Baking with Wild Blueberries

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As I have said many times before, one of my favourite things to do back home in Nova Scotia in the summertime is pick wild blueberries. This year there was a huge crop, and lots of family around, and I took advantage by baking as much as I could — not the easiest thing to fit into our jam-packed schedule!

The first thing I made was this lemon and blueberry loaf. I chose this recipe largely because the milk-based ingredients were minimal — my sister was visiting and she cannot eat dairy products. I used coconut yogurt instead of real yogurt, and used about two-thirds of the sugar called for, but otherwise followed the recipe closely. It turned out really well — the loaf was really moist and stayed that way for quite a few days. It was also very lemony.

lemon loaf 1

Then for dessert one night I tried my hand at blueberry grunt, which is a traditional Nova Scotia dish. I didn’t really follow one recipe — I was inspired by this one in Saveur and a recipe I found in a Nova Scotia cookbook. I was a bit nervous because I’d never made it before and was cooking for a crowd. Again, I adapted it so my sister could eat it, using soy milk and margarine. Although guests raved about it, I thought it was just okay. I needed to use more blueberries (there were 7 of us) — there is a sweet spot between cooking them down too much and a rich ‘sauce.’ The biscuits, for me, were missing something. I’m not sure if that is because of the substitutions or something else. I will just have to try again next year to find out!

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The final thing I made was blueberry buttermilk muffins, following this recipe closely. I used buttermilk as my sister had left by then! These couldn’t have been easier to throw together, and were delicious.

muffins!

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Chocolate & Coffee Cheesecake

Every year I try to make/bake H. something for his birthday, since he has a huge sweet tooth. 🙂 This year happened to be the first time that we weren’t together on the actual day (and the same will happen for mine, coming up soon!). As he is a huge cheesecake fan I decided to make this one a couple of days before I left for Scotland for a conference. Aside from cheesecake, coffee and chocolate are two of H.’s favourite things. 😉

I only made a couple of modifications to the recipe. Instead of 250g cream cheese, I used about 150g and substituted quark for the rest, which made for a slightly lighter cake. I also forgot to dust with cocoa powder, so mine looks shiny compared to the magazine’s photo.

This is a fairly simple but delicious cake. My only complaint is that it did not taste enough like coffee; if I make it again I will increase the quantity of coffee quite a bit.

coffee choc cheesecake

Venison Sausage Rolls

H. and I have done very little entertaining this fall, which is unusual for us. Looking back, I think we had more people over last fall, which was one of the most hellish periods ever since beginning my PhD! However, this past Friday we had our good friends S. & C. over for supper. It was a very relaxed evening — all four of us had some kind of work Christmas party during the week, so I wanted it to be a low-key and fun meal.

Keeping it simple, I made a pasta bake and salad for the main. For an appetizer I wanted to try something new. I decided on sausage rolls, which I had been wanting to make for a while (I also made this cheesy bacon holiday crack — never said it was going to be a healthy evening!). I used venison — more on this decision below — and the recipe in Best Recipes Ever, the collaboration between the CBC and Canadian Living (sidenote: an underrated cookbook, I believe. I really like it!).

Using pre-made puff pastry these are not difficult to throw together, nor are they as finicky as one might expect. The most difficult part is probably getting the sausage out of the casings; if you can buy sausage meat on its own, I would recommend that. The tip to put the rolls in the freezer before cutting them is a good one as it makes it much easier to slice them.

I knew my rolls wouldn’t be as succulent or as rich as if I had used pork. However, I wanted to give these a go as I had great meat from the market. Plus, venison is healthy and sustainable. The rolls were still good, in my opinion, though obviously on the leaner side. They weren’t dry (the all-butter pastry helps!). Personally, next time I will up the Dijon a bit (1.5 tbsp) and add in a little more salt and pepper, but for a first attempt I was pleased at how they turned out. They were gobbled up very quickly!

