Apricot Oatmeal Loaf

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I’m always looking for new ways to put more fibre into my baking that don’t necessarily involve bran (I feel like that sentence alone puts me in the “grown-up” category.  And you know what’s good for you if you’re not getting enough fibre? APRICOTS. So I made an apricot loaf. And if you like apricots you can make one too.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 1

Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter a loaf pan in preparation. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. I don’t even have a picture of it because it’s just a bowl of white (and because maybe I forgot). Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg for colour (and flavour).

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Because I forgot, you get a slightly more interesting picture of chopped apricots instead.

In a small bowl, scramble together 2 large eggs.

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Then tip in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or fruity yogurt, maybe apricot yogurt, it’s up to you), 1/3-1/2 cup apricot jam, and 1/2 cup milk.

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Pour that wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until combined. Then pour in 1 cup oats and 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots. Stir stir stir!

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Smooth that into your pan and then bake for about 1 hour, until a deep caramel brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let it mostly cool in the pan and tip it out onto a rack to cool completely.

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I’m really enjoying it toasted, with butter, for breakfast.

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Jammy Bran Muffins

These muffins are a little bit different from your usually brown bran muffins. As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with bran, so I’m always looking for new ways to ingest fibre without feeling like I’m eating sawdust. It’s a never-ending challenge. The additional challenge of these is that for some reason I have four jars of jam in my fridge and neither the Pie nor I is eating a lot of toast at the moment. So I decided to use it as my sweetener in this shindig.

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Start by setting your oven to preheat at 350°F and spray a muffin tin or rub it with butter. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, feel free to sour some milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to every cup of regular milk. Give that a stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cup bran, 1/4 cup ground flax (because it’s good for you – make sure it’s partially ground before you add it in), and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, scramble together 4 tablespoons melted butter3/4 cup of your favourite jam (this one is serviceberry), 1 large egg, and 2 cups buttermilk (or alternative).

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Now pour the liquids into the solids and gently whisk until only just combined.

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Dump in 1 cup raisins (or not, if you’re not a fan of raisins) and whisk until just combined again – never over-mix muffins. If you do they end up flat. And that’s lame.

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Divide the batter in your tin. Bake those puppies for 20-25 minutes, until the centre muffin tests clean when stabbed with a toothpick.

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Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes to cool a little bit before digging them out and eating them or letting them cool completely.

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We always like our muffins hot, with butter. Because, well, butter.

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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

Pie’s Nerdy Birthday Cake

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Yesterday the Pie turned 31, which he wasn’t really looking forward to, because now for the rest of the year he can’t tell everyone who will listen that I’m older than he is (BY FOUR MEASLY MONTHS).  Honestly, the next time someone calls me a “cradle robber” I’m going to punch him or her in the ear.  With my ring hand.

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I was originally just going to make him a wee cake (because it’s just the two of us and we’re moving shortly) but then Fussellette, who will use any excuse to have a barbecue, made an occasion of the thing and so a bunch of us went downstairs and ate grilled food and drank beverages and had cake — so obviously I had to make a slightly bigger cake.

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Gren also likes Nerds.

The Pie loves all things vanilla, so I decided on a sour cream pound cake, a traditional dish I hadn’t tried before.  I’m used to the regular ol’ normal pound cake.  Now, this recipe will yield two loaf pans’ worth of pound cake, or one ~10″ Bundt or tube pan worth.  I’m going with the loaf pan, so I can freeze the other half of this cake for when we celebrate with my parents in a few weeks (also, I packed my Bundt pans).  As always when making cakes, it’s a good idea to butter your pans and line them with parchment paper (if possible) to ensure that you don’t get anything stuck.  With a Bundt or tube pan it’s good practice to butter the thing and then dust it with flour.  Also, for a nice fluffy cake, allow all your ingredients to come to room temperature before you make this sucker.

So.  Butter and paper and butter your pans and preheat your oven to 325°F.

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Sift together 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 3 cups cake and pastry flour (which I didn’t have, so I substituted 2 tablespoons flour in each cup with 2 tablespoons corn starch).

