Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'll Just Do It Myself

How many times have you caught yourself saying those words? I know that me, being the Type A (read: somewhat Anal) perfectionist that I am, it's usually one of the first things out of my mouth when I'm faced with a group or team project. Unfortunately, at least to me, it seems that it really is best if I did the assignments myself - even working with close friends of mine I find more things to nit-pick on than praise. It's not a conscious thing I do, and I hate doing it really - it makes me feel like such a meanie! - but by letting things slide that I know could be just that much better it betrays my whole quest for that Holy Grail of the A grade. And then I wonder why I'm so stressed out! Ah well, I guess admitting the problem is the first step to overcoming it, right?

The one thing that I can always remain confident that I do better than "the standard" is baking. I'm sure that everyone who's ever made their own bread - or at least eaten a slice of a rustic loaf made from scratch (that never spent a second on a grocery store shelf!) can attest to the fact that the lack of mass production, bleaches, softeners and preservatives really does make bread better!

It's not new, earth-shattering science, to be sure. But it's still a dying art - depressing, since a simple loaf of good bread right from your oven can be done start to finish in two hours tops with rapid-rise yeast. If you have a Sunday afternoon you can even use the regular old dry active kind and throw in extra things to jazz up your week. For me, a batch of something yeasted every week is my little sanity window. Though I use a machine to do the bulk of the kneading work (let's face it... my stringy arms + stiff dough for 20 minutes or so would just not work!) I always make a point to finish the work off by hand. You can't feel if a dough is silky smooth and supple with a mixer, nor can you really lay claim to "making" your bread if all you did was hit "start" on a machine. With bagels in particular, you can always tell the work from the heart that goes into them - the little extra work they take always shines through!

For the latest round of chewy, sweet bagels I made my mom for her work lunches, I not only used up not only the last of my homemade apple butter but I added an extra (and may I say unique) layer of apple-cinnamon flavour with some of my favourite apple tea in the dough. Then, when I was bringing the boiling liquid up to temperature, I was hit with a flash of ingenuity... why not add a teabag to the pot too? So I did. Did it make a difference? I don't know for sure, but it didn't hurt!

These bagels are my contribution to YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast. Thanks Susan!

Apple-Cinnamon Tea Bagels
Makes 8
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 pkg instant yeast
2/3 cups warm, strong-brewed apple cinnamon herbal tea
1/4 cup brown sugar
¾ cup apple butter
1 apple-cinnamon herbal tea bag
2 tbsp honey
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, gluten, cinnamon, salt and yeast.
  2. In another bowl, stir together the tea, brown sugar and apple butter.
  3. Add the tea mixture to the dry ingredients, mix with the dough hook for 12 minutes, until very elastic (it is a fairly stiff dough, though).
  4. Cover and let rest for 40 minutes.
  5. Cut the dough into eight 4-oz portions, shape each into a ring and place on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover and let rest 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 400F and bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding the tea bag and honey.
  8. Boil bagels two at a time for two minutes per side. Drain well and place on a lined cookie sheet.
  9. When all the bagels have been boiled, place into the oven and bake 20 minutes.
  10. Cool on wire racks and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 233.4
Total Fat: 0.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 9.6 mg
Total Carbs: 51.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 8.1 g

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Maraschino Mania

Whenever I went to my grandparent's house as a kid, there would always be three jars in their fridge that I would raid without fail - the tiny dill pickles, the delicious sweet and sour cocktail onions and the ever -present jar of hot pink maraschino cherries. Though I would gorge myself on the fresh dark red ones during the summer months when our family splurged on things like peaches and cherries for our boating trips, I always associated the taste of "cherry" with the sugary, dye-injected fruit. Rather than top ice cream or garnish a drink (except for my ritual Shirley Temples at Swiss Chalet!), I would simply grab a spoon and dig in. Oh the life of a child!

Obviously, things have changed a wee bit since then - I now like all my fruit as fresh as possible, and the days of finding a jar of any fruit floating in sugar syrup in any of my relative's houses are long behind us (who'da thought it'd be on the no-no list for diabetics? *rolls eyes*). Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing a maraschino cherry on my swizzle stick the last time I had a Shirley Temple either!

