Have you ever … A Lesson in Gastronomy …

… licked your fingertip and picked the crumbs off your plate because 1 – you’re an adult now and you just can and 2 – you know that the crumbs of what you just ate contain the distilled essence of all that is good and fine in the world?

Nah, me neither.

Shortbread - shorts, or breads, or cookies?

Shortbread – shorts, or breads, or cookies?

Ginger Snaps ... before and after

Ginger Snaps … before and after

Mrs Widds cuts the mincemeat with apple - means you can have more than one, even if you're not doing quality control

Mrs Widds cuts the mincemeat with apple – means you can have more than one, even if you’re not doing quality control

AllysNotebook Ginger Ale fruitcake recipe - still warm from the oven

AllysNotebook Ginger Ale fruitcake recipe – still warm from the oven

As Requested … The Recipe For Butter Tarts

Please bear in mind that this is Mrs Widds Secret Recipe, so don’t tell anyone, (without attribution) especially Great Uncle Algie. We all know what a gossip he is when he’s got a bit of eggnog under his belt

-oOo-

BUTTER TARTS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

TASTY TIP: Place foil in bottom of oven to catch any spill. (preferably before you turn the oven on!)

Spray 12 cup tart/muffin tin very lightly to enable easy removal of tarts if your filling overflows as it melts.

 

INGREDIENTS:

FILLING
1 egg
½ cup butter or margarine softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups raisins or pecans or walnuts

PASTRY
½ tsp salt
2 cups Flour
¾ cup Shortening or lard
1 tbsp vinegar
5 tbsp cold water

 

MIX IT ALL TOGETHER AND WHAT DO YOU GET:

Filling:

Beat together the first 5 ingredients until creamy, not grainy.

Chill the filling to make it easier to work with – not necessary but less messy.

TASTY TIP: I usually make up a batch of filling early and freeze it until needed.

 

Pastry:

Mix dry ingredients together, add liquid and mix together lightly.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface.

TASTY TIP: Dust the rolling pin with flour to stop the pastry sticking to it.

Experiment with thickness, (I prefer my pastry to be fairly thin) but thick enough to hold the filling.

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

ADD THIS TO THAT:

Cut pastry to fit your tart/muffin tin, leaving enough to create a fluted edge around the top of each tart. Experiment with sizes. Add a few raisins, walnuts, or pecans in the bottom of pastry cup just before you put the filling in. The tarts are delicious with or without them so adding them is at the discretion of the baker.

Fill each pastry cup approximately 2/3 full.

 

LET THE ALCHEMY COMMENCE:

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until filling is set and pastry a golden brown.

TASTY TIP: Once baked IMMEDIATELY remove the tarts from pan … or you will have to hack them out with a jackhammer!

TASTY TIP: Scrape overflow into tart. To remove from tin, slide a fork down side and slide to one side gently lifting the tart as you go. Tart should lift easily out of tin.

Makes about 12, depending on the size of your tart/muffin tin, but the recipe can easily scale up for even more deliciousness.

The tarts can be frozen after baking, and reheated as desired.

BUTTER TARTS!!!

BUTTER TARTS!!!

Mrs Widds Goodie Basket Seasonal Baking Begins

Mrs Widds rose a little earlier than I yesterday and put her nefarious plans in place.

Because we live in such a little cottage I awoke to a tantalizing toffee-and-melted-butter aroma that gently lifted me from my recumbancy.

Although I’m not at my best before my first cuppa tea, I hastened to the kitchen to be greeted by this …

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

She waved her magic rolling pin, and in a great act of alchemy transformed these base elements into ….

BUTTER TARTS!!!

BUTTER TARTS!!!

I quelled my beating heart for I was about to face my greatest test ..

Quality control ...

Quality control …

I girded my spleen, also pancreas, and bravely hoisting my tea, sallied forth to do my duty …

Going ...

Going …

Gone, in a sugar induced haze of glory ... if I should fall in service to the season, bury me where the wild tarts roam!

Gone, in a sugar induced haze of glory … if I should fall in service to the season, bury me where the wild tarts roam!

One of the ‘playlists’ on our ‘Wunder-Lusters’ video channel is going to be about cooking these sorts of things with a propane oven, dutch oven, campfire, all sorts of RVcooking in general really, because we do love our food, we does.

