Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cinnamon Crunches


Last night, as I was reluctantly cutting vegetables for my 15th salad this week (can anyone say Weight Watchers?), I was suddenly overtaken by the mantra: Stop the Madness!  Always one to listen to reason, I immediately put down my knife, and got to baking.  The result? These insanely delicious bar cookies, so good that my tasters here at work couldn't get enough of them.  (In fact, Ryan had three!)

Cinnamon Crunches (from Duckworth, according to the vintage recipe card) are the perfect treat when you're overcome at 10:30 p.m. with a desire to bake but not with the desire to go to the store for ingredients.  These call for common ingredients that most of us have in our kitchen:  eggs, milk, butter, flour, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and nuts.


Cinnamon Crunches are not a confection where all the ingredients are simply dumped in a bowl.  It requires making the bottom layer, and then pressing it into a baking pan.  The top layer is made by whipping an egg white, spreading it on the crust and topping it with a cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture. The extra work pays off nicely: Cinnamon Crunches are way more than the sum of their parts.  They are sweet, buttery, crunchy (from the top layer) and several people guessed apple was an ingredient.


Putting the bottom crust together is easy.  Just cream butter and sugar, and add an egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients (flour, salt and cinnamon) until well combined.  Press into the pan, or use  an offset spatula until the mixture covers the bottom completely.



Don't make the mistake I did and overbeat the egg white. (Pay attention, or add a pinch of cream of tartar during the beating.)  Even though it was dry, it was still spreadable, sort of. (See below.)


 Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon-nut mixture on the egg white and bake for 30 minutes.


These are very easy to transport, i.e., get out of the house, lest one be tempted to sabotage their Weight Watcher's efforts.


Some production notes:
This is an old recipe, calling for a 7 x 11 inch pan.  This size is no longer in use (don't know why), so I used an 8 x 8 square pan.  A 9 x 9 pan would also work beautifully.  As always, I substituted butter for shortening.  Sorry Duckworth.




And I did finish the salad -- while the Cinnamon Crunches were in the oven.


Update at 3:16 p.m.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Zucchini Cookies


The cold spell in New York -- temperatures have dropped to 75 degrees! -- means just one thing in the CakeBakes household: Time to crank up the oven and bake an intriguing seasonal treat.  The "recipe" for zucchini cookies -- just a list of ingredients -- was written in pencil on a recipe card in my collection.

Zucchini cookies are, as my colleague Ellen said, what happens when an oatmeal raisin cookie and zucchini bread have a baby.  And that is the perfect description of these unusual treats.

In June, zucchini is still eagerly snapped up at farmer's markets, destined for the saute pan or grill or, in my case, oven.  By August, it's become a bore and worse.  Barbara Kingsolver in Animal Vegetable Miracle wrote that large garden zucchini are so feared that at summer's end, people will not leave cars or homes unlocked for fear that neighbors -- overburdened with the bountiful crop and unable to toss the vegetable -- will leave them on the front seat or inside the front door.


This is an easy recipe, albeit a bit time consuming.  To make short work of it, I'd suggest grating the zucchini in a food processor.  One large zucchini will yield about one cup grated.  (Above are a new striped variety I purchased at the farmer's market, but did not use in the cookies.  Instead I grated the one on the left.)


You can simply place all the dry ingredients in one large bowl, and then mix well with a fork to combine.


I love the colors and variety of the "add ins" for this recipe.





I brought these to work and left them with a note:  Guess what kind of cookies these are.  One person guessed pistachio, letting his normally excellent palate be swayed by the green flecks.  Only one colleague guessed correctly.  So, for you moms out there who want to get your children to eat more vegetables, this might be an easy way to go.  And you don't even have to buy Deceptively Delicious or the The Sneaky Chef -- this one is on a CakeBakes gratis.

Because there was no technique on the recipe card (below), I just used my common sense and invented one.

Zucchini Cookies

3/4 c. margarine (I used butter)
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 c. grated zucchini
1 1/2 c. flour
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 c. nuts
1 c. raisins
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Mix flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in bowl.  Set aside.
Beat margarine (or butter) and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg.
Mix in dry ingredients.
Add raisins, nuts and zucchini and combine well.
Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, place dough in small mounds on baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake until done, about 15 minutes.





Monday, June 25, 2012

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes


Here's a whimsical baked treat, with a trompe l'oeil twist that has nothing to do with vintage recipes but everything to do with fun. This is a great project to do with children, now that summer vacation is almost upon us.

These are as simple as making cupcakes:  Just make your favorite chocolate or vanilla cake recipe (yes, you can even use a boxed mix) and fill wafer cones with the batter, about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake as usual -- the cones will not burn, I promise.  In fact, they won't even change color.


The big challenge with these -- as with most of life -- is balance.  I placed the cones in miniature muffin pans, which worked beautifully.  If you haven't any of those, try regular cupcake pans, or use foil to create some kind of support -- these will want to topple over.

When I say use any cake recipe, I mean it.  I followed a one-egg cake recipe from my collection and made every mistake in the book during the preparation but even that mess of a batter worked beautifully.  My daughter, who introduced me to ice cream cone cupcakes, uses angel food cake mix.



