Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Halloween Fun

Science building at Creighton University
Please. Please don't throw away lab pants.
At the Haunted Physics Lab. They let 6 year olds do laser shows.
The lights were timed to music. Very cool. They also had a disembodied, Department Head, you could ask questions of. He seemed annoyed when Danny wasn't frightened and wanted to know how the illusion worked. He did show him before abruptly sending kiddo on his way.
At the Ak-Sar-Ben (that's Nebraska backward) Aquarium. Where else can you take your kid for .50 cents admission?
These are the mounted, prize winning catches from Nebraska waters. Note the paddlenose.
-Also at the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium, where they have a room filled with stuffed and mounted birds and animals.
-and some live ones like snakes and frogs.
It seemed the obvious place to take Danny in his Halloween costume for a trial run. He's a Rainbow Trout.
I wonder if the fish were freaked out by the large trout?
Anatomy lessons for little trout.
Relax kid, you're not an invasive species.

"Look! I caught a human! I'd like to have him weighed and certified, I think he's a record breaker."

The people at the aquarium were good sports about letting us parade about taking photos and engaging in general silliness. We also made a trip to Unity of Omaha for the "Trunk or Treat" where people hand out candy from their cars. That was fun, and right away, someone recognised Danny was a rainbow trout-that made him feel better about his homemade costume.

I'll be ready to drop by this time tomorrow night, but Halloween is so much fun it will be worth it. I still can't believe that costume worked. It is little more than foam board, aluminum foil, construction paper, mylar film, and a sharpie. I guess all those years doing technical theatre have finally paid off.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Festive Fruitcakes/Holiday baking

I'm going to gear-up the Festive Fruitcakes blog again this year to post holiday recipes from my (too) large collection of vintage/historical cookery books. Last year, I limited it to the Christmas cakes, but this year I'd like to include puddings, biscuits and candies.

I'll remind people from time to time, but I would love to have your additions to it. Send the recipe to me, or make it, post it, and I'll get up a link. We'll figure out a way to make it work.

While some people find holiday baking stressful, I consider it therapeutic. Feel free to direct your holiday baking questions to me as well, and I'll do my best to give you a helpful answer (or admit I don't know).

I know it seems early, but Christmas cakes and puddings really do require time to properly mature (like the ones I have preserved from last year!) and by the start of November, that window begins rapidly closing. It is also time to begin food gifts (preserves, candies, etc.) and making the cards. Can you tell I really enjoy this sort of thing?

Yeah, and a "Happy Harvest" to You Too.

I took Danny to the pre-Halloween trick-or-treating at Hy-Vee today. I knew the candy wouldn't be OK for an allergic kid, but I wanted an opportunity to try out the complicated costume before Monday. He didn't care about the candy, but had a great time showing off his costume. Nearly everyone told him he looked adorable, except for the mean church lady.

Mean church lady had husband and two children in tow. When the children looked at Danny, she loudly said:

"Stop looking at him. I'm so sick of these people with their costumes."

Uh, right. Have a nice day too, OK? It took every ounce of tolerance I possess not to lean in close to her face and scream, "BOO!"

*I'll have pictures in costume posted eventually. We're still doing finishing touches.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

This can be served warm or at room temperature over rice, or as I did tonight, cous cous.

You Will Need:

4 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cups chickpeas
2 stalks celery, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch cinnamon
Chopped green olives to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a frying pan over medium heat, add about 2 tablespoons of oil, the celery, garlic, lemon, parsley, thyme, sage, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook just until the celery begins to soften. It should still have some crunch. Add the chickpeas, salt and pepper, and mix well. Stir in the tomatoes and olives. Cook until just heated through.

Pumpkin Pasties

Some people might be inclined to think both pumpkin and potatoes is a bit much. You shouldn't invite those people to dinner.

First, let's clear something up. A "Pasty" in most of the English speaking world is a pastry filled with a savoury. In America (and possibly Canada-I'm not sure) it is something a stripper wears to conceal her nipples. I don't think these would withstand vigourous pole dancing, but feel free to try.

The dough will make about a dozen decent sized pasties, but you will probably have leftover filling. I'm planning to dump my extra into a fritatta for the weekend. Although it has some potatoes, I think they would do OK for a short stay in the freezer as well.

For The Dough:

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, cold and diced tiny
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Sift flour and salt together. Cut in butter. Add water a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Let stand a few minutes before rolling out.

For the filling (can be made well ahead in stages)

1 small pumpkin, roasted with a bit of olive oil and salt, then cooled.
2-3 medium potatoes, diced, parboiled, and drained. Let cool.
2 stalks celery, finely minced
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Olive oil for sauteing

In a frying pan, heat a small amount of oil (1-2 tablespoons) and cook the celery, onion, garlic, parsley, and thyme until celery and onions are soft and begin to brown. Mix with cooled pumpkin and potatoes. Let all chill before enclosing in pastry.

