Tag Archives: Anna Olson

Anna Olson smiles while icing a cupcake with her Anna Olson Kitchen Disposable Icing Bags

Anna Olson’s Top 10 Baking Tools for the Holidays

Holiday baking season is here and having the right tools on hand will help lead you to success. These are my top gadgets to make this holiday season less stressful. Remember, “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts!”

Related: Anna Olson’s 50 Ultimate Holiday Desserts

1. Offset spatula

This tool becomes an extension of your hand as you use it to lift cookies off of hot trays, loosen cakes delicately from their pans and frost cakes with precision and panache. The spatula I use in Bake is my own. I’ve had it for about 10 years and I’d be lost without it!

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Anna Olson Kitchen Long Offset Spatula,  HBC, $10.

Hands mixing a batter with a black silicone spatula with various baking tools and ingredients laid on the table around the bowl

2. Silicone spatula

I prefer the curved spatulas for effective folding and stirring and for getting every last bit of batter out of a bowl. Silicone is heatproof so it can be used to stir pastry creams and sauces on the stove.

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Allwin Housewares Silicone Spatula 3-Piece Set, Amazon, $12.

3. Oven thermometer

This may sound trivial but a thermometer placed inside your oven is a valuable and inexpensive tool that can save you frustration and prevent spoiled baked treats. You’d be amazed how many ovens don’t sit at the correct temperature the entire time your goods bake. Just because your oven “dings” or displays the temperature doesn’t necessarily mean it is accurate. If you discover your oven temperature is far out of range by 10 °C or more, a repair person can recalibrate it.

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Pecula Oven Thermometre, Amazon, $12.

Related: Anna Olson’s Top 5 Vegan Baking Substitutes

Anna Olson poses in her kitchen while icing a cupcake

4. Disposable piping bags

Gone are the days of fabric piping bags that never quite come clean or that only fit your largest piping tip. Most cake supply and even craft shops will carry disposable piping bags in an assortment of sizes. They can be reused if you wish and are fully recyclable. You can even buy really small ones, which are perfect if you’re hosting a cookie decorating party.

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Anna Olson Kitchen 100-Pack Disposable Icing Bags, HBC, $18.

5. Ice cream scoops

I rely on an assortment of sizes, not just for scooping ice cream. They are great for portioning perfectly consistent cookies and dropping muffin or cupcake batter into tins with less mess.

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Chee Mong Ice Cream Scooper Set, Amazon, $29.

6. Candy thermometer

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

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Taylor Classic Candy Thermometer, Amazon, $17.

Related: From Easy to Advanced: Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes For Every Skill Level

7. Fine rasp

Savoury kitchens use this fine grater for garlic and Parmesan but I value it for finely grated citrus zest, mincing ginger without any fibres, grating nutmeg and for chocolate. Now there are models with larger grates, so you get chocolate curls, not just shavings.

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Starfrit Zester/Grater with Protective Cover, Amazon, $10.

Yellow Citrus Juicer on a marble table with freshly squeezed juice and lemons

 

8. Bar citrus juicer

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

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer, Amazon, $33.

9. Measuring tape

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

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Edtape Measuring Tape, Amazon, $6.

10. Cake wheel

If you are getting serious about baking this will be a tool you’ll want to invest in. A cake wheel spins on its base, making seamless frosting simple and detailed piping less. Professional cast-iron cake wheels can be pricey but there are other more affordable options. You can even purchase a lazy Susan that can function as a cake wheel.

Food Network Canada Editor Pick: Anna Olson Kitchen Glass Top Cake Turntable, HBC, $44.

For more festive recipes from Anna Olson, try her Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake and Hot Chocolate Nanaimo Bars.

All products featured on Food Network Canada are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy through links in this article, we earn an affiliate commission.

Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake on dark blue cake platter drizzled with brown butter glaze

Anna Olson’s Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake Will Give You All the Holiday Feels

Gingerbread comes in more forms than just cookies! With a triple dose of ginger, this bundt cake recipe from Anna Olson will fill your house with a sweet and warming scent that screams holiday-time. Enjoy the recipe from Anna’s newest cookbook, Baking Day With Anna Olson.

Anna Olson's triple gingerbread bundt cake on a blue cake stand with a brown butter glaze dripping temptingly down

Buy Baking Day with Anna Olson, Amazon, $31

Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake With Brown Butter Glaze

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Yields: 16 to 20 (Makes one 10 cup/2.5 L Bundt cake)

This decadent cake is meant to feed a crowd, and it is perfect for autumn baking when you want to fill the house with the smell of wonderful spices. The “triple” in the title refers to fresh, ground and candied ginger, which means the ginger flavour is woven throughout the cake.

Related: Anna Olson’s Best Cookie Recipes

Ingredients:

Cake
1 ½ cups (300 g) packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
½ cup (130 g) fancy molasses
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp (12 g) finely grated fresh ginger
2 ½ cups (375 g)  all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp (6 g) ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp fine salt
1  cup (225 g) unsalted butter, melted (still warm is OK)
¼ cup (40 g) chopped candied ginger

Brown Butter Glaze
6 Tbsp (90 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (130 g) icing sugar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1% or 2% milk

Directions:

1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease a  10-cup (2.5 L) Bundt pan and dust it with flour, tapping out any excess.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, buttermilk, molasses, eggs and fresh ginger until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the batter and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter and then the candied ginger. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 75 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Anna Olson in a light blue and white striped shirt and light blue apron smiling on the cover of Baking Day With Anna Olson

Related: Anna Olson’s Best Gingerbread Recipes to Bake This Winter

3. Cool the cake in its pan on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes and then turn it out onto the rack to cool completely before glazing.

4. For the glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it froths and then subsides and the liquid turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve. Let it cool for 5 minutes and then whisk in the icing sugar and milk until smooth. Pour over the cake, letting the glaze slowly drip down.

5. Let the glaze set for an hour before serving or for 3 hours before covering to serve later. The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

For more of Anna Olson’s delicious dessert recipes, check out her ultimate holiday desserts or Anna Olson’s best-ever cake recipes.

Plate of Anna Olson's Hot Chocolate Nanaimo bars topped with mini marshmallows from her new cookbook Baking Day with Anna Olson

Anna Olson Remixes a Classic With Her Hot Chocolate Nanaimo Bar Recipe

As the weather turns crisp and we’re spending more time at home, baking becomes one of our favourite pastimes. Not only can the act be soothing itself, but it’s rewarding to create delicious treats to share with loved ones (we firmly believe that baking is a love language). And what better to cozy up with than Canadian treasure Anna Olson’s new cookbook, Baking Day with Anna Olson?

Anna Olson on the cover of Baking Day with Anna Olson

Pre-order Baking Day with Anna Olson, Amazon, $31

To celebrate the October 27th release of Anna’s new cookbook, we’re sharing a sneak peek at one of her delectable new dessert recipes. Classic Nanaimo bars are remixed with the cozy addition of hot chocolate and marshmallows for a truly delightful treat.

