Boston cream doughnuts (yes, really)

These doughnuts were not made by normal Hilary. No, rather, they were made by that possessed-with-patience Hilary that somehow sees spending hours making miniature doughnuts as a natural continuation of her post-workday Wednesday. Before you get all excited about making these, you must know that homemade doughnuts are truly a labour of love (a grade above the insanity it takes to make homemade perogies, even). At least six hours from start to finish, folks. Not all preparation time, I should say, but a rising time with the yeast dough that makes you feel as though you are watching Father Time play a game of bocce ball before engaging in a chess marathon. You have been warned.

Confession: these doughnuts involve a partial sneaky snarkiness. They are a tiny expression of distaste over my parents’ decision to go to Boston (one of my top three near-future dream trip destinations) this week and leaving me behind. Over the past two years, I have hypothetically planned enough Boston adventures of my own to be extremely jealous. In the meantime, I brought Boston home. Eat your heart out, beautiful city.

(I am quite positive my parents will be taking a picture of Boston cream pie for me, and perhaps I’ll paste that photo right here once they return)

AN ADVENTURE IN DEEP-FRYING
For those who don’t know, I played in a recreational baseball league this summer. This is only relevant because the story that follows took place at our final post-baseball game party at our coach Nat’s house. Remember Nat? She’s the one that’s starting Sudbury’s first gourmet food truck and has therefore propelled herself to the top of my Ultimate Cool Person list.

Anyways, this party was not your traditional beer-drinking and barbeque. Yes, the evening did involve both these things (perhaps a tad too much of one), but it also involved another aspect: deep fried food…items like risotto balls that Nat had hand-shaped into careful spheres and tossed in a panko bread crumb mixture to form an irresistible shell. The hot-oil treats didn’t stop there – soon we were deep frying two-bite brownies, strawberries, and cheese. It was gloriously indulgent and made us giggle.

Deep fried brownies, Nat frying the risotto balls

What I’m getting at here is that I’ve had the urge to do my own deep frying ever since attending this party. I know that is the most diabetic desire ever, but I can’t help myself! Something about dropping things in hot oil and watching as the bubbles shoot out the sides just really gets me.

So these doughnuts were deep fried.

A few notes on that: it is probably not best to try deep frying things for the first time when you’re home alone and it is 12:55 a.m. It is especially not good when the person doing said deep frying has an irrationally large fear of oil-inflicted fires, a sense of alarm caused by too many university roommate mishaps and childhood hours watching Smokey Bear commercials.

At one point a bit of oil slopped over the side of the pan, and I, pardon my French, almost shit myself. I ran for the fire extinguisher, and recited out loud everything I’ve ever been told about how you should never try and extinguish an oil fire with water. Good news. I made it through the process and am still alive to tell the tale.
Putting the dough in doughnuts (pre-frying)
Now (this was written Wednesday night) the kitchen smells like the back room of a fast food joint…the smell of deep fried dough lingering in the air with just the right amount of sleeziness to make me feel as though I’m operating a cheap, 24-hour motel. It reminds me of the time I was trained to work at a Beavertails shack on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa…the deep fryers burning and bubbling, emitting the scent of oil and overcooked dough into the small room. Luckily that job never came to fruition and my winter jacket quickly released the smell of deep fried everything.
With these doughnuts, the deep frying was just part of the fun. Next came the filling.
The original recipe asked that I use “a long, plain pastry tip to poke a hole through the midline of each doughnut.” I do not own a pastry tip, nevertheless a long one. Devoid of anything that even resembled a pastry tip or bag, I did what any classy, macgyvering girl would do – I used a wine corkscrew to poke holes in the doughnuts (yes, under all normal circumstances, a proper corkscrew would be the ladylike thing to use…unlike former encounters with wine opening, which have involved knives, screwdrivers and an attempt involving a brick wall and a running shoe).
Once all was said and done, these were delicious. My Ziploc bag pastry cream piping method ended up working perfectly and the glaze was great (I just polished the leftover chocolate off my whisk).
The final product is worth the effort, if you have the time. Turns out journalists love doughnuts, who would have thought?
Disregard the half eaten doughnut, please.
Oozing, in the best possible way

Bacon chocolate chip cookies (finally!)

Kitchen mishaps are one of the things I love most about cooking. I enjoy the moments that would normally frustrate people – something breaking, something dropping, accidentally dyed utensils and spoons that have been flung to the floor.

Know where this is going? The ultimate bacon fat failure.

