Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sourdough Bread - The Queen of the Table

I love talking about bread.  When I took my classes with the great baker, Richard Bertinet in Bath, England, he had the term Bread Bore....yup - we can be boring to many people when talking about bread.... but if you are interested, it is incredibly fascinating!!!!

I love baking it! I love eating it!  Reading about it...etc. etc.  I first started this journey when my brother in law,  Colin, was telling me about his Sunday bread baking.  They didn't and maybe still don't have a bread  bakery in Florenceville, NB, so he baked the bread for the week.  It was beautiful!  In Toronto, we have so many wonderful bakeries and markets, but I thought it would be a great idea to spend Sunday mornings baking bread.  It would be a way for me to slow plans...just make my bread.  It lasted for quite a while but then life got in the way and I stopped doing it as regularly.  I still have my starters bubbling away. I have been privileged to be a tester for one of Peter Reinhart's bread books, taken classes in Paris and Bath and have studied bread  a lot.  I still have sooooo much much to learn.  I would like to take classes in San Francisco and  I daydream about  working in the kitchen of many of them is Tartine Bakery.   

When I saw a Mother's Day workshop in Toronto at Nella Cucina for Sourdough bread, I jumped at it.  Patti, who was giving the class, had the opportunity to bake at Tartine's so I was interested....The only thing missing was my mom....but I know she was with me.... We would have had so much fun...

Because this bread could take 2 or more days to make, some stages were prepared in advance.

We started off with flour, water, salt and a culture I have called "Nella"  of course!

We then mixed the dough....

Ate lunch on some freshly baked bread

let it rise....scored it....

and baked it!.....and voila!

Happy Mother's Day to all those fabulous women or men who are moms!
Moms to your own other's pets... to godchildren....etc. etc.

Have a great day!
Until we bake again

Here is the recipe from the class....

How To Start Your Own Bread Starter:

·        Have a blend of organic whole grain flour and organic unbleached hard white flour.

·        Mix 150g grams of flour to 150g of filtered water.   Let it rest in a cool area for a couple of days. 

·        After a couple of days you should see/smell activity; you should be able to see the Co2 bubbles and it will have doubled in size, if not, wait another day.

·        Once there is life, discard 80% and feed equal parts flour and water. (75g each)

·        Let it rest over night and repeat this process for a few days to get a good starter.  Keep your feedings regular, and make sure to smell and get a feel for the ideal ripeness.

·        Once your starter is strong enough you can either continue feeding with the whole grain and white flour blend, or just strictly use white flour.  

·        If you are not using your starter on a regular basis, you can place it in the fridge for a few months. When you are ready to make bread again, make sure to discard the liquid that forms on the top, and begin replenishing it.  It will require a few feedings, equal parts flour and water, to bring it back

Basic Sourdough Recipe:

350g organic hard white wheat flour
7g salt
262g filtered water
70g leaven

·        Mix flour, water and leaven, rest for 10- 20 minutes
·        After rest period (autolyse) add salt.   Knead dough for 7 minutes, or until dough has a smooth surface. 

Bulk Fermentation:

·        Make sure to turn dough every half hour in the first 2 hours, to help strengthen the glutens and redistribute the temperature of the dough.

·        The following 2 hours, fold each hour.


·        Lightly pre-shape dough into a boule or two smaller boules.  

·        Set aside and cover for 10 – 20 minutes or until the dough feels relaxed.  Use a banneton or line a bowl with a cloth and lightly dust with flour (ideally rice flour, which is less sticky).

·        Shape pre-shaped dough into tight boules.  Try not to tear the surface of the dough but also try to get the most tension without over working the dough.

·        Place dough into the bowl and banneton for a final proof, and refrigerate. 


·        Preheat oven at 500 F.  Place dutch oven or la cloche in oven.  

·        A good test to see if the dough is ready to bake is to lightly press your finger into the dough, if a print stays up to 7 seconds it's ready to bake

·        Once he dough ready turn the boule from the banneton or bowl onto the pre-heated Cloche or dutch oven.

·        Score the dough with fresh, sharp razor (a serrated knife will also work), cover and let bake for 20 minutes.

·        Remove lid and finish baking for 20 min    

·        Once the bread comes out of the oven, let it cool completely first before slicing into it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Waterford Blaa- Happy St. Paddy's Day!

A Waterford blaa is a doughy, white bread bun speciality particularly associated with Waterford, Ireland. It is currently made in Waterford and County Kilkenny and was historically made in Wexford. (Wikipedia). It actually has protected status by the EU...Kind of like Champagne I guess?