This was my first foray into the sausage roll world — one that allows for infinite possibilities — so I will report back on any future experiments!

sausage-rolls

Umami Apple Pie

Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol’s The Flavour Principle is one of my favourite cookbooks. I love the way it is organized according to taste. This pie appears, as you might be able to guess from the title, in the umami section. Translated from the Japanese as delicious essence, umami is used to describe tastes that are deep, savoury, often ‘meaty’ flavour such as those in Parmesan, prosciutto, and soy sauce.

Onto the pie. It’s been a long time since I have made pie crust, but since this recipe calls for a special ingredient — cheddar cheese — to be added, I had to make it from scratch. And, surprisingly, it turned out well! (Much better than last time!)

I followed the recipe quite closely, using a mix of apples, although found that I had too much of the mixture after cooking them (this was also because I used a slightly smaller pie dish). I did find that the top browned too quickly so covered it with baking paper as Lucy suggests.

I was really pleased with this pie. The cheddar taste is milder than you might think, and delicious. Perfect fall comfort food.

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Pear Cake with Chai-Spiced Buttercream & Salted Caramel

Fall is here! The leaves are starting to change, the nights are closing in earlier and earlier, and days are feeling crisp and cooler. I love this time of year.

I have been itching to get back to cooking and sharing. In the first half of September, eating was about survival. There was no innovation or fun dishes, I just wanted to get something on the table. It was some of the most stressful times of my entire career. But, I’m on the other side now: I successfully defended my PhD thesis and am now Dr. saturdayedition! There might be an upcoming post with more reflections on this new stage of my career….or there might not be!

I’m now 10 days post-defense, but just starting to come out of my cocoon. I had (have) a huge “post-viva” (defense) to-do list that I will be working my way through for months. However, with a slightly less crazy schedule now, I hope to be cooking a lot of new dishes this fall.

I’m starting with this cake.

It caught my eye in the September edition of delicious magazine. The recipe comes from Edd Kimber, the winner of the inaugural season of the Great British Bake Off (RIP). The is very much a multi-stage cake. It’s not one that you mix up in one bowl and then forget about in the oven. No, there is lots to do: make the chai butter (hindsight: not worth it), make the salted caramel, simmer the pears, make the batter, bake the cake, cool it, make the icing, and decorate it. Whew. I made it over a 5-hour period (and the magazine says 40 mins hands-on time! Ha).

I  had a bit of a disaster moment when I heated up the caramel and didn’t let it cool down enough before I started drizzling it over the cake — it melted some of the buttercream. Luckily I avoided any true disasters and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.

I’d rate this cake a 6/10: the icing was too sickly sweet for me and overall I found it a touch too much work. I don’t think the extra step of making chai butter was really evident in the taste. Also, despite cutting about 1/3 of the sugar in the icing, I found it too overpowering for me, though the taste of the base is quite good.

As usual, I’m often quite hard on things I made. I gave half of this cake to my friend/neighbour, D., and her husband and they seemed to love it (or were very polite!), and H. liked it too.

Delicious is no longer posting their recipes in real time, which is a shame. If anyone would like the recipe please let me know and I will take a photo of it for you!

Apologies for the shocking quality of this pic!
Apologies for the shocking quality of this pic!

Yogurt Cheesecake with Roasted Strawberries

“Yogurt cheesecake” doesn’t really capture the deliciousness that is this simple cake. I used the base cheesecake recipe here –which is a great staple base — but made it with strawberries instead of rhubarb.

I’m not quite sure what I was doing with the strawberries– I was sort of doing this without thinking. At first I thought about roasting them but ended up just putting them in a pan on the stove and simmering with some balsamic vinegar and sugar. The result was….well, basically jam. Ha! Not really what I was going for, but it worked taste-wise. If/when I make this again with strawberries, I would simply put them on raw. I think this would work well with pretty much any fruit! 🙂

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Spinach & Blue Cheese Biscuits

WOW is the word to describe these biscuits. Game-changer. They are simply delicious. I’d even go so far as to say amazing… I think they’re the best biscuits I’ve had! They’re so good that I don’t even have a picture to show you because we gobbled them up so quickly.

