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)

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

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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Funfetti sprinkle cookies

So these cookies were fun.

I was browsing Tastespotting on my iPad the other day (a truly enjoyable experience, it seems like this food gallery site is optimized to be viewed perfectly on a tablet) when I saw a picture of these cookies. An hour later, I was making the recipe.

I know they look fairly childish and, like nearly everything else on this blog, prepared for a maniacal troop of five-year-old birthday-goers. This is something my mom brought up with me the other week. That’s right, we had the “people at work might not want to eat colourful things” conversation. I was sad for about 10 minutes after that, before realizing that I would make whatever I wanted. Things I make – colourful or not – always seem to disappear with quite a bit of ease, and so I maintain: things can look like a rainbow and still taste delicious. Case closed.

Anyways, the result of my baking was these beautiful little morsels that I thought resembled homemade Chips Ahoy cookies. They had almond extract in them, which was absolutely the best. If I was the type of person to include weird qualities about myself in my Twitter status, one of them would definitely be “something, something LOVES ALMOND EXTRACT.”

I brought these into the newsroom on Friday so we could all pig out during story meeting. Story meetings are more productive when cookies are provided: fact.

I also made a point to wear the sprinkle headband that I made back in March. I always thought it was channeling a Tim Hortons vanilla dip doughnut, but it turns out that these cookies were the true inspiration. Check it out…matching baking and head ware – it’s all the rage!


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Much-needed baking bliss: Lemon olive oil cookies and orange-raspberry muffins

As written on Thursday evening…

I was going to go to bed early tonight. I swore to myself that I was. Early these days is anything before 10:30 p.m., FYI, so that I can wake up at 6-something and listen to CBC’s morning show. I have failed to wake up before 7:20 a.m. three times this week. And tomorrow’s not looking too hot, either. Next week I’ll adapt to this full time work thing. Promise.

Anyways, how am I supposed to go to sleep when I had such an amazing evening of baking and creating things? I am on a DIY high, and no matter how tightly I shut my eyes, sleep will not come. I’ll blame the sugar – the mouthfuls of cookie batter and almond glaze that was transferred from mouth to belly this eve.

It seems as though Thursday has become my baking day. I’ve discovered that if I do not bake, I get really anxious and grumpy. Back in Ottawa I would bake at least three times a week, and it’s an activity that has been significantly cut down post-grad. No more running to the corner store in my sweatpants to buy icing sugar and cherry pie filling. Perhaps this is for the best… Anyways, my point is that baking relaxes me and makes me feel like my normal self again. Baking is something I know and am always sure of. It’s a chance to make something beautiful out of nothing, a principle that I’ll hopefully be able to apply to my journalism work over the next few months.

But enough of the personal ramble. Let’s talk food and flowers.

One half of the food-flowers super combo

I’ve wanted to make lemon cookies ever since Brittany made these delicious little cookie morsels that burst with lemony flavour. I still don’t know what recipe Britt used and, since I started making these cookies at 1 a.m. Paris time (remember? She’s on an exchange!), I figured I wouldn’t disrupt her slumber for the sake of my own personal cookie pleasure. Anywho, I used a Joy the Baker recipe because she is my favourite cookie recipe source ever. These were a little untraditional – lemon scented olive oil cookies with almond glaze. Yeah, you read that right. Olive oil. What the hell, right? Ah well, Joy knows what she’s talking about. And god knows the Greeks need me to use all the olive oil that I can.

I also made some orange-raspberry muffins.

Then, in true Hilary fashion, I had a photo shoot in my bedroom, where the 8 p.m. sun shines the brightest and my cute desk decorations serve as the perfect backdrop.

I also made a paper flower out of nine paper muffin liners. Yes, it is looped around that bottle of Marsala that I still haven’t put away. Yes, I do plan on making my own muffin liner bouquet should I ever get married. Yes, I did give this flower to my mom as a corsage. Judge. Not.

These are accompanying me to work tomorrow and shall be gifted to my hardworking, well-deserving CBC colleagues. Apparently Hilary Makes Friday Treats is baaaaaack.

Happy Thursday (well Friday now) and cheers to DIY bliss.

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