Put it together:

How large you want these is a matter of taste, just be sure to roll thin (about 1/2 inch at most) and pinch the sides closed well. Pierce the tops with a sharp knife, then chill 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Prepare a wash for the top of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon cream. Brush the tops before placing in oven. Bake 10 minutes, then rotate pan and bake another 10-15 minutes or until deeply golden and firm to the touch. Cool on racks if storing, or allow to stand a few minutes and serve hot.

Holiday Favourites-Halloween Nut Free

There's still time before Halloween to make some treats for your allergic friends. I'll leave turning tricks to you.

dy Apples:

Caramel Apples:

Apple Dumplings

Apple Turnovers

Cider Pie

Halloween Spice Cake With Rolled Buttercream Frosting

Nut-Free Twix

Nut-Free Sky Bar

Orange Brittle -nut freeNut Free Candy Corn/Pumpkins

Earl Grey Caramels

Licorice Caramels

Lavender Caramels

Cinder Toffee

Chocolate Covered Malted Milk Candy

Yeast Risen Barmbracks

Cranberry Applesauce

Caramel Corn

Savoury Pumpkin Fritters


Potato Yeast Risen

Spicy Cake Doughnuts

Apple Fritters

Jellied Fruit Candy

Apricot Pate de Fruit

Hard Candy

Butterscotch Candy

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Not Exactly Bubble and Squeek

I don't know what to call this, so I'll just tell you what it is. I shredded cabbage and a turnip as fine as possible. I mixed it with an equal part of mashed potatoes. I buttered the cast iron pan, patted it into a cake and cooked it about 15 minutes until it was browned. I flipped it onto a plate, repeated the same on the other side, and cut it into wedges to serve. It is a very Spartan sort of potato dish as there isn't any fat save for the butter used in the pan. Somehow it worked anyway. Certainly it would have been better to add some cream or butter to the potatoes, or cook the cabbage and turnip in fat, but if you want a "less guilty" way of enjoying potatoes, this might suit you. Topping it with sour cream defeats this, of course.

Blogger is having trouble with photo uploads at the moment-I'll post it when I can.

Thursday Used Book Sale at Swanson Library in Omaha

The weather and my chores finally worked together, and look at the treasures I brought home from the sale this time.

Most of the books were between .25 and .50 cents. A few hardcovers were marked a dollar. I spent under twenty dollars and came home with a few dozen books. Good quality stuff too. The Oxford Middle Ages book was really a steal for a buck.

I really need to make more of an effort to get there regularly.

Speaking of books-we are constructing a small reading room within our home library. I'll explain. We've purchased shorter bookcases and hinged them together so that they become two-sided. When it is completed, there will be a sort of room within the room (it is a very large room) with a seating and study area within the enclosed square. Both front and back will house books (as the cases will be back to back. Does this make any sense? I'll post photos when it is completed. We've done four so far, and they look terrific. I suppose it is enabling behaviour on the part of my I can now buy books without a thought to housing them. I mean, what does he expect me to spend money on, baubles or a car that isn't held together with duct tape?

Oooh, pumpkin. I love pumpkin.
Yep, this is an old edition, the pages are yellowed with time, and well-splattered with sauces. Perfect.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

*Shakes Head Bewildered*

Paleolithic dining in Berlin.

I can't even tag this, "Ask the Anthropologist" because I wouldn't know what the fuck to say.

Westward Expansion Era Chocolate Potato Spice Cake

I had to re-name this cake for the sake of Google search hits. There's a blogger, maybe you know her, who has a rather popular chocolate cake recipe. Her name is like that Cather book, "O________s" Now, I would feel awful if people looking for her cake came here and found this one, so to avoid confusion, I took the "P" word out and went for Westward Expansion. OK? Get it?

Not that this cake isn't worth finding, because it is just swell. I had to improvise a filling and frosting as the recipe did not offer either, but I think what came together was rather nice. I still can't decorate a cake for shit, but icing a cake in the back of a Conestoga wagon is harder than it looks, and the boning in my corset is making me irritable. I have my doubts about the authenticity of this recipe based on some of the ingredients (and cost) but it was still fun to make.

For The Cake:

3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 8 inch pans (the recipe called for square, but I own round).

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Sift together the dry ingredients. Mix the potatoes into the buttermilk. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk. Add the flour and milk alternating begining and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not over-beat.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter. Pour into prepared pans and bake 45 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then on racks.

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups raisins
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Mix well over medium heat and cook until mixture thickens. Cool completely before using.

The frosting is just a cooked white frosting with a generous flavouring of vanilla.

Potato Bread

This is a quick, one rise bread with a moist crumb and a lovely crackling crust. I used a Dutch oven to create the steam and as you can see, it is nearly as perfect a loaf as one could wish for. I see some butter and tomato sandwiches for tomorrow's dinner.

