This simple dessert is an indisputable classic of new Italian cuisine. Our take forgoes the standard coffee-sodden ladyfingers in favour a freshly made, coffee-brushed white chocolate sponge cake. The result is more luxurious, and a lot less mushy.

Serves 8-10

Chocolate Caramel Sauce

2/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp corn syrup

2 tbsp butter

1 oz dark chocolate, chopped

Mascarpone Cream

1 leaf gelatine

1 short espresso

1/2 cup icing sugar

10 oz mascarpone

2/3 cup 35% cream, whipped

Frappuccino (Optional)

300 ml condensed milk

2 long espressos

Coffee Syrup

1/4 cup sugar

1 long espresso

Sponge Cake

4 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 oz Chocolate Caramel Crunch (Optional)

1/2 cup sugar

4 oz white chocolate, chopped


Cocoa powder

Whipped cream (Optional)



For the crunch, spread a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and ¼ cup (60 mL) cold water in a saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until golden and thoroughly caramelized. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and follow with the chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth. Drop the caramel 1 tsp (5 mL) at a time onto the parchment paper, immediately spreading it with a small offset spatula into a long, thin smear. Your goal is for semi-translucent strips of hardened caramel about 1 inch (2 cm) wide and 4 inches (10 cm) long. If the caramel in the saucepan becomes too thick to work with, gently reheat it. When the sheets are done, set aside in a cool place.

If you intend to make the frappuccino, place the can of condensed milk in a small, deep saucepan, cover it com- pletely with water, and simmer on low heat for 3 hours, topping up the water to keep the can covered as required.

For the sponge cake, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan.

Place the eggs in a bowl of warm water and set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour into a small bowl, crumble the caramel crunch into it, and mix well. Crack the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high speed until blended and beginning to froth. Add the sugar, and continue whisking until the volume has more than doubled and the mixture forms stiff peaks, about 7 minutes. Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler, stirring until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted chocolate. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl and ensure that everything is properly incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture, and mix until it is incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and fold it in with the spatula. Pour the mixture into the springform pan. Bake until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre emerges clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cake on a rack, and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill.

For the mascarpone cream, submerge the gelatine in a bowl of cold water. Combine the espresso and icing sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze the gelatine, add it to the saucepan, and stir again until dissolved. Transfer to a small bowl, and whisk in a scoop of the mascarpone. Transfer the remaining mascarpone to a large bowl, add the tempered espresso mixture, and whisk together until combined. Follow with the whipped cream, and whisk again. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill and thicken.

For the coffee syrup, combine the sugar with ¼ cup (60 mL) cold water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Set aside to cool. Stir in the espresso, transfer to a shallow bowl, and chill in the refrigerator.

To finish the frappuccino, whisk together half the simmered condensed milk with the 2 long espressos; refrigerate until cool.

To finish, cut the cake into 8 to 10 wedges. Dip each wedge into the chilled coffee syrup, flipping it in the liquid swiftly to cover. Arrange each dipped slice on a plate. Transfer the mascarpone cream to a piping bag and pipe a layer on top of each piece of cake. Follow with a sheet of caramel crunch, then a second layer of cream, and a final sheet of caramel crunch. If you made the frappuccino, shake it with crushed ice and serve in a small glass on the plate, topped with whipped cream. Sprinkle cocoa over the cake and the frappuccino and serve at once.

Tip: For best results, avoid even remotely granular mascarpone for this recipe and use the finest, smoothest Italian variety (like Foresti).

Shortcuts: While they make enjoyable additions to the finished plate, neither the caramel crunch nor the frappuccino is at all essential to this tiramisù. As well, the white chocolate sponge cake will still turn out admirably without any crumbled caramel in its batter. So feel free to save time by omitting both these elements, and simply serve the dipped cake topped with mascarpone-coffee cream.


