Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Beginning of a Madeleine Journey + Madeleine Three-Ways

Hello! I think this is the beginning of a new obsession. Baking madeleines is an obsession. At least it is a delicious one. I bought a madeleine pan quite a while back, made two batches, and left the pan untouched for a long time. Despite having very limited purpose and practicality, I bought a madeleine pan because I have never had a madeleine before making my own; I was just really curious and was really intrigued by these delicate little French pastries. My first batches were classic vanilla madeleines and matcha green tea madeleines.

Recently my friend Victoria bought a madeleine pan as well and we decided to do some hardcore (as hardcore French pastries can get) madeleine baking together...and I am so glad we did. We made several batches of madeleines, both sweet and savoury, and I think I have a new found love for this delicious little cookie/cake. On a different note, are madeleines cookies or cakes?
Another reason for the sudden interest in baking madeleines stems from the fact I stumbled upon a madeleine cookbook in the library. Yes, a cookbook dedicated to making madeleines - bizzare right?! I checked the book out and decided to use the recipes in it as inspiration for our madeleine baking date. We decided we wanted to make the chocolate olive oil madeleines from the book and we used their savoury rosemary and polenta madeleine recipe as inspiration for our own polenta madeleines with sage and emmental cheese. We changed a few things here and there and I present to you the beginning of my madeleine journey...a very delicious journey.

In no way am I saying I am a madeleine expert or connoisseur, but maybe these recipes and ideas will be some sort of inspiration for you to make your own version of the delicate French treat. If you do not have a madeleine pan, do not fret. You can use a muffin or cupcake tin and fill in just a third of the cavity; you just won't get the classic seashell shape.

Here you will find the recipes for three kinds of madeleines: a savoury polenta madeleine with sage and cheese, a chocolate olive oil madeleine, and the classic lemon madeleine with a lemon glaze (a la Julia Child).
Savoury Polenta Madeleines with Sage and Emmental Cheese
Adapted from A Beautiful Mess (Cheesy Sage Madeleines)
1. Four eggs
2. Quarter teaspoon salt
3. One tablespoon sugar
4. Four tablespoon cornmeal
5. Three-quarter cup flour
6. Quarter cup cheese (we used Emmental instead of Dubliner)
7. Quarter cup butter
8. Seven - Eight fresh sage leaves
Yields: 16 regular-sized madeleines (original recipe says this yields 12)
*Note: we followed this recipe and got more madeleines than expected. We also think that adding a teaspoon of baking powder would probably work well. These ones were the flattest and densest madeleines of all three batches. We still love the texture from these original recipe though, especially for a savoury madeleine. It would pair really nicely with a thick soup!

First, melt the butter over low heat over the stage with five or six sage leaves. Once the butter has come to a light boil, remove the pot from the heat and cool it in a water bath (or leave it until it returns to room temperature).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, sugar, and cornmeal. After the mixture has been well incorporated, fold in the flour, cheese, and a few chopped up sage leaves. Stir in the butter until well just well combined.

Grease your baking pan and spoon the batter (which is quite thick!) into the cavities. Bake at 375F for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
Chocolate Olive Oil Madeleines (with Sea Salt/Raspberry Sugar)
Adapted from Miss Madeleine's We Love Madeleines 
1. One-sixth cup extra virgin olive oil
2. One quarter cup all purpose flour
3. One quarter cup cocoa powder 
4. One quarter teaspoon baking powder
5. Pinch of salt
6. One egg 
7. One quarter cup sugar 
8. One teaspoon vanilla extract
9. Sea salt/raspberry sugar (optional) 
Yields: 12 regular-sized madeleines 
Note: we doubled the amount of cocoa powder and vanilla extract of the original recipe. This batter is also much thicker than the batters of the other two; this madeleine batter resembles a brownie batter. 

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. 

In a second bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until well incorporated. Add in the vanilla. Gently fold in the flour mixture and olive oil until just combined. 

