Friday, October 17, 2014

Chocolate Cake 1877 or Brownie Cake!

The Brownie Cake with drippy icing.
This is really for the Fortnightly Food Challenge "Let them eat Cake!" which I thought was 2 weeks ago and scrambled to fit a post.  So, here's the real deal.  As a bonus, I get to make yet another cake on Sunday.  I seem to be Cake Lady lately.  Fortunately I don't have to eat it.

"The 16th is the anniversary of the beheading of Marie Antoinette (zut alors!). In honor of Madame Deficit, prepare your best cake from a historic recipe. And then eat it, bien sur.," and this is basically 3 layers of brownies with chocolate icing, you just can't go wrong.  My favorite cake of all time is not historic, so this is a pretty close second.  Actually, as I'm not a huge fan of chocolate cake, this is just my favorite chocolate cake... anyway, it's good no matter what. 

It was not a pretty cake.  For the life of me, I couldn't get it to level nicely, and the icing just enhanced every imperfection.  I felt like the executioner who just had to keep hacking away to get the job done.  It actually looked much better with the chef's knife stuck in it - truly... for whatever reason, that knife just made the whole thing into something delightful.  All it lacked was a strawberry jam topping pouring out & it would have been utterly fabulous.  It tasted fabulous.



"The Brownie Cake" from Buckeye Cookery 1877.
CHOCOLATE CAKE.
"One cup butter, three of brown sugar, one of sweet milk, four of flour, yolks of seven eggs, nine table-spoons grated Baker's chocolate, three tea-spoons baking-powder. This may be baked as a layer cake, making a white cake of the whites of the eggs, baking in layers, and putting them together with frosting, alternating the layers".--Mrs. Frank Woods Robinson, Kenton.

I made some economical changes, but nothing out of historic probability.  
1 c. butter (softened)
3 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 c. of 2% milk (use sweetened condensed for a denser cake)
4 c. flour (sifted)
5 eggs (2 whole, 3 yolks, reserve whites for icing)
9 tbsp unsweetened baker's chocolate, grated fine (powdered cocoa is OK too, but the texture is different)
2 tsp baking powder

Cream the sugar & butter
Alternate milk & dry ingredients
Mix dry ingredients

 Cream butter & sugar, beat in eggs one at a time.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternately mix milk & dry to the creamed sugar until it has a smooth consistency.  Put in 3 9" greased & floured pans (parchment paper is fine too), bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes or until done.  A little gooey is fine, but to stack, you want it baked.  Take out of pan & cool on wire racks.


stiff peaks for eggwhites
everything combined
 I used the icing from a different (nearly identical) chocolate cake recipe.
"For icing, take whites of three eggs, beaten stiff, one and a half cups powdered sugar, six table-spoons grated chocolate, two tea-spoons vanilla".--Mrs. J. H. Shearer.

3 egg whites (beaten to hard peaks)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
6 tbsp grated chocolate (powdered cocoa works too)
2 tsp vanilla extract.

Beat egg whites, beat vanilla in.  Mix dry ingredients & slowly add to egg white mixture, beating all the time.  (You could add boiling water to cook the egg whites to reduce the bacteria risk, but that's up to you).

This ends up being more of a glaze than a true frosting.  It tastes great and doesn't overwhelm the cake.

Time: About 2 hours total.
Cost: I had everything on hand, but I'd say roughly $7 in supplies.  Not cheap, but then handmade cakes never are.  I don't want to think about how much it would be if you had to actually buy everything outright, probably around $30, but you'd have a lot of staples in your pantry after that.
Accuracy: fairly.  I used cocoa powder because I got tired of grating baker's chocolate.  Modern gas oven.  Fridge to cool the cake.
Results: it's pretty much a cake made from brownies.  Good brownies.  With good glazed icing.  I don't like that the icing pours down so much, it wrecked my pretty drizzle lines, and the cake itself is not really easy to carve (or even level) so that's something to remember.  Everyone loved it.  It's very rich, so go easy on the portion sizes. 
Mamma, give me some cake.
Our friends at the meeting fed him waaaaay too much of it.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Steamed Carrot Pudding with Vanilla Sauce, 1942-49

Steamed Carrot Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
1942
"Throughout history, housewives and housekeepers have kept a close eye on their budgets and found creative ways to pinch pennies while providing delicious and nutritious food. Create a dish that interprets one historically-documented method of frugal cooking."
This recipe is from 'The Good Housekeeping Cook Book' 1942, 1944 & 1949.  It is a tasty lesson in frugality.  I did not use any of the suggested recipes in "Thrifty Meals" mostly because it would not have met the core definition of frugal, which is "sparing or economical with regard to money or food."  I took the challenge to be literally frugal, and use exactly what I had on hand to create a meal or part of a meal, without spending any additional money.  It was just a matter of finding a recipe that I had ingredients for.


no grating skin
Here is the recipe, you'll just have to turn your head to the side as Blogger insists on it being this way.  Stupid blogger.
I shredded everything, and despite my mother's jokes about "how much skin does the recipe call for?" I escaped with my knuckles intact.  I used suet as my kid is having a hard time with dairy (suet doesn't cream like shortening does, do not expect "light & fluffy").  This took the zest of 1 lemon, about 4 carrots, and 6 tbsp of grated suet.  That is a lot of hand grating on that old thing.

