Sunday, June 29, 2008

I am the champion......of the worllllllllllld! Danish Braid

Whoooooo, lordy it's hot here! Summer has arrived with a vengeance. We've gone from low 20's to high 30's practically overnight. As I write this on Sunday afternoon we are just a couple of degrees away from 40'C, which for you Fahrenheit people is 104'.

So my post on this months Daring Baker challenge is going to be short on words and heavy on photos. It's just too hot to think, and I am on Day Two of a Four Day Weekend (Woot!) and don't wanna be sitting at the computer.

Our hosts this month are Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking?. Our challenge was “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking.

This is a two day recipe, and for the first time I made Laminated Dough - dough with layers of butter in between (like a baby version of Croissants). It was interesting and messy.
I guess maybe my butter was too soft or my dough needed more chilling time (although I followed the recipe) but the butter just squished everywhere on my first rolling. I threw it in the freezer for a while and the rest of the turn and rolls went much more smoothly.

The apple filling was to-die-for. If I'd been alone in the kitchen I might have eaten it all with a spoon.

I was absolutely thrilled with this recipe. It was straightforward, and other than sore hands from rolling the dough I had no problems. It tasted wonderful and I was very very happy with the look of it as well.

Recipe: Danish Braid

Thank you Kelly and Ben for such an enjoyable challenge this month!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mmmmmm Canada

At the beginning of June Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Jennifer The Domestic Goddess asked us Canadians and wanna-be's: What foods do you think make Canada, Canada?

This was a real head scratcher for me. Canada is such a melting pot of countries and traditions. Should I write about a food I remember my Mom making when I was little? Maybe something from England, in honor of my relatives who emigrated to Canada? Or an ingredient grown locally? I have spent weeks thinking about this. To the point I almost gave up. Should I write about salmon? Scallops? Berries? Rhubarb again? Kraft Dinner? Argh.

So I approached it from a different angle. What's my favorite thing about Canada in the summer? Going to the farmers markets. And what do I buy every week at the market? Bannock.

Bannock was adopted by the North American Aboriginal people from recipes brought over from Scotland. Originally bannock was made from oatmeal; in North America it was made from corn meal, nut meal and flour from ground bulbs. Today bannock is made with white or wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt as the main ingredients. Some recipes call for eggs or lard. Others use milk instead of water. Some nuts or berries too. These days there are 3 main cooking methods of bannock - oven baking, pan frying and deep frying. The bannock we buy for our breakfast every Saturday morning is deep fried. I found a fantastic recipe, plus the above information here.

After frying and draining the puffy bread we had to decide how to top it. At the market you have two choices - with jam or with cheese. We always go with jam, so we shredded some of the smoked Gouda cheese we bought from Gort's Gouda Cheese. It was delicious.

For the next piece I borrowed from Jasmine and made a fast version of her blueberry maple syrup. Bannock, blueberries, and maple syrup are truly made for each other.
And lastly I couldn't resist trying out some of my homemade bannock with raspberry jam, just like I have every Saturday morning. Not quite as wonderful as theirs, but pretty darn fine.

Thanks to Jasmine and Jennifer for putting on Mmmmm Canada! Have a happy and safe Canada Day!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 29 - Salad

Here's my second post for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge. It's being hosted by Mr. Mike. He has chosen Salad, and seriously, where he lives there must be actual summer, actual warm weather, cause we sure aren't having much of that here. But in theory, if I did live somewhere where it got warm, or even hot, I would want to eat a salad. Earlier this month I shared a yummy peaches and greens salad that would be soooooo wonderful on a hot day. And today I have a salad to share with you that comes from Jamie Oliver and was inspired by a trip to the Farmers Market.

I love going to the Farmers Market downtown every Saturday morning. It's one of the things I look forward to every week. I love going downtown and seeing the flowers in the park by the market. I like to see what everyone is selling. I like chatting with the vendors and hearing them talk up their wares. I love getting my weekly bannock fix. And I love filling up my bag with fresh local grub to eat during the week while I wait for the next market.

About two weeks ago a new stand appeared at the market, selling organic greens, herbs, sprouts and spices. I bought a bag of organic mixed greens, herbs and flowers. I remembered a salad I'd seen in Jamie Oliver's latest book Jamie At Home where he used a whole bunch of different lettuces, and I figured this would be perfect.

Walnut and Cheese Greens
adapted from Jamie At Home

I started by slicing 6 shallots as thinly as I could. I tossed them with my fingers to separate the rings, then marinated them for about 4 hours with 1 TB salt and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar.
When it was getting close to time to eat I made the dressing. I put 4 TB olive oil, 2 TB sour cream, 1 TB honey, 1 TB red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper in a jar. And I shook it.
I washed and spun dry the greens from the market. It was a really interesting combination. Probably 4 different kinds of lettuce, edible flowers, dill, parsley.....who knows what else. I had about 6 cups of greens.
Then I added about 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts, and 100 grams of this really cool cheese we found at the store - a blue brie cheese. I really liked it - both mildly stinky and creamy.
I removed the shallots from their brine and squeezed out the vinegar, and sprinkled the shallots over the salad.
Added the dressing.

