Mascarpone Cannelloni

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This recipe is a long standing Christmas eve mains in our family, but its great to have anytime. The original published recipe (Step by Step Pasta Cookbook, p.117) has a good core, but is badly written – the book is quite old too.

Beside sharing a favorite dish, I also want to point out what makes for good recipe writing and what does not. In the picture above, this is the entire recipe! They have sacrificed space on the page taken up with an uninformative and mediocre photo to condense the recipe so that one has to continually ask, “ What exactly did they mean??” As a result, I’ve – shall we say – ‘rephrased’ it so it makes more sense.

I also made changes to the procedure. In the recipe, the spinach is boiled and squeezed. (Who would ever dare boil spinach these days?) In mine, I give it my standard green vegetable braise treatment.

Mascarpone

A note about the mascarpone is in order. Mascarpone is essentially a sweet cream cheese. Its flavour and sweetness is important in the recipe. This year when we did the cannelloni it was in a covid time lockdown, and it was very difficult to get into some stores to buy the required mascarpone.

I was about to give up, but then asked myself, “Can I do a workaround?” Once the question was asked, I realized I could! It was remarkably simple. Take organic cream cheese and add a spoon of honey. It does taste different: the organic cream cheese is a more fermented product and so you get a bit more of a tang to it but I quite like that. Besides which, mascarpone isn’t really any kind of a special cheese except that it’s really expensive. Take a look at the picture showing the ingredient list of the mascarpone and the cream cheese. The mascarpone is on top. After the milk, it is an entirely manufactured chemical product. It’s part of the big cheese industry, whereas the organic cream cheese is much more natural and a lot cheaper too. From now on I’m not going to worry about Mascarpone. Much easier to get a good quality cream cheese and add a little honey.

And on the subject of cheese:

Try Emmental/Gruyere/Swiss. The original recipe calls for Fontina. We prefer these other somewhat harder cheeses, for both texture and taste.

Ingredients & instructions for each step
The most efficient way to do this is to prepare the different components in the following order:

  1. Filling
  2. Pasta
  3. Assembly
  4. Sauce
  5. And, of course, the final bake

Filling

Ingredients

  • olive oil or unsalted butter for sauteeing.
  • 2 bunches of spinach or chard
  • 1 large onion
  • 250g mascarpone or cream cheese with honey
  • 250g ricotta
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • Pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste
  • Approximately 500g of slices of fontina/ementhal/gruyere/swiss cheese. Its not necessary to lay down perfect squares of cheese. Rough slices with a potato peeler are fine.
  • 100 g grated Fontina/Emmental/Gruyere/Swiss cheese.

Instructions

  1. Finely chop a large onion and saute with olive oil and a little salt on medium until onions are translucent. Cover and turn low for about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the spinach or chard, chop fine (including the stems) and add to the onion mix but do NOT stir it in.
  3. Leave the greens on top of the onions so the onion layer gently steams the spinach/chard. Put a lid on it. It should very gently simmer. Add pepper and a little nutmeg to taste. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes (while you make the pasta.)
  4. Once cooked, thoroughly mix filling ingredients: spinach/chard/onion mix, 250g ricotta, 250g mascarpone, grated cheese. Taste for flavor: salt/pepper/nutmeg

Pasta

Make a pasta dough with

  • 4 eggs – but weigh them! They should come out to about 200g.
  • flour = weight of eggs divided by .6 – about 333g

See my blog on making perfect pasta every time. Here is what it should look like when it is properly mixed:

Although you could use a rolling pin, it will go faster if you use a pasta maker. The pasta should be thin, but not too much so. The main idea is to roll it through so that it eventually takes up the entire width of the pasta maker, which you cut into 5-6″ /13-15cm squares.

Here it is all set for the filling. Be sure to cover them with wax or parchment paper to avoid them drying out.

Assembly

The main part of the assembly is done before the sauce is made.

  1. Turn oven on to 375F/190C.
  2. Place slices of cheese in the middle of each square. You need to cover about 90% of the square’s area.
  3. Spoon a dessert spoon of filling on the pasta squares with cheese slices. Spread out the filling so it covers the whole square.
  4. Roll up the caneloni and place seam down in a large glass serving dish.

Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (the original recipe does not make enough sauce!)
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs all purpose flour
  • Pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste (You want to make your sauce sing a little.)
  • Grated cheese that is dropped on the casserole as it is going into the oven.

Sauce instructions & final assembly

  1. Make a roux: in a pot on medium-low heat, mix 3tbs/44g butter with 3 tbs/30g flour.
  2. Once combined and cooking, slowly add cream, then milk, & keep stirring as it thickens.
  3. Add in salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
  4. If too thick, add more milk. The sauce should pour, but barely.
  5. Pour over cannelloni, dot with grated fontina/emmental/gruyere/swiss cheese and butter
  6. Brown in 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes

This recipe makes enough for about 8 servings (not 4 as the original recipe suggests). Should it not all be eaten, they make amazing day-after canapes when cut into half inch slices.

Can apples be like onions?

This is an account of our February 22nd pandemic dinner which took an interesting culinary twist.

As usual I had really not much of a clue of what I was going to make for dinner, other than defrosting some chicken parts earlier in the day. What I usually do with chicken is cut off what breast I need, and also a leg. (We have one family member who only likes breast and other family members who don’t care.) I did my usual basic rub where I weigh the chicken and add 1.5% salt by weight and 1.5% sugar by weight (in other words equal parts of each) and then I figure out what else I want to spice it with. I decided to use my pumpkin spice mix. Why not? Let’s try chicken with pumpkin spice! Get that cloves, allspice and nutmeg thing going.

