Category Archives: Shows

Carla Hall is laughing and has a big smile on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

Carla Hall Shares Her Favourite Moments From This Season (Plus, the Trend She Predicts for 2022)

She’s neither a fan of slasher movies nor psychological thrillers. But on this season of Halloween Baking Championship, Carla Hall says expect to see plenty of scary challenges incorporating those themes. That’s because this season, the show is playing homage to 1980’s slashers movies  both ionic, obscure and just downright freaky.

Carla Hall on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

Carla is joined yet again by her co-judges, Pastry Chefs Stephanie Boswell and Zack Young, as well as host John Henson to help choose this season’s winner. Carla says the group’s common shared interests, such as acting and overall rapport is a huge part of why she thinks Halloween Baking Championship has been such a fan favourite all these years and why it continues to be one of the most entertaining shows.

Related: Halloween Baking Championship: Meet the Season 7 Bakers

“ I think the bakers are great, but [the cast] there is a sense of family with John and my fellow judges,” Carla says. “We just don’t keep ourselves strapped with boundaries. We really play and we get into the characters that we dress up as. And no other show has the costumes. I think the costumes every year just level up.”

Judges look at a pie on this season of Halloween Baking Championship

Carla Hall’s Highlights From Halloween Baking Championship

Speaking of levelling up, Carla says fans can expect to see bakers create some of the scariest cakes to date with the set and costumes coming in a close second! “This year, the network allowed us to get really scary [meaning] we can have skin hanging off of our faces,” said Carla.

“The fact that the setting of the show is at Camp Devil’s Food Lake, so [think] legs, scariness, spookiness, things jumping out at you you can plan on all of that. I might not be able to tell you when it’s going to happen, but just know it’s going to happen.”

Finished pie on a cake stand on display in the Halloween Baking Championship studio

What else? Maybe not as frightening, only “ugly delicious” as Carla calls them, but “you’re going to see a lot of great crusts this season.” And who doesn’t like a good crust? Carla says she’s first in line for a delicious slab of pie.

“If I had to choose between cake or pie, I would choose pie because I love fruit and I love the flakiness. I love the differences in texture with pie. I love a flaky buttery crust.”

Tips for Going Beyond Cake Decorations

Decorating a cake so it wows the judges on the show takes technical skills, artistic abilities and a load of experience, says Hall.  But her advice for home bakers aspiring to be on the show or who want to be the star in their own kitchens at home?  Take risks and go beyond focusing on just the decorations.

Related: Gorgeous Edible Cake Decorations To Elevate Any Dessert

“It’s not just about decorating, but really [bakers have to] make sure that the textures of your baked goods are great,” she says. “Understand how butter works: Do you want to use room temperature or softened butter? I mean, those are very different things. Start slowly, then go to [the] decorating and then just make sure that it’s something that you enjoy.”

Carla Hall looking at a pie on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

As for that one winning element that edges out the competition? Dare to be different.

I think white sugar is overused and I think I would like to see the bakers explore different sweeteners because it gives more interest to the baked goods. I’m thinking there’s always some kind of raspberry with chocolate. I would like to see them break out and use something that’s not so predictable.”

Related: Apple Spider Web Pops

Carla Hall’s Trend Predictions for 2022: Savoury Sweets and Spices

Using savoury spices in baked goods is something Carla says bakers on the show typically shy away from using – but not this season.

“When I think of spices, I think of cumin, cayenne and black pepper, [and] we actually forced them [the bakers] to use them. You’re going to see cinnamon, you’re going to see nutmeg, you’re going to see allspice. Those are the very traditional spices, you see those. What we challenge them to do, though, is to go beyond their comfort level and use some of these other spices.”

Wes Dills' cake, as seen on Halloween Baking Championship, Season 7.

As for cake trends, Carla is glad to say goodbye to piñata cake, tsunami or pull-it-up cakes and drip cakes, and say hello to using savoury vegetables in cakes instead.

“What I think could be a trend or maybe I want this to be a trend is vegetables sweetened and turned into something else,” Carla told us. Using parsnips, or something like that in a cake, instead of carrot cake, [perhaps] celery root, the texture with celery root could be really nice. People are starting to use beets in a red velvet cake instead of the red dye because it’s natural, but the texture of beets also gives us that moist crumb.”

Related: Make-Ahead Gory White Chocolate Truffles for Your Next Halloween Bash

Carla Hall’s Favourite Recipes and Baking Traditions

Holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving are a great time to get everyone in the family involved in creating a meal and making long-lasting traditions, says Hall. Admittedly, the former Top Chef contestant says she didn’t start baking until she was well into her twenties, but she always loved to eat especially her grandmother’s cornbread

I remember just like watching her waiting for that cornbread to be done..you would have that cast iron skillet, you put the oil in the skillet and then you pour the batter into the skillet, and I remember, the sizzle that the batter would make. And then all of the batter would be rolling up the sides of that cast iron skillet and that she would put it in the oven. And I knew in 20-minutes we’d be eating.”

She says in those early days it wasn’t about learning how to make the cornbread however, but rather for her, it was about recreating the memories surrounding the moments before she ate the cornbread that in part, inspired her baking career today. 

Watch Halloween Baking Championship Mondays at 9 PM ET/PT. Watch and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

3 Kid-Friendly Halloween Dessert Decorating Ideas Inspired by The Big Bake

Sure, we can let the pandemic dampen another Halloween or we can make this year’s celebration special in a different way. Wicked or whimsical, macabre or kawaii, the thing that can be said about Halloween treats is that they are always fun and creative. Unleash your inner artist and delight the children (and adults) in your life with these bewitching desserts.  All three ideas require no baking – unless you want to!  Store-bought baked goods can be elevated with colourful candy melts, royal icing, melted chocolate, fondant and candies to lively (or ghoulish) effect. Everything you need can be sourced from the grocery store, doughnut shop, bulk store or art supply store.

Related: Try This Halloween Pumpkin Bundt Cake

The only from-scratch thing pictured is the buns, which you can sub with frozen or fresh rolls from the supermarket. The fun with these projects is in the design and decorating. Follow my lead or make your own phantom fantasies come to life. My daughters gleefully ate their way through a fair share of these confections, confirming they are as tasty as they are aesthetic. I’m giving you the download on how I created these three boo-licious treats so you can try your hand at one or all of them this holiday. Involve the little boos for a fun at-home activity. Queue the Halloween playlist and get decorating!

Six Halloween-themed decorated donuts on a pan sheet

Candy-Coated Donut Characters

Ingredients:
Plain doughnuts
Candy melts in desired colours (I used white, pink, green, orange)
Vegetable shortening for adjusting consistency of melted coating as needed (optional)
Small pack of white fondant (for mummy wrapping and eyeball)
Whole almonds for ears and little hands (or use candy corn if nut-allergic)
Dark chocolate chips and candy eyeballs (for eyes)
Chocolate Pocky for alien antennae and pumpkin stem
One dark chocolate ball for spider body
Candy corn or other small candy
Black royal icing

Related: This Candy-Filled Pumpkin Pail is the Perfect Halloween Showstopper

Directions:
1. Prepare candy melt as directed on the package. If the mixture seems thick and somewhat seized, add a dab of shortening to thin out and make it smooth. Pour enough candy melt into a small dish so that it will come halfway up the doughnut. Before dipping, poke in whole almonds for any ears and/or hands in the design. If making the three-eyed alien, break off the plain cookie end of a Pocky and insert it for the antennae.

2. Dip one side of the doughnut to coat. The candy coating will not be smooth immediately. Shake the doughnut side to side quickly to even out the candy coating – yes it actually works! For all black details, I used black royal icing piped out of a bag with a tiny hole cut at the tip for making precise, thin lines.  Add decorations as per below.

Related: How to Melt and Temper Chocolate for Perfect Candy Making

For the mummy (top left):
I used pink candy melt as the base. For the mummy wrap, roll out white fondant to 1/8” thickness and cut into thin strips. Drape them onto the donut. Attach candy eyes to the wet candy coating to adhere.

For the skeleton (top middle):
While the candy melt is still wet, adhere two dark chocolate chips with their flat base facing out to create the eyes. Dry thoroughly before decorating with icing. Dot nostrils and draw mouth with black icing.

For the alien (top right):
Before dipping in candy coating, make sure you’ve inserted two almonds on the sides for ears and the cookie end of a Pocky for the antennae. Place three candy eyes while the candy melt is still wet (otherwise glue it on with royal icing). Wait for the candy coating to dry completely before piping the mouth with black icing.

For the spider (bottom right): I used pink candy melt as the base. Add chocolate ball while still wet. Let dry thoroughly. Pipe spider legs with black icing. Use small dabs of black icing to glue candy corn and candy eyes onto the chocolate ball.

For the pumpkin (bottom middle): Before dipping into candy melt, insert almonds for hands. Let dry thoroughly. Draw face with black icing. Break off the chocolate end of a Pocky and insert it as the stem.

For the cyclops (bottom left):
Before dipping into candy melt, insert almonds for ears. Dip in green candy melt. Roll a piece of white fondant and cut a circle that will completely cover the donut hole (I used the larger end of a big piping tip). Place over the donut hole while the candy melt is still wet to adhere. Let dry thoroughly. Pipe a black circle on the white fondant for the pupil. I had a flat white disc sprinkle in a sprinkle mix, so I added that for a little “sparkle” in the eye. You can create the same effect with a tiny circle of white fondant.

Related: Spooky S’Mores Bars Are the Perfect Halloween Treat

Nine decorated buns with Halloween theme

Chocolate Decorated Buns

Ingredients:
One batch of rolls, homemade or frozen store-bought and baked according to package directions
Melted dark chocolate
Candy eye
Optional if making from scratch: culinary matcha and turmeric powder to add colour to dough

Directions:
1. If you’re baking dinner rolls from frozen store-bought, prepare them based on package directions and allow to cool fully on a rack before decorating. If you’re making the rolls from scratch, consider using the milk bread recipe in my Honey Scallion Wool Roll Bread, without the filling. Form the dough into balls (about 55g each), stuff them with chocolate chips if you like and bake as dinner rolls for 35 minutes. For optional colouring, after the 10-min kneading step, split the dough into three equal pieces. For one third, knead 1 tbsp culinary matcha for 2 minutes. For second third, knead ½ tsp turmeric powder for 2 minutes. Leave the final third plain.

