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

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

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.


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.

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

Topline Trends Tuesday: Fondue

April 21, 2009

fondueI wish I could tell you how many times I’ve been told by a PR flak that “fondue is back!” (except that they usually say it in capital letters!) Seriously, it must be a claim made at least every two years if not more often. Regrettably, the only thing that usually supports a news flash that fondue is back like it’s 1971 again is that an appliance company has put out a new fondue pot and it’s trying to sell lots of them. Then, some poor, tired and overworked food editor succumbs to these self interested messages and prints a story about how fondue is back in fine form. Bridal magazines are particularly apt to write such stories.

I had long given up on fondue ever really becoming more than a wish as a trend until I was at the IACP Conference in Denver earlier this month and saw Peggy Fallon’s new book: Great Party Fondue. Peggy may just resurrect this trend not because she has great PR folks (although I’m sure she does), but because Peggy actually reinvents fondue in healthy, appealing ways that make even a jaded old naysayer like me want to break out the dipping forks. Many of her recipes are cheesy and traditional but the recipes that could bring fondue pots out of the pantry closet and onto the dining table are her veggie based fondues that basically take the appeal of soup and make it into a concoction you can’t resist dipping into again and again.

When’s the last time you had fondue? Did you make it at home or have it when you were a guest?

Topline Trends Tuesday: Kindle – meet your next cookbook shelf

March 3, 2009


Photo credit:

Did I ever mention here that I have a degree in English literature? That many times? Really? Um, sorry.

Anyhow, as a result of my love of books, I became a Lit major; that love continued well into my adult life and led me to amass a lot of books of all kinds. In fact, I’ve had to move my cookbook library out of my house (it now takes up a full room at my test kitchen) and I’ve started to abandon novels that I’ve read and don’t plan to read again in coffee shops. Yes, I know that the library is just around the corner from my house, but as an author myself, I buy books to support my industry.

While I’m sure that I’ll always have more books in my home than the average person, I’m so fatigued by clutter management that I’m very excited about the possibilities the Kindle offers readers and home cooks alike.

While the iphone and Nintendo DS are shouting ‘look at me’ to get home cooks to use these devices in the kitchen, the Kindle is quietly gaining momentum as a portable cookbook storage device that you can take with you and use anywhere. In fact, on Amazon, there are already 2,105 food related titles available for downloading on the Kindle!

I haven’t had a chance to use a real live Kindle yet but I like what I see! In fact, I think being able to consolidate even just my newspaper and magazine reading into a Kindle would be efficient and a great use of the world’s resources since fewer trees would be harmed by my voracious magazine addiction.

Have any of you used a Kindle? If so, did you like it or find flaws people like me need to know about before we lay our credit cards on the shop counter?

Even if you haven’t tried one out, tell me how you feel about this innovation- does it inspire you or get your ire up?

Worth replacing: Five Roses cookbook

September 8, 2008

Not only is my mom’s 60’s edition of the Five Roses cookbook worth replacing, I have replaced it once. I’m not sure why I’m still so attached to this book. I haven’t made one of the recipes as it’s written in this book in years. Yet, I still find myself leafing through it for ideas quite often. Even more peculiar is that my mother, still an active home cook, no longer has a copy of this book since I have hers. Apparently Five Roses cookbook dependency skips generations.

I learned to bake from this book and my mother used it frequently when I was growing up, too. The pies, cookies and cakes in the Five Roses cookbook form the backbone of childhood food memories. Although my mother had three or four cookbooks, this was the ‘go to it’ book for anything that she didn’t have committed to memory. It was the workhorse of our kitchen.

Highlights I recall from childhood are the Yorkshire pudding, the biscuits, butterscotch meringue pie and the hermit cookies. These recipes are on the most tattered and splattered pages of my mom’s original copy.

Did your mother have a favourite recipe book? And, if she did, do you have a copy of it that you can’t part with?

I didn’t dare…

August 31, 2008

Although this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was to make one of my favourite pastries, time and life conspired to prevent me from rising to the challenge.

I’ll be back in triple double dare shape for next month, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the handy work of other intrepid bakers. I hope you’ll sample their virtual wares, too: Daring Bakers Blogroll.