Category Archives: Baking

What’s Cookin’?

As readers of my new novel, One Woman’s Island, have discovered, I included local Bequia recipes at the end of each chapter to give you all a “flavour” of what the food is like that the book’s characters eat.

Also at the end I included a recipe for an Island in the Clouds cocktail I invented that Sharon Wilson and Dan Erkelens kindly tested and reviewed here on reading recommendations reviewed.

One Woman’s Island is a very personal book, and one thing I definitely share with the main character is a love of good food and cooking. Over the years living on Bequia I’ve had the opportunity to develop my cooking skills and have become quite a good baker. Of course, it helps to have a pizza/bread oven close by …

I also developed a recipe for cinnamon buns that produces a light and fluffy bun not cloyingly sweet. (Recipe is in the book.)

So, if you haven’t read my novel yet, you’re in for a taste treat as well as (I think) a good story!

But now I’m coming to the reason for the title of this blog post, and I want to know …

What’s Cookin’ in YOUR kitchen!

Everyone has a recipe that’s special to them, either something your mother made for the family or a favourite recipe you’ve “owned” over the years – your party trick! – that receives accolades whenever you serve it. Or it could be that you now live in a different culture altogether (as I have) and you’ve discovered some local specialty you find very appealing and representative of the place and its people. So here’s what I’m asking you to do …

Please share that recipe with us! If you have a blog, please write a post – link to this blog post then tell your own story about the importance of your recipe. Include the complete recipe and add a photo of the dish as it’s served, if possible. But please do give us the background information as to why this particular recipe is so important. (If you do not write a blog, please contact me if you would like to participate and I will create a separate blog post for you here.)

Even if you are not a cook yourself, I’m sure you can think of something you’ve enjoyed eating during your lifetime, something that has significance to you. I want to hear about it!

In a way, we’ll be creating a kind of online cookbook for other readers to enjoy.

And … just in case you were wondering, this is what half of a 22-dozen order for bagels looks like.

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Food, glorious food … prepared on Bequia!

We haven’t been cooking anything unusual lately here on Bequia, other than regular meals to sustain us. But we have used freshly grown local pumpkins recently picked from our own vines:

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And we made this:

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A Caribbean Pumpkin Soup recipe I developed a number of years ago …
And this:

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Beef Curry (recipe from CaribbeanPot.com) cooked inside a whole Pumpkin.

Then I got back into baking bread again …

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Two loaves each of Rye with Caraway Seeds and 100% Whole Wheat.

Finally, here’s one of my most favourite desserts to prepare for company – Bequia Lime Pie! Not only is it always delicious and a surprise to those who haven’t eaten it before, but the recipe is super-easy to prepare, calling for few ingredients. (And I have this recipe memorized since I’ve made it so many times.)

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So, there you have it – gastronomic delights from Bequia!

And the good news for those of you looking for any of these recipes … “some” will be included in my next novel, One Woman’s Island!

Popular posts … Who knew?

For the longest time now, since about 5 or 6 years ago, the two most popular phrases used on search engines that have brought people to my blog are “baking bread in a pizza oven” followed closely by “meeting my best friend for the first time”. Here are the two posts that those searchers click on: Baking Bread in the Pizza Oven and I met my best friend for the first time.

The first search always made sense to me, because home pizza ovens are becoming popular among foodies, Dennis had built one here on Bequia, and I had written a number of blog posts featuring our experiments in using it, both for making pizza and baking bread.

The second search I always took as being very flattering. There seemed to be a lot of people out there on the internet who were nostalgic for that first meeting with a best friend in their own lives and wanted to read about and enjoy my personal experience.

At least, that’s what I thought … until recently, when those same search words came up with “writing an essay about …” attached to them. Then I saw a site link attached to those searches, and noticed that some of my hits and views were being directed from – a writing instruction site!! So, instead of being flattered, I became worried those students could be plagiarizing my essay and turning it in as their own work. I considered taking down the post altogether.

But then I realized that my experience was uniquely my own, and perhaps these students were being sent to my sight to read an example of how to write about meeting your best friend for the first time. (Oh, how we can delude ourselves at times …)

So I decided to leave things as they were and write this post about my findings instead. Perhaps … just perhaps, one or two of those students have come to my blog, read that post and more, have liked what they read and became subscribers. That’s a big “perhaps”, I know, but we can always hope the intentions that bring readers to read our work are ultimately good.