2. Once your rolls are fully cooled, melt dark chocolate until smooth. Place in a piping bag with a small tip cut at the end. Pipe decorations as desired. For my spider, I also attached candy eyes using small dots of melted chocolate.

Sheet pan of chocolate cake dessert with RIP signs and a hanging ghost overtop

Chocolate Cake Graveyard With Hanging Ghost

Ingredients:
Chocolate sheet cake, homemade or store-bought
Oreo cookie crumbs
Crackers or cookies for gravestones
Chocolate rock candies (from bulk store)
Melted dark chocolate for writing on gravestones
For hanging ghost: small piece of white fondant, small candy ball or a small rolled up ball of fondant, piece of twine for hanging
Small branch for the tree (make sure it’s not from a toxic plant)

Related: Pull-Apart Graveyard Cupcakes

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate until smooth and place in a piping bag with a tiny tip cut off. Write “RIP” on cookies for the gravestones. Let dry. For the hanging ghost, roll a piece of white fondant 1/8” inch thick and cut a small circle about 2” in diameter. Roll another piece of fondant into a small ball to fit inside as the ghost head – you can also use a small candy ball. Gently double-knot a piece of twine around the collar, with one end long enough for hanging. Dot two small eyes with melted chocolate.

2. Cover chocolate sheet cake with a generous layer of Oreo cookie crumbs for soil. Insert cookie gravestones into the cake. Scatter rock candies.  Trim the bottom of your tree branch for appropriate scale to your cake. Wrap the bottom 1-2” of the branch with cling wrap so it doesn’t come in direct contact with cake, but is concealed once inserted. Insert branch into the cake. Hang fondant ghost off a branch. You may need to tilt the tree to counterbalance the weight of the ghost. Use rock candies at the tree base to stabilize it. 

Tune into The Big Bake: Halloween on September 27 at 8 PM ET to see new episodes. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Hamburger sitting in a food truck window

10 Canadian Food Trucks That’ll Satisfy Your Street Food Cravings

Some call them the pioneers of take-out food culture. Others call them mobile eateries with a purpose. Whatever you think about food trucks, we are glad to see them roaming the streets of Canadian cities again as pandemic restrictions continue to ease up and outdoor eating becomes more of the norm. To toast these entrepreneurs and in honour of the series premiere of The Great Food Truck Race: All Stars, here are some must-try food trucks across Canada.

Tacofino, Vancouver, BC

From humble beginnings in a Tofino, BC surf shop parking lot to now eight physical locations across Vancouver, BC, including three food trucks, and a location in Victoria, BC, Tacofino is not slowing down as one of the most popular West Coast food truck destinations. That’s because the dishes have a vibe: The list of faves is long but we recommend ordering doubles of the Baja Style Fish Tacos and the Chocolate Diablo Cookies. 

Rick’s Good Eats, Mississauga, ON

Chef Rick Matharu’s butter chicken lasagna won him bragging rights on Food Network Canada’s Recipe to Riches back in the day. So it makes sense that he is serving up the same flavour mash-ups in the mobile-version of his Mississauga resto AKA food truck. People on social media are going ga-ga over the Punjabi Beyond Burger Tandoori, Gar-Par Wings and Cheesecake Samosas. Can we blame them?

 

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Cheese Boutique Food Truck, Toronto, ON

Afrim Pristine of Toronto’s Cheese Boutique should now be a name you’re familiar with (you did catch his docu-series on Food Network Canada , Cheese: A Love Story, we hope?). Want to hear more? He’s using the CB food truck for a greater purpose. During the summer months and beyond, the truck hosts “takeovers” with different GTA restaurants serving up some seriously great eats. Some of the takeovers this past summer included the teams from The Chicken Cartel, Stush Patties and Rodie (AKA the Marben Restaurant folks in Toronto).

 

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Related: 10 Facts You Never Knew About Cheese

Buster’s Sea Cove, Toronto, ON

If you’re from the GTA or visiting the Toronto-area, this seafood spot is hard to beat. With a super popular food stall at the St. Lawrence Market, Buster’s Sea Cove has two food trucks roaming around all season round, serving up some of the best fish and chips, lobster bisque, grilled fish and seasonal lobster rolls in the GTA. 

 

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Mi Corazon, Montreal, QC

What’s better than Mexican street food at its finest? Vegan-Fusion Mexican street food it’s finest – that’s what! Montreal’s Mi Corazon has stolen the hearts of foodies since 2015 when owner-chef Rafael Martinez first came on the scene. Almost everything is made in-truck and uses some of the finest ingredients and flavours to represent the diverse regions of Mexico, mixing into local favourites – like poutine.

Chaska Streetfood, Toronto, ON

Naveen Seth has taken his obsession with Indian street food –literally – to the streets. His food truck’s name, Chaska, means obsession and he hopes to make everyone a follower. Samosa sliders, rice bowls and spiced chickpea masala offer traditional flavours with halal, vegan and loads of veggie options as well. Tip: The  Royal Rose Falooda which is an ice cream-based dish with vermicelli noodles, jelly, rose syrup and sabja seeds is perfect hue for an Insta post.

Related: The 30-Minute Instant Pot Curry a Nutritionist Makes Every Week

Jerk Brothers, Toronto, ON

Since 2003, Collin Black’s Jerk Brother’s has been serving up some delicious Caribbean flavours and hosting a list of notable clients who love to the offerings, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Drew Scott from the HGTV Canada’s Property Brothers. Expect traditional Jamaican staples when you go: jerk and curry chicken (and poutine of the same leaning), stuffed patties, oxtail and fried plantains to name a few. 

 

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Bangkok Thai Food Truck, Moncton, NB

If you’ve got a craving for Thai food and you’re on the go, seek out this truck that roams the Maritimes. After moving to Canada from Thailand over a decade ago, owner Jariya O’Brien started selling Pad Thai and spring rolls at a local market as a hobby. As popularity grew, the chef’s small operation grew into Bangkok Food Truck that now offers various dishes. 

Baluchon, Montreal, QC

Genevieve and Mathilde are the ladies behind this chic, cafe-on-wheels serving up all the feels in Montreal’s hottest neighourhoods. Some of their mouthwatering artisanal pastries include fresh fruit flans, freshly baked bread, scones and muffins. Craving something for lunch?  The grilled cheese sammy gets rave reviews online. 

 

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Rey Rays, Port Hope, ON

This family-run food truck in the small town of Port Hope, ON has taco aficionados craving some more of these authentic Mexican creations. Serving up homemade corn tortillas with their tacos, polenta fries and unique salads like the Killer Koleslaw as part of a healthier fare, there is something for every appetite to try.

 

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New season premieres September 16 at 10 PM ET/PT. Watch The Great Food Truck Race: All Stars and stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Feature image courtesy of Pexels.

Buddy Valastro and his Carlo's Bakery team pose for a photo after winning Season 3 of Buddy vs. Duff

Buddy vs. Duff Season 3: The Best Moments

A close race right up until the very end, the third season of Buddy vs. Duff kept viewers in suspense with a completely tied score heading into the finale. Despite filming on both coasts with judges scattered across the country due to the pandemic, the rivalry was just as fierce in this East Coast/West Coast mashup. Both bakers also came into the competition changed by life circumstances: Buddy Valastro’s bowling accident that injured his dominant hand (a crucial tool for a baker) and the birth of Duff Goldman’s first child Josephine, with his wife Johnna.

Although Buddy took home the ultimate win with a 247-245 final score, the eight-episode season was filled with memorable moments from the Charm City Cakes and Carlo’s Bakery teams. Let’s take a look at a few of Season 3’s best moments.

Related: Meet the Cast of Buddy vs. Duff

A Return To The Classics: Episode 3, “Sweet Rides”

Calling back to an early challenge in Season 1, Duff suggested a rematch to redeem his team’s previously faulty hydraulics on a lowrider 64 Impala that he built with lead cake decorator Geof Manthorne. “It was a cool cake, but not our best work,” admitted Duff. This time, Duff and Geof had a team supporting them and went bigger and better with an eight-foot-long version showing off an LA bounce and working headlights and taillights. Ultimately, the car ended up losing narrowly by two points to Buddy’s fire engine red ’57 Chevy convertible, which impressed the judges with its detailed interior and stunning isomalt work.

 

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An Ace In The Hole: Episode 8, “Monster Matchup”

Secret weapon Laurent Branlard was a real ringer on the Carlo’s Bakery team, spinning out sugar work that wowed the judges time and time again. His glowing blown sugar spikes with a colour-changing light reflecting through them was a stunning game-changer on the team’s 20-foot long dinosaur. Not only did Laurent, an executive pastry chef, create 70 of these spikes (“I’m not going to lie —it’s pretty overwhelming,” he said), but he also found time to decorate them with disturbingly realistic lesions on the cake. “Who doesn’t dream about eating a pimple?”, he joked.

 

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Mishaps: All Season

From dropped trees on Duff’s hanging gardens to a tire blow-up on Buddy’s classic car, both teams had to deal with mishaps all through the season. During the Episode 4: First We Feast episode, both teams faced challenges in construction. As the Carlo’s Bakery crew moved their massive cake slice into the final area, Buddy got to do some last-minute repair when the sprinkles on the back started falling off, leading head sculptor Ralph Attanasia to dub Buddy the “Sprinkle Boss” and reducing the team to giggles. “We actually had a little disaster of it falling down and we had to redo it. I gotta be honest with you — the second time around, I think we did it better,” Buddy told the judges.

See More: The Best Moments From Season 2 of Buddy vs. Duff

 

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On the Charm City Cakes side, homemade jelly jars made of isomalt filled with corn syrup were a great concept that had some issues with execution (trust Geof to hack a solution when the liquid springs a leak in the isomalt).

