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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Hey kids, it’s been a while, I know.  Things have been hectic and unfortunately the blog is at the bottom of a long list of things that must  be done, and done right now.  Three flogs from a wet noodle for me.  The up side is that I am now on two, count ’em, TWO weeks of lovely, beautiful and in the nick of time vacation, so hopefully things will get back in order around here and I can write about all the adventures I’ve been having.  I strategically took vacation right now in anticipation of the glut from the garden (the glut that really isn’t happening, more on that later) in hopes of socking away a much as possible for the winter stores, but also because meine beste Freundin is visiting from Germany and when you only get to see your sista from anotha motha once a year attention must be paid.

As far as putting up for the long winter ahead, things have been going rather dismally.  The garden just hasn’t cooperated one tiny little bit this year and my whole system is out of whack.  Having to fit in putting away a winter’s worth of food around a job that takes you away from home roughly 11 hours a day makes for a challenge in the best of times, but throw in other time demands and produce that thumbs it’s nose at your schedule and everything gets cranked up a notch.  Let’s just say my dehydrator has been a lifesaver, and I have developed a new fondness for it for allowing me to toss a bunch of stuff in and go to bed.  I love how it does all the work for me while I am sleeping or at work, and I’m not using the freezers to boot!  I would love to  be able to can everything but the time demand just  makes it impossible.  With that being said I am hoping to take a day this week or next and spend a whole day canning up lots of pickles.  I am also catching on that fermenting is the busy woman’s friend. 

Here you see me cutting up cabbage the hard way for the first batch of kraut. Just kidding...it's not that hard.

I’ve got a batch of sauerkraut on the go now out in the back kitchen, with much more in the works.  I just love how I don’t have to do anything with it once it’s started. Oh kraut, how I love thee.  I’ve got some lovely turnips waiting in the garden that may just become sauerrüben (that’s turnip kraut) and I might do beets as well.  I’m planning to ferment lots of hot peppers into sauce (if the jalapenos ever ripen I’ll use them, but I’ve got lots of hot bananas so I’ll just wing it) and I have about a metric ton of chard that is just  begging to become kimchi.  With the weather turning cooler at least the fermenting part of my game plan is on track.  Work with what you’ve got, kids.

So without further ado I really should get cracking around here, but I’ll leave you with my Grandmother’s yummy recipe for bread pudding.  I had a loaf of homemade bread kicking around that was on the stale side, so I made this last night.  Perfect chilly night comfort food.

Grandma Sandybanks’ Bread Pudding

3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 quart  (4 cups) milk

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or more)

3 slices (or cups) of ripped up bread

cinnamon or nutmeg (optional, to taste)

raisins (optional, as many as you want)

1.  Combine the first 5 ingredients together, then add the bread.  I say 3 cups of bread because some people like this more custardy, some not so much.  I just use up whatever bread I have until there’s no more liquid to cover it.

2.  Let the bread soak up the liquid a bit.  Squish it down if you have to.

3.  Put into an oven proof dish and sit this in a pan of hot water.  Bake at 350F until an inserted knife comes out clean.  The time this will take will depend on the depth of your dish.  If you bake it in a wide, shallow dish it will cook more quickly.  I made two last night, one in a loaf pan and one in a 1 qt casserole, and both took about an hour.  This stuff is good cold, but heaven when warm.

Just a couple of notes, this recipe is very forgiving.  Like I said earlier, use whatever bread you have and don’t worry about the exact amount.  Bread pudding is one of the ways our grandmothers came up with to use up what needed to be used up.  I like more bread in it because I think it improves the texture, but texture is a very personal thing.  You can use whatever bread you have too, even waffles.  Do what you like.  I also tend to use less milk, simply because I don’t want to use up all of my milk.  Last night I decreased it by a full cup and it was great.  I give the original recipe as my Grandma wrote it down so you can go by the base and work from there (and because that’s how Grandma did  it, and Grandma knew what she was doing).  Just wing it, it will be fine. 🙂

Bis später, kids.

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I bake.  A lot.  There have been times it has reached the “Whoa Nelly” level and I’ve submitted 34 separate items in the fair.   I can’t help it – it’s what I do and it makes me happy.   One of the side effects of baking with any kind of regularity is that there always seems to be dribs and drabs of ingredients left over.  You know, that half cup of walnuts or the quarter of a bag of coconut that didn’t find a home.  In my kitchen, all of these unused bits end up migrating into the freezer above my fridge, which is sort of the gulag of my food storage since things tend to accumulate unseen in its frosty depths for long periods of time.  Every now and then when the deposits start to reach critical mass, I’ll get annoyed and start pulling everything out vowing to do something with the mess.  And what do I do with the motley assortment?  Why, I make granola, of course.

I think granola is pure awesomeness because it is so versatile, and if you’re frugally minded, a great way to utilize all the little bits of things you have kicking around and make them into something new and tasty.  Or if you are a homesteady type, granola is a good way of using up all that fruit you dried last summer but never really figured out how to use.   Granola can be as healthy or as decadent as you want it because, other than a few basic base ingredients, the sky’s the limit and you can tailor it however you like.

