Along the Grapevine


14 Comments

Black Walnut Oil and Maple Walnut Scones

DSC03477Some time ago I wrote about using black walnuts, and at that time I promised some recipes, but nothing happened. I’m not sure what I did with that first batch, but as I received another gift of fresh local nuts (thank you David) I have been giving a lot of thought to how to use them. Because they are either expensive to buy or labour intensive to harvest, I was thinking of recipes where a little would go a long way. Infusions seemed a good idea because if you have trouble separating the nut from the shell and you accidentally a few bits of shell get past you, you won’t have to worry about cracking your teeth. You can read about characteristics, identification, harvesting and shelling in my first black walnut post.

This time I found shelling them much easier. I presume practice is the key, but a few gentle raps with a heavy mallet eventually weakens them to the point where they really just do fall open and the nut is relatively easy to extract. After my smashing success I have been able to use them in baking with impunity. The smaller bits I have set aside for infusions.IMG_0341

Oil infusions are a great way to extend and preserve so many flavours. I have done this with several wild ingredients, most recently balsam fir, and it proves to be a most economical way to stock your pantry with gourmet ingredients.

This oil can also be made with English walnuts, but I would use about twice as much since the milder flavour is less aromatic. It is best to use a light flavoured oil, nothing as strong as olive oil but rather sunflower, rapeseed or avocado. I used the latter.

Begin by lightly toasting 1/3 cup walnuts, then grind them. Heat 1 1/2 cups oil until it’s just hot and then turn it off. Do not bring it to a boil. Add the toasted walnuts and leave for one day. Strain off the oil through a fine filter and store in the fridge. It can be used full strength for dressings, roasting vegetables and any other way you would use a nut oil.DSC03480.JPG

Of course, after straining the oil I was left with a small amount of ground nuts in oil which I was loathe to just toss. I considered many ideas, e.g. pesto, creamed walnut soup, homemade pasta or just baking. I finally settled on scones flavoured also with maple since we are in full syrup season.

Black Walnut Maple Scones

Ingredients

3.5 cups flour

1/tsp salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 Tbsp chopped black walnuts or twice the amount if using English walnuts

ground nuts in oil mixture (about 2-3 Tbsp) plus enough butter to measure 2/3 cup

1 cup buttermilk, kefir or yogurt

2 tsp. cream of tartar

2 Tbsp maple syrup

Method

Mix the first four ingredients together and work in the oil nut mixture until you get a crumbly texture. In a separate bowl, combine the milk or yogurt with the cream of tartar and maple syrup. Add to the flour mixture immediately and mix until well combined. Form it into a ball and roll it out to about a 9 inch (diameter) circle. Score the surface to mark serving sized pieces. Bake at 425 F for about 18 minutes.

When coolish, you can add a glaze of maple syrup mixed with enough icing sugar to make it the right consistency.

DSC03482.JPG

DSC03483

This is perhaps my favourite scone to date. The flavour of the walnuts came through well but was not too strong, and mixing the products of two of my favourite trees a total success.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #216; Petra at Food Eat Love; Zeba at Food for the Soul


20 Comments

Maple Syrup Tarts

This is a great seasonal recipe for maple syrup fans. Not as cloyingly sweet as the ubiquitous butter tart, they are made with pure maple syrup and walnuts, although other nuts, fruit or nothing at all can be added. Less than one cup of syrup makes two dozen small tarts.

Maple syrup season is just winding down now. We got an early start this year, and the quality of the syrup seems better than ever – either that or we are just becoming pros. I still have some to use up from last year so decided it was high time to invent some recipes.

