Category Archives: recipe

Happy pie day

pie pie pie crispMmmmmmm. From bottom to top:

Pumpkin pie, recipe by Fannie Farmer, variations: no additional milk (evaporated milk only), homegrown pumpkins roasted and pureed, not from a can, 4 eggs not 3 (to make up for the lesser amount of milk, and accommodate the fresh pumpkin texture). I’ve been unable to find accurate versions of my 1950’s edition FF recipes online, so I’ll post them later.

Apple pie, recipe by Martha. Variations: Locally grown, fresh picked Cortland apples were very juicy, added 1 Tbs tapioca and let the filling ingredients sit for 15 minutes before added to the pie shell, doubled the amount of spices.

Maple pecan pie, recipe from Martha as well. Variations: twice as many pecans. The original recipe only takes 1 1/4 cups and that’s too high a ratio of pecans to filling for my taste.

Pear and cranberry crisp with gingersnap crumble, recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Variations: added some local dried cranberries for texture and sweetness. This was a new dish for me this year and it got great reviews.

Oh, and there were cream puffs in honor of R’s birthday. Fannie Farmer’s recipe for the pastry, with creme anglais filling and ganach top from The Professional Chef.

cream puffs

pots over the fire

Adventures in ketchup

Summer 2012 was a tomato year for the garden. Hot and dry, hot and steamy, hot and drenching rain, and hot again for another week – and we have oodles of tomatoes. All the varieties I planted did well: cherry, plum, modern and vintage beefsteaks. The only heartbreak will be all the fruit still green on the vine as we approach the inevitable frosty nights of October.

green tomatoesMaking ketchup requires a lot of tomatoes and a long cooking time. I had bushels of tomatoes ready to go but I don’t like keeping steaming pots brewing on the stove for long periods of time. Our small house heats up easily, especially when the weather turns hot and humid, so I decided to haul out my big cast iron pots and cook a batch over a wood fire in the yard.

I suggest using the Blue Book recipe for ketchup. I started with two gallons of thick tomato puree and doubled the recommended amount of spices. In the two cheesecloth bags below are whole spices including: coriander, celery seed, cloves, stick cinnamon, yellow and black mustard, bay leaf and dried Chipotle peppers from the Fruit Basket in Grand Junction, CO. (These peppers are incredibly fragrant – thanks, CherieBeyond! You’re also my proof that we’re not actually stuck on this island because you made it to Colorado – and back.) The recipe also includes good cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt and anything else you feel like throwing in to make it distinctly your own. Why yes, I did add a cup of bourbon, funny you should ask.

spice bagsThis was my first experience using cast iron over a wood fire and wow, that’s a lot of energy. I loaded a gallon of puree, the additional recipe ingredients, and the spice bags into the pots and the mixture came to a rolling boil almost immediately. I could have started with a lot less fuel and ended up adding much less wood to keep it going than I thought I’d need. It took a little over two hours (stirring occasionally) for enough water to steam off and leave a nice, thick batch of ketchup with a distinctive smoky taste. This is how I’ll make my end of season tomato sauces from now on.

pots over the fire

 

Poppyseed Cake

Ziar breadseed poppyseeds

This year I planted Ziar Breadseed poppies. They were easy to grow, made a beautiful display, and now we get to eat them! Collecting enough seeds for this recipe was far easier than I thought it would be – each seed head contained several teaspoonsful and this variety is bred to eliminate the vents that would normally drop the seed all over as you picked it.

Aunt Beatrice’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake

2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 to 3/4 cup poppy seeds

Glaze

2 C confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 half and half, 1 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325°F Butter and flour an 8-inch fluted Bundt pan* (I use baking spray).  Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl. You can go the whole route with a stand mixer and beat for 8 minutes until bright yellow and fluffy, but I never have the time and the cake (while possibly a little bit more dense) is just fine. And delicious. Beat in the lemon zest. Dump the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in along with the  salt, then mix  in the butter and the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. When fully cool mix glaze ingredients together and drizzle over cake.

lemon poppyseed cake

*You can also make this into a loaf or layer cake, but it doesn’t make good muffins. I think that’s because it really needs that top layer of foil, and that’s hard to manage with a muffin tin.

How to mail a birthday cake.

The Boy turns 21 next week and we won’t be there to help celebrate – what to do? One of us (I can’t remember who to blame) said, “We should mail him his birthday cake!”. This isn’t just any old cake – in our family you get a checkerboard cake with your choice of any three colors or dealer’s (mother’s) choice if you can’t make up your mind. We did really UPS the cake to Providence this afternoon, so I dug out a 15 year-old photo from birthday #6 to show the finished effect.