But it was the incredibly pretty "Coconut-Cherry-White Chocolate Bars" that I spied on Baking Delights (Marye has a great contest going right now too!) that drew me back into the fold of the hot pink treats. They are definitely a "girly" kind of cookie, being filled with not only the cherries but super sweet white chocolate and delicious coconut too! These are nothing short of a sugar overload, though, so beware - or, you know, don't... because really they are just that awesome. I've made them twice so far, for bakesales, and as soon as people see the pink and white polka-dotted surface they grab them up (especially after they discover the bonus of white chocolate and coconut!). Since the whole V-Day thing is coming up (should you be so inclined to buy into all that) I bet a pan of these and some roses would go over well after a nice dinner - whether you do it for your mate or your single self!

White Chocolate Maraschino Bars
Adapted from Marye Audet (Baking Delights)
Makes 32
1 cup flour
1 tbsp sweet rice flour (optional, for tenderness)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup diced, drained maraschino cherries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line a 9x13" pan with parchment.
  2. Combine flours and powdered sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Cut in butter and shortening until the dough mealy. Stir in lemon extract.
  4. Press into the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.
  5. Bake 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk 1/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  7. In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.
  8. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the coconut, cherries, and white chocolate chips.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Chill before cutting and serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 95.8
Total Fat: 5.0 g
Cholesterol: 17.5 mg
Sodium: 17.3 mg
Total Carbs: 11.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 1.2 g

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Day Full of Win

There are some days that can erase the rest of the week in the blink of an eye. It doesn't matter if it was the week from Hell, if your bus was late or you got stuck in traffic, if you forgot to feed the dog until 9PM or if you didn't manage to get to the gym three times a week like you promised yourself you'd start doing on New Years Eve. A single good day can make it seem a little smoother, though a complete vanishing act would require a bit more magic - and possibly a wand and stiff drink potion or two!

I like to call the good days around here "Days of Win" - it's a label I stole from my sister, I believe, who can pull off the "catchy" labels and phrases like that (since I have been misconstrued as being 40 years old since I was 15 - I'm not kidding - I lost my "cool factor" at about age 3!). This particular one (this past Saturday... can you tell I'm a bit behind?) got some bonus points with me though. For one, it combined one of the potential banes of my existence - college - with two of my life's joys: baking and chocolate. I don't think I've ever said anything against my Recipe Development course, but if I did... I take it all back. This assignment (and I can't believe I'm lauding homework!) is just way too much fun to be school!

If you remember the last school assignment I fell in love with - the one that gave birth to the ridiculously delicious Spinach And Black Bean Pasta - this one follows along the same sort of theme. Take a recipe, any recipe, and modify it to fit a specific (usually health-related) goal over a course of subsequent trials. Lowering fat, heightening fibre, de-glutening or the ever popular modified texture-friendly options were on the list, and though some were temptingly easy (a high fibre muffin? How about a vegan meal?) I had a pet project that began to percolate as I sifted through the list we were given. Thankfully, the catch all "other topic of your choice with teacher approval" note was at the bottom of the sheet, so I exploited it! I couldn't help myself, really, and once I let the cat out of the bag on Twitter I had to at least try my idea! My plan? Take the good ol' Fry's Cocoa Fudge Brownie recipe and not only veganize it and remove the nuts, but make it a high-protein, nutritionally dense product that kids recovering from surgery or chemotherapy that needed extra protein, vitamins and minerals would enjoy (moreso than the ever popular support shakes they supply). I started off with my usual modifications, eliminating egg and butter in favour of silken tofu and canola oil, then raided my pantry cache of ingredients for soy flour and ground flax. For an extra boost, I hit the health food store in search of some vegan protein powder, finding this one by North Coast Naturals, and added a dose of that to the batter before melting in a nice dose of baking chocolate for good measure. Everything got tossed into the food processor - one of the two workhorses in my kitchen (the other being my stand mixer) - and in about 5 minutes I had a black, gooey bowl o' batter! Only one small bowl (for the melting chocolate), no spoons or whisks to wash, and 10 minutes of total prep time? Win.

