what i did on my summer vacation: day 10


of course the culmination of all of the baking and knitting and everything else came at the fenelon fair! i had six entries, and won five ribbons (i guess the brownie category was too competitive - will have to try harder next year).

the kiddo won a prize for biggest maple leaf, auntie mare won two prizes for bread, and even my husband came in third for tea biscuits with raisins ("men only")!

infant sweater and hat set: first prize!

child's vest - knitted: first prize!

child's clothing (other): third prize! (i think in part because i forgot to bring a sample of the fabric)

ladies' cardigan (knitted): first prize!

sadly, my camera batteries died before i got to the baked goods.


what i did on my summer vacation: day 9

another fenelon fair culinary category i was interested in was brownies. only because i love chocolate - we all love chocolate! - and they're easy to do. also, they made a tasty birthday dessert for my husband with a pile of whipped cream!

but again, i thought: what will make mine stand out from the rest? and again, looking at our store of drygoods brought the answer. dried cherries!

i had bought them after seeing a recipe for black forest bundt cake somewhere, which was basically a chocolate cake with dried cherries. why not apply the same logic to brownies? with extra chocolate, and a touch of coffee to bring out the chocolate even more?

these smelled amazing while baking. wow, wow, wow. i wish i could bake brownies every day, just for the smell. also it's a one-bowl recipe, so very little clean up!

black forest brownies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp coffee
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup chocolate chips.

melt the butter (i melted it right in the bowl, over a pot of water i was boiling for something else anyway).

beat in the next four ingredients, one by one, in order, stirring until each is incorporated.

sift together the flour and baking powder; stir in. stir in cherries.

spread the batter in a 9" square pan. sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

bake 35 minutes at 350f, or until they just start coming away from the sides of the pan.


what i did on my summer vacation: day 8

this was the week of knitting for babies. everyone we know has either just had a baby or is just about to have a baby. and knits for babies are wonderfully small! and finished so quickly.

this little fellow unfortunately did not get finished in time for the fair; elijah got finished the day after. but what a joy to knit! so much fun to watch it come to life bit by bit, body part by body part.

there were, of course, victims. i needed to stuff him with something. so i got a crummy old stuffed toy (that already had a giant hole for de-stuffing!) at the salvation army, and disembowelled it.

but the kiddo was upset! whoops. i should never have let him seen the toy about to be sacrificed. but he saw it and hugged it and claimed it. and we had a talk about how he already has five million dollies and this was for another baby and sometimes you have to give things up for others. poor guy. he was good about it in the end.

and now this little creature is ready to send away to the baby he was made for! i will definitely be making more of this one. especially since i used a lot less yarn that i expected! i thought i'd need both balls of queensland collection rustic wool dk but i only used one!


what i did on my summer vacation: day 7

one of the biggest prizes at the fenelon fair in the culinary category is for two-crust apple pie, so obviously i wanted to enter one! i make a pretty mean pastry, but i would need some trick to make my apple pie extra-special.

i did a lot of thinking without coming up with any answers, but the key finally hit me when i opened the box of dry goods we'd brought from the city: pecans! i'd thought we might have pecan coffeecake for breakfast one day, but with loads of cinnamon buns in the place it seemed redundant.

but the rich sweetness of pecans would be a perfect match for apples. praline apple pie? that sounded excellent! and not too much extra work either!

i sliced the apples extra thin, so i could layer them with lots of praline. lots and lots.

i think i had five layers of apples by the time i put the top pastry on.

the pastry was a pretty standard recipe, but with a few extra rolling-and-folding steps to up the flakiness and richness. and i cut some leaf shapes into the top crust, and used them as decoration. along with a little star.

it was a bit of a heartbreaker that we didn't get to tuck in right away - not till after it had spent three days in the exhibits hall! the pastry had gone soft by then. i was glad that i had baked the leftover scraps alongside the pie - just brushed them with milk and sprinkled with sugar as i did the pie, and baked for 10 or 15 minutes - to "test" the flakiness of the pastry. so i can confirm that it was great, even if we didn't get the full pie experience when it was in its full glory.

and boy did i enjoy it for breakfast every day since we got back to the city!

praline apple pie

2 cups cake flour
2 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 lb lard
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
2 tbs soft butter

1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
4 or 5 apples

for the crust:

combine flour, sugar, and salt. rub in lard with fingertips till mixture resembles breadcrumbs. chill.

combine egg, vinegar, and enough water to make 1/3 cup. mix well. chill.

