Archive for the ‘Cakes and Pies’ Category

A King Cake for Mardi Gras

21 February 2009

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A Note to Readers:
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
 
Tinky

 
Mardi Gras is a time of taking chances—so I decided to try once more to make a King Cake. Readers of this blog may recall that I tried making one at Epiphany and was less than thrilled with the result. My mother taught me to persevere, however, and luckily King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana from Epiphany straight through to the beginning of Lent. I sifted through many different recipes identifying the cake elements that most appealed to me and went to work.

 

I’m actually very happy with my new cake, although the filling gushed into the middle so I didn’t end up with the classic ring. Mine was more of a round blob. Nevertheless, it puffed up beautifully and tasted like a sweet, creamy coffee cake.

 

Like the previous King Cake, it concealed a quarter (more authentic bakers would use a bean or a toy Baby Jesus) within its yeasty folds. The person who found the quarter in his or her cake was crowned King or Queen for the Day.

 

So—from my house to yours—here is a King Cake recipe. The biggest trick is to take your time; since it uses yeast this cake can’t be rushed. It’s a big cake so you’ll help your sanity and your waistline if you have young eaters in the house. Feel free to cheat a little and ensure that one of them gets to wear the crown! As you can see from the picture below that’s what we did at our house.

(Don’t tell Michael!)

Le Roi du Mardi Gras

Le Roi du Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras King Cake

 

Ingredients:

for the cake:

2 packets yeast (do not use instant)

2 teaspoons sugar plus 1/2 cup sugar later

4 to 5 cups flour

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

the zest from 1 lemon (save the lemon to make juice for the glaze)

1/2 cup lukewarm milk

5 egg yolks (you will not need the whites)

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature

 

for the filling:

 

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon flour

 

for the glaze:

 

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

the juice of 1 lemon

a little water if needed

food coloring as needed

 

Instructions:

 

Place the yeast and the 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Cover them with lukewarm water, and allow the yeast to proof for 10 minutes.

 

In a large mixing bowl combine 3-1/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, the nutmeg, the salt, and the lemon zest. Stir them together thoroughly (I like to use a whisk for this).

 

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the yeast mixture and warm milk. Stir in the egg yolks, and combine the mixture thoroughly.

 

When the batter is smooth, beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. (This takes a little while but eventually works.) Place the dough on a floured board, and knead it, adding more flour as needed. Your dough may end up slightly sticky but should not stick to the board.

 

Knead the dough until it feels smooth; then knead it for 10 minutes more. Don’t be discouraged. This kneading is what gives the final product its wonderful puffiness.

 

Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and allow it to rise until it doubles in bulk. This will take at least 1-1/2 hours and perhaps more.

 

When the dough has risen, punch it down. Using your fingers, pat and stretch the dough to shape it into a long, short rectangle, at least 24 inches long and 6 to 8 inches wide. Let the dough rest while you beat together the ingredients for the filling.

 

If you want to, place a quarter or a bean in the middle of the dough. Gently spoon the filling down the center of the strip of dough. Fold the edges up over the filling to form a cylinder that encases the dough. Pinch the edges together to seal the filling as well as you can. Your seams don’t have to be perfect; they will be hidden by the glaze.

 

Pinch the ends of the cylinder together to form a ring, and place it on a silicone- or parchment-covered baking sheet. Let it rise, covered, until it becomes puffy, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 375.

 

Bake the King Cake for 25 to 35 minutes, until it is golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely.

 

For the glaze: beat together the sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice, adding a bit of water if needed to make the glaze thick yet pourable. Divide the glaze in three, and color the three glazes purple, green, and gold. Drizzle them artistically over your cake.

 

Serves at least 12.

 

 

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Happy Birthday, Miss Anthony!

9 February 2009
Susan B. Anthony (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Susan B. Anthony (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky

 

February is chock full of holidays and commemorative days. My second grade class staged a presentation in which our teacher, Miss Asman, asked each of us to represent one of these days. I was assigned a few words about Charles Dickens, who was born on February 7, 1812.

 

A ham even at that early age, I made the most of my role. Nevertheless, I was secretly jealous of the person who talked about Susan B. Anthony, born on February 15, 1820. I had read a book about Miss Anthony’s life and her participation in the struggle for women’s rights. I thought she was an inspiring person to talk about. I still do.

 

Born near Adams, Massachusetts (not far from my home in Hawley), Susan B. Anthony was brought up Quaker. Well educated and articulate, she became active in abolitionism and the temperance movement. In her early 30s she found her true calling as one of the strongest voices this country has ever heard arguing for women’s rights and suffrage.

