There’s nothing like a hot breakfast after crawling out of your warm sleeping bag on a crisp morning at the crack of dawn. While we abandoned our rainy campsite with dampened spirits and dampened everything else, I wanted to continue on with the camp menu, seeing as I had everything ready in any case.
We’re entering that long, dark stretch of winter here in Eastern Canada where we just want it to END but we know there’s at least another three months of it waiting for us. So we come up with ways to keep ourselves from getting suicidal. In Ottawa we have our Winterlude festival, in which we pretend that we actually LOVE winter for the benefit of the tourists. And after we’ve spent all day freezing our toes off while traversing the world’s longest skating rink, we appreciate a hot beverage or two to help us thaw out. So here are two ideas for you.
HOT DR. PEPPER
Don’t freak out — this isn’t one of those newfangled sugar drinks that “kids these days” are coming up with to get themselves all wired up. The recipe for this odd potation comes from the 1960s, when the makers of Dr. Pepper came up with it as a way to keep their sales strong in the winter months when a cold soda pop wasn’t as appealing. I’m not even kidding.
So first you want to slice up a lemon. Really thin. You’ll need one slice for every serving. Stick a slice in the bottom of a heatproof mug.
I used Navy tankards, complete with glass bottoms to prevent someone from slipping you the King’s shilling.
Then take your Dr. Pepper (if you can get it in your country), and pour it into a saucepan. I used 3 355mL/12oz cans of the stuff because Trav was over and we were all curious.
Heat it to precisely 180°F. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the stuff losing its carbonation. It’ll fizz as the carbon dioxide escapes, so that will keep you entertained.
Pour your hot Dr. Pepper over the lemon slice and add a shot of rum if you want to turn it into the adult version of the beverage (I personally think that it’s a little too sweet without the rum). Enjoy!
HOT APPLE CIDER
While I’m not a fan of apple juice, I will always go for a refill of apple cider. And not just in the fall — any time of year. Obviously there are a million ways to make hot spiced apple cider, but this one is what I felt like making today.
In a medium sized saucepan, plop in 4 thin slices of lemon, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar (you could also use maple syrup, or leave out the sugar altogether).
Pour in 4 cups fresh unsweetened apple cider and 1 tablespoon vanilla.
Whisking occasionally, bring that to a boil and let it foam up for a minute or two before removing from the heat and serving.
Garnish it with a slice of apple and your cinnamon sticks. This amount serves two generously with room for a small refill, or four if you’re not as greedy as I am.
If you’d like to make a grown-up version of this with alcohol, a nice dark rum, bourbon, brandy, or cognac would work well. I’ll leave it to you to decide how much will work for you to keep away the chill.
… then you really need to figure out what to do with them when you’re about to go on vacation for two weeks.
This was our situation a few weeks back. And really there’s only so much apple crumble you can handle in the summer months.
Why not make yourself some applesauce? In addition to providing a tasty and nutritious snack, you can also use it as a dairy substitute in baking, and even add it to meat marinades to add flavour. And it’s not like it’s hard.
I had nine Mcintosh apples, which I chopped up relatively small. You can take the skins off if you like, but every time I do that I see my mother’s disapproving face in my mind and hear her saying, “that’s where all the vitamins are.” So I leave them on, for texture and colour.
Take two or three cinnamon sticks and about ten cloves, and wrap them up in a square of cheesecloth.
Tie it into a tidy package.
Toss that and your apples into a slow cooker. Add in a few spoonfuls brown sugar and some ground cinnamon, as well. You can leave the sugar out altogether if you want a healthier sauce.
Pour in about 1/4 cup water, just for juice’s sake.
Cook on high for a couple hours, stirring occasionally.
The smell is fantastic.
When the apples are soft and brown, you are all set.
Make sure to remove and discard the spice bag when you’re done.
Squish the apples up with your spoon. If you really want to go super smooth, put the sauce in a blender. I like mine with a bit of structure.
The best part is that applesauce freezes up real good. So you can enjoy it any time!
For years, my health-food nazi, roughage-eating parents bought only free-range organic turkeys. And I hated them: so dry, tasteless, and without any juices with which to make gravy. Turkey without gravy is a travesty in my family, so my parents gave up about three years ago and started buying the unstuffed Butterball turkeys. Shocking, I know. But the difference has been night and day. I actually kind of like turkey now. Which is good, seeing as I always seem to be the one who stuffs it, roasts it, and then makes the gravy.
So let’s do that today, shall we?
