Breaking (good!) news

May 29, 2009

Milka

Photo Credit: Tracy Cox

In what can only be called a serendipitous turn of events, it has come to my attention that June 1st, besides being Doughnut Day, is also the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Milk Day.

While Canada’s love of milk seems to be sadly under represented on the roster of events planned for June 1st , you can commemorate and celebrate the goodness of a cold, tall glass of bone-strengthening milk at the same time as you celebrate Doughnut Day.

All I can say is: don’t just do it; do it and tell two friends!

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Get ready for doughnut day: June 1

May 29, 2009

donutsI love any excuse to eat something delicious so I was very happy to discover that next Monday, June 1st will be doughnut day!

Although this calendar observance is an American tradition that dates back to World War One when Salvation Army volunteers cooked up doughnuts in foxholes to cheer American army troops, I’m embracing this sticky tradition in the name of Canada. After all, we have a long tradition of being not only excellent doughnut makers, but also voracious consumers of classic Tim Horton’s Donuts, Ottawa Beaver Tails and Canada’s Wonderland Funnel Cakes. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Canadians are the highest per capita doughnut consumers in the world. And, not surprisingly, we’re also the country with the most doughnut shops per capita, too.

Although this easy access to doughnuts is a comfort to me and many other Canadians, I have to say that the ultimate doughnut experience is not found in a doughnut shop but at home where you can fry up the dough, glaze the golden little ‘O’s a few minutes later and then gobble up the doughnuts while they’re still warm. In my opinion, that’s what it means to be a happy Canuck!

How often do you eat a doughnut? I eat them only once or twice a year but when I do, it’s always a happy day!

If you’d like to try your hand at making doughnuts in honour of Doughnut Day, here’s a recipe I developed for last year’s Bakefest Recipe Booklet. I hate to brag, but I think it’s one of the best classic doughnut recipes you’ll find!

Classic Glazed Donuts

Dough:
1 pkg (8 g) Fleishmann’s Traditional Yeast
1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water, about 115ºF (47ºC)
1 tsp (5 mL) Bee Hive Golden Corn Syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 Naturegg Omega 3 Shell Egg, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) Lactantia Unsalted Butter, melted
3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour (approx.)
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 cup (60mL) granulated sugar
6 cups (1.5 L) Mazola 100 % Pure Canola or Corn Oil

Glaze:
1/4 cup (60 mL) Bee Hive Golden Corn Syrup
1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water
1 1/3 cups (325 mL) icing sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) Lactantia Unsalted Butter, melted
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

1. Dough: Blend the yeast with the warm water and syrup; let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk the milk with the egg and melted butter. Reserve. Meanwhile, place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. With the motor running, blend in the yeast and milk mixtures just until the dough begins to form a ball.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with additional flour, if necessary, to prevent sticking. Cover and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough; cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2–inch (1 cm) thick. Cut donut shapes using a 3 1/2-inch (8 cm) donut cutter (or a large and a small round cookie cutter). Re-roll the scraps once to make additional donuts (cut any remaining dough into donut holes). Cover donuts with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

4. Glaze: Blend the corn syrup, water, butter, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Reserve.

5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or Dutch oven until it reaches at least 325ºF (160ºC) but doesn’t exceed 350ºF (180ºC). Gently lower 3 donuts at a time into the oil; fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden. Lift from hot oil and dip into glaze. Coat all over and transfer to a rack set over a baking tray to cool. Makes 8 donuts, plus donut holes.


Frozen assets

May 28, 2009

frozen

Do you buy some things as ‘just in case’ items? You know, like just in case you have unexpected visitors and you need a wheel of cheese. Or, just in case your kids have friends in and you need chips and dip?

If you do shop with these kinds of thoughts in mind, are you being honest or are you are buying them because you want to eat them?

For me, it’s about wanting to eat them. Seriously. In the grocery store I can be a big fat liar to myself. Case in point: the Dufflet chocolate cake pictured above that I bought for the freezer just in case someone drops by sometime and demands a dessert.

When did I defrost it? On a Saturday afternoon when I had a chocolate craving. We actually did have a house guest staying with us that weekend, but he was out.

So there. Now you know my deep, dark, chocolate secret.


Caipirinha: The perfect summertime cocktail

May 27, 2009

CaipirinhaLooking for the perfect drink for summer? Look no further than the citrus-y, sweet caipirinha (pronounced kai-per-een-yah), a signature drink for Brazil’s Carnivale where revelers really need something to help them cool down after hours of dancing in the hot sun!

While articles like this one in the Chicago Sun Times talk about caipirinha variations made with raspberry and other flavours, I see no reason to reinvent an already fantastic drink that’s easy to make. There are four ingredients in a classic caipirinha: fresh limes, fruit sugar, crushed ice and cachaça (pronounced ka-shah-sah), which is made from sugar cane and tastes similar to white rum.

