Bake Club: Croissants

About a year ago I was watching videos trying to learn about laminated dough. I was inspired by the rough puff segments on Great British Bakeoff. The more I looked into it, the more I thought, naaaa that looks too hard.

I continued my year trying new bakes and learning more with each one. Christmas came along and I received Duchess Bake Shop. This has to be the first patisserie cookbook that I have read cover to cover. I learned about butter content and why you want to use European style cultured butter (82-84% milk fat rather than higher water content). I learned about flour and flavourings and their purposes. Plus I learned why measuring ingredients is so important. I kinda knew why and was diligent in the practice of weights and measures, but I am a firm convert now. Last year I purchased the Escali scale on the recommendation on Bon Appetite’s Basically tutorials. I am not going to lie, at $40 I was skeptical and thought I could get away with not owning one because I had done well thus far. (I laugh at old Robyn now. She was so cute thinking I was good at baking). I did a test. I scooped one cup of flour verses weighing out 125 grams. My scoop was an astounding 155 grams!! The scale was not going back and I found it a home in my pantry.

Fast forward to Christmas morning and reading Duchess. I decided I would try making croissants. It was six pages of instruction. SIX PAGES! This was not going to be easy but I was confident I could do it. I flipped back and forth on whether or not I would try it. Cookies were easier. So was pie dough. I read through the recipe three more times before committing two days to this project – for no other reason than I want to see if I could do it.

I went to Sobeys and looked for the correct butter. Only one packaged confirmed 82% MF. I read every butter packet on the shelf. I needed 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsps of unsalted European style cultured butter. I went home and started following the directions reading the recipe for a fifth time. I took the 3/4 cup of butter after weighing it out on the scale. Mixed it with salt and sugar as directed and placed it into a 7″ ziplock bag.

I reread the instructions and learned I fucked up 3/4 cup of $6 butter. I was supposed to mix 2 tbsp. of butter with the salt and sugar. <Insert every curse word you think I might use and choose a worse one>

Meanwhile, my starter was bubbling away. It hadn’t doubled in size yet so I still had time.

Off to the store I went for new butter.

I ran into my parents and walked with my dad a bit catching up, then found my mom. I hate this pandemic business of not seeing my parents more, but shopping for groceries and seeing was like a bonus. Found the butter, and came home. I considered purchasing two – but vowed I would read better the seventh time.

Came home, reread the instructions again and attended to my starter. It was time to add it to my mixer with dough hook and add 2 tbsp. of butter/salt/sugar mix and whole milk. I let it mix and knead for five minutes as directed.

I made the butter plaque as directed (3/4 cup of butter in a ziplock bag measuring 7″ x 5″) The recipe stressed the importance of measuring. After completing everything I can confirm this is the important part. Measure your butter and your dough. This provides the exact thickness you need for perfect layers.

After the dough was done kneading I put it in an oiled bowl and covered with a damp towel to let rise while the butter plaque was chilling in the fridge.

Once the dough doubled in size I rolled it out to measure 10″ x 15″ and placed the butter plaque on one side as directed. I carefully folded and crimped the edges, wrapped it tightly and placed it in the fridge to chill. I repeated the process of rolling, folding and chilling a couple more times.

Around 5:00 p.m. it was time to roll the dough and cut into triangles. I read a few different techniques in different cookbooks. Duchess was the only one that suggested cutting a slit in the bottom and folding to the side before rolling. Duchess Bake shop is rated in the top 20 best bakeries in North America…I think she knows what she is talking about. So I followed her lead.

I rolled up the triangles as directed and placed them on a baking sheet to chill over night and build flavour.

The next morning I read the instructions AGAIN. (Where are we? Eight or nine times?) I filled a baking ban with hot tap water and placed on the bottom of my oven then applied an egg and milk wash and placed the tray of rolled dough on the centre rack for about two hours.

The little pillows of joy smelled so good but they were crowded. I preheated my oven and transfered half the beautiful pillows of dough onto another tray. Into the 450F oven they went for 16 minutes, then I turned the trays for another four minutes.

These croissants were perfection. You could see the layers of lamination. The outer crust was crispy and flakey. The inside was soft and delicate. These croissants were the best thing I have ever made in my entire life. I was overjoyed and wanted to shout it from the roof tops. I facetimed my mom and my friend, I shared photos with other friends and finally I ate them – and reluctantly shared them with my famjam.

