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Baking

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Boulangerie Cheskie
359 Rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, QC H2V 4H3
(514) 271-2253

There are many ways to pad my womanly hips here in Montréal. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth but I love baked goods — real quality baked goods, that is. I previously wrote a love letter about baguettes and how good they are in this city. Unlike in my native Toronto, Montréal suffers from a plethora of amazing bakeries; this is a problem as there are too many places to keep up with. But amongst all the French and Quebécois boulangeries dotting every neighbourhood, Cheskie’s often gets mentioned as one of the best bakeries in town. It doesn’t even bake baguettes! But the danishes, rugelach, babka, challah, cookies, and other pastries filling this shop draws a line out its door on many days, opening up the neighbourhood for the amazing scent of its freshly baked goods.

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We love the Swedish duo, Icona Pop, here at flashbracket but what we love even more is a remix by the Cookie Monster. The Sesame Street character has already covered Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe last year as Share It Maybe (again about cookies, natch), and now he is back covering Icona Pop’s 2012 hit, I Love It as Me Want It (But Me Wait). Cookie Monster is starting to catch up with The xx as one of my favourite remix masters! Click to watch my favourite Sesame Street character do his thing.

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One of the benefits of living in Montréal is the quality of bread. Seriously, this is a benefit. If you grew up munching on packaged sliced white bread from one of the big bread companies selling at your local supermarket, the chances are that you may be accustomed to consuming sub par bread. But if you grew up in Montréal, your supermarket is stocked with excellent bread. Not to mention that each neighbourhood is dotted with boulangeries. With the choice of amazing and freshly baked bread, there is no excuse for buying mediocre products.

I recognize that I am a minority in that I grew up eating excellent bread in Canada, outside of Québec. During my early childhood, my mother baked our bread from scratch and without a bread machine. She would make the dough, let it rise, knead it, let it rise, knead again, before popping it in the oven and letting the perfume of the baking dough encompass our tiny apartment. Later, my father sought out quality baked goods and made weekly drop-ins to the Portuguese bakery in our neighbourhood. He would bring home European baked desserts and buns still hot from the oven in a large paper bag. I loved consuming freshly baked bread while it was still warm.

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Slice, oiled, and salted baguette can be made into croutons or crunchy toasts.

Now that I live in Montréal, I am spoiled with amazing bread. I drop by my chain supermarket and they stock various baked goods from local bakeries such as Premiere Moisson which, despite being a chain, produces amazing baguettes, ciabattas, focaccias, and other baked goods. But people here mostly purchase baguettes, and you will see many pedestrians, especially before dinner time, walking around with a baguette perched in their sack. Yes, this is like how some people stereotype the French except here you will be lucky if you see someone wearing a striped shirt and beret while holding on to their baguette.

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La Croissanterie Figaro
5200 Rue Hutchison (west of Parc at Fairmont)
Montréal, QC H2V 4B3
(514) 278-6567
www.lacroissanteriefigaro.com

It was a cold day here in Montréal when my friend and I were walking in the Mile End neighbourhood and thought to warm up in a nice café. Did I ever mention how much I love cafés? I love visiting them for low-key outings though nowadays I am there to only do work.

We decided to revisit La Croissanterie Figaro after I dropped in during December to order their avocado and tofu sandwich, fondly recommended to me by Hilary. On this occasion, we came to sit in the popular crowded café bordering the Outremont and Mile End neighbourhoods of Montréal to try their freshly baked croissants and alcoholic coffee beverages.

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Every December when I have finally peeled myself away from my books, and gathered lots of flour and butter, I start baking. I put aside one to two days (some times three) to put my mixer and oven to good use and churn out a few different Christmas cookies. My favourites are Sugar Cookies (festive) and Cranberry Pecan Shortbread (very easy), then I rotate between a couple of different cookie recipes that I have collected over the years. This year, in addition to the two standard recipes, I also baked Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, Triple Ginger Cookies, and Orange Pistachio Crescents (which in the end actually became a sandwich linzer-cookie-type concoction). Hyperlinks for the cookie recipes are the same recipes that I used, with the exception of the Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies, and Triple Ginger Cookies, which are linked to similar recipes.

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Orange Pistachio Crescents, which ended up as sandwich cookies.

Cookie baking requires quite a bit of elbow grease, but if you have time, patience, and love being crafty, this makes a fun activity where in the end you have treats to share. I do not do a gift exchange with anyone outside of my immediate family, but for friends I like to give personally baked cookies for the holiday. Giving cookies can also be a more cost efficient endeavour than buying individual gifts for everyone on your list, though it does require quite a bit of an upfront investment. After the first purchases, the annual replenishment of perishable ingredients (butter, eggs, etc.) and the replacements of such items such as candy sprinkles and cookie containers, are required.

When I first started baking Christmas cookies, I was an apprentice to the baking world. I love cooking, but baking barely has any room for improvising allowed in cooking; baking requires exact ingredient measurements and faithfulness to the temperature requirements of the recipe (more on butter temperature is below). It has now been a few years of cookie gifting, so I gathered some tips for Christmas baking neophytes.

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Triple Ginger Cookies

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So it is Thanksgiving this upcoming weekend here in Canada, which usually means turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie in many households. My sister and I used to make turkey dinners for the family each year, but now that I am based in la belle province, my Thanksgiving meals have been a much small endeavour. However, I still do have a few people dropping in this weekend so I went ahead and cooked up a Thanksgiving Dinner Lite which, in this case, means roasted chicken and a few sides, including an onion and olive tart.

I got this recipe from New York Times’ Mark Bittman, though I tweaked it to make it a speedier and a bit more colourful than his original version. This tart is so well received I have already made it a couple of times for both dinner parties and civilized eating at home. (Eating home alone for me usually entails cracking open a can of beans and dumping it into a pot of frozen vegetables and Campbell’s soup.) I also like to use a roasted bulb of garlic instead of just using raw, minced garlic for the recipe. Today, I made two tarts, as it is so easy to just double the recipe and give one away. See? Very easy to give thanks.

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