Bobbette & Belle’s Salted Caramel Sauce

I admit that I have a tendency to avoid recipes that involve melting sugar.

I hate dealing with candy thermometers and I struggle to find the balance between caramel perfection and a burnt mess than is impossible to remove from a saucepan.

caramel-sauce-5

But I recently discovered that the salted caramel sauce in the Bobbette & Bellecookbook doesn’t require a candy thermometer at all. In fact, after baking this recipe TWICE, I can attest that it is super easy and virtually foolproof.

I made this sauce for some salted caramel cupcakes (which I promise I will post about in due course). It is also delicious drizzled over vanilla ice cream or eaten directly off a spoon. Not that I would know anything about that…

Although salted caramel feels kind of fancy, this recipe is anything but. There are three ingredients (sugar, cream, fleur de sel) and two steps. The steps are kind of long, but still – there are only two. Oh, and it only requires one dish. It says to use a medium saucepan, but after the boiled over disaster of the caramels last winter, I played it safe and used a bigger pot.

Step one: heat the sugar, half a cup by half a cup, over medium-high heat. This requires a whole lot of stirring to prevent the aforementioned caked on burnt caramel. The constant stirring makes it difficult to snap a photo unless you have a private photographer… which, as you can tell from these cell phone photos, I clearly do not. Eventually, the sugar magically transforms into a golden liquid.

caramel-sauce-2

Step two: once the sugar is in a liquid state and is a “deep golden colour”, the heat is reduced and you add in the cream. The recipe warns you that this will create a scalding steam – I can attest that this is true. A little fleur de sel is added, and then you let the whole thing cook while giving it the occasional stir.

The recipe says to let the whole thing come to a boil and wait until all the hard sugar bits have dissolved before removing it from the heat. With the first batch I made, I got a little nervous – I was afraid of burning the caramel and ruining the whole thing. That batch turned out pretty good, but it was a little gritty as the sugar had not completely dissolved. I was more patient with the second batch, letting it all melt and boil a little longer. I managed to avoid burning the house down AND the sauce was much smoother. Success.

caramel-sauce-4

That’s it. Easy, right? I let my caramel cool in the pot for a bit, then poured it into a glass jar. The recipe is supposed to keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (mine has been there a week and a half and so far, so good). While I would love to make these as gifts, it doesn’t seem like they’d do as well made far in advance and stored at room temp – so I guess I’ll have to hog it all to myself.

caramel-sauce-1

Bobbette & Belle’s Decorative Sugar Cookies: Valentine’s Cookies from the Heart (puns!!!)

I know everyone thinks that their mom is great, but mine really is.

For example, she made my lunch for school every day until the day I graduated Grade 12. From time to time, she would surprise me with a decorated cookie in my lunch box (store bought – my mom is an exquisite cook, but a reluctant baker).

After high school, I moved across the country – and for special occasions, my mom would ship me holiday-themed decorated sugar cookies in the mail. She’d often include one for whatever roommate I had at the time, too. And sometimes, I even managed to save the extra one for the roommate and not eat it myself!

A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I received a parcel in the mail with a couple of these beauties:

sugar-cookies-12

Frankly, it made my day – and it inspired me to try my hand at baking my own special cookies for a few of my beloved Galetines.

I have long admired people who pipe and flood beautiful cookies, but I have never really given it a try myself. One of my goals for 2018 (besides measuring my ingredients by weight, not by volume) is to work at making my baking more “pretty”. [Note – yes, I wrote this blog post LAST YEAR for Valentine’s Day…] My baked goods usually taste wonderful (which is the top priority, I would argue), but they are sometimes lackluster from an aesthetic point of view. Prettily piped cookies seemed them to be a good exercise for flexing my beautiful baking muscles.

sugar-cookies-1

I was surprised to find that my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook – a book devoted entirely to cookies – didn’t have a simple sugar cookie recipe. Too simple for Dorie, maybe. Luckily, my Bobbette & Belle cookbook has a recipe for Decorative Sugar Cookies. Theirs includes piped flowers, those little silver balls, and some edible gold paint. Mine would be simpler, but still pretty (I hoped).

All too often, sugar cookies are more about the decorations than the taste, but this is actually a wonderful, flavourful recipe. And it’s easy to whip together, too.

sugar-cookies-2

First, you cream butter and sugar together until it is nice and fluffy. You add an egg and some vanilla, then mix in some flour/baking powder/salt.

That’s it! Those are all the ingredients! Easy peasy.

sugar-cookies-3

The dough looks really crumbly, but if you pour it out onto some plastic wrap and smush it together, it comes together just fine.

sugar-cookies-4

It has to chill in the fridge (literally and figuratively) for at least an hour before you can play with it, but one it has had a chance to rest, it is pretty easy to work with.

sugar-cookies-9

I kept my shapes simple: two sizes of cookie cutter hearts.

sugar-cookies-7

 

sugar-cookies-10

The cookies were baked until just barely golden (well… some of them were more golden than others), and while they cooled, I started working on the icing.