Ice cream cone cupcakes are not about flavor, but novelty and appearance.  Use your favorite buttercream recipe to top these.  Do not use canned frosting. Ever. It is vile and should be banned.

For my confection, I created a frosting using a recipe from the Magnolia Bakery and adding some melted, unsweetened chocolate.  To create the soft serve appearance, you'll need to put the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  It's very easy, really.  But you can also just pile the frosting on, for a traditional ice cream look.  Of course, sprinkles add a nice touch.

These are best served at home, while sober.  Below is the last intact photo of my ice cream cone cupcakes.  I managed to carefully transport them across the street to our neighborhood pot-luck garden party.  Once there, a neighbor described by others as "three sheets to the wind" helpfully picked them up to distribute them to other guests.  What followed wasn't pretty -- it was a pastry avalanche, resulting in quite a mess for the hostess to clean.  And no cupcakes for us to eat.


Want to see what's inside of these?  I dissected one just because I knew you'd ask.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Edward Villella's Mother's Wheat Germ Muffins



It's hard to get excited over baked goods with "wheat germ" in the title, but these miniature muffins have a lot going for them: Adorable appearance, big flavor, ballet-world provenance, and they are, I guess, somewhat healthy.  I was more than pleasantly surprised by these, and hope you will be too.

My readers who've been clamoring for "more Antonio" will be pleasantly surprised, too. Antonio Carmena, New York City Ballet soloist, prepared these muffins for our latest Ballet Cook Book Dinner, this one featuring the recipes of Edward Villella, former New York City Ballet principal and founder of the Miami City Ballet.  You can read all about Villella, the rest of the dinner (including an Italian Rice Cake) and see an exciting video (produced by Antonio) on BodiesNeverLie, Ryan Wenzel's wonderful blog.


Antonio, above, mixing the batter with a whisk -- I'm envious of his technique, and also his muscle tone, but that's another story -- and below, filling the greased tins.  He used an ice-cream scoop, but I used two spoons which worked just as well.


Be sure to spray the tins with Pam or grease with Crisco to ensure a smooth release.






These wheat germ muffins are very easy and have a lovely citrus note from the orange rind and natural sweetness from the raisins.  We made them in miniature muffin pans, so the yield was more than 18, but unfortunately I lost count of how many after my third glass of wine. You can substitute butter for the soft shortening, and we used toasted (not raw) wheat germ -- the kind that is sold in glass jars. I'm not sure what Mrs. Villella used, but I'm sure she would approve of our result.

The recipe, and a little note, from The Ballet Cook Book, is below.

Eddie's mother was a great health food enthusiast. In Long Island City, where they lived, he remembers her going
miles out of her way to shop at a special store that sold only organically grown vegetables, and these she cooked always in a pressure cooker. From his mother, then, Eddie learned to make these Wheat Germ Muffins, which though healthful are yet very, very tasty.

WHEAT GERM MUFFINS
1  cup sifted flour
1/2  tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup soft shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. grated orange rind
1 cup milk
1cup wheat germ
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together. Cream shortening,gradually adding sugar. When light and fluffy beat in egg and orange rind. Stir in sifted ingredients alternately with the milk; add wheat germ and raisins, stirring to combine.Fill muffin tins half full and bake at 375° F. 25 minutes.  Yields 18 muffins.




Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rhubarb Bread


If this were August, zucchini bread would be on the plate. But it's June and rhubarb is, if not plentiful at the farmer's market, at least available.  This tart cousin-of-celery is one of the last truly seasonal vegetables and a harbinger of summer's bounty (including that zucchini).

I've always associated rhubarb with rural America.  And I'm not the only one, apparently.

Last Friday, DS and his girlfriend drove to Massachusetts to experience a "country" weekend.  (Never mind that when he arrived, he phoned to say: I can't believe I drove 4.5 hours to get to the middle of nowhere.)  Freaked out by the inn's location next to a cemetery, they wanted to flee but fought the impulse.  And their reward?  Wonderful fresh baked goods -- including rhubarb bread -- made by the inn's proprietress.

This is not her recipe, but one from my collection.  Though interestingly, it's misspelled as "Rhubbard" Bread on the card -- and DS told me that he had "rhubard" (not rhubarb) bread at the inn.  Hmmm...

If you've got a few stalks of rhubbard (or rhubarb) on hand, I highly recommend this recipe.  It's dense and complex and lovely with a cup of tea or glass of milk.  What puts it over the top is the top -- an unusual crumb coating that adds another texture and sweet flavor note.

Ready to begin?
Cut up the rhubarb.  You'll need 1.5 cups.  Size does matter in this recipe; try to make the dice uniform.


This is a one-bowl sweet bread.  The recipe card has no instructions, but I followed a traditional method, which I've written out at the end of the post.








Rhubbard Bread

1 1/2 cup rhubarb
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/12 cup all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Combine sugar, egg and oil in mixing bowl until well blended.
Mix flour, soda and salt together.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk to mixing bowl, alternating between them, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
Add vanilla.  Add nuts and rhubarb.  Combine and pour into prepared pan.

Topping:  Mix 1/2 cup white sugar, one t. cinnamon, and 1 T. melted butter (feel free to play with the proportions here) and sprinkle it over the top of the bread.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  Or longer if it doesn't seem done.