A FRESH CHRISTMAS WREATH . . . yours to make in just an hour.

December 1st. Day one of my slow Christmas.

Every year I make the wreath that adorns our front door. This is the second wreath. The first wreath was fashioned from dried hydrangea blossoms. I cut them in the late fall when cool temperatures turn the vivid blues to delicate, faded colours. The hydrangea wreath was hung. Then destruction in the form of atmospheric rivers of rain flooded south western British Columbia. We escaped the flooding but the humidity and the rain destroyed my wreath.

Our home is surrounded by various cedars. Tall trees march along side the drive way. A very large low growing cedar is just outside the patio door. This cedar bush is also home to the famous “Oswald Gentleman Rabbit” and his various relatives, and this is where I found my branches. To make this wreath you need a metal ring (from a dollar store), light wire, twine, any type of local greens, a decorative vine of berries (dollar store) and pruning shears for trimming the branches to size.

There’s CD playing in the background. It’s Charlie Brown’s iconic Christmas music. Perfect for the day one of slow Christmas. Weave the wire back and forth on the wreath form.
Starting in the inside of the wreath poke the branches through continuing always in the same direction.
Do the same with the outside ring and then secure the branches firmly with the twine. You can tuck smaller branches here and there to even the look of the wreath.
Add the finishing touch. I used a rope of berries and fastened them to the wreath. Ribbon, Christmas balls, fresh or artificial flowers all look wonderful. Once you have woven the wire to make your wreath base it should take you about an hour to create your own very personal wreath.
Now photograph your beautiful wreath and share it with your friends and family. Happy day one of your slow Christmas, cheers Virginia.

EASY ONE BOWL WONDER CAKE . . . WALNUT BUTTER CAKE WITH MAPLE BUTTER FROSTING

Simple and extremely quick to make!

This gloriously simple cake can be made with the usual pantry items,  a good sized bowl and a whisk – if that is your desire.    Or you can whip it up with  hand held electric beaters or a stand mixer.  The results are a tender, butter-rich, nutty cake.  Top it with a generous swipe of frosting and you’ve just swanned your way to creating a delectable, delicious, no stress cake.

I volunteer at our hospital thrift shop in the village of Ladner, British Columbia. It’s a busy operation and our morning tea break is appreciated.    I call it The Fellowship of cookies , cake bakers and avid readers of books.  The table is always graced with volunteers home baked goodies.  The  discussions are frequently about food in general and baking in great detail.  Recipes are shared and stored in a three ring binder.   This very personal cook book is kept in the tea room for anyone looking for baking inspiration.

The women I work with are mostly retired.  They donate a great deal of time and energy to their volunteer work.  They love to bake but appreciate recipes that that don’t require a lot of prep time.  Some prefer recipes that are not too complicated or require too many ingredients.  And, they don’t want to spend a lot of time shopping for ingredients that are difficult to find. 

An easy one bowl cake recipe means less time is spent mixing the ingredients and less time in clean up.   Make this recipe once and it will be yours forever.  The chopped walnuts are toasted in the butter then added to the eggs, sugar and sour cream and vanilla and whisked  until well combined. You add the flour, baking powder and soda and whisk to combine and pour into your cake pan.  You can add optional flavours such as instant espresso powder or cardamon. I also bakes beautifully in a loaf pan or double the recipe and bake in a  Bundt pan.

 MRS.BUTTERFINGERS has the printable recipes for these cakes.  Bon Appetit dear friends.

ALMOND COOKIES . . . wickedly wonderful classic Amarette Italian cookies.

An Amaretti cookie is a cookie with attitude. It is an elegant bite of crunchy, chewy wonderfulness. A cookie heady with the perfume of almonds, perfect with exactly the right amount of sweetness.

Amaretti cookies are definitely not your common, home-baked cookie one encounters in North America. This Italian confection dates as far back as the seventeen hundreds (1700’s), and is ancestor of the ubiquitous French macaron. It is a cookie equally at ease with a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of sparkling Prosecco.

Amaretti cookies have the same almond base and deliciously chewy texture of a French macaron, but unlike the macaron it is a snap to make. One simply whips up eggg whites, fold in sugar and ground almonds and rolls the morsels in sugar. There’s very much a Christmas feel about amarette cookies. They are so decadently, deliciously different.

Don’t wait for Christmas to make these cookies. They are a marriage made in heaven when you serve them with homemade ice cream and salted caramel sauce. My favorite bakery in Toronto, Bobbette & Bellle introduced me to these glorious cookies.

The printed recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

SPICED PUMPKIN AND WALNUT TART . . . aromatic spices and a sweet walnut pastry

The perfect Thanksgiving dinner always ends with pumpkin pie. The delicious aroma of aromatic spices fill your kitchen as you take this delicate creamy textured tart out of the oven. Pumpkin is one of those marvellous vegetables that can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. It attains a glorious height of wonderfulness when it is encased in a sweet walnut pastry.

It is traditional that every Thanksgiving I make a new recipe for pumpkin pie. And every Thanksgiving I think that perhaps this is the best recipe. It is the creamy pumpkin filling redolent with exotic spices that we look forward to and expect each year. That cannot be changed. However, the pastry gives one a great opportunity to visit uncharted waters.

