All posts by Anna Olson

Professionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network's Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

Anna Olson’s Top 10 Baking Tools

Want to create the most beautiful treats without a hitch? Baking expert Anna Olson shares her list of essential tools that every passionate home baker should have on hand.

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1. Off-Set Spatula

This great tool is used to lift cookies off of hot trays, loosen cakes delicately from their pans, and frost cakes with precision and panache. The spatula you see me use on Bake with Anna Olson is my own — I’ve had it for about 10 years, and I’d be lost without it!

2. Silicone Spatula

For effective folding and stirring, and for getting every last bit of batter out of a bowl, I favour the curved spatulas in this tool family. And silicone is heat-proof so it can be used to stir pastry creams, sauces and other preparations on the stove.

3. Oven Thermometer

This may sound trivial, but a thermometer placed inside your oven is a valuable and inexpensive tool that can save you frustration. You’d be amazed how many ovens don’t sit at the correct temperature risking underbaked or overbaked goods. Just because your oven displays the temperature you’ve set, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accurate. When using this tool, if you find that your oven temperature is far out of range (10°C or more), you will need to get a repair person to calibrate your oven.

4. Disposable Piping Bags

Gone are the days of fabric piping bags that never quite come clean or are cut so far down that they only fit your largest piping tip. Most cake supply and even craft shops will carry disposable piping bags in an assortment of sizes. They can be reused and are fully recyclable.

5. Ice Cream Scoops

Ice cream scoops aren’t just for scooping ice cream. I rely on an assortment of sizes for a variety of uses, including portioning perfectly consistent cookies and dropping muffin batter into tins without a mess.

6. Candy Thermometer

The world of confectionery and chocolate work requires a precision that only a candy thermometer can offer. The difference between the “thread stage” and the “soft ball stage” of boiling sugar is only a few degrees, and a candy thermometer takes all the guesswork out of it. There are traditional models and also digital probe thermometers — both work equally well. (Note: If you have an induction cooktop, I recommend the traditional model. The magnetic energy of the induction can interfere with the digital reads.)

7. Microplane Rasp

This handy tool is commonly used as a fine grater for garlic and Parmesan, but I value it to finely grate citrus zest, nutmeg, chocolate and to mince ginger without fibres. There are models with larger grates so that you can make chocolate curls, not just shavings.

8. Bar Citrus Juicer

Lemon, lime and orange juice figure prominently in desserts, and I always use freshly squeezed juice. A bar juicer is a fast and convenient way to extract the most juice — and it’s easy to clean.

9. Measuring Tape

This may seem trivial, but a fabric measuring tape is immensely handy in a baker’s kitchen. First, I can verify how thick my doughs are as I roll them. Second, I can measure the circumference of a piece of fondant before I lift it to cover a cake. Lastly, I can ensure that my squares are all cut to the same size.

10. Cake Wheel

If you are getting serious about baking, this will be a tool you’ll want to invest in. A cake wheel spins on its base, making seamless frosting simple, and detailed piping less arduous and hard on your back. Professional cast-iron cake wheels can be pricey, but there are other more affordable options. (Tip: Ikea offers a lazy Susan that functions as a cake wheel.)

Watch all new episodes of Bake with Anna Olson Sundays at 12 pm E/T and online.

Anna Olson’s Gluten-Free Walnut Poppy Seed Cake

With summer in sight, I think of my grandmother’s baking, and poppy seeds and walnuts were among her favourite ingredients, whether for nut rolls, egg breads or other sweet concoctions.

This recipe is for a typical central European-style cake – a very simple one-layer torte that leaves room for creative plating. It can be served with just a dollop of whipped cream or sweetened sour cream, or even blood orange segments and fresh raspberries for a lighter and fresher approach.

walnut-poppyseed-cake

Gluten-Free Walnut Poppy Seed Cake 

Makes: 1 9-inch cake
Serves: 16

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups (6 oz) walnut pieces
3/4 cup poppy seeds*
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
5 eggs at room temperature, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup whipping cream

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch springform pan and sprinkle the bottom and sides with sugar, tapping out any excess.
2. Pulse the walnuts, poppy seeds and 1/3 cup of sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
3.  Beat the butter and 1/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, and beat until well blended.
4. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and whip until the whites hold a soft peak. Fold the whites into the butter mixture. Fold in ground nuts and poppy seeds, and continue to fold until incorporated. Spoon about 1/3 cup of this batter into the cream and then fold this into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake to room temperature and then chill it completely before removing from the pan and serving. The cake will keep for up to 3 days refrigerated.

