This is the only brand of long macaroni you can buy here in Eastern Canada!

When I make macaroni and cheese I always use long macaroni. I hope it never disappears from the shelves because for some reason it tastes much better than those silly little elbows.

I learned to make my macaroni this way back in the 'Sixties - yes, that's the 1960s, nearly 60 years ago, when I was working as a translator at the head office of Robin Hood Flour Mills here in Montreal. It was located in the Town of Mount Royal Shopping Centre, and there was only one place to eat lunch and that was Murray's Restaurant, right in the little strip mall.

My recent web searches have shown that most people remember the Murray's chain - they had several branches in this part of the country - for their British desserts, but for me it was the rest of the menu that kept me standing in line to get in day after weekday in spite of the high prices. 

The macaroni and cheese was my absolute favourite, but their cheeseburger was the best in town, their mixed salad with "French" dressing was crunchy and fresh and loaded with veggies, and the vegetable soup was a classic. 

The only way I deviate from Murray's macaroni and cheese is that I sometimes pour it into a baking dish, slice some tomatoes on top, dot with butter and bake until the top begins to turn brown in places. But it's delicious straight out of the pot too.

I have no recipe: I just make a béchamel, add lots of yellow aged cheddar cheese and a pinch of Cayenne pepper and stir this into the cooked macaroni. The secret is to keep the sauce silky by not cooking it after you add the cheese.

As for those desserts, the ones people keep remembering are the Steamed Fruit Pudding with Custard Sauce and the Rice Custard Pudding and I must say both were absolutely top-notch.

To find the recipes, I just googled "Murray's steamed fruit pudding" and there they were.

Bon appétit!


Make Your Own White Flour


It's not fair! Some of us have been making our own bread forever, but now all those amateur newbie breadbakers are hoarding all the flour!

Every time I place an online food order, it arrives minus the flour I ordered.

Except for my last order. There it was: a 5-lb bag of whole wheat flour.

But sometimes you really really need white flour, so Im making my own until better times.

You see, whole wheat flour is just white all-purpose flour with some bran added. (Honest, unless you grind your own wheat berries, there is no wheat germ in your "whole" wheat flour.) So all you have to do is sift the bran out of your whole wheat flour.

Last night, I made the above test. I already knew about sifting the bran out; the test was about making my own sieve out of cheesecloth and an embroidery hoop, because my fine flour sifter seems to have disappeared during my recent move.

As you can see, there is a substantial amount of bran in whole wheat flour. Save it for another use.

Another solution to render the bran less gluten-destroying is to run the flour, or just the bran, through the food processor. At times I've separated it out, as in the photo, and ground it in my spice grinder.

You've got time, these days, so experiment!

Happy Baking!


Why I Will Never Be A Vegetarian

There are two reasons why I will never be a vegetarian: carnitas and barbacoa. Yes, both are Mexican meat dishes!  

Carnitas is Mexico's favourite way of eating pork and barbacoa is how you eat lamb if you live in Mexico.

Homemade Carnitas. Photo credit: Mexico In My Kitchen
Real barbacoa cannot be made at home, but an excellent carnitas substitute is entirely feasible, and you will find the recipe here:

Please ignore any recipe that contains anything else - trust me, this is the real mccoy.  In fact, having lived in Mexico for over 20 years, I can assure you that all Mely's recipes are absolutely what you would be served if you had the good fortune of having friends like mine in Mexico. If you like authentic Mexican food, you should subscribe to her blog (it's in English).

Homemade Mixiotes
As for barbacoa, I'm sorry that she does not give a recipe for my favourite alternative, mixiotes. They are little parcels of lamb and seasoning in parchment paper tied with string that are steamed for a couple of hours. You can make a decent substitute as long as you have access to latino ingredients like dried chiles.

Here is a recipe that I might use:

I have not found one in English that I would recommend, so if you want to try this, write me in the Comments section and I will provide a translation.

Buen provecho!


Tomato Paste Trick

I used to buy small cans of tomato paste, but I would take out a tablespoon or two, and after a while the leftover paste would grow some fur, and I had to throw it out.

