Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Old Fashioned Baked Custard


I was craving vanilla pudding yesterday, but couldn't find a single recipe among my hundreds of jumbled (read: disorganized) recipe cards, but I did find one for its first cousin -- baked custard.  Not as sweet or indulgent, but still a lovely way to showcase the beautiful eggs I bought at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket on rainy Saturday morning.


I probably haven't made baked custard since high school home economics class and forgot how absolutely easy and wholesome this is.  As I prepared it, I imagined generations of mothers making this for their children. The baked custard was smooth and delicious and very healthy in a dairy farm kind of way.

Whisk the scalded milk into the beaten eggs.

Pour the mixture into the custard cups, fill the larger pan with hot water and bake.
(Those brown specks are nutmeg I added for another flavor note.)

Eat the custard warm right from the cup.  Or when chilled, unmold it (pictured at top).


Blue, brown and white eggshells.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lazy Daisy Cake: A Vanilla Cake Brulee



There was a time in this country when many housewives would bake a cake everyday, that not baking one (or making some kind of dessert) was akin to forgoing the side dishes for a meal.


Lazy Daisy Cake is one of those cakes that many a housewife had in her repertoire.  I've discovered several similarly named recipes -- Busy Day Cake, Impossible Cake, One-Egg Cake -- all promising to get sweets on the table fast.


But Lazy Daisy Cake is more than quick -- it's light and delicious with a luscious broiled topping that's much simpler than a buttercream and more special.  In fact, it's almost like cake brulee, especially if you slightly overbroil it, as I did.




Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Amazing Matzoh Buttercrunch


Matzoh Buttercrunch is simply the best, most addictive Passover dessert ever.  And unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you've made it or eaten it.  But just in case you somehow missed this hyper-delicious treat, I'm posting it here -- even though it's a modern recipe.  (You know if I break my vintage rule, it's gotta be great.)

It was invented by Marcy Goldman, a wonderful baker, recipe inventor and writer, worth checking out at Betterbaking.com.


Lay the matzoh boards out on a baking pan, lined with both aluminum foil
and a sheet of parchment paper.
Heat the sugar and butter in a saucepan and within moments,
it will transform into the mixture below.




After the mixture starts to boil, let it cook three minutes.




Carefully pour the sugar syrup over the matzoh boards.  I used an offset spatula
to spread it evenly over the boards.


The cooked caramel does not look this orange in real life.  Here, the chocolate chips are
melting from the heat of the caramel.


No need to gild the lily, but some toasted nuts make for a lovely presentation.


Waiting for the chocolate to cool, before breaking the candy into smaller pieces.
Breaking the candy into pieces is somehow very satisfying.


Marcy's recipe and the story behind it are on Arthur Schwartz's blog, Foodmaven.com.  I've just pasted the recipe below, but do check out the story on Arthur's site.


4 to 6 unsalted matzoh boards or sheets
1 cup unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover bottom of pan with baking parchment - on top of foil. This is very important as mixture becomes sticky during baking. Line bottom of pan evenly with matzoh boards, cutting extra pieces of matzoh, as required, to fit any spaces on the cookie sheet as evenly as possible. 

Combine margarine or butter and brown sugar in a 3 quart, heavy-bottomed, saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking 3 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour over matzoh. 

Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure mixture is not burning. If it seems to be browning too quickly, remove from oven, lower heat to 325 degrees and replace. 

Remove from oven and sprinkle matzoh boards immediately with chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand 5 minutes then spread melted chocolate over matzoh. While still warm cut into squares or odd shapes. Chill in refrigerator until set. This makes a good gift. You can also serve it in confectioners' paper cups as a candy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Farfel Muffins - Don't Pass These Over




One of the rewards of enduring my family's five hour seders were the farfel muffins made by my Grandma Jean who made these (and everything else) from scratch.


Her farfel muffins were like a Jewish version of Yorkshire pudding, very light and almost hollow on the inside.  As you can see, my muffins, while delicious, haven't yet achieved the high standard my grandmother set.


I'm lucky to work just a few blocks away from the Streit's Matzoh factory on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which has a retail shop attached, as I was unable to find farfel in any of the grocery stores in my Park Slope neighborhood.  Matzoh yes, farfel no.

These muffins, from my mother's recipe (below), are very easy to make, and almost impossible to stop eating.

Soak the farfel in water and then drain before proceeding with the recipe.


My mother's recipe.  When I took this recipe card, she said, "Mine were never as good as Grandma's."

Luckily I have eight days to get these right.