* If you have access to ground poppy seeds from an eastern European grocery, those are preferable (and can be used in the same measure), but the recipe does work deliciously well with regular whole poppy seeds.

anna
Professionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network Canada’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

Anna Olson’s Bake Off: Jam-Filled Doughnut Muffins

Seeing that Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May, I thought a simpler recipe, ideal for kids to bake with or for Mom would be a good idea. This month’s challenge is Jam-Filled Doughnut Muffins.

Okay, perhaps I was motivated by Donut Showdown now airing on Food Network Canada, but now you can create these little doughnut gems in your kitchen, without the need for a deep fryer!

As always, I like when you get creative – change up the fillings, and toppings, or even add icing. Just keep Mother’s Day in mind as you show me the baking stuff I know you are made of.

jam-filled-doughnut-muffins

JAM-FILLED DOUGHNUT MUFFINS

Makes 18 muffins
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Muffins:
1 ½ cups (375 mL) 2% milk
1 ½ cups (375 mL) sugar
2/3 cup (160 mL) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
3 ½ cups (875 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder
½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt
¼ teaspoon (1 mL) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1 mL) ground nutmeg
½ cup (125 mL) raspberry or strawberry jam

Topping:
½ cup (125 mL) sugar
½ teaspoon (2 mL) ground cinnamon
¼ cup (60 mL) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) and grease 2 muffins tins (or line 18 of the cups with paper liners).

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until blended.  In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and then add this to the wet mixture, stirring just until blended (a few lumps are OK).  Fill 18 muffin tin cups 2/3 full with the batter.  Stir the jam to soften and drop a teaspoonful into each of the muffins.  Scoop the remaining batter overtop so that it covers the jam completely.  Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow the muffins to cool for 20 minutes, before turning out to cool completely.

3. For the topping, stir the sugar and cinnamon together.  Brush the top of each muffin with the melted butter and dip the muffins into the cinnamon sugar, tapping off any excess.

The muffins will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container, or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Here’s how Bake Off works:
•Our hostess with the mostess, Anna Olson, picks a recipe middle of every month
•You make the recipe (follow it or add your creative flair)

Email us (giveaways@foodnetwork.ca a picture and short descriptive blurb before May 15th at 9am ET for your chance to win! Anna will pick the winners (We are giving away a$250 gift card to Williams-Sonoma and an autographed copy of Anna’s cookbook).

 

anna

Professionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

 

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Anna Olson’s Bake-Off: German Chocolate Cake

I’ve been going through a chocolate cake phase right now, and thought that maybe you’d like to go through a similar phase (it’s a great way to make friends, sharing the results!)

German Chocolate Cake is a retro classic (just like Red Velvet Cake).  The cake does not originate from Germany, but gets its name from a fellow named Sam German, who developed a sweet baking chocolate used in this cake. I have kept true to the flavour profile, which includes a gooey caramel-like pecan and coconut filling & topping, but I have opted for a milk chocolate cake and frosting.

When taking on this month’s challenge, be sure to budget time, between the tender, moist cake layers, gooey filling, frosting and assembly, it is best made a day before you wish to serve it.  Also, keep in mind that milk chocolate candy bars or chocolate chips are not suitable for melting into cake batters and frosting, since they are designed to hold their shape – you must use baking chocolate, also known as couverture.  It is now sold at most groceries, bulk and specialty stores.

The effort will be worth it, and I look forward to hearing about and seeing photos of the end result.  Get those glasses of ice cold milk ready!
annacake

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
Makes 1 2-layer 8-inch cake
Serves 10 to 12

Cake:
4 oz milk chocolate**, chopped
¾ cup boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pecan Coconut Filling:
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup maple syrup
¾ cup whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
¾ cup toasted & chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Frosting:
2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 oz milk chocolate**, chopped
2/3 cup full-fat sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Directions:
1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 ?F.  Grease two 8-inch cake pans, line the bottom of the pans with parchment and dust the sides with flour.
2. Place the chopped chocolate into a bowl and pour the boiling water over top, letting it sit a minute.  Whisk to melt the chocolate (don’t worry if the mixture appears grainy).  Set aside.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar, buttermilk, mayonnaise, eggs and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour mixture to this and whisk well, until there are no visible lumps.  Whisk in the chocolate mixture (the batter will be fluid), and divide this evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes and then turn them out to cool completely.
4. For the filling, whisk the brown sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepot.  Whisk in the maple syrup, cream and eggs and heat over medium-high, whisking constantly, until thickened and the filling just begins to bubble, about 6 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter, then stir in the coconut, pecans, vanilla and salt.  Scrape this into a bowl, cool and then chill completely before using.
5. For the frosting, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together. Melt the chocolate and butter by stirring gently in a bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water.  Remove from the heat and while still warm, beat in half of the icing sugar mixture using electric beaters or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla, scraping the bowl well and then add the remaining icing sugar until smooth.  Use the frosting immediately.
6. To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on a platter.  Spoon about a cup of the frosting into a piping bag and pipe around the top edge of the cake.  Spread half of the filling over the cake, right to the piped edge of frosting. Top this with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides of the cake with the frosting, placing any remaining frosting into the piping bag, for detailing on the top edge.  Spread the remaining filling over the top of the cake, finish any detailing and then chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

