Sweet Bread Pudding with Squash and Tres Leches Sauce

Bread Puddings

Second bread pudding of the week.  And this one is also made of squash.  But here’s the kicker: this one is a sweet one, a bread pudding you can have for dessert or even breakfast.  A very rich breakfast.  When the Pie and I ate this dish last Sunday morning we had to go and have a nap afterwards.  But it was worth it.

Bread Puddings

There’s a bunch of this that you can do the day before, to save yourself time.

First,  you roast a butternut squash at 400°F until it’s all tender and squishy, about 30-45 minutes.

Bread Puddings

If that doesn’t do the trick you can always put it in the microwave.

Bread Puddings

Cut up a baguette into chunks and leave it overnight to go stale.  If you’ve already got a stale one then you don’t have to wait for it, obviously.

Bread Puddings

Now the tres leches sauce takes about 45 minutes to make so you will probably want to do this the night before.

In a medium saucepan, bring a 12oz can of evaporated milk (I actually used coconut milk because that’s what I had on hand) and 6 tablespoons granulated sugar to a boil.

Bread Puddings

See how it’s all nice and foamy.

Bread Puddings

Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon baking soda in 2 teaspoons warm water and chuck that in as well.  Be wary of the foaming milk.  Keep stirring.

Bread Puddings

Reduce the heat to medium and keep it simmering.  Stir it frequently while it cooks, for about 30 minutes, until it’s significantly reduced and a light caramel in colour.

Bread Puddings

Add in 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup whipping cream and stir it around until it’s all warm and thoroughly mixed.

Bread Puddings

Now let it cool until it’s just warm and then you can serve it.  Or bung it into the fridge overnight.

Bread Puddings

So onto the bread pudding.  Set your oven at 350°F and butter a large casserole dish.

Take half your squash and plop it in a blender with 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Bread Puddings

Add in 1 1/2 cups half-and-half milk (or use regular low-fat milk mixed with your preferred amount of cream), some freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch or two of garam masala, and a shake of cinnamon.

Bread Puddings

Give that whirl, then add 5 large eggs and whirl it again until just combined.

Bread Puddings

As for the other half of your squash, use a fork to roughly mash it up with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Bread Puddings

Plop your stale bread chunks in a large bowl and add in the milk/squash mixture as well as the rest of your half-and-half.  Let that sit for a few minutes.

Bread Puddings

Dump in the rest of the squash and stir it around.

Bread Puddings

Pour it into the casserole dish and bake it for 30 minutes, until it’s all solid and browned.

Bread Puddings

Serve hot, either as a breakfast or as a dessert.

Bread Puddings

Drizzled with tres leches sauce it’s not a healthy breakfast but it sure is good.

Bread Puddings

Deep Dishes, Deep Pie, Deep Dough, Deep Thoughts

Deep Dish

Historically in my family, my dad’s mother has been the only person in the world who could successfully make pastry for pies. My mother and I have never been lucky enough to absorb her gift. I am still, however, determined to perfect my technique, and so, five years too late, I am using the Cooks Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe, which I borrowed from Smitten Kitchen.

I had gotten an email from my dad this morning (Monday) saying that my grandmother was unwell, and would I please send her a letter? So I was going to make a pie and take pictures and tell her all about how I had mastered this new skill. Or how I had failed. Either way, it would have been entertaining. Unfortunately, she passed away while I was making the dough, so I didn’t get that chance. She was 102, and healthy to the end. None of us can live forever, but she will nonetheless be missed. So in honour of Barbara Linklater Bell, the Queen of Pastry and all things baked, I present my own deep-dish pear and apple pie.

So we start with the crust.

Whisk together, in a medium-sized bowl, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Next time, I would probably leave out the salt, as it didn’t dissolve and I kept hitting little grains of it when I ate it.

Deep Dish

Now, you add your cold fat.  This recipe calls for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 3/4 cup butter.  Both being very cold.  That is key.  Cut those up into small cubes.

Deep Dish

Using a pastry cutter (though you could use a food processor if you wanted), start blending the fat into the flour.

Deep Dish

Keep going …

Deep Dish

Until you get this powdery, crumb-y sort of material.

Deep Dish

Now sprinkle in 1/4 cup very cold water and 1/4 cup very cold vodka. If you’re worried about the booze content, remember that vodka is tasteless and odorless, and all the alcohol in it will evaporate during cooking. This is what gives us that lovely flaky crust.

Deep Dish

Fold that in with a rubber spatula, until things start to come together. This will take some time, so be patient. Resist the urge to add more fluid.

Deep Dish

Eventually, you will be out of powdery stuff and have all these curd-like clumps. That was good enough for me.

Deep Dish

Now pour half that mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.

Deep Dish

Gather the edges of the wrap and use it to squeeze the pastry into a ball.

Deep Dish

Deep Dish

Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly, and do the same with the other half of the dough.  Refrigerate those disks for at least an hour.

Deep Dish

In the meantime you can prepare your fruit.  Peel and cube up about 4-5 pears and 5-6 small apples.

Deep Dish

Now, I decided to cook my fruit a little bit beforehand.  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that, as the fruit obviously cooks while in the pie.  But nevermind.

