Tuesday, October 31, 2006


This is a hollowed out "Book of Spells" holding (a portion) of tonight's candy booty for the Trick or Treaters. The inscription reads:

Away with bean and broccoli spear!
Banish carrot sticks from here!
Shun the dull and humdrum treats.
Keep this vessel filled with sweets!"

Sadie the Werewolf wishes you a terrific Halloween!

Candy Corn Cookies

These candy corn-shaped cookies from BettyCrocker.com were too cute not to make. They didn't come out as precise as Betty's (she must have a construction grade level in her kitchen) but they are darling.

Some baked up as tricks.

Some baked up as treats.

Some give new meaning to the term "food porn."

I found it difficult to spread this amount of dough into the bread pan evenly, so next time I'll either use my own sugar cookie recipe or double the amount of cookie dough.

As for the taste, I'm pretty impressed with what I got from a mix, although the additional vanilla I added probably didn't hurt either.

Candy Corn Cookies (slightly adapted from BettyCrocker.com)
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Orange paste food color
2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted, cooled OR brown paste food color

Line a 8x4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending wrap over sides of pan. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms.

Place 3/4 cup dough into a plastic zip-top bag. Knead desired amount of food color into dough until color is uniform. Press dough evenly in bottom of pan.

Divide remaining dough in half. Place one half into a plastic zip-top bag and knead in chocolate or brown food color until color is uniform. Press dough into pan on top of orange dough. Press remaining dough into pan on top of brown dough. Refrigerate 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 375-degrees F. Remove dough from pan. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into 5 wedges. On ungreased cookie sheet, place wedges 1 inch apart.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until cookies are set and edges are very light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on pan, then move cookies to a cooling rack. Store in tightly covered container.

Grade: B

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Pumpkin spice pancake with scrambled eggs.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And on a day that's celebrated by the young gorging on candy and the "old" by downing fun mixed drinks, a good breakfast is especially important.

Next time, I'll increase the spicy kick with more cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, but even as they are, they're quite tasty.

Spicy Pumpkin Pancakes (slightly adapted from a BettyCrocker.com recipe)

2 1/3 cups Original Bisquick mix
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs

Maple-Nut Syrup (optional)
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Heat griddle or skillet over medium -low heat, greasing with vegetable oil if necessary. In medium bowl, stir all pancake ingredients until well blended (According to Martha Stewart, leaving some lumps yields a fluffier pancake -- LR.) For each pancake, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle.

Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook other sides until golden brown. Serve with syrup.

Maple-Nut Syrup: in 1-quart saucepan, heat syrup and butter until butter is melted, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in pecans.

Grade: B+

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

At left, buttermilk mashed potatoes accompanied with meatloaf and veggies.

The word "buttermilk" in a recipe always sucks me in. Buttermilk pancakes? Yep. Buttermilk. Buttermilk fried chicken? Yes, please. Buttermilk mashed potatoes? Definately!

Unfortunately, these are good but not as good as I expected them to be. They're a bit creamier than regular milk would be, and certainly have a hint of that buttermilk tang, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt, and cook until potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain; place in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher, then add buttermilk and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until combined.

Serves 4.

Grade: A

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cake Decorating Class, Weeks 3 and 4 & a Product Review of Dr. Oetker's Vanilla Cake Mix

I was clicking along in cake decorating class, not having too much of a problem -- until last week. We didn't decorate anything, just practiced piping. Piping kicked my ass. I couldn't do anything right. Reverse shell, writing letters, creating leaves: everything I touched turned out poorly.

Because we didn't frost anything and I had done so poorly with piping, I had a ton of lemon buttercream leftover and a desire to do something attractive. So the next day, I baked two 9-inch vanilla cake rounds using Dr. Oetker's Organics Vanilla Cake Mix. Blecch. Do NOT use this mix. The final product tastes just like cornbread which, while delicious, is not what you want to taste in a vanilla cake.

I frosted it anyway to practice, and my reverse shell got a bit better -- not close to perfect, but good.

The cake, featuring reverse shell, shell, stars, and a weird mess on the top.

Closeup of the reverse shell border.

Closeup of the shell border.

It looks like a vanilla cake, but it tastes like cornbread. Cornbread with lemon buttercream.


At Tuesday's class (the 4th out of 6), we created a spider cake for Halloween.

To create, stack two 5-inch cake rounds ontop of each other, sandwiching a layer of buttercream between them. On the top layer, trim a bit of the cake's edge away to create a bevel. This will result in a rounded cake top.

The cake layer, before trimming.

After trimming.

Separate butter cream and, in separate bowl, tint orange and black, reserving a small bit of frosting for the whites of the eyes.

Score an "X" onto the top of the cake. Following the X, and starting at the bottom of the cake and working up, pipe "hair" onto the cake using a grass tip.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a coupler but not a tip, pipe eyes onto the cake. Using the black frosting and a small round decorating tip, pipe black dots onto the white eyeballs and a wavy mouth. For the legs, stick black licorice whips into the sides of the cake. If desired, attach legs to the cake board with a dab of frosting.

I used the same "stack and bevel" technique to create this pumpkin-shaped cake at home.

It's not perfect, but I'm pretty happy with it. Plus, I got to play --effectively!-- with the leaf tip.

Finally, I practiced shell borders, stars, and writing (still need more practice with that...) to create this cake.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Meatloaf with Chili Sauce

See those mashed potatoes? The recipe is a'comin.

The day I made this recipe, it tasted pretty good. The next day, it was fantastic. So make it a day ahead, reheat, and enjoy with abandon!

