A bit remiss but offering soon to be famous Wake Up Morning Muffins

Alright. I admit it. My posting has been remiss. But folks I got life coming at me left and right. Don't get me wrong, I dig it, I know it will be this way, well, forever, but let's just say I am in a period of adjustment.

I am currently wrapping up one job, and gearing up for two. One of these will be with the Mankato Farmers Market requiring a very early get up on Saturday mornings. As I prefer to sleep absolutely as long as possible, I am beginning to think about how I can shrink my morning routine. Solution: Muffins. No messing around with hot cereal or eggs or anything else requiring dishes. Make the muffins before said sunrise, grab, go and face the day. I must say I am inspiried by Miss Murphy. (Exhibet A and Exhibet B). Also, very jealous of the rhubarb.

So, last night in the dredges of our end of the month food stuffs, I pulled together what I believe to be some excellent muffins. My fella agrees. I do not have the photo skills that my illustrious partner Murph does, thus you are just going to have to take my word on thier glory.

I modified a recipe by Rebecca Rather the absolute GOD of Texas Pastry. And I added cardemom the spice of all things Fin. I believe the identities blend quite nicely. And these are fiber-full, so they do really get the day started right.

Wake Up Morning Muffins
for 6-8 "normal" muffins (not Texas sized peeps)

1 cup fiberific/oaty cereal - whatever you like.
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Applesauce, jam, mashed fruit, whatever
1/2 cup each whole wheat and white flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Put cereal and milk in bowl, set aside for at least 5 minutes so the cereal can soften. Whisk egg vigourously in medium bowl. Add sugar, honey, oil and whatever fruit component you have ling around. If you add jam it should be about 4 heaping spoonfuls, apple sauce/fruit make it closer to 3/4 cup. Add the cereal mixture and stir until combined. Measure flour, baking powder and salt on top of wheat mixture. Before stirring in, swish dry ingredients around with your finger to incorporate baking powder. Then combine with a few swift stirs.

When you've got it all whipped up, fill a greased muffin tin generously. Any empty spots should be filled with water so the muffins cook evenly.

Top each muffin with a streusal. Bake at 350 until puffy and firm.

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

3 tbsp butter
3 heaping spoonfuls brown suger
quite a bit of cinnamon
half as much cardamom
a pinch of salt
whatever nuts you have lying around (I used sunflower seeds)
2 handfuls all purpose flour

Mash everything together in a bowl, use your hands if you need to. Add enough flour for everything to be crummby, but not combined.

The Crisp

I have to write about the rhubarb crisp Alix and I made last night. After much discussion with my sister on the phone about the massive strawberry-rhubarb crisp she made and my mourning over the fact that I could not gleefully sit at the counter in the kitchen on a sunny morning and eat leftovers with her for breakfast, she provided me with the opportunity to make my own, and that's exactly what I did.

The evening started with a showing at Critical Mass which is a cycling event that happens on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world to promote bicycle awareness on the roads and to protest the massive amounts of cars that clog our cities. I had heard about it, but I hadn't taken part. So when Alix called me up to invite me out, off we went to cycle peacefully around Montreal in a big group of other equally enthusiastic individuals, blocking traffic, dinging bike bells, honking horns, and chanting clever slogans in french: l'auto, ça tue, ça pue et ça pollue! (Cars, they kill, they stink and they pollute - however, my english translation is lacking the clever french rhymes.)

Here we are congregating in Square Phillips. (The warmest spring day yet! Adorned sandals and shorts. A bright red t-shirt!)

Eventually hunger overtook us and we had to head for home, where we each snacked on a half of one of my rhubarb muffins and had a glass of orange juice. (This detail seems quite important seeing as we had to fuel up for our dinner making escapades.) Then while I prepared chicken breasts braised with cannelloni beans in leeks, cream, white wine and oregano, kale from Libby's garden in Victoria (her mom also came bearing gifts) and quinoa, Alix made the crisp.

My family has a crisp recipe that involves some consultation of various cook books, then some measuring of fruit, some dumping in of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and tapioca and mixing all together, then making topping of cinnamon, sugar, lots of butter, oats, maybe flour and cooking it at 350 degrees F. I could have done this, - although it seems rather vague, to us it has always made sense - but Jean also brought along a recipe from Eric Akis who is the food writer for the Times Colonist, the local paper in Victoria. For a writing class in university, I interviewed Eric and wrote a profile on him. So, being reminded of a personal experience and a connection to home, I was delighted to follow his recipe and was quite pleased with my results (a tart pairing of citrus, vanilla and cinnamon.) Alix also is from Victoria, coincidentally residing on my street as well, however not next door like Libb does, so she too, reaped the benefits of this "local" Victoria meal.

