Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category


Since I was a little girl I loved eating fresh sourdough bread with butter, but I always felt like it was not something I could ever do from scratch – and I mean really from scratch.

Somehow, with a lot of love and flour, we’ve managed just that: make sourdough bread from scratch through the sourdough bootcamp, without any added yeast, and the result was absolutely amazing.

Follow the sourdough bootcamp instructions to get your sourdough starter, or obtain some from a crazy friend. Just make sure you give yourself a couple of days to complete this recipe, and if you observe your dough, you will not be disappointed. What I mean by observe is to be mindful of its behaviour and its texture as you work with it. Sourdough is not as easy as regular yeast, and it requires you to get a feel for what it likes. That said, once you start getting familiar with its quirks, it gets really fun!

Sourdough boules


1/2 cup sourdough starter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups warm water

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 cups all-purpose flour plus one cup flour

1 cup quick oats

1 1/2 Tbsp salt


Day 1: morning

Feed the starter with 1 cup each flour and water. Let rest in a warm place for 8-12 hours.

Day 1: evening

Return 1/2 cup starter to the fridge. To remaining starter add 2 cups each flour and water. Cover loosely and let rest all night. This forms what is called the ‘sponge’ – it forms the basis of your bread tomorrow.

Day 2: morning

Your now bubbly and yeasty sponge needs:

2 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 cups flour and water, and 1 cup rolled oats. Stir it all in, and gradually add in the reserved cup of flour until you can’t stir with a spoon any longer. Dust hands and working surface with flour, and keep dusted throughout. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for a few minutes, working the remaining flour in. Use the following kneading instructions from the Boreal Gourmet Cookbook:

“Draw the edges into the centre, fold the dough in half, press the seam closed with the heel of your hand, push the dough away from you, give it a quarter turn, and repeat”. I tend to knead this portion by hand for about 10 minutes. After that, reflour the surface and place the dough on top for a 20-minute rest, covered with a damp towel.

Once it has rested, resume kneading, this time incorporating the salt little by little. I know the amount of salt seems large but it’s important, and I’m already reducing the salt content compared to the original.

Once you have finished kneading for about 6-8 more minutes, split the dough in half and form it into boules or rectangular loaves. To form the boule, work your hands around the round loaf, pulling the edges in and pinching them in the centre. Let them rest in a parchment-paper lined bowl covered with a damp towel. To fit it into a rectangular pan, flatten the ball and fold both edges in, tuck the ends in and pinch it all shut. Place the seam on the bottom of an oiled pan.

Cover the top with a light brush of oil and a damp towel. Let rest until doubled in volume, around 4 hours. Place the boules on a baking tray in their parchment paper, and leave the rectangular loaves in their rectangular pans. When ready, use a sharp knife to cut an “X” in the round boules or several slashes in the rectangular loaves. Preheat the oven to 450F and put a pot of boiling water in the oven. When the oven is hot, place both loaves inside. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the pan of water and bake for another 10 minutes. After that, crack the door open and maintain it that way for 5-10 more minutes to brown the loaves (keep a tight eye to make sure it doesn’t brown too much!).

When ready, remove the bread from the baking sheets/pans and cool on a wire rack. Wait until bread is cool for it to maintain its quality! Serve with soft butter to accompany whatever you like! A personal favourite is smoked fish… Enjoy!


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Don’t let the time discourage you, but do read through carefully and plan accordingly!

Let me start by saying this is one the things I am proudest of baking, entirely from scratch!

Although I’m very busy, I find that it’s being busy with a whole variety of activities many of which are organized to keep everyone up here sane through the long, dark, and cold winter. People are very creative in the North, since there are few opportunities for leisure outside of the realm of your imagination. In the fall we took on the challenge of making our own sourdough starter. This week, we took on 36-hour sourdough cinnamon buns as a fun challenge.

On one of the coldest mornings in Hay River, I realized we had the rare chance of being home enough over the next two days to give these 36-hout cinnamon buns a try. As the recipe starts with a warning that these are very time-consuming (and coming from an author-chef who makes her own phyllo pastry) I was a bit worried because my time did have a finite limit (going to see Les Miserables) the following evening at 7pm. I had to try it, though, as this was my only window in the foreseeable future.

Inspired by the northern climate, I decided to add some creativity to this dessert with pecans, and exchange cranberries for raisins as they are more of a local product. The result was dangerously tasty.





