check at 30 minutes yielded a temperature of like, 110. I left the bread in for another 10 minutes, but the top was starting to look very dark – minutes away from being burnt. I took it out of the oven.

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Suddenly, I heard Paul Hollywood’s voice in my head, warning Martha (one of my favourite contestants of the Great British Bake Off) that using egg wash on a loaf can make it appear done before it really is. Yup – I fell victim to the too dark loaf exterior. The middle was RAW.

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The loaf also looked like a disaster, but that was the least of my problems. My score had resulted in a muffin top of sorts. I sliced an outside piece of the bread. It was a little ugly, but pretty tasty – a little sweet, but not over the top. As I approached the centre of the loaf, the raw interior became exposed. Again – visions of Paul Hollywood shaking his head with disapproval.

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Okay…

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Not okay.

Cedric and I nibbled at the outer perimeter of the loaf, but I accidentally left it out overnight (partly butchered) and it was dried out by morning. Into the bin it went.

Better luck next time.

Squamish Staycation: Sea to Sky Gondola, Hiking, and a Stay at the Executive Suites Hotel

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Back in February, I entered a Valentine’s Day contest with the local paper (The Squamish Chief). I guess our compelling love story pulled a heart string or two, because we won THE most epic prize: two passes up the Sea to Sky gondola, a night at the Executive Suites Hotel, and a few bonuses like free breakfast, sparkling wine, and a snack pack.

(I was maybe most excited about the snack pack.)

Half a year later, we finally redeemed our package and enjoyed a bona fide staycation. Allow me walk you through it.

The Sea to Sky Gondola – Hiking

Cedric and I are two of the few Squamptonites who don’t have passes to the Sea to Sky Gondola. I’ve only been up three times, and I’ve never had the chance to do some proper exploring.

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We wanted to do a hike, so we chose Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail with the Neverland Loop addition. The trail is an out-and-back, with a relatively steady climb on the way up (and down on the way back, obviously). We picked a perfect day – a little on the cool side, barely any wind, and clear skies to make the most of the views. There are a few beautiful viewpoints along the way – but then again, the killer views start the moment you step onto the gondola. You don’t necessarily have to work to earn the views at the Sea to Sky Gondola, but it sure is fun to do it that way anyway.

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The best part was the bountiful blueberry bushes towards the end of the trail and on the Neverland Loop (which, frankly, aside from the blueberries wasn’t super enthralling – though it is a nice way to extend the hike a little). We spent a lot of time snacking.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola website estimates 3 – 6 hours for a round trip of Al’s Habrich trail and 1 – 2 hours of the Neverland Loop. We hiked at a steady pace and took a quick snack break (well, a few snack breaks if you count the blueberry picking) and it took us 3 hours total. I think the website errs on the conservative side, which is probably wise.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola – Dinner and a Show

I chose this particular day to redeem our prize because I wanted to check out the last of the Sea to Sky Gondola’s summer performance series. On Friday evenings throughout the summer, they keep the gondola open late and have musical acts perform up top. On this particular night, the Sea to Sky symphony performed. It was lovely.

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While we waited for the show to start, we grabbed some dinner: a cheeseburger with poutine for Cedric (because who can refuse poutine when it’s offered as a side?) and beef chili for me. The chili was on the small side, but it came with a heaping portion of homemade chips which were sooooo good. The total came to around $30 (no drinks or anything), which is a little on the high side but not unexpected for touristy food.

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Cedric customized the ketchup art.

On the way down, we paid the difference to upgrade our day passes to annual passes – woohoo!

The Executive Suites Hotel

Our prize landed us in a *~fancy~* one bedroom suite at the Executive Suites Hotel. It had a kitchen equipped with the basics, a living area with a fireplace, a separate bedroom, a full bathroom with washer/dryer, and a big balcony with stellar views. In Anna Kendrick’s book, she talks about the hotel they stayed at in Squamish while filming Twilight – and I’m pretty sure it was this hotel. There’s a fun fact for you.

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Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering about the snack pack. It was delivered to us in a festive yellow paper bag – very loot-bag-like, which made the whole thing even better. It came with one of those orange San Pellegrino sodas (which I looooove), Smarties, Turtles, Ferrero Rochers, and peanuts. We were also given a bottle of pink bubbly.

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Views from the balcony.