Having done that I next turned my attention to a squash which we had sitting in the fridge needing something to be done with it. My usual squash treatment is to cut it in half, remove the seeds, score the seed cavity, and fill it with butter, maple syrup and cinnamon. This was also a flattish Kabocha squash with a very wide seed cavity. Here I started with the butter, thought that since I had the pumpkin spice out, it might work well here too, and then a splash of maple syrup. Here’s where things got a little interesting. The butter and syrup did not come near to filling the squash so I’m asking “What else can I add? Apple! Why not?” The apple would really nicely complement both the meaty squash and the pumpkin spice mix. A little like bringing back the Fall in February. This is getting interesting! I then thought “What goes well with apple?” How about some cheddar cheese? I found a package of goat cheddar in the fridge and added slices of that as well. Once it was nearly baked I would add some Quinoa I had previously cooked on the top just to heat through.

About this point it occurred to me that perhaps one can make apple work like an onion. Where else can I go with this? The chicken! Beyond the rub I’m still wondering how I’m going to finish it. I knew I would wind up braising it because I was too lazy to do much else. So I cut up some onions, added a little bit of salt and pepper to them (The chicken parts have already been salted) and some butter to saute and caramelize, lid on. At that point I began to think about the apple idea. I had a half Granny Smith level left over from the squash. What if I cut that up fine and pretended it was an onion? That’s what I did. Once the apple and onion had disintegrated into their sweet buttery mushiness, the chicken went on the top. Low heat – 30 minutes – until the chicken had cooked through and the flavors had all come together.

This pandemic dinner had a couple of other parts to it too – a typical ‘leftover’ soup, steamed broccoli, rice and sourdough bread on the side.

So that is how apple became the theme of the dinner and that is how I began this spontaneous inquiry about how apple can function like an onion. Indeed it can! It’s sweet, and when you cook onions they’re sweet as well with a completely different yet complementary flavor. Depending on how much apple you put in you can give a range of dishes anything from a sublime hint of apple to it being a full on part of the flavor profile. Apple is not all you can use in this way. Pear also would work well. I can see this working with fish, pork, lamb, carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, as well as a variety of grains – rice, bulgar, quinoa, couscous… – and that is only what immediately comes to mind.

It also occured to me that I’m hardly the first to think of apples in this way. Check out Mollie Katzen’s Sweet Potato Surprise which does the same apple treatment only with bananas as well.

What a great new tool in my culinary toolbox, hiding all these years in plain sight!

Chocolate mini pots

A few weeks ago I had this dessert challenge. I wanted to come up with a dessert that was fast, chocolaty, delicate, not too sweet, very rich, easy, small portions with nothing left over.

I had a recollection of something like this – and sure enough there were some inspirational ideas in America’s Test Kitchen.

But they weren’t quite what I wanted. Usually the amounts were too big, or they were too complex. What I had in mind was small ramekin sized chocolate pots to serve 3-4 people who are watching their weight, have just had a great dinner, and want a little dessert finisher at the end.

Here is what I came up with that will yield 4 – 3 ounce ramekins.

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Mise en scene (not including the flour)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • (you can happily make the recipe without the flour – it will be more moussy)
  • 125g unsalted butter (about 1/4lb butter)
  • 125g semi sweet chocolate (about 4 oz)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup whipping cream with a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of vanilla. You only use 2 tbs in the dessert itself. The rest is for the topping or whatever else you want it for.
  • 1 tsp liqueur – your choice
  • 1 tbs whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate together. Any way you can. Microwave is fine
  2. Make whipped cream. The whipping is optional, but it will make a difference, as you are adding in air that will make it lighter and somehow silkier
  3. Mix the flour and baking powder together – if you decide to use them. With them, the result is a little more like a cake and without, more moussy.
  4. Whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla and liqueur
  5. Blend in the melted butter and chocolate until fully intergrated
  6. Blend in 2 tbs of the whipped cream
  7. Fold in the flour/baking powder (if you are using them)
  8. Pour into ramekins.
  9. Cooking can vary. Essentially you need to get them to a temperature where the eggs solidify, and it does not matter how you do it. You can zap it in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it looks cooked & a toothpick comes out clean – about 1-1.5 minutes. Or you can stick it in a cooling down oven beginning at 375-400. Leave it and let it cook gently. Or you can push the oven to 375, put in the ramekins, turn off the oven. They should be done in 10 minutes. I imagine that 250 for 30 minutes will also work, though I have not tried that yet.
  10. Cool the ramekins down to room temperature or lower.
  11. Add topping as you see fit: whipped cream, icing of your choice, fruit, candied nuts, jam- whatever grabs you.
  12. Other options: add a tbs of your favorite jam to get a fruit flavour.
  13. Also your liquer can change or if you don’t like, omit it. I’ve tried bourbon, brandy, kirsh so far. The main thing is that it should have a distinct flavor. (So no vodka)

Qurs – Our Ethiopian breakfast

Its not often that one has the opportunity to deeply participate in a culture that is not ones own. Unless you are someone like Anthony Bourdain who did it for a living, I would say its extremely rare. I’ve often thought that an ideal personal holiday for me would be to spend a week in the home kitchen of another culture, taking it all in.

I got pretty close on this one, and it felt like a real honour.

Here’s how it all came about.

