Sunday, 28 October 2012

Butternut Squash Soup & Birds in the Sage Plant

You can tell it’s Fall when you start seeing posts about soups, apples and pumpkins and other types of squash.

As I was trying to decide which soup to make with the butternut squash I had just gotten, my inbox began filling up with all sorts of delicious soup recipes. I wanted to try them all, but I only had enough butternut squash (and time) for one. I finally chose this soup because it includes layers of comforting flavors: squash, smoky bacon, apple and sage. I enhanced the flavor further by using smoked apple-wood bacon and multi-colored sage from my container herb garden.  You can use Granny Smith or any tart-sweet apple for this recipe. The apple I used was probably more on sweet side, but it blended well with the rest of the flavors.

This Butternut Squash Soup is really good! It turned chilly this weekend, and I needed something comforting to warm me up. This soup was just the ticket. It has a smoky flavor due to the apple-wood bacon. Add that to the slightly sweet taste of apple and the nutty flavor of the butternut squash and lookout. I added more pepper so it had a nice peppery flavor as well. This is not like any Butternut Squash Soup I’ve ever made. It has a wonderful depth of flavor.



I’m really enjoying the beauty and the flavor of the multi-colored sage. This was a great recipe to use it in.  The sage plant that I used for this soup is a very special plant, not just because of it’s beauty, but because it was home to a family of Brown Thrashers this past Spring. It’s a pretty big plant for a container plant and the female had made her nest in it before I was able to discourage her. The year before, a different Brown Thrasher and I had a time of it because she kept trying to build her nest in one of my tomato plants. I would take the nest out and she would start building it again. She finally got discouraged and built her nest someplace else. I felt bad that she had to do all that extra work, but I didn’t want to interrupt the babies when I watered and fed the tomatoes.



So this year, when I saw the nest in the sage plant, I just left it alone. I was unable to water or access the plant for several weeks, but it was pretty cool to see the momma bird flying in and out of the plant to feed her babies. I could see the plant and the birds from the kitchen window until they all flew away. 

Then, one day, one of the Brown Thrashers came back to visit Perry, but he wasn’t there. Perry is my Parakeet, and during the warmer months, I keep him downstairs so he can get some sun and communicate with the other birds. When the season changed, it was a little too cold for him downstairs so I moved him upstairs. The Thrasher was so cute when he came back. He perched on the window sill near where Perry’s cage had been, but no Perry.  It was so cute, but so sad.

The birds have flown away into the trees now, but the sage plant lives on. It’s thriving actually. My regular sage plant died last year, but this multi-colored one survived the Winter, Spring and Summer and now the Fall.  It did so well, I didn’t bother planting another one this planting season. It’s almost time to bring it in for the Winter…


Butternut Squash Soup with Apple, Bacon & Sage

Adapted from:

Original recipe makes: 6-7 servings


  • 8 slices bacon (I used apple-wood smoked bacon)
  • 4-6 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used a smaller squash so I only had 4 cups)
  • 1 small tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup) 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth



1) Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large stockpot, until crisp and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. I cooked 10 slices to have a couple extra for the cook to enjoy. I only reserved a tablespoon or so of the bacon grease (in the pot) and discarded the rest.



2) Add the squash to the pot with the reserved baking grease and cook on medium-high heat until it is lightly browned.  This should take about 4 to 6 minutes.



3) Add the apple, sage, salt, and pepper and cook for an additional 4 minutes or so.  You’ll notice that the bottom of the pan will brown more than the vegetables during this process. I was a little concerned about this, but when I added the chicken broth, I just scraped the browned pieces up with a wooden spoon. This gives the soup a deep color.



4) Add the chicken broth and scrap the bottom of the pan to incorporate all of the browned pieces. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce and let it simmer until the squash and apples are soft.  This will take about 6 to 8 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.



5) Using an immersion or stand blender, puree the mixture with half of the bacon pieces.  Return the mixture to the pot (if you used a stand blender) and taste it.  Add more salt or pepper if necessary. 



