Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations

July is such a wonderful month. The weather’s warm, there’s still plenty of summer left, and the produce is literally amazing.

Midsummer means the farmer’s markets are brimming with great fruit & veggies. With such a colorful bounty of goods, we can settle into our summer cooking routines with tasty meals hot or cold.

But, even in summer, we sometimes crave ‘comfort food’ such as a ‘hand pie’. The humble hand pie goes by many different names: call it a pasty, a turnover, an empanada, or a ‘Bedfordshire clanger’….

A Bedfordshire Clanger dates back to at least the 19th century. It was typically made for agricultural workers to take with them to work as their lunch. The original pastry was made from suet and cooked by a boiling method. There is a theory that the pastry crust was not originally intended for consumption but as a vessel in which to protect the filling from the soiled hands of the workers.

The clanger originated from the county of Bedfordshire, a small, low-lying and predominantly agricultural county nestled in the east of England and adjacent counties, including Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. 

The name is as intriguing as the food itself. The word clanger, it had been suggested, referred to the mistake of mixing sweet and savory fillings. But a more likely explanation was that in nearby Northamptonshire dialect, ‘clang’ means to eat voraciously.

Knowing their husbands would need lots of protein and carbohydrate sustenance, homemakers came up with the brilliant idea of a doubled, loaf-shaped pie. One end contained a savory filling that used the famed pork of the area while the other end was filled with stewed apples (made from local apples) as dessert. So, the two fillings didn’t combine, there was a ‘pastry wall’ in between blocking any flavors from mixing. A ‘secret code’ denoted which end was meat, and which was dessert: two knife slits on one end of the pastry top means meat, three small holes on the other shows the sweet. This was brilliant, an entire meal for the field workers – handheld, portable and delicious.

The version we have today is not its beginnings but its evolution. Once you’ve nailed this basic Bedfordshire clanger recipe you can experiment with all sorts of flavor combos, there’s really no limit to what you can combine in this savory/sweet pastry.

Since Brion takes lunch to work, I became intrigued with the idea and decided to get creative with the fillings. That way I could make a variety and freeze them and use as needed. These tasty little ‘clangers’ can be served as the main course for a warm-weather picnic or for a hand-held, backyard meal with the addition of a nice fresh salad at home.

