Bake Club: Not Hot Cross Buns

The act of making is typically done to please someone else. At least in my case. I have created all kinds of things to gain that praise from someone. When I bake I make things that my family likes. Not this time. Today I made something that only I like. Last week I realized I have not been treating myself – that ended today.

My daughter claims dried fruit is an abomination. Raisins are like chewing old people. I disagree. But because I love her, I tend to leave out raisins, dried cherries, candied ginger and other dried fruit to please her. My grandma put raisins in everything. I remember my dad complaining about it in everything but butter tarts. I always loved them except that time she put it in her stew… grandma – I love you but that was weird. But the raisin sauce on ham was good!

Today I made Not Hot Cross Buns because every spring the bakeries make them and they look so delicious with their currents and raisins. The hubs bough ‘hot cross bun bagels’ last week. The flavour was nice but the fruit was green and red. That candied peel fruit that is dyed is tasteless and holds way too much artificial colour. I prefer no food dye. I am not sure why – but it turns me off. Anything that alters normal body chemistry and turns things colours can’t be good for you over the long haul.

I soaked 2/3 cup of raisins – the good kind that taste like they came from a red box. You know what I mean. Then I zested one orange and juiced it. I soaked the raisins in the orange juice for about 30 minutes. Rum is good for this as well. While that was happening I weighed out my 440g of flour, 50 grams of dark brown sugar and 50 g of white granulated sugar into the bowl of my stand mixer. I added 2 1/4 tsp or one package of instant yeast, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of allspice and 1/4 of a grated nutmeg. I whisked that together and started on my wet ingredients.

Into a small bowl or two cup glass measure, I added 1/2 cup of 2% milk, 1/3 cup of butter and popped that into the microwave for about a minute swirling it together until the butter melted. I added 1 Tbsp. of vanilla and the orange zest from before. Whisked 1 egg and add it to the mix.

In your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or by hand – but it will take a while) on low speed, slowly drizzle the wet ingredients. Before it combines into a ball, drain the raisins and add them to the dough. Beat on medium speed until it comes together. There will likely be raisins or what ever dried fruit you used on the bottom of the bowl.

Sprinkle about 2 Tbsp. of flour onto a clean surface and dump the dough and remaining dried fruit out. Start to knead the dough until it feels soft. At the beginning it will be gritty – you will know the second it becomes soft and smooth. It will take about 5-7 minutes but maybe longer. It took me 10 minutes today. Form into a ball.

Light oil a bowl, and place your dough into the bowl. rotate it so it also is covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let this double in size in a warm spot. Keep an eye on it it should be about an hour but it really depends on your kitchen.

Divide up the dough into 14 pieces and form into balls. I put them into a parchment lined pan because I like soft sides. Give them a little room because they will expand. If you don’t want soft pull-a-parts – put them on a baking tray with lots of room around them so they won’t touch while rising. Let rise for another 2 hours.

This is where I stop because a flour paste cross is tasteless and I don’t like the sticky glaze – but if you do – here are the rest of the instructions. This is why I call them Not Hot Cross Buns. My daughter said – just call it raisin buns…. sheesh mom!

The cross! Mix about a 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 of water until it forms a paste. You are going to pipe this – so adjust the consistency as necessary. I filled a ziplock bag and snipped the end off. Pipe a long stream from top to bottom allowing it to hug the bun. Turn your tray and repeat the process intersecting the first line.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Make an egg wash of egg and cream or milk – about a tbsp, and brush over your buns. Bake in the overn for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Make an apricot glaze – I used Peach jam because that is what my mom made me and it is what I had on hand. 1 tbsp. of jam, 3 tbsp. of vanilla and 1 tbsp. of water. heat together and strain through a fine sieve. Brush over the warm buns. Eat them warm, eat them room temperature or eat them cold.

This is how they should look:

Easter Hot Cross Buns Recipe | Le Cordon Bleu

Tell me how yours turned out!

Stay healthy friends!

Question 11 of 52

What makes you feel like a strong person?

Boundaries.

Before I had courage to set boundaries and before I am who I think I am – not who you tell me to be, my boundaries were weak. I let people lie and gaslight me, I let people take advantage of my good nature and worst of all, I gave more chances than I ever should have. I allowed people to treat me like garbage all because I wanted to belong and I wanted friends to want me and value me. I was looking in the wrong places. I let myself down.

July 7, 2019 I snapped. I had had enough. I drew the line in the sand and walked away. I grieved for a while but mostly I reflected on the state of my mental health and began to enjoy the peace in my life.

I don’t regret anything I did for a minute.

