December 17, 2008

Tea cookies

Marian: Recipe Thread: December 17, 2008

This is what I make most frequently when I feel like I need to bake something for person/event x but can’t afford to try anything new and therfore possibly disasterous. They are demanded every month by the little old ladies in my mother’s bridge group (unless that’s just her way of getting me to make them). Anyway, that being the case, these are also what I make most often around Christmas, and the association has stuck. The recipe is a (very) much adulterated version of tea cookies that my grandmother used to bake (I was only allowed one cookie at a time, which is another reason why I bake them whenever I have an excuse).

1/2 cup butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar (preferably 1/2 brown well packed, and 1/2 white)
1 tbsp milk or cream
1 cup flour (sifted if you have the patience, which I almost never do)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup quick oats (or slow oats, blitzed to a similar consistency in your food processor or brave coffee grinder)
1/4 cup – 2/3 cup of shredded coconut, depending on your threshold for the stuff (and not dessicated, if possible)
1/4 cup of ground nuts. I like hazelnuts best. (optional)
icing sugar for dusting
good raspberry jam for nesting (I like a tart jam with these – something where sugar is the second ingredient. Although a jar of homemade is obviously ideal, for those who are lucky enough to have Aunt Mildred bottling away all year long.

Preheat your oven to 350, and butter a couple of pans (or pans with parchement on them – in which case still butter the parchement)

-Cream the butter.
-Beat in the egg, then the vanilla, then the sugar, then the milk/cream.
-Add the flour and the baking powder and soda in three or four stages, until it’s nice and smooth-like.
(if you were mixing electric up until this point, then switch to a fork or whatever you like best – I just go fork all the way, myself)
-Add the oats, then the coconut and the ground nuts.
-When everything is mixed, drop by mounded spoonfuls onto your trays. Depending on how buttery you were willing to get, or not get, these can either stick pretty close to the shape you dropped them in, or flatten and expand. Allow some room in any case, and let the first round be your guide.
-My enthusiastic oven cooks these in as little as six minutes, but maybe 8-10, depending. Until they’re turning pale gold at the edges.
-Right out of the oven, push a little finger indent into each of them while still soft.
-Switch over to racks when they’re sturdy enough not to fall apart, and when they’re entirely cool, dust icing sugar over them artfully, and put about a teaspoon or so of jam into each of your indents.

Obviously these can be done without jam at all. They’re also good with raisins, without (or still with) the coconut, with a teaspoon of cinnammon, etc.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Robin: December 11, 2008: And we have to get on with the food

This was also from Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase to begin with, before I took it apart and put it back together again.  Mind you, her original is fine.  I just like mine better.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 large sweet potatoes

½ c slightly salted butter, melted

1 c all-purpose unbleached white flour

½ to 1 c wholemeal or (preferably) wholemeal spelt flour

¼ c malt syrup, for choice.  I didn’t discover this stuff till I moved over here, so it may not be available in the States.  Otherwise ¼ c honey is good, or 2T molasses, or 2T molasses and 2T granulated sugar.  All of these will be much sweeter than the malt, which is fairly subtle

2 tsp baking powder

Stab two large sweet potatoes several times with a knife and put them in a moderate oven (in a pan. They will leak) for 30-45 minutes, till they are very soft.  Let cool enough so you can handle them.  Then cut (lengthwise) in half and scrape out the contents into a bowl.  Add the melted butter and any runny sweetener and beat till smooth.  An electric mixer is a boon here.  When you’re done if the mixture is any warmer than tepid, let it cool some more.

Now beat in the first cup of flour and if you’re using any granulated sugar, the sugar.  I do this with a spoon although I suppose you could go on with a mixer.  Then start adding the wholemeal flour roughly by handfuls.  Shortly before you think you’ve added enough flour–you’re going to have to roll or pat this out, so it can’t be too sticky–add the baking powder.

You can then do it right, and roll it out (flour both your counter and the rolling pin), cut with a biscuit cutter, gather your scraps together and reroll and recut.  This does make very stylish proper biscuits.  Or you can cheat, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and pat or roll (depending on how clever you are about using a rolling pin over a cookie sheet, ie with a brim, it does take a little practise) the dough out–don’t try to fill it up to the edges:  the dough will be fairly elastic, and you can tell when it’s stretched as far as it wants to–and then cut it up into about twenty rectangles, or whatever shape and number look good to you as you stare down at that cookie sheet whilst thoughtfully waving a knife, which will grow back together again when they bake, but not too badly.

