Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Where is the summer going? I realized the other day that there was only a month left til the boy begins school again, in Grade 4. Wait, what? It's been a wierd couple of weeks.

 The weather has been more west coasty - cloud, rain, and then sun, sometimes in the same day or same hour but after weeks and weeks of sunshine, it is taking some adjustment. We've still had days at the beach with waves to jump around in and if we stay for supper, glorious sunsets.

 And just because it is summer, doesn't mean that life is all summery. There was some sad news for our school community a few weeks ago and my heart breaks for a family in mourning. And our group of friends are gearing up to say adieu to a family moving away for a couple of years. But on the plus side, we are looking forward to a family reunion at the end of the month and the boy is anxious to play with his cousins.

Amongst the sad news at the end of July, came the good news of a new addition in our extended family which prompted a crafting fever by myself. Out of the craft cupboard came the felt and fabric, cutting mats and cutters and projects that have been sitting in waiting for ages are coming to fruition.
an oops cake - delicious but a bit messy after the layers slipped around in the heat

quilt for a new addition
Of course, my sewing machine has mutinied and is off at the shop being repaired, so I dug a serger out that I got at a huge sale eons ago and never managed to learn how to use, and have been using it. Teaching this old mummy dinosaur new tricks!

 I made a couple of felt friends, altering a pattern to make a lion (finally as I'd been thinking about it for ages) and which I find slightly ironic given the media storm around this story. We had a stuffie lion, with a fabulous mane, when we were children, so stuffie lions have always had a place in my heart. Here's the one I made:

I also made a sheep:

Cooking seems to be (pardon the pun) on the back burner during these summer days but one staple has been these easy summer potatoes.

Easy Summer Roasties
1 lb small new potatoes (halve the bigger ones)
dash of olive oil
sprinkling of onion salt
salt and pepper

Place the potatoes in a baking dish and microwave for 5-7 minutes. Once done, add the oil, onion salt and some salt and pepper and make sure all the potatoes are covered. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 deg F.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

soft pretzels

orgami tigers
The heat has come back to the PNW which is not the perfect time for me to be on a baking streak. None the less, I have been making dough, in between fixing my KitchenAid mixer, as the head had come completely off the pin so was thunking around while kneading the dough, most alarming. However, we managed to get the pin back where it should be and the mixer head is back in place. Phew.
a goat spied on a local beach...
Also, in the midst of sewing some curtains for our newly painted laundry room (and sewing/craft/cat bedroom) my sewing machine began to sound severly asthmatic, slowed down and finally stopped completely, so it is off being repaired. Of course, I have been struck with quilting fever and want to be making and sewing a couple of projects, once the curtains are finished. Hopefully my old faithful Bernina can be repaired with a bit of TLC and possibly some oil.

In between mornings at drop in soccer camp and afternoons at the park or playing with friends or visiting lemonade stands, I made a couple of batches of these pretzels. The first batch I halved the dough and froze one half and made up the other half. The second batch went into the fridge after raising and was stickier than the first so I recommend based on my experience that if you don't want to make the pretzels right away, freeze the dough and then let it thaw when you want to make them.

I've seen many recipes for pretzels but they always seemed so complicated, what with food safe lye and the twisting etc. But recently I read this post from Things we make and it seemed I should try them. Hot cinnamon sugar baked dough sounded irristible. So I made them.

Hot Soft Pretzels (from Things we Made)
2 1/4 tsp bread yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
4 tbsps butter, melted

Place the yeast, sugar, salt and flour in the bowl of a mixer, keeping the salt away from the yeast. Mix with the dough hook. Mix the melted butter into the milk and add slowly into the flour mix, until a dough forms. Knead for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is soft. Cover the bowl with the dough with plastic film and leave it for 1-2 hours to double in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Take the risen dough and divide into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a long sausage, not using flour so the dough will be easier to roll.
 Roll each dough sausage out evenly until over 12" long or longer. Take the ends of the roll and form a U with the dough. Twist the ends over twice and then pull them towards the bottom of the U and push them into the dough to form the pretzel. Continue with all the dough.
To Dip: Dissolve 2 tbsp baking soda into 2 c hot water in a largish bowl. With a slotted spoon, slip each of the pretzels into the water, lift out and place on a cooling rack to drain slightly. Once all the pretzels are dipped, place them on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 4-5 minutes, turn the sheets and bake for another 4-5 minutes until brown.

Melt 2 tbsp butter. Once the pretzels are out of the oven, brush each with melted butter. Dip into a sugar cinnamon mixture (I've tried savory as well - chive and cheese is lovely). Eat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


We finally had some rain this past weekend. I was so happy to wake up to the sound of solid rain fall on Sunday morning (fortunately I had brought the patio cushions in from outside).

It has been beneficial to my parched garden and more importantly, helped reduce or contain the number of forest fires burning around here. I spent the morning in the kitchen baking and it was lovely.

I tried my hand at croissants using a recipe I found on BBC Good Food. In the end, I baked the dough off in three sections, making a pan full of croissants each time, all various sizes. You need to start the dough a day before you want to bake them, to allow the dough to develop and rest. Although the recipe says it takes a lot of elbow grease to make these, I found the hardest part was rolling the cold butter into a rectangle.

