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Baking Powder Biscuits, Step by Step

 Beautiful!  Photo by S. Van Slooten

Beautiful!  Photo by S. Van Slooten

 

I’ve been away for a while, but have a whole new approach to my blogs for you. I have decided to do some recipes with step by step photos. This first one will be an easy one, Baking Powder Biscuits, but the results will be fabulous. Everyone loves a hot biscuit, slathered with butter. My mouth is watering just thinking about this. In this new approach, you will be able to see (almost) each step, starting with the ingredients, the mixing, cutting, and baking. Also, I feel this is a more personal approach, because you will walk with me through the entire process. You will get everything but the heat of the oven and the smell of baking biscuits.  

Let us begin with the equipment and ingredients:

 The tools of the trade. Photo by S. Van Slooten

The tools of the trade. Photo by S. Van Slooten

 The ingredients. Photo by S. Van Slooten

The ingredients. Photo by S. Van Slooten

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tbl. Cornstarch

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 cup butter, chilled & cubed

1 cup buttermilk

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, place the flours, cornstarch, baking powder and soda, and salt. Stir. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until there are no large pieces.

Add the buttermilk, stirring with a fork to make a dough.

 Preparing to cut in the butter.  Photo by S. Van Slooten

Preparing to cut in the butter.  Photo by S. Van Slooten

 It should look like this, some larger pieces are good.  Photo by S. Van Slooten.

It should look like this, some larger pieces are good.  Photo by S. Van Slooten.

 If the dough is too stiff or dry, you may add some more buttermilk. Once dough has come together, turn out on a floured board and knead briefly. Pat dough into a square or round (depending if you want square or round biscuits) about 2 inches thick. Cut into squares about 2 inches square, or use a round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter. I use a pizza cutter for the square ones, goes very quickly and easily.  

 All rolled and cut, ready for the baking sheet. Photo by S. Van Slooten

All rolled and cut, ready for the baking sheet. Photo by S. Van Slooten

 

Place biscuits on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake until they are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you do not want them over baked.  When done, cool on a wire rack, or for immediate consumption, slather with butter, enjoy. Biscuits do not keep well in my opinion and are best eaten fresh, still hot from the oven. For shortcake, do cool them, split, add strawberries and cream, voila, you have dessert. 

Orange Mulled Whiskey Cider

 

When the winds begin to howl, and Christmas music plays in the background, this is the time of year for a hot (spiked) cider drink.

 

 Orange Mulled Whiskey CiderPhoto by Bob Van Slooten

Orange Mulled Whiskey CiderPhoto by Bob Van Slooten

Winter and Christmastime seem to call out for a hot cider drink, preferably spiked, for sipping by a fire or with a good movie, like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This recipe hits all the high notes in my opinion, with cider, maple syrup, orange flavour, spices. And whiskey. What’s not to love? The orange really sets this hot cider drink apart with just the right amount of citrusy accent to give it a twist. If you are short on vanilla beans, in a pinch, you could substitute with Nielsen Massey vanilla extract, but the bean really adds a nice touch. The sweetness of the cider doesn’t really require much of the maple syrup, but by all means, include some. It does round out the taste nicely. As mentioned below, I used Canadian Club whiskey, but whatever your favourite is, certainly use it if you wish. 

If you’re not familiar with Nielsen-Massey extracts and flavourings, you’re in for a treat. I have been using their vanilla for years in baking among other things, but they also make a fine line of other extracts as well. Almond and lemon are more of my favourites. Almond and cherry pie are almost indispensible in my book. They are also one of the few companies that still manufacture rose water, which I’ve used in cookies and puddings, just to name a few possibilities. So, if you are baking this Christmas, it pays to use the very best in vanilla extracts especially, as the fake stuff (artificial vanilla) just doesn’t compare. I cannot be stress this enough. Now, on to some pure sipping yumminess!

Ingredients:

2 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup 100% pure pomegranate juice
1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup (adjust maple syrup if cider is already sweet)
1 Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Orange Extract
3 large cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
5 whole allspice berries
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2/3 cup whiskey (I used Canadian Club)
1 large Gala apple, thinly sliced (garnish)

Add apple cider, pomegranate juice and maple syrup to a large saucepan; heat over medium-high heat. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise with the tip of a small knife. Scrape both sides of the bean with the knife’s dull side and add the seeds and bean to the saucepan.

