Archive for the ‘Breads, Muffins, and Scones’ Category

Strawberry Season

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Tinkyin red web

I adore strawberries—in part because of their lovely, sweet color and juiciness and in part because (at least where I live in western Massachusetts) they ripen just as the earth does. Their arrival in local fields and farmstands coincides almost exactly with the arrival of summer.

I haven’t picked strawberries in several years. Living by myself as I currently do, I don’t need the large quantities with which one comes home after picking. I know I could make jam and freeze or dry the darn things. Somehow I’m short sighted enough to want to enjoy a few at a time while they’re ripe and not worry about putting them by too much. (I have made a little jam this year; old habits are hard to break.)

This week on Mass Appeal I HAD to use strawberries. I made one savory recipe and one sweet. (Technically, the savory recipe was sweet as well; it actually included more sugar than the sweet. Because it was a little spicy and because it’s not a dessert I think of it as savory.)

The savory recipe was strawberry chipotle sauce. This jam-like substance is wonderful as an appetizer on crackers with cream cheese, although it could also be used as a cooking sauce or condiment with chicken or pork.

The sweet recipe was my “once a year day” special. I generally consume a pretty balanced diet; I love my vegetables. Once a year, however, I like to have ONLY strawberry shortcake for supper. Shortcake is filling, and I can lose my hunger for it if I eat a real meal. If shortcake IS the meal, however, I can enjoy it with gusto. And eating it once at year can’t hurt me.

The shortcake recipe I posted before on this blog made one giant shortcake. I find it easier in general to make smaller shortcakes so I can serve as many people as I want (sometimes just Tinky!) and then give away or freeze the remaining cakes.

The shortcake recipe here comes from King Arthur Flour, and it couldn’t be easier. To make it more festive, I include a bit of stewed rhubarb along with the strawberries. We still have a bit of rhubarb here in the hilltowns, although it’s getting ready to leave us.

King Arthur Flour also provided the self-rising flour, the nice new sharp biscuit cutters, and the sparkling sugar for the top of the cakes.

I hope you enjoy the recipes … and the season … as much as I do.

strawberry chipotle sauce web

Strawberry Chipotle Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups strawberry slices
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce (plus a little of the sauce)
1 dab butter

Instructions:

In a nonreactive pot combine the fruit, a cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for an hour or so to allow the berries to juice up.

Cook the fruit over low heat until tender. Add the remaining sugar, the salt, the chipotle, and the butter, and cook rapidly until thick, stirring frequently. Remove any foam you see (there shouldn’t be too much, thanks to the butter).

If you want jam, it will be ready when it sheets off a cold, stainless-steel spoon.

If you don’t cook it that long, your sauce will just be a bit more liquid. (I like it slightly more liquid so I measure the sauce with an instant-read thermometer and turn off the heat when the thermometer reads 217 or 218 degrees.)

Let the sauce cool for a few minutes; then pulverize it with a blender or immersion blender.

Refrigerate the sauce after it cools. Makes about 2 cups.

shortcakeweb

Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake

Ingredients:

for the filling:

3 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups chopped strawberries (lightly sweetened if you like them juicy)

for the self-rising biscuits:

2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
a small amount of melted butter (optional)
coarse white sugar (optional)

for assembly:

sweetened whipped cream

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you want to begin working start the filling by sprinkling the sugar over the rhubarb. Stir in the lemon juice, and allow the rhubarb to juice up.

After an hour has passed prepare your filling. (You may also prepare the rhubarb portion of the filling in advance.) Bring the rhubarb mixture to a boil; reduce the heat; and cook, stirring, until the rhubarb becomes thick (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Allow the rhubarb to cool. While it is cooling you may begin making your shortcake biscuits. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together the flour and sugar. In a separate bowl (or a measuring cup!) combine the cream and the vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the cream mixture into the well, and gently stir until the mixture is combined, adding a little milk as needed to incorporate all the ingredients into the liquid.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface, and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Fold the dough over several times; then pat it into a circle or rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick.

