Relish Elgin Holiday 2014

Page 18


Sweet Simplicity BY CHEF CINDY BIRCHAM There is something to be said about desserts that can be made ahead of time. A triumphant souffle, towering as it comes out of the oven, will quickly deflate if you bake it before the guests arrive. An apple pie crust once tender and flaky will become soft and soggy if more than a day old. We love these desserts but the elegance diminishes if prepared too far in advance.

A cure for the deflating/soggy dessert dilemma is a frangipane cake. This sweet almond filling uses regular baking staples (butter, sugar, eggs, flour, almonds)—and most importantly—can be prepared ahead of time. The cake is also easily adaptable. No lemons? Substitute 2 Tbsp of dark rum. Don't like pears? Apples would be just as delicious. Avoiding gluten? Try 2 Tbsp coconut flour instead of wheat.

Very few people realize the magic in a professional kitchen depends upon being organized and prepared. Known as mis en place—everything in its place—it means having all the ingredients and tools required to prepare the dish assembled like a doctor would when performing surgery. Scalpel, spatula, gauze, salt, sutures, flour. Have everything ready beforehand so cooking basically becomes more or less like assembly. You will still need to use your common sense and skills to recognize correct doneness (sights, sounds, tastes, timing, past experiences) but looking for a lemon and the zester while sugar boils over on the stovetop is not an ideal situation, especially when you realize you don't have any citrus fruit in the house. By this point the sugar has bubbled, burnt, and solidified to the burner and the smoke alarm is going off. And then the phone rings and two more guests have decided they can make it to dinner after all.

The final touches to the cake are just that: final touches. When serving, dust the cake with a little powdered sugar. Add a dollop of whipped cream, crème frâiche, or ice cream. You can adjust the cake slice size as necessary for the number of guests.


Cindy Bircham is a professional chef and recipe developer cooking her way across Elgin County with a passion for quality, local and made from scratch. Her baked goods are available Saturdays until Christmas at the Covent Garden Outdoor Farmers' Market in London. She can also be found at a local organic farm, “Our Little Farm”, on the west side of St. Thomas and on her blog ‘From the Kitchen’ at Recipe photo courtesy of Cindy Bircham; pear photo courtesy of Foodland Ontario


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