Thursday, August 6, 2020

Orchard Harvest Jam - Toast Topper #87

Orchard Harvest Jam is a medley of peaches, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries cooked simply. No adornments needed (or a whole lot of sugar either!)

I get so excited every year when the first Ontario peaches and berries make it to market. Too often, the window where the peaches and nectarines are just right is only a week or two long, and during that time I'm at the farmer's market as much as possible, buying up the local harvest. This year, of course, farmer's markets have been hard to find and a much different experience to attend, and honestly I've been shying away from them because the joy of interaction is gone (for now!). That said, it has been a perfect time to use up my frozen stash of various fruit from over the year, and when I came upon a bag marked "Orchard Harvest Jam" I suddenly remembered I never posted this beauty from last year! So, to make up for it (and while a loaf of zucchini bread baked away in the oven) I made another batch.

This jam is really easy to make, given the already soft nature of thawed fruit. If you only have fresh, absolutely use it - I bet it would make this even more spectacular. Just remember to peel and put the peaches, 'cause those things have no place in a Toast Topper! I used a big ol' potato masher to break down my mix, leaving a bit of texture, but if you want silky smooth run it through a blender or use a stick blender to do the job. I love to use Pomona's Pectin when I do jams, mostly because I hate super-sweet preserves but also to cater to the various health concerns of those I gift jars to. This pectin is calcium-activated and comes with directions on the packet (though I buy mine in bulk these days, so i often Google when I can't remember), but the key is that you can't use too much sugar or it won't set! I have also used this pectin in jams using honey, and it works well there as long as you can dissolve it well enough.

Technical stuff aside, though, the beauty of this jam shines through in it's simplicity. There are no spices, liqueurs, extracts or chocolate to overshadow the ripe fruit, and the tartness of the berries counteracts the sweetness of the peaches. I like to bottle this jam in 4 oz (1/2 cup) jars so that I can stash a few and give the rest away, but if you do can this I would suggest no larger than a 1/2 pint (1 cup) jar so that you can get through it before it goes off (it'll last about 2 weeks in the fridge). You can also freeze this but it won't be as thick upon thawing, then again depending on what you're doing with it that might be perfect (she says as she eats applesauce with slightly runny jam stirred into it).

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Lucifer’s Ginger & Chile Biscuits (copycat)

Lucifer himself won't be able to resist these cookies packed with ginger and a hefty dose of cayenne. Two bite drops are more than enough to satisfy even the most devoted chilehead!

My sister's boyfriend loves all things spicy. He one ate an entire scorpion pepper on a dare - which turned into a series of hilarious text messages which I won't share cut will sum up as a detailed progression of the digestive process. Luckily, he's starting to embrace the fact that spice does not always have to equal heat - it can be a blend of both, and these cookies are definitely testament to that!

I honestly can't remember where I heard about these cookies first - I want to say it was on television but I can't say for sure. At any rate, I was intrigued by their name and decided to look them up, since they did not exist on our Canadian store shelves. A little digging and I was sold. Obviously, I've never had the "real" Lucifer biscuits, but I did find quite the enticing description for them online: "as you munch, the heat builds up slowly and finishes with a warm and well-judged chilli kick. Infernally tempting, it's the biscuit that bites back". Ginger is already spicy and warming, but the added chili definitely brought a different "kick" to the mix. A bit of Googling and I found a recipe on Lost in Food that I used as a basis for my experiments. I only had vegan margarine on hand (being the holidays, I try to make "gift cookies" as neutral as possible) and I bumped up the ginger a little bit while also using a nuttier flour for my base. Next time I may play with adding oatmeal as well, because I love the zing of ginger in oatmeal cookies and I think it could work. It wouldn't be traditional by any means, but that's the fun of baking at home!

I will definitely say that these cookies benefit exponentially from an overnight chill in the fridge (or even in the freezer - you can stash this dough for up to 4 months if wrapped well). The resting allows the spices to permeate the dough and the whole grain flour to hydrate completely, making for way better (and spicier) cookies! If you are really pressed for time, rest the dough at room temperature for 1 hour, then shape and freeze the balls for 15 minutes prior to baking so they don't melt everywhere. It won't be exactly the same, but it will be better than mixing and baking all at once!

Even though it's summertime where we are, I encourage you to give these a try. Just - don't eat them all at once, okay?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

"Christmas" Thai Curry Paste

Christmas Thai Curry Paste is a flavour (not just heat) packed blend of herbs, fresh chiles, toasted spices and a hint of fish sauce for umami. Perfect for any and all curries you care to whip up!

We make curry at least once a month here, a habit which stemmed from my mom's travels to Thailand when she was working. That said, a lot of the time the actual curry making is done by her, since coconut and I don't mix - but I am always glad to provide the recipes, and making this curry paste is our secret weapon!

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with storebought curry paste - we use it a lot too - when the Summer garden is in full swing it would be a crime not to use what I'm growing! Last year (when I finally refined this recipe) we had a glut of Thai chilies along with Thai basil and lemon balm. My friend happened to be growing cilantro (which similarly took off) and gave me a bunch to cook with. A quick search and about 15 minutes later, and I had a batch of curry paste primed for the next recipe! At the end of the season I made a quadruple batch (yes, a quadruple batch) and froze it, which was great for the cold of winter!

This year, we used the same paste to make a rendition of this curry (using half coconut milk half vegetable broth and doubling the recipe, adding cauliflower and chickpeas) and while spicy it was the perfect mix of flavour and heat. I would wager this would work well with chicken, shrimp or pork as well!

For those of you who are vegan - the fish sauce can be replaced with a tablespoon of red miso which gives it a fermented, salty flavour. Likewise, I have provided an alternative for the lemon balm (which grows rampant here but I know it isn't easy to find in stores) but the Thai basil is best omitted rather than substituted. Regular basil has a totally different flavour to it! Toasting the spices "wakes them up" and really boosts the flavour they lend as well.

If you love Thai curry in any respect, or are simply looking for a way to jazz up your cooking, this paste is a dead-simple, fresh way to do it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes, and what you used it in, below!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with PBfit

These thick, chewy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies are full of peanut flavour, protein and fibre, making them a perfect snack to hold you over till dinner, or before bed to stave off low blood sugar headaches in the morning!

We are definitely a peanut butter loving household. Between the lot of us, we spread it on toast, make sandwiches, add it to sauces, make candy and eat it by the spoonful straight from the jar. N on the other hand prefers his peanut butter in baked goods, especially cookies. For instance, I affectionately refer to these cookies as the ones that "sealed the deal" with him, and I make them far too regularly. There have been times where there were three jars of peanut butter in the house - two for eating and one for baking. Hey, you can never have enough of it!

