Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rhubarb "Pudding"


I adore puddings so was thrilled to discover this c. 1950s recipe for rhubarb pudding, especially since I had just bought a gorgeous bunch of the red stalks at the farmer's market. So with great anticipation, I prepared the recipe. But what emerged from the oven wasn't pudding, but something else entirely, proving the axiom that one generation's pudding is another's cobbler.

Among the challenges of baking from old recipe cards is interpreting instructions across a generation (or two or three) and "blind" baking (i.e., there's never a glossy photo so one can see the final product).  In fact, some of the recipes don't even have a title or instructions, but are simply a list of ingredients on a scrap of paper or a card, leaving me to wonder if I'm following a recipe or "baking" someone's shopping list.

Having said that, this "pudding" was absolutely delicious, and had the very high crust-to-fruit ratio prized by many.  Do try this at home.  If you don't believe me, just ask Karin and Jim, pictured below, who are very enthusiastic (and honest) eaters.


Chop up the rhubarb into about a 1/4 inch dice, below.


Combine it with the pineapple tidbits in an 8-inch pan.


Mix the pudding batter (sugar, eggs, flour and lemon juice) and pour over the fruit.


The topping is prepared like pie crust, so I used my food processor to make quick work of cutting the fat into the flour.


Sprinkle the topping on the fruit and pudding mixture and bake. And voila -- in under an hour you'll have a unique (in this century, at least) rhubarb dessert.





Jim and Karin enjoying some dessert. Note the large bottle of raspberry wine (aka "hootch") they brought over.






Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coconut Tapioca Pudding


This is a pudding so delicious that one of my tasters described it as a "Mounds bar on Ecstasy."  And it literally took me 90 seconds to prepare.  But there's a small catch. The key ingredient in this dessert -- a coconut powder -- must be ordered.  From Hawaii.


The packaging of this coconut powder looks slick enough to be part of the Kraft Foods family, yet it's a product produced by a Kauai family who sell it at farmer's markets on the island.  In fact, the telephone number on the package is the owner's personal cell phone!


Above, at right, is Barbara Oki, whose restaurant on Kauai served the famous Oki pancakes until it closed recently.  Barbara then developed this coconut powder, which is sold by her, along with her son and daughter-in-law.  I bought three packages from Barbara, a very enthusiastic salesperson who created the recipes. She insisted that I call her cell phone (the number listed on the package) should I have any questions while making the tapioca pudding.


This pudding calls for Minute tapioca, a more processed product than regular pearl tapioca, and one that avoids the "fish eyes" texture of the traditional.


I actually made this twice, first for our excellent house painters Bruce and David, below, but forgot to take pictures, and later for some folks at work.  (If you need fabulous painters, I'll send you their numbers.)


The coconut powder was originally developed to make coconut syrup, used in Hawaii in place of maple syrup on pancakes, etc.  It is fantastic. But, if you check Barbara's website, you'll see that there are many delicious desserts that use the powder.  Below is the one I used.


Haupia Tapioca Pudding (Updated)

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil (Use bottled or purified water for best results).
  2. Add 4 Tbs. (Level Tbs.) of Tapioca (Kraft Minute Tapioca) dry mix to boiling water.
  3. Stir tapioca for 1 minute (water boiling).
  4. Whisk while adding entire package of coconut syrup powder mix to boiling water.
  5. Whisk vigorously and allow pudding to thicken (20 to 30 Seconds).
  6. Remove pot from stove and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth (Pudding thickens as it cools).
  7. Pour into a large serving bowl. Refrigerate after it cools (Stir before serving).



Friday, May 20, 2011

Pecan Dreams


Want to whip up a homemade cookie, bursting with caramel flavor, coconut and pecans?  Then look no further than the aptly named Pecan Dreams.  These are bar cookies, a very efficient way to bake, for instead of forming each cookie individually and baking sheet after sheet of them, these are baked in one tin, then cut into squares when cool.


Now, these aren't the most gorgeous of cookies, but no one will ever mistake them for store-bought.  And the two layers (the crust base and the flavorful topping) make them more interesting than, say, brownies, the most famous of all bar cookies.


Above, the base in place; below the topping.  It's much easier to distribute the topping evenly if you have an offset spatula.