mix in liquid with two forks, adding just enough to make it hold together. shape into a rectangle; chill.

roll out to about 1/2" thick. spread 2/3 with the soft butter. fold in thirds by folding the unbuttered third over to cover half the butter; then fold over again so all the butter is hidden inside. chill.

roll, butter, fold, and chill again.

roll fold and chill twice more without the buttering.

cut in two unequal parts; one slightly larger for the bottom, one slightly smaller for the top. roll the larger piece to under 1/4" thick, and about 2" bigger diameter-wise than your pie plate. line the pie plate with this, and trim off the excess leaving a generous edge. allow to rest in the fridge while you prepare the filling. the pastry for the top crust can stay in the fridge too.

for the filling:

toss pecans with butter to coat; then with sugar. spread in a jelly roll pan and bake for 5 minutes or so at 375f, or till sugar melts. watch them carefully, but the smell will tell you when they're ready.

let cool, then grind to a powder (i put the mixture in a plastic back and went to work with my rolling pin). add cinnamon.

peel and core the apples, and slice very thinly. i quartered mine and then cut each quarter into 5 slices.

arrange the apples in a single layer in the bottom of the chilled pie crust and sprinkly with praline. continue layering apples and praline till you've got a well-stuffed pie.

roll out the pastry for the top to under 1/4" and large enough to cover the pie. cut out a few pretty leaf shapes for vents.

brush the edges of the bottom crust with milk; cover the pie with the top crust and seal around the edges by pinching with your fingers. arrange the leaf cut-outs on top of the pie, and if you have extra you can cut out other decorative shapes as well (or, just cut it into strips and bake it and eat it). brush the whole top with milk, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for about an hour at 350f.


what i did on my summer vacation: day 6

before going out of town, i went out to dinner with erin at auberge du pommier. lovely! it was a hot summer night so i decided on cool gazpacho with cucumber and melon to start. it was lovely! the perfect thing for summer weather.

and since the kiddo had asked "why don't we eat soup anymore" i thought it would be a lovely cottage lunch.

there were a few things we brought from the city - an organic honeydew, limes and vinegar and good olive oil - but the cucumbers, basil and bread were farm-fresh. such a simple recipe! a bit of chopping, a bit of waiting, a bit of blending.

it's an awfully pretty soup to look at, too.

cucumber melon gazpacho, adapted from auberge du pommier

note: you have to start at least the night before you want to serve it!

2 cups cubed day-old white bread
1/2 large honey dew melon, peeled and cubed
2 medium cucumbers, seeded, peeled, and cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
3 large leaves of basil, torn
juice of one lime
white balsamic vinegar
olive oil

place the bread cubes in the bottom of a large bowl.

toss the cubed melon and cucumber with remaining ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste.

dump the cucumber mix on top of the bread, cover, and chill overnight (or over two nights, as it happened for us).

blend in batches, adding more olive oil until the soup thickens to a nice consistency.

taste for seasoning, adjust as necessary, and serve!


what i did on my summer vacation: day 5

this is really an extension of our rain day, but whatever. posts can only be so long.

we had many, many discussions about what flavour of icecream to make. chocolate? watermelon? chocolate butter pecan? peach? raspberry?

finally, peach melba seemed the right choice, combining two of the possibilities on our list: peach custard ice cream with a raspberry ripple. yum.

ice cream is the perfect thing for a rainy day - there's enough cooking involved that you don't want to make it when it's hot, and it really needs to freeze overnight before eating anyway. also, it's a terribly hopeful thing to do: making ice cream shows you believe the sun will return.

also, how cute is this old ice cream churn?

peach melba ice cream

5 peaches (n.b.: i only used 3, because that's what was on hand, but wished i had 5)
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (35%)

1 pint raspberries (more than really necessary, but leftover ripple was wonderful on porridge)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

peel and chop the peaches, and combine with water. cook over medium heat till soft and thick, mashing as necessary. puree till smooth.

combine egg yolks and sugar; beat till thick and pale.

heat milk over low heat till hot to the touch. add little by little, stirring constantly, to the eggs. once all has been stirred in, turn into a double boiler with the salt and cook, stirring, until thickened. add the peach puree and allow to cool.

beat the heavy cream till stiff peaks form. fold in cooled custard. chill well.

combine ripple ingredients in a small saucepan, mashing as you go. cook about 10 or 15 minutes over medium, until thick. strain and cool.

turn custard into icecream churn and work acoording to manufacturer's instructions. ours took forever! it just wouldn't freeze. i ended up sticking the inner can in the freezer, and pulling out to churn occasionally until i saw progress. wah!

