Easy Spicy Focaccia with Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Paul Hollywood’s focaccia recipe is a winner.

Focaccia bread make the best sandwiches. They’re so springy and full of lovely pockets of air just begging to soak up all of the flavours. Imagine filling these fluffy Italian breads with roasted veggies and pesto OR grilled meats or salami and cheese, like mozarella and provolone. The possibilities! If sandwiches aren’t your thing, they’re just as good for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar OR eaten with a big, hearty bowl of soup.

Now, this focaccia that I made…it’s quite spicy. My whole body broke into sweats while eating it.  If you can’t take the heat replace the scotch bonnet peppers with something milder! OR not.

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Scotch Bonnet Focaccia 

From Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia recipe  on BBC Food 

Ingredients

Bread
500g/1lb 2oz/3-4 cups of strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast OR 30 g of fresh yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml/14fl oz/1 1/2 – 2 cups of cold water

Topping
olive oil, for drizzling
fine sea salt
1 scotch bonnet pepper, julienned and seeds removed

Preparation

Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. (If using fresh yeast dissolve the yeast in water first.) Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.

Rub some oil on your hands and stretch the dough in the bowl by tucking the sides into the centre. Turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line a deep baking dish (I used a 9 x 9-inch tray) with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten it a bit, careful not to pop the air bubbles. Sprinkle the peppers on top then leave to proof for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Dimple the top of the dough with your fingers, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done by tapping the bottom of the bread and hear a hollow sound. Once cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.

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Bon appetit!

Toronto Eats: Kub Khao

The opening of Kub Khao Thai Eatery in Scarborough is a game changer. Before this, good Thai food used to be something we had to schlep to the downtown core for, all while suffering through interminably long subway rides, incessant track work delays or slow-moving streetcars. But not anymore! Now we get to contend with the bus system!

Presently, Kub Khao is in a plaza at Birchmount and Sheppard with a striking view of the gas station. Scenery aside, this little restaurant and take out spot, promising lemongrass-scented coconut curries, caramelized grilled meats (the kind with the burnt crispy edges–yum!), pad thai and noodles, warm soups (khao soi, tom yum) and all sorts of heavenly goodies (fried chicken, curry puffs, chicken toast, etc), has so much variety on the menu that it’s almost impossible to settle on just one thing. This means repeated visits will be very, very necessary.

Am I already in love with Kub Khao? Yes. Yes, I am.

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Orange Blossom Madeleines

The trick to the madeleine’s characteristic bump is a chilled batter and cold madeleine pan. But bump or no bump, these classic shell-shaped teacakes are dainty and absolutely lovely with tea or coffee.

Back when I was studying in London, there were brief periods of time when all I had for breakfast was a madeleine with coffee. It became part of a daily routine: wake up, make coffee, have madeleine (Bonne Maman brand), check Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, watch an episode of Bob’s Burger or Archer, maybe have a second madeleine, and, finally, get dressed and leave room to join the rest of humanity (sometimes). Student living wasn’t the most glamorous, but the weeks when I did have madeleines on hand, even though they were store bought, just felt a little bit special.

My breakfasts have been more hearty lately. But… I do make madeleines at home now! My lovely Mom gifted me a set of madeleine pans for my birthday back in October, and I’ve made about 12 dozen madeleines since then. I think it’s about time I share them with you!

So, today, I’m sharing Bouchon Bakery’s traditional madeleines. The only tweak I made was to substitute lemon oil with orange blossom water.

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From experience, I find that my madeleines rise much better when the batter has had a long time to chill in the fridge. Freezing the madeleine pans also helps. I’m not exactly sure of the science behind this, but it does have something to do with the interaction of the cold batter and heat from the oven.

Bouchon Bakery's Traditional Madeleines

  • Servings: 12 madeleines
  • Print

From Sebastien Rouxel’s and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book.

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Ingredients

All-purpose flour – 68 grams | 1/4 cup + 3 1/2 tablespoons
Baking powder – 2.2 grams | 1/2 teaspoon
Salt – 0.6 gram | 1/4 teaspoon
Eggs – 83 grams | 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon  (about 2-3 large eggs, room temperature, beaten)
Granulated sugar – 55 grams | 1/4 cup + 1 1/4 teaspoons
Unsalted butter, room temperature – 66 grams | 2/3 ounces
Dark brown sugar – 9 grams | 2 teaspoons
Honey – 9 grams | 1/4 teaspoons
1 to 2 drops lemon oil OR 1 teaspoon of Orange Blossom water

Preparation

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed for about 1 minute. Gently warm the bowl to dissolve the sugar. (I do this by setting up a bain marie, placing the stand mixer bowl on top of a pot of gently boiling water.) Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the bowl back to the stand and mix on high speed for about 4 minutes, until the batter doubles in volume.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, bout 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in half of the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Fold in remaining dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour the warm butter mixture over the batter. Add the lemon oil and/or orange blossom water, and fold until the mixture becomes a smooth batter. Place batter in a covered container and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

While the batter is in the fridge, prepare madeleine pan. Brush the pan with butter and refrigerate or freeze to harden the butter. When ready to bake, remove the pan from the fridge and dust with flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon the batter into the molds (1 tablespoon each). Tap the bottom of the pan against table to smooth the top of the batter.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes in convection oven, 8 to 9 minutes in standard oven, until the tops are lightly browned and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Immediate unmound the madeleine and cool on a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

 

Green Smoothie with Spinach, Avocado and Matcha

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A thick and rich green smoothie for days when you think your stomach needs a break. I tend to like my smoothies on the thicker side and often end up eating it with a spoon. Adjust accordingly.

