Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pumpkin Pie (and Grape Nut Ice Cream Recipe)

This pie is one of the simplest to make (even simpler if you use tinned pumpkin). I’ve tried making it with squash to great effect as well. The spices are of course, flexible. I happen to live with someone that prefers pumpkin as a savoury rather than a sweet so I cut the sugar dramatically and omit the cinnamon replacing it with ginger and occasionally, cloves. I’ve also made this pie seasoned with garlic powder, olive oil and carmelised onions to be served as a side-dish to meat. What I’m providing here is a basic recipe that is easily adapted.

For the Crust:

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups shortening
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Combine water, egg and vinegar. Mix well into flour mixture. Let rest a bit before rolling out.

For the Pie:

1 ½ cups mashed pumpkin
1 egg
½ cup warmed milk
½ cup warmed cream
1 tablespoon flour (I use Wondra sauce flour for this as it dissolves quickly)
1 tablespoon molasses (Sorghum is a big agricultural product around here and you could certainly substitute it)
¾ cup sugar (you may prefer more)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (unless your crazy husband hates it)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon browned butter
pinch of salt

Combine everything and pour into an unbaked pie crust (it helps to build the sides up pretty high for this pie). Cut out shapes from leftover pie crust.

Bake at 450 degrees F. for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 for 45 minutes.

I’m serving mine with
Spiced Grape Nuts Ice Cream:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1 cup Grape Nuts Cereal

Make a paste of the sugar and spices with a small bit of milk, then dissolve in the rest. Freeze according to your ice-cream maker directions. Before transferring to container, stir-in a cup of Grape-Nuts cereal.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Candy Apples

I finally achieved my lifelong goal of making candied apples. Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by them, likely because it is the sort of thing that would not have been permitted in our home. My mother had her own “version” of candied apples that involved baking them in diet ginger ale and tossing two (and only two) cinnamon candies in the cored centre of each. Yeah, that really made a good substitution.

You Will Need:

12 med. Apples
a few drops of oil of clove
¾ cup corn syrup
1 cup water 3 cups sugar
red food colouring

Wash the apples in warm water and dry well. Poke a stick into each. In a heavy bottomed pot combine sugar, corn syrup and water and stir until dissolved. Add food colouring and cloves and let cook over medium heat without stirring until it reaches 290 degrees F. on a candy thermometer(hard crack stage). Set pan over boiling water (I set the small pot in a strainer over the large pot) and quickly coat the apples. Set to dry on parchment paper. This was my first attempt and as you can see in the photograph, they are a bit sloppy-luckily, there is still plenty of time before Halloween to practise

I set my ceiling fan on high to waft the smell of cloves through the house and when Danny woke from his nap he followed the scent right to the kitchen where he stood looking up at the rosy coloured shiny apples on the counter. Excited would be an understatement.

French Bread (Sort Of)

This French Bread was a challenge to shape-like trying to make a baguette from batter. I improvised the dough starting with a pre-ferment of 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast, ½ tablespoon salt and about 4 cups of bread flour. I added water until it was just moist, but still slightly dry.

In the morning I added about another three and a half cups of flour and let it rise nearly three hours. Folded it, let it rise another hour. Divided, let it rest 10 minutes and then (ha ha) tried to “shape” it. I used extra steam in the oven today which seemed to help develop the crust. Anyway, certainly not the best I’ve done, but respectable.

I always forget to measure Danny’s height against the yardstick in the photo-perhaps I should just start documenting baguettes.

*Update-I served it for dinner this evening and consensus is that the baguette was my best bread yet. The crust really was crunchy without being “toasted” (over baked) and the interior crumb was quite open and airy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chocolate Covered Caramels

Nothing like the first really cool autumn day to make a person think of chocolate covered caramels-well, me anyway. The recipe is simple, though it requires quite a bit of time standing at the stove. I waited until my toddler was off for a nap to do the cooking part. While the caramels cooled, I pre-cut squares of waxed paper for wrapping them.

I coated the candy with what I had on hand, which today was three packages of semi-sweet chips that I bought super-clearanced at the grocer one day figuring “I’ll use them eventually.” You could of course, use better quality chocolate.

You Will Need:

2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup butter
1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy pot, (I use an enamel coated cast-iron one to retain heat) combine everything except the vanilla and cook over medium heat until it reaches 248 degrees F. on a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally, taking care to scrape the sides (a heat resistant spatula is helpful).

Pour into a well-buttered 8x8x2 pan. Cool. When firm, loosen the sides with a butter knife and place on cutting board. Using a sharp knife (that you’ll need to frequently run under a hot tap to keep clean) cut into squares and place on baking sheets pre-lined with waxed paper. At this point you can coat them with chocolate or leave them plain. When dry, wrap in squares of waxed paper. I cut mine generously and still had six dozen.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Two Varieties of Graham Crackers

First off-both taste great. I'd be happy to snack on either or make a really amazing pie crust from them.