once it is finally thick and slow, spoon into container, alternating a layer of icecream with a drizzle of ripple. we realised we had nothing to store it in (whoops!) so re-used a 2-litre tetrapak of lemonade (luckly close to empty when i got the idea!). freeze till well solid, i.e. overnight.



what i did on my summer vacation: day 4

this was meant to be driving-and-movie-and-roast-chicken day, and it would have been perfect for it - pelting rain, no desire to swim. oh well.

instead, it became baking day - and here is where the number of blog posts outstrips the number of actual vacation days, because there was a lot of food produced this one day!

because we'd bought wood-fired-oven sourdough bread at the farm, i decided that instead of bread i'd make cinnamon buns. and because i didn't bring the recipe, i took the quick-rise (from start to finish in under 3 hours) white bread recipe i'd been planning to use from the joy of cooking and adapted it by making the dough richer (egg! sugar! more butter! more milk!). they were a lovely afternoon treat on a rainy afternoon, and i froze a few after shaping and rising, so they also made a tasty breakfast on our last day!

cinnamon buns

3 cups hard flour
1 cup milk
3 tbs butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 package yeast (1 1/2 tsp)
1 egg

1 cup brown sugar
2 tbs butter, melted
2 tbs flour
1 tbs cinnamon

warm the flour in a slow (150f) oven.

combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat over low until the butter is just melted. add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve.

stir yeast into warm flour. add milk mixture and egg. stir in and knead till elastic (3 minutes). rest 10 minutes.

roll dough out into a large rectangle 1/4" thick.

combine all filling ingredients and spread across dough, leaving a clean strip along one short edge. roll up dough starting with the opposite short edge, and pinch closed.

slice into 1" lengths, and stand these upright in a well-buttered dish. allow to double in a warm place.

back in a hot oven (400f) for about 20 minutes or until brown.


what i did on my summer vacation: day 3

a month or so ago a friend of mine casually threw out the word "spatchcock" so i had to find out what it meant, and once i found that out, how to do it. i thought it would be far more difficult than it was, but there are many instructional videos online to help visualise the whole thing.

basically, spatchcocking is like breaking a chicken's rib cage open as though to perform open heart surgery, or to cook it quickly and juicily (not a word, but i don't care). you slice up the back along the spine (you can cut on both sides of the spine and save it for soup, but as a longstanding fan of the parson's nose, i only cut one side and left the back attached) and break it open, flattening as much as possible. cut deep gashes between the body of the bird and each thigh, to aid in flattening and in getting heat deep into the slow-cooking joints. do the same between the body and the wings. you can also hack off the end of the drumsticks, but i didn't bother.

the recipe i found online (jacques pepin's - has a great instructional video too) asked for dijon, but i had been sadly outvoted at the store so we only had "kid mustard" (aka french's yellow stuff). still, it worked out quite well, and knowing that "kid mustard" was all over it made it easier for the kid to get over the fact that it didn't look like "normal chicken."

i also roasted some beets alongside, and steamed the beet greens (is there anything more tasty than steamed beet greens with butter, salt, and pepper? i think not, but my family disagrees, so all the more for me).

the online recipes also promised "roast chicken in 30 minutes." hmm.

spatchcock day had turned out to be our driving day (we were supposed to do our driving errands the following day, but i discovered to my horror that i'd forgotten to bring yeast and we were almost out of bread), and that included going to the farm for more lovely vegetables, into fenelon for lunch and water and antiquing (and bumping into kerry - funny how whenever i bump into someone far from home, it's a friend of erin's) and going to highland cinemas in kinmount for a movie. we saw harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2 - about as scary as the kid could handle, while being the most appropriate offering for someone his age - and great for people who are into that sort of thing, but lacking in any kind of significant character development, burdened by cgi and a "shocking twist" of the sort you could see coming hours away. but i know the fans love it, so i am clearly not the target market.

more importantly, highland cinemas has an amazing store of cinema history - artifacts from old cinemas all across north america, including a huge number of projectors along with posters, movie ads and magazines, and decor items (each of 5 screening rooms has a different vintage theme). that alone was well worth the trip.

anyway, because we were out all day i was hoping have a quick dinner - initially driving day was also hamburger day, but our schedule got mixed up due to the bread thing - and chicken was scheduled to be on two separate nights and i didn't want them to be too close together. so, we tested the "30 minute" theory and found it wanting. that 30 minutes didn't include the hacking, making the mustard crust, or 5 minutes of stove-top browning, or the resting before serving.

