Saturday, June 27, 2009

Like Socks in a Dryer

On the left are the two measuring spoons I have been using for the past several years. The tablespoon and the 1/2 teaspoon. They were once part of a beautiful set, but alas, over the years, the rest of the set has wandered to parts unknown. For my birthday, I have a brand-new set, which I refuse to liberate from their ring, lest they, like their predecessors drift off. You may find the recipes to be just a smidge more accurate going forward as estimating is no longer required.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Birthday Cake

Truth: I have had the same birthday cake every year since my very first birthday.
I have never made this cake myself. My mother does it, with love, as she always has.

It is delicious.

Just as a great birthday cake should be, it is moist. It is not so chocolatey as to coat your mouth (just the cheeks of a one year old). It can be iced with chocolate or as I request now, mocha. It's simple, basic, tasty - what storebought cake mixes are trying so desperately to replicate.
Also, it's incredibly easy.

I'm simply going to pass along my mother's recipe and her comments, unedited, because really, mother knows best.

Ultimate Chocolate Cake -
This came from one of those hippie parenting books. It is made in one pan, with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of taste. It was a great book with all sorts of crafts and activities for having fun with kids.

1/2 C evaporated milk (no, it is not the whole can; you are just going to have to make two cakes!)
1 t vinegar
4 squares chocolate (1 square = 1 oz) I use a combo of semi-sweetened and unsweetened or whatever I have on had. Who knows what it was meant to be?
1/2 C butter, cut into pieces
1 C boiling water
2 C flour
2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t baking SODA
1/2 t vanilla


In a bowl, combine 1/2 C evaporated milk, 1 t vinegar. In a sauce pan, combine 4 squares chocolate, 1/2 C butter, 1 C boiling water. Stir until melted. Add the canned milk/vinegar. Stir again. Add 2 C flour, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 t baking SODA, 1/2 t vanilla. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Pour into two greased and floured cake pans. Bake 35-40 min at 375 degrees.

Mocha Icing

1/2 C sweet butter (I use regular butter; sweet butter is w/out salt)
2 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
2 T cocoa
2 T hot coffee
1/2 t vanilla


Cream butter. Add sugar gradually, beating well between additions. As it becomes thick, add cocoa. Add hot coffee and vanilla. Continue to beat until light and fluffy and thick enough to spread. Use for filling and to frost top and sides of cold cake.

Do not eat it or there will not be enough to cover the cake.

Butter Frosting (CHOCOLATE!)
1/2 C butter
3 C confectioner's sugar
4 T evaporated milk
3 T cocoa
1 T vanilla

DIRECTIONS: Cream butter. Add remaining ingredients and beat til fluffy.

These (frosting recipes) are from The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook- the new revised deluxe edition. I think you already have a picture of it on your blog. My mother's was bound neatly.Published 1950. Apparently, as in the case of Nana, it was available earlier in segmented sections, including Your Leftovers; Your Canning, Freezing and Preserving; Your Lunch Box; Your Quick Dinners for the Woman in a Hurry. I think the segments were in the supermarket and you could buy one a week or month or whatever and then they sold a wire apparatus so you could clip them into a neat little binder. It was my mother's bible, but then again, she didn't really like to cook!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Christmas in June

One of my absolute favorite Christmas movies is the hard to find Remember the Night. It's rarely shown due to the lack of a pure Hollywood ending and the embarrassing presence of a butler character, Rufus, that by today's standards is pretty offensive.

But still, how can I resist Barbara Stanwyck playing a bad girl to Fred MacMurray's wholesome Indiana farm boy who made good as a big city lawyer? So every single year (I'm not using hyberbole, I'm sorry to say) on Christmas Eve I make my family watch this movie with me.

The movie has two major food moments, one involving sandwiches made by the aforementioned Rufus and the other where Barbara Stanwyck learns to make popovers. I cannot tell you the cravings induced by watching, year after year, as she pops them out of the pan and onto a plate.