You Will Need:

1 cup russet potatoes put through a food mill until smooth and fluffy.
2 cups warm potato water (the water you cook the potatoes in)
2 1/4 teaspoons granulated (not instant) yeast
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4-5 cups strong flour (bread flour)

Prepare the potatoes and let cool. Proof the yeast with the sugar in the potato water. Add 1 cup of the flour and the mashed potatoes. Mix until smooth. Add the salt and the remaining flour until you have a dough that can be handled without sticking too horribly (it will be somewhat sticky. Knead well. Place in a well-buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 2 hours. 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. with the covered Dutch oven inside.

Carefully remove the Dutch oven lid (I place a hot pad atop it lest I forget and try to pick it up again)dump the dough into it, cover, and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid, and continue baking another 15-20 minutes or until bread has an internal temperature of around 200 degrees F. Cool on rack.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Can See Him Saying That to a Date Someday

Danny comes into the room to say goodnight.

Danny: All right, pucker up and get ready for your kiss.

He was so matter-of-fact about it.

Coffee Crisp Still Exists?

-apparently it does, in Canada.

That was the very best candy bar. The Best. When it disappeared from stores I assumed it was a casualty of changing tastes. I'm a good day's drive from the Canadian border, but at least with the cooler weather, it won't melt.

I don't really think Mr. ETB will drive to Canada this weekend so I can buy candy (probably not "nut-safe" anyway) but I'll still complain about it. Canadians get everything. Breathtaking national parks, socialised medicine, dulse (ok, maybe they can keep the dulse) and all the good candy. They get wine gums as well. Crunchie bars are pretty good too, but I already know how to make cinder toffee.

What other forgotten 20th Century delicacies are you guys hoarding up there? Marathon bars?

Ukrainian Lasagna

Fine, there's no such thing as Ukrainian lasagna-but if there were, this would be it. Think of kasha varnishkas with cheese and sauce. I wasn't sure buckwheat would make a good lasagna noodle, but it works for soba. Yes, this is really how my thought process works. I thought about adding beets and cabbage, but opted for a salad instead.

(Come on, doesn't that make you want to drink to excess, write depressing poetry, possibly emigrate to Canada?)

You Will Need:

For the noodles:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole large egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 cup buckwheat flour
1-1 1/2 cups pasta flour (semolina/durum blend)

Beat the eggs until light and slightly thickened. Beat in the water and salt. Beat in the buckwheat and half of the semolina. Add the remaining semolina (more or less) until you have a very stiff dough. Wrap in cling film and let rest 20 minutes before rolling.

For the Cheese Filling:

16 ounces cottage cheese, drained and forced through a sieve. I drained mine in the fridge overnight.
2 large eggs, beaten
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
A generous grind of black pepper
2-3 tablespoons of hard cheese

For the Grated Cheese:

1 lb. cheese, grated. Use a combination of hard and semi-firm cheeses. I used Swiss for the semi, and parmesan, paive, and something else (I can't remember) to round it out. Use what you like, but make sure to balance it so you don't end up with an overly runny cheese layer. I wouldn't use mozzarella.

For The Sauce:

4 cups (1 qt.) vegetable or beef broth (You can use milk, but with all that cheese, I thought it would be overkill)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
A generous grind of black pepper
In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. With a wooden spoon work in the flour, stirring constantly until it foams. Slowly whisk in the liquid. Keep whisking and cooking until the thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

For The Kasha/Mushroom Filling (Can be made up to a day ahead)

4 tablespoons butter, divided
16 ounces mushrooms, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats) rinsed and drained
2 large egg whites, beaten (save the yolks for making the noodles)
2 cups vegetable or beef flavoured broth
Black pepper to taste (I like a lot of black pepper with grains)

In a large frying pan or stock pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook the onions and mushrooms until soft over medium heat. When the onions are soft and the mushrooms have thrown off most of their liquid, Push everything to one side of the pan. Add the remaining butter on the cleared side. Toss the kasha with the beaten egg whites and add to the buttered side of the pan. With a metal spatula, scrape and move the kasha until it is dry. Mix with the onions and mushrooms, and add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook until nearly all the liquid is absorbed (It will absorb more upon standing).

Put That Damn Thing Together:

Cook and drain your noodles. Let them cool before handling unless you enjoy burning your fingertips. Hey, I'm not judging if you do. That's between you and your lasagna noodles. Me? I prefer to let them cool. I'm kind vanilla that way.

Get out your best 9x13 lasagna pan. Grease it for easier clean up. Start layering. The final layer should be sauce and grated cheese. Place it on a baking sheet, cover it with foil and bake it 40 minutes in in a 350 degree F. oven. Remove the foil and bake another 20-30 minutes or until the top is deeply golden. Here's the part no one does, but I feel obligated to mention anyway-let that lasagna alone for a full ten minutes. Fifteen is better. It will be easier to slice, and as it is already an unapetising shade of greyish brown, you won't help it any by having it sqim across the plate. Go check your email or something, then slice into it.