Croissants (adapted BBC Good Food)
625 g all purpose unbleached flour
75 g sugar
1 tsp salt
7 tsp bread yeast
500 g butter, cold

The day before you want to bake the croissants, measure the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Pour in 350 mL of water and form a dough. Add up to an extra 50 mL to get the dough to form if required. Knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Set aside to rest.

Take the chilled butter and place between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll out into a rectangle about 30 x 20 cm, about 1 cm thick. Put in the fridge to chill.

Turn the rested dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle measuring about 60 x 30 cm. Place the butter in the center of your dough rectangle (having removed the plastic or parchment paper). Fold one edge of the dough over half the butter (top down) and then the other edge over the other half of the butter (bottom up) and then fold the top half over the bottom half. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and roll out into a rectangle measuring 60 x 30 cm. Repeat the folding, turning and rolling three more times, on the final turn leave the dough after folding, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
wrap well, this dough expands in the fridge!
Once the dough is rested, remove from the fridge and roll out into a rectangle about 0.5 cm thick, cut into strips and then cut into triangles about 10cm wide at the top. From the top end, pull out the ends of the dough a bit, and roll towards the triangle point until the crescent shape is formed and the triangle point is rolled over the middle of the croissant.

Place the croissants on a baking sheet lined with parchment and let rise for 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Beat an egg in a small bowl and once the croissants are risen, brush the egg wash over the surface of each croissant. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

mmmm butter

Every once in a while I like to challenge myself so in my current cooking doldrums, I did what any sane woman would do, I set myself a baking challenge. Now let me back up a bit. Over the winter and early spring, I became slightly obssessed with a show on PBS called The Great British Baking Show. I discovered back episodes of the series on youtube from the BBC where it is known as the Great British BakeOff and watched back to back into the wee hours on many a night. (Can't wait for the next series starting up again in August.)

 As I watched the series progress, the baking seemed so ambitious. All the tarts, breads, pastries the bakers came up with were amazing and then the technical challenges, especially in the last series, were generally things I'd never heard of. So sometime I'm going to try macarons but in the meantime, this summer, I decided to challenge myself to make rough puff pastry and croissants.

First up was rough puff pastry. We've been having a heat wave here, temperatures much higher than we are used to and days and days of sunshine which hasn't meant for days in the kitchen. So my project lapsed while we watched kite surfers, spent days at the beach with friends (and a goat wandering by), and a visit to a local animal rehab center.

Mudpie, a Vancouver Island marmot

Rosie the porcupine hiding behind a post

Awww - a baby possum
Then we had a slight cooling of temperatures and I got back to my projects - baking challenge and repairing a quilt (made over 20 years ago for my grandmother, which I got back after she died).
Women's equestrian drill team
I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food site and set to work. The recipe is from Gordon Ramsay and it worked for me. I added two more roll outs, fold and turns than Ramsay's recipe based on a couple of other recipes. I refrigerated the dough and used half for a savory pinwheel and half for a dessert pinwheel, both of which we liked.

Rough Puff Pastry (from BBC Good Food, Gordon Ramsay)
250 g all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
250 g butter, not cold, but not melted
~ 150 mL water

Add the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and rub into the flour until you have it through the flour but still in largish pieces. Make a well in the flour and add most of the water and mix until a dough forms, using more water if required. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Pour onto a lightly floured surface, knead slightly and then roll into a rectangle. Roll only in one direction until the rectangle measures about 20 cm by 50 cm. Try and keep the edges straight and neat but don't fuss too much, it will get easier to keep the rectangle as you proceed. You should still be able to see streaks for butter. Fold down the top third of the dough into the center, fold up the bottom third over it and turn the dough a quarter turn (right or left but always go the same direction).

Roll out the dough again into the big rectangle and refold in thirds as per above. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 mins to rest and cool. Roll out again into the large rectangle, fold and turn, roll and fold again and refrigerate again for 15 mins. Now the dough is ready to be used. If there are scraps leftover from use, stack them so the layers remain instead of scrunching into a ball.

Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
1/2 batch of rough puff pastry
ham slices
cheese, sliced or grated

Preheat your oven to 400 deg F. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 20 cm by 50 cm. Using about 1 tbsp of mustard, smooth a very thin layer across the whole of the pastry. Layer ham slices over about 2/3 of the pastry, making sure that the long edge of the pastry has a full layer of ham. Do the same with the cheese, if using grated cheese, you can cover the entire pastry. Roll up into a roll, starting on the long edge with ham, rolling as tightly as you can, pressing the end into the roll to form a seam. Slice off 1" wide slices off the log and place on an ungreased baking sheet filling facing upwards. Bake to 12-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Peach Pinwheels
When I made this I used peach slices, but think it would work better with diced peach so I've written the recipe with that as the suggestion.
1/2 batch of rough puff pastry
1 medium peach, diced
1 tsp melted butter
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger

Preheat your oven to 400 deg F. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 20 cm by 50 cm.
Brush butter over the entire pastry, then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over, followed by the cinnamon and the ginger. Spread the peach over the pastry, concentrate along one long side.

Roll up starting on the long side with the peach, rolling as tightly as you can, pressing the end into the roll to form a seam.  Cut 1" slices off the log and place on an ungreased baking sheet facing upward.
Bake to 12-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.