Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas Baking 2006
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I know I've been away a long time, but I want to wish all my ReTorte readers a very happy Christmas and a yummy new year. Here are some treats I made this year for your viewing pleasure.

Be safe everyone!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Macadamia Coconut Tart

Macadamia Coconut Tart
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Pardon the bad photograph!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I get a few foodie magazines. This recipe came from Gourmet, the most recent additon to my subscription collection. The other day, my sister-in-law said, "Do you ever use the recipes in these magazines?" I had to admit that I rarely did, and resolved there and then to start making some.

This tart is really decadent and sophisitcated. I took it last night to a dinner party at my younger brother's place, and it was a huge hit.

One caveat: the shell shrunk considerably during the baking process and I had to take out some of the filling right before putting it in the oven. I wound up with four mini-tarts made in muffin tins with the leftover pastry dough and filling. So be careful when filling the tart; you don't want it overfilled or you'll get a real mess. Bake it on a baking sheet, too, in case of overflow.

Macadamia Coconut Tart

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt
3 - 5 tbsp ice water

NOTE: the original recipe calls for 6 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp vegetable shortening. I used the above ingredients and it was fine - though I did have that shrinkage...

OK, this is really simple - if you have a food processor. Just pulse all the ingredients until you get a coarse meal-like consistency. Tablespoon by tablespoon, add the water until the mixture just comes together when pressed with your fingers. Remove from the processor bowl, knead once with the heal of your hand to distribute the fat evenly, then press into a 5" disc. Wrap with plasic wrap and refrigerate until chilled - about half an hour.

Alternately, if you don't have a food processor, whisk together the dry ingredients and cut the butter in with a pastry cutter unitl coarse meal is formed. Add water, a tbsp at a time, mixing with a fork, until it just comes together when pressed with your fingers. Continue as above.

Now you need to do something called "blind baking". This means you're going to bake the tart shell without its filling. So, roll out your dough to a 13" round. Gently place the dough in a 10" tart shell with removable bottom (these are cheap at any kitchen shop). Fit into the tart pan and prick the bottom all over with a fork (I neglected to do this - big mistake, trust me!). Chill until firm - again about 30 minutes (or stick it in the freezer to speed things up). Now place a sheet of foil over the tart shell and fill this with pie weights (I used raw rice; you can also use raw beans). Bake at 375F until sides are pale golden and firm. Remove the foil and pie weights. Continue to bake until deep golden brown. Leave oven on.

NOTE: I used an 11" tart pan and it shrunk about an inch in diameter and half an inch in depth, and like I said above, the filling didn't fit in when the time came. So just be wary of this because it may happen to you, too.

For the tart filling:
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 cups dry roased, roughly chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup flaked coconut (the recipe calls for sweetened; I used unsweetened and it was fine)

Whisk together the brown sugar and eggs. Add vanilla and salt until combined. Whisk in melted butter, nuts and coconut. Pour into tart shell and bake until set in centre - about 25 - 30 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chicken & Rice Dinner

Chicken & Rice Dinner
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I'm coooking dinner for the family at least once a week. Lately, I've had a hankering for cranberries and orange, for some strange reason. It's a fabulous flavour combination, and mixed with the saltiness of feta, this made for a tasty accompaniment to chicken. The rice is very simple, too, and the orange zest in it complimented the orange in the chicken. I served this meal with green beans (the only veg we can all agree on between us) and spaghetti squash for the two of us who eat it. Also, a nice green salad.

Chicken Stuffed with Feta Cheese, Cranberries, and Orange

4 bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed (you can use boneless, skinless, but they tend to be too small to adequately stuff, and the bone provides struture in this case, as well as keeping the meat juicy during cooking)
zest of one orange
freshly squeeze juice of half an orange
3 tbsp dried cranberries
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan (if you have the not-so-fresh kind, it'll be OK)
1/2 tsp dried basil

1. In a food processor fitted with blade, pulse together the feta, cranberries, zest and orange juice until a crumbly mixture forms, that sticks together when pressed with your fingers. Alternately, if you don't have a food processor, you can mash these ingredients together with a fork, but it'll be more crumbly.

2. In the thicker end of the chicken breast, slice a long slice lengthwise from one side to the other, creating a pocket. Divide stuffing in 4, and stuff each breast, gently pressing down the top so there isn't a gaping hole.

3. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and basil and put on a plate. Press crumb mixture onto chicken breasts and place the chicken breasts on a greased tray (I line with it foil and oil the foil...easy clean-up that way). Sprinkle the breasts with remaining crumb mixture.

4. Bake at 350F until done; about 35 - 40 minutes.

Basmati Rice with Orange and Olives

1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (I use Bovril packets)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of one orange
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Once it's boiled, turn the heat to low and let this sit - undisturbed - for 20 or so minutes. Stir. And voila.

Even serving this with just a simple salad would be perfect. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Maple-Pecan Layer Cake

Maple-Pecan Layer Cake

I have a membership in the Cooking Club of America. I was lured by a screaming deal on the fee and the fact that part of the membership included a subscription to the club's magazine, Cooking Pleasures. I like the magazine a lot; the recipes are good and there's always decent information in them. However, I have three other subsciptions - Canadian Living, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet, and of all four, Cooking Pleasures is the least bang for my buck. It's bi-monthly and just as much money as the others. So, when my membership is up in March, I'm going to let it lapse.

This recipe came from the most recent issue of Cooking Pleasures (I adapted the instructions somewhat). There was a whole section on pecans and the nuts happened to be on sale last week at Save-On Foods. It's a grea cake, and dense enough to be used for such things as tiered cakes, where the cake needs to be heavier to provide structure. I only have 8" cake pans, but this still worked well, even though the recipe calls for 9" pans.

Maple-Pecan Layer Cake

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup finely grated or ground pecans, toasted (I had whole pecans that I pulsed in the food processor and toasted them gently in a frying pan over medium heat)
2/3 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt, which worked)

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9" round cake pans and line with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy - 4 minutes or so. Add eggs one by one, then vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add the pecans and sour cream and stir until combined.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Fold gently into the butter/egg mixture and then divide the batter evenly between the pans.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

For the icing:

Beat the butter until fluffy and sift in the icing sugar. Add the maple syrup and beat until smooth and well-combined. Ice the cake and top with the chopped pecans. Serve and enjoy.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Halloween Cookies

Halloween Cookies
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I made these just now and they turned out pretty nicely, if I do say so myself.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda.

2. Add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn it out onto a well floured surface and knead once or twice just to bring all the ingredients together into a ball.

3. Again, flour your surface, and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to 1/2cm thickness, and cut with cookie cutters. Place a in inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 10 - 12 minutes, or until barely golden around the sides. Remove to wire racks to cool. Decorate.

Royal Icing

2 egg whites
approx. 2 cups icing sugar - more or less depending on size of whites and desired thickness of icing

In a bowl, whisk egg whites just a couple of times to relax them. Add the sugar gradually, whisking until smooth and blended (I didn't make this particular royal icing in the mixer because I didn't want to incorporate any air) and you get your desired consistency. You don't want it too stiff, but not too runny, either. Just a little thicker than runny honey - or else it'll be a pain to pipe your decorations. Divide and colour.

I used a parchment piping bag for these, but you can use a small piping bag fitted with a #1 or #2 tip.

Have fun!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Peabody tagged me for this. Thanks!

