Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dried Fruit and Pecan Loaf with @selefina.spices

This sweet and spiced Dried Fruit and Pecan Loaf is packed with dried apricots, blueberries and dates, which play off the toasted pecans and oats in the dough beautifully. A generous dash of spices from @selefina.spices ties everything together - try it toasted with cream cheese for a treat!

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Even though the spring weather is starting to creep out and more and more freshness is permeating the world, I have a soft spot for the warming, hearty baked goods all year round. In particular, if I'm making a loaf for breakfast (which is what I'm usually baking for Mom), I know there are a set of unofficial criteria to follow - slightly sweet, hearty (packed with whole grains, seeds, or as my mom calls them "bits"), and good toasted with either a Toast Topper, butter or cream cheese. In essence, it gives me free reign to clean out the pantry and freezer every once in a while, and figure out a way to tie everything together. This loaf was inspired by a plethora of dried fruit I had and bolstered by the recent arrival of a set of brand new spices from Selefina - a sister company to the Adagio teas I love and have reviewed here before. With a quiet afternoon on my hands I decided to create a Dutch-oven baked boule with a bunch of whole grains and the aforementioned ingredients to see how it all worked out. 

The first thing that I realized with this loaf is that the combination of ingredients makes for some happy yeast and a great rise, yet because the loaf is so hearty the crumb remains tight. This, to me, is not a bad thing - I want a piece of bread in the morning that can stand up to toasting or topping (or both), and the flavour was well worth the lack of airiness. The Dutch oven gives this bread a glorious crust too, so even while it may not be incredibly visually appealing, it is well worth the effort!

From the Press Release: The creative team behind Adagio Teas had recently launched Selefina Spices, a new online shop for herbs and spices. Selefina will also differentiate itself from other online purveyors by making its quality products available in small amounts. The objective is to deliver herbs and spices of optimum freshness as well as encourage trial of unfamiliar products and broaden culinary exploration. 

My notes: I love the fact that these spices come in small quantities, opaque, zip-sealed bags, and that the company has such a variety of them! I was sent a very generous variety, and looking at the website I can still see some that I'd love (looking at you, butterfly pea flower, lavender and pasilla chile). The fact that these spices come from a sister company to Adagio, who arguably make some of the best teas I've ever had (I'm still enjoying the last of the advent calendar offerings and can't wait til its iced tea season again) I know I'm getting quality ingredients. These spices are super fresh and potent, so a little goes a long way!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Jumbo Apple Oatmeal Muffins

These jumbo Apple Oatmeal Muffins are vegan and full of roasted apple chunks and apple compote. A bit of extra flavour and nutrition from @nakednutrition Pumpkin Spice #NakedShake up the ante, making these a great option for a lazy Sunday morning as well as a grab and go breakfast mid week.

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Muffins are such a perfect anytime food. I remember having them as breakfasts or snacks when I was in school, or for a quick energy boost after swimming lessons. They're also a great way to incorporate all those bits and bobs of baking pantry items into a portable snack. Knowing I have work on Sunday mornings, I wanted to make something for the team to enjoy after we wrapped things up and we went on our day. I had a few lonely apples in the fridge and a handful of oats and oat milk which I used as my starting point, and thought adding some of the Pumpkin Spice Naked Shake would be a great idea as well - after all, why wouldn't I add some functional nutrition and extra flavour when I can? 

The best apple muffins I had contained chunks of tender apple inside them, but weren't soggy or dense. To try and recreate that, I opted for a dual approach: a cheater apple compote for moisture and roasted apples for texture. The result was exactly what I wanted - lightly sweet and spiced, a perfect smattering of apple chunks and a hint of nuttiness and texture from the oats. This will be staying on my rotation, especially during the fall when bags of apples appear in our cellar!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Red Velvet Shortbread

I can never say no to red velvet anything - and these cut out cookies have all the flavour of the cake in a portable form! The vibrant colour and burst of flavour comes from Lorann Oils Red Velvet Emulsion, coupled with the tang from vegan cream cheese and a dash of red wine vinegar.

