Friday, June 28, 2013

Flashback Friday: Good Jumbo Raisin Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

These cookies more than make up for that disappointing Mock Angel Food cake I told you about last Friday.  I expected a rather plain and boring old-lady cookie full of nuts and raisins, but boy was I wrong.  Each lovely bite was soft and just a hint chewy, but not cakey.  You know, like all the goodness of a fresh, warm cookie....only they stayed that way even when they weren't straight out of the oven.  And believe me when I say I taste tested them at multiple stages; as dough, straight from the pan, cooled 5 min, cooled 10 min, 30 min later, 2 hours later, breakfast the next morning, within 20 seconds of walking in the door after work, and, well, you get the idea.  Not even possible to just eat one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday's Twist: Cupcake Project

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Instead of testing out recipes this weekend, I baked and decorated around 250 mini cupcakes.  These bite-sized desserts weren't blogging related, they were requested for a private party.  I decided to snap a few pictures to share with you before I delivered the order.

There were 4 kinds of cupcakes: 

Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and chocolate sprinkles.

Almond-flavored white cake with an almond buttercream and decorating sugar crystals.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and chocolate curls.

Lemon cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting and yellow decorating sugar.

The lemon was my favorite, but I must admit I had fun using my vegetable peeler to make the chocolate curls for the red velvet cupcakes.

The whole process went fairly smoothly.  I made the frosting earlier in the week, then baked the cupcakes the night before the event.  The original order was for 10 dozen, but I didn't realize one batch made 5 dozen of the mini size.  With 4 flavors I ended up with 20 dozen cupcakes spread across my table and counter.  Umm yeah, only double what I needed.  But now I know for next time.  The next morning I frosted and finished each cupcake.  Of course I doubted myself and freaked out that I wouldn't have enough frosting.  After all, I had prepped for 10 dozen not 20.

So I hastily made one more batch of frosting and then rewhipped each previous batch, adding just a little more butter and powdered sugar to stretch it.  My brain, however, was still in frosting conservation mode and I went light on the frosting while decorating.  I ended up with way too much leftover.  Oops, guess I should have stuck with the original plan and gone with my instinct, not the doubt of the last minute rush.   Hmmm, I've never said that before.  Oh and by last minute rush, I actually mean cram everything into half the time and  have it done several hours early.  I had a little too much fun using that extra time to play with my camera.

Food for Thought: "Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection." -Toba Beta

Friday, June 21, 2013

Flashback Friday: Mock Angel Food

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

While paging through an old cookbook a recipe for Mock Angel Food caught my attention.  Boiling water is poured over a flour and sugar mixture which then sits overnight.  The remaining ingredients are added in the morning and baked in a pan that has been rinsed in cold water but not dried.  All of this sounded a little odd to me so I decided to give it a go.  Well, except for the part about starting "about 5 o'clock' in the afternoon."   Because in my book 5 o'clock isn't afternoon, it's evening (but somehow 4:59 is still afternoon?).

 Anyway, I stirred up the flour/sugar/water mixture in the morning before work and baked  the cake later in the evening when I got home.  I believe the idea is to let the mixture cool to room temperature.  As for egg whites, you'll only need 4 instead of a dozen.  I interpreted, "beaten not too dry" to mean beaten to stiff peak stage.  But let's just skip the details and get to the cake.  Sound okay?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Lemon-Fennel Cottage Bread

While the Internet is a great recipe resource I've more recently found myself lost in the pages of a good cookbook or magazine.  Not everything can be found online.  Lately I've been testing an awful lot of recipes straight out of cookbooks.  I'm not quite sure how the copyright aspect works so I haven't been posting them here.  Sometimes I think I can only tell you about recipes I've changed and developed, but that's silly, like a musician only playing songs he wrote himself.

I'm currently loving The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.  As in I'm actually reading it page by page, not just flipping through to glance at recipes.  There's just so much practical information on bread baking.  I get this dorky, excited sparkle in my eye as I digest the wealth of knowledge in every chapter, as if someone were sharing a vast secret with me.  A thorough understanding of the hows and whys is the key that unlocks, well everything.  Okay, maybe not everything, but it gives you the power to create and fix and improve to your heart's content.  Plus, everything about making bread just feels so...right.

Since I can't post the copyrighted recipe here, I'll just tell you about this loaf. (For the recipe and fail-proof instructions check out The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book from your library, renew several times, then finally give in and buy yourself a copy.)  I've been planning all along to post a recipe for a yeast bread made with cottage cheese.  When I got to the chapter on dairy products and read the recipe for a lemon-flavored loaf utilizing cottage cheese, I just couldn't resist any longer.  Later I saw a lemon-fennel loaf and knew I had to try the flavor combination.  The cottage cheese, which completely disappears, gives extra rising power while boosting the protein and calcium in each slice.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mindful Monday: Choosing Thanks

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

To be honest I'm not in a very thankful mood right now.  Hopefully by the time I finish this list my attitude will  have changed for the better.

fresh air
new books
a neighborhood with a trail to walk on
decreased humidity
pleasant conversation
thoughtfulness of a neighbor
the fragrance of peonies wafting though the air
my dad (Happy Father's Day again)
reconnecting with friends
a new mixer
kneading bread dough by hand
freshly baked bread
pink and purple tinted clouds
the outline of the moon
learning opportunities
quiet morning space
potential change

Food for Thought: "When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears." -Anthony Robbins 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flashback Friday: Mrs. Alton's Brown Sugar Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

Going through my great-grandma's recipe notebook is going to be a little more time consuming than I first anticipated.  I decided to start off with a recipe she'd copied down twice- Mrs. Alton's Brown Sugar Cookies.  I haven't figured out who Mrs. Alton is yet, but my great-grandma must have liked her cookie recipe.  Though it appears in two separate places, neither recipe gives instructions or lists a measurement for flour. Great-grandma either knew it by heart, or couldn't quite figure out Mrs. Alton's secret.

