February 21, 2011

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

30 Nov 2010, Robin ‘Morning-after Pumpkin Pie’.

1 9” unbaked pie crust

1 c mashed cooked or tinned pumpkin (DON’T use so-called ‘pumpkin pie filling’)

1 c apple butter: herewith begins the lecture. It all depends on your apple butter. You want something as thick as possible, and preferably not too sweet, but use what you like

¼ to ½ c dark brown sugar, depending on your apple butter

Again, the amount of spices you use will depend on the spiciness of your apple butter. So, approximately ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp ginger. I like sweet spices and would expect to use 1 tsp cinnamon, but if I’m using apple butter that I also made, this may be overkill

3 eggs

½ c evaporated milk

Probably a tablespoon or two of ordinary milk

Combine pumpkin, apple butter, brown sugar, spices. (Mush up the brown sugar in a little of the pumpkin first, so it’ll beat in smoothly.) Beat eggs together vigorously, then lightly into the pumpkin. Stir in about half the evaporated milk and look at what you’ve got. It should look gloppy but not runny. (It helps if you’re used to what ordinary pumpkin pie filling looks like raw. This will be darker and have more texture because of the apple butter, but it should be about the same consistency.) If it’s already runny, stop now. If it still looks kind of La Brea Tar Pitsy, stir in the rest of the evaporated milk. Now look at it again. If it’ll actually keep its shape in a spoon, that’s too gloppy: add a little milk. If it slowly oozes over the edge of the spoon—perfect.

Pour in the unbaked pie shell. I cover the edges with tin foil so they don’t burn. 400°F for about 10 minutes, then lower to 350° and start checking after about 20 more minutes. You want it set but not shrivelled, and you want to take the tin foil off the edges of the crust about 15 minutes before you take the pie out. I usually figure 45-50 minutes total.

As I recall it took me four days to get through it. It was gone by the weekend—I did have a friend round once for a cup of tea and a slice of pie. That was back in the days when I had a metabolism however . . . and also I lived alone, so if I wanted to have a glass of cranberry juice and a quarter of a pie for supper, it was my business.

Apple butter

4 Dec 2010, Robin ‘Pumpkin, winter, etc’.

Grah. I keep meaning to look for my old apple butter recipe, and keep forgetting. However. You don’t really need a recipe: Take your apples. Core, peel and chop them—and you don’t have to chop them fine, just chop them—put them in a large, heavy, wide-bottomed pan with as little water as you can get away with—or better yet, apple juice—and boil, gently, till they go mushy. At this point use a potato masher on them. I personally find this a lot less effort than all that chopping-small stuff. Depending on the tartness of your apples and how sweet you want your butter you’ll need somewhere around ¼ to ½ c sugar (brown or white: I like brown) per cup of apple pulp, and if you mix it in with a whisk you’ll get the last of the lumps out. Again, depending on how spicy you like your butter, you’ll want anywhere from about ¼ to 1 tsp of cinnamon per cup, and about half that of allspice Then turn the heat down to low and let it cook forever. If you want to stand there and stir it you can have the heat a little higher, and it’ll take a little less time but . . . not enough less. Stirring is one of the most boring occupations on the planet.† You should be in the same house with it, however, your large, heavy, wide-bottomed pot with your future apple butter in it, because you need to stir it occasionally and make sure it’s not sticking. It will eventually congeal into . . . apple butter. I don’t remember how long it takes, but it’s one of these put it together before lunch and it’ll be done by dinner things, and then you’ll have fresh apple butter for breakfast tomorrow. As you’d expect with something that slow-cooks and is full of spices, it improves with a little age.

I never bottled it the way you’re supposed to. A couple of big jars of apple butter in the back of the fridge didn’t last long enough to be a nuisance. And the way I make it—without stirring—if you made it in a big batch it would take FOREVER to cook down to sludge. My way it’s simple enough that doing it again is not a big deal.

One more warning: you lose a lot of pectin—the stuff that stiffens the applesauce it into something you can spread—by peeling and coring. The first time I made it I’d automatically peeled and cored, because that’s what you do before you cook apples, and then I reread the recipe and thought, oh, frell . . . and besides, sieving the muck to get the peels and cores out is again to me way too much like work, like endless stirring. So I did it my way and it still came out butter, and has always come out butter†† every other time I’ve made it my way. I don’t know if I’ve been extremely lucky in my apples, or what. So you might want to follow a proper recipe.

