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Yes! You can turn mashed potatoes into doughnuts. As if you needed another good reason to make more mashed potatoes than you need – these doughnuts are what you make with the leftover mashed potatoes you haven’t yet eaten with butter and salt. So… the leftover leftovers. The recipe comes from my friend Caroline, who sings and plays in a retro pop rock band called the Lovebullies, and whose family makes enormous batches of these mashed potato doughnuts every Christmas. Christmas doughnuts seem like a great idea to me – not only are they delicious, you could, if you were so inclined, probably hang them on the tree. And making doughnuts is more of a production than one would generally take on on a regular weekend – which is really what the upcoming holidays are all about. Staying in your PJs until noon, and spending an hour making homemade doughnuts, to be doused in sugar and eaten with large cups of coffee and hot chocolate.Continue reading

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Somehow it came to be November – before I even managed to settle into October – and because I was out of town for much of last month – and because THIS WEEK – I just want to putter around the house and bake. Also – this is the week we usually pack up and head to Jasper for Christmas in November for 10 days – and having spent the past 14 years with that block of holiday fun on the calendar, we’re going into withdrawal. To that end, we’ve planned some fun things to do around here, including digging out some Christmas movies to watch on a weekend morning. And so we pulled out the Christmas box early and rummaged through for the Grinch and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – the Saturday morning classics. And of course The Snowman, a little-known but fabulous movie based on a wordless kids’ picture book by English author Raymond Briggs. It was nominated for an Oscar, even –Continue reading

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I get the sense that sourdough starters are starting to come back into fashion – for the most part, it’s the bakers and chefs who nurture their bubbling little jars, texting each other about feeding schedules and storage advice. I started some new starter earlier this summer – the batch I had, with a backup tucked away in the back of the freezer, finally gave up due to neglect. I got them going, and then left town – and on the way back from Tofino, we detoured through Edmonton, popping in to Prairie Gardens farm in Bon Accord, where chef Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton of Rge Rd cook farm dinners, they teach classes using the wood-fired cobb oven – pizza, charred salads with tomatoes, arugula and beans and beans from the garden, things like charred greens, braised leeks and Brussels sprouts, roasted herbs, quick pickles, bannock, cooked on a stick over the fire, pastry for spiced apple empanadas and galettes. Christine Sandford is oneContinue reading

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Back in the nineties, cranberry-orange everything was all the rage in coffee shops – and when we went to those first few that began taking over our Saturday mornings, Mike always ordered cranberry orange in muffin and loaf form. Although it’s not as common a flavour combination these days, it came to mind on Sunday morning as I puttered around the kitchen and although I didn’t really need to bake anything, slush was falling from the sky outside and I wanted to warm up with the smell of something baking. Also: second coffee.

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And then one night you realize it’s dark by 9. The next morning it’s cool and drizzly, so you use it as an excuse to turn the oven on and bake something simple enough to be ready by second coffee. I know I share a lot of scones here. Too many? Is there such a thing? Here’s one more. They’re full of blueberries and dark chocolate, but could be full of anything you like. Everyone tends to love the berry-chocolate combo in a scone – try raspberry (or blackberry, depending on where you are and what’s growing there) + white chocolate, or blueberries (which contain their own juices, making them easy to add and satisfying to slice through) with either, or chop up some tart, juicy apricots, nectarines or plums – the juicier they are, the more tenderly you’ll have to handle the dough. It’s OK – if they wind up too sticky, call them drop biscuits. And if they look a mess, remember thatContinue reading

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I did most of my camping – fulfilled my lifetime quota, I think – in my twenties, and now I have an 11 (!!) year old who only wants to go camping, not so much for the tenting and sleeping outdoors but mostly for the fire, and the cooking of food over it. Although you can get pretty much any kitchen gadget in convenient campsize (I even saw a full-sized blender with a hand crank at a store out here in Tofino), what makes camping so much fun is the sport of finding ways to cook in and over hot coals. My camp kitchen tools of choice: a good bed of coals, a cast iron pan (which, depending on how you camp, may be too heavy to lug around), a bowl and spoon that can be rinsed in the river, and a few good, straight, not-too dry sticks. The boys are usually in charge of seeking these out, and stripping them of any intrusive branches.

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I don’t have many photos of these, but I’m sure you’ll agree that’s OK – most of you likely know what muffin batter looks like, and these were spur-of-the-moment muffins made to a) utilize the glut of blackberries currently taking over our kitchen, and b) convince some of us to stop spending $3 per so-so muffin at the coffee shop down the road every morning. A muffin recipe may seem a bit too obvious, but I’m always surprised at how few good ones I come across out there in the wild. Although stir-together muffin batter is as simple as you can get, they can also be tricky – I like a nicely domed top with a crunchy edge and tender crumb, berries evenly dispersed throughout. When I posted this photo, I had half a dozen requests for the formula within five minutes – a good, basic recipe is a good thing to have at this time of year, when berries and juicy stone fruits areContinue reading

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There are certain unhealthy things you have to pull out of the closet once a year and make just for the sake of the day – or season – and most Canada days I make Nanaimo bars and butter tarts – so frequently, in fact, that I begin to crave both around the end of June. Ditto mini doughnuts – having grown up in Calgary, the first week of summer always smells like the midway. I’ve always been one to forego candy apples and cotton candy in lieu of fried dough in its many forms – this year I decided to combine the two holidays and make a batch of beaver tails, which have been around since the seventies, and if you’re in eastern Canada are as Canadian as any doughnut. (Mini or not.)

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I’ve had it in mind to make a batch of Parker House rolls for some time, and a rainy long weekend (with temperatures dipping to 2 degrees) plus two boys out at a superhero movie provided exactly the right opportunity to turn on the oven, poke around the house while dough rose on the countertop, then bake and eat half a pan of sweet, buttery-warm rolls with butter and jam in the company of only myself – and Netflix. It was so rainy on Sunday morning, it felt like dusk. On mornings when I don’t have to be anywhere, I love being able to turn out some dough that I know won’t be ready to eat for awhile – not until we’re good and hungry – just in time for second (or third) coffee.

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