Instagram Instagram

Entries in cinnamon (3)


Truly, deeply, madly obsessed

picnic on the porch

With all the cupcakes we've been making lately (and cakes, there were two cakes too, but that's another story), you would think I would be done with treats. You would think I'd be happy to leave my baking cupboard closed for few days and give the mixer a rest. You would think that would be sensible of me.

If you think that, you're thinking wrong.

It isn't my offense though, this return to sugar and sweets. I didn't mean to become truly, deeply, madly obsessed with the thought of gingersnaps for two weeks straight. I blame it on the Grandparents.

I know it sounds cruel that I would place blame squarely on the well-intentioned shoulders of my children's grandparents, but I call them like I seem them.

It's totally their fault.

Benjamin came home with a cookie from Grandma. Not surprising, of course, as Grandmas are made of cookies (and Grandpas of candy, don't you know). Being the sweet little man he is, Ben was prompt to share his snack with me as soon as he walked through the door. His sweetness may have been slightly influenced by his inability to open the wrapper the cookie was presented in, but really that is neither here nor there.

Crinkle, rip, crunch.

Half for him, half for me. I popped my share in my mouth distractedly. I wasn't really even in the mood for a cookie. Benjamin is deeply offended if you do not immediately enjoy the treat that has been shared, so I obliged.

Munch, munch, munch. Drat.

This cookie was really very good. Really especially good. And gone. My mind raced to tack down its characteristics; a thin biscuity, wafery cookie. Not cakey in the least. Not crumbly, not delicate, but crisp. Spice, yes, there was spice involved. Where's that wrapper? Think, think, think. Cinnamon, definitely. And ... something else. Ginger? Yes! Ginger was it.

Now I needed to make gingersnaps.

I am proud to say my restraint won out, momentarily at least. I exercised the utmost self-control and waited until the flour had settled and the candle smoke had cleared from our birthday celebrations before I did what I had to do.

I Googled.

After a few search modifications, and a few pages I struck gold. Well, sugar dusted bronze, to be exact. David Lebovitz. Chez Panisse. Gingersnaps. Done.

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps
Unsurprisingly, considering their origin, these are some of the best gingersnaps I have tried. They are spicy without being claustrophobically so. The cinnamon and pepper add deeper dimensions of heat, complimenting the bright fire of ground ginger.

Recipe (via


• The dough is quite soft, so I used this method to form the logs prior to chilling: wrap loosely-formed dough on the centre of a piece of parchment paper, fold the paper over. Then, holding the two edges of the parchment parallel to the dough together, press a ruler against the log to compress.
• I preferred my cookies on the smaller size, rolling the log out to a 1-inch diameter. The cooking time ran about 8 minutes. I also experimented with different thicknesses of cookies, some whisper-thin and crackling, others fat and tender. All were delicious.
• I regard to baking times, these cookies do brown quickly, going from deeply-golden to overly-toasted in a matter of moments. Keep an eye on them.
• On a particularly-vulnerable evening, I may have taken two of the thicker, softer cookies and sandwiched them with vanilla bean ice cream in between. And on another night, there may have been peaches too. And it may have been nothing short of wonderful.

Help! I am also looking to contact Dor, one of the winners of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes giveaway; please e-mail me at tara [at] sevenspoons [dot] net to claim your prize by Thursday, June 25th, 2009. After that date, an alternate winner will be selected.


I love you anyway.*

Shown from their good side, the few that survived a cavalcade of failure; Fresh Apple Cupcakes with Swissamon Buttercream.

When you first fall in love, everything is perfection. Your hair is always neat, your clothes are always pressed, and you are never anything less than your wittiest, cutest, most capable and charming self.

Which brings me to this week. This week I have been a mess. The cold I thought I had long been rid of walloped me upside the head Monday morning; I was back to comfy clothes and congestion. A portrait of prettiness, indeed.

But this week planned to be special; it is the first Valentine's Day that Benjamin truly understands, and William's first ever. So despite everything, on Monday we made stained glass windows out of crayons and waxed paper, on Tuesday we made cards and banners and cutout hearts. Our tables were lost under pencil crayons and safety scissors, ribbons and rickrack, doilies and glue.

And then Wednesday we made cupcakes. With the intention of sending some of our sweet sentiments to our family and friends, I thought we would bake them early and have them ready to deliver on the days leading up to St. Valentine's.

I should have known better, and quit while I was ahead. All of our crafty endeavours had progressed with nary a hitch; all was bedazzled and beautiful, and I could have easily stopped the festive preparations there.

But no. I had wanted to do something specifically-special for our Valentine, our most favourite person in the whole wide world - Daddy. Daddy loves cupcakes, Mummy loves baking, Ben loves frosting and Will is often mesmerized by the whir of the stand mixer. It all seemed simple enough.

