Tag Archives: food

Hot Cross Buns

26 Mar

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It has been pretty silent around here on this blog the last week.  I have my (wonderful) in-laws here at the moment and we’ve been busy doing all sorts of things together.  Lots of walks, trips to Milan, delicious meals together and board game playing.  The kids are in heaven with the non-stop playmates (and chocolate givers).

This past week-end the weather was rainy and miserable so we ended up spending the entire Sunday inside the house.  For vieruurtje (Dutch for afternoon-snack and literally translated as “little 4 o’clock”) I made the clan some good ol’ Easter Hot Cross Buns.

This is a basic recipe and much simpler than the traditional recipes that seem to include a ton of steps.  Usually I would also add some candied citrus peel or currents to the dough but unfortunately my kids would disown me for life and run out the door and never come back if they found such things in their buns.


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I took a basic white bread recipe and added some extra sugar and cinnamon (similar to the Cinnamon Swirl Bread from last week).  These buns come out really soft and spongy and actually keep fresh for a day or two.  Before putting them in the oven I take a sharp knife and slash a cross on the tops.  That way there is a perfect indentation for the ever important icing to settle into (after cooled).

Nothing really gives me that Easter feeling more than a pan of fresh-out-of-the-oven Hot Cross Buns (and a sunny garden full of blooming flowers of course).  Throw in some kids wearing pastel coloured spring dresses and straw hats and it’s absolutely perfect.

Read on for recipe.

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Vanilla Bean Pudding

6 Nov

Since I’ve been off sugar for 2 1/2 weeks my baking has come to almost a full stop.  It’s sad really.  I miss all that mixing, kneading, stirring and blending.  Not to mention the eating of all those glorious sweets that I used to bake on a daily basis.  More than anything else I’ve been craving the Italian jam pie crostata.  I wouldn’t even try it for the first decade of living in Italy because it looked so dry but in the end it has become one of my favourite desserts.  I will be trying to make one this coming week-end (because I’m allowing myself the odd treat on Saturday or Sunday).  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Because I was feeling so bad for my kids and the fact they haven’t been able to enjoy some good home-baking I decided to make them something special for when they got off the school bus today.  I was thinking of making a fancy fruit mousse or trifle but in the end I opted for the most basic of desserts.  Pudding.  Vanilla pudding.  I had never made my kids pudding in their little lives so I thought it was time to give it a try.  Plus, my mom bought me the most lovely little glasses that were crying to be filled with something delicious and creamy.

My kids liked the pudding but asked why there were little pieces of dirt floating in it.  I explained to them about vanilla beans and how wonderful they are.  They looked at me like they still thought there was dirt in their pudding.

It’s a simple and quick recipe and I’m amazed at how it turned out so smoothly and lump-less.  Read on to get the recipe…

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Apricot Rosemary Jam

20 Jun


I’ve officially become a jammer (oh geez).  I spend my days planning my next jam-making session and scour the local fresh fruit and vegetable stands for the best in-season fruits.

I’ve slowly acquired all sorts of different sized jam jars and bottles and I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with the whole sterilizing process that goes into canning and preserving jams.  I’m still terrified of poisoning my family or friends with botulism but my fear is waning slightly.

Last week I bought some delicious looking apricots from the local produce truck and decided to make Apricot Jam with Rosemary (found on my all-time favorite preserving site Food in Jars).

Seeing as I almost didn’t survive after making the Cherry Rhubarb  Lavender Jam a few weeks ago  I had to enlist the help of my husband to do the initial cleaning, pitting and chopping of the fresh apricots.  But once they were safely in the Le Creuset and I was gloved, I was ready to start the whole process ( I was even tempted to don some swimming goggles but was terrified of some of the locals catching a glimpse of the crazy Canadian making jam WITH GOGGLES!).

This is a quick jam recipe and I have to say it has such  a unique end result with the addition of rosemary.  It’s sweet with a distinctive savoury background that really makes for a new experience for your taste buds.  It might even initially  confuse them.  But that’s a good thing.

For lunch today I made this sandwich above.  Rustic raisin bread with thinly sliced Gruyere cheese,  salame di Parma and a good layer of the Apricot Rosemary Jam.  It was more than delicious (although I’m pretty sure the kids would bolt from the table if I tried to serve them this).   This past week-end I marinated magret de canard (duck breast) with this jam and some garlic and barbecued it and it turned out to be an absolutely delicious combination.  

Please pop over to Food in Jars for the recipe!

Chocolate Oat Dulce de Leche Bars

15 Jun

These are the richest, sweetest, gooeyest, chocolatey-est bars you’ll ever eat.  When you take your first bites it’s heaven.  After you’ve finished a whole bar you kind of feel like you shouldn’t have eaten a whole bar.  It’s a love/hate relationship to say the least.  I would definitely advise to cut very small bars and eat them slowly.  You should have seen my son after he ate one.  He was doing laps around our house for over an hour.  Then he passed out on the grass.  Like I said…they’re so right but so wrong at the same time.

