Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 27

I have a serious backlog of posts for you folks just sitting, waiting for me to have a chance to write them all down.  I’m also horribly behind on my holiday gifts, too, but I’ll talk a bit more about that a little ways down the road.

IMAG0098

Anyway, a couple weeks back we were puppy sitting for a friend of ours.  This is Stella.  She’s grown significantly since I took this picture, but she’s still a little cuddly doll.

IMAG0114

That said, however, keeping an eye on the little troublemaker basically trapped us downstairs for a couple hours.  The best way to pass the time, I figured, was to make cinnamon buns.  Because, well, that’s the sort of thing I do. These ones are less sweet and not very sticky, more a roll than a sticky bun.  Papa John, of course, adored them, but they’ve got tons of cinnamon in them so that’s a foregone conclusion where he is concerned.

IMAG0099

Let’s start with the dough, shall we?  In a large bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or one packet).

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 1

In a small saucepan, melt together 1/3 cup butter with 1 cup milk and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  Stir this until it’s just warm, about 130°F, then add this to the flour mixture.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 2

Add in 3 eggs and beat with an electric mixer on low for about 30 seconds.  Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so all the goodness is in there.  Then you can beat it for about 3 minutes.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 7

Use a wooden spoon to stir in about 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups additional flour.  It will be slightly more or less depending on humidity levels, moisture, etc.  All that jazz. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead that sucker with a bit more flour to make a nice soft dough that is smooth and not sticky (this will take you about 5 minutes).

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 10

I was able to do this only because both Stella and Gren fell asleep for a little bit (after making a giant mess with their water bowl) and I had a free hand.

IMAG0115

Shape the dough into a ball and dump it into a greased bowl, turning once to coat it entirely. Cover that and let it rise in a warm place, about an hour and a half, until it’s twice the size it was.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 11

While that’s doing its thing, combine in a small bowl 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 3

Use a pastry blender to cut in 1/2 cup butter until it’s all crumbly.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 5

Give your dough a punch or two to flatten it out, then tip it back onto that lightly floured work surface and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 14

Roll out your dough with a rolling pin until it’s roughly in the shape of a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 15

Sprinkle that cinnamon filling all over the rectangle, and then top with 1/2 cup toasted pecans and 1/2 cup raisins (I forgot the raisins, oops. I did add in some toasted almonds, too, just for fun).

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 16

Start from one of the long sides and roll the dough up into a nice little tube.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 17

Slice your tube into 12 even pieces (start by cutting it in half, then each half into halves, and it’s easier that way) and lay them into a buttered 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 18

Loosely cover the cut buns and let them rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes, until they’re all puffy and stuff.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 20

Then you can pop them into an oven preheated to 375°F and bake them for 25-30 minutes, until they’re a nice golden brown.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 21

Let them cool for a few minutes, and while they’re doing that, whip up a wee glaze.  In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  You can add additional milk, a little at a time, until it’s drizzle-able.  Having made this once, I would probably double the glaze amount, or at least increase it by 50%.

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 23

Drizzle the glaze over your still-warm buns and serve!

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting 25

Classic Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns 33

This is a recipe that the very pregnant Atlas found in a magazine my mother picked up called Donna Hay (it’s Australian.  Hello, Australians!).  I figured I would master the basic sticky buns so that later she and I could do the more complicated, fancy variations (so stay tuned for that).  We’ve already made one version of lovely cinnamon buns on Ali Does It, but I’m not above trying new recipes to see which ones I like the best.  So here goes!

Sticky Buns 30

Let’s start with the dough.

Take a small bowl and 2/3 cup milk and heat up the milk until it’s lukewarm.  Add to that 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and give it a wee stir.

Sticky Buns 1

Set that someplace warm for 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to bubble and foam up.

Sticky Buns 5

Lightly beat up 2 eggs.  Just bruise them a little.  Rough ’em up but no broken bones.

Sticky Buns 2

And melt 125g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (I used salted butter and left out the 1/4 teaspoon sea salt I was supposed to add).

Sticky Buns 3

Plop 3 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer.

Sticky Buns 4

Add in the yeast mixture, the butter, and the eggs and mix on low for 1 minute until everything is combined.  You are supposed to use the dough hook attachment but I couldn’t find it so I went with ol’ reliable the paddle here.

Sticky Buns 6

After a minute, turn the mixer to high and beat for another 5-8 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Sticky Buns 7

Scoop the dough out into a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel, and set it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

Sticky Buns 8

Now the tops of these puppies are going to be covered in a sticky gooey maple glaze, which is actually going to go in the bottom of the pan and then when it’s all ready you’re going to flip it upside down.

