I am a last-minute baker — a procrasti-baker. As such, I am most likely going to make the least complicated sorts of desserts and baked goods. On the occasions I have my act together, I like to make cakes — and even then, I want them to fit my schedule. At one point, I believe, Mandarin Orange Cake — also known as “Dream Cake” or “Pig Pickin’ Cake” — was made from scratch. Continue reading
In the dessert world, there is a whole mess of what I like to call pantry pies: pecan, pumpkin, the chess family, derby, custards (like sugar cream), and last but not least, shoofly (or its aliases: shoo-fly, molasses, sorghum, or Montgomery). All of them are good with coffee, exceptional for breakfast, and of course, we all know that they are standards at the Thanksgiving table.
The least known of this group is the shoofly. While most have heard of it, few, I will wager, have eaten it. Maybe it’s all the molasses, which can be overwhelming, or maybe it’s because it isn’t much known outside of Pennsylvania Dutch country and a few select pockets of the South. Continue reading
I quit eating bananas years ago because I would buy them and not eat them. They would sit in the fruit bowl idling away, eventually passing through the different stages of ripeness. I would watch, like a gambler calling another’s bluff, knowing that I had until they turned black to do something with them. It was then that I would convince myself I needed to make banana bread. I even froze them for future use and had a stack of them in the freezer, until one day they fell out onto my wife’s toe and broke it.
A lemon cake. That’s what I want. Something to replicate the Lemonheads from the snack bar at the drive-in movie theater. The sour pucker is perfect for the late summer heat. You could say I am fond of lemon. I always have been a borderline addict.
Sunday is family night and we are going to the drive-in again. We will make a picnic of it this time. I pack the 4Runner with food, sleeping bags, a couple of pillows, some lawn chairs, and bug spray. It isn’t a long drive to Mechanicsburg, over one state highway and up another. Other than the Welcome to Mechanicsburg sign, the drive-in theater is the only indication that you’re in a town. All the times I’ve been here, I’m still never sure whether there was ever anything more than the drive-in and one lonesome farmhouse. It’s all surrounded by cornfields — always cornfields.
There are ten or more minivans parked on the gravel road leading to the drive-in and everyone is waiting single file at the tollbooth-style gate. It’s always at this moment, waiting to get in, my elbow resting on the open window of the door, the sting of the hot sun on my already sunburned arm, that I look up at the two story, paneled movie screen and silently reminisce.
I remember the brightly colored muscle cars of the kids whose parents indulged them. My friends and I would wander the lot with sodas in to-go cups full of crushed ice spiked with Old Crow whiskey and bum cigarettes from each other. The noise of the B movies or horror flicks was background color to our youthful attempts at manhood. No one ever watched the movie; mostly we walked around, flirted with girls, and waited for a fight to break out because a fight always broke out.
The line starts to move and inside we follow the other cars, back in to our space, open the hatchback, and get comfortable. The scene could have come from the set of The Bevery Hillbillies: a red pickup truck with a bed full of people sitting in lawn chairs. Kids start playing tag, soccer, and Frisbee in the grass in front of the screen, passing away the time until it’s dark enough and the movie begins.
I set the cooler, which will also be our table, on the grass. The girls are off to look for their friends. Amy unfolds the chairs and we settle in for dinner and a movie. The herb roasted chicken legs, the potato salad, and the slaw are as good as always. Just as the movie starts I get out the pieces of lemon cake. It’s the real star of the show.
Serves 9 to 12
- 13 1/8-inch lemon slices, seeds gently removed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- strips of zest from 2 lemons
- 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Mix
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons candied zest, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, each gently melted in its own bowl and kept warm, plus more for greasing the pan
- 3 tablespoons powdered dry milk
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cups whole milk, warm
- 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- Pour the sugar into a saute pan large enough to hold the lemons in a single layer. Place the lemons and zest in a single layer on top and then add the water. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer.
- Simmer the lemon slices until the sugar syrup has reduced by half or more and the pith and rind of the lemon appear transparent. Carefully remove the slices and zest to a piece of parchment being sure not to let the pieces overlap. Let them cool.
- Grease a quarter size sheet tray (9 x 13 inches) with butter. To make the cake heat the oven to 375 ˚ F. Combine the flour, dry milk powder, sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, minced candied zest, and salt. Combine half the melted butter with the eggs, milk, and extracts. While whisking add the dry to the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet tray. Make sure the batter is evenly distributed so it rises evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar, cream, and remainder of the warm butter in a mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Keep the icing luke warm.
- When the cake has finished baking remove it from the oven and let it cool right in the sheet pan for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off pour the warm icing over the top and spread it out evenly with a spatula. Lay on the slices of lemon and let the cake cool. Refrigerate or serve cold.
I love this kind of yeasted cake. They aren’t too sweet but the smell is oh so yummy and they taste really good. A perfect holdiay cake, something special that you will always associate with Christmas or New Years. I would serve it with champagne or better yet, Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine. ( I used a 9 inch gugelhopf mold )
SERVES 8 TO 10
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk, warm but not over 110 degrees
2 tablespoons honey, mild flavored variety
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, slightly softened, plus more for the mold
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites, beaten until stiff
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
2 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon fine grind sea salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup raisins or zante currants
1/2 cup sliced almonds
confectioners sugar for dusting
1. For the starter you want to combine the milk and honey and sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it bloom. Once all the yeast is hydrated add 1 cup of the flour and mix to combine. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle cream the butter with the sugar. Once it is smooth add the starter and combine it.
2. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. With the mixer running add the egg yolks one at a time only adding another after the previous one is blended in. Add the Grand Marnier, vanilla, cardamom, salt and orange zest.
3. Add two cups of flour and mix to combine. You want the dough to be stiff enough to just pull away from the sides. It should look like the gugelhopf mold in a sense in that you should see pleats of dough with shiny bowl spots. If you need to add flour a 1/4 cup at a time. you should see strands of gluten forming. Mix in the egg whites which will make the dough more like a batter. Mix in the raisins
4. Butter the mold with lots of butter and then sprinkle in the almonds along the sides and top. Add the dough to the mold making sure it is evenly distributed. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.
5. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the dough has risen to about the 3/4 mark on the sides of the mold slide it into the oven and bake it for 30 minutes. Check it and if the exposed cake is browning to fast loosely set a piece of foil on top. Bake another 30 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and invert the mold onto a cooling rack and lift the mold. Let the cake cool completely. Dust with powder sugar and serve. It is best served the day it is made. If there happen to be leftovers it makes great French toast.
Yes, I could imagine a cookie just like this being created during the Great Depression. The nutmeg lends itself to the past and makes the cookie feel like something a grandmother would make for her grandchildren on a Sunday afternoon. She might also make it when she notices her grandchildren are a little sad. Whatever the reason they are a cure for depression. They will bring you out of your funk with a heavy dose of the warm and fuzzies.
MAKES 2 DOZEN
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt; if you sub table salt cut it to 1/4 teaspoon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon honey, something with citrus notes is good
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar for rolling the cookies
1. Make sure you have an oven rack placed dead in the middle of your oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir it with the measuring spoon to mix.
2. Place the sugar, nutmeg and vanilla seeds into the bowl of a mixer and mix for two minutes to distibute. Turn off the mixer and add the butter and shortening. I use cold, when I squeeze it it just gives, butter because I personally think it creams better. You do not want this to look granular and you don’t want the fat to break out and look similar to cottage cheese either. It should look like ice cream just scooped from the container. Start out on low speed and when the butter starts to cream gradually increase the speed to medium and cream for about 2 minutes total.
3. Scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the egg and mix to combine. Add the honey and mix briefly.
4. Adding the flour in thirds, to keep it from flying out of the mixing bowl, mix at low speed and mix until all is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
5. Place the remaining half cup of sugar into a seperate bowl. Line two 12 x 17 baking sheet pans with parchment paper.
6. Using a tablespoon or a number 40 scoop, scoop out some dough. Using your hands roll it into a ball and then roll it around in the sugar until coated. Place it onto the baking sheet. Repeat until you have 12 cookies on the tray. Using a fork, flatten the cookies to about a 1/2 inch thickness.
7. Place tray into the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. While they are cooking roll and coat the remaining twelve cookies. When the timer goes off check the cookies. They should be browning at the edges but still light in the middle. If they’re not, leave them in the oven for another few minutes. Remove them and let them cool for 3-5 minutes before changing them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Place the other tray of cookies into the oven and repeat this step.
All of my favorite things in one. Fresh ginger goes great with the rhubarb and the oatmeal cake, well, is gooey and tasty. Let it cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. I top it with frothed cream but vanilla ice cream would be great too.
Makes 8 to 10 slices
For the rhubarb:
2 1/4 cups fresh rhubarb, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
For the oatmeal cake:
1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. In a mixing bowl combine the oats with the boiling water. Add the 1/4 cup of butter. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Gently melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Remove it from the heat. Spread the brown sugar evenly across the bottom. In a large bowl mix the ginger and rhubarb. Spread the rhubarb evenly across the brown sugar. Set aside.
3. In the empty rhubarb bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. To the cooled oatmeal add the egg, both sugars, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.
5. Spread the cake batter evenly across the top of the rhubarb. Place into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven when done and let cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate. Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing.
With the impending second storm barreling down on the Midwest it was feeling like more than a three hour tour. In keeping the castaways at ease we dove into a family baking project, used the last three bananas and watched old episodes of Gilligan’s Island. After tasting this pie I know why the castaways never left the island.
SERVES 6 – 8
For the pie::
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk, do not substitute
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the brittle and whipped cream::
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and chopped, a good time to toast them is when you bake the crust
2 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and 1/4 cup of butter in a mixing bowl and combine with a fork until you have a mealy looking mixture.
- Pour the mixture into a 9 inch pie pan. Press out the crumbs until you have and even crust up the sides and bottom of the pie pan. Bake the crust until it is beginning to brown and is set. About 5 to 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it cool.
- While the crust is cooling combine the corn starch, sugar, egg yolks, cardamom, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined.
- Place the milk into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil over medium high heat. While whisking the egg mixture add a cup of hot milk and whisk. Add the egg mixture to the milk pan and put it back over the heat.
- Let the pudding come to a boil and then whisk until thick. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pour the pudding into a bowl and set the bowl into an ice bath to cool the pudding.
- Place the honey and the remaining cardamom into a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil until it becomes very foamy.(have a cup of very cold water handy and drop a small droplet into the water. It should separate into thin brittle threads) Add the macadamia nuts and stir. Remove the brittle from the heat and pour it onto a greased parchment lined sheet tray. PLace the brittle into the fridge.
- Slice the bananas and layer them onto the pie crust. If the pudding has cooled pour it over the bananas. Refrigerate the pie for two hours or more.
- Once the pie has set make the whipped cream topping. Either with a stand mixer or a hand mixer whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and the vanilla and whip to stiff peaks.
- Chop the brittle.
- Pipe the whipped cream onto the pie and then top with the chopped brittle. Serve.