29 April 2010

homemade ice cream sandwiches: tied up with strings.

For me, ice cream sandwiches always signal the beginning of summer in Big City, NS. For the past two summers, I was lucky enough to live a short walk from the greatest late-night corner store in the city: nay, the WORLD!

I spent my junior high years visiting this store in search of lunchtime penny candy, and after school JonesSoda. In high school we waited until the evening to stock up on orange juice to go with our stolen vodka and to try and buy cigarettes from the shifty-eyed guy who manned the store after dark. Then, 10 years later,  having moved back into the neighborhood as an adult, it was the homemade ice cream sandwiches that lured me from my humid, over-heated apartment and over to the store of cool delights.

It may not surprise you to hear that Small Town, NS is lacking in the perfect-homemade-ice-cream-sandwich-corner-store department. Unacceptable. With summer just around the corner (right? RIGHT?) it seems evident that I'll be forced to fulfill my cravings on my own... I'd better start practicing now!

So, here they are. A slight variation on my favorite Big City summer cooling agent - guaranteed to fill my freezer all summer long.

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches
{cookie recipe adapted from Tartlette}

{the stuff} 

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

{how to do it}

Using an electric mixer or food processor fitted with a dough blade, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Lower the speed and add the vanilla and two eggs one at a time. Continue beating for two minutes until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until the dough starts to come together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until the dough is dark, moist and shiny. Refrigerate the dough until firm, but still easy to work with.

Once the dough has firmed up, roll out to 1/4 inch thick and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes. Bake on a parchment cover baking sheet for 9 minutes at 350 degrees, rotating half way through.

Once the cookies are completely cooled, you're ready to assemble your sandwiches!
Choose a brand of ice cream that comes in a brick rather than a tub. Slice the brick into pieces 3/4 inch thick and use the same cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Sandwich the ice cream between two cookies, wrap them and freeze until solid.


x. {B}


27 April 2010

tunes-day. {sharron matthews}

I figure its time to up tunes-day's CanCon rating - so, for this week's installment I'd like to take things in a different direction and introduce you to Sharron Matthews.

The Toronto-based cabaret and musical theatre powerhouse breathes new life into broadway standards, pop classics, and even a bit of rock with her fresh covers and larger than life sense of humor. Her hit variety show "Sharron's Party!" played to sold out houses in TO from 2005 to 2009 and featured some of Canada's greatest singers, actors, comedians, writers, columnists, rock climbers, chefs, tour operators... (well, maybe not those last few, but you get the picture!)

I was first introduced to Sharron's music as I was preparing my own one-woman cabaret in 2007. Searching for new perspectives on old songs, I stumbled across the following video. Though I didn't end up adding it to my show, it has stuck with me ever since. On days when I need a bit of song therapy, I sit at my piano and belt this one out with many thanks to Sharron Matthews.

Sharron Matthews: Stop. In the Name of Love
{from Sharron's Party!}

x. {B}

26 April 2010

two of 365.

I've decided to channel my new photography obsession into a daily creative project.

Project365 challenges you to post a photo a day for one year - 365 days - and encourages you to connect with other users through comments and discussion boards. Fun!

You can check out my profile {here}!

25 April 2010

frrrr-ench bread.

The yeasty smell while baking.
The hollow sound when thumped.
The crunch of the crust when torn into.

These are just a few of the things that make me wish for the sort of lifestyle where I'm able to get up at the crack of dawn and bake fresh bread every morning. Alas, that lifestyle is - for the time being - far from my grasp. So, when a day comes along where I find myself with little to do besides wander about town with camera, or putter around my kitchen, my brain starts screaming BAKE SOMETHING!!!

This week I decided to try my hand at French bread - something I've always been terrified to make, despite my father always making it look as simple as toasting a freezer waffle. Having had such success with Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe, I searched through his Artisan Breads Every Day for the perfect French bread. Guess what? Not so scary! And I didn't have to whip out my junior high fran├žais once!

frrrr-ench bread
recipe borrowed from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

{the stuff}

5 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 cups lukewarm water

{how to do it}

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for one minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for one minute until well blended and smooth. The dough should form a coarse, shaggy ball.

Let rest - uncovered - for five minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or knead by hand, for two minutes. Add flour or water as needed until the dough is supple and smooth, and tacky but not sticky. The closest comparison I can make is to one of those dense, foamy stress balls - the dough should have some give, but you should have to use a little muscle to squish it much.

Knead the dough by hand for one or two minutes more on a lightly floured work surface, then transfer to a clean, lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate overnight or for up to four days.

Remove the dough from the fridge about two hours before you plan to bake. Taking care to degas it as little as possible, transfer the dough to your lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into baguettes (10 oz,) boules (19oz,) or freestanding loaves of whatever size you like. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature (or beside a warm stove) for an hour and a half. In this time the dough should grow to one and a half times its original size.

About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 550 degrees. (Having been unable to located a baking stone, I opted to use the back of a cookie sheet as my baking surface, and it worked just fine!) A heavy duty skillet or other pan filled with an inch or two of water and placed close to the upper element will generate steam which helps to give the bread its signature crust.

Remove the plastic wrap 15 minutes prior to baking, and score the loaves 1/2 inch deep with a serrated knife. Lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees and slide the loaves onto the baking stone or cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the pan, then bake for another 15 to 25 minutes - until the crust is a rich, golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when thumped. Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving. 

