Saturday, January 28, 2012

Have Fun -- Make Rolls


A while back, I made Twenty Second Cinnamon Rolls, but when I found a 1953 pamphlet from the educational service at J. Walter Thompson Company, entitled Have Fun -- Make Rolls, I just had to try the four-hour version.  The difference?  The 20-second rolls are an afternoon quickie -- fast and sweet.  These rolls are a romantic love affair -- sensuous and sophisticated.  I would venture to say that these are the real deal, the cinnamon rolls of your dreams.


This charming 16-page brochure for children (really, only girls, for this is the 1950s) goes into great detail, complete with photographs and illustrations, walking one through the process of making clover leaf rolls, butterhorns, sailor's knots and cinnamon rolls.  Of course, I picked the rolls with the extra sugar and butter.


These were much better than the 20-second version and worth every minute.  The yeast dough is light and complex in taste (not to mention preparation).  Recipe below, followed by almost step-by-step photographs.

Cinnamon Rolls
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 package active dry east
1 egg
2 1/2  cups all purpose flour

Heat milk gently in saucepan; scald but don't let it boil.  Measure sugar, salt and butter into large bowl.  Pour hot milk into bowl. Stir to melt mixture.
While the above mixture cools, pour yeast into the water.
When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add one cup flour.  Stir until batter is smooth.
Pour the yeast mixture into the batter and stir well.  Add egg and mix until all combined.
Add remaining flour and stir well.
Turn mixture out on a clean counter and knead for about five to 10 minutes, until elastic.
Return to the bowl (which you've washed and and greased).  Coat the dough with the oil, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours.   When it has risen, punch the dough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Turn dough out on your board or counter, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Mix 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. (Take out two tablespoons of this mixture and reserve.)  Melt two tablespoons of butter.

Uncover dough and flatten.  Using a rolling pin, roll it into a long, narrow strip about seven or eight inches wide so it resembles a long, narrow scarf.    Brush melted butter on the dough and sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture on top.
Roll up, lengthwise.  Press the seam by pinching it.
Cut into one-inch slices and place in either a muffin tin, or two eight or nine-inch round or square pans.  Leave space between each roll, as they will expand.  Sprinkle the reserved sugar-cinnamon mixture on top.  Cover with a towel and let rise for one hour, until doubled in bulk.  Bake about 25 minutes.

When cool, you can frost with confectioner's sugar mixed with a bit of water or milk.  Enjoy!


Scald the milk, then pour over the butter and sugar.



Mix the yeast with warm water.


The dough resting.


Roll it out until it resembles a long, narrow scarf.  Pull at the sides to make "corners."


Melted butter and sugar-cinnamon at the ready.


This is how it rolls.


Leave plenty of space between the rolls; you can see below how the dough expands.


If you use muffin tins, you'll get round rolls, instead of these post-modern looking beauties, below.



Girls from the brochure with their rolls.  And Barbie-doll sized waists.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gold Cup Cakes


Do you believe in coincidences?  Me neither.  So I wasn't at all surprised to encounter a recipe to use up the bowl of egg yolks I had in my refrigerator, left over from a recent angel food cake.  I just didn't expect to find it in the bedtime book I was reading, Anne Mendelson's 1996 book, Stand Facing the Stove, about the mother-daughter duo behind the original Joy of Cooking.  




But there it was, on page 97, Gold Cup Cakes, a lone recipe in a sea of narrative detailing everything about the family and the fascinating story behind the publishing phenomena.  I don't believe this recipe made it into the book;  it was found in an undated mimeographed collection.  The stroke of originality of this recipe (and all the Joy of Cooking) is the revolutionary way it is written:  instead of a list of ingredients followed by a narrative method (the traditional way) , the recipe incorporates the ingredients right in the instructions, so that one could get right to the cooking or baking.  (See below.)  One other historic note: The Joy of Cooking was the first published cookbook to include pan sizes in the recipes, a very helpful piece of information.

Anyway, history aside, these are really wonderful cupcakes, simultaneously rich (on account of all those egg yolks) and delicate with an enchanting citrus flavor from the addition of zest. (I used lemon.)


They don't even need frosting.  At least that's what I told myself at 1 a.m. when I took them from the oven.  (They really just take a moment to put together; I started these rather late.)  For color, I "frosted" with some raspberry jam, a topping that worked wonderfully.  I also used mini-cupcake pans since that's what I pulled first from the tangle of baking pans in my Hoosier cabinet.



These mini-cupcakes had perfect domes!  And no need to do all that sifting called for in the recipe. When this was written, probably in the late 1920s or early 1930s, flour was sifted to rid it of impurities and insects.  Flour, these days, is free of both and the only cake you really need to sift flour for is angel food.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Cookie Address (revisited)



This is from last year (re-posted because I got an email from someone this morning, saying  they couldn't find this entry on my blog). These are great cookies anytime.

Ok, I'll admit it.  I didn't watch the State of the Union Address last night, but I did commemorate the occasion in a sweet way -- I baked gingerbread men cookies in the shapes of an elephant and donkey.



I received these Democratic and Republican Party cookie cutters from my friend (and former boss) Lyn, who planned to give them to me prior to the November 2010 election.  But our dinner kept getting postponed and, by the time I received them in December, I thought I'd have to wait a year to try them out.  But, since there always seems to be a partisan conflict in the news, I didn't have to wait that long.

And because Obama evoked Eisenhower in his speech (thanks NPR!), talking about our current "Sputnik moment," I figured this would be the perfect time to use this c. 1955 recipe for gingerbread men.




