Tag 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.

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!

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)

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.

From the archives – More Than 2-Raisin Bread for Rodger – Apr. 10, 2010

I realized I haven’t written much lately about food … but then I haven’t been cooking a great deal either. So I decided to pull another post from the archives for today. And, hey! I actually feel like baking some bread now!

Not long after I arrived on Bequia this time, our neighbour, Rodger, had a special request: Would I make raisin bread that had more than just two rainsins in each loaf? He said he’d been buying the local bread in town, but was disappointed with the miserly amount of raisins included. I told him I knew of just the recipe for that, but needed to contact Darcie Hossack as she had published it earlier in a food column. When I made this bread that first time, Rose and her crew were here at the house working for a few days to varnish all the railings on the verandah. The smell of cinnamon and baking bread nearly drove the crew nuts, so when I offered to share they knocked off one entire loaf in about 10 minutes. Everyone agreed with Dennis and me that it was the best Raisin Bread they’d ever had. What’s not to like, though, about home-baked bread fresh out of the oven?

When I asked Darcie for the recipe again the other day, because I had left my printed copy in Calgary, she couldn’t remember how long ago it had been since she’d published that particular column. At least two years, I figured, because it was certainly before I moved back to Calgary in 2008. Turns out it was four years ago, when we were still both enrolled in the Humber programme. Time flies! And I’ve only ever made this recipe that one time. I have a feeling that if Rodger loves these loaves as much as Rose’s crew did that day, I’ll be baking many more for him to store in his freezer before I leave here in a couple of weeks.

Adventures in Baking on Bequia (3)

Last post in this series as I’m running out of time. I didn’t bake very often during this visit, and I’m kind of stretching this last baking adventure a bit by offering something savory as well as sweet – and no bread at all – for you consideration…

At Christmas, my nephew found this brilliant recipe for Potato Cheddar Bacon Tart, which I promptly named Bacon-Wrapped Potatoes, because strips of bacon form a “crust” around the potato and cheese filling. While we were putting this together yesterday afternoon, Dennis said, although he knew the recipe didn’t, he had the odd impression it may have had Ukrainian origins – potatoes, cheese, bacon fat = heavy, but delicious!

Bacon strips are spiralled out from the centre of the pie plate to eventually form the crust. Sliced potatoes are layered with onions, garlic and old-cheddar cheese, mounded in the centre with bacon hanging over the sides that is then pulled over to completely cover the potato filling.That dish is covered with a piece of parchment paper and a lid – in this case, another pie plate. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours and this is what you get… Flip it over onto a plate and, voila! Instant yumminess!

And, if that wasn’t enough, I then baked a Crack Pie for dessert…

Both of which went very well with the Kansas City Ribs Dennis had been barbecuing all afternoon.

Delicious! (Plates and serving dishes made by Doug Andrews of Calgary, by the way!)

Adventures in Baking on Bequia (2)

Yesterday, I baked bagels. This is a recipe I’ve worked with for years, that originated in Baking with Julia, one of the best books I own and use regularly – it’s falling apart, it’s so well-used! I’ve modified the technique somewhat to compensate for baking in a tropical climate and, for all intents and purposes, at sea level. I always plan to bake bagels at least once whenever I visit Bequia. Here’s a photo essay of yesterday’s effort:

First rising of dough – it’s ready to be punched down and sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, where it rises again. Then the dough is ready to be formed – and unlike making donuts where you cut out the hole from the round dough, with bagels you actually punch your thumbs through and pull the dough apart to form a hole. Once there’s a rolling boil going on in the pot, you add the bagels, 8 at a time or however many fit comfortably so they swim next to each other with room left for expansion, boil for 3 minutes, turn, then boil another 3 minutes. Remove from pot.

First batch done!

To recap… This is how much the bagels have increased in size after boiling on one side. They need to be turned over at this point. Increase the size of the holes in the bagels again just before dropping then into the water. After boiling, you wash them with egg white and add whatever topping you prefer – these were topped with poppy seeds and the first batch with sesame seeds.

While the bagels bake for 30 minutes, you have time for a celebratory cup of espresso…

and to begin mixing the recipe for Focaccia. The recipe I love to use is from Dishing: Calgary Women Cook published by Whitecap Books. Easy-peasy and an excellent flavour and texture. (Book available from The Cookbook Company.)