I realize that all of events of my life led me to that moment. Choosing me was the best thing I ever did and I am glad it didn’t happen too late. I have years left to enjoy this new found freedom. I have purged former friends and family from my life. I now have a circle of friends and family who I can trust with my life. I know they have my back. They are reliable. In the end, I conjured up covenant that Indiana Jones would have chosen and chose wisely.

Boundaries are more powerful than I thought they were with the added bonus of being a set of blueprints to map out my day to day life. It took a friend telling me what I didn’t want to hear. A punch to the gut and she was right. She is the friend everyone needs. She will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I even said no at work. I was off for the weekend and received a message asking for a file. I had worked overtime every day that week. I said no – I would get it Monday morning or they could ask xxx who was still working. They apologized and said Monday was fine. The world didn’t end, I wasn’t fired and I could continue with the relaxing start to my weekend. I promptly turned off my phone.

Boundaries are a beautiful thing and that is what makes me strong. How about you?

Question 10 of 52

No photo description available.

What does it feel like when someone recognizes something you worked hard to do?

Satisfying. The end.

Kidding… I can write a bit more on this topic

I used to draw a lot. The hours I spent at my desk, alone in my room drawing was astounding. I transposed images. I would look for the detail and copy them exactly. I didn’t have tons of talent to come up with something on my own, so exploring graphic design didn’t work out so well for me. But I could take an image and duplicated. If any of you know what career that could lead to, please drop me a line. Any rate, I would take these images and show my dad. He was always amazed and proud. He often encouraged me to show people my portfolio when they came to visit. It made me feel good.

I was never the athletic child and in a world where all the funding goes towards that, or you are judged by size of your body, having arts as your talent was pretty frustrating. I often felt inadequate. But art and academics came easy to me. Easy doesn’t mean it didn’t take effort. When I worked hard at something, I often heard “but it’s easy for you” or “but you are good at that”. Hell yeah I am good at it because I put effort into it. To be recognized for it was another level.

My dad has always been stellar at encouraging me. His enthusiastic response helped me pursue activities and achievements without fear. People will often shoot you down rather than build you up. It is just as easy to be a cheerleader than a discourager. So when you get recognized for the effort, it is a great feeling. Who doesn’t like that? It sure doesn’t happen often.

I like to take a page from my dad’s book, lead by example. Offer the complement. Tell someone you see their work. Show people you appreciate their efforts. If we all lifted each other up, the world would be a better place.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Pistachio Pinwheel Cookies

I have never made a pinwheel cookie until yesterday. It wasn’t easy but completely manageable. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day overall and maybe that is a contributing factor. I haven’t been sleeping, I feel tremendous stress at work, I have cabin fever like I have never experienced and am fantasizing about living in a six bedroom house ALONE. I don’t have a six bedroom house now…so why one where I am alone? I have no idea but the past year has taken a toll on all of us and I am really feeling it. Where some people want to socialize – I want to feel isolation. This may lead to a drive in the country later today. If I don’t come back it’s because I found the six bedroom home in the woods and live there now. Back to cookies and why this wasn’t easy with my crankiness aside.

There are many steps to this cookie. I am more of a cream and dump kind of cookie baker. Give me a basic butter cookie and toss in things like chocolate, nuts and fruit – you have yourself my favourite kind of cookie. But, working my way through cookbooks is part of the challenge. Learning new skills, trying new ingredients, is all part of growth on my part. So here were are.

I watched Claire Safitz’s NYT Cooking video on how to make this cookie and found that to be the same as reading her instructions. For a change, there is no discrepancy. Yay Claire! She likes this cookie for Christmas because she doesn’t like decorating and this is a self decorating or interesting cookie with the green. I probably wouldn’t make this cookie all the time either but save it for a fancier time because it looks good – it tastes fine but it’s not sweet. You get the sweetness from the nuts and a bit from the the outer ridges.

This cookie is a shortbread cookie. The almond white layer would be a great cookie on its own but it pairs nicely to the pistachio layer. I used almond flour – a new ingredient to me. The almond extract takes it to a new level. I divided it into thirds and set 1/3 aside for the pistachios. I rolled it out measuring 12″ x 8 “. Measuring is also new to me. I have a ruler in my kitchen now and all dough is rolled to the perfect thickness. All my baked good were too thin. I have the hang of this now! I rolled it out and popped it into the fridge while I made the pistachio layer.

I keep pistachios in the freezer because of the high fat content. This prevents the expensive nuts from going rancid. Honestly, I practice this with all my nuts now. Everything in the freezer, label and dated. I ground up the nuts in my food processor and added them to the reserved 1/3 of the almond dough. I think you could sub cashews because it would taste wonderful but you wouldn’t get colour variation. Then I dropped spoonful’s onto the chilled pre-rolled dough.

