Amazingly Easy Apple Butter

apple, butter, cinnamon, fall, slow cooker,

It’s that time of year again when there’s a crispness in the air and the leaves are beginning to change.  One of the great things about this time of year is that one of my favourites come on sale: apples.  You can get so many different varieties now and there are always new ones to try.

We had the family visit a short while ago and we are lucky enough to have an orchard just a short drive away.  This orchard offers to the public the chance to pick your own apples.  They have signs showing which varieties are ripe and ready to be picked.  We picked about ten pounds of apples, and even had time to snack while we were picking.

If you know me, and you should if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will realize that if there’s a better, easier, or faster way of doing something I will find a way to utilize it.  That’s what I like about making apple butter.  It seems like you slaved over a hot stove for hours, stirring and reducing, but the workhorse for this recipe is your tried and true slow cooker.

This appliance gets lots of use from me, especially during the colder months.  I love the “set it and forget it” way you can make something and hours later, you have a delicious meal or, in this case, condiment.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing apple butter, then you have to make this recipe.  You get the intense flavour of apples with a slight sweetness from the caramelization of the apples.  There’s no actual butter added to the recipe, it’s just creamy and spreads like its dairy counterpart.

While I said that there isn’t a lot of work, here is where you have to do the lion’s share: prepping the apples.  You’re going to need enough apples to fill a five quart slow cooker.  I reckon about 4-5 pounds will do it.  You want to have the cooker filled to the brim.  It will cook down considerably, so don’t worry.  So, let’s get to it.

Once the apples are peeled, cut them into about one inch pieces.  Don’t worry about them getting brown while you’re cutting the rest.  They are all going to be that colour eventually.

These will save you so much time!

Pro tip: Invest in some slow cooker liners.  These amazing plastic liners save you the trouble of cleaning all the burnt-on sides of your crock pot.  I love them.  I picked mine up at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but I believe any kitchen specialty store would have them.  They are also available through their website.

If you don’t have the liner, then liberally spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray to cut down on the cleaning later.

Place all your cut apples into your lined slow cooker and add a couple of sticks of cinnamon.  I think the cinnamon adds another depth of flavour to the butter and complements the apples wonderfully.  Turn your cooker on the longest setting it can go.  Mine cooks for ten hours before it shuts off so that’s what I used.

apples, fall, butter, cinnamon, autumn

Now walk away.  I like to do this in the evening, so the slow cooker does all its work overnight.  That way I wake up to a house filled with the amazing scent of cinnamon and apples cooking.  It’s like waking to fresh apple pie.  When the cooking is done you’ll notice that the apples should have reduced by about half.  We’re not done yet.  Give the apples a quick stir and reset your cooker to cook for another ten hours.  This time you want to moisture to escape.  I just turn the lid a bit so there’s a little crack to let the steam out.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then use a wooden spoon to keep the lid open.  When you go back to check on it the second time it should look like this:

apple, cinnamon, butter, fall, slow cooker

The mixture should have reduced to about 1/4 of what you started with.  See all that lovely caramelization?  That’s flavour and it will taste amazing.

Here’s one step which you may skip.  I like my butter to have a more rustic look so I don’t do this.  If you want your butter to look more smooth and have that creamy texture, then you can place the mixture in your food processor and blend until smooth.  You can also use a hand held mixing wand to smooth out the butter.  If you like the more rustic, homemade look, then move on!

Now, you can put the apple butter in plastic containers and keep them in your fridge.  They will keep for at least a week or longer.  If you want things to last a little longer, then I suggest canning.  This batch made just over four 250ml jars with a little left over for my morning toast.  Throw your apple butter in the jars, heat seal in boiling water, and you’re set.

There you have it.  Amazingly easy apple butter.  Your friends will think you’ve slaved for hours, but you and I know better.  And it’s great on so many things.  Spread it on your cinnamon raisin bagel.  Mix it into your oatmeal.  Use it as a topping for pork or chicken.  Even put a dollop on top of caramel ice cream for your own caramel apple flavoured ice cream. The possibilities are endless.

See, now I have to go and make another batch.

The apple butter at the top of the post is spread on the apple oat loaf I made earlier.  You can find that recipe here.

Apple Oat Loaf

apple, oat. loaf, savoury, fall, autumn, cinnamon, farm, picking, breadMy family came up to visit this week and we wanted to show them around the area, so we did a little sight-seeing.  Just a little drive up the road is Homestead Orchards.  They used to be a dairy farm but the owners switched over to apples a few years back and now the son runs the farm.  They offer pick-your-own apples, as well as strawberries and fresh corn.  The strawberries help them out during the beginning of the summer when the apples aren’t quite ready, helps them in the pocketbook too.   They even bake apple goods on-site, so you can pick up a fresh apple pie or apple blondie hot from the oven, if you choose.

