Local Products I LOVE!

I am feeling the need to share with you some really effing superb local products that I’ve been digging lately.  For those of my readers who are local:  congratulations, you live in a small city where you can cross the road downtown without looking both ways, but still have all the foodiness of a large metropolitan centre.  For those of you who aren’t:  you might want to look into getting some of this stuff shipped.  It would be worth it.

Exhibit A:  Anchored Coffee.  My absolute favourite local cafe, Two if By Sea, recently expanded to include a coffee roaster.  After having purchased a somewhat disappointing and rinky-dink espresso machine right before the holidays, I was starting to get a little bummed about my ability to produce a decent latte in the comfort of my own home.  Then I bought these beans, and my hope in my barista skills was renewed once more.  I look forward to my morning latte and overnight oats with a fervour that is somewhat disproportionate, given that I’m not as excited about waking up to other things that I should be quite grateful for, like my toddler jumping on my chest.  Then again, nothing makes coffee taste as good as having a toddler…

Anchored Coffee | www.purplehousecafe.com

Next up:  these kale chips, made by the same great little company where Ada and I get our raspberry macaroons each week.  I know, it almost seems a little funny just writing that.  Kale chips are not exactly the kind of thing I thought I could get excited about.  But these are another story:  spicy, cheesy-tasting, and satisfyingly crunchy, they make me want to climb up on my smug, self-satisfied health food high horse and chuckle at everyone else still gorging on Doritos.  Non-sacrificial healthiness, thy name is kale chip.

Fruition Kale Chips | www.purplehousecafe.com

And last but certainly not least, the product which has been a staple in my life for the longest:  my beloved Made With Local bars.  Not unlike my cell phone and my daughter’s soother, I have one of these bars on my person at all times.  Should hunger strike, there’s nothing like being able to reach into your purse not for some lint-shrouded, slightly withered apple, but for a chewy, filling, healthy, granola bar made with (pronounceable) local ingredients (their motto:  no weird stuff).  

Made With Local | www.purplehousecafe.com

That’s all for now!  Stay tuned, though:  there are more than enough local products I love to make this a regular feature.  I might have to do just that…

Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon buns weren’t even on my radar until I got to third year university.  In second year, life was all about learning how to live in my own place for the first time.  It was about getting groceries and making my own food, sharing bathroom-cleaning duties, and paying bills.  In third year though, I began to seize opportunities to leave my little apartment, to wander around and see what the city had in store for me.

On Saturday mornings, this wandering often found me at the local farmer’s market.  The market was housed in an old brick brewery building and visiting all the stalls – the crusty breads, beaded jewellery, vegetables and pottery – required a significant amount of meandering, backtracking over one’s steps and getting lost.  I always seemed to find the bakery with the cinnamon buns though.  Maybe it was the scent, maybe the long line-up for the hot pastries that stuck to the inside of the paper bags in which they were handed out by the dozens.  I quickly realized, in a way that only a trend-seeking girl in her early twenties can, that buying a cinnamon bun and sitting on the steps of the market to watch the crowds push by was a very hip, distinctly Halifax thing to do.  These cinnamon buns were a little famous in the city I called home, and I was going to be a part of the trend.

And so it was that every Saturday that the books or a hangover didn’t call my name I ended up on the steps at the market, untwirling the coils of a cinnamon bun larger than the palm of my hand.  These cinnamon buns were very economical for a student:  they were cheap and so huge and sugar-laden that they would easily make it impossible to eat another meal for several hours.  I remember a day in mid-October when I invited a friend to the market on the pretense of buying a pumpkin to carve for Halloween.  In reality, this was an excuse to buy a cinnamon bun.  We ended up spending the afternoon melting into the cushions of the two hand-me-down couches in my apartment, paralysed by a sugar crash.

In the years since, I have tried other cinnamon buns.  Somehow, the icing was too chalky, the pastry too dry, or the cinnamon too sparsely distributed.  I even tried to make cinnamon buns myself a few times, unknowingly using bread dough as the base and ending up with dense, crumbly cinnamon-pinwheeled loaves.  That is, until recently, as I was unassumingly reading the local newspaper, that I came across a recipe for  the sticky concoctions written by a food columnist.  As I read I realized that the dough used for cinnamon buns is a mixture all of its’ own – not bread dough or thick batter but a yeasty, heavy lump to be rolled and sprinkled, cut and refrigerated and baked until golden and seeping with runny butter and bursting raisins.

And so, I set about making cinnamon buns again, hoping that they wouldn’t be as anticlimactic as my previous attempts, and perhaps even as delicious and special as the market pastries I came to love.  I hadn’t realized that real cinnamon buns were refrigerated overnight before baking the next morning.  The idea filled me with anticipation and excitement.  What a perfect breakfast food – one that was prepared the night before and would fill the morning air with warmth and comfort.  My need for instant gratification in the kitchen would have to be quelled, and so I fancied that something quite special was happening to the buns as they sat in the fridge, waiting for their debut alongside my morning tea and the sunshine streaming through my windows.

The next morning, I could hardly wait for the oven to preheat.  Sure to their promise, the buns smelled incredible as they cooked.  I snuck peaks into the oven, watching butter and sugar caramelise and dough brown.  Soon, I slid a steaming cinnamon bun off my spatula and onto a plate and sat with it on the couch, hovering over it as I slowly unfurled the rope of sugary dough and popped it in my mouth.  I had done it.  I had a new favorite cinnamon bun, resplendent with the taste of pride that it had been made in my very own kitchen.

IMG_1522

Here’s what you need:

Dough:

1 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 large egg, whisked lightly with a fork

1 ½ tsp vanilla

1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes, room temperature

3 1/3 cups unbleached flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp quick rise yeast

Filling:

1/3 cup softened butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

Cinnamon

1 cup raisins

Here’s what you do:

Mix together the wet ingredients in a bowl (including the butter).  Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones.  Stir and then knead until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough.

Place dough in a buttered bowl and set aside in the refrigerator for about an hour.  After the dough has chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and press into a rectangle.  Spread with the softened butter, making sure you cover every inch of the dough (use more butter if you need to).

IMG_1502

Now sprinkle with sugar and raisins, again, making sure you cover every inch and adding more if required.  Dust generously with cinnamon.

IMG_1505

Roll up the rectangle into one long cinnamonny, buttery roll.  Start at one end, slicing off disks approximately two inches wide all the way to the other end.

IMG_1506

Butter baking dish – I used a large Pyrex dish but you could use two circular cake pans.  Place the buns face up in the dish so that they are  squished in next to each other.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.

IMG_1510

When you’re ready to eat the buns, take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature for about half an hour.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.  Bake for about twenty minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.  If you can, cool them slightly before eating.  Best served with a strong cup of coffee or tea.

Recipe adapted from Nadine Fownes, Chronicle Herald food columnist