Monthly Archives: March 2012

blushing and {banana yoghurt bundt cake}

isn’t it nice when someone makes your day?  loverbean, of the blog lemon salt, did just that when she bestowed upon me a kreativ blogger award last week.  how lovely!  it is especially exciting to be recognized by someone you admire (even though we’re strangers), and loverbean is ever so admirable.  if you love lemons and all things citrus, you’ll love her blog.  if you love baking, you’ll love her blog.  and, if you love soothing, fresh photos, you’ll love her blog.  many thanks for the pat on the back, loverbean!

now, before i do my kreativ blogger thing, i feel i must confess that i have yet to do my liebster thing (which i happily received a few weeks ago from another admirable blog and blogger, beautifully sewn).  i pledge today that i will catch up to my liebster and kreativ related duties very soon.  i promise.

•  •  •

since i can’t do a post without sharing something stirry or stitchy, i think it’s time for a recipe…

i buy bananas with the very best of intentions.  i don’t deliberately leave them to languish in the fruit bowl every week or two, it just happens.  the associated ‘waste guilt’ should be enough to make me stop buying them, but it’s not.  i manage to alleviate some of the guilt by throwing the inevitably over-ripe bananas into the freezer instead of the trash.  even the occasional avalanche of frozen, black bananas isn’t enough to put an end to my routine of banana neglect.  the good news here is that over-ripe bananas provide an excellent excuse to bake.

{please excuse this interruption, but my sad fruit bowl has reminded me of eddie izzard’s take on fickle fruit – it’s hilarious, but, for anyone unfamiliar with eddie, here’s a head’s up: he’s a cross-dressing, foul-mouthed, kind-hearted comedian, and the way he impersonates pears and oranges is priceless.}

instead of tossing these too soft bananas in the freezer, i sought out a more immediately noble end for them.  i usually make my mom’s banana loaf, which is dark and lovely and predictable, but i thought this would be the perfect occasion to dig into my newly acquired dorie greenspan cookbook: baking, from my home to yours.  out of her great selection of tasty sounding banana treats, i selected her ‘classic banana bundt cake’ as i wanted something that would taste even better the next day (my strategy here is that my colleagues will eat more of it than i do).  despite the fact that i’m saving it for work, i couldn’t help but try a piece as it was cooling – the sweet baked-banana aroma was too much to resist.  and, since i couldn’t wait until tomorrow to taste it, i certainly won’t wait until tomorrow to tell you how good it is (already) – the initial flavour is full-on banana with a side of vanilla.  yum.

•  •  •
banana yoghurt bundt cake (from dorie greenspan)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
about 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you need 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt (i used yoghurt, but i think sour cream would give a deeper flavour)

•preheat oven to 350 f and generously butter a 9″-10″ bundt pan.
•whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
•in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar and beat at medium until pale and fluffy. beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg is added. reduce mixer speed to stir and mix in the bananas, then mix in half of the dry ingredients, followed by the sour cream or yoghurt, followed by the rest of the flour mixture.
•scrape the batter into the prepared pan, rap it on the counter to de-bubble the batter, then smooth out the top.
•bake for 65-75 minutes (mine was done at 60, but i have a dark pan and a crazy oven), until a tester comes out clean. *peek at the cake half-way through and cover loosely with tinfoil if it’s getting too dark (i needed to cover mine). cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan to cool completely. wrap the cooled cake in clingfilm and let it sit at room temperature overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
•wrapped airtight, the cake keeps at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

•  •  •

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sweet lessons {maple syrup fudge}

i don’t like fudge. it has always been one of the few sweets i could decline without feeling deprived. until now.

my undoing was innocently orchestrated by an eighty-eight year old great-grandmother. she’s not my own great-grandmother, but she is a great-grandmother who has spent much of her life cooking and baking for legions of family, friends and strangers. we got to talking one day about making maple syrup, which led her to mention her maple syrup fudge, which led to an invitation to make it with her sometime, which led to me discovering my (until now) unknown weakness for homemade fudge.

i’ve always filed candy making away in the ‘too intimidating’ category. boiling sugar, thermometers, the soft-ball/hard-crack/went-too-far-and-ruined-the-pan stages have always seemed a little too subjective yet critically important for me to bother with, and anything you mustn’t stir makes me suspicious.

my anti-fudgeness is also due to the fact that i don’t really care for treats that are cavity-inducingly sweet. straight-up sugar and artificial flavourings repel me (and make IDS positively cringe) but…pure maple syrup and butter and cream? wow. the first bite, when it was still warm, was incredible – smooth, creamy and robustly mapley without being cloyingly sweet.

the technique, it turns out, couldn’t be simpler: mix ingredients in a sturdy pot, slowly bring to a boil and wait patiently (the specifics are detailed below). the hardest part was not stirring – it took significant willpower to resist diving in with a wooden spoon (i’m sure some of you cooks and bakers can relate). it is also taking significant willpower to resist making another batch right now. i’ll try to hold off until our own maple syrup is ready (the season came early so we’re not quite prepared for gallons of sap just yet).

it’s not as if i needed another vice, but i was sent home with a bag of peanut butter fudge, too. peanut butter anything brings me to my knees, and pb fudge is even creamier and smoother than its maple syrup cousin, with a comforting and not too sweet pb base. swoon. (i also scored that recipe – i’ll post it when i try making a batch of my own).

thank you, surrogate great-grandmother, for generously sharing your kitchen and your kitchen wisdom with me – such sweet lessons! and now, if you’ll excuse me, i must go for a post fudge-binge run.