Stir everything in together.  It's really pretty & smells great at this stage. 

stir everything together
 
hey, look!  It's right way round!
Pop it in the mold, be sure to leave space (I chickened out on the one with the hole in it & used the solid).  It'll come out fine, so no worries, just grease & flour really well.  Cover with 2 layers of waxed paper & set in steamer or on rack in a larger pan.  Cover & steam 1 hr.  




Just before your pudding is done you'll need to start your vanilla sauce.  It takes about 10 minutes start to finish, but you'll want it hot.

more sideways reading for you.  Sorry.
  Very easy.  Just make sure nothing is lumpy going in.  Spoon out any surprise lumps later.  Stir for a little more than 5 minutes until it's clearish, then turn off the heat & add the other ingredients.  Very easy.
finished vanilla sauce with nutmeg


The pudding out of the steamer & unwrapped.  Some of the waxed paper stuck to the mold, but I think it will come off when I wash it.  It was really beautiful this way, and I prefer it to the duller upside down, but it's so sticky it would be hard to keep that glorious finish, which is why the vanilla sauce is so important. 

How Accurate Was It?
Everything according to the directions, with essentially the right tools & equipment, so very.  Wooden spoons are your friend here.  I cooked on a gas stove.


How Long Did It Take?
3 hours start to finish, though there were a few toddler breaks in there, so probably more like 2 hours total, 1 for prep & one to steam it.


How Much Did It Cost?
Everything was already on hand, and a lot of it had to be used soon or thrown out anyway - so goal accomplished, it reduced waste.


How Did It Taste?
Mom: This blows Evelin Peck's carrot cake out of the water.  (I've heard about EP's carrot cake my whole life, it's practically mythical).
Dad: Excellent.  I only ate 2 pieces.
John: This is as good as your chocolate cake  (FYI, that chocolate cake is among the best things I've ever eaten - ever.  NOTE: my husband doesn't like chocolate cake, but he likes that one).
Me: It's interesting.  It's good.  Very spicy & smells great.
John Robert: "NO!"  And he wouldn't eat it either.  He'd pick up a piece, smell it & shake his head & toss it aside.  Too many spices for baby.


Steamed Carrot Pudding is moist, savory, smells wonderful, has a great texture, the raisins are perfectly juicy, it's easy to eat.  I'm a fan.

Yum.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mr. Brown Can Moo Cake (and a 1st Birthday Too!)


Mr. Brown Can Moo
1st Birthday Cake
My son's favorite book is 'Mr. Brown Can Moo' by Dr. Seuss.  We read that thing about 5x/day.  So it was obvious that we should have a Dr. Seuss / Mr. Brown 1st Birthday theme party.  I came up with a few silly games & made some funny hats out of felt and our friend Missy brought green deviled eggs, and of course we had roast beast, and a funny cake.



The cake recipe was the hardest decision because JR can't eat dairy, and I can't eat palm or coconut (try finding shortening without it).  We solved our problems with lard and juice and marshmallows and eggs.  And sugar.  Lots & lots of sugar.  Let's not think about how much sugar.

Here is the original cake recipe* from Buckeye Cookery 1877
*yes, I squeezed a Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge into my son's birthday - what can I say?  It tastes good, so why not?

Gold Part.--Yolks of eight eggs, scant cup butter, two of sugar, four of flour, one of sour milk, tea-spoon soda, table-spoon corn starch; flavor with lemon and vanilla.

Silver Part.--Two cups sugar, one of butter, four (scant) of flour, one of sour milk, tea-spoon soda, table-spoon corn starch, whites of eight eggs; flavor with almond or peach. Put in pan, alternately, one spoonful of gold and one of silver.--Miss Emma Fisher.


Figures are marzipan, natural and artificial colors
the black paint is food coloring gel just painted
on with a synthetic brush.
Hard Money Cake 

Yellow cake:
4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
1 c. butter/lard
2 c. sugar
1 tsp lemon
1 tsp vanilla
8 egg yolks
1 c. sour milk / orange juice
 
 
White cake:
4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
2 c. sugar.
1 c. butter / lard
8 egg whites
1 c. sour milk / orange juice / water / other juice
1 tsp almond extract or peach juice

Once he figured out it wasn't sand
there were a lot of "mmm mmm"
noises.  Awesome.
Preheat oven to 350F
Grease & flour (4) 8” round pans & (1) 9x13” pan, parchment paper optional.
In 2 medium bowls, mix flour, baking soda & corn starch for both cakes.  Set aside.
In 2 large bowls, cream sugar & butter.  Add vanilla & lemon juice to yellow cake.  Add almond extract OR peach juice to white cake.
In 3 smaller bowls, separate yolks from whites using the 3rd bowl to hold the shells.  Beat each till mixed.
Beat eggs into respective creamed sugar.
Alternate flour mixture & milk, stir until combined.
Spoon into pans alternately, no more than ½ full. 
Bake at 350 until done, 45min – 1+hrs.   (35-40 min if using lard)

I did not do the coin thing for this cake, just added a bit of extra liquid to the yellow cake & made them both up as separate layers.  When I made the cake the first time I found out that the yellow & white aren't that different once they are baked, so no point.  This bad boy will serve 20 generous, 40 wedding cut.
Caution: lard burns fast.  Watch it the last 15 minutes, don't go off to play with your baby.  Just don't.