Using my offset spatula, I spread it out leaving a 1/2″ boarder. Not going to lie, this was not easy and very fussy. I let it chill for 30 minutes.

No came the hard part. Rolling this into a log. I started with the edge closest to me but the almond dough just tore and crumbled. Then I thought to use the parchment as if I was rolling sushi on a mat. Boom – this mad a huge difference and I used the parchment to help put it into a tight log.

I wrapped the log in the parchment and let chill for another 30 minutes.

I rolled the log in sugar. Don’t miss this step. I didn’t have sanding or turbinado but it was still fine, and honestly these cookies need the extra sugar. Then the instructions said to cut in half and continue cutting in half until you have 32 pieces. I trimmed the ends first to give it an even start.

I laid them out on a baking sheet fairly close together and baked them for 20 minutes at 350F. They don’t spread but you need to give them room for the heat to circulate.

These cookies need a cup of tea or a glass of cold milk but after a day the flavour improved and I found myself really enjoying these. Her full recipe can be found here.

Food processor is useful for chopping pistachios. Obviously it can be done with a knife.

  • 2/8 cup shelled pistachios (3.2 oz /90g)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter(6 oz /170g), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (3.7 oz / 105g)
  • 2 large egg yolks (1.1 oz / 32g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.6 oz / 130g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1-1/8 cups almond flour (5.6 oz / 160g)
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar, for rolling

Stay healthly friends!

Bake Club: Rhubarb Galettes

Back in the summer I asked facebook if anyone had an excess of rhubarb they were willing to share with me. I have a tiny new plant that doesn’t produce much yet. I love rhubarb, it tastes like summer to me and is basically a weed here on the Canadian prairies. A good friend had a bunch and my sister-in-law(SIL) said I could take some of hers.

I took both. My SIL said ‘What are you going to do with all this rhubarb?’ Obviously eat it. I froze two large bags. Last week I was thumbing through my Duchess Bakeshop book (tired of hearing about this book yet? You can buy it here.) and found Rhubarb Galettes on page 165.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and if I did – I am sure it would have been spectacular. But mine was delicious all the same.

I have three bundles of pie dough in my freezer. Each bundle makes a double crust or 24 tarts. This is my grandmother’s recipe I gave here in the Butter Tart recipe. It is one of the most forgiving, flakey crusts I have ever made. Plus I had enough and then some of rhubarb in my freezer. What I liked about this recipe was the method. The pretty rounds used for the galettes. Most instructions have rough edges or torn pieces to make to look very rustic. I prefer pretty edges.

I made the topping and set it aside:

  • 1/4 old-fashion rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp of butter (I used salted because that is what is in the pantry)

Then I made the filling and set it aside:

  • 3 cups of fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 3 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

I had thawed the pie dough in the fridge the night before then rolled it out on a lightly floured surface. I measured a small plate and bowl to find a 6″ diameter and used it as a template to cut the circles. I got three circles on the first roll, combined the scraps and cut two more then combined the scraps for the sixth round. They are craggy but… whatever, so much for pretty. I placed them on a silpat liner because there was going to be leakage.

I used a 1/3 cup measure to divide the filling between the galette rounds. Then I pleated up the sides of the dough before I added the topping.

What I should have done was add the topping then pleat up the sides. I then baked them at 375F. What I should have done, was chill them for about 30 minutes so they would hold their shape better. Then apply an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. The rhubarb is tart and it needs a tad more sweetness to the crust. But overall these were delicious.

They kept a room temperature in a pie safe for three days. The family enjoyed them. The crust was crisp on day one, soft and flakey day two. I think I liked day two best. None of these turned out pretty like the photo in the book – or in her shop. That is why I think chilling the crust is key because I had a breach when the pie crust laid down to rest.

One day I am going to give Duchess pie crust a try. She uses a combo of vegetable shortening and butter. That makes me curious.

I think about this galette and the different possibilities for filling, like apple or berries. Something that gives you the taste of summer in the middle of a cold winter.

Stay healthy friends!

Question 2 of 52

How to Encourage: Ronit's List of Compliments | Family Matters

What was the best compliment you ever received?

Like many people, accepting compliments is a tough job for me. So many people I know brush them away instead of embracing them. I was no exception. Then somewhere along the way I started saying ‘Thank you’. People who gave them felt good for giving it and I began to believe what these people were saying.

