Category Archives: Quick Breads

Rustic Seeded Oat Crackers

butter 2I don’t really get the appeal of smoothies. Yes, I know they are jam-packed with tons of healthy foods, but honestly, they have no crunch. If I’m going to take in calories, I want to chew my food. (I make an exception for wine, because there are exceptions to every rule).with wine 3These crackers are ideal for when hunger strikes at 4:00 pm and I want to devour everything in sight. They satisfy my craving for salt and crunch. And, as a bonus, I know that they are densely packed with good- for-me ingredients.

The problem with most packaged crackers is that just a few never satisfy me. Plus, the list of ingredients almost always contains items I can’t pronounce, and probably shouldn’t be eating. The healthy packaged crackers, while packed with fibre, taste like cardboard.

These crackers are the creation of British food stylist and author Anna Jones. Her Instagram account is gorgeous. I just bought her new cookbook, A Modern Way to Cook, and I am so inspired to cook my way through it.

Oats are the main ingredient, the glue that holds all these seeds together. Feel free to play around with the seeds you add. I used pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, nigella and fennel.assortment of seedsready to mixAdd water, a few teaspoons of vegetable oil and maple syrup, and let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the oats can soak up all the moisture.mixedDivide the batter into 2 and roll each half out between 2 sheets of parchment paper. rolled outready for bakingOnce baked, let them cool and break into crackers. You can make them any size you like. I was curious to know the nutrient info for these crackers, so I did the calculations. Each large piece (recipe makes 16 large crackers) contains 85 calories, 1.5 grams of fibre and 3 grams of protein.

They are delicious plain, with butter and salt or with some olive tapenade. My friend Sandy has a great tapenade recipe.crckers in bowl on marble platterbutter 1

Click here to print recipe for Rustic Seeded Oat Crackers.

with wine 2

Irish Soda Bread

with-teaIf you happened to have been visiting Ireland during the first week of September this year, and noticed a shortage of butter, I apologize. My bad. That was me, eating my way through Galway, Killarney and Dublin, one loaf of bread at a time, slathered with Irish butter and salt.bread-and-butterMost folks go to Ireland to drink Guinness or Irish Whiskey. When the customs officer asked us the purpose of our visit I think I shocked him when I divulged I was going for the butter.

What makes Irish butter so good? Turns out that the key to their delicious butter is grass. Over two thirds of Irish land is dedicated to farming and agriculture.  80% of this land is used to grow grass, hence the country’s nickname, “The Emerald Isle”. Irish cows graze freely on grass for 10 months a year. emerald-isleIrish butter has a deep golden colour, owing to the beta carotene in grass. Contrast that to North America, where most dairy cows are fed a diet comprised of primarily corn and soybeans. This produces a paler coloured butter, less rich and creamy than Irish butter. Creamy and sweet with a pure clean butter flavour and silky texture, Irish butter is the gold standard. The most well-known brand of Irish butter is Kerrygold. Luckily for us, it’s widely available here at home.kerrygold-vs-north-american-butterI discovered the joys of Irish soda bread and butter on our very first morning.  We landed in Dublin after flying all night and rented a car to drive to Galway, on the west coast. We stopped halfway through our 3 hour drive for our first full Irish breakfast. My plate arrived piled high with eggs, sausages, bacon, potatoes and tomatoes. All very delicious, but I quickly lost interest and abandoned it once I took my first bite of the soda bread, thickly spread with salted butter and jam.

Turns out that almost every restaurant bakes their own soda bread and the variations seemed endless. My rule for bread eating is, that unless it’s stellar, I try not to waste the calories. I was powerless to resist all that amazing bread, and it goes without saying that the butter put me in my happy place.

Irish soda bread boasts a craggy intensely crunchy crust and a dense chewy interior. There are many different versions and variations, but the traditional recipe consists of flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The power of baking soda is activated by the acid in the buttermilk. 

My version is adapted from Clodagh McKenna‘s book Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. She uses equal parts of white all-purpose and whole wheat flours. I loaded up my loaf with golden flax seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and raisins.

Irish butter, flaky sea salt and tart cherry jam make excellent accompaniments to the bread. Any leftover is delicious toasted all week long!butter-salt-and-jam

Click here to print recipe for Irish-soda-bread.

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Canned Cornbread

Yes I’m fully aware that baking cornbread in tiny tomato paste cans is a bit twee, but I just couldn’t help it. After being served “canned” cornbread at The Tasting Room, I just knew I had to  come home and recreate the experience. Just imagine the surprise on your friends and family’s faces when you lift up the can to reveal cornbread inside. It’s just so much fun. And really, who couldn’t use a little more fun in their day? output_WdoSLZThe most time consuming part of this project is preparing the cans. They need to be greased and floured very well.prepping cansThis cornbread recipe is an old favourite, created by my friend, Pam. I have tried many different recipes in the past 20 years, and I always come back to this one. With both cornmeal and cornflour in the batter, the texture of this cornbread is fantastic. The addition of corn and jalapeño add sweet and heat.ready to bakeThe batter mixes up quickly in one bowl. mixing batterA spring loaded ice cream scoop makes easy work of getting the batter into the cans. DO NOT FILL EACH CAN MORE THAN HALFWAY!filling cans

ready for ovenIf you greased and floured properly, the cornbreads will slide right out. If you missed a few spots like me, some “gentle” coaxing may be necessary.

