Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lazy Daisy Cake

Lazy cake (or baker)? I think not. Maybe lazy for the 1940s when Lazy Daisy Cake debuted, but not these days. This is a scratch cake, requiring more effort than opening a box. But not that much more, and the result -- a rich yellow cake with a caramel coconut topping -- is worth it. Perhaps it was considered "lazy" in the past because the cake does not call for a traditional frosting, which often involved seven minutes of beating egg whites into submission, sometimes without the luxury of an electric hand-mixer.

So if you want to go old-school (and I know you do), start by combing the dry ingredients, and setting them aside while you mix the eggs and sugar. Don't let the egg-sugar mixture sit without stirring! Several years ago, I learned the hard way that the sugar "cooks" the egg yolks if not immediately mixed.

After the flour mixture is added, bring the milk and butter to the boil, and add it to the batter.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8 x 8 inch pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping by melting the ingredients together in a small saucepan.

Spoon the topping over the hot cake, and spread out as best you can.

Place the cake under the broiler.

And broil until the topping is bubbly and begins to caramelize and color.

Production notes: I followed the recipe exactly as written, but since it's a bit jumbled, I rewrote the method to make more sense. Enjoy!

Lazy Daisy Cake

2 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
1 T. butter

5 T. brown sugar
2 T. milk or cream
1/2 c. sweetened coconut
3 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Cake: Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat two eggs until thick, gradually add 1 c. sugar, beating constantly.  Add 1 t. vanilla.
Add flour mixture to egg mixture and combine well.
Heat 1/2 cup milk and 1 T. butter to boiling point.
Add to batter.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean.

While cake is baking, prepare topping.
Melt all topping ingredients in a small saucepan on top of stove.

When cake is removed from oven, spread topping on hot cake. Boil for a few minutes until topping bubbles.  Remove from broiler, cool and enjoy.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spiced Chocolate Cake

One of the best things about a personal blog is that there's no boss, no deadlines, and if you don't feel like blogging, no problem. Or so I thought until yesterday when I was "berated" by my former boss.  "When are you going to post something new! That soda bread [subject of my most recent blog post] is stale!" she complained. And just as we all revert to our childish selves when dealing with our parents (no matter if we're grown-up), I reverted to "dedicated employee" when confronted with a boss-figure. Lyn, this one's for you!

I was inspired to make this cake following a visit last month to Grenada, aka The Spice Island, located in the Caribbean just north of Venezuela. It's a fabulous island with beautiful beaches, but what attracted me most were the cocoa plantations, chocolate and, of course, the spices. They say the aroma of nutmeg is in the air.  (See pictures at the end of this post.)

This vintage recipe for Spiced Chocolate Cake is the perfect showcase for the island's bounty.  It's very easy to make and actually tastes better the day after it's baked.

Melt unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler, or if you don't have one either, simply fashion one from a saucepan and a bowl. Just make sure the water in the saucepan doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.

Stir (or sift) the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, along with the room-temperature butter.

Follow the instructions and add the rest of the ingredients.

Mix it all together. Don't let the chocolate cool too long as I did (note the bits of chocolate in the batter -- they shouldn't be there, but it didn't spoil the cake).

Pour the batter into a greased and floured pan.

Bake about 40 minutes.

I used a modern-day version of a seven-minute frosting.

Production notes: I followed the recipe exactly, but I let the chocolate cool too long before adding it to the batter, so careful not to do that.

A cocoa pod. The raw fruit tastes like melon!

Cocoa processing at the Belmont Estate. The cocoa fields are just a few yards away, and the chocolate factory is down the road.

Nutmeg for sale on the street in St. George's, the main town. The web-like red coating is mace.

Nutmeg, bay, cocoa nibs and cinnamon, which is harvested from the barks of trees that grow all over the island.

When I asked for coconut water, this is what I got! Not exactly the bottle I expected, but quite refreshing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fool's Dessert: Fried Egg on Toast

(This is a repost from a couple of years ago, but has withstood the test of time.)

I despise duplicity and deception (but apparently not alliteration) except on April Fool's Day.  So, I bring you a delightful kitchen-born practical joke -- and a delicious one!

The fried egg on toast pictured above is trompe l'oeil at its best.  In fact, it is a canned half peach surrounded by whipped cream on a slice of sponge cake.  I found this gem of  a recipe in a 1956 spiral bound cookbook (simply called Cook Book) published by the women of Circle "B" of the First Brethren Church.  

I'm not publishing a sponge cake recipe because the one I made did not come out well.  Very low rise, which is fine in jeans but not in cake.  If you want to fool friends and family, I think a slice of pound cake would do nicely.  (Meantime, I'll be baking my way through dozens of sponge cake recipes in my collection until I find a great one.)