For the glaze, take a small saucepan and dump in 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 75g unsalted butter (or salted, if you’re daring like me — it’s roughly 1/3 cup for you imperials).

Sticky Buns 9

Cook, stirring, over low heat until everything is melted and dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium and bring your sugar mix to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

Sticky Buns 11

Pour the glaze into the bottom of a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm baking pan (~9″ x 13″) and set aside.  Isn’t this pan nice?  It’s like the one in the magazine, and I said to my dad, “hey, if you were thinking of a Christmas present for me, this would be nice,” and he said, “we did.  It’s upstairs.”  TADA.  Early Christmas present.

Sticky Buns 13

Once the spatula cooled off enough not to burn my face, I ate the toffee off it. It was lovely.

Sticky Buns 14

Now we’re going to make a cinnamon butter to spread inside the rolls.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, dump 100g softened unsalted butter (I used salted, and eyeballed it to be somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup — this isn’t an exact science), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

Sticky Buns 15

Whip those silly for about 5 minutes, until all pale and fluffy and heavenly.  Set that aside.

Sticky Buns 16

Now take your dough, which should have doubled in size, and slap it between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper.  Roll it out into a rectangle that is about 60cm x 25cm (2 feet by a little less than 1 foot).

Sticky Buns 18

Spread your cinnamon butter all over the rectangle, leaving a 1cm border all around.

Sticky Buns 19

Sprinkle that with 1 cup toasted pecans (I had no pecans, so used raisins instead. I like raisins).

Sticky Buns 20

Take your dough by the long side and roll it up tightly into a happy tube.

Sticky Buns 21

Trim the edges of the bun so everything is even and cut it into 12 equal disks.

Sticky Buns 22

Place the pieces cut side up in the maple glazed baking tin, cover with another damp tea towel, and leave somewhere warm to rise for another 45-60 minutes or until they’re doubled again.

Sticky Buns 23

I took advantage of a cold day to sit them in front of the fire. This is the proofing stage.

Sticky Buns 24

Here they are all puffed up.

Sticky Buns 25

Preheat your oven to 350°F and place your baking tin on a baking sheet (to prevent burning sugar spillovers).  Bake for 20 minutes, cover with aluminum foil, then bake for another 15-20 minutes, until all golden and lovely and fully cooked.

Sticky Buns 26

I erred on the side of caution and resisted the urge to continue to bake mine after 35 minutes. The dough around the sides was soft and pale and I wasn’t sure it was cooked but it totally was and made a nice moist bun.

Sticky Buns 27

Let those stand in the pan for 2-3 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool (you might want to line your rack with some parchment to catch drips).  I think I may have cooked  my maple glaze a bit long because it hardened quite a bit.  It was still super good, but not as sticky as I thought it should have been.

Sticky Buns 29

Final step: EAT THEM.

Sticky Buns 31

Cinnamon Buns: What I Do At Work on Fridays

Cinnamon Buns 34

Remember how I started that Sweet Treats group at work? Not only do I get a glorious baked good every Friday morning, but I get to experience a number of new and intriguing recipes. This one is from one of the women I work with, who, before she became a legal assistant, was a professional baker (strangely enough, she is one of several former and current professional bakers associated with the firm, and I’m not sure why).  She made these glorious sticky things for us one rainy Friday a few years ago and I asked her for the recipe almost before I’d swallowed the first bite.  I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make these for myself.  She says the recipe is a little dicky to make, in terms of time consumption, but not too hard, and totally worth it.  And I totally agree.

Cinnamon Buns 1
Definitely dropped these on the floor while taking them out of the fridge. It’s all good.

Start with 1 cup milk, and warm that to 115°F (about 46°C — use a thermometer).

Cinnamon Buns 2

Add to the warm milk 1 tablespoon yeast and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and stir to dissolve.  Let that sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Cinnamon Buns 3

In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Cinnamon Buns 4

Add in the yeast mixture and stir to combine.  Add in 1 cup granulated sugar, and then 6-7 cups white flour (you may not need all of it, or you may need more; such is the way of yeast breads, so do one cup at a time), stirring with a wooden spoon until well-combined.

Cinnamon Buns 6

Cinnamon Buns 7

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed, then cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Cinnamon Buns 9

Cinnamon Buns 11

On a clean surface, roll out your dough into a large rectangle.

Cinnamon Buns 18

In a bowl combine 2 cups brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup melted butter.  This is your roll filling.  If you wanted you could put pecan pieces or raisins in here as well. Since this was my first time making the recipe I left them out, but they’re totally doable.

Cinnamon Buns 13

Spread the filling over the rectangle of dough.

Cinnamon Buns 19

Make sure you go right to the edge.