The darker coloured grahams contain molasses and use whole wheat flour. The lighter ones use specialty graham flour and are made crisp and light with the addition of an egg. It's a mater of style. The molasses/whole wheat crackers were harder and heavier-the others had a melt-in-the-mouth quality of a thin butter cookie.

The Lighter Graham cracker recipe came from The Prepared Pantry, and may be found(with helpful photograph and details) HERE.

The molasses version came from Bakingsheet, and may be found HERE.

The molasses crackers were prepared in my food processor which worked much better than I expected. Rolling the dough out and then chilling it also made for more uniform and easy to handle slices. Of course, they are homemade, and that look out to be reflected in the varied sizes and not-so-perfect piercing of holes.

I needed about two minutes more on both recipes in my oven, which runs pretty true to temperature.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New Projects

This week, I'm experimenting with crackers and seasonal candied treats.

I found a wonderful old recipe for candided apples that called for oil of clove. As soon as I saw the ingredients, I remembered my mother used to keep a small vial of it in our medicine cabinet for toothaches-but that was many years ago.

I went to pharmacy #1, where a nostalgic, somewhat sad pharmacist told me they no longer carried it as there isn't any demand for it. He suddenly remembered that people used to flavour toothpicks with it. (I remember cinnamon toothpicks, but not clove).

Pharmacy # 2-the pharmacist tells me that he can order it, or I can purchase a very large ($8.00!) bottle of it in the organic foods section. I asked if he would order a small vial as I only require a few drops and he was happy to do it. By the time I reached the check-out, he had located a bottle for me and looked about the store to find me. That was really a very nice thing to do, on a weekend, at a busy supermarket pharmacy. I think I'm going to need to bring him some candied apples.

I'm not sure what else I can do with it. I've never tried making hard candies, but I think that clove flavoured lozenges would be pleasant.

I'm also going to make a batch of caramel apples from a 1930's recipe.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find pointed sticks for candied apples? Well, quite difficult. Tomorrow I'm off to try another craft store before I give-in and bunch together a number of bamboo skewers. If you purchase a bag of caramels, they give you a couple dozen in the bag-but who wants to eat mediocre caramels? I'll tell you who-"Mr. Nobody."

I'm also on a cracker kick. I have graham cracker dough chilling overnight and I'll bake them tomorrow. I also have a saltine recipe that involves a very long initial rise (30 hours) and then quite a bit of rolling and folding (think puff pastry). It seems that with a youngster in the house, we go through an awful lot of crackers and I'm sure I can make a better quality snack for less money. We'll see-the soda crackers might be an exercise in futility.

What I'm looking for (if anyone can help) are recipes for Vermont Common Crackers, and something resembling Jacob's Cream Crackers-neither of which are readily available where I live. If I could manage a decent approximation, I'd be happy.

I made two large pizzas for dinner tonight and had an interesting dough to work with. Early this morning, I mixed 5 cups of bread flour with 1 teaspoon instant yeast, 1 tablespoon salt, and enough water to make the dough pliable (slightly over a cup). I worked it for about ten minutes in the mixer and then divided the dough in half, placed them in oiled bags and set them in the icebox until I came home around five. I removed the, let them warm-up for about an hour and forty-five minutes (while I carmelised onion and did other prep work). I made "white pizzas" (without tomato sauce) that I baked at 525 for about seven minutes on the lowest shelf of the oven. They turned out very good-thin, but with some tooth. I've always added oil and sugar to my pizza doughs, but this seemed to be every bit as good.

I'm off to bed-I have a full day of baking ahead tomorrow. Results and film at eleven.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chocolate Cake Roll

Once again, I've turned to Good and Pellman's Amish and Mennonite kitchens for inspiration( if you don't already own this cook book-get it. Not only is it lovely looking, so far every recipe I've tried (and that's much of the book) has been successful.

This is my first attempt at a cake roll and it came up well. I can envision using the basic cake recipe to cut into multiple layers for an elaborate cake without all the fuss of making a spongecake.

You Will Need:

(for the cake)
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
confectioners sugar

(For the filling)
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 425 F.
Grease and flour a jelly roll pan

Beat three egg yolks, 1 cup sugar and water together until light. Slowly beat in flour and baking powder.

Beat three egg whites until stiff. Fold flour and egg mixture in carefully.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 425 for 8 minutes.

Loosen sides with a knife and invert on a cotton towel that has been dusted with powdered sugar. While cake is hot, roll-up in the towel for a few minutes, then unroll.

While cake is cooling, prepare filling.