We loved lounging around the hotel room and had a great sleep, thanks to the blackout curtains. The bed sheets felt a little starchy, but the bed itself was good. I woke up before Cedric did, so I made myself a tea and sat outside on the balcony, listening to the girls next door swapping stories about a wedding the night prior. (The bridesmaid slayed her speech, in case you were wondering).

Norman Rudy’s

The Gibbons Group – mastermind behind Whistler hot spots include The Longhorn, Buffalo Bill’s, the Fire Rock, and Moe Joe’s – recently migrated its way to Squamish with Norman Rudy’s, the restaurant located in the hotel. We visited on two occasions: once for a late-night snack, then again for the free breakfast that came with our room.

The late-night snack was fine. We ordered a charcuterie board, which was good but nowhere near the level of, say, the customizable board at Basalt in Whistler, and a salad with seared tuna, which was good in an Earls/Cactus Club kind of way. Our server was nice and we left feeling full, so in all, it was a reasonable success.

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Oatmeal!

Breakfast was so-so. Whoever wrote the menu did a great job at making it sound very appetizing, but the meals themselves were just okay. I’m that person who likes to order oatmeal at restaurants (the best I’ve ever had: Enigma in Vancouver, which makes its oatmeal in apple juice – brilliant!). This oatmeal was tantalizingly described as follows: “Barley oats with seasonal fruit and chai yogurt”. CHAI YOGURT? I love yogurt and I love chai tea – this sounded amazing.

What I actually got was barley oatmeal (cooked perfectly, mind you), with a sliced strawberry and a very light swirl of the yogurt – not enough to taste any of the chai. Too bad.

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No bacon : (

Cedric ordered the classic two eggs and bacon. The only problem: when it arrived, there was no bacon! Cedric was not stoked.

When we mentioned it to the server, she told us she’d bring back extra bacon. I half expected a pile, but there were only 3 pieces. Cedric gave me one, so I was happy.

The “roasted campari tomatoes” described in the menu was, in fact, a lightly cooked single tomato (you can see it in the corner in the picture above). Though that was a little disappointing, the fingerling potatoes coated in parmesan were a hit.

Overall, my review of Norman Rudy’s is that it was fine and a convenient option if you’re staying at the hotel, but there are way better places to eat in Squamish.


All in all, it was a lot of fun playing tourist in our own town. We enjoyed every second of our little getaway. Shout out to the Squamish Chief for picking our entry and to the Sea to Sky Gondola and Executive Suites who sponsored the prize. Every person that we interacted with along the way was extremely nice. Oh, and get ready for a ton of Sea to Sky Gondola posts – I’m going to make the most of my new pass.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

My Take on Bobbette & Belle’s Mini Blueberry Hand Pies

I’ve mentioned before that my aunt recently sent me two glorious boxes of her old baking pans and tins. Actually, “old” may not be the right word – everything is in top notch condition, including a set of eight adorable little tart pans. These teeny tiny discs were begging to be used, so I set out to find a recipe that could accommodate them.

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Behold!

Bobbette & Belle’s cookbook doesn’t have any recipe that expressly uses them, but I thought their Mini Blueberry Hand Pies recipe could be adapted pretty easily. As written, the recipe doesn’t require any type of pan – these hand pies are, well, made by hand and nothing else. However, I would argue that using the mini pans is even easier (for handling the delicate dough) and tastier (more blueberry goodness!)

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The pies use a sweet pastry dough – the same one used in the Mixed Berry Tart recipe. I remember this dough being a little finicky to work with – as I recall, it is very temperature sensitive. I made it as directed, leaving it in the fridge to set for a good two hours. This time, rather than rolling it out, I kind of bashed it with a rolling pin to get it flat. I only rolled it towards the end. This still caused a little tearing, but the dough stayed together much better than it did the first time, when I had rolled it out straight of the fridge.

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While the dough was in the fridge, I whipped up two batches of the blueberry filling. Initially, I only made one batch, but it looked awfully small to fill eight tart pans. If you make the recipe as hand pies, each pie only calls for 1.5 teaspoons of filling. I knew I’d need more than that, so I went ahead and made another batch. The only snafu is that I had used up all my lemons, and the recipe requires a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. After consulting my pal Google, I subbed in half a tablespoon of vinegar. It did the trick, and a taste test revealed no major flavour difference (although I’d stick with the lemon in the future to be safe). Other than the minor lemon juice hiccup, the filling was super easy to make. I let it cool in bowls while I rolled out my pastry (as described above).

