preservings

exploring, preserving: past, present


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Preparation for Easter – Traditional Paska (Easter Bread)

Easter bread, or paska, was a staple growing up in our family. Traditional yeast, not the quick rise variety, and a large batch recipe ensured that the process of baking a batch consumed the better part of a day.

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The process began early in the morning, with scalding milk and whipping cream together, then adding the hot mixture to some flour.

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To this day, this dough starter smells like play dough to me. While waiting for this to cool, a dozen eggs are separated, with yolks whipped together with some sugar and a few drops of lemon extract for flavour.

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Some yeast is mixed with a tablespoon of sugar in warm water and left to rise.

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The egg whites are whipped separately. This step is crucial to the lightness of the bread. Here is a picture of the egg whites beginning to froth:

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Yes, I do whip egg whites with a whisk and not a machine! The egg whites need to be whipped past the frothy stage but stop before stiff peaks form. They will look something like this:

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You can see from this picture that the shiny stiff peak stage has not yet been reached, but the froth can just stand up on its own. Now the yolk mixture, egg whites, and yeast mixture are folded into the cooled milk and flour mixture to form a very runny bowlful of goodness that needs to rise.

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Once this has risen (I usually wait at least 30 minutes), some lemon and orange zest, more sugar, butter, and lots of flour is added to form a soft dough. LOTS of flour. This recipe has about 10 cups of flour in it.

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You stop adding flour when the dough stop sticking to you. Don’t add too much though, you want a soft dough. Knead the dough, cover, and let rise for two hours in a warm place away from drafts. After 2 hours it should have at least doubled in size.

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Separate the dough into sections to form four round loaves.

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Cover these loaves, and let rise another two hours until they at least double in size. If you think ahead, save a small amount of dough to add braiding after the loaves have risen.

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I will admit, this was my first, and very basic, attempt at Ukranian braiding. Into the oven at 300 degrees for just under an hour and you get these lovely toasty loaves.

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I learned my braid work needed to be longer (it separated during the baking process) and it needed to be joined to the loaf better…for that I think I needed to wet down the braid and the loaf to make them stick together better.

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My second batch was as buns…yum. Next post will include the finished products with icing, sprinkles, and a detailed recipe – but first I must do some taste testing! (Grin)

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Maple Pecan Multigrain Sticky Buns #Recipe

Oh my, this recipe turned out so unbelievably good! I have a mother-in-law who bakes unbelievably amazing cinnamon buns, and a brother-in-law who also bakes unbelievably amazing cinnamon buns. I was on a mission to adjust a recipe for cinnamon buns to make them truly sticky buns, but with a healthier mix of grains for the flour. Well folks, this is it! Our girls ate this up so quickly the buns were gone in just over a day! Here’s the recipe, hope you enjoy it!

Maple Pecan Multigrain Sticky Buns
Dough:
3 1/2 – 4 cups multigrain flour (I make my own mix with flax, oats, barley flour, spelt, wheat germ, all-purpose white flour, and ground almond…but this recipe works just as well with plain all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 envelopes yeast
1 cup warm milk (I use skim milk – heavier milk works too)
1/3 cup margarine
1 egg

Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 cup pecan halves
3 tbsp maple syrup

Filling:
4 tbsp margarine
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

For the dough:
Combine 2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the milk, margarine (soft), and egg. Beat together. Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead dough for approximately 5 minutes, rolling into a ball. Keep in the bowl, covered with a clean large towel. Let rise in a warm place until size has doubled, approximately 1 hour.

For the topping:
Bring the brown sugar and margarine to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the corn and maple syrups. Pour into the bottom of a 13″x9″ greased pan. Sprinkle pecan halves on top.

The topping, waiting while the dough rises in a separate bowl.

The topping, waiting while the dough rises in a separate bowl.

Back to the dough:
Punch down the dough after it has doubled in size. Roll out into a large 15″x10″ rectangle. Spread the topping margarine onto the rectangle. Combine chopped pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle the mixture over the dough. Roll up the dough tightly, pinching seams to seal. Cut into 15 pieces and place onto the topping in your pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 12-48 hours (it’s best after at least 24 hours!).

Sticky buns, prepped and heading for the fridge for a 12-48 hour rest.

Sticky buns, prepped and heading for the fridge for a 12-48 hour rest.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees C, for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Let stand 3 minutes in the pan, then invert onto serving platter. Best served warm!

Baked pecan maple multigrain sticky buns...yum!

Baked pecan maple multigrain sticky buns…yum!


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Baking is Good Therapy – 14 Dozen Chocolate Lady Fingers

Baking is definitely therapeutic for me. It’s something I’ve been doing for three decades, and there is a familiar pattern of preparing ingredients, contemplating adjustments to tried-and-true recipes, waiting and watching for baking to complete, smelling familiar smells in the house…. Smells, motions, recipes all have so many memories tied to them.

On Friday I baked 14 dozen chocolate lady fingers. This is one of those “tried and true” recipes handed down from my mother who got it from her family, but origin is long forgotten. The original recipe is one of those “bake in a moderate oven until done” oldies-but-goodies. I’ve baked it often enough that I’ve finally written down the best temperature and time for baking (provided in brackets in the recipe below). It’s also one of those “makes anywhere from 12 dozen to 20 dozen cookies” recipes (depending on the size of the cookie cutter used). Though it’s quite possible/easy to cut the recipe in half, I never have. It’s tradition, tied to memories with my mother. Baking with mom always came with wonderful conversations filled with her own childhood memories. Memories of memories.

I provide the lady finger recipe with original measurements of ingredients and instructions. You will also note that the recipe is brief in its description (no details on what to add, whether to whip eggs or not). Really, it’s also tradition just to “dump” all the ingredients into one big bowl and mix. Works well every time. The first instruction, “make a soft dough”, refers to some flexibility with the amount of flour depending on humidity. In dry, cold Canadian winters, the 6 1/2 cups of flour is the perfect amount as long as you’re sprinkling flour on your countertop during rolling. Too much flour and the cookies become tough and dry.

lady fingers

These cookies are good iced with a very simple icing (icing sugar and water), or you can mix up icing sugar, a bit of milk, and a little vanilla for flavour. I would encourage you to simply taste the cookie without any icing as the cocoa and cinnamon in this recipe are distinct in both the smell and flavour of it, enjoyable without any embellishment.

Chocolate Lady Fingers
2/3 cup honey
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup cocoa
1 cup cream
1 cup margarine
2/3 cup milk
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
6 1/2 cups flour

Make a soft dough. Roll out – not too thin – and cut in fingers. Bake in moderate oven (350) until done (8-10 minutes, make sure cookie is still soft to touch). Ice.