Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl Caramel Corn

It's Super Bowl Sunday, practically a national holiday with its own genre of cuisine, and so in the spirit of bad-for-you snacks, I present Oven Caramel Corn, a homemade version of Cracker Jacks, most closely identified with that other American pastime, but perfect for football too.

It's easy to make, and much better than the store bought variety, trust me.

Begin by popping some corn.

Careful, for even though I make popcorn five nights a week, I still managed to burn this batch. I wasn't used to making it in the Le Crueset, with its amazing ability to retain heat.

Place the popped corn in a bowl while you prepare the caramel.

Place butter, brown sugar and Karo syrup in a sauce pan and heat.

Wait until it comes to a boil and cook for about five minutes.Add the salt, baking soda and vanilla.

Then pour over the popcorn, which you've placed on baking sheets or in a large roasting pan.

Mix together to spread the caramel. I used large tongs for this, but a large spoon would work as well.

My scanner appears to be broken, so I photographed the vintage recipes I used, and have written the recipe out below. Since each of the recipes is slightly different, I used some instructions from each.

Oven Caramel Popcorn

Preheat oven to 250 F

Two sticks of butter
1/2 C. Karo white corn syrup
Two C. packed light brown sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla

Pop the corn in a six-quart pan. (My method: Add canola oil to the pan to cover the bottom. Add one layer of popcorn. Cover and use medium heat. When the corn begins to pop, shift the cover so that a little air gets in. When the popping stops, remove the pan from the heat.)

Place popcorn on baking sheets or in a large roasting pan.

In a two-quart saucepan, combine butter, syrup and sugar. Cook over medium heat until combined and boil about five minutes. Add the salt, soda and vanilla.

Pour mixture over popcorn, and using tongs or a spoon spread it as best as possible.

Place into warm oven.

Every 15 minutes for one hour, stir the popcorn to distribute the caramel.

Remove from oven and enjoy.

Keep in an airtight container. You can add peanuts to the popcorn prior to putting it in the oven to make homemade Cracker Jacks.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cherry Magic

Even though I work in marketing (or maybe because of it) I'm a sucker for intriguing and unusual names. And that's how I came to make this recipe with the enticing title of Cherry Magic.  Plus, who doesn't want to make a little magic in the kitchen?

And because I delayed posting it for so long (I made it a few weeks ago), it works perfectly as a Valentine's Day dessert if you're looking for something a bit more original than the traditional chocolate confection.

Cherry Magic is a white cake with fruit that is easy and delicious. It did disappear like magic when I shared it with my coworkers. The c. 1940 recipe is from the collection of a Suring, Wisconsin housewife.

Begin by beating the butter and sugar.

Add in the other ingredients (recipe below) and spoon into a well-buttered pan.  The batter is rather thick, so you'll need to push it to the corners of the pan.

After the batter is in the pan, begin the cherry mixture. I used frozen cherries because I didn't have canned or fresh.

Heat the cherries, sugar, water and almond extract until the sugar is dissolved. Perhaps because I used frozen cherries, there was A LOT of liquid in the pan.

I used my common sense and only added some of the liquid. (I reserved the rest, boiled it down until syrupy and used it as a sauce.) The colors in this photo are a bit odd because I accidentally had a filter on my iPhone camera. But you can see the amount of liquid I added, along with the cherries.

Remove from the oven when the sides pull away from the pan and it is a lovely golden brown. Enjoy!

Production notes: I used Dole brand frozen cherries and, other than that, followed the recipe exactly. The cherries, perhaps because they were frozen,  released a lot of liquid during cooking, so I didn't add it all to the batter. Instead, while the cake was in the oven, I reduced the cherry liquid on the stove (boiling the liquid to concentrate it) and used it as a dessert sauce.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

English Muffins

Like many other New Yorkers during yesterday's Snowzilla, I hunkered down, binge watched television (Mozart in the Jungle, at my house), and generally enjoyed the enforced "do nothing" gift of the blizzard.  But I couldn't stay away from the kitchen, and so when the DH said he'd like an English muffin, I pulled out the flour bin, opened a yeast packet, and got to work. (The toaster part would come much later; thank goodness he's the patient sort.)

This vintage recipe for English muffins, from a collection of a 1940s Wisconsin housewife, was quite successful. Homemade English muffins are very easy to make and way better than the store bought variety. You don't even need an oven -- these are "baked" in a skillet on the stove top!

To begin, scald milk and add butter, salt and sugar. Let the mixture cool a bit.

Proof yeast in a bowl. (Just mix it with warm water.) The yeast on the right (although it hadn't expired) was clearly dead. So I tossed it and tried some rapid rise yeast, which was expired (and is also supposed to be added dry to the flour) and it worked beautifully -- note the bubbles. This is one reason I love working with yeast; it is sooo forgiving.

