Queen of Sheba Cake (Julia Child’s Reine de Saba Gateau)

Posted on 17 September 2020 | No responses

This voluptuously moist French pastry-shop chocolate gateau has just enough structure to qualify as cake, but otherwise could pass for a chocolate truffle for 12.  A shiny glaze doubles down on the chocolate, making sure that no part of your palate escapes the wave of deep dark flavor. Prepare for a totally immersive chocolate experience.

Julia Child wrote that Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) was the first French cake she ever ate, and she devoted her 100th show of The French Chef to this recipe way back in December 1965. First aired on WGBH-TV in Boston, this seminal cooking series went nationwide, catapulting Julia to culinary icon, and then on to her current status as single-name legend.

My mom, who preferred baking pies, nevertheless loved making this cake. She scribbled down notes while watching this episode and soon made this dessert her own. In fact, “Queen of Sheba” is what I visualize up on the marquee when I reminisce about my mom. Maybe it’s also because she recalled with a smile that one of her grade-school teachers truly believed my mom was the reincarnation of a Persian princess.

Black Magic Cake still tops my chocolate cake list for special occasions. Yet sometimes we yearn for a denser, richer, more intense French gateau. We slice it thinly, but then always come back for seconds. A glaze replaces frosting, and a halo of crushed honey-roasted almond slices from Trader Joe’s makes an easy decoration.

Julia slightly altered the recipe in The Way to Cook (1989), cutting back a bit on sugar, replacing some of the sweetened chocolate with unsweetened, and decorating with chocolate leaves. I prefer the original, of course. After all, it comes by way of a Persian princess.

Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) Cake
Cake Batter

  • 2/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or 4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, broken into bits
  • 2 tablespoons strong coffee made of espresso powder dissolved in hot water (or 2 tablespoons dark rum)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Scant ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch salt (I omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/3 cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla)
  • ¾ cup bleached cake flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8” x  1½” round cake pan, or grease and line with wax or parchment paper.
  2. Microwave the chocolate and dissolved coffee (or rum) in a small bowl until the chocolate starts to melt. Stir until smooth, and set aside to cool.
  3. Cream butter and 2/3 cup sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks.
  4. In a small bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and then beat on high. When whites start to hold their shape, beat in 2 tablespoons of sugar until the whites get shiny and form soft peaks, which should happen quickly. Do not overbeat.
  5. Stir chocolate mixture to make sure it is smooth. (If it has set up and gotten granular, add a few drops of warm water and stir until smooth.)  Mix chocolate into the butter, sugar and egg yolk mixture. Stir in almond flour, vanilla and flour.
  6. Using a silicone spatula, sir in a quarter of the beaten egg whites to soften the batter, then quickly fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  7. Turn batter into the pan, then sway the pan back and forth until the batter reaches the rim and the top gets level.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes in the center rack of the oven. Cake is done when it has puffed up to the top of the pan, and a toothpick tester comes out clean only from about 2½” to 3” in from the edge of the pan. The center should still be moist, and will continue to bake a bit when it comes out of the oven.
  9. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then loosen edge with a knife and turn out the cake.
  10. Let cool 2 hours before glazing. You can freeze the cooled cake and glaze when defrosted.

Chocolate Glaze

  • ½ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 1½ tablespoons strong coffee (or rum)
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • Crushed toasted almond slivers or slices (or Trader Joe’s Honey Roasted Sliced Almonds)

Microwave chocolate in the coffee or rum until soft, then stir until smooth. Add the butter and stir until it has melted and the glaze is smooth. If necessary, place in the freezer or over cold water until thickened enough to spread. Decorate with crushed almonds.

If you wish to freeze the glazed cake, refrigerate first until glaze is set.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Lemon Sponge Pudding Cakes for Lemon Sponge Pie Lovers

Posted on 5 September 2020 | 2 responses

You’ve heard me gush about “Ma’s Lemon Sponge Pie” for years. The tart and creamy lemon filling merges with an ethereal fluff that rises to the top as the pie bakes. So you’ve got the lemon curd on the bottom blending into an airy sponge cake that browns Maillard-style to add a hint of caramel.

Lemon sponge pie is far better than lemon meringue pie in my book, since meringue can be wet, weepy, and have the foamy texture of something expelled by an undersea creature.

A couple months ago, our friends Pam and Adam had us over for a splendid dinner of grilled delights on their rooftop patio. I brought Ma’s pie. They enjoyed it, saying that the best desserts are either lemon or chocolate (see Adam’s killer “Double Chocolate Sorbet”). Pam recently made the pie without the crust, saying she wanted to cut out that extra fat and calories, and reported delicious results. This makes sense because the lemon comes with the cakey topping, so it holds its own well without pastry.

Here’s a crustless variation which makes a lovely dessert of individual lemon sponge pudding cakes. It mixes up quickly and easily, so we get from zero to lemon sponge much faster than with a pie.

Use ramekins or clever nonstick baking cups from King Arthur, which are thin, stackable and easy to store. We serve the pudding cakes in the ramekins, or turn them out onto plates so that the lemon becomes the topping.

Since you can’t pick up and eat a slice out of your hand—the traditional way of eating Ma’s pie—lemon sponge pie lovers will have to revert to using a spoon. But it’s worth it to get that intense lemony hit—and enforced portion control.

Lemon Sponge Pudding Cakes

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup milk (skim or any fat content)
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated rind of lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners sugar (optional) for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat six 6-ounce ramekins (or nonstick baking cups, see above) with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and flour. In another bowl, slightly beat egg yolks, then add melted butter and blend. Whisk in milk, lemon juice and grated lemon rind. Pour the lemon mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  2. In a small bowl, beat egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. Fold into the lemon mixture.
  3. Set ramekins or baking cups into a 9” x13” (or larger) baking or roasting pan. Spoon batter into cups, making sure to distribute the liquid and fluffy portions evenly. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach about halfway up the sides of the cups.
  4. Bake about 35 minutes or until sponge is puffy, golden and slightly browned. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Serve in the ramekins or run a knife around the edges and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners sugar if desired. Refrigerate cakes for serving within a few days.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Thin and Crispy Rhode Island Johnny Cakes

Posted on 21 August 2020 | 6 responses

Rhode Islanders love their johnny cakes the way Southerners love hushpuppies. You won’t confuse johnny cakes with hushpuppies, though. Unlike those cornbread fritters, johnny cakes are thin, 100-percent corn meal pancakes passed down from the Narragansett tribe.

A spoonful of corn meal mush gets griddled until it’s crispy outside yet still soft and creamy inside. There’s nothing but corn flavor through and through—except of course for the tang of the maple syrup it happily soaks up.

Etymologists say johnny cakes evolved from journey cakes because early settlers packed them for trips. Seriously? These fragile cakes can break on the way from the stove to the table.

I did learn that jonakin is an early American name for this pancake, and perhaps it was just a short jump from there to johnny cake.

My mom discovered johnny cakes on a tour of Kenyon’s Grist Mill, Rhode Island’s oldest manufacturing business, famous for grinding meals and flours since about 1700. Using the recipe on the back of the box of Kenyon’s Stone Ground Johnny Cake White Corn Meal, she griddled up what I thought were some of her best pancakes—and certainly her most memorable.

Kenyon’s claims its heirloom white Indian corn, also called flint corn, is “the original and only corn meal that you will find that will make a real Rhode Island johnny cake.” I took this seriously, and fortunately found Kenyon’s at my local Stop and Shop.

I’ve noticed that Kenyon’s corn meal is now hard to find. They sell it online, but it’s pricey: $24.50 for 32 ounces including shipping. At that price, it should come with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Yellow corn meal makes better johnny cakes.

What are we to do now? Can we successfully substitute easy-to-find yellow corn meal for the official white?

Recipephany Test Kitchens set off to answer this question. We pitted Indian Head Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal against Kenyon’s Johnny Cake Corn Meal. Note that Indian Head, our go-to all-purpose corn meal, costs less than $2 for 32 ounces.

Surprisingly, in a blind taste test we found that yellow corn meal made not just adequate, but superior johnny cakes. A slightly coarser grind than its white counterpart, it fried up just a little crispier, produced thinner pancakes, and cooked a bit faster. Best of all, the yellow johnny cakes had deeper, sweeter corn flavor.

This means that for less than a tenth of the price of Kenyon’s corn meal shipped from Rhode Island, you can make delicious, perfectly authentic johnny cakes for your next Sunday brunch. Despite what Kenyon’s says, johnny cakes do come in yellow as well as white.

So give these a try and get an idea of how the Native Americans hooked colonists on corn. Native Americans also cooked up maple syrup, so make sure you’ve got the real thing on hand to get the full Rhode Island johnny cake experience.

P.S. I couldn’t find Kenyon’s corn meal in stores, so I called the company and spoke with the owner. He said he’d send me some for my story, and I got excited that Recipephany might finally get a freebie. When the box arrived, though, I found an invoice for $24.50 tucked beside the corn meal. I gladly paid it, relieved that I wouldn’t feel obliged to give them special consideration. Rest assured, Recipephany remains outside the pockets of Big Corn Meal.

Rhode Island Johnny Cakes

Adapted from Kenyon’s Stone Ground Johnny Cake White Corn Meal back-of-box recipe.

  • 1 cup stone ground corn meal, yellow or white
  • Oil or butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • ½ cup milk

1.    Mix corn meal, sugar and salt in a bowl.
2.    Gradually add boiling water, mixing well to combine, and let sit for about 5 minutes.
3.    Add ½ cup milk and stir well. (Add more if desired. A thinner batter makes for a thinner and lacier johnny cake.)
4.    Drop batter by spoonfuls onto a well greased, medium hot griddle or skillet.
5.    If using white corn meal, let sit for 6 minutes, or until they have turned brown around the edges. With yellow corn meal, they need to sit for only about 4 minutes.
6.    Place a little oil or butter on each cake, then flip them over and press down slightly with a spatula to flatten. Cook for about 5 minutes more (a little less with yellow corn meal), pressing down as needed to keep them thin.
7.    Serve with maple syrup on top or for dipping.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Better-Than-Brioche Burger Buns

Posted on 28 July 2020 | 2 responses

In the baking aisle at Stop and Shop many years ago I passed by a young mother with two small children. She was intently surveying the shelves when her little girl reached for a tub of ready-made fudge frosting and begged, “Mommy, can we get this?”

“Honey,” she snapped in a reprimanding tone, “if I’m going to go through all the trouble of baking a cake, I’m not going to put that shit all over it.”

While her choice of words led me to question her parenting style, the wisdom of them has stuck with me.

Yes, it’s all too easy to skimp on finishing touches. Consider the venerable hamburger.  Carefully crafted and perfectly grilled burgers often end up in squishy, boring supermarket buns that don’t meet anyone’s standards for sandwich bread. Restaurants wisely showcase their high-end burgers in golden brioche from a bakery.

Now here’s an easy and satisfying upgrade that lets you bypass both the supermarket bread aisle and the bakery. These simple, no-knead buns have the strength, fluffiness and flavor your tasty burgers deserve. Like brioche buns, they are soft, eggy and slightly sweet, but without all the butter.

They pretty much make themselves. Mix up the dough in a couple of minutes, let it sit, and then refrigerate. Whenever you’re ready, remove from the fridge, form buns, wait until they get a little poofy, and bake.

Now I must confess that this is a variation of our No-Knead Challah Sandwich Loaf, my favorite foolproof bread. Similar in taste and texture to brioche, this dough makes more than just great sandwich bread and toast. I often add chopped raisins and a hefty filling of cinnamon sugar to make cinnamon swirl bread. Why it took me this long to turn it into Better-Than-Brioche Burger Buns beats me.

So if you’re going to go through all the trouble of making your signature burgers, bake up some signature buns to go with them. You’ll never settle for those $#@& packaged buns again.

Better-Than-Brioche Burger Buns

Makes 12 buns, each about 3½-4 inches in diameter, from about 2 pounds of dough

  • 7/8 cup water, lukewarm*
  • 1½ teaspoons instant yeast (SAF Gold works best with sweet doughs like this. Available from King Arthur Baking and others.)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 3½ cups bread flour or all-purpose
    *We recommend bread flour, which may need about 1/8-¼ cup more water than all-purpose flour to keep it stretchy.

Glaze:

  • 1 egg beaten with one tablespoon of water
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Stir together water, yeast, salt, lightly beaten eggs, oil and honey in a 4-quart bowl using a wooden spoon or a dough whisk (my preference).
  2. Mix in flour. The dough should be moist and tacky, and look like a gloppy mass. Mixing will only take a minute or two. If you’re using bread flour, you may need to use a little extra water to keep it stretchy.
  3. Cover bowl completely with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until the dough rises and slightly collapses or flattens, about 2 hours. Use the dough now, or refrigerate it for up to five days. Besides its convenience, cold dough right out of the fridge can also be easier to handle.
  4. When ready to bake, line baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust dough with a little flour, remove from bowl, and cut into 12 equal pieces on a lightly floured counter. Roll and stretch each piece into a rope about 9 or 10 inches long, dusting lightly with flour if too sticky to handle. Tie each rope into a knot and tuck under the ends. The knots may disappear as the buns rise, but that’s okay. Tying the dough is just a simple way of forming the buns. Place buns on the prepared baking sheets, flattening just a little so that each is about 3 inches in diameter. Allow room for a little spread.
  5. Let rise for 90 minutes or until light and airy. They may not quite double in size. Refrigerated dough will probably need more rising time. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350°.
  6. Before putting them into the oven, brush the tops with the egg wash. If you want, sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Bake about 15 minutes, until tops are light golden brown and interior reaches 200°. Let cool on rack a few minutes before slicing. Leftover buns freeze well.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough

Posted on 23 July 2020 | No responses

There is no greater glory for flour and yeast than to metamorphose into pizza dough. Yet, hard as we try, it’s difficult to capture the flavor and chew of pizzeria crust at home. What’s the secret?

If you ask Christopher Kimball, he’d say the secret ingredient in great pizza dough isn’t an ingredient at all: it’s temperature. Just before baking, bring the dough to 75°F, and it will puff up and give you a lovely crust.

In Naples, though, they would offer another, more powerful secret ingredient that’s also not an ingredient: a wood fire.

A wood-fired oven radiates the heat of Hades for a quick, dramatic rise. The crust gets crisp on the bottom yet puffs up elsewhere, with characteristic dots of char. During all this, the flaming wood and glowing embers season the pizza with a subtle smoky flavor. You can approximate this flavor by cooking pizza on an outdoor grill, but can’t get close in a kitchen oven.

Dan’s brother John built a wood-fired oven a few years ago, and just the idea of a home pizzeria convinced Dan to follow suit. His backbreaking work and Italian sensibilities created a pizza altar that united our two, deep-seated primal urges: his to cook with fire, mine to bake bread.

As Dan became master of the flames and red sauce, I obsessed over dough balls. My goal was a strong, thin crust that would puff up with lovely bubbles around the edge and have a nice chew. I tried and tweaked many recipes, settling on an adaptation of the Olive Oil Dough from The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Turns out it’s a close cousin of my previous go-to pizza dough, Mollie Katzen’s Basic Yeasted Flatbread.

Now, this is not a Neapolitan dough, which is made of Italian 00 flour and contains no oil. I use bread flour because, like 00 flour, it’s rich in gluten and renders a puffy, somewhat chewy crust. Adding oil makes the dough easier to handle. Many say olive oil improves the taste and tenderness, but for me, that claim would be a stretch (pardon the pun). You may be tempted to use all olive oil, but I found that the dough seems to bake higher with half canola/half olive oil. There is absolutely no science behind it, but I’m happy with the result.

I also fell for the pizzeria bakers’ claim that diastatic malt powder is the secret to a strong rise and browning. They say it’s better than sugar for feeding yeast during long refrigerator fermentation. I found this to be true for Star Bread, where the smooth crust reaches a rich golden brown. While it’s harder to tell with pizza, I still keep a jar of diastatic malt powder in the freezer right next to the yeast, ready for the next batch of dough.

As for baking temperature, Dan seeks a sweet spot between 700° and 800°F for the oven floor, coincidentally the same range as specified for Neapolitan pizza. We had thought the Neapolitan required the often-quoted 905°F (485°C), but it turns out that refers to the oven’s ceiling, not the floor. At the lower end of the temperature range, our pizzas bake a little longer than the official 60-90 seconds and are less likely to flash into charcoal.

If you’re going to make pizza, make enough for a party. This recipe yields five pies, but I also list the ingredient amounts per pizza in case you want to scale up or down. You can always freeze leftover dough, or refrigerate it to make flatbread within a few days.

Our dough’s key ingredient is the wood fire. But don’t despair if you don’t have this ingredient; the dough will still work nicely on a pizza stone, grill, or however you make your pizza. As the meme goes, “You can’t make everyone happy. You’re not pizza.” However, with this dough, you can give it a try.

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough

Makes 5 large pizzas, about 11 ounces of dough each, about 13 inches in diameter

  • 6½ cups bread flour (1.3 cups per pizza)
  • 1 tablespoon SAF instant yeast (about ½ teaspoon per pizza) (.6 actual)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (about ½ teaspoon per pizza) (.6 actual)
  • 2½ teaspoons diastatic malt powder (½ teaspoon per pizza) (Available from King Arthur Baking)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (about 1¼ teaspoons per pizza)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (about 1¼ teaspoons per pizza)
  • 2¾ cups water, cold if mixing with a machine, lukewarm if mixing by hand (.55 cup per pizza)
  1. Mix dough using one of these methods.
    1a. With stand mixer:
    Mix flour, yeast, salt, and malt powder in the mixer bowl with paddle. Add oil, then pour in water. Mix a little more, then switch to the dough hook to knead until the dough is stretchy, a little like the consistency of bubble gum. Add a bit of flour if needed to free the dough from the hook.
    1b. With food processor (recommended for small batches):
    Whir all ingredients for a couple of minutes until the dough is stretchy, a little like the consistency of bubble gum.
    1c. By hand:
    Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to thoroughly combine. Stir until stretchy, but do not knead. You may need to use wet hands to mix in all the flour. Dough will be a little sticky.
  2. Divide dough in half and transfer to two large oiled bowls, oil tops, and cover with plastic wrap. (For smaller batches, one bowl will do.) Let rise 2 hours, until dough rises and collapses. Refrigerate for a day or more, covered thoroughly with plastic wrap.
  3. Two hours before baking, dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut into 5 pieces. Dust each piece with flour and shape into balls by stretching the surface of the dough and tucking in at the bottom, rotating as you go. Let sit for at least an hour, preferably two, covered with plastic wrap on a well-floured baking sheet. I find the balls can sit out another hour or so, as you make the pizzas, and they just get puffier and perhaps even better. (Remember that Christopher Kimball says the dough should get to 75°F.*)
  4. Using just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the counter, roll out or stretch a ball into a 13-inch diameter round, keeping the edge a little higher to form an outer crust. You may need to let dough relax a couple of minutes if it keeps snapping back.
  5. Sprinkle some corn meal onto a wooden pizza peel. Transfer dough to the peel, and work quickly to top the pizza so that it doesn’t stick to the peel. For the classic Pizza Margherita, cover lightly with sauce up to the edge, and then add lumps of whole milk mozzarella, grated parmesan and/or romano, and basil leaves, and lastly drizzle with olive oil. Bake until bubbly and browned, and remove with a metal peel.
    Of course, have fun with your favorite toppings, but be careful not to overload the pizza. The bread is the delicious prize.
  6. Refrigerate any remaining dough, tucking in plastic wrap around the dough to keep skin from forming. Use within a week or freeze.

