This Good Friday labour is always worth it (I use this great recipe). I didn’t grow up with Paska (or ‘cake bread’ as a dear 5-year old friend named it at Saturday brunch) but now I can’t imagine Easter without it.


Raspberry Banana Bread

Classic is good. Here is a twist that might be even better.

Raspberry Banana Bread

3/4 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
1 ripe banana 
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mash thawed raspberries in a bowl with a fork; if you want, you can press raspberries through a sieve to remove the seeds. Add banana to raspberry puree and mash until smooth and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, apple sauce and oil. Once well combined, add eggs and beat well.  Add in flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and lemon zest and stir until just blended. Transfer to a loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Lemon Buns

After making pavlova for Easter, I was left with three egg yolks. I’m sure most people just scramble up leftover egg parts, but eggs are not my favourite things to eat. I have wanted to try Lemon Buns for a while and with Jeff tucked away in this office last weekend studying for a professional exam, it seemed like a good opportunity to try them out and use my egg yolks up in the process.

The verdict? The buns were really lovely but the lemon curd was really tart. REALLY tart. I’m talking pucker-up-and-nearly-sneeze-its-so tart! I have made lemon curd a few times using this recipe, which I think I prefer and will probably use next time. I think I’ll also save these for special occasions, as they are a bit labour intensive, although very much worth the effort.

Lemon Buns
adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook
yield: just over 2 dozen buns

1 tablespoons instant yeast
5-6 cups flour
1 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup lard, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cups warm water

In a large bowl (I used the bowl of my KitchenAid stand mixer) stir together dry instant yeast and 2 cups flour. Scald milk (I used my microwave) and add lard. Stir until lard is completely melted. Stir sugar and salt into hot milk mixture. In a separate bowl, beat eggs well and add the warm water. Add in several tablespoons of the hot milk mixture, mix well, then pour the egg mixture into the hot milk mixture. Stir well.

Add all the liquid to the yeast and flour mixture. Stir well. Incorporate at least 4 cups of flour to make a soft sticky dough. Using the remaining several cups of flour, continue adding as you knead until your dough is smooth, but still very soft (I used the dough hook on my mixer). Take care not over knead this dough- it will remain sticky (see photo). Cover and place in a warm draft free area to rise until double in bulk, approximately 45 minutes. While dough is rising, make lemon curd (either the original recipe here, or my recommendation here).

Assembly: After its first rising, punch down the bun dough. Pinch off small pieces of dough (about the size of an egg) and form a flat circle about the circumference of a hocky puck. Poke a hole in the middle of the circle and gently stretch the dough outward so that it expands to the size of a tea saucer and is an even thickness all the way around (stretching the hole as well so you create a large doughnut). Twist the dough in the middle to form a figure 8 and place down on a nonstick pan or baking sheet. Repeat! While this sounds like a lot of work, it actually goes quite quickly. Make sure to leave enough room between the buns for for them to rise, and leave them to rise for another 45 minutes.

After the second rising, preheat oven to 375º. Place a small spoon full of lemon curd on each side of the figure 8 (as in photo above). If the indentations have risen too high, use the handle end of a wooden spoon to gently poke them down again. Bake for 12-15  minutes until lightly browned. Once completely cooled, drizzle with an icing sugar glaze. At this point they freeze very well… if you don’t eat them all first!
Lemon buns (with unusually vibrant coloured lemon curd thanks to fresh free-range eggs)

Cinnamon Buns

While I have still have some work to do tying up the consulting end of my thesis project, I feel like I need slowly make a return to “normal” life (instead of cave into temptation to sit and stare at the wall). To kick this off, I made cinnamon buns. These great buns have become one of my signature dishes, and the smell of them baking really did make me feel that a small amount of normalcy has returned to my life.

Cinnamon Buns

Yield: 16 buns

1 cup milk (or almond or soy milk)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup margarine, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour
margarine for spreading
~ 1/2 cup brown sugar
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 apple, diced finely

If using a bread machine, place ingredients in the bread pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer, and process through the dough cycle.

If mixing by hand, heat the milk until very warm and add to a large mixing bowl. Take 1 teaspoon of sugar from the measured half cup, and stir it into the warm milk. Stir in the yeast and allow to proof until it resembles a creamy foam, about 10 minutes. Mix in margarine and remaining sugar, and stir well.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add a tablespoon of the warm yeast mixture into the eggs and mix well; then add the eggs into the yeast mixture. Mix in salt and add flour, one cup at a time, stirring until dough forms. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (I use the dough hook of my Kitchen Aid mixer and “knead” for 10 minutes).