I am thinking about: what I'm going to have for dinner
I said: "I'll have a scoop of cookies n cream in a waffle cone" early this afternoon
I want to: make fancy cookies with my cool new leaf cookie cutters
I wish: I had more get up and go these days
I regret: working at that dreadful bakery this past spring
I hear: my sister-in-law decluttering the house
I am: feeling kinda cranky these days
I dance: never; I've always hated dancing
I sing: along frequently to whatever I'm listening too
I cry: more than I admit
I am not: patient
I am: a great bread-baker!
I write: frequently
I confuse: myself (sometimes)
I need: to practice piping techniques

I tag: tshsmom and Nancy Drew

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Muffins
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I got this recipe from Peabody. It's absolutely fabulous! Pumpkin is one of my favourite things to bake with because it's so versatile and you can combine it with a lot of flavours. Careful with your oven temperature here; white chocolate burns at a lower temperature than milk or dark chocolate.

The recipe can be found here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pizza Time

Aaaah...the power of advertising!

I saw an add for something having to do with Philly Cheesesteak on the TV. I can't remember if it was a pizza ad from Panago or a Subway ad or what, but all it did was induce a craving for Philly Cheesesteak. In that regard the ad was successful; unfortunatly, I was more compelled to make my own version than go out and purchase whatever was being advertised.

I knew we had a spare striploin kicking around, as well as onions and peppers. I went out and bought a second steak, cheese, and pizza sauce. I made my own crust. This was a very hearty pizza that fed four of us. And it was superb. Please take the time to caramelize the onions - it's worth the extra effort, trust me!

For the crust:

2 1/4 - 2 1/2 cups bread flour (or all purpose, if that's all you have on hand)
1 package quick yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup very warm water
2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine the flour yeast and salt. Add the water and oil, and stir to form a soft dough. Develop until smooth and elastic. Cover and let it rise until double in size - about 1 - 2 hours depending on room temperature.

Meanwhile, start the caramelization of the onions.

4 large onions, thinly sliced (I used a food processor)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Put the onions in large frying pan and sprinkle on the sugar and salt. Cover and turn the stove on to medium high. You want to sweat out the liquid from the onions, and the salt aids in that. Once there is a lot of liquid in the pan and the onions look like they're about to drown, take off the cover and reduce the heat to medium. You now are waiting for the water to evaporate, and this will take several mintues. After the water has evaporated, stir the onions frequently, not letting them sit too long in one place. Eventually, they'll turn a lovely caramel colour which should be uniform. This entire process took about half an hour, and I used a non-stick saute pan which worked wonderfully.

Meanwhile, slice very thinly one green pepper, and once the onions are done and removed to cool, start sauteing the pepper in the same pan.

As the peppers saute, you'll need to prep the steak. I used two steaks, one striploin and one sirloin tip that weighed approximately 600g. Slice thinly and put in a bowl with 2 tsp vegetable oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning and garlic powder to taste (I used a couple of tsp of Montreal Steak Spice and 1/2 tsp garlic powder). Or you can marinate your steak any way you want to, but at the very least make sure it's seasoned well with salt and pepper.

Saute the steak to medium in the same pan you did the onions and peppers in, once you've removed the peppers to let them cool. Don't overcook the steak since it's going in the oven soon.

Back to the dough now. Punch it down and roll out to a rectangle approximately 9x13" (alternately, the Fleischmann's recipe book from whence this recipe came says you will get two 12" rounds from this recipe). Place it onto a large sheetpan (12x18" is best and what I used) that has been lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread with pizza sauce and top with the onions, peppers, steak, and a mixture of grated mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, or a blend of your choice equalling about 3 cups.

Bake in a hot oven - 450F or so - for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden on top and the crust is browned underneath (use a spatula to gently lift the pizza to check its underside for doneness).

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Basic Hearth Loaf

Basic Hearth Loaf
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

A couple of years ago, before I left Crapters and went off to culinary school, I purchased Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. I am ashamed to say, that until very recently, I've never made a single recipe from it, though I did refer to it quite a bit in school because it contains a lot of very valuable information on breadbaking.

The recipes are far more sophisitcated that what's generally found in my trusty Fleischmann's recipe book, and most of the breads involve a starter of some sort, or a sponge or predough. For this reason, I've avoided using this cookbook because sponges, predoughs, starters of various kinds always struck me as far too finicky and time consuming. Though the recipes are well-written and very easy to follow, each bread recipe involves several pages, and for some reason, this didn't seem worth it to me. I just want to get baking a loaf of bread, crying out loud!

What a fool I was. This basic loaf is absolutely the most fantastic homemade bread I've ever encountered - in terms of both flavour and texture, and interestingly enough, longevity. It's worth the extra time and effort, and there's no going back.

Basic Hearth Loaf

Step One
for the sponge:

1 cup bread flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour or kamut flour
3/8 tsp quick or instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp honey
about 1 1/3 cups water, at room temperature (70-90F)

In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine these ingredients and whisk them for a couple of minutes to incorporate some air. It will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap.

Step Two
Flour mixture

1 3/4 cups + 2tbsp bread flour
1/2 tsp quick or instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine these ingredients (the original recipe says to omit the salt until the kneading stage, but I haven't done this and it still works out) and gently scoop them over the sponge mixture, covering the sponge mixture completely. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to ferment for 1 - 4 hours at room temperature. The sponge will eventually bubble up through the flour and this is fine.

Step Three
Mix the dough. This is where the original recipe says to add the salt, so if you're doing that way, this is the time. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer for this because the dough is sticky. You're looking to mix all the ingredients well and form a homogenous ball of dough. Again, here I depart again from the original recipe and start the kneading process here, whearas Beranbaum instructs you to let it rest for 20 minutes, then knead it. I don't know why, but I've had no problems doing it my way.

Step Four
Knead the dough. I do this on speed 4 of my mixer for about 5 - 8 minutes, depending. You can do it by hand, too. The dough should be very elastic and slightly sticky to the touch. If it's sticking to the bottom of the mixer bowl and gooey still, add more bread flour, a tablespoon at a time. If it's too dry, add water a few drops at a time.

Step Five
Allow the dough to rise. Place it in a bowl that has been greased or sprayed with cooking spray. Grease the top of the loaf and cover it with plastic wrap. Proof it till it's doubled in volume - anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending.

Step Six
Shape the dough, and let it rise again. Once more, you're looking for double the volume. Preheat the oven at this time to 450F.

Step Seven
Score and bake. I use a small serrated knife to score this but you can also use razor blades or any other sharp knife. I sprinkled some flour on top, and I baked this on a baking sheet lined with parchement that had some cormeal spread on it. Immediately after putting the bread in the oven, turn the heat down to 425F. The baking process should take about 25-30 minutes; be sure to turn the bread once for even browning. Beranbaum advises you to bake the bread with some ice cubes sizzling away in a pan beneath the loaf; you can do this but I find putting a pan underneath my bread blocks the heat and it tends not to brown on the bottom. If you have a spray bottle that has a fine mist, you can spray the bread as you put it in the oven; the steam created produces crunch, shine, and helps with colour.

Step Eight
Remove from the oven and cool. Transfer to a wire rack immediately.

So, this process took me about 3.5 - 4 hours total. A lot depends on what your room temperature is like, the humidity in the air and other factors, but most of the steps involve just leaving it for a time, so you can go and do other things. Trust me, if you can pull this loaf off, people will adore you and compliment you by saying your loaf looks like it's been purchased at an artisan bakery.

Questions? Comments? You know what to do.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Am a Winner (of sorts)

Go here to see my winning Rossland Fall Fair entries and read about the competition (such as it was).

The bread recipe will follow shortly. The carrot cake recipe can be found here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

More Breads

Yesterday I baked two loaves of bread. My dad had purchased breadmaking ingredients for me so I can make him homemade bread on request. He prefers bread with no white flour in it, though I have told him you get a nicer loaf with at least some white bread flour in it becasue whole wheat and other whole grain flours contain less gluten, which gives you a taller loaf. But, I aim to please. This first loaf is adapted from a Canadian Living recipe I clipped out a while ago.

