Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nut-Free Cream or Soybutter Filled Chocolate Eggs

Easter is closing in quickly, but these candies are quick to make, and don't require the skill of something like homemade fondant (or piping your own marshmallow peeps, which I will not be doing, thank god).

I was always partial to a Cadbury egg at Easter, but with the allergy issue, I've resorted to making my own version. These are pretty good. Don't tell the Cadbury Bunny.

If you like, the eggs can be moulded in real eggshells by draining the yolks through the bottom, washing the eggs, and then hardening them in a 300 degree f. oven for 10 minutes. This makes a nice presentation, but then you need to fool about with brushing chocolate neatly over the interior, filling the eggs slowly in layers, etc. I did both this year, but in the end, the free-formed ones looked just as cute, even if you don't get the shell to chip away. Me? I don't like any sort of time wasting with shells when I'm after chocolate.

How much you'll need will depend on how many eggs you plan to make. Extra buttercream freezes nicely, if you make too much.

For a batch large enough for at least a dozen good-sized buttercream eggs:

1 cup unsalted butter
(about) 6 cups icing sugar-it will vary depending on the quality fo your butter
Yellow food colouring
A few drops of extract (any flavour)
Chocolate for coating (I used both semi-sweet, and white chocolate)

Knead the icing sugar into the softened butter until it is no longer squishy, and will hold shapes. Don't try shaping anything at this point though, roll it into a log, wrap it in cling film, and let it chill for an hour.

Now, make the egg shapes. Divide the dough leaving slightly more for the whites of the egg. Tint the smaller half yellow by working food colouring into the dough. Roll into round balls. Set these on a wax paper lined plate, and return to the fridge. Make an equal number of balls for the whites. Gently flatten them into disks large enough to encase the yolks. Place the chilled yolks in the centre of each white, and carefully pinch closed. Gently shape between your palms until it is egg shaped. Return to plate and chill at least an hour before dipping in chocolate.

Because the eggs are butter and sugar, you'll want to keep them chilled before serving, but remove them about 15-20 minutes ahead of time.

For the soybutter eggs:

Follow the same idea, working enough icing sugar into the soy butter (or sunflower butter, or whatever you use as a peanut replacement) until you can knead it, and form shapes. If you wish, the soy centres can be wrapped in buttercream, and then dipped in chocolate, but personally, I think they are just fine dipped in chocolate. They need to be very cold, and you should be certain to add enough icing sugar to make the dough REALLY firm. If you like a mock-Butterfinger effect, crush up some cornflakes and add them to the soybutter.

I wrapped my candies in candymaking foil, but cellophane would also be attractive. The soybutter does not require being kept at a cool temperature, unless you coat it in buttercream. I do think they benefit from storage in the fridge, but that's a matter of taste, and what your climate is like this time of year.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ice Bowls

This is my less-than-perfect first attempt at an ice bowl, but I wanted to share the results as I think this might make an attractive way to serve dessert at Easter or Passover. I wonder if I could serve borscht in it? As we're expected to get half a foot of snow tonight, I might use it as an Easter bonnet for a snow-woman. I planted my early garden last week-spinach, onions, peas-that sort of thing. Oh well, I'm told spinach loves this sort of weather.

You'll need two bowls that can fit inside each other without too much space between. Tape the bowls together, then fill with water. Poke your fruit or flowers down the sides with a skewer, then freeze several hours or overnight. To unmould, place it in a large pan of hot water for 1 minute. Remove the tape, and wiggle the bowls free. I still can't believe it worked-this sort of thing never works for me.

Note-if you prefer a clear ice rather than a frosted effect, boil the water first. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Watch Out For the Tar Sands

I added the recipe at the bottom of the post. This is a delicious, easy to make cake whether you choose to adorn it with peeps or not.

I was watching the flocks of birds migrating back first thought was to do this as a black gelatin, but cake won.

Can't you imagine the birds complaining to each other that if they'd gone east they could be eating fiddleheads right now?

