Friday, July 15, 2016

British Madeira Loaf Cake...on your marks, get set, BAKE!

My husband is British (a Geordie) so we watch a lot of British TV, mostly comedies and crime dramas or murder mystery-type shows (stay away from Midsomer...deadliest place in all of fictional Britain!). His Geordie accent has faded through the years, but you can hear some awesome Geordie accents here, here, and here. I love the accent, wye aye, of course, but it's canny impossible to imitate! When he first moved to America, people had no idea he was from England and usually guessed Australia, which is funny to me because the Geordie accent sounds nothing like an Australian accent. But, I digress...

One of our favorite food-related shows (British or not) is The Great British Bake Off...on your marks, get set, BAKE! No Geordie accents there, but lots of fun bakes and kitchen mayhem in the tent. I decided that I might try to bake some of the recipes from the show as we watch each week (although I'm already a week behind in posting this!). In the first episode, one of the bakes was a Madeira loaf cake. I love anything with almonds and lemons, so I decided to try it.

I was planning to follow the Madeira loaf cake recipe from this BBC Good Food recipe, but I had to make some small changes because I had no all-purpose flour (how on earth did that happen?!) or self-rising flour that the recipe called I had to create my own regular flour using cake flour and bread flour; then I had to make self-rising flour by adding baking powder, and salt. A poster in the comment section on this site recommended converting bread flour and cake flour to all-purpose by using 6.25% of the total weight bread flour to the rest cake flour, so that's what I did, and then had to add leavening ingredients to create self-rising flour. Way more complicated than if I had the correct flour, but a fun experiment in substitutions and the awesomeness of the internet.

In addition to the issues with the flour, I also doubled the recipe, so I could slice and freeze one loaf, used more zest, a bit more egg, and added a bit of muscovado brown sugar, so I am including my slightly altered recipe here. Go here for the original.

gorgeous loaf - light and tender

The recipe is interesting because it doesn't call for any liquid! Most cake recipes call for milk or sour cream to offset the dry ingredients. This one didn't though, so it was a very easy cake to 'starting and ending with the dry ingredients' business. Sadly, neither of my loaves rose properly in the center and I didn't get the required open crackle dome top. I think this could be because of the changes I made to the recipe, all of the issues with making my own flour, or because I baked two loaves side by side and perhaps there wasn't enough airflow in the oven. However, even though it was lacking the signature crackle, the cake was delicious - a hint of the ground almonds and a hint of lemon. It reminded me of a light pound cake with a dense but really tender crumb. It would be a perfect addition for a tea party, or even to just make ahead, freeze and then thaw a slice or two for company. Twenty seconds in the microwave brings a slice back to life, warm and fresh.

375g cake flour

25g bread flour
3 3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
(alternately, use 400g of self-rising flour instead of the 4 ingredients above)

100g ground almonds

350g butter, softened
350g (minus 1 T) caster sugar or superfine sugar
1 T muscovado brown sugar
6.5 eggs
zest from 3 small lemons
2t vanilla extract
a splash or two of milk, if needed

Preheat the oven to 325º and prepare two loaf pans by greasing with softened butter. I also used a strip of parchment paper on the bottom of the pans. Set the pans aside.

mise en place - so simple!

Combine the first four dry ingredients (cake flour, bread flour, baking powder, salt) in a large bowl and mix thoroughly; add the ground almonds, mix well, and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream together the softened butter, caster sugar, and muscovado brown sugar. Beat for about 5 minutes until very pale in color and increased in volume (see picture).

but butter and sugars, pale and fluffy

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. This will add the volume to your cake.

adding the eggs and more mixing

look how pretty! Light, fluffy...
Next, add the lemon zest and the vanilla. I'm using my own homemade vanilla :)  When I've made vanilla more recently, I've added more pods to the bottles than in my original post that I linked to. It "cooks up" into vanilla much faster and has a more aromatic essence to it - I definitely recommend going in strong with the beans.

adding the vanilla and lemon zest
Next, mix the ground almonds and flour mixture together, then add slowly to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.

mixing the flours and ground almonds together

beating in the dry ingredients
The batter will be thick, but should be loose enough to drop off a spoon. If it's too thick, put the mixer on low speed and mix in a few splashes of whole milk until it thins out slightly.

