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.

 

Honey Chamomile Cakelets

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

TEA-INFUSED SIMPLE HONEY SYRUP:
• 237g (1 cup) water
• 2 chamomile or jasmine tea bags
• 170g (½ cup) honey
• 100g (½ cup) sugar

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare Busy Bee Bitelet Pan with baking spray containing flour and use a pastry brush to evenly coat the details of the pan.

    HONEY SYRUP
  3. In a small saucepan, heat water to boiling. Steep 2 tea bags for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat, remove bags and add honey and sugar. Cook until reduced and syrupy.
  5. Keep warm but not boiling until the cakelets are ready.

    BATTER
  6. Heat water in a saucepan until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat and steep 3 tea bags for 3-5 minutes. Cool to lukewarm and set aside.
  7. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. (Do not over beat)
  8. Blend in honey and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and tea.
  9. In a second small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
  10. On low speed, add egg mixture alternately with flour into butter mixture until incorporated. Don’t over-mix to avoid air bubbles.
  11. Fill each design with batter, filling only 3/4 full. Gently tap pan on towel-covered countertop to remove any air bubbles.
  12. Bake for 15-16 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and center of cakes firm to touch.
  13. Cool cakelets in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.
  14. While cakes are still warm, brush with honey syrup and serve.
  15. Clean pan and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 32 cakelets.

Mini Loaf Pan – Pumpernickel

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)

METHOD

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together water, oil, molasses, and honey until mixed well.
  2. Add pumpernickel flour to water mixture.
  3. Add cocoa, yeast, and salt, Vital Wheat Gluten, lemon juice and stir until blended.
  4. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  5. 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.
  6. Continue to knead with the dough hook for 6-8 minutes
  7. Turn dough out on a lightly greased counter and knead by hand for 5-8 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple.
  8. Divide dough by weight into 8 equal portions. Mine were 192 g each.
  9. Place each portion into a mini loaf pan and dust with rolled oats.
  10. 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.
  11. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350 F.
  12. Bake at for 18-25 minutes. (Internal temp should be 190-200 deg. F)

New KAF Mini-Loaf Pan and RASPBERRY/PLUM Preserves

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

MINI WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

https://www.melskitchencafe.com/small-batch-whole-wheat-bread/

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


METHOD

  1. 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.
  2. Add the lemon juice, oil, honey, and salt. Mix on low speed.
  3. 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).
  4. Let the mixer knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.
  5. 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.)
  6. Cover the loaf pan and let the loaves rise until they are 1-2 inches above the edge of the loaf pan.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.

RASPBERRY/PLUM JAM

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)

METHOD

  1. 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.
  2. Continue to cook, stirring frequently as the jam simmers and thickens. Skim any foam off of the surface with a spoon.
  3. While the jam is simmering, remove plum skins with a spider strainer. Clean the strainer often to reduce the amount of jam removed.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Store jam in a cool dry place like a pantry and consume within 1 year.

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.