Sunday, November 16, 2008


I've decided to move over to wordpress. I like the simplicity of the user interface and many of the features. I have hummed and hawwed about it, but instead of updating two sites, I will focus on the other one. So if anyone is following along in my culinary adventures I can now be found here.

:) bakergirl

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

daring baker's challenge: pizza dough

For someone who likes to bake, yeast scares me. I never seem to have dough that has the right elasticity, texture and overall correct feel. With this month's Daring Baker's Challenge I was apprehensive. We love pizza, however I cheat, I get it at the bakery a block over. For $1.25 a pound, how could you go wrong?

I've attempted pizza dough before but it was always too ... heavy?
This recipe recalled 5-7 minutes of kneading, and the overall recipe used a stand mixer with a dough hook. In the world's smallest kitchen there is no space for a stand mixer, so instead of kneading by hand, I decided to head out to my mom's for a visit, with the side benefit of using her's. I don't know if it was the recipe, the mixer or cooking in my mom's kitchen, the dough turned out! I loved the texture, finally, the dough felt right! And one day when I leave the tiny kitchens of downtown apartments, I too will make this dough again, when there is space for a kitchen mixer, or perhaps if I head out for another visit :).

The Pizza dough challenge, hosted by Rosa at Yummy Yum's was lots of fun. Not only were you to make the dough, but a sauce and demonstrate proficiency (eeerrhmm?) in tossing the dough. Dough - check. Sauce - check. Tossing - oops! I tried, I swear I did, but really it was a disaster waiting to happy. The dough was thick in spots, and thin others. I think I was more throwing it up than throwing and spinning around... for lots of delish looking pizzas and some expert tossers check out the Daring Baker's Blog Roll.

One thing I would do differently next time with this dough, is to
cook it on our bbq rather than the pizza stone. The bbq gives it more of a smokey and crispy end result than the pizza stone which bakes it more... not sure if that makes sense! The pizza below is topped with a simple spicy tomato sauce, hot Italian sausage, caramelized onions and oyster mushrooms and sesame seeds.

Basic Pizza Dough Ingredients
Makes 4 large pizza crusts

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp salt

1 Tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tbsp sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
Directions: Day One
  1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
  2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.
  3. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. (If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
  4. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C
  5. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
  6. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
    Tip: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
  7. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
    Tip: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
  8. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
  9. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
    Tip:You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.
Directions: Day Two
  1. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator.
  2. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour.
  3. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter.
  4. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
  5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
    Tip: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
  6. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal.
  7. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
    Tip: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.
  8. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.
  9. After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.
  10. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.
  11. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
Original recipe taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

mushroom risotto

As part of our fall feast on Saturday night I made mushroom risotto. Two winters ago I was a great lover of risotto, easily I made it once a week. I think Pete was a little risotto'ed out! However when we saw the lovely lobster and oyster mushrooms at the farmer's market, I knew that it would be a risotto night! This is a basic risotto, nothing to spectacular about it, but so yummy and filling. Topped with asiago cheese instead of parmigiano reggiano, it is a slightly different flavour. My favourite thing about risotto is that you can be super creative with it. So get out there and get mix match and enjoy a hearty dinner!

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp
3 cups assorted mushrooms roughly chopped
2 shallots, finely minced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup cooking sherry
4 cups veggie stock (approx)
1/3 cup grated asiago cheese
chopped garlic chives to top
  1. In a sauce pan, heat up veggie stock.
  2. Heat half of the olive oil and butter in a non-stick skillet. Add chopped mushrooms and allow to cook the water out.
  3. With a slotted spoon remove the mushrooms from the pan. Drain the "juices" to a bowl on the side.
  4. Heat up remainder of olive oil and butter, over med heat sautee onions until translucent - 8-10 minutes. Add garlic.
  5. Just before garlic and onion brown, add rice. Toast for about 90 seconds.
  6. Add cooking sherry. Stir and allow to be absorbed.
  7. Add mushroom juices that you had reserved, stir and allow to cook out for about 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add 1/3 cup stock, stir, allow to absorb, stir occasionally - I don't find you need to stir risotto constantly if you are using a non-stick pan. Repeat this step until the risotto is al dente.
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Take almost all of the sauteed mushrooms (reserve enough to top the plated risotto) and add to the pan. Stir in the grated cheese (again reserving some for topping), stir and cover. Let sit for 3 minutes.
  11. Dish onto plates, top with reserved mushrooms, cheese and chives.
  12. Optional - drizzle with a little olive oil.
Serves 2

