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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.

DSCN4240_NRW

 

Ingredients:

 

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

Dough

-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

 

Filling

-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

 

Glaze

-1/8 cup melted butter

-1/8 cup cream

DSCN4245_NRW

 

Directions:

 

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.

-Sitelle

 

 

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It’s always been my dream to eat from near-by as much as possible. It gives us variation through the seasons, simplicity, and always freshness. Freshness is especially salient up here in the Northwest Territories, as we do receive some imported fruits but all too often they are spoiled by the time they arrive, and they cost a pretty penny.

Living on the shores of the Great Slave Lake means we get a lot of fresh fish. Whitefish and Jackfish are the common ones, but there are others as well. As one of the deepest lakes in the world and being situated where few people live means there still is a good stock.
As winter settles in, and the cold envelopes everything, the fish is changing too. It gets fattier – more full of omega fatty acids – it’s reserves for getting through the cold winter months.

The whitefish from this lake is absolutely delicious. This recipe is one of my favourite. Rapid, simple, and delicious, it’s pretty well perfect.

DSCN3892

Ingredients

4 whitefish fillets
1 onion, diced

2 carrots, quartered lengthwise and thinly chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme

olive oil

4 medium yukon-gold potatoes

butter

fresh parsley, shredded

salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Finely chop onions and carrots. Cut 4 squares of parchment paper. Wash the fish fillets, and then drizzle with 1tsp olive oil. Place diced onions and carrots on top, season lightly with salt and pepper, and top with thyme sprig. Fold the parchment paper over it all. Repeat for all 4 fillets.

Place in oven and bake for 14-18 minutes, until cooked (time depends on thickness of fillets).

Meanwhile, place water on to boil. Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes until just tender. Drain and slice in half. Serve potatoes next to fish with butter and parsley. Enjoy!

-Sitelle

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As the wintry weather continues to approach (it’s scary to say approach since it feels like beyond the winter I’m used to), I’ve been craving comforting meals in the warmth of our apartment. It’s funny because although I’m living in one of the bustling metropoles of the Northwest Territories (there are four, I am told, in total), the town is small at 3000 people, and has a couple of stop-lights. I cannot find half the spices I want in the grocery store (not even things you’d expect, like dried thyme), yet the baking isle is stocked with as many varieties of flour as your usual grocery stores in Ontario, or more. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that many people here take the time to bake their own bread and make their own preserves with the slower pace of life here. The smell of baking bread is not uncommon in the neighbourhood, and people definitely take baking their bread seriously – hence the large variety of flour available.

Tonight, as I thought about the chili we’d be having for dinner, I decided it was time to bake a Sunday night dessert. It’s apple season, so I’ve been going wild with apple-themed things, and this is no exception. It’s an upside-down apple-cinnamon and brown sugar cake, the perfect consistency to have with a hot chocolate, tea, or early afternoon coffee. It was completely invented in our kitchen, since the one cookbook we have here does not have a similar recipe, and we don’t have regular access to the internet (only at the library and those few times at school when we have free time). So, this is the first new recipe born out of Hay River!

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten, in a medium bowl

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

2 apples, sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 or 400 if your oven is on the cold side.

Grease a medium rectangular cake pan (we used a pyrex oven dish, maybe 6 inches by 9), and sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved, and then add melted butter.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre, add the wet ingredients to the well, and carefully incorporate all ingredients together, removing any lumps that are formed.

Toss the apples in the cinnamon and half the brown sugar and mix the remaining brown sugar with the butter. Line the bottom of the pan with apples, and cut the remaining apple slices into small chunks and reserve them. Sprinkle half the brown sugar-butter mix over the apples. Cover with half the cake batter, and sprinkle the remaining apples and brown-sugar butter over top. Top with the remaining batter.

Bake on middle rack in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired, and toffee syrup if you’re feeling particularly fancy – although it’s not necessary!

-Sitelle

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With probably almost 1.5 m of snow or more outside, it’s really hard to imagine that winter is more than a month away. The Christmas decorations are already up (and their light is welcome on the dark days). We even saw a Santaclaus parade last weekend in Yellowknife. Needless to say it’s already necessary to have warm and hearty soups cooked on the weekend so that we can come home after work and warm up with a bowl of it.