Using a sharp biscuit cutter cut the dough into rounds, about 2 to 2-1/4 inches wide (or however wide you want them!). Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (you may line the sheet with parchment or silicone if you’re paranoid about sticking). If you like, brush the tops of your biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle a little coarse sugar on top.

Bake the biscuits until they are golden brown (12 to 16 minutes).

When you are ready to assemble your shortcakes, cut the biscuits in half horizontally. Decorate the bottom halves with the cooked filling followed by the strawberries; then dollop on whipped cream. Top with the biscuit tops. (Or divide each shortcake into two mini-shortcakes, one strawberry and one rhubarb, as shown in the photo above.)

Serves 8 to 10, depending on the size of your biscuits.

And now the video.…

Cast-Iron Inspiration

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

cast iron

A friend recently decided to outfit a new kitchen and asked for my advice. She was getting ready to purchase a high-end set of cookware, she informed me, and wanted to know what brand I recommended.

I dismayed her by telling her that I wouldn’t recommend purchasing one full set of ANYTHING. Instead, I thought (and still think) that a kitchen needs a little bit of a lot of types of cookware.

I like my stainless-steel saucepans. I like to have both a nonstick and a regular frying pan. I like a huge pot for stocks and soups. And I believe that every kitchen needs a bit of cast-iron.

In my case, that cast-iron consists of one enameled Dutch oven in a convenient size (about 5 quarts; larger is hard to lift!) and black cast-iron skillets of varying sizes.

Most of my skillets came from relatives or tag sales, although I do have one new one, from Lodge Manufacturing Company.

I use my skillets for a variety of tasks—most commonly for toasting nuts or for baking cornbread, frittatas, or upside-down cake.

Reading Dominique DeVito’s brand-new Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook, which publisher Cider Mill Press sent me for review, has given me a number of additional ideas for cast-iron cookery.

In addition to my favorites, DeVito provides cast-iron-friendly recipes for unexpected dishes: casseroles; coffee cakes; vegetable roasts; and a variety of breads, from dinner rolls to Indian naan.

I have to admit it would NEVER have occurred to me to try preparing General Tso’s Chicken in my cast-iron pans—or to bake a giant chocolate-chip cookie.

Most helpful of all, DeVito provides hints on caring for cast iron. I knew one wasn’t supposed to wash these pans with soap. It turns out that I have been seasoning my pans incorrectly all these years, however!

If you’d like new ideas for your old pans, or if you are thinking of adding a cast-iron pan to your cookware collection, leave a comment below. The comment can describe your own favorite use of cast iron—or anything else you would like to express.

Cider Mill Press has generously promised to send a copy of the cookbook to one of the commenters. Please comment by next Tuesday, March 24. The next morning I will select one comment (randomly, I promise!) and get in touch with the winner to get his or her mailing address.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a recipe from the cookbook suitable for this week. I have already made my own favorite soda bread, but I’m seriously considering trying this savory take on a Saint Patrick’s Day favorite as well.

Let me know if you make it—and don’t forget to sing a few sentimental Irish (or Irish-American) songs today. My solo for our local Saint Patrick’s Day concert will be George M. Cohan’s “Mary.”

And the whole assembled group will sing “An Irish Blessing.”

blessingweb

Cheesy Chive Soda Bread

   Courtesy of The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 cups white flour
2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped chives
1-1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In another bowl, combine the butter, buttermilk, and egg.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir vigorously to blend. Dough will be sticky. Stir in the chives and 1 cup of the grated cheese.

Liberally grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with butter. Scoop and spread the dough into the skillet. Grate pepper over the top; then sprinkle the remaining cheese over it. Using a sharp knife, make an “x” in the center, about 1/2-inch deep, to settle the cheese further into the dough as it cooks.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the bread is golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to sit in the skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 1 loaf.

A Saint Patrick's Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

A Saint Patrick’s Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

“Just Up” Rhubarb Scones

Monday, May 12th, 2014

sconesweb

I know I probably don’t need another scone recipe on this blog—but I had JUST enough rhubarb to make scones yesterday! So that’s what I did.

