It all started with a post-wedding cake in aBatteredOldSuitcase. Daniel and Frances were married in Sacramento, then honeymooned in Egypt. Upon returning to the States they stopped by South Florida for a second reception for our friends and family who couldn’t travel to California. I made my first “wedding” cake for the party.
Once safely ensconced in retirement I expanded both my baking and short story writing. I recently joined an online forum which provides writing help for amateurs like me and am currently revising everything I wrote over the past few years, including my first book “Ruth,” several short-stories basked on our rescued Havanese/Poodle, Rosalita. I also wrote a political thriller, ”The Star Alliance”, and science fiction with “The Quantum Butterfly Effect,” all of which should be considered proofs until they have been revised—ToAHotelSomeplace.
GhostsThatSell Memories is my sporadically updated travel blog. I wrote it primarily for friends and family we visited during our 2018 cross country road trip.
Header photo of my hometown, Middlebury, Vermont by my life long friend David Griggs. Please visit his website www.djgriggsphoto.com.
Before teeing off on the 8th hole yesterday, I flashed back to my mom’s molasses cookies. I don’t have her recipe, but as she was always a Betty Crocker kinda gal I found Betty’s recipe, made some this morning and they were exactly as I remembered!
(Betty’s recipe didn’t say, but I flattened the sugar coated balls a little. They may have flattened on their own, but I was concerned the centers and the edges may not cook evenly. Whatever the reason, they were excellent!)
Now, this may be childhood folklore or faulty memories, but growing up I had a neighbor named Betty Crocker. That was her married name after she and George wed. As a single woman her last name was Taylor, and of course her formal first name was Elizabeth but was known as Betty. Even without this celebrity, I was raised in a fabulous neighborhood and remain friends with MOST of my classmates from that time. So fortunate.
Soft Molasses Cookies
• 1 cup packed brown sugar • ¾ cup shortening • ¼ cup molasses • 1 egg • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour • 2 teaspoons baking soda • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon • 1 teaspoon ground ginger • ½ teaspoon ground cloves • ¼ teaspoon salt • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Heat oven to 325°F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar.
Shape dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into 1 ½ – inch balls. Dip tops into granulated sugar. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls, sugared sides up, about 2 inches apart.
Bake 13 to 16 minutes or just until set and cookies appear dry. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
Expert Tips From Betty Crocker
o Purchase shortening formed in oblong packages marked for easy cutting and measuring. It eliminates messy measuring in cups. o There are reasons for using shortening versus butter when mixing up a cookie dough. Shortening has a higher melting point, so cookies will hold their shape longer in the oven before the fat melts in the dough (and shortening doesn’t release any steam like butter) so results in moist, chewy cookies. While butter melts more quickly and releases some steam so that cookies will spread more and be crisper, with a distinctly buttery flavor. Some recipes use a combination of the two fats. o There is enough fat in these tender cookies that they won’t stick to the baking sheets. But for easier clean-up, line the baking sheets with baking parchment. The parchment can be used several times before composting or recycling it. o What type of molasses should you keep in your pantry? Choices include light, cooking, unsulphured and blackstrap. Each style is a by-product of the sugar making process and offer mild to robust levels of flavor in baked goods. A good all-purpose molasses is an unsulphured one, made from sun-ripened sugar cane; it has a full, smooth flavor without being bitter. o Measuring flour accurately is key in baking. Stir flour a bit before spooning into measuring cup then level off top using a flat-edge utensil such as a knife.
Actually, I was ‘experimenting” with vegetarian mirror glaze today. Previously, I made a mirror glaze that was too rubbery so I thought I would give it another try. Anyway, I wanted to try making some chocolate mousse domes. The recipe I found for the domes was good. It uses Agar Agar rather than gelatin sheets so it remained vegetarian.
As I only needed six shortbread cookies for the bases of the domes, I decided to make a few (24) shortbread cookies with the balance of the recipe. And, as long as I was also using chocolate for the domes I figured I might as well dip one side of the cookie to make a nice chocolate crescent accent
To make the domes, I filled my 2.5” diameter silicone mold with mousse to within 1/4” of the top. This provided room to fit a 2.5” trimmed cookie in the base. As the cookies spread a little while baking, the thinnest were trimmed with a cutter and placed on the still soft mousse, then put in the freezer until solid.
Even the thinnest shortbread cookies were too thick (about 1/4”.) The problem is the unbaked cookies are too fragile to move if they are any thinner. Next time I will roll the dough out thinner on the cookie sheet then remove the excess from between the round cookies. Wish me luck.
