Tag Archives: bake

These Perfect Lemon Meringue Cupcakes Are Everything We Need Right Now

Searching for a fun springtime dessert to brighten up your kitchen and baking repertoire? Look no further. This recipe perfectly pairs all of our favourite flavours of lemon meringue pie, alongside fluffy vanilla cupcakes. Filled with tangy lemon curd and topped with pillow-soft toasted meringue clouds, these cupcakes are bursting with flavour and charm. Gently toasting the meringue is not only a cool kitchen trick, but the caramelized sugar and crisp exterior offers another layer of flavour and texture.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Bake Time: 20 to 24 minutes
Resting Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4-5 hours
Servings: 12 to 14 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Lemon Curd
3 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced

Cupcakes
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Meringue
3 large egg whites (reserved from making the lemon curd)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Related: These Matcha and White Chocolate Oat Muffins Will Help Makeover Your Breakfast Routine

Directions:

Lemon Curd
1. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth.

2. Cook, while slowly stirring consistently with a heat-safe spatula, over medium heat until the curd thickens (7 to 10 minutes) and coats the back of a spoon.

3. Strain the curd into a heat-safe container with a mesh sieve. Stir in the butter, one piece at a time, until smooth.

4. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly to the surface of the curd. Refrigerate the lemon curd until it completely cools and thickens (at least 3 hours) before using.

Related: Irresistible Peanut Butter Cupcakes With Chocolate Buttercream and Smoked Salt

Cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. Into an electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment (or a bowl with a hand mixer), massage the sugar and lemon zest together between your fingertips until very fragrant. Add the butter and mix on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 5 minutes.

4. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

5. With the mixer on low, add half of the dry ingredients until combined. Add in the buttermilk and lemon juice and mix until absorbed. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

6. Fill the cupcake liners no more than 2/3 of the way full and bake for 20 to 24 minutes in the middle rack or until a toothpick inserted into the centres comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack before assembling.

Meringue
1. Put the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Briefly whisk them together by hand until just combined.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring an inch or two of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the stand mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Heat the mixture, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is hot to touch.

3. Carefully place the bowl back on the stand mixer and fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until glossy, medium-stiff peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Use immediately.

Assembly
1. Use a paring knife or apple corer to remove the centres of the cooled cupcakes. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon curd into the centre of each cupcake.

2. Top the cupcakes with a large dollop of meringue and gently toast with a kitchen torch.

Serve cupcakes immediately. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Love citrus flavours? Check out these 36 luscious lemon desserts for spring or Anna Olson’s top lemon desserts.

You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Tasted Butter Tart Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon buns are delicious. It’s just my opinion, but I haven’t found a single soul who disagrees. The warm, buttery, fluffy buns are hard to say ‘no’ to (anyone who does has an inordinate amount of willpower!).  I know this is going to sound crazy, but this recipe makes the traditional cinnamon bun yesterday’s news. We take your grandma’s cinnamon buns to a whole new level by adding a butter tart filling. Gorgeous buns are baked in a sweet mess, so when they’re flipped, they drip with butter tart goodness. You’re welcome!

Related: You’ll Jump Out of Bed for These Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

Butter Tart Cinnamon Buns

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: about 4 hours
Makes: 12 buns

Ingredients:
Dough:
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8g packet dry active yeast
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
4 – 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Butter Tart Glaze:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt

Filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Butter Tart Cinnamon Buns

Directions:
1. Warm buttermilk over low heat until just slightly warmer than room temperature.

2. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix sugar into buttermilk and add yeast. Let stand until mixture becomes foamy on the surface, about 10 minutes.

Related: How to Make The Perfect Banana Bread Every Time (Plus Freezing Tips and a Recipe!)

3. Add in butter and eggs and stir to combine. Add in flour, 1 cup at a time until a soft, pliable dough forms. If dough is tacky, continue adding flour until smooth.

4. Form dough into a ball and transfer into a large greased bowl. Set in a warm place and cover with a dish towel. Let dough rise until double in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours.

5. To make the butter tart glaze, mix all the ingredients in a bowl until combined. Pour into a large baking dish.

6. To make the filling, mix cinnamon and sugar. Place dough onto floured surface and roll into a 20 x 12 inch rectangle.

Related: White Chocolate Funfetti Cookies Make for the Perfect Emergency Cookie Stash

7. Spread butter edge to edge on the dough and sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over top. Roll from the longer edge of the rectangle until a large snake is formed.

8. Cut 12 equal portions from the roll and arrange in baking dish with butter tart filling. Cover with a dish towel and let rise until buns have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

9. While buns are rising, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden brown and baked through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

10. Serve each bun flipped so the butter tart bottom is on top.

Butter Tart Cinnamon Buns

Looking for more baking inspiration? Here are our top chocolate chip cookie recipes and comforting baking project ideas (from sourdough to cream puffs) that deserve a pat on the back.

Candy-Filled Pumpkin Pail Cake for Halloween

Bursting with colourful candy and pumpkin spice, this charming Jack O’Lantern cake is the ultimate Halloween dessert. A little less spooky and a lot more whimsy, celebrate the haunting holiday with treats instead of the creepy crawlies. Made from two Bundt cakes sandwiched together to create the pumpkin shape, even the inside has a candy surprise! The pumpkin spice cake is the perfect seasonal flavour, but feel free to fill and top the cake with whatever candies you’d like.

Jack-O-Lantern-Cake

Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Total Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Serves: 14 to 18

Bundt Cakes:

Note: To create the pumpkin design, two cakes will be needed. Repeat recipe for each bundt cake.

Ingredients:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Liberally grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin spice and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl or liquid measuring up, whisk together the vanilla, pumpkin and milk. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugars and oil with an electric mixer. Add in the eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
4. With the mixer on low, add in half of the dry ingredients. Once incorporated, slowly stream in the milk mixture. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack until it is safe to handle before inverting the cake out of the pan. Allow the cake to completely cool, about 1 hour, before assembly.

JackOLanternCake-candy-filled

Vanilla Spice Frosting

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
5 1/2 to 6 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
3 to 5 Tbsp milk
Orange food colouring

Directions:
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk until combined.
2. Once combined, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more sugar and/or milk until desired consistency is reached. Add the orange food colouring until desired shade is achieved.