And so, I decided to try out this recipe from a great blog I follow - Karen's Kitchen Stories

These buns were easy to make. They are good the same day- tender and fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside - but go stale pretty quickly.

This recipe makes 24
I made them for Leslie's St Paddy's Day Pardy!


900 grams (285 to 300 ml) lukewarm (100 degrees F) water
30 grams (about 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon) instant yeast
30 grams (about 2 1/4 tsp) sugar
1500 grams bread flour (just less than 12 cups) plus more for coating the rolls
20 grams (about 1 3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
30 grams (about 3/4 tablespoon) room temperature unsalted butter


Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast and the sugar.
Mix gentlyAdd the flour, salt, and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk until just combined.
Place the bowl on the mixer and mix with the dough hook for 10 minutes, adding more water early on as needed to achieve a smooth dough. I didn't need to add more....

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Ooops left it tooooo long!!! STOP!!!!

Line 3 x 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan with parchment, and dust it liberally with flour.
Remove the dough from the bowl and deflate it. I first divided it in half then quarters and finally had 24 equal pieces
Form each piece into a ball, and then press each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disk. As you can see, mine didn't flatten so much so don't worry. Place each disk side by side into the pan (2 disks x 4 disks). Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

When the Blaas are ready, liberally dust them with flour, but don't overdo it or you will be eating flour!!. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
Lift the parchment out of the pan and place the Blaas on a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, distribute the flour that is already on the rolls evenly over the tops and brush excess from the bottoms too.
The rolls can be served warm or cooled. Cool completely before storing. You can wrap them in plastic if you are going to store them for the next day.

Remember check out Karen's Kitchen Stories! This recipe was inspired by Comfort and Spice by Niamh Shields

Until we bake again....
Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hostess Cupcakes

Some of you may know that I am a recipe tester with the fabulous blog Leite's Culinaria.  All of the recipes are tested by a variety of people - from home cooks like me to professional chefs.  I love being part of this select group of testers as I have learned a lot from them and they are all so passionate about preparing great me!

One of the recipes I recently tested was Hostess cupcakes- these are the cream filled cakes that were first sold in 1919!  By 2011 Hostess sold over 600 milllion of these a year!   (according to Wikipedia)

You can still have a homemade Hostess Cupcake.  Here is the recipe. ..Homemade Hostess Cupcakes.  Once you arrive on this link you can see some my comments under Testers Choice.  They are actually fun to make.  

Make the cupcakes then
Poke holes in them

See all the holes!

Inject the cream filling

 Dip them in icing

and make the curly cues on top.

I made a bunch for a dinner at our friends Dave and Alexia.  I changed the design to a spiral!  A major design change!  hahaha.

They said they loved them...

They were devoured!

Until we bake again...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Neiman Marcus Scandal - The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie and it's Urban Myth

This is the recipe, except halved, for Neiman Marcus cookies, which was passed around via email for years. The company disputed the story about how a woman paid 250.00 for the recipe she thought was 2.50. She was so angry she emailed it out for everyone to have.   They later went on to make a similar cookie to cash in on the popularity of it!
Here is the link to the story....

This one is nut free and makes about 55-60 cookies. If you have a lot of cookie monsters at home double it, as they fly out of the cookie jar!

2.5 cups rolled oats (measure first then blitz with the blender)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces milk chocolate, grated or finely chopped
optional- sprinkling of maldon salt


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Measure the oats first, then blend them in a food processor or blender to a fine powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the blended oats with all the dry ingredients -  the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips and grated chocolate.
4. Roll the dough into 2-oz balls and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centre still looks undone, about 10 minutes. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets.

5. A sprinkling of maldon salt is loved by my family!

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days (they can also be frozen for up to 2 months).

Until we bake again...


I would love to hear your comments, so please feel free to leave one below!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sinful Cinnamon Buns

Somethings just bring back memories...Cinnamon buns remind me of the time we went to Atlantic City.  My mom, dad and me.  I remember Mr Peanut Man on the boardwalk and how I looked forward to shaking his hand every day.  And then there were the cinnamon buns.  Maybe it was my first experience with buying freshly baked cinnamon buns and also the fact that I was allowed to run to the corner on my own to pick them up.  Probably kids 6 or 7 years old wouldn't be allowed these days... I remember the door man at the hotel calling my name in a very southern drawl  Penna soooooo   (yes my name is really Penny-Sue)  And always bringing him back a cinnamon bun.  He probably didn't realize it was the highlight of my day - and a lasting memory.

