Making bread to While Away the Time

Recently I have been playing around with yeast breads that are light on the kneading and the time commitment demanded of traditional breads. When this pandemic began I was working with a newly acquired cookbook, Ready, Set, Dough: Beginner Breads for all Occasions.

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Where have I been? What have I been up to?

The answer is one, perfectly beautiful granddaughter who will soon be a year old.

As well as cooking, baking, and recipes, I have long standing loves for needle arts. Basically, if it can be done with needles, I do it – sewing, dressmaking, knitting, smocking, needlepoint, cross stitch, and quilting. With a new baby, I was able to indulge all of these interests. I really love making things for babies and young children because they yield maximum results with a small commitment of time and materials and provide the maker with unlimited pleasure. Last Spring, my daughter Deanna captured most of these efforts for the record.

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Countless sweaters and a crib quilt are some of the creations that have been added since. And if this stay at home continues much longer, my granddaughter will have enough sweaters to last her through elementary school!

Throughout, I have remained busy in the kitchen, reading and trying recipes, cooking through the holiday season last December and, as always, experimenting with all the elements that make for a fabulous taste experience.

Now, back to blogging!

With everyone staying in, bread-making seems to have become a national pastime. Along with toilet paper, flour and yeast are among the depleted grocery store items, driving some to experiment with sourdough starters.

Bread making and the wonderful smell of baking bread is in my blood. My Nain’s white rolls (like baps) were eagerly awaited at the baking table at the Welsh church’s fall bazaar.

My own mother wasn’t really into bread making but she always knew where to find bakeries that produced great breads, buns, and bagels. As a child, when we were at the cottage, we got our bread from Don’s Bakery in Bala. Along with their famous scones, they made a large, towering white loaf with a top crust so dark it was almost black. That was my favourite! Somewhere along the line they stopped making it and I have yet to find another bakery that makes such a loaf.

I love bread making and have been doing it for years. There have been some summers that I  made bread almost every day, putting it out in the sun to raise (and keeping a sharp eye on the chipmunks) or on grey and rainy days, popping it in the oven with the light on.

Recently I have been playing around with yeast breads that are light on the kneading and the time commitment demanded of traditional breads. When this pandemic began I was working with a newly acquired cookbook, Ready, Set, Dough: Beginner Breads for all Occasions. The initial recipes have the process down to combining the basic ingredients (about 2 minutes), kneading (4 minutes either by hand or machine), rising (15 minutes), and bake (40 minutes, starting in a cold oven) – not more than 10 minutes of active work and just over an hour from start to finish. For those baking with young children, whose patience might be tried by the hours long process of traditional bread making, this approach yields about as close to instant gratification as you can get.


AsideFor those home schooling, baking bread offers many learning opportunities for children and touches on several areas of the curriculum (social studies, math, science, and literacy). In my kindergarten classroom we had a large group of children, refugees from Syria, who spoke no English. Bread is common to every culture and so we baked bread to create common bonds and connections. A discussion before we started, enabled us to collect and chart what we thought we already knew about bread and capture our questions. We talked about this being one of the ways scientists work. Throughout the process, we observed the different ingredients – how they looked, felt, smelled – and how they interacted with each other.The children observed the changes created by the addition of water to the dry ingredients, the changes wrought through kneading, the effects of heat on the dough. While we enjoyed our freshly baked bread, we returned to our chart to compare our experience and observations with what we had thought, to see if our questions had been answered, and to add new learning and observations to our chart. Older siblings could assist with the chart making.


Not one to leave a recipe alone, I used the techniques of the basic bread recipe but veered off to do my own thing. Substituting mayonnaise for the 2 tbsp of olive oil in the original recipe yielded a more tender, slightly more flavourful loaf. Using two eggs, lightly beaten, as part of the 2 cups of water, produced a slightly denser, crustier bread. Both breads were delicious and vanished in the blink of an eye.

Now I was ready to be more daring.

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Turning left-over bread into crisps – a delicious way to use the whole loaf

I wanted a loaf with more complex flavours but the same quick and easy approach. To achieve this, I substituted rye flour for some of the all-purpose and added allspice, grated orange peel, and fennel seeds. I also cut the water with some fancy molasses and substituted canola oil for the olive oil called for in the original recipe. The resulting loaf was boldly flavoured and the only change I would make going forward would be the addition of a handful of dark Thompson raisins. This bread lasted well for four or five days (mainly it survived that long because my son Peter does not like the licorice flavour of fennel). On day five, I thinly sliced the remaining bread and dried it in a low oven to make crisps. I can also imagine using this bread, cut into smallish squares, as the base for a canapé.

