Tag Archives: Baking

Cranberries

Nearly home from Montana, we drove past this cranberry farm east of Vancouver, BC. Again, I only had seconds to snap a drive-by shot, but it made me look up cranberry harvesting when I got home.

I learned that cranberries can be harvested dry or wet. For the dry harvesting they go through the cranberry field with a machine much like a lawnmower except that it doesn’t cut the plants; it only scoops up the berries and bits of the plant. The berries are then sent through a machine that bounces them around and separates them from the other bits of debris through a grooved roller that rocks back and forth. Then comes the assembly line where workers pick out the bad berries from the conveyor belt.

On the tiny photo above, you can see that they have flooded the cranberry field. A taller machine, designed not to churn up the wet ground goes through and scoops up more berries to bring them to the surface.

Then the berries are “herded” together by floating dams just as if the berries were an oil spill.  Once the berries are enclosed, they are vacuumed up into a truck while the water is drained off  as the berries are loaded.

They still need to go through the assembly line for sorting, but machinery does all but this last step.

When you make a cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you need to add about a cup of sugar for two cups of these very tart berries, but you can make your cranberry sauce more interesting by adding plums and apples if you have them handy.

Cranberries also make a wonderful addition to muffins. Throw in a cupful with the batter instead of using blueberries. Add some chopped nuts. The measuring doesn’t have to be an exact science. Experiment. They’re sure to be good.

 

You’ll Love “Yule Logs”

These delicious cookies are supposed to look like logs, but when you have help to make cookies you don’t criticize a little aberration in the shape of the “logs.”

Also, I think it’s encouraging  to others when you hear that, even though the “log” shapes turned out a bit unorthodox, the taste of the cookies is “more-ish” (as my father-in-law used to say, when a food made you want more).

The incredibly easy recipe is below the photo.

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The Admiral’s Yule Logs

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans, or hazelnuts, or….)

shredded coconut

Mix butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, dates, and nuts in the usual way, and in the order listed. Have some shredded coconut in a shallow bowl or plate. Drop a teaspoonful of the dough into the coconut and roll it around to coat the lump of dough. Then, using the coconut to keep it from sticking to your fingers, roll the dough into the shape of a tiny log, about the size of your little finger. When the logs are shaped and coated in coconut, place them on a buttered cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until brown. (325 if oven is too hot.)

Ciabatta Bread

Even in the trailer for this road trip, when I wasn’t going to be doing much “domesticating,” I ended up baking bread. At home, I bake different kinds of bread but I wasn’t prepared to do that much work while on holiday. Still, a craving for that home-baked flavour grew until it could no longer be ignored. I found an easy solution. Ciabatta bread.

The oven in the trailer is not very big and had never been used. I could see why. If the bread rose very much it would bake onto the ceiling of the oven. It was chilly in the trailer too–tolerable but not ideal for dough to rise. Since ciabatta dough doesn’t need it to be toasty warm, just barely room temperature, and I had few ingredients, I decided that it was the perfect bread to try. It didn’t rise really high as a free-form loaf in the wide pan. Turned out perfect. The hardest part was lighting the gas oven without blowing up the trailer.dscn7110

Desperation recipe for ciabatta bread:

Remember that I faked and fudged it.

4 cups white flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. fast rising yeast

2 cups warm water

Stir until it forms a wet dough. Cover and set in a “warmish” place overnight.

In the morning, butter the baking pan and flop the dough into it, roughly shaping it into a loaf. Let it sit for an hour or two. Bake at 350 or 375 for about 40 minutes or until it is golden brown.

Cut off the heel tap and give it to the Captain. Cut another slice to give to your friend in the next RV rig.

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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A Morning’s Baking

8:56 a.m. and I have a morning’s baking done. Mother’s Day is coming up so I wanted to bake our favourite cake that my friend Ariane turned me onto. She was looking for something gluten free and baked this cake when I visited her. I don’t care about whether it’s gluten free or not, but it was important to her, and so it might be good for others out there who are also gluten intolerant. You can find Ariane’s recipe at the end of this post. It’s supposed to be an almond cake but I have several hazelnut trees in my yard so I experimented by substituting hazelnuts and it worked just fine.

You have to imagine this cake on a pretty plate, served with dollops of whipped cream, or ice cream if you want to do the easy route. Either way, it’s the best cake I’ve tasted in a long time and it’s VERY easy to make. Thank you, Ariane!002

The rest of the things in the photo were put together while the cake was baking. On the left, is the easy ciabatta bread that I learned about in the ciabatta bread video (Click on “bread” to view the tutorial on easy ciabatta bread) and in the top of the photo is my usual (60%) whole wheat bread dough with milk, honey, and caraway.

The muffins were an afterthought because I had ground hazelnuts left over from the cake, so I added a tiny bit of flour, some currants, baking powder, salt, sugar, milk eggs, melted butter. It was easy because all the ingredients were already on the table.

I just noticed that the muffin tin looks well used. Oh well … better than sitting in the cupboard all shiny and never used.

Now, will it be tea or coffee with your muffin? Sorry, I can’t serve the cake until tomorrow. It’s especially made for my mother-in-law. But you’re welcome to a muffin.

