Baking weekend: lemon snack cake

I wanted to make a lemon cake. I wanted to make a lemon cake with fluffy coconut frosting. I wanted to bake something. The grandkids were coming so I wanted something fun so I baked an ordinary banana muffin recipe in the “bug pan”.

Then I got out the snack cake recipe. I’ve made different versions before, https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2019/06/20/snack-cakes/.

I figured I could make it lemon although that is not one of the options given. Would white sugar be okay instead of brown sugar? I just gave it a go.

So for the lemon cake I substituted all white sugar for the brown sugar. I added 1 teaspoon of lemon flavoring and one teaspoon of lemon zest. I added a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the water, still equal to 1 cup.

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup water, add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice to measuring cup then fill to 1 cup with water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. I sprinkled unsweetened coconut flakes on top before putting it in the oven at 350 degrees F. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Looks a paler yellow in real life!

It worked; a moist lemony cake.

Not just another lemon chicken

Hubby has been retired for a couple years now and has “taken over my kitchen!” He does most of the grocery shopping and cooking of weekday meals. At times I miss the planning and prepping for our meals but am also grateful that it does not all fall on me when I come home from work. I am still in charge of the baking and desserts but it is summer and usually much too hot to bake.

This recipe is adapted, but not too much, from Eating Well via my local newspaper’s Flavor section that comes weekly wrapped around all the ads for the grocery stores and more. I look through this for any interesting tidbits about food, wine, and cooking. I read this recipe and realized I had the ingredients, mostly, and chose a weekend day to cook. And had fun doing so.

First gather the ingredients. And chop and mince as directed. And cook the rice.

  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil and more
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or thereabouts
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • generous pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 bag of frozen spinach
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice; I used Jasmine rice.
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice and more

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 2 8×8-inch baking pans with oil or cooking spray. One of these will be frozen. Two meals are gotten out of this cooking episode.

Put oil in a skillet and brown the chicken on both sides. Put on plate and set aside. Pour off all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan.

Add a little bit of oil and the onions with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook until golden and soft. Stir in spices and cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring. Put on a plate and set aside.

Add spinach to pan and cook until no longer frozen. Then add lemon juice, the remaining salt, and half the onions. Oh, and add the rice and cook and stir until rice is completely coated, about 5 minutes. This has a wonderful aroma and beautiful color.

Divide the rice mixture between the two prepared pans. Top each half with 4 chicken thighs and then the rest of the onions. You will cover one pan with foil and freeze and the other also with foil but to bake.

So at this point I looked at the chicken and was concerned that I did not brown them sufficiently. So I added a touch of oil back into the skillet and browned the chicken again. Then there were nice browned bits on the pan so I deglazed the skillet with additional lemon juice and then poured this “lemon gravy” on top of the chicken in the square pans. Then wrapped one in foil and stuck it in the freezer to be used within one month or so. At that time it is to be thawed overnight in the refrigerator and about 10 minutes added to the baking time.

Bake the other pan at 375 for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 5-10 minutes longer. A thermometer stuck in the chicken should register 165 degrees F.

Reviewing this recipe makes me realize it is more fussy with the various “setting asides” and the numerous spices, than I usually go for but this was absolutely delicious and worth it.

Custard

A while back I made custard. I read recipes in my newsfeed and I am not sure where this one originated. The writer talked about adding salt to prevent chewy custard and insure creamy. I’m not sure what chewy custard is like. But what struck me most was that the ratio of cream to eggs is what I have always used to make quiche that Hubby raves about. Taking that into account I was inspired to make custard.

  • 2 cups half-and-half or cow’s milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Basically it is milk and eggs and sugar. For quiche omit sugar and add vegetables and meat, and cheese if desired. No need for a crust actually. Preheat the oven with a cookie sheet pan to 350 degrees F.

Beat eggs slightly with the salt then whisk in the milk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Pour into four custard cups/Pyrex/ramekins. Sprinkle with generous amounts of freshly grated nutmeg. Bake in the oven on the cookie sheet pan for 30-35 minutes. It may be slightly wobbly but that’s okay. No need for a bain marie. I was thinking I don’t bake custard pies in a bain marie so let’s see about custard. We ate the custard before I remembered to take a photo.

Crème Caramel

The above picture is the second batch of custard made. This recipe is very easy to halve. For this I made the quick caramel by melting 1/4 cup sugar in a small sauce pan and pouring a bit into each of the four cups before adding the custard mixture. I reduced the vanilla and omitted the nutmeg. A full recipe of the custard would have more depth. But this was a lovely bite of dessert.

potato salad

A week or so ago Hubby was planning to make his mom’s potato salad but found he only had potatoes from the ingredient list. So now I decide to make potato salad and look into the Soulard Market cookbook and find Bevo German Potato alad. Well, I am not cooking 5 pounds of potatoes and really do not want 1 1/2 cups of sugar either. I am adding green beans, just for fun. Here is my version of Green and White Potato Salad!