Assembly
Ingredients:
1 cup assorted chocolate candies
Whole candy bars and lollipops for decoration
2 oz black fondant

Jack O Lantern Cake

Directions:
1. Once the cakes have completely cooled, turn upside down and trim the bottoms so that they are flat. Reserve the cake scraps for later.
JackOLanternCake-cut
2. Stack the cakes on top of each other. Using a serrated knife, begin carving the cakes until they resemble the shape of a pumpkin. Depending on the initial shape from whatever pan you are using, be sure to trim so that the gap between the 2 cakes is fairly seamless. If desired, go back and define the ridges on top by cutting grooves into the cake to resemble that of a pumpkin. Most importantly, save the cake scraps.
Jack O Lantern Cake
3. Once trimmed, separate the 2 cakes. Place the bottom cake on a serving dish or cake board. Press the cake scraps into the hole to create a bottom layer about 1-inch thick. Fill the center with chocolate candies.
JackOLanternCake-frosting
4. Spread on a thin layer of frosting on the top of the cake. Place the second cake on top to form the pumpkin. Continue to fill the center with candy. Press the remaining cakes scraps to cover the top of the hole. Crumb coat the entire cake with frosting before giving it a smooth finish.
Jack O Lantern Cake
5. Roll out the black fondant to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Using a parking knife and round cutters (or the large end of a piping tip), cut out eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Stick the cut pieces on the cake to form the Jack O’Lantern. Cover the top with an assortment of candy and enjoy!
Jack O Lantern Cake

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Anna Olson’s Best Fixes for Your Biggest Baking Fails

When it comes to baking, nobody is perfect. Even expert bakers  have bad days in the kitchen, but the best part about messing up is learning from those mistakes.

Whether you’re baking a cake, whipping up a batch of cookies, or trying your hand at homemade pie dough, the next time you head into the kitchen, let Anna Olson show you how to fix your biggest baking fails.

Classic-Chocolate-Chip-Cookies

Make Anna Olson’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies.

1. Why do my chocolate chip cookies spread too much when baking?

There are two main reasons why your cookies all meld together into one giant sheet while baking. The first is that your butter could be too soft. An easy fix for that is to scoop the dough onto a pan, and then chill it for an hour before baking.

Your cookies could also fall flat if you use too much sugar or not enough flour. Even a seemingly harmless extra tablespoon of sugar could cause the cookies to spread because sugar liquefies as it bakes. Be sure to use measuring spoons and cups and follow the instructions for the best results.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Luscious Lemon Coconut Cake.

2. How do I stop my cake from sinking in the centre?

A common culprit that causes your cake to sink is an incorrect oven temperature. Just because your oven beeps and the display indicates that it’s 350ºF doesn’t mean that the temperature is accurate. An oven that runs too hot may make your cake look done when it really isn’t, or if the temperature oscillates, your ingredients can’t set at the right time and the cake sinks. The best solution is to purchase an oven thermometer and manually adjust how you set your oven.

Another cause is inactive baking powder or baking soda. If you don’t bake on a regular basis, always be sure to check the expiry date on your baking powder. For baking soda, replace it every three to four months and use the older box in the fridge as a deodorizer.

3. What causes my cheesecake to crack in the centre?

There are a few key steps to remember when baking a cheesecake. First, when adding eggs to your batter, mix them in on a low speed to prevent air working into the batter. Second, run a palette knife around the inside edge of the pan within 15 minutes of the cheesecake coming out of the oven. That way, if the cheesecake contracts, it will easily pull away from the sides without causing it to crack or tear in the centre. Finally, be sure to cool the cheesecake completely to room temperature before chilling. Your cheesecake can be refrigerated when the bottom of the pan is cool to the touch, not the sides.

Making a cheesecake? Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Classic New York Style Cheesecake.

Try Anna Olson’s Chocolate Banana Muffins.

4. How do I prevent peaked tops on muffins?

When your muffins come out of the oven with peaked tops, this is a sign of overmixing. To get those perfect muffin tops, mix your batter by hand instead of using electric beaters. When hand mixing, use a gentle stirring motion until the point where flour is no longer visible.

5. Can I still use curdled custard?

Curdled custard means that the eggs in the custard have overcooked, but don’t throw it away and start over. While still hot, put the custard into a food processor or blender, and puree on high speed. Strain the custard into a dish, cool and chill as usual, and no one will even know – it’ll be smooth and perfect!

Put your baking skills to use with Anna Olson’s Peach Raspberry Custard Tart.

6. What is seized chocolate, and how do I avoid it?

If your chocolate has seized, it will take on a dull, curdled look, it will not be smooth, and some oil (which is actually cocoa butter) will be floating. To prevent seizing, melt your chocolate in a metal bowl placed over a pot filled with an inch of barely simmering water while slowly stirring. The steam from the water gently melts the chocolate. Try and avoid using the microwave to melt your chocolate, but if you must, use a lower heat setting.

If your chocolate seizes, remove it from the heat and add a few drops of tepid water. Stir slowly and gently with a spatula where the water was added, then increase the radius of your stirring motion to return the chocolate to its smooth state.

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fruit Truffles are a must-try for chocolate lovers. Still not enough chocolate? Check out Anna Olson’s best chocolate recipes.

Lemon-Meringue-Pie-anna-olson

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Pie.

7. Why does my pie dough crack when rolled or shrink when baked?

Dough cracking while rolling may not be a sign of anything wrong with the dough itself. It is often that the butter within the dough is too cold, causing the cracking. To prevent this, try pulling out the dough 30 minutes before rolling. It will roll out with less cracking (and far less effort).

If your dough shrinks when rolled or after baking, it’s a sign that it needed “relaxing.” The proteins (gluten) in flour become elastic when “exercised,” i.e. making and rolling the dough, and time is the only fix. If your dough springs back when rolling, pop it back into the fridge to rest for 20 to 45 minutes. To avoid a crust that shrinks when baking, chill the lined pie shell for 30 minutes before baking.

8. Is there a way to prevent a cake from breaking when it’s turned out of the pan?

All baked goods, including cakes, tarts, cookies and muffins, are fragile directly out of the oven. Be sure to wait 15 to 20 minutes before turning them out to cool.

If you suspect that the problem may be caused by the pan (cake will stick to a scratched pan even if it’s greased), then line the pan with parchment paper. Have the parchment hang just above the edges of the pan so you can use it to easily lift out the cake.

Test your baking abilities with Anna Olson’s Carrot Cake.

9. Is there a secret to preventing butter tart filling from bubbling over or sinking in the centre?

Butter tart filling bubbles over or sinks in the centre due to over-mixed filling. The eggs hold in the air which rises in the oven, causing the filling to overflow while baking and then sink immediately when taken out of the oven. The secret is to whisk the filling by hand until it’s evenly blended.