*Milk Street’s recipe calls for warming the dough after refrigeration by putting balls into small lightly-oiled bowls, covering them with plastic wrap, and placing them in a larger bowl with 100°F water for 30 minutes, changing water as needed until the dough reaches 75°. I have not tried this. Our recipe’s longer proofing before baking allows the dough to warm to ambient temperature, usually high enough in the summer. I suppose you could also warm the dough using a proofing setting on a kitchen oven, which is 100°.)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Classic Ragù Bolognese Redux: Do Chicken Livers Deliver?

Posted on 26 June 2020 | 2 responses

A comment from an Italian cooking teacher about our Classic Ragù alla Bolognese from Ada Boni got us thinking about what makes a bolognese a bolognese. In particular, are there chicken livers in its DNA? So we put Recipephany’s Research and Testing Institute to work. Here’s what we learned from our deep dive into the evolution of one of the world’s favorite meat sauces.

A genetic analysis of bolongese ragù’s ancestry brings you immediately to Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 seminal cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. The meats Artusi favored for his “Maccheroni Alla Bolognese” (which is curiously tomato-free in a book with many tomato sauces) were simply veal and pancetta. But he also pushed chicken livers. “The sauce can be made even tastier adding small pieces of dried mushroom, a few truffle slices, or a chicken liver cooked with the meat and cut into tiny chunks,” he wrote.

Chicken liver is the Clark Kent of ingredients—adding super depth of flavor and richness to the meat sauce without revealing its true identity.

Artusi’s bolognese influenced our favorite Italian cookbook author, Ada Boni. She’s famous for Il Talismano della Felicità, (Talisman of Happiness, or simply The Talisman) (1928), which was Italy’s standard cookbook for decades.

In The Talisman, Boni built on Artusi’s recipe, adding beef and pork to the veal and pancetta. To crank up the meaty taste, she included not one, but two chicken livers. And there’s tomato paste, for even more umami.

Now here’s where evolution gets interesting.

Boni updated many of her recipes in Italian Regional Cooking (1969), our go-to Italian cooking reference and source of the Classic Ragù alla Bolognese. In this version, she added flavor-boosting sausage to the pancetta, beef and pork, and eliminated veal. Here she included two or three chicken livers to infuse even more of their magic into the ragù.

But she added a qualifier: she marked chicken livers as “optional.” Was this a hint that they were no longer “de rigueur” (or should we say, “de ragù”)?

Chicken livers called into question
Maribel Agullo, who heads the Taste of Italy cooking school in Bologna, contacted Recipephany to say that Italians no longer use chicken livers in their bolognese. She cited the official recipe for Ragù Alla Bolognese (registered with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce in 1982), which leaves them out.

She explained that chicken livers were popular at a time when no part of the chicken went to waste, particularly around World War II when food was scarce. Livers, giblets and even scraps of intestines went into the meat sauce. Butcher shops prominently displayed them. Her husband’s grandmother, of that generation, added livers to her ragù. The tide shifted well over 20 years ago, she reported, when demand for chicken livers fell off and butcher shops stopped featuring them (although they are still available if you ask). In Bologna, she said, nobody adds chicken livers to their ragù anymore.

The chicken liver work-around
So can we get that signature meaty taste we’ve come to love without chicken livers? Maribel kindly offered a strategy.

“I believe that the use of the livers helps create that depth of flavor when you cook the vegetables first,” she wrote us. “Try cooking the meat first with no condiments—just the meat with some fats (butter, oil) and once you’ve had the Maillard effect then add the veggies, cook them for a bit and proceed with the recipe.”

Two ragùs, head-to-head
Would this do the trick? Recipephany tested two ragùs: Maribel’s work-around without livers, and Ada Boni’s Classic Ragù alla Bolognese.

Maribel’s technique of first browning the meat absolutely intensified the flavor. I was hit by a bold, meaty taste—very aggressive. The fat separated out a bit during the long sautéing, though, and it tended to coat the pasta. The aromatics could have also used a little more time to soften. Yet this was a phenomenal ragù, one I’d be thrilled to get at a restaurant.

But when I tasted Ada Boni’s sauce, the scientific method flew out the window. As I savored her soft, meaty ragù, my bias arrived and pulled up a chair. Like Artusi, I prefer my ragu “even tastier.” If I can find chicken livers to add to the sauce, why should I give them up?

Chicken livers deliver
So now, I must admit to remaining old-school, despite the trend in Italy. And so do others. I recently met a woman at the Italian meats counter in Russo’s Market in Waltham, Massachusetts. She and her Italian husband had lived in Emilia Romagna for over 12 years. When I mentioned bolognese sauce, she had just two words of advice: “Chicken Livers.” She said, “My husband’s family always puts chicken livers into their bolognese. It’s what makes it so meaty tasting.”

The legacy
Pellegrino Artusi’s bolognese can be viewed as both a vestige of its times and an inspiration for future sauces. Like our culture and our genes, bolognese ragù has mutated, and will continue to do so, from area to area, generation to generation.

And as more people stumble upon Artusi’s—and Ada Boni’s—recipes, who knows how many new chefs might add chicken livers to their ragù.

Of course, not everyone embraces the rich, gamey flavor and soft texture of chicken livers. But as meats go, they are good for you—rich in iron, B vitamins, and even eye-healthy vitamin A. You don’t have to invest in a pound of chicken livers to get what you need for the sauce. Every once in a while, save the liver from a whole chicken and freeze it. Even one liver is enough to enrich the sauce.

So click below for that classic recipe from Ada Boni. Add that age-old secret ingredient and see if it takes you back to the origin of this sauce. Find out what helped make Artusi’s sauce all the rage. Maybe you’ll agree with us that it makes your ragù “even tastier.”

Special thanks to Taste of Italy’s Maribel Agullo, Recipephany’s Special Correspondent in Bologna, for her inspiration, expert advice and contributions to this article. Watch her Taste of Italy YouTube Channel and learn her secrets to authentic Italian cooking and pasta making.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Puffy Cheese Sticks

Posted on 28 May 2020 | No responses

As we dip our toes back into the sea of socializing, we need PPEs—Prepared Party Edibles—snacks that are ready to serve the moment the stars align. These flaky, cheddar-laced sticks make the perfect nibble—they are simple to prep and freeze, and then quickly bake into puffy little wands of cheesy goodness.

Before snack scientists created vacuum-packed rods of mozzarella so parents could dole out string cheese to kids, “cheese sticks” referred to these savory pastry hors d’oeuvres. Also known as cheese straws, they go back to the kitchens of the 1860s, with notable recipes in UK’s famed Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) and in Godey’s Magazine (October 1865) in the US. The recipe featured here is plenty old enough—I still go by the browned clipping I snipped from the Boston Globe in November 1977 and taped to an index card.

As far as I know, cheese sticks have never been a fad. But they are so hard to resist, they’ve lived through such trendy waves as brie en croute, bruschetta, and tapas. Maybe you’ve seen boxes of artisan cheese sticks alongside imported delicacies at your grocery store. I say, save your money and make these puffy, cheesy bites yourself.

Have I mentioned “puffy”?  Rolled-and-sliced dough can produce cheese sticks that are flat and crispy, but this recipe delivers puffy layers for a delicate flakiness. The puff in this recipe comes from adding cheese in stages, and then rolling out and folding the dough after each addition. It creates a fine layering of dough, or “lamination,” similar to what you get with puff pastry. Only when I first made puff pastry did I catch on that the secret to the cheese stick was this little bit of rolling and folding.  Of course, the egg yolk and baking powder probably don’t hurt in the rising.

To help confirm that “puffy makes perfect,” I tried a recipe for cheese straws from my 1931 edition of  Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes Revised. This cookbook came out of the wildly popular radio show where Uncle Sam’s wife Aunt Sammy, a clever creation of the US Department of Agriculture, gave out recipes for simple, inexpensive, nutritious and delicious meals that families could enjoy during hard times. In Aunt Sammy’s recipe, the dough gets rolled out only once, so, as suspected, the strips baked up crunchy like thin cheesy bread sticks. They’re tasty, but lack the delectable bite of the puffy cheese sticks.

But how much puff is enough? Puffy cheese sticks are so desirable that there is a movement—led by icons such as Ina Garten, Martha Stewart and Emeril—to skip making dough altogether and just use frozen, packaged puff pastry. While cheese sticks or twists made this way do puff up quite a bit (they are puff pastry, after all), I found they don’t save work, don’t improve the flavor, and they don’t lend themselves to freezing for on-demand baking later on. This recipephany makes cheese sticks that are quite puffy enough, thank you. And you don’t have to buy expensive packaged dough.

So, as the summer welcomes us outside, let’s look forward to being with friends, raising our glasses to good health, and munching together on these delightfully puffy cheese sticks.

Puffy Cheese Sticks
Adapted from The Boston Globe
Recommended: Pizza wheel, ruler

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I use my favorite cheese, Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar)

1. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl; cut in the butter (I use my fingers) until it is down to tiny lumps. In a small bowl, beat egg yolk with milk; mix with a fork into the flour mixture until it comes together into a ball of dough. Chill one hour.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a square 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle half the dough with half the cheese and fold over, sealing the edges. Fold in half and roll out ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, seal, and repeat folding and rolling. Finally, fold dough in half twice and roll out to ¼ inch thick. (I get about a 12″ square.) Cut into strips (I use a pizza wheel) about ½ inch wide by 3 inches long. (NOTE: If the kitchen is warm and the dough gets too sticky to roll, don’t add much more flour. Put dough in the refrigerator to firm it up before finishing the rolling.)

3. Arrange the number you want to freeze in a container, with aluminum foil between the layers. Seal, label and freeze.

4. To serve immediately, place strips on a baking sheet an inch or so apart and bake in a preheated 425° oven 10 minutes or until delicately browned. Serve hot or cold. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

5. To bake frozen sticks, carefully remove the strips from the containers. Arrange on a baking sheet an inch or so apart and bake in preheated 425° oven 12 minutes, or until delicately browned. Serve hot or cold. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

6. Makes about 60-80 sticks.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Patates Elinora (Greek-Style Potatoes)

Posted on 14 May 2020 | 3 responses

You’re low on flour, rice is scarce, and your pasta stash is down to one lonely box of elbows. Thank Heaven for potatoes. Especially when it’s easy to dress them up Greek-style—bright, pungent and with an aroma so intoxicating it could serve as stress-relief therapy.

“Greek-style” is simply shorthand for “lemon, oregano and olive oil” (the way “Florentine” means spinach). But this is not your standard dish of crispy potato wedges done up Greek-style. Here, layers of thinly sliced potatoes roast and steam, soaking up caramelized lemon sauce and blissing out on oregano. Cut into the casserole and you’ll find strata of textures and flavors, from soft and creamy on the bottom to crispy on top. Imagine Mediterranean, dairy-free scalloped potatoes.

This is yet another treasured recipe from Elinor Lipman. It dates back to our two years’ rooming together after college, before she took up writing best-selling fiction and before I set up Brody Marketing’s world headquarters in my bedroom.

“The recipe was from some international cookbook, a paperback I no longer have,” she says, so the provenance remains a mystery. It is still a favorite for both of us. Confident of its ease and lusciousness, I entered it into a cooking contest—with Elinor’s permission, of course. I christened it “Patates Elinora” in homage. It didn’t win, but the name stuck.

Use whatever potatoes you have on hand—russets, Yukon Golds, and I suppose even purples. Just watch out—this might upstage the rest of your meal.

Patates Elinora (Greek-Style Potatoes)

  • A mandoline or 2mm slicing disc on a food processor speeds prep. (Elinor cautions, “Watch yer fingers with that mandoline!”)
  • Choose a casserole dish narrow and deep enough to allow for several layers and that special steaming effect. For instance, using a casserole 6 1/2″ x  8″  x  2  1/2″ high, I got about seven thin layers.
  • You can jump-start the recipe to save time by cooking, covered, in the microwave until potatoes slightly soften. Then uncover and roast in the oven to brown.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Wash and pat dry 4 large potatoes (or equivalent smaller ones). Slice thinly length-wise (no need to peel). Oil or butter a casserole dish. Put one layer of potato slices on bottom. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.

3. Repeat layering and seasoning until one more layer of potatoes remains.

4. Top casserole with last layer of potato slices. Pour 3 tablespoons lemon juice over top, then 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.

5. Bake, covered, in 375-degree oven until potatoes are tender, about an hour. Insert fork to check for doneness during cooking.

6. Uncover casserole to crisp the top layer, for about 15 minutes or until it reaches desired golden color.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Leah’s Blood Orange Sorbet (Without an Ice Cream Machine)

Posted on 25 April 2020 | 2 responses

Sweet, tangy, and gorgeous in the bowl, this blood orange sorbet is stunningly delicious. Despite its ease, you won’t find better, even at a high-end restaurant. That’s because it was scientifically formulated by Leah Greenwald, Chief Food Technology Advisor at the Recipephany Test Kitchens.

A curiosity about the science of cooking drives Leah to analyze, hypothesize and improve her recipes. She has been a great help here at Recipephany and is our own J. Kenji López-Alt (author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science). Coincidentally, they both studied architecture at MIT. But Leah (introduced to you in her recipephany for lemon vinaigrette) is an architect, mother of triplets, and a five-time champion on the TV show, Jeopardy. Take that, Kenji.

I’ve long admired Leah’s museum-quality decorated cookies, but her food art goes beyond the conventional. When she was at MIT and needed to supply snacks for a discussion group, she didn’t bring the usual box of crackers or cookies. Instead, she arrived with a model of the Thomas Jefferson quadrangle at UVA—complete with Rotunda and serpentine wall—built entirely of homemade Rice Krispies treats.

Fortunately for us, Leah also makes food art of the utmost simplicity. This easy, pop-art dessert with neon color and three-dimensional flavor proves it.

If, like me, you don’t have an ice cream machine but have a food processor or heavy-duty blender, use Recipephany’s simple method introduced for Double Chocolate Sorbet (Without an Ice Cream Machine). You’ll also need ice cube trays, which are inexpensive and valuable in many other kitchen hacks. Just pour the mixture of juices, pulp and sugar into the trays, freeze, then whir the cubes into a thick smoothie. It will refreeze into a smooth sorbet.

If you do use an ice-cream maker, follow Leah’s instructions. But even if you don’t have a food processor or blender, Leah has the solution with a hand-stir method. So, all bases covered.

Leah tells us, “Also called moro oranges, blood oranges are only available in winter and spring. So after you make the sorbet, hide some in the back of the freezer to have in warmer weather.” Great advice. Just don’t miss out—make sure to grab these oranges when you see them. And then dive into this recipe for the perfect marriage of art and science.

Leah’s Blood Orange Sorbet

Leah based this recipe on a formula from Harold McGee’s The Curious Cook.
Makes about a pint. Doubles and triples well.
Electric juicer recommended to extract maximum juice and pulp.

  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blood orange juice (about 6 large oranges if you use an electric juicer; maybe more without). We recommend including pulp, but that’s optional.
  • 11 tablespoons sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 large lemon). Don’t be afraid to put in extra; it will add sparkle.

1. Combine the juices, pulp and sugar in a stainless steel, enameled, or glass bowl, or large glass measuring cup. Stir for about a minute. Taste for sweetness—it should be slightly sweeter than you want because chilling will reduce sweetness. Too much tartness from too little sugar may result in larger ice crystals, producing more of a granita than a sorbet.

2. Follow one of these three methods for making sorbet.

Food processor or heavy-duty blender: Pour juice and pulp mixture carefully into two ice cube trays. Freeze for three hours, or until solid. Use a fork to stab the edge of each frozen cube and slide it into a food processor or blender. (This avoids turning over the ice cube tray, which can create a mess.) Whir until smooth. Spoon into a lidded plastic container (not full to the brim, because it will expand as it finishes freezing) and freeze until firm. (Photos show results of this method.)

OR:

Ice-cream maker: Leah recommends the simple non-electric type, with a freezing vessel you keep for a day in the freezer before you make the sorbet.

Chill mixture at least overnight in your refrigerator. When ready to make sorbet, move the bowl to the freezer for about 15 or more minutes (it depends on how much you’re making); you want the mixture to get so cold that it’s beginning to freeze at the perimeter. Then complete the freezing either according to the directions that come with your ice cream maker or until it’s evenly slushy. Pour this slush into a lidded plastic container (not full to the brim, because it will expand as it finishes freezing) and freeze for at least 12 hours before serving.

OR:

Without machines: Chill mixture at least overnight in your refrigerator. When ready to make sorbet, move the bowl to the freezer for about 15 or more minutes (it depends on how much you’re making); you want the mixture to get so cold that it’s beginning to freeze at the perimeter. Take the bowl from the freezer, stir with a rubber spatula, and freeze again for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat about 6 times. The idea is to keep the frozen crystals distributed so that you end up with an evenly-slushy mixture. Put this slush into a lidded plastic container (not full to the brim, because it will expand as it finishes freezing) and freeze for at least 12 hours before serving.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Whose Passover Popovers Win You Over?

Posted on 13 April 2020 | 6 responses

Before Passover is over, treat yourself to some popovers.

Judy Geller, a dream client and the mastermind behind many industry-leading conferences and events, introduced me to these years ago. We would meet at a cafe where I could spread out advertising concepts and layouts for her to review. Then we’d linger and talk about family, holidays, and her family’s Passover Popover recipe.

These popovers are so delicious, so un-Passover-ish, we might as well just call them “bread” and be done with the pretense.

The other day when I called to ask if I could post the recipe, Judy asked, “Which one?” To my surprise, she has not one, but two family recipes for Passover Popovers, and they come with a side of sisterly competition. She went on to explain.

Judy’s grandmother Edna Shuman was born in Allston/Brighton, Massachusetts, and raised her family on Verndale Street in Brookline. Her daughters, Bobby and Joni, were part of a close multigenerational family, with relatives living in the same duplex or within walking distance of each other. Edna’s popovers were a Passover tradition.

Joni swears by Edna’s original family recipe, and insists they are the best.

Bobby, Judy’s mother, dares to disagree, and declares HER recipe by far the best.

“My mother doesn’t remember where she got the recipe, but she’s been making these for about sixty years,” said Judy. “She also says that she was the prettiest baby,” she added, laughing.

When I asked which she prefers, Judy diplomatically hedged. “For me to pick would just get me into trouble. It’s like choosing a favorite child.”

So am I willing to pit sisters against each other in a popover smackdown?

Will I be the Paul Hollywood who reaches out to award a highly coveted handshake?

