Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Desserts—Cakes

When I was growing up, my Mom made wedding cakes for almost every wedding in Notth Mississippi…our house constantly smelled like powdered sugar…the whirr of a KitchenAid mixer could be heard constantly…and there were always cake….My Dad and I used to race for the layer of cake that she levelled off the top of the cake before she began decorating her latest masterpiece…

CAKE POPS

Wish that I had known back then that mixing leftover crumbs with icing or chocolate and forming them into small spheres and sticking the balls onto lollipop sticks and coating them with icing or chocolate would become a multi-million dollar business and a true art form…Cake pops have become so popular because they are portable, easy to eat, and can be made in in all sorts of flavors and shapes…even Starbucks sells them…(for how much per cake pop(?!))…The cake pop craze began in 2008 when Angie Dudley posted a photo of  cupcake pops on her blog, Bakerella.Since that infamous blog post, she has written ten books—including Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats and Cake Pops Kit: New Projects and Old Favorites.You may also see video tutorials with Angie Dudley on her sister website, cake pop.com.Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats has become a New York Times best-selling book and has been printed in four languages. She has also worked with international corporations, including Target and Disney, and appeared on the Martha Stewart television show.

  1.  Another chef who has written a book about cake pops is Kris Galicia Brown…and Goods by K Creative website…
  2. Kris Galicia Brown is featured on this Crafty “Party Perfect Cake Pops” class…
  3. This Craftsy class is also featured on the Wilton website as part of an “educational” program that will teach you how to…
  4. Lesson 1: Learn how to access your FREE Craftsy mini-class.
  5. Lesson 2: Learn how to make, form and chill your cake pop base to create perfect spheres, and get inside tips.
  6. Lesson 3: Learn the trick to getting a smooth, even coating and the proper technique for dipping and decorating with sprinkles or sparkling sugar. Plus, learn to make multi-color pops with marbled, with a drizzled finish.
  7. Lesson 4: Learn to embellish cake pops with brush embroidery, hand painting, piping, and metallics. Create piped grass, leaves and stems, topped with premade 3-D flowers. Pipe scrolls and textured animal prints.
  8. Lesson 5: Learn to how to thin, shape and apply candy clay, aka modeling chocolate, petals around a pop to create beautiful, show-stopping blooms, flowers and ombré ruffles.

A third source is Crazy for Cake Pops: 50 All-New Delicious and Adorable Creations by Molly Bakes…(see her website here…Molly Bakes)…

How to Make Cake Cups—Any Flavor…Prepare and bake one package cake mix according to package directions, using greased 9×13. Cool completely on a wire rack.Remove the crusts of the cake with a sharp kitchen knife. Crumble the cake with your hands, as finely as possible, into a large mixing bowlMix 3/4C frosting into cake crumbs, one tablespoon at a time until you have a fudge-like texture.The mixture is ready whenever you squeeze a little of the mixture in your palm and it doesn’t crumble when squeezed in the palm of your hand.Adding too much frosting will make the cake balls simply fall off the stick when you dip them.

Place the mixture in a huge ziploc bag.Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Break off a ping pong ball-sized piece of the mixture.Roll into a ball with your palms. Place each ball on a tray lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate twenty minutes.

Insert a lollipop stick in each cake ball.Melt candy melts in microwaveDip each cake ball fully into the melted candy, allowing excess to drip off. Gently tap the cake pop over the bowl to remove any excess candy. Insert cake pops into a styrofoam block to stand until set.

Caramel Cake

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans.

Cream together…

  • 1C butter
  • 2½C sugar
  • Add…
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Sift together…

  • 3¼C flour
  • 1Tbsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt

Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1¼C milk to batter.Divide batter between prepared pans.Bake 30 minutes.Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.Invert cakes onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely while preparing frosting…

To make the frosting……Caramel Frosting—Microwave the following ingredients in microwave-safe bowl four minutes, stopping to stir at one-minute intervals….

  •  ½C butter
  • 2C dark brown sugar
  • 1/2C evaporated milk

Let mixture cool 15 minutes. Place in mixer. Add…

  • 6C powdered sugar
  • ½C softened butter

Mix until light and fluffy.

To frost the cake…Brush off crumb layer from sides and top of cake. Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over. Top with second layer. Spread frosting over top and sides. Chill at least 1 hour.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

Prep…Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Make the cupcakes…2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup hot coffee…Combine dry ingredients…flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine “wet” ingredients… buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour the hot coffee into the batter. Mix until just combined. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 18 minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Peppermint Buttercream frosting… 1C butter, 4C powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla , 3/4tsp peppermint extract, 10 peppermint candies, crushed, pinch salt…Cream butter. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla, peppermint extract, and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle cupcakes with crushed peppermint candies just before serving.

 

COCONUT CAKE

Coconut is one of those foods that people either love or hate…yet most Southern chefs consider coconut cake as a necessity at every single holiday…especially the two holidays when people are most likely to attend church—Easter and Christmas.