And back to the bagels, here are all 32, finished and ready to eat!

Baking in Bequia 7

Oatmeal Cookies, an old-old standby, and necessary when invited over for coffee and you immediately say, “I’ll bring something!” I normally don’t like baking cookies, but only because I can’t bake them all in one swell foop. It usually takes repeated dropping/flattening/baking, if you don’t have a big enough pan for 3-4 dozen cookies to allow them to spread out and bake properly. We do have a rather large cookie sheet, but I still couldn’t bake more than 2 dozen at one time. I use the reliable Oatmeal Cookie recipe from Harrowsmith Cookbook Vol.1.

I was living in Kingston, ON, the summer Harrowsmith launched the first issue of its magazine, and we collected them for years, believing that we one day, too, would become back-to-the-landers. The magazine always printed readers’ recipes – most of them providing good solid farm food, or family recipes. Nothing fancy, although every once in a while there’d be something special included, for holidays and such. I remember Dennis glomming on to one for Asparagus, Ham and White Cheddar Pizza that quickly became a favourite in our house. When Harrowsmith published, in book form, the first volume in a collection of magazine-published recipes, I was thrilled. My old three volumes are well-worn now, and I recently replaced them with a three-in-one-volume hardcover edition that I keep in Calgary. We’ve discovered many recipes in these books over the years that have become standards for us, yet we still manage to find more to try every time we open a copy. Great books! I can honestly say that f I were only allowed to keep one cookbook out of all I own, it would have to be Harrowsmith, although there would be difficulty in choosing between the three volumes.

So here are the cookies:

Hey! Wait a minute! I could have sworn I baked an even 4 dozen – Dennis???

Baking in Bequia 6

Dennis offered to build up the fire in the pizza oven this morning so that I could bake wood-fired bagels. These kind of became my signature baked good, and I developed the recipe I now use from, and once again, Baking With Julia. over a number of years. The secret has been in the addition of gluten powder – a tsp. per cup of flour was what I was told to try, and that always seemed to get the best results for a good and chewy, but not tough, bagel. This time, however, I discovered that I ran out of a seemingly lifetime supply of gluten that had always been in the pantry. So this baking session will be an experiment to see if these bagels will be as good as what I used to produce.

And I have to brag – at one time, when I was trying to make a business of the baking, I was selling my bagels to a small hotel on Mustique that caters to many famous guests and some of the equally famous home owners. I know that my bagels have been eaten and enjoyed by the crew working on one of Tommy Hilfiger’s photo shoots (the hotel ordered 22 dozen for that week alone) and by Felix Dennis. If you don’t know that name, just wait for the movie Hippie Hippie Shake to be released later this year. Bagel-baker to the stars – for a brief moment in time, at least.

Today the music is Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, and I don’t know why, but just felt like that. Also felt like Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years.

I’m going to begin reading Dirt Music by Tim Winton today, because he is a brilliant writer, and Annie V. and I were talking about him on the way to the Calgary airport, and about the CD of Dirt Music based on this book that she had in the car.

And here they are – 32 bagels.

And they’ll be medicine for Mr. Cantina who has been feeling poorly these past few days, although he’s managed to rally so we could be invited over for brunch and a swim tomorrow. Hooray!

Pizza Night!

We’re holding Rodger’s birthday celebration tonight, even though the actual date was last Tues. This was the first time we could get everyone together. So, since pizza is Dennis’ domain, I don’t have to do a thing tonight! Except make the appetizer (Knorr spinach dip) and the bread to dip in it (sourdough), a Greek salad, and a Pecan Pie for dessert. Say, wait a minute! That’s most of dinner. What’s wrong with this picture?

Anyway, the dip, bread and pie are made. Just have to throw together the salad. Time for a swim before everyone arrives!

Here’s the pie – picture perfect!

I’ve always used the recipe out of the Lazy Gourmet Cookbook. Works every time.

No bread baking today. I’m resting up to use the pizza oven tomorrow morning. Then I’ll make baguettes and Italian Country Bread and will move on to bagels on Friday. I love the results of wood-fired baking! Delisioso!