Like any good brownies, they stunk up the house something puurrrty while they were baking - and in a way I really regretted cutting the tester batch in half because I knew they would be irresistible, but then my rational self (and stomach) kicked in and reminded me that no matter how good they were, they wouldn't be mine to taste. It's not really a loss, on my end, since the whole reaction-avoidance thing outweighs hedonistic pleasure, but it wasn't a gloating victory! Luckily I was able to let them cool, wrap them in foil and stick them deep into the fridge to chill overnight before I went to cut them into the taste-test squares I was going to hand out. While I was biding my time, I went onto SparkRecipes - the tool I use for all the nutritional calculations in here if you want to know - and plugged in both the original recipe and my re-vamped one to compare.

Then I had to pick my eyeballs up off the ground - I did not expect the differences between the two bars to be as profound as they were! It wasn't so much a calorie / fat thing - though both were reduced in my recipe - but a nutrient difference that surprised me. I mean, I know that soy and flax are good sources of protein, but the veganized ones beat out tradition by 215%! Um, yeah. There's also less sodium and sugar, plus more fibre, potassium, calcium and iron. Nutritional win for me - big time.

Of course, all the nutrients in the world count for absolutely nada if what you're eating tastes like dirt... or worse, nothing at all. Thankfully, my faithful tasting panel (AKA my fellow group members, mom, health food store contact, counsellor and his receptionists) were able to come to my rescue and volunteered their palates for me! It turns out you really can taste with your nose, too - I was dead on with my initial verdict of these chewy concoctions as "adult fare". Rather than the Happy Mealish sugar cube in a cookie kind of treat, they're the Cadillac of brownies... grown up, dark, rich and just bitter enough to remind you that they're to be relished, rather than ravaged. You can't eat one of these in ten seconds flat - not that you'd want to anyways!

So, I've kept you in the dark long enough (and if you read through the drivel above, thanks!), so here's my secret recipe. For the version I'm bringing to the Kitchen Lab next week, and the one I've got for you today, I did up the brown sugar to appeal to the supposed "target market" of the assignment (i.e. sick, picky children), but if you want them like the "70%-dark" ones I first did, use only 1 1/4 cups of brown sugar instead of the 1 2/3.

High - Protein Vegan Brownies (AKA "Cadillac Brownies")
Makes 24
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2.2 oz (10 tbsp) flour
2 oz (7 tbsp) soy flour
6 tbsp unflavoured isolated soy protein powder
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
¼ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz (12 tbsp) cocoa powder
10 oz silken tofu
4.5 oz (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
7 oz (1 2/3 cup) brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plain soy milk
2 oz (5 tbsp) miniature chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, grease a 9 x 13” pan and line the bottom with parchment.
  2. In a small microwave safe bowl (or in a pot over medium-low heat), gently melt the chocolate (use no higher than MEDIUM power so chocolate won’t scorch). Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, isolated soy protein powder, flaxseed, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor puree tofu, granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth.
  5. Add melted chocolate, vanilla, canola oil, and soy milk to the processor and blend in well.
  6. Add the dry mixture to the ingredients in the processor. Pulse in until just incorporated, do not allow processor to run continuously.
  7. Add miniature chocolate chips and pulse in briefly, just to mix in.
  8. Scrape into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with moist crumbs (but not wet batter).
  10. Cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving. Frost if desired.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 172.5
Total Fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 50.4 mg
Total Carbs: 27.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 5.8 g

These comforting bars of goodness are also my contribution to SHF: Sweet Comforts being hosted at A Merrier World.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Like Sunshine On A Cloudy Day...

I won't lie. I love the song "My Girl" by The Temptations - have ever since I first heard the tinny MIDI file in my grade 9 music class with Mr. Burford. It's been a tune that's always had a place in my "Music" folder on my desktop, and upon hearing the first bars of the song I can't help but start humming, tapping my toes, and eventually singing along to each happy go lucky lyric.