When we arrived there were three types of apples ripe for picking.  Apples ripen earlier or later during the season depending on the type.  When we went there were galas, gingergold, and jonamac apples ready to be picked.  They recommend you bring your own bags so it’s easier on the environment too.

When you arrive you can see rows of apple trees laden with ripening fruit.  The ones which are ready are clearly marked and you’re welcome to taste while you pick.  Jonamac is a combination of a Jonathon and a MacIntosh apple and is a perfect baking apple and great for applesauce and apple butter.  We spent about half an hour going through the trees and finding the ones we liked.

After you go back to the barn area, your apples are weighed and you pay a very reasonable price per pound.  Of course we picked up an apple blondie to go too, since the smell of fresh baking was wafting through the air.  At this time of year who could resist.   Talk about farm to table!

A while ago, I picked up some steel cut oats thinking that they were similar to large flake.  Boy was I wrong.  While the oats are delicious, I hadn’t realized how much more prep would be needed for the steel cut variety.  I foolishly picked up the large bag and we’re still have about half a bag left.  Instead of always trying to use it up making breakfast, I searched for another way to use these wonderfully filling grains.  What did I find?  Honey oat loaf.  Since we have the fresh apples, why not combine the two?

This recipe requires a little prep as you have to soak the oats for a couple of hours before everything else is mixed together.  You could even do it overnight and leave them in the fridge if you like, but you really only need to soak them for a couple of hours.

After the oats have softened, place in large mixing bowl.  Preheat your oven to 350F.  Mix in your melted butter and honey while on the mixer is on low.  Add the eggs and mix well.  In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Blend the dry mix with a whisk until well combined.  While the mixer in on low, add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  Then add 1/2 of the milk, one more third of dry, the last of the milk, and finally, the last of the dry.  You should always end mixing with the dry ingredients.  That way you can tell if your mix is too wet or dry and you can adjust accordingly.  Then fold in the diced apples.   Place even amounts into two greased 8×5 pans and bake for 70 minutes.  The dough is very dense so it needs the longer bake time.

Once removed from the oven, immediately remove from the pans and let cool on the rack.  The steel cut oats give the loaf a nice chewy texture, interspersed with the warming flavour of apple and cinnamon.

apple, oat, cinnamon, loaf, savoury, bread, farm, picking, fall, autumn, harvest

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Apple Oat Loaf
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 70 minutes
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 70 minutes
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place steel cut oats in a large bowl and cover with the two cups of boiling water. Let sit uncovered at room temperature for 2 hours. Stir once half way through.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In a small microwave safe bowl, melt butter and honey then stir into bowl with oats.
  5. Beat egg into milk and alternately add milk mixture and flour mixture to large bowl with oats stirring with a wooden spoon as you add each. Do not over mix, just mix to combine wet into dry. Fold in diced apple pieces.
  6. Generously spray two standard size loaf pans (8X5) with non-stick cooking spray and scrape the dough into the pan, using half the batter for each. Using a spatula, smooth out the top then place in oven for 70 minutes (one hour and ten minutes), or until a tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean. The dough is dense so we recommend leaving in for the full 70 minutes.
  7. As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, remove from pan and cool on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve with additional drizzled honey.
Recipe Notes

Note: this bread is not meant to be that sweet.  I personally like to use more tart apples for a greater contrast in taste.  Experiment and let me know how you do.

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Zucchini Loaf

zucchini, garden, newfoundland, highway, dessert, A couple of months ago I planted some zucchini sprouts purchased from our local garden centre.  Every year I seem to lose my memory about how abundant zucchini plants are under ideal conditions.  This summer’s crop is doing really well.  We’ve had quite a bit of moisture this season.  Some farmers are complaining it’s too wet, while others say their yield is the best they’ve seen for years.  You can’t please everyone.

We went away last week to do some camping for the weekend and came back to find two huge zucchinis tucked away under the leaves.  I had thought I found most of the small ones, but for some reason there’s always one or two which I overlook.  Needless to say, the ones I didn’t pick were about the length from my elbow to my fingers, about a foot and a half.  So, I picked them and thought about what to do with all this wonderful bounty.

First I made some muffins.  It’s my go-to for using up stuff.  Then zucchini tots.  They are like tater tots, but use zucchini instead of potato.  Basically toss some grated zucchini in a large bowl with some bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, grated cheese, and garlic.  Press into little bite-size balls and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Yummy and fast.

Then came the loaves.  I’ve made 10 so far and there will be more coming.  Erma Bombeck talked about being that neighbour who has so much zucchini that you end up sneaking next door in the dead of night with little gift baskets filled with zucchini and ringing the doorbell.  As you crouch behind the potentilla, You spy your neighbour gingerly pick up the basket expecting an abandoned child or pet and pull back the gingham.  A cry of exasperation comes from their lips as they realize they’ve now been cursed with the gift of produce.

