Unfortunately, I wasn’t sharp enough to start taking photos for care packages 1 through 4 (brownies, granola, biscotti, vegan snickerdoodles respectively…) but was convinced to start recording what I’ve been sending to JD in Afghanistan.
Pacakges take 4 weeks in the mail from Canada to Afghanistan. Mailing them is free, so long as you avoid prohibited items and list your contents clearly. My schedule has been to send something homemade every week….so read on, dear internet and find out what went last week…
Care package #4 was a little on the excessive side, due to the fact that I’m currently at my parents’ house and have had free reign of their kitchen and all the baking ingredients I could possibly get my hands on.
- 2 rum-drenched vanilla poundcakes.
- spicy and sweet mixed nuts
- garlic stuffed olives*
- puff pastry “papillions” with parmesan and chili
- peanut butter cookies
- salted caramel popcorn
- ginger syrup
The pouncakes come from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking….From My Home to Yours. I have made them before with vanilla beans and, this time, pure vanilla extract. Next time I would absolutely go back to using the vanilla beans. Extra effort, but it really puts them over the top.
Poundcake Recipe here!
The mixed nuts are kind of a no-brainer. That is, with a fairly simple formula, you can use pretty well any combination of nuts and any combination of spices.
Sweet & Spicy Mixed nuts
1 large egg white
1 tbsp water
4 cups assorted natural (as in not roasted or salted) nuts; I used pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews…or as I like to say all killer and no filler!
1/4 cup of your favorite cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp chili powder
2-3 tblsp of sugar, depending on how sweet you like them
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional – if you like them spicy)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Farenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (no you cannot use waxed paper!).
In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and water until frothy. Add the nuts and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the cajun seasoning, chili powder, sugar an cayenne, if using. Add to the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Spread the nuts on the prepared pan and bake until dry, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir to separate. Let cool on the baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature. I packaged these in a metal shortbread tin and taped it shut to make sure they would hold up in transit.
Salted caramel popcorn has to be one of my new favorite foods. Normally I am more of a purist and, if I was at home, would have used air popped popcorn and gone from there. Since I’m not in my own kitchen, I made due and used microwaved butter-flavoured popcorn. It was de-li-cious. I had enough to fill a huge 2-litre plastic bucket with lots left over for snacking :) I used 2 large bags of popped popcorn.
Did I mention that I found this particular recipe on youtube? So youtube does have a purpose after all! Betty\’s Caramel Popcorn
Finally, ginger syrup. This was good. I mean, really good. If you like ginger, ginger ale…dark ‘n’ stormys… you’ll love it. Plus who doesn’t love a recipe with minimum input input and maximum output? It made a decent amount of syrup and is amazing with club soda or sparkling water. Why did I send ginger syrup to Afghanistan you may ask? JD tells me that he drinks about a case of bottled water per day in the 40C degree heat and it “gets boring fast”. I had sent him some drink single mixes but since I am so very anti-artifical sweeteners (I’ll save the aspartame/splenda rant for another time) I thought making syrups would be a quick, concentrated way for him to liven up water.
Without further ado:
Recipe adapted from Imbibe Magazine
2 1/2 cups fresh ginger, washed and chopped (no need to peel!)
2 cups sugar
6 1/2 cups water
Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour, uncovered, until a rich syrup has formed that will lightly coat the back of a spoon. You can strain through a cheesecloth or fine sieve if you have it but since my ginger chunks were big enough, I used a strainer and it worked just fine.
Allow to cool to room temperature and store, covered, in the refrigerator. To prepare: add 1 to 2 tbsps to a glass filled with ice and top with sparkling water or club soda. For a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, add 2 oz dark rum to the above. Cheers!
I have been getting a lot of questions as to how baked goods hold up when being shipped overseas, especially after 4 weeks. Since I am really just flying by the seat of my pants, I’ll try and give a few pointers:
- PACKAGING! If you package something correctly, i.e. in an air tight container, either wrapped again in bubble wrap, plastic wrap or taped shut with packing tape, no air will circulate though the box. This will help preserve what you’re sending since exposure to air causes things to spoil quickly. I also pack my boxes tightly, either putting in enough stuff or using packing material (newspapers, bubble wrap, etc) to make sure things DON’T MOVE! Seriously I bang my boxes around a few times to see if there is movement inside, things should be SNUG and you should need to hold down the lid of the box while someone tapes it shut.
- PLANNING! I meticulously plan what I will send in a package. If I am sending a package with cakes, which may spoil, I will send a few other things which definitely will not spoil, e.g. jar of olives, mixed nuts.
- KEEPING THINGS MOIST! For me this means taking brownies out of the oven early, watching cookies closely for barely done-ness, and glazing cakes so the glaze will keep the cake moist and yummy, (see below). A rum glaze should create an anaerobic environment, much like a fruitcake, wherein the alcohol content will act as a preservative for the cake.
- DO NOT SEND CHOCOLATE! Seriously. Don’t. Melted Hershey’s Kisses are unpleasant. Avoid unless it’s a chocolate brownie/cake/chips baked into a cookie. Chocolate WILL melt unless it has been baked in your oven and therfore is reconstituted and is ok to send (but still not ideal).
- BROWNIES: I promise another post about brownies in the future but for now…. take them out early. EARLY! Five minutes at least. The middle should be barely cooked and only fit for you to make a hot brownie sundae with when you’re done. Wrap your brownies in a paper towel (yes it will stick, just do it!). Wrap that in a double layer of tin foil. Place inside a large freezer bag and squeeze the air out. This is the only way I know to package brownies so that they arrive “Moist and perfect” – JD
So that’s all for now. I dropped off #6 this morning so stay tuned for “The Cupcake Experiment”. xo.