Making the icing was easy. Getting it to the right flooding consistency was HARD!

I kept it relatively simple by sticking to just two colours: white and pink. I filled a piping bag with each, only to discover that it was way too thick for proper flooding.

No problem – it’s easier to thin out icing than it is to thicken it, so I just squeezed out the bags and added some water. That should do it…

Not. The icing was still too thick to achieve the flood consistency. Impatience prevailed (the probable cause of my inability to make pretty baked things), and I started piping anyways. I decided to go for a minimalist approach and just outline the cookies. They looked nice, but plain.

I had heaps of leftover icing, so I started playing around with a few, and guess what? They kind of flooded! Only because I’d already outlined all of them (and the outlines were setting), it was impossible to achieve the perfect flood.

sugar-cookies-11

Don’t mind old bite marks in the top right…

So I decided to just have fun with it – after all, that’s how you learn, right? I doodled on my cookies for at least an hour, then realized that my day was wasting away rather quickly and I still had a large to do list to accomplish. I ended up tossing quite a bit of icing, which was disappointing and wasteful.

sugar-cookies-5

Next time, I’ll devote more time to piping. I haven’t given up hope and the cookies are so simple to make that I’m sure I’ll get the chance to give it another go soon.

Luckily, my Valentines aren’t too critical – they loved the cookies, so all’s well ends well.

Thanks for the inspiration, Mom!

Bobbette & Belle’s Classic Canadian Butter Tarts – Go, Canada, Go!

Disclaimer: I have a queue of draft posts that I have neglected for whatever reason. This one is from the Olympics back in February – but it seems fitting for Canada Day!


butter-tart-5

For most of my life, I thought that I didn’t like butter tarts.

I think it’s because of the name and possibly because I was never quite sure what was in a butter tart (beyond butter).

Just under two years ago, I found myself at the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve. I was working on a second Woods Canada campaign. The first one had Cedric and I trek across the country, but the second one was an online reality TV style competition and I served as the shuttle driver/content writer/French speaker/general gopher (it was a weird but fun experience). Anyway, I can’t remember what we ate for dinner on this particular night, but I remember eating it outside and I remember that dessert was butter tarts.

At first, I passed. But then, the people who had taken one seemed to have an out-of-body experience, proclaiming that these were the best butter tarts they’d had in their entire lives. Well, that did it – I grabbed for one, and then I had an epiphany: I do like butter tarts!

butter-tart-13

Despite my very positive first butter tart experience, I hadn’t had another one since until I recently decided to give the Bobbette & Belle recipe a stab. The occasion: a loosely Canadian-themed celebration in honour of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

I worried at the name of the pastry used for the butter tarts: pate brisee, which translates directly to “broken pastry”. I have found B&B’s pate sucree recipe (used in the Mixed Berry Tart and Mini Blueberry Hand Pies recipe) to taste delicious, but to be extremely finicky to work with.

butter-tart-6

I’m pleased to report that the pate brisee is much easier to handle. I love the technique it uses to integrate cold butter with flour/sugar/salt: it calls for the butter to be grated in to the dry ingredients, so you barely have to handle it in order for the pastry to come together.  Brilliant!

butter-tart-7

An egg and a little cold water gets added to the dough, then it is mashed into a disc and refrigerated for about three hours. The waiting is always the hardest part!

butter-tart-8

Next up: blind baking the pastry. I rolled out my dough and used a 4 inch round paper template (which I printed off from the internet) to stencil and cut out dough circles. The recipe states, “Make sure the pasty expands half an inch above the edge of the muffin cups to allow for shrinkage.” Mine were too small to do this, and although they turned out fine, I might use larger circle templates in the future for a more even tart.

butter-tart-9

The blind bake involves putting a cupcake paper over each tart, then filling it with beans and baking for 15 minutes. As always, add a good 10+ minutes to Bobbette & Belle recipes – mine were in about 25 before they started to get a nice golden colour.

butter-tart-3

While the shells were cooling, I got to work on the filling. At last, I solved the mystery of what goes into a butter tart. In a word: sugar. In several words: sugar, butter, honey, corn syrup, cream.

butter-tart-4

Making the filling is easy, namely because it doesn’t require a candy thermometer – you just have to cook it on the stove top until the sugar is dissolved.

butter-tart-16

Once the sweet stuff has melted, you carefully mix in an egg, vanilla, salt, and sugar mixture, finally whisking in some vinegar (which I’m sure does something scientific to make it all come together).

