It was a Christmas miracle. The most perfect poached egg I have ever created. My daughter let me know it was better than the one she had for breakfast Christmas Eve morning at a restaurant. It was visually beautiful, tender and tasty. All the things you hope for your own poached egg when making Eggs Benedict.
Fun Fact: In 1894, Lemuel Benedict, a Wall Street broker, who was suffering from a hangover, ordered“some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce” at the Waldorf Hotel in New York. *Does anyone know what a hooker is in reference to hollandaise? A vessel? A measurement? A gal to join at breakfast?
I have been trying for years to achieve the perfect egg to lay across my back bacon (Candian Bacon for you out-of-towners. No, we do not call it Canadian Bacon, its back bacon and its nothing like bacon. Its ham.) I have tried the vortex method – stirring the water to create a vortex, but you can only cook two eggs at most using this method. I have tried baking them in ham cups in the oven, delicious but easily overcooked plus I miss the tang from the vinegar in the cooking water. My eggs always come out shaggy. Then one day I found the secret!
I was watching Bon Appetite on Facebook – I love the test kitchen videos. Brad from It’s Alive is hilarious. Priya is new but is my favourite. I love Carla and her blind instructions. Andy is just really great to look at. Don’t even get me start on Claire and her series on replicating store-bought stuff. She made Skittles from scratch people, FROM SCRATCH! Then there is Molly. She is pretentious, but she is always right, so I listen to her. She was bang-on about the Caesar salad so I figured she would be correct about eggs benedict for a crowd. Who can poach a dozen eggs at once? Molly can. She is a genius.
You can watch the video like I did. I didn’t expect it to be so spectacular. Cracking the egg over a sieve was amazing. You lose the watery bits of the egg white but not enough to lose the egg.
I dropped it into the water (laced with salt and vinegar). It was just six eggs I was making, only three of us for breakfast Christmas morning, I cooked them for longer than three minutes. I like my eggs almost firm. My girl likes them runny – so that was fairly easy until her egg kept cooking and wasn’t running at all. So she will get a three-minute egg when I make Christmas Breakfast for my parents when they return home from Europe.
LOOK AT THAT PERFECTION!!! This was an egg without the sauce. I made more the next day and used up the back bacon and added cheese. I put another half English muffin on top and called it a breakfast sandwich. Eggs done this way are magical.
I think I prefer to have fond memories of sugar cookies rather than eating them in real time. I loved making them, sneaking tastes from the bowl and licking the beaters of buttercream frosting. My aunt made the absolute best cookies. Sometimes she would make a million dozen for my dad’s classroom (give or take 100 000) and sometimes she would make some with me after my music lessons. The cookies were always hearts and always had pink frosting.
My embossed rolling pin arrived this week and I was super excited to try it! I had made all the shortbread and ginger cookies I needed for Christmas but I hadn’t made any sugar cookies yet. So, I dug out the best recipe and decided to try the rolling pin. I discussed technique with a gal at work, who bakes amazing creations, the best way to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. We thought flour would make the cookies too tough, icing sugar too sweet, but thought cornstarch might do the trick.
That was my first fail.
Let me start at the beginning.
Sugar cookies are a familiar friend. I roll them and cut them and frost them. I would make hippy daisy flowers for my daughter’s birthday treats in elementary school. I know how to make an excellent sugar cookie.
I pulled out my favourite recipe where you don’t have to chill the dough because it rolls best at room temperature and is not crumbly. Very important things. I mixed the batter and placed it between two pieces of parchment paper so I didn’t have to handle the dough too much. It makes for a more tender cookie the less you manhandle it.
It rolled out beautifully. A lovely rectangle the right size for my new pin which is weirdly small. Thanks, random store on Amazon. I then put cornstarch on my pin to get it in the nooks and crannies. The detail is very fine and I wanted definition.
I tried using the handles, but my hands are too big – I don’t have large hands fyi. The I rerolled the dough to a flat surface. I ended rolling using the French pin method – with my hands on the long wooden dowel. I pressed too hard and I pressed too light. In true Goldilocks form, three tries was just right.
I pulled out my cookie press for comparison. The grooves in the press are deeper than the pin. The pin was too shallow. So the design which is gorgeous on the pin is too faint on the cookie dough. My dream of having the cookies look like a sweater was dashed. I cut them into hearts because that is what shapes sugar cookies are supposed to be. And in the right light, you can kinda see if you squint – the outline of the deer and snowflakes. All that fluffing around and I have shaggy hearts.
