snow day baking: applesauce cake

Over the weekend I wrote about a little vintage recipe box with recipes in it that I bought. Another thing I bought was a vintage aluminum 9″ Mirro clampless side pin release spring form pan. (Model 1359 M if you are interested.)

The pan looks like this:

The little side pin just slides on and locks into place. The pin is an easy piece to lose, so the spring form pans I usually see around have a latch. I hadn’t seen one with a pin intact for years. Needless to say that made me psyched to find this pan, which was completely in round and in perfect working order.

Yesterday in a fit of pre-snow domesticity that included a batch of chili for later this week, I decided to bake.

In my little recipe box there is indeed a recipe for applesauce cake, but the one I am sharing is my own recipe that I use. My mother and grandmother used to make applesauce cake all of the time, so this was basically the recipe they used but I tweaked it to my liking.

My mother and grandmother used to bake their applesauce cake and a 13″ x 9″ rectangular pan. I like the tube pan better for simple cakes like this. Besides, it looks prettier for the presentation of it all. (Yes, sometimes I have to let my inner Martha Stewart shine absurdly.)

The vintage Fiestaware round platter in the photo I already owned. A few years ago I swapped out all of my “every day china” for vintage Fiestaware. I don’t know what it is about the dishes but they make me happy. Probably the colors.

However like any other vintage plate, I never ever put it in the microwave. In the case of the Fiestaware it also has to do with the old glazes. (Check out this article from Smithsonian and The Spruce.) Old plates were designed pre-microwave and pre-dishwasher.

My Fiestaware is fine in the dishwasher, although sometimes I just hand wash it. Other old plates I have like Limoge never, ever go in the microwave or dishwasher because of the glazes and the metallic gold leaf touches. But having to do a few dishes by hand never hurt anybody.

However this post is not a primer on vintage dishes is it? It’s about the applesauce cake. (Yum)

I will note that yesterday this cake took 50 to 55 minutes to bake. So once you hit the 45 minute mark you have to keep an eye on it depending on your oven.

(And yesterday, shhhh don’t tell I didn’t have applesauce but I did have homemade apple butter I had made. And what is apple butter except more cooked down applesauce, right?)

And here is your hack for flouring and greasing a pan. Depending on what kind of a cake it is sometimes instead of dusting with flour if it’s a chocolate cake for example, I will grease the pan and dust with unsweetened Cocoa. Or I will dust with almond meal otherwise known as ground almonds. But for a cake like this, I am just going to dust with flour but I prefer the flour you use when making a roux: Wondra.

Wondra is super fine. That’s what makes it quick mixing for a roux or a gravy. That’s what makes it ideal in my opinion when you have to grease and flour a baking pan. I sometimes use it for dredging meat to brown for a stew.

But again, sorry, I got off track. Here is the recipe:

Applesauce Cake

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted but slightly cooled

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

2 cups applesauce

1/2 cup white raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar to dust cake when cool

• Preheat oven to 350°F degrees

• In a big bowl whisk white sugar, brown sugar and mix well.

• Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla, then mix until well blended and fluffy.

• Add to the creamed mixture salt, spices, baking powder, baking soda, then the applesauce. Add the flour.

• Finally fold in the raisins and walnuts.

• Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan and bake until firm to the touch, about 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan, then pop it out of the pan and dust with powdered sugar.

like a little pandora’s box: the old recipe box

I love to cook and everyone who knows me knows I collect vintage and old cookbooks, so today I added an old recipe box to my repertoire.

It was a funny little thing and probably no one else would have bought it because it’s like a piece of some other woman’s history but it has all her cherished recipes in it, which I find really cool. I also found it really sad that no one in her family wanted it.

Old Fashioned Walnut Loaf? Sounds pretty good!

These are just a few of the recipes. The owner of the recipe box seem to like pineapple because there are a lot of pineapple recipes. But there are also a couple of old-fashioned fudge recipes too!

Pot pies. Green bean casserole (which I will keep in the recipe box but will never cook because I think it’s gross.) And more!

Now that I have this recipe box and it’s a nice one I am also going to add my late mother-in-law’s recipes. She was a legendary home cook and it was because of her I learned how to make an amazing gazpacho.

I love old recipes. Especially the handwritten ones. They are history. Someone took the time to write these down, which is what makes them special.

These old handwritten recipes are a thing. There is actually a blog called Handwritten Recipes but the creator hasn’t posted since December.