Do I recommend making these? As my friend said, “they look just like the ones from Duchess! Break it open so I can hear the sound.” I did and she was properly impressed. So yes, make these if the challenge appeals to you. You can find the recipe in the cookbook – I don’t feel like I should share it, buy her book. She deserves the credit and financial gain. Follow the recipe exactly – all six pages and weigh everything. It is worth it. These things are perfection and taste like France.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Cookies

The hubs gave me Duchess Bake Shop cookbook for Christmas! If any of you are locals, you know how delicious Duchess is…and busy.

Apparently they have 300 people make baking purchases the first hour of any given Saturday, sometimes more when close to a holiday. At one point Duchess was named on of the top 10 bakeries in North America. Giselle Courteau knows what she is doing. We will go to the Duchess for birthday treats, Saturday strolls and sometimes just because.

As my baking skill increased over 2020, so did my desire to be challenged. Her baked goods remind me of some of the best patisseries in France. I have been wanting to try laminations for a while, who better to learn from? I decided to start simple and give White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio cookies a try. Longest name ever. I have had them in her shop and can tell you first hand how delicious they are. I do know mine will taste slightly different.

Why you ask? I don’t import my butter from France. It is the best dairy in the world, but it is expensive to do so – so, Canadian butter it is. I also make my own vanilla – its good – but it isn’t high end. My white chocolate is just chippits and the dried cherries are from Sobeys. The pistachios are leftover but frozen from Bulk Barn. Don’t get me wrong, these are very good cookies, just not as good as the could be. They are, however, affordable.

These are a basic butter cookie batter, the kind chocolate chip cookies are made from. If you search the internet you can find this recipe everywhere. But they are all slightly different.

  • 240g of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg – room temperature
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 roughly chopped dried cherries

Room temperature is important, things blend better. She also requests whipping the butter for 2 minutes before adding the sugar and egg. Then whipping those until light and fluffy. That makes a difference. She didn’t suggest hydrating but I did. I let the mixture sit for ten minutes. I find this makes a more pliable batter.

I whipped the wet ingredients using the stand mixer. I weighed and sifted the dry ingredients. I used my new mini Kitchen Aid food processor to chop the nuts (I am so grateful for this tool. I despise chopping nuts by hand!)

I combined everything then I used my 2″ ice cream scoop and did everything as directed. Can I just say, ever since I got my new 1 1/2″ ice cream scoop – I want to toss the others. I bought an Oxo before Christmas and wowza is makes scooping a dream. The other ones I have don’t release very well and it is frustrating. I am putting new scoopers on my Christmas list for next year. This is the one I am talking about. Oxo 2″scoop. Maybe its because it is new? But looking closer at it, the release is different. Mine bind.

After scooping I rolled to smooth them, then flattened with the palm of my hand to about an inch thick. I was supposed to get 18 but I only got 14. That’s fine, the are delicious. I baked them at 325F on my convection setting. I like that setting, I can bake two trays at once. BUT I needed to keep the cookies in 5 minutes longer. It said 15 minutes at 350F. But all ovens are different. Use your eyes and nose to determine if your cookies are ready to come out of the oven.

I don’t think these will last long in the cookie jar. Next I think I will give pain au chocolat. I am slightly nervous but it’s good to be challenged!

What is your favourite treat from the Duchess? Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: English Muffins

English Muffins

There was a lot of discussion at our house about Christmas brunch. We typically have some sort of egg dish. My daughter and hubs prefer a Benedict style fare. My daughter rather have regular bacon and the hubs likes back bacon (Canadian bacon to the rest of the world and no, we call it back bacon not Canadian because that is weird). My hubs like an English muffin base – very traditional and my daughter thinks they are dry and tasteless. They are, she isn’t wrong.

Then one day I was watching Stump Sohla, a series on the Babish Cinematic Universe (BCU). This series is a convoluted way to show off Sohla El-Wally’s unflappable skills. Babish makes her spin a wheel and she has to do what it says. This episode was a one-handed boozy brunch. She make an entire brunch with one hand. It was pretty amazing, but what caught my eye was how simple English muffins were to make. Well….”They look so easy to make!” said the hubs. I gave him an evil side eye and went back to watching. They did look fairly straight forward. It never occurred to me to make English muffins from scratch.