Add the orange extract, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries and cardamom seeds to the saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Strain mulled cider through a fine mesh sieve. Add whiskey; stir to combine. Serve with a fresh apple slice. (I might be inclined to use a cinnamon stick too.) 

Serves 6

References:

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas Inc. http://www.nielsenmassey.com/culinary/about-nielsen-massey-vanillas.php Last accessed November 25, 2016. They have a whole section of recipes on this website, it’s fabulous. 

 

You can follow the further adventures of Sue or sign up for a class at her website: wwwsvanslooten@icloud.com or email at suevanslooten@icloud.com.

 

 

 

 

Buckwheat Corn Muffins with Blueberries

by Sue Van Slooten

Milling your own flour is a delicious way to add nutrition and flavor to your recipes. Want maximum taste? Mill your own.

 Cover Photo Copyrighted by iStockphoto.com/MonaMakela. Courtesy of Robert Rose Inc.

Cover Photo Copyrighted by iStockphoto.com/MonaMakela. Courtesy of Robert Rose Inc.

Many of you already know I recently invested in a grain mill, the hand crank variety. Now I have a cookbook to go along with it. If you buy only one book on the subject, this is it: “The Essential Home-Ground Flour Book,” by Sue Becker [1]. Sue is incredible; as she covers just about any aspect you can think of on milling, flours, grains, with one hundred delicious recipes to boot. Everything is very well researched, and extremely well written. The amount of information is incredible, but I found it a fabulous read. Yes, I read cookbooks, and I really like this one.  Maybe you have noticed that by now. 

 Buckwheat Corn MuffinsPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

Buckwheat Corn MuffinsPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

It was a tough choice deciding which one to do first, but I settled on the Buckwheat Corn Muffins, the Fruit variation; I used blueberries. (It wasn’t easy hanging on to the berries until baking time—the blueberry vultures were about.) I am also doing Dark Molasses Oatmeal Bread, and you will hear about that in the next blog. Most of you know Oatmeal is one of my favourites, but this one is with a twist. Stay tuned. Right now let’s make some of these absolutely delicious muffins, you won’t regret having these for breakfast!

Buckwheat Corn Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup freshly milled buckwheat flour

½ cup freshly milled corn flour

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup oil

2 tbsp. liquid honey

1 ripe banana, mashed

2 eggs

1 ¼ milk or nondairy alternative*

And for the variation: ½ cup light evaporated cane sugar, and ½ cup blueberries.**

You will need a greased 12-cup muffin tin, a 24-cup mini muffin pan. I used unbleached paper liners by If You Care [2].

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

1.     In a large bowl, whisk together buckwheat flour, corn flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center. Set aside.

2.      In another bowl, whisk together oil, honey, banana, and eggs. Add all at once to flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated.

3.     Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling three-quarters full. Bake in a preheated oven for fifteen minutes (12 minutes for mini-muffins), until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched.

*Sue suggests almond, rice, soy or coconut in this recipe.

** Variation:

Buckwheat Corn Fruit Muffins: In Step 1, add ½ cup light evaporated cane sugar (I confess, I didn’t add the extra sugar, apologies Sue!). After mixing batter in Step 2, gently fold in ½ cup blueberries, diced peaches or sliced strawberries. 

 

Important Notes:

1.     Becker, Sue. “The Essential Home-Ground Flour Book.” Toronto, ON: Robert Rose Inc., 2016.

2.     Try Unbleached, Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) baking cups by If You Care. They’re as good or better than parchment, no greasing required.  www.ifyoucare.com Imported from Sweden. 

 

You can follow my further adventures and check out my Real Food blog on MOTHER EARTH NEWS at wwwMotherEarthNews.com. If you wish, you can email me at suevanslooten@icloud.com. I’d be thrilled to hear from you!

 

 

 

New Meaning for the Daily Grind

No, this isn’t about ground beef. This is about flour. Last year I became intrigued by grain mills, what a great idea, so thought I. That lasted until sticker shock set in. The whole idea was put on hold as “nice idea, too expensive.” You can literally spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for a grain mill, some are quite attractive to look at, but still, they’re expensive pieces of kitchen equipment. Trolling through Amazon taught me there are a great variety out there, some do a better job apparently than others, but at the end of the day, unless you buy one and try it, you don’t really know how it will work or whether it will fit your needs. Our needs were basic, just something to grind whole-wheat flour or whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t see myself as a daily grinder, but many do. Who knows, with enough passion, it could happen!