When we were visiting Newfoundland a few years ago we took a drive up the Northern peninsula to visit L’anse Aux Meadows.  It’s a national historic site which shows when the Vikings visiting the northern part of the island thousands of years ago.  As you’re driving up the highway you have to first be on the lookout for moose.  That highway is famous for accidents involving moose and cars.  Unfortunately neither the car with its passengers nor the moose fair well when they meet.  Always be careful driving, especially at dusk.

One other thing you’ll notice is along the highway there are gardens.  I thought it a bit peculiar to see a fenced garden just plopped along the highway.  Most of the plots that we were driving past were started in the late 1960′s when the highway was constructed. Up until then gardening had been a challenge due to the lack of plentiful and fertile soil along the coast. However, when the major road was built the dirt was piled up alongside the road where it could be put to great use in growing the main Newfoundland crops of potatoes, cabbages, and turnips.

While our garden isn’t along the highway, I wanted to share some of the bounty with my zucchini loaf recipe.  This recipe is fairly easy and you can add raisins or chocolate chips for variety.  I’ve added some All Bran buds for a little extra fiber.

Preheat your oven to 375F.  In your mixing bowl combine the eggs, oil, sugar, apple sauce, and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Then add the grated zucchini.  Mix to combine.  In a separate bowl add the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and soda.  Mix with a wire whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients.  With the mixer on low add the dry ingredients to your wet.  Mix until you can’t see any more flour.  Then add the All Bran Buds.

Pour into a prepared 8X5 loaf pan.  I spray mine with cooking spray, but you can butter and flour the pan if you prefer.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center of the loaf.   Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.   Then remove from the pan and let cool completely.

zucchini, garden, newfoundland, highway, dessert,

Print Recipe
Zucchini Loaf
These moist and not too sweet loaves will help you use up all that wonderful zucchini you have been blessed with.
zucchini, garden, newfoundland, highway, dessert,
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50-60 minutes
Servings
loaf
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50-60 minutes
Servings
loaf
Ingredients
zucchini, garden, newfoundland, highway, dessert,
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  2. In your mixing bowl combine the eggs, oil, sugar, apple sauce, and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Then add the grated zucchini. Mix on low until evenly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and powder. Mix thoroughly with a wire whisk until evenly distributed. With you mixer on low, add the dry ingredients to the wet. Combine until you no longer see any flour. Add the All Bran Buds cereal.
  4. Pour into a greased 8X5 loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. It's done when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool on the rack completely.
  5. Makes 8-10 slices.
Recipe Notes

I like to take some of the moisture out of my grated zucchini before I bake with it.  You can toss the grated zucchini with some salt and then place the zucchini in a fine sieve.  Place the sieve over a large bowl to catch the liquid.  Let sit for a least an hour.  Afterwards pat dry with a clean dish towel.  You can also use paper towel.

 

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Lemon Partridgeberry Bars

lemon, meringue, partridge, berry, lingon, shortbread, dessert, bar, Dr. Oetker, Shirriff, mix, potluckCan you feel it?  The days are getting warmer and thoughts are turning to having a couple of months off for summer vacation from school, or going out to the lake for the weekend with family, or just hanging out on the patio with some good friends and good food.

As the days get warmer, I love experiencing the fresh tastes that becoming more seasonal.  A friend used to give me some of her Meyer lemons from her tree every year and I would whip up some tarts or squares.  Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than the regular ones from the store.  A nice subtle lemon flavour.

This week I was asked to make some goodies for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  The request was for all things gold or yellow.  I immediately thought of lemon squares and prepared those.  They were a hit.  I then noticed that I still had a little leftover partrigeberry jam from the time I made the partridgeberry marshmallows.  I know that lemon goes well with raspberry and cranberry and partridgeberries have a similar flavour profile.  So why not?  The worst thing is that they will taste horrible and I’ll chuck them in the bin.

Luckily they tasted amazing.  I love the sweetness of the meringue topping, the tart lemon filling, and the amazing unique flavour of partrigeberries.  All piled on a crispy shortbread crust, you can’t go wrong.

Note:  This recipe uses a pre-packaged lemon pie filling mix.  Shocking, I know.  While I will try to make things from scratch,  I wanted to use this mix first because of its ease of use.  And I’ve always loved the Shirriff lemon pies.  I have not been compensated in any way by Shirriff or their parent company in any way.  (Although, if anyone from there is reading this, I wouldn’t mind some wonderful products, if you’re inclined.  Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more.)

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a 9X13 pan with parchment, making sure the parchment comes up the sides.  You’ll thank me later for this.