On Sundays in Hay River we have a winter market where people sell beadwork and baked goods, and where we can have what is by far the loveliest meal out in town at the “Real Food Cafe”. The wonderful woman in charge of that initiative cooks fresh fish caught by her husband, and serves it up with delicious soup, bannock, locally grown leafy greens (there must be a greenhouse somewhere!), coleslaw, homemade pickle, and a variety of jams made with berries I’ve never seen and sometimes never even heard of. It is absolutely lovely. There is also a vendor selling locally grown squash, potatoes, carrots, beets, and other root veggies, and she sells fresh eggs if her hens have produced enough. It’s a great event to look forward to each week. I imagine that until the stocks let up I will be posting many winter inspired dishes cooked up with vegetables from this very market.

This soup – a rustic squash soup with roasted garlic – is an absolute delight. We don’t have a blender or anything to make a puree with, but roasting all veggies in advance and then cooking it slowly until dinner results in a thick, rustic, and hearty soup. It’s delicious as is, and there is no need to puree it unless you want extremely even texture!

 

Ingredients – approximately 6 servings

1 medium butternut squash; washed, quartered, cored, drizzled in olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400F for 1 hour

1 head of garlic, top sliced off, wrapped in tin foil, and baked along with squash for same duration

2 medium onions, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 Tbsp butter or oil

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (home-made is delicious but not mandatory)

1/2 tsp salt

pinch nutmeg

pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash, quarter, and core the squash. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Slice the top off the garlic and wrap the garlic in tinfoil. Place in oven with the squash. Bake for 1 hour until roasted golden and garlic is soft.

Dice the onions. Melt the butter in a large heavy pot with a lid. When hot, add the onions and stir. Reduce heat after a minute or two and allow the onions to brown slowly. When the onions are almost done, add the carrot, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the squash from the oven and scoop into the carrot-onion mixture. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and into the pot as well. Stir everything together. Pour in the broth and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can use a potato masher if the squash maintains its shape but I found it quickly mixed into the broth.

Enjoy with a sprinkle of green onions and a hot slice of bread!

-Sitelle

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To accompany the cranberry sauce post I did a few days ago, here’s the recipe for an absolutely divine cheesecake we made for a dinner party last night. G. has been coaching boy’s volleyball, and last weekend he brought a big bag of his home-made chocolate chip cookies along for the team. They loved the cookies apparently, but the poor quality of the flour meant that before the boys managed to eat all of them many had disintegrated. He came home and announced we must make a cheesecake to use up the crumbs. Yes!

Warning! Bake this cake in the morning – it requires a lot of cooking and cooling and rest before you can serve it to your guests or bring it to a dinner party. It’s well worth the effort though, I promise. It’s lighter than many cheesecakes, and the nuts in the crust along with the browned butter make it absolutely irresistible.

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (we used crumbs from the chocolate chip recipe at the back of the “chipits” chocolate chip bag, and picked out the chocolate chips we could find)

3/4 cups chopped pecans

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup browned butter

Filling, first layer

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 lb (454g) cream cheese (this is two packages of philadelphia cream cheese, not one!)

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Filling, second layer

1 1/2 cups thick sour cream

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla or 1 Tbsp maple syrup

pinch of salt

1-2 cups Spirited Cranberry Sauce

Directions

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once it is melted, allow it to begin to bubble. Reduce the heat and watch it carefully until the bubbles start to get bigger and then smaller. Once they are tiny and look foamy, keep your eye out for little golden and then light brown specks in the butter. Remove it from heat immediately as the butter is now at the browned butter stage which is delicious as it tastes like hazelnuts but it can easily be burned. If you like you can keep a shallow pan of cold water next to your stove and when the butter is browned you can dip the bottom of the pan in order to kill the cooking process and protect your butter from burning.

Mix the cookie crumbs along with the brown sugar, and then pour the butter over that whole mixture. Mix well, and then press into a round, 2 1/2 inch deep springform pan (ideal… we don’t have anything of the sort though and managed well enough). Press the bottom and sides up to form an even crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you process the first layer of cheesecake. Remove the cream cheese from the fridge so it can soften a bit, as with the eggs.

Next, preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk all the ingredients for the first layer together, except the cinnamon. If you have a food processor, process them together. If not, as is the case with us, you can press it through a sieve several times with a spoon and that does the job too although it is a bit messier! Spoon that into the crust and bake for 20-22 minutes. When it is cooked remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. This takes several hours. Sprinkle the cinnamon over top of the first layer.

To make the second layer, preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the ingredients for the second layer thoroughly. Pour it all over the first layer. When the oven is ready, cook for five minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool first to room temperature and then to chill thoroughly in the fridge for at least 6 hours before it is ready to be served.