Cinnamon Buns 21

Grab one of the long ends and roll it up into a neat little torpedo.

Cinnamon Buns 22

Cinnamon Buns 24

With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 16-18 little discs.  It’s easiest to do this by cutting the roll in half first, then cutting each section in half again, and then each further section in half, et cetera. The human eye is pretty good at estimating middle points, so this is the best way to ensure that each disc is evenly thick.

Cinnamon Buns 25

Let those rise for another 45 minutes.

Cinnamon Buns 27

Preheat your oven to 350°F and find yourself a large rimmed baking sheet, about 12″ x 18″ or so and arrange your discs on the sheet, cut sides flat. I put mine on parchment paper. Leave a good amount of space between them because they will spread.

Cinnamon Buns 29

Bake those suckers for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned.

Cinnamon Buns 31

While the buns are cooling, combine 2 cups confectioners’ (icing) sugar with 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1 250g package of plain cream cheese (room temperature).

Cinnamon Buns 14

Spread the frosting on the buns while they are still warm enough to make the frosting a little runny, but not too warm that the frosting melts right off them.

Cinnamon Buns 35

Cinnamon Buns 36

AND THEN YOU EAT THEM.  ALL OF THEM.

Cinnamon Buns 37

Cinnamon Buns 42

English Muffins: easier to make than you think

English Muffins 22

I have a recipe for real, old-fashioned English muffins in my Peter Reinhart.  And some day, I totally plan to make them the way he says to (because he’s a genius).  Until then, I’m too darned lazy.  But I found this version by the Foodess (also a genius) that seems to be more up my alley in terms of ability and time.  It’s nice to finally have a decent English muffin in the morning, full of all those wee holes designed simply to hold melted butter and honey.  The Newfoundland version of the English muffin is just … WRONG.  It’s more like a hamburger bun or something.  It’s not right.

English Muffins 23

Anyway.  Start with 1 1/2 cups milk, and plop that in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, and microwave for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 minutes, until the milk begins to simmer around the edges.

English Muffins 1

While that’s on the go, cube up 1/4 cup cold butter.  The coldness of the butter will help to cool your milk down.

English Muffins 2

Stir the butter into the milk and swirl it around until it’s all melted.  Leave the milk aside for a bit to cool down.

English Muffins 4

Beat up 1 large egg and add to it 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used Balkan style).

English Muffins 3

When the milk mixture has cooled to just warm, you can mix the egg/yogurt in.

English Muffins 6

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 4 cups flour to 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt, and 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast.

English Muffins 5

Put that sucker on low (use a shield around the top if you’ve got one), and slowly pour in your dairy mixture.  Keep going until it’s all in there, and then beat (again, on low) for another full minute.

English Muffins 7

English Muffins 8

You can see that although the dough is still really sticky it’s starting to become stringy as well.  Gluten in action, folks.  SCIENCE.

English Muffins 9

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover the top with plastic wrap, and put it in a warm place for an hour to rise.

English Muffins 10

When it’s ready to go, lightly flour a clean work surface.  Find yourself a 3″ biscuit cutter or use the opening to a large drinking glass (mine was about 2 1/2″).

English Muffins 11

Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface and sprinkle the top of it with flour as well.  Use your floured hands to pat the dough down until it’s about 1/2″ thick.

English Muffins 12

Using your cutter or glass, get busy cutting out little disks of dough.  Fold all your scraps together and repeat the process until you’ve used all your dough.  I ended up with 19 muffins in my batch.

English Muffins 13

Use a floured spatula to transfer them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and set those somewhere warm to rise for another 20 minutes.

English Muffins 14

Now, preheat your oven to 400°F and plop a large cast iron skillet (or two) on your elements.  Heat those up to medium heat and dust them lightly with corn flour.  Do not use a non-stick pan for this; it will not work.  If you don’t have an iron skillet, use a steel, non-non-stick pan instead.

English Muffins 15

Plop some of your dough disks into the dusted, heated pan and let them cook on one side for about 3-4 minutes, or until the bottoms start to brown.

English Muffins 16

Flip them over and do it again to the other side.  Keep dusting the pan with more flour as needed, and keep in mind that the flour may start to smoke after a while.  As your pan heats up you will find it takes a shorter amount of time for your muffins to brown so keep an eye on them.

English Muffins 17

You can see how they are starting to rise up with the cooking and look more like real English muffins.  The reason you cook the tops and the bottoms is so that when the muffins are baking in the oven they don’t get all round and puffy like a dinner roll.

English Muffins 18

Transfer the browned muffins back to the parchment-lined baking sheets.

English Muffins 19

When you’re all ready to go and they’re all browned, pop them in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until the muffins sound hollow when you tap on them.