The cookbook I have been working with – Ready, Set, Dough: Beginner Breads for all Occasions — has several savory variations on the basic bread that are excellent and it also contains breads that have a more conventional approach. If you are looking for a book on bread, I’d certainly recommend this one.

A note before starting: the recipe uses both cup and weight measures. I find that the more accurate measure by weight (especially when using so much flour), generally results in a better end product. So many factors – such as the humidity in the air on a given day, how compacted the flour is in the measuring cup, etc – can have a significant effect on the amount of flour. Measuring by weight eliminates these variables that can adversely affect your baking. I use the weight measurements for all ingredients as appropriate. If you do not have a scale, the recommended method is to fluff up the flour in the bag then lightly spoon it into your measuring cup (be sure to use a dry measure cup), heaping it up a bit, then leveling it off with the flat edge of a knife.

Now – on to the bread!

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White Loaf

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  • Makes: 2 loaves
  • Time:
    • Mixing – Approx. 10 min
    • Rising – 15 min
    • Baking – 40 min
    • Resting – 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups (723 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp (24 g) instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp (18 g) Kosher salt or 1 ½ tsp table salt
  • 2 tbsp (25 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 cups very warm water (about 120F)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Yeast and salt do not like each other, so place them on opposite sides of the bowl. With a whisk, stir everything together. Add mayonnaise and water and, using a wooden spoon, mix everything together into a scraggly dough. There will still be a lot of flour not mixed in.

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  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and begin to knead the dough, working in the loose flour. Continue kneading until it all comes together and forms a smooth dough. This will take no more than 4 minutes whether you do it by hand or machine.

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  3. Place the dough back in the bowl (no need to clean it), cover with a tea towel, and put in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the oven with the oven light on. Let it rise for 15 minutes.

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  4. Gently punch the dough down and divide in half.
  5. You can either shape the dough onto two free form loaves and bake on opposite ends of a parchment lined baking sheet or shape the dough into loaves and place in lightly greased loaf pans.
  6. With a sharp knife, make three slashes, about ¼ of an inch deep, in the top of each loaf. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over each loaf. Place the loaves on the middle rack of a COLD OVEN. It is very important that the oven is cold.
  7. Place a pan of hot tap water on the rack below the bread.

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  8. Set the oven on 400F and bake the dough for 40 minutes.
  9. After 40 minutes, the bread will look risen and golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on top. I have never found the bread to take more than the 40 minutes. Removed the bread from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Variations:

  1. Replace mayonnaise with 2 tbsp vegetable oil.
  2. Replace the water with 2 cracked large eggs, at room temperature. Place the eggs into a measuring cup and beat with a fork until the whites and yolks are combined. Add sufficient hot water to make 2 cups of liquid. Proceed as described above.

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My Flavour Explosion Bread

Button-PrintVersion-LowRes

  • Makes: 2 loaves
  • Time:
    • Mixing – Approx. 10 min
    • Rising – 15 min
    • Baking – 40 min
    • Resting – 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 140g (1 ½ cups) rye flour
  • 583g (4 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 25g instant yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 18g Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground allspice
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (one heaping tbsp)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • ⅓ cup fancy molasses
  • 1 ⅔ cup hot water (about 120⁰F)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, allspice, orange zest, and fennel. Yeast and salt do not like each other, so place them on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine. Next, stir in the raisins.
  2. Place the molasses in a liquid measuring cup and fill with enough hot water to make 2 cups. Stir together.
  3. Pour the water/molasses mixture into the flour mixture and stir together to make a scraggly dough.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and begin to knead the dough, working in the loose flour. Continue kneading until it all comes together and forms a smooth dough. This will take no more than 4 minutes whether you do it by hand or machine.
  5. Place the dough back in the bowl (no need to clean it), cover with a tea towel, and put in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the oven with the oven light on. Let it rise for 15 minutes.
  6. Gently punch the dough down and divide in half.
  7. You can either shape the dough onto two free form loaves and bake on opposite ends of a parchment lined baking sheet or shape the dough into loaves and place in lightly greased loaf pans.
  8. With a sharp knife, make three slashes, about ¼ of an inch deep, in the top of each loaf. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over each loaf. Place the loaves on the middle rack of a COLD OVEN. It is very important that the oven is cold.
  9. Place a pan of hot tap water on the rack below the bread.
  10. Set the oven on 400F and bake the dough for 40 minutes.
  11. After 40 minutes, the bread will look risen and golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on top. I have never found the bread to take more than the 40 minutes. Removed the bread from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pear Cake #9

And so began the search for the pear cake of my dreams.