The results were promising. The glaze was too thick to pour. Spreading the glaze ruins the effect of a smooth. Coating. I found another recipe for the glaze, but using gelatin sheets. I will substitute Agar powder using one third the amount of Agar to gelatin. The ratio of cocoa powder to liquids seems right to allow it to pour. Time will tell.
Chocolate Mouse Domes with Agar Agar
INGREDIENTS: • 60 g Dark Chocolate (melted) • 50 ml (1/4 cup) Heavy Cream • 175 ml (3/4 cup) Whipping Cream ( whipped into soft Peaks) • 1 tbl Agar Agar • 6 short bread biscuits
Add Agar Agar to heavy cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate
Let rest for five minutes, then mix chocolate and heavy cream into a smooth mixture.
Fold in Whipped Cream to the above mixture
Pour the mousse mixture into semi dome silicone molds or any medium sized round bowls.
Place one biscuit over each dome
Freeze the mousse until solid.
White Chocolate Glaze
INGREDIENTS • 50 g White Chocolate • 50 ml Heavy Cream • 2 tsp Agar Agar • 1 tbl Butter
Mix in the above mixture and bring it to boil once.
INGREDIENTS • 206g, or 1 cup sugar • 142g, or 1⁄2 cup, plus 11⁄2 tbsp heavy cream • 1 ½ tsp Agar Powder (originally 12g, or 4 tsp gelatin, powdered) • 60g, or 1⁄4 cup water, cold • 148g, or 2/3 cups water, room temperature • 71g, or 1⁄2 cup, plus 5 tsp cocoa powder
In a medium pot, bring sugar and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Add the Agar powder and heat while stirring until mixture starts to thicken (1-2 min, medium low heat.)
In a bowl, combine the 148g (2/3 cups) room temperature water with the cocoa powder, stirring with a spatula until it becomes a uniform paste.
Stir cream-sugar-Agar mixture into cocoa powder paste until combined.
Remove the pot from the heat, and strain the glaze mixture through a mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl to remove any clumps of undissolved cocoa powder.
Emulsify the mixture with a hand blender (immersion blender) to remove any lumps, until smooth.
Cover and chill in the fridge overnight to set, until ready to use. Should be 90 deg to pour.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
OPTION PUBLISHED WITH THIS RECIPE INGREDIENTS: • 50 ml Water • 50 ml Heavy Cream • 50 ml Sugar • 80 gm Cocoa Powder • 2 tsp Agar Agar
Bring all the ingredients to boil in a medium saucepan.
Whisk to cool to room temperature
Sieve once to remove lumps
ASSEMBLING AND DECORATION:
After 8 hours remove mousse from freezer and remove from the moulds
Place mousse domes on cooling rack.
Pour Dark Chocolate or White Chocolate Glaze over the dome and place the dome in freezer for 5 mins.
I sprinkled some freeze dried raspberry powder on the domes to add a little bitterness to the sweetness of the mouse and glaze.
Anyone who read the post on my go-to brownie recipe knows a vital ingredient is jammy bits. These are small pieces of sugar coated chewy raspberry jam. They add texture, moisture and flavor to the brownies, but they are time consuming to make. (You can buy them at King Arthur Baking.)
The California wildfires “smoked us in” this morning with the AQI over 300 (!) I decided to stay inside (except to walk Rosie while wearing a KN-95 mask.) This provided the time necessary to make jammies. (Full disclosure: I also baked some chocolate chip cookies and blueberry drop scones from frozen doughs I made previously. I had to do something as the jam was reducing!)
Once the jammy bits are cut put them in an airtight container, add several tablespoons of caster sugar and toss to coat the bits. If some stick together break them apart and re-coat. If some to stick together when you go to use them, just cut them apart.
Fruit Jammy Bits
• 2 cups Berries • 2 Tbl Fruit Pectin • 2 cups sugar • Caster sugar (Extra Fine) for coating
Heat puree to barely boiling and add pectin
Once pectin is incorporated, add the sugar
Continue boiling until mixing marks stay 7-10 seconds or about 235-240F
Pour mixture into a fine sieve to remove seeds. Press firmly to squeeze as much seedless puree as possible through the sieve. I let the drippings fall on the caster sugar coated silicone mat trying to keep the thickness to 1-2mm.