** It is important to use milk chocolate made for baking (couveture), not chocolate chips or commercial chocolate bars which will not melt smoothly into cake batters or frosting.
The cake will keep, refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

Adapted from Bake with Anna Olson

Here’s how Bake Off works:
•Our hostess with the mostess, Anna Olson, picks a recipe middle of every month
•You make the recipe (follow it or add your creative flair)

Email us (giveaways@foodnetwork.ca a picture and short descriptive blurb before March 14th at 9am ET for your chance to win! Anna will pick the winner (We are giving away a$250 gift card to Williams-Sonoma and an autographed copy of Anna’s cookbook).

anna

Professionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

Anna Olson’s Bake Off: ‘Show Your Style’ Granola Results

Great entries everyone!  I can tell that we were all getting into that January groove of feeling healthy, but also having the time to get creative, too.  Before I reveal the winners, a few observations:

I noticed how the additions of chocolate chips and coconut were the most common.  You tied these flavours in nicely, and clearly you know how to make a crowd-pleasing granola.

 

I love that you took the time to name your personal granola recipes!  Favourites include:

Nonna’s Biscotti Granola
Bountiful Berry Granola
Audrey’s Cherrific Mixed Nuts Granola
Savoury Curry Granola (very inventive – great idea!)
Take Me to the Tropics Granola
The Raisin Almond Awesomeness Granola
Carrot Cake Granola Delight

And for the winners:

Top prize: Jessica W. Congratulations Jessica.  Your command of nutritional values impressed me, and you put great effort into making a granola that packs a great punch in vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and more, but also factored in a balance of flavour.

Second Prize: Melissa L. I very much enjoyed your story about your Meme, and now that you are baking as a Meme yourself, the love & caring shows.  Additionally I appreciated how effortlessly you adjusted the recipe to make granola bars.

Clearly we have a group of talented bakers who aren’t afraid to think as they bake!  Well, I’ll get you thinking with the next Bake Off recipe!
‘Show Your Style Granola’

Makes about 6 cups (1.5 L)

2 cups  regular rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups whole or sliced nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts or even pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, or a mix)
½ cup  wheat germ
¼ cup  sesame seeds
½ cup  pure maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup  vegetable oil
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp  ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
dash of vanilla extract
2 cups dried fruits (such as raisins, currants, chopped dried apricots, chopped prunes, dried cranberries, dried cherries or a mix)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2. Combine the oats, nuts, wheat germ and sesame seeds in a large bowl.  Add the maple syrup (or honey), oil, orange zest, cinnamon, salt and vanilla and stir well to coat.  Spread this onto the prepared baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes until a rich golden brown, stirring 3 times as it bakes.

3. Immediately after removing the pan from the oven, stir in the dried fruits.  Allow the granola to cool before packing into an airtight container.

The granola will keep for up to 3 weeks.

 

Anna_OlsonProfessionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

 

 

 

 

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Anna’s August Bake Off: Peach Berry Cobbler

Get ready for round 3 of Bake Off!

Nothing speaks to summer more than peaches, and while I want to save fruit pie for a fall baking challenge (apple or pumpkin…I haven’t decided) I thought delicious cobbler would fit the bill for August. Cobbler has a fruit base, like a crisp, but the topping is more of a “cake meets scone” texture.

 

What I am really interested to see are your food photos! Cobbler is “rustic”, and takes a little originality to make it look polished and appealing.  Feel free to get creative with what you choose to bake it in and you can make these individual or even double the recipe to feed a crowd.  I also want to hear what you serve it with – whipped cream, ice cream, au naturel? Have fun and enjoy that true taste of summer!

PEACH BERRY COBBLER
Makes 1 8-cup baking dish
Serves 6 to 8

anna_peach_cobbler

Ingredients:
6 cups  peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 cup  fresh raspberries
½ cup  fresh blueberrie
3 Tbsp + ½ cup sugar, plus extra for cinnamon sugar
¼ tsp  ground cinnamon, plus extra for cinnamon sugar
2  eggs
6 Tbsp  unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup  milk
2 cups  all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp  cornmeal
4 tsp  baking powder
½ tsp  salt

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

2.  Toss the peaches, raspberries and blueberries with 3 Tbsp of sugar and ¼ tsp of the cinnamon and spread on the bottom of an 8-cup baking dish.

