24 Jun

Grain of Truth Book Review

I was recently sent a copy of Grain of Truth: The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stephen Yafa by the publisher. It’s probably because I love bread, I think gluten is fascinating, I make my own sourdough, and I am skeptical about people touting gluten as being worse for you than poison (or whatever it is those Grain Brain and Wheat Belly folks are claiming).

Grain of Truth

The subtitle is a bit misleading because the book definitely trends to the “for” side of eating wheat and gluten (not that I’m against that), champions the artisan bread movement, and refutes claims made by Grain Brain and Wheat Belly.

Yafa argues a good case, but the points he makes are probably just as speculative as those books that he is refuting. So if you’re not celiac and don’t have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) then this book will make you feel better about passing on gluten-free pasta in favour of the stuff that actually tastes good.

The author clearly did extensive research visiting and talking with producers at every level from farm to milling to processing, including enormous industrial bakers and small scale artisan bakers and stone millers.

He explains that industrial bread baking has a fermentation time of about 4 hours from flour to package which, if you’ve ever made bread from scratch, you’ll know is extremely short. Nature would have dough ferment in 2 or more days and it is this natural fermentation process, better known as sourdough, that Yafa speculates is the key to better digestion of wheat.

Home bakers and artisan bread makers tend to use naturally fermented dough (sourdough) and a longer slower fermentation time compared to industrial bread bakers. Yafa argues that this long process encourages lactic fermentation, which cuts through the large gluten molecules that are difficult to digest and breaks them down into smaller parts that are more digestible. Additionally, the probiotics that are produced as a result of long fermentation are readily absorbed by and beneficial for the body.

All in all, the book was a very interesting read. I was fascinated (in a really geeky way) about the details he discussed about the growth patterns of different type of wheat and the history of the production of flour. And of course I love that he’s championing home baking, especially with sourdough.

I think the book is lacking a little on the science side but overall it was an easy and interesting read, especially for people who like their cake and want to eat it too.

Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa on Amazon

11 Feb

The French Baker Cookbook Review

The French Baker Cookbook (2)

The French Baker: Authentic Recipes for Traditional Breads, Desserts, and Dinners by Sebastien Boudet

I was really excited to review this book because I the only thing I love more than baking cookies is baking bread. And the only things I love more than baking bread is eating it.

What I Didn’t Like About the Book

There was a lot of detail that was left out of the recipes. It wasn’t challenging for me to put the pieces together because I have years of experience with baking a variety of breads, but someone new to baking would surely be confused. Even I had questions regarding re-feeding sourdough, shaping loaves, and kneading.

Bottom Line: when it comes to baking, this may not be the best book for beginners.

The French Baker -Baguette Recipe (2)

What I Liked About the Book

The book itself is gorgeous. The pillowy hardcover, the matte pages, the beautiful photos of rustic French food, markets, garden, and towns. The writing is romantic, describing the baking process passionately and painting an idealistic picture of French food culture. The author tells a story rather than just providing recipes; I like that.

I was expecting a tome on how to perfect sourdough, but the book contains more than that, more than just baked goods even. It is broken up into sections including sourdough bread, sweet bread, cookies, desserts, and hearty baker’s meals.

The French Baker Cookbook (1)

The recipes that I made came out awesome. I was skeptical about the baguette recipe while I was putting the starter together, but it came through and ended up being one of the best baguettes I’ve made.

The French Baker -Baguette Recipe (3)

La Baguette

The baguette is France’s most popular and most purchased bread- and it’s the worst f their selection of fine breads! The baguette you normally find in stores and bakeries is a fluffy white bread without crust or colour. But with the help of the poolish method you can create beautiful and tasty baguettes. The Polish people brought this leavening method to France at the end of the 1800s and it is based around letting three-fifths of the bread go through prolonged autolysis of 12 hours. The small amount of yeast creates a snowball effect which begins the whole leavening process and produces airy bread with simple but clear sourdough flavour. The method is perfect for making baguettes.

