The Weirdest Bread

My mother finds all these things on Facebook and tags me in them. I am always tempted to keep them open in tabs until I realise just how slowly they make my computer run. I’ve only recently started using bookmarks; my thinking has been that I’ll never actually go back and click on them. So far, I’m kind of right.

One post was intriguing enough that I didn’t have to keep it open for long. Here is the original post, though I should warn you that it’s confusing. I’ll fill you in on the details.

So, basically, “oopsie breads” start as meringues and ends as airy breads. I don’t know how it works. I put my scientist-analyst head on my shoulders (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a scientist-analyst head anywhere in my bag of tricks.), and I still didn’t really get it. When I tried it, I think I might have overwhipped the eggs whites, if that’s possible. The recipe suggests that you could make 6 large breads or 8 medium ones. I had 8 really big breads that, as I later learned, were probably a bit too tall.  You might want to smooth them down with the back of a spoon to make them shorter.  I probably could have made 10 of the right size had I known.  They are really light and airy and kind of felt like foam.  I did NOT have high hopes.

I’m happy and surprised to say that they were really nice. CB liked them, though I only let him have one and half. They work really well as hamburger buns. I even sprinkled sesame seeds on a few of them to harken back to childhood barbeques.

Oopsie Bread

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already.  How else was I to know it was done?!

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already. How else was I to know it was done?!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cream cheese
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon psyllium husk powder

Hardware:
Stand mixer
Spatula
Spoon
Small bowl
Baking pan
Oven

Directions:
Separate eggs.  Place the whites in the bowl of the stand mixer with the salt and whip together until you achieve stiff peaks.

While the egg whites mix, place the egg yolks, cream cheese, baking powder, and psyllium husk powder in the small bowl and mix until combined.  When your whites are whipped, slowly spoon the yolk mixture into it and stir together with the spatula.  Try to do it with as few motions as possible to keep in all the air you have created.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet in dollops depending on your desired size.  Like I said, the recipe says that it will make 6 large or 8 small breads, but I had 8 large ones.  It’s possible that my eggs expanded in the mixer more than expected.  I imagine you could top them with any spice or herb you want; I only tried the sesame seeds on a few.

You can see they didn't expand much in the oven.

You can see they didn’t expand much in the oven.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.  I thought they looked like they would be done much faster, as they had a real shape after about 10 minutes, but they needed the entire time.  If they stick to the pan, use a metal spatula to pry away.

It doesn't feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

It doesn’t feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

4th of July

Happy 4th of July to my American friends! It’s a bit odd celebrating here, but I do it anyway. Tonight, we’re going to have a mini-BBQ on my father-in-law’s new grill — and it looks like we have been given a tiny dose of sunshine for the occasion!

Apple confetti cake with caramel buttercream frosting

As American as apple pie — Apple confetti cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it!)
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup double cream
115g unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups icing sugar

Hardware
Medium saucepan
Stand mixer
Wooden spoon
Various measuring cups and spoons
Stove

Directions
Stir together the sugar and water in the saucepan.  Have the vanilla extract and cream ready beside the stove.  Place on medium-high heat and don’t touch it! (If you stir it, it’ll be harder to see when it turns dark, and it’ll burn if you miss it.)  Keep your eyes on it, and remove from heat as soon as it turns a dark amber colour.  Very slowly (exercise your patience), add in the cream and vanilla extract, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon.  Continue stirring until you have a smooth consistency and even colour.

You now have caramel!  Let it stand for 20-25 minutes until it is cool to the touch.  Avoid eating it by spoon.

Cream the butter in the stand mixer (paddle attachment) on medium-high with the sea salt.  It should take a few minutes and might require stopping to scrap the sides.  When smooth, lower the speed and add the icing sugar a bit at a time.  Once it is completely incorporated, pour in the caramel.  Mix until light and fluffy — at least 2-3 minutes.

This frosting is best if you let it stand at room temperature for a few hours before using.

How are you celebrating?

Apple Affair

After time apart, I have been reunited with an old flame. The last time I saw him, I knew something wasn’t right, but I just didn’t know how to fix it. I spent a long time staring at him from across the room, too nervous to approach. I finally got up my courage this week, walked right up to him, and said “I need you.”

And I did.

With three pounds of apples to peel, core, and slice, I really did need him.

My poor apple peeler. When we moved out of our old house, I had to break it apart in order to fit into the original box. (Yes, I keep original boxes because I am convinced I will never stop moving.) Somewhere along the way, the springs came undone, and, when I went to reassemble it, I couldn’t get them back on. I tried to force them into place, but I was afraid of breaking it. I left him, looking lonely, in his cubby on my gadget shelf.

I got it into my head this week that I needed to make apple butter. I hadn’t had apple butter in years, and the idea of it made me a little nostalgic for autumn in Georgia. If you haven’t been to the Georgia Apple Festival and you like apples, maybe, you know, you should. It’s gorgeous at that time of year, and, if it’s possible to make something out of apples, you’ll find it there.

I looked up a bunch of pictures of similar apple peelers online and reconstructed it.  It wasn’t hard, but it took a few deep breaths (and maybe a bit of muttering under them).  Eventually, he was good as new.

Apple butter in a slow cooker is super easy. Your house will smell delicious for the entire day, too. My father-in-law came over and immediately asked what I was cooking because it smelled “like Christmas”. That’s never a bad thing.

Spread this on anything.

Spread this on anything.

