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Whole wheat pretzel buns

From time to time you’ll see the fast food chains advertise a special promotion featuring pretzel buns.  They are great with hamburgers but where they shine in particular in my opinion with bbq chicken breast.

Pretzel buns formed ready to boil

Pretzel buns formed ready to boil

Now, you’ll seldom if ever see pretzel buns in the grocery – they just don’t keep very well.  The good news though is that they are really easy to make at home – and you can’t get fresher than that!

If you’ve make bagels at home – and you should – making pretzel  buns is pretty much the same process.

The key for that great and characteristic crust is to boil the raised buns in a basic water solution before baking – an easy way to go is with baking soda – but I use wood ash (lye) because the wood fired pizza oven I have keeps me in loads of wood ash, and I need it around anyway for making massa for homemade tortillas.

So, easy, simple, quick – and since they are best consumed within a day or so after baking are ideally suited to making in your own kitchen.  Of course, I’m making these with home ground whole wheat flour, but if you don’t yet have your own mill commercial flour will do.

Click on the post title to expand for the recipe.

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Whole Wheat Hot Dog Buns

Out of the pan and just sliced.

Nothing quite says summer like burgers, sausages or hotdogs on the grill or roasted over a fire.  But damn, if the food isn’t becoming pricey!  It seems like only a couple of years ago hot dogs were 99 cents for a dozen nice ones.  Now even the cheap ones are twice that when they come on sale.

If you want to skip right to the fantastic whole wheat hot dog recipe just click on the post title now.

Hot dog buns risen and ready to go in the oven

Anyway, to be perfectly honest commercial hot dogs are only an occasional feature in our home, with homemade sausages being a more common feature – but for roasting over an open fire nothing quite beats hot dogs – so they occasionally find a place in our grocery order.

It’s not only the dog themselves that have climbed in price – the buns too are getting silly expensive – like $2.99 for eight!

Bun pan and the results

We routinely bake our own buns – generally whole wheat with the flour we grind on our homebuilt mill – which produces higher quality product at a fraction of the price.  So when I saw a New England style hot dog pan on the King Arthur website for $30 bucks US I picked it up.  I mean that’s less than 15 uses to more than pay it off.

The thing is built incredibly solidly.  The silicon coating may eventually fail but the underlying steel is heavy enough to last for a few generations if taken care of – now that’s the type of investment I like!  It also cuts prep time even more – simply form the dough into the pan and let it do it’s second rise in the pan then slide into the oven and that’s it – perfectly sized buns for hot dogs (or sausages!)

Now the instructions on the KA website call for putting a cookie sheet over the top of the pan – I’ve never bothered,  the buns are a bit taller but I prefer the less dense feel.

All in all this is a great kitchen tool – if you are short cash just form buns individually, but if you can afford the investment I think you’ll be very pleased with it.

Click on the post title to expand the recipe.

 

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Apple Kuchen

Apple Kuchen

Base and apple chunks ready for topping

It’s an old saying that pretty much everyone loves motherhood and apple pie, and I’d include myself in that list – particularly since there have been two back to back crop failures for the blueberry crop around our camp up north – otherwise as a good northern canadian lad I’d be endorsing motherhood and blueberry pie but definitely not turning down apple pie.

More realistically, in our home apple pie usually takes a back seat to apple crisp – which is so easy to throw together and is truly a great desert.  But, Apple Kuchen also figures prominently among our favorite deserts because it’s a great desert in its own right and is almost as quick to prepare as apple crisp.

Whole grain apple kuchen

Partly devoured pan of whole barley base apple kuchen

For those who haven’t had it before it is an cake base topped with apples and a sugar and cinnamon topping.  Since home ground whole grain flours are the principal ones that get used in our kitchen the base is usually whole barley or whole wheat – both of which work great and give more substance and flavour compared to white flours.

So next time you are looking for a great desert give Apple Kuchen a try.

Click on the post title to expand and see the recipe.

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A Best Buy French Fry Cutter

Cutting french fries the easy way

Be honest, even if you are a health nut you probably want to grab pub grub from time to time.  It’s a great treat – and it almost always features french fries.

Now in pretty much every aspect of life I’d rather invest in the tools and know how to do it myself than head out and have someone else do it for me.  That goes for food too.  Now you can cut your own potatoes into fries for either frying or baking but it becomes a lot easier with a french fry cutter.

Low cost but high hassles – invest more and get one that will perform and last

I started out using a cheap $20 one that quickly failed.  For relatively little more – slightly over $60 on sale – I got a light commercial unit that makes fry prep a snap, and it’s worth every penny!

