Food

Easy Sticky Buns

Sticky Cinnamon Buns >> Life In LimboOne of my new favourite things is taking our mixing bowl down from the cupboard, peeling back our red-striped tea towel, and seeing a yeasty dough that has doubled in size from when it went in and has lots of little bubbles on top. It feels miraculous every single time, the fact that yeast and time actually worked their magic and created something new.

My second-favourite new thing is watching the dough expand even more as soon as heat gets involved, through our tiny toaster oven’s little window. I made these sticky buns at night, far too late for sweets really, but that didn’t stop my boyfriend and I from sharing two, warm from the oven with one plate and two forks. Our original plan was to split only one, since it was 10:30PM after all, but they were just that good.

Bread #3: The World’s Easiest Sticky Buns by Minimalist Baker

Sticky Cinnamon Buns >> Life In Limbo

Changes: We aren’t able to get vegan butter, so for this recipe I used the regular kind. I switched out soy milk for the almond milk. We were low on butter so I fudged the measurements for the filling and glaze a little bit. I also didn’t include the pecans because we didn’t have any.

Notes: The glaze definitely needs all the recommended butter in order to actually get sticky. Our glaze was kind of absorbed into the buns and so these didn’t have that lovely sticky glaze on top of them. Thus, these were not-so-sticky buns. I also think they would be nice with the pecans but were good without them.

Review: Really great. I think these would be such an impressive and delicious thing to make for a brunch. They’re simple to make but have great results.

Sticky Cinnamon Buns >> Life In Limbo

Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Banana Bread >> Life In Limbo

On my original 25 before 25 list, I’d challenged myself to bake 4 new types of bread. I love the idea of a bread challenge for so many reasons: because by the end, I’ll be more comfortable baking, because bread is so wonderful, and because it means that everyday life will be that much more delicious and cozy.

A few days ago, I decided to up my challenge, considering that I’d made 3 out of 4 breads in a span of only a couple weeks. In honour of the 25 list, the new challenge is to make 25! They can be anything from a naan to a cinnamon bun, the only qualifications being that it’s some kind of bread-like product, and that it’s a recipe I’ve never tried before. I’ll be trying to document all of them here on the blog, so stay tuned!

Bread #4: Adapted from Chocolate Banana Bread by Smitten Kitchen

Chocolate Banana Bread >> Life In Limbo

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium bananas (I used plantains accidentally but it still turned out great!)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips (I tragically didn’t have any)

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a loaf pan with butter.

Chocolate Banana Bread >> Life In Limbo

Mash your bananas (or in my case, plantains!) in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter, sugar, egg and vanilla, and stir together. Put your dry ingredients into a fine sieve and sift it all into the bowl. If you have chocolate chips, add them and stir everything together until it’s blended well.

Put the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 55 minutes, then check that a cake tester comes out clean. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the loaf from the pan (mine came out very easily) and turn it out onto a cooling rack. Enjoy!!

Chocolate Banana Bread >> Life In Limbo

Notes: Next time, I’d definitely add the chocolate chips. Although the bread wasn’t too dry, it would have been improved with the extra chocolate. I’d also love to try this bread with bananas instead of plantains. We ate the majority of the loaf in a single afternoon. This one was easy, delicious and will definitely be made again. That crack in the top! Beautiful.

Chocolate Banana Bread >> Life In Limbo

Homemade Pizza, Revisited

Homemade Pizza Revisited >> Life In Limbo

A few years back, in 2012, my friends and I threw a pizza party. We prepped a ton of different toppings, I made a pizza dough (for my first bread-baking goal), we invited some people over and all chowed down. I also took some dark, fluorescent-overhead-light-lit photos because it was night-time and I hate flash.

Since then, homemade pizza has been one of my favourite easy dinners to make, especially at home with my family. This dough recipe has continued to be a go-to because of how easy it is, and how perfect the crust comes out every time. The key is to crank the oven up AHAP (as high as possible) – like 500F – so that you get the perfect cook.

Sadly, when I was in Korea I didn’t own an oven. A friend of mine had a teeny tiny toaster oven suitable mostly for melting cheese on a sandwich, but nobody I knew had the hardware to make even a small pizza in their tiny apartments. That, plus the absurdly inflated cost of cheese in Asia meant that we only ever went out for pizza (with occasionally mixed results – sweet potato purée on a pizza, for example).

Homemade Pizza Revisited >> Life In Limbo

And now I’m in Ecuador, yet another country where ovens aren’t dime a dozen – though far more common than in Korea, that’s for sure. We have a toaster oven only slightly bigger than the aforementioned teeny tiny one, and my boyfriend’s parents have a regular oven only slightly smaller than the ones we’re used to in Canada. I consider having access to these ovens a gigantic win. After a year without the ability to roast or toast or bake or broil or otherwise make all things awesome and delicious, I am thrilled.

So of course I’ve been baking up a storm. One of the first things on my list was trying to make pizza in our toaster oven – how would that go? It does have temperature settings up to 450F, but it is also a toaster oven. Could it handle it? Was it possible?!?

It’s so possible! Is this obvious to all of you? It certainly wasn’t to me, but I now have the utmost confidence in my toaster oven and have since used it to bake sticky buns and made plans for it to make our pumpkin pie for Christmas.

In honour of this year’s bread-baking goal (which I may in fact augment considering I’ve baked 3 yeasty things in the past two weeks) I tried a new pizza dough recipe from Elise Joy, called The Only Pizza Dough Recipe You Will Ever Need. I can’t say the title is completely accurate, considering my deep enduring love of Jim Lahey’s recipe, but it was excellent. We made a few adjustments, shown below.

