New York-Style Bagels – With Everything but the Bagel Seasoning

This might be too bold a statement, but here it goes:

If you’ve never had a Montreal bagel, then you haven’t lived.

Growing up, I think I took Montreal bagels for granted. We have a lot of family in the area, so we visited a few times a year. Most times, we’d return home with several bags of the skinny, dense bagels. Whenever I felt like one, I fished a bagel out of a Ziploc bag in the freezer, popped it in the toaster, and enjoyed the goodness.

When I moved out West, I left behind many things – including the magical bottomless bagel bag in the freezer. Truth be told, I kind of forgot about them.

That changed a few years ago. We were in Ontario, staying at my parents house, and Cedric wasn’t feeling great. He spent most of the day in bed and didn’t have much of an appetite. My mom mentioned that there were bagels in the freezer (of course), so I offered to make him one, and he accepted.

I think it’s fair to say that his life changed in that moment. It was his first Montreal bagel – but not his last, as he decimated my parents’ stash in no time. It appears that the bagels cured him of his sickness. He still talks about Montreal bagels.


There’s my bagel anecdote for you. Unfortunately, the Bread Illustrated cookbook doesn’t include a recipe for Montreal bagels – I’m pretty sure you need a fancy brick wood-fired oven to make those. It doesn’t matter, because I know mine would never be as good as the real thing.

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Not a Montreal bagel.

However, the book does include a New York-style bagel recipe. I have never had a New York bagel. From what I gather, they don’t look like Montreal bagels, but they have their own cult following. The distinguishing factor of a New York bagel – so I’m told – is the chewiness, which comes from giving the bagels a bath in boiling water before baking them in the oven.

My first bagel baking challenge began with the ingredients. There were two I had never heard of: vital wheat gluten and malt syrup. The former proved easy to find at Nesters (who knew!?); the latter, I could not locate in Squamish. Luckily, the America’s Test Kitchen people anticipated my predicament: “If you cannot find malt syrup, substitute 4 teaspoons of molasses”. This is exactly what I did. I can’t really tell how it influenced the final outcome, since I haven’t had it with malt syrup, but I feel like they turned out fine – though the molasses might have slightly affected the colour, because my bagels look a little more golden/yellowish than the ones in the cookbook pictures.

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Is this dough shaggy?

Over the course of two days, I followed the recipe to a T. My water was ice cold, I processed the dry ingredients for exactly 5 pulses, and I waited patiently as my ingredients combined for form a “shaggy dough” in the food processor. A bread recipe that doesn’t use the stand mixer – now that’s a first!

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Next, the dough had to be formed into a ball and split into eight equal baby balls. Then it’s time to shape.

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I know what you’re thinking – no, this is not a Timbit. (As noted below, you don’t have to be this heavy handed with the flour.)

The internet tells me there is a shortcut for making bagels: take the little ball, use your thumbs to tear a hole in the middle, and voila. But the internet also tells me that bagel purists frown upon this bagel hack. The real way to shape a bagel is as is outlined in the recipe: flatten the ball into a disc, roll the disk into a cylinder, and spiral the cylinder before joining the two ends together into a ring. I contemplated taking the easy route, but then ultimately decided to stick with the recipe for the sake of authenticity.

 

Shaping proved to be a little harder than anticipated. The recipe says, “coat 1 dough ball with flour and place on lightly floured counter”. I did this with my first ball, but I found there was way too much flour – when it came time to joining the ends, they wouldn’t stick to one another. For future balls, I skipped the extra flour and had better luck.

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Eight carefully coiled bagels. The question is: will the coils survive 24 hours in the fridge without unravelling?

The bagels are placed on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal, then rest in the fridge for 16 to 24 hours. I left mine in for a full day – I’m learning that the longer they hang out in the fridge, the better the flavour (as long as you stay within the recommended time frame).

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24 hours later: only one unravel victim.