Friday, January 15, 2010

While Mum's Away...

No doubt if you've seen my moping on Twitter recently (not that I've been on all that much - that darn school thing keeps getting in the way!) you've noticed that I mentioned my mom going off on business for a couple weeks. Well, it's been five days now, and aside from the fact that I'm really missing her just being there as "mom" I also miss the semi-"foodie" connection I have with her. I've written before about our weekly grocery runs and market crawls, and even though we're only missing a week it really feels like a big chunk of lost time! I don't get a lot of time to spend with any of my family members... between my insane school schedule, my mom's commute into Toronto 4/5 days of the workweek and my sister's riding classes we feel the crunch - as I'm sure everyone else does.

Being the stress baker that I am, I've spent every spare scrap of time I've found this week concocting - therefore filling our freezer with bread upon muffin upon pie that we can't possibly imagine ourselves consuming all that soon! Thankfully I do have an answer to that dilemma once Mom returns - her co-workers are always eager to take food of any kind off our hands, regardless of what it is! They even inhaled this loaf of savoury quickbread that was a total crapshoot in my mind! Basically a thick batter-type of loaf, I used the dregs of a tub of herb and garlic cream cheese in place of the butter, nixed the eggs then added some non-fat yogurt for tang and moisture. Then, just because I had them sitting around with no future use in mind, I chucked in the last of my home-dried tomatoes and the remains of a bag of corn germ. Did it work? I guess so - I had a couple requests for a repeat performance!

Cream Cheese And Herbs Quickbread
Serves 14
5.3 oz "Lite" Herb & Garlic cream cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp of salt
2 egg replacers (like Ener-G), prepared
12.75 oz flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
12 sun dried tomato halves (not in oil) soaked well in hot water and drained
1/2 cup toasted corn germ (optional, for flavour and nutrition)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, garlic, sugar and salt.
  3. Add egg replacers and beat well.
  4. Whisk together flour, black pepper, oregano and baking powder.
  5. Combine yogurt and milk in another bowl.
  6. Add dry and wet mixtures in stages, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  7. Stir in tomatoes and corn germ if using.
  8. Bake 45 minutes.
  9. Let cool completely before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 140.1
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Cholesterol: 7.0 mg
Sodium: 95.3 mg
Total Carbs: 24.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 4.9 g

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Back To Basics

Well, now that the first week of January is well and truly behind us, I'm sure that the intensive drive behind all our New Year's resolutions is about as robust as the helium filled balloons still hanging around from my stepdad's birthday. At least mine are (more or less) out the window - I know enough to not bother making any pledges regarding my blogging (because really, that's just asking for failure, isn't it?) but I had vowed to get myself more organized personally. In essence, I really wanted to get my appointment book in order and updated (something I haven't done since October!), put away my Christmas gifts (errr... not yet), file all my schoolwork from the last three semesters (um, not that either... but I did catch up on the 2006 papers!) and if the planets aligned, get the 20 or so cookbooks in my room off my floor and into some sort of system (uh huh... still # 7 or 8 on the list!). So yeah, I fall into the category of the "nonstarters" when it comes to that kind of thing!

I guess I'm can say that for the past 7 or 8 years I've been lucky enough to have escaped making the most popular resolution out there - the one to eat healthier, lose weight, yadda yadda yadda. Yeah, you know that one, right? Don't get me wrong... I still aim every day to eat a healthy diet (it's not just a weight-loss or New Years thing... it's a forever thing!) including lots of fruit, veggies, limited processed and prepackaged stuff, and definitely cutting down on the salt that's in everything these days! I also aim to practice what I call "true healthcare" daily: focusing on staying healthy (i.e. caring for my health) as opposed to only treating the problems that arise (the traditional approach taken by the government and insurance agencies, or what I call the "sick-care system" in Canada). I truly believe that the government and insurance companies out there could be saving money if they subsidized things like healthy food, regular chiropractic and naturopathic appointments, even nutrition consultations and massage therapy for office workers - it has to be less expensive than the days of missed work and prescription refills they cover now!

