05 October 2015

Worts and all: Beer with the Culinary Historians of Canada

Kitchener-Waterloo's 180-year brewery history is dotted with legendary names.  George Rebscher started Canada's first lager brewery in what is now downtown Kitchener.  David Kuntz's brewery became Carling-Kuntz, then Carling, then Carling-O'Keefe and finally Labatt's.  Jim Brickman is credited with not just founding Ontario's first craft brewery but triggering the Canadian craft brewing renaissance.

This tradition continues today in our start-up city.  In amongst the several hundred app-building, drone-designing and whoseywhozzits-making tech startups, a new group of small brewers set up shop.  I think this is why our Waterloo Region Museum set up an exhibition that celebrates our fizzy and worty nature.

The Culinary Historians of Canada came out to catch the exhibition, partake in some Waterloo County fare, and tour one or newer breweries, Block Three. I recently became a member of the CHC and joined them for the day--and I'm glad I did as I got to meet and hang out with some lovely people who are keenly interested in Canadian foodways.

Of course, my camera came in tow, which was put away during lunch (yes, I did).  Sorry: no pics of the cream of tomato soup with mushrooms and peas, mixed greens salad with orange-saffron dressing, glazed Atlantic salmon, schnitzel with sauerkraut, chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and Swiss, penne with chèvre, Dutch apple pie or triple chocolate mousse cake.  Maybe next time.

From Beer! The Exhibit
The Regional Museum is one of my favourite spaces in Waterloo Region. It's multicoloured exterior always makes me smile, and I'm usually there for an event hosted by an awesome organization. We've got a good team who puts together thoughtful exhibitions, and this one is no different.   They informed us about how beer is made, and our local brewing history, including The Heuther, The Brick, Kuntz and Carling, as well as Block Three, Abe Erb, Waterloo Brewing and others.  There were displays of the various styles (ales, porters, stouts, wheat, &c) and societal happenings such as the Victorian beer saloon, prohibition, and KW Oktoberfest.  They also gave space to The Empty Shoes Project.

History of Beer Timeline  Water+Malt+Hops+Yeast=Beer  Heuther merchandise

 Illuminated Beer Bottle Wall Wall of brewery merchandise in beer casks

Prohibition Victorian beer saloon 

Kuntz Brewery items Kuntz & Carling merchandise

KW Oktoberfest Wagon Empty Shoes Project

From Block Three:
Block Three is one of those cool spaces tucked into an unassuming building.  Open the door and you find yourself in a publet.  A tiny little pub, where everything on offer is brewed on-site and the selection changes every week. After gliding by the merchandise counter where you can buy jugfulls of beer, soaps that look like beer, or branded coasters or T-shirts  (yes, a bright pink one came home with me), is the pub.  On the back wall, behind he bar a chalkboard lists what's available on tap or by the bottle, and a case of hand-thrown clay cups line shelves, ready for their owners' next visit. Those of us of a certain age think we've entered a bit of a time warp as there's a proper old-school record player spinning vintage vinyl, along with a collection of board games available to be played. There were four beers available for sampling: King Street Saison (available year-round), Jane Blonde, Blocktoberfest, and (my favourite of the four) Frankenstout.  For those in Ontario, but not near St. Jacobs, the Saison is available in the LCBO. We stepped into the brewery where they had a number of fermenters on the go, and tucked into a corner was a special order for a local high tech company.

Little sample snoots of Block Three beers Block Three's record player Special bottling for a client

At the publet Where the regulars keep their glasses

Block Three's barrel "Things" Block Three fermentation tanks

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12 September 2015

Holy smokies. Has it really been 10 years?

150908 Edna Staebler Sticky Buns 4

Has a decade passed since I started writing this blog?

I guess it has.

I'll set some thoughts to pixels about the past 10 years, but not today. Yes, I've got something up my flour-dusted and sauce-splattered sleeve--but I need to get a wiggle on to get it sorted.

The past week has been filled with happy things: apart from Cardamom Addict's anniversary, I've also marked my birthday (really, every year is a significant year) and celebrated as my dear friend exchanged "I dos" with his beloved. It's always a special thing when two people who are totally and utterly in love make a commitment to one another. They are both kind and giving souls and I wish them all the happiness in the world.

For three days we fested in a bucolic setting, complete with bright blue skies, a babbling waterfall, green fields, shady trees, storybook black and white Bessies keeping the grass at bay, and a horse who occasionally marked his glee by waggling on his back in his paddock.

As with many such events, not everyone who should attend, can attend. Tucked into a display of photographs of family who have passed away, but not passed in memory, was a photograph of a familiar face with twinkly eyes. You see, my friend who was getting married, was the same person who introduced me to our dear Edna Staebler. While he was not born into Edna's family, he became one of hers.