My generous neighbor Dennis, who has a giant rhubarb patch, encouraged me to pick some of his rhubarb, which is just beginning to come up.

Unfortunately, it was still a tiny bit too early to pick. So I ended up with only a small amount of rhubarb—about a cup and a half chopped.

I made the scones with some of it and stewed the rest. I love stewed rhubarb. Well, I love rhubarb made just about any way. After all, I did name my cat Rhubarb.

Non-Edible Rhubarb

Non-Edible Rhubarb

When the patch gets bigger, I’ll try the fabulous-sounding recipe my friend Clare just sent me for rhubarb-meringue bars. (I also love meringue.)

Meanwhile, I recommend these scones. They’re buttery, with a nice balance of sweet and tart. Next time, I might even double the rhubarb!

By the way, if you haven’t caught my latest TV appearance, please watch. I talked a lot (what else is new?), but the hosts and I had a very good time making vintage Mother’s Day fare.

The Scones

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar 2/3 cup chopped rhubarb 2 cups flour 1-1/2 teaspoons baking power 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter 1 egg 2/3 cup buttermilk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla cinnamon sugar as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar over the rhubarb. Stir and let the mixture sit while you mix the dry ingredients.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the rhubarb into this mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and blend just to moisten the dry ingredients.

Quickly scoop dough (it will be moist) into rounds on the prepared cookie sheets. Small rounds will give you about 16 small scones, but you may also make 8 larger scones. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top for added flavor and crunch.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes for small scones or a bit longer for large ones. Makes 8 to 16 scones.

Rhubarb Leavesweb

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

anniversarycupweb

Or rather to this blog. And to its faithful readers.

On September 3, 2008, In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens first appeared on the internet. I thought the blog might serve as my passport to fame.

It hasn’t quite done that …. yet. It has attracted a moderate following, however, and it has given me a forum in which to develop some of my favorite ideas and recipes.

My most popular posts have been the ones about TV and Film History (particularly anything to do with “I Love Lucy”!), followed by those that dwell on two of my favorite foods, rhubarb and asparagus.

A quickly rising post that will probably be number one soon is one I wrote shortly after starting the blog, about the poignant “September Song.” Sometime in the past few months someone inserted a link to this post into the Wikipedia entry for the song … and so people wander over every day to look at it. It doesn’t offer a recipe, but it does offer food for thought.

In the coming year, I hope to use some of my blog posts in my next book. And I hope my audience will continue to grow. Please let me know what you like about the blog, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see me do!

In case you haven’t been following me from the start, I’m reprinting my very first post here. I hope to make the tasty scones again today—and to contemplate the universe, something we all need to do from time to time.

As I contemplate, I’ll enjoy this (almost) autumnal anniversary. It’s fitting that the Jewish New Year falls in September, a month in which it seems natural to look both backward and forward. Thank you all for reading….

Posted on 3 September 2008:

Apples and the Universe

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

So said the late astronomer Carl Sagan on the PBS television series Cosmos.

Sagan was one of the great writers of popular science for a reason. He knew how to phrase complicated truths about human existence in down-to-earth ways.

To him, of course, the important noun in his sentence was the universe. To me (because I’m an ordinary person and a cook), it’s the apple pie.

I love to cook—but I can’t imagine how anyone ever invented our most basic recipes: a simple cake, a loaf of bread, a scrambled egg, a pie.

To my mind those breakthroughs are as mystifying as thinking up relativity or quantum theory. I’m glad I don’t have to come up with them myself. I’m content with tweaking traditional folk recipes and asking my neighbors to share the formulas for their own culinary triumphs.

Nevertheless, I do know that very time we cook or bake we’re using science and recreating the universe in numerous ways. Even though I managed to avoid taking chemistry in high school and college, I use its magical processes every day to create meals for family and friends.

