Cake and Books

On this MLK, Jr. Day let us take a moment to remember all those who have lost their lives due to racial inequality. Let us also pause to remember those past and present who have worked and are working to eliminate racial inequality in our world.

Part A

So I broke down and baked a cake! It was a choice between a chocolate Coca-Cola cake or a cream cheese pound cake. Hubby likes pound cake and I did give him the choice. This particular recipe calls for clementine zest. I have not thought of zesting clementines. I zest oranges and lemons and limes. Now that I think of it I waste a lot of zest left on un-zested pieces of fruit. Think of all that zest one could stash in the freezer for later use. I wonder what use there would be for grapefruit zest.

I have a cream cheese pound cake recipe somewhere in my magazine clippings. This particular recipe is from a cookbook I got from the library. This is one published by a southern bakery apparently: Back in the Day Bakery, Made with Love by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.

  • 1 ½ cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated clementine zest (2-3 pieces of fruit)
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

I was able to let the various ingredients come to room temperature because my daughter called and we got busy planning a camping weekend this summer. They plan to get a large tent. We will be going to a campground where I used to take her and her brother “back in the day”.

Directions for the cake: sift the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix the zest with the sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In the stand mixer cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until very light and fluffy for 4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. On low speed add the flour mixture in thirds just until incorporated. Finish this by hand.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Oh yeah, a 9 x 5 loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray and lined with parchment paper. And the oven is to be 350 degrees F. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Mine took only 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 minutes then remove from pan and parchment paper and cool on rack until completely cool.

Frost with a chocolate ganache or glaze as you would like. The honey chocolate glaze from the cookbook is very rich. I changed it somewhat so here is what I made.

  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring the milk to gentle boil in small sauce pan. Put the honey in a small bowl. Pour hot milk onto honey and add chocolate. Stir until melted. Add vanilla. Let cool to thicken slightly. Pour over cake.

Cake has no place in an eating for health and weight loss plan, but needs must! Cake has zeroed out any beginnings of weight loss this week. But at least I did not gain anything! Yay. And truth be told I started out this year 3 pounds less than the beginning of last year.

Part B

Library books! I went to the library after many months of not. I usually download library books onto my Kindle from my library using my computer. No need to step foot into our wonderful town library. But my library card had expired. Ahhh! Luckily the library was still open so off I go. It takes probably 10-15 minutes to get there but I always think of it as 5 minutes away.

There are books everywhere. Next to camping the library may be my second happy place. Well, being outdoors near the river or in the woods might take second place. It is the closest we have here in Connecticut as “the wilderness”.

Back to the library. They have reorganized the lobby so I wander around looking at titles of books, reading book jackets, and breathing in the atmosphere of paper and ink. I pick a few of the offerings in the lobby and head to the stacks. I’m in search of books about food and cooking. I just can’t stay away. I find a book on bread and a bakery cookbook which is the one mentioned in Part A.

I am on my way down the steps of the stacks and think “What about a book on sewing?” I have recently had my sewing machine repaired after gumming it up sewing an applique quilt with my daughter’s childhood through college t-shirts.

The quilt was far from perfect. My daughter had started it years ago with my advice on using heat and bond to attach the cut out designs to a large sheet. Then it languished at her house for years and years. Then I took it from her to fix and complete. It languished in my house for years and years and I finished it for her this Christmas. So now I need some sewing projects. I find a book on improvisational sewing and making simple patterns using a t-shirt. Interesting.

I come home with a tote bag full of books, real books!  I have one biography, one memoir, one mystery, one on sewing, and two on baking. I love books!

A New Start

Hello readers. When I started this blog a few years ago I had never meant it to be all about recipes. Yet somehow it became a recipe blog and I appreciate all of you who follow and read. I sometimes do try out new recipes. I often try out your recipes. And I cook and bake the same things over and over again.

This is a new year and I want to make a new beginning. I titled my blog my kitchen/my thoughts because I like to sit in my kitchen and think. I don’t always think about food but I do a lot. I would like to do my essays in two parts, one is on food and one about thoughts of life. I’m going out on a limb here because I now have to come up with witty, profound, insightful, smart, sharp, keen, knowing, penetrative, and savvy essays. (See how I used a thesaurus there?) And are you all interested in reading these? I personally like to read books that are the memoirs of the author. They usually have a theme and are not a “stream of consciousness” rambling on and on. I am afraid that my thoughts may fall to the latter. We’ll see how it goes, shall we?