Healthy Heart Bread

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp (or 1 package) quick yeast
2 cups very warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

Essentially, follow the breadbaking tutorial instructions. This makes a large loaf so it may not fit well into a regular-sized loaf pan, which is why I free-formed it instead. To do this, pound the dough, after it's rested, into a rectangle and roll it up jelly-roll style, tightly pinching the seam. Gently roll it back and forth to smooth it out and make it loaf-shaped. Score with a sharp knife after it's risen. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal.

It'll look something like this, give or take. I know this looks slightly like a torpedo, but really, that's artisan bread-making at home for you.

You can substitute the brown sugar for honey, if you wish. You can also add whole flaxseeds in addition to or instead of the meal. If using meal, however, make sure it's ground fresh or has been stored in the fridge after grinding. It has a short shelf-life after being ground, so don't use anything that looks or smells off, or hasn't been stored properly.

I also made this buttermilk bread recipe from my trusty Fleischmann's recipe book. My dad is also sponsoring my entering several categories of the local fall fair, which happens next week, so I used this recipe as a practice run. I was so pleased with how this loaf turned out! It's gorgeous, and it tastes fantastic!

Buttermilk Bread (makes two loaves; halving works well...I do it all the time)

5 - 5 1/2 cups bread flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 packages quick yeast
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (or milk soured with 2 tsp lemon juice)
1 cup water
1/3 cup butter, cut into small pieces

Buttermilk Bread

Again, directions in the breadbaking tutorial. I think I'll for sure make this for the fall fair. I also plan to enter carrot cake with cream cheese icing, truffles, and possibly some cookies. There are categories for pies, muffins, loaves, and cakes, but I'll have to see what kind of time and energy I have. Also, you can only enter one item per category, so I can't enter more than one loaf of bread. There isn't an artisan bread category, otherwise I'd enter it, but I am going to suggest there be one next year.

Anyhow, wish me luck and enjoy the breads!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pesto Bread

Pesto Bread
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I made this using half a recipe of the basic white loaf contained in the bread baking tutorial post, adding 3tbsp of Classico pesto with the liquid ingredients. Since there's been no sun today, I didn't rise this in the window, or in the oven for that matter. I let it have a long, slow rise at room temperature. This took just over an hour. Before putting it in the oven, I glazed it with milk. The loaf smelled completely amazing as it baked, and it tasted just as amazing when it was baked and cooled. Tomorrow, I might try making pecan feta bread since both are on hand here.

Blueberry Oat Flax Muffins

Blueberry Oat Flax Muffins
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Today was a great day for baking. It's been cool and rainy and that meant I could have the oven going all morning and not have to worry about heating the whole house up. This is the first of my three projects for the day.

I don't know where exactly I got this recipe from, but I made it growing up. I've added the flax and the lemon juice on my own. The batter is quite stiff - so don't expect lovely big caps - but the texture of the muffin is still tender. The flax add nutrients and crunch.

Blueberry Oat Flax Muffins

1 cup oatmeal
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup blueberries
2 tbsp flax seeds

1. In a small bowl, combine the oats and the buttermilk. (To sour milk, add 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes.)
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the butter, egg, and lemon juice to the oatmeal mixture and blend well.
3. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in the blueberries.
4. Fill muffin tins. Bake at 400F for 20 or so minutes, or until golden on top and a tester inserted comes out clean. It should yield 12.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Anadama Bread

Anadama Bread2
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I've been making a lot of bread lately. It's a cheap way of contributing to the household, it's theraputic, it's enjoyable, and I always get lots of compliments! This recipe came from my trusty Fleischmann's book, but there are lots of other recipes out there, and lots of stories about how this bread got its name. Here's a brief blurb containing some theories; another I've read has the bread originating in California during the gold rush. Whatever - this is a good, basic loaf.

Anadama Bread

3/4 to 1 cup very warm water
1 package quick yeast (2 1/4 tsp or 8g)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
3 tbsp molasses

Follow the basic instructions contained in my bread-baking tutorial post. Lately, I have been rising my bread in a sunny spot, either in the kitchen window or on the table in the back yard. In direct sunlight, the rising process hasn't taken more than 30-40 minutes. Just grease the top of the loaf and loosely cover it in plastic wrap beforehand.

This dough was dense. I used more than 1 cup of water - probably 2 - 3 tbsp more, and it could have used even more than that. But it turned out nicely and had a great crust.

As usual, let me know how it goes, and enjoy!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Peach Blueberry Crisp

Peach Blueberry Crisp
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Oh, it's been a while, I know. Too long. It's been a long, rough summer and it ain't over yet. I've done little baking and even less cooking, though it's been a summer of eating quite possibly the worst food I've ever had to suffer through. Six and a half weeks of hospital grub is not fun at all.

I have moved - again. I am not working, and won't be for a while. I've been trying to keep myself occupied and have been making lots of bread. This crisp is the first sweet thing I've made in such a long time.

Peaches are in season, as are blueberries. My dad made a trip to the Okanagan earlier on in the week to get canning ingredients for us and a stash of farm-fresh fruit and veg for himself. On Wednesday, I canned over 48 pints of salsa and 26 1L jars of dill pickles with carrots with both my brothers' girfriends. The salsa was amazing. Today, the peaches my dad brought us were on the overripe side, and my sister-in-law, Shan, had some locally grown frozen blueberries kicking around. I decided to make this simple dessert, pictured here with some sugar free ice cream.

Peach Blueberry Crisp

8 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar (the fruit was so ripe it didn't need a lot of sugar at all)
2 tbsp white flour


1 cup oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup butter or margarine, cold

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine the fruit with the sugar and spices, and lastly the flour. Put in the bottom of a 8" square pan that has been greased.

2. For the topping, combine all the dry ingredients with a whisk. Cut in the butter until you get a pea-sized consistency. Pour the crumble over the top and spread it out evenly. Don't press it down.

3. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until golden on top and the filling is bubbling at the sides. Might be a good idea to put the pan onto a baking sheet in case of any boil-overs. Let it cool slightly and serve - with ice cream is nice, but not 100% necessary.

If you make it and like it let me know. Enjoy!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Off Line

I won't be posting or visiting for a while: I am at "the spa". For details, please see my other blog.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pineapple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Never been a huge fan of carrot cake. It's always seemed a little...weird, I guess. I mean carrots? In a cake? How fun is that? But, despite my judgements, I am, if nothing else a dessert addict, so if it was all on offer I'd indulge. This week, I had a request from my roommate's sister, who wanted to serve this to guests. Because I'm not a fan of carrot cake, I don't have many recipes for it. When this lady asked me to make the cake, I really had to search for a recipe. I have one from school that has blueberries in it, but the recipe was too big and there aren't a lot of inexpensive blueberries kicking around right now. There's a carrot sponge in one of my professional books, but it was too big, too, and had ingredients in it I didn't have on hand. I eventually found this recipe in Anna Olson's Sugar.

A few words about Anna. Anna has a show on the Food Network entitled Sugar. It was upon watching an episode of this show while on holiday in Vancouver nearly three years ago (where the Food Network is on cable; in Ottawa we needed a cable box) that I discovered there was an occupation entitled "pastry chef." I knew there were bakers, but I'd never really heard of pastry chefs. I knew, upon seeing Anna on TV, that I wanted to be a pastry chef. A couple of days later, I went to hang out on Granville Island, and there I saw the culinary school I would graduate top of my class from a year and a half later.

