Lemon tarts at Le Papillon!

Ah, lemons. Today I hit up the St. Lawrence Market with Hobby Victim. I was looking for some pure vanilla extract by the Saffron Imports Co. (my supply is dangerously low but alas, none was to be found).

After checking out the lower level of the market, we took a stroll to find a nice restaurant for lunch. We stopped at Le Papillon.

I’ve walked by Le Papillon many times but never ventured inside. We both ordered the Crêpe du Marché, which is a galette containing St-Laurent bacon, cooked apples, and cheddar cheese. The apples had a flavour I cannot identify, but it was quite tasty.

Choosing dessert was so hard. I just could not make up my mind, but after several agonizing minutes we narrowed it down.

Hobby Victim ordered the Gâteau au Chocolat, and I ordered the Tarte au Citron (French lemon pie).

How was it? From the first bite, as I felt that elusive afterglow feeling creeping over me, my taste buds sang. I could not stop smiling. It was truly delicious. So tart, so good.

Whoever does the desserts at Le Papillon is an artist of the highest calibre.

I know what I’m going to learn to make on the weekend.


Visit to Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show

Yesterday I visited Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show, with my friend Hobby Victim. The show brings together a variety of bakers, artists, vendors, and suppliers, and is sponsored by my favourite sugar refinery Red Path Sugar.

I had a great time, and got to see lots of different vendors and products, but a few things about the show really surprised me.

The entrance

A large table of cakes (dummy cakes I think), marked with numbers. I looked but found nothing to explain who had made these cakes. Most were done in a Halloween theme.

I wish I had a clearer picture. it looked like a castle made of bones.

This giant Fabergé vase was topped with birds, the decorations were very intricate.

Next was an Alice in Wonderland cake, and a white cake with blue accents.

I’m pretty sure this is Alice. On a very complex tree and chair.

I admired the beautiful shades of blue and the lace string work here. You can’t really see the details at all, lighting wasn’t the best but this was a lovely cake.

A very eclectic mix of style and talent on display. I was impressed.

The vendors

I got to meet some very nice vendors, and see and try some delicious things. I also saw some vendors acting very strangely.

The shortbread cookies at Sprucewood Handmade Cookie Co. and Mary Macleod’s Shortbread were delicious. We purchased apricot shortbreads and raspberry shortbreads. I brought some home for Boyfriend as a surprise.

I saw extremely beautiful artisan chocolates at Mercury Chocolates. I don’t know how chocolatier Darren Johns makes those beautiful creations, but his chocolates look like perfect jewels, a variety of colours and flavors. I didn’t get to speak with him much because there was a woman who would not stop talking to him, so I moved on and viewed the gorgeous truffles at Old Firehall Confectionary. At Nadia Chocolates there were beautiful chocolate butterflies, very thin and pretty.

I saw some interesting cakes at Dessert Trends and beautiful custom cakes at La Casa Dolce’s booth. There was a tree of sugar ornaments at the Canadian Society of Sugar Artistry.

I saw an interesting presentation on fondant by Virgin Ice. They gave out cards which say: visit our website for vendors at libertygroupsugar.com but that URL does not work for me.

At the Bonnie Gordon College booth I met Susan Trianos! She was making gum paste chrysanthemums, and she was very friendly. She answered lots of questions and we talked about baking TV shows. It was cool to watch her make petals and assemble the flower.

I got to see a real Agbay at the Icing Inspirations booth. They had two Agbays and an airbrush booth.

I spent a lot of time in the Golda’s Kitchen booth. I wanted to buy 80% of their inventory, but limited myself to one item; the Fat Daddio’s sloped chocolate mould. This booth was very crowded. People could not navigate the aisles, and it was jammed with merchandise and customers. I suppose they wanted to show as much product to as many potential customers as possible but it was just too much.

What about the show surprised me?

1. The amount of vendors who did not give out samples. Of the vendors without samples, some were offering a discount if you bought their product at the show, but others didn’t. Wow.

