Tuesday, July 28, 2015


We finally had some rain this past weekend. I was so happy to wake up to the sound of solid rain fall on Sunday morning (fortunately I had brought the patio cushions in from outside).

It has been beneficial to my parched garden and more importantly, helped reduce or contain the number of forest fires burning around here. I spent the morning in the kitchen baking and it was lovely.

I tried my hand at croissants using a recipe I found on BBC Good Food. In the end, I baked the dough off in three sections, making a pan full of croissants each time, all various sizes. You need to start the dough a day before you want to bake them, to allow the dough to develop and rest. Although the recipe says it takes a lot of elbow grease to make these, I found the hardest part was rolling the cold butter into a rectangle.

Croissants (adapted BBC Good Food)
625 g all purpose unbleached flour
75 g sugar
1 tsp salt
7 tsp bread yeast
500 g butter, cold

The day before you want to bake the croissants, measure the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Pour in 350 mL of water and form a dough. Add up to an extra 50 mL to get the dough to form if required. Knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Set aside to rest.

Take the chilled butter and place between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll out into a rectangle about 30 x 20 cm, about 1 cm thick. Put in the fridge to chill.

Turn the rested dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle measuring about 60 x 30 cm. Place the butter in the center of your dough rectangle (having removed the plastic or parchment paper). Fold one edge of the dough over half the butter (top down) and then the other edge over the other half of the butter (bottom up) and then fold the top half over the bottom half. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and roll out into a rectangle measuring 60 x 30 cm. Repeat the folding, turning and rolling three more times, on the final turn leave the dough after folding, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
wrap well, this dough expands in the fridge!
Once the dough is rested, remove from the fridge and roll out into a rectangle about 0.5 cm thick, cut into strips and then cut into triangles about 10cm wide at the top. From the top end, pull out the ends of the dough a bit, and roll towards the triangle point until the crescent shape is formed and the triangle point is rolled over the middle of the croissant.

Place the croissants on a baking sheet lined with parchment and let rise for 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Beat an egg in a small bowl and once the croissants are risen, brush the egg wash over the surface of each croissant. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

mmmm butter

Every once in a while I like to challenge myself so in my current cooking doldrums, I did what any sane woman would do, I set myself a baking challenge. Now let me back up a bit. Over the winter and early spring, I became slightly obssessed with a show on PBS called The Great British Baking Show. I discovered back episodes of the series on youtube from the BBC where it is known as the Great British BakeOff and watched back to back into the wee hours on many a night. (Can't wait for the next series starting up again in August.)

 As I watched the series progress, the baking seemed so ambitious. All the tarts, breads, pastries the bakers came up with were amazing and then the technical challenges, especially in the last series, were generally things I'd never heard of. So sometime I'm going to try macarons but in the meantime, this summer, I decided to challenge myself to make rough puff pastry and croissants.

First up was rough puff pastry. We've been having a heat wave here, temperatures much higher than we are used to and days and days of sunshine which hasn't meant for days in the kitchen. So my project lapsed while we watched kite surfers, spent days at the beach with friends (and a goat wandering by), and a visit to a local animal rehab center.

Mudpie, a Vancouver Island marmot

Rosie the porcupine hiding behind a post

Awww - a baby possum
Then we had a slight cooling of temperatures and I got back to my projects - baking challenge and repairing a quilt (made over 20 years ago for my grandmother, which I got back after she died).
Women's equestrian drill team
I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food site and set to work. The recipe is from Gordon Ramsay and it worked for me. I added two more roll outs, fold and turns than Ramsay's recipe based on a couple of other recipes. I refrigerated the dough and used half for a savory pinwheel and half for a dessert pinwheel, both of which we liked.

Rough Puff Pastry (from BBC Good Food, Gordon Ramsay)
250 g all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
250 g butter, not cold, but not melted
~ 150 mL water

Add the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and rub into the flour until you have it through the flour but still in largish pieces. Make a well in the flour and add most of the water and mix until a dough forms, using more water if required. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Pour onto a lightly floured surface, knead slightly and then roll into a rectangle. Roll only in one direction until the rectangle measures about 20 cm by 50 cm. Try and keep the edges straight and neat but don't fuss too much, it will get easier to keep the rectangle as you proceed. You should still be able to see streaks for butter. Fold down the top third of the dough into the center, fold up the bottom third over it and turn the dough a quarter turn (right or left but always go the same direction).

Roll out the dough again into the big rectangle and refold in thirds as per above. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 mins to rest and cool. Roll out again into the large rectangle, fold and turn, roll and fold again and refrigerate again for 15 mins. Now the dough is ready to be used. If there are scraps leftover from use, stack them so the layers remain instead of scrunching into a ball.

Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
1/2 batch of rough puff pastry
ham slices
cheese, sliced or grated

Preheat your oven to 400 deg F. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 20 cm by 50 cm. Using about 1 tbsp of mustard, smooth a very thin layer across the whole of the pastry. Layer ham slices over about 2/3 of the pastry, making sure that the long edge of the pastry has a full layer of ham. Do the same with the cheese, if using grated cheese, you can cover the entire pastry. Roll up into a roll, starting on the long edge with ham, rolling as tightly as you can, pressing the end into the roll to form a seam. Slice off 1" wide slices off the log and place on an ungreased baking sheet filling facing upwards. Bake to 12-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Peach Pinwheels
When I made this I used peach slices, but think it would work better with diced peach so I've written the recipe with that as the suggestion.
1/2 batch of rough puff pastry
1 medium peach, diced
1 tsp melted butter
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger

Preheat your oven to 400 deg F. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 20 cm by 50 cm.
Brush butter over the entire pastry, then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over, followed by the cinnamon and the ginger. Spread the peach over the pastry, concentrate along one long side.

Roll up starting on the long side with the peach, rolling as tightly as you can, pressing the end into the roll to form a seam.  Cut 1" slices off the log and place on an ungreased baking sheet facing upward.
Bake to 12-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

at sea

My cooking mojo got up a left a bit ago and I've been struggling to find my way back. Two nights ago I  made what may arguably be the worst meal in my history. The base of the dinner was bento pork which I've made at least monthly since Molly posted the recipe but this time, I left it on too high a burner for too long and it ended up dry and overly salty and horrible. The tacos were bereft of both the slaw or salad they normally have as a topping as both had vanished from the fridge when I wasn't looking and overall it was a sad supper. My husband tried to make me feel better by telling me that one of his former girlfriends would have considered it a culinary masterpiece but I know terrible when I eat it.
smoke or cloud, I couldn't tell anymore

someone waded into ditches all along the trail

While recent dinners haven't been as awful as that one, I've been in a serious rut. Most of my suppers have been more about assembling than cooking.
on his way to kayak camp
 I could blame our unseasonably hot weather and the blanket of smoke that had my car covered in ash last week, thanks to forest fires raging in all directions (see unseasonably hot weather) but it doesn't really explain the blahs my cooking has been in for the past little while.
first zucchini from the garden

picking blackberries in early July?!

Here are some things that have saved my meals:

Almond pesto 
Cucumber and avocado salad
potato salad
scalloped tomatoes
sausages from here (also burgers, meat skewers, meatballs)
tomatoes from the garden

farm fresh fruit and veggies from the fruit stand and market
Dickie's ginger beer (on it's own or in Pimm's Cup - yum!!)

Last night I redeemed myself somewhat with a pesto pasta with chicken and roasted corn using the basil bunch I got from the market a few days ago and whizzed into a pesto. I used my food processor to make a chunky pesto as I am without a mortar and pestle to make authentic pesto. Instead of pine nuts, I added in a couple of spoons of almond pesto that I made the other night to go with some green beans which was the best part of that dinner.

Basil Pesto with almonds
1 bunch of basil, leaves stripped from stems
a few grinds of sea salt
2 tbsp almond pesto
50 grams shaved parmesan

Whiz the basil in a food processor until chunky. Add the salt, pesto and cheese and whiz briefly to mix. Pour in olive oil and mix until a chunky paste is formed.

Pesto Pasta with chicken and roasted corn
1 small package linguini
basil pesto
3 ears of corn, kernels cut of the cobs
1 cup diced cooked chicken (I used this one)
knob butter
parmesan cheese
dash of cream
salt and pepper

Cook the linguini in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain.

In a separate saucepan, large enough to hold the pasta and sauce, add a small knob of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the fresh corn kernels and saute until some of the kernels take on a golden brown colour. Add in the diced chicken and mix to heat. Add the drained pasta and pesto and toss to mix. Add a dash of cream and salt and pepper to taste. If you have some lemon around, squeeze some lemon over to taste. Add cheese and serve.

Friday, June 26, 2015

hazy days

Today was the boy's last day of Grade 3 and over the course of this week, he's been toting things home so our counters are overflowing with drawings (Jurassic World),

filled and unfilled exercise books and sketch books and seemingly endless glue sticks, crayons, colouring pencils, sharpeners and folders. Going the other way were our thank you gifts which were based on lemon and raspberry curd 

I made recently so I baked up batches of raspberry curd muffins which I boxed up and presented along with some ceramic things I painted a couple of weeks ago.

The boy has had a good year thanks to the many helpers he has, not the least of which have been his amazing EA and his lovely Grade 3 teacher, who also taught him in Grade 1. See, we are blessed. Now it is full on summer and we start next week with kayak camp and yesterday we met with the access team at the rec center and his camp buddies to guide him through his camp experience. Again, so blessed.

So for now we look forward to a bit of sleep, some lazy beach days with some picnics, camp and lots of fun with friends and by the end of summer we hope to have lots of lovely memories to go along with the boy's summer blond hair and his long(er) brown legs.