Green Smoothie with Avocado and Matcha Tea 

1/2 avocado
2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
1-2 handful of baby spinach
1 kiwi
1/4 cup plain or vanilla yoghurt
1 cup of milk (dairy, soy or nut milk)
Juice of half a 1/2 lime

Blitz and blend all the ingredients. Add more milk if too thick.

Easy Homemade English Muffins

Making English muffins from scratch is much easier than you think. You don’t even need an oven. There are plenty of recipes out there that look promising (each with different dough consistency, method, fermentation time, etc…), including one I’ve bookmarked in my favourite bread making book (Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley), but today I present a relatively fast and simple recipe adapted from beautiful French blogger extraordinaire,  Mimi Thorisson.

These muffins can be made within an hour and half. (That’s a good thing to know, especially on days when you wake up craving a certain breakfast sandwich from a certain fast food chain.)

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Because the rise time is so short, the muffins won’t have time to develop much flavour. (Longer rise time = more flavour.) Buttermilk, which adds a bit of a tang, will help give it some depth. But don’t worry if you don’t have any, water works just fine.

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Another great thing about this recipe is that you won’t need those English muffins molds. The dough is firm and can be rolled and cut (or shaped by hand), then pan fried. The muffins will puff up once they hit the pan. If you prefer thinner muffins, lightly press them down. (Also, if your muffins look misshapen and weird, like mine on the first try, that’s totally fine!)

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Once baked, cut the muffins open and toast. (In our hungry rush to eat, we didn’t even think of toasting the muffins! Shame. Just imagine the photo of the muffin above all brown and toasted.)

Homemade English Muffins

  • Servings: 10-16 English Muffins
  • Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
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Recipe adapted from Mimi Thorisson’s Eggs Benedict post.

Ingredients

300 g  (1 1/4 cup) of lukewarm water or buttermilk
560 g (3 1/2 to 4 cups) of all-purpose flour
10 g of fresh yeast / 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 eggs whites, beaten to soft peaks
1/2 cup of coarse cornmeal

Preparation

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, pour the lukewarm water and/or buttermilk and mix in the yeast. Add in the dry ingredients followed by the egg whites. Mix well until smooth. (If it doesn’t seem like the dough will combine, use your hands to pinch them together.) Once the dough starts to stick together, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until elastic and silky. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean cloth. (To prevent the dough from drying, I sometimes rub a bit of oil over the dough.) Let rise 1 hour in a warm place.

Once risen, roll out the dough and cut out into rounds using a cookie cutter or a glass. Dip the dough in cornmeal and let rest for another 30 minutes.

While the dough is proofing, heat a slightly oiled frying pan or skillet until hot. Reduce to medium high and fry each muffins on the pan for 4 minutes on each side. If it seems like the English Muffins are burning, reduce the temperature.

Croissants 1.4

A minor set back, but it’s nothing the home baker can’t overcome. The croissant journey continues.

These are my airiest batch of croissants yet, but they’re also the ones with the least layers. So, I can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment as I write this post. I sort of knew it wouldn’t turn out well early on, because I could feel nubs of butter all over–the butter block shattered before I even started laminating the dough and I just couldn’t fix it in the end.

Well… The quest for the best homemade croissant continues on. Despite not looking right, they were fluffy and light as a cloud, and in the end, taste and texture matter more than looks. Right? Right?

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Changes from previous batch:

  • I used three different types of flour for the dough: bread flour for the poolish and a 50% pastry flour and 50% all-purpose flour  mix for the croissant dough.
  • Longer proofing time (2 hours).
  • Followed Bakers Journal’s suggestion to leave some space when shaping the croissant for better oven spring.

I’m not sure which of the three changes resulted in the significantly more “open” crumb of the croissants. The dough was easier to handle, but it definitely felt a little bit too soft, softer than my butter block even; I suspect the difference in consistency is what caused my butter to shatter so badly in the first place. I’ll probably decrease the amount of pastry flour next time.

If you have any tips for better croissant making, I’m all ears!

Read about attempt 1, 2, and 3.

Camembert and Cranberry Sauce Sweet Buns

Spring might be in the air, but don’t tell my latest bread experiment that. Yes, cranberry season is long gone, and I felt a bit odd using them without the prospect of turkey dinners and mulled wine, but I couldn’t help reaching for them anyway. So, here they are! Sweet cranberry fig sauce melded with earthy, salty Camembert in whole wheat (pull-apart) buns. (Perfect for sharing.) I made them on Sunday afternoon and ate one while it was still warm and gooey with some strong earl grey.