I visited every booth at the show, and I know there were several cupcake bakers, but the only one I remember is Glady Cakes, because they had friendly staff, and they offered me a sample. I was happy to try one, but they insisted I try three flavours: Lemon Heaven, The Nut Bar, and Cafe Dulce de Leche.

As for the other vendors, what were they thinking? They had high prices, and no samples.

I realize that the profit margin on custom baked goods is not great, and the high price is a combination of quality ingredients, overhead, profit, and mostly time/labour. Nobody wants to work at cost or for free. But really? This is a trade show. I thought the point was to demonstrate your wares and get new business.

Adult tickets to this show cost $12 so why would a person spend another $20 to buy your product without tasting it, when the vendor beside you is letting them try a sample for free?

2. There were 5-6 vendors who did not seem very interested in being at the show at all. I walked up to their booths, waited a few moments to be acknowledged, but they were too busy texting. They never looked up from their cell phones. I walked away. If you can’t be bothered to put your phone away and greet people who are at your booth, why did you come?

Three vendors were loudly discussing their displeasure with the amount of teenagers in the crowd. They made a few unpleasant comments.

I am not a “customer is always right” person. I have worked in customer service, and I know that a lot of customers are assholes. Or pretentious morons. Or both. But it seems to me that if you are a vendor at a trade show, standing around insulting the people at the show is in poor taste.

3. Lack of food and drink available for purchase. I skipped lunch to get to the show early, and walking the entire floor made me very thirsty, it would have been nice to find a place that sold cold drinks and sandwiches.

Have you ever been to a baking show? Tell me about it.

Vanilla review

I’m going to talk about vanilla. Partly to educate you, and partly (okay mostly), because I love the sound of my own voice. Narcissistic baker is narcissistic.

One of the most valuable spices in the world, with outrageous pricing, vanilla adds that je ne sais quoi to your baked goods. A good artist needs good tools, and the quality of your vanilla can be tasted in the finished product. Arranged from left to right in order of my favourites:

  • Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla beans, by Rodelle
  • pure Tahitian vanilla extract 120 mL, by Vanilla, Saffron Imports
  • pure vanilla paste, 60 mL, by Saffron Imports
  • pure Madagascar vanilla extract 59 mL, by McCormick Gourmet Organic
  • pure vanilla extract 46 mL, by Club House
  • artificial vanilla extract 235 mL or 1L, by No Name

What is vanilla?

The tiny vials of vanilla extract found in stores are a flavouring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, a vine native to Central America.  It takes around 3 years before a vine bears fruit, and the beans take 9-10 months to ripen.  Beans are picked before they ripen.

The beans are cured in 4 steps: killing, sweating, slow-drying, and conditioning. Afterwards they are sorted by grade, commercial value is determined by the length of the bean, the highest quality are over 15cm in length, and as the beans get shorter, their worth drops.

Vanilla is classified by cultivar: Madagascar, Bourbon-Madagascar, Tahitian, Mexican,  and West Indian are the major ones I know of.

Review & price comparison

Before you buy a vanilla product check the label. Organic and pure may not mean what you think they mean. A good vanilla will not contain added sugars, caramel colouring, synthetic vanillin (a byproduct of the pulp industry), or corn syrup.

Product: Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla beans, by Rodelle
Price: 10 beans for $11.99 at Moncton Costco, (2 tubes of 5, or $1.20 per bean), purchased winter 2011
Review: My sister sent these to me in the mail. These are the best beans I have found so far. The label reads Kirkland Signature (Costco house brand), and also Rodelle, who is a supplier of premium vanilla. The label does not specify the cultivar but Rodelle’s website says “the majority” of their products are Bourbon-Madagascar beans. I’ve noticed that Tahitian beans are thinner and shorter than Madagascar, and these Rodelle beans are long and plump, so I am willing to bet they are from Madagascar.