So, when the great folks at PBfit sent me a jar of their powdered peanut butter to try out, I was excited. I have "regular" peanut flour at home already, which is just defatted, ground peanuts, but the taste of it is nothing like the jars of Kraft we have in the pantry and when baking it can be hit-or-miss (it works really well in satay and other spicy sauces though). PBfit adds coconut palm sugar and salt to the peanut flour, meaning when it is reconstituted (they suggest a 1 tbsp PBfit + 3/4 tbsp cold water ratio) it has more of the classic flavour and texture. As a bonus, because most of the fat has been removed, I don't have to worry that the large jar will go rancid before I can get through it as long as it's stored in my pantry. A few of the other nifty benefits PBfit offers are a 90% reduction in fat and a 33% reduction in calories over traditional peanut butter, all while being vegan, gluten free and with no artificial ingredients. The concentrated legumes (yes, peanuts are a bean!) pack a decent dose of protein too: just a tablespoon of powder has 4 grams of it for only 1 gram of fat.

When picking a recipe to use, I scouted around for one that was relatively easy to "healthify", finding one that used applesauce along with the oats. I swapped the applesauce for PBfit and water, which not only bound the cookie together but make the resulting cookie less "cakey" while adding great flavour, protein and fibre. Chilling logs of the dough and slicing them thick while semi-frozen lent to the finished cookies' chew and tenderness, without letting them fall apart. You could also drop these by spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, but bear in mind you'll need to flatten them with your fingers or a glass because they don't spread. Because I had hard workers in mind (N has a fairly active job in the essential sector, and doesn't always get a chance to eat), I tossed in a few scoops of protein powder as well.

With the addition of the PBfit and my favourite protein powder, each cookie gets a 2 gram boost of extra protein on top of the naturally occurring protein in the oats and whole wheat flour. Combined with the fibre, one of these cookies will definitely keep you satisfied without being weighed down!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Sourdough Snacking Cake

If you are craving a rich, dense and decadently chocolatey dessert, this vegan snack cake is for you! While it is definitely sweet, the addition of sourdough starter (which I know a lot of you have lying around!) adds a hint of tang and lightens up the recipe, enticing you back for more!

While I didn't hop on the sourdough bandwagon as much as some people did during the last few months, I was definitely inspired to break out my (often neglected) starter to get some use out of it after all the articles cropped up online. I had made sourdough chocolate cake once before so I knew it was a sure-fire winner, but never recorded the recipe I used. Thankfully, many other people had the same idea I did, and not only that but some of the vegan community did as well!

This recipe was a combination of a few recipes I had saved, with my own twists for good measure. I only had oat-based creamer at home (I don't drink "milk" so I rarely buy any) and I had the end of a bag of spelt flour to use up, so those went into the mix. I knew I wanted to add coffee to heighten the chocolate flavour (especially since natural cocoa isn't as "deep" as Dutch process) but I only had French Vanilla flavoured instant - in that went! After all, I figured, all those things work with chocolate, and it was worth a try.

All in all, these changes served to make (in my opinion) a richer, nuttier flavoured cake with a solid "mocha" note, almost like those cappuccino mixes you used to find in the 90's. The tang from the sourdough was present but not overwhelming, almost like a red velvet cake, and I think you could definitely make red velvet cake out of this recipe by adding food colouring and frosting! For weeknights (or, lets face it, Blursday afternoons), this cake, unadorned, is perfect as is. I would suggest adding the chocolate chips halfway through the baking process or right after, as when I added them before (as written in the recipe), they settled into a layer in the middle. Not a bad thing - just not a layer of gooey goodness on top. Or you could do both - there are no rules!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Almond Butter Brittle

Almond Butter Brittle is packed with rich flavour and has a crunchy, yet melt in your mouth texture due to the fine bubbles. Break the slab up for your favourite friends to enjoy - or hide it all for yourself!

I know... I was just complaining about the oppressive heat wave, and here I am working with motlen sugar! The fact is that while I still do love the control that open-kettle candy making gives me, it is problematic - especially in the summer, and doubly so when it is hot, humid and raining. On days like today, the microwave is actually your best friend if you need to placate your candy desires!

The first time I made this - and where the photo came from - was over the Christmas holidays, which were noticeably cooler and drier. At the time, I selected the microwave brittle recipe (originally from an old church cookbook) because the stove was already in use with other cooking projects and I needed a fast, last minute party addition. The original formula was for peanut butter brittle - which would taste fantastic (and obviously, we love our peanut butter around here) - but I was given a jar of fancy schmancy almond butter by a coworker and I couldn't resist trying it out! I also happened to come across my bottle of butterscotch schnapps and figured "why not?" so in it went!

The resulting brittle was a perfect mixture of sweet, salty and a little bitter from the almonds, and best of all it set up beautifully and didn't become sticky like stovetop brittle can (usually from uneven temperatures). I also love that it was done in 10 minutes and ready to wrap in an hour! Of course, you could jazz this up with a drizzle of dark chocolate (I'm 100% debating coating pieces in it next time like a Crunchie bar) but I didn't have time on my side for that!

While I know that it is Summer, I'm sure we can all agree that beach season is cancelled and comfort food is in - so break out the healthy almonds, add a little (or a lot) of sugar and try this! Not that I'm suggesting anything, but this would also be fantastic on ice cream!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Pantry Raid Cookies

My last "hurrah" with my Intermediate Home Ec class was a Zoom demo of these Pantry Raid Cookies adapted from Alton Brown - a mix of SunButter and regular peanut with a generous handful of chocolate chunks and banana chips for good measure. 

It's always a little bittersweet at the end of the school year - after all, teaching is a passion of mine, and as much as the kids drive me nuts some days and our two months out of the classroom to recoup (and work on lessons for next year) are well deserved, it's still a little heartstring-pulling. This year was especially strange for everyone involved, as not only did classes move online but non-transferable classes (like Home Ec) got cancelled outright. However, I did my best to give the kids a "last go" with cooking - Zooming demos of making a simple, no-fuss cookie recipe adapted from none other than Alton Brown!

The best part about virtually demonstrating this recipe (as opposed to in class) is that I had the opportunity to not only use my own equipment (which I know and love) but to use a traditionally verboten ingredient - peanut butter. I had also tested this recipe with Wowbutter, and it works, so if you are peanut free rest assured! However, I not only had a jar of peanut butter to use up but a jar of SunButter (sunflower seed butter) to finish as well - and knowing that straight SunButter makes cookies turn green (still safe to eat, just funky looking) I was interested to see if combining the two would alter the chemistry enough to avoid the problem. It did - and not only that, but the two butters combined to make one of the richest flavoured doughs according to my fiance!

