Aunt Fox’s Hawley Haroseth

5 April 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

 
We’re so used to artificial light that we forget how many traditional holidays are based on the cycles of the sun. Easter and Passover (and just about every spring holiday there is) are examples. Both holidays are tied to the vernal equinox. On that welcome day we finally achieve parity between dark and light and start lurching toward the golden days and gentle evenings of summer.

 

Like the vernal equinox itself, Passover and Easter mix dark and light. That mixture is key to the two festivals. The Jews’ flight from Egypt more than 3000 years ago is meaningless unless one understands the harsh slavery under which the Jewish people served the Pharaohs. The joy of Easter is possible because of the sorrow of Good Friday.

 

As a food writer and food lover I appreciate the centrality of food to both of these holidays, particularly Passover. Passover illustrates the connection we all feel but too seldom articulate between food and memory. Food is used at Passover to symbolize the history the holiday commemorates and to bring people together to remember this shared history.

 

The centerpiece of the holiday is the meal known as the Seder, in which families gather to retell the story of the departure from Egypt. Much of the Seder’s menu is prescribed by tradition, and during the meal the symbolism of each item on the table is explained.

 

A bitter herb (usually horseradish) symbolizes the hardship of the slaves’ life, for example. My personal favorite symbol, Haroseth (also spelled “charoset” and a variety of other ways), is a paste of fruits and nuts. It represents the mortar the Jews used to construct buildings—most famously the pyramids.

 

Many years ago my honorary Aunt Carolyn Fox brought this haroseth to a Seder at our home in Hawley, Massachusetts. Growing up I ate haroseth moistened with wine. As a lover of sweets I was thrilled with her use of grape juice instead. The last time I made it I used crangrape juice, adding a little New England tang to this Passover staple. Next time I’m thinking of using straight cranberry juice…….

 

 

The Haroseth

 

Ingredients:

 

2 tart apples, peeled and cored

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon grape (or crangrape or maybe cranberry) juice

 

Instructions:

 

 

Finely chop the apples and pecans separately; then chop them together to make even smaller pieces. Stir in the cinnamon, honey, and juice.

 

Spoon a bit of haroseth on a piece of matzo for each guest.

Makes 12 small servings.
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Hot Cross Buns

2 April 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
 
Easter is coming—and before we get to it we arrive at the time for one of my favorite treats. Hot cross buns are a sweet yeasty roll traditionally served at the end of Lent, specifically on Good Friday. The cross of icing that tops them symbolizes the crucifixion, although it was adapted from a pagan symbol that represented either the four quarters of the moon or the perfect balance of the sun at the vernal equinox, March 21.

 

A monk named Thomas Rockcliffe began distributing the buns to the poor in St. Albans in England in 1361 as part of a missionary effort. They became a popular treat throughout the country.

 

When Elizabeth I was queen (her father Henry VIII had banned the Catholic Church for reasons of his own) she outlawed the consumption of the buns except during religious festivals-—burials, Good Friday, and Christmas. Vendors on the streets of London are said to have hawked the buns enthusiastically on the days on which they were allowed to be sold, giving rise to the nursery rhyme:

 

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

If ye have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

 

Many make the buns with glaceed fruits and/or citrus peel instead of (or in addition to) the raisins or currants. I like them best this way.

 

Ingredients:

 

for the buns:

 

1 generous teaspoon active dry yeast (about half a packet)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 to 2-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (generous)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt (generous)

2/3 cup raisins or currants

 

for the glaze:

 

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

milk as needed

(for a different flavor, try substituting orange juice for the vanilla and milk)

 

Instructions:

 

In a small dish combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the lukewarm water. Leave them for 5 minutes or so to proof. While they are proofing, heat the milk and butter just to lukewarm.

 

In a large bowl combine the yeast, water, milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg, and vanilla, and whisk them together. Stir in the baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat in 1 cup flour and the raisins or currants; then stir in enough flour so that the mixture begins to stick together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and knead it for a minute or two, adding more flour if necessary. Leave the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.

 

At the end of the rest period, continue kneading, adding more flour as needed, until the mixture becomes smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rise until it almost doubles in bulk (1 to 1-1/2 hours). Place the dough on a floured or greased board, knead it 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles, and divide it into 12 pieces that are as close in size as you can make them.

