Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Canadian Butter Tarts

canadian butter tarts

One last Canadian inspired recipe before we get into the full festive flow!

Butter Tarts are apparently a popular baked treat in Canada, but seemed to have passed me by. Until our trip to Toronto last month that is.

One day, cousin Lawrence took us over to the home of a friend of his, Janice, whom he worked with in the past and has kept in touch with.

Janice, originally from England, was keen to meet us and have us over for a spot of lunch one day. It was a gorgeous day when we ventured over to Janice’s home and we had lunch in the garden.

It was a lovely spread of breads, cheeses, quiche, cold meats, salad and lots more. All washed down with copious amounts of gin, which we hadn’t had elsewhere in Canada. It’s not a ‘thing’ there – yet – like it has become so popular in the UK.

Anyhoo, for dessert Janice had bought butter tarts for us, which were topped with fruit and nuts and were just delicious. To be honest I didn’t really pay much attention to what the tart was, I just know I enjoyed it.

When we got back home, one day I happened upon a Canadian cooking show on the television called ‘Best Recipes Ever’ where the host was making butter tarts. This time I paid more attention and discovered these were indeed a Canadian classic, but not full of butter as one might imagine. Instead they have a sugary, almost toffee like filling. Most common in the bottom of the tarts seem to be raisins and on occasion some pecans too.

Of course, I had to give them a go and I opted for a recipe, adapted from, which gave a ‘set’ filling rather than a runnier one, which is also quite acceptable.

canadian butter tarts

I used both raisins and chopped pecans in mine and I loved the result of brown sugar, butter and egg, baked into a pastry shell. I used shop-bought pastry rather than make my own, but if you are so inclined….These didn’t look quite as professional as the ones Janice had bought for us, from her local baker, who have probably been making them for years. Nor did I top mine with berries or more nuts. Instead, we had them ‘as is’ and thoroughly enjoyed them.

canadian butter tarts

Give this easy Canadian classic a try!

print recipe

Canadian Butter Tarts
Traditional Canadian baked good - sugar, butter, eggs with raisins and pecans
  • 200 grams dark brown sugar
  • 45 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 medium egg
  • 30 grams pecans, chopped
  • 30 grams raisins
  • 1 sheet ready rolled shortcrust pastry
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).Cut out circles from the sheet of pastry, big enough to line a cupcake tin hole.Press each pastry circle into each cup of the cupcake tin and with a fork run this round the edges to make a design.Divide the raisins between the 12 cups and scatter them in the bottom of each.In a saucepan, add the sugar and butter and heat gently until both melt and are liquid.Add the flour and mix this in quickly with a wooden spoon.Add the egg and beat in very quickly so it doesn't scramble. You should have a glossy mixture.Stir through the pecans.Divide this mix equally between each of the pastry cups. Wipe up and spills before baking.Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The mix will bubble up.Allow to cool before removing from the tin. They should pop out by gently turning the tarts in the pan.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 tarts

canadian butter tarts

Monday, 28 November 2016

Treat Petite November 2016 Round Up

We have had a bumper selection of entries into Treat Petite this month. Without further ado, let’s see what lovely treats were entered…

First off my pal ‘Fanny’ from Keep Calm and Fanny on entered these Les Petites Pyramids – which sound odd, but are made from coconut, eggs and sugar (a bit like macaroons). They made me reminisce about the Bangles tune ‘Walk like an Egyptian’!

Next was little ol’ me with my pumpkin oaty bars filled with a pumpkin pie type filling sandwiched between a cookie type mix. Very seasonal!

Sarah, from Takes from the Kitchen Shed, was next with her Bahlsen Biscuit Brownies. These sound fantastic bursting with the Bahlsen Pick Up minis!

Kate, The Gluten Free Alchemist, made sundried tomato, parmesan and walnut pastry swirls with gluten-free pastry from Jus-Rol. Gluten free or not, I love the combination of flavours in these swirls.

Caroline at Caroline Makes reached for her inner Star Baker and made these pistachio and white chocolate churros from the Great British Bake Off cookbook. I’ve loved churros for ages, but I think they are even more a favourite now after featuring in this year’s GBBO.

Johanna, our antipodean blogging friend made spooky cookies – or Chocolate and Black Tahini Cut-out Biscuits with some black tahini paste. I am amazed how dark these turned out with the addition of this paste.

Next, Choclette at Tin and Thyme made Carrot Cake Flapjacks – I just know my mum would love these as she is a sucker for carrot cake in any form!

Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen was making a vegan Welsh menu and part of that menu were Welsh cakes. These are a traditional Welsh treat, which you cook on a griddle. Love the sounds of these!

Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary made these Chocolate Fudge Masquerade Party Cupcakes. How fun are those chocolate masquerade masks which adorn the frosting? They sound and look gorgeous.

Caroline at Caroline Makes also entered these chocolate and caramel brownie mini cheesecakes – they were inspired by a cheesecake she had on honeymoon and used Turtles – the sweet variety – in them. Sound so decadent.

Charlotte, in her Lively Kitchen, made RaspberryTrifle Cupcakes. These are a bit like the ones I made a few years back, but look so much better!! Filled with raspberries and custard these would also be perfect for upcoming Christmas parties.

My Treat Petite co-host Kat from The Baking Explorer, entered her salted caramel fudge with sea salt scattered all over it. The amount of salt depends on how salty you like it, and it cuts through the sweetness of the fudge. Sounds heavenly!

Kate, The Gluten-Free Alchemist, also made ‘raw’ chocolateand raspberry fudge. Made from wholesome ingredients such as cashew nuts, cacao powder, coconut oil and freeze-dried berries, this is a more virtuous type of fudge which still packs in lots of flavour.

Lastly we had Lucy, Baking Queen 74, who entered her Cherry,Almond and White Chocolate Flapjacks. These contain all the aforementioned ingredients plus golden syrup! A hearty snack I would love in my lunchbox!

Thanks to everyone for taking part in Treat Petite. Join Kat next month for December. Even though we are now ‘theme-free’ I’m sure there will still be oodles of Christmas inspired baked I am looking forward to.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Our Trip to Canada (Part 2)

If you remember, my post about the first part of our trip to Toronto was building up to our wedding day...

On the morning of the wedding, Disneyboi and I ventured over to the Starbucks (where else?) across from Lawrence and Emmy’s apartment. I think we were a bit tense, a bit nervous about the forthcoming ceremony!

on the way to get wed!
We went back to the condo and got changed into our wedding garb, then headed down to the ferry port with L&E where we met our officiant Adriana. We had skyped Adriana previously to arrange our service and it was great to finally meet her. We were cutting it a bit fine and got to the port in the nick of time. We got to Ward’s Island where the Rectory café is situated and where our ceremony would be held.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, we couldn’t have asked for any better really. When we got to the venue we were greeted by our server Danielle who made us feel very welcome. The ceremony then took place after a few formalities. It was a quiet, discreet humanist service which we both wanted, neither of us being religious. I welled up a bit!

the service with our officiant Adriana

We had lunch afterwards with some fizz, appropriately from the Ontario region, then Lawrence took some wedding photos at different locations around the island. Before long we were back aboard the ferry and back into the city, then off on our next adventure.

We changed into more relaxed clothes and packed our bags ready to catch a bus to Niagara Falls. This was our mannymoon! We were exhausted and fell asleep on the bus.

At the Falls!
We got a taxi from the Niagara Falls bus station to our hotel and then went out for dinner – a pizza place – not very classy for a wedding night I know. But it ended up we couldn’t manage very much and we headed back to the hotel after our busy day!

The next morning we spotted an IHOP (an International House of Pancakes) which we love and had an extortionate breakfast ($50 for some pancakes and coffee!!) before grabbing a cab out to Niagara on the Lake.

This is such a beautiful little town, 20 minutes drive from Niagara Falls and so, so different. The Falls can be a bit overwhelming with neon lights and loud music but Niagara on the Lake is a picturesque town with quaint written all over it.  There are beautiful shops, restaurants, the Shaw Festival Theatres and it is surrounded by beautiful Lake Ontario.

The Shaw Cafe at Niagara on the Lake
We literally spent all day in the town, just wandering around, buying bits and bobs (we were in the Christmas shop several times) and eating ice cream (I had scoops of maple pecan and pumpkin spice). We had dinner in the evening in a lovely little restaurant called Corks then called a cab.

The Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake
We headed back to the Falls in time for the fireworks and a light show which they have a couple of times a week, then we headed for a quick drink before heading back to the hotel.

The American Falls all lit up
The next morning was Saturday and our last day in Niagara, where we ended up on the Hornblower cruise going into the falls. We were given red ponchos and got wet, but not as wet as you might think. Nor was the boat ride as choppy as we had feared.

On The Hornblower

We shopped a little, of course, the Hershey Store at the Falls is very cool with a Kiss on the roof and a bar of Hershey's outside!