Yes, I am a sick, sick person-but you already knew that.

The recipe comes from an ancient spiral-bound cookbook from Jewel grocery store in Chicago. Bernice Keller, whoever you are (wherever you are) this is one terrific cake! I admit the amount of margarine called for put me off a bit as I only use the stuff to grease baking tins, but  wow! Who knew you could make something this good out of generic .79 cents a pound hydrogenated vegetable oil? Well, obviously Bernice knew, and now you do as well. Gosh, this is a delicious cake.

You Will Need:

For the Cake:
2 sticks margarine (1 cup)
1 cup water
2 cups plain flour
2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees f. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Combine dry ingredients. In a saucepan, melt the margarine and water. Add margarine and water to dry ingredients, and blend with an electric mixer. Add eggs and sour cream, blending for 1 minute. Pour into prepared pan and bake 25 minutes, or until set (mine took just over 30). Let cool 20 minutes, meanwhile make the frosting.

For the Frosting:

16 ounces icing (powdered) sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons cocoa

Heat margarine and milk until margarine melts. Stir in vanilla, then the cocoa. Remove from heat, and add the sugar. Stir by hand until creamy. Be warned, it sets quickly, even on a still warm cake, so don't dally. Cover cake until ready to serve.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Strawberry Ice Cream

(I was going for 60's cookbook photography with the teacup and paper umbrella. My mother purchased these teacups in the 60's-does that count? )

I thought I made pretty good strawberry ice cream-until I tried this recipe. Those other recipes I've posted over the years? Forget them, and bookmark this one. The ice cream does not use a custard base, which is handy if you're avoiding eggs. I'm not, but really, after tasting this batch, I don't think I'd bother with a custard based strawberry again. You do need to sieve the strawberries, but it is worth the effort.

I used the leftover berries (I bought quite a few) in a small batch strawberry jam to use as a topping. I'm kicking myself for not making a proper batch and canning it, but truthfully, I didn't expect it to be anything special-at least not with berries this time of year. Boy, was I ever wrong-they were delicious. 

From, Ice Cream and Iced Desserts by, Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis 2000

I purchased this book at the library sale for .50 cents. Well worth the cost.

You Will Need:

4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
1/2 cup icing sugar
Juice of  1/2 lemon
1 1/4 cups whipping cream

Puree the strawberries until smooth. Add icing sugar and lemon juice, then puree again until smooth. Sieve into a bowl and chill until cold.

Whip cream until it thickens, but still drops from a spoon. Fold the whipped cream into the puree, and pour into a freezer tray. Freeze 6 hours, beating twice with a fork to break up ice crystals. You can use a mixer or food processor as well. I ignored that direction, scraped every thirty minutes with a fork until form, and then after about two hours, packed it into a plastic storage container. My freezer is running on the extra cold side, so this might not work as well for you-adjust as you see fit. The recipe says you can do this with an ice cream maker-but I wouldn't The appeal is that it does not have too much air beaten into it. Constant churning would (at least with the machines I've owned) make it a bit on the fluffy side. Again, a matter of taste.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vegetarian Maid Rites-aka Loose Meat Sandwiches

What you call this sandwich will depend where you're from. In Iowa, it is a Maid Rite, in Nebraska, a Loose Meat. I don't know what they call it elsewhere. It is a well-seasoned beef mince and onions served on a hamburger bun. It must be a proper hamburger bun-if you fancy it up with sourdough, or rye, or "artisan" style crusts, it will not be special. The softness of the bun is crucial to the overall effect. That said, the beef is less important. I've had success with soya crumbles from the freezer case, but if you're adventurous and wish to experiment with TVP, it would likely produce a good substitute. If you keep the onions and the bun a constant, you'll have the overall flavour that makes a Maid Rite distinctive. I'll provide a hamburger bun recipe that I've used for years, but this is a case where store-bought might be the superior option, if allergies don't prohibit the purchase of such luxuries. As for the brand of imitation mince I use-Light Life is my hands-down favourite, but their products are hard to find where I live. I can't see much difference between Boca, and Morningstar, as I've used both without any obvious problems. Boca tends to be a bit pricier, but it goes on sale regularly. I'm not being compensated in any way by any of these companies.