The next step in my plan was to sandwich these with buttercream frosting. Crave Cupcakes in Edmonton (and probably Calgary) make these amazing sandwich cookies. I always get one for my birthday and by always its been two years in a row because I only just found out about that place.
The cornstarch gave a weird texture to the top of the cookies – so don’t use cornstarch.
The embossing was too shallow for the cookie dough. It might work better on shortbread or gingered bread. It’s too close to Christmas to experiment now. Thanks, Amazon for taking six weeks to get here. I am pretty sure a Keebler Elf whittled it thus explains the length of time getting here from some distribution centre – probably China so it likely came by barge. Then dogsled. Then an obscure white van with the mirror attached with duct tape.
White cookies and white frosting blend together in whiteness. I am opposed to food colour because is it necessary? Also, is it good for me? Also, have you seen me use glue? Food colour is problematic for me and I don’t need to have it all over my face when I am going out for breakfast Christmas Eve morning.
Hearts aren’t very Christmasy.
I have terrible pipping skills.
My cookie recipe is outstanding.
The buttercream is delicious.
I dolloped loads of buttercream on the cookie and it squirted out the sides. If I had been thinking, I could have dipped the sides in peppermint shards (broken candy canes) or mini chocolate chips or BOTH. (I am grasping at straws for a win people, just give it to me.)
Here is the recipe, don’t do what I did, just roll them and cut them using hearts or whatever you fancy. I have Ninja shapes I should have used but I was nostalgic for my auntie’s cookies. Also, Merry Christmas from me to you.
No Fail (see the irony?) Sugar Cookies
1 cup salted butter (room temperature. I think its an American thing to keep the butter in the fridge. It’s useless in there.)
1 cup sugar – white granulated in case it isn’t obvious
1 tbsp. vanilla – the really good stuff, mine is imported from Mexico (is anyone going and can bring me back more?)
2 tsp. baking powder
6 cups flour
Add butter and sugar to your mixer. Cream it together until lighter in colour and the sugar is dissolved.
Add vanilla and egg and mix until completely incorporated.
Add baking powder and mix. – this step is weird, usually, you put baking powder in with the flour. Don’t this time, mix it first. It makes a big difference.
Mix in the flour two cups at a time, then one cup. (if doubling the recipe – do it two cups at a time)
Do not chill the dough, the cookies will bake better if the dough is at room temperature.
Roll a handful of the dough out on a prepared surface until it’s about 3/8″ thick and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 6-9 minutes depending on the size of the cookie. Do not over-bake. I do it for 9 minutes. They are done in that magical stage between translucent and golden.
Frost with buttercream and sandwich together.
In a mixer combine:
1/2 cup butter – salted
2 cups of icing sugar or powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla or more or add orange or peppermint or brandy – whatever floats your boat.
I drizzle in no more than a tsp of milk – just to smooth it out.
They taste way better than they look.
Any tips for embossed rolling pins people? I may just stick to stamps, I have that down pat.
Every year I take a day off close to the holidays and spend it Christmas shopping. The hubs and I plan an entire day to get everything done. I was inspired to do this by my sister who loves shopping with several packages hanging from her arms. She always wanted the packages to be like hat boxes as seen in several holiday movies, but plastic bags made do for her fantasy.
We start the day off by going for breakfast, the most important and most delicious meal of the day. This year the destination is Cafe Bicyclette, a lovely French cafe in the heart of the French quarter here in Edmonton. I love their coffee and think its some of the best the city has to offer. The days they serve Eggs Benedict are my favourite so fingers crossed that will be on the menu with their grilled grapefruit!
Over breakfast, we make a list of shops we need to visit. This year its places like RAM, AMA, a great bookstore, a toy shop, a dollar store and Southgate Mall. I haven’t shopped at a mall in a very long time so this will be unusual for me. After shopping is complete, we head to Bon Ton Bakery for the best fruitcake, I am one of 7 people in the world who loves fruitcake, don’t judge. I will pick up some other treats for Christmas and then leave with the need to remortgage the house. Aside from that small detail, it is a lovely day.