For the shortbread crust combine the flour and sugar.  Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.  I like to first start with the pastry cutter to get all the larger pieces of butter incorporated, but finish off with my hands.  (Clean, of course.)  That way I can feel for any larger pieces of butter which may have escaped the cutter.  Plus I can take in the lovely aroma of fresh butter mixing with the flour.  I don’t know why, but it’s one of the favourite baking smells.  You can use a food processor to do this, but use the pulse button until the butter is mixed in accordingly.

Now press the shortbread mixture in the bottom of the 9×13 pan until you form a nice, even layer.  It’s okay if you see flecks of butter still in the crumb.  Just make sure there isn’t any larger chunks.  Now bake the crust for 20-25 minutes.  The edges should be a little brown when you take it out.  While the crust is still warm add the layer of jam.  Use a spoon or an offset spatula to make sure you have an even layer of jam going all the way to the ends.  The heat from the crust with help spread the jam easily.  Set that aside.

Prepare the pie filling as the packaging suggests, EXCEPT reduce the warm water by one cup.   This recipe uses two packages of pie filling which calls for four cups of warm water.  I wanted the filling to be more firm so I reduced the water.  Once the filling is set, spread it on top of the jam layer.  It should be thick, and will set completely once it cools.

Now, preheat your oven to 425F.  Prepare the meringue topping with the egg whites left over.  (The yolks went into the lemon filling.)  Whip the whites until you have a soft peak, then add the sugar while it’s still mixing.  Whip until you have firm peaks.  Spread on top of the lemon filling.  You can make a nice design with the meringue or even pipe it with a rosette piping tip to give you the nice ridges.  Bake for 5-7 minutes to give the browning on top.  Keep and eye on it though.  Mine was done at 4 minutes, but you should know your oven.

This dessert is best made the day of, because the meringue has a tendency to sweat if left to sit for too long.  Place the pan in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours.  Once cool carefully remove the bars from the pan.  This is why I asked you leave some parchment over the sides.  This way you can lift the whole thing out of the pan and place on a board for cutting.  I cut the bars into 18 pieces but you could easily cut them smaller for bite-size morsels.  Enjoy with your favourite iced tea.

lemon, meringue, partridge, berry, lingon, shortbread, dessert, bar, Dr. Oetker, Shirriff, mix, potluck

Print Recipe
Lemon Partridgeberry Bars
A wonderful lemon flavour combined with partridgeberries. Amazing!
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Pie Filling
Meringue topping
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Pie Filling
Meringue topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and line a 9X13 pan with parchment, making sure the parchment comes up the sides.
  2. For the shortbread crust combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. You can use a food processor to do this, but use the pulse button until the butter is mixed in accordingly. Press into a nice even layer on the bottom of the 9x13 pan.
  3. Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes. The edges should be a little brown when you take it out. While the crust is still warm add the layer of jam. Use a spoon or an offset spatula to make sure you have an even layer of jam going all the way to the ends. The heat from the crust with help spread the jam easily. Set that aside.
  4. Prepare the pie filling as the packaging suggests, EXCEPT reduce the warm water by one cup. This recipe uses two packages of pie filling which calls for four cups of warm water. Once the filling is set, spread it on top of the jam layer. It should be thick, and will set completely once it cools.
  5. Now, preheat your oven to 425F. Prepare the meringue topping with the egg whites left over. (The yolks went into the lemon filling.) Whip the whites until you have a soft peak, then add the sugar while it's still mixing. Whip until you have firm peaks. Spread on top of the lemon filling. You can make a nice design with the meringue or even pipe it with a rosette piping tip to give you the nice ridges. Bake for 5-7 minutes to give the browning on top.
  6. Let the lemon bars cool completely before cutting. Place in fridge for a couple of hours. Remove the bars from the pan and cut into squares.
Recipe Notes

Partridgeberry, or Lingonberry jam can be found in most Newfoundland stores, or your local Swedish furniture store.  Raspberry can be substituted as well.

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Butterscotch Cereal Bars

butterscotch, bar, square, dessert, newfoundland, camping, travel, make ahead

It’s the Victoria Day weekend and the first thing that comes to mind for most people is camping.  This is traditionally the weekend everyone brushes off the camping gear and heads out to the lake, cottage, or park.  It’s warm enough during the day to go hiking or play some sports, but cool enough at night to have a nice bonfire going.

Camping can be a little different in Newfoundland than in other places I’ve been.  My parents had a camper trailer that collapsed and you had to crank to raise.  Similar to this one.

camper trailer nostalgia

Everything would be packed into the base of the trailer and hooked onto the back of the car.  Then we would drive for a couple of hours and camp at a provincial park for the weekend.  That way we could go exploring to the beach, or on many of the trails in the park.  My parents would usually stick around the camper and relax.  At least, that’s how I remember it as a child.  In reality they probably did relax with some beers.

