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Monday, July 27, 2020

Found and Tested: Microwave Sponge Cake

It’s been a very hot summer and I quickly ran through my repertoire of desserts that didn’t require turning the oven on. So one day, out of curiosity, I asked Google if it was possible to bake a cake in the microwave. Turns out it is, and a very fine cake, too. Check out THIS RECIPE by susudup at Australia’s Best Recipes. I’ve already made both the vanilla recipe (served with CoolWhip and strawberries) and the chocolate version (cut in two layers and filled and covered with chocolate frosting). This one is definitely going in my permanent recipe file.

Do use the recommended paper towel lining. It makes it really easy to remove the cake from the pan once cooked. Do NOT remove the paper towel until the cake is quite cool. It will then pull away easily.

This took much longer to cook in my old and slow microwave but I kept putting it back in for a minute or so and checking the top. As the directions say, it’s done when it looks slightly wet on top.

When I made the chocolate version, I used three tablespoons of cocoa instead of two and left out the coffee.

For those of us still baking in Imperial, 150 ml equals 2/3 cup, 150 grams of sugar is ¾ cup, and 5 ml is one teaspoon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Creamy Delicious Cream of Wheat

The first time I tasted cream of wheat, it seemed milky and delicate, a taste I’ve been looking for ever since. But whether I made it myself or took it from a hotel breakfast buffet, it always came out bland and watery.

I broke a filling a few days ago, and while I’m waiting for my dentist’s appointment to arrive, my breakfast options are rather limited. So I made myself a bowl of cream of wheat, and it was, as usual, bland and watery, though easy on my mouth. I wondered if substituting cream for some of the water might help the flavour. Once at the grocery store, I was scanning the shelves for coffee cream when I saw a small carton with the word “crème” on it (we live in Quebec, that’s French for cream) at 3% butterfat. Sounded good to me so I grabbed it.

We went for a long walk this morning before breakfast since it was relatively cool and dry for once. I was hungry when we got back and started preparing my cereal, substituting the cream for half of the water. As it started cooking, I wondered why I could smell vanilla. I had a second look at the cream carton and discovered it was vanilla-flavoured crème anglaise. And it made a delicious cream of wheat. Creamy, savoury. Think I’ll make it again tomorrow.

cream of wheat
crème anglaise


Make up the cream of wheat according to the package directions (I made mine in the microwave) but substitute crème anglaise for half of the water called for. Serve with brown sugar or maple syrup.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Found and Tested: Baking Soda for Beauty


Pulling down my box of Arm & Hammer to use in something a few weeks back, I noticed it had suggestions for “pure & natural personal care” printed on it. One of these was to mix a teaspoon into your shampoo once a week for “fuller, more manageable hair.” I was a bit skeptical but decided to give it a try. The worst that could happen was I’d have to wash my hair a second time.

It actually works, and I’ve been using it ever since. If you’re wedded to that super silky feel that conditioner gives you, and being able to glide a comb through wet hair, then it’s probably not for you, but it does leave my hair feeling smooth and fairly manageable and, yes, fuller, without it coming out feeling like wool, which is what usually happens if I haven’t been able to put conditioner in. As a bonus, it leaves my scalp feeling cleaner and my hair doesn’t get oily as fast. Despite the fact that we’ve been going through a horrendously hot and humid summer, I haven’t been suffering from the frizzies either.

I don’t know how it would work with blow-dried hair as I seldom do that, but mine is currently coloured and permed, and thus normally requires a lot of conditioner to keep it under control. I haven’t put any in for at least the last three weeks.


The box also suggested making a paste of baking soda to water in a 3 to 1 ratio and using it as a face scrub (don’t use near eyes). Apply gently after washing, then rinse off. That also works quite well. It leaves my rather sensitive skin feeling smooth without turning it red as many scrubs I’ve tried do. You can add a drop or two of peppermint oil for a cooling effect. I generally make more than I need for my face and use it on my hands as well.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Golden Crust Slow Cooker Bread

Back when this whole COVID business started, it seemed all my friends were passing around recipes for making bread in the slow cooker. I really couldn’t see the point. Baking bread in the oven is not difficult. Then we hit a heat wave and ran low on bread. No way did I want to turn the oven on or walk down to the store. So I got online and looked at a few recipes. Seemed like my regular recipe would work so I tried it. The bread rose well and had good taste and texture, but the loaf was round so the slices were not standard sandwich size and shape.

You can use the following recipe or substitute your own. It’s the technique that gives it that lovely golden crust, without having to finish it under the broiler of your oven.

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon yeast

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 cup melted butter

2-3 cups flour*

butter for greasing slow cooker and hands

Pour water into a large bowl and sprinkle yeast over it. Sprinkle sugar and salt over yeast. Wait for the yeast to come to the surface—should take around 5 minutes and resemble beige blobs. Stir in butter and two cups of the flour. Continue to add flour. Once it’s too hard to stir, grease your hands and work it in by kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable and is no longer sticky.

Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise until a finger poked into it leaves a permanent indentation. You can skip the rising if you’re in a hurry but the bread comes out better if you don’t. Punch the dough down and roughly form into a round.

Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of a four-quart or six-quart slow cooker. Place the round of dough in the bottom. Cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours on the high setting. Keep an eye on it without lifting the lid if possible to see how it’s doing. Once the sides look brown, run around the outside of the bread with a spatula and remove it from the slow cooker. Flip it over and put it back in, top side down, for a further 15 minutes. That’s the secret—lots of grease in the crock pot and flipping the bread over for the last 15 minutes.


* all-purpose or bread and pastry will work but don’t use self-rising flour