First we’re going to do some gravy pre-preparation. Take the neck and giblets from your turkey and plop them in a pot with some garlic and enough chicken broth to mostly cover them. Simmer that for an hour or so, then take out the giblets and neck (feed the giblets to your dog if you have one, or purée them and add them back to your broth), and set the broth aside.
Now for the stuffing. Take three sausages of your choice (I prefer a spicy Italian), remove the casings, and squish the contents into a pan with some olive oil and garlic.
Add in a diced onion.
Pour in a generous amount of savoury. I love my Newfoundland savoury. The Pie brought this along specially for this stuffing when he came to Ottawa for his Thanksgiving visit.
Add in two chopped apples as well.
Sauté that stuff until the sausage is broken up and cooked through and all the other ingredients have had a chance to get to know each other.
Plop it in a bowl and allow it to cool a bit. Add in some large dried bread crumbs.
You can make these yourself by cubing bread slices and baking them at 200°F until stale, but we had enough to do so we bought them pre-made (I can’t do everything by myself, now, can I?).
Stir that mess up and shove as much of it as you can into the cavity of your turkey. You can make removal easier later by lining the inside of the cavity with cheesecloth, but I didn’t have any on this day.
Close the opening with a slice of bread. This will keep the stuffing near the opening from drying out and burning. It’s a bread shield.
Put the remaining stuffing in a greased casserole dish and douse liberally with chicken stock.
Drape your turkey lovingly with a few strips of bacon. This will keep the skin from drying out and it will save you from having to baste the darned thing while you’re entertaining, as the fat from the bacon will drip down gradually and keep everything moist. You can truss your turkey if you wish, but with big poultry I prefer to leave it all hanging out there to ensure even cooking. I don’t cover it with foil either. Well, not until much later. You’ll see.
Chuck your turkey into the oven at 325°F and roast the sucker. Your cooking time will vary with the size of your bird, but for some reason I find no matter the size, mine always cooks in between three and four hours. Keep a close eye on your thermometer. The turkey is cooked when the thigh temperature is 180°F. Check the stuffing inside the turkey, as well — it should be around 165°F for safety’s sake.
If you plan it right your turkey should probably be done about an hour or so before it’s ready to serve. Clear a space on your counter and lay out two or three old towels. In the centre overlap a couple of pieces of aluminum foil. Once the turkey is done, remove it (with the aid of a poultry lifter) to your improvised platform. Pull up the edges of aluminum foil and add more to cover it all around tightly.
Pull up the towels and add more on top, wrapping it with care and tucking under the edges. Resting the turkey like this will keep it hot for a couple of hours, and will ensure that none of the juices get lost.
Now that you have your turkey pan free, carefully scrape all the juices and bits of stuff into a fat separator. Let the liquid settle and drain off as much fat as you can.
Pour whatever juices and solid pieces you get into the pot with your reserved chicken broth from the giblet boiling. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Scoop out a little bit of broth and make a slurry with some flour, then whisk it back into the gravy and keep stirring until the mixture thickens. You can remove it from the heat, cover it, and let it cool while you do other things. You can always heat it up again later.
Your extra stuffing can be roasted, covered with aluminum foil, at 350°F (or higher, depending on whatever else you are cooking at the time) for about half an hour, until the bread crumbs are crusty and brown. Everything in it is pre-cooked so you needn’t worry about temperature in your casserole dish. Just cook it until it looks good.
You can unwrap and carve your turkey at any point that’s convenient to you.
Reheat your gravy, pour it into gravy boats and serve over your hot stuffing and turkey!
Behold the lowly, plebeian turnip. If you were my Scottish great-grandfather you’d call them neeps. The vegetable of the working class. Nubbly root vegetables that overwinter remarkably well. Tasty tubers.
You get the idea.
I’m fond of turnips. Rutabaga as well. They’re a little yellower, bigger, and stronger tasting than a turnip.
Thanksgiving is all about the harvest vegetables, and the turnip is a traditional addition.
I used 4 medium-sized turnips. (And 2 large apples. No picture of those sadly.)
Peel them with a sharp knife and cut them into cubes.
Chuck them in a pot with a pinch or two (or five) of cinnamon and enough water to cover.
Cover and simmer them until very tender, about an hour, maybe more.
Drain and mash with butter and a dash of maple syrup.
You can serve it as is, but this time we felt that the turnips were a little bland.
We peeled and cubed a single large sweet potato and boiled that up as well until it was tender.
Mash that sucker in with the turnip after you’re done your boiling.
Add a spoonful of ginger, as well as some nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.
You can also freeze this stuff for thawing and reheating later. It saves time on the big day.
I happen to own, because I am that awesome, an æbleskiver pan.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” you ask.