Unfortunately, fame has changed Anna. I think she's sold out. You can now see her pimping Pilsbury products and Starbucks in ads appearing on the Food Network, particulalry around Christmas time. I noticed also she's lost weight, which she totally didn't need to do, and gotten a new hairdo - probably because of the ads. She now looks more like a sex kitten than the pastry chef I came to love.

This is a fabulous recipe. It's rich and moist, and the cream cheese icing is to die for. Don't substitute any other kind of syrup for the maple syrup; the lady I made this for, who was buying the ingredients, wanted to put pancake syrup in it to cut down on costs, but there's so much crap in pancake syrup, and the flavour would be totally different. This is a really easy recipe to put together, too, and if you have a bored someone or other at home, get him/her to grate the carrots for you.

Pineapple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated carrot (approximately 2 medium sized carrots, peeled)
1 cup pineapple diced or crushed, fresh or tinned (drained)

4 oz/125g cream cheese at room temperature (I used light, but you cannot use the fat free kind so don't bother trying; the amount is equivalent to half a brick)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake, preheat the oven to 325F and grease & flour an 8" square cake pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and ginger. Sift in the dry ingredients and blend well with whisk or wooden spoon, just be sure not to over mix. Mix in the carrots and pineapple. Pour into pan and bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Make sure you cool it completely before icing it.

For the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth./ Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread on top of cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.

How hard is that? Not very, and if you have carrot cake skeptics out there like me, I'm sure you can win them over with this recipe.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pumpkin, Orange & Raisin Muffins

I'm a huge fan of all things pumpkin (well, except soup). I am very grateful for good quality tinned pumpkin that is available year round. This is a great recipe I originally got from Canadian Living Magazine. These are fantastic with cheddar cheese, or all by themselves. The batter is thick, but don't worry; they bake up really nicely.

Pumpkin, Orange & Raisin Muffins

2 cups flour
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
1 egg
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree (not pie filling!) - this equals 1 can (398mL) pumpkin
2 tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice (I zested two large naval oranges and juiced them both, and this worked fine)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl, and add to the dry. Add raisins. Mix until it just comes together. Don't overmix.
3. Bake at 375F for 20 - 25 minutes, or until done.

This should yeild 12 muffins.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Bread
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I am a bread baking fiend.

The first thing we ever did in culinary school was learn how to make a starter, or, as the French say, levain. Starter is a mixture of flour, water and some sort of yeast that has fermented over a period of time. It's what makes sourdough bread sour. Now, there are lots of ways to make starter, from totally easy to quite time consuming and finicky. The starter we made at school was in between. What we did was take a potato and an onion and poke them full of holes with a fork or skewer. Then we put the potato and onion in the window sill for 48 hours. During this 48, the natural yeasts in the air collected on the veggies. After this 48 hours, we put the potato and onion - now looking quite yucky and black - in a bucket with 1kg bread flour, 1kg water, and one bottle of beer. We let this sit for 5 days or so and voila, you got a fermented yet pleasant-smelling, spongey, bubbly, gooey mixture we used to make most of our breads. Once a week or so, you feed it a smaller amount of flour and water, and whenever you used the starter to make bread, you had to replenish it with the amount you took out of it. There was no added yeast in this starter; it's cultivated right from the yeasts that naturally float around in the atmosphere, aided by the beer.

Now, that doesn't sound too hard, does it?

Well, I've never been able to make one on my own post-training. I have tried and tried, used different beers, different containers, all purpose flour, bread flour (always unbleached, of course). I've coaxed it, talked to it, sworn at it - and still no joy.

So, time to try a different method. I went for the super-easy, no fail, brainless starter recipe found in my trusty Fleischmann's cookbook.

2 cups flour
2 cups water
1 package or 2 1/4 tsp quick yeast

Mix the ingredients together until smooth. Cover tightly and let it ferment at room temperature for 2 - 4 days and Bob's your uncle. It will start to bubble and probably grow a bit, and it might darken and separate. This is natural. If it starts to smell moldy and goes an iffy colour, discard and start again. Mine turned kinda golden and did separate quite a bit. Just mix it up and on you go. Now to keep it alive, you have to feed it regularly (starter, I have discovered, is much like an ungrateful pet) with a small amount of flour and water, a few tablespoons of each. To replenish this one, add 1 1/3 cup water and 1 1/3 cups flour to it for each 1 1/2 cups you take out, and let it sit 12 - 24 hours. Store your starter in the refrigerator so it doesn't go wild, and make sure it comes to room temperature before you use it again.

No natural yeasts, no problem.

This is what it should look like:
Sourdough Starter
The bread recipe I used to make the sourdough also came from my Fleischmann's book.

Sourdough Bread

1 1/2 cups starter
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 package quick yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp
1 tsp salt
1 cup very warm water
egg for egg wash (optional)

Today I got my big toy out (i.e. my KitchenAid mixer) because this dough was stickier due to the starter and I didn't feel like getting my hands mucky. However you do it, be sure to use the guidelines from my bread baking tutorial post.

Now my loaves didn't turn out fantastically in terms of appearance. I'm having a difficult time scoring my bread at home for some reason, so these deflated quite a bit when I did score them, and as a result they're kinda flat-looking. But the flavour was great. This starter had a mild flavour. Some sourdoughs are rather vinegary, and maybe as my starter ages it will change in flavour.

If anyone cares to try the potato/onion starter and you succeed, please let me know so I can discover what I keep doing wrong.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? You know the drill.

Happy baking!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sundried Tomato Parmesan Bread

Sundried Tomato Parmesan Bread
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

You too can make beautiful artisan breads at home! I made this loaf this afternoon and baked it, as you can see, on my pizza stone (a Pampered Chef product). Most loaves I make at home I do in a pan, but I was in the mood to practice shaping a loaf free-form today, which was all we did in culinary school.

The recipe is a souped-up version of the white bread recipe in my Cordon Bleu Complete Cook book, an excellent resource for basic French cooking and baking using easy to find ingredients, and containing uncomplicated recipes that have well-written instructions. There is a great section at the end called "Chef's Techniques" that shows you step-by-step methods for many of the classical techniques. It's a big book that cost me $45 minus my 30% Crapters employee discount a few years ago, and I highly recommend it if you want to learn the basics. Great pictures, too.

Sundried Tomato Parmesan Bread

1 tbsp quick yeast
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups very warm water
1 tbsp sugar
4 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
6 oil packed sundried tomatoes, chopped finely
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
approx. 1 tbsp olive oil from the jar of oil packed sundried tomatoes
1 egg for egg wash

Basically, follow the directions from my Bread Baking Tutorial post, adding the cheese and sundried tomatoes with the dry ingredients.

Watch your water amount in this recipe; I needed far more than what was called for. Just make sure you have a nice, elastic, smooth,pliable dough. You don't want a dry, stiff dough or you'll get a dry, dense bread. Do make sure you proof and bake the bread with a pot of boiling water in the oven with the loaf; it makes all the difference. You don't have to use an egg wash, but it looks so nice. Don't worry about extra egg wash; it can be refrigerated for a week in an airtight container and used to make scrambled eggs for breakfast.

As far as shaping is concerned, you can do one of a few things. You can put this in a loaf pan and bake it that way. For the loaf pictured here, I rolled this into a tight ball and tapered off the ends. Or you can roll the dough into a rectangle with a rolling pin and make a tight sausage shape with it. You'd need a cookie sheet for baking it in this case. Whatever you do, make sure you bake the loaf seam side down.

The flavour of this loaf was impressive, as was the texture: soft but a bit chewy. Get creative: you can add herbs like basil and oregano, other types of cheeses like asiago or sharp cheddar, and things like olives or chopped artichokes. Sky's the limit, really.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Burger Buns

Burger Buns
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Currently between jobs, I'm trying to make as much stuff from scratch as possible, especially if I already have the ingredients on hand. I bought a box of chicken burgers on sale last weekend and didn't want to spend money on buns. So I got out my trusty Fleischmann's recipe book and found a recipe for hamburger buns. The method can be found on my Bread Baking Tutorial post.

As you can see, these turned out gorgeously. And they tasted great. Impress your friends and family at your next BBQ with these guys - you'll get rave reviews, I promise.

Burger Buns

- 1/2 cup water, very warm (120-130F/50-55C)
- 3/4 cup milk, same temperature as above
- 3 tbsp butter or margarine (melted in the above liquids)
- 2 packages (4 1/2tsp) quick yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 - 4 3/4 cups bread or all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs (two for the dough, one for egg wash)
- poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or dried minced onions for the top, optional

Follow the method on the bread baking tutorial, with the addition of the two eggs, beaten, after you've added the other liquids and incorporated them into the flour.

Divide the developed dough into 8 and form balls. Press the balls in to 4" (approx.) discs and place them on a shallow, rimmed baking sheet, either greased or lined with parchment paper. Proof (rise) in a warm location for 1/2 - 1 hour depending on the temperature of the environment, or until doubled in volume. Beat the remaining egg well and brush the buns gently with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with seeds or onions (optional) and bake at 400F for 10 - 15 minutes, or until done. Depan immediately and let cool on wire racks.


- It's important, as I found out the hard way, to use a greased or parchment lined baking sheet even if you have non-stick bakeware. The egg wash can cause the buns to stick to the pan and, as with me this afternoon, can cause problems when depanning the buns. I have come to think that non-stick bakeware is a bit of a scam. The only thing I've ever made successfully with my non-stick bakeware has been cookies - and that's because they're easy to slip a spatula underneath to ease them off the pans.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ginger Rhubarb Loaf

Ginger Rhubarb Loaf
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

In order to feel like I accomplished something yesterday, I decided to bake this. The day before, the neighbour came over with a the season's first rhubarb. I chopped it up and froze most of it, keeping a cup back for this loaf. I'd been craving something like pound cake, but I didn't have enough eggs on hand for that. After a search through all my recipes, I decided to go with the Cardamom Loaf recipe from about a year ago. You can find it here. A few simple substitutions, and voila.

The substitutions are as follows:

- instead of 2 tsp cardamom, I used 2 tsp ginger
- I added 1 cup finely chopped rhubarb. The rhubarb was in a freezer bag, and I added to it 2 additional tbsp of sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tbsp flour. You can can combined the rhubarb and these ingredients in a bowl, too. I would try to use fresh rhubarb rather than frozen because as frozen rhubarb thaws, it goes all mushy and loses its shape. Make sure the rhubarb is cut small; the bigger the pieces, the more risk you run of having raw spots in the loaf, because fruit gives off liquid as it bakes and that can impede proper baking.
- I found I needed an additional 1/3 cup of milk for some reason; play it by ear. You don't want too liquidy a batter, nor too stiff a batter.
- I baked this in a metal loaf pan in a convection oven at 325F, and it turned out fine. If you use a glass pan, decrease the temperature by 25 degrees or so. In a regular oven, you can bake this at 325F or 350F.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Trifle Made Easy

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Today my brother and his girlfriend are hosting a post-Easter pot luck dinner, and I got elected to bring dessert. I awoke with energy this morning. Yesterday I was thinking of bailing on the pot luck because I felt magnatized to my bed, but this morning I felt great and was super productive. I decided to give the pot luck a go, and decided that a trifle would be an easy thing to take to dinner.

My maternal grandmother made the most awesome trifle. She bought a jelly roll from the grocery store and sliced it, lined a trifle bowl with the slices, and then added liquid jello. She put this in the fridge overnight to set and then added a layer of custard (Bird's) and lastly a layer of whipped cream. It was quite heavenly. I made it for a Christmas dinner several years ago and it was a big hit.

Since then, I've discovered that the sky's the limit with trifle. Originally, it was designed to use up stale cake/pastry pieces. You added some fruit, custard, whipped cream, and Bob was your uncle. I prefer to use fresh ingredients, and have evolved beyond jello by using fresh berries.

A note about bowls, before we go much further. Obviously, since a trifle involves layers, you want to show those layers off in a glass bowl. I own a beautiful footed trifle bowl that makes a stunning presentation, but alas it is in Ottawa still, pending shipping when a friend of mine moves out west next month. If you can, get creative. There are some vases I've seen that would make stunning trifle bowls - again, the sky's the limit. The bowl in the above picture is a glass salad bowl. Use what you have on hand, and if you don't have a glass bowl don't worry. The trifle will speak for itself as it is consumed!

The Components

You'll need:

- 1 8" layer of sponge cake, cubed, of your choice (the recipe I use follows),or a few cups of cubed pound cake, or a few cups of angel food cake. Again, use your imagination and preferences as a guide. You need enough cubed sponge to line the bottom of your trifle bowl and make a thick layer. You don't want too thin a layer of sponge because this is the base. I'd say, on average, depending on the size of your bowl, the bottom sponge layer should be about a quarter of the bowl.
- 1 box Jello vanilla pudding, yielding approx. 2 cups. Yes, this might seem like cheating to you, but let me tell you, this tastes way, way better than Bird's custard and it's way cheaper and far quicker and easier than making a homemade pastry cream.
- Fresh berries of your choice, or a medly of berries. Two cups minimum, again depending on the size of your trifle bowl, and more if you wish to garnish the top of your trifle with the berries. This trifle I just made used one pound of strawberries.
- 1 cup whipped cream, minimum (again, this is dependent upon your bowl) sweetened, whipped to soft peaks
- chocolate shavings, or other suitable garnish - get creative. I used a chocolate bunny left over from Easter and took my vegetable peeler to it to get the shavings.


Once you've put your sponge in the bottom of your bowl, you may wish to sprinkle it with some sort of booze. Sherry is traditional. You don't have to, especially if you have a nice moist cake. If you're using something day old or that's been in the freezer a while, you may want to hydrate the sponge with some type of booze or simple syrup (a 50/50 combination of water and sugar, brought to a boil for a few minutes, then cooled - a staple in the pastry kitchen let me tell you), or even a fruit syrup from tinned fruit.

Make up the pudding and whisk it until thoroughly combined. Pour over the sponge. Put the berries in next.

Again, depending on the size of your bowl, you can either add another, thinner, layer of cubed sponge or just proceed to the whipped cream stage. In the trife I just made, I added a second layer of sponge because I could.

Spread your whipped cream smooth on top of the trifle, and garnish as you want. You can do whatever you want on the top, really. You can pipe whipped cream if you're feeling adventurous and have the equipment, or you can do a fruit arrangement as I did.

Simple, eh?

The Sponge

This recipe came from the Dieticians of Canada cookbook, and is called Lazy Daizy Cake. It's an excellent recipe and is very versatile.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
- beat until light and fluffy

1 cup flour
pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
- combine

1/2 cup milk, scalded
2 tsp butter, melted in the milk

Add the flour and milk in alternate additions, with three of flour and two of milk. Combine until just mixed.

Pour batter into prepared 8" round or square cake pan. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes, or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely.


Enjoy the trifle, and enjoy the compliments you'll get when serving it!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Thai Chicken Curry Soup

Chicken Stock
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I've been feeling super crappy lately. For more details, see my Wandering Coyote blog. I felt like some comfort food, and I had the energy to be creative. I also had on hand some pantry items I wanted to use up. So, I made this soup.