Bake at 425° (or possibly 450 if you trust your oven) 15-20 minutes.  Eat them as soon as you won’t burn your mouth.  Gloriously unspeakable vice includes splitting them, running them briefly under the grill to get faintly brown and crusty, and then loading ‘em with butter and maple syrup.

Pumpkin and Pear Bread Pudding

Robin: Pumpkin Continued: December 12, 2008

I love pumpkin. I love pears. I love this recipe. The original is again out of Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase. This book seems to live on the kitchen table at the moment. Possibly something to do with the ice on the windows, and the entertaining noise of someone skiing down the hill in a car.

This is the kind of fabulously labour-intensive recipe that you’ll probably only even dream of trying around the holidays, when you already have too much to do, because humans are a perverse species. It’s like, yes! I still have 1,000,000 presents to wrap, the hall to deck with ivy, forty-three gallons of eggnog to make for the Christmas fete, and the ostrich to comb . . . I know! Let’s make a pudding that takes two days, so I have to have started it yesterday to have it ready for dinner tonight, when we’re entertaining Santa, the mayor, the town crier, and the local rugby team, who did such a grand job filling in as elves and reindeer!

Part One: The Day Before: Pumpkin bread

Note that the original recipe has you making only one loaf of bread. This seems to me foolish. Making bread is making bread so you might as well get two loaves out of all that effort.

Enough yeast for two loaves of bread. I (a) always use less than they tell you to, and (b) do it by the old pour-it-into-your-palm-till-it-looks-right method, so you should probably follow the directions on the packet.

1 c warm water

½ c slightly salted butter, melted and cooled

2 c pumpkin puree, which is about what you’ll get out of a standard jar/tin, which is another reason to make two loaves. I’ll be telling you to roast your own pumpkin for the custard, but even I will admit that fresh pumpkin is a bit wasted in bread. If you’re making this insane recipe at all, you’re probably pretty fond of pumpkin, so you’ll be able to find uses for the rest of that fresh roasted pumpkin* after you’ve abstracted 2 c for the custard

¼ c honey

2 large eggs

@ 10 c flour: I use approximately 5 c white spelt, 4 ½ c wholemeal spelt, and ½ c barley flour. I usually stir in 4 c white and 4 c wholemeal and the barley, and then top up by handfuls as the dough comes together.

The day, or even two or three days before you want to serve this ridiculous pudding, put the yeast in the warm water with a little of the honey, stir, and let ‘prove’, which is to say wait until it produces bubbles of fuzzy froth on the surface. I do this in a measuring jug, because you want the water warm, and a big mixing bowl takes too much warming up. While you’re waiting for the yeast, put the pumpkin, the butter, the rest of the honey and the eggs in your hugest mixing bowl, and beat them together well. Then add the yeast mixture and stir it in, gently and kindly, because yeast is alive and appreciates thoughtful handling.

Now start mixing in the flour. I always let a ‘sponge’ sit for twelve hours or so, but this is a personal thing; I will point out that for those of us who do eat flour but probably shouldn’t, a nice long sponge makes the final product easier to digest. If you want to do this, you want to use a third to a little under half the flour for the sponge–I use 3 c wholemeal and the barley, and about ½ c white. Mix it in, cover the bowl, put it somewhere relatively warm–in this weather I put spongeing bread on a very tall trivet over the Aga–and leave it.

Whenever you’re ready to be getting on, mix in the rest of the flour. As soon as the Thing in the Bowl even remotely begins to resemble dough I start flouring my left hand and kneading with one hand while I’m still stirring and scraping with the other. If you’re used to making ordinary bread, this will be a little stickier than you’re used to, and the eggs and all that butter make it fluffier and crumblier. I knead in the bowl, which saves washing the counter, but I continue to add handfuls of flour till it sticks to itself more than to me. You want a nice silky stretchy soft homogenous lump by the end. How long it takes depends on how strenuously you knead.

