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 $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

Jerusalem Airlift

Jerusalem is an adjective in my family; it denotes a similarity in a New World object to something from the Old. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) isn’t even remotely related to an artichoke, but the taste is similar. Jerusalem Cherry, (olanum pseudocapsicum), is a member of the nightshade family with poisonous fruit – small, round, bright red fruit that look something like cherries. The Old World names were good enough, but the distinction had to be made lest you make a fatal pie out of New World cherries.

My family wrote hundreds of letters when I went away to college. Going away to college was new, but they’d had experience with going away to war and that’s how they approached it. Hundreds of letters about food. About their lives back home, actually – but I’d never realized that food was so much the overarching motif of those lives. I’m working the letters up into a collection. The Old World sent food, but the New sent a facsimile – a Jerusalem Airlift.

Mary came back to the Firehouse after, and we arranged platters of meats, breads and salads for 100. They gave us much more and also sent a beautiful whole ham for Mother and Ben. Dad cut it in chunks last night with the big knife so it could be divided easily. Mother froze the bone for soup later on. PS Thought I’d send nuts – maybe you can use a hammer and something for a pick.

It is supposed to snow this afternoon 2 – 8″ stopping around midnight. I am working overtime tomorrow, then on Sunday we are having your father’s birthday party. He wants that coconut pineapple cake of Doris Watkins’. It always falls apart, but he always asks for it.

I have plenty of excerpts to work with, and hope to begin setting up material to draw as illustrations. (I’m going to skip the ham.) A perfect frontspiece for the book, I think, will be a picture of me standing ghostly in the back yard, holding a layer cake.

Somebody’s Grandma’s Banana Bread

Occasionally I forget to look around the house before I find myself in the grocery store on lunch hour, wondering if we have bananas. And then we end up with too many bananas.

This is a terrific recipe for banana bread, but it’s not my grandmother’s. For one thing, no one in my family is “Grandma”. Women who’s children have children are addressed by their name, say “Martha”, or by their title and surname, as in “Grandma Burnham”. That goes double for recipe cards. The card for this recipe is so stained and creased that I’m not sure who wrote it but it doesn’t matter. This is the fix for when you’ve been to the store without a list. Again.

Grandma’s Banana Bread/Cake

Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour a 9″ tube pan.

Toast 1/2 C walnuts or pecans in a frying pan until “sweating” and fragrant. Process them in the food processor until chopped fairly small. Don’t clean the bowl. Empty the nuts into a bowl and mix with 1 Tbs of the flour and spice mixture below. Sometimes I add 1/2 C raisins to the mix. Set aside. This recipe calls for 1 C mashed bananas. I regularly throw 3 into the cuisinart and process until smooth. I think you get more banana taste that way. Set aside.

Combine in a small bowl: 2 C flour (can be partially whole wheat), 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp allspice (optional, but I like it).

In a large bowl cream 1/2 C shortening (I use melted butter, but anything goes here), 1 C sugar. Add two eggs and 1 tsp vanilla and beat well. Use neighbor-lady eggs if you can get them.

Add the flour mixture, then the bananas, then the nuts and stir everything together. Dump it into the tube pan and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the bread is quite browned on top and firm to the touch.

I’ve frosted this bread with orange cream cheese frosting (which is delicious), but more often I serve it with butter and jam for tea.

I had a friend, years ago, who couldn’t stomach the tiny pieces of flour that occasionally stick to the walnuts and raisins in this cake. I found him picking them out at the dinner table one night, and thereafter mixed the nuts with cocoa so it didn’t show. I have no idea how wide-spread that affliction may be, so use that information if you have to, down the line.

Mom’s pound cake

Tonight I wanted to use the rest of the eggs that Carrie sent up from Portland. We’ve been doling them out, enjoying the bright yellow color and “stand up” quality to the white that are particular to cherished backyard poultry. We buy very nice eggs in the market, but they’re just not the same. Time to make Mom’s pound cake recipe.

This recipe is entirely easy. It requires one bowl, your mixer (hand or stand, doesn’t matter), common ingredients and is always dependably delicious. It does require one “secret” ingredient (lurking in the background of this photo) – 8 oz of soda. My mother’s recipe lists Fresca, but I’ve used Mountain Dew, Cherry Coke and, in this case, a pony can of Sprite that happened to be hiding in the pantry.

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 C butter (Yes, I know. It’s a pound cake – it’s going to have butter. And the recipe says “softened” but you know butter wouldn’t soften in my house in January without a blowtorch, so melted works fine.)
  • 3 cups sugar – Put all the ingredients in bowls so you can pour them in while mixing.
  • 5  eggs – Really good ones from your friend’s chickens if possible.
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract (although you can go nuts here. Orange? Anise?)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • OPTIONAL If you’re not sure about your soda’s fizzy quotient, it is not cheating to add 1 tsp. baking powder.
  • 1 cup Sprite, 7-UP, Or Sierra Mist, or anything fizzy and sweet

Preheat oven to 340 degrees.

