Join me on my delicious journey revisiting American home cooking in the era before convenience foods became popular (1919 to 1955), as I bake and cook from old cookbooks and recipe cards of home cooks purchased at estate sales in Akron, Ohio, and other exotic locations.
Top 100 Cake Blog
Friday, September 27, 2013
Cakes and pies are divine, but once in a while, perfectly cooked fruit is the best dessert choice. Poached pears are among my favorites, but one needs some variety, so I was delighted to come across this vintage recipe for honey-broiled pears. Just 15 minutes after I began, I was enjoying a lovely autumn dessert.
Start by choosing ripe fruit (not the unripe ones I bought that morning at the farmer's market.) Half the pears and then remove the core. A melon baller (is that what this tool is called?) worked perfectly.
Place the pear halves in a dish and cover each with one teaspoon of honey and a bit of mace. Broil for ten minutes (or longer, as I did, to compensate for the unripe fruit). I'm lucky enough to have a stove top broiler, which makes broiling less daunting.
I followed the recipe exactly, but did not strain the honey (mostly because I didn't know what that meant). Next time, I'll use ripe fruit and replace the mace (which I don't like, I discovered) with cinnamon. Note that this serves six: one pear half per person. No supersizing of even healthy desserts in the 1940s!
Sunday, September 22, 2013
If I were being executed, my last meal would include a big serving of butterscotch pudding -- that's now much I love it. So I was thrilled to find this handwritten butterscotch pie recipe in a vintage collection I had just purchased on eBay. There is no better way to "enhance" butterscotch pudding than to sandwich it between a flaky pastry crust and light-as-air meringue. It did not disappoint.
Before beginning the pudding, prepare the pastry shell -- details at the end of this post. While your pie shell is cooling, assemble the ingredients for the filling.
Cook the brown sugar, water and butter until thick. Next you'll add in the milk, egg yolks, cornstarch and salt (a step I neglected to photograph, unfortunately). Don't simply pour the eggs into the hot sugar mixture or you'll have scrambled eggs. Temper them first by adding and few tablespoons of the hot mixture into the eggs, whisking all the while.
Pour the pudding into the prepared pie shell. Quickly whip the egg whites with the confectioners sugar to make the meringue.
Spread the meringue atop the pudding, being sure that the meringue touches the edges of the crust so the pudding is sealed inside.
Brown in the oven for just a few minutes, until the meringue is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. The pudding may be very liquid-y at this point -- mine was and I feared I'd be serving butterscotch soup that night. But after several hours of resting, the filling firmed to the perfect pudding consistency.
Prepare and blind-bake one 8 or 9 inch pastry crust.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. water
1 T. butter
2 T. cornstarch
2 eggs separated
pinch of salt
2 c. whole milk
2 T. powdered sugar
Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. Add the salt, milk and cornstarch dissolved in a little water. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, boil the brown sugar, water and butter until thick. Temper the egg mixture by whisking in a few tablespoons of the hot sugar mixture. (The idea is to make the temperature of both mixtures more equal.)
Slowly and while stirring constantly, add the egg-milk mixture to the hot sugar. Stir over a medium flame until smooth. It will be very liquid-y.
Pour into the pie crust.
Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add in the confectioners sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread over the pudding mixture, making sure that the meringue touches the edges of the pastry.
Place in oven for a few minutes, until the meringue is browned. Let sit at room temperature for several hours.
My Go-To Pie Crust
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 t. sugar
8 T. cold butter (one stick) cut into chunks
6 T. cold Crisco cut into chunks
4 - 6 T. ice water
Put the dry ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add in the fat and process until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the ice water (though the feed tube) one or two tablespoons at a time, processing between each. When the dough begins to hold together, transfer to a plastic bag and form into a disk inside. Refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out. This makes enough for two 9-inch crusts.
To blind-bake (pre-bake), preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out dough and place into pie pan. Cover with parchment, foil or plastic wrap and place dried beans inside to weigh it down. Bake for about 10-12 minutes and remove the beans. Prick dough with fork and return to oven for about ten minutes until browned.
I served the pie to Bob and Jennifer, friends we had met last year on a food tour in Istanbul. There was a moment of terror when I cut into the pie, not knowing if it would be pie or soup, but all was well. Jennifer noted how "light and airy" it was. (I'll save the vanilla ice cream I'd bought "just in case" for a future baking disaster.)
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Scandinavian Apple Nut Pie
It is not a pie in the traditional sense, i.e., the filling is not placed into a pastry crust. Instead, all of the ingredients are mixed together in a single bowl and poured into a greased pie pan. But it is served like a pie, and is light, almost meringue-y, and delicious. And can be consumed without guilt.
Start by chopping the apples and nuts.
