Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pickled Pears

  One thing that turns me on is unusual recipes.  I like old recipes that when I look at it, I can not imagine it's flavor, texture or even how it might be served.  One of the first recipes I resurrected was an Avocado and Grapefruit cocktail from the Modern Priscilla cook book.  That was easy to make and now I can't not imagine how good it tastes.  There is a another recipe in that book for Sardine Cocktails, which I really want to make but haven't mustered up the courage and I like sardines.  However this post is about a recipe I found in the First edition of the McCall's Cook Book (1963). 

  I found the cook book at the local town dump book swap, where I've found several other interesting cook books there as well.  This book is interesting for several reasons.  It has it's share of casserole and cake recipes, but also has unusual ones as well. It is like someone took an 'old' cookbook added a few new recipes, stuck a cool cover on it and PRESTO! A modern swinging cookbook.  However the cook book doesn't know that.  It's like dressing Granny in a mini skirt.  To give you a flavor of the book, one recipe is exhaustive; it has fourteen steps and takes FIVE hours to prepare and it only serves six people.  Who has that kind of time?  Did anyone ever have that kind of time, anytime in history?

  Luckily there are easier recipes which are interesting.  The one that caught my eye the other day was for Pickled Pears.  It is super easy and makes a great side for meat dishes, like pork chops, ham or lamb.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Master Recipe

  You probably know by now that I love baking.  My favorite cakes to make are prepared with the one-bowl method.  Using this method, you can make a homemade cake as easily as using a boxed mix.  And you should want to make homemade cakes because boxed cakes taste cloyingly similar, it's like they came from some sort of fascist bakery.  Also, with homemade cakes you have control over the ingredients.  You can choose to make a cake with varying amounts of sugar, flour or eggs.  You also have control over how much cake you are making.  If I am baking for a party I make a 9-inch 3 layer cake and if I am having only a few friends over I'll make an 8-inch layer cake.  I have the recipes for each of these sizes of cake as well as everything in between.

  The recipe for today will be for a 3 layer cake.  When I was in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, I made this cake for my nephew's birthday.  For Eddie's cake I made it plain vanilla with chocolate frosting and  I baked it in a 9x13 layer pan, to make it easier to serve and store.  When I got back from Philadelphia, I had another birthday cake to make.  This one was for Gillie, my mother-in-law and I made a coconut cake.  Again I baked it in a 9x13 layer pan.  But this time I used 2/3 of the batter for the layer cake and used the remaining batter to make mini bunt cakes. 

  And I have another birthday cake to make later in August.  It is for John's niece, Mia.  She wants an orange cake like Gillie makes.  I knew that Gillie's orange cake was a one-bowl cake, but I wanted to know how she flavored it so I could doctor my Master Recipe.  So I spent the afternoon with her and she told me her secret recipe.  Details to follow. 

Here's the recipe:

Triple-Tier Party Cake 
from Spry Shortenings' pamphlet, 10 Cakes Husbands Like Best, no date.

2 3/4 c cake flour [I use Soft-as-silk]
1 3/4 c sugar
2       t  baking powder
1/2    t  salt
1       c Spry [Since Spry is no longer sold, just use your favorite vegetable shortening]
3/4    c milk
1       t  almond extract
1       t  orange extract
4          large eggs
1       c  finely cut coconut [OPTIONAL]

1.  Prepare (3) 9" cake pans and preheat oven to 350°F.
2.  Dry measure the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.
3.  Add the Spry and cut into the dry ingredients.
4.  Add the milk, flavoring and 1 egg.   Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
5.  Add the remaining 3 eggs and beat an additional 2 minutes on high speed.
6.  Stir in the coconut.
7.  Divide among three 9-inch layer pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.
8.  Frost with 7 minute frosting and sprinkle with coconut.

*   If you want to make a plain vanilla cake, use 2 t vanilla extract and don't use the coconut.
*  To make Gillie's orange cake:  Add 2 T of grated orange rind and 1 T of orange juice and change the flavoring to 2 t orange extract.  Also, don't add the coconut.  But you can if you want!  : ) 

Fool proof Seven Minute Frosting

You will need to have a hand mixer that can reach the stove top, a large metal bowl and a large sauce pan.