butter-tart-14

The recipe calls for straining the mix, which I did, though I’m not sure it did anything. Oh well, better safe than sorry. The glorious filling gets added to the shells, then then whole she-bang bakes until the filling jiggles slightly. As you can see, the filling gets kind of puffy and doesn’t look very butter tart-like – but the whole thing settles as it cools.

butter-tart-12

The recipe opener says that the butter tarts should have a filling that has a slightly runny centre – specifically, the words “oozing” and “look like lava” are used. I was incredibly pleased when I cut a test tarte in two and saw flaky pastry with a slightly oozing middle. They were perfect.

butter-tart-10

The tarts were very well-received at the Olympic shindig, by Canadians and non-Canadians alike (we had Brits, an Aussie, and a Kiwi in attendance as well – a truly international affair!)

butter-tart-11

The pastry and the filling both pull their weight equally here. Each recipe is perfection, and together, they are unstoppable. Like a male and female figure skater in the pairs competition. Or the doubles luge. Or… something.

Butter tarts: I’m officially a fan.

Bobbette & Belle’s Fleur de Sel Caramels: From Chaos to Caramel

fleur-de-sel-caramel-3

I had the brilliant idea to make fleur de sel caramels from my Bobbette & Belle cookbook and to give them out at Christmas time.

This, despite my fear of candy thermometers and all things candy making.

I just love caramel, and I knew that deep down, I had what it takes to make delectable, chewy, soft caramels. And it turns out that I did – I made many incredible morsels of caramel that certainly held their own against the fancy schmancy ones that sell for like, $12 for 6 pieces. But the road to tasty caramels was not an easy one.


Here is the truth: this post does not have very many pictures of the actual baking process. There are three reasons why:

  • When I decided to make the recipe, Cedric wasn’t home and I didn’t realize that he had taken the camera – which, to be fair, is his camera – until I was already underway.
  • It was already dark out and the non-natural lighting in my kitchen is super harsh and makes for ugly pictures.
  • Most importantly, the process was so chaotic that even if I’d had the camera and the lighting had been natural and perfect, there’s no chance that I would have had the time (or non-sticky hands) to snap pictures.

So let me tell you the story of the fleur de sel caramels using mostly my words.


fleur-de-sel-caramel-1

While the Bobbette & Belle recipe did ultimately produce some fine caramels, the directions were a little off. Step one is to spray a 10-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and to line it with parchment. Now, I don’t have a 10-inch pan – but I do have two slightly smaller ones, so I prepped them both. Looking back, if you only used a single 10-inch square pan, you would end up with INSANELY thick caramels. Pro tip: use two pans.

The next step appears to be very simple: you mix sugar, cream, corn syrup, and butter (all my favourite superfoods) into a saucepan, let it boil, stir constantly, and let the whole thing heat to 248 – not 245, not 250 – degrees Fahrenheit. But here’s where Bobbette & Belle confused me a little: they say to use a medium saucepan.

I put the ingredients into my medium saucepan, but everything already almost came to the top of the pan. I knew that once the mixture was boiling, it would likely overflow – a bigger pot was needed.

I have two other pot options: a big old spaghetti pot and a blue Le Creuset dutch oven. The former was presently in the fridge holding some leftover chili (specifically, the Oh She Glows vegan chili – soooo good), so I transferred the ingredients from the medium saucepan to the blue Le Creuse pot.

I turned on the element, set up a candy thermometer, and grabbed my digital thermometer for back up, then let nature do its thing.

Eventually, the mixture started to bubble – my cue to start “stirring constantly”, as per the instructions. As I mixed, the contents of the pot (as I predicted) started to rise. And rise. And rise.

My thermometer wasn’t remotely close to 248 degrees – yet I was quickly running out of space in my pot. As it approached the lip of the pot, I realized that if I didn’t act VERY soon, the whole thing was going to overflow.

I now had a predicament. The medium saucepan would be too small – I needed the big spaghetti one in the fridge. But in order to use it, I would have to take it out of the fridge, toss the leftover chili, and wash and dry the pot. This would entail taking the currently boiling pot off the heat and taking a break from constant stirring. Surely pausing a recipe midway would not be a good thing.

But what choice did I have? Just as the mixture starting to bubble over (and smoke like crazy), I turned off the now-sticky element, moved the pot, and started the process of preparing the spaghetti pot.

Long story short, I poured about half of the contents of the blue pot into the spaghetti pot, temporarily dismantled the smoke detector, and set both of the pots up on clean elements. I now had to juggle stirring both pots while constantly checking the temperature of each to ensure I caught it at just the right time. The candy thermometer was reading much colder than the digital one, so I kept dipping the digital one in and out of the pots – which caused strings of sticky caramel to streak across my kitchen and my clothes.