Colorful, no?

This year’s version is YELLOW/red/blue and yes, I did mean to put that in all caps. Wow, the yellow.  I’ve adapted the recipe from the back of the Chicago Metallic Cake Pan Set because really, Einstein himself couldn’t divide this batter into thirds precisely enough to make the original work out to three even layers. The original proportions are in parenthesis if you feel up to the challenge.

Checkerboard Cake

Preheat oven to 340 (325) degrees and grease and flour the three 9″ pans. The instructions imply that the pans are nonstick but um, no. I use cooking spray, and I also spray the divider.

Mix 5 (4) C flour, 4 (3) tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a small pan or the microwave melt 1 1/4 C butter which is 2.5 sticks  (1 C or 2 sticks) and cool.

In a VERY large bowl, cream the butter with 2 1/2 (2) C sugar. Add 5 (4) eggs, one at at time, beating after each addition. Add 1 Tbs vanilla.

Add 2 C milk (1 1/2) at room temperature alternately with the flour mixture, beat until batter is smooth. (I use the lazy baker’s method: add half the flour and beat in, add ALL the milk and beat until smooth, add the remaining flour and beat 30 seconds. There! All done while still obeying the ancient law passed down by mothers everywhere to “Start with dry and end with dry”.)

Divide the batter in thirds and add food coloring. If you want to make one ring chocolate you might add 3 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate to one bowl.  Work fast, because the batter sets up fairly quickly and doesn’t “flow” as nicely after a while in a warm kitchen.

wow, yellow

Put the divider in the pan and press down to snap in place. Fill each ring about half-way up with each color, alternating the color choices in each pan. There are very good directions on the box for this step although they say to wash and dry the divider between pans and yikes, that’s a lot of work. I lift it carefully and vertically out of the batter and go on to the next pan  because I’m a bad person but really, the cake will be fine.

Insanity cake

The box emphatically tells you DO NOT PUT DIVIDER IN THE OVEN, so don’t do that.

The directions say to bake for 25 minutes but with the slightly thicker layers I check at 30 minutes. If you can, rotate the pans halfway through to keep the layers even. Remove when cake springs back to the touch or a tester comes out clean. The colors will probably darken on the surface but they will still be hallucination-bright when you cut a slice. Cool on racks for about 10 minutes, remove from pans. Happy crazy clean-up!

Too pretty to clean

I use a chocolate ganache frosting spread very thinly between the layers to allow the checkerboard to really show off, and then much spread it much thicker on the  top and sides to hide the colors until the cake is cut. We’ll have to wait for The Boy to send pics to see that.

I put the unfrosted layers on cardboard cake discs, sealed each one in a gallon Ziplock bag and stacked them in a 12″ x 12″ x 8″ box with a box of birthday candles and assorted decorations, 2 sealed and bagged plastic containers of frosting, a card, and a lot of air-pillow-packing. The nice ladies at the UPS Store slapped fragile stickers all over it (thanks Victoria!) and sent it off with loving care. Happy Birthday, Boy!

New horizons

Our local college campus has a community garden plot just down the road from my mother’s new digs.

COA garden

I applied for a plot in the depths of January and got the call to come down to work day and claim my space just last week.  Fifteen of us had a wonderful Saturday morning hauling old logs up the hill to the new vineyard site and cutting turf in under cloudy, windless skies.

COA gardeners

The site has some of the problems common to community gardens: a bad case of clubroot and invasive populations of comfrey, sowthistle,  bindweed, and witchgrass. Clubroot spreads easily on tools and shoes, especially in the damp spring weather, and rototilling has contributed to the spread of invasive perrenials, but current management has good protocols in place to keep these problems from spreading. Shoes and tools are rinsed in a bleach solution upon leaving the plot. I prefer to cut comfrey down to the ground because the leaves make an excellent mulch, but if you’re in the mood to pull them out each type of weed has a dedicated disposal area (the sowthistle has its own glass-topped “coffin”). The good news is that the soil is rich, deep and organic, and supplemented with abundant compost from the college cafeteria.

compost bins

Here’s what my 10′ x 10′ plot looks like now – I’ll be posting updates as the season progresses. Today the soil was too wet to start work without damaging its structure.

my plot

And here’s a photo of the raisin sour cream coffee cake I brought with me. You should always show up at work-day with high quality fuel.

Aunt Loris's coffee cake

Aunt Loris’s Raisin Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt

Filling and Topping
2 cups raisins
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with Pam.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Mix in sour cream and then dry ingredients alternately into butter mixture until both are used up and the batter is smooth and very thick. Mix in 1 1/2 raisins, reserving 1/2 C of the raisins as a topping.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter.

