All posts by Jennifer Potter

Jenny Potter is the former editor of Foodnetwork.ca. She loves to cook, sew and ride her bike around Toronto. She plans her vacations around eating new cuisines.
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Meet the Winning Bakers of Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival

It was the sweetest day of the year for Diane Rogers. The baker and owner of Doo Doo’s Bakery in Bailieboro, Ont. took home not just one, but the three top prizes at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival, held in Midland on June 9.

The award-winning baker beat out more than 60 competitors to win first place in both the professional traditional and fusion competitions, plus took home ‘Best in Show’ with her stunning strawberry-rhubarb butter tarts. The annual one-day festival, which is a butter tart lover’s dream come true, saw more than 60,000 people descend on the town of Midland, eager to satisfy their sweet tooths. Not only is this a chance to taste tarts from the best bakeries, it is home to the ultimate annual baking competition. The top professional and home bakers enjoy the sweet taste of butter tart baking victory.

diane Rogers

Diane Rogers of Doo Doo’s Bakery took home three of the top prizes in Midland’s Best Butter Tart Festival on Saturday, June 9, 2018. Photo by David Hill.
Photo by Rodrigo Moreno

And Rogers is one of them. In 2016, she swept the professional, non-classic category, taking home first, second and third prize with her tarts. Yet, despite the accolades, the award-winning baker wasn’t confident that she’d bake a winning batch this year. Doo Doo’s placed 12th in last year’s competition, which had Rogers wondering how her tarts really measured up.

After going back to the drawing board, Doo Doo’s reclaimed its title and more this year. The classic, plain butter tart is simple, but judges found it to be simply the best.

“I’m a purist,” the self-taught baker said. “I like them plain.”

Rogers used the classic pastry and perfectly sticky-sweet tarts as a launching pad for the creation that earned her both top prize in the fusion category, plus Best in Show. Taking advantage of fresh strawberries and seasonal rhubarb, Rogers baked the award-winning batch at midnight the night before the competition.

“I’ve kind of got a knack for pairing flavours with butter tart filling,” Rogers said. “We’re always experimenting in our kitchen – even down to the last minute.”

best in show midland butter tart festival

The Winner of Best in Show at Midland’s Best Butter Tart Festival, Saturday, June 9, 2018. Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Butter Tart from Doo Doo’s Bakery in Bailieboro, Ont. Photo by Rodrigo Moreno.

The sweet and tangy tart was so good,  that as soon as the judging ended, a crowd descended on her booth before Rogers even heard that they’d won.

“I call it Butter Tart Christmas because that really is what it is,” she said. “It was fun, it is always lots of fun.”

While the winning strawberry-rhubarb creation wasn’t among the thousands of tarts Doo Doo’s sold that weekend,  fans can taste the award-winning tart at their bakery and cafe. Butter tart lovers can also seek them out at the Cobourg Farmers’ Market and the Peterborough Market.

While Rogers has had years of competition under her belt, Tonya Louks thought the festival would just be a fun weekend away. The amateur baker from Welland, Ont. is usually one to shy away from the spotlight, which is why she never expected to be crowned champ of the traditional amateur competition on Saturday.

“I thought I didn’t have a chance, but you just never know,” said Louks, who has been making butter tarts for her family for years. Armed with a family-filling recipe passed down from her husband’s great-great-grandmother, she’s perfected her thin, flaky crust and studded her tarts with raisins for a mouthwatering treat her family raves about.

Tonya-Louks-butter-tart

Amateur baker Tonya Louks’ award-winning traditional butter tart. Photo by Rodrigo Moreno.

“My family kept bugging me to enter and I said ‘you are all biased,’” said Louks, who relented after her family insisted she share her tarts with the world. Even though she made it through the first round of the competition with ease, she was worried how her thin crust would stand up against the competition, who had thicker pastries.

“You never know what the judges are going to like or not like,” said Louks, who was excited to see The Baker Sisters as part of the judging panel.

With the surprise win under her belt, Louks is already getting requests from friends and family, who want a bite of her award-winning treats. While she isn’t taking orders, she’s definitely taking inspiration from this year’s winners and from the variety of tarts available at the festival, including some impressive gluten-free tarts and ‘puptarts’ she brought home for her dog.

Looking to try some tasty tarts? Hit the road this summer and discover 10 Butter Tart Spots to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth.

The Cream Egg Brownie You Absolutely Need to Try

Who says cream eggs have to be round? Cake and Loaf Bakery has taken everyone’s favourite Easter treat and made it even better.

Inspired by Cadbury Creme Eggs, these Cream Egg Brownies are topped with a heavenly milk chocolate ganache, golden and white chocolate cream layered on top of a deep fudge brownie. In case your sweet tooth isn’t satisfied, there’s also a Cadbury Mini Creme Egg nestled inside the chewy brownie base.

It’s no wonder these beautiful bars have created a cream egg frenzy. The sweet squares have garnered a buzz around Hamilton, Ont., causing the bakery to quadruple production to meet the demand for their trendy treat.

Cream Egg Brownies

These tasty creations are the brainchild of bakery owners Josie Rudderham and Nicole Miller, who started Cake and Loaf Bakery in 2011 . You may remember Josie  from her winning appearance on Season 2 of  Donut Showdown, where she impressed us with her sweet skills.

The pastry pair pride themselves on sourcing ingredients locally and baking their creations from scratch. If you’re in the Hamilton area, you can try this deliciously creamy layered dessert yourself. While you’re there, you can also enjoy their handcrafted Cream Eggs made with fair trade organic chocolate.

Cream Egg Brownies

Unfortunately, the recipe for their Cream Egg Brownies is top secret, but you can make their Donut Showdown winning doughnuts at home.

Get the recipe for Sriracha Peanut Butter Crunch Donuts.

Winning Recipes for Your Academy Awards Party

Celebrate the Academy Awards with Oscar-worthy spread that is sure to impress even the toughest critic. Hollywood’s biggest night deserves your best kitchen performance and these recipes are sure to earn you at least a ‘Best Host’ nomination.

Whether you’re channeling old-Hollywood elegance or have a casual evening in mind, we have a slew Oscar party ideas for easy appetizers and cocktails that will keep you well fed from the red carpet through to the credits.

Oscar Party Menu

Champagne Cocktail

Champagne Cocktails

Greet your guests with a celebratory champagne cocktail. Crème de cassis, a dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants gives these bubbly sippers their bright red-carpet shade.

Oysters with Caviar

Oysters, Caviar and Bubbles

Your movie-buff guests may shy away from spoilers, but they won’t mind you spoiling them with these indulgent appetizers that are packed with old Hollywood glamour. Reserve a little champagne from your cocktails for the mignonette sauce, which is seasoned with fresh shallots and bright pink peppercorns.

White Bean Puree on Endive

White Bean Puree on Endive

We’d like to thank Patricia Heaton for this delicious and simple bean dip that gets a fancy flourish when served on individual Belgian endive leaves. Place these apps on a gold tray for an elegant cocktail-party feel. Not a fan of endives? Serve this light dip in a dish with toasted pita points or chips.

