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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Tourment D’Amour – Love’s Agony or the tart that ended it all

With all the flavours of Guadeloupe like rum, lime, vanilla and coconut, this is a tart to make on a cloudy November day.

 Tourment d’amour, a tart-like cake that translates into the “agony of love,” has a back story that goes something like this.  A Guadeloupe island woman with a French flair invents the best tart you’ve ever tasted in anticipation of her lover’s safe return from sea. Dude is a bit late showing up from his fishing to eat this world-ending tart so she freaked and took her own life when he didn’t arrive on the day he said he would. He shows up, finds her a goner and an even bigger tragedy, the tart very stale. Although the story is sad, the treat is anything but. I made it for the Handyman husband. He was in luck as was I. He arrived home from the hardware store just as they were coming out of the oven. No Tourment… just the love.

Guadeloupe is a French island so while the flavours (vanilla, coconut, lime and rum) are pure Caribbean, the base components (pâte brisée pastry, pastry cream, and Genoise sponge cake) are classic French. For that reason, the recipe is mildly challenging, but like the story goes, sometimes love hurts a bit. The end product is a sweet, tropical treat encased in a flaky pastry crust—with a creamy coconut jam center.

Makes seven to eight 4 ½-inch tarts

Coconut Jam ingredients

Coconut Jam:
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup coconut water
1¼ cup shredded coconut
½ tablespoon vanilla extract

Pastry dough ingredients

Short Crust Pastry Dough (Pâte Brisée):
1½ cups all-purpose flour
3½ ounces unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
Pinch of salt
Ice water

Pastry cream ingredients

Pastry Cream:
2 cups milk
½ vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped out
¾ cup sugar, divided roughly in half
⅓ cup cornstarch
2 eggs
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons rum

Genoise ingredients

Genoise Sponge Cake
1 cup flour, sifted
⅔ cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Zest of one lime

Directions

Coconut Jam

 Add sugar and coconut water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then stir in coconut and vanilla. Set aside and allow to cool.

Short Crust Pastry Dough

 Sift flour and salt into to the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add one to three tablespoons of ice water, and pulse until it comes together (dough should stick together when you pinch it with your fingers). Wrap with plastic and chill for at least an hour. Meanwhile, butter and flour seven to eight 4 ½-inch pans and then set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough out with a rolling pin to about ⅛-inch thick. With a fork, make small holes in the dough. Cut the dough into circles a about an inch wider than the pans, and then carefully transfer the circles to the pans, lightly pressing the dough into the edges. Roll a rolling pin over the top of the pans to remove any excess dough. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To blind bake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Add coffee filters or parchment circles to the pans and fill with pie weights (to prevent dough from puffing up). Place tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove pie weights and papers, and set aside.

Pastry Cream 

In a medium sauce pan, add milk, half the sugar, and vanilla bean seeds and pod, and then simmer on low. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk eggs, remaining sugar, and cornstarch until the mixture becomes pale yellow in color and ribbons when you drop a spoonful of it back into the bowl.

Once milk begins to boil, remove vanilla bean pod with a slotted spoon and then pour about a third of it into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. (This step is important to a good pastry cream. By tempering the egg mixture with this small amount of warm milk you will avoid having the eggs scramble.) Add mixture back into the sauce pan and continue to whisk until it starts to boil. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg and rum. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tarts.

Genoise Sponge Cake

 In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add eggs and sugar and mix on high speed for 10 minutes. Reduce to medium and mix for another 10 minutes. Stir in lime zest. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in sifted flour. Carefully fold in melted butter and vanilla extract until incorporated (do not over mix).

Some assembly required

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place pastry cream back into a stand mixer fitter with a paddle and beat until smooth again. Spoon equal amounts of coconut jam onto the bottom of each tart shell.

Divide pastry cream evenly among tarts, smoothing it overtop the jam.

Then spoon cake batter on top, completely covering the pastry cream.

Bake immediately (so you don’t lose the airy quality of the batter) for 25 to 30 minutes (rotating pans halfway through) until cake topping is lightly browned.