I followed Joy’s recipe closely, except I started with fresh spinach (not even sure frozen exists here), cooked it down, and allowed it to cool. The blue cheese flavour is subtler than expected, but it really works. And for those that don’t like spinach, I’d urge you to still give these a go. It’s not a strong taste.

They’re quite hardy, not a dainty biscuit. I was a bit worried because I had an oven fiasco and had to delay putting them in, but they turned out perfectly despite that. They’re best warm (I had every intention of freezing a couple but they didn’t make it that long!) and can be heated up in the toaster (just keep an eye on it due to the cheese), best served, I found, with a bit of butter.

I’ll be making another batch soon and will update this point with a photo but wanted to share the recipe as soon as possible.

Another bake sale

It’s no secret now that I love a good bake sale. I have contributed or helped organize a few over the past couple of years. Recently I hosted one in aid of a charity I have been volunteering with for 2.5 years, North London Cares.

I had been wanting to do a bake sale for the charity for quite a while, but the right combination of time and location never seemed to come up. However, an opportunity presented itself earlier this month when H. and his guitar partner J. hosted a concert in our neighbourhood. As they were going to have drinks during the intermission, I decided people might  be hungry as well and thought it would be the perfect opportunity.

Here’s what I baked:

Normally I get a bit stressed about making so many things at once, but surprisingly it went incredibly smoothly, despite the fact that it was my first time making 3/5 goods (brownies, pastries, and carrot cake cookies). I made the brownies and cupcakes (minus the icing) on Friday and the other 3 items, plus the cupcake icing, on Saturday.

Everything went down a treat, with the brownies and cupcakes being the most popular. The carrot cake cookies didn’t look like much but they were really tasty. I’ve since made them again to take to work as a snack. I wouldn’t choose puff pastry for a bake sale again — way too crumbly — but I was glad I decided to do one savoury thing as a couple of people commented on how they were pleased that they had the option.

Special thanks for my friend B. who contributed two other baked goods, cookies and a lemon loaf, and to A. who made gluten- and dairy-free cupcakes. I raised £110!

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Lime, Yogurt, & Pistachio Cake

This is the third thing I’ve made out of Rachel Allen‘s Bake and all have turned out really well– it’s becoming one of my most dependable baking books.

This cake, in my humble opinion, happens to be the perfect cake for spring. It’s light and really moist so keeps well, and very, very tasty.

Lime, Yogurt & Pistachio Cake, adapted from Rachel Allen:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Sift the following into a large bowl: 225g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Add in 75g ground almond and 70g caster sugar.*
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix together 2 eggs, 1 tbsp honey, 250ml Greek yogurt**, 150ml sunflower oil, and the zest of 1 lime.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet until they are just combined. Add a handful of chopped pistachios (optional).
  5. Pour the mixture into a baking tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. (The recipe says 50, but mine was done around 38 minutes so keep an eye on it).

Serve with a dollop of cream or yogurt, both optional as the cake is very moist. In addition, you can also top it with syrup as Rachel suggests, by boiling 150ml water and 100g sugar until it is reduced by half (about 5 moinutes). Then add in the juice of 1 lime, boil for a few minutes longer, and finally add with 1-2tsbp rosewater (optional). Drizzle over the cake after poking holes in it with a skewer.

*The original recipe calls for 100g so add more if you prefer sweeter cakes.
**The original recipe calls for plain Greek-style yogurt, which I used, but honey would also be nice.

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Rhubarb & Blood Orange Crumble

Citrus is abundant at this time of year, and recently I have been seeing blood oranges popping up everywhere (apparently, their darker colour flesh comes from an antioxidant pigment and blood oranges have more of a berry taste than a typical orange). To take advantage of the seasonal fruit, I decided to make this crumble from delicious magazine. Crumbles are one of my favourite desserts, and they definitely have to be one of the easiest ones out there, although I did almost forget to put the sugar in this one.

If I was to be completely honest, the orange taste is not very strong or distinctive. It adds a hint of zest and of course it’s rather tart anyway with the rhubarb. This dish is best served with a drizzle of cream and great for breakfast dessert or a snack. It will keeps in the fridge a few days although it tastes best the day it’s made.

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