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Button-JumpToRecipe-LowResA while ago I was looking through a newly purchased cookbook on Italian desserts. To be honest, I bought the book mainly because I was enticed by a photo of a pear cake; golden in colour and topped with a laurel of sliced pears. With greedy anticipation I bought the required four pears, waited for them to ripen, and then diligently followed the recipe. The cake that came out of the oven was beautiful to behold…and then the first bite. What a disappointment! You would have been hard pressed to say where the pears had disappeared to.

And so began the search for the pear cake of my dreams.

I leafed through several cookbooks in my collection but was struck by how similar the pear cake recipes were. Nothing that suggested it would yield the wack of pear flavour I craved. Soooo…time to get creative!

img_0602For years I have read and enjoyed the food writing and recipe development of America’s Test Kitchen. While I haven’t always agreed with what they’ve deemed the definitive version of whatever, I have been drawn to their methodology. Now I am determined to give it a go myself, wondering how many pear cakes it would take me to reach perfection (or cause a family revolt: “Not another pear cake!”).

The first thing I decided was that I had to know more about my main flavour: the pear.

Most grocery stores carry three or four varieties of pear: Anjou, Bosc, Asian, and on a more seasonal basis, Bartlett. Anjou and Bosc pears are both fine for baking and cooking. My pear of choice is the Bosc pear because it holds its shape and texture slightly better than the Anjou and has a somewhat more assertive flavour. Asian pears are closer to apples and are best eaten raw or used in salads. Bartlett pears are excellent for eating but turn to mush when baked or cooked. Most canned pears are Bartlett. For a reason I surmise has something to do with the canning process, canned Bartlett pears can be used (in a pinch) in baking if well drained.

The next thing I had to determine was, how do you know when a pear is ripe? Too often I’ve had pears that don’t appear ripe one day and then, almost in the blink of an eye, are brown and mushy in the centre. Bartlett pears are the only ones that change colour as they ripen, going from green to yellow. Pears ripen from the inside out which is what makes it tricky to determine their readiness. The best test is to press gently on the neck of the pear near the stem. If the pear is ripe, there should be a small amount of “give”. Store pears at room temperature until ripe and then refrigerate to gain a few extra days before they become candidates for the food waste bin.

Armed with my new knowledge of pears, I went out and bought several pounds of Bosc pears, unsalted butter, eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk. After all, who knew what I might need before I was finished?

good1Recalling a coffee cake recipe that had the baker fold lemon curd into the cake batter, I made a thick pear sauce (reminiscent of apple sauce) and folded it into the cake batter of the original recipe. I increased the amount of flour by a few tablespoons to compensate for the extra moisture and then stirred in the chopped pear. When the cake came out of the oven, it looked promising. When cut, the texture was fine, the over-all appearance enticing. But the pear taste? Still wasn’t there. What next?

I decided to scrap the pear sauce as it hadn’t contributed anything but extra work – and who needs that? Then I had a brainwave. Inspired by my cranberry coffee cake that has a layer of fruit in the middle, I set to making a third version of the pear cake. I put half of my batter into the pan and covered it with all the chopped pears. I then blanketed the pears with the rest of the batter, and finished off with a fanfare of sliced pears on top. For the first time I was able to taste the pears as a distinct entity but, somehow the cake was lacking “umph”. Back to the drawing board.

I won’t bore you with the next several attempts – which included the introduction (and dumping) of streusel, cocoa, and chocolate — but jump to pear cake #8 which was almost there – finally!

In researching other pear cakes I had come across an upside down one that called for rock-hard (unripened) pears which were poached in a red wine reduction below the batter as the cake baked. I tried it and while the treatment of the pears worked really well, the cake part was, to my taste, awful. But it got me thinking. Why not replace the wine with a reduction of pear nectar? I really liked the idea of using rock-hard pears because *sigh* what else does the grocery store ever have? For the cake part I went to a recipe for an upside down vanilla pear cake by Great British Bake Off contestant James Morton that I had made before. I adapted his batter recipe by adding ground ginger and almond extract to up the flavours. I also substituted vanilla bean paste for the seeds called for in the recipe and combined his batter with the rock-hard pear treatment.