Just saying, I think if it were me I would have waited 10 minutes and eaten them all myself.

As Canadian as maple pie

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Inspired by fond memories growing up in Quebec sugaring-off every spring, this salted maple pie is much, much tastier looking than its humble appearance would suggest. It’s like the sugar on snow served up beside a roaring fire outside the sugar shack only better because it is hugged by a flaky all-butter crust.

All-butter crust…because it’s the only way to go

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Ingredients for one 9″ crust

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces (use European butter if you can find it…it has a higher butterfat percentage which makes for a flakier crust)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, pulse the salt, sugar and 1 1/4 cups flour to combine. Add butter and pulse until largest pieces are pea-size. Transfer to a medium bowl and freeze about 5 minutes. (You can of course work by hand if you don’t have a food processor, using a pastry blender.)

In a small bowl, combine vinegar and water and sprinkle over flour mixture; toss with a fork to incorporate. Knead until dough comes together with just a few dry spots remaining. Flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill at least two hours or overnight if possible.

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Let dough sit at room temperature 5 minutes to soften. Roll out on a lightly floured surface, rotating often and dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking, to a 12-inch round. Fold dough in half and transfer to a pie plate.  Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish. You should have about a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under and crimp. Place pie dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze 15 minutes. This step is important to preserve your pretty crimps. Full disclosure, as you can see by my finished pie I forgot this step and kind of lost my crimps. Kind of crimped my style.

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Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and place in pie crust, coated side down, pressing into bottom and sides. Fill with pie weights (or dried beans or rice) and bake until edge is pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool for five minutes or so and then carefully remove foil and pie weights and cool on a wire rack.

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Maple pie ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup real Canadian maple syrup, buy local if you can…I used Maple Roch from Summerland
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs plus one additional egg yolk at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extra or vanilla bean paste
  • one 9-inch blind baked and cooled all-butter pie crust
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • flaky sea salt for sprinkling

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Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350F

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk in the brown sugar, cornmeal and salt. Crack the eggs and yolk into another bowl and add the cream and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the maple mixture and whisk to combine.

Place your pre-baked pie shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the pie edge with the beaten egg. Pour the filling into the pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the edges are puffed and the centre jiggles only a bit when shaken. It will set more as it cools.

Cool for a good 4 hours and then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

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Gone girl – An ode to an extraordinary chicken

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Maria  2016-2018

Maria was an ordinary chicken. Maria was an extraordinary chicken.

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Maria’s ginormous egg and an average Gretel-sized egg

Maria laid a lot of eggs like any good hen. She lay mondo eggs and would take some time to go about this.

IMG_5726.jpgUnlike Gretel and Leisel who quietly and quickly laid their eggs on the straw in their egg boxes early every morning, she chose to lay them out of the safety of her run and in the “wild” when they were let out to free range. She would often be gone for more than an hour.

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Egg cache number 1

Busy with our raspberry farm, it took a dedicated summer visitor Chris to hunt for and find Maria’s secret nest. Once a cache was discovered she would find a new spot and start over.

Very much unlike Leisel and Gretel, who craved attention, Maria shunned the paparazzi.

Unlike Gretel and Leisel, Maria would not and could not be picked up and was proud of this. She was standoffish and very, very large.

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Give your head a shake. I will not be your Instagram prop.

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Although pals with the other girls during the daily camp-out at the back door where treats where often dispersed, at other times Maria was a loner.

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Maria was not lonely, she just liked her own company and at times, I feel felt a bit superior.

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She didn’t understand the girls who conformed to the egg-laying box routine and would often question them about it.

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She couldn’t relate to their willingness to be apart of the whole social media scene which she openly disdained while secretly feeling much fancier than the other two and far more photogenic.

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This is the last photo of Maria. Taken on the very morning of her demise.

