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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When it’s summer, or spring enough that the rhubarb has begun to poke through, there should be rhubarb scones on weekend mornings, but perhaps more importantly, on Monday mornings. When the sun is out at six and the birds start their noisy rave an hour earlier, my favourite thing to do (second to sleep, of course) is go downstairs, open the kitchen windows (the storms are off!) put on the coffee and turn on the oven, and bake some scones. It’s the perfect blank canvas, really – a carbohydrate pedestal on which to present whatever happens to be in season. Tart things are the best, I think – they provide a good contrast to the sweet dough. It’s especially nice when those tart things are free.

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You may have heard about how easy it is to make your own flour tortillas, and rolled your eyes, thinking of how cheap they are (and they are), but considering that most bready things are infinitely better when they’re freshly baked, and if you find yourself with a myriad of taco stuffing possibilities but nothing to wrap them with, it’s worth the fifteen minutes of effort to set a stack of warm tortillas on the table. There’s nothing wrong with nibbling on one straight-up, for that matter – if you have little kids around, they aren’t crumby, and can be easily carried around and gnawed on. And if you spread one thinly with butter (while it’s still warm, if possible) and sprinkle it with cinnamon-sugar – well. Roll it up, even, for a slightly breadier version of a crepe. Or spread it with peanut butter and wrap it around a banana, housecoat-style. So much potential in a soft round of bread.

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I didn’t think hot cross buns were in the stars for me this weekend, but -almost without thinking about it- I warmed some milk and butter and proofed some yeast as I made coffee this morning, and then suddenly they were in the works. I still had currants left over from Christmas fruitcake-baking, after all – it would be a shame not to bake a batch. Right? Hot cross buns are essentially cinnamon-spiked dough dappled with currants or raisins and candied peel – although I usually skip the bits of peel and add grated orange zest instead. When I think about it, I have no idea why these are limited to once a year. It’s like raisin bread in soft bun form – if you have some aged cheddar or Gouda in the house, tuck some into a warm buttered bun to win friends and influence people. The dough is easy to mix – if they’re for breakfast, you can shape the buns, cover and refrigerateContinue reading

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Have you ever had a banavalanche? A mass of frozen bananas unloading from your freezer each time you open the door? Fortunately I have a drawer freezer at the bottom of my fridge now – which means the bananas overflow into the ice cube tray, making all our ice taste like banana. Which is a sign it’s time to bake something. I toss a few whole (solid) bananas in a bowl of warm water to thaw, then squeeze them out one end (like milking a cow) until their super soft innards slither out into the mixing bowl. But I feel as if I’ve finally hit my banana bread quota, and the two of us have to take a break for awhile – and so I dug out a recipe for muffins sweetened with honey that I made out in Tofino one time, and (possibly because we’re typically out there at this time and my subconscious self is homesick for the place) made a batch.

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Forever ago, when I was at art college, the school cafeteria sold thick slabs of cheese toast for a dollar. It was about all I could afford, which was convenient because it was also what I loved the most. Open faced grilled cheese. It reminded me of my mom’s tuna melts, minus the tuna, and my grandma’s hot dog melts on hamburger buns that would go all crackly in the oven. Cheese toast is perhaps as comforting as it’s possible to get. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you need a recipe for – and yet it’s so much more than just cheese on toast.

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These don’t have to be sprinkle doughnuts, but since the cousins were over this weekend, I thought there ought to be sprinkles. I figured their young minds were at their memory-storing prime, and if I was to instill fond memories of making doughnuts from scratch at their aunt’s house, who let them cook the holes and scraps and douse them in cinnamon sugar to eat while the doughnuts were cooking, I’d better get on it. Doughnuts aren’t difficult; the yeast-raised kind (these) are made with a simple dough enriched with butter and eggs, then patted and cut (I can’t resist doughnut cutters when I see them) and cooked in a shallow pot of oil – no need for more than an inch or so. Some grandmothers cook theirs in lard or shortening; I’ve never done this, but someday I’ll give it a go just to say I did. For now, I find canola works perfectly.

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Everyone seems to need some comfort this week. I can think of few better delivery vehicles than a warm biscuit, especially on grey days when the snow falls in big, wet flakes and there are too many cases of the sniffles and the sads. I turned on the oven almost absentmindedly this afternoon, not having a clue what I was going to make, but sure that whatever came out of it, including the warmth and good smells, would make us all feel a bit better.

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You probably won’t be shocked to hear that I tend to use this space as my own personal recipe file, and it always surprises me when I look up something I make with some frequency and find it’s not here. Case in point: these nubbly, crunchy-edged scones, which are made with oats and – red lentils! Which turn a pale yellow as they’re cooked and mimic oats, blending right in as if they were meant to be there. If you don’t tell anyone they won’t even know – I promise. I brought some in to CBC this morning, and even though the topic was pulses, no one guessed they had lentils in them. Of course lentils are nutritional superheroes, bumping up protein and fibre like crazy – far more than whole grains do. And isn’t that what everyone wants for breakfast? A good dose of protein and fibre, but also something delicious you can nibble with your coffee?

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