O Canada: Fried Pastry Dough “Tails”

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It seems like Canadian cuisine is all about the different ways you can fry bread.  I’ll take it easy on you for the rest of the week but we’ll go with one more to end the month.

If you’ve ever done any touristy stuff in Canada you probably have tried Beaver Tails.  They’re especially good after a day of skating along the Rideau Canal, the longest outdoor skating rink in the world.  With a nice hot chocolate.  You can get them at fairs, too, and in the States (though they call them “elephant ears” there, what a silly name).

You can’t get them around here.  The franchise hasn’t moved this far east yet.  So I got the recipe from here, from a genius lady who has come up with her own form.  It makes about 20 pastries, so feel free to halve it.

Start with your yeast.  Mix a pinch of sugar with 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle 5 teaspoons active dry yeast.  Let that sit for a few minutes until the yeast is all dissolved.

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Add in 1 cup warm milk, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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Then add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and between 4 1/4 and 5 cups flour.  You may need more or less, depending on the vagaries of the weather and whatever else is going on in your life.

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Stir that baby up real good until you have a dense but pretty elastic dough.

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Knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s not tacky anymore.  This will take about 5-8 minutes or so.

Drop it in a greased bowl and cover it with a tea towel.  Leave it in a warm place to rise for about 30-40 minutes.

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Look it at.  All nice and risen.

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Punch that sucker down.

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Pinch off a golf ball-sized hunk.

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Flatten it out into an oval.

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Plop those suckers on a tray and cover them with a tea towel while you heat your OYLE.

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When your oil is hot enough to fizzle a pinch of flour, you can start yer fryin’.

Before you fry your ovals, stretch ’em out a little so they look a little bit more like beaver tails.

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Slide them in one end at a time.  You can fry probably two at once, maybe two minutes per side.

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Let them drain on paper towels and cool enough so they don’t burn your face off when you eat them.

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Now you have a range of toppings to choose from of course.

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How about chocolate hazelnut spread with bananas?

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Bananas and honey?

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Jam?

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The Pie had himself some jam and peanut butter.  And banana.  He’s a fan of all three.

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And of course my favourite: cinnamon sugar with lemon.

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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!

Peanut Butter Cups

I will never understand the obsession the male half of my family has with peanut butter.  To be honest, if I was never allowed to eat peanut butter again, I would probably live a long and fulfilled life.  Not so for the men in my two families.  Peanut butter is a staple.

This recipe is adapted from Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, and makes 12 large peanut butter cups.

Get your ingredients together:

1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter (I got mine fresh ground at the health food store!)

1 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped chocolate

Have ready 12 large cupcake liners.  Or more.

Chuck the peanut butter, honey, icing sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and mix it up.  I used the stand mixer because I am supremely lazy.  That’s just how I roll.

Take about two teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture, roll it into a ball, then flatten it into a patty that will fit in the cup but won’t touch the sides.  Do the same with the rest of the peanut butter until you have twelve.  Or, if like me, you doubled the recipe, you’ll end up with more than that.

Melt your chocolate.  I think I used more than was required, because I had to melt additional chocolate.  But there’s nothing wrong with that.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of melted chocolate into the bottom of each cup.  Place a patty in the centre of the melted chocolate and tap it into place, but don’t let it touch the bottom.

Spoon an additional teaspoon of chocolate on top of the patty, making sure that the chocolate goes up the sides and encloses the peanut butter completely.

Tap the cup on the bottom to smooth out the tops.  Allow to sit undisturbed for at least four hours for the chocolate to harden completely.  Now wasn’t that easy?

Store up to two weeks in an airtight container.  Do not refrigerate.  ENJOY!

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.

Mum’s Peanut Butter Balls

This recipe is for my brother Ando, who was heard to mutter to his wife Teedz that he couldn’t find it anywhere on my blog.  And then she told me.  So I felt guilty and therefore obliged to rustle some up.  Yesterday, when I was angry at the world but mostly my thesis supervisor, I did.

We didn’t have a lot of sweets in the house when I was a kid because Kristopf had problems processing sugar (and because my parents were health food nazis).  He was, however, an enormous fan of peanut butter, and every so often, if we were lucky (read: well-behaved), my mother would make peanut butter balls.

To do the same, you need three ingredients: peanut butter (smooth works best), skim milk powder, and honey.

Start by mixing together equal parts peanut butter and milk powder (with generous dollops of honey to taste). 