4by6.img_0607One last change – another “hit” of pear was needed to carry the taste from the top to the bottom of the cake. I’d learned that to be tasted, the pears inside a cake were best layered together rather than folded in. But I couldn’t use rock-hard pears in the middle of the cake and I wasn’t prepared to fuss around with coordinating pears of two degrees of ripeness nor was I prepared to go to the trouble of poaching the pears separately. After all, you reach a point where the whole baking project becomes too much effort. My solution? Canned pears because they are tender but maintain their shape in baking when well drained.

So – Pear Cake #9 – pears that you can taste throughout and a cake with just a hint of almond. The pear cake of my dreams. If you want to make it really extravagant, serve the cake with whipped cream, vanilla or coffee (preferably Hagen Daas) ice cream, and a sauce – chocolate or caramel.

This cake is to die for, no matter how you serve it.

Pear Cake #9


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  • Serves: 10-12
  • Hands-on Time: 60 minutes
  • Baking and Cooling: 2-3 hours

Ingredients:

Bottom Pear Layer (which will become the top):

  • 4 Bosc pears (rock-hard)
  • 1 cup pear nectar
  • 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar

Cake Batter:

  • One 796ml (28oz) can Bartlett pear halves in pear juice
  • 250 grams (approx. 1 cup + 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 250 grams (approx. 1 ¼ cup+ 1 tsp.) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 75 grams (approx. ¼ cup) Greek-style yogurt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla bean paste or ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. pure almond extract
  • 260 grams (approx. 1 ¾ cups + 2 tbsp.) self-rising flour*
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Steps:

  1. Prepare the pan by lining a deep, 9’’ cake pan with aluminum foil, being careful not to tear the foil. Spray the foil-lined pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle the 3 tbsp. of dark brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan. Set aside. Take 4 Bartlett pear halves out of their tin and cover with paper towelling to absorb moisture while you continue with other parts of the cake. Just before you start to make the batter, gently press each pear half with paper towel to remove more moisture – you won’t get it all but you will get enough to dampen the paper. Chop the pears into ½’’ cubes and set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel.

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    9″ Pan, lined with foil, sprayed, sugar sprinkled
  2. Pour the pear nectar into a small saucepan and, over medium heat, reduce to ¼ cup (takes about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Making the bottom (it will become the top when you flip it): Peel the Bosc pears, cut in half lengthwise. Then remove the core with a spoon or melon baller. Cut the pear halves into ¼’’ slices starting at the bottom and working up towards the top, stopping short of the top so that the slices remain connected at the top of the neck. Fan out the sliced halves and place in the pan, necks towards the centre of the pan and insides facing up. The outsides of the pear are down, resting on the bottom of the pan. Pour the reduced nectar evenly over the pears. Set aside. Set the oven to preheat to 325F.

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  4. To make the cake batter: Combine the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and smooth. This will take about 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer or 3 minutes with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle.

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    Completed mixture for step 4
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yogurt, vanilla bean paste, and almond extract and beat well to combine. The batter may look curdled – that’s okay.
  6. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and ginger. With a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture just to combine. It will be quite a thick batter. If you find it too thick, stir in a little more yogurt so that it’s of a dropping consistency.

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    Completed mixture for step 6
  7. Using half the batter, drop in mounds on top of the pears in the pan and carefully spread the batter to cover the pears completely. Scatter the chopped pears evenly over the batter. Cover the chopped pear layer with the remaining batter by dropping it in mounds over the pears and then spreading carefully to cover.

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    Middle pear layer, before covering with batter
  8. Bake cake in the centre of the oven until a tester near the centre of the cake comes out clean (about 1 hour and 25 minutes). At about the 1 hour, 15 minute mark you may want to place a piece of aluminium foil over the top of the cake if it is browning too quickly.
  9. Once the cake is out of the oven, leave it to cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes. When cooled, flip the cake pan and turn the cake out onto a plate and carefully remove the foil. Let the cake cool completely. Enjoy!

*You can buy self-rising flour or you can make your own by adding 1 ½ tsp. baking powder and ½ tsp. fine salt for each cup of all-purpose flour.

outro

How I Came By My Obsession

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Button-JumpToRecipe

I come by my recipe obsession honestly. I don’t know about generations far past, but both my grandmothers were recipe collectors. Each had a small top drawer in the kitchen where they kept recipes neatly clipped, glued or taped into a newsprint notebook or captured in a large, plain brown envelope.

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Nain – an excellent cook.

