On Bread Making

Before we get into the best bread ever, I’m going to first admit something – posts will not be as frequent this summer. There. Rather than feel bad about it, I’m just going to embrace it. Fall, on the other hand, will be a different story.

With that out of the way, I wanted to share an amazing bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen which yes, takes a bit of time to make (not a lot of “hands on” time, but a lot of waiting for the dough to do things like rise), but it is absolutely worth it. I made this yesterday for our sandwiches this week and it’s received great reviews so far.

New York Deli Rye Bread (c/o Smitten Kitchen):

I am going to take verbatim Deb’s instructions because a) I didn’t change much and b) they are detailed enough that even a novice bread maker (like myself) can get a successful loaf out of it, if you follow these to a T. The whole process took me about 6 hours (not including the shopping beforehand…a tip: rye flour isn’t sold everywhere. I suggest a bulk food store, like Bulk Barn), but I only had to actively do something for about 30 minutes. The rest was just making sure the dough was rising properly and letting it rest while I ran other errands. All the words are hers, but the photos are mine – just to prove that it can be done!

rye bread!

Sponge
3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1/2 tablespoon (4.6 grams) malt powder (or barley malt syrup or honey (10.5 grams), or sugar (6.2 grams)) *I used the sugar version*
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature

Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds (you can grind these if you want to avoid the crunch)
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) coarse salt

Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounces, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
about 2 teaspoons (about 0.5 ounces, 16 grams) cornmeal for sprinkling

and so it begins...

Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth, to intentionally incorporate air — this will yield a thick batter. Set it aside.

Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places.)

Mix the dough [Either with a mixer - I used the mixer version] Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low-speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. then raise the speed to medium and mix it for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic, and it should jump back when pressed with a fingertip; if it is sticky, turn it out on a counter and knead in a little extra flour.

dough mixing

[Or by hand] Add the oil and, with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a very lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, after which it might be a little sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. (Resting the dough makes it less sticky and magically easier to work with. Trust me.) Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic and your upper arms are strapless gown-ready.

dough rising

Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip the bowl over and let the dough fall out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold or form it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the (re-oiled) bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.

Shape it and wait out the final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. (*I wanted to get a loaf out of this, so I lightly oiled a bread pan, sprinkled the base with cornmeal and shaped the dough for the last time in here). Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. [Skim ahead to preheating your oven, which you should do soon.] When it is gently press with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F as early as you can tolerate. (*I did it about 30 minutes before – the hotter the oven, the more crunchy the crust!) On a shelf at the lowest level, place a baking sheet or bread stone. [If you want to get fancy and bread-oven like: Place a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven to preheat.]

pre and post baking

Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet (*Or, just put the bread pan in the oven). [If you've decided to get fancy and bread oven-like: Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door.] Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (or a thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°F; I prefer this method because you’ve done much too much work to possibly end up with an under- or over-baked loaf of bread).

Cool the bread on a wire rack. And enjoy the deliciousness!

mmm fresh bread

 

Pimm Pimm Hooray!

I’ve been on a mini (unintended) hiatus. Between day-to-day work, cottages, planning trips and birthdays, and nice, warm evenings where we’re just aching to get on a patio, Toronto summers are pretty amazing (flooding aside), but can get shockingly busy. To make up for my absence, I’m going to share one of the best drink recipes for summer. It’s the best because it tastes great and, more importantly, it’s super quick to make (so…minimal time to wait before you get to enjoy).

pimms cup

 

Pimm’s Cup Recipe:

What You’ll Need…

- Pimm’s No. 1

- Lemonade

- Ginger ale or ginger beer (optional)

- Cucumber

- Mint

- Strawberries

- Orange slices

- ice

What You Need To Do…

In a jug, mix one part Pimm’s with one part lemonade and one part ginger ale/beer. Add sliced cucumber, strawberries and orange slices. Add mint. And add as much ice as you’d like. Stir and serve.

See? Simple.