We’ve known S for a number of years now. She arrived as a teen here in Canada about 30 years ago, but she says she wasn’t taught how to cook in Ethiopia. She was however, very well taught by her friends, relatives and the restaurants she worked in once here. She is now a master of Ethiopian cuisine and has over the years shown me things about heat and spices I never could learn from reading a recipe.

So this past summer, she was staying with us at our place up north on the Bruce Peninsula. She said “I’m going to cook you guys an Ethiopian breakfast.” How exciting! We didn’t even know there was such a thing. My almost immediate response was, “And I’m going to blog about it.”

And so it has come to pass. I took on the role not of someone learning and practicing – that comes later – but of note taking and taking pictures that hopefully capture the technique in the moment. Unlike me, S does not weigh out things. Everything is by feel. She has very finely honed taste and scent buds. She doesn’t need to compare a prior smell or taste, she knows how close or not something is, and usually what to do to adjust it.

For each of us, our way works. If you have read my other blogs, you know that what I’m after is consistency and transferability. If someone 15,000km away from me reads one of my recipes, I want it turn out the same as what I would do, and on the strength of my text and pictures alone.

Ethiopian cuisine is unique in the world. Possibly its a result of the harsh mountainous terrain that separates it from its neighbours and may have led to the development of a more singular and unique cuisine – though there was definitely sharing – importing and exporting of ingredients and ideas. Please check out Harry Kolman’s site on Ethiopian cuisine – its extensive and rich. His is one book I would not mind getting. He also has a blog entry on Ethiopian breakfast!

Nit’ir Qibe

Nit’ir qibe is quite literally the secret sauce that makes all the recipes work. I’ve described it more fully, in my companion blog along with a version that can be made with more commonly available ingredients here.

Kinche

A good breakfast must have its grains, and bulgur is the grain of choice here. The cooking process is the same for any other delicate grain like couscous or white rice: rinse thoroughly to remove starch, add some salt, boil then immediately simmer, lid on. Finally turn off the heat (lid still on) and let the grains fully absorb the water. The difference here is that the nit’ir qibe is added right before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs nit’ir qibe

Instructions

  1. Rinse bulgur well
  2. Add water and salt to bulgur & bring to a boil uncovered
  3. Reduce heat to lowest, cover, and leave for 20 minutes null
  4. Turn off heat, keep the lid on, and let sit for another 20 minutes
  5. Add 4 tbs of nit’ir qibe.null

Firfir

Firfir is a berbere based stew that is infused into pieces of cut up injera. What’s important in this recipe is the heat and water. My western approach to breakfast was stretched a little here with this very spicy meat dish, but it was a case of ‘twist my rubber arm’.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb beef or lamb, chopped into 2-3cm (1″) cubes
  • 2-3 tbs sunflower oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tsp minced ginger , minced
  • 10 tbs berbere
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 2-3 c water
  • 2 tbs nit’ir qibe
  • 2-3 injera

Instructions

  1. Finely dice a large onion and put in a 4 or so litre pot on the stove. Cook dry on a medium heat for 3-4 until the onions begin to soften – but not burn.
  2. Cut 1 lb beef or lamb in 2-3cm (1″) cubesnull
  3. Add garlic, ginger and sunflower oil. Cook stirring on a fairly hot heat to disintegrate the onionsnull
  4. Add berbere, adding a little water as needed to prevent sticking. Keep stirring for 5 to 10 minutes. If you cook the berbere longer it’s taste will infuse into the onion and it will also lose heat.
  5. After 10 minutes of cooking and stirring, add meat, and continue stirring for a further 10 minutesnull
  6. Add 2-3C water and 1 tbs salt, bring it to a simmer, and cover it. null
  7. As it is simmering, tear up injera into the bowl you will be serving this dish in. It should be about 10-12″ (25-30cm) wide. These should be in strips big enough that you can use them to pick up a bite of food with your fingers – about 6-8″.null
  8. After 30 minutes of simmering, raise the heat with the lid still on, and add 2 tbs of the nit’ir qibe. Cook, stirring on this higher heat for a few more minutes.
  9. Work the meat mix gently into the injera pieces and servenull

Chechebesa

This is a very addictive carb dish. The ingredients speak to that: flour, salt and qibe

Ingredients

  • 400g (3 cups) all purpose flour
  • 8g salt (1 tsp) – 2% of the flour
  • 240g water (1 cup) In other words a 60% hydration dough.
  • 3 tbs berbere
  • 3 tbs nit’ir qibe
  • small bowl of water on the side

Instructions

  1. Make a dough with the flour, water and salt. Once fully combined and kneaded, separate into 3 balls and let rest for a few minutes
  2. Heat a cast iron frying pan to a high temperature. Flatten the balls using the palm of your hand. It should be about 1/4″ 6-7mm thick. turn itnull
  3. Place the dough in the hot pan and press it out as much as you can. Dip your fingers in the water and continue pressing it out. Fip it several times. It should be about 1/4″ 6-7mm thick. turn it to cook evenly on both sides, until you see brown flecks on both sides. Check this video to see the technique.
  4. Once it has cooled, tear into bite sized pieces
  5. Melt 3 tbs of nit’ir qibe and add 3 tbs berbere
  6. Work the berbere & spiced butter mix into the torn up bread and serve

Enqulale firfir (scrambled eggs)

I really love this wonderfully spicy take on scrambled eggs. Note the treatment of the Jalapenos – the flesh only. The seeds can be saved and used in something else hot.

