DIY Baking Powder

Channel your inner grandmother from the back roads of the southern United States, or a village in Scotland or wherever grandmas may be found… and make your own baking powder.

This sounds kind of nuts, I know, but has really made a big difference to my baked goods. I recall reading an article a few years ago when a young southern chef was being interviewed about why his southern cooking was so good, particularly his biscuits. He said it was because he was taught to make fresh baking powder. This made no sense to me at the time as I’d only ever seen baking powder in the yellow-and-brown jars on the supermarket shelf. I continued to wonder on and off what “fresh baking powder” meant – a freshly opened jar? a refridgerated jar?

I ran out of baking powder a few weeks ago and, in my usual panic, searched online for a substitute. As it turns out, I had all the ingredients on hand to make my own. If you don’t have cream of tartar, why not buy some to try this out (supermarket or bulk store).

Whip me up

Baking Powder from About.com Prep Time: 2 minutes Total Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch (optional)

Preparation:

Mix the baking soda and cream of tartar together until well combined. Use immediately. Yield: One tablespoon of baking powder.


To store baking powder: Add a teaspoon of corn starch to the mixture, and stir. This will absorb any moisture from the air, and prevent the baking powder from reacting before you need it. Store in an air-tight container.

Did You Know? Most commerically-produced baking powder contains aluminum–sodium aluminum sulfate to be exact. Make your own baking powder, and keep your baked goods aluminum-free.

Aside from being healthy by eliminated aluminium, I have also noticed that this small-batch baking powder method makes your baked goods very, very fluffy.

I haven’t made biscuits yet but I will try it out soon enough.

Cheers!

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The Fog of Baking

I think you know what I’m talking about – that fragrant, steamy cloud that seeps out of your oven only to wind its way through your house, perfuming every nook and cranny. Sigh. Of course, a baking fog isn’t guaranteed every time. It might not happen when you’re making something fun and pretty like cookies. There is one trusty loaf that will always produce a lovely scented fog – banana bread.

This past weekend we spent time on the mothership in London, ON. JD’s mothership, actually, so there was quite a bit of tea (and wine) drinking, crafting, and scrabble playing.  In an effort to consume at least the majority of our fruits and veggies, I was faced with the option of either making banana-something or letting the bananas spoil while we were away for 5 days. There is a third option, I’m sure you realize by now: sending the bananas to the freezer. I try not to do this as it always comes with a guilty feeling of I-promise-I-will-someday-bake-you-into-something-yummy-even-though-you’ll-turn-black-and-unappealing-and-I-actively-avoid-looking-at-you-when-I-open-the-freezer.

No, not the freezer!

So we left armed with Banana bread, some fruit from our basket and a jar of pickled carrots. It was a great weekend. I am very much looking forward to returning for the Art Exhibition of JD’s sister’s paintings  in January. She happens to be wildly talented but is very quiet about that. Her exhibition will be a series of those “slightly seedy neighbours” – corner stores. How cool is that?

Anyway, banana bread. This is more of a cake-like bread that encourages you to slather something on it. Be that butter, honey or peanut butter…I will leave it in your capable hands.

Brown Sugar Banana Bread Adapated from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup + 2tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 or 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of brown sugar until light and fluffy. When you cream butter and sugar together, they will lighten a few shades. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.

Just beat it..
Stir in vanilla and banana
I am a lazy banana masher

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.

Blend the banana mixture into the flour mixture; stir just to combine.

Yum, yum batter
Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Extra brown sugar....not really necessary...or is it?

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

and voila!

So there you have it, a lovely and sturdy loaf for slicing into and a house where every room smells like banana bread. At least for a little while.

Quick chicken soup!

Yesterday, the remains of a roasted chicken that I had made for supper a few days’ prior was giving me the eye from its corner of the fridge. As it was raining and miserable, chicken soup was a natural fate for leftovers.

JD and I are eating fewer and fewer processed foods these days, especially things that are high in refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, etc.). Contrary to what you would think, this actually leaves me feeling more satisfied with less cravings for sweets or otherwise. That is what led me to make a chicken soup with egg noodles made of actual eggs. I was concerned it would turn out strange and  be badly received but JD said he loved it and “rationed his noodles” because he enjoyed them so much.

