Category Archives: Breads and Quickbreads

Oven-Baked Apple Pancakes

Today marked the end of my short-lived backyard apple season as the last apple plopped to the soggy grass. My two, now bare, apple trees remind me of autumn family trips as a child to an orchard in Oka, Quebec. I remember climbing up the trunk of each apple tree, like a simian, and entangling myself in the upper branches elatedly. I loved the pull and twist of the fruit, with arms outstretched. I loved the quick polish of fruit on my grubby shirt sleeve, back before washing one’s fruit came in style, and the ultimate, mouth-watering crunch that followed. My brother and I would leave the orchard with belly aches from having gorged ourselves greedily on fruit, and would sneak past the gates with bulging pockets bursting at the seams, like those pirates in movies who stuff gold doubloons in every orifice as the ship is sinking.

I’ve been trying to find a use for the late-fallen apples from my two apple trees that didn’t fall early enough to make it into the now-fermenting batch of cider. This year’s harvest has been used in a couple of pies, a recent fruit crumble and enough homemade apple sauce to supply my local Costco.

I also stumbled upon a variation of traditional stove-top apple flapjacks which I had to try. Apparently German in its roots, this “oven pancake” gives the pancake a puffy, shell-like appearance that is both filling and slightly reminiscent of a distant Canadian cousin, the Beaver Tail – my favourite Quebec export after Maple Syrup, Poutine and Blanche de Chambly beer. Enjoy!

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Hosting a Tea Party: Part Two – Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

You might think that Biscotti is a bit unconventional for a High Tea (and so did I), but it ended up being the perfect fit. These are crunchy enough that you can savour eating it through an entire cup of tea, but small and light enough that it doesn’t stop you from enjoying all of the other miniature goodies. They are very fast and surprisingly easy to make, and also offer many opportunities for personal variations. Enjoy playing around with the recipe and eating these with a good cup of coffee or tea.

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Homemade Doughnuts and Doughnut Holes

I wouldn’t be a true Canadian if I didn’t have a hankering for doughnuts. Between Tim Hortons and Dunkin Donuts, I was practically weaned on these caloric concoctions, and it was likely one of my first words. They are the ultimate comfort food, whether accompanying a hot cup of coffee and crossword puzzle on a lazy weekend morning, or savouring a bag-ful at an outdoor market in the summertime, fingers coated in cinnamon sugar. Mini carnival doughnuts are the most lethal and underestimated of the doughnut genus, as their diminutive size confounds the stomach –  the hand bypasses the brain on its way to grab another and the bag is empty before the brain finally catches wind of the ploy. When my mom sees a mini doughnut stand at the Saturday Saltspring Island Market, she’ll buy a dozen, quickly eat one, then shove the bag towards me with an emphatic “Get them away from me!”

After I made these at home one morning before work, I sampled one doughnut hole still warm, and immediately swallowed 3 more without chewing. My willpower is not strong enough. But who can resist a dessert that can also be eaten as breakfast? I wouldn’t recommend keeping leftovers at home, unless you’re planning on running a marathon in the days ahead. I brought a tupperware container to work and handed doughnuts out in meetings throughout the day, keeping them at the opposite end of the table from me. Enjoy!

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Lebanese Cheese Pies – Fatayer bi Jeban

To the uninitiated, these cheeses pies – or fatayer (pronounced, “fat-eye-ah”) – look no more impressive than miniature pizzas without the pepperoni, though I assure you they are one of the most coveted foods to the members of my family. They are unparalleled in their taste and difficult to track down – a kind of Lebanese truffle. My mom and I have a frozen stash of fatayer that we hoard away in our freezers, as our stock doesn’t get replenished often. We moved from Montreal to the west coast, where there seems to be only 12 people of Lebanese descent, so finding a Lebanese restaurant nearby would be a miracle.

Food is one of the things my family misses most of Montreal. When my brother flies back for a visit, he spends more time in the shawarma shop than sleeping. When my mom or I visit, we arrange a rendez-vous with our fatayer supplier, a small hole-in-the-wall establishment run by middle eastern octogenarians who speak little English. We transport back several dozen fatayer in our suitcases, often the only souvenirs from our trip, that we then distribute and dole out to the other members of the family. My teeshirts smell like a middle eastern souq for a week, but it’s worth it.

My mom has been begging those old women for their fatayer recipe for years; though the only way they’ll give it up, they say, is if she stays with them to work. I can picture the old wrinkled hands busily kneading dough in the back room, the smell of anise and pita bread wafting out into the chilly streets, and the sound of a woman’s voice on the radio singing beautifully in Arabic. My mom declines, though with hesitation I can tell, and chooses to search for the recipe on her own instead. Maybe when she turns 80 she’ll reconsider and join these women with their melodic tongues and culinary prowess and immerse herself in a culture that has been absent from her world since she was a child.

