August 26, 2008

Adding rummy raisins to a chocolate brownie

Debra, 25th August 2008, in “varieties of book mail”

Try mixing your rummy raisins into your favorite chocolate brownie recipe. Yummmm. A bizarre but excellent version mixes in rummy raisins AND a can of mixed nuts. You can use the cheapest of brownie mixes and they wind up tasting like a Chunky bar. (As an American during the 70s and a chocolate lover, I expect you’ll remember those.)

Margy’s Banana Bread Recipe (with leavening trick included)

Debra on 25th August 2008, in “varieties of book mail”

My fave Banana Bread recipe has a great trick for leavening: 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda and 2 tablespoons of Buttermilk*. The CO2 produced by the chemical reaction is terrific. Works really well with heavier flours.

*In the best of worlds, you can find a can of powdered buttermilk at the store. It lasts forever. A tablespoon of powder plus a tablespoon of milk makes a tablespoon of buttermilk. In the next best of worlds, you buy a pint of liquid buttermilk and freeze the leftovers (doesn’t hurt it at all). In the desperate of worlds, you mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in 1 cup of milk, which you stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Or use plain yogurt or sour cream. It’s the acid plus the baking soda, that you’re going for. The milk proteins also help.

Because I, too, am a member of the Lazy Slut Clan, I stick the bananas that are beyond hope in the freezer without peeling. Just IN THERE. When I run out of freezer space, I haul out the bananas and let them thaw in a bowl. The number of loaves of banana bread is determined by the number of bananas (total divided by 3). The pulp is now pre-mashed by the freezing process — I can tear off an end and squeeze it out like toothpaste. As a bonus for laziness, freezing releases banana oils from the skin increasing the banana flavor. I just pour the brown “tea” that collects in the bowl into the batter as well.

Here’s hoping this proves helpful — a small drop of return on the delight you’ve provided me over the years. (Just finished rereading Blue Sword AND Sunshine this week!)


Margy’s Banana Bread Recipe
Cream together:
1 stick butter (or substitute 1 cup of applesauce for a lowfat version)
1 cup sugar

Mix in:
3 ripe mashed bananas
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together:
1 teaspoon baking soda (NOT baking powder)
2 tablespoons buttermilk

Add buttermilk mixture to batter and mix well.

OPTIONAL: 1 cup chopped nuts.

Pour batter into a greased, floured loaf pan.  Bake at 325° for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Fasting Zucchini Bread

Maureen E, 21 August 08, comment to ‘Alternative Ginger Persons’


This is a recipe for eggless, dairyless zucchini bread. I made it a few days ago because we’re currently in the Dormition Fast (I love Wikipedia). It would also be suitable for any vegan types out there.


6 T water
1 c oil
2 c sugar
2c grated zucchini
3 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t cinnamon
1 T vanilla (yes, a tablespoon)
1/2 c chopped nuts

Mix water, oil, and sugar. Add grated zucchini and beat. Add flour, soda, and salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and nuts. Mix. Pour into two 9×5 inch greased loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool and remove from pans.

You don’t need to use a mixer for this–it goes together nicely by hand. Of course if you’re short like me, that means holding the bowl in the crook of your arm because the counter’s too high and THAT means hoping the batter doesn’t go all over what you’re wearing. Or wearing an apron which I always forget to take off.

Glazed Blueberry Pie

Libby, 20 August 08, comment to ‘Alternative Ginger Persons’


I offer you the quintessential blueberry pie recipe. This is based on year of research visiting friends who live in a blueberry field. My husband loves to pick berries and each day we tried different recipes for using them. (This was many years ago, well before menopause was even a thought in my mind) We scarffed down all the creations, but agree that this is THE BEST. It also works nicely with raspberries, too.


1 quart fresh blueberries (you may want more to fill the crust)
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold water
2 tablespoons lemon juice (maybe more if you like it)
**Cook all above until thick, but not solid, stirring constantly
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
**Put berries in a pre-baked pie shell. Pour the mixture over them.
Serve with whipped cream

If you need a pie crust recipe, this is a good one for a double crust from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook.
Sift 2 cups pastry or 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour with 1 teaspoon salt
Cut in 2/3 cup shortening
Then add 1/3 cup ICE water

For a pre-baked crust, baked 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes until it’s looks prettily browned. (I assume ‘you’ know to weigh the crust with dry beans while baking it empty. Otherwise it will puff up like crazy.)