 

Along with her friend and colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton she formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. She also wrote and lectured extensively. She actually cast a vote in 1872, although she was arrested and tried for violating the law. She responded to her sentence with an eloquent speech in which she said, “It was we, the people, not we the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the union.”

 

Susan B. Anthony died 14 years before women achieved the right to vote. She is nonetheless remembered as a pioneer in that effort and as a remarkable person, both an indefatigable warrior and the beloved “Aunt Susan” of younger feminists. Just before her death in 1906 she gave her final speech, which ended with the rallying cry, “Failure is impossible.”

 

Last week my friend Peter suggested that as a food writer I should pay culinary tribute to Miss Anthony’s birthday. I called the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, New York, and asked whether the people who worked there had any idea what she liked to eat. To my delight I was informed that they had just been discussing this topic. Sue Gaffney kindly sent me the text of a letter draft from 1898 in which Miss Anthony was responding to a group of college juniors who wanted the recipe for her favorite cake.

 

Miss Anthony couldn’t find the actual recipe. (It’s reassuring to know that someone of her stature could have trouble finding things since this is one of my own more frustrating habits.) Instead she gave her correspondents a sponge-cake outline:

Dear Junior Girls: My favorite cake is the old-fashioned sponge, made of eggs, the whites lashed to a stiff froth, the yolks beaten thoroughly with cups of pulverized sugar, a pinch of salt, a slight flavor of almond. Into these stir __ cups of flour – first a little flour, then a little of the white froth – and pour and pour the foaming batter into a dish with a bit of white buttered paper in the bottom. Clap into a rightly tempered oven as quickly as possible and take out exactly at the proper minute, when it is baked just enough to hold itself up to its highest and best estate. Then don’t cut, but break it carefully, and the golden sponge is fit for the gods . . .

 

Well, the dickens is to pay – I can not find the old cook book – so just put in any good sponge cake recipe for me, and then add: “It matters not how good the recipe or the ingredients may be, the cake will not be good unless there is a lot of common sense mixed in with the stir of the spoon.”

 

My helpers and I didn’t quite follow Miss Anthony’s formula, but we came close. We substituted vanilla for almond extract since one of the kids in the neighborhood is allergic to nuts. It seemed a little odd making a feminist’s birthday cake with boys, but I was impressed that these young males had actually heard of Miss Anthony (two of them had coins with her face on them). And after all part of feminism is part of making sure that the traditional “feminine” arts like baking are open to both genders. So I offer kudos to Michael Weisblat, Carson Carr, and Sam Duffett.

 

We topped our sponge cake off with a little raspberry sauce and whipped cream. It was indeed fit for the gods. I guess we must have blended a sufficiency of common sense into the bowl.

 

The Susan B. Anthony House is hosting a birthday luncheon on Wednesday, February 11. Journalist Lynn Sherr, author of Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words, will be the featured speaker. At the time of this posting tickets were still available on the house’s web site. If you can’t attend the celebration, feel free to make this cake at home. 

 

Sam, Michael, and Carson take turns lashing egg whites to a stiff froth.

from left to right: Sam, Michael, and Carson take turns lashing egg whites to a stiff froth.

Susan B. Anthony Sponge Cake

 

Ingredients:

 

5 eggs at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 pinch salt

1 cup flour

raspberry jam or sauce for garnish (optional)

whipped cream for garnish (optional)

 

 
 
 

We ended up with ONE girl. Michael's friend Anna Capper stopped by in time to help break off pieces of cake.

We ended up with ONE girl. Michael's friend Anna Capper stopped by in time to help break off pieces of cake.

 

 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch tube pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks and extract until they lighten. Gradually beat in half of the sugar.

 

Wash your beaters thoroughly. Beat the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Gently and gradually beat in the remaining sugar. When the peaks are glossy and beginning to stiffen, remove the beaters from the bowl.

 

Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the remaining egg whites on top, and sift the flour on top of them. Gently fold the flour and egg whites into the batter.

 

Delicately pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake until it is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Invert the cake over a cooling rack and let it cool completely before coaxing the cake out of the pan. This will probably involve running a knife delicately around the sides of the pan and the tube. Peel off the wax paper.

 

Gingerly break off pieces of the cake. Serve with or without jam and whipped cream. (With is better!) Serves 10.

 

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mandaweb1

 

Snow Day

5 February 2009

Sous Chefs Anna (left) and Mavourneen (right)
Sous Chefs Anna (left) and Mavourneen (right)

 

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky
 

I used to jump up and down when I looked outside and saw fresh snow on the ground. Once I got old enough to shovel and drive through snow it lost a lot of its charm for me. I still like being reminded that it can be a source of joy and play, however.

