Currant Affairs

No, that’s not a spelling mistake. I do mean “currant” with an “a.”

Here’s what happened.

First thing in the morning I go into the kitchen to put the coffee on.

Hmph! No coffee ground.

Get the beans and pour them into the grinder. I have dark roast and medium roast. These look like … can’t really tell …should have labeled the jar.

Oh well,  here goes. Put the cap on the grinder and … wait a minute! These look like awfully small beans ….

WHAAAAT? That’s not coffee! I taste a “bean” to be sure. They’re currants!

I’m struggling to wake up. My eyes are only half open. And as you can see in the photo below, one of the pot lights has a burned out bulb. They are connected three to a switch and only two of this set are on.

I made scones the other day and put currants in them. I always put away the ingredients when I finish baking, but I hadn’t put away the jar with currants in them. As you can see below, they look very much like the coffee beans that I keep on the counter because I’m always needing to grind more coffee.

With the poor lighting from the burnt out bulb, I couldn’t see that one jar had something other than coffee beans in it.  So maybe there are two dimbulbs around here.

Of course, I can forgive myself for almost making pureed currants.

I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet.

Buttercup Squash

Last year I couldn’t wait to plant the  seeds I had saved from squash given to us by a friend in Montana.  I should have waited a few weeks. The seedlings were ready to transplant into the garden way before it was warm enough. I managed to baby them until I dared to plant them outside and luck was on my side. I ended up with a great crop of squashes.

This year, I thought I’d be smarter. I waited until it was closer to spring and warmer weather. I planted the seeds of the crop from last year and so many popped up I was quite pleased with myself. Until … they grew so well they started stretching for the light too much and were getting gangly.

It was supposed to be getting much warmer by now! Where was that warm April weather? I was STILL too early. Now I’ll put these eager plants into individual little pots, give them a pat, and tell them, “Slow down. It’s not as warm as it should be. You’ll have to rein in your enthusiasm.”

Here is one of last year’s squashes. I hope to have many happy plants this year too.

When I look at this young beauty, I’m encouraged to work at getting a good crop of these buttercup squashes growing again this year. They are one of the tastiest, sweet squashes I know. Great keepers and delicious to eat. If I remember, I’ll share a recipe later this summer.

 

Would You Like a Cookie?

Did you ever see the movie “Prizzi’s Honor”? Remember the cookie-loving Don Corrado Prizzi whose famous line is often repeated in our house – “Would you like a cookie?”

Prizzi was played by William Hickey. I was surprised to learn that Hickey was only 57 when he played his role as an old man in this 1985 movie. He died 12 years later at the age of 69.

I don’t remember most of the movie but I do remember his famous line about the cookie. Hmm … what does that say about me?

Raisins, nuts, and oatmeal too,

Mix it up and make a goo.

Spoon it on a cookie sheet,

Bake it quick and then you eat.

Recipe:

As usual, I cheat on recipes, trying to cut back on sugar and butter, but basically, here is the original recipe for you to change as you please. Put in the mixing bowl in the order given here and spoon onto greased baking sheet. 375 degrees for 8 to 10 min.

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter

1/4 cup water

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups oatflakes

1 cup flour

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Winter Apples

As it snowed heavily all around today, the Captain brought in some of this fall’s apples we had stored in our workshop. How bright they look against the snow. I think the smaller red one on the left is a MacIntosh, and the other three are called Wilmuta, which is a cross between Jonagold and Gravenstein. The Wilmuta is a great winter apple. It matures in October and keeps well in a cool place. What a treat to see them today in a January snowfall. The rest of my garden is asleep under the snow, but the apples are still edible after a sleep in the workshop.

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What sleeps in winter garden beds?

Some kale and wilted lettuce heads,

Carrots tasty, shriveled chard,

In soil that’s frozen very hard.

The chives are shivering with cold,

But in the springtime they’ll be bold

And send up shoots that say to me

Your salad’s where I’d like to be.

One day the sun will warm the soil

And Anne-li will go out and toil

Turning over weedy dirt

While working in her short-sleeved shirt.

She’s anxiously awaiting spring

So she can go and do her thing.

 

 

 

The Root Cellar

No, this is not a hobbit’s house. About 50 years ago this small excavation in the side of a hill was used as a root cellar.dscn6798

Before the days of refrigeration, potatoes and other root crops like carrots, squashes, beets, and turnips could be stored in this underground bunker. The earth was shored up with wooden beams and possibly shelving could be put in, and then this place could function as a natural cooler for vegetables. A door  kept  larger animals out, and a pipe in the top provided an air vent so the vegetables (and the odd mouse) could breathe.dscn6799People of that era would probably have to make a trek to the root cellar before preparing the evening meal. Let’s hope they were braver than I am about encountering spiders.

Sticky Business

On a whim. I decided to bake some sticky buns today. These are not buns you’ll find in a recipe book but they’re easy to make and even a beginner could make them. I didn’t follow a recipe, but made it up as I went along. If you’d like a taste, you’ll have to make some and try it out.

Whenever I cook or bake, I might start with a basic recipe but I always end up substituting things depending on what I have in the house.dscn6476

Anneli’s Fennel Hazelnut Buns

First I make a sweet dough. I doubled the recipe today but I’ll write down the basic one here – and you must remember that everything is approximate. I just throw things into the bowl according to what I feel is right.