This recipe makes two loaves or, for a kid-friendly twist, put the mixture into 24 muffin cups.

Meatloaf With Chili Sauce

1/2 c. milk
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1 1/2 lbs ground sirloin
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
2 small onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. chili sauce, plus 1/4 cup for glaze
1 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F, with rack in center. In a large bowl, pour milk over bread; let soak, about 30 seconds. Add sirloin, pork, onion, garlic, 1/2 cup chili sauce, parsley, Parmesan, eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using your hands, mix until combined; do not overmix or meatloaf will be dense.

Divide mixture in half. Gently pat each half into a log, and place each log in an 8 1/2 -by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Do not press down or into corners.

Bake 50 minutes. Brush tops of loaves with remaining 1/4 cup chili sauce; continue cooking until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 160°, about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven; let rest 5 minutes. Turn loaves out of pans; slice each into eight 3/4-inch-thick slices.

Note: For a loaf with crisp edges, shape the meat mixture with your hands into a log slightly smaller than the pan. And for a light texture, don't press the log into the pan; just drop it in.

Grade: A

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Cream Frosting

I wish this picture did the flavor of this cake justice.

I found this recipe on JoyOfBaking.com and slightly adapted it only because I couldn't find our bottle of maple syrup.

No matter -- this is an amazingly delicious cake! Why can't all cakes be like this?

The cake is moist and delicate, with a distinct autumnal flavor from the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger and clove. The frosting's cream cheese tang is mellowed by the butter, honey, and vanilla, and the nuts give the cake a finished look and a bit of crunch.

Make this very, very soon.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Cream Frosting

For Cake:
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ c. light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. fresh or canned pure pumpkin (about 1/2 of a 15 ounce can)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature

For Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

For Garnish:
¼ cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. and place rack in center of oven. Grease two 8- or 9-inch cake pans, lining the bottom with parchment. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the pumpkin batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then invert and remove the cakes from their pans. Cool completely before frosting.

Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat until smooth. Add the honey, vanilla and confectioners' sugar and beat (slowly at first) to combine. Adjust syrup or sugar until you have the right consistency.

Place one of the cake layers, top side down, on a serving plate. Frost with a layer of icing. Place the second cake, top side up, onto the first layer and frost. Garnish with nuts if desired. Refrigerate but bring to room temperature before serving.

Grade: A+

Monday, October 23, 2006

Maple-Glazed Apple and Sweet Potato Gratin

They started out in neat rows, but as I didn't have a turkey baster,
I gently flipped them while baking.

If you have a type A personality like me, it should come as no surprise that I'm already testing out recipes for Thanksgiving. It looks like a small one this year -- just us and my parents -- but really, I'll take any excuse to cook while satisfying a perfectionist itch.

This recipe comes from The Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan, a beautifully photographed cookbook with a number of interesting recipes. (Plus Amazon.com has it for about $7 -- cheap!) If you have a sweet tooth and like to masquerade dessert as dinner, this is for you. Oddly enough, Shane and I liked it much more than the kids did, but that probably has to do with the facts that A) Kian isn't a big fan of sweets and B) Sadie is anti-sweet potato.

In any event, the sweet glaze nicely complements the potatoes and apples, and provides tasty counterpoint to more savory dishes.

You could even make this without the sweet potatoes and serve it alongside a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Maple-Glazed Apple and Sweet Potato Gratin

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for the greasing the pan
3 Tbsp. flour
3/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. dark brown sugar, packed
3 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs. total) peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
3 Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/2 lbs.) peeled, cored, and thinly sliced.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Generously coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt 4 Tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, whisking constantly, until flour is blended and cooked through, about 1 minute. Add the maple syrup, salt, and brown sugar. Simmer, whisking frequently [if not constantly -- LR] until the sugar dissolves and the syrup thickens, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Arrange rows of alternating sweet potato slices and apple slices in the pan. Pour reserved sauce evenly over top, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 40 minutes.

Uncover, raise the temperature to 450-degrees F, and baste the potatoes and apples with the juices that collect in the bottom of the pan. Bake the gratin, basting every 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and nicely browned at the edges, about 30 minutes longer. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven for up to 30 minutes.

The gratin can be assembled up to 8 hours ahead. Cover and store at room temperature until ready to bake.

Grade: A

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Karate Dragons!

Dragon doing a karate shoulder stand. KYOP!

Sadie has started her own blog: Karate Dragons! It encompasses her two current loves -- yes, you guessed it -- karate and dragons. It's pretty amazing, especially when you consider the primary author is 8 years old.

Take a look and if you'd like to send her a message, send one through me. The site is configured to not receive comments or emails, and does not have a profile picture. Oh, yeah - we're all about the Internet safety.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Michael Pollan: "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex"

From "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex" by Michael Pollan, published 10/15/06 in The New York Times:

Soon after the news broke last month that nearly 200 Americans in 26 states had been sickened by eating packaged spinach contaminated with E. coli, I received a rather coldblooded e-mail message from a friend in the food business. “I have instructed my broker to purchase a million shares of RadSafe,” he wrote, explaining that RadSafe is a leading manufacturer of food-irradiation technology. It turned out my friend was joking, but even so, his reasoning was impeccable. If bagged salad greens are vulnerable to bacterial contamination on such a scale, industry and government would very soon come looking for a technological fix; any day now, calls to irradiate the entire food supply will be on a great many official lips.

Read the rest here. Log in required; BugMeNot suggests "tirefire" for both the user name and password.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

ANZAC Biscuits

Sadie's class is traveling around the world -- not literally; public school systems rarely have that kind of money... Groups of four to five kids are assigned a country, research their given topic (flora/fauna, food, culture, etc.), and present their work to the class.