Spoon the batter into the greased madeleine tray and bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt or raspberry sugar while madeleines are still warm. Indulge, and try not to eat the entire pan : )

Classic Lemon Madeleines with a Lemon Glaze 
Lemon madeleines:
Adapted from Julia Child's The Way to Cook
1. Two eggs
2. Half cup white sugar
3. Half cup all purpose flour
4. Half cup cake flour
5. Five ounces of butter
6. Half a lemon (both juice and zest)
7. Pinch of salt
8. One teaspoon of vanilla extract
Yields: 12 regular-sized madeleines

Lemon Glaze:
Adapted from...no where! This was our own : )
1. Three quarter cup powdered sugar
2. Two tablespoon lemon juice
3. One tablespoon water
Yields: One third cup of glaze 

First whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add in the flour.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until the butter is slightly brown. Browning the butter produces a richer and more complex flavour. Next, wait for the butter to return back to room temperature or speed up the process with the use of an ice bath. Make sure the butter doesn't turn back into a solid though!

Mix together the butter, salt, lemon juice and some zest, as well as the vanilla extract.

Fill the madeleine pan 3/4 full of batter and bake for 15 minutes  until slightly browned around the edges and humped in the middle.

Voila!


Here is a little behind the scenes look at some (not even all) of the madeleines we made that day.

We had so many madeleines everywhere it was borderline insane. We gave most of them away to friends and family because who doesn't receiving free baked goods right? Especially if you tell them they are French pastries.

A few madeleine flavours I want to create next include:
- Spicy chocolate (probably with some freshly grated ginger and cayenne..topped with sea salt, of course!)
- Some sort of earl grey tea concoction
- A savoury ricotta madeleine with fresh cracked pepper
- A sweet ricotta madeleine with...maybe a lemon glaze?

You will not experience any shortages of madeleine recipes and photos on my blog and my instagram any time soon and I hope that is okay. Until next time, happy baking!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

DIY Dinner Party: Dîner en Blanc

Hello! This is just a tad different from the normal DIY posts I put up - a) because it isn't really my own DIY and b) it is a DIY dinner party. The dinner party was just so lovely that I couldn't help but blog about it. Maybe it will inspire you to have your own backyard dinner party before the end of summer. 

My two very good friends from high school, Ivy and Eunice, decided to host their own version of a Diner en Blanc. Since the tickets to Vancouver's Diner en Blanc is completely sold out, this is the closest we can get to attending one. (Besides, I think our Diner en Blanc is much better). What made our Diner en Blanc even more memorable was that it was just a group of good friends gathered around a long table for good food and good conversations. Oh yeah, the dinner party also had a Midsummer Night's Dream theme. We all dressed up for it and it was definitely an evening to remember. 

If you are unfamiliar with what a Diner en Blanc is, here is quick lowdown for you. It is basically a mass "chic picnic" in some sort of public place. The location of this picnic is a secret and is given to all the attendees last minute. Last year, Vancouver held its Diner en Blanc right by Science World. It is called Diner en Blanc because guests are expected to be dressed in all white.

"Over the course of an evening, the diners enhance the function and value of their city's public space by participating in the unexpected. Beyond the spectacle and refined elegance of the dinner itself, guests are brought together from diverse backgrounds by a love of beauty and good taste. Le Dîner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamour of court society, and diners engage one another knowing they are taking part in a truly magical event. There are no disruptions: no car traffic, no pedestrian traffic, except for the occasional amazed and astonished looks from passersby at the scene unfolding before them. And we, as they, wonder whether it's all not a dream…" -Diner en Blanc website

And here is our version of a Midsummer Night's Dream themed Diner en Blanc, our interpretation of a Midsummer night's dream: 
The dinner party was held in Ivy's backyard and Ivy and Eunice made beautiful decorations to jazz up the place. There were candles and paper flowers scattered throughout Ivy's backyard. The candles looked especially beautiful when the sun was setting, half way through dinner.
It was pretty much food and drinks galore - a build-your-own burger bar, lots of grilled veggies, a delicious Japanese-inspired crab meat salad with tobiko, many dips and finger foods, and several types of punch. Ivy made the burgers herself and I think they rival any top-notch burger joint out there. There was even a banana boat dessert station, but we were all too full for dessert. Too full for dessert?! Blasphemous, I know.
We took a few pictures throughout the night to document our lovely time at the dinner party.
You can also head over to Ivy and Eunice's blog to find more pictures and bits and bobbles about our evening. Eunice promised that their post will be up soon! Thank you for hosting and putting so much work into creating the perfect dinner party, Ivy and Eunice - I had the best time. 