6) Reheat the soup, ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining bacon. Add more black pepper if desired.


This is definitely not your average Butternut Squash Soup. Try it you’ll like it! 


Soups On!


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Einkorn Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

Making quick breads is a great way to enjoy homemade bread without spending very much time or effort in the kitchen. I especially enjoy Banana Breads and Pumpkin Breads.

I had forgotten how much I liked Quick Breads until I revisited this Pumpkin Gingerbread a few weeks ago. It was so good!  The only drawback with regular quick breads is that they are usually made with all-purpose flour and white sugar so it’s best to enjoy them in moderation.

When this Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread recipe from Fine Cooking came across my inbox (twice), I took that as my cue to experiment. The olive oil adds healthy fat and antioxidants so this is a more nutritious bread on it’s own merit, but I chose to make it even healthier by using Einkorn flour. I was delighted with the results.



The original recipe includes whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. My adaptation doesn’t include any all-purpose or modern wheat flour at all. It is made exclusively with Einkorn flour. I made the first loaf with 80% Extraction Einkorn Flour from Jovial Foods and a second loaf with whole grain Einkorn flour that I had milled in my grain mill. 


Einkorn Olive Oil Pumpkin Quick Bread

Adapted from: 

Makes: 1 Loaf (Double the recipe to make 2 loaves)


  • 6-1/4 oz. (~ 1 1/2 – 1 5/8 cups) Einkorn Flour (80% Extraction or Whole Grain Einkorn Flour)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Handful of unsalted pumpkin seeds, optional



1) Preheat the oven to 350°F and position the rack in the center. Spray a 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pan with cooking spray.  The original recipe used a 9x5-inch pan but this was too big for my version. I wanted it to rise more.  I also used a glass pan rather than a non-stick pan.


2) Mix the wet and dry ingredients. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt) in a large bowl. Then mix the wet ingredients (eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil, and honey) in another bowl until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is evenly incorporated. Be careful not to over stir. The original recipe said to add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients but I did just the opposite.



3) Spoon the batter into the greased loaf pan and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the pumpkin seeds (if using), and press them down lightly.  The whole grain Einkorn loaf is on the left and the 80% Extraction version is on the right.



4) Bake the loaf until the top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 to 45 minutes. (If the bread starts browning too much before it’s fully baked, you can tent it with a piece of aluminum foil.)


5) Cool the loaf in the pan for 15 minutes and then transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Again, the whole grain loaf is on the left and the loaf made with 80% extraction flour is on the right.



6) Slice and Enjoy!  This is the loaf that is made with 80% Extraction Einkorn Flour.



This loaf is made with 100% Whole Grain Einkorn Flour.  Although this loaf didn’t rise quite as high as the first loaf, it seemed to hold up better when I sliced it.



All said, I enjoyed both loaves immensely and I didn’t feel guilty about eating a slice for breakfast several days in a row.  Although next time I might add a bit more spice.  I think that Pumpkin Gingerbread flavor spoiled me!





Happy Baking!


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Can It Up! Cardamom Apple Cider Butter

It’s been a couple of years since the Tigress Can Jam. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in that challenge so when Hima of All Four Burners contacted me to let me know about Can It Up!, I jumped on the bandwagon right away.  Now I have an excuse for being a canning fanatic. Not that I needed one, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I participated every month in the Tigress Can Jam, but I do like the idea of a more low key challenge this time. 

As you might expect, the fruit of the month for October is Apples. I love Fall and going to the mountains to see all of the beautiful colors and visiting my favorite farm along the way to get apples. I came back with several different varieties of apples, but for this Apple Butter, I used Winesap.



I started canning several years ago and now, every year, I make apple butter. I wanted to try something different this year so I searched through all of my canning books for ideas. I finally found two recipes that sounded really good. Both versions use apple cider and one used cardamom instead of cinnamon. I really like cardamom so that sounded like a great addition. I also added some nutmeg to give it a bit of a kick.