The next day, I created an assembly line of sorts for the boiling and baking process. One: preheat the oven and put in a baking stone (which, for me, is a cookie sheet). Two: bring a big pot of water, spiked with sugar and baking soda (essential for colour), to a boil. Three, set up a dipping bowl for the toppings. I opted to make these everything bagels – Cedric and I ate everything bagels every day for lunch on Cape Cod, and I picked up some “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning from my beloved Trader Joe’s. Four, set out a wire rack to receive the boiled and seasoned bagels.

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Boil, bagel, boil!

I deviated from the recipe in two minor ways. It says to use a dutch oven to boil the bagels, but I used a regular pot because my dutch oven was busy holding leftover chili and I couldn’t be bothered to clean it. It also says to boil four bagels at a time, but I went two by two instead to avoid overcrowding.

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Turbo speed seasoning.

As instructed, I only seasoned one side of the bagels (the non-cornmeal side). They looked kind of like donuts. I added a little extra seasoning at the end – I should have held off doing this, as I didn’t realize the TJ’s mix is heavy on the salt.

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The final product

After a tantalizing 22 minutes in the oven and 15 minute rest, I dove in. I tried to take a crumb shot, but I couldn’t tear the bagel cleanly – the spiral of the dough made it tear apart awkwardly. Though it wasn’t much to look it, it tasted very good.

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Behold!

The chew is definitely there. (Cedric, not knowing that they’re NY style bagels, told me he thought they might be too chewy. Bagel amateur status right there, folks.) I really like them and they’re better than the any bagel I’ve had in recent memory…

… but they’re not as good as Montreal bagels.

; )

 

*I remade a second batch of this because the polished off the first batch rather hastily. I reduced the boiling time to 5 seconds per side (down from 10 seconds per side) because the first batch was REALLY chewy. This helped – they were still delicious, but less strenuous on the jaw.

Why Pretty Pictures of Nature Make Me Nervous

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little overprotective.

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Photo by Cedric

I want people to get outside, connect with nature, and enjoy themselves. I really do.

But when I see trash along the sides of trails or read stories of ill-equipped hikers using up SAR resources, I’ll admit that part of me thinks, “Just stay home, folks! You’re hurting yourselves and others. You’re hurting nature.”

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Photo by Cedric

Case in point: the River of Golden Dreams, a.k.a., Whistler’s worst-kept secret. I wasn’t actually aware that the ROGD was a “hidden” gem – I just knew it was a lot of fun, but that too many people get trashed and cause trash on the river and/or end up freezing their butts off when the Explorer 100 pops (rookie mistake – invest in the 200) and they end up stuck in water that is as cold as ice (or glaciers, if you want to get technical).

The Resort Municipality of Whistler recently released a tongue-in-cheek video inviting people to have fun on the river, but to be smart about it. I applauded this reasonable precaution.

Then – a day later – the Daily Hive Vancouver shared a photo of the river with a caption proclaiming it as a “must visit” lazy river. Hundreds of comments followed (e.g., “@friendnamehere, want to try this next weekend? It’s in Whistler!”).

Now, this would be no big deal if these new visitors a) staggered themselves so as not to overwhelm the fragile ecosystems of the river; b) followed the beloved pack-it-in-pack-it-out mentality; c) floated the river safely and soberly (or at least soberly enough to avoid making dumb decisions). Unfortunately, experience tells me that this is usually not the case.

To their credit, it looks like the Daily Hive has since removed the post (or at least I’m not able to find it). But I’m sure there were a few folks at the muni banging their heads against their desks when they saw the post.


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Photo by Cedric

It’s a little concerning that when I thought about blogging these photos from a recent hike I went on with friends, I hesitated. It’s not one of the “big” local hikes (The Chief, Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Wedge… do I even need to mention Joffre Lakes?) that, as evidenced by crammed parking lots and littered trails, have been discovered by the masses. I worry that if I give details about this hike, it will go the way of the Joffre – and I’ll be partially to blame.