Makes 5 Baguettes

8 cups (1kg) wheat flour + 5 cups (600g) wheat flour
1g fresh yeast
4 cups (1kg) water
45g coarse sea salt

Day 1

Prepare the poolish by whisking the 8 cups of wheat flour, yeast, and water in a large bowl until you have the consistency of pancake batter.

Cover the bowl with a baking towel and let leaven at room temperature for 12-16 hours.

Day 2

After 12-16 hours of leavening the dough should be doubled in size and will smell really nice.

Pour the 5 cups of wheat flour onto a baking table. Create a dent in the middle and pour the poolish from the previous day into the dent along with the sea salt. Mix and knead the dough (there is no need for autolysis since 3/5 of the dough has already rested for 12 hours with the water) until it releases from the table. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest under a baking towel for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into five equal parts and shape each one into a small ball. Let rest for a couple of minutes under a baking towel.

Carefully shape the balls into baguettes. If you notice that the dough begins to tear, you can let it rest a little bit longer so it can recover.

Sprinkle flour liberally on the baking towel and place the first baguette on it. Create a fold in the towel as a barrier and place the next baguette alongside the fold.Alternate between fold and baguette until the towel is covered, that way the baguettes won’t touch each other but will support each other.

Sprinkle flour on top of the baguettes and cover them with another baking towel. Let the baguettes leaven at room temperature for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone if you have one.

If you have a baking stone, roll the baguettes from the baking towel onto a floured pizza peel (or to the back of a baking sheet that has been floured). Otherwise, you can place the baguettes carefully onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Score the flour dusted baguettes lengthwise (carefully and not too quickly as they can lose their structure). Note: never score baguettes straight across.

Bake the baguettes in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Let the baguettes cool down on a rack for at least 45 minutes.

The French Baker -Baguette Recipe (1)

23 Sep

Afternoon Tea with the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

With the start of football season I’m free on Sundays for the next 5 months. I still haven’t gotten into football enough to truly enjoy wasting my Sundays watching it so I’m finding other ways to keep myself busy.

Last weekend I had my girlfriends over for afternoon tea. I made good use of my new Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook for snacks to nibble on with our orange pekoe.

Downton Abbey Tea

Afternoon tea always starts with sandwiches. I made the classic cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese, mayo, and dill. I left the crusts on though to show off these tiny loaves of buttermilk bread I made specifically for dainty miniature sandwiches.

Downton Abbey Tea - Cucumber SandwichesClassic Cucumber Sandwiches on slices of mini loaves of buttermilk bread.

Scones are also a must at afternoon tea. I considered making clotted cream but settled for lemon curd instead. The scones I made from the Downton Abbey cookbook had more of a chewy muffin consistency than a dense, flaky scone consistency. They were good, but I like these scones better.

Downton Abbey Tea - Lemon CurdDownton Abbey Tea - Scones

Lemon Curd and Scones

The third course of afternoon tea is the sweets like cakes and cookies. I opted for cookies (because, if you don’t know by now, I really love cookies). I made Ginger Biscuits and Custard Creams. The Ginger Biscuits are really good dunking cookies. The Custard Creams are made with custard powder which gives them a lightness and they’re filled with buttercream which gives them a richness. I had to make 2 batches of Custard Creams because Matt and I ate the entire first batch– they were that good.

Downton Abbey Tea - BiscuitsGinger Biscuits (left) and Custard Creams (right)

Classic Custard Creams

Custard Creams are the most popular biscuit in Britain. Made with custard powder the cookie has a lightness to it, but the buttercream filling gives it a richness.


1 c butter, softened
1 t almond extract
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c custard powder


1/2 c butter, softened
2 t vanilla extract
1 T milk
2-1/2 cups icing sugar


Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Cream together butter, almond extract, and sugar until light and fluffy.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour and custard powder, then slowly mix into butter-sugar mixture o form a malleable dough. Roll dough into small balls and place on prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. With a fork, press down lightly on dough to make an impression.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until set, but do not let brown. Let cool for 7-10 minutes on cookie sheet, then move to rack to cool completely while you make cream filling.

