Maple Walnut Spiced Pumpkin Buns

Yesterday, I was supposed to post something Thankgiving-y… but got sidetracked in favour of a big political rant. So, with less than a week to go before Thanksgiving, here’s that post 🙂

We were up in Duluth this weekend, enjoying the fall colours, and photographing the Northern Lights for our first time ever. (My first time seeing it!).

All that crisp, clean air and warm autumn colours put me right in the mood for baking.

On a grocery stop, we passed a display of cinnamon buns, and my mind wandered. What about doing “pumpkin spice” buns? With actual pumpkin in the bread? Of course, I need to put maple syrup in it… and here we are!

I actually started with my Buffalo Chicken Buns recipe! I don’t make a ton of cinnamon buns, usually preferring savoury baking. A few tweaks, and these were AWESOME. Says my husband:

“It’s autumn in my mouth! I love the complexity of the flavours all together. It’s well balanced, with nothing overwhelming anything else. The soft bready texture with the creamy glaze, the stickiness from the filling, and the crunch of the walnuts all compliments and contrasts each other, and keeps it all interesting.”

Enjoy!

Maple Walnut Spiced Pumpkin Buns

Makes 6 giant buns

1 1/2 cups warm – not hot! – water
4 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar
5+ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling mix)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2-1 cup chopped walnuts

Extra butter or pan spray
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Stir yeast and brown sugar into warm water, allow to stand for 10 minutes – it should get very bubbly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine about half the flour and salt. Pour in yeast mixture, pumpkin, and vanilla, stir well to combine. Add remaining flour, combine. Dump dough out onto a floured surface, knead until soft and elastic, 5-10 minutes. (OR: mix it in a stand mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes or so!)

Once dough is fully kneaded, place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for one hour, or until doubled in size.

Once dough has doubled in size, roll out on a floured surface. Aim to make it a large rectangle, say 20 x 12″ or so.

Combine melted butter and maple syrup, evenly brush over dough, leaving a 1″ border around the edge. Combine brown sugar and spices, sprinkle evenly over the butter/maple syrup mixture. Sprinkle chopped walnuts evenly over sugar mixture. Starting with one of the shorter edges, tightly roll the dough up.

Generously grease a 9 x 13″ baking pan with extra butter or pan spray, sprinkle with sugar.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the roll into 6 even rounds. Carefully place each roll into the pan, spacing them evenly.

Cover pan with plastic wrap, allow to rise one more time – about 45 minutes. While waiting for the buns to rise, heat oven to 375F. Once final rise is over, pop the pan in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and perfect.

As buns are baking, make the glaze:

Maple Glaze:

1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Whisk together maple syrup, butter, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth and well combined. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, whisking until smooth and well combined – glaze will be THICK. It should be only barely spreadable – think with a tsp or two of milk if needed.

Spread glaze onto buns while still hot.

Porter’s Yogurt & Ice Cream Topping

True story: When I was a little kid – long before developing gluten problems – I used to love getting into my mom’s jar of wheat germ in the fridge. I’d sprinkle it on cereal, put it on yogurt, even top ice cream with it. I loved the texture, and the almost nutty flavour it added to things.

As an adult, I may not be able to have it anymore, but my husband can… and he’s someone obsessed with getting enough fiber. We’re old like that! 🙂

So, I created this yogurt topping for him. Not only does it have wheat germ, but also flax meal – one of his favourite things (OLD. I feel OLD typing that!). He’s also been getting into using chia seeds recently, so those are in there also. He keeps a canister of this at his desk at work, and some at home – right on hand, to spoon onto yogurt whenever he wants.

This is super easy to make, it whips up in just a few minutes. For a gluten free version, substitute gluten free oat bran for the wheat germ.

Healthy Flax & Wheat Germ Topping for Yogurt
Makes… however much you want!

1 part chia seeds
2 parts flax meal
2 parts wheat germ

Combine ingredients in a nonstick pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until fragrant and toasted.

Remove from heat, transfer to glass dish, allow to cool completely. Store in airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Lembas Recipe

With just a few short days til TheOneRing.Net‘s “One Last Party”, I decided that it was finally time to develop my own Lembas recipe. I think it would be fun to bring it along on our journey (along with our Miruvor!): Cheaper than airport food, healthier – especially in light of the travel, looong hours, etc we are about to subject ourselves to – and, you know.. themeatic. Also, it involved creative problem solving, so a good way to keep me distracted while waiting!