 Victorio Grain Mill, side view.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Victorio Grain Mill, side view.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

 

In a recent trolling trip through Amazon, I came across a Victorio grain mill, and I checked it out, as I already own their food mill, and love it. It was under $100, so with a click of the mouse, said mill, along with some bags of Bob’s Red Mill whole grains, were on their way. Upon its arrival, it got put to immediate use. Alas, my butcher block table was too thick for the clamp, but the workbench in the garage was perfect. You won’t want to connect this to anything fancy, like your dining room table.  Serious force will be applied. I had ordered a bag of hard red spring wheat berries to make whole-wheat flour, so in went two cups, and I started turning the crank. You will get a very nice upper body workout, which I consider a side benefit. With a bowl underneath to catch the flour as it came out, soon enough, we had flour. It took about ten minutes to create three cups flour, and that is the normal yield according to a book I got on grinding (more about that in the next blog!).

 

The next step was to bake something, in this case I chose banana bread. If you have never tasted a baked item made with freshly ground flour, you are in for a real treat. The taste is totally different-fresher, tastier, more what you would expect a baked good should taste like. You just do not get that experience with commercially ground flours and baked products, especially whole-wheat. Many of the commercial ones taste strong, dry and bitter in comparison. For those reasons alone, whole-wheat flour was never popular in our house.

 Victorio Grain MillPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

Victorio Grain MillPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

 

So what are some of things you need to look at when purchasing a grain mill? Certainly cost is a factor, but obviously not the only one. To motorize or not to motorize? Mine is not, but often times you can order a motor to go on it afterward if you wish. Check the model you’re interested in to make sure it can be upgraded. The other thing to consider about motors is if it’s manual, it will always work.  If you’re off the grid, it’s obvious, but if you have thirty-hour power outages like we do here, you might want to keep that in mind too. It never hurts to be prepared. You can still make stuff on your camp stove in that situation!

Another thing to consider is speed. Some grind faster than others. Mine is considered a “slow” one, but I thought three cups in ten minutes pretty adequate. Now if you are baking for a family of six, you might feel differently. Or....get the kids to do it! Mills also grind in different ways: Burr grinders, steel, stone. 

What you can grind is also important. Mine for example won’t do large grains like corn, so if cornmeal is what you want, you will have to buy something bigger. Be aware that you are limited by what can fit through the hopper. Small grains like wheat berries are what mine is designed for. It can handle buckwheat, teff, rice and the like. Oats are not recommended because they are too light to flow through the hopper. You need to watch that the grinding cones don’t overheat if there isn’t enough material being processed through them, hence the problem with oats. Perhaps a bigger mill would handle oats with no problem. Or, you could run oatmeal flakes through a food processor or blender if you want oat flour.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into the decision to get a grain mill: What you intend to bake/make, size of your family, how often you intend to use it, lots of considerations. I can guarantee one thing though: If you purchase one and try the flour in your baked goodies, you will be won over by the taste

Important Notes:

Bob’s Red Mill. www.bobsredmill.com Bob’s carries a dizzying array of whole grains. They often have your harder to find items and more unusual flours, etc. Last accessed May 11, 2016.

Victorio. www.Victorio.info You can check out all their products here. They have sprouters, canners, dehydrators, etc. Last accessed May 11, 2016

If you wish, you can email me at suevanslooten@icloud.com. I’d be thrilled to hear from you!

 

 

 

Delicious Gourmet Style Chocolate Bark

This tasty version of chocolate bark is elevated to gourmet status by the addition of cocoa nibs, those tasty little crunchy bits of chocolate-y flavor. This yummy treat was inspired by a Facebook post by Castronovo Chocolate, a premier American chocolatier from Florida. (See website link below.) Fortunately for those of us living on planet Earth, they ship, as I recently have discovered. Winter is a good time to order. I’m quite sure their version is superior so, for my recipe, while you are awaiting delivery, purchase the best chocolate you can find.

