Sunday Scones

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Yes, yes, I know it’s WEDNESDAY. But I made these on a Sunday and I like my alliteration, okay? These are a great addition to a Sunday brunch (I know this because that’s what I made them for). I used turkey bacon in this recipe but feel free to use any bacon-like product you can think of.

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Start with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Grab 1/2 cup COLD butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor for this if you really want, but we are going for a non-uniform texture here, so irregular chunks of butter are a plus in this situation.

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Normally I use buttermilk when I make scones because it makes them nice and fluffy. But I never have buttermilk on hand because in Canada you can only buy it in 1L cartons and seeing as I don’t drink it for its own sake that’s a lot of buttermilk to have to use up. So generally I just sour my own milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk, give it a stir, and leave it for five minutes. Good enough. Here I only needed 2/3 cup soured milk so I adjusted accordingly. You can do the math. Anyway, mix the milk with 2 slightly beaten eggs.

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What you also need here is about 5 slices of cooked bacon, any kind.

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Slice and dice that into wee pieces. You need about 1/2 cup chopped bacon at this point. You should probably do this first before all the other stuff with the flour and butter so that the bacon has time to cool down before you cut it up. Otherwise, there might be bad things that happen.

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Harvest some green onions as well. Dice them up until you have about 1/4 cup chopped green onion.

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Then grate some cheese. Any kind you like, but you need about 2/3 cup grated cheese and then add to that about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese as well.

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Okay so now you’ve got all your bits and pieces. Add the buttermilk/eggs mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

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Add the cheese, onions, and bacon to the bowl as well and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated.

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Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until all the bits and pieces are together and it’s a cohesive mass. You just want things all barely sticking together. When in doubt, under-mix.

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Shape it into a disk about 1″ thick. Wrap the dough up tightly and put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

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Scones cook really well from frozen, did you know that? So if you wanted to do that, cut the scones before chilling, wrap them up really well, and then chuck them in the freezer for scone-y goodness any time you want. Frozen scones make great gifts, you know.

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If you’re not freezing them, unwrap your chilled dough and slice it into wedges. I aimed for 10 wedges here. You can also flatten your dough into a rectangle and cut out squares or triangles or whatever you want. Wedges are easiest for me. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Plop the wedges on some baking sheets lined with parchment and brush them with about 2 tablespoons half and half or light cream.

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Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and shove them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they’re puffy and golden.

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Let cool only very slightly before serving warm with a dollop of butter!

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SideBar: White North

by Trav

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The Pie’s favourite cocktail is a White Russian—cream, coffee liqueur, and vodka—so I decided that on his birthday this year, I would ply him with some variations on the original recipe. The Dirty Russian, which uses chocolate milk instead of cream, was really gross, because we picked up a thin, low-sugar chocolate milk that tasted of chalk. I also found a recipe for a White Canadian, which is vaguely offensive and also very strange; it substitutes goat’s milk for cream. How is a goat particularly Canadian? They could’ve at least suggested moose milk.

But anyway, we got to wondering—what substitution would actually make for a Canadian variant? In a booze-soaked fit of genius, I realized there was a perfectly Canadian drink that could replace the Russian vodka: Sortilège, a maple whisky.

I enjoy a bit of Sortilège straight, but I’ve been trying to find a good mixing use for it, and this one turned out even better than I’d hoped.

We hemmed and hawed about the name for a while, since the “White Canadian” is 1) terrible and 2) already taken. I believe Ali came up with the “Great White North,” and I suggested we shorten it to “White North” to make it clear it’s a variation on a White Russian.

I played with the ratios a bit, given the different base spirit, and I think this is the most pleasing recipe:

2 oz cream (use either full-on 35% cream, or 18% table cream)
1.5 oz Sortilège maple whisky
1 oz coffee liqueur (e.g. Kahlua or Tia Maria)

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Put some ice cubes in an old fashioned glass or tumbler, and then pour in the Sortilège and coffee liqueur.

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Then, gently and slowly, pour the cream over the mixture. It should float a bit, especially if you’re using the higher-fat cream. If you really want clear layers, try pouring slowly over the back of a spoon.

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Most people tend to mix it all together, though.

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And that’s it. Very simple, and really tasty. Even people who aren’t whisky drinkers will love it.

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Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

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The Pie LOVES peanut butter, but is not a huge fan of peanut butter cookies. I maintain that this is because he has not yet found the perfect recipe.  This one comes courtesy of Fake Food Free’s sojourn into a summer cookbook and I like the looks of it. I took these babies camping with us (with some Oatmeal-Raisin Scotchies) and they were perfect for the outdoors.

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Start by creaming together 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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This picture is blurry because I was so excited about peanut butter cookies.

Then add in 1 egg, 1 tablespoon half and half (or light cream), and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until combined.