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Photo by Cedric

This feels silly. First of all, it’s not MY hike. I don’t own the land and I didn’t build any of the trails. Second, there’s plenty written about the area online – heck, we used posts written up by other people to do our own recon. Third, have I not posted in excessive detail about other hikes before? Four, if I’m so worried about it, why post about it at all?

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I guess I just want to share Cedric’s wicked photos of our beautiful neck of the woods with the folks who read this blog (i.e., my family). I do encourage people to play outside and appreciate the beauty of the Sea to Sky – but to do so smartly, safely, and sustainably (ooh… that could be a tourism board motto!)

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Photo by Cedric

A Ranking of the Ice Cream Sandwich Flavours from Tall Tree Bakery

When I heard that Tall Tree Bakery was making ice cream sandwiches using their own cookies, I nearly cried.

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This is what dreams look like.

I also nearly cried when I paid them a visit and discovered they were sold out. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this could very well be the best thing ever.

Luckily, they upped their production to keep up with the demand of the ravenous dessert lovers of Squamish, and I’ve had the chance to work my way through their ice cream sandwich menu throughout the summer thus far.

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Cedric took this picture because he was making fun of my dirty face

The sandwiches are delicious. The flavours are inventive. The price is insane(ly low): $5 for two big cookies and a thick slab of high quality ice cream. The cookies alone would set you back $3 if you bought them individually. I say with utmost confidence that this is the Official Squamish Treat of Summer 2017 – and beyond, I hope.

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Bring a friend = try two kinds at once! Brilliant.

What follows is my official ranking of the Tall Tree Bakery Ice Cream Sandwich flavours.*

*Sadly, I seem to have missed the boat on the coconut cookie with coconut ice cream flavour. I think I would have loved this one, but it appears to be off their menu. I’ll edit this post if it resurrects.

#1: Cranberry White Chocolate Cookie with Black Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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I won’t lie – at first, I was intimidated by this combination. I thought it might be too much of a good thing. I forgive my earlier, naive self, for I was used to simple pairings, like vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

A friend raved over this flavour and said it was the only one she ever got – it was too good to risk trying anything else. Well, with a testament like that, I made the leap and ordered one for myself. I got it after a hike on a hot, sunny day, and three words describe my experience: Oh. My. God.

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The combination is not too much – it is utterly perfect. The tartness from the cranberries, the sweetness from the white chocolate, the cold creamy ice cream, and the fruitiness of the black raspberries are the TOTAL, MAGICAL PACKAGE. It’s a brave combination, but it works better than basically anything I’ve ever had before.

(I’m still dreaming about this one.)

#2: Ginger Molasses Cookie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Wait… you don’t bring a knife to the bakery so that you can split ice cream sandwiches?

If you’re a little intimidated by some of the bold flavour combinations of the Tall Tree Bakery ice cream sandwiches – in other words, if you’re like my brother-in-law and choose to order vanilla when you’re at an ice cream store with 50 flavours – I recommend the ginger molasses/salted caramel sandwich. The flavours complement each other rather harmoniously, because the ice cream flavour is pretty mild. It tastes good, but relatively neutral – like vanilla with pops of caramel swirl.

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The aforementioned pop of caramel swirl

The ginger molasses cookie should be familiar territory for most cookie fans, and this one is good. I recommend letting the sandwich thaw juuuuust a little to let the cookie get that classic ginger cookie chewiness. Overall, this is a delightful combination and is sure to be a crowd pleaser – a safe bet, for instance, if you’re buying a sandwich for someone else and aren’t sure what to get.

#3: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie with Grasshopper Ice Cream

This was the first sandwich that I tried. It seemed like a relatively safe bet. The grasshopper ice cream is a mint concoction, and I already know I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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Obviously, the flavour combo works, and though it is delicious, it isn’t my favourite. The cookies shine bright in this sandwich (it is also mighty good in a standalone state), but the ice cream falls just a little flat for me. It’s just mint – I think it could use some chocolate chunks or a fudgey swirl to add a little texture. Plus, the chocolate on mint is very sweet – and that’s coming from a lover of all things sweet.