My mom and I have come across this recipe for fatayer, though it isn’t quite how I remember my Sito making it. It is close enough, however, and still worthy of being stashed away in the freezer for a day when Montreal calls to me most.

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Fruit, Flax and Nut Scones

This recipe was a bit of an adventure for me. A local bakery makes absolutely out-of-this-world fruit and flax seed scones which I make a daily pilgrimage (albeit, a short one) to buy every day. I am obsessed. They are not like a typical scone – they are dense and brimming with healthy goodness (or, that is what I tell myself when I eat one every day without fail).

Regardless, this is my attempt to reverse-engineer (I’ve always wanted to say I was reverse-engineering something) these fantastic scones. Feel free to suggest any changes you make to it that work for you! I would love to evolve it further, but am pretty pleased with how these turned out for a first attempt. These have lots of energy-rich ingredients, and are great for a healthy, filling snack in the middle of the day. Enjoy with full-bodied black tea for best results 🙂

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Buttermilk Pancakes with Raspberry Syrup

I’ve never understood people who can start their day with nothing more in their bellies than a banana or slice of toast. I would be irritable from low blood sugar by 9 am and fainting by noon. Although typical Lumberjack breakfasts are too much for me, I do enjoy sitting down to a hearty breakfast washed down with a cup or two of coffee. Sunday breakfasts are sublime when the sun is shining warmly through the kitchen windows and the meal is accompanied by a crossword puzzle and a CBC broadcast in the background. My usual breakfast fare for the past few months has been blueberries, yogourt and granola, though occasionally on weekends – and in particular after a long run – I’ll risk messying the kitchen for a plateful of pancakes.

Pancakes remind me of childhood breakfasts, where my parents would whip together flapjacks from a box of Bisquick dry mix. Even now, when I visit my parents, my step dad will bring out blueberry or banana pancakes drizzled in maple syrup with a side of crispy bacon. At Christmas, we were allowed to open stockings first thing in the morning, though the holiday tradition required us to sit down for pancakes before we could actually start shredding through gift wrapping. Needless to say, we ate very quickly and our legs twitched with anticipation throughout the meal.

Pancakes are delicious when slathered in butter and syrup, but for something different try it with a homemade fruit syrup, such as raspberry or strawberry. Continue reading


Rascally Rabbit Pie

Or Wascally Wabbit Pie, if you can say it in an Elmer Fudd accent.

For over a week my friend Daniel and I had been putting our minds to a unique dish that we could cook up on our Sunday Night Test Kitchen and we both independently arrived at “rabbit”, which was an odd coincidence. Or maybe not. Last week was the start of Chinese New Year and also the Year of the Rabbit, which means that if you were born now you’d be moody, detached, self-assured and stubborn, or so I read. A Chinese-Canadian colleague assured me that eating a zodiac animal wouldn’t actually be offensive or sacrilegious, so we were safe to proceed with the meal without risking death threats from moody and detached newborns. Rabbit also seems a fitting choice for those of us who live in Victoria, where hospital grounds and university campuses are littered with so many Bambis and Thumpers that they resemble a Disney cartoon.  This has been of particular concern to the University of Victoria (a.k.a. Watership Down), afraid that the many rabbit warrens chiselled like refugee tunnels under the soccer field would give way during a game. The rabbits are also a huge distraction to students during exam time, with their cute antics and tennis-ball shaped babies. Instead of using the rabbits in the cafeteria as the mystery meat of the week, the University tackled this pest problem by shipping scores of bunnies to other locations, including a rabbit sanctuary in Texas.

In preparation for this meal, I didn’t sneak onto university grounds at night with carrots and a gym bag; instead I ordered two vaccuum-sealed, frozen rabbits from a farm in Quebec, which shipped to my local grocer here in British Columbia. They’re a little pricey (about $22 each), which is probably more than one might pay at the pet store for an actual living one.

The experience of eating rabbit was a little anticlimactic, although it tasted superb. I was expecting a taste that was gamey and new – a throwback to the meals our ancestors hunted and ate just a few generations ago. Instead, all I could think about was Hannibal Lector, comparing the taste to chicken. At dinner, Daniel recounted an anecdote about his grandmother growing up on a farm in rural Quebec. Her parents kept rabbits caged in the yard in order to feed the many hungry mouths when times were lean, although the children were lied to and told it was chicken. Apparently, even before Disney cartoons inculcated young minds into believing furry animals could sing showtunes and be our best friends, children still had an aversion to eating rabbit.

This recipe looks and tastes similar to chicken pot pie, although it’s made in a very traditional French Canadian way by baking the entire pot in the oven with a single pastry layer on top, instead of in double-crust pie form. Many pies, including my favourite Tourtiere or meat pie, were made this way in the 1800’s in Quebec. This meal is time intensive, but if you have 3 hours free with friends and have plenty of appetizers and wine handy, this will be enjoyable and unique to your guests. Bon Appetit! Continue reading