On Friday, the class is exploring Australia. For the food portion, I was asked to bake ANZAC biscuits. ANZAC day is annually observed in Australia and New Zealand on April 25 to honor the bravery and sacrifice of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).

According to Wikipedia,

The cookies are a re-named version of the time-honored "Rolled oats biscuit." Many myths have grown around the ANZAC biscuit. It has been reported that they were made by Australian and New Zealand women for the [ANZAC] soldiers of World War I and were reputedly first called "Soldiers' Biscuits" and then "ANZAC Biscuits" after the Gallipoli landing. The recipe was reportedly created to ensure the biscuits would keep well during naval transportation to loved ones who were fighting abroad.

I used Haalo's recipe from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once. The result? Delicious. They're a kind of oatmeal cookie, but the coconut and butter (lots of butter) give them a different flavor. They're plain, simple, and homey -- tastes, I imagine, a soldier far from home would greatly appreciate. And me. And the kids. And Shane.

Haalo's look much prettier than mine -- I just dropped a scoop of dough onto the cookie sheet and smushed it down with my fingers. For a more lovely appearance, follow Haalo's instructions below.

The recipe calls for golden syrup, which I wasn't able to find at Tops, so I substituted a mix of honey and corn syrup. Wegmans does carry it, so the next time I'm there, I'll pick some up and make these again. The cookies (OK, biscuits) are terrific now, but with the added caramelly depth-of-flavor the golden syrup will add, they'll be fantastic.

ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup raw sugar
¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 Tbsp. golden syrup
8 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. hot water

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together the oats, flour, sugar and coconut. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the golden syrup, mixing well to combine. In a separate bowl or mug, mix the baking soda and hot water together. Add the soda/water mixture into the melted butter mixture, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir well and scoop out tablespoonfuls of the mix. Roll in your palm then flatten into a rough circle. Place on a baking paper lined tray, leaving space for the biscuits to spread. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until a golden brown. Cool on the tray before placing on wire racks.

Grade: A -

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Mighty Cupcake

"Cupcake" by Karen Fincannon.

Rachel is hosting a cupcake swap over at Food Maven. Check it out and sign up!

Retro Recipe Challenge # 3 Round Up!

Our mission: to explore recipes first published in the year of one’s birth – or at least, in a year within five of one’s birth. Our guides: Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman, ready to take us on a culinary tour of the 20th century.

Mr. Peabody: Sherman, set the Waybac Machine for 1987.

Sherman: Yes sir, Mr. Peabody!

First stop is Emily’s White Bean and Pork Chili from Bon Appetit. She wasn’t impressed with it of first, writing “Keebler TownHouse Cornbread crackers […] and Monterey jack cheese saved the chili.”

Sherman: I guess 1987 didn’t need flavor when it had NKTOB!

Mr. Peabody: Quiet, you.

Kirsten serves up Lazy Texas Brisket Bon Appetit which she calls “euphorically delicious and simple.”

For dessert, Brilynn (whose blogger photo is a CABBAGE PATCH DOLL) has Canadian Living’s Cinnamon Buns

They look delicious as well. Hmm, why would recipes from ’82 be more flavorful than those from ’87?

Sherman:I know! By the late 80s we had a distracting bad taste in our mouths due to the Regan administration! God, it all makes sense.

Mr. Peabody: Quiet, you.

I knew Mr. Peabody was a Republican.

Mr. Peabody: Quiet, you.

Hm, well. It’s not worth stopping the Waybac in 1981 to sample Cowboy Cookies from Applehood & Motherpie.They’re pretty flavorless and boring, but maybe that’s the way the Junior Leaguers avoid having to hide food in clothes dryers.

Another two stops in one year – this time, it’s 1975. Stephanie made scrumptious looking Fried Risotto with Gruyere and Truffle filling. "Must I go through the formality of saying this was fabulous?" she writes. "Risotto, which is good. Gruyere, also good. White truffles, decadent. Put them together, and fry them? Heavenly."

Also in 1975 is a trip through The Mickey Mouse Cookbook for the Seven Dwarfs’ Cupcakes. Peabody (the blogger) writes “There is one basic recipe with 7 different adaptations so I decided to make one of each. It said it made twelve, but really only made 7 (how fitting).”

Mr. Peabody: (chuckling) How droll.

Get in the Waybac, Mr. Peabody. This isn’t that kind of website.

1973 offers up a beautifully photography (and delicious looking) Carrot and Apple Salad. Its chef, Pepper, first consulted the House and Garden Drink Guide. "There was one cocktail named Between the Sheets, giving me a mental picture of some mustached, sideburned guy in a light colored, wide lapelled suit mixing up one of these...let's change the channel." Good idea, Pepper. We don’t need Mr. Peabody getting excited again.

Becke turned to the grand dame of retro recipes – the Pillsbury Bakeoff archives – and whipped up the Grand Prize Winner for 1972: Quick ‘n’ Chewy Crescent Bars. “They are very simple to make, and sickly sweet [...] actually, they’re not bad at all, quite good […] It sort of reminds me of the praline topping that I put on top of my yams at Thanksgiving, minus the booze of course."

Sherman: I kind of would like have to have one with booze, Mr. Peabody.

Mr. Peabody: Just. God.

1970 gives us Cheese Toast from Gourmet. Finding it, writes Caryn “as a Yank living in the UK […]seemed somehow serendipitous.” This was after a google a search yielded a recipe for a WMD from The Anarchist Cookbook.

Mr. Peabody: Thank you for not making a joke about WMDs and the current administration.