But the fact of the matter remains that chocolate and mint is a killer combination – so there are absolutely no complaints from me.

#4: Peanut Butter Cookie with Heavenly Hash Ice Cream

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If I’m not mistaken, this combination was a later addition to the ice cream sandwich offerings (i.e., not one of the original menu items). On paper, I loved it: the nuts from the heavenly hash ice cream were the perfect tie in for the nuts in the peanut butter cookie. Nuts on nuts – what’s not to like?

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Individually, the peanut butter cookie and the heavenly hash ice cream are both stars. Together, it’s a lot – not in a bad way, but almost like both are competing for your attention. It’s like the peanut butter cookie is so good that it needs to be enjoyed on its own to be fully appreciated. It’s got the classic peanut butter cookie crumbly texture and it has full, non-crushed peanuts mixed in for a bonus crunch. The ice cream layered between these two, thick peanut cookies has it battle it out to get noticed.

(Am I weird for talking about treats in this much detail?)

Here’s how I recommend making the most of this sandwich without going overboard on the flavour train: take the top cookie off for an open-faced ice cream sandwich. Sure, your hands might get a little messy, but you’ll strike the perfect nutty balance. As a bonus, you’ll have an extra peanut butter cookie to enjoy later on. It’s a win-win.

Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread – Because Why Not Add Quinoa to Bread?!

I recently returned from two weeks of vacation. Our freezer was empty, meaning our bread stash was non-existent. Cue the panic.

I started the three day process towards baking a fresh loaf of sourdough, but I knew we’d need something to tide us over until the process was complete. I whipped up a batch of my quick, easy, and trusty American Sandwich Bread.

Then Cedric and I both had toast for breakfast. Then Cedric made two open faced sandwiches as a post-gym snack. And I started worrying about our bread stash again.

Since variety is the spice of life (so they say), I decided to branch out a little and try a new bread from the Sandwich Breads chapter. The whole-wheat quinoa bread caught my eye because it was a little different, but still neutral enough to support a range of toppings (from raspberry jam to cheese and tomatoes, as is often the case in our house).

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This recipe is very similar to the American Sandwich Bread one, except:

  1. It uses more whole wheat flour (1.5 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  2. It calls for flaxseed
  3. It uses quinoa

The recipes requires you to cook up some white quinoa. It actually uses a microwave to cook it, which I’ve never heard of before. We don’t have a microwave, so I did it the regular stove way.

 

The flax is added to the flours (and yeast and salt), but the quinoa doesn’t come into play until the wet (milk, honey, oil, water) meets the dry. As the mixer whirls, you drop in a bit of quinoa at a time until it all comes together into a wet gob.

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“We do not recommend mixing this dough by hand,” says the recipe. I can back up this statement – the dough was seriously wet and sticky, to the point where I was questioning whether I’d maybe measured something wrong. I floured my hands for the 30 second kneading to prevent the quinoa from sticking too much, and when I put it in the bowl to rise, I doubted whether it would behave like a normal dough.

 

Alas, it did! I doubled in size, as instructed, and when I shaped it into the loaf pan, it felt a lot like regular bread dough. This recipe called for an egg wash, which I often skip, but II included it this time – it serves as the glue to keep on the topping of uncooked quinoa and flax.

 

As always, the aromas were tantalizing and while I respected the “Let loaf cool in pan for 15 minutes” direction, I blissfully ignored the “let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours” instruction and cut myself a big old slice.

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The verdict?

Here’s what I wrote after my first time tasting the bread: It was just want I wanted: a neutral and versatile sandwich bread, with a bit of texture (thanks to the topping and the flax seed) and a lot of moisture (thanks to the quinoa). It won’t replace the American Sandwich Bread as my go to, simply because it has a few extra steps and I like to keep it pretty simple for my sandwich bread – but I may bust it out from time to time when we’re looking to mix it up. It’s a good, if not somewhat forgettable, bread.

