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!

Mo’ Waffles

I’m back in St. John’s for a brief visit.  How I missed my kitchen!

The Pie and I do love our waffles.  They’re not just a breakfast food, either.  They also make a good base for many savoury dishes.  Feel free to add things like frozen fruit or herbs and cheese to your mix.  And you can top them with anything: honey, whipped cream, fresh or frozen fruit, maple syrup, bacon …

The electric waffle iron has made making waffles so much easier.  My brothers and I got this one for my mother for Mother’s Day back in the 1990s, and when I moved to St. John’s I took it with me. 

Once you have properly seasoned your waffle maker (by making a couple batches of super buttery waffles in it), you will never need to do more than wipe the goo off the outside once in a while, and flick off the crumbs left inside after use.

This recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking (of course).  The instructions claim that the recipe makes 6 waffles, but in our little iron it’s more like 12.  Just be prepared to eat lots of waffle-y goodness or halve the recipe.  Sure, you can get a decent waffle out of a boxed mix, but really it’s just as easy to make them from scratch.

Preheat your waffle iron. 

You may also want to set a stoneware plate or oven-safe dish in your oven and set it to about 225°F.  This is where you will keep your waffles warm while you’re making up the rest of the batch.

In one bowl, mix together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 tablespoon sugar.

In a second bowl, mix together 3 eggs, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk.

Make a well in your dry ingredients and pour in your wet ingredients.  Whisk that sucker up good.

Pour some mixture into your waffle iron.  You don’t want it to fill up completely, because it will expand as it cooks.

Cook until your iron tells you it’s ready.  Ours chirps.  It’s rather obnoxious.  About as obnoxious as making heart-shaped waffles.

While you are cooking your waffles, you might want to toss some frozen blueberries, some lemon juice, and some sugar into a pot to make up a quick fruit sauce.Now all you have to do is eat them!

Making Mincemeat (Outta You)

Mincemeat is to the winter holidays what chocolate and beer are to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (I’m serious.  Cadbury Mini Eggs and a microbrew during the finals is to die for).  Originally a combination of dried fruits, spirits, fat, and meat, over the centuries the meat part has all but disappeared from the recipe, and now it’s more of a dessert type of thing.  It does still employ three of the age-old methods of preserving, however: fat, sugar, and alcohol. 

I have adapted Allora Andiamo’s recipe from Jamie Oliver‘s website and it is incredible.  I quadrupled some things, and other things I just chucked in the amount I had, so it’s not particularly faithful to Ms. Andiamo’s original recipe but I give her full credit.

In a very large bowl I chucked the following, by weight:

275g raisins

55g dried blueberries

475g dried cranberries

575g candied orange peel

250g blanched almond slivers

400g finely chopped marzipan

474g (1lb) shredded butter (put the butter in the freezer, then grate it, or break it into chunks and run it through the food processor until you have fine crumbs)

1kg apples, finely chopped (I left the skins on and used a variety of different kinds, whatever I had lying around)

juice and rind of 5 large oranges

juice and rind of 2 large lemons

1kg soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons almond extract

8 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used both, of course)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

6 teaspoons ground ginger

4 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Give that a good stir, cover it, and leave it somewhere to marinate for about 24 hours.

The next day, distribute the mincemeat into casserole dishes (or, if you are clever like me and used a metal bowl, don’t bother), cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 225°F for 3 1/2 hours.

I stirred mine halfway through, just to be thorough.  And also because I don’t trust anything on its own in an oven for three and a half hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit.  The liquid will thicken as it cools so make sure to stir it occasionally in order for the syrup to coat all the fruit. 

Before it completely cools, pour into sterilized jars and seal — can according to your canner’s instructions, or check out our tips to canning here.

Store in a cool dark place for about 3 weeks before using. 

Fruity Yogurt Parfait

On a hot day there’s nothing better than a cool and refreshing fruity dessert.  And if it looks a little fancy, then all the better.

This dessert is quick and easy to make.  In a tall glass, drop in a dollop of your favourite yogurt.  I love the Astro Balkan style plain yogurt (full fat of course).  Add a little bit of your favourite jam or honey (we used Newfoundland partridgeberry jam here) and a few leaves of fresh mint.Then drop in some fresh watermelon and blueberries.  They really work well with the mint.Layer with some more yogurt and repeat the whole process until the glass is full.  It makes for a quick and elegant breakfast as well.

Made-Up Muffins

Yesterday I looked in my fridge and saw a little less than a cup of fruit sauce leftover from a waffle indulgence during Cait and iPM’s visit, a can of defrosted concentrated orange juice that I had never gotten around to making up, and about two cups of buttermilk, which was set to expire the following day.

Muffin time.

If I’ve learned anything from my baking idol Ovenhaven over at Epicurean Escapism, it’s that the key to baking a good muffin is not to overmix your ingredients.  This is why I now mix my muffins by hand, and not with a hand mixer or stand mixer.  From my own experience I’ve also learned that if you’re adding a lot of liquid, you need to compensate with extra dry ingredients.  So this particular recipe I had to do some thinking and some mental calculations first. 

The fruit sauce plus the concentrated orange juice came out to about two cups, so that meant I had to double the recipe.  In a weird way this meant that I came out with 36 regular sized muffins and another 12 mini-muffins.  So be it.

Anyway, here goes.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease your muffin tins or line them with paper cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together a little over 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg.  The baking powder will counterbalance some of the acidity in the buttermilk.

In a smaller bowl, mix together 1 cup melted butter, 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 4 eggs, 2 cups buttermilk, and your 2 cups juice mixture.

This one is weirdly bubbly and gross, but smelled good.

Pour your wet ingredients over your dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients are all moistened.  Don’t fret if you see one or two tiny spots of unmixed flour.  Err on the side of mixing it too little.  Mixing it too much will result in flat, tough muffins.  

You can see here how the chemistry is already beginning and the mixture is getting all bubbly.

Spoon into your pans so the cups are about 2/3 full and bake, rotating once halfway through, for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.

I couldn’t wait for it to cool before trying one.  Totally worth a burnt tongue.

Serve right away or seal tightly in plastic bags and freeze for later. 

Blueberry Muffins with Yogurt and Lemon

The Pie had some classmates over to collaborate on a project, and I never feel like a good host unless I have something to serve for a snack. This recipe makes about 24 muffins, which leaves you with some to eat now and some to freeze for a time when you aren’t at leisure to bake.

These blueberry muffins are a modification on the classic recipe, and they’re super easy and super moist.  They remind me more of a cupcake than a muffin.  The yogurt keeps the batter dense and soft, while the lemon and nutmeg make for a tangier taste.

I mix these by hand because the batter is supposed to be lumpy, and I find an electric mixer tends to overmix.  I also prefer using a large whisk to do all of this, as it keeps flour and liquids from sloshing all over my kitchen.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray two 12-muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

Use a whisk to prevent flour clouds from attacking you.

In another, smaller bowl, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 cups plain yogurt, 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup melted butter, the juice and zest of 2 lemons, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

This gooey mass will be muffins soon.

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened (a whisk will help you to prevent overmixing).

Add 1 to 2 cups frozen blueberries (depending on how berry-full you like your muffins) and mix in.

Add in as many frozen blueberries as you can handle.

Spoon generous amounts into the prepared muffin pans and sprinkle the tops with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar.

Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the middle muffin comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then use a fork to gently pry out the muffins and place on a rack to cool completely.  Once cool, the muffins can be stored in plastic freezer bags and frozen for a couple of months.

Eat as soon as possible, or freeze for future snacking.