 

Roll the pieces into little balls, and place them on a large greased cookie sheet. Cover again with a damp towel, and let rise until almost double in size, 45 minutes to an hour. About 15 minutes before you think the buns will be finished rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

Uncover the buns, and gently slash a cross on each with a serrated knife (this doesn’t always work perfectly but isn’t 100 percent necessary). Bake the buns for 18 to 22 minutes, until they turn light golden brown. Remove them from the cookie sheet and cool them on a rack for a few minutes.

 

While they begin to cool, make the glaze by whisking the vanilla into the confectioner’s sugar and then adding milk, a tiny bit at a time, until you have a thick glaze. Applying the glaze is a matter of timing. The buns must be a little cool (so the glaze doesn’t run off entirely) but not too cool (in which case they glaze doesn’t stick). After 15 to 20 minutes of cooling, try spooning the glaze into the criss-crosses on the buns to form a cross. If it runs off too much (it will always run off a little), wait a few more minutes.

 

Allow the buns to cool after glazing, then place them carefully in a container that won’t mess up the glaze. Try to eat these buns within 2 days. They are most delicious with lots of butter.

 

Makes 12 buns.

 
 

Easter is coming!

Easter is coming!

 

Maple-Oatmeal Bread

30 March 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 have one final entry for Massachusetts Maple Month. This is one of my favorite breads in the world—slightly sweet and filling. I always make a mess when I knead bread. How flour ends up on my face, I really don’t know! Luckily, the end product is worth the clean-up work. 

 

 

Ingredients:

 

1 cup old-fashioned oats (do not use quick or steel cut)

2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon butter

1 packet (about 2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast (not instant)

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons salt

5-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (more or less)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

 

Place the oats in a large mixing bowl. Pour the boiling water over them, add the butter, and let the oatmeal stand for about 15 minutes, until it is lukewarm. After the first 10 minutes, place the yeast in a small bowl. Cover it with the lukewarm water. Allow it to bubble up for a few minutes.

 

When the oatmeal is lukewarm, stir in the maple syrup, the salt, the yeast with its water, and 2 cups of the flour. Stir vigorously; then add 2 cups more flour. Stir again vigorously for a minute or two; get as close to beating as you can with a mixture this heavy. Scoop up the dough (add a bit of flour if it won’t hold together to scoop), and place it on a kneading surface—a floured board or a silicone mat.

 

Knead the dough for 2 minutes, adding a little more flour to keep it from sticking to the surface and your hands. After those first 2 minutes, let the dough rest for up to 10 minutes; then resume kneading, adding more flour as needed. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough feels smooth.

 

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a warm, damp dish towel. Let the dough rise until it doubles in bulk; this should take about 2 hours, depending on how warm the room is. If your towel dries out during the rising, be sure to dampen it again.

 

Remove the covering from the bowl, and punch down on the dough once with your fist. This lets out a lot of the air. (It’s also fun.) Cut the dough in half, and shape each half into a ball. Butter 2 bread pans, and shape each ball into an oval about the same size as your pans. Smooth the balls as well as you can with your hands.

 

Place the bread loaves in the buttered pans, and turn them over so that both the tops and the bottoms have touched the butter. Cover the pans with a damp towel as you did the rising bowl, and allow the loaves to rise again until they double in bulk. This should take a little less time than the first rising, perhaps an hour or so.

 

After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the loaves have finished rising, uncover them, and bake them for about 40 to 45 minutes, until they are a warm brown color and sound hollow when you tap on them. Remove the hot loaves from the pans, and let them cool on racks.

 

Makes 2 loaves.

 

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Stump Sprouts Maple Rhubarb Coleslaw

27 March 2009
Lloyd measures maple syrup for his coleslaw.

Lloyd measures maple syrup for his coleslaw.

 
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
 
My neighbor Scott Purinton is currently boiling sap night and day. Scott informed me recently that much of his Grade B maple syrup is purchased by Lloyd and Suzanne Crawford for their Stump Sprouts lodge. High on a hill in Hawley, the Crawfords house and feed cross-country skiers, small conferences, family reunions, and other groups.