These cookies contained a pound of bacon, and, as you can surely guess, this much meat cooks off quite a bit of fat. Being the person I am, I wanted to find the best way to keep this fat for as long as possible, thereby to extend its cooking potential. Holding it in an old chick pea can would not do, and so I set my eye on one of the cute little Mason jars sitting beside the sink. That way I could put a lid on the bacon fat and store it in my closet should my mom get too “you’re SO unhealthy for keeping all that crap around my kitchen.” Well, as these things sometimes are, this idea was good in theory and not in application.

I started pouring the freshly warmed bacon fat into the Mason jar and, about three seconds in, heard a quiet “pop.” It sounded like the tiny man who had been inhibiting the inside of the jar decided he wanted to have a firing practice. Imagination aside, I looked down at the base of the Mason jar where, sure enough, all that lovely fat had started spreading over the kitchen counter, like a zamboni flooding an ice rink.

I am an impressive individual

It dripped down the drawers and pooled in a small puddle at my feet. I was shocked, confused and incredibly amused. I rushed upstairs to get my camera, all while my mother set idly by in the family room watching Law and Order.

Bacon fat incidents aside, let’s talk about these cookies. For those who don’t know, I consider bacon and chocolate the ultimate combination – a rich marriage of salty and sweet.

The delicious dough

I first fell in love with the pairing when I tried these Movember-inspired chocolates at the end of last year. They were unbelievable, first because Jen at koko chocolates in Ottawa is amazing at her job, and second because they included b&c. I’ve been trying to find an excuse to make something like this ever since.

Thank god for those newsroom bake sales (as previously mentioned here).

Cookie recipients

Also: It must be mentioned that my friend and one of my baking idols, Yoshi, made bacon cookies at the same time as me! I know I’ve mentioned this many times before, but Yoshi is the owner of café petit gâteau in Sudbury and a constant source of inspiration and lunchtime chitter chatter for me. We were talking about bacon baking a few weeks back and inadvertently co-ordinated our attempts. You know what they say about great minds… Anyways, Yoshi and I did a cookie trade – her bacon oatmeal raisin cookie for my bacon chocolate chip one. Thanks, Yoshi!

Yoshi with her bacon oatmeal cookie
Our cookies are friends!

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Three-layer cookie jar brownies

These brownies were completely ridiculous.

When I saw a picture of these brownies online, I couldn’t resist making them myself. I do have a penchant for Oreo-stuffed desserts, after all. And come on… THREE LAYERS, GUYS.

Originally called “slutty brownies” by the Pinterest crowd, I decided against this name since I’m not a super huge fan of throwing the term “slut” around. The “cookie jar” name was inspired by my favourite Dairy Queen blizzard, a customized everything-Hilary-loves ice cream treat with cookie dough chunks, crumbled Oreo cookies and added brownie bits. It’s a treat.

But back to the brownies.

Yesterday’s newsroom bake sale gave me the perfect opportunity to make them. I feel like bake sales beg for over-the-top, sensationalized desserts. The more absurd the better. The inter-office bake sale was just another means to raise money for our Christmas party, an event for which I’m not even sure if I’ll still be around to attend. A few of us submitted a list of items we wanted to make and then people snagged each set of baked items ahead of time. I made these brownies and…wait for it…bacon chocolate chip cookies, a combination that I’ve been wanting to try for more than a year. I’ll post about those early next week.

A word of caution: heavy pre-10 a.m. sugar intake + Friday = not a productive morning. Factor that in with the head cold I’m currently recovering from and you’ve got a sugar buzzed, slightly congested half Asian on your hands. Beware. Also: not to be consumed with a mint chocolate cupcake and three ginger cookies. Or with those garlic-heavy perogies that a morning show guest brought in to celebrate the start of your city’s garlic festival. Yikes.

PS: someone asked me on Instagram how I got the three layers to stick together. This was something that concerned me, too, but they actually baked together extremely well. I think the icing of the Oreos had some sort of binding power over the two outer layers. As for getting these out of the 9×13 pan – I ran out of parchment paper, so I buttered/floured the hell out of the pan. They popped right out!

Oh yes, and have sneaky photo shoots at your desk before delivering the goods. This is key.

Oh hey, blurry Amy Dodge!

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Caramel sea salt brownies (and afternoon snacking confessions)

Every afternoon our newsroom becomes a porous entity. People pass in and out of the station’s backdoor like it’s nobody’s business, all in pursuit of one thing: a mid-afternoon snack. That snack usually comes in the form of some bagged goodie bought at the Shopper’s Drug Mart across the street from the station (my co-workers and I are convinced that we are the most frequent visitors to this location and are upset that none of the cashiers remember us and say something like “oh yes, I do remember you! You do have an Optimum card!).

