Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Template And the Terrible Two's

I was irritated with the old template that could not support links. I'm going to add a recipe index as soon as I can get twenty minutes of quiet (ok fine, fifteen) though at the moment, that's not looking too hopeful. Let me know if anything looks funny or off kilter in your browser.

It's ok really-I understand that it is a two year old's job to figure out what is, and is not permitted via deplorable behaviour. And it is my job to let him know that pooping in the small space between his bed and bookcase is not acceptable behaviour-see how simple parenting is! If only I could get him to stop screaming (for like 45 minutes straight) because his blanket was not tucked-in just so. That was fun. I keep thinking he's lucky I'm not a parent that spanks because he'd be pretty sore tonight. He may be forty before seeing his toys again though.

Between Danny's sudden immersion in the terrible two's, and my being ill, cooking has been kept to a minimum lately. I've been relying on stir-fry type meals where I can cut-up vegetables here and there throughout the day and add them to a plastic bag in the ice box. With a marinade and some rice or noodles, my husband is able to throw it all in a pan and "cook" dinner without much fuss.

Tonight I served courgettes, carrots, onions, garlic, sage and red peppers sauteed with fresh basil thyme in olive oil. The combination worked well with the cous cous I made with chopped raisins, mint, olive oil and chicken broth. I also find that diced up dried apricots are quite good in cous cous. The ratio is quite simple:

2 cups liquid=1 1/3 cups cous cous. Boil the liquid and whatever spices, fruit you like. Stir in the cous cous, cover and remove from heat. After 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and serve. Simple.

Anyway, I'm off to bed before the kid wakes up screaming because his socks came off in bed or some other earth shattering catastrophe demands we all come running as he wails like the banshee.


Monday, July 30, 2007

What I've Been Up To

Now that the gift has been received I can show it, and tell the story behind it.

I can do an acceptable job of embroidery and lace making. Unfortunately, I've never learned to hand sew-but that wasn't enough to keep me from making a quilt, for a gift no less.

I know what you're thinking, and it's true-purchasing a book might well have answered those vexing questions such as "what the hell is a "top knot?", that had me squinting at pictures on line trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I could have even bought a pattern, but you know patterns are for people who don't know how to sew and…. (Wait a minute…) well anyway, the unevenness of it will hopefully lend it some charm. I had to work with what I had on hand for fabric, which instead of being limiting actually forced me to be a bit more creative. I do wish I'd considered the actual quilting when I was designing the quilt blocks, but once they were in I had little choice but to work around them.

About six years ago I began embroidering the blocks for a king sized quilt of interlocking rings. Every few years I unpack it, think about putting it together and then pack it away again. Since I had all the screw-ups fresh in my mind from the last quilt, I decided to bite the bullet and go ahead and piece the blocks together. Amazingly, it worked. Unfortunately, the binding and backing I had purchased for it looked completely wrong when I unpacked them. I looked at the receipt in the bag and realised I purchased the fabric the day before I found out I was pregnant-which explains the atrocious selection of calico. I knew "baby brain" could make one forgetful but apparently it makes women colour blind as well.

So last weekend, after it cooled off a bit, I dragged my behind over to the fabric store and bought a very understated white on white for the backing and a pale blue gingham for the binding. And then, after swearing off ever embarking on another quilting project-I proceeded to spend too much money on (you guessed it) quilting fabric.

The quilt blocks (It is hard to see in the photo) are the chorus of The Unicorn Song. That got me thinking about other songs and stories that would make interesting quilts-here are some of the REJECTED ideas:

The Ancient Mariner-too long, and a downer besides, though the allure of embroidering a dead albatross with its eyes X'd out was hard to resist.

The Iliad: See above; subtract the bird and add a horse.

Naked Lunch-well, if you need me to explain why that would be inappropriate subject matter for a child's quilt…

Quotes from Peter Maurin's Easy Essays juxtaposed with quotes from Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People-I still might do that one, but only if I can enter it in the quilt show at the county fair.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the learning process and the opportunity to make something for a dear little girl. Hopefully, it won't fall apart with the first laundering.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Apricot Gateau

Animal Crackers
*Christopher Morley
From Songs for a Little House

Animal crackers, and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers, I think;
When I'm grown up and can have what I
I think I shall always insist upon these.

What do you choose when you're offered a
When Mother says, "What would you like
Best to eat?"
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It's cocoa and animals that I love the most!

The kitchen's the coziest place that I know;
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.

Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don't have nearly as much fun as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing
And Daddy once said he would like to be me
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea!