If you have leftover kasha:

I had kasha, noodles and sauce, but was out of cheese. I cut the noodles into small strips, combined it with the kasha and sauce and froze it. This will be a handy side dish some evening when I don't feel like cooking.

Cider Update

I had one of the Crispin Hard Ciders tonight. It reminds me of apple wine, but not the nice kind. Rather, the sort of thing underage teens consume, and if you were the sixteen year old version of my husband, followed with fried chicken, a bus ride, and an evening that ended with vomiting in the churchyard. OK, he had two bottles that night.

While I appreciate the potent amount of alcohol by volume, I don't know what I'll do with the other three pints. I don't think I could drink another.

Too bad, I really wanted to find a hard cider I could enjoy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rice Pudding

OK, it isn't a beautiful photograph, but really, this is a delicious rice pudding (photographed in terrible light).

Most rice pudding recipes either call for simmering it on the hob, or baking it. This was a combination of both, and while it seemed a bit more work than needed at the time, it turned out just as lovely as a rice pudding can be.

Personally, I like my rice pudding with cardamom and rose water, but I knew Danny would balk at that, so I stuck to cinnamon and raisins. Not that there's anything wrong with cinnamon and raisins in a rice pudding-because there isn't, but rose water and cardamom shouldn't be overlooked for something a bit special.

This makes an ungodly amount of rice pudding, but it keeps well. The recipe is a regional American version credited to a recipe from Minnesota. The recipe called for lingonberry jam topping, but I have cherry preserves open, so that's what the boys will be getting. I'm not the sort of mother that goes opening jars of my precious bottled jams just because a recipe says to. The lingonberries are for duck. I'm the jam-shelf fascist.

From The New York Times Heritage Cookbook, Jean Hewitt, ed.

You Will Need:

1 cup uncooked regular long grain rice
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 quart milk (I used 1% because I couldn't really imagine using whole milk and cream for this-do as you like)
1 stick cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar or to taste (I used vanilla sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs beaten (I used extra large eggs)
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup lingonberry preserves

Place rice and water in a a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook ten minutes. Add the cream, milk, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a very low simmer. Cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter a large baking dish. Cool rice mixture slightly. Remove cinnamon stick. Stir in salt, sugar, eggs, and raisins. Pour into prepared dish and bake about 30 minutes or until set. Serve warm or chilled, topped with the preserves.

Rum with Ginger Syrup

I saved the syrup I used to candy ginger last week. I had a few ounces of rum left in a bottle that was taking up precious counter space. What can you do with a few ounces of rum? Well you drink it, of course. With ginger syrup stirred in. A classy person might have grabbed some ice, possibly some seltzer or lime soda. Me? Let's just say I was tempted to avoid cleaning a glass by pouring the syrup directly into the bottle, but then I thought better of it. Not because I'm sophisticated or anything, but because I'm old, with unsteady hands and it probably would have made a bigger mess getting the syrup into the bottle.

If you find yourself making candied peel or ginger, etc. Save the syrup-it makes a wonderful drink.

Remember Those Uninteresting Cheesecake Bars?

I made them more interesting.

Is there anything that can't be made better by putting it on a stick, dipping it in chocolate, and freezing it? OK, maybe not kidneys, or beef jerky, or cod. Cod would be bad. But these? These were greatly improved with the addition of chocolate. And a stick. Because I live in America, and that's a civic duty to impale our most nutritionally lacking food, and either fry it or coat it in chocolate. Look, I don't make the rules.

Chocolate coated cheesecake on a stick. How's that for recycling?

Lumpia-Gourmet Magazine June 1972

These are not what I typically think of as, "Lumpia." At least they aren't what my friend Miriam used to make. Hers were fried. I'm pretty sure she bought the wrappers frozen as well. Still, in 1972 the western understanding of Philippine cookery might have been limited by what was served in larger cities. Traditional or not, they were eaten to the last.

A few thoughts:

I would make these smaller. What I ended up with were not unlike the size of a burrito. No one here seemed to mind, but really, they would have rolled better smaller.

I made fake ham for the filling, and skipped the seafood altogether. I have no idea if Danny is allergic to shellfish, but he's allergic to practically everything else, and I wasn't in the mood to deal with eppi pens tonight. Mr. ETB who has eaten his share of ham over the years, said I made a convincing substitute from the baked tofu. Smoked salt, corn oil, honey, cloves and cider vinegar did the trick. Tofu is kind of miraculous in the way it absorbs whatever flavour you soak it in. So that worked, I'm pleased.

