Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7 - A(nother) Great Canadian Regional Food

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us.

It’s March! It’s almost springtime! Time for the sun to start shining its warmth upon the frozen ground and start to warm up the trees for the maple sap to flow. Hooray! It’s a great time of year to be Canadian!

That’s what I would normally be saying at this time of year. The sap usually starts to run just in time for March Break, when you’re looking for something to do with the kids to get them outside finally.

Except this year.

This year, the ground in southern Ontario is still frozen solid. Metres of snow piles sit on people’s lawns and line the highways. The afternoon temperatures are still in the minus teens, before wind chill. We are lamenting that this is the winter that will never end. Well I hope that’s not true. I would rather have a late maple syrup run than be wearing winter coats in July.
So about three years ago, when Spring came at a normal time of year, around March Break, our family went to the maple syrup festival at Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area in Whitchurch-Stouffville. While my then four-year-old son had a blast, especially on the hay wagon ride, what was important to this story is that he got hungry and wanted one of the giant cookies that he had seen at a table for sale. The thing was, it wasn’t a maple-based cookie but just a very ordinary chocolate chip flax seed cookie.  So because having pancakes and syrup and syrup tasting and fudge wasn’t enough sugar for the day, we got him a cookie but only if he promised to split them with us. And since his dad can’t eat chocolate, he had to split the cookie with me.

In spite of the long trip the cookie made and being wrapped in cellophane for the whole trip, it was one of the best chocolate chip cookies I had ever eaten. The gentleman assured me it was because of the type of flour. He represented a small mill called Tyrone Mills, very local to Durham Region, and closer to my house than Bruce’s Mill.

Tyrone Mills is a working mill that continues to grind grain into batches of flour. You can get almost every flour imaginable at the mill. And when I noted that the address wasn’t too far from my house, I figured one day we would see what it was all about.
There are no wheat farms close to the mill but they do grind large batches and small batches of grain. We found the ultimate Canadian flour, red fife flour, at the mill, along with the world’s finest durum semolina flour – grown right here in Canada.

So we took a batch home and I had no idea what to do with it. I heard about the nutty flavour, the earthy aroma, but I couldn’t believe how incredible this flour actually smelled when I opened the bag. I had never really thought about the scent of flour until I found one that had such a robust scent. I had to do something with it right away before the scent faded.
I stared in my cupboard and the first thing I saw were chocolate chips. So I thought, why not? I searched for Red Fife Chocolate Chip cookies. Most recipes had people half and halfing the flour with unbleached all-purpose. But I wanted that scent to waft through my kitchen to the top floor and the bottom floor.

So I made one up. To preserve the nutty flavour, I cut back on the amount of regular granulated sugar you’d use and sweetened the batch using some tangerines that were sitting on the counter. I suppose I should have used maple syrup, but the cookies wouldn’t turn out nearly as crispy chewy.

Red Fife Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ¼ cups red fife flour
½ cup rolled oats
¾ tsp sea salt
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup unsalted butter (4 oz or 1 stick), room temperature
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 egg
1 – 2 Tbsp juice from ½ a fresh squeezed orange/tangerine
4 oz chocolate chips
1 tsp orange/tangerine zest

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix all dry ingredients together. Do not sift them.

Cream butter and sugars together until just mixed. Add egg and mix in. then add juice.

Add the dry ingredients until barely combined. If using a stand mixer, mix on the lowest setting for less than 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and combine the ingredients.

Fold in chocolate chips and the lemon zest. The batter should be clumpy and look barely mixed.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonful  onto parchment-covered cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Pat cookies with fingertips or butter knife to flatten slightly.

Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating pans at around the 7 minute mark. Remove cookies as soon as they are golden brown, and allow them to cool on racks for at least 5 minutes or for as long as 10 minutes, before removing to cooling racks.

Make sure you make this recipe when nobody is home so you don’t have to share the cookies with anyone. But if you do find people won’t leave the house, tell them they are healthy cookies so that you can have more for yourself!

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