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Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations
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Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sage & salt. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture & use your fingers to work them in. Alternately you could use a pastry cutter to do this.
  2. When the mixture resembles cornmeal with pea-sized bits of butter remaining, stir in cheese with a fork until evenly distributed. Sprinkle 6 Tbsp ice water over mixture & stir with a fork until dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional Tbsp or two of ice water.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface & knead for about three times. Gather the dough into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Pork Filling
  1. Bake potato in microwave, peel & cut into small cubes. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet & sauté celery, onion, garlic & bacon together on medium heat until veggies are soft & bacon is cooked. Add ground pork, breaking it up well. Stir in dried herbs & spices. Cover & simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in cooked potato & cheese. Set aside to cool.
Spiced Meat Combo
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion & garlic. Add ground meat, basil, thyme, cardamom & salt & pepper. Scramble fry until cooked, remove from heat & add parmesan & potato. Place in a dish.
  2. In the saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste. Add to ground meat mixture & combine to form filling. Set aside until ready to use.
Turkey Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Add butter to the skillet, sauté onions, garlic & mushrooms with herbs & spices, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & shredded cooked turkey, taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, combine Boursin, milk & spices (if using). Stir until Boursin has melted. Remove from heat. Add to turkey/veg mixture.
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat butter over medium low heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the onions cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the onions are a deep golden color, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, chili powder, thyme, allspice, & black pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. In the same pan as the onions, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add each piece of chicken & fry for a few minutes until golden brown; flip & cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate (it will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned – it will finish cooking in the oven).
  4. Turn the heat down & let the oil cool off a little bit. Make a roux with excess oil in skillet & dredging flour. Add chicken broth & cook until a sauce forms. Add the onions & chicken to the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes longer. When chicken/onion mixture is cooked, remove from oven. Allow to cool until ready to use.
Raspberry/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cardamom & salt. Add water & stir then add chopped nectarines. Simmer until nectarine is slightly soft & liquid is thickened. Remove from heat & carefully fold in raspberries. Set aside to cool.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except blueberries. Cook until sauce starts to thicken then gently fold in blueberries & cook a couple of minutes more. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Apple/Apricot Filling
  1. Peel & dice apples. Drain canned apricot juice into a small saucepan. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & salt & combine. Add apples & cook until apples are tender. Cut canned apricot halves into quarters. When apples are cooked & sauce has thickened, remove from heat & add apricots. Gently combine & set aside to cool.
Plum/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt & lemon zest. Add rhubarb & plums. Gently stir over a low heat. When enough juice has formed, allow to simmer until rhubarb is soft & juice has thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, place sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Gradually fold in cherries. Set aside to cool.
Rhubarb/Apple Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, add the rhubarb, apples, salt & sugar. Add a drizzle of water if necessary & heat on medium. The rhubarb will begin to release liquid & break down as the apples soften. Heat the mixture until the moisture has evaporated & begins to thicken. Once the mixture is thickened, add the lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. Place it in a bowl & allow to cool.
Apple/Pear Filling
  1. Heat butter in a small skillet until melted, add apples & pears & cook until fruit begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over mixture & continue to cook stirring often until fruit begins to lose its juices. Mix together cornstarch & lemon juice & add to pan. Simmer until mixture has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Assembly/Baking
  1. Divide pastry into 5 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface (or dry wax paper) roll out each piece of pastry into 14 x 7 1/2-inches. The excess trimmed from the sides will be used for little pastry ‘walls’ dividing the sweet & savory fillings. Roll excess pastry into a 3-inch length.
  2. Cut each piece of pastry in half horizontally so you have (2) 7-inch long pieces from each piece of pastry. From the top of each piece, LIGHTLY make a line across your pastry 4-inches from the outside edge. This will help to place your fillings properly.
  3. On the 3-inch wide section, place savory filling to cover 2/3 of the area. Place one of the rolled strips after that then place sweet filling on the remaining 1/3 to complete the 'clanger'. The little rolled piece of pastry divides the savory & sweet filling.
  4. On the sweet side make 3 holes for vents & on the savory side make 2 slashes. This is the 'code' to let the person eating the clanger which was savory or sweet.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Brush the edges of each pastry with egg wash. Lift the pastry from the opposite side over the fillings & seal the edges with a fork.
  7. Brush clangers with remaining egg wash & bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Due to the length of this recipe, I found making the savory & fruit fillings on one day & the pastry, assembling & baking the next, worked out well for me. Although these pastries are VERY time consuming, believe me, the are well worth it in the end, especially if your freezing some to use later. I baked them all & then wrapped them well before freezing.
  • You will probably find there will be enough savory & sweet fillings left over to make about 10 more clangers.
  • All of them will freeze well which will be a time saver for your next batch. Just make a recipe of pastry & your ready to assemble & bake.
  • If your not interested in freezing the 'leftovers', the fruit combined will make a wonderful crisp & the savory fillings can be used in quiche or casseroles.

Mushroom Galette w/ Roasted Garlic & Thyme

Roasted garlic is the secret weapon to so many great dishes. Whole heads of garlic, roasted in olive oil and a bit of water until they’re as tender as warm butter, became enormously popular in the 1980s. Before long, roasted garlic began appearing in all sorts of foods, from spaghetti and meatballs to pizza.

As far as near-magical transformations go, roasted garlic should get a standing ovation. Through the simple alchemy of hot oven heat, garlic starts off raw and crunchy and astringent, and it emerges soft and caramelized with a gentler flavor that borders on sweetness. It’s like night and day.

Roasting processed ‘naked’ garlic cloves doesn’t work as well because they have no skin to protect them and so they can become quite tough.  The creamy consistency produced by this roasted garlic recipe relies on the skin acting like baking paper.

This galette is amazing as roasted mushrooms always produce great flavor and even more so when you squeeze and smash roasted garlic into the mix.