I see the same model on sale through Amazon comes with an additional fry cutter size – for $85, and it would be a good deal at that price too.  I don’t doubt it will last a couple of lifetimes if given a measure of care paying for itself several times over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quick Apple Fritters – whole grain (or not)

Homemade Apple Fritters frying

What was it Homer Simpson used to say…. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM Donuts.  For me that is more likely to be MMMMMMMMMMM Apple Fritters,  so it’s probably not surprising that I’ve played with dozens of recipes over the years  – most yeast versions.  But this quick one is the one I keep coming back to – it’s fantastic AND as a quick donut it’s a snap to produce.  While I usually make them using fresh whole ground flour they work just as nicely with white flour.

The other nice thing is this recipe is that it scales wonderfully – from 1x to about 5x which is about the maximum I can manage to make with my deep fryer before it makes sense to do up another batch of batter – but given that takes all of five minutes it’s really no hardship.  So get out your apples, heat up the oil and get ready to enjoy.

Click on the post title to expand for the whole recipe.

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Fresh Breakfast Sausage

Breakfast with fresh homemade sausage

Making great fresh breakfast sausage is easy and rewarding, and undoubtedly the best way to dip your toes into sausage making.  Here you only need to blend spices into the ground meat (I use pork) and form them into patties.  No curing, no casings, no fuss – just a great breakfast compliment.  You’ll also be able to tailor these to suit your taste, and enjoy significant quality improvement and cost savings to boot.

Click on title post to see the recipe.

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Blueberry Corn Cake

With a sister in law and friends who are celiac I tend to keep my eyes open for recipes that are both gluten free and great and easy (the latter meaning in part no crazy exotic gums and pastes and binders);  That combination is fairly rare – certainly more rare than when one is not constrained to exclude gluten.

Blueberry Corn Cake – A great desert

There are winners though, and this is one of the nicest ones around – so much so that it graces our meals even when the table is filled with wheat eaters.  Frankly the latter simply allows me to do the grinding of the cornmeal on the homemade grain mill from the couple of big sacks of feed corn we always have on hand.  The mill does a great job and fresh meal can’t be beat, but since the mill often processes gluten containing grains I keep a bag of commercial meal for those occasions.

This corn cake makes a desert – moist (even if some lasts a couple of days), rich, flavorful and just the right amount of sweet to cap off a nice meal or accompany tea or coffee.

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Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

A stand mixer makes for easy kneading.

Pumpernickel bread is one of my favorite breads, rich and complex in flavour it’s a great accompaniment to sharp cheese, toasted and slathered with butter and a strong honey or as the foundation for a great sandwich.

This is my favorite recipe striking the right balance between whole grain content and hollow white – I usually use triticale flour but unless you have a grain mill (and you can have one at low cost by building one for yourself) you’ll likely find rye flour to be more common.

Sourdough pumpernickel loaves formed and ready to double in bulk.

The overnight sponge takes a bit more time, but the long hydration period is a perfect match for whole grain baking, and while you can substitute dry yeast for the sourdough, the latter offers an additional complexity that is a great compliment to the other flavours.

 

 

 

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King Arthur Flour Sourdough Starter Review

King Arthur Sourdough Starter in KA Crock

I’ve been using a variety of sourdough starters for a couple of decades, it offers both great flavour for your breads – that particular sour tang, while also giving you a more resilient method of leavening bread compared to commercial yeast.

Those starters – some of which were home made, starting from commercial yeast, from airborne cultures, from those on grapes or rye, and others which were purchased both dry and liquid or shared from others – varied in quality.   Compared to the King Arthur starter some were more sour but none matched the effectiveness at leavening bread.

Using sourdough is a great and low cost means to produce great beads at home, and the starter from King Arthur is probably the easiest way to boost your chances of success.

https://youtu.be/zSKxpjbwuGY

 

 

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Homemade Christmas Candy Boxes – The Christmas Tree

Letterpress Christmas Candy Box

The three stages, 1. Print, 2. Cut and Score, 3. Glue to finish

For the last several Christmases we’ve gotten a bit creative with our letterpresses – first the kids have to do their own lino-cut suitable printing block for our Christmas cards, and secondly I design, carve and print up a box to hold the homemade candy we’ll give to family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

I find the box making to be a fun and creative process that also makes the homemade candy stand out – or at least I think so!

Christmas Tree Candy Box Template

Christmas Tree Candy Box Template

So this year I came up with a Christmas tree design box.  It actually just fits on a 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper – so tight that the upper flap has the corners missing – but since it gets stapled closed that doesn’t really detract from it – and I wanted the maximum volume for the candy – so it seems a fair trade off.

While you might not have a letterpress you can produce these boxes for yourself.  Download the image and print it out on cardstock.  As a heavier weight it works well for making these boxes, regular printer paper is OK for demos but won’t stand up when filled.

Cut out around the external solid line and then score along the internal solid lines in order to allow for easy bending.  Fold and glue the tabs to the back of the tree sides and your box is complete and ready to be filled.

Have fun and some great holidays.