I have to admit that I really don’t follow a recipe anymore because granola lends itself to experimentation so easily.  I just throw together whatever I have on hand, and the only time I’ve ever had a bad batch is when I forgot it was in the oven and it got a wee bit over done.  The recipe I started off using can be found here.  That recipe makes a pretty awesome batch of granola, and I even entered it in the fair and won a first.  But being as frugally minded as I am, I’m going to use whatever ingredients I have available instead of going out and buying stuff just to follow a recipe.

For my own granola, I use almost the same wet ingredients as the above recipe to make the goo.  The goo is what coats all of your dry ingredients and gives them sweetness and flavour.

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1 cup oil

1 teaspoon (or more) cinnamon

1 tablespoon or so (what I call a “glunk” – just eyeball it) of vanilla

I’ve used mostly maple syrup with a bit of honey, honey and corn syrup, corn and maple syrup – you name it – and it all turned out fine.  Just keep the volume of liquid the same.  Whatever you use, combine all of this together into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves.  When it gets foamy you know its done.  This is then poured over your dry ingredients.

For dry ingredients I start with a base of 8 cups of oats and 2 cups of bran.  After that the choices are wide open to add whatever your heart desires until you have made up roughly another 5 cups of ingredients.  I say roughly because I never measure it, but you want to make sure you don’t add too much more or else you won’t have enough of the flavour goo to coat everything.  If you want to add any dried fruit or coconut you don’t need to include it into your 5 cup estimation because it needs to be added after the granola is baked and won’t get coated with the goo anyway.

Once you have all of your dry ingredients assembled, give them all a mix, pour the liquid over all of it and give the whole mess a good stir.  Doing this in your biggest bowl is a good idea, and if it’s metal all the better.  Remember that hot liquids and plastic are generally not a good combination.  Once it’s all combined, spread the granola out into your biggest cake pan, or several pans (it’s a lot of stuff!) and bake at 325F until it starts to turn golden.  I have found this can take as long as 30 minutes, depending on how deep the granola is in your pan(s).  You will need to give it a stir every now and then to make sure it gets all evenly toasty, and a good way to tell when it is done is to take a bit out and let it cool on a saucer.  If it is crispy, it is done.  Pull the granola out of the oven, and while it is still hot mix in your choice of dried fruit.  That’s it!  Once it has cooled completely store it in an airtight container and it should last you quite a long time.  Have fun playing with flavour combinations and experiment.  I am partial to lots of dried cranberries with almonds and a generous dose of vanilla myself, and I think one of these times I’m going to throw in some cocoa powder for a hint of chocolate.

Happy granola-ing, kids.

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Maple Syrup Tarts

Spring has finally sprung here in my little bit of the Great White North, and with it comes the glory that is maple syrup.  Oh sweet amber nectar, you may start off as humble tree sap, but with some tender loving care and maybe a smokey wood fire you are transformed into a heavenly elixir that uplifts our winter weary Canadian hearts.  You are also sustainable, perennial, and one of the very few truly local sources of sweet, sweet goodness. And the only one I happen to be able to mooch off of relatives who live back the road.

Tapping season has been finished here for a bit now, but since the first hints of spring I have been playing around with the idea of  learning to bake using only the sweeteners that would be available in a post-oil, post-collapse, local economy-type world.  In these parts that means maple syrup and, to a lesser extent, honey.  I know there are people around here who have bees as I see the hives all the time, but maple syrup is far more popular here and I can think of at least three people within a fair walking distance who make it every year.   It’s also something my immediate family could produce ourselves, on our own land.

I came across this recipe for maple tarts in our local newspaper many years ago, cut it out, shoved it in a giant bulging binder I have for such things and promptly forgot about it.  It’s such a shame I’ve had this recipe for so long and never tried it because these tarts are like a little bit of heaven.  They were so good, I thought there were tiny little maple angels dancing in my mouth.  That might not sound appealing to you but, trust me, it is.

Not the prettiest tart I’ve ever made, but it still got in my mouth just fine.

 

Maple Syrup Tarts

2 tablespoons of flour

1 cup maple syrup

1 egg, (beaten and not cold)

Butter the size of an egg, melted (approx. 1/4 cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Line some muffin or tart tins with your favourite pastry dough, or use purchased shells.

2.  Make a thin paste of the flour and some of the maple syrup and mix it all up good so there are no lumps.

3.  Add the melted (not hot!) butter, the egg, vanilla and the rest of the maple syrup and mix it all up.  Make sure your egg is at least warmed up a little and not straight from the fridge or else it will congeal the melted butter. Trust me.

4.  Pour the goo into your prepared shells and bake for 15 – 20 minutes in a 450F oven.  Easy-peasy.

The original recipe says that this makes 8 tarts, but I stretched it to fill 12 and it was just fine.  Making 8 would give you more luscious filing per tart though, and that would not be a bad thing.  I also completely omitted the vanilla because I, ha ha, didn’t even see it in the recipe until just now.  They were awesome even without it.  And just a tiny tip:  I always start off baking anything using raw pastry dough on the very bottom shelf of the oven to get the bottom crust cooking first, then move it up to a higher shelf part way into the baking.  This prevents underdone bottom crusts and keeps them from getting soggy.