Until next time, cheers to summer nights, good food, and of course, good company.



Thursday, 31 July 2014

Thrifting Thursday: Bad Seed

Hello! What is this? Two thrifting thursday posts within a month? Amy being productive with her time? What.

I never really know what to write about for thrifting thursday posts...like do I talk about where I thrifted the pieces? Do I mention the prices? I don't even know. Well this is what I wore yesterday and everything I had on was thrifted (kinda).
The vest was thrifted. It was originally a $3 denim jacket found in the kids' section of Value Village. I hacked off the sleeves and added a pair of collar tips. I actually did a post on turning the jacket into a vest in under three minutes. Thrift tip: find the perfect fitted denim jacket (to turn into a vest or keep as is) in the kids' section. Also, pieces found in the kids' section are generally cheaper.

Skirt? Also found in the kids' section at Value Village...for $3 as well. It is actually a Gap Kids skirt. I am a child. I was pretty surprised that kids' sizes at Gap ran this large. Maybe it was a maxi skirt for kids. I never really go for bright pinks, especially for dresses and skirts, but something about this pink skirt caught my eye. Maybe it was the pleats. Or maybe it was the fact that it has a nice chiffon layer and a silk-y slip material underneath. Probably both. 

Lastly, the shirt. It says "born a bad seed"...'cause you know, I'm so badass. I eat cupcakes and wear pink skirts, complete badass material. I knew I had to have it when I saw it at the East Side Flea Market a couple months back. The girl(s) that make these shirts find old t-shirts and does the print on them. Hence why I'm a bit hesitant to say my entire outfit is thrifted. The shirt itself was probably thrifted though.

So there you have it. I like thrift stores and buying clothes from the kids' section. I also like cupcakes. 
I actually really enjoy doing thrifting thursday posts - it's a bit different from the usual recipe/DIY tutorial posts in a sense that I don't really have to type out instructions and I can always use an extra excuse to make a trip to Value Village. So you can expect more thrifting thursday posts in the future : )

 Until next time, happy thrifting!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Recipe: London Fog Shortbread Cookies

Hello! I know I should be posting a DIY tutorial this week instead of a recipe but I am so excited about sharing these teabag cookies that I had to break the alternating DIY and recipe rotation. But out of all seriousness, have I ever stuck to that rotation? No, not really. 

I have been wanting to bake teabag cookies for a while and it happened to be my friend's birthday a few days ago so I decided to bake some of these cookies and give them to her. 

These are essentially earl grey shortbread cookies with vanilla, hence the London Fog title. This recipe makes a crisp shortbread cookie because it uses granulated sugar. If you prefer the softer, melt in your mouth type of shortbread, you want to use a recipe that calls for icing sugar. So here is what you will need:

1. Half a cup of unsalted butter
2. Quarter cup of granulated sugar
3. Quarter teaspoon of salt
4. One cup and an extra pinch of all purpose flour
5. Two tablespoons of earl grey tea leaves (~2 tea bags)
6. One teaspoon of vanilla 
Yields: 24 cookies
Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt. Add in the vanilla and the tea leaves. Mix in the flour. If the dough seems a bit dry at first, it is okay - just keep on mixing! 