You betcha. And now, here’s my verdict.

Joni Shore's Passover Rolls

Joni’s recipe from Nana Edna makes hearty muffin-like rolls. They’re tasty, for sure. They’re also made with oil, so they can go with meat or dairy. But while baking them in popover pans makes them high, it doesn’t turn them into popovers. So I’m calling them “rolls.”

Bobby’s recipe makes popover puffs with a light brown crust and an airy, even hollow, eggy interior. Baking them on a cookie sheet means they can’t get stuck in those deep popover wells, a persistent problem in my kitchen. Because they are a choux pastry, they can also double as cream puff shells to make into an easy dessert—just fill with ice cream and drizzle with fudge sauce.

So the handshake goes to…Judy’s mom, Bobby. Hers are more like real popovers. But here are both recipes so you can see which popovers win you over. Perhaps we now have a Fifth Question: Which Passover Popover shall it be?

Bobby Wagman’s Passover Popovers

Heat oven to 400°.
Makes 8. Recipe doubles well.

  • 1 stick margarine or butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cake meal
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • Cinnamon

1. Melt the butter or margarine in the water and add dry ingredients gradually while still on the heat.

2. Remove from heat and add eggs, ONE at a TIME, beating after each.

3. Sprinkle in some cinnamon.

4. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with either parchment paper or well-greased aluminum foil. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the sheet, forming 8 mounded-up popovers.

5. Bake about 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Check about every 10 minutes or so to see they don’t burn.

6. Cool, then carefully peel them off the paper or foil. Store in a sealed bag for a couple of days.

Joni Shore’s Farfel Rolls for Passover

Heat oven to 400°.
Makes about 15.

  • 1 box (16 ounces ) farfel
  • 2 cups of warm water (plus a little more) to wet farfel
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt (not too much, just to taste)
  • Cinnamon (not too much, just to taste)
  • 7 large eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil

1. Mix all ingredients well.

2. Put into large muffin or popover pans, but not up all the way because they rise. (Note: I put baking trays underneath in case they overflow.)

3. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, checking to see that they are done.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Recipephany Turns 10

Posted on 7 April 2020 | 6 responses

Ten years ago I started this little blog with Black Magic Cake, a recipe that touched my life as it has probably touched the lives of countless other chocolate lovers. An easy recipe with simple ingredients produced a confection that, after one bite, dethroned our family’s long-revered celebration cake. I dubbed it a “halleluyum moment.” This was a recipe epiphany I wanted to share with everybody.

At the time, I didn’t realize how much of a life-changer Black Magic Cake would become. It turned into a wedding cake—twice. As if the joy of their marriages weren’t enough, our son and daughter asked me to make the cakes that they would ceremonially smear over their spouses’ faces. As I said at the time, I couldn’t have been happier if they had proclaimed “I love you, Mom” on the Fenway Park Jumbotron. (Black Magic Wedding Cake and Black Magic Wedding Cake, One More Time)

But let’s get back to that first post, which in my blogging naiveté I didn’t even dress up with a picture. Family and dear friends who know how much I enjoy swapping recipes jumped in with encouragement. They posted enthusiastic comments and piled on Facebook likes. They may not have been able to spell “recipephany,” but they readily accepted it as a term for a life-altering recipe with an engaging story. Thankfully, many heeded my pleas and contributed their own amazing recipephanies.

It is said that nostalgia is the best seasoning. And here at Recipephany, a good story is the special sauce. Consider these:

The list goes on. I am indebted to all who have provided recipephanies that fuel this blog, and to all who have posted comments—particularly contributors I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting. Forgive me if my email replies gush as if I had just made a new best friend.

And thank you to everyone who drops by, takes in a recipephany or two, and tries them out. This blog is a labor of love, and I will continue to hunt down and relate recipephanies that I hope will strike a chord with you as they have with me.

I will also continue this work without subjecting you to pop-up ads or messing with your data. And as odd as it might sound coming from an MBA, Recipephany remains happily unmonetized.

What I would like, though, are more of your wonderful recipes and stories. Don’t make me have to beg.

Thanks for celebrating with me. And please help yourself to some Black Magic Cake.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Caramel Custard Flan

Posted on 14 March 2020 | 2 responses

Ceci n’est pas une pie.

It’s Pi Day. Ordinarily I’d bake a pie, but with the new “social distancing,” the two of us would have to eat the whole thing. So instead, I made some comforting caramel custard—AKA “flan”—from a forgotten can of Magnolia Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk in the pantry.

The can had gone several months past its “best by” date, but rest assured the quality was fine and I had no sense of Russian food roulette. It really burns me how those dates trigger so much needless waste.

Using this lost and forlorn can sparked joy—Marie Kondo-style—by both freeing up shelf space and inspiring this dessert. This recipe came right off the label.

I’ve made caramel custard that calls for milk, but this version is richer, has more depth of flavor and is more photogenic.

Magnolia brand is the same as Eagle brand but targeted to Hispanics, which explains why the recipe was also printed in Spanish.

So use that old can of condensed milk you bought for some dessert you never made. This recipe is easy and calls for water, so you don’t have to use any fresh milk. Just don’t let the flans get forgotten in the fridge.

P.S. The French word for “flan” is “tarte,” the same word for “pie.” So close enough: Ceci n’est pas une tarte.

Caramel Custard (Flan)

Slightly adapted from Magnolia® Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Magnolia® Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 350°F. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook and stir sugar until melted and caramel-colored, about 10 minutes. Pour into 8 (6 ounce) custard cups, tilting to coat bottoms completely. It will harden almost immediately. Don’t worry, the caramel will melt into sauce.

2. Beat eggs in a medium bowl, preferably one with a spout. Stir in water, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Pour into prepared custard cups. Set cups in a large glass baking dish, or two dishes if you don’t have a large one. Pour boiling water into the dish(es) until it reaches half way up the side of the cups.

3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cups from water. Cool completely. Chill several hours. Run edge of sharp knife around each custard cup to loosen. Invert onto individual serving plates or saucers.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Chris’s Fish Tacos Fabuloso

Posted on 10 March 2020 | No responses

Chris's Fish Tacos FabulosoTwo years ago we packed our snorkel gear and headed to Baja California, Mexico. The fish put on quite a circus. A swirl of polka dots and iridescent stripes greeted us as soon as we entered the water.

The Baja is also famous for another kind of fish marvel: the fish taco. It originated there, probably before the Spanish arrived. We sought out the best fish tacos in every town we passed through. The Los Claros restaurants won hands down as Baja’s best. We made triply sure by visiting all three—in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and San Jose del Cabo.

Los Claros believes in giving you options. They batter-fry or grill fish while you watch, then deliver it on either corn or flour tortillas. But the real fun starts at the huge all-you-can-scoop toppings and hot-sauce bar. There you can pile on pico de gallo, grilled onions and green peppers, light chipotle sauce, spicy dark chipotle sauce, fried jalapeños, shredded cabbage, guacamole salsa, corn salsa, cukes, limes—I lost track. With all those choices, no two tacos are identical.

I don’t mean to make this a restaurant review. But Los Claros taught me that when it comes to fish tacos, just about anything goes.

That’s what my sister-in-law Chris says, too. She masterfully messes with recipes to suit her taste and what’s in her kitchen (except when she makes her perfect French pastries and amazing heirloom cakes).

She gave me her super-easy, use-what-you-like recipe for fish tacos that are every bit as delicious as the best of the Baja. It calls for griddling the fish in the barbecue (for a little smoky flavor) or on the stovetop. I prefer stovetop for convenience. In either case, the fish gets a nice light crust. Her quick marinade must do something to keep the inside moist and flaky. The secret ingredient (Worcestershire sauce!) with all that umami thrills my taste buds to the point that I don’t miss the deep-frying at all. As a fried-fish-a-holic, that’s saying something.

With just minimal toppings, it pushes all the right buttons. It’s both tender and crunchy. The chipotle sauce makes it fiery, cool, smoky and citrusy. Simply put, it’s a spectacular fish taco.

But if you want more toppings, feel free to heap on pico de gallo, avocado, pineapple salsa or whatever you want. Splash on your favorite hot sauce. Whatever floats your boat. Chris says there are no rules, and the best restaurant in the Baja would agree.

Chris’s Fish Tacos Fabuloso

Serves 4

  • 1 2/3 pounds firm white fish (cod, mahi mahi, or whatever you like)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½  teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup all purpose flour, or more as needed, for dredging
  • Canola, grapeseed, or other oil for sautéing
  • Thinly shredded cabbage (I like savoy)
  • Corn tortillas (or flour if you prefer)
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish

  • Chipotle Sauce (ingredients and quantities to taste)

  • Plain yogurt, sour cream, mayo, or a combination to make about ½ cup (Chris says, “Empty your containers.”)
  • Minced scallion
  • Minced cilantro
  • Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (Note: This comes in a small can. You won’t need much, so freeze what’s leftover in a labeled plastic container for the next few batches of tacos.)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Tabasco (if you like, and if the sauce isn’t already too hot)
  1. On a cutting board, with a large knife, mash garlic and kosher salt to form a paste. Put into a medium bowl and mix in Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Cut fish into large pieces and toss with the marinade. Let sit about 20 minutes. The fish is ready to cook when it starts to give off some of its moisture (there’s not a lot of marinade relative to the fish).
  3. While you wait, make the chipotle sauce. Start with the yogurt, sour cream, mayo or whatever you have. Then spoon in a little of the canned chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, tasting as you add more to make sure you’ve got the desired heat. Add rest of sauce ingredients and adjust to taste.
  4. Put flour in a plastic bag and toss in the fish, a few chunks at a time. Shake to coat. Put coated fish onto a plate.
  5. Heat oil on a large griddle either on the stovetop or grill. Add fish and let sizzle a couple of minutes until brown. Turn and sauté on the other side until just done. Remove from griddle onto a serving platter.
  6. Use one or two warmed tortillas per taco. Top with fish, shredded cabbage, chipotle sauce, chopped cilantro and more fresh lime juice. Optional: pico de gallo, salsa, avocado, hot sauces—whatever floats your boat. As Chris says, “There are no rules.”
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Sweetheart (please make me a) 1-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Posted on 12 February 2020 | No responses

How about a Valentine’s Day quickie?

Make a warm, double-chocolate little “mug cake” for your sweetie any time he or she implores you.

Betty Crocker, that tart, makes it possible with her “Super-Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix.”

Measure some mix into a mug or small bowl. Stir in water and chocolate chips. Watch it circle around in the microwave for up to 60 seconds. Cool slightly—the chocolate chips will stay gooey—then top with whipped cream.

Most of all, it means less time in the kitchen—a lovely indulgence for both of you.

Sweetheart 1-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Adapted from Joy Bauer’s “3-Ingredient Chocolate Mug Cake,” Savory Magazine (Stop and Shop), January 2020, p.39

Recipe doubles well. Increase microwave time by about 10 seconds.

Note: Feel free to adjust proportions to suit your taste, and cooking time to suit your microwave.

  • ¼ cup chocolate fudge cake mix (I use Betty Crocker Super-Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix)
  • 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons water (wetter batter makes a fluffier cake)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chocolate chips

Mix in a microwave-safe mug. Cook on high 50 seconds. Serve in the mug or run a knife around the cake and remove onto a plate. Top with whipped cream for full effect.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Oscars 2020: Fudge v Ferraro Rocher

Posted on 6 February 2020 | No responses

It’s Oscars time, and we’re shifting our puns into high gear. My pick for Best Picture, Ford v Ferrari, has inspired Fudge v Ferraro Rocher, a chocolate-fueled dessert competition to help us reach the finish line without colliding into awards-night boredom.

This head-to-head contest will pit hand-crafted fudge made from All-American Hershey’s cocoa against the iconic chocolate-hazelnut candy from the Ferraro company, Italy’s own Big Chocolate. To challenge a best-seller from the people who invented Nutella takes some chutzpah—especially since I’ve never attempted fudge before.

Sure, there are quick fudge recipes that call for three ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and nuts. But no, I had to choose the thrill of making a real chocolate confection. To dial up the nuttiness to better compete with the Ferraro candy, I added chopped hazelnuts in with the traditional walnuts.

Hershey’s Rich Cocoa Fudge recipe sounded simple enough until I swerved into this note: “This is one of our most requested recipes, but also one of our most difficult. The directions must be followed exactly. Beat too little and the fudge is too soft. Beat too long and it becomes hard and sugary.”

This recipe calls for the steady nerves and precision of a race car driver. You have to watch for the temperature gauge to hit its mark for perfect caramelization. And then, as if in a tight turn, you need to beat the fudge like crazy before slamming on the brakes at just the right moment. Fortunately, this all came together, and the final fudge feels like victory. It’s smooth, rich, and just nutty enough.

In the end, the contest comes down to individual taste. We’ll see if classic American fudge beats out the highly engineered, crunchy Italian designer candy. No matter what, it promises to be a fun ride.

P.S. Also on the menu: Italian Marriage Story Soup, Leonardo DiCaprese Salad with Brad Pitted Olives, and Jonathan Pryce Cakes.

Fudge v Ferraro Rocher

Hershey’s Nutty Rich Cocoa Fudge, slightly adapted. 

  • 3 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup Hershey’s Cocoa or Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup butter (½ stick)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I double to 2)
  • Chopped walnuts and hazelnuts
  • Ferraro Rocher chocolate hazelnut candies
  1. Line an 8-or 9-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil.
  2. Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in a heavy 4-quart saucepan; stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full rolling boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 234°F on a candy or instant-read thermometer, or until small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water, forms a soft ball which flattens when removed from water. (Bulb of candy thermometer should not rest on bottom of saucepan.)
  3. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR. Cool at room temperature to 110°F (lukewarm). (If you need to speed up cooling, put pot into a bowl of cold water.)  Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and just begins to lose some of its gloss (about 7 minutes).
  4. Immediately stir in the combination of chopped walnuts and hazelnuts.
  5. Quickly spread into the prepared pan; cool completely. Cut into squares. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature. Makes 36-64 pieces (1 3/4 pounds).
  6. Compare with Ferraro Rocher candies.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

Posted on 31 December 2019 | 4 responses

Sometimes we just need the happy kick of richly spiced, ready-to-ladle Indian food. Why wait? Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices takes less than an hour to whip up using pantry and fridge staples—and surprisingly few spices.

The name says “spices” as if it’s a lot, but it’s really only two. This version of India’s spiced red lentil soup, Masoor Dal, has full-on flavor with just cumin and chili powder. Lots of onions and umami-rich tomato paste also blend with the sweet, nutty red lentils to satisfy your Indian food craving and, as my mom used to say, warm your kishkas.

Red lentils have no skins, so they cook very quickly and self-pureé. It’s easy to spot them in the supermarket because their gorgeous coral—not red—color lights up the dried-bean aisle. But if you can’t find them, try using regular lentils. (Just add more liquid if the soup gets too thick, a splash of red wine or vermouth, and an additional 15 minutes or so of cooking time.) The softened lentils will hold their shape for a more stew-like dish.

Pair this easy dish with the ridiculously easy Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia. It sops up all those soupy morsels you don’t want to leave behind.

So in less time than it takes to do takeout, simmer up a pot of Indian soup that will delight your senses. Especially your sense of accomplishment.

Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chili powder (not Mexican), or more to taste
  • Salt, if using low-sodium soup base or bouillon
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken soup base/bouillon, to taste
  • 1 pound (2 cups) red lentils, inspected for stones and rinsed
  • 6 carrots (orange or multicolored), peeled, sliced into about 3/8” thick rounds, then cut into quarters
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt to taste

1. Heat oil in soup pot, then add onions and cook on medium, stirring, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

2. Stir in cumin and cook/stir 1 minute. Add tomato paste, chili powder, salt (if needed), and black pepper, cooking/stirring for 1 minute more.

3. Add water, soup base or bouillon, lentils, carrots and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are soft.

4. Add lemon juice. Add salt if needed and adjust seasonings to taste.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Italian Star Bread Secrets Revealed! Make Bakery-Quality Loaves.

Posted on 2 December 2019 | 24 responses

For decades I’ve sought this holy grail of bread recipes. Star bread, the American cousin of what I consider the finest bread in Italy, is the stuff of legends. Italian bakers introduced it to Springfield, Massachusetts, and a few other places in the state about a hundred years ago. Specialty Italian bakeries hooked customers on the twisty-shaped loaves, also called “horn bread” or “bolognese bread.” Those bakeries have dwindled to a handful, and star bread always sells out—often before it reaches the shelves.

What makes it so special? The hard, golden brown, impossibly smooth crust has the crunch of a dry breadstick. In contrast, the soft crumb inside is fine, compact, and as bright as a Hollywood smile. Once you bite in, you can’t stop. The flavor and textures are pure delight. And who can resist the shape that offers not two, but four crunchy ends?

My husband Dan grew up in Springfield, and his family celebrated holidays and special occasions with star bread. They would cut small rounds from the horns and make little sandwiches of thinly sliced Italian cheeses and cold meats for appetizers. But why shouldn’t we have it year-round for sopping olive oil, mopping up pasta sauce, and for everything a good Italian bread is designed to do?

Star bread is getting harder to find. Around here, nobody has ever heard of it. So what choice do I have but to bake it myself?

There’s one serious catch. No recipe. Not in any cookbooks. Nowhere. Even Google comes up short. In 2008, The Boston Globe ran a feature on “horn bread” and included a recipe that apparently nobody tested. An owner of one of the bakeries in the story wrote back, “The recipe given in your paper is missing an ingredient and an important processing step—but my lips are sealed!”

So yes, there’s a secret. And nobody’s talking. Omerta.

Over the years, I’ve cornered commercial bakers for advice. One told me it’s just Vienna bread dough (false), but I simply couldn’t make it at home because I needed “special equipment” (misleading).

The owner of a family-run bakery in Agawam recently responded with a look so steely cold I was afraid the loaves around her would flash freeze. “Sure you can have our recipe,” she said as if I held her at gunpoint, “but only if you pay big money for it.”

I thank her, though, because had she spilled her family secret I would not be sharing it with you now. I would be in on the code of silence. No Recipephany. But in the face of this stonewalling, Dan and I set out to find the secret recipe on our own.

Dan tracked down star bread’s illustrious ancestor, Coppia Ferrarese. It comes from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy and dates back to the 13th Century. The name means “Ferrara couple” because bakers form the bread by joining two rolls of dough at their centers—“coupling” them. This regional treasure, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, has earned PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status and must meet strict regulations set by the EU to carry the name Coppia Ferrarese.

This is the bread brought to Springfield by the Italian bakers. What started out as an elegantly slim, sculpted bread, evolved into a plump “H”-shaped loaf in Springfield. (Oddly, it has never had a star shape.)

Then Dan found the Coppia Ferrarese PGI official document. This is the master recipe that reveals all. After a bit of deciphering, I can now tell you what I see as the two key secrets to star bread.

First, the dough is hard and somewhat dry, the opposite of what I had expected to make such a soft crumb. Imagine stiff playdough with a silky finish. Once you’ve mixed the dough, put away the flour. There will be none on your hands, counters, floor…you get the picture. The small amount of oil and shortening (Italians use lard) makes the dough downright fun to handle and the process incredibly tidy.