There isn’t a list of ingredients when you watch the video. I rewound it a few times and I came up with the following:

  • 200g of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of melted butter
  • 200 g of flour (this wasn’t enough for all the milk – I added another cup)

I whipped the egg with a fork and added to 200 g of milk. Then all the dry ingredients went in. I used instant yeast rather than blooming regular yeast. I didn’t warm the milk – I would have if I was using regular yeast. (warm the milk to 115F add the sugar and egg, give a mix then sprinkle the yeast over top and wait for it to bloom – get bubbly.)

I used my stand mixer with the dough hook. When it mixed it was just like pancake batter. This was never going to be a bread dough. So I added an other cup (almost) of flour and added it in slow additions until the dough was climbing up the hook and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. This took about five minutes. I greased a bowl, placed the dough in it and covered with a lid (damp towel, plastic wrap – whatever you use) and placed in the fridge over night.

By morning it had doubled in size. Letting is ferment overnight builds the flavour. I divided the dough into four pieces and dived each of those into 2 – to give me eight portions of equal size. (None of mine were equal, just putting that out there. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a curious gal who wants to be a really good baker.)

I took each ball of dough and (do not add flour) placed it under my palm. I made a claw with my hand and moved my hand in a clockwise motion with the ball rolling around my claw as if in a cage. (Does this even make sense?) It tightens up the protein strands to give a tight crumb. It is science people.

I dusted two fry pans with cornmeal and placed each dough ball on the meal to prove. I sprinkled more corn meal over top. Now. I didn’t use enough on one pan because the English muffin stuck to the bottom. Sprinkle generously.

I let them sit for about 30 minutes until they puffed up.

Place on the stove over medium/medium low heat and “fry” until brown on the bottom. This took about four minutes. Do not add oil. Just the cornmeal should be in the pan. Flip them once the bottom is brown and let the other side brown up. The internal temperature should read 200F. Get an instant read thermometer. IT IS THE BEST THING I EVER DID! I bought this one – I didn’t spend much and it has upped my baking and cooking game.

Let these pillowy puffs of delight cool on a wire rack. Split them with a fork and sample one to check for poison ( my dad always used that line on me. I thought he was saving my life, but he was just eating the extras because food is too delicious to share).

If you are wanting to complete the Eggs Benedict recipe. Molly Baz did a video that changed my life and turned poached eggs into a regular delicious occurrence in my home. Ina Garten does a hollandaise sauce that is perfection – my pal Laurie shared this secret with me. Thanks Laurie! Many links will lead you to Food Network and endless loops of crest commercials without actually allowing you to watch the video. Skip it and just read the easy recipe. My tolerance for crappy programmers is at an all time high this morning. So don’t mind me, I am burring my nose in Duchess Bakeshop cook book where I am learning the fine art of lamination. Stay tuned!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Cookies

Give me a freshly made ginger cookie and a cup of tea and you will never hear another word from me for the rest of the day. To me that is the perfect escape. It relaxes me and strangely fortifies me. You know all those British crime dramas where someone finds a mutilated body, then the detective makes them a cup of tea to make it better? Yeah… that is me. Tea sooths the savage beast. But give me coffee to kickstart my day.

Something happened to me last week. Looking back at everything that is going on, I am not surprised. I have reached maximum.

I am very much my mother’s daughter. There is something compelling me to do more. Be it work, community service, cooking, baking or just play time, more is something that natters at the back of my mind. I need to do more. It isn’t enough to make one batch of cookies, I need to make all the batches of cookies. So I did.

In one day I made:

  • Gingerbread (non-gendered) cookies
  • Ginger sparklers
  • Sugar cookies
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Chocolate chip cookies

I learned that there is such thing as too much.

I started the morning making whipped shortbread. This is the only thing from my ex that I appreciated. His mom taught me how to make excellent shortbread. I use the vintage recipe from the Canadian cornstarch box. The recipe is no longer found on the container, I have it in my recipe journal for safe keeping

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup of AP flour
  • 3/4 of butter, softened (not margarine – it isn’t the same thing)

Whip it together with a stand mixer until it forms a ball of dough. It feels like it will never come together then BOOM. Shape into one inch balls and flatten with a cookie press of some sort (fork, glass, your hand) Bake at 300F for 20 minutes. It is better to over bake than under bake. They are rich little nuggets that my brother says are the best thing ever.