Accuracy: fairly.  At least for this part.  After this it's totally not.  It's just a cake.
The substitutions are plausible and tasty, and would have been available in summer in 1877 in our area of NY.  I see no reason not to use them.  I lined the pans with parchment, etc.  Just used a conventional gas oven.  All my tools are hand tools, so no major issues there.

Cost: Let's not even think about it.  Truly.  It's not a box mix.

Results: pretty darn good.  Not fabulous.  Not "if you touch the last piece I'll stab you with my fork" good, but it was a tasty cake.  I would not have complained to the bakery if I had bought it.  It was light enough to have some air bubbles & dense enough to allow for carving & stacking (yes, I used plastic straw dowels to support the layers, which were removable).



Basic Marzipan, sticky as slug slime...
far better tasting.
Marzipan Mr. Brown
I used a cooked marzipan recipe by Elizabeth LaBau mostly because it's cooked egg whites.  I know the chances of getting sick are like 1:100,000,000 or something insane like that, but baby = cautious mom. 

A few words of caution: while this recipe is excellent in both flavor and final product, it is not all that easy to make and it is sticky as slug-slime to start.  Have a friend help you with the powdered sugar and plan on using a lot.  Also, it does not hold its shape well when you first start working it.  Let the various pieces dry a little before trying to stick anything together.  Expect some slumping.

A bit of history on marzipan: the early recipes go back insanely far.  If you want a sweet European/Middle Eastern treat for a medieval or renaissance era feast, this is a good option as long as nut allergies aren't an issue.  Recipes call for rose water, almond extract, orange extracts, etc.  Steer clear of vanilla until later recipes... actually, steer clear of it entirely, everything today tastes like vanilla today - it's overused.



7-Minute Frosting 1 from All Recipes by cookinwifeandmom
Hilarious.  More like 35 minute frosting with 7 minutes before the blasted stuff crusts over into nasty sugary shattery bits, and I had to finish it off with the hand whisk before it got anywhere near soft peak stage.  Tastes great though.  Stuck the cake together like nobody's business.  Cleaned up easy after it got everywhere.

Help me!  She's going to EAT me!
This marshmallow fondant.  It's A-Mazing.  It's easy.  It tastes GOOD.  It works.  It takes food coloring like a charm.  It's paintable.  I highly recommend it.  If it starts to dry out, add some shortening (not much) and knead it in.  Problem solved.  Feel free to refrigerate ahead or freeze, but don't refrigerate the cake after its on or you may risk slumping. I was worried that I had put on too much jam-glue, but it was perfect.

I stuck the marzipan & fondant on the cake (and each other) with diluted orange marmalade.  Delicious.

Time: The cake took about 1 week to make, starting with mixing up the marzipan & fondant, then on to sculpting the figurines.  I baked and carved the cake on Friday, and put the marzipan layer on.  It rested overnight.  I applied the white fondant on Saturday and then did the colored fondant & painting.  Doweled & stacked it Saturday & boxed it up for the party on Sunday.  We ate it Sunday afternoon and it tasted great.  Dad ate the last piece yesterday, everything was still good, so it lasts.






Before anyone asks, no, I'm not a professional baker and have no intention of ever being one.  This was my first time using fondant ever, if that gives you any idea of how easy that recipe is to use...
I'm in love with food coloring as paint.  That is awesome.  I highly recommend trying it.  You'll need a hard, smooth frosting (not buttercream) and gel food coloring.  My kid pooed green the next day.  Again, awesome.  While I hope he can eat dairy someday, we did not settle for second best here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Roman Feast

I had not intended this to become a cooking blog, but cooking is just about the only creative/expressive thing I get to do these days aside from reading "Moo, Ba, La La La," which, while fun, is not original or creative... though you'd be amazed at how creative you can get re-reading the same paragraph over & over.


I was asked to be feastocrat for Hunter's Moon, and the event was yesterday.  It was exciting, interesting, painful, frustrating, exciting, frustrating, infuriating, and ultimately worth doing because that was a fabulous meal.  I planned for 60 but we seated 30, so I had chicken and pies left, but not much else.  We only threw out about 1 head of lettuce (salad) and the rest got distributed among the guests.  I cooked the left-over chicken today & put it up in the freezer for future Shire events.  Unfortunately I didn't take pictures, I was busy cooking (sorry!).

Preparation took several days/weeks and a lot of help.  I made up the liquimen, garum & pork forcemeat way ahead of time.
The custard was cooked on Thursday, the chicken marinated then too.
Chicken was stuffed on Friday, grapes picked & carrots/parsnips cut up and marinated. 
Everything else was cooked on location that day.

Here is the menu plan, and below you will find the original recipes with my changes & instructions.  I took nearly everything from Apicius (various translations) and I'm honestly not sure which part was my favorite.  I tried to choose recipes that had a progression of flavors without everything tasting the same, and a good balance of nutrients without too much fat/salt/whatever.  I wanted a colorful meal, and I admit I also wanted to avoid boiled meat at all costs.

I had an original budget of $400, which got upped to $500, but I came in under $400 in the end.