The pancakes for this recipe are difficult to make. I consider myself pretty skilled with a crepe, but these were really temperamental. Cook them longer than you think you need to, and they will release from the sides. You should also whisk everything together before pouring. It didn't say to in the recipe, and it seems counter-intuitive after beating egg whites and folding yolks, but really, if you don't whisk it, you will be frying puffs of egg whites. It took a few tries, but eventually I figured it out.

This issue has an entire section devoted to aspics. 1972. God I miss the early 70's. There are few things I enjoy more than a tomato aspic. Unfortunately, no one in this household will touch it. *Sniffle*. Anyone want to come over and have a tomato aspic on iceberg lettuce with stilton? I'm suddenly possessed of a desire to learn bridge.

Because this is a vintage recipe, and possibly of interest to people that like this sort of thing, I'll post the recipe as it appeared in my copy of Gourmet in June 1972.

Make the pancakes: In a bowl beat 2 egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Fold in 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten. Dissolve 1/2 cup cornstarch (cornflour) in 1 cup of water until smooth. Add this to the egg mixture. (My note, whisk it together at this point). Heat a 6 inch crepe pan (don't be a moron like me and use a large pan) and brush it with olive oil. Pour in 2 tablespoons of batter and tilt and rotate pan to cover the bottom evenly with batter. Cook the pancake until it is firm and slide it onto a plate without turning it. Continue in this manner until all batter is used.

Make the filling:
In a skillet saute 1/2 onion, thinly sliced and 1 clove garlic, minced in 2 tablespoons olive oil until the vegetables are soft. Add 1/4 pound cooked pork, diced, 1/2 cup cooked chick peas, 1/4 cup peeled and diced raw shrimps, and 2 tablespoons chopped ham. Cook the mixture stirring for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup julienne strips of raw green bean, 1 raw carrots cut into 1 inch long julienne strips, and 4 ounces of water chestnuts, thinly sliced. Simmer the mixture, covered stirring once or twice for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup shredded cabbage and simmer covered for 5 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Add 1 teaspoon salt or to taste (If using tinned chickpeas, omit salt).

Arrange a lettuce leaf on each pancake. Put 1 tablespoon of the filling on each leaf. Fold in 2 sides of pancake, and roll them up.

Make the sauce:
In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup beef broth, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water. Simmer the sauce 1 minute. Pour into a small bowl, sprinkle it with 1/2 a chopped garlic clove, and serve it with the pancakes. Makes about 18 lumpia.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How To Make Hot Cocoa

Little did I know that becoming a parent requires a completely new set of skills, including the ability to make hot cocoa on a moment's notice. I don't actually mind the powdered/store purchased sort, but Danny thinks the stuff vile. Fair enough, I've got my system down to being able to make a fresh cup from scratch in the time it takes to boil water for the instant.

You Will Need:

1/2 ounce semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1/2 cup milk
Marshmallows, peppermint stick, or whatever bells and whistles your child prefers.

In a saucepan, combine everything and over medium heat, begin whisking, Keep going until most of the chocolate melts and the milk starts getting frothy. Remove from heat. Pour into cup (the remaining bits of chocolate will melt on standing a minute or so, but it prevents you over-heating the cocoa). Decorate, serve. Takes about 1 minute.

Baked Cheesecake Bars

I did not think these were anything special. Overall, I've been unimpressed by the recipes I've made from 201 Brownies and Bars by Gregg Gillespie. However, the boys were. In fact, they insisted I postit so I will remember to make it again. Mr. ETB felt it is the sort of thing, "people would like."

What really helped this pan of bars was the sour cherry topping. To me, it still tasted like a pound of cream cheese spread on a too-hard shortcake base, but I admit to not being much of a cheesecake lover. The other bars I've made from this book seem similarly uninspired. Granted, coming up with 201 recipes for anything would be a difficult task, so perhaps I've just hit on a handful of losers in an otherwise brilliant publication.

At least it was simple to make. I'm not going to post the recipe as the book went to great lengths indicating the publisher would be a complete asswipe if you reproduced the secret, guarded recipe for these ever-so-delicious, original,intellectual-copyrighted bar cookies. That said, I doubt the author was the first person to happen upon the idea of beating a couple eggs, some sugar and a pound of cream cheese together and baking it atop a pre-baked shortbread base. I think you could swing it without a recipe. 15 minutes for the base, then 20 for the filling ought to do it in a 350 degree F. oven.
(I'll bet no one ever thought of making cheesecake bar cookies before!)

By the way, feel free to reproduce any of my recipes you like, but be a sport and give me credit, OK?

How Would I Know What Ham Tastes Like?