Stir cocoa, cornstarch, sugar and water into a saucepan and heat until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Cool. Spread on cake. Roll and dust top with additional confectioners sugar.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Once a year, at Rosh Hashanah, I make a number of honey cakes to send to Jewish friends for the new year. This year I also made small round challas with raisins to send along as well. I failed to take photographs of them before wrapping them for the post, so instead, I posted a photo of my son shopping for the ingredients. The base recipe comes from Cooking With Memories, by Laura Brody, though I have altered the recipe over the fifteen years that I’ve relied on her book. Because so many people are allergic to nuts (myself included) I omit the almonds in the original recipe. I also omit the cognac as it is something we almost never have on hand and hardly seems worth investing in just to make a few cakes once a year. I don’t think the recipe suffers for it. I’ve increased the amount of raisins to 1 cup and I use both goldens and flame. Some years, I substitute crystalised ginger. The recipe is flexible and forgiving and pretty much save for burning it or under baking, it can handle what you do with it. My husband likes slices of it warmed in the microwave and then spread with cream cheese and a bit of additional honey. I’ve been known to toast slices and spread it with marmalade or blackcurrant jam.

For shipping/freezing, I wrap them tightly in wax paper, and then again in plastic wrap. This seems to work well and it is a method I use for soft breads as well. The apples keep the cake moist and it should hold up well for at least a week, though I advise keeping it refrigerated once it has been cut. A few seconds in the microwave or toaster also revives the ends gone stale.

You Will Need:

3 ½ cups flour measured after sifting
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 cup honey
1 cup strong coffee (instant ok)
3 tablespoons cognac
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use 2)
4 extra large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped (I do this ahead and sprinkle with lemon juice to keep colour)
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup flame raisins
½ cup almonds for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with the rack in the centre position. (325 if using glass pans). Grease either 2 9x5 inch loaf pans, or one large 12x15 baking dish. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices together in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, boil the honey and coffee. Cool slightly and add vanilla and cognac. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, oil, apples, and sugar. Mix well. Add the flour in three additions alternating with the coffee mixture. Mix in the raisins. Pour into well greased pans and sprinkle the tops with almonds if desired. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan ten minutes then cool on rack.

Caramel Popcorn

This is so easy, you’ll never buy that horrible, cloying, sprayed-on caramel corn at the supermarket again. The recipe comes from, Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, by Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman. It is, by the way, a wonderful cookbook. I was well into my thirties by the time I learned to make a pie crust from scratch and it is their recipe I rely on.

You will need:

3 ¾ quarts popped popcorn (I popped mine in oil the old fashioned way on the stove)
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (I used butter)
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Pour popcorn into a large roasting pan. Mix sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan and cook gently over medium heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Then boil for five more minutes. Remove syrup from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda, stirring until it becomes foamy. Pour over popcorn and stir to coat (note, it will not “coat” in the sense of covering every inch of popcorn the way commercial caramel corn is-not to worry though, it is plenty sweet and makes for a nicer texture). Bake for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Cool,(if you can get your family to wait that long) and crumble into small pieces.

I stored mine in paper bags which my husband polished off during his commute to work this morning.

Bagels Boiled and Baked

For this recipe, I am again indebted to Floyd at The Fresh Loaf. The recipe can be found HERE. I made a few adjustments and have some observations to share.

I tried the recipe twice, once using regular Gold Medal bread flour, and again using their new Harvest King Flour. I was unable to discern any difference. My husband thinks the Harvest King yielded a slightly denser bagel, though he admits that the difference is so minimal it is hardly worth noting. I’ve tried other bread flours, (though I can’t swear by the unlabeled “bread flour” they sell at Ideal Grocery in Lincoln, NE as they package it in a clear plastic bag. For all I know, it may well have been Gold Medal. I’ve used Pillsbury, and Hodgson Mill-all acceptable flours, but in our area, the Gold Medal is the most economical for the quality. I’ve wanted to try the King Arthur flour but it is just prohibitively expensive for my budget.

Even with a Kitchen Aid Professional 350 watt stand mixer, I had a difficult time getting all the flour called for incorporated into the dough. By the time I had to hit the reset button three times (we call it the “core meltdown button”) I knew I had maxed the amount of flour it would take. It might have been the humidity in the room that particular day, or some small variation in the flour-but those things are to be expected with bread baking. I worked the dough until it was stiff and let it go a cup short of the total, and it was fine. It does make me think of moving up to a commercial mixer though (our circuits can handle it) which if I stop to think about it is sort of terrifying that I’m doing enough baking to justify the investment in a commercial mixer.

I was unable to locate malt syrup so I used honey instead. That did tend to sweeten the dough slightly and I noticed that the bagels did better the second time with more salt, though that may be a personal preference.

I made mine smaller (still quite large by anyone's standards) and yeilded 18.

They held up well, and provided a couple hours of teething entertainment for my toddler son. My husband, who is used to East Coast bagels, and is not the sort of person inclined to flattery, claims they are the best bagels he’s ever eaten. Certainly better than anything available around here.