Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pancake Pefection

I grew up thinking pancakes came from a box, JUST ADD WATER, the box screamed and so we did. As I grew up I realized that box pancakes were better with milk. Then I found out that adding a little baking powder made them better, and then a realization.... why the heck am I not just making homemade pancakes?

Now, while better than box pancakes, a lot of the homemade pancake recipes I was trying were still mediocre and not what I was hoping for. I really wanted the pan-cake... something as tender and fluffy as cake, but made quicker. Then one weekend I stayed with my grandparents and grandpa made us pancakes. Now these were pancakes, and they were closer to my dream pancake than ever before. Recipe in hand, I went home to experiment.

This pancake recipe was one of the first bourbonbaker ever became obsessed with. Hubby and I ate pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So many pancakes that I actually became sick of maple syrup (the horror!).

So here is my pancake recipe, the one that has grazed many restaurant menus and countless church and other charity breakfasts. And this is the first time that I have ever shared it.

1 1/3 c sour milk
2 eggs
1/4 c canola oil

2 1/4 c pastry flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt

Sour your milk by adding a good splash of vinegar to it. The longer you let it sit the better your pancakes are, so I let it go for a good 15 mins. Add your eggs and oil.

After your pan is heated with a touch of oil in it, mix your dry ingredients into the sour milk mix. Use a whisk and mix as quickly as you can, the batter will be lumpy and thick.

Now the pastry flour is what makes these incredibly light, but all purpose is okay in a jam. Drop the flour to 2 c. If you want your incredible pancakes to be even better, add some puree to the wet mixture. In my house, that means 2 mashed bananas, but it can also be applesauce, homemade jam, smashed up over-ripe blueberries. This is where the pancakes go overboard. The mashed fruit makes the pancakes so tender they're almost hard to flip, the kids can cut them with a plastic fork and they literally melt in your mouth. These are no chewing required kind of pancakes.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


bourbonbaker wants to share a little bit of (food) love around the region, so starting this Sunday, watch for the #sweetsunday hashtag on Twitter. Hidden around Waterloo Region will be #sweetsunday gift packs.

It's not a clue game. Via Twitter, I will let you know throughout the day where a #sweetsunday prize pack is located. If you get there first, it's yours.

Who knows what you'll win... gift certificates, pies, cakes, cookies... if it involves sweet, then it may appear on #sweetsunday

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sourdough Pizza on a Wood Stove

Some friends wanted to get together for a pizza dinner with the kids. I made a sourdough pizza dough, because "Murph" my starter, has been neglected for a while. We're all hanging out, laughing, talking all at once and watching the munchkins play, as folks do, when bourbonbaker had a fabulous idea. Always wishing I had a wood-fired pizza oven, I looked over at the flaming hot woodstove in the corner and said, "can we cook our dinner on that?"

Well, gosh, the looks I got from my friends were priceless. Mostly, "are you nuts" kind of looks, but also the, "here she goes again, might as well humor her" kind. So, Jenn and I head upstairs for cleaning products and Philip goes outside for firewood.

I did a quick clean on the top of the wood stove with vinegar and water and we were set.

*We kicked the kids out of the room and upstairs so they didn't get any brilliant ideas about cooking their own food or touching the stove in any way*

Philip put 2 big logs on the fire and a ton of kindling, the idea being that we needed the stove as hot as possible. As the adults are close to undressing to cool down in the sweltering room, Jenn runs and opens a window. Great thinking woman, that's why we always need an adult on the team.

I toss 2 big pizzas on top of the stove and the effect is amazing, immediately the crust starts to bubble. Audibly, this is what sensory cooking is all about; the crackling of the fire, stray pieces of arugula snapping on top of the stove and the crust, releasing steam and making popcorn-like popping noises.

3 minutes and 41 seconds later, the pizza is done. To make an eye-pleasing and kid-pleasing effect, I take a quick blowtorch to the top to get a little browning on the cheese and voila, dinner time.