The race was on to see which pot would reach 248 degrees first. I sincerely hoped they both wouldn’t hit the temperature at the same time because there was no way I could pour two pots of bubbling caramel into two pans at once. Luckily, the blue pot hit 248 just before the spaghetti pot. I abandoned the spaghetti pot momentarily, stirred in a bit of vanilla and salt into the blue pot, then poured its contents into the first prepared baking tin. I sprinkled some fleur de sel over top, then returned my attention to the spaghetti pot, which was rapidly creeping up on 248.

fleur-de-sel-caramel-5

I took this photo with my phone – you can see hints of the chaos happening in my kitchen.

Once both pans had been filled, my kitchen looked like a total, utter caramel-covered war zone. While the caramel set (it needs to be cooled for 2 to 3 hours), I scrubbed the kitchen back to its original state of cleanliness. At last, it was time to cut the caramel.

The slabs of caramel are transferred from baking pan to cutting board. This is actually pretty easy, as the Bobbette & Belle instructions tell you how to make a parchment cradle of sorts. The knife gets sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray (good caramel hack!), then the chopping begins.

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 7.10.59 PM

Another poor quality phone photo – but mmm.

I was relieved to feel my knife glide easily into the caramel – I hadn’t overcooked it, and the fact that it held together solidly meant that I likely hadn’t undercooked it, either. Success!

fleur-de-sel-caramel-2

Then, the tedious part: wrapping the caramels. I cut small squares of wax paper and, one by one, wrapped each individual piece. At first, I tried wrapping them kind of like a present, but then I switched to a salt-water-taffy-esque twisted wrap. This recipe makes about a hundred caramels – that’s a lot of wrapping.

When my weary joints had twisted the last caramel, I placed them into little boxes and stored the boxes in a sealed Ziploc freezer bag. I didn’t freeze them – I just left them at room temperature. The recipe states that they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks and, in my experience, that is spot on.

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 8.04.08 PM

I came. I caramelled. I conquered. The caramels were delicious and my recipients savoured each and every sweet-and-salty bite. But man, these were a beast to prepare. If you dare make them yourselves, be warned: you’re going to need a bigger pot.


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 Sticky Toffee Pudding with Hot Bourbon Toffee Sauce: SO, SO GOOD

Here’s my sticky toffee pudding anecdote:

I have written before about my first Whistler job, which was hostessing at a now-closed restaurant. This job was fun for so many reasons, not the least of which was  the sticky toffee pudding scraps. You see, this restaurant served only one dessert: sticky toffee pudding. But oh, how it made an incredible sticky toffee pudding. The only thing I liked better was the Schinkenspeck flatbread, but I digress.

Every so often, one of the servers would flag me down and tell me I was needed in the kitchen. Sometimes, I really was needed in the kitchen – but other times, there was a plate full of the edges of a freshly baked batch of sticky toffee pudding. IT WAS THE BEST!

That’s actually only just one of many sticky toffee pudding stories that I have.  I have quite the collection of stories because I really, really love sticky toffee pudding. And yet – until recently – I had never made the dessert myself.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-9

Chopped dates – a.k.a., a massacre of cockroaches

For years, I was scared of the fact that sticky toffee pudding uses dates – and lots of them. I don’t like dates, so the fact that one of my favourite desserts was made with one of my least favourite ingredients was unsettling. Does anyone else think that dates look like cockroaches? I just don’t like them. So I opted for the “ignorance is bliss” approach and let other people make sticky toffee pudding for me.

So what spurred the sudden decision to overcome my fear of dates and finally bake my own batch of STP? Well, I wanted to do some cozy, winter-time baking. I offered Cedric three different recipes from my Bobbette & Belle cookbook that felt wintery, and of the three he picked the sticky toffee pudding. That was the sign I needed to finally give it a try.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-5

This blog post is not brought to you by Starbucks, believe it or not.

Making sticky toffee pudding isn’t difficult, but it is a little time consuming. First, you need to mush the dates. This involves cooking 25 dates (that’s how many were in my 1.25 cups of chopped, pitted dates) with some water in a saucepan, then adding some instant coffee power mixed with hot water and allowing the dates to mop up all the liquid. I had to go buy a whole box of instant coffee powder just for the one measly teaspoon required in this recipe, but I didn’t dare skip it. In other news, expect a few coffee recipes in the near future.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-4

Once the dates are near-mush (this took me about 15 to 20 minutes total), you let them cool and work on the batter. You cream some butter with white and brown sugar, then add some eggs. The now-room-temperature dates get added to the mix, then dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, a whopping 4.5 tsps of baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg) get mixed in until they’re juuuuust incorporated. Side note: is this the first recipe in the history of baking that doesn’t call for salt?

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-6

Side note: while I baked this, the sun went down and so the lighting in the photos from here on out is pretty bad. Sorry – I can’t help that the days in winter are so darned short!