I think I just did, Mr. Peabody.Let’s go to the nuclear age of the 50s, shall we?

Ruth baked up a Date & Nut Loaf from the book “that Jewish mothers traditionally buy for their daughters when they get married -- A Treasure For My Daughter .” It’s a beautiful bread.

Mr. Peabody: That’s the only "date" on your horizon, isn’t Sherman?

Sherman: To call you a “son of a bitch” wouldn’t be inaccurate, huh, Mr. Peabody?

1954 yields a Macaroni Sauté from Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cook Book. La Vida Dulce writes that her mom “made this macaroni dish, but she gave it her own flair. Her technique was to leave it uncovered, use canned crushed tomatoes instead of tomato juice, a tiny pinch of comino (ground cumin) and then she added grated Monterey Jack cheese to finish. If it got too dry during cooking, she added more water. It was one of our family favorites.”

Another trip in the Waybac Machine takes us to the rationing of the 40s where Doodles reminisces over Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese. “The soup was probably Campbell's with a can of water added, eeek! And the grilled cheese was probably made with white bread, two eeeks!! But in those days it was made with love just like today. And if we were really good we probably got a pickle to accompany our sandwich.”

The last two recipes have indeterminate dates, so bear with the Waybac.

John Buehler offers up his Gramma’s recipe for salsa. In an email, John writes “When we were first married, my wife tried it several times and it just didn't taste like Grams. The long notes following the recipe are mostly her secrets to making it taste just right.”

Finally, Joanne Hay has recreated the perfect snack for time travel: Pemmican. “Pemmican is a great way to get nourishment…,” she writes. “Just keep a bag of Pemmican in your car [or Waybac Machine]. It keeps for years out of the fridge.”

Mr. Peabody: Sherman, were you aware that a war was waged over Pemmican?

Sherman: No, and honestly, I’m tired of pretending to care about history.I mean, do you think--

Mr. Peabody: Just SHUT UP.

Well, it’s time to hustle the boys into the Waybac and get back things back to normal. Thanks to everyone who participated -- please email me if I've left anyone out.

See you for Retro Recipe Challenge #4 (just announced)!


Retro Recipe Challenge # 4: Fall Favorites

It’s that time of year again. There’s a crispness in the air. Apples and pumpkins are in season. The coats, gloves, and scarves emerge from storage. There’s Halloween AND Thanksgiving to celebrate.

It’s fall and it’s wonderful.

Retro Recipe Challenge #4 is all about Fall Favorites. Go on the hunt for old recipes that work well in fall: apple cider donuts, cheesy chicken casseroles, hot toddys, squash gratins, etc. – what ever makes you think “fall” and “retro” is perfect for this round.

Here are the details:
Cook up a recipe associated with fall and first published between 1920 and 1980
Take a picture (if possible)
Post the recipe and your results on your blog. Please include:
--The year the recipe was published
--Where the recipe came from
--How it tasted
--A tag for
--A link to this post

Send an email to RetroRecipeChallengeATgmailDOTcom by Wednesday, November 15 at 11:59pm EST. Please include:
--RRC#4 in the subject line
--your first name or blogging nickname
--your blog's name and your blog's URL
--the recipe name and the post's URL

That's it!

For help in searching for recipes, visit “helpful links” on the sidebar of Retro Recipe Challenge Blog. If you come across some resources that aren't listed, share the wealth! Leave a comment or send an email to RetroRecipeChallengeATgmailDOTcom .

Good luck and get cooking!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #3 Submission: Cowboy Cookies

If you've ever set foot inside a bookstore in New York State, chances are you've spotted this iconic book:

First published in 1981, Applehood & Motherpie: Handpicked recipes from Upstate New York is a collection of recipes put out by the Junior League of Rochester.

It seemed pretty "down-home" to me, and I'd always wanted it, but only recently got my hands on the book.

Flipping through it, I've found that it has lots of folksy recipes, but it also has just as much upper-middle class bitchiness.

Take, for example, the anecdotes sprinkled between the recipes:

When Annette's 5 children helped her bake pumpkin cake one of them left out the sugar which was needed to catalyze the baking soda so that the cake would rise. Without the sugar such a leaden cake resulted that her dinner guests, who had been looking forward to sampling their favorite cake, wound up initiating her new garbage disposal instead!

Poor Annette. Never able to show her face at the Pittsford Wegmans again.


Jane, a weight watcher, hid food from herself all over the house. A favorite spot was the clothes dryer, until one day neglecting to remove the caloric booty, she found herself with a whole dryers load of cake crumbed clothes!

The silly cow!

The more I read this book, the more the Junior League of Rochester sounds like the antagonist in a John Waters movie.

Uh-oh. There's trouble in Baltimore tonight!

According to the book, these Cowboy Cookies (no explanation is given for the name) are "a lunchtime favorite from the Fairport Central Schools." I'm assuming that's because they contain butter, sugar, and chocolate -- the holy trinity of caloric goodness -- and not because the cookies are anything special. They're oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and not a great version at that. Not horrible, but not exceptional either. I increased the amount of chocolate chips in the recipe below, which should make them better; the original calls for half the amount (trust me, it's not enough).

So now that I've ripped on the Junior League, their book, and its recipes, I'm pretty sure they'll come after me. They're powerful women you know, with lots of connections.

If you hear a news report about a taffeta-related death, you'll know A) who died and B) that it was no accident.

As befits a retro recipe, a poor photo composition with clashing colors. Enjoy!

Cowboy Cookies

1 ½ cups butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
2 ¼ cup flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
3 cups rolled oats
12 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Blend into creamed mixture. Add rolled oats & chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Yields 6 dozen cookies.