Deviled Eggs with Caviar

Devilled Eggs

Party like the stars with these lavish appetizers. The ordinary snack gets a lavish twist with a dollop of salty Sturgeon roe. For a paired-down version, omit the caviar and season each egg with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets

Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets

Puff pastry is your best friend when it comes to whipping up a tray full of appetizers in no time at all. These spinach bites are everything you want in an appetizer: golden flaky crust paired with a warm, cheesy filling you can enjoy in two delicious bites.

Maple Sriracha Popcorn

Maple Sriracha Popcorn

No Academy Awards party is complete without popcorn! When those acceptance speeches go on and on, you’ll be happy to have this sweet and spicy popcorn to snack on. Leave out the peanuts and cashews if you want to keep it nut-free.

Caramel Popcorn

While not everyone can go home with a golden statue, your guests can each enjoy their own golden caramel popcorn treat. For added fun, shape each popcorn ball into your own version of the iconic statue and ceremoniously hand them out to your special guests.

Rumarita Cocktail

Rumarita Cocktail

As soon as the credits start to roll, that’s when the real party starts. Kick off your after-party with a rumarita, made with gold rum and fresh citrus.

Looking for more ideas? Try our 20 Best Recipes for an Awards Show Party.

Great “Game Night” Finger Foods

If staying in sounds like a perfect Friday evening, we’ve got your winning night right here. Hosting a classic game night is one of the easiest parties you can throw at a moment’s notice and is always a blast. Whether you opt for a classic card game, an eerie murder mystery or a rousing game of charades, you can’t go wrong, especially when combined with good friends and seriously good snacks.

Skip the formal dinner party menu – this casual, laid-back affair is all about relaxing and letting loose. Opt for easy yet impressive dishes that players can load onto their plates and enjoy with their hands, no utensils required. These delicious recipes deliver game-friendly finger foods that are sure to fuel the fun.

chicken-nachos-sour-cream

Chicken Nachos

The ideal game night dish if ever there was one. The key to winning nachos is your layering strategy. Chips, cheese, chicken, repeat, will ensure maximum crunch and melty cheese on every single chip. Pop in the oven as guests arrive for a perfectly timed snack.

 

bubbling-sangria

Blushing Bubbly Sangria

Fresh or frozen fruit works perfectly well for this crowd-pleasing batch cocktail that you can make before guests arrive.

 

jalapeno-dip-recipe

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Everyone’s favourite freezer snack is reinvented and served as a delectable dip. Creamy, cheesy and spicy, the cherry on top of this indulgent dip is the crunchy breadcrumb crust. Pass the chips!

 

caulflower-wings-3-ways

Cauliflower Wings

You may have to roll the dice to see who gets the last of these highly addictive vegetarian wings. Humble cauliflower becomes a sensational snack when battered and baked in finger-licking flavours like Maple Chipotle BBQ, Crunchy Thai Peanut and mouthwatering Honey, Garlic and Sesame.

 

Bite-Sized Blooming Onions

Bring the pub menu to your party with a miniature version of everyone’s deep-fried favourite.

 

Chicken and Waffle Sliders

For an appetizer so good you’ll forget whose turn it is, look no further. Break out the batter for fresh waffles or opt for frozen –either way, it’s the spice-filled fried chicken that stars in this easy homemade dish.

 

Party Totchos

With all the dice shaking and charades, your guests will need serious snacks to keep them fueled for a fun-filled night of competition. As the game night gets going, it’s time to raid your freezer for a mindblowing midnight snack. Frozen potato tots become the base for your favourite nacho toppings. Don’t forget the sour cream and guac!

 

Apple Cinnamon Roll Slab Pie

No forks needed for this handheld pie that packs all the flavours of two of your favourite desserts into one. Store-bought cinnamon roll dough becomes a cinnamon-filled base, but wait – it gets better: Save the cream cheese icing to drizzle over top your finished pie for sugary-sweet perfection.

Deep Fried Pickles

Snacking can’t get more dill-icious than these crispy, golden, beer-battered pickles! Serve with a creamy vegan dill dipping sauce for the ultimate party snack everyone can enjoy.

Giant Jenga Party Sandwich

Serve up the fun and food together with this two-in-one recipe that is guaranteed to be a blast. The best part is eating your way through the tasty tower to try each of the three delicious sandwich combos. You don’t want to miss that bacon jam and Brie!

And don’t miss Game Night, in theatres February 23.

 

poutine week feature image

A Poutine for Each Province and Territory

Oh, Canada! To celebrate Poutine Week, we’re highlighting local ingredients from each province that would make tasty additions to our gravy-covered national treat. Get the fries cooking and your taste buds ready for these creative poutine combos.

Poutine week

British Columbia: Dungeness crab and sautéed wild mushrooms

Yukon: Smoked salmon and citrus crème fraîche

Alberta: Braised short ribs and baked beans

Saskatchewan: Roasted beets and sour cream

Northwest Territories: Ground bison and grainy mustard

Manitoba: Sweet corn and pickled red onions

Nunavut: Grilled caribou and caramelized onions

Ontario: Pulled pork and apple slaw

Québec: Montreal smoked meat and toasted caraway seeds

lobster poutine

Nova Scotia: Lobster and lemon aioli

New Brunswick: Grilled oysters and hot sauce

Prince Edward Island: Clothbound cheddar and stout gravy

Newfoundland and Labrador: Salted cod and summer savory

For more creative ways of making this class Canadian dish, check out our tasty poutine recipes.

Poutine combos by Charlotte Katz.

flapper-pie-karlynn-feature

Rediscovering Old-Fashioned Prairie Desserts

Karlynn Johnston is bringing your grandma’s baking back. We’re not talking jello salad, but rum balls, danties, squares and the ultimate Prairie classic, flapper pie.

With her new cookbook, aptly named, Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky, the Edmonton-based blogger behind The Kitchen Magpie, takes us back in time with recipes for classic Canadian desserts of yesteryear. Passed down on scraps of paper or typically only published in community cookbooks, Johnston has brought together a perfect selection of long forgotten sweets from Prairie kitchens past and present.

flapper pie and blue prairie sky

Flipping through the cookbook, each page takes you back to your grandmother’s kitchen, school bake sales and community halls, where many of these desserts have been enjoyed for generations.

“My grandma, out on the farm, would always have danties in the freezer for company,” says Johnston. “That was a big part of Prairie life.”

For Johnston, her love of baking started at a young age, where she spent summers in her grandmother’s farmstead kitchen in Dauphin, Manitoba. There she was put to work turning buckets of freshly picked blueberries and Saskatoons into dozens of freshly baked pies, made with classic Canadian Tenderflake dough.

“Pie days were a lot of work,” says Johnston. “She’d start in the morning. If you could fit three in the oven, you’d bake those for an hour and have the next ones ready. It was a huge assembly line.”
From there, the pies were cooled, wrapped and frozen for the cold Prairie winter. While she ample experience mixing, rolling and baking pie dough, she admits that she doesn’t quite have her grandmother’s touch.

