Recipes

Finnish sugar cookies

These cookies are a new favourite. I made them twice last winter and will certainly be baking them again before this season is out. Orange zest can be used in place of the lemon zest, however I found that it was much stronger (maybe because it's moister and compacts more) and made my teeth feel a bit funny so would try using just 1 tbsp of orange zest. You will have extra egg wash, but it will come in handy for making a second batch! The recipe comes from Trine Hahnemann's beautiful book Scandinavian Baking. Normally I'm hesitant to post a recipe that I haven't really changed much, but I've seen this recipe posted online on another blog already and why mess with perfection?

Finnish Sugar Cookies very slightly adapted from Trine Hahnemann's wonderful Scandinavian Baking

250g all-purpose flour 75g granulated sugar, plus more for the top 200g salted butter, chopped 2 tbsp finely grated organic lemon zest or 1 tbsp orange zest 1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix the flour, sugar, butter and zest, first by rubbing with your fingers and then by mixing with a wooden spoon, until the dough is smooth and firm. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Remove the top layer of baking parchment.

Brush the dough with egg and dredge sugar densely on top. Carefully roll over it with a rolling pin, so the sugar is pressed slightly into the dough. Cut into 3cm x 2cm pieces, and place on baking trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Eat or give away to loved ones!

 

news and some kitchen tips

Hello! I've been working on a website to sell my artwork and it's finally up and running: zephyrdear.com. I've also created an Etsy site, here. (!!!)

Now, here are some of my favourite kitchen tricks. Maybe they'll come in handy for your winter baking.

Storing Citrus Zest: I love adding zest to baked goods, but don't always have fresh citrus on hand. Instead, I keep sugared lemon and orange zest (separately) in the freezer so that it's always available. Here's what I do: when using a lemon just for its juice or when eating or juicing an orange, I first use a microplane to remove the zest. I put the zest in a jar and add a spoonful or so of sugar, just enough so that the zest doesn't all clump together (lemon zest tends to be drier than orange zest). That's it. Then I keep the jar in the freezer and can scoop out a teaspoon when I need it to add to cookies or muffins or whatever. I always use organic citrus for zesting.

Vanilla Sugar: I can't bring myself to compost used vanilla beans when they still have aroma to offer (which they do). After using a vanilla bean to flavour a creme caramel or other dessert, I give it a good rinse and then put it in my jar of organic cane sugar. I keep adding beans as I use them. The sugar preserves the beans and over time takes on a very vanilla aroma.

 

gougère

Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven't yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I've seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Gougères Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water 3 oz (6 T) butter 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch nutmeg pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh) 3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose) 4 eggs 2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2" across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1" across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.

not to be taken lightly

Seven the sweet bunny has an ear infection. And her teeth are a little offset so she needs to have some dental work done. Poor baby. This morning I tried to apply online for a job I found a couple days ago. The pay wasn't great, but the work seemed alright and for an interesting business in the healthy foods industry. I hit the submit button and it didn't work. Tried another ten times (because that totally helps...), but it looks like the ad got taken down already. The most frustrating thing about missed opportunities is that I can only blame myself. Did a semi-desperate search of the job board again. I'm getting pretty tired of chasing around jobs that pay only slightly better than minimum wage. I could just keep doing what I'm doing, which I like for 3 days of the week and dislike for 2 days, and hope that eventually I can switch to better hours or that something ideal will someday come up for me. Or, I have this back-up plan: I could go back up north for the summer as a wildfire dispatcher, which is a pretty neat job with awesome pay, but it really sucks to be so far away from home and from my man and the bunnies and everyone. The awesome pay would help us pay off student debts so we could get on with having better lives. I need to decide pretty soon though because the application deadline is probably right around the end of this month. I've filled out the forms. One minute, I've decided that I'll go. Thirty seconds later, I'm staying for sure. Back and forth. 1,765 km from home is not to be taken lightly. With the money I make we would be closer to being able to afford to start a family. But what is money to almost half a year apart? There, butterflies and big active skies, relentless sunshine and aspen trees of the boreal forest. It is undeniably beautiful. The bugs are so bad I spent most of my spare time indoors. Not to mention fear of dry lightening strikes. Here, dipping into the ocean at the end of the day. Family. Home. Garden parties and cool evening breezes. What is it worth? I think I need some help with this one.