Second—and here’s the revelation—you need to roll this non-sticky, pliable dough many times through a “special metal cylinder” to compress it and make the surface smooth. How does a home baker manage that? We dragged out our trusty pasta machine. It did the trick—a fine substitute for the massive rolling machines at bakeries. This was the Big Breakthrough.

I cobbled together this Coppia Ferrarese-star bread hybrid using primarily the PGI guidelines. I tried to simplify the recipe for home bakers like me (although it’s no Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia). For instance, Coppia Ferrarese is a sourdough bread, but since I don’t have a 45 percent hydrated sourdough starter lying around (do you?), I fudged it. While this bread is shaped like Coppia Ferrarese, it produces a loftier loaf more like Springfield’s star bread. Thanks to the pasta machine, it captures the signature textures of both.

I hope you try it and come away a Star Baker. If you don’t have a pasta machine, well, sorry. Hand rolling may work, but I haven’t tried. I’m still experimenting, so please let me know how it goes and if you’ve got any suggestions. Let’s see if together we can preserve this distinctive special-occasion bread. It’s so fun and rewarding to make, you might find that baking it creates its own joyful occasion.

Star Bread
(Modified Coppia Ferrarese)
1. Starter
Mix the night before baking:

  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast (SAF-instant red label, or Fleishmann’s RapidRise)
  • 1 1/2 ounces warm water (45 ml)
  • 3/4 cup bread flour (100 g)

Stir ingredients in a medium bowl, then knead briefly to combine. If it is so dry it won’t come together into a ball, add a few drops of water. It should look and feel like pliable bread dough. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let sit overnight.

NOTE: This makes about 50 percent more than you need for this recipe. If you want to make enough starter for next time you make the bread, double this and freeze what’s leftover and use within a few weeks.
2. Star Bread Recipe and Process
Special equipment: Pasta machine.
Suggested: Heavy-duty stand mixer; kitchen scale.
I derived this recipe from a formula that specified weight, not volume. For accurate dough hydration, I recommend using a scale.
Makes 2 loaves, each about 15 ounces before baking, and about 13 1/2 ounces after baking. Recipe easily halves.

  • ½ cup starter (100 g, or about about 3.5 ounces) Use recipe above.
  • 4 cups bread flour (500 g)  (Weighing works best.)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast (SAF-instant red label, or Fleishmann’s RapidRise)
  • 6 ounces cold water* (180 ml, which is also 180 g), plus up to 3 tablespoons more
  • 3 tablespoons shortening (38 g)
  • 5 teaspoons (yes teaspoons—it’s more exact) olive oil (20 ml)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (available from King Arthur Flour)
    *Use cold water in the stand mixer so the dough won’t heat up. If kneading by hand, use tepid water.
  1. Tear starter into a few pieces and combine with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Knead by hand for about 25 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Or, knead in a heavy-duty stand mixer using the dough hook for about 20 minutes. This is a hard dough, so it will be dry at first and will take a long time to cohere. Add drops of water near the end as you knead to keep it pliable, up to 3 tablespoons. You may even want to wet your hands a bit to keep the surface from breaking. The dough will be slightly elastic, but won’t be stretchy. It will feel more like pasta dough than bread dough.
  2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and proof dough in a warm place for 45 minutes. It will relax and get easier to handle.
  3. Cut dough into quarters, and form each quarter roughly into a strip. Run through the pasta machine at the thickest setting. Fold and repeat for a total of 15-20 passes. (We shoot for 15, but average about 17 passes because sometimes the dough tears and needs extra smoothing.) The dough strips should get very smooth and each will measure around 2 1/2 inches wide by 24 inches long when done.
  4. For each loaf, roll up two strips by hand and join them in the center. Follow this video explaining the steps.
  5. Repeat for the second loaf.
  6. Place each on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and proof for 70-90 minutes (or a half hour longer if your room is cool). They will grow, but not quite double.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 435 degrees convection bake, or 450 degrees regular bake.
  8. Bake one at a time in the center rack of the oven 18-20 minutes. Rotate sheet midway. Lower heat to 425 convection after 10 minutes if it is getting too dark too fast. The loaf is done when it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Also, a cake tester should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Both dough and baked bread freeze well.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Haymarket Asparagus Soup

Posted on 23 October 2019 | No responses

It’s hard to cook asparagus to its elegant best. If you leave spears in too long, they go from vibrant and crisp to drab and droopy. Take them out too soon, and you’ll get a raw crunch instead of a tender, tasty bite.

But it’s easy to cook asparagus perfectly in this soup. There’s no peeling or fussy prep. No matter how long the asparagus simmers, it doesn’t lose its sweet, earthy flavor. A touch of thyme and savory add garden brightness, and golden potatoes make it creamy. Crispy, salty prosciutto bits on top give contrasting crunch and color to the green smoothness.

Best of all, you don’t need pristine spears if you’re just going to puree them into soup. That’s where Haymarket comes in.

Haymarket is Boston’s historic open-air market with bargain-basement prices that attract home cooks as well as restaurant buyers. Wholesalers unload overstocked produce to vendors, who in turn pretty much give it away. You’ll find things cost about a third to a sixth of what you’d pay at a supermarket.

Vendors chant, “A dollah, a dollah, a dollah!” A roll of singles makes you feel downright rich. You don’t ask for a “a dozen limes,” but “a dollar limes.” The vendor hands you a bag so you can pick the best. For “a dollar Brussels sprouts,” a guy in a Bruins shirt scoops handfuls into a bag, sets it on the hanging scale, and then makes sure you see it’s nicely over a pound before he hands it over.

Yes, this is rescue produce. But like puppies at the animal shelter, radiant orange peppers and plump eggplants practically lick your hand as you pass by. Here it is October, hardly the season for springtime asparagus, and I got two beautiful bunches labeled $2 each for just $3.

While it’s not a farmer’s market, it shares the same goal: to get healthy fruits and vegetables onto people’s plates. And in true New England style, Haymarket can’t abide waste. As my mother-in-law used to tell her kids when she brought out a near-expiry leftover, “If you don’t eat it, I’m going to have to throw it out.” Of course they ate it.

If you haven’t been to Boston and its legendary Haymarket in a while, it’s time to do the touristy thing. Spend a fun Friday or Saturday afternoon enjoying both Quincy Market and the nearby circus that is Haymarket. Once you’re home and have filled your fridge, you’ll still have time to whip up this impressive soup—it takes just a half hour.

Haymarket Asparagus Soup

Adapted from Eating Well, June/July 2005
Feel free to adjust quantities to your taste.

  • 8 cups water
  • Chicken or vegetable bouillon to flavor the water, to taste
  • 3 yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, sliced then roughly chopped
  • 3 large shallots, sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced (optional – for volume and sweetness)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 bunches of asparagus, woody ends removed, chopped into about 1-inch pieces
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Topping: About three thin slices of prosciutto, chopped (or toasted croutons for a vegetarian option)
  1. Put water, bouillon, potatoes, shallots, garlic, thyme, savory and salt into a soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Add asparagus, return to a simmer, and cook, covered, until the asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes more.
  2. Puree, either with a blender, immersion blender, or food processor until smooth. Adjust seasonings and grind in black pepper to taste.
  3. For the topping: Frizzle prosciutto in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add before serving.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Brilliant Baking with the Bread Bucket

Posted on 20 September 2019 | 2 responses

Now I know how I’ll make my millions. I’ll dust the cobwebs off my MBA and manufacture a shiny new version of the bread bucket, a once-popular tool for cranking out bakery-quality loaves. I betcha even King Arthur Flour will feature this brilliant energy saver in their baking porn catalog.

Of course, I’ll have to cut Bruce Belden in on the deal. Bruce, the illustrious president of my high school class, has become an ardent home bread baker and he tipped me off about the bread bucket phenomenon.

Here’s Bruce’s story. Once you’ve read it, you’ll want in on the bread bucket business, too.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Cranking Out Loaves with the Bread Bucket

by Bruce Belden, Guest Blogger

Since reconnecting with Diane, my high school classmate of many years ago, and discovering her “Recipephany” blog, I’ve been trying to think of a way to contribute. Since I do not possess a wealth of original recipes, I thought another approach might be to tackle bread making from a process standpoint. I decided to see how Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat recipe (Recipephany, May 2017) would come out using my mom’s bread-making secret: the Bread Bucket.

Mom’s Bread Bucket

When I was a young child, it was always a joyous occasion when Mom baked bread. She used the basic white bread recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, and it was always wonderful. She was able to make five loaves at a time using her bread bucket (see photo above). Her Universal Bread Maker by Landers, Frary & Clark must be close to 100 years old. (See the Universal Bread Maker Brochure.)

A few years ago, I decided store-bought bread just wasn’t very good. I could have bought artisan bread, but I figured I could do just as well for a fraction of the cost with Mom’s bread bucket. I tried James Beard’s whole wheat bread recipe from his classic Beard on Bread Cookbook. It was rather fun and worked so well that I’ve been making two loaves in the bread bucket every three weeks or so since then.

Hooked on the dough hook

The bread bucket has a professional-style dough hook that develops gluten to its elastic best without the hand kneading. While many people enjoy kneading, it takes time and often doesn’t do the job as well as a dough hook.

The bread bucket has the advantage of mixing the bread and letting it rise without any other bowls or dishes. And the instructions are stamped right on the lid. You put in the liquid followed by the dry ingredients and then mix the dough using a hand crank. It may sound tedious, but in reality the ingredients get fully mixed in just 3 to 5 minutes. You let the dough rise in the bucket until it doubles in size. Then you take it out and shape it into loaves for a second rising in the loaf pans. Then it’s ready to bake.

Where to get a bread bucket

I have seen the exact same bread bucket as my mom’s many times in antique stores. Typically, a vintage bucket costs about $50. They’re a bit pricier on eBay. It may be more than you want to pay, but it really is worth it. I recently saw a rerun of the Julia Child French Chef TV show from the ’60s that highlights Julia using a more modern version. That model is probably extinct, too, but what could be better than Julia’s seal of approval?

Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread experiment

Needing more bread this morning, I decided to see whether Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread would translate to being made in a bread bucket. I doubled the ingredients to make two loaves. The experiment was a success—the loaves came out high and delicious.

So there you have it—an easy alternative way of making bread.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Thanks so much, Bruce. You’ve sure convinced me. I’m checking eBay now. Then I’m on to my Bread Bucket Business Plan.

(Photos courtesy of Bruce Belden)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Meri’s Berries

Posted on 4 September 2019 | No responses

Is it a crumble or a crisp? A cobbler or a grunt? Or maybe a slump? Whatever the name, it’s a fruit pie without a traditional pie crust. It frees us from rolling, crimping, and the customary fretting about flakiness. And let’s face it…sometimes we just prefer more fruit and less pastry.

With Meri’s Berries, you toss together a crumbly dough that bakes into a crisp cookie-like topping. Sugar and flour in the dough combine with the berry juice to turn it a bit syrupy. This syrup won’t get as thick as pie filling does, but then again there’s no crust to make soggy.

Meri Cayem shared this recipe back when our sons, both named Andrew, were best buds in grade school. An impressive home cook, Meri zeroes in on what tastes good and how to make it efficiently. Many of my favorite recipes have her name on them.

Here Meri started out with a classic recipe from her mom, Honey, for apple crumble. Meri kept the dough, but swapped out the fruit.

“My mom was a fantastic cook, says Meri, “and so many of her recipes were very simple and delicious.” Yep, that sure describes this one.

Our friend Gary Isaacson made this often, but renamed it “1-1-1 Crumble.” He noticed that the recipe has an unusual property: it calls for one unit of each ingredient. There’s 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 egg, etc. Since I always double the vanilla (a knee-jerk reaction), I apologize for upsetting this elegance.

Meri’s Berries works equally well whether you use fresh summer berries or a bag of fancy frozen berries slightly defrosted. So feel free to use what you have on hand. All you do is fill a pie plate with fruit. And finish it with Honey’s delicious crumbly topping.

Meri’s Berries

Use blueberries and raspberries, or apples and cranberries, or whatever you like, to fill a pie plate.

Blend in a bowl:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour (or quick oats)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut in
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (Note: I double)

If powdery, sprinkle on a little water.

Put fruit into a greased pie pan, then sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350° for 35 – 40 minutes.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Dick’s Hermits

Posted on 9 August 2019 | 2 responses

Dick's Hermit Cookies

How did these classic New England molasses-spice cookies come to be called “hermits”? Some say it’s because they kept well when hidden away on ocean voyages. Others think they resemble hermits’ robes. Let’s just chalk it up to the region’s wacky names. For instance, Rhode Islanders call milkshakes “cabinets,” and they don’t have a good explanation for that, either.

Since my mother-in-law Dorothy (known as Dick) grew up in western Massachusetts, the heart of hermit country, these cookies may have been passed down from her mom. My husband usually beat his siblings to them, often stealing a couple right off the cooling rack. When he introduced me to these these tender bars—completely new to this Southern gal—it was as if I’d met the spice equivalent of a decadent chocolate cookie.

Even after decades of making Dick’s hermits, I still marvel at their uniqueness in the bar cookie-verse. Like biscotti, they start out as logs and then get sliced into bars after baking. But unlike biscotti, there is no second baking. The outside puffs and cracks while baking, then firms up as it cools. Yet the inside stays moist and almost gooey. This gives the hermit the feel of a filled cookie—more like a fig newton than a bar cookie baked in a pan. The soft bite melts away into a flavor bomb on the tongue.

Dick’s recipe yields a lot of bars, so you can eat plenty and stash some in the freezer for another time. They also make tasty gifts (if you can part with them).

Hermits appeal to frugal New Englanders. They derive their complex taste and texture from old-time pantry staples, including molasses. For a bigger hit of molasses, plus the story of the Great Molasses Flood, try out Mighty Molasses Clove Cookies, too.

Dick’s Hermits

Recipe easily halves. Cookies freeze well.
Makes about 4 dozen.

  • 1 ½ cups shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup dark molasses
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon each: ginger, cloves, nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Sugar to sprinkle on top
  1. Prepare two cookie sheets by lightly greasing or lining with parchment paper.
  2. Beat together shortening, eggs, molasses and sugar. Stir in soda, salt, flour and spices until combined. Stir in the raisins. Wet hands and make four sausage-shaped logs about 1 ½ inches in diameter, placing two lengthwise on each of two prepared cookie sheets. Leave at least 3 inches between logs to allow for spreading. Press logs lightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in water. Sprinkle sugar on top.
  3. Bake at 375° for about 9-13 minutes, or until cracked. Cool. Cut into about 2-inch strips.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

“Dad’s Favorite Coffee Cake”

Posted on 11 June 2019 | No responses

Dad's Favorite Coffee CakeIf Do-It-Yourself were an Olympic sport, my father-in-law would have won gold. To Louis (everyone knew him as “Louie”), every chance to fix the unfixable was an opportunity to achieve a personal best. As a contractor, he could do everything. He was a wiring wizard and mechanical mastermind. To solve a problem, he would cobble together ingenious gadgets out of scraps from his garage. When he was in his 80s, he even developed a computer program for doing his taxes.

So why was I surprised to hear that he baked?

I suppose it’s because his wife Dorothy (everyone called her “Dick,” a nickname coined by her little brother) kept the household swimming in brownies, cakes and cookies. Why would he ever need to bake?

My sister-in-law Chris says her dad made this coffee cake for her mom when “there were babies in the house, or she was under the weather, or it was Mother’s Day.” He was proud of baking it, but he was no stranger to the kitchen.

Friday mornings, Dick would pronounce the kitchen closed until the big Italian Sunday dinner, and Louie would take over. “His other specialties were eggnog (made with raw eggs) and pancakes, which we ate for dinner on the occasional Friday night when the food ran out. He also made a mean ‘cut up hot dogs in scrambled eggs,’” says Chris.

The fluffy crumb, occasional raisins and dark sugar topping make Dad’s Favorite Coffee Cake a delicious pick-me-up any time of the day. It’s a classic recipe, so I can see why it appealed to him. You don’t need a mixer, just a whisk, and you make it from ingredients you have on hand. Sort of like scraps from the garage.

Happy Father’s Day to Louie, the King of All Trades, who is not only in Heaven, but probably renovating it.

“Dad’s Favorite Coffee Cake”Louie's Coffee Cake

Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening, butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (my addition)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Topping

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or substitute white sugar and a teaspoon molasses)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Nuts (optional)
  1. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in shortening.
  2. Whisk in egg, milk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in raisins.
  3. Pour into greased 9×9 baking pan. Mix topping and sprinkle on top. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia

Posted on 14 May 2019 | 3 responses

My daughter-in-law Raegan Sales, creative vegetarian home cook and baker, generously offers yet more proof that some great breads just about make themselves.

She started with something called “Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread” and—yes—made it even easier. And ridiculously delicious.

With Raegan’s Focaccia, a bubbly wet dough bakes into a delightfully chewy golden-crusted flatbread. It owes its tender crumb and lovely flavor to hours of fermentation in the fridge and oodles of olive oil.

About all we do is stir and stare, except when we get to poke our fingers into the squishy, oily dough. The payoff: warm, aromatic, hole-studded focaccia eager to get dunked into more olive oil or devoured on the spot. It makes a scrumptious gift to yourself.

Time replaces work, so make sure you start early in the day or the day before. Allow enough time to rise in the fridge and at room temperature. Fortunately, this dough likes to cooperate, and doesn’t mind getting ignored for a while. So chances are it will fit into your schedule. And your snack time.

Variations: Says Raegan, “Experiment with whatever toppings you want! The first few times I made this I put my coworker’s homemade fresh cheese mixed with a little sour cream in dollops (like pizza) and then sprinkled the herbs and salt. If you use wetter toppings, you will likely need to bake it for longer. When I do the cheesy ones, I leave it at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes to give it a good start, then turn it down and keep an eye on it. Those took over 45 minutes to bake; look for the top to turn golden brown.”

Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia

Adapted from Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread”

Makes one flatbread. Recipe easily doubles to bake in two pans. Bread freezes well.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, for the pan and coating dough
  • Herbs de Provence, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste
  1. Mix flour, salt and yeast in a medium bowl. Add water and mix until all of the flour is incorporated.
  2. Scrape down the sides and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof about an hour. (You can skip this proofing step if you are short on time, or lengthen it if it is convenient. It gives the dough a little kick-start.)
  3. Refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
  4. Remove from the refrigerator.
  5. Prepare an 8-inch square or 9-inch round metal cake pan by pouring in about a tablespoon of olive oil to coat the bottom and all sides. Do not use a glass dish, as the bread will tend to stick.
  6. With oiled hands, gently transfer the dough into the pan. Pull the sides up and into the center to form a very loose ball. Turn it over so the seam side is down and all sides have a light oil coating. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 hours until the dough spreads almost to the edges of your pan.
  7. Pour another tablespoon of olive oil over the dough and a little onto your fingertips. Press straight down into the dough all the way to the pan to create holes throughout. Stretch it a little (as needed) to get it to the edges of your pan.
  8. Sprinkle with Herbs de Provence and sea salt. Set aside.
  9. Preheat oven to 450˚F.  Once preheated, put the focaccia in and turn the oven down to 425˚F. Bake for about 22-27 minutes (or longer, depending upon your oven) until golden brown on top and shrunken away from the edges of the pan a little.
  10. Once out of the oven, transfer to a wire cooling rack so the bottom stays crisp.
  11. Enjoy!
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Egg-centricity: A taste test

Posted on 18 April 2019 | No responses

(Photo courtesy of Lynn Osborn)

It’s almost Passover and Easter, a perfect time to share results of an egg taste test by guest contributor, Stan Rowin.

