rosemary & gruyere sourdough brioche

rosemary gruyere sourdough brioche bun loaf
rosemary gruyere sourdough brioche bun loaf

If we were to try to summarize the state of my sourdough starter Bartholomew, “criminal neglect” would be an accurate term to use. But recently my sourdough starter has been the happiest and liveliest it has ever been. And no, it’s not because I have taken on the mantle of pandemic sourdough baking. Rather, my mum has. And she has also taken to the task of keeping Bartholomew fed and watered with gusto.

I feel a bit jealous sometimes – a companion I created in eighth grade, living up life under someone else’s care and seeming all the more happier for it. But sometimes if you love someone, you’ve got to let them go.

And more than I am jealous, I am lazy so all in all it’s a relief. The situation has been rather convenient – upon spontaneously deciding I want to do a bit of sourdough baking, I can borrow some bright and bubbly starter. (This, as opposed to opening the jar for the first time in months to find a layer of sludge laying below an inch of alcohol, necessitating a week-long pampered revival before Bartholomew deigns to leaven even the smallest bun.)

Continue reading “rosemary & gruyere sourdough brioche”

beet green pasqualina

beet green pasqualina

I have, perhaps, lamented the annual fall beet harvest before, where we are routinely overwhelmed with a last minute deluge of beets prompted by the first frost. But the problem dubious blessing about growing your own beets is that you also end up with triple the volume in beet greens.

And so after we’ve had our fill of boiled beet greens, beet green goma ae, beet greens cooked with garlic, and beet greens cooked with dou ban jiang, I start to wonder what else we can do.

Continue reading “beet green pasqualina”

potato & cheddar danishes

potato cheddar danish
potato cheddar danish
potato cheddar danish

This dreadful idea came to me a few years ago while I was preparing for a university club bakesale: a danish filled with thin layers of potato and cheese. And, even worse, in the form of a neat square-shaped danish which necessitates a neatly cut square-shaped filling.

What a horrendous idea. Each time I make these, I survey a work surface covered in bechamel and swear I will never make them again. Though, given that I’ve made these finicky danishes four times, perhaps they are worth it.

Continue reading “potato & cheddar danishes”

yuzu kosho pissaladière danishes (& on body-worn cameras for the police)

yuzu kosho pissaladiere danishes yuzu kosho pissaladiere danishes

Certainly advocates are not a monolith, but some of the key advocacy organizations leading the current movement such as Black Lives Matter TO, have not recommended body cameras as a measure to reduce police violence. On the other hand, body cameras seem to be a popular proposal by governments, and a frequent recommendation in police service use of force reviews I’ve read. As I’ve explained before, I think it is best to follow the lead of advocates.

A recent discussion I had about body cameras has prompted me to write up my impressions on the debate in order to formalize my thoughts for any future discussions. In sum, I would characterize body cameras 1) a reform with a small potential benefit likely outweighed by a large cost, and 2) furthermore a measure that maintains/increases the scope of policing, which is the opposite of what the defund movement is pushing for.

Continue reading “yuzu kosho pissaladière danishes (& on body-worn cameras for the police)”

white cheddar & za’atar scones

cheddar za'atar sconescheddar za'atar scones

My introduction to Bouchon Bakery  by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel began with my sister waxing poetic on everything she had made from the book. Even the chocolate chip cookies were probably the best cookies she had ever made.

This scone recipe is a riff off of their savoury bacon cheddar scones, and they are probably the best scones I’ve ever made.

What’s that – a good scone? Yes – a good scone: i.e. the perennial struggle! There are many things that I tend to make terribly over and over again, scones one amongst them. There have been tough scones, flat scones, scones that are just straight up proper paperweights.

These scones are actually, like, good scones – baking up light while tasting like blocks of butter and browned cheese and herbs.

Continue reading “white cheddar & za’atar scones”

olive paste & feta babka

olive paste & feta babka
olive paste & feta babka
olive paste & feta babka

For me, part of hashtag-quarantine-cuisine is reacquainting myself with the contents of my parents’ cupboards.  Such as a tin of black olives with a best before date of Feb 9, 2011 (or perhaps Aug 2, 2011 – I never remember whether the day or month comes first – but either way we can assume 11 refers to the year). I asked someone to try an olive for me. Surprisingly, or rather unsurprisingly, the olives tasted fine.