My Nain was an excellent cook. Nain is the Welsh word for grandmother and what we called my mother’s mother as she came to Canada from Wales and to differentiate her from my father’s mother, Granny Rankin. In my mind, another significant difference between the two was their ability to cook; where Nain succeeded, Granny…tried. Nain even managed standing rib roasts so that at one end these roasts would be fairly well done – as my grandfather preferred – while the other end was rare, as the rest of the family loved. I’m not quite sure why Granny collected recipes – she was a terrible cook. She was so bad that she had a door installed by her stove on the end wall of the kitchen so that she could throw things that had caught fire out into the yard. You never knew when the door would jerk open and a flaming saucepan would come flying out. As children, my sister and I learned to give this door a wide berth. What can I say? One grandmother entertained with glorious food she had prepared herself; the other called Simpson’s Arcadian Court to cater. While my grandmothers neatly cut out their recipes, my own mother, more pressed for time, ripped whole pages out of magazines and newspapers which she eventually organized into file folders.

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Granny Rankin…tried.

My grandmothers didn’t have a collection of cookbooks. Nain owned one cookbook, given as a Christmas present the year it first came out, The Joy of Cooking. I now have this volume in my collection, complete with its instructions on How to Skin a Weasel. My mother had a small collection of about ten to fifteen cookbooks.

Then there’s me. I did none of these things. Cookbooks, cooking magazines and collected recipes by the box full over-run my house: tucked behind chairs and doors, filling bookcases, stacked by beds, corralled into binders and copied into notebooks. Now, where did I see THAT recipe?

In an effort not to lose track of recipes that work for me (at least as a starting point), my current approach is to record them in a small loose leaf recipe binder and annotate them as I work on them. At other times I’ve had to phone people I know I gave a recipe to in the hopes they can lay their hands on it, which, thankfully, they usually can.

topdownSome of my grandmother’s recipes that I really can’t do without are written on the end pages of one of the first cookbooks that I purchased for myself, The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, when I moved into my first apartment. Of those, the one that I return to most often is Nain’s Lemon Pudding. It is light, fresh, and deliciously lemon. I like to serve it warm with a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt.

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Nain’s Lemon Pudding

Button-PrintVersion

 

  • Serves: 6
  • Hands-on Time: 20 minutes
  • Baking and Cooling: 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ c butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 ½ c granulated sugar
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 2c milk
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • ½ c lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a deep, 1 ½ quart casserole or soufflé dish. Set aside.
  2. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a large metal or glass bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until well blended and fluffy – about 3 minutes.4by6.dscf6847
  4. Beat the 4 egg yolks into the butter/sugar mixture.
  5. Blend in the flour and the milk.
  6. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  7. With clean beaters or a metal whisk, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the lemon mixture. 

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  8. Gently pour the pudding into the prepared baking dish.
  9. Place a water tight pan on the middle rack of the oven. The pan should be big enough to hold the baking dish with the pudding. Place the baking dish in the pan and then pour one inch (2 ½ cm) of boiling water into the pan, being careful not to get any into the pudding. 

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  10. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a thin knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. The pudding can also be easily reheated by placing it in a low oven while dinner is being eaten if it has cooled completely and you want to serve it warm. If I’ve had the oven on for the main course, I just place the pudding in the turned off oven while we eat. No need for the water bath at this point. 

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wlgyl

 

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers”

Button-JumpToRecipeI am recipe obsessed – continually in search of the recipe that yields a taste sensation; that has you thinking about its blending of flavours; and that leaves you dying for just one more taste.

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My obsession includes a collection of some one thousand cookbooks, stacks of cooking magazines, and boxes, files, and notebooks crammed with recipes. Recently retired (I was a teacher), I can now indulge my passion further by actually ferreting out the best tastes in my collection; or, if need be, developing the best. As William Shakespeare put it, “Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his  [or her] own fingers.”

This blog is a record of my adventures and experiments in finding the ultimate recipe for…

Beginnings

I began my cooking experiments as a three year-old by dumping flour, oats (and everything else at hand in the bottom cupboard) into the middle of my grandmother’s kitchen floor and stirring them together. I am told there was no bowl or other container involved. Granny thought I was very clever; my mother not so much.

Notebooks

My other grandmother had some of her baking fall victim to my experiments with the dials on the front of her stove. She, however, had the wisdom to recognize a budding interest in cooking. She set about teaching me how to stir so ingredients stayed in the bowl. I also learned that there was an order in how things went together, and how things tasted (yummy or yucky). Once I could read, she taught me how to understand a recipe, measure carefully and, most importantly, to think about taste and texture and what I was aiming for. I began to develop pretty strong technical skills and was not frightened of trying new recipes, even those deemed difficult. By the time I was twelve my mother had me making soufflés for a ladies’ luncheon.