If necessary, spread mixture on caster sugar coated silicone mat and freeze
Remove the sheet of fruit from the freezer and coat top with caster sugar
Flip coated over onto a cutting board and coat the now top surface with more sugar
When the fruit sheet is pliable cut into small squares (1/4” across) with a knife
Toss the jammy bits into a bowl of sugar then store in an air-tight container in the freezer
So what is a person to do with two very over-ripe bananas? Throw them out? I think not! Being both thrifty and whimsical I found an easy recipe for banana bread and at QC’s request added some raisins. In hindsight, I should have added more raisins. Next time I will use a whole cup instead of half. (Below recipe modified)
The recipe called for two tablespoons of sugar to be sprinkled on the top of the loaf prior to baking. This added a nice crunch and caramelization to the loaf. However, one tablespoon would probably be adequate. (Below recipe modified.)
Banana Raisin Bread
INGREDIENTS • 2 cups flour • 2 teaspoons baking powder • 1 teaspoon salt • 3⁄4 cup sugar • 2 eggs • 1⁄4 cup oil • 1⁄4 cup milk • 1 teaspoon vanilla • 2 ripe bananas, mashed • 1 cup raisins • 1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 350F
Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.
Combine wet and dry ingredients.
Pour in loaf pan sprayed with baking spray with flour and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.
Sometime around my birthday our Florida BFF send me a packet of recipes she culled from a selection of magazines. This Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake caught my eye, however, the first attempt hit the bin after QC rated it thumbs down. (Mfg agreed.)
I modified the original recipe from FoodNetwork by swapping out the AP flour for cake flour. This reduced the gluten to make a softer, lighter cake. Pound cake is not expected to be light and airy, but let’s be honest, dense, wet, stodgy cake is not terribly pleasant. I also substituted caster sugar for the cane sugar, reduced the oven temperature from 350F to 325F, increased the number of egg yolks by 2 and eliminated the almond extract. (QC and I do not like almond extract.) The final result was deemed presentable!
Raspberry-Swirl Pound Cake
INGREDIENTS Cake • 226g (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan • 198 (1 ¾ cups) cake flour, plus more for the pan • 6-oz fresh raspberries • 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam • 248g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) caster sugar, divided • 3 large eggs, plus 3 egg yolk, at room temperature • ¼ cup heavy cream • 1 1/8 teaspoons pure vanilla extract • 4 drops red gel food coloring (or enough to make an intense pink color) Glaze • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar • 2 tablespoons heavy cream for topping (more to thin if necessary) • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla • Crushed freeze-dried raspberries, for topping
Make the pound cake:
Preheat the oven to 325˚. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with Baker’s Joy, then line with parchment paper in two overlapping strips, leaving an overhang. Butter the parchment and lightly dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
Combine the fresh raspberries, jam, 2 tablespoons cane sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring and smashing the berries with a wooden spoon, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing with a rubber spatula. Let cool.
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl until slightly foamy; set aside.
Beat the butter and remaining 1 cup caster sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and increase the mixer speed to medium high. Beat until pale and fluffy, 6 to 7 more minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour until just combined.
Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl, increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth and fluffy, 15 to 30 seconds.
Scoop 3/4 cup batter into the bowl with the raspberry sauce and stir in the red food coloring. Transfer half of the remaining plain batter to the prepared pan and top with half of the raspberry batter; swirl together with a knife. Repeat and swirl the batters together again.
Bake until the top springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. (205 F internal temperature)
Transfer to a rack and let cool 15 minutes in the pan. Lift the cake from the pan and remove the parchment; return to the rack to cool completely.
Make the Glaze
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons heavy cream and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extracts in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth; thin with the remaining 1 tablespoon heavy cream, if needed.
Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries. Let set at least 20 minutes.
While on vacation last month, and at King Arthurs Bake shop, I learned a new word—Cakelets! I had absolutely no reason for buying a Nordicware Cakelet pan and, back home, tried it this morning for the first time. I used the Noricware recipe for Honey Chamomile Cakelets as a control for future bakes.
The recipe was simple and easy to follow, although I made a couple of changes and converted the volume measurements to weight. (I moved making the simple syrup to the beginning as reducing the liquid to a syrup takes a while and the cakelets should be coated while warm.) I find it’s convenient to measure most ingredients (such as honey) by weight. A cup of honey weighs 340g and a tablespoon weight 21g. Put your bowl directly on the scale and weight the required amount. Less mess and more accurate!
