Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Blob

... A completely unrelated photo, of candied oranges I made but didn't get around to finishing (dipping in chocolate..) or gifting. And now after three weeks of nog, irish cream, cookies, Callebaut, and pie, I couldn't possibly eat one of these little sugar delivery vehicles. Ah well.

Best xmas present evar.. a jar of 50 year old sourdough starter. It is oddly satisfying to have a blob in the fridge that must be fed, and returns the favour by producing amazing bread.

Also, sourdough is better for you than conventionally yeasted breads. Sourdough culture creates lactic acid, which breaks down the proteins in the dough and results in a lower glycemic index, better absorption of minerals, and easier digestion for people sensitive to gluten. If some of the lactic acid makes it through the baking process, it also supports lactobacillus growth in the intestine. Optimum mineral absorption is especially important for vegetarians.

Incidentally, I have been trying to increase my iron intake lately, and have found a most agreeable form; blackstrap molasses. I stir one tablespoon into my morning cocoa and get 4.5mg of iron; as much as one gets from eating a steak! The cow-free form is pretty tasty; sort of gingerbread-latte-esque. Yes, I did just use a Starbucks drink as an attributive adjective.

So far I have made biscuits and blueberry muffins with the sourdough starter. The muffins were really nice because the sweetness mostly came from the berries instead of the usual half cup o' sugar in muffin recipes.

Currently I am using Sunny Boy 100% Whole Wheat flour. It's local and well priced. As I couldn't get my hands on the all purpose flour, I bought the whole wheat and sifted it to remove the bran. I find this almost easier than buying and storing two kinds of flour. I've been using the wheat bran in a recipe that has been a recent revelation; galettes. Apparently this term has multiple meanings (it is often used in reference to french style hand pies), but it also refers to a whole germ pancake, which I read is a popular breakfast for french women. All I know is that they are really tasty, and a great way to balance out my recent interest in eating large amounts of flour (not the best for digestion, or for blood sugar levels, which tend to spike and crash on white flour). All things in moderation, etc. etc. I eat these with more yogurt and a bit of jam on top.

Flour-free galette:

1 T. wheat bran
2 T. oat bran
1 egg
1 T. of yogurt

Mix and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Fry like a pancake in a bit of oil or butter.

Actually the sourdough gift is tied with a new Le Creuset dutch oven I can use to make no knead bread and other delicious things. A canny move on my husband's part, as he will be the main beneficiary...

Plans for the new year:

Learning how to make kraut and kimchi, with the help of Wild Fermenation.

Building a solar dehydrator in the summertime.

Making chevre from scratch.

Creating a food garden from the ground up!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


'Tis the cheese season. So good but I am almost at the point where enough is enough. Several parties and gifts have resulted in at least three rounds of brie in the fridge. How much double creme brie can one person consume in a week? I am boldly determined to find out.

I plan to foist some on family over the next few days, in the form of brie en croute. Having consulted the fine culinary advice of the pillsbury puff pastry dough box (don't even think about judging me, even I am not insane enough to make puff pastry from scratch.. ), I'm going for a braid. See the pic for an idea of what that looks like. You simply slice up the cheese and walnuts, caramalised onions or whatever you decide to add, and braid it in. This results in a much more edible version of brie en croute. I have tried the other version, where one wraps a whole cheese round in puff pastry. Tastes just as good, and looks rather impressive, but it tends to result in a pool of inedible cheese and pastry flakes about half way through. It just isn't right to waste good brie.

Other holiday food plans - my contribution to the family Christmas potluck will be a nut roast for the non-meatatarians in the crowd. I wish there was a better name for this, as it sounds dull and strange. But it is actually delish and I don't miss the turkey when it is on the table. I'm also bringing along homemade cranberry sauce, as my love affair with cranberries continues this season. The recipe is called "Cranberry Sauce with Spirit", and includes 1/2 a cup of port. Most things are improved upon with the addition of booze, no?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Success! Sort of.

This evening I made Clementine Curd.. it's so funny making these things from scratch.. I remember my trauma at figuring out that mayo is essentially whipped oil. Gross. Well, most fruit curd recipes call for a POUND of sugar and a CUP of butter. Eep.

Technically you can preserve citrus curd with a water bath canning method, and keep in on the shelf for three months, but that seems like too much responsibility on myself and gift recipients, given the heightened risk of spoilage. Most curd recipes not meant for canning say you can keep in in the fridge for three months or in the freezer for up to a year. That's more like it..

It was a time intensive recipe, and involved half an hour of stirring the pot at the stove. Next time I will be sure to have a thermometer on hand, as it was hard to tell if it was thick enough. Right now it's in the fridge setting, fingers crossed.

Also in the photo; macaroons I made with the left over egg whites. A google of 'what to do with extra egg whites' took me to David Lebovitz's recipe. It was easy and very tasty (hard not to eat the dough before it got on the baking tray..) but I managed to burn them despite following directions. I suspect my oven is out of whack, I'll have to check on that. Luckily I only baked half of the dough up, you can freeze it for up to two months. Not that it will last that long. Also lucky; because they are burnt on the bottom we will be forced to eat them all and not give any away.

I also made some cranberry juice this week; it's great with sparkling water. I'm loving cranberries these days. The acidity of the berries feels very tonifying, at a time when everyone's immune systems are low. I stewed some up with as little sweetener as I could get away with and have been eating it on rye toast with chevre. Amazing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Warming up the house

We had a house warming this weekend, it was a great day. We received a card with a saying that we had already put up on the wall; "May your house be too small to hold all of your friends". That sums up my household philosophy, pretty much.

For the open house I made Raincoast Crisps a la Julie Van Rosendal. They were almost identical to the ones that are $8.99 (!) a box. The recipe makes the equivalent of about four boxes, and probably cost around $10 to make. Also, it wasn't as fussy as you might think; I think it took 20 minutes of actual work, not counting the time it was in the oven.

I also made Wonton Cups with Cream Cheese and Chutney. I used my dad's homemade apricot chutney, and Cranberry Mustard I made this week instead of the recommended Dijon. Very more-ish. The wonton cups were surprisingly easy to make also, and have a great crunch and lightness. I have wonton wrappers left over and think I'll make Wonton Crackers with the rest.

The mustard is the only canning I've done this year, because of the move and lack of time. It was a great recipe because it only makes three half pints; one thing I have learned is the importance of small batches unless you are putting away huge amounts of food from the garden. We are still trying to eat our way through preserves from 2008, well aware that they are almost beyond the point that we should be eating them. It's all a learning curve I guess, learning how many pickled beets you actually eat in a year (answer: not many). But I sure don't want to throw any food away unless I have to. Did you know that the average US household throws away up to half of the food they buy? Pretty obscene. I'm guessing Canada is not much better.

Figuring out the balance between celebrating with plenty and buying so much food that some ends up in the garbage is a tricky thing. This time around was alright I think; we have left over blue cheese but that's alright with me!

The fail of the party would be a spinach artichoke dip that tasted pretty bleh and looked like pea soup. I think I'm giving up, I have made nothing but mediocre spinach art dips from scratch. My guess is that the ones you have in restaurants have cups of mayo and cream cheese, which is why they are so, er, 'good'.

I managed to get as far as having all the ingredients for Rūpjmaizes kārtojums (layered Latvian rye bread dessert) but ran out of time to actually make it. It looks so interesting! And the toasted sweetened rye crumbs smell amazing. Hmm. Now I've got to figure out how to just casually show up somewhere this week with this huge somewhat complicated desert. Any takers?

In the works in the next little while:

Clementine Curd
Orange Liqueur (from a recipe in Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It)
Homemade Irish Cream