Product: Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla beans, by Tosca
Price: 2 beans at Loblaws / Superstore for $7.99 (in 1 tube, or $4.00 per bean), purchased Jan 2011
Review: These were decent. Tosca products are imported by National Importers and you will get a much better deal buying one case (24 beans, 2 per tube) for $59.88 which is $2.50 per bean from the supplier instead of the store. The beans were okay length, a little on the thin side, with a pleasant flavour and aroma. Tosca sells premium (grade A) beans from Papua New Guinea, but the packaging does not classify the cultivar. However, their extract is made from Bourbon-Madagascar so I assume the beans are too.

Product: “organic” vanilla beans and Tahitian vanilla beans, supplier unknown
Price: approx. $6.00 for one organic bean, $2.00 for one Tahitian, at Domino’s Foods, St. Lawrence Market, purchased Nov 2010
Review: I have mixed feelings on these. I was excited when I bought them because I love buying stuff at the market, and they were priced better than the grocery store. The Tahitians were really skinny. The organics were a bit plumper. They both dried out quickly. I recall that my impression after using them for the first time was that considering how long it takes to get down to the market, and the cost of the beans, it’s not really worth it for me.

Product: pure organic Madagascar vanilla beans, by Sun Rise Brand
Price: 2 beans for $5.99 at No Frills, summer 2011
Review: Haven’t tried these. Noticed the bottom of the gold label says puresaffron@rogers.com and that seems weird.

Product: 120 mL of pure Tahitian vanilla extract by Vanilla, Saffron Imports
Label: vanilla bean extractives, alcohol 35%, water, no sugar
Price: $11.99 at Domino’s Foods, St. Lawrence Market, purchased Nov 2010
Review: Don’t be fooled by the plain packaging. This is amazing. Out of all the extracts I have tried, this has the best flavour and is well-worth the money. Unfortunately they will only ship products to Canada if there is no alcohol, and this contains alcohol, so you’ll have to find a re-seller which gets pricey. :[

Product: pure vanilla paste, 60 mL by Vanilla, Saffron Imports
Label: contains vanilla beans
Price: $6.99 at Domino’s Foods, St. Lawrence Market, purchased Nov 2010
Review: Flavourful and interesting product, a nice change from using a liquid extract. Difficult to extract from the bottle, the paste is thick.

Product: pure Madagascar vanilla extract 59 mL, by McCormick Gourmet Organic
Label: water, organic alcohol, extractives of organic vanilla beans, organic corn syrup
Price: $8.38 at Toronto Wal-mart, purchased Aug 2010
Review: I am a little confused, what is organic alcohol? What is so “pure” about adding corn syrup to vanilla? Their product info says this is “the highest quality” and I have to disagree. The flavour was not to my liking.

Product: pure vanilla extract 46 mL, by Club House
Contains: water, alcohol, sugar, vanilla bean extractives
Price: $3.94 at Toronto Wal-mart (also at $3.93 at No Frills), purchased Aug 2011
Review: This is okay but I wouldn’t buy it again.

Product: artificial vanilla extract 235 mL and 1L, by No Name
Contains: water, alchohol, caramel colour, artificial flavour
Price: $2.89 for 235 mL at No Frills ($3.49 at Loblaws), and 1L for $6.99 at No Frills, summer 2011
Review: I only use this stuff when I make cookies. My inner snob did not want to admit that.


The beans are cheapest at Costco, $1.20 per bean to get a package of 10 is pretty awesome. Very nice quality. Hopefully you have a relative with a membership that you can harass.

I would love to find a cheaper source for the extracts from the Vanilla, Saffron Imports company.  Hey there, you guys at Vanilla, Saffron! If you have any extra 32 oz. bottles I would be happy to take them off your hands.

I’m not sure why my favourite extract is Tahitian when my favourite beans are Madagascaran.

What is your favourite vanilla product?

Playlist: Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata