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Happy New Year! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, spoiling your loved ones! Wishing you a new year filled with joy, good health, good friends and good food! Love from Éva

I do apologize for not being more present with my blogging buddies, but we’ve only just returned from our month-long sojourn in Arizona. We had three sets of dear friends visit us for 5-6 days each during our stay; it was a fun-packed time away, also enjoying our dear friends who currently live in Arizona.

I made this delicious winter stew for friends just before we left for Arizona. It was a perfect way to begin winter. The stew was filled with succulent seafood drenched in a creamy béchamel. And if you’re super hungry, you can eat the bowl, or part of it!

Seafood Stew in Sourdough Bread Bowls

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 4-6 depending on size of bowls.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 8 mini potatoes
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 500 g mixed firm seafood — peeled shrimp, scallops, lobster meat, mussels, calamari or white fish (cubbed)
  • 1 cup shredded flavourful white cheese, like Gruyère and Asiago
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 4 sourdough bread bowls

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onions until translucent.
  2. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté until about half-cooked. Add the celery and sauté for about 2-4 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and add the butter and allow it to melt. Sprinkle the flour into the vegetables and mix well. Cook for a minute or so. Add the dried herbs. Slowly add the milk, stirring to mix into the floured vegetables and bring to a slow simmer, stirring and allowing the mixture to thicken. You may bring this to room temperature and refrigerate until required.
  4. If you have refrigerated the vegetable mixture, simmer on low until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked through. Add the seafood with the longest cooking first (shrimp, scallops, calamari and lastly, mussels). Cook the seafood through.
  5. Add the shredded cheese, mix well and taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot in hollowed out sourdough bread bowls.

Here is that gorgeous winter light again.

Notes:

  • I like to spend as much time with our guests instead of stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner so I try to make as much of the dishes in advance as possible so that my time spent in the kitchen is minimal while we have guests. Because I cooked most of the stew earlier that day, I was able to reheat it and cook the raw seafood quickly without missing too much of the evening.
  • I gently warmed the sourdough bread bowls so that they kept the stew warm a little longer, things cool down so quickly in the winter.
  • I used a mixture of Wild Argentinian Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, and Chopped Calamari for this dish but white fish would also work beautifully.
  • If the thought of adding cheese to a fish dish offends you, please omit it. The original recipe called for cheddar but I did not wish to add red cheese to discolour the sauce. The cheese adds a nice background flavour with a little body, it’s really not enough to make it stringy.
  • The smooth béchamel flavoured with the tarragon and thyme made a lovely background for the seafood. Our guests loved it, the homemade sourdough bread bowls helped! 😉
  • It’s a really heavy meal, I hollowed out the bread bowls so that there was only about 1 cm of the bowl all around, even so, most of us couldn’t finish it!

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I have had a love/hate relationship with sour dough starters. We start off loving each other, fully enjoying the dependant relationship but soon after I get bored and lose interest and the poor blob starves to death. Yes, I’ve tried putting it into the fridge to hold but it eventually dries up and I’ve a horrible mess to clean. Sour dough starters and I just don’t work. Until now!

I started this starter about a month ago. My first bread was a flop. The bread I made with it did rise but not much. But I wanted to give the starter another chance so I put it into the fridge to think about its incompetence. Then about a week or so later, I pulled it out of the fridge and within hours it overflowed the jar into a bubbling, beautiful mess! I danced with glee! My starter was alive, and not just alive, it was a living, breathing, blob of natural, yeasty, goo! We will have sour dough bread on the weekend!

As many of you have experienced, it’s not difficult to make a starter, it just takes patience. Finally, I achieved undeniable success! And the bread was awesome!

This is the recipe I used. My version was much shaggier than that in the video, so I might add a bit more flour into the mix next time (I used the weight measurements), but the bread had an awesome chewiness that was extremely moreish, so I may just leave it be. I can’t wait to try this again using an older starter, hopefully it will be a bit more sour. Bottom line is that I loved it!!

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Makes one 25 cm boule or 4 personal-size sourdough bread bowls. Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g live, bubbling starter
  • 350 g water at about 110F
  • 500 g AP flour
  • 9 g sea salt, finely ground

Directions:

  1. Follow your regular directions to bring your starter to life (if refrigerated), about 2-4 days before you need the bread.
  2. The day before you wish to bake the bread, make the dough by mixing the starter with the water, then slowly add the flour and salt mixing with a wooden spoon and then your hand, until it comes together like a shaggy dough. It will be sticky, very sticky.
  3. Return it to the bowl and cover it with a clean, damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm spot overnight (until it doubles in size).
  4. The next day, scrap the ball onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough onto itself, a few times, tightening up the boule. Flip the boule onto the folded side and cover with the bowl and allow to rest for about an hour (should rise a bit again but not a whole lot).
  5. About 30 minutes into the rise, preheat the oven to 450 F with a cast iron Dutch oven (including the lid). Keep the Dutch oven in heating up for 20 minutes after the oven has reached 450F
  6. Remove the Dutch oven and sprinkle inside it with cornmeal. Carefully cut the boule across the top. Then gently lift it and carefully roll it into the Dutch oven. Place the lid on and bake for 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for 30 minutes until golden. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • The covered Dutch oven steams the bread at first, giving it the gorgeous, chewy texture.
  • Make sure the knob on your Dutch oven can handle the high temperature, we had to get a special Le Creuset knob.
  • This has the traditional chewy texture of sourdough bread.

Here’s a little peek of what I served in personal-size sourdough bread bowls!

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Why do the cold temperatures always surprise me? I’ve been doing this fall thing for a long time and yet, every year when the temperatures plummet, it’s like a cold, hard, slap in the face! It happens from one day to the next; on Saturday, we are lavishing in the sun, cocktailing on the back deck and enjoying al fresco meals and then on Sunday, we are dawning our socks and woolly sweaters to avoid the chill INSIDE, let alone outside! JT and I are typical Canadians, we are stubborn about admitting that its fall and winter is coming; we delay turning on the furnace at all costs because that would mean defeat, we have acknowledged the cold and succumbed to it! But eventually, we give in. I like to rebel and I generally continue to wear sandals until I can no longer feel my toes. My feet understand they don’t like to be encased in socks and shoes…they were meant to be free in flip flops and sandals!

It was on one such day that I needed a little heat-help in my chilly kitchen that I decided to make scones, and to use up some figs that were leftover from a shoot (what can I say, no one wanted them!), so I came up with this tasty treat. This recipe is very delicate and light. They are best eaten right away with sweet butter but freezing them also works. Use the oven to reheat them, the microwave doesn’t do it justice.

Fresh Fig Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 10 scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small bits
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 160 g fresh figs (chopped)
  • 2-3 tbsp milk or yogurt for brushing the tops.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse to mix.
  3. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Slowly pour in the buttermilk while pulsing until the dough comes together. Remove and pour into a large bowl.
  5. Fold in the chopped figs carefully.
  6. Place largish spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with yogurt. Bake for 15-17 minutes.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with sweet butter.

The light was still good when I shot them.

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When the reno finished, we had a couple of weekends of non-stop entertaining! We were excited to show off our new space and our friends were excited to see it. On one such weekend we had dinner guests on Friday, brunch guests on Saturday and cocktail guests on Sunday! Fortunately, I was able to gang up some gluten-intolerant friends so I made a small batch of Gluten-free English muffins. They are a bit denser than their glutenated cousin but they are not bad.

Although I did split them using a fork, they don’t have the same traditional nooks and crannies as the glutenated versions do.

Gluten-free English Muffins

Makes 4 regular-size English Muffins. The original recipe came from Bob’s Red Mill here.

Ingredients:

  • 4 g quick yeast
  • 15 mL Honey or Sugar
  • 60 mL Water (about 110°F)
  • 180 g Bob’s Red Mill, 1 to 1 GF flour, divided
  • 30 g tapioca flour
  • 12 g finely ground Psyllium husk
  • 12 g Baking Powder
  • 380 mL water (110°F)
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 30 mL white vinegar
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, honey and water and whisk. Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Combine 150 g gluten-free flour with the tapioca, ground psyllium husk and baking powder, whisk to combine.
  3. In a tall measuring cup, combine 30 g of gluten-free flour, water, egg and vinegar and blend until smooth.
  4. To the flour/tapioca mixture, add the yeast and the flour slurry and knead until combined. Knead for an additional 5 minutes. It should look like super thick cookie batter.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Measure the dough and divide into 4, (mine were 116 g each). Roll into rounds and flatten with your palm until the size of a standard English muffin. Lay each muffin on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly on both flat sides with the cornmeal. Cover with a clean tea-towel and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place (I use my oven with the light on). Cross your fingers that they will rise a little!
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F. Using a cast iron skillet on medium heat, cook the muffins on each flat side until golden. Place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 205°F. Allow to cool before splitting.

They toast beautifully.

Notes:

  • The original recipe calls for gluten-free sourdough starter which I did not have on hand so I improvised and made a slurry instead.
  • Gluten-free breads never quite double in size during proofing, so even 20-30% is a gift, which is what happened with this dough after about 2-3 hours!
  • You may use English muffin rings but I did not see much need for them.

 

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On March 30, we woke up to snow. Not much, just a light covering, but it still was distressing. Throughout the day, it snowed some more, not enough to shovel, but enough to put a damper on the last Sunday of March. Believe me, we were in dire need of Spring.

Since it was such a gloomy day, I decided to bake tanzghong brioche burger buns after being inspired by my dear Aussy friend, Lorraine, who was also experiencing some gloom on a rainy fall day in Australia. Hopefully, these buns will inspire the weather to begin behaving as it should in the springtime and not like February.

It’s May 6 today and we’ve finally had a spring-ish day. Temperatures were around 17C (62F) which is a far cry better than we’ve had. Garden cleanup has begun. Planting in these parts must wait until the Victoria Day weekend (traditionally known as May two-four weekend, which will be May 18-20 this year). It’ll be the official beginning of spring! Roll out the barbecues and burgers! Patio season has begun!

Tanzghong Brioche Hamburger Buns

For the recipe inspiration, please click here.

Makes 8 burgers buns (for 125 g burgers)

Ingredients:

  • 300 g unbleached, all-purpose flour, divided
  • 125 g water
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 g quick yeast
  • 25 g superfine sugar
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • xx g Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine 50 g of the flour with the water and cook over low heat until a smooth paste is formed. Allow to cool for a bit. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the remaining 250 g flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour in the flour paste/egg liquid and knead until the dough comes together. Add the softened butter and knead on medium-high for 30 minutes or until the dough is no longer sticky and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Grease a bowl and add the dough, cover and set in a warm, dark place for about 1 hour.
  4. Shape into 8 buns (about 93 g each) and set on a baking sheet covered with a clean cloth for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  6. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 185° F to 190° F.
  7. Allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was recently awed by some wonderful buns made by my Canadian friend A-Boleyn. Of course, I have seen these beauties on my Australian friend’s blog, Not Quite Nigella, too! I have been wanting to bake these bad boys for a while but have not had an opportunity since we’ve been trying to reduce our carb intake. But, during a particularly grey day in March, with an upcoming brunch ahead, I decided to go for it.

They don’t take much more effort than a normal bun but OMG, they are so light and fluffy and ever-so-tasty! Many-a-bloggers have indicated that converting a normal bread recipe just takes it to a higher level, so next time I’m looking for a high-carb treat, I’m going to Tangzhong the recipe (is that a thing?).

Tangzhong Dinner Rolls

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 10 rolls about 71 g each (before baking)(see notes)

Ingredients for the Tangzhong:

  • 20 g “00” flour
  • 100 mL water

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 350 g “00” flour
  • 7 g rapid rise yeast
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk powder
  • 125 mL milk (I used 3%)
  • 1 large egg
  • 50 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg for glaze
  • Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour and water in a small saucepan to make the Tangzong and cook stirring often until thickened like wallpaper paste. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the milk, egg and Tangzong and whisk until smooth. In the bowl of your stand mixer, sift together the flour, yeast, sugar and milk powder. Add the milk mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Add the room temperature butter and knead on high speed until the dough becomes stretchy and separates from the sides (it is seriously, about 15 minutes).
  4. Lightly oil another bowl and transfer the dough into it. Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rest in a warm, dark area for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Shape the dough into 10 equal portions, rounding them out like dinner rolls (mine were an even 71 g each, see notes for next time). Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rest another hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Brush the dough balls with the whisked egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds if using.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until deep golden in colour (internal temperature should be 200° F). Transfer to a wire rack and cool slightly before serving. Store in an airtight container for a day or two or the freezer if storing longer.

Notes:

  • I will definitely make these significantly smaller next time, even though the original recipe made 8 and I made 10, these rolls are HUGE, perfect for burgers! For dinner rolls, I think I would make them 50-60 g instead of the 71 g each.

 

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We’ve been making a huge effort to cut out carbs from our diet. The one thing I have been really missing is bread. Not that we ate that much bread, but a sandwich every now and again is a nice treat so I have been trying to make carb-free bread and failing miserably until I came across a delicious keto bun at a local craft sale. It had a similar texture and crumb as flour bread, but made with almond flour and coconut flour. At the time, the lady would not share her recipe, so I made every recipe on the net trying to find her secret, sadly failing. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I get an email from her out of the blue sharing her recipe! How serendipitous! It turned out that it was one of the first recipes I tried but obviously did not get it right so I had abandoned it. She had made a few adjustments to the original recipe and shared them with me, and I made further adjustments to make it my own. It’s easier to make than normal yeasted bread (really is more like quick-bread as you make it) and the result is quite surprising. It’s a lot more expensive to make this bread than it is to make regular flour bread (the recipe below is about $12 for 8 buns).

Those nooks and crannies are like real bread!

Most flour-free buns are usually eggy and super dense because of the nut flours used and the lack of leavening, but these buns are light and have a great spongy texture and fantastic crumb, they never disappoint, time after time! The original recipe had great texture but lacked the flavour that yeast imparts in real bread so I experimented and came up with this augmentation. If you don’t feel like messing with the yeast, just omit it along with the granules of sugar but keep the water the same. You will not be disappointed.

How many would you like?

The Worlds BEST Low Carb Buns

Makes 6 medium-sized buns. For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g Almond flour (see notes)
  • 30 g Coconut Flour
  • 33 g Psyllium Husk Powder, finely ground (see notes)
  • 10 g Baking Powder
  • 6 g Sea salt
  • 10 g Cider vinegar
  • 100 g Egg whites
  • 8 g Instant Yeast
  • a few granules of sugar
  • 280 g Boiling Water, divided
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Sesame Seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C). Prep a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Prepare a hand mixer ready to use and a timer.
  2. Combine the yeast with the sugar in 57 g of warm water (about 43° C or 100° F) and allow to froth.
  3. To a large bowl, add almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk powder, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the cider vinegar, egg whites and proofed yeast and mix on low speed, for a short time, to combine evenly.
  5. Boil the remaining water (223 g). Pour the water all at once into the almond flour mixture and blend for 30 seconds to make a smooth dough (do not over blend).
  6. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions (mine worked out to be about 94 g) and roll into a smooth ball with generously wet hands. Slightly flatten each roll so it’s more like the shape of an English muffin (don’t worry, they rise enormously).
  7. Brush each bun with the egg yolk and top with sesame seeds and bake for about 50 minutes or until the internal temperature is 95° C (200° F).
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack, before slicing. Serve toasted or plain with your favourite topping.

Notes:

  • I use Anthony’s Premium Blanched Almond Flour which may be purchased on Amazon. I have heard that the Costco Kirkland brand also works, but I haven’t tried it. I will eventually try the finely ground almond flour Bulk Barn sells because Anthony’s is pretty expensive.
  • I use psyllium husk powder from Bulk Barn, but I grind it to a super fine consistency with my coffee/spice grinder.
  • 100 g of egg whites is more or less 3 large egg whites.
  • Many of these recipes call for room temperature ingredients, I have done both room temperature and right out of the refrigerator and they resulted in more or less the same buns.
  • When working with the dough, generously wet hands are imperative for a nice smooth crust.
  • Mixing the boiling water into the batter with a hand mixer for 30 seconds ensures that it’s entirely blended but not overworked.
  • For Christmas, I received a bottle of Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning and it is awesome on these buns!

Nutritional Breakdown:

Per 1 piece

  • Calories: 178
  • Net Carbs: 5 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Fat: 12 g

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You may have noticed that I’ve been radio silent for much of December and I apologize, we were in Arizona for about a month. Although not quite as warm as our last month in Arizona, it was a far cry warmer than home. I’m so glad I had lined up my blog posts because I literally had no time! I hope you understand. I’m back on schedule notwithstanding the holidays which are going to be busy. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a happy and healthy new year.

I have long wanted to experiment with alternative flours in bread making and a few months ago, the opportunity arose, we were having my BFF from University for brunch and she is gluten intolerant but can tolerate spelt! I did a little research and discovered that spelt was a great bread flour and also discovered that WE LOVE IT! It has a light nutty flavour and a great bread texture. I would say it is more like a Ciabatta than a French stick. I slice it thicker for dinner, but for toast, I use my handy electric slicer for even 6 mm slices.

This is one sticky dough, but I experimented with varying quantities of spelt flour and always came back to the original. You may not want to proof it in your Banneton (proofing basket) unless it is very heavily floured, even so, one experiment stuck so badly, it took me nearly an hour to clean it out!

I used a proofing basket for this boule.

No Knead Spelt Boule

Makes one 981 g boule.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 565 g spelt flour
  • 450 g water
  • 56 g honey
  • 10 g salt
  • 4 g instant yeast (1/2 packet)
  • good pinch of cornmeal

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients with the exception of the cornmeal (not corn starch), in a large bowl and mix well. The dough will be a bit stickier than regular bread dough and a little firmer (you may need to put a little elbow grease into it to combine the flour entirely). Set aside covered for about 12 hours (this step is best done overnight or if you wish to start earlier, allow it to rest covered in the refrigerator).
  2. If the dough rested in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature. Prepare your proofing bowl with a little spelt flour.
  3. Shape the dough into a nice boule by pulling up the sides into the centre using a spatula and gather them tightly to form the bottom of the boule. Flip the boule so that the pulled area is now at the bottom and roll it into the proofing bowl so the pulled area is now at the top (this will make it easy to flip the boule into the hot pan so that the smooth area is on top). Sprinkle a little spelt flour on top and allow to rest, covered for 60 to 90 minutes.
  4. About 30 minutes into the proofing of the boule, pre-heat the oven with your 23 cm (9 inch) oven-safe cast iron dutch oven to 450° F (the original recipe suggests that you place the pot on a baking sheet to insulate it a bit more so that the base of the boule doesn’t burn).
  5. When the boule has risen, about double in size and the pan has been pre-heating for about 30 minutes, add a parchment circle to the bottom of the pan and sprinkle a little cornmeal over it. Gently roll the proofed boule into the pan. You may make some tension slices into the top so it breaks artistically, or you may let it break on its own. Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for additional 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 195° F to 200° F. Allow to cool and serve sliced with your favourite stew or just with butter.

There were several versions baked up until I got the best version.

Notes:

  • This is a very sticky dough. I added the parchment because no matter how much cornmeal I put in the hot pan, it stuck quite badly.
  • I tested this recipe with more flour and it made it too dense, so even though it is a sticky dough, it is the right amount of water and flour.
  • A larger dutch oven will yield a wider and flatter boule, like the first photo.

Spelt flour can become over-worked quite easily which will make a heavier, denser loaf. The no-knead recipe is a perfect way to get a light texture.

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From the recipes on this blog, you would think that we eat a lot of bread, the reality is that we do not, I make bread when we entertain, but I do love making bread. I was drawn to this recipe from my friend, A Boleyn’s blog, Cooking is fun. She made the most beautiful buns I have seen in some time. They were golden, perfectly round, fluffy and very soft looking AND they had an unusual ingredient: Sweet Potato! This bread’s texture reminded me of Hokkaido milk bread, which I have been meaning to try my hand at, it has a simple roux “starter” technique known as tangzhong that gives it a light, fluffy texture. While this recipe isn’t Hokkaido milk bread, its finished texture reminded me of the technique, plus there is a bit of a starter with flour, water and yeast.

The buns did not disappoint; this recipe will definitely make my go-to bread recipe repertoire, to be honest, I’ve made three batches by the time this post goes live!

This is a soft, slightly sweet and quite addictive bun.

Sweet Potato Buns

Recipe makes 16 buns, about 60 g each (unbaked)

For the original recipe please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here: SweetPotatoBuns_recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 454 g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 65 g all-purpose flour
  • 125 mL warm water
  • 8 g quick rising yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 45 mL unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 mL honey
  • 7 g sea salt, finely ground
  • 240 g bread flour, or more as needed

Egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook sweet potato in salted water, until soft. Strain well (reserve cooking liquid for the yeast) and mash with a fork or potato masher; measure out 260 g and allow to cool completely. Reserve leftovers for another use (like gnocchi).
  2. In another bowl, mix together 65 g flour, warm water (cooking liquid) and yeast, and whisk until smooth.
  3. When yeast is frothy (about 10 minutes), pour it into the large bowl of your stand mixer, add the mashed sweet potato, one egg, melted butter, honey, sea salt and about 210 g of flour. Mix well using the dough hook attachment and knead for 2 to 4 minutes (I needed 4 minutes). If the dough is too sticky (mine was OK the first time but subsequent times it was too wet), add the remaining 30 g (or more) of flour and knead until the dough is soft, elastic and shiny (about 2 minutes).
  4. Turn the dough out into a well-oil the bowl and cover. Allow to rise until double in size (about 1 hour), I did this in an unheated oven.
  5. After it has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press out the air bubbles. Using your fingers, press the dough into a rectangle about 2 cm thick. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions (about 60 g each) and roll into a smooth ball. Allow to rest for 45 minutes on a covered baking sheet.
  6. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Combine the remaining egg, water and mix well. Brush each bun with the egg mixture and sprinkle each with sesame seeds.
  7. Bake in a hot oven until golden or when the internal temperature is 200° F (about 15 minutes).

Notes:

  • I used bread flour because I did not have enough All-Purpose flour. I have since made it with all purpose flour and it was equally as delicious.
  • I have made this recipe three times, the last time the dough was much too wet so I had to add more than the 30 g of flour (probably closer to 80 g).
  • Use some of the water you used to boil the sweet potatoes for the yeast because it has flavour and nutrients.
  • The 454-ish gram sweet potato yielded about 330 g. The leftover 70 g of the sweet potato will make a generous amount of gnocchi.
  • The 70 g of sweet potato leftover was mixed with the remaining egg (after I egg washed all the rolls) and enough flour to make a gnocchi dough and some grated Parmesan Cheese. I freeze uncooked gnocchi on parchment on a cookie sheet and then pop them into a ziplock baggy. I got enough gnocchi for about three smallish servings.

The gnocchi made an excellent lunch with a blue cheese cream sauce.

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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.

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I created this recipe in 2012, modeled after an appetizer at an old favourite restaurant which sadly closed down many years prior to 2012. Like many of my old posts, the photos are dark and dreary and deserve an update so here it is. I also threw in a sourdough baguette, the recipe can be found here. I used this starter which, frankly took a long time and was not as sour-doughy as I had hoped but I found the liquid ingredient intriguing so I gave it a go. I will try this starter used in the recipe next time.

It’s still a winter picture, so give me a break!

Sizzling Mushrooms

Serves 2-4 as an hors d’œuvres (about 112 g of cooked mushrooms and onions, without the feta)

Ingredients:

  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g mushrooms, stems removed and sliced medium thinly
  • 60 g sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 g garlic, finely minced
  • 30-60 g sheep and goats milk feta, crumbled (see notes)
  • 30 mL cognac (optional)
  • 2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and add the onions, cook until caramelized (about 10-15 minutes).
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are no longer wet (about 5-10 minutes) and have also caramelized. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Season with sea salt if using, but remember the feta is also salty so season sparingly.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the cognac, stirring to loosen any of the bits stuck to the pan. Remove from heat and add the fresh thyme and stir. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the hot mushrooms and serve immediately with thinly sliced sourdough baguette (fresh out of the oven, no less!)

Notes:

  • I used a 50/50 combo of shitake and cremini mushrooms, but feel free to use whatever mushrooms you desire.
  • We prefer actual Greek Feta made in Greece of Sheep and Goats milk, here in Toronto there are many imposters so try to find this one.
  • We typically don’t use pepper, but if you like it, use white pepper to avoid the harsh dark specs on the feta.
  • This recipe cooks beautifully in a cast iron pan, if you have a small one, use it. My small one was a bit too big for this amount.

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It has been beyond cold in these parts. Entirely opposite to what Australia is experiencing. Our windchills (and humidity) take the cold over the top, for example last week it was -13C with 30% humidity and a windchill that makes it feel like -25C at 8am! That’s wild. Your skin can freeze in 10 minutes. It’s a battle of being chilled and too hot at the same time; imagine having to take literally 10 minutes to put all your outdoor gear on, you’re already sweating because you’re inside, then going outside, walking – expanding energy, getting warm in your coat, and then popping into a warmly heated shop! You just can’t undress fast enough! It’s brutal. Staying home is easy, you just don’t feel like the battle.

Having the oven on makes the kitchen a wee bit cozier during this deep freeze so I baked this old favourite. Plus the aroma is intoxicating. It is an old recipe that I posted in 2012 here but I remade it with a small addition and reduced it to one loaf so I thought I’d post the revised version. The biggest change was that I added about 50 mL of melted Belgian chocolate to the chocolate part which really enhanced the flavour without making it too doughy. I also brushed the dough with an egg yolk to make it gorgeous and shiny. We had it for New Year’s Day breakfast along the side of the Smoked Salmon Roll-ups. It was delicious.

The chocolate flavour was richer using the melted Belgium Chocolate with the cocoa powder.

Chocolate Brioche

Makes 1 relatively good sized braid. Original recipe was modified from Baking with Julia.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 7 g dry yeast
  • 65 mL tepid water (80°F to 90°F)
  • 30 g granulated sugar + a pinch, divided
  • 50 g unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
  • 125 mL whole milk
  • 10 g salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 420 g all-purpose, unbleached flour, divided
  • 14 g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 30 g icing sugar
  • 50 mL Belgian chocolate, melted and cooled
  • non-stick cooking spray or olive oil

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • splash of water

Directions:

  1. Spray two large mixing bowls with non-stick cooking spray, or rub with butter or olive oil and set aside.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water with a pinch of sugar in a measuring cup and allow to proof, about 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the milk with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the cubed butter until warm to touch and the butter has entirely melted. Stir in the salt until melted. Allow this mixture to cool to 110°F.
  4. Once cooled, pour the milk mixture into the large stand mixer bowl attached with a whisk and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well to combine. You should have about 1 litre of liquid. Divide into two portions of about 500 mL each and set one portion aside.
  5. Put the cookie paddle onto your stand mixer. To one portion, add about 100 g of the flour and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Now switch to the bread dough paddle and add the remaining flour or as much as needed, kneading on medium-low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to one of the bowls that has been prepared. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  6. For the chocolate portion, sift 210 g of flour with the unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar.
  7. Retrieve the second portion of the liquid and add the cooled melted Belgian chocolate and mix well.
  8. Add about 100 g of the sifted flour, cocoa and icing sugar and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Add the remaining flour or as much flour as needed kneading on medium-low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to the other bowl that has been prepared. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  9. When dough has doubled in size (both the chocolate and the plain versions) punch down and deflate them. Cover again and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  10. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Divide the plain, white dough in 2 equal portions (I find a scale very helpful) and roll into approximately 16″ lengths. Divide the chocolate dough into 2 equal portions. Combine the four ropes on a lightly floured surface and braid. Press together the ends and fold under the braid. Place on lined baking sheet and allow to rest for 40 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine the egg and cold water or heavy cream and mix well. Brush the braid with the glaze and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the expansion joints of the braid and return to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 200°F. If they brown too quickly, cover browning parts with a little piece of foil.
  12. Cool before slicing. This can be frozen in an airtight plastic bag for about 1 month.

Note:

  • Stale slices of this bread makes excellent French toast or Bread Pudding!

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I am a fatalist, which means I believe in fate. There are too many things in this world that seem like coincidences but were totally intended by the universe. Case in point: on more than one occasion, I have decided to make something with the intent of searching for a recipe and before I can even open Google, up pops a recipe a blogging friend has posted on Facebook or Instagram! The very thing I had decided I would make! Coincidence? I think not, it’s fate!

