Molasses crinkles

My grandmother, Martha Louise Miller Barnard Snyder, was born left-handed and forced to use her right hand at school. I have always been fascinated by her handwriting: studied and careful, almost childlike and without any of the affectations that usually accumulate over a lifetime of repetitive movement. There’s nothing very personal about her marks except the sheer impersonality of the textbook isolation of each nicely formed letter. Her teachers might have been able to force her to write with the wrong hand, but she wasn’t going to cave and accept it.

Grandma’s molasses crinkles are wonderful – perfect for making the house smell warmly of spices on a frigid Sunday afternoon. Here is the recipe in her handwriting:

The arrow points to a note that her right-handed daughter, Cynthia wrote on the other side. Cynthia has a school-based hand, too – familiar to anyone who went to school more than 20 years ago in New England.

A note from me, too: leave them ball shaped, don’t flatten into discs. They are very delicate and will spread out on their own while baking. I add a Tbs of sour cream to the shortening, sugar, molasses mixture to help out the baking soda.

Now I’m off to get a cup of tea and a cookie.

Carrot cake

Last night I made our family’s favorite carrot cake recipe and shared it with the neighbors. It was a big hit with folks who aren’t used to pistachios and cardamon mixing it up with staid New England carrots from the root cellar, so I’m posting the recipe by their request. I dust the top with confectioners sugar in lieu of cream cheese frosting, which I don’t care for because I don’t make it very well. I’m sure it will be wonderful if you have the knack.

The original recipe was in Madhur Jaffrey’s book, “World of the East Vegetarian Cooking”, but it has undergone a few changes since.

Oil and flour a 9″ square pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk two eggs, 1 C sugar, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cardamon, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 C softened ghee (or butter) in a large bowl. Add 1 C flour, 1 tsp baking soda and mix just until incorporated. Add 1/4 C chopped pistachios, 1/4 C currants and 1 1/2 C grated carrots firmly packed, and mix well.

Spread the mixture in the pan and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until the cake springs back in the center. Dust the top with confectioners sugar when cool.


When did I turn into the mom who has the ingredients for rice crispie squares on hand at all times? When The Boy was small I tried to make healthy treats, and alternated whole wheat hermits with what I think of as “heritage comfort food”; Fannie Farmer brownies and blueberry buckle, pumpkin pie and the blondies from the King Arthur Flour book. Now that we’re all adults, our favorite treat are the crispies-with-browned-butter-and-sea-salt from Smitten Kitchen. They are just, wow.

I’m not sure how Ms. Kitchen feels about lending out her recipes, so I’m just going to link to it (above). A few pointers from my experience making LOTS of these:

1. Work fast. This is one of those “quick before it hardens into concrete” recipes – make sure you have everything prepped before you start.

2. If someone has actually been eating the cereal as CEREAL, the recipe will work with as few as 4 C of crispies, even though the recipe calls for 6 C.

3. Decant the marshmallows into a bowl. You’ll thank me as you are not dangling an open bag of marshmallows all stuck together in a clump over the pot of sizzling brown butter. And I receive 4 zillion bonus points for using the verb “decant” to describe marshmallows.

4. The recipe says to turn the heat off after you pour the marshmallows into the butter, and that the residual heat will melt them. This has never worked for me – I turn the (gas) burner to low. Residual heat may very well work on an electric stove, but keeping the pot on low heat won’t harm the result.

5. If you’re taking these to a bake sale, make a batch to eat at home. Taking them all away is just cruel.

The Betterbee catalogue is just a bonus. It came today and I’m reading it every chance I get. The rest of the photo is the start of my new campaign to rid the world of over-wrought food photography. You know who you are.


“Pepper nuts” are small, firm molasses cookies that taste of anise and spice. They are traditionally dredged in confectioner’s sugar after baking. Store them in a tightly closed tin with a slice of apple to keep them from drying out.


1/2 C shortening (I use Crisco, not butter), 3/4 C brown sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 C molasses, 3 drops of anise oil, 3 and 1/3 C flour, 1/2 tsp soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1 Tbsp hot water. This makes a stiff dough, so I use a food processor to mix everything thoroughly. You may have to redistribute the ingredients a few times.Try to find anise oil, not anise flavoring, for the most authentic taste.

If you have time, let the dough sit in a cool place or the refrigerator for a few hours.

Now, the fun part: use a melon baller to scoop out the dough. You may have to gently re-shape an edge here and there, but this method makes quick work for about 8 dozen perfectly sized little nuggets that will bake uniformly and look great on a plate of assorted cookies. Bake about 12 minutes at 350 F, until slightly more brown on the bottom. Leave them on the sheet to firm up after removing from the oven, then cool on a rack. I like to use a large tupperware container with a cup of confectioner’s sugar in it to dredge the cookies when cooled.

Enjoy with a strong cup of black tea and a napkin!