Gretel and Leisel, although conformists and social media early adopters did understand a key chicken survival lesson, there is safety in numbers. Free ranging comes with risks which were lessened by our rows upon rows of raspberry canes providing cover and making predator swoop attacks difficult and by having a pal to call an alert.

When we returned from the farmer’s market and checked on the girls, a small pile of fluffy breast feathers in one of the yard’s few open spots was all that was left of Maria. A hawk or an eagle are the most likely culprits that permanently solved a lovely problem like Maria.

Survived by her occasional friends Gretel and Liesel and greatly mourned by her human friends, Maria will be missed although her eggs won’t be as we could rarely find them. Maria was an ordinary chicken, Maria was an extraordinary chicken.

October in Naramata — The year’s last smile

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”
Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

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Summerland orchard in a blaze of glory

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View from the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

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Toward Munson Mountain on the Naramata Bench

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Evening light 

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Next-door neighbour

 

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Vineyards of Naramata Bench

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Malbec at harvest time

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Vineyard rows

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Sumac and Giant’s Head

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Rock Oven Vineyard

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Painted Rock view

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Fall sunset over Okanagan Lake

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Manitou Beach sunset, Naramata

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Atop Munson Mountain overlooking Penticton

Harvest

 

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Legend Distilling

 

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Bella Homestead

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Chute Lake Road after the fires 

 

 

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Naramata Sunset

Sink or swim – Canadian team prepares to swim North America’s equivalent of the English Channel

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The next act of the English Channel swim relay team, the Crazy Canucks is a swim that is comparable in length , conditions, difficulty and challenge and all a bit closer to home. The Crazy Canucks are taking on the Catalina Island Channel on lucky Friday, September 13, 2019.

First swum in 1927, on the heels of the intense publicity from Gertrude Ederle’s  swim of the English Channel in 1926, Catalina also has a long and storied history in marathon swimming history and brings with it its own set of unique challenges that make it a worthy goal to be respected and tackled with solid preparation. Our swim will be overseen by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, our pilot boat the Bottomscratcher  could not have a better name and our main kayak guide is my brother Dean Dogherty, who competes internationally in outrigger canoes.

We are going for a record that we are keeping on the down low at the moment but it could add to the fun of the achievement.

 

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Four English Channel team veterans will be joined by two new swimmers to make up the team of six.

The challenges of cold water, high winds and waves we faced in the English Channel, the seasickness that struck down half our team to varying degrees from violent to mild and stings from jellyfish are all Catalina possibilities. In addition we face two more. The Pacific Ocean swim starts at near midnight to avoid the winds that kick up in the afternoons. Pitch black conditions can bring on vertigo as the black sea and sky merge together to cause confusion and add to the stress of swimming in a large ocean. On the plus side, many swimmers report swimming through magical bioluminescence. The other factor involving sea life with many sharp teeth is not to be mentioned by name….Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldermort. The positive side of this equation are dolphins which will all be on the look-out for.

Here are thoughts from the team as we prepare.

John Ostrom

“I’ve swum my whole life and I enjoy it most when I’m in shape and feel powerful in the water…Open water is interesting to me because I grew up on the ocean (Prince Rupert) and always feel it’s a bit mysterious. I don’t really fear the ocean but am always curious about it. Swimming in some ways allows me to become closer to nature.”

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John, in the dingy, heading back to the Viking Princess after touching France.

“The epic nature of the swim and doing it as a team appeal the most. I am not super keen about swimming at night (me neither) and I’m going to have to put images of sharks and squid lurking below out of my mind!” (Guess he didn’t get the memo re that which shall not be named.)

“I am very happy about the English Channel swim and how everything worked for us so well. Of course I am very proud to have been the “finisher” that touched France.  Having done that channel I know we will also do Catalina the same way with a very competent group.”

Chris Lough

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Chris mid-Channel

“I swim three to four times a week year-round,” says Chris. “I spent all my summers in Quebec and played in the water for hours a day. Open water is just a return to the joys of those childhood times for me.”

