Archive for the ‘Cakes, Pies, and Pastry’ Category

We’ll Always Have Paris

Friday, May 11th, 2018

My mother (the farthest person to the right) and her friends at the French House at Mount Holyoke College in 1939.

On Mother’s Day—and on many other days of the year—I think fondly of my late mother. I often cook something she enjoyed making and eating.

When I was planning today’s Mother’s Day appearance on Mass Appeal, I thought of my mother’s love of Paris, a love she passed on to me, and decided to make crêpes. This classic Parisian street food can be savory or sweet.

I’m not the world’s best crêpe maker. My crêpes aren’t perfectly flat and even. They are good enough, however—and they’re delicious!

My mother first fell in love with Paris and France on a trip there after her freshman year at Mount Holyoke, escorted (along with several other students) by a professor and his wife.

She happily went back to Paris for her junior year abroad, acquiring such a flawless Parisian accent that she was mistaken for a Frenchwoman. (My French was pretty darn good, but French people always knew I was American.) And she returned again and again throughout her life.

Here’s a paragraph she wrote in a diary in 1953, when she visited the city as a young mother and went to see a play at the Comédie-Française:

During the intermission I wandered into the lobby and delighted my soul further as I looked out through the colonnades at the fountains in front. I felt as tho I were re-finding Paris as I had loved it! And the life—the magnetic life of the city as I saw it again wandering through the streets, the narrow streets thronged with shops and people.

I like to think that my crêpes would have delighted her soul, too! I can’t replicate those shops and people, but I like to think that I can recreate a little taste of Paris in her honor.

Making the crêpes on Mass Appeal didn’t go QUITE as planned. Live TV is live TV. I had an egg mishap, and I never got to turn the darn things on camera. We had fun anyway—and the end product was delicious.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Classic Savory or Sweet Crêpes

Ingredients:

for the crêpes:

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
more butter as needed

for the fillings:

lots of butter
grated Gruyère or Jarlsberg cheese OR lemon juice and sugar

Instructions:

Place the eggs in a blender, and blend them to mix them. Add the milk, salt, and flour, and blend again on low speed. Blend in the melted butter.

Cover your blender bowl, and let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes before making the crêpes.

When you are ready to cook, melt a small amount of butter in an 8-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Spread the butter around with a pastry brush or a paper towel.

Pour a few tablespoons of batter into the middle of the pan. Swirl the pan around to distribute the batter as well as you can into an even, flat pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the bottom is light brown and the edges left up easily; then flip the crêpe and let it cook on the other side.

Remove the crêpe from the pan, and let it cool on a plate or rack. Continue until you have used up your batter.

You may fill your crêpes to make them either savory or sweet. For savory crêpes (known as galettes), melt butter in an 8- or 10-inch nonstick frying pan. Spread it around as you did for the crêpes. Place 1 crêpe on the pan, let it cook for a few seconds in the butter, and then flip it over. Sprinkle grated cheese on top, and let it melt for a minute or so; then fold the crêpe over the cheese to make a half circle. Cook until the cheese melts; then remove the galette from the heat. Repeat with the remaining crêpes.

The process for making sweet crêpes is similar, but instead of putting cheese on the inside you will sprinkle sugar and a small amount of lemon juice inside each crêpe.

Makes about 10 crêpes.

And now the videos:

Tinky Starts the Crêpes on Mass Appeal

Tinky Finishes the Crêpes (more or less)

 

Warmth and Cider High on a Hill

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

High on a hill on Reynolds Road in Shelburne, Massachusetts, Wheel-View Farm enjoys a stunning view. The farm house and much of the land have been in Carolyn Wheeler’s family since 1896, although she and her husband John have added to their property over the years.

Originally a dairy farm, Wheel-View now sells mostly beef, fruit, maple products, and hard and sweet cider. When I visited last fall, the Wheelers were getting ready for Cider Days. Cider season is, of course, over—but we’re still enjoying (if that’s the word) cool weather so it FEELS like cider season.

I was fortunate enough to be able to watch John Wheeler press fresh cider—and to taste his product. The Wheelers have a small but efficient cider-pressing system they purchased from OESCO in Conway, Massachusetts. John explained that the press was discovered in Italy, where it is used to press grapes for wine.