Hershey Store, Niagara Falls

Time was against us and after a late lunch with a stunning view, we were soon back on the bus to Toronto where dinner was waiting for us at L&E’s.

That weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada and on the Sunday we had a family gathering at Disneyboi’s other cousin, Evelyn’s home.

Thanksgiving dinner
There were 20 people for dinner and it was a great social gathering, quaffing lots of wine, eating turkey and all the trimmings plus pumpkin pie (and a very yummy chocolate cheesecake affair made by a lovely lady called Imelda). It really was a fun evening which was over all too soon.

A farewell photo

Our holiday was nearing it's end and over the next couple of days we did a few more touristy things and I arranged to meet up with fellow food blogging friend Stephanie from Kitchen Frolic. Stephanie gave us a lovely wedding gift of Squish Artisanal Wedding candy and a cookbook 'Street Food Diaries' by Matt Basile who is Toronto based.

me and Steph from Kitchen Frolic
We had a wander with Steph around the city and over to a Michaels craft store which I had been keen to visit. It was lovely to meet Steph and I want to send her a big thank you for the lovely gifts she gave to myself and Disneyboi.

Our last night was Tuesday and we went out for a final dinner with our hosts Lawrence and Emmy who had been so kind to us during our stay. We cannot thank them enough and it was sad to be saying farewell to Emmy who was going to work the following day and we wouldn’t see before jetting off.

On Wednesday, after a gorgeous breakfast at a very retro diner called the Patrician,  we picked up a few last minute purchases and had a last minute beer with Lawrence. We were then back on the plane before we knew it!

And that was that - our Canadian marriage vacation was over far too soon sadly. We were shattered but had the best experience ever. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip and sharing some very special memories with us.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies

It’s been a while since I’ve made cookies. Cookies are one of my favourite 'goto' bakes to make. Simply combine the ingredients, scoop, bake and mostly you’re done.

I always like to add a bit of flavour though and these cookies contain ingredients which are a good segue between the autumn and Christmas period.

In them are dried cranberries, which are very synonymous with the festive season and also Thanksgiving as well. They give a sweet, juicy burst to these biscuits.

I’ve also added chocolate chips, but haven’t specified which chocolate as I think any would work in this recipe. I personally used ones I had picked up in Canada, which are swirled with white and milk chocolate. Very pretty, like a cream and brown coloured big top. White chocolate and cranberries go so well together, but then again dark chocolate does too. So really, any chocolate chips you have on hand are ideal.

I’ve added some spice as well with Allspice, giving a nod to seasonal pumpkin spice flavours and Christmas spiciness too.

The cookies also have oats in them to provide a bit of body and texture.

All in all a flavourful easy cookie to knock up that is ideal for this time of year. What shall we call it - Wintumn? 

Here's how I made them...

print recipe

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies 
Cookies filled with juice cranberries, sweet choc chips and warming allspice
  • 170 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 225 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  125 grams plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 115 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 80 grams porridge oats
  • 100 grams chocolate chips
  • 75 grams dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan) and line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg beat in.

Add the vanilla extract and stir in.

Add the dry mix and beat together.

Add the porridge oats, chocolate chips and cranberries and stir through.

Scoop out tablespoon sized balls of cookie dough and place on the baking sheets spacing them slightly apart.

Place the baking sheets in the oven for approximately 12 to 15 mins until the cookies are golden brown around the edges.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Enjoy with a cuppa!

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: 35Yield: 20 cookies

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Our Trip to Canada (Part 1)

It’s been a few weeks since our trip to Toronto and I have been meaning to post all about it. For a food blogger it's not  hugely foodie post, but there is lots of nice pics! Here goes…

Union Station with the CN Tower in the background
We arrived in Toronto on a Friday afternoon and met Disneyboi’s cousin at Union Station having got the UP train from Pearson Airport. It was rush hour and the station was bustling, we exited onto Front Street and wandered along to Lawrence and his wife Emmy’s condo. (We'll call them L&E from now on for convenience...)

The inspiration for New York's Flatiron  was this building - on Front Street, Toronto
We got to our room and did a bit of unpacking before going across to a pub for some dinner with L&E. I had a cobb salad and broke my tooth! I managed the whole trip without visiting a dentist, so it wasn't too bad.

The next morning, we went for breakfast in a diner called Times Square L&E visit quite often and had a cooked breakfast with sausage, bacon, eggs, hash browns - the works, plus lots of coffee. We had a wander around St. Lawrence Market looking at some of the food stalls and then we wandered up Yonge Street.

