Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Squidgy Superfood Brownies

I never thought I would have as much of a struggle to procure ingredients as I did with these brownies. I had a killer recipe waiting in the wings, with flavours I knew were going to be hits. First of all, it was a brownie recipe, which means one thing was present: chocolate - and lots of it. The other ingredients in the formula promised a fudgier-style crumb, which I adore, and lent great earthy notes that balanced the bitterness of the cocoa and the sweetness of the sugar and Truvia. It's a rarity for me to find a recipe using buckwheat flour that isn't completely gluten free, but the dark, nutty tasting flour kept the total gluten level relatively low in these bars, meaning more fudginess!

Squidgy Superfood Brownies

But chocolate and buckwheat aside, the ingredient that sealed the deal (and almost drove me batty trying to procure) was roasted, pureed beets. I had planted rows upon rows of the root veggie (and carrots, but that's another sob story) at the beginning of the year, choosing varieties that were known for remaining sweet and tender even at gargantuan sizes, for the major purpose of baking into delicious treats. However, just like when I went to make the Green Thai Curry Paste, day after day I'd walk out to the garden to find my prized heirlooms half eaten while still underground. Forget 20-pound showstoppers, I'd be happy with enough beet left for a salad!

Squidgy Superfood BrowniesThankfully, the garden gods eventually smiled on me and granted me a small (in number) but large (in size and flavour) crop of my prized beets. After thinking the only thing I'd be able to make with this year's harvest was a small batch of Blueberry Beet Butter, I finally had enough to make my brownies.

I wasn't disappointed either - the cooled brownies were full of chocolatey flavour and were edged with just enough *something special* to appeal to the "I don't eat dessert" crowd. The texture was fudgy, edging on the slightest bit of squidgy in the centre, and they held together when cut so that they could be individually wrapped for lunches. The large amount of beet puree gave the batch a delicate ruddy colour and - bonus point - kept the added fat down to just ¼ cup for the loaf pan-sized batch. Of course, the perfect brownie (beet or otherwise) relies on a delicate manipulation of temperature for success. My secrets are pretty basic, but boy do they work:

1. Do not, under any circumstances, overbake. In most cases a toothpick will come out with damp crumbs for a fudgy batch

2. Placing the pan of baked brownies directly in the freezer from the oven for 30 minutes, then remove it and bring to room temp.

I have no idea why that second trick works - I took biology, not chemistry in college - but it does. I always make sure I've got enough space in my freezer to stick the hot pan (on a baking sheet if I have to layer on top of something) before I pop a batch in the oven!

What's your favourite type of brownie - fudgy, cakey, somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Peanut Butter Graham Cookies (with Tallow!)

Way back when I first rendered a batch of tallow, I wasn't quite sure how to use it. I mean, obviously it would make killer savoury pastry (like in my Jamaican “No-Beef” Patties) and would be a great option for sauteeing onions and garlic for soups, but I never thought too much about using it in sweet things. However, once I added it to my Butterscotch Apple Bread, I discovered that the slight savoury aroma translated into almost a "doughnut shop" nuance in flavour - after all, doughnuts used to be fried in the stuff!

Peanut Butter Graham Cookies (with Tallow!)

I couldn't wait to see what my home-rendered tallow would be like in other baking applications, and there's no better place in my mind to start than cookies! I (and my dad) adore peanut butter cookies of any type, and the sweet-salty flavour profile that peanut butter has worked great with the rest of the ingredients. To counter the savoury edge from the fats, I brought in the caramel flavours of graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and toasted oats, then tossed in a couple handfuls of whatever chocolate I had kicking around (mostly leftover candy from "end of the school year" parties).

The batch was amazing - perfectly sweet, salty and savoury at once, chewy in the middle with crisp edges and that little bit of texture from the oats. While I thought they might be greasy with the tallow, they didn't cause any oil slicks on my hands as I handled them - something I attribute to the chilling time (which is now a "must" on my oatmeal cookie list). While they won't be appearing in school lunch boxes anytime soon, there's nothing stopping kids from grabbing one with a glass of milk as they walk in the door!)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sweet Heat Pepper Jelly - Toast Topper #74

With work starting up again, I've been spending less time in the garden than usual this year. When I do get out there before dark (usually weekends only), the scraggly plot of various edible vegetation is full of surprises - this weekend alone, I discovered that cape gooseberries had long since edged out one of my tomato plants and had likely been growing all Summer (granted, the stems and blossoms do look rather tomato-like, it was only when the physalises started appearing that I started to wonder) and that I had quite the bounty of large beets on my hands. One of the other joys I discovered in with all my tomato, nasturtium and herb foliage was that my chili pepper plants (that I had long assumed killed by the vole invasion) had come back - full force. While most of the fruits are not ready to pick just yet, I did manage to snag a few Scotch Bonnets, a half-red Tabasco and a whole whack of my new fave: monkeyface peppers. I had forgotten that in the mix of peppers I set out all those months ago I had also planted Ring of Fire and scorpion chilis - ay carumba!