The thing that is different this year is I don’t have a list for me. There is nothing I want or need other than grandbabies and those will be a few years down the road. The hubs and I are not exchanging gifts this year because we have changed. I credit 738 consecutive days of meditation for this change. I don’t desire things like I used to. I much rather experience things. Life has become a way to experience things rather than get things. Unlike previous years, I don’t have a list of goals. There are a few things I want to do but mostly I want to spend 2019 being present and see what unfolds.
I imagine the Universe has many things planned out for me but I have only one thing.
Make memories with my family.
Sounds simple but also exciting. I have never been as focused on being present before and this is also a credit to the shift I made. I plan to use my inner compass to guide and dictate where and what I will do. I anticipate it being the best year yet.
I had a boyfriend once who called me honey. We were casually dating and called each other normal names then boom, he called me honey and I felt weird about it. It was as if that was the name he used for his wife. Turns out I was right.
Honey was a favourite food of my son. Part of that had to do with his relationship with Winnie the Pooh. If honey was good enough for Pooh Bear, then honey was good enough for him. Plus eating local honey has the added benefit of building up your immune system to ward against hay fever.
I love honey. I especially love local honey. So much so that I think I want to become an urban beekeeper. Save the bees, eat local honey and grow an amazing garden. All things I think I want for me. Or at the very least it is a romanticized version of what I want for me.
Disneyland had this great popcorn cart over in Pooh Corner. They served honey popcorn. The smell was amazing. Warm honey gives off a pleasant sweet fragrance that has a blend of clover mixed in. The popcorn was a crisp and sweet blend of honey caramel. I loved it. It was one of my favourite treats available at the park until it was gone. Now they appear to have just a plain popcorn cart, but it has been years since I have darkened the doorstep of any Disney Park, but I like to do little things that remind me of great vacations past.
After I first tried the honey popcorn at Pooh Corner, I went home to try to recreate it. It took me several attempts but I finally got the proportions right. It has become my signature recipe that I make only once a year. Usually, my mom makes the popcorn for me and I do the rest. Making popcorn is not something I am good at but I figured out another way to do it while she is in Ireland. Here is my Honey popcorn the way Pooh Bear likes it. Don’t blame me if you have a sudden urge to play Pooh Sticks or search for Heffalumps and Woozles. Eat at your own risk.
Robyn’s Pooh Corner inspired Honey Popcorn
4 qt popped popcorn (I use Orville’s microwave with butter and salt)
1 cup nuts (almonds and pecans are what I prefer but anything will work)
1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar (I have used dark brown but light gives a better colour)
1/4 cup of honey (local clover honey not creamed – regular drippy honey)
1 tsp pure vanilla (the best you can get your hands on. The Barefoot Contessa is correct)
Pop your popcorn and place it in a prepared roaster. I spray it with pam but if you don’t so that, grease it or you will be frustrated when its time to stir the popcorn. Sprinkle nuts over the top of the popcorn.
In a heavy bottom saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add sugar and honey. Stir consistently until it comes to a gentle boil. Turn heat down to medium and let it gently boil for 5 minutes without stirring. You do not want the sugar to become grainy – so leave it alone! After 5 minutes, remove from heat and add vanilla. It will bubble up and appear angry. Beware. Then give it a stir to incorporate the vanilla throughout.
Pour over popcorn and nuts, stir until well coated. Bake at 250 F for 1 hour. This is the secret to the perfect texture. Skipping this step makes the popcorn soggy and gooey. Every 15 minutes, remove from oven and stir. The honey caramel settles to the bottom and you want it to coat the popcorn evenly. Cover your counter with parchment paper. Once the popcorn is done (one hour in the oven!!!) turn it out on the parchment to cool. This prevents it from sticking to the pan. Soak the pan in water for easy cleanup.
Variations: I have substituted pure maple syrup for the honey. Maple popcorn is decedent. It is expensive but so good.
My mom and I have been tossing around the idea of a vacation with her, dad and me. No one else. I want a memory of just the three of us. No stopping the car to let my brother out for a run. No having to share a seat with a sister who hogs all the cuddle time with mom and dad. No grandmas tell us where they want to eat. Just me, mom, and dad on the kind of vacation we have never had before. But I also want a vacation together that we have had before…like Disneyland.