Dinner rocked by the way:

And here's the recipe, with a few minor adjustments.

Rhubarb Crumble
as adapted from Eric Akis

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F


10 C sliced rhubarb (3/4 inch thick)
1 C sugar
1 C orange juice
1 C water
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
4 TBS instant tapioca (or more, you want it to be evenly dispersed throughout the rhubarb)
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBS fresh ginger
zest of one lemon


2 1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C butter
3 TBS flour
1 tsp cinnamon (or more!)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (or more!)
1/2 C chopped almonds

Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and put into a 9 X 13 baking dish.

Put topping ingredients in a bowl and combine (use a pastry blender or your fingers to incorporate the butter).

Sprinkle the topping over the top of filling.

Bake for 45 minutes. OR! Until it bubbles in the middle. Not just on the sides. We were so excited that we prematurely decided to take it out of the oven, but when we dished it up the rhubarb was still hard. So patience little one, and let this get nice and syrupy. Mr. Akis says, "until golden brown and bubbling." I would agree.

Serve with ice cream.

Seeing as it's 9:30 on a Saturday morning, and I haven't eaten yet, (my stomach is making noises) I'm going to have seconds for breakfast with yogurt.

- chef murph


My sister loves me. And oh boy! do I love her.

Jean, Libby's mom, came for a visit and to help us move. Seeing as Libby's family lives next door to my family in Victoria, Katherine, my dear dear sister, sent along rhubarb from the garden, already abundant in the warm spring of the west coast.

And, consequently, I made rhubarb muffins for breakfast. Hallelujah.

Thank you little miss!

- chef murph

Enthusiastic about fish

I am enthusiastic. That's even an understatement. At the end of high school, someone wrote in my year book that they couldn't understand how someone could contain so much enthusiasm and not explode, or perhaps they said spontaneously combust. Wow.

Well, the tradition reins on. And tonight, I made fish. Libby has put up with my ranting about wanting to eat fish for two weeks. Well, I'd say it's been really bad for about five days. I wake up and I see fish; I taste the moist, pan-fried crispiness, butter and lemon juice, a sprinkling of herbs. On my bike I imagine poached salmon covered in Bearnaise sauce. Running in the park I think about pecan-crusted halibut. I dream about going to the market and talking to the fish monger, asking them what's good, how I should cook it, sniffing the fish to check for that clear sea-salt water smell. And so, today I did it, braving the rain on my bike, barely able to contain my ecstasy.

And I bought some Orange Roughy. The guy said it was awesome, showing equal exuberance to that I was trying to contain. After complimenting me on my awesome red helmet, he dove into a long explanation about how to cook the fish, just in butter, salt + pepper, then lemon, waving his arms around, excusing himself, it was hilarious.

Why have I waited so long to fulfill my craving? Well, to be honest I can take daily life rather seriously (a little too so in fact). And over-fishing problems cause stomach pains, fish farms give me migraines, not to mention the fact that I don't live near the sea..... (results in insomnia). I've been giving myself a hard time, but I'm starting to hate tofu and beans. It's not fun. Well, not on repeat. And I eat tons of peanut butter and hard-boiled eggs, which are delicious! Don't get me wrong. I just don't see why I have to take it so far. So extreme.... I worry about the quality of the fish, where I buy it, the price, the transportation costs. All good things to consider, yes, but there are other ways to go about this, as in just going to the right place and swiping the plastic. So yesterday I bought a new summer dress (dark blue wrap-around) and tonight I made fish.

Here's my plate (yes I stopped 1/4 of the way through to take a picture) of orange roughy which I first pan-fried and then smothered in brown butter sauce with roasted pecans. To accompany, I cooked polenta with parmesan, rosemary, and salt and pepper, roasted broccoli with leeks and steamed kale. Oh my. Oh my.

So here's a little note about cooking fish.