As for the challenge ahead, Chris says, “Swimming in the dark and the unknown potential for larger “fish” ups the excitement.” (See, he got the memo…)

As for the English Channel, Chris says he has nothing but fond memories. The only thing he would change is his approach to dealing with the nausea.

Chris is preparing by swimming four times a week and working up to cold water swims in the spring as well as some night swims and increasing his distances as our swim draws near.

Janet Robertson

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Janet watching as the sun rose on the Channel before her turn in the drink.

“I like the feeling of moving through the water both in the pool and in the lake. I believe in balance in life – swimming is part of that balance. Open water swimming is freeing and meditative – I can find my zen. I lose all that life throws at me when I’m in the water…so freeing.”

Janet’s approach is to try to minimize the build up talk as this makes her nervous.
“Night swimming will be very important to the success of the swim so I think we should plan a swim camp with that as a focus.

“I am proud to have done the English Channel. I had to dig deep quite a few times to reach the group goal. I wasn’t going to let the group down. I will take everything from the English Channel to Catalina, except, hopefully, the sea sickness. Who knew I would consider doing either the Channel or Catalina. Butterflies reign supreme as well as deep breaths.”

Elaine Davidson

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On the way back to England after our team swam more than 50 kilometres to reach France in some gnarly conditions. The grin says it all.

As idea originator and the team captain of both swims I am fully in. For me it’s all about something I love doing more than anything else, talking five and now seven people into joining in on the adventure and working toward a crazy goal that will change our lives or at the very least give us some pretty unique experiences.

In water, all is possible. As T.H. White says, “There is practically no difference between flying in the water and flying in the air…It is like the dreams people have.” When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water. When you enter the water you dive through the surface into a new world. You are in nature, part of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land. To get that feeling utterly and completely you need to be in a river, lake or the ocean.

The swimming training is important, sure. The mental training of swimming in cold water, in the waves and wind and at night are the most important. My training goals are to be prepared physically and mentally tough.

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Dean, doing his thing in Kelowna this summer.

I am also beyond proud to swim with this team which comprises four long-time friends, my cousin Peter who is a Canuck( but lives most of the year in Australia) and embodies for me my dad’s spirit and a new enthusiastic swim pal Janice who is up for anything. Making the team even more special is my brother Dean who will be beside us in that big ocean in a kayak making it feel a little less big. We will swim between the Bottomscratcher and the kayak which will both be lighted to keep us on track in the pitch black.

Janice Johnston

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Jan horsing around after a lake session this summer in Skaha.

“I love to swim in open water because I find it both relaxing and challenging. Swimming to me is like walking, you don’t have to think about it. The challenge comes to get faster and add some distance. There is such a great freedom and being close to nature when you swim in open water plus I REALLY DON’T LIKE FLIP TURNS! I didn’t swim competitively as a young person but I have embraced swimming as an adult. I even became a lifeguard at age 51.”

Jan says she is looking forward to meeting her new team mates. “I think it’s going to be amazing to swim in the ocean at night (maybe even scary) but that is part of the challenge. I am really hoping not to get sea sick during my leg of the race.”

She is a firm proponent of our post-swim tradition of doing in-water handstands and sharing liquorice on shore.

Peter Sinclair

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My cousin Peter, far left, pictured with a relay team that swam 16 kilometres across Lake Rosseau.

Peter, who swims every day,  has spent this past summer taking dips in Elk Lake in Victoria, Lake Ontario in Toronto and Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. “In Australia, I get to swim in the ocean a lot which is really fantastic, conditions are different every day. Variety is fantastic.

“I am looking forward to meeting all the team members and their families, taking the boat to Catalina, where I’ve never been before and of course the swim itself. I’m maybe a little nervous about the temperature of the water.”

The English Channel and Catalina Channel are two of the marathon swims that make up the triple crown of swimming. The third is the swim around Manhattan. There are fewer than 200 relay teams that have swum Catalina and even fewer than that 200 number that have swum the English Channel.

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Vanilla Naramata pears in orange wine syrup with gingerbread and whip cream

 

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Naramata pears and a lovely Chardonnay from Naramata Bench winery Singletree make a poached pear dessert that is both elegant and easy to make.

