Monday, October 27, 2014

Mama's Pound Cake ~ Circa 1965

My oldest grand is growing up fast, too fast. We celebrated his 15th birthday this month, which is just too unbelievable for me to grasp. He's 15 years old, y'all. He's also such a treasure, but I'll refrain from going all grandmother on you. 

It has been a family tradition going back as far as I can recall to mark birthdays with a feast of favorite foods. Say that three times fast. And of course, birthday cake. Their favorite cake to be precise. That's saying, "I love you...you're special".

Well, it seems during the growing process, my 15 year old grand has segued from the cloyingly sweet Key Lime Pie as his favorite dessert, to something not so sweet. We had a discussion on this and his request was a cake with no frosting. So I honored his wishes and chose Mama's very old pound cake recipe of which I have personally had a copy since the mid 1960's. This wonderful cake has a frosting recipe that pairs perfectly with it, but I didn't use it, obviously. The frosting is fabulous, however. It's different from the usual buttercream, very lemony and ever so light. Every time Mama made this cake for a church dinner or as a surprise for someone, she received rave reviews. Now, I must confess I did tweak this recipe somewhat, but only a tiny bit. Instead of using all shortening, I used half butter and half shortening. Butter is, well butter, therefore tasty and the shortening makes for a tender crumb. That combination works much better in my opinion. My other adjustment was the juice of a lemon, not lemon flavoring. Try this old cake recipe, it's worth it.

Deluxe Pound Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Cream together the shortening, butter and sugar until very well combined and the sugar is somewhat dissolved, not grainy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each one. Sift the dry ingredients together and add alternately with the buttermilk. Add the zest and juice of the lemon. Pour into a 10" tube pan that has been well greased and floured. Place into a cold oven and adjust the heat to 300 degrees. Bake for approximately 1-1/2 hours. This may vary with different ovens. Check it when the house smells amazing to see its progress. Use a tooth pick to test for doneness. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Place on a cake plate and serve with berries, whipped cream, ice cream or whatever your birthday boy desires. In our case it was ice cream.

Note: If using a two piece tube pan, be sure to cover the bottom of the pan with foil to avoid oven clean-up if any batter happens to escape. Trust me, you'll want to do this.

T
To begin, assemble the first step
Softened butter and shortening in the bowl
~ I really ♥ my KitchenAid ~
Next...sugar in
Round and round go the sugar, butter and shortening
The pic in the background is a favorite ~ My son ~ I love it with me in the kitchen

Getting the dry ingredients ready to sift together

Time to sift

Six eggs into the bowl one at the time

As you can see I had local eggs from a friend with pampered hens
The color and richness of the eggs, beautiful

Buttermilk (a magic ingredient) and the sifted dry ingredients
Begin and end with flour
I usually have three additions of flour alternating with two of buttermilk

I love this smell
Zest and juice ready to perfume the cake
Mixing is done
Never mix batter too long for a tender cake
Another photo 'cause it's just so pretty
Lemon juice containers
I saved the butter wrappers to grease my tube pan
Smart idea ~ Always thinking
Into the oven with a cloak of aluminum foil on the bottom
This is the recipe I spoke of earlier
It's been in this binder since...well, a very long time
The Lemon frosting I rate so highly
What's with my handwriting so long ago ~ Glad I got over backhand writing
This kind of keepsake is nevertheless, priceless
How gorgeous is this?
This is the foil removed from the tube pan and this is the reason it's a good idea

~ * ~

My grandson loved this cake and he took most of it back home with him after enjoying his dinner with the family and getting his birthday gift. His Nana would have been so happy to know her old recipe brought a smile to that sweet face.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Simply Special

Buttermilk Biscuits
It was the custom in the everyday routine of my grandmothers and my mother to "make bread". That, for them, was biscuits and/or cornbread (yes, every day) and occasionally dinner rolls for the Sunday table. Rather rare in the modern kitchens of today. And I really don't understand why because it takes so little time to make it right and really good compared to some instant cornbread mix or a biscuit can that's opened by abusing the edge of the countertop. 

I can remember all too well my first attempt at cornbread. I literally stood on a step-stool while mixing up the batter, because I was too short to reach the top of the counter. Being allowed to help Mama at such a young age with such an important chore, sparked my desire to learn more and to perfect each thing as I moved along. That time in the kitchen with these three women was valuable to me. First of all, I was totally enamored with the whole process of cooking and secondly, Mama was determined to make me a better cook than she was when she and Daddy married. She knew exactly zip, nada, nothing. Opening a can was stretching it for her as she recalled her first feeble attempts at cooking. Daddy was evidently patient. Actually, Mama and I learned several things together as my curiosity grew. She allowed me to experiment and grow in what I found interesting, while giving me a hand and some sound advice. A pinch of this or a pinch of that, as I recall. We worked very well together around the kitchen island.


And Mama made great biscuits by-the-way. I devised my own style and method, different from hers. But no matter what path one takes, the simple task of biscuit baking is special to anyone sitting at your table, usually with a butter knife in one hand and a jam spoon in the other. This is one of my recipes in the little cookbook I wrote for my family. As simple as biscuits are, they're equally delicious.

Buttermilk Biscuits

 2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk

I love this old bowl
A proper biscuit pan ~ Cast iron
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar to a mixing bowl. Stir to mix well and remove any lumps, should there be any. Pour the measured oil and buttermilk into a small bowl and mix well, being sure to incorporate both ingredients completely. Add to the flour mixture and stir gently while bringing the flour into the middle of the oil/buttermilk until all the flour is incorporated.