To turn the flavour of these cookies up to eleven, I had to toss in some "bits". In this case, I had a half-bag of banana chips and a handful of chocolate chunks waiting to be used up, and in a moment of inspiration I crushed the chips to almost a powder - think mini-chocolate chip size - which allowed them to infuse every bite. In terms of additions, go nuts with whatever you have - I wouldn't suggest adding more than about 2/3 of a cup combined though, otherwise the cookies fall apart. However, the choices are endless - use what you have!

I apologize for the weird mix of weight and volume here - I weighed the things that are often messy or difficult to measure well - but a scale is always the best way to go with baking anyways (in my humble opinion) so I strongly suggest picking up a digital model. They don't have to be pricey, the one I own was $40 when I bought it for nutrition college and was a more complex model, but I also own a $15 one that I use for classes.

One of my favourite things about these cookies (like most cookies, to be honest) is that the dough stores incredibly well. I baked off four cookies during the lesson, but scooped, flattened and froze trays of the remaining dough so that I could bake them closer to when N was coming for a visit. That way we had fresh cookies on hand without dirtying a bowl!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Tiny Batch Chocoholic Cookies

Craving chocolate but your diet can't stand a dozen cookies lying around? This recipe makes 3 palm-sized cookies packed with chocolate and studded with Smarties (or M&Ms if you arent fortunate enough to have Smarties). Baked until just set and still soft, it is a sweet pick me up perfect any day.

The women in my family are a collection of chocoholics. Even days like today, where it's 37°C (98.6°F) outside, I can be found sipping a hot chocolate in the evenings. My mom adds spoonfuls of cocoa and a sprinkle of dark chocolate to her yogurt in the morning, while my sister is partial to chocolate baked goods (especially brownies). However, we are picky about the cocoa we use in uncooked form - the milder Dutch processed type, while still bitter, doesn't have the same sour note as the natural kind, making it more palatable.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men disappeared when the pandemic hit - along with flour, yeast, eggs and - yes - our beloved cocoa powder. Desperate, we bought a small tin of the natural kind, but we lasted a whopping two days before we gave up and bulk purchased our usual kind. The tin was given to me to play with, so I looked up a handful of treats to make with it (including these cookies and these croissants). That said, even my relatively active family isn't immune to the "quarantine 15", so baked goods must be minimal in quantity (well, at least until N or D come by, then anything is fair game).

Enter these beauties. Now, I am not going to classify these as "healthy" in any way, but they are just what the doctor ordered in terms of comfort food. Yes, these are sheer decadence in the palm of your hand, and while the cookies may be large - as in palm-sized - there are only three of them so even if you feel the need to polish off an entire batch, you've still only eaten three! The batch size, coupled with the touch of antioxidants from the cocoa and fibre from the white whole wheat and chia seeds, definitely makes these an "okay for summer" treat in my books. If you really feel the summer heat, I'm not not saying that you could make 6 smaller ones and sandwich ice cream (or frozen yogurt) in between.... nope, not my idea at all!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans and Rice are spicy (but not hot unless you want it that way), hearty and healthy - a perfect meal in a bowl you can make with hardy vegetables and pantry ingredients that feeds a crowd, or you for a week if you're stuck at home!

I have a soft spot for Cajun-style cuisine. Around here, it's mostly "white bread" country, as my city historically played host to blue collar automotive workers looking for cheap, hearty and simple fare. There is absolutely a place for it on the menu - N and I used to frequent a local "greasy spoon" diner before the virus hit - but given the choice I will almost always go for complex and spicy flavours. Since hitting up a House of Blues (where I have had the best jambalaya of my life so far) is out of the question, as is a trip to NOLA, I am content to make my own version at home - with a vegan twist.

Interestingly enough, this batch of comfort food only really came about because I was doing my quarterly pantry clean out and came across a bag of dried kidney beans from when I made minestrone ages ago. I always have TVP chunks and liquid smoke on hand, as well as some kind of rice, so I started the beans soaking while I looked up a red beans and rice recipe I could adapt. A few Google searches and some cobbling together later and I had a working plan.

In order to infuse the smoky flavour throughout the starchy beans, I both soaked and cooked the dry legumes with water spiked with liquid smoke, which I also added to the water the TVP chunks hydrated in. It is worth noting I am not a fan of the pickled pork flavour in traditional beans and rice so I skipped any vinegar, but if you enjoy it a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar would suffice. The rest of the spice flavour was layered into the bulk of the stew, balanced by the hearty vegetables and plain rice. The resulting mixture left just enough broth to spoon over each serving, which also soaked in to the leftovers we refrigerated overnight. Yes, like most stews and soups, this is truly a dish that benefits from patience (and a lot of it). On that note, I also beg of you to not use canned beans here - they will turn mushy and not yield the same depth of flavour from the smoke-soaked and cooked ones. If you can find a bag of small red beans at the store, use those instead - they are definitely better than kidneys in my opinion, but again, use what you have!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cinnamon Spice Cookies with Goldschläger Icing

It's never out of season for gingerbread when it is this perfect! These cookies are packed with spices and laced with Goldschläger for an extra cinnamony kick. Topped with a simple powdered sugar icing and some silver sparkles its enough to make you feel like royalty, even if its just Wednesday night in your PJs!

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers! Like pretty much every holiday this year, my country's 153rd birthday is passing with relatively little fanfare - even our neighbours who usually go all out with fireworks aren't planning anything. In addition to Canada Day, today also marks my blog's birthday - a whopping 13 years old! I still can't believe I've been documenting my cooking adventures for that long, and this blog has followed me through a whole mess of life journeys - five rounds of schooling, multiple jobs, relationships, losses of family and pets and multiple medical segues.

I want to just take a moment, before diving into my celebratory recipe (from our provincial liquor store) to thank everyone who has supported me over these years, including all the sponsors who gave me a chance, the various publishers who collaborated with me, my family, friends and the blogger community at large. You have all helped me become the cook I am today, and while I may not be the most regular writer, being part of this community of like-minded foodies showed me I could belong somewhere. I plan to keep this bad boy (or girl) going for as long as I can, especially now that my team of taste-testers has grown to include both N and my sister's boyfriend D.

