Posts from — December 2015
December 16, 2015
The time has come for our very last post of the year. Heads still reeling that it is December and in dire need of some rest, Ria and I are going to take a little holiday and see you, recharged and refreshed, in 2016. But before we do we thought we’d take a look at the Year That Was…
The Best Bits of 2015:
Hannah: So many best bits! A trip to Melbourne to see friends and brief holiday to Waitomo caves were both highlights. Work wise – it was a thrill, relief and honour to launch my second book, Season of Salt and Honey, at my local bookstore and I loved the chance to try my hand at food styling with Bonnie Machell of Arkade. But the little moments, the domestic things, as dull as they may sound – renovating our lounge, growing our own vegetables, completing the Run Auckland series with my sister – might have trumped the big stuff. I wished to be more settled in 2015 and that wish came true. For a gal with the heart of an adventurer, the pleasure that has come from that has been something of a revelation.
Ria: Salt Spring Island summer days with family–beach afternoons and ice cream evenings, cows to gaze at and hills to climb on bicycles. Going to Toronto (for the second time ever!) to participate in the Forest of Reading celebration with amazing, talented authors, enthusiastic and inspiring readers and the most bad-ass librarians anywhere around. Seeing my baby turn one and my big girl turn four. Renovating our kitchen in the biggest possible way, and loving the result. Picnics balanced on logs at the beach, golden fall hikes, evenings on the couch as the rain pours down.
A lesson you learned or re-learned in 2015:
Ria: Kindness to myself is where it all starts. Beating myself up is unproductive, reductive, violent and mean. It’s also really easy to do, so just stop it. Stop. It. Right, Liz?
Hannah: “To every thing there is a season…A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away…” Whilst so easy to lose myself in the frustration, disappointment or grief of a particular situation, I was reminded that every thing has a season, that some years are good vintages and others not so much. It’s simply part of it. When it’s great – rejoice; when it’s sucky – know it is temporary.
Favourite food moment of 2015:
Hannah: Meeting Antonio Carluccio, the godfather of Italian cooking. He was placed next to me during a function in November and was every bit as frank, wise and flirtatious as you might expect. I think the cherry-topped tiramisu was my favourite dish of the evening but, like all the best food memories, the context and company were even more special.
Ria: Taking a stellar pie-making course with my friend, Tina, led by the amazing Chef Heidi Fink. We learned that not all pie-worthy apples are created equal, that pie crust is more forgiving than you think, and when in doubt, make a galette.
Wisdom or resolution to take into the new year:
Ria: Be more present instead of….everywhere. Multi-tasking can be useful, but the (big) little life things slip past if you’re not watching.
Hannah: Stop. Breathe. Soak it up. The older ladies in the library who stopped me and coo-ed over B1 when she was just a baby were right – “It goes so fast”.
We hope 2015 has been good to you and we wish you and yours very merry and happy holidays. May you eat too much, laugh too loud and feel the love and joy of those you cherish the most around you. We can’t wait to see and hear from you in the new year.
With love and good cheer,
Hannah & Ria x x x
December 9, 2015
You know that morning–the one when you’re cozied up with family and/or friends and comfort and delight are the names of the game. The game being breakfast. Maybe it’s snowy outside, or hot if you’re down here, or maybe it’s a festive time of year or maybe it’s someone’s birthday or maybe it’s just a day you love annually that has nothing to do with celebrations.
I believe we all need some breakfast delight. In just such an instance, I made these the other morning. Or, I should say the other night, because they’re overnight buns, which is how I like my bread to be: working hard for me as I sleep.
I was looking for a recipe that incompassed the following: cardamom, pears, whole wheat and a satisfying absence of icing. (I love cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing, and although it’s the Month of Excess, I was trying to err on the side of abstemious. Sort of.) I haven’t had a lot of luck finding good cardamom bun recipes online–at least not in the places I’ve searched and not to my exact liking. (Maybe I’m being too picky; if you know a good one, let me know!) But I’m also a tinkerer, so I took a regular cinnamon bun recipe and tweaked it. It worked. This recipe is adapted from the great one over at Sally’s Baking Addiction.
I’m sure there are cardamom haters out there (hanging out with the cilantro haters?), so if you are one of them, you can stop humming loudly with your hands over your ears and just replace the offending word with ‘cinnamon’ and all will be well. Still use the pears, or maybe apples, because fruit in sweet breads = heaven.
Disclosure: The recipe below (and my claims above) state that you don’t need an icing for these. Yet the photos tell otherwise, don’t they? On the first batch I caved to the fear that the filling wouldn’t be sweet enough and made a quick cinnamon-milk-sugar icing, but I think you can be brave and make them without icing. Unless you don’t want to, and then I’d completely understand.
Overnight Pear-Cardamom Buns
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into pieces
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting/rolling
1 cup whole wheat flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup panela sugar or brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 medium-ish pears, ripe but still firm
Warm the milk either on the stove or in the microwave until lukewarm. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a standmixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (or mix the dough by hand, but a standmixer is awesome for this). With a spoon, stir the sugar and yeast into the milk. Let sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Next add the eggs, one at a time, and then the salt. The butter won’t really be mixing into the mixture, so don’t worry if it stays in pieces. On low speed, gradually add the flour. Once it is all added, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed and beat until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes longer. If you’re mixing by hand, be prepared to knead for ten minutes or so.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.