A basic bread recipe is 2 cups of milk and 5 cups of flour. Based on that, I used:

2 cups warm milk

3 Tbsp. melted butter

3 Tbsp. honey (or use sugar)

2 scant tsp. salt

1 tsp. fennel seeds (if you like them – they have a licorice taste)

Add some of the 5 cups of flour before adding the

2 tsp. fast rising yeast (bread machine yeast).

I put all this in the mixing bowl in my Kitchen Aid mixer and let it mix using the bread hook. When the batter is thoroughly mixed I add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until the mixer is struggling.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it (adding more flour if needed) until the dough is smooth and elastic but not dry and hard. It should be just at the stage where it doesn’t stick to your hands anymore.

Put it in the big bowl that you’ve warmed up in the oven and have rubbed inside with melted butter. I put the dough into the bowl upside down to coat the top with the butter and then flip the dough over so the top of it will stay moist and not get dry and cracked as it rises. Cover dough with a towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. I leave it in the oven which is not turned on but has been warmed.

When the dough has risen, take it out and roll it into a rectangle about half an inch thick. Maybe about 10 inches by 15 inches. Spread melted butter on the rolled out dough. Sprinkle it with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it with raisins or currants. Lastly sprinkle it with ground hazelnuts (or you can use chopped nuts of your favourite kind – soft ones work best  – pecans, walnuts ….)

For baking I use a  rectangular glass baking dish – the kind you’d make lasagne in. I put a syrup in the bottom of the baking dish.

To make the syrup, put about a quarter cup of water in a pot, add a big spoon of butter and about a cup of brown sugar and let it all come to a boil. Stir it as it bubbles and be careful not to let it boil over. It will want to froth right out of the pot. After about a minute of boiling, pour it into the baking dish and spread it all over the bottom of the dish. I sprinkle ground hazelnuts on the layer of syrup, or you can sprinkle other kinds of chopped nuts on it.

Back to the dough with all the goodies on it. Roll the dough up tightly and cut the roll into twelve one-inch pieces. I cut the roll in half and in halves again, and then into thirds. That gives me twelve rounds. Lay the coiled up buns in the syrup which should be only lukewarm by now. Let the buns rise for about half an hour and bake them at 350 for about 35 minutes.

Turn them out onto a platter while still warm so the syrup from the pan will stick to the buns.

Now go put the coffee on and call your favourite person to share a sticky bun with you.

Apple Pie

The apple trees are overloaded with fruit this year. Branches threaten to break under the strain of the weight. I’m sure the trees breathe a sigh of relief every time an apple falls and lightens the load. I’ve had to get out there early each morning to get the fallen apples before the rabbits do. But what am I going to do with all those apples? If I have to go to all the trouble of peeling them, I might as well get the benefit of some apple pies.

These are Gravenstein apples, great for eating, and not bad for pies. The bigger apples are still on the trees, so peeling the little ones is a bit of a pain but worth it in the end.

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I’ve peeled and cut enough apples for two pies. No point in making only one. Now I’ll mix up some brown sugar, cinnamon, and a bit of flour in a small bowl. (About two tablespoons each of the sugar and flour, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.)

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I put that into the bowl of apples and stir to coat them with the mixture.

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Now to make the crust. I use about a cup of butter with my two+ cups flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and add a pinch of salt. Give it a few pulses with the food processor to cut the butter into the flour. SO much easier than in the old days with a pastry blender.

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Then I separate an egg and put the yolk into a cup so I can add cold water (about 1/2 cup). The egg white goes into a little dish with a splash of milk, or cream. Today I happened to have some whipping cream handy so I used that.

The egg yolk and water is added to the crumbled pastry in the food processor and this is where you have to be careful to give it only enough pulses to mix the dough so it starts to stick together.  Later, the egg white and cream gets whisked with a fork and spread on top of the pie crust just before we put it in the oven. This helps it brown. 005

I poured out the pastry, which is now in lumps, onto a board and pushed it into a ball of dough. Don’t be tempted to knead it or  do much of anything with it at this stage or you’ll end up with a pie like the first one I ever made. You had to use a chainsaw to cut it.

For two pies, I cut the dough in half. Then I cut each of those halves; one piece for the bottom of the pie plate and a smaller piece for the top. You see that one piece is slightly bigger than the other?

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Rolling out the pieces of dough with a rolling pin is not an exact science. It’s a challenge to make the pieces come out round. Doesn’t matter. The excess will later  be cut away with a knife all around the edge of the pie plate.

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Turn the oven on to 450 degrees. While it is heating up, cut slits into the top of the pie crust and then take a pastry brush and paint the top of the pie crust with the egg white and cream mixture. Put the pies into the hot oven for 12 to 15 minutes at 450, checking to make sure they don’t burn. The tops should be just starting to turn golden brown at the end of that time, which is when you turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Another 35 minutes should do it. To be sure the pies are done, I wait until I see the syrupy juice trying to bubble out through the cuts.

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At last the pies are done. I take one to the neighbours and cut myself a piece from the second pie. I sit on the deck and watch the bay for a glimpse of the Captain who is coming home soon. I know it won’t be today, but I can imagine. And I’ll soon have to bake more pie when he does come home.

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