During the 1980s I spent a lot of time at Bonnie Stern’s School of Cooking. It was there that I really began to expand my taste experiences and consider the new flavours and ingredients that were flooding Toronto’s culinary scene. Bonnie’s recipes always provided that jolt to the taste buds, that  “there’s the taste I was missing” experience. It was also where my obsession with recipes began; the search for the very best tasting recipe for whatever dish had captured my attention.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie

In the last few years that I was teaching, our school staff included a number of foodies and a social convenor who set up several staff bake-offs. The first of these I entered was for the best chocolate chip cookie.

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It so happens that the perfect chocolate chip cookie was one of my first food obsessions. In the 1970s there used to be a Dutch bakery on the east side of Church Street just south of Wellesley, close to where I was working for the summer. Their chocolate chippers had a wonderful “tingle” of some subtle flavour in the background. It took me a long time to identify the ingredient – even now, I’m not sure, but almost certainly it was mace– and it became my secret ingredient too.

For the bake-off I seriously began experimenting with add-ins to my cookie dough. About eight variations later I had what my family thought was the best: a dough that contained not only mace but also orange zest and espresso powder. Intriguing, more sophisticated, not too sweet – and really good! (But not a winner – they came second.)

Cookies - Orange Peel

Recently Scandinavian baking has been capturing my attention. It has given me some new ideas to try with my chocolate chip cookie dough. I have introduced some rye flour and the zest of a whole orange for taste. In an old note book, I have a version that adds corn flakes (another uses Rice Krispies). I decided to try Frosted Flakes to add to the crunch. Further experiments have yielded some great variations, the overall favourite being one that included homemade candied orange peel (more about that in another post). Whatever the choice, you end up with a large, rustic-looking and utterly delicious chocolate chip cookie. One obsession down.

This is a very easy recipe to play around with. You can switch the cereal to another crispy variety; you can use all-purpose flour instead of the rye; if you love coffee flavour, increase the amount of espresso by ½ to 1 tsp; not fond of orange  – leave the zest out. In developing this particular take on a chocolate chip cookie, I found that Kellog’s brand of Frosted Flakes is sturdier than store brands and maintains a somewhat better crunch when mixed in. This dough is best mixed with a stand mixer but can also be made with a hand held electric mixer or even by hand with a wooden spoon as no long periods of beating are required. If mixing with something other than a stand mixer, you might want to crush the cereal somewhat before adding it to the dough. The paddle or beaters of a stand mixer will crush the cereal for you.

Cookies - Stack- Narrow


Cookie Banner

(Makes 24 large cookies)

Button-PrintVersion

  • Hands on Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Chilling and Baking Time: 1 hour 13 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • ½ c dark rye flour
  • ½ c butter, (either salted or unsalted), softened
  • ½ c granulated sugar
  • ½ c brown sugar (light or dark), firmly packed
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp espresso granules
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 c Frosted Flakes
  • 1 1/2c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Steps:

  1. Combine the all-purpose and rye flours in a bowl and set aside. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. One of the sheets will be used for chilling the cookies.
  2. In a large bowl combine the butter and the granulated and brown sugars. Beat until well combined.
  3. Beat in the oil to combine.
  4. Add the orange zest and the espresso powder and mix in. I grate the orange zest directly into the bowl using a micro-plane so that none of the flavour in the peel is lost.
  5. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.
  6. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the surface of the dough, then mix in well.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the sugar/butter/oil mixture all at once and mix just until combined.
  8. Add the cereal and chocolate chips and mix just to distribute through the dough.
  9. Scoop the dough in 2 tbsp balls and place on one of the parchment lined cookie sheets. As the cookies are going into the refrigerator to firm up, they do not have to be spaced far apart. All 24 cookies can go on one sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  10. Just before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 350F.
  11. Remove cookies from the refrigerator. Place 12 of the cookies on the second prepared cookie sheet, spread out about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake this sheet first. Reposition the remaining cookies on first sheet and set aside. Bake cookies for about 13 minutes or until they have a light, golden colour. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely (if they don’t get consumed first).

Variations:

  1. Replace rye flour with unsweetened cocoa powder.
  2. Substitute chopped, candied orange peel for the chocolate chips.
  3. Use a combination of chopped, candied orange peel and chocolate chips in either the rye or the cocoa flavoured doughs.
  4. Substitute a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, coarsely chopped, for the chocolate chips.
  5. Use mini-chocolate chips in place of regular sized chips in any of the variations.

Cookies - Bake