Saturday, October 25, 2008

last harvest: carrot apple soup

I was not looking forward to today. You see, it marked the last day of the farmer's market that is right around the corner from us. It couldn't be more than a 3 minute walk. I know there is the winter farmer's market on alternating weekends. But (insert whining voice) I would have to drive there...and I never seem to make it, let alone remember.

Our community garden plot is along the same the same road as the farmer's market. So off we went this morning, coffee's in hand, a happy puppy by our sides and a beautiful fall day awaiting us; I figured we would not only shop, but pull the last our carrots from the garden. The carrots have been slow in growing, I almost wonder if I planted some sort of dwarf carrot variation by mistake earlier on this summer. Regardless, they may be small, but they were plentiful and very tasty. I've been giving "bouquet's of carrots" when we have been visiting friends - maybe that is weird?!

At the market we saw the beautiful colours of autumn. Deep oranges, brilliant yellows, reds, and deep greens. After we harvested our 7 lbs of baby sized carrots (that is a lot of pinky sized carrots, let me tell you!), we picked up a bag full of organic lobster and oyster mushrooms, some fresh and crunchy gala apples and an amazing looking acorn squash. It doesn't sound like a lot, but with a little creativity it turned into a great three course dinner: cream of carrot apple soup, mushroom rissotto, and acorn squash/pear pie (I know, that sounds like such an odd combo).

Tonight's post is the soup. This recipe is totally of my own imagination (or so I thought until I googled carrot apple soup!), and as I was cooking I was just opening the fridge/cupboards trying to figure out what should go in it, the result was surprisingly tasty and rich.

1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 gala apple, peeled and chopped
3 cups chopped carrots
5 cups veggie stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
salt to taste
chives to top

  1. In a dutchoven heat olive oil and butter, over medium heat saute onions for about 10 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add garlic, sugar, and ginger. Stir and allow to caramelize (about 3 more minutes).
  3. Add apple and carrots, soften for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add veggie stock, bring to a medium simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, with an immersion blender, or in batches in your blender, carefully puree soup.
  6. Stir in whipping cream.
  7. Season to taste.
  8. Top with chives.
Next time I would also top with savoury croutons. It would add a nice touch of salt, to juxtapose the sweet of the carrot and apple and a fabulous crunch to compliment something so rich and smooth.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

chicken pot pie

A new food blog has emerged, cute name too: Small Kitchen, Big Ideas. The couple who write this blog, have the right idea...they love food, and they like to create together. In reading their first food post, I smiled at the entry: Chicken Pot Pie.

Chicken pot pie is a quintessential comfort food in my world. I have lots of memories of my mom and I making them together in our kitchen and freezing them for a quick meal from the freezer. We also had the ones out of the box, don't get me wrong, everything wasn't always home made (sorry mom!) but nothing was like homemade.

Given that it has been a stunningly beautiful autumn weekend I knew Sunday night dinner had to be flavours of fall. I gave Pete the choice, lentil soup or chicken pot pie, and considering the title of the post, it's not too hard to figure out what he chose already. Truthfully he chose the most sensible option in terms of what we had the kitchen. We still had half a rotisserie chicken left in the fridge that should be used, so while he was out at field hockey. Into the kitchen to chop and bake I went.

I used mainly things we had around, that is one of the great things about pot pies. I also like double crusted pot pies, so I made the top and the bottom. And while I usually prefer personal sized pies, I thought I would make a full size one for the two of us and use the leftovers for lunch.

This recipe has enough filling for two pies, so I made one. And took a few ramekins filled them and just topped with some of the left over dough, making 3 small personal pot pies. Next time I would just drop the left over into a Tupperware container and through into the freezer; easy filling for next time.