At some point, I insisted on getting a popover pan of my own. It's not Christmas, and I'm not trying to win a man's heart by way of his stomach, but I am well prepared should either occaision arise.

popovers shown with baked eggs

(ingredients courtesy of Epicurious)

2 large eggs
3/4 C milk
1/4 C water
1 T unsalted butter, melted
1 C minus 2 T flour
1/2 t salt

Put your EMPTY popover pan in your oven. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (with the pan in it). Mix together the flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and water. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. Add to the liquid ingredients while whisking. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix. There will be small lumps, this is okay. Take the HOT pan out of the oven and butter the the pan. I do this by unwrapping a stick of butter, holding it by the wrapper at one end and just wiping inside each popover holder place. After buttering, divide the mixture evenly between the six popover wells. Return to oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove and poke a sharp knife once in each popover's center. They will deflate slightly and some steam with escape. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes. They will reinflate and have a nice crust. You should be able to turn them out of the pan easily with a knife when they're done. Popovers are a bit like a souffle in that they will deflate if you open and close that oven door, so NO peeking.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


"I could cry salty tears;
Where have I been all these years?
Little wow, tell me now:
How long has this been going on?...

Oh I feel I could melt;
Into Heaven I'm hurled!
I know how Columbus felt,
finding another world."
-George Gershwin

If you've spoken to me anytime in the past month, it's probable that you've heard me waxing rhapsodic about the monte cristo sandwich. Maybe I haven't actually quoted Gershwin to you, but yes, I am enraptured.

I think about this monte cristo all the time. How is it possible, that I have never before had one? I was practically raised on grilled cheese. I have more than a passing fancy for croque monsieur (even croque madame, which seriously, if you're ever in New York, you must go to Pastis and order because it is completely sensational.) So why has the monte cristo eluded me so? I do not know, but I will not allow others to suffer. Behold:

makes 2, from epicurious
traditionally monte cristos involve either turkey or ham deli meat. This has neither and does not suffer a bit for the loss.

4 slices good crusty bread (slightly stale is okay)
Swiss cheese (regular swiss, or emmentaler, or gruyere would all be delightful)
approximately 2 large eggs or equivalent in eggbeaters (depending on how thick and stale your bread, you may need more)
1 T water
1.5 t mustard PER Sandwich
1 large tomato - sliced
salt and pepper
2-4 T butter

Whisk together your egg with the water and some salt and pepper. Carefully dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture until it absorbs the egg. Place on a plate. Smear mustard on one side of each sandwich. Layer on the swiss cheese and tomato and top with other slice of bread. In a large pan, melt the butter on medium high heat. When you flip a drop of water in the pan and it sizzles, it's ready. Place the sandwiches in the pan, and weight the top down with a flat lid, plate or bottom of another pan. Cook for 4 minutes, reduce heat if it starts to smoke. Flip carefully, and cook for more minutes (weight the top of the sandwiches again) then remove, cut in half and serve.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


When I was about 13, my parents took me to France. We spent much time driving in order to see the sights, which in my teenaged opinion included far too many walled cities. We saw St. Malo, Avignon, Aigue Mortes, Eze, so many more, from the impressive Carcassonne to tiny little towns; it seemed that every where we went was enclosed in medieval fortifications. I complained (possibly loudly and bitterly) about how incredibly sick I was of walled cities. But there was something I did not complain about. Not at all. That inside each walled city, there was inenvitably a patisserie. And my father had a personal mission, which required my personal expertise: to try every available tarte citron (lemon tart) in the search for the very best, most lemony tart in all of France. You see, I come by my love of lemon completely honestly. I live a relatively tart deprived existance these days, but for a real lemon fix, I turn to the source, where my father probably developed his taste for lemon in the first place, my nana's lemon bars.

Nana's Lemon Bars

Base -
1/3 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 C butter (although my nana uses margarine, and I had a slight problem with the base being too crumbly and she does not)

Lemony Top -
3 eggs
1 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice
3 T flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the powdered sugar, flour and butter as though you were making a pie crust. It will be very crumbly, sort of like sand. Take a 9x13 pan and line it well with tin foil. Grease it well. Do not skim. Make sure your foil comes up high on the sides, because later, if you get any of the lemon mixture between the foil and pan, it will act as glue, and you will not be happy. Press the crust down into the pan, trying to make sure it is level. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F.

Beat together the 3 eggs until lemony. Mix the sugar and flour together and add to the eggs. Add the lemon juice. Mix well and when the crust is done, pour on top. Return to the oven for 25 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar.


Related Posts with Thumbnails