*Please note that when cooking like this, a fire extinguisher should always be nearby and you should have suitable gear for handling hot foods and the hot stove. To keep hands safely away from the woodstove, I recommend a pizza peel which you can buy at many kitchen retailers like Barnes & Castle or restaurant supply stores.*

Sourdough Pizza- makes 2 crusts

220 g water
325 g ap flour
30 g ripe sourdough starter
2 g fresh yeast (or 1 g instant dry yeast)
1 Tb olive oil
10 g salt

Mix all ingredients except the salt, cover and rest for 20 mins.

Add salt, then stretch and fold 20-30 times.

Rub a small amount of oil onto tabletop and knead dough on the
oiled surface until the oil begins to absorb.

Divide dough into equal pieces, then retard in the fridge for at least 1 day.

When ready to make pizza, remove dough from fridge and let come to room temp, about 1/2 hour. Push dough out onto a floured surface and slowly shape. Don't try tossing this one, it's way too wet! Gradually stretch the dough from the center out into the shape you desire, then transfer to a pizza peel or to the back of a cookie sheet.

Big thank you to our adult supervisor Jenn who made sure we didn't burn the house down AND reminded me that my cell phone has a camera on it, love ya!

The Power of an Apple

Apples. My favourite fruit and my second favourite food. With so many varieties (over 7500, I believe), there is no more varied fruit anywhere. Got a sweet tooth, try a Honey Crisp. Want a little bite back? Granny Smith may be your gal. Want to deter browning? Try an Envy.

Last month, I went on a crazy apple kick, buying in total over 200 lbs of apples from my friends at Martin's Apples in St. Jacobs, ON.

For two weeks, I peeled, diced, simmered, juiced and otherwise consumed every apple and at least 1 of every single kind they had in store. Christmas presents this year were apple butter, applesauce and apple onion sourdough. We made apple and cheddar pie, szechwan pork and apple stir fry, 4 different kinds of apple bread and dried apple skins.

My obsession with apples began as a kid, when making apple pie with my grandma. Not only were apples something I could eat to keep the doctor away, but every part was usable in some way and she made sure I did so. We would peel and core the apples and use the sweet flesh for pie. The cores went into the backyard for the critters (and promptly disappeared) and the skins we dried in the oven with cinnamon to make apple chips.
As an adult, I have learned how to bring my apple cookery beyond the humble apple pie, and an entire new world has been opened. But, keeping with my grandma's teachings, the cores always go to our backyard friends, the skins always get dried and hopefully, my kids will be teaching their kids the same process 30 years from now.
I love tradition.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To Foie or not to Foie?

Yes, I know, corny title for a post but I couldn't help myself.

For the last week, the Chef world has been abuzz over news of Martin Picard's decision to bow out of this years Winterlude festivities since they asked him not to serve foie gras at the kickoff dinner held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, QC.

I've been chatting with chefs from all over Canada this week, in the kitchen, on the phone and over the internet getting a real earful about how people feel. Some chefs think he's great for standing up for a food that he loves but many more seem to be disgusted that Chef Picard is unwilling to cook a meal without the delicacy. Locally, a fabulous restaurant in uptown Waterloo decided to show solidarity with Picard and serve foie gras pate free with every meal for one night.

I know that Chef Picard is famous for his foie gras dishes, as he rightly should be. I also understand that as a chef, creativity is paramount and with the egos involved, it is not easy to kowtow to someone else's demands. However, in an industry that prides itself on serving a customer's every whim, it is unfathomable to me that Picard would be so childish as to refuse to cook a dinner without the foie. My favourite food is eggs, do I use them in every meal? No. This chef seems to have fallen into the "It's all about me" trap. No, Monsieur Picard, actually it is all about the customer.

In addition to this, I just have to say I have been to a farm where geese are prepared for their final fates. As most chefs, I adore foie gras, it may just possibly the most sensual, fulfilling and exquisite flavour and texture combination known to man. But as a chef, I am also concerned about where my food comes from and how it was treated. I buy free range eggs because happy chickens make me happy, I don't eat provimi veal because of the way the young animals are raised and having seen a goose, in a cage about the size of my laptop, with a tube shoved down it's throat... well let's just say that I can live without foie gras if it means a few more geese are saved from the indignity and inhumane treatment.