I hope everyone in the U.S. had a good holiday yesterday!  This is what I spent my day eating.

Njom Week 3: Superfood cookies

Lemme tell you about these cookies—they are quite the little nuggets of moderately healthy goodness!  I whipped a batch together last Saturday afternoon right before hanging out with friends, and it took a lot of self-control not to consume the entire half-batch by myself.  These cookies are pretty much everything I would ever want in a healthy cookie—delicious!

Superfood cookies
Adapted from amyBITES
Original recipe makes 32 cookies, my half-batch made about 12

6 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2/3 c white whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c chopped walnuts
3 oz bittersweet/dark chocolate chips

Note: I used chopped pecans instead of walnuts, simply because it was what I had in my kitchen at the time. For the chocolate chips, I used some dark Ghirardelli chips [that I’ve been hoarding].

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Melt the butter, then add the brown sugar to it; stir until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, oats, and salt.  Combine the butter mixture with the dry ingredients, then add the egg and the vanilla.  Fold in the nuts and chocolate.  Mix well, and spoon by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased or parchment-covered baking sheets.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops are dry to the touch.

When spooning the dough out, I definitely recommend either using a cookie scoop or your hands, because the mixture is dry and stubborn, and has difficulty staying in one piece by itself.

Stove-top popcorn

Given that I have a blog devoted to films, I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that I love popcorn. In particular, I love the kind you get at the movie theatre, even when it’s not coated in a thick, greasy layer of liquid butter. Of course, I would also eat microwave popcorn from time to time, but it always felt a little off to me. Maybe it was my body picking up on the safety concerns involving the carcinogenic perfluorooctanoic acid that might be leeching into the oil from the popcorn bag or the bronchiolitis-obliterans-causing diacetyl frequently used to add butter flavour. Chances are, though, it’s just because I dislike using the microwave when I can use other cooking methods instead.

Despite all this, I hadn’t tried making stove-top popcorn on my own before. Well, I guess I had done Jiffy Pop before, a product I mentally equate with childhood. At any rate, the process seemed so much more involved than sticking a paper bag in the microwave for a few minutes. As sad as it may be, we do live in a time of great convenience and even greater laziness.

Still, after have a brief twitter conversation about stove-top popcorn with Sindri of Sin Fang fame, and then being prompted by Emily to just buy a two pound bag of kernels already, I finally tried my hand at doing it all from scratch. And you know what? It really isn’t that much more involved than the microwave method and the results are so, so much better.

Stove-top popcorn

Stove-top popcorn (slightly adapted from Simply Recipes)
3 Tbsp canola oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)
1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
Salt to taste


1. Place a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan over medium high heat. Add the oil and let it warm up a little. Then add 3 or 4 kernels to the pan and cover.

2. After the kernels pop, add the rest and shake a little to ensure a nice, even layer. Replace the cover and remove the pan from the heat for 30 seconds.

3. Return the pan to the heat. Once the popping really starts, move the lid so there is a little crack for steam to escape through and begin gently shaking the pan over the flame.

Shaking the popcorn pan

4. When popping slows to individual pops with several seconds in between, remove the pan from the heat and dump the kernels in a big bowl. You can wait a few seconds before dumping if you want, as there are usually one or two kernels that decide to pop last minute. Salt to taste.

Note: This makes quite a lot of popcorn. If you make it and it seems like a bit too much, try 1/4 cup of kernels and 2 1/3 tbsp oil.

Bucky Badger yellow popcorn kernels

We started our stove-top popcorn escapades with Bucky Badger brand yellow popcorn, and then went on to get some baby rice popcorn and calico popcorn from Krinke’s Market at the local farmer’s market. The baby rice is supposedly “hull-less” or, in other words, has very small and delicate hulls that are much less noticeable. The calico is a mix of different colours and types. Ultimately, though, Emily and I both agree that the big old yellow popcorn from Bucky Badger was the best, and we’ve pretty much been addicted to it ever since.

We’ve also been using a little of this Popping Topping Butter Salt stuff to salt it. It’s flavoured with actual butter, too, so none of that diacetyl stuff!

Popping Topping Butter Salt

And because I’m me: Curried popcorn
I’m currently developing an idea for a curry-flavoured popcorn topping… Is anyone surprised? Anyone?

Anyway, for my first experiment, I tried popping a 1/4 cup batch of kernels and then immediately tossing them in about 2 teaspoons of garam masala and a hefty pinch of salt until they were evenly coated The resulting kernels were covered in little dark brown spots and had a hot and toasty flavour with a subtly earthiness that actually worked surprisingly well.

Now I wonder what introducing some heat to the spice beforehand might do in further developing the flavours. I have seen recipes online that do this by cooking the spices in hot butter that is then drizzled over the popcorn. However, as melted butter has a tendency to convert popcorn from an arguably health-conscious snack choice to an unhealthy one rather quickly, I’m not sure I want to take the route. Although if I do try it, I may want to go really fancy and use melted Ghee instead of butter to further promote the Indian cuisine flavours.