So I figured that a good way to give both myself, and anyone else who needed it, a little bit of a resolution kick is to bring it right back to basics: the 1-2-3's of cooking a variety of whole grains (that we're all supposed to have more of, right?). Once the master recipes are at your grasp, they can be jazzed up a dozen different ways, from pilafs to salads to stuffings... the possibilities are endless!

Each ratio is for one serving, and makes approximately 1 cup cooked grains.

1/3 cup spelt berries
1 cup water

Add grain to 1 cup salted, boiling water.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 172.0
Total Fat: 1.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.0 mg
Total Carbs: 43.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.9 g
Protein: 6.6 g

1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup millet

Bring water to a boil, add salt to taste.
Add grain, cover and reduce heat to low.
Cook for 35-40 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 240.0
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.0 mg
Total Carbs: 48.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.6 g
Protein: 8.0 g

Pearled Barley
1/3 cup pearled barley
1 cup water

Bring water to a boil and add salt to taste.
Add grains, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 50-60 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 211.0
Total Fat: 0.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 5.0 mg
Total Carbs: 46.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.4 g
Protein: 5.9 g

1/4 cup quinoa
3/4 cup water

Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer until water runs clear (not soapy-looking).
Bring water to a boil, add salt to taste.
Add grain, reduce heat to medium-low.
Cover and cook 20 minutes.
Let stand off the heat, covered, for 10 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 172.0
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.0 mg
Total Carbs: 31.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 6.0 g

1 cup water
1/3 cup Kamut berries

Bring water to a boil and add salt to taste.
Add grains, cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 213.0
Total Fat: 1.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.0 mg
Total Carbs: 42.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Protein: 9.3 g

1 1/4 cups cold water
6 1/2 tbsp (2/5 cup) amaranth

Whisk together water and amaranth in a pot. Add salt to taste.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cover.
Simmer 25 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 253.0
Total Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 13.3 mg
Total Carbs: 45.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.3 g
Protein: 10.6 g

Buckwheat Groats
1 1/4 cups water
6 1/2 tbsp (2/5 cup) buckwheat groats

Bring water to a boil, add salt to taste.
Add grain, reduce heat and cover.
Simmer 15 minutes

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 200.0
Total Fat: 2.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.0 mg
Total Carbs: 41.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.5 g
Protein: 7.8 g

Friday, January 8, 2010

One Last Thing!

You can't say I didn't try to stop the madness! Even though my baking endeavours a few days ago worked to suck up some of the leftover egg nog we had kicking around the fridge, I left about 3/4 of a cup in the carton in the off chance that my stepbrother might get a hankering for it later on in the week. Well, the week's over, and the carton was still untouched, so fair game for me, I say! Who can blame me? I needed to get all baked out before school starts again next week and I'll barely have time to breathe, let alone bake!

I settled on a recipe for a simple, one-bowl cake of Brazilian origin called Nega Maluca as my inspiration and base recipe. The name can be translated as “Crazy Black Woman” - and with the black cocoa powder and coffee in it, it just may dye your mouth black if you aren't careful! I jazzed up the traditional recipe I had (which is made with buckwheat flour and cornstarch) by adding chia seed gel for some extra "binding power" and (of course) eggnog for flavour and moisture. It took a while to bake through, and it was still very fudgey and dense when I cut into it, but after all was said and done I think it was worth every agonizing minute that I could smell it baking!

I brought the cut squares along with me to my chiropractor's office, where not only the staff but a few of the other waiting room occupants dove right in! Yeah, the description of it being mouth dying... those Brazilians aren't kidding!

Egg Nog-Laced Nega Maluca Cake
Serves 12
2 tbsp chia seed
¼ cup hot water
1 cup flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
½ cup cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
½ cup whole milk
½ cup egg nog
2/3 cup Demerara sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tbsp honey (preferably buckwheat)
1 tbsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9" pan.
  2. Whisk together the chia seed and hot water, let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the flours, cocoa, baking powder, salt and coffee in a bowl.
  4. Combine the whole milk and egg nog in a saucepot or microwave safe bowl, bring to just below a simmer (it should be almost too hot to touch).
  5. Add the hot mixture to the dry ingredients, followed by the sugar, oil, honey, vanilla and chia seed mixture. Beat with a spatula or wooden spoon about 1 minute.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before turning out.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 214.5
Total Fat: 8.7 g
Cholesterol: 6.0 mg
Sodium: 19.7 mg
Total Carbs: 33.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.3 g
Protein: 4.1 g

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

You Know... Before it Goes Bad...