English Muffins 20

When you are ready to eat them, pierce the middle with a fork several times to break the muffin open.  If you cut them with a knife you won’t get the benefit of all the perfect little bubbles.

English Muffins 21

Look at those perfect little bubbles.

English Muffins 24

Then you can do whatever you’re going to do with them.  Toast them, use them as sandwich material (the Pie loves making his own version of the Egg McMuffin), eat them as a base for Eggs Benedict … whatever floats your boat.  They freeze well, too — just make sure to wrap them up really tightly.

English Muffins 25

Pretzels Are My Kryptonite

Soft Pretzels 27

There’s a certain fast food establishment at the mall to which I am inevitably drawn, every time.  And they make glorious sweet and salty pretzels, fresh all day.  The fact that if you buy three you get one free does not help.

Soft Pretzels 31

A few years ago, before I started this blog, I tried my hand at recreating the pretzel I knew and loved.  The result was rather a disaster, but, undaunted, I figured I’d try again, seeing as it’s too cold to walk to the mall at present.

Soft Pretzels 13

So I did my research, and the results below are a combination of about four or five different internet sources.  In addition to that, the amount I made was half what I will present to you now, because most batches make twelve pretzels and it was a huge feat for the Pie and myself to eat three each.

Soft Pretzels 1

This is the recipe for 12 soft pretzels.  BEWARE: results may be habit-forming.

Soft Pretzels 30

Start with a wee bowl, and plop in 1 1/4 cups warm water (I use the hot water from my tap, which is pretty hot, and it seems to serve me well, especially in a frigid kitchen where everything cools down mighty fast. Plus yeast is a much more forgiving organism than many realize). Dissolve into that 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.  Sprinkle over that 4 teaspoons active dry yeast, give it a stir, and leave it for 10 minutes to get all foamy.

Soft Pretzels 2

At one point mine started trying to be the Thing from the Black Lagoon and went all BLOOP!  BLOOP!  BLOOP!  I tried to get a picture but it didn’t work out.

Soft Pretzels 4

Nevertheless it’s fun to watch science (biology!) in action.

Soft Pretzels 5

In a larger bowl, stir together 5 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar (more if you like your pretzels sweet, less if you like ’em saltier), and 2 teaspoons salt (again with the more or less business, but reversed — though don’t go too crazy).

Soft Pretzels 3

Make a well in that flour and pour in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, followed by all the yeasty water.

Soft Pretzels 6

Stir and stir and stir until you form a rough, shaggy dough and most of the flour is incorporated into this stuff.

Soft Pretzels 7

I find that when you halve bread recipes, for some reason the moisture amount never turns out quite right.  So if your dough is too dry and refuses to stick to itself, like this:

Soft Pretzels 8

Then simply add a few tablespoons of warm water until it gets to the desired consistency.

If your dough ends up too sticky, like this:

Soft Pretzels 9

Then it’s a simple matter to add more flour by kneading it in on a clean and lightly floured work surface.

Soft Pretzels 10

Do your kneading for about 8 minutes, until you have a sturdy little ball.  It will feel quite dense.

Soft Pretzels 11

Soft Pretzels 12

Oil a bowl and plop the ball of dough into it, turning it once to coat the whole surface of the ball in oil.  Cover that loosely with plastic wrap and set it somewhere warm for about an hour, until it’s doubled in size.

Soft Pretzels 14

When it’s all ready to rock and roll, preheat your oven to 450°F, line several baking sheets with parchment paper, and set a pot on the stove.  Into that pot pour 4 cups water and 4 tablespoons baking soda and bring it to a low boil.

Boiling the pretzel is key to the browning process, or so the internet told me.  The last time I did this, I ended up with pretzels that tasted so heavily of baking soda that they were inedible.  So this time I used a relatively small amount of the stuff.  Some of the sources I read suggested adding sugar to the boiling water as well, and I think that might countermand some of the saltiness of the baking soda, though it would definitely make the pretzels a little stickier.  I will have to try it next time.

Cut your dough into a dozen separate pieces (mine is six, remember, because I halved it).

Soft Pretzels 15

Using no flour this time, roll out each section into a snake measuring about 24 inches.

Soft Pretzels 16

Form the snake into a pretzel by bringing the ends together, twisting twice, and smooshing the tips into the body of the pretzel.  The Pie and I tried to do it the fancy lift-and-twist-and-magically-it-all-works-out but obviously that didn’t work.  Amateurs.

Soft Pretzels 17

Working one or two at a time,  slide your formed pretzels into the boiling water and submerge them for about 30 seconds.

