Archive for April, 2012

I’m late, I’m Late, I am so very late… Well, I actually was on time but I have been unable to post until now due to a serious accident in my house. Meaning I almost set my house on fire. As in I left a pot on the stove (boiling) and completely forgot about it. And left the house. For 2 hours. This is where the word “loser” get written across my forehead.  When we did get back I got out of the car hearing this loud alarm and thought “What is that noise”? How about every smoke and carbon monoxide detector going off in my house. I still didn’t realize what was going on until I opened the door and smoke came billowing out and I yelled “Fire”!! It was only then that I realize the stupid mistake I had made. Thank goodness for the fire department. I am also so thankful that it was  smoke fire, no actual flames. My entire house was filled with smoke and it was pouring out every window. Well, I guess those chickpeas are going in the garbage. Anyway, my entire house now smells like a firepit. After doing what feels like (and probably is correct) 100 loads of laundry, we finally called the insurance company and are letting them take over. Every piece of clothing in the house must be washed as well as all of the furniture, replace the stove, etc… It’s not good.

Anyway, back to bread.  The Bread Baking Babes asked us buddies to join them in making bread with beer. This month the host was  Natashya at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. The recipe was generously supplied by Chuck at Cookingbread.com . It is named after  the beautiful island right off of Vancouver in British Columbia. To keep it Canadian I used Big Rock traditional ale, Bavarian smokies that are house made and smoked at a german butcher in the neighborhood, extra sharp Canadian cheddar cheese, and fresh chives, right out of my Canadian garden..

All I can say is “Holy Smoke” (a sick reference the above story. Hey, when you don’t laugh, you cry). This was one beautiful bread. We had it with a side salad for dinner since it’s really a meal in itself.  Please head over here for the recipe. You’ll be glad you did.

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This month’s Bakers Challenge was hosted by Jason at Dailycandor.com. He introduced us to two very interesting and delicious Armenian desserts : Nazook (or nazuk, nazouk) and scented nutmeg cake. Both are winners.

Nazook is a rolled sweet pastry cookie which I thought was very similar to rugelach but the dough is made with yeast and sour cream. The dough is quite simple in fact, just flour, yeast, sour cream and butter. The fact that  there is no sugar is really nice and offsets the sweet filling. The traditional way is a vanilla filling but I also made a fig version and a cinnamon walnut version. I think this is one recipe that is hands down best the traditional way. While all three were incredibaly delicious (and not too sweet), the vanilla the stellar. If you have vanilla beans, this is the time to break them out. I used both vanilla bean seeds and pure vanilla extract for a double vanilla flavor. Pure heaven.


Pastry dough

3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) softened butter (room temperature)


1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz) sugar
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, scraped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1-2 egg yolks


Make the Pastry Dough

Place the sifted flour into a large bowl. Add the dry yeast, and mix well. Add the sour cream and softened butter.
Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough. If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook. If making manually, continue to knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling

 Mix the flour, sugar, and the butter in a medium bowl. Add the seeds from a scraped vanilla bean  (if using) and  vanilla extract. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

Make the nazook

 Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.

 Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not transparent.Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges. From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling the dough across. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).

 Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.

Use a crinkle cutter (I used a serrated bread  knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown. Cool and then try not to eat all of them!

 Next up…

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

1 cup (240 ml) milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (I used pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed (I used demerara sugar)
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.

Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that’s for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl.Add the brown sugar and mix together.Cut the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can use your food processor like I did). You’ll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.

Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. It will be easy.Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl and add the nutmeg .

Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed, or mix with a hand whisk if you’re doing it manually (or process for 60 seconds). Once it’s mixed well and frothy, pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix well until thoroughly combined and fluid.Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan and sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.

Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan,release and enjoy!

freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Nazook will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks, and the Armenian nutmeg cake will keep (covered) at room temperature for 2-3 days. Both taste even better still warm from the oven.

Allow to cool completely before attempting to freeze. Nazook will freeze best if put in a freezer bag with all the air squeezed out. Armenian Nutmeg Cake will also freeze fairly well if completely sealed. Both can be frozen for up to 3 months.

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So, did everyone have a nice Easter/Passover holiday? I know we did. Instead of staying home for dinner, we got in the car and went to two of our favorite places, Chico Hot Springs and Yellowstone National Park. They are both located in the magical states of Montana & Wyoming. It’s a long drive (900k/530 miles), but to us, soooo worth it. At this time of year the park is such a great place to visit. There is only one section open in the park in the winter, but it never fails to amaze us. Mammoth hot springs is a site to behold on its own, but we also saw tons of Bison, pronghorns, elk, and birds, including hawks, osprey, and a bald eagle! The highlight though were the wolves. We were lucky enough to see a park wolf patrol officer with his scope and got to view a male and pregnant female couple eating a kill (with the bald eagle trying to get at it). Amazing. Seriously. We never forget how lucky we are to live out West and love seeing all of the truly awe-inspiring  places around us.

