Bon Appétit’s Earl Grey Yogurt Cake, Corrected

A lovely, simple, oil-based loaf cake made with Earl Grey Tea. The original recipe gives you the choice of either loose leaf tea or tea bags cut open. Either way, the comment section was full of people mentioning chewy tea leaves and offering tips on how to grind the tea in a spice grinder. You certainly can use a spice grinder or use bergamot oil instead, as one reader suggested. But with microground tea, you get the flavour of the bergamot AND the tea, and you get the extra moisture and slightly more delicate crumb that comes from the tea itself. Tea is hydroscopic, so it does make any cake moister than the original, with a more even distribution of flavour.

I enjoyed the chocolate chips in the NYT Times Earl Grey Tea Cake, Corrected so much that I’ve added them again, but this cake would be equally nice without. Bon Appétit suggests toasting and buttering it the next day, which sounds like the perfect breakfast with a mug of Earl Grey. But it would also do well underneath some Earl Grey Scented Stewed Rhubarb and a spoonful of crème fraîche or yogurt. Or roasted apricots, or studded with wild blueberries instead of chocolate. Or mascarpone and strawberry jam. Or lemon curd. It’s a wonderful canvas for whatever you fancy.

One word of warning: it is easy to underbake this cake, since a skewer poked in the middle at three quarters done will come out with only a few moist crumbs on it. So give it the full hour, relying on time rather than testing. Especially as chocolate chips might confuse the matter further.

The BS recipe calls for a loaf pan. I made this in a square pan and it turned out just fine. If, it sinks a little, you’re alright. If it sinks quite a bit, well, leave it in longer next time and know that it won’t dry out with just a few more minutes in the oven. The tea, as I mentioned, is hydroscopic and gives you a little buffer.

Tea conversion

When translating from a recipe that lists whole tea leaves to microground, the rule I’ve discovered is basically to use half the amount specified in the original recipe. At least the first time, and then you can play it up or down according to your tastes. It’s not always an easy translation, although it is easier here since we are just adding it to the batter, not steeping it. In this case I used one tablespoon and found that enough, even though the original called for three tablespoons. Less than half, yes, but baking is equally art and science, so you’ve just got to play with it.

Speaking of adding it in, another rule of baking with microground tea is to add it into the dry ingredients. I stirred all the dry ingredients in together, and then transferred them to parchment paper and into a sieve over the bowl or a light sifting, to get rid of any little balls of tea or baking powder.

The add-to-the-driest-ingredient rule works for cream-based recipes, too. When making Earl Grey Scented whipped cream, cheesecake or crème brûlée, I stir the microground tea into the sugar first. Neatly quells any possibility of clumping.

For an Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting, which would be nice here, too, I also use my Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup. I often make it with a vanilla pod, which means you have a two-in-one solution for vanilla and Earl Grey. Since it’s a liquid—thick and dense but still liquid—you could add it to the eggs and yoghurt mixture, and save your microground tea for lattes.

Bon Appétit Earl Grey Yogurt Cake, Corrected

Microground tea gives a new uniformity of flavour and extra moisture to this easy snacking cake. The problem of chewy tea leaves is solved with no need to pull out your spice grinder.
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #earlgrey, #earlgreytea, #microgroundtea, #snackingcake, #teaandchocoalte, #teacake


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp fine grain sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp microground Earl Grey tea
  • 2 large eggs
  • cup white sugar
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup mini-chocolate chips or wild blueberries, optional


  • Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly coat a 9×5" or 8½x4½" loaf pan with vegetable oil and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on long sides. A square pan works too.
  • Whisk flour, sea salt, baking powder, baking soda and microground tea  in a medium bowl to combine.
  • Vigorously whisk eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl for one minute or until pale yellow and frothy. Whisk in yogurt and vanilla extract.
  • Gradually stream in vegetable oil, whisking constantly until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
    Stir in chocolate chips or blueberries, if using.
  • Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Gently tap pan against surface to eliminate any air bubbles.
  • Sprinkle evenly with large crystal sugar, if you have it. Bake cake about 1 hour, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out absolutely clean, not even a few damp crumbs. Melted chocolate doesn't count, obviously.
  • Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then run a butter knife or offset spatula between the cake and pan to release. Lift it out using parchment overhang and transfer to a wire rack.
  • Serve warm or room temperature. It's nice plain, topped with stewed rhubarb, strawberries or blueberries. Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting is also perfect to fancy it up for company.


Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting is the perfect accompaniment. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

NYT Earl Grey Tea Cake With Dark Chocolate and Orange Zest, Corrected

Sorry New York Times! You are the best at all things food-wise, except tea. The sooner you embrace the microground, the better for all concerned.

This delicious tea cake combines a classic flavour trifecta: Earl Grey, orange and chocolate. It embraces good quality loose-leaf tea (quite right!) and it skips the unnecessary step of infusing the tea (bravo!). All in a lovely, rich, simple-to-make afternoon tea cake. But it could be better.

Microground tea is the key to this upgrade. If you’re new to this ingredient, microground is tea just very finely ground tea. Known as latte blend, tea powder, superfine tea, it is tea (or sometimes other botanicals) that has been slow-ground into incredibly small particles, almost to matcha specifications. (And no, you cannot do this in your food processor.) It has that same texture and resulting versatility, except it’s made with black tea instead of green. In this case, we are using Earl Grey.

I am not opposed to chewing tea leaves in a salad or with tea-pickled onions, but it’s a bit much in your cake. Especially mid-morning. And then you get a bit of bergamot flavour throughout, but more concentrated flavour in the leaves, and it’s just not the best approach.

Microground tea will disperse the tea flavour throughout the cake, evenly and seamlessly. You can add a little for a hint of flavour, and a lot for a wallop. I love adding this ingredient for its complexity. You could just source some bergamot oil and add a drop of that. But the tea leaf itself adds a maltiness and slight bitterness that rounds out and balances the other ingredients. Tea is also hydroscopic, so it add to the tenderness of the crumb and a touch more moisture.

Microground tea is also a wonderful ingredient for dairy-based dishes that don’t receive liquid well, such as custards, mousses, ganaches, meringues and whipped cream. I have used it in crème brûlée, cheesecake, cream cheese frosting and now, the NYT fabulous tea cake. Made more fabulous with microground Earl Grey tea.

One more thing: the NTY frosting recipe incorporates mascarpone into lightly whipped cream. By adding it in at this point, you can be left with lots of little tiny mascarpone lumps. But the recipe warns you not to overmix. Thus, I have switched up the order according to the instructions of the Original Kitchen Goddess Herself, the Cake Bible Lady, Rose Levy Beranbaum. She would have you mix the sugar (and tea) into the mascarpone first. This results in a nicer, smoother texture, not a lump to be found.

NYT Earl Grey Tea Cake with Dark Chocolate and Orange Zest, Corrected

An ingredient swap makes an incredible upgrade to this almost perfect tea cake.
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #afternoontea, #chocolateorange, #earlgrey, #microgroundtea, #teacake, #teatime
Servings: 8



  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp microground Earl Grey tea
  • ¼ cup superfine or granulated sugar
  • ½ cup mascarpone


  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1⅓ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp microground Earl Grey tea
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp, heaping fine sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • ¼  chopped dark chocolate (use best quality, bean-to-bar for best results)


To make cake

  • Prepare the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, tea, baking powder and salt.
  • In large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the orange zest and beat to combine.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Beat in the flour mixture on low, until just combined, then beat in the milk. (Don’t overmix.)
  • Add the chocolate and fold it in using a spatula. 
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. 
  • Bake just until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.
  • Transfer to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Then tip the cake out onto the rack to cool completely.

To make frosting

  • Stir together sugar and microground tea. Place it a mixing bowl with the mascarpone and beat on medium speed with a whisk attachment.
  • Slowly pour in cream, beating continuously. If it curdles, keep going, it will smooth out again.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Very Canadian Overnight Oats

In preparation for my live cooking demo next week, held by the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada and hosted by the stupendous Shabnam Weber, here are some soggy oats.

Kidding, of course. Soft and slightly custardy, actually, this recipe is healthy and full of things Canadians grow or consume a lot. We grow oats and blueberries and when we drink tea, we often have Earl Grey. It is the most popular scented black tea in Canada, second in popularity to plain breakfast tea. Bergamot is an enticing scent, and makes a lovely addition to baked goods as well as tea leaves. But here, we shall have both, and it will be delightful.

I have used microground tea here, as I did in my Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup. Cooking with tea often involves steeping and cooling, which is more work than you want for overnight oats. Sometimes it involves chewing actual tea leaves, which I’m not against at all, but might be a bit much at breakfast time. I’m so enamoured with the ease of microground tea and its smooth appearance in baked goods, as well as its intensity. Microground tea can be used as you would instant coffee, although in general it’s a much nicer product.

To learn more about why microground tea is such a versatile and flavourful ingredient, and how easy it is to use, please check my article on the topic.

Tea sommeliers are quick to point out with matcha comes increased antioxidants, because the whole leaf is consumed, rather than just drinking an infusion. You’re eating it, really. Well, same thing with microground tea. And it, too, has health benefits. They are not lesser than matcha’s benefits, just different and not as well studied. Instead of the high amounts of EGCG, a flavonoid found in green tea, microground black tea has thearubigens and theaflavins, as well as amino acids, phenolic acids, and methylxanthines, all of which are terribly good for you. Don’t ask me why, look it up for yourself.

I’v added a lot of chia both for the texture and also because they are good for you. If you want to add sunflower seeds or nuts of some kind, you can soak them overnight to make them easier to digest, or add them on top for crunch.

Fresh blueberries are lovely in season, but thawed from frozen is great, too. You can spoon blueberries artfully on top, or you can mix them throughout, but you will be changing the colour. However, the oats are grey to start, so pick your palette, and enjoy. I don’t find the juices overwhelm the Earl Grey flavour, but I do prefer them as a last minute addition.

Please join me next week on March 25th at noon for a more detailed conversation about the glory of cooking and baking with microground tea. More info to come!

Very Canadian Overnight Oats

Overnight oats featuring Earl Grey microground tea along with blueberries and maple syrup. All the good things, the healthy version.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #blueberries, #overnightoats, yoghurt
Servings: 7


  • ½ cup full fat plain yoghurt
  • 1 cup milk, water or cold tea
  • ½ cup large flake oats not steel cut and not instant
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or honey) (or to taste)
  • ¾ tsp Earl Grey microground tea (also known as superfine latte powder)
  • fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed


  • Stir everything together and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Make sure to stir well to thoroughly dissolve the tea powder.
  • In the morning, give it all another stir before serving up individual portions. If you want it to be a little looser, stir in more liquid, a little at a time.
  • If you want to add protein powder, do it at the time of serving. Letting it sit overnight will allow it to develop an unpleasant sour taste.
  • Top with fresh blueberries if you have them, thawed from frozen if you have those. Frozen with their juices actually make a lovely runny topping that disperses more blueberry flavour to the oats.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Caramel & Almond Meringue Roulade, Revised

Of all the desserts I’ve ever made, this one has received the highest reviews and praise from family and friends. The absolute crowd favourite. And that includes crème brûlée and the River Café’s flourless chocolate cake. Mascarpone fluffed with whipping cream, bittersweet caramel, toasted almonds, all folded into a craggy, cracked meringue, then covered in more caramel sauce and crushed praline. How could this NOT be the new decadent dream?

Don’t let the many steps put you off making this recipe. The caramel sauce and almond meringue can be made ahead, so that once your meringue is done, you really don’t have much to do but whip together the filling and roll it all up.

Glorious in its lazy, soft rolled form. This dessert is heaven itself.

This recipe was given to me by my lovely friend Jan, who cut it out from a magazine. When I lost my physical copy the night before a party, I frantically messaged her and she kindly photographed it and sent it. Once armed with the document, I was determined not to lose it again, so I also photographed it and saved it. Thank goodness, because the digital copy she sent me has disappeared once again into the ether.

Now that I have the name, I performed an online search and found that it’s an LCBO recipe! Which makes sense, because Food & Drink recipes rarely let me down. I have made a few modifications, however, that I think are crucial to its success.

I have tried the egg washed toasted almonds several times, and they can easily turn tacky and gluey, unless you’ve got a lot of extra time to dry them out in the oven. It is far easier just to use plain toasted almonds, but I have made them into a praline by making extra caramel, which hardens on the almonds and is crushed into powder to be dusted on top. There is usually leftover for another dessert. If you like the idea of the crispy almonds toasted in egg white and sugar, then add a splash of water to the egg wash to dilute it a little. But because this dessert isn’t overly sweet thanks to the mascarpone, I say add some crunch and and burnt sugar with the easy almond praline.

I have also doubled the filling for a bigger, messier, more Nigella-esque concoction. Luxurious, decadent, a glorious caramel meringue schlump. Where I did keep to the original, however, was the caramel. I tend to favour a brown sugar/butter/whipping cream caramel sauce on top of butterscotch pudding, but this burnt sugar and water sauce really does offset the sweetness for a perfectly balanced flavour combination.

The last time I made it, I added some espresso powder to the caramel mascarpone filling, and it was divine. And I don’t drink coffee. But it added just the perfect note. Make this your deconstructed Yule log, and you’ll never look back.

This recipe really deserved a better photo shoot, so I’ll likely make it again for just that purpose. I’m sure I won’t have any trouble finding a home for this most beloved of all creations.

Caramel & Almond Meringue Roulade, Revised

Meringue wrapped around a tangy mascarpone frosting with bittersweet caramel and toasted almond praline. Original recipe by JOANNE YOLLES for the LCBO's Food & Drink Magazine.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #almond meringue, #caramel, #meringue, #yulelog


Almond Praline

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup sugar (preferably caster sugar)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • ¼ cup water

Caramel Sauce

  • cup granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Aloud Meringue

  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 1⅛ cup sugar
  • tsp cornstarch
  • ¾ cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs), at room temperature
  • 1 tsp  vinegar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup Icing sugar for decoration

Caramel Filling

  • 1 cup caramel sauce
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder (optional)


Almond Praline

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (150°C)
  • Place flaked almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the almonds develop a light golden color.
  • Lined a rimmed baking sheet (if using the same one, remove almonds to a bowl (or plate) with parchment paper and paint with a thin layer of neutral flavoured vegetable oil.
  • Place sugar, salt and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring it over medium heat. Swirl the pan regularly to distribute the heat and prevent burning. Once the sugar dissolves and turns into a beautiful golden colour, remove the pan from the heat.
  • Add sliced almonds and fold in gently with a spatula.
    Working quickly, spread them across the greased baking sheet until fairly uniform. Let cool for an hour.
  • Once cool, roughly break apart the praline and place it in a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have smallish crumbs. Measure out about 1 cup/150grams of the mixture and set aside until time to use.
  • This step can be done up to a week ahead.

Caramel Sauce

  • Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add the water. Place over high heat and cover the pot with a lid. As soon as the sugar is completely dissolved and boiling, remove the lid.
  • Continue boiling until the syrup caramelizes and turns a golden amber colour, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
    Recipes for caramel always say not to stir but if you notice it getting too dark in one area (as can happen with gas or an uneven element), swirl very gently, getting as little as possible on the sides of the pot.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add 1 cup (250 mL) of the whipping cream (the mixture will bubble up), whisking until smooth. Pour the hot caramel into a heatproof glass measuring cup and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.
    You can make the sauce a couple of days ahead.

Almond Meringue

  • For the almond meringue, set the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
    Line a 12 x 17-inch (30 x43‑cm) sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, 2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar, and the cornstarch.
  • Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin mixing the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating to soft peaks. Add the remaining 1 cup (250 mL) sugar in a slow stream.
  • Once all the sugar is added, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Continue beating until the whites form stiff shiny peaks. Add the vinegar and almond extract and mix just to combine.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently but thoroughly fold the ground-almond mixture into the meringue, one-third at a time.
  • Spread the meringue in the pan, levelling the top. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and very lightly press them in with your hand.
  • Place in the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 275°F (140°C).
    Bake until the meringue is set and light golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  • Sift icing sugar over a clean sheet of parchment paper and turn the meringue out onto the paper, almond-side down. Carefully remove the parchment liner.