For cream filling:
Cream butter until smooth. Add vanilla and milk and beat to combine. Slowly mix in powdered sugar, being careful to avoid lumps. Beat until smooth.

Form sandwiches with cookies, putting cream in the middle. Let cookies set for 2 hours before serving.

These biscuits freeze really well.

09 May

Finnish Oat and Rye Rieska

I love me some soda bread.

Finnish Rieska

Finnish Rieska is a flat quickbread (ie. leavened chemically with baking soda and powder instead of yeast) made in Finland that can be similar to soda bread, depending on how you make it.

Though Rieska is a traditional Finnish flatbread, its preparation varies across the country. Often it’s made with barley flour, sometimes it’s oat or rye, and even potato is popular. The thickness of rieska can vary too from cracker-thin to thick-and-bready.

I’ve never been all that interested in making it until I saw a version containing oats on the King Arthur Flour website. I love oats! Their flavour imparts a nutty quality that I absolutely adore in pretty much anything.

Finnish Rieska

Finnish Oat and Rye Rieska

From King Arthur Flour

This was my first rieska attempt and it turned out awesome! Instead of spreading my rieska batter thinly out over an entire baking sheet, I piled it up in a 9″ round cake pan to garner the “thick-and-bready” texture that reminded me of a muffin. This bread tastes fantastic with a robust cheese and if I sandwiched a fried egg in there too it made the perfect breakfast.


35g (1/2 c) rolled oats
113g (1 c) rye flour
128g (1 c.) all-purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
25g (2 T) sugar
57g (1/4 c) butter
1 1/2 c buttermilk (or 1 1/2 c milk with 1 1/2 T vinegar)


Preheat the oven to 500°F (high temperature is good for a wet dough like this).

Grease a baking pan or baking sheet. The original recipe calls for a 9×13″ baking pan which would make a thinner bread than the 9″ round pan that I used. I’ve seen some recipes where the dough is spread very thinly on a whole baking sheet too, so the choice is yours. Just remember that the thinner the dough the quicker it will bake.

In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.

Crumble the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until it is thoroughly distributed. Stir in the milk or buttermilk to get a very sticky batter.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and, using wet hands, pat it out so it fills the pan.

Bake the bread for 15 to 17 minutes (for a 9×13″ bread), until the top is light golden brown and springs back when gently touched.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack before slicing.

01 Apr


Who doesn’t love Bagels, amiright?

Bagels! Heck, yeah!

I don’t love traditional bagels though. I’m too young to have lived through the time when bagels were at their prime so I don’t experience nostalgia from a handmade, very chewy yet slightly crispy bagel.

Some traditionalists might say that all I know are the bastardized version of ‘bagels’ that came about after industrialization of bakeries. . . but that’s what I like.

Bagels! Heck, yeah!

This is the recipe that I like. It doesn’t use high gluten bread flour or barley malt and it has a relatively high water content (by bagel standards), but it’s good. I’m willing to experiment with some bagel variations in the future, but right now this version hits the spot.

These are my bagels with a slight crisp to the crust, a bready crumb, and a hint of sweetness.

Bagels! Heck, yeah!

I made some this week for my friends who came over on Saturday morning for an Easter breakfast get-together. I think they were a hit!

Oh, and Happy Easter!

17 Mar

Nutella Banana Rolls

So I haven’t been doing too well with my Sugar Free Lent these last couple of weeks. My sugar cravings have come back and I’ve been sampling more and more desserts. Also I’ve been caving completely on Sundays (because, technically, Sunday’s don’t count). Today for instance I had a piece of pie and ice cream, and I sweetened my coffee with cinnamon sugar.

It’s rough.

Last Sunday I ate these:

Nutella Banana Rolls

Nutella Banana Rolls

This is one of Matt’s favourite types of bread that I make.