Once everything is combined, it forms a thick brown batter. The recipe calls for either one big 9-inch square pud or 12 ramekins for mini puddings. I only have a 12 x 12 square pan, so I used that.

As with most Bobbette & Belle recipes, this one takes longer to cook than the suggested time. The recipe told me it would require 30 to 40 minutes in the oven; it took me 55 until the middle was cooked through. The edges puffed up high and the centre was a little sunken in, but since I wasn’t making this recipe for any particular occasion, I wasn’t worried about looks.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-8

(Let’s be honest – I’m almost never concerned about looks with my baking. Maybe that’s a flaw. But taste is what I’m after.)

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-7

While the pudding was cooking in the oven, I set off to make the Hot Bourbon Toffee Sauce. This starts with a mixture of butter, sugar, and cream (how can you go wrong) that melts in a saucepan, eventually coming to a boil and bubbling on. It says to remove the pan from the heat when “the sauce is slightly thickened”. I wasn’t sure how to interpret this. My sauce didn’t feel super thick, but I felt like I was letting it bubble for quite a while and I didn’t want to burn the toffee – something I’ve found in the past can happen all too quickly. Off the burner, I added in the final two ingredients: some vanilla and two tablespoons of bourbon.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-1

Mmm… sauce pool

I stabbed some holes in the pudding and poured in a good half of the sauce. Because my pud dipped in the middle, the sauce ran down and accumulated into a puddle of deliciousness. I brushed the sauce to the edges and it all got soaked in.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-2

Cedric and I tucked in while the pudding was still warm, scooping plenty of extra sauce on top.

Sticky-Toffee-Pudding-3

IT TASTED AMAZING. I have never had a bad sticky toffee pudding, and this one was certainly restaurant caliber. We ate our squares in silence, savouring every bite. The bourbon in the sauce gave it a super tasty kick – definitely don’t skip this ingredient, even if you have to go and buy a whole bottle of bourbon for two mere tablespoons (guilty!) A scoop of Lucia Gelato’s Vanilla KO would have been amazing, but the pudding held its own even without ice cream.

It’s safe to say that this definitely won’t be my last time making sticky toffee pudding. Here’s to many more pudding memories to add to my repertoire!


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 English Toffee with Toasted Almonds

english-toffee-7

I’d been feeling a little blah a few weeks ago when I realized that I hadn’t baked anything fun* in a little while.

(I’d baked sourdough and sandwich bread, which are more practical than fun – they don’t count.)

So, I flipped open my Bobbette & Belle cookbook for a little inspiration. I landed on a page for English toffee with toasted almonds and thought, “Yes – this looks good.”

english-toffee-10

I’m always a little hesitant to tackle anything that requires a candy thermometer, but I figured I could use a little practice because I’m planning on doing a little candy-making for some Christmas gifts this year. I headed to Craig’s to pick up some semi-sweet chocolate and almonds, then I got to work.

I wasn’t baking this for any occasion, but the recipe appealed to me because it said that the final product could be stored in an air-tight container for up to two months, which is pretty darned good shelf life. Still, I decided to halve the recipe, which was probably a good idea – the toffee turned out so tasty that I’ll be surprised if it lasts two full days, and Cedric and I definitely don’t need to eat two whole cookie sheets’ worth, which is what the original recipe whips up.

The premise behind the toffee is pretty straightforward:

  1. Make the toffee, spread it out onto a baking sheet, and let it cool.
  2. Melt chocolate, pour it onto the cooled and hardened toffee, sprinkle toasted almonds into the chocolate, and let it cool.
  3. Flip the slab over and repeat Step 2 on the other side.

english-toffee-9

First, I had to chop and toast my almonds. Friendly insider tip: there are whole unroasted almonds in the ethnic food aisle at Craig’s. These are cheaper than the ones in the plastic tubs in the aisle with the rest of the nuts. For some reason, the chic peas in the ethnic aisle are also cheaper than the chic peas in the canned goods aisle. The ethnic aisle is where it’s at!

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 9.11.19 PM

Tip: the recipe says to chop up some chocolate, but I didn’t really think about the fact that I was just going to melt it – I could have just broke it into the squares and saved some time.

While I toasted the almonds, I got to work on the caramel. Melting the ingredients together – butter, sugar, water, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt – was easy. The thermometer was a little tricky, but I thought I had it figured out. I clipped it to the side and made sure it wasn’t touching the bottom of the pan.

english-toffee-12

As the mixture of ingredients came to a boil, the thermometer starting to rise. Things were working! The directions say it takes about 15 minutes for the mixture to reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but mine seemed stuck around 220 degrees. Hmmm…

I waited a few more minutes, but then I noticed the mixture was smelling a little burny. NOT good. I tilted the mixture so that the thermometer was more immersed, and wouldn’t you know – it shot up to like, 315 degrees.

