Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Wishes to All of my Friends!!

Wishing all the best holiday wishes to my friends around the world.

I hope you enjoy the simple blessings of food, family and friends.

Susan

Friday, October 30, 2009

One bread dough - three ways

One of the drawbacks of baking can be spending many hours in the kitchen and not have much to show for it, especially when baking bread by hand.

In my Intro to baking classes I have 3 hours where I have to demo the recipe then allow the students to create and bake the recipes. I use the following recipe to show my students that in less than three hours they can create a variety of items with one recipe. With this recipe I can make one loaf of white bread, a dozen cinnamon buns and a flat of foccacia. Try it and let me know what you think!!

White Bread – Three ways
Oven @ 350F

Sponge
6 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
3 cups warm water
4 1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose flour

Dough
4 ½ Tbsp sugar
4 ½ Tbsp shortening or vegetable oil, at room temperature
3 to 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt

Sponge (use paddle attachment): In the mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve. Add the flour and mix at first speed until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size (30 – 45 minutes).

Dough: Stir down the sponge with one or two rotations then add the rest of the ingredients (use only 3 cups of flour to start). **Switch to the dough hook.** Be careful to use LOW speed so the flour doesn’t get tossed out of the bowl. If the dough is too soft or sticky, add flour ¼ cup at a time. Run the mixer at 1st speed until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl – approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off machine and remove dough from the hook. Transfer dough to a clean and oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in volume. Once the dough has doubled, punch down the dough and divide into thirds.

You can make 1 loaf of white bread, 12 cinnamon rolls, and foccacia.

Cinnamon rolls
Roll out the dough into a rectangle. Brush the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and cinnamon. (you can add chopped up apples or dried fruit at this stage) Roll the dough up towards you and then slice into equal pieces. Place cut side down in a greased baking pan and brush with melted butter. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes and then bake.

Focaccia
To 1 cup of olive oil add a combination of your favourite herbs: garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley. Roll the dough into a rectangle and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Generously brush the olive oil mixture onto the dough. Allow the dough to rise. Just before you put the dough in the oven “dimple” the dough using your fingertips.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brothers and Battenberg cake


My brother, Andrew, just finished a quick visit to us on the East coast. As always, even though we don't see each other everyday and we haven't lived in the same city for over 20 years, we quickly reverted to the big bro', lil' sis roles. Good natured teasing combined with a Mom cooked meal made it seem like we were kids again. I made him his favourite blueberry pie to show him how much I appreciated his visit and he gave me hugs like he never did when we were younger.


I reminded him of the Bakewell tarts we used to fight over as children and he reminded me how his favourite treat from the British relatives was Battenberg cake from M&S - a pink and yellow cake wrapped in marzipan. It was always a bit too sweet for me but I came across this recipe in Nick Malgieri's book "A Baker's Tour". He uses cocoa to make the contrasting checkers chocolate and vanilla while others use just food colouring for pink and yellow squares. I didn't make my own marzipan but used store bought to make the production quicker. Either way it is still delicious!
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp Dutch process cocoa
3 Tbsp milk
Marzipan
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two loaf pans and line with parchment.
Cream butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time and then scrape down the bowl and mix another minute until well combined. Sift flour and baking powder together and then add it to the butter mixture in 3 batches. Beat at low speed for 2 minutes until well combined.
Pour half the batter into one of the prepared pans. Combine the cocoa and milk into a paste and then add to the remaining batter. Mix well and then pour this chocolate batter into the second prepared pan. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Once the cakes have cooled trim the sides and level the top of the cake to make a 9 x 5 x 2 1/2 inch slab. Cut the cake lengthwise down the middle to make two "bars". Repeat with the other cake.
Warm the raspberry jam. (Assembly on a piece of parchment paper makes this less messy). Brush the glaze on the side of a vanilla cake bar and press it to a chocolate cake bar. Paint the top of the vanilla cake with glaze and place a chocolate cake bar on top. Paint the side of the chocolate bar and the top of the bottom bar (confused yet?) and place the vanilla cake. You should have two layers of alternating coloured/checkerboard cake.
Roll out the marzipan so that it will fit around and the length of your cake. A little bit of cornstarch will make it less sticky. Brush the cake with glaze, place it on the marzipan and then wrap the marzipan around the cake. Trim the ends of the cake flat. Enjoy with tea and big brothers!

Monday, July 06, 2009

What to do with all those berries!!!


Living in my little corner of the world I am lucky to be able to enjoy the berries of summer growing right in my own backyard - well, down the street and around the corner - but local none the less!
I always get a bit over excited when I see the new season of berries arriving in the grocery store or at the little huts along the road. I come home with enough berries to feed an army but only a family of four capable of eating them. What to do with all the berries? I freeze a lot of them to enjoy in the winter in muffins and cakes. I also make jam if I have the time but I really try to use them up when they are fresh and full of sunshine.
This recipe is from delicious magazine - a magazine from Australia that I found in my local bookstore in Nova Scotia (how's that for a global reach!). I used raspberries and blueberries for the tart that is not too sweet and highlights the flavour of the berries extremely well. This is a must try recipe!!