Chicken soup wants to get cozy with you

Very quick chicken soup with ‘egg noodles’

  • 2.5 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite-size pieces (can use leftovers or a store bought rotisserie bird, skin removed)
  • 1.5  boxes low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb turnip or rutabaga, peeled and cut into cubes (I cheated and used the pre-cut and washed variety you can now buy at the grocery store)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill, divided
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • fresh pepper
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil, onions, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock, turnip, ginger, pepper and half of the dill. Simmer until turnip is cooked but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make your noodles. Head a non-stick skilled over medium-low heat. Beat both eggs, all of the parsley and half of the dill together. When skillet is hot, spray with non stick spray and pour half the egg mixture in to coat. Cook about 1 minute until set and flip to cook the other side. Repeat. You will have two thin discs of cooked egg. When cool, slice cooked egg discs into thin strips or ‘noodles’.
  4. Add chicken and ‘noodles’ to pot and continue to simmer until heated through. Taste soup to adjust for seasoning and serve.

 

A photo tutorial and the original recipe for egg noodles can be found here. I used only 2 eggs since I was not making a huge amount of soup. It was just right.

Pickled Carrots

I have been suffering from blog-related amnesia for some time now. What is a blog? Do I have one? How do I get there?

All kidding aside, I actually have a backlog of care package related recipes to update including some holiday-appropriate ones. Salted vanilla bean caramels, anyone?

The other big news around these parts is that I no longer have to cook for one. Yup, JD is back and he brought his ridiculously large appetite with him. Hooray!

If that’s the case, why am I posting about pickled carrots instead of something more decadent and/or  meat-filled,  you might ask. Well, it’s because of our organic fruit and vegetable box. This box lands on our porch (by magic) every Thursday evening and is filled with a varying mix of organic produce. Since it’s now winter, we are often counting a bag of carrots among the spoils. Carrots that I kept forgetting that we had until I had stockpiled about 6-7 lbs of them.

After searching for an option that would reduce my carrot stockpile down to minimal proportions, I settled on pickled carrots. Unlike cake or muffins, pickled carrots have few ingredients, make a healthy snack and, most importantly, put all your carrots to good use.

Peeled & washed

I am guessing that I had about 6-7lbs of carrots since my kitchen scale battery happened to die as I was attempting to weight the carrots yesterday.

Soon-to-be-pickled carrots

 

I find that around this time of year it seems like we are always on the prowl for something to snack on as the festive eating season begins. I am not claiming that pickled carrots will take the place of egg nog, shortbread or turkey sandwiches but they certainly won’t hurt, either. And I imagine a pickled carrot might make a lovely addition to a cheese tray or a Caesar (a Bloody Mary if you’re yankee).

The recipe that I ended up adapting is for refrigerator pickled carrots – no processing in a boiling water bath for these bad boys. They are not shelf stable but will last for a month in the fridge.

Pickled Carrots

You will need:

  • 6-7 lbs carrots, peeled, rinsed and cut into small sticks
  • 6 – 500ml canning jars with lids (this fit every last carrot stick I had perfectly)
  • 7.5 cups water
  • 7.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp + 2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • large handful black peppercorns
  • small handful coriander seeds
  • generous pinch fennel seeds
  • generous pinch hot pepper flakes
  • 6 thai birds eye chilis or other small chili peppers
  • 12 cloves of garlic (or 6 cloves of garlic if you don’t want them very garlicky)
  1. Sterilize your mason jars by either running them through the dishwasher or washing them by hand in very hot water.
  2. Peel and wash your carrots. I had to cut my carrots in half to fit into my jars, then I either halves or quartered them. You don’t want huge carrot sticks because the pickling bring needs to penetrate the carrots.
  3. In a large saucepan, stir together water, vinegar, salt, peppercorns, coriander, fennel and hot pepper flakes and bring to a boil.
  4. In each jar, add two cloves of garlic and one chili pepper.
  5. Add carrot sticks to jars. This was the most fiddly step for me as 500ml jars can hold more carrots than you might think. Poking them in there sort of reminded me of carrot Tetris.
  6. Pour brine mixture over carrots leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar. Spoon some peppercorns/spices on top of carrots and seal jars.
  7. Allow to cool and then store in your refrigerator. Let carrots sit for 2-3 days before eating. Will keep up to one month.

Note: I made WAY too much brine for my jars. I ended up also pickling some asparagus we had in the fridge and two bags of frozen green beans I had in the freezer. The good news is that the leftover brine can be reused within a week of refrigeration. Just reheat to boiling if you have some other veggies you want to pickle in small quantities (i.e. 1 – 2 jars). Oh, and if your leftover brine looks cloudy – time to throw it out!

Two of these things are not like the others! L to R: Pickled carrots, asparagus and green beans.

I should also note that spiciness here is a matter of personal preference. If you don’t want the heat, you can always leave the chilis and hot pepper flakes out of the recipe entirely.

Finally, the awesome website that gave me the instructions needed for these pickles: Food in Jars

For Ottawa-area folks, a link to the Byward Fruit Company, the purveyors of our weekly organic box.

 

Enjoy!