Friday, June 23, 2017

Medieval Horsebread

Some odd but delicious and healthy ingredients with a long fermenting sourdough crumb make a history lesson you can REALLY chew on!

Mediaeval Horsebread

One of the best things about my job this year was the ability to completely immerse myself in Medieval culture. From the clothes to the swordplay and chivalry to the dances and jester acts, I was learning alongside my students and kept trying to infuse my enthusiasm into each lesson. While that didn't always work, they were interested in the food!

In preparation for our "dinner theatre" presentation, I spent a lot of time researching the cornerstone of every Medieval citizen's diet - bread. Regardless of class, grains (usually in the form of various breads) provided 65–70% of calories in the early 14th century! Obviously, I love making bread as much as my mom loves to eat it, but in my studies I came across a most unusual formula for the "authentic" peasant bread. Apparently in those ages,there was something of a hierarchy amongst the bread eaters. The "upper crust" (excuse the pun) were given the most refined, smoothest-texture and purest flour for their bread, and the resulting loaves - called manchet - were similar to our "whole wheat" today. Next were the middle class, who didn't get quite the purity in their ground grains, nor the resources to make perfectly smooth doughs with heavy refining. These slightly irregular loaves were called maslin - and in fact about 7 years ago I made some of this myself. It's a perfectly acceptable loaf to taste, and for those who love dark pumpernickel style loaves it is definitely a winner for the table.

Lastly was the bread for the poor, who could only afford the miller's last grinds of the day. These grains were usually a medley of all sorts of grains, seeds and even legumes - the emptying of a grain sack that might have been intended for the horses or cattle - along with the debris swept from the shop floor. Obviously these were not finely milled, nor sieved, and the resulting loaves often required lengthy rising times. This lent a sour flavour to the dough, and even with the extended fermentation the bread was not a high-riser. Dense and hearty, it was sustenance more than anything for the impoverished, who would also feed it to their livestock in times of famine - hence the name horsebread.

Medieval "Horsebread"

It was this type of bread I was interested in creating as an example for my class, who would be able to taste it as part of their lessons. I have to admit that it is a rather sour loaf - which I loved personally - but the texture is unlike anything available today and definitely wouldn't appeal to children. That said, for my family, a smear of honey butter or jam on a freshly oven-warmed slice was the perfect combination while the loaf was around. With just a tad of extra refining, I would eat it again!

Of course, this isn't a complete recreation of Medieval bread baking. However, I loved this resource, which actually details the steps for a more accurate reenactment!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Citrus Glitters #creativecookieexchange

Sweet and tangy, these two-biters are a colourful addition to any cookie platter!

Glittering Citrus and White Chocolate Cherry cookies! #yummy #yum #vegetarian #sweet #cooking #baking #Xmas #cookies #dessert #eeeats

I love when the weather gets warm enough for the plants in my garden to thrive. While the common saying around here is "plant on the May 24 weekend", the last few years (this one included) have been so messed up weatherwise that I'm just glad to have greenery at all! I know Summer has truly arrived when the herbs take off, though - and when they do, oh boy does the garden smell heavenly!

While my herb selection varies slightly year to year, there are always two plants I make sure to include in my planning: catnip and lemon balm. Catnip is an obvious choice to those who know my family and our bevy of felines - there is nothing funnier than watching them with their "leaves"! Lemon balm is my personal favourite - I love anything lemony, and a few leaves torn into salad, ground into pesto or stuffed into a chicken add such a light kiss of flavour.

Recently, I started toying with the idea of using lemon balm in desserts. Rather, I should say I thought about using it in desserts again - after making these cookies I discovered that I had actually made almost the exact same recipe back in 2011 (that version, though, is gluten free). I don't remember the flavour of those ones, but these were phenomenal - the right amount of lemon flavour with a hint of "green" herbal notes, texture from cornmeal and coarse sugar and a melt-in-your-mouth experience due to the low gluten content of the dough. This batter was even delicious unbaked... not that I advocate that necessarily (but quality control!!).

That said, I still consider these to be more of a "grown up" cookie. The little ones just might not want anything to do with the bits of green in their treats!

All those beautiful herbs growing in the garden are our inspiration this month’s #CreativeCookieExchange. We tend to think of herbs as an ingredient for savory dishes, but they are truly wonderful in baked goods too. Cookies infused with an earthy herbal note are truly a delight to be enjoyed at any time - and are seriously addictive - so we’ve got a great list for you to choose from!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Snickery Springform Cookie #SundaySupper

A springform pan is the perfect vessel for this giant, chewy, Snickers-filled chocolate cookie. A dusting of sugar on the top adds a little extra sweetness.