I discovered this tantalizing recipe in an old copy of the UK version of Country Living. I have used ground almonds in pastry and the combination of walnuts and pumpkins in the traditional pumpkin pie was intriguing. I nibbled the test pastry. Its sweet, walnut flavoured texture was both sophisticated and delicious. The printable recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving dear friends. With love, Virginia.

THE COMPATIBILITY OF CAKES . . . an easy to make MOCHA CHOCOLATE CAKE

This is a cake recipe that is compatibility with the baker. I have two sisters. My older sister is 91 years old. She is a fabulous baker but she find the time it requires very tiring. My younger sister’s health is not the best and she also finds it difficult to indulge in her love of baking. They both enjoy a slice of cake or a cookie with their afternoon cup of tea. Store bought cookies or cake simply do not make the cut. I have made it my mandate to adept some recipes that will allow them continue to enjoy baking. Recipes that are considerate and compatible for my sisters.

This cake recipe has a delicious chocolate flavour and a whisper of coffee in the Mocha glaze. One can assemble and measure out the ingredients the day before. This takes about ten minutes or so. Then next day, in the morning when you are not tired you mix the cake and pour it into the pan. Another ten minutes. When the cake is cool mix the glaze and give it a quick stir and pour it over the cake. That’s it. You’re done You are not standing for long periods of time and one can rest in between each process.

As for clean up. Before one starts the mixing process a sink full of hot soapy water allows you to clean as you go. It is all about doing a bit at a time.

The ingredients of this cake are ones normally found in ones pantry or refrigerator. My sisters order their groceries on line so I have considered accessibility to ingredients in this cake. They don’t enjoy cake mixes or store bought baking. This is a recipe is quick and easy to make and has a rich, soul satisfying chocolate flavour. A treat with tea or anytime a treat is called for.

Recipes such as this one would also be helpful for those who have little time to spend in the kitchen, but would love to have a home made cake. It would be an excellent cake for children to bake with a little adult help. Pop into MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the printable recipe. Bon Appetit dear friends.

A JELLY ROLL TO THE RESCUE

 

 

If there ever was a time we needed comfort food it is today.     Something sweet to sooth the soul and have you smiling with delight.  A jelly roll to the rescue.    What a delightful idea.  Bake a cake.   Spread jam on it and roll it up.  Easy, peasy.   The ingredients  are all there in your kitchen – eggs, sugar, flour, flavouring and jam.

A classic sponge cake is not difficult to make.  Simply carefully follow the instructions. The eggs must be a room temperature, or a little warmer, and then beaten with sugar for at least ten minutes, or until thickened, tripled in bulk and full of air. It requires no leavening other than the air that is beaten into the eggs.  Carefully fold in the flour being careful not to disturb the air bubbles too much.  Then spread into the prepared pan

Don’t over bake your cake.  It will not roll easily and will crack. Depending on your oven bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  ( I hesitate to suggest the 20 minutes  but your oven may be on the cool side.)

While your cake is baking sprinkle a clean dish towel with sugar.  As soon as you take it out of the oven lay the long edge of your pan on the towel  and turn out your cake.

Lift the pan off the cake.

Trim the edges of your cake and then peel off the paper.  Trimming the cake makes it easier to roll.

While the cake is still warm starting with the short end roll the cake  and lay it with the edge seam side down.  Let it cool thoroughly before unrolling and filling.  If you are apprehensive about rolling the cake use the towel to help you.   When the cake is cool carefully unroll the cake and towel.

Use any desired filling.  Jam, jelly, lemon curd, whipped cream.  Just be sure it spreads easily.  If the jam or jelly is a little thick heat it gently before spreading it on the cake.  Using a small strainer dust the cake with lots of icing sugar.  You can also frost the cake with your favourite frosting.

This recipe calls for superfine granulated sugar and pastry or cake flour.  If you don’t have these in your pantry it is easy to make them.  For superfine sugar put at least one and a half cups of granulated sugar into your food processor and process for a few seconds.  Not too long or you’ll end up with sugar powder.   Measure your sugar after you have processed it.   You can always find a use for extra  super fine sugar.

For pastry or cake flour do this.  Take one cup of flour and remove two tablespoons of flour.  Add two tablespoons of corn starch (corn flour) to the cup. I put two cups of this mixture through a sifter five  to six times.    From this take the required amount of flour for your recipe.    Set aside the extra cake flour for future use.

The happy little jelly roll recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

Bon Appetit dear friends.  Take care.  Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

RHUBARB UP-SIDE DOWN BROWN SUGAR CAKE . . . an easy to make spring dessert

 

This unprepossessing plant.    This new darling of avant-garde young chefs.  This wonderful rhubarb is the spectacular  upside-down topping on the most delicious of brown sugar cakes.

It is perfection on its own as a snacking cake or one could lavish it with whipped cream or crème fraíche.   Add a few very ripe strawberries and it would be a spectacular finish to a meal.