Something rather unique to my family happened this past Christmas season - we overbought egg nog. This doesn't really sound like news, I know, but considering that the last two years we couldn't keep it in the house it's weird! Actually, overbuying anything never seems to be a problem here. If anything, we underbuy and then some poor suck has to drive out to the grocery store to pick up the missing item. The case in point usually tends to be concerning vegetables, like this week:
  • My mom and I bought 5 heads of iceberg, 1 big box of baby spinach and 3 heads of leaf lettuce on Saturday.
  • Yesterday was Tuesday. We were out of lettuce. Yeah, I know - take into account that the majority of that was consumed solely by my mother and I.
  • Last night featured an emergency grocery run to WalMart (only place open after my sister's riding class!).
  • We now have 2 (well, 1 1/2) more heads of iceberg and the same amount of leaf. This does not bode well.
Crazy, right? So when we found ourselves at the tail end of the holiday season with 3/4 of the only carton we bought (and nobody exactly first in line to gulp it down), I found myself with an ingredient that I was itching to use. Normally "special occasion" groceries are off limits to my baking (especially things like butter), but here it was whispering the possibilities: cake... muffins... ice cream... bread. But the fun-killer of rational thought popped up with the annoying truth: nobody will eat cake, or cookies, or ice cream.


But muffins I can pawn off readily enough it seems. And - bonus - there was a rather black banana on the counter, and some cream cheese in the fridge that I knew worked well as a butter swap in a couple other cake-y type applications!

Nana - Nog Muffins
Makes 8
1/2 cup (1.7 oz) flour
2 tbsp (0.6 oz) whole wheat flour
3 tbsp (1 oz) vanilla custard powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 3/4 tbsp (2 oz) low-fat (not fat free) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 tbsp (0.7 oz) low-fat margarine
7 tbsp (3 oz) sugar
1 banana, mashed
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup egg nog
1/4 cup (1.5 oz) white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 400F, grease 9 muffin cups with nonstick spray (I don't reccommend lining them - they stick).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, custard powder, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-large bowl, cream cream cheese, margarine and sugar.
  4. Add banana and vanilla, beat well to combine.
  5. Stir in half the flour mixture, followed by the egg nog.
  6. Add the remaining flour mixture and white chocolate chips mixing well.
  7. Bake for 17-18 minutes.
  8. Cool 5 minutes in the tins before turning out and cooling completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 157.9
Total Fat: 3.6 g
Cholesterol: 6.0 mg
Sodium: 74.9 mg
Total Carbs: 29.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 2.8 g
Come to think of it, I mused as the muffins cooled, my mom was going to need some more bread to take to work! Hmm, egg nog... holidays... Challah and cranberries maybe? I even had a way to ensure the basic enriched loaf I chose from my mom's copy of Bread Book by Susan Wright as a base recipe stayed nice and moist, without giving my mom a butter-laden guilt complex. I had one last jar of my roasted apple butter in the fridge, and it really was pushing it's "use-by" date too. What better swap to do?

It worked even better than I thought, really... the bittersweet apple butter tempered the sugary egg nog and lent it's touch of spice to the other ingredients I added to the dough, particularly the dried cranberries. After I told my mom her new loaf was in the works, I watched my mom eye it for a good 4 hours or so before she came to find me to ask "so, can I have a piece of this?". No, mom... you are forbidden from eating your own bread ;-)! It's a good thing I opted to do a second bready offering for her (after remembering she'd be on a business trip for two weeks, where toting along a whole loaf is a bit much) because I think I've hit a winner!

