Tag Archives: sweet

End of Winter Cranberry Chocolate Buns

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Winter is finally starting to let up over here in Toronto. There are still a few patches of snow here and there but for the most part the weather is warming up and I can finally stop wearing my heavy winter boots! This winter has been the longest and coldest I can remember in a long time. Ice storms, -40˚C days, and countless extreme cold weather warnings. This past Christmas we dealt with about a week of power outages across the city. Mine lasted from the night of my Birthday up until the day after Christmas. I sadly remember sitting in a slump in my frozen living room, wearing 5 layers of clothing, on Christmas day crying “This is the worst Christmas ever, I hate Rob Ford”. Yeah, I blame it on Rob Ford.

So, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever been so excited for summer to come. With its hot days, going to the beach, walking around Toronto’s different neighbourhoods, biking around the island, sitting out on patios, going to farmer’s markets, and hopefully some gardening. That is what I’m looking forward to this summer.

But for now, since it is still a little chilly outside, I like to warm up with some tea or coffee and something warm to eat. These buns are a nice way to use up some frozen cranberries that most people have lying around after their winter season. The combination of tart cranberries and the sweet dark chocolate makes for a nice contrast. This recipe comes from one of my all time favourite books: Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It is a wonderful book that I was lucky enough to get for half price about 10 years ago in a small book shop in downtown Toronto. It is filled with wonderful recipes for buns, bread, tarts, cakes, and small pastries from their travels around the world. As well, each recipe comes with its own story from their travels or interesting backgrounds of where the food came from. It’s probably one of my favourite books just because of that. Who doesn’t love to read stories about the food they’re just about to make?

However, I did not follow the recipe exactly but instead made these little buns vegan by swapping the dairy products for vegan alternatives and omitting the egg from the original recipe. They’re just as delicious as the originals but maybe just a little bit better for the world.

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Cranberry Chocolate Sweet Buns (vegan)
Makes 1 loaf of 8 rolls (can be easily doubled)
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

1 cup almond milk, heated until lukewarm
1 tsp active dry yeast
About 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbsp and a little more
1 tbsp sugar of your choice (caster, coconut, brown, etc.)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, chilled
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 tbsp of almond milk or melted margarine for topping
2 tbsp coarse sugar for sprinkling

Lightly grease one 9×5 inch loaf pan with vegan margarine.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, pour in warm almond milk and stir in yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour. Add margarine, in pieces, sugar, and salt and stir to incorporate. Add 1 more cup of flour and stir in until fully incorporated. Now add in the chilled chocolate and cranberries with 1/4 cup more flour. Mix until incorporated. If not using a stand mixer, turn out onto a very well floured surface an knead gently, incorporate more flour until the dough is only slightly sticky. If using a stand mixer, just follow the kneading process and incorporate more flour until it is only slightly sticky.

Place dough into a bowl and cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Once risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch down. Cut into 8 equal sized pieces. Lightly grease the palm of your hand and roll each piece into a ball. Place each ball beside each other into the greased loaf pan. Cover the pan with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes while you preheat your oven.

Preheat oven to 400˚F and place rack in the middle.

Once buns have risen, lightly brush with almond milk or melted margarine and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Immediately remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

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Perfect Pie

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It’s pie season!

There’s just something so homey and comforting about pies. I don’t know what it is. It’s not like I even grew up eating pies at home because my mother never wanted to bother with making something as fiddly as a pie. The only time I remember having a homemade pie when I was a kid was when my father and I tried to bake an apple pie together. I think it probably took us about 5 hours to just get it into the oven. Then of course, we never baked it properly and it ended up swimming in a pool of apple liquid.

Then, years later I tried my hand again at making pies but this time alone. You’d think that something like a pie, with just fruits and flour wouldn’t be so difficult… but that dough! The one you’re not supposed to over work for fear of a chewy, tough crust but instead gently pat and roll into shape, only to have it crumble on you while transferring it to the dish. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so frustrated by a dessert in my life.

Luckily, I’ve improved on my pie making skills and happen to have the perfect recipe for delicious, flakey, melt in your mouth crust that uses only 2 ingredients (not including water). Just salted butter, and plain flour. Nothing else. The technique however is a little different than your regular pie crust and comes from Pim Techamuanvivit at Chez Pim. It involves a bit of work, but nothing too hard to accomplish and also results in a VERY easy to handle dough that will in no way break on you while transferring it to the dish. And for that, I am thankful.

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Since I have so much rhubarb growing in my backyard it only makes sense to make a pie with rhubarb. Though, unfortunately a pie with only rhubarb would either be way too tart or need way too much sugar and that’s just not my kind of thing. Luckily, it’s also strawberry season and the perfect time for delicious Ontario strawberries.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Salted Butter Crust
Makes 1 9″ lattice topped pie

First make the pie crust following this recipe.

3 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1cm pieces
3 1/2 cups hulled, and quartered strawberries
1/2 cup of coconut sugar
1/2 cup of golden sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp all purpose flour
pinch of salt

1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water
turbinado or coarse raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out half the dough until it is slightly larger than your pie dish. Transfer to the pie dish. Roll out the second piece of dough slightly larger than the pie dish and cut out 14 1cm wide strips. Add filling to the dish and gently arrange the strips in a lattice pattern so that the strips weave in and out of one another. Trim off any excess dough from the sides and crimp the edges with your fingers. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the crust. Now, with any extra dough left over, roll it out and cut out two or three leaf shapes and place them in the middle of the pie as decoration. Brush these with egg wash as well. Finally, sprinkle the pie with coarse sugar and place on a baking tray. Bake for about an hour or until the filling is bubbling and thickened. Let cool completely before slicing.

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