Caramel Filling

  • To finish the caramel filling, place 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooled caramel, the remaining 1 cup (250 mL) of whipping cream, and the mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat together until stiff.
  • If you like coffee, cream and caramel, add 1 tbsp espresso powder with the other ingredients. (HINT: it's amazing!)

Tie it all together!

  • Spread the cream evenly over the meringue. Starting at the long side farthest away from you, roll up the meringue, using the paper as a lever. The meringue will crack.
    Wrap the roulade in foil and refrigerate until serving time.
  • To serve, drizzle remaining caramel sauce all over and sprinkle with almond praline. Slice and devour.


Avoid making almond praline on humid days.
Caster sugar works best in this recipe, but granulated is fine, too. Granulated can easily become caster sugar with a few blitzing pulses in the food processor. has superfine almond flour which makes for a lighter meringue. But the No Frills brand works as well. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Lady Baker’s Christmas Tea

I had the chance to try a few seasonal teas this Christmas season from Lady Baker’s Tea, one of my favourite Canadian tea merchants. The ladies behind this little PEI company have an incredible range of customers from across North America, as I know from interviewing them for my recent article in SIP Magazine on the importance of shopping locally (see my book review in the last issue on page 50). Some of that is due to the educational blog that helps people learn more about tea. Some of it is due to the unique blends they create.

The three Christmas flavours I tried were Vienna Eggnog, Peppermint Swirl, and Cardamom Magic. They’ve also got a more typical Christmas spice blend, Holiday Harmony Spice.

Peppermint Swirl is unlike your typical holiday peppermint tea. More substantial than a strictly herbal tea, and less tannic than a black tea, this tea sits at a nice crossroads between hearty and light. The fine green tea shines when brewed at 80°C, providing a thick infusion with bright leaf that balances nicely with the mint.

The Cardamom Magic is a surprising blend. Fragrant, citrusy cardamom and honey-toned Sri Lankan black tea are brightened by hibiscus and almond. Pairs equally well with date bread in the afternoon or as a finish to a heavy meal of duck or roast beef.

The Vienna Eggnog is my favourite, but then I adore eggnog. And this blend does not let me down! A little rum and I might think I was drinking the real thing! Okay, not quite, but this is zero calories and tastes divine.

A pot of any one of theses will make you feel like Christmas is in the air. Stay warm and cozy, and drink more tea!

Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting

This feels like a good time to remind you that I have the best ever pumpkin spice muffin recipe in the whole wide world. I don’t care what renowned bakers you may refer to; unless they are using this recipe, their pumpkin muffin recipe is not the best. Stays moist for days, full of protein, spiced just right. Works as a loaf, too.

This time I made the muffin batter in an 8X8 inch pan as a snacking cake, since I thought that would make a lovely host for my Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting. Turns out, I was right!

Cream cheese frosting can be sticky, gummy or sickly sweet due to the use of powdered sugar. Not only does it have a particular taste, but it has thickners that mess with the texture of your frosting. Plain granulated sugar can have a gritty, tooth-scratching mouthfeel. I have used my Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup to add silky sweetness and Earl Grey flavour. And I don’t mean just bergamot—with this recipe, you get the flavour of the microground tea as well. Because it’s dissolved into syrup, you have no silty texture to trouble you one bit. I have made the syrup here a little stronger than the original recipe to stand up to the cream cheese.

I tried Stella Park’s trick of whipping some cream first and adding that to the cream cheese, but the little bits of cream cheese were too many and too large for my liking. You’ll always get a few tiny little lumps with cream cheese, but if you use the whip attachment, they’ll be imperceptible. Whipping cream also made this too soft, and there’s really no need, since the powdered tea and sugar have both dissolved in the hot water already.

This frosting is perfect for orange cake, carrot cake, soft pumpkin cookies (NYT has a great new recipe). It would even be nice on a delicate white cake, layered thin and alternating with marmalade. Anywhere you might like a cream cheese frosting. Plus a little extra.

What is microground tea? Also known as superfine or latté blend tea, microground tea is the actual tea leaf that has been slowly ground down to a dissolvable powder that blends easily into milk. Turns out, make a great addition to baking as well. Not to mention cocktails, like my Earl Grey in Moscow.

Microground Earl Grey is available for purchase from Sloane, Genuine Tea, Tea Squared, and many more local tea companies. I’ve tried these three and liked them all.

Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting

Earl Grey Simple Syrup adds strong flavour and silky smoothness to this easy cream cheese frosting.
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #afternoontea, #creamcheese, #creamcheesefrosting, #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #pumpkinspice, #pumpkinspicemuffins


  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 heaping tbsp microground Earl Grey tea
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • Boil water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Add microground tea and do the same.
  • Turn off heat. Add vanilla extract.
    If you have some old vanilla beans hanging around, you can throw them in too, but they tend to be drowned out by the tea.
  • Let cool to room temperature. Easy enough to make ahead, especially before you start your cake/muffins/loaf/what-have-you.
  • Dice one block of cream cheese and add to bowl of stand mixer. Add in Earl Grey Simple syrup slowly on low to blend, then use whisk attachment to whip until light and throughly blended, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Chill until needed. Enjoy!


This simple syrup makes a nice sweet flavouring for whipped cream as well! Or you can use sugar and microground tea, but give it time to sit to allow the flavour to permeate the fat in the cream. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Perfect Cranberry Sauce, 2.0 (Thanksgiving Edition)

How do you improve upon perfection? You find a unique occasion and drill down. In this case, Canadian Thanksgiving.

My earlier version of cranberry sauce with maple syrup, orange zest and a tiny pinch of clove for backbone received a lot of love online. The smallest hint of clove really did make the difference, many of you told me. I have now , however, come to think of that version as my Christmas cranberry sauce. For Thanksgiving, I wanted something different.

Very thick consistency, due to a longer boil.

At Christmas, my turkey usually goes in the oven. In October, it’s usually warm enough that we can smoke the turkey outside, and this is the flavour that I wanted to echo in the cranberry sauce, no matter how you cook it.

Once again, just one weird little secret ingredient is going to take your cranberry sauce from good to great. Here it is: Lapsang Souching. smoky Chinese black tea.

I know! I’m tea-obsessed. True! But not just because I love to drink tea. Because like wine, or salt, or best-quality olive oil, some ingredients are really versatile and transformative. I make no apologies for finding several ways to use this all-star ingredient. And wait until you taste it!

Pop a tea bag in after the cranberries have boiled and popped.

This recipe is the cranberry sauce for people who don’t really like cranberry sauce. I am a gravy person myself. I don’t mind cranberry in a sandwich, but this sauce is so good I’m already thinking of other ways to use it: on toasts with chèvre, on roast duck breast (which I sous vide with the same Lapsang Souching for smoky flavour), as a glaze for chicken thighs. This sauce is not too tart or too sweet, and it’s not so dominated by cranberry that it’s a single flavour note drowned in sweetness.

This sauce is the perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. The tannins in the tea as well as the decent dose of salt add a perfect counterfoil to the overwhelming tartness of cranberry, so that the sugar in the syrup is not left to tackle it alone.

Perfect hostess gift. No one will suspect it’s smoky until they taste it!

So when you are making that shopping list for Thanksgiving, add Lapsang Souching tea to the list, along with some good old Canadian maple syrup. You’ll be surprised and delighted, I assure you. And so will your guests!

Perfect Cranberry Sauce, Thanksgiving Edition

Smoky tea and a good dose of salt adds a nice balance to the sweet and sour of traditional cranberry sauce.
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #bestevercranberrysauce, #canadianthanksgiving, #cranberrysauce, #lapsangsouching, #maplesyrupeverything, #thanksgiving


  • 1 bag fresh cranberries (340 g)
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 10 gr loose leaf Lapsang Souching, or 1-2 tea bags
  • sea salt


  • Pour your cranberries into a medium-sized pot. Add in cup of maple syrup and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Boil until all cranberries have popped.
  • Turn off heat, smush the cranberries with a spoon.
  • Immediately add in your tea bag(s). For loose-leaf tea, I use two bags with 5 grams each. For store-bought bags, start with one. The finer grind on the leaf will enhance its ability to saturate the syrup.
  • Let tea bags cool in pot for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard.
  • Add in 4 or 5 twists of sea salt from a shaker, or a big pinch of sea salt.
  • Stir together until texture is jammy with smallish cranberry bits.
  • Enjoy! Your guests will wonder what the difference is. Will you share the secret?


  • If you prefer a thicker sauce, reduce maple syrup to ¾ cup. 
  • If using store-bought tea bags, start with one tea bag. The tea is not necessarily stronger, but it is finer ground, and will have more surface area to interact with the maple syrup, and so may pack more of a punch. 
  • If using loose leaf tea in tea filters, be sure not to let any leaves escape. Tea leaves can be delicious to eat when prepared correctly, but they don’t sit in the sauce long enough to soften and will bring an unwelcome tough texture. 
  • Make sure you give a good dose of sea salt. No iodised salt here, unless you want to add to the tinniness of the cranberries. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Fall Corn Stir-fry

For a little break from tea and cocktails (only temporary, I assure you!), here’s my riff on the Barefoot Contessa’s confetti corn.

I love corn on the cob so much I rarely do much else with it, but I had Confetti Corn at a friend’s house and was astonished that the beautiful simplicity of corn was not diluted by the other ingredients. Basil and corn may sound weird, but think of polenta with pesto. So I went with a different but equally delicious combination that is great for fall.

Basically, this is sautéed corn with ginger and garlic in sesame oil with some soy sauce and green onions. If you’d like an actual recipe, I’ve done my best below, but any competent cook can wing this one. It’s meant more as a suggestion than a recipe.

I did try it with (lightly) pre-boiled corn and fresh corn sliced from the cob. I thought that undercooking the cobs would make it easier to remove and shorten the process, but it just added an unnecessary step. If you have leftover cobs and you’d like to use them, it’s a great way to repurpose the extras. But it’s pretty easy and really fresh tasting sliced off the cob before you cook it. More tender, too.

Peppers and green onions add colour, texture and flavour. I had some purple cauliflower, so I threw that in too. Of course I don’t expect you’ll have that, but if you do, it absolutely can’t hurt!

Cooking the onions until they are nicely caramelized can be done while chopping the rest of the vegetables.

If this looks time consuming, it’s not really. There’s a bit of chopping and grating, but chives can be used instead of green onions, the peppers dice up pretty quick, and everyone loves it so off you go. Reheats easily.

Lovely with teriyaki salmon or ginger chicken. Throw cubed tofu in it if that’s your thing.

ginger garlic corn sesame

Fall corn Stir Fry

Fresh local corn sautéed with ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Green onions brighten it right up.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Canadian, Chinese
Keyword: #corn, #cornonthecob, #fallfood, #freshcorn, #gingergarlicsesame, #localcorn, #soysauce, #warmingherbs, ginger


  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 6 cobs fresh corn
  • 6 green onions, chopped


  • Heat pan and add two oils. Add finely dice onion and cook on low, stirring occasionally while you chop the other vegetables. Add more oil if needed.
  • Dice pepper and cut corn off cobs. Set aside.
  • Grate ginger and garlic.
  • Once onions are softened, add ginger and garlic and sautée briefly.
  • Turn heat up tp medium. Add red pepper and sautée for about 3 minutes, until starting to soften.
  • Add corn and sautée for a minute, then lower heat. Add soya sauce and reduce until mostly evaporated.
  • Once the corn is cooked through (just!), top Witt fresh green onions and serve.


This pairs beautifully with teriyaki anything: steak, chicken or salmon. Or grilled shrimp. Perfect on rice. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Earl Grey in Moscow

Fall is here and not a minute too soon. The best of summer is behind us, but there are many beautiful nights ahead. But what to drink? You don’t always want something super-fruity and tropical, but neither is it time for hot buttered rum. (Have you ever tasted that, actually?)

Without the simple syrup, this is a lovely, light cocktail.

Here’s a lovely cocktail for shoulder season. You can make it alcohol-free, too, but the alcohol in this is so subtle, it melds into the other flavours. I used vodka as a blank slate upon which to blend them: you want more of the bergamot, the orange, and the tea leaf against the milk, with the alcohol just barely there.

This is my idea of a White Russian but with tea. I start with a cup of my Iced London Fog recipe, which is basically Earl Grey tea cold-steeped in milk overnight with honey and vanilla. Then I add the vodka (plain is fine, but Grey Goose orange is delightful here), orange liqueur and my special Earl Grey Simple Syrup. I often keep this tea-milk in the fridge, using it as a host for protein powder as often as for vodka.

Make an instant iced Earl Grey Tea Latte with this super-strong
simple syrup.

I say special because unlike most Earl Grey simple syrups, which are made from an infusion of tea leaves that are strained out, this sweet goo is made using microground tea. Tea leaves ground down into a silty, fine-grained powder made for tea lattes. Except here they are suspended (mostly) in sugar syrup. This provides viscosity and texture for a full, smooth mouthfeel, and intensity of flavour moderated by the sweetness.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to soak some loose leaf tea in milk overnight, then just use plain milk. This syrup will bring you up to speed real quick. Simply add an extra spoonful. Just remember that you are ingesting the tea leaves, not drinking an infusion, so while it will hit you a little more slowly, both the caffeine and theanine will arise in your nervous system with greater intensity. In a delightful, blissful, mellow manner. A drop of vanilla wouldn’t hurt, either, since that’s in a London Fog. Or better yet, throw a spent vanilla bean in the syrup when you make it.

The recipe for the Earl Grey Simple Syrup is found here. Five minutes to a fabulously versatile and full-bodied ingredient!

Earl Grey in Moscow

An iced London Fog with vodka and orange liqueur, with a special syrup for extra flavour.
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #londonfog, #microgroundtea, #teacocktail, #teacocktails


  • 1 cup Iced London fog or plain whole milk (see below)
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. orange liqueur
  • 1-4 tsp. Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup (see below)


  • Add all ingredients to a cocktails shaker filled with ice. Shake until frothy.
  • Pour over more ice.
  • Garnish with orange of any kind.


Iced London Fog recipe here
If using Iced London Fog for a base, add 1-2 tsp. Earl Grey simple syrup. 
If using plain milk, add 3-4 tsp. Earl Grey simple syrup, to taste. 
For Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup, go here
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Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup

Hello Darlings. I trust you all know what a simple syrup is, yeah? And with very little imagination, it is easy enough to conceive that an Earl Grey simple syrup might mean the addition of some tea leaves to boiled sugar water, right? So far, so good.

I’ve decided that more is better and have used microground tea in my simple syrup. You’ll get more tea flavour, more caffeine, more texture and mouthful, and more intensity in every possible way. Because who wants weak stuff? We want every ingredient to have an impact, and this certainly does.

Microground tea dissolves very easily in warm liquid, as it was meant to do. It still leaves some residue at the bottom of the cup; it is not clear like a typical tea infusion. It’s more like cocoa powder. (They could be friends!) So you are actually ingesting tea leaf, but in most recipes we’ll make with this syrup, we won’t be using much, just a little FYI for the very caffeine-sensitive among us.

Milled in the same style as matcha, microground tea is a fine powder that is meant to dissolve easily, while delivering flavour and texture.

This super-strong, slightly silty syrup is fabulous in anything cream based. Like cream-cheese frosting, or whipped cream (perhaps an icebox cake with poached apricots?), ice-cream, etc. It was designed for a hot Earl Grey tea latte, but once it’s in syrup form it blends equally well into cold liquid. Which is perfect for my delicious cocktail, an Earl Grey in Moscow. (Recipe coming soon!)

Not pretty, but pretty potent!

This cocktail starts with my Iced London Fog, an Earl Grey tea cold-brewed in milk. Well, why bother with that, when you can get straight to it with the strong syrup? In fact, no need at all. I do like to double down, and I do like the clarity and slight thickness that comes from leaves steeped in milk. This is fine-tuning and layering, but if you don’t keep a jugful of my Iced London Fog in the house in warm weather (which you should), then by all means grab the blunt instrument and have at it. You’ll have a fabulous cocktail either way.

