Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sour Cream Cake



In preparation for holiday baking, I bought a lot heavy cream -- not the ultra-pasturized stuff from the supermarket, but the thick sweet cream from the farmer's market. When the holiday festivities came to an end, and the last guest departed, I found an errant quart at the back of the refrigerator, just a few days beyond its expiration date.  Now if this was the ultra-pasturized variety, I would have tossed it immediately; it's slightly sour odor would indicate that it had gone bad.  But the real deal cream has a second life, in this case, as the star ingredient in this Sour Cream Cake, a vintage recipe from Kansas home baker.

This is a delicious, not-too-sweet pound cake that can be mixed in minutes. I suspect that regular sour cream would make a fine substitute for the slightly sour heavy cream that I used.  (The moral of the story, perhaps, is that while it may be cheaper to buy supermarket heavy cream, that theory doesn't hold up if one needs to pour the spoiled cream down the drain.)


Start by beating the eggs, and then adding the sugar and cream.


Mix in the dry ingredients.


Spoon the batter into a greased loaf pan. (I'm hoping to get a much needed new loaf pan for my upcoming birthday. Hint, hint.)


Bake until golden brown.


Even if part of the cake sticks to the pan, no problem. Just attach the stubborn piece to the loaf.



Production notes: I followed this recipe exactly. The soda-cream mixture didn't foam, but didn't make much of a difference.  Who says baking is a science?


Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Grand Budapest Hotel's Courtesan au Chocolat



In honor of the nine Oscar nominations (including best picture) that The Grand Budapest Hotel, just received, I am reposting an earlier blog entry for Courtesan au Chocolat, the film's signature pastry.

If you haven't seen the movie, you're missing a wild ride -- and a dessert that plays a starring role. It's rare that pastry stars in a film, so I'm breaking from my mission of baking exclusively from vintage handwritten recipes, to bring you Courtesan au Chocolat.

The dessert, from the fictional bakery Mendls, consists of three cream puffs (pate au choux) filled with chocolate pastry cream, dipped in icing and stacked.

Start by making the cream puffs.



While they're baking, make the chocolate pasty cream.  This recipe requires two pastry bags -- one for the pate au choux and one for the chocolate filling.  And a third, if you decided to pipe white icing for a beautiful, but time-consuming, finale.



The toughest part was mixing the icing colors. Use a light hand, when adding the colors if you want to recreate the look of the dessert from the film.

You can find the recipe and a video and more details here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cup Cakes (Disguised as Muffins)




These days, most muffins are really just cake without the frosting. But this mid-20th century recipe is the opposite. It's titled Cup Cakes, but what emerges from the oven are muffins, perfect for breakfast.

They are simple to prepare and very forgiving, as in I forgot to add the egg until the very end, and they still came out beautifully. Spiced with nutmeg and cloves, and filled with nuts and raisins, they are moist and flavorful.

Mix up the batter. Start to finish, it should take about five minutes.


Finished.


What's inside.


Aerial view.


Production notes and recipe:
Like many early recipe, this is really just a list of ingredients, with no method given.  So, I wrote out what I intended to do below. I made these while chatting with my friend who had just signed her divorce papers that very day, so you can understand how I might have been a bit distracted.


Effa's Cup Cakes/Muffins (makes about 15)

1/3 c. unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 c. brown sugar (plus extra for the tops)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 to 3/4 t. cloves (I think 1 t. would be overpowering)
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. raisins
1/2 c. nuts

Preheat over to 350
Line muffin tin with paper cups

Beat butter and brown sugar until combined.
Beat in egg
Mix flour, soda, salt and spices together and combine.
Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix well.
Add buttermilk and mix.
Fold in nuts and raisins
Spoon into muffin tin.
Top each muffin with 1/4 t. brown sugar
Bake about 30 minutes.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Chocolate Sirup [sic]



You know the night before the diet begins and you decide to disgrace yourself  really live it up? For me, that was last night. Not only was I going to indulge in vanilla ice cream with salted peanuts, but my sundae would also feature homemade chocolate syrup.

The only recipe I could easily find in my collection was for this almost dietetic depression-era sauce. Well, better than nothing. And it was pretty good, but hardly the butter and cream infused chocolate sauce of my dreams. Heck, one can even enjoy this sauce without breaking the diet! (For a slightly more indulgent chocolate sauce, click here.)

It's very simple to make, about ten minutes start to finish. Start by placing cocoa powder, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan.


Stir until smooth, and continue cooking (and stirring) for five to seven minutes.  Remove from the heat and add vanilla.


Pour over ice cream. Add peanuts and enjoy -- for tomorrow there will be carrot sticks.


The recipe is from a Texas estate sale; this particular entry is from the grandmother of the family. I'll bet it dates from the Depression or World War II, when food rationing was in effect.