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Mushroom Galette w/ Roasted Garlic & Thyme
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Cornmeal Pastry
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Cornmeal Pastry
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it.
  2. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough. Press dough into 2 disks & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Pre-roast your garlic ahead of time by cutting off the top portion of a whole bulb, placing it in tin foil & liberally covering it with olive oil, some salt & pepper & a couple of thyme sprigs. Wrap it up and place in the oven for around 30- 40 minutes or until golden & soft.
  3. Raise oven temperature to 400 F.
  4. Place mushrooms on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with thyme leaves & drizzle with oil. Pre-roast mushrooms until all the moisture is out and they start to caramelize. When mushrooms are done & while the baking sheet is still hot, squeeze & smash in the whole bulb of roasted garlic, tossing gently until incorporated, season with salt & pepper to taste.
  5. On a piece of parchment that will fit a baking sheet, roll out your pastry to around 12 inches, then place the whole thing onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the cheese mixture on the bottom of the pastry leaving an inch and a half border all around, reserve 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture to dot on top of galette.
  6. Spread the mushrooms all around the top of the cheese mixture, covering it completely. Fold up the edges of the dough all around the filling. Put reserved tablespoons of cheese on top of mushrooms dotting it in sections.
  7. Whisk egg then brush the folded up edge with it. Sprinkle some thyme on the crust edge along with grated parmesan and black pepper. Bake galette for around 30 to 40 minutes or until deep golden on bottom and crust.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Benedictine Liqueur Christmas Braid

Christmas bread has a lot of different interpretations. The most traditional iterations involve sugar and spice, and often—but not always—yeast, and ultimately have strong cultural associations and country ties. One thing we can all agree on is that Christmas bread is celebratory, whether or not we observe the holiday. From the unleavened matzo of Passover to the German stollen of Christmas, from the British hot cross buns baked on Good Friday to the Russian kolach baked for any special occasion, bread in its many forms brings people together, linking traditions and generations.

The scent of Christmas spices, bread baking, and fresh-cut pine define holiday memories. Generations ago, the rich dough itself – lush with butter, eggs, dried fruit, sugar – relayed a cook’s generosity, her willingness to share the most precious ingredients in her pantry. The time and effort it took to make and bake the Christmas loaves expressed the cook’s devotion and love.

Last year, I was introduced to the liqueur known as Dom Benedictine. After doing much research into this interesting liqueur, I incorporated it in some savory and sweet recipes. We really enjoyed them so this year I was interested in doing a bit of recipe development to create a Christmas bread with it.

The story of Benedictine dates back to 1510 when a Venetian monk of the Abbey of Fécamp, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, created an elixir intended to support good health. It includes a combination of 27 herbs and spices derived from plants from around the globe, including juniper, myrrh, saffron, vanilla, thyme, coriander and more. The liqueur tastes primarily of honey and baking spices, with citrus peel, herb, and stone fruit notes.

So here you have it, my newly created Christmas bread tradition. Hope you can try it and enjoy it as much as Brion & I have.

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Benedictine Liqueur Christmas Braid
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Bread Dough
Lemon Glaze
Servings
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Bread Dough
Lemon Glaze
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Instructions
  1. Marinate raisins, candied fruit & cranberries in Benedictine liqueur overnight, Stir occasionally.
  2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1 tsp sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, sift 2 cups of the flour. Stir in yeast mixture & lukewarm milk. Cover with plastic & let stand in a draft free place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down firmly & work in beaten eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla & pieces of softened butter.
  4. Sift remaining 3 cups of flour with salt, cinnamon & cardamom & work 2 cups in to form a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead in remaining cup of flour & fruit mixture. This becomes a very soft & buttery dough but is not sticky.
  5. Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & dust with flour. Cut the dough into four equal pieces & then stretch & roll each piece into a rope about 20 inches long. Lay the ropes parallel to one another (vertically). Pinch them tightly at the top, then fan them out.
  6. Begin by taking the strand farthest to the right & weave it toward the left through the other strands using this pattern: over, under, over. Take the strand furthest to the right & repeat the weaving pattern again: over, under, over. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand farthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided, Tuck the ends under to give the loaf a finished look.
  7. Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a parchment-lined 13x18-inch baking sheet, brush with egg wash. Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until about 1 1/2 times the size, about 1-2 hours. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 F. & set an oven rack in the middle position.
  8. Gently brush risen dough again with egg wash. Place in an air-bake pan to prevent the bottom crust from browning too much.
  9. Bake 40-45 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Combine powdered sugar & lemon juice/zest to make glaze. When braid is completely cool, brush loaf with lemon glaze & decorate to your liking.
Recipe Notes
  • To see a more in-depth article on Dom Benedictine Liqueur, check out my blog from December 21/2022 - Benedictine Liqueur Cupcakes.

