We are staring down the last week of school and we are all too ready for the holiday.

The other night, at the end of the longest day, I realized how much I'm looking forward to this season. Not just for the days at the pool, the road trips planned, and ice cream cones promised after dinner. There's also the need to feel the exuberance of it somehow. It's a feeling I've had before. And, it feels good to feel it again, as things seemed slightly offset lately. Like when the printing plates don't line up exactly right so whatever you're reading has a shadow aura hovering slightly to one side. You can see what things are supposed to look like, but can't quite trick your eyes into seeing them right.

And so, here's to summer, and to Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Crumble — it has a trick in the crumble that changes the game entirely. It's a recipe to keep for when stone fruits are around. Happy days, pals. Talk again soon.

 

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB ALMOND CRUMBLE

The first of many Always Good Recipes from Tara O'Brady and Nikole Herriott. 

Recipe HERE

This afternoon's plan was to share a recipe, as I've got one waiting in the wings, but that isn't happening. What is happening is me on the couch, with my laptop, phone, various remote controls, an ice pack and a hot water bottle (and unfortunately without those doughnuts up top, which were from another day.) I wish I could say I did something exciting to warrant an injury, but I can't. Instead, it's simply that I've gone and tweaked something in my back, and so here we are. 

As a positive, my couch session affords the opportunity to tell you a little about what I've been cooking and eating lately, aside from doughnuts, and the recipes that I've got bookmarked for next.

Indian Baked Beans | Tara O'Brady for the Globe and Mail

 We started October with the Indian Baked Beans I wrote about in the Globe and Mail. They are a mashup of chole (channa) masala and traditional baked beans. Besides on toast, I like them tucked in naan with a slice of grilled halloumi. Or, I top a bowlful with a pile of bitter greens (frisée is especially good), a squeeze of lime or lemon, fruity olive oil, and some flaky salt. 

I went on a falafel kick after that, wholly inspired by the recipes in the book Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). There are three recipes in the book; Jerusalem-style (for Itamar), Haifa-style (for Sarit), and Yemeni (for the family roots). I made the Haifa-style, also known as the one for purists, as it is a rather robust fritter full of cumin and coriander. Paired with a lemon-sharp tahini dressing, they were ideal. Bon Appétit featured the falafel in their last issue, along with two more — kuri squash and red pepper. I'm looking to have go a the squash, and I'm pretty into the spiced tahini from the same issue, as well as the feta and spring onion bouikos from the book. (Sara put her trademark spin on the falafel and created a baked variation.)

Over the weekend I made Martha Rose Shulman's Mexican Black Beans. Following Molly's advice, I soaked the beans longer than I usually would — a full 24 hours instead of overnight. I followed the recipe, with the addition of a minced chipotle in adobo at the start, and then half a fresh jalapeño (left whole) when the cilantro went in. I'd planned on following John Thorne's low and slow oven method for cooking the beans that Molly described, but due to an oversight in timing, I needed the oven for other things. So, I split the difference and cooked the beans on the stovetop, with the heat on low and only the faintest of burbles. They were done in about 3 hours, and while they were good that first day, I cannot tell you how much better they were the second. So, if you can, plan ahead and let them cool completely before stashing them in the fridge for a rest. Even once reheated, the broth from the beans was velvety, deeply flavoured and not at all murky, and the beans themselves still held together. Sean and I had them for lunch yesterday, with brown rice, avocados, pickled things, and sprouts.  

Spoonable meals are what I'm continuing for November. Yotam Ottolenghi's roasted pumpkin soup with harissa and crisp chickpeas looks rather enticing (scroll down once though the link), and the yam and peanut stew from Gena Hamshaw's new book Food52 Vegan (Ten Speed Press, 2105), is unreservedly great. And oh, if you're on Gena's site, her nut milk creamer is one to try. When I'm looking for extra soothing delivered via  mug, I make the Golden Milk from my own book and bulk up the liquid with some of her creamer.

And last but not least, the first cookbook my friends Nikole Herriott and Michael Graydon photographed is now out — the highly-anticipated Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by LA-based chef and restaurant owner Travis Lett (Chronicle Books, 2015). The photographs look as remarkable as would be expected from those two and I can't wait to get stuck in to the recipes. Congratulations, guys.

The kettle just clicked off, so I should go attend to that. Talk soon soon. xo

 

 

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When leafing through The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak last week, I kept coming back to the page for her cinnamon buns. 

no yeast cinnamon buns from Violet Bakery | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

If you've been around here for a while, you might know that one of my favourite breakfast pastries are sugar buns (Tartine Bakery's morning bun made with a whole-wheat variation on Nigella Lawson's Danish dough, and laced with almond and orange). Besides bostocks, they are usually my holiday morning go-to, and it is rare that I stray from that habit.