That is my story of the English Muffins. I was walking back from getting a mani-pedi in our hood, thinking about the upcoming weekend visit with our dear friends from Wisconsin/Arizona (they have two homes) and I realized that I didn’t have a breakfast planned for one of the days and I remember wanting to try baking English Muffins, so on my walk home, I decided that I would bake English Muffins!

Upon my return, I sat down at my kitchen desk to catch up on Facebook and low and behold, dear Lorraine has reposted her recipe for…wait for it…English Muffins! That is fate! I was destined to bake English Muffins that afternoon.

Home Made English Muffins

Makes 6-8 English Muffins.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL (7 oz) milk
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) instant dry yeast
  • 20 g (1 oz) butter
  • 320 g (2  1/2 cups) AP unbleached flour
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) baking powder
  • 1 small egg
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk to 37° C (100° F), sprinkle in the sugar and yeast and mix well. Allow to proof for 10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit. Add the butter to the milky yeast (once proofed) stir in the egg and mix well and set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in the large bowl of your stand mixer, add the liquid all at once and beat/knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and silky.
  4. Lightly cover with oil and set aside in a draft free spot for about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).
  6. On a lightly floured board, turn out the dough and roll out to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness. Cut 8-10 cm (3 1/4″ to 4″) rounds. Dust with cornmeal (brush off any excess) and cook over a low heat in a cast iron frying pan for about 3 minutes each side (do not oil). Finish baking in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 199° F (93° C). Allow to cool slightly, and then separate each into two using a fork to maximize the nooks and crannies!

The top one is perfect!

Notes:

  • If you cannot get small eggs, then take 1 large egg and whisk it to incorporate both yolk and whites, weigh it and divide by 2. Use half in this recipe and save the other half for something else.
  • In hindsight, my English Muffins pictured puffed up way too tall, so I have modified the instruction to roll out to half of the original thickness. Plus you should get a few more that way.

Like Lorraine, I like a little English Muffin with my butter.

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In early September, our dear friends came for a visit and JT and I planned a full schedule of fun activities! We went hiking at a conservation area, saw King Lear in High Park (which turned out to be reimagined from a female perspective, Queen Lear), we traveled to Montreal for a few days with a stop in Kingston to visit the newly refurbished Kingston Penitentiary. The time went quickly and a much-needed fix with special friends. Our days were packed, so I made these Banana Bran Muffins for a breakfast on the morning we went hiking, as we were also having lunch at an adorable little cafe near the conservation area. Scroll down to see a few pics of Kingston Pen.

Banana Bran Muffins with Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks

Original recipe from Company’s Coming, Muffins and More by Jean Paré.

Makes about 10-12 medium-sized muffins

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 128 g (1 cup) flour
  • 60 g (1 cup) all bran cereal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chunks (I used Belgian milk chocolate chunks)
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) coconut oil
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) sour milk (milk with 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
  • 250 mL (3 medium or 1 cup) bananas, mashed

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Prepare muffin pans by spraying with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine flour, bran, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and mix.
  3. Cream coconut oil and sugar with 1 egg until well blended and add the other egg and beat well. Combine the soured milk and mashed bananas and mix well.
  4. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool slightly and serve.

These muffins have excellent texture from the moistness of the bananas and the bran cereal.

Notes:

  • These muffins are not nearly as sweet using coconut sugar as using regular white sugar.

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I enjoy a slice of bread with my breakfast of hard boiled egg whites, a half of a smashed avocado, but I like to manage my carbs so often I go without the bread. Our local German bakery recently released a high protein/low carb bread so we bought some for the inconceivable price of $7.99 Canadian; it had about 8 thin slices! I didn’t mind the texture at first but then it really ragged on me, it was a dense, cardboard-like texture that was difficult to cut and chew. I started hating one of my favourite meals of the day! So I searched the net and found that there are several high protein/low carb bread options out there, starting with cloud bread (meh, it’s really just a fluffy egg white pancake) and then I found this recipe and I was intrigued.

Firstly, I had never baked with protein whey powder and the bread had so few ingredients, I really wanted to experiment. Of course, the first round, I stayed fairly true to the original recipe and it was fine but the second time I added herbs and sesame seeds and it was even better. This version has a bit more body to it with the addition of sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

What I like about this “bread” is that it slices like bread, toasts like bread and can be used for sandwiches but I like mine first thing in the morning, lightly toasted with 3 hard boiled egg whites and a tablespoon of salsa.

The bread has enough body to make a sandwich. But if you don’t like the taste of eggs, this bread is not for you.

High Protein “Bread”

Print High Protein Bread Recipe

For the Original Recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 slices.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) protein whey powder (unflavoured)
  • 3 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 20 g (2 tbsp) sunflower seeds
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) flax seeds
  • 10 g (1 heaping tbsp) sesame seeds (I used black and white)
  • non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Prepare a 4″ x 8″ pan by lining it with parchment paper and spraying with non-stick spray.
  3. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until fluffy and stiff but not dry.
  4. Add the egg yolks, whey protein and salt, beat for about 30 seconds or until well combined.
  5. Fold in the sunflower and flax seeds.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool completely on rack. Slice into 10 slices. Freeze in a piece of parchment and store in a ziplock Baggy until needed.

Notes:

  • This ‘bread’ reminds me of a Genoise cake, it has body but is light and fluffy.
  • The bread toasts very nicely.
  • JT feels it is a bit eggy tasting to have with poached eggs but I like it.
  • Add a handful of chopped herbs as a flavour option.
  • I freeze this ‘bread’ because storing it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator makes it a little soggy.
  • It’s important to line the pan with parchment and spray the parchment with non-stick spray because in my experience the batter sticks otherwise.

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Last month, the Japanese Cherry Blossoms (Sakura trees) blossomed in Toronto. This was a big deal because last year, they failed to bloom as we had a hard frost after several weeks of very warm weather. In fact, the frost was so hard that we lost a few trees. These trees are special because they were a gift from the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara in 1959 as a gift to the citizens of Toronto for their support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War. You can read more about the history here. It’s such a popular time in High Park (a park that is only about a 10-minute walk from our house) that the streets become clogged with traffic and it is virtually impossible to drive into the park; well, not quite impossible, but it will take you more than 1 hour! And don’t even think about parking in the park because you won’t be able to find a spot. Last year, a friend parked illegally and had a lovely surprise of a $450 ticket on her car upon return!

If you want to see the blossoms in Toronto, you’ll need to be here in April and you can watch this website, which predicts when they will blossom! JT took these beautiful photos so I wouldn’t miss them when they peaked as I was in Florida with a girlfriend.

Before I left for Florida, we invited friends, who live downtown, to join us for a walk to the park and then dinner in the village, it’s really the only sensible thing to do, if you wish to see the blossoms (and get in my 10,000 steps!) We had some wine and cheese before we left for our walk and I decided to make a french baguette, a recipe I haven’t made in quite a few years. This is the first bread recipe I ever made when I was around 14, it’s really that easy. In those days, I kneaded by hand, but now I get the big guns out and let the stand mixer do the heavy lifting for 8-10 minutes. The recipe produces two or four amazing french baguettes. I baked two and froze the others for another time. The recipe is basically true to the original recipe I made except I updated the method of rolling into the uique baguette form and the baking method.

That’s Bonny & Clyde, the Mum & Dad Capybara’s that escaped last year. They had babies this spring!