Blueberry Chocolate Yeast Braid

I’m not sure what it is about chocolate that makes it such a good pair with berries. Blueberries for one, are the perfect match for dark chocolate. Bitter, sweet, fruity and awesome!

Some years ago, Brion & I were in California at a winery sampling some of their wines. They offered us some chocolate covered blueberries and that wonderful flavor has never left me.

Since we are already into December and Christmas baking is up front and center, I thought it might be nice to experiment with a different filling for this yeast braid.

Christmas breads are often more decorative and have celebratory qualities to them, such as the Bulgarian Christmas Bread that symbolizes prosperity for the upcoming year. Other classic Christmas breads from around the world include Panettone or Stollen which are filled with fruits and nuts. Whether it’s for the sake of tradition or you just want to make something new and different, this is the best time of the year to get in the kitchen and whip up some beautiful ‘Christmas bread’.

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Blueberry Chocolate Yeast Braid
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Sweet Dough
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Sweet Dough
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Instructions
Sweet Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once the flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, cornstarch & lemon juice. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes until it thickens. Remove from heat & cool until ready to use.
Cream Cheese
  1. Slice cream cheese in about 1/8-inch thick & about 4-inches in length. Lay out on a piece of plastic wrap to form a rectangle about 10 X 4-inches in size. Lay plastic wrap with cheese on a tray & place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Assembly/Baking
  1. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll risen dough into a rectangle 13 X12-inches in size. With a straight edge, mark it in thirds lengthwise. On the two outer pieces, mark 1-inch strips. At the top & bottom you will need a 1 1/2-inch piece. The center rectangle should be 10 X 4-inches in size. Cut out the 4 corner 'wedges' as it will make a nice clean braid this way. ( I just made a couple of little sweet dough buns with a bit of jam filling with this excess dough.)
  2. Start with the cream cheese layer. Using the plastic wrap, flip it in the center rectangle. Next, top the cream cheese with blueberry filling then lay the chocolate bar over all to complete the third layer.
  3. Cut the strips on either side of the braid. Pull the end dough pieces up over the filling then start to braid with the side strips until you reach the other end. Using the parchment paper, lift the braid onto a baking sheet. Cover with a dry tea towel & allow braid to rest & rise for about 30 minutes in a draft free place.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. before the braid is finished rising.
  5. Carefully brush braid with egg wash & bake for 30 minutes until it is browned nicely.
  6. Remove from oven & cool slightly before serving. If you have leftovers for another day, warm the bread slightly so that the chocolate will be soft & runny. Yum!

Garlic Bread Meatball Bombs

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Although, we have not officially reached the first day of fall (Sept. 23), this part of the year often begins with a tinge of melancholy. Even so, there are many ways to appreciate Canada’s most sentimental season.

Part of our country’s appeal is its four season’s: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are entering the season of the fall harvest and the leaves on the trees begin their transformation to stunning shades of orange, red and yellow.

Labor day week-end gives us an opportunity to enjoy family and friends before summer is officially over. I remember as a kid, once we arrived at the Labor Day week-end all those ‘lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer were gone’. Back to school for another year. So, whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will play a big part in the week-end gatherings.

Meatball bombs are a round homemade ‘hot pocket’. They have everything in them you need to make a great tasting meal. Serve two bombs per person. That means each person gets two meatballs, two dinner rolls, lots of sauce, and some gooey, cheesy goodness. Serve these with a simple side salad to round out the entire meal.