Other uses? A little oomph to some caramel sauce. Drown that syrup with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice in water to make lemonade, or better yet, in some beer to make an Earl Grey shandy. (Not in champagne, though. Too cloudy!) Use it in a custard, or a meringue, or with some freshly squeezed and zested orange for a dressing on fruit salad….

Have fun with it! And let me know what you get up to!

Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Tea Simple Syrup

Simple syrup made with microground tea rather than tea leaves or bags. Potent and with a lovely thick texture.
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #microgroundtea, #simplesyrup


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tbsp microground Earl Grey tea


  • Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the powdered tea, stirring until smooth.
  • Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Store in the fridge.


Feel free to add a spent vanilla bean to the syrup as you make it. Won’t hurt one bit! 
I used Tea Squared’s London Really Foggy Micro-Ground Tea Latte
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Pistachio Cake

This is the simplest, best cake that you can make. It’s based on David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake. I’ve been making it for years, with a simple swap of the almond paste for pistachio paste. I’ve recently taken it to the next level by elevating the quality of pistachio paste, which is the star of the show. Suddenly, it’s a whole new creation.

One thing? Unless you’re going to dump a whole bottle of actual champagne into a cake, this is likely the most expensive cake you’ll ever make. But will you be the most beloved of cottage guests? I assure you, you will.

I used to buy American Almond brand pistachio paste, but at 30% canola oil, I was dumbing down the flavour of my cake unnecessarily. A homemade pistachio paste can be lovely, but the best quality pistachios are so expensive that I just cave and buy the best store-bought I can find, which here in Toronto is Soma’s Manjoun-Pistachio Butter. Stella Parks suggests you make your own, using cheaper California pistachios, and pump up the flavour with pistachio oil and orange water, but there is nothing like the real thing. For this cake, it truly is go big or go home.

This pistachio paste contains a lot more fat and a lot less sugar than the Odense almond paste that I use when I make the almond version of this cake. And yet it rises much higher and has a finer crumb, and is unbelievably moist. It will still sink a little in the middle, as per the original, but is not be greasy or heavy. It’ll keep for days and is ideal for afternoon tea. It’s so full of eggs that I think you can call it breakfast in good conscience.

For those who want it as dessert, I reserve a little of the paste to add to whipping cream for a not-too-sweet topping. Perfect with sliced strawberries. I have a jar of candied cumquats that I used for cocktail making that work well spooned onto the cake. That same syrup is also a perfect addition to the whipped cream. Top this cake with plums, apricots, berries, poached pears, peaches, or a white chocolate ganache. Heaven.

Pistachio Cake

The simplest of cakes, based on the famous Almond Cake by David Lebovitz. The pistachio version is expensive as all heck but truly sublime.
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian, French
Keyword: #afternoontea, #pistachio, #pistachiocake, #pistachiocream, #pistachiopaste, #teacake, #teatime


  • 1 ⅓ cup sugar (265 g)
  • 8 oz best quality pistachio paste (225 g) For SOMA pistacio paste, this is two jars minus one tbsp
  • 1 cup flour, divided (140g total)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ rounded tsp fine ground sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (225g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pistachio extract or liquor (or ¼ tsp almond extract)
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature


  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
  • Using a food processor, grind the sugar, pistachio paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the mixture resembles wet sand. The pistachio paste is much more liquid than almond paste, so if you're used to a drier mixture at this point, fear not.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts to the sugar mixture, processing until the batter is smooth. It will be still fairly runny and vivid green. It gets better, I promise.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. Scrape the sides down if necessary.
  • Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times. Add the rest, pulsing the machine until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures that you don’t overbeat it.)
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for about 60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosening the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. It will sink in the middle a little. This is nothing to worry about.
  • Once it's cool, remove it from the pan. It stays fresh for four days wrapped tight or in a cake dome with parchment paper pressed to the cut side.
  • This cake is wonderful with summer fruit. It would also be incredible with a white chocolate pistachio ganache, or a rose and strawberry flavoured whipped cream, or orange curd.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Smoky Mustard Triple Onion Potato Salad

Nothing says summer like plain old potato salad with mayo, hardboiled eggs and green onions. Sadly, fewer and fewer people love this old-style summer dish. Vinaigrettes on potatoes are more in vogue, and power to them. A lovely way to add some flavour to a potato salad, and certainly safer than mayonnaise on a sunny day.

For this recipe, I have rudely gone back to my smoky onion pickles, like a mantra that I can’t stop chanting, a recipe I can’t stop spinning. Or a song stuck in your head, that you must get out by singing and driving everyone around you nuts. Except I can’t sing (or so I’ve been told). However, no one ever complains about the smoky onion pickles. Go on and make a batch. Super easy and really worth the effort for their versatility and strong umami hit.

If you don’t want to be bothered, just use the old trick of softening your onions by fine chopping them and adding them to the vinegar as the water is boiling for the potatoes, and add a bit of Lapsang Souching to the vinegar. You can fish it out afterwards, using a teabag or fine chop it and leave it in. Either way, you’ll achieve that lovely smoky, malty flavour without having to do the extra step of making the pickles. I just always have them on hand.

I also have the benefit of always having a selection of Kozlik’s amazing mustards handy, so I doubled down on the smoky flavour with their Sweet & Smokey Mustard.

I quickly brown some shallots or thin sliced onions in simmering oil, (à la Barefoot Contessa style) and then top the whole mess with chives, or green onions, or garlic scapes – whatever is handy.

Now, if instead of the frizzled onions, you wanted to caramelize some instead, and then top your potatoes with some Gruyere or Jura, well, no one would object! Reheat those on the bbq in a cast iron pan or brulée them in the oven and you’re a star. But the point is, these potatoes have plenty of flavour cold and can stand up to anything else just on their own.


This potato salad is infused with the flavours of mustrad, onions and smoke for a new summer staple.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #lapsangsouching, #potatosalad, #smokyonions


  • ½ cup smoky onions, minced fine Or plain onoin, minced fine
  • 1 cup smoky onion vinaigrette Or plain white wine vinegar, with lapsang souching
  • 2 tbsps onion powder
  • ¼ cup dijon mustard, preferably Kozlick's Sweet & Smoky
  • 1 tbsp salt, fine ground
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 3 lb bag of yellow or red potatoes
  • ½ cup fresh chives
  • 2 shallots (or 1 onion)
  • vegetable oil


  • Cut potatoes in quarters, then boil in a generous amount of well-salted water.
  • If you are using the smoky onion pickles, fish out the pickles from their vinegar, chop them fine with the tea leaves, and mix them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients.
  • If you are starting from scratch, place 4 tea bags or ¼ cup of lapsang souching in the vinegar. If you want to place the loose tea in a tea filter, you can remove it later. If you like to eat tea leaves, as I do, leave them in, breaking them first into tiny bits. Fine chop the onions and let both the tea and onions sit in the vinegar for at least 15 minutes. Then add the onion powder, salt, pepper and mustard.
  • When the potatoes are just cooked through, drain then. Add the vinaigrette while they are hot.
  • Thinly slice two shallots or one onion in simmering oil. Cook them, watching all the time, until they turn brown and crispy. Quickly drain them on paper towel.
  • Add chives or green onions right before you serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Black Currant Ice Tea

I’ve just learned this week that “iced tea” refers to hot-brewed tea that has been chilled with ice, and that “ice tea” is another term for cold brew. I have no idea how seriously anyone takes their tea terminology, but all I know is there is a lot of fun you can have with chilled tea.

Since June is Iced Tea month, I’ve been having fun playing with different ingredients and methods, coming up with some serious funky concoctions. And some have been surprisingly good. (The others we needn’t mention.)

I love black currant tea. It feels like a traditional and harmonious flavour pairing, much like Earl Grey, but having fallen in popularity somewhat. (For a quick history of the legality of black currants in North America, see my post on the Lady Baker’s Tea blog here).

I also buy a lot of freeze-dried fruits and use them for creams, sauces and jellies (sadly they don’t work well in a milk-based custard. Bon Apetit spells it out here.) Sometimes I’ve got a few leftovers that are too expensive to throw out and too small to do much with. I always have freeze-dried black currants on hand (they make a potent and tangy sauce for duck). Turns out, they can add some oomph to iced tea.

I cold-brewed some black currant iced tea, and would have been happy to sweeten it and augment the flavour with black currant cordial if I had some. I used what I had instead, and it added all the flavour and none of the sweetness. It definitely needed sweeter, so I added some honey.

What makes this a great breakfast brew are two things: I brewed the tea and black currants in milk. You still need that honey—black currants are really, really tart! They are also full of pectin, which added a thickness to it. It was almost like a yoghurt drink, except charged with caffeine, and much less sugar.

This was the perfect treat to enjoy with the sunrise before my early morning walk. Just enough caffeine, just enough substance to hold me off until breakfast, just enough effort: shake, strain and serve.

These proportions are guidelines. Also, if you have a few leftover bit of freeze-dried fruits, why not throw them in your cold brew tea? In water, in juice, in milk. The combinations are infinite!

Black Currant Iced Milk Tea Shake

Cold-brewed tea in milk is a great base for leftover freeze-dried fruits. In this case, black currant tea is reinforced with freeze-dried black currants for a thick and potent concoction.
Prep Time: 1 day
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #blackcurrant, #blackcurranttea, #coldbrewtea, #icedtea


  • 2 cuos whole milk
  • ½ cup black currant tea
  • ¼ cup freeze-dried black currants
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)


  • Put all ingredients in a mason jar. Put in the fridge overnight.
  • In the morning, give it all a good shake. Strain into a pitcher and serve up.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Iced London Fog

Aka Earl Grey Iced Tea Milk

Like a cold-brewed tea? Really reduces the bitterness and astringency. But have you tried cold-brewing your tea in milk?

I’m starting my day with an Iced London Fog. Cooling, thick and delicious, with just enough caffeine.

Pop 1/2 cup of loose-leaf, best quality Earl Grey in a mason jar. Add 3 cups whole milk, 2 tbsp of honey and 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla (don’t overdo it). Give it all a good shake and leave it in the fridge overnight. Shake it again in the morning and strain before serving. Lovely over ice or straight up.

Fitness fanatics can add protein powder. Play with proportions to tweak it to your taste, but I promise you this is the smoothest iced tea latte you’ll ever have.

Drink in the Spring Flowers

Flowers have been a time-honoured ingredient in fine teas for over a thousand years. Jasmine-scented green tea is the most well-known in the West, of course. It is one of the original Chinese scented teas, traditionally crafted by hand in a meticulous and laborious process. But as oranges are not the only fruit, jasmine is not the only flower to entice tea drinkers with floral delights. 

Flowers have been used in tea making for thousands of years in China, the homeland of tea. Magnolia, chrysanthemum, magnolia, lotus flowers, even roses are part of many notable, time- honoured blends you may never have heard of. What better way to welcome spring, as you glory in the beauty of fresh spring flowers, than to drink flowers in your teacup as well?

Why try traditional teas? 

Traditionally, flowers are added, not to the finished tea, as they are today, but as the tea leaves are rolled and dried. It is a painstaking, days-long infusion, with thousands of buds laid on the tea. In the case of jasmine tea, the tea is stored for month, then the blossoms are laid out late in the day, waiting from them to bloom at night. These hand-picked, carefully scented teas have little in common with their frowsy, flamboyant modern cousins. 

Potpourri teas, as I call them, are popular nowadays. Dried petals thrown in with candied bits of anything-you-like to make new tea blends for the bored consumer with a restless palate. These bejazzled teas are often ham-handed in terms of flavour, using a bombardment of spices, herbs and dried fruits to disguise the flavour of inferior tea. 

Teas made in the traditional manner, however, allow you to taste the tea leaf as well as the flowers, balancing their perfume with the particular varietal of tea plant, and the skill of the tea maker. 

Not Just Jasmine

Here are five traditional teas you may not be familiar with, but will definitely help you welcome in spring: 

  1. Tie Kuan Yin
  2. Osmanthus oolong
  3. Magnolia oolong
  4. Rose Congou
  5. Violet Tea 

Iron Goddess

The first floral tea I’m going to suggest is one that doesn’t have any flowers in it at all. Tie Kaun Yin, also known as Iron Goddess, is an oolong made from tea leaves that have an incredible floral scent. 

(An oolong tea is not quite as light as a green tea, and not as dark as a black tea. Oolongs occupy a wide spectrum of colour, scent, taste and body, from floral and bright to dark and woody. They are hard to define, but much loved in all their many incarnations.) 

Photo by Timothy Newman on Unsplash

Tie Kuan Yin is both a cultivar—a particular variety of tea bush—and a process. The most famous Iron Goddess is made in the Taiwanese style. The leaves are picked and processed in such a way as to preserve as much of their floral scent as possible to produce a delicate cup. It’s got a unique mouthfeel, though, when brewed properly: milky and silty, almost as if very fine chalk had been turned liquid. Many oolongs have this creamy texture on the tongue but I’ve noticed it’s quite pronounced in a good Tie Kuan Tin. 

Tie Kuan Yin is often an eye-opener for people who are used to heavy black teas. It shows the incredible range of flavours and scents that can come right from the leaf, before you add in a single flavouring. It’s called a gateway tea with good reason. 

Tie Kaun Yin at Tao Tea Leaf

Osmanthus Oolong

This both hard one is hard to say and hard to find. It’s also likely unfamiliar to those who don’t eat a lot of Chinese cuisine, but this is my very favorite floral tea. Perhaps my favourite tea ever. 

This tiny, bright yellow flower is often likened to a peachy flavour, but I find it much more like butter biscuits and sweetened milk. A hint of geranium, maybe. In China it is highly prized and is used in jellies, jams, cakes, and liqueurs. It’s also known for its sedative properties and for easing digestion (but then again, so is all tea). The level of antioxidants in osmanthus flowers approaches that of green tea, and so may be similarly beneficial in terms of reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system and supporting better aging. It’s also a sedative, doubling down on the relaxing effects of theanine already present in the camellia sinensis tea leaf. The scent of osmanthus flowers was proven in one study to decrease the motivation to eat, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. 

I’d drink this for the taste alone, but I do love the relaxation that follows a cup of Osmanthus oolong. It’s a tea I drink on a Sunday afternoon when I read a book, and the world is for a while the most wonderful place. 

Try this or this from Canadian tea purveyors, or this all the way from Mei Leaf in England. So worth it. 

Magnolia oolong

Magnolia is often the first tea I offer guests as an alternative to jasmine. Magnolia offers a gentle shift and a chance to distinguish subtle but real difference without taking you in an entirely different direction (like, for example, a vibrant and tart hibiscus.) 

Magnolia has not achieved the popularity of jasmine in the West and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it’s not as strong on the nose. It doesn’t hit you with that incredible, all-encompassing, gorgeous jasmine smell. It is sweeter and more subtle when you first breathe it in, but no less delightful to sip. It’s a little warmer, with hints of pistachio and orange blossom, and with a buttery taste. That honeyed sweetness is stronger to taste, too. 

Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

Magnolia was once reserved for the royal family of China and is revered as a special gift. Modern studies have shown it has it’s uses in treating anxiety in menopausal women and is also used to treat digestive difficulties. In traditional Chinese medicine it is associated with strengthening the lungs, feminine beauty and personal growth. Sign me up for all three. 

Like many oolongs, magnolia tends to be sold in as rolled oolong, or in little balls, and thus benefits from several steeping as the leaves unfurl. I tend to brew magnolia oolong at around 90°C (195°F) with a large amount of leaf, then re-steep the same leaves in the tea I’ve just made. This strengthens each brew without fear of letting it sit too long to get bitter. It also encourages movement of the liquid through the leaves. I end up with a very yellow, rather thick-looking concoction that is quite flavourful.

If this sounds fussy, just wait until you have a work problem that’s stalled in your mind. Get up and pour your tea between two vessels back and forth, never mind about any little spills, until it seems right. If the process doesn’t help, maybe the tea will. 