…And Machinery: All Season

Finally, who could forget the madcap machinations that occurred on both sides this season? Buddy’s love of his forklift (even executing a complicated cake flip that previously led to disaster in previous seasons) led pastry chef and cake artist Becky Blaso to comment, “Buddy always says go big or go home” when watching the mayhem. On the Charm City Cakes team, from Geof’s pivoting table belt that lifted the arms of nine-foot monster Marty to the lighting effect that animated the final cake, the team went all out to try new things. “Having the extra day gives us extra time to be extra dumb and dangerous,” observed Duff of Geof’s mad scientist lightning tube wiring.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff and stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Ina Garten's skillet kitchen in a cast iron pan with lemon slices

Ina Garten’s Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken is a Game Changer for Weeknight Meals

Roast chicken isn’t just for Sunday dinners any more thanks to this easy recipe from The Barefoot Contessa. Using a cast-iron pan, nestle an herb-marinated, butterflied chicken on a bed of lemon slices, onion and garlic and roast at a high temperature. In just under an hour, you’ll have perfectly tender chicken with golden, crispy skin. With a little help from Ina Garten, you’ll be channelling your inner chef in no time at all!

Related: Ina Garten’s Quick Recipes Using Store-Bought Ingredients

Ina Garten’s Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken

Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes (includes resting time)
Serves:
3

Ingredients:
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup good olive oil
1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (4-lb) chicken, backbone removed and butterflied
½ cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Juice of 1 lemon

Related: Ina Garten’s Best Chicken Recipes: From Roast Chicken to Pot Pie

Cast iron pan with skillet cooked grilled chicken

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Place the thyme, fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a mini food processor and process until ground. Pour the olive oil into a small glass measuring cup, stir in the herb mixture, and set aside.

3. Distribute the lemon slices in a 12-inch cast iron skillet and distribute the onion and garlic on top. Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with about half the oil and herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up, pat it dry with paper towels (very important!), and brush it all over with the rest of the oil and herb mixture.

4. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan (not on the chicken!) and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160°F.

5. Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle it with the lemon juice, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the chicken in quarters or eighths, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with the pan juices, cooked lemon, and onion.

Related: Any Hour is Cocktail Hour Thanks to Ina Garten’s Classic Cosmopolitan

Bone-in chicken bread with lemon and side of greens

For more kitchen inspiration from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, check out the 15 Cooking Techniques That Ina Garten Wants You to Know.

Watch Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Host Duff Goldman at Charm City Cakes with his arms folder and a smile on his face

The Evolution of Duff Goldman: From Ace of Cakes to Buddy vs. Duff

Duff Goldman became a household name with Ace of Cakes but soon, the success of the Food Network series inspired other cake shows and the landscape became sweetly saturated. Thankfully that was just beginning for this chef, who is also a bit of a rock star — he plays bass in the Elvis cover band Foie Grock, after all.

From emerging as the face of Charm City Cakes, to cookbooks, a handful of shows on Food Network Canada, and a very full personal life, it’s safe to say that Duff’s (dessert) plate is full. Let’s go back and see how it all began, shall we?

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

The Name of the Game

 

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Jeffrey Adam Goldman was born in Detroit in 1974 before his family moved to Missouri. His nickname came from his older brother, Willie, who was unable to pronounce “Jeffrey.” Instead, “Duffy” became his new permanent nickname. Thank goodness. Not sure we could handle a Jeff and a Geof (Geoffrey Manthorne, Duff’s right hand man).

Easy as Cake

 

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Duff’s been working in kitchens since he was 14. His first job was at a bagel store at the mall and eventually he became a fry cook at McDonald’s. In college, he applied to work as a cook at the Charleston, one of Baltimore’s finest restaurants, but head chef Cindy Wolf told him he lacked experience. She did, however, offer him a position making cornbread and biscuits. That was the turning point in his career.

Fine Art

 

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Let’s not forget that Duff went to culinary school. Post-university (he has degrees in philosophy and history from the University of Maryland), Duff attended the Culinary Institute of America. It was there that he discovered his serious cake-making skills. He then worked at The French Laundry, run by renowned chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Thomas Keller. Under Keller’s leadership, Duff realized food and art could become one beautiful thing.

Business as Usual

 

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Duff first launched his cake business in 2000, out of his Mount Vernon, Virginia apartment. There, he would make one cake a week, but as time went by his confections were becoming more in demand. Two years later he opened Charm City Cakes — this time out of a studio in Baltimore. By 2003, Duff sold $130,000 worth of cakes, nearly three times what he sold in his first year.

Show Time

 

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Ace of Cakes was born in 2006. The show focused on the daily operations of Charm City Cakes as Duff and his equally fun and quirky staff went about their daily routines, constructing cakes using a variety of traditional and unconventional tools (like belt sanders, blowtorches and power saws). The show ran for 10 seasons over five years, coming to an end in 2011.

No Slowing Down

 

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Ace of Cakes may have ended but that didn’t mean things were less busy for Duff. On the contrary, he opened his second bakery, this time in Los Angeles, which has the same Baltimore charm just in sunnier conditions. And more famous people.

Memory Lane

 

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Some of the more memorable events Charm City Cakes has represented over the years were the premieres of Kung-Fu PandaHairspray and a couple of the Harry Potter movies, not to mention the times he was commissioned to make replicas of Radio City Music Hall, Wrigley Field, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Love and Marriage

 

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Duff and his then girlfriend Johnna Colbry dated for three years before they got married on Jan. 21, 2019. Naturally, there were three cakes at the ceremony: an underwater-themed creation that hung from the ceiling, a traditional white wedding cake for Johnna and a meat cake for Duff. That last concoction was memorable thanks to its bottom meatball tier, secondary meatloaf tier, lamb shawarma for the third tier, and scrapple on top. The frosting was mashed potatoes, bacon roses adorned the “icing,” and gravy cascaded from the chocolate fountain. Obviously.

Lights, Camera, so Much Action

 

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Ace of Cakes may have taken up a lot of Duff’s precious baking time, but after a few years’ hiatus, the baker and chef returned to the small screen in 2014 with Kids Baking Championship. He quickly followed that up with Holiday Baking ChampionshipSpring Baking Championship and Duff Takes the Cake.

Putting Pen to Paper

 

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Duff has always been willing to share the secrets to his success, which he does in cookbook form. The personality released his third title in Fall 2020, Super Good Baking For Kids. Previously he had also released  Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes and Duff Bakes: Think and Bake Like a Pro at Home.

Growing His Family

 

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Duff’s third book may have been inspired by the fact that he was about to become a dad himself. In February 2021 Duff and Johnna welcomed baby girl Josephine to the world. “We made a family! I have a whole little family!” he wrote on social media at the time. “I keep telling Josephine about all the wonderful things she’s gonna get to try like pizza and candy and swimming and concerts and riding a bike.”

Merching Out

 

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In addition to growing his business and his family, Duff has also gotten into the merchandising game. On his official site, he hocks plenty of branded t-shirts, beanies and baking accessories, allowing fans to bring a little of Duff into their own kitchens, too.

His Latest TV Adventure

 

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Duff’s latest competition, Buddy vs. Duff, is now in its third season. Duff took the crown in Season 1 thanks to his seriously charming yet complex cakes, but Buddy Valastro rebounded in a big way to take home the win in Season 2. This season, everything will be on the line for these legendary cake artists, who hope to prove once and for all that they are the reigning cake champ.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Posted by Denette Wilford. Last Updated on August 22 by Amber Dowling.

Anna Olson poses smiling with her hat box birthday cake

Here’s the Cake Anna Olson Bakes for Her Birthday – and Why You Should, Too!

Everybody loves birthday cake! And why not? A birthday cake means there is a celebration, and someone is being honoured, and best of all if that person is you!

My birthday is May 8th, falling very near or sometimes right on Mother’s Day, so there are now two reasons to bake a cake.  The question is: what type of cake to make?  You’ve seen me make every possible type of cake, but are you curious which are my favourites?  Here are a few things about me and my love of cake, and some guiding tips that I follow:

Related: Magical Birthday Cupcake Recipes

Cake vs. Cupcake

Cupcakes were always my choice growing up, and ballerinas were my “thing”. My Mom had a set of plastic ballerina figurines that she would top each cupcake with for years.

Remember regular layer cake batters don’t always adapt well to cupcakes.  Often wet batters will stick to the paper liners on cupcakes instead of peeling away easily.  If you want a cupcake, choose a cupcake recipe.

Related: Anna Olson’s Best Chocolate Recipes

A chocolate cupcake topped with swirled chocolate and vanilla icingGet the recipe: Chocolate Spice Cupcake with Chocolate “Swirl” Frosting

Tip: When baking cake layers, whether round or square, use cake pans with sides that are a straight 90° from the bottom.  Some cake pans have angled sides (for the only reason that they nest well for shipping) but when layers are assembled, the cake won’t have straight sides, and the angle is noticeable when the cake is sliced. I’ve designed my Anna Olson Kitchen cake pans specifically with this in mind.

Choosing Your Birthday Cake Flavour

I love the classically named cakes, with their defined flavour & filling combinations:

Black forest cake sliced open revealing delicious layers of chocolate cake and cherry filling
Black Forest Cake – chocolate cake, cherry filling and whipped cream frosting

Beautiful Dobos Tort decorated with caramelized sugar Dobos Torte – thin layers of nut sponge with chocolate buttercream and a caramelized sugar “fan” on top

Slices of opera tart cakeOpera Torte – sponge, ganache and mocha buttercream

I also like watching cake flavour and decor trends, including “naked” cakes, confetti cakes, and I am going through a serious waffle cake phase right now.

I don’t repeat birthday cakes – I change it up every year, and I rarely choose a chocolate cake.

See More: Anna Olson’s Healthier Dessert Recipes

When to Bake Your Birthday Cake

Because I’d like to be a guest at my own birthday party, I plan on baking the cake layers two days ahead (or baking and freezing further ahead) and making the fillings and frosting the day before, and assembling then.

Tip: Cake layers are less crumbly and easier to slice when baked a day before frosting them.

Anna Olson poses smiling with her hat box birthday cake

Tip: Unfrosted cake layers should not be refrigerated (it would dry the cake out. If baking a day ahead, wrap them well and leave them on the counter.  Once assembled, the frosting seals in the moisture, so it can be chilled and stay fresh.

Related: Anna Olson’s Guide for Working With Buttercream

How Long Will Your Cake Sit Out?

If the weather is nice (and you went to a deal of effort), you’ll want to show off the cake and let it sit out at room temperature (out of direct sunlight).