Makes 6

Ingredients
80g walnuts, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 loosely packed cup (80g) brown sugar
12 sheets frozen filo pastry, thawed
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (280g) thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 cup (240g) sour cream
raspberries or blueberries

Icing sugar, to dust
Honey, to drizzle
Method
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease or spray six 4 inch tart pans.
Pulse nuts, spices and brown sugar in a food processor to finely chop.
Lay 1 filo sheet on the bench (keep the remaining filo covered with a damp tea towel as you work). Brush with a little butter and sprinkle with 2 tsp nut mixture. Lay another filo sheet on top, repeat with butter and nut mixture. Fold in half to form a 24cm square, trimming edges if needed. Brush top with butter. Push pastry into a tart pan, then fold edges, crimping and folding to form a 1.5cm-wide rim. Brush with more butter, then cover with a damp tea towel while you repeat with remaining filo, butter and nuts to make 6 tarts. Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool in pans.

Turn out tart cases and place on plates. Combine yoghurt and cream, then spoon into the tarts. Top with berries, dust with icing sugar, drizzle with honey and serve.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Egg and dairy free chocolate cake

I was invited to a barbecue this weekend and offered to bring the dessert. I normally would make a butter cake or some sort of cookie that would go over well with everyone. Then I remembered that one young boy at this particular party was allergic to eggs and I felt that it wouldn't be fair to him to bring a dessert that he couldn't eat. I didn't want him to miss out so I did some research and found an egg and dairy free chocolate cake.

I was curious to try the recipe because I had read how a lot of egg free cakes turn out like bricks because of the lack of leavening that that the eggs provide. However, this particular recipe uses baking soda and vinegar and anyone who has ever made a volcano for science class knows how much gas is produced when the two meet!! The original recipe calls for the addition of cold water but I substituted chocolate soy milk to boost the chocolatey flavour.

The results were terrific. People who didn't know it was egg free couldn't guess what they were missing. The cake is dense and very moist. One person thought it tasted like a chocolate Timbit (like a small donut for anyone not familiar with timbits). As for the boy with the egg allergy? Turns out he doesn't like chocolate so the cake was left for everyone else to eat - which was probably a good thing because there wasn't a crumb left by the end of the evening!!


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate soy milk, cold

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan or a tube pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Mix well with a fork, then stir in oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract. When dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened, pour in cold soy milk and stir until batter is smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A trip to the East Coast of Canada - Blueberry Grunt


Nova Scotia is home to one of the largest commercial crop of wild blueberries in the world. Lucky for me I live not too far away from there so I have the luxury of having local, wild blueberries year round. During blueberry season I always buy 5 lb boxes of blueberries and freeze them so I can have my favourite fruit year round.

Blueberry grunt is a traditional recipe found in many Nova Scotia cookbooks. In other parts of the world it would be called a cobbler or fruit dumplings but here it's call grunt - possibly because of the satisfying noise that escapes the eater as they enjoy the first mouthful! Here's a common recipe that will satisfy the sweet tooth and perhaps encourage you to visit our fair province to enjoy this down home treat in person!!

6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp each finely grated lemon zest and lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). In a large saucepan, combine blueberries, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 min. Place in an 8 cup baking dish. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, remaining 1 tbsp sugar and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Stir in just enough milk, about 1 cup (250 mL), to make a soft dough.

Divide dough into 8 equal portions and place them, evenly spaced, on blueberry mixture. Bake until biscuits are firm and no longer doughy and blueberries have thickened slightly, 20 to 25 min.

To serve, place a biscuit in each serving dish. Spoon blueberries on top, and top with a scoop of ice cream.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I won!! I won!!

I'm so excited! I just found out I won a scholarship from the Culinary Trust. I'm off to New York City for a week to study at the Institute for Culinary Education's Centre for Advanced Pastry Studies!! Any tips on where to stay and what to do would be appreciated!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring Rhubarb


One of the first things I did when I moved in to my new house was plant rhubarb. Every house I have ever lived in had rhubarb growing in the backyard. I don't know if it's a Canadian thing but rhubarb is always a sign to me that spring is here and summer is on its way. The first harvest of delicate ruby stalks immediately end up in a pie or cake that is devoured by the day's end. Here's a recipe I used today to make a delicious coffee cake that stays moist for days (if it lasts that long!).
Rhubarb coffee cake

160g butter
350g brown sugar
2 eggs
500g / 1 pound rhubarb, sliced into 2cm pieces
finely grated rind of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
250ml or 1 cup sour cream
brown sugar and cinnamon for top

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir vanilla then the sifted flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Gently fold in sour cream. Pour half the batter into a greased and lined 9 or 10 inch round cake tin and then top with rhubarb and orange rind. Cover with remaining batter. Sprinkle mixed brown sugar and cinnamon over the top. Bake for 40 minutes until cake is puffy and golden. Let cool 15 minutes before unmolding. Enjoy!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Memories of childhood visitors

When I was a young girl my favourite sweet treats always came from the U.K. Growing up in Canada with relatives in England, my brothers and sister and I would always be an enthusiastic welcoming committee (on our best behaviour, naturally) when our relatives from abroad would arrive because we knew that tucked in the suitcase would be something sweet for us. We could count on a large Cadbury's milk chocolate bar for each of us, perhaps some Dolly Mixture candies or Toybox cookies but I would always cross my fingers and hope that a box of bakewell tarts would appear.

I loved the look of the pristine white icing on the individual tarts topped with a bright red cherry. There was never enough cherry filling for my liking but the delicate flavour of sweet almonds always won me over and left me wanting more. When the Marks & Spencer stores opened in Canada when I was a teenager I thought I was in heaven when I saw shelves stacked with the same bakewell tarts I loved as a child.