2 t powdered egg whites
1 1/2 c sugar
2 T water
2 t light corn syrup
1/8 t cream of tarter
dash of salt
1/3 c water
1 t flavoring extract

1.  Combine all ingredients into the metal bowl and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. 
2.  Add 2 cups of water in the large sauce pan and bring the water to a boil.
3.  Place the metal bowl over the boiling water and turn burner to low.
4.  Beat the egg white mixture with the electric hand mixer on high for at least 7 minutes.  At the 7 minute mark the mixture should be fluffy, yet firm enough to spread. 

I've tried making this with fresh egg whites, but the result is very drippy.  If you use egg whites use less water.  With powdered egg whites I know exactly what I am getting each time.  Save yourself a headache and get some powdered egg whites.

Gillie's Orange Frosting

2 Lb bag of confectioners sugar
1 T grated orange rind
1/4 c soft butter, Spry or oleo

1.  Combine the sugar, orange rind and butter into a large bowl.
2.  Cut the butter into the sugar.
3.  Add milk a teaspoon at a time and beat with a spoon until the mixture is spreadable.  ONE EXTRA TEASPOON OF MILK CAN MAKE YOUR FROSTING A SOGGY MESS.  BEWARE!

Note:  I think this will frost a large triple-tier cake.  I doubled Gillie's original recipe which frosts an 8-inch tube cake. 

That is the recipe. Please leave comments, especially if you make this recipe. 


P.S.  You may want to read my entry on Devils Food Cake from January 9, 2010.  It is also a one-bowl method cake.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ginger Pear Jam

  One of my favorite cookbooks is The Modern Priscilla Cook Book.  I have the 1924 and the 1930 editions.  I love to collect various editions of cookbooks to see what changed.  This cookbook is also the first "retro" cook book I bought.  If you can believe it, I wanted to find public domain cookbooks to talk about recipes on my podcast The Flatus Show.    I chose old cook books because I was paranoid about being sued.  It turns out that I really like the old cook books better than the newer ones and I developed an interest in the history and flavors of American cooking. 

  This memorial day weekend I decided to make some jelly.  My first choice was to make October Jelly.  I had bought the grapes on sale awhile back and made the grape juice and froze it. However as I read the instructions, I should have prepared the grapes differently.   You'll have to wait until I find some more grapes on sale and when I do I promise I will October Jelly and give out the recipe, or least my working recipe.  Just so you don't fret, I didn't waste the grape juice.  I made regular grape jelly.
  As I was looking at the jelly, jam and conserve recipes and I noticed a recipe for Ginger Pear Jam.  I was intrigued by the name but also the ingredients. It called for canned pears!  My first politically incorrect thought was "How white trash is that!".  But I changed my mind.  It did, after all, call for crystallized ginger. 

  For the recipe I measured out 2 1/2 cups of canned pears and chopped them.  I ended up with 3 cups of finely chopped pears.  I measured out 1/2 c of crystallized ginger which is six pieces.  I chopped that up too. The rest of the ingredients were straight forward except for the pectin.  The recipe called for 1/2 cup of pectin.   I searched on the Internet for a pectin equivalence chart, but found very little information on how to exchange liquid pectin with powdered pectin.  I did find one site which gave this equivalence: 2 Tb of liquid pectin = 2 t powdered pectin.  It ends that one box of Sure Jell pectin equals 1/2 cup of liquid pectin, according to the formula. 

  I was a little leery about using the whole box of pectin because I knew the recipe was only going to make four 8-ounce jars of jam and I've made eight jars of grape jelly and used only one box.  So my thought was that the jam could come out like a brick.  Since pears are a low acidic fruit I decided that the extra pectin wouldn't hurt.  It is the pectin, along with the acid in the fruit and the sugar which make the jelly gel. So I used the whole box. 

  Some low acid jams and jellies can take up to two weeks to "set" and I was going to wait the two weeks for my jam to set before testing it, however my curiosity got the better of me and I opened a jar today.  At this time it is  the same consistency as marmalade.  I wonder if it will become firmer in a few weeks?  Besides its consistency, it is a terrific tasting jam. It is a hearty flavor, very gingery with a hint of the pear just beneath the surface.  I tried it with cheddar cheese on a cracker and it was the right accompaniment to the cheese.  I think it might go well with chicken, especially a chicken salad.  And of course it would make a nice cake filling.