And maybe there’s an online writing instructor out there who actually did find my blog post to be a compelling example of how to write an essay about meeting your best friend for the first time, so much so they are recommending that all their students check out my blog!

And here’s the subject of that original blog – Darcie Friesen Hossack!

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From the vaults – Baking bread in the pizza oven, Dec. 2009

It still amazes me that after all this time of writing my blog – which was mainly meant to be about all things “Books” – the two search words/phrases that are still most often used, almost daily, and by which people are directed to my blog are “Chikungunya” (tells me there are too many people out there still suffering with this awful virus!) and “baking bread in a pizza oven”. “Meeting my best friend for the first time” is the third most-popular phrase. I’ve posted links (above in the menu on a separate page) to all the posts I wrote regarding Chikungunya. But I thought I’d reblog a few earlier posts regarding that good old pizza oven Dennis built a number of years ago. We have it in mind to publish a guide some day to building your own backyard pizza oven. It’s obvious there’s an interest! So here’s some of the links to those posts I’ve pulled out of the vault today for your reading pleasure, and the answer to that burning (!) question so many of you seem to have … Can I bake bread in a pizza oven? (And, no, we have not fired up the oven this morning to bake pizza or bread – it’s pissing down rain!!!)

You can bake bread in a pizza oven, but you can’t bake pizza in a bread oven. The temperature in our oven can get up to 900F, so that a pizza cooks perfectly in a matter of minutes. Then, after the oven temperature falls overnight, you can bake bread the next day. We prepared several batches of dough early in the morning.

Bread bakes a bit faster than in a conventional oven, and the crust is much crunchier, plus you get that great crackling sound as the bread cools. Here’s the first batch, fresh out of the oven. (Jay is in the background, lounging in the pool. Such a mild-mannered guy, how were we to know he’d soon be scarfing down nearly an entire baguette all by himself?)

And Mr. McAnderson surprised us with this great sign he picked up at a flea market in Notting Hill, and will likely soon be nailed to the rum shack right next to the pizza oven.

Further reading:
Pizza Oven
Adventures in Baking on Bequia (1)
Adventures in Baking on Bequia (2)
Adventure in Baking on Bequia (3)

From the vaults – Baking bagels and writing, April 9, 2011

Since I made a resolution not to write about writing any longer, as in how to write or get published or how to self-publish, I began digging back into old blog posts and discovered I already have quite a large number of these blogs already written, and they’re just languishing there in the vaults, dormant and unread. So I decided to begin resurrecting them and will repost (updating if need be) for the benefit of any new followers who may have missed them the first time around.

I’m trying something new here today at The View… Not baking bagels – I can`t count the number of bagels I may have churned out of this kitchen since I first tried my hand at making them. Here’s what half an order looked like when I supplied the Firefly Hotel on Mustique with 22 dozen. They were catering a Tommy Hilfiger photo shoot and asked me to pre-slice the entire order, for their ease in serving. (I think I remember cutting my hand in the process, and that I bled on a few before the rest were bagged…)

At that time, I’d tried setting up a baking business out of my house, and celebrities on Mustique, such as the late Felix Dennis, proclaimed mine to be the best bagels they’d ever tasted, or so I was told. I was baking healthy breads, using ingredients my neighbour packed down for me from Canada – nuts, seeds, special flours – that made my baked goods more expensive than what was available locally, but also unique. Unfortunately for me, my “friends” on Bequia were too cheap to pay the higher price for artisanal breads (and one even asked if I could deliver – on a 7-sq. mile island, fer cryin’ out loud!), so that shut down any pretensions I had for becoming a professional baker.

Now I bake for the sheer pleasure of it; I find all cooking to be extremely meditative. I love the entire process – poring over cookbooks, looking for new recipes to try, developing my own, and then the actual cooking/baking part, not to mention devouring the finished dish. It struck me many years ago, when I was taking the Humber Creative Writing Course online while living here in Bequia, trying to bake at the same time I was writing for Paul Quarrington, my mentor, that baking and writing are a lot alike – A LOT! I came up with a complete correlation of the two activities, and was going to share my idea on the student chat forum, but never got around to writing the damn thing down! I was reminded of it when I read Stephen King’s On Writing recently where he makes a comparison between the two activities. Double damn! My idea had not been unique after all.