I just rediscovered my love for these tarts after a fellow Foodbuzzer reminded me how popular they are in England. They are easy to make and delicious to eat: a sweet dough crust, seedless raspberry or cherry jam and frangiapane cream as a topping. Here's my recipe:

Sweet dough
400g Flour
200g Sugar
200g Butter
2 eggs
4g Baking powder

Mix dry ingredients together. Crumble butter until small. Add eggs and knead until it comes together well. Wrap and chill. Roll out thinly and line a tart tin with a removable bottom. Spoon in some seedless raspberry or cherry jam and spread out along the bottom.
Frangiapane (almond) cream

125g butter
125g sugar

2 eggs
125g almond powder (ground almonds)
25g flour
10ml rum
10ml vanilla

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, rum, vanilla and almonds. Pipe into tart shell and smooth. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees or until the frangiapane puffs up and is golden. Remove from oven and cool completely before removing from tart shell. Drizzle with some flat icing (confectioners sugar and water) and top with berries.
Enjoy with some friends and a good cup of tea!

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Lunchbox Project


Check out my new blogger friend's site The Lunchbox Project. Lisa is a talented graphic designer and chose my lemon dessert to draw. I think she did a wonderful job. Thanks Lisa!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apple crumble cheesecake

When I make the desserts for this blog I start out with a single idea and then I expand, take away and add until I finish with a dessert to be proud of. Some days ideas come easy, other days not so much.

This dessert started with a quick spice cake I made for an after school snack for my children and their friends. The pastry chef in me thought that the cake needed something more so this is where the dessert began to take shape.

I did something similar to this at the restaurant but I refined it a bit to make it easier to do at home. I love layering desserts because I love the clean look and the visual interest the layers provide so I used the spice cake as a base for one of my favourites- cheesecake! I'm not a big fan of cheesecakes with crumb bases because I always find they are too tough or too soggy but the spice cake is a good substitute. (Remind me to tell you the story of the time I mistakenly used breadcrumbs instead of graham crumbs for my cheesecake base!)

The cheesecake is actually a vanilla custard with cream cheese added and set with gelatin. I then sautéed some granny smith apples in butter and brown sugar and added a dash of brandy for flavour. I topped it all off with some homemade oatmeal crumble. I used apples because that is what I had on hand but I think when blueberries are available I would use those. Come to think of it, any fruit would go well with this - cherries, strawberries, peaches or plums. I love that this dessert looks very elegant but it has a down home flavour that makes it very comforting.

I layered these using 3 inch tubes but it will turn out if you do it in a springform pan as well. If you try this recipe let me know how it turns out for you - send me a picture!
Ginger spice cake

113g butter, melted
98g brown sugar
149g corn syrup
149g molasses
7g fresh ginger, finely minced or substitute dried ginger
1.5g cinnamon
generous pinch of nutmeg
4.5g baking soda
195ml milk
85g eggs
227g AP flour
Combine melted butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and molasses. Stir in eggs and fresh ginger. Sift cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and flour together. Alternate adding flour and milk to sugar mixture. Mix gently until combined. Pour into greased and floured cake pan and bake at 350F until the cake is springy when pressed - about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling completely on rack.

Cheesecake cream

½ cup white sugar
3 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
8 large egg yolks
2 cups milk
zest of one lemon, finely grated
½ vanilla bean
2 sheets gelatin – softened in cold water (or 6 g powdered gelating)
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
¼ tsp vanilla
Combine sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks. Simmer lemon, vanilla and milk and then add to the egg mixture. Return it all to the pot and boil to thicken. Add softened gelatin and then mix in cream cheese and vanilla. Strain and cool.

Apple compote

Peel and slice apples. Heat some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan and bring to a bubble. Add apples and cook until softened. Add brandy to taste. Let cool.
Crisp topping

1 ¼ cup AP flour
½ cup white sugar
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Crumble all ingredients together. Sprinkle on prepared pan and bake at 350F until golden.
Final Assembly:
Cut out circles of ginger cake, place in steel round mold. Layer with cream cheese mixture, apples and top with crumble. Chill well before serving.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sweet treats from the grocery store

I love going to the grocery store just to look around. I'm always hoping I'll find something new or interesting that I can incorporate into my baking. In Halifax we have a store called Pete's Frootique and he always has great fruits and vegetables from all around the world.

I was there the other day and was happy to see a great selection of blood oranges. I grabbed a few and was eager to get home to try them in a dessert. I love the colour and sweet flavour of blood oranges and I thought the best way to show that off would be in a tart.

I always try to think of colours as well as flavours when I'm creating desserts. I chose a chocolate short dough tart shell to highlight the colours of the oranges and also to add a slightly bitter contrast in flavour to the sweetness of the oranges. I used my lemon curd recipe - substituting orange juice for lemon - and topped it all off with fresh blood oranges layered with navel oranges.
Chocolate Short Dough – Creaming Method
992g AP flour
85g cocoa
680g softened butter
340g sugar
5ml vanilla extract
170g eggs
Sift together the all purpose flour and cocoa. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together well. Add vanilla extract and then the eggs (one at a time) until well combined. Add flour and cocoa mixture and mix on low speed until a thick dough is formed. Scrape dough out of the bowl and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour. When dough is firm, roll out and cut circles to fit your tart pan. Prick the dough with a fork several times and then bake in a 350F oven for 10 -15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before filling with orange curd. Layer sliced oranges on top.