Simple French Baguette

Original recipe from Five Roses, A guide to good cooking, 5th edition

This recipe make four 33 cm (13 inch) French sticks

Ingredients:

  • 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) boiling water
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 8 g (1 package, about 1 tbsp) bread machine yeast
  • 50 mL (1/4 cup) lukewarm water
  • pinch of sugar
  • 570 g (4 cups) All Purpose Unbleached Flour
  • 15 g (2 tsp) salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and 15 grams of sugar in the boiling water and cool until lukewarm.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over 50 mL water with a pinch of sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside to proof for a couple of minutes (I like to do this even with quick rising yeast to make sure it’s not dead).
  3. Combine the buttery water (when it has cooled to lukewarm) with the proofed yeast and stir to mix well.
  4. Combine the flour and salt in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the liquid yeast into the centre and turn the mixer on low speed until it forms a nice dough.
  5. Knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic (mine took about 8 minutes).
  6. Lightly coat with olive oil and set aside in a warm place, 1 to 2 hours or when double in size. Punch down and divide the dough into two equal portions.
  7. Divide the dough into two or four equal portions. With the base of your palm, press out the dough to a little rectangle, roughly size it 1:3 — it should not be huge at this point. then fold the long side up about 1/3 of the way and press into the dough with your knuckle or fingers to seal. Repeat with the other long side. Flatten the roll and press an indentation into the centre along the long side. Fold down to form a long baguette and seal with your fingers or knuckles. Roll out to elongate and taper the ends. This is the Julia Child method which may be seen here at roughly 6 minute 10 second mark.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C). Place the baguette seam side down on a baguette baking sheet and brush them with the egg white and then dock them using a sharp lame, you can see how this is done at roughly 9 minute 53 second mark of the same video. Place the baguette pan in a larger pan with a few chunks of ice off to the sides, cover tightly with foil paper.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 425° F (220° C) , remove the foil wrap and brush again with the egg white and then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the baguette is golden brown and the crust has stiffened up and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

The steaming process produces the great texture.

Notes:

  • There are as many baguette recipes as there are blogs, if you have one you like to use, I encourage you to try this rolling and baking method, I am sold and will make crusty bread this way from now on.
  • I used 5 normal sized ice cubes.
  • The crust is nice and crunchy and the crumb is chewy and wonderful.
  • If your larger pan doesn’t have tall enough sides, I would spray the foil with non-stick spray so that when the bread rises and touches the foil, it will not stick.
  • This is the baguette pan that I use.

The baguette has a crispy crust with a nice chewy crumb.

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When JT and I were first married, we lived in our first home in Stouffville, a bedroom community Northeast of Toronto. JT would drive 30 minutes to an hour to work and I would take the hour long GO Train (Government of Ontario commuter train) downtown. Fortunately, the downtown train station was connected to an intricate underground system called PATH, Toronto’s Downtown Pedestrian Walkway that I would take all the way to work in the Financial District. Of course, these underground paths were always lined with stores, tempting you to buy, buy, buy!! There may have been one or two instances when I may have picked up a new outfit on the way to work, and I would change into it at the fitness club after my workout!

There were also several food courts along the way, so if one became a little famished from the long journey to work, one might pick up a nibble or two along the way! That is when I became addicted to Bran Date Muffins. These overly processed, moist and sticky muffins were sold at a “healthy” eatery along my walk to work. I usually don’t go for the ready made treats but there was something so moreish about these muffins (texture and taste) that I bought one or two every week (that’s when I had a metabolism!). These days, I wouldn’t dare eat that type of muffin, knowing what I know about the ingredients they use to make them so moreish so that is why I decided to try to recreate my obsession using healthy ingredients. I also decided to make them mini so that I could have a small treat without committing to a regular-sized muffin.

They are not the same as the ones I had so many years ago, but they are quite tasty and not nearly as bad for you so I’m pretty happy with the outcome. The bran and nuts provide great texture, the apples and the dates give it some moistness. Next time, I think I will reduce the flour component and increase the apples and fruit juice.

JT was quite surprised that there is no processed sugar in these babies, just dates, apples and fruit juice to sweeten.

Apple, Bran and Date Mini-Muffins revamped

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 30 mini-muffins

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) fruit juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 375 mL (1 1/2 cup) peeled and shredded apple
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped dates
  • 250 mL (1 cup) bran buds
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 30 mL (2 tsp) cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Spray 24 mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the whole egg and the egg white and beat until well mixed, add the milk and stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bran buds, shredded apple and dates, stir until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the top, stirring it in. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
  4. Sift the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the bran mixture until everything is combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  6. Divide batter into 30 mini-muffin cups evenly (24 first, then 6). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cake tester comes clean.

Notes:

  • If you’d rather make regular-sized muffins, this recipe will produce 12.
  • The bran buds I use are rather hard so soaking is important, your bran cereal may be loser and not need as much time to break down. I like a little bran texture so I didn’t soak my bran very long.
  • I used fruit juice instead of milk so that I could eliminate the 1/4 cup sugar from the recipe. I used Mango because I had it on hand, use whatever you wish, apple juice would work equally as well.
  • You may use 3 whole eggs instead of 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, someone over here used up the whole eggs and forgot to write it on the shopping list. I wonder who that was?
  • These were pretty moist, even without the use of oil. Next time, I will reduce the flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase the fruit juice and shredded apple by 1/4 cup each.

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sliderbuns_first

Merry Christmas dear friends, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. JT and I spent Christmas Eve with my family in Toronto and then had a quiet Christmas Day on our own. We had planned on volunteering at a soup kitchen but left it too late and couldn’t find one that would take us! Who knew that would be a problem? We’ll try to get on it earlier next year. I baked a stuffed turkey breast with a baked potato and sautéed a little kale for dinner and then we enjoyed an avocado lime semifreddo. We ate by the fire and opened presents all night. The quiet was just what I needed as I worked a lot in December, still not complaining but man, I should have done my ‘standing job’ earlier and my ‘sitting jobs’ later in my career! Most studios I work at have cement floors, and they are cold and hard which is great for the camera but not so much for the feet and back.

I’ve also been doing some recipe videos:

And, last month I catered a party for sixteen at the new home of the marketing firm I work with. Catering is like cooking for a dinner party on steroids! Timing and organization is everything!

One of the dishes I made was pulled pork sliders; those small, moreish buns filled with slow cooked pork in a delicious BBQ sauce, topped with either a vinegar or creamy coleslaw! I’m licking my lips as I type! Getting the bun right is important as it is the delivery vehicle for the meat. I usually make pretzel buns but the finishing is a two step process and I was so tired, instead, I hacked a King Arthur burger bun recipe instead because it was much easier!

