Heidi Rolls

IMG_6616It’s raining, and I feel like making bread. I have to make 16 loaves for an event, but I’m not feeling like doing that right now. Because it is usually part of any catered meal, it seems that I never just make enough for us. There’s always a reason to make several batches.

With summer just around the corner (even though she’s been taunting us with her wiles for the past couple of months), I’m going to make some of these delightful little buns to put in the freezer to have ready to accompany an al fresco dinner on the porch, or beach.

They’re not huge, just big enough to enjoy with a salad and something grilled. They can be topped with different seeds, and are buttery & slightly sweet. This recipe makes 36 rolls, enough for several dinners for 4 or 6.  If you’re invited to a potluck, these are always appreciated!

I call them Heidi Rolls, after the soft, white rolls that Heidi brought to Peter’s blind grandmother when she returns from Frankfurt, in the Swiss children’s story Heidi. Continue reading

Focaccia Bread

IMG_6923Once upon a time, I had been invited to join my sister & her partner at Bishop’s for dinner.  It was a lovely late spring day, and I was so excited to be going to one of my favourite chef’s restaurants.  I had no idea just how much that visit would help me in understanding the true art of customer service in the food industry.

As we were seated, I looked around at the beautifully appointed room, with heavy linens, and lovely tableware, but nothing ostentatious.   It felt like I was in someone’s much loved home.  There was quiet chat all around us, with people enjoying the food, their friends, and their surroundings.  Home.

It wasn’t long before John Bishop himself came and joined the three of us for a few minutes at our table.  Pulling out the fourth chair he became one of our group. He already new the other two, but I was a new face.  He found out we lived on a producing farm, and was instantly interested in all aspects of how we raised our animals, how we sold our meat, and so on.  Through the conversation he also learned that I was a caterer. I don’t usually bring this up to “real chefs” as I am untrained, and tend to put chefs on pedestals, of which I will probably never rise to.

After no more than 10 minutes, he was off to run his room.

We ordered dinner, and enjoyed a small amuse bouche he brought to us.  Before we were served our main meal, he came to the table and asked if I would like to come into the kitchens, and see the workings, how it was all set up, and the like.

We moved from station to station looking at sauces simmering, meat being expertly trimmed and cooked, all while there was a very professional but happy energy happening.

Looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, he asked me to follow him out the back door to the alley, as he wanted to show me something.

On the landing of the turn of the stairs, no more than 8 feet square, there was a very homey patio table with an umbrella and 4 or 5 chairs. He was so excited to show me these.  One of his best customers had called only to find that the restaurant was fully booked for the night.  Not to let her down, he gave her an al fresco option.  He’d asked his wife if she would be able to bring their set from their own home (with children helping) to set up a very special dining experience in the alley way for this treasured client.  We sat for a few minutes enjoying the late evening sun, while we both spoke of both our standards of customer service and how feeding people had brought us to these points in our lives.

As we walked back to the dining room, he asked if I would come and spend three days or so in his kitchen in the near future. I would have loved to, and it was a door I should never have let close.  Regrets? Maybe, but at the time I knew my place was on the farm with my family.   All these years later, it still remains my favourite room in Vancouver.

This recipe for focaccia bread is based on a recipe from Bishop’s.

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Butterhorns

IMG_2329We buy our hay from the island’s Capernwray Harbour Bible school, and from a Vancouver Island hay producer and seller, Ray.  Ray’s trucks have “Make Hay with Ray” printed cheerfully on them.  Our usual purchase is about 200 bales and it arrives early in the morning and we have about 40 minutes to get it off loaded and into the barn, so that Ray can get his truck back into the ferry line-up for the return trip.  Although we’ve done it before with no outside help (I can still hear the girls grumbling…), Capernwray offers to help most times, by arriving with a team of 8 or 10 healthy, strong young men.  They work so fast and so hard and within about 30 minutes, the truck is unloaded and the hay safe and dry in the barn.

They work so cheerfully, and take the load from our shoulders (literally), it’s the least we can do to offer them a drink and some baking for their kindness.  Late yesterday I made a batch of Butterhorns, getting them iced and topped with nuts late in the evening.

It was so fun to be able to carry out a big baking sheet full of treats to some very appreciative people.  These aren’t difficult to bake, and are so rich and yummy, that they absolutely fit the bill as a snack for hard workers, or a not so hard worker to enjoy with a cup of tea.

The original recipe was passed along to me by a friend, I believe in the late 90’s, and still gets pulled out at least once a year, and usually for our hay boys. Continue reading

Hearth Bread

IMG_1949We visited the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Alberta last summer.  They grow, harvest and mill wheat using traditional methods.  It is very special to be able to use a grain that is harvested right where it’s sold.  This bread is great for trying out specialty flours, germs and brans from different grains.  The lemon juice acts as a flour conditioner and helps to make things work well when improvising.

We’re about to leave on a short trip, and I thought it might be nice for our farmsitter to have some really moist & robust bread to eat with many, many farm fresh eggs, so I baked a batch this afternoon.  My husband and I ate a few slices from one loaf, but I kindly froze the other two loaves so we won’t eat it all before we leave.  Continue reading

Struan Bread

Bread making is a passion for some, while for others it’s a way to have in-home made bread.  Then there are those that like to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour. There are still millions of people who do it simply because they need to feed their families.  I get pleasure from the sight of uniform loaves that have an aesthetic appeal, that smell great and can be enjoyed just as is.  I used to hand knead all my bread, and while doing it would fondly remember the maple bread counter that Dad built Mom when they redid their kitchen in Vancouver about 40 years ago.  It was the perfect height for Mom to knead on.  It was secured on three sides, and made of 2” thick boards.  Although it was a wee bit too high for me at the time, it would be perfect for me now, as I ended up to be the same height as my mom.  We didn’t consider it an essential when planning our kitchen, and now, with the Kitchen Aid, I can cope well without it.  Before the arrival of the Kitchen Aid, I would stand at a broad expanse of the kitchen counter faithfully kneading for 10 minutes, or however long was required, all the time wishing I was just a couple of inches taller.  But the view over our front meadow was always worth it. 

The original version of this recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.  It is a favourite of mine, as it is good on its own, with a smear of butter, toasted, or the start of a great sandwich.

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