Sugar crystals in the bottom of the tarts are also caused by over-mixing, causing the sugar to separate from the eggs as the filling bakes. Adding a teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to the filling ensures the sugar will completely dissolve as the filling bakes.

Anna Olson shows you how to impress your guests with a butter tart buffet.

 

10. How can I avoid lemon square filling from seeping under the crust base?

The key to making squares with a fluid filling poured over a base, such as lemon squares, is how you mix the base. It should feel crumbly, so don’t over-mix it. Gently press the base into the pan, and make sure a bit of it comes up the edges and goes into the corners. Do not pack it in firmly or it will pull away from the edges while it bakes, leaving a gap for the fluid lemon filling to seep underneath.

Give Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Squares a try.

Looking for more? Try Anna Olson’s Best New Desserts.

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-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 Vegan Apple Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream

Fill your home with the warm, delicious smell of cinnamon by making this heavenly double-layered vegan apple spice cake!

It’s easy to make and combines fresh apple, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, molasses, and brown sugar with a fluffy and sweet maple buttercream frosting. You’ll feel quite proud of yourself after making this and your sweet reward is eating it!

Easy Vegan Apple Spice Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:
Apple Spice Cake:
1 ¼ cup soy milk, room temperature
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp all-spice
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup shredded apple
1/3 cup coconut oil (soft at room temperature)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ Tbsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup pecans, roughly chopped

Maple Buttercream Frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
8 Tbsp vegan butter or margarine, room temperature
6 tablespoons maple syrup

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
  2. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, and sea salt.
  4. In a third bowl beat together coconut oil and brown sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Then beat in molasses, vanilla extract, and soymilk and vinegar mixture until smooth.
  5. Add the liquid ingredients and shredded apple to the dry ingredients. Fold the batter until it’s just combined, ensuring not to over mix it.
  6. Lightly oil 2 x 7 ¼” cake pans with a little bit of coconut oil. You can also bake one at a time if you only have 1 pan.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Spread out the batter so it’s even and to the edge of the pan.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes on the centre rack. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out of the centre of the cake clean.
  9. Transfer cakes out of the pans onto wire racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  10. To make the frosting beat together vegan butter, powdered sugar, and maple syrup until fluffy and smooth.
  11. Place one cake bottom side down on your serving plate and spread frosting evenly with a spatula across the entire top of the cake. Place the other cake, bottom side down, on top of the frosting. Use remaining frosting to cover the entire cake.
  12. Using the palm of your hands gently press small handfuls of roughly chopped pecans along the entire side of the cake until well coated.

Looking for more sweet seasonal desserts? Try our Best Apple Recipes.

anna-chocolate-cake

4 Must-Know Chocolate Rules for Better Baking

A chocolate dessert is a welcome sight at any time of the year, no special occasion required. While there’s a certain set of rules for making chocolate truffles and other candy, chocolate desserts like cakes, tarts, mousses and more requires some specific know-how. From knowing when to use baking chocolate vs. chocolate chips to decoding chocolate percentages, this information will help you deliver desserts that are as decadent as they deserve to be.

Rich-Chocolate-Mousse-Cake

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

1. The Difference Between Chocolate Chips and Baking Chocolate

There are two types of chocolate used in baking recipes and they have distinct characteristics and functions.

Chocolate Chips

Sold in a bag and measured by volume (i.e. 1 cup/250 mL), chocolate chips are designed to hold their shape when stirred into a batter or dough, like in Chocolate Chip Cookies. They often contain ingredients like soy lecithin that helps the chip hold its shape and stay in place within the recipe. That is why chocolate chips are not meant to be melted and folded into recipes like chocolate cake, frosting or brownies. You will find that when melted, the chocolate is thick and even grainy since the chips weren’t designed for this function.

Baking Chocolate

Sold in squares, bars or large chips called “callets,” baking chocolate is also called couverture chocolate. It is made to be chopped and melted to be used in baking. It is important to weigh your baking chocolate for recipes, and not measure it by volume. When melted, baking chocolate is smooth and glossy, making it easy to stir into your recipes. Chocolate sold in bars labelled as “chocolate” can be used in baking, but if the bar is labelled as a “candy bar”, then that is eating chocolate, not baking chocolate.

2. The Difference Between Dark, Milk and White Chocolates

Dark and milk chocolates are made up of cocoa solids (also called cocoa liquor), cocoa butter, sugar, flavouring such as vanilla, and sometimes emulsifiers like lecithin. Milk chocolate is milder than dark chocolate because it has fewer cocoa solids and more sugar and cocoa butter, making it melt more easily and taste a little sweeter.

White chocolate has all of the above ingredients except for the cocoa solids, so the absence of that bitter character makes it taste so mild and sweet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, unsweetened chocolate has no sugar and very little cocoa butter, so it is strong and very bitter.

Because these differences in cocoa contents, dark milk and white chocolates melt and re-set differently from each other. Because of this difference, they’re not interchangeable in recipes. Other ingredients such as the sugar, cream and butter would need to be adjusted if you planned on changing chocolates.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Classic Dark Chocolate Mousse

3. Chocolate Percentage Explained

In the world of dark chocolate, you may notice that it is called semisweet or bittersweet, or the package has a percentage on it. This percentage indicates the cocoa liquor content. The higher the percentage, the more intense the chocolate.

Semisweet needs a minimum of 35% cocoa liquor but typically falls between 40 and 65%. Bittersweet chocolate falls between 66% and 99%, but 70% is my preferred number for desserts that have a chocolate intensity and balance.

White Chocolate Mousse Cups

4. Baking Chocolate Storing Tips

Be sure to store chocolate, well-wrapped in a cool, dark place, but be sure not to refrigerate or freeze chocolate. If you see a white “dust” on the surface of your chocolate, it is not mould. It is called bloom, and is simply a little cocoa butter rising to the surface of the chocolate, and is a sign of a temperature change at some point. It is perfectly fine to use.

Are you a chocoholic? Try Anna Olson’s Best Chocolate Recipes.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

The Ultimate Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for Canada Day

Every year July 1st, I catch some of the festivities of the Canada Day celebration in my city. They have a large open fire salmon barbecue at the centre of the festival grounds surrounded by many vendors selling lemonade, fresh kettle corn and cotton candy. My favourite part of the festivities is the pie-by-the-slice fundraiser inside the local community centre.