Adjust the milk powder (add maybe a handful more) until you have a texture that’s sticky enough to adhere to itself, but not sticky enough to leave itself stuck to your hands.

I’m thinking Play-Doh consistency here.

Anyway, once you’ve got the mixture to your taste (as in, tastes like peanut butter with milk and enough honey to make you happy), take about a tablespoon’s worth of your “dough” and form it into a ball by rolling it on the palm of your hand.  Repeat until you’re out of dough.  Keep them in the refrigerator so they don’t go all gooey.  I suppose you could freeze them as well but seeing as they’re super easy to make I don’t really see the point.  I’d save you some but the Pie and his father Papa John ate them all.

That’s it, Ando.  Are your childhood illusions of a special treat shattered?  I know mine were.

Coconut Bimini Bread

I am heavily into reading the international culinary exploits of Sasha at The Global Table.  The idea of making a full meal from every single country in the world tickles my anthropological aesthetic.

Sasha’s venture into the food of the Bahamas caught my eye, and I decided to try her Coconut Bimini Bread.  The Pie is a huge bread fan and I love cake, so this could be a very good thing for our little household.  I don’t have a bread maker, which is where she mixed her dough and had it rise, so I had to make do with my stand mixer and my frigid Newfoundland kitchen.

I don’t fail as much these days, but it does happen sometimes.  This was such an occasion.  Here is how my version turned out.

Take yourself 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1/4 cup dry milk powder (a handy thing to keep around the house), 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup coconut milk (warmed, to help activate the yeast), 3 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons softened butter, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and 3 eggs.  Chuck those in the bowl of your mixer in the order given.

Give it a stir in the mixer.  It takes only a few seconds to mix it all up.  Add a bit of extra flour if your dough is too wet.

I popped the dough in another bowl, covered it with a towel, and put it in a warm spot to rise for an hour and a half.

Then the Pie made me a grilled cheese sandwich.  I ate it.  It was good.

After an hour and a half, nothing had noticeably happened to the dough.  Nonetheless, I proceeded.

Sasha says the dough is enough to fit in one Pullman-sized loaf pan or two regular bread pans.  Pop your dough in an oiled pan or two and leave it to rise for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F.

After rising, slash the top with a sharp knife (oops, I forgot the slash) and then bake for 35 minutes or until brown on top and cooked through.  I had sincere doubts about this bread.  It hadn’t risen at all.  Maybe I need to knead it a bit first?  Perhaps my dough was too wet.  Probably the latter.

My loaf didn’t brown, but I’m not offended.  My oven isn’t the kind of oven that browns things.  I also failed to get either loaf out of the pan in one piece.

We had it hot with butter and a bit of honey and it was pretty good, though a little heavy.  We also made it into French toast and it was kind of awesome.  I’d definitely like to try this one again and see if I can’t get it right.

Bran Muffins

The Pie LOVES bran muffins.  I have never truly understood this addiction but nonetheless he persists.

Get all your ingredients out before you start.

This is a modified recipe from the Joy of Cooking (1996 edition).

Position a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat it to 400°F.  Grease 2 standard 12-muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.  I prefer to use baking cups when it comes to bran muffins because they’re extra sticky due to the honey, molasses, and sugar they contain.  It just makes cleanup easier.

Leave the bran to soak for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl (I used the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer, which I adore), combine 1 2/3 cups wheat bran with 1 cup boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes.

In another bowl (or a measuring cup, which I find is easier because it has a handle), whisk together 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Into the bran mixture, whisk 3/4 cup honey, 1/3 cup light molasses (I used dark, because I prefer the taste), 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and then 1/4 cup of plain Balkan style yogurt instead), 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (again, I prefer the darker stuff), and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (which I didn’t have, so it’s not in these muffins).  I also added in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract because I generally add vanilla to everything.

I mixed all the wet ingredients together first.

Whisk in (well if you’re using a mixer, then mix in) 2 large eggs, then stir in 1 1/3 cups raisins (I would up this next time to 2 full cups).

Stir in the raisins. Use lots.

Fold in the flour mixture until just moistened.  The batter should be lumpy but still soupy.  Spoon the batter into the muffin pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.

I'm not very good at being tidy with muffins.

Let cool for 2-3 minutes then use a fork to gently pry the muffins out of the pan.  Serve hot or cool on a rack for eating the next day.

Mmmmuffins . . .