After meeting my family’s approval for consumption, I still had some reservations of eating them straight. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t often eat canned olives as a snack, so they ended up being chopped into a paste via food processor. Spread onto a butter-enriched bread dough with crumbled feta produced this savoury babka.

Continue reading “olive paste & feta babka”

my (current) favourite hands-off whole wheat sourdough

whole wheat sourdoughwhole wheat sourdough

this loaf in several words: 67% whole wheat, 80% hydration and minimal interaction

I had put together this post over the summer as I was getting very consistent results with my usual sourdough loaf (though not the loose craggy crumb I dream of!). And if I’m to continue following along current pandemic-baking trends, sourdough is up next, given that many have trouble finding yeast plus newfound time to nurse slow-growing loaves of bread.

But this is a, hmm, casual sourdough, shall we say? It was something I developed when facilitating my inattentiveness and impatience was a priority. The features: single rise and some cheating with the shaping. I really mean the “minimal interaction” part.

I titled this post, “my (current) favourite” back in the summer when I wrote it. I revived my sourdough starter recently (hello again Barty!), and the loaves that I’m making now are not this bread. I’m taking a slower pace, and a renewed interest in techniques that I generally avoided. Like practicing shaping without deflating. Oh and kneading, something I dumped as soon as I was able to in my rather tenuous and unimpressive bread-making journey.

So, my go-to loaf from a different time and a bit of a different world. Not ardently whole wheat (67%) and definitely not too serious.

Continue reading “my (current) favourite hands-off whole wheat sourdough”

olive paste acma

olive paste acmaolive paste acmaolive paste acma

This is day 6 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

A friend and I found first ourselves in Simit and Chai on a winter day with an abnormal amount of snow for Toronto. It was crowded, but we found room on a bench tucked in front of the window and watched King street turn white (again, it was an abnormal amount of snow!) with hot Turkish tea and baked goods. The cafe is named for their simit, which look like sesame-coated Montreal-style bagels, but rolled thin and wide and surprisingly soft. Split in half, they’re filled with various fillings, or served with different dips and side dishes.

When I asked for a recommendation for a small snack the olive paste acma was unequivocally endorsed – a soft, oil-enriched dough, burnished with egg yolk and sesame seeds, and rolled around a salty black olive paste. With a generous filling-to-bread ratio, the olive paste is both gentle and immensely savoury, and the best savoury pastry I’ve had in a long time.

Continue reading “olive paste acma”

grandpa’s steamed radish cake

SAM_8598SAM_8588SAM_8544

My mother has always been worried about a resurgence of anti-Chinese racism. Reading negative news articles about China (which in western media, is most news about China) she would turn to me and sigh. “I wonder how this will affect Chinese Canadians here.”

To be honest, I never really took her concern that seriously. That racism, including anti-Chinese racism, is alive and thriving in Canada, I didn’t doubt. But I couldn’t understand why my mum was worried that anti-Chinese racism would increase – particularly compared to the virulent racism faced by black and Muslim and indigenous folk in Canada. Though comparisons are not the point of this particular discussion (also, keep in mind that model minority is a myth) – as while racism impacts different groups in different ways, it still functions to oppress all racialized groups.

However, perhaps were I old enough to remember SARS, I would think differently. These past weeks have been eye-opening for me to see just how quickly and effortlessly the more vitriolic aspects of anti-Chinese racism slither back out.

Continue reading “grandpa’s steamed radish cake”

brussels sprouts & gruyere focaccia

brussel sprout & gruyere focacciabrussel sprout & gruyere focaccia

This focaccia is terribly, thoroughly, utterly devoid of whole wheat flour. It’s thus also chewy and springy and light, when sliced reveals an cobwebbed cavernous crumb, and tastes of delightfully unadulterated carbs.

I love the flavours of whole grain but there is a part of me – probably the part that remembers growing up on plain white rice and craving plain white bread (though only being given whole wheat bread) – that wants nothing more than plain white flour and salt and fat. And besides… there are some textures that I find hard to achieve once I start bringing in whole grains.

The dough, from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, is a wonderful carb base for anything you so desire (even just salt and fat! maybe a fragrant olive oil fat). This time I topped the focaccia with sliced onions, brussels sprouts and gruyere. The flavours are more so in line with a flammekuchen/tarte flambée gratinée, but of course the dough gives it a distinctly focaccia-like bounce and spring.

Continue reading “brussels sprouts & gruyere focaccia”