Pumpkin pie

First, get a pumpkin. What you really want is a New England Pie Pumpkin: dark orange, sweet and beautifully sized – one pumpkin, one pie. Those prize-winning giants at the fair are actually gourds and their watery flesh doesn’t cook well, but those big ones from the grocery store that you’re going to carve into Jack O’Lanterns make a decent pie.

Split the pumpkin in half between the stem and blossom end. If it’s very hard, put a sharp knife in all the way to the hilt repeatedly all around and then use a blunt edge (small crowbar, a screwdriver – but not your knife) to lever it open. Scoop out the fibrous insides and separate the seeds to roast with your pie in the oven. Run some water into the scooped halves and then dump it out. Put the halves cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and roast at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour. The time will vary widely on the size and freshness of the pumpkin. You should be able to puncture the skin easily with a fork when done.

Scoop the flesh out of the skin. A NE Pie pumpkin will make about 1 1/2 C of pulp. Whisk together 3/4 C sugar, 2 eggs* and 1 can of evaporated milk and add to the pumpkin with 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk gently till blended and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then 345 for 45 minutes or until the middle of the pie is set. Any extra filling mix can be ladled into small pyrex dishes as custard.

*Preferrably fresh, local eggs. Thank you, Carrie’s chickens!

Great idea? Or greatest idea ever? Grape Popsicles.

We have a lot of grapes this year. We had a lot of peaches, and the tomatoes are still flowing in, the elderberries, raspberries, blueberries, well, 2010 has been a good year for fruit. I’ve started making grape juice in self defense (we can only eat so much jam before the next grape harvest comes along). Then R. suggested making popsicles, so I ran right out and picked some molds up at the dollar store. They proved very unsatisfactory (there’s sticky grape juice all over the freezer now) so I turned to Amazon. The new mold was delivered this afternoon and I’ve already made and sampled a batch and, yowsa – greatest idea ever.

The new mold has a metal cover with slots for those ubiquitous wooden popsicle sticks. The receptacles are sturdy and the frozen mix slides out easily. It also came with a recipe using orange juice that I adapted for grape.


3 C juice, 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C sugar. Pour in molds and freeze for about 4 hours. The directions suggest soaking the sticks in water for an hour first so they don’t float up in the cells, but I was impatient and skipped that step to no ill effect.

Delicious. I think I want these instead of cake for my birthday next year.

Mmmmm Chocolate Cobbler

Wikipedia has a lovely entry on cobbler:

Cobbler is a traditional dish in both the United States and the United Kingdom, although the meaning of the term is quite different in each country. In the United States, it is usually a dessert consisting of a fruit filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a rolled pastry dough, then baked in an oven. In the United Kingdom it is usually a savoury meat dish, typically a lamb casserole, which is covered with a savoury scone-like topping—each scone (or biscuit) forming a separable cobbler. Fruit-based versions are also increasingly popular in the United Kingdom—although they still retain the separate cobbler (or biscuit) topping of the meat version—and savoury or meat versions are not unknown in the United States.

Chocolate cobbler is an old Maine dish that I had previously only seen in restaurants along the coast. I  couldn’t imagine the recipe that would make this combination of cake – crust – softness but today I traded a few oatmeal raisin cookies for a co-worker’s notes from her Mom and, voila!

Chocolate Cobbler!

1 C all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt

7 Tbs cocoa – divided and  1 1/4 C white sugar divided

1/2 C milk, 1/3 C melted butter, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 C brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 C hot tap water

Preheat oven to 350.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and 3 Tbs of the cocoa and 3/4 C of the white sugar. Reserve the remaining cocoa and sugar.

Stir in the milk, melted butter and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8 x 8 baking dish. In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 C white sugar, the brown sugar and remaining 4 Tbs of cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter.

Now, here’s where it gets weird: pour the hot tap water over the top and DON’T STIR!

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the center is set and doesn’t “jiggle”.

Serve warm (the top will be a goey sauce) or cooled. We like it cool and fairly solid, served with strawberries. This is a wonderful treat.

The Wikipedia entry also includes my all-time favorite cookbook title: Practical Sanitary and Economic Cooking Adapted to Persons of Moderate and Small Means. I can’t wait to find a copy.

Cobbler is a traditional dish in both the United States and the United Kingdom, although the meaning of the term is quite different in each country. In the United States, it is usually a dessert consisting of a fruit filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a rolled pastry dough, then baked in an oven. In the United Kingdom it is usually a savoury meat dish, typically a lamb casserole, which is covered with a savoury scone-like topping—each scone (or biscuit) forming a separable cobbler. Fruit-based versions are also increasingly popular in the United Kingdom—although they still retain the separate cobbler (or biscuit) topping of the meat version—and savoury or meat versions are not unknown in the United States.

The Pink Moon

April’s full moon is tomorrow. This was the Pink Moon for the Algonquin and the Egg Moon for the English settlers. Last month was the Hunger Moon,  and while the lengthening days mean the peach tree is budded out and I have lettuce and greens to eat, there are only carrots left in the root cellar.  I’d flunk as a provider in the 18th century. Last night I took the last bag of 2009’s raspberries out of the freezer and made clafoutis in celebration of local grocery stores and storing more food in 2010.