There have been shriveled mandarin oranges sitting neglected in the fruit bowl for ages here, since other citrus have come and gone and fresh kiwis are available at the farmers market. In order to save them from sitting longer or worse, hitting the compost, I thought it was worth a try baking them into scones. I am pretty devoted to Molly Wizenberg's Scottish Scone recipe so I thought I would try a variation of it here. I'd say that I've had more luck when I followed her original recipe more closely, and with fruit like raspberries, strawberries or rhubarb. The dough was a little sticky, but manageable. The orange segments were wily and resistant when I divided the dough into scones, but it could just be that I need to sharpen our knives. After 15 minutes in the oven, these still looked quite pale so I left them another five-ish minutes but may have overbaked them slightly as I feel they could be more tender. A recipe that needs more testing perhaps, but a pretty tasty way to use up languishing oranges.

scone IMG_6077

Orange Oat Cardamom Scones recipe based on these scones by Orangette 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup oat flour (you can make this! - or buy it, or just substitute all-purpose flour or WW pastry flour or something) 2 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp salt 1 tbsp ground cardamom 3 tbsp vanilla sugar (aka cane sugar that has vanilla beans hanging out in it from the last time you made something with a vanilla bean. Organic cane sugar is nicest.) 2 oz butter, cubed and chilled zest of 3 small mandarin oranges 7 small mandarin oranges, peeled, segmented and de-seeded 1 egg 1/2 cup whole milk (Not homogenized though because your body doesn't know what to do with the tiny fat particles- get the kind with the cream on top. Cream of some kind could be deliciously substituted.) Preheat oven to 425º. Stir together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until the lumps are not bigger than a pea. Toss in fruit and zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk, then add it to the dry ingredients, reserving about 1 1/2 tbsp to use as a wash, then gently stirring/folding with a wooden spoon until the dough barely comes together. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead it just until it's cohesive, as few times as possible. Flatten dough into a circle, about 1/2" thick, then slice it into 8-12 scones. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with the egg-milk wash (if it looks like you won't have enough then thin it out with some milk or water). I sprinkled a little vanilla sugar on top but it kind of disappeared during baking. Medium or coarse sugar would be better, and I will eventually buy some. Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden, or longer if it still looks doughy. Cool on a wire rack (but eat while still warm, with butter). These should keep for a few days in a cookie tin, and might be nice if re-heated in a toaster.

 

streamlined

The bunnies are coming out every night now and we've streamlined putting down blankets and moving houseplants and other things we don't want nibbled. A nose-to-nose encounter between a cat and a rabbit went very well. These creatures are even more endearing and amusing now that they're more integrated into our household. It's raaaining out now. My mum said it would monsoon today and while she may have been exaggerating it is definitely coming down out there. This is more the kind of weather I was anticipating for a winter in Victoria.

This evening I made cranberry muffins with 1/3 almond flour, 1/3 oat flour and 1/3 wheat flour. The recipe is adapted from Leslie Mackie's wonderful Macrina cookbook.

IMG_0394

Not-too-sweet fruit muffins

1 cup almond flour 1 cup oat flour 1 cup white flour 1/2 cup white sugar (I used raw cane sugar that I've been keeping spent vanilla beans in) 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used sucanat) 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder 1 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp cardamom (optional) 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

4 eggs 1 1/2 cups milk 1 tbsp vanilla 1/4 tsp almond extract1 tsp lemon zest (fresh or dry- I always zest lemons when I  have them and dry and save the zest)

8 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen fruit (I used frozen cranberries)

For streusel: a handful or so of oats a small handful sugar a pinch of cinnamon (sliced almonds would be nice too)

Preheat oven to 375º.Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients except the butter. Fold the wet into the dry just until absorbed and slowly stir in the butter until there are no visible butter streaks, then fold in the fruit. Scoop into greased and lined muffin tins. These won't rise much so fill the muffin cups to the top. Mix the streusel to taste and sprinkle it on top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops feel almost springy.