First, get a good piece of fish. One that smells like the sea. Fishy odours begone! That's a fillet that's been around for a while. Before cooking, take the fish out of the fridge so it is at room temperature when you put it in the pan. Heat up a heavy-bottomed, well-oiled skillet until smoking hot, and place the fish bottom side up so the top gets nice and brown first. If your fillets are really thick, you might want to just brown the outside, transfer it into an oven-proof roasting pan and cook it at 350 degrees F for 5-7 minutes. Mine were thin enough to pan fry and they took about 3 minutes on each side. The best test is to take a peak inside. The fish is ready when the inside is still slightly glossy, or somewhere in between opaque and transparent. It will finish cooking on the plate while you make your brown butter sauce. Over-cooked fish is rubbery and disgusting. I've seen too many fish haters in my time and it's a crime (though perhaps a plus for the over-fishing problem, but a downer for the fishermen; there are two sides to every problem.) Mastering this skill takes practice, so that's important to remember. I am trying to be kinder to myself and not spend the whole time worrying whether or not I've screwed it up. Positivity is the new word here.

For the sauce, and before you fry the fish, toast whole pecans in a skillet, chop them coarsely and set aside. When the fish is done, melt 1/3 C butter in the same pan you cooked the fish in, scraping the bottom to incorporate all the crispy crunchy bits. The butter will foam up and begin to brown. Keep stirring it around and turn the heat down to medium so it doesn't burn. This all happens really fast, so add your nuts, stir them around in the butter until it turns slightly golden. Pour the sauce into a bowl you have already waiting beside the stove. Dish up the rest of dinner, spoon the brown butter and pecan sauce onto the fish and don't forget to squeeze a quarter of a lemon on top!

I actually yelled with excitement. Which looked something like this:

The realization I've come to is this: I'm going to live frugally in other areas of my life. I will go to the library to check out books, I will not spend 100 dollars on CD's at a time (a favourite pass-time of the tree-planter lady with a comfortable bank account), I will not waste my money on silly activities like getting wasted at the bars on St. Laurent (a favourite pass-time of many people, why I'm not too sure). I know I just bought a dress, but it was a graduation present to myself and a tribute to my new positivity, so fault me if you wish. Instead, I will buy good ingredients. My smoked paprika! I put it in everything, and it's awesome. Like into the hummus I made today. Delicious.

Well, I can't wait for breakfast!

- chef murph

goodnight granola

It was a long week. And the next week might be long too, but more exciting I think. I'm moving! To a new apartment with big windows and an L shaped balcony. Maybe I will start to grow some herbes fines! I will be so sad to say goodbye to dear Libb, but there are new chapters to begin and great huge new doors to open. She will go join her man in Toronto and I, Jude, will finally arrange my possessions in my new small room, where I will stay for the next year and a bit. Finally! I don't have to pack up my things in four months and go some place else.

To soothe my fatigue, I made granola. I love making granola, especially at 10:30 at night. Because there is nothing else I want to do at this time (except these days it's been reading food blogs like there'll never be another one) and because Libb loves granola so much it gives me great pleasure to fill our home with a warm nutty honey vanilla rich smell that penetrates my bones and loves me to the core.

Making granola is so easy. There are so many variations as well. The hardest part is making sure you don't burn it. Other than that, it's just around 5-6 cups oats, 1/2 C oil and 1/2 C honey (heated up slowly), and then whatever other good things you want. I dumped in coconut, sesame seeds, spelt bran and flax seeds. I'm dying to try it with wheat germ (which you add after roasting the oats so you don't lose nutrients) and the "Joy of Cooking" has three versions, one where you first roast buckwheat groats, then add the oats and other things. Nuts are a killer addition, but I didn't have any. Dried fruit must go in last, otherwise it will just dry up and take forever to chew.

So what you want to do is mix together your oats, coconut, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, whatever kind of seeds together in a bowl. Then you add a teaspoon of really good vanilla to the oil and honey, mix it around, and pour it over the dry oat mixture. Stir this around so everything is coated with oil and honey and spread it onto a baking sheet with sides (otherwise known as a jelly roll pan). The oven should be at 325 degrees F. Stir every five minutes. Do not, do not, I repeat do not, put too many oats into the pan at once. This means you will have to do several pans, or several batches. Tonight's batch took me two pans and I roasted it perfectly. Note that it will finish cooking when it comes out of the oven, so the a nice light golden colour that leaves you feeling like it should roast more means she's a-done!

Happy early morning crunching!