The facts are these…

Lembas is a type of Elvish bread / cake / biscuit from Tolkien’s writings. First made by Yavanna from a special Elvish corn, it was nutritious, and known to be ridiculously sustaining – that “One small bite will fill the stomach of a grown man”, etc. It’s generally theorized that Lembas was based on hard tack – a very dry and bland bread product used for military rations and some traditional Newfoundland cooking.

“”Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith.” – Fellowship of the Rings

“The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream.” – Fellowship of the Ring

In the movies, Lembas was shown to be a crumbly white biscuit type food. Apparently they used an unsweetened shortbread that tasted awful. They were presented wrapped in leaves, and tied up with twine.

Tolkien has said that they contain honey, and the “fruit of the Mallorn tree”, which was described as ” Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale” in Unfinished Tales.

Oh, and as one other challenge to this little exercise? Half of our little fellowship is allergic to gluten.

So.. lots of random information to work with, in addition to my own assumptions… and nutritional goals for the finished product.

To me, I picture this as a sweet thing, but not a DESSERT thing. They straight up mention its sweetness, afterall. I picture some of the sweetness coming from the (canon!) honey, but also from dried fruit, which would contribute to the nutrition of it. I think dried apples would work best given the colour description of the interior, but I think apricots are more in line with the complexity of flavour I’m picturing. I decided that there should be a small amount of spice for complexity, and a pinch of herbs to bring it back from being too desserty. In terms of “fruit of the mallorn tree”, I am choosing to interpret that as almonds.

Now, in terms of the nutritious / sustenance properties of Lembas… I wouldn’t have used white flour even if we weren’t working around gluten issues. There’s just no real nutrition there. I decided to use a small amount of masa flour, due to the original Lembas being corn based. Because I have no elven magical corn, it’ll have to do 🙂 Also, I’m supplementing it with protein powder and ground flax to contribute to nutrition. Non-magical, non-valar corn is only slightly more nutritious than wheat flour, after all.

Gluten-Free Lembas
Makes about 8 3″ Lembas biscuits

1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup masa flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour (can use millet instead)
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder*
1/2 cup Sliced almonds
1/2 cup Thinly sliced dried apricots
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup Ground flax seed (flax meal)
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 tsp Cardamom
1/4 Rosemary, finely crumbled/chopped

corn starch, for rolling

Mix butter and honey together just until combined – do not cream it or over beat it. Add milk, gently mix until combined amd smooth

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry mix to butter and honey, mix until combined. Wrap dough in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Generously sprinkle clean work surface with corn starch, roll dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut into 3″ squares, and carefully transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ between each. Cut a shallow “X” into each cake, if desired.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow cakes (biscuits?) to cool on cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before moving, cool completely before serving.

If you want to get fancy with it, wrap them in leaves, and tie with twine. (I used collard greens). Oh, and be sure to “like” our Facebook page to see all of the crazy photos we’ll take when out in LA! Marie Porter, Cosplay Costumer!

* Choose your protein powder wisely! If it’s something you don’t like to drink, it’ll make the bread taste weird.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Gluten-Free Lingonberry Muffins

A while back – in my pre-gluten-free days – I went one a big muffin making kick. I’d make all kinds of muffins, a different flavour each week – lingonberry, raspberry-nectarine, cardamom-pear, apple struesel… and they’d serve as breakfasts for the week. Once going gluten-free, I know I’d need to come up with a great fruit-based muffin recipe – I’d never had a great gluten-free muffin!

Fruit is an excellent way to add some more flavour AND nutrition in any muffin – gluten or not – but when it comes to gluten-free muffins, the moisture that fruit adds is key to a great texture!

This recipe is an adaptation of one of the recipes in my latest cookbook, “Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking“. It’s pretty much the perfect muffin: Soft and tender, kind of cakey, but actually containing some decent nutrition, via sorghum, oat, and buckwheat grains… but, in this case, it has the added bonus of Lingonberries – my absolute favourite. I love them with a hint of orange, so I included juice and zest in this recipe. It’s fabulous 🙂

Don’t have access to lingonberries? Feel free to swap in blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or cranberries. (strawberries and cranberries should be sliced or chopped before adding). Enjoy!