Related: 9 Nanaimo Bar Recipes to Sink Your Teeth Into

Hot Chocolate Nanaimo Bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 18 Nanaimo bars

A twist on a classic can be a beautiful thing, and adding hot chocolate mix to a Nanaimo bar recipe really works. Nestled between the traditional chocolate coconut base and the melted chocolate topping is a layer of hot chocolate–spiked custard icing. When the bars are topped with mini marshmallows, the hot chocolate twist is complete.

Related: Coffee and Hot Chocolate Recipes to Warm Your Belly This Fall

A plate of hot chocolate Nanaimo bars topped with miniature marshmallows

Ingredients:

Bars
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 g) cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups (195 g) graham cracker crumbs
1 cup (100 g) sweetened flaked coconut or toasted sliced almonds

Filling
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups (195 g) sifted icing sugar, divided
⅓ cup (40 g) powdered hot chocolate mix
2 Tbsp (12 g) vanilla custard powder
Pinch fine salt
3 Tbsp (45 ml) 1% or 2% milk

Topping
4 oz (120 g) semisweet couverture/baking chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups (75 g) mini marshmallows
Sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions:

1. Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan and line it with parchment paper so that it comes up the sides.

2. For the crust, place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a metal bowl and set over a pot of gently simmering water, whisking until the butter has melted. Add the lightly beaten egg and whisk until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding, about 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs and coconut (or almonds). Scrape the crust mixture into the pan and spread to level it. Chill the pan while preparing the filling.

See More: Anna Olson’s Best Chocolate Recipes 

3. For the filling, beat the butter with 1 cup (130 g) icing sugar until smooth. Stir the hot chocolate mix, custard powder and salt with the milk (it will make a thick paste) and stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Beat in the remaining ½ cup (65 g) icing sugar. Do not overbeat — the filling should be smooth, but not fluffy. Spread evenly over the crust (no need to refrigerate).

4. For the topping, melt the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring gently with a spatula until melted. Cool the chocolate slightly and then pour over the filling, spreading to cover it. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top of the chocolate in an even layer (it will not fully hide the chocolate) and, if you like, finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.

5. Chill the pan for about 2 hours before slicing into bars. Nanaimo bars will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For more of Anna Olson’s delicious dessert recipes, check out her ultimate holiday desserts or Anna Olson’s best-ever cake recipes.

Anna Olson’s Herbed Avocado Dip Will Take Your Sandwiches and Veggies to the Next Level

As we continue to spend more time at home, there’s no time like the present to get kids engaged in meal prep and cooking. And what better way to keep little hands busy than with a versatile homemade spread that they can help you make in the kitchen?

This mouth-watering herbed spread crafted by Junior Chef Showdown judge and mentor Anna Olson is as creamy and decadent as it looks — and we wouldn’t want it any other way!  Use it as a flavourful dip for vegetables, as a sauce for grilled salmon or chicken, as a creamy dressing on salads and potato salads, or even in place of mayo on a sandwich.

Related: Meet the Kid Chefs Competing on Junior Chef Showdown

If you’re looking for more fun activities for the kids, download our latest Junior Chef Showdown colouring page.

Anna Olson’s Healthy Avocado Dip and Dressing

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Makes: about 1 cup

Ingredients: 

¾ cup Greek yogurt
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 green onions, sliced
½ cup fresh cilantro, basil, mint, dill or any combination, roughly chopped
2 to 6 tbsp rice vinegar (see note)*
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
4 Greek pitas
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, cut into 4-inch sticks
2 stalks celery, cut into 4-inch sticks
½ English cucumber, but into ¼-inch rounds

Related: Indulge in Dessert for Breakfast With Anna Olson’s Chocolate Banana Pancakes

Directions:

1.Puree yogurt, avocado, green onions, herbs, rice vinegar, salt and pepper until smooth in the bowl of a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and chill until ready to serve.

2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of pitas with olive oil. Grill pitas in batches until golden and charred, about 2 minutes per side. Cut into 8 wedges each.

3. Place veggies and pitas on a serving platter along with dip.

*Add 2 to 3 tbsp vinegar for a dip. Add up to 6 tbsp for a looser mixture to dress salads. This will keep for up to 5 days, refrigerated.


Watch Junior Chef Showdown Tuesdays 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.

 

Indulge in Dessert for Breakfast With Anna Olson’s Chocolate Banana Pancakes

With more time at home, now more than ever is the perfect time to introduce kids to cooking. And what better way to get little ones excited about getting in the kitchen than with a brunchtime favourite — pancakes — from Canada’s baking sweetheart?

In this twist on a classic, Junior Chef Showdown judge and mentor Anna Olson gives the classic buttermilk recipe an extra sweet update by adding cocoa powder and tasty ripe bananas that cook to caramelized perfection.

Related: Meet the Kid Chefs Competing on Junior Chef Showdown

If you’re looking for more fun activities for the kids, download our Junior Chef Showdown colouring page and crossword and check back next week for more family-friendly recipes and games.

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Banana Pancakes with Caramel Sauce and Chantilly Cream

Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4

Chantilly Cream Ingredients:

1 cup 35% cream
1 Tbsp instant skim milk powder
1-½ Tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Chantilly Cream Directions:

1. Whip cream and skim milk powder in a large bowl using a hand mixer on high until the cream holds a soft peak. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip just to combine. Chill until ready to use.

Butter Caramel Sauce Ingredients:

3 Tbsp water
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup 35% cream
½ cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt

Butter Caramel Sauce Directions:

1. Place water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and then add the sugar (do not stir). Bring to a full boil on high heat and continue to boil, without stirring, until the sugar becomes amber, about 4 to 6 minutes. As the sugar cooks, occasionally brush the sides of the pot with water to keep the pot clean (this prevents the sugar from crystallizing).

2. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in cream (avert your face to watch to protect from the steam). Add butter and whisk until melted. Whisk in vanilla and salt and set aside to cool to room temperature in the pot.

3. Pour the cooled sauce into a covered bowl or jar and chill until ready to use. Serve the sauce warm.

Related: Sarah Britton’s Gluten-Free Everything Bagel Loaf is the Easiest Bread Recipe Ever

Pancake Ingredients:

1-¼ cups flour
¼ cup cocoa powder, sifted
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
Pinch cinnamon
1-½ cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
2 Tbsp honey
2 bananas, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick slices

Garnish:

½ cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts, optional

Pancake Directions:

1. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, melted butter and honey.  Add to flour mixture and stir gently, just until combined (a few lumps are fine).

Related: Anna Olson’s Cocoa Powder Tips

2. Heat a griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat and grease lightly with butter.  Ladle a ¼ cup of batter for each pancake onto griddle. Cook for one minute, then arrange 3 banana slices on top of each pancake.  Cook until surface of pancake takes on a dull finish and bubbles begin to appear, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove pancakes to a plate and keep warm while preparing remaining pancakes.

3. Serve your pancakes with a drizzle or caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.  Enjoy immediately.

Watch Junior Chef Showdown Tuesdays 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.

Anna Olson Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level: Easy to Advanced

Has Great Chocolate Showdown inspired you to try out some new skills in your kitchen? Not all chocolate recipes are created equal, so we asked Canada’s most beloved baker and Great Chocolate Showdown host Anna Olson to help us break down which of her recipes would be best suited to your skills.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, here are Anna Olson’s best chocolate recipes for bakers of all levels.