For the Hamburger Buns:

6-8 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
2 cups warm water
3/4 cup corn oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons salt
3 large eggs

In a bowl, combine yeast and water-let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Add oil, sugar, salt, and eggs. With a hand mixer, beat well. Add the flour a cup at a time until you've added about 3 cups. At this point, turn up the mixer and beat the hell out of it for about five minutes. Add remaining flour by hand until you have a dough that is firm enough to knead, but not dry. The dough will loose stickiness as you work it, but go easy on the flour until you are certain you require it (you thought I'd say, "knead" it. Ha, ha).

When your kneads have been satisfied (sorry) place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover it with clingfilm, and let it rise until doubled-about an hour.

\Punch the dough down, and divide into 18 balls (you can make them smaller if you wish). Shape the balls as you would for rolls, pulling the dough beneath to make a smooth surface. Press the ball flat between your hands, and place on a buttered pan. Cover lightly, and let rise until doubled-about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake buns 10-15 minutes, ot until nicely browned. Cool on racks. These buns freeze perfectly, but we rarely have leftovers.

For the Maid Rites:

1 Package frozen veggie crumbles (imitation mince)
1 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening (This is part of the deal, and you may not substitute)
2 teaspoons salt (you can go less as the soya mince is somewhat salty)
1 large onion, chopped as fine as you can get it
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (yes, the cheap stuff)
Water to cover

Melt the shortening in a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Add the salt, and sti. Add the crumbles, breaking them up as you mix. Add the onion, and as it begins to brown, add the mustard, vinegar, and sugar. Cook a minute or two for it to combine. Add water to cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the water has evaporated out-about 15-20 minutes.

Serve with a choice of ketchup, yellow mustard, and if you can stand them, pickles. Some people like cheese on a Maid Rite. I'll leave that up to you. You'll see from the picture that someone added Velveeta to thier sandwich. I'm not naming names. You'll also note the mash, and gravy because if you're going to cook what was essentially one of the better school dinners when I was a child, you have to be authentic. There's carrots and lima beans hiding behind the sandwich. I opened a tin of fruit cocktail for dessert as well.

Hooty St. Patrick's Day

We're still on the owl thing here. Check out the rainbow cookies-we used edible markers to create the "drawn by a child" effect. I really love how they look.

I apologise for the crappy photo (worse than my typical crappy photos, which are, pretty crappy) but I finished decorating these rather late. But I did 'em, so quit complaining.

Know what we did today? We went to Lake Wanahoo, the brand-new state recreation area close to our home. The snow geese have started arriving, and I wanted to put my park permit to use anyway-so off we went. I feel so fortunate to have a beautiful lake like that so close to home. I know where we'll be going for family walks after dinner in the warmer weather.

The snow geese have been landing just beyond the field in back of the farm where there are some restored wetlands-but the mud...oh heavens, the mud. I tried hiking out there yesterday, but that mud is mostly clay, and I didn't feel like losing a boot to it (that can happen-no exaggeration). If it freezes up a bit, I'll try it again, as I wasn't able to get any decent photographs yesterday. I like the snow geese as they stay over the water mostly). I'm less in love with the red winged blackbirds that take up residence in the trees by the driveway. I probably don't need to tell you what the car looks like at the moment. Mr. ETB wants to wait a couple weeks before washing the car, drive it to Whole Foods, and double park the poop-covered Oldsmobile by the entrance. I mean, if you're going to get all snooty about shopping at Whole Foods when you live in Omaha, you probably need a shit covered Oldsmobile to remind you that you're only a generation or two off the farm, and need to get over yourself.