I spread it out as quickly as I could and let it hardened, then I sampled a bit. It tasted a little burnt, but I felt like it was salvageable with chocolate and nuts. It was a tough call – do I waste the ingredients I used to make the toffee and start over? Or do I risk wasting the nuts and chocolate (neither of which are especially cheap – even when sourced from the ethnic aisle) by using the semi-burned toffee?

english-toffee-8

I decided to risk it. I melted the first batch of chocolate and poured it over the toffee, spreading it with a rubber spatula. This was oddly satisfying.

english-toffee-11

After sprinkling in half of the almonds, I let it sit for about 10 minutes, then stuck it in the freezer to expedite the hardening. (I seem to have lost my touch at properly tempering chocolate… apparently it’s not quite like riding a bike.) It worked.

english-toffee-3

I very carefully flipped the slab over. Only a small piece broke off, which I decided to sample. Good news: it tasted awesome – not burnt at all.

english-toffee-4

I proceeded with the second coat of chocolate and almonds, let it harden (with a little freezer help again), and broke up the pieces.

english-toffee-6

SO GOOD! It tastes like a Skor bar, but better. This is some serious gourmet-tasting stuff that is actually not too difficult to make (as long as you can figure out your candy thermometer… I’m getting there). The good news is that if my Christmas baking plans fail, I have a solid bake up.

english-toffee-1

Another win for Bobbette & Belle!


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 Soft & Chewy Ginger Cookies

I’ve got to say – compared to baking bread, making a simple cookie is soooo wonderfully easy. I have a newfound appreciation for straightforward recipes.

Ginger-cookies-2

I recently made Bobbette & Belle’s Soft & Chewy Ginger Cookies on a whim. I wanted a sweet treat and I happened to have all of the requisite ingredients on hand, so I gave it a whirl.

The result was a delicious, classic ginger cookie – but be warned: this is the one Bobbette & Belle recipe that you don’t want to leave in the oven longer than recommended. Read on, folks.

Let’s start with the ingredients: as I mentioned, I already had them in my pantry and chances are good you’ve got most of them, too. Flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, unsalted butter, brown sugar, a single egg, fancy molasses, and some granulated sugar to give it a sparkly finish – and that’s all it takes.

Ginger-cookies-4

Totally smells like gingerbread house batter

It’s a typical quick and easy cookie recipe: mix the dry, cream the butter and the sugar,  add the wet stuff (egg, molasses), then add the dry. There is one additional crucial step that you don’t find in every cookie recipe, and that is to pop the dough in the fridge for at least an hour before baking. If you skip this, the dough is a bit finicky to handle.

(As you can imagine, this hour waiting time didn’t particularly mesh well with my desire to eat something sweet instantly. Patience is a virtue.)

Ginger-cookies-5

I used a small ice cream scoop to fill two cookie sheets. Each scoop then got rolled into a ball and then each ball got rolled into a dish of sugar. I’m a firm believer that just about everything is better coated in sugar.

Ginger-cookies-6

Alright, the only hiccup I encountered occurred relates to the bake time. The recipe instructs 15 to 18 minutes, but EVERY Bobbette & Belle recipe I’ve made thus far takes way longer (like, 20 – 30 minutes more in some cases) to bake than instructed.

I made two cookie sheets worth of cookies and I took one out at 20 minutes and the other out at 25. Both looked softish when I took them out, and because the dough is a golden brown, it was hard to determine done-ness based on colour. The 20 minute batch straddled the line between chewy and not, while the 25 minute batch was decidedly crunchy. Delicious? Yes – but the recipe is called “soft and chewy ginger cookies” and I think they would have been tastier if I’d cooked them as per the instructions.

Ginger-cookies-1

Look at that gorgeous crackle!

Oh well – that didn’t stop me from enjoying them.

I kept these in a closed tupperware and found that after about three days, they’d gone a bit stale. Solution: each them faster and/or share them with friends next time.

Ginger-cookies-3

Bonus: here’s another ginger cookie recipe that I have made a few times. It calls for REAL ginger, not ground. The cookies are super soft and pliable – I highly recommend this recipe.


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 Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake (in Cupcake and Mini Loaf Form)

banana-fudge-cake-1

Although I have baked numerous recipes from the Bobbette & Belle cookbook, there is a chapter I haven’t touched. (Until now.)

Layer cakes.

I’ll admit that I don’t like making cakes. Layer cakes? Even worse! They’re tricky to get even, they take forever to assemble, and they’re just so much cake. Cupcakes, muffins, brownies, mini tars – these are all so easy to split up, transport, and share with the masses. Cake? Not so much.