Part A: food, and drink, sort of

So I am doing “Dry January” out of curiosity and to jump start a bit of weight loss by eliminating the empty calories in booze. So far, so good. Only one Friday evening after a stress filled work week did I think it would be nice to have a glass of wine. But I refrained. I did read an article about how some folks are not abstaining completely for the month and are still feeling good about their choices. Hubby said to me “You’re an adult; you can have a glass of wine if you want.” This is true but I want to stick to my commitment to myself. I will be breaking this fast on the last day of the month as I have an after work gathering with friends. With that in mind I think I can hold out. The challenge will be if some work colleagues go drinking after work this week to celebrate/mourn the departure of one to another agency.

For a mocktail I was pouring myself a diet ginger ale in a rocks glass. Hubby suggested adding a splash of bitters for a grown-up taste. That worked out well. My new go-to mocktail. I wonder if the bartender will make that for me if I go out to Trivia night this week.

I have ginger beer and club soda in the fridge. I forgot the lemons and limes for the twist. I need to remember some of the drinks I was looking at on the internet. Diet coke with a lemon twist is also a staple.

Part B: on losing weight

In the new year I want to lose weight and get fit. Fit in my mind means exercise more and feel stronger than now. To do that I am counting calories using an app on my phone called Lose-it. I use the basic free app as it is enough for my purposes. I am feeling accountable by using this. Thus far I have gone over my calorie allotment only once this last week.

I was contemplating taking you lovely readers on this weight loss journey with me, checking in with you about how it is going. And then I thought about listing my beginning weight and got hesitant. Why is that? Do men have as much hesitancy to talk about the actual numbers?

I have always weighed heavier than other people guess me to be. I don’t really have “big bones” but I remember weighing 102 pounds in junior high with other girls my same size weighing 10 pounds less. Years ago I had joined TOPS as my mother had before me. At the weigh in there were older women obviously thicker and shorter than I and their weight was less than mine. Hmmm?

It is the same with clothing sizes. I have never worn a size 0 or 3 or 6 and barely an 8. The patterns I bought when sewing my own clothes in junior high were size 8 and then size 10. I was a standard size 12 (in sewing patterns) through high school, college, and up until I had my first child. Now standard patterns do not fit my body shape. The body morphs in lots of places as one ages. I have had adult friends who also wear smaller sizes and I thought I appeared trimmer than they. Sizes have changed over the years. My Cadette Girl Scout skirt back in the day was a size 10. It looks like a child size 6-7 when I look at it today! I know that pattern sizes run bigger in number than off the rack clothing but I’m not even going to tell you that number!

So I have measured my waist and weighed myself. I most likely will not share the exact numbers with you unless I make a significant change. Wish me luck!

Have a blessed and happy 2020!

Shortbread

I made two different shortbread recipes. And although they were tasty it is not something I plan to make regularly. For some reason I got it in my head that I wanted to make shortbread. Possibly from watching the GBBO. The only other time I made shortbread was from Cook’s Illustrated: https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2017/01/29/millionaires-shortbread-and-citrus-salad/. (I can no longer figure out how to make a name for the link other than copying it. WordPress changed a little a while ago.)

That shortbread was fancy. Since then I found a similar recipe in one of my UK published cookbooks. So when I was thinking of shortbread that is where I went first. Basically it is butter, sugar, and flour.

  • 4 1/2 ounces butter, softened (what an odd amount!)
  • scant 1/4 cup sugar
  • generous 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • superfine sugar, for sprinkling (make this by processing regular sugar in your food processor)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 C). Grease an 8-inch round pan with butter. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Sift flour and salt into the mixture and then the vanilla. Mix to form a soft dough.

Roll dough into an 8-inch circle. Place in prepared pan. Cut into 8 wedges. Prick all over and decorate the edge with the fork tines. I found that this took a little finesse since it was already in the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. It might even take 40 minutes. It should be crisp and pale golden in color. Sprinkle with the superfine sugar. Cut through the wedges again to be sure they are separated. Cool in pan before removing.

These were very thick and buttery. Tasted like shortbread. Very rich.

The next shortbread dough I made was from Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything. I followed his recipe exactly. It includes an egg. I made a batch cutting them out in circles. I forgot to take a picture. They were a very nice butter cookie but did not taste like I thought shortbread should taste. The second batch I made of this recipe I tried to be festive and stuffed pieces of dough into a Christmas cookie mold pan. Big mistake!

They stuck in the pan!

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

I was chatting with a colleague this week about cooking and baking and cookbooks. He said he inherited a cookbook and maybe should find it and cook from it. When I told him I have 50+ cookbooks he asked “how do you know which recipe to use?” That question has been haunting me all weekend. I wanted to bake bread. I wanted to bake cookies. I needed to make quiche for a church event. Which recipes to use? I was perusing several cookbooks and found there are too many choices. I make a list for each cookbook on what I want to try and then go to the next book. Reading cookbooks has always been enjoyable but having too many is like 31 flavors and asking a toddler to choose chocolate or vanilla!