They are delicious as is or mix up a batch of whipped browned butter to slather on them.

whipped brown butter 1whipped brown butter 2I served them on these adorable safari plates my daughter bought for me. with a glass of wineleopardelephant 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Canned Cornbread with Whipped Browned Butter.

on blue rectangular platter

Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese Scones

split with butter 3 625 sqChances are, unless you live in the northeastern area of North America, it is unlikely you have ever experienced the wonder of a fresh from the bush wild blueberry. They differ wildly (pun intended!) from their sibling, the cultivated blueberry. They are smaller, sweeter and more flavourful. The majority of them are frozen and used by commercial bakers all over North America. But, if you are lucky to live in The Maritime provinces, Ontario, Quebec or Maine, you will understand why I squeal with joy when they finally arrive in late July each summer.

In our increasingly global economy, where you can get anything at any time of year, fresh wild blueberries remain one of the few holdouts! They are only available late July-September. And for that I am grateful. There is something to be said for delayed gratification. Sure, you can get cultivated blueberries all year long, from other parts of the world, but nothing compares to the sweetness and burst of blueberry flavour that explodes in your mouth when you eat the wild ones.

There are those who believe that it is a crime to bake with wild blueberries. They are purists and feel that the wild ones should be saved for eating raw and that coercing them into a baked good is heresy. They postulate that only cultivated blueberries should be used for baking. To that group of extremists I say, “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!” If you have ever created a muffin or cake with cultivated blueberries, you know of the baking fiasco I refer to. They burst during baking  turning the whole cake a disgusting shade of greyish blue. Wild blueberries are well behaved. They hold their shape perfectly during baking and do not explode.

While each summer I certainly I eat more than my body weight in raw wild blueberries, mixed with Greek yogurt and Double Coconut Granola, I defend the right to use them in baked goods  as well.

I recalled a blueberry cream cheese scone I used to make many years ago, but could not find the recipe, so I did a google search. The blueberry cream cheese scone from Honolulu restaurant Diamond Head Market & Grill kept popping up in my search. Studded with blueberries and chunks of cream cheese,everyone raved about it. Although the bakery refuses to share their secret recipe, Hawaii food blogger Bonnie has cracked the code. Thanks Bonnie! We loved these scones fresh from the oven, but they were even better, split and toasted the next day! mise en place 1The key to these scones is to mix in the blueberries very gently and then carefully push small chunks of cream cheese into the dough. I scooped the dough with a spring loaded ice cream scoop and lightly pressed them with my palm to flatten. A brushing of cream and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, and they were ready for baking.

gently fold in berries 2piled up 2

Click here to print recipe for Wild Blueberry and Cream Cheese Scones.

cooling 2

 

 

 

Rhubarb Coconut Scones

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on lace 625 sq 1Upon waking each morning, I peek through the drapes to see if any buds have appeared on the  bare limbs of the Norway maple tree outside my bedroom window. Seeing none, I am overcome with the urge to burrow right back into my hole (or under my covers). Mother nature has a perverse sense of humour this year. This long cruel “polar vortex” winter seems to have segued into a particularly nasty spring.

When I finally saw the first buds materialize, followed by a thatch of chives popping through through the earth, I knew that local rhubarb was not far behind. I’m not a rhubarb fanatic, but I do like to create with it at least once a year to celebrate the season. Last year it was this gorgeous tart. This year, I had had my heart set on rhubarb scones. I was inspired by Midge over at Food 52. When I told my husband about my plans, he frowned and grumbled, “What a way to ruin scones.” Clearly I am married to a Spring Grinch. Blueberry scones would make him purr, but those come in July. Get with the program honey.rhubarbMy favourite scone recipe is from the bible Baking Illustrated, created by the same geniuses over at Cook’s Illustrated. These scones use heavy cream which contributes to a rich and tender crumb that  buttermilk or whole milk would never achieve. They are not overly sweet, just 3 tablespoons of sugar are called for in the recipe. Knowing that rhubarb is super tart, I decided to add an additional few tablespoons of sugar to macerate with the sliced rhubarb, before adding it to the dough. adding sugarWhen I went to make them, I discovered that I didn’t have quite enough heavy cream. Feeling too lazy to run to the store, I topped up the measuring cup with a bit of coconut milk.  To ramp up the coconut flavour I added about 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut. butter in food processorin bowlkneadingThe dough gets pressed into an 8 inch cake pan to give you a perfectly round circle for dividing into triangular scones. A bench scraper or sharp knife work well for cutting the scones.pat into round pancuttingA final brush of heavy cream before they hit the oven gives the finished scones a lovely glossy surface. brushing with creamThey were the height of scone perfection. Moist and flaky with a lightly crisped exterior. Even the Spring Grinch enjoyed one with butter and jam.sliced 1

Click here to print recipe for Rhubarb Coconut Scones.with butter and jam 1