The aromas of pears poaching in fresh orange juice, orange zest, vanilla beans, Chardonnay and just-picked Naramata pears smells like fall preserving at its best. Add in the ginger and cinnamon scents coming from the gingerbread in the oven and you have an irresistible combination.

This poached pear recipe uses 24 pears and makes four freezer bags worth of desserts that can be thawed, warmed and served with my gingerbread, a sponge cake, or with sweetened mascarpone cheese, candied almonds, over ice cream or simply on its own.

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Best served with warm pears and warm gingerbread. Spoon some of the poaching syrup over the gingerbread and add a dollop of whip cream.

Vanilla Naramata pears in orange wine syrup

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Use local organic pears if you are lucky to live where they grow.

Ingredients

  • 24 small to medium just-ripe pears
  • 4 cups (1 litre) Singletree Chardonnay or a dry, light wine like a Pinot Blanc
  • 2 tbsp grated orange rind
  • 2 cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into four pieces

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Vanilla beans are like gold these days Each bean was $9.

Instructions

Wash pears and peel leaving the core and stem intact. Immerse in ascorbic acid water (I used Fruitfresh) to keep the pears from turning brown.

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In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the wine, orange rind, juice and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, add vanilla pieces and gently boil for 5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, ease pears gently into the syrup. Cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, gently rolling pears over a couple of times. Pears should not be soft but should show some resistance. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool.

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_MG_5161.jpgPack 6 pears and 1 piece of vanilla bean into a freezer bag and cover with 2 cups of syrup. Squeeze out air, seal and place on a baking sheet so pears remain in a single layer in the bag. Freeze. Remove from baking sheets once frozen hard.

Gingerbread

This traditional gingerbread fills the kitchen with its spices. It freezes well if wrapped and sealed in an airtight bag.

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 farm-fresh egg (from your own chickens if you have them!)
  • 1/2 cup softened butter

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350F and butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In the bowl of a mixer, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl, combine molasses, hot water and applesauce. Using mixer on low speed, pour molasses mixture into the dry ingredients all at once and beat. Add egg and butter and beat until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.

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Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in pre-heated for 55 minutes to one hour, or until toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, remove from pan and serve with a vanilla Naramata pear in orange wine syrup and a dollop of whip cream.

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Naramata Chocolate Factory – the serious business of selling serious pleasure

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Vegan coconut sea salt dark chocolate coco rolled truffles

The Golden Ticket

I won a golden ticket to spend the day with owner, founder and Chocolatier Heather Michelle Wilson at the Naramata Chocolate Factory, enveloped in the aromas of warm tempering dark chocolate and raspberry brownies and toffee macadamia nut cookies baking in the oven.

Within five minutes of my arrival, disaster, a tray of truffles awaiting filling slipped off the counter and onto her commercial kitchen’s beautifully clean floor. Always helpful, I gathered chocolate for disposal and it took every ounce of self-discipline I possessed not to take a page out of Lucy’s most famous scene and stuff the broken bits into my mouth. Heather, seeing my pained look, laughed and offered me a just-made truffle from a box. There is nothing better than a new friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.

At a crossroad in her life in Australia last year while on a wine touring holiday, a friend suggested, “You should open a nougat factory.” She replied, “What is that… nouga? He didn’t pronounce the “t” in his Aussie accent. Oh you mean that stuff that goes in Toblerone? Maybe Australians like to eat nougat but nobody wants that. If I were to open a factory it would be a chocolate factory. My life is already devoted to chocolate. I may as well learn how to make it.” Heather was working in the wine industry at the time and was ready to take her business degree and sales acumen and start her own project. When lightening strikes, Heather doesn’t hesitate. She threw herself into studying chocolate making in Melbourne under a prestigious chocolatier and came home and launched her ethical, local, artisan chocolate business and we are all the happier for it.

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Chocolatier Heather Michelle Wilson

What the heck is it with people and chocolate?