Dump the melted butter in a large bowl. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition. Add  extracts and mix well. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add soft drink, then mix together until combined.

Pour into a greased bundt pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until the cake is browned on top and fairly firm.  This is a lot of batter, but has never overflowed my bundt pan – I do put a cookie sheet on the rack beneath just in case.  Remove cake from oven and invert pan until cake drops out.

Occasionally I add fruit to this recipe. Tonight’s version has dried strawberries for the yum.

Plum Duff

plum duff

Normally I wouldn’t start a post off with a picture, but “Plum Duff” isn’t really going to tell you much all by itself. And the Wikipedia article will re-direct to “Spotted Dick” and then you’re REALLY going to need a picture. It’s a dessert, people. A lovely, delicious, traditional dessert created by people for whom the term “Spotted Dick” was a fond endearment.

For this recipe you’ll need a few specialty items. I always hate running across that in a recipe I perhaps haven’t read closely before starting out; “You’ll need a flugelhorn!”,  announces the author, brightly. “These days you can find one easily on Amazon!”.  So, advance warning, for this recipe you will need a pudding mold or basin with a lid or cover, a metal trivet to rest the mold on the bottom of a pot, either tall enough to enclose it, or close enough that a collar of aluminum foil will do the trick.

My Great Aunt Margaret’s Plum Duff

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups cooked prunes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cold milk plum duff 1
  • Beat eggs well.
  • Dissolve brown sugar in hot, melted shortening and whisk in the eggs slowly, so they don’t cook.
  • Add cooked prunes that have been drained and mashed with fork*.
  • Sift flour and add. Dissolve soda in milk and add last.
  • Fill greased pudding mold 2/3 full, cover lightly and steam one hour over rack in large cooking pot.
  • * This used to be a very messy process – cutting the prunes with a sharp pair of sewing scissors, cooking and then mashing the results. Now we can throw the cooked, drained fruit in the cuisinart and have done with it.

    Now mix in the prunes, add the flour. . .

    plum duff 2

    And spoon the whole mess into the greased pudding mold. Now would be a good time to mention that the pudding is going to be a solid mass in the bottom of this mold after you’ve cooked it and allowed it to cool. It will look like it is solidly glued in there, but no – set the pan in very hot water for a few minutes and then invert over a plate. It should fall right out – if not feel free to repeat the process. It’s not like this stuff is fragile.

    plum duff 4To the left in this photo is my aluminum trivet, useful for keeping the mold off the bottom of the pot. It is stamped “1820 Cincinnati” on the bottom, so hey – an antique! I expect modern trivets would work just as well. Also, please ignore the Goya Black Bean Soup can. I’m not making anything from this product placement – the can was there for our supper of huevos rancheros later on that night.

    I didn’t think I had a photo of the pot with its aluminum collar, but here it is. Evidently I’d thought I’d blog my recipe for huevos rancheros, because there’s all the fixin’s, but thought the better of it. Everybody already has a favorite recipe for those.  But waaayyy in the back there you can see how to make your stew pot a steamer for your pudding mold.

    plum duff 5Steam the pudding at a low to moderate temperature for about an hour. You shouldn’t be able to hear it boiling madly, and check about half way through to see that the water level still comes close to 3/4 of the way up the mold.Add more hot (from the tap) water if you’re getting low. The temperature may drop below simmer for a minute but it’s not going to bother your Duff.

    Cool the pudding in the mold overnight in a cool place, then unmold it and decorate for the season. I used horehound, lavender and geranium because this is Thanksgiving and you can never tell when someone is going to eat the garnish – better to make it all edible.

    Now go check out all the interesting steamed dishes out there, like The Bitten Word’s Persimmon Cake (which they did w/o a pudding mold).

    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening
    1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    2 cups cooked prunes
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 tablespoons cold milk
    1. Beat eggs well.
    2. Dissolve brown sugar in hot, melted shortening and add to eggs.
    3. Add cooked prunes that have been drained and mashed with fork.
    4. Sift flour and add. Dissolve soda in milk and add last.
    5. Fill greased pudding molds 2/3 full, cover lightly and steam one hour over rack in large cooking pot.
    6. Serve hot with Rum Sauce or whipped crea

    2 large eggs

    1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening

    1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

    2 cups cooked prunes

    1 cup all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    2 tablespoons cold milk

    1. Beat eggs well.

    2. Dissolve brown sugar in hot, melted shortening and add to eggs.

    3. Add cooked prunes that have been drained and mashed with fork.

    4. Sift flour and add. Dissolve soda in milk and add last.

    5. Fill greased pudding molds 2/3 full, cover lightly and steam one hour over rack in large cooking pot.

    6. Serve hot with Rum Sauce or whipped cream.

    1. m.

    Our Hardy Ancestors II

    twin-lakes-68

    You know what all these guys had in common? (Well, besides a gene pool and a fish dinner.)  They all liked cake. And, they all liked bacon. These “Hardy Ancestors” posts are dedicated to recipes that had their best days a lifetime ago, with my great-grandfather (an HA if there ever was one)  at the far left on the sofa. Days when food was abundant if you didn’t mind the lack of variety, and work was hard and long enough that you didn’t. And then there was dessert.