(Ha! Right. I think I lasted maybe 15 minutes before tearing in and buttering up!)

So, here's the thing. Sometimes the life of a full-time waitress doesn't allow for preparing things ahead of time. Suddenly, its Sunday morning, you have company coming for dinner, and you haven't given two thoughts to the fresh bread which is supposed to be accompanying the delicious, homemade beef stew you with be preparing shortly.

I admit it - I'm a cheater. I mixed my dough, tossed it in the fridge, headed out for a greasy pub breakfast complete with Bailey's & coffee and two crossword puzzles, returned home and immediately continued with the next step in the bread-making process. But, guess what?? The bread was still delicious! Crisp and crusty on the outside, soft and dense on the inside. My only complaint? It wasn't quite as chewy as I like, and was lacking the requisite French bread holes.

So, lesson learned I suppose. Next time around I will get my act together and dough up the night before!

22 April 2010

by the numbers.

WARNING: I have purchased a new camera. 
Prepare yourselves for photo-overload, starting... NOW!

20 April 2010

tunes-day. (aretha meets the band}

It's the year 2000. Cans of cheap beer, a coffee grinder, and resin filled bottles and bowls litter the floor. Ten of us are crammed into a tiny attic bedroom adorned with Grateful Dead posters, high school football trophies and Tibetan prayer flags. The boys in basketball shorts, baggy jeans, or worn out corduroys. The girls in sundresses or torn jeans and hoodies, with the prerequisite summer flip-flops dangling from their toes. 

The sticky summer air breezes through one open window in an attempt to push some of the sickly sweet sweat and smoke out another. One boy, his hair long, curly and sun-streaked grabs a guitar slumped lazily against a wall. Another, his legs long and pale in spite of the east coast sun we've been lounging in all day, grabs a set of bongos and sits cross legged at his best friend's side. 

The first notes are strummed, and as each person exhales and turns, this group of seemingly mismatched teenagers comes together for their nightly ritual. The curly haired boy sings out; a girl weaves a harmony through the verse; and as we reach the chorus, the choir of friends emerges from the wings and builds that famous chord note by note. The timing and tuning were far from perfect, but the love and friendship radiating from each voice kept us singing that same song night after night, year after year.

To this day I cannot hear "The Weight" without an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and pure love for the people I first shared it with.  The hazy days of our youthful summers may have passed, but, happily, this grown up version of the song was brought to my attention today.  After ten years, this may just be my summer anthem once again.

{Aretha Franklin: "The Weight"}

14 April 2010

in the mail.

I am SO excited about my latest Etsy purchase!

This gorgeous piece by dustDesignCo is slowly inching its way across North America to its new home... my collarbone!

The Eco Etsy artist brings OBSOLETE objects back to life, specializing in handmade items from recycled materials - where each piece has some history and soul."

The vintage decanter label hangs on a silver chain and clears up any question as to what should be poured over my rocks. (And here's hoping it will encourage my customers to order one more round as well!)

Hurry up little guy - I want to wear you!
x. {B}

13 April 2010

tunes-day. {double-up}

Last week was so bonkers Tuesday didn't even seem to exist - let alone Tunes-day. So, for your listening pleasure this week, I've decided to double my offering, and double your fun.

{The Rescues}

Nothing gets the blood coursing through my veins like super-tight, a cappella harmonies. 


This tune gets my heart racing every time.

"My Heart With You"

{The New Pornographers}

Though by no means a new release, this tune has been speaking volumes to me lately. The video features the most brilliant, vivid colors - and reminds me exactly what the right kiss can do...


Happy listening!
x. {B}

06 April 2010

brunch bubbles.

While preparing for Easter Brunch, I was thrilled to find blood oranges on sale for $1.79 a pound! Cheaper, in fact, than navel oranges. I was on drink duty and could think of nothing better than Blood Orange Mimosas to complement homemade Eggs Benedict on a sunny Sunday morning.

Blood Orange Mimosas

{the stuff}

the juice of 5 - or so - Blood Oranges
the juice of 3 - or so - navel, or juicing oranges
one bottle sparkling wine, (my favorite is Jacob's Creek Sparkling Chardonnay-Pinot Noir)

{how to do it}

When it comes to cocktails, my belief is that personal preference rules. I like my caesars not too spicy, but loaded up with celery salt; my gin martinis on the rocks with a fat ol' twist of lime; and my amaretto sours, SOUR! Taste rules -  and with these mimosas its the only rule you need.

Start with a chilled glass, add orange juices, and top up with bubbly until the mix suits you. 

Garnish with a wedge of sugar-dipped orange and maybe a sprig of mint.

Drink up!

{just add bubbles}

02 April 2010

bagel update.

A trip home last weekend resulted in an all-day bagel-making-marathon with my dear mama...
Check these babies out!

 Love you, Mom!
x. {B}

01 April 2010

peace out, march.


Its time to welcome April - and let March go; 
 with thanks for coffee dates, sunny Saturday walks, marathon Pub shifts, trips home, impromptu dance parties, poached eggs, heart-wrenching music and the promise of flip flops, picnics and sundresses on the horizon.

x. {B}