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!

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.

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.

I made Biscotti

Life goes on at our home. I go to work, walking most days. Hubby continues his unproductive job search. We avoid getting run over by a car. We hope we did not board up the sparrow babies in their nest when we fixed the eave under the gutter. Really, we listened very closely and did not hear peeping for a several days. We watched and did not see momma and daddy sparrow going in to feed the young. We are trying not to feel guilty but did our best to honor the bird lives. Eminent domain? 😦

Hubby asked if I could do this. One of my nieces told me a few holiday seasons ago that they are easy to make. I looked through a few cookbooks and settled on Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I will ‘fess up to two mistakes: I should have flattened the logs before baking the first time and I forgot to leave them in the oven until dry the second time. Oh, and I just smeared the chocolate on the after dipping did not work out so well.

  • 1/2 stick butter (4 Tablespoons, softened)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate orange with almonds chocolate bar, melted

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then add the extract. Mix dry ingredients and add to the dough a little at ta time and add the milk as needed to bring the dough together. Add the cranberries at this time as well.

Butter and flour two baking sheets. Divide dough in half and roll into logs about 2 inches wide. Bake these 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F. When loaves are cool enough to touch use a serrated knife to cut them into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal. Put these on the baking sheets and return to oven, turning them once, for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

I then tried to dip them in melted chocolate. And then I glopped the chocolate on them as frosting. Very tasty. Very rich tasting. Hubby ate most of them.

Will I make these again? Not especially. Well, perhaps if Hubby asks nicely!

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

The summer weather cooled a bit and baking is now able to be done without making the house unbearable. Hubby and I did heave and ho (we have scrapes and bruises to prove that we are getting too old for this sort of thing) the too big AC unit into the sewing room window and put up curtains to partition the living room from the rest of the house but prefer to not have to use it if possible. So technically I could have heated the oven (ugh!) and then go sit in the cooled living room but I did not. Baking is not a past-time I have the urge to indulge in summer. I will confess that I have at least once succumbed to chocolate urges and baked a box of brownie mix. Then we ate that in two sittings. Not good for the waist line!

The idea that I would cook through the Betty Crocker cookbook was a bust. I may do some baking from it but the meat and vegetable recipes were too plain and uninteresting to me this year. I did not even bother to look in that book when deciding to make oatmeal cookies. Deciding to make oatmeal cookies delighted Hubby. Alas, I did not put M&Ms in them so technically they are not “Daddy Holiday Oatmeal Cookies”.

I found this cookbook while looking for a recipe to use. Actually it is the first book I looked at and since there was a recipe I did not look further.

The oatmeal cookie recipe is on page 33 and calls for 3 cups of goodies added to the batter. The only item I added to the original recipe was 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and then I mixed up the 3 cups of goodies for variety.

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (doesn’t every baker know to pack brown sugar by now?)
  • 2 eggs (also at room temperature if one remembers to put them out on the counter with the butter,or is this just for bread?)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups oatmeal (I don’t think it matters if this is instant, quick, or regular? I used quick-cooking.)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate morsels + 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries + 1/2 cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. This recipe goes together in the usual way: cream butter and sugars then add eggs, beating well after each, then add the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients together (flour through cinnamon in above list) and add to the creamed mixture. Then add the oatmeal and goodies. I combined these in a separate bowl first as well.

Scoop batter in heaping tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Let sit on baking pan 1-2 minutes before removing to cooling racks. This step is very important or the cookies will fall apart. This made exactly 4 dozen cookies.

Hubby is having a few for breakfast with his coffee right now. I had thought I would take a plate of these to work but Hubby is enjoying them too much to deprive him of his treat. I did sneak a dozen of them into a freezer bag for later, maybe?

Snack cakes

I may or may not have posted this recipe before. I have a hard time keeping track. There are just so many recipes out there, and just so many that I keep going back to. On occasion I have spotted an interesting new one to try, but have not been adventurous lately.

I am almost three years into blogging, or is it four? It is actually four. I did not intend for this to just be a post of recipes but who am I to think people are interested in my musings on my ordinary life?

Life has happened in the four months since I last posted here. Hubby was laid off and is at that borderline age of contemplating whether this should lead to retirement but not quite there yet, so a job search continues. Leo the Dog had to be let go to doggy heaven after 13 1/2 years of life and 2 1/2 years as part of our family. 😦 Camping season is upon us and we managed to survive a week of biting black flies and chiggers in the Vermont woods. And now that Leo is not a consideration I have been able to look at the State Parks for camping but it is a bit late in the season already to find weekend spots at the shoreline parks.

The other day I needed to bake. Something. Anything. This snack cake recipe is an easy favorite and it has variety. I made the applesauce version with a few tweaks.

  • 1 2/3 cups flour; I used one cup all-purpose and 2/3 whole wheat pastry
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice (recipe called for allspice)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

And my own additions:

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix everything together. I do the dry ingredients first and then add the wet and the additions. Put in 8 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. All done!

This recipe makes a one layer cake. I made the chocolate version to make “bug cakes” for my daughters birthday. The grandchildren helped me decorate them. I bought this fancy pan for $3.50 at an estate sale last summer.

And yes I am aware that there is a unicorn butterfly. It’s all good. 🙂