- chef murph


Cabbage Salad
Bread Me Baby

Happy Happy Spring!

Here I am. And here's the first self portrait I've taken in months. I guess it was time, which is an excellent sign. I believe I can safely say that spring is here, or at least so close around the corner that I can just FEEL it, everywhere. The air has become soft and gentle, sweet almost. I ran up Mont Royal this morning and only wore a long-sleeved shirt and shorts. That's the least amount of clothes I've worn outside in Montreal since I arrived. There are shoots of green popping up in yards (daffodils and tulips?) People are starting to wear shorts to show off their shocking bright white legs. I wore sandals to work the other day. Sandals! But the most important occasion is the pending arrival of asparagus and rhubarb. You can bet there'll be a few articles about those two lovely vegetables (is rhubarb a vegetable? maybe a fruit? I have a feeling it's a fruit...the Oxford Dictionnary classified it as "food". Hmmm. Well, anyways, it's super high in vitamin C, so take note.)

After the run I was pretty hungry. So I took a cold shower, danced in my room to the Jesus and Mary Chain, and made migas, or my version of migas, in fact the first and only version that I've ever made of migas. I got this brilliant idea to fry up old tortillas, onions, jalepenos, and eggs from the Homesick Texan. I however was lacking cilantro and jalepenos, but it's quite a versatile recipe; you could do anything with it as long as you have eggs and tortillas and spice, I imagine. I sliced up some onion, threw it into hot canola oil, stirred it around, added strips of tortillas and let them get nice and brown. Then in went some spinach and sweet smoked paprika. I stirred the mixture around, added two eggs mixed with a bit of milk, when it was cooked I dumped it onto a plate and grated tons of cheese on top. During this time, I also heated up some black beans, added salt and pepper, dumped those next to the eggs, added a dollop of salsa on top and boom! I was ready to go. Of course, the water for my coffee was ready at the exact moment the eggs were ready in the pan, nearly burning, and then the beans were sticking to their pan, kinda smoking.... Libby was also asking me from the other room how she should dress and if it was warm enough to wear capris. I gave a rather disjointed answer, mumbling that she should just go see for herself. She left the house in jeans, but not before she had a bite of my creation, exclaiming, "oh wow, that's so good!" Yes sir, it was delicious.

The key of course was the smoked paprika. I've decided that the ingredients you buy are the most important things. You can cook very very simply (but so deliciously!) with very few key ingredients and once you stock up your kitchen, it's cheap.

Then to finish off the whole experience, which was unreal, there was one square of white pepper and cardamom chocolate sitting on the table. I gently savoured it and gulped down the last mouthful of coffee.

mmmmmm! delicious, as we like to say at the Murphy house.

So today, here's to spring, here's to new life, here's to new beginnings in new places, even if it's horribly uncomfortable and scary. Here's to being open to life and meeting challenges. Here's to new spring vegetables (and fruits!). Here's to good quality ingredients. Here's to great friends who love to cook and share good food. Here's to those who match my enthusiasm and feed it. Here's to the sun. Here's to Mont Royal Park, I wouldn't survive this city without you.

Rock on and until next time, make some migas!

- chef murph

Feelin' Down? Make some Sloppy Joes.

For the first time I won't be earning my usual generous tree-planting checks. It's all part of the plan to live a different life for a while, work a part-time job in an outdoor clothing and equipment store, and worry incessantly about how much money I'm spending. I already obsess enough about money, so I'm not sure if this was the best choice, definitely the more challenging one, but I'm hoping to learn about some different parts of life, like under-paid jobs and over-time hours. Maybe I'll go back to the trees next year....

In the mean time, I'm cooking and sharing food with those I love here in Montreal. Tonight, Libby and I made Sloppy Joes, an easy recipe from the "Joy of Cooking" and one that my dad would make for Katherine and I as kids. I remember complaining about it. You know, I must have complained a lot as a child, because I remember being very demanding, (I still am...) but Dad persevered patiently through my unaccepting antics. Maybe I wanted to make Sloppy Joes again because I've been missing home so much. That damn west coast, always calling you back. And they tasted like I remember, but dad used ground beef (like you're supposed to) and probably let it cook longer so that it was more of a sloppy, stewed mess. I was less patient, but here's what I did (Libb helped chop).