Place into an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Once the dough has doubled or has completed a bread machine dough cycle, turn it onto a lightly floured surface, cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes. As I find it easier to work with smaller amounts of dough, at this point I cut the dough in half; roll one half of the dough into a rectangle about 16 x 12 inches. Spread with a thin and even layer of margarine, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. I use about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and heaping 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon for each half of dough but adjust according to your preference. Top with half of the diced apple, then roll up the dough and cut into 8 2-inch segments. Arrange buns in greased pie plate; repeat with the other half of the dough.

Cover both plates of buns and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees so that it is hot when the buns have completed rising. Uncover buns and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. We find them delicious without icing, but ice if you wish. Enjoy!


While spending a month with my parents this summer, my mom commented one day about how she and I are very different cooks.  While I prefer to incorporate lots of fresh herbs and love international flavours, she leans toward the more classic meat-and-potatoes kind of cooking.  It’s something we have learned to appreciate about each other; when we’re together, my mom requests that I make hummus and souvlaki while I go weak in the knees for her Yummy Chicken, roasted turkey or fresh buns.

Those of you who know my Mom know that her fresh buns are infamous. They really are velvety soft pillows of carbohydrate perfection. In my early 20s, I tried making buns a few times and each time was a colossal failure (yeast dough and I  simply do not work well together).  After Jeff and I got married, I eyed his bread machine suspiciously for a year before learning that this amazing contraption could

turn out perfect dough, no matter my lack of talent for kneading.  Between the machine and some very old but fantastically seasoned bread pans, I think I’ve come up with buns that even my Mom would be impressed with.


Almost My Mom’s Buns
from my own trial and error
Yield: 1 dozen hamburger buns or 2 dozen dinner rolls

1 cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp margerine or shortening
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp yeast

Measure ingredients into dough machine in order recommended by manufacturer (I do it in the order listed above). Select dough setting, push start, then sit back & relax. When cycle is complete, turn onto floured surface. Divide into buns; 12 hamburger size or 18-24 roll size. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, place in pan and cover with a light towel. Let rise in a warm and happy place until nearly double- about 40 minutes. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Time yourself to see how long you can wait before devouring the first one. Enjoy!

Saturday was a chilly day here on the Wet West Coast- a day that called for soup and buns. Growing up, I never really took a shine to my mom’s borscht and ate it as infrequently as I could get away with. While living in Eastern Europe, I learned to make and love true Russian Borscht- with beets, beef, and lots of fresh dill. And the most important part- a dollop of sour cream. Jeff joked that in spending an afternoon baking buns and making borscht, my Mennonite-ness was unquestionably and strongly intact! No doubt, there is something really comforting about eating food that within my heritage, is tradition. It just feels like home.

Breakthrough Bread

For the most part, I consider myself a fairly confident and proficient cook. There are, however, a few things I simply cannot make. My rice cooker hides my inability to boil rice and the dough hook on my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer makes it look like I can whip up smooth yeast doughs when in reality, anything that requires kneading eludes me. For years I have wanted to make bread but my challenges with kneading made this impossible.

Until now! Adapted from the recipe of two friends who are kitchen whizzes (thanks P & B) is a 4-ingredient artisan loaf recipe that does not require kneading. And it’s fantastic. Based on a recipe from the legendary Sullivan Bakery in New York,  this bread is as easy as it is delicious.

Amazing No-Knead Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

3 cups of white flour (plus a tablespoon or two for dusting) OR 1 1/2 cups each white and whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Stir dry ingredients with a fork to disperse the yeast well. Add water and stir until blended and the dough forms a rough, shaggy and sticky ball. Don’t be alarmed at its craggy appearance. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest 12-18 hours at room temperature. Resist the urge to pop it in a warm oven-  just leave it alone on the counter.

 After its super slow rise, the dough will be nearly doubled in size with a surface dotted with bubbles. Rub a little flour around the inside of the bowl to release the dough (it will be quite wet and sticky) and place it on a well floured work surface.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, gently stretch and fold the dough over itself four times (from both sides, top and bottom), tucking the final fold in to create a smooth rounded ball. Add some more flour to your work surface and place the dough on it to rise for ~20 minutes while your oven heats.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) and lid in the oven as it heats. I find that a small round casserole dish works great. When the oven has come to temperature, wait 5 minutes then  remove the casserole and spray with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

Immediately drop the dough ball into the hot casserole, seam side down. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed- it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 20 minutes, remove lid and bake another 25 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Remove from oven and transfer loaf to a rack to cool. Because the bread is fairly dense, it will still be warm and steamy inside after a hour of rest and I don’t recommend cutting it before then.

Slice and enjoy. It’s the perfect kind of crusty loaf to enjoy with a bowl of soup or a summer salad.