Edna was a local treasure, literary trailblazer and the woman who introduced the world to the Mennonite cookery of our area, Waterloo County. Regular readers know I've written about her before. In fact, today is the ninth anniversary of Edna's passing.

In honour of Edna, and what she meant to my friend, her recipes were curated by Rose Murray into the weekend's menus: Good As Gold Soup; Ol’ Walper Hotel’s Spinat Salad coquette on German Red Cabbage with Apples & Bacon; Herb & Peppercorn Sirloin with Red Wine Demiglace; Roast Pork with German Mustard, Pepper & Rosemary, with an Apple-Cranberry-Sweet Onion Chutney, Mixed Veg; Loaded Mashed Potatoes, and (of course) the sweets--pies, cookies, butter tarts, and sticky buns.

I could not think of a more perfect edible collection for this celebration.

While I hemmed and hawed about my tenth anniversary post and what would busy my kitchen, I took inspiration from these celebrations and decided to make Edna's sticky buns from her second cookery book, More Food That Really Schmecks.  

And really, how better to recognize Cardamom Addict's milestone than by recognizing a lovely and amazing local home cook--one without airs or pretension--who loved to write?

Edna's sticky buns are made from "Mary Ann Martin's Magic Buns, Doughnuts, and Rolls."  We all need a mother recipe that's easily adaptable--and this one is.  Apart from sticky buns, instructions are given for cream buns, Chelsea buns, long johns, and honey-glazed doughnuts.

The original mother recipe calls for more than 1kg of flour. To make the sticky buns, we are instructed, as any good home baker would, to follow as you would for the Chelsea buns, but use maple syrup and cream instead of butter, sugar and raisins at the bottom of the pan. How much dough to use for the Chelsea buns (and hence the sticky buns)? A piece, of course.

Edna Staebler Sticky Buns 3

Maple Pecan Sticky Buns 

Adapted from Edna Staebler's recipe in More Food That Really Schmecks 

Yield: One 23x30cm (9"x12") pan


For the dough
0.25tsp/1.25ml sugar
3Tbsp+1tsp/50ml hand-hot water
1dspn/10ml/7g yeast 1c/250ml water
0.25c/60ml/50g sugar
3Tbps/45ml/40g lard (see notes)
0.25tsp/1.25ml salt
1 beaten egg
3-4c/750ml-1L/450-600g all purpose flour, as needed

For the syrup (see notes)
Maple syrup
Cream or butter
Pecans salt

For the filling (see notes)
Melted butter
Brown sugar
Plumped sultanas

More melted butter


Start with the dough by blooming the yeast in 50ml hand-hot water, mixed with a quarter-teaspoon sugar. A frothy head should appear after 10 minutes.

While the yeast is frothing, turn on the hob to melt the lard, sugar and salt in the water--even using frozen lard, it doesn't take more than five minutes. Cool the water to not much above a lukewarm temperature.  Temper the egg with this sugar-water solution, mixing well before adding the egg to the pot. Whisk in the yeast.

Create a soft--if slightly sticky--dough by mixing in several heaping spoonfuls of flour at a time--the amount of flour you'll need will be dependent upon your kitchen's mood. When the dough is of a good consistency, give it a light knead before plopping it into an oiled bowl. Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free space until the dough doubles in volume (about one hour).

While the dough is rising, butter the baking dish.

Make the syrup by melting the butter into the maple syrup. Give it a good stir and pour into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Tilt the dish so the bottom is fully coated with the buttery maple syrup. Strew nuts on top and give it a light sprinkling of salt.

When the dough is ready, punch it down and roll it out to about a 1.25cm (0.5") thick rectangle. Slather generously with the melted butter and sprinkle with a few handfuls (or more, or less), of brown sugar. Lightly dust with cinnamon. Strew sultanas before tightly rolling the sheet as you would a jelly roll. Pinch the edge to the log to form a seam.

Cut the log into even 3cm-4cm (1"-1.5") stumps and place cut-side down into the prepared pan. Brush the exposed bottoms with any remaining melted butter (or melt some more), cover the dish with cling film and prove the buns until they double in volume (again, about an hour).

Preheat oven to 190C/375F and bake, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes or until your kitchen is scented with baking and the buns are golden. Remove from the oven and immediately place large baking sheet over the baking dish. Grasp the blisteringly hot dish and baking sheet together (using oven mitts, of course) and turn the buns over, releasing buns and topping onto sheet, so that the nuts and and sticky sauce are now on top.

Let cool five minutes before serving. Serve warm.


If you don't use lard, use the same quantity of shortening--the original recipe called for either fat. 

