SideBar: Mint Julep, Modified

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This year, Ottawa marked one of the hottest summers on record. I’m sure that wherever you are, the super el Niño occurring this year really messed with your summer. Here in Ottawa, summer is very reluctant to let go, and the temperatures here in September are only now just starting to cool down to what they should be.

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As it still feels like summer, why not enjoy a summer beverage on this lovely Friday? Yes, it’s yet another bourbon drink, but bourbon is such a very adaptable alcohol – there’s so much you can do with it (and Trav drinks a heckuva lot of it). This is a twist on the traditional mint julep, which is made with bourbon and mint and sugar – that’s it.

Mint Julep Modified 1

Trav and I decided to take advantage of the massive amounts of lemon balm taking over my garden (so I can make more lemon balm tea) and do a wee varietal (lemon balm is also mint, after all). We also used honey syrup instead of regular sugar syrup (which is 1 cup honey dissolved in 1 cup hot water).

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Grab yourself a glass of some sort. I didn’t have any silver julep cups on hand because I’m not that fancy, so this is just a tumbler that used to be filled with weird Italian effervescents for digestion. Shove about 8 or 9 lemon balm leaves into the bottom of the glass.

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Tip in 3/4 oz honey syrup, and using a muddler (or a spurtle, because I’m not fancy enough to own a muddler), proceed to squish the crap out of your honeyed leaves.

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Squish, squish, squish.

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Now pour in some decent booze, about 2oz bourbon to be exact. I like this Evan Williams kind for this drink because it’s a little fruity.

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Top with some ice cubes. Or one giant one. The ice will hold the leaves down so you don’t sip them up accidentally.

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Sip it whilst calmly admiring your bumper crop of lemon balm.

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Salted Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread

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Banana bread freezes really well, and so it’s a great thing to make in advance for something like my upcoming shindig. Because it’s a fancy shindig, I wanted to make it with a bit of a twist on my traditional recipe. And while I’m on the bourbon caramel theme this week, I figured I might as well make me some fancy banana bread! I used my original recipe (see link above), but instead of using very ripe (pre-frozen) bananas I used yellow ones, because I wanted a few chunks in my banana bread. And of course I made up a bourbon caramel sauce, which I borrowed from the Minimalist Baker. So first we’ll make up the sauce, and then we’ll re-make our old classic banana bread.

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This caramel sauce! I’m definitely of the Keep It Simple, Stupid school of thought, so I love the 4-ingredient easiness of this recipe. And now I want to drink the stuff. It’s amazing. I doubled the original recipe because I anticipated loving it and wanting to drink it, but it makes a decent amount for a generous swirl of caramel throughout the banana bread (if you leave like half a cup leftover for yourself to eat with a spoon).

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 19Start with 2 cups granulated sugar and plop that in a medium saucepan together with 1/2 cup water (in this 4-ingredient recipe, water does not count as an ingredient. It evaporates so technically it doesn’t exist!). Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 1

Heat that on medium high for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t stir: just swirl the pot occasionally.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 5You’ll get bored, but you can’t leave. So enjoy a glass of bourbon while you’re waiting. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 4

The sugar will begin to boil, and then, as the water evaporates, the bubbles will get smaller and smaller.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 12Eventually the mixture will turn a lovely amber colour and will only be kind of fizzy. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 13

At this point, remove it from the heat (turn off the burner) and, whisking the whole time, drizzle in 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream. Don’t freak out as it fizzes and foams up around you. Just keep whisking. I usually sing a song to a volcano god while I do this. I always feel like I’m summoning a creature from the depths when I do science-y things like make caramel.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 14When you’ve got the cream all whisked in and the whole thing has calmed down, put the pot back on the still-warm burner and tip in 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark). This time it will only fizz a little bit. Add in as well a few pinches of salt – I used fleur de sel. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 15

Pour into a heat-safe container and let cool before storing in the fridge. If you want to use this for other things then just warm it up a bit and then it will become pour-able again. I kind of like the finger-scoop-y texture of it when it’s cold though.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 17I’m having a hard time giving up even a little bit of this for banana bread. But I gotta do what I gotta do. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 18

So. Let’s do some banana bread. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two loaf pans with parchment paper.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 25Grab 5 bananas. You can use overripe or frozen bananas but this time I decided to use ones with a bit more substance to them – of course I waited too long to do the recipe and they’re a little spotty but whatever. Nobody ever said I was the proactive blogger. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 22

Mush, mush, mush ’em into a small bowl together with 1 tablespoon baking soda that has been “dissolved” in 3 tablespoons hot water. Put that bowl to one side for a minute.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 23Grab another, medium bowl and plop in 1 cup room temperature butter. Beat that silly with 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar until you get a serious case of the fluffy butters. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 24

Then crack in 2 eggs and beat that until it’s a coagulated mess. Mmmm … Line this bowl up with the banana bowl and leave those for a few minutes.

