English Muffins

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English Muffins or Muffins as they are called throughout the UK are thought to be a variation of a crumpet made originally in the USA by Samuel B. Thomas. In the USA muffins are “quick breads” made without the use of yeast and are more cake like than bread like. Muffins were sold by street vendors door to door in the UK in the 18 and 19th century before many houses had ovens, hence the ditty “do you know the muffin man, the muffin man ...”
Makes 16 muffins
1 3/4 cups/435ml warm milk 
1 packet instant yeast or 19.14g fresh yeast
2 tablespoons/25g sugar
3 tablespoons/43g butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon/2ml YaDa Chef Maya Natural salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 1/2 cups/539g King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
semolina or farina, for sprinkling the griddle or pan (optional)

If using instant yeast dissolve the yeast in small bowl with the milk and the sugar. Let “proof” for 5 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the milk yeast, butter and egg. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Add the salt and a quarter of the flour at a time, mixing about 30 seconds in between adding flour. This is a very soft dough beat the mixture on medium speed until it holds together and starts coming away from the sides of the bowl. It will be smooth and shiny. Scrape the bowl into a rough ball. Cover bowl with a floured cloth or cling film. Let rise in a warm draft free space (we like to put it in the oven with the light on) for 1- 1 1/2 hours or it has doubled in size. (you could do this overnight in the refrigerator if you wanted. Take is out of the fridge and divide as soon as you get up) Deflate the dough, and divide it into 16 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, then flatten the balls until they're about 3" to 3 1/2"/7.6-8.2 cm in diameter. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes (we only did 10 as we were hungry-they turned out fine)

We used two (2) electric “fry pans/ griddles” and did not sprinkle with cornmeal. After forming the muffins we put them into the cold, lightly oiled griddle pans, turn the heat to low/250F/120C and cooked the muffins for 12-15 minutes on each side. They were a deep golden colour on each side. Internal temperature should be 200F/92C. If you find they are burning place in a preheated 350F/176 oven and bake for 10 minutes or so. Let rest on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes to redistribute the moisture. Open by splitting around the sides with a fork. Toast and add gobs of butter, jam, or both.

Béchamel or Veloute Starting with the Basics

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When starting out in the professional kitchen, whether it is via a classroom or in a real live restaurant it is best to start with the basics. When starting the “sauces” portion of education you start with the basics which are usually stocks, broths etc. You also learn the basics of building the sauces and eventually work up to the “Saucier”. The Saucier (sauce maker or sauté cook prepares sauce and warm hors d’oeuvres, completes dishes and might sauté items). A saucier is just below the sous chef, and as such is a much respected position.

There are two basic sauces that are the base of many, many classic dishes and once you master these you can greatly expand your culinary repertoire. They are the béchamel and veloute sauces.

The base of both sauces start with a “roux”. A roux is a combination of a fat, usually butter, and flour in equal proportions. The butter is melted over medium low to medium heat. The flour is sprinkled on, stirred to combine then cooked for 1-2 minutes to remove the raw taste of flour. From this point forward the basic difference is the incorporation of liquid, with a béchamel it is milk and with veloute, a stock of veal, chicken or game stock (we have made one of vegetable stock). Once you have these you can make mornay (cream sauces, cheese sauces, chaud/froid, souffles and more).


Makes about 1 1/2 cups/375ml

2 tablespoons/29g butter

2 tablespoons/16g flour

2 cups/500ml milk, warmed

Melt the the butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring over low heat for two to three minutes. Pour in all of the milk, whisking constantly to blend the mixture smooth.. Increase the heat to medium high whisking while the sauce comes to a boil. Season with a very little salt. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.


To make and extra elegant and concentrated veloute the sauce should be simmered and reduced over low heat for several hours and skimmed occasionally as it cooks. To do this you will need triple the recipe below to end up with comparable quantities.