Æbleskiver. It’s a Danish treat using apple slices (it’s Danish for ‘apple slices’). They’re like small spherical pancakes/popovers with stuff in them. It’s a food traditionally served with glogg during Advent. You might be reminded of the commercial knock-off, Pancake Puffs, which have recently come on the market. ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS!
I have the pan because my mother gave it to me. She found it at a second-hand store. Hers came from a relative. We use ours to make the family recipe for Molasses Gems (don’t worry, I’ll give you the how-to for those later).
Anyway, I figured I might as well experiment and see if I could put the pan to its intended use.
Peel two apples and chop them into 1/2″ pieces. I found this made me end up with quite a bit of extra apple, but better to be safe than sorry and you can always serve it on the side.
Your æbleskiver pan is cast iron, and will take a little while to heat up thoroughly. Put it on the burner at medium high heat and leave it while you do other stuff. Just remember that the handle will also get very hot, so be careful. We have these handy silicone sleeves we slip onto our metal handles. You can pick them up pretty much anywhere.
In another pan, sauté the apples in two tablespoons butter until softened but still firm. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and set aside.
In a clean bowl, whip two egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside. The eggs will fluff up the best if you bring them to room temperature first. To do this I put my eggs in a bowl of warm water before separating them.
In another bowl, whisk together your two egg yolks and one tablespoon sugar until creamy.
In yet another bowl, sift together two cups flour with one teaspoon baking powder. Slowly add this, alternating with one and one-half cups buttermilk, to the yolk mixture.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Test your æbleskiver pan to see if it’s hot enough. Butter should sizzle on its surface. Reduce the heat to medium and drop about one-eighth of a teaspoon butter into each little well to grease. Use a pastry brush to cover all the sides of the well.
Spoon enough batter into each well to fill it halfway. Drop in an apple piece and press it down bit. Be careful not to burn yourself.
Fill the wells to the top.
Allow to cook until the edges of æbleskiver turn brown and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Run a metal or wooden knitting needle (traditional method), skewer, or fork around the edges to loosen the æbleskiver and flip it over inside the well.
It takes a little bit of practice to do this without getting batter everywhere. By the end of it, though, I had it down. Allow to cook through until you can give it a poke and nothing comes out stuck to your skewer.
Remove the æbleskiver to a plate and sprinkle with (or roll in) icing sugar or dip in jam to serve. Maybe try maple syrup. Or home-made fruit sauce. You can of course experiment as well with what goes in the æbleskiver – try other forms of fruit, like mango or strawberry or perhaps something savoury like a nice hard cheese. Here we have it with whipped cream, lemon curd, strawberry jam, and leftover apples.
Make sure to repeat the buttering process each time you put batter into the wells of the pan. You can keep the cooked æbleskiver warm on an oven-safe plate in the oven at 250°F while you’re making the other batches.
This recipe makes about 28 æbleskiver, which is four batches in my 7-well pan.
You know the expression ‘easy as apple pie’? Well this is easier.
I was born and spent a large part of my single-digit years in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. During that time my mother and our neighbour got together and wrote a cookbook of Maritime recipes: Two Cooks in a Kitchen. You can even get it on Amazon for about $7. This recipe is on page 84.
I remember one summer we borrowed another neighbour’s car, a slick BMW, and drove to the Annapolis Valley to go apple picking. At one point, I was foraging for windfalls in an orchard when I heard a rustling above me, and then my dad fell out of the tree next to me. Ah, childhood. We returned with bushels of apples and huge jars full of fresh honey and apple cider. It was a great day. Apple crisp, one of my mother’s specialties, always reminds me of that day.
The recipe calls for Gravenstein apples, but anything other than Granny Smith will usually do. You don’t have to get too fancy with the cutting, and don’t worry if your apples are a little bruised. I like to leave the skins on my apples, but you can peel them if you want.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a bowl combine one cup flour, one teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1/2 cup oats. I use a pastry cutter to mix them together. The mixture should be crumbly looking.
Butter a 1.5L casserole dish (cooking spray just will NOT do) and sprinkle 1/3 of the crumb mixture on the bottom.
Slice up 6 or 7 medium apples, and plonk them in the dish. I press them down a little bit so everything fits.
Top with the remaining crumb mixture. Again, I like to pat this down a bit just to keep everything together.
Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes. Alternately, you can leave the whole thing uncovered – just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. It’s done when the top is a nice golden brown. Serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream. I *may* (maybe) have eaten this for breakfast more than once (but without the ice cream, I’m not that decadent).