Now most prefer the ease of simply going to the internet and letting your fingers do the walking but nothing beats an amazing old cookbook. Or a recipe someone thought enough of to write down.

Old cookbooks and old handwritten recipes are a little like going on a mystery history tour. And if you want to master a basic recipe in the kitchen, this is how to do it. New cookbooks are lovely but it’s the old ones that really teach you the art of cooking. Not just a new recipe.

Tips and tricks. That is also what you will find in between the pages of old cookbooks and recipe boxes. It’s kind of cool when you find one. You also learn about the food trends of the past. (HINT: check out a cooking show from Ireland you can find streaming on Netflix called Lords and Ladles.)

In 2018 Food and Wine wrote an article on cookbook collecting:

Before you throw your old cookbooks away, it might be worth getting them appraised. Antiques Roadshow’s latest season, which premiered this past Monday, will make a stop in one of America’s most beloved food cities: New Orleans. While shooting in the well-known southern travel destination and former Louisiana capital’s convention center last summer, Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Brattle Book Shop owner Ken Gloss revealed to Forbes that our old family cookbooks are worth more than we realize….According to Gloss, some of the earliest American cookbooks (dating back to the 1790s) are selling in the $1,000 range, while books from as far back as the 1400s and 1500s go for thousands of dollars. Some other pricey collectibles are glossy cookbooks about cake decorating from the 1920s, first editions signed by cooking legends like Julia Childs and Fannie Farmer, and even some hard to find recipe pamphlets once included with newly purchased appliances. Gloss states that although seemingly mundane, their high price tag is due to how these items serve as historical documents—about places, people, cultures, and, of course, the food of the time.

“[Cookbooks] offer a view into society at the time,” Gloss told Forbes. “What were the foods people were eating? What was available? How were they preparing them?”

Old cookbooks and discarded recipe boxes can be found everywhere. Thrift stores, garage and estate sales, eBay, Etsy, Thriftbooks, used book stores local to where you live, library book sales and more. Church rummage sales are one of my go to sources for old cookbooks.

Step away from your keyboard next time you need a recipe and dust off a cookbook or crack open an old recipe box. You never know what treasures you will unearth!

the cookie chronicles continue: new cookie for christmas 2018!

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So maybe some of you out there have baked with mint chocolate baking chips and my new recipe is not so revolutionary.  But I never have and I think I have come up with a cookie that can be described as if a peppermint pattie had a cousin. And truthfully, if you had the patience you could chop up little peppermint patties I am sure, but hey I have a lot of baking to do, so thanks, but no.

You will notice I am for the most part a drop cookie baker.  Can I roll and decorate with royal icing? Sure, but I am more about the flavor profiles of the humble drop cookie or biscotti.

Here is the recipe:

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup sweet butter softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons peppermint extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 package chocolate mint baking chips (mine was 10 ounces I think Ghiradelli , Hershey, and Nestle Make them seasonally and you can find them at wholesale nut folks like Nuts.com or Edwards Freeman Nut Company in Conshohocken)

1 cup mini white chocolate chips (mine are the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur and if your flour is more than 2 or 3 months old, spring for fresh.)

1/3 Cup of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder

Glittery baking sugar – today I used Christmas green from Wiltons

So How Did I Do it? Here are the mixing steps: 

So ……cream butter and BOTH sugars until smooth.  Beat in peppermint and vanilla extract.  (Buy good baking extracts, imitation extracts leave an after taste you will not like in your baking.)

Add eggs, mix until blended. Add cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Do this slowly and not all at once or you and your kitchen will be cocoa coated.

Add flour in three or four doses – don’t know how else to describe it.  Again, blend sort of on a lower blender speed or flour will fly.

When your dough is smooth and well blended, blend in your chips, cover your cookie dough and refrigerate an hour or two.

When dough is chilled pull out of refrigerator and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. And FYI if you chill cookie dough before you bake it will keep cookies from doing the super spread and will also mean you get softer and more firm cookies.  Or at least that has been my experience.

IMG_1426I use jelly roll sheet pans and silicone baking sheets.  I use the aluminum (silver-colored NOT dark coated they make your cookies BURN).  Mine are Chicago Metallic Commercial Baker’s pans and the Nordic Ware Commercial Baker’s Pans are also good.  These are the pans that have a raised edge of about an inch and are rectangular – they are the size of regular cookie sheets more or less. I use Velesco Premium Silicone Baking Mats.  They are 11 5/8” x 16 ½”.  They are best price hands down on Amazon but like the baking pans I mentioned sometimes you will find them at Home Sense or Home Goods.

