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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.

Send the gift of chocolate this holiday season

 

What says “thank you” or “thinking of you” better than a beautifully arranged and decorated chocolate platter, especially around the holidays?

Nothing — or at least that’s what Jennifer Snider, founder of Sugar Mommy Inc., believes. “It goes with it,” she said in an interview with Women’s Post. “You think of holidays you think of chocolate.”

SugarMommy is a chocolate and treats company that specializes in packaged gifts and decorative arrangements. Their clients are mostly corporate; however they also cater to special functions and seasonal occasions.

The chocolate sold by SugarMommy is different than something you may purchase at a drugstore or a specialty-shop. First of all, the chocolate is delectably smooth. Made from quality ingredients, Snider’s treats are all hand made and sold at reasonable prices. Everything is customizable, so you only get the chocolates you want.

“I use products that are gourmet, but not so gourmet that people can’t afford it,” she said. Snider made it clear she is not out to gauge anyone’s pocketbooks this holiday season — she wants people to enjoy her chocolate, even if they only have $30 to spend.

The other difference is the presentation, something Snider says gets her a lot of compliments. Her platters, pails, and baskets are all meticulously prepared, with special emphasis on colour balance and variety. Whatever you choose make sure it includes the chocolate bark. The mint white chocolate and the toasted coconut bark are absolutely divine. Other top selling items include fudge toffee, white chocolate popcorn, Oreo bark, and sponge toffee.

Every single item is put together with care to create a work of art.

“It’s really important to me,” she said. “It’s handmade stuff and if you put passion into what you do, it comes across in your work.”

Most of Snider’s clientele come from corporate offices or medical offices looking for referral gifts for their own clients. She has also expanded to provide treats for parties and events. Her pails and baskets contain individually-wrapped treats and her martini glasses can be customized to fit specific colour schemes. She describes her work more as a centrepiece than a dessert.

One of the newest additions to SugarMommy is the candy table, beautifully decorated with martini glasses and an array of colours. Snider says it’s great for kids, but also for the parents as the presentation can appear quite elegant. “People take bags and fill them up, and they go crazy. It’s unique. It’s quite different and it looks beautiful and people love it.”

Snider started making chocolate when she was a teenager. “My mom taught me how to make it and I made it as gifts,” she said. “I think it was the creativeness [I liked]. I was never a great baker. It was the creative aspect that I loved – putting things together, making things pretty.”

She went to school for early childhood education and worked in the field until 2007. With five children of her own, Snider was spending most of her time at appointments. She continued to send out her chocolaty gifts until a few friends told her she should sell her creations. She decided to teach part-time and focus on building a business that he could run from her home.

“A lot of people pushed me and said you have a great product and you need to get out there. We put some money and investment into it,” she said. “Now we have a lot of return customers. They appreciate the hand-made touch to it. It is not the mass produce look. Clients take the time to send letters and emails appreciating the gift. It is much more personal then a gift card or a lunch.”

Snider is always on the lookout for new flavours and creations! Her inspiration come from her travels, as well as the trends in the market.

Interested in sending out the gift of chocolate this year? Holiday packages are available now! Go to sugarmommy.ca to check out all of the options. 

5 holiday desserts from around the world

What’s the best part of travelling? For me, it’s about the local culture, including the unique foods. This holiday season, you don’t need a passport to experience any of these international cultural traditions. North American holidays are known for turkey, stuffing and an assortment of sweet and sticky pies, but what are some other holiday desserts you can find around the globe?

Women’s Post showcases five unique and decadent international desserts from different cultures that are bound to impress guests at your next holiday party:

Phillipines- Pinoy Fruit Salad

Filipino food is amazing! While known for their glazed Christmas ham or desserts like halo-halo, during the Christmas season one of the most popular sweet treats is fruit salad. Yep, fruit salad, but this isn’t any random fruit salad. Normally, Filipino fruit salad, sometimes called Pinoy fruit salad, takes one can of fruit cocktail mixed with heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. You can also find versions with coconut meat, coconut milk, jello, tapioca pearls or added pineapple. Talk about easy, creamy and delicious.

France -Buche de Noel

This dessert might look familiar to some North American homes. Buche de Noel or Yule Log is a traditional sweet treat found in France and French-influenced countries during the Christmas holidays. It is made using a classic sponge cake coated in chocolate buttercream and rolled in chocolate shavings to resemble an actual log.

England- Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding, Christmas pudding ! What’s Christmas without some traditional Christmas pudding, especially if you’re from the U.K. Also known as plum pudding, this dessert is usually served after Christmas dinner and is made using a mixture of dried fruit,spices, molasses. There are no plums in the actual pudding, but lots of raisins. The pudding is often steamed for approximately three hours. Many people often soak the fruits before hand in Brandy  and once the pudding is done it is splashed with more alcohol. This helps to preserve the pudding for almost up to one year,

Guyana- Black Cake

Similar in look to the christmas pudding, this cake is made using minced dried fruits that have been soaked in cherry brandy or rum The fruits are mixed with flour, eggs and sugar, spices and molasses or browning. Once baked, the cakes are generously soaked in rum. This Christmas treat can be found in many Caribbean islands including Jamaica and Trinidad. Black Cake or Caribbean fruit cake are also popular at weddings and is said to bring prosperity and luck.

Australia- Pavlova

Even though it’s technically summer in Australia during the Christmas holidays, this doesn’t mean that Australians can’t indulge in a refreshing Christmas- summer dessert treat. This popular meringue- like dessert is named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova after she toured New Zealand and Australia in the 1920’s. Pavlova is made using egg whites, sugar, and cream, but it has a firm and crunchy exterior and a delicate inside. This dessert is usually served on Christmas day.