The word “coconut” means “head” or “skull” in the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish. The coconut fruit is named this because of the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features.Coconuts are kind of like shrimp….there can be a thousand and one ways to use them…making a list of different ways coconut can be used would be like the uses for shrimp named in the movie Forest Gump.

  •  Coconut butter refers to solidified coconut or certain specialty products, such as lotions and creams, made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil.
  •  Coconut chips are often sold in the tourist regions of Hawaii and the Caribbean.
  • Coconut flour has been developed for use in baking.
  • Coconut meat, the white, fleshy part of the seed is often used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons. Dried coconut is often used as the filling for chocolate bars such as Mounds and Almond Joy.
  • Coconut milk is made by by pressing grated coconut or passing hot water or milk through grated coconut in order to extract the juice. Coconut milk is frequently added to curries and other savory dishes.
  • Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking.can be found in liquid form and used like you would use any other type of vegetable oil… or in solid form and used like you would use butter or lard.
  • Coconut seed provide oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine.
  • Coconut vinegar can be made by allowing coconut water to ferment.
  • Coconut water is a common beverage in the tropics that consists of water and developing coconut meat. Coconut water contains 19 calories per 100-gram serving and contains no significant amounts of essentials nutrients…even though marketed as a sports drink.

Coconuts can be found growing in the states of Hawaii and Florida…as well as Texas and California even though trees often are killed or fail to produce edible fruit because of extended periods of time in the winter when temperatures stay below 50 °F.

  1. Coconut Cake

Preheat oven to 350. Pull out a 10″ tube pan with removable bottom. Original recipe said not to grease your pan, but I am in the habit of always greasing the pan whenever I am baking.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat together…

  • 14 large eggs
  • 1/2C warm water

Beat until foamy. Then add…

  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 1/2tsp cream of tartar
  • 2tsp vanilla

Beat until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high. Slowly add 1 1/2C superfine sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry.

Sift together…

  • 1C flour
  • 3/4C sugar

Gradually add dry ingredients to mixing bowl. Pour batter into pan. Smooth top with an offset spatula. Run a knife through batter to release air bubbles. Bake for 40min. Let cake cool for about an hour before frosting. Frost cake with Seven-Minute Frosting. (Recipe below).  Top with 4C shredded coconut.

Seven-Minute Frosting

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine…

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4C sugar
  • 5Tbsp cold water
  • 1/4tsp cream of tartar

Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high speed for 7 minutes. Add 1tsp vanilla

Devil’s Food Cake

Devil’s Food Cake…a symbol of the decadence of sin in which evil, fallen angels may tempt people to indulge…or simply eat five pieces of cake at one sitting.

One famous Devil’s Food Cake recipe is the Wellesley Fudge Cake, named after Wellesley College, the very prim-and-proper college featured in the movie Mona Lisa Smile.

In 1876, Wellesley College sent out a circular telling parents that a proper diet was crucial for proper learning…and Wellesley College would no longer accept students who “are broken down in health”… and did not pledge to neither buy or receive “any confectionery or eatables of any kind not provided for them by the College.”

The pamphlet clearly stated that…“Pies, Lies, and Doughnuts should never have a place in Wellesley College”.Yet candy-making was an acceptable activity at the college, and the girls often stayed up late making candy—such as Wellesley Fudge—and talking about boys and other tabboo subjects.

In 1909, Baker’s Chocolates published a cookbook containing three different fudge recipes— named after Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley colleges…this publication eventually led to the creation of the Wellesley Fudge Cake—a deeply decadent chocolate cake topped with a slab of fudge frosting that was commonly served in tearooms surrounding the college.

What a temptating and delightfully sinful, delicious, moist, airy, rich chocolate layer cake… different from ordinary chocolate cakes because the cake traditionally uses…

  • –baking soda…to make the cake a deeper, darker mahogany color
  • –coffee…to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • –less egg than other chocolate cakes
  • –more chocolate than a regular chocolate cake
  • –unsweetened chocolate baking squares instead of cocoa powder

Wellesley Fudge Cake

Cake Ingredients…

    • 2 sticks butter
    • 2C sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 1/2C flour
    • 2tsp baking soda
    • 1tsp baking powder
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1C room-temp buttermilk
    •  1/2C cocoa powder
    • 3/4C hot water
    • 2tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients…

    • 1-1/2C brown sugar
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 8oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1tsp vanilla
    • 3C powdered sugar

1. Prep…Preheat oven to 350. Prep two 8″ square baking pans. Line with parchment paper.

2. Make the cake…Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Dissolve cocoa powder in hot water. Add cocoa mixture and 2tsp vanilla to batter.

3. Bake the cake…Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool completely.

4. Make the frosting…Stir together brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and salt. Cook in saucepan over medium heat for 5min. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in evaporated milk and butter. Let mixture cool slightly. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar.

5. Assemble and serve…Let both the cake and the frosting cool to room temperature. Stack cake layers with frosting between the layers. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lemon Cake

Preparing to Bake…Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 9″ round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper.

Making the Batter…Cream together…4 eggs…1tsp vanilla… 2tsp lemon zest…1Tbsp lemon juice…1 1/2C sugar. Sift together 2 1/4C flour…1Tbsp baking powder…1tsp salt. Add to batter.