Before serving, prepare spirited cranberry sauce, and drizzle over top.

-Sitelle

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A year and a half ago I was browsing through my mother’s books in her living room and I came to “The Boreal Gourmet – adventures in northern cooking”. It caught my eye, and I was soon going through it, savouring the stories and their accompanying recipes. The book is written by a woman who grew up in Toronto, was deeply influenced by her mother’s delicious cooking, spent time in Greece learning to cook traditional Greek food, and who finally ended up in the Yukon Territories cooking up a storm.

When my mother came in and found me reading the book she was very disappointed – somehow I’d managed to pick through her entire book collection to land on the ONE book I was not supposed to see – it was intended as a birthday present later that year for me. I quickly put it away and basically forgot its existence until my birthday a few months later.

Alexandra Falls gorge covered in 1.25m of snow!

Soon after I was given the book, though, I stepped into an adventure taking me to Gambia, and my exploration of the recipes in the book was postponed until this year when I have somehow managed to walk myself right into the Northern refrigerator. There is over a meter snow on the ground, the boreal forest is scraggly at best, and I live on the very Northern end of the Canadian Railway in the Northwest Territories. G. and I brought one cookbook with us: “The Boreal Gourmet”, and we’ve had a great time taking a crack at many recipes already.

Spirited cranberry sauce is great with everything from cheesecake to pancakes to meats… and probably many other things I have yet to try!

We’ve got a large mound of buffalo in the freezer, along with several whitefish fillets, and 10 cups of rosehips we’ve planned to transform into preserves. What fun! All these ingredients come from the land around us. I was hoping to harvest cranberries to make this sauce but the snow came unexpectedly fast, and so I was forced to buy a bag of fresh ones at the store (I was lucky enough to find some!).

Ingredients

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

3 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp raw honey (I used wild honey from Gambia with a smoky flavour since that’s how they collect it by smoking the bees out!)

Juice and rind of two oranges

2 Tbsp rum

Directions

Put all ingredients into a pot, and add a Tbsp of water if the liquids are too low to get a simmer going. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, until thick. Use a fork to mix it up and puree the cranberries a bit.

Serve with roast meat or turkey, or with cheesecake (as I will post soon!)

-Sitelle

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After all of my travels last year throughout the world, I must say I was interested to find in Canada some of the basis of many meals and cooking techniques I also found in other places. I also grew more aware of what foods are available in Canada, and what exactly Canadian food is. If this is not a Canadian recipe, then I do not know what is!

As I cooked the first batch of dried blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup for my village in The Gambia, I realized I’d shared a true Canadian flavour with my hosts. Maple syrup.

This recipe draws on inspiration from the Joy of Cooking’s classic sponge cake recipe. I love the recipe as it is delicious while also being totally dairy-free and also oil-free, which makes it a crowd pleaser as long as no one has trouble with gluten or wheat.

I invented the icing, inspired by a rich but complementary cream cheese base, and made unique with pecan butter and maple extract.

I hope you like these as much as Catherine and all my friends did – they sure disappeared fast! It was such a pleasure to finally bake something for Catherine as we are in the same city for just about a month! I think we should take advantage of proximity while we can.

Ingredients – 12 cupcakes

3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks (save the whites in the fridge, they will be used in a few minutes!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup amber (or any other you have) maple syrup
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp maple extract (optional)

3 egg whites

Ingredients – maple pecan cream cheese frosting

2/3 cup pecans

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tsp maple extract
pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. To make the cupcakes, sift all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for about a minute, until they begin to thicken. Gradually add in the sugar and maple syrup, and beat for a further 3 minutes on high. Add in the extract, and then beat in the boiling water.

Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients. You can do so with a beater on low or with a whisk (my preference). Using clean beaters and a chilled bowl, beat the egg whites into medium-firm peaks.

Carefully incorporate one quarter of the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula, and then add the remainder when it is light and airy. Do not over-mix.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners, filling them to 3/4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, until a toothpick poked into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.

To make the pecan cream cheese maple icing, start with making the pecan butter. If you have a food processor or blender, place the nuts inside and allow them to be processed until they become coarse pecan butter. Add in the cream cheese and butter, and continue to mix until everything is smooth. Add in the sugar and extract, and continue to pulse.

If you do not have a food processor, just buy some pecan butter and mix it in with the other ingredients in a bowl using a fork and then a wooden spoon once it is broken up.

If the icing is too runny, add a bit of icing sugar, or refrigerate! You can garnish the iced cupcakes with pecan halves if you like!

-Sitelle

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