Monthly Archives: March 2011

What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

Sister Redempta, the Depression era nun from Moon Over Manifest might suggest sugar or even flour (not a stretch for you gluten avoiders).  From painful memories of the good sisters in my childhood, I recall getting into major trouble when Sister Mary Kathleen caught me smirking over her suggestions for Lent – giving up chocolate.

The movie Chocolat famously spurred a following for hot chocolate with a zing – cinnamon and chili powder.  My mother had an old Italian recipe called Nun’s Revenge; I once saw a version of it in Bon Appetit.  Here’s my mother’s sweet revenge – suck it up, Sister.

Nun’s Revenge Hot Chocolate

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (not whipping)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 ounces shaved chocolate (best you can find – with high cacao count)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Make a paste of cornstarch with a little cream.  Warm rest of cream over low to medium heat to almost boiling; add paste and sugar to slightly thicken.  Remove from heat, stir in chocolate until smooth.  Pour into small espresso cups and sprinkle with cardamom.

Ruthie’s Bread and Butter Pudding

In I Remember Nothing (page 117) Nora Ephron provides this recipe from Christmas dinner with her friends.

Every year, Ruthie brought dessert – her specialty – sounds wonderful…

Ruthie’s Bread and Butter Pudding

  • 5 large eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus 1 cup for serving
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • twelve 1/2 inch slices brioche, crusts removed, buttered generously on one side

“Preheat oven to 375.  Butter a shallow two-quart baking dish.  Gently beat the eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt until blended.  Scald the milk and cream in a saucepan over high heat; do not boil.  When you tip the pan and the mixture spits or makes a sizzling noise, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. STIR GENTLY, don’t beat, into the egg mixture until blended.

Overlap the bread, butter side up, in the prepared baking dish and pour the egg mixture over the bread.  Set in a large pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the dish.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or the bread is golden brown and a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. The bread should be golden and the pudding puffed up.  This can be done early in the day. Do not chill.

Before serving, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and place under the broiler. Don’t walk away. This takes only a minute or two.  Or you can use one of the crème brûlée gadgets to brown the sugar.

Serve with a pitcher of heavy cream.”

Apology Cake – A Recipe

Apology Cake was Ava Cooper’s best cake in Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden.

Ava also baked Gluttony Cake (devil’s food with chocolate pudding and chocolate chips), Seven Deadly Sins Cake (large and gooey); Lust Cake (lemon poppy seed triple layer with sugary frosting; Gratitude Cake (angel food with vanilla icing).

Hoffman described her character as “an amazing baker,” but never provided recipes.

Apology Cake sounds like a red velvet cake, so here is a recipe from my mother’s secret stash – but she never apologized to anyone.

Red Velvet Cake with Frosting

My parents’ honeymoon was at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and this cake is sometimes called the Waldorf Astoria Cake; my mother usually made it on their anniversary.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. red food coloring – yes, that’s 2 bottles
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream shortening and sugar; beat in eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and small amount of food coloring. Add to the creamed mixture. Then add the remaining food coloring. Alternating, add buttermilk and the mixture of salt, flour and baking powder. Add vanilla, vinegar and baking soda. Mix well. Pour into two 8 inch greased and floured pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Frost when cooled, with cream cheese icing.  For the icing, beat  together until smooth – 1 cup of milk, 3 tablespoons of flour, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 cup of butter, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

I haven’t made it in awhile; red food coloring is supposedly not as lethal as it used to be, and I’ve heard that canned red beet juice is a good substitute.

Let me know if you try it.

The Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook

Dr. Seuss saves you from green food coloring.  Try cilantro and guacamole instead.

The book includes recipes for Pink Yink Ink Drink, Cat in the Hat Pudding, and more – linking recipes to one of his stories.

My favorite:


Nupboards Nuggets from There’s a Wocket in Your Pocket

  • 2-1/2 cups uncooked oatmeal (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup green pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup light cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Combine all ingredients, using your hands to mix.  Spread the mixture on a large baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until browned, stirring from time to time to prevent burning.  Remove from the oven after about 45 minutes to 1 hour, and push the mixture together.  Let cool completely, then break up into clumps. May be stored in an airtight container for up to three weeks.