Makes 2 cups/500ml

4 tablespoons/57g unsalted butter

1/4 cup/31g flour

4 cups/1 liter stock, warmed

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. With a whisk, stir in the flour to make a roux. Still stirring, cook for one or two minutes. Pour the stock into the pan, whisking until smooth. Increase the heat and continue to whisk until the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and moe the pan half off the heat so that the liquid simmers on only one side. A skin of impurities will form on the cool side. Remove this skin every now and then with a spoon. Cook the sauce for 40-45 minutes or it is reduced by half. You may stir in cream to reach desired consistency at this point or if you tripled the recipe as mentioned above, continue cooking and skimming until it has reduced to 2 cups/500mls or reduced by 3 times original volume.

Blueberries, The Benefits

10 Benefits of Blueberries – Backed by Science

Blueberries are an amazing fruit, both in terms of flavour and their incredible nutritional profile. They’re jam packed with antioxidants - polyphenols, catechins, flavonols - along with lots of essential vitamins and nutrients.

Blueberries are actually rated at a 9,621 on the ORAC scale. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) measures the efficacy of a certain food or herb on preventing oxidation. This makes them one of the highest scoring foods in terms of antioxidants in the entire world.

A cup of blueberries also includes the following nutrients

  • Manganese (25 percent of your daily value)
  • This trace mineral helps promote the production of healthy bones, along with keeping blood pressure regulated.
  • Fiber (14 percent of your daily value)
  • Fiber is very important. It is digested differently than other nutrients - it remains largely unchanged until it hits the large intestine, where the intestinal flora consume it and release compounds that benefit our bodies..
  • Copper (9 percent of your daily value)
  • Copper is a mineral crucial in developing healthy tissues, and maintaining healthy blood flow.
  • Vitamin K (32 percent of your daily value)
  • Vitamin K is responsible for helping prevent your blood from clotting, along with ensuring your bones are strong. Those deficient in vitamin K have a higher frequency of fractures.
  • Vitamin C (19 percent of your daily value)
  • Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps promote the immune system.

Of particular note, blueberries also contain a compound known as gallic acid. Gallic acid has been researched extensively. Strangely, though, most people - even health nuts - haven’t heard of it before. Gallic acid is one of the most powerful antifungal and antioxidant agents you can find in natural foods.

1. Blueberries can fight against aging

Blueberries are particularly high in a certain type of antioxidant, known as proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are known to be potent anti-inflammatory agents. Inflammation is one of the most common causes of diseases, and can leads to things as simple as muscle stiffness or soreness, to fibromyalgia, diabetes, and cancer.

Blueberries antioxidant capacity also helps fight against diseases you might already have. They can reverse the aging process in a number of ways, by eliminating free radicals in the skin and other organs, to making your skin look healthy.

Blueberries can help reverse the aging process.

2. Blueberries protect you from neurodegenerative disease

Blueberries are neuroprotective agents, largely because of their massive antioxidant content. The compound mentioned earlier - gallic acid - is of particular importance in helping improve neural function.

Blueberries help prevent cognitive decline and the development of certain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They do this by preventing oxidation of cells in the brain, allowing them to degenerate slower.

Adding blueberries to your diet can protect you from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

3. Blueberries can help fight cancer!

Some studies have determined that regular blueberry consumption can actually kill cancer cells. On top of that, it does it without harming other cells! Again, the strongest contender for its anti-cancer benefits in blueberries is gallic acid. Resveratrol is another important compound in the cancer reduction process.

Studies have shown that blueberries can even completely destroy breast cancer! It’s no wonder gallic acid has been studied so much - it has proved itself to be an extremely powerful medicinal compound.

The antioxidants in blueberries can be an effective tool in battling cancer.

4. Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other food

That’s right. Blueberries have been studied and analyzed, and are currently rated as the food with the most antioxidants by weight. This is truly impressive - especially when you consider how amazingly delicious blueberries are.

Antioxidants are important because they prevent and eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron in their outer shell - and they’re bad because that atom will steal electrons from its neighbouring atoms. This causes a chain reaction that leads to diseases, including cancer.