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion chopped fine
  • 1 large tomato in small chunks
  • 2 jalapenos, no seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbs nit’ir qibe

Instructions

  1. Chop the onion finely
  2. Cut the tomato into small chunks
  3. Remove the seeds from the jalapenos and cut coarsely dice
  4. Dice or press the garlicnull
  5. In a cast iron pan, sautee onion, garlic, jalapeno and tomato in the nit’ir qibe until the onions are translucent.
  6. Beat 4 eggs and add to the sautee. Stir a little, taste for salt, turn off the heat, and cover.

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And here is our final result. A truly spectacular cottage brunch!

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Nit’ir Qibe

Nit’ir Qibe

Nit’ir qibe is a spiced butter that is as key to Ethiopian cuisine as berbere and injera are. Its the secret sauce that makes all of the recipes in my Breakfast Blog work.

I remember when we made our Ethiopian breakfast, all the ingredients were from scratch and I could easily weigh them and record them. There was one – a tub of yellowish buttery looking fat that I was told there were “special ingredients that were exceedingly difficult to find – and don’t ask me what they are right now. You will eventually find out.” The finding out took a couple of months, but I finally did learn how to make it, and I now have this wonderful multi purpose flavoring oil at hand.

Although nit’ir qibe recipes are to be found online, what is presented here is S’s special and personal version. Although similar to ghee, there’s something of a different focus. To begin with, the spices are toasted, then ground. Although the butter is heated (separating the butterfat from the milk solids and water), the main purpose is to slowly infuse the taste of the spices into the butter. The challenge is finding the ingredients as there are four unique ingredients only, and even rarely available in a groceries catering to the Ethiopean community: Kosseret (from the Verbena family – but its not verbena either) and Korarima (or Ethiopian cardamom that tastes very different than our common green cardamom.) Ajowan tikur asmud, and finally, ground fenugreek .

In this blog I will be presenting S’s original personal and special recipe, followed by a reasonable alternative that can be made from more common ingredients.

My rant on spices and misappropriation.

When I began this project, one of the first challenges was to get clear about my nomenclature. What was I going to call the dishes, and the ingredients in them? This was particularly true of the nit’ir qibe. Indeed I began by calling this ‘spiced butter’ which is true enough in English. But really, since this particular condiment exists only within Ethiopian cuisine, it became quickly clear that it has a name: nit’ir qibe. That is then how it should be called by everyone.

Similarly the spices have their unique names. This is where we ran into some problems of identification. Some of the herbs and spices in nit’ir qibe uniquely come from Ethiopia. Some are only be found in that part of the world. Others are more common in Arabic and Indian cuisine as well. Some of these herbs have somehow acquired along the way, quite misleading English common names, even though they are unrelated. I’ll describe each in turn:

Here are the Ethiopian/anglicized/latin name & link/ as well as possible substitutes

Tikur asmud – Nigella Sativa ‘black cumin’. Possible substitute: onion/black pepper/oregano

Nigella Sativa has been used for centuries throughout the Mideast as both a spice and a medicinal covering numerous ailments. What it is definitely not is a variety of cumin. Clearly someone felt it looked a little like cumin (really??) and so for Anglophones, the name stuck. Some other names include nigella, kalojeera, kalonji or kalanji. Its probable that it can be purchased in grocery stores catering to middle east and Indian cuisines. Possible substitute: onion/black pepper/oregano

Korarima – Aframomum corrorima – ‘Ethiopian cardamon’ is of the ginger family, though it tastes nothing like either one. Possible substitute: nutmeg/cardamom

Ajwain Trachyspermum ammi– Bishop’s weed – Possible substitute: thyme

Ajwain is used widely in Indian cuisine as well, associated with ghee. Its also used in Ayurveda herbal medicine

Kosoret Lippia abyssinica – – Verbena -Possible substitute: oregano, mint leaves. Its used in herbal medicines and shows some antibacterial properties.

Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum the final item is to be already ground. Of them all this should be reasonably available. Don’t roast the whole fenugreek, then grind it. The taste is not the same.

S’s original recipe

Ingredients

  • 3lb unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs ground funugreek
  • 6 tbs Koseret
  • 1 tbs Ajowan
  • 1 tbs tikur asmud
  • 3 tbs koramima

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in fairly large pot on a low to medium heat. you want it to melt but not boil.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan on high for a couple of minutes, add the ajowan, koiramama and tikur asmud, turn down the heat and stir. When it begins to smell good, then take off heatnitir-qibe20201013_121540-19
  3. Grind the roasted spices to a medium/fine consistencynitir-qibe20201013_121540-15
  4. crumble the koseret in your hands
  5. Add all ingredients to the now melted butter, put a lid on it and leave it on low for between 1-4 hours.nitir-qibe20201013_121540-13
  6. Using a very fine cheesecloth over a jar (make a cup in the neck of the jar and put an elastic band around it) and carefully pour in the butter. Near the end. heat up the butter to make it less viscous and squeeze all you can through the cheesecloth.nitir-qibe20201013_121540-5
  7. Leave it at room temperature overnight then store in the fridge.nitir-qibe20201013_121540-2

An alternative version with more common spices

Its pretty clear that if everything in this and the Breakfast blog which follows hinged on the 5 ingredients most people (including Ethiopians) can’t get their hands on, there would be little interest in trying out these dishes. That would be terrible! Although the nit’ir qibe will not be quite the same, you can still make a tasty version with more commonly available herbs and spices. The ingredient that really carries the day is the fenugreek.

