Bake Club: Focaccia

Last year I gave Basically’s recipe for focaccia a try and it was the easiest bread I ever made. It was crispy and chewy but salty. Bon Appetite likes very salty food. Flipping through Dessert Person by Claire Safitz, I found her version of focaccia. I thought it would be great with the soup I was making for dinner. It’s been -35C to -40C for a while and a hearty vegetable white bean soup just soothes me.

I watched her video to see how she made the bread first. I never got the stretch she did because her recipe made it seem like pancake batter. That was just too runny so I added more flour. Then I got the stretch…ish. I no longer have high hopes for this book. And quite frankly, I am finding it disappoints. I really wanted to love this book. I don’t think it was tested enough or maybe the Canadian ingredients and measurements are just soo different. For example, she said two tablespoons of kosher salt or 17g. I weighed out the salt. One tbsp. of Canadian kosher salt was 19g. If this isn’t the biggest reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. I shutter to think what it would have been like if I didn’t weigh it. So my Canadian baker friends, weigh everything for an American recipe.

I followed her instructions and rested the dough for 10 minutes before mixing again. I am skeptical that this was necessary but I did it anyways.

I poured the olive oil innto a bowl (use a big bowl, I under estimated.) then put the dough in the bowl for its first rise.

I used a damp towel to cover and let it sit for an hour – this sucker over flowed the bowl!

Then it went onto a half sheet. 13″x 22″ Do not used anything smaller or put it into a large pan, the type you use for lasagna or a sheet cake. This sucker is going to be big! I put it in the fridge over night, covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I let to come to room temperature before drizzling oil and toppings. Dessert person recomends garlic and olive oil. Her book says potates and rosemary. I know what I like so I used Mozzarella Fresca, its herb infused oil and tore Kalamata olives.

Not everyone in my family is an olive fan, so I only put them on half the bread. But sprinkled the entire pan with flakey salt.

It smelled so good.

I baked it for the allotted time. and it came out crispy and chewy, light and fluffy in the middle. I don’t think I will every make any other focaccia recipe again. This one was amazing and the hubs raved about it with every bite making those hilarious yummy noises.

I think the recipes in this book are hit or miss. So far I have baked two recipes that are stellar. The rest are fine or problematic for this Canadian baker.

Here are the ingredients and I recommend giving the video a watch.

Ingredients: 1 (1/4 oz / 7g) envelope active dry yeast 6 cups bread flour (24oz / 780g) 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.6oz / 17g) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (5oz / 110g), plus 1/4 cup for topping plain focaccia and more for oiling hands Optional toppings and Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top.

Bake Club: Bagel Nightmares

I love bagels. Claire Safitz posted a a how-to video on NYT Cooking. It was a recipe from her new cookbook Dessert Person. Only it wasn’. She is a liar. Well…. It wasn’t the same recipe and this caused me stress because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I watched the video then read the recipe. I decided to follow the recipe in the book because so far – the recipes were fantastic. I figured I had nothing to lose. Except I had some issues, complications and problems.

The first one was finding barley malt syrup. No luck. It might be because I am in western Canada, or it might be because its a pandemic, I could not find any. The recipe did say molasses would be a good substitute. I had that – no problem. I used 100% bread flour as directed. My yeast was now a year old – and in my freezer. I had doubts.

I made everything like she directed and the dough was stiff. I had to let it rest a few times along the way just so I could knead it. If I had used my mixer like directed in the book (the video advised not to use my mixer) I would be shopping for a new stand mixer. The dough was that stiff – and very dry. Her video showed a shaggy but definatly wetter dough – ‘Add more flour as needed’ ummmmm Okay – sure it is dry here on the prairies but for the love of all things delcisious – not that dry!

I set it out to rest and rise – nothing. Okay – so my yeast was dead. I kinda expected that. I made everything the way the book advised. left it overnight, did a float test – it did not float – even after the suggested warm up time of 15 minutes. No floating. I popped them into the boiling water and when they floated after 3 minutes – I pulled them out and set them on a rack.

I sprinkled sesame and flake salt on them and baked for 15 minutes as directed. a few got a bit dark but they baked up nice. Cutting them was a another story – hole LEE! These suckers were tough. They were super chewy but SO DAMN DELICOUS!

Okay – I will try again but with new fresh yeast.

I tested and proofed the yeast – so frothy!