It’s a thing alright. Here is a crazy fact. Every 10 years or so a typical adult eats their own body weight in chocolate. My husband is not typical. He is on a five-year cycle and it looks like I will be soon catching up to him with my Naramata Chocolate Factory discovery.

There is actually a boat load of chocolate science that has to do with Dr. Feel-Good chemicals the cacao bean contains such as anandamide (similar to anandamide THC). There is also lots of anecdotal evidence that chocoholics live longer. I believe it. Take Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122 and ate two pounds of chocolate a week. Scientists and Heather are also saying that chocolate is good for you. It comes from a plant for starters. A British Medical Journal published review found that the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 per cent reduction in stroke.

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Truffles!

Why artisan chocolate?

If you are going to eat chocolate, eat great chocolate. Mass-produced chocolate in all those chocolate bars at the store like many convenience foods today are full of preservatives, high in sugar and a lot of mystery ingredients such as wax. Heather’s creations are made with the highest quality Belgian chocolate that is certified as ethically sourced and filled with wonderful local ingredients like our raspberries. She avoids plastic packaging and sells her chocolate in cute recycled paper containers and paper bags.

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Her chocolate bars are wrapped in the pages of second-hand copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for a fun touch.

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Heather is also making vegan and gluten-free products to cater to these growing markets.

Heather hit the ground running and is now working at 100 per cent capacity with the help of her new assistant manager and cookie baker Deb Staples and several part-time helpers. Her delicious treats can now be found at the Naramata, Penticton and Summerland farmer’s markets, through partnerships with wineries such as Origin which sell her Cherry Noir confection that is a cherry and red wine chocolate made with Origins’ Pinot Noir and at Mile Zero Wine Bar. More winery and restaurant partnerships are in the works as are online sales through her website naramatachocolate.com as well as a subscription box.

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Former Oil and Gas Engineer Deb Staples, the factory’s assistant manager and chief cookie baker and founder, owner, Chocolatier Heather Michelle Wilson at the Penticton Farmer’s Market.

“I am a product of a long tradition of makers in my family,” says Heather. My grandparents grew and canned much of what they ate. I love this tradition and feel strongly about shopping local, making things ourselves and I place a lot of value on the art of making something by hand.”

She combines her life-long love affair with chocolate with a pragmatic side that includes her Ontario business degree (where she spent all her free time experimenting with vegan baking, protein-packed baking and just plain old-fashioned tasty baking) and career experience in books and wine sales.

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Naramata Farmer’s Market

“I am having the most fun,” she says. “I really like seeing results and I love talking to people. How rewarding is it to hear, ‘That is the best brownie I’ve ever had in my entire life,’ which I’ve heard more than once from market customers?”

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Those raspberry brownies, just out of the oven and Deb making toffee macadamia nut cookies.

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These golden beauties are filled with sparking wine ganache.

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Market display.

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Vegan toasted coconut sea salt dark chocolate rolled truffles.

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Tempering chocolate is not for the faint of heart. Perfectly tempered, these chocolates are shinney and have a lovely snap.

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Nine out of 10 people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.

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“Eat more chocolate,” says Heather. “OK,” I say.

Black tea with lemon cake

This cake is a sunny little gem to serve on a hot summer day. It’s dressed up for a party with candied lemon, a rich buttercream flecked with vanilla bean and the surprise of a hit of flavour in the black tea buttercream filling. I’ll have an iced black tea with lemon and lots of ice in a frosty glass to go with it please.

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There are five steps to making this triple layer six-inch cake: candied lemons, lemon butter cake, Swiss meringue buttercream, black tea buttercream and vanilla bean buttercream.

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Candied lemon ingredients

  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Prepare an ice bath and set it aside.

Place 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Blanch the lemon slices in the boiling water for about a minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath.

Reduce the heat to bring the water to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir to dissolved. Return the blanched lemons to the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Place the lemons on a wire rack to drain. Let them dry completely on a piece of parchment pater for 2 to 4 hours, or overnight.