Here's the recipe:
Ginger Pear Jam from The Modern Priscilla Cook Book, 1924.
2 1/2 cups of canned pears drained [3 cups of finely chopped fresh pear]
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger [6 rounds of crystallized ginger]
2 lemons and rind
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 box of pectin (1.75 oz/49g)

1. Place the finely chopped pears and ginger into a large sauce pan.  Add the grated rind plus juice of the two lemons and the sugar.
2.  Cook slowly [low continuous boil] for 10 minutes.
3.  Add the pectin and boil rapidly [higher heat] for 5 minutes.
4.  Pour into (4) 8-ounce jelly jars to within a 1/4 of the rim.  Place the lids on the jars and screw the rings tightly. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Make sure the jars are completely submerged in the water.  There should 1 to 2 inches of water covering the jars.


Please note:  There is a whole process I do not explain.  You need to wash the jars and lids.  Boil the lids and rings and keep them in the boiling water until they are used.  Also, you need to boil the jelly jars and place them on a clean towel upside down until they are ready to be filled with the hot liquid.  When sealing the jars wipe off any jelly that might be in the rim. 

Read the The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving for exact details for making jams and jellies.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lost Recipes

  There must have been a time when the American cook stopped making sauces.  That is not to say that we stopped making gravies for Thanksgiving and Hollandaise sauce for our asparagus, but for the most part, the art of sauce making has been reduced to wine reductions with a plop of cold butter.  And these are delicious and have a place on the table, I've even made a few great wine reductions over the years.  But what I am referring to is the relative wealth of sauce recipes in our older cookbooks, which seemed to dry up as each succeeding edition was published.

  I did a short study with my collection of American cookbooks, which were published between 1890 and 1986.  The cookbooks from the late 19th century have the most savory sauce recipes averaging about 50 recipes per book and of course you can bet they have their own chapter.  Each recipe not only details its preparation, but also suggests how it is served and how to vary it.

  I followed one recipe to see how it fared over time in my cookbooks.  The recipe is for Drawn Butter. Recipes for Drawn Butter seem to have disappeared after 1939.  The newest cookbook I have with a 'Drawn Butter' recipe is my facsimile copy of The Joy of Cooking and it is a recipe in name only.  The recipe is just melted butter with crumbs.  So I could venture that the recipe 'disappeared' at an earlier date. 

  When I first saw the recipe I skipped over it, thinking that it is just melted butter, but then I looked a little more closely at it and it wasn't that simple.  Drawn Butter is a combination of Butter, Flour, Water and Salt at it's simplest.  In the various cookbooks, variations are given such as adding vinegar, lemon, capers, chopped hard cooked eggs and anchovies.   This sauce is used for fish, and especially so if you include vinegar, or so Mrs. Rorer says in her delightful New Cookbook

  I decided to try it, so I culled together various Drawn Butter recipes, sans Erma Rombauers, and created a Frankenstein-like recipe, which I think is pretty darn good.  Here is my recipe:

Kentie's Drawn Butter recipe from the ages

1/2 cup unsalted sweet butter
5 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt or to taste
2 cups boiling water

1. Melt the butter and blend in the flour and salt. 
2. Pour the boiling water onto the butter/flour mixture and stir constantly to avoid lumping.
3. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes stirring constantly.

There you have it!  Drawn Butter.  Knock your socks off and try it.

The sauce is versatile and it welcomes various flavors.  My favorite variation is to take 1 cup of the drawn butter and add 2 Tablespoons of chopped capers, along with 2 Tablespoons of celery vinegar*.  Yum and excellent with fish!


Another old-time recipe and it's terrific on cucumbers.

*Celery Vinegar - Take 1/2 cup of celery seed and crush them in a mortar or in a spice grinder and put them in a heat resistant glass jar.  Pour 2 1/2 cups of boiling vinegar over the seeds and let cool.  Cover and place in the refrigerator.  Shake every days and after a week, strain the seeds and use the vinegar.  Of course the flavor strengthens the longer you let the seeds steep in the vinegar.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Cakes or That's a lot of baking powder.