Once everything is well incorporated, roll our your dough on a floured surface or a piece of parchment paper. You want the dough to be evenly rolled out and be roughly a quarter inch in thickness. At this point if your dough is too soft to be shaped and carry a clean edge, chill the dough for roughly 20 minutes before cutting out the tea bag shapes.
After you take the rolled out dough from the freezer, cut the dough into strips, then into little tea bag shapes. If you have a cookie cutter that is in the shape of a tea bag, that's even better! 
I used a straw to cut out the hole at the narrow end of the tea bag. You want to make sure the hole is big enough so that even if the cookies expand a little bit, you will still be able to thread a piece of string through it. Return the cookies to the freezer for another twenty minutes before baking. At this point you can start preheating your oven at 350F. 
Bake the cookies at 350F for 10-12minutes, until the edges are slightly golden brown.
You can leave the cookies plain (I like it this way the best) but I decorated some of them with chocolate because I thought it looked extra cute this way. I melted some white chocolate and milk chocolate and used a butter knife to spread the chocolate across the lower third of the cookie. I used a knife to frost one side instead of dipping the entire end because I didn't want the chocolate to overpower the tea flavour.
I made the tags out of cardstock, attached them to embroidery floss, and tied them to the cookies. My favourite one says 'you're my cup of tea.' : )
And there you have it! Throw them (well not throw...more like gently place) into a tin or a box and you will have a perfect little gift. They look really cute in a mason jar too! I'm pretty sure everything looks cute in a mason jar.

 Until next time, happy baking!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Thrifting Thursday: Denim Floral Dress

Hello! I haven't done a 'Thrifting Thursday' post in a while...so I might be a little rusty at this. I am an avid thrifter. Well, I was until thrift store prices started matching regular store prices. A dolla can no longer make me holla at my local thrift stores. I was digging through a drawer of my thrifted pieces (yes, I have a drawer for thrifted clothing that I have yet to modify/wear/do anything with) and came across this floral and denim dress that I have yet to wear. I got this dress from Value Village for 3.99. Oh how I miss the days of thrift store pieces that are priced $5 and under. While browsing my older Thrifted Thursdays posts, I noticed that this dress was actually part of my first TT post...meaning I got this dress two years ago! What. Time sure does fly. 
This dress was actually pretty long - it hit mid-shin and in general was just at an unflattering length. I cut off a few inches of the dress and re-hemmed it with my mom's sewing machine. I am actually terrible at sewing and these simple hems are the only thing I can do with a sewing machine. The length of the dress is now right above the knee. Wouldn't it be great if I actually took a picture that showcased the new length of the dress? Apparently I do not plan these things out carefully enough and I forgot to take a picture of the entire dress...

I am totally digging the small pocket in the front - I think the pocket is the main reason why I gravitated towards this dress. I can put something useful in the pocket...like a pen...or a cookie...

(And yes, besides hacking a few inches off my dress, I also hacked off a few inches of my hair)
Expect a few more Thrifting Thursday posts this summer since I have a whole drawer of thrifted items. Until then, happy thrifting! 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Recipe: Pistachio Pudding Cookies (With Avocado!)

I know, I know. Everything I have been baking has been in some shade of green. If it is green, it is healthy right?! I promise the next recipe post will not be some sort of green/avocado baked good. (Hint: It will probably be a lavender and lemon tart topped with torched meringue. Yes, that's right. Torched meringue.) 

I've made these cookies three times already (in two weeks) because they were that good. Don't worry, I didn't eat it all. I baked them for work and for other people. I played around with the avocado and butter proportions with each batch and I think I have got it! These cookies are soft, chewy, and fudge-y. The texture is a hybrid between cake and cookie. It is crisp around the edges but super soft in the centre and I can't get enough of them. These are so easy to make that they make really good last-minute 'oh, I forgot about tomorrow's work potluck' kind of treats.

This is a recipe I found on The Kitchen Magpie, but I changed it just a bit because apparently I like to add avocado to everything. If you did not have a chance to read my last post about the butter-free avocado pound cake, you would have missed out on the monologue I had about my love of (hopefully) healthier butter substitutes. Avocado happens to be a great substitute and I had many ripe avocados around the house. The thing to remember when substituting avocado in baking is: for cakes you can replace all the butter with avocado and with cookies (or anything that needs to be a bit firmer or have more of a crisp), you can replace up to half of the butter with avocado. 