I followed the recipe exactly, except I only made half.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Muriel Clar's Poppy Seed Bars



Yesterday while cleaning out my files (one of many, many New Year's resolutions), I was delighted to discover a recipe given to me by my mother's friend, Muriel Clar.  Mrs. Clar, as I always called her despite her constant pleading to call her Muriel when I became an adult, was renown for both her cooking and baking skills. She and her husband Mr. Clar (Bob) raised three sons in Akron -- and she ran a household in suburbia without ever driving a car. How she managed that is something I can't imagine, for nothing was in walking distance.

Many years ago while I was visiting Akron, Mrs. Clar arrived at my mother's house with these delicious poppy seed cookies, and happily wrote out the recipe. Mrs. Clar died last year, but I'll always remember her warm smile, gregarious personality and her stories, which were every bit as good as her cookies.

These are buttery cookies, not too sweet and wildly addicting. Good thing the yield is high; depending on how big you cut them, you can easily get 70 cookies from this batch. And, they are so easy to make that you just need one bowl and a pair of hands to put the recipe together.

Start by combing all the ingredients in a bowl.


I used my Kitchen Aid, but the recipe says to mix everything with your hands.


Pat the dough evenly in a sheet pan. I lined it with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.


Sprinkle the poppy seeds on top.


Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.


Cut into squares while the cake is still hot.




Below is the note card with the recipe. I followed it exactly, using butter instead of shortening.



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Buttermilk Cookies and Cat Stevens



Back in 2014, the DH and I traveled to Philadelphia's Tower Theater to see Yusuf Cat Stevens play his first American concert in 35 years. (He had cancelled his NYC appearance because venues here insist on paper tickets, and he insisted on none, as a way to foil scalpers.) The concert was fantastic; he played a mix of old and new songs, his distinctive voice was exactly as I had remembered and his charm has endured.


We spent the night in a lovely inn, and the next morning found ourselves at the Reading Terminal Market, a fabulous hall (reminiscent of European markets) filled with all manner of food and food vendors. And there, I scored real buttermilk (the stuff we buy in supermarkets is not real) plus a dozen double yolk eggs.

I used this buttermilk in ginger cookies, and as the expiration date drew ever closer, I was fortunate to find this vintage gem for buttermilk cookies. They are very easy to make, quite tender and cake-like (on account of the buttermilk) and  really, really good.

Like many old recipes, this one is basically a list of ingredients. Start by creaming the butter and sugar.


Add the rest of the ingredients and drop by teaspoon onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.


Cool the cookies on racks.


Because the cookies looked a bit too plain Jane, I mixed up some frosting -- confectioner's sugar and milk -- to give them a little pizzazz.


Aerial view.



Here's the vintage recipe. I especially like the (Good Luck) at the bottom. And the Ground Metel ingredient. She must mean Gold Medal flour, I've written out the method I used, below.


Butter Milk Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (two sticks) softened
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (store-bought buttermilk will work fine)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar until well combined.
Add eggs, one at a time.  Mix well.
Mix flour and soda in a small bowl and add this mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
Blend in vanilla.

Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges have some color.
Good luck!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cinnamon & Nut Coffee Cake


In the days following the Christmas madness, there's nothing more homey than a freshly baked coffee cake. However, at the request of my DS, who wanted cinnamon buns on Christmas morning, that's when I made this. Never mind that I was expecting 16 relatives and friends for dinner that day!

This is a yeast dough, and it has to rise a couple of times, so planning ahead is essential. Because I wanted to bake this Christmas morning, I prepared the dough Christmas Eve, in between our dinner out (main feature: martinis) and the gift-wrapping frenzy that began just as the clock struck midnight.

Although the original request was for cinnamon rolls, I thought this vintage coffee cake recipe would make a nice substitute, for it's really more of cinnamon rolls baked in a  horseshoe shape. To serve, simply slice off a roll (or two). The recipe is part of a collection I bought from a Florida estate. I'd guess it's from the late 1940s.


 Begin by placing the yeast in warm water. Wait a few minutes until it foams.


Scald the milk, add the butter, sugar and salt.


Add two cups of flour and the yeast to the milk mixture and add the eggs.


After adding the rest of the flour, I transferred the batter to the electric mixer. When the dough held together, I removed it and kneaded it for a few minutes. Place it a greased bowl, cover with a clean dishcloth and let it rise for an hour or so. (At this point, planning to bake it in the morning, I punched down the dough and stored it in the refrigerator overnight.)


If you've refrigerated the dough, remove it the next morning and let it come to room temperature before rolling it out.


Brush the dough with melted butter, and add cinnamon, brown sugar and nuts.


Roll it up from the long end.


Place on a baking pan, covered with parchment paper, and slice the "rolls." Cover and let it rise for about 30 minutes.


Bake about 30 minutes. While it's baking, make the icing and pour it over while the cake is still warm.


Production notes: I made just half of the recipe and got one large coffee cake from it. (The original says it makes three). I used two packets of active dry yeast instead of the one cake called for, and butter instead of shortening, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.