Friday, July 29, 2011

Culinary Dream Team- Chuck's No Knead Bread

When famed food writer, Mark Bittman, posted a "No-knead bread" recipe for his "The Minimalist" section in The New York Times back in 2006, the simple bread recipe took the foodie world by storm. (the original article can be found here: The NY Times).

Various incarnations soon followed. Here is one that I've slightly adapted from chef Chuck Hughes version...I love that it takes less time (most of the no-knead recipes took 12 hours to rise)...his method reduced it to less than 1 hour. In one morning, two loaves of bread can be made. (although another time can mix the dough before you go to sleep, and in the morning, just put in the oven to bake).

It's difficult for me to buy bread now that something so simple, easy and delicious can be done without machines and in one morning...oh yes, it can be done!

No Knead Bread
(Chuck Hughes recipe here)


   3 cups very warm but not hot water
   1 tablespoon dry active yeast (or just under two- 8 gram packages)
   1 tablespoon sugar
   1 tablespoon vegetable oil
   1 tablespoon vinegar
   3 cups white flour
   2 ½ cup – 3 cup Whole Wheat Flour 
   1 tablespoon coarse salt
   A sprinkle of raw sugar (for sweet bread—I used brown sugar and cinnamon)
   A sprinkle of steak spice (for savory bread- I used rosemary & hint of salt)
1.Mix together in your large bread making bowl and allow to bubble up and foam: The yeast, sugar and water. Wait a few minutes till yeast starts to work then add vinegar and oil

2. Add the white flour cup by cup stirring well after each addition. Then add the whole wheat flour mixing in the salt at one point, cup by cup stirring well after each addition. This dough will still be a little bit wet and spongy.

3. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 – 40 minutes or until it has doubled in size. 

4. Using a big spatula (I used a pastry cutter), spoon out into 2 well-greased loaf pans. I used one stone loaf pan for the sweet bread, and an enamelled Dutch oven for the savory one.  Using your fingers if needed, press the sides down, helping to create the perfect loaf shape. (do not knead)

5. With a knife make 2 or 3 diagonal shallow incisions in the loaves.

6. Top with your favourite herbs or spices for the savoury loaf, and the sweet sugar for the sweet loaf. I used brown sugar and cinnamon for the sweet loaf, and salt with Rosemary grown from my garden.

7. Bake the loaves about 50 minutes @ 375 degrees F or until they are golden brown and crusty on top and sound hollow when tapped on the underside.

Let sit if you can wait, for at least 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. I like to serve the sweet bread with butter or jam, and the savoury one dipped in a balsamic vinegar/olive oil mixture (like they do in Italian restaurants).

Mmm...the house smells so good....

Simply Beautiful Now

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Culinary Dream Team- Ina's French Apple Tart

Ina Garten's French Apple Tart

This is such a great and simple (sooo easy) dessert for the sophisticated crowd. Ina makes her own puff pastry, but I've adapted her recipe to make it even easier since I have found these store bought ones (as mentioned in my last post, my local food store carries Maison Gourmet puff pastry, which are chef quality, no additives, pure butter pastries) which work just as well.

French Apple Tart
Serves 6 to 8 people

For the pastry:

  • Premade/frozen puff pastry like Maison Gourmet

For the apples:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
  • 1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. 
  • Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
  • Peel and core the apples. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don't worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! 
  • When the tart's done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. 
  • Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper. 
  • Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

This is heavenly with homemade vanilla ice-cream!

Bon Appetit,
Simply Beautiful Now

Monday, July 25, 2011

Culinary Dream Team-Giada's Puff Pastry Salmon

Nothing beats having friends over for a quick dinner party, and when I discovered this dish, it has become my go-to recipe when I need to make something sophisticated on a last minute's notice.  (I often make this on a regular weeknight, to elevate a meal from ho-hum to restaurant quality)

This recipe is typical of many Giada De Laurentiis recipes...just simple food with one element that gives it a different dimension (the pesto here makes this dish slightly Italian...if you replaced with wasabi mayo, it would make this more Asian). This dish is so easily adaptable, that I usually alter it for nut allergies or just changing the arrangement of the food to accommodate smaller hands, making it easier to eat. The variations are endless!

If you use organic or pure ingredients,
it makes such a simple recipe seem complicated. 
I use Maison Gourmet's puff pastry, found in the frozen section of your local grocer.  It has pure ingredients, and tastes like homemade.  

Here's the recipe.

Puff Pastry Salmon
(adapted from original recipe at Food Network)
Prep time:  10 minutes

• 4 pieces of purchased puff pastry, each cut to be just larger than a piece of salmon
• 4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
• 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
• 1/4 cup purchased pesto
• 2 tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
On a 9x12 pyrex glass baking pan,  place the 4 pieces of puff pastry. 

In a separate baking pan lined with foil, place the 4 pieces of salmon (this makes it easier to remove the fish, especially if it has skin attached).

Sprinkle each piece of salmon with 1 tablespoon of the sliced almonds. Put both in the oven and bake for 20 minutes (I find original 10 minutes quoted in the recipe not quite long enough). You can omit the almonds and just use olive oil, melted butter alone, or with dill.
Tip:  To make quick toasted almonds, 
put the almonds in a small bowl, with 1 tablespoon of butter 
and microwave for approximately 2 minutes, stirring halfway.

Top each puff pastry with 1 tablespoon of pesto. You can replace the pesto with mayonnaise (I like mixing the mayo with hint of wasabi paste to give this an Asian dimension) for nut allergies.

