I imagine you're wondering how I came to make concord grape focaccia. I don't blame you. Quite frankly, the concept is sort of weird, especially when you think about it too long and hard. So let's not.
Instead, let's talk about how lovely and sticky the dough was, how it puffed up and stretched out to fill an entire cookie sheet. Let's reflect on the sweetness of the bread and how the concord grapes transformed into jelly in the oven. Finally let's acknowledge the fact that Concord Grape Focaccia is good for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner (not to mention pre-bed snack).
Notes: I actually baked this a few weeks ago. After reading the experiences of others online, I decided to leave the seeds in the grapes. More than one person hinted that to do otherwise was terribly messy and more trouble than anything. That being said, you have to like some crunch in your focaccia bread (or not mind picking at your food like you're 5 years old). As someone who spent most of her childhood culling the diced onion, beans and green peppers from her chili (leaving what, exactly?), I had no problem.
Source: Inspired by Fanny's Blueberry Focaccia over at Foodbeam.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
A few posts back, a Casual Baker reader wondered aloud whether there was something pumpkin-esque on the way.
I have good news.
Almost immediately after I said there would be no pumpkin on the horizon, the wheels were set in motion to make me a liar. First, my mom arrived with a box of five squash—a sugar pumpkin among them. Hmmm.
Then someone tweeted a list of Hallowe'en-inspired recipes—Legendary Pumpkin Cookies among them. Within hours, said pumpkin was roasting in the oven.
Sarah of In Praise of Leftovers said it best: "These cookies are like little cakes." With their toasted nuts and hint of fall spices, they're a bit like a frosted version of my all-time favourite, the unfortunately named Boiled Raisin Cookie.
Now where's the fire and hot apple cider?
Maple-Frosted Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons milk
1/4 teaspoon maple extract (1/2 teaspoon vanilla in the original)
1 cup icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant and lightly toasted. Remove from oven, chop coarsely and set aside. Line the baking sheet with parchment and set it aside too.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and pumpkin puree. Add the egg and mix well. The batter looks somewhat unappetizing at this point, but forge ahead.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add 1 cup of the toasted pecans and stir to combine.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once and stir just until combined.
Drop by tablespoons onto prepared sheet(s). Bake until barely golden (about 10-12 minutes). They should be soft in the centre, but not gooey. Frost the cookies while they are still warm, but not hot.
For the frosting, combine the brown sugar, butter and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, then remove from heat and cool slightly. Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth.
Use a knife to spread about 1 teaspoon of icing on each cookie, sprinkle immediately with the leftover chopped pecans, and repeat. If the frosting stiffens before you're done, gently re-heat over low heat just until it's spreadable again.
Source: In Praise of Leftovers' family recipe for Legendary Pumpkin Cookies, with a maple twist on the vanilla frosting.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I don't make a lot of jam or jelly.
It's not that I don't enjoy a PB&J sandwich or scones and raspberry jam every now and again.
I'm not worried that the jelly won't set or the lids won't seal or—God forbid—both.
No, it's because my parents make (more than) enough jam and jelly to keep themselves, friends, family, all of their Berry Street* neighbours and anyone else fortunate enough to cross their path well stocked.
J. & W. are partial to berry preserves. Blackberry jamelly is the house specialty, with strawberry, raspberry and rueberry (raspberry/blueberry) close behind. They also dabble in peach and plum and, less often, grape and pear. Orange marmalade came and went a few years back, after the jars languished on the shelf too long. Occasionally, there's a funny one called Heavenly Jam that makes an appearance, but I just can't get on board with any jam that has the nerve to call itself heavenly (in caps, no less).
I don't think it's a coincidence that my favourite is one of the rarer Berry Street Jam & Jelly Co. preserves.
I'd always assumed it was a fruit sourcing issue. On the farm in Alberta, we had a crab apple tree right in the yard, but cranky apples are harder to come by here. Or so I thought, until J. delivered a box of the raw goods to me less than a week after I'd casually asked where to find some.
Now I'm convinced I'm just the only one who likes crab apple jelly.
Ah well, more for me.
Recipe: There's no recipe to be had here today. If you too have a hankering for cranky jelly: (a) ask nicely; or (b) buy your own Certo and follow the directions inside.