3.  Whisk the eggs, the remaining ½ cup of sugar, and melted butter together in a large bowl.  Whisk in the milk.  Sift in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and stir until combined (the batter will be wet).

4. Spoon the batter over the fruit, leaving a little space between spoonfuls to allow for expansion as the cobbler bakes.  Stir a little sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle this overtop the cobbler.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the peach juices are bubbling and the topping is cooked through (you can lift a piece up to check that it is cooked through).

Serve the cobbler warm with ice cream.

The cobbler will keep, refrigerated for up to 2 days.

From Back to Baking, Whitecap Books, 2011
Here’s how Bake Off works:  

  • Our hostess with the mostess, Anna Olson,  picks a recipe middle of every month
  • You make the recipe (follow it or add your creative flair)
  • Email us (giveaways@foodnetwork.ca) a picture and short descriptive blurb before September17th 9amET for your chance to win! Anna will pick the winner (We are giving away another KitchenAid Classic Stand Mixer and a personalized autographed copy of Back to Baking, Anna’s latest cookbook). 

Anna_OlsonProfessionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

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Anna’s Bake Off: Snickerdoodle Cookies and Berries Jubilee

Get ready for round 2 of Anna’s Bake Off! (If you haven’t seen the amazing results of the inaugural Bake Off, you must! – CJ)

Since last month’s challenge was a more elaborate cake, I thought I’d keep July’s challenge more in line with summer vacation, a little more relaxed. (But before we get to the recipe, let’s check out some of Anna’s vacation pics! – CJ)

This month’s challenge is Snickerdoodle Cookies with the bonus of a Berries Jubilee dessert!

The cookies are a classic sugar cookie and a staple recipe, whether for snacking after a day spent outdoors, or packing to take camping or up to the lake.

If you’re making these cookies with the help of the kids, I’d love to hear the tale, and perhaps, a photo of the kitchen after the process.
The Berries Jubilee is a simple summer dessert to prepare and can be served alongside a plate of the Snickerdoodles.

I wanted to share this recipe because we make this in the summer, when berries are at their best, but we prepare it outside on the BBQ!  It’s a perfect last-minute dessert to make, but also allows you safely flambée since you are outside.

Time it right and ignite the berries once the sun is almost set for a bigger “wow” impact. You can also make this family-friendly by omitting the Chambord or brandy and simply replacing it with orange juice.
annaberriesjubilee
SNICKERDOODLE COOKIES

Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup  unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup + 1/3 cup sugar
2  eggs, taken directly from the fridge
1 tsp  vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp  cream of tartar
½ tsp  salt
¾ tsp  ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

2. Cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until fluffy and light.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, cream of tartar and salt to combine, and then add to the butter mixture, blending well.

5. Stir the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Portion the prepared cookie dough by tablespoonfuls and drop into cinnamon sugar. Gently roll each cookie to coat it with the sugar and to shape them into balls and place them onto the prepared baking tray, leaving 1½ inches between them. Before baking, gently press the cookies with your palm to flatten.

6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are just lightly browned on the bottom. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Snickerdoodles can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

BERRIES JUBILEE

Serves 6

3 cups  fresh or frozen (thawed) mixed berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and/or blackberries
¼ cup  sugar
1 tbsp  lemon juice
1/3 cup  raspberry or red currant jam
3 tbsp  Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) or brandy
1 tsp  vanilla extract
vanilla ice cream

1. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and add berries and sugar, stirring until sugar melts. Add the lemon juice and stir in the jam. Add the Chambord or brandy using a ladle (watching out for steam and/or flames).

2. To ignite, lean pan toward a gas flame or ignite with a BBQ lighter and allow flames to subside (to avoid flames, reduce heat to low before adding Chambord and return slowing to a simmer).  Stir in the vanilla and spoon the berries over ice cream.

anna_bakeoff

Here’s how it works:  

  • Our hostess with the mostess, Anna Olson,  picks a recipe middle of every month
  • You make the recipe (follow it or add your creative flair)
  • Email us (giveaways@foodnetwork.ca) a picture and short descriptive blurb before August 15th for your chance to win! Anna will pick the winner (We are giving away another KitchenAid Classic Stand Mixer and a personalized autographed copy of Back to Baking, Anna’s latest cookbook).  This challenge is now closed! Check out the amazing results here and thanks to everyone who participated.

Anna_OlsonProfessionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

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