While I was rolling out the shortbread, I was mixing the gingerbread for non-gendered cookies. These were going (most of them) to my niece’s class. I used the classic Company’s Coming recipe. You can find it here. I popped the dough into the fridge to chill for a while.

Not wanting to do more dishes than necessary, I made a batch of soft and chewy gingerbread. These are my all time favourite cookie and bless the internet because you can find the classic cookie recipe from Company’s Coming here. I pulled out my tattered cookie book but it is the same. I use fancy molasses. These went into the fridge to chill as well. They scoop easier when cold.

Next on the list was sugar cookies. I love a good sugar cookie. But the recipes that call for cream of tartar are not those… I search long and hard for a delicious version and then I found Steph. I follow her on Instagram. These are amazing. There is a video you can watch here because she is an extraordinary decorator or you can find the written recipe is here. I cut rounds, left some plain, used sprinkles for some and butter cream for the rest. I crushed candy cane over the butter cream. I do not enjoy royal icing so my cookies will never be decorated in a detailed way. I go for flavour. My Aunty always made hearts at valentines and used butter cream. To me, that is the proper way to eat sugar cookies. I rolled and baked these right away, the don’t need to chill. Honestly, these are a miracle cookie.

While the sugar cookies were baking, I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. These are my son’s favourite so I make a batch for the cookie jar and a batch for his Christmas stocking. That way he doesn’t have to share. They are gone in about a day. I use the Nestle Toll House recipe, no nuts and use salted butter because the contrast between the salt and sweet is amazing. I under bake these bad boys until the seven minute mark. Soft and chewy, this is the way the Tourist family likes them best. I searched the internet and this version are what my cookies look like.

Original Nestle® Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies | Allrecipes

After the sugar cookies were cooling on the rack, I started baking the chocolate chip cookies. While those were in the oven, I started rolling the shortbread into balls. While those were in the oven, I scooped the ginger sparklers into 1 1/2″ balls and rolled them in sugar. Baked those off and finally rolled out the gingerbread non-gendered cookies. That is when I realized I was doing too much.

Work was on the phone, my puppy was sick, I haven’t been sleeping because of stress, I am also Christmas shopping on line while waiting for cookies to come and go from the oven. Last batch of gingerbread was ready to go in, I set the timer and left for more Christmas shopping. Time timer went off, I opened the oven and LITERALLY the gingerbread non-gendered cookies ran away. They were not in the oven. I found the tray of unbaked cookies on my freezer in the pantry. Clearly my brain had reached maximum.

I finished them off and decided to store and decorate cookies the next day.

The moral of the story? I think 2021 will be the year for me to do less. I want to try to focus on one thing at a time. Be mindful. Be intentional. Enjoy my days rather than try to do everything. I have commitments that take all my time until December 19. That is the day I will deliver my cookies to friends and family and begin my new practice.

I am taking a break for the holidays, see you in a few weeks!

Stay healthy friends! I wish you the very best holiday possible.

Bake Club: Mincemeat Tarts

The first thing everyone asks when they hear the word ‘mincemeat’ is does it have meat in it? Kinda…

Kids growing up in the UK and Canada (maybe other British Commonwealth Countries… I don’t know for sure) ate mincemeat tarts around Christmas. In the old timey days of yore, these pies allegedly had beef or pork in them. I don’t think it was ground chuck, I think it was suet. If that is the case, the formula really hasn’t changed. Mincemeat is a mixture of fruit, candied peel, spices, rum or brandy if you are lucky and suet. Suet is hard fat of beef, pork or mutton. Don’t say ewww. If you are not vegetarian you likely eat bacon fat, butter, schmaltz, lard, honestly the list goes on. Suet is just another animal fat.

I thought about making the mincemeat from scratch. The work involved turned me off. Suet is a special order butcher item around here. The cooking of the fruit is more than I am interested in when I can buy the most delicious jar of mincemeat in the baking aisle at Sobey’s. In my experience, E.D Smith makes the best and they have been doing it since 1878. I think they know what they are doing.

My great grandma would use mincemeat and add apple sauce and a splash of brandy or rum to the jar so it would go farther and make it not as strong. Mincemeat can be a strong spicy flavour. I like it, but it can be a bit much for others. When I say strong – I don’t mean chili hot, I mean cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Mixed with the stewed fruit, I think it is delicious!

I used my grandmother’s pie crust recipe from her butter tarts. I cut 24 ’rounds’ (still don’t have a circle cutter) and 24 tiny rounds for the top crust. I used a pipping tip for that.