First, some background. Stan is a photographer who started his career taking photos in Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen, now a culinary mecca at the Smithsonian. The same Julia who never got rattled by a fallen soufflé or a splattered pancake showed Stan her perfectionist side during a shoot.

“Julia was doing a chapter on eggs, and she wanted to show how fresh eggs look when fried,” says Stan. Then the frenzy began. “Out of three dozen eggs, she got one egg that looked good, but couldn’t find a second symmetrical egg white. So she sent out for three dozen more. Somewhere in that second batch she found two usable for a photo.” (By the way, the one who hunted down those photogenic eggs was Sara Moulton, star of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.”)

Years later, Stan moved to a rural upscale Boston suburb where “almost everyone but me grows their own eggs: chicken, ducks, whatever.” He remembered Julia’s egg mania.

“So I decided to do a taste test,” he says. “Fresh store-bought eggs versus day old hatched local eggs (they’re supposed to age a day).

(Photo by Stan Rowin) Top: Farm-fresh egg from neighbor. Bottom: Premium store-bought egg.

“I compared a neighbor’s egg (as opposed to Julia Child’s) and a ‘premium’ store-bought egg. The neighbor’s fresh egg had a darker yolk and a more compact white when fried.” Score one for the farm egg.

Then came the tasting of both hard-boiled and fried eggs. “We made the taste test as blind as we could with eight unprofessional tasters, including the neighbor who supplied the fresh eggs. While we had definitely seen a difference in yolk color, no one could taste any real difference with their eyes closed.” Tie.

There you have it. Farm-fresh eggs look better and have what Stan calls the “tightie whities” that Julia sought. But, as Stan reports, they may not taste any different from supermarket eggs. However, if you want Julia Child perfection, find a neighbor with chickens.

Note: Big thanks to Stan Rowin for this story. J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats and The Food Lab concurs with him. Kenji went so far as coloring eggs green in “The Food Lab: Do ‘Better’ Eggs Really Taste Better?” He concluded that the mindset of the taster has far more bearing on the flavor of the egg than the egg itself.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Quick Homemade Horseradish: If You Can’t Stand the Fumes….

Posted on 3 April 2019 | No responses

Making your own horseradish takes just four ingredients: horseradish root, vinegar, salt, and courage. The goal is to get from root to jar as quickly as possible, minimizing the time you spend holding your breath, clenching your eyes, and stumbling out of the kitchen gasping for air.

But if you like horseradish, you’ll enjoy the challenge. No store-bought brand can mess with your pleasure/pain center quite like the stuff you make fresh.

My dad famously made horseradish from home-grown root, yet it was Mom who consumed it with the most gusto. She heaped it onto her gefilte fish, laughing through her tears about how well it cleared her sinuses.

As my neuroscientist daughter points out, the burn from horseradish is different from the capsaicin heat of chili peppers. A hot-pepper burn can persist for hours, while the horseradish shock vanishes in a moment. Horseradish gets its pungency from the compound allyl isothiocyanate, which is highly volatile so it vaporizes into your sinuses, leaving trace flavors to flash across your tongue. Once the fumes leave your sinuses, so does the burn.

Horseradish, a staple condiment in our household, makes a burly counterpart to ketchup and mustard. It loses potency with time, so every couple of months out comes a new batch.

The horseradish root looks a little like an elephant leg and foot. Often misshapen with a lot of dirt in the crevices, it can be tricky to peel. Happily, Stop and Shop now sells nicely cleaned, rather straight roots for easy peeling. Make sure to choose a fresh, firm piece.

You’ll need a blender or food processor. I prefer my blender because it does a good grinding job and, most importantly, the lid seals in the fumes.

This recipe is simple and quick. And believe me, you’ll want to make it quick.

Quick Homemade Horseradish

  • One horseradish root
  • Dash of salt
  • White vinegar (up to a cup or more)
  1. Open a window.
  2. Wash and peel the root. The root can be tough, so slice lengthwise in half along the grain and then cut into chunks.
  3. Pulse/grind chunks in a blender or food processor, scraping sides as needed while avoiding fumes, about a minute.
  4. Keeping lid on, wait a minute or so before adding vinegar (because the longer you wait the stronger the horseradish will get).
  5. Pour in enough vinegar to nearly cover the horseradish and add a dash of salt. Blend again to combine.
  6. Spoon into glass jars, keeping your face away from the fumes. Refrigerate.
  7. Leave window open or close it, to taste.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Chocolate Mini-Donuts

Posted on 14 February 2019 | No responses

Do we really need another recipe for chocolate cake besides our definitive Black Magic Cake, the first Recipephany? Yes, because we also need chocolate mini-donuts drenched in chocolate ganache. Black Magic makes ultra-moist full-sized cakes, but is doesn’t work so well for tiny sweets. With this recipephany, you can make these intensely chocolatey cuties in the time it takes to bake a batch of cookies.

These mini-donuts have a lot going for them. Besides looking adorable on a dessert plate, they’re great for portion control. Instead of cutting a whopping slab of cake, you can pick up one of these and dispatch it in a couple of genteel bites. Then you can go back and pop two or five more and nobody will notice.

If you’re thinking, “No, not another single-purpose kitchen gadget!” consider that a mini-donut pan can be quickly amortized. Especially when you get one (as I did) at T.J.Maxx for under $8. Plus, this recipe came with the pan. I sure got my money’s worth.

Curiously, the recipe that came with the pan specified a “mini-muffin tin.” This can mean that: 1) The mini-donut pan company stole a mini-cupcake recipe and the proofreader didn’t catch the mistake, and if so,  2) You can use a mini-muffin tin if you don’t want to get a mini-donut pan. But the result won’t be nearly as cute.

Chocolate Mini-Donuts

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In separate bowl mix eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick. Combine milk and butter. Alternately combine egg mixture and milk mixture with flour mixture and mix until smooth and soft. Spray pan lightly with cooking oil. Use half the batter, filling wells 2/3 full. Bake 8 minutes. Carefully remove. Repeat with rest of batter. Dip in chocolate ganache and top with jimmies if you want. Makes 24.

Chocolate Ganache

  • ½ cup  semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot water

Place chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup in 2-cup microwavable measuring cup. Microwave uncovered on medium (50%) 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate can be stirred smooth. Add hot water until desired consistency.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Things to Do With Cranberries: Cranberry Streusel Coffeecake

Posted on 14 December 2018 | No responses

If you’re like me, you bought two bags of cranberries before Thanksgiving because it said on the Ocean Spray package, “Buy two, freeze one.” Now what do you do with the one in the freezer?

Cranberries keep a year or more in the freezer. So you can dip into your cranberry stash any time and make, for instance, this tasty Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake.

This breakfast/snack/dessert has it all: cranberry and its best friend, orange; your favorite sour dairy product (sour cream or yogurt or sour milk); the baker’s drug of choice, vanilla; and cinnamon and nuts. You can bake one large sheet cake or two 9” square cakes. In the Ocean Spray spirit, I bake two, freeze one.

For other things to do with cranberries, consult classic comedy duo Bob and Ray. Here, Wally Ballou (Bob Elliott) interviews Ward Smith (Ray Goulding), a cranberry bog owner and farmer.

Ballou: After you harvest them, Mr. Smith, do you have your own processing plant?

Smith: Processing plant? What do you mean by that, Mr. Ballou?

Ballou: By that, I mean, do you have your own factory for squeezing the juice out of cranberries?

Smith: Squeezing the juice out of cranberries? I never heard of –

Ballou: Yes, to make cranberry juice.

Smith: Juice? Out of cranberries?

Ballou: Yes, for your cranberry juice cocktails.

Smith: Cranberry juice cocktails?

Ballou: Or perhaps you make cranberry sauce out of them?

Smith: What would that be for? A dessert?

Ballou: No, you serve it as a side dish…with turkey or meats.

Smith: Well, I never! You know, you’ve triggered something here….Say, have you got a pencil? I want to write all this down….

Ballou: All these years you’ve been growing cranberries…What have you been doing with them?

Smith: I’ve been selling them in a basket, like strawberries. For cranberry shortcake. And you know…they really don’t sell that way.

My dad recorded Bob and Ray shows in the 60s on his Teac reel-to-reel, which, in Eniac style, took up most of our den. There my brothers and I spent hours doubled over listening to Lawrence Fechtenberger, Interstellar Officer Candidate; the McBeeBee Twins; Webley Webster, and the many other stars of the Finley Quality Network.

About 30 years ago, I went with my husband and kids to a birthday party for the daughter of friends who lived around the corner. As I walked in, I recognized Bob Elliott sitting in the foyer, chatting quietly with his usual deadpan demeanor. Starstruck, I raced into the kitchen to corner Shannon Elliott, hostess of the party.

Me: Shannon, you never told me your father is Bob Elliott!

Shannon: You never asked.

Me: Well, I grew up with Bob Elliott!

Shannon: So did I.

I spoke with Bob just long enough to gush with admiration. And said hi to Chris Elliot as he breezed cheerily by.

For years Bob and Ray had fans laughing about this all-American wetland-loving scarlet berry. Now here’s a use that Wally Ballou never thought of. And it sure beats cranberry shortcake.

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase

Makes one 9”x 13” cake, or two thinner 9” square cakes.  Eat one, freeze one for later.

For the cake:

  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest, OR ½ teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream (or sour milk or yogurt)
  • 2 ½ ups whole fresh cranberries (or frozen, defrosted)

For the streusel topping:

  • ¾ cup brown sugar (or ¾ cup white sugar with a little less than 1 tablespoon molasses)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9” x 13” pan or two 9” square pans.
  2. Prepare the coffee cake: Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and the orange rind (or orange extract).
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream to make a smooth, thick batter. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan(s). Sprinkle the cranberries over the top.
  4. Prepare the topping: Toss the brown sugar (or white sugar and molasses), flour and cinnamon together in a small mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the walnuts. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cranberries on the coffee cake.
  5. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes for the 9” x13” pan, or about 30 minutes for the 9” square pans. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.

One large cake serves 10 to 12.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Muriel Brody’s Wheat Germ Banana Bread

Posted on 13 October 2018 | 4 responses

My mom died in August, just a month shy of turning 102. She was a success at more than just longevity. She became an art teacher rather than a journalist because her father thought it was a safer profession for women in the 1930s. And even though she’d never picked up a paintbrush until she entered Moore College of Art, her watercolors were as masterful as if she’d been born with the divine gift.

She gave up teaching to serve as a Naval officer’s wife at a time when “entertaining” was serious business. Throwing dinner parties and organizing wives’ club luncheons were part of the job, and she had the poise and smarts to pull it all off.

Her hobby, though, was worrying. She’d worry when my dad was stationed at a secret location during WWII. She’d worry when he flew jets in a test pilot squadron (something she’d never signed on for when she’d married a Jewish doctor). She’d worry about taking care of her three youngsters while my dad was away on sea duty for two years. She lovingly worried about her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren until the very end.

Peel away the worry and you’d find confidence, competence and creativity. She applied her art training everywhere, especially in the kitchen. Family meals were at the heart of our home, and each plate was a still life of pleasing colors and composition.

As a modern ’50s homemaker, she embraced simplicity and efficiency. If she could make a recipe easier, all the better. Her Wheat Germ Banana Bread features a clever shortcut. It is also my favorite thing she baked.

What follows is my most personal recipephany. It is a story of plagiarism, remorse, romance, forgiveness, and inspiration. I present it in loving memory of my mom.

——————————————————————

My mom’s banana bread was over-the-top moist and sweet from overripe bananas, and rich with the nutty taste of toasted wheat germ. A thick slice delighted me as much as a fudgy brownie. I loved it slathered with butter, and each bite just melted away.

Here was wheat-germ wholesomeness before it was fashionable. And—get this—Mom mixed it in her Waring blender. No creaming butter and sugar. No beating eggs. Just whir and stir. Brilliant.

That’s why I stole the recipe.

In the ’80s I dabbled in cooking contests. I pursued ones that were oddball or badly publicized so I’d have a chance. “Enter contests you can win,” is one of my rules. It makes me a real buzzkill when it comes to lotteries.

A tiny ad for a Weetabix contest caught my eye. Weetabix—those fragile biscuits of compressed whole-wheat flakes—turn mushy at even the thought of milk. I just needed to work their wheaty mushiness into a recipe.

So, without asking, I entered my mom’s banana bread with Weetabix substituted for the wheat germ. It lacked the nutty taste, but it worked.

I made it to a preliminary cook-off hosted by popular Boston TV personality Dave Maynard at the Natick Mall. My husband, 2-year-old daughter, parents and brother and sister-in-law came to cheer me on.

At the cook-off, I took complete credit for my mom’s recipe right in front of her. I later realized how tacky this was and apologized, but she waved it off. She was happy for me. My successes were hers, too. But to this day I still feel guilty.

The banana bread won. A judge in crisp chef’s attire approached me with congratulations. Then he said, “I like to bake with wheat germ. Do you think this would work if I used wheat germ instead of the Weetabix?” I struggled to remain composed and then replied yes, I thought it would work very well.

They slated me to compete against winners from other mall competitions at the Grand Cook-off the following month. I was pregnant with my son, and a complication confined me to bed rest. I couldn’t get off the couch let alone make it to the final contest.

Then my husband, with chivalry worthy of Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightley, announced he’d go in my place. On the stark white apron he would wear, he printed in bold letters with a red Sharpie, “I’m doing this for her.”

And he did. This was a selfless act of love. Give him a grill, a griddle, a pot or a pasta machine and he’s at home. But he has always left the oven to me. So he geared up, ventured into terra incognita, and baked banana bread. He nailed it. And he charmed the judges.

In the end, we came in third. The recipe that won first prize called for a can of Campbell’s bean and bacon soup. My mom shook her head every time she recalled it. I never again baked anything with Weetabix.

My love for her banana bread indirectly led her to create her prize-winning Olympic Seoul Chicken. My contest success had stirred her competitive juices. If her daughter could win with one of her recipes, why couldn’t she? Thirty years later, her chicken recipe is more popular than ever, popping up on thousands of websites and blogs. Only seldom, though, is her name attached.

To her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she was “Nanny.” When my family gathered for her funeral, I served this banana bread. My son nicknamed it “BaNanny Bread.” I could hear my mom’s laugh.

I hope you enjoy success with this prize-winner. Just please give my mom credit when you share it. Then I won’t feel so guilty.

Muriel Brody’s Wheat Germ Banana Bread

Mix in a blender:

  • 1/3 cup shortening, soft (preferably butter or margarine)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 large or 4 medium bananas
  • ¼ cup sour cream*

*May substitute yogurt, sour milk, or milk with 1 teaspoon white vinegar added.

Whisk together in a large bowl:

  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup wheat germ

Pour banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir till well blended, but do not beat. Pour into a greased 9” x 5” loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until it tests done and is nicely brown. Bread will be very moist.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Chillin’ With Vanillin: How to Beat the High Cost of Vanilla

Posted on 12 September 2018 | No responses

If you can believe headlines these days, vanilla is nearly as expensive as silver. A cyclone in Madagascar last year put vanilla bean on the “endangered spices” list. Maybe we should now include vanilla extract in our homeowners’ policies.

But all is not lost. For those of us who swirl spoonfuls into our yogurt and pour it into our baking, there’s no need to cut back. It’s “vanillin,” the active flavor ingredient in vanilla, that we really love. “Vanilla extract” has other chemicals, too, but they have negligible taste and degrade when heated. We’re in it for the vanillin. And we can get it in “imitation vanilla.”

But why, Mr. Science, should we settle for “imitation”?

First, imitation vanilla has oodles more vanillin that vanilla extract does. In taste tests, imitation vanilla ties or wins against the fanciest stuff. For uncooked dishes, where the booziness of vanilla extract can make a difference, just add a touch of vodka and nobody will be the wiser.

Second, it doesn’t matter where vanillin comes from. Whether it’s produced in a manufacturing plant or inside a vanilla bean, all vanillin is identical: C8H8O3. Food historian Sarah Lohman puts it well when she writes that “atoms don’t remember their history—the synthesized vanillin has no relation to its source.”

So what’s all this fuss about vanillin? It’s more than a flavor; it’s a flavor enhancer. It makes chocolate more chocolatey and just about any sweet more luscious. I’ve long suspected that it’s a happy drug, and recently I found proof. A study in mice shows that simply sniffing vanillin relieves depression by boosting dopamine. (As my neuroscientist daughter says, it’s a great time to be a lab mouse.)

My husband grew up next door to the Baker’s Extract Company bottling plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. You’d think the family would get sick of the sweet aroma. But no, like the lab mice, they got a kick from the free-floating mood enhancer. His sister Chris would even pull herself up to the factory’s window ledges in order to get the strongest hit.

So save for college tuitions or retirement and choose imitation vanilla, preferably containing super-potent ethyl vanillin. Double or triple it in your recipes. I guarantee everyone will love it.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Cake

Posted on 3 July 2018 | No responses

There was something about the loftiness, the berriness, and the sugary crustiness of Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins that hooked Boston in the 60s. Jordan Marsh (“Jahduns”) was Boston’s answer to Macy’s for more than 150 years, until Macy’s had the final answer and acquired it in 1996. It speaks to the power of a good snack that a sugar delivery system for tired shoppers has become a favorite memento of this late, great New England retailer.

The muffin’s originator, Jordan’s baker John Pupek, kept his recipe a professional secret. This triggered Muffin Mystery Mania, when home bakers and restaurants alike set out to recreate the oversized, overstuffed muffin. For decades, the media and the grapevine buzzed with recipes claiming to be the real thing. Every New England recipe box had at least one version. I have three different recipes, including one from my mother-in-law, all called “Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins.”

While I never experienced the rapture that was an actual store muffin, my favorite copycat is this muffin cake. That’s because the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin is really a coffee cake masquerading as a muffin. Its soft, sweet, vanilla-y crumb and sugar topping move the needle away from muffin and into cake territory. (For an indisputable muffin, see Boston Brown Bread Muffins.)

This particular recipe for moist and sweet blueberry muffin cake goes back to my roommate days with Elinor Lipman, friend and best-selling novelist. It came from her mother Julia, the source of the amazing self-streuseling Cinnamon Tea Cake.