Then, one day, I discovered tomato paste in a tube, imported from Italy. I remember it well, it was at Eatalia in New York City. The huge, wonderful store was near the Yotel (this is not a typo, it's the name of the hotel!) where I was staying. I bought two tubes.

Nowadays, tube tomato paste is easy to find up here in Canada, even in the small town where I live, but my frugal self refuses to pay the price. So what I do is buy a larger can, and do this. I use a small ice cream scoop. I freeze the lot and store it in a baggie. Then I take out a ball or two when I need them.


The Best Multigrain Bread, Made Entirely By Hand

The previous post ( is a couple of years old, and during that time I have been working on perfecting my multigrain bread recipe. I wanted to achieve a result that tasted great, of course, but it had to use the ingredients that I have easy access to and that uses the equipment I have - or rather the lack of it.

I thought I had finally figured it all out, then this week I had a contretemps, and it resulted in yet another positive development. (See Notes at the end.)

I hesitated a long time before publishing my recipe -- there is no copyright on recipes -- but at this stage of my life, I would be totally flattered if someone were to steal it! Please note that this is not a recipe for beginners.


170 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast

170 g water (cold, cool, lukewarm, makes no difference)

Mix well. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight. I leave mine 24 hours. Refrigerate after 24 hours if not ready to bake.

At the same time, prepare the SOAKER

130 g 12-grain cereal (I buy mine at Bulk Barn)
25 g raw sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp salt
220 g water (any temp., as above)

Mix and let stand at room temperature alongside the Poolish. I stir mine from time to time because the sunflower seeds tend to float on top. Probably makes no difference.

Refrigerate after 24 hours if not ready to bake.


Combine the Poolish with the Soaker and add

120 g water
3 TB canola or other plain oil
45 g sweetener (agave syrup, honey, malt syrup, molasses) - I prefer molasses (2.5 TB)

In a separate bowl:

500 g whole wheat all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
2.5 tsp ordinary salt

1. I combine the two mixtures, mix well with the hands, and set aside 30 minutes. (This 30-minute wait is what has changed my whole way of making bread. It takes the place of most of the kneading!)
2. Turn onto very lightly floured counter and knead a few minutes. I can tell when it's ready when the surface tension is such that the sunflower seeds start to pop out. It's that simple!
3. Shape into a ball and place in a big bowl. Cover and leave 45 minutes. (Please see my note at the end about this.)
4. Turn out of bowl, give one full turn (pull one side and fold it in half, give a quarter turn and repeat, do this twice more) and immediately shape into 3 equal size balls (I use my scale for this), place them on parchment paper, cover with plastic and let them relax for 5 minutes. (If you don't know how to shape dough into balls, google it, just don't make them tight as the actual shaping will take place after the 5-minute wait.)
5. Prepare your couche. (If in doubt, see my Ciabatta post [], except the flour needs to be all over the linen, and not so thick.)
6. Shape into three bâtards (look it up if need be) and place in couche, close together but separated by a fold of linen. Cover with leftover couche and plastic.
7. Turn on oven at 450 F with baking stone on the middle shelf. Fill a spray bottle with water.
8. When the loaves are sufficiently puffed - not doubled in size, just nice and puffy - transfer them to a sheet of parchment placed on a peel by flipping them upside-down (gently!).
9. Slash them - I like one long slash, and I use a regular knife sharpened on the steel just before.
10. Slip onto stone and spray (I do 20 pumps of my small spray bottle). Repeat every minute - 3 times in all then turn oven down to 425 F.
11. Bake 20 minutes, turn all the loaves around and bake until nice and brown with an internal temperature of at least 200 degrees F.
12. Cool on a rack. If you can wait until the loaves are cool before tasting, you will be rewarded!