Most recipes for maple tarts use a combination of white and/or brown sugar along with the syrup, but I wanted mine to be pure maple. Even so, I didn’t use that much, a mere 200 ml,  and the flavour of maple is so much better on its own. Some recipes also called for flour or cream, neither of which I wanted. So the recipe I came up with is as simple as it gets – just syrup mixed with eggs, a splash of cider vinegar to cut the sweetness, and walnuts. A really good pastry is a must, but whatever crust pastry you like would work well. I have been following a recipe from Married with Cauldron, much the same as mine but I find it is actually easier and better with the measurements given in weight rather than volume. I also replaced a bit of the water with lemon juice. dsc00438.jpg

Maple Syrup Tarts


For the pastry

175 grams butter or lard

225 grams flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp of lemon combined with enough cold water to make 120 ml.

Cut the shortening in the flour and salt until you have a crumbly mixture. Gradually add the cold liquid, stir and pull together into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds, set them into muffin tins and chill in the refrigerator while you make the maple filling.

For the Filling

200 ml syrup

2 eggs

1 tsp cider vinegar

3/4 cup walnuts

Beat the eggs well. Add the syrup and vinegar and beat again. Place walnuts (chopped or whole) into the chilled tarts, then fill with the syrup mixture. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes.

DSC03350This recipe makes 2 dozen small tarts (2 in.) or 18 medium (3 in.).

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #166


19 Comments

Wild Black Raspberry Frozen Yogurt

This frozen yogurt calls for only three ingredients, involves no cooking and is easy enough for a child to make. Other berries or mixtures of berries could be substituted according to what is available in your area, but the sharp flavour of at least some wild berries is highly recommended.DSC03141.JPG

Despite our worst drought in twenty years, there are some wild pickings out there doing better than ever, including wild raspberries. The variety we have growing all over are black raspberries. As I laboured in the hot sun picking the few ripe ones, I could only think of using them in something refreshing, no cooking required, and definitely not heavy. Normally they are used for jams, crumbles, pies and strudels, but I couldn’t imagine any of those in this heat. So a frozen dessert was the obvious choice.

In case you are not familiar with them, black raspberries are distinguishable from blackberries by the very light colour of the back of the leaf – just like regular raspberries. The also have that little conical hollow when picked characteristic of any raspberry. DSC03144.JPG

I used 1 cup of black raspberries, 1 cup strained yogurt (measured after straining) and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Another sweetener could be used, and a little more depending on how sweet you want it. Blend thoroughly in a food processor and freeze. I did not use my ice cream maker as I wanted to be sure this would work without it as I know a lot of people don’t have one. It took about three hours in the freezer.DSC03145.JPG

Because I did not strain the mixture at any point, the small seeds are noticeable, but I rather like them and figure they are an essential part of the fruit. If you really object to even little seeds, I would use instead blueberries or some other relatively seedless berry.

And so I rewarded myself after an arduous morning in the hot sun with the coolest, prettiest and lightest cone I have ever made. I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday to share with all the guests, including co-hosts Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen and Jess at Cooking is my Sport.DSC03150


34 Comments

Maple Baked Beans

Somewhat sweeter and spicier than most baked bean recipes, this is a dish that is bound to please all those who love maple syrup. The mixture of spices gives enough flavour that no meat is needed, although for some a little chopped bacon could be added into the mix.

This has been a record year for maple syrup – a record that is for us in our third year of tree tapping. At this point the sap is still running, but with the sudden change in weather, I expect all will be dried up by tomorrow. Our small ‘operation’ of two trees gave us a full 8 litres of syrup, and would have been more had we not given up some time ago. This is more than required for our small household, so to celebrate I decided to splurge and add some to baked beans.

The difficulty was to choose the appropriate spices and quantities to do justice to this local specialty. Garlic, chili, sumac, mustard and bay leaves seemed like obvious choices, and I have enough experience with all of these that I wasn’t too worried about how to use them. But then I came across my asafoetida, and wondered if it would fit. I have used it many times before when following other people’s recipes without really understanding what it was. Time to do a little research. And this is what I learned.