“She had the lightest touch, out of everyone I know,” she says. “By touch she always knew if it needed a little more vinegar or cold water. She made the best pie pastry.”

Karlynn Johnston's Flapper Pie.

Excerpted from Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts by Karlynn Johnston. Copyright © 2016 Karlynn Johnston. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts by Karlynn Johnston. Copyright © 2016 Karlynn Johnston. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Johnston prefers to make the simple graham crust of the classic Prairie flapper pie, which dons the cover of her book. Known as the ‘almost’ forgotten pie, the custard-filled treat topped with meringue is a family favourite across the prairies, with variations abound.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s the proper one, because it has cinnamon in the graham crust,” says Johnston, who received the recipe from her mother. Once she baked it up, and posted it on The Kitchen Magpie, she was flooded with nostalgic notes from readers.

“I had hundreds of people telling me they had forgotten about it,” says Johnston. “I think it is one of those foods that their grandmas and their aunts used to make and it just has the memories attached to it.”

“My mom didn’t make it, but she remembers her mom making it. Her generation forgot about it and now my generation is going back and recapturing all those memories.”

Saskatoon-Berry-Pie

Excerpted from Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts by Karlynn Johnston. Copyright © 2016 Karlynn Johnston. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Johnston isn’t surprised by the newfound love for classic recipes, especially Canadian ones. With new, over the top food trends popping up almost daily, she thinks that people still crave that down home comfort.

“It is fantastic to go to a restaurant and eat it, but these (classic recipes) are the recipes that mean the most to us,” she says.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t open to creative twists on the classics. Her book is riddled with new interpretations of Canadian sweets, including her new favourite: Saskatoon Butter Tart Pie.

“There’s something about the flavours that are perfect,” she says. “You won’t think they would work but it does really, really well. It is like the culmination of everything Prairies in one recipe.”

RIV-Chip-Stand

Fry Guys on the Hunt for Spectacular Spuds Across Canada

The Fry Guys are on a delicious mission. A mission to eat at every single chip truck on the Trans-Canada Highway. The group of four, fry-loving friends from Toronto started their epic journey last summer. Packing up a vintage ‘74 Airstream trailer, they set out on the three-week Ontario leg, cameras and forks in hand, documenting every delicious, golden spud along the way.

Patrick T. Lo, 31, Chris Solomon, 32, Zachary Muir-Vavrina, 33, and Paul Parolin, 32, met at the Ontario College of Art and Design, where they bonded over a love of food, travel and Canadiana. Last year, the longtime friends cooked up the mouthwatering idea of eating their way across the country together, on an epic road trip along the Trans-Canada Highway.

trans-canada-fryway

Conjuring fond memories of roadside food, chip trucks stuck out as a quintessential part of Canadian road trips.

“It is such an interesting part of Canadiana that doesn’t really get the attention that it deserves,” says Parolin. “What if we went around and reviewed all of them and documented them? It might be what people are looking for to embark on the trip themselves.”

With Solomon at the wheel and Lo filming their culinary adventure, they hit the Trans-Canada Fryway in Toronto last August. Driving east to Québec, north to Kenora and round-trip back to Toronto, the Fry-Guys taste-tested chips at 55 different wagons along the way.

Each exit was a chance to taste a bit of local flavour, and the guys were ready with a slew of criteria and a five-fork rating system to apply to each stand. Only judging the fries, they got one small order with gravy, per stand, looking for fresh, crispy chips that stood up on their own. While the fries were the most important part, they were only one component. The ambiance, the number of picnic tables and even the number of seagulls were all factors for a winning chip truck.

“If there’s seagulls, you know it is worthwhile,” says Parolin.

While they started as humble food lovers, the Fry Guys refined their potato palate considerably on this road trip.

“At first, we were earning our credentials, but now I feel like we are the experts, for sure,” says Parolin. “After the pure number, I know right away if (the fry) has been sitting out, or if it has been frozen.”

Wes' Chips in Arnprior, ON

Wes’ Chips in Arnprior, ON.
Trans-Canada Fryway

In the three-week journey, only three spots earned the Fry Guys ultimate 5-Fork rating. Wes’ Chips in Arnprior stood out with its evenly-cooked fries and the Ottawa Valley tradition of letting the customer add in ketchup, salt or vinegar halfway, before topping up the container with more perfectly-fried spuds. Excellent fries, combined with lots of picnic tables and vintage signage makes Wes’ a must-visit, as locals have known for years.

“If you were remotely close to Arnprior, it is definitely worth the stop,” says Parolin.

Kingston’s Country Cabin Chip Hut and Kenora’s Ye Olde Chip Truck are also the trucks to beat in Ontario. Beyond the fantastic fries, Ye Old Chip Truck was one of the Fry Guys’ most interesting stops along the way. The chip truck chain is owned and operated by a pair of 20-something best friends, who bought their uncle’s former business, turning it into a spud-tacular empire.

“It was such an amazing passing of the torch moment, to see a place that has been around for 60 years in such great hands now with these two young entrepreneurs,” says Parolin.

While chowing down was a big part of the trip, it’s that unique Canadian chip truck culture that the guys aimed to capture. Like the dueling French fry stands in Sturgeon Falls.

Situated between North Bay and Sudbury, Larry’s and the Riv have been serving up fries across the highway from one another for more than 25 years. These fry-vals caught word of the Fry Guys’ trip long before they arrived and there was a crowd ready to greet them.

“Larry’s is run by people who have been there for 20 years, themselves. Then to go next door to Riv’s, it was like a high school class, everyone there knew each other,” says Parolin. “Their older siblings worked there, and their parents had worked there. It was almost like a right of passage if you are from that region.”

RIV-Chip-Stand

Fries and gravy from The Riv in Sturgeon Falls, Ont.

While these stands are often social hubs for the local community, the Fry Guys found their voyage helped connect fellow fry-cooks across Ontario. One stop in Deep River was especially moving. They asked the owner of a fry stand to sign their trailer and she stopped and told them how much it meant to her to see all the other people who spend their day slicing and frying.

“When she looked at all these other names of people across our country who are doing the same thing she’s doing, it felt like she was a part of something bigger,” says Parolin. “It is stuff like that that made the trip worthwhile.”

Since the sunny days of August, the guys have been working away to publish the first leg of their trip as a web series. (Check out their first episode below.) They hope to have the rest of their Ontario episodes complete this spring, and to continue their cross-Canada road trip this summer, ahead of Canada’s 150th birthday.

“Eating the French fries was the thread that holds our idea together, but it is just as important to us to focus on the actual journey of going across the country and what that means to Canadians,” says Parolin.

Stick of Butter

4 Ways to Soften Butter Quickly for Baking

We’ve all been there. You plan to make your famous banana bread and you’re faced with rock-hard butter. The best way to soften butter is to set it out on the counter an hour before baking, allowing it to come to room temperature. But if you’re aching to get baking, you likely don’t have an hour to spare.