A. If baking in bread pans, you don't need the stone, and you don't spray with water. Also you could reduce the oven temperature.
B. Of course you can make small rolls, long baguettes etc. Try it!
C. With reference to No. 3 above, I had an interesting experience today. The loaves in the photo are the result of it. I was planning on baking the loaves yesterday, but I had to go out so the Poolish and Soaker ended up on the kitchen counter all day, which I felt was long enough so instead of refrigerating them again I put the dough together up to No. 3 and put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. When I got up, the dough had filled the huge bowl and I was a bit worried about that extra rise. However, I proceeded as per No. 4 and, well, the result is these two photos. What you can't see is how light this bread is considering that it is mostly whole grains -- I may end up doing this every time!
D. I keep forgetting to slash a bit off the centre, so I mostly get loaves that are a bit lopsided, like the ones above.


100% Grain Multigrain Sandwich Loaf By Hand? You Bet!

After that sad second experiment with the food processor last week - where cleaning time sort of cancelled out the time saved in kneading, and watching Michael Kalanty's course on Craftsy/Bluprint - and after my happy result making ciabatta rolls by hand, I decided to tackle the Serious Eats recipe I had made last week. Apart from the mess, it was a success and the recipe is one that you can start and finish on the same day.

This is what's left of it:

Serious Eats recipe made in food processor

The author, Stella Parks, warns that no other method but the food processor will produce the right results with her recipe, but I was willing to waste a pound of flour and half a cup of grains to test her theory. And I would get further practise in the art of breadmaking à l'ancienne.

I made the same substitutions to the recipe as I did last week - using 12-grain cereal from Bulk Barn instead of the individual grains on her list. Rested grains and flour for 2.5 hours after adding water to them.

That's when I veered away from the recipe. First I mixed the additional liquid, the yeast, sugar and oil together in a large bowl, added them to the wet flour by squishing them between the fingers à la Michael Kalanty. Then I added the salt and the soaked grains and continued squishing and mixing inside the bowl (wetting the fingers now and then) until all was blended, then I turned the dough onto the wet counter and did some slapping and smearing for a while.

I put the dough back in the bowl and let it rest about 20 minutes, then I gave it two turns, every 20 minutes or so, at which point I gave it the windowpane test and... surprise, it passed!

Back in the bowl for the required two hours. Shaped into a loaf and set the timer for 30 minutes and went away. When the timer went off, to my surprise the dough had already over-risen and the oven was still not on... and that's why the dome collapsed - as is obvious in the photo - but otherwise I would say the experiment was a success - wouldn't you?

Serious Eats recipe made entirely by hand
This bread is good and it works well as a sandwich loaf. But I need a deeper flavour, so next I need to tackle a slightly more complex loaf - one made with a poolish that has been fermenting overnight.

Stay tuned!


Ciabatta By Hand? Yes!

If and until I replace my KitchenAid mixer and/or spring for a better food processor, I'm pretty well stuck making bread by hand and today I made this batch of my own ciabatta recipe and frankly I can't tell the difference.

I used the method proposed by Michael Kalanty in the Craftsy class that I purchased years ago before they changed their name to Bluprint and made you subscribe instead of selling individual courses. (Luckily I had quite a few in my library and they're there "forever" for me to go back to.)

The class I'm referring to is "Secrets of Whole Grain Bread Baking" - nothing to do with white ciabatta, but bread is bread! I learned a lot from Mr. Kalanty, and it is mostly this: don't be afraid to handle your dough - even if it's super wet like this ciabatta!

Basically you mix your poolish and leave it overnight (check!), then you add the water and the flour and mix by hand (check!), then you rest and "develop" (that's bakerspeak for "knead") by hand in two stages, a total of only six minutes.

I know this dough so well that I was able to feel when it was ready to set aside and then to split into rolls and then to bake, so I couldn't give details even if I wanted.

Next I will make his "Seeded bâtard" which is a 100% whole wheat with seeds (I'm using 10-grain cereal instead because that's what I have and I'm adding extra sunflower seeds). I will make it freeform the first time (or in my oval banneton), but what I'd really like would be a sandwich bread baked in a pan that I could make regularly as my more healthy bread. At least until I can find a source of grains with reasonable prices so that I can start baking that wonderful Danish rye bread I posted here last year. I miss it so much!