Followed the book again – damn the dough is tough. I could barely knead it. It looked like dried up brains. I left it to rise and headed straight to google to do research. I watched her video again. She used baking soda in the boiling water – omits it from the book. Her dough was soft and pliable. WHY???? I did some more research and learned Canada has higher quality flour than America. Canada has a standard that requires it to be 13% protein. This results in higher hydration than their American counterpart. American flours vary from 8-13%. Their bread flour is 13% – the same as our all-purpose flour. WHAT THE HELL??? I then started watching Montreal style bagel recipes and found they used bread flour but had more water. The baking soda makes a softer crust – chewy but penetrable with human teeth and no need for a chain saw to slice it.

Summary: Use more water. Use baking soda. Use less bread flour because we don’t have enough left in the pantry.

This is what happened.

I mixed tablespoons of fancy molasses and 1 1/4 cups of 110F water. 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast and set aside until it foamed – about five minutes.

Meanwhile mix 2 cups of Canadian AP flour and 2 cups of Canadian Bread flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Whisk together and make a well in the centre. Whisk the yeast mixture and add to the flour. Pull it together with your hands – add more water as needed. I ended up using another 1/4 cup of water to get the dough to come together. It was soft and pliable like bread dough should be.

I did not add flour to the counter – I kneaded it until smooth. The one on top is the hydrated dough. the one on the bottom is Claire’s version (Canadian ingredients in an American recipe). I kept kneading until it was smoother.

I divided the dough into nine portions per batch. Rolled them into balls and let them rest while I did more research. No one – and I mean NO ONE including Fairmont’s famous Montreal Bagels let the dough sit overnight in the fridge. Claire says do it – I say don’t bother. So I got my pot ready. I filled the pot with about 4L of water – and brought it to a boil. I added molasses until it looked like strong tea. Montreal version use honey and a pinch of salt. I like the dark colour you get from the molasses.

I punched my finger through the centre of the dough ball. and stretched to get a 4″ring. I couldn’t do it with the 100% bread flour – it was too tough. (traditional Montreal Style – roll into a log and wrap around your hand. Pinch dough together.) I covered with a damp towel and put three into boiling water. These fellows floated! New yeast for the win.

After boiling for 2 minutes a side, I transferred to a rack with a towel underneath. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt. Placed them on a bed of cornmeal and repeated the process until one batch was ready for the oven. I baked at 450F for 15 minutes. Same as before but none of the bagels were too toasty this time. I think that had to do with the dampness of boiling correctly.

I repeated the process with the 50/50 flour bagels.

I let them cool and then did a side by side visual and taste test. Both were easy to cut – thanks baking soda. Both had a chewy texture expected from a bagel. Thanks bread flour. But my recipe was just that much easier to chew. PLUS it was a bit more tender and had a nicer crumb. the 50/50 is on the left. They puffed up more while boiling.

I had one of the 50/50 bagel for breakfast – lightly toasted with butter. Damn…. it was delicious. I froze half the bagels and will eat the other half for breakfast this week. I won’t be following Claire’s bagel recipe again – mine was really good. Next time I make bagels, I will find a Canadian Montreal Style recipe and compare that for fun.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Poppy Seed Almond Cake

I remember my grandma always having a bundt cake on hand to serve when we came for a visit. The visit was called ‘coffee’. I never drank coffee but I always had the cake. My grandma was a good baker. I mentioned before that I received a couple of cookbooks for Christmas. I spent so many weekends trying out Duchess, I had neglected Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She is the phenom who stared in the Bon Appetit series Gourmet Makes where she would try some food and recreate it, things like Doritos or Skittles. Nine times out of ten she nailed it or improved upon it (according to her test kitchen colleagues. Where she really excelled was with pastries and desserts. That is what her cookbook is all about.

I read this book from start to finish and I think she has weird ingredients. Spelt and miso in baked goods are not things I have on hand in my pantry. I need to plan ahead when I decide to make something of hers. What I do like is the companion videos that go with some of her recipes. She has her own series produced by her publishing house Penguin. I have watched every video she has released so far. Including the satire video by Novympia. Hilarious because Saffitz isn’t the most cheerful person and she complains a lot. The best part is her being surprised by the instructions in her cookbook. All very funny and on brand.