There’s always quite a large selection; pies made with plump local blueberries or Okanagan peaches are always popular choices. But my go-to has always been the strawberry-rhubarb. There’s just something so irresistible about the combination of the sweet and tangy pink filling and the (optional but mandatory) à la mode, that keeps me going back year-after-year. So here’s an ode to my favourite July 1st treat, with an added Canada Day-inspired touch.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Canada Day Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Chill Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Makes: One double crust 9-inch pie

Ingredients:
Crust:
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup cold butter, unsalted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup cold water
4 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 cup ice

Egg Wash:
1 egg
Coarse sugar

Filling:
5 cups chopped rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, halved
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cornstarch

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Directions:

Crust:
1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt and sugar. Set aside.
2. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay!).
3. Combine the water, cider vinegar and ice in a small bowl.
4. Add 2 Tbsp of the liquid mixture over the flour mixture. Mix and cut it in with bench scraper or spatula until fully incorporated. Continue adding the liquid, 1-2 Tbsp at a time. Mix until the dough comes together in a ball.
5. Shape the dough into 2 flat discs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Filling:
1. Prepare the rhubarb and strawberries. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, combine sugars, cinnamon and cornstarch.
3. Toss together the fruit and dry mixture. Add lemon juice and combine.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Assembly and Baking:
1. Once the dough has chilled, roll out the dough in between two sheets of parchment and fit it on the pie plate.
2. Line pie pan with rolled out bottom crust.
3. Roll out top crust. Using a maple leaf-shaped cutter, punch out maple leaves into the rolled out top crust. Save all the maple leaf cut outs to use for decorating the edge of the pie.

4. Pour filling into the bottom crust, leaving behind any excess liquid from filling.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

5. Gently place on top crust. Take the reserved maple leaf cut outs to create a border around the pie.

6. Coat top crust with a simple egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Place pie on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven, just in case any juices bubble over.
7. Bake at 425°F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 35 to 40 minutes longer.
8. If the top crust is starting to get a little dark too quickly, place a pie shield on the pie.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

9. Once ready, let pie set for at least 1 hour before cutting into it. Serve as is or with a big scoop of ice cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Looking for more inspiration? Try our 60 Great Canadian Recipes.

Watch this video to get Anna Olson’s top tips on baking fruit pies.

anna-olson-kneading-dough

Anna Olson’s Guide to Making Bread at Home

Comforting, filling and satisfying, bread is the cornerstone of western food culture. And making your own bread is one of the gratifying baking projects. There’s a sense of power and confidence that comes from coaxing four simple ingredients into a dough that grows and then bakes into something so fulfilling.

There is such satisfaction to rip into that loaf of freshly baked bread, a whisper of steam emanating from it, and letting the butter wind in little rivulets as it melts on your first bite. If you’ve always wanted to try making your own loaf, this guide will give you the knowledge and confidence to bake bread at home.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rustic Ciabatta.

The Four Magic Ingredients

Flour

Bread flour has a higher protein (gluten) content than all-purpose, so when kneaded, the proteins bond, giving the dough strength so it can hold in the air the yeast produces. Many types of bread can be made with all-purpose flour, but if you are getting serious about bread baking, then bread flour is best.

Water

Tap or spring water is a personal choice, but no matter your choice, the temperature is key. Yeast ferments at around 115ºF (46ºC), so your water should be that or a touch warmer. A thermometer isn’t necessary – I just test the water on my wrist – it should feel slightly warmer than body temperature.

Yeast

Yeast is key to fermentation. Yeast feeds on the natural sugars within the flour and generates alcohol and carbon dioxide, which causes your dough to rise. As the bread bakes the alcohol cooks off, while the air bubbles produced by the CO2 stay in place, making the bread airy, fluffy and light.

Leavening Agents

Most bread recipes call for commercial yeast, but there’s more than one way to leaven your bread.

Commercial Yeast

The simplest ways to start fermentation is to add a few teaspoons of dry active or instant yeast. Dry active yeast needs to be dissolved into water, while instant yeast can be added at any time, no dissolving needed.

Starters

A yeast starter is a natural and flavourful way to start fermentation, most commonly used for sourdough bread. To make your own starter, combine equal parts by weight of flour and water. Then add a touch of honey. You could also add a pinch of commercial yeast, which is optional. Place the mixture in a loosely-covered jar on your countertop and let sit for 24-36 hours. The natural yeast in the air will start a fermentation. After using, remaining starter can be re-fed and stored in the fridge, feeding it every two days with the same proportions of flour and water. The longer it ages, the more flavour it develops.

Salt

Salt does more than flavor bread. It also slows fermentation, which is a good thing. The longer a bread is left to rise the better flavour you get and the interior texture becomes stretchy when you tear into it. Commercial breads than have a fluffy cotton-like texture are quickly fermented, where homemade or artisan breads have a chewier texture and more character.

 

4 Easy Steps to Making Bread

How to Knead Bread

Kneading is the important step of working the dough to develop the proteins in the flour. You can do this by hand or with a mixer equally well, and it is a gratifying step – that feeling of pushing, stretching and pulling the dough is so soothing, and as the dough becomes developed, you will feel it get elastic under your hands.

Don’t be tempted to add too much flour to your dough as you knead it. I like to hold back 1/2 cup of flour from the recipe to use for kneading. Bread dough should still be a little tacky in most cases and barely come away from your hands after kneading.

How to Proof Bread

This is the most important part of bread making, and where you do nothing! Time is key here – the first proof (also called rise) is where the yeast really gets to work, developing flavor and texture. The first proof is usually at room temperature and some recipe call for you to punch down the dough, to challenge the yeast to get to work again.

The second proof happens after shaping, and you can control the timing of this by popping the bread into the fridge (this way you can make, proof and shape your bread dough the evening before, chill it overnight and then proof it in the morning to start the day with freshly baked bread).

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Seeded Rye Bread.

How to Shape Bread

Every culture with bread has a style for shaping it. Regions in France and Italy have very specific shapes to their bread, or consider flatbreads and other styles such as naan.

Shaping isn’t just for aesthetics – as the baker, you are knocking out the air from the dough one last time, coaxing that yeast back to work, and this helps develop the crust.

How to Bake Bread

Most bread cooks best in a high temperature oven, to set the crust and get that final burst of leavening. Adding steam, by spraying the inside of the oven with a misting bottle, or placing a tray filled with 2 cups of boiling water helps develop a good crust and a shine to the crust.

You can tell when your bread is baked by lifting it up with a tea towel and tapping the bottom – if it sounds hollow, then it’s done.

If you are baking bread in tins, turn the bread out of the tins immediately from the oven.