Make the base, pat in pan, then spread the topping over it.  You need not use cake flour, and don't worry if you don't have 7 x 10 inch pan -- I've never even heard of that size.  A standard 8 x 8 pan works just fine.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hubig's Pies and Street Pralines


I promised myself that I wouldn't buy even one praline while in New Orleans, but who could resist the homemade pralines being sold by a street vendor on the corner of St. Peter's and Royal Streets.  They were made with brown sugar and really tasty, even if their merchandising wasn't the most appealing.


And in every drug store and supermarket in the city, I saw these intriguing packages of Hubig's Pies, so of course I bought one.


When I got back to New York, I popped one in the microwave for 25 seconds, as directed.  And it was amazingly delicious.  A little research revealed that these are made in the Fauberg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, and the "factory" uses few automated machines, relying mostly on real people to make the pies.  Oh, and they use lard in the crust, which makes them even better.  So, the moral is, even in Walgreens good pies can be had.  At least in New Orleans.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Sweet Shout-Out for A Cake Bakes

Because I was out-of-town last week, I missed the fabulous Brooklyn Blogfest created by pioneer blogger Louise Crawford, author of OnlytheBlogKnowsBrooklyn.com.  But I was thrilled to learn that A Cake Bakes was one of the dozen or so blogs included in Blogs Aloud, a theatrical performance directed by Elizabeth Palmer of Midnight Cowgirls. Actors Nancy Graham, Charlotte Maier and Elizabeth Palmer performed pieces from the blogs. The segment they chose from A Cake Bakes is below: 
There was a time in this country when many housewives would bake a cake every day, that not baking one 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. (A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Word About Lettuce


I know this is a baking blog, but if a gal is to eat the amount of sweets she wants, she needs to supplement dessert with vegetables.

Now, I really do love salads, but I've never tasted any as flavorful as I did while vacationing on Kauai.  Whether ordered in a restaurant, or prepared by moi in our cottage kitchen with greens purchased at a farmer's market, these salads really rocked.

DH said that the lettuce tasted like soil, but not in a bad way.  And then I realized that one could "taste" the earth where these greens were raised.  Terrior is a French term used to describe certain characteristics of wine -- the geography, climate, soil and such that give the grapes their unique qualities.  And so it was with the lettuce of Kauai.

And, on that note, off to taste test some coconut tapioca pudding.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Eating Hawaii

Posting from the beautiful, but very wet and stormy island of Kauai.  The weather prohibited helicopter rides, rafting, kayaking, most snorkeling, hiking and more, but it did not prevent DH and I from visiting nearly every farmer's market on the island.

One of the few clear afternoons, at the Hanapepe Farmer's Market.

Farmer's markets here are fairly modest (each stand has just a few items, and most seem like they're from backyard gardens rather than farms) and quick -- if the opening bell (or car horn) sounds at noon, by 1 p.m., most of the items are gone.  There's a real frenzy at the beginning, to get the best fruits and vegetables.

Above is a typical spread from a vegetable farmer, and below is the find of the trip -- an absolutely delicious cinnamon-tasting fruit with the consistency of a kiwi.  Need to figure out its name (and how to get it in New York).


Another mystery fruit, below, tasted similar to a pear.


Farmer's market bounty of fruits and vegetables.  While prices are super-high in supermarkets, the prices at the farmer's markets were very reasonable.  I think I paid $1. for a lot of fiddlehead ferns, and papayas were four for $5.     

The trip wasn't all fruits and vegetables, as you can see below:

Mango lilikoi pie sold by The Right Slice, a start up business on the island.
Fabulous chocolate cake at Icing on the Cake in Kapaa.

You can't leave Kauai without a Shave Ice (a sno-cone-type confection with ice cream on the bottom.)

Another find was a Croisscone, a cross between a croissant and a scone, invented by the  Passion Bakery in Kapaa.  Unbelievably addicting, especially the ham and cheese, above.


Inside the tiny taro chip factory in Hanapepe.


On the way to a waterfall, DH and I took a side trip to Ritchie's Bar & Grill in Lihue, to have the famous Oki pancakes.  Weird sitting in a bar at 11 a.m., eating pancakes, but boy, were they good.

Being total tourists, we attended a luau.  And here's what I ate.  The brownish stuff at about 3 o'clock is the highlight -- meat from a pig that was cooked while buried underground.