Easy Chocolate Recipes for Baking Beginners

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’re not sure where to start your chocolate baking journey, look no further than this classic bake — cookies. “Chocolate chip cookies are a great basic because it gets you into the chocolate world,” recommended Anna.

Anna Olson's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies RecipeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anna Olson’s Fudge Brownies

For a serious sweet tooth, fudgy brownies are another great option for new home bakers, and as a bonus, they use items you probably already have in your kitchen. “Brownies take minimal equipment. If you’ve got a pot, a pan, and a whisk, you can make brownies,” said Anna.

Anna Olson's Fudge Brownie RecipesGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fudge Brownies

Intermediate Chocolate Recipes if You Have a Few Baking Skills Under Your Belt

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

For home bakers who have the basic chocolate skills down and want to give themselves a challenge, Anna provided some delightful options.

“You can get into fun things like chocolate crinkle cookies, a good, rich chocolate cake, a flourless chocolate torte, or vegan chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting,” Anna shared.

Anna Olson's Chocolate Fudge CakeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

Advanced Chocolate Recipes for Baking Masters

Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

If you’re ready to face the ultimate home baking challenge and show off your chocolate technique, Anna had a couple of ideas.

“I have a delicious chocolate mousse cake: chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and it’s got a dark chocolate mirror glaze, which is really hot right now,” she divulged.

Anna Olson's Rich Chocolate Mousse CakeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

“[My] chocolate souffle is another very challenging recipe,” she also shared. “It takes confidence, and you have to feel positive that you know how to get it just right.”

Anna Olson's Grand Chocolate Souffles with Salted Caramel SauceGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Souffles with Salted Caramel Sauce

For even more inspiration, watch Anna Olson on the Great Chocolate Showdown, Tuesdays at 9 PM ET/PT only on Food Network Canada.

How-to-Melt-and-Temper-Chocolate-for-Perfect-Candy-Making

How to Melt and Temper Chocolate for Perfect Candy Making

Dreaming of divine chocolate decorations but terrified of losing your temper? For many baked items, such as fluffy frosting or creamy cake fillings, you can get away with simply melting chocolate to take it from a solid to liquid form like in these Chocolate Divinity Candies. When you get into the world of bonbons and confectionary, however, that’s another matter entirely. Tempering chocolate is a mandatory step if you want both the shiny gloss and the distinctive snap of a well-made candy or decoration like in Anna Olson’s Chocolate Dipped Marzipan — and that’s where you have to pay some attention to technique in order to achieve success.


L-R: Anna Olson’s Chocolate Divinity Candy and Chocolate Dipped Marzipan

If the thought of working with molten chocolate (and even worse, the dangers of it seizing or splitting) has you clutching your (baking) pearls, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out the best, and easiest, ways to work with chocolate, even if you’re a novice chocolatier.

How to Properly Melt Chocolate

For melting chocolate, each method has its advocates: some cooks prefer the double boiler method (or just setting a glass bowl on top of barely simmering water), while others turn to the microwave for an easy fix. Both methods involve the same basic principle: chopping chocolate into chunks for faster, more even melting, and applying gentle heat until most of the distinct shapes have disappeared.

If the unthinkable happens and your chocolate separates into a greasy, gritty mess, due to over-vigorous stirring or too-high heat, you can try Anna Olson’s ingenious trick to add moisture to return the mixture to molten glossiness (note: this fix is only for melting — even a single drop of water is the enemy of a well-tempered chocolate).

How to Properly Temper Chocolate

For this technique, you’ll need to pull out a few items, namely a candy thermometer, a sturdy glass bowl and a silicon spatula that can handle some heat without melting. Depending on the method you use, you may also need a few more pieces of equipment, such as a marble board and wax paper.

The initial stage of tempering looks much like the melting process — use a glass bowl set over barely simmering water (not a rolling boil; there shouldn’t be any bubbles) to melt the chocolate chunks, or place the bowl in the microwave and use short bursts, checking often.

Where tempering differs, however, is the next step, where the chocolate mixture is cooled and warmed within precise ranges of temperature in order to achieve a smooth, shiny surface when it hardens (the temperature you need to hit depends on the type of chocolate you plan to use).


Anna Olson’s Chocolate Covered Caramel Bars

This varying of temperature can be accomplished in a couple of ways: by adding other ingredients such as more chocolate (seeding) or cocoa butter to the mixture, or by pouring two-thirds of the hot chocolate mixture onto a marble board and mixing it with putty knives to cool it manually (see Anna Olson’s step-by-step description for more on this method).

Inquiring scientific minds among us may be intrigued by more gear-driven approaches, including Alton Brown’s combination of the friction of a food processor’s blades plus liberal use of a hair dryer to create heat, or J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s sous-vide circulator method over at Serious Eats.

Decoding Seed Tempering

For the easiest method using the least equipment, however, seeding chocolate is probably the best approach for a chocolate novice (for a visual demonstration, check out the video below from The Great Chocolate Showdownjudge Steven Hodge, pastry chef and chocolatier at Temper Pastry in West Vancouver.) With a few simple steps, this process can be achieved without too much stress (on both the chocolate and the cook).


 

Using the glass bowl over simmering water method, melt chunks of chocolate to the desired temperature (remember that they vary depending on the chocolate and are very narrow ranges, so use that candy thermometer.) We’ll use dark chocolate for this example, which should be heated to 45 to 48 degrees — milk and white chocolate, with higher milk and sugar contents, may react differently. 

Take the chocolate off the heat (leave the burner on…you’ll need it again shortly) and add prepared small pieces of chocolate (the “seeds”), which will help cool the mixture down quickly as they melt into the warmed chocolate.

Stir with a spatula until the overall temperature comes down to about 27 degrees Celsius (again, there may be some variation depending on the type of chocolate you use).

Next, quickly warm the chocolate back up by putting it into the double boiler until it hits 32 degrees Celsius and a thick and glossy texture — perfect for piping into a pretty design on waxed paper that will set up beautifully. If you aren’t sure if you’ve tempered the chocolate correctly, you can test it out by piping a small bit onto the waxed paper (or a metal sheet pan set over an ice pack).

Working quickly, swirl and create chocolate garnishes to your heart’s content: the designs should set up to a delicate decoration with the signature snap when you bite into it (try and leave a few decorations for dessert!)

 For more decadent chocolate creations, check out The Great Chocolate Showdown on Food Network Canada on Tuesdays at 9 pm E/T.

Anna-Olson-Holiday-Dessert-Hacks

Transform Festive Desserts with Anna Olson’s Top Holiday Hacks

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to shine in the dessert department. In addition to the usual festive fare, why not dress things up for the holidays with Anna Olson’s sweet and easy hacks? Just follow these fun, fresh and flavourful ideas to make good use of your holiday ingredients, and take your Christmas baking to the next level.

How to Eggnog Anything

A mix of eggs, cream, sugar and booze, eggnog is the quintessential holiday drink. With a little ground nutmeg and rum extract, it’s easy to infuse this drink’s festive flavour into desserts, too. Anna shows that just a dash of rum (or rum extract) and ground nutmeg give buttercream frosting an unmistakable “eggnog” flavour. Swirl the sweet spread onto her Flourless Mini Vanilla Cupcakes and sprinkle nutmeg on top to complete the look. Or, for a decadent sweet treat, stir nutmeg and rum extract into Anna Olson’s Chocolate Truffles. If cookies are more your style, infuse the eggnog flavours into Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies by adding rum extract and ground nutmeg to the recipe, then, after baking, pipe frosting between two icebox cookies.