[From: Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica: Great Italian Recipes Made Easy for Home by Mark McEwan. Copyright © General Purpose Entertainment, 2011. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Group (Canada), a Division of Pearson Canada Inc.]




Gluten-Free Doesn’t Mean Flavour-Free at McEwan

For the estimated 330,000 Canadians with Celiac disease, the sufferers of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, and even those hopping on the latest celebrity fad-diet, everyone seems to be asking for tasty foods that are Gluten-Free (GF).  It really wasn’t long ago that “Gluten” was a term only recognized by rare Celiac sufferers, and that this small patient population thought they’d never taste a decent pasta, cereal or bread. Thankfully, with recent advances in digestive disorder diagnosis, and the endless online, in print and on air diet buzz, the food industry has caught up with demand.

I’m generally not so supportive of fad diets and their ripple effect on food products.  But as passionate foodie, I’m thrilled that my clients may no longer need to miss out on their Nonna’s manicotti, their weekend bagel breakfast, or a celebratory slice of cake. Everyone should get to eat cake!

Well, thankfully, with their extensive selection of hand-picked GF products, McEwan is making these eating experiences a reality for everyone.  I really appreciate how unlike most grocery stores which often relegate their specialty-diet customers into a small aisle or section, McEwan offers GF items in nearly every department of the store.  They also add a large purple label to each of the GF offerings to help guide consumers who purposefully seek these products out. To me, this type of store organization not only helps destigmatize eating GF for some consumers, but I think it also hints at the quality and accessibility of the products to all McEwan customers- gluten restricted or not!

And that’s what I wanted to test out myself so I took home a weeks-worth of GF groceries from McEwan, and meticulously tasted my way through.  And while I was shocked to find myself honestly satisfied by everything I sampled, there were definitely some family faves.

Here are some of my top picks:


Gluten-free no longer means bread free! The texture of this bread is moist, soft and bouncy, while the flavour is sweet, and deliciously nutty. With a perfect balance of seasoning already added to the dough, I could easily eat a few slices without any additional spreads.


Not only does this pasta offer Omega 6 Fatty Acids, Protein, and Fibre, but its flavour and consistency are indistinguishable from regular wheat pasta.  And when cooked to al dente in adequately salted water, the noodles retain a nice supple bite, and have a delicious mild nutty flavour. Now, mangia, mangia!

Sarafina Thin Crust Pizza: Funghi

Pizza is a household staple for many families, and Sarafina makes sure this is no different for those who eat gluten-free.  While not exactly thin by restaurant standards, the crust on this frozen pizza bakes up golden brown and has a pleasant chewy texture. The pizza also features a pretty distinguishable mushroom flavour and is loaded up pretty generously with mozzarella, parmesan and goats cheese.

Antipastos Kitchen: 3 Cheese and Spinach Manicotti

This frozen pasta entrée has surprisingly restaurant quality flavour. Unlike many other frozen entrees, which Western union online I often find really bland, Antipastos’ 3-cheese filling is creamy, fresh tasting, and seasoned really well. Most importantly, though, the noodles here are neither too chewy nor mushy, and maintain their consistency under the layer of bubbling crispy cheese. Yum!

Bakery on Main: Cranberry, Orange Granola

Crunchy cereals are satisfying cereals, and this one takes the cake- or apple pie if we’re talking about the mildly sweet aromatic baking flavours of this granola. I also love that it’s virtually sodium free, is a source of protein and fibre, and is packed with lots of good for you fats.

Sweets from the Earth: Chocolate Cake

Attention chocoholics- gluten-free or otherwise- meet your new addiction. The cake is remarkably moist and is topped with a generous layer of rich, sumptuously smooth icing. Heck, I don’t even like chocolate that much and I keep returning to the fridge for more.



So as the results of my extensive tasting session suggests, it doesn’t matter if you’re a flavour junkie, a healthy nut, new to the world of GF groceries or looking to upgrade from the old generation of GF goods – McEwan’s impressive GF selection has something to satisfy everyone. So print my list, explore the store, sample the selection, and re-adjust your expectations- McEwan is going to convince you all that GF foods can be great.