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Sift in 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoon baking soda and stir to combine completely, until you get a nice dough (TRUTHBOMB: I forgot the baking soda. Until like, wayyy later. You should always use a leavening agent when you make cookies – to avoid hard, terrible hockey puck cookies – so if you forget, sprinkle the soda evenly over the whole surface of your dough and then stir it in like crazy).

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Then tumble in like a full cup of peanut butter chips.  Or half a cup, which is what the recipe says. Or whatever. There are no Ingredient Police in my kitchen.

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Chill the dough for at least half an hour.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop the cookies onto the baking sheet in little balls. Flatten them with the palm of your hand and use a fork to make that peanut-butter-cookie-crosshatch on the surface.

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Bake for 9-10 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown. The cookies will look underbaked but that’s totally fine, as they’ll continue to bake on the baking sheet once you take it out of the oven. That’s why you leave the cookies on the sheet for at least five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely and then scarf those babies down.

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I gave some to my parents in these super cute treat bags because they babysat Princess Gren for the weekend.

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Spider-Man Spice Cake

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A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law Ryder winged a banana coffee cake that had me drooling — alas, Rusty refused to share.  So when the Pie requested a spice cake for his birthday I figured I’d wing something similar of my own devising (it’s actually his birthday today, but we celebrated on Saturday).  For the basic cake, I used this one from Dinner with Julie, and it’s excellent.  As for the rest … well, you’ll see.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and butter two 8″ round cake pans.

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In a bowl (or a measuring cup, as I prefer), stir together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 1/4 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, and keep beating.

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Stir together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

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Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar, beating on low speed. If you don’t beat on low speed you will get flour in your face. Consider yourself warned.

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Add in half the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.

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In a separate bowl, mash 2 large ripe bananas.  In another, mix 2 tablespoons instant coffee in with 1/2 cup water (or cold coffee as I used here) and 1/3 cup Nutella (or hazelnut spread).

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Divide your batter in half and mix one with the bananas and the other half with the coffee.

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Pour into your prepared pans in bits, and give it a bit of a swirl with a fork to combine but not fully mix.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until solid on top and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Set those aside to cool completely.

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While that’s on the go you can make this truly amazing icing.  It might be my new favourite. I doubled it from the original to enable me to do what I had to do and only had a little bit left, but I’ll give you the real proportions here.

In a small saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat.

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Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until it gets all nice and foamy, and when you look beneath the foam the butter has turned the colour of caramel (this is, of course where the colour in caramel comes from).

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Pour that into the bowl of an electric mixer together with another 1/4 cup butter and set that aside for now.

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In the same saucepan, still over medium, combine 1/4 cup half and half cream with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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Dissolve the sugar in the cream and keep stirring.

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Remove the mixture from the heat when it gets smooth and foamy, like this:

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Pour that in the mixer bowl too, and let the whole thing cool a bit.

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Slowly mix in 2 cups icing sugar, give or take, until you achieve a consistency that you like.  Now, if you’re a normal person, you can go ahead and just ice your cake to your specifications and enjoy it for what it is.  Me? Nope.  I had to go and make a Spider-Man themed cake for my husband, because I like him a bunch.

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So I divided up the icing into four batches.  One was my control, and would go in the centre between the two halves of cake.  The others were getting dyed with gel paste food colouring.

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I like to do this in glass containers because then I can look through the bottom to see what I’ve missed.  Glass is also way less likely to stain on you.

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The finished concoctions.  Euch.

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Here’s a trick I learned on the internet somewhere for when you need to pipe different colours of icing and don’t want a huge mess.  Not that I’m capable of doing anything neatly.  But anyway.  Plop your icing onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

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Roll the ends of the plastic wrap together, making a tight seal.

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Keep rolling until you run out of wrap to roll.

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Grab the ends of the wrap and swing them around so the icing twists further into a tight little sausage.  Because it was hot as Hades’ hoo-ha in my kitchen I chucked these little sausages in the fridge while I put the cake together.

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Icing in the middle …

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Now you take your sausage of icing and tie a knot in one end of your wrap.

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Then you shove the other one into your icing bag and cut off the end.  Screw on your tip and ice as usual.

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At the end you just pull out this wizened piece of plastic and you are good to switch!  No fuss no muss!

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I think I put too much icing sugar into my icing, so I ended up pressing the top part on with my fingers.

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Then I piped on the best approximation of the Spider-Man logo that I could do with my unsteady hand.  Not bad!

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Caramel Croissant Pudding

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This adapted Nigella Lawson recipe is a perfect way to get rid of those stale croissants.  Because we seem to always have one or two lying around.  Despite it using only two croissants, this recipe is rich enough to feed four comfortably.

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Start by buttering a small casserole dish and preheating your oven to 350ºF.  Then take your 2 stale croissants and tear them up into the dish.  These were particularly stale so they were extra crumbly.

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Beat up 2 large eggs in a small bowl and set those aside.

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In a measuring cup, pour in 1 cup half and half cream (the original recipe is 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whole milk but I worked with what I had).  Then add a few tablespoons bourbon or rum.  I used Screech, naturally.  Give that a stir and set it aside for now as well.