The afternoon snacking binge is normally initiated by a single person (this is an alternating role) and then, contagious as a yawn, we are all suddenly in need of Smart Food popcorn, hummus and carrots, seasoned peanuts and Licorice nibbs. The latter is my vice, and on a number of occasions I’ve found myself having inhaled the bag’s contents before even making it back to my desk.

So there…I am a reasonably healthy eater, but I am also an unhealthy snack fiend.

Brownie bokeh

These brownies were inspired by the most recent of my Shopper’s Drug Mart trips in which, having previously managed to fend off the urge to purchase an expensive “Excellence” series Lindt chocolate bar, I finally gave in when my co-worker and friend Jen asked if I wanted to go splitsies on a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. We chose two of our favourites – the dark chocolate sea salt and the milk chocolate crunchy caramel bar – and proceeded to (or at least I did anyways) stuff our faces with a sickening amount of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. This posed a problem. For anyone who has ever been required to speak into a microphone, you’ll know that eating dairy in any form is not a good idea before doing any sort of recording. This in mind, I had to drink about a gallon of water before I was able to voice my narration for the next day’s news piece. Radio reporting + copious amounts of chocolate = not an excellent combination, sadly.

The idea for these brownies didn’t fall too far from the tree, and are a wonderful marriage of that delicious caramel/sea salt/chocolate threesome. A special thank-you to my co-worker Erik who suggested this week’s dessert be something in square-form (inherently non-photogenic, but I tried).

These did the trick in keeping any afternoon Shopper’s Drug Mart trips at bay BUT did little to quell my daytime eating habits. I may have had five of these on Friday. That’s just how good they were.

Brownie love

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Quinoa fried rice* with chocolate banana-avocado pudding**

*does not actually contain rice

**a dish best served while watching men’s synchronized diving and jumping around your kitchen pretending you’re a taekwondo champion

Nothing makes me want to eat healthy like watching the Olympics. Don’t get me wrong, I eat healthy food most of the time, but there’s nothing quite like muscular, Speedo-clad men to make me reconsider that tempting bowl of Dijon-doused potato salad. No, I’m not blushing. Stop that! Look away.

Last week, Wendy (remember, our food-loving web editor) kindly brought the newsroom in a selection of veggies from her lovely garden. Since she knows I love kale, she brought me a large Ziplock bag, packed to the re-sealable brim with the hearty green. The bag was puffed up like a pillow, and it took every last ounce of my will power to not doze off at lunch, head resting on a sack of sprouts.

I was lacking any sort of dinner inspiration last night (I blame the distractions on TV), and so I did as one always does when one is unmotivated – I cooked with quinoa. This turned out to be quite a successful course of action, and I thank this recipe for providing the basis of my meal.

And, since stuffing my face while watching incredibly fit athletes excel isn’t enough for me, I decided to make dessert.

One of the fondest memories I have of my old roommate Brittany is her penchant for creating desserts that were often more nutritious than my meals. Britt was the queen of homemade sorbets, and our Ottawa kitchen was frequently abuzz with the sound of her blending any combination of bananas and frozen berries. The result was normally consumed on our futon as we watched a movie in the dark. It’s been seven months since I last saw Britt, and so this dessert is dedicated to her.

I first discovered the chocolate-avocado combination when on my hunt for Ottawa’s best cupcake. Oh yes, for those of you just tuning in, that was a thing. I tried nearly 50 different kinds of cupcakes, one of which was a parsnip cupcake with dark chocolate and avocado frosting by Holly and Jackie at L’Oven. Since trying that cupcake, my mind occasionally flashes back to the silky smooth consistency of that icing – the melt-on-my-tongue texture. Last night, at long last, it was time to recreate it.

I know that this could have been a sugar free dessert, but frankly, I’m just starting to like unsweetened apple sauce and natural peanut butter. I needed a bit of sweet. Sugar-free evangelists be damned, please give me this – just leave me and my 1/2 tsp sugar at peace.

This pudding carries two aftertastes – it’s initially banana, which then fades out like a bad 80’s pop song into a wonderful avocado flavour. Since there’s no real added liquid, the pudding is nice and thick, which is perfect for the 10-year-old trapped in my body that likes to ooze the dessert out of my teeth. Gross, I know. I promise I’ll never do it in public.

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