Moving on to why most of you are here - these cookies! While I admit they are not your traditional "summer" fare, around here cookies are always welcome - and with gatherings beginning to open up again, we always have some sort of treat on hand. Keeping in the celebratory theme, I dipped into the (often forgotten) liquor cabinet to make these, based on a Courvoisier gingerbread recipe I had clipped out of the LCBO magazine at Christmastime and never got around to making it. Instead of the brandy, I opted for the opulent, spicy Goldschläger, which infused the cookies with a heady dose of cinnamon and helped the cookies crisp (as the alcohol evaporates faster than water). Mixing the dough brought back memories of both the holidays as well as my whole debacle building that castle three years ago (never again) - though if you wanted to build a structure with this dough you most certainly could.

The cookies smelled fantastic and were a breeze to whip up (hello, no waiting for butter to soften!) but looked a little plain and brown - not bad for an everyday tea or snack break, but not nearly enough for a celebration! So, while the cookies cooled, I set about making a simple icing with one important twist - another dose of Goldschläger. The alcohol served two purposes here - one, it allowed the icing to harden faster, given the evaporation of alcohol, and two, the little gold flakes in the liquid added an extra touch of sparkle to the icing. To gild  the lily, I topped the iced cookies with gold and silver sparkle sprinkles, though it's 100% optional. After the icing set, the cookies could be stacked and stored in an airtight container, although they lasted about three days here due to some hungry ghosts sneaking into the cookie jar!

Happy Canada Day, Happy (almost) 4th of July, and happy end to the first half of 2020. Fingers crossed that everyone stays safe, happy, and well this summer, and thanks again for the support all this time!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Studded Golden Cornbread #BreadBakers

A little comfort food is in order these days! This cornbread uses honey to sweeten and is packed with frozen corn kernels, staying moist (sorry) thanks to yogurt and heavy cream. The result is a perfectly balanced side for any meal!

I have been making cornbread for what seems like forever. As a kid, my Home Economics teacher used to make cornbread muffins with us that were almost crunchy with the amount of oil they had. Trips to the southern States introduced me to johnnycakes and skillet cornbread, which I devoured with honey and butter. But up in Canada where I live, cornbread is essentially cake or muffin like. My mom has had this recipe for decades, hand-written on a card from an old coworker complete with commentary (including strike-outs with notes like "this is BS, do this instead") and it was always a special-occasion bake due to the indulgent ingredients it called for. When I inherited the recipe, I tweaked it a little bit to use what we usually have in the house - whole wheat and Kamut flour (because, let's face it, I have a huge pantry of random flours I need to get baking with), flaxseed to replace the eggs (which I rarely have at home) and vanilla-flavoured Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream and sugar. The bread is still plenty sweet with a heady dose of honey, and it does not lack in tenderness and moisture thanks to a whole cup of heavy cream. While the recipe was originally for a square pan, I have 100% made it into muffins (jumbo sized ones are so good!) and froze them for later.

While it has been a good while since I made this cornbread, writing about it still fills me with a little bit of sadness. You see, I broke out this cornbread recipe not just for #breadbakers, but because it was going to be N's breakfast the day of our vacation. Due to the pandemic, we obviously had to put those plans on hold, but I still decided to boost the sunshine of our lives with a batch of the bright yellow quickbread. Lo and behold, N fell in love with it (and honestly, why wouldn't he - it's delicious) and I've made it several times since then. He has asked me to emphasize that adding the corn kernels is not optional - they add a perfect "pop" to the bread and those on the top get nice and toasty.

While I may not be jetting off to paradise, this bread will be made again. And again. It's an heirloom for a reason, and as with most things it develops and modifies over time with each new baker. Who knows, the next time this happens in the kitchen it may be with my blue cornmeal, since I'm out of yellow and it seems to still be missing on the shelf!

Here are the #BreadBakers of the week, bringing you breads with corn:
#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.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies (MoW Cookies)

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies are a perfect mixture of sandy texture and not-too-sweet taste. As a bonus, these cookies don't spread and warp in the oven (especially if you keep the dough cold) and they are perfect vehicles for icing! I made most of these with special-issue Halo cookie cutters that my sister won from Mercy of Whims during a game-streaming tournament (Marbles on Twitch!), but I couldn't resist a cookie just for them!

One of the things I have truly missed during these days of social distancing is the ability to go out and connect with friends. Ironically, I am by no means a "people person" despite working with people every day - I still thrive on my "alone time" which is usually spent in the kitchen, but the reality of quarantine means that any chance to interact with others is severely limited. When my classes moved online in March, I felt even stranger as the children who (often) drive me crazy also gave me a sense of purpose.

However, social media works wonders, and I was so fortunate to have come across a Facebook trivia night hosted by @mercyofwhims shortly before everything shut down completely. One night of general knowledge (which is still my favourite) turned into a weekly ritual, then a multiple-days-a-week gathering which quickly grew into a community spanning across the globe. Trivia grew into a Twitch-based game of Marbles which fills up at least 3 nights with music, laughter and fun. From the fun came the addition of prizes - which is where these cookies began. One of the events had a prize of Halo-themed cookie cutters, which I did not win due to my broken horseshoe luck, but my sister has a way with these things and scored them herself! It was a tacit agreement that not only would I get to use them first (and probably exclusively, given what I do) but that cookies for out host TurkeyBoots would also be made. Since we all grew to know each other over the weeks, I also met a new friend in my area to partake in the cookie fun, and one of my current pals from Zumba (who joined the fray) was always on the list.

Normally, I abhor sugar cookies - they're too sweet, too crunchy, and just lackluster. That's where these beauties come in, because while they are sweet, that sugar is mediated by a dose of cream cheese and salted butter in the dough. The reduction in the cookie's sweetness serves another critical purpose too - making them a vehicle for icing! And ice I did, coming out of the kitchen yesterday with a kaleidoscope of colours on my hands (not least due to a bag of powdered colour bursting on me).

Now, if you're planning on going "whole hog" with these through to the outlining and filling of icing, be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. Not including the overnight chilling, cooling and 24 hour dry time for the frosting, this batch (1/3 of all the dough I made) took 6 hours of hands-on labour and a lot of awkward, half-bent-over standing. That said, the payoff is 150% worth it, and with a few days of rest I'll tackle the next round, keeping the batches double wrapped in the freezer for freshness.

Find MoW (and join in on Trivia and Marbles nights!):
Facebook         IG         Twitch

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Whole Wheat Mocha Croissants

You can never go wrong with the combination of chocolate and coffee, especially when it is laminated into a flaky (vegan) pastry! These whole wheat croissants are also stuffed with a baton of dark chocolate for good measure, and the lamination features a scoop of @nakednutrition Naked Rice protein powder which keeps it from oozing everywhere. The result is a decadent treat for whenever your craving strikes!

