Showing posts with label shortbread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shortbread. Show all posts

PONPON Artisan Polvoron Cookies

I’ve written about this before, but one of the good things that has come out of COVID are the number of new entrepreneurs that have left their jobs to become a boss and push their talents. During the holidays, I love to support local artisans and find joy when I’m able to introduce a friend or family member to a new company. Hence, when Laine & Lola reached out to see if I’d like to see what they had in store for the holidays, I enthusiastically agreed. They have come a long way from selling the confections through William Sonoma in Yorkdale Mall as a pop-up brand in 2018 – they have earned their own permanent location in Vaughan!

A PONPON is Laine and Lola’s take on the Spanish polvorón cookie that also gained fame in former Spanish colonies like the Philippines. Polvorón descends from the Spanish word polvo meaning dust, which you’d think is a strange for a cookie… until you bite into it. Something that feels and smells like shortbread shatters in your mouth coating it with a blast of buttery sweet crumbs. Yet, it doesn’t simply melt, thanks to the finely ground puffed rice and nuts mixed into the batter, a crunchy texture finishes off the treat.

Their four-piece box format (all $9.99) is great for wrapping up as a casual gift for co-workers or add on as a stocking stuffer. Two flavours will be a part of every box: chocolate and original. The original flavour seems to have gotten sweeter than I remember, or it could be another factor of getting order - I once thought it wasn’t sweet enough but now it’s perfect. Of all the flavours, if you like the butteriness of shortbread this is where you’ll find it. Even the plainer chocolate cookie isn’t as buttery - it’s somehow lighter than the original – that squiggle of melted Lindt chocolate seems to temper the butter.

The other two cookies in the classic assortment are cookies & cream and cappuccino. For those who want a lighter PONPON, the cookies & cream is like the original except lighter on the butter and heavier on the sugar. Both my husband and I agreed the cappuccino is a winner for us – for an otherwise plain looking cookie this really packs a punch. It’s almost like having black coffee with sugar as you’re immediately greeted with an earthy coffee flavour that has a slightly bitter and acid bite to end.

I’m a little surprised that even the chocolate lover’s assortment still contains an original cookie - I would have thought it’d be substituted for something purely chocolate based. Nevertheless, the other two PONPONs that round out the box are a chocolate cookie topped with berries and one created to resemble a smore. Meanwhile, the fiesta assortment is so fun and is great for party favours since the two different PONPONs are adorned with festive rainbow sprinkles and multi-coloured chocolate crisps.

Yet, it really wouldn’t be the holidays without holiday cookies – in this case, cinnamon and peppermint chocolate. Both are delicious: the cinnamon is reminiscent of having a gingerbread person and the peppermint chocolate could be Laine & Lola’s version of an After Eight. Perhaps the holiday cookies were more made recently, but I enjoy their formulation better – there’s less of the puffed rice so there’s only a hint for texture allowing the PONPON to become creamier.

Aside from the PONPONs, Laine & Lola also offers gift baskets. Teaming up with The Pretzel Dough, they created the deluxe chocolate bomb set ($49.99), which includes an assortment of their cookies, uber crispy and surprisingly light chocolate dipped pretzels, a chocolate bar, a candy cane, and a chocolate bomb filled with their polvorón cookie. All this wrapped up in a soup mug that’s convenient for staying cozy in the winter or warming up milk for the chocolate bomb.

Their chocolate bomb ($8.99) goes a step further from the traditional marshmallow and sprinkles to include pieces of their chocolate PONPON as well. Once melted into hot milk, it breaks open and creates an all-in-one cookie with hot chocolate combo. This was my first experience with a chocolate bomb, and it reinforced my first belief of the product – it is great for the Gram but really isn’t the best for drinking.

Once you get the (oat) milk hot and throw the bomb in, the chocolate is so large that by the time it actually breaks apart to release all the hidden marshmallows and cookies, about 30 seconds, it cools down the milk quite substantially. Despite doing a thorough stirring, I was still left with a lot of melted chocolate at the bottom of the cup. The best way to make this – for taste purposes – would be to throw the bomb into the hot milk while it’s still in a pot, keep stirring until everything is melted and then pour into a cup. Give up the Gram and go for taste instead.

Elaine pays homage to her lola (a.k.a. grandmother) in the name of her company. It was Elaine’s lola who introduced her to PONPONs and eventually passed down the recipe to her, which she ended up jazzing up to make so many unique flavours. It’s such a heartwarming story that is a great reminder during the holidays that nothing is more important than spending time with loved ones. Whether it’s baking cookies together or skipping the work and turning to PONPONs instead, we all need less screen time and more IRL experiences.  

Thank you, Laine & Lola, for all these delightful confections. I loved sampling the new flavours and sharing them with friends. Laine & Lola are also providing all GastroWorld readers 25% off sitewide. Just use the promo code GASTROWORLD at checkout. Happy holidays!

Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2316 Major Mackenzie Drive West

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The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette (Jordan Station)

A day of sipping wine in the Twenty Bench region should end with some sustenance, why not a lovely dinner at The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette? Although Pearl Morissette is a winery, a low supply of wine means all tastings are cancelled “for the foreseeable future”, which means to try their wines you need to visit the restaurant.

One option is to add the wine pairing ($60) to your meal. Having already sampled a fair share already, I opted for two produced by the winery at dinner. To begin, a glass of the 2016 Cuvée Roselana ($11 for 5oz), a vibrant red rosé that’s just as fruity to match, in an aromatic but not sweet manner. Even their 2014 Cuvée Madeline ($10.50 for 3oz), a cabernet franc, had big bursts of cherry notes that when combined with a savoury main calms down and mellows into a lovely finish. Pearl Morissette makes vibrant and easy drinking wines.

The meals are tasting menu only ($85 a person, inclusive of gratuities), which changes daily. Located in the Niagara Escarpment, it’s no surprise the dinner includes a lot of produce, showcasing the bounty from the local environment. The first dish, a braised eggplant, covered with plum slices, fig leaves, and basil is the sexiest eggplant I’ve ever seen (no emoji pun intended). While the eggplant’s flesh looked white, the texture was soft and creamy accentuated with bursts of floral, sweetness, and licorice (a flavour I’m not normally a fan of but somehow works in the dish).

After all the wine tasting, I was ecstatic to see the wedge of crusty sourdough bread, served warm with a side of butter. Pearl Morissette mixes corn meal into the dough so the bread has that sponginess of sourdough but a wonderful sweetness as well.

A palm-sized bean tartlet continues the meal. On the bottom, a creamy and tangy chevre goat cheese topped with diced butter beans that adds a lovely crunch against the thin buttery tart shell. Give me more!

A scallop is lightly warmed and cubed amongst a Doe Hill pepper purée, which is surprisingly flavourful... to the point that it covers the delicate scallop. Learning more about the pepper, it’s described as very sweet. For me there was a slight bitterness mixed with a rich capsicum flavour, which pairs nicely with the sweet corn but less so with the seafood. Personally, I enjoyed the scallops plain with flecks of marigold petals.

While I don’t mind the scallop undercooked, the grilled hand-caught line cod was too rare. The outer edges were fine, flaking away and cooked through, but the thicker section had a slightly gummy texture and fishy essence – it needed another minute on the grill. Maybe if the accompaniments were stronger the fishy taste could be covered, but the tomato juice and razor clam broth were so light that couldn’t mask the undercooked fish. The best part of the dish was the freshly picked tomatoes, simply amazing. Oh, the bounty of Niagara!

While the first half of the meal was light and summery, the following wild mushrooms was a nice progression towards the main. I can see why the lobster mushroom gets its name with the red outer skin and the inside being white. Moreover, it even has a meaty texture and slight seafood essence. Along with black trumpet mushrooms, they are tossed with a bread miso so the dish has an Asian flair with a hint of smokiness.

I urge the chefs to rethink the crumble topping in the mushrooms as it adds a grainy texture to the dish, so it feels like you’re eating sandy fungi. Moreover, the dish would have benefited from a grain (like barley or a parsnip/potato puree) as it was too salty on its own. As a plus, it went wonderfully with the Cabernet Franc, the earthiness tempering the cherry notes of the wine.

Two pieces of roasted rib of beef ended the savoury courses. The Longhorn beef was wonderfully flavourful and delicious. I felt guilty that it was so enjoyable; just moments before the dish arrive I  watching two calves in the field, nuzzling each other and play fighting. Even the vegetables were fantastic: pan fried zucchini that had a lovely caramelized crust on the cut end and just cooked through retaining a crunchy texture; and lightly pickled onions that kept the meaty main bright.

The first dessert acted as a palette cleanser, a rich strawberry sorbet with a tart sweet grass sabayon that’s surprisingly light for something made with egg yolks. It’s a dish with many tastes and textures as sitting on the bottom were salted strawberry pieces dotted with herb oil.  

A goat cheesecake followed for a richer dessert, flavoured with blueberries that were plump and sweet. A side of goat cheese verbena granite added a cool element. 

After the cheesecake, we thought the meal was over - at this point, we were satisfied but not stuffed. Then two freshly baked shortbread arrive, still hot so the butter is melted throughout creating a cookie with crunchy edges but a sinfully soft centre, with peach preserve and spicebush giving it flavour. If it weren’t rich enough, a side of butter is given – great for those who like a salty and sweet combination.