Uh...anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day?


"I wouldn't want to be a zombie in America-there aren't enough brains around."

I'll give you two guesses who said this. No, the younger one.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

My Little Chickadee

The bird didn't want to be set free. Eventually, he moved off, but only with a bit of encouragement. And yes, I made him wash his hands.

Hoot Cross Buns

Because they're shaped like owls, get it? I also made hot cross bunnies, but didn't get a very good picture. This would be a good time to point out how sliced dates make a pretty good representation of a beak. Well, it *could* come up, so now you will be like, "Oh yeah, Goody said to use dates for a beak", and then I'll have saved you ten minutes of screwing around with sugar paste. You're welcome.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fruit Cocktail Cake

I've been looking at this recipe in one form or another for at least forty years. It never appealed to me until this morning where I found my day on the over-scheduled side, yet I still wanted to have a dessert for Shabbos. No, we're not religious, unless you count the strict adherence to a Friday evening dessert a form of religious devotion. There's usually a challah as well. But not this week, because my head is about to explode. Anyway, the cookbook promised this cake was so easy, "A child could make it", and I thought, "Great, I have one of those!" so I gave him a pinny, and sent him off to the kitchen to bake a cake. And he did.

I can't believe we never made this before. People, listen to me (are you listening?) this cake is wonderful. Ordinarially, if a cake doesn't have milk, or oil, or butter I'd expect it to be inedible, but the syrup from the fruit cocktail more than makes up for the absent moisture from fat. There's a ton (I'm not exaggerating) of sugar in the cake, but in reading through the recipe, I made what I believe to be a good decision reducing the white sugar by half-trust me, it is still sweet. Very, very, sweet. You could also reduce the brown sugar as well without any harm done (I will next time we make it).

While it isn't exactly "dump and stir", you won't need a mixer for this. Two bowls, and a wooden spoon ought to do it. Danny thought it was too easy, so tomorrow I'm having him make puff paste (no, not really, he'll be off banding birds because it is Saturday, and that's what he does on Saturday. Don't be put off as I was all these years by the seemingly boring ingredients-this is a cake worth making. Due to nut allergies we substituted quick cooking oats in the topping for the nuts, and it worked perfectly. It makes a small 9 inch square pan of cake, so you can't get into too much trouble should you devour it in an evening.

From A World of Baking, Casella 1968

1 large egg
1 cup sugar (we used 1/2)
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
1 16 ounce (or there abouts) tin of fruit cocktail in heavy syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, or if allergic, 1/2 cup quick oats or coconut

Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, beat the egg and sugar together. Add flour and bicarb. Add fruit cocktail with syrup. Blend. Pour into prepared pan.

Mix brown sugar with nuts or oats, and sprinkle over top of cake. Bake about 30 minutes, or until it tests done. Cool in pan.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

I'm Bookmarking This...

...because eventually, Mr. ETB will need to bring a dish to work for some sort of celebration.
 Just do it.
Go Here
You're welcome.

Steamed Chocolate Pudding with Cherry Sauce

I took a picture of this, and then, because I'm working from a computer that isn't set up like a reasonable person would set it up (Thanks, Mr. ETB) I can't find the file. I just spent 20 minutes uploading it, but damned if I can locate it. It looks like a steamed pudding-use your imagination. I never wanted to be a photography-dependent cookery blog anyway. There are plenty of blogs that do that, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm still pissed about the twenty minutes though-I could have trimmed my toenails or something. 

I finally got around to making the steamed chocolate pudding in my 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook. This book has been in my possession my entire life, but I'm just getting around to the pudding. You know those recipes for cake you make in a mug in the microwave? Yeah, it is like that, but slightly denser. Maybe a brownie meets cake-in-a-mug meets...well, you get the idea. Unlike the cake-in-a mug, this will take you two hours in the steamer, but once you stick it in the bowl, there isn't much active cookery save for the occasional topping up of water. The microwave version requires considerably more attention, if only for a few minutes.