Speaking of Hot Pockets, I’m sure most everyone has tried them at some time since they have been around for over 40 years.

Probably the one lasting memory if you have,  is you know that the first bite of the microwavable, molten-in-the-middle meal will burn at least three layers clean off the roof of your mouth.

The frozen creations known as Hot Pockets were created by two Jewish Iranian brothers Paul and David Merage, who immigrated to the United States from Tehran. In 1977, the Merage brothers founded Chef America Inc. and set out to create a portable sandwich whose dough would actually retain its crispness after a few minutes in the microwave. Their creation, which debuted in 1980, was called the Tastywich, but it didn’t last long with its original name. By 1983, after some recipe tweaking, the Tastywich had a new name and Hot Pockets officially hit the market.

History aside, if you’re looking for some flavorful garlic bread meatball bombs, this is just the dish for you! And, you have the choice to use a lot of prepared ingredients from your grocery store, or you can make them all from scratch. There are options for both types in this recipe.

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Garlic Bread Meatball Bombs
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Dinner Rolls
Garlic Butter
White Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Dinner Rolls
Garlic Butter
White Sauce
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Instructions
Dinner Rolls
  1. Dissolve yeast & sugar in lukewarm water & allow to sit a few minutes until frothy. Add oil, salt, & 2 1/2 cups flour, beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining 1/2 cup flour to form a stiff dough..
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover: let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
  3. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 18 pieces. Pinch the ends of each dough piece together in the center. Place seam side down. Use the palm of your hand to gently roll each dough ball until smooth and round.
  4. Place the dough balls in a parchment lined baking dish. Cover & allow rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. Lightly brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove rolls to a wire rack.
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs & mix well. Divide mixture into 18 meatballs & place on a foil lined baking tray. Bake 35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from oven & set aside.
White Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, cook butter & flour until bubbly. Slowly add broth & cream; boil for a FEW minutes, add soy, salt & pepper. Set aside.
Assemble & Bake
  1. Hollow out the top of each roll with a sharp knife. The hole will need to be slightly bigger than the meatballs, but not so deep that you puncture the bottom.
  2. Set the rolls into a 9×13" baking pan which has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together garlic butter ingredients. Using the back of a teaspoon, liberally smear the holes of the dinner rolls with the garlic butter. Use all of the butter evenly into each dinner roll.
  4. Spoon about a tablespoon of the prepared sauce into each of the hollowed out dinner rolls. Place a cooked meatball into each hole. Top each meatball with the remaining sauce mixture. Evenly distribute the cheese over each of the dinner rolls. Sprinkle on the Italian seasoning.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven.
  6. Using a sharp knife, slice between each dinner roll. Garnish with parsley if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • For a QUICK & EASY meal use:
  • 12 (store bought) dinner rolls
  • 12 frozen meatballs, cooked
  • FOR SAUCE: 
  • 1/2 cup dried tomato paste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • NOTE: I found for the original recipe it was easier to make the meatballs & sauce first, then the rolls. Just a suggestion!

Hot Cross Bun French Toast/Buns

CELEBRATING GOOD FRIDAY!

I find the aroma of the hot cross buns baking, is so intoxicating. Brion & I have always loved these soft, spicy little buns. Each year, at Easter time, I really enjoy making some version of Easter bread or buns (of course, trying to make it just a bit better than the year past). While I was giving this some thought, I read a comment where someone was complaining that they had too many hot cross buns leftover from Easter. Is there really such a thing as having too many hot cross buns … seriously!

For me, brunch is never an afterthought, especially on a holiday. I think a decadent French toast made with light and fluffy hot cross bread, in an orange and vanilla scented milk bath, topped with raspberry compote and Greek yogurt is the perfect Easter brunch idea.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. There is no one clear explanation … some theories rest in Christian symbolism while there are also more than a few stories that indicate hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday for superstitious reasons.

Since I have become a huge fan of Dom Benedictine Liqueur not only as a drink but in sweet & savory recipes, I’m using it in this hot cross bun bread to kick it up one notch higher. I think it will be the perfect choice for an amazing Easter brunch French toast.