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Next, find a small saucepan and dump in 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water.  Give the water time to bleed into all the sugar.  You won’t need to stir this.

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Put the saucepan on medium high heat and let it come to a boil.

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Keep going. Resist the urge to stir.

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And going …

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When the sugar turns a nice deep amber colour you can remove it from the heat.  Once it starts to change colour it will do so rapidly, so keep an eye on it.

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Turn the heat down to low and add in the cream.  Whisk that sucker like crazy.  It will foam and go a bit nuts on you.

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Now you can remove it from the heat and slowly whisk in your beaten eggs.  It will thicken, but not as much as you’d expect (probably more if you used the cream).

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Pour over your croissant pieces.

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Let them steep for a while, maybe ten minutes or so, especially if your croissants are super stale.

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Now bake it for 20 minutes and serve with ice cream.

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AMAZING.

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Make Your Own Yogurt — The Easy Way

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I may have mentioned to you before that my new sister-in-law, Atlas, has the coolest mom, who may very well be my new hero.  This woman runs her own business, runs her family, runs the kitchen … essentially, she’s in charge of everything, but she does it in such a way that you don’t even notice.  And always with a big smile on her face.  Anyway, she gave me a recipe for making my own yogurt that doesn’t sound intimidating at all.

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I remember my mother trying to make yogurt with that weird little machine and the starter and all that stuff, and how I hated what came out of it.  It had a weird skin on it and was super runny.  But this stuff?  Not the same.  So much easier.  So much better.   In fact, my own mother has adopted the process and there’s always a huge tub of fresh yogurt in her fridge as well.  The recipe I’m going to give you below has been halved, because there are only two of us in our little house.  However, now that I’ve made it and I see how quickly we use it, I will probably make a full batch next time!

So what you need is a large pot, a spoon, 2L homogenized milk, 500mL half-and-half (“blend cream” is what they call it here), and about 1/2 cup plain yogurt (with no gelatin) as your starter.

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In the pot, stir your milks together and bring them to a boil.

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When they boil, they will foam the heck up, so stir vigorously for a minute before removing the pot from the heat.  Mine may have boiled over.  Twice.  I may have shouted some choice four-letter words.  Several times.  Note to self: next time, use a bigger pot.

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Leave the milk to cool to a nice warmer-than-room temperature (Atlas’s mom says somewhere between 40°C and 50°C). She says to stick your finger in it to feel if it’s warm. I decided, in the interests of science, to use a thermometer to confirm.  For your edification, 114°F is about 46°C.

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Mmm, milk skin … you can just get rid of that.

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Then add your 1/2 cup yogurt and give that a stir.

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Put the lid on the pot (or pour it in a container with a lid), wrap the whole thing in a blanket, and put it somewhere warm for 6-8 hours (or overnight).  Atlas’s mom puts it in the turned-off oven with the oven light on, but our oven doesn’t have a light, so I put it in our living room on top of the Pie’s computer.  It seemed to do the trick.

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And you can easily turn this into strained yogurt (“Greek” yogurt) by straining it for a few hours through a cheesecloth.  After 8 hours on top of the computer, I lined a colander with cheesecloth and dumped the yogurt in.  I let it sit over another bowl overnight in the fridge to drain off the whey and this thick loveliness is what came out of it.

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Goes great in soups and stews, in dips like tzatziki, on breakfast cereals, with a little honey and some strawberries … you name it.

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Butternut Bisque

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I’m not the biggest soup fan (I prefer to drink my hot liquids), but I’m starting to acquire a taste for them.  I’m especially fond of blended soups (because then it’s like a savoury pudding and I’m less likely to burn my tongue on the hot broth).  This one comes from Martha Stewart and is a good match for a nice late-summer lunch or a good accompaniment to a fall comfort meal.  It’s quick and easy, which I like in a soup.  You can also freeze it and enjoy it at any time.

First, do your chopping.  In this case, chop up 1 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic, and 1 large butternut squash.  Peel the squash, cut it open and remove the seeds, and then hack it into smallish cubes.

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Then, get your spices ready to go.  You’ll need 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Also, not shown, is a pinch or two of coarse sea salt.  Feel free to add more or less, according to your own taste.  It’s only soup, after all.

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Melt about 3 tablespoons butter into the bottom of a large saucepan.  Add in the onion, garlic, and the spices and cook until the onion is tender and translucent, about 7 minutes.

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Dump in the squash cubes, as well as about 15oz chicken broth and 1 cup half-and-half (you could use plain milk if you wanted to be healthier, but do you really want to do that?), and then about 3 cups water.  Bring that whole thing to a boil and reduce it to a simmer for about 20 minutes.  Your squash should be squishy at this point.  You should be able to squish your squash with the back of a spoon.

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Remove the pot from the heat and use your immersion blender to squish — er, purée — your squash and onions and all that stuff.

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Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cayenne, if desired.

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