Snugged them into muffin tins.

and used a 1 1/2″ cookie scoop to evenly fill the shells. I had about a 1/4 cup left over. I will use this in a pumpkin loaf or muffin recipe this week.

I popped on the cute little tops and baked them at 400F for 16 minutes.

My house smells amazing.

I only used half the pie crust recipe. I may make pumpkin tarts or maybe more mincemeat tarts in the future depending if the hubs eats them all before Christmas gift giving. I wrapped the pie dough well and placed in a ziplock bag for the freezer. I squared it off for tarts. If I was making pie crust I would have shaped it into a circle for easier rolling. When I go to use this in the future (before six months) I will thaw overnight in the fridge.

You can absolutely use premade tart shells for the easiest tarts on the planet. You do you. There is something special for me when I am using a recipe my little gram used. I like the connection to her.

Happy baking and stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Nanaimo Bars

Image may contain: dessert and food
Nanaimo Bar from the Nanaimo Trail BC.

My 50th birthday took me to Vancouver Island with Tofino as the ultimate destination. I had been reading about the Nanaimo Trail and thought Nanaimo might be a great place to stop for lunch. It was. We had great soup and a Nanaimo bar for dessert, because when in Nanaimo… well, you know how the story goes. EAT THE NANAIMO BAR. I really liked it. I never thought Costco made a good one, nor have I liked the ‘variations’ to the classic bar. I never had family who made it and it wasn’t a staple growing up. The hubs loves nanaimo bars. He raved about the one we had on the trail. This year I thought I would do him a solid and make some amongst the Christmas baking.

I did some research and found everyone had their own version. Some used pudding powder, some didn’t, other’s had mint (WTF?) other’s had oats. NONE OF THESE ARE CORRECT! I went to the City of Nanaimo’s page for the Canadian classic treat because I figured this would be the authentic version. I was correct. It had custard powder and almonds. I downloaded this recipe and was preparde for a LOT OF WORK, because that is what people told me….ohhhhhh they are sooooo much work.

Liars. All of you.

These bars were easy and probably the best tasting bars ever. I mean EVER. Look for the recipe here. You are welcome.

When you try this recipe follow all the ingredients as written out. Don’t substitute things and then tell me it was crap. It is not the recipe, it is the recipe follower. There, I said it.

I did make a mistake though – I forgot to add the coconut. You could tell. It was still really good but the bottom wasn’t as thick. I am making new ones and I will not forget the coconut this time.

I made the crust first. I chopped blanched almonds for days. I want a small food processor. The upside is my knife skills are getting pretty darn great. I used parchment with an overhang to pull the squares out in a quick and painless fashion. I recommend that step. Add consider chilling the crust while you make the filling. I think it makes for better definition of the layers.

The filling is basically vanilla custard frosting. It is delicious! I am a Doctor Who fan so I had Birds custard powder for fish fingers and custard party. Sometimes we have custard for desert. It is not the same a Jello vanilla pudding and do not bother telling me it is. Because it’s not. So don’t use that.

Bird's Custard Powder - Original - 340g | London Drugs

You only need two tablespoons of the powder – this is the secret ingredient. Do not skip it and use your stand mixer or hand beaters to get the filling fluffy. I poured this on top of the chilled bottom crust and popped it back into the fridge while I melted the chocolate.

This is where you can elevate the squares. It calls for baking squares of chocolate. Um, no. Have you tasted that stuff? that isn’t chocolate, it is wax flavored baking topping. Ew.

Schitt's Creek: 10 Memes Too Hilarious For Words | ScreenRant

Chop your best chocolate and add 2 tablespoons of butter and melt them together over a double boiler – it won’t burn this way. The microwave will burn your chocolate. If you use terrible chocolate, use the microwave. It doesn’t matter any more…

I tempered the chocolate to get a nice snap – but you don’t have to. It works just fine without. Plus temper gives it a nice gloss.

I cut them into 16 squares because the hubs would have two otherwise. But you could easily get 32 rectangles of the perfect size.

These took maybe 30 minutes to make from start to finish. I am making one more batch this weekend for the freezer and don’t tell the hubs because I need these to last for gifts.