These buns will surprise you, they are light and fluffy but, they have a bite to them because of the egg, and they are not overly eggy. I chose to top the buns with a beaten egg and sesame seeds, you could go au naturel as they are quite tasty. Since I significantly reduced the sugar from the King Arthur recipe, I replaced the water with warm milk and I think it was the right choice. I would definitely make these again, they are delicious and not fussy to make.

sliderbunsSlider Buns

An adaptation of this recipe

Makes about 30 slider buns

Ingredients:

  • 265 mL (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) lukewarm 2% milk
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) instant yeast
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 500 g (3 1/2 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 6 g (1 1/4) tsp salt
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter, at room temperature in small bits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Whisk the milk, yeast and 5 g (1 tsp) sugar together and allow to proof for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile sift the flour, 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar and salt together in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Add the whole egg to the flour mix on low speed using the cookie dough attachment (I used the scraper attachment), then add the small bits of the butter to the egg-flour mixture until well combined (or rub in the butter with your fingers).
  4. Switch the attachment to the dough hook and while on slow speed, pour in the proofed yeast. Knead on medium speed for 5 minutes or until you achieve a silky, elastic and smooth dough.
  5. Form dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl covered with a clean tea towel and then set in a warm, draft-free location for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Punch down and knead the dough into a long roll. Divide the dough into 30 even pieces (about 35 g each) and knead each piece into a smooth ball. Set each ball into a greased pan (I did 5X6) and cover with a tea towel. Set in a warm, draft-free location for 15 minutes or until doubled in size.
  7. Whisk the egg yolk and brush the bun tops generously. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in a 176° C (350° F) oven for 20 minutes or until buns have golden tops.
  9. Cool slightly and serve.

Notes:

  • I also made 25 g mini-slider buns, 34 buns. Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 85°C- 88°C (185° F – 190° F).

 

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pomegranatedate_focaccia_first

Several weeks ago, we had our fall progressive dinner and our lovely neighbours Tom and Iona chose Pomegranate as the theme! What a coincidence for JT and I, since we were just there in September! (Please recall that Granada means pomegranate in Spanish!). JT and I served hors d’œuvres and appetizers; the hors d’œuvre was a delicious pomegranate guacamole with homemade fajita chips and the appetizer was a cob salad with a corn and pomegranate mix and a pomegranate syrup dressing.

summercobbsalad

The cobb salad was similar to this one, but I added pomegranate seeds to the grilled corn and instead of beans, I served BBQ’d pulled chicken breast.

And because I don’t extend myself enough, I decided to make a sourdough pomegranate, date and rosemary focaccia. Although the dates did certainly added some sweetness, the perfumy flavour of the rosemary increased the savoury aspect without being overwhelming. The recipe below is a modified version of this recipe, which I originally made at the cottage.

pomegranatedate_rawfocaccia

This is the raw dough just before I popped it into the oven. It’s quite festive looking making it perfect for the holidays!

Pomegranate, Date and Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one focaccia 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″)

Ingredients:

  • 265 g (1 cup) fed, sourdough starter
  • 300 g (1 1/3 cup) warm water
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) olive oil, divided
  • 1  1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 8 g (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) milk powder
  • 500 g (3 1/2 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 70 g (~1/2 cup) loosely packed dates, sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 75 g (~1/2 cup) pomegranate seeds
  • 4 g (1 generous tbsp) roughly chopped rosemary

Directions:

  1. In the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine sourdough starter, water and 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil and mix well. Sprinkle the yeast into it and mix well.
  2. Whisk to combine the salt, milk powder and flour and add in batches to the liquid ingredients. Combine and then knead with the machine for 5 minutes. This dough is quite sticky
  3. Pour remaining 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough into it. Roll the dough around in the olive oil to coat, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  4. Pre heat oven to 190° C (375° F). Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet and with your fingers, press dough evenly to create a rectangle about 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″).
  5. Gently press the sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and rosemary into the dough, making sure they are spread evenly. Drizzle the olive oil remaining in proofing bowl over the raw dough. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 43°C (190° F).
  7. Cool slightly and cut into portions. Serve warm with your best extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate syrup or Ice Wine Syrup..
datepomegranate_focaccia3

They are like little edible jewels! I was quite happy that the pomegranate seed jewels did not lose their luster after baking.

datepomegranate_focaccia2

A pillowy-soft focaccia.

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CheeseOnionSconeFirst

I celebrated a birthday a few months ago. It wasn’t a particularly special birthday other than the many wonderful birthday wishes that my many social media friends bestowed. JT took me to my favourite French restaurant, Le Select Bistro where we are treated like VIPs since we dined there with our good friends and neighbours Tom & Iona (Tom is an architect and designed the interior of the restaurant). 

Several months back, my trusty old food processor’s plastic top broke. It didn’t entirely break, just the little, wee bit broke off that clicks into the special spot to allow the thing to be turned on. I get that it’s a safety feature so that you can’t turn it on without the top clicking in, but honestly, such a crappy little piece of plastic breaks off and my food processor is rendered useless?! Well, kind of useless, because I figured out that I can jam a chopstick into the spot and I had it working for a few additional months. It was all fine and dandy until I had to take it to a photo shoot and we were all jamming the chopstick into the top to get it to work, how embarrassing was that?!?!? So when my birthday rolled along, I decided I wanted a real, grown-up food processor and JT got me the Cuisinart 12-cup!

The 12-Cup version had a little 4-cup insert so you can make small amounts of stuff. The 12-Cup version has a little 4-cup insert so you can make small amounts of stuff.

It’s been brutally hot and humid in Toronto so even though I had a brand new food processor, I just couldn’t bring myself to make anything, particularly something that required the oven! I broke down and baked these delightful cheese and onion scones for a little dinner we had; fortunately, the oven was only on for 15 minutes including the pre-heat time and I had the hood fan on full blast, sucking out the hot air so it didn’t heat up the kitchen too badly. The food processor worked like a dream, I can’t wait to use the little 4-cup bowl insert.

Cheese and Onion Scones

Original recipe from Jean Paré’s Company’s Coming Muffins and More cookbook

Makes 12-16 5 cm (2 inch) scones)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g All Purpose Flour
  • 12 g granulated sugar
  • 16 g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 150 g grated cheese (we used Gouda)
  • 57 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 100 mL milk (and extra milk for brushing tops)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, shallot and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add cubed butter and pulse until crumbly.
  3. Combine, milk and egg and whisk until frothy. Pour into food processor while pulsing to combine well. Turn dough out to a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice. Roll out to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) circles. Brush tops with milk.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with butter.
CheeseOnionScone_2 Perfect for a light snack or with soup.

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Sourdough_First

After the huge job I recently had, I needed a little R&R so we retreated to our cottage (cabin/lake house) for a couple of days up north. It was nice to be there because it was during the week and the lake was pretty deserted. Mother nature could have cooperated a bit more as we had some pretty chilly weather at the beginning but at least there was sunshine. And what better way to heat things up than baking some homemade sourdough bread? I am using the offspring of Celia’s Priscilla (of Fig, Jam and Lime Cordial), we call him SoB (Son of Bob). Please recall that poor old Bob had an early demise as he was unfortunately baked as I was trying to dry him out (someone, who shall remain unnamed, but lives in the same house that I do turned the oven on). Celia read of the unfortunate incident on my blog and kindly sent me another dried starter. Thank you, Celia!. SoB has developed a gorgeous texture and aroma that made this bread absolutely wonderful. I chose a no knead recipe because I don’t have a stand mixer at the cottage and I’m lazy.