The most challenging step when baking bread? Letting it cool at least 20 minutes before slicing or tearing into it!

Can’t wait to get baking? Try Anna Olson’s Best Classic Baking Recipes.

Braided Pie

3 Pretty Ways to Top Your Pie

As we move away from fruit-filled summer pies and head into fall, it’s time to conquer a classic pie crust and add some decorative designs to our baking bag of tricks. From skinny, wide and braided lattice tops to fluted edges and free-from cut outs, the combinations are just as endless and creative as the fillings inside.

In general, the cooler you keep the dough and the less it’s handled, the better it’ll be to work with. However, this is easier said than done. When rolling out dough or making decorative pieces, limit the amount of kneading as well as the use of additional flour. If the dough becomes too tacky or warm, just pop it back in the refrigerator for a bit. When gathering scraps to re-roll, try to layer them on top of each other to keep the baked crust flaky. Got leftovers? Wrap them well in plastic, and store in the freezer for up to a few months.

Whether you weave an intricate, plaid design or go with a more traditional, rustic top crust, one thing is for sure: you’re going to have one delicious pie.

Braided Pie

Braided Pie
This contemporary design gives great coverage to the top of a pie, but with some extra whimsy. Braid lengths of pie dough together and fit them over the top of the filling. Try varying the widths of the braids and the space in between for different looks!

You’ll Need:
Double-crusted pie dough
Filling of choice
Egg-wash (optional)
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions:
1. Prepare bottom crust and fill the pie. Chill for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roll out top crust to about 1/4-inch into a large rectangular shape.
3. Using a ruler and pastry wheel or sharp paring knife, cut dough into long, 3/4-inch strips. You’ll need about 15 to 21 strips, depending on desired thickness and spacing in between.

Braided Pie
4. Gather strips into sets of 3. Pinch tops of each set together.
5. Keeping strips flat, begin a classic 3-strand braid. Trying not to stretch dough, braid the length of each set of strands. The longest braid should be slightly longer than the diameter of pie pan.
6. Lay braids over pie filling, parallel to each other.

Braided Pie
7. Trim braids so they overhang the edge of the pie by 1/2 to 3/4-inch on each side.
8. Fold excess dough from bottom crust up and over edges of the braids and press together.

Braided Pie
9. To create a fluted edge, pinch the dough between the thumb of your dominant hand the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand. Continue around the entire edge of the pie.
10. Refrigerate pie for 15 to 30 minutes as the oven pre-heats.
Brush with an egg-wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (if desired), and bake according to your recipe or until golden brown.

Lattice-Pie

Classic Lattice Pie
Think fresh apple pie chilling on a windowsill. This basic design weaves strips of pie dough together to create a classic top crust. The over-under technique is not difficult to master, and once you’ve got it down, the designs are endless! Try weaving skinny pieces or wide pieces, or a combination to create a fun plaid. You could even sneak in a few braided pieces, too.

You’ll Need:
Double-crusted pie dough
Filling of choice
Egg-wash (optional)
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions:
1. Prepare bottom crust and fill the pie. Chill for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roll out top crust to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch into a large, oval shape.
3. Using a ruler and pastry wheel or sharp paring knife, cut dough into 1 to 2-inch wide strips. The centre strips should be slightly longer than the diameter of the pie pan. You’ll need about 6 to 10 strips to create the lattice top, depending on desired width and spacing in between.

Lattice Pie
4. Lay 1/2 of strips over top of filling, all in the same direction.
5. Gently pull back and fold over every-other strip about halfway.
6. Lay 1 strip perpendicular to first set, next to folded edges, then replace folded strips over top of the newest strip to start the weave.
7. From the first set, gently pull back strips that did not get folded during the last round.

Lattice Pie
8. Repeat step 6 with another strip.
9. Continue this over-under motion with the remaining strips until the weave covers the entire top of the pie.
10. Trim strips so they overhang the edge of pie pan by about 1 inch.
11. Gently tuck both the overhanging pieces from top lattice and bottom crust under and press together all the way around the pie.

Lattice Pie
12. Crimp pieces together and press into the edge of the pie pan firmly with tines of a fork. Make sure each piece is secure. Refrigerate pie for 15 to 30 minutes as the oven pre-heats.
13. Brush with an egg-wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (if desired) and bake according to your recipe or until golden brown.

 

fishtail lattice pie

Fishtail Cut-Out Pie
Once you’ve got your lattice and braids down, try combining both techniques together in this show-stopping pie. A tight lattice covers the centre while a double, five-strand fishtail braid creates the border. A few free-form leaves add extra flair and even hide the seams of the braids.

You’ll Need:
2 to 3 single crust pie dough
Flling of choice
Egg-wash (optional)
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions:
1. Prepare the bottom crust and fill the pie. Chill for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roll out half of the remaining dough about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick.
3. Using a ruler and a pastry wheel or sharp paring knife, cut very thin strips, about 1/2 inch wide and 7 to 8 inches long. You’ll need about 16 to 20 strips.
4. Following the directions of classic lattice design, weave together thin strips on top of the filled pie, leaving a 1 to 2 inch boarder around the edges. Fold over or trim any overhanging pieces of bottom crust. Place back in refrigerator.

fishtail pie braid
5. Roll out the remaining dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Using a ruler and pastry wheel or sharp paring knife, cut dough into long, thin strips.
6. Gather the strips into sets of 5. Pinch tops of each set together.
7. Keeping strips flat, begin a 5-strand, fishtail braid. Fan out all 5 strips. Taking the furthest strip from the right, cross it over the 2 strands closest to it and place it in the centre of the other 4.
8. Next, take the furthest strip from the left and cross it over 2 strands closest to it and place in the new centre.
9. Continue to braid the length of the braid, bringing the outmost strip over and into the centre.
10. Use braid to create a double-boarder around the pie, from the edge of the pan to the lattice centre.

fishtail pie crust
11. You’ll need several braids per ring. Braid ends of braids together or trim and press to seal. Use bit of egg wash to secure in place, if necessary.
12. With any remaining dough, roll out to about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick.
13. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a free-form leaves.
14. Use back of a paring knife to score leaf patterns on each leaf.
15. Arrange leaves on top of the pie, or where the braids meet to cover the seams.

fishtail pie leaves
16. Refrigerate pie for 15 to 30 minutes as oven pre-heats.
17. Brush with egg-wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (if desired) and bake according to your recipe or until golden brown.

fishtail pie finish

Looking for more pie-spiration? Check out these 10 Tips from Bakers for Perfect Pastry Art.