Nerdy Birthday Cake 1

And actually I didn’t sift this, either, because I packed my sifter.  Anyway, set that aside for now.

Nerdy Birthday Cake 2

Using an electric mixer (or very powerful and fast-moving arms), beat 1 cup butter together with 2 cups granulated sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

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Add 6 eggs, one at a time, to the butter/sugar mixture, beating until each one is combined, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

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Now, tip in half your flour mixture and stir that until combined.

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Then dump in 1 cup (full fat) sour cream and stir that in, too.

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And now the rest of your flour.  Combine that carefully.

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Try not to flick batter everywhere.  Evidently, I failed.

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Spoon this very thick batter into your pan and smooth the top.  You’re going to want to bake this for at least an hour, probably more if you’ve done it in one pan.  Go for 60 minutes at first, and then check it every 5 minutes after that until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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When the cake is done, let it cool completely on a wire rack before tipping it out of the pan.  Tipping out a hot cake is a good way to get yourself a broken cake.

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So there’s your cake.  If you wish, you can leave it at that.  But this is a birthday cake! I took one of them and wrapped it up for freezing.

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So we’re going to make some icing.  Our standard cream cheese frosting is a perennial favourite, and it’s very simple.

Beat together 1 cup butter with 1 250g (8oz) package plain cream cheese (room temperature) until fully combined.

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Beat in as well 1 tablespoon vanilla (or any other flavouring you wish). Then carefully stir in at least 2 cups icing sugar (you will probably want a bit more to get the consistency you like).

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Then I sliced the cake in half horizontally.

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I filled the gap with a raspberry jam.

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Then I iced it, but only the sides at first.  Why?  Because I was going to do THIS.  But instead of sprinkles, because sprinkles are gross, I’m going to use Nerds.

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If you’ve never heard of Nerds, they’re basically small crystals of sugar coated with a sour neon candy crust.  They come in wee rectangular boxes and are a childhood favourite of pretty much everyone in my generation, because you used to be able to buy two boxes for fifty cents at the corner store.

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Fortunately for us, in the Super Size Me generation, you can now buy Nerds in giant boxes.  I wasn’t sure how many Nerds I would need for this, so I bought two boxes.  I can always rot my teeth on the other box if it isn’t needed.

So.  Spread your Nerds out in a flat rimmed dish (like a baking sheet or a dinner plate) with enough room to lay your whole cake.

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Pick your cake up and hold it by the bottom and the top (the unfrosted ends) and, working one side at a time, press the sides into the Nerds to make them stick to the frosting.

Set the cake back down and frost the top, being careful not to disturb the sides. Now I should have refrigerated my cake between frosting it and nerdifying it, so that’s why it’s all squishy and demented. Make sure you do that. Also, I discovered that my wee hands were no match for the size of this cake, so that may have added to the dementedness.

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Sprinkle the top with Nerds until it’s evenly coated.  Press them down a bit to make sure they stick.

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Chill the cake until serving. Even slightly demented, it was still mighty tasty!

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Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams

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For some reason I still don’t understand, I volunteered to do some baking for prizes to give out at the Pie’s final video game tournament before we move.  Because the group is called Newfoundland Fighting Jam, the Pie and I thought it would be funny to make up some Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.

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You may have heard of jam jams.  From what I understand, the general version is a round sugar cookie sandwich with jam in the middle, where the top cookie may or may not have a hole in it.  The Newfoundland version of this uses a softer molasses cookie.  If you don’t want to make your own you can order some from Newfoundland’s own Purity Factory.

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Of course, because we can’t leave well enough alone, we had to mess with the recipe a little bit, and we used our ninjabread cutters to make the cookies.  Keep in mind that below is a doubled recipe, so unless you want a million cookies, I suggest you cut it in half.

Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams 1

Start with 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening (both at room temperature).

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Cream those together in an electric mixer with 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (the darker the sugar, the fluffier your cookie will be, due to the high concentration of molasses).  Beat the crap out of those ingredients until they’re super fluffy.

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Now beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before you add in the next one.  If you want to halve this recipe, I would use one egg plus the yolk of another.