  1. It is the dried gum of the tap root of severals species of ferula, a perennial herb native to Afghanistan and Iran and cultivated in India. That explains why I had some in my pantry.
  2. As its name suggests, it is considered to have a ‘fetid’ smell. I actually like the smell, something like mild onion and garlic, but this smell is rendered less offensive to sensitive types once cooked. Interesting!
  3. It is used  mostly in the preparation of condiments, pickles and dals and has the effect of harmonising sweet, salty and spicy flavours. It is also used specifically in vegetarian dishes to add flavour and aroma. Perfect for a vegetarian bean dish.
  4. It also has a host of health benefits, not least of which being good for digestion and with the opposite effect of beans. This should have been my first choice of spices.

In short, what I learned is that this is a very useful spice, one I should and will use more often. If you are interested, here is the link to the wikipedia site where I got all this information.

Maple Baked Beans

Ingredients

4 cups cooked beans (I used navy)

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup tomato concentrate (preferably home-made)

1/2 cup maple syrup

a few bay leaves

2 Tbsp sumac powder

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp asafoetida

1 tsp salt

Method

Mix everything in a slow cooker. Set on high and cook for five hours, stirring occasionally if at all possible. It it becomes too dry, add a splash of boiling water.

When cooked, remove the bay leaves and serve.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, it can be done on the stove top, in which case it won’t take much more than an hour. However, with my bean baking experience, I prefer to give it about two to three hours at medium low, and just add water and stir if it gets too dry.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #115, Hostess at Heart and Too Zesty.


32 Comments

Spicy Maple Pinwheels

DSC02939The sap is running from our maple trees, the buckets are hung, and we are keeping one eye on the pot (and the other up the chimney) when boiling the sap. I am also busy using up last year’s stock which gives me lots of opportunity to experiment with new recipes, and I am trying to come up with new flavour combinations. Maple syrup is such an icon in Canadian cooking we sometimes prefer to stick with the tried and true, but I felt adventurous with this recipe. Since I discovered that hot spices are the best addition to chocolate, why not do the same with maple syrup? Sweet and spicy are a good bet for me, and to experiment I used two flavours, ginger for half the recipe and chili peppers for the other half. If you choose to go with one, then double the quantity of that spice in the filling.DSC02943

These “cookies” are made with a yeast dough – neither very sweet nor rich. I also deliberately made them not too pillowy or sticky. I used spelt flour which has a delicious nutty taste, although regular wheat flour would work too, and I kept them vegan by using coconut oil just because. I expect butter would be just as good.DSC02945

Spicy Maple Pinwheels


Ingredients for the dough

2 tsp instant yeast (or the equivalent of fresh yeast if you have it)

1 1/2 cup warm water

2 Tbsp maple syrup

4 1/2 cups flour (approximately)

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened

1 tsp salt

Ingredients for the filling

1 cup coconut oil

1 cup maple syrup

1 tsp chili pepper flakes

3 tbsp chopped candied ginger

1/2 cup granulated maple sugar (or other granulated sugar)

Method

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the water. Add to it the 2 Tbsp of maple syrup, 1 cup of warm water and 1 cup of spelt flour. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place until it becomes spongy, about 2 hours.

Mix in the softened coconut oil, salt and the flour, a little at a time. When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured board and kneed for about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and allow to rise for a second time until it has doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, make the filling by beating the coconut oil and maple syrup with a beater. Add the spices, chili to half the mixture and chopped ginger to the other half.

When the dough has risen, divide it in two and roll each piece into a rectangle of about 20 x 12 inches. The dough should be quite thin. Spread the filling evenly over the dough and sprinkle the granulated sugar on top.  Roll up from the long (20 in.) side. Slice the roll into 1 inch pieces and place them on a parchment lined tray to rise covered with a tea towel – about 1/2 hour.

Before baking, press each cookie down to flatten somewhat. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes. Makes 24 cookies.