Soft Pretzels 18

Soft Pretzels 19

It was kind of hard to remove them with tongs, so we plopped each one on this deep-frying spoon and did it that way and it was way easier.

Soft Pretzels 20

Soft Pretzels 21

Let those pretzels drip a bit before laying them on the parchment-lined baking sheets.

Soft Pretzels 22

For a taste comparison, I left one of my six pretzels unboiled, just to see what would happen.  It’s the one on the left in both of these shots.

Soft Pretzels 23

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown, but still soft to the touch.

Soft Pretzels 26

You can see that the unboiled one didn’t brown at all.  It still tasted just fine.  You could always do an egg wash on the unbaked pretzels if you’re not keen on the distinctive pretzel-y taste that the boiling in baking soda brings.

Soft Pretzels 25

Soft Pretzels 33

Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, and then make sure to eat them all while they’re still warm.

Soft Pretzels 24

You can put whatever kind of stuff you like on your pretzels.  People seem to like mustard (blech) and barbecue sauce (blech), but our favourite is a brush of melted butter

Soft Pretzels 28

… and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Soft Pretzels 29

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go lie down.  I might be dying.  Or at least gravely weakened.

Soft Pretzels 32

The Wee Flea Problem

One of my friends from work asked me if I knew how to get rid of fleas.  I didn’t, but I said I could find out (because that’s how I roll).  So after exhaustive research of the internets (seriously, I read like TWENTY different sites), I came up with what seemed like a sensible solution, and I put so much work into it that I thought I would share it with you.

First, a little note on having fleas: they tend to like damp, dark places, so if you live in, oh, say, Newfoundland, chances are you’re going to encounter them at some point.  You don’t even have to have a pet to get fleas in your house — they can come in on your legs, your clothing, even stuff you bring in from the garage or whatever.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a dirty person.  Fleas just sometimes happen.  Living in crowded or damp spaces will do it.  Getting rid of them takes a bit of work, but it’s a relatively simple process.  So here we go.

Step one:

IMAG0399-1

Take everything your pet lies on and wash it in hot, very soapy water.  Dry it in the dryer or hang it out in the sun.  Fleas apparently don’t like the light.  Or soap.  Wash your bed linens, pillows, cushions, dish towels … anything a flea can hide in and that fits in your washing machine, you should chuck that in.  Anything else, you can scrub it with soapy water and hope for the best.

IMAG0438

Step two:

Wee Flea Problem

Wash your pet in flea-killing shampoo.  Either that or use a flea comb to brush him or her and have a bowl of hot soapy water nearby so that when you comb out a flea you can douse it in the water to kill it.  Either way you will need to use a flea comb to get eggs and the like out of your pet.  Always, when brushing or washing, wash/comb the neck first so the fleas can’t jump onto the head while you’re washing the rest.  Don’t let your pet near any other animal that could be carrying fleas.  Use a flea preventative specifically designed for your pet (we use Advantage on Gren, it’s not too expensive).  We use a flea comb on Gren just for the brushing of him, so he’s used to the pull of the fine teeth and his hair is very straight.  If you have a curly or wire-haired dog, this is going to be a little bit more difficult.  You might want to book a special appointment with a groomer for this step if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Wee Flea Problem

Step three:

Vacuum the crap out of your place.  Go over your carpet with some heavy brush attachment to loosen clinging larvae.  Get into all nooks and crannies, carpets, furniture, and any spots that are dark and/or damp.  Cracks in the floors, behind doors, in grates – anywhere dust collects could be a storage spot for flea eggs.  Immediately throw out your vacuum bag to avoid escaping fleas (my mother-in-law, Mrs. Nice, tells me that if you put moth balls in your vacuum bag it will kill any bug you suck down, though it smells a bit weird when you first turn on the machine).  If you have a canister vacuum like we do, empty the thing into a bag outside and then hose ‘er down.

Wee Flea Problem

Step four:

Use some form of insecticide (most of the internet says you have to go the chemical route, sorry).  Get one with a compound in it known as IGR (insect growth inhibitor) and follow the instructions.  Don’t let children or pets near it.  You could also scrub every surface of your house with soap (rugs included), but you have to be thorough.  The insecticide treatment, while gross and chemical-y, probably will work better than any vinegar-soap-lemon juice thing you can come up with, so it’s something to think about, even if, like me, you’re not into using those kinds of things.

Step five:

Hose down your garden with soapy water (or a chemical insecticide) and trim back all the foliage to expose all the damp dark places to sunlight.  Mow the lawn often.  Keep dark and damp spots to a minimum.

Greenthumbing Update

Step six:

In two weeks, repeat steps one through five, vacuuming every other day.  Fleas have a two-week life cycle and fleas in egg form will not be affected by any form of insecticide, so you gotta do it twice.  If you don’t do it twice then it’s not going to work.