When I follow a recipe or consider a specific food, the neurons (or whatever the heck does the work) in my brain conjure up the person who first introduced me to that flavor. And of course when cooking I create something new out of unrelated matter—my own personal big bang.

(I’ve had a few little bangs in the kitchen as well, but that’s another topic.)

Apples are all around us at this time of year, embodying the coming autumn with that season’s key characteristics. They are cool. They are colorful. They are crisp.

Looking down at us from trees or up at us from a basket, they evoke wonder and laughter, just like the universe. They are comforting, nutritious, and versatile—capable of waxing sweet or sour (again like the universe), depending on their use.

My dog finds them on the road and uses them as balls, illustrating gravity (wouldn’t that old apple lover Isaac Newton be proud?) by propelling them down the street and running to retrieve them.

I’ll be posting some apple recipes here as time goes by. Luckily, none of them actually takes 13 billion years to make—unless you, like Sagan, like to consider the very, very big picture.

pensive web

My Apple Scones

This simple recipe never fails to please. I made it almost weekly when I worked as the demo cook at Bloomingdale’s in Tysons Corner, Virginia. It’s also delightful with dried cranberries instead of the apple.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar plus a bit more as needed for sprinkling
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
2/3 cup cut-up apple (about 1 medium apple—use a bit more if you like)
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 baking sheets. Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the apple pieces into this mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the apple mixture and blend briefly. Drop the batter in clumps onto the baking sheets. You may either make large scones (you’ll end up with 6 to 8 of them) or smallish ones (12 to 16).

Sprinkle additional sugar on top for added flavor and crunch. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 to 16 scones, depending on size.

Vintage-Anniversary-Card

Blueberry Bread (A Tasty Work in Progress)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Last week I picked up my annual box of blueberries from the Benson Place in Heath, Massachusetts. I have written before of my love of the tiny blue pearls that come from Heath’s low-bush plants. These berries always seem sweeter than the fat, high-bush variety. I buy a big box of them every summer so that I can eat a lot and still have plenty to freeze for year-round baking.

I wanted to bring something blueberry-ish to my friend Ken to eat on the morning of his birthday and decided to adapt a strawberry bread recipe I was given many years ago—so many years ago, in fact, that I can’t remember who gave it to me. (If parts of it look familiar, please let me know that you are its original baker!)

The bread wasn’t perfect; it featured one of my baking foibles, swamping in the middle. I will refine the recipe one of these days; I think I may be able to avoid the swamping if I use soft (instead of melted) butter and combine it with the sugar before adding everything to the flour. I was going to wait until I had tinkered to post the recipe … but the gang at Ken’s birthday breakfast convinced me that the bread was blogworthy in its present form, swamp or no swamp.

Pat Leuchtman, a founder of the Heath Gourmet Club, rated it A-Plus … and even featured a photo of it on her blog, Commonweeder.

So I’m offering you the recipe as it is. It is chock full of blueberries—and the glaze, colored by the berries themselves into a gorgeous fuchsia tone, is pretty spectacular to look at and to eat.

The Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar plus 2 cups later
1 tablespoon key-lime juice
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups melted butter (2-1/2 sticks)
4 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
confectioner’s sugar as needed (about 1 cup)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease two loaf pans.

Place 1/2 cup blueberries in a saucepan; put the remaining berries in a medium mixing bowl. Add the 1/4 cup sugar and the key-lime juice to the berries in the saucepan. Stir and set aside.

Place 1/4 cup of the flour in the bowl with the blueberries and toss the mixture to coat the berries. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the remaining flour, the remaining 2 cups of sugar, the baking soda, and the salt. Making a well in the center of this dry mixture, and stir in the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the floured berries.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans, and bake at 350 until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the breads in their pans for 10 minutes; then remove them from the pans and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

While the bread is cooling make the glaze. Heat the mixture in the saucepan until it boils, mashing as it heats. Strain the blueberry juice (discarding the resulting solids), and whisk confectioner’s sugar into the juice until you have a slightly thick sauce. When the sauce and the bread are cool, drizzle the sauce over the bread. Makes 2 loaves.