Starter, Day 1: AM

-1/4 cup starter

-1/2 cup flour and equal parts warm water



Starter, Day 1: PM

-1 cup flour and equal parts warm water



Day 2: AM


-1/4 cup butter

-1/2 cup sugar

-2 eggs

-1/2 cup buttermilk

-4 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)

-1 1/2 tsp sel



-1/2 cup butter

-1 1/2 cups brown sugar

-3 Tbsp heavy cream

-2 tsp ground cinnamon

-1 cup dried cranberries

-1 cup chopped pecans



-1/8 cup melted butter

-1/8 cup cream





Day 1, AM: feed the starter the flour and water. Cover loosely and let rest.

Day 1, PM: add to starter: flour and water. Cover loosely and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

Day 2, AM: Allow the butter, eggs and buttermilk to warm to room temperature. Cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, and then add one egg at a time. Finally, add the buttermilk and mix well. After this, I added the starter, and mixed in 2/3-3/4 of the flour. I added a little more flour over time, until you have incorporated it fully, and proceeded to knead for about 10 minutes.

After that, let the dough rest covered with a damp tea towel for 20 minutes.

Add the salt gradually, and continue kneading for another 8 minutes until the dough feels very uniform. I recommend to keep the surface on which you’re working and your hands nice and floury while you work.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and mix it around so it is fully covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in volume – for me it took around 6 hours, but it can take usually between 4-8 hours.

While the dough is rising, melt the butter over medium-low, and watch it bubble until the bubbles get very small and the colour changes from a white to a faint golden colour. Remove from heat immediately. Add the remaining ingredients, return to heat, and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Cool and beat the mixture until it is a good consistency for spreading.

Once the dough has reached twice its original volume, punch it down and roll it out to a large rectangle between two pieces of slightly floured parchment paper.

Remove the top parchment paper, and spread and push the filling evenly into the dough, leaving about 2 cm around the edge. Roll it up lengthwise tightly, and pinch the edges closed. Slice it into 16 rolls, and place into a baking tray lined with parchment paper. This is a bit of a delicate job, but I managed with my fingers and a knife.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again until nearly doubled, between 2-3 hours. Preheat the oven (finally!) to 400F and bake for 20-25 minutes. I had a drip-catching tray underneath, as recommended in the recipe, and that was really good to avoid oven fires or a smoky house.

Immediately out of the oven I brushed each with a mix of 1/8 cup melted butter and 1/8 cup cream mixed together. These were divine!

Good luck, it’s not the easiest recipe but it is amazingly delicious.




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So I’m sure a few of you will have fitness bootcamp resolutions for 2013. I’m challenging you instead to a sourdough bootcamp.

When I read through the “Boreal Gourmet” for the first time, the “Sourdough Bootcamp” jumped right out at me as a must-do.

It starts, “Cooks! It’s minus forty, you’re housebound, you’ve colour-coded your wardrobe and reread your old journals to the point of terminal boredom… you need a project. You need sourdough bootcamp.” It sounds a bit ridiculous, but if you’re not that good at keeping busy, it’s easy to get to that point up here in the Northwest Territories apparently. We’ve gotten quite involved in the community and host regular potluck breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; so boredom is not really on the radar. Instead we juggle feeding the starter in between going to grocery shop and then hitching a ride out to the cross-country ski club for the evening. The starter is kind of like a child: one that eats a lot, goes to sleep if hungry for too long, but doesn’t make any sounds.

Great Slave Lake Moonset

We began our sourdough adventure before we dipped below the minus twenty mark, early in November, so I’m worried about where our adventures will take us in the remaining five months of winter (we’re already at 3 months). Let’s just see.

The great thing about this bootcamp is that it takes anywhere from two to three weeks to make, and as the starter gains strength, there are a number of recipes you can make along the way with a starter of different ages. That means we were baking basically every other day for the last three weeks (so have tons of flour handy!). The whole adventure culminated in the baking of our first two sourdough loaves, which were many times tastier than I had ever dreamed possible. They were beautifully coloured, textured with an amazing crumb, and delightfully flavourful. The fun part of the recipe is that the taste will vary with geography, depending on the wild yeast of the location.


As I post more of the intermediate bootcamp recipes, I will post links on this parent post. It’s been a great adventure to make up the starter, and I look forward to trying new recipes with our mature starter.

The Sourdough Bootcamp: a day-by-day recipe (if you attempt this recipe, I just want to say it’s not very hard but does require some advance reading in order to be ready).