Sometimes being a vegetarian can be challenging. I'm making a dish tomorrow that calls for ham. Obviously, I'm not doing that, so I went to my trusty baked tofu recipe to make a substitute. The problem is, I have no idea what ham tastes like. I've been a vegetarian most of my life, and my parents were Jewish. They didn't keep kosher, and they both enjoyed bacon and shellfish, but ham was something they didn't eat. I have no idea why not, but we never saw a pork roast, chop, or sausage either. I think they just really liked bacon. Personally, the stuff makes me ill, but I do have fond childhood memories of my mother peeling back the cardboard carton in the grocer to peek inside the bacon package looking for the meatiest one. Again, not being a meat eater, I could be wrong, but wouldn't the fattier ones taste better?

Anyway, I made a marinade of oil, honey, smoked salt, and a pinch of cloves. Does that sound about right for smoked ham? I am so completely lost with this one.

Yellow Split Pea Curry with Mock Injera

A six year old enjoying a plate of curry. Yes, that is a slice of potato kugel alongside the curry, No it isn't traditional, and yes, I put carrots in my potato kugel.

Sometimes I feel foolish posting such basic recipes, but as you can see from the photograph, Danny really enjoyed it. The bread is absurdly easy, and comes courtesy of Penniless Parenting (I swear, is there anything she can't make from scratch? If there's a next life, I want to come back as one of her kids). The curry was something I threw together.

For The Curry:

1 lb. Dried yellow split peas, sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight
6 carrots, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
3-4 tablespoons oil or ghee (I used oil)
1 veggie soup cube
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking liquid from peas
Spice mix:

1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried methe leaves (fenugreek)

Drain the soaked peas and place in a large pot. Cover well with fresh water and bring to a boil. Skim as needed. Reduce heat to simmer, cover leaving a vent for steam and cook about 2 hours until peas are tender, but not falling apart. Drain, reserving liquid.

In the same pot (why clean another?) heat the oil. Add the carrots, onions, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat until onions and carrots have softened. Add the drained peas, the salt, veggie cube, and spice mix. Stir well for several minutes to let flavours combine. You may need more oil at this point. When everything is well coated, stir in enough of the cooking liquid to cover. Simmer slowly until most of the liquid has been cooked down-then add enough to cover again. This should use up most of the cooking liquid-you can go ahead and dump it all in at this point. Simmer again until nearly cooked down. With a potato masher, break-up some of the peas to make a thicker, soupy curry. You don't want to cook all the liquid out as it thickens upon cooling and standing. You can always add more water second day if needed. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve hot over rice, with mock injera (recipe follows).

Mock Injera:

1 1/2 cups white AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2-21/2 cups seltzer water
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Oil for pan

Mix everything until you have a runny batter. Lightly grease pan, heat over medium heat (I used cast iron). Pour 1/2 cup of batter, tilt pan to coat and cook until bubbles form on top and pancake pulls from the sides. You only cook one side of this bread, and it should be soft and spongy (don't overcook it to a crispy crepe).

Serve hot (though they reheat acceptably in the microwave).

Spinach and Cheese Filled Croissants

The recipe for the croissants is unlike anything I've made before. Typically I use a combination of strong and AP flour, but this called for 1/3 cup of vital wheat gluten. I had my doubts, but the results were really lovely. The use of strong flour and wheat gluten does help prevent the butter tearing through the dough as you make the turns, it also makes it incredibly elastic and difficult to roll out. Grab your heaviest rolling pin for this one. I found that giving the dough adequate rests between turns loosened it up a bit, but it was still pretty tough rolling. Mind, I did have a rather awful fall a few weeks ago, and my shoulder and hip took the worst of it. Still, I suspect even in tip-top health, this wouldn't be like rolling out a pie crust. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The filling was improvised from what I had-two blocks of frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed dry, some garlic, cumin, thyme, and cheeses. One of the cheeses was a hard grating cheese from Greece made from sheep's milk. The cheese monger had gone to great lengths warning me that it was strong, but I didn't find that to be the case-it tasted like a dry Feta. I also used a bit of Swiss I found lurking at the back of the fridge. Holding it all together was a few tablespoons of cottage cheese. I could have lightened it with an egg, but I was concerned it would be too wet for the pastry. In the end, the boys declared the results, "just perfect". They proved the point by demolishing half the batch.

The recipe for the dough comes from Sunset Breads, Step-by-Step Techniques, 1991. I have found this slim, paper-bound volume to be incredibly useful over the years, and encourage you to grab a copy if you see one in a thrift store. I've been pleased with all of the Sunset publications (canning, cookies) and although the recipe sounded odd to me, I had a degree of confidence that it wouldn't end up being binned.

You Will Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (not instant)
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
2 1/4 cups strong flour (bread flour)
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in milk, sugar, salt and gluten flour. Mix well. With a heavy-duty mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon-my preferred method) beat in the strong flour and beat until dough is elastic and pulls from the sides in strands. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover it with cling film and chill it 30 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the butter into thin pieces and place on a wax paper covered sheet. Chill the butter as well.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour on a cold surface (I chilled my flexible cutting mat) and roll dough out into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the butter in the centre, slightly overlapping. Fold the sides over the butter and roll again until rectangle is about 3/8 inch thick. Use as little flour as possible when rolling. Fold dough in thirds again to make a square-ish rectangle. Roll and fold again in the same way. Wrap in cling film and chill 30 minutes. repeat process 2 more times, chilling between each.