Yonge Street is the longest street in Canada stretching for 86 kilometres.

Geese sculpture in the Eaton Centre
We ended up in the Eaton Centre, Toronto’s largest shopping centre. To be honest we spent most of that day in there wandering around, going into Williams Sonoma, Hallmark, Roots, Indigo and loads of others. That night we were exhausted and after Emmy had made us a lovely dinner of shrimp pesto pasta, we did go out for a wee while but came back early. I think the flight was still catching up with us.

The next morning we headed out to an area to the east of the city called the Beaches. We jumped on a streetcar and ended up on a picturesque street lined with pumpkins and quaint wee shops.

Pumpkins at the Beaches
Heading south we did indeed end up at a beach on the edge of Lake Ontario, with a boardwalk running along it. We walked for what seemed like miles and the sky grew darker and greyer. The heavens opened and we jumped back on a streetcar and headed into the centre of the city. We grabbed lunch in Marche, in Brookfield Place, a smaller shopping centre with a lovely glass ceiling.

Brookfield Place
We made our way back to L&E’s and got dressed for dinner. We were heading north of the city to visit Disneyboi’s other cousin Linda and her husband Claude who live in a gorgeous penthouse with fantastic views of Toronto. We were treated to a delicious dish of beef bourguignon and chocolate cake for dessert. And lots of wine.

the 'in-laws'
A bit worse for wear, we got an Uber back to L&E’s and got ready for the following day, picking up our marriage licence from city hall!

Toronto City Hall
That morning we headed over to Nathan Phillips Square with a quick stop for breakfast (coffee and a bagel) in Tim Hortons – THE Canadian coffee chain. We got to City Hall and getting the licence was a pretty straightforward process.

We then headed over to Toronto Islands on the ferry with Lawrence, where we had a good walk from one end to the other, the views of the city are stunning from there. Our destination was the Rectory Café where our wedding would be held. We found the perfect spot for the ceremony to take place right outside the café, then headed inside for a pint of beer to make plans.

We got the ferry back and headed into Loblaws, a huge supermarket at the bottom of the city, near the Redpath Sugar company. Disneyboi and I shopped around picking up loads of bits and bobs you just can’t get at home (and took more photos of pumpkins).

Pumpkins at Loblaws
That night we had dinner in the Distillery district, at the Mill Street Brewery restaurant with a gorgeous cheese and beer soup followed by burgers. Very tasty.

The next day we wandered around the Church street area (where they have cool rainbow crosswalks) up to Yorkville and had a more leisurely day.

Rainbow crosswalk in Toronto's gay village area
This is where things took a bit of an exciting turn (for me). In the Hudson’s Bay department store, someone was doing a book signing. You had to buy some of her merchandise to then receive a copy of her new book (Vegetables) and a chance to have her sign your book. I bought a couple of pillow shams, got the book and queued. I got to the end of the line and found myself standing in front of -Martha Stewart! I’m not one for being starstruck, but with her I was! I just said 'my name is Stuart'  she said ‘Oh is it the same spelling?', I said 'no the other way' and that was it! Over in a flash. But she told me to enjoy the book though.

Upon leaving the queue, the Toronto Life online magazine stopped me and had a quick chat, meaning I ended up in an article about Martha Stewart fans! You can’t take me anywhere!!

courtesy of Toronto Life magazine
That night we went to the cinema attached to L&E’s condo building and watched Bridget Jones’s Baby (very funny) and had some sushi afterwards.

Sitting of the glass floor in the CN Tower
The next day we did THE touristy thing, by going up the CN tower. We’d done this before, on our last trip there, but I was keen to go up again and stand (and sit) on the glass floor! It’s a funny sensation going up in the elevator at 20 feet per second. Your ears pop it’s so high.

Old steam trains at Toronto's Railway Museum
We also visited a steam railway museum outside the tower for a while before heading back to meet Lawrence who was taking us to meet a friend of his whom he had worked with many years previously at CBC (the Canadian equivalent of the BBC).

We walked over to Janice’s lovely home and it was another gorgeous day, so we sat in her backyard and enjoyed the lunch she had prepared for us. Quiche, salad, cold meats, you name it. This was followed by beautiful butter tarts topped with pecans, blueberries and blackberries. We were stuffed!!

We left Janice’s to go and pick up our buttonholes for the wedding which we had ordered the day before. That night L&E took us out for dinner and few drinks (to calm our nerves) for our last night as single men....

The wedding was the following day. Canada Part 2 is coming soon!