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Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

hazelnut & blueberry buckwheat pancakes

In breakfast, eating in, gluten free, year-round on 26 March, 2012 at 8:15 am

This is actually Pancake #5 out of the little Pancake Project I’ve been doing this year (here are parts one and two) but I’m blogging this out of order for a couple of reasons. First, Pancake #3 was a bit of a flop and I’m going to have to rework the recipe, and pancake #4 was delicious but I’ve lost the bit of paper I wrote the recipe down on and I’m going to have to try making them again before I can confidently post it on my blog. But more importantly, I wanted to blog these pancakes I made over the weekend in the hopes that you try this recipe before fresh blueberries disappear off supermarket shelves until next summer. (I mean, you can always use frozen – I actually did – but there’s nothing quite like using fresh, seasonal produce!)

I got to thinking about blueberry pancakes the other day while having a coffee and a scone at Nikau Cafe, one of my favourite pre-work breakfast spots. This isn’t a post about Nikau so I won’t go on too much about how much I love that place, but they do make the most excellent scones: cheese scones for the savoury option, and for those with a sweet tooth, date scones, or blueberry in the summertime.*

The other morning I was eating one of these blueberry scones and thinking about how astoundingly delicious they are: served warm, they’re a bit crispy at the edges, soft and airy on the inside, generously studded with big, bursting blueberries that get their purple juices all over your lips and fingers and the plate.

I was trying to think what they reminded me of, and finally I got it: when I was a kid, my mum would make, occasionally enough for it to be special, the best blueberry muffins. In my mind she only made them in the summertime when blueberries were fresh and ripe** and my brothers and I would wake up to the smell of fresh muffins and the sun would be shining through the windows in that summer-holiday angle (the angle we’d only see at home on the weekends during the rest of the year, since we’d be at school by 9am) and as soon as the muffins hit the cooling rack we’d be at them, the blueberry juices burning our tongues and staining our lips, and then we’d be back for more.

And then there were the mornings where we’d have blueberry pancakes, cooked on the big, flat electric griddle that only came out of the cupboard for such occasions. In my (now-probably distorted, blueberry-shaped) memory the pancakes were most often blueberry pancakes, leaking dark purple juices all over our plates and forks and mixing with the maple syrup we drenched the pancakes in, despite our mother’s protestations.

I can’t remember my mum’s blueberry pancakes being made with buckwheat, but I’ve been wanting to make buckwheat pancakes ever since I bought some buckwheat flour a while ago. Not having made them before, I looked up a few recipes online and settled on this one from Simply Recipes which happened to only include ingredients I already had at home that morning. I only made a couple of changes: using all buckwheat flour instead of a mix, adding blueberries (of course) and chucking in some chopped up hazelnut left over from some other baking venture. 

These behave exactly like normal pancakes made with wheat flour do, and taste incredibly similar, but with a hint of the gritty nuttiness of buckwheat and the subtly sweet crunch of hazelnut. It makes them taste a bit more wholesome, and it also makes them gluten-free, which is great if you or a loved one can’t eat regular pancakes. And even if you’re not bound by dietary restrictions they’re delicious, which makes this recipe an all-around winner.

I wanted to make these pancakes with fresh blueberries, like I remember my mum doing years ago, and certainly there are still plenty of blueberries to be had at a time when it feels like most summer fruit is some distant memory. (Actually, I feel like this year there have been more blueberries than in other summers, though maybe I’ve just noticed them more… does anyone know? Has there been a blueberry glut this summer?) I ended up using some blueberries I’d frozen myself, after getting overexcited and buying a few too many punnets of berries a few weeks ago, far more than I could eat. And you know what? The result was just as I’d hoped I’d get from fresh blueberries: juicy, bursting with flavour and colour, utterly delicious.

*I think.

**Although I’m sure she must have made them during the rest of the year, either using frozen or out-of-season berries shipped from somewhere far away.

HAZELNUT & BLUEBERRY BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES (gluten free!)
(adapted from this recipe from Simply Recipes)
Makes enough for 3 or 4 people, depending how hungry you are.

1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp (about 45g) melted butter
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk*

Heat a skillet (or griddle, or non-stick pan) on medium heat, until a drop of water bounces around on the surface.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together a cup of buttermilk and the egg. Slowly whisk in the melted butter, and pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix together really gently, adding the rest of the buttermilk as needed** to get a nice, smooth, ladle-able batter.

Butter or oil the skillet and wipe with a paper towel so that the surface is well-greased but there’s no excess oil bubbling around. Ladle the batter onto the skillet in whatever quantity you desire, depending on how big you want your pancakes. I made two at a time using about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.

Resist the temptation to turn the pancakes over too early; give it about 3-4 minutes at least, until the underside is nice and brown and the top is starting to look almost-dry. Flip them over and cook another couple of minutes or so, until browned on both sides.

Top with butter and maple syrup, or golden syrup, or some blueberry sauce*** Serve at once, or if you want to be civilised and serve everyone at the same time you can keep them warm on a plate in the oven. Up to you.