I chose Poppy Seed Almond Cake as my first foray into Dessert Person. I watch the video here before I read the recipe and began baking it. My first thought was “this recipe is backwards”. Normally you would cream the sugar, eggs, butter and flavourings together first. Then add milk and four in stages. This recipe you combine all the dry in the stand mixer then add all the wet all at once. It is a very easy and forgiving cake.

Flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt all wen in first. I weighed everything because American measurements are slightly different from Canadian measurements and I wanted this to be accurate. It’s been a hot minute before I have used poppy seeds and almond flavoring, so those were the new purchases for this bake.

Then I added the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts.

I didn’t even have to break up the eggs before I added it to the bowl. I was highly skeptical. Then I mixed it on medium high for 2 minutes (set the timer).

It was about the consistency of pancake batter. I poured it into a prepared bundt pan. I used Pam and then floured it. But I don’t think it needed to be floured. I have a non-stick pan and Pam does a great job. Flouring the pan left flour clumps on the finished cake. So proceed with caution.

It baked for a long time, 90 minutes. When I pulled it out, there was a crack on the top (normal) and a nice brown crust (also normal). My cake tester came out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. This is an important step. The steam in the cake needs to release to improve the structure of the cake. The pan will support it while this happens. Pop it out too soon and your cake will break or crack. After 15 minutes turn out on a wire rack over a lined baking sheet. This will catch the crumbs and the glaze drips.

The glaze was simple. Using the whisk attachment for the stand mixer I combined melted butter (weird), orange juice, icing sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. I poked holes all over the cake so it would absorb the glaze. Then I used a pastry brush to apply the glaze. It took and absorbed about five coats. I used all the glaze and you can scoop up the stuff from the bottom of the pan that drips off. I didn’t I was sticky enough.

I let it completely cool because in the video Claire and her mom talk about the odd dense section of the cake and Claire and her mom surmised it was from not letting the cake cool enough before cutting. I had let it cool 2 hours before we cut into it and I still got that strange dense section. It doesn’t affect the taste but it gives an appearance of an under baked cake. My advice is to let the cake sit overnight.

My daughter wanted you to know her review: It was good.

*Edmonton Tourist’s Note: I have made three more since this day. I have been baking treats for my parents lately because mom isn’t up to it and treats are nice. They both said it was the best cake they ever had – and it was Dad’s mom who was the famous grandma in this story – so that is high praise. I did let the cake sit over night and two things happened. It tasted better and there wasn’t that weird ‘under baked’ section of the cake. I also tried it in two loaf pans. This was smart. I froze one and ate one. It baked a little better in the loaf pan and I didn’t get the flour residue. Today I am trying orange blossom instead of almond – because dad want more.

So there you have it. It is one of those old timey cakes that grandmas used to serve for ‘coffee’. It was good – very moist and tender. One of the easiest cakes I have ever made not from a box. I will put the ingredients below because she shares them on her video.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups or 465g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp or 17g poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp or 6g baking powder
  • 1 tsp or 3g kosher salt
  • 3 cups or 390g AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups or 360g of whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cup or 288g of neutral oil (I used canola)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp of almond extract

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup or 90g of powder sugar
  • 1/4 cup or 57g orange juice
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

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!

Bake Club: Pain Au Chocolat

My daughter visited France while in high school. She confessed she ate pain au chocolat every day for breakfast. When in France….

Now that I could make croissants, I thought I would try pain au chocolat. Laminated pastry dough with high quality chocolate imbedded between the flakey layers. I follow the same six page instructions I used for croissants using Duchess Bake Shop cookbook. These did not disappoint.

Once all the layers were folded and chilled, I rolled out the dough and cut rectangles as directed.

At the bottom of each rectangle I placed chocolate. This is not the time or place to cheap out on chocolate. Buy the best quality of your favourite chocolate. I think next time I will use Jacek because it is my favourite. I cannot stress enough – use your favourite!

I rolled them up tight and let them rest overnight in the fridge.

I followed the same steps as the croissants, the following morning I placed a pan of hot tap water on the bottom of my oven and placed these pillowy delights on the second rack to rise for about two hours.

I brushed them with an egg and cream wash and sprinkled sugar over the top – I recommend this if you like sweeter pastry. Then baked them off for about 20 minutes.

The result? My daughter ate them for breakfast, thoroughly approving.

These were just as hard as the croissants I baked but equally as delicious and look at those layers! I have such a wonderful feeling of success after baking these! The Duchess Bake Shop cookbook is available here.

Stay healthy friends!

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.