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Early summer is fried dough season; in Calgary, the Stampede is here, and there are fairs and festivals everywhere offering up all manner of deep fried things and food on a stick. On the midway, I’ve always been semi-oblivious to funnel cakes, but have recently discovered how amazing they can be when you make them yourself. Which is a perfectly reasonable alternative to paying $7 for 7 cents’ worth of fried dough. I mean, look at these. How could you not love a funnel cake? And they’re faster and easier to make than a batch of doughnuts. Funnel cakes are made out of essentially pancake batter, run through a funnel (easier than it sounds!) into hot oil, making squiggles and blobs – it’s all crispy bits, really. And although the classic way to serve them is warm, doused in icing sugar, I’ve discovered they make a fine sundae, and judging the best food on the midway last night, the winner in the savoury category wasContinue reading

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Cereal is the new It ingredient. Sweet and crunchy, sometimes loaded with what are now known as “cereal marshmallows” and trendy in and of themselves, its retro appeal has made it a key ingredient in everything from marshmallow squares to ice cream sundaes. As a kid, I begged for the sweet stuff, but never got it – we were stuck with plain Cheerios (which, surprise! I still love) and anticipated a box of our choice on camping trips or our birthdays. These days fancy cereals have become more of a special treat or late night snack, and somewhat of an obsession for W. In London, we scouted out both locations of the Cereal Killer Cafe, where you can order from a wall of imported cereals, choose toppings and flavoured milks, and take your bowl to the back room, where they have tables and chairs, tube TVs and even single beds with cartoon sheets you can sit cross-legged on to dive in. (It’s all about theContinue reading

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I love homemade doughnuts, but don’t often make them. And when I think about it, when I do make them it’s the small pieces I end up picking at and nibbling – the holes and the scraps, with interesting shapes and lots of craggy edges and crispy bits. Which is why I’ve decided that for the aforementioned reasons, and the fact that the vast majority of the population does not own a doughnut cutter, fritters are the way to go. In fact, fritters are a quick alternative to muffins, quickbreads and all manner of breakfast baking; the batter takes a few minutes to mix up, and there’s no need to preheat the oven – the fritters themselves cook in just a few minutes, not 20 or 30. I can justify most morning baked (and fried) goods. Making them saves time! When most of us think of fritters, we default to those sticky, bigger-than-doughnuts apple ones you see at coffee shops, or the corn fritters thatContinue reading

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W and I stopped at a coffee shop in Lethbridge this past weekend, where they had a jar of homemade caramels on the counter. And because a large extra shot latte is not a good idea for 11 year olds, I let him have a caramel, which he carried in his pocket all day, intermittently unwrapping one end to take a nibble. “I wish we knew how to make these,” he sighed as it got to the end. At which point I told him that making caramels was easy, boosting my favourite parent points considerably. When we got home, he suggested making caramels to bring to dinner across the street – a brilliant idea considering there was barely enough time to preheat the oven. We started measuring the butter and sugar before realizing there was no cream – but there was sour cream, and that might be delicious? So we spooned it into the pot and proceeded with great anticipation, and were not disappointed. (Phew.)

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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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Fondue seems to be a thing again – perhaps because it’s not only a dish but an event, bringing people closer together around the table and giving them something to do – fishing for hunks of bread swimming in cheese, or strawberries in chocolate… or marshmallows in warm toffee. Yup. Why should chocolate get all the attention? Swirling together some butter, sugar and cream couldn’t be easier – it’s inexpensive, and if you root through your cupboards, I’m betting 90% of the things you find would taste divine dipped in sticky toffee. (Try the cheese popcorn. Do it!) And if you’re not in the mood to have a small crowd over for fondue, you can keep a jar of it in the fridge to pour over ice cream or baked apples, or to dip into with a spoon when you’re aching for a little something sweet.

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It’s nice to have go-to recipes you can pull into service on those days when you’ve been invited somewhere for dinner, or someone could use a little cheering, or you want to score a few brownie points with your editors/doctor/teachers. Most of the time, I’d choose a brownie over a cake or cookie. But it has to be the right kind of brownie – dense and fudgy, with a crackly top. Generally I prefer no nuts in mine, nor chocolate chunks or chips, or even frosting. I like my brownies straight up, preferably warm, straight from the pan.

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bacon caramel apple 3

It’s tough not to subsist on midway food during Stampede week – which isn’t to say I’ve been gorging on the stuff, just that you tend to absorb bites of this and that when you’re on the grounds and at events trying to be patriotic, as it were. I was introduced to the fudge apple this week – a tart green apple dipped in fudge instead of candy or caramel – and it occurred to me that I may not have shared this particular baconized item with you yet, and I’d better get it in while everyone is still enamoured with over-the-top food on a stick. If there’s a party in your future, these are a total hit – with grown-ups even more so than kids. (You can always swap chopped salted peanuts or mini M&Ms or broken pretzels or sprinkles for the bacon.) The recipe can be easily doubled (or tripled) for a party – because really, what’s better for a summer party thanContinue reading

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Snow in May calls for a sweet, doughy consolation prize. Eat your heart out Hef. Could there be anything sexier? This doughnut could be a cover model. Or a centrefold. Do they even have centrefolds anymore? It wouldn’t need any photoshopping, anyway. Age has brought with it a certain persnicketiness in the doughnut department. At one time I would have been thrilled with Timbits, but I’ve become spoiled – if I’m going to eat a doughnut it might as well be a really fantastically great one. This is not to say I easily shun a box of coffee shop doughnuts should I discover one in my vicinity. Warm ones, made from scratch with real vanilla, are a little more difficult to resist. But why would you want to, when slush is falling from the sky and you’ve pulled out your woolly socks again? I buy this vanilla bean paste from the Cookbook Company Cooks for applications such as this, where the flavour is predominant andContinue reading

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