If you’ve done it on the counter like a good girl (or boy) you can clean the bowl out and oil it lightly and put the dough back in it. If you’re a lazy slut like me, just leave it in the bowl where it’s been all along. In forty-plus years of making bread I have never had bread fail for having been kneaded and left in a dirty bowl. Cover it again though so it doesn’t get too much of a crust over the top. Although chances are you’ll come back to a tent, so be sure whatever you cover it with is washable, and you can lightly grease the top surface, although I don’t usually bother (see: lazy slut). Don’t use cling film: you want the dough to rise, not be trapped in the bowl, beating feebly at its plastic ceiling and crying, Help, help, let me out. Leave it somewhere reasonably warm and reasonably draught-free. People get religious about rising bread dough. It’s not necessary.

Let rise till approximately double, about an hour; maybe more, depending on your climate and your original sponge and your quality of kneading.

Punch it down and let it rest while you butter the bread pans. USE BUTTER. Butter is a FAR better stickproofer than anything else out there. Some things cannot be improved on. Butter is one of them. Knead your dough a few more times and then pull it in half. Lightly flour your counter and then pat each half out in a rectangle approximately the width of the length of your bread pan: and then roll it up snugly to make a bread-pan-sized loaf. Put two loaves in two pans. Let rise about half an hour: it shouldn’t quite double this time, but it should round up out of the pans nicely. While you’re waiting, preheat the oven to 400°F.

This is also an excellent time to cut your small sweet pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, lightly oil** the cut sides, put them face down in a shallow baking pan, stab them carelessly a few times, and prepare to put them in the oven with the bread.

Bake about 35 minutes, turn the oven down to 350, then gently turn the loaves out of the pans and put back in the oven for another 15-25 minutes. The crust should be brownish and crusty, and any of you who make bread know the famous and famously misleading business about rapping on the bottom for a hollow sound: if it sounds hollow, it’s done. Well, maybe. But because of all the pumpkin, eggs, and butter in this, it will sound differently hollow. Feh.

Let cool thoroughly. You’ll need about three-quarters of one loaf for the pudding; when it’s completely cool–it won’t slice properly if it’s warm, and you’ll squash it and make a mess–hack off the quarter loaf and then slice the rest, and if you have room, lay the slices out somewhere overnight to get stale. I usually just stand them roughly upright in a bowl because I do not have room.

Part Two: Either the Day Before or The Day: Pears

2 c sweet apple cider: this is an American recipe, so I assume she means non-alcoholic. English semi-dry, which is to say faintly sweet, hard cider, is terrific in this recipe, but if I’m using it I omit the Amaretto and may use Calvados, or maybe just a little more cider. On the other hand, you can also get hard perry over here, which is gorgeous and divine and another reason for living in England, in which case I use Poire William, when I happen to have had enough foresight to lay some in. But this recipe is such a nightmare you have to kind of train for it, so I usually do have it: also a bottle of Poire William (or Calvados) will sit quietly and unobtrusively in the back of a cupboard for years, being pulled out and dusted off occasionally for less arduous cakes and things.

2 T Amaretto (or whatever)

½ c dark brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp allspice

6 biggish, relatively firm pears, peeled, cored, and sliced

Put everything but the pears in a saucepan big enough to hold the pears too. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the pears and cook gently–you may want to turn the heat down a little–about 10 minutes. Remove pears (with slotted spoon) and set aside. Simmer–don’t boil–the liquid till it’s reduced to a thin syrup. Put the pears back in the pan and coat them well all over. Set aside, but if you’re doing this on the day, keep warm if you can. You want the pears to go on sucking up the syrup without getting so cooked they turn to mush. If you think of it, do the pears the day before when you make the bread, and just put the pan with the syrupy pears in a corner somewhere and let time do the job.

Butter a 15 x 10″ baking dish*** and preheat the oven to 350°F. Half-chop and half-tear your nine slices of semi-stale pumpkin bread into 9 c of big crumbs, and put in the pan.

Part Three: Definitely on the Day: Pumpkin Custard

Now the custard, or, Why I Will Probably Never Make This Pudding Again or at Least Not Until I Brace Myself to Experiment with Milkless Custardy Things

2 ½ c milk

¾ c heavy cream

6 large eggs

2 c pumpkin puree, and you want it fresh. It really makes a difference. So I hope you baked your pumpkin like I told you to.