It’s a great British drink with refreshing summer flavours. Bonus? The fruit soaks up the Pimm’s and tastes delicious!

(p.s. Happy Belated Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!)

 

Loving…

There are very few things more terrifying than realizing that half of another year has gone by. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type thing that gets me every time. On the other hand, it’s also pretty indicative of all the great, not-so-great and indifferent things that have happened in the past 6 months.

Listening:

Two Frenchmen rocking it out, 70s style, with Pharrell. It doesn’t really get better than that.

Wanting:

This double-painting from Urban Barn.

bike

Craving:

This super simple and delicious raspberry-rhubarb pie.

pie - strawberry/rhubarb

Fruit pies are one of the best things to “master”, in my opinion. The crust recipe can remain largely the same (my favourite remains the one I referenced here and here - it is dangerously delicious), and you can get creative with the filling. You just need to follow the rule of 3/4 cup sugar + 3/4 cup flour + vanilla extract (1 tsp) + enough fruit to fill the pie and be properly covered by the sugar/flour mixture. In this case, I used a container of strawberries and about 350g of rhubarb. To add a little extra goodness, I like to paint the crust with melted butter and sprinkle sugar over top before putting it in the oven (typically at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and left for about 20 minutes or until the filling starts to bubble).

Using:

PicLab and Snapseed – by far my two favourite iPhone apps for adding font to photos and editing them, respectively.

Relaxing:

This weekend for Canada Day. Extra-long long weekends are the best… Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canucks!

muskoka chairs in muskoka

Leslieville: The First Food Tour

We are now on month 3 of living in Leslieville, and both my boyfriend and I agree that it’s such an amazing neighbourhood. Certainly lively and full of surprises. Now that we have had a chance to try out some great food spots in the area (with, admittedly, still so many left to try), I wanted to share my Top 5 Food Spots in Leslieville (for now).

1. Lady Marmalade: I don’t need to rehash how amazing this place truly is. So worth the wait. But just in case you forgot…

Baked french toast is the cat's pyjamas...

2. Ed’s Real Scoop & Bobbette and Belle:

Both of these spots make me all sorts of happy when it comes to dessert/snacks. Grabbing ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop has now become my favourite passtime on warm summer nights (maybe a little too much…dangerous stuff!), and Bobbette & Belle makes nothing short of incredible desserts. My recommendation? Get a macaroon from them, pair it with the cookies ‘n creme ice cream from Ed’s, and call it a day.

3. Rashers & Leslieville Pumps:

I talked about the amazingness of Rashers way before I even lived down the street from it. Their sandwiches are still delicious. A new favourite we recently learned about is the Leslieville Pumps - on its face, this spot is merely a run of the mill gas station. But inside you will find more than just candy bars and chips. They have sandwiches with smoked meat, BLTs, pulled pork, poutine, coleslaw and deep fried pickels. Yum! Perfect hangover or late night food (while Rashers closes at 8pm, The Pumps is open 24h!)

Simple grilled cheese? Not these sandwiches!

Rashers’ goodness…

4. Paulette’s Chicken and Doughnuts:

Freshly made doughnuts (like, my favourite, the s’mores doughnut) + fried chicken + your choice of sauce makes this place a fun spot to have an unhealthy but utterly delicious snack. We recently tried their deep-fried macaroni ‘n cheese balls, too…can’t say you would be wrong in doing the same. I love this spot because it’s one-of-a-kind in the area and offers a fun alternative to fast food. If you’re feeling like something bad for you, but oh-so-good, this place delivers.

5. Prohibition Gastropub & Riverside Public House:

Riverside was the first place we tried upon moving in. And Prohibition has now become the “go-to” when meeting friends for a drink. They have great beers on tap, a fantastic happy hour, prime location at Queen and Broadview plus their food is  pretty damn good. My favourite dish that I’ve  had so far is their “Pulled Pork Grilled Fromage” – exactly what it sounds like: pulled pork +grilled cheese. But the kicker is that it comes with fries and a slightly tangy raspberry flavoured dipping sauce. It shouldn’t work, but it certainly does. Definitely work a try.

