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!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Apple Pecan Granola

Taking a break from all the bread (just for a day, I promise)! I realized I had fallen out of the habit of making granola, more due to my lack of time and organization than anything. But granola is not difficult to make! In fact, while this concoction I whipped up may have a couple odd ingredients, the method can't be simpler - one bowl, one pan, and 45 (mostly hands off) minutes is all it takes.

Granola is also incredibly versatile, as you can see by the fact I have a whole category devoted to it! So while I have kinako, hemp hearts and Kamut flakes in my pantry, feel free to swap out for ground flax or ground pecans (or just leave out the kinako), any other seed (or more pecans) and more large flake oats (or any other flaked grain). Regardless, it will be crispy, crunchy and tasting fantastic!

The only downside to this granola is that it was so good it got snapped up before I could take any sort of photo. I was so excited to gift jars of it (as always) to my friends over the holidays (yup another old post) that it was packed and dropped off before I thought of it - but all the more reason to make some more!

Apple Pecan Granola
Adapted from Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
Makes 3 cups
1 1/2 cups large flake oats
1 cup Kamut flakes (or more large flake oats)
2 tbsp kinako (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweetened apple butter (I used homemade)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I use the reduced sugar ones)
  1. Heat the oven to 325°F (convection if you have it) and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, Kamut flakes, pecans, hemp hearts, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Add the apple butter and vanilla, stirring well with a spatula (or your hands) until everything is thoroughly coated.
  4. Spread onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Stir and bake a further 10-15 minutes, until toasted and beginning to really crisp up.
  6. Turn off the oven and let cool inside for 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in the dried cranberries and store.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

3 Day Sourdough Bread

Three day sourdough bread takes ages but is really very light work, and yields deliciously tangy loaves perfect for sandwiches or toast with jam!

There is no doubt about it - April has been one bizarre month. We have gone from eagerly awaiting special meals out and vacations and planning for Summer break (not to mention my upcoming  university courses and Masters program) to being caught in limbo - things across the board have been put on hold or cancelled outright, I'm becoming better and better at navigating Zoom for teaching and now that I've finished my degree (the Summer courses were a prerequisite for my graduate studies) I'm kind of... lost. Don't get me wrong, the break is needed - the overwhelming stress of this last month was pushing me into burnout territory - but I now need to "re-learn" how to relax and not be working under pressure.

Two things that have really helped me with the stress of these ever-changing times have been virtual teaching and baking. I truly didn't realize how revitalized being around the students made me, so getting the chance to interact with them - even for an hour a week - is fantastic. Not to mention that a lot of them need that structure too. One of these days, I will get around to doing a few cooking videos for them (as "Home Ec" lessons), as soon as I can figure out how to edit.

The other major thing that has always helped with my stress levels is baking. Specifically, baking bread. There is something truly cathartic about something becoming alive in the kitchen, whether it is a quick-shot, two hour loaf or something that takes a little longer, like these loaves of whole-grain sourdough. Did I say a little longer? Sorry, I meant a lot longer. See, this sourdough recipe takes three days to complete. Why? Well, the longer you let sourdough ferment, the more complex and sour the flavour is, the more hydrated the flour is and the better the gluten structure. Not all sourdoughs take three days, but since this one uses cold retardation, the yeast is slowed down. Coupled with my 13 year old starter, by the time these loaves were cool enough to slice (more agonizing than the three days of waiting) they were perfect, almost akin to the sourdough I used to buy at the market in Ottawa.

Whether you just tear into a slice unadorned (I have been guilty of that), slather it with peanut butter or toast it and spread it with butter (cultured if you love tang like I do), you can't go wrong with these loaves. No starter? Check out the guide I found here to get going!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Beet Bagels

Bagels with a delicate pink hue and a touch of earthy (beet-given) sweetness are chewy and whole grain - perfect for breakfast!

Beet Bagels

I've been seeing a lot of people getting into baking these days while we're all stuck inside, and I for one am all for it! As a Home Economics teacher I am so used to hearing that my art is "long lost" and unnecessary in today's world of easy-to-find consumables. These days have seen a resurgence though, and while yeast is still impossible to find (thankfully I have a stash) for those of you who have scored the precious microbes I am hoping to finally catch up on documenting all the breads I had languishing in posting purgatory.