I was reading and rereading through my Fleischman’s Yeast Bread booklet. This has been used for so many years that the cover is no longer attached. Choices, choices, choices! I thought about making the sour dough starter. I thought about making Lucia buns and a chocolate yeast cake. After an hour or so I settled on the Apple Crumb Coffeecake. We have some older apples that need to be used. So after several cups of coffee and cookbook browsing on a lazy Saturday morning I bake.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (equivalent to one package active dry)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 large apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter

In mixer bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and yeast. In a Pyrex glass measuring cup put the water, milk, and 1/3 cup butter. I nuke this in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until 120 degrees. I use a thermometer as I have been known to kill yeast with too hot liquids. Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients and beat two minutes on medium speed. I am using the regular paddle and not the dough hook for this. The recipe is in the section on “no need to knead”. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter. I used the total of 2 1/4 cups at this point. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Spread evenly in a 9 inch square pan that has been greased or sprayed.

Meanwhile I am cutting up apples and sprinkling a bit of lemon juice on them. Arrange these on top of the batter in the pan. I have not yet made the crumb topping either. So I melt the last 6 tablespoons of butter (not the best way to make crumb) and add the 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. This makes a paste vs. a crumble and I diligently spread this onto the apples. Cover and let rise for about an hour. It should double in bulk.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Looks good. Mine bubbled up a bit on the edges due to the melting of the butter in my crumb/paste.

Very tasty!

Next on the baking list was quiche. My standard quiche is 4 eggs and 2 cups cream/milk/half-and-half per 9-inch pie. Add whatever else you fancy, cheese, onion, bacon, etc. Here’s the final product:

Two for the church, two tart-lets for our supper.

Coming up next time: shortbread…

Custard Tarts!

I had a baking weekend! Two types of bread and custard tarts. I have been fascinated by custard tarts ever since being a devotee of As Time Goes By on PBS. Lionel’s favorite was custard tarts. These pastry treats are not easily found in my grocery bakery. Nor are they a staple in many of my cookbooks. What type of custard is to be used? My two French cookbooks had several types: patisserie, baked, Chantilly, anglaise. I had recently made a pumpkin pie which is essentially a custard pie. Should I pre-bake the tart shells or could I bake the custard and the pastry at the same time? So I got out several cookbooks. I looked at the custard/pastry cream recipes. I had to choose what to do. So here’s what I did.

The Art of French Cooking suggested pastry cream for tarts. These recipes are a bit fussy. French Feasts instructions are not always clearly written. So that left (not really, I have over 50 cookbooks) Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. And his pastry cream recipe was simple and not fussy at all. The only change I made was to add the zest of one orange.

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs or 4 egg yolks (I used two eggs)
  • 2 cups cream, half-and=half, or whole milk (I used light cream)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest from one orange (my addition)
  • orange marmalade for glaze (my addition)
  • 4 tart shells; I used a refrigerated pie shell and cut it into four to line four individual tart pans. Pre-bake these.

Do you notice a theme of “2s”?

My successful blind baked tart shells. I used parchment filled with beans to hold the shells in place and to prevent shrinkage.

In a saucepan combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl mix the eggs with the cream. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients over medium heat for about ten minutes whisking constantly to prevent lumps. This will thicken. The test for readiness is when the mixture coats a spoon and when you draw a line through the coating the line will hold its shape. Remove from heat and stir in butter and extract and zest. The butter will melt. Let this cool to room temperature before filling the shells.

I filled the four tart shells and had a cup of pastry cream leftover. I think this amount of cream would fill a 9 inch pie, or 2 more individual tarts. I then melted a small amount of orange marmalade to spoon onto each tart for added orange flavor and to make them pretty. I then grated a very small amount of dark chocolate on top. Chocolate curls would have also been nice. I put these in the fridge to set for about an hour. I then popped them, carefully, out of the tart pan and placed them on a platter to serve.

They kind of look like poached eggs!
The first day we each had half. The next day we each ate a whole one.

And here are pictures of the breads. These were not so successful. Eaten when first baked but then left alone. They seemed underbaked and either overproofed or underproofed. I think I will buy fresh yeast before trying bread again.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Warning: this post does not contain a specific recipe. There will be links to two recipes though, one that I have written about before and one someone else’s.)

Chocolate chip cookies are the comfort food of cookiedom. Oh sure, you come across one of those oddities of people who don’t like chocolate but I think they must be aliens from outer space. No offense intended.

