In The Beginning…

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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.

 

Donuts! Getcha Hot Donuts Here!

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!

Old Fashioned Cake Donut Recipe

https://www.mashed.com/433134/old-fashioned-cake-donut-recipe/

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

METHOD

  1. In a large bowl, combine one cup of sugar, salt, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  2. Add the eggs, melted butter, and milk to the bowl, then mix.
  3. Add the flour to the dough, beating well until everything is combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat about one inch of oil to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of sugar and cinnamon. Dip the donuts in the cinnamon-sugar mixture before serving.

    Glaze
  8. Warm cream (or milk) until steam rises from the surface
  9. Add vanilla
  10. Whisk in sugar until incorporated
  11. Dip donuts into glaze and set aside to cool and harden about 30 minutes.

https://www.mashed.com/433134/old-fashioned-cake-donut-recipe/?utm_campaign=clip

Dropping Like… Apricots

‘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!!

Strawberry Fields… Whatever

I am making my granddaughters birthday cake. Like so many girls she is really into unicorns, hence a Unicorn Cake. This will be a three tier cake, 10”, 8” and 6”. The 6” layer will have a unicorn cake topper and a multicolored flowing mane down the back. Check out that post in a few days.

The base will be my Extreme Chocolate Cake (my favorite) and the center will be a Heavenly White Cake, which is a blend between white and angel food cake. Again, stop back next week for details

Right now I am describing the strawberry cake recipe that I adapted from my Heavenly White Cake. The trick to this cake lies in the strawberry puree reduction. Placed sliced strawberries in a food processor and pulse until it is a puree. Place the puree in a small saucepan and with occasional stirring, reduce to about half the volume. This will take 30 – 40 minutes. Cover and place in the fridge until cool, (Overnight would be fine.)

I also added 1/4th tsp of strawberry extract to enhance the flavor. Any more would make it taste artificial. The Heavenly White Cake uses a cup of plain milk (I use 2% low calcium as that is what we stock in the home.) For the strawberry version I added 1 Tbl of vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk. This makes a pseudo buttermilk. I also added 1/4 cup of heavy cream hoping the final cake would be moist. The 1/2 cup strawberry reduction added the balance of the liquid.

For my test cake this recipe made two 6” and one 5” round cakes, 2” high. They required about 30 minutes to bake. I checked it using the spring back test, clean tooth pick check and measuring the center of the cake to be 210 deg F.

Overall, I was pleased with the moisture, flavor and texture of the cake. Combined with the Heavenly White and Extreme Chocolate cakes, marshmallow fondant and buttercream frosting, it should be a Unicorn Spectacular!

Heavenly Strawberry Cake

INGREDIENTS
• 2¾ cups sifted cake flour
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 4 egg whites
• 1½ cups white sugar
• ¾ cup butter
• ½ cup milk (add 1 Tbl vinegar to make “Buttermilk” equivalent milk)
• ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ tsp strawberry extract
• ¼ tsp red food coloring
• ~250 g diced strawberries

METHOD

  1. The day before baking: Puree strawberries and reduce to ½. This will take 20-30 minutes. Place in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.
  2. Measure sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, and continue beating only until meringue will hold up in soft peaks.
  4. Cream butter or margarine. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Mix in flavorings. Add meringue, and beat thoroughly into batter.
  5. Whisk in ½ cup of puréed strawberries.
  6. Add ¼ tsp red food coloring, mixing well. (Optional)
  7. Spread batter in a 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan which has been lined on the bottom with parchment paper.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. This cake may also be baked in two 9 inch round pans for 30 to 35 minutes, or in three 8 inch round pans for 25 to 30 minutes.

Sugar Free Berry Mousse

I love berries, all kinds of berries, but far and away raspberries are my favorite. I saw a recipe for sugar free strawberry mousse and modified it to a raspberry mouse. Feel free to change it back or re-modify to whatever berries you have on hand.

This simple mousse is quick and easy to make. After my initial try I would suggest making the berry puree and chill it before folding it into the whipped cream. Also, be sure to beat the cream into very stiff peaks. I would also chill the bowls in which you will store/serve the mousse. All these precautions will help keep the mousse firm. Don’t worry if you don’t. It will still be fresh and delicious.

Sugar Free Raspberry Mousse

INGREDIENTS

• 354g raspberries (3/4 pound)
• 100g Splenda
• 238g whole or whipping cream (cold)
• extra raspberries for topping

METHOD

  1. Clean and slice the raspberries, In a blender or food processor add the raspberries, Splenda and puree. Remove 1/2 a cup of puree and set aside.
  2. Place serving bowls in the refrigerator to chill before filling.
  3. In a cold bowl add the cream and beat until very stiff peaks form. Then fold in the remaining puree (not the 1/2 cup) gently.
  4. Divide the 1/2 cup of puree between the 4 small/medium glasses and top with the raspberries mousse.
  5. Refrigerate for approximately 1 hour or even over night if desired. Top with fresh raspberries and serve.

