How to Make a White Chocolate Peony

White Chocolate Peony | Korena in the KitchenThis month marks a new direction for the Daring Bakers, who have now joined forces with the Daring Cooks in a single monthly Daring Kitchen Challenge. Shillpa of Cakeline the Journey kicked off this new format by setting us all the challenge of cake design – specifically the use of “edible clays” such as fondant, gum paste, and/or modeling chocolate to create fully edible cake decorations. I hardly need an excuse to bake a cake, so I was right into this challenge.

White Chocolate Peony | Korena in the Kitchen

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Gingerbread Cottage

Gingerbread Cottage | Korena in the Kitchen

The twelfth day of Christmas was yesterday and now technically the holidays are really over, but I’m nothing if not always slightly behind the 8-ball when it comes to seasonal posts. So bear with me on this one.

The holidays at our house left a slick of butter, a cloud of sugar, and a trail of cookie crumbs. SO MANY cookie crumbs. I went hog wild with baking Christmas cookies two weeks before Christmas, so by the time Christmas actually happened, we absolutely didn’t need any more baked goods in the house. But I needed a baking project to take on between Christmas and New Year’s, and I decided on a gingerbread house. I know, I know – it’s a baked good, but I wasn’t planning on eating it. Gingerbread houses are generally made of “construction grade” gingerbread and royal icing glue, both of which are rock hard and not exactly prime snacking material. Plus, I just really wanted to make a gingerbread house, and one of the perks of adulthood is that sometimes you can do what you want!

Gingerbread Cottage | Korena in the Kitchen

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Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels | Korena in the KitchenI took these photos at 8:30 pm on December 21, literally the darkest day of the year. It’s awfully difficult take take natural light photos when you never see your house in the daylight during the week. Blogging is such hard work!

I plunged into the Christmas cookie madness with both feet last week and spent every evening after work baking cookies. I think I was averaging two recipes a night in preparation for our annual pre-Christmas trek to Vancouver to see family, which coincided this year with my remarkable grandfather’s ninety-eighth (!!) birthday. These cookies in particular are a re-make of a childhood favourite that I remember asking my mum to make every year. Something about the spiraled layers of different coloured dough mixed with the flavour of peppermint and chocolate makes me feel all nostalgic.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels | Korena in the Kitchen

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Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti | Korena in the KitchenI had a jarring realization this past weekend that we were less than two weeks away from Christmas and that I hadn’t started any Christmas shopping – or worse, any Christmas baking. But then I remembered that I had actually baked and sent off holiday cookies for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap several weeks ago, so all was not lost. I participated in the Cookie Swap in 2013, then missed the sign-up deadline last year, so I was pretty excited to be part of it again this year. Participants pay a small entrance fee to raise money for the Cookies for Kids Cancer campaign, and then are matched up with three food bloggers to send cookies to. In return, you receive cookies from three other bloggers. These are the goodies that I got in the mail:

Merry Christmas to me, indeed!

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti | Korena in the Kitchen

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Jamie Oliver’s Charming Eccles Cakes

Eccles Cakes | Korena n the Kitchen

We recently upgraded our cable TV situation and we now get a channel that plays a lot of Jamie Oliver shows, which is just fine by me. A little while ago we watched the Jamie’s Great Britain episode where he visits Yorkshire and makes eccles cakes: little puff pastry rounds traditionally filled with currants. Normally this kind of thing doesn’t appeal to me – too mincemeat-y – but I remembered back to the tiny delicious eccles cake I had at Abkhazi Garden and how it tasted exactly like Christmas, and suddenly I was consumed by the desire make Jamie’s eccles cakes, which include apples and a good dose of spice and citrus zest.

Eccles Cakes | Korena in the Kitchen

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Chocolate-Bottomed Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie

Chocolate-Bottomed Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie | Korena in the Kitchen

I made this chocolate, bourbon and maple syrup-laced pecan pie about a month ago for Canadian Thanksgiving after finally admitting that I don’t like pumpkin pie all that much – I mean, it’s OK, but I can think of probably a dozen other desserts I’d rather eat. And after tasting this pie, all I can ask myself is, “why was I holding on to pumpkin for so long?!” Gooey maple custard, crunchy pecans, a good dose of bourbon, and some dark chocolate to cut through the sweetness: now THAT is a pie worth making every year. It sounds like a lot of things going on in one pie, but they are all the perfect complement to one another. The only thing that could have used some work was my pie crust, which – to be honest – has never been the tender, flaky masterpiece I’ve always wanted it to be.

Chocolate-Bottomed Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie | Korena in the Kitchen

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Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread | Korena in the Kitchen

The bakery in the town I grew up in made a delicious cinnamon raisin bread, and on the occasions that I could convince my mum to buy a loaf, I would eat practically the entire thing myself, toasted and slathered with butter. Now, being an adult, I can, of course, go to the store and buy a loaf whenever the urge strikes – but in this particular instance, the urge also struck to make it myself.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread | Korena in the Kitchen

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Daring Bakers: French Meringue Macarons

French Meringue Macarons | Korena in the Kitchen

For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares: macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.

I’ve fallen off the wagon with the Daring Bakers challenges over the past few months, but I jumped right back on this month to co-host a macaron challenge with my blog-pal Rachael. It was really fun to come up with this challenge together, capturing all our collective macaron wisdom into a Word document that we passed back and forth (I think we ended up on version eleven!), and deciding to create videos showing our macaron-making techniques (mine is here – recorded on my iPhone because my DSLR ran out of batteries, d’oh! –  and Rachael’s is here).

French Meringue Macarons | Korena in the Kitchen

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Apple Strawberry Custard Tart

Apple Strawberry Custard Tart | Korena in the KitchenI’m going to say it: fall is my favourite season. I know everyone loves summer because SUNSHINE, but I love fall because SWEATERS, and SOUP, and CRISP MORNINGS, and FIRES IN THE FIREPLACE. Fall fees like a relief after a long, hot, parched summer – at this time of year, the weather is still pretty gorgeous but we’ve had a bit of rain so everything is green again, just in time for the riot of fall colours as the leaves start to turn. Not to mention the absolute bounty of fall produce. I’ve been at the local farmers market every Saturday for the past three weeks, just soaking in the gorgeous fall veggies, filling my cloth bags to the brim with massive heads of broccoli and cauliflower, big orange squash, peppers, kale, chard, and salad greens. Of course there are apples, but to my surprise, there is also one stand that is still selling local strawberries in October!

Apple Strawberry Custard Tart | Korena in the Kitchen

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Perfect Plum Cake

Perfect Plum Cake | Korena in the KitchenSorry for the complete lack of posts this month – I have a pretty good excuse, I promise (more on that to come!). To make up for it though, I bring you cake. And not just any cake: a gorgeously pink-tinged cake full of plums, which are fast becoming my favourite fruit for baking.

I’ve always had a soft spot for cooked plums – I love how they sweeten as they slump into themselves and turn that gorgeous jewel-toned garnet colour – and especially plums in cakes. Earlier this summer I came across a recipe for a plum cake with – get this – plum caramel, and I started pulling out ingredients the second I finished reading those two words. Plum caramel is a genius combination of cooked sugar mixed with pureed plums instead of heavy cream, and it is every bit as delicious as it sounds. I highly recommend you make some, immediately.

Perfect Plum Cake | Korena in the Kitchen

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