In any event, silver NON-coated baking pans lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets are truly the way to go. Buy good pans. They last longer and the end result is preferable. Some of my friends swear by the insulated baking sheets (“air-bake” or something)

O.k. back to the baking of these cookies.

Break off bits of dough and form 1 ½” round balls.  Dip top in glittery baking sugar, and put on cookie sheets 2” apart.

Bake 8 – 10 minutes depending on your oven .  Tonight I started out at 10 minutes a batch for two batches and then went to 9 minutes for the final two batches.

Cool on baking pans a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  I store my cookies in old school metal tins.

This recipe makes a little over 4 dozen cookies.

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kitchen tip: start a “stuffing bag”

What is that old adage? Waste not,want not?

I have a kitchen tips for the holidays that I am going to share with you. And it’s very simple.

Everyone knows homemade stuffing tastes better. And the problem with using a pre-packaged stuffing mix is it’s loaded with sodium and preservatives.

So what I like to do is create a “staffing bag.”

Everyone always has bread that goes stale. Don’t waste it. Cut it up into little cubes put it in a Ziploc bag and put it in your freezer until you’re ready to make your stuffing.

When you are ready to make your stuffing pull the cubes out of the freezer and put them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment and let them thaw. Then pop them in to the oven (heated at 350°) for a few minutes to dry them out a little more. And by a few I literally me like five or six and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn if your oven runs hot.

This is an easy kitchen hack and it beats bread either getting so stale and going to waste OR turning moldy and going to waste.

the evolution of apple-pear butter

I love Apple Butter and Pear Butter. Snd I like to make a hybrid cross mix of both in the fall. I always have. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania German heritage shining through – my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German and I learned how to make a lot of things from her.

I have been reading various recipes on the Internet and decided to try making my apple pear butter in the Instant Pot.

I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. I cored apples and pears. I cut them into chunks of a fairly even size, and filled my Instant Pot to just below the “max” line.

I know, I know that isn’t very exact for some of you home cooks but apple butter consists of apples cooked down….

I did not peel either the apples or the pears because when you make everything all fine with an immersion blender after the fruit is cooked it all is very smooth and lovely.

But let me back up. After the fruit was loaded into my electric pressure cooker, I added a quarter cup of orange juice, maybe closer to a third of a cup I wasn’t measuring too precisely.

To that I added half a cup of brown sugar, four cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon ground mace, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a healthy dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

The vanilla is a quirky thing I read about it in a recipe when I was researching this and I thought I would try it and it ended up working out well.

Anyway give everything a toss within your Instant Pot to make sure the apples and pears are kind of coated.

Set your Instant Pot to the manual high pressure setting for 9 minutes. The valve should be at the top sealed position. When time is up, turn off the machine and allow the natural pressure release to occur. That will probably take a good half hour or so. I didn’t time it exactly.

Meanwhile make sure your canning jars are properly prepared and sterilized and get your big pot ready for water if you are doing a canning bath.

When your pressure cooker is de-pressurized and it is safe to remove the lid, take off the lid and remove the four cinnamon sticks. Using your immersion blender, blend the fruit until it is smooth and seamless.

But wait, it’s not ready yet here’s the next step.

Turn your Instant Pot back on to the sauté setting and adjust the sauté setting to LESS. Simmer the apple pear butter for 30 to 40 minutes until the apple pear butter is thickened and at your desired consistency. Most recipes I studied suggested 15 to 30 minutes but I actually did 40 minutes today to get it where I wanted.

I will caution you to stick around in your kitchen with a silicone spoon or spatula. You will need to stir it occasionally while it’s continuing to cook down or it will stick to the bottom of the Instant Pot.

When you think it is thick enough and cooked down enough, turn off your machine and allow the apple pear butter to cool down. I basically ignored it for a good hour.

At that point you can jar it up and either do your canning bath or store in the refrigerator. I did the canning bath because now that I have gotten the hang of it it really is my preferred way of dealing with preserves and chutneys and things like this.

I will leave my jars sitting on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table until they’re completely cool and then I will add the labels and the date I made the apple pear butter. I made six jars. Not big jars – small jars and two taller skinny ones – see the photo at top of the post.

Making apple pear butter is one of those fall things. It’s definitely something that fills your kitchen full of false spice smells. And I do tend to combine both fruits when I make it.