I’ve also seen one recipe that advocates adding a lot of curry powder to the oil, which would certainly work, but would also require that I use a lot more of the spices than needed for other methods, as much of the spice will end up coating the walls of the pan instead. Otherwise, I’m thinking I may work on my own spice blend that I can grind up fresh and toast in a dry skillet just before use.

Whatever the result, it just goes to show how much fun stove-top popcorn can be. Go and make some, and start experimenting with those toppings! I’d love to hear what people come up with, and I’ll let you know what kind of results I get.

More Icelandic candy

Njom Week 2: Italian easter bread

Late for Easter, I know, I know.  I’ve been sitting on this post for the last few days, as I’ve been freaking out about other much more major things that need to be finished within the next month.

I’m by no means Italian in any way, shape, or form, but since becoming obsessed with food (because let’s face it, it is an obsession), I’ve been intrigued by Italians and these other cultures that like to put entire eggs (shell and all) in their breads.  As a result, it’s only natural that I’ve wanted to try attempting to make some myself.  I ended up going with a fantastic Italian sweet bread recipe.

Italian Easter Bread
Source: The Italian Dish
Makes 6

1 package Rapid Rise yeast
1 1/4 cups scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour (approx.)

1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp of water
6 dyed Easter eggs (don’t have to be hardboiled… they’re supposed to cook while the bread bakes, but I found mine didn’t cook all the way through)
Nonpareil sprinkles

In a large bowl of a mixer, combine the yeast, warm milk, salt, butter, eggs, and sugar. Add about half of the flour and beat until smooth with a dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. You’ll probably need more than 3 1/2 cups of flour. (I think I used around 4 in the end, but I honestly didn’t keep track.) Just keep adding flour a bit at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead until smooth, either with the dough hook attachment of your mixer, or on a floured board by hand. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about an hour).

Punch dough down, and divide until 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1″ thick rope about 14″ long. Taking two pieces, twist to form a “braid,” pinching the ends, and loop into a circle.

Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until double (about an hour). Brush each bread with the egg wash. Sprinkle sprinkles on the tops of the breads. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.

Bake 350° F until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

The Easter eggs in my bread went to waste, it seemed. Some of them were too large to cook through entirely while the bread was baking. (That must be what I get for using non-grocery store eggs?) So while Sean and I ended up not eating any of the eggs, the bread was gobbled up! It’s a perfect sweet bread. And I’m always a sucker for sprinkles.

Hello easter, goodbye easter

My husband and I dyed eggs well over a week ago for fun, but I figured I would share some photos of the occasion. (This is how I do holidays these days—belated!)

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Njom Week 1: Hot cross buns

Note: I’m going to try this thing where I get in the kitchen once a week to bake something new— hopefully a new dessert or bread each week.  We’ll see how it goes, won’t we?

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!

For the upcoming Easter, it only seemed appropriate to make a seasonal dessert—hot cross buns! Similar to the pączki situation last month, I’d never eaten a hot cross bun in my life (or at least according to my memory), so I was exploring unfamiliar territory.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand
Makes 6

1 egg plus scalded milk equal to 2/3 cup
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup bread flour
2 tbsp nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp raisins

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1/8 tsp almond extract

Warm the egg under hot tap water, and then crack it into a measuring cup. Heat the milk until warm, between 105° F and 115° F, and add it to the egg to make 2/3 cup. Pour the mixture into a large, warmed bowl, and add the yeast. Let stand 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, sugar, butter, whole wheat flour, half of the bread flour, and the dry milk. Beat until smooth. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Slowly add the remaining bread flour, and beat until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, and knead until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. (Add a little bit of extra flour if needed at all; I never needed any.) Knead in the raisins. Grease a bowl and place the dough in it, turning the dough over to grease both sides. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Punch the dough down, and divide it into six pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place on the baking sheet with the smooth side up, and brush each piece with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are golden. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix until smooth. Put the icing into a small plastic bag and cut off the corner, then squeeze the icing out to make the crosses on the buns.

Note: The recipe originally called for currants, but I simply used what I had in my kitchen at the time.)

While making hot cross buns, I discovered that there are several different ways of creating the crosses on the top. After I had finished mine, Sean mentioned that the hot cross buns that he’d had in his youth didn’t have icing crosses on top, but rather the cross was part of the bun itself. My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the sweet icing version that I made if more of an American thing (which would make sense). Should I ever make hot cross buns again, I’ll definitely be trying another version… either slashing the top of the dough, or using a water and flour paste mixture for the cross that’s applied prior to baking.

I liked the recipe I used here, as the dough wasn’t overly sweet, but you still got a quick burst of sweetness from the almond-flavoured icing. The contrast was quite nice, and made these a lovely afternoon treat! I also really liked that I could make a half batch so easily, so Sean and I wouldn’t be stuck eating buns for eternity—always good for my tummy.