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Hot Cross Bun French Toast/Buns
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Hot Cross Bun/Loaf Dough
Icing for Hot Cross Buns
Orange Scented Milk bath for French Toast
Raspberry Compote
Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Hot Cross Bun/Loaf Dough
Icing for Hot Cross Buns
Orange Scented Milk bath for French Toast
Raspberry Compote
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Instructions
Hot Cross Bun/Loaf Dough h
  1. Marinate raisins & candied fruit in Benedictine liqueur overnight. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1 tsp sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, sift 2 cups of the flour. Stir in yeast mixture & lukewarm milk. Cover with plastic & let stand in a draft free place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down firmly & work in beaten eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla & pieces of softened butter.
  4. Sift remaining 3 1/3 cups of flour with salt, cinnamon & cardamom & work 2 cups in to form a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead in remaining 1 1/3 cup of flour & fruit mixture. This becomes a very soft & buttery dough but is not sticky. Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & dust with flour. Cut the dough into 2 equal portions.
  5. With the first portion, roll out the dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle. Roll dough up in jelly-roll fashion & place in a 12 x 5-inch cylinder baking pan. With the second piece of dough, cut into 12 pieces & form into balls to make hot cross buns. Place in a 9-inch round baking pan. Brush loaf & buns with egg wash.
  6. Cover both loosely with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until 1 1/2 times the size, about 1-2 hours. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 F. & set an oven rack in the middle position.
  7. Gently brush risen dough again with egg wash. Bake 30-35 minutes or until both loaf & buns are a nice golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Icing for Hot Cross Buns
  1. To pipe a cross on the top of the buns, wait until the buns have cooled. Whisk together the lemon juice & some of the powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar until you get a thick consistency. Place in a plastic sandwich bag. Snip off a small piece from the corner of the bag and use the bag to pipe crosses on buns.
Orange Scented Milk Bath
  1. Heat pan or skillet over medium heat. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla and orange zest in a shallow flat bowl or dish until well combined. Dip the bread in the egg mixture allowing the bread to soak up some of the mixture. Turn the bread and repeat on the other side. Grease preheated pan with butter. Fry toast until golden brown on one side. Flip toast and fry until golden on remaining side. Serve immediately with raspberry syrup.
Raspberry Syrup
  1. In a small pot, combine the syrup ingredients. Place over a medium heat & cook for 5-7 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved & the raspberries have become syrupy. Press through a sieve. Serve with French toast along with yogurt if preferred.
Recipe Notes
  • The story of Benedictine dates back to 1510 when a Venetian monk of the Abbey of Fécamp, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, created an elixir intended to support good health. It includes a combination of 27 herbs and spices derived from plants from around the globe, including juniper, myrrh, saffron, vanilla, thyme, coriander and more. The liqueur tastes primarily of honey and baking spices, with citrus peel, herb, and stone fruit notes.

Strawberry Love Notes

No sooner is Christmas behind us than the next ‘special’ event is coming up fast, Valentine’s Day. It isn’t a true holiday, but it sure gets treated like one. Most every mainstream holiday has some candy or treat representing it. Christmas has candy canes, Halloween has candy corn, and Valentine’s Day has chocolate and strawberries.

There’s also a lot more romantic history to strawberries than meets the eye. Our favorite red berry dates back to Ancient Rome where it was considered the symbol of Venus, the goddess of love, because of its bright red color and intoxicating taste. The fruit looks so alluring in fact, that strawberries were carved into church altars and cathedral pillars in medieval times to represent perfection. Legend has it that when two people split a strawberry, they’ll fall in love.

Strawberries are one of nature’s true pleasures; they do not contain much sugar, but they have a sweet and wonderful taste, so they can be enjoyed without any guilt!

Brion & I have never felt the need to give gifts on ‘occasions’ but rather just a card with a loving and sincere verse. As we grow older, it comes clearer every day, the special privilege it is to simply have each other to share life with. I thought these little strawberry love notes were fitting for a Valentine blog.