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The hand pie directions call for using a 3-inch round cookie cutter to get your shapes – something that’s not yet in my baking supply repertoire – but it didn’t matter to me, since I was going the tart route. I cut the dough into squares, which I draped over the tins and pressed in by hand. The first couple went okay, but then the dough started to tear as I lifted it from the counter. I think it was probably getting too warm. Luckily, it made absolutely no difference – I was able to patch the dough into place in the tins, so it didn’t all have to be neat and tidy.

Once the bases were assembled, it was time to fill – no blind baking required for these little guys. I split the two batches of filling among the eight pies. Easy peasy.

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Don’t worry, I added more to the middle ones.

I had ambitions of topping the pies with a lovely lattice, but there was no way that was happening – the dough was breaking apart like there was no tomorrow. If I’d been hellbent on the lattice, I could have popped the dough back in the fridge and tried my luck again later on, but I wasn’t that dedicated to the idea. Instead, I freestyled a few hearts. CUTE.

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Pre oven…

The pies are supposed to take 25 to 30 minutes in the oven, but in the past, I’ve found that recipes in this book usually take longer than directed. Of course, that could just be my oven. After 35 minutes, my pies had a lovely gorgeous golden colour, so out they came.

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… post oven!

The baby pies were absolutely scrumptious! Despite its finickiness, I adore the sweet pastry. It has a solid, biscuit like quality – I honestly think you could just bake discs of it and it was make for a tasty little cookie with some coffee or tea. The blueberry filling was almost jammy (in a good way) and didn’t seep, leak, or otherwise destroy the pastry. I sampled one (and a half, if I’m being honest) on the day I baked them, and another (and the remaining half) the next day. The integrity of the pie wasn’t compromised at all the next day. (Now there’s a sentence I don’t get to write nearly often enough!)

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I transported these little guys to some friends and they held up just fine. They may be tiny and adorable, but they’re sturdy, too. This recipe is a keeper: easy to pull together, appealing to look at, and even better to eat!


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

The Dude Diet: Weird Name, Solid Cookbook

I developed the habit this year of borrowing cookbooks from the library. It’s a win-win: it’s economical, provides for plenty of culinary inspiration, and allows the opportunity for boosting kitchen skills.

Most of the cookbooks I’ve borrowed have been a success (and if they’re not, no big deal – I just return them and choose another), but I want to highlight my latest find because it checks off all of my boxes:

  • Ingredients are available in Squamish;
  • Ingredients are relatively inexpensive;
  • Meals are healthy;
  • There are a wide variety of recipes; and
  • Recipes are straightforward.

I like cooking, and I’m willing to devote a fair bit of time (an hour, maybe) towards making dinners – but I don’t like overly rich foods or meals that require the use of every pot, pan, and utensil in the kitchen. This cookbook accommodates these needs.

I happen to think The Dude Diet is not the best name. I get it – the girl who wrote it (she attended Harvard and Le Cordon Bleu Paris) wrote it to show guys (like her boyfriend) who generally ate horribly that healthy food can be delicious and easy to put together – but the aggressive dude-isms peppered throughout the recipes are a little cheesy.

If you can get over the dude factor (and I did), you’ll be rewarded with a wide variety of recipes split into ten sections:

  1. Badass Breakfasts: Self explanatory.
  2. The Classics: With a twist, like the Dude Diet Shepherd’s pie with ground turkey and cauliflower (instead of beef and potatoes).
  3. Game Day Eats: Quintessential dude snacks and appetizers made healthier.
  4. On the Grill: Kicking the basics up a notch – Grilled Mahi Mahi with citrus-jalapeno salsa; grilled chicken paillard with avocado, corn, and cherry tomato relish, and the like.
  5. Serious Salads: My favourite chapter – salads that are entree-worthy.
  6. Take-Out Favourites: DIY versions made a little lighter (Pork un-fried rice; smarter sausage pizza)
  7. Sexy Sides: What it sounds like.
  8. Back-Pocket Recipes: Easy and delicious quick meals.
  9. Chronic Cocktails: With disclaimers in the preamble such as, “Moderation, moderation, moderation” and “Slowwww down”.
  10. Sweetness: Desserts made simple.