Double - Egg Snog Bread
Serves 20
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp aniseseed, crushed lightly
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 cup eggnog, warmed
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup apple butter
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 egg white, for glazing
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine flours, yeast, salt, aniseseed, nutmeg, cinnamon and ground flaxseed, whisking well.
  2. In another bowl, beat together eggnog, brown sugar, apple butter, and egg yolks.
  3. With the mixer running, add the liquids to the flour mixture and mix to form a smooth, soft dough - about 7 minutes.
  4. Add the cranberries and knead well to incorporate, about 3 minutes longer.
  5. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rough ball. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
  6. Shape dough into an oblong loaf and place on a lined baking sheet.
  7. Cover and allow to rise 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F.
  9. Brush the reserved egg white over the loaf.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes, then cover with foil and bake a further 20 minutes, until hollow-sounding when tapped.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 119.6
Total Fat: 2.0 g
Cholesterol: 28.4 mg
Sodium: 12.4 mg
Total Carbs: 22.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 3.6 g

This sweet treat is also my addition to Bread Baking Day #26: Birthday Party! hosted at Life's a Feast.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Couple More Cookies

You have to love how disorganized I can be! Since I'm in the middle of trying to get out of one of my college courses right now (or at least switch it to one that doesnt run from 6:30-9:30 at night! I'll make this preamble short and sweet, which is particularly easy today because both the cookies I've got to share with you are inventions of much more creative bloggers than I!

These first cookies are rich, spicy and (dare I say it) fairly nutritious morsels I ever so slightly adapted from Baking Bites way back in October. Not really chocolatey, but at the same time unable to be defined as anything but, they get their chew and dense texture from canned pumpkin and brown sugar. The cookies don't spread too much, so be sure to press them down a bit after portioning onto the sheets.

Pumpkin Spice Fudge Cookies
Makes 20
1 cup Nutri Flour Blend (or white whole wheat flour)
7 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup Earth Balance (or butter), at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line or lightly spray a baking sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and spice.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium bowl in the microwave.
  4. Whisk in sugars, then pumpkin puree and vanilla, until smooth.
  5. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined into a slightly stiff dough. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, or until set.
  7. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 120.1
Total Fat: 4.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 40.5 mg
Total Carbs: 20.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 1.7 g

As one of the tapas offerings for Christmas Eve dinner this year, I knew I had to try these cracker-like nut and cocoa wafers that I found on Julie Van Rosendaal's blog (aka Dinner With Julie). Not too sweet (almost bitter, in fact, from the walnuts, olive oil and dark cocoa), with a tart fruity edge from my addition of both dried cranberries and red wine, I figured they would be a perfect pairing for the evening's wine, cheese and dried fruit platters. I'm glad to say I was right! They stayed front and centre the whole evening, and though they are definitely an "adult" cookie (the kids in attendance gave them a wide berth), the adults didn't seem to mind in the least.

Nutty Cocoa and Craisin Crisps
Makes 20
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dark cocoa
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine
  1. Preheat oven to 400F, line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, nuts, cranberries, cocoa, sugar, flaxseed, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add olive oil, water and wine. Mix well, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Between two sheets of parchment, roll walnut-sized balls of dough into very thin sheets.
  5. Transfer carefully to the prepared sheets and peel off the parchment.
  6. Bake 9-10 minutes, until firm. Cool 20 minutes on the sheets before moving.
  7. Store in an airtight container.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 117.2
Total Fat: 7.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.7 mg
Total Carbs: 10.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 1.6 g

Friday, January 1, 2010

Baking Under the Influence

So, how was everyone's year-end celebration last night? Hopefully you didn't drink or dance too much, because while the loaf I've got to show you today is probably good hangover food (hair-of-the-dog as it were, you'll see!) putting the whole thing together requires both a bit of forethought as well as a bit of motor control! Even posessing both those qualities, it was an interesting experience trying to knead almost an equal amount of "filling" ingredients to the dough! Luckily the presoak of the mixture (as indicated by Susan when she first made her version) helped a lot, as did (I'm sure) the fumes from all the Grand Marnier they were laced with!