 

My mother and I are visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in northern Virginia to get away from the ice and snow. Last week the snow followed us here for a couple of days, much to the delight of young Michael and his friends.

 

Unplanned snow days are perfect holidays for kids. The kids don’t have anywhere to go. (In fact, in many cases they CAN’T go anywhere.) They don’t have any extra homework. And they have mounds of cold, malleable snow to slide around in and hurl at each other.

 

Michael and his friends spent most of the morning last Wednesday outdoors trading sleds, throwing snowballs, and generally frolicking. By mid-afternoon some of them were beginning to long for a little indoor activity. I asked for volunteers to help make Boston Cream Pie. Several kids offered to EAT the pie (and in fact they all ended up getting some), but my most stalwart helpers were Michael’s neighbors and friends Anna Aguto and Mavourneen Carr.

 

The girls signed up, of course, to bake a “pie”—and they did look a little surprised to discover that Boston Cream Pie is a cake (so named because pie pans were more common than cake pans in the 19th century, and because the recipe supposedly originated in Boston’s Parker House Restaurant). They were terrific sous chefs nonetheless.

 

I had made the filling (which has to chill) the day before, but the girls helped with every other step of the process—mixing, baking, filling the pie, creating the glaze, and applying the glaze. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner they went just a little wild with heart-shaped sprinkles on top, but the final product was lovely, festive, and consumed before sundown.

 

I hope we cook again soon. In the meantime, here is our recipe. The filling and glaze are from Dede Wilson’s fun new Birthday Cake Book (published by Harvard Common Press). 

 
 

This is all that remains of the snow in Virginia........

This is all that remains of the snow in Virginia........

Boston Cream Pie

Ingredients:

 

for the filling:

 

1/4 cup sugar

3 egg yolks, at room temperature

2-1/2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pinch salt

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

 

for the cake:

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

 

for the glaze:

 

3/4 cup heavy cream

1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup

7-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, VERY finely chopped

 

Instructions

 

for the filling:

 

Place the milk in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat; remove it from the heat and keep it warm.

 

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Whisk in the flour, cornstarch, and salt until smooth.

 

Pour about 1/4 of the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking gently. Add the remaining milk, and whisk to combine. Immediately pour the mixture back into the pan, and cook over low-medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, whisk vigorously and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to keep the filling from scorching. It should be thick enough to mound when dropped from a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

 

Allow the filling to cool, stirring occasionally to release heat. When it is almost at room temperature, scrape it into an airtight container, press some plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming, snap on the cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

 

for the cake:

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch-round cake pans.

 

In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the sugar, mixing well. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

 

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add them alternately with the milk to the butter batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

 

Wash your beaters so that they are clean for the egg whites! In a small bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks fold. Fold them into the batter, and pour the batter into the pans.

 

Bake the layers for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool the layers completely.

 

for the glaze:

 

Place the cream and corn syrup in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate in. Cover the pot and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. The warm cream will melt the chocolate. Gently stir the ganache until smooth.

 

for assembly:

 

Place one cake layer on a large serving platter. Spread the filling evenly over the layer, and top it with the other layer.

 

Pour the chocolate glaze on top. Gently spread it toward the edges. Allow it to drop down the sides. You will have a little too much glaze, but your helpers will help you eat it.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (up to 6 hours) before serving. It is best eaten on the day on which it is made. Serves 8 to 10.

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A Cake Called Hope

18 January 2009

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A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky

 
 

I’m not traveling to Washington for the Inauguration this week. My mother, the animals, and I will be huddled next to the electronic hearth for the next couple of days, however, absorbing as much televised inaugural coverage as we can.

It’s an exciting event. Even people who aren’t Obama girls and boys can’t help hopping on the hope bandwagon. We all want to do our part to put the country on a new path.

My brother is going to an inaugural ball. Not to be outdone, I have prepared an inaugural cake. I wrote to the folks at Wilton to ask for some red, white, and blue sprinkles. They generously threw in some writing gel, star-shaped icing decorations, and a star-shaped pan. (They offered me a flag pan, but I was afraid that it would present too much of a challenge to my limited decorating skills.)

The resulting confection is not only delicious but beautiful as well. I started out trying to outline the star with the gel. When that didn’t work (did I mention my limited decorating skills?), I decided to revert to my usual free-form style. I ended up with a cake that is cheerful and-yes-hopeful.