Sideboard: *(this is the snack table, when it runs out, it's gone.)
Bread – Wegmans, various white & wheat *(one rye, not period). 5 loaves *(should have gotten more).
Cheese – 1st platter: soft cheese (goat), bree (goat), salted hard cheese (sheep), Gouda *(should have gotten more)
2nd platter: cheddar, swiss, monteray jack, Munster
Fruit – grapes *(store green seedless, wine grapes from arbor - these were a hit BTW), dates, figs *(dates didn't go over well)
boiled eggs – 40, *have 3 left

Beverages:
Vinegar Water  *(this is close to an electrolyte drink and very tasty) 
Water                           1 gal
Apple cider vinegar       3 tbsp  *(the guys wanted a lot more)
Honey                          3 tbsp  *(again, a lot more, like 1/3 c.)

Preparation: dissolve honey into warm vinegar.  Mix into water, taste, add more water or honey/vinegar until it's good.  Serve at room temperature or cool.  
*We actually ended up serving this slightly warm as it was a chilly day.
*Refill as necessary.



Faux Spiced Wine
Based on recipe in The Classical Cookbook, p. 101
White grape juice                                         2 gal
honey                                                           ¾ c.
ground black pepper                                     ½ tsp.
bay leaf                                                         1
saffron powder                                              1 pinch  (~1/8 tsp)
Put 2/3 cup of the juice in a saucepan with the honey and bring it to a boil. Skim if necessary. Repeat and remove from the heat. Add the seasonings while it is hot: this speeds up the flavouring process. When it is cold, add the rest of the juice and allow to stand overnight. To serve, strain through a fine sieve or muslin. 

*We didn't strain it, just took out the bay leaf & left the saffron.  We watered it by 1/3 so everyone could have 2 glasses.
This may well have been my favorite thing at the feast.  It tastes exactly like a good white wine without the drunk that goes with alcohol.


Coffee & tea
Obviously not part of a Roman feast, but a necessary component of any American gathering.  Brew a big pot.  Have milk, sugar & sugar substitute.  You don't have to like it, you still have to do it.

Special: 

 

Salad:

[109] ENDIVES AND LETTUCE INTUBA ET LACTUCÆ
ENDIVES [are dressed] WITH BRINE, A LITTLE OIL AND CHOPPED ONION, INSTEAD OF THE REAL LETTUCE [1] IN WINTER TIME THE ENDIVES ARE TAKEN OUT OF THE PICKLE [2] [and are dressed] WITH HONEY OR VINEGAR.
[1] Hum. pro lactucis uere; Tor. p. l. accipint; G.-V. p. l. vero (separated by period)—all indicating that endives are a substitute for lettuce when this is not available.

Ingredients:
lettuce                          7 lbs total
endive heads                 3 lbs
Red onion                     1-2 onions
Liquimen                      1 c.
Olive oil                        1 c.
Honey                          ½ c.
Salt                              2 tsp.

Dressing: Mix olive oil, liquimen, salt & honey together.  Put in containers so guests can use as they wish.
*We ended up pouring the dressing on the salad due to a lack of containers. 


Preparation:
Cut lettuce & endives into pleasant size pieces.  Put in serving bowl.  Chop onion fine and add a little to each bowl
* We sliced the onions so people could easily pull them off.

 Special:
"Don't kill the king" dressing:
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. vinegar
1/8 c. white wine
3 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp black pepper
Whisk together, bottle & let the king pour his own dressing.  Motto of the feast "don't kill the king."

*I did not get to try the salad.  However, when tasting the dressings I preferred the one I whipped up for Tindal (no fish sauce) to the one everyone else got, though both are very good.  The downside to the first dressing is that it is not very good after a few days, so it's a make & use kind of thing.




Side Dishes:

[72] ASPARAGUS ASPARAGOS
ASPARAGUS [Tor. IN ORDER TO HAVE IT MOST AGREEABLE TO THE PALATE] MUST BE [peeled, washed and] DRIED [1] AND IMMERSED IN BOILING WATER BACKWARDS [2] [3].

Ingredients:
Asparagus                    200 stalks (8 bunches)
Water                           several gal.
Salt                              1 c.
Olive Oil                       1 c.
Liquimen                      ½ c.
Black Pepper               3 tbsp

Cut tough ends off asparagus (if small), peel tough skin (if large - use a knife, the peelers gum up, yes it makes a difference, yes it takes a lot of time).  Reassemble in bunches of like sizes & tie with butcher’s twine.  Stand upright in a pan of boiling salt water reaching 1/3 – ½ way up the stalks & cover.  Remove when tender 10-20 minutes (thinner is less time, fatter is more time, they are done when the heads wilt over - don't let them sit).  Drain, lay on serving tray and sprinkle with dressing.
*I got smalls, so I just tied the bunches, then removed the rubber bands & boom, done.

Dressing:
Mix olive oil and liquimen, sprinkle with black pepper.

Special:
 "Don't kill the king"
Tindal got olive oil & black pepper on his asparagus.  

People who said "I don't like asparagus" liked this.  It was kind of amazing, though I honestly prefer the baked asparagus my husband makes.  This fit the meal though.


CARROTS OR PARSNIPS ARE FRIED [and served] WITH A WINE SAUCE.

