Summertime Blue Berries

Friday, July 30, 2010

Driving back from Bracebridge this morning, we stopped at a roadside stand for a quart box of wild blueberries.  And blueberries in the morning can only mean fresh blueberry muffins in the afternoon.

I'd seen a recipe for blueberry muffins the other day on the fabulous blog Ezra Pound Cake.  Rebecca is a writer ("Ezra Pound") turned baker ("Pound Cake").  Brilliant, n'est ce pas?

When I was originally brainstorming ideas for my blog name a month ago, I told Andrew about that one and said, "I'd love to think of something clever like that."  Without pausing, he said, "How about Jane Austen-tacious?"

Surprisingly, I did not go with his recommendation, and Ezra Pound Cake remains the best name on the web.  Here's the recipe, adapted from the wonderful Barefoot Contessa:

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins           

Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Family Style”
Makes 16 muffins
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the muffin tops
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems
1/4 tsp cinnamon for the muffin tops

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed.
5. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula, and be sure the batter is completely mixed.
6. Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans and sprinkling the tops with sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 25 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

Pancakes Roasting on an Open Fire

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Last weekend, we were invited to our friends’ cottage.  We’ve known the Jays since Garth and Andrew worked together in 1989 as assistant product managers at Heinz, and Colleen and I bonded immediately.  Since then, both couples have had children and, although the Jays no longer live in Toronto, their three daughters and our two have become the best of friends.

If there’s one thing the Jay family loves, it’s traditions.  And we’re the beneficiaries of that, because it means that every year we’re invited to their cottage.  Every year we all set up tents and sleep in their backyard.  Every year we go for a Polar Bear swim in Lake Simcoe in the morning.  (Okay, it’s not a big deal in July, but you should try it on our annual Christmas holiday visit.)

And this year we started a new tradition.  On Saturday morning, Garth started a campfire and we carried the pancake ingredients to the back yard.  We poured charcoal into three empty coffee tins, which we stoked until they were white-hot.  Then Garth set a grill sheet on the charcoal and the girls took turns cooking pancakes and bacon.

I don’t know if it’s true that food always tastes better eaten outside.  But I’ve never eaten a more delicious breakfast than pancakes made with wild blueberries and served with Canadian maple syrup.  

Muffins and Metaphysics

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This will probably come as a shock to anyone who knows how many chocolate chip cookies I make, but chocolate isn’t my favourite dessert flavour.  I love it – of course – but given a choice I usually pick a dessert that features fruit.

So these muffins are the perfect recipe when I’m baking for myself and a chocoholic.  The taste of orange and the scent of almond are a perfect combination with the chocolate.  It’s probably my favourite recipe right now.  If my family didn’t love them as much as I do, I would happily eat the whole batch myself.

However, I always get in a bit of a metaphysical fog when I read the recipe.  It calls for “half a cup of half and half.”  Is that one-eighth of a cup of … nothing?  If I think about it too hard I’ll have to lie down, and I’d rather just bake the muffins.

Thanks to Valerie of for this amazing addition to my recipe book.  If you want to use her recipe using dark chocolate, click here.  My variation with semi-sweet chocolate follows:

Orange and Chocolate Chip Muffins

zest from one orange
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup of half-and-half cream
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°.  
Lightly grease or line 12 muffin cups.
In a large bowl, rub the orange zest into the sugar until it becomes fragrant and coloured.  Mix in the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.    Stir in melted butter, cream and almond extract.  Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.  
Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.  Serve warm.

A Taste of Turkey - Part Two

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I couldn’t write about Turkey without mentioning the fabulous food we ate!

Who knew that goat’s milk ice cream was so delicious?  A double-scoop cone of mulberry and chocolate ice cream is as smooth as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Of all the trips we’ve taken, I don’t think we’ve ever eaten better bread, more consistently, than we did in Turkey.  Every restaurant baked a loaf of pide to order and brought it to the table so steaming hot that we had to wait to pick it up.  Soft, airy and savory, pide was one of the surprises of our trip.

I used to think I didn’t like baklava.  But I was blown away by how fabulous it was.  Naturally, we had to sample as many variations as possible, and my favourite was heavy on honey and light on walnuts.  I think I ate baklava every night in Istanbul and possibly one day at lunch, too.

Scenes from the Spice Market.

The Turkish food we ate throughout the country was delicious (and I haven’t even mentioned the kopkes or the kebabs), but it was fun to change it up on occasion.  And the most delicious change was eating at Ziggy’s in Cappadocia.  Cappadocia was beautiful but wintry, and after a day spent outside in the elements, we were so cold we barely felt like going out for dinner.

The minute we walked into Ziggy’s, everything changed.  The warmth from the fireplace coaxed us out of our coats, and the warmth from the owners made us feel at home.  Ziggy’s was named for their Airedale Terrier, who in turn was named for Ziggy Stardust.  I don’t think Bowie ever received a greater compliment.

My youngest daughter raved so much about the tortellini that when we came back a second night, three of us ordered it.  The Ziggy potatoes were perfectly spiced and addictive.  The miniature boreks (tiny pastries rolled in cinnamon sugar) were so wonderful that even those of us who were stuffed made room for them.

And at the end of the meal, the owner drove us back to our hotel. 

A Taste of Turkey - Part One

Friday, July 16, 2010

My family and I were fortunate enough to visit Turkey in March, and I wanted to post a few pictures before we leave for our next trip.

