Monday, September 24, 2007

Tim Hortons tea biscuits at home

I'm not trying to say that the Tim Hortons tea biscuits are particularly good. But, if you really must go to Tim Hortons, they're one of your few options if you're looking for something that isn't too sweet.

And I think I've found the recipe:

It's based on this recipe , but I made the following modifications/clarifications:
  • raisins soaked in hot water for about 10 minutes to puff them up
  • organic butter instead of "margarine or butter"
  • I rolled the dough thinner to make a smaller biscuit, and the cooking time was shorter -- about 10 minutes
  • I didn't brush the tops with butter after baking, which maintains the coarse, dry surface.

If you're looking for a Tim Hortons-style tea biscuit, the only critical change there is to not brush the tops with butter because, in fact, the Tim Hortons biscuit probably uses the cheapest ingredients possible -- you are not going to get organic butter or Fleur de Sel in a Tim Hortons tea biscuit!

Also, I'd add the following notes to the recipe:

  • as you are working with this as if it's a dough, as in breadmaking, keep an open canister of flour nearby so that you can dust the dough and dust your hands. The dough was very wet to begin with, and needed quite a bit of dusting, as well as some handling with re-floured hands
  • it says to "cut in" the butter until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. I did this by hand and just scrunched everything together over and over again, rubbing it between my fingers, until it resembled fine breadcrumbs, and then did some light lifting and fluffing of it all (similar to what I see women do when they're putting the finishing "lifting" touches on their swank hairdo) so that it wasn't too compressed
  • instead of a "greased baking sheet", I used these really great reusable baking liners that my Great Aunt sent me from England. They look like some kind of Teflon-coated plastic -- almost like reusable parchment paper. I prepared it on a baking peel and slipped it right onto an oven rack. The idea here was to avoid burned bottoms on the biscuits. The bottoms didn't burn, but I don't know if the liner was essential to that result or not.

So, that's about all. Like I said, there's nothing special about Tim Hortons tea biscuits, but I couldn't help but notice the strong resemblance.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Making movie theatre popcorn at home

Microwave popcorn may be convenient, but there are a lot of unknowns lurking in that bag of mystery joy. For one, they have to use some kind of cooking oil that's solid and stable at room temperature, yet melts when under heat. And, it can't have lots of saturated fat because the label on the box wouldn't look very good. So, it'll be a franken-fat of some kind that's been modified every which way to suit a nutritional and taste profile based on ingredients that suit the manufacturing process well and have a good shelf life. Healthfulness will be the last consideration because it's the least visible ("good" nutritional labels, in my mind, are not necessarily equivalent to healthy food).

You could air pop your popcorn, but who really wants to eat that crap?

It's actually very easy to make movie theatre-style popcorn at home, and it'll be a lot more realistic than microwave "movie theatre" popcorn because it mimics the same process that they use in the theatre (and uses the same ingredients). It's a bit more time consuming, but you learn a few things and save quite a bit of money over microwave popcorn (buying popcorn kernels is very cheap!).

So, you need:

  • 1/4 cup popping corn

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (don't bother with the unrefined stuff because it adds a coconutty taste to the popcorn -- unless you like it like that)

  • 1 tsp butter salt (you can get this at places like Bulk Barn in the spice area)

Put a large saucepan on the stove and preheat it on a medium heat. I use a stainless steel one; non-stick may not tolerate the heat involved, which would be dangerous, but I haven't tried it. Once it gets hot, add the coconut oil and let it heat for about 10 seconds (if it's not that warm in the house, the coconut oil may be solid, so let it melt before continuing). Add the butter salt and swish it around to make the butter salt dissolve into the oil.

At this point, take a few kernels of popping corn and put them in the saucepan. Remember how many you put in. Put the lid on. Now you want to wait until you hear all of the kernels you put in pop. This will tell you that the oil is at the right temperature. So, wait for the test kernels to pop. Once they do, add the rest of the popping corn and put the lid on.

Once the popping corn is in the saucepan, you have to keep the corn moving. So, every 10 seconds or so, give the saucepan a swirl (don't take the lid off -- just give the pan a bit of a swirl). Once the corn starts to pop, keep moving the saucepan as before and add a few shakes now and again to get the unpopped kernels to sink back to the bottom. Keep doing this until the popping slows down such that you're not getting much more than about 1 pop per second.

The saucepan will be very hot at this point. Carefully take off the lid (don't put your face over the pan because some last-minute kernels may pop into your face) and dump the contents into a popcorn bowl. You're done!


  • Once you've done it once or twice, you can adjust the amount of salt as needed, or experiment with other oil flavourings such as regular salt. I wouldn't use straight butter because it will burn. But, you could always melt some butter and drizzle it on after popping.

  • Coconut oil is something I consider healthy and a digestive aid, but it is also nearly 100% saturated fat. Personally, I don't care because this type of fat has a far greater history of human use as a cooking oil than, say, Canola oil and it goes down very easily. It's very easily handled by your digestive system and so is turned into readily-available energy rather than being stored as fat. However, you can get away with using Canola oil. Movie theatres use coconut oil, so you'll lose an important part of the taste by doing this. I wouldn't use olive oil because it will probably burn.

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