There was about twice as much honey syrup than required, so it’s quantity could be reduced by half. The cakelets released from the pan perfectly and maintained all the detail. I was very pleased with the result. The cakelets were strong honey which overpowered the chamomile but that is easily adjusted. I wonder how these would be with either a mirror glaze, or perhaps dipped in tempered chocolate. Hmmmm.
HONEY CHAMOMILE BEE CAKELETS
Recipe from Nordicware
INGREDIENTS • 177ml (¾ cup) water • 3 chamomile or jasmine tea bags • 115g ( ½ cup) butter, softened (best to let come to room temp) • 150g (¾ cup) granulated sugar • 126g (6 tbsp) honey • ¼ tsp vanilla extract • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk • 218g (1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour • ¼ tsp salt
After my success with the whole wheat bread yesterday I bit the bullet and created my own pumpernickel bread recipe based on what I learned yesterday and two other recipes. The results were excellent. (Whew!)
PUMPERNICKEL MINI LOAF BREAD
INGREDIENTS • 2 ½ cups warm water (100°-110°F) • ¼ cup vegetable oil • 2 Tbl molasses • ¼ cup honey • 3 ½ cups (400g) pumpernickel flour • 2 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder • ¼ cup Vital Wheat Gluten • 1 Tbl lemon juice • 1 ½ tbl (13.5g) instant yeast • 1 tsp (6g) salt • 2-3 cups (240-360g) bread flour • rolled oats (for dusting loaves)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together water, oil, molasses, and honey until mixed well.
Add pumpernickel flour to water mixture.
Add cocoa, yeast, and salt, Vital Wheat Gluten, lemon juice and stir until blended.
Let mixture sit for 10 minutes.
Stir in bread flour, one cup at a time, until dough clings to hook and almost clears the sides of mixer, about 3-4 minutes.
Continue to knead with the dough hook for 6-8 minutes
Turn dough out on a lightly greased counter and knead by hand for 5-8 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple.
Divide dough by weight into 8 equal portions. Mine were 192 g each.
Place each portion into a mini loaf pan and dust with rolled oats.
Allow dough to rise in until it is about 1 inch above the the edge of the pan, about 30-60 minutes. Take note of how high the bread is before starting proof. Mine was almost an inch to begin and I let it rise to 1 1/2 to 2”. There was a lot of oven spring also.
Toward the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake at for 18-25 minutes. (Internal temp should be 190-200 deg. F)
While on vacation I stopped by King Arthurs store in Norwich, Vermont. They had lots of real cool stuff that I didn’t need, so only bought a shopping cart full. One pan that I didn’t need and bought was their mini-loaf pan. There will be more cool stuff to come.
I have a new recipe for soft, light, fluffy whole wheat bread. I rarely have any luck in making whole wheat bread light and fluffy, but keep trying.
This pan was excellent and the recipe even better. I believe one ingredient and two method instructions make the difference. The ingredient is Vital Wheat Gluten. I use this with any flour that doesn’t have high gluten content such as wheat, pumpernickel, etc. I needed to replenish my supply and luckily the KAF store had it in stock. (OK, this was one thing I needed.) The two method steps that helped were to let the dough rest for 15 minutes before adding the balance of the flour and second, after the mixer finishes kneading the dough, give it a 5-10 minute hand kneading.
Whatever was responsible for making this the best whole wheat bread I ever made, I am glad I tried this new recipe
INGREDIENTS • 5-6 cups whole wheat flour • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (see note) • 2 3/4 cups warm water • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (bottled or fresh) • 1/3 cup oil • 1/3 cup honey • 1 tablespoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together 3 cups of the whole wheat flour, yeast, and gluten. Add the warm water and mix well. Cover the bowl and let the mixture rest for 10-12 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, oil, honey, and salt. Mix on low speed.
With the mixer running on low speed, continue adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (don’t over-flour! A little stickiness is ok as long as the dough forms a ball and doesn’t leave a lot of residue on your fingers).
Let the mixer knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.
Turn the dough onto a lightly greased counter and divide in eights. (I found each loaf to be 159 g.) Shape each half into a taut loaf and place in a lightly greased mini-loaf pan (8 loaves per pan.)
Cover the loaf pan and let the loaves rise until they are 1-2 inches above the edge of the loaf pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make sure an oven rack is in the middle/center position. Bake the loaves for 28-32 minutes until golden and baked through (an instant-read thermometer should register 180-190 degrees in the center of the loaf).
Turn the bread onto a wire rack. Brush the tops with butter, if desired. Let cool completely.
