The Best of 2014

I know I should've made this "Best of 2014" list before 2014 actually ended, but I don't think anyone is going to mind. 

Not every single recipe that a blogger puts up is going to be the best thing they've ever made. That's just how it is. Hopefully everything they put up is good and tasty, but there's always those extra special recipes that just send it out of the park. It's hard to distinguish which is which based solely on photos. I mean, I can tell you that "this thing is the best ever, oh man, wow!" but you don't really know for sure. 

The past year, I've made some really good things. I can proudly say that every recipe I have put up in 2014 is one that I'm proud of. But these are the tastiest of the bunch, hands down.  

I present, the Best of Hint of Vanilla 2014!

I put up these French Toast Macarons almost one year ago and I knew, as soon as I made them, that they were something special. During my summer job as a pastry cook at a resort, I was able to make whatever I wanted for a media brunch for various newspapers from across the province. I immediately knew that I wanted to make these and they turned out great. The media group was really impressed (I saw them snapping photos with their iPhones!) as well as all the servers that got to eat the leftovers. 

I'm a bit wary of lavender desserts these days. Lavender is one of those buzzwords that everyone seems to lock on to, but I find that most of the lavender flavoured desserts taste like potpourri. I decided to make my own lavender-infused dessert, but avoid the "I'm eating soap" taste. And so, these Lemon Lavender Tarts with Honey Meringue were born. I'm really happy with the flavour pairings of these tarts and how the lavender is more of a background floral note than a loud off-key trumpet blast.

I had only ever had kouign amann at professional bakeries and I had never tried to make them myself. I wasn't expecting much when I first made my own, but I was blown away by how utterly delicious these Chocolate Kouign Amann were. Like a croissant, but with sugar laminated in the layers along with butter and then that little pocket of chocolate. That media brunch that I mentioned just now? I also made these for it. I was nervous because I had made them only once before and now, here I was making them for a group of journalists. They turned out better than the first time I had made them and I was incredibly stoked.

I'm really not a big pumpkin fan. I think I have three pumpkin recipes on this blog and two of them were made this year. While this is not exactly a "wow!" dessert, I really loved the flavours of this Pumpkin Spice Custard with Maple Brown Butter Mousse - and that's coming from someone who is "meh" about pumpkin. Warm spices, creamy pumpkin custard, nutty brown butter with earthy and sweet maple sugar! That really screams fall to me. It wasn't a very popular recipe when I posted it, which I was actually surprised to see. Maybe now it will get the recognition it deserves!

I absolutely love lemon desserts and this Charred Lemon Mousse with Earl Grey Cream and Lemon Sablé is hands-down my favourite lemon dessert I have ever made, ever. The lemon mousse has such a tangy kick to it and the luscious earl grey cream tones is down a bit and then the lemon sablé adds a delightful crunch. Once again, during my summer job as a pastry cook at a resort, I was in charge of making the menu for a small function dinner. One of the two desserts I made? These, exactly as they are. 

Chocolate Custard Ice Cream. Simply the best ice cream I have ever had. Unbelievably smooth and creamy, loaded with rich chocolate flavour. I don't care that it's freezing cold out right now, I want to make this again. If I could only eat one ice cream for the rest of my life, it would be this.

Another recipe that didn't get as much attention as I think it should have was these Maple Hazelnut Pot de Crème with Cinnamon Lace Tuiles. Maybe it's the fact that I'm Canadian, but I love maple syrup in my desserts. I also love hazelnuts, but who doesn't? Made with homemade praline paste and maple sugar, this custard is packed with flavour and has such a smooth texture. One of my favourite winter desserts.

This Raspberry Swirl Brioche was the most popular post on my blog this year, by far. It's a darn pretty loaf, I'll give you that. But it was also really tasty. I used raspberry powder in the filling and I think that really sets it apart from traditional babka-type loaves. This loaf was a personal point of pride for me because I had never made anything like it before and it turned out better than I could have imagined. 

2014 turned out to be quite a year of ups and downs for me, but in the end I think I broke even. This year, everything seems to be lined up for success for me. I'm where I want to be with my career, my blog has really taken off, and everything seems to be going just swimmingly in all other respects. 

Here's to whatever lies ahead in 2015! Happy New Year!