But here’s another aspect where baking and writing are similar that I hadn’t thought of until writing this post today – few people are willing to pay what your “craft” is actually worth, because they refuse to value the work as highly as we creators value what we’ve created – both bakers and writers.

A long circuitous route around to my initial point for writing this blog, which is to tell you that this morning, when I decided it was time to start making bagels, I had the laptop set up on the verandah, and the file for my novel open so that I could, once again, commence eradicating adverbs from the MS. I walked into the kitchen, came up with a better way to rephrase something, went back out to the verandah to correct that, then thought – Bingo! Why not bring the computer into the kitchen, wipe the flour from my hands whenever I have another idea, or a few minutes during yeast fermenting or dough rising, when I can turn my attention back to my writing.

And that’s when I came up with the idea for writing this blog instead. So, editing avoidance extraordinaire! Only one change made so far on the novel, because I’ve been too busy writing for my blog. Plus, I keep looking up at this …

Dennis doesn’t want to light the pizza oven for me today – too much trouble, he says. (In fact, I haven’t been able to use the oven the entire time I’ve been here this time. He’s the pizza-oven builder, so he also lays claim to deciding when it can and can’t be used, it seems …) So these bagels won’t be wood-fired today. Instead I’m baking bagels, and a Pecan Pie, in the stove-oven … But, in the meantime, and while the bagel dough is spending time in the fridge before it needs to be formed, boiled and baked, maybe I’ll be able to get back to that novel editing.

Recipe for Onion Buns

This is a recipe I developed recently that is mentioned in a guest post I wrote for the blog Happy Lifeaholic titled, “Why I bake bread in a pizza oven but have never owned a microwave … and other cooking stories” which you may read here.

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Onion Buns

(recipe adapted from a mash-up of the Round Country Bread recipe in The Il Fornaio Baking Book and what was in my refrigerator at the time …)

Ingredients
1-1/2 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
7 cups white flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cups cool water
1 cup Biga* or sourdough starter
1 cup caramelized onions**
Olive oil
Additional flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Stir 4 cups of flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, cool water, Biga and caramelized onions (including oil they were cooked in). Mix together and add remainder of flour as needed until it all comes together fairly easily.

Knead for as long as you can (and this is where my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook comes in handy!) The longer you knead bread dough, the better the overall bread will be. I usually knead for 8 minutes altogether with the kitchen machine; 15-20 minutes if kneading by hand. Once you’ve been making bread long enough you can tell by the feel of the dough when it’s been kneaded enough.

Rub a large bowl with olive oil, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Turn the dough so it is evenly coated with oil then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and lay a kitchen towel over it. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until double, about 1-1/2 hours. (These rising times and temperatures also depend upon where you live and your altitude above sea level. I’m baking AT sea level, for instance. So you may need to adjust some of this method accordingly.)

Punch down the dough and allow it to rise a second time, about an hour.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 16 equal-sized pieces. Form these into buns and place them on a prepared baking sheet. (I use an over-sized cookie sheet and place parchment paper on the surface – for easy cleanup.) Allow the buns to rise again for about half an hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425F. When the buns have risen sufficently, bake them for 30-35 minutes until they are golden brown on top. (I am in the habit of turning off the oven and leaving the oven door closed for 5 minutes then opening the door and leaving the baked bread in the oven for 5 minutes more. This seems to give home-baked bread a better crust.)

Remove the buns from the oven and separate them. Allow to cool on racks.

Makes 16 large buns

*Biga
3/4 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3-1/2 cups white flour
1-1/4 cup cool water

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes. Pour flour into large bowl, make a well and add the yeast mixture and cool water. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Cover tightly and allow to ferment slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using. This makes about 3 cups of Biga. (The longer the Biga remains in the refrigerator the more sour it becomes. It’s still active as long as there are bubbles on the surface.)

**Caramelized onions
2 large white onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter

Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the onions, separating the slices into rings. Add more oil, if necessary. Fry on low, stirring occasionally, until the onions brown and become caramelized. The onions may be stored in the refrigerator.