The antioxidants in blueberries have a huge number of beneficial effects on the body. They help it stay young, they prevent diseases of both the brain and the body, and they help your organs function better.

Blueberries have the most antioxidants by weight even amongst superfoods.

5. Blueberries can reverse DNA damage

This means it can help fight against aging and cancer in a unique way.

Oxidative damage occurs in our cells on a daily basis. Oxidation is largely the reason human beings grow old, wither, and eventually die. (Hence why antioxidants are such a hot topic these days.)

Oxidized DNA leads to mutations, which will eventually lead to cancer. Drinking whole blueberry juice, or eating the berries fresh or frozen, will decrease oxidative DNA damage. This particular study says that regular blueberry consumption can decrease the chance of damage by 20%.

Blueberries can participate in the fight against cancer by reducing and preventing oxidative DNA damage.

6. Blueberries can help increase your body’s insulin sensitivity.

A study published in 2010 in the Nutrition Journal observes that blueberries can improve insulin sensitivity in the obese folk who have shown to be insulin resistance. This implies that blueberry consumption can help fight against diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It helps the body metabolize carbohydrates properly, and prevents blood sugar from rising too high. Without enough insulin - or, if you body’s desensitized to it from eating too many carbs - your blood sugar will escalate. Increasing sensitivity to insulin can combat high blood sugar and thus prevent diabetes.

The study - a double-blind, randomized trial, involving 30 obese people - gave the obese folk 22.5 grams of blueberries mixed into a smoothie daily. This is approximately equivalent to 2 cups of raw blueberries.

The control group consumed a smoothie with the same ingredients, minus the blueberries. The group consuming blueberries showed significantly more improvement in their insulin sensitivity.

Blueberries are a useful tool for diabetics. They increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which in turn modulates blood sugar and helps maintain or prevent diabetes.

7. Blueberries are a vast source of cardiovascular benefits

The many antioxidants in blueberries affect nearly every system in the body. One of the most well-studied aspects of their benefit is that which helps the cardiovascular system. Blueberries boast a truly incredible list of cardiovascular benefits - more than most other fruits and vegetables in the world. Many fruits and vegetables offer slight benefits to even more threats, but blueberries effectively fight a lot of illnesses.

Blueberries improve blood fat balances.

  • This means they lower LDL cholesterol (LDL cholesterol is the bad kind. It can oxidize and turn cancerous, while simultaneously causing other cholesterol to become cancerous) and raise HDL cholesterol (this is the good kind, that your body uses to transport fats.) This helps the blood transport nutrients throughout the body more efficiently, leading to an overall improvement in health.

Blueberries prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing.

  • Not only does it reduce the total levels of LDL cholesterol in your body, but blueberries can have a protective effect on the LDL cholesterol that you do have - butchering the chance of your arteries getting clogged. This also greatly reduces the chance of getting heart cancer, or other cancers caused by cardiovascular problems.
Antioxidants in blueberries help strengthen the cell walls of the cardiovascular system
  • Blueberries have another weapon in their arsenal that fights against cancer. Blueberries strengthen the cell walls in the cardiovascular system. This means that the whole system will be better protected against oxidation and other threats that could lead to disease.

Blueberries help the body absorb and transport nutrients from other food

  • The combination of these benefits allows for your blood to transport all antioxidants more efficiently, leading to a greater, more wholesome benefit from any other nutritious food that you include in your daily diet. They even raise the maximum capacity for your body to absorb antioxidants.

Blueberries help decrease and regulate blood pressure.

  • This further allows for better flow of antioxidants and nutrients, prevents cholesterol build up, and generally helps the body function better. Blueberries also can prevent blood glucose spikes by improving the body’s response to insulin. This means that your body can move nutrients better - not just the nutrients from blueberries, but those from other healthy foods you eat.

Blueberries help increase the production of endogenous NOS (nitric oxide synthase.)

  • Endogenous NOS is different than typical nitric oxide synthase, which is typically associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease. Endogenous NOS is more commonly associated with a better functioning cardiovascular system. This is possibly responsible for blueberries having an amazing effect in so many ways on the cardio system.