If you just can’t get enough eggnog this season, try your hand at these 15 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Eggnog.

Edible Peppermint Candy Platter

Instead of the plastic or glass trays, serve treats on an edible peppermint candy platter. Anna Olson demonstrates how to make a serving plate out of standard candies in this impressive holiday hack. If you’re making cookies, bake up a peppermint plate so you’ll have a unique and portable option for holiday parties and potlucks.

Adorable Rudolph Cookies

Shake up the holiday cookie table with these show-stopping sweets! Start with Anna’s Icing Sugar Cookies and learn how to transform them into adorable and easy decorated treats. A little royal icing and perfectly placed pretzels will help create delicious and adorable desserts. Those new to decorating will love how easy and achievable these sweets are.

Leftover Candy Canes

Got a stocking full of candy canes? There’s a recipe for that. Before you toss them, break out the food processor and pulse those broken bits into a fine candy cane crumb. This will serve as the base for tons of recipes. For a simple dessert, add crunchy candy cane bits inside and out of Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies. Another way to refresh your holiday treats with candy cane crumbs is to roll filled Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies into candy cane dust. If you’re looking for a festive sipper, double-up on the peppermint with this Slow Cooker Peppermint Hot Chocolate, lining the mug’s edge with candy cane bits (brush the edge with a bit of warm water to encourage sticking).

For even more recipes with the traditional holiday candy, try these 15 Tasty Recipes That Use Leftover Candy Canes.

Anna Olson Buttercream Decorating Tips

Anna Olson’s Cake Decorating Ideas for Swiss, Italian and French Buttercream

If you are a fan of cake, then you must be in-the-know when it comes to buttercream since it is the most common frosting. But have you fully immersed yourself into all of the many styles of buttercream, and how to use them?

Cupcake buttercream (also known as American butterceam) is the simplest to make, and is best used to top its namesake: cupcakes. I’ve written a piece on cupcake fun – check it out here.

Swiss Buttercream

Swiss buttercream is the next level – it’s fluffy, yet satin texture balances butter and sugar wonderfully, and it is my all-time favourite buttercream for decorating cakes. It’s easy to make, it takes food colouring well, holds piping detail, and can sit out at room temperature for presentation. Essentially, egg whites and sugar are warmed together and then whipped (a Swiss meringue) and once cooled, butter is whipped in along with flavours and/or colours.

Check out this video as I make it step by step.

Italian Buttercream

Next is Italian buttercream, for the frosting fancier. If you are covering a cake that has a mousse or curd filling, or if you are assembling a tiered cake such as a wedding cake, then you will want this most stable (yet still fluffy and tasty) buttercream. Boiled sugar is poured into egg whites while they whip (an Italian meringue) and once cooled, the butter is worked in. Italian buttercream has all of the virtues of Swiss buttercream, but it sets up more firmly when refrigerated, and is very stable at room temperature, which is why it is ideal for wedding cakes.

French Buttercream

The last buttercream to mention is the least known: French Buttercream. Instead of being made with meringue, egg yolks are the base, making this buttercream rich and custard-like. It tends to have a softer set than Swiss and Italian buttercreams, so I like to keep my décor simpler, with less piping detail.

Pecan Torte with French Buttercream

Get the recipe for Pecan Torte with French Buttercream

Getting Creative with Buttercream

Using Swiss or Italian buttercream, décor is unlimited! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Rustic – Not into piping, but still want a polished look? You can mask (cover completely with frosting) your cake fully and then use the tip of your palette knife to “rough up” the sides as you spin the cake around on a wheel – just treat your palette knife like it’s a needle on a record and start at the base of the cake, moving your way up.

Anna Olson Rustic Buttercream

Ombré – By tinting buttercream in varied shades of the same colour, you can gradiate the colour from dark to light or vice versa as you pipe.

Chocolate Berry Cake with Italian Buttercream

Get the recipe for Chocolate Berry Cake with Ombre Italian Buttercream

Sheer – While a “naked” cake fully exposes the sides, the “half-naked” or sheer style of décor adds a little buttercream to add finesse but the layers can still be seen.

This sheet cake is actually inspired by my own wedding cake, which I made 20 years ago this month. Amazing how what is old becomes new again, even with cake décor trends!

Get the recipe for Chai Layer Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting

Buttercream Tips

A few final buttercream tips to get you on your way:

  •  All buttercreams should be used at room temperature, freshly whipped.
  • That said, you can make any buttercream ahead of time and chill or freeze it. Before using, let it come fully to room temperature and re-whip it to fluff it up.
  • Gel food colouring is best for buttercreams – a dab of colour on the end of a toothpick goes a long way, but remember that the colour intensifies as the frosting sits, so keep that in mind before you add more.

So jump into the kitchen and start playing…today is a perfect day to make and decorate a cake!

For even more baking tips, see her top tips for assembling and icing cakes and get inspired with 67 of Anna Olson’s best-ever cake recipes.

Anna Olson's Easy Cupcake Decorating Guide for Beginners

Anna Olson’s Easy Cupcake Decorating Guide for Beginners

Cupcakes are the ideal way to jump into the world of baking, or to make a fun afternoon activity with kids…after all, who can resist a cupcake?

So let’s keep things really simple, and get you started:

Tools

  • Only a muffin tin, paper liners, basic mixing bowls and electric beaters are needed to make delicious cupcakes
  • Foil-lined cupcake liners retain their colour, where the pattern on a regular paper one can disappear once the cupcake is baked (especially if you’re baking chocolate cupcakes)
  • If you think you are going to get serious about cupcake baking, then invest in a mechanical ice cream scoop – this is the best tool for precise and tidy portioning

Ingredients

  • Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder and milk or buttermilk are the basics needed
  • For the frosting, you just need butter, icing sugar and a little milk
  • Keep in mind that cupcake recipes are designed to be baked as cupcakes.

Tip: Not all cake recipes can bake into a cupcake, and may frustrate you because the wet batter spills over the edge of the paper liner, or when you peel the paper liner, half of the cake comes away with it.  For a tasty classic cupcake, try my recipe for Lemon Coconut Cupcakes.

For even more delicious options, check out Anna Olson’s Very Best Cupcake Recipes.

Now let’s get to the real reason we love cupcakes: frosting!

Buttercream cupcake frosting is the easiest style to make — you simply whip butter and icing sugar together with a touch of milk until it is light and fluffy.  Then you are ready to dollop, pipe or get fancy with you cupcake décor like with this rainbow cupcake frosting.

Whether kids are involved in this process or not, I usually make sure there are plenty of sprinkles around. With such a selection of colourful sprinkle now available, you can really express your sweet side when decorating cupcakes, no matter your skill level.

Cupcakes are a universal, year-round treat, and your décor can suit any occasion.  I love to make these “I Want my Mummy” ghoulish little cupcakes for Halloween, Mummy Mini Chocolate Cupcakes.

I hope I’ve inspired you to jump into the kitchen and play!