I usually make my own chicken stock. This one was made using a chicken carcass from a while back that I'd frozen. I usually save a leg or two and the wings so there's enough meat in the soup, but in this case, I added two chicken thighs since the people that helped me eat the roasted chicken also consumed both legs and one wing. Well, I would have been a poor hostess to refuse them, wouldn't I?

I used the method outlined in this post, only with a carcass as opposed to actual cuts of meat, you should simmer the stock much longer to get the maximum amount of flavour. In this case, it was 41/2 hours. I used, as aromatics: 2 small leeks, 2 small carrots (unpeeled but washed), several cloves of whole garlic, two quarter sections of a lemon (I knew this soup would be Thai-inspired, so I used the lemons instead of lemongrass), a bunch of whole peppercorns, and 2 quarter-sized rounds of ginger. Later on in the cooking process, I added 2 chicken thighs and a handful of cilantro - whole, not cut up and with stems. I added salt to taste, and voila.

Thai Chicken Curry Soup

The above made about 4 cups of stock, and that's what you'll need for this recipe. In addition (if this looks like deja vu to some of you, you're not crazy; similar ingredients are found in my Thai curry recipe from nearly a year ago):

- 1 can coconut milk (398mL)
- about 3-4 cups of veggies of your choice; I used cauliflower cut up small, 2 julienned carrots, 10 large mushrooms, sliced, and a can of whole baby corn, quartered
- 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste, or to taste (you can substitute other curry pastes)
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 - 3 tbsp sugar, or to taste (add it in 1 tsp at a time so you can adjust it easily)
- 1/3 cup rice
- 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1 cup chopped cilantro

Once I'd taken the meat of the chicken bones and strained my stock, I added the rice and brought it to a boil. I added the chicken and turned the heat down to a low simmer. I added the veg all at once with the ginger. Then I mixed the curry paste, fish sauce, and sugar together and added it to the soup, followed by the garlic. I added the coconut milk last. Then I added about a cup of chopped cilantro. I had to add sugar to it to balance out the flavour.

The smell alone was like an elixir from the heavens! It tasted awesome and looks just lovely, too. I am going to put it in containers to freeze and keep a bit out for lunches this week.

I'm glad I took the time to do this today. Creating a delicious new recipe was just what my weary soul needed.

Thai Chicken Curry Soup
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

I haven't been well lately and haven't been eating well. My roommate has been cooking for me and I've been feeling guilty about it. So last night I felt like I had the energy and desire to cook a proper meal, and I made this great recipe, which originally came from Cook Great Food by the Dieticians of Canada. This is a great cookbook full of healthy recipes and lots of ideas. My wasband got custody of the book, but luckily I remembered this recipe because I made it so often. I used this cookbook lots, so if you have a chance, check it out.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

1 can clams, drained and nectar reserved
1 small can (154mL I believe) evaporated milk
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup white wine (if you don't do booze, non-alcoholic wine works as does chicken stock - just use a little less because the wine reduces and the other fluids don't)
2 tbsp flour
freshly crushed garlic to taste (I used 4 smaller cloves)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
linguine, or other long pasta

1. Get the pasta going. The sauce will cook in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

2. In a large skillet, saute the onions in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until they've reduced in size. Deglaze the skillet with the wine and let it bubble away until the wine reduces by half. Reduce the heat to medium low. At this point, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and mix it in well. Then add the clam nectar, clams, and the evaporated milk. Add the garlic. Simmer gently for a few minutes and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Apple Rhubarb Crisp

Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I know crisps are traditionally fall fare when apples are plentiful, and I know that rhubarb is not quite in season, but I made this today because Granny Smiths (the best baking apple ever) were on sale, my roommate, J, had rhubarb in the freezer, and I wanted to make a dessert to compliment J's roast chicken dinner.

Funny story about the rhubarb. It came from the neighbour's plant last year. J took some to a coworker who claimed it was the best rhubarb she'd ever tasted. When the coworker asked the rhubarb plant's owner if she could have a cutting of the plant to grow in her own garden, the lady said no way. It's a weed, right?

Speaking of which, we had a huge rhubarb plant in our back yard when growing up. I mean huge. My mom made rhubarb everything when we were kids, and it took a while for it to grow on me. My brother, on the other hand, hated the stuff. One spring, my dad and brother were out doing yardwork and my dad entrusted my brother with the weed killer to eliminate some pesky dandilions etc. Well, my brother went to town with the weed killer and sprayed it on the rhubarb plant. We had no rhubarb that year and my mom was pissed off. But it came back the next year! And, I hate to say it, we ate that rhubarb. I shudder to think what chemicals were floating around my body afterwards, and hope I don't get any cancer as a result!

So here's what I did this afternoon.

Apple Rhubarb Crisp

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled & sliced
approximately 3 cups chopped rhubarb
4 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp ground ginger (or to taste)
2 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)


I cup oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
cinnamon & ginger to taste
1/3 - 1/2 cup butter

Combine rhubarb & apples in a bowl. Add the cornstarch sugar and spices. Toss to coat thorougly. Chuck in a large casserole that has been well-oiled.

For the topping, combine the oats, flour and sugar. Add the spices. Cut the butter into in the mixture either with a pastry cutter or by rubbing the butter into the mixture with your hands. It should be crumbly and just hold together when squeezed. Sprinkle on top of the fruit and pat down gently.

Bake at 375F for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the thickness of your apple slices and the depth of your casserole dish. You know it's done when it's bubbly and when you spear it with a sharp knife, the apples are tender.

Vanilla ice cream is a wonderful accompaniment, as is just straight whipping cream poured over the top. My mom used to serve this with evaporated milk poured over it.

My mom always claimed that by adding ginger to rhubarb it eliminated the feeling that you're teeth were sticking together, a sensation she claimed she had when eating rhubarb without ginger. I don't know about this. I've eaten rhubarb without ginger before and didn't have this experience. But they are a good combination nonetheless.

Rhubarb is quite tart, so don't skimp on the sugar. Taste the mixture after you've added the sugar to make sure it's sweet enough for you. Don't eat the raw rhubarb, but there should be some juices in the mixture at this point, so taste that.

We make strawberry rhubarb pies at work, and you can make a strawberry rhubarb crisp, too. Both fruit will be plentiful this summer.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


One of my goals for this year was to pay more attention to this blog and try to get more traffic on it. It hasn't happened. Let me fill you in, if anyone's still reading this.

I left a job in the interior and moved to Victoria near the middle of February. I did an intensive job search here and was hired on as a pastry apprentice at a bakery. I had to also find a place to live in a matter of a couple of days at the end of February and for a while it was really iffy. I did get a place - a great place - at the eleventh hour. I started my new job March 2 and moved in the night before. It's been a very steep learning curve with early mornings and long hours, necessitating early nights and less time online.

If you want to read about my pastry apprenticeship adventures, you can to so at my Wandering Coyote site. I just posted a couple of pictures of my humble creations there. I might start a new blog just to write about my apprenticeship journey, but I'm not sure I can handle a third blog, especially after I've neglected this on so long. We'll see.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cantonese Fish & Vegetable Soup

Well, I'm off on another cliff jumping adventure starting tomorrow, so I won't be posting here for a while. I'm moving to Victoria, BC, on Saturday and will hopefully find work there soon after. Actually, I'm looking for a pastry apprenticeship, so I have lots of pavement pounding ahead of me, and lots of talking myself up - both things I dread but both are necessary if I'm ever going to get anywhere. You can read about my adventures on my Wandering Coyote site.

