Acadian Rappie Pie

statue to Evangeline Acadian Rappie Pie

Longfellow’s Acadian heroine Evangeline stands in Port Royal.

The Acadians have kept French language and culture alive in Maritime Canada. And they took these to Louisiana where it still survives as Cajun. But somehow, Louisiana never inherited their real culinary gift –  Acadian rappie pie.

In 1605, Sieur de Mons and his cartographer, Samuel de Champlain, began the first settlement of Port Royal. This is the oldest settlement in North America apart from St. Augustine, Fla.

The beauty of the Bay of Fundy and its sheltered harbour had long been known to the Mi’kmaq people who had lived here for centuries. The French and Mi’kmaq began a long and enduring friendship in the land that became known as Acadie, possibly from the classical name, Arcadia – a place of lasting peace. And the French settlers here were Acadians. Continue reading

Bikes and Brews – Victoria, BC

waterfront at Victoria with Empress Hotel Bikes and Brews in Victoria, BC

The venerable Empress Hotel dominates the waterfront in Victoria.

Delicious sunshine makes this the perfect day to explore this beautiful city on two wheels. I set out to see if Victoria, British Columbia lives up to its moniker of most bike friendly city in Canada. Just a short block from the harbour with its iconic views of the provincial parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel, Shawn, one of the owners of The Pedaler, fits us out with comfortable bikes and mandatory helmets. And we’re off on our tour. Continue reading

Christmas Cookie Canes

I started making Christmas cookie canes when my children were little. They were my alternative to pure sugar candy canes; we even hung them on the tree. There’s just one cup of icing sugar in 48 cookies! My kids loved them and they continue to be a favourite with my grandchildren.

They are undoubtedly fiddly to make, but well worth the effort. And when the children are a little older, they can help make them. They actually enjoy rolling the little pieces of dough into snakes, though they may need help twining them.

By the way, I make the dough in my Cuisinart food processor. When I add food colouring  to half the dough, I use the Cuisinart to blend the colour into the dough. It makes the whole job soooo much easier and faster. The time-consuming bit is dividing the red dough and the plain dough each into 48 small lumps. Note: start by dividing each colour ball into quarters and divide each quarter into 12 small balls and roll these before starting on the next quarter.  Working on one at a time prevents the remaining dough from drying out while you roll.

RECIPE

  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • red food colouring (use the paste kind, available at cake decorating stores, to get a really intense red colour)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Mix the butter, shortening and sugar very well. Add the egg and flavouring and blend well. Finally, blend in flour and salt. Divide the dough in half and colour half with the red colour.

Divide each colour into four equal balls. Each ball should produce 12 teaspoon-sized pieces of dough.

Roll one red and one plain piece into snakes, then entwine the snakes to form a cookie cane with a curve. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet to bake for 9 minutes. DO NOT brown.  Cool on a rack. Enjoy!

Ginger Shortbread

Put delicate shortbread and zippy ginger together for a perfect holiday treat.

The sweet holiday season is upon us. Decadent chocolate, gooey caramel and super-sweet peppermint are all nice, but to my mind, nothing beats a well-made shortbread cookie. That rich, subtly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flavour just can’t be topped by any iced sugar cookie or bar. Like most, I have shortbread recipes and will go to the wall to defend why they are the best. 

Regardless, any recipe worthy of the shortbread name will include the same fundamental ingredients: real butter, sugar and flour. The variations thereafter are as numerous “as sand on the seashore”.

It will come as no surprise that shortbread traces its roots back to the peasant class of Scotland. Shortbread’s predecessor was bannock (biscuit bread), made by baking leftover bread dough on a very low heat until it hardened into what we might call a cracker today.  Over time, the yeast was replaced with butter and the flour with oats, creating a rich, crumbly biscuit.

The earliest shortbread was flavoured with caraway seeds and it is said Mary Queen of Scots was a fan. In fact, she is credited with boosting shortbread’s popularity by making it acceptable for the rich to eat this with tea. Over time the wealthy replaced oats – the grain of the common people – with flour and sugar – only used by the upper classes because of their cost. And the shortbread we know today was born.

Our family’s favourite shortbread comes from a recipe provided by a cooking instructor and friend, Jan Knox. Jan is no longer with us, but her recipes has been delighting my family for 30 years!

Ginger Shortbread

A favourite with our friends and family. I use a food processor for easy preparation but the ginger must be incorporated by hand. I don’t add the ginger powder but do if you like it really gingery. BTW, I’m generous with the crystallized ginger measurement!

Ginger shortbread
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tbsp. chopped preserved ginger

Blend the butter until smooth and work in the sugar, then flour, ground ginger and salt. Once you have a ball of dough, work in the ginger with your fingers. Compact into a long roll in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Ginger shortbread cookies in oven

Preheat oven to 325 F. Cut into ¼ inch slices. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; the edges should just be starting to turn golden.

S’Mores – Campfire Treat

S'Mores - a Campfire Treat - toasting marshmallow on open fire and s'more

A second marshmallow toasting on the flames and an open s’more ready for its addition.

Anyone who has grown up in Canada – camping, going to the cottage, or in the Scout or Girl Guide movements – knows all about s’mores. Short for “some more” they are so good, it’s what you have to say, “s’more please!” Note that Americans claim to have invented this treat but I believe they may have been the first to write down what Canadians had been doing for generations. Continue reading