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Here are my thoughts now that I’ve been eating it for a few days: This bread is good. It is seriously, seriously moist – even after a few days in the freezer and some time in the toaster. It’s more work than the regular sandwich bread, but I have to say – I like it better. It’s worth the extra work. I will incorporate it into my regular bread routine (as long as I have quinoa kicking around the house).

(And then I made another loaf a few days later.)

Post Vacation Wake Up Call: Tackling the Newly Expanded Legacy Trail (Stl’lhalem Sintl’)

After an early season of back to back to back to back races, this blog has been a little quiet on the running front – time to change that.

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Smokey views brought to you by BC’s forest fires

In the weeks after Comfortably Numb, I kept running in the ole trusty backyard trails – and I was feeling good. I went on a few 3+ hour runs that just felt fun and mellow – the kind where you get home feeling fantastic and thinking, “Gosh – I could have kept going forever!”

Then I went on vacation for a couple of weeks. I didn’t run any trails, but I did squeeze a handful of beach runs and hot, muggy, humid paved bike trail runs. The former were more for pleasure, while the latter were about testing my speed (while surviving the heat). Notably absent: elevation of any sort.

After catching up on some post-travel sleep, I ventured out on my first trail run. It went… okay. I did a usual loop for me (Covenant –> Jack’s –> 50 Shades –> Credit Line –> Home) and I felt alright, but pretty sluggish towards the end. I definitely did not have that “I could have kept going forever!” sentiment.

I took the next day as a gym day, then the following day, things got real: I decided to try the Legacy trail out by Quest. I’ve done the first little bit of this up trail a couple of times (it’s called Stl’lhalem Sintl’ lower down), but I’d heard they expanded it and that it now totaled 12 k of steady but runnable uphill. Bring it on.

I hit the trail mid-week at 7:30 AM, with the goal of avoiding too many mountain bike encounters. It was a successful mission: aside from the parking lot, I didn’t encounter ANY humans on my run (somewhat unheard of, as these are popular trails).

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Getting started…

The first part of the trail was as I remembered – nice, not-too-technical trails that slowly wind upward with just enough flat bits to keep the momentum going. The trail takes you through treed areas as well as into meadowy zones, with a few pretty look outs along the way.

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Among the trees

The smoke from forest fires elsewhere in the province had started blowing in, so even though it was a sunny day, the views were somewhat murky. The wildflowers were in full bloom, so it was all very pretty.

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Getting higher…

I’d been running slow but steady for the majority of the trail when I finally hit a poster board announcing the new addition on the trail. It read, “The following five kilometers…” – hold the phone, I’m only just over halfway up?

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The markers start getting Tragically weird… I start to wonder if I’m hallucinating…

Though another 5k of non-stop up sounded a little intimidating – particularly after taking a bit of time off from hilly stuff – I hadn’t come here to turn around halfway. I sucked it up and carried on, though I’ll admit I walked some of the steeper sections (which, in actuality, aren’t all that steep – but these legs were tired).

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… weirder yet …

I tried to run as much as I could, reminding myself that the more I ran, the faster I’d knock off the distance. Occasionally, I’d bump into signs announcing the elevation and comparing it to local landmarks. It was most satisfying to learn I’d reached the elevation of the second peak of the Chief and the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

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When I finally got to the top – about 700 m of elevation later – it was a little anticlimactic. My options were left or right: left would be shorter but steeper and more technical (read: slower), while right would be longer but easier (featuring another brand spankin’ new trail that was recently developed). I went left and tip toed my way down loose rubbly stuff on a trail called Upper Power Smart.

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Views on the run back down

Things got a little more mellow and fun on Skookum, which eventually brought me to Fred (also enjoyable) and Tinder (new favourite – no wonder everyone likes this one so much!). Tinder had a few uphill bits, which made me eager to wrap up the entire run. I finished off with Flat Alley and Pseudo-Tsuga.