Ingredients for pastry dough

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Ingredients for Filling
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup diced mushrooms
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cube bullion
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup cream
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/3 cup frozen peas
half a leftover rotisserie chicken chopped up (about 3 cups)
Directions for dough
  1. For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.
  2. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Using a pastry knife or two butter knives, cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the fat is the size of peas.
  3. Add the ice water; with a wooden spoon, mix only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together.
  4. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Directions for the filling:
  1. In a large dutch oven heat up olive oil and butter over medium high heat.
  2. Saute onions, and celery for 5-10 minutes. Stir every few minutes to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom of your pot.
  3. Heat up the chicken stock in a medium sized pot, add one cube of bullion.
  4. Blanch the carrots and sweet potatoes in the stock for 3 minutes, remove and set aside.
  5. Add the garlic. And mushrooms and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the flour and cook out the starch for about 2 minutes. Stirring constantly, do not burn.
  7. Add the hot chicken stock. Allow to come to a low simmer for a few minutes as you stir to thicken it.
  8. After 2-3 minutes add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and cream, cook for 1 minute.
  9. Add carrots, sweet potato, corn and peas. Stir until the filling comes to a low simmer. Remove from heat.
Directions for Assembly:
  1. Assemble the pie by rolling out half the dough, filling pie and topping with dough.
  2. Whisk egg, and brush lightly over pie top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Using aluminum foil protect edges of pie.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Remove aluminum foil, return to oven for another 15 minutes. Once crust is golden remove from oven.
  6. Allow to set for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

thai chicken pizza

Pizza is a great quick and easy meal to make, especially on the BBQ. I will admit it, i am the one who cheats and buys ready made pizza dough from our bakery half a block away. For the $1.25 it costs per pound, how could you go wrong?

Things with yeast and I don't seem to work very well. Bread never is as light as it should be, same with homemade pizza dough... that being said, every once in a while I go back and revisit it and try again.

This is going to be a super quick post because I am leaving for Mexico in 3 hours! The only reason this is going up now is because I was trying to clean up my memory card to make lots of space available for pictures. In doing so, I came across this.

(enough for 1 medium sized pizza)
1/2 lb pizza dough
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sesame seeds
1/3 cup peanut satay sauce
3 left over chicken satays cut up into chunks
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup bean sprouts rinsed and dried as much as possible
1 large carrot, grated

  1. Heat BBQ to med/high heat - 400F
  2. Roll out pizza dough with rolling pin, or shape with your hands. I never really care about the shape, I often actually like the rustic square/round shape that results, I like to imagine it is more gourmet!
  3. Brush olive oil onto one side of pizza dough. Place this side down over the hot grill. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes, until there are light grill marks on one side. While this is happening, brush the top side with the remaining olive oil.
  4. Flip pizza dough, have all ingredients on hand.
  5. Apply peanut sauce, scatter the chicken chunks and top with mozza. Sprinkle the sesame seeds around the crust.
  6. Close lid and let cook for about 6-7 min. This will fully cook the crust and melt the cheese.
  7. Remove from heat, place on cutting board, allow to cool down slighly, this would allow for easier cutting.
  8. Top with sprouts and grated carrots. Enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

a day of canning

One of my favourite things about the fall is the ensuing harvest!

Yesterday was our second annual canning extravaganza. A group of my friends come together, everyone bringing bits and pieces for the day and then we mass produce our preserves and split everything at the end. Last year we canned Spicy Pickled Beans, Peaches, Hot Pepper and Garlic Jelly (courtesy of Fiber at 28 cooks) and a variety of jams. Now we loved everything but the jam. Collectively as a group we don't eat enough jam to warrant the volume we created...and truly you can only give away so much!

This year we repeated the pickled beans, and garlic jelly (too late for the peaches in our part of the world) and added garlic dill pickles to our repertoire. The most time consuming part of the day was pealing the garlic. Other than that, we were fairly efficient and were pleased with the results. Special thanks to Brent for playing photographer!

Below are all the recipes we used and the quantities that we used to make enough for 4 couples (no kids!).