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Strawberry Love Notes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or your finger tips. In a 1/2 cup measure, place the beaten egg & vinegar then add enough ice water to fill measuring cup. Make a well in flour mixture & add wet ingredients. Mix with a fork until combined into a pastry dough. Chill until filling is ready.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine strawberries, sugar, cornstarch & vanilla. Set aside.
Assembly
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Open a 4 x 51/2-inch paper envelope & use as a pattern. Reduce the pattern to make a smaller envelope if desired. Cut pastry into 6 envelopes & 12 small heart shaped cut outs.
  2. Fill pastry with strawberry filling, but not on the back flap. Following the folds of the paper envelope, fold the cut out pastry, leaving the upper flap open.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Place a couple of heart shaped cut outs on folded edges of the pastry envelope. Place pastries on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash then sprinkle with sanding sugar.
  5. Bake pastries for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Do not remove from baking sheet until completely cooled.
Recipe Notes
  • I used an AIR-BAKE pan so the tops would not overbake by the time the bottom was browned.

Beef & Potato Wellington

Today, November 24th, our neighbors to the south in the USA, are celebrating their Thanksgiving Day. It encompasses both religious and secular aspects … being both a harvest festival and a festival of family.

Here in Canada, we have already enjoyed our Thanksgiving in October but I thought it would be nice to acknowledge their holiday with posting a special meal.

While a classic beef wellington makes for a elegant dinner, it is easy to re-create a Wellington into a gourmet, hearty meal but on a more reasonable every day budget & time frame. Rather than using an expensive steak cut, this beef wellington recipe uses inexpensive ground beef and puff pastry sheets. The ground meat can be changed to ground pork, chicken, turkey or sausage. The list of additions to the meat is endless ranging from mushrooms to cheese. Some bacon mixed with the beef gives the dish that nice bacon impact that is very tasty.

This classic beef wellington-revisited is not only delicious but decadent. It is so good with a mushroom gravy.

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Beef & Potato Wellington
Instructions
  1. Thaw puff pastry overnight in refrigerator. Cook potatoes & mash with grated cheese, salt & garlic powder. On a piece of parchment paper, roll potato/cheese mixture into a log shape. Set aside, keeping warm.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook bacon until browned but not real crisp; drain on paper towel then chop & set aside.
  3. Sauté onions, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings; set aside. Add beef to saucepan & scramble fry until browned, stirring to break up & moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  4. Add vegetables back to saucepan along with flour, beef broth powder, beaten egg, bacon & seasonings. Combine well.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  6. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out puff pastry thin but not so it will break when filled. On one end (which becomes the center underneath the roll) spoon a layer of meat mixture. Next, lay the mashed potato 'log' on top. Spoon the rest of the meat mixture on top & around the sides, lightly patting it into the potato log.
  7. Taking hold of the pastry (that is already tucked underneath), wrap it over top & tuck the edge in underneath to join up with the other pastry edge. Pinch together the open ends, leaving a bit of a gap to allow steam to escape.
  8. Make egg wash & brush liberally over pastry. Lift the 'wellington', using the parchment paper to a baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from oven, cover lightly with a sheet of foil for about 10 minutes. Slice & serve with a mushroom gravy if you wish.

Turkey Prosciutto Wellington

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

For the last 65 years, Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. It’s one of those holidays that tend to bring families together, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, though, in this highly technological age, it seems as if we have become more connected digitally than emotionally.

The thing about fall is that it gives us a different perspective, it represents a time of change. As nature bursts with its fabulous fall foliage, it gives us a little bit of extra time to make the most of what we have left in this year before the grand finale. The word ‘thanksgiving‘ itself, makes one pause and ask, what am I thankful for this year?

Some time ago, I read an article that was posted on Facebook by Larry McDaniel. When things are verbalized it seems to make them unmistakably clear. I want to re-post this article as I thought it is certainly worth reading and giving some serious thought to.

So today I stopped and filled up my car and I was thankful.

Thankful that I have a car, thankful I have money to buy gas,

Thankful that there are no war planes flying over me,

Thankful that I will be eating soon,

Thankful that all my loved ones are safe and sound,

Thankful that I live in a country where I have freedom to do so many things,

Thankful that the air I breathe is not filled with smoke and gun powder,

Thankful that I will sleep in silence and wake up to a beautiful day.