We fully intend on trying more places this summer (like Ruby Watchco/Ruby Eats, “The Nose”, Swirl Wine Bar, among others), and I will be sure to get more on he list.

The new 'hood!

The new ‘hood!

Loving…

With a quick two-day jaunt to Ottawa for a certain someone’s graduation (my boyfriend is a master, y’all!), this week has flown by. And, judging by my evening plans over the coming weeks, seems like summer time is in full swing once again.

Listening:

This song makes me think of a cooler, slightly rainy night by the beach. I’ve been hearing it on the radio a lot lately and it’s made its way onto a few playlists already.

Craving:

I have mentioned Town restaurant before (when I said Ottawa is a foodie delight), and the celebratory lunch we had the other day more than lived up to my internal hype of the place. The food is beyond delicious, but there is one particular dish that I could eat over and over again: Mortadella Crostini. I don’t actually have a picture of it (I did find one taken by a Yelp user), but it’s meaty, it has nuts, it’s on toasted bread and it comes with an egg (in sandwich form) – I don’t think I need to sell it any more. One of my favourite dishes of all time, hands down. I sure will miss it!

Anticipating:

Hitting the golf course with my dad on Sunday for a nice round of golf and some cold beers on Father’s Day!

Wanting:

To finally take the plunge and buy a camera. I think my iPhone has taken me as far as it can…right now, I’m looking at something in the Canon family (aka “the known entity”). I like the Rebel series, and their new EOS SL1 seems to be super lightweight and offers the right digital SLR qualities I’m looking for.

Loving:

This view of my fair city (taken last weekend from a boat my friend rented for his moving away party!)

toronto skyline

 

Happy Father’s Day and have a great weekend, everyone!

Night Out: Wine and…Tacos?

Tonight I had the privilege of attending the summer opening of Mavrik Wine Bar. It’s a well-known fact that I love wine and anything wine bar related. Sadly, I had never been to Mavrik before but, after this introduction, you can bet I will be going back.

Grapefruit + wine + berries is delicious!

Grapefruit + wine + berries is delicious!

This little Queen West haunt is owned by two ladies who did the unthinkable – left their law and investment banking jobs to pursue a passion and open their own restaurant. They differentiate themselves from all other wine bars in a really great way, offering up local wines that are produced in small quantities (read: too small to be found at the LCBO) and a really good selection of fresh, healthy cooking.

A small sampling of Mavrik's menu - awesome tacos and great wine pairings

A small sampling of Mavrik’s menu – awesome tacos and great wine pairings

I got to sample two of their tacos with wine pairings. The first was a Portobello Taco with guacamole, tomatoes, red peppers, black beans, jalapeños, and basil aioli. While I’m not the biggest mushroom fan, this taco had great texture and flavour to it – not too spicy, just tangy enough, with the basil aioli adding a unique taste to otherwise “typical” taco fillings. The second – and my favourite – was the Sweet Potato Taco, filled with sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, parmesan and lemon aioli. This taco was so refreshing, tasty and was fabulously complemented by a Niagara Region Muscat. This was a perfect summer meal.

Portobello Taco (left) and Sweet Potato Taco (right)

Portobello Taco (left) and Sweet Potato Taco (right)

The vibe of the place is great – small and cozy – and, aside from the wonderful and unique food, there is also a healthy selection of cheese (after all, wine + cheese are the best of friends). My only gripe? With the wines being so local and limited in supply, you may fall in love with something that you can’t get your hands on too easily at the LCBO or Wine Rack. I guess that just means you have to return to Mavrik again.

mavrik vibe

This Bread is Bananas

Banana bread – one of the easiest things to bake and so delicious. Last night, having an abundance of ripe bananas in our house, I decided to make a loaf for dessert and work snacks. Nothing beats a fresh-out-of-the-oven, still warm, buttered piece of banana bread.

banana bread

 

Blue Ribbon* Banana Bread:

Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat, if you’re looking to get healthy)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

mixing it up

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mash bananas with a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Mix in melted butter.