Delicious, delicious, delicious! The dressing and the cheese were heavenly. The salad mix was a little too heavy on the parsley for me, but I just picked out most of it and it was wonderful. 4 of us polished off almost the whole bowl. I will make this again and again and play with the greens every time.

Need a cool summer salad? Give this a try. Want to join us for WCC this month? Get your post to Mike by June 29.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Garlic Knots

Our group of friends that we have christened "The Bakeanistas" tore up the IM again on Sunday. Starting at the unholy hour of 7 AM my time (most everyone else is out East) we began baking Garlic Knots from the King Arthur Flour blog Baker's Banter. Mary introduced me to the blog and I love it! I've bookmarked some other recipes to try
if my butt ever gets smaller soon.

There were
45 9 of us baking that morning - me, Mary, Lis, Helen, Tanna, Kelly, John, Marce, and Chris. The jokes, advice and double entendres were flying fast and furious and somehow in the end I ended up with some pretty nice little garlic buns. Let's see how I got there, shall we?

The recipe called for a few ingredients I couldn't find. King Arthur products are not sold here, so I left out a couple of things (but only one on purpose, the other was by accident!) and used some ground italian spice instead of the Pizza Dough Flavor. I mixed up the dough and let it sit for an hour. Then I rolled it into a rectangle-ish sort of shape, and notched out my knot strips.
Forming the knots turned me into a mouth breathing, head scratching fool, but in the end most of them looked somewhat acceptable. It was time to let them rise again.
And so I did. And then it was time to put them in the oven.
While they were baking I ran out and took some pictures of my garden for Lisa. We didn't put in a proper garden this year, instead we planted our veggies in among the flowers in the existing garden. Here, would you like to see?
This recipe makes 16 knots. I did not want 16 little buttery garlicky knots temping me, so I took Mary's advice and removed half of them after 10 minutes of baking. I cooled them and froze them for later scarfing.
After another 5 or 6 minutes the others were done. I took them out of the oven and gave them a nice garlic butter bath.
OH MY GOD. Aren't they so pretty?
It was approximately 9:30 AM by this time. Scott and I showed incredible restraint and shared only one for breakfast. I'm not sure how we did it. Even more incredible, we later took some (well, 2) to my parents.
I really liked these, although I think Mary's second take with adding garlic right into the dough is brilliant. These are so easy to make but look pretty fancy. Give them a try, but have some mints handy for after dinner.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bread Baking Babes - Mary's Dark Onion Rye

I thought this month's Bread Baking Babes recipe was especially exciting: the recipe we were baking came from the brain of our very own Mary. She asked us to try her recipe for Dark Onion Rye bread that she's developed. How cool is that!

We had to bring our starters out of hibernation. I was always worried that my starter Craterface wasn't quite up to snuff, by finally he looked like a starter should.

The starter was fed, and then part of it was mixed with flour (both white and rye) and water and left to ferment overnight.
The next morning the sponge (above) was mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Man, did that dough smell amazing!
And was left to rise. Here it is before the rising,
and here it is after. I left the dough to rise for about 6 hours, and it didn't rise much at all.
After a couple more hours for the second rise, which didn't do much either, I baked the bread.

It wasn't super fantastic, but it wasn't awful either. The bread lost most of the onion smell that the raw dough had, which was kind of disappointing. I didn't taste any onion either, but the rye flour and the sourness of Craterface was quite strong. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've eaten rye bread, so to others (like Scott) the taste was more pleasant than strong.
If you've read all the other BBB posts (they are listed in the right hand column) you'll see a lot of talk from people wayyyyyy more experienced than me with bread discussing all sorts of possibilities for why some of us had more success with the bread than others. I am nowhere near as bread-savvy as them, but I have two ideas why mine didn't rise as much as it could have. One is that I didn't spend enough time with my starter after taking it out of the fridge. Craterface is my first starter, and I think I misunderstood the feeding instructions, and I don't think he was as strong as he should have been. Good lord, I just called my starter a he. Second is I think I added too much flour. My dough was really really stiff. I am still working on getting over my very bad baking habit of adding all the flour to the dough. Sometimes you just don't need all that flour. I was hoping to try to make it again before our posting date, but man, the days just go by so fast lately. I'd like to try this again with the new modifications Mary has made to the recipe - please go here for Mary's recipe.
Thanks to Mary and the BBB's for another great month!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday Market and Vermi-Composting

The market was pretty busy yesterday. We went a little later than usual, and two stands were sold out of their produce by the time we got there! We'll have to move faster next week. This week we bought:
Kale (going in soup tonight), spinach, strawberries (from Vernon BC) and Italian Romaine (grown in Kamloops). We still have some rapini from last week and some beautiful asparagus from Armstrong BC left over too.