I can only guess at what Mrs. Alton or my great-grandma might have done. What I wouldn't give to have just a picture or description of the original cookie! Was it a drop cookie or a cut-out cookie?  Do I add enough flour to make a spoonable dough or a rollable dough? (at least in these pfeffernusse cookies she noted to add enough flour to roll the dough like a rope).  There are more possibilities than I have time to test, so I'll just tell you about the assumptions I made.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate Overdose

I had every intention of sharing a slice of homemade bread with you today.  I've also been waiting to tell you about a pie crust, a few rhubarb recipes and several red cabbage recipes I've been playing with.

Instead you get chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.  Plus a hefty dose of peanut butter.  Because after making 10 pies and 7 cheesecakes at work, that's what I'm giving you too.  If you're looking for an ultra rich dessert this Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake is just the thing. The cheesecake is rich enough on it's own, not to mention the chocolate cookie crust and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate ganache poured over the top.  This recipe also scales up well, just in case you were wondering what to do with that extra 14 pounds of cream cheese in your fridge.

If you don't feel like using 14 pounds of cream cheese in 7 cheesecakes, then perhaps you'll fall for this Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie.  Graham cracker crust, a layer of silky chocolate and light peanut butter mousse make one rich forkful after another.  As if we don't have enough reasons to love chocolate and peanut butter.  But I'll leave the rest of the swooning to you, I've had more than my fair share of chocolate for the day.

Food for Thought: "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." -Proverbs 12:25

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mindful Monday: Daily Bread

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. -Psalm 84:11

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. -Proverbs 21:5

I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.' -Lamentations 3:24

Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. -Psalm 34:8

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26:3

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. -Psalm 19:1

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. -Psalm 51:10

Food for Thought: "Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees." -Victor Hugo

Friday, June 7, 2013

Flashback Friday: Colonial Date-Nut Bread

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

Everything about this recipe intrigued me, not to mention the fact that the recipe belonged to my great-grandma.   Hmmm, where to start?  I've heard of baking bread in cans but have never actually done it, that is until now.  When I asked my great-aunt about this recipe she explained the reasoning behind the cans, "to make the loaf round, of course."  Any other shape is apparently unthinkable.

I was more interested in the recipe method than the can aspect.  The first step of the recipe involves pouring boiling water over your dates, baking soda and butter.  I was puzzled by the concept of dissolving the baking soda in boiling water rather than adding it at the end with the dry ingredients.  Wouldn't it lose some of it's leavening power? Then again, the amount of soda is quite high for the amount of flour used, and there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of activating acidic ingredients.  Perhaps the soda is just there to help soften the dates.  Trusting my great-grandma's experience rather than my over-thinking-the-science perspective, I went ahead with the recipe.  But to be honest, I was half expecting a flop with that soapy baking soda aftertaste.

Fortunately these round slices have sweet date and vanilla flavors.  They also taste surprisingly buttery, especially considering the batter has only 2 tsp of butter.  For some reason I expected a pale bread studded with dates and nuts.  Instead the loaves turned a dark brown similar to a molasses bread.  These sweet, sticky loaves were most unusual, to say the least.  Though a little on the sweet side for me, it's not hard to see how the seeming unusual quickly turns to a usual treat.

Mother's Colonial Date-Nut Bread
recipe from my great-aunt, who got it from her mother, my great-grandmother

1-1/2 cups dates, chopped
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp butter
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 3 No. 2-1/2 cans**(see note below)
* To a large bowl add dates, baking soda and butter.  Pour in boiling water and let cool to lukewarm.
* Add sugar, egg and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in flour and salt then fold in nuts.  Pour into prepared cans and bake 50-60 minutes (or less if using smaller cans as described below).  Let stand in cans 5 minutes before turning out.  

**A No. 2-1/2 can holds approximately 3-1/2 cups and usually contains food weighing 27 to 29 ounces.  If you don't have 3 cans this size try replacing one or more cans with two 15-ounce cans each (also called No. 300 cans, these cans hold approximately 2 cups).  Reduce the baking time for the smaller cans.  I made half of a recipe and used one 28-ounce can and one 15-ounce can.

Food for Thought: "The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new." -William Makepeace Thackeray

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mindful Monday: Thankfully Busy

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

The weekend was jam packed and this week promises to be just as crazy.  I'm not sure I'll get to any new recipes in the next few days, but one can always make time to give thanks.

a full schedule
farmer's market in the early morning sunshine
tart rhubarb
crisp, juicy watermelon
a day without rain
helping hands
strength and energy for moving boxes, furniture, etc
an abundance of items to move in the first place
leaders and directors
the old loft bed my dad made for me
a new bed (with no more ladder climbing each night)
handmade quilts
vacuum cleaners
a field of bright yellow dandelions
blowing fluffy, white dandelions
walks in the sunshine
a phone call with a friend
fragrant lilac bushes
kitchens with windows
busy productiveness
churning clouds
crackling lightening
rumbling thunder
beams of sunlight
multiple shades of blue in the sky

Food for Thought: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. -Proverbs 3:5-6