Many of our favourite baked goods start with warm, soft butter. It’s the key to perfectly moist cookies and cakes, making them light and fluffy. Starting with soft butter makes it easier to cream, which beats air into it thus giving it structure. Creaming it with sugar helps to hold air into the mixture, meaning maximum fluffiness for your cakes and cookies.

If you’re faced with the dreaded cold butter and are in a rush to begin baking, here are some easy ways to soften it while avoiding a melty mess.

Stick of Butter

Chop, Chop!
Run a knife under hot water for a few minutes and slice up your butter for faster warming time. The smaller pieces will warm faster than one big block. Arrange on a warm plate to speed up the process even more.

Just Beat It
Place your block-o-butter between two pieces of parchment paper or inside a freezer bag, and beat it with a rolling pin. This technique takes some muscle, but it will soften much faster flat, rather than as a solid stick.

Got You Covered
Warm up a bowl or cup and place it over top of your butter block. The gentle heat will speed-up warming time, without melting your block into a puddle.

Grate Expectations
Another way to get your butter to room temperature fast is to pop it in the freezer for a few minutes — bear with us — then use your trusty box grater to turn it into fine pieces, allowing them to warm up even faster.

Not sure what to bake? Anna Olson’s 50 Best Cookie Recipes is a delicious place to start.

4 Easy Ways to Preserve the Best of Summer

In the last few weeks of summer, it can be hard to resist a basket of bright, warm peaches at the farmer’s market, or freshly picked roadside corn at $2 a dozen. If you’ve ever found yourself surrounded with more perfectly ripe produce than you could ever possibly enjoy, we hear you.

To help get us out of this pickle, we turned to Dana Harrison and Joel MacCharles, the couple behind the website Well Preserved, for their tips and recommendations on how to preserve the best of summer. The pair recently launched their first book, Batch, a guide to preserving 25 different ingredients, which includes over 200 recipes, tips and techniques.

For most preserving, you don’t need pressure cooker or a smoker to save those summer flavours. “It is way easier than you think, way funner than you think and it can take minutes,” says MacCharles, who notes that the biggest obstacle to preserving is not knowing what’s possible.

If your fridge is overflowing, these four techniques are a great place to start saving the flavours of summer for a cooler day.

canning

1. Freezing. Your first tool to making produce last longer is already in your kitchen. “The fridge and freezer are the ones that people don’t think about,” says MacCharles. While it can take up space, freezing is a super simple way to preserve food at its peak, so it can be enjoyed later in the year. Try roasting peppers and pureeing them before slipping them into the freezer for a boost of flavour come winter.

2. Fermenting. People are seeking out kimchi and kombucha for the gut-health benefits, but many don’t realize that fermentation is a type of preserving. “I think fermenting is the easiest thing you can do,” says Harrison, who recommends turning that big head of cabbage into sauerkraut. “Massage a bunch of cabbage together with salt and put it in a jar and that’s it, you’re done.”

3. Infusing. Infusing is an easy and super quick way to capture the flavours of fresh ingredients. “You could talk to many people who are infusing and they don’t think that they are preserving food,” says MacCharles, who says the technique is big in the cocktail scene, where bitters and infused alcohol are popular. Home cooks can play with infusing oils, vinegar or alcohol. A simple and easy way to make a gourmet ingredient in a flash is infusing salt. Mixing salt with an ingredient like a wilting pepper or rhubarb is a dead easy way to infuse flavour into your salt and makes for an easy flavour enhancer.

4. Canning. While most people think strawberry jam is a great place to start, MacCharles  disagrees. “It is easy to mess up yet it is totally the gateway,” he says. He recommends thinking about what you like to eat and learning the techniques from there. Harrison and MacCharles learned the hard way by starting with jam, but canned tomato sauce is where they really hit their stride. “It is on the cover of the book because that is family to us,” says MacCharles. Every fall, Harrison and MacCharles head to his parent’s house for one saucy weekend, where they typically make 160 jars in one sitting.

When in doubt, make something you know you like to eat and get the family involved with preserving for the most fun.

Pecan-Butter-Tarts

Meet Ontario’s Butter Tart Champions

Diane Rogers knows the sweet taste of victory, and it tastes like butter tarts.

The award-winning baker beat out 165 submissions, and 69 amateur and professional baker to take home the top prize for her decadent cheesecake butter tarts at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ont. this past weekend.

The one-day festival saw thousands of nostalgic visitors descend on the Ontario town eager to satisfy their sweet tooth on more than 100,000 of the best butter tarts in Ontario.

Pecan-Butter-Tarts

Among the thousands of pastries enjoyed on Saturday, one recipe stood above them all. Rogers’ sweet, gooey tart topped with a tangy layer of cream cheese wowed the judges so much, she took home the best in show. In fact, her bakery, Doo Doo’s Bakery in Bailieboro, Ont., snagged first, second and third prize in the professional, non-classic category.

“I knew the competition was going to be stiff this year,” said the two-time festival winner. “I was worried.”

On top of bragging rights, this year, the best in show title comes with an entry to the Canadian Food Championships in Edmonton later this summer. There, Rogers will be competing against pastry chefs from across the country to earn her tarts the title of best dessert in Canada.

“It is pretty exciting just to go to Edmonton. We are pretty pumped about that,” says Rogers. “We’re going to have to start practicing.”

While Rogers’ cream cheese tarts earned best in show, The Maid’s Cottage in Newmarket, Ont. earned top marks in the traditional professional category with their classic, gooey pecan tarts.

The top secret recipe is generations old, belonging to the great-grandmother of sisters Pam Lewis and Debbie Hill. Growing up, Lewis knew that her grandma’s butter tarts were good, but it took prodding from a local customer at The Maid’s Cottage for the sisters to enter their family recipe in the competition.

butter-tart-festival

Festival-goers snapped up more than 100,000 butter tarts on June 11.

While Lewis won’t reveal the recipe, she will admit that the key to their flaky crust is lard, along with a commitment to good quality ingredients.

“It is made with all whole ingredients and a lot of love,” says Lewis. “They are our family pride and everyone loves them.”

The Maid’s Cottage has been serving up family recipes, like their now-famous butter tarts, since their mother opened the doors in 1998. Sisters Lewis and Hill joined the growing family business, which had grown to include a bakery, known as the “Tart Pit,” where their hard working bakers are busy creating beautiful hand-crimped pastries.

“My mom is a big part of this. She is always watching over us keeping busy — a real go-getter,” says Lewis who credits her staff for the hard work leading up to the festival. “Without our team it wouldn’t be possible.”

While their classic, pecan-filled tart earned first place, Lewis isn’t a butter tart purist.

“It is not that one is better than the other, it’s what one person likes, whether it is raisins or pecans,” she says.

Home baking champion, Jane Albert usually opts for the classic tarts, but the avid Ingersoll, Ont. baker couldn’t resist her own award-winning bananas foster butter tart. Her creativity earned her three festival titles, though she insists that the best tarts start with a perfectly flaky, handmade crust.

“It really doesn’t matter how ooey or gooey the filling is, the crust is the foundation for a good tart,” she says. “And you need to have your hands in it.”