The Pie and I were married on 22 August 2009. We wanted to do our wedding on the cheap, because we are stone broke, and we also wanted to give our guests a little taste of our personality. With that in mind, we turned down my parents’ repeated offers to make fruitcakes (‘but it’s a traditional Scottish wedding cake’) and decided to make cupcakes instead of buying a tiered and costly confection.
Which flavours were we to pick? The choices were almost endless and we didn’t know where to begin. My mother gave me Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake as a Christmas present, and we decided to start there. With one exception, all the recipes we tried are from there.
I chose a panel of a dozen people at work to help us to test our cupcakes, and every one of them looked forward to Cupcake Friday. By the time I was finished the experiment (which ran from the beginning of March to the end of June 2009), my panel had doubled in size and I was a very popular lady at work.
A crucial piece of machinery without which I would have gone MAD is the Kitchenaid stand mixer. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who does a lot of baking. Also my camera, of course. I took a lot of pictures during this period. You can see the rest of them on my Flickr site here.
#1 Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream
These were extremely tasty but not particularly attractive, texture-wise. Aesthetically they weren’t much to go on either. The icing was also quite runny and very sticky, but also very good. The sour cream mixed with the lemon and the icing sugar made a tangy topping. The Committee thought it would make a good brunch baked good.
One thing to note about these is that I had to re-cup the cupcakes after they were baked, because the bottoms had burned a bit in my antiquated oven and I wanted to hide that. Fun fact: if you re-cup a cupcake, the cupcake will not stick to the paper cup anymore, as you can see in the photograph.
#2 Carrot Cardamom
I really like the word ‘cardamom.’ These ones turned out exactly like the picture in the book, which was gratifying, and they had a much smoother texture than the Apple Cinnamon, which was reassuring.
I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, however; they have a bitter after taste that I am not fond of – I much prefer pecans. The mascarpone icing, however, was incredible and there was an enormous amount of it. If these cupcake experiments taught me anything (and to quote one of the Committee members), ‘there is no such thing as too much icing.’
#3 Cherry and Marzipan Cupcakes
These little boogers were a spectacular failure on my part. The recipe involved putting half the batter into the cup, then sprinkling it with grated marzipan, then putting the other half of the dough on top. Silly me, I did all the bottom halves first, then all the marzipan, and by the time I got around to the tops, I had run out of batter.
In addition, I had to deal with runny icing and artificial cherries, and that’s never a good combination. Let us not forget as well that I had to face the inevitable comments at work that these strongly resembled boobs. So much for professionalism.
Overall, they were too sweet, and too much of a pain to make. Vetoed.
… then something magic happened …
… my oven exploded!
I’m totally serious. The Pie was making dinner one night and I heard this loud thrumming noise coming from the kitchen, accompanied by a yell that I should probably get in there. I ran in and saw bright white light coming from the oven window – element was arcing and sending off sparks. It was making the thrumming noise. We turned off the oven and got the hell out of there. Two days later my landlord bought us a new oven. It’s so low tech that it has no interior light and you have to shine a flashlight in to see if your stuff is done, but it works really well, I will give it that.
#4 Creamy Coconut Lime
It was from this new oven that a new generation of cupcake was born. I could now actually follow the recipe when it came to temperature and cooking time. Nothing burned, or exploded. It was inspiring, actually. The first experiment to come out of the new oven, or ‘tailgate special’ as I like to refer to it, was this perfect confection. It was unanimously voted by the Committee as the perfect cupcake for a wedding. Nothing I made after this counted for much in their opinions. I was, however, undaunted, and continued on with my experiments. I couldn’t stop now – things were just getting good.
#5 Orange Poppyseed with Mascarpone Icing
In these, I substituted canned mandarin slices for regular orange segments. Other than the fact that I am truly lazy and did not want to segment several oranges, the canned pieces meant that my cupcakes would be uniform and also that the quality of the fruit would be good. Living in Newfoundland, especially during the winter, means that produce quality is always a guessing game.
These cakes were popular with those who liked poppyseeds. I liked them, but the Pie was not a huge fan.
As you can see, I was really getting into my groove here. My photographic cupcake record had turned more artistic now that my appliances were cooperating.
#6 Blueberry and Lemon with Cornmeal
These little beauties contained fresh Newfoundland blueberries stuck right into the batter, and were made with cornmeal, which made the batter a sunshiny yellow but which created a texture many were not expecting.
I thought they were great but most people were unconvinced. In any case, I had a lot of fun with my new zester, creating and photographing my confections.
Martha Stewart eat your heart out:
#7 Maple and Pecan
I had a lot of fun making these – and burned myself severely in the process. They were one of my favourite cupcakes, taste-wise, but many people found the hard caramelized sugar too sharp or tough to bite into, the Pie included, so they were eventually scrapped.
