Egg Quickie

A couple of weeks ago I was procrastinating on the internet and I found a food blogger who discussed how after getting her husband and son off to work and school in the morning there was little time for her to find a nutritious breakfast (I wish now I had bookmarked the page).  Her solution was to take an egg to work and cook it there in the microwave.  We all know that eggs are the ultimate superfood, and a nice hot breakfast is a great way to start your day.

Before I was allowed to use the stove as a child, I used to make scrambled eggs in the microwave.  It’s easy, painless, and nearly instantaneous.

All you need is an egg.  Or two.  A fork.  And a coffee mug or very small microwaveable bowl.  The benefit of the mug is that the handle is cool enough to hold onto, while the bowl tends to get a little toasty.

Take the eggs and crack ’em in your container.  Scramble with fork.  You don’t have to worry about cooking spray.  The eggs will naturally peel away from the edges of the mug when they cook.

Feel free to stir in things, like cheese, or parsley, or Tabasco sauce (I did).  Or basil, or avocado, or red peppers.  Or whatever floats your boat.  Bacon, maybe?

Nuke it for about a minute, depending on your microwave.  Wash your fork while you wait.

BING!  Eat yer egg(s).

A good quick breakfast or lunch or snack with minimal dishes to do and a whole heap of nutritional goodness.

Scottish Shortbread

The New Year was always more of a big deal to the Celtic grownups in our household than Christmas was, and to this day I still hold the door open at midnight to let out the old year and beckon in the new.  If you do this at midnight in one of the coastal cities, it is likely you’ll hear all the ships in the harbour in a chorus of horns.  It’s always been a very private moment for me, a wee superstition I have continued regardless of what is going on.

No matter what happens in our chaotic lives over the holidays, especially now that we are several families stretched out over thousands of kilometres, it’s a guarantee that at least one of us at some point will whip up our family recipe for traditional Scottish shortbread.  It makes a meaningful hostess gift when you’re wandering about over the holidays, and there are very few people who won’t be able to immediately offer a traditional shortbread recipe of their own.

This particular version is incredibly simple, with just three humble ingredients: 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 cups flour.  That’s really it.  That’s what makes this recipe extremely easy and almost impossible to screw up.

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Make sure your butter is softened, but under no circumstances should you let it melt in any way.  It absolutely has to be solid.  Cream that sucker with the sugar in a bowl.

Add in about half your flour and mix well, then add in the rest of the flour and stir until all you have is a million flour-covered butter/sugar crumbs.

Stick your hands in and knead and squish those crumbs until they’re all stuck together.

Pound and flatten that lovely buttery dough ball into a rough oval on an ungreased baking sheet.

Flute the edges by pinching it between your fingers and prick the whole thing thoroughly with a fork.  Make sure the fork goes all the way to the bottom when you’re poking around.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is a lovely golden brown.  It will be darker brown on the edges.  Remove from the oven and cut it into squares while it’s still hot (this will be impossible to do when it cools as it will be much harder and you’ll end up with shattered shortbread everywhere).

Take it to all your friends as host/ess gifts, still warm in a paper bag.  Mmm!

Have a safe and happy New Year everybody!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS
Robert Burns

Aeble-what?

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.