Honey Maple Bread : On Friendship, Distance and The Tie That Binds Us Together

I've seen my best friend Angela four times in the last seven years.

Twice when she was home in Nova Scotia visiting, once at her wedding in the Annapolis Valley, and once at my wedding in our small backyard here in Halifax. I actually sent Angela's parents a wedding invitation and they liked it so much (it was a great invite - a DVD photo slideshow that I made with David Gray as the soundtrack), that they decided to pay to fly her home just for my wedding. She wouldn't have made it without them. I was so happy to see her

wedding photo credit : Mike Tompkins

Angela is my very first 'food friend'. We met in 1998, when I was really beginning to understand and develop my love of food. We met through a mutual friend and hit it off pretty much right away. After that, we spent a ton of time together and we talked about food constantly. We cooked our first 'not-at-our-parent's-house' turkey dinner together and, we had a running list of all the restaurants in Nova Scotia we wanted to visit. Time passed and we started crossing names off the list, one by one.

Seven years ago, in 2007, Angela moved to Manitoba with her love, and it doesn't look like they're returning to the East Coast any time soon.

I miss her.

A lot.

Last summer I thought about flying to Winnipeg, but you know how it goes - you get busy, your schedule books up and before you know it, another year's passed, plus - it's expensive. I keep saying I'd love to go but when I mention it, people ask 'Why? Why would you want to spend your hard earned money to fly to MANITOBA?!?'

Well DUH. My BFF lives there! I'd love to see the life that Angela and her husband have built for themselves. PlusI've learned a lot about Manitoba from Angela's blog www.littlegraybird.ca. I bet I could fit right in with the locals!

Ummm.

Maybe.

Except, according to Angela, because of my accentthey'll all think I'm a Newfoundlander.

Ha!

Seriously though, I've learned so many things about MB I never would have known, all by living vicariously through my best friend and her blog. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • WINNIPEG IS AWESOME - you can read about Angela's thoughts on this fantastic city here - I hate Winnipegactually published as the blog of the week in The Winnipeg Free Press is about how living in a rural community can make you hate an awesome city because it's always rush rush rush, errands and more errands - never time for fun. change of heart is about Angela's 48-hour visit to The Peg, with nary an errand in sight which gives her a whole new outlook on the city and food for thought is a recap of a guided restaurant tour she took through The Exchange District.  
  • The wildlife is second to none. On littlegraybird, I've seen Ang ice fishing, canoeing with a moose paddling pretty much right next to her, photos of exquisite tiny birds, plus pictures of bears, owls and WOLVES. Angela and her husband have encountered gray wolves a few times. 
  • It's rarely foggy in Manitoba. I live in St. Margaret's Bay - the fog rolls in some nights like a cement wall.
  • No earwigs (yuck!) or Junebugs (gag!!) - but LOTS of mosquitoes.
  • Hoodies are called 'bunny hugs'. Although Angela did tell me that bunny hug is technically a Saskatchewan term she said it's also sometimes used in southwestern Manitoba. I think it's funny.
  • THE FOOD!!! - PEROGIES!!! Angela was invited to a PEROGY MAKING PARTY (so jealous!!!) - Winnipeg is the Slurpee (for us Maritimers that's a Slushy) Capital of the WORLD - Pickerel cheeks are prevalent and Angela swears they're good (I admit I'm curious, as I am also curious about Borscht) - What we East Coasters call squares (ie - date squares) are called 'dainties' in MB - and JUST WHAT ARE Saskatoon Berries anyway?!?

