#foodiemeet, for those who are not in the know, is a series of Toronto foodie get togethers created and organized by Suresh Doss and Andrea Chiu.
In their own words:
"We started out on Twitter as a one-off meetup for foodies but have developed into a regular food/drink event for local food lovers. We’ve organized tutored wine tastings, a miracle fruit party and a winery tour of Prince Edward County. Every one of our events have sold out which proves that Torontonians love to learn about food and drink."
Fastforward to "#foodiemeet bake off edition", held December 13th, 2009 at Samovar Room.
The challenge went out about 2 months ago for bakers to participate in a charity fundraiser for The Stop, a local outreach centre in my neighbourhood at the Wychwood Green Barns.
"Located in Toronto’s west end, The Stop works to increase access to food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community and challenges inequality."
The Stop is a charity that is close to the hearts of many in the Toronto food community, and I immediately knew I had to pitch in and enter an item or two in this competition. For those that know me, I am a touch competitive. Just a touch. So I decided to start to taunt some of the boys and see how strong we could come, because after all boys like to "crush it!" So, off the bat I want to congratulate my boys @ortdavid and @ekkridon who both came away with prizes, and I hope my taunting helped to up your games. I look forward to a rematch!
I started to formulate what I would make for the event, always in the back of my mind knowing that I would bring 2 items including my ever popular signature treat, the Triple Threats. Some of my ideas included incorporating maple, almond, lime, coconut, pomegranate, and fig. But wait a second, I also am really into combining the savoury with the sweet so the ideas started to morph, the testers were lined up like prisoners about to be shot, and the testing began. My theme was shortbread, something I had been wanting to play around with for a while, and perfect timing for the competition being that it is a traditional holiday treat. I am far from traditional in my kitchen, and the ideas that formed in my head were the following:
1. Pomegranate Fig Shortbread - Israeli influence
2. Coconut Lime Shortbread - Island influence
3. Maple with Pig Candy - The Canadiana shortbread
I jumped right in to the bacon version, as I had a feeling this would be the winner at the end of the day. First I just made shortbread with almond meal and then put the pig candy on top.
The feedback was helpful from the victims, I mean testers, and I had some work to do. I didnt want a classic shortbread texture and crunch so I had to figure out how to adjust accordingly. Also, the bacon needed to be combined in the cookie so it came with every bite and hit the palate as almost an afterthought that grew in intensity to balance the sweet of the cookie.
My kitchen philosophy is to use what tools you have without fancy gadgets, and to make as much from scratch as you possibly can. I made the almond meal from scratch, blanching the almonds and grinding them in my blender with a touch of sugar (so the oil didn't clump the meal), and using some tips online I used whole almonds with the skin and blanched, and pealed them.
Blanched almonds ready to go
The almond meal, finished product
Well, the blog I found and used lied and I had to work on my technique a bit in order to do this task efficiently. It was a good lesson, and my fingers were not happy with me, but I digress. Almond meal is in the house.
Lessons learned, I was closer to a final version of this treat, thanks to many testers including Suresh and @popNina, Shabnam from @teaemporium, who thanks to this process has become a friend, and my friend Chef Steve at The Local Co. (who is a fantastic chef, if you havent visited him please do - 3 words - braised veal cheeks). Steve suggested the maple frosting in the final version, so I have to give Chef props for that as it kicked them up to a whole new level of deliciousness. Just what I was looking for. I briefly played with the pom/fig cookie but, while it was good, I just wasn't feeling it for the competition, so I stuck to the Canadiana version to make it perfect.
There are tails to be told about the process, but I guess you will just have to ask me in person, this post will be way too long if I regale on all of the adventures and mishaps. Lets get to the recipe, and its final product. A combination of recipes and techniques I found online, and through much trial and error this is the original @foodie411 creation.
The unbaked final version getting ready to go in the oven
True North Strong and Frees - Almond Maple Shortbread with Pig Candy and Maple Frosting.
I made 2 versions of this, a single and double bacon version.
1 cup of butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of four
1 cup of almond meal
2/3 cup of real maple syrup
1/2 (or more) package of bacon, made into Pig Candy
- Preheat your oven to 350
- Cream butter and sugar
- Add remainder of ingredients and mix thoroughly
- Combine the dough into a tightly packed ball and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight
- Remove and roll into cylindrical cookies about the size of a large persons thumb. I used a big spoon to break off proper amounts of dough
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until you can see the edges starting to brown
- Remove to a cooling rack so the bottoms dont become hard
For the double bacon version you will get flat and more chewy cookies due to the extra fat, so if you want them more crunchy you will have to use less butter.
2 cups of confectioners sugar
1 cup of real maple syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of butter
Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle over fully cooled cookies, the frosting will need about 15 minutes to cure and harden before they can be removed.
The final product waiting to be packaged and shipped off to Foodiemeet
Everyone truly brought their A games and there were so many wonderful and truly ingenious treats, if you didn't attend you mustn't make the same mistake next time. Sadly, I was on a total sugar overload from days of baking and sampling (including a day of baking shortbread @jo_jo_ba's house with @bbqmommy and @ugogirl) and could barely look at, let alone sample all of the decadent goodies, although I did manage to sneak a few treats. Everything was amazing.
When I got home I was still buzzing from all of the love and sugar. Everyone REALLY enjoyed my cookies and that is my reward and why I bake. Thanks to everyone for the feedback and support.
After I got some real food into me, and by real I mean a special treat from my homeboy @busterrhinosBBQ (smoked stuffed potato skins with brisket), I clearly had not had enough sugar as I sat down with a tub of cake from Kirsten of @CakeorDeathCA and a spoon and went to town. I am not a well man.
Once again, Suresh and Andrea you both amaze me and the efforts you put forth are truly inspiring. A great time was had by all and it was a great opportunity to meet so many great people that I had been wanting to meet for so long. I cant wait until the next Foodiemeet and the next bakeoff!
Peace, Love, and Ice Cream.