In Newfoundland, though, you can usually find campers just off the side of the highway parked in gravel pits.  It’s not uncommon for people to just pull off the side of the road, just feet from the busy highway, and park there for a couple of days.  Usually it was beside a lake so you could go fishing if you wanted.  Maybe catch something for supper that night.  It’s not as common as it was, gravel pit camping, but you can still catch the occasional camper parked along the highway if you’re visiting the island.

I always look forward to camping and the wonderful things you can make beside the campfire.  We all grew up with roasting marshmallows on sticks and blowing them out after they caught fire.  Or wrapping a potato in foil and laying beside the warm embers to have a beautifully roasted potato, smothered in butter, with your dinner.  Or bring your cast iron frying pan and fry up the fresh trout you caught in the morning in the nearby pond.  Something about being outside makes the food taste so much better.

Of course we brought some homemade goodies too.  Usually cookies and sandwiches.  I thought of this quick recipe you could take with you on your car ride to the camping ground or to have as a snack around the nice warm fire. They also keep really well so you can make them a few days ahead.

In a large sauce pan melt the butter under medium-low heat.  Once the butter is completely melted add the marshmallows and stir until melted as well.  Then add the butter extract, pudding mix, Skor bits, and cereal.  You’ll have to work quickly as this seizes up fast.  Transfer the mixture to a greased 9×13 pan and press down to make an even layer.  Let cool for a couple of hours and then cut into squares.  Makes 24-36 squares depending on how big you cut them.

butterscotch, bar, square, dessert, newfoundland, camping, travel, make ahead

Print Recipe
Butterscotch Cereal Bars
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, under medium-low heat, melt the butter until completely melted. Add the marshmallows and stir occasionally until all the marshmallows have been melted.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the extract, cereal, butterscotch pudding, and Skor bits. Mix until combined. Quickly transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press down to make an even layer. I used my hands just slightly dampened with cold water.
  4. Let the mixture cool completely for at least an hour. Remove from pan and cut into squares.
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Rum Spiced Banana Bread

rum, banana, bread, loaf, dessert, sugar, screech, newfoundlandSo if you have been following my blog, you would have realized that I made the lovely Portuguese orange cakes the last time and they were topped with sanding sugar.  And if you haven’t been following my blog, then sign up for updates so you don’t miss out on the fun and food.

Anyway, I bought the sanding sugar and, of course, had a little left over because I wasn’t sure how much I would need for the last recipe.  Needless to say, there may be a few more recipes coming your way which have sanding sugar in them.  Oopsee.

There were a few bananas which were going off and getting too soft to enjoy so they were placed in the freezer for later baking.  I don’t know how that happens.  It seems that the bananas go from green to overripe in days.  I have all the best intentions about eating them for breakfast, or throwing them in a lunch bag, but when I get around to it I just don’t feel like eating bananas that day.  So they ripen.

Banana bread has become such a common dessert and you’ll find millions of variations out there with a myriad of ingredients and extras.  I wanted something fairly simple (read: one bowl mixing) and a subtle nod to my home province of Newfoundland.  What would be easier than throwing in some Screech?  Booze is better in most things.  Right? Right? –crickets chirping–

The thing about banana bread is that your bananas have to be as ripe as you can stand it.  That’s the good thing about throwing them into the freezer when they reach the peak ripeness.  That way you can preserve all the sweetness of the sugars in the fruit, without all the peskiness of attracting fruit flies.

Don’t get me started.  I left some bananas out to ripen once and within a couple of days I was finding little fruit flies everywhere.  It was like that scene in Amityville where the flies are covering the windows.  Freaky.   Needless to say, I throw them into the freezer before things get too out of hand.

Preheat your oven to 350F and put the ripe bananas in your stand mixer and mix on low.  You want the bananas to be mushy, almost liquid-like.  The softer the better.  You’ll get more banana flavour if they are really ripe.  Still mixing on low, add the melted butter, sugar, eggs, and rum.

Then mix your dry ingredients.  You can throw everything in the mixer, but I personally like to mix my dry ingredients first to make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add that slowly to the wet mixture and blend until clear.  That is, you don’t see any more flour in the batter.  Do not overmix as the bread will be too chewy.

Pour into a greased eight inch loaf pan and set aside.  In a small bowl combine a couple of tablespoons of sanding sugar and a little bit of the rum.  You want the sugar to absorb the rum, but not be soaking.  You don’t want the sugar to dissolve.  Sprinkle the sugar on top of batter and bake for 50 minutes on the middle rack.  Use the knife test to check for doneness.