Her first time entering the competition, Albert was excited to share her 200-year-old family recipe with the scours of butter tart lovers swarming Midland, looking to satisfy their taste for nostalgia.

Midland seems to have captivated an amazing market and concept of a very nostalgic dessert,” says Albert.

Looking for sweet recipes? Check out these tasty Canadian treats.

Kate Bouska

Bringing Indigenous Cuisine to the Table

Two years ago, Kate Bouska wasn’t sure if she’d ever see her dream of owning a food truck come true. The woman, from Baker Lake, Nunavut had moved to Ottawa to pursue her love of cooking, but found herself battling depression, struggling financially and falling behind in school. Eventually she dropped out of her chef training program, but Bouska’s culinary ambitions didn’t end there.

This 20-year-old woman is one of 17 students enrolled in Algonquin College’s new indigenous cooking pre-apprenticeship program. The program is offered free, thanks to a grant from the Ontario government, and provides training for the next generation of young, indigenous Canadian chefs. In the first few weeks, Bouska’s already learning food theory, knife and presentation skills, as well as how to cook traditional indigenous cuisines from communities across Canada.

“When I found out about this course it was the answer to my dreams,” Bouska says. “The program isn’t quite what I had expected but it is interesting to learn all types of First Nations food.”

Kate Bouska

Kate Bouska is excited to get to put her culinary skills to the test cooking at the campus restaurant.
Algonquin College

The culinary school is the brainchild of Wes Wilkinson, the program’s academic manager, who saw a disconnect between aboriginal students and the curriculum in some culinary programs.

“We hired all indigenous instructors and indigenous consultants to help with the program’s development,” says Wilkinson, who wanted to ensure students were learning from Canada’s best chefs. “Instructors are everything from Algonquin, to Mohawk to Cree to from Nunavut.”

The result is a curriculum food lovers would be excited to taste. Jerome Brasser, executive chef at Ottawa’s Wabano Centre, leads the six-hour cooking class on Fridays, where he, with the help of guest instructors, teach students how to make everything from fry bread, to hominy corn to Arctic char gravlax.

“Last week we made three different types of bannock. We made cinnamon brown sugar bannock, plain bannock and blueberry bannock. We’re having a lot of fun and the students are really enjoying it,” says Brasser. “I try to come up with traditional recipes and teach them the basics too.”

Eager young chefs will also learn how to skin and cook beaver, smoke goose and rabbit over the campfire and learn how to cook wild game such as venison, bison and elk.

“Some of my previous students, who have graduated from the culinary course, have offered to teach as well, since they came from reserves and are living in Ottawa. They have jobs here now and are really interested in teaching the young folks their processes.”

The semester culminates with the entire class running the kitchen at the campus’ Restaurant International — an experience that will put their culinary skills to the test. It’s this high-stakes environment that Bouska looks forward to the most.

“It’s exciting. The highlight is learning how to plate,” says Bouska. “The precise cuts are the most difficult.”

It’s seeing students like Bouska find work at the end of their 8-week placement that will be the true marker of the program’s success for Wilkinson.

“Ultimately this is what this is all about,” says Wilkinson, who is excited to see students, who come from communities across Canada, thrive.

For Bousa, she still has her eye on opening a food truck with her friend, with plans on using her cooking school experience to create an indigenous menu.

Hungry? Discover 12 Tasty Canadian Indigenous Restaurants.

Marvellous Mother’s Day Menu

If ever there was a day to treat the most important woman in your life, it’s Mother’s Day. If you’re lucky enough to celebrate with Mom, treat her to an indulgent meal she’ll remember all year long. Say ‘thank you’ for all her love and hard work with a heavenly menu that starts with bubbly cocktails, and ends with ooey-gooey chocolate lava cakes. After all, she deserves it.

Champagne Cocktail

Champagne Cocktails

If ever there was a person deserving of a champagne toast, it’s Mom. Pop the bubbly and start the meal with a batch of these light and refreshing cocktails.

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Similar to crêpes, these light and thin little pancakes make the perfect base for a one-bite appetizer. They take a few extra minutes to make from scratch, but one bite of the smoked salmon and crème fraiche, and Mom will appreciate your extra effort.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Mom will adore this sweet, light salad that’s quick to prepare and packs tons of perfectly balanced flavour. Fresh, luscious strawberries give sweet contrast to the crunchy walnuts, sharp goat cheese and bitter arugula. Top with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette to really bring out the strawberries’ flavour. 

Mothership Sunday Roast Lamb

Mothership Sunday Roast Lamb

Jamie Oliver’s lamb is unlike any other. The bone-in shoulder is smothered with a fragrant marinade of fresh garlic, rosemary and olive oil, then surrounded by onions and cooked low and slow. The result is tender, sweet lamb that falls off the bone that’s served with fresh spring potatoes and delectable gravy.

Butter Tart Cheesecake

The Best Butter Tart Cheesecake

If you’re looking to score major points with Mom, the ultimate butter tart cheesecake will surely spoil her. The sweet and salty dessert is covered in maple caramel sauce, and sprinkled with lots of toasted pecans. Feel free to add raisins if your Mom likes her butter tarts nut-free.

Luscious Lava Cake

Luscious Lava Cakes

It wouldn’t be Mother’s Day without chocolate, and these decadent cakes pack a double dose of chocolatey goodness. The molten chocolate insides are made of truffles, and the entire dessert is served with a luscious blueberry compote. Be sure to make extra so Mom has one or two to take home and enjoy later.

Looking for more delicious ways to honour Mom? Try our 50 Best Brunch Recipes for Mother’s Day.

Cooking off the Grid: Chef Katie Mitzel of Skoki Lodge

Beyond the picturesque town of Banff, Alta., through two passes in the Rocky Mountains and around a spring-fed turquoise lake is a remote cabin in the woods, where gourmet meals are prepared without electricity or running water.

In a world where chefs are obsessed with seeking the next big food trend, chef Katie Mitzel is taking guests back in time, serving up three delicious meals a day from her rustic mountain kitchen at Skoki Lodge.

Skoki Lodge Food

Nestled in Banff National Park, Skoki Lodge is a National Historic site that was built in 1930, making it Canada’s first ski lodge. Situated 11 km from any road, the hike-in lodge has been maintained as it was first built;  its log cabins and family-style, candle-lit dining service make it a place to connect with nature, friends and food.

To say Chef Mitzel’s kitchen is off the grid is an understatement. Cut off from modern amenities and without electricity, much is made by hand, including the bread — Mitzel kneads 16 loaves every morning, starting at 5 a.m.

Dishes are washed by hand with water that’s hauled from a nearby glacier-fed creek, and boiled. The log cabin kitchen is lit by natural light in the summer, and propane lamps in winter.

If you are doing fine knife work, sometimes you have to wear a head lamp,” says Mitzel. “And you always want to have a lighter in your pocket because you are constantly having to light things.”

Skoki Lodge’s stoves, fridge and freezer run on propane, turning out fantastic meals like pork tenderloin with creamy herb sauce, ginger and sesame salmon, and velvety butternut squash soup.