• • •

eva’s maple syrup fudge

2 cups pure maple syrup
3/4 cup 10% cream
2 tbsp butter (i’m not sure if we used salted or unsalted, but a little salt might be nice)
candy thermometer
bowl of cold water on stand-by
8″ square pan, greased (great-grandmother [GGM] used a small glass pie plate)

•gently mix syrup and cream in a heavy saucepan, then drop in the butter. affix the thermometer, making sure it isn’t resting on the bottom of the pan. bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.
•continue to boil, without stirring, gradually reducing the temperature to avoid too vigorous a boil (that’s the tricky part…i’d say you want a perky but not hysterical boil – we eventually had it down to ‘2’, or just above minimum) until it reaches 236°f-238°f (this took a good 45 minutes. you don’t need to hover, but do check it every five minutes or so to monitor the rate of boiling closely).
•when the temperature is right, drizzle a few drops of the syrupy mixture into the bowl of cold water (GGM used fridge cold water), then play with it a bit – you should be able to form it into a soft ball and squish it easily between your fingertips.
•cool, without stirring, until lukewarm, officially, that is 110°f (GGM placed her pot in a sink of cold water to cool it, then repeated before leaving the pot to cool).
•when lukewarm, beat with a spoon until creamy – it will start to thicken then start to stiffen up slightly, you want to pour it into the pan while it is still liquid enough to pour. you will have to scrape the sticky mess off the bottom of the pot initially – don’t panic – just scrape and keep stirring, it will all work out.
•pour into the greased pan and set aside until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut into squares (i strongly encourage you to try a piece while it’s still warm). enjoy your new addiction!

• • •

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creative fuel

i love a trip to the city.  i mean the city.  toronto.

once or twice a year i have a work-related stay in TO.  when i’m there, my mission is to cram in as much walking, gawking and general city-imbibing as possible.  the chaos and crowds are both exhilarating and exhausting, and i find, for a short time anyways, that i am strangely soothed by the rhythm of urban life.  it couldn’t be more different from our home in the countryside, where trees outnumber people exponentially and heavy traffic means actually having to stop at the stop sign before turning.

one of the benefits of city excursions, apart from the fashion lessons, teashops and people-watching, is the improved access to all things crafty and the ability to refuel for my creative pursuits.  this trip allowed me to expand my stirandstitch stashes quite nicely (and to soothe IDS, who can get a little testy when left in the countryside for too long).

{crochet-fuel}     the yarn related highlight of this trip was my first ever visit to romni wools  – the epic toronto yarn store.  i don’t use the word epic flippantly here.  romni’s monstrous, bursting, teeming and towering collection of fibers is daunting to even the most yarn-starved shopper.  it was utterly overwhelming, but i managed to find some lovely, squishy goodies to take home, including some bright malabrigo sock and some nifty ‘braided’ cascade.


{sewing-fuel}     i discovered the workroom online and was instantly smitten.  they have a fabulous selection of contemporary fabrics and high quality notions, a friendly shop dog and a great calendar of sewing classes.  the timing of my trip worked out perfectly for me to take their three hour ‘serger essentials’ course – instruction i’ve been needing for years.  i came home with some new-found serger confidence and a set of rolled-hem napkins which we made in class.  i couldn’t resist a couple of pieces of lotta jansdotter fabric and three marvy patterns (including one for a sweet colette blouse) that i can’t wait to dig into.

{baking-fuel}     i have a cookbook addiction.  i could read cookbooks all day.  really.  this obsession has necessitated a moratorium on cookbook purchases (i also have a moratorium on tea mugs and flip-flops).  i had to allow myself an exception in toronto, though, for dorie greenspan’s ‘baking – from my home to yours’.  it’s been around for a while now, so it seemed less impulsive and more appropriate to add it to my collection (and really, what baker’s library is complete without it?).  i’ve been eagerly flipping the pages, wondering which recipe will be the first into my mixer.

•  •  •

stirandstitch has refueled!  three days in toronto allowed me to absorb just enough urban sensibility to remain connected to city-life.  it also offered loads of tea, a little bit of chocolate and plenty of creative fuel for projects-to-be.  and it was just long enough, just windy enough and just lonely enough to make me (and even my testy IDS) feel happy to come home.

•  •  •

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