This is an easy recipe to put together.  You don’t use a stand mixer – just your favourite balloon whisk.    The cake stays moist and delectable for up to three days.  Simply keep it covered at room temperature.

This recipe calls for fresh rhubarb but you can also use frozen rhubarb.  Just be sure to allow time for your frozen rhubarb to defrost and drain (gently pressing on the stalks to help remove the moisture.

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April can be the cruellest of months but it gives us this tart-sweet vegetable that morphs into the most addictive of desserts.    It has been a wet spring this year and the rhubarb in my garden has responded with juicy red stalks and enormous umbrella sized leaves.    RHUBARB UPSIDE-DOWN BROWN SUGAR CAKE – bake it today.   The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.    Bon Appetit dear friends.

(This recipe is from  Dorie Greenspan’s inspiring cookbook Baking Chez Moi.)

 

SINFULLY SENSATIONAL DELICIOUSLY DECADENT WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE

This is the epitome of decadent desserts.  Deeply dark, warm chocolate cake served right out of the oven.  Warm chocolate cake is a dessert with an edgy  reputation for being a difficult production.  Many  recipes have you making the cake,  baking the cake, then serving the cake.   It is all too last minute.    Stressful for the hostess in the kitchen preparing the cake while dinner guests wait for dessert.

This is a straight forward recipe.  It requires a few ingredients.  The very best chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and flour.  The secret to this gorgeous dessert is to MAKE IT AHEAD OF TIME.    One refrigerates the cakes for 24 hours before you bake them.

You bake the chocolate cakes for twelve to thirteen minutes.  The centres of the cake will feel soft and not quite fully set when you touch the centres.  The edges will be firmer.  This is the magic moment to pull your spectacular desserts out of the oven

You can serve these little darlings with a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel (or flaky sea salt).     A generous scoop of cherry custard ice cream and you have a deconstructed Black Forest Cake.    When I want the dessert to be very very French I pour liberal lashings of my salted caramel sauce over the cake.

The recipe for WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

( Cake baking photographs courtesy W. Lloyd )

 

 

CHRISTMAS FRUIT CAKE . . . make it, bake it, enjoy it – the same day!

All is not lost if you didn’t have time for the ritual baking of Christmas cakes back in October.  This gorgeous fruitcake can be baked and savoured the same day.  Its  wonderful, spicy fragrance fills your home with an aroma this is pure Christmas.  It slices beautifully and the beguiling perfume of allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg is perfection itself.

Last December I baked  this rich fruit cake  in a loaf tin.    This year I adjusted the recipe slightly and baked it as a traditional Christmas cake.     You have lee way as to the size of cake tin you use – any spring form pan between eight and ten inches.  Using a cake tin allows the cake to bake more evenly eliminating over-baked edges.   You simply adjust the  oven baking time.

The ingredients are  guidelines.  The recipe calls for candied mixed peel, cherries and dried apricots.  You could  use dried figs or dates.  Pecans, slivered almonds could replace the chopped walnuts.  The brandy decanter is empty –  substitute sherry or perhaps an exotic liqueur.  The recipe is so forgiving.

There is so much pressure surrounding the holiday season.  We need to be calm and take a step back.  Enjoy our family.  Glory in the season.  This fruitcake is more than the sum total of its parts.  Its very simplicity gives one a chance to take a breath and enjoy preparing  food for those we love.

The recipe for this simply wonderful bake it today Christmas cake awaits you on

MRSBUTTERFINGERS.

 

Mexican Chocolate Cookies . . . Daringly delicious

At this time of year visions of sugar plums and baking cookies drift through one’s mind.  Would anyone notice if I don’t bake short bread cookies this year?  Do I really want to make three kinds of biscotti for the cookie exchange party?   If you desire to bake something completely different.  A recipe that is decidedly off the beaten path.  This cookie recipe will have you singing Jingle Bells all the way to your kitchen.

If I was to rate  MEXICAN CHOCOLATE COOKIES I would give it the highest rating.  Definitely a 10!The unusual combination of bittersweet chocolate mellows the heat of black and red pepper and creates a cookie with a flavour that is out of this world.  The cookie is both crisp and chewy.   For a final ying and yang flavour your sprinkle a little Malden salt over the little darlings.  If the salt seems a little daring dust your cookies with a little powdered sugar.  Or both.  The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

I love this comment from a discerning cookie consumer.    She would have me flying through the night delivering these rather outrageously wonderful creations.

“Dear Mrs. Butterfingers,

You made it sound impossible to live without tasting a few from your Mexican Chocolate delights. That being the case, I feel it only fair that you consider filling your linen lined basket with these yin and yang specialties,  flying throughout the night, while stopping to enter  the  homes of others through open windows, key holes, balconies, or whatever suits for I am loathe to think of such a delivery occurring differently in our fantasy land.  Let it be your magical mystery tour.

I wonder what one leaves to treat the the cookie faerie…….  I expect you would be drawn to bits of french ephemera, exotic spices , rich fabrics and books of poetry. If I knew you were taking flight, samples of each could be  found in a basket that awaits return to you. Enter as you will but I shall be waiting, even if in the arms of Morpheus for I know the faerie often enters under the cover of night”