Prevention, the natural way (after you’ve taken the previous steps):

Sprinkle nutritional or brewer’s yeast on your pet’s food or rub it into his or her fur. Our first dog, many decades ago, got fleas one summer and we fed her the yeast.  It seems the fleas don’t like the taste of the dog’s skin once the yeast has gotten into it and they take off.

Herbal flea dip: boil 2 cups fresh rosemary leaves in 2 pints (~1L) of water for 30 minutes.  Strain the leaves out and add the mixture to a gallon (~4L) of warm water.  Saturate your pet and do not rinse – allow to air dry.  This is a nice refreshing thing to do on a hot day.

Cottage Pie

Citrus spray: thinly slice a lemon and chuck it in a pint (~1/2L) of water.  Bring that to a boil and then let it sit overnight.  Alternately, use a few drops of lemon oil in an appropriate amount of water.  Spray in areas where you think fleas might be hanging out (remember that lemon juice also acts as a bleach so watch out for fabric).  Spray it onto your pet as well, and put a few drops under his or her collar to keep fleas at bay.

Diatomaceous earth is something you can sprinkle into your carpets and in your yard.  It has no effect on humans or pets (it’s just dirt) but the granules are sharp and will puncture the exoskeleton of insects, causing them to dry out.  Also a very good humidity and odor buster.

O Canada: Fried Pastry Dough “Tails”

Beavertails

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.

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

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.

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

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.

Beavertails

Look it at.  All nice and risen.

Beavertails

Punch that sucker down.

Beavertails

Pinch off a golf ball-sized hunk.

Beavertails

Flatten it out into an oval.

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

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.

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

How about chocolate hazelnut spread with bananas?

Beavertails

Bananas and honey?

Beavertails

Jam?

Beavertails

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

Beavertails

And of course my favourite: cinnamon sugar with lemon.

Beavertails

O Canada: Moose Pizza

Moose Pizza

Gren killed a moose and was kind enough to share it with us.

Big Game Hunter

Just kidding.  Gren is about the size of a moose’s hoof.  If anyone were to be killed and eaten in that situation it would surely be the tender tasty corgi.  Hell, sometimes *I* want to eat him.  He does look pretty delicious.

Moose Pizza

Fusselette’s dad likes to hunt and fish and as a result we have a pile of fresh-frozen cod and moose roast and moose sausages in our freezer.  This can only mean good things for you, my readers.

In any case, I couldn’t continue my Canadian feature month without including a dish made from Newfoundland’s biggest (and I mean that in more ways than one) pest.  On an island where “Nature comes in extra large,” moose are certainly vermin to be reckoned with.  I had some more to say about moose back when Rusty and Mags were in town.

Moose Pizza

So.  Yes.  We have moose.  We are going to eat it.  When we were in Gros Morne this summer, I had the opportunity to try moose pizza for the first time.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s a Canadian dish, most likely invented right here on the Rock.  Of course, Hawaiian pizza was invented on the Canadian prairies, so who’s to say?

Moose Pizza

First we start with the dough.  For the sake of variety, I’m going to use a different dough recipe than normal.  This one I pulled out of The Joy of Cooking and cut it in half.

Sprinkle 1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast on the surface of a small bowl filled with 2/3 cup warm water.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast is all dissolved; then you can stir it up.

Moose Pizza

In a larger bowl, mix together 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.

Moose Pizza

Pour in the yeast and water and stir until all ingredients are completely combined.  Then keep stirring for another minute or so.

Moose Pizza

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  You will find you have to add quite a bit more flour in to keep the dough from sticking to the surface.  When the dough is smooth and elastic, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl.  Roll the ball of dough around in the bowl to make sure all the sides are coated.  Cover it with a clean cloth and leave it somewhere warm for about an hour.

Moose Pizza

Preheat your oven to 475°F and start prepping your toppings.  If you are going to use a pizza stone (like we did) then put your stone onto the rack in the oven when you turn it on, so it can preheat too.

I decided that mushrooms and red onion were a good complement to the moose sausage that was sizzling in a pan.

Moose Pizza

I sliced up the sausage as well, and grated some mozzarella cheese while I was at it.

Moose Pizza

When your dough is ready, flatten it into a pan sprinkled with cornmeal, or, if you’re using a stone, onto a peel or surface covered with parchment paper.  I made a circle out of ours, to match the stone.  Make a slight lip at the edges of the dough to keep stuff from spilling off and press your fingers into the dough to make dimples.  This prevents crust from bubbling up.

Moose Pizza

Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil to prevent it from becoming soggy, and sprinkle with some herbs.  We like herbes de provence in our pizza.