I didn’t cook recipes from all of these chapters, but I spent a bit of time on the salad, take-out, and back-pocket sections. A few of my favourites:

  • Arugula Salad with Crispy Prosciutto, Parmesan, and Fried Eggs: Okay, maybe not the healthiest, but this was a delicious combination. We ate it with some avocado toast (of course we did).
  • Sesame-Orange Chicken: Lots of flavour and super filling, and surprisingly easily to put together – with broccoli, a few bell peppers, and rice.
  • Coconut Green Curry Chicken: Soooo delicious. I don’t make curries very often, but when I do, they’re usually pretty boring compared to the stuff you get at restaurants. This recipe delivered.
  • Smoky Black Bean Chicken Stew: Smoky indeed – a few recipes in this cookbook call for chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, which I found at Nesters (they don’t have it at Craig’s). I did the smoky spiciness it added to this stew.
  • Dude Diet Shepherd’s Pie: I mentioned this one above – it uses cauliflower puree instead of mashed potatoes and it completely blew my mind. I feel like this crafty swap changes everything.

I recommend this book for quick(ish) weeknight dinners, people looking for some healthy inspiration, or those that are a little new to the kitchen and seek some inspiration (i.e., people living on their own for the first time).

The Dude Diet = it’s a winner.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Bobbette & Belle’s Quick & Easy Summer Fruit Torte

I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, constitutes a torte.

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Based on this recipe and the flourless chocolate torte one that I previously made, I gather that it’s basically a cake with no filling or icing. And that’s fine with me. You know why?

Because… I think I’m getting old. Or at least, my taste buds are.

I have always, always had a sweet tooth. I always considered the icing to be the best part of the cake – I’d fight tooth and nail to secure the corner piece of a sheet cake. But not anymore.

These days, I favour a “less is more” approach when it comes to frostings. If less is more, does that mean that none is most? (Now we’re getting deep.)


This torte was great and satisfied my maturing sweet-but-not-too-sweet tooth. The best part: the “quick and easy” part of the recipe title proves true. The cake part (torte part?) is plain, but in a nice way – it grabs on to the flavour of whatever fruit you use. I used the stone fruits and berries that they use in the recipe (peaches, plums, cherries, raspberries, and blackberries), but the Bobbette & Belle cookbook authors say that you can use whatever is in season. They suggest an autumn alternative with apples… mmmmm. I picked all my fruits up at the Whistler Farmer’s Market.

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Because the cakey bit is simple, I recommend not cheaping out on the ingredients – make sure your spices (modest amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg) are fresh your vanilla is real. The rest of the torte calls for your standard pantry ingredients (all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, sugar) plus whole milk, sour cream, unsalted butter, and a couple of eggs.

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I followed the directions exactly as written, and it all went very well with one exception: the sixth and final step. This step instructs you to bake the cake for 45 minutes after having layered on the fruit slices (i.e., the peaches, cherries, and plums), then adding the berries and baking for an extra 15 minutes, “until the batter that has risen to the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the batter comes out clean.”

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At the designated time, I pulled out the cake pan – and then put it right back in the oven, because the top was very pale and very jiggly. I waited five more minutes… then five more… then another five… and several more after that. I must have added a good half an hour to the baking time (I lost count!), which is not insubstantial. This is notable for two reasons:

  • Adding the berries 10 minutes from the end of cooking ensures they set into the batter without becoming mush. In my case, they ended up going in a good 40 minutes from the end of cooking, which resulted in a rather sad and soggy looking torte top.
  • This is not my first time encountering this issue with the cookbook – their baked recipes often require a lot more time in the oven than suggested, even for something as simple as cookies. I’m quite certain it’s not my oven, because my other recipes (including all of my bread recipes) cook within directed times.

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So my torte was a little ugly – no big deal. Before serving, I just piled it with some more fresh fruit. Voila – sins absolved.

One thing that I love about this recipe was that it could be made in advanced. I baked it on a Wednesday evening, then wrapped it in plastic wrap then tin foil and kept it in the fridge. I took it out a few hours before eating it two nights later. I served it with vanilla gelato from Lucia Gelato – a killer combo, for sure.

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Now, the taste: I loved it. The cake/torte bit is dense without being heavy. As I mentioned, it really takes to the flavours of the fruits. A plummy bite tasted slightly sour, whereas a bite with a cherry in it had almondy undertones. It was just light enough and not overly sweet (see: opening vignette) and made the perfect nightcap to the BBQ we hosted with friends.