Then we drove out to the garden center on the highway. They were teaming up with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to sell Worm Composters. I've wanted to try composting for a while. I was pretty much ready to try it in Calgary, but then we decided to move, so there was no point. And where we live now there are bears. Not roaming all over the city constantly, but sightings in the area we live in are not uncommon. Perhaps it's silly and unfounded, but I was worried that a composter in the back yard might attract a hungry bear. I had read about worm composting, but had no idea where to start. So I was pretty excited to see the notice in the paper last week.
We were a little late getting to the garden centre and missed the seminar on worm composting, but the store staff and worm suppliers were happy to go over it with us. They even sold us the demo unit which was already put together. After paying and meeting up with the worm supplier in the parking lot to exchange money for worms we headed home, about 60 bucks lighter to get set up.
Here's the composter sitting in the kitchen.
The bottom layer is the base, the next layer is the collection tray (this is where any excess liquid will come out) and the top tray is our first stacking tray. The stacking tray has holes in the bottom. We put down a couple of layers of dry newspaper.
We rehydrated the coir (coconut fiber) and then squeezed out the excess moisture. The coir is mixed with compost (provided to us by the worm people) and shredded paper. Spread it in the tray.
Then add 2 cups of food in one corner. This was where the fun began - pulling all the yucky and old food out of the fridge and finely chopping it. The worms got apple, strawberries, cucumber and some spinach from that days market. It was mixed with coffee grounds, and for good measure we threw in the filter.
Then the worms were introduced to their new home. That's one pound of Red Wiggler worms, about 500. We tried to spread them around, but it didn't work so well (I was afraid to smoosh them or stress them out anymore), so we left them alone.
And covered them with a couple more layers of damp newspaper.
And put on the lid.
The manual suggests leaving them in a well lit place for the first week to force the worms down into their house. So the composter will sit on our kitchen table for a week or so. In 3 days we have to check on them to see how much food they have eaten. If they are crawling around in the food, we add more.
Because I was already on a roll, I chopped up the rest of the questionable food in the fridge in my food processor. The worms eat fruits, vegetables (except potato peels), starch, egg shells, coffee grounds, paper and cardboard. Don't give them meat, dairy, citrus peels, oil and salty food.
I chopped everything up and portioned it into small handfuls. Then I froze them on a baking sheet to store until needed. There's cabbage, raspberries, lettuce, green onion, pita bread, and red peppers in there. And I've put a bowl on the counter to remind us to save the organic waste and not throw it away.

So in a couple of months we'll have a tray full of compost, ready for the plants!
I'm pretty nervous about this, I'd feel terrible if I screwed up and killed my 500 little worms. I'm going to sit down with Google later today and try to answer the questions that the book has raised for me.
If anyone out there can recommend any websites, or has any advice for me, please let me know!

Friday, June 20, 2008

That Cookbook Thing. Cooking with friends and Julia Child.

When you last saw That Cookbook Thing our group was wiping our collective mouths after eating great cheesy bowlfuls of Julia Childs Onion Soup. We've also added a couple of new members so this month I'm cooking with our fearless leader Mike, and Ruth, Mary, Deborah, Mary, Shaun, Elle and Kittie. This month's recipe was my pick, Sauce au Cari (Light Curry Sauce). I thought it might be fun to try a classic Julia sauce as one of our choices from the book. I don't have much experience with sauces past the usual gravy and tomato sauce. And I do love curry.

So you start by cooking 1/2 cup of finely diced onion in 4 TB butter over low heat. Sweat the onions for about 10 minutes.

Then add 2 to 3 TB of curry powder. I added 2 because the curry powder I have is pretty spicy. Cook for 2 minutes.
Then add 4 TB (which I think everyone agrees now is too much) and stir and stir for 3 more minutes.
Whisk in 2 cups of boiling milk, chicken stock, or fish stock. I used chicken. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Then whisk in 4 to 6 TB of heavy cream. My sauce was so thick I added almost double the cream. I would have added more stock, but I didn't have any extra. Season with salt and pepper and add lemon juice to taste. The stir in 1 or 2 TB butter.
Serve with chicken, fish, vegetables, turkey, or eggs. I served mine with chicken and crispy roasted potatos. The sauce was fantastic on both, but it was just too thick. Not only that, it made a ton! Even after eating the sauce every day with the leftover chicken and more potatos, I ended up throwing away more than half of it.

It was good though. I would make this again, but cut the recipe by at least half, maybe even a quarter, and would definitely make the sauce thinner with more stock and less flour.

So, sorry to those in our group who made the sauce and didn't like it. But hey, we tried. Please visit all the other bloggers in That Cookbook Thing, as listed above. And please make sure to visit Kittie's post - her take on the sauce is really something.