For more healthy eating tips and recipes, check out my website www.abbeyskitchen.com,  follow me on twitter @AbbeysKitchen, and visit the McEwan blog regularly to catch my next post!








Eat & Tweet at #McEwanAllAccess


While Canada was abuzz with Oprah sightings, social eyes were on North 44.

April 9, 2013 signalled the inaugural social event dubbed, #McEwanAllAccess. The night curated by Ken Samuel of In Your Mouth Toronto, a Toronto culinary scene personality, held at North 44, aimed to provide an intimate experience with one of Canada’s top culinary personalities, Chef Mark McEwan.

This was the first time The McEwan Group held an event that was communicated, shared and executed solely through social channels. The event was received brilliantly with the Twittersphere exploding with quips from attendees conversations with Chef McEwan. But, don’t take our word for it, check out check out some of the tweets from that night or the #McEwanAllAccess hashtag.

Heading to #North44 tonight to share in great tastes from @Chef_MarkMcEwan. Thanks @TheMcEwanGroup for trying something new! #McEwanAllAccess – @HotTorontoDeals

Finally got to meet @Chef_MarkMcEwan at #North44 for #McEwanAllAccess Such a down-to-earth and inspirational man - @A_to_the_Dub

Some great advice: Stay true to who you are and you’ll stay true to your brand – @chef_markmcewan via @Amandablake9

Speaking with #North44 staff and they all will tell you, Mark’s dishes are symbolic of his heart and amazing creativity #McEwanAllAccess - @inyourmouthtoronto

Guests came to eat, drink and tweet, chatting with Mark about entrepreneurialism, the Toronto culinary scene, work/life balance and social media. Attendees, received an extra dose of the culinary experience with the presence of the Executive Chef of North 44, Chef Sasha Simpson and a surprise visit from Chef Jonathan Goodyear, current Top Chef Canada contender.

The menu for the night boasted what Mark says were items that have been on his menu for 10 years, many months and just a few days. These included a sumptuous Foie Gras on Brioche with Spiced Blackberry, raved about pressed Manchego Cheese Burgers with Serrano Ham and repeat favorite, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Marscapone Polenta, Pepper Caponata and Pepper Jus, to name a few.

Wines being sampled were a beautiful 2010 Antica Chardonnay, from Napa Valley provided by www.halpernwine.com and a delightful 2010 Carmel Road Pinot Noir from the Central Coast, provided by www.bwwines.com.

We are ecstatic with how the evening went and due to the response, look forward to offering more social events in the future.

Stay tuned.



Good Taste Takes Work

If Sash Simpson hires you to work in his kitchen, you’d better be just like him.

The Executive Chef at North 44 expects a certain work ethic that not everyone can live up to. Sounds like another chef we know.

When Sash first met Mark McEwan years ago to interview for a line cook position, he was intimidated. He was unfamiliar with fine dining, and had heard about Mark’s notoriously exacting standards. But what Sash did know was the value of hard work, having started his career in the hospitality industry at 16. The two hit it off and Mark took him under his wing.

“Mark is one step above a perfectionist” says Sash. “He expects a lot of his staff and of himself. It’s how he was taught to work in the kitchen, and it’s how he teaches others.”

Much like his mentor, Sash expects every employee at North 44 to perform to the same standard of excellence that he does. And not just in how they cook, but in how they welcome guests, treat fellow staff, and stay humble working for one of Toronto’s original fine dining restaurants.

North 44 opened in 1990 and immediately raised the bar in Toronto. 23 years later the restaurant is still plating some of the best flavours you’ll find in the city. The Prime Strip and Dover Sole are top sellers; but if you’re looking for a more acquired taste, Sash recommends the Foie Gras.

Book a table at North 44 to see Sash’s exceptional talent at work.