Not a bottle blond.

I have never made a blondie before! It's a hard thing for a baker in North-America to admit. Never made it and never really cared. Until Now. I'm procrastinating in a big way. Looking for ways to avoid packing for the road trip that I don't want to take. It seems that baking is providing a great way for me to accomplish my procrastination goal. So instead of packing for the work trip that I have to leave ludicrously early for tomorrow morning, I am BAKING! My friend KT, as you all know, does not like chocolate in any form (yes, even the cocoa powder form!) so recently I've been on the look out for recipes without chocolate. Now, I know that they have been there all along my Peeps, but the difference is that now I CARE. To be fair though, these blondies would not be served to my dear KT because I did end up putting chocolate in them. Two kinds, in fact. White (Ack - here it is again!) and Dark. And... it works.

How could you go wrong really, chocolate of multiple varieties, nuts, sugar, eggs - sounds good to me. It appealed my peeps (kind of like 'the Dude abides' - The Big Lebowski' for those of you unfamiliar) and I'm kind of surprised that it did. Maybe my own tastes are changing! Ah, I'm not going to over-analyse this and just enjoy. I think that I'll take some of these little beaut's with my on my seriously long work road trip (on a bus with 120 teenage boys - did I mention that before????!!!!). I'm sure that they will help me through.

Blondies with White and Dark Chocolate Chunks
(The complete Magnolia Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 lg eggs room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate (good quality - I used Lindt)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Dark Chocolate (above 60% cocoa solids)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Butter and grease a 9 inch round cake pan (I used springform)
In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly.

Sitr in the walnuts and chocolate chunks. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan. Bake for 35 - 40 min. or until a tester comes out clean. Do not overbake!
Allow to cool and serve.

Poppy Seed Cake... and a Big Bus

I am in a tizzy getting blog posts ready because I am going to be away for a little while. The little school where I work(!) is doing a tour and I have been 'asked' to be a chaperone. Of course, I 'willingly' obliged! So, off we all go on a big bus for 6 days to more places than I can keep track of. I have 9 'lovely' Grade 8 boys for the week and I'm really looking forward to it (!).

I wish that I could take this cake with me. There is something homey about it. It's neither sweet nor heavy which makes for an interesting thing. I would call it a loaf but it doesn't exactly have a 'loafy' texture. It's quite perfect just the quaint way it is. Nothing flashy, loud or attention seeking but beautiful and mellow.

I've had my eye on the recipe for a stupidly long time, don't know why I never got around to trying it... makes no sense. What makes this recipe a little different than the straight up poppy seed loaf varieties is that the poppy seeds are soaked in scalded milk for about 20 minutes or so. As a result, the poppy seeds aren't as crunchy. I found that the recipe called for a truck load of poppy seeds but when they are soaked they blend into the texture of the cake much more easily. I played with the glaze a little bit and you'll see in the pictures that the cake ended up having little pieces of citrus on it - ah well, it tastes good! AND it does taste good. It is mellow and understated, perfect for afternoon tea or after-school snacks. Not the kind of cake that will blow the socks off your dinner guests but just the kind of cake that will satisfy that afternoon snack craving!

Ukrainian Poppy Seed Cake
(adapted from Moosewood Cookbook)

3/4 cup poppy seeds
1 cup milk (I used just under a cup though)
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon rind (I used a tangerine that needed using)

1/2 cup orange juice (I used the juice of about 1 orange)
1/3 cup of sugar

Place poppy seeds and milk into a heavy sauce pan and heat just until it begins to come to a boil. Set aside for about 15 minutes or so to cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 inch tube/bundt pan.

In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside
In another bowl cream the butter then add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add in the vanilla and mix well.
Add the flour alternately with the milk/poppy seed mixture beginning and ending with the flour. Once well mixed add in the lemon juice and lemon rind. Mix well. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Cool and then put onto a platter.

Mix together the orange juice and sugar and heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Once the cake is cooled pour the glaze over the cake (I poked little holes everywhere in the cake so that the glaze could sink in).

Black and White with help

This was inspired (at least for me) by Michael Jackson's song 'Black and White' that my kids(!!!!) now listen to religiously. Well, not really but it made for a really good tie-in.

To say that these cookies look great is stating the obvious. They really are quite sophisticated looking... especially when done perfectly, in a cookbook! Ours didn't turn out quite so 'perfect' BUT I had great help from my 9 year old and I figure that I'd rather have some rather 'runny' looking cookies with a happy kid than have the 'perfect' ones. Perhaps it was precisely because of the 'help' but do keep in mind that these little beauties are MESSY! We had as much icing on the counter and floor as landed on the cookies themselves (and that's not even considering all the icing that mysteriously made it's way around kid #1's mouth!). Great fun though.

There seems to be a little confusion about where the 'true' history of these cookies but it's clear that New York state is the general area. They also seem generally considered a New York City treat. That's all cool but I don't really care. They look good and they taste great! This recipe is another hybrid. Joy the Baker and Martha S again. Martha's Cookies book gave me little bite-sized cookies! Ick! I want cookies! Joy came out right but I realized that it was the same recipe as in the MSCookie book doubled! The icing did change a bit though and I didn't add in the lemon juice that MS recommended - somehow lemon just didn't appeal to me here. The cookie itself came out lovely, cakey and squidgy. Probably too puffy to be considered 'authentic' but delish nonetheless. If you wanted to spend a lot of time to get each cookie just right, they would be quite impressive! We are happy with them just the way there are though...

Black and White cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies and Joy the Baker)
(made about 38 medium sized cookies)

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk

2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz semisweet chocolate
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, mix the butter until fluffy and add sugar. Mix both until creamy and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
Mix in egg and vanilla. Mis in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk.
On lined baking sheets drop tablespoon sized balls of dough. Allow room for spreading. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a baking rack.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add in the vanilla and corn syrup. Mix and add little bits of water until it's the consistency of thick honey. Done the white stuff.

In a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate butter and corn syrup over lightly simmering water. Set aside to cool. chocolate stuff Done!

On cooled cookies add the white stuff on one side. Rest or refridgerate for about 20 - 30 min. to set. Add the cooled chocolate stuff to the other side and refridgerate or rest for another 30 min. until set.
When storing, put parchment or something in between the layers so that they don't stick!

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

My Favourite Cookbooks

  • Naparima Girls High School Cookbook
  • The Silver Palate Cookbook
  • More-with-Less Cookbook
  • Moosewood Cookbook

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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