For more sweet tips, check out Anna Olson’s Top Tips for Icing and Assembling Cakes and watch Anna Olson guest judge on The Big Bake: Halloween.

Anna Olson’s Best Recipes for a Successful Bake Sale

Making treats for a school bake sale (or an office bake sale, for that matter) can end up feeling like dreaded homework. But with a little planning and some good ideas, you’ll be all set for an A+ when it comes to Bake Sale 101.

First rule of thumb: make sure you’re mindful of food allergies. If you can, try to display the ingredient list of each of your goodies — it will definitely be appreciated! Here are some tips and recipes to ensure your treats will be a hit!

Try Anna Olson’s School-Safe Granola Bars

 1. Steer clear of all nuts, not just peanuts, with school-safe recipes

Anna’s Granola bar recipe uses seeds to add that expected crunch. You can always personalize your granola bars by swapping out the dried fruits or seeds, depending on your preference, and adding little extras like chocolate chips or mini marshmallows.

Get the recipe for Raspberry Peach Fruit Leather.

2. Make homemade versions of sugary snacks

Turn addictive snacks like fruit leather into a healthy treat by making them at home. Then package up your homemade fruit roll-ups in little bags with ribbons and tags for an office bake sale. Bonus: they’re super easy to make! And make sure to save some for yourself — I like to keep some in a jar at my desk for that mid-afternoon craving.

3. Try quick alternatives to bake sale favourite recipes

Want to make a cupcake, but not actually bother with a cupcake? These Pumpkin Spice Cake Cookies are portioned on to a regular cookie tray using an ice cream scoop. Then they are topped with a slather of cream cheese frosting taking them over the top. Take it to the next level á la pumpkin spice latte, and stir in a teaspoon of espresso powder into the frosting.

4. Make sure there are alternatives for those on special diets

There are also those occasions when a cupcake is exactly what is needed (no matter your dietary restrictions). These pretty cupcakes are gluten-free, substituting in coconut flour. And they are absolutely delightful! While I decorate each with a buttercream rosette, you can top your cupcakes however you choose. Get the recipe for Flourless Mini Cupcakes.

Looking for more baked goods from the Queen of Baking? Find a little inspiration with Anna Olson’s Very Best Cupcake Recipes and Anna Olson’s Best New Dessert Recipes.

Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

You’re all set to make your favourite cake recipe and you suddenly realize you’re out of a key ingredient. Don’t fret; there are many quick-fix replacements or substitutions (and even a few vegan baking hacks!) that will save you from running out to the grocery store for just one thing.

Please note that this list is not for those ingredients when adapting to allergy sensitivities to wheat, dairy and egg or those following a gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan diet. Check out these videos on replacing dairy and baking without wheat flour or this video with tips for making flourless pies and tarts.

888_red-velvet-cake

1. Cake and Pastry Flour
Not everyone has this in their pantry, but don’t let that stop you. For every 1 cup of cake or pastry flour, measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour, spoon out 2 Tbsp of that flour, replace it with 2 Tbsp of cornstarch and then sift. Your cakes and cookies will be just as tender and delicate as if you used the real thing.

Alternatively, try Anna Olson’s recipe for Red Velvet Cake where she uses all-purpose flour instead of cake or pastry flour.

2. Unsweetened Chocolate
Most bakers have a stash of good semisweet chocolate in the cupboard, but not always unsweetened. To replace 1 oz (1 square) of unsweetened chocolate, stir 3 Tbsp of cocoa powder with 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil.

No unsweetened chocolate, no problem. Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Classic Devil’s Food Cake where she uses cocoa powder and brewed coffee to replace the rich flavour of unsweetened chocolate.

3. Buttermilk
This has to be the most common substitution considering most people probably wouldn’t buy a litre of buttermilk for a recipe that calls for just ½ cup. Though real buttermilk is preferred, you can replace every 1 cup called for in a recipe with 1 cup of 1% or 2% milk mixed with 2 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar.

Since I do prefer using real buttermilk in baking, I use any leftovers to make low-fat ranch dressing, in pancake or crêpe batter, or use it to marinate pork chops or chicken, before coating in the meat in breadcrumbs and baking.

Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Chilled Corn, Peach and Basil Buttermilk Soup

4. Egg Whites
Using the liquid from a tin of chickpeas can replace egg whites when whipped for a muffin, waffle or another quick bread recipe. I recommend using low-sodium chickpeas. On the flavour side, I do find this an ideal option in recipes with a robust flavour profile: anything with spices, or fruit as lead tastes, otherwise you might notice the hint of chickpea flavour of this add-in.

Try Anna Olson’s recipe for White Chocolate Cranberry Mousse Tart

5. Brown Sugar
It’s time to make oatmeal cookies and you open your brown sugar container only to find the sugar is a solid rock. No fear, you can replace 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 cup of granulated sugar plus 1 Tbsp of molasses.

Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies

6. Nuts
If you’re baking without using nuts, there are some substitutes you can try. Whether you’re baking for someone with an allergy, or just don’t have them on hand, don’t fret about replacing nuts with these tips.

See more: Anna Olson’s Best Tips for Assembling and Icing Cakes

Anna Olson’s Canadian-Inspired Desserts Will Make Your Weekend

The days are long and languid, and I love lapping up every last drop by spending as much time outdoors as possible. Let your summer dinner party festivities linger on by setting up a Canadian-inspired dessert bar, so guests can help themselves (and return for seconds.)

A Festive Strawberry Shortcake Bar

June & July are strawberry season, so why not celebrate with this fresh red and white dessert — strawberry shortcake?  If you are into baking, you can bake off shortcake biscuits, then have bowls of sweetened whipped cream and fresh strawberries sliced and ready for assembling and serving.  You can even add a bowl of chards of crisp meringue to stir into the dessert, making an Eton Mess (and this also gives those going gluten-free an option!).

Farmhouse-Strawberry-Shortcake

Classic Farmhouse Strawberry Shortcake

Get the recipe: Classic Farmhouse Strawberry Shortcake

For more of a cake version, slices of angel food cake suit strawberries and cream.  Set a whole cake out on display as a centerpiece, but have slices of cake already paltered and ready to serve.

Anna-Olson-Strawberry-Shortcake-and-Trifle

L-R: Angel Food Cake with fresh fruit; Strawberry Shortcake Trifles

For a more formal setting, you can assemble individual strawberry trifles.  Arrange them on a dressed table and use quarts of fresh strawberries as décor.

A Classic Butter Tart Buffet

A Canadian classic, this is a fun dessert station to set up if you are hosting a party at the cottage.  We all love butter tarts, but there are heated debates over what should be inside a butter tart: Raisins? Walnuts? Pecans? Chocolate Chips? Bacon? Nothing? So in order to please everyone, I like to make a dessert station out of butter tarts, or even butter tart squares.

Take the Quiz: Which Butter Tart Matches Your Personality?

I make plain butter tarts or butter tart squares – a good non-stick pan really helps make extracting the tarts or squares easy, and I’ve put my muffin tin through the paces, testing them with butter tarts!