First I made the best chocolate chip cookie recipe EVER! to take to my weekend in Maine with “the girls”. We are all grown women ages 40s to 60s but we call this the girls’ weekend and have done for the past 5 years. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated and I wrote about it a while ago https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2017/11/30/cooks-cookies-chocolate-chip/. The secret is the browning of some of the butter. It is a bit fussy to put together but absolutely worth it. Hubby and I ate a dozen of them before the weekend and then the camp neighbor took the remaining 4 in the bag. We thought he would only take one! We did have Sue’s chocolate cookies with nuts which were quite delicious too.

Lake Cobboseecontee

Meanwhile here I am trying to adjust to new progressive eyeglasses. I can see further better but this mid range and reading are a chore. And I have worn progressives for a number of years. I think my eye doctor did not test my reading range adequately but I did not want to write my own prescription by making an adjustment. It also takes 2-3 weeks to adjust just because it is a new prescription. Must have patience.

The next chocolate chip cookie is a tribute to the fall season when all the recipes are coming out as pumpkin spice. I like pumpkin but am not that fond of pumpkin spice coffee unless it is one of those fancy lattes with whipped cream and such. The description of this cookie sounded like a cookie I would eat, not cakey. I have made the pumpkin cookie recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook and although tasty it was cakey. This promised to be “super soft, chewy, and filled with chocolate chips.” https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies/. My first bite was heavenly. I do not like the phrase “to die for” but it would apply to these cookies.

I am continuing to enjoy having a house husband. I was never a proper housewife so had no idea what to expect. I think our advanced ages make this more workable than say a couple in their twenties. Hubby claims not to be fond of cats. Our cat Squeaky is the only pet remaining in our home. So, who feeds her “mushy food”, who brushes her fur? He is working hard at home refinishing the floors and scraping the layers of paint off the mantle, which is flying about and leaving paint spots on the floors. He is not worried about this so I won’t worry about it either. He is my handyman!

This is at the top of Mount Greylock. Early morning, squinting into the sun!

The third batch of chocolate chip cookies were eaten but not enjoyed. These were made by the recipe on the back of the package of almond flour I bought just for fun. I will not bother with this again. These were mushy in texture even though light brown on the edges and the bottoms. Hubby had the great idea of re-baking them to see if they would crisp up. I re-baked them the next day for another 10 minutes. They did crisp but were still not enjoyable.

Until next time, happy fall and fall baking! I’ve already made a pumpkin pie!

Scones

Another recipe made by request of Hubby. It was a cool weekend and prime for baking. I got out a number of cookbooks looking for bread recipes. There were so many and then I saw a recipe for scones with maple syrup and pecans. Yum! I also have a scone pan that I had never used. The retired doctor and baker from whom I purchased this at an estate sale told me to be sure to grease the pan because it is not non-stick. I think he sold this to me for $3.

The problem with the scone recipe is that we have no cream, not even half-and-half now that we drink our coffee black. Well, I did not look up substitutions but decided I could use sour cream (or yogurt) and thin this with a bit of almond milk. And hope for the best!

This recipe is an adaptation of maple-pecan scones from The New England Table by Lora Brody.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup full fat sour cream + 1/3 cup almond milk (I have unsweetened vanilla)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray scone pan with cooking spray or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients, stir with a fork (I use a whisk), then add pecans and cranberries stirring to coat. In another bowl whisk together the butter, maple syrup and sour cream/milk mixture. Dribble this over the flour mixture and stir with a fork until it comes together. Turn out on a floury surface. Knead ever so slightly so as not to make a tough dough. Pat into a circle.

At this point I have to figure out how to make triangles out of a circle to fit into the sections of the scone pan. I confess I did not think of this ahead of time or I would have patted the dough into a square. So I cut the circle in half and then each half into 8 pieces and gently stuff each piece into the pan. If not using a scone pan, cut the circle into 10 wedges, or as many as you would like. For wedges you are to place them on the prepared baking pan about and inch apart. Bake 14-16 minutes.

For my scone pan, these were not done after the baking time. I had Hubby taste test and sight test. So I put them back in to bake for another two minutes and then another minute with the oven turned off.

While these are baking I make the glaze. Glazes are simple, right? Well, I did not read the directions and ended up with a thick frosting-like concoction. I mixed it together in a small bowl. To make it softer I had to heat this over the stove so that it would be thin enough to drizzle on the scones. Apparently this particular glaze was to be cooked on the stove. The lesson is to read all the way through the recipe first.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Melt butter over low heat, whisk in the sugar and syrup until smooth.

The finished product was very tasty. Hubby thought they were a bit too sweet. They had a slight but not overpowering taste of maple.