Christmas came a little early this year when the chefs from the restaurant Bar Tartine of San Fransisco released their first cookbook. Bar Tartine is the culinary sibling to the famous bread mecca Tartine Bakery where their techniques and flavour combinations have been revolutionizing bakers and diners with incredible pastries, sourdoughs, and whole grains.
Bar Tartine Techniques & Recipes by chefs, Cortney Burns and Nicolaus Balla, is what they call a snapshot into a three year period in the restaurant. Both chefs are heavily influenced by their family heritages, culinary experiences, travels, and by the local, seasonal foods. Along with Tartine founder and photographer in this latest book, Chad Robertson, the chefs take us into the panty, larder, and kitchen where just about everything they use is made in-house.
As soon as I flipped through the first few pages of this book I could hear it speak to me - all from scratch, seasonal, preserves and ferments, real food, beautiful.
What's a unemployed girl to do when she is starving without a culinary home? She sells off unneeded treasures to thrifty bargain hunters, purchases a former jewelery cabinet from a second-hand store, and calls the manager at the community complex to ask about "fridge space".
The sun (finally) broke through the snow clouds in April and the between the combination of boredom, excitement, frustration, and confidence, I've been doing my best to shake off the under-employed-cabin-fever-blues that sucked away much of my motivation over the past 4 months.
Caster wheels sourced, chrome polished, doors painted - twice. Lawns raked, rubber stamps designed, bread baked - and burnt. Spreadsheets for costing input, tables stained, succulents repotted, bread baked - and devoured. Applications mailed, cheques signed, furniture moved, pantry restocked, croissants baked - and my pants don't fit. My apron strings are long, thank goodness. Need a bubbling drink dispenser? Two years later I finally fixed it. Wanna buy it?
All this is to say - it's the beginning of another localicious season at markets and farms and I am super-motivated. Beginning this weekend, I'm taking my show on the road throughout the county to sell my baked goods & preserves.
First stop: Diva's and Dude's Day Out. Held at the Saxonia Hall in Aylmer on May 3, this show is open from 10-2 with over 40 vendors. Croissants, brioche cinnamon buns, 5 different sourdough breads, whole grain seeded crisps, berry & cream cookies, salted rye brownies, Kamut & walnut jam cookies, and good ol' fashioned tender, flaky pecan buttertarts are all on the menu.
The following week, May 10, Mother's Day weekend, is the opening day of the 2014 season at the Horton Farmers' Market in St. Thomas. You will find me there each and every Saturday morning from 8-noon smiling and sipping coffee (probably cold because I talk so much) until the fall. I look forward to seeing both familiar faces and tempting new ones with my siren pastries.
In case you need reminding - my mission is local, quality, and made from scratch. I don't use premade doughs from the grocers freezer, nor do I use margarine. I bake fresh, using as many locally sourced and/or organic products as possible including grains & flours, eggs, honey, cane sugar, jams, dried fruits, spices, herbs, vegetables, and lard.
I'm a chef by trade it's not a hobby, it's a passionate style of life.
My last post was a month ago! Oops. Winter got a hold of me and I'm just now beginning to thaw out.
It hasn't all been icicles and bitterness. Much of the past month has been spent the same way the two previous to it were: baking breads using locally milled whole grain flours and a whole lot of reading. Kamut, spelt, whole wheats, rye, amaranth, corn, porridges, sourdoughs, croissants, English muffins, sourdoughs, flat breads, bricks, and even my most perfect loaf to date. All this baking has thickened my waistline but expanded my bread powers. I'm looking forward to working off the dough and spreading the good word on whole grains with the sun on my shoulders throughout the coming seasons.
We can all use a little inspiration and a reminder that sun will once again bring the bountiful harvests to our gardens, markets, tables, and souls. Spring is just starting, but the next three months after which strawberry season arrives will be here before we know it.
What is Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fettisdagen - they are all the same day recognizing the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter known as Lent. (Easter is 47 days after Shrove Tuesday; Lent lasts the first 40 leading to Palm Sunday.)
During Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday following Shrove Tuesday, many Christian denominations sacrifice foods that give pleasure and take time to reflect on the absolution and confession of sins. Rich or luxurious foods such as meats, sugar, dairy, and eggs are frequently the foods abstained from during Lent, so the day(s) before the Lenten fast are used as a way to consume those foods hanging around the pantry - basically fattening up before the fast and eating as many 'forbidden' foods as possible.
Sunday's mission was to prepare dessert without leaving the house to purchase any extra ingredients. Basically it was clean the pantry & freezer day.
Pastry dough, whipping cream, and frozen bananas are staples in the kitchen, but I surprised myself by having sliced hazelnuts on hand. Whip it all together with the addition of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and it's a dessert worthy of snug waistbands. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
November is a transitioning month: the clock's have fallen back into standard time, the pumpkins have been tossed to the curb (unless you have a compost pile in your backyard where you like to play pumpkin roulette in the summer), and it is absolutely too early to turn on any Christmas lights (do you hear me, Shedden?? It's too early!) even if it does get dark at 5:00 pm.