I think its time that we all be a lot more thankful and definitely more grateful!!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving however you choose to celebrate it.

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Turkey Prosciutto Wellington
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter. Add leeks and mushrooms and sauté on medium high heat until leeks become tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add broth and stuffing mix. Mix well & remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Roll out puff pastry to a rectangle large enough to cover turkey breast. If two sheets are required, brush water or egg wash on one short edge of pastry and press edge of second sheet onto the first sheet. Press gently until seam is sealed.
  4. When stuffing is cool, cover pastry with stuffing, leaving a one-inch edge all the way around. Cover the stuffing layer with prosciutto. Brush turkey with mustard, then lay turkey just to right side of the center.
  5. Bring right side edge up & over the top of the turkey breast. Repeat with the left side. You should trim any excess dough before sealing so it won't be too thick.
  6. Mix beaten egg with a Tbsp of water & brush edges of pastry to seal. Tuck the ends of the dough around the turkey breast & over each other to seal.
  7. Place the turkey, seam side down, on a parchment covered baking sheet. Cut slits in the top of the dough to vent steam. Brush entire pastry with egg wash.
  8. Tent a piece of foil over the top & bake for about 30 minutes. Remove foil & continue baking until the crust is golden for about 20-30 minutes, depending on size of turkey breast. The internal temperature should reach 165 F.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Top with cranberry sauce and serve.

New Year’s Good Luck Pretzel

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

As we begin a new chapter in our lives today, it certainly comes with many hopes and expectations for 2021. I thought featuring a ‘Good Luck Pretzel’ would be very appropriate for today. The question is …. do these pretzels really bring good luck? If you believe in the power of positive thinking then I say…. YES!

Because it has such a history as a staple of life, bread has inspired endless traditions in many cultures that tie it to holidays and seasons. The breaking of a Good Luck New Year’s Pretzel is a long time German tradition, thought to bring good luck and prosperity in the New Year when eaten at midnight or at breakfast on New Year’s Day. This particular pretzel is not a lager pretzel accompanying a mug of beer, but rather a sweet dough or a babka dough that goes with a champagne toast as the clock strikes 12:00, or a with a bit of butter eaten first thing at breakfast New Year’s morning.

There are many theories on the origins of the pretzel’s shape. Some say that the pretzel’s shape was derived from the way German monks prayed with their arms crossed over their chests. Others have said that the shape comes from the winter solstice sign that was a circle with a dot in the middle on the old calendar. Still more say that the shape was created from the way the German children used to run through the streets with pretzels around their necks wishing good luck to relatives as the new year approached. No matter what the real reason is for the pretzel’s shape, a little luck for the upcoming year definitely does not hurt.

Unlike traditional pretzels, no boiling is involved before baking the ‘good luck pretzels’ and the dough is a little sweeter. The tops are often sprinkled with pearl sugar instead of coarse salt.

Brion & I wish everyone happiness, health and of course a little good luck in the new year!

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New Year's Good Luck Pretzel
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Servings
PRETZEL
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine warm water with yeast & sugar, Set aside for a few minutes to proof & become bubbly.
  2. Add the egg, salt & oil; blend in. Combine flour & dry milk powder. Slowly start adding flour/milk mixture, stirring until you get a soft, pliable dough. Cover with a tea towel & set in a warm, draft-free place until dough doubles in size.
  3. Once the dough has risen, divide one quarter from the main ball & set aside. Roll the remaining dough into one long 'snake', with the middle being the widest & tapering slightly at the ends. Shape into a pretzel on the prepared baking sheet. Divide the remaining quarter of the dough into three equal pieces & roll into long, even 'snakes'. Braid together.
  4. Whisk together the egg wash & generously brush the entire pretzel. On the bottom part, attach the braid. Brush the braid with more egg wash & sprinkle with pearl sugar & sprinkle with cinnamon if you wish. Place in a warm draft-free place & allow to rise for about 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Bake pretzel for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.