¾ c granulated sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp allspice

3 T Amaretto, Poire William, Drambuie, or Calvados, depending on what appeals to you and what’s in the back of your liquor cabinet

Scald milk and cream together over medium heat. Remove and let cool a little. In a bowl big enough to hold everything, whisk the rest of the ingredients bar the liqueur together. Then whisk in the scalded milk and cream, and the liqueur last. Pour the custard evenly over the crumbs in the baking dish.

Set the dish in yet a larger dish and add enough (hot) water to come 1 inch up the side of the inner dish. Bake about 40 minutes. Spoon the pears and syrup over the top and bake till the custard is set, about 20-25 minutes longer.

Serve warm. (You can serve it at room temperature, but warm is better. Do not serve straight out of the refrigerator. You don’t want it to have sat around long enough to go in the refrigerator anyway: things get soggy and separate and become other things in the refrigerator. It’ll still be good the next day but by the third day I imagine it would be getting pretty sad, if it ever lasted that long. ) There’s this whole extra recipe for Caramelized Amaretto Cream to go with it, but I start losing the will to live about then, and have never made it. I recommend good old fashioned whipped cream or pouring cream myself.

* * *

* And I can give you suggestions.

** In this case, use oil. Butter will not stick to raw wet pumpkin.

*** Effing cookbook writers and their millions of variously sized pans, which they have the cupboardry^ to house. A few lines down she/I am going to tell you to put this vast object in yet a larger pan. Every time I make this–partly because I don’t make it very often–I get to this point and say ARRRRRGH. I make it in two 8″ square pans because that’s what I’ve got, and on the rack below them–and as close to them as possible–in the oven I put my 13 x 9″ pan and keep it full of water. This works. It’s not elegant, and it goes in a footnote because it’s so obviously a Heath Robinson apparatus, and for all I know the texture of my pudding is all wrong, but I wouldn’t know, would I?, because I’ve never made it the right way. Anyone wants to try doing it both ways and reporting back, feel free. Meanwhile my deviant pudding is excellent, if I do say so myself.

^ To coin a word that needs coining


B_twin_1, 22 October 08, comment to ‘Disaster’


90g butter, melted
1/2 cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1/2 cup (60g) packaged ground almonds

125g butter, chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) honey
1 1/2 cups (210g) slivered almonds

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.
2. Press into greased 20cm x 30cm lamington pan.
3. Bake in moderate oven about 12 minutes or until browned; cool.
4. Spread with hot topping, bake in moderate oven about 15 minutes or until browned; cool in pan.

Combine butter and honey in small heavy-based pan, stir over heat until butter is melted. Simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until mixture is a light caramel colour; stir in nuts.

Fruit Loaf

B_twin_1: Recipe Thread: December 14, 2008

Fruit Loaf
1/4 cup milk powder
3/4 cup sultanas
1 cup All Bran
1 cup chopped apricots
3/4 cup raw (granulated) sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups wholemeal self raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon (when I am not making a show cake I add more)

Combine milk powder, water, sultanas, All Bran, apricots and sugar. Stand for 2 hours. Stir in sifted flour and cinnamon. (Let’s face it – wholemeal flour doesn’t really sift. So I don’t.) Spoon mixture into a greased, lined 23cm x 13cm loaf pan, bake at 180C, 55-60 minutes until cooked.

I find it keeps very well. Easily a week + in a cool dark place in an airtight container. Well it would…. if it didn’t vanish really quickly. It’s a very handy recipe if you have someone who can’t have eggs.

Bran Tea Loaf

AJLR: Recipe Thread: December 14, 2008

Bran Tea Loaf


All Bran (the breakfast cereal from Kelloggs – I’m assuming this is widely available? If you can’t get it, use ordinary bran but only about 3/4 of the quantity. It doesn’t work with Bran Flakes – not enough bran in that)
Dried mixed fruit
Sugar (any granulated type is fine)
Milk (I use semi-skimmed but any type is fine)
Self-raising flour (or plain/all-purpose flour with a rounded tsp of baking powder to a mug-full)

To make a mixture that slightly more than half fills a 2 lb loaf tin, you will need an average-sized (half a pint or 10 fl oz) coffee mug of each of the above ingredients.