I used what I liked about both recipes and streamlined the process by cooking it in my slow cooker, until the water-bath-canning part, that is. So instead of laboriously peeling and coring the apples, and slaving over the stove to cook down the apples, I let my slow cooker do all the work. It made things so much easier.


Cardamom Apple Cider Butter

Makes: 4- 6 Pints

Adapted from: Canning and Preserving with Ashley English and Put em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton




  • 5 pounds of cooking apples, stems removed (I used Winesap)
  • 3 cups apple cider, divided 
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Cardamom
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg



Step 1: Cook the apples

Wash the apples, remove the stems and slice them into quarters. Place the sliced apples and 2 cups of apple cider in the crockpot. Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours until the apples are soft.  Stir the apples occasionally to make sure they cook evenly.



Step 2: Puree the apples

Cool the apples slightly, then run the mixture through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins.



I used the medium screen to make the puree.



Step 3: Cook the puree until it thickens

Return the apple puree to the pot. Add the additional cup of apple cider,  the lemon juice, sugar, cardamom, and nutmeg.  Cook the mixture on low for a couple more hours until it is thick.



Step 4: Ladle the butter into jars

After the butter thickens, ladle it into pint-size mason jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Release the trapped air using a Bubble Remover and Headspace Tool. Then add the lids and rings, and process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. For more information on water-bath canning, refer to the National Center for Home Preservation web site.  


Step 5: Let jars rest on counter overnight

Turn the heat off. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, and let them sit on the counter for 24 hours to cool and ensure they are sealed correctly. You should hear the lids pop if they are sealed properly.


Step 6: Store jars in a cool, dry place.

Place the sealed jars in a cool, dry place for storage for up to a year. If any of the jars do not seal properly, place them in the refrigerator. They will last for a couple of months in the refrigerator.



Thanks to Hima of All Four Burners for starting this Challenge. It’s time to Can It Up!

Happy Canning!



You might also enjoy these Apple Butter recipes:


    Canning resources:

    Tuesday, 16 October 2012

    Russian Mountain Braid with Sprouted Wheat

    Today is World Bread Day. A day where bread bakers around the globe come together to celebrate the staff of life.

    Throughout history, bread has played an integral role in feeding the masses and in commemorating important traditions and events. Each bread tells a unique story and carves a place in time. Some say bread (or the lack thereof) has been responsible for the rise and fall of kingdoms. All I know is that I like it and I’m happy to be celebrating it today.

    World Bread Day 2012 - 7th edition! Bake loaf of bread on October 16 and blog about it!

    As with all bread, there’s a story behind this braid.  It’s actually a story within a story. It all began when Tanya, one of the Bread Baking Babes, suggested that we make Caucasian Bread for World Bread Day.

    I know what you’re thinking… what in the world is Caucasian Bread?  Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with white bread. It refers to the geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia which is situated between the Black and the Caspian sea. Home to the Caucasus Mountains. To alleviate any confusion with the name, Tanya renamed our version Russian Braid. I went a step further and named it Russian Mountain Braid. You’ll find out why in a minute.

    This bread is a beautiful braided bread that is baked in a spring form pan to help hold it’s shape. It’s supposed to end up looking like a rose.



    My son was home from college for the weekend and when I took the bread out of the oven, I asked him if he thought it looked like a rose. He said “I can see that, but I can also see mountains.”  My son is very witty and his analytical mom usually has a hard time keeping up with him. I thought he was making a joke because we had just been talking about the origins of Caucasian Bread. I immediately laughed, but he wasn’t joking. He really thought it looked like mountains. So I decided to go with that theme. I developed it further by drizzling a white glaze over the braid to form the mountain peaks.


    So there you have it … Russian Mountain Braid.  You might need to use your imagination to see the mountain peaks. 



    Some of the other Babes made a savory version of this bread.  It’s filled with pesto and parmesan cheese. Although that sounded divine, I went with the sweeter version. My version is made with sprouted wheat flour and filled with melted butter and cinnamon sugar and drizzled with a powdered-sugar glaze. 