Lingonberry Muffins

3/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup light buckwheat flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice (or more milk)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup berries
zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners, or spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flours, starches, sugars, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In another bowl, combine eggs, milk, orange juice, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add wet mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Add berries and orange zest, stir once again until just combined.

Divide batter between 12 prepared muffin cups, filling each to almost full.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Gluten Free Poptarts Recipe (Toaster Pastries)!

Poptarts are one of those things that satisfy some weird need for childhood comfort food every once in a while… even though they aren’t actually really that good. It’s funny how many people brought them up as one of the foods they miss most, when going gluten-free! This recipe actually prompted one of my favourite reviews for Beyond Flour:

When you find out you have celiacs you know you’re going to miss bread, but you soon find out you miss other things so much more. For me it was cinnamon PopTarts. Not that I had them all the time, but every time I had one it was a rush of happy childhood nostalgia. Flipping through the book I saw a recipe for toaster pastries and that was the first thing I made. I did it just for fun. But when I bit into it, after not having one for over a decade, I started crying. I can’t even express what a gift Marie has given me. All these things I had written off – like ravioli and biscuits and pita bread – I have it all back now. And the taste and texture and AFTER TASTE are perfect. Not pretty good or not too bad … dead on.

… this review made ME cry! Thank you, Cara!

I find these are actually BETTER than the original source material.. and far better for you. Firm but slightly chewy dough base, your choice of filling, and freshly made frosting. Garnish the top any way you want – even sprinkles – and just have fun with it.

One word of warning, though: Without the source material chemicals and stabilizers, the frosting on these ones is actually fairly heat sensitive, and will melt when toasted. So, use in a toaster oven rather than a traditional “pop up” style toaster… or turn your normal toast on it’s side, and toast them frosting-side up…Keeping an eye out for drippage!

Of course, if you love what you see here… you should consider ordering a copy of “Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking“e!

Thanks, and enjoy!

Gluten-Free Poptarts
Makes about 10

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup gluten-free oat flour*
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, separated

1 batch filling (See below for recipes)
1 batch frosting (See below for recipes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the dry ingredients until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients, except for one of the two eggs. Add wet ingredients to the dry, mix until a thick dough forms. Wrap in plastic, chill for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out to about slightly thinner than 1/4″ thick, cut into 3×5″ rectangles. Gather any scraps, needs to pull together, re roll and continue cutting into rectangles until all the dough is used up.

Carefully arrange half of the rectangles on the cookie sheet, spaced evenly. Evenly spread about 2 Tbsp of filling onto each of the rectangles on the cookie sheet, stopping about 1/2″ from the edges. Top each with one of the reserved rectangles, press the edges to seal. Use a fork to press edges down.

Whisk egg together with 1 Tbsp cold water, brush over each pastry. Use a fork to prick a few small holes in the top of each pastry to allow steam to escape – this will help prevent filling from exploding out of the sides as they bake

Bake pastries for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool completely before removing from the cookie sheet.

Spread frosting of choice onto pastries, garnish with sprinkles if using. Allow frosting to dry fully, before transferring to containers or baggies. Serve hot or room temperature, use or freeze within a few days of baking.

* If even certified gluten-free oat flour is not an option for you, use 1/4 cup of additional sorghum flour instead.

Dough Flavour Variations:

Chocolate Dough: Reduce brown rice flour to 2/3 cup, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder.

Red Velvet Dough: Add 1 Tbsp cocoa powder to dry ingredients, use buttermilk instead of milk, tint dough with red food colouring.

“Gingerbread” Dough: Add 1 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves to dry mix, and 1 Tbsp molasses to wet mix.

Fruit Filling

1 cup seedless jam of choice
1 Tbsp corn starch

Whisk jam and corn starch together until well combined.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Filling

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
1+ tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1+ tsp milk or water

Whisk together brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Mix in vanilla and milk/water, adding additional small amounts of liquid if necessary – you want a thick, spreadable paste. Taste, add more cinnamon if you like, to taste.