I began going to Disneyland at the age of six. I have been upwards of 30 times to the various parks in the United States and France. This may seem surprising to many who know me but it has been years since I have darkened the doorstep of any Disney Park, years. My last few memories were tainted by situations and relationships that needed to be purged by me. Moving forward I will spend future Disney Park time with family. I want to recreate my first memory and make new ones. I want to have a great memory of the parks with my children and my parents. So I think this year will be that opportunity.
My best memory of Disneyland when I was six was sitting on the corner of Main Street with my dad. We were holding spots for my mom and brother. They were shopping at the Emporium for warm sweaters for us. It was August and the evenings become cooler. We were waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade. It was that parade’s debut that summer. A fun fact that I only know now because I am a fan. I was oblivious of that fact as a kid.
Mom came out of the shop with grey sweatshirts with Mickey Mouse on the front. The park still sells that style only its called vintage now. We snuggled into the sweatshirts and munched on popcorn. We shared a box between all of us. I remember my dad being amazed by the lights and music. I was mesmerized.
Fast forward to the year I brought my kids for the first time and we sat on Main Street wearing newly purchased sweatshirts watching the Electrical Parade. We didn’t munch on popcorn we had dole whips and Mickey bars instead but we were enchanted with the parade. It was as magical as I remembered. The next day we met Pooh and Pigglet and my son was transfixed. He whispered secrets into Pooh’s ear and was happy beyond words.
My children are now adults and my parents are seniors. I am not that little six year old who had crushes on Robin Hood and Thomas O’Malley, now I crush on Spanish Mode Buzz, Bert and Ramone who likes it low and slow as he cruises through Carsland. We have all decided we want to have a family vacation together in our old haunt. We want to explore Galaxy’s edge, ride the Matterhorn on the Tomorrowland’s side at night, ride Pirate’s and Splash and maybe even sit on a bench on Mainstreet and watch a parade or two. I want to pop into the Emporium with my mom and buy sweatshirts for everyone because the evening is cool. I want to share with my parents the secrets I have learned and make my dad take a photo with his doppelganger Han Solo.
I want to be amazed by magic. It’s been a long time since I felt happy there. I am ready to get that back. It will be 47 years since my very first visit. There is a theme park where the parking lot used to be. Rides have changed and evolved but there is still a lamp above the firehouse on Mainstreet that I am looking forward to seeing again. I can’t wait for 2019 and all the vacation magic it will bring.
What are your best holiday memories as a child? Mine always included some yuletide light display around the city. Edmonton has an abundance of festive events available for a nominal fee, some are quite expensive for a small family and the best kind in my book, FREE.
As a kid, my best memory was Fort Edmonton Park. It included a hayride through the dark village and heading over to Egge’s barn for hot chocolate and cookies to wrap up the evening. I am attending Fort Edmonton’s panto Red Riding Hood on Thursday so that fun place is checked off my list for 2018! I, of course, will report back. I also really enjoyed the teddy exhibit at RAM but they haven’t collected bears in years. But mostly I loved driving through the different neighbourhoods to see how people decorated their homes. Late at night with car blankets on our laps, Christmas sing-a-long music playing on the radio and late night hot chocolate before bed.
I did a variation of those activities with my kids when they were little. We would load them up in the toboggan and pull them along Candy Cane Lane (several blocks in Edmonton that decorate for the season with magnificent displays). We would visit the donkey where my daughter yells “HI DONKEY!” The donkey and sheep were part of the living nativity scene at City Hall. We would do the drive-by light display at the park and go look at the tree at the Ledge. All the things that my kids reminisce about even today.
Last night we all piled into the car and drove to a dark empty parking lot in the city’s east side industrial area and wait for the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. It travels across the country and sets up a party in different cities to raise money and awareness for local food banks. I produced a series of events for Alberta Food Banks this fall so I felt I was covered. Sitting in the dark and seeing the glow of the train was magical. It made me wish this was a thing when my son was little. Never have you met a bigger train enthusiast than my boy. Even today he still says ” oooooooooo a train!” and then spouts off knowledge you didn’t think you needed to know.
We stood on the side of the tracks (a safe distance away) a watched the lights. The passenger car that held the entertainment was playing Elvis’ Blue Christmas so festive music added to the charm in the dark. This is a thing I plan on going to as long as CP Rail participates. It was magical. I recommend checking out when it will visit your neighbourhood or a the very least do a rail-by. Go to Instagram and follow #CPHolidaytrain for more beautiful photos.