I put onions, garlic, celery, red peper in a pan and let them sizzle up good in olive oil. Then in went my cooked kidney beans, some diced tomatoes, and chili sauce (your choice). Add 1/4 C of water and let it simmer. This is probably the most flexible dish around. You could add whatever you wanted as vegetables or spices. After 15 minutes Libb and I were pacing around the kitchen with hunger and impatience, so when the cornbread muffins came out of the oven, we prematurely dished up the beany goodness and grated tons of cheese on top. The celery was slightly crunchy.

This leads me to the most important part of the dish: cornbread. I love cornbread, it's one of the greatest quick breads I know about. Even though I don't come from down south, my mom's southern upbringing made it's mark in our home cuisine. I usually make mine in a preheated, preoiled cast-iron skillet, but tonight I used extra large muffins tins to make individual servings. I just cut them in half and loaded up both halves with beans.

Here's the cornbread recipe, one that never seems to fail, has a good crumb and is absolutely not too sweet.


Adapted from the Rebar Modernfood Cookbook

Preheat oven to 375 degrees C.
Oil your cast-iron skillet and put it into the oven (the oil helps turn the crust extra crispy and brown).
Or, grease your muffins tins, but these don't need preheating.

1 C cornmeal
1 C spelt/whole wheat flour
2 TBS brown sugar (or honey, or leave it out)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 C buttermilk
1 or 2 eggs beaten
5 TBS melted butter or oil

1 - mix together dry ingredients, make sure there are no lumps of baking powder, soda and sugar.
2 - mix together wet ingredients (if you're using honey, add it here).
3 - add wet to dry and with a few quick strokes, combine.
4 - pour the batter into the hot skillet (careful!) or into muffin tins.
5 - when a knife comes out clean and the top is brown, taker 'er outta there.

It was a serious, much needed spirit lifter.

- chef murph


My family marks all significant occasions with food, and this usually means we sit around at the breakfast table for hours on end licking the remains of whatever delicious pastry we've made off our fingers, or lingering over the last few drops of ice cream and berry crisp in our bowls from dessert. This German fruitcake is traditionally made at Christmas time and Easter, and my family has always eaten it for Easter breakfast with dyed eggs and little chocolate treats.

However, this year I'm far away from the blooming cherry blossoms and glowing daffodils already in full force out west. Montreal is still struggling against grey skies and chilly winds, but I'm starting to see snow drops and crocuses in tiny courtyards on walks around the neighborhood. There is hope. And even more so because the Stollen I made for breakfast this morning, in order to celebrate Easter properly with my roommate Libby, tastes exactly like my mom's does. As I finish my fourth piece right now, I am still in complete awe of this moist, crumbly German delicacy.

Breakfast was a truly charming affair. Libby's mom Jean (who lives next door to my parents in Victoria with Libby's dad, Steve, and her sister Jocelyn) sent us some chocolate bunnies. So amongst unwrapped yellow and pink tissue paper, we peeled our hard-boiled eggs, bit into Lindt dark chocolate bunnies, sipped coffee and let Stollen melt in our mouths, picking up the remaining crumbs with our fingers.

Although many bakeries make Stollen during the holidays, I have hardly branched out of my own kitchen in order to do taste tests. There are many variations ranging from yeast doughs that produce a light bread-like crumb and the following moist loaf whose richness comes from cream cheese. Flavoured with brandy, cardammom and mace, this Stollen is not exactly a light affair; although easy to make, it has some pricey ingredients and is very rich to digest. For me it marks many spring beginnings and happy lengthily breakfasts with loved ones.

Yesterday I raced around Montreal before and after work trying to procure the correct ingredients. Yes I bought the 20 dollar bottle of brandy that will last me for the next five years, provided that it keeps. And to my delight, I easily found the candied lemon peel, currents and spices at the health food store. Finally, after a post dinner walk with Libb and a trip to the movie store, I settled into my kitchen to make the following:


taken from "The Vegetarien Epicure" by Anna Thomas.