(I am slicing all of the vegetables with my handy-dandy Rapid Prep Mandoline from Pampered Chef. I try to support my daughter’s business efforts. I like slicing and chopping by hand but this is a cool tool.)

  • about 3 pounds of potatoes, sliced and cooked
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1-2 cups frozen green beans, throw in the pot with the potatoes when the potatoes are almost cooked
  • 3 ribs of celery, sliced thin
  • handful of fresh parsley, my herb garden is not exactly flourishing but hasn’t died!
  • handful of bacon, fried, and made into bits
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste

I have not cooked potatoes for ages so am not exactly sure how long to cook nor when they are actually done. I buy bacon ends and pieces so that is what I used. Be sure to save the drippings.

Slice all the vegetables except the green beans. Put the sugar, cider, water and bacon drippings into a small sauce pan, whisk, and boil. The original recipe called for flour and reducing this to the consistency of a white sauce. I did not do this. I just boiled it for about 5 minutes.

Put all vegetable in bowl. Toss with the salad dressing. I sliced the potatoes too thin so have a little bit of mush when tossing. But the dressing tastes yummy!

We are having this with barbecued ribs. Happy Father’s Day to all fathers and father-like figures.

Guinness Stew with Puff Pastry

Hubby and I were watching some obscure British tv show from the 70s or 80s and one of the characters made reference to marinating beef in Guinness overnight for a steak and kidney pie. We looked at each other, put the TV show on pause, and started brainstorming a Guinness Stew. For some reason Hubby added that it needed puff pastry; so we were really talking about a beef pot pie. He was thinking of Beef Wellington. He traipsed off to the grocery store the next day to get potatoes as that was the only thing we did not have on hand. Here’s the result:

Please don’t look at the less than pristine clean stove!

First, I have beef stew meat in the house thanks to my neighbor who overbought on her meat delivery system. I did send the Hubby out to look for frozen puff pastry when he bought potatoes but since we go to the discount grocery stores there was none to be found. Hubby is concerned, as am I, that it could be considered a waste of good beer to put too much Guinness in the stew. And I needed to decide whether or not to marinade the stew meat.

  • 2 pounds stew meat, already cut into chunks; I chose not to marinade this.
  • approximately 1/2 cup flour for divided use
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fine Herbs
  • 2 large red potatoes, scrubbed with skin on
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 medium carrots; I had one large one and two medium
  • 1 garlic clove
  • about two cups beef broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) Guinness stout, divided use
  • oil for the pan; we use olive oil
  • one sheet Puff Pastry; for some reason I decided to make the real thing by hand!

Chop the vegetables and mince the garlic in large bite size pieces. The exact amount of vegetables is not important in stews and soups. More can be added for large families. Dredge the stew meat in about 1/4 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Put oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet and brown the meat. Stir this around a bit to get all or most sides. Add the vegetables and 1/2 the can of Guinness. Pour other half of beer into glass and serve to Hubby. Add the beef broth to the pot along with the Fine Herbs unless you thought in advance to mix the herbs with the flour that dredged the beef. At this time rinse the beer can and add that water to the pot. Why not? Add more broth or water to almost cover the stew mixture. Stir this and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes or so. Test the carrot for doneness. Mix the rest of the flour with a bit of cold tap water and stir into the stew. This will thicken the stew and you can use more flour for a thicker broth.

Prior to all this I made Puff Pastry using Jacques Pepin’s recipe for the real thing. This is not a rough puff. This is three cups (one pound flour) and one pound butter. The only thing else is ice water and a little salt. This is made with four turns of the dough which I may have miscounted and done five. This will give your upper arms a work out rolling this stuff out so many times. But look at the layers!

When the stew was complete and the puff pastry had rested in the refrigerator for an hour, I turned the stew out into a casserole dish. Actually Hubby did this as I sometimes have difficulty picking up heavy objects on occasion. Getting older is not just getting wiser. It also means recognizing that one does not always have the capability of one’s youth, and it is nice to have a partner.

I rolled one-third of the pastry into a rectangle. This was a bit of work so the resulting rectangle was not quite as big as I had hoped. I placed this on the stew and popped it into the oven that was heating to 425 degrees F. Thirty minutes gave the pastry a nice color and crusty outside. The part on top of the stew was not crisp and one would not expect it to be if you think about it. In hindsight, Hubby suggested baking the pastry on a sheet pan and then placing it on the stew. That would insure crispy all the way through.