Murchie’s Tea does a lovely version. Buy it here. David’s Tea has nice one, too. Buy it here.

Rose Congou

Rose scented teas appeared in China at the same time as jasmine scented teas, and they were produced in the same manner. Rose congou, however, is typically a black tea, whereas jasmine is usually green or white tea. The process is the same: the petals are laid upon the tea leaves to absorb their scent. Except that a black tea requires more withering, and so allows the essential oils to coat the tea leaves as they wither. 

Photo by Cloris Ying on Unsplash

As tea was introduced to Europe, rose congou (a variation on gong fu or kung fu) was very popular in England at afternoon tea, whether for the sweetness or the familiarity of the roses, one can only guess. Perhaps this is why we most often see roses scenting black tea. Or perhaps the warmth and depth of black tea is a more assertive partner to balance the power of the rose. 

Tea connoisseurs often recommend against milk with this tea, but if it is brewed quite strong, I’m happy to add milk and        even rosewater as a sweetener. Makes an exquisite warm cocktail with rose gin as well. 

Violet Black Tea

“That which above all yields the sweetest smell in the air is the violet.” —Sir Francis Bacon

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

We tend to think of violets as decorating a fine china teapot, rather scenting than the tea that’s in it. Or as a perfume, or a candied cupcake topping, but not an actual flavour in itself. Violet can be somewhat soapy, after all, and so the greater association with fragrance and skincare. 

Or perhaps that’s because New World violets are a different breed from the English violet, or Viola odorata – commonly known as sweet violet or wood violet. These are the violets that would have been used to scent teas in Victorian England, when violet tea was at the height of its popularity. And different again from Parma violets, which were the violet of choice in Edwardian England, and are still found in candies. 

Violet is an elusive scent, as it binds to our scent receptors, first to stimulate them, then to shut them down quickly so that we cannot detect it. Then, after a few breaths, it registers in your brain as a new stimulus, and you can smell it again. Violet leaves are also traditionally used in herbal medicine, but I’m definitely not recommending a tea made of those.  

If I can find violet sirop or essence, I’ll definitely buy it, but until then, violet tea is a lovely, old-fashioned seeming delight that speaks to afternoon teas of years past. It’s both novel and familiar, and tasty as well. 

Murchie’s once again is where I re-discovered this nostalgic treat.


Would you like to learn about more floral teas? There are so many! And please tell me about your favourites. The more I learn about tea, the happier I am. 

Happy sipping, 


Smoky Duck Breast with Tart Black Currant Sauce

Duck lends itself to sous vide cooking and strong flavours, so don’t think I’m part of a cult that only cooks sous vide and with tea. Although that’s not a bad basis for a cooking obsession. But I sincerely believe that this recipe is transformative to a duck breast in the best way. So don’t assume I’ve gotten lazy. Assume that you’ll love this.

As it is sous vide, it’s oddly easy to make on a week night, as you can make it ahead. Of course, with many people working from home, you could take a 10 minute break, pop the duck in the water bath and return at your convenience to quickly brown these darlings when you please. And dry duck breast is a tough, miserable business. Sous vide can keep it lower temperature longer, preserving the texture and eliminating the risk of over cooking.*

My husband loves every bit of this and eats the fat without hesitation. The smoky and salty flavours permeate the fat and flesh, and fill you up, so that all you need is a side green or a salad as accompaniment. Ina Garten’s mashed rutabaga is also perfect with this, but you don’t need it.

You simply wash and dry your duck breast. Salt it all over. Throw it in your cooking bag and pat Lapsang Souching liberally all over your duck breast until you’ve covered both sides. Pack it generously with fresh bay leaves and forget about it for a few hours. The tannins in the tea and bay leaf will tenderise the duck breast and infuse it with delicious smokiness, like duck bacon but meatier.

If you have time, chop an onion in a fine dice, put it in some melted butter in a pan, and stir it in. Leave it on low for an hour or two while you go back to work. When you are ready to brown your duck breast, you’ll have some lightly caramelized onions as a home base for some quickly sautéed Swiss chard. The bitterness of the greens is balanced by the sweet onions and rich duck.

I thank Kenji Lopez-Alt for his sous vide duck recipe. The man was an engineer before he switched to food. You can trust that his calculations are precise, and in the name of food safety I would never vary from his recommendations of cooking times and temperatures. That said, I stick to the very lowest recommended cooking time because I like my duck breast as rare as is permissible.

*(FOR YOU NON-SOUS VIDE BELIEVERS: don’t trust that sous vide cooking is safe? Read this by Cook’s Illustrated. New to sous vide? Read this by Serious Eats engineer-turned-chef J. Kenji López-Alt.)

Kenji is not a snob and so recommends IKEA Lingonberry jam with your duck breast. I don’t doubt him for a minute. Blackcurrant jam would be more French and is what I like, having had it on pigeon every chance I got in France. But I am trying to cut sugar, which is changing my palate. Also, most jam tastes more of sugar than fruit. So I have devised a sauce that has all the flavour of black currant, all of the sour, and as much sweetness as you like. But the black currant is the thing.

This dish goes well with a medium bodied, peppery red wine but is also just a fabulous with a Blanc de Noir. In Toronto this is pretentious. In France this is just Tuesday. We won’t be in France for a while, so let me dream.

The blackcurrant sauce is a reduction of freeze-dried black currents, although if you have fresh or frozen by all means use those. Black currants are high in pectin, which means a steep reduction doesn’t need any thickener. They are boiled down in red wine into a tart juice with fresh bay leaf, peppercorns and a shallot or onion. Much as I love all thing garlic, it doesn’t really work here. I have tried and it just doesn’t fit. You can add a little duck juice at the end if you can get it mostly separated from the fat, but you’ll likely just have melted duck fat in the pan, so skip it.

The resulting liquid is really very tart, but you taste the black currants first and foremost. Then you add a little honey, bit by bit, unless you have the right balance of sweet and sour. I tend to favour the sour, but you just do as you please.

Smoky Sous Vide Duck Breast with Tart Black Currant Sauce

Smoky tea and fresh bay leaf tenderize and flavour a duck breast. Sous vide cooking keeps from going beyond medium rare. Freeze-dried black currants dominate a red wine reduction without the excessive sugar of the more traditional blackcurrant jam.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Canadian, French
Keyword: #blackcurrantreduction, #duckbreast, #freezedriedblackcurrants, #sousvide, #sousvideduckbreast


  • Sous vide appliance
  • Cast iron pan


  • 2 duck breasts
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup lapsang souching tea
  • 1 package fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup freeze-dried black currants
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1-4 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • ½ tsp sea salt


  • Wash and pat dry duck breast. Rub salt all over. If you have time, leave them uncovered in the fridge overnight. If not, skip it.
    When you are ready to cook, preheat your water bath to 54°C (130°F).
  • Place in a Ziploc bag and sprinkle in tea, making sure to get tea all over every part of the surface on both sides of each breast.
  • Using half of the leaves from the package, line the sides of the bag with fresh bay leaf.
  • Lower into the water, letting all the air out, and cook for a minimum of 45 minutes, up to 4 hours.
  • Heat wine and black currants until boiling, pressing down on currant and stirring them in until fully hydrated. Add in shallot, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until reduced to ½ cup. Turn off heat. Let sit until ready to use.
  • When duck is done, remove the breasts from the bag. Brush off as much of the tea as you can. If it really sticks, you can rinse it off, but if you have a clean scrub brush, try that instead.
  • Heat oil in a cast iron pan set on high heat until smoking.
  • Add duck breast and cook until sizzling, about 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes, pressing and moving to make sure the skin is browned evenly. Flip and cook the skinless bottom until barely browned, about 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  • When ready to use the sauce, remove the herbs and strains out the shallot and peppercorn. You can add in a few more black currants if you like texture in your sauce.
  • Reheat reduction, adding in honey to taste. Add brandy, butter and salt to finish.
  • Slice and serve with sautéed greens.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Pistachio Meringue Roll with Roasted Strawberries

Welcome Spring, and failing that, welcome Easter. Sadly, we won’t be welcoming family or friends again the year. But don’t give up. Drop off desserts, make each other care packages, decorate whatever outdoor spaces you have, and remember—this will not last forever. It’s not much longer now.

Every Easter we are drowned in chocolates: eggs and their nests, bunnies, chickadees, or more modern creations like some of the beautiful chocolate creations I ordered for my family at the Grand Order of Divine Sweets. I went for the Star Wars theme, but there are many other gorgeous creations, including Wonder Woman and Doctor Who-themed merch, and multicoloured, hand-painted eggs. Chocolate not only makes beautiful gifts, it counts as self care, too.

Every spring I make a lemon cake accompanied by coloured white chocolate eggs, either more lemon or coconut, just for variety’s sake. But this year I went back to my favourite combination for inspiration: pistachio and strawberry. If strawberries don’t represent spring, then what does?

Some of the strawberries we see at this time of year are maybe not as ripe or intensely flavoured as one might hope. Easily fixed by roasting them. I used BraveTart’s recipe, following her recommendation to use toasted sugar, which takes the sweetness down a peg or two. I was keen to use rosewater or orange blossom water as well as spent vanilla pods on my berries, but this might have been pushing the palates of my loved ones, so I’ll save that for a dinner party.

Roasting the strawberries not only concentrates the flavours, it removes the fresh sharpness that is normally such a great balance to the sweetness of a ripe berry. Pistachio is such a gentle flavour, it didn’t want any tartness to overwhelm it.

For the pistachio paste: BraveTart has a beautiful recipe for that as well, and I urge you all to make it and play with it. Only good things will come from such endeavours. However, Soma has a beautiful pistachio paste that you can just pick up when you are buying your Easter bunnies. I always keep a couple of jars on hand, because you never know when you need to make something fabulous at a moment’s notice. I was also lucky enough to come across some Watkins pistachio extract, which is not easily found. You could use almond, but use half the amount. Or use pistachio liqueur, if you can find it. I used vanilla as well. I find it supports the flavour perfectly.

I did this as a roll, but you could easily do it as a stack, or in mini-mason jars as little individual desserts. There are a few steps, and it’s best made the same day, but you can make the pistachio cream, the roasted strawberries, and the candied nuts a day ahead. The candied pistachios could also benefit from rosewater or orange blossom water, but again, it’s not for everyone. The meringue you do want to make same day, and leave time for the eggs to hit from temp, then for it to cool. But it’s not hard to throw together, and it will crack, so you can just not worry about that at all. Cover it with more cream and strawberries and absolutely no one will care.

Pistachio Meringue Roll with Roasted Strawberries

A beautiful pistachio cream coats a chewy, dense, nut-laden meringue filled with roasted strawberries.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian, French
Keyword: #pistachio, #pistachiocream, #roastedstrawberries, #strawberry, #strawberrydesserts
Servings: 8 servings


Pistachio Cream

  • ½ cup pistachio paste (see link)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • ½ tsp pistachio or ( ¼ tsp. almond extract)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Pistachio Meringue

  • 1 cup ground pistachios (available at, or make your own)
  • 1 cup white sugar, plus 2 tbsp.
  • tsp cornstarch
  • ¾ cup egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp pistachio extract

Candied Pistachios

  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Roasted Strawberries

  • 7 cups fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 hull vanilla bean
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Set the oven rack to the middle position and set the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  • Line a 12 x 17 inch (30 x 43 cm) sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the ground pistachios with 2 tbsp of sugar and the cornstarch.
  • Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin mixing on medium speed until egg whites are foamy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks.
  • Add remaining 1 cup of sugar in a slow stream, then stop the machine and scrape down the edges.
  • Continue beating until the egg whites form stiff, shiny peaks.
  • Add in the vinegar, pistachio or almond extract.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, one third at a time.
  • Spread the meringue evenly in the pan, levelling the top gently.
  • Place in the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 275°F (140°C).
  • Bake until meringue is lightly set and light golden brown, about 40 minutes. Leave on a wire rack until completely cool.
  • Turn oven back to 375°F (190°C).
  • Wash strawberries and slice off the tops. Slice biggest ones in half. Toss with lemon juice, sugar and vanilla pod.
  • Roasted, stirring one or twice, until just softened and swimming in juice, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
  • Rinse out the bowl of the stand mixer. Add 1/2 cup of cream to the pistachio paste, and blend together with the paddle attachment. Blend until smooth.
  • Scrape off the paddle attachment and replace it with the whisk attachment. Add in mascarpone, the extracts and the rest of the cream. Beat together until stiff.
  • Spread the cream evenly over the meringue, leaving a little border for spillover.
  • Strain strawberries and rough chop (or squish with freshly washed hands) and spread over cream.
  • If you have a helper to assist with the roll, do so. It will crack. You don't care, because you are not Martha Stewart and you are covering it with cream anyway. Do your worst.
  • Slather more pistachio cream over the outside, and pop it in the fridge or freezer while you candy the whole pistachios.
  • Warm pistachios over low heat with 2 tbsp sugar stirring all the time. Let cool.
    Decorate roll with more strawberries and pistachios.
  • Serve within a couple of hours. Prepare yourself for adoration and pledges of undying loyalty. Happy Easter!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Hearty Kale Salad

Isn’t all kale salad hearty? and healthy? Isn’t that why we eat it? Surely nobody actually LIKES kale salad. Well, do it right, and you might.

I was eating kale long before the Great Kale Craze of 2012. I tend to prefer it cooked, if only because raw kale tastes like cut grass, and not in a good way. Why else was everyone drowning it in Caesar dressing back in the day?

That approach is not without merit. A good amount of fat and salt can make almost anything taste good. But withering kale with a physical rub and salting it to soften the texture and flavour can make it something that I actually want to eat. And not just because it’s healthy.

Kale salad also has the benefit of being the only kind of salad that stays nice when made ahead. Whether you are still going into work sometimes, or whether you just want a batch of greens you can dig out of the fridge at a moment’s notice, kale salad is your friend.

The secret is twofold: use strongly flavoured, non-wilting ingredients that can stand up to the kale, then get your hands mucky.

Kale pairs well with strong cheese such as old cheddar or blue cheese. I used beef bacon, because for some reason it just really complements the flavours in this salad, but any bacon would do. Shredded duck with crispy skin would also be a perfect accompaniment, but I topped this with slow roasted chicken to make a complete meal. Keto much?

I always make an incredibly garlicky and mustard-filled dressing with a strong olive oil. Before I toss it and let it sit, though, I salt the kale, and massage it with some force for every batch I wash. I just keep grinding a little salt on, then taking every fresh bit I’ve washed and kneading it like bread to break it down. This recipe is not for baby kale. This is for the hearty stuff that you know you should eat, but are afraid will taste like hay and alfalfa sprouts. It won’t.

This recipe would be great with the addition of my Smoky Onion Pickles, if you have them. Or use a smoked mustard in your vinaigrette, like Kozlik’s Old Smokey.

If you find kale—or any cabbage—hard on your digestion, try sipping some Puerh tea along with it. This fermented tea does wonders with its probiotic properties, and the mushroomy, earthy flavours nicely offset the robust vegetal kale.

Do it! You won’t hate it. You might even like it. And your body will thank you.

Hearty Kale Salad

This one-bowl meal features rough chopped vegetables marinated in a flavourful dressing and kale that is tamed by massage. Hazelnuts and cheddar add fat and umami, carrots and purple cabbage adds crunch and colour.
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #kale, #kalesalad, #wintersalad
Servings: 4


  • 2 heads green or purple curly kale
  • ¼ head purple cabbage
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery sticks
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 cup cubed strong cheddar
  • 4 pieces crispy bacon (beef bacon works well here)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp strong mustard
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil


  • Wash kale carefully. Spin dry, then rip into smallish pieces.
  • Graet salt over each batch, then rub forcefully and throughy every time, incorporating the fresh washed kale with the salted and massaged.
  • Let the kale sit as you chop your other vegetables and fry the bacon.
  • Fry beef bacon on medium low until entirely crispy. Crumble into big bits.
  • Turn oven onto 350°F. Put hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast for 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant. Rub skins off. Rough chop or crush with a rolling pin.
  • Slice carrots into coins, not too small. You need the freshness and heft to stand up to the kale. Slice celery, erring on the side of bigger pieces.
  • Thin slice shallots.
  • Finely chop or puree the garlic, then mix with other dressing ingredients.
  • Toss dressing with all vegetables. Add bacon, cheese and hazelnuts.
  • Top with smoked duck breast or roast chicken. Or a cup of cooked lentils. Feel yourself slowing becoming fortified against any cold or or dreary landscapes, and wait for spring.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Christmas Tea Raisin Tarts

We wait every year for traditional Christmas foods. For those of who grew up in Western Canada, Murchie’s Christmas Blend Tea is a cherished annual treat. It’s on my list of seasonal creature comforts, not only for an afternoon break, but as a festive way to start my day.