Moose Pizza

Crack open a can of pizza sauce.  We generally use half a can for each pizza.  Smooth that sauce on the dough.

Moose Pizza

Add your ingredients.

Moose Pizza

Don’t forget your mounds and mounds of sausage. There might be a bit too much sausage on this pizza, but what’s done is done.

Moose Pizza

And lots of cheese.

Moose Pizza

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Slice and serve!

Moose Pizza

O Canada: Baked Beans with Toutons

Baked Beans with Toutons

My house currently smells like awesome.  All the windows are steamed up.  It’s great.

Baked beans, I think you’d agree, are a traditional staple all down the eastern seaboard of North America.  Add a splash of Québec maple syrup to the sweet, dark sauce and serve it with a side of Newfoundland toutons (“TAOW-tuns”), however, and you’ve got yourself a Canadian dish.  It all takes quite a bit of time (you have to start by soaking your beans overnight), but it’s worth it to have your house smell this good.

For the Baked Beans:

I cobbled together this bean recipe from three others, which I’ve listed at the bottom of this post.  I think baked beans are conceptually pretty fluid, so feel free to experiment on your own.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This recipe also involves some interesting food items that are not usual additions to my refrigerator contents: fatback pork and salt pork.  If you can’t find fatback pork or pre-cut scruncheons, you can also deep-fry the toutons in vegetable oil.  Here in St. John’s, salt meat, which you can buy in 4L buckets, has its own section in the grocery store, right next to the bologna section.  That’s right, bologna section.  As in, there are several different kinds and cuts of bologna available to the residents of this lovely city.  Luckily I found smaller amounts of fatback pork and salt pork riblets, and was able to get away with just a scant pound of each, rather than having to find a use for a whole bucket of meat.  You could probably use a salty ham (Virginia-style) in place of the salt pork if you can’t find it.  And of course if you want a vegetarian version of the baked beans, leave out the pork altogether.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Start with about 4 cups dried white navy beans.  Rinse them and plop them in a bowl.  Cover them with several inches of water and leave them overnight to soak.  You may need to add more water as it gets absorbed.

Baked Beans with Toutons

The next day, drain and rinse the beans and plop them in a very large pot with three times their volume of water to cover (so take the bowl the beans were in and fill that sucker three times with water and you should be good).

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop in 1lb salt pork.  Usually this comes on the bone.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the beans and pork simmer for 40-50 minutes, until they’re all tender and stuff.  Scoop out 1 1/2 cups bean cooking water and then drain the rest.

While the beans are simmering, finely chop up 1 large onion.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop the onion in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon dry mustard (Keen’s or Colman’s are the traditional versions around here), 2 teaspoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and fragrant.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour into that 4-156mL cans of tomato paste (that’s about 2 1/3 cups), 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup fancy molasses, and 1/2 cup pure maple syrup.  Give that a good stir and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will bubble like the Thing from the Black Lagoon and get absolutely everywhere, so make sure to cover it.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour in the reserved bean cooking water and mix well.  You can purée it in a food processor at this point if you wish, but I didn’t bother.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Preheat your oven to 300°F.  You could do this earlier but it really doesn’t take long, so there’s no point in having your oven on for such an extended period of time.

Strip the salt pork from its bones and tear it into small pieces before tossing it back in with your drained beans.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mix the beans and the sauce together.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 2-3 hours, then uncover and bake until sauce is thick and the beans are coated, about another hour.  Serve hot with toutons, or allow to cool and freeze for later.

Baked Beans with Toutons

For the Toutons:

I pulled the recipe for these weird little Newfoundland doughnuts/dumplings/biscuits from this site.  Most of the other recipes I found ended up being exact copies of this one, so I figured it was legit.  Toutons are essentially fried white bread dumplings.  Most of the time they are served doused with butter and maple syrup.  This sounds like a good idea to me.  You can buy pre-made touton dough at the gas station down the block from our house.  During the summer festival here they have touton-throwing contests.  These bready balls are evidently important to Newfoundland culture.

Start by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add in 1 tablespoon traditional yeast.  Allow that to stand for 10 minutes, then stir it in until it’s all dissolved.

Baked Beans with Toutons

In a saucepan, scald 1 cup low-fat milk (the recipe called for 2% but we use 1% so I figured that would only save us from an earlier death).  Add in 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening and stir until it’s all melted.

Baked Beans with Toutons

To the hot milk, add 1/2 cup cold water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Make sure the milk mixture is lukewarm and then add the yeast mixture and stir until well-blended.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add in 2 cups all-purpose flour and stir until it’s all smooth.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Gradually add 3-4 more cups of flour until you have a moist dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Shape the dough into a ball and plop it in a greased bowl, turning the ball to grease the top.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it somewhere warm and draft-free for the dough to double in size, about an hour.