“Pumpkin Pie” Filling

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
pinch salt

Whisk all ingredients together until well combined and smooth

Cream Cheese Filling

6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt

Whisk all ingredients together until well combined and smooth

Basic Frosting:

1 1/2 – 1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
food coloring, if desired.

Whisk powdered sugar, water, and vanilla extract together – frosting will be THICK. Microwave for 10-20 seconds to melt, stir until smooth. Tint with food colouring, if desired.

Chocolate Frosting:

1 1/4- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa, water, and vanilla extract together – frosting will be THICK. Microwave for 10-20 seconds to melt, stir until smooth.

Brown Sugar Frosting

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Whisk together brown sugar, hot water, and vanilla until smooth. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time – frosting will be THICK. Microwave for 10-20 seconds to melt, stir until smooth.

Strawberry Frosting

1 1/2 – 1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp Strawberry Powder*
2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
food coloring, if desired.

Whisk powdered sugar, berry powder water, and vanilla extract together – frosting will be THICK. Microwave for 10-20 seconds to melt, stir until smooth. Tint with food colouring, if desired.

* I buy my strawberry powder at Nuts Online, here’s a link to the product page. It’s a fine powder made from freeze dried strawberries – and it packs HUGE flavor. They also have Blueberry, and Pomegranate powders, which also work for this recipe.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

How to make Peameal Bacon and Back Bacon

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the annoying things about living away from my homeland is the lack of availability of many of the grocery basics, treats, and general comfort foods of home. For the most part, they’re easy enough to make, once I put my mind to developing a recipe (Tiger Tail Ice Cream, or Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce, for instance!)

Recently, I was disappointed with a purchase of “Canadian bacon” (we don’t call it that – it’s back bacon!). I lamented the lack of availability of not only GOOD back bacon, but also peameal bacon. My husband had never even heard of peameal bacon, and had only ever had “Canadian Bacon” as they sell it here in the USA… anemic, flavourless, very blah ham product. This was a situation that needed to be rectified!

So, I did some research on recipes and techniques, and created a recipe of my own, using the flavours I wanted. I ordered a few necessary items – including Prague Powder, which I’d never even heard of – and then called my husband to let him know that I was taking up a new hobby – curing meat. You know you’ve married well when such a declaration isn’t met with some variation of “WTF? Because we don’t have enough hobbies?”, but with “Awesome! I’ve been meaning to take up smoking meats! We can do both!”!

Anyway, both back bacon and peameal bacon start out the same – soaking in a flavourful brine for a few days – and then veer off in different directions from there:

Peameal Bacon is then rolled in cornmeal (Back in the day it was crushed up dried peas), wrapped, and chilled. It’s then cut into thick slices and fried up as needed, usually served in sandwiches. So far as I can tell, peameal sandwiches are mostly a Toronto thing… I have no idea why. They’re fantastic!

Back Bacon skips the cornmeal, and gets smoked until fully cooked. You can serve it as-is, though it’s usually reheated in some form: fried as part of breakfast or in a sandwich, or thinly sliced and used to make pizza. I promise you, making a pizza with this will wreck you for all other pizzas. I made a spicy Hawaiian one the other day – back bacon, pineapple, thinly sliced jalapenos, and a drizzle of sriracha.. spectacular!

Says Porter: “It has a better texture than the stuff I’ve had – firm but not stringy or chewy. Much better flavor, more character. I definitely see a big difference, and I’m not going back”

While back bacon requires smoking – usually requiring special equipment / technique – peameal bacon is ridiculously easy to make, and requires no special skill or equipment. I was really kicking myself for not having done it sooner!

Homemade Peameal Bacon and Back Bacon Recipe

1 Pork loin, about 4 lbs
12 cups cold water, divided
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pickling salt
2 Tbsp Prague powder #1 cure (I found it on Amazon)
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, sliced into wedges

Cut pork loin into 2 approximately equal sized chunks (crosswise, NOT lengthwise!). Trim most of the visible fat, if you’d like. Some people don’t both, I don’t like the extra fat on mine. Set aside (in fridge).

Measure 4 cups of of water into a large pot, add remaining ingredients (aside from rest of water!). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add remaining water, stir to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Place one chunk of pork loin in each of 2 gallon sized freezer bags. I like to manually divide the lemon wedges and bay leaves equally between the two bags before pouring half of the brine into each bag. Push out most of the air, seal the bags, and put them in the fridge – I put both bags into a 9 x 12 cake pan, just in case of leakage, etc.