The pressing has two stages. First, John feeds fresh, crisp apples into an electric grinder. When I visited he was using a blend of Golden Delicious, Macoun, and Liberty varieties.

Next, the ground apples are transferred to a round press with a “bladder” in the middle. The press is powered by water from a garden hose. The water fills and expands the bladder, pushing the apple pieces out to the edges of the press. Holes in the sides allow the cider to flow out in a waterfall.

When the cider has finished flowing, the dry leftover pulp becomes a treat for the Wheelers’ cattle. It is the only thing the cattle eat other than grass and hay from their own pasture.

Nothing is wasted—and the cider has a deep, rich flavor. It was without doubt the best cider I have ever had. It tasted just like apples. I love apples.

After the pressing, Carolyn Wheeler took me to her cider tasting room, which opened in 2016.

Designed by Carolyn in an old outbuilding, the large, wood-paneled room welcomes visitors who want to buy cider or beef, as well as those who want to try a glass of hard or sweet cider on the spot along with a snack.

The tasting room is also a museum of sorts. Carolyn has filled it with antiques and collectibles from the farm’s past, including many pieces of household and farm equipment. As a music lover, I enjoyed testing her player piano and listening to “The Happy Wanderer” on her family’s Victrola.

The bill of sale for the Victrola hangs on the wall behind the record player. “My family never threw anything out,” Carolyn said with a smile as she pointed to the receipt.

The Wheelers have welcomed a number of groups to the tasting room and the farm, from school (and college) students to the members of senior centers and granges in the area. Their visitors are encouraged to try to identify the uses of the pieces of farm equipment on display.

The Wheelers are retired educators. They view Wheel-View not just as a source of food but also as a source of information about farming practices in the past and present. As they look toward the future, Carolyn told me, they hope the farm can be maintained as some kind of educational center.

Meanwhile, the pair are making the most of their life as farmers. They have recently revived a traditional New England apple product John Wheeler’s grandmother used to enjoy, cider syrup (also known as boiled cider).

This is cider boiled down to concentrate the flavor. The pair sell it in three flavors: plain cider syrup, cider syrup mixed with maple, and cinnamon cider syrup.

Carolyn showed off the syrup’s versatility for me in a sweet-and-savory slow-cooker pot roast that also featured Wheel-View Farm’s beef. I made it on Mass Appeal this week, along with my grandmother’s chocolate cake. (My TV appearance coincided with what would have been her—gasp!—129th birthday.)

Wheel-View Farm’s cider tasting room is open most weekends, although would-be visitors are encouraged to call or check the farm’s website before venturing forth.

By the way, as I mention in the second video below, I’ll be teaching a free recipe-writing workshop on Sunday, May 6, as part of ArtWeek here in Massachusetts. This week celebrates arts of all sorts and features hundreds of events, many of which are free. If you’re in the neighborhood and are thinking of writing up a recipe or two (for publication, or even just for friends a family members), I hope you’ll come. Preregistration is required, but that’s not hard to do. Here are the details.

Wheel-View Farm Cider-Syrup Pot Roast

Ingredients:

3 to 4 pounds beef roast (I used chuck)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 dash nutmeg
pepper to taste (3/4 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup catsup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup cider syrup or cider-maple syrup

Instructions:

Place the roast in a slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients and spread them on top of the beef. Cook for 6 to 8 hours on high. There is no need to add water; the roast makes its own gravy. You may also cook it on high for 1/2 hour and then let the beef cook overnight on low.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, place the beef in a covered pan and spread the sauce on top; then place it in a preheated 500-degree oven. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cook for several hours or overnight. (I haven’t tried this method, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t work!)

When the beef has finished cooking, remove it from the pot, cut it up if necessary (it mostly just falls apart), and return it to the sauce.

Serves 6 to 8.


And now the videos:


Tinky Makes Wheel-View Farm Cider-Syrup Pot Roast


Tinky Makes Her Grandmother’s Chocolate Cake

A Southern Twist on Funeral Food

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I LOVE funeral foods, an affection I inherited from my mother. With a nod to Shakespeare, she billed herself as a “specialist in funeral baked meats.” When a neighbor died she sprang into action organizing contributions to the post-funeral repast.

