Category Archives: Starch

Austrian Fruit Cake – Obstkuchen

An Austrian fruit cake made with plums (Zwetschgenkuchen)

Kuchen (“cake”) and Obstkuchen (“fruit cake”) can refer to many different desserts and pastries in Austria and Germany.  By Austrian fruit cake I am referring to a very simple, very common preparation of a dense but tender cake that is topped with seasonal fruit before going in the oven.  It’s made throughout the year with whatever fruit happens to be best that day.  I was in Austria in May, June, and July, and saw it made first with rhubarb, then cherries, then apricots.  The fruit settles into the cake nicely during the bake, but is still visible from the top.  I think soft fruits that get a touch jammy when cooked work best for this (as opposed to, say, apples … Continue reading.

French Fries

Homemade French fries

It’s been something of a personal crusade of mine to get more people deep-frying at home (see this post, and this class).  Even though I consider French fries the single most important fried food in western cooking, I rarely make them at home.  The main reason is that when working with a standard pot it takes several batches to fry enough potatoes to feed my family.  While I don’t mind frying half a chicken and putting it in the oven while the second half is fried, the six batches required for fries is a bit tedious. With that said, when I’m feeling ambitious this is how I make fries at home.

What potatoes to use.  While you can … Continue reading.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo ball soup and Reuben sandwich at June's Delicatessen in Edmonton.
Photo: Justin Benson

I did not grow up eating matzo ball soup; it was completely unknown to me and my family. In fact it was so foreign that the first several times I heard mention of it I assumed it was “mozza ball soup”, which I guess would be some kind of Italian-American soup containing mozzarella cheese. This is emphatically not the case.

Matzo balls are a kind of dumpling. Matzo ball soup is usually a chicken soup with matzo balls in it.

It turns out this classic Jewish preparation is much more familiar to me than I ever would have suspected. While the most common term in North America is matzo ball, the true Yiddish word for the dumpling … Continue reading.

Pot Dumplings

Pot dumplings cooked in a chicken stew.

One time I was at my parents’ house on Boxing Day, and I used their Christmas leftovers to make a turkey pot pie.  I shredded the turkey leg meat, combined it with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and  gravy, then baked the mixture in a pie crust.

When we sat down for supper my dad said that his mom used to make “pot pie”, but that it wasn’t a pie.

“A pot pie that wasn’t a pie?  What was it then?”

He thought for quite a while before saying, “It was chicken with dumplings.”  He couldn’t tell me much more, except that the dumplings were roundish.

At this point I was pretty sure he was confused.

I more or less forgot … Continue reading.

Pan Bread

Pan bread, fresh from the oven.

I’ve mentioned many times in many different places that Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio changed my life. The ratio given for bread in that book is 5:3 flour to water, which represents a hydration rate of 60%.

It’s not a huge change, but I’ve started using 3:2 (67% hydration) for many of my workhorse bread recipes, notably pizza dough (which I’ve already posted here), pita dough (which I hope to post shortly), and a standby I’m calling pan bread. I find that this ratio, when kneaded properly, makes super-tacky but workable dough that ultimately yields a much better crumb.

In the spirit of Ratio, I love to tailor the flavours in this pan bread to fit how it will … Continue reading.

Seeded Brown Bread

Homemade seeded brown bread.

I wanted to develop a bread that I would feel good about eating every morning. For me that means using only whole wheat flour, no white flour at all, and lots of added whole grains and seeds. The result was this brown bread recipe.

This recipe is adapted from the Whole-Wheat Bread recipe in one of my favourite books on bread, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Full disclosure: it is a bit of an ordeal. To coax flavour from the whole wheat flour and make a moist, tender loaf, this recipe employs a soaker and a poolish to create a rather wet, sticky dough that can be difficult to work with and requires very long fermentation and proofing times. It … Continue reading.

Spätzle

All the spätzle.Spätzle are little dumplings.  They are sometimes described as egg noodles, though they are quite different than the broad, flat, twisted dried pasta sold as egg noodles.

In former times spätzle were shaped by cutting small pieces of dough with a knife or spoon and rolling them into a pot of boiling water.  This process gives the noodles a long, tapered, vaguely avian appearance, which is the alleged origin of their name, which literally means “little sparrows”.

Originally a specialty of Swabia in the far south-east of Germany, spätzle is now common throughout southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  Shorter, more rounded versions are sometimes called knöpfli, which means little buttons.

These days most spätzle is made using a special board … Continue reading.

Tortillas

Homemade tortillas coming out of the skillet.A while back I wrote a list of food items that I don’t think you should ever buy because you can easily and cheaply make something at least as good at home.  As time goes on Lisa and I strike upon simple recipes and quick techniques that add items to the list.  Most recent are tortillas, the kind made of wheat flour.[1]

There are loads of tortilla recipes online.  We’ve tried several, and most are garbage, producing tortillas that are either too dense and doughy or way too delicate to stand up to filling and wrapping and eating out of hand.

We use a food-processor to mix the dough.  It takes less than 5 minutes.  With a small amount … Continue reading.

Gyoza

Homemade gyoza, Japanese dumplings filled with pork and cabbage.

Pork and cabbage for the win! A combination that transcends continents. Gyoza are Japanese “pot-sticker” dumplings, usually filled with ground pork and cabbage, though shrimp is also common.

I love this preparation because it is primarily made of local ingredients I often have on hand (pork and cabbage) but of course with the Japanese pantry items that take it in a completely different direction.

This is a very simple recipe. The only nuance is that you should grind the pork in the manner described in this sausage-making introduction. In other words, the pork should be about 25-35% fat by volume (pork butt is ideal), and should be properly chilled before grinding, and should be thoroughly mixed with liquid (soy … Continue reading.

Perogies

This post was originally published on January 6 (Orthodox Christmas Eve!), 2013.  Re-published today for those that took my session at Eat Alberta 2017.  The only difference between what we did at Eat Alberta and the recipe below is that we used Sylvan Star medium gouda instead of orange Cheddar.

Perogies!There are as many recipes for perogies[1] as there are babas in the world.  Some pillowy perogies have potato in the dough, as well as the filling.[2]  Others are made with a simple dough of flour, sour cream, butter, and eggs.  This is what I prefer…

This afternoon I made perogies, then ate four dozen of them, giving me ample opportunity to contemplate their mysteries.

The Dough.  … Continue reading.