Grade: C+ to B-

Celebrations : A night at the Abner Adams House and dinner at the Holloway House

The Abner Adams House B & B, located in Bloomfield, NY.

Shane's birthday and my birthday are just a day apart (October 12 and 11, respectively) and our anniversary is on Shane's birthday. So October is always festive for us and this year, we chose to celebrate our "banniversary" (Shane's invention, which is a little too much like TomKat, Brangelina, or Bennifer for my tastes...) with a night at the Abner Adams House B&B. Its website, though nice, doesn't begin to do it justice. The owners/hosts, Lynda and Bob Dobberson, are so gracious, kind, and friendly, we felt comfortable and at ease the moment we stepped through the door.

The house is comfortably decorated -- gorgeous but not stuffy or formal. Everything is cozy and charming; it's the perfect place to unwind.

We stayed in Nana's Nook (scroll down) which has a lovely four post bed, "fire"place (it's electric but somehow manages to remain romantic and warm), pine floors, and a nice sized bathroom with a "champagne" tub (it shoots air into the bath water, creating an effervescent experience). Unfortunately, I didn't have time to take a bath, but the water pressure for my shower was amazing.

Shane (very thoughtfully) booked the romantic night away package, so our lovely room came replete with a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, and a $50 certificate to a local restaurant.

Happily, the certificate was for The Holloway House, which I'd been wanting to try since I found out about it (this was only after moving to our new house).

The Holloway House

I like it more than it probably deserves. The food was good (some of it was exceptional) but the service was slow and the decor -- well, let me put it this way: if a restaurant has drop ceilings and 20+ year old carpeting, I find it hard to enjoy the meal.

The restaurant is set in a former residence. After walking in and hanging up our coats, we were left to wonder for a good five minutes whom we should speak to about our reservations -- no greeters were to be found. With a bit of trepidation, we wandered down a hall and ran into the hostess. (I think she was one of the owners.) She crossed our names off in a little spiral-bound notebook, and we were seated.

Lynda (of the Abner Adams House) had raved about The Holloway House's Friday night seafood buffet and there it was, a mere 15 feet from our table. I was ready to dive in. Unfortunately, it took another 10 (maybe 15 minutes) for our waitress to even come over and take our drink order. Slow service proceeded throughout the meal.

I opted for the buffet while Shane ordered the Flat Iron Steak ("
pan-seard [sic] with anchovy-parsley butter, best cooked medium rare to medium"). We were brought soup (lobster bisque for Shane, carrot ginger for me), bread (Sally Lunn, lightly sweet orange rolls, and a pear quick bread -- the latter two I thought were exceptional) and Shane received salad.

It was only when Shane got his entree that I realized the waitress wasn't going to bring me a plate for the buffet -- they were all up near the food. Maybe that seems like common sense, but every place is different -- and the Holloway house has waitresses that serve you the buffet items -- and none of this was explicit. If I had known that I could have gone to the buffet earlier, I certainly would have.

The buffet had a large selection of items and, oddly enough for a seafood buffet, the best offering was a chicken and apple in curry sauce. It was PHENOMINAL! Why isn't that on the regular menu?

I wasn't impressed by the seafood offerings. Maybe I'm biased; I grew up on Long Island and good, fresh seafood was always readily available so I'm rather picky with fish. I liked the Newberg sauce but the shrimp in it were miniscule, a big disappointment. (And damned if I could find a langoustino in it. Scallops, yes; Langoustinos, no.) The seafood creole had the same problem and the Alaskan King Crab legs -- a favorite of mine -- were dry. Shane liked his steak, but he didn't light up the way he does when eating really exceptional food.

By dessert (we had filled up on bread and soup) we were stuffed, though I did nab a chocolate chip cookie from the buffet. It was amazing: good chocolate, quality nuts, and a light, crunchy texture. Delicious.

After our meal, the other owner chatted with us for a bit. He's a curmudgeon, though he said he was happy we'd come in and hoped we'd dine there again.

We will -- it's worth another try. But I can't rave about it right now. (Other than the curry, the breads, and the cookies.)

After dinner, we headed back to the Abner Adams House and happily collapsed on our extremely comfortable bed. This morning, we had breakfast in the dining room with another couple who were in town to visit their grandson at RIT. Lynda served hefty portions of quiche (stuffed with cheddar cheese, asparagus, mushrooms, and bacon) along with a fruit plate, toasted baguette rounds, and a sweet cinnamon swirl quick bread. (There were also maple flavored blondies studded with chocolate chips on the table. I didn't have one for breakfast but had sampled them the night before. Yum.) We ate and chatted with the other couple -- married 54 years this coming December -- and Lynda and Bob. Bob is a retired Earth Science teacher, so we talked a bit about geology (which I find a lot more interesting now than I did in eight grade) and then went on tour of the grounds.

It was really a lovely experience, and I'm sorry it had to end so quickly. Having said that, Shane as already promised another trip there soon!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #3 Deadline This Sunday

At this very moment, the Retro Recipe Challenge #3 link is the most popular one on Sticky Date. Yay! I love that!

If you're looking for the rules or some resources to find recipes, please click here. Once you've cooked something up, send your posting to RetroRecipeChallengeATgmailDOTcom by this Sunday at 11:59 EST .

Coconut Layer Cake (Shane's Birthday Cake)

This is another Maglieri cake. This is another cake recipe taken from Peter Kump's Cooking School Cake Baking packet. This is another delicious cake with texture issues.

The coconut flavor is lovely and brightened by hits of lemon. The frosting is very rich from its coconut cream and butter (it's a bit much for me, actually). It has great coconut flavor, deepened by rum. I added a 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar to it make less slick.