Tip: Frosting and fondants that have food colouring added fade when exposed to direct sunlight. Take care where the cake is placed for display, and adding a little glycerin (available where you buy cake decorating supplies) to your frosting or fondant will help preserve the colour.

So you need to choose fillings and frosting that suit:

Out for under 30 minutes: mousse fillings and whipped cream frostings are fine.

Out for 30-90 minutes: Curd fillings, fruit fillings, cream cheese frostings and chocolate ganache can handle sitting out for longer.

Out for 90+ minutes: Swiss buttercream cakes, fondant-covered cakes, and cupcakes can sit out longer.  Italian buttercream is the most stable frosting, which is why it is a favourite choice of pastry chefs for wedding cakes.

Anna’s Birthday Cake

So now that we’ve talked about all types of cakes, what is my choice for a birthday cake?  And the winner is:

Beautifully decorates lemon buttercream hatbox cake with buttercream bow
Get the recipe: Lemon Swiss Buttercream Hatbox Cake

Lemon cakes are ideal in spring, and I’m also thinking about Mother’s Day – I’ll be celebrating with my Mom then, and she loves a good lemon cake as well.  The silkiness of the Swiss buttercream is sweet, smooth and stable, but is not overly rich or cloying.  I’m not certain that I’ll replicate this hatbox style – I may go for piping spring flowers on top to suit the season.  Now that the Anna Olson Kitchen line carries a box of 100 reusable & recyclable disposable piping bags, and a piping tip set, there are no limits to my decor stylings.

Slice of Anna Olson's lemon swiss buttercream birthday cake

And if you are baking a birthday cake for yourself or someone else, remember that delicious memories are made in the kitchen – enjoy the time spent baking as much as the time spent eating!

The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and décor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and  www.thebay.com

Smiling Chef Nazaree in an orange apron and floral blouse

5 Steps to a Better School Lunch With Junior Chef Showdown Winner Nazaree

Kids will be back in school  before you know it, so now would be  a good time to start brainstorming about your family’s September routine. Why not make this the year that you start incorporating kids into the lunch planning process? After all, learning how to make school lunches is a great way to encourage kids of all ages to become more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.

With this in mind, we turned to one of Canada’s most talented young chefs and this season’s Junior Chef Showdown winner, Nazaree, to give us some of her tips and tricks for packing better school lunches. 

Related: The Winning Dish From Junior Chef Showdown Will Become a Family-Favourite Meal in No Time

A boy eating lunch while watching his mom slice a cantaloupe

1. Get Kids Involved

Inspire kids to get excited about eating lunch at school by offering them a variety of options, making different recipes or taking them grocery shopping. As most parents can agree, just because their child likes a particular type of food or recipe at home does not always mean they’ll enjoy eating it at school. 

“I love eating pizza, but not if it’s cold,” Nazaree says, explaining that her microwave in the cafeteria isn’t always the best. “Instead, I like to bring a pizza-inspired sandwich to school,” to which she adds marinara sauce, shredded cheese and her favourite pizza toppings.

A sandwich in a child's bento box with cherries and carrots and celery

Related: Kitchen Skills Parents Should Teach Their Kids By Age 10

2. Pack Better Sandwiches 

There are many reasons why people love packing sandwiches for lunch: they’re portable, budget-friendly and the variety of ingredients that you can pack inside are endless. But there’s one aspect about sandwiches in your lunch box that’s hard to love they can get soggy quickly.

“Soggy sandwiches are worse than soggy pizzas,” Nazaree says with a laugh. Keep lunch box sandwiches from getting too soggy by packing the ingredients in individual containers and assembling the sandwich once it’s time to eat, she says. 

Another way to keep lunchbox sandwiches interesting is by rotating from your go-to sliced bread to bagels, pitas or baguettes. Kids with a more adventurous palate can taste test different cheeses or experiment with various sandwich toppings like mustards and dressings. If you or your little one isn’t a fan of sandwiches, check out these portable lunch ideas.Mango salad with tomatoes and onions

3. Switch Things Up

Busy families know that it’s all too easy to get into a rut when packing lunches for school. Add more excitement to your lunchbox by thinking how different ingredients can be incorporated into multiple meals and snacks. “I love bringing sliced mangoes to school,” Nazaree says. But to add more variety to her lunchbox, she eats them plain some days and uses them in her fruit salad on others. 

School age girl filling up reuseable water bottle

4. Buy Proper Supplies  

Stocking up on proper lunch supplies like reusable snack containers, thermal food jars and reusable water bottles makes packing lunches for school much easier. 

For many students, bento boxes are the must-have accessory in the cafeteria table. “Bento boxes are really popular for kids in the first or second grade,” she explains. For middle school students like herself, Nazaree recommends using bento boxes for more exciting lunches like build-your-own tacos. 

Apple Pie granola bars

5. Bring Shareable Snacks 

After many students experienced virtual learning during the past year or so, eating lunch together in person will feel even more special for kids that are returning to in-person learning. Nazaree says that nut-free desserts like donuts or ice cream sandwiches are always a big hit, if parents want to bring in treats for special occasions such as birthdays.

“My friends and I like to swap juice boxes, and we always like to share cookies and chips,” she adds.  So the next time you’re packing a special snack like homemade granola bars, ask kids if they want to pack a few extras to share with their friends at the lunch table. 

Watch Junior Chef Showdown and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Host Buddy Valastro talks to his team on the new season of Buddy vs. Duff.

The Evolution of Buddy Valastro: From Cake Boss to Buddy vs. Duff

Buddy Valastro has come a long way in a short time, from son of a baker to boss of all things baked. And while his personality has made for perfect television, Buddy still does what he does best: bakes elaborate and mouthwatering cakes that are treats for the mouth and the eyes. But while cakes may be his day job (thanks to Carlo’s Bakery), family is everything for the husband and father of four. His two cookbooks are all about famiglia and the fourth generation baker keeps those traditions going in his shops. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and explore the evolution of Buddy Valastro.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 10 PM ET/PT and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

 Jersey Boy

 

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Buddy was born in Hoboken, N.J. in 1977. The baby of the Valastro clan (he has four older sisters) began working at his family’s business, Carlo’s Bakery, at age 11, alongside his father, Buddy Sr. He took baking courses in high school, but the gene was already baked in his blood. Nothing was going to stop him from creating cakes and other amazing confections.

Shop Talk

 

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Buddy’s dad passed away in 1994 when Buddy was 17. The son not only took over the shop but also succeeded his Pops as the new cake boss — literally.

Buddy’s Television Debut

 

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The shop has made a name for itself by producing some of the most extravagant and grandiose cakes. Buddy made his first appearance on the Food Network in 2007, when he guest-mentored the “Battle of the Brides” episode of Food Network Challenge. But with his personality, it wouldn’t be the last we saw of him on-screen. In fact, it was just a taste.

Star Power

 

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Carlo’s Bakery is known for creating cakes for any occasion that are devoured by celebrities (from Britney, to Gigi, to Beyoncé, to Big Bird) and ordinary Joes alike.

The Big Time

 

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In 2009, his series – the aptly named Cake Boss – premiered on TLC and ran for eight seasons. It spawned several spinoffs including Next Great BakerKitchen BossBakers vs. Fakers and Buddy’s Family Vacation, which featured Buddy, wife Lisa and their four kids — Sofia, Buddy Jr., Marco and Carlo — as they embarked on an RV road trip across America in search of delicious eats and fun-filled adventures.

Sweet Street

 

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Carlo’s Bakery was actually founded by Italian pastry chef Carlo Guastaferro in 1910 before he sold it to Buddy’s father in 1964. In 2010, in honour of the bakery’s 100th anniversary, Hoboken renamed the corner of where the shop sits (Washington and Newark Streets) to Carlo’s Bakery Way.

A Tough Personal Loss

 

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In 2017 Buddy suffered a huge personal blow when the family lost their matriarch, Mary Valastro. The 69-year-old had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and she put up a good fight. “She is no longer suffering and I hope she’s dancing to ‘I Will Survive’ with my dad right now,” Buddy shared on social media at the time.

A Rivalry Was Born 

 

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The brilliant idea of pitting Buddy against Ace of Cakes’ Duff Goldman was an epic baking battle that couldn’t be denied. They may be baking royalty but their styles are very different as Buddy’s cakes tend to be huge and filled with all kinds of personality, while Duff’s are meticulously detailed. In any case, Buddy vs. Duff was born, and one thing was clear: Buddy didn’t like it when he lost to Duff—he didn’t like it one little bit.

Host With the Most

 

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Buddy may have been licking those frosted-filled wounds following the first season of Buddy vs. Duff, but he was too busy to dwell on the loss for long. The 43-year-old couldn’t be a more perfect host for the series Bake You Rich, which saw four bakers competing to become a household name. Each episode’s victor found their winning creation available to order at Carlo’s Bakery. Now that’s sweet!

Ace of Cupcakes

Buddy broke his own Guinness World Record in October 2019 when he appeared on Live! With Kelly and Ryan and iced even more cupcakes in one minute than he did earlier in the year.

Buddy vs. Duff: Take Two

 

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Duff may have taken Season 1 of Buddy vs. Duff but Buddy had something to prove in the show’s second season. He and his team mounted an epic comeback with some of the biggest cake creations we’ve ever seen, evening out the score between these two bakers by taking home the win.

A Tragic Accident

 

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Buddy’s victory was short-lived when, in September 2020, he mangled his hand in a gruesome freak accident while bowling with his family. The bowling pinsetter malfunctioned, and a metal rod impaled his hand. The ace baker then underwent five reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy, and today he says he feels back to 90-95 per cent.

Ready for Round 3

 

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With Buddy and Duff tied at one win apiece, there’s a lot on the line as we head into Buddy vs. Duff Season 3. This time around the challenges are tougher than ever, but both personalities seem ready to prove that they have what it takes to outdo the other. And as far as we’re concerned, we can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Posted by Denette Wilford. Last Updated on August 9 by Amber Dowling.

