Archive for November 2014

Woes of a Modern Day Baker

All of us bakers are gearing up to get baking our Christmas goodies! Aah…I can smell those mince tarts right now!

Every time one of my recipes specifies candied fruit I get really miffed! All we can get here these days, at least at retail level, are the chopped up drippy bits of candied fruits and peel.

DSC_2449 nx2Wandering through some of the markets in Italy over the years…there are stacks and stacks of jewel like whole pieces of candied fruit…and I know that if I try to bring some home those mean folks at Customs will be all over me. So, sadly I walk on by, muttering and moaning to my long suffering husband!

Back in the mists of time of the 1960’s and ’70’s there was a great shop downtown on Robson Street, called Galloway’s… they had one fantastic display window with all the candied fruits that you could ever want, from angelica to pineapple rings to citron…I hate being one of those who go on about the “good old days” but jeez…I suppose I could make my own??? Sure!

I’m off to the kitchen to get started on my four German stollen with rum soaked candied fruit, raisins and currants and filled with marzipan! What a treat! But…I still want those candied fruits that I see in Italy! That’s my rant!

Happy baking everyone!

**To make your own treat, click here to see the recipe for German Stollen.


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“Scrap” Soup

Or…what do you do when you walk into the butcher shop and staring back at you is a great deal on pork neck bones? My chef/neighbour has been making pork broth for Asian noodle soups for a while now and God knows, who doesn’t love noodle soup?

We buy some, that turns out to be 8 pounds. OK…I’ll divide them up and freeze for now. On not a very nice day, weather wise, I decide it’s time to make pork broth. Oh wait, I have found some chicken backs hiding in the freezer; great pork/chicken broth! Threw in some star anise, cinnamon stick, onion, ginger, soy sauce and other Asian flavouring bits, brought the lot to a boil and let simmer for a few hours. My chef/friend told me that if I blanched the bones in boiling water first, I would end up with a clear stock with no need to skim at the beginning, so I did that too; let the lot perk away with the lid off. Woo hoo, pork broth for noodle soup!

Hmm…what to do with the other 4 pounds that are still in the freezer? I know; I’ll make pork neck ragu for pasta. I chopped up some onions and garlic, got out the chili flakes, tomatoes and so on; added the bones and let it simmer away for a few hours, then boiled up a tubular pasta shape and there’s another dinner and a couple of lunches to boot and enough sauce remains for another dinner!

It doesn’t end there…I pulled off all the meat from the neck bones and stirred half into the ragu the first night and froze the remainder. At this point, you are probably thinking I am pazzo (crazy) but wait…a month later I am looking at the frozen neck bone meat and thinking “I should cook some faro” so why not make a farro and pork neck meat ragu for dinner? It was delicious. Things get better; there is at least 1 cup if not more of the farro ragu left, now what? I stashed the leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days, then it came to me, I’ll make soup. So once again to the freezer in search of bits and pieces to make soup! I used some of my homemade rendered pork fat to sauté the onions, carrots and celery; added beef broth and added some frozen roasted tomatoes from last summer. It was really good, my husband had the leftovers for his lunch the next day!

There’s still 12 cups of pork broth in the freezer…time for more Asian noodle soup. I just happen to have a small amount of Malayasian curried beef in the freezer and some rice noodles in the cupboard. I can feel it now, get me some bean sprouts, cilantro, thinly slice some raw onions, slice up some red chilies, add soaked rice noodles and here’s lunch.

By the way, we call my made up soups “Scrap Soups” because they are the result of foraging in the freezer. My parents would be proud!

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Radio Kids

Being a child of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I grew up on radio. I remember distinctly when transistor radios became the  hot new technology and us teens just had to have one glued to our ears…remember when there were no ear buds? Yup!!

radio 2My San Diego cousin and I would mail our favourite radio station’s top ‘40’s lists back and forth! Can you imagine if we had email???

First thing in the morning our radio is tuned into a news station to get not only the news but and also to hear discussions about what’s going on locally, then it’s over to NPR from Tacoma/Seattle for the mid-day jazz until late afternoon, followed by a jazz station from Toronto until after dinner. And on the weekends when at home, we are listening to music pretty much all day. Of course, we have had to keep up with the times and access the stations we want through the Internet somehow, for gawd’s sake don’t ask me…my husband’s the guy who does all this stuff, I still think radio waves are some kind of magic!

“They” say radio is no longer being listened to…I beg to differ! Sadly there have been a lot of changes to our local radio scene over the past little while with hosts retiring from their long running programmes, they are truly missed! I hate it when our favourites retire…we used to listen to CBC Saturday and Sunday mornings for wonderful music and witty commentary from the hosts…miss those two guys a lot! And if Jurgen Goethe knew how much we miss his daily Disc Drive from 3 until 6…maybe he wouldn’t have retired!

With the recent passing of Tom Magliozzi, the other half of Click and Clack The Tappet Brothers and hearing the tributes to him on NPR, it made me realize just how much we rely on quality broadcasting. We faithfully listened to Tom and Ray every weekend, loved their humour, expertise and but mostly their total silliness and of course their laughter! Who can forget at the end of each show, they would thank the producers and staff and their law firm, Dewey, Cheetham and Howe, now that’s funny and it had us rolling in the aisles the first time we heard it!

Frankly, I cannot imagine a day without radio being a huge part of our lives…it’s a place where we have discovered fantastic personalities and been well entertained over the years.  Please let’s keep those dials tuned in!

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What Will There Be This Year?

Today is the big day, the Christmas cake I make every year for my San Diego cousin has just left the building! Fingers crossed it arrives safely, or should I say all in one piece, in a few days!

DSC_5911 nx2And this now takes me to making a list of what Christmas baking will be taking place this year…there are always the traditional treats that family members request, such as Mom’s shortbread cookies (red and green candied cherry bits on top, please)…for gawd’s sake, don’t leave them off, little mince pies with their icing sugared hats and my favourite, German stollen.

Time to take inventory. Is there enough cardamom for the stollen, when can I pick up the marzipan that’s a must for putting inside the stollen, do I have enough cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg? What about the dried fruits? Better check all the recipes for raisins, currants, dried cranberries and so on and make sure to check out my supply of nuts in the freezer. How about butter and eggs? How much and how many? I know there is enough flour because we just bought a 40 pound bag recently. Then there’s the sugar: brown, Demerara, golden, Muscavado…better have a look, oh and remember to check the berry sugar, icing sugar, molasses and Lyel’s golden syrup as well! Better make sure to get in more brandy and rum in too! What about an English steamed pudding this year, now that’s a good idea!

Guess I better get on it and make mincemeat this weekend too!

Whew, I’m tired already and I haven’t even turned on my KitchenAid stand mixer or finalized what cookies I want…maybe those currant jelly filled Drei Augen’s that I haven’t made for 100 years should go on the list that are so amazing with coffee or tea!

If it’s snowing when I am baking, a little hot buttered rum would definitely be on the agenda, if not then a little scotch on the rocks might just be the ticket!

I hope you enjoy baking your Christmas goodies as much as I do, especially when I see how happy it makes everyone!

**To make the mince pies/tarts, please go to Making Pie Dough and then use your favourite brand of mincemeat or your own homemade.

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