Since the original writing of this post, Murchie’s Christmas Blend has sold out completely. Not to worry, the Orange Spice Blend is a perfect substitute.  It seems I’m not the only one who gets nostalgic for Murchie’s tea at Christmas!

Black tea is a fabulous ingredient in baking, especially in desserts. These little raisin tarts are not too sweet, thanks to the judicious use of brown sugar and the astringency that comes from soaking the raisins in double strength black tea. The tannins in the tea balance the sweetness of the syrup and the dried fruit, adding depth and just a hint of bitterness due to the extra strong brew. Like a cross between butter tarts and mincemeat, these little treats are delicately spiced, drawing on the flavours in this scented tea blend for a perfectly balanced taste. 

Tiny tartelettes are perfect for gifting and are just the right size to share space on a dessert platter with your shortbread and slices of Murchie’s Christmas Cake. They make a sweet contrast to my tangy Cranberry Apple Christmas Rose Tarts!

I use the rest of the pot to make a hot toddy based on the same flavours in the raisin tarts. You really won’t find a more comforting pairing than a tea toddy with tea-infused raisin tarts! 


A cross between butter tarts and mincemeat, these little treats are delicately spiced, drawing on the flavours in this scented tea blend for a perfectly balanced taste. 
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #buttertarts, #cookingwithtea, #mincemeattarts, #tea
Servings: 24


  • minimuffin baking trays


  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup sultana or Thompson raisins (or black currants!)
  • ¼ cup diced candied lemon or orange peel
  • 1 cup double-strength Murchie’s Christmas Blend black tea
  • ¼ cup dark rum 
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (or orange zest)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp butter (if salted, skip pinch of salt above)
  • 1 batch your favourite double-crust pie dough 


  • Roll your pie dough and cut out circles, rolling and re-rolling the leftover dough until you have 48 identical shapes. The ring of a wide-mouth mason jar is the perfect size for mini-muffin pans and should yield the correct number of pastry shells for 4 dozen tarts. Press circles into mini-muffin tins. Refrigerate for two hours, or up to 24 hours in advance. 
  • Preheat oven to 400ºF. 
  • Brew a pot of Murchie’s Christmas blend double or even triple strength. Loose leaf or tea bags both work just fine. 
  • Stir together brown sugar, cornstarch and pinch of salt, if using. 
  • Combine raisins and candied peel in a pot on the stovetop with tea and rum. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes on low. 
  • Turn up the heat to medium and add in the sugar mixture. Stir together for 2-5 minutes, until liquid begins to look a little less cloudy. 
  • Turn off the heat, then add vanilla, zest and butter. Stir until butter is melted and let cool. 
  • Carefully spoon the cooled filling into the prepared tart shells. Try to scoop up mostly fruit with your spoon, filling each shell no more than halfway. Distribute remaining syrup evenly throughout. Caution: too much filling will spill over during baking, making the tarts hard to remove from the muffin tin. 
  • Bake for 12 minutes, checking at 9 minutes to make sure they don’t bubble over. Unlike a cake, you can pop these out of the oven, and then put them back in to brown further if you desire. 
  • Serve with a Hot Tea Toddy. Merry Christmas! 


This recipe works beautifully with dried currants as well. Substitute raisins with dried currants (or a mixture equaling two cups) and cook for an extra 5 minutes on the stovetop. Pairs equally well with lemon or orange candied peel and zest, or a combination of both.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Cranberry Apple Christmas Rose Tarts

When I saw the rose apple pie on the King Arthur Flour website, I was entranced. Had to make it. But one of the instructions confused me. It advised the use of white sugar to keep the apple slices as white as possible. I can see that brown roses might seem dingy. But white? For Christmas? I wanted red roses!

Cranberry apple is both seasonal and pretty. Dehydrated cranberries are the perfect way to colour and flavour your roses, along with some vanilla bean. The berries are pulverised with sugar and vanilla seeds, and are left to macerate while the dough is cut and resting.

Cranberry and apple is a classic combo, but even with the vanilla, these tarts were missing something. Cranberries and apples are both acidic, so sourness—while desirable—can be dominate here. Sugar alone does not posses enough depth to add counterbalance the high, tangy notes. And I didn’t want to do the heavy spice route, and diminish the brightness too much—just tone it down a touch. Lining the tarts with marzipan proved to be the perfect trick—a little umami and richness to mitigate the intensity of cranberry. And to make these lovely little tarts more Christmas-y!

NOTE: I prefer almond paste for lining pies, but this year it proved impossible to find in stores. If you bake regularly, you might want to order some online.

Often when you macerate fruit in flavour sugar for a pie, you add the juices to the fruit after you’ve placed it in the pie crust. I found when I did that, my tarts were too jammy and reminiscent of cranberry sauce. I want the apples to be the dominate flavour here. Besides, apple and cranberries are both full of pectin. You don’t need the tapioca-thickened juices to hold them together. You want distinct petals, not a red, gummy blob. Please excuse the crumbs below. This is blogging verité.

The amounts in my recipe should work well, depending on how thin you slice your apples. (See the King Arthur piece for tips on apple slicing.) I used a mandolin and also tried slicing by hand. Both require practice to achieve even thickness. But if you get some very thin pieces, and they get very soggy, not to worry. You can use them to glue together thicker pieces. They’ll actually add to the amount of apple you can pack into each tart when used this way. And if you run out of apples? Just add some fresh slices, and use the well-soaked mixed in with those that sit in the macerating liquid for a shorter time. You’ll be fine to wing it a little.

I tried baking these at a lower temperature after my first few batches were burnt at the edges. But the crust never firmed up and they fell apart. So I kept the temperature high and covered them lightly with foil halfway through to ensure full cooking and no burning. I removed the foil to let the heat set my little flowers in one final blast.

A dollop of whipped cream would not hurt these one bit. AFTER everyone has had a chance to admire their beauty. If you’ve got some holly, real or fake, use the green to keep the Christmas colours happening.

Raspberry, strawberry or cherries, dehydrated of course, would all work well here. But Christmas only comes once a year! Give these tart little tarts a whirl and brighten up your Christmas table. Much happiness to you all!

Gratitude to @bravetart, aka Stella Parks, both for introducing me to the glories of freeze-dried fruit, her method of macerating apples for a pie, and her fabulous pastry dough. And to King Arthur’s Flour for instructions on how to make a rose apple pie.

Cranberry Apple Christmas Rose Tarts

Dried cranberries coat apple slices to give a seasonal taste and look to a rosebud apple tart. Marzipan softens the sourness of the cranberries and makes them even more Christmasy!
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #applerosetarts, #christmas, #christmastarts, #cranberry, #cranberryapple, #rosetarts
Servings: 12


  • Food processor
  • muffin tins
  • Tin foil


  • 1 batch favourite pie dough
  • 1 ½ oz dehydrated cranberries (or 45 gr) (you can use 1 oz or 30 gr for a less assertive cranberry flavour)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 lbs sweet apples
  • ¼ cup tapica starch also known as tapioca flour
  • 1 tube marzipan


  • Make pie dough, roll out and cut into circles until you have 2 dozen circles to line 2 muffin tins. Let rest for two hours.
  • Put your freeze-dried berries, sugar, salt and the vanilla seeds together in the food precoessor until the cranberries are powdered, about one minute. Do not add tapioca at this point.
  • Put the powdery mixture in an ziplock bag or a bowl and place it beside the cutting board where you'll be slicing your apples. Add in the hollowed-out vanilla pods.
  • No need to peel your apples.
    Slice apples evenly about ⅛ inch thick. Don't worry if they are not perfectly even. Trancluscent is fine, transparent is for eating. Throw away the first slice that is mostly skin.
  • Cut the round slices in half and throw in with the cranberry-vanilla sugar mixture, tossing to coat.
  • Once all your apples are sliced, let them sit in the ziplock bag, making their own juices, for at least one hour and up to three. Toss and squish once in a while to distribute flavours evenly.
  • When you are ready to assemble your tarts, add tapicoa and give the apple slices one last good squishing to distribute it evenly.
  • Remove the tart shells (pastry dough) from the fridge and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Cut slices from your tube of maripan, about ¼ inch thick. Line the bottom of the tarts by pressing the marzipan in gently. (Don't skip this step! It MAKES the tarts!)
  • Line each tart with overlapping apple slices, starting at the outer edges and working your way in. Start with the tallest pieces. Use a variety of thicknesses to get a more natural look and to help the bigger pieces stay in place.
  • When there is a small hole in the centre, take a few thin pieces and roll them together, pressing tightly. Jam this little roll into the centre and watch it expand. If there's enough room, do it again.
  • Do not top up your roses with extra macerating liquid, or your little roses will look like little red gummy blobs.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then check to see that no burning is happening at the edges.
  • Cover lightly with tin foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
  • Remove foil and let cook for 2-5 minutes more.
  • Remove from oven, and let cool for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, use a knife to loosen around the edges. Use a fork if necessary to help the tarts out of the pan. The reason to do this quickly is that any juices that may have spilled over could cause them to stick to the pan when completely cooled.
  • Serve with whipped cream or just as is! If you can find any edible metallic spray, gold or silver would be an amazing final touch. Enjoy!


  • Freeze-dried cherries would make an excellent substitute here. Or try raspberries or strawberries. 
  • I prefer almond paste to marzipan for lining pies, but it’s been impossible to find this year. Odense makes both:
  • Mini-muffin tins make beautiful bite-sized rosebuds. Cut the baking time to 20 min, half covered, half not. They can still burn in a shorter cooking time. 
  • Gratitude to @bravetart, aka Stella Parks, both for introducing me to the glories of freeze-dried fruit, her method of macerating apples for a pie, and her fabulous pastry dough. And to King Arthur’s Flour for instructions on how to make a rose apple pie.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Fresh Cranberry Salsa

Welcome to Cranberry Week at The Everything Kitchen!

Cranberry sauce is so easy to make for Thanksgiving. In Canada, we have a long wait between our celebration in October and Christmas. In between now and then, those little bags of fresh cranberries wait patiently on the shelves, waiting for the next holiday. What do they do in the in-between time?

I was trying to think of ways to use use fresh cranberries, in the name of good health and because our use of them seems absurdly limited. I’m not one for dried cranberries, just because they are so sugar laden, you might as well have candy instead. But cranberries on their own can be overwhelmingly tart.

I remembered a recipe I saw years ago for a fresh cranberry sauce. I have termed it salsa, because many people identity that with an uncooked sauce, but really, same word, different language. Call it what you want, this sauce is versatile, delicious, and healthy as can be.

It does make more than you can eat at one sitting, so I’ll follow this post with a few more, highlighting all the delicious ways you can use fresh cranberry sauce for everyday occasions. No need to wait until Christmas! (Or American Thanksgiving. For that, you want my Perfect Cranberry Sauce.)

Fresh Cranberry Salsa

Cranberries are for more than turkey. This fresh sauce can be used for every meal of the day. It does not get healthier than this, folks!
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #cranberries, #freshcranberries, #freshrawcranberries


  • Food processor


  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Chop the orange roughly to make it easier to pulverize.
  • Core and slice the apple. Leave the skin on. We are being healthy here, people!
  • Put the cranberries, orange and apple in the food processor and blitz them together until they from uniform, tiny pieces to make a rough salsa. Open the machine and scrape down the sides to avoid any big chunks. Add honey and a touch of salt and continue.
  • You can leave it slightly rough, as I have here, or break it down until it's almost smooth. Smaller pieces are more versatile and easier to use, but a little texture is still desirable.


This recipe is great on turkey, chicken or fish. It’s also great as a sandwich spread, used to flavour mayonnaise, good in a tuna or chicken salad. It works in salad dressing, in plain yoghurt or in a smoothie, on top of cheesecake, in baked sweet potatoes, melted in the middle of a brie wheel. Check my blog for more ideas! 
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Ugly Soup

Lentil & Potato Soup

I’m sure there are many Italians who do not appreciate the nickname I’ve given this soup, but really, I had little choice. Whenever make this soup for someone for the first time, objections are raised immediately. I mean, it does look like dog food. It’s really just not even a little bit pretty.

Happily, what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in taste. Especially my jazzed-up version. Traditionally, this is a comforting yet very dull soup. But I’ve added a little trick that takes it from good to great, and all because my kids are little potato-heads.

In most versions, this is a plain lentil soup with diced potatoes, a tomato base (I prefer a broth base), some aromatics. Cheap and…not cheerful, exactly, but nourishing. I made it a touch nicer by using Puy lentils or black beluga lentils which retain their shape a little more, are not so musty tasty as regular lentils, and are a less dreary shade of khaki when cooked. I threw in a Parmasean rind to the broth for a little more backbone.

But the greatest tidbit is this: use leftover fried potatoes. Fry them up in olive oil, or bacon grease, or duck fat. Whatever you like. But fry them up with big slices of garlic that get nicely browned and caramelized on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. Add those to your soup, then add more garlic. And top with Parmesan cheese.

Now come on. Anything would taste great if you cooked it up like that and drizzled it with olive oil. But these garlicky lentils are more palate-pleasing than you can possible believe. And given that they are full of protein, fibre, magnesium, folic acid, zinc and Vitamins A & C, and cheap to boot, why are earth are you not cooking lentils with regularity?

I know you all have Instapots now, so you can pressure cook your lentils, like I did. Or just cook them on a stovetop. I have a stovetop pressure cooker, which I really should use more often. I find it provides me more control and flexibility than a countertop version. But to each her own.

If you don’t have leftover fried potatoes, it’s worth making them for this soup. Plain peeled, uncooked are fine, but we can have good nutrition AND great taste, and so we shall.

This is your new comfort food. And when you’ve made it and surprised yourself, you can torment and delight your friends and neighbours like I have. And feed them well at the same time.

Ugly Soup

Lentil and potato soup gets a flavour boost form two kinds of garlic and hearty fried potatoes.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack, Soup
Cuisine: American, Canadian, Italian
Keyword: #lentilpotatosoup, #lentilsoup, #lotsagarlic


  • 1 cup Puy or black lentils Rinse and pick over your lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 8-10 fresh bay leaves (or 3-6 dried)
  • 2 lbs. Yukon potatoes, diced
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • fine sea salt (non-iodized)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (or fat of your choice)


  • Rinse your lentils. If you're using the fancy Puy variety, they should be clean but take a look for tiny twigs nonetheless.
  • Add lentils to a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water, 4-6 fresh bay leaves and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to high heat, reduce to medium high, and cook for 10-12 minutes. The lentils will mostly retain their shape, but if they get a little mushy, that's just fine. That will help add some body to the soup.
  • Or bring the above ingredients to a boil, reduce to a simmmer and leave on the stove for an hour and a half. You choose. (Get a pressure cooker!)
  • While the lentils are cooking away, rinse then dice the potatoes.
  • Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once the pan is heated, add your oil and let it get hot before adding your potatoes. Throw them in the hot oil, sprinkle them with a tbsp of salt and turn the heat down to medium low. Leave undisturbed while potatoes develop a nice brown crust.
  • Take 6-8 cloves of garlic and slice them into thick pieces, 2 or three per clove. Drop on top of the potatoes as they cook.
  • When the lentils are done, turn off heat. Open the valve for quick release. Once it's quit sputtering, remove the lid. Check to see how much water remains. They should be almost covered but not quite. Add 1-2 cups of chicken stock, depending on how much water has evaporated from the lentils.
  • Throw in the Parmasean rind and the rest of the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer while you turn your attention back to the potatoes.
  • Using a spatula, try to flip potatoes around so that they brown all over.
  • Simmer the lentils for as long as you need to to ensure lentils are thoroughly softened. This could be as little as 5 minutes if the pressure cooker did the trick, but take whatever time you need.
  • Mince 4-8 cloves—I'm serious!—and add them to the soup.
  • Once the potatoes are thoroughly browned, add them to the soup. Stir in grated Parmasean. Taste for salt.
  • Top with more cheese, Italian parsley if you can find it, fresh pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Like most soups, this is better the next day, but it is delicious and fortifying straight from the pot. Stay warm, my friends!
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Old-Fashioned Dad’s Cookies

My favourite cookies, this recipe is simplicity itself. These cookies are humble, delicious and beautifully unpretentious.