Stir together until it becomes a dough
Soft dough makes tender biscuits
Loosely scatter flour onto waxed paper
Bring the dough together and sprinkle flour on all sides
Pat out with floured fingers to create a rectangle ~ Cut into twelve biscuits
I used a floured dough scraper to cut into equal sized biscuits, or you may use a round biscuit cutter.
Note: I also employ the pinch method by flouring my hands and rolling the dough into a ball then placing it onto the pan. After all the dough is used, I flatten each one with my hand.

Place into a greased and preheated cast iron pan. I put the pan into the oven while it is preheating and add a smidgen of canola oil just before placing the biscuits into it. Bake at 375 until golden brown and delicious!
G, B and D!
 Serve to a grateful family!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

French Apple Cake

French Apple Cake
Apples are everywhere all through the year, but at the beginning of Fall they are absolutely the best. They're fresh and that's always the secret to fantastic food. Our state doesn't have an apple harvest of any import, certainly not like the NW, but we have those fresh delicious orbs available through our local produce purveyors. Which makes me happy. And while shopping the other day, I picked up a couple of varieties, Honey Crisp & Gala. My intention was to use them for an apple recipe I'd never made before. Then I began my quest. I did what I usually do, searched cookbooks on hand and trolled the Internet for ideas. This recipe really caught my attention; I actually saw it on Pinterest and followed a very long and winding trail through several blogs where it had been featured over and over. It is a recipe by chef/author Dorie Greenspan which she adapted from a cake made by a friend in France, Marie-Helene. It seems the lady didn't want to share the recipe, so she found a way to enjoy the cake by playing around with what she did know about it and this, her final receipt. It's in Dorie's cookbook, Around My French Table. The ingredient list is small and easily things you would have in the pantry, which makes it all the more desirable as a keeper recipe.

You definitely want to try this cake...simple, straightforward, a genuine apple experience. There are no warm spices in this recipe, the apple shines as the star of each slice with a back note of rum and vanilla. And as it's baking, the aroma, oh my! So lets get to the recipe, shall we?

French Apple Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 apples
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons unsalted butter

The method as I prepared the ingredients:

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper (my favorite) or into a small bowl. Peel, core and cut the apples into chunks. Melt the butter and cool slightly. Into a mixing bowl add the eggs and sugar and whisk until well combined. Splash in the rum and vanilla and stir. Add half the flour mixture and half the melted butter. Stir to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and butter and stir until you achieve a smooth batter. Toss in the apples and fold in gently with a spatula. Pour into a buttered and floured pan, place into a pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The top of the cake will be nicely browned and slightly firm to the touch. Remove and cool before slicing. 

Note: Three things actually... 1) It is recommended to use a springform pan for this cake and if I planned on serving it as a special dessert for guests I would certainly heed that suggestion. But Mama's VERY old cake pan was calling to me today and so I used it. 2) Use different apples for this, which creates a textural difference in the way they bake. I used only the two I had on hand, but you could use four different types.  3) Whipped creme would be gilding the lily, but it would also be divine!

Mama's old cake pan

To begin...

Apple chunks on waxed paper waiting for the batter

First mixing of wet and dry

In go the apples for the folding

Into Mama's old pan ~ I would love to share a slice with her today
Ready for the oven ~ As you can see it's all about apples
 
GORGEOUS!

I bet you'd love a slice of this beauty

A slice on Mama's Blue Willow ~ A snowy dusting of powdered sugar


It slices like a dream ~ Almost pudding like texture
I'll definitely make this again ~ So delicious

Friday, June 20, 2014

Puff Pastry Unlimited


Piping hot from oven
When I clean out my fridge and freezer I usually find things I've totally forgotten. Of course most of them get tossed due to the condition. Forgotten leftovers and such. But in this case it was an unopened box of Puff Pastry in the freezer. A happy find. I try to keep it on hand, particularly around the holiday's for appetizer bundling. Brie for example, tucked snugly in with a drizzle of local honey and sprinkled with English walnuts. That's a favorite for Christmas and New Year celebrations. 

But there is an unlimited number of possible stuffing's to enjoy. The Horn Player actually (sit down now) said he would like spinach as a main ingredient. I know, that's a veggie, but hey, I'm giving it a try if he will eat it. Fruit, that's next since Summer is in full swing here in Dixie. I'll report back on my inspirational results. 

~ * ~

It seems I'm really into the instant gratification type of cooking lately. My last post was an appetizer style nosh and now this. It's always a good time to test an idea, however. This is rich, gooey and quite tasty. But it isn't something you'd want to make very often. I think it would be very nice if thinly sliced and served as a heavy hors d'oeuvre. This time I divided the sheet of pastry into four equal blocks, but of course you could use the entire sheet and make one large roll. That would be super served on a long cutting board for a buffet supper. I'm thinking little bowls of pickled items served alongside would be perfect to counter the richness of the pastry and its filling. So many ideas with Puff Pastry.

Roll one piece of Puff Pastry into a larger rectangle as thinly as you can without tearing the tender dough. Cut into four equal sections and cover with a towel to prevent drying while you assemble the other ingredients.
Freshly grated Extra Sharp Cheddar
A serpentine drizzle of Ranch Salad Dressing
Cheese layered over the Ranch, then cooked bacon (not crispy)
A slice of Honey Roasted Turkey from the deli goes on next
Rolled up like a burrito and sealed with a brush of water around the edges to button the packet up nicely ~ I added a bit of cheese to the top

Getting puffy while baking

Golden brown and delicious

Flaky pastry, creamy Ranch, smoky bacon, sweet honey turkey and gooey cheese
 
Oh yum!