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In ANOTHER bowl (this time a decent-sized one), sift together 3 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 29Now we put it all together. Beat the banana mixture into the egg mixture and then tip it into the flour mixture. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 31

Fold the flour mixture into the banana mixture until it’s all combined.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 33NOW, glop a bunch of your caramel sauce into the batter and kind of swirl it through gently. Don’t let it get too mixed in – you want streaks. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 34

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 35Tip the batter between the two loaf pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 36

Use the parchment paper to lift the loaves out of the pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 39Freeze or cut and serve with butter. MMMMMMM!

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Quick Caramel Custard Croissant Bake

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 18This is yet another one of those I-bought-pastry-on-sale-and-the-Pie-bought-some-at-the-same-time-and-we-didn’t-eat-them-soon-enough-and-they-went-stale-so-what-can-I-do-with-them-rather-than-chucking-them-in-the-compost kind of situations. I’m sure you’re familiar with those. And I HATE throwing food away. I’m very proud of the fact that the Pie and I produce one box of recycling, half a small kitchen bag of garbage (mostly plastic and styrofoam), and two 1L bags of compost (this includes used tissues and meat bones) a week. My luxury is the paper newspaper, which I know I should give up, but I just can’t, and I can always find uses for old newspaper. But I digress. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 5

Trav was over concocting the most recent SideBar and the Pie was stirring up some of our famous meatballs so I decided to take a moment to chuck some things together. I had 9 stale chocolatines that needed taking care of.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 2So I buttered up a baking dish and crumbled them in. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 7

Then I grabbed a small pot and filled it with 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons water. I put that on medium high heat and resisted the very real urge to stir it.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 4Eventually it started to bubble. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 8

And then turned golden. You can swirl the pot around but avoid stirring.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 10When it was this lovely caramel colour I removed it from the heat and tipped in, whisking all the while, 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons bourbon (you can use whisky too). Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 11

Don’t freak out when it fizzes up and you feel like it’s going to explode.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 12Just keep whisking, and when it calms down you’ll have a lovely caramel. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 13

Beat up 4 eggs.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 3Then whisk those eggs slowly into your caramel and pour the whole thing over your crusty baked goods. Let that stand for 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 14

Shove the dish in your oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the egg mix is solid (perhaps slightly less time than I did it as you can see it’s a little more than brown).

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 17Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream or caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or custard … Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 19

SideBar: Frosted Whisky Root Beer

Root Beer Cocktail 19This popped up on my Facebook feed recently and Trav and I decided it was interesting enough that we wanted to try it. That, and root beer is a favourite amongst our set. Root Beer Cocktail 15

First, grab yourself some oranges. You’ll need about four large juicy ones.

Root Beer Cocktail 2Juice those suckers until you get 1 cup fresh orange juice. Root Beer Cocktail 4

Next in the recipe is 1/2 teaspoon cherry bitters, which we didn’t have, so we improvised. I pitted about 5 fresh cherries and mushed them up with a fork. You can use any other kind of bitters you like. We think that it would have enhanced the flavour, but the cherries were a nice touch.

Root Beer Cocktail 7Then we chucked those things in a 1L bottle. Root Beer Cocktail 9

Add in 1 1/4 cup Canadian whiskey (we actually used Maker’s Mark, which is a bourbon, but Trav says it’s a better choice) and 1 cup water. Give it a decent shake and then shove it in the fridge for a couple hours.

Root Beer Cocktail 10When you’re ready to serve, grab some pint glasses, run them (inside and out) under cold water, and chuck them (gently) in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Grab yourself some of your favourite ice cold root beer. We were trying to find Harvey & Vern’s, because it’s local, but this was the stuff they had at the store. Root Beer Cocktail 11

Grab one of your frosted glasses and pour in 3oz of your orange juice/whiskey mix.

Root Beer Cocktail 12Top with root beer and serve immediately. It’s subtle, but it’s quite nice. Root Beer Cocktail 18

Egg Nog?

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I love egg nog.  So much so that I wish I could have it all year ’round.  So of course I learned to make my own.  And every time I offer it to people, I try to do it in Denholm Elliott’s voice from (my favourite movie of all time — don’t judge) Trading Places.  He’s just so emphatic.

I know.  I don’t know why I showed you that. I just love egg nog that much. So when I found this recipe on Design*Sponge I knew the time had come. THIS WAS IT.

So first you start by creating an ice bath. That means either filling your sink with water and ice cubes, or a large bowl that will hold your pot. My sink is terrible at retaining water (not my sink, not my problem), so I opted for a heat-proof bowl.

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Then grab a medium-sized pot and crack in 6 whole eggs. Give those a thorough whisking.

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Pour in as well 2 cups whole milk (we call it homogenized here in the Great White North), 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the custard (because that’s what it is) thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Resist the urge to speed things up by turning up the heat. That’s how you get scrambled eggs plus milk. Not cool.

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Plop the pot into the ice bath. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and whisk the whole shebang for about 3 or 4 minutes.

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Put the lid on the pot, haul it out of the ice bath, and let it come to room temperature, about an hour (I had some errands to run so I actually put mine in the fridge for about four hours and it was fine as well).

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Next, strain the egg solids (those lumpy bits) out of your custard by pouring it through a sieve over a bowl.

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You can throw these out. Or compost them like a good citizen.