Let the loaf cool in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the pan an let cool completely.  Serves 8-10.rum, banana, bread, loaf, dessert, sugar, screech, newfoundland

Print Recipe
Rum Spiced Banana Bread
This light banana bread has the subtle flavour of rum and a pleasing sugary crust.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In stand mixer on low with the paddle attachment, mash the bananas until soft. The bananas should be very well broken down. Add the melted butter, sugar, egg, and rum.
  3. In a separate bowl combing the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
  4. With the mixer still on low, add the dry ingredients. Mix until clear. Pour the batter in a greased 8 inch loaf pan.
  5. In a small bowl combine the sanding sugar and a few drops of rum. Mix until moistened. Sprinkled the flavoured sugar over the top of the batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick or until a inserted knife comes out clean.
  6. Let the loaf cool on a rack in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely. Serves 8-10 slices.
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Portuguese Orange Cakes – Bolinhos de Laranja

portuguese, orange, cake, dessert, portugalThe story of the Portuguese presence in Canada dates back to the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although it is not clear who may have landed in Canada prior to John Cabot’s historic voyage in 1497, it is believed that Diogo de Teive who set out from Lisbon in 1452, had previously explored the east coast of Canada. His exploration would eventually influence the likes of Christopher Columbus. It is well documented that Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real landed in Newfoundland in 1501. His statue stands proudly in St. John’s today.

Statue of Gaspar Corte Real in St. John’s, Newfoundland

Evidence of the Portuguese presence is manifest in the many places names of Portuguese origin in Atlantic Canada. Most notable perhaps is the name Labrador which is believed to be named after João Fernandes, a “lavrador,” (a farmer).

Some historians contend that after the Vikings the first attempt at a establishing a permanent colony in Canada was lead by navigator Alvares Fagundes circa 1520. The location of this settlement has never been found but believed to have been somewhere in Cape Breton. Although no permanent communities are known to have lasted, the Portuguese presence in Atlantic Canada continues to this day while men fish for cod on the Grand Banks.

If you have the time you can take the Baccalieu Trail. Baccalieu is derived from the Portuguese word for codfish.  This 230km trek will take through such charming places as Heart’s Content, Cupids, and Heart’s Desire.  You eventually find yourself reaching Baccalieu island off the coast.  Offshore, Baccalieu Island bears witness to the potential menace of the North Atlantic. The wrecks of more than a dozen ships lie under the waters that surround the island. Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve has 11 species of seabirds nesting there, making it the most diverse seabird colony in the province. The island hosts 3.3 million pairs of Leach’s Storm Petrels, and thousands of puffins and black-legged kittiwakes and other birds each summer. The foxes that share the island with the birds rarely go hungry.

There’s even the Bacalao restaurant in the capital, St. John’s.  The owner, Andrea Maunder, celebrates the food and culture of the province while keeping the menu hyper-local.  Many of the menu’s ingredients are grown locally or hunted locally.  Drop by and give them a try.

I found this wonderfully simple recipe for these light orange cakes that take no time at all.  They are fluffy, light, and have the fresh orange citrus flavour.  Perfect as a dessert for a party or get-together.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 muffin pans.
In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.
In a separate bowl combine eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until the eggs are pale yellow and fall in ribbons. Stir in orange juice, butter and vanilla until well combined.
Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. The mixture will froth a little. Pour the batter into the muffin cups filling them 3/4 of the way up.  Bake for 13-14 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Sprinkle the top of each cake with some sanding sugar and return pans to the oven. Turn the oven off and leave them in there for 2 minutes.  Sanding sugar is a coarser sugar.  Its crystals are larger and will give your cakes a nice crunch.
Allow the pans to cool 5 minutes then run a knife around the edge of each cake and gently unmold. Let the cakes cool completely.
portuguese, cake, orange, dessert, portugal
Print Recipe
Portuguese Orange Cakes - Bolinhos de Laranja
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Servings
cakes
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Servings
cakes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 muffin pans.
  2. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.
  3. In a separate bowl combine eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until the eggs are pale yellow and fall in ribbons. Stir in orange juice, butter and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. The mixture will froth a little. Pour the batter into the muffin cups filling them 3/4 of the way up.
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. The mixture will froth a little. Pour the batter into the muffin cups filling them 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Sprinkle the top of each cake with some sanding sugar and return pans to the oven. Turn the oven off and leave them in there for 2 minutes. Sanding sugar is a coarser sugar. Its crystals are larger and will give your cakes a nice crunch.
  6. Allow the pans to cool 5 minutes then run a knife around the edge of each cake and gently unmold. Let the cakes cool completely.
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Summer Savoury Biscuits

savoury, biscuits, bread, bun, quickAsk anyone from the province about savoury and they will tell you that it’s a staple in most Newfoundland kitchens.  Summer savoury is an annual herb and is hearty enough to survive the short Atlantic growing season.  It’s flavour is similar to the winter variety and is sometimes used as a substitute for sage.