Spicy Pickled Beans Ingredients

20 x 500 mL jars
9 lbs Young green beans
20 long, thin red chilies (cut into eighths)
80 large Garlic cloves (4 per jar)
1/4 tsp per jar Peppercorns (white, black, green or a mixture)
1/4 cup loosely-packed fresh dill sprigs per jar
12 + 1/2 cup water (12 ½ cup)
12 + 1/2 cup white vinegar (12 ½ cup)
1 1/4 cup table salt


  1. Trim and strings from the beans. Rinse well and set aside.
  2. Peal and prepare garlic, slice hot peppers (make sure to wear gloves, nasty burns can ensure if you aren't careful!)
  3. Sterilize jars and lids in not quite boiling water. When jars are cool enough to handle, fill each upright with beans until they are snug. Insert chilies and garlic cloves (preferably around outside so they can be seen). Divide peppercorns and dill among jars.
  4. Separately bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil in a non-reactive sauce pan. Ladle the hot brine over the beans leaving about 1/2-inch head space.
  5. Wipe jar edge clean and screw on sterilized lid and band according to manufacturers instructions.
  6. Process in a boiling water bath for 12 minutes (no more, or you get soggy beans!). Remove and allow to cool completely at room temperature away from drafts.
  7. Check lids to make sure proper seal has been attained.
  8. Store for at least six weeks before using to allow flavours to develop. - YUM - so good with Caesars or just on their own.

Hot Pepper and Garlic Jelly
30 x 250 mL jars

6 red bell peppers, minced
4 cups fresh mix hot peppers, chopped
2 cups minced garlic
6 cups white vinegar
24 cups sugar - I know that is so much!
8 tsp cracked black pepper
4-5 pkt liquid Certo (4 for a more liquidy jelly and 5 for a little more strength to it)


  1. Place all ingredients in large saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring often - watch though, because once this comes to a boil, it is a little temperamental.
  2. Boil for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and add Certo. Stir well.
  3. Pour into sterilized jars and cover with prepared lids to seal (specific canning instructions are below)

*The easiest way to can is this - wash and dry canning jars thoroughly. Place lids and rings in a pot of barely simmering water. Once jelly is ready, fill a jar, leaving about a 1/4" headspace. With tongs, remove lid and ring from water, place on jar, and tighten, although not all the way. Turn jar upside down on a dishtowel. Repeat with remaining jars. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn upright and allow to seal. Tighten rings on all jars. If any of the jars don't seal, simply store in the refrigerator once cool. The other jars can be stored in a pantry for 8 months to a year, if it lasts that long.

A special thank you to Fiber for this great recipe. It is amazing with crackers and cheeses, mixed in cream cheese as a dip, my mom even uses it with sausage rolls. I imagine spring rolls would be nice with it too!

Garlic Dill Pickles
28 x 1 L jars

30 lbs fresh pickling baby cukes
13 1/2 cups vinegar
45 cups (11 Litres + 1 cup) water
3 3/8 cups pickling salt
10 Bunches of dill
Bowl of peppercorns (1/4 tsp per jar)
140 peeled whole garlic cloves


  1. Sterilize canning jars in a hot oven.
  2. Scrub cucumbers in cold water until clean.
  3. Bring a large vat of water, enough to cover all the cucumbers, to a boil.(I think we used about 30 Liters to cover up the cukes in the sink).
  4. Pour boiled water over cucumbers in a well cleaned and rinsed sink and let sit for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile peel garlic, set aside peppercorns, clean and separate out dill bunches.
  6. In another pot add vinegar, water, salt to a boil - DO NOT over boil or salty pickles will be had by all
  7. Pull hot jars from oven and to each jar add a handful of dill (or more if you like dilly-ious pickles),5 cloves garlic, and peppercorns.
  8. Tightly pack jars with hot pickles - this turned into a race for us and was lots of fun to see which way worked best!
  9. Fill each jar with hot/boiling brine (~2 cups per jar), leaving 1/2" headspace.
  10. Adjust lids/rings and seal tightly - no processing needed.

A big thank you to my good friend, Tlell for this recipe she has shared. She and her mom make these pickles and as a receiver of such a nice treat, I must be sure to pass along credit where credit is due!