Saturday, November 8, 2014

Anatomy of a Muffin

All muffins, more or less, are made up of the basic proportion of ingredients.  This means that the kinds of muffins you can make are limited only by your imagination.  I make mini muffins every week for the kids to take on their lunches--the ones pictured here are a mix of wheat flour, quinoa flakes, and oat bran with 3/4 cup of raisins and 3/4 cup of hemp seeds for a real protein boost in the middle of the day. You can also add things such as lemon or orange zest, and a variety of spices to craft your own unique muffin creations.

So, the basic ratio of dry:wet is 2:1
- 2 cups flour(s) or other dry ingredients (bran, wheat germ, quinoa flakes, etc.)
- 1 cup liquid (non-dairy milk, pureed pumpkin, orange juice, water, coffee, etc.)
I find that the muffins will hold their shape if at least one cup of the dry ingredients is wheat flour (all purpose, or whole wheat pastry).  I also find that soaking things like quinoa flakes and bran in the liquid for 5 mins or so keeps the final batter from being too wet.  If your final batter is to wet or too dry you can always add more flour or liquid as necessary.  

The other base ingredients are also easy to remember because they are also 1s and 2s:
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp spice (cinnamon, for example), optional
- 1/2 cup oil (or applesauce, mashed banana)
- 1 tsp vanilla

And then you can add:
- up to 1 1/2 cups of any combination of fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin.
1. Whisk together flour(s), baking powder, salt, and sugar (and spices, if using) in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add your liquid, oil, and vanilla.  Gently mix until flour is hydrated.  Fold in fruit, nuts, or whatever your are using.
2. Divide batter evenly into the muffin tins.  Bake for 18-20 mins.
3. Let muffins cool for about 5 mins, then remove from tins to a wire rack to fully cool.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chocolate Danish Braid

This recipe makes use of the quick laminated dough technique I use for puff pastry and croissants.  You can, of course, make a traditional danish dough if you want to (replace the cream cheese in the the recipe with mashed potatoes).  I think the results are pretty good with the quick dough, though, and spending less time laminating works for me. You can fill this with whatever you want, but the chocolate is always a crowd pleaser.  You will also have to forgive my idiosyncratic measurements in the recipe.

Quick Danish Dough
- 300 g all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 140 g cold margarine or vegan butter
- 7 oz cold plain soy milk
- 2 oz cold mashed potatoes (i.e. potatoes boiled whole, then skinned, then mashed)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Filling
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp cold margarine
- 1-2 tbsp soy milk

- soy milk and maple syrup for brushing
- sliced almonds
- course sugar

To Make the Dough:
1. Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Cut in cold margarine like you would for a pie crust.
2. Blend mashed potatoes and vanilla into the soy milk with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add to flour/margarine mixture and gently mix with a silicon spatula until the flour is hydrated. Use the spatula to shape into a ball as best you can.
3. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough over night.
4. On baking day, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and fold twice as per this recipe.
5. Let the dough rest for 15 mins.
6. While dough is resting, blend together sugar and flour for the filling in a food processor. Pulse in the chocolate chips, then the margarine. Blend in enough soy milk to make a thick but spreadable paste.
7. Roll the dough into a 9x14 inch rectangle. Spread the paste down the middle third of the dough rectangle. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut 1.25 inch diagonal strips on both sides of the filling (like this). Cut off the triangular pieces at the top and bottom to leave a flap at the top and bottom.  Fold the top flap down, then start folding alternating strips over the flap and then the filling at an angle. Fold the bottom flap up before you cover it with the remaining strips.
8. Carefully transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover, and leave to rise until almost doubled.  Since the dough is cold this will take about 2 hours.
9. Preheat oven to 425. Mix a splash of maple syrup into about 1/4 cup of soy milk.  Gently brush the braid with the soy milk mixture.  Let sit for 5 mins, then brush again.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.
10. Bake for 15 mins, then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15 mins, or until a deep golden colour.  You can cover the braid with foil if it browning too quickly.
11. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


If you are familiar at all with these traditional Czech sweet buns you will note right off the bat that mine do not have any kind of filling. But, since "buchty" translates as "buns" I think the name is still appropriate.  I simply find it too finicky to try to seal jam or poppyseed filing inside the dough. I also think you get a better rise, bake, and crumb without a filling.  So do what you want with this recipe. I like to cut the buns in half, toast them, and slather them with strawberry jam for breakfast.

