Ingredient In Depth: Pineapple

If ever there was an intimidating fruit, it is the pineapple.  I think a lot of people are lost when it comes to this semi-exotic treat.  I keep hearing how they’re hard to pick, difficult to choose and baffling to use as anything other than an offensive weapon.  Fear not gentle traveler, there are answers to be found and paths we can take to greater pineapple understanding.  Anything here can be done with canned pineapple, but fresh is far better. Continue reading

Let’s Make it (My Way): Locals Restaurant

Locals Restaurant in Courtnay is one of the best places I have dined.  Even on my last visit, when I went in with a highly critical eye, the whole experience was damn near flawless.  So let me get this out of the way right now.  The title of this piece refers to my plan to recreate one of the desserts from Locals with a mind towards my style and preferences.  However, and I can’t stress this enough, Locals does everything well, in fact I will do a quick review of the whole place first so as to make it clear that my intentions are to neither bash their desserts nor claim that I could do better than their own patisserie. Rather I wish to put my own spin on a dessert that I truly enjoyed.  Think of it as a loving homage. Continue reading

Cookies With Your Breakfast?

How many folk, do you think, made a new years resolution to eat better?  And how many of them do you think have thus far failed to do anything about it?  Most would be my guess.  So, for the sole purpose of teasing these poor saps, let’s introduce a perfect accompaniment to our morning coffee.  Now me, I have always enjoyed dipping cookies in my coffee regardless of the time of day.  What?  I’m an adult, I can have cookies when I want.  There is a cookie that is particularly well suited to this exact purpose.  The Biscotti.

I once heard it joked that “biscotti” is Italian for “stale cookie” and in all honesty that’s not far off from the truth.  Biscotti are baked twice, the second time at a lower temperature for the purpose of drying them out which, in a sense, makes them stale.  Fortunately they are all the more delicious for it.

IngredientsDSCF1234

400g All Purpose Flour
150g Sugar
15g Baking Powder
3 Eggs
100g Sliced Almonds
120g Canola Oil

Method

Mix all the ingredients together until a dense dough forms.  Roll said dough into a log and flatten somewhat.  Bake at 350° for half an hour then allow to cool.  Slice about 3/4 of an inch thick, lay on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake again at 300° for ten minutes, flip the biscotti and bake for another ten minutes.

So enjoy your breakfast cookies.  Just don’t tell your mother I gave you permission.DSCF1251

Le Pain by Numbers

Home bakers are more than common.  There is after all a reason why every house I have ever been in has an oven.  The lucky ones even have two.  Nevertheless a person can go their whole lives making chocolate chip cookies out of a package and never know the divine pleasure of home baked bread.  To this end I thought I provide a step by step guide to making almost every kind of bread.  First know that truly excellent bread is not easy.  Secondly, it is of the utmost importance that this doesn’t discourage you.  Though it can take a while to develop a feel for bread and its dough, the journey is more than worth the time and energy required.  Please keep in mind that the difference between mediocre bread and excellent bread is the experience of the baker.  So, without any more ado, great and simple hamburger buns in 7 simple steps. Continue reading

My Best Baking Books, a Top Ten List

I think a lot of people tend to get a little lost when it comes to recipe books.  It’s entirely understandable too.  There is a whole lot out there and so much of it is crap.  I’ve been asked a couple of times for some recommendations so here they are, my top ten favourite books on baking that are currently in my library: Continue reading

A Pastry Mandala

Tibetan Buddhism is a fascinating philosophy.  Truly, it’s a subject worth looking into if you’re not already familiar with it.  An area of particular interest to me in any philosophy is that of its meditation practices and there are some neat ones to be found in Tibetan Buddhism.  The Sand Mandala is one such practice.  A sand mandala is an elaborate sand painting that is ritualistically created and then destroyed.  There is a host of tradition in how they are made and taken apart afterwards and it’s so fascinating to me that such an elaborate work is made for the purposes of destroying. Continue reading

Great Brownies that Just Happen to be Gluten Free

Gluten free is a popular form of baking.  Gluten itself has a lot of stigma attached to it, and while some people are certainly sensitive or allergic, I feel this is undeserved in most cases.  But there’s not much can be done about that, so let’s hop on the bandwagon, shall we? Continue reading

A Sourdough Safari

Day 0

Bread has been around for a long time and yeast has ever been an important part of bread making.  Time was, if a baker wanted to buy yeast then he had to get it from the local brewer as it is only quite recently that yeast has become available commercially.  Most makers of bread chose instead to capture their own wild yeast, a practice that is less common today.  So it is in the spirit of tradition and adventure that I intend to embark on a grand safari to go forth and capture wild yeast and its companion bacteria lactobacillus to make my own sourdough starter. Continue reading

Sharing My Toys

A part of why I enjoy baking and swordplay both, is the potential for collecting.  There are always new things to play with and a learning experience to be had with every new tool.  When it comes to baking, I divide these tools into two categories: those that make production go faster, and those that make the finished product prettier.  Sometimes it can be both, and occasionally a piece of equipment can be an essential tool.  Essentials are fairly limited, though.  All you really need to bake (besides an oven) are bowls, spoons and some method of measuring. Continue reading

A Ciabatta Challenge

I enjoy a challenge almost as much as I enjoy bread.  To this end I decided to try myself with a bread based challenge.  Ciabatta is Italy’s answer to the French baguette and both are among my favourite breads.  I have spend a lot of time trying for the worlds best baguette, and although I may never achieve the perfection I seek, I am satisfied that it is at least very good.  Ciabatta, however, I have never tried.  In fact I don’t even have a recipe on hand.  I don’t know if I’ve even properly seen a recipe, so it could be said I have no clue as to how to make it.  Bread is complex enough that simply trying a new recipe for the first tome could be considered a challenge, but I feel like taking it a step further.  I’m going to try to recreate ciabatta from scratch, without consulting any recipes, based on my own bread knowledge alone. Continue reading