I was happy to see my car. My legs were tired, and apparently so was my brain. I placed my cell phone on the roof of my car, stretched a bit, then drove off – phone still on car. Some good Samaritans saw it slide off and followed my car for a good five minutes until I figured out that those small honks they were doing were directed at ME. D’oh.

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Check out this sweet dirt tan line.

In short: Legacy/Stl’lhalem Sintl’ is a lovely, fun trail and a good way to gain confidence on climbs. I hope to squeeze it in a few more times before the Squamish 50 23k – which is only ONE MONTH away.


PS: The Squamish Chief just published an article about the trail. I’m going to try to the blue trail down on my next visit.

6 Books That Made My Mind Explode

I love to read.

My old resume included this fact. It had a section for interests and hobbies, and reading was right up there.

An interviewer actually asked about it once. I was interviewing for a position on a team and three people sat opposite me. I knew them casually from industry stuff. I got along very well with two of the three, but the third (and most senior) and I never seemed to connect. “So you like reading,” he said as he scanned my resume. “What are you reading right now?”

The way he asked it, paired with the expression on his face, kind of made it seem like he was trying to trip me up and catch me in a lie.

The joke was on him because at that point in my life, I had established a long and detailed list of classics I’d never read – many of which most people had read in high school (Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, On the Road, that kind of stuff) but that I’d missed out on from attending French school. I can’t remember exactly what book I was on at that time, but I gave him a pretty good run down and he didn’t have any follow up questions.

(I didn’t get the job – but I made it two more rounds past the book question interview, so that has to count for something.)


I love a lot of books, but I confess that many don’t really stick with me in the long term. Storylines and characters blend together. I’ll see a title and vaguely remember reading it, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened (especially if I had to read it for a course – Sweetness in the Belly, I’m looking at you).

So when a book hits me in the guts and sticks with me forever, I know I’ve found a keeper. Following is a list of books that, for one reason or another, shook me up a little bit – in a good way. If you’re looking to get lost in a wonderful book, give these ones a try.

The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

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The summer I explored Canada, I wanted a book that was endlessly long yet full of substance. I picked up Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch at a bookshop in Charlottetown, and the clerk told me that she was in the middle of it and couldn’t get enough. I loved it, too. It was exactly what I was looking for – though some people found it a little too slow moving, I liked that it went on and on and on because it meant the story lasted a little longer.

When I returned home, I hit up the library to check out what other works Tartt had up her sleeve. I checked out The Secret History, and… well, the rest is history (badoom tssss).

To me, The Secret History has all the makings of a perfect book. The setting isn’t unusual (a college campus) but the story is weird (eerie secret society disguised as a niche major), the characters turn delightfully strange over time, and the prose is right up my alley. I like books that are written in a way that is beautiful, but straightforward – I detest anything overly flowery or out there. I got totally lost in this book. When I finished it, I thought to myself, “Huh – that just might be my favourite book.”

Apparently Tartt’s other book, The Little Friend, is horrible. I still want to read it, though.

419 (Will Ferguson)

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This was the book that made me fall in love with audiobooks. The narrator is utter perfection.

My sister – my most trusted source of book recommendations – suggested 419 to me. The book is set partly in Canada, partly in Nigeria, and it’s a compelling story about those Nigerian prince e-mail scams we all know and love. If you’ve ever wondered about what happens on the other side of the scam, you will find this compelling (though the story is told from both sides, which eventually collide in total awesomeness). It’s a non-cheesy thriller and I loved every second of it.

The Orenda (Joseph Boyden)

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I belong to a book club. I adore it. It allows me to read books I probably wouldn’t otherwise look into, and we always have delicious snacks at our meetings.