Mix the dough and knead a bit. I cheated and used my Kitchen Aid (with the dough hook).

Cover and let rise until double.

Punch the dough down, and divide in half. Roll half out on a board or counter sprinkled with cornmeal. Cut out circles with a three-inch biscuit cutter (or a glass, or whatever you have around). This dough is extraordinarily easy to work with.

Place the muffins on a tray and cover.

Until double in size (about an hour, or two episodes of Mozart in the Jungle).

Place in a medium hot skillet.  Cover and cook about five minutes. Flip and cook the other side about five minutes. They don't stick at all, even if you don't use a non-stick pan, like I did.

These were enjoyed by my friend Judith, a Long Island resident who spent the snowy weekend with us, in order to get to her job. This is her, right after she finished her second consecutive 12-hour shift as an emergency room nurse at the local hospital.  (Letting me take her photo was the price she paid for her room-and-board.)

Here's the original recipe card, and below that is a typed, easy-to-read version.

Production notes: The original recipe said that it makes 18, but I got just 13 from the dough. There were scraps to make more, but I didn't see how to combine them and roll them with incorporating all the cornmeal. I didn't use a thermometer at all. 105 - 115 is warm-to-the-touch. If in doubt with the yeast, go colder -- too hot and it will die. I used butter instead of margerine, but otherwise followed this exactly.  Getting the right stove top temperature is critical, otherwise the muffins will be cooked on the outside and gummy inside. I did a few at first to experiment, cutting them open. If they are too gummy at the end, you can always pop them in the oven for a few minutes.

English Muffins

1 cup milk
2 TBS sugar
1 teas. salt
3 TBS butter
1 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
1 pkg. dry yeast
6 cup all-purpose flour

Scald milk (bubbles will form around the edge of the pan). Stir in sugar, salt and butter.
Cool to 105 - 115 degrees)
Sprinkle yeast in warm water, stir to dissolve.
Combine yeast mixture and milk mixture in a large bowl.
Add flour and mix. Knead slightly (or more, if using a mechanical kneader).
Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down, and divide in half.
On a board sprinkled with cornmeal, roll each half of dough to 1/2 inch thick.
Cut in three inch circles. Cover both sides well with cornmeal.
Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Place in a medium hot skillet, cover the pan and bake until browned, about five minutes. (You'll need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your skillet.)
Flip and bake the other side.
Remove from skillet.
Variation: Add 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon to milk.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oatmeal Raisin Bread

Still on your New Year's diet? Then this oatmeal raisin bread, with its low fat and sugar content, is perfect. Though the name evokes the sweetened yeast-risen bread, it is instead a health loaf, albeit one from the 1940s.  The recipe is from the collection of an ambitious cook from Suring, Wisconsin, whose recipe cards were sent to me by her daughter-in-law.

It tastes better than one might think (at least it disappeared when I put it out for my day job colleagues). It is a dense and wholesome bread guaranteed not to induce guilt, unless you're on a strict no-carb diet.

I chose to make this because it was late at night, it seemed really easy (it is) and I had all the ingredients, even the evaporated milk! Adding vinegar to evaporated milk creates a buttermilk, so I'm pretty sure that buttermilk can be substituted if you haven't evaporated milk in the pantry.

Pour the milk over the oatmeal.

Although coating raisins with flour is supposed to keep them from sinking to the bottom of baked goods, this step didn't work. Still, it didn't detract from the finished product.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. I'd suggest using a nonstick pan if you have one.

Let the bread cool slightly before turning it out.

Even using a greased, nonstick pan the loaf was a bit of a challenge to release from the pan, but a butter knife around the edges and some firm smacks on the bottom proved successful.

Production notes: I followed this almost exactly, using butter for the melted fat. I found it was done before 50 minutes, so begin checking at about 30. I've typed the recipe below, as the vintage card is a bit difficult to read.

Oatmeal Raisin Bread

2 TBS vinegar
1 Cup evaporated milk
1 Cup uncooked oatmeal (regular or quick)
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. baking soda
1 Cup raisins
2 TBS melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan.

Stir vinegar into milk and pour over oatmeal.
Add sugar to egg and beat until fluffy.
Add oat mixture and mix well.
Sift together flour, salt and soda.
Stir in raisins and mix well.
Add to oat mixture and mix.
Add in melted butter and mix.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake about 35 minutes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ginger Snaps

Just in time for Christmas comes this delightful vintage gingersnap recipe, so easy that it can be made after a long day of work. And this recipe is special -- I rarely know the genesis of the recipes I collect, but a very generous reader, Carol Suring of  Suring,Wisconsin, send me a wonderful collection of her mother-in-law's recipes. (Plus a handwritten recipe-filled notebook that belonged to her grandmother!)  The recipes were inherited by Carol when her mother-in-law, who spent her whole life in Oconto County in northeast Wisconsin, passed away. "She was a good cook and was always looking for new and different things to cook," writes Carol. This is certainly true, for the collection was filled with confections I've never before encountered, things like coconut washboards, for example. I know I'll be baking from this lovely gift for months to come.