They don’t need beurre noisette (browned butter), they don’t need a topping of large flakes of exotic salts, and they certainly don’t need chocolate chips! (But I can’t stop you, can I?) They just need to made and enjoyed as is.

These may seem plain when compared to the many decadent, multi-layered, adorably shaped cookies that appear all over Instagram and Pinterest. That’s okay. I have always love the delighted look of surprise on the faces of those who try them, often out of sheer courtesy. “These cookies are really good!” they exclaim with shocked expressions. These cookies defy expectations.

This is my grandma’s recipe, and she made damn good cookies. You want super-charged, ultra-loaded, tweaked and upgraded cookies, look elsewhere. Here lies the beauty of the original. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Old-Fashioned Dad’s Cookies

Grandma's original recipe, these plain-seeming cookies are rich in flavour and tradition.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #dadscookies, #oatmealcookies, #simplerecipes, oatmealcoconutcookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt (or ½ tsp kosher salt)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut


  • Preheat oven to 375°
  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  • In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars. Add eggs, then vanilla. Alternatively, you can mix them all together by hand in a large bowl.
  • Add flour mixture to the sugar-butter mixture. Stir until combined. Add coconut and oats. Stir in until dispersed evenly. I like to use my hands for this last step.
  • Drop from a tablespoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie tray. Bake for 15 munites, or until tan at the edges and golden brown all over.
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Pumpkin Coconut Soup

This is less of a pumpkin-spice recipe and more of a pumpkin-herb recipe. I started by wanting to use up leftover Thanksgiving pie pumpkins, so I went to a Bon Appetit recipe that caught my eye. It used butternut squash and coconut milk, but a squash is a squash is a squash. Use whatever you have—I certainly felt free to. And that’s what good home cooking is: using up what’s at hand while making it taste delightful.

The Bon Appetit recipe used garlic and ginger as the main sources of flavour, adding a little heat with chili flakes and cilantro. All well and good, but I needed more from my soup. If I’m to be drinking/eating healthy vegan things, they must have maximal flavour, dammit.

An upgrade was easily achieved with the addition of some chopped lemongrass and fresh lime leaves, simmered in with the pumpkin as it cooks. This made a huge difference. My pumpkin soup went from having a nice taste to an excellent one. It meant putting the lemongrass in some cheesecloth, then extracting it along with the lime leaves right before blending, rather than just dumping the whole pot into the blender. A tiny effort well worth the exertion.

This soup is warm, healthy, and cheerful as can be. If you want to reduce the fat content, use light coconut milk. I made a big batch that was a perfect host to leftover grilled shrimp, some sautéed kale from the night before, some quickly cooked green beans. I topped it with the cilantro leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds, and of course peanuts and toasted coconut would be lovely as well. Cilantro haters, you know very well that you can and will skip that particular ingredient. You know who you are.

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

A warming, filling, herbacous soup that is as healthy as it is tasty.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Soup
Cuisine: Southeast Asian
Keyword: #coconut, #lemongrass, #pumpkin, #pumpkinsoup, ginger
Servings: 8


  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2-3 Thai chilis (optional)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bottom parts only
  • 4-6 lime leaves
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil or coconut oil
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 4-4½ lbs pumpkin
  • 1 small bunch cilantro


  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Preheat a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat, adding the oil once it's warm. Dice the onion and sauté until translucent. Turn down to medium low.
  • Mince garlic and chilis, if using. Grate ginger, wash and chop cilantro stems. Sauté everything together on medium low.
  • Peel and seed the pumpkins, or whatever squash you have. A thinner skinned squash willl yield more flesh, so you could start with 3½-4 lbs. Chop into roughly evenly sized cubes and add to the pot.
  • Add water just to cover, then add coconut milk and 2 tsp of salt.
  • Chop lemongrass and wrap in cheesecloth or put into a dispoable tea bag and add to soup. Add lime leaves and salt.
  • Bring to a boil then turn heat down and simmer until pumpkin is soft, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool a bit.
  • Rinse seeds, discarding most of the stringy flesh. Don't worry if you don't get it all, it will dry up and separate more easily after baking. Cover seeds in 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tsp of salt.
  • Spread on a parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheet. Toast for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Toast until golden brown.
  • Come back to your soup. Just before you pour it in the blender, remove the lemongrass and lime leaves. Fill the blender no more than 2/3 full, and make sure there's a little ventilation if it's still steaming hot. You do not want your kitchen to look like a Jackson Pollack painintg.
  • Blend until silky smooth. Pour back into the pot to reheat before serving. Top with cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and unsweetened toasted coconut, if you have it. Voilà!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Perfect Cranberry Sauce

Three small additions take your homemade cranberry from good to great.

So everybody knows you don’t buy cranberry sauce. It’s the very easiest thing to make ever.

You buy a package of cranberries, and as per instructions on the back, you boil them with sugar, water and the zest of an orange. Fait accompli.

That does very nicely. But these three small tweaks take your cranberry sauce from good to great in short order.

You replace the water and brown sugar with maple syrup. Add a strong pinch of salt. Add a tiny pinch of cloves. It’s perfect.

The maple syrup adds complexity. The salt adds depth. The musty, heavy flavour of cloves battles the tart tinniness of the cranberries. The ultimate Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. For a Christmas turkey, add an extra pinch of cloves. Tastes like Christmas in a jar.

This is not only a great sauce, it’s a great gift. My family prefers gravy, so I end up putting the cranberry sauce in plain yoghurt for a week. This is a happy occurrence. But I make it for company, and they always describe it in superlative terms.

Perfect Cranberry Sauce

Maple syrup, salt and cloves add a little backbone to this tradiitonal sauce.
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #bestevercranberrysauce, #cranberries, #cranberry, #cranberrysauce, #maplesyrupeverything, #newcranberrysauce, #thanksgiving, #turkeydinner


  • 1 package fresh cranberries (8 oz, 227 g)
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • tsp kosher or sea salt
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 1 pinch cloves


  • Put all ingredients in a pot, and bring to boil over high heat. Put a lid on and cook over medium heat. When you no longer hear the cranberries popping, about 5 minutes, turn off the heat.
  • Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.


Cranberry sauce is lovely stirred into plain yoghurt or on top of plain cheesecake. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Double Maple Pear Pie

This is the most Canadian of pies. And just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving, for those of you who don’t like pumpkin pie. (Why don’t you like pumpkin pie? I don’t understand.) Okay, maybe butter tarts or straight up maple sugar pie are slightly more Canadian, but this is delightfully seasonal and tasty as all get out. Perfect for your Thanksgiving table. 

This award-winning pie came first in our local pie contest last year. I was so looking forward to entering again with a new creation. No pie contests being held this year, obviously, but since it’s Thanksgiving, I’m going to focus on gratitude. Thankful for my family, for kind friends, and the comforts of our yearly turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. Hoping you able to take comfort in the same blessings this year. 

Most of the pear pie recipes I consulted before making this one used either maple syrup or maple sugar. I say double down like you’re at Timmy’s. I have maple flavouring, so I added that as well. And I serve it with a thimble of Sortilège on the side. 

It used to be that you could only find blocks of hard maple sugar at farmer’s markets that you had to grate by hand. Local is always superior, but you can buy maple sugar online now or at Costco. 

Use dark maple syrup if you can find it. I love cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and other spices with pears, but I’ve only used allspice (you could substitute cloves) here because it amplifies the maple flavour without distracting from it. Lemon juice has been replaced by Sortilège, bourbon or rum. 

I always double the recipe so that I can use a variety of pears for a more complex flavour profile. 

Double Maple Pear Pie

The pear pie uses maple syrup and maple sugar combined for an extra dose of flavour. Perfect for Thanksgiving!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Resting time: 1 hour
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #falldesserts, #fruitpie, #holiday, #maplepear, #maplepearpie, #pearpie, #pie, #thanksgiving
Servings: -8


  • Pie plate
  • Tin foil
  • Apple slicer


  • 3 ½  lbs. firm Bosc pears, usually 7-9 large pears
  • ¼  cup maple sugar (plus extra for decorating)
  • ¼  cup dark maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp allspice (or 1/8 tsp cloves)
  • 1 tsp maple or vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp maple liqueur, rum, or bourbon 
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 double crust pie crust, rolled and rested


  • Line pie plate with one half pie dough. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Roll the other half flat and return both to the fridge. 
  • Preheat oven to 375° F (190°C) in a regular oven, or 350°F (180°C) in a convection oven. 
  • Mix sugar, syrup, salt, cornstarch, allspice, extract and liqueur (if using). Stir together until sugar and cornstarch dissolves.  
  • Section pears with a handheld apple slicer if you have one (see photo), slicing peels off and making each slice relatively even. Toss to coat after each pear to prevent oxidization. 
  • Put pear mixture in the chilled pie dough.
  • Beat the egg with a tsp. of water to make an egg wash.
  • Paint the edge of the dough with the egg wash, then add the other rolled out pie dough in top. Brush egg wash all over. Pinch the edges together.
  • Cut vents with a knife. Sprinkle with more maple sugar on top. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Place or a cookie sheet to catch any spillage.
  • Bake for 45 minutes covered. Remove foil, then bake for another 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown and the juices are bubbling up through the cracks. 
  • If you double the recipe, you can skip the tin foil. Just rotate the pies, one above and one below.


  • For deep dish, add another 4 pears and 2 tbsp. maple sugar. Don’t add more liquid.
  • Use pears that are just ripe or almost ripe. Very ripe or over-ripe pears become mushy when cooked.
  • If a pear is grainy, don’t add it to your mix. Just toss it or eat it raw.
  • For the best all-butter, double piecrust recipe, check Brave Tart’s recipe.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Poached Pears in Magnolia-Scented Oolong

Many of us are familiar with jasmine tea, but magnolia flowers are a prized ingredient in Chinese cuisine as well, appearing in recipes for food as well as in scented tea. 

Magnolia is usually associated with spring, with weddings, with feminine beauty and purity, so now is an odd time of year to feature this flower. But in traditional Chinese medicine, magnolia is also associated with respiratory health, as are pears. And pears are definitely a fall fruit, so we’ve got all the reasons we need to go ahead. (Note that I’m not claiming this combination as a health tonic, but I feel we need every little bit of comfort we can contrive these days.)

The real reason I’ve united these two together is that they are both delicate. Stronger flavours easily overwhelm the beauty of a pear. Now, not all pears are beautiful. Supermarket pears can be dreary and uninspiring unless they are local and even then, they are often picked far too soon. But when you do get one in its prime, it is a shame to bury it under a heavier flavour.

I’ve used Murchie’s Magnolia Oolong  for this recipe, although I’ve also made it with David’s Tea’s version, which also has jasmine flowers in it. Could you make this recipe with jasmine tea? Sure, but why not try something new? These flowers are prized for their beauty and scent and are every bit as lovely in teas as jasmine flowers.

For the pears: different types of pears require different cooking times. The first time I made this recipe was with beautiful little Fiorelle pears, but those weren’t available when I went to the store. Determined not to let the memory of the perfect become the enemy of the altogether lovely, I tried with the pears that I did find. 

For poached whole pears, I used mini-NorthBrites, since I had those from a local farmer. And my word were they incredible! Perfect pear flavour! But such tiny pears are cooked through the minute the poaching liquid comes to a boil, and so receive very little infusion. This is not much of a problem, since the reduction imparts the magnolia flavour very well, and the magnificent taste of these precious pears is fully manifest.  

To poach larger pears in what is some very expensive tea, I couldn’t bury whole pears under a ton of liquid. I solved this easily by slicing them in half, poaching them, and allowing them to cool just a little before peeling them and basting them with the still-reducing liquid. Here’s where the variety REALLY makes a difference.

Both red and yellow Anjous cook very quickly and become slightly grainy. The texture is like that of tinned pears, so not unfamiliar, and still tasty. Certainly, the red ones offer a lovely hue. But a Bosc pear poaches into a lovely firm, smooth texture, and can be cooked just before it’s ripe. It requires a longer cooking time, which allows for greater absorption of the magnolia flavour, and the result is a delight. 

This recipe is not quite vegan, because it calls for honey, but agave syrup would be an acceptably mild substitute. 

When poaching pears, you can peel them first, or poach and then peel. The peels slip off easily if you blanch them and then shock them in ice water, but we don’t wish to dilute our poaching liquid. You can poach them, then peel them while still warm, and thus make a smoother surface. I’m far too impatient for such careful measures, though, so my pears were a little rough on the surface. I don’t care, but if you do, proceed accordingly. Make ahead, store for a few days, or enjoy the same day.

Magnolia Oolong Poached Pears

Pears are poached in a glorious magnolia scented oolong and drenched in a magnolia-pear-honey reduction for a simple, delicate, unexpected dessert.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #magnoliaoolong, #oolong, #pearseason, #poachedpears


  • ½  cup magnolia oolong loose leaf tea
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 Bosc pears
  • 1 cup pear juice
  • ½  cup honey


  • Bring water to a boil. Let cool to 85°C (185°F) and add tea. Let sit for 3 minutes, then remove tea leaves and set aside.
  • Peel pears, then slice pears in half, coring with a melon baller. Place pears in tea, bring tea to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 2 minutes, or until a knife goes in easily.
  • Remove pears with a slotted spoon to a drying rack.
  • Bring tea back to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Reduce by half, then add in pear juice and honey, and continue reduce to 1 cup.
  • Remove pears to a dish, middle facing down. Brush occasionally with reducing liquid. When it is reduced to one cup, baste the pears again.
  • Drizzle the remaining rediuction over the pears. Serve right away, or store for another day.


Use reserved tea leaves to make tea to serve alongside the pears. Fine quality oolong can be re-steeped at least a half a dozen times. 
To make the tea again, heat filtered water to 85°C (185°F) and pour over tea leaves. Always bring the water to the tea, not the other way around. Steep for 3-4 minutes, then strain into teapot. (For a first steeping, try 2 -3 minutes.) Do not leave the tea in the water too long—it will become too bitter. 
Jasmine tea would be lovely in this recipe. A white tea is often too delicate to impart much flavour, so I’d recommend a jasmine oolong or green tea, but experiment as you please. The cost of the tea will likely guide any decisions. 
Try this recipe with a chai blend, or Earl Grey, or blackcurrant tea with blackcurrant juice or syrup instead of honey and juice. 
You could also make pears sous vide with a few tea leaves and some honey – omit the juice, as the pears will create their own juices as they cook. Sealed in a vacuum-packed bag, sous vide pears can be prepared a week in advance.
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Lady’s Slipper and Black Currants

I was delighted to be a guest blogger for Lady’s Baker Tea in PEI. I stumbled across their blog after finding mention of their beautiful teas on a friend’s post, and then I was thoroughly impressed with the care and expertise that goes into their curated offerings, especially the house blended teas. I begged them to allow me to develop a recipe using my favourite, Lady’s Slipper.

