baking

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.

 

gougère

Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven't yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I've seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Gougères Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water 3 oz (6 T) butter 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch nutmeg pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh) 3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose) 4 eggs 2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2" across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1" across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.