Even you can’t see the CP’s display, then for sure visit your local neighbourhood. Lights just bring me into the spirit of the season, I hope they do for you as well.
Who was the person that taught you to bake? I had many teachers. Mostly my mom was my teacher. Sundays were spent in a high volume extreme bake-off. We would make a list the previous week and then shop for all the ingredients. The list would include dinners for weeknights and several batches of tarts and cookies. You could easily find 20 things in the freezer before nightfall. Organization skills were my mom’s superpower. I take after her. I can knock off 150 cookies 4 dozen tarts and a pot of soup before noon. Well, that was today. I drove home from a Red Deer work thing, called my mom and rolled up my sleeves to power bake. I was done by 1:00 pm and started at 11:00 am.
Fast paced was not something that described my grandmother. She was slow and methodical. She did one thing at a time. Multi-tasking was not something she was interested in. Where my mom taught me how to knock off a lot of things to save time in the future, my grandmother taught me about relaxing as you do one thing. Both methods have a place in my life. I have to admit to following my mom’s method at work and at home the most. But every now and then a slowed relaxed baking session is delightful.
My grandma made little step stools from mandarin orange boxes that were available at Christmas. We used them for sitting in front of the TV, standing to reach things in the pantry but I used it to raise me up at the counter so I could ‘help’ bake.
My mom let me use tools like beaters, crack eggs and measure milk. Grandma never let me do those things, but she did let me watch. Mom let me lick the beaters or sample the batter. Grandma didn’t but I stole batter when she wasn’t looking. Mom let me open the oven door so she could put trays of cookies in the oven. Grandma made me stand back far from the hot oven. The experiences were polar opposite but there was one thing grandma let me do and that was to press cookies.
Very carefully she rolled out peanut butter cookies on a baking sheet. they were all the exact same size and evenly spaced. It always looked as if she used a ruler to measure the distance for consistency. Once all the round balls were on the sheet, it was my turn. She had a set of glasses that my aunt thinks were duralux. Small juice glasses with a starburst pattern on the bottom. It was my job to dip the glass in flour and press the cookies evenly – not too hard and not too soft. When I made these cookies with my little gram, we used a fork dipped in flour. I pressed the fork into the dough, dip in flour and press again in a cross fashion. This was more fun than eating the cookies. I have been searching ebay and vintage glass sites forever trying to find that particular pattern. My aunt told me they shattered easily so maybe there are none left in existence? At any rate, in my mind’s eye, all peanut butter cookies ever made have that pattern. I made some today using grandma’s recipe. Because I love you, I am sharing the recipe – and all the variations with you. This isn’t the Kraft Peanut Butter recipe that uses egg, sugar and peanut butter. My recipe has flour to make it a proper cookie with a subtle flavour of peanut butter because let’s get serious, too much peanut butter is too much is too much peanut butter and who needs that?
Grandma’s Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup salted butter (does anyone use unsalted?)
1 cup crunchy peanut butter (smooth because my son always thought the crunchy part was bees – save the bees people!)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar – I use dark, not golden.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Pre-heat oven to 375F
Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together in a bowl; beat in eggs. (I use a mixer to get the right texture. Mix until it looks fluffy and is lighter in colour than when you started.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir into butter mixture. Put dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (I sift directly into the butter mixture. I don’t usually refrigerate unless the dough is too soft and I can’t roll into a ball,)
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and put on baking sheets. (I use an ice cream scoop and don’t roll) Flatten each ball with a fork (dipped in flour to prevent sticking), making a crisscross pattern. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. (Forget the brown part – 10 minutes or until you can smell them.) One sheet at a time please!
This recipe makes 110 cookies. So I like to mix it up. The first tray of 35 is traditional with fork pressed method. The second tray I roll the balls in sugar then flatten with a flat-bottomed mug or cup. The third tray I add chocolate chips and drop without flattening.
Pirate Cookies were a favourite of mine, to recreate those, mix 1/2 cup peanut butter and 2 cups icing sugar for a buttercream frosting and thin as needed with milk. Sandwich the cookies with the frosting in the middle. So sweet but extra decadent. Serve with milk and a splash of tea unless you are an adult, then its tea with a splash of milk.
