25 August 2010

Let's go to the Food Building!

Torontonians, you have two weekends left to get yourself to the Ex. The Canadian National Exhibition features scheming carnies, rides of dubious safety, entertainment that ranges from middling to deafening (Air Show anyone?) and a smorgasbord of culinary innovation. Yes, innovation. Ex vendors boldly deep-fry what no one has deep-fried before, and the results are heavenly. Along with gastronomic breakthroughs the CNE features typical carnival fare (for Toronto): neon sno-cones, many varieties of fried dough, fries, burgers, pizzas, shawarma, dim sum, sushi, pho, falafel and more, all under the magnificent roof of the food building.

I crave Tiny Tom's conveyor belt mini donuts year-round, and seek them out at any outdoor Toronto fest, whether Word on the Street or the Weed March. This year marks their 50th anniversary and I got a little festive. My favourites are icing sugar or cinnamon, $5/dozen, or 4 dozen for $15.
Dollar spaghetti doesn't really appeal to me, but it keeps coming back year after year.
It is after all the Canadian National Exhibition and poutine is heavily featured along with other so-called national dishes.
I don't know why I thought this would be a good idea but the take-out dim sum was truly atrocious (Chinatown is cheaper and infinitely better).
The Lemon Ladies.
I admit I am late to the game on this one. I've been hearing tell of the delights of deep-fried chocolate bars for years, but this was my first taste.
And it won't be my last. The crisp batter coating is an excellent balance for the melting chocolate-caramel confection.
It was the same stand's deep-fried butter that's been making headlines. This is not in the Food Building, but rather fairly deep into the midway, near the Canadian Armed Forces display. At first I was a bit reluctant to ask people if they knew where it was fearing judgment, but everyone was happy to point the way, noting that it seemed hugely popular.
Small balls of butter are frozen onto toothpicks, then dipped in the same batter coating as the Mars bars.
After frying they are topped off with a squirt of chocolate, caramel or strawberry sauce.
When ready, the butter has melted inside the donut-like coating and biting in frees the butter from this doughy cage. I don't think I could eat more than four as they are quite rich, but it really is delicious.

Good, unpretentious, possibly fatal treats await you at the Ex! Let's go!

10 August 2010

Blueberry Cobbler

It's finally here. After months of waiting, I got the call. If anything was going to shake me out of a sweaty summer cooking hiatus, it was this.

Thanks, Toronto Public Library. Thomas Keller's most recent tome claims to feature accessible and simple food. This is half true-there are some simple dishes to be certain but the majority call for ingredients and tools the average home cook won't have on hand. I can't pick up piment d'Espelette at the nearest grocery and my budget certainly won't allow for a blow torch right now, but I can dream.

In fact, I was so inspired by this beautifully composed book I chose to forgo sleep a few nights
ago for some late night baking. The blueberry cobbler seemed simple enough and I had all the ingredients on hand by some miracle.

Blueberry Cobbler
  • 1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp / 3 oz / 3/4 of a stick/ 1/3 of a cup
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 buttermilk (I substituted yogurt with no problem)
  • 4 pints/8 cups blueberries (sacrilege-I used frozen and it worked out alright. But it's wildblueberry season in my lovely home province of Nova Scotia so I urge you to seek out the good stuff)
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon sugar
Heat oven to 350˚.
In a medium bowl sift or whisk together 1 3/4 cups flour with the baking powder and baking soda.
In a large bowl cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar (by hand or with stand mixer) until light and creamy-make sure butter has come to room temperature before you begin. Beat in the eggs (also at room temp) one at a time until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches,
alternating with the buttermilk/yogurt added in 2 batches. Flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour.
In yet another large bowl, mix the blueberries with 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tbsp flour and the lemon zest. If using frozen berries there is no need to thaw before using. Spread berries evenly in an 11 inch square or 13 by 9 inch baking pan.
Spoon batter over the berries in clumps, leaving some space in between. Combine the
remaining 1 tbsp of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over top.

Bake approximately 40 minutes, until berries are bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. For best results serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. It will keep for several days.