Beauty shot of Molly Yeh's carrot cake with spiced cream cheese icing

Molly Yeh’s Carrot Cake With Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting is Simply Show-Stopping

Your carrot cake game will never be the same once you try Molly Yeh’s sensational recipe. The secret ingredient that sets this dessert apart from the other carrot cake recipes you’ve tried in the past? Cardamom-forward hawaij, a warm spice blend from Yemen that Molly adds to both the cake and the creamy frosting. The simple (read: genius!) rainbow carrot rosettes adorning the cake also lend a touch of whimsy. Don’t be surprised if your friends and family ask for a second slice… it really does, dare we say, take the cake as the recipe to bake this season.

Related: Carrot Cake Recipes in Every Form, From Cupcakes to Cookies

Molly Yeh's Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting, as seen on Girl Meets Farm, Season 3.

Molly Yeh’s Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves:
6-8

Ingredients:

Carrot Cake
Nonstick cooking spray, for the cake pans
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp hawaij (see Cook’s Note)
1 ½ cups neutral oil, such as canola
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
2 cups shredded carrots
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Spiced Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp hawaij
Pinch of kosher salt
Rainbow carrots, peeled into ribbons with a peeler, to decorate
1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked, to decorate

Cook’s Note: Hawaij is a Yemeni warm spice blend that’s heavy on the cardamom and can be used to flavour baked goods, frosting or even sprinkled in coffee! You can make a substitute by mixing 1 Tbsp ground ginger, 1 Tbsp ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.

Related: Carrot Cake and Cheesecake Combine Into One Glorious Dessert

Directions:

Carrot Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment. Set aside.

2. Combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and hawaij in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Whisk in the vanilla.

Related: Bright and Beautiful Breakfasts to Get You Excited for Spring

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and mix until about 90 per cent incorporated. Add the carrots and sesame seeds, and mix to incorporate (by this time, all of the flour mixture should be incorporated as well).

4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Related: Easy Dessert Recipes That Take 15 Minutes or Less

Spiced Frosting
1. Add the butter and cream cheese to a large bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until smooth and combined. Add the powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Then add the heavy cream, vanilla, hawaij and salt. Mix until combined and smooth.

2. Cover the cakes with frosting and stack. Use the carrot ribbons to roll into rose shapes and place on top of the cake. Decorate with the rosemary, and serve!

Looking for more standout dishes from the celebrated food blogger and Girl Meets Farm star? Start your day the Molly Yeh way with these breakfast recipes!

Grilled Korean Chicken Skewers topped with sesame seeds and lime on a grey plate

How to Cook the Perfect Grilled Chicken Every Time

Moo-ve along burgers and other beef cuts, crowd-pleasing chicken is the perfect protein for grilling.

What is the Best Way to Grill Chicken?

Different cuts, myriad marinades and lots of cooking styles mean you’re never at a loss for ideas about what to make. With all these options, though, can come many questions. Dark meat or light? Can you treat them the same? (Short answer, no.) What do I need to beware of before I get started? And how long does it need to cook
for?

A few simple tips and tricks will serve you well when it comes to grilling chicken, ensuring a delicious meal every time.

grilled honey lime chicken breasts on a bed of herbs with peach avocado salsa
Get the Recipe:  Honey Lime Chicken Breasts with Peach and Avocado Salsa

How Long Do You Cook Chicken On the Grill?

Just as some people prefer barbecued chicken thighs over drumsticks or breasts, the grill doesn’t treat all these cuts equally either. The size and thickness of the pieces and whether they’re boneless or not affect both the cooking time and the minimum safe internal temperature that indicates when the chicken is fully cooked and ready to eat.

Using an instant-read meat thermometer is the only way to know for sure if it’s time to take your chicken off the heat. But there are some rules of thumb when it comes to gauging just how long that should take.

Related: 10 Grilling Tools for Barbecue Season That Chefs Swear By

Grilled Korean Chicken Skewers topped with sesame seeds and lime on a grey plate
Try it: 30-Minute Gochujang Korean Chicken Skewers

Bone-in cuts need to cook longer than boneless breasts or thighs. If you’re looking to save some time, feel free to opt for cuts without the bone. Those with them, though, will stay juicier throughout grilling.

Boneless chicken breasts — a blank canvas for all sorts of dishes and flavours— are ready to eat the fastest. They need only about five or six minutes per side and you’ll want to pull them off just before they’re cooked all the way through. The residual heat from the grill will continue to cook them as they rest. Their internal temperature should be between 160°F and 165°F.

The dark meat of chicken thighs doesn’t dry out as quickly, making it your juiciest (and, arguably, most flavourful) option for grilling. Boneless thighs are as fast to cook as breasts — give them about five minutes on each side. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 165°F.


Get the Recipe: Best-Ever Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

A snacking and game day favourite, chicken wings need to be turned a few times while they’re on the grill and you’ll want to plan a little further ahead because they take between 25 and 30 minutes to fully cook. They’re ready to go — maybe after a little toss in some buffalo sauce or spices — when an instant-read thermometer indicates 165°F.

For drumsticks and bone-in thighs or breasts, patience is needed. Turn them occasionally over their 40 to 50-minute cooking time and watch for an internal temperature of 160°F to 165°F.

Of course, you’re not limited to pieces alone.  A whole chicken should take about an hour on the grill — depending on its size, of course. For a twist on the classic, try spatchcocking (also referred to as butterflying) your chicken for a juicy, even cook.

A spatchocked piri piri chicken on the grillGet the Recipe: Perfect Piri Piri Spatchcock Chicken

How Do You Marinate Chicken?

Infinitely adaptable chicken does well on the grill after it has been marinated in any number of saucy options. These can be as simple as oil and some summery herbs or more complicated versions using dairy products like yogurt or buttermilk and spices.

Related: Leftover Chicken Recipes You’ll Look Forward to Devouring

No matter what the recipe, keep the chicken in the fridge, for as little as 30 minutes or, even better, up to overnight, while it soaks up the flavours. Don’t forget the salt!

How Do You Grill Chicken?

Once you’re ready to go, pull the chicken from the fridge so it has time to come up to room temperature before it hits the grill. This ensures the meat cooks evenly. Use that time to preheat your grill to medium — the ideal temperature for cooking the chicken through without drying it out. (Nothing spoils a meal like chewy chicken!) Also, prepare your grill by cleaning and oiling the grates to keep the meat from sticking or tearing during the cooking process.

Related: Cooking on an Open Fire: Everything You Need to Know

Do You Close the Grill When Cooking Chicken?

Just as steaks are better when they’ve been grilled with the lid open, chicken benefits from a closed lid. This creates an oven effect inside the grill, which helps cook the chicken all the way through. If you still want nice grill marks — and who doesn’t? — start by searing the cuts on both sides before closing the lid to finish cooking.

Your patience will be tested, but avoid opening that lid to see what’s happening. Every time you do, heat escapes, which could make the cooking uneven or take longer.

Yakitori chicken skewers alongside shishito pepper chicken skewers and a bowl of sweet, sticky glazeGet the Recipe: 10-Ingredient Japanese Grilled Chicken

When Do You Add Sauce to Chicken?

Tangy barbecue sauce is truly the taste of summer. Apply it too early, though, and you’ll end up with a sticky, burnt mess. Since most barbecue sauces, especially those from the grocery store, are high in sugar, they tend to burn quickly.

Save the sauce for close to the end — about 10 minutes before the chicken is ready to come off the grill — to get it nice and caramelized. And, of course, you can always get even saucier once the chicken is ready to eat.

How Long Do You Let Chicken Rest?

Don’t sit down to the table just yet! Letting your cooked meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes means juicier chicken from the first bite to last. While you wait, all those juices redistribute and that’s what’s going to keep it moist and tasty.

For even more great grilling inspiration, check out How to Grill the Perfect Steak Every Time and Marinating 101: How to Flavour Your Meat, Fish and Vegetables.

Watch Fire Masters Thursdays at 11ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Headshot of Afrim Pristine over various cheeses

How to Build a Better Cheese Board: Ask a Cheese Master

The world of cheese is ever-evolving and Afrim Pristine is a lifelong student of its multitude of flavours, textures and potential. Now, he’s hitting the road in an epic global journey on Cheese: A Love Story to check out some of the ways chefs celebrate cheese in all its forms.

For years, Afrim, who co-owns Cheese Boutique along with his brothers Agim and Ilir, has been gradually taking over the public-facing elements of the family business from father Fatos, now retired. Although he’s got the credentials — he’s a maître fromager (as part of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers) and has a knighthood conferred by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France — Afrim’s main skill is making cheese accessible and understandable to the general public along with the chefs who he counts as regular customers and friends. As the person behind the counter at Cheese Boutique, he’s spent 25 years figuring out how to assess peoples’ tastes and what to offer them, and we’ve asked him for his best techniques in figuring out the best cheese board to please your guests.

Afrim Pristine answers questions at his shop, Cheese Boutique in Toronto

Related: Secrets From a Cheese Master

Ask the Right Questions

If you ask Afrim to make you a cheese board, be prepared for two things: to sample a lot of cheese and to answer a bunch of questions, from what you’re eating and drinking for dinner to what cheeses you like and dislike. “My job is to know what people want before they know they want it,” says Afrim. “The more I know about their tastes, the more I can factor into the decision about showcasing whatever cheese I think they’re going to like.”

Consider Seasonality

We vary our food and drink to the seasons, but when it comes to cheese, one thing that’s often forgotten is the weather outside. “It’s summertime right now. In my opinion, I think a super fat, pungent French Burgundy Normandy style cheese is too much: it’s too heavy, aromatic, and pungent,” he says. For warmer weather, Afrim suggests lighter options such as delicate buffalo mozzarella, whipped herbed ricotta, a fresh young youthful goat cheese or a semi-soft, mild-mannered Ontario gruyère.

See More: Afrim Pristine’s Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread

Be Willing to Experiment

Although people tend to cling to a few tried and true favourites and formulas when assembling a cheese board, Afrim encourages people to take their cheese exploration to a new level. “I don’t think there should be any hard and fast rules when it comes to cheese,” he says. On the show, Afrim was taken aback by chef and “Sorcerer of Entlebuch” Stefan Wiesner at Michelin-starred Gasthof Röessli, who served him Emmental baked with charcoal. At home, trying a curveball or an unexpected surprise on a cheese platter can bring a similarly memorable experience to the table. Afrim likes to astonish people with a piece of monte enebro. “It’s covered in greyish mould, like if you left a loaf of bread for a few days, and it’s goat’s milk unlike the majority of cheeses made in Spain from sheep’s milk. It’s creamier and funkier,” he says.