If you try this Canadian classic tell me how it went!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Gram’s Butter Tarts

There is nothing more polarizing to Canadians – hockey withstanding – than butter tarts. The debate is endless. Do you prefer runny or firm? Nuts or raisins? Frozen or room temperature? I could go on. I think the defining recipe is dependent on the one you grew up with. I made the mistake of not asking for my grandma’s recipes while she was alive. Thankfully my Aunty had the good sense to not only ask, but write them down. She has been my baking angel this fall with family favourite baking dishes. Her recipes come with “Mom Tip” sections and “Memory” sections. I need to do this. I talked before about hand writing recipes and writing the origin, but the mom tip and memory sections add another layer to the specialness of the recipe.

My dad will reminisce about his mom’s butter tarts and the importance of drippy raisin filled tarts. Every recipe I have tried all tasted fine, but they never were the same from childhood. I heard my Aunty and her family reserve November 11th as official Butter Tart Day. They all get together and make eight dozen tarts. Then divvy them up. I love this idea. So I wrote to her and asked for the recipe. I think the reason I have never found a recipe similar is because there are secret ingredients and methods no professional chef has ever written down. This recipe has honey instead of cornsyrup. It cooks the filling before baking AND it has a pastry recipe I have never experienced before. My grandma always made great pie crust but this recipe goes against everything all pie experts ever taught me. It was the most flavourful and flakiest crust ever.

This recipe needed common knowledge by baking it with someone in the know. The pie dough said it made 8 dozen, I got four dozen. Clearly I didn’t roll the dough thin enough, and honestly, I don’t think I will next time either. I loved the thick flaky crust. I also recommend a circle cutter. I don’t own one. I used a flower cutter and it makes pretty fluted edges but the tart overflows into the divots and the results aren’t pretty. I am sharing this because my grandmas made the best butter tarts ever. Every November 11 my grandma and her mom would bake these with my two aunties. I suspect this recipe was originally my great gram’s, but who knows? I think it is important to share vintage recipes and origin stories.

Pastry

Do NOT substitute any ingredients and be sure to measure carefully!! (These are the instructions – first of all I never heard of baking powder in pie dough and I never have used lard, nor have I added brown sugar. I assure you, this makes the easiest, most flaky and delicious piecrust ever. Suck it Erin McDowell, my gran knew what she was doing!)

5 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp brown sugar

1 lb. (2 1/3 cups) lard (Mom uses Tenderflake)

2 tbsp white vinegar

2/3 cup water

1 egg

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Blend the flour mixture and the lard with a pastry blade until it is equally fine and feels silky.  Make a well in the centre.  In a separate bowl or large measuring cup add the vinegar to the water and beat in the egg with the hand mixer.  Pour this mixture into the well in the dry ingredients.  Mix well and form into a large ball.  This will keep for a week or two in the fridge.

Roll on a lightly floured counter from centre out.  Do not roll back and forth or turn over the dough – this will make your pastry tough.

Will make 6 double pie crusts. Double recipe makes 8 – 81/2 doz. tarts. (Edmonton Tourist Tips: ummm I only made 4 dozen. I ran to the store to buy another pound of lard. I have a quart of filling left so I wanted to use it up. Roll thin to get 8 dozen – or don’t. I am not mad at the thick pie crust. Cut with a sharp circle cutter (Aunty uses 3 7/8 or 98 mm diameter cutter). Flute the shells into the tart pans. Also – this is good snacking dough for those who are inclined to snack on raw dough. I chilled the dough for 30 minutes – I recommend this to give structure and hydrate the flour. This is the easiest and most forgiving dough I have ever made!)

Butter Tart Filling

1 cup raisins (I use Sultanas)

1 kg and 1 cup brown sugar ( I nearly died when I saw this amount but it makes 96 tarts – that made sense while I filling endless tart shells.)

6 tbsp honey (liquid)

2 cups butter (maybe a bit more)

6 eggs (room temperature)

3 tsp vanilla

Put cleaned (check for and remove any stems) raisins into mixing bowl and cover with HOT water. Let soak for a half an hour. In a heavy saucepan , over LOW melt butter and add honey and vanilla. Beat the eggs with hand mixer and add slowly while stirring constantly (you don’t want the egg to cook into little pieces!) – I use my hand blender in the mixture while adding the eggs. Stir regularly until mixture becomes like syrup. Add raisins. (Edmonton Tourist Tip: Don’t add raisins to the liquid – add to unfilled tart shells. They become evenly distributed that way – Or nuts. I made three different tarts, raisin, pecan and plain. I like them all but my kids and definite preferences. The beaters were the secret tip – use them if you have them!)