Sweet Cranberry-Cider Sauce

1 Jan 2011, Robin in ‘Happy New Year’.

1 lb cranberries

16 fluid oz British cider. Which is to say, alcoholic. If you can get British/hard cider, use whatever kind you like to drink, which is to say this is not the time to go cheap. If you can’t get hard cider, use about 1 ½ c ordinary cider and ½ c port, Madeira, sherry, or whatever of that kind of thing you have around. You ought to have something of this sort because it’s great for enlivening dull food. You could certainly use Calvados or some such but I think that’s getting on for apple overkill myself.

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp (ground) cloves

¼ tsp nutmeg

about ¼ c, somewhat depending on how dry your cider/etc is and how sweet you like your sauce, dark brown sugar

2 oz preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, with its syrup

Put the cider in a pan with everything else except the preserved ginger. Bring to boil, boil gently till cranberries pop. Take off the heat, add the ginger. Let cool. Reheat just to warm to serve. You can warm the pudding too. I generally don’t, but you don’t want it cold from the refrigerator.

Linked in Robin’s post to ‘Sticky Cranberry Ginger Pudding’.

Spicy cranberry gingerbread pudding

1 Jan 2011, Robin ‘Happy New Year’.

The original recipe wants you to make eight individual puddings. You must be frelling joking. You’re already going to have to make the sauce as well as the pudding. Life is way too short to spend that much time buttering pudding basins, not to mention cleaning the suckers afterward, since in my experience putting them through the dishwasher is pretty futile. I don’t know, are there Miniature Pudding Basin Liners like there are paper muffin cups? The latter entirely revolutionised my baking half a million years ago when I discovered them, or someone started making them, which I think is what happened—some muffin-eating industrialist’s wife told him that paper muffin cup liners would not only mean he could have fresh muffins every day but that they would thereby be made wealthy***.

Anyway. In the absence of miniature pudding basin liners, you can make it in an 8” square pan, although a 6-cup Bundt is ideal because it looks pretty without being nearly so much work.†

1 ¾ c all-purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp (ground) ginger

¼ tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 medium/large eggs, room temp

5 T soft butter

¼ c blackstrap molasses

¼ c dark brown sugar. If you’re a wimp you can use white sugar

1 heaped teaspoon freshly grated ginger root

4 oz preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, with its syrup

about 1 c water

Sift the dry stuff together. Squash the butter and sugar together thoroughly, then add molasses, then eggs. Beat well. Then start adding flour alternately with water, and mixing each time, starting with flour: half the flour, then half the water, then half the flour . . . then stop. At this point add the two gingers (the ground went in with the spices in the dry), so you can judge how much water you’re going to need to make a good batter. I have found I need slightly less than the full 1c. Beat well again. If you are an electric-mixer person, use it. The batter should get very homogenous and very slightly paler.

Pour in your chosen WELL BUTTERED pan, and bake about half an hour at 350°F/moderate. It should look done like a cake looks done. Use a toothpick if you’re nervous. If it’s a Bundt, you’ll want to let it cool a bit and then turn it out; if it’s in a boring old brownie pan, you can just serve it from there.

Followed in Robin’s post with Sweet Cranberry-Cider Sauce

Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars

11 Feb 2011, Robin ‘Teeth, chocolate and bells’.

I realise that the concept of leftover chocolate is foreign to many of us, and once upon a time it would have been foreign to me too and at least mildly implausible to Peter. But that was Then. This is Now. Peter has mouth trouble and I have Post Menopausal Zero Metabolism. Meanwhile, however, we are notorious for loving chocolate, so people tend to give it to us. I do not wish to discourage this excellent habit. And furthermore now that I’ve invented Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars I may have to arrange for leftover chocolate henceforth.†

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9” pan

¾ c butter

1 ¾ c sugar

2 large eggs, room temp

1 ½ tsp REAL vanilla††

1 ½ c all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder††

½ c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c chopped-up Leftover Chocolate. The point here is that it should be lots of different kinds. I had four or five different sorts plus some ginger fudge. Don’t chop too small or it’ll disappear in the baking.

Cream butter and sugar. I scrape with the spoon in my right hand and knead with my left. Better results sooner. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then the dry stuff. Be sure everything is THOROUGHLY mixed. Then finally stir in the chopped-up chocolate.