If you look closely, you might see the tiny little maple angels dancing with springtime joy.

 Besides being awesomely delicious, what I really love about this recipe is that other than a tiny bit of white sugar and some baking powder that went into the pastry, and the vanilla that I forgot anyway, everything that went into making these tarts I could theoretically source within walking distance of my house or produce myself.  When I realized this, I told Mr. Sandybanks “Honey, do you realize that even during a full-blown zombie invasion, I could still make these tarts??”  We then looked at each other and cheered because, even without a zombie invasion, life is too short not to have some sweetness in it.

Happy baking, kids, and Happy Spring.

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Biscuity Scone Things

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how baking is an important and valuable self-sufficiency skill, and how it is often overlooked as being a skill at all.  I’ve been thinking about it so much, in fact, that I haven’t had the time to write anything about it.  What can I say?  I chalk it up to being too busy actually doing the things I want to blog about to, you know, blog about them.  In the meantime, I figured I would toss one of my new favourite recipes out there and give y’all something to do while I ruminate over my deep, deep thoughts on how muffins might potentially save the world.

A short time ago I was perusing an online forum of depression-era recipes looking for some new ideas on how to use all-purpose flour to make bread or bread substitutes, simply because I can buy 10 kg of all-purpose flour for the price of 2.5 kg of bread flour.  I’ve never been able to produce a decent loaf of bread using all-purpose flour, even with my mad skills. (I may have, ahem, won a provincial bread championship..but that’s a story for another day :)). At close to $7 a bag, bread flour almost makes it not worth it to make bread.  Still cheaper than buying it from the store mind you, but this is supposed to be a staple, the staff of life.  I don’t know enough about wheat markets to understand why bread flour is so much more expensive, but I’m inclined to think that there is some shadowy underworld cartel in Saskatchewan controlling the supply of all the bread flour in Canada and that they drive the price up so they can all retire in Costa Rica, smoke cigars and live in beach front villas with little dogs named Pepe.  But I could be wrong on that.  Still, I like being able to bake really awesome stuff with inexpensive ingredients even if it’s not sticking it to Gordie the Underboss in Moose Jaw.  That’s just how I roll.

So while perusing said forum, I came across a recipe for what was described as a basic scone.  Scones are one of those things that have somehow become elite, even though at their origins they were basically peasant food.  Just pop into your local high-end coffee shop (any one that starts with an S and ends with a Bucks…you get the picture) and check out what they are going for.  Pretty laughable.  Anyway, this recipe is the simplest I’ve ever come across and after whipping a batch up I am pretty much in love.  I decided to call them Biscuity Scone Things because they are more like a tea biscuit than a scone, since they use shortening instead of butter (technically scones are made with butter), but who really cares what they are.  They are super easy, cost pennies to make and, most importantly, were Freekin Delicious.  Here’s the original recipe as I wrote it down (shout out to the person who posted this originally on the forum I can no longer find, I would credit you if I could).  I personally doubled this when I made it because I double everything I make, and because in its original form will only give you about 4 or 5 decent sized biscuity scones.

Biscuity Scone Things

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons shortening

3/4 cup milk

Optional: 1/2 cup raisins. *If omitting the raisins, as I did, add another 2 tablespoons of milk

Directions:

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.  The original recipe called for all sorts of sifting here, but I think sifting is a load of poo.  I have boxes of ribbons from the fair and I never sift anything.  Call me a rebel.

2. Measure out your shortening and cut it into your flour mixture until it is very fine.  Just another tip: a tablespoon of shortening is roughly the size of a thick pat of butter.  If you can picture that just lop off a hunk and throw it in.  If it’s not exactly right it won’t make much of a difference.  If you have one, use your pastry blender to cut the shortening in.  It’s kinda what they were invented for.  If you don’t have one just use a couple of knives and pretend you’re Wolverine.  Just get the shortening minced up into little pieces.

3.  Add the raisins if you are using them and give it all a mix.  Then pour in your milk.  Mix it all up JUST UNTIL MOISTENED.  Didn’t mean to yell there, but that’s important.  If you mix the snot of out it you’ll end up with hockey pucks, not delicious treats.

4.  Turn the dough out onto your lightly floured counter and divide it into 2 pieces.  Gently pat each piece out into a circle roughly an inch and a half or so thick.  These don’t puff up much while baking, so if you want them thicker then by all means make them thicker.  There’s no rules here.

5. Cut the rounds of dough into wedges.  You could cut them into circles if you like, but wedges require less work and there are no scraps to gather up and smoosh together.  Remember, the less you handle this stuff the better they will be.

6.  Bake on a cookie sheet for around 15 minutes in a 375F oven.  I say around 15 minutes because I think that giving precise times in recipes is also a load of poo.  No one’s ovens are the same, so it’s better just to watch things and learn when they are done.  These are done when they start to turn a bit golden all over.

When they are cool enough to handle, slice one open, slather it with butter and eat it right there standing in your kitchen.  One of life’s small pleasures is eating something still warm from the oven, and is impossible to duplicate with something from the store.  Kept in an airtight container, these will last all week.

Happy baking, kids.

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