Sunday, April 19, 2009

Old Fashioned Cure

One of the many reasons I collect old cookbooks is that they provide a peek into a woman's life so long ago. I'm always amazed at the responsiblities that a woman had - not only as a provider of food, from scratch, three times a day - but also as the caretaker of the family's health.

Most cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th centuries include sections on medicinal remedies. "Cures" for smallpox, typhoid fever, diptheria and cholera are included along with recommendations on how to treat fits and hysteria ("chiefly seen in females, and generally connected with uterine irregularities" according to The Dominion Cook Book-1899). While some remedies seem laughable knowing today's science other remedies still make perfect sense. "Rules for the Preservation of Health" in the latter cook book include instructions to drink water, avoid excess of spirits, exercise regularly and sleep in a well ventilated room.

Some remedies call for tincture of opium and chloroform - I can't imagine you would feel anything after that! Ingredients that I don't think I could find in a grocery store or at a pharmacy are listed: antimonial wine, laudanum, best manna, and tincture of senna are things I have never heard of before.

So while I was wrapped up in a blanket on the couch trying not to feel sorry for myself after developing my fifth cold since December, I decided to consult my old cookbooks for an old fashioned cure. Egg gruel or beef tea didn't sound appealing and I really didn't like the idea of simmering bacon in vinegar and then laying the bacon on my sore throat for a cure. I settled on "A valuable recipe for fever and ague" figuring I at least had the fever. According to Mrs. R.A. Sibley from "The Home Cook Book" of 1877 I should steep 4 ounces of galangal root in a quart of gin left in a warm place; take often. Unfortunately I didn't have any galangal root handy but I substituted some tonic water. Now I feel just fine!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grown up Easter eggs

Here's a fun extra treat I made for Easter. I made some egg shaped chocolate shells and filled them with honey sweetened mascarpone lightened with whipping cream and topped with lemon curd. The lemon curd recipe is really great. You can substitute lime juice, too, for something a little different!

Lemon/Lime curd
298g butter
255g sugar
270ml lemon/lime juice
17g lemon/lime zest
255g egg yolks

Combine sugar, juice, zest and ½ of the butter and bring to a boil. Temper egg yolks and return to the pot and bring to a boil. Add remaining butter, mix, strain and then chill.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter eggs and lemons


After single handedly keeping Cadburys in business this Easter (thanks Easter Creme eggs!!) I decided that for our Easter dinner dessert this year I would avoid chocolate and go for a lighter flavour. I certainly was not doing traditional this year, having applewood barbecued pork loin with smashed potatoes and asparagus for the main meal - chocolate would not be missed at the end.

So when I went into the grocery store on Saturday they had blackberries and lemons on sale. Great! I knew I had some phyllo in the freezer so homemade lemon curd, blackberries and brown sugar Italian meringue with crispy phyllo layers would do the job.

Once at home I set to work. The kids were dying the Easter eggs and I was layering the phyllo and baking it off. I decided to wait until later that evening to make the lemon curd so the kids would be in bed and my full attention would be in the kitchen. Little did I know that my plan would hit a slight snag.

Happily sequestered in my kitchen, I started measuring the ingredients for the lemon curd and this is when Murphy's law set in. I had decided to buy a different brand of eggs and as I was separating them I noticed that the yolks were noticeably smaller than I was used to. When I had used up all my eggs I was stuck. It was late at night, stores were closed until Monday and I needed eggs. All that was left for me were the coloured Easter eggs that my children had lovingly decorated just hours before. I had to pause, the mom side debating the pastry chef side of me, before I reached for the eggs. Dessert trumped decoration in my house! Of course I felt guilty destroying my children's hard work but in the end I convinced them it was worth it - they loved the dessert and asked for seconds!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Keeping it simple

Sometimes I can't help but fuss with things to make them perfect. A dessert needs a little bit of this or an extra bit of that and it is my job as a pastry chef to present a sweet in the best possible way.

Which brings me to strawberries. I love strawberries. To me every bite of a sweet, juicy strawberry tastes like sunshine especially when it is a freshly picked, local strawberry. I always have a difficult time when I'm asked to make a dessert that focusses on strawberries because to me a strawberry is perfection as is. No need to embellish, no need to sauté or chop or drizzle. Give me a bowl of strawberries and I am happy to eat them all. Adding chocolate is nice but not necessary and the thought of destroying that fresh flavour of sunshine by adding a little bit of this or a whole lot of that makes me cringe with regret.

So please don't ask me to make a strawberry dessert for you. Keeping it simple is sometimes a good thing, especially when it comes to strawberries.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Banana Bread and Rainy Days

Ah spring! At least I think it's spring. Living in Nova Scotia next to the Atlantic ocean you can be guaranteed a few things: fresh lobster, beautiful blueberries and a rainy, foggy spring! One week ago it snowed but today it rained buckets through thick fog, washing winter away for good.