What are your favourite global holiday desserts? Comment and indulge!

Five unique desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth in Toronto

There are so many options when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth in Toronto. Thanks to a solid mix of culturally diverse and ethnically-diverse foods, Toronto is home to a global array of sweets. Women’s Post recommends these five unique desserts to try in the city.

Bubble Tea – Taiwan

I’m still amazed when I meet someone who has never tried Bubble Tea before. This magical treat comes in many versions and variations — from creamy iced milk-tea to fruity light teas, all with added tapioca (the bubbles) or substituted for chewy coconut or lychee jelly bits. At some places, there is the option of adding pudding or grass jelly. Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan and there are Taiwanese shops or specialty bubble tea stores almost on every street corner in Toronto. Try places like ChaTime or CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice.

Going for Chatime classics or the new twilight drink in the middle? #chatime #delicious

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Halo Halo – Philippines 

After always hearing about this popular Filipino dessert, I finally got my hands on one this summer. Its principle is rather similar to a snow-cone, but this isn’t just any ordinary shaved ice treat. Traditional halo-halo comes with shaved ice, evaporated milk, various fruits, boiled sweet beans, shaved coconut pieces, custard, and a topping of ice cream. You can also get unique flavours like ube or mango. When I had my halo treat, I was lucky enough to get it from a Filipino food-truck called the Crane Express. But check out other Filipino restaurants in the city that may offer this treat as a dessert.

Austrian Cheese Bun- Austria

Austrian Cheese Buns are a speciality treat made of homemade bread often filled with a sweetened cream cheese. The Guschlbauer is a traditional Austrian brand that dates back to 1919 and they opened their first North American location in downtown Toronto this summer. The buns are made fresh daily and the cream cheese is imported from Australia and New Zealand. The buns take almost three hours to prepare as they are carefully crafted with five layers of melted cream cheese. It’s almost like a cheesecake infused in a soft pillowy bun. Try flavours like original, mango , strawberry, chocolate and even sweet potato.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXENSjngZ0F/?taken-by=guschlbauerto

Nitrogen Ice-cream- United States

Regular ice-cream is just so passe, (just kidding)  but if you are looking to try a unique take on ice cream , try some nitrogen ice cream. While Dippin’ Dots was once poised to be the future of ice-cream, many creative innovations have come along. This innovative way of preparing the dessert involves infusing the creamy ice cream base with liquid nitrogen to whip up your frozen treat in seconds. Try places like Lab Sense or Cool N2 Canada. You can get traditional flavours like mango, strawberry triple Oreo or try something wild like Super-Frozen Cheetos!

This is the taste of summer sunshine ☀️ #cooln2downtown #nitrogenicecream

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Uji Matcha Tiramisu- Japan

This tiramisu is a twist on the classic Italian dessert, but it’s sure to not disappoint. Essentially you’re trading your espresso for some matcha green tea. This matcha cake will combine layers and flavours you did not think possible. The Cheese Garden in North York offers traditional Japanese treats, and recently they launched the Uji Matcha Tiramisu to celebrate their one year anniversary. The tiramisu comes with a top dusting of matcha straight from Uji, then a layer of melted cream cheese followed by layers of matcha flavoured lady fingers. This creamy and cheesy treat will only be around for a limited time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaaNk8nF02k/?taken-by=cheesegarden_ca

Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!

Cooling down this summer with homemade popsicles

A hot summer day with kids is excruciating, especially when everyone is hot and crabby. But there is a solution for moms and dads everywhere — homemade popsicles!

I ventured to the store with my daughter and grabbed a popsicle mould. We made it back home despite the intense heat wave and started making our delicious cool treat. Mix all the ingredients together with a blender by adding an avocado, a can of coconut milk, half a cup of coconut flakes, and 3-6 tbsp sugar depending on your preference for sweetness. Once the ingredients are smooth, pour them into the popsicle mould and freeze until solid. Affordable popsicle moulds can be purchased at the dollar store. These popsicles are full of fibre, protein and iron, and are delicious!

[Other options for homemade popsicles include] AWK TRANSITION. REMEMBER ARTICLES AREN’T LISTS.

If you are looking for something a little less traditional, try this gourmet twist on a strawberry popsicle by adding basil, or oranges for a citrus treat. If you are craving a pina colada on the beach, pineapple chunks blended with coconut milk and flakes makes a delicious popsicle. Most fruits and vegetables will taste delectable if blended with coconut milk and sugar once blended, though it is generally recommended to stay away from peaches because they don’t freeze well.

Acai berry coconut popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.
Acai berry coconut popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.

Nathalie Hernandez, owner of an artisan vegan ice pop company called Santopop, has a few tips. “Use fresh ingredients, the best raw materials means best pops. Also, get local fruits and respect the seasonality, it always tastes better,” Hernandez says. She also supports local farmers, and also handpick the ripest fruits, which helps you to use less sugar when blending the ingredients together.

Mango yangmei berry popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.
Mango yangmei berry popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.

I plan on making homemade popsicles weekly throughout the summer will be trying different handpicked fruits and vegetables from the farmers market. This will help my daughter get excited about picking out healthy foods, and she can help me blend all the ingredients together. By having healthy popsicles in the freezer, my daughter can avoid sugary ice pops and get a nutrition kick from a refreshing treat instead.

Give it a try and let Women’s Post know in the comments below know which fruits and vegetables are your favourite for homemade popsicles!