Ariane’s Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake

2 cups almond meal (I use hazelnuts because I have them – grind them in the food processor with the fine grater blade, or you can use the cutter blades and chop until the hazelnuts turn to meal – it’s noisy).

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 large eggs

1 cup (or less) sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups ricotta cheese (I use cottage cheese – works just fine)

juice of one lemon (about 3 Tbsp.)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, combine almond meal, baking powder and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well. (I do this in the food processor, processing the cottage cheese until smooth and then adding the other ingredients).
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir well until smooth.
  • Pour mixture into buttered 9-in. pan, deep pie dish, or springform pan (my favourite).
  • Bake 55-60 min. until cake is completely puffed up, no longer jiggly in the center, and golden brown on the edges.
  • Cool cake completely (it will deflate) and chill in fridge at least 4 hrs. before serving.
  • Cake remains moist and is better the next day.  Serve with whipped cream, or ice cream, or garnish with lemon zest. Cut slices small like you would cheesecake. It’s very filling. You can always have a second slice…. You probably will.

 

 

Baking Bread

I’ve been baking my own bread for a long time. Forever, I suppose. As a child, I watched my mother make bread, and I have always associated it with that warm and fuzzy homey feeling. The smell of bread baking, the warmth of the kitchen, the happy faces of those who bit into the freshly baked bread–a basic anchoring of a primitive nature.

I wrote a post about The Staff of Life last February, after I discovered how to make easy ciabatta bread. (Click on the link if you’d like to see it again.)

I mumbled to myself as I kneaded the dough for regular whole wheat bread this morning, “The staff of life … hmm … people have been baking bread for many hundreds of years.” I got hung up on the term “the staff of life,” and decided to look it up.

A staple or necessary food, especially bread. For example, Rice is the staff of life for a majority of the earth’s people. This expression, which uses staff in the sense of “a support,” was first recorded in 1638.

Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Houghton Mifflin Company.http://www.dictionary.com/browse/staff-of-life (accessed: April 27, 2016).

That got me thinking, only some cultures bake wheat bread. Some use corn, or other starches. Then there are those countries that grow rice more easily than wheat. The staff of life is rice for millions of people the world over.

Every culture has its own special kind of bread. I love experimenting with baking them, but I tend to come back to my basic whole wheat bread as the staple in my own family.

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Today I threw some caraway seeds in my whole wheat bread even though it is generally meant to go into rye bread. I know the flavour will be fine in this batch too.

Do you bake your own bread?

 

 

 

The Staff of Life

For many civilizations over hundreds of years, breads of various types have been a staple of diet, “the staff of life.” For as far back as I can remember, my mother baked bread. The whole family loved it. You know there is nothing quite like the aroma of freshly baked bread to start one’s mouth watering. It is especially comforting on a cold winter’s day.

Recently a friend passed on a bread recipe to me. He knew that I had followed my mother’s lead and had been baking bread for all of my adult life. He was right in thinking that I might appreciate the link to a good bread recipe (which I include here). Click on “bread” to view the tutorial on easy ciabatta bread.

In the photo below, you can see the freshly baked ciabatta bread waiting to be sliced by the very old bread slicing machine (also a meat and sausage slicer) that my family brought to Canada in 1953. It wasn’t new even then!

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I tried the bread recipe two days ago and the bread was so good that I made it again yesterday. Notice how the bread has holes in it. This is normal, from the bubbling of the yeast. It’s not a fancy cake-like bread, but more of a rustic bread, very moist on the inside with a crunchy, chewy crust. Delicious!

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But the air holes in the bread, and the fact that the bread was so similar to what my mother baked, brought back a memory I had forgotten about for more than half a century. I was about five years old and my mother had just taken a huge loaf of bread out of the oven. She  cut it in half and set the two parts on the counter to cool.

The steam wafted out of the center of the bread, filling the room with that mouth-watering aroma that most people find irresistible. Being very young, I certainly couldn’t resist it. I waited until my mother’s back was turned and picked a tiny crumb out of the steaming bread.

Oh, it was good! So good, in fact, that I had to have another little nibble. When my mother was busy elsewhere, I stole another little crumb. My mother was very busy that morning and so were my fingers. I thought if I only picked out the tiniest piece of bread no one would know. Unfortunately for me, my five-year-old brain hadn’t been smart enough to spread out the nibbles. I had continued to worry the same little hole in the bread, enlarging it until it was quite noticeable to my mother, but not, at first, to me.

When my father came home for lunch, my mother said to him, “We have a terrible problem. Look what has happened to our bread.”

I think my eyes must have gone wide and I expected a boom to be lowered on my head, but my mother continued talking to my father as if I was wasn’t even there.

“I think we must have a mouse in the house.”

“I seeeeeee…” he said. “Well, I think I have a mouse trap in the workshop.”

“Yes, we’ll have to set it up. I can’t have this happen to my bread. Imagine trying to cut that slice and serving it with a mousehole picked through it.”

I know they exchanged glances and smirks throughout the whole conversation and they must have had a hard time not to laugh at my red face.

I never picked at the bread again, but I will never forget its lovely flavour.

So if you want a taste of this irresistible bread, click on the link and give it a try. It’s very easy to make.

A tip from me: Maybe keep a mouse trap handy.