The mixture should have a butterscotch syrup consistency. Keep warm at on medium low stirring regularly. Half fill with raisin mixture (it will boil up and over the edges if you fill them too full – then they will stick to the pans and you won’t be able to get them out). Edmonton Tourist Tip: Fact! I have non-stick tins that are the best I have ever had. Mine all boiled over so I was fussing with my offset spatula to scrape the syrup away to free the tarts. It also makes them ugleeeeeeey)

These are my Aunty’s – her’s are prettier.

Edmonton Tourist Tip: Do not have holes in your tarts and be carful when cooling. If these suckers spring a leak you will have syrup all over the place. When that happened, sprinkle with pastry crumbs or flour to absorb the stickiness and the use your bench scrapper to remove from the counter.

Verdict? Dad said they were the best. I could give him a shoe to eat and he would tell me it was the best. My dad is the best. But…. It did conjure up childhood memories for him and honestly that was the purpose. That is the number one reason to make these…. and also because they are the best.

Thanks Aunty! I love you to pieces!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: The Plan

This is not a black a white photo. 25 cm expected by the end of the day!

It has been quite the week! Watching the election from across the border has been exciting. There will be HUGE ramifications for my province and I laugh as I imagine our premier squirm a bit. His plans will be crushed. All of this makes me so happy today – you could even call it JOY. I have SO many good things happening right now.

My furnace died last week and we were without heat for a week. But the new furnace is so quiet and efficient, it makes me happy.

Work has been stressful. As an event strategist during a pandemic, you can imagine the challenge BUT – Our philanthropic campaign may be the best one yet because we had to imagine new ways of doing something. Coming together as a team has ensured our best creative ideas will be front and centre. I can’t express how excited I am to be apart of it. Do I feel like I am on fire and my desk is on fire and I am floating down the river in a dumpster while its on fire? Heck ya! But Come December 18, I think it will be feel good to relax and see the campaign success behind me.

My oven died in September. The thermostat didn’t shut off and nearly burned the house down. The new oven has a PROVING SETTING! It has easy clean and the inside is BLUE. It is super pretty AND it has convection bake – I tried it and it baked the best peanut butter sandies.

I AM ON VACATION FOR ONE WEEK! We are expecting 25 cm of snow today. It is really pretty outside and the first snowfall always puts me in a Christmassy mood. I am making a list of Christmas baking I want to do. I don’t know if I will get to it all because I AM ON VACATION but I think I will get to a lot it. Having a list makes shopping easy for future visits. Here is the plan:

  • Grandma’s Butter tarts (I wrote to my aunty and she sent me the recipe. These beauties were always made on November 11 – so the family tradition will continue!) This recipe makes EIGHT DOZEN. Obviously this is for sharing…
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Grandma’s Date Squares/Chews with hot pink frosting
  • Mincemeat Tarts (for those who don’t know – they aren’t made with meat – its fruit and a UK thing)
  • Sugar cookies decorated because that is how my aunty did it.
  • Lassy coos (or rather Ginger Sparklers but Lassy Coos is the family name for them)
  • Honey popcorn – this is my recipe I figured out after testing various combinations because Disneyland sold honey popcorn at Pooh Corner and It was the best thing EVER.
  • Gingerbread people – I make these with ribbon strung through and names written on the bellies. There are a couple of new babies in my life so I will make these for them and their sibs.
  • Brownie Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Nanaimo bars. I have never made these before but what the heck? I learned to make a ton of things this year. what is one more?
  • Magic bars – my mom made these at Christmas and I always loved them. I have never made these either, never to late to try new things.
  • S’mores – this will be a blog post on its own because I have an idea….

Okay, that is a long list. But I am not spending time with friends and family this year for Christmas. I will fill some tins and do a drive by porch visit.

I have a whole week ahead of me to do ONLY FUN THINGS. I can’t wait. I will let you know how the baking goes and tell me what your Christmas plans are going to be.

Meanwhile, things are looking up. Stay healthy everyone!

Bake Club: Pie Crust

Canadian Thanksgiving has past. It was delicious. I didn’t have my parents over this year because of the pandemic. We wanted to still share food. We each make things that taste good and like to contribute to the larger meal. My mom made our family’s traditional style cabbage rolls, I love these. They are a hybrid of Ukrainian and German. Not sour, stuffed with rice and bacon, topped with a sweetish tomato sauce and cloves. I traded two pumpkin pies.