But the cake is too dry and I'm not sure how to solve it. Add a half cup of milk, perhaps?

Coconut Layer Cake

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsps canilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1 2/3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups sweetened grated coconut

1 cup coconut cream
2 eggs, room temperature
16 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp white rum (I used 1 tsp. rum flavoring)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sweetened grated coconut
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325-degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, lining the bottom with parchement.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating smooth between each addition, scraping bowl and beater(s) occasionally. Beat in vanilla and lemon extracts.

In a separate bowl, mix baking soda, powder, and salt into flour. Beat half the flour mixture into the butter mixture adn continue to beat until smooth.

Beat in the sour cream, followed by the coconut, and finally the remaining flour mixture.

Spread batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until well risen and firm in the center. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes, then unmold onto a rack and cool completely.

To make buttercream, bring coconut cream to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat. Meanwhile, beat eggs together in a bowl. Slowly add boiling coconut cream to eggs, beating vigorously. Return mixture to pan and cook over lowe heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Strain into a bowl and let cool completely.

Beat butter until soft and light. Beat in cooled coconut mixture, a little at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Beat in rum and vanilla a little at at time.

To finish cake, place one round on a plate, trimming rounded top if needed, and cover with icing. Then top with other layer (again, trimming if needed) and cover with the rest of the icing. Press grated coconut all over the cake.

Grade: Flavor, A+; Texture, B-

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (My Birthday Cake)

This recipe comes from the Peter Kump's Cooking School Cake Baking Course Pack. The cakes are developed largely by Nick Malgieri.

Maybe it's my technique but every time I make one of his cakes, the texture is a bit off. The flavor is great, but the texture is not. Same problem with this cake. It's delicious but a bit too chewy. It's also dense, but I don't really see that as a problem.

The frosting is excellent but there's not enough to cover the top and sides of the cake -- hence the odd frosting job. If you use it, double the quantities in the frosting recipe below.

Best and Easiest Banana Cake ( slightly adapted)

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (about 6-7 oz each)
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk

Cream Cheese Frosting (double to cover top and sides of cake)
1/2 stick butter, softened (4 Tbsp.)
1/2 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350-degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, lining the bottom with parchement.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft and light. Gradually beat in the sugars and continue beating about 5 minutes until very light. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating smooth between each addition, scraping bowl and beater(s) occasionally. Beat in vanilla.

Stir baking soda, powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg into cake flour and sift over butter and egg mixture. Stir in bananas and milk to mix. Beat by machine on low for 2 minutes, scraping bowl and beater(s) several times.

Pour batter into pans and bake for about 25 minutes, until well risen and a skewer inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then cover with a rack and remove paper and pan. Immediately turn cake right side up and finish cooling.

To make frosting, beat butter at medium speed until soft and light. Beat in cream cheese and continue beating until very smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. Continue beating about 5 minutes to aerate. Use immediately.

To finish cake, place one round on a plate, trimming rounded top if needed, and cover with icing. Then top with other layer (again, trimming if needed) and cover with the rest of the icing.

Grade: Flavor, A; Texture, B

Rustic Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce

Mooncrazy from Peanut Butter Etouffee sent me this fabulous recipe, which won her first place in her pie baking contest. Not only is the tart delicious, but the caramel sauce is a perfect accompaniment.

Rustic Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce
(makes two 10-inch tarts)

Pie Dough

2/12 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting board
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in food processor work bowl fitted with the steel blade. Add butter and pulse to mix in five 1-second bursts. Add shortening and continue pulsing until flour resembles coarse cornmeal, four or five more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture and fold into dough. Press down on dough with spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough won't hold together. Divide in two and form two 4-inch disk. Dust with flour, wrap in plastic separately in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.

Apple Filling

8 medium Granny Smith apples
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
3 tablespoons flour

1 egg white, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon milk

Saute apples in butter until lightly browned. Add sugar, lemon juice, zest, salt, and spices. Dust with flour and cook until lightly thickened. Cool 30 minutes.

Remove one dough disk from refrigerator at a time and roll on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Place each on separate parchment-lined cookie sheet. Top each with 1/2 the cooled pie filling, leaving a 2-inch border. Wrap the border gently over the edge of the apples, brush with beaten egg white and milk, sprinkle with sugar. Bake 425 until the crust begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Turn down to 375 and cook until crust is nicely brown and apples begin to bubble. Cool and serve with room temperature sauce.


1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons Karo syrup
1/2 cup apple sauce

Cook until it bubbles and is slightly thickened.

Grade: A

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pie #4: Apple Almond Cranberry Pie

Camera phones are the best.

I got a phone call yesterday from the Canandaigua BID (Business Improvement District), which ran the fruit pie baking contest.

The pie I entered into the contest won third place. Whooo! (Or in l33t, w00t!)

The whole thing was a bit random: I dropped the still-warm pie off just before noon on Saturday and they asked for my name and a phone number where I could be reached. Judging started at 1 pm.

No word on Saturday.

No word on Sunday.

No word on Monday.

By this time, figured I didn't win (actually, I'd given up hope by 2:30pm Saturday), so on Tuesday, I was pleasently surprised to hear that I'd won!

My prize? A giant wreath, with edges so pointy it can double as a weapon.


Exhibit A: Wreath as Chinese Star.