“She did make it often—it was her standard blueberry cake,” remembers Ellie, who grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. “She got the recipe via Gus Saunders’s radio show where people called in recipes. It was called ‘Yankee Kitchen’ and she listened every day. My sister Debbie and I used to refer to him as ‘your boyfriend.’ She always made it in cake form, never muffins as I recall.”

Versatile blueberry muffin cake goes beyond breakfast or snacktime. Top it with whipped cream and raspberries for an excellent Fourth of July tribute to old Boston.

And if you haven’t heard, the Muffin Mystery has been solved. After the demise of Jordan Marsh, Pupek started his own bakery to continue selling the muffins. When he closed up shop and retired in 2016, he finally revealed his technique in a TV interview. To get this Boston Holy Grail, click here. There are no major revelations, though. The recipe they show matches just about verbatim the one the Boston Globe published on July 4, 1974, under the name “‘Marshy’ Muffins.” I’ve had that in my recipe box all along.

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Cake (Saunders/Lipman Version)

  • 1 ½ cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup margarine or butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I double to 2)
  • 1 ½ cup blueberries, floured
  1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
  2. Cream margarine or butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Add flour mix to cream mix alternately with milk, Mix extremely well. (The more you beat, the better.)
  3. Fold in vanilla and floured berries. Pour into well-greased 8” square pan or muffin tin.
  4. Sprinkle top with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. (I found 33 minutes on convection was enough.)
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Emergency Corn Biscuits

Posted on 20 June 2018 | No responses

Emergency Corn Biscuits lured me in with the wacky name, but they could just as well have been called Cornbread-Lovers’ Biscuits.

This recipe is out of the 1922 Good Housekeeping cookbook, from an era when American housewives apparently faced corn biscuit emergencies. I tried to imagine such predicaments:

“Honey, the Johnsons just brought over baked beans.”

Or: “The wrestling coach wants you to put on how many pounds, Jimmy?”

Or: “How long has this sack of cornmeal been in the pantry?”

But the emergency—and a serious one at that—was not in the American kitchen but abroad. This recipe came from World War I, when American households voluntarily conserved foods to help feed troops and save victims starving in Europe. Future president Herbert Hoover, head of the US food relief program, appealed to American patriotism and compassion with slogans like “Food Will Win the War.” If nutrient-rich calories were ammunition, the program made sure the US had the best-equipped infantry in the world. Americans who had enjoyed a bountiful food supply embraced campaigns like “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” changing the way they ate. Many of these changes, including Victory Gardens, have stuck with us.

Cutting back on milk, butter, eggs, sugar and other staples created challenges. And challenges promoted innovation. Good Housekeeping magazine paid at least $1 for this original recipe published in its “For War-Time Saving and Economy” column in February 1918.

Emergency Corn Biscuits prove that delicious biscuits don’t need milk, butter, or even much shortening—just some cornmeal for flavor. There’s a slight crunch as you bite in, and the tender crumb feels like a biscuit but tastes like a corn muffin.

And, like so many wartime recipes, this happens to be vegan.

These fun-sized biscuits encourage you to eat several at a sitting. Have them with butter, honey, or just plain. No emergency required.

Emergency Corn Biscuits

from Good Housekeeping Book Of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries (1922)  See the whole book on the Internet Archive.

  • 1 1/4 cupfuls bread flour
  • 3/4 cupful cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoonful sugar
  • 5 teaspoonfuls baking powder
  • 1 teaspoonful salt
  • 2 tablespoonfuls shortening
  • 1 cupful cold water

Mix and sift the dry ingredients. Mix in the shortening with two knives or the tips of the fingers. Add the cold water and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls into greased muffin pans or on a greased baking sheet one and one-half inches apart. (Note: I used baking sheets.) Bake twenty minutes in an oven which registers 450° F.   Trenton, NJ

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

9-Minute Creamy Rice Pudding in the Pressure Cooker

Posted on 14 May 2018 | No responses

Luxurious rice pudding tastes divine and makes you feel good all over. But achieving a rich creaminess can be tricky. Baking can take hours, and the rice can even toughen. Thanks to the miraculous time-defying Pressure Cooker, this recipephany takes raw rice from zero to supreme creaminess in less than 15 minutes.

Evaporated milk (milk that’s been concentrated by cooking it down) adds thickness plus a hint of caramelization. This slight nuttiness joins hands with the vanilla and cinnamon (rice pudding is a great delivery system for both) to create ahhh-inspiring yumminess.

While you might think of rice pudding as the fluffy slippers of desserts, it has some hipness. When our son lived in New York City he took us to Rice to Riches, which looks like an ice-cream parlor on Mars. It serves up its 20 flavors in sleek, neon-colored plastic bowls with aerodynamic spoons that would feel at home in a Japanese pod house.

I wrote in “Apple Butter, Pressure-Cooker Fast” that the Pressure Cooker messes with our space-time continuum to cook, tenderize and boost flavors in less time than it takes me to check email. This recipephany has no nostalgia folded in, since I had my first taste of rice pudding from a can. But I’m serving it with a dollop of affection for my superhero, the Pressure Cooker. My mother-in-law Dick got me my first, and my sister-in-law Judy got me my most recent. With every bowl of turkey soup, Cuban black beans, or rice pudding I ladle out, I wonder how such flavorful dishes can materialize in no time from this mild-mannered kitchen marvel.

9-Minute Creamy Rice Pudding in the Pressure Cooker

Serves about 6.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • Splash of cream (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Handful of raisins
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste

Melt butter in pressure cooker, then stir in rice.  Let the grains get coated with the butter, stirring until they turn just a little white. Add milk, cream (optional), water, sugar, salt and raisins, stir, then cover, lock lid, and bring to pressure. Cook 9 minutes. Turn off stove and let pressure go down by itself. Remove lid, stir, and add evaporated milk, vanilla and cinnamon to taste and stir. It will thicken up more. Serve with a shake of more cinnamon and/or whipped cream.

Note: This is so fool-proof, it worked when I accidentally turned off the stove when the cooker reached pressure instead of just turning it down. When I went back to turn it off at 9 minutes, I found that fortunately the pressure had only gone down about a half. So I turned on the heat for about 30 seconds to bring the pressure back up, and then turned it off again. In a few minutes, the pressure had dropped completely, and the rice pudding was perfectly cooked.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Hall-of-Achievement Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Posted on 23 April 2018 | 6 responses

What do architects know about cookies?

A lot, I’m sure, since these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies won Best-Tasting Cookie at an architectural firm where my husband once worked. I had baked them early in the morning so they were still warm when he entered them into the contest, slightly crisp on the outside yet chewy inside. I suspect this structure may have swayed the judges as much as the flavor dimension added by an extra splash of bright vanilla and glug of bittersweet molasses.

It was decades ago, but the construction-paper blue ribbon still hangs as a reminder in our Hall of Achievement. The award proudly holds its own in the swarm of diplomas, certificates and licenses that fill the wall of the corridor, representing family milestones going back generations.

This recipephany grew out of a recipe for refrigerator cookies I found in a Maypo cook booklet. I used to love Maypo hot cereal and the mapleness of these cookies. But Maypo was a sugar splurge, so it eventually disappeared from our shelves and these cookies.

I substituted quick oats for the instant Maypo, fiddling around with proportions to get the right chew. As always, I replaced brown sugar with molasses and white sugar (that’s all brown sugar is, anyway), and doubled the vanilla. I also skipped the refrigerator steps and dropped the dough right onto the trays for instant gratification.

Bakers say the key to chewy cookies is underbaking. But how can you call it “underbaking” if the result is perfection? Yes, cookies should come out of the oven when they look a little underdone—golden around the edges and still a little puffy and moist in the center. But they will continue to cook on the rack, and when cooled there will be nothing underbaked about them.

These are gooiest and chewiest the day they’re made, and they crisp up as days pass. If you want to keep them fresh and chewy, freeze them, and then simply defrost and serve. They’ll still be award-winning delicious.

P.S. For a softer oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, you should try Jimmy Bruic’s Banana Vegan Cookies.

Hall-of-Achievement Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 36

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups quick oats (or old-fashioned oats—they work well, too)
  • ½ cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 6-12 ounces chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 375°.

  1. Cream shortening, sugar and molasses together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  2. Add flour, salt and soda and mix. Stir in oats. Add chips and nuts, if using.
  3. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop onto parchment-lined trays. Flatten slightly.
  4. Bake about 10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and the center is still a bit puffy and moist. Slide parchment paper onto racks and let cool a few minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze to preserve chewiness.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

No-Knead Portuguese Sweet Bread (Mazza Savada)

Posted on 20 March 2018 | 2 responses

Portuguese Sweet Bread shows up at Easter with dyed eggs poking out the top. Frankly, I think it looks better without them. The mahogany crust and soft, eggy interior make a luxurious slice, turning toast or sandwiches into a special occasion.

With this easy no-knead recipephany, you can make this splendid bread on a whim. Just stir ingredients into a shaggy dough and let it sit overnight. Next day, form it into a ball, let it rise in the pan, and bake. That makes the hardest part remembering to start the night before.

While my mom didn’t bake bread, she set aside this recipe for me back in the 90s. She found it in a freebie Rhode Island magazine consisting of local ads and amateur journalism. Buried in the back was this gem of a recipe that sounded like it came straight from the old country via Little Rhody.

This recipe makes loaves that remind me of the ones my dad brought home from his favorite Portuguese bakery in East Providence. You could find sweet bread around nearly every corner because Rhode Island had, and still has, the largest percentage of residents of Portuguese ancestry of any state in the country.

Portuguese sailors and fisherman gravitated to the enormous coastline of the smallest state. They also favored Massachusetts, which has the highest number of Portuguese Americans of any state, and Hawaii, where Portuguese sweet bread became “Hawaiian bread.”

Even though it makes me all sappy about Rhode Island, this recipe may have come from Massachusetts. Thanks to its misspelling of the Portuguese word for “dough” (it should be “massa,” not “mazza”), I traced this recipe to the 1954 edition of Vineyard Fare, a fundraising cookbook compiled by the ladies of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Auxiliary.

So it could have been handed down to grandma on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, then spread like a family cold through Rhode Island and the rest of New England. It even found its way into Yankee Magazine a few years ago, although editors felt compelled to add in unnecessary kneading.

The original Mazza Savada recipe reads as if grandma dictated it while rushing out the door. Our Recipephany version fills in a little more detail to help assure happy breadbaking.

Enjoy making this simple yet elegant bread. Just remember to start last night.*

*Okay, you want to make it now? Or later today? Mix up the dough and let it rise about 2 hours, or until it slightly collapses or flattens. Then put it in the fridge until you’re ready to make it—from a couple hours to a couple of days. Just allow a little more rising time in the pans.

Mazza Savada, Portuguese Sweet Bread

Makes two loaves

  • 1 1/4 cup milk, hot
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon powdered mace
  • Glaze: 1 egg lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water
  1. In a large bowl, stir sugar, shortening and salt into hot milk until dissolved. Cool to lukewarm.
  2. Add 1 cup of flour and rest of ingredients except the egg glaze. Stir until smooth. (I like using a wooden spoon or dough whisk.) Add rest of the flour, a cup at a time, and mix. Dough should be spongy, stretchy and a little sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit overnight. (Or, let rise 2 hours or until dough slightly collapses or flattens. Then refrigerate until you want to bake it, from 2 hours to three days.)
  3. Next day (or when you take it out of the refrigerator), deflate the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and divide in half. Using extra flour as needed, form each half into a ball by stretching the top of the dough and tucking in the bottom with your fingers. This makes the top smooth and taut, essential for a good rise.
  4. Place each ball into a greased 8”x 1 1/2” layer cake pan. Press down on dough so it reaches the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap lightly dusted with flour so it won’t stick to the dough.
  5. Let rise until double, about 1 to 2 hours. (Refrigerated dough will take longer.) Dough should rise about an inch above the pan rim, and be light and a little springy.
  6. Optional: Run a knife along the pan rim to slash the dough ¼ inch deep around the circumference. This helps keep the top of the bread from breaking as it springs up in the oven.
  7. Brush with egg glaze. Bake at 350 degrees about 35-45 minutes. Cool before slicing.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Picadillo Tacos

Posted on 16 January 2018 | No responses

First, don’t confuse “picadillo” with “peccadillo,” although I often slip into that malapropism. While picadillo-filled tacos are not the least bit sinful, they can give you the same guilty pleasure as nachos for dinner. They fall into that category of slightly messy finger foods that go well with the football playoffs.

A quick-cooking alternative to chili, this Cuban-style mélange packs a sweet and tangy punch. It starts with a tomatoey sofrito of aromatics and peppers, then adds a Mediterranean accent with raisins, capers and chopped olives.

I first made picadillo from a Boston Globe recipe in 2001. I amped up the flavors and seasonings, figuring the “pica” stands for “picante.” When I finally had the chance to order authentic picadillo at a popular restaurant in Puerto Rico, I was surprised to find it shockingly bland. So apparently it can be whatever you want it to be. Dial up or down the heat and spices as you desire. We use a mild sahuaro pepper from our garden, but you can choose something stronger. Or just shake in good old dependable Tabasco and call it a day.

Picadillo usually gets dished onto beans and rice, but I prefer to stir the beans into it instead. They add body and mellowness, and probably could substitute for the meat altogether in a vegetarian version.

Skip the rice and spoon picadillo into soft corn tortillas slightly charred over a stove-top burner. Top with jack cheese or sour cream, and garnish with cilantro, avocado, or whatever you like. Serve warm in the glow of your favorite sports channel.

Picadillo Tacos

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 green chili pepper, seeded and chopped. (Choose according to desired heat. You can use a mild pepper like sahuaro, or a jalepeno, or splash in Tabasco sauce to taste.)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground paprika (can use some smoked)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar (to taste)
  • Two tablespoons of vermouth
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup stuffed green olives, sliced
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 16-ounce can red or black beans
  • ¼ cup capers
  • Corn tortillas
  • Garnish: Monterey Jack cheese, shredded; sour cream or whole milk yogurt; cilantro leaves, chopped
  1. In a large skilled, heat the oil and add the meat. Stir constantly to break it up.
  2. Add the onion, celery, bell peppers, chili pepper or hot sauce, oregano, cumin, paprika, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, vermouth and salt. Stir thoroughly.
  3. Cook the mixture, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the olives, raisins, beans and capers. Lower the heat and let the mixture cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed to keep from sticking. Adjust seasonings to taste, spoon onto warm corn tortillas, and garnish as desired.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

Posted on 15 December 2017 | No responses

At the risk of sounding like a midnight infomercial, here is the best spanakopita you’ll ever eat. It’s oniony-sweet, cheesy, and the herbs melt into the spinach to deepen the flavor. I have yet to find a restaurant version that can beat this.

We usually see spanakopita as either an appetizer or a main dish. But with today’s “mezze mania,” you can bake up a batch, freeze it, then reheat a few triangles to go along with hummus, a few diamonds of kibbee, or whatnot to turn a meal into a party.

I like to bake from scratch, but draw the line at filo. Other than my friend Wendy, who once made it as a class assignment, nobody makes their own filo, just like nobody makes their own toothpicks. Some things are best left to machines.

Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

  • 4 tablespoons butter for sautéing
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed, or about ½ bunch fresh dill, chopped
  • 3 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pound whole-milk small-curd cottage cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 pound melted butter for brushing
  • 1 pound package of frozen filo dough sheets, thawed

Makes two 9×13 pans. Each pan serves about 4 as a main dish, and about 8 as a side dish, appetizer or mezze.

  1. Sauté the onions in butter for 3 minutes, then add scallions and parsley and continue to sauté until onions are soft, about 2 more minutes. Squeeze the water out of the spinach, then add spinach, parsley, dill, salt and pepper to the pan. Sauté for about a minute. Turn off heat and stir in crumbled feta and cottage cheese. Beat eggs until frothy and stir in.
  2. Butter two 9”x13” baking pans. To form the base layer, brush melted butter on about 10-12 sheets of filo per pan. If some sheets are torn or crinkled, it’s okay, just patch them together. Divide filling evenly between the pans, spreading over the base layer. Form the top layer by stacking 12-14 sheets of buttered filo over the filling in each pan. Score through the top filo layers, cutting the shape you wish to use for serving (can be rectangles, diamonds or whatever).
  3. Bake at 350º F for about 45 minutes.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf

Posted on 24 November 2017 | 2 responses

Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf

Oh, those French bakers. They take great pains (no pun intended) to make slender baguettes with thick, shatteringly crisp crusts. And yet, as if to thumb their noses at the whole artisan baking thing, they also crank out rectangular sandwich loaves with virtually no crusts at all.

Pain de mie (“bread of crumb”) is the anti-baguette. A baguette takes days to make and goes stale after three hours. Pain de mie takes about three hours to make and stays fresh for days. (Julia Child said it tastes even better after a day or two.)

Enriched with milk, pain de mie delights with a fine, light crumb and holds its shape even when sliced thin for sandwiches. But as good as it tastes, and as tender as it is through-and-through, the real fun lies in its angularity. You’ll cut perfectly square slices and perfectly cubed cubes. It makes adorable toast and French toast, and ideal grilled cheese.

The right angles come courtesy of the Pullman loaf pan, once a specialty item that’s now easy to find online. Its lid keeps the dough from crowning as it bakes. For my first loaf, I half expected the dough to balloon up and ooze out all over the oven, à la Lucy. But the dough accepted its confinement, and the top cameSmall Pain de Mie out perfectly flat, as advertised.

Yes, it’s “Pullman,” as in Pullman railway cars. Although these crustless loaves originated in 18th Century Europe, they became popular in America when the Pullman Company baked them in their small on-board kitchens. Three of these stackable loaves could squeeze in where only two round-top breads would fit.

My 101-year-old mother recalls the fine dining on family train trips in the 1920s and 30s. She would peer into those compact Pullman kitchens—careful not to get underfoot—as chefs quickly prepared elegant meals to order, despite the tight quarters.

So get on board and try this simple recipe for classic, first-class sandwich bread.

Note: Most recipes call for the traditional 13” x 4” x 4” lidded Pullman loaf pan. This recipephany uses the smaller, more convenient 9” x 4” x 4” pan.

Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf

Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s “A Smaller Pain de Mie” Recipe

Equipment: 9” x 4” x 4” Pullman loaf pan (from King Arthur Flour or from USA Pan Bakeware), lightly greased inside the pan and the lid

  • 7/8 cup to 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or soft butter
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • ½ cup bread flour
  • 2 ¾ cups cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl in the order listed and mix. Knead by hand or with a stand mixer to make a smooth, elastic dough. Add a little extra water if needed to get it stretchy.

2. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 to 2 hours, depending upon how warm the room is. It should become light and puffy, but may not quite double in size.

3. Gently deflate dough, and flatten into about a 9” square on a lightly floured surface. Roll up tightly into a cylinder, and pinch the seams to seal. Place seam-side down in the greased pullman pan, flattening again, and push edges into the corners.

4. Slide the greased lid over the pan, leaving about an inch open at the end so you can see how high the dough rises. Lightly cover the opening with plastic wrap.