Make this the night before and let it sit overnight covered with a towel. In my experience it is much better at room temperature than hot from the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C sugar (white or brown)
3/4 C ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 cardammon or 5-6 pods crushed

1/2 C butter

1 C cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs brandy

1/2 C currants
1/2 C candied lemon peel

confectioners sugar

1 - Sift together flour, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, mace and cardammom.
2 - Cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or in my case I had to use my fingers because I don't have a pastry blender), until you have little pea shaped balls of butter that are well dispersed and combined with the flour.
3 - Cream egg with cream cheese, vanilla and brandy (use beaters or be old-fashioned and use a spoon).
4 - Add fruit and combine until well blended.
5 - Add cream cheese mixture to flour.
*note: at this point the dough will be very stiff. You can use your hands and fold the flour into the cream cheese as if you were lightly kneading the dough. It will be slightly sticky and very dense.
6 - Flatten out into a 3/4 inch round on a greased baking sheet and fold one side of the circle so that it comes 3/4 of the way to the other side (see above photo).
7 - Bake for 45 minutes, or until brown on top. Test with a knife after 40 minutes. It should come out clean, but if there are a few streaks of dough on the blade and the Stollen is brown on top, take it out because it will finish cooking as it cools. You don't want to over cook this because it will be too dry.

The next morning : use a sieve to dust the loaf with confectioners sugar (I had to use a tea strainer cause I don't own a seive. It worked perfectly.) Serve with hard-boiled eggs and chocolate, or whatever your heart desires.

- chef murph

Gluten-Free Girl

This morning I made a rather wonderful discovery. Many of you may be aware of her book "The Gluten-Free Girl", but be aware as well of her blog: http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/. It's an amazing testament to the joy of living and eating well, regardless of your diet restrictions. Shauna James Ahern is living proof that we are here on this earth to make a difference, and no challenge is too difficult to overcome. She also lives on an island in Puget Sound. The west is best.

Here's to new inspiration and limitless possibility.

- chef murph

The Joy of Pancakes!

My friend Max might love pancakes as much as I do, he's good and enthusiastic that way, but over the course of my short life I haven't met many people who spring awake wide-eyed and run into the kitchen when they know pancakes are on the griddle. I have many memories from when I was little, waiting at the table while my dad made pancakes, me of course shouting commands about what shapes I wanted: men, rabbits, turtles, etc. He was good at following orders; and so, at a young age, pancakes became a celebrated breakfast tradition.

I tree-planted for four consecutive summers, a popular British Columbia activity among the "relatively" younger generations. As you burn around 4000 calories a day, it's necessary to get a good start in the morning. One summer, I went on a pancake blow-out. I had three, good-sized pancakes piled with yogurt, granola, and maple syrup every day. Of course seeing as this wasn't ever quite enough, I'd cruise by the cook shack on my way to the truck and pick up two more for the road. Our cook was awesome; she'd make peach, banana, cocount, strawberry, whole-wheat to name a few, and my favourite, chocolate chip. By the end of the summer, my consumption waned, but they still hold a special place in my heart.

I find that people are quite particular about their pancakes. Some people prefer crêpes, thin and delicate à la française, others want massive, plate-sized cakes like you get at Denny's, Max makes tiny ones and claimes they're the best in the world, but I like them medium size, round and crispy. (However, dad's pancakes these days have been on the larger, thicker side which make perfect peanut butter and jam sandwiches for a snack!) Feeling as though the excitement about pancakes could be slightly higher in the world, I encourage those who have reservations to not be jadded, jiggled or jived by the fact that you always have to use white flour with lots of sugar and butter. One basic recipe is all you need and then you can make all the changes you want - a little more liquid for thinner cakes, a little more flour for thicker ones - so put on some Paul Simon and let's get flippin!

First of all, if you don't have a copy of "The Joy of Cooking", get one. It's filled with simple to complex recipes that are especially useful for beginner cooks or more experienced ones looking for basic recipes to use as mediums for their own creations. I always refer to this book when I'm looking for recipes, or information on how to make something. It's my go to book. That being said, yesterday morning I definitely and absolutely opened my "Joy" to the section "griddle cakes and fritter variations". Here there are many recipes for different styles of cakes, but I recommend the "Buttermilk Pancakes." I adapted the recipe, so after giving the original recipe, I'll add on my variations and other suggestions.

Buttermilk Pancakes

About twelve 4-inch cakes

Measure and place in a bowl, then mix with a whisk to ensure everything is well combined:
1 C flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat until light:
1 egg

Add to egg:
1 C buttermilk
1-2 TBS melted butter or oil

- add wet to dry and stir with a few quick strokes, until you can't see anymore big globs of flour, but of course! don't over mix.
- and ignore the lumps, the batter will be on the soupier side.
- the joy says "superior results are gained" if you leave the batter to rest for 3-6 hours, but this is not necessary by any means.