Here are 3 alternatives:

Common ingredient alternative 1 (for a 1 lb quantity of unsalted butter)

454g unsalted butter 1 lb

5g ground fenugreek – 1 ¼ tsp

5g diced ginger root 1 ¼ tsp

5 g pressed garlic (small clove)

3g cardamom nibs (the seeds inside the cardamom pod) – ¾ tsp

Common ingredient alternative 2

All of alternative 1 plus 8g thyme (2 tbs) and 8g oregano (2 tbs)

Common ingredient alternative 3

All of alternative 1 plus 19g thyme 4 tbs and no oregano

Instructions for common ingredient alternatives

The basic process is the same as for the original recipe except that I toasted all of the herbs and spices.

  1. Melt butter in fairly large pot on a low to medium heat. You want it to melt but not boil.
  2. Prepare the herb & spice mix
  3. Heat a cast iron pan on high for a couple of minutes, add the herb & spice mix, turn down the heat and stir. When it begins to smell good, then take off heat
  4. Grind the roasted spices to a medium/fine consistency
  5. Add all ingredients to the now melted butter, put a lid on it and leave it on low for between 1-4 hours.
  6. Using a very fine cheesecloth over a jar (make a cup in the neck of the jar and put an elastic band around it) and carefully pour in the butter. Near the end, heat up the butter to make it less viscous and squeeze all you can through the cheesecloth.
  7. Leave it at room temperature overnight then store in the fridge.

What can you do with it?

Lots! Here is a brief list:

  • Flavor a grain: fluffy rice, bulgur, couscous, buckwheat, …. Steam the rice gently, leave the cover on at the end, and add the Qibe at the very end. This would be like the kinche recipe in the breakfast blog.
  • Braised vegetables: begin with sauteing onion in qibe butter – same as what you would use as butter or oil. Once the onions are translucent to caramelized, add sliced root vegetables, gently layered in on top. Add a little stock, or white wine. Cover at a low simmer for 40-60 minutes.
  • Chicken – same process as the braised vegetables except use chicken pieces. Use enough and you have Ethiopian buttered chicken!
  • A meat stew – check the Firfir recipe in the Breakfast Blog and adapt it to another meat
  • Anywhere you would use butter to cook and also want the unique flavor of this fragrant condiment.

What about other spiced butters?

Sure – go wild! You can use any combination of herbs and spices to make your own spiced butters. For a Mediterranean palette, consider garlic and rosemary. For Mexican, garlic, cumin and lime. A couple of words of advice: Don’t use many ingredients – they will cancel each other out. Start with just a little and keep notes. When I was developing the alternatives, I used 100g of butter at a time and a jeweler’s scale to keep things accurate.

Here’s one I made with a Mediterranean feel to it:

  • 1lb butter
  • 8 tbs thyme
  • 4 tbs rosemary
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic

Finally, keep in mind that these are prepared with unsalted butter, so you will inevitably need to add salt to whatever you are cooking, and you may need to add quite a bit too. Salted butter is about 3% salt by weight so if you are experimenting with either salted butter or ading in salt, keep that in mind.

And oils?

Sure! Why not! One of my fav appetizers is duck confit. In it you cure the duck in a salt sugar and herb mix for a number of days, then cook it sous vide at 180F in its own fat. All of the cure for the duck flavors the fat. Once the confit is done, pour the fat into a jar and you have really delicious spiced duck fat.

It is important for the emulsification of the additives that your fat is hard at fridge temperature. This would preclude using cooking oils – although maybe not. I’ve seen many an artisanal ‘Rosemary Olive oil’ or what have you. I have not yet tried coconut oil, but this would be really interesting too, especially combined with spice mixes from countries coconuts naturally grow in.

My Breakfast Sandwich

I used to love hitting Tims in the morning for breakfast, and my go to choice was a bagel belt and coffee. This is a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, bacon or sausage, lettuce and tomato.

For those of you who are not in Canada, ‘Tims’ stands for Tim Hortons – a fast food chain that was started in the ‘60s by a famous retired hockey player (how Canadian, eh?) and is now the main fast food joint across Canada. What’s good about it is that every Tims has exactly the same menu and it tastes exactly the same no matter where you are in the 8,000km stretch that is Canada. What’s bad about it … is that same consistency. Each store is run like a mini factory, the employees needing to meet quota deadlines on their performance all to get minimum wage. It can be a pretty awful place to work. I still don’t know if Canadian tastes influence Tim’s menu choice, or vice versa. Its a chicken and egg thing.

A while ago I was determined to be able to better the Bagel Belt at home, and it wasn’t that hard to do. If you have read some of my other posts, you know I always have some sourdough on the go, which means a bag of dough ready to be made into a loaf at any time its needed. So without further explanation, here’s one of my go to at home breakfasts.

If you are a baker and have a bag of dough ready to be made into bread, shape about 140g piece of dough into a bun slightly bigger than a ramekin, and throw some sesame seeds – or whatever you like/have. Or, you can use a burger bun, pita, a bagel or an English muffin. Whatever you have on hand.

 

And cook it dry in a cast iron frying pan at a medium heat, covered. Flip it every minute or so. Its ready when it starts turning brown.

 

Cut up a few pieces of bacon into a ramekin

And toss them in the microwave, covered for 30 seconds

Make your coffee….

Add a raw egg to the partly cooked bacon and stir….

Add some cheese on top

 

And throw it back in the microwave for 1 minute….

 

Prepare your sandwich….

 

And… Brekky!

Beer trub bread

Brewers out there – this blog is for you!

I know that your friends and family are ooing and aaaawwwing at your brewhouse accomplishments. This blog will show you how to get them ooing and aaaawwwing over a great loaf of bread from your beer trub.