Make Smart Choices

Although variety is key to cheese boards, get creative with sizing according to your budget. “Have five to seven cheeses, but consider getting some smaller pieces to squeeze in a few extra flavours,” says Afrim. Having more choices allows your guests a better chance of finding something that they will enjoy, without necessarily raising the cost for you. “Not everyone is going to love a blue, but try to have a goat, sheep, semi-firm, a firm, blue, and a fresh cheese, hitting every category,” he says. “You can’t make everyone happy, but if someone walks away loving five of the seven cheeses, that’s all they’re going to remember.”

Various cheeses on a wooden board

Related: Baked Camembert From Cheese: A Love Story

Don’t Buy in Bulk

Buying smaller quantities has other advantages when it comes to crafting a cheese board. “I never buy, or I never tell my customer to buy cheese in bulk. It has a life, and it does go off, especially if it is going in and out of the fridge, so buy what you’re going to enjoy,” says Afrim. “The maintenance, love, and care you give to cheese is equally important to it being made well with good quality milk and good technique. And a consumer’s job is not to store cheese, unless they happen to have a cheese cave—like we do. It’s my job here is to handle the cheese.”

However you construct them, cheese boards are both a unique expression of individual tastes and a way to share them with friends and family. Afrim sees cheese as a near-universal language that translates around the globe, bringing people together. “I love cheese, and I think a big part of this is showcasing the respect for such a simple ingredient: an ingredient we all love,” he says. “In this industry, like-minded people make magic.”

For more of Afrim’s great tips, check out how to buy, store and eat cheese or watch some of the most magical cheese moments from the show.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

 

 

Cheese Shopping Mistakes

Advice From a Cheese Master: How to Buy, Store and Eat Cheese

Weekly trips to the grocery store just aren’t complete without a stop at the cheese counter. Whether feta for your Greek salad, sharp cheddar cheese for a vegetarian quiche, smoked gouda for homemade pizza night, there’s a cheese that will improve your dish in a way that your taste buds will thank you.  We sat down with a maître fromager (AKA cheese master) and Cheese: A Love Story host, Afrim Pristine for his dos and don’ts for buying cheese. 

Don’t Forget to Plan Ahead

Overbuying cheese is one of the most common rookie mistakes people make, Afrim says. First of all, cheese needs about two to four hours to breathe before being enjoyed. “If you overbuy, store it in your fridge, and take it back out again, the integrity of the cheese isn’t quite the same.”

Related:  The Facts You Never Knew About Cheese

Do Buy in Smaller Quantities

With this in mind, Pristine recommends buying four or five different cheeses but purchasing them in smaller amounts.  When you purchase the right amount of cheese that you need, you don’t need to worry about unintentional food waste.

Four different cheeses on a white countertop with garnishes

Don’t Store Cheese in Plastic Bags

Afrim recommends wrapping cheese in a layer of wax or parchment paper with another layer of tinfoil. This technique will help cheese have the proper amount of moisture it needs, he explains.

“Creamy cheeses can stay in the fridge for a maximum of 7 to 10 days.  Hard cheeses have a longer shelf life, but won’t be as enjoyable after more than a few weeks,” he says.

Do Seek Out Local Canadian Cheese

Did you know that provinces like Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and even Nova Scotia make world-class cheese? Make the most out of living in Canada’s unique cheese culture by trying out different local cheeses.

As a proud Torontonian, one of Afrim’s favourite Canadian cheese is a Mountainoak gouda from Ontario. “Mountainoak gouda is a pretty complex cheese. It’s very salty and nutty, kind of like butterscotch or a bar of very dark chocolate.”

Related: Meet a Toronto Chef Making His Own Cheeses

Three pieces of parmigiano reggiano

Don’t Stick to the Same Cheese Every Time

It can be all too easy to get into a cheese rut. You already know that grated Parmigiano-Reggiano will taste phenomenal over your legendary risotto or go-to Caesar salad, but why not mix it up and try new recipes centered around your favourite cheeses?

Curb any chance of cheese boredom by experimenting with new unique pairings regularly.  For example, if you like Parmigiano-Reggiano, try it how Afrim’s family recipe: a salad with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar, strawberries and basil.

Related: This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

Cheese counter with several wheels of cheese

Do Be Adventurous

“The best thing about cheese is that it’s personal,” Afrim explains, adding that’s what makes cheese so unique. “There’s so much variety, but I think it’s really up to you on the individual on what you like.”

In other words, don’t be afraid to get out of your element at your local cheese counter and test out a few unique combos in the kitchen. Or you can just try new options for beloved recipes, like these  perfect cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches. Trust us: the flavour payoff of going out of your comfort zone will be so worth it.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story with Afrim Pristine and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Afrim Pristine smiling and holding a plate of grilled cheese

4 Cheeses You Need at All Times, According to a Maitre Fromager

It doesn’t matter if you’re at home making your family a spaghetti and meatball dinner or are sharing a pot of traditional fondue in Switzerland— cheese makes almost any meal so much better. As a staple in nearly every culinary culture globally, it’s also the versatility of cheese that makes it so unique. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making cheese,” says maître fromager (AKA cheese master) and Cheese: A Love Story host, Afrim Pristine.

For this reason, no matter what type of cheese you’re working with, it’s important to respect the ingredient, he explains. And with more than 25 years of experience, Afrim still thinks that the art of cheese making is all pretty magical. “We sell a ten-year-old cheddar in our store (Cheese Boutique),” he says. “What other foods can you see that are ten years old, and still unbelievably tasty?”

Whether you’re grating a sharp cheddar or are baking a block of feta for an oh-so-trendy pasta dish, cheese has the transformative power to elevate a recipe from simply memorable to unforgettably delicious. Pristine shares how home chefs can set themselves up for culinary success by incorporating these cheeses into everyday meals.

See More: This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

French hard comte cheese on a black plate with a knife

French Comte

French Comte is a big, bold, nutty sharp cheese. It can be purchased in most grocery stores, but that wasn’t always the case 20 years ago. Now it’s everywhere, Afrim says, which makes it easier for any cheese enthusiast to enjoy. For a beautiful pairing, serve a French Comte with slices of prosciutto and a glass of red wine.

Related: 10 Facts You Never Knew About Cheese 

Parmigiano-Reggiano wedge on a wooden cutting board with a grey background

 Parmigiano-Reggiano

A cheese that needs no introduction, Afrim says that even just the tiniest bite of Parmigiano Reggiano is something that he can’t help but savour. “A good, aged Parmigiano Reggiano that’s three or four years old is possibly one of the best cheeses ever made,” he says. In fact, he believes it’s one of the most important cheeses that’s ever been made. “It’s just so complex and versatile. And I love that. It’s something that’s always so easy to snack on.”

Manchego cheese wedge and slices on a wooden cutting board with grapes and a knife

Manchego

If you’re looking for a cheese that can elevate almost any meal, turn to manchego. This salty and tangy Spanish cheese is made from sheep’s milk, and Afrim says it’s the best bang for your buck. Manchego goes well with so many different types of food, he explains, adding that it can be served in a cheese wedge as a separate side dish that guests can munch on throughout the meal.

See More: The Perfect Swiss Cheese Board 

Blue cheese wedge on a white cutting board with jam and crackers

Blue Cheese

Aside from cilantro, few foods are quite as divisive as blue cheese: you either love it or hate it. For Afrim, blue cheese is his absolute favourite. “I love blue cheese because it grabs my taste buds and takes me for a ride,” he says, adding that the saltiness and creaminess are what makes it so great. If you’re hesitant about blue cheese, his advice is simple: keep experimenting.

Since there’s so much variety within mild and strong blue cheeses, it can take some time to experiment and find which type of blue you prefer. For a crowd-pleasing blue cheese dish, try these caramelized onion & blue cheese crostinis.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story with Afrim Pristine and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Tiffany Pratt and Steve Hodge on the set with Mecairo owner Felicia

Project Bakeover Was Life-Changing for These Thriving Bakery Owners

Sometimes you just need a sweet treat to get you through the day. But what do the purveyors of sweet treats do when they need a little boost? They call Steve Hodge, Tiffany Pratt, and the Project Bakeover team, of course.

Over the dessert-inspired course of the show’s first season, Steve and Tiffany helped many bakery owners find their groove—and just in time. With the pandemic hitting restaurants and small businesses hard over the past year, these shops are thankful for the expertise bestowed upon them that has allowed their eateries not only to survive but to thrive.

Steve Hodge and Tiffany Pratt on the set of Project Bakeover

Related: Steve Hodge’s Cake Decorating Tips

Advice to Dine on

In addition to revamping menus and adding a fresh new look to these bakeries, Steve and Tiffany doled out expertise advice that has allowed some of these owners to take their businesses to the next level.

According to Cait Patrick, owner of Barrie, Ont.’s Homestead Artisan Bakery, giving up control was terrifying but very much worth it. “It taught us that sometimes we don’t have all the answers and that trusting someone else can be extremely rewarding in the end,” she says. “We learned so much about baking from Steve, and Tiffany did an amazing job with the décor. All of our customers comment on how beautiful it is—we can’t thank them enough!”

Trust was also a huge part of the growing experience for Erin Maramag, co-owner of Milton, Ont.’s Bread n Batter. When Steve and Tiffany advised them to clarify their roles and solidify the flow of the bakery, they developed even more internal trust that has since translated into a smoother overall operation.

Meanwhile, at Kelowna B.C.’s Whisk Bakery & Café, Tanya Garratt reveals that trusting in the hosts’ recommendation to diversify made all the difference. “It was a lifesaver,” she says. “Our baked pastries are doing so well. Adding savoury items, breakfast and lunch, it’s made a world of difference. We’ve brought in so many more customers than we had before.”

Tiffany Pratt hugs Whisk owner Tanya on the set of Project Bakeover

See More: Canadian Baked Goods to Add to Your Must-Try List

Comfort Food in the Time of Coronavirus

At the beginning of the pandemic, it seemed like everyone was investing time in their own sourdough starters, ripening armfuls of bananas for bread, and even learning how to frost cinnamon rolls. These days though, people seem to once again be buying their comfort food from those who bake it day in and day out. That means solidifying the menus of these bakeries on the show was key to keeping these businesses… well, in business.