Spoon half the batter (I weighed mine to try to get the loaves as equal as possible) into each of your loaf pans; smooth the top of the batter.

Bake at 325º for 25 minutes, rotate pans, bake for additional 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Rotating the pans (i.e. taking them out of the oven briefly) may also be a reason for the non-crackling could try to not rotate them and see if that improves the crackling situation.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently remove the loaves from the pans to a wire rack and cool completely. Slice and enjoy with a cuppa!

almost, nearly wanted to close, but nope!

a close-up of my non-cracked tops :(

the crust is a gorgeous golden brown color

and the inside has a light and tender crumb


Bye for now...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Eating out in Montréal, part IV: Gibbys & Modavie

The final post of my spring adventures in dining out in Montréal were dinners out at Gibbys and Modavie. Check out the other posts here: part I (Atwater Market & La Panthère Verte), part II (Bocata, La Gargote, & Olive et Gourmando), and part III (Resto L’Avenue, Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann, and Cantinho de Lisboa)

Gibbys is a yummy steak house, built in a 200-year-old stone building that looks like the stables of an old castle. The atmosphere is kind of old school: the stone walls continue on the inside, it's somewhat formal (although there were plenty of diners casually dressed), and dimly-lit. It was fun for a fancy date night! Being that it was a steak house, both my husband and I ordered a steak and we both enjoyed the meal. They also did this funny thing (at least, funny to us as we'd never experienced this before) where, along with the bread, they brought us pickles and a small bowl of bacon bits. It was a little odd. The pickles I could kind of understand as vinegar can help with digestion (and most people are about to chow down on a steak), but the pickle-bacon combo was kind of funny.

The best part of the evening, by far, was the flaming after-dinner drink that my husband ordered. It was pretty intense! It began with the server rolling out a huge drink cart with coffee and sugar and flames and lots and lots of alcohol! She used about 4 different liquors and finished the drink by lighting it on fire. The glass was so hot that my husband had to use a hot pot holder just to hold the drink!

the interesting bread-pickles-bacon bits pre-dinner combo

my green salad

a lemon sorbet palate cleanser from the chef

mmmm...steak and lobster

steak with mushroom sauce

the amazing after-dinner drink show

our delicious hot apple croûte...we had to full!

Saving one of our favorites for last, Modavie! We've been to Modavie on several of our visits to Montréal and love it every time. We tend to eat out early so can usually get in without a reservation, but generally, this place is hopping as it gets later and the live music begins. The atmosphere at Modavie is fun and friendly and the food is delicious!

For dinner, we each had a salad and then I had the mussels and frites in a Pernod sauce (a seriously enormous portion!) and my husband had the steak frites. Montréal loves their steak frites :) 

Caesar salad with bacon and croutons

beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts

my enormous portion of mussels


a Montréal tradition, steak frites


another delicious apple in puff pastry...if there's fruit, it's healthy, right?


Bye for now...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Eating out in Montréal, part III: Resto L’Avenue, Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann, & Cantinho de Lisboa

Part III of our gastronomical tour through Montréal takes us to Resto L’Avenue, Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann, and Cantinho de Lisboa. Check out the other posts here: part I (Atwater Market & La Panthère Verte), part II (Bocata, La Gargote, & Olive et Gourmando), and part IV (Gibbys and Modavie).

Resto L’Avenue was a super funky breakfast joint we happened upon while out for a walk on Mont Royal. They had mannequins, a spray-painted mural wall, and a black-lit bathroom with florescent writing all over the walls. Contrary to the decor, the food was pretty traditional breakfast fare and was yummy and hearty. And, they served watermelon water...interesting!

the huge watermelon water tank

pretty cappuccino

all of the meals came with a fruit skewer

scrambled eggs with bacon, potatoes and cheese
(although I thought the cheese would have been melted over the eggs, lol)

eggs over-easy with sausage and potatoes

Kouign amann is one of my favorite desserts. It's flaky, buttery, and simple but delicious. And, I love making laminated doughs so it's a win-win! I've actually made kouign amann twice with varied results: very successfully as part of the Rose's Alpha Bakers club and once semi-successfully (although still yummy) using David Lebovitz's recipe. So, when we were planning our trip to Montréal, I had to search for the best place to eat kouign amann and found the aptly named...Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann.