So while it was grey and dreary outside I warmed up the inside with the smell of fresh baking. I decided to use up some ripe bananas and make banana bread. Now banana bread can be a heavy, greasy mess if you use too much butter and it can be tough if it is mixed too much. This recipe makes a dense loaf with a nice crunchy crust on top but it's not too heavy or at all greasy due to the addition of yogurt and gentle mixing by hand.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 2 loaf pans by spraying with pan spray and lining with parchment.
In a large bowl whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Divide batter into the two prepared pans and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the loaves have risen and a golden crust has formed. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out the loaves onto a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Sweet Treat

I have a confession to make. Now it may not seem outrageous or scandalous to you but in the world of a pastry chef it's something I want to keep hush-hush. My secret?? I love candy bars. Not the single origin organic dark chocolate kind that professional pastry chefs will tell you they like but the impulse buy at the grocery check out kind...the sweet, gooey, crunchy fake chocolate kind. It doesn't matter if it's a KitKat or a Coffee crisp, peanut butter cups or Twix, if I'm craving chocolate and I'm at the cash register I'll pick up one (or two)!

Which brings me to todays recipe. I was indulging in a Twix bar - all chocolate, caramel and biscuit goodness - when I thought about how I could use the elements that make the candy bar into a dessert that I would proudly serve to friends and family. This is what I enjoy about being a pastry chef - taking elements from different recipes and putting them together to create something even better. This uses the shortbread cookie recipe from March, a chewy caramel centre I use when making chocolates and and easy glazing chocolate to top it off. Voila! A sweet treat to have with your tea or coffee that is crispy, chewy and chocolatey all in one. Enjoy!!

Base:

Use the shortbread recipe from March. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment and press the dough evenly into the bottom. Prick with a fork and bake approximately 20 minutes at 300F or until the edges are golden. Remove from oven and let cool.

Chewy caramel filling (this makes a little more than you need):

2 cups white sugar
3/4 cups Lyle's golden syrup
1/2 cup water
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 cup whipping or heavy cream
1 cup sweetened condensed milk

Heat the cream in a small saucepan and set aside. Combine the sugar, syrup, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Stir to combine then wash down the sides of the pan with a silicone pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and then, using a candy thermometer, bring the syrup up to 300F - this should take about 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let the mixture stop bubbling. Whisk in the hot cream slowly - the mixture will bubble up so be careful! Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth. Return the pan to the heat and stir constantly while bringing the mixture up to 240F. Remove the caramel from the heat and let the mixture stop bubbling. Pour caramel over the shortbread crust and allow to set either at room temperature or in the fridge.

Chocolate Glaze:

6 oz finely chopped 70% dark chocolate or your favourite bittersweet chocolate
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave or over a double boiler. Spread over cooled caramel and allow to set.

When set, cut into desired shape and enjoy!!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday Morning Sticky Buns (made Saturday night)

Sunday mornings always mean a special breakfast for me and my family. I have fond memories from when I was a kid and my dad would make us porridge in the winter and bacon and eggs in the summer. I carry on the tradition with my children, usually by making pancakes. Today, however, we indulged in home made sticky buns that I started the night before.

Daughter #2 had a friend sleep over so I wanted something special for breakfast and I hadn't made this recipe in a while. As luck would have it I had all of the ingredients on hand.

It's a basic yeast dough enriched with butter and an egg, given one rise and then filled and shaped and placed in the pan and in the fridge for a slow rise overnight. In the morning you just stick it in an oven at 350F and in half a hour you have breakfast. It is really a great tasting way to impress guests. I added some chopped apple to add some interest but if you like, nuts or dried fruit can be added as well.

Dough (recipe modified from Robin Hood flour)
4 cups All purpose or bread flour
1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
2-1/4 tsp instant yeast [2 envelopes (8 g)]
1 cup milk, warmed
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

Topping:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup corn syrup or real maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1 cup nuts or dried fruit - optional

Filling:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cups nuts or dried fruit - if using
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 tsp (or more) cinnamon
For the dough, combine 2 cups/500 mL flour, sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add milk, butter and egg. Beat 1 minute. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Knead dough on floured board for 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 75 minutes.

While the dough is rising, prepare the topping. Bring brown sugar and butter to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in syrup. Pour into a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle pecan halves on top, if using.
Punch dough down. Roll out into a rectangle with the dough about a 1/4" thick. Spread with melted butter.

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit or nuts if using. Sprinkle over dough.
Starting at long side, roll up tightly, pinching seam to seal. Cut into 12 pieces. Place in pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 12-48 hours.

Bake uncovered at 350°F/180C for 25 - 30 minutes, or until golden. Let stand 3 minutes in pan, then invert onto serving platter.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bread Making 101 - Part 2


I really enjoy making bread by hand. I feel like I am really in touch with my food when I make a loaf or two. I enjoy the process of kneading, the feeling of the dough as I pat it down and shape it and the anticipation of the final results while it is baking in the oven. I also love the looks of wonder and appreciation when my family enjoys the results because nothing tastes like homemade bread fresh from the oven!

French Bread – adapted from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Pate fermentee from previous recipe
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups bread flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water, lukewarm

Make sure to remove the pate fermentee from the fridge at least one hour before you are going to use it to take off the chill. To warm it quicker, cut it into small pieces, cover with plastic and let sit for an hour.

