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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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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 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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It’s July, and cherries have arrived. The big, plump ones we all eat too many of – if that’s possible – and a wee bowl for spitting pits (although it’s infinitely more satisfying to spit them into the grass) has been on my counter all week. My fingers are perpetually red. Most people buy cherries (these come from BC) to eat them by the bag; rarely to bake with. I seek out those who own cherry pitters and make their own pies and try to become their best friend, but those people are few and far between. If you, like me, aspire to be a cherry pie baker but never quite get around to it, a clafoutis might make a good first step. (Or last step – who needs a pie when you have clafoutis?

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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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A few weekends ago the family gathered for brunch, and my brother in law brought a quiche. It wasn’t a frittata, but it didn’t have a pastry crust either – its base was made of hash browns. Brilliance! Eggs and veggies and cheese nested in grated potato, baked and served in wedges. His was asparagus and goat cheese and we devoured it all, and then I went home and made one, just to see. So simple! You grate a potato or two on the coarse side of a box grater, then get it started in a hot skillet, crisping up the bottom, before filling it and sliding it into the oven. You work in a little extra in the way of vegetables, but it’s still starchy – and perfect for people who can’t have pastry. Genius.

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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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I realize it’s Monday morning and you’ve likely started the day with something practical, like steel-cut oats, having got all the bacon and whatnot out of your system over the weekend. But we all dream of sleeping in and lounging over brunch, right? It helps to have that golden beacon shining from the end of the week. I seem to be in Easter mode early this year – perhaps because it hasn’t snowed since the day W received his much-coveted snow tube in the mail sometime mid-January (it still sits sadly in the front hall, unused) – and maybe because Easter arrives so early. Two weeks! Easter or not, the warm and suddenly longer days jolt me into brunch mode – and although most weekend mornings I like to spend extra time in the kitchen baking something to nibble with coffee, this past weekend there were more crammed around our little table in the kitchen (even though I (finally!) managed to clear some surface areaContinue reading

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