My Search for the Best Chocolate Croissant in Toronto – Bonjour Brioche

When I was 10, I lived in Brussels, Belgium, for a short period of time while my Dad was filming a movie.  Every morning, without fail, someone would go out to fetch breakfast: pain au chocolat (better known as a chocolate croissant).  I cannot even begin to explain the luscious, buttery, flaky goodness of a Belgian chocolate croissant.  Better than Paris, the chocolate in Belgium just takes the simple pastry to a whole new level of decadence.  There are no words really…

Ever since I’ve moved back to Toronto, after I finished my undergrad in Montreal, I’ve been on a secret mission to find a pain au chocolat that compares to my childhood memory.  There have certainly been some that have come close, but they’ve never been quite good enough.  As such, since starting this blog, I have decided to slightly tweak my search; my mission is to find the best chocolate croissant in Toronto.

My first stop was Bonjour Brioche, one of my favorite neighbourhood  spots.  Acclaimed for having the best baguettes in the city, this french bakery turned lunch/brunch spot is a must for any Torontonian.  If you haven’t been, GO!!!

Their pain au chocolat is really excellently done, with great flakiness and richness.  The only suggestion I would make is that they could use a little more chocolate – but I’m also a chocolate fanatic.  The chocolate is always un-centered, which means you don’t have it in every bite – make of that what you will.

I definitely recommend them.

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Adrian & Laura’s Wedding Cake

Several months back, Lauren posted about our trial run wedding cakes for my brother’s wedding. Well, the wedding was at the end of June and was absolutely beautiful! (And I must say, so was the cake) Simple, but elegant is the best way to describe the wedding cake.

I ended up using the pound cake recipe I originally used, but with the alterations Lauren and I had made. We substituted cake flour for all-purpose flour, and buttermilk for milk. The result; a to die for pound cake that practically melts in your mouth.

Cake baking was the easy part, it was the hot humid weather in Halifax proved a new challenge I wasn’t anticipating. Relocation from the dining room, adjacent the kitchen where my mother was busy cooking away was necessary to escape the battle of Fondant & Moira VS Humidity. So the logical solution…have my father re-assemble our dining room table in the basement. After a couple attempts to roll the fondant out perfectly, I got the cake exactly where I wanted it to be.

The next challenge was to get the cake from my family’s home, to the hotel where the wedding reception was being held in one piece. You might wonder why this would be a challenge, and if this is the case it means you have never driven with my mother. Luckily we made it there, and the cake arrived in one piece.

The reception was lovely, and my brother Adrian and his wife Laura loved the cake. Laura’s mother froze the top tier of the cake for them while they are away in Germany. I can’t wait for them to enjoy it again on their 1 year wedding anniversary. (Although I’m sure it will not be nearly as tasty after being frozen for a year!)

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blueberry Tart with White Port and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

One of my new favourites, this little tart will please anyone! I recently had a friend over for dinner and completely forgot to plan dessert. I happened to have the ingredients for this dish in my cupboard because it is just so simple it’s hard not to have everything you need on hand.  If I had a little bit more time, I would have made a delicious White Port and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream to serve alongside.

All you need is a basic pie crust recipe…..

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

1.)    Butter must be cold, not room temperature. Cut the butter into small cubes.

2.) Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter but only pulse until the butter is mixed in to pea sized clumps. Add the ice water until the dough just comes together.  Be very careful not to over-mix.  A great pie crust is soft and crumbly, without being chewy or hard to cut through.  The less you mix any dough, the softer it will be.

2.)     Remove dough from food processor and cover it with flour so that it is easier to roll out. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick (make sure the dough isn’t sticking to the table as you roll it out! Just sprinkle more flour on BOTH surfaces of the dough if it is.) Press the dough into greased tart pans, and cover with parchment paper and uncooked beans to blind bake the crust.

Blind bake the crust in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 10-30 minutes (depending on the size of your tart). You want to be sure the dough is sufficiently chilled before blind baking to make sure the sides don’t “melt”.  Remove the beans/parchment from the shell, and poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust to allow the air to escape. Allow to bake for another 5 minutes or so until it is a light golden brown.

4.)     Fill pie and bake for 10-15 minutes.

…Blueberry Port Filling

2 small sized containers of blueberries

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup port

Corn Starch Slurry – to thicken

In small pot, cook 1 container of blueberries with sugar and port. Combine about 1 tablespoon of cornstach to a couple tablespoons of water to make a slurry.  Add the slurry to the blueberry mixture to thicken it (this will ensure that your amazing crispy crust will remain that way).  Once this becomes soft and syrupy, add the second container of berries (if you add both at the beginning, there will be no whole berries and your filling will be very mushy) Pour into pre baked pie crusts and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wedding Cake Take 1

Moira‘s brother, Adrian, is getting married on June 25th (congratulations!!).  As they are both originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the wedding will be taking place there with the whole family in attendance.  Although neither of us have EVER even attempted to make a wedding cake (a two-to-three-tiered cake covered in rolling fondant), when they had their cake provider back out last minute, Moira was there to save the day, offering to bake it for them instead.

And thus our wedding cake adventures have begun and we had our first trial run, from start to finish, yesterday/last night (baking takes forever).  The only practice either of us have had is watching the Food Network’s Cake-Off Challenges and other cake decorating shows that have recently become so popular, such as Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes.  Being a die-hard fan of pretty much anything Food Network (with a few exceptions of course, cough cough Rachel Ray), I consider myself quite the Cake-Off aficionado.  It’s pretty astounding how much you can actually gain from watching reality shows, Food Network reality shows at least.

Anyways, starting with the actually cake baking itself, we decided to go with a classic pound cake (sturdy, heavy, and tasty!).  We doubled the recipe and tweaked the second batch, to see if it would be better or worse.

In the second batch we used buttermilk instead of milk and cake flour instead of all-purpose.  The ending result had a much softer and pleasant texture and a great tangy-ness that we loved.  I would highly suggest the tweaked recipe over the original, although both are really awesome (best pound cake I’ve ever had).

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Fondant rolling was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Having seen many Food Network Challenges gone wrong, most of the disasters were fondant related.  Fondant is very much like play doe and therefore must be handled as such.  It is easy to roll out, but hard to handle with your hands because of the risk of finger prints.  I think Moira did an awesome job with the fondant.
Where we need improvements:
The buttercream icing:  it was far too sweet for such a sweet pound cake so we were thinking of making it a cream cheese buttercream for the next try.  Also, we did not put enough buttercream in between the cake and fondant which would have gotten rid of a lot of the imperfections with regards to our rounding off of the cake itself.
Wish us luck next time!
Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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