Banana, bran and blueberry muffins for a snowy day, or any day

B³ x 2 Muffins - and I'm no mathematician!

I wasn't expecting to make muffins this morning.  I had more useful things to do.  But then, I wasn't expecting it to snow either.  And here I am at 11.10 with a latte and a muffin, feeling warm inside and satisfied with my morning's work.  Taking the compost down to the end of the freezing garden and changing the batteries on the outside thermometer sensor, both of which will numb my fingers, can wait for another time.

It's a grey, soft and still morning.  The snow is there, like a fine mist and yet it's catching the leaves and turning them lacy.  The roads are not affected though, so I'll be good to go when I finally get out to do all the useful things postponed for the 3Bs.

Banana, Bran and Blueberries.  Good combination, and this recipe, adapted from one I found online (oh, why do I have so much difficulty in sticking to the originals?) has worked well.  My cousin arrives for a visit tomorrow.  I hope they last until then.  Factor Kit into the equation and we'll be lucky if even one or two survive for 24 hours.

The x3 also refers to the fact that the recipe requires three bowls (and therefore a dishwasher).

225 ml buttermilk (I always substitute with 1 cup ordinary milk to 4 tsp white vinegar)
85g wheat bran
1 egg
125g soft brown sugar, light or dark is fine
5 tabs olive oil
2 small ripe bananas, mashed *
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
85g wholemeal flour (self raising makes the muffins lighter)
60g fine porridge oats or oat bran 
1 tsp bicarb (or baking soda for our North American cooks!)
1 tsp baking powder
100g fresh or frozen blueberries

if you don't have or like blueberries, then try 100g chopped walnuts or raisins

In Bowl 1:  mix together sour milk and wheat bran and let sit for a few minutes so that the bran is absorbed by the liquid.

In Bowl 2:  beat together egg, sugar, oil, banana and vanilla.

In Bowl 3:  stir together flour, oats, bicarb and baking powder.  Add the contents of Bowl 3 to Bowl 1 and mix roughly then finally beat in Bowl 2 - well, not the bowl part, obviously.

Finally add the blueberries, nuts or raisins.

Bake in prepared muffin tins at 200º for about 20 minutes until done.  Makes 12.

I think it was Alex who told me about bananas and I imagine she might have got it from the Orangette link which you can check out from our home page, but it's fine to freeze the too-ripe-to-eat ones in a zip-top bag.  They go black but they defrost in minutes and slip out of their skins looking truly revolting and smelling strongly of overripe banana, but they're soft and mash well into any recipe and I have a freezer drawer full of frozen bananas so any further banana recipes would be welcomed by me.

And hey, I've killed two birds with one stone this morning as I've now got a picture for my 365Project!


Shoot-myself -in-the-foot real Baked Potato Soup

OK so the last recipe for BPS was great and we all enjoyed it, but I couldn't help feeling that it was a bit of a cheat as there was no 'baked' about the potatoes or anything else in that recipe.  It was potato soup with toppings that would be appropriate for a baked potato and it worked.  It worked very well in fact.

But I wanted more. I wanted that baked potato taste in the soup itself so went out on a limb and tried something else which really does impart the comfort flavour of a good jacket potato with warm, creamy surrounds.  And it works very well with the lower fat version of some of the ingredients.

4 baking potatoes, about 1 kg total weight
80g plain flour
1.2 l milk (skimmed is fine)
100g grated sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
250 ml reduced fat crème fraîche

To garnish:

70 g diced and fried pancetta
snipped chives
freshly ground black pepper

Prick potatoes, rub lightly with olive oil and bake at 200ºC for about an hour until soft inside.  Cool slightly and then mash roughly with skins on.

Mix flour with milk in a heavy saucepan on hob.  Heat slowly, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbling.  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 of the cheese and seasonings and stir until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat.

Stir in crème fraîche.  Cook over low heat for a further few minutes until thoroughly heated but do not boil.  Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with the rest of the grated cheese, chopped chives, pancetta and pepper.

