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Archive for October, 2010

Every so often I get a letter from a reader that erases any doubt about why I do what I do. There’s the Christmas card from a woman who told me she’s kept,  for years, a newspaper clipping from a story I wrote about Christmases spent with my Mennonite grandparents (men in the living room cracking nuts, women in the kitchen, kids in the basement…all of us waiting for our holiday brown paper lunch bags, filled with nuts, mandarines, hard candy and $2 bills). Her experience, she said, was much the same. She’s kept my clipping, I’ve saved her card.

This morning, I received another keeper.

I’ve met so many warm-hearted people while reading and touring with Mennonites Don’t Dance. Many have taken time to tell me stories about where they’re from, their own Mennonite roots. Some of the stories are familiar, all appreciated, many hilarious. Like this one, where Alice Gro explains how she came to use more than 14 plums on her platz.

Congratulations on “Mennonites Don’t Dance”!  As an avid reader of your (and Dean’s!) Courier column, I eagerly awaited your book!  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend your launching at the Kelowna Library, but a few days later I was able to scoop a signed copy for myself and for each of my 4 sisters!  They were great little gifts to take down to the  Penner family Thanksgiving gathering at the coast.

Your stories were as wonderful to read as I expected.  I did not have the “prairie experience my self; I was born after my parents had moved to that B.C. Mennonite mecca –  Yarrow.  (Daughter of Raspberry Penner, who was son of Postman Penner – you know what I mean.) Some of that old prairie ethic certainly did come along for the ride, though.

I had a good laugh at your reference to Peach Pie in “Ashes”.  That instinctive frugality hit me as I was making my contribution to the Penner Thanksgiving feast: Plum Platz.  All my life I thought it was a “given” that  it took exactly 14 plums to make a 9×12 Platz.  Here I was, making 4 of those suckers, and STILL had pounds and pounds of those prolific fruits still on the counter.  The thought of making MORE Plum Platz was crazy-making!  Oh! Wow!  What a thought!  I could STAND THE PLUMS ON EDGE!  I could fit 30 or 40 plums in each pan!  Genius!  (Big hit at the dinner party too!)  We  Mennonites (using the term loosely here) still have some built-in traits, that’s for sure.

Anyway, thanks for the book.  The stories were very thought-provoking.  I am delighted to note that even non-Mennonites are “getting” it, and I am looking forward to more from you!

Sincerely

Alice Gro

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1 – 750ml (3 cups) bottle red wine
1 cup brown sugar
1 short cinnamon stick
8 large navel oranges
1 tbs granulated sugar

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring wine, brown sugar and cinnamon to a boil, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until syrup has reduced in volume to 1 cup; about 50 minutes. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate.

Zest peel from 2 oranges. In a small bowl, mix peel together with granulated sugar.

With a sharp knife, remove and discard peel and white pith from oranges. Segment the oranges into the bowl by cutting between membranes. Cover segments and sugared peel separately and refrigerate.

Divide orange segments between 8 dessert bowls. Drizzle with wine syrup and garnish with sugared peel. Reserve and leftover syrup to drizzle over vanilla ice cream.

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This isn’t that vaguely cocoa-y, disappointing chocolate bread that you buy in a supermarket and immediately regret. It’s everything it should be. Loaded with chocolate, and all about the chocolate. The second loaf, if it has time to go stale, is perfect for bread pudding (recipe also on this site).
(makes 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
16 oz semisweet chocolate, chips or coarsely chopped
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, sprinkle yeast over milk. Add 1 tbs sugar, then set aside to proof (until bubbles form on the surface).
Meanwhile, melt the butter and 6 oz of the chocolate in a small double boiler, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until warm.
Into the yeast/milk mixture, add remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Mix in half of the flour and all of the cocoa powder, followed by the melted butter/chocolate mixture. Incorporate the remaining flour and, using the dough hook attachment, knead for 5 minutes.
Cover with a clean, lint-free kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours, until doubled.
Butter two 9-inch loaf pans.
When the dough is finished rising, scrape out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times, divide in half. Shape halves into two loaves and place in pans. Cover and allow to rise for another 90 minutes to two hours.
Bake in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and turn loaves out of pans, onto a cooling rack.
Cook’s notes: The dough for this bread can be made successfully in a larger capacity breadmaker. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, butter/chocolate mixture, and vanilla to the bottom of the pan, followed by flour and cocoa, with the yeast on top. Add chopped chocolate or chips when the add-in alarm sounds. When the dough is ready, divide into two pans and bake in oven according to above instructions.

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There’ve been so many requests for this starter, after a subsequent story included Part 2: actual sourdough bread. So I’m including it here, original question and answer, an all.