This recipe comes from one of my Moosewood cookbooks. I've made this soup quite a bit and it's very flavourful and easy to make. Cod filets are best because they retain their shape, but if you can't get them or they're too expensive for you, halibut or another firm-fleshed white fish will work just as well. I know it's a little late for Chinese New Year, but you don't need a special occasion to make this.

Cantonese Fish & Vegetable Soup

5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (or use more or less to your taste - the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned)
1 tbsp freshly grated gingerroot
2 tbsp veg. oil
1 large carrot, julienned
4 cups water
1 1/2 lbs cod filets, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
3 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3tbsp water
1 red pepper, diced

1. Soften the mushrooms in the boiling water; discard stems & slice the mushroom caps. Reserve the liquid.
2. In soup pot or dutch oven, saute onions, garlic, carrots, and ginger until soft & fragrant. Add the four cups of water, mushrooms & soaking liquid. Bring to boil. Add fish.
3. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and dissolved cornstarch. Add to the broth with the diced pepper. Simmer until thickened and serve.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chicken Soup

So I had to eat something today other than the four Timbits I pilfered from the accountant's desk this morning. I'm still feeling ill, so I decided to make myself some soup. I did this completely from scratch. I had a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts thawed out and decided to make a quick stock with them. Here's what I did.

I put the chicken breasts in a dutch oven and covered them with water. I added salt, peppercorns, five cloves of garlic, one quaretered onion, a carrot cut in chunks, and a quartered lemon. Yes! I admit it! I was in the mood for lemon! Again! I covered the pot and brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for about an hour. The chicken totally cooked by then. Here's what the happy mixture looked like, bubbling away on my stove:

It's important at this stage to adjust your seasonings. I found I had to add about a teaspoon of sugar to cut the sourness of the lemon, and I had to add a bit more salt. But after an hour, the stock tasted pretty good. I took out the chicken breasts and strained the stock through a fine sieve. I cut the chicken meat from the bone and added it back to the stock. I also kept the garlic cloves and cut them up for the broth; I love how mellow garlic becomes once cooked gently like this. I brought it all to a boil once more and threw in about 1/4 cup of parboiled rice (as a rule I don't use parboiled, but I had some kicking around from my work's kitchen and it has less starch in it so it worked well). I added more garlic, freshly pressed, and after about 20 minutes, I had soup.

Usually, when making stock, I simmer the bones and aromatics for the better part of the day. This was a super-quick version that turned out well. All I needed was something quick and soothing on a wintry, yucky day, and this hit the spot. I'm sure over the next couple of days the flavours will meld a bit more.

You cannot beat homemade soup. I rarely eat anything canned these days because the sodium content is way too high for my palate. And it doesn't take forever or an advanced degree. It just takes a little imagination and a little patience.

FYI, here is another fabulous chicken soup recipe, though a little heavier and probably not suitable for someone with the flu.

Happy Blogiversary

ReTorte is officially one year old.

I am currently sick, both physically and in the heart, so I'm not going to post a recipe or anything to mark this event because I can barely tolerate the sight of food right now. I will give a brief speech instead.

Thank you to all my regular readers - for your comments, your insights, your stories, and your recipes. You have made ReTorte the fun experience it has been for me over the last 12 months. I hope to update more regularly and use more of my own photos in the future, because sharing what I do in my own kitchen through word and picture is a great joy for me.

Food, cooking, and baking are integral to my journey through life and are a huge part of the fabric of my life. Food is meant to be shared, and blogging allows me to share both the journey and the food with you. And I guarantee you, there will be more, and enough for everyone.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Apple Crisp Cheesecake

Time for another cheesecake recipe. I am a cheesecake freak, and in all honesty, it's really one of the easiest desserts to make. You just have to follow a few guidelines, which I posted previously here. This recipe is spectacular, I must say. It's great as a fall dessert, for obvious reasons, but it's great all year round. I find the best results are with Granny Smiths because of their tartness and they keep their shape when baked, but Golden Delicious also work very well.

Apple Crisp Cheesecake

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup quick oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted

- combine these ingredients and press into a 10" springform pan, building the crust 1 1/2" up the sides of the pan. Chill.

1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter

- combine in a small bowl until crumbly and set aside

3 packages (250g each) cream cheese (light would probably work but DO NOT use fat free), at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sour cream (again, light would probably work but DO NOT use fat free)
4 eggs
1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 small apples, sliced and peeled

- beat cream cheese, brown sugar, and sour cream in a large bowl on medium speed until well creamed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Ad spices and combine. Pour into crust. Spread apples over filling. Sprinkle on the topping.
- bake at 325F for 65 - 70 minutes, or until soft set in the centre. Immediately run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. Chill overnight, or at least for a few hours.

See? Easy and spectacular. Serve with a caramel or butterscotch sauce. This cake also freezes well, if you want to make it in advance, and it should yield 16 servings. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tania's Tag: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Me

Tania over at The Candied Quince tagged me for this meme. I feel a little challenged by it, but here goes nothing. I'm going to keep with a food theme, here.

1. Foods I cannot stand, and in fact, make me gag: black licorice, peas, offal, squash (but love spaghetti squash), capers, roe, beef cheek.
2. My first kitchen job was as a dishwasher/server at the University of Victoria Housing, Food, and Conference Services. The pot scrubbing shift I did once a week for a year was to date the highest paying job I've ever had.
3. In the past 10 years, I have eaten at McDonald's a grand total of two whole times.
4. I won't touch fat free yogurt with a 10-foot pole. The texture is just gross.
5. I love to put engevita yeast on my popcorn. I got onto this at UVic, where at their theatre, they had a shaker of it at the concession stand.
6. I won two prizes for cake decoration when I was in elementary school. One was at Rossland's fall fair, where I submitted a cake in the shape of a cat that my mom help me make from a picture in her Betty Crocker cookbook. The other was for a fundraiser that my Brownie troup participated in. The cake was a winter theme with white icing, and I made snowmen out of marshmallows, toothpicks, and food colouring.
7. I have abnormally low cholesterol, so I don't skimp on eggs or butter or full fat sour cream.
8. I have a large cup of homemade cocoa every morning before breakfast, the way many people have a large cup of coffee before they do anything in the morning.
9. My first attempt at breadbaking was a crack at English muffins, supervised by my mother. They were a total disaster, but hey, I was 12.
10. My favourite herb to cook with is cilantro.

That was kinda fun! Thanks Tania, and I don't want to tag anyone in particular, but if one of my readers wants to take up the baton, go right ahead. Just let me know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bread Baking Tutorial

I made so much bread in school it wasn't even funny. I got extremely sick of it, yet the good thing about making so much of it so often (we made 9 batches of croissant dough daily, a dozen loaves of bread daily, baguettes and epis almost daily, and several dozen buns daily - and I'm sure I'm missing something! Oh yeah, a dozen large cinnamon buns made from brioche dough daily) is that whipping up a batch of bread for my single self is no big deal at all. It's easier for me than tromping off to the store in the snow and cold. That, and I find making bread, in small quantity and by hand, quite a theraputic and satisfying task. I'm tactile; I like the feel of kneading dough by hand.

The school recipes for bread used a starter we made from a potato and an onion, a bottle of beer, and flour and water. I haven't made my own starter because I'm moving soon and don't want to go to the trouble. That, and starter, once you get it going, can be rather like a pet: it needs regular food, water, and TLC. Only it ain't cuddly and it doesn't purr.