Roll dough out into a rectangle 1/8 inch thick (this will take some muscle). Cut into triangles about 6 inches at the base and 8 inches long (I made mine smaller). Place filling in centre of 6 inch side of triangle and roll up, placing the point underneath. Place point down on a baking sheet, and curl in the ends (mine always pop out). Leave about 1 1/2 inches around each. I got 18 croissants from this recipe. Cover them lightly with a tea towel and let rise until quite light-about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the croissants lightly with the egg and milk mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes (rotating the pans halfway through), or until golden brown. Serve hot, or cool on a rack. When completely cool, they can be wrapped carefully in wax paper and then cling film and frozen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pastel de Natas y Crema-Cream Cake With Caramel-Gourmet Magazine April 1972

I return to the stack of ancient Gourmet magazines for this interesting cake. I browned the caramel under my oven broiler as directed-the results were less than perfect. Burnt in some spots, undercooked in others, the topping while still edible, isn't as nice as it could have been. A kitchen blowtorch might have been an odd item in 1972, but I do recommend using one if possible. Otherwise, keep rotating the pan under the broiler and hope for the best. I do wonder if the inexpensive beet sugar I used contributed to the problems-it doesn't seem impossible.
(See? I dressed it up with whipped cream. Is there anything high-fat dairy can't do?)

But hey, I made a cake midweek-so shut up and grab a seat. The cake layers and filling are still delicious, and I covered the over-browned (read, "burnt") spots with sweetened whipped cream, which might throw the complaining types. Come on, I made cake-midweek, they aren't going to complain.
(A detail of the burnt caramelised sugar)

As this is a recipe of the vintage sort, I'll go ahead and post it as written. I have no doubt this would be a stunning dessert in the hands of someone...well, anyone other than myself.

Hey everybody, look at the cake!

Butter two 8 inch round cake tins, 2 inches deep and line the bottoms with wax paper. Butter the paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat 6 egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar until the mixture ribbons when the beater is lifted. In another bowl, beat 6 egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff and beat in 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind, and 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice. Add one Fourth of the whites to the yolk mixture folding them gently but thoroughly. Pour the yolk mixture over the remaining whites and sift 1/2 cup of flour over. Fold the mixture together gently until there are no traces of white. Pour batter into pans, spread evenly with a spatula and bake in a moderate 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes (mine took 20). Loosen layers from sides of pans and turn out onto wire racks to cool. Sprinkle the top of one layer with 1/4 cup sugar, transfer it to a baking sheet, and put it under the broiler until it is carmelised. If the edges of the cake brown too quickly, cover them with a ring of foil. While the caramel is still hot, mark off portions with a knife dipped in hot water.

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (cornflour). Beat the mixture until it ribbons. Scald 1 cup of milk with 2 strips of orange peel and pour it gently into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Transfer the custard to a heavy saucepan and cook it over low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spatula. Cook until it coats the spatula (around 170 degrees F.) but do not let the mixture come to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons gelatin softened in 3 tablespoons water. Add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour through a sieve into a bowl and chill until almost set.

In a bowl, whip 1 cup heavy cream until it is stiff. Fold in 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (icing sugar) and 1-2 tablespoons of rum. Fold the custard into the cream and chill until it is almost set. Spread the mixture on the plain cake layer, cover it with the carmelised layer, and chill the cake.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Christmas Puddings-Stage One

These puddings are made with butter rather than suet, so they still look pretty light after the first steaming. They do become darker in the final two hour steam. The recipe (which I've made three years running now) comes from Grannymar. I've changed up the proportions and fruits a bit, but the technique is pretty much standard.

I made two regular sized puddings in my fancy moulds, and four of these individual sized. They are filled with all manner of homemade candied/preserved fruit, and I have great hopes for them. I did the 5 hour steaming today, so they still need an additional two hours at Christmas. I thought the smaller ones would be cute for children to have their own little pudding at Christmas.

I am so glad to have all of that over and done with. Now I can put all my attention into making Danny's yearly birthday quilt, and planning his cake. Having a child with a birthday five days before Christmas is a drag, but I try to make sure he doesn't get overlooked in all of the holiday goings-on.