DSC02941

DSC02942

The pepper ones are pretty hot, but I was correct in supposing that spice and maple syrup is a winning combination for those who like a little piquant to our snacks. The ginger is also very good, and might be better for those who are not great fans of chili. DSC02947

Linked to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #110, Jhuls’ The Not so Creative Cook and Apsara’s Eating Well Diary.

 

 

 


31 Comments

Maple Walnut Nougat

 

DSC02935Maple syrup season is fast approaching. In fact we have already had a few days of above zero weather where we might have tapped some trees, but we hope to hold off until March. Meanwhile, we still have some of last year’s batch which means I can offer a new, nowhere else to be found recipe for the upcoming season.

I actually started this for Christmas when I wanted to use some of our own maple syrup for our festive sweets, but fudge was out of the question – too sweet and too much work. So I attempted a delicious nougat inspired by the Spanish turron I am so fond of. I used walnuts rather than almonds since they go better with maple syrup, and other than those two ingredients, just a little sugar and egg white is all you need. I added a smidge of cream of tartar just to help stabilize the eggs. And unlike fudge, you can do all the beating with an electric mixer.

It has taken this long because my first two attempts were a disaster. The first was too soft, and ended up being scooped into little balls and baked like macaroons. Very tasty but not photo worthy. I realized I needed less egg white and a hotter syrup, but the second batch got scorched, and there was no remedy for that. The third time was a success. It is not difficult to make at all, but definitely the heat of the syrup and measurements do matter.

Maple Walnut Nougat

Ingredients

3 cups chopped walnuts, roasted

1 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg white

a pinch of cream of tartar

Method

Heat the maple syrup and sugar in a saucepan until it reaches 265 degrees F or 133 C. Do this on a low heat, and keep any eye on it so it doesn’t boil over or scorch. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, it is ready when it reaches the hard ball stage, which is when a drop in cold water forms a ball but it is firm and will hold its shape on its own.

While the syrup is heating, beat the egg white and cream of tarter until they form peaks and set aside. Once the syrup reaches the right temperature, pour it slowly into the egg white mixture continuing to beat and blend the two mixtures well. Fold in the chopped walnuts and pour into a pan or moulds. I used a pan measuring 4×14 inches. Let cool and refrigerate for at least three hours before cutting.

DSC02929

DSC02932

I cut some of mine a little prematurely – after about 1 hour, but if you don’t have to get pictures while the sun is shining, I recommend waiting the prescribed time and there won’t be any soft spots. It’s best to cut them just after they have set, as they can become crumbly after a day or so.

They are soft and dry – not at all hard on your teeth. The maple flavour holds up well but without being too sweet.

Linked to Angie at Fiesta Friday, Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen and Zeba at Food for the Soul.

 

 


45 Comments

Maple and Date Upside Down Cornbread Muffins

DSC01948 It seems only fitting that I post one more maple syrup recipe as maple syrup is what is happening at our place. There is still snow in the ground and while a few green edibles are just barely visible, there is nothing but sap for us to harvest. DSC01946 Besides enjoying our own syrup, I had a chance to try some butternut syrup – a much appreciated gift from a sister. Made the same way as maple syrup, it takes four times as much sap, but if you have butternut trees I would say it is well worth the effort, especially since it is not available at the supermarkets. It has a buttery, fudge-like flavour and on pancakes or waffles is second only to maple syrup.

For Angie’s 63rd Fiesta Friday, which I am pleased to be co-hosting this week with Julianna at Foodie on Board, I made gluten-free cornmeal muffins with a buttery, maple date sauce. I hope you will drop in and see what Angie’s other guests have prepared. If you have a recipe you’d like to share, just follow the guidelines – so easy!

Since most cornbreads are served with butter, I made these with a generous amount of butter in them. That and the sticky sweetness from the dates and the syrup means they are good just on their own.