Little did I know that black currants are native to North America. Why are they so popular in England, France, and the rest of Europe, but an imported food in North America? The US of A made them illegal in many northwestern states, because their thick foliage interfered with pine tree logging. A few farmers across Canada are trying to reignite the domestic black currant market, but they need a little promotion to put them back into the hearts and minds of Canadians. Here’s my two cents worth:

Lady’s Slipper and Black Currants

Black currant has been a favourite of mine since childhood, like many Canadians with some British heritage (Scots, Irish and English on my mum’s side). We had it mainly as a jam, and it made me feel a little closer to the Enid Blyton novels I read as a child. It was at once exotic and comforting, cozy, yet refined. I grew up loving black currant tea, as well, although I thought of it as a family preference, not something I thought to serve to friends.

On a family trip to France last summer (remember those?), I was surprised by the presence of black currants everywhere: in the ubiquitous cassis liqueur, as a savory sauce for pigeon or duck, or in cakes, puddings and of course, as a spread. This should not have surprised me, as the north of France would have similar growing conditions to England.

Little did I know that black currant is also native to Canada. It lost its early popularity among Canadian and American settlers when several American states banned the black currant bush as a nuisance that impeded the logging of pine trees. Since then, it’s been seen mainly as an import, a quaint reminder of British teatime. Black currant, however, is as Canadian as the Lady’s Slipper flower, and every bit as deserving of being in this lovely tea blend as any other local berry.

Earl Grey has also long been a favourite of mine, either on its own or in a vanilla-infused London Fog. So I was delighted to discover this precious flavoured tea, Lady’s Slipper. A hint of bergamot, reminiscent of Earl Grey, a touch of black currant, and vanilla to tie them both together. This fragrant, unique flavoured black tea seems quite fitting with shortbread or plum cake in the afternoon but is gentle enough that it is welcome at my breakfast table, too.

I have paired the Lady’s Slipper tea with black currant jam and infused it into cream for this icebox cake, so as to best appreciate all the different notes at play. Adding the black currant jam, made into a syrup with the addition of tea, hints at a trifle, the more complicated British version of an icebox cake. Add some cassis liqueur at your own discretion, if you please, on top of the cookies, but don’t whip it into your cream. You want to savour the delicately balanced flavour profile of the black currant, bergamot and vanilla—as well as the tannic undertones of the Yunnan black tea leaves – in your whipped cream. Bright and familiar strawberries are a welcome addition here, and blackberries fit nicely if you can find them.

The glory of an icebox cake is that you make it a day ahead. It is so easy as to be the culinary version of child’s play. The presence of sugar and vanilla extract in the cream is very low, because there is already enough of each in the tea and cookies. The only trick here is that I ask you to infuse the cream for a few hours, then wait again overnight as the cookies meld and bloom into their layers of jammy tea-syrup, berries and cream. But I promise it’s worth the wait. This sophisticated flavour profile makes a homey dessert once again seem fancy, like the elusive but homegrown black currant itself.

Lady’s Slipper & Black Currant Icebox Cake

4 cups whipping cream

2 tbsp Lady’s Slipper tea leaves

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp vanilla

2 tbsp Lady’s Slipper tea, brewed

1 cup black currant jam or syrup

3 pints strawberries

2 pints blackberries

½ box vanilla wafers, such as Nilla brand

Infuse the whipping cream with 2 tbsp of dry tea leaf overnight, if possible, or 8 hours. You can pop them right into the container in the morning and reach for them in the evening when you are ready to construct your dessert.

Bring brewed tea to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off heat and stir in jam until thoroughly blended. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Reserve one pint of whole strawberries and one pint of blackberries for the top layer.

Rinse your berries. Slice 2 pints of strawberries and toss with one pint of blackberries. Stir in jam mixture to coat thoroughly.

Strain the whipping cream with a fine mesh strainer. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip into soft peaks.

Using a clear glass bowl, place a thin layer of cream on the bottom of the dish. Lay cookies over the cream, fitting a few broken cookies into any big gaps. Scatter berries over the cookies, then top with cream. Smooth whipped cream gently to fill in any large air bubbles. Follow the layers in the pattern of cookies, berries and cream until you reach a final layer of cream. Top with whole strawberries and blackberries, and chill overnight.

 Serve with a sprig of black currants, if you can find them. Enjoy with a cup of delicious Lady’s Slipper Tea.

Best-Ever Pumpkin Spice Muffins

AKA The Ultimate Pumpkin Loaf

It is NOT too soon. It’s not! 

I can see you rolling your eye and groaning. I know, I know. Wait for bloody October for the pumpkin spice business to begin. It’s like ads for Christmas paraphernalia before Hallowe’en. Just hang on, dammit! 

I’m getting this out there now because if I don’t, you’ll go ahead and make some other silly pumpkin spice muffin recipe and there is absolutely no need. This is it. Full stop. 

Ûber-pumpkin-spice muffins. Ultimate pumpkin spice muffins. Top-tier, best-ever, incomparable, essential, supreme, perfect pumpkin spice muffin recipe. No need to trust me. Try it yourself. You’ll see. 

This definitive pumpkin spice muffin recipe, which works equally well as a loaf, is a variation on a recipe I found in an old Food & Drink magazine around 15 years ago. I’ve tried others but they don’t deliver like this one does. Everyone—and I do mean EVERYONE—who has tried it loves it. Obviously pumpkin-spice haters don’t even try. 

I swapped out the whole wheat flour for almond flour to make them even more rich and moist. With the added fat, however, I needed to cut it down a touch to avoid making them heavy and soggy. You would think almond flour would be too hearty but it was not, adding a nice heft along with some protein and fibre. They do last longer with the almonds, in fact, they are better the next day, making them ideal as a make-ahead recipe. 

I found the original recipe a little frustrating because you had to mix all your spices, then parcel a bit out and set it aside, and then stop yourself from accidentally mixing up the bowls…all too much for an early morning. Plus I needed more topping for muffins than I did for a loaf. So I’ve upped the spice, added white pepper as a further nod to lovely speculaas. You could do a cream cheese topping, if you’re feeling decadent. 

Best Ever Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin spice muffins stay moist
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #muffins, #pumpkinspice, #pumpkinspicemuffins
Author: Theresa


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (250 mL)
  • ½  cup almond flour (175 mL) or ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder (10 mL)
  • ½ tsp baking soda (2 mL)
  • ½ tsp salt (2 mL)
  • 1 ½  tsp cinnamon (7 mL)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg ( 2 mL)
  • ½ tsp ginger ( 2 mL)
  • ¼  tsp ground cloves (1 mL)
  • ¼  tsp allspice (1mL)
  • ¼  tsp white pepper (1mL)
  • 1 ¼  cup brown sugar (300 mL)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (250 mL)
  • 1/3  cup vegetable oil (75 mL)
  • ¼  cup orange juice, fresh or concentrate) (50 mL)


  • ½ cup brown sugar (125 mL)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (2 mL)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg (2 mL)
  • ½ tsp ginger (1mL)
  • ¼  tsp allspice (1mL)
  • ¼  tsp cloves (1mL)


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • Place flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  • Place spices and brown sugar in a bowl; add eggs and orange juice beat until smooth. Stir in canned pumpkin and oil.
  • Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined.
  • Stir together topping ingredients until well mixed. Spoon a little on top of each muffin, or spread equally over the loaf. 
  • For muffins, place cupcake liners in a muffin tin. Divide batter equally and top with sugar-spice mixture. If using almond flour, bake for 20 minutes.
    With whole wheat flour, bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a piece of spaghetti comes out clean. 
  • For a loaf, line a loaf pan with parchment paper and fill with mixture, then add topping evenly across the top. Bake on middle rack of oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick (or spaghetti!) inserted in centre comes out clean. Let pan cool on rack for 15 minutes; turn loaf out and let cool completely.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Warm Duck and Lentil Salad

I’m not even going to pretend that this is healthy, although honestly, it could be worse. Once you try it, you won’t care in the slightest. Picnics, family BBQs, feeding whosoever is in your bubble, or dropping it off to those with whom you cannot break bread at present. This is hearty, rich, decadent and yet still filled with healthful legumes. I won’t say it’s uncomplicated either—it’s full of several little steps­, which can be broken up and tackled in stages. 

Why is this a salad, rather than a warm side dish? Mainly because I use a vinaigrette to dress the lentils. But instead of oil, duck fat is warmed up and used along with the reduced pan juices. I got this idea from the brilliant Brad Long, chef and owner of Café Belong and Belong Catering, and sometimes star of the Food Network smash hit Restaurant Makeover. His Brown Butter Vinaigrette, born out of necessity, provided me with the understanding that different types of fat can stand in for oil in a salad dressing. Duck fat is delectable in any recipe. Here it is paired with the vinegar from my Smoky Onion Pickles, and the pickled onions, paired with a sweet mustard. Fresh tarragon makes this feel like the most French thing you’ll eat all summer, and well into the fall.

I made use of pre-made duck confit, but roast duck legs would work perfectly here. As long as the skin is crisped and thrown in with the shredded meat, you should have plenty of hearty flavour to boost your lentils, with or without pan juices. 

The other cool trick I learned this week is that sous vide lentils are their own thing entirely. I usually put puy lentils in the pressure cooker, not caring if some become mushy. Preferring it in fact, for lentil and potato soup. I’ve tried cooking them carefully on the stovetop to preserve them in distinct and unbroken form, only to find that the age of the lentils can create wildly varying results. And they require an exceedingly watchful eye. Sous vide lentils, on the other hand, can be left for hours without any fear of disintegration, and leaving you free to turn your attention to other matters. You can cook them in a Ziplock bag, but I cooked them in mason jars.

This salad can be easily doubled for a crowd. Makes a nice side dish or a main with a wholegrain sourdough and an endive salad. 

Warm Duck and Lentil Salad

Hearty, rich, decadent and yet still filled with healthful lentils, this salad uses pickled onions and crispy duck for a hefty wallop of umami.
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Canadian, French
Keyword: #duck, #lentils, #salad
Servings: 8 people


  • Sous vide device (optional)


  • 1 cup puy or beluga lentils
  • 2 ½ cups water 
  • 2-4 fresh bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp sea salt 
  • 1 whole leg of duck confit (or 2 roast duck legs)
  • 1 cup tarragon, washed and chopped 
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup smoky onion pickles 
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp salted capers
  • ½ cup vinegar (from the onion pickles, or white wine or champagne vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard  
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup duck fat, warmed
  • ¼ cup pan juices 
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 pats duck fois gras (optional)


  • Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve, then place them in jars or bags with water, bay leaves and salt. Set sous vide devise to 190ºF (87ºC) and cook for 90 minutes, or up to 3 hours. Open and let cool. Drain and set aside. 
  • Alternatively, bring lentils, salt, bay leaves to a boil in 4 cups of water, then simmer until tender, 25-30 minutes.
  • Place hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350ºF for 12-15 minutes. Let cool. Rub off most of the skins, then chop roughly with a knife or pulse in a food processor until roughly ground. Set aside.
  • Remove the duck from its bag, pouring the juices into a small pan. Bring juices to a boil, then reduce over medium heat until you have about ¼ cup. 
  • Reheat duck in a cast iron frying pan, browning and crisping the skin. Remove the skin and crisp it on all sides. Melt any fat under the skin. Reserve ½ cup of the fat.
  • Remove duck to a cutting board, let cool slightly. Shred with hands. 
  • Chop onion pickles (use fresh mild onions or shallots if you don’t have the onion pickles) into a fine mince. Chop tarragon and parsley, then throw all three into a bowl with the lentils. 
  • Make the vinaigrette: put the vinegar, garlic cloves, capers, mustard, salt and pepper together in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pour over the lentils, onions and herbs. Warm up the duck fat in the pan. Toss together thoroughly. 
  • Add half of the hazelnuts and the duck meat and skin, and chopped fois gras, if using, and toss again. Top with remaining hazelnuts and a few sprigs of tarragon. 


You can use your own sous vide duck, buy it, or roast a couple of duck legs to use instead. 
If you happen to find duck foes gras, adding it in will take this dish from decadent to doubly delicious. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Potage Jacqueline

There is something so delightfully nostalgic about an old cookbook. Once beloved, long since fallen out of fashion, then dusted off and revived once more. Like finding your childhood teddy bear or an old photo you didn’t realize you’d kept.

I don’t generally go in for nostalgia. It’s usually only fun for a brief moment; a warm memory, a resurgence of feeling, a fuzzy image—suddenly ungraspable and empty, all-too-quickly receding again into the past. The present comes quickly knocking again to remind you of what’s what.

Not so with old cookbooks. It’s been twenty years at least, but I knew exactly where to find New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant in my library, and exactly which page to turn to.

I learned to cook from Moosewood cookbooks. As a young West Coast vegetarian whose eating habits offended my family of hunters, I was thrilled to learn that books and restaurants and a whole food culture was geared to people like me, because there was a whole movement of people like me. I am no longer vegetarian, due to the pressure of feeding meat-lovers in my house, but I often eat vegan cuisine when I’m home alone. It’s better for animals, the planet and my health. And more vegetables can never be a bad thing.

This is a non-vegetarian take on a vegetarian soup that I made once for my friend Jacqueline. She was delighted to have a soup bearing her name. I’ve upped the cream and switched out the water for chicken stock. Both tweaks make for a richer soup, but honestly, water or veggie stock will do just fine. I’ve upped the ginger, too, but trust me, it’s not overwhelming. It’s a very balanced, still a very French-seeming soup, perfect for transition weather. Gently from summer to fall we go, back and forth, then and now. 

The other tweak was the lemon. The original recipe called for a floating lemon slice in the soup, which is a beautiful garnish, but it also was essential to the flavour, but a very uneven delivery method. I didn’t want the acid of lemon juice, and I didn’t want to boil the lemon zest, which would make the soup unbearably bitter. So, I grated so zest—a fair bit—to be blended in with the cream. It makes the sweet potato soup tastier and less insistently healthful.

If you can find fresh bay leaf, please do use it—dried is acceptable but just not the same. Tarragon also makes a lovely garnish. Potage Jacqueline, la deuxième fois.

Potage Jacqueline

A luxurious update of an old Moosewood recipe, sweet potatoes and cream scented with ginger.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack, Soup
Cuisine: American, Canadian, French
Keyword: cream of sweet potato, ginger, soup, sweet potato ginger, sweet potato soup, sweet potatoes


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 large onions, or 3 small
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups chicken stock 
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1 cup fresh whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest 


  • Melt butter in oil over medium low heat. Sauté onions slowly until they are translucent. Add ginger and celery, stirring until celery is soft. 
  • Add chopped sweet potatoes, salt, bay leaf, white pepper and chicken stock. If you have the leaves from the celery, throw that in too. If the stock doesn’t quite cover the potatoes, don’t worry, they will submerge as they cook. You want them to be almost covered by liquid, not quite. Add more stock or water as needed, leaving about half an inch of potatoes sticking out. 
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are thoroughly softened. Let cool a little to make the soup easier to handle. Remove bay leaves and celery leaves, if using. 
  • Blend soup with cream and lemon zest on high until perfectly smooth, about 2 minutes. Reheat gently on the stovetop. Serve with a slice of lemon and some chopped tarragon, if desired.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Strawberry Pistachio Icebox Cake

The Ultimate in Strawberries and Cream

Is there any more heavenly combination than strawberries and cream? Actually—yes. Strawberries and pistachio. More accurately, strawberries and pistachio and cream. Okay, okay: strawberries, pistachio, cream and cookies. That’s it! I swear!

This is all you need to begin the most divine of all icebox cakes. What is an icebox cake, you ask? It’s like a trifle, minus the custard, booze optional. This is a family-friendly, liqueur and liquor-free concoction, and it is a crowd pleaser. There is nothing to it, but slapping some fabulousness together and letting it sit overnight until it becomes Über-fabulous. Heaven in a bowl, and easy as you please.

I’ve made this before with vanilla whipped cream and it was so good we all scarfed it down until our tummies hurt and then got up again the next morning to gobble it down for breakfast. But strawberry and pistachio has to be one of my all-time favourite combinations (you’ll see many incarnations of this delicious pairing to come on this blog) and it fits so perfectly here.