  I love baking, and I love old recipes, which you already know.  This past month a co-worker lent me some old cookbooks that belonged to her grandmother.  One was a slim collection of New England recipes and the other was a cookbook used in the Brookline, MA school system to teach Home Economics.  Both were published in the 30s and both had an assortment of unusual recipes, which are the ones I like best. 

   The New England Cookbook had a recipe which popped right out, Cambridge Favorite Cake.  What struck me were the instructions for preparing the cake.  It was like a mash up between a butter cake and a classic sponge.  Not only did you cream the butter with sugar, but in addition to beating the egg whites, you whipped the yolks with sugar and use five teaspoons of baking powder.  This recipe uses a lot of bowls, but it is worth it.  Did I mention that it makes three 9-inch round cake layers!  It is some cake.

  Intrigued with the unique preparation of the cake, I looked through my collection of old cook books to see if I could find any other cake recipes which used a similar preparation model.  I wanted to date the cake by trying to find the earliest recipe.  I found a similar recipe in a facsimile edition of the 1896 Fannie Farmer cook book.  In that book the cake recipe is called Boston Favorite Cake.  The instructions aren't as detailed as they are in the New England Cookbook, but the ingredient list is almost same, including the FIVE teaspoons of baking powder.  That amount of baking powder amazes me.  I wonder if there is an earlier account of this fine recipe?  I'll have to do some more sleuthing.

  I knew I wanted to make this cake and I mentioned it on Facebook.  A friend, Erica, asked me if it was a precursor to Boston Cream pie.  I told her I didn't know, but did tell her I was concerned about the amount of baking powder in the recipe.  I am not sure when double-action baking powder was invented, but was sure it wasn't as early as 1896, which is the earliest published date of the recipe I could find.  I thought that maybe I should halve the amount of baking powder.   This is when Stephen Exel entered the thread and  wrote that he had a copy of the recipe from a 1947 Culinary Institute of Chicago cookbook.  Since double-action baking powder was established by this time, he thought that the five teaspoons was correct.  He went on to say that:
>>the cake is meant to be 3 layers and is described as "tall, light, and elegant"<<

  Stephen also told me that this recipe appears in the latest edition of Fannie Farmer (100th Anniversary, 1996), but the recipe was modified to make two 8-inch round layers.  He also said that he wanted to make the cake as well, being equally intrigued by it.

  So with all this information and curiosity I decided to bake the cake on a Saturday morning and , Stephen was also baking his cake the same day.  I had just started the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Ariadne auf Naxos [because you need the right music for baking, or at least I do*] when I checked my email.  There was one from Stephen, he gave me a warning - Check the expiration date of the baking powder!  He checked his and it was way out of date.  I double checked my baking powder and it was fine.   I had thought I had just bought it and I was right, but memory sometimes fails.  I also decided to read the instructions on the baking powder label. Did you know that you are supposed to shake the baking powder before using it?  I didn't.  This made me think of a helpful hint, why not write the expiration date on the lid of the baking powder as well as a reminder to "SHAKE FIRST".

Okay here is the recipe Stephen emailed me, which is the same one I used:

Cambridge Favorite Cake
From the Culinary Institute of Chicago, 1947
3 1/4 c flour
5 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2/3 c butter
1 3/4 c sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 c milk
1 t vanilla extract
    1    Line 3 9" cake pans with parchment or waxed paper and preheat oven to 350°F.
    2    Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
    3    Cream butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until light and fluffy.
    4    Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
    5    Beat egg yolks with remaining sugar and add to butter mixture.
    6    Add dry ingredients to batter alternately with the milk; beat thoroughly.
    7    Add the vanilla and fold in the egg whites.
    8    Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes or until cakes test done.