Carrots                         12 lbs
Parsnips                       8 lbs
Olive Oil                       2 c. (reserve 1)
Cooking Wine              1 c.
Liquimen                      ½ c.

Preparation:  Peel & slice carrots & parsnips into coins, marinate in wine sauce.
Sauce: Mix ½ olive oil, wine & liquimen together.  Marinate carrots & parsnips overnight or a few hours in bags or bowls. 
Cook in hot skillet with remaining olive oil. 
*I ended up changing the wine to grape juice only because we couldn't find the cork screw that night.

Special:
"Don't kill the King" ended up being olive oil & wine.


These are good warm or cold.  We had some for dinner today & they were quite delicious even without being re-heated.



Main Course:
[396] STUFFED DORMOUSE [1] GLIRES

IS STUFFED WITH A FORCEMEAT OF PORK AND SMALL PIECES OF DORMOUSE MEAT TRIMMINGS, ALL POUNDED WITH PEPPER, NUTS, LASER, BROTH. PUT THE DORMOUSE THUS STUFFED IN AN EARTHEN CASSEROLE, ROAST IT IN THE OVEN, OR BOIL IT IN THE STOCK POT.

Ingredients:
Chicken breasts                                    60 – 70 breasts
Ground pork                                        6 lbs
fennel                                                   1 lb
Pine nuts                                               1 lb
Ground chicken                                     ~2 lbs
Black pepper                                        ¼ c.
Garlic cloves, crushed                           ~2 bulbs
Olive oil                                                (as needed)
White wine, reduced                               1 qt. (as needed)

Forcemeat: Mix ground pork, fennel, pine nuts, black pepper, garlic and chicken broth/wine into a fine sausage-like mixture.   Chicken trimmings can be added now or later.  Refridgerate overnight or freeze until ready to use.  *(I skipped the wine/broth, and all the chicken went into its own forcemeat).

Stuffed Chicken Breasts: Trim chicken breasts so there is a fat end (the back of the dormouse) and a pointed end (the nose).  Add trimmings to the forcemeat.  Slit the least attractive side with a knife & add forcemeat.  Tie the chicken breast closed with butcher’s twine *(I used a plug of chicken meat vs. tying, it turned out fine & cut down on plate-time).

Baking:
Add a little broth & olive oil to the roasting pan, set breasts inside.  Cover roasting pan & bake until done.  May have to baste with chicken broth to keep from drying out.
350F for 25-30 min (note: longer cooking time for more meat, don't squeeze things in a pan, give them room to cook).  Use a thermometer to know when it's done.  120F is technically done, 160F is done-done and on the verge of drying out; any higher & it's Dry Chicken City.

Garnishing:
Add cloves or raisins for eyes and nose, and chives or other herbs for whiskers.  *(they got set on lettuce leaves on pretty plates - no eyes/nose/whiskers.

Note: I had to use a cheaper chicken breast than I had planned, so marinating it overnight was necessary.  This turned out to be a FANTASTIC decision.  4 c. grape juice, 3/4 c. salt, heat to dissolve salt, marinate breasts in bags, top off with water. 

 Special:
We baked 4 chicken breasts with chicken forcemeat so the "no piggies" contingent had a lovely meal too (plus, I had 2 lbs of chicken trimmings left).



Dessert: 

ROMAN CUSTARD

Take sufficient milk for the size of the cake pan. Mix the milk with honey just as if you were making milk food. Then put in five eggs to a pint of the honey-milk mixture, or three eggs to half a pint. Dissolve the eggs into the milk so that the resulting mixture is smooth. Strain into a clay vessel and cook over a slow fire. When the custard is firm, sprinkle with pepper and serve. (Apicius Book 7, XI-7)

Ingredients:
milk                              1 cup
cream                           1 cup
honey                           3 tbsp
eggs                             4 lg / 5 med.
Liquimen                      1 tsp
Black pepper                ~3 tbsp

Flour                            2 cups
Lard                             2/3 c.
Salt                              ½ tsp
COLD Water               4-6 tbsp

Filling; Mix milk and cream.  Heat to just warm in the microwave or on a stovetop.  Add honey slowly while whisking quickly. Beat eggs and liquimen in a separate bowl until frothy. Combine the eggs & milk mixtures and beat again. Pour into prepared crusts, sprinkle pepper on, cover with foil and cook in slow oven at 350F for about an hour

Crust: Mix flour & salt.  Cut in lard until crumbs form.  Add cold water 1 tbsp at a time until moist enough to roll out.  Roll to ¼” thick, put in pie plates.  Fill with custard & then roll the crust in & DOWN to just above the level of the custard.
*Don't use Crisco, it's too sweet and clashes with the custard.  If you don't want to cook with lard, just skip the crust.

 Note: there is no mention of a crust on the original recipe, but in order to serve that many people it makes it easy to cut & plate. 
Note: A deep dish is better than a pie plate.  It has a much better jiggle when it's a thick slice v. a thin one.

Special:
"Don't kill the king"
As above, except I baked it in a proper deep dish, without crust (didn't bring the flour to the site) and I replaced the liquimen with the faux wine. 

This tastes like a typical custard pie, but with a subtle twist.