I have used a store-bought pistachio butter, but from the finest of food merchants: SOMA Chocolatemaker in Toronto. You can make your own, of course, but why would you, when products like this exist. Next time you are in the Distillery District or on Queen West, stop in a grab a couple of jars (the hazelnut too), along with a myriad of other treats.*

SOMA Chocolatemaker makes beautiful pistachio paste.

If you’d like to try this with Homemade Pistachio Paste, the incomparable Stella Parks aka BRAVETART gives you the key here. But I had the SOMA version in my cupboard, and the only raw pistachios I could find were from California. They are bland and lacking in the subtle, magical, ethereal pistachio flavour that comes from Sicilian, Iranian or Moroccan pistachios. So while I’m waiting on a special order of the very best pistachios, I’ll happily buy this smooth and flawless nut butter by people who know their stuff when it comes to good food.

When you layer this cake, the cookies and strawberries will not lay flat or smooth, so you’ll press and spread the cream a bit to fill in any air holes. What doesn’t get filled will likely disappear as the dry cookies expand, absorbing liquid from both strawberries and cream, transforming overnight into the most heavenly, cakey, delightfully cream-covered strawberry slop you will ever have. It’s messy and sludgy and gorgeous in its deliberate disarray.

If you think something so simple and so easy can’t be this divine, you will be amazed and delighted beyond all measure. Try it. What have you got to lose, but your deference to structure, form and—once you taste it—proportion?

*For goods from SOMA: You don’t need to hit the brick & mortar actual store. Everything is online, with FREE shipping within Canada (min $50) & Porch Drops (min $50) + Next Day Curbside pick-ups at the factory. And NO! They did not pay me to say this. Sadly. Doesn’t matter. Just get your hands on some of this business because it’s the real deal.

Strawberry Pistachio Icebox Cake

Strawberries and pistachio cream soften vanilla cookies into a cake-like texture for a bowl of glorious decadence.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 1 day
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #chantillycream, #feedsacrowd, #goopygood, #iceboxcake, #iceboxcakerecipe, #makeahead, #overnightcake, #pistachio, #pistachiocream, #strawberries, #strawberry, #strawberrycake, #strawberrycakerecipe, #summerdesserts, #whippingcream
Servings: 8 people


  • 4 pints strawberries, rinsed and sliced
  • 4 cups whipped cream (1 L)
  • 1 box Nilla wafers
  • ½ cup pistachio paste (storebought or homemade)
  • ½ cup granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • Rinse and slice three pints of strawberries. For the last pint, remove the green tops and set those berries aside for later.
  • Add ½ cup of cream to the bowl of a standmixer along with the pistachio paste. Using the paddle attachment, blend on low until the pistachio is fully incorporated into the cream, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  • Add sugar, vanilla and the rest of the cream. Using the whisk attachment, beat together on low until mostly blended, about one minute, then beat on high until stiff peaks form.
  • Smear a ½ cup of pistachio cream on the bottom of your bowl (preferably glass) to anchor your cookies.
  • Your layers should proceeds like this: cookies, strawberries, cream. Smooth your cream over each layer gently. You want to fill in any huge gaps without completely squahing and deflating the cream. A few holes are not a problem, they will fill up as the cookies expand.
  • Keep going until you are out of sliced berries. Top with one last layer of cream, and chill overnight. You can add your whole berries to decorate before you chill it or after, whicheve rmakes it easier to wrap it up. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Haskap Berry Slushie

The newest, weirdest, surprisingly pleasing superfood

Haskap. How do you say that? Just as it sounds – with an “a” like “at” or “hat”. Doesn’t reel off the tongue with great ease, nor does it recall easily, since it sounds like nothing else you might hear in regular conversation. It is said to derive from a Japanese word; I’m sure there’s a gentler Japanese pronunciation than the awkward noise I’ve heard people make when referring to this berry. They are known by prettier monikers, too: edible honeysuckle, blue honeysuckle and honeyberry. This is a trick. It’s meant to make them sound so lovely that you fail to notice how ugly they are. You won’t.

There’s no way you could call these things pretty. I think the visual comparisons are immediate and thoroughly off-putting, (at least that my mind, perhaps you’re less squeamish or prone to imagination), so I’ll refrain from naming them. Not pleasant to behold in the slightest. 

Behold the haspkap berry. Also known as Swamp Fly Honeysuckle. Go figure.

What they are, though, is incredible tasty, which I only discovered by forcing myself to try one. First bite seemed mouth-puckeringly sour, next bite was all sweetness and joy. Which is great, because they are really, really good for you. 

“Haskap berries are high in Vitamin C and A, fiber, and potassium. Specifically, they have three times the antioxidants of a blueberry, more vitamin C than an orange and almost as much potassium as a banana. They are extremely high in antioxidants such as Anthocyanins, Poly Phenols, and Bioflavonoids.” LaHave Berry River Farm

I don’t know how many berries it takes to defeat an orange, but let’s accept that they are nutrient rich, shall we? Now, not every fruit or vegetable is best consumed raw, but Vitamin C and antioxidants are easily lost through heat, and the raw taste is so lovely, let’s go with it. Most people describe them as tasting like a mixture of blueberry and raspberry, with varying third influences such as Honey Crisp apples, elderberry or black currant. I think the more common association with black grapes is the most apt. And I gotta tell ya; ya put those all together, and —strange as it sounds—somehow it works. 

They are quite addictive once you get a taste for them, but what to DO with such an unappealing mutt of a berry? They are apparently a bit watery when baked, which can be easily remedied by using a small amount of haskap berries with a pectin-rich fruit like a plum (skin-on for more pectin and firmness). I’m guessing such a combo would make a heavenly pie. 

But this is the new superfood! We must find a way to enjoy the fabulous raw taste while – if at all possible – concealing the look of the hideous little beasts. So I went with a boring old smoothie.

I left a little pulp in the smoothie, not wanting to decimate all fibre.

A smoothie seems such a waste, and especially paired with blueberry, which could easily drown out the unique flavour of the haskap berries. But my wild blueberries got smushed and dampened in the delivery box, so there was nothing for it but to give it a whirl, so to speak. Just berries – haskap and blueberry – and a touch of watermelon to keep it sweet, light, and refreshing. Vegan, too. 

It was scrumptious. So delectable, the pickiest of toddlers would gulp it down, no added sugar. I tried swapping out the watermelon for yoghurt and a touch of water (milk coated the berries in a cloying manner). Also fabulous. No added sugar necessary! 

Try this smoothie/slushie. And try haskap berries when you can get your hands on them, anyway you like: in fruit salads, scones, pancakes or in a honey-sweetened cooked sauce. Roasted or raw on a green salad with cherries and goat cheese and almonds. Or a coulis, blitzed and strained. Make people guess what that is on their cheesecake. Or poundcake, ice cream or meringue. Or baked brie. 

Haskap Berry Slushie

Haskap berries are as nutritious as they are weird looking. Great in fruit salad or in a smoothie.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Course: Breakfast, Drinks, Snack
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #haskapberries, #haskapberry, #rawjuice, #smoothie, #superfood, #vegan
Servings: 4 glasses


  • Blender


  • 1 cup haskap berries
  • 1 cup blueberries, preferably wild
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon, seeds removed
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup ice (otional)


  • Throw your ingredients together in a blender until desired texture is acheived. I like it a little pulpy for extra fibre.


I tried substituting the water with milk or blueberry juice. Milk gives a discordant texture – I’ll try oat milk next time. 
Blueberry juice made it too sweet and overwhelmed the other flavours. This smoothie is so sweet already, it doesn’t need the sugar boost from juice. If you must add some, squeeze a quarter of a fresh lemon or orange in. Don’t overdue it or you’ll lose the elusive haskap berry flavour. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


Bonus: if you have little children that love eating bugs, especially in defiance of parental rules and common decency, just tell them you’ve collected some very sizable larvae or baby slugs for them to eat and let them chase the neighbours’ kids through the yard. It’s a superfood AND an exhilarating pastime! 

Cheesecake feature image


Fruit-filled, sous-vide, light and fluffy, this is the most flavourful cheesecake you will ever have

Welcome to the Cheesecake Revolution. This new ingredient-method mashup gives you a unique type of cheesecake: one with the fruit flavour in the batter, not on top.

I devised this cheesecake recipe for my audition for the first season of The Great Canadian Baking Show. Sad to say that I did not make it on, but the producers were incredibly gracious and I left the audition feeling lucky to have been invited to participate. What do you think—should I audition again? Maybe let me know after you’ve tried this cheesecake. 

This recipe is special thanks to two things: the miracle of sous vide cooking, and freeze-dried fruit. At the time, this was a really innovative use of ingredients and method, although both commonly used by foodies now.

Freeze-dried fruits are everywhere nowadays, but I first learned about them when I saw this post on the Serious Eats website by the brilliant Stella Parks (aka Brave Tart): Super Thick Fruity Food Processor Whipped Cream

Freeze-dried cherries are available all year around.

The idea is that you pulverize freeze-dried fruits with sugar into a fine, Kool Aid-like dust, and then blitz it with whipped cream. The fruit is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs some of the moisture from the cream, leaving an extra-thick, smooth, fully flavoured whipped-cream topping. I thought, if you can do this with cream, why couldn’t you do it with cream cheese? I wanted a cheesecake that was flavoured throughout, not just plain vanilla with fruit on top. 

Looks like chunkier Kool Aid.

Well, turns out that if you try to beat fruity sugar into your cream cheese, it doesn’t get all that light and fluffy.  But if you add to it the sour cream and let it sit while you make the rest of the batter, it supplies a fulsome, hearty flavour to your batter. 

Where it got tricky in devising the recipe is that you need granulated sugar to help aerate the cream cheese as you beat it, too. Obviously sugar in the cream cheese AND sugar in the fruit could lead to a cloying, tooth-aching mess. But both require it. So I had to reduce the sugar in each part of the recipe as much as possible while keeping it at a functional base level. Too little sugar in the cream cheese and your cake will be dense. Too little sugar in the fruit mixture and your fruit powder will harden as it is processed. After several trials, I hit a version that is just right.

This recipe owes much to Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Cordon Rose Cheesecake from her classic Cake Bible (as does my Banana Chai Cheesecake recipe, for those who love spice). I tried to replace the lemon juice with cherry juice, but it needed the tang to avoid being overly sweet. I’ve increased the amount of cream cheese to make up for the absorbent fruit powder. I’ve increased the vanilla both to add liquid and make a more assertive base note to complement the cherry flavour.

Once you try this cheesecake, you’ll be sharing it with all your friends. My taste testers were certainly enthusiastic, agreeing that all the experimentation along the way was well worth it. If you don’t have a sous vide device, you can cook this batter in the usual way. It just won’t be as fluffy and light, but then some people prefer a cheesecake that is more dense.

Almond cookies make the perfect crunchy accompaniment to this mousse-like cheesecake. @somachocolatemaker

Top with freshly made cherry sauce, crumble amaretti, and top with whipped cream. Or dark chocolate sauce on freshly pitted cherries. Or mixed berries, or lemon curd, or….you get the idea.

New-fangled Cherry Cheesecake

This original cheescake uses freeze-dried fruit to saturate the batter with cherry flavour. Sous vide makes it lighter and fluffier, but you can make it in a traditional cheesecake pan and water bath as well.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #cheesecake, #cherrycheesecake, #sousvide
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Theresa


  • Sous vide device or oven
  • Mason jars, 16 x 4oz, or 8 x 8 oz jars OR cheesecake pan
  • Stand mixer
  • Food processor or mini-chopper


  • 3 pkgs cream cheese Philidelphia brand, if possible
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 tsp freeze-dried cherries (60 grams)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp cherry flavouring 
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  •  Attach your sous vide device to a heatproof container, then fill ¾ full of water. Preheat to the water to 80 °C or 176 °F
  • Make the flavoured cream first: into the bowl of a food processor (small bowl or mini-chopper if you have it), pulverize the cherries with ½ cup of sugar until it mostly resembles a fine dust. A few little pieces are okay but bigger chunks mean you need to pulse a few more times. Stir into the sour cream and let sit. 
  •  Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and blend with remaining 3/4 cup of sugar using the whisk attachment. Beat for 3 minutes on medium high speed until light and smooth, scraping down the side as needed.
  • Add the egg yolks one at a time on medium low speed, scraping down the sides after each addition
  • Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  • Stir fruit and sour cream mixture again, trying to make sure as much of the fruit sugar has dissolved as possible, squelching any little pockets you find with a brisk stir.
  • Beat into the cream cheese mixture gently until fully incorporated, no more.
  • Cast the batter into your jars using a ladle or serving spoon. Fill to just below the rim, leaving about a half inch of space between the cheesecake and the lid. Screw on fingertip tight (see here) and place gently in your preheated water bath. Use tongs if you like to avoid getting splashed by hot water. .
  • Cook for 90 minutes.
  • When they are done, use those tongs again to remove the jars to a tray or a flat tea towel on a hard surface. Let them sit until they have cooled to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight. 
  • Top with freshly made cherry sauce, crumble amaretti, and top with whipped cream. Or dark chocolate sauce on freshly pitted cherries. Or mixed berries, or lemon curd, or….you get the idea.


  • If the cherries aren’t powdered with some sugar they can turn sticky and hard.
  • If the bowl of the food processor is too big, the cherries won’t pulverize into a small enough pieces.
  • Cherry flavouring is really strong – err on the side of caution. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Add with care.
  • This recipe works really well with freeze-dried raspberries as well, and I’m sure blueberries would do too. Strawberries tend to be too mild in flavour to stand up to the tang of the cream cheese and sour cream.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Plum & Blackberry Galettes with Hazelnut Frangipane

I’ve wanted to do a plum pie since Cook’s Illustrated rebooted the concept with a Plum Ginger pie in their last spring issue. I thought adding blackberries would be an original way to give it some depth, but a quick online search told me that combo has, of course, been tried a million times. The thing is, it’s usually done with Chinese 5-spice, or more ginger and cloves and orange, and while I love all that, it makes me think of Christmas more than summer.

I did not want to let the fruit sit too long in the sugar, as it does in their recipe, since it would release a lot of liquid that be too much for my little hand pies. I added a hint of Frangelico to make it stick to the fruit after a quick toss. Another dollop of Frangelico in the nut mixture worked again to intensify the flavour.

I made these galettes with purple plums first, then yellow. Both were good partners for the blackberries, and both benefitted from the softening effect of the bed of crushed hazelnuts. Almonds are the more obvious pairing with stone fruit (they’re related), but the earthiness of the hazelnuts combats the tartness of the plums.

With purple plums leave the skins on. It adds colour and retains the shape for defined slices. With the yellow plums, the sweet flesh can be overwhelmed by the tartness of the skins. I left them on and found them quite sharp. They were fine in a pie mixed with purple plums, where all the fruit was baked in the syrup that formed when they were left to rest in sugar for 20 minutes. For the little galettes, I might peel them and use the pretty blackberries to disguise any indistinguishable yellow plum flesh.

You can make one big galette, but smaller ones are great for individual portions (social distancing!) since there’s no need to cut and serve. You plop them on a plate and let people head up to the table one at a time.

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Seasonal plums and blackberries go nicely. Hazelnut base takes it to the top!

If you want to make pie instead of galettes, I would make both the pastry and the plum filling the day before, and add the blackberries just before you fill the crust. Letting the plums macerate for a good long while makes them swim in a gooey sugary syrup that would be too much liquid for the free-form galettes. But that same sweet nectar will bake into a delightful jammy mess in a deep dish. No need for the frangipane, but if you want a little nut flavour, you can line the bottom crust with some store-bought almond paste. No shame in that at all.

Gooey but tasty!

I used Brave Tart’s (Stella Park’s) Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie Dough Recipe, because it holds its shape well, especially when it’s had a day to firm up in the fridge. And it’s delicious.

Plum & Blackberry Galettes with Hazelnut Frangipane

Small, rustic, freeform pies loaded with seasonal fruit on hazelnut paste.