Full disclosure: This jelly is actually 1/3 crab apple, 2/3 Granny Smith simply because I didn't have enough crab apples.
* I know!
Labels: Jams and jellies
Monday, October 19, 2009
I am nothing, if not consistent. When I first revealed my hot oatmeal breakfast tendencies more than two years ago, the ritual was already firmly entrenched. It must be 4, maybe even 5(!) years now that I've been eating the same breakfast almost every day.
There were a few brief intervals when I temporarily abandoned hot oatmeal for more seasonally appropriate alternatives like granola or breakfast bars, but these are exceptions to the rule.
Now that fall has sort of arrived, I don't see much variation on the horizon beyond the occasional weekday bowl of Mini-Wheats or weekend stack of banana chocolate chip pancakes.
Or maybe this rice pudding, for those days when I blindly follow the recommended serving size on the rice package and end up with enough cooked rice to feed my entire condo building but don't want to risk social alienation with door-to-door rice distribution.
Cinnamon Raisin Rice Pudding
2 cups cooked white rice (I used jasmine)
4 cups milk (I used 1%)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook gently over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens to your desired consistency. If necessary, reduce heat to prevent scorching. Note that the pudding thickens considerably as it cools.
Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with pecans and extra cinnamon, for breakfast or dessert.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
For my Canadian readers who spent Thanksgiving
weekend in a turkey-induced haze.
Buttermilk Bran Muffins
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bran
1 cup raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 3/4 - 2 cups buttermilk
1 cup grated carrot and/or apple
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a muffin tin.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, bran, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, molasses, butter, egg and 1 3/4 cups of the buttermilk. Stir in the carrot, raisins and lemon zest.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. If the mixture seems excessively thick, add up to 1/4 cup extra buttermilk. (If your apples are juicy, you might not need to add any extra buttermilk; if you use only carrots, the extra liquid may be necessary.)
Spoon into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffins comes out clean. Cool in tins for 20 minutes before loosening the sides with a knife and flipping the muffins out onto a rack to cool completely.
Yields 12 muffins.
Source: A mash-up of several recipes that I can safely call my own!
Labels: Muffins and quick breads
Monday, October 05, 2009
The calendar proclaimed Fall's arrival back on September 22's autumnal equinox, but here in Vancouver we've been rather non-committal on the subject. The rip-roaring heat of summer has faded, but only just. Warm, sunny afternoons have kept me in sandals well past their Labour Day expiration, and I've been getting by with a scarf and sweater in the mild, clear evenings. Two nights ago, we even ate outdoors on an unheated restaurant patio. Although I was thoroughly chilled by the time the mints rolled around, we weren't alone in our folly.
In fact, Fall has revealed its true colours just once, so far as I can tell. This past Tuesday morning, Winter's younger brother painted our blue sky grey, threatening to huff and puff and blow us all away in a flurry of wind, rain, thunder and lightning. Yet somewhere along the way -- after rain, but before thunder -- Fall lost its gusto. By late afternoon, the cloud cover had lifted and the sun even ventured out for a quick jaunt before retiring for the evening.
In that brief space in time, when the change of seasons seemed imminent, the urge to turn on the oven and bake up something toasty was overwhelming. I spent the morning debating between bread and coffee cake, and nearly cheered out loud when I came across this recipe for Yeasted Coffee Cake with Apricot Cream Cheese Filling. Now that I've made it, I'm officially smitten. My kitchen smelled like heaven from start to finish, and the end result was a refreshing change from the streusel varieties we all know and love.
For the recipe and instructions, I'd encourage you to head over to Annie's Eats to take advantage of her mouth-watering step-by-step photos. If I haven't sold you on this coffee cake, her images surely will.
As Annie notes, the possibilities for this recipe are virtually limitless. In fact, just one day after I gave her original apricot configuration a go, she posted a delectable looking raspberry follow-up. The apricot filling was apropos in the end though: the cake, with its sunny lining, turned out much like the day.
Source: A Baking Illustrated recipe, as adapted by Annie's Eats, a food blog I discovered only recently but plan to re-visit often.