Re: Syrup:
Edna's recipe calls for maple syrup and cream (without quantities). Here's what I did (give or take)--you may want more or less for your buns:
  • A scant 0.5c maple syrup 
  • 2Tbsp butter 
  • Several Jasmine-sized handfuls of pecans (in other words, use your judgement) 

Re: Filling:
Again, Edna doesn't provide quantities, because you really don't need them. I didn't measure, so these are approximations. Again (again), you may want more or less for your buns:
  • 2-3Tbsp butter, (melted)
  • 1 generous cup of dark brown sugar (enough to opaquely cover the sheet) 
  • 1tsp cinnamon -- Perhaps less. Perhaps more. 
  • 0.5c dried sultanas, revived in hot water and drained 
  • I also used a light sprinkling of both black pepper and hot chilli pepper in the filling--I like it, and I think Edna wouldn't mind.

I'm a quill for hire!

01 August 2015

Food Day Canada: Mmm..Canada Blackcurrant Buckle

150719 Blackcurrant Buckle 2

The first Saturday in August means different things to different Canadians.  For many of us, it's the start of a three-day weekend.  Although different parts of the country call it by different names, for most of Ontario, it's the Civic Holiday long weekend (with Monday being the Civic Holiday).  I say most of Ontario as Burlington calls it Joseph Brant Day,  Ottawa calls it Colonel By Day, Toronto calls it Simcoe Day, and Vaughan calls it Benjamin Vaughan Day.

But the first Saturday of August is also Food Day. Over the past dozen years or so it has morphed from a beefy barbecue to support the Canadian beef industry to a nationwide celebration of Canadian food.

Personally, I think it's a fitting combination of celebrations. It's a reminder of what, traditionally, it is to be Canadian: keeping an eye out for one another, and doing the right thing, and welcoming new people and ideas.  It's also about celebrating Canadian food: from farmers who grow our food, to chefs who work with amazing local ingredients, to cooks who adopt and adapt foods to feed their families and friends.

My offering for Food Day Canada is a very homey blackcurrant buckle--a lumpy-bumpy cake topped with fruit and a sweet topping.  Depending upon where you are, you may call it a crumble.

I've posted buckles recipes before, but they were both blueberry-based: peach-blueberry and lemon-blueberry.  This one features locally-sourced blackcurrants.  More tart than sweet, the small onyx orbs paired nicely with the tangy, lemon-scented buttermilk cake.  Of course, if the cake is *too* tart for your palate, you can drizzle an icing glaze on top, dust the cake with icing sugar or snuggle a billowy cloud of ice cream or chantilly cream along side your slice.

150719 Blackcurrant Buckle 1

Blackcurrant Buckle

Yield: One 20cm/8" cake


For the topping:
65g  85ml  0.33c   sugar
50g  85ml  0.33c   ap flour
40g  45ml  3Tbsp  cold butter

For the cake:
100g  125ml  0.5c    sugar
55g      62ml  0.25c  butter
20ml  2dspn   4tsp    flavourless oil
2 eggs
Finely grated zest of half a lemon (optional)
165ml  0.66c  buttermilk (plus more, if needed)
265g   440ml 1.75c ap flour
10ml 1dspn  2tsp baking powder
1.25ml  0.25tsp   salt
210g  500ml  2c blackcurrants

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Butter and paper the bottom of an 20cm/8" high-sided springform pan.

Rub the zest into the sugar, infusing the lemon oils into the sugar. Set aside.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.

Start with the topping by rubbing together the sugar, flour and butter so everything is combined, but in varied pebbly sizes (from grains of sand to no bigger than a pea). Set aside.

To make the batter, cream together the sugar, butter and oil. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the flour and buttermilk in the usual way (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), scraping down the bowl's sides between each addition.  If necessary blend in more buttermilk until the batter reaches a dropping consistency.

Pour into prepared pan and level the batter. Tumble the blackcurrants on top, so they are evenly distributed on the batter. Cover the fruit with the topping.

Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out with cooked cake crumbs clinging (it can be hard to tell as the skewer will have to travel through the cooked currants). The cake will begin to pull away from the sides and the crumble will be a light golden colour.

Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Serve, if you wish, with ice cream or chantilly cream.

  • Taste your blackcurrants before baking with them as they can range from tart to sweet.  If they are tarter than you’d like, then you can
    • Drizzle an icing glaze overtop the cooled cake
    • Dust the cooled cake with icing sugar
  • You probably wouldn't go wrong with adding more fruit than the two cups listed.  You'll get more of bursted, somewhat jammy fruit top, and I can't think of how that could be a bad thing.

Previous Food Day Canada Posts:

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