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In the four weeks spanning between my mom's birthday and my sister's birthday, we do a lot of red velvet. And by we, I (of course) mean me! It's really hard to beat the complex flavour that goes into a well made red velvet cake, but I've had success with cookies in the past and decided to try my hand at a type of shortbread. These cookies are tender but not chewy, and have the perfect amount of tang which is something that can be hard to find with these bakes. The colour (and some of the flavour) comes from my favourite "cheat" product, an emulsion-style flavouring for baking from Lorann Oils. It's dark red and smells like red velvet cake batter (and stains everything, so be warned).

I was actually pleasantly surprised with the texture of these cookies, given that I used a mix of fats, including a melted fat, melted chocolate and no eggs. I'm used to shortbread as a 4 ingredient, butter forward kind of cookie, but I (and my family) enjoyed these just as much. I was feeling fancy this week, so I decided to keep these cookies red carpet worthy with gold sanding sugar, nonpareils and silver stars. I'm not a fan of royal icing (and who has that kind of time these days?) so the sprinkles were a quick and easy fix that even my finicky niece liked.

That said - if you don't like sprinkles, they're great as is, with royal icing, or made into decadent sandwiches with cream cheese frosting! Hear me out - cream cheese frosting sandwiches with these, frozen, are the ice cream sandwich you didn't know you needed. Yes, it's decadent, but who needs an excuse to indulge now and then?

Note: I have made these with vegan butter (Earth Balance and Becel sticks) and vegan cream cheese (Follow Your Heart) and it worked beautifully!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Caramelized Onion Lentil Soup

The cold and damp weather here practically demands comfort food, and what better than a bowl of Caramelized Onion Soup? Simple and wholesome with a bit of an unexpected kick from Aleppo Pepper, it's nutritious, tasty and a perfect work from home (or not) lunch.

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 March is such an in-between month. On one hand, we've had temperatures up to 18C and lots of sun some days, and then there's days like today when it's cold and rainy. Add in the inevitable "last month of class" stress, March Break (with the littles visiting daily), birthdays and appointments, and it seems like we never get a chance to sit down, much less relax. Comfort food has definitely been on the table more often than not, especially big bowls of soup like this one. While not exactly a 90 second microwaveable meal, the time spent to caramelize the onions so that they're sticky and sweet followed by the hour of lazy cooking is quite cathartic, and you're rewarded with many meals that you can pack for lunches or heat up if you (like me) work from home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Sourdough Irish Soda Bread #BreadBakers

This soda bread gets an added dose of tang from sourdough starter, texture from oats and a hint of spice. Raisins or none, it's up to you!

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I keep forgetting about how delicious and easy soda bread is - I'm usually embroiled in making slow rising sourdoughs, boules filled with a bunch of grains, seeds and fruit, or a batch of sandwich loaves when my creativity is running low. That said, for some reason in March I get a bit of an injection of Irish inspiration and I dig back into our bread books to see what I can do!

I always feel a touch of guilt tossing some of my sourdough starter every time I feed it, so I went on the lookout for recipes to use it this time around. The Gingered Whisk has a great simple recipe for soda bread that used sourdough discard, so I used that as a base and added flavour, fruit and fibre to it while making it vegan (dairy and eggs are getting expensive here). The result was a slightly sweet, deeply flavoured loaf studded with juicy raisins and just enough texture from the oats to be interesting. 

While tradition would be to tear into this while it is still warm and top with copious amounts of butter, my sources say this was still excellent the next morning for breakfast topped with some grape jam (we are still working through the 30 jars we canned last year!), and for tea with butter and honey.

I am hosting this month and asked the others to join me in sharing Irish Breads in honor of St. Patricks Day which is right around the corner.  Let's see what everyone baked up for us today......

#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.