Third Prize Winning Apple Almond Cranberry Pie (adapted from a recipe by Odense, via Simply Recipes)

1/2 roll (about 3.5 oz) Almond Paste
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
5 baking apples (like Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and sliced (about 5 cups)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided in half
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup uncooked oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate and place pie dough into it. Roll almond paste on a sheet of wax paper to form an 8 to 9 inch circle. Press rolled almond paste into the bottom of an unbaked pie crust.

In a bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Pour into pie shell.

In another bowl, combine the remaining cinnamon, flour, oats, and brown sugar. Cut butter into flour mixture until crumbs are formed. Spoon crumb mixture evenly over apples. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, sprinking with almonds (optional) during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.



Today's my birthday. Thank you, blogger profile, for noticing that I am one year away from a decade change. Bastards.

It's also Eleanor Roosevelt's birthday, and National Coming Out Day (purely a coincidince, I'm sure).

To celebrate (my birthday, not coming out -- not that there's anything wrong with that), I'm updating my blog pic. I thought it appropriate to have a picture that was taken in the past five days , as opposed to the past five years. (Heavily photoshopped, but recent.) It's bigger than I'd like, but if I shrink it down I'll look freakish, and that's not a look I strive for. Typically.

My goal for the day is to bake two birthday cakes: one for Shane (his birthday is tomorrow, as is our anniversary) and one for myself, but I'm not sure I'll actually get that far. While baking a birthday cake for yourself is a lot less pathetic when you're a foodie, I'm not sure that makes it completely unpathetic. If nothing else will give me a chance to consume sugary calories while practicing cake decorating techniques.

Here's what we did last night in cake decorating class:

I don't think Martha would deign to make it, but Kian and Sadie liked. And, it gives me practice using a star tip.

UPDATE: To assemble this cake, you'll need two 5-inch cake rounds. Each round should be level, so trim as necessary. Flip each round so that the bottom becomes the top. Sandwich icing between the layers.

Slice the cake vertically a bit off center.

Place cake halves perpendicular to each other.

The horizontal part of the "T" will be the dog's face, while the vertical part will be the dog's body. Starting in the middle of the dog's back and using a star tip (I used Wilton #21) pipe frosting down and away, trailing a bit onto the plate beneanth the cake. Continue piping until the cake is covered with frosting "fur." When the entire cake is covered, pipe on ears, a tail, and muzzle.

Take a small bit of leftover buttercream and tint pink and black, respectively. Place separate frosting colors into small plastic bags and snip a small corner off of each bag. Use the pink frosting to create pink bows by the ears and tail. Pipe black dots onto the dog's face for its eyes and nose.

Congratulations -- you've created a kitschy dog cake!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Deadline for Retro Recipe Challenge # 3: THIS SUNDAY

The lovely Lis at La Mia Cucina let me know about an all retro food blog called Jam Handy! Even without the retro recipes, I'd love it simply because its blogger, Kirkkitsch, quotes Murry Head's "One Night In Bangkok." (Best. Song. Ever.) AND he has a cupcake favicon.

So if you're still looking for RRC # 3 recipes, take a look at Jam Handy! and see if you can't dig something up.

Retro Recipe Challenge # 3 rules and resources can be found here.

White Buttercream Frosting

Last Tuesday, I attended the first of six classes in cake decorating offered through Canandaigua School District’s Complements program.

I’ve taking cooking classes before but I haven’t the foggiest idea how to decorate a cake. Usually, I just slap it on and schmear into a swirly pattern. Voila! Cake.

Tuesday was a basic first day of class. The instructor, Wendy, introduced herself and talked a bit about her background. We, the students, introduced ourselves. From there, Wendy showed us some tools – off set spatulas, pastry bags, decorating tips – and then we were off to make frosting.

It’s your basic grocery store-bakery butter cream: very white, very sweet, very durable. I’m not usually a fan of that kind but damned if I wasn’t Tuesday night. And, um, Wednesday. And, all the days up to today. (Maybe it’s the lemon flavoring?)

Consisting largely of butter and shortening, this frosting is, as one woman put it, “a heart attack on a plate.”

And now, I have to make a double batch for tonight’s class. Oh, the sacrifice.

White Buttercream
1 cup white vegetable shortening
1 stick butter
1 tsp. flavoring (vanilla, lemon extract, almond extract, etc.)
2 Tbsp. water
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. meringue powder **

Cream together shortening, butter, flavoring, and water. Add dry ingredients and mix slowly to incorporate. Increase speed and blend 3-4 minutes until fluffy.

Grade: A-

** More info on meringue powder can be found here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pie #2: Autumn Harvest Pie

When you feel as if everyone is judging you -- in your relationships, in your profession, even the way you order coffee (note: avoid ordering a caramel macchiato at a coffee house that is not Starbucks) -- it’s probably not a good idea to enter a pie baking contest. (You know, because they’re actually judging you.)

But that’s where my head is, and that’s where one of my pies is going. So I have two options: suck it up, or vent my frustration on something inanimate.

Hmmmmmmm. It’s a tough call. But, after much careful consideration, I think I’m going to go with venting.

Yes. That feels like the right choice.

This is a Martha Stewart Living recipe and so, to Martha and her paid minions, I ask, “What were you thinking?” Yes, it’s pretty pie. Yes, it has a lovely name. But the flavor is bland -- fall asleep at the plate while eating bland. The filling is soupy – keep this away from small children who don’t know how to swim. And the bottom of the pie crust? Did it dissolve, or was it that pale soggy thing hidden under all the fruit?

This was a waste of time, money, and fruit.

Definitely not a good thing.

Grade: F

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff: delicious but not photogenic.

More than any other season, autumn pulls me toward the kitchen. Maybe it's because so many of the things I love -- spiced desserts, hearty dinners, rich wines -- feel synonymous with fall.

