Baking

Lady Lake's gingersnaps

 

I like mornings. Enough so that I'm glad to be awake for the grey world to slowly be suffused with colour, even if I fall asleep again later once all the light is in the sky. I like seeing the orange squares of light in the window frames of the neighbouring houses. I like seeing the colours, pinks and yellows, flow from the sky into the landscape, and the drained sky to slowly turn blue.

This is kind of a strange place, with gulls wheeling by and the wind always ready to whip up strong and hearty. The garden in the back, all dry grasses and bent plants, is flooded. One night I dreamt that this whole flat area, the garden and the field next to the house, were underwater and there was a great shallow lake with ducks milling around outside the bedroom window. I went out the window into a boat.

Lady Lake's Ginger Snaps a family recipe...   2 1/4 cups flour 1 tsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp ginger 1/2 tsp salt 3/4 cup butter 1 cup sugar 1 egg 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger

In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients, then set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and continue beating. Add molasses and blend well. Gradually add dry mixture to creamed mixture until incorporated. Stir in candied ginger.

Chill dough overnight. Scoop with a spoon and roll into small balls. Roll these in granulated sugar to coat. Press flat. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, careful not to burn.

sunny winter day

   

Today felt like the beginning of spring, like a new year is really beginning now. The sun was so bright, light filling up the world here. Me with a baby in my belly. Everything brighter, happier, more hopeful and leaning forward. It made the city suddenly beautiful, and I was drawn out into the sun to explore. I'm definitely feeling the need to reset: to get the house back into a state of pleasant harmony and to make a habit of walks, yoga, writing, painting, just the right amount of baking, and planning dinners.

I've included a recipe from last winter that I never got around to posting. It comes in handy for using leftover egg whites and is pretty flexible.

Meringue Cookies, two flavours

5 egg whites 1 cup sugar

Whip egg whites until good and frothy. I like to start the mixer on slow and gradually bring up the speed to about medium for this part. Slowly add sugar while continue to whip, then turn up speed and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide roughly half into another bowl and gently fold in flavourings.

Bowl A: 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 smashed candy cane handful mini chocolate chips

Bowl B: 1/4 tsp almond extract handful cacao nibs handful mini chocolate chips

Pipe or spoon onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 200 for 1 3/4 - 2 hours, or until firm. Turn off oven and leave meringues in the oven overnight.

Note: I bake meringues until they're on the drier, crunchier side. If you like them softer and chewier, bake for less time or maybe don't leave them in the oven overnight to dry out. Larger meringues will tend to have softer centres than small meringues. I like to make small, bite-sized meringues, but you can certainly make larger ones, just keep in mind that they may need to bake longer. You can adjust the recipe to suit the number of egg whites you have on hand, just try to keep the egg white to sugar ratio about the same. Feel free to make them all the same flavour or have as many different flavourings as you like. Experiment with whatever flavourings inspire you. Spices and extracts are fun, as are chopped toasted nuts, and you can add food colouring if you wish. Keep in mind that anything too heavy or oily will collapse the meringue. 

Finnish sugar cookies

These cookies are a new favourite. I made them twice last winter and will certainly be baking them again before this season is out. Orange zest can be used in place of the lemon zest, however I found that it was much stronger (maybe because it's moister and compacts more) and made my teeth feel a bit funny so would try using just 1 tbsp of orange zest. You will have extra egg wash, but it will come in handy for making a second batch! The recipe comes from Trine Hahnemann's beautiful book Scandinavian Baking. Normally I'm hesitant to post a recipe that I haven't really changed much, but I've seen this recipe posted online on another blog already and why mess with perfection?

Finnish Sugar Cookies very slightly adapted from Trine Hahnemann's wonderful Scandinavian Baking

250g all-purpose flour 75g granulated sugar, plus more for the top 200g salted butter, chopped 2 tbsp finely grated organic lemon zest or 1 tbsp orange zest 1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix the flour, sugar, butter and zest, first by rubbing with your fingers and then by mixing with a wooden spoon, until the dough is smooth and firm. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Remove the top layer of baking parchment.

Brush the dough with egg and dredge sugar densely on top. Carefully roll over it with a rolling pin, so the sugar is pressed slightly into the dough. Cut into 3cm x 2cm pieces, and place on baking trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Eat or give away to loved ones!

 

news and some kitchen tips

Hello! I've been working on a website to sell my artwork and it's finally up and running: zephyrdear.com. I've also created an Etsy site, here. (!!!)

Now, here are some of my favourite kitchen tricks. Maybe they'll come in handy for your winter baking.

Storing Citrus Zest: I love adding zest to baked goods, but don't always have fresh citrus on hand. Instead, I keep sugared lemon and orange zest (separately) in the freezer so that it's always available. Here's what I do: when using a lemon just for its juice or when eating or juicing an orange, I first use a microplane to remove the zest. I put the zest in a jar and add a spoonful or so of sugar, just enough so that the zest doesn't all clump together (lemon zest tends to be drier than orange zest). That's it. Then I keep the jar in the freezer and can scoop out a teaspoon when I need it to add to cookies or muffins or whatever. I always use organic citrus for zesting.

Vanilla Sugar: I can't bring myself to compost used vanilla beans when they still have aroma to offer (which they do). After using a vanilla bean to flavour a creme caramel or other dessert, I give it a good rinse and then put it in my jar of organic cane sugar. I keep adding beans as I use them. The sugar preserves the beans and over time takes on a very vanilla aroma.

 

February 29

I love that today is a leap day- it seems like a special pocket of time.

Outside, the cheery trills of robins are balancing the soft dreariness of grey sky on the verge of rain. This afternoon, the sun shone and lit the pink cherry blossom and warmed the rug. In the morning, as on all mornings here, sea gulls dotted the field like sheep.

This past week there were some glorious spring storms, erratic wind/rain/sun and all colours in the sky. I dug out my paints. I finally bought an umbrella. Days were segmented by cappucinos, africanos, earl grey and herbal teas. Our rabbits are molting winter down. The daffodils are nodding bright heads.

I hurt my back by lifting a bin incorrectly and have spent the past few days feeling like a century has been tacked on to my years. It's easing up now and I am so glad. (That icy-hot stuff is so weird!) How easy it is to take health for granted.

I'm including the recipe for what I wish I was making right now. I like to make and freeze a batch of these cookies to have on hand - a gift to our future selves.

Chocolate Apricot Pecan Cookies Adapted from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Cookbook. The original recipe does not call for pecans, so feel free to leave them out. 

In a medium large bowl, stir together with a whisk then set aside: 1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour 1 c all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp finely ground espresso beans

In a medium small bowl or in a KitchenAid mixer, cream until light and fluffy: 1 c butter, softened 1 c good raw/brown sugar such as panela-rapadura

Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar one at a time, mixing well, adding vanilla with second egg: 2 eggs, room temperature 2 tsp vanilla

Add dry ingredients and stir to mix until flour is just incorporated. Then stir in: 3/4 cup dried unsulphured apricots, chopped 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and cooled, roughly crushed by hand 8-9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Let dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour before scooping and baking cookies. Or scoop then freeze dough to later thaw and bake whenever you need a few cookies! Makes about 16 cookies. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.