CottageSourdough1

No Knead Sourdough Bread

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 boule about 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter

Ingredients:

  • 100 g sourdough starter, fed (I usually feed it 30 g water and 30 g flour)
  • 200 g water
  • 8 g quick rising yeast
  • 4 g sugar
  • 300 g AP flour (unbleached)
  • 6 g salt
  • Olive oil to coat

Directions:

  1. Combine water, sugar and yeast and allow to proof for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the sourdough starter to a medium sized bowl, add the yeast mixture and stir until well combined. Add the flour in batches and stir until the result is a slightly shaggy dough. Drizzle a little olive oil into the bowl and coat the dough thoroughly. Set aside in a warm area to rise until double in size (about 2 hours).
  3. Preheat oven and cast iron Dutch pot with lid (mine is about 20 cm or 8″ in diameter) to 400° F (200° C).
  4. Tip dough out onto a lightly floured surface and using a flat spatula, fold sides over a few times. Cover with a clean dry cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes. I’m experimenting with some creative cuts into the boule, but it was far too shaggy to work properly.
  5. Tip the rested dough into the preheated pot and cover, bake for 30 minutes and then remove the lid and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes and then dig in!

CottageSourDough

CottageBoatRide

We went for a little boat ride picnic. There was a loon family just by the shore and we did not want to disturb them.

AdultGrilledCheese copy

I made the most delicious adult grilled cheese panini for lunch at the cottage (recipe to come).

AvocadoTomatoCucumberCheese

I also made an avocado, tomato, cucumber and swiss cheeese sandwich for the drive home because food on the road just sucks.

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GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

I was about 33 when JT and I first vacationed in Florida. JT and I rented a friend’s house in Daytona Beach and used it as a base to travel around, taking a couple of days to visit friends in Sarasota and to explore that side of the state. While travelling, there were several roadside eateries that would come up that were rather new to us Canadians: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Waffle House to name a few. As you know by now, I am not so fond of fast food, so we avoided them but one morning we got up early to explore and decided that waffles were in order and we thought, what better place than Waffle House? Boy were we wrong, what a joke (I apologise to those who love the place), the waffles were thin and dry and they didn’t even have real maple syrup or even real butter! Maybe I’m a waffle snob, but real maple syrup and butter are necessities for a good waffle experience. Our waitress was surly and unapproachable, great qualities for a waitress. We begrudgingly ate the sad excuse for waffles and left. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad an experience it was and immediately renamed the place Awful House! Needless to say, we did not stop at Awful House ever again!

When you’re looking for a delicious bread recipe, you need not look further than this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread, plus there is nothing like it on the menu at Awful House! It’s not that difficult to make and it bakes up beautifully. I made this loaf for my Cousin Lucy’s Easter Dinner.

GarlicCheeseRopeBread

The bread is laced with delicious cheddar and garlic butter. Make sure you serve this warm.

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently and allow to proof.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt, powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Using the KitchenAid® Flex Edge Beater attachment, mix until the eggs have totally become incorporated into the flour. Change to the dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth slightly sticky dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F (I used the fan setting).
  6. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the cheese, butter, garlic and salt and pulse until completely combined, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 40 cm x 30 cm (16″ x 12″). Spread all of the cheese butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed (wet fingers with water if necessary). Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  8. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray with sides, lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope.
  9. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash.
  10. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 350°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Serve warm.

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WholeWheatSpeltCinnamonBread_1

Recently my sister-in-law and her husband stayed at our place as they had an early morning appointment downtown because they live in another city that is 2 hours away. My brother-in-law cannot eat sugar or white flour and I wanted to create a special breakfast bread that he could eat so I searched and searched the world-wide cookbooks. My general GOTO blog for speciality flour creations is Angie’s Recipes because Angie creates or modifies existing recipes using anything BUT white flour and most of her recipes use natural sugars so it didn’t surprise me when I landed on her version of the Cinnamon Spelt Ring. I loved this recipe because I could experiment with the dough slicing techniques that another friend, Maria at A_boleyn mastered with her Swedish Cinnamon Star Bread. In fact, this beautiful technique has been demonstrated on many blogs and it was about time for me to give it a go. I doubt my family minded being guinea pigs!

This was my first attempt, I made a star bread as well as a rope ring but they were too thin and not bready enough.

This was my first attempt, I made a star bread as well as a rope ring but they were too thin and not bready enough so I revised the recipe and made it again!

I modified the recipe to include whole wheat flour instead of the two types of spelt flour that Angie’s recipe had. As well, I have replaced white sugar with dates for the filling. My first test, although tasted OK, was not up to my expectations, it was just too thin and not bready like a cinnamon bun, so I made it again with a lot more success.

This is the unbaked bread. In hindsight, this dough was bready enough to make two loaves!

This is the revised recipe below of the unbaked bread. In hindsight, this dough was bready enough to make two loaves!

Whole Wheat, Spelt Cinnamon Bread

Original recipe from Angie’s Recipes Blog, please click here.

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 165 mL Milk, lukewarm
  • 3 Egg yolks, large, divided
  • 30 g flavourless vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 20 g Maple syrup
  • 8 g Instant dried yeast
  • 250 g Whole Wheat Flour (may want to reduce this to 225 for a shaggier dough).
  • 100 g Spelt Flour
  • 5 g salt

Directions:

  1. Combine warm milk, 2 egg yolks, vegetable oil, instant dried yeast and maple syrup and whisk well. Allow to proof until bubbling.
  2. Sift the flours together into the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the centre and add the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Knead for 10 minutes.
  3. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

Ingredients for filling:

  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g dates
  • 6 g ground cinnamon
  • 2 g salt

Directions:

  1. Add all of the filling ingredients into the bowl of a small food processor and process until completely smooth and combined.
  2. Roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 38 cm x 25 cm (15″ x 10″). Spread all of the cinnamon butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed. Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  3. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope. Or check out Maria’s blog on how to make the star version of this gorgeous bread.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375° F (190 °C).
  5. Mix a teaspoon of water into the remaining egg yolk and brush over dough. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and internal temperature is around 200 °F (93°C). You may wish to cover with some foil so it doesn’t brown too quickly.
  6. Serve with home-made jam and butter.
WholeWheatSpeltCinnamonBread2

This is the baked loaf, it’s a beauty!

CheeseEggBraid2

I also wanted to make the rope bread as a savoury cheese version and used my Sesame Bread Recipe; I divided the dough into two equal portions, spread a few handfuls of sharp cheddar on one rectangle instead of the cinnamon butter, and also made a plain cut wheat sheaf version of the other. Both turned out excellent.

The cheese melted in the roll and was a lovely flavour in the egg bread.

The cheese melted in the roll and was a lovely flavour in the egg bread.

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Sourdough Buns

SourdoughBuns_First

Sourdough Buns

Original Recipe from King Arthur Flour, please click here.

This recipe makes 17 buns about 60 g each.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 46 g milk powder
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 125 mL water
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 276 g sourdough starter, fed
  • cornmeal (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt and milk powder and stir well to mix.
  2. In large glass measuring cup, combine water, yeast, sugar, oil and egg with the sourdough starter and mix thoroughly.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the starter mixture into it. Mix with your dough hook attachment until the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the sides.
  4. Form into a smooth ball and oil exterior. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Press down and pinch about 60 g pieces and shape into even buns. Cut a small X on the top. Allow the buns to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (190° C.
  7. Mist buns lightly with water and bake for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is 200° F).
  8. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.
SourdoughBuns_7643

A slightly eggy sourdough bread that is delicious with butter.

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