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Add in 1 cup molasses (fancy or whatever, whichever intensity of flavour you prefer) and 3 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Look at that silky, creamy molassesy goodness.

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In a separate bowl, sift together 6 cups all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger.

Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams 3

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Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients until you form a nice soft dough. And I mean really soft. Resist the urge to add more flour. The squishier your dough is now, the squishier your cookies will be.

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Split the dough into 4 parts (2 if you’re halving it) and chill it for at least an hour. Two is preferable. And you want to have all your working surfaces, tools, hands, etc., as cold as possible while you’re working with it.

When you’re ready to go, preheat your oven to 350°F, line some baking sheets with parchment paper, flour a work surface, and get your rolling pin handy. And you’re going to need a lot of flour. Like for the work surface, for your pin, for your hands, for the dough … It’s tacky stuff.

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Working with one part of your dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator, roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness (or about half a centimetre, if you’re feeling metric), and cut it out with your cookie cutters.  If you’re doing a circular cookie, some jam jam aficionados like to cut a small hole in the top cookie for the jam to poke through, but that’s up to you, my friend.

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If you’re making something other than circles or symmetrical shapes, remember to flip your cutter over so you can make a top and bottom to your cookie.  Our ninja cutters had a duller edge on top, so it made it a little harder, but we persevered.

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Eventually we developed an easy system, but it took a bit of time. You will probably sort something out yourself.

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If your dough gets too soft, huck it back in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.

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Bake your cookies, rotating the pans halfway through and keeping a close eye on them, for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your cookie.  You want these babies to be nice and soft, so make sure to pull them out before they get too brown.  If they don’t look done yet, don’t worry — they will continue to cook on the baking sheet.

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Spot the corgi for bonus points!

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then take a wodge of your favourite jam (I used raspberry here, but you could go full-Newfie and use partridgeberry or bakeapple if you want to be truly authentic) and spread it thinly on the bottom of one of your cookies. These ones used about a teaspoon of jam per cookie.  Press that cookie’s pair on top of the jam and then heave the whole batch into a warm oven (like 250°F) for a few minutes to make the jam all cement-y.  This also warms up the cookies again and makes them soft so you can do a little bit of repair work if any of them got bent too out of shape.

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TADA.  Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.  A mouthful to say.  A mouthful to eat.  A win-win situation for everyone!

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I made this up after doing a bit of research, and my main inspiration for ingredients came from these four down-home recipes, in addition to my own family recipe for Molasses Gems:

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Missing the Rock: Jam-Jams

Salt Junk: Jam Jams Cookies

Mmm…ade: Newfoundland Jam Jams

Rock Recipes: Soft Molasses Cookies or Giant Jam-Jams

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A Trifle Too Much

When I made Chel and Invis’ ivy vanilla wedding cake, I ended up with a lot of leftover ingredients.

For one thing, I had an enormous amount of actual cake itself, left from when I cut the rounded tops off the tiers.  I had enough to create a whole other cake if I so desired.  I had 12 egg yolks left from separating the whites.  And I bought wayyy too much whipping cream.

I don’t know about you, but that screams TRIFLE to me.  A LOT of trifle.  So I sent out an email to ten of my nearest and dearest:

You guys busy Sunday night?

I have leftover bits from the wedding cake and too much whipping cream and a bunch of yolks waiting to be made into custard, so I was thinking I’d make a trifle. 

HOWEVER,

I can’t make said trifle unless I have plenty of people to eat it, because it’s going to be huge.  Spouses and significant others are welcome.

Bell central, 8PMish, SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY?

a

Stef wrote back not five minutes later:

TRIFLE I LOVE TRIFLE. You absolutely will not need to worry about the number of attendees required for consumption. I think I have a special funnel/hose device specifically designed for consuming trifle. When I was a child, Dad would park outside events at the church and we’d decide to go in based on how many different trifles I could smell. I can tell you exactly how tipsy a tipsy trifle is from 40 yards (+/- 10 proof). I suspect trifle is responsible for any love of jesus I may have; during my churchgoing days as much of 17% of my body weight was derived from eating trifles on feast days, high holies, birthdays, vestry meetings, and Sundays.