Kneading Bread Dough in the Food Processor

Google this and you'll find all sorts of links, but the most important one -- based on Charles Van Over's recipe from his book Best Bread Ever -- has just been deleted. It's important because it describes the process very thoroughly.

When I sold my house last December and decided to move a thousand miles away, I got rid of all my aging appliances and my big KitchenAid mixer was one of them. (Talk about something keeping its value -- I advertised it for $250 and my inbox immediately filled with buyers!)

Before springing for a new one, I thought I'd try to make all my breads without it. First I wanted to try kneading in the food processor. The ciabatta is going to be my first experiment.

Meanwhile, to perfect the technique I made a loaf of the Van Over bread. I followed the recipe exactly. I won't publish it here -- I suspect the publisher complained about copyright infringement --, but I did order the book and even though it's out of print you can get a used copy very cheaply, or your Library may have it.

It's a very simple recipe, makes a decent bread with a nice open texture in spite of a mere 45 seconds of kneading. Here is my loaf:

I shaped it in my oval banneton.

It looks good but flavour-wise, I would certainly not describe it as the "best bread ever" as it lack the depth that I am accustomed to in my white breads. A sort of slightly sour taste, like a mild sourdough.

Also it didn't keep very well; it dried very quickly in spite of being stored in plastic.

But I'm still glad I ordered the book because there are other recipes in there that I might want to play with.

As for the ciabatta, the starter is bubbling nicely as I write this, and tomorrow I'll let you know how it worked out. (I read somewhere that you can't knead wet doughs in the food processor so it's finger crossed until the AM!)

I'm already dreaming of what I will do with the price of the KitchenAid mixer I won't have to buy...

The Best And Lightest Ciabatta Bread

After the hard drive on my iMac died last year, I realized that the best place to park information is in a blog and that's why I'm putting this recipe here.

It's one of my most valuable recipes ever because in spite of my striving to eat heathy food most of the time -- my daily bread is in fact this Danish Rye that I'm crazy about - there are times when I simply must have white bread. A typical example would be a ham and cheese sandwich, of which I am very fond. A grilled cheese sandwich. Something to dip into the gravy, breadcrumbs...

It has taken me at least a year to develop the final version of this recipe and if you are reading this you will notice that I have spared you the different stages. It all started with Craig Ponsford recipe in Maggie Glezer's book Artisan Baking. Then I tried Leite's Culinaria recipe that I found on the Web. Also the one from The Fresh Loaf, The Perfect Loaf, The Kitchn, three King Arthur Flour ciabatta recipes, and a few others.

The last one I tried was the one for Ciabatta Rolls on the King Arthur Flour website. I was intrigued by the lesser quantity of water, as compared to all the other recipes. How can you make ciabatta with only 70% hydration, when all the other recipes called for at least 80%, and up to 84%, I asked myself.

I made the recipe exactly as it appeared, including the dimpling and it was not what I was after. Maybe you like your ciabatta flat, but while living in Montreal over the past year I got hooked on the ciabatta rolls from my neighbourhood Italian bakery. They were ugly, they were bumpy, but they were not flat. They had big holes and little holes and a texture not so much creamy as fluffy, almost cloud-like... add a thin crisp crust and a deep flavour and you've got perfection. They made the best ham and cheese sandwiches. They were what I was after.

I mention the thin crust because you might ask yourself why I don't just make baguette if I want French bread. The reason is that for sandwiches, I have never been able to make a baguette (or a French roll) with a crust that didn't tear the inside of my mouth. And now I don't even have to try.

For my final trials, I decided to keep my variables to a minimum, and after adhering strictly to the King Arthur recipe ingredients as my base, and varying the methods, I came to the following infallible recipe, and here it is.

Based on King Arthur Flour Ciabatta Rolls Recipe
YIELD: 10 to 15 rolls, depending on size

Scroll down page for photos

This is the final version as developed by myself based on the KAF recipe and a combination of methods from other recipes and past experience.

