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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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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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