 Kentie's notes:
  • I used cake/pastry flour and I sifted it before measuring it and then blended the baking powder and salt into it.
  • I beat my egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon of cream or tartar.  I also used a metal bowl which I wiped with vinegar beforehand.   I also did this before creaming the butter and beating the egg yolks.  If there is any oil on the beaters or in the bowl, the egg whites won't whip up.
  • I beat the yolks until they were a pale yellow and very thick. I mixed this into the creamed butter/sugar on a low speed for 30 seconds or so.
  • The butter should be very soft.  I used the microwave to soften it.  I put it in a bowl and zapped it at 10 second intervals until it was very soft, but not melted.
  • I added the vanilla extract to the milk. I increased the amount of vanilla to two teaspoons.
  • When adding the flour alternately with milk, I started and ended with flour.  I added 1/3 of flour, 1/2 milk; 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk; and ended with the last third of flour.  I read about this technique somewhere and I think it is so that you don't over beat the flour and toughen the gluten.  While, adding the flour and milk, I beat on medium speed until the flour and milk was incorporated.  It took maybe 30 seconds.  After all the flour was in, I beat it at high speed for a minute and scraped the sides of the bowl.  Make sure not to over beat!
  • Be delicate when folding the egg whites into the batter and fold them in just until you can't see any more egg white.
  • I divided the batter between the pans using a spoon.  I put a dollop of batter in each pan,  repeating until the batter was evenly distributed among the pans.  Make sure you spread the batter to the sides of the pan before baking.  There should be a noticeable dent in the center of the batter.  This will reduce the risk of a round cake top.
  • A note on oven temperature:  My copy of the recipe indicated baking the cake layers in  a 375º oven.  Since I used dark non-stick metal pans, I reduced the temperature to 350º.   But even this was too hot. When I checked my cakes at the 25 minute mark, they were done, and almost starting to burn.  I should have checked it at the 18 minute mark.  Next time I make this cake, I'll reduce the oven to 325º, if I use the dark metal pans again.

  So what do you do with three layers of delicious cake?  You fill and frost! 

  My filling and frosting idea came from John.  He suggested banana cream filling with a chocolate frosting.  Stephen filled his with a lemon curd and blueberry jam and covered it with a coconut butter-cream frosting.

Here are the recipes:
Lemon Curd
From Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 14th Edition (aka “the Red Plaid”)
1     c sugar
2     T cornstarch
3     t finely shredded lemon peel
6     T lemon juice
6     T water
6     egg yolks, beaten
1/2  c butter cut up

  1.  In a saucepan stir together sugar and cornstarch. Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.
  2. Stir half of the lemon mixture into the egg yolks. Return egg mixture to the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Add butter; stir until melted. Remove from heat. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

The coconut butter-cream frosting recipe will be in the April 2010 issue of Traditional Home.

The banana cream filling and chocolate frosting both come from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, 11th edition.

Banana Cream filling
1     c milk
1/2 c light brown sugar
3    T flour
1    egg
1    c pureed banana
2   T lemon juice

  1. Puree banana with the lemon juice.
  2. Cook the milk, sugar and flour until thick.
  3. Add the egg and beat.  Cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the banana and beat. 
  5. Press some wax paper on the surface of the filling and cool in the refrigerator.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Note:  Don't make this frosting until your cake is ready to be frosted.  This frosting is put on the cake immediately after it is cooked.  It is almost like a thick pudding.

For a triple layer 9-inch cake, double the recipe (if you're frosting the outside only).
2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate
1   c light brown sugar
3  T cornstarch
1  c boiling water
1  T butter
1  t vanilla

  1. Melt the chocolate and add the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.
  2. Add the boiling water.  Mix well and cook until thick and smooth. Stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and add the butter and flavoring and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. Frost your cake right away, don't dally!

If you decide to make this cake. Leave a comment. Better yet, send me some pictures to post.  You'll love this cake and I am sure it will be the one you will make for special occasions from now onward.  It's that good!


STEPHEN EXEL is a freelance food editor, writer, and recipe developer. He is contributing food editor for Traditional Home and a former food editor for Better Homes & Gardens magazine. His work has appeared in FreshHome, Cooking Club of America, DSM, Country Home, Figure, Deck Patio & Pool, and Beaverdale Living magazines. Recipe development clients include Quaker Oats and Heineken. A native Chicagoan, Stephen’s culinary career spans almost 30 years and includes food editorial; restaurants; and public relations and marketing for chefs, restaurants, food commodity boards, and branded food clients.