So toss your fruit with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 pinch nutmeg and 1 pinch ground cloves.

Deep Dish

Add in as well 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Deep Dish

And 2 tablespoons flour.

Deep Dish

Now, when your dough is chilled and ready you can start rolling it out for your pie pan.  I took this nifty tip from Smitten Kitchen to roll the dough (which, with the vodka, will be slightly stickier) between two pieces of plastic wrap.  It certainly saves chipping up cemented flour on your countertop.

Deep Dish

The Pie helped with the manual labour. Just make sure to remove the folds in the plastic wrap as you roll. It makes everything smoother.

Deep Dish

Oh, and preheat your oven to 400°F while you’re at it.

Deep Dish

Fit one of the rolled out sheets of dough into your pie plate and tuck it in.  Chuck that in the fridge while you do the other one, which will be the top. The plastic wrap is a godsend here in terms of transferring the dough from one place to another. I am never using any other method.

Deep Dish

When you are ready to assemble the pie, take the bottom out of the fridge and toss in your fruit (cooked or uncooked, up to you).

Deep Dish

Flop the top piece onto the pie.  Fold the edges of the top piece under the edges of the bottom piece. Man I really wish I had more light in my kitchen. Or that my lightbox were bigger.

Deep Dish

Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork and cut some holes for escaping steam.

Brush lightly with milk, and sprinkle with demerera sugar (optional).

Deep Dish

Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until your crust is firm and golden-brown and the innards are all bubbly.  And, as my husband says, “your pies never look all that great, but they always taste great.”  He’s not being mean — it’s true.  I make an ugly pie.

Deep Dish

Allow to cool on a rack and warm to serve.  What a lovely, flaky crust!

Deep Dish

We had ours with Fussells, a present from Fussellette.

Deep Dish

Carrot Zucchini Bran Muffins

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

I’ve been craving baked goods recently but with the food-heavy holidays coming up I don’t want to overdo it this early in the season.  The answer to my delicious dilemma?  These hearty food-filled muffins from Sweet Mama.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Grate up 1 small zucchini and 1 medium carrot — you’re trying for 1 cup of each.

Mash up 2 small bananas with a fork — again, you’re looking for 1 cup banana.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup canola oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Add in the mashed banana and the grated carrot and zucchini.  Add in as well 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut.  Mix it up well.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

In another bowl, mix together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup bran, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Spoon into the muffin tins.  I sprinkled mine with a wee bit of cinnamon sugar that I had on hand.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre muffin comes out clean.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Leave in the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Or eat still hot with butter.  MMMMMMMM!

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

The Un-Cola

The Un-Cola

I saw this recipe on Freshly Pressed this past summer and was inspired by Krista and Jess to make this recipe from the New York Times (thanks ladies!).

My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages.  Specifically the cola variety.  The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl).  Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course,  as they contain a lot of sugar.  The colas especially so.  Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it.  It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).

The Un-Cola

These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).

So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail.  I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.

The Un-Cola

You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon.  I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill.  Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.

The Un-Cola

So I grated a lot of citrus.  I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.

The Un-Cola

For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.

The Un-Cola

Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.

The Un-Cola

It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.

The Un-Cola

Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff.  Mmm, smells so good.

The Un-Cola

Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.

The Un-Cola

Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk).  Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.

The Un-Cola

You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid.  You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

The Un-Cola

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.

The Un-Cola

Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.

The Un-Cola

Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package.  Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.

The Un-Cola

Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.

The Un-Cola

In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it.  You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.

The Un-Cola

To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water.  It tastes FANTASTIC.  Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it.  AMAZING.

The Un-Cola

And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.

The Un-Cola

Carrot Cake for Interviews

Carrot Cake

While the Pie and I were back in Ottawa, I took advantage of our time there to finish off a few more interviews for my work with the local hockey team.  For my very final interview, the person I was interviewing wasn’t a huge sweet fan, so I decided to go with a nice, fresh carrot cake that I pulled off the Canadian Living website.  Plus it was easy peasy and I didn’t have a lot of free time.

Carrot Cake

Preheat your oven to 350°F and then butter and flour a 13 x 9″ metal cake pan (or, as I did in this case, two 9″ square disposable aluminum pans).

Carrot Cake

In a large bowl, whisk together the following:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

I didn’t take a picture of it because it was boring, so you can have a picture of my dog instead.
Gren Learns to Swim

In another bowl, beat together the following until smooth:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla
Carrot Cake

Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and mix until just moistened.

Carrot Cake

Stir in 2 cups grated carrots, 1 cup drained crushed canned pineapple (basically one 340mL can), and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

Carrot Cake

Spread into your prepared pan(s) and bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Carrot Cake

Set the cakes on a rack to cool completely.

Carrot Cake

For the glorious cream cheese icing, beat together the following:
1 8oz (250g) package plain cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup icing sugar

Carrot Cake

I needed a little extra icing and I wanted it to be a bit creamier, so I added in a further 1 cup icing sugar and 1/2 cup whipping cream.

Carrot Cake

So very smooth.