For readers who are not beer makers, trub is the ‘gunk’ that forms at the bottom of a beer fermentation vessel. Once the yeast has been active, and has fermented the beer, it drops out and falls to the bottom. The trub is highly bitter as it also picks up the taste of the hops and other bittering agents. But perhaps you are a bread baker who knows a beer brewer. Get some of that trub – its a unique baking experience.

Perhaps the most important aspect to master is the bitterness of the trub. A little is nice – but too much can kill it.

There are also many recipes out there for a beer bread in which beer is substituted in whole or in part for the water. This is also not like that. In this, the beer trub provides both the rise and the flavour.

So lets get started. The whole process takes between 6 and 24 hours, depending on the temperatures you ferment at. Its a great project to do on brew day when you have to wait around and monitor things. This recipe will make one 950g loaf.

Ingredients

  • Beer trub – about 100g. The fresher the better. Use what you have from your last batch that has been refrigerated.
  • Flour: about 700g total. Flour also imparts flavour. For this beer I would go with whole grain high protein flours – whole wheat, red fife, rye, spelt, kamut. Some all purpose white flour can be used, but that is not what beer bread is all about.
  • Water – less than a litre. It must not have chemicals in it.
  • Salt – 12g
  • Various seeds and toppings of your choice.

Directions

  1. Get the starter happening

In a 500ml or 1l mason jar combine 100g trub, 60g flour and 100ml of water (no chemicals in it though, they will kill the yeasts). Mix thoroughly and leave for a few hours. If your trub is fresh (less than a month old and has been refrigerated) place the mason jar in a bowl as it may very well overflow. (Check the ceiling photo. This one blew its top!) Leave the starter until it gets really active. This should take approximately 4 hours at room temperature.

Beer trub, flour and water= your starter

Beer trub has some really active yeast!

It twisted the top off … and BOOM!

2. The Bulk Rise

Now is the time to mix in the rest of the ingredients and let that trub yeast get refreshed and go to work! Combine the following dry ingredients:

  • 545g of flour. This can be your choice. Just as in beer making the grains you use determines the flavour, so it is true in bread making. Since trub has those hoppy beery qualities in abundance, my suggestion would be to try heavier whole grain flours: whole wheat, rye, red fife. Some white all purpose flour is fine too. (note the similarities to your grain bills?)

    Dry ingredients for the bulk rise
  • 12g salt
  • 25g DME (for you non brewers this is dry malt extract) or another sugar.

Now mix in the wet ingredients:

  • 285g of water. This could be other liquids, though I would not suggest beer, as there is plenty if beeriness in the trub.
  • 109g of starter: the trub/flour/water you just refreshed

  • Plus water and starter

Mix it all thoroughly together, turn it out on a counter and knead (wet your hands with water, don’t add more flour) until everything is nicely combined. If it gets a little sticky, wet your hands

at the start of the bulk rise

End of the bulk rise

some more.

Place your bulk rise in a bowl and cover with a very damp towel. This can be left at room temperature for about 4 hours or until it is doubled in size. You can also stick it in the fridge overnight.

3. Proofing

For this super simple first go at it, I’m advising you use a typical loaf pan.

STRETCH AND FOLD (S&F)

STRETCH AND FOLD: TAKE A CORNER OF YOUR DOUGH, PULL IT OUT AND FOLD IT OVER THE REST OF THE DOUGH. REPEAT A FEW TIMES UNTIL THE DOUGH GETS STIFF.

S&F: stretch and fold over

THE TASTE TEST

At this point I would taste it to see where it is at for bitterness. I don’t usually do this for bread, but with the hoppiness in the trub, you might want to. Heat up a frying pan (cast iron is best), flatten out a small piece of dough you have pinched off, and put it dry into your pan at a medium heat. It will rise and get brown. Turn it a couple of times. After a couple of minutes it will be ready. Taste it. If you like what you have then go for it. If you feel it is too bitter, add some sweetener – honey, maple syrup, DME. Repeat the process (if you like).

SHAPING AND PROOFING

Now that the basic taste of the bread is where you want it, shape it more or less into a shape that will nicely fit in your pan. You can add other things: cereals, seeds, cornmeal – whatever your brewer’s heart desires. Sprinkle your additives on or roll the dough in them.

To place the bread in its pan, tear off enough parchment paper to hold the loaf. I advise parchment paper as it makes the loaf super easy to extract.

If you are baking it right away, leave it for about an hour at room temperature. If you want to wait overnight or a similar longish period, put it in the fridge for 8-24 hours at this point. Just make sure it is covered with a damp cloth.

Shaped into a loaf, you can add seeds etc. on the crust if you like.

4. Baking

Turn your oven to 450F. When it reaches cooking temperature, score the loaf: using a sharp knife cut a slash from one end to the other. The blade should be at an angle and not go in more than a few cm/1/4”.

Just before it goes in, slash from one end to the other.

At this point you can also brush on a variety of crust caremelizing liquids – either water, oil or egg white.

Bake as follows: You will be using 3 different temperatures.

You proofed it at room temperature You proofed it in the fridge
12 minutes at 450F/230C 16 minutes at 450F/230C
12 minutes at 425F/218C 16 minutes at 425F/218C
12 minutes at 400F/205C 16 minutes at 400F/205C

If you are unsure if it is ready, test it with an instant read thermometer (you are a brewer, you will have one of these!). It should be at an internal temperature of between 190F (88C) – 205F(95C).

Once out of the oven let it cool off for about 15 minutes – then dig in. You will find it pairs so excellently with the beer you brew!