5. Preheat oven to 350°F during the rise. Watch to see when the dough rises within about 1/2″ of the lip of the pan, which should take about an hour. Remove plastic wrap, close the lid, and let rise another 10 minutes, allowing the dough to reach the lid.

6. Bake 25 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. The loaf will pull away from the edges of the pan, and its internal temperature should read 195-200°F when done.

7. Turn out the bread from the pan onto a rack to cool before slicing.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

One Bowl Apple Cake

Posted on 26 October 2017 | 2 responses

If you’ve got two apples and some baking basics, you can make this jewel of an apple cake without even having to take out your mixer.

Luxuriously moist and studded with soft apple chunks, this lightly spiced one-bowl wonder is as at home after a dinner party as it is at breakfast or snacktime.

This cake’s versatility stems from its Jewish heritage. It purposely contains no dairy, so those who keep kosher can enjoy it any time, with meat or dairy meals.

This recipephany comes from my earliest baking bible (Old Testament version), From Manna to Mousse. Born in 1969 as a plastic-spined fundraising cookbook produced by the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El in New London, Connecticut, it became a nationally distributed Dell paperback in 1972. It contains family favorites covering all Jewish cookery, not just baking, and it’s even got a rabbi’s blessing.

The book’s heirloom recipes are short, easy to follow, and reliable, thanks to rigorous kitchen-testing by the compulsive and close-knit Sisterhood. The chief editor, Mrs. Donald Daren, wrote that on testing days, “Diets were discarded with abandon, for who could not justify the fact that the chocolate whipped cream mousse just had to be tested along with the twenty-nine other delectable concoctions served that same afternoon!” The editors were dogged in their quest to capture authenticity. “Some of the traditional dishes were measured out while a balabusta cooked them. We stayed her hand over the pot so that exact quantities could be recorded,” she wrote.

My college pal, Elinor Lipman, shared this cookbook when we roomed together after graduation. We both loved its recipes, and it soon became my baking security blanket. So when it came time to divide up our stuff and move on, I literally wrestled it away from her. I remember that moment with a combination of guilt and gratitude that seems curiously appropriate with a Jewish cookbook.

So thank you, Ellie, for the book, and thank you, Mrs. Harry Kaplan, for this recipephany.

And thank you, Robin Henschel, the acclaimed potter who created this astonishing cake stand. It makes every cake look—and I think taste—better.

One Bowl Apple Cake
Adapted from From Manna to Mousse
Contributed by Mrs. Harry Kaplan

  • 2 cups diced apples
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • I egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (Not in the original recipe. But I can’t resist adding vanilla.)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • I teaspoon baking powder
  • I teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Grease an 8 x 8 x 1 ½-inch square pan or an 8 x 2-inch high round pan. For easy cake removal, line with greased wax paper.

Combine diced apples and sugar in a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes. Using a spoon, mix oil, egg and vanilla into apple mixture. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in raisins. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool, remove from pan and peel off wax paper.

Optional: Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Zucchini Quiche

Posted on 5 October 2017 | No responses

Zucchini is to quiche as eggplant is to parmigiana. There is no higher calling for this elongated green summer squash than to be sautéed with onions, splashed with wine, tossed with herbs, then married with cheese and eggs into this savory pie.

Not really a quiche, this recipephany has more of an Italian than French accent. A layer of toasted breadcrumbs replaces the pastry crust. Herbs you’d shake into a red sauce awaken the sweetness in the zucchini. And a secret ingredient—ginger—blends in so mysteriously that I dare you to pick it out of the crowd.

The source of this recipephany is probably a long-gone culinary magazine. I play around with quantities, so please go ahead and adjust to your taste. While mushrooms can add some delightful umami, I usually don’t bother. You can use traditional Swiss, and it’s also fun to blend in cheddar, provolone or whatever you like from your cheese drawer.

This makes two modest pie-plate sized quiches, one to eat right away and one to freeze and enjoy later—like a treat from Trader Joe’s. If you want to make one large quiche instead, increase baking time by about 10 minutes.

This is a far cry from Julia Child’s TV quiche. So I prefer to quote another favorite TV figure, Frasier Crane, who asks his dinner guests, “Quiche Lorraine, anyone?” and gets the classic response, “Quiche her? But I hardly know her!”

Zucchini Quiche
Makes 2 quiches. Each serves 4. Freezes well.

  • About 4 medium zucchini
  • 2 large onions or leeks, or a combination
  • ¼ pound mushrooms (optional)
  • 6 scallions (not necessary if you use leeks)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry or vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups grated Swiss or a full-fat cheese blend of your choice (provolone, cheddar, etc.)
  • About ½ cup toasted bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Chop vegetables, press or slice garlic, and sauté in butter over low heat until just limp. Do not overcook.
  2. Add sherry or vermouth and seasonings, remove from heat, and let cool a few minutes.
  3. Beat eggs in a large bowl, add cheese(s), and stir in vegetables.
  4. Butter two 8- or 9-inch pie plates and coat bottoms and sides with breadcrumbs. Pour in vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with some breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake 30-40 minutes until set and light brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Dick’s Brilliant Blueberry Bundt Coffee Cake

Posted on 9 September 2017 | 2 responses

My mother-in-law Dick was our very own “America’s Test Kitchen” well before Christopher Kimball. She was always experimenting, and couldn’t contain her enthusiasm over a new find.

She called one day bubbling over with excitement. She told me about this light, fluffy blueberry coffee cake. She would mail me the recipe, and she just knew I’d like it.

I’d heard she’d been looking for a blueberry coffee cake. Perhaps it was because her signature coffee cake (see Dick’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake) was chock full of nuts, which many people avoid. Or maybe it was just blueberry season.

I’d had a favorite blueberry cake, but this replaced it in no time. All too often, blueberry cakes can get a little gummy and dense from the blueberry juice. Surprisingly, this cake has a light, airy crumb. I suspect the secret is sprinkling in the berries as a filling rather than folding them throughout the batter.

A filling. Hmmm. Sort of like the cinnamon/nut/raisin filling in her signature coffee cake. In fact, exactly like that cake. I just compared the batters, and they are virtually identical. Only the fillings differ. After all these years, how had I missed that? How brilliant! I wonder if that’s why Dick knew I’d like it.

Her cinnamon coffee cake, as perfect as it is, works as a bundt only when you serve it fluted-side-down to keep the topping on top. But this one makes a lovely bundt, and dresses up well with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

Now, about bundt pans…do I hear you grumbling about bundt pans? I’m with you. Half the time—and I can never predict which half—my cake will get stuck and break apart into clumps. Sometimes I can repair it with some glaze and the help of my husband’s 3-D puzzle solving skills. Even a fragile cake can survive removal from a normal pan, especially one lined with wax or parchment paper. Not so with all those ornamental corners and curves. I guess with beauty comes temperament.

I’ve gone through several bundt pans over the years, and my last nonstick heavyweight failed me after only one cake. So I just switched to the one that Cook’s Illustrated rates best: Nordic Ware Anniversary Bundt Pan. I greased and floured the heck out of it and the cake slid out like a dream. I hope I’ve finally found a pan brilliant enough for Dick’s brilliant blueberry bundt coffee cake.

Note: Thank you, Leah Greenwald, for introducing me to Baker’s Joy. It really works. Otherwise, I found the best way to grease and flour the pan is to use Julia Child’s method. Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter with 1 tablespoon flour. Brush it onto the inside of the pan, making sure to get every nook and cranny. This is necessary even with a nonstick pan.

Dick’s Blueberry Bundt Coffee Cake

  • ½ cup margarine or butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces sour cream (or whole milk yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I double to 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Powdered sugar for top
    Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
  2. Cream butter or margarine, add 1 cup sugar and beat well. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat. Combine dry ingredients and add until blended. Still in sour cream (or yogurt) and vanilla. Pour ½ of the batter into the prepared bundt pan, sprinkle with blueberries and filling, then top with remaining batter.
  3. Bake 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes or longer, pray that it doesn’t stick to the pan, remove cake and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

Posted on 19 July 2017 | No responses

Here’s the ultimate baked goods makeover, or shall we say, “bakeover.” In almost fairy-tale style, this recipephany transforms neglected, over-the-hill bread into a deep, dark, restaurant-worthy chocolate dessert.

Expect big flavors—cocoa, dark chocolate, a glug of rum, coffee, cinnamon, scads of vanilla, a drizzle of molasses, and chopped pecans—blended into a sweet base of eggs, milk and a little cream. Oh, and I almost forgot—stale bread.

While any kind of bread will do, including a rustic loaf or rich challah, I prefer Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat. I wouldn’t use it with regular bread pudding, where you need a crunchier or richer bread to dominate. But in this case, where chocolate takes center stage, it melts into the custard, deepening the color and flavor. Despite its wholesome image, whole wheat loves to party with chocolate. Who knew?

This is as easy as pie—no, easier. Just mix and pour into the prepared dish. No need to precook or melt anything, or to use that hot water bath called for when baking custard. Feel free to mess around with proportions to suit your taste, and I bet you can even add in goodies like dried cranberries or cherries.

It may be called pudding, but it won’t wobble or jiggle as you’d expect. It glistens on top with a sugary glaze, and wants to be cut like brownies rather than scooped. But it’s better than brownies in the summer. It stays cool and fresh in the fridge. I dressed mine up with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and (sigh) the last of our summer raspberries.

So save those odd pieces of whole wheat bread (preferably in the freezer) and give them a grand, chocolatey, Cinderella ending.

Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

  • 8 cups of bread cut into rough 1-inch cubes (do not pack), preferably whole wheat
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ½ teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. Place bread cubes in a greased 8×12-inch baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, cream, rum and instant coffee.
  4. In another bowl, combine sugar, molasses and cocoa. Add to the milk mixture and whisk together.
  5. In the bowl you just emptied, lightly beat the eggs. Add vanilla and cinnamon, then add that to the milk mixture and whisk until smooth.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Pour evenly over the bread, stir around, then let it stand for about 20 minutes or until the bread has absorbed most of the liquid. Bake about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled, plain or with whipped cream and berries.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Two Sisters’ Snickerdoodles

Posted on 29 June 2017 | 2 responses

Soft, puffy, and slightly crinkly, these classics deliver sugar ‘n’ spice all year ’round, not just at Christmas.

But there’s no escaping that bit of Yuletide in this snickerdoodle. It is one of the irresistible treats my sister-in-law Chris heaps upon her splendid Christmas cookie tray.

And Chris got this recipe from “Sister Santa Claus.”

It goes back to Chris’s sophomore Home Economics class at Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many of the nuns who taught her had a male name along with a female one—such as Sister Mary Timothy. So I took her literally when she mentioned Sister Santa Claus.

“It wasn’t her real name, but we called her that because she looked just like him,” says Chris. “Little wisps of white hair coming out from under her veil, the stray white whisker, rosy nose and cheeks, and the little round bifocals. She was also round.”

Says Chris, “We mostly made recipes ripped out of Good Housekeeping or off the back of the oatmeal box, or using cans of condensed soup. Nothing was original and we didn’t learn any real techniques.”

This simplicity might explain why this recipe lacks the ingredient many bakers insist puts the snicker in the doodle: cream of tartar. But frankly, you don’t need it. I did a comparison in my humble “test kitchen” and found that snickerdoodles without cream of tartar had better texture and were softer, higher, and tastier than those with it.

Chris remembers that not all Sister Santa Claus’s recipes were winners. “We were required to eat what we cooked. So on Home Ec days we wore old-styled uniforms that had huge pockets in the blazer. That way we could wrap up the most awful stuff, slip it into our pockets and get rid of it after the bell.”

Sister Santa Claus wasn’t jolly. “Once I for flipped a dish towel over my shoulder. She yelled at me, ‘This is NOT some greasy spoon!’” says Chris.

But Chris learned other lessons that will stick with her forever.

“She taught us the proper way to write out a recipe card. To this day I do it the way she taught us. Time, temperature and yield in the upper right-hand corner. Ingredients by step on the left, directions on the right. She also taught me to read the whole recipe through first, then take out all the ingredients, and put away each one after I use it. Smart, and when I don’t follow this…well, let’s just say mistakes can happen.”

So here it is, just as Chris copied it down in class, with a couple of notes. Just watch how you handle your dish towel. “Thank you, Sister.”

Two Sisters’ Snickerdoodles

Temperature: 400 degrees
Time: 8-10 minutes
Yield: 6 dozen (+/-)

Cream:

  • 1 cup margarine (Chris often substitutes butter and Crisco)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • (I sneaked in a teaspoon of vanilla because I can’t help myself.)

Mix dry ingredients and add to above:

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix and shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in cinnamon sugar mixture:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet. (I lined sheets with parchment paper.)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Sally Birke’s Kreplach

Posted on 30 May 2017 | 2 responses

First, there was wonton soup. Then came tortellini in brodo. Now, thanks to Szifra Birke, I’ve found kreplach.

Years ago, Szifra produced the poignant documentary “Browsing Through Birke’s” (now out on DVD). It’s the story of her parents, Nathan and Sally, who emigrated from Poland and founded Birke’s clothing store, a Lowell, Massachusetts, institution.

This documentary had me laughing, blubbering, and feeling instant affection for these extraordinary people. Always looking to connect through food, I asked Szifra if her mother had a signature recipe. She wasted no time in sharing Sally’s prized kreplach and the deeper story behind it.

Born Sura Dymantsztajn in Lodz, Poland, Sally no doubt learned to make kreplach as a child, helping her mother roll, cut and fold the dough over the onion-sweetened meat filling.  And we can imagine her family around the Friday night table, blowing on the hot chicken soup before biting into the slick, plump dumplings.

Sally was 18 in 1939 when the German army marched into Poland. She and family friend Nathan Birke set off in search of her older brother who earlier had fled the Nazis. Knowing the danger of returning home, they sought refuge in Russia and married. In those gritty years, Sally worked in a Siberian coal mine and the couple suffered the loss of two infant children.

After the War, they returned to Lodz only to find that not one of their family members had survived. Nazi gas chambers or starvation had killed them all.

Sally and Nathan eventually landed in Lowell, started the iconic Birke’s Department Store in 1948, and raised four children. Like Boston’s Filene’s Basement but even quirkier, Birke’s drew customers who enjoyed a good bargain and a good laugh at Nathan’s outrageous rules. Sally was the yang to his yin, greeting customers with homemade treats and sound wardrobe advice. Nathan died in 1992, and Sally continued the business until 2004. She passed away eight years later.

To Sally, the only way to serve kreplach was in homemade chicken soup, with two or three ladled into each big bowl. “There were always carrots and parsnips, so the soup was a little on the sweet side,” said Szifra.

Sally made kreplach by feel. When Szifra asked for a recipe, Sally got flustered. “I don’t know how to make a recipe!” she balked. So mother and daughter worked side-by-side, going back and forth on quantities, Szifra jotting it all down. “It was a little awkward for her to have to be so precise,” said Szifra.

But technique mattered. Sally insisted that onions had to cook slowly for a long time. Make that your mantra as you caramelize the onions over low heat.

When we breathe in the sweetness of those slow-cooked onions, hear the soft sizzle of the meat, stretch the eggy dough, and finally take in their savory goodness, we connect with Sally and all she lost and gained. And perhaps these humble kreplach, little bundles seasoned with memories, will bring a little bit of Lodz to your table.

Sally Birke’s Kreplach

Here’s Sally’s recipe as Szifra recorded, with a few suggestions of my own. The parenthetical comments are hers. And while Sally used her fingers and not a fork to crimp, my dough didn’t hold together well enough without a little help.

Makes several dozen. Freezes well.

Filling:

  • 4 medium onions, sliced
  • 1½ pounds hamburger
  • 4 large eggs
  • Oil
  • Salt

Dough:

  • 1 ½ -2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 large eggs
  1. Brown onions very slowly in oil (or in water, if you want), add hamburger, and brown it slowly. Crack eggs into hamburger, mix, and cook about 10 minutes. Salt to taste, keeping in mind that dumplings can lose salt in soup. You may have filling left over.
  2. For dough, put salt in a cup and add 1/3-1/2 cup of boiling water. Add the salted water to flour. Add eggs, mix, and knead until smooth. Divide into 3 parts. Roll thin and cut into 2-inch to 3-inch squares. Form triangular dumplings and crimp to close.
  3. Boil for 2-10 minutes, depending upon dough thickness, until dumplings float to surface. (Add a little oil to water to prevent sticking.) Slightly undercook because kreplach will continue to cook in the hot soup. Drain and serve two or three in each bowl of soup.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Bake Yourself Happy with Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Posted on 9 May 2017 | No responses

In his final “Kitchen Detective” newspaper column, Christopher Kimball signed off with some advice. He said that once you find a recipe that makes you happy, just stick with it. Don’t waste your time chasing down perfection. This sounded odd coming from a guy who built an empire on his own obsession with finding “The Best Recipes.” But even he could admit that, as the saying goes, better is the enemy of good.

Since whole wheat sandwich bread is a character actor in a supporting role, a good loaf can range from dense to airy, dark to light, sweet to slightly bitter. There are plenty of recipes kicking around, and if you’ve found one that makes you happy, you’re all set.

I tried a few, but never landed on a recipe that pleased me enough to put it into my repertoire. So I just gave up. A couple of years ago my daughter Claire sent me this Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe with her assurances that it is both tasty and easy to make.

And of course, being my fabulous daughter, she was right. This taste-tested recipe yields one magnificent bakery-sized loaf that crests well over the top of a 9×5 pan. It’s astonishingly airy, delicately nutty, and bright with honey. It doesn’t crumble when cut, and a slice fits your toaster slot nicely.

Claire mixes and hand-kneads this in the same bowl, cleverly reducing mess and helping to keep the dough tacky. I used to enjoy kneading, but several years ago I discovered that I could approximate my zen-like “breaditation” by watching the dough whir in a food processor. It did well—until I burned out the motor. So after years of stubborn resistance, I finally got a heavy-duty stand mixer said to “aid” in the “kitchen.” (Bread-baking guru Dan Friedman advised me on the best model.) It works the slightly sticky dough without extra flour, stretching those gluten strands into something akin to bubble gum for optimum rise.

This is Claire’s ingredient list, but I’ve taken some liberties with the methods, hoping she doesn’t mind. First, I don’t dissolve yeast in water, since I use the instant kind designed to go in with dry ingredients. I sometimes let the dough rise in the fridge overnight, ready to bake any time the next day. Some say this cold fermentation may also enhance the flavor. (Unlike cold fusion, it’s useful.) You can choose which rising method you prefer, and please let me know what you think.

Does this recipephany make me happy? Yes indeed. So I’m sticking with it.

Claire’s Honey Wheat Bread

Makes 1 lofty 9×5 inch loaf. Doubles well.