It was absolutely delicious. The taste of the stout came through for a subtle difference for a beef stew.

I now have two pound of puff pastry in the freezer. It needs to be used within a few months. What to make next?

Happy Pi Day

What kind of pie to make for Pi day? This I asked Hubby. I had recently made an apple pie which we proceeded to eat 75% of in one sitting. Mincemeat is not seasonal. Pumpkin is a standard. Finally we settled on a Chocolate Cream Pie. No meringue. I went through at least half a dozen cookbooks to find a Cream Pie and not a Meringue Pie. So it was back to basic Betty, Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, page 302 in my edition.

Most of the recipes for pudding pies that I found use egg yolks. This allows the whites to be used for the meringue. I had to make a decision as to how to use whole eggs or have 4 egg whites sitting about the fridge for who knows how long? The next decision was to use cocoa or chocolate. I have these 85% chocolate discs and wondered if these would serve. I also had an 82% Belgian Dark Chocolate bar available. The third decision was about pie crust. Should I make homemade or use the “emergency pie crusts” in the refrigerated box. I had already made the decision to use canned whipped cream. It is easy enough to make it from scratch but then I would have a half-used carton of whipping cream sitting around in my fridge for, you guessed it, who knows how long? But as I write this I am envisioning cream puffs with crème patisserie. Darn! I did not think of that when I was at the store.

The pie crust is pre-baked for this pie. I used one of the emergency crusts. I have a pound of dried navy beans that I use for pie weights. Just let them cool and keep them for next time. Betty says to pre-bake the shell, well-pricked, in the oven at 475 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. I had never used that high of a temperature but gave it a go. Other than it taking longer than 10 minutes it worked well. It took my crust longer because I had also weighted down a tin pie pan with the beans for additional weight. This did not let the crust brown for the first 8 minutes.

So the first step in the recipe is to bake your pie crust for a 9-inch pie.

  • 1 cup sugar; Betty wanted me to increase this from 2/3 cup to 1 1/2 cups if making the chocolate version of the cream pie. I only increased it a bit. This probably matters depending on what type of chocolate is used. The chocolate I used had some sugar in it.
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk; I bought 2% milk and now have half a half-gallon sitting in my fridge for who knows how long? We usually drink/use/cook with nondairy “fake milk”.
  • 3 whole eggs; I decided this would work just as well as 4 egg yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ounces chocolate; I used the chocolate discs.
  • Sweetened whipped cream

First, melt the chocolate with the vanilla. Slightly beat the eggs in separate bowl, medium sized, so that half the hot milk mix can be poured in this. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a good sized sauce pan. Pour in the milk slowly and bring this to a boil, stirring constantly. This will take at least ten minutes of standing by the stove. Betty intended for the chocolate mixture to be added with the milk but I forgot to read that part of the instructions. Let this boil for 1 minute, still stirring. Now pour half the hot milk mixture into the eggs, stirring those so as not to have scrambled-egg pudding. it was at this point I read about when to put in the chocolate so I put it in the sauce pan. I thought I might have chocolate-spotted pudding but it did blend all-together when put all back into the sauce pan. Now boil for one more minute. Remove from heat.

Pour into the waiting pie crust. Cover top of pudding with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. Betty says not more than 48 hours, not sure why. Top with whipped cream for serving. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap!

This was very delicious and rich tasting. I added more whipped cream on each slice.

Maple Oat Soda Bread

I was looking for something to bake and wanted to do something from my many cookbooks, etc. and not from the internet. I noticed that I had mini loaf pans under my counter with a recipe collection notebook on top. Here I found a King Arthur Flour recipe that I had saved from their magazine/sales flyer. By the name of the recipe this one must have been sent out about this time of year maybe several years ago. It sounded delicious so I baked it.

Typical me, I have substitutions to make. I have mini loaf pans that make 4, not the 8 mini loafs pictured in the recipe. I also substituted quick cooking rolled oats for their old fashioned rolled oats; and all-purpose flour for the Irish-style flour. Who knows what that is?

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (or 276 grams; I used my new kitchen scale from Pampered Chef)
  • 1/2 cup dried buttermilk powder (this should be a staple in any baker’s kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (and I had real Vermont Maple Syrup just like the recipe!)

Make the oats with the oatmeal and boiling water. This will depend on what type of oats used. My oats cooked in 1 minute. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the wells of the mini loaf pan.

Mix the maple syrup and melted butter in a bowl. Set aside 1 1/2 Tablespoons.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter/syrup mixture and the oats. Mix together until smooth-ish. Remember this is a quick bread so it will come together looking like biscuits or scones. Divide evenly into the mini-loaf pans.

