Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal 9I modified this recipe from Babble and made a great easy breakfast that can easily be played with and served in many ways. If you like the idea of an easy hot breakfast these little baked oatmeal squares are going to be a new staple for you. Plus you can reheat the squares later on for breakfast on the go. Feel free to play with the sugar amount if you want to take this dish from a breakfast to a nice dessert with ice cream! Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and butter up an 8″ x 8″ baking dish. In a bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled oats (not instant), 1/2 cup sugar1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and the zest of 1 lemon. Baked Oatmeal 1

In another bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, 2 cups milk, and 2 eggs.

Baked Oatmeal 2Spread half the oat mixture into the bottom of your dish. Spread 1 cup berries or fruit of your choice, fresh or frozen (I used 1 cup frozen service berries) over the oat mixture. Baked Oatmeal 4

Spread on the other half of the oat mixture, and then an additional 1 cup berries. Press the berries into the mix a little.

Baked Oatmeal 5Pour the milk mixture over the oats and berries and pop it in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the centre is set and everything is starting to get lovely and golden. Baked Oatmeal 6

Let it rest for about ten minutes before you scoop out a piece and eat it because it will be molten.

Baked Oatmeal 7I bet these would be good with butter and maple syrup … Baked Oatmeal 8

Jam Session: Saskatoon Berries

Saskatoon Berry Jam 27You may remember that last year I surreptitiously liberated several service or Saskatoon berries from city property. This year it rained on Canada Day, our national holiday, and between thunderstorms I went out and hauled in about 4 litres of them. Everyone who passed through the kitchen during our Canada Day get-together asked where I’d gotten so many cranberries. I got a little testy explaining that they were service berries each time. I guess they DO kind of look like cranberries, but whatever. Saskatoon Berry Jam 2

I decided to make jam out of all my berries (and I actually ended up with so many berries that I had some leftover even after two batches of jam). I bought two dozen of the wee 175mL Bernardin canning jars and popped them into my canner to sterilize. I turned on the stove and brought those to a low boil.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 4I put the rings aside and put the discs in a heatproof bowl. Saskatoon Berry Jam 3

I heated a kettle and poured almost boiling water over the discs to let the rubber soften.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 9I gathered my other canning tools and had them handy. Always use non-metallic implements when making jam. Saskatoon Berry Jam 12

I get very irritated when I make jam because I always end up either burning myself on boiling sugar or burning myself with steam or hot water and everything ends up sticky and it’s already hot making jam in the summer so I decided to double my batch so I wouldn’t have to repeat the process in the same day. When you do this you have to make sure that your proportions are exact so you don’t mess up your ratios of acid to sugar to pectin.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 23The recipe I used is from the Bernardin website and advocates the use of the crystallized pectin, but the liquid stuff had been on sale so I used that instead. The process is a little different using liquid pectin in terms of when you add the sugar and stuff so the process below reflects that. Saskatoon Berry Jam 7

It’s a good idea to pre-cut the packages and sit them upright in a cup so they’re handy when you need them.

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Now that all your canning stuff is ready to go, you can get onto the actual jam component. Grab your berries, about 9 cups service berries (for a single batch, though in these photos that’s doubled), and plop them in a pan. I like to use my Lee Valley maslin pan because it’s kind of designed for jam and candy making and I love it. Plus it has a great handle that is very useful. Mush up your berries with a potato masher so they don’t explode on you later and so all the berry goodness gets out there early on. Saskatoon Berry Jam 6

Tip in as well 4 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine (apparently this helps prevent it from foaming too much but I don’t think it helped in my case).

Saskatoon Berry Jam 8Start heating the berries on medium-high and give them a good stirring. Measure out 6 cups granulated sugar and add that in as well. Saskatoon Berry Jam 10

You’ll find the berries very quickly become way more liquidy.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 14You want the berries to be at a decent boil that doesn’t go away when you stir (watch out for flying berry juice that can burn you). Saskatoon Berry Jam 16

When you get to that state, grab your pectin and quickly add it to the jam and give it a quick but thorough stirring.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 17Let it come back to a rolling boil again and leave that for 1 minute before removing the jam from the heat. Don’t burn yourself! Saskatoon Berry Jam 18

Skim off any foam with a non-metallic utensil. The jam foam was always a huge treat for us as kids to eat with a spoon. I offered it to the Pie and he refused it. I was miffed about that.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 19Grab your jars from the canner and drain them. Saskatoon Berry Jam 20

Fill them with your jam, leaving about 1/4″ of headspace between the jam and where the lid will go. Use a wet towel to wipe off any jam on the edge of the jar where the disc will need to be tightly sealed.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 22Plop the disks onto the jam jars and add the rings and tighten to fingertip tightness. Return the sealed jars to your canner and bring the water back to a boil and leave it for the time required by your canner and the number of jars you have in there. Saskatoon Berry Jam 21