This bakery is a tiny neighborhood place (so tiny they don't even have a website!), which just happens to specialize in this amazing pastry. When we got there (around 10:00 am, I think), they had already sold out of the first batch of kouign amann so we had to come back about 30 minutes later for the next batch which was in the oven. We actually reserved our slices to make sure we would get some when we returned! And, boy am I glad we did - they were warm, caramelized, sweet but not overly so, and buttery. 

a delicious slice

the hot kouign amann, fresh out of the oven,
waiting for a lucky buyer

some of the other pastries they sell

Last in this post is Cantinho de Lisboa. An eat-in or take-out café with a Portuguese flavor. Cantinho de Lisboa was near our airbnb rental so we ate there twice - once for lunch and once for breakfast (when Olive et Gourmando was too busy...see part II for my thoughts about O+G). The food was very good, flavorful and not too heavy, and the atmosphere was fun and comfortable. Even though we were there for lunch, it wasn't too busy so we were able to hang out, write postcards, and read. The counter staff were all very friendly too!

When we went for lunch, I had a warm prosciutto and cheese sandwich on a baguette and my husband had a ham sandwich on a croissant. Both were served with a bit of salad and fried potato sticks...both were also delicious! When we returned for breakfast a few days later, I had a plain croissant, which they served with a sweet tomato jam...which I had never had before, but was surprisingly yummy! My husband had a ham and cheese croissant which was served with fruit.

cute rooster mural and some dishes for sale

my yummy sandwich

the ham and cheese sandwich on a croissant

back for brekkie...a croissant and sweet tomato jam

and a ham and cheese croissant served with fruit

 Bye for now...

Eating out in Montréal, part II: Bocata, La Gargote, & Olive et Gourmando

Part II of our gastronomical tour through Montréal takes us to Bocata, La Gargote, and Olive et Gourmando. Check out the other posts here: part I (Atwater Market & La Panthère Verte), part III (Resto L’Avenue, Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann, and Cantinho de Lisboa), and part IV (Gibbys and Modavie).

First up for this post, Bocata. Bocata is a wine bar with lots of delicious small plates. They also have a regular menu...everything we had was amazing. The atmosphere was very cozy - a wall of wine behind the bar and several other walls filled, floor-to-ceiling, with books (in fact, they bring your check tucked into a book - cute!).

cute - the check came tucked into a book

Our waiter was also fantastic, very friendly, knowledgeable, and adorable. He explained several wine choices to us, made menu and wine recommendations, gave us wine samples to help us decide, and happily answered all of my questions (I always have lots of questions about menus and food). Here is our waiter, slicing the pata negra de bellota (ham from acorn-fed black pigs from Spain), which my husband had for an appetizer; he added the pan con tomate (basically, a tomato bruschetta). I had the croquette de crabe des neiges (snow crab cake) for an appetizer and the fish special for my main course. Everything was so delicious!

our awesome waiter

the pata negra de bellota - so delicious!

he also had the pan con tomate

a delicious snow crab cake

all crab!

my amazing fish dish

my husband's chop

we had to share dessert, an interesting (delicious) carrot cake - it's vertical!

Next up is La Gargote is a cute little French bistro in Old Montréal which happened to be near our airbnb rental. They have a prix fixe or a la carte menu. I had the carrot potage to start and then pasta with ham and peas in a cream sauce. My husband had a pâté starter with a steak.

yummy carrot potage

pâté with endive

my delicious pasta

steak and potatoes

Olive et Gourmando is last in this post. I'm probably the only person in Montréal who thinks this...but, I'll say it, I thought Olive et Gourmando was a bit overrated. First of all, it's packed from the moment they open until they close so it's hard to even get in and get a table...and then you feel kind of rushed out once you do sit down. I also thought the food was just...good. It wasn't anything special or original or anything not available at many other restaurants or cafés in the city. So, needless to say, we only went once. It was good, but we didn't feel the need to wait in line again a second time.

a cheese croissant

the fruit salad was interesting - currants and toasted coconut!

my husband's panini

the cappuccino was delicious

Bye for now...