    My father liked a “planned dessert”. I don’t think my mother had ever heard of such a thing growing up, but it was an ongoing topic of discussion at the dinner table all their married lives. A planned dessert implied something thought out and prepared long before the meal: apple pie, butterscotch layer cake or bread pudding studded with raisins and served with hard sauce. The category did not include ice cream, store-bought cookies or instant pudding. Occasionally there would be a recipe that would satisfy both husband and wife – the perfect blend of yin and yang for ingredients, formality and ease of preparation. I give you:

    Cinnamon Bacon Sponge

    1 egg, beaten, 1/2 C sugar, 1/2 C molasses, 1/4 C melted bacon fat, 1/2 C boiling water

    1 tsp soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 and 1/8 C flour (a heaping cup)

    Mix the bacon fat with the boiling water. Stir, and when slightly cooled add the egg and sugars. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Place into a greased 8 x 8 pan an bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350. Serve with whipped cream.

    I like to add chopped apples or raisins, and I use the pan drippings from our best pepper bacon for extra kick. Bon appetit!

    Strawberry ganache birthday tart

    birthday-strawberry-tart1
    Crust

    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup walnuts (you can actually use a cup or so of walnut halves)
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1/3 cup (generous) strawberry jam

    Filling

    • 1 C  whipping cream
    • 2 Tbs white corn syrup
    • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
    • 6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 pint strawberries, hulled, halved.

    Preparation

    For Crust:
    Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor and mix. Add walnuts; process until chopped. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add yolks and process just until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; press into tart pan. Chill 30 minutes.

    Preheat oven 375°F. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes or until golden. The crust will “puff” slightly, but that’s OK.  Spread jam on crust.  Cool completely on rack.

    For Filling:
    Heat cream and corn syrup in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until tiny bubbles appear around edges. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and butter, shake pan to mix slightly. Then beat with a whisk until mixed, cool until mixture is room temperature and beginning to thicken but still pourable, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes. Pour chocolate filling into crust. Refrigerate until filling is set, about 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. cover and keep refrigerated.)

    Arrange strawberries cut side down in concentric circles atop filling. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 hour.

    Have dinner of Creole shrimp a la “po’boy” (recipe to follow, some day) with friends and eat tart with birthday present of Rain vodka. For whatever reason, this is a great life.

    Bunny Cake

    My mother won this Bunny CakeWilton Holiday Mold at her job in the early 70’s. I guess this is now a collectible antique, since the current Wilton Bunny is a different pose. Those ears are always problematic and the new version looks sturdier. I used the Devils Food Cake recipe in the Joy of Cooking and vanilla buttercream for the frosting. We were traditionalists this year and went for pink jellybean eyes and tinted ears and grass. Some years we’ve had a vanilla pound cake bunny with “wild rabbit” chocolate ganache, and the red jelly bean eyes give a demonic effect. I took another picture of this one later in the day to document the “evil twin”. The little blue flowers are Siberian Squill, the only flower blooming in my garden right now excepting the heath, which has been in flower on and off since February. Later in the day. . .

    bunny-2

    No school, no work, bake!

    Makes the whole house smell great.

    Makes the whole house smell great.

    Mom’s Loaf Cake is represented in my recipe file by a dark and well-worn Xerox of a old index card. I don’t know where the original is at this point. The “Mom” is Grandma Miller, my mother’s mother’s mother. The card is typed (MOM’S LOAF CAKE) with handwritten notes all over it, creases and spots of who-knows-what all reproduced faithfully by the copy process.  My notes are below the recipe, which is as follows:

    2 C sugar, 1 C shortening or half butter/half lard, 2 C milk, 1 tsp salt, 4 C flour, 1 egg, 5 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 C raisins and citron. Cream the S and S, then egg, milk, sift dry ingredients together and add rasins and citron. Bake 350 in loaf pans.

    That’s all it says on the card.  I use all butter and add it melted (but I do that for any recipe). I use a little cream or half and half in the milk, because I assume Grandma Miller wasn’t using skim. Instead of raisins and citron I use currants plumped in hot water and a little Grand Marnier.This makes a big batter, so I add half the flour, all the milk, then the other half of the flour, in a nod to “alternative” mixing. My load pans are ancient Pyrex and on the small side and it’s always a toss up if I can divide the batter perfectly evenly so that neither pan runs over as it bakes. Someday I should pick up some normal loaf pans and not risk a messy oven cleanup every time I bake this, right? Right.

    This is a wonderful, slightly dense white cake that travels well and packs nicely in a bag lunch. My grandmother made it in round pans and topped it with confectioner’s sugar frosting and  maraschino cherries for Christmas. (One year when I was away at college, Grandma sent a loaf up to me in Vermont. Aunt Bernice’s dog Sarah found it on the back stairs and ate the whole thing, including the wax paper. Sarah was the fattest German Shepard I have ever seen, then or since.)