*Morley is probably best known for the novel, Kitty Foyle

I had this poem in mind the other day as I permitted Danny to have a slice of pie for breakfast-something I'd feel awkward doing myself as I'm allegedly so grown up. This week's cake will surely make a fine breakfast tomorrow morning with a cold glass of milk and a banana.

I'm now so good at making genoise that I can have one in the oven in less than half an hour (provided I have clarified butter on hand, which I usually do). It is a skill worth learning, as it is the base for so many interesting desserts from petit fours to baked Alaska.

The apricot filling was completely improvised as I had fresh apricots on hand. The recipe made quite a bit and I used half a cup of it to make a wonderful ice cream. Certainly, you could enjoy it on toast (or for dipping your animal crackers).

The frosting was a basic buttercream with the addition of four tablespoons of honey, which I think is a nice compliment to apricots. A bit sweet, but as the genoise is rather plain I felt the extra sweetness was called for.

As with most of the recipes I post here, nothing is etched in stone except perhaps for the proportions in the genoise. You may find kirsch or brandy a nice addition to your apricot filling, or finely diced crystalised ginger. I'd avoid vanilla though as I suspect it would overwhelm the delicate apricot flavour and fragrance.

You Will Need:

(For the Genoise)
7 eggs at room temperature
1-cup caster sugar
1-¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup clarified butter in liquid state, but cooled

Break up the eggs in the sugar and heat in a double boiler over simmering water taking care that the bowl does not touch the water (you don't want to cook the eggs). Heat until warm to the touch, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and with an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed for 15 minutes until it triples in bulk. Add the flour alternating with the clarified butter in very small amounts (a couple tablespoons of flour at a time gently folded but making sure to get everything off the bottom of the bowl). Pour into 2 9 inch pans that have been buttered and lightly floured and bake at 350 degrees f. for 20-25 minutes or until cake springs back when touched. Cool on racks.

For the Filling:

2 cups caster sugar
1-cup water
12 apricots, peeled and chopped
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cook the apricots in simmering syrup for about 20 minutes. The syrup should reduce and the apricots break down. You can gently mash them with a potato masher if they are still solid. At this point, remove from heat and add any liquor or flavorings. Remove about ½ cup of the liquid and cool slightly. Slowly in small amounts, dissolve the cornstarch in it and add to the syrup. Do this slowly as you don't want lumps. How much you add will depend on how thick a filling you like. I prefer mine slightly liquid as it thickens considerably as it cools. If you keep it thin it can be used to make ice cream, or as a topping. I'd even consider straining it as mixing it with seltzer water for a nice summertime drink. At any rate, it is always easier to add cornstarch than to thin it back down.

For the frosting:

1 stick unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey
2-3 cups confectioner's sugar

Blend the butter and honey and add enough sugar to make a spreading consistency. If you mess-up, it can be thinned with milk or cream.

Assemble once layers are cool and decorate as desired. Bring to room temperature before serving (unless it is 100 degrees in the room).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carrot Pudding

With ten pounds of carrots taking up space in my crisper bins, I knew it was time to apply myself to finding new and creative uses for them. Unfortunately, no one I know will eat carrot salad (mayonnaise, raisins, marshmallows) or I could make a big tub of the Midwestern favourite and call it a day. Given the hot weather here, creamed carrots didn't sound too promising either. I do have a recipe for a spiced carrot pie, but again, that just sounds too autumnal for a day in the mid 90's.

I settled on a carrot "pudding" (kugel, loaf, or whatever your particular culture calls it). Before I launch into the recipe, I have to share a funny story about "pudding."

Years ago, my husband worked in an office at Coolidge Corner in Brookline, Massachusetts. Businesses tend to fold pretty quickly in that location, though I've never really understood why. The location is great, good public transportation, upscale clientele-but for whatever reason, most places would be shuttered within a matter of months. This was something I would have expected bankers to take into consideration when handing out loans to small businesses which made it all the more suprising when a take-out pudding shop opened for business. Personally, I can't imagine sitting across from a banker and telling him/her that I need capital for a business called "Pudding It First". At least, not with a straight face. But someone did, and it closed shortly after opening.

I never went, but my husband did and he had ordered some sort of potato kugel that he said was actually pretty good, but that the place was empty. They did savouries as well as sweets, which might have led to some confusion over just what "pudding" meant. The old adage is true; you can't be all things to all people. Or at least all puddings.