Use a soft white bread dough (like this one)

Roll it out with a rolling pin into a big rectangle

Spread nutella and mashed banana on top

And then roll it up like a cinnamon bun.

You can either bake it as a loaf or cut it into buns (cinnamon bun style) and bake it that way. 350F for 30min or so should do the trick.

Spread nutella on top after it’s baked for extra luxuriousness. It totally hits the spot.

Nutella Banana Bread as a loafThis version was made as a loaf

15 Mar

Super Soft White Bread

It’s the 15th of the month, that means it’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for this month is Gelatinized Starch.

I know it probably doesn’t sound as exciting as macarons(!) or cookies(!) or pie(!), but to me it’s super exciting because it means bread making. . . an you know I love bread making.

It can go by many names—tangzhong method, scalded flour, water roux—but they’re all essentially the same thing: Gelatinized Starch.

Super Soft White Bread

How Gelatinized Starch Works to Make a Soft Bread

Flour is made up of starch granules. Let’s think of them as bricks.

If you take some of that flour then add water and heat up, the starch gelatinizes. The starch granules in the flour will suck up all the water until they explode (think of a brick crumbling into sand) into starch molecules which suspend themselves in the water.

Your standard bread recipe doesn’t have the moisture, heat, or time for the starches to gelatinize during the baking process, so the bread is like a sturdy house built of starch ‘bricks’. It’s dense.

However, if you make ‘sand ‘ by gelatinizing the starch before baking the bread, then you’ll build yourself a sandcastle or, in bread terms, a soft and fluffy pillow of deliciousness.

Super Soft White Bread

Super Soft White Bread

Makes two 9”x5” loaves
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes

So in this recipe your starter is some flour that’s been heated up with water to 65*C to create a gel (known as the tangzhong method). This is added to the final dough, making a soft and fluffy bread.

This recipe is great on it’s own as a sandwich bread. It also makes a really good base for sweet breads (like cinnamon bread, or hot cross buns, or buns filled with custard) which are best with dough that has a soft crust and light crumb like this one does.

Starter Ingredients:

50g/ 1/3 cup bread flour
250ml/ 1 cup water

Final Dough Ingredients:

700g/ 5 cups bread flour
110g/ 1/2 cup sugar
10g/ 2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
250mL/ 1 cup water
All of the starter
12g/ 4 tsp instant yeast
60g/ 3 Tbsp oil

Directions – starter:

In a small saucepan whisk the flour into the water and remove lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Heat the mixture to 65*C. It will be thick and hold the ‘lines’ made by stirring with the whisk.

Tangzhong - see all the streaky lines?

Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking right onto the surface of the starter. Let cool. It can be used immediately once cool or stored in the fridge for a few days as long as it doesn’t turn grey.

Directions – final dough:

Combine all the dough ingredients into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together and then switch to the dough hook. (You can also mix the whole thing in a bowl with your hands and knead it manually). Knead on high speed for 6-10 minutes until the dough is elastic, smooth, and not sticky. To test if the dough is ready, you might stretch the dough. If it forms a thin “membrane”, it’s done.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Transfer to a clean, floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Flatten each portion of dough into an oval shape. Fold like a letter: 1/3 from top edge to the middle and press, then fold 1/3 from bottom to the middle and press. From the narrow end, roll the dough into a cylinder. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.

Fold overFold over againRoll upSide by side in baking pan

Place 3 side by side into each of 2 greased 9”x5” loaf tins, with seal facing down. Cover and proof in a warm place until double in size.

Bake in a pre-heated 356F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and tin. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Slice to serve or place in an airtight plastic bag or container once it’s thoroughly cooled.

Super Soft White Bread




06 Jan

Top 10 Posts from 2012

My 2012 posts with the most pageviews were really versatile and included everything from body image to recipes to travel to weightlifting. I’m a veritable Martha Stewart.

Turns out that in 2012 people really liked when I wrote about naked women and baking soda. . . but not necessarily together.

10. Women and Nudity and the Awkwardness of it All

The post where I talk about naked women and how I appreciate the changing room’s token nude.