Making pies is typically my super power but somehow this year the crust turned out terrible. I know why but it was still terrible. At least the filling was excellent. I thought I would write out the recipe and share it with you. Only this one will talk about the mistakes and why it went so wrong so future us will do better.

This is the only pie crust I ever make. It is made with butter and when I follow the rules it is tender and flakey.

Double Butter Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes – I use salted butter
  • 1 cup  ice water, or more as needed

That is it. Simple but complicated. You can half it to make a single crust. This recipe can make a covered pie or two open pies. Things you need:

  • 2 9″ pie plates. Not deep dish – regular pie plates
  • Pie weights. You can buy special pie weights or use dried beans, lentils or rice.

I keep my butter in the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before. I cut it up into cubes when it is cold and store it in the fridge until I need it. Cold it important, especially if you have hot hands. Fill a two cup measure with ice. Add one cup of cold water to the ice and let it chill for a few minutes.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter. Working quickly you need to rub the butter into the flour. I toss the butter in the flour to coat it first then I rub it in with my thumb and first two fingers. You can use a pastry cutter if you like but like but I like to feel the mixture. If you like a flakey crust you want to have larger bits of butter. If you want only a tender crust, rub it until it looks like sand.

I turn the crumbles on to a board or counter. Make a well in the centre and add water a few tablespoons at a time while folding the dough together. You don’t want your dough to be sticky nor do you want it dry. As you kneed it together it will form a ball. Too dry and you get cracks, to wet and it sticks to your fingers. You can add water or flour as needed. (no pun intended). The perfect consistency is when you squeeze it and it holds together (even when the bowl still looks like crumbs).

Form the dough into a ball. Cut in half and fold it onto iself a few times. This is how you get the layers of a flakey crust like the ones you see on Crisco commercials. Then pat into a circle. This is important. It helps the gluten strands develop and it is easier to roll out a circle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or an air tight container and chill at least 30 minutes.

I will often make the dough in the morning or the night before. I pull them out of the fridge, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I bang on it with my rolling pie. This loosens up the crust making it easier to roll out.

When I roll the dough, I start in the centre and roll forward once, lift the dough and make a quarter turn and repeat the process. This does a couple of things. It ensures I get a round crust, the crust does not stick to the surface and I can control the size and thickness better.

I keep checking the diameter with the pie plate. I want at least two inches larger than the plate. Then I fold it in half and centre it in the plate and unfold it. I gently hold the sides and I fit it into the plate being carful not to tear the sides. If you do – just pinch together.

Fold the edges under itself. This gives a thicker crust edge and allows for a pretty crimp. You can do whatever you like, I use my two fingers and thumb to create the zigzag pattern. My grandma used a fork for the crimp. Do what every you like best.

Now you fill it. If it will be a custard filling, like pumpkin, you will need to blind bake it.

Blind Bake:

Dock the pie with a fork (poke holes all over it) and bush on an egg wash. This prevents the crust from absorbing the custard filling.

Take a piece of parchment and cover the bottom of the pie. Ensure it is long enough to cover the sides. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. DO NOT MISS THIS STEP. I couldn’t find my pie weights so baked without. BIG MISTAKE. The crust folded on itself and shrank. I couldn’t bake it fully because it was melting into itself. It was a disaster.

Bake at 350F for 30 – 45 minutes. Shorter if you need to bake the filling in the pie, longer if you are putting a cooked filling in the finished pie shell.

The crust should be lightly brown and not translucent. (like mine was because I didn’t use pie weights.)

I have no idea what I was thinking but I will never make that mistake again. At least the crust tasted good – although it was a little under done. Don’t do that either.

Double Crust:

Place the bottom crust in the centre of the pie plate. Unfold it.

Add filling.

Place to the top crust over the filling. Fold the top crust under the bottom crust. Then crimp. Crimping here keeps the pie filling from spilling out. it isn’t just decorative. Cut a pie vent in the centre of the pie to let steam escape. Otherwise it will explode in your oven and that is just sad for everyone, especially the person who cleans the oven.

Brush with egg wash for a golden crust, milk for a pale crust.

Bake at 450F for 15 – 30 minutes and then drop the heat to 350F for about 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!