Please feel free to use these recipes as you choose.  Obviously most of them are for ridiculous numbers of people, and I vastly underestimated the amount of asparagus people would eat, so if you do that & really have 60, you need 16 bunches, not 8.  We could have stretched the carrots & parsnips to feed 60, but I really only had a little left over, so personally I'd rather have everyone leave happy and full than wanting more for fear of waste.

- Please, for the love of all that is good manners, don't ask me to adjust the recipes for you.  You have a brain, you figure it out.  I have every confidence in your ability to reduce/substitute/estimate/etc.  Google has a great conversion tool as well.
- MY GOD DON'T EAT IT IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO IT!!!  I made substitutions for Tindal on the fly because I found out that morning that he's allergic to fish, not just shellfish; and if I can do it, so can you.
- Don't ask me about the calories.  Since they refuse to scream if I burn them or not, I'd prefer they just come & go quietly.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

There's Always Room For Jell-O (or the great green grape frappe flop)


The Great Green Grape Frappe Flop

As most of you know, I’ve been participating in the Historical Food Fortnightly Challenges and this one is #7 “the best thing since sliced bread.”  
The mission was to ‘Create a food item that reflects historical food improvements. Showcase a new discovery in food preparation, a different way of using food, or a different way of serving it. Make sure to include your documentation!’

It was a toss-up for me between one of the original breakfast cereals by my sorta-relatives or Jell-O.  I wanted something local, something simple (ha) and something to do with prepackaged foods and marketing, at least loosely.  Anyway, Jell-O won because I don't think there is another food on the face of this planet with more "different ways of serving it."

It all started in LeRoy NY, just a hop skip & jump over the river, but way back in 1900.  The story really begins in 1845 when Peter Cooper invented the stuff, then sold it to
Pearle Wait whose wife May named it Jell-O, who then sold it to Orator Frank Woodward who then (1900 by now) sold it to Sam Nico (for $35 with some swear words) who popularized the product with a really good marketing campaign starting in 1904.  He published recipe booklets, had popular artists paint pictures featuring Jell-O and took out ads in popular magazines across the country.  You can read more about the history of Jell-O here: http://www.jellogallery.org/history.html
You can also pick up original Jell-O recipe packets at almost any antique shop in Livingston County, or at least the ones on Main St. in Mt. Morris. 
You can also visit the Jell-O Museum in LeRoy NY  http://www.jellogallery.org/

As to this recipe, it comes from a 1905 booklet.  It is the first recipe listed, and I had a heck of a time with it.  I dumped the first batch down the sink (there went the Lemon). I made the second with lime jell-o, which wasn’t invented until much later (hey, it's what I had left).  The second attempt was slightly more successful, but still a funny, watery, unstable mess.   I have video of the whole thing collapsing into a weird green, quivering heap.

The directions read:
Grape Frappe
Number 1
Dissolve one package of Lemon Jell-O in one-half pint boiling water (that’s 1 cup).  Add one-half pint grape juice and stir thoroughly.  Set away to cool, stirring occasionally.  Beat the whites of three eggs to a stiff froth and when Jell-O mixture begins to thicken, add gradually to the beaten whites, beating with a Dover egg beater all the time.  When it is light and stiff enough to keep its shape, pile in a mold and serve with whipped cream.

So, here’s how it went:
Dissolve one package of Lemon (lime) Jell-O in 1 c. boiling water.  Check. 

(do this for 2 minutes, not 30 seconds or all your ‘jell’ will remain on the bottom of the bowl) Add one-half pint grape juice and stir thoroughly.  Check  
It must jiggle or its not ready.
Set away to cool, stirring occasionally.  Yeah.  They mean for like an hour.  Stir every 15 minutes with a whisk.  If it’s NOT starting to jell it won’t incorporate into your meringue and you’ll have a horrible watery nasty mess.  Ask me how I know that.

Beat it!
Beat the whites of 3 eggs to a stiff froth and when jell-o mixture begins to thicken… AFTER the jell-o has gone all slurpy jiggly, then go ahead & beat your egg whites.  This takes a while, let’s say 15 minutes.  Note: Chill the egg beating bowl in the freezer when you set the jello away so the bowl is cool, and what the heck, put the jello mold in there too.  Note: use a BIG bowl to mix this in, the medium size mixing bowl was not quite large enough once that froth got going.  You’ll need a mold that holds 4 cups, or 2 smaller molds.

A tiny bit at a time...
add gradually to the beaten whites… they mean that.




Now do this FOREVER
beating with a Dover egg beater all the time.   I have one!  I used it!  It works!  (OK, it's a different brand, but it's still the same tool)  It adds more fluffy air than a whisk and helps to incorporate the jelled jello into the meringue better than the whisk, though I used both.   It’s far less splattering than a modern mixer, so in this case stick with the hand tools.

More like poured after pure exhaustion.
When it is light and stiff enough to keep its shape, pile in a mold.  Yeah.  Right.  I beat this sucker for 40 minutes and called it good when it was still runny and about to overflow the bowl (here’s a vote for electric).  I probably should have kept going, but it was late, I was tired & I just wanted it done.  Spoon the first bits into the mold, then pour the rest gently.  There should not be any liquid, it should all be incorporated.  If there is liquid, you need to just keep beating or throw the whole darn thing out because you didn’t wait for it to cool and it’ll never ever, ever set up.  You could probably toss it in the freezer for a few minutes to re-cool if necessary.
  Note: do not grease the mold!  I'm serious.  Don't do it.

serve with whipped cream.  Whoa there me buckaroo!  First you need to chill that puppy overnight.  Maybe a little more than that, but not much more.  To release from the mold, run a knife along the top edges, then set the mold in hot water for a few seconds to melt just the outer bits of the jello, then put the serving plate over the top, turn the whole thing over, and gently lift, jiggle, shake, SPLAT onto the serving plate.  Hope it comes out clean.  Mine almost did.