The more effort we put into covering up our imperfections by hiding our bodies from other women then the less real, unaltered images of female bodies we are exposed to.

9. Best Homemade Soft Pretzels

Pretzels (4)

The post where I declare Alton Brown’s soft pretzel recipe the best ever and talk a little about baking soda chemistry.

The key to making soft pretzels with a chewy interior and a crispy, deep brown crust is an alkaline bath.

8. Top 5 Things To Do in Chania, Crete

Chania Crete (25)

I juuuuust realized now that I blogged about my entire trip to Greece this summer except Athens! Woops. Loutro was my favourite stop in Crete, but Chania was also very charming.

Chania is a beautiful city. It’s old town area has really quaint winding alleys that are great for tourists to explore.

7. Grenadian Oil Down

Grenadian Oil Down

The post with a recipe for a delicious coconut curry with vegetables and dumplings. I’ve made this recipe several times and it is really good! I’m glad it made the top 10.

Oil Down is the national dish of Grenada and is usually made at a big party on the beach, or so I’ve read. I made this in my kitchen, so it’s not quite as fun, but it still tastes awesome.

6. 6 Day Full Body Lift and Circuit Routine

The post where I offer up a workout plan with 3 strength exercises followed by a circuit of 3 exercises. This wasn’t my favourite routine from 2012, (this Olympic Routine was) but it was pretty popular with readers

With a circuit workout I think I need to change it up more often to keep myself motivated and excited.

5. Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread (2)

The post where I bake Irish Soda Bread. Again I find myself talking about the chemistry of baking soda. Apparently alkalis are popular with the readers.

Matt said that this was the best soda bread he’s had, even though he didn’t like it. And didn’t want to eat it. Not exactly a raving review, but I’ll take it I suppose.

4. DIY Marathon Medal Frame


The post where I make a framed collage of my marathon medal, bib, and pictures.

So after a very minimal time commitment and minimal cost I ended up with a sweet homemade collection of my marathon memories. Fun times.

3. Garbage Can Pizza Oven

Garbage Can Pizza Oven

The post where I eat pizza out of the garbage build a wood fired oven in my backyard out of garbage can and a pile of dirt. True story.

Matt called me at the office, to ask me a very important question after spending much of the morning with Zack digging up our crab grass infested lawn:

“Umm… I got a whole bunch of dirt here, you want to make a garbage can pizza oven?”


2. Girls and Lena Dunham’s Body

The post where I talk about nudity—again—and how much I like seeing Lena Dunham naked. Although I think most people came to this post looking for Lena Dunham porn.

Lena Dunham isn’t terribly fat. Her body is imperfect, so basically she looks completely normal, like most of the women I know, and not at all like the stereotypical ‘perfect’ Hollywood body that we’re exposed to.

1. Fitspo is Not Inspirational

The post where I talk about how ‘inspiring’ images of fit women can be damaging to our body positivity.

Fitspo images aren’t any better for our self esteem than glossy magazine images of dangerously thin models. They’re photoshopped. They’re not attainable. And, quite frankly, they’re not all that healthy either.

15 Nov

How to Shape Kaiser Buns

It’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for November is Shaped Dinner Rolls. I’m happy that it was a bread challenge this month because I really don’t need any more desserts around here (except, maybe a few more of those Food for the Gods bars, those were delightful) and because I already make bread all the time.

I decided to do a Kaiser Bun for this challenge. Matt was bugging me to make burgers for dinner one night this week so I figured Kaisers would be a good burger bun.

Kaiser Buns

For this dough itself I actually used a Vienna Bread recipe which has a basis of a baguette dough but includes extra enrichments of a little butter, egg, and sugar making it more tender with a denser crumb and softer crust, kinda like American white bread.

Typically Kaiser Buns are stamped with a press that looks like this:

Kaiser Stamp

I don’t have one of those and I suspect that not many people do, so you can go the “knotted roll” route instead. It’s actually not that hard. Coming from me (ie. the girl who bakes bread for the sole fact that it doesn’t have to look nice, and who has no skills to make anything look attractive) that’s saying something.