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Lemon butter cake ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks (thanks to my chickens!)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Place the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and rub them together with your fingers until fragrant.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar mixture and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Scrape the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last bits of flour are incorporated.

Evenly divide batter among the three pans and bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pans.

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Black tea infusion

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 black tea bags

Directions

Place one cup of water and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and add the tea bags. Simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove the tea bags and continue to cook until the syrup has reduced to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. You will be adding 3 tablespoons of this infusion to some Swiss meringue buttercream to make the filling.

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Vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Black tea buttercream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream until silky smooth. Add 3 tablespoons of the black tea infusion and mix until combined. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl.

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Vanilla bean buttercream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the remaining Swiss meringue buttercream with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.

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Talk about sticker shock. Vanilla is going up in price and vanilla bean paste is expensive but goes a long way and can easily replace vanilla beans in your recipes.

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Some assembly required

Level your cakes and choose a layer for the bottom. Spread on half of the black tea buttercream with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the remainder of the black tea buttercream, ending with the third layer. Frost the cake with the vanilla bean buttercream and decorate with candied lemons.

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“Dark” side of Amsterdam’s bike culture

IMG_4933.jpgOh yes, there is a dark side to all those uber-fit, uber-green Amsterdammers and their bikes. With more a million bikes in the city, more than one per person, bike theft is a big deal. Every year more than 54,000 bikes are stolen and the canals are dredged regularly to haul more than 15,000 bikes back to dry land.

IMG_5025.jpg Arguably a small price to pay for this environmentally-friendly and healthy mode of transportation? For sure.

The real dark side is the danger they present to the pedestrian tourist.

In Amsterdam, over 60% of trips are made by bike in the inner city and 40% of trips are made by bike overall in the greater city area. These trips are made by busy Amsterdammers on their way to work after dropping off their children at day care while talking on phones, talking to other cyclists, balancing groceries, briefcases and all manner of things and looking impossibly stylish while doing so.

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Notice… no helmets. They just aren’t cool and Amsterdammers are so confident in their bike skills that they don’t feel them to be necessary, even for their children.

As is common in Dutch cities, Amsterdam has a wide net of traffic-calmed streets and world-class facilities for cyclists. All around are bike paths and bike racks and several guarded bike parking stations crammed with more bikes than you can imagine (Fietsenstalling) which can be used for a nominal fee. 

Amsterdam’s small size, the 400 km of bike paths, the flat terrain, and the arguable inconvenience of driving an automobile: driving a car is discouraged, parking fees are expensive, and many streets are closed to cars or are one-way for motor vehicle traffic (but not for cyclists, note to pedestrians). Amsterdam’s bike paths (Fietspad) are red in colour, in order to differentiate them from both the road ways and footpaths.

Fresh-off the plane visitors to Amsterdam must quickly learn to stay out of the Fietspads and to look all ways before navigating across streets. Amsterdammers just want to do their thing, get to work, buy tulips, go to the bar for an Amstel, eat waffles, look amazingly well-dressed and so Euro and not have to cope with the many, many, many visitors and their lack of bike lane etiquette.

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First morning in Amsterdam, everyone is asleep but I need a coffee and it’s bike rush hour. The lovely house we were staying in is near Vondelpark, a popular cycle route into the city and I need to cross one road at the entrance to the park to get to the caffeine. Bikes are streaming by with no break and I wait for my chance to cross and wait and wait and wait. An Amsterdam pedestrian just goes for it and the bikes stop. Too chicken to do the same I wait some more until a sympathetic cyclists stops and motions me across. I won’t even talk about the return trip but the coffee made me less hurried.

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Many tourists discover Amsterdam by bike, as it is the typical Dutch way to get around the city but even that takes some guts. To blend in with the bike traffic flow bring your A game. 

These guys have mad skills. Picture the tallest, handsomest blond dad you have ever seen riding to work propping up his adorable napping baby’s head with one hand as he deftly navigates a bridge ramp and makes a sharp right.

 

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