Today's April Fool's joke is reminiscent of a trick I played on my son when he was in middle school (and that I recreated below).  Instead of his usual bacon and eggs for breakfast, I served him bacon and gummy candy fried eggs.  (He didn't complain -- candy for breakfast was quite a treat!)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Betty's Irish Soda Bread

Last fall, Arthur Schwartz gifted me with a huge shopping bag filled with recipes sent in by listeners to Food Talk, his long-running radio show on WOR.  Arthur had organized these into a couple of folders: Savory, Sweet, and --- Irish Soda Bread! Apparently a show in 1992 about the traditional bread caused such an outpouring of recipes as to require its own folder.

The one I chose (and it was a hard choice) was submitted by Betty Foster, a former resident of Dublin. Unlike many others, it did not contain butter or sour cream, and seemed a more traditional choice for St. Patrick's Day. I was not disappointed -- it's really, really good. And really, really easy to make. (And it worked perfectly, even though I forgot to add the sugar -- see production notes.)

Raisins are optional, but I added them, first coating them with flour to prevent their sinking to the bottom of the loaf.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the egg and buttermilk.  I used a stand mixer, but a bowl and spoon would work just fine.

When the dough is mixed -- it will be sticky! -- add the raisins.

Turn out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about five minutes.

Place the dough in a greased and floured 9-inch pan. I didn't flatten it (there were no instructions about this) and I thought it might assume the form of the pan in the oven. It didn't, but I like the free-form dome shape that emerged from the oven.

Bake for exactly 60 minutes and remove from the oven.

Let cool slightly and slice. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Production notes: I followed this exactly EXCEPT, I see now, that I completely forgot the sugar. But it was still really moist and sweet (on account of the raisins). If you don't add raisins, definitely add the sugar.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

French Silk Chocolate Pie

Last week, when my mother fell ill, I unexpectedly found myself in Akron. While I spent most of my time with her, I did attend one estate sale and purchased a c. 1987 dessert cookbook published by the PTA of my elementary school, Fairlawn.  (Its name has since been changed to the Judith A. Resnick School; the Challenger astronaut was a former student.)

The Fairlawn PTA, I read in the cookbook, received national recognition in 1957 when it began sponsoring French classes for grades one to six. I am forever grateful for those classes, as I still remember the French I learned as a young child. (It stayed with me more than the high school French I studied.)

Anyway, I wanted to bake something chocolate for my mother, for there's little she loves above chocolate, but was daunted by the limited baking tools in her kitchen. Then I discovered this French Silk Chocolate Pie recipe -- easy and perfect! The only tools required are a bowl and beater (and a pan or microwave to melt the chocolate).

The recipe says it's "very rich and chocolaty" and it is. French silk pie is basically a chocolate mousse in a pie crust.

I began with some supermarket Baker's semi-sweet chocolate.

After melting the chocolate (and setting it aside to cool), beat the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.

Stir in the melted chocolate...

and pour into a pre-baked pie crust. Refrigerate for several hours.

Production notes: I cheated and used a store bought crust (not recommended unless you're as desperate as I was). Make sure the butter is really soft and beat the sugar in for a long time, or better yet, use superfine sugar. (I didn't do either, and there were still some sugar crystals in the finished product.)
To serve, whip some heavy cream and place a dollop on each slice. With a knife, grate some of the chocolate on top for a nice presentation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Brownies (for Valentine's Day and Every Day)

Is it too early for Valentine's Day baking? I think not, considering that many retail establishments display Christmas decorations right after Labor Day (or so it seems).

Brownies are one of the easiest baked goods to prepare, and are one of the most beloved for good reason. Simple, delicious, and chocolate -- what's not to love? There are probably millions of recipes for brownies, and this c. 1950s vintage recipe is pretty darn good. Using a cookie cutter, I made them February 14th-appropriate by stamping out heart shapes.

Start by chopping some unsweetened chocolate. Because chocolate is the star in these bar cookies, it's worth investing in a premium brand. I used Scharffen Berger, which has a very fruity taste, but there are many other excellent brands out there, like Valrhona and Callebaut.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, then mix up the rest of the batter.

This recipe creates a very stiff batter. Be sure to grease the pan, or line it with parchment paper.

Use a spatula to smooth it to the edges of the pan.

Because there is no salt in the recipe, I decided to sprinkle the batter with sea salt before baking.

Cut into squares or whatever shape your heart desires.

A light dusting of confectioner's sugar makes for a nicer presentation.

The negative space created by the cut-outs are a special treat for the baker.

Production notes: I followed this exactly, but wrote out the recipe below for ease of preparation. I also sprinkled sea salt over the batter before baking. These brownies are not overly chocolate-y, which is typical of mid-20th century recipes. I used one 9 x 12 inch pan. If you plan on cutting out shapes, you might leave out the nuts (I didn't) and consider investing in a very high quality cookie cutter. I swear by those made of copper; they are strong, have a good cutting edge and retain their shape.



Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan (or line with parchment paper)

3 squares (ounces) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped walnuts

In a double boiler (or a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat three eggs.
Add sugar gradually.
Add the flour and baking powder (which you've mixed together)
Add the vanilla.
Stir in nuts.
Place batter in pan and smooth until it reaches the edges.
Optional: Sprinkle some sea salt on top.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes.
Let cool slightly and cut into squares. Or hearts.