3. Add vanilla. sugar, egg and baking powder and stir well.

4. Add flour and mix until fully coated and thick.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered loaf pan and place in oven. Let bake for one hour.

There you have it! Super simple and delicious. Plus a good way to use up those bananas that are maybe just a little too brown for anything else.

 

 

*ok so it hasn’t actually won any awards…but the alliteration was too good to pass up.

Loving…

The day spent outside yesterday at the Arts & Crafts Field Trip Festival. 2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of this amazing Canadian label (which launched acts like Broken Social Scene, Feist, Metric and Bloc Party) and they put on an incredible party to celebrate. Held at Fort York in downtown Toronto, the festivities took place on Saturday from noon until 11pm, and included some amazing collaborations: Uber Toronto and Scion Canada got together to offer free rides to the festival (a sweet perk in and of itself, but there was musical trivia as you rode and getting 5 songs right meant you get a ticket upgrade to VIP – which came with its own viewing area and food stations), Toronto Underground Market offered up a ton of awesome food all over the venue (from food trucks like Gourmet Gringos and Caplansky’s to food vendors like La Carnita and The Saucy Pierogi) and the Drake General Store and various Etsy vendors were on hand in case you wanted to commemorate the day with shopping.

After a Friday that had us waking up to a very punctured car tire which had to be replaced, this festival was a welcome distraction. Oh, and beach chairs? Best investment ever for day-long events.

field trip festival

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Herb-y Update

Quick update on my mini-herb garden – my thumb is actually a little green (much to my surprise)! First signs of life…now how long do I have to wait to actually use them?

herbs update

Pub Love

I sometimes have such a craving for pub food. I’m not talking about just burgers and fries, though. I mean the kind of menu items you will only find at a place with a lot of beer on tap, wooden tables and sports on TV screens. The thing I love about pub food most is its simplicity. And with that in mind, I decided to try to find some easy-to-mimic recipes for my 5 favourite pub grub meals:

pub love food

1 - Chicken Caesar Salad: The only salad I will ever have at a pub or bar. The creaminess of the dressing, crunch of the croutons and almost necessary bacon bits makes this a fantastic meal or appetizer. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen adds a certain element of cooking sophistication with a chicken brine, promising the juiciest of meat. Also, if you’re like me and can’t stand the fishy style of anchovies in the dressing, you can easily omit it without losing the flavour and creaminess.

2 - Baked Mac n’ Cheese: I’ve already professed my love for mac n’ cheese, and this Martha Stewart recipe is the right crunchy/creamy mixture. Something so great about having a bowl of this with a glass of white wine or a light beer.

3 - Loaded Potato Skins: The most difficult part about this recipe from Chow is the scooping out of the potato. The rest is super simple. I love loaded potato skins – I always ate the skin on baked potatoes (I know, kind of weird), and I love that these can be made bite sized for a party. They’re  perfect hors d’oeuvres to pass around, or snack on while hanging out in your backyard.

4 - Chicken Fingers (and fries): Without fail, what I order 9 times out of 10 when I’m feeling pub-y. The Black Peppercorn adds a really intriguing twist to a classic by dredging the chicken fingers into crushed Doritos…crushed Doritos, you guys! Amazing.

5 - Deep Fried Pickles: This combo should not work, but it does. So well. A Beautiful Mess has a shockingly easy-to-make recipe for this delicious treat, which uses minimal ingredients (one of which is cornmeal, aka that added crunch). They’re awesome dipped in something with dill (like their own dip recipe). These are so good!

Note: all of the above go amazing with a pint of your favourite beer, on a sunny day, hanging out in your backyard, with some good friends.