One of these days I will find a publisher for my death-related cookbook, which will be titled Dishes to Die For: America’s Favorite Funeral Foods. Meanwhile, I take inspiration from a new funeral-food cookbook that highlights the south.

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist (Countryman Press, $22.95, 176 pages) comes from the fertile pen and kitchen of Perre Coleman Magness. Magness, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, is the author of Pimento Cheese the Cookbook. She is clearly my soul sister. In addition to doting on funeral food, I adore pimento cheese. I ate it almost daily when I lived in Tennessee.

Magness’s new book abounds with tempting recipes for classic southern foods, from fried chicken to chess pie. It also adapts many typical southern dishes into crowd-friendly form, providing for example a mini version of cinnamon buns and an easily sliced caramel Bundt cake (much handier for a large group than the typical layered version).

I recognized many of Magness’s recipes from my southern sojourns and also from funerals I have attended, but some were new to me. I can’t wait to try her paper-bag chicken (yes, it’s chicken roasted in a paper bag, and it sounds WONDERFUL) and her buttermilk pie bars.

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook is a keeper—perfect to consult when you’re heading out to a funeral or just entertaining friends and family at home.

Photo courtesy of Perry Coleman Magness and Countryman Press

Southern Sympathy Sweet Tea Bread (Courtesy of Perre Coleman Magness/Countryman Press)

Sweet tea is a staple of southern hospitality. Almost every restaurant at which I dined in Tennessee and Texas provided large pitchers of sweetened iced tea at low cost. Here Magness uses this ingredient as the basis for an elegant sweet loaf.

Ingredients:

1 family-sized tea bag
2 sprigs mint, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
the zest of one medium lemon
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions:

Put the tea bag and 2 sprigs of mint in a measuring cup. Add 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes; then remove the tea bag and mint. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the tea, reserving the rest for the glaze. Add the flour, the baking powder, and the salt to the butter in the bowl in three additions, alternating with the tea and scraping down the sides of the bowl. When everything is well combined, beat on high for 5 seconds; then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes; then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining tea slowly until you have a pourable glaze about the consistency of heavy cream. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a spoon, spreading to cover the top with a few attractive drips down the sides. Let the glaze set for about an hour.

The loaf will keep in an airtight container for a day. Makes one loaf.

Just for fun, here I am in full funeral mode, leaning on the tombstone of Abigail Baker, my hometown’s best known baker. Mrs. Baker won the famed pudding contest our town sponsored in 1780. This photo will grace the cover of my own funeral-food book.

A Belated (but fun!) Halloween

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

I don’t get trick or treaters here in the wilds of western Massachusetts, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying Halloween this year. My house was festooned with my favorite fall decorations on Tuesday. Cocoa the dog reluctantly donned her turtle costume. And I made Halloween treats with my friends on the show Mass Appeal.

Actually, the first recipe we prepared wasn’t a treat; it was a hearty soup I recommend for Halloween night (or any other fall evening). Pam’s Country Ham and Potato Soup (the recipe is here; I shared it a few years ago) is so warming and delicious I don’t want dessert after dining on it.

I did feel the need to feature a treat on the air as well, however, so we made festive sweets from the recipe box of one of my area’s best bakers, Paula Rice of Charlemont. In plastic wrap or a sandwich bag, they’re an ideal hand out for trick-or-treaters. They’re also tasty all fall long. (Paula reports that she hasn’t made them yet this year, but she’s going to!)

The recipe below is Paula’s. Instead of her filling, I used my traditional cream-cheese frosting. Either way, the pies are welcomed by adults and children. They taste like pumpkin, spice, and fall.

Paula’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Ingredients:

for the cookies:

1 pound light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I use Canola)
2 eggs
1-3/4 to 2 cups pumpkin puree (freshly cooked and mashed, or a 15-ounce can)
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour

for the filling:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cookies: Combine the sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and spices in a large bowl, mixing well. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Lightly grease baking sheets or line them with parchment or silicone. Drop rounded 2-tablespoon portions of dough onto the sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are firm. (A slight indentation where your finger tests them is allowable.)