I set my jars on a cookie rack to cool completely. These are the first batch of my DIY holiday gifts this year.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 26And I bought some overflow jars for myself, knowing I didn’t have enough jars for the jam I made. And I quickly filled the overflow jars, and then a bunch of plastic containers I had lying around. SO MUCH JAM. Saskatoon Berry Jam 25

Mum’s Birthday Swirl Pound Cake

Birthday Swirl Cake 23

It was my mother’s birthday yesterday, and so for the occasion I decided to try something a bit different.  I wanted to add a bit of fancy to a traditional sour cream pound cake, but with a different twist than the version I did last year for the Pie’s birthday.   I want to swirl it up.  So I’m going to make two cakes of two different flavours and mix it all up into one.  Here goes.

Birthday Swirl Cake 26

Start by defrosting about 1 cup frozen berries, any kind.  This is one of those field berry combos from Costco.

Birthday Swirl Cake 1

You’ll also want to zest and juice 2 lemons.

Birthday Swirl Cake 2

I strain my juice, not to get rid of the pulp, but because those darned seeds are always sneaking their way out of the juicer.

Birthday Swirl Cake 3

Purée the berries once they’re soft enough, too.

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Now, preheat your oven to 325°F and butter and flour a Bundt pan.

Birthday Swirl Cake 4

Whisk together 3 cups cake/pastry flour (or replace 2 tablespoons per cup regular flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch) and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.  Set that aside.

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In another bowl, a largish one, beat together 1 cup butter and 2 cups granulated sugar.

Birthday Swirl Cake 7

Add in 6 eggs, one at a time, beating the whole time and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Birthday Swirl Cake 8

Add in half your flour and stir until combined.

Birthday Swirl Cake 9

Dump in 1 cup sour cream and mix that in as well, before adding in the second half of the flour and fully combining that too.

Birthday Swirl Cake 10

Now, divide your batter in half (you can re-use the flour bowl) and tip the berry sauce into one bowl and the lemon juice and zest into the other.

Birthday Swirl Cake 11

Mix that around until the colours are uniform.  This has made the previously thick batter much more liquidy.

Birthday Swirl Cake 12

Place a line of one of the batters in the bottom of your prepared Bundt pan.  Add a line of the other batter on top, so it forces the stuff on the bottom to spread out.  Keep going, alternating your batters, until the whole thing is layered.

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Mine came out all lovely and swirly.

Birthday Swirl Cake 14

Bake for about an hour, until the cake tests clean when stabbed viciously with a toothpick.

Birthday Swirl Cake 20

Allow it to cool completely before tipping out onto a plate.

Birthday Swirl Cake 21

While the cake is cooling, you can make your cream cheese frosting (is there any other kind? Nope). Beat together 1 cup room temperature butter and 1 250g package plain cream cheese, also room temperature.

Birthday Swirl Cake 15

I added in a dollop of purple gel paste food colouring, just for fun.

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Start mixing in about 2-3 cups icing sugar.  I find it makes the icing a little more fluid if you add a few tablespoons cream as well.

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All smooth and ready to go.

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I also used one of the fancy zesters to get some nice long strings of lemon peel for garnish.

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Then I slathered the cooled cake in icing and sprinkled the tops with lemon peel.  It looks luscious!

Birthday Swirl Cake 27

Here is what it looks like on the inside.  I took a slice out before icing it and slid it back in with enough icing to cover the cut lines …

Birthday Swirl Cake 22

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

I had to fill in (on rather short notice) for one of the members of my Sweet Treats group at work, and so this is what I came up with.  I LOVE (love, love, love) meringues.  Always have.  In fact I think they’re the first thing I ever baked.  And so every time I make something with egg yolks I take advantage of the extra whites and whip up a batch.  The Pie isn’t a huge fan of the crispy, chewy, sugary goodness, but that hasn’t stopped me yet.  I’ve even branched out and made different varieties of chocolate meringue, one of which I posted about here.  But I keep seeing fruity versions, so I thought I’d give that a go.  Most of the recipes call for food colouring and raspberry or strawberry extract, neither of which are particularly yummy to me.  I mean, I understand why you would use them in this case — the fluffy egg whites are pretty delicate and would collapse if you put too much heavy stuff into the mix.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

But I think we can give this a bit of a go, with some real fruit.  We just have to be very careful.

