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Recipe: holiday-themed maple creme brûlée

As Christmas is slowly sneaking up, it’s time to start thinking about your holiday menu. Or maybe you need some ideas for when you will be entertaining guests? Maple creme brûlée is a perfect example of a French-Canadian inspired dessert for the holiday season. It’s simple, creamy, delicious — and a little more impressive than the typical sugar cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream ( or whipping cream )
  • 1/2 cup Canadian Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp maple sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp Demerara sugar ( for topping )

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a medium saucepan, scald the cream until small bubbles start to form. Then remove from heat.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla extract, maple sugar and maple syrup. Blend well.
  4. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot cream and stir until smooth and of a uniform colour.
  5. Fill your baking dish or individual ramekins with the custard mixture, but only halfway.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Once done, leave the custards to cool for about 40 minutes or refrigerate for 2 hours.

To Brûlée:

  • Preheat the broiler, or prepare your brûlée torch.
  • Place the custard dish on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top of the custard.
  • Once sugar is even this means caramelization will be equal and ensure a crunchy top layer all around.
  • Broil /torch until light brown.

Hope you will enjoy cracking into this delicious treat. Let us know in the comments.

5 places in Toronto for chocolate lovers

Winter and chocolate go together like…summer and ice cream. Canada experiences some truly brutal storms throughout December and January, so to make up for it I like to consume as much chocolate as possible. What’s the relevance, you may ask? There is none — I just love chocolate!

Last week, Women’s Post profiled Jennifer Snider, founder of SugarMommy, and it got us thinking: sending chocolate is great, but what if you just want to eat chocolate on your own? While I’m sure Snider would have no objection to creating a personalized basket for one…it is a little awkward. So, where do you go if you  If you are looking to indulge in some tasty chocolate, here are five place you can go!

Cacao70

There are three locations in Toronto – that isn’t enough! Cacao70 is a chocolate lover’s paradise. There are no canned or powdered hot chocolates to be found in this restaurant. Originating from Montreal, Cacao 70 specializes in fondue, crepes, waffles, and of course, dessert pizzas. It started with sipping chocolate, melted pure cacao that you could drink in a shot glass. It has since transformed to become one of the most talked about chocolate-themed restaurants in the city. I’ve eaten at this restaurant a few times, once for fondue and the other for a breakfast waffle and it was divine! The fondue is thick, creamy, and comes with loads of dip-able items like fruit, cookies, brownies, and marshmallows you can grill at your table. For brunch, I tried the apple bacon waffle, which has vanilla ice cream, white chocolate, bacon, and apples on top of a fluffy waffle with caramel drizzle. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back!

SOMA

This chocolate factory has a “bean to bar” philosophy that ensures top quality products you can’t get anywhere else. Founded in 2003, cacao beans are roasted and winnowed on site. Creators David Castellan and Cynthia Leung love to play around with different concoctions and mixtures of dark and milk combinations. Their bars are truly unique, topped with real ingredients like coconut, ginger, orange peels, or nuts. These ingredients aren’t mixed into the chocolate as is typical of a bar you would get from a regular grocery store. Instead, they are placed on top of the chocolate so as not to take away from the pure taste. There are two stores in Toronto, with the one in the distillery district being the most popular, especially around the holidays. They also have drinking chocolate, ice cream, truffles, cookies, and toffee.

Soul Chocolate

Chocolate really does affect the soul — in all the best ways that is!  This storefront specializes in single-origin chocolate bars, which means every bar is unique. They roast and refine beans from around the world, making sure to keep each bean’s special flavour and history in tact. The owners also pay top price for the beans they use in what they call a 100 per cent Direct Trade business model. Everything is ethically sourced and pure in taste. All of the bars sold at Soul Chocolate is vegan, with only cacao and organic cane sugar as ingredients. Visit their storefront on Gerrard and Broadview for a speciality coffee or a sipping chocolate shot.