Bake about half an hour. I started checking after about twenty minutes because there’s kind of a lot of chocolate involved and I wanted to make sure nothing untoward happened. It’ll still be slightly squidgy when you take it out, and I assume it’ll fall a little—mine did, but I was expecting it to. This is a sign of excellent chewy-squidginess-with-crunch-around-the-edges to come. I also wasn’t sure what the ginger fudge would do if it was baked so I sprinkled it over the top and put the pan back in the oven for five minutes, just to melt it enough to stick.

From a health and safety standpoint I have to admit these are not a great deal better than pure chocolate, but they are fearfully good. And they give you something to pass around during your handbell tea break.

Coconut Curry Fudge

SusieBirds in the Recipe Thread, October 9, 2010

Coconut Curry Fudge
(This was inspired partly by a post about fudge on the Passionate Homemaking blog, and partly by Theo Chocolate’s coconut curry chocolate bar.)

Suggested Cooking Instruments: Cuisinart or blender, muffin tin & papers or silicone muffin cups, double boiler set-up, whisk, measuring utensils, rubber spatula.


* 12T (1.5 sticks) butter at room temp
* 3/4C unsweetened cocoa powder
* 3/4C honey
* 1/2tsp vanilla
* 1/2tsp each curry powder, allspice, nutmeg
* 3/4C shredded coconut

1. Set up a double boiler (a pot with boiling water, on med and a bowl that fits on top of it) and melt 1 stick of butter in the top bowl. When the butter has melted, add in the cocoa, spices and vanilla, and whisk until completely combined and fluid

2. In the bowl of your food processor or blender, put the remaining butter (in cubes) and the honey, then add the melted chocolate mixture. Blend until fully combined, then add the shredded coconut. Process for a few moments until fully mixed and the coconut has been chopped into little bits.

3. Spoon the mixture into the baking cups, filling each about half full, and top them with a few shreds of coconut. I used silicone muffin cups, which are great since you can keep reusing them.

4. Place them in the freezer until they are solid enough to be removed from the cups (2-3 hours). The texture will be stretchy and flexible, not crumbly like many fudges. If you’re using paper liners, just peel them away. The silicone cups you can gently flip inside-out until the fudge pops out. The fudge rounds need to be kept slightly cooler than room temp (I kept them in the fridge until about 10 mins before serving), or they’ll get softer than ideal.

These are large (and rich) enough to be cut into smaller bits to serve more people. I think they’d be excellent rolled into balls and dipped into chocolate to make truffles or something, but that will have to wait for next time.

All Butter All The Time Molasses Cookies

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 18 Aug 10

I adjusted a couple of different Molasses cookie recipes to come up with this. It’s a flat buttery salty chewy spice cookie, and they invariably get annihilated rather quickly.

12 T. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses (we like the brand Grandma’s best)
1 egg
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Oven at 350F.
Melt butter.
Mix with sugar and molasses. Thoroughly.
Lightly beat egg, and add to butter mixture.
Sift (or whisk) remaining ingrediants.
Add dry mixture to wet mixture.
Drop tablespoons of the cookie dough on cookie sheets.
Leave some space between as they will spread when baking.
Bake 10 minutes, and then start checking at 2-3 min intervals until done. (The lifecycle of the baking molasses cookie is like so: spread, puff up, flatten out, harden. I like to remove them when they’ve flattened out.)
Let them cool for a few minutes to set before attempting to move them. A good way to do this is to bake them on a silpat or parchment paper, and then move the whole liner off the cookie sheet onto someplace appropriate to cool. But you can also leave them on the cookie sheet to cool too, but then you’re out a cookie sheet. Also, they’ll cool slower. If you try to move them (with a spatula or your fingers) too early they won’t be structurally sound, and they’ll fall apart, so be patient. These keep really well.

Raspberry Streusel Cake

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 15 Aug 10

I’ve spent the last several years (when raspberries were in season) fiddling with this recipe and keep telling myself I need to write down the finished version. This contest makes the perfect reason to finally do so!

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Make the streusel.

1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. oats (chop them if you want a finer texture — I don’t bother)
3 Tablespoons firm butter

Mix until well combined (or crumbly) (I use a pastry knife, but I’m sure a fork and some determination works too) and set aside.

Make the batter:

1 c. flour
1 c. oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. softened butter
1 c. milk
1 egg

Mix a little bit to combine ingredients, then beat for about 2 minutes (medium speed).

Spread half the batter in the pan, then as many raspberries as you want, then most of the streusel. Then, spread the second half of batter on top of that, then as many more raspberries as you want, then the remainder of the streusel.