The dough, unsurprisingly, does not rise a whole lot at all, and since it's a sourdough your rising times will vary. Mine's a pretty lazy starter (no doubt because I don't use it very much!) but the dough is so stiff that even conventional yeast won't cause it to "double" like your standard white loaf. The result, though, is not a leaden brick (like I feared), but rather a loaf that slices into nice hearty slabs perfect for soaking up runny honey and even jam from a certain generous friend!

Susan's bread looks a heck of a lot different (read: prettier) than mine, but the method of mixing is essentially the same - I had to increase the "dough" ingredients proportionately to the amount of stuff I wanted to cram in, but the ratios were the same (I was good and weighed them!). I also went whole-hog and scoured out my pantry for "bits" when I was making cookies, and so that's how I came up with the mixture of cereal, prunes, dates, cranberries, raisins and sunflower seeds! When I was trying to get all of the stuff into the tiny amount of dough at first, I was thinking this is never going to work, but really, persistence and good elbow grease pays off in this case! Not a single raisin nor grain of quinoa escaped the loaf once it was shaped, and when we cut into it the next day it looked almost like a stained-glass window... an insane amount of treasures wrapped up in a neat little package!

I like that the dough itself is not sweet, since all the fruit inside adds plenty of it's natural sugars and texture. I would say that this is really the type of "catch-all" loaf that you could add any sort of dried fruits, grains or nuts to that happened to be lying around in the pantry, but of course you can also make it fancy with one or two selections! The liqueur for soaking is also optional - I did it for flavour (ooh boy, was it flavour!) but if you don't have Grand Marnier on hand, red wine would be great, or even a fruit juice if you don't drink at all. Heck, even water will work - the key is to soak the filling. You really don't want to burn the fruit, or break a tooth on a seed or grain!

Since I missed the New Year's edition of YeastSpotting, I'm sending this to next week's roundup!! Thanks Susan!

Slightly Soused Seeded Sourdough
Makes 1 large loaf, 20 slices
170 g "Sunrise Blend" cereal (or other whole grain, long cooking cereal like steel cut oats)
85 g raw sunflower seeds
140 g chopped prunes
56 g dried cranberries
56 g raisins
56 g diced dates
118 mL Grand Marnier
130 g "old" starter
80 g rye flour
55 mL warm water
250 g flour
93 g whole wheat flour
20 g gluten flour
5 g fine salt
25 g brown sugar
290 mL warm water
  1. In a medium bowl, combine cereal, sunflower seeds, prunes, cranberries, raisins and dates.
  2. Pour Grand Marnier over the mixture and stir gently to cover the mixture.
  3. Cover loosely and let stand overnight.
  4. In a large bowl, combine starter, rye flour and 55 mL warm water. Let stand 4 hours.
  5. In another bowl combine flour, whole wheat flour, gluten flour, salt and sugar, whisking well.
  6. Add the flour mixture and remaining water to the starter mixture, adding water if necessary.
  7. Mix well to form a pliable, slightly soft dough.
  8. Turn out onto a floured board and knead (or use a dough hook) for 12-15 minutes, until elastic and smooth.
  9. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rest 2 hours.
  10. Turn dough out onto a floured board and pat into a flat rectangle.
  11. Drain any remaining liqueur (there shouldn't be any) from the soaked mixture and discard.
  12. Spread the soaked mixture evenly over the dough and fold in (using letter/book-type folding like for puff pastry) until evenly incorporated. It will take quite a bit of work as there's almost as much stuff as dough, but work at it!
  13. Shape dough into a squat oval. Place on parchment or silicone-lined baking sheets, cover loosely and allow to rise 3-4 hours, until puffed.
  14. Preheat the oven to 425F and place a pan of hot water on the lowest rack or floor of the oven.
  15. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400F.
  16. Bake 10 minutes, then remove the pan of water and continue baking for 25 further minutes.
  17. Turn oven off, crack the door and allow to sit inside 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack and cooling completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 212.8
Total Fat: 3.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 33.3 mg
Total Carbs: 40.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.7 g
Protein: 6.5 g