MoRoCo Chocolat

While many will mourn the loss of MoRoCo Chocolat’s restaurant in Yorkville, where you could go and experience high tea like any self-respected Brit, their new storefront on Madison Ave is worth checking out. The owners now specialize in small chocolate delicacies like truffles and macaroons. This french-inspired boutique is beautifully classy, and will make you feel like purchasing a treat is a luxury you absolutely CAN afford. All the products are made in small batches to ensure freshness and quality.

Peace Treats

This is for the kid in all of us. Think back to your childhood and remember sitting down with your mom or dad and sharing a giant chocolate milkshake. Well, these milkshakes aren’t your typical childhood drink. Peace Treats on Ossington have a variety of incredibly gourmet concoctions available. They also have some pretty amazing hot chocolates if you aren’t feeling like ice cream in the winter (although who doesn’t feel like ice cream?)!

Do you have a favourite chocolate store in Toronto? Let us know in the comments below! 

Peace Treats milkshake.

How to combat your coffee addiction once and for all

It’s one thing for your morning cup of joe to help you get through the day after a long night. However, if you’re on your third cup of espresso before noon and it’s the only reason for your existence at the moment, you may have a slight problem. Sure, coffee helps knocks things off your long to-do list, but it is also responsible for increasing anxiety and depression, indigestion, and other health problems. Coffee addiction is not easy to combat. It takes determination, perseverance, and a little bit of that New Year’s motivation that we’re all currently striving on. With these few easy steps, your coffee addiction can be a thing of the past once and for all.

 

  1. Start on a weekend

It’s probably not a good idea to start your coffee cleanse the week you have a big project coming up. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can leave you with a brutal headache, not to mention give you a bad case of the jitters. To avoid experiencing these during your 3 o’clock meeting, start your coffee cleanse on a weekend, when you’re at home and able to relax.

  1. Eat chocolate

Dark chocolate not only tastes good, but can help satisfy your coffee craving. You can substitute your morning cup of joe with a good old fashioned cup of hot chocolate, or casually nibble on some chocolate throughout the day. Remember, everything is okay in moderation! Let’s not forget those fitness goals while we’re trying to combat our addiction.

  1. Switch it up!

There may be many reasons why you want to cut coffee out of your life. Whether it’s the amount of sugar you put into your lattes, the increase in high fat dairy that your body can no longer endure, or the overall disadvantages of caffeine, it’s important to make gradual substitutes when it comes to combatting coffee addiction. Start off by decreasing the amount of sugar, switch to black coffee, or try decaffeinated coffee. It’s not an overnight process, so take your time!

  1. Hydrate

The solution to all of your life problems is to hydrate. Increase your water intake! Drinking enough water is known to help combat fatigue, decrease unwanted weight gain, keep your blood pressure down, and well as flush toxins out of your body. The sudden boost of energy will aid in removing other toxins out of your life too, like Jimmy from Marketing. So quench that thirst.

  1. Sweat it out

Another solution that’s not just for coffee addiction, but a lot of other health and wellness concerns, is daily exercise. Increasing your heart rate as well as practicing muscle strength and endurance can help combat the fatigue and lack of energy that may come without your everyday coffee. In addition, exercising releases serotonin, which will put you in a better mood. Not even your dog drinking out of the toilet for the 30th time this week can phase you!

These simple but effective solutions can keep the caffeine at bay! Welcome to a new life of whiter teeth and more pocket change. Don’t forget to share your journey with us in the comments below! Good luck!

Holiday Baking: empire cookies

In between the chocolate and heavy desserts this holiday, why not try these sandwich empire cookies? This recipe is one of my all-time favourites. Not only do they have a hint of almond in the icing, but the jam centre really balances everything out. They are also relatively easy to make, and look impressive to guests. It’s a refreshing change to the typical sweets passed around on Christmas Eve.