The last few weeks have been busy, with end of year parties and BBQs, along with the usual birthday parties and activities. Soccer, field hockey, swimming and Cubs all wound up but there will be more soccer games on street cul-de-sacs and deserted tennis courts and park fields as the boys are still as mad about soccer as ever. This week we took in a FIFA Women's World Cup match, Japan v Netherlands.

 Great fun with noisy fans and lots of missed goal opportunities and a chance to see the women play at the highest level. Our boy has been plotting the best path for Canada to do really well in the tournament.

Raspberry Curd muffins (adapted from River Cafe)

225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
A good pinch of sea salt
100g sugar
1 medium egg
125g plain yogurt
125ml milk
75g butter, melted and slightly cooled
150g raspberry curd (or 6 tsp)

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Measure flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl and whisk to blend. In a glass measuring cup or jar, add the egg, yogurt, milk and butter together and mix. Pour into the dry ingredients and gently mix until you see no flour. Do not overmix.

Scoop batter into greased muffin tins, lined with paper cups, until each cup is about half full. Add 1/2 tsp of curd to each cup and top with enough batter to fill the cups up about 3/4 full.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown. Serve warm, if possible.

Lemon Curd (adapted from Fine Cooking)
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolks until well blended and then add in the lemon juice and mix until combined. Don't worry if it looks curdled (mine didn't, it just looked very foamy.) Pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat, and cook until the mixture combines and thickens to coat the back of spoon. Take off the heat and add in the lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap over the top of the curd and refrigerate or place in small jars for gifts. Will keep refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few months.

Raspberry Curd (adapted from Tea and Cookies)
9 oz raspberries
3/4 c sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp butter
3 eggs

In a medium saucepan, add the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. Heat on medium until the raspberries break down. Pour the mixture through a sieve, to remove all the seeds but capturing all the juice.

In a bowl, cream the butter with a mixer and then beat in the eggs until blended and creamy and then add the fruit mixture and blend. Pour into the saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Take off the heat. Cover with plastic wrap over the top of the curd and refrigerate or place in small jars for gifts. Will keep refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few months.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

marshmallow cookies

A couple of weekends ago, I whipped up some meringue nests with the idea of using them to make Eton Mess or mini pavlovas with the strawberries and lemon curd I had. The boy, who was at loose ends having had his i-pad privileges taken away, was hanging around the garden and came in to investigate what was cooking. "What are these?" he asked. "I'm starving" and he took a big bite of one and promptly announced it was the most delicious thing ever. "Like a marshmallow cookie, Mum". He ran outside again and I bagged up the rest of the nests to keep for dessert. Later in the day, after hanging around on our back fence, chatting up the diagonal neighbours kids, he disappeared with the bag in tow, to share with his new friends. "Can you please make some more?"

I defrosted some egg whites left in the freezer from making yellow sauce, aka hollandaise, but while they were defrosting, I left to deposit the boy at a birthday party and came home to find the egg whites missing in action. "They looked gloppy" said my husband by way of explanation as to why he had tossed them. Apparently not everyone is up on how egg whites look.

I tried again, only mixing in some toffee chips into the mixture but the whole thing went horribly wrong and liquidy instead of the stiff peaks I was looking for. Sadly that batch went into the compost using the last of my freezer egg white stash.  Fresh eggs now, saving the egg yolks for custard. I did toffee chip meringues, folding in the toffee chips after the meringue reached stiff peaks and it worked a treat.

I dolloped out little kisses of meringue and before I could take pictures or give them out as treats, they were all gone (this time my  husband was the culprit, although I had a few, for taste testing purposes you understand). The boy was holding out for chocolate chip marshmallow cookies but I'd used up our entire stash making the best chocolate chip cookies ever, so those had to wait until I went grocery shopping.

So this week, with chocolate chips in the drawer, and some egg whites left over from making a custard, I made more meringues. Half a plain batch and half with chocolate chips, making sure to spread out the chocolate chip ones so they weren't like little kisses, as the boy said that shape had too much air in them, not enough marshmallow-y-ness. OK. I made them yesterday and they are gone now, as 2 of the boy's pals came over for a play date. Apparently their mums will be requesting the recipe soon. I still have a couple of the plain ones left, to eat with lemon curd, which is my favourite.

Chocolate Chip Meringues (or chocolate chip marshmallow cookies)
3 egg whites
1/2 c + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
few drops vanilla
1/2 bag bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 275 deg F.

Slide your egg whites into a clean mixing bowl and whip on high until white and stiff peaks are forming. Sprinkle in the sugar while beating and continue beating until all the sugar is incorporated. Add in the vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form (lift the beater out of the mixture, and if the peak stays firm, you are done). Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Using two teaspoons drop about one teaspoon of batter at a time on a parchment lined baking sheet, spreading out the mixture with a spoon to flatten if desired. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are very slightly brown and then turn off the oven and let the meringues dry out in the oven for a couple of hours (or overnight if you can). Peel the meringues off the paper and store in an airtight container (if you can keep them that long.)