At the end of April our friends’ son, Kade, turned three. He had a birthday party in the park after his baseball game (seriously, can you imagine anything cuter than a bunch of three-year olds trying to play baseball?!), with hotdogs on the camping stove, lots of cut up fresh fruit and veggies, and a cake made by yours truly – I offered/begged his mom, and thankfully she took me up on it! She suggested a baseball-themed cake, and because Kade is super proud and excited to be on “Team Purple” (his team wears purple t-shirts), I decided to put his jersey (or a version of it) right on the cake.
While local strawberries are still at least a month off, I admit to thoroughly enjoying the juicy red California-grown gems that have been showing up at the green grocer lately. I can’t help myself – this winter felt SO LONG and strawberries are like the breath of fresh air and ray of sunlight that I’m craving right now. And while they might not be local, they are at least in season, and for that I am grateful!
The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.
While I don’t personally celebrate Easter in a religious sense, I do look forward to any holiday that has a food tradition to go with it (see: Christmas baking). Paska, a special Eastern European Easter bread, is one such food tradition, and the egg-rich Ukrainian version with its intricately decorated top is one that I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. This month’s challenge was the perfect opportunity to do it.
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.
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. ;)
I often get a craving for baklava, but very rarely does it actually get satisfied. Unless you are in the vicinity of a decent Greek restaurant or willing to make it yourself, good baklava is hard to come by. Honestly, I think the last time I had some was when I made it with homemade phyllo (which was a project-and-a-half, let me tell you!) so it is long overdue. I made these sticky buns to serve along with the Montreal bagels I made for brunch last month, and as I couldn’t get baklava out of my head, I made them according to that flavour profile: a finely chopped nut filling of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, and a sticky honey goo flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest. These sticky buns might be missing the crunchy phyllo element, but they really do taste like baklava!
While we don’t get the snow-covered winters that most people picture when they think “Canadian winter”, on Vancouver Island we do get an awful lot of rain. It’s cold, wet, grey, and DARK from November through to March or April (and then we usually get a repeat in June, or June-uary as we like to call it). I know that complaining about the weather is hardly what you came to read about on a food blog, but my point is that last weekend I got caught in one of those depressing downward spirals of adult worries pertaining to jobs and money, and the dark, depressing winter day outside wasn’t making it any better. So I did what I had to: I made butter tarts with maple syrup and pecans, because almost nothing makes me feel better than baking something does (except maybe for eating whatever I’ve just baked).
The January 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Francijn of “Koken in de Brouwerij“. She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).
When I first read Francijn’s challenge, I thought I had no idea what I was getting in to. I’d never heard of Baumkuchen – a traditional German cake baked in layers on a rotating spit in front of a grill, whose final spiraling layers resemble the cross-sectional growth rings of a tree [see how it's done] – but when I got to the Shichttorte – a layer cake made by baking very thin layers of batter one by one on top each other – I realized that I had in fact bookmarked a similar recipe in a cookbook for probably close to fifteen years ago! I thought the recipe was just an extremely complicated way to bake a cake, which is why I had never attempted to make it before – I had no idea it was a legitimate traditional method, and I was excited to finally give it a try.