Oh, how I was wrong.

Maybe it was the sinus infection causing some sort of pressure on my brain that totally relieved me of my good sense, but I illogically thought it would be a grand idea to not only bake, but also create a new cake especially for my dear husband.

The flavours were easy to decide upon; apple and cinnamon - Sean's favourites. And while those flavours are old-fashioned and lovely, I did not want an old-fashioned sort of taste. I am already looking ahead to spring, and so I wanted a cake that was fresh and light, with a cloud of delicate frosting as its crown. Dark and decadent was not my aim; I wanted to capture the tart tang of an apple when you first bite into it. I wanted to set aside the sweet, deep resonance of slow-cooked apple pie or cobbler. Bright, twangy. That's what I wanted.

After days of reading over other recipes, I improvised my own. A barely-cooked applesauce formed the base, with lemon and sour cream highlighting that acidity. Cake flour was there for ethereal texture, and just enough butter to add a hint of richness. Perfection.

And then things started to go wrong. After making the batter I realized that I had the wrong size of liner for my muffin trays. I knew the batter would not wait for the required trip to the market for replacements, so I foolheartedly forged ahead, measuring and scooping, filling my 24 ill-fitting cupcake liners neatly.

Although my good sense knew better, I convinced myself that these little cakes could magically defy the laws of physics and remain upright even without sufficient support. I popped them into the oven and sent up a silent prayer, hoping that somehow they would bake up prettily.

Ten minutes later, I returned to the kitchen for a peek in the oven; one look, and I knew I was in trouble. Without the proper structure surrounding them, the cakes had risen unevenly; some cakes had crested over their liners and were oozing lazily across the tin, while others had simply given up any attempt to stand upright, instead sagging in on themselves rather sadly.

Undaunted, I rotated the trays and let them bake until done. Maybe all would end well.

Summoned by the timer, I returned to the kitchen to experience the most fabulous of scents; buttery, vanilla-scented air greeted me. It smelled gorgeous. Unfortunately, when I opened the oven door, not everything looked as good as it smelled. Most of the cakes were okay, some even fine, but others were especially Suessian in their looks.

It was of these skewed morsels that I split open to share with Benjamin to try. As we bit into our cake, still warm from the oven, I watched as his face lit up with pride and delight. The cupcake was delicious.

Tender, moist and with subtle apple coming through, the taste was perfect.

I had already planned my frosting, a Swiss meringue buttercream accented with cinnamon; maybe icing could cover my multitude of sins. I could feel that my energy was waning but, buoyed by the cupcakes (or perhaps a sugar rush), I tackled the recipe with gusto and fingers crossed that if I hurried, I would could hold off my cold symptoms until everything was finished.

To rush is to fail when it comes to certain things. Swiss meringue buttercream is one of those things. In my haste, I did not allow the meringue to completely cool before adding my butter; there was enough residual heat in the bowl to turn the frosting from a marshmallow-y mass to a melted mess. The fat turned liquid, and the meringue deflated under the weight.

That's when I walked away from the kitchen for a few hours.

Batch number two came together later in the evening, and without incident. Due to the crooked tops of a few of the cakes, some of my swirls were comically slanted when frosted. Nevertheless, these fairy cakes had their own whimsical charm that had me smitten.

And that is when the final disaster struck. I was lifting the cupcakes off the counter when I inexplicably lost all co-ordination and stumbled, losing my grip on their tray in the process. The cakes were not dropped from a great height, mind you, but from just enough that a few bumped their brethren; just enough that those then tumbled sideways, squashing their curlicued peaks into flattened plateaus.

Hearing my startled yelp, Benjamin ran over to see what was the matter. He saw the tray, surveyed them thoroughly and declared with a grin, "I love these cupcakes. Can I have one please?"

The way he looked at me, I felt brilliant.

Being a Mummy has taught me many things. It has taught me what blocks make the tallest towers, the words to The Gruffalo by heart, speedy tricks for effective stain removal, that baby giggles trump alarm clocks, that kisses can make most boo-boos better and that disheveled hair and smeared frosting will not stop some people from thinking that you're nifty.

Thank goodness for that. Happy Valentine's Day.

* Anyone with small children in their lives might recognize the title; it is the last line from the book Olivia (Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Book, 2000) by Ian Falconer.

Fresh Apple Cupcakes with Swissamon Buttercream
The title is a bit kitch, but Valentine's Day deserves a bit of fun.

As this was the first time I have made this recipe, and since the results tasty but inconsistent, I am going to hold off from publishing the details just yet. I will be sure to share once I have tried it again and everything is just right.


Almost better than pencils

A warm nibble for the cooler days ahead; spiced pumpkin scones. Photos courtesy of Deep Media.