The Long and Shortbread of It

We love shortbread cookies, and we love chocolate. Combining the two is a step from ecstasy. Also, this gave me the excuse… I mean opportunity… to use the hexagonal cookie cutters Fran (aka QC) bought me.

Using hexagonal cutters reduces dough waste as there are no gaps between each cut.

Hexagonal Cookie Cutters with the one used on the lower right.
Shortbread Cookies surrounded by Raspberry Hand Pies.

Shortbread Cookies

INGREDIENTS
• 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl place over a pan of boiling water. Turn the burner down to simmer and heat with stirring until the chocolate is nearly all melted. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
  6. Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

Not a Gordian Knot

Dan and Frances made these pretzel knots yesterday and sent me the recipe. They are every bit as good as they said. Great texture and perfect soft pretzel taste.

This recipe avoids the nuisance of placing the pretzels in a an alkaline and malt bath but doing that may make the nice pretzel color. Maybe next time. This is much easier and makes clean-up a snap.

Jack’s Garlic Pretzel Knots


• ¾ cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1 (¼-ounce) package active dry yeast
• 1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
• ½ cup whole wheat flour
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
• Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Prep and Cook

  1. In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup of the water, maple syrup, and the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast is foamy
  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, place the flours and salt. Add the yeast mixture, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the remaining ½ cup of water. Mix on medium speed until the dough forms a ball around the hook, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times, sprinkling with more flour, as needed, and form into a ball. Brush a large bowl with olive oil, and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Uncover the dough, punch it down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 8 equal sections, and roll each section into a 9-inch-long rope. Grab the ends of each dough rope, tie into a knot, and tuck in the ends.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, and lemon zest. Set aside.
  6. Bake the pretzel knots for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush the garlic oil onto the hot pretzel knots and sprinkle each with coarse salt.

Raspberry Drop Scones and Blackberry Hand Pies

As mentioned elsewhere days without golf can be dangerous. Along with a new Pumpernickel/Rye Bread and High Hydration Honey White Bread I tried a new puff pastry to make blackberry hand pies and raspberry drop scones to freeze and thaw for breakfast.

The more important thing is I was able to try out my new hexagonal cookie cutter. I never liked the square, or triangular (folded squares) hand pies. Circular were good, but the space between the circles wasted a lot of puff pastry. The hexagonal cutter was nearly as efficient as cutting squares, but look more like round pies.

My new hexagonal cookie cutters

I used a larger cutter for the top to assure good coverage of the smaller bottom. I docked the bottom piece with a fork to manage the puff of the pastry.

The edges of the covered pies were pinched with the fork, and egg wash painted on, a steam vent cut on the top and sparkling sugar sprinkled on each pie before baking.

Becoming the Scarlet Pumpernickel

Last week I made a light right sandwich rye. Good crumb, great taste, nice crust. Today I kicked up the percent pumpernickel flour and reduced the light rye flour. I added an egg wash to increase the color of the crust. Better taste, similar crumb and great crust!

Along with the rye experiment, I made another loaf of Honey White bread which has become our staple. I also made some raspberry scones and blackberry hand pies. Busy morning!

Light Rye Bread – KAF (with additional Pumpernickel)


INGREDIENTS
• 1 ½ cups (340g) lukewarm water
• 2 1/3 cups (280g) Bread Flour
• 1 cups (108g) light rye flour
• ½ cups (54g) pumpernickel flour
• 1/4 cup (28g) nonfat dry milk
• 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
• 1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
• 1 ½ teaspoons Deli Rye Flavor, optional
• 2 tablespoons (25g) vegetable oil
METHOD

  1. Place the water in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the flours with the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix until there are no dry spots. Using a stand mixer, mix at low speed until all of
    the flour is moistened. The texture of the dough will be soft and sticky due to the pumpernickel flour.
  3. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate overnight, or for up to 48 hours.
  4. To bake bread: Grease your hands, and scoop the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Shape it into a ball and place it, smooth side down, in a floured brotform; or in a bowl lined with a floured smooth cotton dish towel. Let the dough rise, covered, for 2 to 3 hours.
  5. About 45 minutes before the end of the rising time, start preheating the oven to 450°F with a 4 to 4 ½ -quart baking pot or casserole with a lid inside.
  6. When the loaf is fully risen, remove the hot casserole from the oven, carefully grease it, and tip the risen ball of dough into it. Make several slashes in the dough. Cover the pot with the lid, and place it on a middle rack in the oven.
  7. Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes; the loaf should be lightly browned, and the interior should register at least 195°F on a digital thermometer.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven and turn it out of the crock onto a rack. Cool for several hours before slicing

Puits d’Amour – ‘Wells of Love’

We saw this pastry on GBBO. I hadn’t made any complex pastries in a while so thought this would be fun to try. I made a few changes to Prue Leith’s recipe. I used my own recipe for the creme patisserie and choux. The recipe and method below are as I made it.

I also found a new puff pastry I wanted to try. You may know my preferences in puff. Trader Joe’s is good but doesn’t puff as much as Pepperidge Farms. This new one is Wewalka European Bakery Style which seem to have a puff ratio about in the middle. It has good flake an layers. The only problem is they do not recommend freezing it before using.