Anna Olson’s Summer Fruit Flan

The minute the weather starts warming up, I start dreaming about the fresh fruits to come: First rhubarb, then strawberries, then cherries, and finally, apricots, raspberries, blueberries and peaches all at once.

To get you ready for summer baking, I thought an elegant, classic fruit tart would be ideal. This fruit flan uses a cookie-like tart base with a sweet vanilla pastry cream filling, and you get to be creative with the fruit on top — any summer fruit would make this a truly showstopping dessert.

summer-fruit-flan-recipe

Makes: 1 9-inch tart
Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients:

Pastry:
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
2 oz white chocolate, chopped

Pastry Cream:
1 cup milk
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

For Assembly:
4 cups seasonal summer fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, Blueberries, apricots or peaches, in any combination
3 Tbsp apple jelly

Directions:
1. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in the egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in the flour and salt until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, until firm.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Knead the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to soften enough that it can be easily rolled. Dust the pastry a little and roll it out to just over 11-inches in diameter and just under a ¼-inch thick. Line a 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan and trim the edges. Chill the pastry for 20 minutes in the fridge or 10 minutes in the freezer.
3. Dock the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork and bake it for 16 to 20 minutes, until just the edges are golden brown and the centre of the shell is dry looking. Cool completely before filling.
4. Keep the baked tart shell in its pan. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until melted. Brush the bottom and sides of the cooled tart shell to coat and chill the shell while preparing the pastry cream.
5. Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepot until just below a simmer. Whisk the eggs, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then pour this entire mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk. Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to bubble, about 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the custard into a bowl, stir in the vanilla and butter until melted and cover the bowl with plastic wrap so the wrap directly covers the surface of the custard. Cool the custard to room temperature, then chill for at least 2 hours.
6. To assemble the tart, spoon the custard into the tart shell and spread it evenly. Top the custard with the fresh fruit, creating an appealing design.  Melt the apple jelly over low heat, and then brush it over the fruit.  Chill the tart until you are ready to serve.

Note: The tart can be stored chilled for up to a day.

5 Clever Ways to Use Store-Bought Pizza Dough

A good batch of pizza dough can go so much further than being just the base for a super cheesy pie. Whether made from scratch or  store bought, this basic yeast dough is incredibly versatile, perfect for carrying a wide range of flavours. Not only is it super easy to work with, it also bakes up easily!

So pick up some dough and try one of these 5 clever new ways to use it.

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread
Lightly butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Pour 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter in a medium bowl. Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar with 2 tsp cinnamon in a separate medium bowl. Roll 450 g pizza dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball into butter, then sugar mixture until well coated. Arrange balls in a staggered fashion in prepared loaf pan. Gently press down to flatten slightly. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake monkey bread in centre of oven until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let stand, 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate.

Stir 1/2 cup icing sugar with 2 tsp milk in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over monkey bread. Serve warm.

Garlic Sticks
Roll out 450 g pizza dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 1-inch-thick strips. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in centre of oven until almost golden. Brush sticks with melted garlic butter, then sprinkle evenly with grated mozzarella or Parmesan. Continue baking until cheese is melted and sticks are golden brown.

Focaccia
Roll out 450 grams pizza dough until 1/4-inch-thick. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, then top with thinly sliced red onion, chopped fresh rosemary and flaked sea salt. Bake in the centre of oven until golden brown.

Beignets
Roll out 450 g pizza dough until 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 2-inch squares. Fry in canola oil over medium heat until puffed and golden. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Dust generously with icing sugar or toss with granulated sugar.

Stromboli
Roll out 450 g pizza dough into an 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Top with tomato sauce, sliced prosciutto, grated fontina cheese and sautéed spinach, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with eggwash. Fold over all edges, then roll the long end upwards to form a log, pinching all edges to seal well. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the centre of oven until golden brown. Cut into thick slices before serving.

3 Easy and Delicious Desserts Using Frozen Fruit

It’s that time of year again; the days are short, the wind is bitter cold and, to make things worse, most of our favourite fruit isn’t in season.
If you’re craving a fresh, fruit-filled dessert, avoid the pricey, less-than-tasty fresh berries at your grocery store and turn to your freezer.

Frozen fruit is preserved at its peak, making sure that it’s perfectly sweet and juicy. While you’re used to popping it into your morning smoothies, why not transform them into amazing crumbles, turnovers and sundaes? Follow our easy tips to make these three quick and tasty desserts right at home.

frozen cherry turnovers

Cherry Turnovers: Thaw one sheet (half of a 450g package) of puff pastry; cut into 6 rounds. Pat dry 1 cup thawed frozen sweet black cherries to remove excess liquid. In small bowl, combine cherries, 2 tsp cornstarch and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Divide cherry mixture and place in centres of pastry rounds. Brush water around perimeter of each pastry round. Fold pastry in half to enclose filling, pressing edges of pastry to adhere. Using fork, seal pastry. Bake in 400°F oven until pastry is puffed and golden.

Berry Crumble: Thaw frozen fruit of your choice, such as peaches, berries or rhubarb. Thoroughly pat fruit dry to remove excess liquid. Combine fruit with a little sugar, vanilla extract and a squeeze of lemon juice; scrape into oven-proof dish and set aside. In separate bowl, combine 1 part brown sugar to 1 part flour. Stir in a dash of cinnamon. Using your fingers, rub in 1/3 part cold cubed butter to create a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumble mixture over fruit. Bake in 375°F oven until fruit is bubbly and topping is golden.

Homemade Sundae: In saucepan, combine frozen fruit such as raspberries, strawberries or cherries with a couple Tbsp of sugar and a splash of water. Bring to boil; simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit breaks down and mixture is sauce-like. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice. Spoon sauce over vanilla ice cream; top with dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted chopped almonds.

Looking for more bright ideas? Try these 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

Anna Olson’s Tips to Make Holiday Baking a Breeze

As Canada’s baking expert and adored television personality, Anna Olson has amassed an infinite amount of tips and tricks to keep her calm and organized in the kitchen.

Whether you’re a serious home baker or just preparing for your annual cookie swap, it’s always a challenge trying to whip up homemade treats during the busy holiday season. Here, the Bake with Anna Olson star shares some of her holiday traditions, along with her tried-and-true tips for holiday baking.