In a small dish, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for filling and/or topping.

Spread half the cake batter in the bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Dollop remaining cake batter over filling in spoonfuls. Use a rubber or offset spatula to gently spread it over the filling and smooth the top. Sprinkle batter with remaining cinnamon-sugar and remaining raisins.

Feel free to ignore this step and just sprinkle the entire portion of cinnamon and sugar on top of the cake with the remaining raisins. It will still be totally delicious.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, and it’s even better the next day.

 

 

 

Bees continued, and some sorrel

I jumped the gun – to be fair, so did UPS – and our bees were not delivered today. They might not arrive until Monday or Tuesday of next week, which wouldn’t be a bad thing because the weather forecast is for cold and stormy weather over the weekend. We’ll see if my UPS tracking number changes status over night.

Meanwhile, there’s sorrel in ready in the garden.

sorrel in the garden

Time to pick a whole bowl. . .

bowl of sorrel

And process in a food processor with olive oil, garlic, sea salt and a few toasted pine nuts.

sorrel pesto

PS Just got notification – bees tomorrow!

 

 

Chickpea Tapas

I have a very short list of vegetarian appetizers because all the truly wonderful hand-food seems to involve bacon. Devils on Horseback anyone? Tapas, on the other hand, are meant to be scooped out of dish with a piece of bread and many of them involve legumes and sauce. Also, garlic, sea-salt and jalapenos with lots of great combinations to choose from. I made this chickpea and greens mixture for Sunday dinner with S. and K. – very nice, very spring.

Chickpea tapas

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

About 3 Tbs olive oil (the amount depends on how dry/tough your greens are)

About 1 pound of greens – freshly picked is best, boxed cooking greens next, or you can use spinach

1 C croutons or bagel chips

1/4 C tomato sauce

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 Tbs chopped jalepenos (optional, but traditional)

1  Tbs white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 C grated cheddar cheese – although smoked gouda is nice, too.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon juice, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the greens and the jalepenos and stir fry until the greens are just wilted, about 2 minutes and less than that if they’re right out of the garden. Add the cumin and garlic and stir for a minute until fragrant. Dump in the chickpeas, croutons or chips, tomato sauce, vinegar into the pan and allow to heat through. Add more olive oil if necessary and stir until well blended.

Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a coarse paste.  It should be a good consistency to scoop out onto a piece of baguette – go ahead and try it out, like a responsible cook.  Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into an oven-proof dish and distribute the grated cheese on top. Just before serving, heat under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with smoked paprika (yum) and serve in the hot dish with slices of baguette or more bagel chips.

Irish Soda Bread

Next Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day, and in keeping with the season I’ve made a huge round loaf of Irish Soda Bread. Note the sorrel leaves just popping up to the right of the bread – early in this year of no winter.

Soda bread and sorrel leaves

There are probably as many variations of this recipe as there are descendants of Old Eire. My mother’s Irish Soda Bread was dry and crumbly and very, very white. Mine is tan (1 C of whole wheat flour) and quite moist; my mother’s recipe didn’t list any butter and mine requires 1/2 a cup -more if you’re feeling celebratory. I’m sure Great-great grandmother Bell’s differed from both of ours, back in Co. Cork.

All versions have a few items in common: raisins, caraway seeds, buttermilk and baking (or bread) soda. Something else – most of these recipes call for 5 C of flour and a cup of sugar. That’s a big batch of quick bread! I use a 12″ cast iron fricasse pot with 4″ sides and you’ll need something like that unless you divide the dough into two parts, which will bake nicely in nine or ten inch pie plates.

4 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (see below)
2 1/2 cups raisins, 1/2 C orange juice, 3 Tbs whiskey
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a heavy ovenproof 10- to 12-inch-diameter skillet with at least 2- to 2 1/2-inch-high sides. Melt the butter in the skillet and then turn the heat off (this butters the skillet nicely while providing melted butter for the recipe).

Put the raisins in a small sauce pan with the orange juice and whiskey (optional, but very nice). Bring the mixture to a boil then turn off the heat and let them soak while you make the dough.

In a large bowl, whisk first 5 ingredients to blend. Stir in the butter, using fingertips, rub in until coarse crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dough; using wooden spoon, stir just until well incorporated.

d'oh

Transfer dough to prepared skillet; smooth top, mounding slightly in center.  Bake until bread is cooked through and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool bread in skillet 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

This bread is wonderful fresh from the oven with butter, as a side for beef stew, and even better the next day toasted with Dundee marmalade.