I cannot think of croissants without thinking of Walt Disney World. As a kid, I was lucky enough to go to the theme parks several times, where I not only fell in love with the magic (I am a total DisNerd) and the ability to travel the world through EPCOT, but with the food. Now, I'm not going to say Disney World is a Michelin paradise - by and large, you will find your stereotypical American fast food above anything else - but in EPCOT, tucked away in the France pavillion,is a little bakery they named Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. This bakery is the source of arguably some of the best chocolate croissants I have ever had in my life.

Before all of you traditionalists start jumping down my throat, I will admit - I have never been to France and had a "real" croissant. No, my experiences with the pastry were from a local bakery-cafe when I was in school and the occasional store-bought treat. However, the croissants from EPCOT were the perfect mix of buttery and sweet, and the filling was a luxurious chocolate that was almost a fudge-like ganache. When I was looking for ways to use up a canister of natural cocoa we bought by mistake (it's too sour / bitter for hot chocolate), I thought of those pastries. I toyed with the idea of making a rich cocoa and almond butter filling, but as I was looking at the recipe calling to add flour
to the lamination butter, I thought: why not make the whole croissant chocolate?

This became doubly intriguing when I discovered I was out of butter. I had shortening, which I have used before in puff pastry and croissants back in my baking school days, but it's flavourless and needs oomph to really be a part of this recipe. In lieu of the flour, I sifted in some of the cocoa, sugar, a dash of espresso powder for good measure, and a few scoops of my latest favourite protein powder with a pinch of salt. After folding and turning the whole wheat dough, the medley took on a lovely coffee-brown shade. I opted for whole wheat not only for health, but because the slightly nutty flavour of the whole grain played beautifully with chocolate. 

I still wasn't 100% satisfied, though. A pain au chocolat needs a filling. So, reaching into my bittersweet chocolate stash, I melted down and piped the chocolate sticks for the centre, which I stuck in the fridge to set (it was 30 degrees Celsius here). Rolled into the middle of the pastry, it melted ever so slightly, making the centre like a truffle. It's a good thing these are dainty-sized croissants, because they are so good it's hard to stop at one!

Call me sacrilegious, but I actually like the texture of these vegan croissants better than their buttery brethren. They were light, impossibly flaky, and the neutral flavour of the shortening allowed the cocoa and coffee to shine through. If I was making plain ones that needed the flavour boost, I would stick to butter - but when the flavours get fancy there's no need to muddle the pot!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Double Chocolate Protein Cookies with @nakednutrition

Need to add a protein boost to your day? Try these vegan, gluten free double chocolate cookies - full of decadent flavour with two scoops of @nakednutrition Naked Rice protein powder. 

One of the biggest things I miss about my pre-social distancing life was going to the gym. Now I'm no body-building, rock-hard-abs kind of girl, but I love my Zumba and the energy it gives me. At home, I keep up as best I can with classes - an interesting experiment when your "workout room" is also your office!

One of the things I do have to be mindful of in my day-to-day life is my protein intake. For me, this is not because I'm active (I have many friends who put me to shame in that respect) but because my autoimmune condition can make it difficult to get enough in every day. When I know I haven't been eating well, I opt to add a little protein powder to my food. I've never been one for drinking smoothies or milkshakes (of which protein powder always seems to become), but if the right powder came along I wouldn't mind giving it a shot! When Naked Nutrition approached me about a collaboration, I was intrigued - they were a new brand to me, and their transparent, no-nonsense labeling was a gigantic plus. So often I am stuck scanning label after label for gluten, dairy or my arch nemesis, coconut, but the website (and the bottles of powder) have clear, easy to read wording and nutrition facts.

Naked Nutrition is best known for their whey powders, and again it is easy to see why they're unique in a sea of various blends and flavours typically lining the shelves. For the longest time, whey in general has dominated the protein market, but since it's not an option for me I keep looking for alternates. Along the way, I've encountered powders that were gritty, slimy or that turned my drink or food into concrete - not a recipe for success - but when I saw that Naked Nutrition offered a rice protein I was intrigued. Rice has a tendency to be on the sweeter side naturally, but can also be gritty - how would this stack up?

Well, the first test was right when the 2.27kg bottle arrived - digging for the scoop (which always happens, I don't know why companies don't attach it like they do those ice-cream spoons) I took a little bit of the powder between my fingers. It was smooth - not baby-powder smooth, but smoother than most powders I've tried before. Taking that as a sign, I added a scoop to my mug of hot cocoa. The texture of the drink got a tiny bit thicker, but not like I was drinking a hot milkshake, and most importantly there was no grit or "off" flavour. It made the drink a little creamier though, as if I made it with whole milk instead of water. It has become my go-to treat on dance days!

Bolstered by those findings, I turned to my area of expertise - baking. I have several people in my life that (for whatever reason) could use a little boost of nutrition but who are also not big eaters. One thing they all have in common, though, is a love for chocolate and cookies. Taking that knowledge and my newfound protein powder, I set about tweaking a recipe I make with the kids in Home Economics class to make double chocolate, chewy, protein rich and lower-sugar cookies.

The cookies got a boost of flavour and fibre from the inclusion of oat flour and rolled oats, which I pulled from my gluten-free stash. Whenever I work with an oat-based cookie dough, or any gluten free batters in general (excepting my angel food cake), I always let it sit at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temperature, which allows the dry ingredients to hydrate and the whole mixture to bake smoothly. My patience was rewarded with these thick, chewy discs - and now that I know they're a hit (they disappeared within a few days) I've made a double batch to hang out in my freezer, pre-scooped, for when the cookie hunger strikes again!

Many, many thanks to Naked Nutrition for this opportunity! Remember, Naked Rice is an all natural, nothing added protein that is gluten free and vegan, with a slightly sweet flavour and NO grit - perfect for adding to your smoothies as well as in culinary applications. Whether it is a mug of hot cocoa, a bowl of oatmeal or a chocolate-packed cookie, you'll never believe how smooth and tasty (or taste-free) this is!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Unstuffed Farro Cabbage Rolls

When your cabbage crop is ready but not looking perfect (holes in the leaves and not a perfect tight head to be seen) you switch gears from traditional to unstuffed cabbage rolls! This vegan dish gets meaty flavour and texture from red and green lentils, mushrooms and caramelized onions, while the standard rice gets a switchup to nutty, chewy farro. Each bite is packed with flavour and texture, perfect for Fall eating!

Yes, yes - this is yet another one from the archives of Instagram, or as I like to call it "where good food goes to die". I can't help it, these days all the hours blend into one another - between late nights writing essays (help me, English classes are worse than I remember), running Zoom classes for my grade 4-8 kids, trying to workout with virtual classes and actually cooking, sometimes getting around to writing about it all falls to the bottom of the pile. I do have a decent chunk of recipes in the pipe though, so thanks for bearing with me!