Unbleached best-for-bread flour

Warm water


Day 1: mix 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup warm water in a glass/plastic bowl with a lid and cover loosely. If you don’t have a bowl, you can cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rest at room temperature.

Day 2: look at the starter – you may start to spot a few bubbles.

Day 3: more bubbles will have formed, probably along with a yeasty or somewhat cheesy smell (it was not altogether pleasant, our apartment smelled of off cheese for a few days but that does eventually disappear to be replaced by a sweet yeasty smell which is quite nice). It might have fewer bubbles by the end of the day – don’t worry, that just means it’s less active, meaning that the yeast have eaten most of the food available to them for the time being and they are resting.

Day 4: afternoon or evening. Mix in 1 cup flour and water. I learned from G. to mix the flour in first and gradually add the water to reduce the amount of lumps formed. If you notice a purply liquid on top of the flour mixture, just stir it back in. You should have around 3 cups of starter.

Day 5: morning. You can use 1 cup of starter to make buttermilk scones. Replace what you’ve removed with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. If you don’t have time for scones, just leave your starter alone, other than giving it a little stir.

Day 6: morning. If you want to have homemade pizza tonight, feed starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. If not, leave it alone.

Day 6: afternoon or evening. Remove 1 1/2 cups of starter and make sourdough pizza crust. Add 3/4 cups flour and 3/4 cups water to replace the starter you used to make pizza dough.

Day 7-9: Check starter and stir a few times a day. We started noticing a few sets of bubbles sending up some floating debris – which turned out was normal. As we were worried about mold we first worried it was mold but it was not. If you do notice mold, remove it and transfer starter to a new bowl and wash the bowl thoroughly before returning the starter to it to and feeding it a cup of water and flour. We didn’t have any problems with mold, despite the sketchy highrise in which we’re living.a

Day 10: morning. Stock up on flour. Feed starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water.

Day 10: evening. Discard all but one cup of starter (in compost!) or bake intermediate bootcamp recipes with it. It will be painful to discard so much but this is just the beginning, and believe me it is important. If you want to bake, use the starter as per the recipe instructions. It will be active from the morning feeding. To the main mix add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour, cover loosely and let sit as usual.

Day 11: morning. Reserve 1 cup of starter and discard/bake with the rest. Feed the cup with 2 cups of flour and water. Stir and cover and let sit. As the starter gains strength it will start increasing in volume. Ours was usually becoming less active by the time we came home from work so it would reduce its size but that depends entirely on the environment, the flour, the yeast, etc.

Day 11: evening. Repeat morning’s actions. Feel free to bake any of the intermediate recipes with the discarded starter.

Day 12: morning. Start the day off with Ione Christensen’s Sourdough Hotcakes (pancakes), accompanied with spirited cranberry preserves if you like. The recipe is super easy, and you wouldn’t believe that there is absolutely no dairy in the recipe.

Reserve 1 cup mix, add 2 cups flour and water, mix and let rest as usual.

Day 12: evening. Remove all but one cup

Day 13: morning. Discard starter and feed remainder as usual. Feel free to make something with the extra starter. We made a lot of scones, english muffins, and hotcakes!

Day 13: evening: continue discarding extra starter and feeding with 2 cups each flour and water.

Day 14: morning. Your starter may be ready! Ours was not quite as active as we thought, so we continued the routine for another 5 days before baking our bread.

The morning of the day you want to start preparing for your bread, take out 1/2 cup of starter and follow recipe for 2-day sourdough bread.

Good luck!


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While some were escaping a falling stage at Ottawa Bluesfest, this past weekend I attended the Stewart Park Festival – a three-day musical treat in the charming town of Perth, Ontario.   Stewart Park is a long tradition in my family, complete with large family picnics.  Between good music, family galore (at last count, I visited with over 28 family members), and lazing in the sun on the cottage dock, the weekend quickly evaporated.

Cottage food combines the best of simple and delicious.  My grandmother’s stuffed zucchini is one such delicious cottage tradition.  The recipe is ever-changing, incorporating vegetables in the fridge that need eating, but always manages to taste delicious (and while a little finicky, it is super easy to make en mass) Because really, who does not love zucchini stuffed with bread crumbs and topped with bubbling cheese?