Beef Stroganoff is a perfect comfort food after a long and chilly day. The beef, cut into hefty chunks, is flavorful, the mushrooms are tantalizing, the noodles are simple and delicious.

I came very close to adding some red wine but, never having made Stroganoff before, I wanted to try it without. It's delicious as is, but a splash of good red would be wonderful, too.

I don't remember what cut of beef I used as I picked up what was available from Laura's Lean Beef. I'd think any cut that doesn't require long braising would work. The cut I purchased was a bit thicker than the recipe calls for, so I slipped it into a ziplock bag and pounded it until the meat was 1/4-inch thick.

Just a little background info from Epicurious.com:
This Russian dish has been around for several centuries, but it wasn't until the fifties that it became all the rage in the United States (despite our fear of Communism).
Retro food strikes again!

Beef Stroganoff (From Everyday Food)

1 lb. beef tenderloin or trimmed rib-eye recommendedd: Laura's Lean Beef
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. white mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 c. reduced-sodium beef broth
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. sour cream
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish (optional)
Egg noodles, cooked and kept warm.

Slice beef into 2-inch-long strips, each about 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown meat in two batches, about 1 minute per side; remove from skillet, and set aside.

In same skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add mushrooms; cover. Cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add broth; simmer, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir mustard into mushroom mixture in skillet. Return beef to skillet; cook over medium-low heat until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in sour cream. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve immediately over egg noodles, and, if desired, garnish with chopped dill.

Grade: A

Monday, October 02, 2006


Tagged by Peabody. Here it goes:

I am thinking about: how I’m getting sick of apple desserts.
I said: I'd clean up the kitchen, but it's still not done...
I want to: finish reading Mansfield Park.
I regret: the way I ended that relationship.
I hear: my husband and my stepson playing a game.
I am: uncomfortably full I am after eating dinner from Mac’s and a slice of Mooncrazy’s Rustic Apple Tart.
I dance: like Elaine.
I sing: in my car and in the shower.
I cry: at commercials.
I am not: tolerant of manipulators.
I am: trying to be self actualized.
I write: well, but not as well as I want to.
I confuse: myself and my husband.
I need: to chill out.

Tag Maltese Parakeet, Mooncrazy and Doodles, you’re it!

Pie Test #1: Apple Pie with a Twist

The first pie tested for the pie contest was a variation on Betty Crocker's classic apple pie recipe. I'd been thinking that Chinese five spice powder would be a nice change for a sweet dish, and took that idea for a test drive.

I also made pie dough from scratch (Martha Stewart's "Perfect Pie Crust"), something I'd never done. It came together rather easily, although I added a couple of more tablespoons of ice water water than the recipe called for (that was the only way I could get the dough to stay together).

The result was tasty, but not a pie contest standout. The apples cooked down a bit, leaving a gap between the top pie crust and the filling. I'll use a smaller pie plate (say 8 inches) in the future. Additionally, the apples -- all Granny Smith -- were too tart, so I'd substitute a few for a few Golden Delicious. As for the Chinese five spice powder, I could taste it, but no one else could. So much for a different slant on things!

The pie crust was gorgeous and delicious -- buttery, flakey, a lovely golden color. That's the definate winner in this recipe. I'll use it with other pie fillings.

Apple Pie with a Twist
Perfect Pie Crust
1/3 to 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/8teaspoon salt
8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples (5 Granny Smith; 3 Golden Delicious)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 425-degrees F. Lightly butter the inside of an 8-inch pie plate. Line the bottom of the pie plate with pie dough.

Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Stir in apples. Turn into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot apple mixture with butter. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of plate.

Place other round of pastry on top of apples and cut slits so steam can escape. Trim overhanging edge 1 inch from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Serve warm if desired.

Grade: Pie Filling, B+

Perfect Pie Crust

Perfect Pie Crust (Source)

1 cup unsalted butter (about 2 sticks),plus more for pie plate
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces, and refrigerate until needed.

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and mix to combine. Add the chilled butter. Using a pastry blender**, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture; the mixture should resemble coarse meal with small pieces of butter, the size of small peas, remaining visible.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over the flour-butter mixture, and blend. Repeat with an additional 2 tablespoons water. At this point, you may have to add more water: When a handful of dough squeezed together just holds its shape, you’ve added enough; if the dough crumbles, continue incorporating water, 1 tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency after each additional tablespoon. (The dough can hold its shape and still crumble, so be very careful that the dough is moist enough. -- LR)

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Divide into two equal pieces, and place on two separate sheets of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form two disks. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Place the chilled dough in the center of the work surface, and dust the dough as well as the rolling pin with flour. Position the rolling pin on the center of the disk, and begin rolling the dough away from you. Give the disk a quarter turn, and roll again. Continue turning and rolling until you have an even 1/8-inch thickness. Turning the dough as you roll will prevent it from sticking to the work surface. A dry pastry brush is handy to remove any excess flour during and after the rolling process.

Lightly butter the pie plate. To minimize stretching when moving the dough, roll it around the pin, lift up, and unroll over the buttered pie plate. Using your fingers, gently pat the dough into place. Trim any excess dough with a paring knife or kitchen shears, leaving a 1-inch overhang. If using a single pie crust, fold dough under to reinforce the edge. If using a double pie crust, roll out the other piece of dough as directed above. Fill the pie bottom pie dough with filling. Transfer top pie crust to the pie plate as directed above, and trim. Roll the edges of the top and bottom pie crust to form a seal.

**You can also use a food processor; pulse in the butter 8 to 10 seconds. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water through the feed tube with the machine running.

Grade: A

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