Edinburgh Tea Squares

Mmmm tea squares These crumbly, fruit-filled bars are from an old King Arthur Flour cookbook recipe that isn’t currently posted on their website, which is a shame because this is a tasty, easy dessert that allows for a lot of creativity on the part of the cook. And by creativity I mean that if you’re out of dates, raisins will work just fine. Actually, any combination of any dried fruit will be delicious. Substitute granola for oatmeal, water for orange juice, whole wheat for white flour; it’s all good. I’ve been making these bars for 30 years now (never the same way twice) and we’ve enjoyed all the variations.

Edinburgh Tea Squares Recipe originally from the King Arthur Flour Co.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the filling: Combine 1 1/2 C dried fruit, 1 C water or orange juice, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp lemon rind in a medium saucepan. Mix another 2 Tbs of cold water/juice and 2 Tbs cornstarch in a cup and reserve. Cook the first mixture until the fruit is soft and fragrant – about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, stir and cook until slightly thickened, about a minute. Remove pan from stove and allow to cool a little bit while you make the dough.

The original recipe calls for dates, but we’ve experimented with currants, dried apples, dried blueberries and whatever was on the shelf. So far I haven’t found anything that doesn’t taste good in this simple fruit filling. Subbing out the juice is a nice change, too: apple juice with raisins, lemonade with dried cranberries, peach nectar with dried mangoes, etc.

For the dough: combine 1 1/2 C flour, 1 C brown sugar, 1 C oatmeal, 1/2 C unsalted butter, 1 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand. You can use whole wheat or white flour and just about anything goes for the oatmeal: quick or old fashioned oats, granola, and on one memorable occasion, corn flakes. If you use commercial cereal you may want to cut back on the salt.

Pat half the mixture in a lightly greased 9″ square pan. Reserve the rest for the topping.Bake just this bottom layer for 10 minutes while the filling cools a little bit.

Remove from oven but don’t turn it off. Layer the fruit filling over the partially baked crust and then sprinkle the remaining dough mixture on top. Don’t press it down. Put the bars back in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the filling bubbles around the edges.

The original recipe needs to be carefully divided – too much in the bottom and the top will be quite skimpy; too little on the bottom and the filling leaks out. I upped the dry quantities and added baking time for just the lower crust, so the division isn’t quite so critical. The top layer starts out fairly loose and crumbly but firms up and is better for lunch boxes after a day or two.

I’ve made a lot of changes to this recipe – you should, too!

The Book

 

 

Every recipe in the world

I’ve decided to experiment with encaustic painting. Encaustic is an ancient method of combining beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. It requires some equipment: a heat source to melt the wax (in this case an electric griddle), another to fuse the layers on the painted surface (I’m using a heat gun but a blow torch works too), and some space to lay out paints, boards, brushes and pots near an electrical outlet. One of the realities of living in a 20′ x 30′ house is that a project like this will require moving something else out of the way first.

The space I’m clearing is chock ablock full of computers, CD’s, video games, books, and one of my mother’s metal recipe boxes.  I think I have six of them scattered around the house (time to pass some on to the nieces) and this one probably should not have been stored precariously on an upper shelf as a head wound waiting to happen. I levered it down and started to go through the cards and now I’m making a blog post rather than continuing to clear out new studio space. There was just no resisting categories like Dream Cakes, Not-Bad Fudge, and Risin – which turned out to be cakes made with yeast, not misspelled raisins. Or neuro-toxins.

I need snack food for a meeting on Monday, so tonight I’m starting the Connecticut Raised Loaf Cake, below. It is neatly typed on onion skin paper and the folds have worn thin but there’s very little spatter. There was a similar recipe on the next card attributed to Elsie Dresser Barnard but it makes 5 loaves and requires a fifth of brandy so I’ll wait to try that another time. Not that there’s anything wrong with adding 4 C of alcohol to a cake recipe, not at all.CT raised loaf cakeI can already tell that I’ll have to publish a post with all the changes I’ve made to this recipe. I added the shortening – where I used unsalted butter and my mother would have used Crisco – to the scalded milk, both to cool it quickly to a good temperature for the yeast and to avoid having to melt it separately later in the process. I plan to double the mace and nutmeg but then I find myself increasing the spice amounts with every old recipe. Were my grandmother’s flavorings that much more potent? Or her taste buds less spoiled by extremes? I imagine it’s the latter, in the days before candy bars came in flavors like dark-chocolate-pasilla chili-cayenne-cinnamon.

This recipe for “Caraque Cookies” is next in line. Three and a half sticks of butter, 6 egg yolks, filling AND icing – perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Caraque cookies - whatever that means.