    My adapted recipe is below.  If you want to make the savory version, check out Tanya’s post.


    Russian Mountain Braid

    Makes: 1 Huge Braided Loaf



    Adapted from: which was adapted from



    • 300 grams bread flour
    • 300 grams sprouted wheat flour (I used Lindley Mills sprouted wheat flour)
    • 3 tablespoons flax meal
    • 2.25 teaspoons instant yeast
    • 10 grams Sugar (0.35oz)
    • 10 grams Salt (0.35oz)
    • 50 grams Olive Oil  (1.7 fl oz) 
    • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
    • 300 – 400 grams water (10+ fl oz)


    • 3-4 tablespoons melted butter
    • Cinnamon sugar


    Equipment needed: Baking Pan - 10" spring form (no bottom). Take a piece of parchment paper and crimp tightly around the bottom of the spring form, oil the sides.  Place on top of a baking sheet.  Set aside. I didn’t crimp the parchment paper.  I just place it on the baking sheet and placed the spring form on top of it.



    1) Mixing the Dough

    Add all ingredients (except the water) in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the water gradually as you mix the dough.  You may not need all of the water or you may need more if you are using Einkorn.



    Using the dough hook, mix 2-3 minutes on low speed and 2-3 minutes on medium speed.  The dough should be supple and not sticky to the touch.  Add water if dough is too stiff or  flour if the dough is too loose.


    2) Bulk Fermentation

    When dough is ready, spray a bowl with oil and gently put the dough in the bowl. 



    Spray a little more oil on top and cover.  Let rise (80%) about 40 minutes to an hour.



    3) Roll out the Dough

    Lightly flour your work area. Flatten the dough gently with your hands.
    Roll the dough as thin as you can using a floured rolling pin. When rolling out the dough, try not to lift and move it too much. 



    4) Add the Filling

    Apply a thin layer of your filling on top of the dough (leave the edge clear 1/4").  I brushed the dough with melted butter then sprinkled it heavily with cinnamon sugar.



    5) Roll dough into a log

    Slowly, tightly and very gently roll the dough into a log.  You will now have a very long log.



    6) Shape the Braid

    Take a sharp knife (not a serrated knife) and cut the log lengthwise. Try to keep the knife in the middle of the log so you end up with two equal parts.


    Place the two halves crossing each other (open roulade layers facing up) to create and X shape.  Gently pick up the two ends of the bottom half, cross them over the top half, and place them back down.  Continue this process, taking the two bottom ends and crossing them over the top until all the roulade has been used.


    You should now have a two strand rope shape.  If for some reason some of the open roulade layers are pointing down or sideways, carefully turn them so they are facing up.  Gently pinch the ends to seal.

    Look at the braid.  If one end looks a little thinner make that your starting point.  If not, just start from either end.  Slowly and very gently, roll the braid sideways (horizontally) without lifting your hands from the table.  You should keep those open roulade layers facing up. Pinch the end delicately. The end result should look like a giant snail shell or a very large cinnamon bun.



    7) Proof the Loaf

    Carefully pick up the braid and place in the prepared spring form.  Keep it flat on the parchment.  The bottom of the braid should set nicely. You may want to sprinkle on more cinnamon sugar at this point, but keep in mind you don't want to cover up the effect of the shaping.


    Cover. Let rise until the braid hits three quarters the way up the spring form.  Depending upon the temperature in your kitchen this may take from 20 to 40 minutes or longer.



    8) Bake the Loaf

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Bake at 400F for 5-10 minutes, then lower the oven to 350F and bake for another 20-30 minutes. There should be a decent amount of oven spring.  The bread should rise above the spring form edge.



    9) Cool the Braid

    When the bread is out of the oven, drizzle it with the powdered-sugar glazer on top. Let cool on a rack.



    10) Slice and Enjoy!

    This bread is as about as good as it gets. My son and I had the same reaction. We took one bite and both said “Oh yeah! That’s I’m talking about!” He called it a toned down version of a cinnamon roll – a huge cinnamon roll!