* I used 1 C spelt flour + 1/4 C cornmeal, 1 1/4 C buttermilk
I didn't add butter or sugar, but used 1 TBS of oil

** To make them extra fluffy, separate the egg, add the yolk as normal, whip up the whites and fold them gently in at the end, but with the buttermilk this isn't as necessary as it would be if you were using only milk.

I am a lover of cast iron pans, so this is what I recommend you use for cooking your cakes, but electric griddles work super well, as does any old pan you have lying around for that matter. Regardless of what pan you use, heat it up so that when you fling drops of water onto the surface they bounce and hiss. I just give my finger a quick lick, touch it to the pan, and listen for a sizzle. Then use a 1/4 C measuring cup and gently pour the batter onto the pan. If the heat is right, they should spread out a bit and then start cooking.

Use a small flipper to turn them when you see bubbles forming on the top and that they're cooked a bit around the edges. I use the bubble technique, but I always lift up the edges and take a peek. Before you get used to how your pan transmits heat, they can burn really fast, or not be cooked at all when you think they are; that equals disaster and believe me, it happens. To avoid this, it takes a few practice runs, and for goodness sakes, be patient. I always want them to be perfect instantly and they're often not. So you can do a trial run with one pancake at the beginning. Or perhaps you have a more relaxed disposition and all of these tiny things are relatively fussy. I have to say though, yesterday was the most relaxed I've felt in years during pancake production. The key? More faith in self. Yup.

I recommend heating up the oven to 200 degrees F while you're cooking the pancakes. Then the first ones you cook won't get cold, unless of course you have a pack of hungry eaters sitting at the table waiting. In that case, you'll have to eat last!

Don't forget! Lots of maple syrup, honey, butter and a mug of hot coffee (or tea, of course, and I've heard orange juice is nice as well.)

Other toppings may include:

Chopped rhubarb from the garden, heated up and stewed together with a couple tablespoons of water and honey (any fruit works for this).

Yogurt, seeds, toasted nuts, fresh fruit, and anything else you can think of.

Other ingredients may include:

blueberries, chocolate chips, puréed sweet potato, banana, wheat germ, coconut, fresh ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cottage cheese, etc.

Try different flours: substitute white, whole wheat or spelt. My next batch is going to be a mix of spelt and buckwheat. My grandfather makes the best buckwheat pancakes in the world and I can't wait to recreate them here at home.

- Chef Murph

The science of Baking Powder and Soda

Yesterday when I was making pancakes, I asked myself, how the heck do baking powder and baking soda work? How do their different quantities affect the outcome of the recipe? So I opened up the "Know Your Ingredients" section in the Joy of Cooking and finally found out.

In order for baking powders to work (this includes what we know as "double-acting" baking powder and baking soda), there must be an acid and an alkaline material which react with each other in the presence of moisture to form a gas - carbon dioxide - which forms tiny bubbles that expand with heat and set, resulting in a light-textured crumb.

Double-acting Baking Powder uses a combination of sodium aluminum sulfate and calcium acid for its acids. They start working in cold dough, but the real rising impact happens with the heat of the griddle or the oven.

Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) has no leavening properties on it's own. However, in the presence of an acid like buttermilk or molasses, it produces one of the most tender crumbs. The proportion of baking soda to buttermilk is usually 1 tsp soda to 1 C buttermilk. The reaction of the soda with the acid is the same as that which occurs when the two acids in baking powder meet moisture, so add your soda to the dry ingredients first.

The acidity in chocolate, honey or corn syrup is not enough to be the only source of acid. In this case, both baking powder and soda are used. The proportions are: 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp soda for every 2 cups of flour. The soda neutralizes the acid and leaves the real leavening power to the baking powder.

These proportions can change at higher altitudes because carbon dioxide expands more quickly in lower barometric pressures. In these cases, the Joy of Cooking has recipes specially designed for mountain folk. Another option is to simply decrease the amount of baking powder and soda. But in those recipes that use buttermilk, don't decrease the amount of soda to more than 1/2 tsp as it is necessary as a neutralizer.

Note that if you don't have any baking powder at home, use 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, 1/3 tsp soda, and 1/8 tsp of salt as a substitute. But get this dough fast into the oven!


Baking Powder and Baking Soda