Further discussion….

ADJUSTING THE RECIPE

What is presented here is a precise recipe yielding a 950 or so gram loaf. You can easily adjust it using my handy bread calculator spreadsheet.

The highlighted cells can be changed by the user, however the other cells are all formulas and the cells are protected. The two key cells are B6 and B8.

In B6 you control the ratio of flour to starter. Making regular sourdough, I typically have this set for a 3:1 recipe. For trub starters, I suggest it be set to 5 or 6 – a higher 5:1 ratio.

B8 is the amount of trub starter to use. Remember that the trub starter is what resulted from initially combining trub with water and flour. In this recipe, you will have trub starter left over. Put it in the fridge and you can use it a day or two later. You can also refresh it with the following ratios of flour and water: 1 part trub starter, 1 part water, 60% of the starter weight in flour. If you wanted to be adventurous you could even use it to get your next brew going! What you are doing is using flour instead of wort to refresh and strengthen the yeast.

B7 is the hydration – what is presented is a fairly dry 60% hydration loaf. You could nudge this up, but if you are trying it for the first time, just leave it as it is.

Where next?

If you loved doing this you will want to do it some more. You can! You can keep refreshing your starter using equal amounts of the old starter and fresh water, with 60% of the starter weight in flour. The hoppiness will dissipate the more flour refreshing you do until you will eventually have your own strain of sourdough starter.

If you want to explore even further, check out my blog on sourdough here:

More sourdough related posts

Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’

More fun with Sourdough: Party Bites

Fun stuff to do with sourdough

Backwoods Sourdough

As well as the following bread resources here:

Facebook groups

https://www.facebook.com/groups/perfectsourdough/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/360136781918/

Plus some other cool sites

NWSD2

https://breadtopia.com

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

https://food52.com/blog/10044-dan-leader-s-4-hour-baguette#comments

https://food52.com/blog/10557-8-rules-for-altering-baking-recipes?utm_source=FOOD52+Subscribers+List&utm_campaign=03bb5226cf-Digest_Edit_Only_6_15_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_191568346e-03bb5226cf-19271481&mc_cid=03bb5226cf&mc_eid=3a9f42af79

Whole Wheat Croissants

https://www.shipton-mill.com/baking/recipes/sourdough-croissants.htm#comment-837

March 12 2019: A postscript to this blog: I’ve noticed this blog has received more attention than any of my other (frankly) more useful bread blogs. What’s up with that? I’m genuinely curious.

Please let me know how you found it & what intrigued you about it!

The Silver Palate Carrot Cake

The Silver Palate Carrot Cake

Mostly, This blog is about that classic American dessert, the carrot cake. But mainly also about the new, and the old, of treasured recipes, and their place in a time of ‘lets google dinner’.

Its also about scaling recipes so they fit your tummy and fridge a little better by using spreadsheets and your own data.

Back in the 1980’s when I first really ‘settled down’ – in one city (Toronto) for an extended period and also married life, those first few cookbooks really got me through it in style. The ones I probably relied on most of all were Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s Silver Palate Cookbook, and Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbook. I still go back to those recipes, though I do so now through my recipe spreadsheet where I also keep all my annotations, conversions to weight, and scaled recipe formulas.

The other day, a friend’s birthday nearly escaped us, but it was a great excuse to do a belated B dy cake – her ask? Carrot cake. So of course I turned to my Silver Palate recipe.

The Silver Palate began as a great idea by two enterprising chefs way back in the late ‘70’s. still going strong, 40 some years later. They have built themselves into a formidable condiment maker with outlets across the USA. Their website very generously has many of their favorite recipes going back those 40 some years to their original cookbook. Even the carrot cake recipe that is featured here is included. The cookbook became a classic and was reprinted in a special 25th anniversay edition in 2007.

Older recipes

I put a lot of faith in older recipes and in spite of the ease and allure of the internet, I’ll still go back to them. They are still valid, even if they can’t be easily searched, even if they are only in a few peoples’ minds. They are part of our heritage, and for that reason, should always be checked out, recorded, and become part of one’s personal culinary toolbox. I do have an issue too with people always heading to their computer to find a recipe. Inevitably one is driven to the same massive cooking sites. When enough do it, those recipes begin to define that dish, even if its not necessarily – or even likely – ‘the best’.

Scaling a recipe

The original recipe calls for 4 eggs. When I think of the description in the original book, everything else can be easily parsed down, but it is a little difficult to do half an egg. So in this scaling you essentially decide the size of the cake by inputting the number of eggs you will use. I haven’t really changed it. I will admit that I prefer less sugar, and this is reflected in my version. However, I do offer this significance: I’ve scaled the recipe.

Here is the link to the google sheet so you can scale your own recipe.

Here is a scaled recipe for 2 eggs, This will give you 1 9” springform pan cake or 2 5” cakes. I’ve also made it with weighted ingredients. The original recipe is further down.

