Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chocolate Mug Cake

I got this a while ago in one of those mass e-mails that people send out, and didn't think much of it at the time. Then winter came and there was 5 feet of snow outside and it was dark for like 19 hours a day, and I just needed a bit of chocolate cake in my life, you know? This one is super quick and easy. I have no idea how it works, I'm just thankful it does, because sometimes we all just need some chocolate cake. And when the only clean-up is washing a mug and a spoon, it just tastes that much sweeter.
Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp sugar
2 (+) tbsp cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
2-3 tbsp oil
Add-ins (optionally pick one or more of the following): 3 tbsp chocolate chips, a few shakes of cinnamon, a shake of cayenne pepper (really good with the cinnamon, for "Mayan" chocolate cake), half a tbsp instant coffee, Skor chips (God's gift to mankind), caramel chips, mint chips.... you get the idea. If it tastes good with chocolate or in chocolate cake, try a bit in this one.
A small splash of vanilla extract
One large, sturdy mug
  • Add the dry ingredients to the mug and mix well, so there are no lumps of sugar, flour or cocoa.
  • Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
  • Add the milk and oil and mix well. It should look like cake batter by this point.
  • Add your add-in(s) and the vanilla and mix one more time.
  • Cook in the microwave for about 3-5 minutes on high (maybe a bit more or less time, depending on your microwave). The cake will grow, rising over the top of the mug, but don't worry! It will be fine.
  • If it doesn't cook all the way through, pretend the raw batter is icing.
  • Tip it out onto a plate, if you like, and sprinkle with icing (confectioner's) sugar, cocoa and/or cinnamon, if you're feeling fancy.
  • Eat it all yourself, or share with someone else if you're feeling extra-generous. Or full.
We found out (due to the lack of microwave in a certain blogger's house) that this works pretty well in a conventional oven. Put the batter in a muffin pan (I think it made us about 4-5 cupcakes) and bake for about 5-8 minutes at 350 F, or until they look done (and a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the middle of them).
No pictures this time, until we make another yummy CUP-cake!

Friday, April 10, 2009


So, today is Good Friday. Obviously some hot cross bun-making was in order.

We took our base recipe from the 1979 Farmhouse Kitchen by Mary Norwak, which Zoe's dad so kindly scanned in and shared with us. I don't know if all of you are familiar with hot cross buns, or the beginner recorder tune of the same name, but they are just delicious (I might even say heavenly).

We've modified the original recipe and method somewhat.

Recipe: hot cross buns
225g flour + a bit extra
pinch of salt
≈ 0.5 tsp spices (we used almost equal parts ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon + one clove)
125mL (0.5 cup) milk
15g yeast
50g butter
40g sugar
1 egg
75g mixed raisins and currants
15g finely chopped peel
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sieve the flour, salt and spice in a large mixing bowl.
  • Melt the butter.
  • Beat the egg in a small bowl.
  • Warm milk to body temperature (Mrs. Norwak suggests "blood temperature") and add the yeast and sugar. Fact! (according to Papa Belk): yeast + sugar = alcohol + carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is what makes the dough rise, and the alcohol is an added benefit. After a few (5-10?) minutes, the mixture will begin to rise and look puffy, like the top of a cream soda.
    • A note about yeast! If the yeast is too cold, it won't work, and if it's too hot you run the risk of killing it. Try to keep the bowl in a warm place, like on top of the stove while the oven is on (but not while the elements are on!). This is also a good place to let the dough rise later on.
  • While you are waiting for this to happen, put all the dried fruit (including peel) into a plastic bag and shake it up with some flour, making sure there are no clumps of fruit. This will encourage the fruit to distribute itself evenly in the dough.
  • Once the yeast mixture has reached its desired puffiness, add it to the large mixing bowl of flour, along with the butter and egg. Beat until smooth.
  • Turn on to a floured board, work in the dried fruits and peel, and knead well. Put the dough into a buttered/oiled bowl, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap (and if desired, a clean cloth). Place it in a warm, draught-free place as mentioned earlier. Make sure to remember how big it is, because you want it to double in size before continuing.
  • Once this has happened, knock it down (knead or punch it briefly) with your hand. It kind of collapses, and decreases its size. Divide it into eight equal parts and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and wait for the buns to double in size (prove) again.
  • While you're waiting, make a dough of just flour and water. Make sure it's not sticky... a little less sticky than bread dough itself. Roll the dough into thin strips (like little snakes). Make 16 strips (two for each bun) about 10-15cm each, and kind of flatten them out (ours as pictured are a bit too round).
  • Once the buns have risen, carefully remove the plastic wrap and (very carefully) mark an X in the top of each one with a sharp knife. Be careful not to press too hard, or the buns will fall again. Brush (with your finger) one side of each strip/snake with water so it will act like glue, and very gently lay the snakes over the X. This is the "cross" part of the hot cross bun (the "hot" will come later).
  • They should look something like this:

  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden and scrumptious-looking.
  • Toward the end of this time, make a glaze of equal parts milk and sugar (3 tablespoons each). Heat them together until they come just to a boil. Once the buns are out of the oven and still hot, drizzle or brush the glaze onto them.
  • Eat.
    • Hint: you can also save them for the next morning, at which point they are possibly more delicious toasted. We couldn't wait and just ate all of them within the very hour of finishing them.

Peelin' Good

Candied citrus peel. If you've ever had it store-bought, chances are you hate it.
Well don't be hating.
Candied peel brings together two of the most delicious things on earth: citrus and sugar. And, while making it at home does require the better part of a day, it is totally worth it. You'll see.

But why, you may be asking your computer screens (I can't actually hear you after all), would I suddenly bring up candied peel? Well, it's a key ingredient in lots of different baking recipes, especially at this Easter-y time of year. It also keeps for a really long time, so any time is candying time!

We were looking forward to making hot cross buns (post to follow) for Good Friday, and therefore needed a stash of peel. It's actually pretty hard to find in Montreal, and the stuff you can find does not look as though it has ever been a part of food. So I set about making it.

This is one of those things that you can find a bazillion recipes for on the internet, and none of them agree, so what I propose below is a sort of synthesis of internet recipes and my own experience. What I ended up with was absolutely delicious, even on it's own. So find a good book or epic movie for while you're waiting, and get ready to candy!

Candied Citrus Peel
2 oranges
2 blood oranges
2 lemons
1 grapefruit
(The actual kinds of fruits you choose are not really important, as long as you have a good variety, and you end up with about the same amount of peel. One recipe I saw called for a "pomelo", but I couldn't find one, and I thought the blood oranges would add a nice colour)
300 ml water
600 g white sugar (≈ 3 cups)
(I do have a scale, and measuring by weight is more precise, so I prefer it to volume. You'll find we use a variety of metric, imperial and British practices in our recipes, but, hey, that's how we roll in Canada.)

  • Wash the fruit thoroughly.
  • Peel the fruit (see below). Try and leave as much of the white pith on as possible. Some people will try and tell you that doing so will make your peel bitter. Don't listen to them, they are lying. I read one recipe that said that it actually makes it "more succulent". I don't know about that, but the most important thing for a poor university student is that it gives you at least twice the volume of end product, and far less waste. It's also a lot less effort to just peel the fruit with your hands than to use a vegetable peeler. So just leave the pith on!
This is how I peeled it, to make sure that I got nice evenly sized strips of peel: cut the top and bottom off of each fruit. Then carefully cut strips vertically, at a reasonable width (i.e. not so thin that they will break when you are stirring them, but not so thick that they look ugly). My strips ended up being about a centimeter (half an inch?) wide in the middle, although the grapefruit ones were wider than the lemon ones.
  • Put each type of peel in its own pot and cover it with cold water.
  • Bring them to the boil (this is why most people can only have a max of four types of fruits!), and cook until softened. I found that the grapefruit took the shortest amount of time (around 45 minutes?) and the lemon the longest (more like an hour and a half?). If you try and bend them with your stirring utensil, you should be able to see if they are soft or not.
  • Drain the peel and place it all in one pot. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer again for about 20 minutes
  • Towards the end of this time, dissolve the sugar in the water in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan. (You can put the burner on medium-low heat to speed the process along.)
  • Bring the syrup to the boil and, once drained, carefully add the peel. Stir it in well, trying not to break the peel up, because the bigger the pieces are, the more citrus flavour they will retain.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally (and carefully!), until the peel has absorbed almost all of the syrup. This took me about 2 or 2.5 hours, but could apparently take up to 3.
  • Arrange a drying rack in/on a baking tray, and cover with parchment paper (you might actually need two of these contraptions). Once the peel is ready, arrange it in a single layer on the parchment, trying to keep the individual pieces separate if at all possible (this is A LOT easier said than done! It is VERY hot and sticky, and took up a lot more room than I anticipated...but persevere, it will make it dry faster).
  • Place the peel in a warm-ish location, with a bit of a draught, to dry for 3-4 days. Turn it over once or twice during this time, breaking the individual pieces apart. I put a piece of parchment paper on top of mine, to prevent dust from falling on it, and cleared off a bit of space on a bookshelf by my bedroom door (space is at a bit of a premium in my apartment), but putting it in a cupboard or on an unused piece of desk or table would also work.
  • When it is dry, put it into an air tight jar(s). It will keep for a long time, but it keeps its flavour longer if it is kept in those large pieces, so don't chop it up before storing it! (It is also a lot less sticky...)
  • Use in whatever recipe you like (like maybe for hot cross buns or something...), or as a tasty snack when you could use a hit of citric deliciousness.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Soda Sandwiches