Growing up, my mother had an old crockery bowl with a lovely blue glaze on it that was her "pudding pot." The only thing she ever baked in it was some mixture of leftover mashed potatoes with a new potato grated in, seasoned with butter and a ton of pepper and then baked. Sort of like boxty in a bowl. Anyway, it never would have occurred to her that the chocolate cornstarch stuff served cold could ever be mistaken for a vegetable dish, as she almost never made sweets. In our house pudding meant leftover potatoes, or maybe noodles with a bit of cottage cheese and cinnamon-but never chocolate.

So carrot pudding it is, and if anyone reaches this post via a search engine and is disappointed, my apologies in advance as I really just don't know what else to call it. I do think you will enjoy it, as it is quite flavourful with the addition of a large quantity of sage-but it is decidedly not dessert.

You Will Need:

2 cups grated carrots
2 cups crushed saltines (use the food processor)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 onion, finely grated
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sage
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1-cup light cream (in some places this is called Half and Half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the carrots, onion, crackers, cheese, salt, pepper and sage. In another bowl, beat the eggs and cream and then add to the other mixture. Pour into a well-greased loaf pan and bake for 1-½ hours.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vegetable And Rice Casserole With Potato Pancakes

I've been preparing vegetarian dishes lately (I think the chicken thighs were the last "meat" item I cooked) and this rice and vegetable casserole is simple to prepare and delicious hot or cold. Yes, that was a terribly punctuated run-on sentence.

The potato pancakes were also easy to prepare, and have the advantage of being made in stages that can be set aside during interruptions (perfect for those times when you're distracted by your two year old standing in the middle of the room peeing on the floor). In fact, the casserole can be assembled in stages as well; making both dishes fairly adaptable to whatever mischief your child (spouse, elderly parent, etc.) decides needs your immediate attention. If however, the people in your life are more accommodating to your time in the kitchen, disregard the prep-ahead directions and cook it all at once.

For the Casserole:

1-pound green beans cut diagonally (no, that's not etched in stone, but it will look nicer)
Boiling salted water
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1-teaspoon salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced celery
2 large tomatoes, seeded, juiced and diced
1-½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup buttered soft bread crumbs*

Early in the day, cut the green beans, cook them in salted boiling water until just soft. Drain, run under cold water in a strainer to refresh and set aside in refrigerator.

Make the rice by mixing 1-cup rice in 2 cups boiling broth. Reduce to simmer and cook covered 20 minutes until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside in refrigerator. Dice the celery and onion. Seed and drain the tomatoes. All can be kept aside until ready to assemble.

Shred the cheese, and grate the breadcrumbs.

When ready to cook:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease a large casserole. Cook the onions and celery in the butter until soft. Mix in the rice, green beans, tomatoes and 1 cup of the cheese. Turn into the casserole. Top with remaining cheese and buttered breadcrumbs. Bake 20-30 minutes. If it must be kept waiting, keep warm in the turned-off oven. This makes quite a bit of food, so you will likely have plenty to serve the following evening.

For the Pancakes:

Grate 4 medium potatoes into about 1 cup milk (you can add more to cover at the end). Add 1 tablespoon dried, minced onion flakes. Set in refrigerator, lightly covered to prevent discolouration. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a frying pan. Drain the potatoes and add 1-teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 egg, and 4-5 (or more) tablespoons of flour until it is no longer runny (a little drip is ok-but you don't want it soupy). Drop by spoonful into hot fat and fry until both sides are dark brown. Drain on a metal rack placed over a baking sheet (paper towels make soggy potatoes). If dinner will be delayed, keep warm in a small covered casserole dish, once drained).

*I make a Pullman loaf now and then and before freezing it, cut it into four or five hunks. When a recipe calls for soft breadcrumbs I have the perfect bread. It also makes excellent bread puddings, or molded sandwiches (you know, chicken pressed into a terrine with watercress and cream cheese that is then sliced and served. I'm not suggesting you make it-just pointing out that a Pullman is a good loaf for it). The recipe in Beard On Bread is quite good, though you must use all-purpose flour as bread flour will not result in the same delicate crumb and depending on the ash content of the flour, can cause the bread not to rise as expected in the tin resulting in a burned top.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Black Grape Pie

Most of the recipes I could find for grape pie called for Concord grapes with seeds and slip skins. As they are not available in this part of the country, I made these pies with black seedless grapes. I could not decide if a lattice or double crust would be better so I made both (I don't think we'll have trouble finding someone to take the second pie) As they were large, I cut the grapes in quarters first. With sweet grapes like Concord, a bit of lemon zest would be in order, but as these grapes were already somewhat tart, I limited the additions to a cup of sugar. You could add ¼ of a cup of either Port or Concord grape wine (reduce the sugar a bit if you do-that stuff is sweet) for a more "grown-up" pie, but I kept the whole thing simple here. I think the pies would do well with a bit of ice cream or heavy cream at serving time and I would serve it cold, or at room temperature-not warmed. The fragrance is amazing.

