Have you ever wished you could pull up at the Farmgate and buy peaches as large as grapefruits blushed and juicy, blueberries, plump and full of flavour, heirloom tomatoes and vegetables that have been picked that day? Maple syrup straight from the grower and truly local cheese, fresh from the churn or aged in perfect conditions? Welcome to Ontario Canada and shopping Olson style.
We were buying for a cooking session with T.V. Chefs Anna and Michael Olson, which promised to be a feast. Our first stop was the Upper Canada Cheese Company to sample the varied cheeses from their own goats and Guernsey cows and buy some oozingly soft Comfort Cream. A camembert style cheese that is smooth and creamy with a tender rind that allows the cheese’s aroma and deep flavour to mature.
There was an enticingly musty smell in the bare boarded shop, which was full of jars of jams, pickles and ketchups, some of which Anna And Michael had helped develop the recipes for. The Cheese room was in the back with glass viewing windows from the store. Shelves of Golden rinded Niagara Gold and black rinded Cheddar were maturing in perfect conditions.
The glass cheese counters at the front of the shop held the cheeses available that day and tastings were freely offered. Nosy Goat, a soft and creamy cheese without a residual goaty flavour, Niagara Gold, a semi firm cheese, sweet and mellow when young but with a piquancy when aged. Maple smoked Comfort cream, cold smoked using maple chips, giving it a distinctive flavour and smoky aroma but maintaining its creamy texture. A cheddar type that was still in development, more crumbly and salty than a traditional British cheddar, just starting to develop the tang of maturity but with a gentle aroma. It was hard to choose a favourite
After stopping at the 13th street winery to pick up some sparkling wine, More of that in a later post. We headed to Inn The Pines, a traditional Farmgate owned by Cheryl and Barney Barnes. A Small Holding of very high quality produce displayed on a small solid wooden structure half stall, half painted shed at the gate of the farm.
The crisp blushed green apples, ripe pink peaches and fresh berries were enticingly displayed in baskets and punnets on the sloping shelves, with corn cobs stacked in painted wooden wheelbarrows, under the shade of the trees, the outer husks tight and green. We picked up fragrant peaches warm from the sun and dark juicy blueberries for Anna Olson’s sticky buns and corn cobs for succotash.
Then it was on to White Meadow Maple Syrup Farm. An abundance of maple syrup products filled the bleached pine shelves of this old fashioned ‘shoppe’. Maple Mustard, Maple Strawberry Jam, Red Pepper Maple Jelly, Maple popcorn, Maple candy and flagons, both large and small of delicious Maple Syrup.
After a tasting starting with Light grade, (which is the most easily available grade of Maple Syrup in the UK), through medium to Caramel coloured Amber and the ultimate, Dark – a delicious intense maple taste – perfect for cooking. Perfect for Anna Olson’s Maple Walnut Scones.
Our final stop was the Olson’s house, a warm inviting 1860s home with the kind of wrap around verandah you see in movies. The chicken wings were smoking and the ribs were on the barbecue, the sweet fragrance of spices and charcoal wafted along the verandah, sending gentle reminders of what was to come each time the swing-to door into the house was opened. We trooped into the kitchen, kitted out as only a chef’s kitchen would be, but with the individuality of people who appreciate classic retro design.
We had the amazing, but slightly scary opportunity of baking with Anna Olson, who was, of course, relaxed friendly and encouraging as we passed tips backwards and forwards. Karen from Lavender And Lovage stepped up first to use the wonderful intense maple syrup in Walnut Maple Scones.
Anna showed us a technique for getting air and layers into the scones. After almost all the butter is rubbed into the mixture with your finger tips, Take some of the mixture onto the flat of your hand and rub one hand against the other, smoothing it out, it starts to form slivers of flour and butter. Once it binds together, it’s built up impressive layers.
Next I stepped up to the mixer to make peach and blueberry sticky buns. I only made the dough, tacky and full of yeasty fragrance and set it aside to prove. Anna made the rest after the first proving as we were enjoying a fabulous dinner cooked by both Anna And Michael by then.
Once the dough had been rolled into shape, slavered with a sugar, butter, maple syrup mixture, rolled, cut and placed in the baking dish it was kept in the fridge for breakfast the next day. Taking it straight from the fridge into a cold oven it proved for a second time as the oven warmed up, perfect pre prepared breakfast buns. Great tips to go with great baking.
We ate genuine farm to table food, with the aroma you only get from the freshest of produce. and supporting the local growers. It was a great introductions to what Ontario food has to offer and my thanks to Anna And Michael Olson for their enthusiasm and for being so generous with their time and knowledge.
Blueberry Sticky Buns And Maple Walnut Scones
- 8g Dry active yeast
- 60 ml Water
- 125ml Milk at room temperature
- 25g granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 375g Plain flour
- 2g Salt
- ½ tsp Ground nutmeg
- 115g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 125g Cream cheese at room temperature
- Sticky Bun Filling
- 115g Unsalted butter at room temperature
- 200g Light Brown Sugar
- 45ml Maple Syrup
- 1 tbsp Cinnamon
- 340g Fresh blueberries
- For The Dough
- Using the mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- Add milk, egg and sugar and blend using the dough hook.
- Add flour, salt and nutmeg and mix for 1 minute to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese, in small bits, and knead for 5 minutes on medium speed.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, covered with cling film and leave to rest for 1 hour
- Sticky Bun Filling
- Combine butter, sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. Spread ½ of the mixture in a greased baking dish 17 x 25cm or 7 x 10 inch.
- Preheat the oven 180c, 160c fan, 350f, gas mark 4
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 1cm thick rectangle. Spread remaining filling over the dough, sprinkle with the blueberries and roll up lengthwise.
- Slice the dough into 12 equal portions and place them in the baking dish.
- Allow to rise for 30 minutes, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Turn out onto a plate whilst still warm.
- 450g Plain flour
- 50g Granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp Baking powder
- ½ tsp Salt
- 175g Cold unsalted butter
- 175ml Milk, plus extra for brushing
- 60ml Maple syrup
- 2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 75g Walnut pieces
- Preheat the oven 190c, 170c fan assisted, Gas mark 5, 375f and line a baking sheet.
- Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until a rough crumbly texture.
- In a separate dish, whisk the milk, maple syrup, and the vanilla and add this to the dry mixture, blending until the dough just begins to come together.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and sprinkle the walnut pieces over the dough, working them in by flattening and folding the dough a few times.
- Flatten the dough into a disc about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and cut into 12 wedges, or use a cutter to cut out desired shapes.
- Place the scones onto the prepared baking tray and brush the tops with milk.
- Bake the scones for about 20 minutes, until they are nicely browned.
I went to Canada as a guest of the Canadian Tourist Commission and Ontario Tourism, I would like to thank everyone for their amazing hospitality. All opinions expressed here are my own.
Anna Olson’s recipes are reproduced with permission from Anna Olson