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils ..."

Sometimes I think I would really like to go back to school.

I could say that it was because I wanted to be surrounded by knowledge, or that I long for the daily exchange of ideas or that I crave an opportunity to stretch my mental boundaries. But, while all of that is well and good, I must be honest.

The thing that would most excite me about back-to-school would most likely be the stationery.

My love of lists is old news, I know. But it is a continuing, relentless habit. What you might not realize though is that the quirk is even deeper-rooted than the itemized collection of things to do; in fact, lists only scratch the surface of my fondness for writing things down, getting organized, and the supplies associated with both.

The whir of a label maker makes me happy. I have spread sheets detailing gifts given for holidays over the last five years. I was recently miffed to find out that Ikea had discontinued the glass jars I like for pantry storage. I have been known to colour code paper clips to best suit the subject matter they clamp. Seriously. And yes, I got made fun of for that one.

As you can well imagine, my level of commitment to eccentricity has led me down many an aisle of a stationery store. And so then you can imagine, I have bought enough stationery to be particular in my purchases. Rollerball, not ball point pens please. A mechanical pencil with no more than a 0.5 millimetre lead, thank you.

But back to the lists. My incessant scribbles need a home, and this brings me to my greatest love of school supplies - notebooks. Oh, how I adore a brand-new notebook. Whether tiny or fat, simple in its decoration or elaborate, a notebook smacks of promise and new beginnings. Some notebooks seem to make ideas flow easier; inspiring one to sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Throughout our house, our car and in my purse, you will find notebooks. Teeny tiny scratch pads for quick reminders are tucked in the junk drawer in the kitchen. On the desk is a thin, spiral bound notepad of my father's, containing a story about a squirrel I wrote in elementary school. A collection of journals line a shelf in the den, their contents spanning years of our lives. Innumerable recipes and food thoughts are jotted down on scraps of paper and tucked into random books and magazines, or take up books of their own.

It was in one of these (many) notebooks that I came upon a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Scones and, as a bonus, a mystery. Reading it over, I realized that I had absolutely no recognition of the words whatsoever. Though in my handwriting, with notes and substitutions in the margin, I have absolutely no remembrance of where the recipe came from, or when I heard of it.

Mysterious provenance aside, I was charmed by prospect of lightly-spiced scones; perfect for the cooler weather forecast for the weekend. They were quick work through the use of a stand mixer. Butter is blended into dry ingredients, then liquids are added to that. Dump everything out onto a work surface, knead lightly, and you're done. All that is left is to cut the dough into the desired size and bake.

A scant 15 minutes later a tray full of proudly-puffed scones are yours to be enjoyed. The addition of cake flour helps to keep them tender, while the pumpkin purée adds moisture and pleasing saffron yellowness. Lovely on their own, even better with a smear of butter and a cup of tea. Simply delicious.

Wherever this recipe came from, I am so glad I had someplace to write it down.

Some of my favourite stationery sources are:
Russel + Hazel, See Jane Work, Etsy, and of course the classic, Moleskine.

Spontaneous moments often end up overshadowing the most stylized effort. While enjoying these little bites outside, the cooling rack was momentarily placed amongst the stones. I was so taken by the texture of the crumbly, crackled scones against the gravel, I felt compelled to include the image here.

Spiced pumpkin scones
Of unknown origin, but so tasty that I am tempted to claim them as my own.

2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup (1/2 pound, 2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (unsweetened)
2/3 cup 18% (table, coffee) cream, chilled
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, for egg wash
Granulated or sanding sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Use parchment paper to line a standard baking sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. On the machine's lowest setting, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles course meal. The butter should be in small pieces approximately the size of peas.

Lightly whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée and cream. With the machine running still on low (or stir), pour the liquids slowly into the flour and butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Small bits of butter should still be visible, but almost all the flour should be incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Working quickly, gently knead the dough, folding and pressing gently until fairly smooth. Divide the dough into four, and shape each ball of dough into a 4" round about 3/4"-1" thick. Cut each round into six wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Once finished, brush each scone with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated or sanding sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the the tops are lightly golden and the cut sides look flaky and dry. When fully cooked, they should feel light for their size and sound almost hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Best served warm.

Makes 24 medium scones.


• 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for the individual spices.
• The scones can be frozen before baking. After cutting them out, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze uncovered. Once firm to the touch, remove to an airtight container or a freezer bag and store. To bake, take the scones from the freezer and preheat the oven. Wait 10 extra minutes after your oven has reached temperature, then egg wash and sugar the scones. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.
• These can be made without the aid of a stand mixer. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour, then stir in the wet ingredients. Do not over mix, stir until just blended. From here, the method remains the same.
• If your kitchen is very warm, chill the cut scones for 15 minutes before baking for best results.