 
Time:  Let’s not even think about it.  I’ll say 15 min. prep, 40 minutes of beating stuff (whipped cream not included), chilled overnight, then 5 minutes of getting stuff ready & unmolding it the next day.  Add time for laughing & some serious mess-ups.

Cost:  The ingredients were around $5. 
Let’s not discuss the $32 I coughed up for the antique jell-o mold from the ONLY shop that had molds in the entirety of Livingston County.  After 6 antique shops, 3 regular stores & actually calling around to several supermarkets, some of whom had no clue what I was even talking about I was exhausted, frustrated & apparently my brain had turned to jell-o.  It was a darn expensive flop.  Fortunately that mold is lovely & reusable.   Note on Jell-O molds: don’t grease them, no matter what Mother’s friend says.  Just don’t.  Use hot water to loosen it like you are supposed to. 

I suppose going from 'useless goop'
to 'almost-dessert' is a success, right?
Success:  After an amazing failure... Not.  Or kinda.  But still not really.The taste wasn’t bad, even though I hate lime jell-o.  It had a lovely meringue flavor, and you could easily make a meringue dessert topping this way; but as a stand-alone, not so much.  It would be delightful with whipped cream.  In the future, I’ll stick with Knox gelatin and do my own flavors, which are much cleaner & don’t have horrible migraine-inducing dyes in them.  Needless to say, I did not make the whipped cream.  It was collapsing as I looked and when we cut it it went ‘splurk/fizz’ into a flattened pile on the plate.  It was rather funny.
 
Accuracy:  Only sorta.  The Jell-O recipe has changed over the years, the packet is actually smaller and so I’d recommend using less liquid than the directions say to do, maybe ¼ c. less as I ended up with an unstable dessert.  Cut back on the water not the juice or the egg whites.
I did use the hand crank egg beater to mix this, so I could see how the tools act differently.  The whisk didn’t add quite as much air, though it did the job.
I also used an early-ish mold, at least the earliest that Highway Robbery Antiques had to offer (they are very nice & extremely knowledgeable, but ouch! My pocket book… and the kicker was that my mother brought home 2 molds from a thrift shop in the one place I didn’t call for $2 each - I could die).
  If I were to do this recipe again I would use a solid mold vs. the one with the bunt-style hole.
Chilled in a modern fridge, which is not substantially different from an old ice box considering the fridge in question. Be aware that this recipe uses raw eggs.  I used raw eggs.

Overall, I wouldn’t make this again unless I needed a twist on a meringue recipe.  Clearly not my favorite.
It might be awesome on Key Lime Pie, or Lime-Meringue.  
Don't forget the whipped cream.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Verjuice

Gail has a temper tantrum & hacks weeds to relieve stress.
A little while ago (one week to be precise) I had a snit fit and decided to take it out on the burdock bushes by the grape arbor.  This turned into a great adventure in making Verjus/verjuice/(ver-ZHOO)... any way you say or spell it, it's vinegar made from unripe white wine grapes, though I can't promise no Concords got in the mix.  This happily met my Fortnightly Food Challenge #6, Seasonal Foods.

There is much mention of verjuice in Medieval French cooking, but no mention of how to make the stuff.  The Good Wife's Guide, A Medieval Household Book has a bazillion recipes that require it, and even a recipe about how to fake it, but I think they probably just purchased it vs. putting it up themselves.  There is a later recipe from 1600's England that uses crab apples, but I chose to ignore that in favor of just assuming that the unripe grapes were simply pressed, fermented for 24-48 hrs (because that's how long they ferment naturally) and then bottled.  Because that seems to work.  I'm taking a big chance on being wrong here.  One thing that the Goodman of Paris does mention is that new verjus is too "new" to be used, and one should mix the old with the new for a good flavor.  Other food historians have said that it mellows with age, and I take that to mean it becomes more like grape juice, and no longer has that startling sour tartness.

The overabundance of unripe grapes in the thing called "the arbor."
I made two batches.  The first was highly successful, even with the mistake of the Foley Food Mill (don't do that, just let it drain).  The second had mold in both large jars, but thankfully none in the small jar (I also had "help" from start to finish, so I was not as careful as I was with the first batch).   This illustrates the importance of using perfect fruit, least an imperfect fruit spoil the whole batch; and of not mixing your batches, least that imperfect fruit spoil all batches.

The crate-o-grapes


So, basically verjuice is made from unripe white wine grapes that are culled from the vine with the ultimate goal of improving the final grape harvest for wine.  But what to do with the waste grapes?  No pigs or chickens?  Make Verjuice!  You can use it anywhere you would normally use apple cider vinegar in cooking, or citrus juice.  It is very very sour; like Major Pucker Power!  My kid loved the stuff.  He likes to bite lemons too, so if that gives you any idea...  It has a very pleasant sour flavor though.  Used sparingly in recipes it should go well with wine, unlike citrus which can clash (so I'm told).  Since I'm not a big alcohol person, you could not prove this by me.  But there it is.