Playing with melted sugar is a lot of fun. If I ever made these again, however, I would let the sugar cool a bit more before pouring it, to keep the fluid from spreading too much – I think that was my major failing here.
#8 Bittersweet Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes
I ended up renaming these bad beauties Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, because that’s pretty much what they tasted like, and that’s pretty much all the ‘icing’ really was: hot whipping cream poured over dark and bittersweet chocolate and then whipped into a light foam. They are truly divine. The batter itself was a little bland, however, so I thought I could improve somewhat.
You can see at this time that spring was coming, and my seedlings were on the sprout. But spring comes late to Newfoundland, and we had a while yet to wait.
#9 Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing
I can pretty much guarantee that I will never make these again. I have never been so disappointed with myself. I didn’t want to serve them to the Committee, and some Committee members refused to even finish them. They were dry and tasteless and the crystallized ginger on top was too strong. It was supposed to be stem ginger in syrup but this being Newfoundland I couldn’t find any.
I had to redeem myself.
#10 Marble Cupcakes
When these were finished they looked nothing like the photograph but boy were they tasty. Inside was a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake that really wasn’t visible unless there was no icing but which was nice and moist and light.
The icing was cream cheese mixed with cream and icing sugar. You can’t really top that, but of course that would mean leaving out the caramel.
I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping, but had I been thinking I would have used real dulce de leche, because it would have held its shape better and not oozed everywhere. These cupcakes certainly entailed sticky fingers.
#11 Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes with Ricotta Icing
The Pie and I wanted to experiment with a few lower-fat options, and this was one of them, containing no butter at all, and of course using ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese for icing.
They turned out really well but weren’t quite what we were looking for.
#12 Chocolate Fireworks
These were meant to be served with lit sparklers in them, but I wasn’t sure how I would get them into the office.
I settled for the little silver balls instead. Did you know they are called ‘dragees’?
The icing was rather unimaginative and runny, but the batter had some orange in it that kept in moist and gave it a nice tart tang.
#13 Raspberry Trifle
Unlucky number 13. We were drawing to the close of our experiment here, with only three more recipes to try, and I was pretty tired of making cupcakes at this time. It seemed every week I was adding someone new to the Cupcake Committee email distribution list.
I made these while watching Detroit lose to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I was cheering for the Red Wings (my beloved Senators didn’t even make the post-season) because I hate Crosby, but alas, I was out of luck.
This cake was really good, though, because it was chock-full of raspberries. I thought the custardy topping could have had more flavour, but that might have had something to do with me failing at making custard.
#14 Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake
I left the picture of this one small because it’s blurry. It was late, I was tired, and these were such a hassle that I forgot to take a picture until super late at night.
The recipe called for slicing off the top of the cupcake so the cream cheese topping would set, smooth and flat, like a real cheesecake. I cut off the tops, which was a pain, considering I then had to re-cup the cakes, and then topped them. And discovered that the topping wasn’t going to lie smooth and flat anyway.
There was some swearing.
In the end, these were one of my favourites: a fine vanilla cake with vanilla cream-cheesy ‘icing’ and sliced strawberries on top. The fanning of the berry was my idea, as the berries I got weren’t of the quality that they would stand up on their own, like they were in the book.
#15 Gluten-Free Chocolate Cheesecake
Another cheesecake-y recipe that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac, as is one of my former coworkers, and both of them were coming to the wedding. I didn’t want them to feel excluded from the cake part of the festivities, so I experimented with a gluten-free recipe.
It was an all right cupcake, but it wasn’t light or fluffy, the potato flour I used made the texture a little grainy, and, all in all, it was rather bland.
#16 Coconut Cream
This was my final cupcake, and it wasn’t really an experiment.
One of the people in the Cupcake Committee had been talking about the Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut and Cream cupcakes for a while so as a final treat I decided to make them. You can get the recipe from the Food Network here.
The cupcakes were huge, and I knew I wasn’t going to make them for the wedding – they were pretty time-consuming. But everyone on the Committee had been talking about that other coconut recipe for ages, so I thought I would end it with an echo of the earlier recipe.
They were fabulous and if you ate more than one you felt ill. We had wayyy too many leftovers and I think we ate them for three weeks straight. Or at least it felt like that. They were good though. I recommend giving them a shot.
And that’s it. Sixteen cupcakes in seventeen weeks.
Which ones did we eventually choose: Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake, Fireworks (but with the icing from the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse), and the Raspberry Trifle (but with a lemon cream cheese icing instead of the custard. They were a hit.