After that, it was easy to get a “yes” from every invitee, even if some of them didn’t know what trifle was.  Kristopf and his lady friend even said they would show up “a trifle early.”  Ha.

If you don’t know what trifle is, just click the Wikipedia hyperlink above where I talk about screaming trifle.  Because it’s a British invention, I figured I should go to the BBC website for a real proper custard recipe.  I modified it, of course.

So I have my 12 egg yolks.  The recipe calls for 8 but this makes it extra custard-y.  Add to that 2oz granulated sugar and 4 teaspoons corn starch.Whisk that silly.  Leave it to come to room temperature.In a large saucepan, bring a large amount of dairy product (1250mL) to a simmer on low heat.  I used half whipping cream and half milk.Pour that hot milk into your yolks, a little at a time, whisking all the while.  You don’t want the yolks to curdle or cook, so this is why it’s crucial that they are warmed up gradually.Pour that back into the pot and bring to a simmer again, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened.  Then you can remove that from the heat and allow it to cool completely.While that’s cooling, you can prepare your other ingredients.  Here I washed and sliced 2 pints each fresh raspberries and strawberries.I also had to improvise a trifle bowl, because my mother doesn’t own one either.  These jars, however, will do.  They used to hold battery acid.  Now they house random collections of sea-related items.  Don’t worry, I washed the jar first.When your custard is cool, get everything else you need handy.  I whipped up 500mL whipping cream, adding a bit of sugar and some maple extract.  I pulled down the brandy from the liquor cabinet.  Trifle is traditionally made with sweet sherry but we were out.  I also heated up a 750mL jar of raspberry jam in the microwave until it was nice and runny.

Now we begin.

Start by crumbling a layer of your cake in the bottom of your bowl (or jar).  Traditional trifle uses sponge cake, but slightly stale wedding cake tops work just peachy.

Drizzle about an ounce of brandy over that.  You can use juice or soda instead of booze, but you need liquid to make the cake mushy.  Mushy is key.

Then some jam.

Then custard, whipped cream, and fruit.

Repeat that again.

And again.  Make sure to use all your ingredients.  No need to measure.  Top with extra fruit.

Look at those lovely layers.

Chill that in the refrigerator for a few hours until your trifle party arrives.

Shall we trifle?  As you can see, Stef was first at the jar.  And last.

Let’s trifle with some trifle.

And there was absolutely NONE left when we were done.

 

 

 

Using a Canner

You may or may not find this particular post interesting, but if you like to make your own jam then you should hear about this ancient invention my mother and I have just discovered called a canner.

When I was a kid we used to make jams and pickles all the time, and we would get the jars to seal by baking them in the oven and relying on the laws of physics as the jars cooled to do the rest.

But with this canning gizmo you can ensure that all your jars pop, every time.  And actually, Vicious Sweet Tooth pre-empted me on this one and was featured in Freshly Pressed.  I am totally trying her vanilla and nectarine preserves.

So you boil your lids as usual.But instead of sterilizing your jars and heating them in the oven you can do both steps at once in the canner.  It’s basically an enormous pot full of water, and the jars sit in a handy little cage you can lift out by the handles.So you boil those, and while they’re doing their thing you work on your jam.

Bring your goo to a boil.  In this case we’re making grape jam.  Once it’s boiling you add your sugar and pectin and make it go all foamy and thick.Once you remove it from the heat you scrape off all the foam.  You can eat it.  It’s yummy.So when it’s ready for canning, you pull your jars out of the water and drain them.Fill the jars with your jam up to 1/2″ from the top of the jar.Clean off the tops of the jars.  They have to be super clean.  Be careful not to burn yourself.Put on the lids and tighten them so they’re “fingertip tight” — this means that they are on but not tightened as far as they can go.Then you pop them back in the canner and bring the water to a boil once again.  Leave ’em about five minutes.Then you bring them out, and as soon as they cool a little bit, hey presto — POP.