i didn't brown on the stove before roasting (due to a shortage of cottage cookery equipment, always a bit of a challenge), so i left in the oven a little longer and it was lovely, tasty, and juicy. from actual start to the table was just over an hour.

mustard-crusted spatchcocked chicken with beets

get the oven really hot (450f)

toss a few beets into boiling water for 30 minutes while you hack that chicken up per directions above (or watch a video)

5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbs olive oil
a good squirt french's yellow "kid" mustard
a good splash of white wine

coat the open inside with the mustard mixture, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.

place open side down in baking dish.

coat skin with remaining mustard mixture and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

stick in the very hot oven for 45 minutes.

take out and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

meanwhile the timer for the beets will have gone while the chicken was still in the oven. dowse them in cold water till they're cold enough to peel, then peel and cut into quarters, toss with chicken fat, and roast alongside the chicken till the chicken is done.

the greens can be cooked after the chicken comes out of the oven, while it's resting. trim the stems, wash thouroughly, and then toss in boiling water for 10 minutes (yes, longer than you expect, but they're sturdy).


what i did on my summer vacation: day 2

the first proper full day at the cottage i realised something tragic - the baby cardigan (cascade from petite purls) that i had planned to enter into the fenelon fair had a problem. the homecraft category wasn't for an infant sweater - it was for a sweater and hat set! whoops. i had some yarn left, so i cast on and hoped for the best. and, it turned out beautifully - prizeworthy in fact!

it's a pretty plain hat, put a wee bit of i-cord and a leaf on top makes it match the sweater, and look super cute besides.


uses less than 1/2 a ball of mission falls 136 (so, 62 m of sport)
tools: one set of 3.5 mm dpns (or size required to get 24 sts/32 rows in 4" of stockinette)

cast on 60 sts using long-tail cast on or other stretchy method.

rib pattern:
row 1: *k1, p1; repeat from * to end of row.
row 2: k all around

repeat rows 1 and 2 twice.

knit stockinette till work measures 3" from beginning.

decrease pattern:
row 1: *k15, pm; repeat from * to end of row, placing 4 markers.
row 2: *ssk, k to 2 before marker, k2 tog; repeat from * to end of row
row 3: k all around
repeat rows 2 and 3 until there are 8 sts remaining ending with a row 2

leaf pattern:
row 1: k2 tog all around
row 2: k1, k2 tog, k1, place all sts on single needle, slide to end of needle as for i-cord
row 3: k across, slide to end of needle
row 4: as row 3
row 5: k1, yo, k1, yo, k1
row 6: p across (5 sts)
row 7: k2, yo, k1, yo, k2
row 8: p across (7 sts)
row 9: k3, yo, k1, yo, k3
row 10: p across (9 sts)
row 11: ssk, k5, k2 tog
row 12: p across (7 sts)
row 13: ssk, k3, k2 tog
row 14: p across (5 sts)
row 15: ssk, k1, k2 tog
row 14: p across (3 sts)
row 15: s2, s1, k3 tog (central double decrease)
break yarn, pull through remaining stitch, weave in ends.



what i did on my summer vacation: day 1

cottage country in august is all about peaches! we made two stops on our way up - one was to romni goodwood to get some lovely yarn, and one was at a mennonite farm to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, free-range chicken and eggs, home-made pork sausages, and bread cooked in a wood-fired oven.

the first thing i baked from the old joy of cooking was a version of their "french apple cake," but made with peaches of course! forgot to take a picture, sadly. we ate it up quickly. but i do have a picture of the yummy yarn i bought at romni - cascade 220 superwash and timiquipa alpaca (along with some old knitpicks i'm working on, just because those mixed greens are so lovely together):

french peach cake (adapted from the joy of cooking)

3 - 5 peaches
2/3 cup sugar
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbs cake flour
3 tbs butter

3 tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

butter an 8" or 9" cake pan and line with peeled and sliced peaches.

sprkinkle with sugar and nutmeg, lemon zest and juice, and flour; dot with butter.

beat together butter, milk, and egg yolks. sift remaining ingredients together and beat in (do not over beat!).

bake at 425f for 30 minutes or until nicely browned. allow to cool for no more than 5 minutes before turning out onto a platter.


i'm back!

just came back from nine days at the cottage, where i had a lovely time relaxing and making nice things. there will be plenty of catch-up posts over the next couple of weeks, but for now i just need to rest, i think i'm almost un-wound-enough to do that...