I hear ‘you are so creative’ a lot. Thank you, creativity is my bread and butter. One time, a man named Tiger told me my hair was beautiful and he asked if he could touch it. I am not going to lie, I swooned. But that wasn’t even the greatest compliment. I value brains. I like being smart. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor (acoustic neuroma) I was petrified that I would lose what I perceive as my greatest asset, my critical thinking ability.

Years ago I was in a meeting with some friends and I came up with an idea. I was told I was ‘bloody brilliant’. I held this close to me. I don’t hear it often but when I hear ‘you are clever or smart’ something happens to me. It elevates my soul. I even get a little cocky (not cool – it can happen to the best of us). Hearing a compliment like that did something to me. I wanted to pay it forward. Now I make a solid effort to compliment and elevate people around me. I tend to focus on women because they hear superficial compliments all the time like ‘you are beautiful or pretty or that dress looks good on you’ or worse ‘you look like you lost weight’ (look, all weight related compliments are actually fat shaming – and fuck you- no one wants to hear that if they are dealing with an eating disorder so just stop it. It isn’t a compliment). We all know those ‘pretty’ compliments don’t mean anything. Well, not to me. I try to elevate others by complimenting them on problem solving, or creative solutions or even for being funny. A genuine compliment does something special to people. I like the way it makes me feel – so why shouldn’t I share that feeling?

Tell me the best compliment you ever received and stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Horse Lovers Lane

Christmas break is more meaningful to me now then when I was teaching. I have limited time so I make the most of it. I am also not as mentally exhausted so I have more energy to do other things. If you know a teacher, remember to thank them. Their job was hard before, now it is nearly impossible.

After all the baking was done and the tree was put away, I decided my pal Cap and I needed to get out and explore the valley. It had been a wile because let’s face it, Albertans are not following the shelter in place rule. The malls are packed. The ski hills are packed. The skating rinks are packed. I just don’t want to be around people for my health. I thought Keillor Road might be a good choice.

There were people out walking but I am happy to report, those in groups wore masks. I probably came across 15 people total. I had my mask even though I am alone. It makes me feel better about talking to people – what does one Canadian say to the other on the street? Hello.

Cap and I parked at Whitemud park. The place was packed because everyone was at the toboggan hill at the Savage Centre. Very few were walking along the river. I chose this park because my pal Cap will stop everything he is doing to watch a horse on tv. I thought he might like to visit a few. The Whitemud Equine Centre is nestled between Fox Drive and the Whitemud Park.

We walked half way down Keillor road, which runs parallel to the North Saskatchewan River, before we decided to follow a path the took us through horse pasture. The centre is currently closed to the public, but it is city land, so I thought it would be okay to walk on the designated paths.

We approached the horse paddock and Cap stopped, looked and then kept sniffing. He could care less that there were horses, nothing like his behaviour when he sees them on tv.

We turned away and followed a path through another pasture that led to the centre’s main road.

Cap found horse tracks and dog tracks that seemed far more interesting. Walking down this road was lovely in the twilight hour. There wasn’t a soul around.

We cam upon an adorable sign that sums up this trail.

Ain’t that the truth. My daughter went to horse camp here and still asks for a horse every year for Christmas. She wants to board it here. She loves this road and is likely her favourite place in the city. That is the best thing about Edmonton, you can go for a walk in the valley and it feels like you are in the middle of no where. Yet I was only five or ten minutes from the University of Alberta.

I encourage you to explore some of the roads less traveled. It is peaceful and can do your soul a world of good.

Stay healthy friends!

52 Questions to get to know yourself better

Questions are the Answer - Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Good bye 2020. Hello 2021.

2020 taught me a lot of things. I upped my baking skills to a level I never thought could exist for me. I learned that being an introvert was lucky because my life didn’t change a whole lot with isolation and lockdowns. I missed traveling and exploring my city, province and country. I got to know myself better by the abundance of alone time.

But I still want more.

This has been an ongoing theme since I turned 40. There has to be more than this. When I feel this way, I know its time for more introspective work. I had been thinking about this for a while. What do I need to do to understand myself better or to find out what I want to do with the next half of my life. I need change.

I found a list of questions to ask yourself. This set of questions is meant for kids to develop a stronger sense of self and a positive self-esteem. I read through them and you know what? I think I could benefit from these questions too. I thought about answering a question each week but if I am doing it then there might be one or two people out there who would like to ask themselves the questions too. Each Wednesday I will post a question and lets see where this will take us shall we? Hopefully by the end of 2021, we will all have the new vaccine and life can resemble something a little bit different from 2020.

Maybe we can discuss what we learn about ourselves. I hope you join me next week. Get yourself a journal and a pen or pencil. I image we will know ourselves a whole lot better this time next year.

Stay healthy friends and Happy New Year.

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!