In tribute to our incoming president’s message, HOPE is in fact the name of this cake, which includes honey, orange, pineapple, and eggs, among other delicious ingredients. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat.

“Hope is a recipe …. For a country that is looking for a brighter future, hope is the main ingredient.”

                                                    —  Donna Brazile

tinkydecoratesweb

HOPE Cake

Ingredients:

for the orange-pineapple pound cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple (including its juice)
the grated zest and finely chopped pulp of 1 orange (everything in fact but the seeds and the bitter white part)

for the honey-cream cheese frosting:
1 8-ounce block cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
2 generous tablespoons honey
confectioner’s sugar as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan (or a star pan from Wilton).

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, followed by the vanilla, baking powder, and salt.

Gently stir in the flour until it is incorporated, and fold in the fruit and zest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The timing will depend on your pan. With my star pan and my gas oven, it took 45 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes. Gently loosen the sides and turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack and allow it to cool completely.

When the cake is cool, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and honey. Beat in confectioner’s sugar until you have a soft, spreadable, delicious icing. Beat in the vanilla, and spread the frosting over your cake. Decorate with abandon. Serves 10 to 12 inaugural guests.

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Oat Cuisine

8 January 2009
oatmealweb2
 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky

         In my New Year email to friends I mentioned that I was working on an article about oatmeal. The response was enthusiastic.

          “Oatmeal is our friend,” e-mailed Carol Cooke, a realtor from Alexandria, Virginia. Just as passionate was Sheila Velazquez. Along with her family, Sheila is working hard to resurrect the old Rice farm on Pudding Hollow Road here in Hawley, Massachusetts. They are basically camping out (brrr!) while nurturing their children and chickens, reconstructing the historic house’s interior, and reading seed catalogues as they dream of the garden they will plant in spring.

          Sheila wrote that on chilly winter mornings she enjoys oatmeal almost every day. She buys organic oats in bulk and cooks them with water, dried fruit, and cinnamon. She throws in a little salt at the very end. “So good and also a good way to use up fruit that’s getting past its time,” she added.

          Sheila offered me a recipe for oatmeal pie, which she termed a sort of “faux pecan” concoction. She said of oatmeal in general, “It seems that some of the most delicious foods are also the least expensive and best for us.”

          I don’t eat oatmeal every morning. Unlike the noble Sheila I always add at least a little brown sugar or maple syrup to my morning porridge. I do yearn for the warmth and comfort of oatmeal at this time of year, however. I’m apparently not alone. More Americans eat oatmeal in January than in any other month, a statistic that prompted Quaker Oats to name January National Oatmeal Month.

Of course, Quaker had a vested interest in creating a month devoted to its signature product. I forgive the company because oatmeal is indeed the perfect food in this dark and cold season. The old cliché that it sticks to one’s ribs turns out to be true. Whole grains like oats take longer for the body to process than many other foods.

The best oatmeal for health purposes is a long-cooking type such as steel-cut oats. If you’re in a hurry, old-fashioned oats take only five minutes to prepare and are still very good for you. Avoid the small packages of instant oatmeal, however. They tend to go overboard in adding salt and sugar.

Oatmeal always appears on lists of super foods. It is good for cholesterol and blood pressure. It also delivers several nutrients, as well as some protein.

Best of all, it is versatile. Broccoli is also a super food, but there are only so many ways a person can disguise broccoli. Believe me, I’ve tried! As well as making a tasty breakfast cereal, oatmeal can be tucked into fruit crisps, cookies, breads, muffins, and meatloaf. It can even be used to construct a facial mask. (Take that, broccoli!)

In this post and the next few I’ll share recipes to boost oatmeal intake this month. If you’re looking for a basic oatmeal cookie, you can’t do better than the formula for Vanishing Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies on the inside of the Quaker Oats box top. Dan Turner of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, told me how to get the best consistency with these cookies: use a Crisco stick instead of the butter or margarine called for in the recipe. You’ll find that the cookies really do vanish quickly.

 
 
 

The Rice Farm in Hawley, Massachusetts

The Rice Farmhouse in Hawley, Massachusetts

Rice Farm Oatmeal Pie

          Sheila Velazquez says that she originally found this recipe in Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, published in 1972. At one time she managed a farmer’s market, where the pie was a best seller. Sheila explains that the oatmeal forms a chewy crust on the top of the pie.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
3 eggs
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the spices and salt. Stir in the corn syrup. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition until all is blended. Stir in the oats.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell, and bake for about an hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serves 6 to 8.