You can serve apple pear butter on toast, bagels, English muffins, cheese and crackers, pork roast, all sorts of things.

I will note doing it in a pressure cooker reduced the time spent canning considerably. I think I am going to research other kinds of preserves and even chutneys to see what else I can make and can via the Instant Pot.

Try it!

fall dinner….mmmmm

Fall cooking. The humidity is finally gone and the temperatures have cooled enough that I don’t feel like my kitchen is a sweatshop.

I have thawed one lonely beef shank we found in the freezer, but it’s not enough for dinner, but I decided it was going to be dinner and decided to get it a companion. So off to Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough I went. They had beautiful fresh beef shanks!

I continued along King Street to Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. There I picked up the produce I wanted to add to this recipe plus a few other things. (I would’ve gotten adorable little pumpkins there to except they were $2.99 a piece and I thought that was a bit expensive for pumpkins that were literally very small, but I digress.)

So the ingredients – 2 to 3 beef shanks, Crimini mushrooms, Shitake mushrooms, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, 2 red hatch chilies from my garden , red wine, two 8 oz. containers of Pacific vegetable broth, one 14.5 oz. can of Muir Glenn fire roasted diced tomatoes, sweet paprika , smoked paprika, 4 cloves of garlic diced, dash of cumin, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary, two bay leaves, fresh thyme.

First I start by dredging the beef shanks in a little flour and kosher salt. I toss into a Dutch oven on the stove with olive oil heating. I brown each of the beef shanks ( I ended up with three for this recipe.)

Then I add about a third of a bottle of wine and let that simmer as I am slicing up my vegetables.

As I am adding my vegetables beginning with the garlic, shallots, and leeks I also add one of the 8 oz. containers of vegetable broth.

After I add the garlic, shallots, and leeks I add diced up Hatch chilies, followed by carrots, celery, and the mushrooms.

Next I add the fresh herbs and a little more kosher salt. (I don’t start with a lot of salt I can adjust it later so I really am being judicious with it.)

Then I add a dash of cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, black pepper, the can of tomatoes, and finally another third of a bottle of wine.

Now my beef shanks are ready for the oven. They will cook in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

People like to serve these over mashed potatoes, I also like to serve them over rice. And I like brown basmati rice, or a wild rice mixture.

My apologies that this recipe is it more exact, but it just isn’t. I think people need to judge for themselves the amount of herbs and spices and salt and pepper they want in a recipe.

Anyway beef shanks and mushrooms are a wonderful and hearty fall meal. Slow cooking it means the meet will be fork tender.

Bon Appétit!

raisin sauce for that easter ham

Raisin sauce for ham wasn’t a family tradition. It was somebody else’s tradition that they shared with me years ago. Or more precisely, they said they would really like to have that with ham but didn’t know how to make it.

So I monkeyed around with it and came up with the recipe I’m about to share with you. Having done research over the past few years again on a raisin sauce for ham mine is different because I add onion, and I use the Wondra quick dissolving flour and not cornstarch. I also add both a dried mustard and a grainy mustard, allspice as well as cloves, a bouillon cube, and a little hot paprika.

What you end up with is a savory sweet sauce for ham. It complements the smoked salty nature of a ham rather well.

Here’s how I do it:

* 1 cup dark raisins
* 2 cups water (hot with a bouillon cube added)
* 3 Tablespoons Wondra flour
* 1/3 Cup brown sugar
* 1/4 Teaspoon dry Coleman’s mustard
* 3 Tablespoons grainy mustard like Grey Poupon Country Mustard
* 1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 Teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/2 Teaspoon hot paprika
* 4 Tablespoons butter
* 1/2 Sweet onion diced
* 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar or maple champagne vinegar

Chop up the onion and toss it in the sauce pan with the butter. As you are cooking the onion down and it starts to get translucent, add the raisins.

Then add the water with the dissolved boullion cube, add the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved add the flour – and yes I pretty much stir continuously at this point. Next add the spices and the mustards (powdered mustard and the grainy mustard), and finally add the vinegar.

A lot of people when they’re making the sauce will serve it right at this point. I don’t. I turn off the stove and I put the lid on the saucepan and I let it sit for at least an hour. I reheat it gently when I am ready to serve my ham and all you do is put it in a gravy boat and let people spoon what they want over warm ham.

Oh and I changed up my ricotta pie this Easter. I toasted up pine nuts and chopped pistachios and added them to the ricotta mixture before baking!

Happy Easter!