Lloyd and Suzanne are committed to sustainability. They have enough sunlight to generate their own solar electricity. Of course, they serve their guests home-grown and local foods as much as possible. 

 

I asked Lloyd whether he would share one of his maple recipes. He came up with this clever, sweet-and-sour way to use two of my favorite ingredients, maple syrup and rhubarb. I can’t make it myself for a couple of months since unlike Lloyd and Suzanne I wasn’t smart enough to freeze small batches of rhubarb puree last spring! I can hardly wait to make a big batch in May.

 

 

Gifts from a guest who is also a potter, these bowls adorn the kitchen at Stump Sprouts.

Gifts from a frequent guest who is also a potter, these bowls adorn the kitchen at Stump Sprouts.

 

Ingredients:

 
   

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/3 cup stewed, unsweetened rhubarb

3 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup

salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1 finely shredded cabbage

toasted sunflower seeds to taste

 

Instructions:

 
 

 

In a jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, sesame oil, rhubarb, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Toss this dressing together with the cabbage 20 minutes to 2 hours before serving. Garnish with the sunflower seeds. 

 

This recipe may be cut in half or even in quarters. The coleslaw will be edible for a day or two before it gets too wet.

 

Serves 12 to 15.

 

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Betsy’s Breakfast Bread Pudding

25 March 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
 
Most people use maple syrup as a condiment rather than an ingredient. Here is a recipe for something on which you pour the syrup.

 

Betsy Kovacs babysat for me when I was little—and I in turn babysat for her children as a teenager. The pattern would probably have continued forever if I had had kids when I was in my twenties. As it is, we are still friends, and I appreciate her adorable children (and now grandchildren!) as much as ever. Disconcertingly, Betsy looks almost EXACTLY the way she did when she was babysitting for me (maybe even a little younger and cuter).

 

Betsy calls this dish French toast. I have rechristened it breakfast bread pudding because (a) it is one, sort of, and (b) I see pudding everywhere. (Yankee magazine did, after all, dub me the Queen of Pudding!)

 

Betsy’s rich concoction has a couple of advantages over conventional French toast. First, it is ready to eat all at once so you avoid the awkwardness of batches. Second, the prep work can be done the evening before you bake the pudding so it’s a handy thing to serve brunch guests.

Betsy usually makes a big batch of this for entertaining. She uses a whole loaf of bread (usually challah) and fills two large quiche pans. I was cooking for two so I made a tiny batch. This involved 2 to 3 slices of bread, 1 to 2 eggs, and slightly less than 1 cup of liquid. I had no challah so I used a dense homemade white bread.

 

I have left quantities vague as she did so that you can make as much or as little as you like. Betsy tells me that her version is usually a little browner and crispier than mine (I was a bit paranoid about burning the thing!) so feel free to leave it in the oven a little longer.

 

Betsy and her Jack

Betsy and her Jack

 
 
 
Ingredients:

 

a “tight” bread like challah, at least a couple of days old

unsalted butter as needed

eggs (4 to 6 for a whole loaf, depending on how eggy you like things: I say go eggy!)

enough milk or cream or a mixture to cover the bread (I used a mixture, with more milk than cream)

cinnamon to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon for my small dish)

sugar (2 tablespoons for a whole loaf of bread; I used 1/2 tablespoon)

freshly grated nutmeg to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon for my small dish)

 

Instructions:

 

Butter your baking dish or dishes. Slice the bread. Butter it on one side, and place it butter side down in the baking dish. Break up the bread as needed so that the bottom of the dish is covered.

 

Butter the side of the bread that is now facing up. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and/or cream, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour this combination over the bread. Add a little more milk and/or cream as needed to make sure the custard goes just under (or just to) the top of the bread. Do not go over the bread as this will make the pudding erupt in the oven.

 

Grate the nutmeg over the top of the pudding. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour and up to overnight. The bread should absorb all (or almost all) of the custard.

 

When you are almost ready to bake the pudding, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes or more until the top of the pudding turns golden brown. The custard will puff up but deflate after it hits the table. Serve with lots of maple syrup. A large batch (2 pans) serves 8 to 10. My tiny batch served 2 to 3.

 

Betsy says that leftover pudding may be wrapped in plastic wrap after cooling, then frozen and reheated in the oven at a future date (sans plastic wrap, of course).