At any rate, this type of meal is exactly what I would go for in times of stress like now. Not only is is full of comforting, warming flavours (I'm looking now at the polar vortex supposed to smack us on the weekend) but it uses tons of cheap, hearty ingredients that also happen to be full of nutrition! After all, we have been stuck inside for what feels like an eon and while we do our best the stress is not good at all for our immune system - cue the sulfur compounds in the cabbage and the antioxidants is the tomatoes, lentils, garlic and paprika. The mushrooms give a boost of vitamin D which we all need after living indoors for so long, and adding in the farro boosts up the B vitamins and our friend fibre for a healthy digestive tract all over.

On the off chance that any of that science-y mumbo jumbo isn't your cup of tea, all you need to know is this recipe is hearty, healthy and absolutely delicious warm or cold - just make sure you have a large pot to put it all together, because the cabbage is a beast until it cooks down! It is well worth it, though, especially if you love the flavours of cabbage rolls and Mediterranian cuisine blended with classic Eastern European basics. If you're only cooking for one, take heart - this freezes very well and if you portion pre-freezing you can be set for over a week!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Fakels (Fake Bagels)

Out of yeast? These "fakels" (get it? Fake bagels? Nevermind) are made with a handful of ingredients and can be cutomized for your liking - these used up some dregs of various flours (including durum semolina) and were filled with dried fruit and topped with whole flax seeds for texture. Fluffy inside but not as dense or chewy as a real bagel, they are perfect candidates for toasting with jam, peanut butter or cream cheese.

I don't usually jump onto "bandwagons" with my cooking and baking exploits. I prefer to go my own way, playing with what I have on hand and coming up with twists on classical recipes. However, when I found myself with an excess of yogurt (which I had bought planning cornbread, only to find out I was out of cornmeal) I whipped up a loaf of soda bread (swapping yogurt for buttermilk) and opted for these no-boil quickbread bagels to use up the rest. Having made legitimate bagels before (and recently) I know how much tedious work goes into them, and the prospect of getting the doughy, chewy bagel without that step was tempting! To gild the lily (cause I have to) I tossed in handfuls of dried fruit and topped each with flax seeds for crunch. How would they come out?

Well, I will say this - they are not bagels. The inner texture is more cake like than doughy, and the outsides aren't smooth and shiny. You also need a wicked sharp serrated knife to get a clean slice. However - once you do get a good slice and you pop them under the broiler to toast (not a toaster, you will thank me), they are still excellent schmear holders, butter still soaks in, and they still satisfy as a breakfast or a snack. Would I eat them plain? Untoasted? No - these are the English muffins of bagels and demand caramelization. But in the days of no yeast, these may just have to do for now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Famous Florentine

Pasta Florentine is a dead simple meal that can be made with pantry and freezer ingredients in under 30 minutes! I used @lightlifefoods crumbles for extra (vegetarian) protein, but feel free to use any meat or protein (like tofu or lentils). Half a block of frozen spinach and a can of evaporated milk make a rich sauce with pops of green that coats pasta perfectly. N loved it and can't wait to make it again!

I could have called this "quarantine florentine" but I resisted. You're welcome. 

This pasta dish is famous for N and I now, because it is dead-simple to prepare, is great hot or cold, and is one of the first things I taught him how to make! Like so much of my cooking during this era of long lines for the grocery store, empty shelves and generally feeling stressed out about everything, the majority of the ingredients for this lightened-up version of a classic were in my pantry and freezer, and are quite interchangeable. For instance, here, I used spaghetti (left over from Home Ec days) frozen whole-leaf spinach, vegan ground and evaporated whole milk. That said, if all you have is rigatoni, macaroni or egg noodles, go for it! Only finding frozen chopped spinach, frozen kale or another fresh leafy cooking green (like rapini)? Beautiful! Not into the vegan "meat"? Brown up some ground of your choice, chop up cooked chicken, toss in lentils or chickpeas or leave it out completely and serve the protein on the side. As for the dairy, I would not recommend skim evaporated milk (it likes to curdle and not thicken) but 2% will do, as will half-and-half, 18% or heavy cream. If you are using a "non-evaporated" dairy, keep an eye on it to avoid the nasty curdle or scorch factor - better to cook this lower and slower than burn it!

If you're organized, this is also a super-quick dish to pull together last minute and can be scaled up relatively simply. Leftovers are no problem at all, like I said leftovers are great cold or fried in a skillet (with or without eggs as a binder). When things settle down in the shops I can't wait to give this a go with some whole wheat pasta like fettuccine or even farfalle, as the nuttiness of the whole grain would lighten up the creamy sauce. Either way, it's a fantastic option when mac-and-cheese, grilled chicken and soup have lost their allure!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Fried Spaghetti

Not the prettiest dish but Fried Spaghetti is the most delicious, cheap leftovers revamp I've ever had! Adding a few eggs, cheese and herbs with a low and slow cook gets the pasta bottom nice and crispy - if youre extra skilled you can flip it all in one piece, but i usually break it up into chunks.

As a kid, I loved "cheap as chips" comfort food. The meals I often look back on with the most fondness are actually "leftover" meals that mom keeps telling me were thrown together because we didn't have anything else at the time - I'm talking "eggs the way somebody else's mother used to make them" (torn up stale bread, buttered and fried in a pan topped with sunny-side up eggs), leftover Kraft Dinner with a handful of frozen peas and some tomato sauce, and left over rice mixed with cottage cheese and salsa. All delicious, all 100% not gourmet or fancy in any way. In university, I carried these recipes with me, eating them for as long as I could before my stomach gave me issues, then making them for my roommates.

One of these recipes followed me all the way to today, where I make it with my younger Home Ec kids. Fried spaghetti is essentially just that - leftover sauced pasta fried in a skillet with eggs to hold it all together. Feeling fancy, I added a few herbs to the egg mixture, but in all honesty as long as the sauce you use is decent they are optional. The trick is to really take your time - you want a crispy, crunchy pasta on both sides but you also need the eggs to cook, so spread out the noodles as best you can and cook over medium or medium-low heat for at least 5 minutes a side. I made double batches for the kids and had fridge-cold pasta, so it took us about 10 minutes a side. That said, there were no complaints, and not a single scrap left over!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread

Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread is perfect for the toaster, with a fine but spongy crumb and soft crust. I used oat milk creamer in the batter-like dough for a subtle sweetness and softness, and the whole thing can be ready in under 2 hours!