Allow the pork to brine for 5 whole days, turning once daily to ensure the pork loins are completely submerged.

After 5 days, discard brine, and rinse pork loins with cold water. Use paper towels to pat dry.

For Peameal Bacon

Pour a generous amount of yellow cornmeal onto a plate large enough to accommodate the chunk of pork loin. Roll loin in the cornmeal, pressing to form a uniform crust. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, chill for at least an hour before slicing and frying/grilling… if you can handle the wait! (I was unable to!)


(Excuse the crappy cellphone pic. Hubby was at work, and I was SO excited to try some!)

For Back Bacon

Hot smoke it with your choice of wood chips until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 F. I left this completely up to Porter, here’s what he has to say about how he did it. (This was the very first thing he’s ever smoked!):

“First I put it in the propane grill at about 225°F for one hour. Then I transferred it over to the charcoal grill for about 2 1/2 hours. The charcoal grill was about 250°F (that wasn’t intentional, was trying for 225°F). While on the charcoal grill I put on soaked applewood chips about every twenty minutes or so, just a small amount each time. I put the wet chips directly on the coals.”

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Con Food – Hotel Room Smoothies!

Today is day two of a week long feature I’m running on my Facebook Page – Convention Food.

Yep, with Convergence just over a week away… it’s about time to start planning for our hotel room cuisine: Food that’s easy to make (possibly make ahead), uses very little in the way of equipment to make/serve in the room, and that supplements some of the nutrition that we tend to miss out on during a 4 day long party.

The featured recipe yesterday was my “Convention Sloppy Joes” – our favourite con food to date, and the recipe we’ll be doing up once again for our room at Convergence.

Today’s recipe is more of a non-recipe, but an outline of what our plans for breakfast are: hotel room smoothies.

Breakfast is generally seen as the most important meal of the day… and that’s doubly true when you’ve got long days of costuming, panels, and parties ahead. Also: when you had a looong night of partying ending just a few hours earlier!

Smoothies are what we settled on for our go-to hotel room breakfast this year. They’re done up quickly, require very little equipment (just a blender!), and many of the ingredients don’t require refrigeration / cooler space.

They’re easy to customize, and easy to scale. Make one for yourself, or enough for your roommates too!

Done right, you’ll hit a few key nutrition needs, as well. Protein, vitamin C, some calcium… good stuff!

Here is what I recommend to bring:

– A good protein powder, vanilla or unflavoured. (We use Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein, Vanilla Ice Cream flavour).

– Plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (more protein!)

– Orange juice

– Frozen berries (Pack a few baggies worth – they double as ice!)

– Bananas

– Powdered peanut butter, if that’s your thing (We use PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter)

– Wheat germ (allergies permitting, of course!) or Flax meal (Fiber!)

Per person, this is what I blitz together:

1 scoop protein powder
1/4 cup yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice
½ cup frozen berries
½ banana
1 Tbsp powdered peanut butter (optional)
1-2 Tbsp wheat germ or flax meal (optional)

… and that’s that. Be sure to rinse your blender out well if you won’t be washing it right away, because – in the words of my husband – the smoothie residue is “like cement” when it dries.

Enjoy!

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Biscuits and Gravy… MY Way!

Shortly after I moved to the US, I heard of “biscuits and gravy” for the first time. I have no idea if we have it back home or not, but it was the first time I’d ever been exposed to it.

We were watching TV, and whatever show it was was demonstrating it. The cook lobbed a big chunk of shortening into the pan for making the gravy, and at that point… I think it was the most disgusting breakfast idea I’d ever even heard of. It didn’t even really matter that I later found out that not all biscuit gravy is made like that, the idea of it was gross.

Even without that visual introduction, the idea of anything white being called gravy seemed – and still seems – really OFF to me. Gravy is supposed to be brown! Well… unless you’re Italian, apparently – two of my MasterChef friends schooled me on that one. I digress…

So, I recently decided to make biscuits and gravy for my husband, but with a proper brown gravy. In my personal opinion, if you’re using flour to thicken anything aside from a delicate white wine sauce, you should make a proper roux. Usually “the darker the better”, too!