However (!), Ptak's recipe is made without yeast; the dough gets its rise from baking powder instead, like the cousin of a scone or sweet biscuit. That was enough to intrigue. Plus they were pretty; perfectly golden arabesques dusted with sugar. Total lookers. So curiosity got the better of me.

You make the dough in a stand mixer, crumbling up cold butter into the dry ingredients, then adding milk until a dough curls up around the paddle. Simple. The dough rolls out smooth and supple, twirls back up into an impressive swirl, then bakes into delicate layers with just a touch of elasticity for some chew. 

The cinnamon swirl is backed up in spice by some cardamom in the dough and the combo comes off friskier than either on their own. It's exactly right. And, if you can find Ceylon cinnamon, this is the time to use it. 

It's Thanksgiving coming up, and we are going apple picking sometime this week — I'm toying with the idea of a second go with these for the holiday weekend, this time wafer thin slices of sautéed apples and blitzed almonds wrapped up in the coil. I think that might be a good idea. Still, I didn't want to hold out on you on the recipe, so here they are. 

Happy start of the week, talk soon.


VIOLET BAKERY'S CINNAMON BUNS (yeast free)

"Of course a soft yeasty bun can be a wonderful thing, but at Violet we have never had enough space to work with yeasted bread doughs. They take up more room and need larger machines. I came up with these yeast-free buns in my home kitchen by looking back through the cookbooks of the 1950s, when everything was about how to make things more quickly. Quick breads, as breads leavened with baking powder or baking soda are called, were an alternative to the time-consuming yeast or sourdough breads. Truly, they are something altogether different. They both have their place on the table. This recipe can also be made ahead then frozen in the muffin tin until ready to bake."

— from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak (Ten Speed Press, 2015)

Makes 12 buns

FOR THE FILLING

  • 75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 250g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

FOR THE CINNAMON BUNS

  • 560g (4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 240g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes)
  • 300g (1 1/4 cups) cold milk
  • sugar, for dipping
  • butter, for greasing the pan

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F (180°C/355°F convection).

Butter a 12-cup deep muffin pan.

First, prepare the feeling. Melt the butter and leave in a warm place so that it remains liquid. Mixed together the light brown sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

Now make the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour into cold milk while the mixer is running, until dough forms into a ball and comes away from the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Clear a large surface, dust lightly with more flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle until almost 5mm (1/8 inch) thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and, before the butter hardens, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on to the butter. You want a good, slightly thick layer.

Now roll the long side, keeping it neat and tidy. Gently tug the dough toward you to get a taut roll while rolling away from you in a spiral. Once it’s all rolled up, gently squeeze the roll to ensure it’s the same sickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll crosswise into 12 even slices. Take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back about 5 cm (2 inches) of the loose end of the pastry and fold back under the roll too loosely cover the bottom of the roll. Place in the muffin pan, flap side down. Repeat with remaining slices.

Bake the buns for 25 minutes. As soon as they're out of the oven, flip them over onto a wire cooling rack so that they don't stick to the tray. Dip each cinnamon bun into a bowl of sugar and serve right away.

NOTES FROM TARA:

  • There seems to be an error in the volume conversion in the book for this entry — the flour is listed as 560g or 1 1/2 cups, but that weight is actually about 4 1/2 cups and I've changed the recipe to reflect that.

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It is beautiful out.

No wait, let me say it again for those who feel differently about heat than I do. It is hot. It is humid, with clear sunshine interspersed with rather-impressive thunderstorms and torrential rain.

Now I'll admit, I am a lucky one; I am one of those sorts that lives for heat and revels in temperatures others may consider rather sweltering. Dry heat or sticky with humidity, I will always choose a day that is blistering over a day that is remotely cold.

I even take particular joy the dramatic tendencies of our climate. There is something wholly romantic about a midday thunderstorm. The day suddenly turns to dusk, the air heavy and thick with moisture; and afterwards, who cannot enjoy the green, green, green smell of wet grass and soaking leaves, and the reward of a cool breeze. Even as I write this, rain is pouring through trees alight with sunshine and I can hear not-so-distant peals of thunder.

But, even though I consider the weather to be lovely and sultry, I can see my loved ones virtually wilting as the days go on. And so I feel compelled to aid as only I know how - with food.

While I will admit my days have been busier as of late, what with the arrival of our newborn son and the constant entertainment that is his big brother, I have still managed to get back in the kitchen. Like the lovely familiarity of a tune you've hummed for a lifetime, getting back to cooking and baking has brought me the satisfaction of beloved habits. In this mood I have been looking over my cookbook collection, rediscovering old favourites that somehow seem new again.

With that in mind, I have brought together a few of my best-loved recipes I hope will keep you cool for the summer nights ahead.