Snickery Springform Cookie

Father’s Day is upon us. For the past few years, it's been a bittersweet day for my sister and I - a period where we celebrate having an amazing dad who would do anything for us (sometimes we don't even need to ask!) and where we remember our grandfather, who passed away on the morning after father's day a few short years ago. Ironically, both these men in our lives seem more and more similar as the years go on, even though they were not related to each other. Both manage to exhibit the utmost kindness to everyone, regardless of their "place" in society. Both have experience with some of life's scarier curveballs - diabetes, hypertension, and cancer were either personal struggles or those of loved ones. Both are fans of banana bread, pumpkin pie and my mom's stroganoff, and both can maneuver a truck and trailer back and forth across the country as well as down south of the border without issue. 

In honour of my dad, who also has a fondness for peanuts and caramel, I cooked up this "cookie-cake" - essentially a giant cookie in a springform pan. While not exactly a health food wonder, it's a holiday treat - and it serves a crowd, so in reality the sugar load isn't too heavy per serving. Peanut flour adds a nice richness that pairs well with the combination of fats, while the chunks of Snickers added toothsome chew and decadence to the pan. The worst part is waiting for it to cool before you can slice it into wedges - although I strongly recommend warming theach wedge up before serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Snickery Springform Cookie

Sides Dad Will Love


Mains for the Main Man


Dad’s Favorite Desserts

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, June 13, 2017

Pepper Braised Chicken

Braised Chicken Legs with Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions and Carrots. Hearty, wholesome and GREAT for perfuming the house! Adapted from The Food Lab

Pepper Braised Chicken

Last week was a long one for this household - especially for me. It started off on Monday, with my class' dress rehearsal for their Medieval "dinner theatre" production... a feat which sucked up the morning, and for lack of a better phrase, chewed it up, spat it out and washed it down the sink with bleach.

Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it was close. I'm trying not to be oversensitive (I wrote and directed the action myself, wrote the recipes and cooked 3/4 of the meal) but I remember putting in massive effort as a kid, and these guys just... didn't. Oh well. The "real" production that night was overall an enjoyable one for the parents, which was the point! I haven't forgotten to share the recipe for the dessert, I just need to get around to it!

After the drama with the drama (as it were), our group packed up and shipped off for our year-end extended field trip. It sounded fun - a sports camp complete with zipline and kayaking. What the brochure failed to mention was the blackflies. Bug spray, layered clothing and mad swatting was of no use - we all came home on Friday (in the rain) exhausted and looking like we had a bad case of the measles.

Thankfully, with those 7 days behind us, there are only 5 or so left to get through before this school year is in the books. Until then, I've turned to cooking comforting meals for both myself and the family - it's the best type of therapy there is!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Medieval Gingerbread Castle Façade

This impressive twist on the gingerbread house features a sugar cookie base with gingerbread crumbs and sanding sugar for "dirt" and "grass", cake sparkles for "water" and both royal icing and melted chocolate for glue!

Gingerbread Castle Façade

It's almost over.

After spending many months researching, drafting, crafting, rehearsing, singing and cooking, the curtains go up on our year end play - which I (sometimes not so) fondly consider my year end play - this Monday. Looking back on everything my co-teacher, my mom and I have done since February when I started writing the script, it still seems impossible that we have all the pieces for a successful dinner theatre on hand.

One of the elements of our meal that was going to be part of the show was this Medieval Gingerbread Castle Façade. While already impressively large, the full recipe for the castle was about 7 times larger and incorporated more walls, towers and a drawbridge! As it was, creating this "façade" took many weeks to put together - each wall section was hand cut with (dedicated) pottery tools, "glued" together with brown royal icing and melted chocolate, decorated with sprinkles and sanding sugar to make "ivy" and "moss" and finally attached to the sugar cookie base. The base was then scattered with gingerbread crumbs and sanding sugar for "dirt" and "grass" and cake sparkles for "water".


While I never proclaim to be a professional anything, I am quite proud of this construction. Not only does it look like it belongs in the "ye olde" era, it tastes delicious too - and since it's glazed with a confectioner's "shellac" (vodka and corn syrup) it takes a long time to stale. Good thing too, since unless you're feeding a Great Hall plowing through this much cookie will take a while!

If you noticed, I said this castle was going to be part of our show. Truth is, it was simply too much work to put together even the façade, and the completed piece would be bigger than any cookie sheet or cake board I own. Instead, I kept this castle as a showpiece and made little pastries for our dessert instead. You'll see that recipe sometime soon, since it was a hit with both friends and family who taste tested my trials!