This makes a satisfying baguette substitute because the thin crust is suitable for sandwiches, whereas I was never able to make a baguette that worked as well for that. The long fermentation of the starter ensures a good flavour.

Apart from the crust, the main difference is the dough is too wet to shape but dry enough to handle, which is not usually true of ciabatta recipes with higher hydration rates. 


177 g unbleached AP flour
227 g cool water
1/16 tsp instant yeast

Mix by hand or in mixer bowl until well combined. Cover and rest at room temperature overnight, or up to 15 hours or more. (I usually leave it about 24 hours, with a few hours in the turned-off oven with the light on to get it started. Then I leave it in the oven with the light off until next day.)


All the starter
152 g lukewarm water
3 TB olive oil

361 g unbleached AP flour
2 tsp instant yeast
2 TB nonfat dry milk
2 1/4 tsp salt

MIX the liquid ingredients in the mixer bowl

MIX the dry ingredients separately in a bowl and stir with a wisk to disperse everything evenly

ATTACH the bowl to the mixer, attach the paddle and mix the liquid ingredients together.

ADD the dry ingredients while running at slow speed, then increase speed to medium (2.5 I think).

MIX for seven minutes. The dough will wrap itself around the paddle and stay there. I usually stop the mixer twice to scrape it down.


OIL a wide container (I use a medium size plastic tub) and pour the dough into it. Cover well with plastic.

SET timer for 60 minutes.

AFTER sixty minutes, give the dough a complete fold with wet hands. This is the technique I use:

SET the timer for 30 minutes.

GIVE the dough a second fold.

SET the timer for 30 minutes.

AFTER 30 minutes, turn oven on at 425 degrees, place pizza stone on middle shelf and steam tray on lower shelf.

SET the timer for 30 minutes.

PREPARE a couche with flour on the strips where the rolls will rest.

IF dough is ready - nice and puffy with big bubbles, turn it onto a very well floured surface and flour the top (which used to be the bottom). Without deflating it too much, form it into a rough square.

DIVIDE the dough into rolls or loaves (I do a combination), using a sharp dough scraper. Place on couche, sprinkle with flour and cover the couche -- I use two upturned disposable turkey pans and white plastic bags. (You could use a scale or a ruler to make them even, but the beauty of ciabatta is in its imperfection.)

SET the timer for 30 minutes.

PREPARE a cup of water and a spray bottle.

PREPARE two peels with parchment and cornmeal.

AFTER the 30 minutes if the loaves or rolls are nice and puffy, transfer some to one of the peels - I use a hamburger lifter for this.

It doesn't matter if you turn them upside-down - if you do they will have flour and wrinkles on top and if you don't they will have a nice smooth top. But do not POKE them even though several recipes say so!

TRANSFER rolls and parchment to stone, pour a cup of water in the steam tray.

BAKE for 15 minutes, spraying with water twice at the beginning

MOVE the front ones to the back and vice versa and finish baking for about 10 minutes -  until the right colour. Check internal temperature of the dough to be sure (minimum 200 degrees F).

BAKE the rest of the rolls or loaves similarly.

LET cool before eating!!!

The crust will soften somewhat as it cools.

FREEZE as soon as cool enough. This is actually the best thing to do with this bread because the crust will actually improve after reheating. 

REHEAT by placing the bread - frozen or not -in a cold oven and turning it to 400. Set timer for 8 to 10 minutes and you will find the crust has become even crisper but not hard. Let cool. Ideal for sandwiches. That is also why the bread may seem a bit pale after baking - reheating will deepen the colour.

TOASTING. I am relieved that with this recipe - is it the oil or the milk powder or both? - toasting is less problematic. Other ciabattas I tried -  being all flour and water have tended to emerge from the toaster hard as a stone.


My typical schedule goes like this:

10 AM: Mix starter

9.15 AM: Finish assembling dough
9.30 AM: First rise
10.30 AM: First fold
11.00 AM: Second fold
11.30 AM: Turn oven on
11.45 AM to 12.00 PM: Divide dough; set timer fir 30 minutes
12.15 to 12.30 PM: Bake first batch
1.00 PM or so: Bake second batch
2.00 PM: Eat!