This is a source of great debate at our house, whether or not to refrigerate leftover pie. Being summer, and a rather juicy pie, I would err on the side of caution and stick it in the fridge. My husband insists that it is not necessary. Use your judgment. I don't feel that the pie is harmed any by the refrigeration, but pie purists may disagree.

You Will Need:

(For a 9-inch pie)

1 double crust (top and bottom)
4-5 cups black grapes, quartered (if large)
1-cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour (I use a highly milled one that is sold as a sauce flour)
Butter for dotting
Cream and sugar for glazing the crust

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine sugar and flour in a bowl. Mix with the cut fruit and pour into piecrust. Dot with about a tablespoon of butter. Brush heavy cream over top (or lattice) and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 30 minutes and then check it. If the top is burning, cover it with foil and lower temperature to 400. Bake about 35-40 minutes or until bubbling. Cool before serving.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Honey-Crunch Coffee Cake

Friday Cakeblogging-now with photograph of my son to indicate scale! Sorry, that joke needs explaining. When I was an undergrad one of my very favourite (though elderly) professors would show us slides from archaeological sites she'd visited or worked on that always had a photograph of her mother "for scale." In her day, it would have been very unusual for an unmarried woman to travel alone without a chaperone-so "mother" featured prominently throughout her travels. Of course, you really don't need cakes compared to a very tall two year old for scale, but then gratuitous photographs of one's child might be considered bragging. Yeah, I love the little punk. Actually, I just had a funny/not really funny thought. Anyone remember that Atom Egoyan movie about the serial killer who as a kid had to assist his mother on her cooking show and was sort of famous/infamous as the little helper? I think it was called Felicia's Journey (yeah, I could go open another window and Google it but with Windows 98 and a dial-up connection, opening another window will mean my photos take even longer to post). Anyway, isn't it amazing how I get completely off topic when I've had but three hours of sleep? Hmmm. Right now my brain is muttering "well gosh, I didn't think he'd end up a serial killer-I just posed him next to a couple of cakes…"

This coffee cake has it all-pineapple, coconut, honey, and even cornflakes in the topping! As it is not yeast raised, the preparation was quick and the clean-up simple as well. There's a very small amount of butter in the topping and a bit of cooking oil in the cake, but compared to the chocolate cheesecake and other dangers to your arteries that regularly appear at this blog-this cake is relatively light. I added 2 teaspoons of cardamom to the batter (because I really like it) but you may wish to go lighter, or not at all. The original recipe that I altered beyond recognition called for mace.

You Will Need:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon mace OR 1-2 teaspoons cardamom
8 oz tin of crushed pineapple, drained with syrup reserved
Enough milk to round up the syrup to ½ cup liquid
1 beaten egg
¼ cup cooking oil
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup crushed cornflakes
¼ cup coconut

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or pie plate. Combine in a large bowl, the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Add the required milk to the pineapple juice and add beaten egg and cooking oil. Add to the flour and beat until smooth. In a small bowl, cream together the honey and butter until light. Mix in the pineapple, corn flakes and coconut. Spread the batter in the pan first, then the topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

I know it isn't Friday, but here is this week's cake. This is the first cheesecake I've featured on the blog, and it will likely be the last as it is not the sort of thing one makes often. Obviously, it will be a better cake if you make your own graham crackers. As I make a batch every Monday (kids go through a lot of graham crackers) it wasn't any extra work. I also made use of frozen raspberries and melted currant jelly for the topping. I'll warn you, it is very rich and dense-like fudge. It was a bit much for me though I did manage to eat about three bites. The boys on the other hand would have kept eating, had I let them.

For The Graham Crackers:

½ cup all purpose flour
1 ¾ cups whole-wheat flour
½ cup sugar
1-teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter cut into 1-inch pieces (keep cold)
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons honey
1-teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup cold water

Place the water in the freezer to chill as you work.