Mrs Widds Eviscerates

I have occasionally featured Mrs Widds and her exceptional baking skills on my blog as ‘Mrs Widds Bakes’ – prime examples of which can be found by doing a search for Mrs Widds Bakes, where you will find such gems as THIS.

Due to her expanding skill-set she is now also our resident Fixer-Upper.

But first … on a personal note, I was promised snow the other night. It didn’t happen. I am … disappointed.

For those new to my blog one of my little, quirks, lets call them, is an (‘over’, some might say) enthusiasm for snow. It’s in my genes.

I was born in the northern hemisphere, (in a little town called Rochford, in the county of Essex, England) but for reasons that were never adequately explained to me, my parents chose to emigrate to Australia when I was 2. Had I been able to voice an opinion at the time I would’ve voted for the alternative destination, Canada.

The ways of one’s parents are inexplicable.

It took me 42 years but I did manage to get here (Canada) by 2004. Having been so long deprived of snow I have since discovered a deep well of (insanity, some might say) joy when the fluffy white stuff falls from the sky. …

… back to Mrs Widds and her evisceration-ing.

Out little cottage used to have a real fireplace but a previous tenant used the flagstone hearth as a base for his firewood splitting endeavours. Needless-to-say the owner wasn’t at all impressed with the mess he left behind and removed the fireplace.

Mrs Widds and I grew up (separated by the Pacific Ocean) with fireplaces, so we decided to use the old fake-it-’til-you-make-it principle, and, as all our power here on Widder Island is sourced from electricity, we bought ourselves this fabulous electric fan heater.

Although you can't really see it at all in this hasty photo, the flickering light is rather lovely to stare into on a cold winter's eve whilst sipping one's chai-latte

Although you can’t really see it at all in this hasty photo, the flickering light is rather lovely to stare into on a cold winter’s eve whilst sipping one’s chai-latte

Then a few years later, it suddenly died!

Wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard across the land!

Then it started again.

Great rejoicing was heard, you guessed it, across the land.

Then it died again.

… deathly silence …

All was not lost however, because Mrs Widds, fresh from her triumphant carburetor replacement on the generator. (which can be found HERE – you have to scroll down a bit, and HERE) swung into action.

I on the other hand, retired to my computer with chai-latte in hand and proceeded to work on my ‘How to become a YouTube video-making Mavern’ (not real name) course for our Wunder-Lusters adventures next year.

Meanwhile, appropriate tools were sought, and with a few sub-sonic mutters, Mrs Widds reduced our faithful heater to it’s component parts …

Upside-down, back-to-front, and eviscerated

Upside-down, back-to-front, and eviscerated

… and isolated the miscreant …

Corrosion of the miscreant-y kind

Corrosion of the miscreant-y kind

It turns out one can’t just replace these tiny wires by themselves, or even with the plate they’re connected to, no one has to buy the whole assembly.

Some reassembly will be required . The bit at the front is the heating element and the round thingy at the back is the fan

Some reassembly will be required . The bit at the front is the heating element and the round thingy at the back is the fan

The upside is that Amazon carries many of these gizmos that are slightly less powerful and fairly cheap, (and probably will fit, probably) but to get one exactly the same as this we have to pay pretty much double the price.

We are currently quandary-ing the odds, and consulting the bank balance … will update soon.

The Return of, ‘Mrs Widds Bakes’!

Every year at around this time Mrs Widds goes into a bit of a flour-induced frenzy. For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, it’s probably worth checking out these mouthwatering posts:

Mrs Widds bakes bread … and … Mrs Widds bakes tarts and cookies.

This year she’s baking up a few favourites, and a few twists, that I can’t go into because I know that the recipients of our ‘goodie’ baskets occasionally read this blog.

However, all is not lost. My friend Ally, of Ally’s Notebook posted this wonderful 3-ingredient cake recipe that Mrs Widds had to try. All it is, is dried fruit, ginger ale, and self-raising flour.

We had all sorts of dried fruit left over from various snack-a-lots, so in went some dried papaya, (pawpaw) prunes, dried apricots, craisins, (sweetened dried cranberries) raisins and all the other usual suspects, and some roasted pecans for crunchyness.