These are phrases that I was supposed to own as my label.
The conversation began with “My wife doesn’t like you.” Then the conversation continued to list all the things that were wrong with me. If I wanted people to like me then there was a list of things I needed to do to win the respect of everyone and continue to be part of the group.
If you know me or even spend 10 minutes with me, then you can probably figure out what my reaction was. I walked away.
What I didn’t expect was everyone else walked away from me. A line was drawn and I watch everyone from the outside. I see them continue to meet yearly and participate in the hurtful hate rhetoric that is fundamental to their persona. I see others become pawns and are used or victims of hate speech or inappropriate actions that are meant to be ‘fun’.
I thought I was done.
I am confronted once again with a cast ‘mean girls’ (obviously a metaphor because no one is a girl). Not allowing people to sit with you at a party. Sacrificing teamwork for process to force people into a box. Accusing a disabled man of unspeakable crimes so they can maintain money and power. Using words in a passive-aggressive manner as an effort to manipulate. Casting out people who have always worked hard to support you because a charlatan told you a story and you believed him. Lying about your situation so you can gain sympathy. This weighs heavy on me and my instinct is to walk away because high school was a long time ago.
When I look at this repetitive scenario I think why am I doomed to repeat this endless cycle of hate speech and abusive patterns? Because self, you haven’t finished learning the lesson that stems from this. I asked myself through a series of reflections and meditations, “What do I need to learn from this?”
It came to me on Saturday morning, 3:00 am to be exact. I need to show leadership and stand up for the underdog. I need to facilitate teamwork. I need to role model kindness. I need to be the change I wish to see. It won’t change the world but it will change my corner. This isn’t a Us vs Them scenario. This is an opportunity to raise everyone up to the same level. Fight the good fight.
It reminded me of my dad.
When I was twelve, my family was eating at McDonald’s. A woman was standing in line screaming at her young daughter. The girl was sobbing on the floor and clinging to the leg of her mother begging her to stop. The women kicked her repeatedly. The restaurant was silently looking on in horror. My father stood up and walked over to the woman and demanded she stop. He said, “You don’t kick children, children are helpless. What is wrong with you?” The woman told my dad to F*** himself and mind his own business. He said no. He wasn’t going to let her kick the child. It was like a switch went off in her. She stopped but continued to hurl abusive insults at my dad. He stood there like a shield absorbing the hate to protect that girl. He eventually joined us again for and finished his dinner. My brother asked why he did it. My dad replied, “Because it was the right thing.”
Since that day I have always made an effort to do the right thing. To protect children and animals because they are fragile. I made a career out of advocacy and non-profit organizations. Recently I have expanded it to warning women of predatory behaviour from men I know. I advocate where I can for indigenous rights because as a white person, I have the power to get other white people to understand. I remind people to say women instead of girls when referring to adults. All of these are superficial things that are easy to do. I ask questions that get people to think about standing in someone else’s shoes. But now I am back in the thick of it and am the recipient of hurtful actions and language. I know I am not alone. I think I am one of the helpers Mr. Rogers tells you to look for. I need to roll my sleeves and help for real. Stop taking the easy way out. Put words into actions because, words matter.
Apparently, I am not the only person in the world who loved to eat their Christmas baking directly from the freezer. I wrote about eating my shortbread that way and I received so many emails and messages telling me I wasn’t alone. I guess its a thing, here in Canada anyway.
One gal told me how her mom kept all their Christmas baking in a box on the porch. That’s the thing about Canada, you don’t have a shortage of freezer space at Christmas time. My family has stored food in the trunk of the car, in a cooler on the deck, in the unheated garage and believe it or not, an actual freezer.
When my dad and his four siblings lived on Evergreen Street, there was a bedroom in the basement. My dad shared it with his brother and when they moved out, my two aunts moved into that room. I remember that room because I had sleep-overs in there. Outside that room was a 1960’s style rec room complete with bar stools and a pool table. Behind the bar area by the stairs was a storage room with a freezer. This was easily accessible to the bedroom. Midnight trips to the freezer we common because that is where grandma stored her baking.
Fast forward to my childhood.