You see, when it comes to food… browning is flavour. Whether it’s a meat, a crust, a cookie… browning your food is adding all kinds of wonderful flavours to it. Why go with a white gravy, when a brown one takes only a few minutes more? I don’t get it.

So, rather than just looking at the flour as a thickening agent alone, I look at it as a way to add flavour. When you cook the flour and butter together as a roux, it turns into a rich, toasty, almost nutty flavour – it’s the best way to start any gravy, really.

Now, most people recommend cooking your roux over medium or lower heat, and it can take a really long time. If you’re just starting out with rouxs, I’d say caution is probably a good idea… but just as an FYI, I usually cook them on high. As long as you’re careful, don’t stop stirring, and have your liquid pre-measured and ready to go… I find it pretty low risk.

You may find that you need more or less milk than called for here, partially out of personal taste (we like it pretty thick, you may not!), and partially because making a roux isn’t really an exact science, when it comes to thickening. As flour cooks and darkens, it loses some of its thickening power. When you first mix the butter and flour together, it will thicken a LOT more liquid than a smiliar amount of a really dark brown roux. Play around with it, and see where your preferences take you!

Biscuits and Gravy
Serves 3-4

1 recipe Baking Powder Biscuits
12 oz chub sausage of choice *
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1.5 cups+ milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven for biscuits. While it’s heating up, brown the sausage in a fry pan. Remove sausage from pan, set aside.

Put biscuits in the oven, make the gravy:

Melt butter in that same frying pan. Stir in flour until smooth. Cook over medium or medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it’s as brown as you want it.

Slowly add in about half of the milk, stirring until smooth. Add the rest of the milk, stirring once again until smooth.

Add in the cooked sausage, stir well and bring up to a simmer – the gravy will thicken as it simmers. Add a little more milk if the gravy is too thick for your tastes, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Keep gravy warm until biscuits come out of the oven. Split warm biscuits in half, smother with gravy.

Enjoy!

* I love using the Papa George’s brand of sausage. It’s about a million times better than anything else on the market, is perfectly seasoned and flavoured, and has almost no fat in it. We’ll use either the regular, hot, or sage flavoured sausage chubs in this recipe. Because this recipe was developed with that particular sausage, you may find yourself wanting to use less butter, if you use a fattier sausage.

Baking Powder Biscuits

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to my grandmother’s baking powder biscuits. We’d eat them with butter and lots of homemade jam, and life was good.

Her recipe eventually became the base for our breakfast pizza, and it’s been one I’ve carried with me in life. Odd, because I don’t tend to use recipes at all… and when I do, I usually tweak the crap out of them each time!

This is a recipe that doesn’t need tweaking, though. Sure, there are minor variations I’ll do – sometimes I’ll use milk (as she did), sometimes I’ll use buttermilk. If I don’t have shortening (as she used) or if I want a richer flavour, I’ll use butter instead. It’s all good!

As long as you don’t over-handle the dough, these biscuits bake up light and fluffy, and are easily split in half. This makes about 6 good sized biscuits, but is easily doubled.

Enjoy!

Baking Powder Biscuits
Makes 6 biscuits

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking Powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking powder,and salt.

Measure shortening/butter into the same bowl, and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or fork(s). The idea is to work it in until it’s evenly distributed throughout, in very small pieces.

Add milk/buttermilk, stir just until dough comes together. Don’t over stir or beat it. If dough is too crumbly, add a small amount of extra milk. If the dough is sticky, add a small amount of flour.

Pull dough together into a ball, place on a lightly floured work surface. Gently roll dough out to about 3/4 – 1″ thick, and cut into rounds with a drinking glass. (I like to use about 3″ diameter).

Arrange biscuits on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Serve hot!

Chewy Chai Blondies Recipe

Chewy Chai Blondies

1 cup dark brown sugar (well packed!)
1 cup granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tbsp instant tea
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Cardamom
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup melted Butter

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare 9 x 13 pan ( or two 8 x 8” pans) with pan spray or shortening.

In large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add beaten eggs and melted butter, stir until dry ingredients are well incorporated and wet.

Spread batter into prepared pan(s), Bake for 20 – 25 minutes for 8 x 8” pans, or 30-35 mins for 9 x 13” pan. Blondies are done when knife inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Enjoy!