Once everything was assembled it went into the oven and came out looking like this …

Crisp and crunchy on top ...

Crisp and crunchy on top …

... and perfectly baked everywhere else

… and perfectly baked everywhere else

We (the Baker, and the quality control expert, which would be moi) decided that next time we’d like it to have a tad more cake and a smidge less fruit, but other than that, it was truly scrumptious. Thank you, Ally!

-oOo-

The very next day … this happened …

Look at that. Some leftover pastry and a bit of roast chicken. Whatever shall I do with it?

Look at that. Some leftover pastry and a bit of roast chicken. Whatever shall I do with it?

Throw some veggies and gravy on top ...

Throw some veggies and gravy on top …

... cover with a bit of pastry and into the oven they go

… cover with a bit of pastry and into the oven they go

And this is what comes out the other end. Perfect one-person chicken-pot-pies

And this is what comes out the other end. Perfect one-person chicken-pot-pies

We grabbed one each and retreated to our separate corners where a tastefully controlled amount of snarfing occurred.

Ready for your close-up before I devour you?

Ready for your close-up before I devour you?

Mrs Widds Bakes: Bread

At last … a ‘Mrs Widds bakes’ post.

Enjoy …

All baked and ready to eat

All baked and ready to eat

It’s that time of the week in the Widder household, and as promised, or threatened some might say, I finally managed to remember to take pictures of the process from start to finish … so without further ado, Mrs Widds bakes bread.

First up, boil up ½ a potato with the skin on, until it’s cooked. Drain the water off and set it aside.

Taters about to be boiled

Taters about to be boiled

Mash the taters, and set them aside too.

Then assemble your dry ingredients.

“Ingredients, assemble!”

“Ingredients, Assemble!”

In a big measuring bowl, add …11½  cups of flour/ grains mix (can be whole wheat/white/unbleached, whatever takes your fancy) Mrs Widds uses unbleached. 11½ cups go into the dough mix and 1½ cups (flour only) will be used in the kneading.

Grains: Mrs Widds throws in a handful of oats, some sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some flax. You can experiment with all sorts of things, but don’t overdo it. There has to be a whole lot more flour than anything else.

Mrs Widds says: Different flours will change the texture/consistency and taste of the bread. You might need more flour during the kneading process, it depends on how the dough feels.

Add, 1 tblsp salt – the salt helps with the leavening process. i.e. helps the dough to rise.

Add 4 sachets of bakers yeast, or 4 slightly-less-than full tblsp.

Next … toss into the bowl 2/3 cup of sugar, or whatever sweetener takes your fancy – honey. maple syrup, molasses.

Mrs Widds says: Any liquid sweetener you use needs to be added to the total amount of liquid you put into the mix, and will also alter the texture/consistency and taste of the bread.

Which brings us to the liquid part of the equation:

You need 5 cups of liquid – including any liquid sweetener you might’ve added – use the potato water you set aside earlier.

Add ½ cup (10 tblsp) marg/shortening/butter to the still warm water, and once it’s melted add the mashed potato.

Mrs Widds says: Butter makes a ‘shorter’/richer loaf.

Now comes the fun bit:

You put the liquid in the dry ingredients, and you mix ‘em all up … to the tune of this song …

Heh, heh, heh … love the Muppets!

Mrs Widds ... mixin’ ‘em all up

Mrs Widds … mixin’ ‘em all up

Make sure all the ingredients are wet.

Mrs Widds says: It looks more like a thick batter than dough at this stage.

Batter-y dough, or doughy batter – ahh, semantics

Batter-y dough, or doughy batter – ahh, semantics

Cover with a light cloth and let it ‘rest’ (everyone needs a nap now and then) until it doubles in size.

Mrs Widds says: As a rule of thumb, each ‘rest’ period ought be long enough to allow the dough to double in size.

Voila, doubled in size

Voila, doubled in size

Mrs Widds says: All the liquid has been absorbed and the gluten has been released.

And it looks like this

And it looks like this

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use the flour from the 1½ cups you set aside at the beginning.