Dough after two turns, ready for next step.
Ready for dividing, note large amount of flour.
Couche ready with lots of flour.
Rolls and two loaves in couche.
Peels with parchment and cornmeal - peels are two layers of cardboard stapled together
Upturned turkey roasters on top of couche
Couches covered with plastic
 A batch is ready for oven
Left: rolls baked upturned; Right, rolls baked without turning. Note different sizes and shapes!
A typical crumb, with holes of all sizes
Croûtons for onion soup
Two batches being delayed in fridge (rolls are on peels)


Making Cinnamon Raisin Bread for Christmas Presents

This year, I thought I'd add a few goodies to the food baskets I give to friends at Christmas. Cinnamon Raisin Bread sounded good, so I went hunting for a recipe.

I fell for the title of the one at Genius Kitchen:

World's Best Cinnamon Raisin Bread

The site was unknown to me, but I figured it was popular because that recipe, alone, had hundreds of comments and ratings, mostly favourable.

Here is the link to the recipe but be warned: read my comments below before making it, or prepare to be confused.

Here is a photo of my loaves.

My first ever batch of Cinnamon Raisin Bread. Click to enlarge.
World's Best? Not really, but pretty good, especially the next day, when the flavours have had a chance to meld. Not too sweet, and it tastes fluffy though the loaf feels heavy when you lift it. You'd think it hadn't risen properly but it has.

The dough is of the enriched type, that is to say it contains butter and eggs.

Here are my notes


1. Two packages of active dry yeast = 4-1/2 teaspoons

2. I used half golden raisins and half dark

2. 8 cups of AP flour - no indication of weight or how to measure. But since I know that 1 cup = 5 ounces, then I weighed 40 ounces (2 lbs, 8 ounces, or 1138 grams).

That was the perfect quantity when I mixed and kneaded the dough.

With such a huge amount of flour, it's important to know how to measure - do you dip directly into the bag, then level off? Do you scoop into your cup, then level off? To get 5 ounces per cup, the latter is the correct way. I did it the other way and got 50 ounces!


1. Ignore the instructions -- use instant yeast and mix it and the salt with the flour. A hand whisk is the best tool for this.

2. If you have a stand mixer, iignore the directions and put everything in the stand mixer bowl - first with the flat beater - in this order: water, eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, milk, butter, raisins. Then flour with dough hook.

3. Finish kneading on the table. Be careful not to add too much flour.

4. Transfer to buttered bowl, leave to double in bulk.

5. Roll out to 24 inches long (left to right) and whatever width is needed to get about 1/2 inch of thickness.

6. Brush with milk, leaving one inch on both long sides.

7. Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar (1 cup) mixture - LEAVE 1 INCH ON BOTH LONG SIDES.

8. Roll up tightly. Start at bottom, very tight first turn. Watch this video for a way to use parchment paper to help in the rolling if you need it. 

9. Recipe says roll should be 3 inches diameter, and that works.

10. Pinch the seam really well to seal it.

11. Cut ends off (make buns), divide into 3, 8-inch sections, place in buttered pans with seam on bottom, tuck ends in very well for a more attractive finished loaf, and to keep filling from leaking out.

12. Brush tops with melted butter.

13. Leave to double in bulk.

OVEN at 350 degrees.

14. It's a good idea to place the pans on a cookie sheet in case the filling spills over the sides of the pans. This is more likely to happen if your pans aren't the very large ones recommended in the recipe.*

15. Bake until internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F, switching pans around after 20 minutes. The recipe says 45 minutes but my oven is very unreliable, so I always go by the temperature.

* If you don't have those biggies, cut a few slices off each end of the roll and bake them as buns - in buttered muffin tins - or not. In fact, the recipe will work very well for cinnamon buns - just add some brown sugar and butter at the bottom of the muffin or cake tin.