Baked Beans with Toutons

While you’re waiting, you can make your scruncheons (or scrunchins), which are fried pork back fat.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mmmm.  Like bacon only without the actual pork.  So you take your backfat, about 1/4lb, and you cube it up as finely as you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This is harder than it looks.  Pig backs are tough.  Also see the surface of this particular chunk?  I’m convinced it was actual skin, because it was a pain to get through, and it fried up almost rock hard.  I suggest trimming that off if you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Set your raw scruncheons aside for a spell, until your dough is ready.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Punch down the dough and squeeze off pieces about 1/3 cup in size.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Flatten them to about 1/2″ thick, in a circular or triangular shape.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry your scruncheons until the solid pieces are golden brown and crisp.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Take them out and lay them on a paper towel.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry the toutons in the liquid pork fat until they are golden on both sides, a minute or so per side.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add a dab of butter to the hot touton, sprinkle with crispy scruncheons, and douse with maple syrup.  Serve hot!

Baked Beans with Toutons

Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to go and have a heart attack somewhere.

Baked Beans with Toutons

More Baked Beans:

http://canadianwinter.ca/index.php?page=canadian_winter_molasses_baked_beans

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/maple_baked_beans.php

http://suppertonight.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/canadian-baked-beans/

Tofu Feature Month: Tofu-Spinach Calzones

Tofu Spinach Calzone

[Note from Photographer’s Ego: Yes, I know these pictures fail to follow that number one rule of food photography: use natural light!  I will be building myself a light box soon, not to fret.]

This will be our final tofu recipe for you folks for a while.  Our digestive systems are not used to so much soy and they have unequivocally had enough.  The Pie especially so.  Poor man.  Pity him that his wife cooks new things for him on a regular basis.  Tsk.

The last time the Pie and I attempted calzones, we ended up with floor pizza.  I was determined to get it right this time.  The recipe below, with some modifications, comes from the Savvy Vegetarian, and it’s pretty easy.  The dough is nice and stretchy, and I could definitely use it again for a calzone with a different filling, which is exciting!  The yield for this is 10 hand-hold-able calzones, and I halved it (because there’s only the Pie and myself — Gren doesn’t get people food).

For the dough:

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in 1 1/4 cups warm water.  Stir in 2 teaspoons active dry yeast and allow that to sit for 10 minutes.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Or until it gets all foamy.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

In a larger bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to 3 cups flour and mix well.

Rub in (exactly how it sounds) 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Rub it between your fingers until there are no large clumps left.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Stir the water/yeast mixture into the flour until it forms a shaggy ball.  Make sure to get all the floury goodness at the bottom of the bowl.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

On a floured surface, knead the ball for about 10 minutes.  The more you knead it, the tackier it will get, so you will need to add more flour on occasion.  Also, keep in mind that the more you knead it, the more elastic it will be (because you worked all the gluten together).  You want your dough to be nice and stretchy.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with a clean cloth and set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

For the filling:

Dice up 1/4 cup onion, and about 8 mushrooms and toss them in a frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons minced garlic.  Sauté until soft.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

In a small bowl, mix up 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon powdered vegetable stock, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, a pinch of cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Toss that on the vegetables in the pan and stir it around.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Plop in 16 ounces fresh baby spinach (you can use frozen spinach, if you thaw it and drain it first), as well as 2 12-ounce packages of firm silken tofu and a dash of soy sauce.  You can break up the tofu before you toss it in, but it gave me something to do while I waited for the spinach to wilt.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

I had some leftover chèvre, 8 ounces worth, so I tossed that in as well.  So if you’d like to add that to this recipe, chuck in 8-16 ounces goat’s cheese and stir it around until well-incorporated and completely melted.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Remove the mixture from the heat.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Calzone Assembly and Baking:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Punch down your dough.  Literally.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Divide it into 10 equal parts, rolled into balls (remember, my recipe is halved, that’s why you only see five).

Tofu Spinach Calzone

On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a 6″ round.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Divide the filling into 10 equal parts and place each portion on a round, slightly to one side.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Wet the edges of the dough with your finger and fold over each round to make a half circle.

Squish down the edges with your finger and crimp with a fork to seal them.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Place the calzones on a baking sheet.  You can brush them with oil and sprinkle them with salt if you like, for a crusty, salty top.  I chose to cook ours on our pizza stone, which I put in the oven when I turned it on. Cut two diagonal slices in the top of each calzone to let the steam escape.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the filling bubbles up through the holes.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Be careful, they’re HOT!