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Now whisk in your booze***. The original recipe calls for brandy or rum plus bourbon, but the Pie and I are not bourbon fanatics like Trav, so we opted for 1/2 cup rum plus 1/2 cup maple whisky.

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Whisk that whisky right in there.

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Might as well add a few dashes of grated nutmeg as well.

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Now pour 1 cup whipping cream into a bowl and beat the crap out of it until it forms stiff peaks.

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Then fold that gorgeousness into your eggnog.

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Let your eggnog chill for a couple of hours before drinking. It’s like drinking whipped cream, essentially. I personally don’t think the recipe would be that good without the alcohol to kind of dilute it, so if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic version, this is probably not it.

*** That said, however, if you want to try this particular recipe without the booze, this is what I recommend: instead of adding 1 cup booze, add 1 cup whole milk, and then when it gets to the final 1 cup whipping cream, just add it in without whipping. Then the whole thing is much less solid and easier to drink on its own.

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Introducing the SideBar! and Bourbon Slush

I am positively chuffed to announce the addition of a bar to the Ali Does It DIY repository. The delightful Trav, a budding home bartender, has caved to my peer pressure kindly volunteered to show us the ropes with a few of the fun and fantastical alcoholic beverages you can mix up these days. Enjoy this one as a last taste of summer on your long weekend! – Ali

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Bourbon Slush Punch

So, food is tasty, and cooking is interesting, but we all know the truth: eating is just a thing we do so we can stay alive long enough get to the good part, which is drinking.

With that healthy, well-balanced guiding principle in mind, I give you the first SideBar offering: a bourbon punch from Smitten Kitchen that’s strong enough to make you dizzy, but delicious enough that you won’t notice until you stand up.

This one’s easy, and it disappears quickly. That’s why we quadrupled the recipe.

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First, you’ll need to make a strong black tea. I’m not a tea drinker, but Ali picked out an Assam tea that worked very well. Let it steep until it cools, and toss the leaves. You’ll need 4 cups of tea.

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Next is lemon juice. Don’t use juice from a bottle, though, you monster. Squeeze 1 1/2 cups of juice from some fresh lemons.

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Finally, you’re going to need 1 cup of granulated sugar, 6 cups of orange juice, and a decent bottle of bourbon. You can juice some oranges, but a good bottled orange juice tends to be much better than bottled lemon (or lime). For the bourbon, we used Wild Turkey 81, and I’d also suggest Four Roses Yellow Label as a similarly cheap option. You can use a pricier bourbon if you want, like Bulleit or Woodford Reserve, but some of that flavour is likely going to be overwhelmed by the citrus.

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Pour all the liquids into a fairly large mixing bowl, including the whole bottle of bourbon. Since you’re going to want a glass or three while you’re making the punch, you should probably buy another bottle just in case.

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Stir in the sugar.

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This is the base for your punch. You could probably shake this with some ice and drink it by itself, but we’re not done yet. Keep this refrigerated until you serve it.

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When it’s time to serve the punch (which was, in our case, immediately), put equal parts ice and punch base in the blender. Half a cup of each should make one serving, and 5 cups of each makes about two litres.

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Blend them together until slushy, then pour the punch into glasses and garnish with a lemon slice, lemon peel, or mint leaves. Mint in particular is always good with bourbon and orange. If the mixture isn’t slushy enough, blend some more ice in. If the flavour isn’t strong enough, add more punch base. We definitely had to do a bit of experimenting to find the exact ratio for small servings. A lot of experimenting.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember how many I had.

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Caramel Croissant Pudding

Bourbon Caramel Pudding 1

This adapted Nigella Lawson recipe is a perfect way to get rid of those stale croissants.  Because we seem to always have one or two lying around.  Despite it using only two croissants, this recipe is rich enough to feed four comfortably.

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Start by buttering a small casserole dish and preheating your oven to 350ºF.  Then take your 2 stale croissants and tear them up into the dish.  These were particularly stale so they were extra crumbly.

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Beat up 2 large eggs in a small bowl and set those aside.

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In a measuring cup, pour in 1 cup half and half cream (the original recipe is 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whole milk but I worked with what I had).  Then add a few tablespoons bourbon or rum.  I used Screech, naturally.  Give that a stir and set it aside for now as well.

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Next, find a small saucepan and dump in 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water.  Give the water time to bleed into all the sugar.  You won’t need to stir this.

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Put the saucepan on medium high heat and let it come to a boil.

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Keep going. Resist the urge to stir.

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And going …

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When the sugar turns a nice deep amber colour you can remove it from the heat.  Once it starts to change colour it will do so rapidly, so keep an eye on it.

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Turn the heat down to low and add in the cream.  Whisk that sucker like crazy.  It will foam and go a bit nuts on you.

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Now you can remove it from the heat and slowly whisk in your beaten eggs.  It will thicken, but not as much as you’d expect (probably more if you used the cream).

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Pour over your croissant pieces.

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Let them steep for a while, maybe ten minutes or so, especially if your croissants are super stale.

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Now bake it for 20 minutes and serve with ice cream.

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AMAZING.

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