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately, added in stages)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package rapid rise yeast  (2 ½ teaspoons of SAF-Instant)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (measure before the honey so the honey won’t stick to the spoon)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • Butter for glazing (optional)

Put 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or the bowl of a powerful food processor with a metal blade. Add yeast, water, milk, oil, honey, and salt, and blend for half a minute or so. Add all the whole wheat flour and mix again until blended. Add the remaining bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead (change to dough hook in the stand mixer) until it is soft, smooth, tacky and stretchy. Add some drops of water if dough is dry, a bit hard, and not getting stretchy, or add a dusting of bread flour if the dough is sticking too much. In a food processor, kneading might take 3 or 4 minutes, but watch that dough doesn’t overheat. A stand mixer might take 8 minutes or more. There may be some bread flour left over. If you use all the flour, you may find that you need to add more water to keep it stretchy. Finish with one of the rising/baking instructions below.

Note: If you prefer the exercise, do what Claire does and mix ingredients in a large bowl and then knead by hand right in that bowl (simply brilliant!) for about 10 minutes.

Traditional Rise

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to grease the top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into a loaf and place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap dusted with flour to keep it from sticking and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F  (190°C). Bake for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaf from the pan and spread a pat of butter on top to glaze and soften the crust. Cool on a wire rack.

Refrigerator Rise (Cold Fermentation)
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to grease the top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten dough into a rectangle about as long as the pan and slightly less than twice the width. Roll up like a jelly roll and turn edges under to form a taut loaf and place into the prepared pan. Brush the top lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. (I like to make the dough and form the loaf after dinner and bake in the early morning.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375° F  (190°C). Remove pan from the refrigerator and uncover dough carefully. Puncture any large gas bubbles that may have formed using a greased metal cake tester or toothpick. Allow to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, or as long as it takes to preheat the oven.

Bake 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaf from the pan and spread a pat of butter on top to glaze and soften the crust. Cool on a wire rack.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Zell Schulman’s Chocolate Mousse Torte from Israel

Posted on 13 April 2017 | No responses

Once, an “alternative chocolate cake” was something we made for Passover, usually from a Manischewitz mix. As much as my Mom and I tried, no cake recipe calling for a matzo derivative ever produced anything remotely fluffy or moist. (I swear Manischewitz cheated.)

Sometime in the 1960s, French-inspired bakers adventured with eggs, nuts, butter, and intense flavorings to create decadent chocolate cakes with minimal flour. So a kind of Fifth Question inevitably swept the Passover baking community. “On all other nights we can eat flourless cake. On this night, why can’t we eat matzoless cake?”

Zell Schulman helped lead the Exodus into the land of glorious desserts with this recipe for Chocolate Mousse Torte from Israel, published in her cookbook Something Different for Passover in 1984. The Boston Globe featured the recipe, and I still have the browned, chocolate-smeared clipping. A melt-away marvel of deep chocolate with ground almonds topped with creamy mousse, this torte says “patisserie” not “Passover.” Yes, it has matzo cake meal, but I dare you to taste it. I make this crowd-pleaser for nearly every Seder, and even for an occasional special dessert during the year.

But who is Zell? What kind of a name is Zell? What the Zell was she thinking?

Last week I found out. I stumbled upon Something Different for Passover at our library’s book sale. Long out of print and unavailable through the library system, here it was, in perfect condition, a first edition. It was part of The Chosen cookbook series. I felt like a chosen person. I snatched it up.

Zell (short for Zelma) is a long-time Jewish-cooking columnist and cookbook writer. She studied under serious chefs including Richard Grausman of Le Cordon Bleu de Paris. Before her food writing career, she worked in TV and was a production assistant to Rod Serling. (Cue eerie “Twilight Zone” theme.)

In the book, she says she discovered this torte in 1969 on her first visit to Israel as part of a United Jewish Appeal Women’s Study Mission. Her friend Dena Jerimiahus served it, announcing that it only had one tablespoon of breadcrumbs. Zell told her, “I must have this recipe.” When Passover came around, she remembered the torte and substituted matzo cake meal for the crumbs. While she didn’t go to Israel seeking recipes, she brought home “a recipe that made me ‘famous.’” And made her my hero.

Chocolate Mousse Torte from Israel

Adapted from Something Different for Passover by Zell Schulman

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (divided)
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup ground toasted almond slivers, ground
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur (or brandy or orange juice)
  • 4 tablespoons matzo cake meal
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and place a well-greased piece of wax paper on the bottom.
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy. Slowly add ½ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until whites hold a soft peak but are not dry.
  3. Beat egg yolks in a large bowl until very thick and light yellow, about 10 minutes. Add butter, 1 cup sugar, and melted chocolate. Beat 2 minutes. Fold in beaten egg whites. Remove 1 cup of this mixture and refrigerate.
  4. Fold in ground almonds, flavoring and cake meal into the remaining mixture. Bake 45 minutes or until cake begins to pull away from sides.
  5. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes on a rack. Remove sides of pan. Let torte cool completely before inverting onto serving platter. Remove wax paper and spread reserved cup of chocolate mixture evenly over the top. Refrigerate, covered, 6-8 hours or overnight. When not serving the torte, keep it refrigerated.
  6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Or, top with whipped cream after a dairy meal.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Bay Area Scientists Develop Breakthrough “Alternative Chocolate Cake”

Posted on 1 April 2017 | No responses

I’m thrilled and proud to post this news story I found online featuring the research of my favorite PhDs, my daughter and son-in-law. 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Bay Area scientists have developed a recipe for an “alternative chocolate cake” free of gluten, fat, sugar, and animal products, fulfilling a dream of those seeking a dessert they can serve to all guests.

The breakthrough is reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Gastronomy. Chemists, gastronomists and celebrity chefs alike herald it as the most significant advance in food science since the fat substitute Olestra was approved by the FDA in 1996.

Those who have eaten the cake, however, question its palatability. In the paper, co-authors Claire Discenza and Gordy Stephenson explain that the cake is capable of achieving a state of what they technically term “inedibility.”

While all can approve of the ingredients, few can stomach the finished product. This paradox has led early detractors to call it “Schrödinger’s Cake” because it is both edible and inedible at the same time.

Claire Discenza says, “Fortunately, the healthful qualities of this cake are indisputable and objective. Whether or not someone can actually choke it down is subjective, governed by individual taste buds and gag reflexes.”

Here is an abstract of the team’s paper along with the Materials and Methods section that includes the landmark recipephany.

Alternative Chocolate Cake

by Claire B. Discenza, PhD, and Gordy R. Stephenson, PhD
Reprinted with permission from Nature Gastronomy 23, 266–269 (2017)
Published online 01 April 2017

Photograph ©2017 Discenza and Stephenson

Abstract

Here we present an original recipe for a gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, dairy-free, vegan chocolate cake. For those with dietary restrictions, one could substitute carob for cocoa without negatively impacting the flavor.

Materials and Methods

Makes one small cake. Serves 36+, as it is inedible. Suggested serving size: absolutely none.

Ingredients

  • 120 g gluten-free flour. We used a mix of about 50:50 corn flour to garbanzo bean flour.
  • Liquid from one 454 g can of garbanzo beans
  • 9 g cornstarch
  • 6 packets stevia (Less would have been much better. We suggest reducing by 7 packets.)
  • A LOT of vanilla
  • 75 g cocoa
  • 113 g hot water
  • 3.5 g instant decaf coffee crystals
  • Approximately 1/2 baked eggplant. Avoid seeds where possible.
  • 12 g carrot zest
  • 1.25 g baking powder
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 175° C. Try whipping garbanzo water until stiff peaks form. Eventually, using an electric mixer on any speed, incorporate cooked and seeded eggplant until smooth. In a separate bowl, dissolve coffee in hot water, and mix in cocoa. In one fluid motion, blend chocolate water, vegetable/legume slurry and other ingredients well, adding additional gluten-free flour as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Pour into one small cake-pan (“greased” and “floured”). Bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Gimme Kibbee!

Posted on 13 March 2017 | No responses

This baked version of a Middle Eastern classic is more a meat cake than the little fried footballs also called “kibbeh,” which means “ball” in Arabic. With the slight chewiness of a cookie bar, this cinnamon-spiced diamond of cracked wheat, ground lamb and toasted pine nuts feels kind of like dessert.

The passion for kibbee crosses borders in the Middle East. Both Arabs and Israelis claim it and have created as many variations as failed peace accords. This version probably has roots in Lebanon or Syria because it suggests yogurt on the side, a no-no in Israel. However, we also serve it with tahini sauce or mango chutney.

You’d think this recipephany came from a trendy Middle Eastern chef, since these days the Beard Awards go to cookbooks whose covers show anything reddened with sumac. Blame it on the Jerusalem cookbook (2011), where author Yotam Ottolenghi pulled out all the stops with ancient spices, herbs, nuts, beans, grains, fruits and irresistible caramelized onions. In the book, he called Jerusalem “the world capital of kibbeh,” and presented a layered-cake variation closer to this kibbee than to the traditional.

Those of us around in the heyday of Erewhon natural food stores, however, know that borrowing from other cultures has long been a way to shake up both taste buds and cholesterol counts. Even everyday cookbooks from the 70s helped us venture into new realms of cooking intrigue.

This kibbee recipephany came from such an unlikely source. I discovered it in a cookbook that seemed more prescriptive than inspirational: The American Heart Association Cookbook. Despite its dry-as-unbuttered-toast title, healthy-heart agenda and barren layout, this cookbook lured me into new culinary waters with temptingly simple and deliciously rewarding recipes. I’d like to think it was ahead of its time, since it needed to clarify that “bulgur wheat may be found in health food stores.” You know, like Erewhon. But the latest edition no longer includes this recipe, sadly omitting one of the great dishes of the world.

I’m not sure if this kibbee actually makes my heart healthy, but it sure makes my taste buds happy.

Kibbee

Adapted from The American Heart Association Cookbook, Second Edition, 1976.

  • 1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1 cup finely crushed bulgur wheat
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon margarine or butter
  • 1 ½ cups plain low-fat yogurt

Preheat oven to 350° F.

  1. Rinse the crushed bulgur in hot water, drain, and let stand for about 10 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, brown the pine nuts or walnuts with a little butter or oil and set aside. (I use Trader Joe’s dry toasted pine nuts and use as is.) Sauté the minced onions in olive oil or butter until softened. In a large bowl, mix the onions, bulgur wheat, ground meat, salt, pepper and cinnamon, adding ½ cup water as you blend.
  3. Pat half this mixture in a flat layer in the bottom of an oiled pan (8 x 8 inch or 8 x 10 inch). Sprinkle the toasted nuts over the meat layer and pat out the remaining meat mixture over the nuts. Leave in the pan, but cut into diamonds or square-shaped pieces. Dot with margarine or butter and bake until slightly browned, about 25-30 minutes. Be careful, as overbaking can dry it out. Serve warm, with a side dish of plain yogurt. Alternatively, serve with tahini sauce, hummus, or mango chutney.

Makes six servings, approximately 330 calories per serving.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Oscars 2017: La La Land O Lakes Old-World Raspberry Bars

Posted on 27 February 2017 | No responses

IN A WORLD where mixed-up envelopes turn winners into losers and losers look like Matt Damon…comes one dessert that Price Waterhouse stands behind… one dessert that proudly proclaims itself a winner despite its name…La La Land O Lakes Old-World Raspberry Bars.

Saskatoon Watch Parties presented this year’s Oscar gala, a “satellite feed” with “satellite dishes.”  Don’t blame me and Dan entirely for the names, as my kids and their spouses also shaped the menu.

  • Manchego by the Brie
  • Casey At Bat Franks
  • Ry-Krisp Gosling
  • Emma Stone Wheat Thins
  • Natalie Port Salut
  • Violive Davis
  • Florets Foster Jenkins
  • Arrivioli filled with Isabelle Hubbard Squash, Boiled to Hell in High Water and served with Hackridge Slaw
  • Salade Lion-naise with Andrew Garfieldgreens, Octavinegar Spencer and Hidden Figs
  • Damien Pizzelle
  • Chef Bridges Mix
  • Drinks included the Mel Gimlet and Moonlight Bubbly. (Note that we, like the Oscars, were late to acknowledge the Best Picture.)

This recipephany comes from Land O Lakes Cookie Collection cookbook, my source for Jan Hagel cookies and so many other never-fail favorites. I dog-eared it especially during Andrew’s high school years, when I pushed sugar to get him to bring friends back to our house. I recently told him how proud I was when his friend Santiago singled these out as his favorite cookie. Andrew laughed, saying they all were happy with whatever I put out on the plate.

La La Land O Lakes Old-World Raspberry Bars

Crumb Mix

  • 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, softened
  • 1 egg

Filling

  • 3/4 cup raspberry preserves

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil over edges. Grease foil.
  2. Combine all crumb mixture ingredients in bowl at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture is crumbly, about 2-3 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture.*
  3. Press remaining crumb mixture on bottom of pan. Spread preserves to within 1/2 inch of edge. Crumble reserved crumb mixture over preserves.
  4. Bake 42-50 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely; cut into bars.

*A newer version of the recipe specifies 2 cups.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Butternut Squash Roasted Whole: The best one-ingredient dish ever

Posted on 23 January 2017 | 2 responses

This is more than a recipephany; it’s a revelation.

It comes from Raegan Sales, the Veggie Whisperer. To capture the deep flavor of butternut squash, roast it whole at 400 degrees for about an hour until it yields when you stab it with a fork. Cool a little, then cut it in half, remove the seeds and peel off the paper-thin skin (unless you are like me and consume that, too). The juice is like maple syrup, so save it to spoon over or mash into the squash. Eat as is or use in other dishes.

The squash is so sweet and velvety it tastes like it has been injected with butter and caramelized in its own skin. It comes out of the oven glowing with a rainbow of flavors that need nothing else, not even salt. This is the best one-ingredient recipe ever.

I’ve peeled, hacked, boiled, nuked, drenched in oil, and otherwise abused squash in the past. Who would have thought that the easiest cooking method would be the best?

This lovely butternut squash, with the cute little curlicue vine, is the last from our garden this season. Next year I’ll cook all this way.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

Classic Ragù alla Bolognese from Ada Boni

Posted on 10 January 2017 | 10 responses

Dan calls it “faux-lognese,” that sea of tomato sauce with ground beef swimming in it. Real bolognese, Dan argues, is a ragù, or stew, of finely chopped aromatics and meats simmered with just a kiss of tomato paste, wine, and cream. And he knows because Ada Boni, the Mamma of Italian Cookbooks, said so.

Ada Boni captured authentic Italian cooking in the landmark  Il Talismano della Felicità, (Talisman of Happiness, or simply The Talisman) (1928) which became Italy’s standard cookbook for many decades, influencing generations of cooks. Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking (1969) has long been Dan’s go-to reference, as trusted as if it were written by his own Italian grandmother, Maria Rosa Nicoletta Maddalena De Stefano Discenza (or simply Nicoletta).

Over time, however, bolognese has transmuted into a red sauce. Even the biggest of culinary bigshots—Craig Claiborne, Marcella Hazan (touted as the gold standard), and even Lidia Bastianich—couldn’t leave well enough alone without saucing it up with tomatoes. Julia Moskin wrote in the New York Times that in a ragù, the meat melts into the sauce. I say it’s the other way around: the sauce melts into the meat.

One of my cookbook heroes, Myra Waldo, was a prolific travel and food writer who, like Boni, linked each dish to its regional cuisine. In Seven Wonders of the Cooking World she noted that Bologna cooks with both butter (generally used in the North) and olive oil (preferred in the South). She described her authentic bolognese as a ragù typical of a city that loves its fats.

And speaking of fats, chicken livers are the secret to over-the-top lushness. Like anchovies, they disappear into the background, adding a depth of flavor and richness that makes you smile but you can’t pin down. However, while I consider them essential, in Italy chicken livers appear to be no longer “de rigueur,” or rather, “de ragù.”*

The quantities here are for guidelines only. Adjust meat amounts and proportions to your taste, and go heavy on the aromatics if you are so inclined. It’s traditional to cook the sauce for an hour and a half, but we’ve found it cooks down nicely in only 45 minutes.

Dan usually serves bolognese on his homemade tagliatelle, but here we’ve used a hefty macaroni called gigli (or campanelle). Our neighborhood Stop & Shop sells its own imported gigli for a quarter of what you’d pay at Whole Foods, and it holds up well to the hearty bolognese.

For a bold, authentic ragù, don’t wimp out. Look these meats and fats squarely in the eye. You’ll be rewarded with the flavors Bologna originally had in mind, better than a faux-lognese even from Boston’s North End.

*NOTE, March 24, 2020:  Maribel Agullo teaches Italian cooking in Bologna (Taste of Italy). She informed me (see comment below) that the official recipe for Ragù alla Bolognese as registered with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce does not include chicken livers, and Italians don’t use them anymore. For our follow-up in-depth story, see “Classic Ragù Bolognese Redux: Do Chicken Livers Deliver?”

Ragù: Bolognese Meat Sauce

Adapted from Ada Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons oive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup bacon, finely chopped (or pancetta)
  • ¾ cup ground pork
  • ¾ cup ground beef
  • ¼ cup sausage meat
  • 2-3 chicken livers, trimmed, rinsed and chopped
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine (or vermouth)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 teaspoons tomato paste, or more to taste
  • about 1 ¼ cup stock (we prefer chicken) or water, whatever needed to keep the sauce moist
  • 4 tablespoons light cream or milk
  1. Heat half the butter and all the oil in a deep frying pan. Add onion, carrot, celery and bacon or pancetta, and fry over low heat until vegetables soften and begin to change color. Add the pork, beef, sausage meat and livers, frying gently until they begin to brown, crumbling with a fork. Moisten with wine and cook until it evaporates, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Dilute the tomato paste with a little stock. Stir this into the sauce, cover and cook slowly, stirring from time to time, gradually adding the rest of the stock.
  2. After the sauce has been cooking for 45 minutes, stir in the cream and continue cooking until it reduces. Finally add the remaining butter and stir until melted and thoroughly mixed into the sauce.
  3. Undercook macaroni or pasta a minute, remove from cooking water and add to the sauce to finish cooking and absorb flavor. Add a little pasta cooking water if needed.

Makes enough for 1 -1 ½ pounds of pasta. Serve with grated romano and/or parmesan.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • PDF
  • RSS

older posts »

Archives

Tag Cloud

"Cake-Pan Cake" Ada Boni Bolognese Sauce black-and-white cheesecake black magic cake Black Magic Wedding Cake blueberries Blueberry cake Chelsea Clinton chocolate Eggplant Eli "Paperboy" Reed Elinor Lipman Flaky pie crust food processor sorbet Frank Perdue homemade crackers Ice cube tray sorbet King Arthur Flour Leah Greenwald lemon pie Lemon sponge pie lemon vinaigrette Muriel Brody Muriel M. Brody oatmeal Oil pie crust Olympic Seoul Chicken Orange cake-pan cake Oscars 2011 peaches Peanut butter Pecan Pie Perfect Pecan Pie Reddy Kilowatt Roast chicken Romanian eggplant dip Rye crackers The King's Speech Vegan Vegan Banana Bread "Cake" Vertical-Roasted Chicken Vertical chicken roaster recipe Vertical roaster White Chocolate Fruit Tart ˜

Meta

© 2020 Diane Brody. All rights reserved.