Skoki Lodge

Lake Louise Ski Resort/Paul Zizka Photography

But the lodge is still at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to getting supplies. There are no phones to order deliveries, so planning is key. Once a week, Mitzel uses the lodge radio to call in items. Sometimes the radio cuts out and she has to go into town to make her order.

“I don’t think a lot of hotel [chefs] would ski, like, 28 kilometers to do a food order,” says Mitzel. Once the order is placed, it is either brought in by snowmobile in the winter or by pack horse in summer. Despite the extra steps required,  the remote location fuels Mitzel’s creative juices and inspires her menu.

skiing

Lake Louise Ski Resort/Paul Zizka Photography

“Being outdoors, looking at the different colours and the different textures of the landscape, I am able to bring that back into the kitchen and implement that into my food,” says Mitzel.

For instance, she uses edible flowers on cakes to give them “that rustic gourmet kind of feeling.”

The challenges of a 1930’s style kitchen also inspires her creativity. Leftover veggies become soup and mushy berries are transformed into coulis. Minimizing food waste is essential in Mitzel’s kitchen as there are no dumpsters, and all garbage must be flown out.

Mitzel’s creativity has helped Skoki  uphold its reputation as a gourmet getaway, attracting guests like Prince William and Kate Middleton, who visited the lodge in 2011. Middleton told Mitzel that they chose to stay at Skoki because of its reputation and remote location.

Talk about being gracious and so kind,” says Mitzel, who pulled out all the stops for the royal couple, preparing a AAA Alberta beef tenderloin for the Prince, and Alaskan halibut for the Duchess. She also made her famous green salad with multi-coloured grape tomatoes and ginger dressing. There was also king crab puff pastry with avocado and green onion, and tiger prawns in sweet chili glaze. For dessert, she served chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and Canada Day cheesecake.

The couple revelled in the secluded location, and after a long day of hiking in the mountains, ate everything Mitzel prepared.

Kate said it was really important to them that they were just Skoki guests when they were here,” says Mitzel.

Skoki Lodge

“We base a lot of our reputation on our food,” says Mitzel, who recently wrote The Skoki Cookbook after years of fielding guests’ requests for her recipes. The cookbook is a sneak peak into Mitzel’s mind and palate, inspired by magazines, the restaurants she visits while on break from the lodge, and above all, her passion for nature.

It’s that passion and creativity that inspires guests to make the five hour hike back to the lodge year after year.

Clocktower Brew Pub

Beer Me Up, Scotty: Canadian Brewery Making Star Trek Beer

An Ottawa brewery is on a mission to The Final Frontier, boldly going where no Canadian beer makers have gone before. For The Clocktower Brew Pub, The Final Frontier is the name of their highly anticipated Star Trek-themed craft brew.

Much to the excitement of Trekkies and craft brew fans alike, the official Star Trek beer is being created in partnership with the Aviation and Space Museum for their Starfleet Gala on May 12, 2016. The out-of-this world event launches an exhibit on space science and includes a very special guest, the original Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

Ottawa's Clocktower Brew Pub is marking its 20th anniversary with a new Star Trek themed beer.

Ottawa’s Clocktower Brew Pub is marking its 20th anniversary with a new Star Trek themed beer.

The Final Frontier is based on a historic beer style called Kentucky Common; the amber ale has a light body, making it cool, refreshing and easy to drink. Traditional Kentucky Common style is corn-based, but brew-master Patrick Fiori wanted to give it a true Star Trek twist by adding triticale. The rye and wheat hybrid adds body and a cereal flavour to the beer. Trekkies will know it as a real-life version of the fictional “quadrotriticale,” the grain mentioned in the classic original Star Trek episode, Trouble with Tribbles. The episode is famous for the scene in which William Shatner is chest-deep in adorably fluffy pests.

“It took a lot of thought to come up with a name that represented what Star Trek meant to us,” Fiori said in an email.

While the labels and packaging are under wraps until the gala, the brewery is excited to reveal their newest enterprise with the museum.

“The best part of this experience is not only to be able to say that The Clocktower has added to the Star Trek mythos, but as a company, we are turning 20 this year and are able to show that we can stay current and relevant 20 years later,” said Fiori.

This isn’t The Clocktower Brew Pub‘s first foray into sci-fi themed brews. Last year, they collaborated with Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton to create the ‘HefeWheaton,’  a German-style wheat beer that was launched at Ottawa ComicCon.

Can’t wait to ask the bartender for an astronomically good pint? The Final Frontier will be available for tasting at the Starfleet Gala on May 12, and at Ottawa ComicCon May 13 to 15. After that, you can enjoy it at one of The Clocktower Brew Pub’s five Ottawa locations throughout May.

Looking for more tasty craft brews? Maybe you’ll love one of these 10 New and Unique Canadian Beers to Try.

$100 donut

Original $100 Doughnut Created by West Kelowna Bakery

Only in New York would a bakery be so bold as to create a gold doughnut with a $100 price tag. But Jeanne Kaminski will have you know that the original $100 doughnut was invented right here on Canadian soil. The owner of West Kelowna’s Dolicious Donuts & Coffee created The Donutopia, covered in 24-karat gold, last summer. Kaminski set her sights on creating the immaculate confection to help raise money to start a soup kitchen in their community.

“We wanted a doughnut that gave back to the community,” says Kaminski, who recently showed off her skills on Sugar Showdown.

$100 doughnut

Photo courtesy of Dolicious Donuts & Coffee.

Kaminski started dreaming up her creation when a customer asked her to create a special doughnut to hide an engagement ring in. From there, Kaminski let her imagination run wild, challenging herself to create the most decadent doughnut around.

The Donutopia starts with dough made with Bling H2O, a luxury water that hails from the hills of Tennessee and retails for $39. The cream filling is infused with local winery, Rollingdale’s 2008 ice wine, which pairs well with the handmade chocolate curls. Aged balsamic vinegar is the secret ingredient in the chocolate icing, then it is decorated with 24-karat gold leaf and edible sugar diamonds. The first one she and her team made took seven hours, now they have it down to a cool four.

“The flavours are incredible. It is perfect pairing,” she says. “With the flavours and the texture in it, it takes like a million bucks.”

Since the first extravagant creation, Dolicious Donuts & Coffee has sold about a dozen more of their immaculate $100 desserts. In fact, whenever they receive an order for one, they make two, so the staff can taste the luxurious treat.

Kaminski would love the opportunity to pit her creation against the shiny Brooklyn counterpart for a $100 doughnut taste test. “Anything that bring attention to doughnuts is an amazing thing,” she says.

Kaminski is already planning her next ambitious creation — the spiciest doughnut. The fiery treat will feature homemade hot sauce made with B.C. grown peppers and topped with a chocolate-covered scorpion. She says buyers will be warned and will have to sign a waiver before they take their first bite. We can’t wait to taste it.