Bake breads until done: toothpick test is clean and/or 200 degrees F internal temperature. I used my handy dandy digital food thermometer gotten reasonably cheaply from the internet. Immediately brush the tops of the breads with the reserved butter/syrup mixture letting it soak into the breads. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out on wire rack to cool.

Declared yummy when eaten.

I also baked something chocolate. I went to a favorite snack cake. However I was running low on flour. So this was made with coffee instead of the water and a mixture of all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, and almond flour. I thought putting these in the large muffin pan would make it easier to freeze a few for later. Well, not so fast! These did not want to come out of the pans. They had nice “muffin tops” which came off and I had to scoop the cakes out with a large spoon. I’m thinking that the almond flour makes a tender cake crumb and that baking this in the standard 8 x 8 inch pan would have been more successful with the combo of flours.

Hey it’s chocolate!

Baking with Pears

I had some beautiful red pears in my produce delivery. I put them in a paper bag for a few days and they were ready to eat. This had given me time to research what to do with them. These pears would be good for eating but I wanted to bake. The goal was to make the Pear Tatin recipe from my Essential Pepin cookbook.  I do find that I make alterations to the recipes that I have used. This one however I did not. Oops, yes I did. I did not have apple cider, but no worries, the Tarte Tatin recipe used water and lemon juice for the same purpose.

This was baked/cooked in a ten inch cast iron skillet as instructed. The first batch of caramel was burned so I started over. I sliced the pears instead of using pear halves. And I doubled the dough as there was no way I was going to get a ten inch circle from the original amounts using only ½ cup flour. Here is the result:

In future I would revert to brown sugar and butter and not make a caramel. I would slice the pears the same. I would then use a short crust tart pastry on top and bake in the oven until done. Or make it an upside down cake and use cake batter. Or use Pepin’s Meme’s Apple Tart dough and top with pears.

I had two pears remaining. I found a copy from a diet book for a Peach Flat Cake. I can use pears! Here are my ingredients, slightly modified from the recipe page.

  • Two pears, sliced; I did not bother to peel them.
  • ½ stick butter
  • ¼ cup dry milk powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons,  approximately, almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

This called for a round cake pan but did not indicate size. I selected an 8 inch pan and am very glad I did. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray the pan with cooking spray.

In mixer bowl, beat the butter the dry milk, sugar and almonds until creamy. Add the eggs and beat for a few minutes to aerate the batter. Add the flour and baking soda until well blended. Pour the batter into the pan and place the pear slices on top in a circle. Or as my grandson said, “looks like fireworks!” Bake for 20 minutes until golden. I added a few more minutes.

The description of this recipe says the dough “rises slightly as it bakes to embrace the fruit”. Well it did, very slightly. Hubby and I enjoyed this. It did not have the texture of cake. It was more like clafoutis or dense custard. It was much less sweet than the Tatin above and prettier too.

Soupe a l’oignon a la Julia!

I have been enjoying cooking from my “French” cookbooks, one by Julia Child and one by Jacques Pepin. Hubby bought beef broth hoping for some onion soup. We get lots of onions each week so had all the ingredients. Hubby prefers beef broth as it gives a different taste and mouth feel.  I think that is umami.

I chose to go with Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My goal is not to master the art but to experiment with different combinations and ways of preparing food. I really like soups. Hubby likes soups to be more stew-like.  I have adjusted very few items in this recipe. I use slightly less butter than she suggests. This is what I used.

  • 5 cups sliced onions
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 3 Tab flour
  • 1 quart boiling beef broth
  • 3 cups homemade chicken broth, also boiling
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start with the butter and oil and onions in a heavy saucepan. This needs to be big enough to cook the whole soup. And needs a lid. A 4 quart pan is suggested. Slow cook the onions for 15 minutes. Then add the salt and sugar and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently.

Did I mention Julia writes to count on 2 ½ hours to make this soup?

Now add the flour and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the boiling liquids and the wine. Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes.

For serving, add 3 Tab cognac. Now pour the soup into bowls lined with baguette and cheese.

The first time I made this soup I also made baguettes from Jacques Pepin’s Essentials. Real bread made with flour, yeast, salt, and water. We ate 2 ½ baguettes with the soup. And this tasted like “real” French onion soup, not just onions sautéed in broth. And we had gruyere cheese.

The second time I made the soup I halved the broth to just the beef broth, heated not boiling, cooked for the minimum times, forgot the cognac, and did not serve over bread and cheese. It was just as good but did not have that fabulous first taste of “Ahhhhh, this is good soup!”

Stay safe and be well!