Monday, May 22, 2017

Baking Notes - Biscotti

Whoo boy. I've made biscotti before to much fan fare and delight as it is a favourite accompaniment to our afternoon coffee, but do you think I could find the recipe again? The favourite, simple recipe? No. Hubs and I moved recently and not having secured the recipe to my laptop recipe file, it got lost in the fray. So, after much searching and tearing through both my physical and digital recipes I finally found the link that took me to this cooking website from which it comes. I couldn't be more happy! I made a batch, copied the recipe to my file and bookmarked the site so now I will never be biscotti-less again.

If you haven't made biscotti before, this is what the half-way mark looks like. It's basically a baked loaf of shortbread that is cooled and then thickly sliced and baked again . . . 

 . . . until toasty golden brown. Once these are cooled on a rack they can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of weeks, unless of course they all get eaten.

This particular recipe and batch is cranberry orange, but there are so many things you could add to the base butter/sugar/flour recipe to customize and flavour any combination you want. I was thinking to add some ground almonds and maybe some other diced dried fruit, mango anyone? Or how about rum soaked raisins? Stay tuned.

I tried this same recipe also with spelt flour and although it tastes okay, it is a little more crumbly. Spelt doesn't have the same binding ability that wheat flour has, so if your okay with biscotti chunks, then go ahead and use spelt flour. It also didn't help that I took the loaf out of the oven too soon. The recipe says 'bake for 20-25 min, but I found that 30-35min worked best.

Spelt flour biscotti with dried cranberries and orange zest.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Baking Notes

The kitchen's been pretty quiet these days as I have been busy with other things, but I am happy to report the successful freezing of the lemon berry loaf! The last time I baked I took advantage of the hot oven to bake some extra loaves with idea that I could freeze them for snack emergencies later. I'm always a little skeptical of freezing bread, I guess I shouldn't be because it's really no big deal. If bread is fresh and sealed well it keeps for weeks. There is some debate in my house about pre-slicing a loaf; I like to do it for convenience sake, especially when it's going into the freezer so it's easier to grab and toast. Hubs, on the other hand, likes to keep it whole and only slice as needed, says it gets stale too quickly otherwise. The jury is still out on that one.

It's raining today, though, and I have some down time, so I might just head to the kitchen and throw together some biscotti. I had lost my reliable and oh-so simple recipe the last time I tried so it's been a while. But now that it is back in my possession, I will give it a shot and maybe try a spelt version for hubs. Here we go.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Reading Window
The Artist's Sister, Bertha.
by Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Baking Notes - Lemon Loaf with Blueberries and Olive Oil

Well, here it is. One of my favourite tea cake recipes altered to use olive oil instead of butter. Butter is so good in so many sweet, baked things, like pound cake and short bread, but what if you want something lighter? And maybe with more of a tangy, earthy quality? I hesitate to use the word 'earthy' because that's not quite right, but olive oil has a flavour that I can't quite put a word to... 'green' perhaps? 'mediterranean'? I don't know, but it's so uniquely delicious, I thought it might just work in something sweet with lemon and berries. I am quite delighted with how this turned out.

Olive Oil Lemon Berry Loaf Cake

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I used spelt) 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large egg
2-3 tsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups mixed raspberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen
coarse sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or lightly grease and flour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, olive oil, egg, lemon zest and vanilla extract until smooth and well-combined. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Quickly and carefully fold in berries. Pour batter into prepared pan and top generously with 1-2 tbsp coarse sugar.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Allow loaf to cool in the pan completely before removing it and slicing it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Life Notes - Olive Oil

I have discovered a miracle right there in my kitchen cupboard. May I introduce olive oil? It's so odd how we make connections that finally result in one of those lightbulb moments that have us slapping our foreheads in recognition. Why do they take so long to click, I have no clue. Anyway, there it is.

Let me explain:

Years ago when my children were babies, they had cradle cap, a sort of baby dandruff. As with a lot of infants, the top of their scalps were scaly and flakey and there didn't seem to be any relief in sight; I wasn't about to use any adult medicated shampoos and there didn't seem to be any baby dandruff shampoos either. And this being the early 90s there was no Dr. Google yet, so the usual resources were my parenting books and my paediatrician. And what did they suggest? to massage olive oil on the effected scalp area. I was a little sceptical but I did it anyway as it seemed harmless enough. Somehow the thought of using a food on your body instead of in it was off-putting. Ugh. I don't know, but olive oil has always been a salad dressing ingredient in my world, and the connection I made with that is the sticky bottle always needing to be wiped or washed to keep it clean. Without stopping to make the distinction between an inert glass bottle and live skin, I dismissed the remedy as some kind of weird voodoo and that there would obviously be the added burden of residue on the skin. Except there wasn't. A few days of this treatment and their scalps were as smooth and lovely as a baby's head ought to be. Huh. Well. It worked. We got on with our lives and my babies grew into healthy active kids and now into healthy, active and productive members of adult society. Their bothersome skin afflictions never returned and never crossed my mind again until this year when I, a newly hatched member of the middle aged 50 something cohort, started having skin issues of my own. Well not 'started' exactly, but became more pronounced. I've always had dry, sensitive skin so I am familiar with commercial moisturizers; I've tried them all, increasingly relying on the most natural kinds. Body Shop is my personal favourite, especially their Aloe Vera line of moisturizers for my face. I'm not plugging a brand here, it's just what works for me. But in recent months, the skin on my face has been particularly sensitive to any kind of stimulation, and don't even get me started about the outside elements. So, one day this past winter, after an exceptionally cold and windy day, I had skin that was painfully dry and flaky. I was so distraught because I knew that anything I rubbed into my skin would just add to the stimulation and send it reeling. But wait. Wasn't there something about olive oil that was supposed to be great for this kind of thing on babies? Flaky skin? Gentle? How this connection eluded me for so long is baffling. I really should have been hip to this remedy ever since I saw the results on my babies' heads all those years ago. And yet here I am.


I Googled olive oil for skin and lo and behold was swamped with results because apparently olive oil as a skin remedy has been a thing since biblical times. Well. After that fateful winter day when I had reached my tolerance for dry, irritated skin, I have a bottle ready at my bathroom sink for daily face and body moisturizing. It goes on light as a feather and absorbs happily into my skin leaving it smooth and soft and, well, happy. Why is this not mainstream? I don't get it. It's also a great makeup remover and cleanser. What a miracle.

I'm also working on some unconventional recipes with olive oil in my kitchen. Blueberry lemon loaf with olive oil anyone? Here's a hint: it's yummy.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Detail from an early 20th Century book cover design - Blackie & Son Ltd c1910