Category Archives: Sophia’s ramblings

Burnt bottom, raw middle: song of my baking ineptitude

So, I run a baking club. Many people assume that means I possess a wide swath of culinary skill, churning out tiered cakes and piping that would put the Sistine Chapel to shame.

I’m telling you, it’s a sham.

Not that I don’t try. Only last night I was up until 2am attempting to make a traditional German plum cake. Using yeast dough. My first ever yeast dough. Let me expand on the ways in which it went so very wrong:

I think I overheated the milk. My mom told me not to do this, but I thought it would be fine. The final dough mix was sticky. I called my mom, who by that time was in bed. “My dough is sticky – should it be sticky?”

“No…” was her groggy yet emphatic answer. She then instructed me to add more flour without actually kneading the dough. Ever tried this? Impossible.

I placed bowl on top of slightly warm stove top because it was the only warm place in the house. The dough shot up like a balloon, after which I moved it to a cooler spot, where it sat frozen in its half dome for the remainder of the proving time.

In the end, I didn’t roll it out thin enough. The plums didn’t stay standing up. Too much liquid came out and the bottom burnt while the top stayed decidedly un-golden brown. In my attempt to move it around the oven to even out the bake, I burnt my finger. I wanted to cry. I steeled myself and did not cry.

Welcome to this morning. Most of the cake has decided it will not be removed from the tray, and those bits that have acquiesced have left parts of themselves behind. In short, it a ruinous thing.

To sum up:

  • 4 hours of sleep
  • Burnt finger
  • Rubbish cake
  • Fall fair entry ruined

On a positive note:

  • My sweet chilli jam did turn out, so at last I’ll have SOMETHING to enter.
  • Since it was my first attempt baking with yeast dough, I have something to add to my list of “39 things” (this is the challenge where you do as many new things as your age. It gets harder each year).
  • I have an excuse to make this recipe with my mother the next time we visit. Any excuse to bake or cook with your mom is super.
  • I can now turn my attention to something that I AM actually good at, which is cheering on other people. So my camera and I will be at the Fall Fair on Saturday, looking for bakers’ club names and generally documenting our awesomeness. Chantelle is doing SIX entries! If she doesn’t get a ribbon, I’m going to make one.
  • Finally, I leave for Scotland on Sunday.

If anyone would like a piece of barely edible German plum cake, please let me know. The cost is exactly one hug.

I told you it was terrible.

I told you it was terrible.

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What Paul says

For the past three hours, I have been trying to write a blog post about our August meetup. Unfortunately I am still staring at a blank page. Sometimes the words just won’t rattle into place. The Great British Bake Off is into its new season, and this week was bread week. “Be patient,” said the Silver Fox, aka Paul Hollywood, to the bakers, as they were about to embark on a three-hour ciabatta sojourn. So I will thank you all for being wonderful and try to be a little more patient with myself.

bakers be patient

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Almost better than cake

Dale Matthews Amish BuggyEven I know that beauty isn’t always covered in chocolate ganache and whipped cream. The Summerland Art Gallery has opened in their new space on Main Street and it’s AMAZING!

Their first show is a collection of work by Dale Matthews. The Gallery’s Grand Re-opening celebration is this Saturday and you must go! If you need some foodie enticement there will be a pancake breakfast between 9am and 11am. But seriously  – don’t miss it.

Dale Matthews artwork

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June meetup: Appetizers, hummingbirds, wine and more

Her life was a clutter of pleasures.

Sometimes there is a line that gets in my way and I can’t proceed until I let it stand like a billboard all alone at the mountaintop of the page. Today’s line reads like the opening line of a biography that I would like to read.

“A clutter of pleasures” is the best way to describe our June meetup. If you missed it, I hope this wee blog post will give you a sense of the enjoyment we all experienced.

First of all, Grape Escape Guest House is gorgeous. It is a vibrant, romantic nook carved into a rolling vista along the voluptuous curves of Garnet Valley. So imagine being spoiled with a grand gathering of delicious appetizers when you already have views for which you would willingly starve.

Grape Escape Guest House

We spent most of our time in a wee sun room where we were treated to a dramatic display of dozens of hummingbirds visiting the row of feeders that hung at eye level. It was like a painting come to life and we were all enthralled.

The sun was slowly starting to dip into the valley, and before we even dove into the appetizers, there was chilled wine made by co-owner George. Refreshing Pinot Gris, crisp Pinot Blanc, dreamy Summer Blend.

HummingbirdHummingbird watchinga moment for wineAdded to this was the adventure of more new bakers. Welcome to Lana and Lisa H (we now have three bakers named Lisa. We debated all changing our names to Lisa for simplicity’s sake). Thank you also to Wendy who dragged her friend Jamie with her to bake night rather than miss out.

A note regarding the dedication of our regular bakers: Laura put off her holiday for a day so she could go to bake night. That’s right – we have become more important than timely holidays.

Of course there was copious eating. With the theme being appetizers, all of the dishes were savoury, although it did seem that we replaced sugar with a truly impressive variety and volume of cheese. There were also caramelized onions, olives, prosciutto, pine nuts, and the best kale chips ever. I promise to post the recipes next time.

Summerland Bakers Appetizers

buds on the grapsAfter we had eaten and our cheeks held that rosy glow from good food combined with good wine, we got to go on a vineyard tour with George. We were a studious lot, learning the basics of tucking the vines and how the east and west sides of the vines are managed differently for optimum sunlight and warmth. The vines boasted tiny nubs of future grapes, some still with a miniature flourish of white flowers that held a delicate, sweet scent.