Tomato-Pizza-feature-image

How to Make the Best Homemade Pizza

Saturday nights are made for pizza parties, but instead of doing the same-old delivery it’s a lot more fun to make one yourself. You don’t need a wood-fired oven or pizza stone to make perfectly crispy, chewy pizza at home. A large, square pan is a perfect base for your custom creation and we have a few tips to help get your pizza party started.

sausage and broccoli pizza

Start with the dough
When it comes to making good pizza, it all starts with the dough. Warm water and a teaspoon of honey will help activate the yeast. Pay attention when measuring your flour; it’s important not to use too much or too little so your pizza has the right texture.

Roll with it
Roll out the dough starting at the centre and work your way out. It doesn’t need to be a perfect circle. To transfer your dough onto the pan, use Giada de Laurentis’ genius trick: gently roll the dough around your rolling pin and unroll it right onto your pan. Easy-peasy!

Get saucy
Purée canned tomatoes, salt and basil for a simple and flavourful pizza sauce. No need to pre-cook it — the sauce will finish cooking in the oven. Have fun adding your favourite pizza toppings. Try pan-fried veggies, cooked chicken and fresh herbs.

Say cheese!
So much about pizza is about the melted cheese! Here’s the time to experiment and up your game by using other cheese varieties, such as smoked scamorza, a soft cheese made with both cow and goat’s milk. It’ll add a strong smoky flavour to your homemade pie. Prefer a traditional pizza? Drop fresh mozzarella on top your pie. For more cheesy flavour, grate a bit of Parmesan overtop.

We’ve chosen Giada de Laurentiis’ pizza dough recipe to help bring a little taste of Italy to your kitchen.

giada's pizza dough

Ingredients
1 tsp honey
1 tsp active dry yeast
2-1/4 cups flour, plus more if needed
1 tsp kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

1. Add the honey and yeast to 1 cup warm water. Stir to dissolve. Let the mixture to sit for 3 minutes to make sure the yeast is alive; it should foam and start to bubble.

2. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for 8 minutes. The dough should start to pull away from the sides but still remain soft and slightly sticky at the bottom of the bowl. Add 1 extra tablespoon of flour if needed. Coat your hands in a bit of olive oil and form the dough into a ball. Place the dough in a bowl that is coated in olive oil. Cover with a towel and proof the dough in a warm place until it doubles in size, 1 hour.

3. Knock down the dough and cut into 4 equal pieces if making small pizzas or simply reform into a ball if making one larger pizza and proof the dough for an additional 1 hour.

Ingredient Inspiration
Not sure what to put on your pizza? Find all the inspiration you need in these scrumptious recipes.

All Dressed PizzaAll-Dressed G-Style Pizza

Olives, salami, spinach and two types of cheese make this an indulgent pizza pie!

Cheese pizzaQuebecoise Sausage and Cheese Pizza

Try mixing some traditional sausage with soft brie and hard cheeses for a burst of French flavour.

Tomato PizzaBuffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Pizza

Keep it classic with torn basil and buffalo mozzarella.

Pizza BiancaPizza Bianca
Ditch the tomato sauce and make a simple, cheesy pizza with fresh lemon zest and thyme.

Q&A: Boralia’s Culinary Duo Serve a Slice of Canadian History

Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris are serving up a little slice of Canadian history with every dish that comes out of the kitchen of their Toronto restaurant, Boralia. Taking a page from the history books — literally — the restaurant’s menu is filled with modern interpretations of historic dishes. Think pigeon pie circa 1611, a flaky meat-filled pastry served with roast squab breast and parsnip. Reaching even farther back in history is Boralia’s smoked mussels, a particularly dramatic dish dating back to 1605. The shellfish are served under a glass dome, which is lifted to reveal a cloud of pine-needle smoke and aromas reminiscent of old world fare.

Evelyn and Wayne’s extensive research and culinary creativity has lead to an outstanding menu inspired by early settlers of the 18th and 19th centuries and traditional Aboriginal dishes. We caught up with Evelyn and Wayne to hear about their signature dishes, their first food memories and which Canadian chefs excite them.

Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris

Photo courtesy of Boralia.

What’s your idea of happiness?
Wayne: Having dinner with my wife.
Evelyn: I did not make him say that . . . but I would say having dinner with my husband! And just hanging out at home with our new baby and our cat, Carl.

What’s your first memory of food?
Wayne: One of my first memories of food is going on walks with my parents and collecting periwinkles at an inlet where the Atlantic Ocean met the salt water lake behind my house. We would collect them, steam and eat them with white vinegar and garlic butter.
Evelyn: When I was two, my family moved to Hong Kong for five years. During that time we would go to the New Territories, one of the main regions of Hong Kong where the streets are lined with seafood vendors with live fish tanks. My mom would buy all kinds of seafood which we would take to one of the nearby restaurants for them to cook. My favourite was the boiled shrimp served with a sesame oil and soy dipping sauce.

Who was your cooking mentor? How did you first meet?
Wayne: My cooking mentor is Mark Filatow, the chef and owner of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna, B.C. Mark hired me when I moved out west from Nova Scotia in 2006. Over the next six years, I worked all the stations and ultimately became chef de cuisine. It was while working for Mark that I really got to work with the freshest produce from Okanagan and gained appreciation for working with fresh, local produce and cooking seasonal food and getting the freedom to experiment with new dishes.
Evelyn: My mentor is Daniel Patterson, chef and owner of Coi in San Francisco. He hired me in 2006 when I was really green and fresh out of culinary school. Through working for him, I really learned how to balance flavours and seasoning. He also has a very cerebral and conceptual approach to food and creating dishes that I found very inspiring.

Leclade smoked mussels

Photo courtesy of Boralia.

What do you love to cook the most (your signature dish)?
Wayne: I love making the pigeon pie on our menu. It takes knife work for the filling, I love making pastry and it smells so good while it’s baking. Also, cooking the accompanying squab breast takes skill to make sure it stays moist.

Where do you see yourself in two years?
Wayne and Evelyn: Hopefully we’ll be doing the same thing as we are now! Boralia is only one year old.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Wayne: I’ve always been fascinated with woodworking, so I think I would have liked to work in carpentry or joinery, specifically on a boat because it’s the most challenging.
Evelyn: I would own a bookstore or a stationery shop. I love the organization in those kinds of shops, and I’d get to read all day.

What’s the least favourite thing about yourself?
Wayne: I wish I had more confidence in myself. I let criticism get to me too easily.
Evelyn: I’m not the most patient person. When I get something in my head I want to get it done right away and I’m very anxious until it’s done. Sometimes it would be nice to just let things happen more organically.

whelk

Photo courtesy of Boralia.

What was the last restaurant you dined at? What did you eat?
Wayne and Evelyn: Cava. The poached foie gras pintxo is magical.

Name a Canadian chef that is doing exciting things in food right now.
Wayne and Evelyn: Our friend Jack Chen of The Farmer’s Apprentice and Royal Dinette in Vancouver. He’s staged at so many great places around the world and is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

If you were any dish or ingredient in the world, what would you be?
Wayne: Wild mushroom. They taste great and they get to live in the forest. I love being in the forest.
Evelyn: Garlic. It makes everything taste better.