Put a mug-full of each of the first four ingredients together into a good-sized mixing bowl and leave to soak for an hour (needs slightly less soaking time if you’re using skimmed milk). Grease the loaf tin (or any other baking/cake tin of approximately the same capacity) well – this really does need to be well greased and I’ve found butter works much better than oil. After the hour’s soaking time, add the mug-full of flour and stir everything well. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and put into the middle of an oven, pre-heated to 200 degrees C (gas mark 6), for an hour, checking from 45 minutes onwards if you’re using a tin that allows the mixture to spread out more than a loaf tin will. It’s done when the top is firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

This will keep for 4 days if kept well-wrapped (not that it usually has a chance to, around here…)

Cheese pudding

Mrs. Redboots: Recipe Thread: December 13, 2008

Here’s the recipe for the cheese pudding I mentioned in the other thread:

Serves 2
4 slices wholemeal bread, crusts removed, spread thinly with butter.
60 g strong cheese, grated
300 ml milk
2 eggs
Seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic powder…. whatever.

Put 2 slices of the bread butter side up in an oven-proof bowl, sprinkle with half the cheese. Put the other two slices on top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Whisk the eggs, milk and seasoning together and pour over the bread and cheese. Bake in a moderate oven (gas 4-5, 185 C) for 45 minutes.

Low salt popcorn experiment

Melissa Mead: Recipe Thread: December 12, 2008

Here’s an experiment I just tried, for anyone who likes popcorn but has to cut down on salt. I haven’t worked out exact amounts yet.

1 large mixing bowl full of popped popcorn.
1/2 stick melted butter.
Approx. 1/2-1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and turmeric.

Stir the spices into the melted butter. (Chili powder makes a nice twist, but adds salt.) Drizzle the mixture onto the popcorn. Stir until the popcorn turns golden. Enjoy!

ArtfulMagpie’s compromising banana cake

ArtfulMagpie: Recipe Thread: December 12, 2008

Here’s something I made recently. It was my husband’s birthday, and he requested “white cake…or yellow cake…or, is there such a thing as like, banana cake?” Which of course there is, but it’s more like banana-bread texture than cake texture, which wasn’t what he wanted.

Soooo I compromised and made a yellow cake from a very basic recipe, but I made a banana icing from scratch! It came out very very tasty…sweet and with a hint of banana-y-ness. The longer it sits, the more the banana flavor comes out, though. And it was really quite simple!

* 1/4 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 cup mashed bananas (which came out to being about a banana and a half when I made it)
* 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar


1. Cream together butter, banana, lemon juice and vanilla.

2. Slowly beat in confectioners’ sugar, adding more if needed to make a nice fluffy, spreadable icing.

Makes about 2 1/3 cups.

Mrs Redboots’ Sweet Potatoes

Mrs Redboots: December 11, 2008: Recipe Thread

This is one of my favourite sweet potato recipes, which I made earlier in the week. Vegan; dairy- and gluten-free, but contains peanuts. Serves four, with a green vegetable or two on the side.

2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
1 large onion
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional, but I’m one of those who think you can never have too much garlic!)
1 red or yellow sweet pepper
1-2 chilli peppers, depending on strength
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin aduki or other red beans
Seasoning to taste, including vegetable stock powder
2 tbs peanut butter
Roasted peanuts or cashew nuts for sprinkling

Peel and chop onion. I always give my onions 3 minutes in the microwave, but you could give them 20 minutes in a little olive oil on top of the stove instead.

Peel potatoes, and cut into bite-sized chunks; cut the sweet pepper into strips, chop the chillis and crush or chop the garlic. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put all the above into a slow cooker, add the tin of tomatoes and just enough water to come to the top of the pile. Season and stir vigorously, then leave to cook on “auto” for at least 5 hours. If you don’t have a crock-pot or slow cooker, give it 3 hours in the bottom of a very slow oven, but it’s apt to go a bit mushy if you do, I find (I have cooked this recipe this way when making double-quantity for a church lunch).

When ready to serve, put your peanut butter into a bowl, add 2 tbs of the cooking liquid and stir vigorously until it dissolves down. Now add this back into the casserole and stir.

Serve sprinkled with peanuts or cashew nuts, and a green vegetable on the side. Utterly delicious, and of course, you can make it in the morning and it will wait until you’re ready to eat in the evening.

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