I served this with yet another loaf of bread, made like the rosemary one of the other day, but without the herbs.  It went down a treat with all my fellow diners (family, but I take what I can get!).

Babysitting the blog

I've felt very responsible this week, with Alex away on business, when it comes to checking and tweaking the blog.  Oh, I could have left it for her to do, but I need to learn how to add recipes to the master list and then link them by URL into the index.  Otherwise, the punters can't move directly from index to selected recipe and a lot of scrolling has to happen.

Needs must when the devil drives and I felt driven to figure it out so I can do it in future for my own posts and those of others who are kind enough to take time to add to our growing collection.  Thank you to all our guest authors and please keep 'em coming! To other followers and groupies, what's stopping you from adding a recipe to get onto the board and into the game?  Just post it and we'll do the rest. 

After some experimentation, I've figured out how to insert the posts into the whole and can now mesh them seamlessly with the others.  I'm quite proud of myself, as computer savvy isn't something that comes naturally but I have enough common sense to figure out what I need to do.

At the risk of being boring, I'm giving Baked Potato Soup another go this evening.  The taste of the last one was great but didn't taste of baked potatoes.  Tonight's recipe calls for the potatoes to be baked first and then mixed with a few things to make a thicker stew-type consistency.  If it works out well, I shall add it to the soup section and ask that someone else put another kind of soup in there soon to dilute all those potatoes.  Please and thank you! 


Nice Cookies

Earlier this week, my mother and I attended a talk at the central library in Toronto by Dorothy Duncan. She is a former teacher who has worked for historic sites in the city and spent much of her life conducting research into the cooking habits and methods of the early pioneers in Upper Canada.

Dorothy Duncan doesn’t just talk – she brings samples of pioneer food. And the first thing we tasted was from the first cookbook ever published in Canada. It was actually by an American author, and its Kingston publisher simply reissued it with a new title and a Canadian title page, but back then, copyright laws were not what they were today. What the Kingston publisher did do was to give the volume a catchy title: The Cook Not Mad.

The recipe we sampled was called, “Nice Cookies That Will Keep Good Three Months.” The author wasn’t very good at grammar, but he or she was honest: Dorothy put some cookies in a jar, sealed it, and let it sit on the counter for three months, and she verified that the three-month-old cookies tasted exactly the same as the fresh ones.

Here’s the recipe:

Nine cups of flour, three and a half of butter, five of sugar, large coffee cup of water with a heaping teaspoonful of pearl ash dissolved in it; rub your butter and sugar into the flour, great spoonful of caraway.

That’s it. As she explained, early recipe books were lists of ingredients, and it was assumed that the home cook would know what to do with them.

As for pearl ash, it is potassium carbonate, and baking soda is the modern substitute.

The recipe makes twelve dozen – presumably enough for three months’ supply. If you don’t want enough for three months, try:

2¼ cups flour
1¼ cup sugar
7/8 cup butter
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup warm water
½ teaspoon caraway seed

Mix the ingredients well, roll them into small balls, put them on a greased baking sheet and flatten them with a  fork, then bake at 325-350 degrees for about 10 minutes.That makes about 3 dozen.

For the sample, she used stone-ground wholewheat flour from an old-fashioned mill, and raw sugar. The butter would have come from the cook’s own cow, and the caraway seeds from the garden.

My mother carefully picked out the caraway seeds. She explained that she’d been told as a child that she didn’t like caraway seeds, and accordingly, didn’t like them. She didn’t make the same mistake with us. I was a picky eater when I was little, but she never said, “Oh Philippa doesn’t eat this” or “Philippa never touches that,” and now, I am an omnivore and even things I hated as a child, I have come to enjoy. I wonder how many people dislike things they were told they disliked, without ever having a chance to come at them with an open mind.

To learn more about cooking in Canada in the 19th century, try these books by Dorothy Duncan: Nothing More Comforting (2003), Feasting and Fasting (2010), and Canadians at Table (2006, reissued in paperback 2011), all from Dundurn Press.