In the meantime, we keep the furnace off as long as possible, put the lawn furniture away, harvest any green tomatoes brave enough to attempt a shot at turning red on the vine, and we get cozy.
Some of us get hungry, too.
This recipe for Chestnut & Chocolate Semifreddo is available in the Holiday issue of Relish Elgin magazine. You can pick up a copy (or three) at many local establishments or view it online through their website at RelishElgin.ca.
I think I'm an empathetic person. Not like the HONY guy, but I get the feeling that sometimes people share with me things that they don't necessarily share with others. I'm okay with that. Sometimes venting, expressing, just saying the words out loud, seeing them typed on a screen or scribbled on a scrap piece of paper is monumental in sorting out what step we take next. Life can be complicated, things don't always go according to plan - sometimes we just need someone to listen.
I hear you. I understand what you are saying. I can't fix your problem, but I'm listening.
Do you like peaches? Here, have a Liège waffle.
There really are foods that taste so much different from their imported and (most likely) out of season counter parts. Strawberries top my list, but they are closely followed with sweet corn, tomatoes, and asparagus. Plain and simple: imported varieties taste nothing like what they should; full of starchiness, firm and crunchy texture, lack of aromatic qualities, more often than not they are grown for durability rather than taste. I understand desperation in the middle of February, but why would you buy California strawberries when Ontario strawberries grown on Howe's Farm are available just a short bike ride away in the middle of June?
Another case in point - peaches. Ripe, juicy, sweet, tender, will-bruise-at-the-slightest-bump, delicious peaches are just starting to ripen here in Elgin County. There is no doubt the Niagara region can produce a wide variety as well as high quality goods for the country (and the world), but why not eat what's grown close to home? As long as you demand high quality, great taste, friendly service, and the quantities are enough to meet demand, why wouldn't you support your neighbours and enjoy the fruits of their labour?
I would eat this cake for breakfast.
Really, a crêpe is basically a very thin pancake, either sweet or savoury, filled or layered with just about anything you can think of under the Canadian summer sun. If maple syrup flowing over the edges of pillowy soft pancakes is an acceptable start to a lazy Sunday morning, then I'm sticking to my guns (and rationalizing) an entire stack of thin pancakes layered with honey sweetened & vanilla flavoured pastry cream should be just as customary.
Besides, it's the celebratory weekend where it's demanded we show our Canadian pride with anything and everything red, white & delicious. Snowbirds, beaches, farmers' markets, parades, fireworks, bbq's, backyards, beer, and cake!
Mille crêpe is the classical name for this cake as mille means 'thousand'. A bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea of many layers composing the cake. It is quite forgiving to prepare if you need another reason to attempt the recipe besides the stunning presentation.
This crêpe cake can be prepared in stages if it seems overwhelming to complete all at once. Prepare the batter up to a day in advance; prepare the crêpes up to a day in advance; prepare the pastry cream up to 4 days in advance. Assemble the cake up to a day in advance. If you follow along with my work at all, you know I like to share ideas and recipes that can be adapted to whatever seasonal ingredient is available. Could you imagine this cake topped with juicy peaches or blueberries?
Think of granita like an Italian grown-up version of a Sno-cone. Not as smooth as ice cream and not as dense as sorbet, granita can be full of small or large ice crystals in just about any flavour you can imagine. The basic formula for granita is to make a syrup from any fruit and/or liquid, slightly sweeten it to taste, then freeze in a flat pan in the freezer. By using a fork to grate the granita frequently, the ice crystals are constantly broken and re-aligned making a spoonable, frozen treat. After about 3 hours the granita will be frozen completely and can be served or stored in a sealed container for later use.
Granita makes a fantastic palate cleanser during a meal (after the main course but before dessert) or can be the dessert course itself. Serve in paper cones, glass bowls, margarita glasses with a sprig of mint, small cookies, crème fraîche, or even a wee nip of your favourite liqueur.
When you think about the simplicity of the ingredients and equipment required to make granita, it's easy to imagine the unlimited flavour combinations available and vessels to serve it in. Don't have any fresh, local fruit available? Substitute local frozen fruit instead.
Cucumber mint, strawberry balsamic, coffee, orange creamsicle, lemon basil, lavender, almond raspberry, coconut banana...just a few ideas to get you started as the seasons progress.
I had the honour of preparing the hors d'oeuvres for a cocktail reception/appetizer dinner held this past week on the far end of the county at The Arts & Cookery Bank. Unfortunately, I was rather focused on the food preparation instead of snapping pictures and I only have a few shots of the wonderful event.
Located in a heritage 1914 Bank of Montreal and an 1883 timber frame barn on the main street of West Lorne, Ontario, The Arts & Cookery Bank offers up culinary and photographic experiences for all ages and abilities. It really is an inspiring kitchen to work and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have cooked for some like-minded food-lovers and culinary enthusiasts.
The Menu (as much local as possible):
Smoked trout with horseradish cream
Wild leek tarts with Crossroad's cheddar cheese
Deviled quail eggs with preserved lemon
Seared beef tenderloin and Bearnaise sauce
Ale battered asparagus with lemon aioli
Steamed buns with braised pork belly and kimchi
Four-layer coconut cake
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.