Ginger Shortcake


Susan in Melbourne, 19 August 08, comment to ‘Alternative Ginger Persons’


185g butter
1 cup castor sugar
1 egg
1 3/4 cup plain flour
125g glace ginger
blanched almonds

Cream the butter and sugar, add egg, sift in the flour. Makes a very stiff dough, and you can use a very little bit of milk to soften it (but not too much).

Chop the glace ginger into smallish pieces. (Sticky glace stuff works well, *don’t* use crytallised ginger. Buderim Ginger, the main producer in Australia, also has a product called Naked Ginger, ie un-crystallised. That’s actually quite good in this recipe, having just a bit more bite than the glace.)

Add ginger to the cake mix, stir thoroughly.

Press into a greased springform pan, decorate liberally with blanched almonds, glaze with milk. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes. (Don’t dry it out by overcooking it.)

Dead easy, and utterly scrumptious. Enjoy!

Elevator Lady Cookies

Q, 18 August 2008, comment to ‘Alternative Ginger Persons


1 cup sugar
¾ cup shortening
1 egg
¼ c molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp cloves
¾ tsp ginger

Heat oven to 350°. Cream together sugar and shortening. Add the egg and molasses and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms. Scoop into balls and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 7-9 minutes. Yield depends on how big your scoops are and how much you eat (not that I ever do–no, not EVER) before baking.

It’s really easy–just my kind of recipe–and there’s none of this rolling out and cutting. You can also double the recipe and scoop balls of dough and freeze them, then transfer them to a plastic bag and bake them right from the freezer–it’ll take longer, but it works pretty well. Or you can freeze the baked cookies and take them out every so often so you don’t eat them all at once. Yes, I love my freezer when it comes to cookies.

Alternative Ginger Persons

Robin, 18 August 2008

These are absolutely not gingerbread.  They’re also not necessarily persons.  They can be animals, vegetables or minerals, and a bad batch might make quite a good game of this.* 

            They are also what I would have made yesterday, if I’d either had the time or could afford the calories.  Or both, of course, but to hope for such a concatenation would be greedy.  The original recipe came out of a newspaper when I was a teenager, but I’ve copied it over at least twice since then, and even so the page is rather brown and spotty.  It is however very easy to find in the sweet-baking notebook because there is a slimmish plastic bag slipped in next to it, containing the surviving highlights of forty years of ginger cookie templates.  I’ve done horses, dogs, cats, birds, reindeer, hedgehogs, sailboats, convertibles (classics only), wedding cakes (sic), books, houses, ball gowns, washing machines . . . okay, sometimes my friends and I have celebrated some rather odd things.   I’ve also done roses, but the stems are the very devil.  You’re better off doing a bouquet, which you will have to sort with lines of frosting, but you still have to do a cut out thing with leaves and at the end you want to lacquer it and submit it to the Tate Modern, not have someone eat it in ten seconds, however many times they say ‘ooooh delicious.’**  Stems, which is to say tails, is my excuse for never having essayed a sighthound of any variety.  And all those long skinny legs.  And the ears.  Ugh.  But now there’s only one dog birthday a year instead of three I may have to try it, some 17 August.

            They taste delectable, they make excellent funny shapes***, people are usually thrilled with them† . . . and the dough is a sod to work with.   But I like them so much I keep making them.  Although not very often.  When there’s something really important to celebrate.

1 c butter

1 ½ c white sugar

1 egg

Grated rind one orange

½ tsp orange essence

2 T molasses

3 c sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger††

½ tsp cloves

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg, beat fluffy.  Add orange rind, essence, and molasses, and beat till fluffy again.  Mix flour and spices, stir in thoroughly.

            Chill dough at least two hours, four is better.  If you can remember, make the dough the night before.†††  Then slice bits off and roll them to about 1/8th inch–certainly less than a quarter inch.  I roll it out on the cookie sheet (therefore you don’t want one with tall sides) to save wear and tear, and then plonk my patterns down, cut around them, and peel off the scraps.  This dough is, as you will have noticed, very buttery, and your cookie sheet doesn’t need greasing, although I usually use parchment paper so later on in the process the new cookies aren’t picking up a thin veneer of old crumbs–it also means you can leave the cookies in situ on the paper till they cool enough to solidify and are safe to move, but can keep the cookie sheet in action.  10-12 minutes 350°–or possibly 8-15, depending on your oven and how crisp you like them.  You don’t want them soft, or they’ll break (especially if you’ve done something foolhardy with a pattern), but I personally feel you don’t want them to brown either. 

