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

Cold Comforts: Cinnamon Buns

The weather grows ever colder.  Comfort food is the order of the day.  It’s a natural desire, really, instinct, even, to want rich, filling foods.  As the Starks are known to declare, winter is coming and that means cinnamon buns.  I may have added the last bit myself.  Our culture is waging something of a war on calories and around this time the calories seem to be winning.  Many people blame the holidays, but I personally think that feasting is not the cause of this but a symptom of the season.  As the weather turns our bodies tell us to pack on a few extra pounds for survival purposes.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it isn’t taken to extremes. Continue reading

Piefecta

I like pie.  Who doesn’t, really?  Although I have briefly talked about it before, I think it’s time for a more in depth look at my favourite pastry creation.  There is of course the traditional 3-2-1 pie dough, but we’re going to make it just a little better.  Rather than the odd 66% butter we’ll increase it to 70%.  Water we’ll do at 30% and salt, as always, 2%.  Let’s go with the following measurements for our Pie Dough. Continue reading

Pudding in the Rain

It is a dark and stormy night.  A night for chocolate.  There’s really only one thing that will do it right now.  Something that is guaranteed to knock out any kind of craving you may have.  The trick with chocolate is to know what your getting into.  Chocolate is a lot like coffee.  It’s a bean, it gets roasted and most people like to add a bunch of sugar and milk to it.  It’s an acquired taste, but with good coffee you are best off drinking it black.  Just so with good chocolate.  If it’s good quality and prepared well, pure chocolate is a transcendental experience.  If you can get the good stuff, use it.  If not, then use what you can get.  It will probably end up being the “Starbucks” of chocolate; mediocre quality and the beans will be slightly burned, but so long as you’re adding it to a recipe it wont matter too much.  Most grocery stores have a selection of “Baker’s Chocolate,” which gets the job done, so let’s take a look see. 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

A Thanksgiving Twist

It was Thanksgiving last weekend here in the Great White North.  Tradition normally dictates turkey, but personally I prefer to roast duck for the holidays.  So that was the plan and while shopping for dinner I came across a sale on prickly pears.  As I was peckish I grabbed one for a snack.  Cutting into it I was immediately struck by the gorgeous colour.  It’s been a while since I’ve had prickly pear and had all but forgotten what it’s like. Continue reading

Greeting Fall: A Five Minute Dessert

Fall is here.  As much as I may wish to deny it, there’s no way I can.  So let’s ring in the fall with dessert.  I’m a fan of single serving desserts and this one per person apple crumble takes all of five minutes to put together.  Take an apple and core it.  Cut the very top on the apple off and use the corer to cut a piece out of the top to plug the bottom.  Next mix some brown sugar, butter, oats and a bit of cinnamon together in a bowl.  Stuff the cored apple with your filling and pack it on the top to create a crust.  Wrap the bottom of the apple in foil with the shiny side (and this is important) facing either in or out.  Bake at 400° for about half an hour or until the apple is soft.  Cheers.

The Zen of Baking Or The Art of Bread

Many cooks don’t like baking.  I am inclined to go so far as to say most don’t.  When questioned most of the cooks and chefs who can’t stand to bake quote a lack of patience.  Baking does indeed require patience.  Personally I find it to be a form of meditation.  Nothing more so than bread.  All bread takes time and the best bread tends to take the most time.  My personal favourite is a French recipe that takes several days.  Appropriately we begin with the starter. Continue reading