 

 Gourmet Style Chocolate BarkPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

Gourmet Style Chocolate BarkPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

Ingredients:

1 lb dark chocolate, chopped, best that you can find

1 cup dried tart cherries, cut in half

½ cup unsweetened coconut

2 tbl. or to taste, cocoa nibs to sprinkle on top

More coconut to sprinkle on top

 

Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Melt the chopped chocolate over gentle heat until completely melted, stirring frequently. Stir in the cherries and1/2 cup coconut. Mix well. Turn out onto the cookie sheet and spread until about ¼” thick. Sprinkle the top with more coconut and cocoa nibs, pressing lightly into the chocolate. Let cool completely (or chill), break up into pieces. Feel free to hoard it all to yourself. Sharing recommended but not necessary. Makes about 2 lbs. candy. 


Important Notes:

http://www.castronovochocolate.com Beautiful website. Last accessed February 17, 2016.


You can follow my further adventures at www.svanslooten.com, and you can email me at suevanslooten@ripnet.com.  I teach cooking and baking classes at my home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake, Rideau Lakes Township, ON. I specialize in small classes for maximum benefit. Give me a call, sign up for a class, and I’d love to see you. 


Shortbread Hearts with Cranberries

Shortbread Hearts with Cranberries

 Shortbread Hearts with Cranberries.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Shortbread Hearts with Cranberries.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten


This is the perfect shortbread/Christmas cookie! If you love shortbread, and a lot of people do, this is THE cookie to make. The colourful cranberries make them really pop at Christmas time. This delightful recipe comes from “Christmas Cookies: Dozens of Yuletide Treats for the Whole Family,” by Monika Römer [1, 2]. The recipes in this book are sometimes more challenging, but they are spectacular, the photos by Oliver Brachat, (a chef and pâtissier himself) are gorgeous, and there is a special kids section for baking with the younger set that is quite good. Oh for some kids to bake with! Also, if any of you are into German traditions of baking, or you want to see what it is all about, I would suggest this book. Note that heart shapes are very popular in Germany at Christmas, but they also would work beautifully for Valentine’s Day. Check out my photo, and I think you will agree.


Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup (300 g)salted butter

1 (200 g) cup sugar

4 cups (500 g) all purpose flour

5 o.z (140 g) dried cranberries (not too finely chopped)

 

Additional: Flour for dusting, heart-shaped cookie cutter, parchment. I would also use stars.

 

Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C), unless your have a convection oven, in which case, preheat to 320 F (160 C). In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer with a whisk attachment for about 10 minutes (I would recommend a stand mixer). Afterward the mixture should be cream white and should have visibly increased in volume. Sprinkle the sugar in and continue stirring until the crystals have dissolved. (At this point I would switch to the paddle attachment.) Add in the flour and cranberries, and then knead into a smooth dough. (Watch adding in the flour at the end, as you may not need it all. If you mixture is too dry, add more butter.)


Roll dough out on a floured countertop (or board) to form a sheet approximately 1/3” (to be specific, 2/5”) or 1 cm. thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out small hearts (or stars), and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.


Place the baking sheet in a preheated oven (middle rack) and bake the shortbread hearts for about 10 minutes, until they are very lightly coloured. Remove the cookies from the oven, take them off the baking sheet along with the parchment paper and allow to cool. Makes one tray.


Now all you need is a proper cup of tea, and you have a most comforting afternoon Christmas treat!


Notes:

1.     Römer, Monika. “Christmas Cookies: Dozens of Classic Yuletide Treats for the Whole Family.” Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2015.

2.     Römer, Monika. “Unsere Weihnachtsbäckerei.” Hölker Verlag im Coppenrath Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Münster, Germany, 2012.


Note 2 is the original German version of this book.


You can follow my further adventures in the world of food or sign up for a cooking/baking class by visiting my website at www.svanslooten.com and you can also email me suevanslooten@ripnet.com. I’d love to hear from you!



 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Sourdough Pancakes with Butter Leaves and Dried Cranberries

Chocolate Chip Sourdough Pancakes with Butter Leaves and Dried Cranberries

 

 Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Photo by Sue Van Slooten

A lot of folks love sourdough, and are always looking for new ways to incorporate it into their recipes. In my never-ending search for the better pancake, I came up with this novel recipe. It’s fairly healthy for you, (if you ignore the chocolate chips), as you use buckwheat flour. My son loves chocolate chip pancakes (of course, I like them too!), so I thought, can I use the chocolate with the sourdough? I’m happy to report that yes, you can. Then to just gild the pancake lily a little more, dried cranberries got sprinkled on top, for color and more flavor. Of course, maple syrup (or anything else you like), goes on top. As an added touch, especially as we near the holidays, I came across a novel way to use butter decoratively: Butter leaves. They are very easy to make once you get the hang of them and look impressive. Check it out in my photo, but you can use any small cutter. One word of caution, as I used a fairly plain leaf, after the maple leaf I was after tended to crumble. Sharp edges don’t do well. Hearts would work well, or a snowman. Let’s start with the pancakes:

 

Chocolate Chip Sourdough Pancakes

I cup buckwheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ cup sugar

2 tbl. vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed

¾ cup mini chocolate chips, or ½ cup of the larger chips

½ cup dried cranberries

 

 

In a large bowl or measuring cup (at least 4 cups), place your dry ingredients. Add your oil, egg, sourdough starter and mini-chips, mixing well. If you’re using the larger, regular chocolate chips, just sprinkle a few on each pancake as you cook them. Have a hot griddle or large frying pan oiled, even if it’s non-stick. Pour dollops of batter, which should be “pancake consistency” onto the pan. If your batter is too thick, you can always thin with some milk. When bubbles form, and the bottom is browned, flip. If using the large chips, don’t let cook too long after flipping, so they don’t burn. Place onto plates or a large platter when cooked. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and add syrup. Eat while warm.

 

 Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Photo by Sue Van Slooten

For the Butter Leaves:

¼ to 1/3 inch slices of butter, salted or unsalted, slightly chilled

1” cookie cutters or canapé cutters

 

Use the cutters just as if you were making cookies, only instead of dough, it’s butter. You don’t want the butter too cold, or it tends to crumble.  You don’t want it softened either, or they will not turn out. I would suggest taking refrigerated butter out and letting it warm up for 10-15 minutes. After pushing the cutter into the butter, use the end of a fork or tip of a spoon to push the butter out gently.  Even a finger works well. I made mine a little thicker, about 1/3”, use that if they break too much.  Any scraps can be re-used for other purposes. Keep chilled.

 

 

You can follow my further adventures, or sign up for a cooking class, at www.svanslooten.com.  You also can always email a question at suevanslooten@ripnet.com. We’d love to hear from you!    





 

 

 



Harvest Vegetable Soup with Naughty Garlic Bread

                                    Harvest Vegetable Soup with Naughty Garlic Bread

 

It’s time to celebrate the autumn harvest in all its glory, so I developed these recipes for a recent meal at The Table, the community kitchen where I am a volunteer chef. This is autumn cooking at its finest, full of nutritious, healthy vegetables, with a naughty garlic bread loaded with garlic. If garlic isn’t your thing, don’t go any further, just go directly to the soup recipe, where you will be rewarded with a hearty lunch or dinner meal. The beauty of this soup is it makes use of what ever vegetables you have on hand, is completely vegetarian (unless you want to add chicken or beef), and cooks up pretty quickly. This is a crowd-sized recipe, and I have already cut the recipe in half for you. If you’re feeding 2 armies, by all means double it. Ditto for the garlic bread, I made four loaves originally, but I will leave it up to your discretion (and how much garlic bread you like). Feel free to use other veggies than the ones I did. The garlic bread makes use of loads of butter, garlic, with some parsley for color, and can heat in the oven while the soup is finishing up. 

 

Harvest Vegetable Soup

8 lbs fresh tomatoes, chopped

4 Peppers, preferably in several colors, cut in chunks

2 large chopped onions

4 cups chopped flat Italian beans, in 1” chunks

4 cups cubed butternut squash

6 large carrots, sliced into ¼” diagonals

3-4 finely minced jalapenos, or to taste

2 cans red kidney beans

1 can black beans

2 cans bean mélange or mix

¼ c. chopped fresh basil

1 tbl. chopped fresh thyme

1 tbl. chopped fresh rosemary

1 tbl. salt

 

In a large stockpot, put the tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, carrots, jalapenos, beans, herbs and salt in. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer until tomatoes are very soft (and release their juice) and squash is tender. This doesn’t take all that long, about 20 minutes. Test frequently so things don’t get overcooked. Taste for the salt, and see if you want more. 