*Although buttermilk is awesome and something you should definitely try to keep around the house, don’t fret if you don’t have it: in a pinch you can substitute milk topped up with a little vinegar.

**The original recipe says you may not need all the buttermilk; I ended up using it all. Your results may differ depending on what kind of buckwheat flour you’re using.

***Sometimes I’ll make up a big batch by cooking down some blueberries with some sugar and a bit of water in a pot on the stove, but this time I cheated and took a handful of berries, a teaspoon of icing sugar and a bit of water and zapped it in the microwave. Easy!

 

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spiced peach pie

In baking, desserts, eating in, fruit, late summer, summer on 21 March, 2012 at 11:08 am

As a person who lives in an upstairs flat where the only outdoor space is a balcony just big enough for a couple pots of herbs (and maybe a tomato plant or two), I often find myself getting uncontrollably envious of people who have fruit trees in their gardens. 

It’s a heartbreaking feeling. Like the kid who really wants a puppy but whose brother is allergic: it just ain’t gonna happen. And while feeling this way might be a little irrational – there’s nothing really stopping me from moving to a place with, you know, maybe a lemon tree or feijoas or even nectarines or figs (I can dream!) – there is just no way, in the foreseeable future, that I’ll be able to stroll outside and pick a bagful of plums, or apples or whatever.*

A couple weeks ago, I visited my friend Harriet’s flat in Auckland, and though I didn’t get a chance to stroll around her garden – a combination of terrible weather and an incredibly full stomach after stuffing my face at Barilla Dumpling on Dominion Rd meant that all I wanted to do was stay inside and sit very, very still – I did get a chance to stroll into her kitchen and get smacked in the face by the sweet, heady aroma of vanilla and peach coming from a big pan of vanilla-flecked stewed peaches on the stove. Not just any peaches, mind you: peaches from the peach tree. In the garden. Just outside the window.

 

I couldn’t turn down the chance to sample some, despite the protestations of my full-to-bursting stomach (too many dumplings!). Jealousy sometimes makes you do funny things… or perhaps it was just a fear of missing out: how many of my friends have peach trees in their gardens, after all? In any case, I’m glad I gave in: they were meltingly tender, with that soft, mellow, vanilla-y sweetness that was faintly reminiscent (though a hundred times better) than the canned peach memories of my childhood.

 

And when I returned to Wellington, I couldn’t get those peaches off my mind. What also came to mind was the addition of some spices – Harriet and her flatmate had been talking about adding cloves to the mix, though they didn’t in the end – and in the end, I dreamed up this somewhat-rustic pie, with a sugar-studded golden crust and filled with sweet, cardamom- and clove-spiced stewed peaches.

It’s a little bit more complex than standing over the kitchen sink eating a summer peach (juices dripping down your chin, arm, elbow, of course), a bit more grounded and earthier than, say, this or this. This is a peach pie for autumn.

So, before the peach window closes for the season I’d recommend you go and pick up some of the last of the early-autumn harvest and make this pie. And if you’re getting your peaches off a tree in your garden, please, don’t tell me about it. I’ll be too jealous!

 —

*Though thanks to my happy little herb garden I have lots and lots of sage, and mint, and thyme, and I have a couple pots of vegetables here and there which means I never have to buy spring onions, for instance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty pleased about that.

 

SPICED PEACH PIE

First, prepare the pastry*:

280g flour
2 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
225g butter, very cold and cut into little pieces
4 – 8 Tbsp ice cold water, as needed

Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour using your fingers until the mixture is a grainy, pebbly consistency.

Sprinkle the cold water over the mixture, a couple tablespoons at a time, until the dough comes together but is not too sticky (you probably won’t need to use all 8 tablespoons). If you’ve added too much water, just add more flour. Divide the dough in half, roll into balls and cover with plastic wrap.

Chill for about 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling:

Cut up 8 peaches and put in a biggish pan with about 3/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste), a few cloves and cardamom pods (if you’re fussy about removing these you could to tie them up in a muslin cloth or something so you can take them out before filling the pie) and about a teaspoon of vanilla paste (a vanilla pod would also work well here, or even real vanilla extract, but if you only have the artificial stuff please leave it out – it’ll still be fine, I promise). Add a little bit of water – 1/2 cup or so should do – and bring to a simmer. Cook over a gentle heat until the fruit is soft and tender and your kitchen smells amazing.

Preheat the oven to 350C.

Roll out the two balls of pastry on a floured surface so that they’re big enough to fit into a pie dish. Line the pie dish with one of the pastry rounds and prick some holes in it with a fork. Bake for 10-15 minutes or so until it’s set a little and turns a pale golden colour.

Fill the pie with the stewed peaches (I added a couple teaspoons of cornflour/cornstarch to hold the fruit mixture together, as it was quite juicy) and top with the other rolled-out bit of pastry. Cut some holes in the top so the steam can escape. If you like, you can glaze the top with a bit of beaten egg and sprinkle some demerara sugar on top.

Bake 35-45 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown. Let cool before serving.

*this is the same recipe I’ve used for the pear & feijoa crostata I made last year, and pretty much my go-to pie crust recipe – it’s adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book via this Serious Eats post.