So. We wanted to get into making bread, but, as it is a Tuesday night, we wanted something easy to do. We know that regular bread is reasonably easy, but we wanted something SUPER easy. And we thought of soda bread.

We have also recently discovered Scanwiches, and so were even more in the mood for bread.

So after a trip to the grocery store, to buy all the sandwich-making necessities, we got down to business.

Or tried to. Get down to business, that is. Being without a scale, we found it a bit difficult to follow this recipe. So, we had to improvise. First attempt: find a conversion between grams and cups. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that we are without self-rising flour. What we had was whole wheat flour. We quickly found a method to self-raise-ify the flour we had, but unfortunately we were not so quick to calculate the required ratios... ("We have 1.4 cups flour, so we need 0.75 cups worth of baking powder. Wait, we don't have any baking powder. Uh, so two thirds of that...", etc.)
Formula: self-rising flour: ∀ cup of flour, add:
1.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt

Formula: 1.5 tsp baking powder
1.0 tsp cream of tartar
0.5 tsp baking soda

Note: bicarbonate of soda = baking soda

We mixed the flour together with the "proper" amounts of baking soda and tartar, and then added buttermilk into a lovely well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Once wrist-deep in sticky dough, Zo quickly realized that 2 * 170g does not in fact equal 320g (1.4 cups). Read: we had the wrong amount of flour and the dough was way too wet. Ew.

So basically we just added a bunch of flour and baking powder and hoped it would turn out.

Luckily it did!

Here is our (North American) version of the recipe without all those silly gram measurements:
Soda bread:
2.25 cups whole wheat (BROWN) flour
1 tsp cream of tarter
1.25 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
1.25 cups buttermilk
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (unless you don't have an oven. In which case you are just out of luck).
  • Mix dry ingredients in a bowl (thoroughly!). Make a well in the middle, and add the buttermilk.
  • Incorporate (knead) quickly. But not too much. And not too little. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. If it is too dry, add some (regular) milk.
  • Form the dough into a round (sort of a ball) and place it on a baking sheet. Or tray. Cut an X into the top of the dough entity and bake for thirty-five minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool on a bread rack, or on a few bowls you've set up in the shape of a bread rack.
  • Eat and enjoy. Hint: it's good with honey. Or as an integral part of a sandwich.

Appropriate bread baking/eating music:


Who we are: Two amazingly wonderful and witty university students living in Montreal. Also known as the best city in Canada.
What we like: Simon and Garfunkel.
Also: Music in general. Oh, yeah: also food. Yeah we like restaurants, food pictures, food blogs, talking about food, planning food events, but especially cooking food. Cooking food is the best.
Things we don't like: The lack of Mexican food in Canada. Sand.
More things we like: Colons. The punctuation marks that is.
The point of this blog: Sharing our epicurean musings. Recipes. Hijinx.

So check back, but not too often, or we might not have posted new stuff yet.