Cool the cookies completely; then get ready to fill.

Beat together the filling ingredients, and spread them between whoopie layers. If you’re NOT handing these out to children in bags, feel free to decorate the tops as well.

This recipe makes about 20 filled pies. If you wish, you may make your whoopie pies bigger or smaller than indicated. (Paula likes small ones.)

If you make them bigger, you may have to cook them a little longer; smaller, a little less time.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Pam’s Country Ham and Potato Soup on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Paula’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies on Mass Appeal

Apples on My Mind

Monday, September 11th, 2017

I have apples on the brain these days. They’re omnipresent on my road, brightening the neighborhood like Christmas ornaments on their trees. They’re also abundant this year at orchards again; new flavors seem to ripen every week. I eat at least one a day. I should be doing this because apples are healthy. I’m actually doing it just because I love them. My dog Cocoa smells the juice of recently picked apples whenever I bite into one and patiently (well, almost patiently) waits for a bite or two.

Apples will be my theme when I teach my next class at the Baker’s Pin next week. On the evening of Thursday, September 21, I’ll return to Northampton, Massachusetts, to create a whole meal with apples, from appetizer to dessert.

In fact, I recently devised one of the recipes below for that very class—my Apple Gruyère Pizza. When I made it on Mass Appeal last week, the pizza was completely consumed before the end of the hour-long show.

The swamp cake that follows is an applesauce cake I made years ago for the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world, my former roommate Alice from Dallas. Alice dubbed it “swamp cake” because of its tendency to swamp down in the middle. The swamping didn’t bother either of us; we just applied a little extra cream-cheese frosting in the swampy area.

If you know anyone in western Massachusetts who would like to join me at the Baker’s Pin, please tell him/her/them to register here. Slots are still open.

Enjoy the crunch, taste, and versatility of apples as we approach fall!

Apple Gruyère Pizza

If you want a lighter pizza or are serving vegetarians, brown the onion in extra-virgin olive oil instead of bacon fat. (Add a small amount of salt and pepper when you add the apple and garlic.) For vegetarians, omit the bacon on top; for light lovers, cut down on the bacon on top.

Ingredients:

6 slices of bacon
1 large onion (preferably sweet), thinly sliced
1 medium clove garlic, slivered
1 large apple, cut into thin chunks
1 medium pizza crust (about 1 pound)
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
2 cups (generous) grated Gruyère
chives to taste

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you are ready to make the pizza, take your pizza crust out of the refrigerator (if you are using a commercial crust; if your crust is homemade it won’t need cooling), place it on a greased baking sheet, and let it rest. After an hour and a half or so, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, lightly grease the baking sheet, and stretch the crust out on top. If you are paranoid like me, you may want to line the baking sheet with parchment, foil, or silicone.

In a large skillet fry the bacon. Remove it from the pan and place it on paper towels to drain. Set aside. Leave enough of the bacon fat in the pan to cover the bottom of the pan lightly. (You won’t need the rest of the bacon fat.) Toss in the onion slices, and cook them over low heat until they begin to caramelize (probably 20 minutes to 1/2 hour).

Throw in the garlic and the apple chunks and cook the mixture for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle most of the cheese on top of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the onion mixture on top (it won’t make a heavy topping), and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake the pizza until it looks done, 10 to 14 minutes.

While the pizza is baking, crumble the bacon and chop the chives.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle the chives and bacon pieces on top. Let the pizza rest for a minute or two; then slice it. Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as an appetizer.

Swamp Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (preferably homemade)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup flour
1 cup raisins

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch-square pan.

Cream together the butter and the sugars. Add the applesauce. Beat well; then beat in the egg. Beat in the baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the flour, followed by the raisins.

Spoon the batter into the pan, and bake until the cake tests done, about 25 minutes. Cool and eat plain or frost. Serves 8.

And now, the videos:

Tinky Makes Apple Gruyère Pizza on Mass Appeal

 

Tinky Makes Swamp Cake on Mass Appeal