But one day while flipping through my Bobbette & Belle cookbook, I came across this eye-opening text book that is so obvious that I can’t believe I overlooked it:

This recipe also works wonderfully as muffins or a loaf. No toppings necessary.

Wait a minute – you mean I can bake the cake and skip the stacking, assembling, icing, and cake cutting? Brilliant!

The particular recipe that enlightened me was for a Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake. The photo looks decadent and delicious, but it involves a dark chocolate fudge frosting, a chocolate buttercream, a chocolate gaze, and banana chips and chocolate chips as garnishes. That’s a lot of sweetness – and a lot of dirty dishes.

However, the combination of banana bread and chocolate is perfection, so I decided to make these in cupcake form for a friend’s birthday. As a bonus, I’d even throw in one of the toppings: the chocolate glaze, which ended up giving it a gorgeous finish.

banana-fudge-cake-3

In cake form, this recipe makes three cakes. It yielded me something like two dozen cupcakes and eight mini loaves. I ended up sharing – a lot. (And I can attest to the fact that these freeze and thaw well.)

The execution of this recipe is pretty simple and straightforward. First, you mix ripe bananas with brown sugar, then you add in eggs, vegetable oil, and a bit of salt. Then, you mix in dry (flour, baking powder, baking soda) and wet (milk) ingredients, alternating between dry and wet for a total of five additions. Finally, you stir in chocolate chips by hand. The recipe calls for one cup, but I always add the whole bag.

banana-fudge-cake-4

The chocolate glaze is relatively easy, too. It calls for melting and mixing dark chocolate and butter in a bain marie, with a bit of corn syrup, vanilla, and fleur de sel.

banana-fudge-cake-5

At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to glaze the cupcakes and loaves – pouring the glaze over, as I would with a cake, seemed wasteful. I decided to dip the mini cakes into the bowl of glaze. This was super easy, quick, and I think the final result looked pretty pro.

banana-fudge-cake-6

The glossy topping solidified after a bit of time, but it didn’t lose its sheen. It was the perfect complement to the cake, but the cake really is the star element here (you might say it takes the cake). It’s impossibly moist and has a nice spring to it, if that makes any sense. It’s not overly sweet, although I imagine the three different types of frostings may kick up the sugar level a few notches.

banana-fudge-cake-8

I’m probably not going to be baking a ton of layer cakes any time soon, but this definitely isn’t the last time I morph a B&B cake recipe into a cupcake recipe.

banana-fudge-cake-7


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 Fleur de Sel Caramel Corn

caramel-corn-3

Making candy can be a little scary. I feel like I never use candy thermometers correctly – and candy is soooo sensitive to temperatures that being only a couple of degrees off can be the difference between delicious bonbons and a waste of ingredients (and money). It seems safer to just avoid it altogether.

I’ve been conveniently avoiding the Confections and Sweets chapter of Bobbette and Belle’s cookbook, but I’ve had my eye on a few recipes (including the Fleur de Sel Caramels, which I WILL make one day – a local baker sells her version at seasonal craft fairs and they are delicious but very expensive, so I need to learn how to DIY).

caramel-corn-6

Finally, I found the perfect excuse to dip into the chapter. I had a Halloween night with a few girlfriends (centered around the classic – and timeless, as we discovered – film, Hocus Pocus) and one of them had mentioned some tasty seasonal treats, including caramel corn.

I remembered that the Bobbette & Belle book had a recipe for caramel corn, so I offered to bring some. Bonus: the recipe doesn’t require a candy thermometer.

I’ve made poppycock before (which is caramel corn with mixed nuts – absolutely delectable), but never just straight caramel corn. I was pleased to find out that it’s actually very easy.

caramel-corn-9

The first step involves making 15 cups of popcorn. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re not the type to use microwave popcorn (please, please don’t). You don’t need a fancy popcorn maker to make popcorn. I make mine on the stove top with a regular pot. I put some oil in it along with four kernels, crank the heat to medium-high, and wait until those four kernels have popped. I then add the rest of the kernels (2/3 cup of kernels = 15 cups of popcorn), cover my pot with a screen top thing that my mom got me eons ago (thanks, mom!), and shake lightly. I don’t shake non-stop, but I do it pretty frequently to let the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom.

caramel-corn-5

This is what 15 cups of popcorn looks like.

Once the kernels are popped, it’s time to make the caramel. Easy peasy: you melt butter + brown sugar + corn syrup + vanilla, let it get nice and bubbly (no mixing!), then add some baking soda and fleur de sel. The book calls for a “Rounded 1/4 teaspoon baking soda” – I have no idea what is meant by rounded, so I just used a regular 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. It also says “stir in the baking soda and fleur de sel and baking soda”, which amused me. An aside: the fleur de sel definitely has a presence in the final product. This is, after all, fleur de sel caramel corn, not regular caramel corn.