 We saw the Blue Mosque on our first day in Istanbul, as well as the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia.
What a wonderful, walkable city Istanbul is – so easy to get around, and incredibly welcoming.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of flying with Turkish Air, you won’t be familiar with the excellent travel bags given to everyone boarding the plane.  These little beige bags come complete with everything you need for a great travel experience – eye shades, ear plugs and lip balm.  But most important, they contain lime green socks.

These socks were particularly important to our family, because one of us (I won’t name names, but he wears men’s shoes) forgot to pack socks.  And until we got to Istiklal Caddesi to buy him new ones, the lime green plane socks worked just fine.

Cappadocia was one of the true highlights.  From primitive cave dwellings to moonlike landscapes, I’ve never seen anything like it.

For me, one of the thrills of this trip was seeing the Temple of Artemis, near Ephesus.  Although it’s only ruins now, it was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, and I couldn’t wait to see it.  It would have been slightly more exciting to share this moment with my family; however, they were too busy taking pictures of the peacock in the next field to pay attention to - did I mention this? - one of the wonders of the Ancient World.  

And finally, my favourite market sign in Turkey:

Because you wouldn’t want to get ripped off.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Bake Cookies

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When Andrew asked me to bake cookies for his office (see my last post), I immediately thought of Lemon Buttermilk Cookies.  I love these cookies.  And the recipe is – like all my favourites – really easy.  All you have to do is follow the directions.

Unfortunately I don’t always read the directions in advance, and this was one of those times. When I finally got around to icing the cookies, it was several hours later.  The directions read, “Glaze the cookies while they are still warm.”

Well, that was impossible.  Or was it?  I had just taken something else out of the oven, and it was semi-warm.  So I put these cookies back in the oven for about thirty seconds, thereby warming them up, so I could follow the directions as required.

I will say this:  properly glazed or not, my husband called me at 8:07 to tell me that all the cookies had been eaten by his coworkers.  That’s 8:07 a.m.  So either he dropped the plate on the way to work and was too embarrassed to tell me, or his coworkers really liked these cookies.  I’m going with the latter.

Like many of my favourite recipes, I’ve taken this recipe from

Lemon Buttermilk Cookies

1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
½ tsp of baking soda
zest of one lemon (save the juice for the glaze)
½ tsp of kosher salt
6 Tbsp of butter, room temperature
¾ cups of granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp of almond extract
1/3 cup of buttermilk

Glaze ingredients:

1 ½ Tbsp of buttermilk
½ tsp of fresh lemon juice
¾ cup of powdered sugar

In a small bowl, sift together flour and baking soda.  Whisk in the lemon zest and kosher salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter.  Add the granulated sugar, egg and almond extract, and beat until light and fluffy.  Beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternate beating in with the buttermilk.  Beat until well combined.

Place dough on the cookie sheet (I made about a dozen), leaving about an inch and a half between cookies.  Bake at 350ºF for 11 – 12 minutes, then remove from oven and cool for 1 – 2 minutes on a wire rack.  Glaze the cookies while they are still warm.

To make the glaze, mix the ingredients together until smooth.  Spread or drizzle over cookies.

Less is S'more

Saturday, July 10, 2010
I was asked to provide three kinds of baked goods for my husband’s office. Trying to think of a newish recipe, I decided on S’more Cookie Bars, which I recently found on the wonderful I made them a week ago for the first time, and Andrew and the girls all loved them.

So how could there be a problem?

Problem #1: I ran out of parchment paper and had to use a patchwork quilt of what little I had left.
Problem #2: I forgot how messy and sticky these were when I cut them. In case you’re curious, an outside temperature of 35ºC (95ºF) does not improve my ability to tidily slice melted marshmallows.
Problem #3: The stakes are pretty high. Not only were these bars being taken into the office, they’re being posted online for my many readers to see!

Not nearly as abysmal as you might think. Because of the parchment paper dilemma, I had to cut them in the pan. But other than wrecking the first one or two, they actually came out well. And no one expects S’mores to be perfectly symmetrical, anyhow.

Give them a try. Just make sure you have lots of parchment paper.

S’More Cookie Bars (recipe adapted from


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Lindt Swiss Classic 100 g chocolate bars
1 1/4 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)


Preheat oven to 350ºF .  Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter it, allowing it to hang over the edges for easy removal.  (Blogger's note:  this step is pretty important.)

In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light.  Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.  Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.  Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan.

Place chocolate bars over dough.  Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff.  Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Grandma Baker's Legacy

Thursday, July 8, 2010
These gingersnaps represent everything I love about baking. They’re delicious (she said modestly), they’re easy to bake, and they taste like the homemade cookies we ate when we were kids. In fact, that’s exactly what they are. I grew up on a farm, and my grandparents lived in a different house on the same farm. Every Saturday morning, my sister Gwen and I visited Grandma and Grandpa Baker. (Yes, she really was Grandma Baker!) And every Saturday morning, she had two plates of warm cookies waiting for us – coconut oatmeal cookies for Gwen and gingersnaps for me. Somewhat dubiously, I used to drink mine with chocolate milk, but everything else about that memory is perfect.

When I was checking the ingredients for this recipe, I found three containers of ginger in my cupboard. Three. I make a lot of gingersnaps, but not that many. Having written this, I hope that the next time I go to the grocery store, I don’t hover in front of the spice display thinking, “Do I need more ginger?”
Here's the original recipe. Let me know if you like it!

Grandma Baker's Gingersnaps

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses

Sift first five ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. In a large bowl, beat shortening, then add egg, sugar and molasses, still beating. Stir in dry ingredients. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 350º F for 12 – 15 minutes.