Butter Tart Buffet, photo courtesy of Janis Nicholay

Get the recipe: Anna’s Butter Tart Bars

After the tarts are made, I prepare bowls of our favourite butter tart add-ins, as well as scoops of ice cream and caramel and chocolate sauce. Each guest can grab a plate, place a butter tart on it and top it as they wish.  What I’ve learned over doing this just about every summer is that inevitably, each guest puts EVERYTHING on their butter tart!

See More: These Nanaimo Bar Popsicles are Everything You Need This Summer

 

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

Anna Olson Dessert Station

Anna Olson’s Best Dessert Station Recipes for a Picture-Perfect Party

It’s time to party!  We as Canadians know how to appreciate every bit of sweetness that our summer season gives to us, and that includes entertaining guests for birthdays, bridal and baby showers, graduations and family reunions, and even better if we can host outdoors.

Maybe you’ve figured out the snacks and nibbles, and you know that the grill will be fired up to take care of the main part of the meal, but what to do about dessert?

Anna Olson's Raspberry Fruit Jellies
Homemade Raspberry Jellies

Dessert stations are the hot ticket at professionally catered events, but you don’t have to be a caterer to create a beautiful, themed dessert bar.  Having such a set up is ideal for a large group because there are some guests who will make one visit to grab a sweet plate, some may take a pass altogether, and there are others who may sneak in multiple trips.

A dessert station also allows you to use time before the party starts to set up the table nicely, leaving space for your bowls and platters that need to be refrigerated to be added last minute, and all of the work is done ahead of time — anything that allows you to be more of a guest at your own party gets a checkmark in my book.

Here are a few fun ideas for summery desserts that suit a party:

Waffle Dessert Station

Hosting a brunch party or shower? Waffles don’t have to be a part of the breakfast portion…make them dessert!

If you have space and the inclination, you could set up an “action station” and let people make their own waffles, or you (or a “voluntold” family member) could make them.  As your guests take their waffles, have an assortment of sauces and toppings ready for dressing:

  • Chocolate, Dulce de Leche or caramel sauce
  • Fresh fruits: berries, pineapple, bananas, mango
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Cupcake frosting (colour-tinted or rainbow if your party has a colour theme)
  • Sprinkles (for that unicorn effect)
  • Mini marshmallows (for the s’mores effect)
  • Whipped Cream

There are two main types of waffles you can make:

1. Classic buttermilk waffles are made from a batter similar to pancakes, but have whipped egg whites folded in right before making.

2. Liege waffles are a yeast-raised waffle dough, that has crushed sugar cubes added before portioning.  This dough can be made ahead and chilled (which might be handy before a busy party day).

See More: Anna Olson’s Maple Bacon Waffle Cake

Cupcake Garden Dessert Station

Cupcakes are the perfect summer party dessert.  They are easy to pick up and eat with your fingers, the perfect single portion and as pretty as can be!  You may have thought that cupcakes were just a dessert “phase” we were going through, but they have stood the test of time and are still a popular choice at weddings, showers and other garden parties.

Of course, you can decorate your cupcakes as simple or as elaborate as you wish, but if hosting your party outside, why not make a flower garden of your cupcake display?  Here is my recipe that shows how to decorate some colourful flowers. I use my piping tip set and disposable (but reusable and recyclable) piping bags from the Anna Olson Kitchen line to get the job done.

Anna-Olson-Cupcake-Garden
Vanilla Cupcakes with Floral Frosting

See more: Anna Olson’s Very Best Cupcake Recipes

All Things Sprinkles!

Anything with sprinkles is hot right now, so make a colourful dessert station out of just about any assortment of desserts, so long as sprinkles abound on top and/or within them! Tarts, cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, cookies, squares — just about any sweet treat takes on a playful tone when sprinkles are added.

Confetti-Frosted-Sugar-Cookie-Squares
Confetti Frosted Sugar Cookie Squares

You can use bowls and jars of sprinkles as part of the table decor, or just provide spoons so people can add sprinkles as they wish.

Party Table Tips

Now that you’ve picked your dessert table theme, here are a few tips for success as you plan and assemble:

1. Location

If setting up your dessert table outdoors, be sure that it is shaded, so that desserts don’t melt in direct sunlight. This also applies to indoors — avoid setting a dessert table near a window with direct sunlight, which can magnify the heat and melt the icing off a cake!

2. Labels 

Place tags next to each dessert item, so that if unattended, guests know what the desserts are. Include potential allergens, or note if items are “free” from gluten, eggs, dairy, etc.

See More: Anna’s Vegan Baking Hacks

3. Serving Tools 

Place serving tools on each platter or plate, but have a few spares on hand, just in case a spoon slips into the whipped cream bowl.

4. Use Battery Twinkle Lights 

Tea lights are pretty, but can be dangerous on a dessert table if an arm with a sleeve reaches over an open flame. Strings of battery-operated twinkle lights are easy to arrange and add the perfect sparkle.

5. Takeaway Boxes 

Want guests to take treats home with them? Bakery boxes or more decorative boxes can be purchased affordably at craft stores.

I hope you are as excited as I am for the summer hosting season… I’ll see you on the back deck!

Anna Olson Party Desserts

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

Anna-Olson-Birthday-Cake-tile

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:

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.

Chocolate-Spice-Cupcakes
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 Cake Flavour

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


Black Forest Cake – chocolate cake, cherry filling and whipped cream frosting

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

Opera-TorteOpera 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.

When to Bake Your 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-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.

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:

Lemon-Swiss-Buttercream-Hatbox-Cake
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.

Lemon-Swiss-Buttercream-Hatbox-Cake-version-2

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

Anna Olson’s 10 Secrets to Mastering Meringue Make Lemon Pie That Much Better

The perfect meringue is a lofty, yet very attainable, goal for any baker. Achieving that crowning glory of pillowy softness inside and browned exterior is no easy task — but professional baker Anna Olson has you covered with a few tips and tricks to make sure your next meringue attempt doesn’t fall flat.

Let’s start by breaking down meringue by type. Depending on the stability required, meringue techniques can vary from a simple whip and serve to a more complicated cooked syrup version:


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

Common Meringue

This is simply egg whites with granulated sugar, sometimes with cream of tartar or lemon juice added for stability. The whites are whipped to a medium peak, which Anna describes as “peaks with a curve, but not a full curl when the beaters are lifted”. This method is used for the pretty swirls you see atop lemon meringue or other pies, and is often browned once frosted.

Swiss Meringue 

A method that takes the simple meringue one step further by heating the egg whites and sugar over a water bath until gently warmed (for those reluctant to pull out a double boiler, a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water will also work). The warmed egg white mixture is then put into a mixer and whipped into a meringue, which sets as it cools. You’ll see this technique used for pavlovas, meringue cookies or anywhere you want a little more stability and firmness once baked.

Italian Meringue

This is the zenith of meringue firmness — Anna calls it “the magical combination of whipping hot sugar syrup into softly whipped egg whites.” By melting sugar (and sometimes honey) to a specific temperature, then whipping it with egg whites, this extra thick meringue can be used for marshmallows and other candy (Anna makes torrone, a type of Italian nougat candy with pistachios, almonds and citrus zest). You can also use this method for key lime pie, a cousin to the ubiquitous lemon meringue.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Key Lime Meringue Pie

Ready to get started? Here are Anna’s 10 secrets to achieving the perfect meringue for lemon pie.