The Orenda was a somewhat recent book club read, and it was received with mixed opinions. Some people found it overly gruesome. It’s a story about the Jesuits (and Europeans altogether) slowly infiltrating the First Nations in Ontario, and there is definitely a lot of excruciatingly detailed gore. Others found it long and hard to get into – but I love a book with a long, slow burn.

My background in history is very limited – regrettably, the last history class I took was back in grade 10 or 11. The curriculum at the time glossed over First Nations history, to say the least, and it wasn’t until I moved out west that I gained more appreciation and interest in our country’s history. The Orenda offers a more realistic and insightful take on what life looked like then than any history lesson I was ever taught.

In Cold Blood (Truman Capote)

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I cannot imagine a person not adoring In Cold Blood. Reading it was a wonderful treat, and I really mean it. It’s the only Capote book I’ve ever read, but his writing style is, in my opinion, flawless. The story about a small-town murder is completely captivating, and it took me awhile to digest the fact that it is NOT A FICTIONAL NOVEL. Honestly – the narration is so perfect that I couldn’t believe it was not made up.

I often find the big name classics to be overrated. Remember the list of classics I worked my way through back when I was interviewing for that job? Many were good, but a little overhyped in my eyes. NOT IN COLD BLOOD. In Cold Blood is as every bit wonderful as everybody says it is.

Indian Horse (Richard Wagamese)

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Indian Horse was another book club read and, coincidentally, it is also about Canada’s history with First Nations, though it’s set in a different era than The Orenda.

For whatever reason, I went into this book thinking I wouldn’t like it – I think I believed it would be about horses (it’s not). Instead, it’s a no-nonsense telling (my favourite kind of telling) about the skeleton in Canada’s closet: residential schools. It’s raw, honest, and not always pretty, but it steers clear from being overly dramatic or over the top. Elements of the story are revealed slowly as the book progresses – and that’s all I’ll say about that.

I think that a lot of Canadians don’t quite grasp how destructive residential schools really were. It allowed me to better understand how traumatic residential schools were and why our country still very much feels the reverberations of this ugly part of our (not so distant) history.

Scar Tissue (Anthony Kiedis)

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Most of the books on this list are fiction. An aside: I’m always shocked when people tell me they don’t like fiction – I’m pretty sure these people have only experienced the tiniest slice of what is out there.

For awhile, I was obsessed with biographies – preferably autobiographies. I read the good (Chris Farley), the bad (Lance Bass), and the ugly: Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I wouldn’t say I loved Scar Tissue – at least not in the way I loved The Secret History or In Cold Blood. But it shook me up and it’s a book that has stayed with me since I read it many years ago. I like the Chili Peppers, but I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore fan – but you don’t have to be a diehard to appreciate this book.

At its core, this is a book about addiction from the perspective of the addict. My number one takeaway is that addiction does not discriminate. No matter how successful or how rich you are, addiction can find – and destroy – you. At times, this book was hard to read. It’s maddening to read about Kiedis’s decisions and actions. But that’s also partly why I liked it: it doesn’t sugarcoat addiction. It doesn’t make it seem wild or zany or cheeky – it reveals it as ugly, destructive, and frustratingly tenacious.


(Folks, I’m trying something new: affiliate links. The idea is that if you click the linked book titles and images above, you’ll be taken to Amazon; if you purchase that book or anything else from Amazon within 24 hours of your click, I get a modest commission (I believe it is a whopping 4%). For more information on affiliate links, click here (don’t worry – I won’t get money if you click that, ha ha). Here’s what Amazon wants me to tell you:

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

(I have a hunch this won’t result in anything but I want to give it a go to understand how it all works. Bear with me!)

Cranberry-Walnut Loaf: One of My Top 3 Breads from Bread Illustrated

My grocery list as a bachelorette looked a lot different than it does nowadays.

For example, I used to have to throw out half a block of cheddar cheese because it would go moldy before I had the chance to finish it. These days, that simply does not happen.

