Sunday, July 19, 2009

Easy Bake Oven

We're baaaaaack!  Sorry for the delay but the trip home took two weeks, followed by two weeks of trying to get back in the swing of things Pacific island style, and we're just now getting it all together.  We do plan to continue blogging, maybe not quite as frequently as before, but we will be posting more about food in general, less about specifically Indian and Keralan food and life. With that out of the way, let me bring up a subject near and dear to my heart - the Joy of Baking (and I don't mean the kind that starts with rolling papers).

Right before we moved to Bowen Island 8 years ago, we sourced appliances for our dream kitchen, should we ever be able to afford it.  We priced the perfect gas stove - four burners with a griddle in the middle, the perfect fridge with the freezer drawer on the bottom and built-in stacking ovens.  When we walked into the kitchen of the house that we were yet to buy, we saw all of those items already there: a Wolf range, Miele ovens and the stainless fridge with freezer drawer below.  That, combined with the garden and stunning view made us purchase the property - it was meant for us!  We haven't looked back since.

Of course, several years have passed and we've learned the hiccoughs of the place; the Miele ovens are tres Euro, meaning that they are a good two inches narrower than any North American model and many, many baking dishes won't fit, even on the diagonal.  That said, I LOVE my ovens.  I cannot imagine living with only one oven (well, yes, I can, since in India we didn't have an oven at all!), we regularly have both in use.

I am a baker at heart.  I like to cook and I'm pretty good at it (although I think Rob is a better cook, he has the passion for it) but I LOVE to bake.  Since we've been back, the oven has produced Rosemary Cornmeal Epi, Kalamata Olive Bread and Multigrain Honey Granola (just to name a few).  My baking obsession started early in life.  My mother, the nutritionist, rarely had treats and desserts around the house.  We were a green pepper, powdered milk and fruit family (not necessarily all together), not a cookies, ice cream and cake family.  But my mother was all for encouraging her children in the kitchen so if I announced that I wanted to make cookies, she wouldn't have dreamed of stopping me. And, believe me, if the only way a sweet tooth like me was going to get cookies was to bake them myself, I'd happily memorize the dog-eared copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook and grease up the pan.

Back in the 70s my folks hired a photographer to follow us kids around for a day or two.  My parents didn't want posed, stiff photos, they wanted slice of life stuff captured in black and white for all eternity.  The photographer was a lovely woman but I was nervous.  She suggested that I go about my life and maybe do some of the things I enjoyed the most.  I was 7 years old and I guess I could have dug up the garden or made some clothes for my dolls but I decided to bake a cake instead. It was a chocolate cake made in a bundt pan.   Southern Georgia Chocolate Pound Cake, to be exact.  We have these great grainy black and white photos of me, hair in two braids, a wispy tendril escaping confinement, paisley smock top mixing up the batter.  The photos are great, as was the cake, despite the fact that I was so nervous I left out the eggs.  You know, despite its reputation as an exacting science, sometimes baking CAN be forgiving. But I'm not giving you the recipe for the pound cake - that's a closely guarded secret - but you DO get the granola recipe. So turn on your oven and make some granola -  go ahead, bring out your inner hippy.  I dare ya'.

Multigrain Honey Granola

8 c of flakes (your choice of rolled oats, barley, rye, tritcale etc)
1 1/2 c chopped nuts (our first choice is pecans, almonds are second)
1 c dessicated unsweetened coconut
1 c hulled pumpkin seeds
2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 c oil (sunflower or other light oil)
1/2 c local honey
2 t pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 c dried fruit (raisins, craisins, chopped apricots. figs etc)

Preheat oven to 150C (300F). Mix all the dry ingredients (except the fruit) together in a large bowl.  Mix wet ingredients together and pour over the dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly so that all of the dry ingredients are moistened.

Spread the mixture over two or three baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats.  You want to cover the sheet but the mixture shouldn't be thick.  Place baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly and doesn't burn.  Take out of the oven when golden, add dried fruit and cool completely.  Store in air-tight containers.  

Eat with fresh fruit and yogurt or milk. Braid your hair and feel at one with the cosmos.