 

The start of something sour
by Darcie & Dean Hossack
Hi Darcie ,
My wife has been baking bread since we were married , that was in 1957  and it went from the ugly to the bad to the best , it’s a learning process  of course  . One kind of bread she has not been able to bake is a  REAL sourdough  bread . I don’t mean the N. American type but the European  type . We come from the Netherlands   , I come from the southern part of Holland near the German border and there was baked  sourdough bread that was sour .  By the way , she never buys yeast  , she grows her own  , makes lovely bread . She tried  different yeast  recipes  that I found on the net , but no luck  .  So  the question is : do you have by chance a recipe to make that sour yeast  that’s used in   those breads  .  I talked to German baker in town and he knew what I was talking about but did not  want to give  a recipe .
So we keep on hoping  , maybe your the  answer .
Gerry and Erica Vermey
Dear Gerry and Erica,
I began sleuthing out answers to your question back in the middle of July, having little idea just how right you were. It’s no easy thing to part professional bakers from their sourdough secrets!
After some (understandably) blank stares and unanswered emails, and knowing already that I’m not half the baker your wife is, I grimly turned to my own research. Days later, I had only gotten as far as France (where they like their sourdough nice and unsour), and was overwhelmed by internet innuendo and conflicting cookbook advice. How would I ever come up with an answer that’s better than I am? How would I know when I’d found it?
So when my friend, Susan Toy, took some time off from her too-busy-to-bake business as an independent author rep., I quickly went over my head to a better baker. Susan is the most consummate one I know outside of a professional kitchen.
As luck would have it, while visiting her alternate home in the Caribbean, she was already on the case on behalf of an island restauranteur who turns to her for the development of any recipes having to do with leavening.
Said Susan:

“You’re in luck. I had planned to develop an extra-sour sourdough starter while I’m on Bequia. So today is the day I will ‘start,’ so to speak, although it’s pouring rain again, and may be too cool to get the fermentation process properly working.

“Of course, German bakers use rye flour almost exclusively to make their sourdough starter. Rye definitely already has a stronger taste, so will give a more sour flavour to the bread. I don’t have any rye left in the freezer, and I might not be able to buy any at this time of year. One of the drawbacks of Bequia – we’re limited in the ingredients we have readily at hand.

“The secret to sourdough is in the amount of flour and water (and only flour and water are used), then in the time allowed for fermentation. A stiffer dough is required, so 50% hydration is what you’ll want to mix, ie. twice as much flour to water, by weight. I’ve now mixed together 12 oz. of flour with 6 oz. of water and the resulting dough is indeed stiff. Now, if I leave it sit for a few days and don’t feed it, I should have a highly acidic starter that I can then add to a bread recipe, and will hopefully be rewarded with a stronger biting taste, as well as a crunchier crust, as a result.”

A few days later, after incorporating the starter into a San Francisco-style recipe, Susan had two loaves of very sour sourdough. The following week, after discovering some rye flour in her Island freezer, and after five days babysitting the new batch (which she refrigerated for part of that time, as she suspected bread mold was trying to gain a foothold) she adds that “There’s no comparison at all! The rye is a far superior, bordering-on-vinegary taste.” Exactly what she, and hopefully you, were looking for.

 

And once that’s done…

 

San Francisco-Style French Bread
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F, 40C)
1 envelope active dry yeast (1 tablespoon)
1 cup sourdough starter
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
Water for tops of loaves
Warm a large bowl. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into warmed bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water. Set aside to soften 5 minutes. Stir in sourdough starter, sugar and salt. Beat in 3 cups flour until blended. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place free from  drafts. Let rise 1 1/2  to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Lightly grease a large baking sheet; set aside. Stir down dough. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a medium-stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead dough 8 or 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary. Shape kneaded dough into two 10: x 3 1/2” loaves. Pull out ends of each to make them narrower than center of loaf. Or shape into 2 round loaves.
Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place free from drafts. Let rise 1 to 2 hours or until almost doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Pour water 1 inch deep into a 12” x 7 1/2” baking pan. Place in bottom of preheating oven. Use a pastry brush to brush tops of loaves with water. Use a razor blade or very sharp knife to cut kiagonal slashes across tops of loaves. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
After 30 minutes, if loaves are golden brown, cover with a tent of foil to prevent further browning. Remove from baking sheet. Cool on a rack. Makes 2 loaves.

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For links to recipes and food stories by Darcie Hossack (ahem, me), from the Kelowna Daily Courier, Kamloops This Week, thepeartree.ca and the Calgary Beacon, “like” the page.

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If you missed the review of Habeeb Salloum’s “Buffalo Delights” cookbook, and the recipe for Samboosa in the last Kelowna Daily Courier or Kamloops This Week, find it at the Calgary Beacon.

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Official reviews will start tricking in soon (shudder). In the meantime, here’s where Mennonites Don’t Dance has shown up so far. Thank you so much to everyone who’s bought a copy!

Press:

Stories to Savour, by Lori-Anne Charlton Poirier, The Pear Tree

Cooked Up Stories, by Portia Priegert, eVent magazine

Mennonites Don’t Dance, by Portia Priegert, ABC BookWorld

On First Books and Chicken’s Feet, by Teri Vlassopoulos, author of Bats or Swallows: And Other Stories

BookClubBuddy, by Pearl Luke

Listings:

Thistledown Press

HSW Literary Agency

Chapters.ca

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

Good Reads

Amazon.com Author Central

Books by and About Mennonites

Juicespot

Books by Teachers and Alumni of Humber School for Writers

Blogroll:

Publicity for Darcie Friesen Hossack, by Susan Toy (Alberta Books Canada)

Book Club Buddy, by Susan Toy

Holy Cluck!, by Trish Tervit

And a Darcie in a Pear Tree, by Vicky Bell

Well, at least some people listen to me... by Susan Toy (Alberta Books Canada)

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