- 17 oz white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3.5 oz vegan butter, divided (or vegetable shortening)
- 8 oz lukewarm non-dairy milk
- 4 oz mashed potatoes (i.e. boiled whole in skins, skinned, then mashed)
- 1 tbsp instant yeast

1. Whisk together 10 oz of the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.
2. Add the melted butter to the warm milk.  Add the mashed potatoes and blend until smooth (I use an immersion blender in a large 4 cup measuring cup).  The mixture will be thick.  Whisk in yeast and let sit for 5 mins.
3. Add milk mixture to the flour and beat until smooth (batter attachment on a stand mixer works well).
4. Cover and let sit for an hour in a warm place.
5. Add the remaining 7 oz of flour and work into a soft, smooth dough.  It should be tacky, but not sticky.  Add more flour or milk as needed.  Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
6. Line the bottom of a 10x10 baking pan with parchment paper.
7. Melt the remaining 1.5 oz of vegan butter
8. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and shape into balls. Roll each ball in the butter to coat and place in the pan in four rows of four.
9. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
10. Bake for 22-25 mins, until a dark golden brown.
11. Remove from the pan to a cooling rack.  Dust with icing sugar before serving if desired.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

In Memory

 Last week my grandmother passed away after 94 years on this earth. Born in Pennsylvania to Slovak immigrant parents who worked in the steel mills and rail yards around Pittsburgh, she did not have an easy life. My grandfather passed away almost 30 years ago and yet my grandma carried on, making ends meet from his meagre pension and the little that Social Security provided. And yet, her generosity knew no bounds. We were always welcomed into her home with food, and lots of it. She taught me about hospitality and I have tried in this blog and at my own home to keep that alive. Food politics so often divides us that we forget how a meal can bring us together. I am so grateful that I got to know my grandmother for almost forty years and that all my children were able to hear her laugh and listen to her stories. So tonight I am making a big batch of pierogies in her honour and thinking about how my grandma's hospitality and love touched so many.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Raspberry Flakie

 Oh, how I coveted other kids' Flakies when I was a kid. My mom would never buy such swill, of course, which only increased the allure of pre-packaged pastries.  There may or may not be beef tallow in Flakies, so if you are craving a treat from your Canadian childhood this recipe is for you.  The tang of the raspberry gets mellowed by the creamy filling, both of which are complemented by layers of buttery pastry.  I made my own butter this time--I use just a pinch of salt and it is absolutely  perfect for baking.  

- 1 recipe easy puff pastry
- 1 recipe Twinkie filling
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries 
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp water

- soy milk for brushing
- sugar for sprinkling

1. Make the puff pastry and chill.  Make the Twinkie filling and chill in a pastry bag fitted with the tip of your choice.  
2. Make the raspberry filling.  Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan.  Add fruit, lemon juice, and water.  Mix well and bring to bubbling over medium-high heat.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Roll out puff pastry into a 8x16 rectangle. Cut pastry into 8 4x4 squares.  If you want thicker pastries, roll into a 6x12 rectangle and cut into 8 3x3 squares (see bottom pic). Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
4. Chill squares while you heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush tops with soy milk and dust with sugar.  Bake for 20 mins, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 15 mins, or until pastry is golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  
5. When pastries are cool, cut in half with a serrated knife.  Cover bottom piece with raspberry filling, then pipe Twinkie filling on top.  Place top back on and serve.