Wet ingredients

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2. tsp vanilla extract

130. g oil

Dry ingredients

200 g all purpose flour

200g sugar

.5 tsp salt

2. tsp baking soda

2. tsp cinamon

Batter additions

.8 cups chopped walnuts

.8 cups coconut

320 g shredded, cooked carrots (the original recipe calls for cooked pureed carrots. I prefer the texture of grated carrots. )

170 g finely chopped pineapple. PLease use a fresh pineapple. It will make a world of difference.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

112 g cream cheese

45 g butter (room temp)

140 g icing sugar

.5 tsp vanilla

2 tsp lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the cake the day before, or early in the morning to allow to cool down

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Prepare pans. 1 egg will require a small 5-6″ springform pan while 4 eggs will require 2 9″ springform pans. line with parchment paper
  3. Combine dry ingredients
  4. Add wet: oil, eggs, vanilla. Beat well
  5. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots, pineapple
  6. Pour batter into pans & bake 50 minutes, if baking the large recipe. If making a smaller recipe, do a knife check after 35 minutes.
  7. Cool on cake rack for 3 hours, or leave overnight.
  8. Assembly: see below
  9. Frost top and sides with cream cheese frosting

FROSTING RECIPE

  1. Cream cheese and butter
  2. Slowly add sugar until fully incorporated
  3. Chill both the cake and icing before applying the icing

Assembly

This is perhaps the most difficult part of making it, especially if you do the full recipe. My apologies too for not having any helpful photos. I was too taken up in the moment.

The cake you are dealing with (the 4 egg version) is a large moist cake that can easily come apart. With all that cooked carrot, there is not a lot to hold it all together. It’s likely going to be on parchment paper and the parchment paper is going to be wet and can easily come apart.

  1. Ideally you want to choose a flat plate with short sides like a quiche plate. The bottom layer is a little more forgiving because if it breaks, you can put it back together. Then you get some practice for the more fragile second layer.
  2. Remove the springform side and push it gently off the springform base.
  3. Extract the parchment paper. I gently used an icing knife.
  4. Put a fresh layer of parchment paper on top of the top layer, still in the springform pan.
  5. Place the springform base of the first cake (now available to you) on top of the parchment paper. (the side of the springform is still on it)
  6. Remove the springform side, the bottom and the parchment paper that to this point had been on the bottom. It will now be resting on a clean parchment paper on its base
  7. Apply a generous layer of icing to the bottom layer.
  8. Gently ease the top layer in place on top of the bottom, iced layer.
  9. Ice the rest of the cake.

 

The Original recipe

This is directly copied and pasted from

http://silverpalate.com/recipe/store-favorites/carrot-cake

And here is what it looks after consulting it for 35 years

 

Ingredients:

Butter, for greasing the pan

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ cups corn oil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cup shelled walnuts, chopped

1 ½ cup shredded coconut

1 1/3 cup pureed cooked carrots

¾ cup drained crushed pineapple

Cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two 9-inch springform pans.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in the walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until the edges have pulled away from the sides and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes.

4. Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours. Fill and frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting.

My finished product. What I make usually tastes delicious, but I’ve never been successful at dessert presentation. This one is no exception.

 

Stuffed squash

This recipe is a quite spontaneous creation made from what was around. The chevre and butter makes it rich and creamy, while the toasted nuts provide a wonderful texture, crunch, making a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash and the creaminess of the cheese.

Ingredients

  • butternut squash with the most of the neck cut off

Filling

  • 125 G chevre
  • half a red pepper diced
  • a small onion diced
  • 2 tbs toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbs toasted flax seeds
  • ½ tsp teaspoon pepper
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp each of cinnamon, sage, thyme, smoked paprika
  • 1tbs maple syrup
  • 50g unsalted butter
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Roast stuffed squash mise en scene

Instructions

Oven to 350F

  1. Cut off the narrow section of a butternut squash and use it for other recipes.
  2. Cut a circular cone(wider at the top) down to the seed core of the squash.
  3. Using a knife and a spoon scrape out what you can of the seeds.
  4. Combine and thoroughly mix the stuffing ingredients
  5. Stuff the filling into the butternut squash pushing everything down as far as you can.
  6. Plug the hole with the squash cone plug and place it in a oven ready dish of a suitable size
  7. Bake for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 200F.

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DIY Mayo

So you’re stuck at home in this covid-19 age. You look in the fridge because you want to make a sandwich. “Where’s the F&^#ing MAYO!” you curse. Someone else has eaten it! More curses, especially since you don’t want to go to a store to only buy mayonnaise because you might have to wait for a while to get in.

So here’s the fix.

Make your own! This is actually really really easy. All you need is water, vinegar, lemon, salt, egg, and oil. Most importantly, though, you need an immersion blenderand the 2 cup container that it came with. The immersion blender makes it simple. Anything else – for example whisking or a stand mixer just won’t work as well. Here’s how!

This recipe is from Michael Ruhlman’s amazing and wonderful book, Ratio. If you had to buy only one cookbook in these strange times, it would be this. (The business of using an immersion blender is mine.)

Ingredients for 1 500ml jar of DIY Mayo

Mayo Mise en scene

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp salt (but taste at end)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1.5 + cups grapeseed (or light low flavour) oil (I would prepare 2 cups and stop when you feel it is the right consistency) While other oils can be used, whatever flavor the oil has will be prominent in the mayonaise. This is a condiment where you want the lemon to be the predominant flavor. Grapeseed oil is wonderfully mild, light and almost flavorless.

Method

  1. Separate yolks and drop them into the immersion blender container & whisk

  1. Add in the water, juice, vinegar and salt & whisk for about 30 seconds. At each stage you want everything to be fully blended.
  2. While blending with the immersion blender, add the oil slowly, but not too slowly, as shown in the video clip.
  3. There is a certain goldilocks point where it appears to be perfect. While you can likely add a little more oil, do so only a little at a time, as you do not want the mayo to break.

This makes basic mayo, straight up. You can mess around with it to your heart’s content: mustard, garlic, pepper, herbs….. Though I usually prefer to mix the tiniest batch of these specialties to suit whatever I’m otherwise doing.