“I’ve heard this before,” said Gerri, who busied herself with more vine tucking as George talked about grape varieties and southern exposures. When we finally decided that the mosquitoes had gorged enough, we headed back to the house and there was the adorable moment when George accidentally locked Gerri in the vineyard.

vineyard tour

tucking the vinesSun in the vinesSunset at Grape Escape GuesthouseLocked in the vineyard

By then the sun was truly setting, bathing the vineyard in a deep yellow glow. We had enough time to attempt Gerri’s extremely difficult quiz. Wendy was the winner with 50%, and took home her own bottle of George’s wine. The rest of us were terribly jealous. Think you could do better on the quiz? Try it. No internet cheating! I’ll post the answers next time.

We were all smiling as we packed up our leftovers and headed out. In less than three hours we had experienced a perfect harmony of delights for our senses, from the sight of the hummingbirds and the sun glinting off everything, to the feel of the vines between our fingers, the aroma and flavours of wine lovingly made, and of our collective creative kitchen adventures. It was truly perfect.

Thank you again to Gerri and George for hosting our group. If you should ever desire an escape from the world, get yourself to Grape Escape Guest House and just let all the good things happen.

Recipes (and quiz answers) next time. Until then my friends, I hope your lives are cluttered with pleasures.

Cheers

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Bakers…our Time has come

Time_Eat_Butter

Have you all seen this month’s cover of Time Magazine? We should really have some kind of party. Oh, wait – we are! Next Thursday at Grape Escape Guest House, where we will show off our appetizers and tour a vineyard. Because that’s how we roll, yo.

Time: 6:00pm (slightly earlier than usual so we have time to tour the vineyard with George).

Bring: Delicious appetizers, and Tupperware for leftovers. Oh, and your camera to take photos of the views of Garnet Valley.

RSVP: Let me know if you’re coming so I can give the lovely Gerri our numbers.

Carpool: Email me if you need a ride and we can arrange lifts between us.

The only question that remains is, how much butter will you be using?

baking with butterbutter

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December Cookie Swap!

Is there anything as pleasurable as eating cookies at 10am on a Saturday morning?

Imagine yourself at the start of your weekend, cozy in a warm room overlooking a parade of freezing white caps on Okanagan Lake, laughing with great company, and nibbling on cookies between sips of coffee that has been topped up with a generous splash of liqueur. Add to this two adorable puppies to fawn over and cuddle.

Cookie_selectionWee_DogBacchus

I have always been a fan of the feeling of culinary abundance. I like the sensual kaleidoscope that occurs with the mingling of many flavours and textures. More than this, I love foodie collaborations because to me, each dish represents a story. I imagine them being born from each person’s creativity, and the subsequent aroma that has filled the individual kitchens. When they are packed up and brought together, the meaning and pleasure of all of those little moments of life suddenly intensifies, simply through the act of sharing. What was already wonderful becomes more wonderful, a subtle theatre of compounded deliciousness.

There were shortbread and sugar cookies, ginger snaps and oatmeal chocolate chip, mint chocolate truffles and snickerdoodles (as a lover of words, I find the name “snickerdoodle” utterly scrumptious, on par with “dillydally” and “chimichanga“).

Summerland_Cookie_Swap

I think all in attendance would agree that it was a lovely morning. Outside it was cold, but we were warm and well fed and laughing at the puppies who thought they were being discreet with their begging.

Thanks to all our bakers for making our first cookie swap a rousing success, and a very big thank you to the lovely Lisa for hosting us. I shall post the recipes and cookie photos next time!

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An open letter to a Good Omens Quinoa Brownie

Dearest Good Omens Quinoa Brownie (or as I prefer to call you on account of its adorable ring: GOQuB)

The first time I saw you, I thought you looked like a pint of Guinness that had been turned into a Lego block. I thought if I could ever stack enough of you together, I would have the outer walls for Willy Wonka’s factory.

Perhaps it was because of all those serious angles that I mistook you for one of those “no frills” desserts. You know the ones – the reliable yet forgettable kind you half wrap in a napkin and munch on while you wait for something else to happen.

I was wrong. I am sorry.

GOQuB

It is impossible for me to describe the combination of your brawny exterior and the multitude of tiny delicacies that make up your bulk without descending into the realm of metaphor, so I will do just that. For you are Chuck Norris reading Oscar Wilde in a field of daisies and shell casings. You are the bass drum’s affair with the triangle. You are Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a plie.

In just over a week I will meet with my baking group for our first “free from” theme. I have scoured the internet for “gluten free quinoa brownie,” but none of the ones I’ve found look as deep, dense, and delicious as you, and all seem to be lacking your endearing little icing comb-over.

GOQuB1My only hope is that your creators might reveal to me your secrets (for use on only a temporary basis of course), so that I may wow my fellow cake ladies with the heights that can be achieved in the gluten free world.

My adoration of you would only increase if you could appeal to your creators on my behalf, that I might be allowed to whip you up in my own kitchen and carry you triumphantly into the room on bake night. And of course, should there be any leftovers, you know you will be well taken care of.

Your greatest fan,

Sophia the cake lady

PS – should there be others reading this who would like to join in this month’s festivities, the details are as follows:

  • Date & Time: Wednesday November 13th, 7pm
  • Where: Cherry Tree Quilt Shop and Studio, Main Street
  • Theme: “Free From.” This could be sugar free, wheat free, gluten free – whatever suits your fancy
  • Be sure to bring: Tupperware for leftovers

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