Stir together dry ingredients, yeast and pate fermentee. Add the water and stir until everything comes together. Adjust the flour or water if necessary – you want a dough that is not too sticky, almost rubbery. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes or with a dough hook for about 6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and springy and have an internal temperature of around 80F.
Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn the dough over to coat lightly in oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
Gently remove the dough from the bowl and put it on a lightly flour counter. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, taking care to degas as little as possible. Form the pieces into baguettes or long cylinders by rolling gently. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and let proof at room temperature for 45 minutes or until the loaves are about 1 ½ times their original size. Spray loaves with a fine mist of water and slash the loaves with 3 or 4 short diagonal cuts using a very sharp knife, razor or baker’s blade.
Preheat oven to 500F and make sure to have an empty tray in the bottom of the oven – you’re going to use this to make steam.
Put the loaves in the oven or transfer to a baking stone (if using). Pour 1 cup of hot water into the pan at the bottom and close the oven door. After 5 minutes lower the oven temperature to 450F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans to ensure even baking and bake for another 10 – 20 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and the internal temperature registers at least 205F.
Remove the laves fro the oven and cool on a rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wish List

Working as a pastry chef is different than baking at home. Most people don't realize that being a pastry chef is hard work. It is a very physical job where you're on your feet for 8 to 10 hours a day, you are constantly lifting heavy bags of flour or big bowls of dough and the heat in the kitchen can be hotter than Hades on some days.

However, there are advantages. Most professional kitchens are just that - professional. Your equipment is at your fingertips, ingredients are organized and in bins just where you need them, tables can be scraped and wiped down with ease and you have large ovens that fit all of your trays and give a nice, steady heat especially if you are lucky enough to have a convection oven. Essentially, the kitchen works with you.

Which brings me to today. I am at home baking bread, something I know how to do. I used to make at least a dozen loaves a day when I worked at the restaurant, no problem. And still, most of my baking is done at work not in my own home kitchen. My problem today was with my oven, an ordinary electric oven that heats from the top and bottom. Unfortunately for me it heats more from the top than the bottom so my bread was baked on the top but not on the bottom.

So my wish for today is that somehow, someday I will get a convection oven. I already have my eye on a steam assisted convection oven from KitchenAid. Perhaps Santa will think I've been a good pastry chef and send one my way next Christmas....then again, my birthday is coming up - perhaps he'll show up early.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bread Making 101

Today I decided to go back to basics. As in any craft you have to learn the basics and then build on those skills in order to master more difficult tasks. The wonderful book, "The Bread Bakers' Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart has been sitting unused on my shelf for 2 years. Today I finally opened it and decided to work my way through the recipes. Don't get me wrong, I know how to make bread. But I've never really thought about the hows and whys of breadmaking - I just followed a recipe and it would work or not.

So I am in the process of making a loaf of white bread using a pre-ferment or pâte fermentée. The idea is that the addition of a pre-fermented dough improves a breads flavour characteristics and enhances the overall maturity and taste. The pre-ferment I have started has been sitting on my counter for several hours and then will be in the fridge for 2 days in order to allow the yeast to mature and ferment the dough which will add a nice tanginess to the final loaf. The recipe is really just a basic white bread dough that is allowed to mature. If you make bread on a regular basis this is the same idea as using "old dough" or saving a piece of dough from today's dough to go in tomorrow's batch. This is the recipe I used from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice":

Páte Fermentée

1 1/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/8 cups unbleached bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water at room temperature

Stir together dry ingredients and yeast. Add water and stir until everything comes together in a coarse ball. If you are using a Kitchen Aid, use the dough hook to knead, or knead by hand until the dough forms a smooth ball - about 4 - 6 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit a room temperature until it more than doubles in size. Punch down the dough to degas and then recover the bowl and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

This dough will be used as "old dough" in a french bread recipe I am planning on for later this week. I'll keep you posted!

Happy Birthday Emma!

Here is the cake I made for my daughter's birthday. As you can see she is a big "Twilight" fan so I made her cake in the shape of an open book. The decorations are the symbols from the books' covers in the series. The chess pieces, apple and ribbon are made from chocolate and the flower is made from gumpaste.

I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to cakes for my family but I love doing it!! Happy Birthday Emma! Love, Mom xoxoxo

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quickie Shortbread

Today I wanted to make some cookies because there were none in the house. I wanted a quick cookie but I didn't want to have to go to the store and buy ingredients because I was short on time and patience. I was looking in my cupboard to see what I could come up with ingredient-wise and happened to see a recipe on the back of the cornstarch box for shortbread. Not too many ingredients and everything was on hand so I decided to make them. They turned out so tender and buttery I was amazed that I had never made them before. Here's the recipe - remember to use a delicate hand when mixing these together so they don't get tough. It also helps to chill the dough for about half an hour if you want to roll them out.

1/2 cup Corn starch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Sift together dry ingredients. Blend in butter (I used the paddle attachment on my mixer) until a soft, smooth dough forms. Shape into 1 inch balls or chill dough for about half an hour and roll out and cut into shapes. Bake in 300F oven for 15 20 minutes until edges are lightly brown. Cool on rack Makes about 24 cookies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Old cookbooks and a new hobby

One of my great passions aside from baking is collecting old cookbooks - the older the better. My collection started several years ago when I inherited a bunch of old cookbooks from an aunt. I didn’t really know her very well because she lived far away and was much older than my parents so I only really remember meeting her 2 or 3 times. But I did get to know her better through her books. Tucked inside a well-worn copy of a Fannie Farmer cookbook were hand written recipes and letters, correspondence between sisters and friends with recipes written in neat script included with news about neighbours and friends. I enjoyed getting to know my aunt a bit better and realized that we shared the same enthusiasm for baking and collecting recipes.