Sweet Heat Pepper Jelly

Luckily, I don't have to think about those just yet. I had always wanted to make a pepper jelly with my homegrown beauties, especially since the Tabasco and Scotch Bonnets have a decent, fruity flavour to them in addition to searing heat. A simmer in apple juice draws out the acidic, slightly bitter notes and makes them disappear, and by using Pomona’s Pectin I was able to use just enough sugar to call the works a "jelly" while preventing the batch turning into hellfire candy. 

A dollop of this on cream cheese-spread crackers (or toasted Dark Molasses Bread) is nothing short of delicious - there's a definite "kick" that sneaks up from behind but doesn't leave your tastebuds mangled beyond repair. It's also fantastic as a glaze for salmon, chicken, pork or even cornbread! 

Do you like pepper jelly? How do you savour it?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dark Molasses Bread #SundaySupper

Working in a school, coffee is something that essentially runs through the veins of myself and my coworkers. While not as heavy of a user as some, I do enjoy a cup or two a day - particularly during the winter months, where the days seem to drag on a little more than usual and recess is anything but enjoyable. Coffee is also one of the great equalizers among us - from the newest to the oldest staff members, we all drink from the same urn (like it or not) and if the pot runs dry before everyone's had their lunch break.... well, lets just say it's not always a pretty sight.

Dark "Lassy" Bread

Of course, the staff room is also full of carbohydrate-laden accoutrements to the morning brew, and whether it's donuts, cookies or coffee cake there's almost never leftovers. At home, while mom loves carbs in general, she'd much rather have a slice of hearty bread or a bagel, toasted with peanut butter, than a cupcake or store bought muffin. Her philosophy is "the heartier the better", and the two of us share a deep fondness for the dark, lightly sweetened rye bread we can find at the local deli.

Rye is not a wholly unusual bread variety for me to make - given that it's one of my mom's favourite types of bread, I've been playing with recipes for years, adding fruit and cacao nibs, granola,
multitudes of seeds and even trying a 100% sourdough. This time around, I brought the tang of sourdough, the sweetness of maple sugar and molasses, the nuttiness of buckwheat and the bitter hint of strong coffee to the loaf. At once sweet and savoury, it fits every meal of the day - toasted with a smear of creamy nut butter and a dollop of almost any Toast Topper, made into cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches or simply plain on a ploughman's lunch plate. The flavour of the coffee, while subtle, enhances the other nuances in the bread and reminds me of the "Russian Bread" I used to be able to have in my grandparent's favourite pub growing up.

This week's #SundaySupper is all about that morning cuppa. Whether you're obsessed with it straight up (I'm a black, no sugar gal myself), need a touch of sugar and cream to get things rolling, or prefer your java in edible form, we've got lots of options to drool at!

Beverages

Breakfast

Sides

Main dishes

Dessert
Sunday Supper Movement
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Raisin Bread with Kinako #BreadBakers

Fall has arrived, and with it the inevitable onslaught of all things pumpkin spice (including guinea pigs!). Ironically, I've always loved the flavours in the traditional spice blend, but never liked overly "pumpkin-flavoured" things (pancakes being an exception. Those are delicious). Also, while I will gladly nurse a mug of black PS flavoured coffee, you won't find me fighting over a latte anytime soon either. Give me the spices straight!

So, when it came time for this month's Bread Baker's challenge, I was glad to see we had the option of using either pumpkin or pumpkin spice, as well as a combination of the two. I'm putting off buying any tins of the stuff until right before (Canadian) Thanksgiving, when I make pie for Dad - and I might not even need to do that since I still have some roasted pumpkin puree in the freezer from last year to use. However, I always have a full array in my spice cabinet (or cabinets - they spread over 4 shelves in 2 pantry units). Used judiciously, they perfectly accent the other rich flavours going on in this dense, hearty dough.

Raisin and Spice Kinako Bread

I started with a base of nutty kinako (toasted soy flour) and barley flour for flavour and texture, mixed with run-of-the-mill AP and vital wheat gluten for structure. To keep the works moist and soft, I poured in some local half-and-half cream and scooped in a helping of tangy Greek yogurt. Along with making the crumb supple and soft, the acidity helped break down some of the tougher fibrous bits, making for a more even-tasting crumb. A small amount of brown sugar and honey balanced out the combination, not to mention made for a gorgeous golden crust and easily toasted inner crumb. Now, I am a huge fan of raisins in my spice breads, so I wasn't shy here either. Kneading in a big handful of soft, plump raisins mixed with coarse turbinado sugar meant that each slice essentially contained little soft caramel jewels that popped sweetly with each bite.

The dough was not a high riser, and originally I though the loaf a failure. But one slice later and I was converted - this was not only delicious, but it was such a hit I've been asked to make it again and again.

Breads with Pumpkin/Pumpkin Spice:

BreadBakers

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.