What is your favourite quote?
Wayne: “An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.” Khalil Gibran

FettucciniAlfredo

Weekend Project: How to Make Fresh Pasta

If you’ve never made fresh pasta, you are in for a treat! Delightfully fresh al-dente noodles are a comforting indulgence on cold winter days and a great way to learn new kitchen skills. Plus, it’s really fun to make! You won’t be able to resist cranking the handle, feeding the dough into the machine and watching those long, squiggly noodles come out the other side. But don’t worry if you don’t have a pasta machine — it’s just as fun rolling the dough by hand!

Fresh pasta cooks in minutes and chances are, you already have all four ingredients. We’ve chosen Michael Smith’s simple pasta recipe to bring the taste of your favourite Italian bistro on to your table.

Fettuccini Alfredo

Ingredients:
4 cups flour
1 tsp ground pepper
6 eggs
1 tsp olive oil

1. Mix flour and pepper, and pour into a tight pile on a flat work surface. Make a well in the centre. Crack five eggs into the well and lightly whisk them together with a fork. Add a splash of olive oil to the eggs. Using your fingers begin stirring the flour into the egg and if it seems like it needs another egg, add it now. The dough should be a little dry, but workable.

2. When the dough has formed into a workable mass, begin kneading it until it is smooth and elastic. Be patient, this will take some time, 15 minutes or so.

3. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Let dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour or two, overnight is best. Its elastic structure needs time to relax from the stress of kneading.

4. Set up and use a pasta roller, following manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have a pasta machine, cut your dough into 6 pieces and roll the piece of dough into a thin rectangle approximately . Starting at one end, fold your dough every 5 cm, creating a roll. With a sharp knife, slice the noodles crosswise into thin noodles.

5. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and flatten them into thin rectangles about 6 – 8-inches in length and 2 to 3-inches wide. Feed the rectangles through the pasta machine, gradually adjusting the thinness, until they have gone through the thinnest setting. Lay the sheets out on a baking sheet, sprinkling more flour on them to keep them from sticking together. Run the pasta sheets through the fettuccine cutter and hang to dry on a pasta rack.

6. To cook, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt liberally then add the pasta. Cook until the pasta floats to the top, 3 minutes or so. It should be al dente, cooked through but still chewy.

Simply Scrumptious Sauces
What should you serve with your fresh pasta? We’ve got four delicious options perfect for your noodles.

Leek-and-Lobster-Linguine

Leek and Lobster Linguini
If you are going to make homemade pasta, you might as well treat yourself to a luxurious dinner. All your hard work will be worth it when you taste this herb-filled sauce topped with buttery lobster tails.

Chicken-Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini
Chicken, mushrooms, garlic, herbs and peas mingle in a deliciously rich and chunky sauce. Thick linguine noodles are a perfect fit for this hearty Italian dish.

Fettuccini Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo
If you find your noodles are a little thicker than desired, go for this classic, creamy dish.Top each serving with an extra crack of fresh pepper and grated Parmesan.

winter-squash-fettuccine-with-crispy-pancetta-and-pecorino

Winter Squash Fettuccine with Crispy Pancetta and Pecorino
This perfect winter pasta dish gets its creaminess from winter squash, balanced with salty pancetta and Pecorino.

Whole Wheat Pitas

Weekend Project: How to Make Bread

One of the best aromas in the world is the scent of fresh bread baking in the oven. The smells permeates the kitchen and you can’t wait to take that first bite, so warm and satisfying in your mouth.

Making your own bread sounds like a daunting task with lots of ways for it to go wrong, but it is simpler than you think. If you’re a beginner baker, pita breads are a perfect place to start. You’ll learn all the basics of rolling and kneading, and how yeast reacts with flour and sugar to create light, chewy rounds. In just one afternoon, you can make homemade pita and watch the dough rise, right before your eyes.

Whole Wheat Pitas

Here are a few tips and a simple recipe to get your started.

Focus on Flour

Choosing the right type of flour for your recipe is essential for successful loaves. Each types of flour has different amounts of starch and proteins, which will affect the elasticity of your dough.

Pita bread is best made with a mix of whole wheat flour and bread flour, which has a higher protein content — an important part of yeast breads.

What You Knead

A stand mixer can be your best friend when making bread. Bread dough needs a lot of kneading to develop that soft, fluffy texture and a mixer with a bread hook will do the job perfectly.

If you are feeling tough, you can knead by hand but you’ll need a little extra time and energy.You’ll know the dough is done when it is stretchy and resembles elastic bands. This means the gluten proteins are bonded and the dough is ready to rise.

Shape-up

The key to making perfectly round pitas is to divide your dough into equal pieces and then twirl and fold them into a ball on a lightly floured surface. This will give you soft, round pieces of dough with the signature air pocket in the middle. Don’t worry about being too delicate with your dough. Baking queen, Anna Olson says that anytime you handle, roll or knead your dough it helps develop a richer flavour with better texture.

Anna Olson’s Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Ingredients:
1-3/4 cup warm water (110°F/43 °C)
1-1/2 tsp instant yeast
1-3/4 cup bread flour
1-3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Steps:

1. Place all of the ingredient into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead on low speed for a minute to incorporate the ingredients and then increase the speed one level and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, to mix by hand, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until too tough to do so and then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead until elastic (try adding as little extra flour as possible while kneading) about 7 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic and let rise for an hour (the dough will not double in size).

2. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide into six 150 g pieces (using a scale is best for evenly sized pita). Shape the dough pieces into rounds (try to not use flour for dusting), cover with a tea towel and let rest for 20 minutes.

3. With a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into a circle about 8-inches (20 cm) across (if the dough springs back when rolling, just set them aside 5 minutes and finish rolling them to the right size). Cover with a tea towel and let rest 20 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 °F (235 °C) and place 2 baking trays in the oven to heat. Remove a baking tray from the oven, dust with flour and place 2-3 pita rounds on it. Immediately return this to the oven and repeat with the second tray. Bake the pita for 5-6 minutes (they will puff up like a balloon!) and then carefully remove them (they will let off steam if pressed) from the tray to an open tea towel. Cover the pitas with the towel to deflate them and let them cool (this will soften them so they are tender and the pocket will open easily).

5. While fresh pitas are delicious on their own, we have a few tasty ideas for how you can enjoy them throughout the week.

Greek Pita

Paprika-Spiced Turkey

Give turkey breast a dose of flavour with a flavourful blend of fennel, coriander, paprika and garlic powder.

Chicken and Portobello Mushrooms in a Pita

Make this rich, savoury sauteed mushroom dish while your pita is rising and eat it for lunch all week.

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad Pitas

You’ll love the toothsome, chewy texture of wild rice, especially when paired with fresh chives and leftover chicken.

toasted pita triangles

Ina Garten’s Toasted Pita Chips

Toast up your pita bread into crispy chips, Ina Garten-style and serve with your favourite dip as a quick and wholesome snack.

Ham and Cheese Pita Pizzas

Turn your fresh pitas into instant pizzas on the busiest weeknights.