First up (because I just baked a batch of different bagels) are these cute, pink, beet infused bagels. Some of you know I grow a ton of heirloom beets every summer (well, maybe not this summer if I can't get seeds) and while I love them raw, I also roast up a bunch of them for various applications, including pickles, conserves and baking. I've made loaves of beet bread in the past, but when it came time to make holiday gifts for one of my coworkers back in 2018 (yup, told you this was an ancient recipe waiting for publication) I wanted to come up with something more portable that she could take with her to work for lunch or a snack. Thus, these bagels were born, based on a recipe I found on Discover Delicious.
Beet Bagels

The recipe won me over with the colour - I mean how can you not be drawn in by that pink hue? The recipe also appealed to me flavour wise as it used a pre-ferment, which like the much-adored sourdough allows part of the flour to absorb the water properly and ferment, giving the dough a delicate tang and smoothness. Malt powder is totally optional, but I added it because I had it on hand and felt it gave a "bagel-y" nuance to the finished product too. Like all good bagels, these are boiled in honey water before baking, which makes them chewy, shiny and perfect for slicing.

Beet Bagels

In the end, these bagels were everything I hoped for - a great size, chewy, with a delicate nuttiness from the whole wheat and an earthy sweetness from the beets. They took time to make (needing an overnight retardation in the fridge) but boy were they worth it, and I would 100% make them again.

What have you been baking these days? Anything new to cope with being isolated? Comment below!

Beet Bagels

Friday, April 17, 2020


Maghmour is known as Lebanese moussaka, and is a thick, smoky eggplant and bean stew packed with peppers, onions, tomatoes, smoked paprika and mint. I added a hefty pinch of pepper flakes to my version and served it over a rice and quinoa base for a hearty meal in a bowl that is the perfect comfort food in these troubled times.

While it may be Spring according to the calendar, it sure doesn't feel like it! Just yesterday while I was teaching (e-learning is going surprisingly well on my end any way) the kids and I all stopped for a moment to appreciate the blizzard that appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast! The chill in the air also remained, although we are hearing that it will warm up eventually. Until then (and definitely until life gets back some semblance of normal), comfort food is on the menu. Mom is a huge eggplant fan and when I saw a recipe featuring it (and lots of other favourite Mediterranean things) I knew she'd adore it. Luckily, we have enough grocery stores near us that the wait is never too too long, but I still tried to keep the list to what was in our fridge and pantry (namely onions, peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas and grains) and throw as much flavour as I could at it. In this case, I am very lucky to have a well-stocked spice cupboard so things like dried mint and Aleppo pepper just are, but if you want to make this and don't have those things on hand either leave them out or throw thyme or basil or parsley at it - it will all taste good and you'll have a healthy meal on hand for when you can't be bothered to cook (or shop) again.

Like I said, this recipe is forgiving - don't have or want chickpeas? Use another legume (lentils, kidney beans) or swap them out for 3 cooked, diced chicken breasts folded in at the end. Or leave out the protein completely and serve it alongside - I've heard that it pairs well with pork tenderloin too.

Here's to better (and warmer) days ahead - we can only go up from here!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Nana Cake

 N used to eat a variation of this cake every year for his birthday, when his nana made it for him. Today's revamp is a rich, whole grain spice cake topped with homemade blueberry pie filling and Chantilly cream. Different yet decadent!

In the midst of all this last-minute "re-learning" with online schooling - as both teacher and student - March and April have basically been non-starters for writing on this blog. If you are still tuned in, thank you for your patience! I have been cooking here and there (despite how difficult grocery shopping has become) and you can always find my latest yums on Instagram as well - I will get to the recipes on here one day!

Anyways, this cake is far more than it's relatively simplistic construction. N's birthday was back in December (see how far behind I am?) but when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he told me a story of the kind his grandmother used to make for him right up until she passed away. It was simple in essence - a baked box-mix cake topped with a can of pie filling and a tub of Cool Whip - but he adored it and confided that he wished he could have it again. When I asked if a homemade version would suffice (I hate box cake mix as a rule - not because of the ingredients but because of the sound our hand beaters make mixing it) he was excited and gave me free reign, as long as it wasn't chocolate. Perfect - I had a ton of odds and ends around the pantry and fridge after a month of sweet baking with Home Economics, so I quickly settled on a spice cake, and the ends of that fall's blueberries that I had frozen became the filling. 

Of course, I can't set out baking something and not tweak it! I knew I wanted to keep the flavour profile relatively rustic and traditional, so I went with a combo of oats and whole wheat flour in addition to the "white" stuff and used my own (homemade) pumpkin pie spice to add fresh and pronounced flavour. The pie filling was kissed with spices and orange and capped off with a tiny dose of orange flower water for just a little touch of flair. Both components also took advantage of the toasted sugar I had made up every few months after discovering the recipe and I'm glad I made that call - everything smelled cozy and warming. 

I toted all three components - cake, filling and whipped cream - separately to his place and assembled the "nana cake" there. Let me tell you - it didn't last very long, even with the rest of the seasonal sweets abounding!