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor. Add the butter and let process until you have fine crumbs (about 1 minute). Add the water, honey, molasses, and vanilla. Process until it all comes together in a ball-about 2 minutes. Remove and roll out between sheets of waxed paper to ¼ inch thickness (or do as I do and use flexible plastic cutting boards-they are the perfect size and eliminate the need to transfer to another sheet for chilling as the whole thing may be placed in the fridge). You should have enough for two baking sheets full. Transfer to sheets and chill at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone pads if you have them. Cut chilled dough into squares and prick with a fork. With a thin spatula remove them from the pan and transfer them to the lined cookie sheet. Bake ten minutes and then check every minute thereafter until they are browned at the edges. You don't want them under baked, but burnt isn't any good either. Cool on racks-they will crisp as they cool. Store in a tightly sealed plastic bag.

For the Cheesecake

10 Graham crackers, crushed (use the food processor for this-it works great)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 lb. Cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
10 ounces (yes, you read that right) semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Raspberries and currant jelly for topping

Brush the inside of an 8-inch springform pan with melted butter. Set in the freezer. Combine the cracker crumbs with the remaining melted butter and press into the chilled pan. Let sit in the fridge at least an hour until set.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat softened cream cheese until smooth (about 3 minutes). Add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in melted chocolate. Pour into pan and bake 45 minute-60 minutes or until sides are set and centre is still soft. Turn off heat and let sit in oven until oven is cool. Then chill well (at least 4 hours) before removing from pan and topping.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Baked Lentil Casserole And Curried Mushrooms In Pastry

I'll start off by saying if you don't like baked beans, you will not like these lentils, as that is essentially what they are. However, if you do like the taste of tomato and molasses-this casserole will blow your mind.

The mushroom pastry is sort of interesting in that the dough is made from cream cheese, butter and flour. I don't see why you couldn't use yoghurt in place of the cream cheese, as that's the basic flour I use for samosas though these are baked rather than fried. The original recipe called for a whopping 9 ounces of cream cheese! I made it with three and still had delicious dough that handled well.

For the Lentils:

(Pre-soak the lentils a good three hours before cooking).

1 lb. Lentils-sorted, washed and soaked
1 onion studded with 4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
5 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped onion (dried ok)
½ teaspoon liquid smoke

Cook the lentils in a large pot with the onion, bay leaf and water. Simmer covered (with a crack to vent) for about ½ hour. Drain reserving 1 cup of liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine everything else and mix with lentils and 1 cup of cooking water. Bake in a large, covered casserole for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and bake fifteen minutes more. I served it over rice, though you really don't need to. I do think it would make a killer baked potato topping.

For The Curried Mushroom Puffs:

3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup butter at room temperature
1-½ cups flour

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions
½ pound finely chopped mushrooms
½ teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup heavy cream

Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the flour and mix/lightly knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill a few hours.

Roll pastry out to 1/8 thickness and cut with a 3-inch biscuit cutter (or the bottom of a glass). Give it another roll to stretch it a bit and place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. When they are completed (you should get about 20) cover with plastic and return to the fridge while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the scallions a few minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook about three minutes until also softened. Add the curry and salt, mix well. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and then add the cream cooking s minute or so until thick. Remove from heat.

Place a teaspoon full on each round and then fold over and crimp closed with a fork. With a sharp knife, cut a small vent in each for steam. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

"City Mouse" Spice Cake

"Oh, I couldn't possibly eat a peanut" said the City Mouse to the Country Mouse. "In the city, I only dine on spice cake and I dance on a velvet carpet."

Rude guest that she was, the city mouse might have had a point about spice cake. There are as many variations on spice cake as there are people that bake them. I've seen recipes that have them baked in layers, coated in fluffy cooked frosting and then covered in toasted coconut. I've eaten spice cakes with and without fruit, with cream cheese frostings, with little spice but cinnamon or heavy with nutmeg, ginger and brandy. If you're really planning ahead, you can soak the raisins in brandy a day ahead of time. Don't you dare toss out that soaking brandy! Drink it with a bit of ginger ale.

The recipe that follows is a compilation of many different attempts. You can substitute chopped crystalised ginger for an even more interesting cake. Rather than deal with frosting (oh, how I hate preparing cooked frostings) I made a simple glaze of confectioner's sugar and water.

You Will Need:

1 cup raisins-plumped with boiling water, drained and coarsely chopped.
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup softened butter
2 eggs
1-cup buttermilk
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon vanilla

Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to eggs and butter alternating with the milk. Add vanilla. Pour into either a well greased tube pan, a 9x13 layer, or 2 round layers (you will have a bit extra which can always be made into a few cupcakes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake cake for 35-40 minutes, but begin checking at 30. Glaze when cool.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kids get the funniest looks on their faces savouring sweets.

Danny had just woke up from an afternoon nap (dig the tossled hair) and followed the "smells" ("I smell smelly smells mama"-translation, "baking") to the kitchen where he found (as requested earlier) a tray of brownies.

Along with a cup of cold milk, home baked brownies are as good a way as any to wake-up, don't you agree?

Scroll down for the recipe.

I'm not a brownie expert. I don't even particularly like them. I tried making the recipe on the back of the Baker's Chocolate once and it was a disaster, thereafter I've always figured there were more interesting things to bake.

The hazard of buying your children books is that they ask questions. Danny has an oversized children's cookbook in Spanish (the idea is to help them put the language skills to use making something).

Danny: (pointing to photograph) What are those?
Mama: Brownies. They're a type of cake.
Danny: (Interested) Chocolate cake? (His voice goes up a bit when he's excited)
Mama: (sighing) Yes.
Danny: Mama will make brownies for Danny. (Note, he made it a declarative sentence, not a question).

Only problem of course is that I don't really know how to make brownies, and my Spanish isn't good enough to follow the recipe in his book. My first impulse was to go heat some egg yolks over a double boiler and then whip them…I stopped myself. Look, the kid asked for brownies, not a bloody gateau.

I found the following recipe in the American Heritage Cookbook. I omitted the nuts and it still turned out fine.

You Will Need:

4 oz. Unsweetened chocolate
½ cup butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1-cup flour
1-teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat (or use a double boiler if you're really inept with melting chocolate-some people are). Cool. Add vanilla. Beat the eggs until very light and of a marshmallow consistency. Slowly add the sugar as you go. Fold the chocolate/butter into the eggs. Then fold in the flour. Add nuts if desired. Pour into pan and bake 30 minutes.

I do not like what chocolate syrup has become in the last few years-a thick, cloying combination of cheap cocoa and corn syrup. So I made my own, and you can too! Five minutes is all it takes-you can spare five minutes for a jar of homemade chocolate syrup can't you? Having it on hand might be dangerous though, particularly if you're like me and love chocolate phosphates (chocolate syrup and seltzer water).

You Will Need:

4 oz. (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate or 2 cups powdered cocoa
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Break-up the chocolate squares into small pieces. In a heavy bottomed pot (enamel over cast iron works best) mix the sugar and chocolate together. Over medium heat, slowly add the water, stirring. Bring it to a slow simmer (watch it so it does not scorch) and stir for five minutes or until it has reduced a bit and starts to thicken. Remove from heat, cool slightly and add vanilla. Pour into a glass jar and let cool uncovered in the refrigerator. Cover when completely cooled.

This recipe is very simple to prepare, and as it is baked, requires less attention while cooking than other methods.
My husband remembers his grandmother making a nearly identical dish. I can't imagine when she found the time as she was always knitting beautiful, elaborate clothing for her grandchildren (which her Great Grandchild is now making use of).
I suppose it was the breadcrumbs, butter and parsley, but the dish made me think of chicken Kiev (which I have not made in a while-maybe I should).
For 6 Pieces:
Chicken Thighs
2 cups white bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped flat parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash and clean chickens trimming away excess fat.
Combine bread crumbs, parsely, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl. Melt butter in another bowl. Dip the pieces of chicken in the butter, then quickly cover with crumbs. Place in a baking dish (a 9x13 works great) so that the pieces do not touch. Drizzle extra butter on top of pieces and bake, uncovered for an hour or until tender.

Monday, July 09, 2007


(Blogger is still giving me a javascript error for titling posts, so sorry for the look of things)

These are not the typical cardamom rolls I make which are really more like glazed rolls with spice and grated orange peel. Instead, I've taken a simple dinner roll recipe (returning to the Better Homes And Gardens cookbook) and added 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom. You could of course, omit it or go ahead and add the teaspoon of grated orange peel. I formed them into both butter horns and cloverleaf, though I think the cloverleaf are far more attractive.

The recipe uses the same quick-mix method featured in the Lingonberry Coffeecake last Friday. I find it works well, and anything that saves me a bit of work these days is welcomed with open arms.

This recipe will make about 24 cloverleaf rolls.

You Will Need:

4 ½- 5 cups all purpose, or bread flour (I used bread flour for mine)
4 ½ teaspoons granulated yeast (yes, it is quite a bit)
1-cup milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the yeast. In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter, sugar and salt over low temperature just until the butter melts. Cool to lukewarm. Pour milk mixture into the flour and yeast. Add the eggs. Beat on low speed of mixer for 30 seconds. Then, beat on high for 3 minutes, scraping sides occasionally.