Blueberries are one of the most valiant fighters against cardiovascular disease.

8. Blueberries have been shown to make your brain function better

Everyone wants to have a brain that operates at its maximum efficiency. There has been a whole class of ‘smart drugs,’ also known as nootropics, that are marketed specifically with the intention to make people smarter. Some of these nootropics are based off of antioxidants - which makes the antioxidant profile of blueberries even more exciting.

Blueberries have been shown to increase cognitive function in both rats and humans. A lot of this neuroprotective benefit is suspected to be from the antioxidants present in blueberries. They prevent the oxidization of not only cells in the rest of the body, but in the brain as well. This ensures that your neurons are able to fire and communicate effectively, and will not age as fast. Blueberry supplementation can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease!

Blueberries have also been shown to improve memory. A study was conducted, with a study group consuming blueberries on a daily basis, and a control group consuming a placebo berry drink. The group that consumed blueberries showed positive increases in paired associate learning and word recall.

Paired associate memory is a type of evaluation that involves the pairing of a stimulus and a response. Oftentimes, both the stimulus and the response are words. For example, the stimulus could be the word “blueberry” and the response could be “healthy.” When the subject receives the stimulus, they are evaluated on how quickly they can provide the proper response.

The study also linked regular blueberry consumption to a decrease in depression.

Blueberries improve brain function.

8. Blueberries can help your body fight inflammation and related diseases

Blueberries are shown to reduce inflammation. This is a great benefit, since a whole lots of disease are caused by inflammation and the related complications.

In this study done on the anti-inflammatory effects on blueberries, 25 athletes were studied. They were split into two groups. One group was given 250 grams of blueberries daily and told to hold back from eating other supplements or foods high in antioxidant vitamins like vitamins C and E. The other group was told to keep their diet the same.

Participants were tested after the study period came to a close, with one more task. The group who had been eating blueberries was given a final sample of 375 grams. The other group, of course, was not. The entire group of participants was then asked to go for a two and a half hour run.

Intense exercise is a breeding ground for oxidative stress. Makes sense - your body’s intaking a lot more oxygen than it does otherwise. The researchers were looking for changes to certain markers that indicate oxidation and inflammation.

  • F2 Isoprostanes indicate oxidative stress and can measure the rate of oxidation. The F2 isoprostanes increased 129% in the control group, but less than half in the study group - only 59%!
  • During three separate blood tests, the blueberry study group had increased amounts of natural killer cells as much as 120% more than the control group. Natural killer cells are the body’s natural defensive response to inflammation.

These two things alone indicate that blueberries can have a potent effect on reducing inflammation - particularly when consumed before stressful or high-intensity activity.

Blueberries increase the rates of natural killer cells - the body’s defense against inflammation - and decrease oxidative stress indicated by F2 Isoprostanes.

9. Blueberries have a significant impact on blood sugar

This is important enough to have its own section.

Blueberries can have a huge impact on regulating blood sugar. Considering blueberries are fairly high in sugar, one might find it strange that they are considered to have a low glycemic index. (The glycemic index is a scale used to evaluate how much of an impact certain foods have on your blood sugar.) They are actually rated high on the glycemic index, but their effects on blood sugar allow them to be considered low-glycemic foods.

Confused? The combination of the blueberry’s ability to improve sensitivity to insulin, and to regulate the metabolization of carbohydrates, is the answer. While blueberries are high in sugar, they are also high in antioxidants that help to lower blood sugar. Studies have been done to show that including blueberries in a low-glycemic diet will continue to help your blood sugar drop.

Conclusion: A diet rich in blueberries can offset the balance of high-carbohydrate foods. Including blueberries can even prevent a high-carb diet from impacting blood sugar negatively.

10. Blueberries can help your eyes function better

The retina of the eyeball is susceptible to oxidative damage. It’s a vulnerable tissue and can be damaged easily by inflammation or infections. Retina damage means vision damage - keeping your retina healthy is crucial to maintaining your eyesight into late age.