Twenty Bench is such a tranquil environment that you can’t help but be present and in the moment. At Pearl Morissette there’s so much wildlife surrounding the winery: the ducks in the pond kept us entertained – the baby ones diligently swimming and so cute that it’s hard to look away. The elevated dining room with the large windows creates such an airy environment that you almost feel like you’re eating outdoors, with the benefit of central heating and cooling.

The two hours just flew by, I couldn’t believe the meal came to an end. During late August/early September, don’t be afraid of the cannon/gunshot sounds that pierce through the air every few minutes. It’s simply compressed air used to deter birds from eating the ripe grapes. I just don’t know about the effectiveness of the machine, it certainly didn’t scare away the ducks, those little fellows could swim forever. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Jordan Station, Canada
 Address: 3953 Jordan Road

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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Christmas Cookies


Given the popularity of the Thanksgiving baked goods post, here is a similar article on Christmas cookies. Inspired by my friend who invited a group of ladies over for a bake-fest on Sunday, you should give them a try.  Whether you plan to eat them yourself or share with others the smell of freshly baked cookies add to the holiday spirits!

Although I wasn't involved with baking all the cookies, I've ordered the recipes by difficulty and/or amount of time required to prepare. I've also included some tips from the chefs and my thoughts on the finished products.  The photos are our actual creations, not bad for a first attempt.

Holiday Toffee Bars


I chose this simple recipe and it was certainly quick and easy, and is great for those who want to whip up something without too much preparation. 

I was puzzled that the recipe had "Toffee" in the title, but the ingredients didn't sound like the finished product would be toffee tasting at all.  Accordingly, I used a 50/50 mixture of butterscotch and semi-sweet chocolate chips in my version.  Additionally, I suggest increasing the amount of chocolate chips. In the end, I used about 75% more than the recipe called for, as when I placed the amount suggested in the recipe on the cookie crust, there didn't seem to be enough coverage to allow for even spreading.

My thoughts on its taste:  The bar reminds me of a crunchier brookie (brownie cookie).  I put the cookie crust in for the suggested 30 minutes; it was too much as the cookie layer ended up crunchy and flakey.  If you like a softer cookie like me, bake it closer to the 25 minute mark.

Triple Chip Cookies


If you like chewy chocolate chip cookies, this recipe is for you!  White chocolate, milk chocolate and butterscotch all mixed together in one creation.  These are definitely not your regular chocolate chip cookies.

My thoughts on its taste:  Firstly, I do not love chocolate.  Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it, but I just don't drool over it like most.  Perhaps it's because of this that I found the cookie overpowering - it was extremely sweet, to the the point that I was craving a tall glass of milk after having half a cookie.  You likely should lower the 1.75 cups of sugar or 4.5 cups of chocolate chips that the recipe requires - with that much chocolate, you really don't need that much sugar. 

Toblerone Shortbread Cookies


As a warning, this is not for those watching their weight, shortbread takes alot of butter!  But, the outcome is a melt-in-your-mouth cookie.  Imagine an unassuming looking shortbread and when you bite into it there's a surprising Toblerone filling. 

The chef advises that step #3 of using a teaspoon of cookie dough is not enough; you will likely need more than that in order to fully cover a whole triangle of Toblerone.  In the end, each recipe only made a dozen cookies.

My thoughts on its taste:  I was surprised they were so enjoyable as I normally find shortbread too dense and plain tasting.  These cookies were fluffier and tasted delicate even though they were so rich.  I liked that the dough itself was not overly sweet and complemented the Toblerone well.  

Stained Glass Tree Cookies


These cookies are so festive and pretty you simply don't want to eat them!  You really could customize the cookies into any shape you want - stars, Santa or snowmen the choice is yours. 

The recipe calls for about 30 Jolly Rancher candies.  The chef advises this is way too much, as there was so much left over.  So, I'd say lower the count to about 15 candies.  Within the instructions it states "sprinkle candy ... avoid edges", you should follow the guidance otherwise, the candies start melting into the cookie edge and won't look as crisp. Also, don't crush the candies too finely as the ones that turned out best seem to have large chunks of candies so that it would formed a thicker "stained glass".

My thoughts on its taste:  The actual sugar cookie part is good and tastes like any other recipe.  Whereas, the candy part is a bit chewy and not something you'd want to munch on.  But, who cares!  They look so great that really you don't want to eat them anyways.

Gingerbread Cookies


It will take some time to prepare, chill, roll, decorate and dry the cookies but nothing says Christmas more than colourful gingerbread cookies.  These are perfect for getting a group of people together to help decorate.

My thoughts on its taste:  The finished product was very good, much moister than a recipe I had tried previously.  I like my gingerbread crispy on the outside but chewier in the middle.  It could be due to my friend substituting the ground ginger with freshly grated ginger - it adds some stringy looking bits in the dough but made for a moister product.

Have fun baking and most of all enjoy the holiday season!