Now, on the the gingersnaps. Combine the butter, sugar, egg and molasses (in that order) and mix well.

While that's beating, put all the dry ingredients in another bowl, and whisk to combine.

Roll into balls. I did them all at once, then placed them on cookie sheets.

Bake and enjoy. The crinkled tops on some of the cookies resulted on single pans of cookies in the oven. But in the interest of time, I mostly baked two sheets simultaneously.

Like many recipe cards in this collection, it was typed on the back of a card soliciting subscriptions to the Wisconsin Cancer Bulletin.  The recipe method is not included (because doesn't everyone know how to put together a cookie dough?), so I've rewritten the recipe as I made it, with detailed instructions, below.

Production notes: The dough was a bit sticky, so I briefly refrigerated it before rolling. I didn't notice any difference when I added drops of water to some of them, so you can skip that step. These are rather mildly spiced, so you can increase the amount of ginger if you like a spicier cookie.

Ginger Snaps

Preheat oven to 350F

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cloves
1 t cinnamon

Beat butter and add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
Add egg and molasses and beat well.
Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add to mixture.
Combine well, but don't over-beat.
Refrigerate dough if it's too sticky.
Roll dough into balls about one-inch diameter
Roll one side in white sugar.
Place on cookie sheet (lined with parchment) about two inches apart.
Bake seven to 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six-in-One Refrigerator Cookies

Years ago, I received a lovely gift -- a beautiful tin filled with many different kinds of homemade Christmas cookies, When I asked the gift giver how she managed to bake so many varieties, she shared her (and Martha Stewart's) secret: Make one dough, divide it and add a different flavoring to each.

And so I was delighted to discover this same concept among my collection of vintage recipes. This is the perfect cookie recipe if you're in need of a variety quickly. After making one simple dough, divide it into six equal-ish portions and add flavorings to five, leaving one plain (to be frosted later, if you like). The recipe is very, very forgiving -- I misread it and used half the amount of butter called for and used baking powder instead of baking soda -- yet the cookies came out great and were inhaled by the staff at my workplace. And by the DH, a real cookie lover. Who ever said baking is a science? My guess is that with a larger amount of butter, the cookies would be even richer. 

Refrigerator cookies are especially quick and easy; no need to roll the dough and stamp with cookie cutters. Instead, it is rolled into logs, refrigerated overnight (or several hours) and then simply sliced.

The dough is easy to mix together, as long as your butter (whichever amount you use) is softened. It was very easy to work, not sticky at all. 

Form into six balls. Don't sweat the size, just approximate.

Gather your flavorings. I didn't have the candied cherries specified, so I substituted dried cranberries with great success.  You needn't measure the amount of ingredients -- you'll know what looks right. And you can always add in more.

Place a ball of dough in a bowl, add the flavoring...

And relive your childhood Play-Doh fantasies by incorporating the ingredients with clean (or, in my case, non-latex gloved hands).

Just wipe out the bowl, and repeat the process. Mix the chocolate one last. Roll into logs, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, slice each log into coins. Place on a baking sheet.

And voila!

 The recipe card has all the information, but because it's so jumbled, I wrote out the recipe below it.

 Production notes:  These keep very well and even with the reduced amount of butter were still fresh ten days after baking. I would recommend cutting the butter amount in half, and use just one cup. As for the flavorings, I gave some approximate amounts, but you can adjust to taste. For the chocolate cookie, you can mix further to achieve an all-chocolate dough -- I didn't because I liked the swirl. I frosted the plain cookies by making a simple frosting of confectioners' sugar and milk. I then dipped the tops of the cookies in the frosting.

Six-in-One Refrigerator Cookies

2 c. unsalted butter (or two sticks if you misread the recipe as I did)
1 c, white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp.vanilla
4 c. unsifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda (or baking powder if you misread the recipe)

Cream the butter (which is at room temperature).
Gradually add the sugars, beating until well combined.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture.
Form into six one-cup portions.
Keep one portion plain and to the others add: 1/3 c. coconut; 1/4 c. melted bittersweet chocolate; 1/4 t. cinnamon and 1/8 t. nutmeg (or to taste); 1/4 c. dried cranberries or candied cherries.
Form into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Slice logs and place cut cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake about 10 minutes.