15 lbs of unripe grapes, give or take.
This basin holds about 15 lbs of grapes.  I had to be very selective to make sure there was no mold, as we had a mold problem in the arbor.

Washed grapes into the blender. 
Double check on your quality before you grind things up.







Now, this is obviously not how it was done historically, but impulse projects sometimes require modern concessions.  The blender made this project possible. 

One colander of  grapes, washed & blended was about the right amount to drain in the sieve at a time.

One "how to" suggestion was to not wash the grapes.  I had intended to follow this advice in the second batch, but for reasons that will become evident below, washed them anyway (which didn't work as it grew mold anyway).

Pulse or chop the grapes a little, just so they are juicy, not so they are totally liquid.  You want some chunks left, but no whole grapes.  No seed grain... I hope that is helpful.  So blend enough to get the liquid without chopping up the seeds.

Hint: drain the mush again for more juice. 
It'll all be brown anyway, so don't worry about that.
Next, into the sieve to drain.  You can also use cheese cloth here.  Both work well.  But you will have to do one pass through a coffee filter or paper towel if you don't use the cheese cloth.
Hint: cheese cloth can be thrown out, a sieve has to be scrubbed with a brush & takes more water than even a Western NY girl is comfortable using to wash the little bugger.

I also used the Foley Food Mill for the 1st batch, which did come out very green to start, but most of that was sediment which I strained off after.

food mill mush vs. drained juice
Here is the bowl of dripped juice, and the bowl of Food Mill juice.  The dripped is very clear in comparison to the mash of the food mill.  Note that the clean juice is NOT green.  It's a golden brown color.  Oddly enough every jar came out a slightly different color.  After heating most of them have come to the same amber/clear liquid.



Unripe grape mush
Straining out the liquid mush from the food mill. 
It took a bit of stirring, and I ended up putting the drippings from this through a paper towel to get the final bits & pieces, and still had a lot of residue in the final jars... but, on the other hand, I got an entire jar more juice than I did from the other (molded) batch.  So it might be worth doing anyway.

I swear my son cried when I threw this sour mush away vs. putting it in a go-go squeeze packet for him.




 

The raw verjuice, fermenting happily.
The jars are left to happily (hopefully) ferment on their own for 24-48 hours.  Big jars are better as it ferments well, but pints are fine too.  Leave the caps on lightly so if they need to burp they can, but don't leave them off because they won't ferment as well.  Once those lovely bubbles go away, and if no mold has formed, either suck up the clearish juice with a suction bulb (like a turkey baster) or pour out the juice into a sieve lined with a paper towel to get rid of the sediment.  Don't try pouring it off the top, it's too fine & just clouds up again.  Then you can get ready to pasturize (heat) it and either can or bottle the stuff.  I chose to can it.   Since canning obviously wasn't invented in the 14th c. this is not how it was done.  It was probably bottled like wine, though that is a guess.  I'm not sure how vinegar was kept them, but it may have been put up in a similar fashion.

I used a hot water bath canning method.  Steralize the jars, put them all in a big canner pot & cover with water, heat water as you heat the lids & rings in another pot.  Start cooking the juice (one batch at a time) just until it simmers, then keep it hot for 10-15 minutes.  Can it by pouring out the water from the jars in the canner, pour in the hot juice, put the hot lids on & sink the jars into the hot water in the canner until they are covered by at least 1" of water.  Boil for 15-60 minutes (this will depend on your preferred method of canning, it's not exactly written in stone - I'm guessing).  Set finished jars on a towel in a warm place, cover with another towel & let cool overnight.  Hopefully everything will seal.  All of mine did.  I'll post a pic of this in a later edit, but they are all labeled & not showing any signs of mold.  I'll put them away in a few days as long as they still look good.  It should last for a year unopened, and 6-8 weeks in the fridge after opening.  Since you will only use a little in any given recipe, I suggest putting it up in small jars.

Helping Mommy make Verjuice.
Now, the fun part.  When I decided to use the rest of the grapes in the 2nd batch, it was a few days after picking them.  Some had ripened a lot, some had molded or started to raisin up & some were fine... BUT, I had a helper then too.  So I was not as careful as I had been the first time, and not as choosey because I was busy making sure The Wonderful Boy didn't put more than 5 grapes in his mouth at a time.  He thought it was The Best Thing Ever to stomp on the grapes.  That is, after all, is how you make grape juice, right Mama?  Yes Dear, it is.
I almost gave up.  Then I remembered that my little helper will be helping me for the next 12 yrs, so I just accepted his help & there it is. 
We had a blast & even if there is only one bottle of Baby Toe Jam Verjuice it's a treasure to be savored.  Yum.  So worth the memory of him smiling up at me with 5 major choking hazards in his little cheeks (I swear I have another gray streak from this project).  I was thinking he had spit most of them out, but it later became apparent that he did, in fact, eat a lot of grapes.  Many, many grapes.  I'm amazed he didn't have a tummy ache.

Ah yes... Jilly helped too.

All the helpers.



PS.  Raccoons do not eat grapes.  They eat cat poo, but not grapes.  Go figure.