The many colors of Mammoth Hot Springs

And a few more pictures for your viewing pleasure…

One of the best perks is that the place where we stay has no TV, telephones, or computers. Well, you get dial-up in the lobby but it’s sort of a pain, so why bother. You realize that you don’t need to be “connected” at all times. You realize that the best way to be “connected” is to spend time with your family and friends. With no outside distractions. Kids even soon forget that there is no TV or video when their parents are there with them. Swimming, playing board games, puzzles, reading. Sounds old-fashioned, but it really works. We always meet such interesting people just hanging out in the lobby sitting around the fireplace.So much so that when I got home, I didn’t even want to plug in my laptop for a few days or watch the boob tube. I highly recommend this for everyone every once in a while. I think you will be glad that you did. Okay- enough said on that!

With us missing Easter dinner at home, we just moved it a week. It was time for our monthly dinner supper club anyway, so we did everything a week later. It worked out better for everyone involved anyway. On the menu this month:

apricot apple-bourbon glazed ham (we also had apple-bourbon hot toddys to start)
carrot souffle
braised red cabbage with raisins and apples
shredded brussel sprouts with bacon
and for dessert……

Cherry Chocolate Mousse Cake!!

equipment needed:  one 9″ springform pan, two 8″ inch cake pans, parchment paper and acetate (you can substitute parchment paper), and a 9″ cardboard cake circle or cake plate.

Before you begin, cut a length of acetate or parchment paper  3 1/2  inches high and 33 inches long. Take this and line the inside of your springform pan. Cut a 9 inch circle of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the pan. Set this aside until the final assembly. This step makes removing the cake from the springform pan a breeze


This makes 2 cakes. If they bake perfectly even then you can cut one in half horizontally and freeze the other half for a later time. Since mine usually are domed, I just trim the tops off each one to even them out and use both layers, saving the leftover scraps for a later use (cake pops, sides of cakes, over ice cream…)

1/2 cup boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hot, strongly brewed coffee

Preheat your  oven to 325 F. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans and  line the bottoms with parchment paper …

 Whisk the boiling water, chocolate and butter together until melted and set aside.Whip the egg, sugar and vanilla until the mixture doubles in volume (about 2 minutes on high-speed) and then fold in the chocolate mixture by hand. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt over the batter and fold in, then stir in the hot coffee (this will thin the batter out). Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans.

 Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick  inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans.

Cherry Mousse:

* To make the puree, I boiled up about 3 large cups of frozen, pitted cherries with 1/2 cup of sugar, whirled it up in the blender then strained it through a fine sieve. Cool to room temp. I swear, it was easy. Do this while the cake is in the oven.

2 Cups (16 oz) sweetened cherry puree (see above)
3 Cups (24 oz) heavy cream (33-36%)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons kirsch (optional)
2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup water

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and either place in a small pan of simmering water and stir until dissolved or place the bowl in the microwave for about 15 -20 seconds (just do not let it boil). Let this cool down for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, place the sweetened cherry puree. Stir in the gelatin, almond extract, and kirsch (if using). In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft, billowy peaks form; fold lightly into the cherry mixture.


Either cut one layer of cake horizontally or trim down the two layers so that you have 2 thin even layers.

Spoon half of the cherry mousse into the bottom of your prepared springform pan. Carefully place (drop, really) one layer of the cake into the center. You will have a border of mousse all around the cake. Gently press down. Spoon the remaining cherry mousse over this layer. Repeat with the second layer of cake, again gently pressing down so that the cake and mousse border are level.

Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight, to set up.

While the cake is setting up, make the glaze…

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin powder
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Bring the water, sugar, and cream to a boil in a medium pan. Once boiling, whisk in the cocoa powder and simmer (reducing the heat if needed) for 4 minutes, stirring often, (the consistency will not change). Remove from heat. Soften the gelatin in ¼ cup of cold water and then whisk this into the hot cocoa mixture until dissolved. Cool the glaze to room temperature, then chill completely, at least 3 hours. It will set up like chocolate gelatin (and it tastes great)

To finish the cake:  Open up the springform pan and remove the cake. Gently peel away the acetate (or parchment) that is around the sides of the cake. Place the cardboard round (or cake plate) onto the top of the cake and invert it onto a cooling rack. If you don’t have an exact 9 inch round cake plate, then invert it directly onto the cooling rack. Place the cooling rack over a parchment lined baking sheet.  Warm the chilled glaze over low heat,while whisking occasionally, until just melted and smooth and pour this over the cake , spreading gently with a spatula to ensure that it covers the top and sides of the cake evenly. I poured half over, chilled it a bit, then put a second coat on it. Scoop up any leftover glaze  that dipped through onto the parchment paper and reuse. You can chill and reuse this glaze over and over. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes, then lift it onto your presentation plate and store chilled until ready to serve. This keeps in the fridge for up to four days.

This was a real visual show-stopper while also a light and  delicious way to end a big meal. Enjoy!

recipe adapted from here

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