Here is a recipe for sinful cinnamon buns...very yummy!  It is from one of my favourite bread baking books The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Six and half tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 1/2 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter - room temperature

One large egg slightly beaten

1 teaspoon lemon extract or 1 teaspoon grated zest of one lemon

3 1/2 cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/4 cups whole milk or butter milk at room temperature

1/2 cup cinnamon sugar 
Cinnamon sugar is 6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar +1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

White Fondant glaze for cinnamon buns
4 cups of powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract 
6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk

1- Cream together the sugar salt and shortening at medium high speed in the mixer with the paddle 
2- Whip in the egg and the lemon extract until smooth. 
3- Then add the flour, yeast and milk. 
4- Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. 
5- Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. 
6- The dough should be about 78° or between 77 and 81°F 
7- Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl rolling it around to coat it with oil.
8- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to ferment at room temperature for approximately two hours or until the double doubles in size.

9- Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. 
10- Line one or more pans with baking parchment. 
10- Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin.  Roll into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick -14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don't roll the dough too thin or  the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump.
11- Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar shaped log creating a cinnamon sugar spiral as you roll.

12-With the seam side down cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces- about one and three-quarter inches thick for larger buns,  or 12 to 16 pinch pieces - each one and a quarter inch thick for smaller buns.

Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so they are not  touching but are  close to one another and leave to rise at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes  (covered) or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. 
You can put them in the refrigerator for up to two days pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to prove.

Preheat the oven to 350 with the oven rack on the middle shelf  and bake cinnamon buns 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool the buns in the pan about 10 minutes.
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons two 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. 
Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick smooth paste. 
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a  whisk into the glaze and waving over the tops.  Then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot.

Remove the buns from the pans and place on a cooling rack.
Wait at least 20 minutes before serving

Don't wait too long.....serve warm.  mmmmmmm sinfully good...

Until we bake again

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mardi Gras - King Cakes

Thinking about all the King Cakes I have has been a while.. you can read about them here - back in 2009.  I think I baked about 10 of them that year...Camera Guy actually helped me with the sparkles and I think we saw sparkles in the house for months after!

So pretty....
Until we bake again

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Ultimate Lemon Meringue Pie...

Lemon Meringue Pie with Mike.  

 Randy, a very good friend of mine said his friend Mike wanted to bake a Lemon Meringue Pie with me.   I personally think this is the most difficult pie to make! 

I sort of felt like the warden in a pie prison!  I know I am very particular when it comes to baking...all ingredients measured and set out (mise en place)  and exact measurements...yes EXACT!!!!  This is not cooking where you can throw in what you want.  Your baking might come out if you substitute helter skelter, but if you want to make sure it does consistently, then you need to suck it up and pay close attention!   And even then you may fail because of humidity, temperature of the air, temperature of your ingredients, temperature of your oven and even temperature of your hands!   This is why I like is a challenge:)  We take basic ingredients and transform them. It is like magic!  
Lemons into Lemon curd; egg whites into a billowy meringue - And then there is the pie crust - a challenge in itself....Mike did great...although I am not sure he will ever bake a pie again..

First is the crust which is something that I'm pretty good at.  I am only saying this because I am very proud that I won for best crust at the Chudleigh Apple Pie contest one year…my claim to fame:) We are making this crust a little different by rolling it out on graham cracker crumbs, which I have never done before.

Second is the lemon filling which we are making from scratch...this is THE BEST!!!! But it can be a little tricky.

And then there is the meringue… oh boy…sometimes I think I have got it down and then it fails on me.  Just a little grease in your bowl that you can’t even see, can get it upset and suddenly you have bubbly foam or just liquid!

So let’s give it a go Mike…and turn these lemons into an absolute incredible Lemon Meringue Pie!

Makes one 9-inch pie


  • The Graham Cracker-Coated Pie Shell

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached AP Flour
  • 1/2  teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 3–4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

  • Lemon Filling

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar at first
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2cups cold water
  • large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Meringue Topping

  • 1tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar
  • 4large egg whites
  • 1/2teaspoon vanilla extract

Starting with the crust. 

  1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. about 4 x 1-second pulses
  2. As you see we use a mixture of shortening (not margarine)  and butter.  Butter adds to the flavour, and shortening, (Crisco)  helps keep it together. 

  3. Start with shortening and toss it in the  flour  ten 1- second pulses.  It should look like a coarse sand or cornmeal.
  4. Scatter very very cold butter pieces on flour  next then cut in with five 1 second pulses. Butter should still be in small pieces…try not to blend it all in. Small pea size butter pieces are what you are trying to get.  