Butter the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish, then line with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 13×18 inch rectangle.
For the filling:
Peel the pears and slice them into ½ inch, fairly thin pieces. If they’re too thick they won’t cook through until soft, but a little crunch isn’t the end of the world in these buns either. Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, toss the cinnamon, cardamom and sugar together until combined and then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the pear pieces evenly over sugar mixture. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18-inch-long log. Cut into 12 even rolls. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. Cover the rolls very tightly with aluminum foil and put in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.
Remove rolls from fridge and let rise in a warm place until they are puffy, about 1-2 hours. You can speed this up by heating your oven to 250 degrees, turning it off, and putting the buns in there to rise.
After the rolls have risen, preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Bake for about 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. If they seem to be browning too quickly, cover the pan with the aluminum foil from the rise stage. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before devouring. If you want to make an icing for these, make sure to prepare it while they cook and spread it on after they’re been out of the oven for about ten minutes.
Happy mornings to all,
December 2, 2015
“Why buy something for $7 when you can get all the materials from a craft store for $92 and make it yourself?”
Ah, yes. I love the idea of making things for Christmas. I have time! The receiver will luuuurve it!
I’ve nearly always made my own wrapping since I was a teenager. I’ve spray-painted, I’ve potato stamped, I’ve done it all. There was even a time I forced my Mum to drive me out to the middle of nowhere to pick up a stack of chinese takeaway boxes for use as gift boxes and the other time I custom wrapped matchboxes with ribbons as envelopes for Christmas messages. That’s what normal sixteen year olds do, right? It’s no wonder I’ve grown into a stationery-obsessed, ribbon-addicted weirdo…
But, despite my penchant for silky bows and pretty paper, I am lazy. Not keen on attempting something I probably cannot manage or master. Not keen on crafts too complicated or time consuming. I want results and I want them fast. That knitted nativity set? An itty bitty iced gingerbread house that sit on the rim of your teacup? Pffff. Not never ever going to happen. In case you too are similarly inclined I thought I’d share my list of very lazy crafty-christmas efforts. And if crafting isn’t your deal then believe me when I say – no judgement at all from me. Pour me a gin, I’ll be with you shortly.
Book Advent Calendar
Materials: Books (your own, borrowed, second-hand or library), wrapping paper, goodies to pop inside
For the second year in a row I am doing a Book advent calendar for the kids. I have collected several Christmas-themed books for it, but mainly I request Christmas-themed picture books from my local library. The goodies I include are: chocolate covered pretzels, marshmallow sticks, candy canes, carob bears etc. You could also use stickers or art supplies etc. If the goodies are unwrapped I wrap them using a twist of baking paper. Then I write or stamp the dates : 1 to 25 – as well as one of my kids initials on the paper. The books are unwrapped, the treats devoured and somewhere in there we do some reading. Before arguing about whose turn it is tomorrow.
Materials: Beets, white vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, salt, jars and lids.
Here’s the truth: Matt grew a lot of beetroot. We have two vegetable gardens, one mine, one his, and we compete to see whose is the most productive and impressive. Matt won on the beetroot front (insert poor loser face here) so we were left with a ton of it to do something with. A long time ago, when B1 was just a tiny babe, we went to a canning workshop on Saltspring island and on a whim bought jars, lids and accessories we never used. Five years on, I suddenly remembered them AND the fact that my Dad is mad about pickled anything. Voila. I may give my family food poisoning from inadequate sterilization but… don’t they look sweet?
Hand-painted gift wrap
Materials: Plain paper, paint, small children.
Lay your paper out on the table or deck. Arm your small children with paints and brushes. Set them to work. Results may vary. Generally a big hit with grandparents.
Pom-pom garland or gift tags
Materials: Wool, cardboard, scissors
It’s been a number of years since I made pom poms. I will admit that they do take longer than you think and they are a bit fiddly. But, they are gorgeous, nostalgic and tactile and you can make them while you binge-watch Narcos on Netflix. So, that’s a win.
Materials: candy canes or peppermint sweets, white and dark chocolate, cream, peppermint essence / extract, baking paper, jars / boxes
Peppermint bark is my Chrissy go-to. I’ve gifted it to family, friends, neighbours and kids’ teachers. I once paid a tradesperson with it (okay, accompanied by a six-pack of beer). I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it and it’s no-bake and low fuss. Because of the crushing and setting and HUGE quantities I now have to make, it can take some time. However, if I skipped a year I think I might be lynched. And, as a bonus, I eat all the off-cuts while making it.
It really is true – christmas crafting can be fun! Or it can be a headache. My advice is: make only what you love to make, don’t compare yourself or your efforts to others, laugh if it all goes wrong and get your young people involved. It’s kind of like child-labour but totally socially acceptable. You can even Instagram it.
Love and Christmas cheer, Hannah x