Fortunately, blueberries are loaded with a certain type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins - a certain type of phytonutrient. Phytonutrients are commonly studied for their benefits in preventing eye damage. Furthermore, they seem to demonstrate some protective activity against damage done by the UV rays emitted by the sun.

Regular consumption of blueberries supplies a healthy dose of anthocyanins. This can lead to prevention of oxidative damage in the retina.

Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can possibly eat

While the range of medicinal benefits that blueberries provide may not be as vast as that of other foods, these benefits have been conclusively studied to pack a much more significant punch than that of other foods. The blueberry is incredibly densely packed with nutrients and antioxidants, allowing it to provide stronger effects than comparable fruits and vegetables.

With a range of benefits spanning from prevention of cancer, to helping you see better, to making you smarter - who wouldn’t want to include blueberries in their diet? It’s one of the tastiest ways to maximize your body’s absorption of antioxidants and nutrients.

Some might grow tired of chomping blueberries down by the handful (though many certainly wouldn’t.) While raw blueberries maintain the most undamaged antioxidants and vitamins, they’re so high in both that cooking with them still provides a whopping amount of health benefits.

Adding blueberries into your diet is guaranteed to make you feel better. Your blood will flow better, your brain will function smoother, and your body will make better use of the other food you’re consuming. Without further ado, here are some recipes that can help you implement blueberries into your life.

Contributed by Jen Miller:

Spanish Sparkling Wines…the road to Cava

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Many of us call any wine with bubbles champagne. Indeed ,it is just as we call cling film Saran Wrap and tissues Kleenex.  In the world of wine, only wines produced in the Champagne region of France and following the rules of méthode champenoise may be called “Champagne.”

In Spain, there is Cava.  Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made using the traditional méthode champenoise. The process and quality of Cava is defined by the  Vino Espumoso de Calidad Producido en una Región Determinada (VECPRD). First known “Champaña,” it originated in the Catalonia region at the Codorníu Winery in the late 19th century. The term “Cava” was adopted in 1970 in reference to the underground cellars or “Cava” in which the wines ferment and age in the bottle. The phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, which caused the destruction and uprooting of vineyards planted with red grape varieties, kick started the cava industry. The success of Codorníu encouraged vineyard owners to replant with white grape varieties such as Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello to use for sparkling wine production. These grapes are still the primary grapes of Cava today. You will also find some which use the traditional Champagne grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

So how do the bubbles get there? The grapes are harvested and a white wine is produced. Several types of wine may be blended. Three grape varieties native to Spain are Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada.

Tirajo is the second step - The bottle is filled with the blended wine, then a syrupy mixture of yeast and sugars is added, called licor de tirajo. The yeast causes a  second fermentation to occur in the bottle. The bottled wine is then transferred to the cellar with a temporary stopper.
During the secondary fermentation, yeasts convert the sugar to carbon dioxide (which creates the bubbles). This second fermentation and bottle aging lasts for nine months at a temperature between 55 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit/ 13 to 15 Celsius.

During the second fermentation, the bottles are turned occasionally. This process is called remuage. In many wineries this is still done by hand. The turning of the bottles causes the residue to collect in the neck of the wine bottle. Only the neck of the bottle is frozen, which forces the sediment out. The bottle is re-corked immediately.

In 1991, the European Union specifications were implemented to make sure that there was a consistent quality standard for Cava. A star with four-points is printed on the base of the cork of any true cava.  

Like Champagne, the sugar content varies from sweeter to drier. They are labeled with six official names as follows:

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  • Extra Brut – 0-6 grams of sugar per liter, the driest
  • Brut – 0-15 grams of sugar per liter
  • Extra Seco – 12-20 grams of sugar per liter
  • Seco – 17-35 grams of sugar per liter
  • Semi-Seco – 33-50 grams of sugar per liter
  • Dulce – More than 50 grams of sugar per liter, the sweetest

Cava should be served at temperatures between 46°F and 48°F to best enhance the flavor and bubbles.