The look will be a little less uniform that you’ll get from a stamp, more rustic, but still really “kaiserish” looking. Here it goes. . .

How to Shape Kaiser Buns

For burger-sized buns, divide the dough into 85-115g (3-4 oz) pieces with a pastry cutter.

Roll each piece into a dough snake about 45cm (18”) in length.

Roll each piece into a log about 45cm (18”) in length.

Tie the snake into a regular ‘ol knot.

Tie the snake into a regular ‘ol knot.

Take the “over” end and loop it under and through the centre to make a nub in the middle of the hole.

Loop the “over” end, under and through the centre to make a nub in the middle of the whole.

Then take the “under” end and loop it over and squeeze it down into the whole to make a nub coming out of the bottom.

Then take the “under” end and loop it over and squeeze it down into the whole to make a nub coming out of the bottom.

And voila! Kaiser Buns.


Proof the buns until they are double in size (1-1.5h). To finish them off, just brush with water, milk, or egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

Proofed Buns

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 400F and bake 15 – 30 minutes more (until medium golden brown)

Kaiser Buns

How to Shape Kaiser Buns – photoless directions

For burger-sized buns, divide the dough into 85-115g (3-4 oz) pieces with a pastry cutter.

Roll each piece into a dough snake about 45cm (18”) in length.

Tie the snake into a regular ‘ol knot.

Take the “over” end and loop it under and through the centre to make a nub in the middle of the hole.

Then take the “under” end and loop it over and squeeze it down into the whole to make a nub coming out of the bottom.

Proof the buns until they are double in size (1-1.5h). To finish them off, just brush with water, milk, or egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 400F and bake 15 – 30 minutes more (until medium golden brown)

04 Sep

Harrow Fair

So one of my breads won 2nd place (and a paltry $4) at the Harrow Fair!

Harrow Fair (9)Note my slightly hesitant smile here.

The first category that I entered was the Whole Wheat Buns category:

Whole Wheat Buns Harrow Fairwhole wheat buns fresh out of the oven

I thought these buns were delicious, but apparently not good enough for a prize. Whatever. It’s cool. The people of Harrow obviously don’t appreciate a soft bun flavoured with cornmeal and sweetened with rich molasses. No big deal. Though, the judges ate a big piece out of it, so they must have enjoyed it a little bit, no?

The second category that I entered was the Crusty Rolls category:

Crusty Rolls Harrow FairCrusty rolls fresh out of the oven

I wasn’t sure how they define ‘crusty rolls’ so I chose to make a pain a l’ancienne which has a crispy crust, as a result of hearth style baking, and a really nice crumb with big air pockets. It’s basically a rustic, artisan-style loaf.

I make this bread using a cold fermentation method which means that the bread is fermenting for a really long time. Fermentation time is what makes bread made from the standard ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast) taste awesome, and for this competition I was going for an epic flavour profile.

I knew that I won second place before going to the fair because Matt’s aunt told me that she saw my bread had a ribbon when she went on Friday. I was really excited on Sunday morning to pick up my ribbon.

When I found my bread Matt said:

“How did they know that you won?”

I looked down at the three buns on the plate and realized that, in fact, not a single bite was taken out of any of them.

What in the actual fuck?!

Crusty Rolls Harrow Fair

If I had known that this was some sort of aesthetic competition I would have made some absurdly pretty braided roll or something that didn’t look like it was made by peasant folk. But no, I focussed on flavour in a bread that wasn’t even tasted.

Am I even allowed bragging rights now?

I’m pretty sure this whole Harrow Fair judging system is a sham show. Curiously enough the winner of the Whole Wheat Buns category (which actually were eaten) was the same winner of the uneaten crusty rolls category.

Coincidence? Hmm, likely story.

Harrow Fair (16)Even the cow looks skeptical about the judging system.