The inspiration for these came from BBC Good Food’s Festive Brioche Wreath, which looks absolutely outstanding. I wanted a less time-consuming version–brioche dough needs a long, cool rise–and thought about simply adapting my go-to sweet dough recipe for it.

As tasty as these buns were, I think I would love a savoury version even more. Imagine a pull-apart bread with Camembert, caramelized onions and ham/prosciutto. Mmm!

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After making the sweet bun dough, divide into eight to ten pieces.

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Two different methods for the filling: stuff the cheese and cranberry inside OR score the top of bread and insert filling.

Egg wash (obvi!) needed for a glossy finish once it is baked.

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And here’s the bun after it has cooled.

To make:

  • 1 batch of Sweet Bun Dough recipe from my Candied Orange and Cardamom Bread using whole wheat flour for the ferment and regular white bread flour for the rest.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Cranberry Sauce per bun — I used this one here.
  • Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

 

 

Late lunch at Kadbanu

The light at Kadbanu, an Iranian café and kitchen on Dundas West, is a dream. By the time we finished our meal–lovely, hearty stews with some sharp pickles–I was determined that my own kitchen would need to have white and blue tiles. I really can’t get over how bright and fresh the space was. If you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s definitely worth a stop. Have a Persian chai and enjoy.

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Gheymeh – Split peas with beef shanks stewed in tomatoes and dried lime.

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Ghormeh Sabzi – Fresh herb stew with red kidney beans and beef shank.

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771 Dundas St. West | Website

Clafoutis

Clafoutis is a casual and simple dessert from Limousin, south central France.  It’s a rustic dessert, eggy and dense, made of dark cherries baked in a custard. Despite its less than artful appearance, it’s absolutely delicious and so stupendously easy–eggs, flour, milk, sugar, salt, almond extract are combined and the batter then poured over the cherries–that it would be a pity to not give it a try.

The dish’s easiness makes it perfectly suited for a lazy Sunday morning. The cherries can be replaced with any type of fruits! Apricots, apples, plums or berries would be fine substitutes.

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Cherry Clafoutis

Adapted from Recipe Link

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2-3 cups pitted cherries
4 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp almond extact
1/2 cup sugar
Confectioner’s sugar (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 10-inch pie pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the pan.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, eggs, milk, flour, almond extract, and sugar until smooth. Pour the batter over the cherries.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool slightly before dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

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Kale and Chorizo Bread Pudding

The Super Bowl is over and you don’t know what to do with all the garlic bread you made, obviously.

For when you have stale week-old garlic bread in your fridge. Why? Because your family goes all out with party food and you’ve been eating leftovers all week. So, nobody’s been cooking and now it’s the weekend again and all the food is gone–not even any rice left!–BUT there’s garlic bread.  And some kale… Oooh, look, a piece of chorizo. Cheese? Yes, there’s cheese. Do you still have eggs? Yep. Milk? Cream? What are you waiting for?

For sure, this bread pudding is a heavy hitter. No hungry stomachs will be left behind. You’ll feel full for the rest of the afternoon, which is fine, because it’s the weekend (I’m assuming you’ll be making this on Saturday) and you can take a nap and digest it off.

If you have some leafy greens or some slaw, they’ll make a nice addition to the plate.

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Of course, if you don’t have any garlic bread, kale or chorizo, that’s fine. In the original recipe, which comes from Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson uses mushroom, leeks, radicchio and ham for his savoury bread pudding. The recipe is a basic formula that would work with any sort of cooked vegetables and/or meat.

One other note: make sure the egg custard goes as close to the rim of your baking dish or at least covers the top of your bread. I didn’t do that and the exposed top bits were just a tad difficult to chew. So, do as I say, not as I do.

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Kale and Chorizo Bread Pudding

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour maximum
  • Print

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Recipe adapted from Tartine Bread

You can also assemble the dish a day ahead and store it in the fridge, letting it come to room temperature before baking.

Savoury Bread Pudding
3 slices of leftover garlic bread…or any stale crusty bread, torn into large chunks
Handful of kale, stems removed and leaf roughly chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup chorizo, cubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil

For Custard
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup of sharp cheese, grated
Herbs of choice (fresh or dried thyme, sage or oregano should do)

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, pan fry the chorizo until crispy. Add in the kale, season and cook until tender. Set aside and let cool down.

In a bowl, whisk eggs and salt until well blended. Add milk, cream, herbs, half of the cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Place the bread, chorizo and kale in a large souffle dish or any suitable oven-proof dish (1-quart pyrex casserole dish). Pour in the custard so that it comes all the way to the rim, stir once or twice to get an even mix of everything. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Let stand for 8 to 10 until the custard saturates the bread.

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Bake until the custard is no longer runny in the center, about 35 to 50 minutes. Let the pudding rest for 15 minutes before serving.