You want to know about that sauce, dontcha? Think hard sauce, with maraschino cherry juice and a few chopped up cherries-and no booze. I made quite a bit of it, I see some cake-in-a mug in my future once we polish off the rest of the steamed pudding.

The pudding reheats well in a microwave (just don't cook it in the microwave) in a covered casserole dish. I'm more of a stodgy, breadcrumb based pudding fan, so I probably wouldn't want this again. The boys however, loved it. Go figure. For a steamed pudding it is surprisingly light. I cut the sugar by half of what the recipe called for, and it was still sweet. Adjust according to your tastes.

You Will Need:

1 large egg\1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate
1 3/4 cups plain flour
 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon bicarb
1 cup milk (I used 2%)

Grease a 1 quart pudding basin. Beat together the egg, sugar, butter, and chocolate. Sift together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating with milk.

Pour into pudding basin. Secure parchment paper over top with string. Place in steamer rack (or, a canning band makes a good stand if you don't have a proper steamer-a large pot will do so long as it covers the basin). Fill halfway up the basin with water, and steam gently for 2 hours.

Serve hot with cherry sauce

For the Cherry Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
1-2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon chopped cherries
A few drops of juice from the cherry jar

Beat together adding more sugar or liquid as needed until nicely whipped. Chill before using. I won't tell if you sneak a spoonful when no one is looking-this stuff is too good to waste on pudding.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Leftover Kasha Pancakes

These pancakes will work whether you made your kasha plain like rice, or with broth onions, mushrooms and butter. In other words, the pancake is a perfect place to dump your leftovers. This works equally well with wild rice, barley, etc.

I served them with sour cream, and a composed salad of salmon, vegetables, and a killer horseradish cream sauce.

You Will Need:

1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (depending on the saltiness of your prepared kasha)
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cooked kasha

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat the milk and eggs together lightly. Beat the milk and eggs into the dry ingredients. Stir in the kasha.

Heat your griddle, and butter as needed (My cast iron pan is so well seasoned it rarely needs butter for pancakes).

Make the pancakes small, as they tend to run. Cook until the tops are drying and bubbles are breaking on the surface. Turn, cook about half that time on the opposite side.

You should get 15-20 small pancakes from this batter.

Bird Banding

My son has a new hobby. I have to admit, seeing captured birds in mesh bags, hanging on a clothesline awaiting their turn to have a band affixed to their leg...well, I found it comical. I'm sure the birds didn't, particularly the cardinal-he was really displeased with the whole operation.

Me? I'm from the city, you might toss bread to a pigeon, but holding a bird close enough to listen to the heartbeat...I just wouldn't do that. Danny set a red bellied woodpecker free last weekend after banding, and watched it sail off knowing it would probably be back to get banded again in a couple weeks. Some birds never learn not to fly into the net. I watch, but you couldn't pay me to handle those birds. It was bad enough cleaning the budgie's cage as a kid. I like birds-outdoors.

For a while anyway, our Saturday mornings are booked.

Maida Heatter's Blueberry Pie

We all liked this pie, but agreed that it was a bit much for a slice of pie. This filling would be perfect as a tart filling-mini tarts. I could see these as a nice addition to a summer picnic, and they would be wonderful with or without the sour cream. That said, I'll post the filling recipe as the crust and flavoured whipped cream weren't really anything special.

From Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts, 1982

6 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup and it was still sweet)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Set aside 1/2 cup of berries. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch in cold water until dissolved. Add boiling water and stir until smooth. Place in a 1 quart saucepan. Add sugar, salt, and reserved berries (the 1/2 cup). Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. While you cook, smash the berries against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until it comes to a boil, then thickens and becomes somewhat clear (about ten minutes). Reduce the heat to low, and cook 3-4 minutes longer.

Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice and butter. In a large bowl, combine it with the rest of the berries. Mix well. Chill at least three hours before using.