Although the original recipe says top the pesto with 2 slices of tomatoes each, I find the combination of fish and puff pastry quite "high", and it would be difficult to cut through a third layer of tomato. So I omit that step and put the fish on the puff pastry.

I usually add the tomatoes on the side for the kids.

Or add a nice salad.

Then serve.

Buon Appetito! 

Simply Beautiful Now

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Culinary Dream Team

    Now that you’ve seen the spaces I’d like to live in, now it’s time to feed the crew that would live or visit those spaces.

    Our family enjoys a variety of foods…everyday chicken to sushi (it’s rare that children have cravings for sushi, but mine do).  And I do enjoy cooking and baking. However, I'd also like to sit back and relax and let someone else do the culinary arts thing...

    If I could hire a chef, I’d have...

    Ina Garten for my upscale parties...

    Giada De Laurentiss for fun and casual family and friends gatherings...

    ...and Chuck Hughes…for girls night out dinners
    (Jamie Oliver was my second pick, but I think 
    I would tire of his lisp by the time dessert rolled around...)

    In the following week, I will showcase a few signature recipes from these talented chefs…dishes that I’ve actually made myself (so they can’t be too difficult!).

    Enjoy in good taste!

    Simply Beautiful Now

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Cottage Revisited

    After reviewing all the lovely places in Thornbury the other day, although I’d love a beach house designed by Victoria Hagen (as mentioned last week), I think I may have found an equally beautiful cottage/potential retirement home that would also work as a beach house in the summer AND a ski chalet in the winter, and be more suitable for Thornbury living.

    I love the crisp white walls, making the place beachy and clean, juxtaposed with the rus
    tic exposed beams and architecture, reminiscent of a ski lodge.

    Look at all those windows!

    Beautiful greyed oak floors with plank table and slipcovered
    chairs...easy to change to dark colours for the winter!

    Two islands!  The white cabinetry with the industrial
    range and hints of black, and rustic wood floors and beams...beautiful!

    A place for all those dishes! An entertainer's dream!

    The horizontal beadboard panelled walls soften this
    sophisticated and upscale bedroom.

    A room with a view.

    More beds for guests.

    Luxurious baths...also with a view.

    The marble penny tile is great retro touch...
    very cottage inspired yet sophisticated.

    Nice place to bath the kids?

    {source: Designed by Tracery Interiors, &

    Now that I have my getaway home designed in my mind, all I need is the perfect waterfront spot...patience...I need patience!

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    A Place to Stay

    One of the places I want to retire to is, in my humble opinion, one of the most picturesque places to visit in Ontario “cottage” country…Thornbury & Clarksburg. 

    rg is a quaint town with beautiful art studios filled with lovely paintings by local artists, and the neighboring Thornbury is
    a posh yacht, beach, golf and ski town with the quaintness of upscale country (there is a yacht club, 3 to 4 private and public ski clubs in the area, as well as some very good PGA golf courses too), With some beautiful waterfront hiking and biking trails, there is plenty to satisfy those with an active lifestyle or those who enjoy fine art.

    Can you imagine skipping rocks on the water..

    Going for a relaxing boat ride...

    Having a quick golf game...
    { source:  Lora Bay }

    Then strolling to the sophisticated quaintness of the main street in town for fresh mussels, seafood, local beef or apple pie (there are an abundance of apple orchards to pick apples with the kids). 

    Here is a sampling of a typical beach country house…so quaint...

    In the winter, the skiing in the area is fairly good too...

    What a great place to stay...

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Interior Design Dream Team- The Family Estate

    My dream is to design and live in a beautiful and refined Georgian home.  So, when Julie Charbonneau's renovated Georgian estate was featured in Canadian House and Home magazine a few years ago, I was inspired.  I especially adore her beautiful kitchen.  To me, it's the kitchen of all kitchens that I compare to when I flip through design magazines.  It stands the test of time, and the fact that she added almost 1000 square feet to the original home to accommodate a large entertainer's kitchen, I was smitten.

    Her designs are classic elegance with a hint of French provincial style.  There is a sense of grandeur without being outlandish or overindulgent.  Most of the rooms below are pictures of her own home...some are from a Niagara estate that she designed for a client...which was also featured in the H&H magazine.

    Sit back and enjoy...there is a LOT of gorgeousness, so this tour will take quite a while...

    Beautiful place to sit for meals.

    Love the dark french doors with the comfortable chairs
    in the eating area of this kitchen.

    Gorgeous ceiling height cabinetry.

    The Butler's Servery...
    love the pharmaceutical filing cabinets.

    Stunning wrought iron staircase...this was featured on the cover
    of Canadian House and Home magazine (the Niagara house).

    A place to dine with guests.  What lovely detailed cabinets.

    The other side of the dining room...
    where guests can enjoy the scenery outside.

    Beautiful mahogany in the Master suite (Niagara home).

    Entry to child's room...beautiful detailed panels.

    Gorgeous antique daybed...I actually saw this in, I believe,
    her store window in Montreal.

    The black chandelier is so sophisticated
    yet whimsical for a child's room.

    An older child or guest room.  Such peaceful colours.

    Can we get anymore French than this?

    The cantilevered vanity is Ms. Charbonneau's trademark.

    A quiet office or sitting room.

    A restful library to read.

    {source: De Poitier}

    Maybe some day...