 

caramel-corn-7

Here is where I assumed the recipe would end; but, in fact, there is one final step. You spread the caramel-coated popcorn onto a pair of baking sheets at bake them for an hour at 275 degrees. After it has cooled, you get the most delicious popcorn, each pieces coated in a light caramel shell. I kept mine in a sealed tupperware style bowl and served it the next day, and it didn’t get stale at all.

caramel-corn-1

This caramel corn is superior to the stuff you get at Kernels. It’s really, really good – the recipe introduction says that they call it “crack corn” and their bakery, and I understand why. Caramel corn isn’t really filling in the way, say, cake is, so it’s easy to go back for “just one more handful” until there’s nothing left in the bowl.

caramel-corn-2

… after being baked.

This recipe is a keeper, folks.


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 Apple Galettes: Like Cupcakes, but in Pie Form

apple-galette-12

What’s not to love about a personal apple pie?

After baking Bobbette & Belle’s blueberry hand pies, I fell in love with the idea of individually sized pastries. I don’t like making cakes because I find it’s too much of a good thing – I far prefer cupcakes, which are easier to share. Same goes with pies: making an entire pie seems like such a commitment (who wants pie for dessert… again… for the fifth night in a row), but mini pies? Sign me up.

apple-galette-13

To be fair, these aren’t mini apple pies – they’re galettes, which are basically a flat pie. (Cedric called them toaster strudels.) They consist of two components: the galette pastry and the apple filling.

apple-galette-14

The galette uses a standard pastry recipe and, as I’ve come to love with Bobbette & Belle’s recipes, the ingredients can easily be found in any generic store. In fact, you probably have most of them on hand already – this recipe uses all purpose flour rather than pastry flour, for instance.

apple-galette-11

Though the recipe calls for cutting in the butter with a pastry cutter, I used my hands (as I always do with pastry). The butter cutting is pretty short and sweet, so the damage from the heat of my hand is pretty minimal.

apple-galette-10

Crumble City, USA

When it comes to handling pastry, less is more. The recipe states, “Turn the dough out onto a work surface and form a disc by pushing it together a few times.” My disc was awfully crumbly (see photo), so I sprinkled an extra tablespoon of ice water (in addition to the 1/4 cup used in the recipe) and it did just the trick to make everything come together in a slightly more solid form. The dough was still a little shaggy as I folded the pastry into thirds, but I used my bench scraper to keep the dough more or less gathered and it seems to have worked out alright.

apple-galette-5

I don’t own a six-inch round cutter (or a six-inch plate, as the book suggests as an alternate), but I printed out a six-inch round template and used the cut-out as a stencil. It worked just fine.

Though the recipe indicates it makes 5 individual galettes, I had enough dough to cut 8 rounds of pastry – and I didn’t even roll it out all that thin. I had extra scraps, so I freestyled a few festive leaves (viva la fall!)

apple-galette-6

As for the filling, I stuck with the suggested Granny Smith apples, which aren’t terribly exciting but they do the trick. If I were to make these again, I’d probably mix up a few different varieties of pie-friendly apples. I used five apples instead of four, but I kept the rest of the ingredients the same.

apple-galette-7

The recipe calls for heating some butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. This forms a caramel-like sauce, in which the apples are cooked for just a few minutes. The smell and texture are phenomenal – think caramel apples in a pan. Yum.

apple-galette-8

 

apple-galette-9Even with 8 galettes, I had plenty of apple filling to go around. I probably overstuffed them a little, which made it slightly finicky to fold the sides up, but galettes kind of have a rustic, imperfect look that is very forgiving. I was slightly concerned that the apple filling would ooze out and create a smoky mess in my oven, but that didn’t happen.

apple-galette-2

I sprinkled each galette with some chopped pecans, topped each with a couple of my pastry leaves, and gave the crusts a little egg wash, then into the oven they went. As I now do with all of my B&B recipes, I gave the galettes extra time in the oven – the book recommends 25-30 minutes, whereas I kept mine in for 45 minutes. (I checked in on them every 5 or so minutes after the first 30 minutes had elapsed. Truth be told, I probably could have kept them in a minute or two longer, but ah well.)

apple-galette-1

(This is before they were baked, lest you be concerned about the paleness of the pastry.)

After sampling a galette to ensure it was edible (it was), I stacked them in a tupperware with parchment paper between each layer and stored them overnight. We had a couple of friends over the next day, and I heated them up in the oven and served them with my favourite vanilla gelato, the Whistler-made KO Vanilla by Lucia Gelato.

apple-galette-15

The final product was delicious and perfectly presentable (not pictured: a scoop of gelato melting on top of the galette – YUM). The galettes make for a great autumn dessert. They’re a nice twist on traditional apple pie. Thanks, Bobbette & Belle, for another Magee-approved recipe!


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.