Newfoundlanders use summer savoury mostly in stuffing, or as we call it, dressing.  This is the stuffing that you will find inside your holiday turkey.  One of my favourite uses is to have chips with Newfie dressing.  That is french fries which are covered in a deep rich brown gravy, then you add fried onions and dressing on top.  It can be found in most restaurants on the island.

There was a small place in Windsor called Hiscock’s.  Unfortunately the store is closed and a candy/ice cream shop is in its place.  Hiscock’s was famous for its chips and dressing.  They were open late into the night and one could go there after staying out with your friends and scarf back some loaded wedge fries.

Hiscocks, newfoundland, windsor, grand falls, drive-in, fast food, fries
Hiscock’s Drive-In

These fries were amazing.  Thick wedges of potatoes, battered and deep fried.  The outside was crispy and inside was light and fluffy.  The way a french fry should be.  These would then be piled into a takeout container the similar shape as those rectangular Chinese takeout containers.  Then you would choose your toppings.  My personal favourite was dressing and gravy with deep fried weiners.

Remember this was the time in my youth when I didn’t care about calories or what I ate.  I was a skinny teenager.  Oh how things have changed.  I would get the fries, dripping with lovely brown gravy, layered with the savoury dressing, and peppered with little pillows of weiners (these were deep fried too).  Heavenly and amazingly good.

Summer savoury can be used in other applications too.  I found a lovely recipe for biscuits and decided to add the savoury to the recipe.  Similar to a scone, these biscuits are light and fluffy, and are very quick to make.  They are perfect as a side to mostly any main, but they are best if you have something in a sauce or gravy.  That way you can use the biscuit to sop up the excess.

The original recipe calls for vegetable shortening, but you can use butter.  Preheat your oven to 450F.  Combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sage, savoury, thyme and salt. Cut in with a pastry blender or forks the shortening.   PRO TIP:  Freeze the shortening and grate.  Then add to the dry mix.  Easier to get the small pieces covered in flour.  Add the milk and combine until the dough comes together.   Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough until the flour in incorporated, about 8-10 times.  Try not to overwork the dough.  You don’t want gluten to form which would make the biscuits too chewy.  You can check out my post about bread rescue and it will give you some pointers on how not to overwork dough.

Flatten the dough until it’s about an inch thick.  I just used my hands, but you can use a rolling pin if you want.  Cut the dough into rounds and place on a greased (or Silpat lined) baking tray.   When I was a child I watched my grandmother use an old Swartz mustard glass dipped in flour.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  My rounds were about 3 inches in diameter.

Swartz Mustard Glass

An aside. Back in the 1960s, you could get mustard in these really cool glasses with card suits on them.  I guess the Swartz mustard company thought that people would continue to buy their product to get a whole set. There were ubiquitous in most kitchens across the island.  I only remember a couple of glasses at my grandparent’s house, but they may have lost some along the way.

 

Enjoy these wonderful fluffy, savoury biscuits.  Don’t forget to drop me line and subscribe so you won’t miss out on any posts.savoury, biscuits, bread, bun, quick

Print Recipe
Quick Savoury Biscuits
These wonderfully light, fluffy biscuits are perfect for any main. Make lots as they will disappear quickly.
savoury, biscuits, bread, bun, quick
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
biscuits
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
biscuits
Ingredients
savoury, biscuits, bread, bun, quick
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt, and herbs. Mix well.
  3. Using a pastry cutter, or two forks, cut in the shortening until finely incorporated. Then add milk and bring together into a dough. Turn out into a lightly floured surface and knead 8-10 times. If the dough is too dry you may have to add a little milk.
  4. Flatten to about an inch thick with your hands or a rolling pin. Cut into rounds. Reshape scraps and flatten to cut out more rounds. Do this a maximum of two times or the dough will be too tough. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden. Cool on rack. For best results serve slightly warmed.
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Seal of approval – Flipper pie for Lent

We are currently going through the Christian season of Lent.  Rooted in the time when Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, Lent is the time just before the celebration of Easter and is meant for people to make some sacrifices in their lives.  These sacrifices, small or large, symbolically help people understand the sacrifices that Jesus may have been experiencing himself.

In reality, Lent ends up being different things, depending on the person. For some, it is a period of going on a diet; for others, it is when Catholic co-workers show up to work with ashes on their heads, and fast-food restaurants start selling fish sandwiches.  That’s how McDonald’s started selling their Filet O Fish sandwiches.  Back in the 60’s a Cincinnati manager wanted something for people to eat during the Lenten season instead of their regular burgers.  The fast food giant sells 25% of their fish sandwiches during the forty days of Lent.