Want to make one right now? Follow these easy steps:

1. Cut half a lime into four pieces. Place in a cocktail shaker or sturdy glass. Sprinkle over 2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar and muddle the limes using a wooden cocktail muddler or a wooden spoon until the mixture is juicy and a lot of the sugar has dissolved.
2. Pour in two shots of cachaça and stir well. Transfer to a double old-fashioned glass and top with enough crushed ice to fill the glass. Stir before serving.

By the way, my friend and professional food photographer Tracy Cox took the photo for today’s post. After this shot was taken, she and I and Sabrina took these very drinks outside to our Test Kitchen patio and toasted the sunshine on Victoria Day Monday. After all, if you’re working on a holiday, there should be some perks, right? You can see more of Tracy’s work on her website.


Topline Trends Tuesday: Truckin’ and Eatin’

May 26, 2009

Mexicanfoodtruck Would you buy a taco from this man?  Yeah, so would I.

In American cities such as LA, New York and many points in between, the grungy coffee truck has been reinvented as a hip and happening way to deliver quality food experiences to busy people.

Celebrated vendors like the Treats Truck roam Manhattan streets making bakery deliveries and selling their sugary wares (such as raspberry brownies and cran-almond rice crispy bars) to passersby.

While the concept may seem retro (think about ice cream trucks), the application is modern with interesting food concepts and unique marketing approaches that use  twitter and blogs to make these free range eateries a success.

While Vancouver seems to be catching on to this trend, here in Toronto, the street food scene remains dull and duller. While most of our so-called ‘coffee trucks’ are fronts for drug dealers and not legitimate lunch purveyors, our efforts to pepper interesting ethnic food vendors amongst our copious hot dog carts have been thwarted by bureaucracy so that heartburn is more common among fans of this initiative than satisfied appetites.

What’s it like in your town? Is your street food culture vibrant or dormant? If it’s vibrant, how often do you buy food from a mobile vender?


Pasta making

May 25, 2009

pastaA few weeks ago, the folks from KitchenAid sent me a pasta maker to try out. While I’m always happy to have a reason to make fresh pasta, I was a bit amused. Their offer  proves what short memories large organizations have. You see, the PR person who approached me to try this machine obviously didn’t know that I used to sell this very apparatus on The Shopping Channel. She was, as the saying goes, “preaching to the converted.”

I was tempted to tell her my history with this gadget but I really didn’t want to  underline that I’m pretty much a dinosaur who has been in this business far longer than most people can remember. Besides, I love a plate of fresh saffron and lime noodles dressed lightly with olive oil (or butter) and garnished with a halo of whisper-thin curls of shaved pecorino cheese, so I got over myself and headed to the kitchen instead.

Here’s the recipe so you can enjoy a bowl of these noodles, too.

Saffron-Lime Fresh Pasta
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated lime zest
¼ tsp (1 mL) saffron threads
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

Place flour in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Using a fork, beat eggs with lime, saffron and salt. Add the eggs to the bowl and mix using a dough hook until a soft dough forms.

Knead dough using the dough hook for 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Knead into a ball and cover with plastic wrap; let rest for 20 minutes. Divide dough into 3 pieces to make handling easier; cover.
Flatten each piece of dough with your hand or a rolling pin; dust with flour. Feed through the widest setting of the pasta attachment rollers 3 times, lightly flouring after each pass through the machine.

Set machine to next narrowest setting; run dough through once. Repeat, running dough through rollers until next-to-finest setting is reached. Cut the dough in half if it becomes too long to handle easily. Lightly flour dough; run through finest setting. Repeat with remaining portions of dough.

Hang the rolled dough over a pasta rack (you can make one by balancing a clean broomstick between two chairs) until leathery but not dry about 20 minutes.

Change setting from rolling to cutting position. Cut pasta into 10 – to 12-in (25 to 30 cm) lengths. Feed each length through the cutter.

To cook: add noodles in lots of salted, boiling water and boil for 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and toss with extra virgin olive oil or butter to coat. Season to taste.

Photo credit: Tracy Cox


A frank discussion

May 22, 2009

hotdog

Hot dogs get a bad rap. While lots of people like to malign the tube steak, hot dog sales continue to sizzle and the humble street meat has had a gourmet makeover in many cities including Denver and Chicago and Toronto.

What are you fave hot dog toppings? I like to ‘kick it old school’ as the kids used to say: all beef dog, grilled until the skin is crunchy and ready to burst, on a soft, eggy bun with ketchup and ballpark mustard. That’s it. Mmm!

Here are some other classic and not-so-classic suggestions for the more adventurous among us:

Canadian: wrap the dogs in a slice of bacon before grilling and then drape in Cheddar cheese before serving.

Zen: brush dogs with soy sauce while on the grill and then serve with wasabi mayo, pickled ginger and green onions.

Trafalgar Square Indian: top grilled dogs with mango chutney or Branston pickle.

Normandy: slather caramelized onions all over a grilled dog and drape with a slice of double cream brie.

How do you feel about hot dogs – love ‘em or despise ‘em? Has your hot dog consumption changed in the last few years? And, if so, how?