All floured up and ready for my close-up

All floured up and ready for my close-up

It’s nice to be kneaded

It’s nice to be kneaded

Still a bit sticky

Still a bit sticky

Sprinkle more flour on and knead some more. Until it looks like this …

Ahh ... that feels better

Ahh … that feels better

At this point you’ve probably used up a cup-ish of the flour, but it’s OK if it’s still a bit sticky-ish.

Mrs Widds says: Side note … you can put all sorts of ingredients in your mix, but be aware it will change the dough. e.g. dry cereal (Corn Flakes, Cranberry Crunch, yum) for instance, already has sugar and salt in it, leftover porridge (oatmeal) has liquid in it. But, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Next step:

Pour 1-2 tblsp light oil (not olive oil) into your mixing bowl, place your dough in the bowl and turn it a few times so it’s coated in the oil.

Mah oily self

Mah oily self

Cover and let it rise/rest until it’s doubled in size.

And then: Don’t do this, but if you do, it’s OK, neither you nor the bread will be harmed. (We got into a discussion about something or other and forgot about the dough)

Overinflated

Overinflated

Underinflated

Underinflated

Time for another kneading.

Mrs Widds flying hands

Mrs Widds flying hands

Mrs Widds says: When in doubt, more kneading is better than less. And, pop any bubbles. That’s where the holes in baked bread come from, unpopped bubbles in the dough.

Then, back in the bowl, coat in oil, you know the drill.

Waiting to rise

Waiting to rise

All risen now

All risen now

It’s ‘Kneadin’ Time again … to the tune of this song … and it shouldn’t be sticky anymore. If it is add more flour as you knead.

Your dough is never going to be the same because now, it’s time to make some loaves!!!

Lightly grease/oil your baking pans. (that’s my job. Gorgeous Assistant Extraordinaire! I use the same type of oil that goes on the dough in the mixing bowl)

Mrs Widds saya: I divide up my dough by weight, but you don’t have to. Go with what feels right.

Hack off a piece, throw it on the scales and add or cut off bits until it weighs about 700g (about 1lb 8oz) then knead into a loaf and set aside.

Hacked up and set aside – Le sigh

Hacked up and set aside – Le sigh

A’kneading we will go, a’kneading we will go. Heigh, ho, the derry’O, a’kneading we will go

A’kneading we will go, a’kneading we will go. Heigh, ho, the derry’O, a’kneading we will go

Once all the dough is hacked up and divided, re-knead and set into your pans. Lightly brush with oil.

Mrs Widds says: If you have a bit of dough left over, divide it between the loaves. If there’s too much, flatten it out and put it in a smaller baking dish, drizzle olive oil on top, and sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, oregano, (whatever you fancy) and it’s ready to go too.

Snug as bugs in ... erm ... loaves, in their tins – Note to Self: must get around to re-gluing that poor little Snowperson back together again

Snug as bugs in … erm … loaves, in their tins – Note to Self: must get around to re-gluing that poor little Snowperson back together again

… and guess what? You wait for them to rise. Bwhahahahaha

Before

Before

This might be a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. Usually about 5 minutes before the loaves go in the oven.

After

After

Clean-up time:

A B-B-Q scraper is great for lifting the dried dough and left-over bits of flour. NOTE: Focaccia loaf in the background

A B-B-Q scraper is great for lifting the dried dough and left-over bits of flour. NOTE: Focaccia loaf in the background

Focaccia loaf all rizzed up – The peek-a-boo version

Focaccia loaf all rizzed up – The peek-a-boo version

Baking:

Bake for 20 minutes-ish, or until the bottom of the loaf makes a hollow sound when you tap it.

Mrs Widds says: The focaccia loaf will take less time to bake so add it to the oven accordingly. Every oven has its idiosyncrasies. With ours I need to turn the loaves about halfway through their bake time.

 

Still warm and half of it already eaten

Still warm and half of it already eaten

– Here we are, back at the beginning ... All baked and ready to be ‘et’

– Here we are, back at the beginning … All baked and ready to be ‘et’

One final task:

The washing-up

The washing-up

Which is usually my job, (Gorgeous Assistant Extraordinaire) unfortunately I had a nasty encounter with a vegetable slicer.

Owwie ... Never a dull moment in the Widdershins household

Owwie … Never a dull moment in the Widdershins household

There you have it. WidderBread!