1. Don’t Over-Whip

One of the hardest things for novice bakers (and even some pros) to judge is how much is too much when it comes to whipping egg whites. Over-whipped egg whites look kind of craggy, says Anna, and when you touch them, they start to collapse. You don’t want to bake with over-whipped eggs, because whatever you bake will fall once it hits the heat of the oven.

A quick fix? A little bit of time: let the eggs sit, and after about 10 minutes, the mixture will start separating. Even if you’ve added sugar, you can whip those egg whites on medium speed back to the point you missed the first time.

 2. Keep Thing Hot

When topping a pie, make sure your filling is hot when you’re ready to put on your meringue, says Anna. The reason you don’t want to put a layer of meringue on a cold filling is to prevent condensation — that layer of dew in between the lemon filling and the meringue. Keeping the filling hot when spreading on the meringue ensures a nice even layer without gaps or weeping (either from the pie or the cook).


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Pie

3. Pretty Peaks

Want to get the same Instagram-worthy swirls and flourishes you see in the bakery window? In her recipe for lemon meringue pie (above), Anna recommends adding half the meringue and using a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl and secure it to the lemon curd. Then, dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and create spikes.

 4. Stir, Stir, Stir

If you’re making an Italian meringue, you’ll be standing by the stove for a bit: Anna advises that you stir the sugar mixture constantly when you’re bringing it up to the initial stage of 280°F to prevent it from boiling over. Between 280°F and 315°F (the final stage), you can take a break and ease off the stirring — the danger of an overflowing pot is past.

5. Safety First

To prevent spatters when putting hot sugar syrup into a mixer going at high speed, Anna has a safety tip: pour it down the side of the bowl — it will bypass the beaters entirely and go to the bottom without splashing a single drop. You’ll be able to tell when the mixture cools and thickens by the sound of the motor, and by touching the side of the bowl.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Squares

6. Connect the Dots

When smoothing your meringue over the pie filling, make sure it connects with the crust — that little connection kind of latches the meringue in place, says Anna. Use a spatula and even, long strokes to smooth the thick meringue onto the pie, making sure you don’t press too hard, deflating your meringue and, even worse, staining the pristine white fluffiness with flecks of filling.

 7. Perfect Piping

For pro-level piping to top mini lemon meringue pies, cupcakes, eclairs or even profiteroles, scoop your meringue into a piping bag (be sure to prep your fillings first). Anna’s technique involves piping evenly and in one concentric motion for round desserts, or using a slight back and forth wave for an eclair. Any mistakes can be scraped off for a second attempt — we won’t tell.

Get the recipes for Anna Olson’s Cheerful Lemon Meringue Desserts

 8. Time for the Torch

Although meringue will set on its own, those dramatic dark touches of colour can be added with a butane kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Don’t have a creme brûlée torch? Take a tip from Anna’s recipe for lemon berry meringue cake (below) and turn the desserts out onto a parchment-lined baking tray, pipe and then bake the meringues for two minutes in a 450°F oven.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Berry Meringue Cakes with Bumbleberry Sauce

 9. Cool it Down

Even if you’re tempted to dive right in, it’s very important that once you’ve baked your meringue, you let your pie cool completely before slicing into it. The reward for your patience? Pretty, even slices with distinct meringue and filling layers.

 10. Keep Things Fresh

Sadly, lemon meringue desserts aren’t meant for keeping. Anna advises making the pie the day you plan to serve it in order to show off your perfect meringue at its finest. Don’t worry — with a pie this good, you’ll have no problem indulging in seconds.

Fore more inspiring Anna Olson Dessert recipes, browse her 50+ Most Popular Easter Desserts, Top 20 Lemon Desserts and her Best-Ever Cake Recipes.

Lasagna dish on a table

One Dish, Four Ways: Our Hosts Put Their Own Spin on a Classic Lasagna

Is there any dish more synonymous with comfort food than a good old fashioned lasagna? Fresh pasta, ooey gooey cheese, a rich sauce… It’s no wonder this dish is a fail-proof staple for beginner cooks and seasoned chefs alike. With the weather outside making us want to stay in and indulge, we’re thinking it’s time to gather around the table and put a spin on this classic meal. To get you inspired, we’ve lined up four irresistible variations on lasagna from our Food Network Canada hosts.

1. Anna Olson’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with Four Cheeses

This meatless recipe for roasted vegetable lasagna by Anna Olson, host of Fresh with Anna Olson, ups the ante on traditional lasagnas by including a four-cheese blend and delicious roasted carrots, parsnips and Roma tomatoes. You’ll be wondering how you ever managed with one-cheese recipes as you taste the distinct flavours of ricotta, Parmesan, Asiago, and Swiss Gruyere blended into a sauce and mixed with the vegetables between sheets of fresh lasagna.

2. Ree Drummond’s Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Plated lasagna dish

Chef and host of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond offers up a delicious slow-cooker lasagna that’s heavy on flavor and light on prep work. A simple three-step recipe that has you combining your meat and cheese mixtures with layers of lasagna noodles (broken to fit your slow cooker), there’s little left to do but sit back in anticipation of this fool-proof dinner that’s sure to become a family favourite.

3. Giada De Laurentiis’ Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna

Lasagna in a skillet

Fans of easy-cook recipes will love this delicious one-skillet lasagna from Giada De Laurentiis of Giada Entertains. This recipe combines a medley of unexpected flavours ingredients like spicy Italian sausage, lemon zest and red pepper flakes to turn up the heat on this classic dish. With just one skillet needed to pull off this savoury spin on traditional lasagna, you’ll love the quick prep time – and easy clean-up!

4. Ina Garten’s Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

Portobello mushroom lasagna dish

Looking for a meatless lasagna recipe that doesn’t skimp on that hearty texture? Chef Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa has you covered with her Portobello mushroom lasagna . With rich ingredients like whole milk, butter, flour, Portobello mushrooms and Parmesan, this lasagna is every bit the indulgence you’d want from this classic dish, minus the meat.

Looking for more crowd-pleasing comfort food? Check out these must-try slow-cooker recipes and the cheese-stuffed recipes  that will have you drooling!

Iron Chef Anna Olson

Meet Canada’s Newest Iron Chef, Anna Olson and Enter to Win Her New Cookbook

A brand new Iron Chef has been announced for the holidays and it’s Canada’s baking sweetheart, Anna Olson. We sat down with Anna to talk everything from how she felt about competing for the first time to her favourite cookie this holiday season.

Iron Chef Anna Olson

Read on for the full interview with Iron Chef Anna Olson and don’t forget to enter our draw to win one of five signed copies of Anna’s new holiday cookbook, Set for the Holidays. It’s chock-full of delicious recipes that will have your holiday entertaining sorted, from delicious comforting appetizers like Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese Squares, to sweet Canadian classics like Signature Butter Tart Squares. And of course, don’t forget the cookies for Santa, like Breton Sea Salt Shortbreads and Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies,

Can you tell us about how you fell in love with food?

My love of food happened gradually out of love for spending time with my grandmother in the kitchen. She was the avid baker. For her, it was the passion for cooking, but most especially baking to share.  I think over the years when I look at what I love about baking most is that sense of sharing that comes with it. So it all started there, even though it took me a while to come about it professionally.