Production notes:  Grease the muffin tins. Soak the farfel in cold water until soft, then drain. Beat eggs separately, and add to drained farfel, melted butter, salt and matzoh meal.  These make approximately 15 muffins.   (Alternately, you don't need to beat the eggs separately, just mix them into the rest of the ingredients -- I'm sure that's what my mother did.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Buttermilk Griddlecakes


Looking for the perfect pre-Passover Sunday morning breakfast?  You couldn't do much better than these buttermilk griddlecakes from the 1931 Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer.


I never understood pancakes from a box mix when the homemade version is nearly as simple, and much more wholesome.


This recipe can be put together in a few minutes.  I chose this to showcase my recent purchase of Animal Farm Buttermilk, real buttermilk from an Orwell, Vermont farm, available at Saxelby's Cheese in the Essex Market on the Lower East Side.  And as DH says, buttermilk has the best pr in the food business.  Indeed, how much better do buttermilk pancakes sound than just regular pancakes.


These pancakes are both smooth and a bit crunchy, on account of the two tablespoons of cornmeal.

The recipe is below.  But how to cook? Heat a griddle or frying pan (I used an electric one) and grease or rub over with a cut turnip (I swear this is what it says in the cookbook).  Drop the mixture from the tip of a spoon and cook on one side until it is puffed, full of bubbles and cooked on the edges.  Flip over and cook other side.
Serve with butter and maple syrup (also in season right now).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tin Roof Sundae and Homemade Chocolate Sauce


One of the simplest, yet most impressive ways to dress up ice cream or pound cake is with homemade chocolate sauce.  It's so fast and easy, not to mention so much more delicious than store bought syrup, that I'm surprised people don't make it more often.  Or at all, for that matter.


Inspired by the recent Tin Roof Sundae (vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and Spanish peanuts) I enjoyed at Akron's own Mary Coyle Ice Cream, I decided to try my hand at chocolate sauce, choosing a recipe from a c. 1934 Hershey's cookbook.



Nothing (and I mean nothing) can top Mary Coyle's for atmosphere, flavor and everything else.  It's almost worth a trip to Akron for the experience alone.

Back in my Brooklyn kitchen, I tried to recreate a bit of Akron's best.  And succeeded.  Do try this sauce and I guarantee you'll never go back to the chemical laden supermarket stuff again.

Place chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt together.

Add the sugar and cocoa powder.  Cook for five minutes.

I was worried that this grainy texture wouldn't resolve, but once the cream was added,
the mixture smoothed out beautifully.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Chocolate Cake You Should Make


Need a go-to chocolate cake?  I discovered a simple and delicious recipe in Ida Mae Van's 1935 cooking school notebook.

But this recipe, tucked in the back of the composition book, is not written in Ida's careful hand, but was given to her by someone urging her to try this chocolate cake.  I have no idea who Ms. Van was, but I know a good recipe when I see one, so I didn't need much urging, just a lunch date with my friend Jordana who loves chocolate almost as much as life itself.

This cake is super easy and quick. I started it at 11 a.m. and brought it to lunch at 1 p.m., cooled and frosted.  I used the Magnolia Bakery's vanilla buttercream frosting, available by searching Google.

This recipe isn't in Ida's handwriting, but was given to her by someone else, and placed in
her cooking school composition book.


The recipe calls for lard (I used butter) the size of an egg.


Don't worry if the batter looks speckled.  It will even out in the oven.



Jordana and her chocolate cake.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Buttermilk Pie: The Crack Pie of the 1950s



For dessert addicts in New York City, crack pie needs no explanation.  For everyone else, let's just say that this most delicious treat at Momofuku Milk Bar was given the perfect name.

Recipes for crack pie are all over the internet; problem is, there's no official one and those that do exist are extremely complicated and time-consuming with no guarantee of success.

So imagine my delight when my co-workers at Henry Street Settlement (a lovely, but tough crowd) heaped praise on this c. 1950s Borden's Buttermilk Pie* calling it "amazing" and "incredible" and . . .  drum roll here . . . "as good as crack pie."

It's really easy to make (once you master the pie crust) and very quick -- I swear it took me about five minutes to put the filling together.

At the beginning, making the pie filling is like making a cake, creaming sugar and butter,
 then adding flour and eggs.
The very liquid filling firms up in the oven.

The top takes on a dark golden color.


*I did not use Borden's Buttermilk; I believe that company closed shop about a decade ago.  Instead I used "real" buttermilk (as opposed to supermarket varieties) from Animal Farm that I purchased at Saxelby Cheese at the Essex Market.  Look for more buttermilk posts in the coming week.