“Our bestsellers are the pastries Steve taught us by far,” Garratt reveals. “Those have been insane. Flavoured croissants for sure, and we made an almond croissant with Steve’s frangipane. Plus we’re doing eight different flavours of pastries and croissants. It’s really ballooned.”

Felicia Agadzi-Bulze at Mecairo Cake Co. agrees that things have changed so much since Project Bakeover. She reveals customers come in and touch the walls because they’re so beautiful, and then they see the displays full of all this new stuff that they can’t wait to try.

“Our Mecairo Minis have been very popular here, people love the size of them. The bonbons, they love all the different colours. And the cheesecake? They’ve never seen parfaits like that before so they’ve been selling really well,” she says. “I’m not just a home baker anymore, I’m letting my artistic side show in all of our products now.”

“With all of our new customers, everyone jumped on board to try new things at our bakery, it’s actually the biggest part of our daily production,” reveals Maramag. She adds that their bestseller used to be ensaymada, but following the show people are all about the cakes and cupcakes.

It’s a similar story for Homestead. “Our sourdough breads still remain a fan favourite,” reveals Patrick. “[But] we have introduced and been more consistent with our amazing cakes. And people are loving our carrot cake.”

A Sweet, Sweet Future

Doing the show and seeing the sweet results has also empowered these bakery owners to continue taking their businesses to the next level as they eye the future. For now, that means experimenting with delicious new and seasonal flavours heading into the summer months, allowing people back into the establishments themselves, and lots more of those fun, Instagram-eating experiences that Steve and Tiffany set up.

Related: Expert Food Photography Tips for Baked Goods

“We’ve been surprised with how many businesses have closed during this time. Now, we’re hiring more staff and we constantly have to keep up with demand,” says Bread ‘N Batter’s Maramag. “People are really willing to try what we have, we have a bigger pool of regulars, and we are forever grateful. The past few months have felt like an eternal holiday season with how busy it is.”

“We are just excited to see our community back out and in the bakery,” adds Patrick. “It is the most wonderful feeling to have people smiling, and excited to enjoy the little things in life again.”

Garratt, who changed the name of the bakery to Whisk Bakery & Café on the advice of the hosts, couldn’t agree more. She says that since reopening they’ve expanded the patio that Tiffany created, and that the sidewalk chalk has translated into amazing daily murals. People are constantly posting from the Instagram wall that Tiffany designed as well.

“Our name change was a lifesaver and our sales have skyrocketed now that people know what we are. Everything Steve and Tiffany did was a game-changer for us,” Garratt says. “It’s a really cool experience to see how everyone reacted. People are happy to stay here for a couple of hours… I wouldn’t be up and running if it wasn’t for Project Bakeover.”

Watch Project Bakeover and  stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Afrim Pristine in France on set of Cheese: A Love Story

Enter to Win a Cheese: A Love Story Prize Pack

To celebrate everyone’s new favourite Food Network Canada show about fromage, Cheese: A Love Story, we’re giving away a cheese lover’s prize pack from host and cheese master Afrim Pristine‘s Cheese Boutique. Enter below for a chance to win this deliciously cheesy prize pack. For more expert tips, check out Afrim Pristine’s perfect Swiss and French cheese boards.

Cheese: A Love Story Prize Pack

What it includes:

-A signed copy of Afrim’s book For the Love of Cheese
-A selection of Afrim’s favourite cheeses
-Acompaniments to create the perfect cheeseboard

Related: Try Afrim Pristine’s Recipe for Jalapeno Cheese Bread

 

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Watch Cheese: A Love Story Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Beef tenderloin with festival

The Winning Dish From Junior Chef Showdown Will Become a Family-Favourite Meal in No Time

Finding a balanced, hearty meal that your whole family will enjoy isn’t always easy. But thanks to this season’s Junior Chef Showdown winner, Nazaree, this juicy, melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin recipe paired with three appetizing sides will have everyone at the table feeling full and happy.

Although the classic beef tenderloin is the star of the recipe, it’s the trio of sides that make this a truly unforgettable meal. Even if you’re not an extraordinarily talented young chef, making this show-stopping meal will leave you feeling like a gourmet cook in no time.

Junior Chef Nazaree’s Beef Tenderloin with Festival Bread

Prep time: 40 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yields: 4 Servings

Plate of Beef Tenderloin with Festival

Ingredients:

Roasted Squash Ajvar Puree
2 cups butternut squash (cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 shallot, peeled, quartered
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove
½ cup roasted red pepper
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Jus
1 cup beef demi-glace
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs thyme

Festival
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted
½ cup milk
Oil for frying

Beef Tenderloin
4 beef tenderloins, about 1-¼-inch thick
1 Tbsp canola oil
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Charred Broccoli Rabe
12 stalks broccoli rabe
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili flakes
1 clove garlic, smashed
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Related: Double-Stacked Patties + Secret Sauce Make for Jordan Andino’s Perfect Burger

Directions:

Roasted Squash Ajvar Puree

1. Heat oven to 425°F.

2. Combine squash, shallots, thyme, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne and 1 tablespoon of oil on a large rimmed baking sheet.

3. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until squash is golden and tender, stirring and adding garlic clove after 20 minutes.

4. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and add roasted red peppers, remaining tablespoon oil and vinegar. Pulse until blended and smooth.

Jus
1. Combine demi-glace, garlic and thyme in a small saucepan.

2. Cook, covered over medium-low for 30 minutes to infuse the demi-glace.

3. Discard garlic and thyme before serving.

See More: 3 Classic Sauces From Lynn Crawford That Will Be Instant Staples (Plus Recipes!)

Festival Bread 
1. Heat 1-½ inches oil to 350°F in a heavy-bottomed pot or fill a deep fryer. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a wire cooling rack.

2. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter, stir to coat. Add milk gradually, stirring until combined.

3. Spoon two tablespoon portions of batter into oil and fry until deep golden, for about 3 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet to cool slightly.

Beef Tenderloin
1. Season steaks liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and steaks and cook for 4 to 6 minutes per side, until deep golden and medium-rare. (Note: If you’re using an instant-read thermometer, the centre of the steak will read 130°F).

4. Set steak aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Charred Broccoli Rabe
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add broccoli rabe, chili flakes, garlic, salt and pepper into the skillet.

2. Stir occasionally until the broccoli rabe is charred and tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Divide the puree, festival, broccoli rabe and steaks among four plates. Spoon demi glace over the beef, and serve!

Watch Junior Chef Showdown Sundays at 9ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV.  Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Steve Hodge on the set of Project Bakeover

What Baking Ingredients Are Best to Buy for Home Bakers

In today’s competitive home baking world, where aspiring pastry chefs think nothing of churning out macarons or elaborate, gilded creations traditionally bought in a bakery, there’s a certain sort of bragging rights in doing it all yourself—right down to the core ingredients. Sometimes, however, using those ingredients involve complicated methods, access to specialized equipment or a level of expertise that comes through years of tradition and are best left to the professionals.

Let’s take a look at some of these things that home bakers can buy from a local bakery (such as the ones on Project Bakeover) or grocery store, and a couple of items that are easy to make in your own kitchen.

Pastry Chef Steve Hodge on the set of Project Bakeover

See More: Expert Food Photography Tips for Baked Goods

Phyllo Pastry

Watching professionals produce phyllo by hand is a mesmerizing experience—achieving those gossamer-thin sheets without breakage requires a light touch and nerves of steel. Although there are recipes to make phyllo at home, it requires a fair amount of space and a knowledge of texture and timing that can be tricky. Buy a high-quality phyllo pastry instead, either frozen or fresh from a local Greek or Middle Eastern bakery or even a large chain supermarket. Be warned that phyllo dough dries out in a snap, so keep it covered as you work, and try to work quickly.

Deconstructed Baklava Butter Tart with fresh berries and mint

Get the recipe for Baklava Butter Tart Bake

Puff Pastry

Much like phyllo, flaky, multilayered puff pastry is a delight, and the basis for many last-minute appetizers, desserts or tarts. Achieving those layers, however, depends on a multi-step process where you fold and roll dough around butter repeatedly—a simple but time-intensive process that varies depending on the heat of your kitchen and your rolling speed. The freezer case at your local grocery store will hold puff pastry options, from flat sheets to pre-formed tarts, ready to bake with your best homemade fillings

Fondant

Although hacks abound to make fondant with melted marshmallows, the real deal involves a gelatin-based dough with glycerine and glucose that involves kneading and resting for rolled fondant or a candy thermometer and bain marie for poured fondant. Save yourself some time and effort, buy ready-made fondant and spend your energy making pretty hearts, delicate flowers or perfect petit fours.

Cookie Dough That Requires Specialized Presses or Decorating Equipment

If visions of ornately decorated cookies dance through your head, spurred on by Spring Baking Championship and images of a benevolent judge beaming at you, take a moment and consider how often you’re actually going to use this equipment. The best-laid plans to make pressed or extruded cookies and finish them off with a decorating kit more involved than a surgeon’s array of tools can go awry, especially in the heat of holiday planning. Consider borrowing these tools from a friend, buying a set to share with family or adding to this collection over the years rather than purchasing a complete kit with all the options right off the bat. And unless you’ve got very steady hands, icing that elaborate piping or calligraphy onto your cake might be best left to a local baker.

Steve Hodge on the set of Project Bakeover

Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is far from difficult—it’s a basic method of pouring spirits over vanilla beans and letting time do the rest—but it’s included on this list due to the cost of ingredients versus buying a bottle in the store. For most people, a smaller amount of vanilla extract will last for months through the most frenzied of baking booms, so making it in bulk may not make sense for your household. Plus, once you factor in buying the alcohol and the vanilla beans, it may be worth spending your money on a high-quality store bought extract or paste (look for versions that contain real vanilla bean from reputable manufacturers, rather than “flavoured” extracts that can contain filler).

Vanilla and Calamansi Macaron stacked on a white tray

Related: Try These Vanilla Calamansi Macaron

“Handle With Care” Ingredients

If you’ve got little ones around or working in a cramped space, consider outsourcing some of your components to the pros. Heating sugar for caramels or candy creates a molten, sticky substance that requires vigilance and precise movements to avoid spills or spatters. The liquid nitrogen so beloved by cooking show contestants for instant ice cream requires knowledge of how to handle it and protective gear. You know your space (and yourself) best – if there’s a risk of injury when working with these items, think about buying a quality pre-made caramel, dulce de leche or candy for your baked goods.  