Erica keeps a blog at

*As a side note, I found out that Stephen was listening to Maria Callas when he baked his cake.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kentie's Delightful Nutmeg Cake

Preheat oven to 350º

2 1/4 c cake flour
3/4    c light brown sugar
1/2    c white sugar
1/4    t salt
2 1/2 t baking powder
1       t ground nutmeg
3/4    c Crisco
3/4    c milk
1       t lemon extract
3         eggs

    1    Sift together in a bowl the dry ingredients, including the nutmeg.
    2    Add the Crisco, most of the milk, flavoring and 1 egg.  Beat with an electric mixer 2 minutes or 200 strokes by hand.
    3    Add remaining eggs and milk.  Beat with an electric mixer 2 minutes or 200 strokes by hand.
    4    Divide into (3) 8-inch round cake pans or (2) 9-inch round cake pans and bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes.  Or make as cupcakes and bake for 20-25 minutes.  This recipe makes about 20 cupcakes, you can probably stretch it out to make a full 2 dozen.

Note:  Preparing your pans by greasing them with oil and lining with wax paper.

Also, use shiny silver pans, or disposable aluminum pans.  If you are using dark pans, reduce the oven temperature by 25º

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Memories, Friends and Ketchup

  Over the past few weeks I've been reading through The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph.  I bought a facsimile of it  in P-Town in 2008 while I was shopping with Kalvin of San Fransisco, from Hello Waffles fame. Kalvin was in P-Town for a Bear convention and I wanted to meet him.  I'd  communicated with him for over a year, but never met him.  So I popped down to P-Town, had lunch with him and then we went shopping.

  Since that time I've perused it many times imagining the dishes.  It may be my favorite, post colonial American cookbook.  It was originally published in 1824 and came about after Ms. Randolph's fortunes were diminished.  She was a well known for giving the best dinner parties before she lost her money, and afterwards ran a boarding house, which only sharpened her cooking savvy.  So what's a gal to do when she's down and out?  Collect her recipes and publish them.   This is similar to how The Joy of Cooking came in to being.  Do I see a pattern?

  The first recipe I tried from The Virginia Housewife was Walnut Ketchup.  We have a Black Walnut tree and it just seemed like fate.  I had just bought the book when the walnut tree just sprouted young tender green walnuts.  Just what was required.  Also, it sounded unusual and I really was curious about the taste.  And how did they taste?  Young walnuts, that were soaked in brine, taste like lime.  I was surprised.  The finished product, the Walnut Ketchup, was closer in flavor to Worcestershire sauce.  I will make it again, when I don't forget to harvest the young walnuts.  Maybe this summer.

  Until that time, there are plenty of other ketchups and sauces to make.  Just the other day, while I was looking through the book and thinking of the Walnut Ketchup I made in 2008, I come across a recipe for Oyster Ketchup.  At first I thought it was kind of disgusting, but then I remembered that fish based sauces have been around a long time. The Romans had Garum, a type of fermented fish sauce.  Today, cooks use anchovies for flavor and the Asian cooks was all sorts of fish sauce, which can be purchased in the international food aisle in the grocery store.  So I decided that Oyster Ketchup might not be so bad.  Also the recipe was super easy to make.

Oyster Ketchup
8 oz Fresh Oysters or canned [I'll talk about this later.]
8 oz dry white wine 
2 T kosher salt
1 t ground mace
1 t cayenne pepper

1.  Put the ingredients, except the brandy,  in a blender and liquefy the oysters.
2.  Put into a pan and boil for 15-20 minutes, skimming off the scum.  Reduce to about 1 1/2 cups.
3.  Put into a 2 cup bottle and add 1/2 c of brandy, more or less.
4.  Keep in the refrigerator.  I've had mine for several weeks and is still fresh.

  That's my take on Mary's recipe.  I've made it twice.  The first time I used 8 oz. of  'fresh' oysters and the result was a thin, milky, tasty liquid.  The second time I used two 4 oz cans of oysters and the result was thick and green, but still tasty.

  Mary suggests that Oyster Ketchup is best used in white sauces.  So I made a white sauce with the oyster ketchup and served it with fish.  It was good.  It is hard to describe the flavor.  You can taste the oyster but together with the mace and cayenne pepper, you have a unique flavor.  Try it out and let me know what you think of it and how you use it.  I was talking with a friend of mine, Leila, and she thought it would be good cooked with olive oil and garlic and served over pasta.  I haven't tried that, but I think it is a good idea.

