Friday, February 22, 2013

Stella's Apple Danish

After a certain amount of fuss about appropriate clothing, Stella sees her two girls, Zoe and Kendra off to school. Their boldly patterned umbrellas are the only bright spots in front of the coffee shop's windows on this wet,grey and dismal day. The girls look back and wave and Stella blows them a kiss before returning behind the counter where she is putting generous slices of her apple danish on a tray in the glass case.

Stella sings softly a little tune from Winnie the Pooh: 

The rain, rain, rain came down, down, down
in rushing, rising, rivulets
till the river crept out of its bed,
and crept right into Piglet's

The cafe is empty at the moment, but Stella knows it will soon be full of the loud chatter and clinking of coffee spoons when the group of women from the 8 a.m. exercise class at the neighbourhood gym come in. The women rarely order anything but coffee, and of that, there is plenty. 

Within seconds of these thoughts of hers, Stella is welcoming the exercise group and pouring cup after cup of hot black coffee. The women push three tables together and sit down to gossip and laugh and complain about 'the lazy young people of today.' The last one to order her coffee spies the apple danish in the glass case. 

"Oh...yummy," she says. "I'll have a piece of that with my coffee. I could use some cheering up and that looks like just the thing to indulge in on a day like this." 

Stella puts a piece of the danish on a plate and the woman returns to her chair at the group's table.

"Apple danish? But you'll undo all your hard work this morning. Think of the calories," says one of the more outspoken women. 

The woman with the danish shrugs, and with a forkful of flaky pastry and gently spiced and sweetened apple in her mouth, smiles and says, "I don't care. You count your calories, Margaret, and I'll count mine, thank you very much."

Two more women get up from the table and order a slice of Stella's beautiful apple danish. 

More customers come in out of the rain, and the umbrella stand is soon filled with shiny wet colour.
Stella puts some Brad Meldau on the stereo - When it rains

Stella's Apple Danish   Recipe adapted from one by Stella's good friend Marianne.

1 1/2 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold butter, lard, or a combination of the two, cubed
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg yolk

sliced apple from five or so of your favourite variety. (Stella used Ambrosia apples this time)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
juice of half a lemon

Blend flour and salt. Cut in butter and/or lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a glass measuring cup, put one egg yolk and enough milk to make 3/4 cup. Add to flour mixture. Gather the dough together and knead lightly a couple of times on a floured board. Divide the dough in half, roll out, place on a rectangular cookie sheet and sprinkle with the corn starch. Place the sliced apples in a pattern on the pastry and sprinkle with lemon juice all over. Sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

 Add the remaining dough and fold over to make a nice edge all around. Poke with a fork a few times.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes.
Let cool completely.

Drizzle with icing made of 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1-2 Tablespoons of water or lemon juice, whichever you prefer.

Cut, serve and enjoy!

Writing and photography by Rebecca

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Carrot Muffins or Much Ado About Nothing

At 6:40 am Stella is unlocking the door to her café. She rubs one hand on her jeans while the other turns up the thermostat. It's a chilly February morning, but the fog encompassing the street outside shows hopeful signs of a sunny day. Stella is quite happy, because yesterday evening she made a giant batch of carrot muffins, which meant she got to sleep in. Also her husband is home from his work in Dubai for an entire month because business is slow at the hotels this time of year and he was granted leave to come home.
Stella frowns as her nose picks up quite a sour smell.
"What ever could that be?" She says to herself. Following the horrid smell, she finds herself right in front of the milk fridge. Opening it, the smell causes her to jump back. Grabbing a tea towel, she covers her nose and opens it again. The light of the fridge is out and all the milk has gone sour.
"Darn it all," Stella exclaims. (she actually may have said something else, but we won't dwell on that.)
She glances at the clock. 6:45. By now she should have started the coffee for her early birds coming at 7:00.
"Good mor...what is that awful smell!?" Kevin chokes as he enters the café.
"The milks gone sour, and we only have 15 minutes till opening!" Stella huffs.
"Now go! Get some milk! 1%, 2% cream and soy would be nice as well!" She yells, chucking her wallet at Kevin. He grabs the wallet that had ricocheted off the roof and knocked over the empty milk canisters, sending them flying onto the floor with a crash. Stella hears his car start and starts pulling out the milk and dumping it out into the sink. She glances at the clock again, 6:50. Racing over to the coffee machines, she madly grinds the beans and starts them up. Grabbing a can of air freshener from the washroom, she runs around spraying it until the sour smell has been replaced with 'morning dew'.
"Got the milk!" Kevin yells running through the door, arms full of dairy products.
"Put them in the back fridge." Stella says as she puts the knocked over milk canisters back on the side table.
"Five minutes!" says Kevin as he throws milk into the fridge.
After filling the canisters with fresh milk, spraying another stream of air freshener for good measure the coffee machine pours out its last bit of coffee and the clock reads 7:00 am.
"Well that was fun! Hey look it's James, just in time." Kevin exclaims wiping his forehead, looking out the window at their earliest customer crossing the street.
Stella frowns at Kevin, "WAIT! THE MUFFINS!" She races around the corner and taking the lid off the plate of beautiful muffins, she places them on the counter with a bang.
"You too look young and lively today," James says entering the café and commenting on their pink cheeks and overall frazzled appearance.
"Oooh! Those muffins look delicious! I'll have one of those please."
"Would you care for some coffee?" Stella asked.
"Oh yes please, but no milk. I'm now lactose intolerant."

Carrot Muffins from The Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups packed finely grated carrots
1/4 cup orange juice
5 tablespoons warm melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil if you are like James
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans-optional
1/2 cup golden raisins-optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-muffin pan or line with paper cups.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl. (first 8 ingredients)
In large bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Stir in carrots and let sit for 10 minutes
Stir in orange juice, butter, walnuts and raisins.
Add the flour mixture and fold until just moistened. Do not over-mix; the batter should not be smooth.
Divide batter among muffin cups.
Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, 15-18 minutes. 
Let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Enjoy! Or if you aren't like James, let cool and spread on some cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing  by Emma

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream cheese
bit of milk
bit of vanilla
1 cup icing sugar

Mix together butter and cream cheese until smooth.
Add half the icing sugar and then a bit of milk/vanilla.
Add the rest of the icing sugar and more milk/vanilla if needed.
Spread on the muffins and enjoy!
They are more like cupcakes now, but I like to call them muffcakes...or cuffins...

Writing and photography by Emma