Clafoutis is traditionally made with pie cherries, but works equally well with any soft fruit. Apples or pears would have to be cut into small pieces and poached first, but you could do that. The Husband suggested experimenting with a savory version for sweet corn – which would probably be delicious. The result is a three-way cross between a David Eyre pancake, pie, and cottage pudding but easier than any of those. There is really no excuse for not making a clafoutis every other day, in one variation or another, and I don’t know many recipes I feel that way about.

Use a comfortably large bowl, because all these ingredients (except the fruit) are going in together:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup  sugar
a pinch of sea salt
3 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 C whole milk
1 1/2 pints raspberries (3 cups)  or a mixture of raspberries & blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, possibly a little lemon juice for sprinkling, maybe a little maple syrup, you know? Whatever.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch gratin dish (or a pie plate). In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk in the eggs, butter and lemon zest until smooth. Add the milk and whisk until light and very smooth. Pour the batter into the gratin dish and top with the raspberries.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the clafoutis is set and golden.Don’t underbake – it should not be soggy. Let cool slightly. Dust with confectioners’ sugar or other garnish, cut into wedges and serve.

The $100 Cake

The name of this cake comes from one of those pre-Snopes stories about a woman who had a slice of cake in a famous New York (or Chicago, or New Orleans) restaurant and it was so delicious she paid the chef $100 for the secret recipe. I always felt the story was an unnecessary foil for what is, actually, a very tasty chocolate cake that holds up well to bake sales and buffets (pieces don’t crumble) and can be made with one bowl and a mixing cup of unassuming ingredients. It is also entirely dependable – this is the first cake my son learned to make.

I made this particular cake for the monthly Tri-County Beekeeper’s Association meeting at the Prospect Community Hall last night. The decoration is a set of painted HO gauge figures from Woodland Scenics and, if you ever have to decorate a cake for a roofer, or you’d like a wide selection of tiny tombstones for Halloween, here you go. I recommend gluing the figures to a (clean and unused) popsicle stick with nontoxic glue and sinking it into the frosting, so that no one breaks a tooth on a miniature wheelbarrow.

$100 Cake

Stir (or sift) together in a large bowl: 2 C cake flour (regular unbleached will work, but cake flour makes a lovely texture), 1 C sugar, 4 heaping Tbs cocoa, 2 tsp baking soda*, 1/4 tsp salt. In a measuring cup whisk together 1 C cold water and 1 C mayonnaise, 1 tsp vanilla.

Use real mayonnaise – this ingredient represents both the fat and the eggs in this recipe. Soynaise doesn’t work (trust me on this). Homemade mayonnaise is wonderful, should you have any leftover.

Combine the two mixtures until smooth (I use a whisk, gently). Pour into a 9 x 12 or 10 x 13 pan and bake 1/2 hour at 350, until the top springs back when lightly touched.

Allow to cool completely and frost with: 1/2 C softened butter, 2 C confectioners sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla. Decorate!

*Way back in April when I first posted this, I left out the leavening agent. My son just let me know that there was something missing. . .it was still tasty, but rather more brownie than cake. Sorry about that! APo 19 March 2011

Key limes in the grocery store,

make Key Lime (or Mexican, or West Indies lime) pie. That’s just good sense. I use a recipe that someone cut out of a Gourmet magazine nearly ten years ago (it wasn’t me – I don’t cut things out of magazines).  I’ve long since memorized it, but I dug out the original clipping so that I wouldn’t steer you wrong. And yes, it’s the same four or five ingredients I remember, but I have made some adjustments over the years.

The recipe allows for using bottled lime juice, and even recommends a brand. Don’t do it! When key limes appear in your grocery store (or who knows – on the tree in your back yard), then you can make this pie. Absolute proof of this is the fact that you’ll need 1/2 C plus 2 Tbs of juice to make this pie, and that’s exactly how much juice the limes in that silly neon green one pound bag will produce. See? Cosmic.

So. Buy the bag. Allow the limes to ripen in a cool dark place for a few days, until some  are slightly mottled with yellow spots and the skin has thinned. Roll one under your palm on a flat surface to break some of the membrane, then slice off about 1/2″ from one end. Insert your wooden lemon-juicer, or your fingers, and allow the juice to dribble into a large, stable container – like your 2 C pyrex measuring cup. You don’t want to knock this over. Oh, and if you have any papercuts on your hands, or like me, having been pruning blackberry bushes lately, you’ll know. The juice will be pale, rather opaque green and smell wonderful.

For crust

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons key lime juice

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate. Actually, these days I use an 8″ pie pan. They’re a little harder to find, but with the Boy at college I can stand to have less pie around the house. This recipe works well either way.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:

Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).  Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours (or put it in the freezer for about half an hour after it is mostly cool. Keep checking to be sure it does not really freeze.)

Goes well with whipped cream, and an expectation of Spring.