Here’s what you need:

cookie

1/2 cup butter

1 to 1 1/2 cup of white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda (1 teaspoon if you use granular sugar)

Filling and icing

Raspberry jam

1 cup icing sugar

2 tablespoons of hot water

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

candied cherries or candied fruit

Photo by Robin Hood

The base is a simple sugar cookie recipe. You can use this one or follow your families instructions. Start by creaming together the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. It’s best to use an electric mixer, but if you don’t have one, make sure the butter is really soft. Then mix together the rest of the dry ingredients together, and pour into mixer gradually as you stir until dough is formed. If you have to, use your hands for the last bit of mixing, making sure to kneed the dough until it forms a ball.

You will be using a rolling pin to roll out the dough, so you may want to split the dough into two to make it easier.

Roll out the dough until relatively thin. Remember this is a sandwich cookie, and the thicker the dough, the bigger the cookie (and the fewer it will make). Use a cookie cutter to create shapes. I like to use a circle, but any shape will do! Place on greased baking sheet or a sheet with parchment paper. Cook for 10 minutes in the oven, at 350 degrees F. Take them out and let them cool.

This cookie has numerous steps. I like to bake the cookies one day, and then put them together the next. Make sure you set time aside for this recipe!

Once the cookies are cool, it’s time for the jam filling. Take your jam and a knife, and spread it on one side of the cookie, preferable the flat side. Take another cookie and place it on top, flat side down so it makes a macaroon-looking shape. Let sit until the jam settles.

In a bowl, mix the icing sugar, almond extract, and hot water together. Put icing on the top cookie, spreading it into a circle. Make sure to have the candied fruit easily accessible. After icing a row of cookies, stop and place a single piece of candied fruit in the centre of the cookie. Complete the row. Then, move on to the next row and repeat. Let the icing harden. This may take a few hours.

And voila! Empire cookies! Enjoy!

Holiday baking: peppermint skor bark

Tis’ the season to be jolly…and that’s exactly what holiday baking is all about! For the next month (or two!), Women’s Post will be featuring our favourite holiday recipes. First of all, it gives us an excuse to bake — which is always necessary during the holiday season — and second of all, it allows us to share our traditions and hear yours!

Enjoy!

*Note: Women’s Post does not claim that any of these recipes will be healthy or good for you. We can, however, claim they will make your soul happy.

Peppermint Skor Bark

My friends and I call this the “crack” of desserts. You can’t just have one. They taste similar to skor bars — essentially they are chocolatey, sugary delights. I tend to think they are worth the calories. They are also incredibly easy to make, and require very few ingredients.

What you’ll need:

1 cup of butter

1 cup of brown sugar

24 salted soda crackers

chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

candy canes

Preheat the oven at 350.

Start by grabbing a handful of candy canes and placing them unwrapped inside a ziplock bag. Use a rolling pin or a hammer to break the candy canes into small pieces. Try to get a variety of sizes, including a fine powder to provide a garnishing effect. Be careful when doing this. It will be a loud exercise and may disrupt kids or pets.

Candy Crush: Don’t forget to take the wrappers off before mashing!

After you are done with the candy canes, put them aside. Find a sheet bake pan or a cookie sheet (depends on how steady your hands are, I prefer the bake pan) and layer it with parchment paper. This is really important, or else you won’t be able to get your skor bar off the pan. Layer your soda crackers evenly on the pan.

Grab a pot and melt your butter. Once melted, stir in the sugar and boil for two minutes until it creates a thick caramel sauce. Pour the sauce on top of the soda crackers and place in the oven for five minutes or so. Remove from the oven and cover the dessert with chocolate chips.

The soda crackers may move around during cooking. Don’t worry about it!

Place back in the oven for a minute or two until the chocolate chips are melted. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate around until it completely covers the dessert. At this point, take your crushed candy cane and sprinkle it on top of the melted chocolate. Place in the fridge or freezer for over an hour before breaking the bark into pieces.

This recipe is great because you can change up the toppings to create a few fun recipes. Try pretzels for a saltier taste or m&ms for a fun kid-friendly treat.

If its not crunchy, put it back in the freezer!

 

What are your favourite holiday recipes? Let us know in the comments below!