The notion of eating fish during Lent is not something new.  Most of us don’t think twice about it.  Newfoundlanders have been doing it for centuries.  For some, the definition of fish can be generalized to anything one gets from the ocean.  Seal has been part of the Newfoundland diet since we first started living on the island.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the seals were caught for their pelts, oil, and meat.  It’s still a part of the Labrador Inuit diet and is high in vitamin A and protein. By the 1840s—at the apex of the sealing industry in Newfoundland—546,000 seals were killed annually and seal oil represented 84% of the value of seal products sold. Since then, a commercial seal hunt has taken place annually off Canada’s East Coast and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Today, the seal hunting season provides more than 6,000 jobs to fishermen and vastly supplements the region’s economy.

Because the seal hunt takes place in the spring when the mammals are found near the edge of the ice floes—lasting from mid-March through April—the meat of the animal is most often eaten during the Easter season. But why does seal meat count as “fish” during Lent? According to The Northern Isles: Orkney And Shetland by Alexander Fenton, the meat was deemed Lent-friendly by the Catholic Church as early as the mid 16th century by Olaus Magnus (1490-1557), a Swedish patriot and influential Catholic ecclesiastic:

The people of Burrafirth in Unst sold the skins of seals they caught, and salted the meat for eating at Lent. Olaus Magnus noted in Sweden in 1555 that seal-flesh was regarded [as fish] by the church in Sweden, though eventually the eating of seal-meat on fast days was forbidden in Norway. Later in time, the eating of seal-flesh went down in the world, and was confined to poorer people, the flesh being salted and hung in the chimneys to be smoked.

For those who have tasted seal, the meat is described as a bit gamey and oily. The high oil content means that the meat has a tendency to spoil quickly if not prepared by smoking or baked in a pie.  Most recipes suggest that the seal meat is coated in flour, pan-fried and then roasted with onions, pork fat and root vegetables like carrots, turnips, potatoes and parsnips. Once the dish has a nice, flaky crust, it is often served with a side of Worcestershire sauce.  Nowadays, most Newfoundlanders will buy their pies premade.  One of the most popular places to get flipper pie is Bidgoods supermarket just south of St. John’s in Goulds.

So, if you’re adventurous, pick up some flipper pie the next time you’re visiting the Rock.  Enjoy the rich, flaky crust and the savoury deep brown gravy surrounded by potatoes, turnips and onions.  And the meaty chunks of seal of course.  I hope it will get your seal of approval.

Photo by Greg Locke

Buttermilk Banana Muffin

muffin, banana, buttermilk, sugar, dessert, cinnamonFor the longest time I thought everything my mother created in the kitchen was a Newfoundland invention.  When I was a youngster she would make cabbage rolls from scratch.  She would make the filling and boil the cabbage and spend the afternoon rolling them up and baking them for supper.  Same with Chinese food.  She would cut up pieces of chicken, dip them in batter and deep fry them.  Then she would make her own sweet and sour sauce and serve them with stir fried veggies and rice.  I thought both of those dishes were Newfoundland recipes.  Later, when I was older, I found out that those recipes weren’t authentic to just Newfoundland.  But that’s the great thing about food, it becomes authentic to the person making it.

As a baker I’ve learned how to do pastries and breads from around the world.  I’ve made baguettes from France, Victoria sponges from England, Swiss meringues, and countless others.  But when I try a recipe and I get comfortable with it, then I can experiment and make authentic to me.  I can add my ingredients and my take on the recipe.  So that’s what I’ve done with this basic banana muffin recipe.

I’ve added the richness of buttermilk and the sweet cinnamon sugar to just give it my spin on a classic muffin.  Yes, you can find many, many, many banana muffin recipes out there, but I haven’t found one that adds the cinnamon sugar on top.  And that’s the great thing about recipes.  You just tweak it a little and it becomes yours.

So, enjoy these wonderful buttermilk banana muffins with a nice cup of tea.  And who knows, maybe you’ll change it up to make it your own and it will be just as good, if not better.  Remember to invite me over so we can swap!

muffin, banana, buttermilk, sugar, cinnamon

Print Recipe
Buttermilk Banana Muffin
A moist banana muffin with the slight tanginess of buttermilk and sweet sugar cinnamon topping.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Muffin
Topping
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Muffin
Topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Use a whisk to mix thoroughly.
  3. In a large bowl with your hand mixer combine the mashed bananas, buttermilk, egg, and vegetable oil. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Blend until you cannot see any flour. Do not overmix.
  4. Transfer the batter to greased or lined muffin tin. Using a scoop, fill each until 3/4 full. Bake on middle rack in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The muffins should be slightly brown around the edges.
  5. Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Meanwhile combine the remaining cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl for the topping.
  6. Once the muffins have cooled, take one and first dip in the melted butter, shaking off any excess. Then dip in cinnamon sugar.
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