Category Archives: recipe

Just a Spoonful of Water Makes It Better

In this time of separate and distant, as we try to cope with not meeting our favorite person for coffee and cake, or connecting with a like-minded group to discuss a book over food relevant to the plot, I scurried to find store bought cookies to ease me into comfort.

Ah, but to venture into a store was to risk contagion, despite the plastic screens in front of the cashiers at Whole Foods and the yellow tapes marking six foot distance.  Not many millennials venture in, but when they do, their sense of immortality tends to drive them to ignore science-based suggestions.  I could order cookies from Amazon, but then I would need to wipe down the cartons inside and out, and those handiwipes are precious, better saved for my hands when needed.

A friend, noting my dilemma, suggested I make my own cookies.  I always have a stash of semi-sweet chocolate and sugar.  Recently, I had bought a ten pound bag of organic flour on sale – before I knew I would be housebound.  Why not make the most comfort laden food I knew.  And, I could control everything in the process, in a time when control of anything seems almost impossible, from the dough to the oven to the delivery – without packaging.

Toll House Cookies

If you have made the traditional Toll House cookies lately from the recipe on the bag, you may have noticed the teaspoon of hot water has been omitted from the ingredients.  Originally the water was used to dissolve the baking soda, a step most modern bakers no longer use.  Earlier forms of leavening, including baking soda, were chunkier than now, and a little water helped to keep out the granular specks.

I’m not sure when it disappeared from the wrapper, bu I still add it.  Does it make a difference?  I’ve never tried making the cookies without it, so cannot judge, but if you have, let me know.

Pat Prager’s Private Recipe Dessert from Kitchens of the Great Midwest

In J. Ryan Stradel’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a hometown cook successfully beats out more sophisticated chefs in a prestigious cooking contest with her simple five ingredient recipe.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it.

Pat Prager’s Award Winning Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup melted Grade A butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon Grade A butter

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs. melted butter, peanut butter, and sugar. Put into a greased 9×12 inch pan. Melt the chips and butter and spread them on top of the bars. Set into the refrigerator until firm. Cut into bars.

Zeppole for St. Joseph Day, March 19

While the bakeries sold fancy concoctions for the feast day, my Italian grandmother used a fast and easy traditional recipe for a bite-sized donut covered in powdered sugar, resembling a beignet.  You can whip up a batch in about ten minutes – best when hot.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta

Directions

Mix dry ingredients together.  Stir vanilla and ricotta into beaten eggs.  Combine dry and wet ingredients.  The dough will be sticky.

Heat about 2 inches oil (the only oil my grandmother used for everything was olive oil but you can use vegetable oil, if you prefer) in a pot.

When oil is hot, drop a  tablespoon of dough into the oil and fry until puffed and brown – about 3 minutes – flipping over about halfway through.  Try your test donut to check the timing – break it open and eat it.

Continue cooking, about three or four at a time.  Then transfer finished zeppole to a dish with a paper towel to absorb the oil.  Roll in powdered sugar and eat hot. Try not to eat them all yourself.

 

Baking Bread

Robin Sloane’s novel – Sourdough – inspired me to think about favorite bread recipes.  The fragrance of the baking bread is second only to the pleasure of beating the dough into submission.

imagesSince I have no friendly neighborhood chefs who can give me a starter for sourdough, I am giving you my recipe for Christmas morning yeast rolls. I usually make them the night before while “the children are nestled all snug in their beds,” form the dough rolls into a Christmas tree, and refrigerate overnight.  I pull out the pan to come to room temperature on Christmas morning while the coffee is brewing and wrapping paper is flying off presents.

Christmas Tree Buns

2 envelopes active dry yeast
1 cup sugar
6 to 8 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mace
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks, plus extra for garnish
2 cups whole or 2% milk, warmed
1 cup chopped blanched almonds, plus extra to garnish
1 cup currants, plumped in warm water and drained well

Mix the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and half cup warm milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until the yeast begins to bubble.   Add the the eggs, egg yolks, remaining sugar, and milk to the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, work the flour together with the softened butter. Stir in the salt and mace.

Mix in the flour-butter mixture with the egg mixture. Add the almonds and raisins. The dough will be smooth but still a little sticky.

Knead by hand for 7 to 8 minutes — just until the dough is smooth. Clean out the bowl, lightly oil it, then transfer the dough back into the bowl to rise. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Roll the dough into balls, arranging them, touching, in the form of a tree, starting with one ball at the top, two below, three below, and on.  Finish bottom with one ball as the trunk.

Lightly oil the tops and cover loosely with parchment or waxed paper, then plastic wrap, and finally a towel.  Let rise for an hour.  Then, place in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, take the dough out, uncover, bring to room temperature and let sit for about twenty minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Just before baking, brush the loaf with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle chopped almonds on top.

Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes; serve warm.

Cazuela Recipe

Isabel Allende’s In the Midst of Winter begins with Lucia, a displaced academic from Chile, making her comforting Chilean stew – cazuela – while a snow storm closes the streets outside her basement apartment.  Read the review by clicking on the link – here.   I wondered if her stew resembles Julia Child’s famous beef bourguignon, and went searching for a recipe.  I found this one from Pilar Hernandez who notes:

“Chilean cazuela is a very flexible homemade stew- you can use lamb, chicken or pork in the recipe, but the classic version is made with beef. In each dish you can’t forget to put at least one small piece of meat, a potato, a slice of pumpkin and a portion of corn on the cob, if in season…”

5722b9dc-deaa-497b-8581-a79af9cf1002Ingredients

  • 1 lb. beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 bell pepper  cut into quarters with the seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • One celery stalk
  • 2 ears of corn, cut into thirds
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
  • 6 small red potatoes, peeled
  • 4 handfuls of rice
  • 6 small pieces of pumpkin
  • 1 handful of green beans, julienned
  • 5-6 cups boiling water
  Cut the meat into six portions. Pre-heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. Braise the meat for three minutes on each side, and add the onion, seasonings, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for five minutes.
Place the potatoes, carrots, celery and pumpkin in the pot. Completely cover the contents with boiling water-about five or six cups and cook for ten minutes. Next incorporate the rice and corn; let simmer for eight minutes. Finally, mix-in the green beans and cook for three more minutes. Sample the stew and adjust the seasoning as necessary.  Serve hot with one piece of meat, one potato, one piece of pumpkin and a portion of corn in each dish of stew.