The next cookbook I purchased I found in a used bookstore in downtown Halifax, an Aladdin’s cave of used books. The red cover of Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book peeked out from a bottom shelf and I felt I had hit the jackpot when I opened it up to see ads from the early 1900’s and “receipts” and instructions for running a household. From there I started to search ebay and other used book stores and have been lucky enough to find cookbooks from as early as 1844. Each book carries its own story and history of its owner aside from the recipes included in its pages. I have books with names of their previous owners inscribed in fine ink with addresses in London, England and ones with extra recipes pencilled in on blank pages at the back. All of them carry a sense of personal history and memories from a time when a woman ran a household like a business and manners mattered. I often wonder how a book published in England in the 1800’s found its way across the ocean to Canada - probably in the hands of a young bride coming to start a new life in a new country.

These books carried information on not only how to feed a family but also how to work with servants, plan dinner parties, set tables and heal the sick. Dinner rituals and presentation skills were outlined in detail along with medicinal remedies for cholera, smallpox and influenza. In a time when the health and happiness of the family rested squarely on the shoulders of the woman in charge, these books were a guidebook for life. Although the original owners of these books are long gone their stories remain alive with me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hot chocolate for a cold day

Ahh, one last blast of winter (I hope!). It's snowing here in Nova Scotia so I thought I would offer my best recipes for hot chocolate - one white chocolate, one dark. These recipes are much richer and creamier than the hot chocolate from a mix so drink with caution to avoid chocolate overload!! Stay warm friends!

White Hot Chocolate - serves 4
· 2 cups milk
· 2 cups half-and-half cream
· 8 oz white chocolate, chopped
· 2 tbsp sugar
· 2 tsp vanilla extract
· 2 oz brandy, optional
· cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Directions:
White Hot Chocolate
1. Pour milk and cream into a heavy- bottomed pot and heat over medium low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in white chocolate, sugar and vanilla extract until melted.
2. For a grown-up treat, stir in brandy.


Dark Hot Chocolate - serves 4
Ganache:
8oz good quality bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Directions:
1. Chop up chocolate into small pieces and put into a bowl. Heat cream until boiling and pour over chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes and then stir until smooth.
Heat:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
Pour this mixture over your ganache and stir until smooth. Pour into cups and enjoy!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nova Scotia Oatcakes


Step into any bakery in Nova Scotia and you are sure to find an assortment of squares to tempt you. Amidst all of these delights you will notice a humble looking cookie known as an oatcake. Not quite a traditional cookie, it is less sweet and not as chewy as your typical oatmeal cookie. In texture it is closer to shortbread.

I was first introduced to them more than 20 years ago. As a young university student I found myself needing a cup of tea while exploring my newly adopted city and happened upon a waterfront coffee shop with a great display of oatcakes. I chose one dipped in chocolate and was surprised when I bit into it to find that it wasn't the oatmeal cookie I was expecting. It was, however, a perfect accompaniment to my tea.

Since then I've tasted many oatcakes but my favourite is a recipe I found tucked into an old cookbook I inherited from my Aunt. Simply labelled "Gladys' Oatcakes", this is the recipe I use when I'm craving one of these maritime treats.

2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix dry ingredients together then cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Add in hot water and stir until mixture sticks together. Turn out onto floured surface and press mixture together. Roll out to approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cut into squares or circles. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush with milk and sprinkle with white sugar. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden around the edges.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Birthday Cakes

March is a busy month for me since both my husband and daughter have a birthday within days of each other. Of course I make each their own birthday cake – how could I not? Some cakes are more memorable than others. I remember being, literally, barefoot and nine months pregnant with our first child, and making my husband his favourite chocolate cake with raspberry filling. I was determined to make it no matter how big I felt because I knew that it would make him feel special but also because this was the last time we would celebrate as a couple – 3 days later we would become a family.

Since then our family has added another daughter and I have made many birthday cakes but the ones I make for my family are always the ones I love to make the most. Baking is a way for me to express my artistic side and also a way I show my love for them. I tend to go a bit overboard, especially when it comes to my daughters’ cakes and I have spent days making the perfect haunted castle, cheerleaders, Disney character, and butterfly cakes for them.

Cakes for my husband are carefully crafted and made to impress. This year’s cake was based on a banana split: banana chocolate chip cake with white chocolate filling covered in dark chocolate ganache and topped with dipped strawberries. Extravagant and over the top but filled with love and made especially for him.

My youngest daughter says homemade things taste better because they are made with love. I believe it.

Banana Layer Cake - adapted from Canadian Living magazine
3/4 (175 ml) butter, softened
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
3 eggs1-1/2 tsp (7 ml) vanilla
1/2 cup (125 ml) sour cream
3 cups (750 ml) sifted cake-and-pastry flour
1-1/2 tsp (7 m) baking soda
8 oz (125 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use chips and chunks)
1-1/2 cups (375 ml) mashed bananas

White Chocolate Icing:
3 cups (750 ml) whipping cream
10 oz (300 g) white chocolate, chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream
4 oz (125 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Cake: In bowl, cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Beat in sour cream. Combine flour, baking soda, and chocolate; add in 3 additions to creamed mixture alternately with 2 additions of bananas, mixing just until flour is incorporated. Spoon into 2 greased and parchment lined 8-9 inch round pans

2. Bake in 325F (180C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until top springs back when touched. Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely.
White Chocolate Icing: In saucepan, bring half of the cream to boil; pour over chocolate in bowl, whisking until melted. Add vanilla. Refrigerate until chilled, 1 hour, whisking often.