As always, experiment and drink responsibly.  A su salud.

Tarte Tartin Recipe

There is some controversy as to how this divine dessert (tarte solognote) came about. Was it an accident (as so many kitchen wonders are) or was it just an improved upon recipe of the region? In any case it was made popular at by 2 sisters that ran the Hotel Tatin 100 miles (60 kilometers) outside of Paris. It was Louis Vaudable, owner of Maxim’s Paris that coined the name "tarte des demoiselles Tatin" Tart of the sister’s Tatin. Normally you would use a short crust or a pate brisee. I used a simple pie crust in our recipe as we were short on butter.

Serves 6-8

9 1/2 inch/ 24 centimeter pie crust
Pie Crust
1 1/3 cup/167 grams all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon/2ml salt
1/2 cup/118ml vegetable (crisco) shortening
3-6 tablespoons/45-90ml iced water

2 Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or other firm apple that will not disintegrate peeled, cored and cut in quarters
2-3 tablespoons/29-43g unsalted butter
1/4 cup/48 grams sugar
pinch of salt

In a bowl add flour and salt. Whisk to combine. Cut the shortening into the flour until only small pea sized balls are visible. Mix 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dough holds together. Shape into a ball then flatten into a disk. Wrap in cling film or waxed paper. Place in the refrigerator while making the filling.

Preheat the oven 425F/218C/Gas 7

Place the sugar and butter in a cast iron or oven safe 9 inch/24 centimeter pan. Let butter and sugar melt, stirring occasionally. Add apples, round side down. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Carefully turn over the apple slices. Repeat 2 times or until the apples are easily pierced with a knife and are coated with the now caramel coloured syrup making sure the round sides on the bottom. Arrange in a neat circle. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out to 10 inches/25 centimeters, carefully place over the apples and tuck the edges between the pan and apples. The liquid is like lava, be careful. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or the dough is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve by placing a plate on the pan and inverting. The apples will be showing. Slice and serve with whipped cream, ice cream or creme anglaise.

Dairy Free Banana Pudding

We have been working on a dairy free pudding, in this case a banana pudding using coconut milk.  The following recipe was been reworked a couple of times and the results are pretty good.  In fact, you could eliminate the sugar/sweetener all together when using the roasted bananas.  It all depends on how sweet you like your pudding.

If you are so inclined, you could layer the pudding with cookies (as many do), but we prefer them not in our pudding.  It is a personal choice.

Also you could strain the bananas before adding to your warm mixture if you do not want lumps.  Again, we wanted the texture of the bananas so we opted not to go this route.

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1/4 cup sugar or other sweetener such as honey or gava 
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup flour
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
4 bananas, roasted

Coconut whipped cream (optional - our recipe to be posted later)

Roast your bananas, see previous blog post on instructions: Oven Roasting Bananas.

When your bananas are roasted, let cool for 5-10 minutes then remove the peel.  Place in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth (there will be a few lumps).

In a medium saucepan, beat the sugar, salt, flour, and eggs until smooth and lightened in color.

Stir in the coconut milk and almond milk.

Turn the heat to medium and start whisking constantly.  Don’t cheat here, because pudding is pretty quick to form lumps.  When the pudding is nice and thick, take it off the burner and whisk in the vanilla as well as your roasted bananas.

Spoon your pudding into single serving bowls or a large one layering with your whipped cream and let chill a minimum of three hours.

Three Kings Almond Cake or Galette des Rois

This is a traditional cake served on January 6, which is the Epiphany and also happens to be the twelfth day of Christmas. Today is the day many people celebrate . Little children put hay or fresh straw under their beds for the camels and wake up to presents under their beds.  Read through all of the directions before starting this project!