Scottish-Pan-Shortbread

On Her Turkey-Less Traditions
I do have some traditional things; when I grew up, my grandmother would always make cherry walnut icebox cookies. And my husband’s favourite holiday dessert is an Icelandic dessert called Vinarterta; a prune and cardamom shortbread torte. So for me, it’s not Christmas until those are made. But, I am a cookie monster. I love making holiday cookies — shortbreads are my favourite. There are so many different styles with those same four ingredients.

On Show-Stopping Desserts
To ensure success and to ensure that you’re spelling desserts front to back and not backwards (which is stressed), you want to budget time. It takes baking, chilling, cooling, setting time — those are the little steps that you don’t want to cheat on. For something like a croquembouche, make it work for you as a make-ahead (dessert). (Make and) freeze the profiteroles a week ahead, take them out to thaw, and make the pastry cream two days ahead. Then, you can assemble it the day you serve it, and set aside one hour.

Croquembouche

On The Right Ingredients
(Use) unsalted butter, not salted butter. It’s sweeter, fresher and you’re in control of the salt, because you don’t know how much salt is in salted butter. Salt also retains water, and when you melt butter in a pan, you get that white liquid that runs off called milk solids, [which is] essentially water. So you’re getting more butter in unsalted butter.

On Knowing Your Oven
Just because you set your oven to 350°F, doesn’t mean it’s actually at 350°F. Spend the $7 to $10 on an oven thermometre. That’s the best way to prevent a baking disaster, because that’s the point where you relinquish control. I do a lot of candy making and chocolate work at holiday time, so I have a really good thermometre and I’d say that’s indispensable.

Chocolate-Slice-Cookies

On Freezing Now, Baking Later
I find that when you freeze baked cookies, they never come out as good as they went in. They take up so much space, so you can just make all your (cookie) dough ahead of time. If it’s a slice-and-bake, say my Chocolate Slice Cookies, I’ll just label it: “Chocolate slice, 325°F, 1/4-inch thick, 12 minutes.” So when I pull it out (of the freezer), I don’t have to go back to the recipe — slice, bake, done.

Timing is Everything
My #1 tip: Timing. Taking time now that we have time. If you know you have between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, then make that your time. Make your favourite coffee, put on your favourite playlist, and baking takes you into that place. We love our sweets at the holidays, but we love baking because it’s an extension of that sharing and giving, and you want to channel that — remind yourself that that’s what it’s about.

Looking for some festive dessert recipes? Check out Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Treats.

Anna Olson’s Tips for Hosting the Ultimate Cookie Exchange

Everyone wants a holiday cookie tin brimming with an assortment of styles but often there just isn’t enough time to get all that baking done, even if your intentions are true.

Hosting a cookie exchange with friends is the best way to get a great variety and also make an occasion out of getting together to swap.

Get the hot chocolate (or mulled wine) warming…it’s time for cookies (and I hear there is a certain North Pole resident who is rather fond of cookies!)

Get the hot chocolate (or mulled wine) warming…it’s time for cookies (and I hear there is a certain North Pole resident who is rather fond of cookies!)

Here are three key tips to hosting a successful cookie exchange this holiday season.

1. Make a Cookie Wish List
If you are initiating the exchange, create a list of cookies that people can sign up for. That way you know you’re getting a balanced mix of colour, size, shape, flavour and texture. Of course, invite your guests to offer their own favourites before confirming the list. They may have a fantastic family recipe you wouldn’t know about! Also inquire into any allergies, so guests can steer clear.

Specify how many cookies each should bring. If a group of ten people are asked to bring a dozen cookies for each person, then everyone goes home with ten dozen cookies – perfect!

2. Consider Exchanging Dough
If you are meeting weeks before the holidays, your cookies might be stale (or eaten!) before you even get to your own festivities.

Exchanging cookie dough to be frozen and baked later is another great option.  The dough should be shaped as they should be baked. Icebox cookies can be shaped into logs to be sliced and baked and chocolate chip cookies can be scooped and then frozen.  Each guest needs to include a little card with the name of the cookie with the portioning and baking instructions. This way each guest can bake the cookies as they need them.

3. Have a Decorating Party
When gathering your cookie group together, have a little fun by including a decorating session. Have gingerbread or sugar cookies ready with frosting and decor in ample supply. Let everyone dress up a few cookies to eat then or take home.  My theme last year was Christmas sweater cookies!

Looking for more holiday cookie inspiration? Check out our collection of 50 Classic Christmas Cookie Recipes.

Pie Thumbprint Cookies

Easy-as-Pie Thumbprint Cookies

The holidays are full of indulgence, celebration and endless choices. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Shortbread or gingerbread? Pumpkin or pecan? For those of us who just can’t decide, or just need to try them all, these delightful little cookies are for you. A simple thumbprint cookie is all you need to make these tasty treats that pack all the flavours of your favourite holiday pies.

This way, you can sample all the best seasonal tastes in just a few bites, leaving you lots of room for more delicious sweets. This easy recipe will help you make a batch of decadent lemon, pecan and cranberry pie cookies, but feel free to get creative with more pie-fect fillings like banana cream or apple!

Pie Cookies

Pie Thumbprint Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: About 35 cookies

Ingredients:
Thumbprint cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Pie Cookies

Directions:
1. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter, icing sugar, brown sugar and almond extract until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer on medium-low, beat in flour and salt until just combined.
2. Scoop out 1 Tbsp at a time and roll into balls. Arrange about 1-inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using the tip of your thumb, create deep well into centre of each ball of dough, pinching any cracks that form around the well. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
3. Bake in 350ºF oven until light golden on the bottom and no longer shiny, about 12 minutes. If necessary re-shape well with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove to cooling rack; let cool completely.

Lemon Cream Filling

Ingredients:
1/4 cup lemon curd
1/4 cup whipping cream (35%), whipped

Directions:
1. Spoon lemon curd into the centre of the thumbprint cookies.
2. Using piping bag fitted with small star-tipped shape, pipe a small amount of whipped cream on top of lemon curd.

Pecan Pie Filling

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped
2 Tbsp liquid honey

Directions:
1.In small nonstick skillet over medium heat, combine brown sugar and butter, stirring until butter has melted. Stir in pecans, stirring until coated. Stir in honey. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
2. Spoon pecan filling into the centre of the thumbprint cookies.

Thumbprint-Cookies-pies

Cranberry Pie Filling

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 rosemary sprig, and extra to garnish

Directions:
1. In small saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, water and rosemary sprig to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have popped and mixture is chunky, about 10 minutes. Discard rosemary sprig. Let cool.
2. Spoon cranberry filling into the centre of the thumbprint cookies. Garnish with rosemary.

