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When I looked out the window this morning, the street looked like this:

It snowed all night, it’s snowing now, and they’re saying it will continue to snow for the next few days. Later, I will put on my suit, rolling up the cuffs of the pants and secure them with binder clips (one hazard of Canadian winter–your pants can’t be tailored for your heels and your boots at the same time. And you do not want to have damp pants cuffs). Then I will venture out to wade through the snow to go teach a class. For now, though, I’m wrapped in layers of blankets and sweaters, keeping snug indoors.

They’re saying that this winter might be a cold one, full of snow and low temperatures. Something about La Nina. I say, bring her on! I’ve got chicken stock on my balcony (hey, what’s the frozen outdoors for if not to augment my freezer space?), tea in my cupboards, many, many pairs of wool socks in my dresser drawers. And on my table right now I’ve got a loaf of tender, toasty bread. It’s not beautiful (witness the lumpy, flattened top–I think my loaf tin was a little too big), but it’s cozy.

This is wild rice onion bread. It’s moist and full of onion flavour. The recipe comes from Peter Reinhart’s “Brother Juniper’s Bread Book,” which is once of my favourite bread books. It’s a great read, and it’s got some great recipes. Wild Rice and Onion bread uses a mix of brown and wild rice as a base to add fluffiness and moisture to the dough. If you can’t get your hands on wild rice, I think brown rice would work fine on its own. The recipe calls for one cup of raw, diced onion, but when I make it next time, I think I’ll use 1 1/2 cups of raw onion and cook it down to caramelize and concentrate the flavours. Other than those modifications, this bread is a keeper! It’s firm enough to use as a sandwich bread, but it’s also moist and light enough to be toasted and eaten on its own or made into rolls. The rolls make me think of onion bagels, just begging for some whipped cream cheese. It also makes fantastic warm and crunchy and light toast.

adapted from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book– Makes two loaves, or 30 rolls

8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup diced fresh onions
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 cup cooked wild rice blend (I used a mix of wild rice and brown rice. I added 3 parts water to one part rice and cooked it for about 45 minutes, until the water was absorbed and the wild rice had split open– make sure the wild rice is tender enough. This should be added at room temperature, so it’s a good idea to make it a day ahead)
1/3 cup buttermilk
about 1 1/2 cups of water

In a steel bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together, including the yeast, the onions and the wild rice blend. Next, add the liquid ingredients. Don’t add all the water. Set some aside in case you need to add more to adjust the consistency of the dough while you’re kneading it. Mix everything together as best you can. I usually eschew the spoon and just use my hands to bring the mix together.

Turn out the shaggy mess of dough onto a floured counter. Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes, until it comes together in a smooth, stretchy, silky mass. It should pass the windowpane test. Enjoy this part of the process. Remember (or pretend) that it’s snowing outside anyway, and you’re inside your warm kitchen with this beautiful mass of dough in your hands, making magic.

When you are finished kneading, put your dough into a clean bowl and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or saran wrap. If your kitchen is a little cool or drafty, feel free to coddle your dough by protecting it in the oven. I turn my oven on to 200 F for about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat and turn on the light in the oven before putting my dough in. The dough loves the insulated warmth. Leave your dough to rise until it has approximately doubled in size, between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours, depending on the heat.

Punch down your dough and form it into rolls or loaves. Place the formed dough in greased baking tins, re-cover it and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it doubles in size. You can brush the tops of the dough with an egg wash before you bake them.

Bake your bread at 350 F for approximately 45 minutes. If you are making rolls, they will be done in about 12-15 minutes.

When your bread is done, take it out and allow it to cool before slicing into a loaf or ripping into a roll and toasting it.


Here’s what we had for breakfast this morning. The recipe isn’t quick–the rice pudding takes about an hour and a half– but it’s worth the time you put into it. It’s especially good for a lazy Saturday. Get up and put on some slippers, then pop the rice and milk onto the stovetop. Have a coffee and thumb through a cookbook or a magazine while your rice pudding cooks down. You need to check on it occasionally, but not too often. It requires just enough attention that you don’t have to feel bad about sitting around doing almost-nothing. As for the stewed prunes, well, I know they’ve got a bad rep, but it’s undeserved. For a great defense of prunes, see Orangette, from whom I borrowed the prune recipe.

The prunes and clementines are a nice mix, with the sweet tang of the citrus and the smoothness of the prunes. And they go perfectly on top of slow-cooked rice pudding (we use jasmine rice, which adds a lovely perfume, but any rice is acceptable), infused with a stick of cinnamon and a few pods of cardamom. Next time you want an excuse to relax Saturday morning, try this out. If you don’t have time to relax, this pudding is forgiving. Just give it a stir now and again and when you need to take a break from work, a fabulous comforting treat will be ready and waiting.

makes about 4 cups

3/8 cup rice
5 cups milk
1 small cinnamon stick
2-3 pods of green cardamom
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar

Combine the rice and milk in a medium saucepan. Crush the cardamom pods with the flat side of a knife, and extract the little dark brown seeds. Add these, along with the cinnamon, to the rice and milk. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer over low heat. Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot fairly often. You need to pay attention to this mixture or it will burn and coat the bottom of your pan. If it does start sticking and/or burning, try not to scrape the bottom of the pot too hard or you will dislodge the burnt bits and ruin your pudding.

When the pudding has thickened sufficiently, to a thick and creamy consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar. I prefer a less sweet pudding, but if you like yours sweeter (or if you’re serving it for dessert), you can go up to 1/2 cup sugar. It can be served warm or cool.

STEWED PRUNES recipe adapted from Orangette

2 large handfuls of pitted prunes
2 clementines, halved and sliced thinly
1 small cinnamon stick (I cut one regular-sized stick in half and used 1/2 for the rice and 1/2 for the prunes)

Place the prunes and clementines in a small pot and pour in enough water just to cover them. Bring them to a boil over medium heat and stew them for 30-45 minutes, until the water has reduced and the prunes and clementines are soft.

I put the rice pudding on the stovetop and then after my third or fourth time checking on it, put the prunes over the heat. Both the pudding and the prunes were finished at around the same time and we ate them warm.