Cooked Salad Dressing-Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook 1950

I needed something similar to Dorothy Lynch dressing for my tofu Reuben sandwiches. This turned out pretty close, in fact, Mr. ETB says he prefers it to French dressing. The recipe makes about 1 pt. I doubled the amount of paprika.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup sifted AP flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika (I used 1/4)
1 cup water
3/4 cup mild vinegar or lemon juice (I used a combination of lemon juice and cider vinegar)
4 egg yolks or 2 whole eggs (I used the 2 whole eggs)
1 tablespoon butter

Mix together in a saucepan the flour, sugar, salt, mustard, and paprika. Slowly whisk in the water and lemon juice/vinegar. Over medium heat, cook, whisking until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat. With a hand mixer, beat in the eggs (very slowly) and the butter until smooth. Chill before using. The dressing can be thinned with cream or sour cream if being used for a salad. It was an excellent sandwich spread being thicker.

Crusty Sourdough Rye

I've started making my rye breads with dark rye rather than light. Not only is the colour improved, but the overall texture is better. The taste, oddly isn't all that different. While I like my 3 day potato water sourdough rye, this bread makes use of the sourdough starter I've been maintaining all year. Both are excellent breads for sandwiches, though the potato loaf is softer. I did not give this loaf a cornstarch glaze when it came from the oven as it had a lovely crackly crust. Crackly crust is hard to do on rye, so I left it alone and admired my baking. I also stopped paying to have First Clear flour shipped to me from half a continent away. I'm getting terrific results using vital wheat gluten and strong (bread) flour. Honestly, no one here can tell the difference.

You Will Need:


1 1/2 cups fed sourdough starter
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dark rye flour

Dissolve the starter in water. Mix in flour. Cover with cling film and let sit 6-8 hours.

Final Dough:

All of sponge from above
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups dark rye flour
8 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
2-3 cups strong bread flour
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Mix all together and knead until smooth. Place in a greased bowl in a cool spot and let rise until doubled (about 8 hours).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. I used a Dutch oven for this, and heated it at the same time for about 40 minutes.

Carefully dump the risen dough straight from the bowl into the heated Dutch oven. Cover. Return to oven and bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove lid, and continue baking another 15-20 minutes or until deeply browned and internal temperature reads around 200 degrees F. Cool completely before slicing (sourdough rye is best if it rests several hours (or a day) before using). Makes 1 large boule.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tofu Salt Beef/Corned Beef

(scrape the pickling spice off before you serve it)

Keep in mind, that if I'm dared to cook something, odds are I'll probably do it.

I used the same method I use for baked tofu with mustard, barbecue, schnitzel, Chinese, etc. As long as there is enough oil and vinegar in the pan, the spices are pretty easy to adjust. I added a bit of food colouring to make it more appealing, but you can of course skip that.

I have a sourdough ryebread ready for baking in the morning, and tomorrow night, I plan to turn this tofu into vegetarian Reubens. Even as it was baking away in the oven, I was doubtful it would be edible, let alone bear any similarity to salt beef. Well! Yes, I am quite pleased with myself. Now I suppose I have to try the tofu chicken Kiev, just to say I tried.

You Will Need:

1 package extra firm tofu, sliced into 8 pieces, and pressed dry
6 tablespoons corn oil
3 tablespoons pickling spice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3-4 drops red food colouring

Mix everything except tofu in a bowl, whisking to combine. Pour half in a large baking dish that will let the tofu sit in a single layer (I used a 9x13). Place tofu in dish, turn once to coat, and pour remaining marinade over the top. Cover, and let sit in fridge 2-6 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake 30 minutes. Turn slices and rotate the pan to ensure even browning. Turn again, bake another 30 minutes. Mine took another twenty minutes after that, but it will depend how much water you were able to extract from the tofu, how hard you like your baked tofu, etc. It should have a bit of a char on the edges. Remove to a plate, cool. Wrap tightly in cling film and store in the fridge. It will take on a "meatier" texture as it settles after baking.

Swedish Honey Cookies-Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies

I thought the boys would balk at the coriander in them, but instead, they tucked-in like they hadn't seen food in days. When I finally mentioned the secret ingredient, they both nodded, and kept eating.

These are pretty plain biscuits. Danny says they remind him of wholemeal biscuits (there isn't any wholemeal in them, but I guess they are similarly plain) and Mr. ETB said he liked the buttery taste, though they have less butter than most things I bake.

The recipe is widely available, so I won't bother re-posting it, but this is yet another winning recipe from this book.

Candied Citron

Here's a quart of candied Buddha's Hand Citron. Look at my quart of candied citron! Do you have any idea what it would cost to buy something like this? I think mine is better.

I used the recipe from David Lebovitz, HERE.
It worked perfectly. Perfectly. I have a quart of candied citron.

Tomorrow is my scheduled Christmas pudding making day, which is handy, as it has become cold here. Four hours of initial steaming ought to warm the house up nicely.

In the fridge, soaking in brandy I have:
Homemade candied cherries
Homemade glace grapefruit slices
Homemade candied mixed peel
Homemade candied prune plums
Homemade stem ginger in syrup
Homemade glace apricots

This is going to be the best Christmas pudding, ever.