This batter is very easy to put together (use butter instead of "shortening"), very spicy and very delicious.   But, it's very sticky, making it difficult to work with, kind of like some politicians.  Even my French Silpat, which I bring out in situations like this, didn't release the dough easily.  A sheet of parchment worked better, as a platform for rolling.



Having said that, I'd still recommend these cookies.  Just be sure to refrigerate the dough at all times, except when rolling it out.

The dough before the dry ingredients are added.  Gorgeous, isn't it?




Just dump the dry ingredients right in the mixer.


Cutting these out evoked memories of Congress kindergarten.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Corn Bread, Plain and Simple


Traditional corn bread is not going to elicit oohhs and aaahh. It's a bit dry, a bit gritty, not that sweet.  This cornbread is not the vivacious party guest in the glamorous gown; it's the the plain gal in the corner, the one with the sensible shoes.

Many modern-day recipes offer up a luxurious corn bread with ingredients like sour cream, canned sweetened condensed corn and grated cheddar cheese.  The kind of corn bread Paula Deen (pre-diabetes announcement) would serve, probably with a big pat of butter melting on top.  But being a traditionalist (and wanting to avoid needing the diabetes pills Paula is now pushing), I used a c. 1935 recipe from my collection.


I made the corn bread to serve with a black bean espresso chili for a dinner party we hosted recently.  Now, some of you may be raising your eyebrows at the notion of serving chili at a dinner party, but here was my dilemma.  One of the guests, when questioned, said that she did not eat mammals or birds and that her boyfriend did not eat cheese.  Whoa...that's veering into "vegan country," a place I've never been.  The guest was most gracious, pleading with us not to prepare something special, noting that she is used to "eating around" the contraband, concentrating on the side dishes.  Still, I was reluctant to deliberately make something I knew she wouldn't eat and the chili turned out to be the perfect, if not the most elegant, entree.


The corn bread accompaniment is very simple to prepare -- it literally takes just a few minutes to throw together.  I used buttermilk for the sour milk, but if you don't have any on hand, you can make some "buttermilk" by adding a teaspoon of vinegar to a cup of whole milk and letting the mixture sit until it clabbers.

I'm happy to report that this corn bread tastes even better the next day.  And even better when you add a bit of glamour --  a pat of butter and strawberry jam.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Queen Elizabeth Cake: In the Buckingham Palace Kitchen



We may not be able to live the life of Queen Elizabeth, but we can do the next best thing: Bake the only cake she makes herself.

At least according to a recipe card I purchased recently at the amazing vintage cookbook shop of Bonnie Slotnick, a true treasure in Greenwich Village.  A note on the card reads:


Whatever its origin, this is a fantastic cake and one that anyone can make.  It's a sheet cake, so one needn't fuss with layers and fillings.  (Let the servants do that.)  There's no heart-stopping moment wondering if the cake will release from the pan, as you serve your guests (or yourself) slice after delicious slice straight from the pan.


I love the instructions that say: Mix in the usual manner.  The method I used is detailed below.


Although these look like sliced olives, I can assure you they're dates.  And even though I didn't chop them up finely, they seem to blend into the batter so that they're almost indistinguishable in the finished product but add a lovely flavor and texture.


The frosting is as simple and easy as the cake.


Melt the butter, brown sugar and heavy cream in a small pan, above, and cook until it looks like the mixture, below.


Then spread it on the cake, below, and sprinkle with nuts and sweetened coconut.





Queen Elizabeth Cake 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Pour one cup of boiling water over one cup of chopped dates and one tsp. baking soda.  Let stand while the following are mixed.

Beat 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter and one cup sugar until smooth.
Add two eggs, one at a time.
Add 1 tsp. vanilla.
Mix 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour with one tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt and add to butter-sugar mixture.  Blend until just combined.
Mix in nut and dates (including the "date water.")
Pour in pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Follow the frosting recipe on the recipe card above.

Don tiara and enjoy with your subjects.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Twinkie Defense (Featuring "Will the Real Twinkie Please Stand Up?" Quiz)


Yes, I made Twinkies.


It was a confluence of events that brought me to this new high (low?).  Last week, while walking in my neighborhood, I came upon a brand new Twinkie pan (who knew these even existed?) that someone had left in front of their brownstone.  So I trash-picked it (as we say in Brooklyn).  And then, the very next day, Twinkies were in the news: Hostess Brands, which has made Twinkies since the 1930s, had filed for bankruptcy.  With such an iconic American cake at risk, I felt compelled to bake some.

And now, we break to bring you the Will the Real Twinkie Please Stand Up? quiz.  In the two pictures below, can you identify which is the commercial Twinkie and which is home-baked?  (Answer at the end of the post.)



There are all manner of Twinkie recipes online; I used one from a wonderful blog, Joy the Baker.  Joy also provides instructions to make Twinkie molds, just in case you can't find your Twinkie pan.

The homemade version is delicious, though never having eaten a real Twinkie, I have no basis of comparison.  One thing for sure -- the homemade version is much healthier, using just nine very recognizable ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, sugar, milk, etc.  The commercial product uses more than 30, many of them unpronounceable, some of them, supposedly, made from five kinds of rocks.


In a terrific story in yesterday's New York Times, William Grimes deconstructs the Twinkie, reminding how it figures into American history and culture, from the Twinkie defense (in the Dan White murder trial) to its near inclusion in the National Millennium Time Capsule.


 I thought I might be overfilling the molds, and the finished product, below, proved me right.  But it's easy to slice off the overflow cake with a serrated knife.  And the scraps are pretty good.






The recipe for the cream filling is also at the Joy the Baker site.  It involved Marshmallow Fluff and butter, and is quite tasty.  Below is the possibly endangered Hostess display at my local bodega.



Ok:  Were you right?  In both pictures, the home-baked Twinkie is on the right.