Giant Coconut-Raspberry Thumbprint Cookie Cake

Thumbprint cookies are an easy, classic treat, but imagine what they would look like if you had the thumb of a giant.

We’ve created a recipe that turns your classic cookie into a moist, succulent cake filled with a giant thumbprint of raspberry jam. The cake comes together in a snap, and has a tropical taste thanks to the addition of creamy coconut milk and flakes. Serve this show-stopper with a cup of tea for an impressive dish your guests will adore.

Thumbprint-cake

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr 10 minutes
Serves: 8 slices

Ingredients:
1 432 g box of white cake mix
1 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup raspberry jam

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a Bundt pan and 1 cell of a muffin tray.
2. Mix cake mix with desiccated coconut in a bowl, and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs with oil and coconut milk. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix by hand until just combined.
4. Fill 2/3 of prepared muffin cell with batter. Pour remainder of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan.
5. Bake muffin for 15 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Bake Bundt cake until golden, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
6. Flip Bundt cake onto a flat surface. Remove muffin from tray. Trim the top of the muffin so both the bottom and top are flat.
7. Place muffin into the hole of the Bundt cake so it is flush to the bottom surface and the sides of the cake. This will prevent the jam from falling through the hole.
8. Pour raspberry jam into the hole of the Bundt cake and serve.

Looking for more tasty cakes? Try our 18 Beautiful Bundt Cake Recipes.

Need-to-Know Tips for Freezing Cookies and Bars

During the holiday season, that overworked oven has a lot to do, like churning out batch-after-batch of Christmas cookies. Instead of freezing dough and stressing on the big day, get the hard work out of the way now and enjoy the baked fruits of your labour all season long. Follow these simple steps for bars and cookies and you’ll never get (freezer) burned again.

Get ready for the holidays by baking and freezing cookies and bars ahead of time.

Get ready for the holidays by baking and freezing cookies and bars ahead of time.
Anna Olson

Choose wisely
To set yourself up for success, it’s best to stick to sturdy cookies and bars — no architectural spun sugar flights of fancy here. A big batch of classic chocolate chip, shortbread or even gluten-free cookies will keep you stocked for future cookie exchanges. Bars, on the other hand, are generally pretty low maintenance to begin with, and often feature a solid shortbread crust, so you’ve got more options to let your imagination run wild.

Contain your excitement
Whether using a serviceable plastic container or a sparkly snowflake cookie tin, the key to storing cookies and bars is keeping them air tight. Even a plain resealable freezer bag (or two, to double-bag) is fine, as long as you get the air out first — oxygen is your enemy when trying to avoid freezer burn or staleness. Fill containers to the top, and use a straw to suck out the air from bagged cookies to avoid crushing your creations.

Give yourself space
On bake day, make sure you have enough room on your counters or tables to cool your baked goods properly — before the first batch even hits the oven. Ensuring cookies and bars are sufficiently cool avoids taxing your freezer, and prevents soggy, broken pieces.

Flat out
If your freezer is packed, a little shuffling before bake day to give yourself a nice, flat surface for freeze your cookies will make your life much easier. If you’re using freezer bags or soft-sided containers, don’t just toss your creations carelessly into the freezer. Try chilling the cookies or bars first on a baking sheet in the freezer, then transfer them to their final packaging.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

Pretty portions
Think about how you’ll be bestowing your baked goods on friends and family, and portion accordingly. Have a friend who can’t stand pecans but is nuts about shortbread? Assemble their package before it goes into the freezer, rather than trying to sort cookies and find a gift tin on the day you see them. Thinking of having guest-ready assortments handy for your open house? A little planning means you’ll have a perfect plate ready to pull out of the freezer when guests arrive.

Line ‘em up
Parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil are all good choices to layer in between cookies or bars to prevent them from sticking when storing. Give yourself a two-inch overhang on each side of the container it easier when lifting cookies or bars out.

Thawing out
All the hard work is done — now, all that’s left is the taste test. If you can’t wait to thaw your creations, slip them frozen into a preheated 300°F oven for a few minutes to reheat. Otherwise, you can thaw them out easily: although, depending on the ingredients, cookies and bars may have varying thaw points, a general rule of thumb is six to eight hours, to overnight on the counter, covered lightly. Watch out for cookie thieves, though…you may come down in the morning to an empty plate and an innocent looking, crumb-covered family.

Want to get started on this year’s cookie and bar stockpile? Try our  Top 101 Holiday Cookies and Squares.

Make the Cutest Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies

Ugly Christmas sweaters used to be the curse of the holiday season. Yet, the tacky, colourful jumpers have somehow become the hottest holiday fashion statement. Holiday parties are planned around who can wear the most hideous sweater, and it’s always surprising to see who can find the most ironic and hilarious cardigan.

Meet the coolest holiday cookies around, wearing…you guessed it: ugly Christmas sweaters. Sure, you can always make gingerbread men, but we love how cute these iconic Canadian animals look dressed up for the season. You’ll have as much fun designing them as you do wearing them. Bring these to your next ugly sweater party and put everyone in a festive mood.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies

Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours
Makes: 26 cookies

Ingredients:

Cookies
2-2/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Royal Icing
2 large egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
Red food gel
Green food gel
Sprinkles
Sanding sugar

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add molasses, vanilla and egg and beat until combined.
4. Gradually add in dry ingredients and stir until combined.
5. Divide the dough into 2 portions. Wrap them in plastic and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
6. Remove 1 dough portion from refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface into a 1/4-inch thick sheet. Dust rolling pin and surface of the dough with flour to avoid sticking.
7. Using desired cookie cutters, cut various shapes out of the dough and place them on prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough portion.
8. Bake cookies until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely before decorating, about 30 min.
9. To make royal icing, whisk egg whites with lemon juice. Gradually add in icing sugar and whisk until smooth. The consistency should be thick enough that when you pull the whisk out of the mixture, the ribbon that runs off stays visible on the surface for a few seconds. You can add more icing sugar to achieve a thicker consistency or conversely, add small amounts of water to thin.
10. Divide the royal icing into 3 separate bowls. Dip the tip of a paring knife into red food gel and add colour to one bowl of icing and stir. Continue to add more gel until desired colour forms. Repeat with green food gel and one of the remaining bowls of royal icing. Leave remaining icing white. Transfer various icing colours to small piping bags. Pipe ugly sweaters onto your cookies using various colours, patterns, sprinkles and sanding sugar. Let dry for minimum 1 hour before serving.