Next, mix the sugar, salt, egg and baking powder together. Then add in the flour.
Recipe, which I followed exactly, is below. (It says 3/4 c. sugar.)
Sunday, September 8, 2013
When a notebook filled with vintage handwritten recipes from one William Wynne in Pennsylvania, went up for auction on eBay, I bid fast and furiously. Unlike 99.9 percent of the vintage recipe collections I own, this one was written by a man, so the eBay seller claimed in the description. BUT, when I received it, I quickly realized that William was an eight-year-old boy and the recipes were his mother's -- pasted into his old school spelling test book. My disappointment lasted but a minute: Mrs. Wynn's recipes are fabulous (and young William's spelling scores were all in the 90s). This re-use of the spelling book also helped me date it -- paper was scarce during and immediately after World War II, making this sort of recycling commonplace.
But on to the subject at hand -- Coconut Dreams, delicious bar cookies easy to make (and even easier to eat). These have three layers: a bottom crust, the pudding-like center and a crispy top crust. (But you only need to make two layers; the third, the top crust, appears magically during baking.)
Start by making the bottom crust, a winning combo of butter, brown sugar and flour.
Press into a prepared 8 x 8 pan and bake for ten minutes. You may have a struggle with the crust, as I did; it does not want to go to the sides of the pan. But remember, you're the boss of it. Force it into a thin layer using the back of a spoon and/or an offset spatula. (Next time, I'll grease and flour the pan instead of lining it with parchment, as the paper moved around a lot during the "forcing" process.)
Mix the rest of the ingredients together and simply pour on the crust and return the entire pan to the oven.
The filling will be very liquid-y, but will firm during baking.
The small hole in the center was created when I stuck the tip of a knife into the confection to check for doneness.
Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan
1/2 c. unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 c. all-purpose flour
Mix these ingredients together and press into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
1 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 c. coconut (the sweetened kind from the supermarket)
1 t. vanilla
2 t. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
Beat the eggs. Add in the rest of the ingredients and combine. Pour over crust and bake for about 30 minutes.
Let cool and cut into squares.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Karmel (Caramel) Glaze Apple Cake
So the author of this recipe card won't win any spelling bees (karmel?), but if you're looking for a honey cake alternative for Rosh Hashanah, or a delicious apple cake for any time, try this beauty with its moist crumb and seductive caramel glaze, pictured here at our friends' gorgeous pool in Connecticut. (I'm obviously vying to win the run-on sentence competition.)
The recipe is from a vintage recipe card box from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and couldn't be easier to make. Mix up the batter and add in the diced apples.
Spoon into a pan, which has been greased and floured. The recipe called for a 10 x 10 square pan but (not having that size), I used a 9-inch cake pan.
After baking, let the cake cool somewhat and turn out.
The only "trick" to this recipe is that you must make the caramel glaze while the cake is baking because it needs to cool and then be poured on the warm cake. Below is the start of the glaze. The recipe calls for one teaspoon of corn syrup to enhance the texture of the glaze. Do not skip this ingredient: the Karo Syrup sold in supermarkets and used in recipes like this is not the devil high-fructose corn syrup.
I followed the recipe exactly, using butter in place of the Spry. (Is Spry even made anymore?) And I only sifted the flour once, not three times.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Why Are These Called Jewish Cookies?
I recently bought a binder full of hand-written recipes from someone in Texas and was intrigued by a recipe called "Jewish Cookies" (which appears right across the page from a Christmas cookie recipe). So I made them. And I still can't figure out what makes them Jewish. A friend offered one explanation: These cookies were made by one of the few Jews in a small Texas town, and were so identified by others based on the religion of the cookie baker. Well, that sounds as plausible as anything else.
So, if you want to try your hand, these are "Very Good" according to the recipe card. Typical of southern desserts, these are really, really sweet. And, while I was expecting to make drop cookies or even rolled cookies from the batter, it was far too liquid-y to make anything but bar cookies. (These are also quite dense and, while not my cup of tea, my co-workers really liked them. The DH deemed these "not very good." He ate two.)
I lined the pan with parchment, so as to create a sling with which to remove the entire cake after baking. These still stuck to the paper -- next time I'd also grease the paper.
Let the cake cool before frosting.
Frost first, then cut into squares.
Recipe below, and below that is the method I used.
Preheat oven to 325 F
Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan.
1 box (16 oz.) light brown sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. coconut (sweetened or a mixture of sweetened and unsweetened)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
Beat eggs. Add brown sugar and combine. Add in flour and salt. When combined, add coconut and vanilla. Mix well and pour into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes.
1/4 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 c. confectioners sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
cream or half and half
Beat butter. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Add cream until it is of spreading consistency and cover cake.
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