Carrot Cake

Spread the icing over your cooled cake.  Spread it with love.  You can tell that I love it.

Carrot Cake

Either inside the pan or without.

Carrot Cake

And then eat it all.  Because the one I made is totally gone now.

Carrot Cake

Fettuccine Alfredo with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms

Let’s be honest with ourselves here.

It’s winter.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  It’s slippery outside.  In short, it’s miserable.

Okay maybe today it’s bright and sunny, but let me assure you that this is rarely the case.  And it’s still cold and slippery.  And winter.Being Canadian, you’d think I’d be used to this nonsense that happens year in, year out.

I prefer to live in denial.

Or hibernate.  And eat lots of carbs.

And cheese.

So that’s what we’re going to do today.  Eat cheese.  And carbs.

This is a twist on the classic fettuccine alfredo recipe, and it’s really not very good for you.  But who cares?  I live in Newfoundland and no one will ever see me in a bathing suit.  If you don’t like blue cheese you can substitute it for something milder.  The key component of an alfredo sauce is that it is parmesan or romano melted in cream, so as long as you have that going for you you’re set.

In a medium frying pan, melt about a tablespoon butter and sauté 3 cups sliced mushrooms until they are brown and tender.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and chuck in enough dry fettuccine pasta for 4 servings.  While your pasta is cooking, melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Add about 2 tablespoons flour to that and whisk it well.

Add 1 cup whipping cream and 1/2 cup milk and bring to a boil.  Make sure to stir constantly.  I got interrupted so you can see that my butter browned a bit before I added the dairy.  No matter.  It was still good.

Reduce to a simmer and add 1/2 cup fresh oregano (or 2 tablespoons dried), 2 teaspoons minced garlic, and 1 pinch nutmeg.

Add to this about 3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese as well as 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese.

You can add in your cooked mushrooms now.  You want to do this as late as possible so they don’t get soggy or overcooked and tough.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is nice and thick.

Drain your cooked pasta and add it to the pot, tossing it in the sauce to coat the pasta completely.

Serve immediately, garnished with some more grated parmesan or romano.  Food coma to follow.

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. 

Bashed Neeps with a little Sweet Potato

Behold the lowly, plebeian turnip.  If you were my Scottish great-grandfather you’d call them neeps.  The vegetable of the working class.  Nubbly root vegetables that overwinter remarkably well.  Tasty tubers.

You get the idea.

I’m fond of turnips.  Rutabaga as well.  They’re a little yellower, bigger, and stronger tasting than a turnip.

Thanksgiving is all about the harvest vegetables, and the turnip is a traditional addition.

I used 4 medium-sized turnips.  (And 2 large apples.  No picture of those sadly.)

Peel them with a sharp knife and cut them into cubes.

Chuck them in a pot with a pinch or two (or five) of cinnamon and enough water to cover.

Cover and simmer them until very tender, about an hour, maybe more.

Drain and mash with butter and a dash of maple syrup.

You can serve it as is, but this time we felt that the turnips were a little bland.

We peeled and cubed a single large sweet potato and boiled that up as well until it was tender.

Mash that sucker in with the turnip after you’re done your boiling.

Add a spoonful of ginger, as well as some nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.

You can also freeze this stuff for thawing and reheating later.  It saves time on the big day.

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. 

Good Ol’ Egg Pie

Ali’s Note: Things are getting uber-busy here at Elizabeth, so after today I’ll be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only.

It seems to be a fad these days to make crustless quiches.  The health benefits are clear, and on the whole the process is a lot easier if pastry isn’t involved.

In my family, we’ve always had crustless quiches, for as long as I can remember.  My mother has only recently begun to perfect her pie crust so most of the time we just did without and it worked just fine.

In our house we call them egg pies, because that’s really what they are.  You can get totally creative with what you put in them — you’re only limited by what you have in your refrigerator.  The only tricks are really to ensure that the egg is more the matrix that holds all of your stuff together than it is the main ingredient, and also to cover your pie for the first half of cooking or the top will get too brown.

This particular pie is pretty simple.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

I had some broccoli florets left over from the red curry coconut noodles of the other day, so I decided to make a broccoli-cheddar egg pie.

Butter a 9″ pie plate and set it aside.

Gently steam the broccoli florets (this is from four small heads of broccoli) just until they’re a bright green.  You don’t want to over-cook them as they’ll cook further inside the egg pie.

Drain and chop them up roughly, then set them aside.

In a bowl, whisk together six eggs.  Add in 1/2 cup milk and whisk that sucker around. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, as well as a pinch of salt and season with ground pepper.  The Pie can’t taste the nutmeg, but I can.

Stir in about 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (really anything but mozzarella works well in these things).

Finally, add in the broccoli and stir that up as well until everything is all eggy.

Pour your mixture into the pie plate and level it out.

Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes.  Uncover the pie and bake again until the top is set and starts to brown, probably another 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of your pie plate.

Eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, hot or cold.  It makes a protein-packed and easily-carried brown-bag lunch as well.

Two other variations you might consider for inspiration:

Cheddar, red pepper, green onion, and chorizo.

Broccoli, mushroom, and feta.