Maple and Date Upside Down Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients 2 cups cornmeal 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp salt 3 eggs, beaten 2 cups milk 3 Tbsp melted butter 1/2 cup butter plus 3 Tbsp 1/2 cup maple syrup plus 3 Tbsp 9 medjool dates

Method Mix the cornmeal, baking powder and salt in one bowl and in another the eggs, milk and melted butter. Combine the two mixtures well and allow to stand for about 10 minutes. Divide the butter into 18 pieces, one for each muffin, and place in muffin tins. Do the same with the syrup. Pit the dates and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them on top of the butter maple mixtures with the cut part facing up. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Bake at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes, or when they spring back when pressed. Remove from the oven, loosen with a knife and invert then onto a rack to cool.

DSC01949 These could be made just as well in a cake or loaf tin. If you don’t have maple syrup, another sweet syrup or honey can be used.DSC01954


17 Comments

Foam-enting Interest in Maple Syrup

DSC01920

Here in Ontario maple syrup season is in full swing, and for the second year we are beginning to boil down the sap from our sugar maples and a few Norway maples too. The latter don’t provide as much sap, and it will not be as sweet, but once we’ve set up the apparatus, may as well make use of what is available to us.

We managed to find some second-hand metal buckets which I like much better than the blue plastic ones we already had from last year.

DSC01936

We also have a new sugar shack, which is actually the now-empty wood shed.DSC01938

We are following the same process as last year which you can read about here.

My blog has been dormant for a while. We were off in Spain for a couple of weeks, and my arm still keeps me from doing much in the kitchen, so as I cautiously resume my adventures in backyard foraging, I wanted to bring something pretty special to Angie’s Fiesta Friday. This recipe is special because it uses the most iconic of all Ontario’s products, but in a way which is thoroughly innovative, fun, and Delicious.

I got the idea from an esteemed fellow blogger, Poppy, at Bunny Kitchen who shared an extraordinary idea for making a fluffy chocolate mousse out of the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas. It seemed a bit risky to me, but her gorgeous pictures convinced me I should give it a try. Since she’d already proven the technique with her own chocolate version, I had to try it with maple syrup, and lots of it.

I used dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked them in the usual way. Once cooked, I chilled them, then poured off the liquid. From about one and a half cups of peas, I had one cup of liquid which, as it turned out, was plenty.

Using a hand mixer I beat the liquid for about ten minutes. I then added 1/2 tsp guar gum, 100 ml of sugar (I used maple), and gradually added 250 ml maple syrup, beating all the while. This is what it looked like – about two litres in all.

DSC01883

As promised, this made a super light and delectable mousse. With all the maple, no hint of bean flavour came through, and the maple flavour was strong but the sweetness somewhat tempered. Perfect for so many things!

On its own, it was a delicious dessert, but I also wanted to see how else I could use it. Here are 3 ways I served it.

1. As a garnish for a fruit pie.

DSC01893

2. As icing for cupcakes.

DSC01917

3. As a dessert layered with banana walnut cake and topped with some violet syrup I had from last spring.

DSC01926

I also tried freezing it to make ice cream, adding a little more syrup to make a swirl, but it didn’t really freeze – just got colder.

Some tips to consider when making this dessert.

  • A little goes a long way. Try to calculate how much you’ll actually need. The topping on the cakes has kept well beyond a day, but what was left in the bowl began to separate and lost some of its frothiness. Beating it again solves the separation problem, but it is no longer as airy.
  • The mixture is too thin to make a heavy frosting capable of holding its shape, so allow for some runnyness.
  • Any sweetener would work with this. Just add gradually and taste as you do so.

There are plenty more possibilities I can think of for using this technique and I expect to have some fun with it. I hope you do too.


23 Comments

Baby Beaver Tails

DSC01813

Before you leave, please don’t think I have been doing unspeakable things to baby beavers. Most residents of this region would know what I am referring to, but for the rest of you let me explain. Beaver tails are a fried yeast dough, popular especially at this time of year. They were first introduced in the Ontario town of Killaloe in 1978, and have since become a de rigueur winter treat, especially when out skating, especially on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.