Enough rambling. Here is the recipe:
What you will need:
1. One quarter cup butter
2. A little bit under half a cup of white sugar
3. One quarter cup pureed avocado
4. Half a pack of Jell-O Pistachio Pudding Mix
5. One egg
6. Half a teaspoon of baking soda
7. One cup of all-purpose flour
8. Half a cup of white chocolate chips
9. Chopped up pistachios to garnish
Yields: Approximately 14 - 16 cookies

Preheat your oven to 350F. While the oven is preheating, cream together the butter, pureed avocado, sugar, and pudding mix. The batter should be this lovely light green colour! Add the eggs and continue creaming. 

Mix the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and add this dry mixture to the butter/avocado mixture. 

Once it is all well incorporated, fold in the white chocolate chips.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto your baking sheet and garnish each ball with some crushed pistachios. (I pressed down the dough balls just a little).
Bake for around 8-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. You don't want to over-bake these because they will not be in their full chewy and fudge-y glory if you do! Let them cool for a couple of minutes before removing them your cookie sheet or pan.
Random side note - I actually did not intend to blog about these cookies until I got asked to share the recipe. I had some trouble finding good photos to post up, but with some cropping here and there, I somehow managed to muster some half-decent photos for this post. Good thing I take pictures of everything I make!
These are so so so good fresh out of the oven and the next few days after they are made. So what I'm trying to say is that they are really good in general. Try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting! Keyword is 'try.'

Enjoy the cookies and happy baking!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Recap: Steveston Salmon Festival (Canada Day!) 2014

Happy July 3rd and to my fellow Canadian DIY-ers, I hope you had a lovely Canada Day. Every year on Canada Day I attend the Steveston Salmon Festival. My favourite things to do at the festival each year include buying a big slice of strawberry rhubarb pie a la mode, lining up for filipino barbecue, and browsing the craft fair held inside the community centre. This year, I had a slightly different Salmon Festival experience - I had my own booth at the craft fair! I signed up to be a vendor at the craft fair a few months back and got my jewellery "juried" in April. I was super happy when I found out that after browsing the craft fair year after year that I finally get to sell my jewellery. So this is just a brief (hopefully brief) recap of my day as a vendor at the Steveston Salmon Festival.

Set up happened the day before the festival. It would have been way too hectic to start the set up the day of the festival. I arrived at the community centre an hour before the craft fair opened to do some final set up. Set up for me does not take that long - all I have to do is place all my frames and necklaces on the table. Some other vendors had much more elaborate ways to display their work, but I kind of like how my necklaces are displayed : )
This was right before the craft fair was open to the public. My set up was pretty similar to the set up I had for previous craft fairs - DIY frame necklace holders (click here for the tutorial!) and price signs for necklaces according to theme. The only thing I did differently this time around was the appearance of the price tags. I printed off a cute whimsical border on mint-coloured cardstock and had the prices and necklace description handwritten inside the frame.


I was really happy with the way these little mint-coloured signs turned out! I had a mint theme going on - mint coloured business cards, mint signs, and of course I was wearing a mint-coloured dress.
I used my bird cage to display the earrings and mini easels to prop up the photo frame necklace holders.
At this craft fair, I got to use my Square card reader for the first time! Since I had the Square reader, I could accept both cash and credit card payments. 
A lot of familiar faces dropped by to say hi and to send some love. To all my friends that came to say hi or wished me luck at the craft fair, I really appreciate it : )

Eunice dropped by and even brought me a super delicious smoothie with a handwritten note. She also brought me a container of cherries. (Thanks, Eunice! <3)
This was my table for the day! And here is my lovely vendor buddy : ) (Thanks for being such a wonderful vendor buddy and lining up under the scorching sun so I could have some filipino barbecue for lunch. Let's continue to hate on other vendors selling overpriced things and subpar banana bread 'cause we both know you make a much better loaf.)
And that was pretty much it! I had a successful day at the craft fair and I am currently filling out the application to be a vendor at the Steveston Christmas craft fair in late November. If you have been following my blog for a while, thanks for sticking around and reading my rambles. If you are a new reader and found out about this blog through the craft fair, welcome to Constellation Inspiration and I hope you enjoy my DIY adventures. Until next time, happy DIY-ing!