Bread involves very simple ingredients: water, flour, salt, sugar, yeast. Sometimes you can use milk instead of water, which adds flavour and nutritional value. Salt is always necessary in breadmaking because not only does it add flavour, but it inhibits the yeast growth so your bread doesn't go crazy in the proofing (i.e. rising stage). Sugar is also necessary, because it feeds the yeast; some recipes don't require it, but follow the recipe. Other sweeteners can be used, too, like honey or molasses. All purpose flour is just fine, but if you can get yourself some good bread flour, you'll get an even better result because there's a higher gluten content in bread flour, and gluten is what makes your dough elastic and your bread rise higher.

Here is a recipe I've used that has given me good results. It's from the Fleishmann's Best Ever Breads recipe book that my mom gave me a few years ago, when she taught me how to make bread for the first time. For more tips and details, this is a great site.

Basic White Bread (yield = 2 loaves)

5 - 5 1/2 cups white flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 packages quick yeast (8g each, or 1 package = 2 1/4 tsp)
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
1 - 2 tbsp butter or margarine

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Heat the water and milk and 1 tbsp of the butter to very warm. Gradually add it to the flour mixture to form a soft dough. You don't want it to be too sticky, nor do you want it to be too stiff. Depending on the humidity of your surroundings, you may need to add liquid (or reduce the flour) or add some flour. Sometimes you won't need the full five cups of flour, sometimes you might need the full 5 1/2. That's part of breadmaking and it may never be the same way twice.

Now, I have a Kitchen Aid mixer and I do this first part, and some of the kneading, in it. I don't want to overwork the motor, even though it's got high wattage, so after the ingredients are combined, I develop the dough for a while on a higher speed, then finish it off by hand. If you don't have the luxury of a stand mixer, kneading the dough by hand until it's smooth and elastic might take you 8 or so minutes.

Once the dough is developed, let it rest a few minutes while you clean up, then shape it or put it in a loaf pan and allow it to rise. I do this in the oven with the light turned on and a pan of boiling water in the rack below. I turn the oven on to warm for a few minutes, then turn it off, leaving the light on. Also, brush some melted butter over the exposed parts of the dough to keep it from drying out. Once the dough is doubled in size, preheat your oven (removing the dough if you're rising it in there!) to 400F. High heat gives your bread the extra bit of push from the yeast before the yeast completely dies off. You can score your loaf if you wish, with a sharp knife or razor blade. Put your bread in the oven with a pan of boiling water and bake until golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

This is an excellent site that gives detailed instructions for the steps above.

Commercial bread ovens like the one I used in school have a steam injection function. Steam helps give the crust crunch and shine, and helps the dough retain its moisture. You won't get as much from the pan of water in the oven, but it's worth the extra bit of effort, in my opinion.

There are millions of bread recipes out there. Let me know how this one works out, or if you have any others you've had good results with that you'd like to share.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lemon Delicious

Lemon Delicious
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Sorry for the unexciting photo...

If you haven't discovered by now that I'm a fan of using citrus in my desserts, I'm sure that'll come across quite clearly in little time. It's just something I'm drawn to because the flavours are so compelling for me. And the possibilities seem endless because citrus is so versatile.

I made this recipe last night. I was going to take the grapefruit sorbet to the dinner I was invited to, but I wanted something warm instead. My mom made a version of this but I don't have the recipe. After a brief search through my rather large cookbook collection, I found this recipe in Complete Cook by Le Cordon Bleu. If you have a bit of money to invest (I paid $45 for this a few years ago) this is actully a pretty good cookbook that covers the basics of French cooking and patisserie with very accessible recipes, ingredients, and methods. I used it as a reference in school quite a bit, since I wasn't fan of the texts we had.

This recipe can be served warm or cold. It has a light souffle-like layer on the top and a lemon sauce on the bottom. It serves four.

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup milk
icing sugar for dusting, if desired

- 350F oven, greased 8" square pan or small casserole

1. Beat the butter to soften it, using and electric mixer. Beat in the sugar until light and creamy, then add the zest and egg yolks until well blended. Gently fold in the flour, followed by the lemon juice.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until tepid, then fold it into the lemon mixture. Make sure the milk is barely warm - if it's too hot the flour and yolks may cook and the mixture will be too heavy.
3. In a large, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Gently fold this into the lemon mixture, careful to not lose any volume.
4. Bake in a water bath for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the top is pale golden and firm to the light touch.

I added a couple more tablespoons of lemon juice because I didn't think it was lemony enough originally. Taste it before you bake it to make sure you think the flavour is right.

Grapefruit Sorbet

Grapefruit Sorbet 1
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Yep, yet another citrus recipe!

I was in the mood for some sort of dessert that used ingredients I had on had and that was fat free. Although this recipe contains lots of sugar, I felt better about eating it than I would have some ice cream. But now I wonder if grapefruit ice cream might be the next thing I try, because grapefruit is one of my favourite fruits (right up there with fresh pineapple).

I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker, which I got a few years back on sale at Sears for about $80. It's probably the best $80 I've ever spent because I get a lot of joy from this little machine. It's easy to use, quick, and it incorporates the perfect amount of air into the ice cream or whatever to get a light consistency. And I feel better eating homemade ice cream than store bought stuff, because the commercial ones have all kinds of chemicals and fillers in them that are not good for you.

My basic ice cream recipe is here. This sorbet recipe came from the recipe book that came with the ice cream maker. I added the vodka as my own touch.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 oz vodka (I used Smirnoff's orange flavoured one)

1. The day before you want your sorbet, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Let it boil for a couple of minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved and you have a perfectly clear syrup (we call this simple syrup in the pastry world and we use it for all kinds of things). Remove from heat and let it cool. Put it in the fridge overnight so it's completely cold for using the next day. This is crucial if you're using this particular ice cream maker because the drum has a freezing liquid in it that will melt if you put warm liquid into it.
2. Zest the grapefruit and sqeeze the juice into the sugar syrup and mix well to combine.
3. Throw into your ice cream maker. Add the vodka near the end when the sorbet is almost done in the machine - alcohol affects freezing. In the Cuisinart machine, the whole process took just under half an hour.
4. Scoop into a container and freeze until firm.

We made sorbet in school, but we were taught to use a densitometer or sugar thermometer to measure the density of the sugar syrup. I cannot remember what it had to be, and the chef instructor I had in the advanced kitchen had to admit that this device is hard to find these days. But this method of using a simple syrup of 50/50 worked fine and it froze well.

This is more summery, but if you need a fat free sugar fix, it works in January just as well as it would in July. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Steak & Kidney Pie

Steak & Kidney Pie
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

To be honest with you, I'm only posting this because the pie looks so nice. I detest steak and kidney pie, and I didn't actually make the filling for this myself - someone associated with my work did. This has been my dad's traditional birthday dinner for as long as I can remember, and none of us ate it as kids because we just thought it was beyond gross. Currently, my brother will partake in a piece now, but my other brother and I cannot. When I served this pie to my dad, the smell nearly knocked me over.

When I was growing up and before my parents split up, my mom used to make this for my dad every year. She got a piece of steak from the butcher and a fresh kidney. One of my main memories from around Christmas time is going into the kitchen and seeing the kidney soaking away in the dishpan, oozing red fluids. It was enough to make me gag.

The pastry I made for this recipe came from the shortening box - nothing fancy at all. I glazed it with an egg wash, which gives it a golden brown colour upon baking.

Dad's Cake

Dad's Cake
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I made this cake for my dad's 60th birthday, which was Christmas Eve. I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe and iced this with an Irish Cream icing. The decoration was done with that same icing with the addition of some cocoa powder. I don't like piping writing with icing; I much prefer to use melted chocolate because it's much easier to pipe. But, we live and learn. It was superb finish to the steak and kidney pie meal, and my dad was thrilled. And that's all that mattered.


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