After making these squares I made the whole family go for a 2 hour walk in the woods to try and get some of the sugar out of our systems.  We saw these gorgeous roses.  The pink against the bright blue sky was just mesmerizing.  I stared at them for a long time.  My kids stared at me staring at the roses and asked me to hurry up because they wanted to go home for some more squares.I gave some to my Italian neighbours and friends and I could tell by their faces that they were maybe a bit too heavy and rich for their liking.  My British, Irish and American friends thought they were great though.  I’m thinking that maybe these would be better to make in the cold winter instead of the warm summer.  In summer it’s all about light, fresh and fruity around here (something like this frozen honeydew recipe from the  joelix blog or this citron meringue pie from the classicplay! blog would fit the hot summer weather much better).  Get recipe for Chocolate Oat Dulce de Leche Bars here on the Daily Crave site.

I found these plastic boxes in Chinatown in Milan (usually used for take-out in sushi restaurants).  They’re actually great for giving little baking gifts to neighbours and friends.  I absolutely love this Tour Eiffel tape that I found in Japan (and it’s not washi!).

Gingerbread with warm caramel sauce

5 May


Today was one of those days that I just craved something from back home.  It was a chilly and cloudy day and I was wandering around my kitchen trying to find inspiration for something to bake.  I opened up my baking cupboard and the first thing I saw was a little carton of Maritime Molasses and a tiny tin of  pumpkin pie spice.  I knew immediately what I wanted to make.

I remember througout my childhood we always went to visit Peggy’s Cove (a famous Nova Scotia tourist destination with famous lighthouse).  We always stopped at the Peggy’s Cove restaurant to have a piece of their famous Gingerbread.  

So today that’s just what I made.  It’s an easy cake to bake and the sauce whips up in minutes.  It is very moist  and rich with a tiny hint of the spicy ginger.  My kids love it and we almost managed to finish the whole cake.  Shame on us.

Click for recipe…
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Biscuits (or scones for you British folk out there)

27 Apr


There is seriously nothing yummier than warm-out-of-the-oven biscuits with butter and homemade jam (Strawberry-lime-Vanilla or Blood Orange Marmalade are perfect).  As a child I spent many hours in my grandmother’s kitchen making these biscuits and I’d have to say it was through this recipe that my passion for baking was ignited.

This is such a simple recipe and really perfect for kids to learn to do on their own.  My grandmother’s version is always made with vegetable shortening (impossible to find in Italy) but I have made them with butter as well.  They aren’t quite as light and airy but tasty just the same.

Here is the step-by-step recipe for BISCUITS:

Enjoy!

Take a peek at my daughter’s little film (fast forward) of making these biscuts here.

Strawberry-lime vanilla jam

19 Apr

We’re heading into strawberry season here in Italy.  You can find big, ripe strawberries in all the supermarkets, outdoor markets and from produce trucks on the side of the roads.  Yesterday I bought a big boxful from the local Sicilian produce truck and was excited to get home and try them out.  They smelled so sweet and delicious.

There’s only one slight little problem.  I’m allergic to fresh strawberries.  But somehow every year when strawberry season comes around I convince myself that it’s a possibility that my strawberry allergy has miraculously been cured.  And every year I pop one lovlingly in my mouth, taste that divine sweet berry flavour then proceed to swell up.  My eyes get red and swollen, my lips puff up (think Angelina Jolie here) and my throat starts to itch so terribily I’ve been known to contemplate shoving a fork down to scratch it .  In other words I look frightening.  Scare-the-neighbourhood-kids sort of frightening.  But let me tell you…those 10 seconds of tasting fresh strawberries is almost worth the discomfort I feel from the allergic reaction.

So in order to use up some of the strawberries that I purchased I decided to give jam making a try again (I’m not allergic to cooked strawberries).  Last time it was actually a success (Blood Orange Marmalade).   And I’m proud to tell you this time was as well.

Today we gave this new batch of jam a try with fresh out of the oven homemade biscuits.  Delicious.  The sweetness of the berries with the addition of the tart lime juice and rind is really perfection.  And to round off all the flavours the vanilla gives it such a deep sweet richness.

Unfortunately only one of my three children likes jam (the other two run away in horror at the mere mention of spreading it on their bread).  So a nice thing about this recipe is the fact it makes quite a small batch.  I managed to get 3 normal sized jars of jam out of this recipe.

Recipe: Strawberry Lime Vanilla Jam

4 cups chopped strawberries
2 cups of sugar (divided in two)
1-2 vanilla bean (split and pulp scraped from the inside)
1 lime (zest and juice)

1. Place chopped strawberries in large bowl with 1 cup of the sugar and the vanilla bean and let marinate (some prefer the term macerate…not me) for 2-3 hours.

2.  Add marinated strawberries into large pot with the remaining cup of sugar and bring to a boil and simmer until it reaches 220 degrees (I use a candy thermometre).

3.  Add the lime juice and zest and boil for additional 5-8 minutes or until the jam is at the correct consistency.

4.  Remove vanilla bean and pour jam into prepared and sterilized jars.

Enjoy! (I found this recipe here)

This jam brings back warm and fuzzy memories of one of my favourite childhood books “Bread and Jam for Frances” by Russel Hoban.  I so related to Francis and her love of bread and jam.  Still do.

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