Apple Butter

Ingredients:
3 pounds of apples (I used Gala; it was about 9 medium apples)
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (use plain white sugar if you don’t have vanilla sugar ready)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Hardware:
Apple peeler – or patience and a knife and vegetable peeler
Various measuring cups and spoons
Immersion blender
Slow cooker
Bit kitchen spoon

Directions:
Dump all your ingredients into the slow cooker. Stir well, cover, and cook on low for 10 hours, stirring occasionally.

Use the immersion blender to puree the mixture. Make as lumpy or smooth as you like. I like mine very smooth and glossy. Be very careful — I rarely say this, but consider eye protection for this step — if it splashes up, it is thick enough already that it will retain heat and sit and burn you. You might be guessing that I’m speaking from experience here. Ow.

Turn heat up to high and cook uncovered for 1 hour to thicken. Remove immediately to a heat-proof jar or container. Store in the fridge once cooled.

I think you could wrap a ribbon around it, give it away, and have a friend forever.

I think you could wrap a ribbon around it, give it away, and have a friend forever.

Slowly Simmered Dreams

I have finally achieved one of my goals in life: I have a slow cooker. I know. I know. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a really huge development for me as a person.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

There are some things you just can’t make without a slow cooker. You can live without those things, but your life would be devoid of joy. You may think you are happy now, but there is happiness you can’t even imagine on the other side. CB asked me last night if our slow cooker has been off since we got it, and I was able to answer ‘yes’ only because I haven’t done any overnight experiments yet.

I’m convinced that my slow cooker can time travel (it is parked next to the TARDIS) or, at least, look into the future. When I first set it on the counter on Monday, I stared for a moment, contemplating what I should first make. It reached out to me, explaining that chicken noodle soup was truly the only option. I even had leftover roasted chicken from Sunday’s dinner! How did it know that, the very next day, I would feel bad and need something comforting and wholesome to eat? It’s magic!

One of the most appealing things about a slow cooker (and the real selling point for CB) is that I can make dinner at any time during the day. I sat down to write this post at 10:30am, and tonight’s dinner is already done. It is, honestly, a matter of practicality. In my ever-growing quest to understand my body, I had to realise that I don’t always have the energy to make dinner at dinner time. When it gets to be about 5pm and I’m not sure I can roll myself off the couch to cook, it makes the option for unhealthy take-away that much more enticing. If I’m brimming with energy at about noon, why not make dinner at noon? A slow cooker gives me the flexibility to create a healthy meal without undue strain on my body. I also already have three slow cooker meals in the freezer, ready to be thawed whenever we want them. I made almost an entire week’s worth of dinners in one day. One busy afternoon — without too much pressure because they didn’t have to be on the table at any particular time — and I had one dinner for that night, one for the fridge, and three to be frozen. I was inordinately proud of myself and intend to integrate it into a weekly ordeal.

Last night, I also made this apple pie risotto from our gfree life.  I added two tablespoons of flax meal to the recipe (I just can’t help myself).  It was amazing — sweet without being too sugary, dessert-y without being heavy, and filling enough that CB had some for breakfast instead of his usual porridge.

CB kept calling it "crumble" because that's what it smells like.

CB kept calling it “crumble” because that’s what it smells like.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless chicken, pre-cooked and shredded or uncooked (It will cook along the way)*
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of cayenne powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 big handful kale, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli, in small pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon dried cilantro/coriander OR 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried basil OR 1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped
Choice of noodles/pasta — I used 2 cups of brown rice shells; eyeball how much you need and remember they will expand when cooked

*You can use bone-in chicken if you take the weight into consideration and understand that you may get loose bones in your soup. It does add a certain richness in flavour, but I don’t like taking the chance.

Hardware:
Slow cooker
Measuring cups and spoons
Cutting board and 2 forks, if uncooked chicken is used

Directions:
Dump all ingredients EXCEPT noodles/pasta into the slow cooker. Stir together and cook on low for 6 hours.

Choose your own adventure:

A. If using precooked chicken, stir in your noodles/pasta and cook on high for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

B. If using uncooked chicken, remove it from the slow cooker at this time. Place it on the cutting board and carefully use the forks to shred the meat. Return to slow cooker with noodles/pasta and cook on high for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

I was so excited for this soup.

I was so excited for this soup.

Megon Comes to Visit — and Brings Chicken Salad

I first met Megon more than twenty years ago (eep!). Her sister, Heather, was my very first best friend, and, thanks to the magic of the internet, our families have reconnected.  A wee while ago, we met up with some other ladies at Heather’s house for a seed swap.  I brought that peanut butter pie I made, and the only other thing I could eat was Megon’s chicken salad.  Once I tasted it, I didn’t mind so much!

One month ago today, Megon made the commitment to her body to do what she knew she had to do and stop eating gluten.  She may have gone kicking and screaming, but she never looked back.  In the past month, she has had medical and personal developments to show her that gluten-free was the way to be.

Leaving gluten behind is not easy.  Through watching her, I realized that, even though I am 100% aware that it’s what’s right for my body, I don’t know if I could go through it all over again.  It is brutal.  In honour of her strength — and the strength of all you gents and ladies who have gone through the same thing — I’m sharing her chicken salad recipe.  Even better is that the recipe is super-easy.  Eat it up.

Megon’s Coronation Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoon apricot preserves
1/4 small yellow onion, finely minced
1/4 – 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
2-3 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Hardware:
mixing bowl
knife
wooden spoon
food processor

Directions:
Pulse the apricots in the food processor.  Dump all the other ingredients except the chicken into the food processor to combine.  When fully integrated, empty into the mixing bowl and stir in the chicken.

It’s great served with crackers or tortilla chips . . . or on bread . . . or on a spoon.