By hand, stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place in a buttered bowl; turn once to coat and then cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel. Let rise 1-1 ½ hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down and let rest 10 minutes. Grease 24 muffin cups or a baking sheet if making other shapes, and divide dough into rolls. Cover, and let rise another 45 minutes before placing in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for about ten minutes (they may need as long as 15 depending on your oven).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

(Blogger is messed-up and I cannot title my post in the typical way)


For some reason Christian Brothers brandy was on a very major sale at the supermarket yesterday. Seven dollars a bottle with a $3.00 rebate by post is enough of a bargain that I'm considering laying in a stock. Not that I would actually drink it, mind you. No, cheap brandy is best used preserving fruit, particularly peaches and pears.

My husband has been concocting a frozen-slushie type treat from ripe slices of peaches mixed with caster sugar and brandy. After a couple hours in the freezer, the peaches absorb the liquor and the sugar helps break down their texture. I've offered to puree it for him and process it in the ice-cream maker, but he insists that it is enjoyable as is.

My real motivation for buying the brandy is for pears. In the late fall, seckel pears (a small reddish variety) are available for a short time. While unremarkable eaten out-of-hand, they improve greatly when cooked in lemon juice and sugar and then sealed in a sterilised jar with enough brandy to cover. As we get closer to fall, I'll post the directions in detail. If you put them up around Thanksgiving (late November for those outside the US) they will be full of boozy (if that's not already a word, it is now) joy by Christmas. Who wouldn't love a jar full of fruit soaked in alcohol? The hardest part is peeling the tiny pears so that they retain their shape, but with practice and a good knife, it can be accomplished.

The first year that I made them, I hadn't a clue what I was doing. I was also young with plenty of disposable income to toss out thoughtlessly so when I went to buy brandy for the project, I didn't buy a bottle of $7.00 VS brandy. Oh no, at 24 years of age I was oblivious enough to preserve them in Asbach, to the tune of something like $25.00 a bottle. One of my friends who received a jar as a gift told me that she detested pears, and tossed them, but that the brandy was wonderful!

I find that the preserved fruit is best served with vanilla ice cream or if you're lucky enough to have it available-double cream.

One other use for cheap brandy that my husband devised is a drink made of 2 oz. Lemon liquor*, ½ oz-1 oz brandy, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Serve over ice.

*The lemon liquor is made by mixing 5 cups vodka with the peel of 4 lemons (remove as much pith as possible). Place jar in refrigerator and shake once every day for two weeks. Remove peel at the end of two weeks, strain into a clean jar through a double thickness of cheesecloth (to catch the oils from the rind) and stir in 1 ½ cups caster sugar. This recipe also works with orange. I have some cherries soaking in vodka at the moment-I'll let you know how it turns out in a week or so.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lingonberry Sunburst Cofee Cake

The recipe for this coffee cake is from the Better Homes and Gardens Home Made Bread Book, copyright 1973. It is rather evocative of the 70's, don't you think? I went ahead and substituted lingonberry jam for currant jelly and I used double the amount of lemon zest called for in the recipe-otherwise, it is presented much as it was written.

You Will Need:

2-½ -2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons granulated dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening
1 egg
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
¼ cup jam preserves or jelly
Confectioner's icing (powdered sugar mixed with water until pourable)

In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast. Heat the milk, sugar, shortening and salt until just warm, stirring to melt the shortening. Add to dry mixture and beat at low speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Then beat on high for three minutes. By hand, stir in enough flour to make stiff dough. Knead on a floured board until smooth and elastic. Place in a buttered bowl and turn once to coat. Cover and let rise 1-2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down and let sit, covered for ten minutes.

Butter a baking sheet. Roll out dough until it is a 10x8 inch rectangle. With a doughnut cutter, cut a dozen pieces, reserving the centres. Place the holes in a small circle. Place the circles around them, stretching to elongate them slightly. Cover and let rise 40-45 minutes or until light and nearly doubled. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 12-15 minutes until done. Cool on a rack. When cool, fill holes with jam and ice with confectioner's glaze.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Only Entrant In Cake Contest...Comes In Second!


Grandmother Jenny Brown was awarded second prize for her sponge cake (due to cooling rack indentations) even though she was the only person to enter a cake. Those are some tough judges.

I do wish they had printed her recipe-it looks wonderful.