I normally use a 9×13 pan, for which I use a double recipe of both streusel & batter. Some day I intend to try it in my smaller pan (8×11.5) to see if one recipe fills it, but I can’t quite bring myself to make a smaller pan of this yummy stuff! For my big pan I use about 2 pints of raspberries (roughly 1 pint per layer). I figure the more berries the better!

Bake until done (helpful, I know!). I start checking it after 35 min, but it often takes about 50 min. Since it has so many berries in it, I decide it’s done when the cake part gets a bit brown and the middle doesn’t wiggle too much when the pan is gently shaken.

I’ve never tried this with blackberries or other berries (I’m generally at Britt when our blackberries are most fruitful), but I bet it would work well with any of those kinds of berries.

Creme Brulee

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 14 Aug 10

This is my favorite recipe for several reasons (mostly that I get to use a blowtorch). One other reason is when I fell in love with creme brulee I was a poor college student and couldn’t afford to eat at the swanky overly-trendy restaurant where it was served. So I called the restaurant, and the host put the pastry chef on (way cool), and he not only gave me the recipe, but careful instructions that even a cooking newbie could handle. How cool is that?!?

So here it is.

6 egg yolks (use the whites for an egg white omelet so you can feel healthy about something, ’cause this recipe is not)
2 1/2 C heavy cream (I’ve subbed 1/2 C half-n-half for 1/2 C heavy cream and it worked OK)
1 vanilla bean (vanilla extract works, too, just put it in the eggs – I forget the amount to sub)
1/2 C sugar plus more for the top

Get out the egg yolks and let them get closer to room temperature. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the innards into the sugar & mix. Stir the sugar/vanilla bits into the cream and heat slowly, just until tiny bubbles start to form at the edges. Take the cream off the heat. Whisk the egg yolks, then add the hot cream mixture to the eggs by spoonfuls, whisking constantly. This is to get the eggs up to the temperature of the cream so you don’t shock them and end up with scrambled eggs in your custard. When you get about 1/3 of the cream mixture into the eggs, you can add the eggs to the rest of the cream in the pan. (Everybody says use a double boiler at this point, but I don’t have one, and it’s always worked for me. I do have really heavy-bottomed pans, though.) Heat it all slowly, stirring, until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon nicely. (Not thinly, but not too thickly, either.) Pour it into 6 ramekins in a roasting pan. (You can use a sieve, if you’re worried about scrambled egg bits). Pour really hot (just about boiling) water in the roasting pan to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the whole thing in a 350 F oven for about 40 minutes. The middle should be jiggly. Take the ramekins out of the water bath and let them cool, then chill them in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Here’s my favorite part – when you’re ready to serve them, sprinkle an even coating of sugar on top of the set custard, up to 1/4 inch. Then light the blowtorch and flame the sugar in a spiral from edges to middle. I’ve tried middle-out, but it just shoves the sugar to the edges. I’ve also tried broiling it, but the results were less than stellar (I blame the broiler which gave out midway through, taking the pilot light with it, and necessitating a call to the gas co.). The sugar will form a hard, light golden brown, bubbled-glassy surface. Re-chill briefly. The swanky, overly-trendy restaurant where I first had it serves it with berries, but why complicate it with any healthy stuff? Just dig in!

Godzilla’s Green Tea Tiramisu

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 14 Aug 10

1 16 oz tub of mascarpone cheese
1.75 tsp sugar
.75 tsp powdered sencha (or similar) green tea
2 cups water
4 tbsp milk
1 yellow cake (from cake mix or [if you’re fancy* like Sunshine] homemade)

boil water. add 1/2 tsp of sencha. Beat with a whisk until dissolved.

Put half of the mascarpone into one bowl, the rest into another. In one, add remaining sencha, 2 tbsp milk, 1 tsp sugar and beat until smooth. Add remaining sugar and milk to other bowl of mascarpone. Beat until smooth.

Slice cake into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place into bottom of a pyrex bread pan. Brush on green tea and water mixture. Add a layer of one of the mascarpones. Repeat, alternating mascarpone mixtures until all cake is gone (or until Pyrex is full and eat the rest of the cake!)

Refrigerate for two hours to set, and enjoy! A cool summer treat.**

*By fancy I mean being able to make cake from scratch that actually tastes good. I do not fall into this category, so Betty Crocker is my friend.

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