  1. The idea is that when the pie is baking these small pieces will release some steam and this is what adds to the flakiness.  

  2. Turn mixture into medium bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons cold water. 

  1. Using a rubber spatula, fold water into mixture; press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together. If dough will not come together, add up to 1 tablespoon more cold water.
  1. Shape dough into ball, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.  Take it out of the fridge and wait about 10-15 mins to sit so it can be rolled.

America’s Test Kitchen is one of my favourite recipe sites and they rolled out the dough sprinkling graham cracker crumbs on the board…so we will try that!
  1. Generously sprinkle work area with 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs. Place dough on work area. Scatter a few more crumbs over dough.   Roll dough from center to edges, turning it into a 9-inch disk, rotating a quarter turn after each stroke and sprinkling additional crumbs underneath and on top as necessary to coat heavily. Continue to roll to form a 13-inch disk slightly less than 1/8-inch thick.

  2. *****Note- This was the first time I have done this and it was a challenge.  The crust kep tearing.  At first I said I wouldn't do that again but everyone seemed to really like the flavour...

  3. Place dough in 9-inch Pyrex pie pan, letting excess dough drape over pan lip. To fit dough to pan, lift edge of dough with one hand and press dougn in pan bottom with other hand; repeat process around circumferences of pan to ensure dough fits properly and is not stretched. Trim all around…you can use a scissors, 1/2-inch past edge of pan. Tuck 1/2 inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with lip of pan; press to seal.
  4. Crimping your piecrust - I think that for this type of pie a simple fluted edge is nice as the Meringue really is the show stopper!

  5. For some interesting fluting techniques, click here.
  1. Refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes, then move to the freezer for 20 minutes.
  2. Press a doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil into pie shell and add the baking weights.

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, heat oven to 400 degrees until crust is firmly set, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until crust is crisp and rich brown in color, about 15-20 minutes longer.

  2. Next up…the Filling
  3. Mix 3/4 cup of the sugar that is listed in the ingredients, pinch of salt, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup (2-3 lemons) lemon juice in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat.

  4. While that is heating up and coming to a simmer,
  5. Whisk together your 6 egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the rest of the sugar and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Add the 1 tbsp of lemon zest.  

  6. Temper the egg mixture by adding a little of the hot water liquid at a time to the egg mixture (so the eggs don’t become an omelette!!)  This slowly brings the eggs to a good temperature to be able to add them to the water mixture in the pan.  Then over medium heat whisk the egg mixture into the pan. 
  7. It will start to come together …now SMELL IT….YUMMY LEMON!  
  8. Now add the 2 tbsp butter

Now don’t let it cool too much because we want it warm when we add the meringue on top! This keeps it from weeping. Cover with plastic wrap right on the surface in the same pan to keep it hot and prevent skin from forming.. Set aside.

Now Don’t be nervous, it is time for the Meringue!

Mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1/3 cup water in small saucepan; bring to simmer, whisking occasionally at beginning and more frequently as mixture thickens. This mixture will help prevent the meringue from weeping on the bottom and beading on top.
When mixture starts to simmer and turn translucent, remove from heat. It will look like vaseline…ughhh!

Let cool while beating egg whites. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and 1/2 cup of sugar together.
Using whisk, beat 4 egg whites and vanilla together then add this to a VERY clean bowl. Mix until frothy then start adding sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time  (let each dissolve a little) ; until sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks.

Then add cornstarch (vaseline)  mixture, continue to beat meringue to stiff peaks. (stands up on your finger and has structure) 

****Remove plastic from filling and return to very low heat stirring with spatula during last minute or so of beating meringue (to ensure filling is hot).

Fill cooled pie shell.

Now add the meringue by first dolloping around the edge…I don’t know if that is a word, but it is what I mean hahaha.

You want the meringue to attach to the crust on the inside edge.  I have had pies where the meringue just wants to slide right off and escape!!!! 
Keep dolloping all over the top.

Use a spoon to create peaks all over meringue. 

Bake  in preheated 325 degree oven until meringue is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature about 30-45 minutes.....
and the result!

I am a little disappointed in the edge of the crust, so have to practice this new technique with rolling the dough in the graham cracker crumbs...oh well.

I think they liked it...a lot!
Some comments.... " AMAZING pie ...AMAZING meringue and we like the addition of the graham cracker in the crust"

Hope I didn't scare you off baking Mike!

Until we bake again 

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