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Serves 6-8

For the Pastry

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon/9 ounces/255 g all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon/2 ml salt

1 3/4 stick/7 ounces/200 g unsalted butter

1/2 cup/125 ml cold water

OR Pre-made puff pastry

For the filling:

4 ounces/115 g unsalted butter

4 ounces caster/115 g (superfine) sugar (not powdered or icing sugar)

3 egg yolks

4 drops almond essence

3 tablespoons/45 ml Cognac

4 ounces/115 g freshly ground almonds

1 dried bean, gold ring or baby figurine

Roll out the pie dough on a floured board to about 1/4-inch thickness. Dot it with one-third of the remaining 4 ounces butter cut into dice. Fold the pastry into three, like a letter, then again into three in the opposite direction. Cover in a cloth and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Repeat this process twice more and leave for another 20 minutes chilling before using. If you can't face all that fun, buy 1 pound of puff pastry instead.

Divide the pastry in half. Roll each half into a round of about 9-inches in diameter and let rest while you make the filling.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whisk in 2 of the yolks, the almond essence, the Cognac and the ground almonds. Work together until you have a smooth paste.

Rinse a sheet pan under cold water. Place one of the pastry rounds on the tray and spoon the paste onto it, leaving a 2-inch margin all around. Hide the bean or the other objects in the paste. Beat the remaining egg with a little water and paint the pastry margin. Place the second round of pastry on top and gently press edges together. Chill 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas 5. Using the back of a knife, make a lattice or star-shaped pattern on the pastry surface, but do not cut through to the filling. Pinch the edges prettily together. Paint the top with the egg wash. Bake the galette for 30 to 40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and brown. Transfer to a rack and cool. Dust with icing sugar.

Whomever finds the bean or ring or figurine is KING OF THE FEAST!

Eggnog Recipes, Traditional and Vegan

It is that time of the year, at least in most parts of the world: when the weather is cold, winds blow, snow falls and people gather together to celebrate with family and loved ones. South Florida may not get the snow and temperatures may not drop to what some consider cold, but for us the spirit of the holidays is the same.  Here are some egg nog recipes that hearken back to days of yore, and still can help to bring the “yuletide” on.

Traditional Eggnog

I do not know anyone that does not like eggnog, the rich and creamy drink synonymous with winter time.

Serves 8

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12 eggs, separated

2 cups/500ml bourbon (optional)

¾ cup/180ml brandy (optional)

1 ½ quarts/1.5L milk

2 cups/500ml heavy thickened cream

1 ½ cups/288g white (caster) sugar

2 teaspoons/10ml ground nutmeg

In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar for 10 minutes (the mixture to be firm and the colour of butter). Very slowly, add in the bourbon and brandy. When the bourbon and brandy have been added, allow the mixture to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Just before serving remove the mixture  from the refrigerator.  Stir the milk into the chilled yolk mixture. Mix in 1 ½  teaspoons/7ml ground nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat the cream with a mixer on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks. In a third bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Fold the cream into the egg mixture. Ladle into cups, garnish with the remainder of the ground nutmeg.

Vegan Eggnog Recipe

Vegan and vegetarians do not have to miss out on the flavour experience of the holidays with this terrific recipe. It has all of the taste and texture and to make it even better, it is Gluten and Soy Free!

Serves 6

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3 cups/511g almonds

2 quart/2L water, divided

1 tablespoon/15ml vanilla extract

2 tablespoons/30ml agave nectar

2 tablespoons/30ml yacon syrup*

2 teaspoons/10ml ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon/1ml ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon/.5ml ground cloves

In a bowl large enough to hold almonds and water. Soak almonds overnight in water. Discard soaking water and rinse until water is clear. Place soaked almonds and 1 quart/1L of water in a blender. Blend on highest speed for 90 seconds. Strain the milky liquid(milk) through a fine strainer lined with cheese cloth or gauze, discarding the solids.  Place almond milk in a 2 quart/2L bowl add vanilla, agave, yacon, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Beat with a whisk to combine. Refrigerate until cold and serve.

*Yacon syrup is a sugar substitute native to the Andean region of South America. It is glucose-free, and does not increase blood sugar levels. Because of this, yacon syrup is often recommended as a sweetener to those suffering from diabetes or at risk for becoming diabetic.

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