Stuffed Zucchini

(serves 8-12)


6 zucchini, ends trimmed

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

Herbs to taste (be generous – I love a combination of thyme and basil)

A vegetable or two, finely chopped (I used a tomato and half a red pepper here – also great with mushrooms)

About 1/3 of a loaf of stale bread (fresh is fine too – although your stuffing will be less crispy), cut or grated into small pieces

Splash of Worcester sauce/tobacco (if you would like to add heat)

Grated old cheddar cheese


Drop the zucchini in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until al dente, about five minutes.  Remove from the water with tongs, and cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and widthwise, creating four “logs”.  Allow to cool slightly before hollowing out the zucchini seeds.  Retain and finely chop about half the zucchini innards.  Place the zucchini logs on a large baking sheet.

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the herbs and vegetables and cook until soft.  Stir in the breadcrumbs, Worcester sauce, and the finely chopped zucchini innards and continue to cook stuffing for five more minutes.  Carefully scoop the stuffing into the zucchini cavities and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.

Bake in a 400 F oven for 10-12 minutes.   Broil for an additional minute or two, until the cheese is bubbling and the stuffing is crisping. Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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I am so lucky I made these little cornbreads last week-end, and that a few were left-over today. I had a wonderfully busy day filled mostly with non-school related adventures, after handing in my very last paper in my undergrad! I was so caught up in my freedom that I completely forgot to eat after my mid-morning breakfast. I was famished when I came home.

These little mini corn breads accompanied my potage printanier on the week-end. I had a left-over 1/2 jalapeno and a few green onions, so I threw those in.  I used Mark Bittman’s basic corn bread recipe from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian as the basis for these little bites of delicious (page 687).


-1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or milk with 1 tsp vinegar)
-3 Tbsp olive oil or butter
-1/2 jalapeno, diced
-1 finely minced green onion
-1 1/2 cups cornmeal
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
-1 egg
-paprika, for topping


Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the butter or oil in a frying pan and warm up. Gently sauté the jalapenos and green onion.

Mix the milk and egg in a bowl, and the dry ingredients in a different bowl.  Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients quickly. Pour the oil or butter and jalapeno/green onion mixture into the batter and mix. Line a muffin mould with muffin papers or grease them and dust with flour.

Spoon mixture into muffin tin and then sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a tooth-pick comes out clean. Enjoy them with a knob of butter hot out of the oven, or warmed-up for 30 seconds in the microwave.


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I must admit I woke up yesterday realizing I had to get going on the banana bread front, because not only is it an easy and great recipe – but Catherine and I have even had a banana-bread baking competition, and I figured posting first means something.  The stakes were high in our competition – the title for best banana bread.  We both mixed and baked, and convened with a few friends to find out who would take the title.  I just had to post this recipe.

Conclusion: one bread needed chocolate chips (which were omitted to make the bread stand alone, but could not be actually compared to the bread with chocolate), and the other needed to cook just a wee bit longer.  I’ll let you guess who was who.

Needless to say, I thought it would be fun to post my recipe as it is new and improved.  I’m not sure if it’s better than Catherine’s, but it certainly is delicious.  It can be mixed quickly, and then thrown into the oven to bake while you have a shower in the morning.  Then you can have a mouthwatering breakfast, and be the envy of your workplace when you pull some out for a snack.

Personally, I like to put little sugar in (closer to 1/2 cup), but a lot of chocolate chips.  Those, however, are optional of course.  I also pack it full of nuts (pecans are the favorite, although walnuts do wonderfully).  In short, this is an absolute treat!

It was difficult waiting for this to cook while getting ready for school!


-4 ripe mashed bananas (I like to freeze the black ones mashed up then pull them out in the morning)
-1/3 cup melted butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 egg, beaten
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 tsp baking soda
-pinch of salt
-1 1/2 cup flour: can be whole-wheat, white, or a mix.  It depends on what I have on hand
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts are great)
-1/2 to 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions (1 loaf, or 12 muffins if you prefer)


Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix mashed bananas and melted butter in a large bowl.  Add egg, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Mix well, then sprinkle the baking soda on top.  If you are using a whole-wheat/white flour blend, mix them together in advance.  Add flour to wet mix, as well as cinnamon.  Mix quickly, but not too much: it should still be a little lumpy.  Then add nuts and chocolate chips, and mix.  Grease two loaf tins, and bake, for 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean, or grease just one tin, and bake for 60 minutes.


Everything is the same except grease a rack for 12 muffins or line with muffin papers.  Fill them each approximately 3/4 full with batter, and bake, at 350, for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

There you have it!  Bonne appétit.


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