NOTES Letting the Dough Rise: this bread recipe does not require the dough to rise before being shaped into loaves and letting the loaves rise in the bread pans. However, if you find your bread is a little dense after baking and cooling, letting the dough rise after kneading may help with that, as well as making sure the dough isn’t over floured.
Vital Wheat Gluten: is often found in the baking aisle at the grocery store (near the flour). Many brands of vital wheat gluten have Vitamin C added; those are ok to use in this recipe. I buy mine at KAF.
INGREDIENTS • 1 lb raspberries (454 grams) • 3 lbs plums , sliced and pits removed (leave skins on) (1360 grams) (picked from our tree) • 5 cups granulated sugar (1000 grams) • ½ cup bottled lemon juice (120 ml) • Zest of 1 orange (picked from neighbors tree)
Combine the raspberries, sliced plums, sugar, lemon juice, and orange zest in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Place over medium high heat and stir frequently as the sugar dissolves and the fruit begins to release its juices.
Continue to cook, stirring frequently as the jam simmers and thickens. Skim any foam off of the surface with a spoon.
While the jam is simmering, remove plum skins with a spider strainer. Clean the strainer often to reduce the amount of jam removed.
Place a plate in the freezer and when the jam thickens wipe a little on the plate and return to the freezer for 2 minutes. Repeat until the jam stops running and has the consistency you want. Mine heated to 220 deg F.
Once the jam is reduced and thickened, remove from heat and ladle jam into sterilized jars. Top with a lid and screw on with a ring. This recipe made 7 half pints.
Process jars in a water bath for 10 minutes (15 minutes for 5,000+ ft elevation). Remove from water bath and let cool. Check that lids have sealed by pressing down into the center of each one. It should not move.
Store jam in a cool dry place like a pantry and consume within 1 year.
My QC department stumbled across a new recipe for cake donuts. “Maybe you would like to try it sometime.” Now if that isn’t throwing the gauntlet down, I don’t know what is.
This recipe makes about a dozen so topped a third of them with vanilla glaze and coated a third with cinnamon/sugar. They were excellent. The plain have always been my fav’s.
Be sure to keep the temperature as close to 350 deg F as you can. Adjust the temperature if need be between batches. I could fit 4 donuts at a time into my large skillet. My temperature was a little hot for the first few donut holes so they turned dark before the centers were fully cooked. Temperature is very important!
INGREDIENTS • 1 ½ cup sugar, divided • 1 teaspoon salt • ½ teaspoon nutmeg • 1 tablespoon baking powder • 2 eggs • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted • 1 cup whole milk • 4 cups flour • Oil (for frying) • 2 tablespoons cinnamon Glaze (to glaze 5 or 6 donuts) • 1 Cup confectioners sugar • 3 Tbl Whole cream • ½ tsp vanilla
In a large bowl, combine one cup of sugar, salt, nutmeg, and baking powder.
Add the eggs, melted butter, and milk to the bowl, then mix.
Add the flour to the dough, beating well until everything is combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Remove the dough from the fridge. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat about one inch of oil to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the oil heats, roll out the dough to about ½ inch thickness on a well-floured surface. Use a donut cutter to cut out circles in the dough. If you don’t have a donut cutter, you could use a biscuit cutter or glass, then a bottle cap for the donut hole. Continue rolling out the dough and cutting out donuts until there’s no dough remaining.
Gently drop the donuts into the hot oil in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each side for approximately two minutes, until golden brown, then flip over. Remove the cooked donuts from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined plate.
In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of sugar and cinnamon. Dip the donuts in the cinnamon-sugar mixture before serving.
Warm cream (or milk) until steam rises from the surface
Whisk in sugar until incorporated
Dip donuts into glaze and set aside to cool and harden about 30 minutes.
‘Tis the season for apricots to ripen. Actually, it seems a little early this year. I topped and pruned our apricot tree this winter and it paid off. The limbs are full of fruit and I am picking about 6 dozen a day off the ground. (I put down tarps to protect them when they fall.) We will probably start the real picking this weekend.
I froze 3 dozen yesterday, gave away 3 dozen today and picked up another 4 dozen just now. They were washed dried and sliced in half to remove the pit. Then arranged on a baking sheet and put into the freezer for a day. After they are frozen solid, I transfer them to freezer ziplock bags for storage until I can use them
I am thinking apricot pies, tarts or maybe apricot smoothies. I am guessing I have “harvested” 10% of the crop. Yumm!!