As I pointed out last month, Christmas cookies and hot cross buns are about the only seasonal things I manage to post about with any punctuality… and seeing as today is Easter Sunday, hot cross buns are most definitely on the menu. This month’s Sourdough Surprises project was sourdough hot cross buns, which I also tackled last year with a chocolate porter version. I decided to go a similar route this time around, adapting a recipe that used hard apple cider to make an overnight sourdough levain. And, because for me, Easter is all about chocolate, I added a generous amount of dark chocolate chunks to the dough.
Some of you may remember that I did a few few guest posts a while back for SeaChange Seafoods, featuring their delicious smoked salmon (my personal favorites include recipes for fettuccine alfredo with smoked salmon, smoked salmon and corn chowder, and smoked salmon and roasted tomato quiche). Over the last six or so months, SeaChange has completely re-launched their brand, which includes all new packaging and a whole new website, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the process as their food stylist on several photoshoots, one of which took place in my dining room!
It’s been a blast working with a professional photographer (John Cameron) and taking cues from a real design company (Carter Hales Design Lab) to try to evoke a certain feeling or story with something as simple as a beautiful piece of smoked salmon, and I feel totally privileged that I’ve been getting paid to do something I love so much. Here are just a few of the images we’ve created so far:
Back in November, I also had the opportunity to cater SeaChange’s re-launch party. I traveled to Salt Spring Island, cooked my butt off all day, and served up a whole bunch of “small bites” featuring smoked salmon to about thirty people (and of course, wildly over-estimated how much food I’d need to make – but it’s better to have too much than not enough when it comes to feeding people, right?). I was so busy all day that the only thing I managed to take a picture of myself was this gigantic veggie platter – but it’s pretty, right?
For the party, I made a few of the dishes that already appear on the SeaChange website (the aforementioned quiche, roast potato canapés with smoked salmon, and smoked salmon devilled eggs), along with a few new ones, including a delicious lemon caper cream cheese you can easily whip up to serve with smoked salmon – a perfect addition to an Easter brunch. I’m sharing the recipe today on SeaChange’s blog, so head on over to read it there. :) (And watch this space for another guest post coming up in mid-June!)
The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.
Nougat is not something I’d ever contemplated making before this month – the only real experience I’ve ever had eating it is inside a Toblerone bar, so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was in for. Nougat is, in our host Rebecca’s words, “an aerated candy made from sugar, honey, egg whites, and nuts”, which can range in texture from “chewy, soft, and tender to hard and brittle”. It’s a mostly European confection (nougat torrone is the Italian kind), although it seems similar to divinity or divinity fudge in the Southern US, and if you’ve ever eaten a Mars or Snickers bar, you’ve had the watered-down industrial production version. When soft and chewy, traditional nougat is sort of like gourmet marshmallow for grown-ups. When hard and brittle, it’s rock-solid enough to break a tooth on but still very satisfying when chiseled into small bits to savor (and it would be so good mixed into chocolate, à la Toblerone!).
I’m not so good with the holiday themed recipes here – the only things I manage to post about with any seasonal timeliness and regularity are Christmas cookies and hot cross buns – so it didn’t even occur to me until a week ago that the Irish soda bread chosen for this month’s Sourdough Surprises coincides with St Patrick’s Day. I know it’s a few days late, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious.
Nothing says comfort food like roast chicken, and although we are finally crawling out of the depths of winter (it felt like this one lasted forever), comfort is still what I’m after. I’ve seen lots of recipes for roast chicken with wine, but I’m more of a beer girl myself so I wanted to experiment with a beer roasted chicken (similar to beer-can chicken, but classier!).
One good thing about winter is the variety of seasonal brews available, often with a slightly spicy character. I used Samuel Adams Winter Lager, which is a hoppy, bock-style beer with notes of orange, cinnamon, and ginger, although any slightly hoppy beer with citrus flavours could be used. (Samuel Adams is available in Canada at the LCBO or The Beer Store in Ontario, BCLDB in British Columbia or Liquor Depot in Alberta. I only wish I’d been able to find this Samuel Adams beer!). To compliment the beer, I smeared a flavoured butter of orange zest, fennel seeds, and chili flakes under the the skin of the chicken, stuffed the cavity with orange and a clove of garlic, and basted it with beer while it roasted. The pan juices, full of flavoured butter and slightly reduced caramelized beer, were turned into a delicious, drunken gravy with a little extra beer and a squeeze of orange juice.
The Salt Spring Island movie theatre opened when I was about ten – I remember because one of the first films shown was the digitally re-mastered, re-released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was probably only the third film I’d ever seen in a theatre. [Edit: Apparently my memory is faulty, because Nate remembers the movie theatre being open waaaaaay earlier, and unfortunately for me, it turns out he's right. It changed hands in the early 1990s so I must be remembering the re-opening, because I swear I never saw any movies there when I was really young...! Anyway, back to the story.] Community hall by day and movie theatre by night, when I was twelve it was also the scene of my very first ever date with a boy (I wasn’t allowed to see Dangerous Minds so we watched Babe), where we sat on folding chairs because only the first few rows were proper theatre seats. Instead of the celebrity gossip and pop culture “entertainment” that precedes movies these days, they would show slide shows featuring community events, and more often than not you’d see yourself or someone you knew on the screen while you waited in line at the concession, which brings me to the best part of the Salt Spring movie theatre: the popcorn. Real popcorn with real butter instead of a coating of yellow “butter flavour”, it only cost a few dollars a bag rather than upwards of $15 for popcorn and a drink. And to season it, instead of dill pickle or cheese flavouring, there were big shakers of nutritional yeast – because on Salt Spring, we eat our popcorn yeasted. And it’s delicious.
Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?
This month’s posting date snuck right up on me so I’ll keep this brief! I was delighted with my friend Sawsan’s challenge this month to make beautiful twisty bread in the style of the very talented bread artist Valentina Zurkan. I’ve made sticky buns similar to this before filled with lemon and rosemary, so I opted for a savoury pizza bread version and a slightly more complicated shape this time.
Fair warning: February is turning into a carb-heavy month around here. I personally have no problem with this – when it’s this cold and disgusting outside, I want all the comfort food I can get, and this winter I’m putting those calories to good use with some good ol’ strength training as per this idea. I guess you could say my personal fitness philosophy at the moment is eat the bread, lift the weights. For me, they balance each other out. Although when you’re baking a lemon-scented pull-apart loaf with cream cheese drizzle that’s made with sourdough to boot, the bread might have the upper-hand…
None of this is to say that all I eat is bread and carby baked goods. OK, I eat my fair share, as evidenced here, but the rest of my diet is mostly from scratch (just like the baking) and includes a good balance of leafy greens, fruit, veg, and protein – just so we’re clear about why I don’t weigh 300 pounds. ;)