 

 Harvest VegetablesPhoto by Sue Van Slooten   

Harvest VegetablesPhoto by Sue Van Slooten

 


Naughty Garlic Bread

2 good quality baguettes or Italian loaves, split

1 lb butter

¼ to ½ cup garlic puree, or 4-6 tbl finely minced garlic

¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

 

Melt butter in saucepan, and add pureed garlic or minced garlic. Let heat on very low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, to infuse the garlic flavor into the butter (I did this just on a pilot light of the gas stove.). Add parsley, stir. On sheets of foil, place the loaves of bread, and ladle garlic butter onto the cut sides. Fold back together, seal inside foil, and place in a slow oven, about 300, for 15 minutes. Slice and serve. That’s it. 

 

 Naughty Garlic Bread. Photo by Sue Van Slooten   

Naughty Garlic Bread. Photo by Sue Van Slooten

 

 

 

Notes:

The Table Community Food Centre. www.thetablecfc.org. Last accessed October 7, 2015.

Photos taken by Sue Van Slooten

 




It's That Green Time of the Year

It is that Green time of year again, and I am not thinking about gardening (well Ok, I am), or painting or anything else that might come to mind that is Green. In this specific case, I am thinking of the Big Green Egg. This marvel of Japanese and American engineering is a multi-functional cooking device, about three all wrapped up in one large green, dimpled device. “Tis the season,” as they say, for outdoor cooking in all its glory. 

 Large Big Green Egg. Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Large Big Green Egg. Photo by Sue Van Slooten

 

It could well be that you have never heard of the Big Green Egg, a lot of folks haven’t, so this is where this blog comes in. In fact, Eggheads, as we are known, have become a bit of a phenomenon around the world. They are quite popular in Africa and the Netherlands, for example. Big Green Eggs originated in Japan, a number of centuries ago, and at that time they were called Kamado cookers. They were large, jar-like ceramic “ovens” that the Japanese used to cook with. The original Kamados were subject eventually to breakage, a problem solved by good old-fashioned American engineering, in this case, space shuttle technology. The folks at Big Green Egg (really, you have to go to their website at www.biggreenegg.com) worked on the ceramics until they got it perfect. They still continue to experiment tweaking this and that, in the pursuit of an ever better Egg.

 

So, you may reasonably ask, how do these things work? If you can run a wood stove, you can do an Egg. If you don’t have a wood stove, do not worry. It is easy enough to get the hang of with some practice. The firebox is in the bottom chamber, which is where you put lump charcoal; I use one of those electric fire starters to get the charcoal started. It doesn’t take long, and I have been known to get the Egg fired up in ten to fifteen minutes. Now, having said all of this, be prepared for serious heat, and if you do not watch your Egg, it can easily shoot up to 700 degrees F. Yes. I find I run mine much lower, maybe 450 to 500 for pizzas, etc. Obviously, if you are doing a cake or something along that line you want a lower temperature. Also be careful about opening your Egg anytime it’s over 400, as it gets a blast of oxygen, and can woof at you, or singe your eyebrows. It has never singed mine, but I know someone that is has. 

 

You may also seriously ask, why all this to make a steak? That is where the art comes in. It is not just that you flap a steak on, cook it and eat. That is the goal, mind you, but it is how you get there that is important. It is what you cook your steak with, the seasonings involved, but at the end of the day, it is the taste. A truly perfect steak with that charcoal smoke taste is unbeatable. You can also do whole chickens or turkeys, seafood, anything that grills or bakes. It is also not all about the BBQ, as it can also be used as a smoker, and as I use it regularly, an outdoor (charcoal) fired oven. Does that smoke go with your chocolate cake? Yes! And your cinnamon buns? Absolutely. Pizza is where it is king, but so are breads like baguettes and various loaves. In fact I strive to make a complete meal on the Egg, with appetizers, the main course, and dessert all done one after the other (I recommend you start with dessert first, not a bad way to go, eh?).

 

I must confess, the first time I saw an Egg, I thought it was the most ugly thing I had ever seen. Still, my butcher Roger convinced me, it is THE way to go, his only regret being he did not buy a bigger one. Taking that advice, I bought the Large (he has a medium). I understand they now have a double extra-large. Hallelujah!

 

Feel free to contact me if you would like instruction on the Egg, or any other baking/ cooking instruction at www.svanslooten.com.  Or email me at suevanslooten@ripnet.com Come visit me, you get to eat what you make!

 

You can also follow my further adventures on Facebook and more blogs at www.motherearthnews.com

 

Notes:

Big Green Egg.  www.biggreenegg.com Last accessed May 19, 2015.