  Next time I may write about the Mushroom Ketchup I am making right now.



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Devil's Food Cake

  It has been a while since my last entry.  I figure I owe you, dear reader, something scrumptious.  So with that in mind and also to fulfill a promise to my Facebook friends I am going to give you a recipe for Devil's Food cake which taste's, at least to me, like Devil Dogs minus the filling [and I've got a recommendation for that too.]

  I found this recipe by chance.  I was at the town dump's [Note: That would be transfer station for the nouveau riche upwardly mobile types]  book exchange hut, where I found volume 1 of Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.  It has a weird design, this volume has not only cake and cookie recipes, but also recipes for appetizers and fish dishes.  I wonder what fills volume 2? 

  So naturally I begin by reading the cake recipes, because I love baking cakes.  At the end of the cake section, Meta describes a new method for mixing cakes.  It is the one-bowl-method.  I thought to myself, "This looks familiar." And it was familiar because it was the same method used in the SPRY cake cookbooks.  And for those of you that know me, know that I love making those old fashioned SPRY cakes.  It makes me yearn for real SPRY, but alas I have to use substitutes.

  Basically the one-bowl-method is based on mixing the ingredients in a precise order: Dry ingredients, fats and some milk - Mix at medium speed for 2 ins, then add the eggs and remaining milk/liquid - Mix at medium speed 2 min.  It is important to add the fat first so it coats the flour and to only beat for 2 minutes at a time so you don't toughen the gluten.  At least that is my understanding.  The results are something else, the cakes bake evenly, rise well and nice and soft, yet firm enough to make a nice slice.  These cakes are something to be proud of.

Anyway, here is the recipe.  Leave a comment if you make it and let me know how the cake turned out.

Devil's Food Cake

3 oz of unsweetened chocolate [usually 3 squares] melted over hot water and cooled to room temperature.
2 cups of cake flour [Note: I didn't sift  the flour.]
1 t baking soda
1/2  t salt
1 1/3 c sugar
1/2 c shortening [I used very soft butter]
1 c milk [I used it right from the fridge]
1 t vanilla extract [I use my own homemade extract which beats all brands]
2 eggs [If you can get fresh eggs, they make a big difference in your cake]

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If using glass or dark pans reduce heat to 325 degrees.
2.  Prepare two 9 in cake pans by lightly greasing and lining the bottoms with wax paper. Don't grease the sides of the pans, just the bottoms and the wax paper.
3. Blend the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl.  [Sift if you want, but I can't be bothered.  I simply don't have the room in my kitchen.]
4. Add the melted chocolate, shortening, 3/4 cup of milk and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes, while scraping the sides of bowl with a spatula.
5. Stop beating and scrape the sides of the bowl and beaters.
6. Add the remaining milk, eggs and vanilla extract and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes, while scraping the sides of bowl with a spatula.
7. Divide batter into pans, pushing the batter up around the edge of the pan.
8. Bake 20 min or until cakes test done. 
9. Cool on racks and frost with French Butter Cream Frosting.

French Butter Cream Frosting

2/3 c sugar
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt
3/4 c milk
1/2 Lb. cold butter, take it out of the fridge an hour before you start and leave it in a fairly cool spot [i.e. not near the stove.]  It should be cold but  malleable.
1 t vanilla extract or whatever flavoring you like.

1.  Combine the flour, sugar, salt and milk and cook over medium heat until it is very thick. I use a whisk and stir constantly.  You've got to watch the pan closely, so don't fart around in the kitchen while this is on the stove.
2.  After the flour mixture is cooked, beat it until is smooth over a bowl of ice until it is room temperature.  It has to be cold enough so it won't melt the butter.  This is like making Pâte à choux but you don't add eggs. 
3.  Now for the fun!  With a hand mixer, beat the butter into the mixture a tablespoon at a time.  make sure the butter is incorporated until adding  more.  It should take 8-10 minutes. 
4.  Lastly, beat in the flavoring and chill 5-10 minutes before frosting the cake.

Thats it!  Hope you have fun making the cake and if you do make the cake, leave me a comment here.