3. On medium speed, beat chocolate mixture just until ridges hold shape. Beat remaining cream just until soft peaks form; gently fold into cake mixture. With serrated knife, slice cakes in half horizontally. Place a top layer, cut side up, on plate. Spread top with 3/4 cup (175 mL) icing; cover with single layer of bananas, leaving 1/2-inch (1 cm) border. Cover with 1 bottom cake layer, cut side down; repeat with icing and bananas.

4. Repeat with remaining top layer, cut side up, and some of the icing and bananas. Top with remaining cake layer, cut side down.

5. Using palette knife, cover cake smoothly with remaining icing. Refrigerate until firm, about 1-1/2 hours.

Dark Chocolate Ganache: Meanwhile, bring cream to boil; our over chocolate in small bowl, whisking until melted. Let cool for 20 minutes or until room temperature and still pourable.

6. Pour over centre of cake, spreading to edge with clean palette knife, if necessary, and letting some flow down sides. Refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes, or up to one day. ** I found using a squeeze bottle to pour the chocolate gave me more control over the drips.**

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Home Made Oreos!


Oreo cookies are my favourite! One bite and they immediately send me back to my childhood, sitting at the kitchen table and enjoying an after school snack. I’ve come up with my own version, a bit more elegant but still yummy and a great way to involve the kids in a fun rainy day activity. Chocolate sugar cookies and vanilla frosting combine to make the perfect milk dipping, tea sipping cookie!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
2 1/3 cups AP flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 oz bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift flour, salt and baking soda together. Melt chocolate over a double boiler and then cool slightly. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well. Add melted chocolate and combine thoroughly then add the flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing well after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a disc. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Roll out dough to about ¼ inch thick. Cut out rounds and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 7 – 10 minutes, until cookies look slightly puffy. Let cool completely before icing.

Vanilla frosting
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk as needed

Beat the butter until smooth. Slowly add the icing sugar and then vanilla. Add milk, a tablespoon at a time until the icing is smooth but still thick. Put the icing into a piping bag and pipe mounds (approximately 1 tsp) onto one cookie and top with another cookie.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fun in the Kitchen


I’ve always had an interest in baking and from a young age I would watch and “help” my mother in the kitchen. I had my own little tin baking set with wooden rolling pin and there would always be enough dough left over to make my own jam pie. While she scooped out cookies and rolled out dough, I would be up to my elbows in flour working on my masterpiece.

I still have that tin baking set but now my girls are the ones who use it. They eagerly help me out when I make pies and cookies, sneaking a bit of cookie dough and rolling out their own jam pies. I’m thrilled that they want to spend time in the kitchen with me because the time spent together is much more important than the product that results from our efforts. Baking is fun for us and we get to be silly, share secrets and sing off key to the music on the radio.

So when I’m asked for advice and recipes for baking with kids I always suggest keeping it simple. Children really don’t mind that much what the end result is – they just want to spend time with you. So whether you are making cookies, muffins or biscuits it doesn’t really matter. The act of being together is what is important.

Here is a quick and easy recipe to make with your children:

Berry Crisp

2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup white cake mix
1 cup butter

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop up butter and then add to dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, knife or your hands, break up the butter and mix into the dry ingredients. They butter bits should be the size of peas.

In a greased casserole dish put 1/2 of the crisp mixture and pat down gently. Then mix together:

4 cups berries (I used blueberries and strawberries) fresh or frozen
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 plain yogourt or sour cream

Mix berry mixture well and then pour over crumb base. Top with remaining crisp mixture and pat down gently.

Bake in 325F oven for 30 minutes or until the fruit starts to bubble from the sides. Serve warm with ice cream!!

My Kitchen Garden


I’m not a gardener, I am a pastry chef. I know all about the 100 mile diet, buying local, sustainable living and greenhouse gases and how far my food has to travel to get to my plate. And up until now I didn’t care about it. I’m a busy mom and it is easier for me to go to the grocery store and pick out my food than to think about where that food comes from and its effect on the environment.


However, at the end of last summer, after spending more than $1500 to have a perfect lawn and ending up with weeds, I half jokingly said to my husband that we should just dig it up. That’s when the idea of a kitchen garden began to take root. I started visiting websites, ordering seed catalogues and imagining what it would be like to have a kitchen garden in my backyard. I could pick fresh lettuce and tomatoes to go with my dinner, eat beans right off the vine and introduce my children to what real food tastes like.


So here I am, early March, and the freezing rain has cancelled school for the day and the kids are looking for something to do. I have some seed packets and a little plastic greenhouse so I decide, although a bit early, to start our garden. I’ve got a general idea of what I want to grow – lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers – but now I have to put it down on paper and figure out how to make it a reality.


I’ve figured out that what I want is a “potager” garden - a French method of gardening where the garden plot looks nice while still providing for the kitchen. This means including flowers and herbs – both edible and non-edible – in the layout to add colour and interest. So while the snow is still on the ground outside I’m plotting my backyard on a piece of paper and trying to come up with a design.
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