Growing up, I was all about the peanut butter and honey sandwiches. After Christmas, when we were faced with a glut of (delicious) Challah that was quickly going stale, we became masters of the sandwich, from PB&H at breakfast to hot turkey and gravy at lunch. The spongier and drier the bread, the better it was as all the fillings seeped in. The rest of the year we made so with "regular" bread - until Easter when the English muffins started proliferating the stores. English muffins are a weird beast - they really are boring until they are toasted and slathered with something - but they are also tiny! I have never been full off of one English muffin (except maybe when I was little) so I just opted out of them.

Enter, the English muffin bread. Yes, a whole loaf of nooks and crannies, begging to be popped into the toaster and slathered with whatever you please. Loaf form also prevents the whole wheat from becoming too gritty or prominent, and it stays fresh longer than the little guys too. Best of all is that you can control the size of your sandwich or toast - so a peanut butter sandwich has heft and staying power, even if you're grabbing it on the go. This loaf barely - barely cooled before it was cut into and tasted with a smear of butter, and for ease of storage and to maintain freshness Mom sliced and froze the rest. That way, you can pull out the number of slices you need, toast and go!

You will notice that the dough for this bread is way different from any other bread dough. It is a batter - no kneading, no rolling, no shaping. It's simply beat, scrape and bake. The high moisture content ensures maximum bubble and tenderness, leaving a spongy crumb just like the original muffins, and as a bonus you don't need to skip arm day at the gym (or bust out the dough hook). Just keep on going with the recipe and as long as your yeast isn't dead (or expired) you'll have bread on your table in less time than it takes to watch a Marvel movie.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Super Seedy Multigrain Sandwich Bread

These high rising loaves are packed with multigrain cereal, oats and a "super seed" mix of flax, chia and hemp seeds. Sweetened with honey, a slice or two is perfect toasted for breakfast with jam or your favourite nut butter!

I may have mentioned before that my mom (and I, back in the day) love "bits" in our bread. While there are (obviously) commercial loaves in the stores with various grains, nothing quite beats the homemade, real McCoy baked fresh. These loaves came about after my mom discovered a half-loaf of artisan multigrain bread from the market in the freezer, which was unfortunately freezer burned beyond use for anything but croutons or stuffing. I had also just come into possession of a beautiful jar of honey from my friend who has a backyard apiary, and upon tasting it I knew it would be perfect on toast, so why not in toast?

Turns out I had the base recipe from Restless Chipotle saved in my archives for a while... as in since 2016. Now, her recipe has changed and evolved over the years, and my version is different still. That said, it is an incredible medley of flavours and textures, rising high to the perfect "sandwich" height and ideal both fresh from the oven (if you don't care about tearing it) and toasted later on. I also love that the "add ins" are pretty variable. If you don't have the seed mix, pick your favourite (sunflower, pumpkin, chia and whole flax are all excellent choices) or use more oats instead. Vegan and avoiding honey? Use apple juice concentrate, pineapple juice (or pineapple honey), or agave. You can even cut down on the oil and use milk in it's place (though the loaf won't stay as soft for as long).

One thing I will say, is that as long as you have a bowl or a mixer that can handle the volume, make the full recipe. It is 100% worth it and it that way if things come up (which they inevitably do just as the bread runs out) you can pull out the second one from the freezer and save the day! As I'm writing this, my mom happened to look over my shoulder and ask when I'll be making this one again because it would be perfect for tomato sandwiches in Summer. I guess I have my marching orders!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sweet Pineapple Yeast Bread

Tender, sweet and slightly tangy from pineapple juice, these loaves are a real treat any time of day, and are even better with a tropical trail mix kneaded in.

Sweet Pineapple Yeast Bread

As the days begin to get warmer, I start craving the sun and relaxed atmosphere of the summer. This year it's even more of a craving, since the topical adventure N and I were slated to go on was postponed as a result of the big bad nasty COVID. While I'm disappointed (of course), I am also fully aware that safety and security are paramount - and when I can travel in my kitchen, it isn't too bad of a tradeoff (plus, I can bake in PJs!).

Funny enough, I never really got into eating pineapple (aside from the fruit trays at parties) until I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis on top of my digestion woes. One of my coworkers had a sibling with it as well, and being from the tropics she had started eating large quantities of the fruit for the bromelain it contains (which is supposed to help break down inflammation). Now, this enzyme is only active in the fresh fruit (which explains why you can't put fresh pineapple in Jell-O but canned works) but canned pineapple (and it's juice) are still full of nutrients, especially vitamin C. I'm all for staying as healthy as I can (working in a school is petri dish-esque) so it was a tasty way to get it daily!

That said, I am really not a "juice drinker", so when Dole sent me a large can of it, I knew it would become something culinary. I had seen multiple postings of Hawaiian bread floating around the web back in 2017 when I got their care package, and decided a hefty batch of that would fit the bill. The pineapple juice helps soften the "grittiness" of the whole wheat flour and adds almost a honey note to the dough, playing off the handful of tropical trail mix I added to one of the three loaves on a whim. Keeping with the Hawaiian theme, I also opted for coconut milk and oil for it's richness and flavour. That said, if I was to make this again, I would shy away from the coconut products simply because kneading and shaping bread with gloves on is horrendous (I'm allergic to coconut so must avoid contact).

In the end, these loaves made for perfect toast and when you leave them out overnight to get stale, the best French toast ever! I actually used one loaf to make a version of Disney's Tonga Toast as a special Sunday treat for mom, and think bread pudding would be an excellent foil for this as well.

Even when we're stuck at home, why not escape to the tropics for a while? Dole (who sent me the pineapple juice I used in these loaves back when I made them in 2017!!) claims #SunshineForAll in 2020, and I'm telling you, we have all earned it!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Extra Blueberry Bagels

A dozen blueberry bagels were on the docket today, made with 100% whole wheat and a combination of frozen and dried blueberries. The secret? Using the thawed blueberry juice as part of the liquid to infuse every bite with fresh berry flavour!

It has been far too long since I made a batch of bagels. Truth be told, the Beet Bagels that I posted last week (and made in 2017) were the last round I baked in my kitchen! For me, bagels - while delectably chewy and the perfect snack - just became too much of a process while I was in school and working. So, to celebrate the end of my program (and my ability to add more letters to the end of my name) as well as give N a treat after an April like this, I broke out the pot, honey water and high gluten flour and got to work.