I’m going to start allowing myself a little extra baking time with my Bobbette & Belle recipes from hereon out, but it’s safe to say that I’m officially a big fan of tortes. If I were a baking trendsetter, this is where I would announce that tortes will be the Next Big Thing (think naked cakes, macarons, and unicorn things).


I’ll close off with the definition of torte: “a sweet cake or tart”. Tortes are evidently squatter and use less flour than a cake. There you go.

Homemade Apple Cider: A How To

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I’ve never tried a pumpkin spice latte.

Although I will promptly send a selfie to my best friend in Ontario the first time I sip from a red holiday Starbucks cup (peppermint hot chocolate – mmm), I’ve never boarded the PSL train.

This is primarily due to the fact that I don’t like coffee. Not even lattes. Truth be told, I felt a little left out of the pumpkin spice latte excitement – until I discovered that Starbucks also made pumpkin spice chai lattes. The chai latte is my year-round go to Starbucks (and other coffee shops) order, so I couldn’t wait to give this pumpkin spice version a go.

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I had to,

My verdict? Mediocre – and not as delicious as a regular chai latte. For some reason, the PSCL left a root beer taste in my mouth, almost like a Necco wafer.

All of this autumnal beverage contemplation reminded me that I had yet to enjoy my favourite fall drink of all: hot apple cider, just like they serve at Andrew’s Scenic Acres, the pumpkin patch I grew up going to.

I have had difficulty finding bona fide apple cider in the Sea to Sky corridor in past years. I’m looking for the kind that comes in those milk gallon jugs – the more homemade looking, the better – but I usually settle for the only thing I can find, which is the mass marketed kind that is sold in glass jars and looks suspiciously like regular apple juice. This year, it dawned on me: why don’t I try to make my own apple cider?

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Artsy with the cinnamon sticks, I know.

So I did. And guess what? It’s really easy – and maybe the most delicious cider I’ve ever had.

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I found a few recipes online and I scoured the comments sections for tips and tricks (I never trust online recipes). Here’s what I ended up doing.

Ingredients

  • 10 apples. A mix is the way to go. Much to the chagrin of my cashier, I bought braeburn, pink lady, mcintosh, and ambrosia.
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar. You could probably use brown, too.
  • 2 tbsp of apple pie spice. I got this from my aunt – it’s from a place called the The Silk Road Spice Merchant. It’s a mix of Vietnamese cinnamon, Sri Lankan cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and cloves.
  • 4 cinnamon sticks.
  • 2 nutmeg nuts (is that what you call them?), cut in half.
  • Water, in quantities to be determined.

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Supplies

  • A big old spaghetti pot.
  • A mesh strainer.
  • Cheesecloth.
  • A large bowl (or a few medium bowls).

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Directions

  1. Chop your apples up into quarters. Don’t worry about the stems and seeds.
  2. Toss the apples into the spaghetti pot. Fill the pot with water, covering the apples and leaving an inch or two of space at the top.
  3. Add in the sugar, apple pie spice, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg.
  4. Bring the boil, and let it boil uncovered for about half an hour. If it looks like it’s going to overflow, pump the brakes and lower the heat a little.
  5. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for two hours.
  6. Line your strainer with cheesecloth (I used two sheets) and place it over a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot through the strainer into the large bowl. Try to keep the big chunks from falling into the strainer – if a few fall, no big deal. If you’re using medium bowls, just pour in smaller quantities and shift to a new bowl once your first bowl is full.
  7. You can add the apple chunks and other gunk to the strainer now, and just let it do its thing for awhile.
  8. Before you serve, I recommend pouring the final product from one vessel (i.e., the bowl) to another (i.e., the original pot, now cleaned out). There will be some spice residue at the bottom, which can be tossed away. You’re likely to have a little residue at the end despite this, but it’s not big deal – think of it as a flavour shot at the end.

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Since this whole thing was rather improvisational and unscientific, I’m not sure exactly how much cider this made. I’m guessing it’s about three quarts, or about three quarters of the amount of water I initially poured into the pot.

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This is the leftover mush (before I strained it) – apparently you can make tasty apple butter from it. I’m actually not sure what apple butter is.

Happy fall – whatever your festive drink of choice!