I was inspired to make some for two reasons. First, I am contemplating going skating on the Canal, the world’s largest outdoor, natural skating rink in a couple of days, and thinking I would have to have a beaver tail. After all, in this cold weather a 7.8 km skate calls for something, and that is what you get on the canal. That and hot chocolate.

The second reason is that tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday. It is traditional to eat pancakes on that day, but I figured a lot of other people would be making pancakes and I had nothing new to offer, so with my skate in mind I thought of beaver tails. I have made baby ones because the enormous ones they serve on the canal are just too much. Also, more small individual ones means more types of toppings. And the toppings are where it gets interesting. As soon as they come out of the pan, they are often sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, but maple sugar, jams or preserves can also be used to sweeten them. Alternatively, savoury toppings like garlic butter or strong grated cheese are popular. I just sampled a couple with my own backyard fare – a sweet sumac butter on one and maple butter on the other.

Baby Beaver Tails


Ingredients

1/4 cup warm water

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp yeast

1/2 cup warm milk

1 egg

2 Tbsp melted butter

2 3/4 cups flour plus flour for rolling

1/2 tsp salt

oil or lard for frying

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the water and add yeast. Let stand a few minutes until it becomes foamy. Mix the yeast with warm milk, egg and melted butter. In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Add the wet ingredients and combine well. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a clean bowl, brush with a little oil or melted butter, cover with a cloth and allow to rise to double the size, about two hours.

Punch down and form into balls about the size of a small egg. Roll each one into an oblong shape about 1/4 inch thick. Fry in hot oil or lard about two minutes on each side or until they are nicely coloured. You can deep fry them, but I used about 1/12 inches of oil in a small pan to reduce the amount of oil, and that worked fine.

Drain and sprinkle or spread liberally with whichever topping you choose. Serve warm.

DSC01811DSC01812

Be sure to roll them fairly thin as they do puff up a lot when fried. The result is a fluffy light pastry with a crisp exterior, something like a cross between a do-nut and a pancake. They can be frozen and reheated, or you could freeze the dough after its first rising in its punched down state and fry them the next day – especially if you plan to have them for breakfast.

DSC01809DSC01810

Have you had a beaver tail? If so, what flavour do you prefer with it?


51 Comments

Maple Walnut Baklava

Maple season will soon be upon us so now is the time to put new recipes out there for all the maple syrup enthusiasts. After all, there is much more that can be done with this delicious sweetener than pour it on waffles and pancakes.

I am not the first to come up with the idea of making baklava with maple syrup as a sweetener, but all the recipes I found on line also added refined white sugar. It is beyond me why one would want to mix maple and sugar since avoiding the latter is one good reason to use the former. To cut the sweetness of the syrup, I used some plain almond milk, but any milk would work fine. This and a conservative amount of syrup resulted in delicious but not overly sweet dessert. If you want it sweeter, you can add more syrup. Walnuts seemed like the logical choice for the filling since they pair so well with maple, but hazelnuts, pistachios or a mixture of any of these would also work well.

DSC01767

Maple Walnut Baklava


Ingredients

filo pastry

1/4 cup butter

2 1/2 cup almonds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground sumac (optional)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup almond milk

Method

Chop the nuts and mix well with the spices.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Butter the base of a 9″ square pan. Place two sheets of filo pastry in the pan and brush with some melted butter. Repeat this three more times for a total of eight sheets of filo. Sprinkle two cups of the nuts over the pastry, then cover with two more sheets of filo. Brush with butter and repeat with two more sheets. Brush the top with more butter and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Cut with a sharp knife into squares or diamond shapes.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden.

Mix and heat the syrup and milk and pour over the pan. Allow to cool.

DSC01776

I’m off to Fiesta Friday to share these treats with everyone. A big thank you to our host Angie and co-hosts Suzanne and Sue for keeping the party going.