            There’s also the question of adding more flour to make the dough easier to work.  I don’t find that the second batch, made out of the first batch’s scraps, are noticeably tougher for having been smushed together and rolled out again, although I tend to save the third go out from any dramatic presentation, in case they’ve begun to feel a little tired and emotional by then.  I also don’t think a little flour on your hands and your rolling pin ever dimmed any cookie’s brilliance, but if you find yourself having to coat everything with flour you might be better off to put the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator again to recongeal.  It does get sticky as it warms up.

             And you really should decorate these.  My books, ball gowns and washing machines certainly would have been a lot harder to identify without a few piped icing pages, frills and control panels.  I use a slightly thinned down basic vanilla buttercream frosting, and I try to use it fairly liberally because the frosting goes a treat with these cookies.  Raisins are traditional, but I feel they’re superfluous in this case.  Oh, and if you break any legs, stems or tails, you can sometimes glue them as it were gingerly back together with frosting.  But treat any such wounded veterans tenderly.


Surviving Non-Dairy

skating librarian: comment to “In Honour” on August 11, 2008   Nuts, water, no chemicals …

This is all you need to survive being a non-dairy person … the ” ice cream” you can make with it is heavenly (using the sweetened version). I started using it to satisfy the cravings of my dairy/ egg intolerant friends and even folks who can eat Ben and Jerry’s ’til the cows come home swear it is fantastic.

So far I’ve done various chocolate versions, as well as raspberry, wild strawberry, lingonberry, and peach and have moved the ice cream maker from storage to center stage. Everyone from my elderly parents to the fussiest kids and my health food phobic brother has declared it deluxe. And the best thing is that it’s so easy … you dump a carton into a blender or bowl, mix in your flavoring, put it in the ice cream machine  and you go do something else until it’s done.

I will be experimenting with other “creamy” things in the near future. If I come up with the results I expect I will keep you posted. Don’t know if anyone is importing it in the UK, but if they can ship in fruit from Chile, South Africa,  and Australia …somebody ought to be importing mimiccreme.

Alternative Cranberry Sauce

Diane in MN: Comment to “In Honour” on August 11, 2008

Here’s an alternative cranberry sauce recipe that’s so easy it’s a joke:

Take 1 12-ounce package of cranberries, add 1 cup grade-A maple syrup, and boil together until cranberries pop.
(You want the grade-A syrup for this recipe so the maple flavor isn’t overwhelming.)

This does *not* come out too sweet.  I like a rather spicy cranberry sauce, so I add cinnamon and cloves to the mix.  It would also be easy to add orange peel or even orange extract.

****Have lots of friends over when you make it****

Yes, SHARE those calories! ;)

Birthday Biscut Cinnamon Rolls

Rebecca WinkleBeam: comment to “In Honour” on August 11, 2008

I just turned 33 on 8-8-8 and thought that I’d share my favorite birthday recipe.  This is the smell I always woke up to on my birthdays.  (and still wake up to when I visit my parents in the States)

_Birthday biscuit cinnamon rolls_

2.5 cups flour (I use whole grain)
0.5 cups wheat germ/bran
1.5 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (or a bit more than 1 Tbs Honey
3/4 cup butter or shortening
1 cup milk

3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon (more or less, to taste)
Chopped nuts
Chopped dried fruit

Sift and mix dry ingredients.
Cut in butter*, using two knives or a pastry blender
Add milk and stir until it just mixed.

Knead on floured surface until dough just holds together and then roll out to 1/2-inch thickness.

Dampen dough surface with a little water (or melt 2 Tbs butter and spread on surface)

Spread sugar mixture on surface and sprinkle with optional nuts and fruit.  Roll up and use a serrated knife (hint you can put a little flour on the knife if you’re dough’s sticky) to cut into 2 inch wide pieces.

Place on tray and bake in pre-heated oven at 400 F or 180 C for 13 to 20 minutes or golden brown on top.

*There’s a trick to making a good biscuit dough.  The butter needs to be cut in until it’s fine clumps, but not too fine, and after the milk’s added the dough needs to be mixed enough but not too much.  I have to admit that it’s taken me 10 years to make fluffy melt-in-your-mouth biscuits as good as my mother’s.  (of course I didn’t grow up on a farm making biscuits daily for the farm hands)  So if the biscuits fall apart the dough wasn’t kneaded enough and if they’re bricks they have been kneaded too much.

Rebecca WinkleBeam

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