What you need is some egg whites, at room temperature.  I have some pasteurized egg whites that came in a carton which has been sitting in my freezer since Cait and Jul were here, so I might as well use that. Then you need some cream of tartar, which is your stiffening agent. And some sugar.  For sweetness.  Obviously.  You can use any sweetener you like, but I prefer the ease of good old regular sugar.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

And you need some fruit.  I’m going to use about a cup and a half of frozen raspberries here, which I thawed, and I’m going to gently stew them for a little bit with 1 teaspoon corn starch.  To prevent lumps of corn starch forming, mix the spoonful of starch with a small amount of the raspberry juice first, to form a slurry (this technique works really well when adding thickener to gravies, too).  I added in a tablespoon or so of sugar, just to get rid of the bite of the raspberry acid.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Then I’m going to strain them (and by that I mean shove the mess through a sieve with a spoon), and come out with a nice little coulis.  Let that cool for a bit.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Now you can start your meringues.  Preheat your oven to 250°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

The regular proportions I use come from The Joy of Cooking, and involve 4 egg whites1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon vanilla (which I made from rum!) and 1 cup sugar.  You can multiply or divide this recipe however you wish.  In my carton o’ egg whites the label says there is the equivalent of 8 egg whites, so I’m going with that proportion, which is a double batch.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Of course, I didn’t learn until after I’d put it all together that pasteurized egg whites (such as those that come in a carton) do not lend themselves well to making meringue.  So I had to start all over again.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues
SO very much not what I was aiming for.

So you have your room temperature egg whites, and you chuck them in the bowl of a mixer with your cream of tartar and your rum/vanilla, and you beat the crap out of it with your whisk-y thing.  When you’ve got nice foamy peaks, you can start adding your sugar in, a little bit at a time.  Keep beating until you have nice firm peaks.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues
That’s more like it!

These peaks not only hold their own weight, but they can support the weight of the heavy metal whisk as well!

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Once the egg whites form stiff peaks, you can gently fold in your coulis.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

I spooned the meringue stuff onto the baking sheets in decent cookie-sized heaps, and ended up with 42 of them.  Bake them for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (maybe a bit longer if they’re still squishy on the bottom, and make sure to rotate your sheets if you’ve got them on two levels), and let them cool inside the oven after you’ve turned it off.  If you cool them too quickly they’ll collapse.  Store them in an airtight container and make sure to eat them all within a few days of baking.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues
Greetings from inside the oven …

These are strongly reminiscent of those fruit-flavoured hard candies that they hand out in restaurants, that you suck on for a while and then you chew and the inside is all squishy and sticks together.  That’s what biting on these is like.  Taste is very similar, too.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Freezing Berries

Here’s a quick tip for you.

When freezing berries whole, lay your berries out in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and freeze them that way before sealing them in a plastic bag.  Then they won’t stick together and will actually defrost in better condition than they would had you just chucked them straight in the freezer bag.  Tada!

Fruit Sauce

I spent 1990-1995 living on a relatively high security naval base in British Columbia.  As a shy girl with an overactive imagination, living in the relative isolation of that place was the best time of my life, despite the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War followed by a subsequent vicious and terrifying CUPE strike.  I went back to the base in February of 2002, and it just wasn’t the same.  For one thing, there were actual guards at the front gate now, with really big guns.  As an adult I was subject to quite a bit more scrutiny than I had been as a child.  But it was fantastic to visit the place where I used to have so much fun.

My front yard was twenty metres from the ocean and a rocky beach.  Helicopters would land in the field behind my house.  The admiral would let me pick roses from his garden.  Destroyers, frigates, and minesweepers would signal me in pseudo-morse code when I waved (well they would if my dad or someone I knew was on them).  Frogmen would magically appear next to me on the beach, having emerged from the ocean.  Things got exciting when nuclear submarines came to visit.  There were enormous cliffs to climb and fantastic old ruins to hide in.  And there were wild apple trees, cherry trees, and a blackberry bush the length of a football field.

It wasn’t uncommon to pass by this particular bush on any given day in the summer and find it full of not only bees and wasps but engineers, sailors, police officers, and anyone else who happened to be passing by and wanted a snack.

We ate a lot of blackberries in those summers.

My mother would stew the blackberries with a bit of water or juice, a spoonful or two of sugar, and a little dab of corn starch to thicken it.  We would eat this stuff on ice cream, cake, pie, pancakes, waffles … you name it.  It’s a multi-purpose sauce and can turn any dessert into an elegant treat in a flash.

Blackberries are obviously my favourite ingredient, but you can use any other kind of berry you want.   Living in Newfoundland I have discovered that partridge berries make a nice tart sauce.  Raspberries, blueberries, and halved strawberries work well.  Frozen berries work very well in this, as you don’t have to work on breaking them down as they cook.  I will try to quantify the amounts for you here.  If you’re cooking for a dinner party, make the full recipe below, but you can halve (or double) this recipe easily.

Take 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and bung them in a small pot.  I used blueberries this time.  Add in 1/2 cup of water or juice (I like to use cranberry juice to boost the flavour) and 1/4 cup of sugar.  You’ll need a little extra liquid if you are using fresh berries.

Heat on medium, stirring often, until all the berries are defrosted and broken up.

Suspend one tablespoon corn starch in three tablespoons water or juice and pop that in as well.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over the food of your choice.  

I recommend Pound Cake.