Baking Powder Biscuits or How I Survive Summer in Nebraska

I loathe summer. I've never understood how people can live in places like Florida where it (typically) does not snow. I can still remember a road-trip when I was eight from Chicago to St. Louis-in July. In a '74 Dodge, Dart-sans air conditioning of course. The second-hand smoke from my sister would have been bad enough without the hundred degree, thick, humid air making it stick to my skin and clothes. Then, for extra fun and laughs I was dragged to an amusement park so that I might be spun about in circles in the unbearable heat. There was a perfectly good pool back at the hotel, but no-we had to ride the vomit-a-rama.

I was the kid that stayed inside all summer reading.

Not much has changed. I still can't stand hot weather, and now I have the added bonus of illness that requires me to stay out of the sun. Believe me, it wasn't like I was about to pull out a lawn chair and sunbathe.

This is a bad time of year to be a bread baker. The idea of heating my oven to 500 degrees AND creating steam is just too much for me. Instead, I've been experimenting with biscuits as they bake quickly, without steam.

I'm going to post two of the more unusual ones I've made lately. One makes use of heavy cream in place of shortening, and the other is rich with cottage cheese. The cream biscuits come from Beard on Bread, and the cottage cheese recipe from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook.

Cream Biscuits: (makes about 16)

2 cups all purpose flour
1-teaspoon salt
1-tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¾ to 1-cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons melted butter

Sift dry ingredients together. Add cream until it makes a soft dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead 1 minute. Pat out to ¾ inch thick. Cut in rounds or squares and dip tops in butter. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees F. for 15-18 minutes. Serve warm.

For the Cottage Cheese Biscuits: (makes about 2 dozen)

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup butter
1-cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2/3 cup milk, approximately.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift flour, baking powder, and one teaspoon of the salt into the bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut in butter until coarse. Mix in the cottage cheese and remaining salt and chives. Add to the flour mixture. Add enough milk to make a soft dough.

Turn out on floured board and knead half a minute. Pat into ½ inch thickness and cut into rounds. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes or until done.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4th of July Cherry Tarts

Still enjoying this summer's cherries, I made some very simple tarts with plenty of the filling left to go atop the vanilla ice cream I prepared earlier. Serve it up in blue dishes, and you have a festive Fourth of July dessert.

This recipe will give you enough filling for a single pie or a dozen tarts with leftover for ice cream.

You Will Need:

Prepared tart shells (use your favourite recipe)
3 cups pitted cherries (I used dark sweet ones, add more sugar if using sour)
1-cup water
1-tablespoon water
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 2/3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Whipped cream

Gently boil cherries in water for five minutes. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch, mixing well. Slowly add the tablespoon of water and mix until smooth (you may need a bit more). Remove cherries from heat and slowly stir the sugar/starch mixture into the cherries taking care that cornstarch does not begin to lump. When it is all incorporated, return to heat, bring to a boil and cook for 1 additional minute. Scrape into a bowl and cool before chilling thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Top with whipped cream.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Chicken Thighs With Paprika And Sour Cream

You may have noticed I rarely cook poultry or beef. After 17 years as a vegetarian, I still largely avoid most "meat" unless it is preserved goose or a lamb chop. Given cost constraints, we don't have those things too often. As a result, most of the recipes you read here rely on beans, cheese and a good many eggs. Our son has never eaten meat, and I intend to keep it that way as he is happy enough eating as he does. I suspect our days of even occasional meat will be ending as soon as Danny is able to question why we eat something he does not. Most nights though, we all sit down to the same meatless meal.

That said, I cooked chicken thighs for dinner this evening because my husband really likes them and they were inexpensive at the market this week. My first thought was to fry them, but that's awfully unhealthy. So I did the next best thing-I smothered them in 2 cups of sour cream! Hey, at least it has some calcium.

The dish is best served with rice, as it will soak-up the excess sauce. I made spatezel, which worked fine, but we were left with quite a bit of extra sauce (and with dairy prices being what they are, who wants to waste?). I also served sautéed green beans and red peppers with onions and herbs.

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 teaspoons salt (less if using bouillon rather than stock)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
4-6 chicken thighs
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons flour
2 cups sour cream
Rice or Noodles

Heat the butter in a heavy pot and cook onions until golden. Add salt and paprika and then the chicken. Brown slightly on each side and then add broth. Cover and simmer slowly until cooked-about 40 minutes.

Remove chicken to a plate and let cool before removing skin and bones. Let cooking liquid cool slightly as well. Combine flour and sour cream and add to cooking liquid, whisking quickly. Strain through a sieve and return to pot along with chicken pieces. Heat again but do not boil. Serve over a bed of rice or noodles.