How did you begin to transition that into your career?

For a lot of people, baking is a stress reliever. When I was in university and early in my career in banking, it was my way to relieve stress at the end of the day. And I really did have what I call my ‘muffin epiphany’ where after a very stressful day I found myself up at two in the morning making banana muffins just to relax. And it was at that moment the light went off and I said, “Okay, I need to cook”.

Within three months I quit and went to cooking school. It was a need. I needed to make cooking and baking my full-time occupation. Originally, I didn’t plan on working in restaurants. I thought that recipe development for a company would be the way I went. But I actually got hooked on the adrenaline of working in restaurants.

How do you feel Canadian cuisine has influenced you— because you have a very strong identity as a Canadian chef and baker.

When I found myself living in the Niagara Region, I was drawn to the type of cuisine with four distinct menus based on four distinct seasons with produce that came from close by. In Canada, we embrace that, whether it’s cooking with the seafood of the East Coast, the produce and dairy we have in Ontario, Quebec beef, or the fish on the West Coast. That is Canadian cuisine and we don’t need to rely on a dish or a specific menu to call it Canadian. You can cook globally so long as you shop locally. And that too, I think is very Canadian, bringing the global influence.

How did it feel to compete on Iron Chef Canada?

When the opportunity came to be an Iron Chef, I thought long and hard about it. I was petrified. Can I do this? Can I stand up against a challenger and can I deliver a five-course menu [that is] all baking in an hour? And even though this is an all baking episode, the rules are still exactly the same as if it was a traditional Iron Chef [challenge].

I decided one of my life philosophies is you never regret the things you try and fail. And I thought if I say no to this, I’ll always wonder ‘what if?’ So I just jumped right in.

Anna Olson Battle Nuts

So once you did decide you were going for it, how did you start to prepare?

There is really only so much you can do because you have to wait until the [secret] ingredient is revealed. But knowing that you have to prepare a certain amount of dishes, I had to look at techniques. People know me from Bake where I really focus on the technique behind something. So I knew I needed to find recipes that could draw on that and [we] could mix, bake, set, and cook within an hour, which can be a challenge.

What I didn’t want the judges to do was walk away with sugar shock, [that] they didn’t have a great experience because I didn’t give them a balanced menu. That was already in my head. So when the ingredients [are] revealed, you simply apply it.

How did you go about showcasing Canadian flavours in your Iron Chef Canada menu?

I feel showcasing Canadian flavours and preparations is just inherent to my style, so I didn’t feel like I had to reach or be something different than [what] I was. I think that would have created a challenge that I didn’t need. We do what we know and we do what we love. Just like a home cook preparing Christmas dinner, if you make something you’ve never made, it’s going to go sideways. The home cook at holiday time is kind of their own Iron Chef!

What’s your favourite holiday food event—from cookie swaps to brunch to the big Christmas dinner?

The Christmas Day brunch is my favourite meal. I love how it’s relaxed and casual, but still elegant. We do the big ham and lots of side salads.  I’ll do things like a raspberry Danish pastry wreath and scones with fruit to start the meal, but then you still get to have dessert. Brunch is done is [by] 2 or 3 p.m. and the kitchen is cleaned up and you still have the rest of the day to snack. And the best is that little leftover ham sandwich or turkey sandwich later on in the evening.

Anna Olson's Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

What’s your ‘it’ cookie of the season?

I do have a collection of three cookies from my latest cookbook called Crinkles and Twinkles. So I do a Chocolate Crinkle,  a Gingerbread Crinkle, and a Lemon Twinkle. They’re rolled in granulated sugar and sparkles. Those, together on a plate, look lovely because they all relate, but they each have their own flavour.

The other cookie that I like to make every year is a Vinarterta Linzer cookie.  It’s a mix of tradition and reinvention. I’ve adopted what is a really quite difficult and time intensive [recipe] to make into a simpler cookie. It’s very much a Canadian prairie recipe. When Icelanders emigrated [to Canada]  they treasured and kept onto these heritage recipes. That’s a big part of Canadian cooking too. We cherish our cultural heritage and hold onto these recipes, but also share them with each other.

That is, to me, what a cookie exchange should be. You can always assign people to make you make the shortbread or make the chocolate cookie, but everyone should be invited to make one that’s part of their family tradition.

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

Watch Anna Olson on Iron Chef Canada: Battle Nutcracker ‘Sweet’ on December 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

anna-olson-fudge-brownies

The Only One-Bowl Brownie Recipe You Need (With a Secret Ingredient!)

The secret to moist, chewy, fudgey brownies? Mayonnaise!  Everyone’s favourite sandwich spread is the key to success when it comes to the perfect brownie. Also worth mentioning is that mayo replaces the need for any butter, which means far less saturated fat.

Anna Olson’s One Bowl Chocolate Brownies

Makes: 1 9-x-13-inch (3.5 L) pan

Ingredients:

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
⅔ cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
⅔ cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease and line a 9-x-13-inch (3.5 L) baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour boiling water overtop. Let the chocolate mixture sit one minute, then whisk to melt.
3. Whisk in the sugar, then add the mayonnaise and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla.
4. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until evenly blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the brownies comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
6. Brownies slice best when chilled, but taste best at room temperature.
7. Once sliced, you can store the brownies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Want more baking recipes and tips? Find out how to fix your biggest baking fails here.

How to Make Rainbow Swirl Frosting

If certain coffee franchises have taught us anything through their creative iced drinks, it’s that when it comes to all rainbow-coloured or unicorn-inspired  people are all in. So why shouldn’t the tri-coloured frosting be all the rage with cupcakes, too? Thanks to a little kitchen creativity, you can get that same pretty rainbow effect without heading out to the bakery or fancy cake shop.

Rainbow Frosting, Two Ways

Anna Olson has two ways to achieve a tri-coloured swirl that works for any colour-combo of your choosing. That means decorating with soft pastels, funky neons, or with themed birthday or anniversary party hues – it’s as simple as scooping icing into a piping bag.

Anna Olson puts a pastel concoction to the test with a fresh batch of cupcakes, first by using three separate piping bags joined by a special coupler. The tool helps to give the icing a rainbow-like effect, with perfectly defined edges. Then, for those of us who don’t have such fancy tools, she shows us how to create a pretty tie-dyed effect using one large piping bag and a simple star tip. Sure, those edges may fold into each other a little more, but it’s actually a really pretty and neat way to finish off a traditional cupcake. One that’s guaranteed to be loved by children and adults alike.

It may sound like a fancy schmancy way to top the traditional dessert, but it’s actually really easy. Even novice bakers can get the hang of this with a little practice and a spare frosting plate.

“I love that no two cupcakes look the same… it almost looks like a bouquet of flowers,” Olson says towards the end, once she’s decorated half-a-dozen impressive yet oh-so-simple cupcakes in a matter of seconds.

With frosting tips like these, you’re certain to be the star of your next birthday celebration, potluck get-together or cupcake party. If you can resist the tempting colours long enough to actually get them there without eating them all first, of course.

You special little unicorn, you. And now as someone out there probably once said, “keep calm and cupcake on.”

Want more recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out 30 Celebration Worthy Cupcake Recipes.