Also, bread. Before I entered my fanatic bread baking phase a few months back, I bought regular loaves at the grocery store just like everyone else. (Okay, I bought slightly fancy regular bread – I just can’t do the bagged stuff.)

Before I met Cedric, my go to bread was a cranberry walnut loaf with some crunchy grain that I bought at Nesters in Whistler. It was slightly tinted blue, if I recall correctly. It was a pretty small loaf and wasn’t the cheapest, but it was so delicious.

Eventually, Cedric started eating the bread at my house and it was revealed that he didn’t love my special blue bread. What?!!? He confessed that he doesn’t love raisins (or craisins, evidently) in his bread. I was astounded, but because relationships are about compromise, I started buying a different kind of bread.

Fast forward to the present day – here I am, flipping through my trusty Bread Illustrated cookbook (which I’ve already had to tape some pages back into due to excessive wear and tear), when I stumble across a recipe for a cranberry-walnut loaf. Where has this recipe been all my life?

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(Cue the heavenly angel music)

This loaf is astounding. I’d place it in my top three recipes from the book so far (the other two being the cinnamon bread and the Sicilian style pizza). Not only is it tasty as all heck, but it’s extremely convenient to make. It takes under 5 hours total (minus cooling time) from start to finish, so you can do it all in one day or even one afternoon. You don’t need any weird gear or equipment – no lava rocks here.

The bread is made with a combination of bread flour and whole-wheat flavour. As the book says, this results in a dense, earthy bread – one that would take a turkey sandwich to the next level, or that can simply enjoyed lightly toasted with nothing on it (or butter would be good, too).

You throw the flours, cranberries, walnuts, yeast, and salt all together at once into the mixer. I was hesitant about this because I’ve always thought that dry flour + dried fruit = flour gets stuck in the little folds and doesn’t get mixed with the other ingredients which can result in a nasty surprise when you bite into the final product. But I followed the book’s directions and it all turned out fine.

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Next, you pour in some water, brown sugar, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil and mix it for about ten minutes total. Then you leave it to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours. I went for a trail run and when I noticed I was getting close to the two hour mark, I forced myself to hustle hard to get back home. Nothing makes me run faster like the possibility of ruining a good loaf of bread.

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The dough gets shaped into a little torpedo, then placed on a bread covered with aluminum foil. The aluminum is a first – normally the book calls for parchment. Maybe the reflection factor affects the bake. Maybe the bread is just channeling its inner Chuck from Better Call Saul (does anyone else watch this show? It is so very underrated!)

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The only thing I screwed up was the score. You just had to cut it down the middle, which I did – and I thought I went pretty deep with my knife – but when I was rotating the loaf halfway through the making, it looked like the score had been swallowed up, so I re-cut the score. This is probably a bread baking faux pas and it may have ruined the integrity of my loaf’s aesthetic – but I don’t think it affected the taste.

Oh, I also skipped the egg wash. Unless the bread is a fancy dessert type bread, I’ve started skipping the egg wash. It just feels like a waste of egg to me, especially because most of our bread gets sliced up and tossed into the freezer right away.

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The loaf came out of the oven around bedtime, and I let it cool overnight. When I had it for breakfast this morning, I just about lost my mind. It was PERFECT. The cranberry and walnut were present, but the bread wasn’t overstuffed with them. They were also properly dispersed among the loaf (which I believe would earn me points on the GBBO). The walnuts are so deliciously buttery to bite through – mm mm mm mm mm.

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When it looks just like the picture in the book, you know you’ve got a winner on your hands

Unless you are like Cedric and have an aversion to dried fruit in your bread, I HIGHLY recommend trying this recipe out. It is a beginner friendly bread and it will take your breakfast (and possibly lunch, dinner, snack, and hey – even dessert) to the next level. My name is Magee, and I approve of this bread.


Edit: I loved this loaf so much that I made it again to bring to my family across the continent. I even sprang for the egg wash! I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in a paper bag, and it survived three days being squished in my luggage (which was lost for 24 hours).

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