I picked blueberry as the flavour for these guys for one simple reason - N loves the blueberry bagels from his local store, but being a "specialty" item they only put them out one weekend a month - not fair, I say! Since I had a ton of local blueberries in my freezer from last summer as well as a container of the same berries that I had dried, I figured I'd combine the two into an uber-blueberry bagel dough. But that wasn't all! Fate has a funny way of working, and when I went to drain the frozen berries (I thawed them first, not wanting excess liquid or cold in my dough), it struck me: blueberry juice is full of flavour and colour, along with a natural sweetness, so why not use it as part of the liquid? I carefully measured it out and added enough water to make up the difference, and I had triple blueberry bagels on my hands.

The part I always found time consuming was the shaping and boiling, and that hasn't changed to be told. However, as long as your dough is not super high-hydration (I have done that before) the bagels will hold their shape after their bath and get a beautifully glossy exterior after baking as a result. They get puffy in the water too, so bear that in mind when choosing how many to add at once - as well as the fact you need to flip them over!

Even if the boiling has you grumbling, the scent that permeates your kitchen about 5 minutes after the bagels hit the oven will remind you just why you made them in the first place. A combination of fresh baked bread and a high-summer farmer's market with just a hint of doughnut shop from the nutmeg, these would by far be perfect just eaten plain. However, when N got his hands on them, the toast-butter test was first and they passed with flying colours. The next day, I turned one (which had "popped open" in boiling and so wasn't "pretty") into French Toast and even I was amazed at how perfect the interiors were. Dense but with just enough crannies to sop up butter or honey, but with enough moisture that they don't demand it, I definitely see myself making these again.

But that will have to wait till after I finish my English courses.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cranberry Almond Boule

This Cranberry Almond Boule is made with a sourdough starter boosted with just a touch of yeast for extra lift (and a shorter rising time). Packed with whole wheat, slivered almonds and @oceanspraycanada Craisins, it is a perfect blend of flavours for a lazy breakfast or paired with aged cheese as a snack.

One of the benefits of this "limbo" period I'm in - until May, anyways - is that I get the chance to go through my pantry and really take stock of what I have. There are a few things I use regularly - flour and sugar for instance - but when it comes to "additions" I very rarely dive deep into the stash I have. This is compounded by the fact that I have a wealth of fruit, nuts and seeds in the freezer as well, and like I'm sure most of your freezers, most of the "stuff" goes there to die. However, with a spot of spare time on my hands before class last week, I quickly went through at least the front portion of my freezer, coming up with a tiny handful of slivered almonds from Christmas. A brief glance at my baking shelf saw a giant bag of dried cranberries that had been recently shunted to the front of the line after mom used up the end of the other bag in salad.

Still keeping with the "use up the pantry" theme, I brought out my good ol' sourdough started from the fridge and gave it a hefty feed the night before getting going, and fed it again a few hours before making the dough in earnest. I spotted a single package of active dry yeast (again from mom's baking at Christmas) in the pantry and although it was technically expired by a few weeks I figured I'd toss it in for kicks - if anything it would just dissolve and do nothing, but as luck would have it I was pleasantly surprised that it still had activity, although slightly less robust than usual. However, combined with the bubbly wild yeast, I got a readily rising loaf that, while higher hydration than some of my other whole wheat loaves, still handled like a dream and gave me a lovely, low rising peasant loaf with a subtle tang.

Like all my peasant style loaves, I opted to bake this one on a baking stone to get the bottom nice and crusty. However, if you don't have one, no worries! It will work just as well on a standard baking sheet. I may eventually try this recipe (scaled up) in my 7-qt Staub to create a "cloche" like environment, but I need to play with the ingredient amounts first as this recipe doesn't make enough dough to warrant the huge pot I have. At any rate, this is a keeper - and with luck I'll be able to try it out with other "found things" as well, since we need the freezer room for, you guessed it - more bread!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Yeasted Multigrain Beer Bread

This Yeasted Multigrain Beer Bread is lent a delicate hoppy taste from a can of Amber Ale and a gorgeous colour from egg yolks. It rises so high it looks like a half globe on the baking sheet! Sliced and spread with butter or topped with sharp Cheddar it is a hearty and healthy snack or side!

Back to the bread after a few days of rest this weekend! I don't know about you, but I am really starting to wonder what I'm going to be doing with myself soon - even though I start a new batch of courses in May, not having a real "routine" outside of my few hours of teaching is very... odd. That said, there will always be a need for bread in this household, and these loaves remind me that summer is right around the corner.

How does bread equate to summer? Well, the dough gets a huge boost of flavour from an amber ale that makes it's appearance at backyard BBQs and patio parties every summer here, and while I don't drink the smell of it brings me right back to summers spent camping and boating with my family. The rest of the dough is pretty standard, although packed with a variety of grains and seeds, and is rich with 8 egg yolks which keep the loaves soft for days even after slicing. The resulting bread is hearty and has almost a sourdough tang to it, which Mom enjoyed topped with aged Cheddar and a drizzle of honey. I imagine it would also make for a great side for soup or stew as well, or part of a ploughman's lunch.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Honeyed Quinoa Loaf

This hearty, 100% whole grain loaf is high rising, honey sweetened and studded with crunchy bites of red quinoa. Soy creamer makes for an impossibly high rising, soft crumb as well. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool!

I'll let you in on a little secret - I can't stand quinoa. Boiled, re-fried, steamed... the taste and texture is just off for me. I will deem it passable in flour or puffed form (I do like puffed quinoa and rice cakes, for example). However, mom takes the cake - er, bread - when it comes to embracing grains of all kinds, and when I had the last of a bag of quinoa sitting around in the pantry after making pilaf she suggested I use it as "bits" in bread. As fate would have it, that morning I stumbled across a loaf with quinoa on Mel's Kitchen Cafe and after taking stock of the pantry and fridge situation I decided to try it with a few tweaks.

First, and probably most obviously at this point, I made the whole recipe 100% whole grain. Mom and I are huge fans of the nutty flavour and increased nutrition of using whole grains in bread - and every time I make a batch I'm reminded of the "good old days" when I could eat it, so I know it's still a winner. I also only had red quinoa on hand so I used it instead of white, and with a glut of soy "dairy" in the fridge I made those the main liquids. For a little extra flavour I tossed in a bit of toasted sesame oil as well - you can never go wrong with that when "nutty" is the goal!

These loaves rose high, and rose quickly due to the warmth in my kitchen (between mom and I we had stove and oven on quite a bit that day) so the bread did flatten a bit in the oven (and spilled over the sides a bit). Next time I will keep a better eye on it, but appearances aside these loaves were everything we hoped for - soft, tender with a delicate crunch and full of sweet and nutty flavour.  They fit perfectly in the toaster and made excellent BLTs too from what I heard!


What are your favourite grains to bake with? Any I should try? Let me know in the comments!