Puits d’Amour – ‘wells of love’

INGREDIENTS
Puff pastry
Compote:
• 250g strawberries, hulled and chopped
• 25g caster sugar
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 50g raspberries
Crème Pâtissière:
• ½ c sugar
• ¼ c corn starch
• Pinch salt
• 2 c whole milk
• 4 egg yolks
• 2 Tbl butter
4 ½ tsp demerara sugar, to brûlée
Choux Pastry:
• ½ c (65 grams) AP flour
• ½ tsp granulated white sugar
• ¼ tsp salt
• 4 tbsp (55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• ½ c (120 ml) water
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Sparkling sugar

METHOD
Compote

  1. Add the strawberries to a pan with the sugar and lemon juice and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the raspberries and cook for a further 5–10 minutes, until reduced to a thick compote (but not a jam). Remove from the heat, cool, then chill.
    Crème Pâtissière
  2. Whisk eggs and milk together and add to all other ingredients (except vanilla) to a medium saucepan.
  3. Bring to boil whisking constantly
  4. Cook until thickened (it will look lumpy, its ok)
  5. Sieve lumpy mixture into a bowl and add 1 tsp vanilla, mix thoroughly
  6. When incorporated, cover with plastic directly on the cream and cool.
  7. Remove from the heat and pass through a sieve into a clean bowl. Add the butter and stir until melted. Leave to cool, cover with cling film and chill until cold.

Cut Pastry Disks

  1. Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7. Lightly dust your worktop and roll out the rough puff to a 35cm square. Using the 10cm cutter, cut out 9 discs. Place on the baking sheets and prick each disc all over with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes.
    Choux
  2. In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt.
  3. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. It will look like mashed potatoes. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). The dough will film the bottom and sides of the saucepan and make cleaning a pain.
  5. Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute).
  6. Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).
  7. Pipe the choux in a circle ½cm in from the edge of each disc. Brush each choux ring with beaten egg and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until puffed, crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To assemble, spoon the crème pâtissière into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle. Spoon the strawberry compote into the pastry shells and pipe the crème pâtissière over the top. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of demerara sugar on top and, using a blowtorch, brûlée the sugar. Serve immediately.

I’d Give $1000 to be One of Them Millionaires

I saw these on GBBO and decided to give them a go. (Kind of English slang for “try to make them”.) Millionaires Bars are layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate.

I used a jelly roll pan, which is about 25% bigger than the specified pan. This caused each layer to be thinner than I expected. As they were setting I considered increasing the recipe quantities by about 50%. After cutting and eating them I think I am going to leave them the way they are. They ended up being about 1/4” thick and if I cut them into 1” square pieces they will be perfect bite sized pieces.

Self induced problems: 1) Forgot to use the parchment paper making me worry about releasing the bar from the jelly roll pan. No problem. I cut around the outside and across the center. Each large piece came out easily. 2) I should have poured the chocolate on the caramel before it set. Not doing so caused the chocolate to not adhere to the caramel. Cutting the bars into 1” squares, so you can just pop them into your mouth without taking a bite and “breaking” them, converts the problem into an enhancement.

Overall, these are delicious cookies. The caramel was heated to 242 deg which made it a perfect softness and texture. The chocolate wasn’t tempered but resulted in a nice layer with a good snap. The short bread base was difficult to push to the edges of the pan, but perhaps rolling it out before placing in the pan would help. I also skipped the macadamia nuts as my pantry was bare. If you saw my pantry, you wouldn’t believe that possible.

Millionaire Shortbread Bars

Millionaire Shortbread Bars

Paul Hollywood’s Salted Caramel Bars

https://people.com/food/paul-hollywood-salted-caramel-bars-recipe/

INGREDIENTS
• ⅓ cup granulated sugar
• 1⅓ cups unsalted butter, softened and divided, plus more for greasing
• 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp. table salt
• ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
• ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk
• 3 tbsp. golden cane syrup (or honey as a substitute)
• 1 tsp. flaky sea salt
• 7 oz. dark chocolate baking bar, chopped
• ½ cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Grease a shallow 11×7-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Line baking dish with parchment paper, allowing paper to extend by 2 inches on each side; grease parchment.
  3. Beat granulated sugar and 2/3 cup butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt; stir with a spoon, and then combine with your hands to form a smooth dough (try not to overwork it). I ended up adding a couple of Tbl water to the dough so it would come together,
  4. Press dough into pan in an even layer, and prick surface all over with a fork. Bake in preheated oven until pale golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan, about 45 minutes.
  5. Combine brown sugar, condensed milk, golden syrup (or honey) and remaining 2/3 cup butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter melts and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until the caramel bubbles become larger, mixture thickens and turns a rich, glossy caramel color, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour caramel evenly over the shortbread, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cool completely until set, about 1 hour.
  6. Melt chocolate, stirring often, in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Pour melted chocolate evenly over caramel layer; spread with an offset spatula until level and smooth. Sprinkle with nuts. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Use a knife to release ends of bars from pan; use the parchment paper as handle to remove from pan. Cut into bars.