My brother and I lived in our basement on Georgian Way. We had a 1970’s style ‘rumpus room’. It was aptly named because a lot of rumpusing occurred in that room. We watched cable tv, played intelevision and atari, build forts and goofed around on the piano. We didn’t have a bar but we did have a fireplace. I never remember sitting on the sofa to watch tv, we would stack cushions on the floor so we could recline and snuggle under blankets as we watched Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Women, or Charlies Angels and sneak in a little Soap after everyone went to bed. It was as if we had our own apartment with mom, dad and our sister living upstairs.
At Christmas time our freezer would be stocked with Christmas baking for parties. Dad would often have his fellow teachers over for a Christmas party, we would invite Santa over for a family party and we always had Christmas brunch where everyone we knew would come for breakfast. After all the savoury food was consumed the baking would come ut on three-tiered cake plates for dessert service. Provided my brother and I had left any in the freezer.
Here’s the thing. Imagine a gripping game of Frogger, Donkey Kong or Galactica late on a Friday night when suddenly you are hungry. The ‘hangry’ kind of hunger that needs to be satisfied so you can beat your little weasel of a brother who will cheat as soon as the opportunity arises. Anger bubbles up with such intensity that food is the only thing that will sooth that beast. Its a thing, the Snicker’s commercial proves it.
Luckily, the deep freezer chest was located in the next room beside the laundry. It was deep. When we were small I would hold my brother’s legs so he could reach the bottom. As we grew taller, I could bend at the waist with my feet dangling so I could reach those Tupperware containers that were located on the bottom, hidden under roasts and loaves of bread in an effort to conceal the baking intended for guests.
I could always find the Butter Tart or Shortbread.
The secret to not getting in trouble immediately was to leave evidence that made the containers appear full. For example, the layers of wax paper that separated the cookies were never removed. That way when you opened the container to take a peek, it appeared as if the cookies were still on the bottom. With the butter tarts it was even easier, leave the foil tins in the container and none would be the wiser…until it was party day.
Mom would ask dad to bring the containers upstairs to the kitchen. He would leave stacks of containers on the counter. Mom had been busy all fall building up the reserves. Anything with coconut or cherries would still be there because … ew. The butter tarts and cookies were not. just empty packages. This is when mom would
My brother and I were always accused of the crime. He would deny it and she would believe him. I got the blame. To be fair, I was the mastermind behind the cookie caper, and likely did eat the majority of the baking but he often got away with things because he was an expert level liar. As soon as his back was turned and mom couldn’t see him, he would smile at me and stick his tongue out. A sure sign that he was lying to her and mocking me at the same time.
Until recently I assumed everyone ate butter tarts and no one ate frozen baking. I had no idea butter tarts were a Canadian thing. I did a little research on the confection and some regions put milk or cream in the recipe. All I can say is you are wrong. That is not the way to make them. My dad says a good butter tart must drip on your chin while eating it. I agree. That is the way to do it. I feel so strongly about this, I will share with you my family recipe. Do not put the following in your recipe and say it came from me. These ingredients are WRONG and belong in some other recipe I do not have to eat.
Coconut – just don’t
Raisins – my daughter says it’s like eating old people, save a senior and keep raisins out.
Currents/cranberries/fruit in general
Nuts – especially walnuts. WRONG
Butter Tarts are syrupy and gooey. The better the pastry the better the tart. Here you go:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter cubed
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vinegar
In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With pastry blender or your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.
In a separate bowl – I use my pyrex measuring cup – whisk egg yolk with vinegar; add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup (75 mL). Sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with a fork until pastry holds together. Press into disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Remove from fridge and let it come to room temperature. Roll very thin, like 1/8″ – this prevents pastry folds in your in and you can get more filling in the tart – and cut with a 4″ glass, can or cookie cutter. My grandma used an empty tomato tin, I have a cookie cutter. $1.25 and lasts forever. This makes 12, place in a muffin tin or tart tin.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup raisin
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup shredded coconut
In a bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended. Pour the filling into a measuring cup with a spout or scoop with an ice cream scoop into the tart shells. Back at 450F for about 12 minutes. I always place my tarts on a cookie sheet that has been pre-heating in the oven. This ensures the pastry is fully cooked on the bottom because no one wants to eat raw pastry dough, ask Mary Berry or Martha Stewart.
Send one to my dad and you can eat the rest. I recommend freezing them because they will taste like my childhood. Or eat them they way my kids do, straight from the oven because it tastes like their childhood.