Watch Project Bakeover Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Afrim Pristine's Stinky Cheese Bread recipe from For The Love of Cheese

This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

I love using Appenzeller cheese when cooking because of its melting properties and the distinctive aroma it gives off when it’s melted. Image a beautiful summer day on a dairy farm in Appenzell, Switzerland. Flowers are blossoming, and the lush vegetation all around you is waving in a slight breeze. There’s a beautiful scent in the air and then a cow comes along and passes some gas. That’s exactly what your house will smell like after you make this recipe. I call that “pleasant pungeantness”.

Related: Irresistible Grilled Cheese Recipes

Afrim Pristine's Stinky Cheese Bread recipe from For The Love of Cheese

Embrace the Stinky Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 (or 1 hungry Afrim)

Ingredients:

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
½ small white onion, coarsely chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded
½ cup (125 mL) cilantro
1 can (28oz/796 mL) whole tomatillos, drained
Juice from 1 fresh lime
Fine sea salt
1 ½ lb (700g) round loaf or sourdough rye bread
10 oz (285g) grated Appenzeller cheese

See More: Get to Know Afrim Pristine

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. To make the salsa verde, combine the garlic, onion, jalapeno and cilantro in a food processor. Process the ingredients until finely chopped. Add the tomatillos, and pulse until combined, but don’t pulse the living daylights out of it; be sure to leave some texture. Mix in the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Should you have any leftover salsa verde, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

3. To assemble, place the loaf of bread on the prepared baking sheet.

Related: BC Wines You Need On Your Radar (Plus Drink Pairings)

4. Using a knife, make cuts 2 inches (5 cm) deep and 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart in the loaf. Rotate the loaf a quarter-turn and make the same cuts again to create 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes.

5. Pour some salsa verde into each of the cuts. Then take the cheese and stuff it into each of the cuts. Cover the loaf with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 7 minutes or until golden brown and cheese has melted.

6. Serve hot and tear this cheesy bread to shreds.

Excerpted from For the Love of Cheese: Recipes and Wisdom From the Cheese Boutique by Afrim Pristine. Copyright© 2018 Afrim Pristine. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

For the Love of Cheese: Recipes and Wisdom From the Cheese Boutique, Amazon, $30.

All products featured on Food Network Canada are independently selected by our editors. For more products handpicked by our editorial team, visit Food Network Canada’s Amazon storefront. However, when you buy through links in this article or on our storefront, we earn an affiliate commission.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story with Afrim Pristine and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Top Chef Canada season 9 final four wait for the winner to be announced

Top Chef Canada Winner: Exclusive Interview With the Season 9 Winner

From the moment Erica Karbelnik stepped into the Top Chef Canada kitchen, she was a force to be reckoned with. The Toronto-based executive chef came in hot with the season’s first Quickfire win, and she continued to impress in a series of tough challenges throughout the entire season.

Of course, it probably helped that one of her fellow competitors was her husband, Josh Karbelnik, a chef de cuisine in Toronto. The duo supported each other through thick and thin throughout their season 9 run, and as a result, they proved to be among the best of the best. No one was really surprised when they both made it to the top 4.

Unfortunately though, Josh stumbled with the amuse bouche and appetizer during the last cook, and he was eliminated alongside fellow top 4 finalist Andrea Alridge in the finale. The good news was that Josh got to stay behind to help Erica finish her menu against Kym Nguyen (and their new sous chef Andrea).

It all led up to one of the closest calls ever on Top Chef Canada, but in the end judges Mark McEwan, Chris Nuttall-Smith, Mijune Pak and Janet Zuccarini awarded Erica $100,000, a Lexus RX Hybrid Electric SUV, and the title of Top Chef Canada.

Following Erica’s big win we caught up with the chef to get her hot take on this year’s competition, working with her husband, and what’s next for the winning couple with a baby on the way.

Chefs often say doing this show is harder than they expected, but what was the hardest part for you?

I’d say not knowing what to expect when you get there and what’s going to come your way. I’ve been a huge fan of Top Chef and Top Chef Canada for over 15 years, and I’ve watched every episode. But it doesn’t really prepare you for what it’s like when you’re actually there and how real it is. When the judges say you’ve got 30 minutes on the clock, you have 30 minutes on the clock, and you want to make the best things that you possibly can make. There’s no room for error and that puts a lot of pressure on everybody.

On the flip side of that, what was the most rewarding part—other than winning!?

It was really finding myself and finding who I am as a chef and as a person. I’m classically French, Italian trained. But going on the show, I was pulling out things from my backgrounds and cooking with a lot of Moroccan flavours, which I don’t normally do. So it’s definitely helped me find my stride in who I am as a chef.

What was it like to do all of that alongside your husband?

Honestly, it was amazing. We’re each other’s biggest support system. Being there together, this is something that both of us have always wanted to do. So to make it on the show together is a huge accomplishment. Like we never thought in a million years that would happen. It was really cool. It’s an accomplishment for us. And it’s something that we both get to look back on years down the road and have the laughs about, have some cringes about. But honestly, I loved every minute.

You two shared such a positive rapport on the series, with each other and with your competitors. Does that speak to how we’re maybe moving away from some of the negative perceptions of all kitchens being this pressure-cooker environment?

Not necessarily, I think Top Chef Canada really wants to show everybody in their best light. They do a good job in that. I had some rough times in that kitchen, and they definitely showed a few moments of weakness for me… I guess you can say not my best moments. But that’s what it is to be a chef. Nowadays, we want things to be a lot calmer in the kitchen than they once were, a lot nicer. And I guess I could say things are a little bit more sugar-coated. But at the end of the day, our kitchen is the kitchen, it’s a high-stress environment, it’s a tough industry, and you have to have a really tough backbone to be able to do this job.

The judges and Top 4 contestants cheers to the winner of Top Chef Canada season 9

Related: The Season 9 Chefs Talk Eating Local

In nine seasons, you’re the second female to win Top Chef Canada (Nicole Gomes was the first). What is it like to be a female working in the industry these days?

I’m so proud to be the second female to win Top Chef Canada. I really am. But I’m also the person that, when I walk into a kitchen, I don’t see gender, I don’t see colour, I see food. And food is what matters at the end of the day. And whether you’re male or female. It’s about if you can cook, and how you cook, and how you represent yourself. The food is what speaks for itself.

I’m extremely happy to represent women in the kitchen. We do have a hard time because of that reputation. So that makes us have to work harder. Let’s show them that there is no difference. We are just as good. We can do the exact same job. I’m currently four and a half months pregnant and I’m still working every day. Still pulling 12-hour shifts sometimes to try and kick butt in a kitchen because I don’t think that being a female should get in the way of that. It’s something to be very proud of. But it doesn’t matter whether I’m male or female. One of my favourite chefs, Dominique Crenn, [who is] one of the most respected women in the industry, says, “I am not a female Chef. I am just a Chef.”

Related: Mijune Pak Reflects On Reinventing Her Career

Congrats on the pregnancy! Have you and Josh thought about what you’ll do if your kid winds up being a picky eater?

I really don’t think the kid will have a choice in the matter! I don’t think it’ll be a picky eater though, because I have to say my cravings are like left, right and center. I’ve been eating everything and anything under the sun. So I think we’ll be okay.

Erica and Josh Karbelnik on the set of Top Chef Canada

You watched every episode of Top Chef Canada leading up to your season, so of the former competitors who would you say is your inspiration?

Dale Mackay from Season 1 is the one who really struck my nerve to want to be on this show. And to put my best foot forward and to be that competitive person… and to go for it and just do you. He’s an extremely talented chef. He’s very accomplished. And his food was spectacular on the show. When he was on Top Chef Canada I was an apprentice, so he opened so many doors for so many chefs for us to say, “Hey, we can do that, too!”

How much did your knowledge of previous seasons help you out when it came time to plan and execute your final menu?

Watching the show previously definitely had an advantage. You do learn what the judges are looking for. But at the end of the day, when we’re doing challenges, there’s a box that we’re placed in and there’s restrictions. You have to follow guidelines on exactly what the judges are looking for in that dish. So you don’t really have free rein to kind of create whatever you want to create.

Going into the finale menu, I said it in the semifinals: “If you let me into the finals, you’ll be able to read me like an open book. Let me show you who I am in my cooking.” At the end of the day, that’s what I do every day. I want people to understand me through food. I am not always able to express myself fully in words. And a lot of people misunderstand me. So food has always been my go-to, it’s always been like my voice. But I really wanted to showcase myself in that menu. Those dishes are dishes that I would put forward over and over and over again. I’m so insanely proud of who they represented. Each dish represented something that was extremely close to my heart and really told the story of who I am and who my family is and where I come from.

Other than Josh, who else did you originally expect to go all the way to the finale?

To the honest, Galasa. From the moment Galasa started cooking, just the way he carried himself in the kitchen, the way he understood flavours. I think that dude is a force to be reckoned with. He’s going to do really great things in his future culinary career. He was definitely one that I was a little scared of.

See More: Top Chef Canada Judge Janet Zuccarini Talks Resilience in the Restaurant Industry

You and Josh have been doing catering while your current gig with Elmwood Spa is on hold because of COVID. And you talked about opening up your own place if you won. Is that still the plan?

We would love to have our own restaurant, we really would. We would love to also have our own catering company. With COVID, a lot of chefs had to rethink and pivot their ideas and their future plans. Unfortunately, restaurants at the moment really have an unforeseen future and we don’t know what’s coming our way. So it’s always good to have a backup plan. That’s been our backup plan for now and it’s been working really well for us. And, as I said, we did get pregnant. So, our little sous chef has a nice college fund started. We’d like to use that money to create a stable home and a future for us and for the baby.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Competing on Top Chef Canada was awesome and I’m very happy with the outcome and to be able to do it with my husband. I’d like to thank him for being my support system there, and for helping me through the finale. And also just for being an amazing partner. There’s nobody else I would have rather have done this with.

Watch Top Chef Canada and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

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