Homemade Pizza Revisited >> Life In Limbo

Dough

  • 1 Tbsp yeast (we bought a bag of it and keep it in the freezer)
  • 1 tsp honey instead of white sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1.5 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran (we didn’t have whole wheat, but it turned out really well using this instead)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cornmeal for rolling out the dough

Mix together the honey and yeast in a large bowl, and add the warm water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast.

When it’s a bit foamy, add your flours and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon, then add the olive oil. Mix until it’s too thick to stir and then knead with clean hands until it comes together into a nice ball. Let it rise for a few hours.

Homemade Pizza Revisited >> Life In Limbo

We found that we could store the dough in the fridge overnight without any problems, and used it for a lunch pizza the next day. Because we have a toaster oven, this recipe made enough for two pizzas on our small tray.

To create the pizza, we coated the bottom of the tray with olive oil and cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 450F. We stretched the dough out with our hands into a rectangle and pressed it into our tray. Although the recipe says to heat up the tray in the oven and then use a pizza peel to slide your pie onto the hot tray or stone, we didn’t have those tools and instead just built the pizza on the tray and then put it in the preheated oven. It still worked!

Bake for 15 minutes, then check it (and turn your tray around if you, too, are using a toaster oven) and bake for 5-10 minutes more.

Simple Tomato Sauce

  • 2-3 fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 5-10 leaves of fresh basil
  • a little olive oil
  • salt to taste

Mix everything together in the blender and season to taste with your favourite herbs and spices. This is a very simple sauce that can be improved by roasting the tomatoes first, or simmering the sauce on the stove after to thicken it, but for this pizza it worked perfectly for us. It is kind of liquid, so careful not to add too much sauce or it may make your pizza slightly soft on top.

Homemade Pizza Revisited >> Life In Limbo

For the pizza shown above, we used tomato sauce, caramelized onions and mushrooms, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and chopped fresh basil. It was delicious. 

We’re planning to make pizza every Friday. I’m hoping to share the various topping combos we try out kind of like Elise’s 40 Pizzas project, here on the blog so stay tuned for that! Enjoy, guys.

Coconut Milk >> Life In Limbo

Thoughts on Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk >> Life In Limbo

On Friday night, my boyfriend and I made coconut milk, from scratch, in our kitchen with its beautiful view. In many ways, this moment was exactly what I’d been craving for the last few months: having a home of my own, hanging out with this wonderful person, being domestic, eating fresh homemade food, laughing in the kitchen and listening to good music.

At the same time, I think it was an important lesson for me in getting what you want. A friend once reminded me that a year living abroad somewhere fabulous and exotic is still just a year of your life, and I believe that to be absolutely true. Any adventure is still full of ups and downs, and plenty of moments when you’re stuck in your head and your back is aching and you can’t figure out why you feel so tired all the time.

This recent Ecuadorean adventure has already been so wonderful. I have more love in my life, our space makes me feel peaceful and calm, and I feel supported by an awesome human being. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean my anxiety about the future has disappeared like I so hoped it would, or that I’ve stopped comparing myself to others, or that I don’t almost always feel like I should be doing something more, creating something beautiful, or making something better. In other words: wherever you go, there you and all your anxieties are. 

Coconut Milk >> Life In Limbo

I’m constantly trying to learn how to live a good, rich and satisfying life. So far I know that having such a life means writing your own story (not comparing yourself to others), doing the work that fills you up (not the work that makes the most money or that makes your family the happiest), and cultivating relationships that bring you joy and a chance for personal growth. I’ve learned that it means trying to bring more peace, stillness and fulfillment into every decision and interaction in your life. I know it means getting vulnerable, staying present, practicing gratitude, and working to create beautiful things.

It doesn’t mean that everything will always be easy all the time. It doesn’t mean that you’ll always remember that in this moment, nothing is actually wrong. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get worried, or doubt yourself, or feel panicked or confused sometimes. It just means you have to do the work to try and space those moments further apart, and do your best to bounce back from them more quickly.

Coconut Milk >> Life In Limbo

So what does this have to do with coconut milk?

Well, like the pursuit to live your best and most beautiful life, making homemade coconut milk is a true labour of love. You have to lug home some heavy coconuts that will dance around in the trunk of your car. You have to split them open using your hands, a knife and a lot of grit. You have to make a mess. You have to use a butter knife, or a screwdriver, or your fingernails to prise the coconut meat away from its skin. You have to chop it up finely, add the coconut water and some boiling water and overheat your blender by running it for five or more minutes. Then you have to squeeze and strain the pulp by hand until you get your milk.

Also, it takes forever.

Coconut Milk >> Life In Limbo

But, just like the journey to becoming a better and happier human being, the results are totally worth it. Homemade coconut milk, it turns out, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s so creamy it coats the glass, it tastes exactly like fresh coconuts (duh), and it goes well with everything. So far we’ve drunk it straight, mixed it with granola, added it to morning smoothies, and frozen it into ice cubes to save for later. If you’d like to try making your own coconut milk, we followed this recipe to excellent results.

Coconut Milk >> Life In Limbo

As I write this, I’m drinking a glass of our coconut milk, looking out the window and feeling at peace. The writing always helps. Why do I always forget that the writing always helps? New situations are almost always scary and exciting, beautiful and challenging, tiring and invigorating, peaceful and mildly chaotic. It can be stressful to find your groove again, to create a new routine, and to stay humble and aware and grateful amidst all of the change. But then again, that’s our beautiful lifelong labour of love and we are really very lucky to be living it.

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