Last week, I got an unexpected notice from Canada Post that there was a package waiting for me at the post office. I instantly recognized Angela's handwriting on the brown paper and couldn't wait to get home to see what was inside the small heavy box. I ripped open the paper and in addition to a handwritten card, a small cookbook called 'Supper In The Field' and the Bacon issue of The Food Network magazine, here's what I got:

  • A bag of Mum's Original Hemp Hearts - 'The part of Manitoba I live in is one of the largest in North America that grows hemp. In the summer you can smell it growing. These hemp hearts are from my area called 'The Parkland'.
  • Saskatoon Berry Pie Filling - 'I know this is canned pie filling and it's technically from Sakatchewan but it's still a big favourite in my area of MB. I couldn't figure out a way to mail you frozen berries!'
  • Raven Creek Farm Beeswax Candles - 'Hand-dipped, pure beeswax, locally made'.
  • Schau'zzz Creamed Lemon Honey and Wendell Estate Creamed Raw Prairie Honey - 'Manitoba has lots and lots of honey producers. These are two of the most popular in my area'.
  • Manitoba Maple Syrup - 'The 'Manitoba Maple' tree is slightly different than a 'regular' maple tree and it's syrup has a different taste - it's not as sweet and can vary in colour. This syrup is tapped in my area of Manitoba'.

Always up for a challenge, I started brainstorming how I could create a recipe that would not only reflect the integrity of the Manitoba ingredients I'd been sent, but at the same time, could symbolize my 16 year friendship with Angela.

Bread.

Bread was the answer.

Wheat, the golden symbol of the prairies, combined with my Manitoba loot, so carefully packaged in bubble wrap, would tie us together.

I tested this recipe twice to make sure it works. It yields 2 loaves that have a beautiful nutty texture from the hemp hearts and a gorgeous sweetness from the honey and maple syrup. I recommend eating a piece, still warm from the oven, smeared with creamed honey.

Honey Maple Bread - makes 2 loaves - takes about 4 hours from start to finish (most time spent waiting for dough to rise)

3.5 C all purpose flour

1 C hemp hearts

2 tsp rapid rise yeast

1.5 tsp salt

1 Tbsp butter

1/4 C creamed honey

1/2 C maple syrup

1 C hot water (I put my kettle on and used water that was almost boiling so it would melt the butter)

- in a large bowl, whisk flour, hemp hearts, rapid rise yeast and salt - set aside

- in the bowl of your mixer whisk butter, creamed honey, maple syrup and hot water

- add dry to wet and mix with dough hook on low 5 minutes - dough will come together after about 1 minute - if dough is too sticky, add extra flour, one Tbsp at a time, until the dough stops climbing the dough hook and starts to pull away from the bottom of the bowl

- after 5 minutes of kneading with the dough hook, remove the dough from the bowl and place onto a floured board or counter - knead by hand for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth and elasticy - shape dough into a ball and place back in the mixer bowl - cover with a tea towel and allow to rise 60 minutes

- after 60 minutes, lightly butter a baking sheet - again, remove dough from bowl onto floured board or counter - GENTLY deflate the dough and cut in half - with a rolling pin, GENTLY roll each half into a rough rectangle shape - starting at the smallest end, roll each piece into a cylinder - pinch the dough together where the seams meet to keep the loaf together - tuck the ends under and place the loaves on the buttered baking sheet - (OPTIONAL : score the top of each loaf with a razor blade) - brush top of each loaf with melted butter and cover with a tea towel - let rise 45 minutes

- preheat oven to 350ºF - bake 27-30 minutes - if you have a loaf with a lot of score marks, you may need to tent it with foil after 20 minutes so it doesn't over-brown on the top - my loaves take 30 minutes exactly - you know they're done when they're golden on top and sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles

 

This was my first time trying hemp hearts, a Manitoba specialty.

 

After 5 minutes with the dough hook, the dough is rather sticky and shaggy but...

 

after 5 more minutes of kneading by hand it's quite smooth and elasticy.

 

After shaping into loaves, I like to score the tops with a fresh razor blade - it gives a nice clean cut.

 

After the loaves are shaped and scored, they're left to rise for 45 minutes more. You can see they expand quite a bit in this time. After 20 minutes in the oven, the loaf on the right was already quite golden on top so I covered it with tinfoil for the last 10 minutes.

 

Hopefully someday I'll get the chance to see my BFF in her 'home' province but for now, my Honey Maple Bread will have to do.