    Thanks to Tanya of the Bread Baking Babes for recommending this awesome braid!  And thanks to Zorra for creating the fabulous World Bread Day blogging event. Check out the previous World Bread Day Roundups.


    Happy Baking!


    Saturday, 13 October 2012

    A Tale of Two Pumpkin Yeast Breads

    This is a tale of two loaves of Pumpkin Yeast Bread. These twin loaves from different flours began with the same list of ingredients, but took on a different life when the flour was added. One loaf was made with all-purpose white flour; while the other loaf was made with the ancient grain Einkorn.

    The first loaf turned out really fine, dressed in yellow and looking so divine with a beautiful egg wash finish. The flavor was delightful!  The slices tasted great plain, as a sandwich, or toasted and spread with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.



    The 2nd loaf, made with 80% extraction Einkorn flour, was lovely in it’s own right.  It was clothed in yellow as well, but the deep golden brown crust was brushed with olive oil to provide a beautiful sheen. The flavor of this bread was light, rich, and somewhat nutty. It also tasted great plain, or with peanuts. I mean, as a sandwich or toast.



    Both of these loaves taste so good, they are hard to resist. My youngest son was home from college this weekend so he taste-tested both of them and liked them equally well. He did say he thought the one with all-purpose was a little bit moister and the crust on the Einkorn was different, a bit nuttier. I think I baked the Einkorn loaf a wee bit longer so that would make sense if it wasn’t quite as moist.



    The recipe below is the adapted recipe using Einkorn flour, olive oil and added cinnamon.  If you want to make the loaf using regular wheat flour, just substitute all-purpose flour for the Einkorn. You’ll probably use about 1/2 cup less all-purpose than you do Einkorn flour. 

    Note: This is a very sticky dough with either flour, but particularly with the Einkorn flour.


    Einkorn Pumpkin Yeast Bread

    Makes: 1 Loaf

    Adapted from: which was reprinted from the Baker’s Sheet Newsletter.


    • 1/4 cup warm water
    • 1/3 cup warm milk (I used almond milk)
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • 3/4 cup puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 3 1/2 – 4 cups Einkorn flour, plus more for sprinkling (I used 80% extraction Einkorn flour from Jovial Foods)
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon



    1) Mixing the Dough

    In a large bowl, combine the liquid ingredients: water, milk, eggs, pumpkin, oil. 



    In a medium bowl, combine the 3 cups of Einkorn flour, brown sugar, salt, instant yeast, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.


    Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and beat vigorously for 2 minutes.


    Gradually add remaining flour, a little at a time, until you have a dough stiff enough to knead. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.



    2) Proofing the Dough (Bulk Fermentation)

    Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.



    3) Shaping and Proofing the Loaf

    Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Shape dough into a loaf and place in well-greased 9 x 5-inch pan. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.



    4) Baking the Loaf

    Bake the loaf in a preheated 375°F oven about 30 minutes. Check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer; a reading of 190°F means loaf is done.


    5) Cooling the Loaf

    Immediately remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy. For a shiny crust, brush tops lightly with oil.  I brushed the one of the right with an egg wash before baking and the one on the left I baked, then brushed with olive oil.



    This is the loaf made with all-purpose flour and brushed with an egg wash.



    This is the loaf made with 80% extraction Einkorn flour and brushed with oil.  It actually rose a little higher than the loaf made with all-purpose flour.  This surprised me; however, I think I may have been a bit heavy-handed with the egg wash which made the first loaf collapse just a bit.



    6) Slice and Enjoy the Loaf

    Here is the beautiful Einkorn loaf sliced and ready to eat.


    I’m sending some of this bread back to school with my son if there is any left. I told him I would give him the loaf made with the all-purpose flour so he’s been eating the loaf made with Einkorn so he would have more to take back.


    This bread has been YeastSpotted. Please visit Wild Yeast to view the weekly roundups of lovely breads from bread bakers around the globe.


    Happy Baking!