Baking the Cake…Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake 30min. Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate. Generously spread 1/3C lemon curd over the top. Add next layer of cake.

Make the Frosting: Whip 1 1/2C heavy whipping cream…3Tbsp sugar. Gently fold in 3Tbsp lemon curd. Frost the top and sides with the whipped lemon cream frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thanksgiving Day means so much more than watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and football games and eating like the true Southerners many of us are.But so often we as parents and grandparents fail to teach our kids the true importance and symbolism of the Thanksgiving holiday.Perhaps the best way to remind our kids, as well as ourselves, of what Thanksgiving is really about this year would be to start new traditions that place the emphasis back on what Thanksgiving really means—things such as faith, family, and community—in fun, creative ways.One tradition that our family is going to start this year is our own “Sacher Tablecloth”

 The Sacher Tablecloth is a part of the legacy of the Sacher hotel in Vienna, birth place of “The Original Sacher-Torte.”

The story behind the Sachertorte…In 1832, Franz Sacher, had been working as the sixteen-year-old apprentice of the personal chef of Prince Wenzel von Metternich.

 A recipe for Sachertorte and more information about the cake can be found here on the website of the King Arthur Flour Company.

Prince Wenzel von Metternich requested that his chef create a special dessert for several important guests, but the head chef got sick and turned the task over to Franz Sacher instead.

The Sachertorte supposedly delighted Prince Metternich’s guests, but the dessert received no immediate further attention.

Eduard Sacher, the son of Franz Sacher, carried on his father’s culinary legacy and completed his own apprenticeship in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier. During this time he perfected his father’s recipe and developed the torte into its current form.   In 1873 Eduard Sacher opened his first restaurant on Kärntner Straße. In 1876 Eduard Sacher established the Hotel Sacher.  In 1880 Eduard Sacher married Anna Fuchs, the daughter of a butcher.

Anna Sacher became known as the “grande dame” of the Vienna hospitality industry. She was well known for her constantly smoking cigars, her hobby of breeding French bulldogs, her commercial skills, and her eccentricity.    Anna Sacher established the Sacher into one of the finest hotels in the world and a favourite meeting place of celebrities, aristocracy, and diplomats. She reigned the roost for nearly forty years…from the year 1880 when she married into the Sacher family…until the year 1930 when she passed away while in her suite at the Sacher Hotel. Anna Sacher knew that the prominent guests that ate and visited the hotel were her best means of advertising for the Sacher Hotel and her own calling card to fame.

Famous guests that have dined or visited the hotel over the decades include Emperor Franz Joseph…King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson…Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip…Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly…President John F. Kennedy…Leonard Bernstein…Plácido Domingo, and John Lennon.

One evening after an evening meal held for a departing archduke, Anna Sacher sent her head waiter to get a fresh tablecloth. Anna Sacher invited her one hundred guests—including Archduke Franz Ferdinand…Crown Prince Rudolf…Archdukes Ferdinand, Karl Wilhelm, Ludwig Viktor, Karl Stephan, Leopold and Franz Salvator…King Milan and his son Alexander of Serbia…and Grand Duke Nikolajewitsch of Russia—to sign their names on the tablecloth. Soon she embroidered the names, washed out the ink, and hung the cloth on the wall of the restaurant for all to admire.

 Your own family also needs at least one such legendary Sacher tablecloth of its own…with the signatures of all the rulers(?!), queens, princes, and princesses in your own royal blood line to enjoy not only this Thanksgiving, but for who-knows-how-many-more Thanksgivings to come…and perhaps even hang on the wall of the dining room for all to admire.

So this year, encourage each of the kids, and the adult kids, at your Thanksgiving dinner to sign and date the tablecloth, using fabric markers…(explaining that this does not mean signing every real tablecloth that they see from that day forward)…

Honestly wish that I had started this thirty years when Kurt and I first got married so that our grandparents’ names and my Dad’s name were embroidered on the tablecloth also…

Sacher Torte

Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment. Spritz the parchment lightly as well.

Make the cake batter…Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in microwave.Beat 8 eggs yolks.Add melted chocolate, 1/2C melted butter, 1tsp vanilla.Beat 8 egg whites, 1/8tsp salt until they begin to foam.Slowly add 3/4C sugar.Beat on high speed until whites hold a stiff peak but are still glossy.Add 1C King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

Bake the cake…Pour the batter into the pan(s). Bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool completely. Be sure to peel off the parchment circle while the cake is still warm.

Fill the cake: Split the cake layer horizontally, using a long, sharp serrated knife. Strain 1/2C apricot jam through a fine sieve to remove any bits of fruit and make a smooth filling. Spread onto cake.

Make the glaze..Place the filled cake on a wire rack over a parchment lined baking sheet. Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in the microwave. Add 1C boiling water. Pour glaze over the cake.

Torta Caprese

Torta caprese is a traditional flourless chocolate and almond or walnut cake that originated and is popular on the Italian island of Capri.

Torta caprese was first created by the hospitality industry of the island of Capri and is commonly served in tea rooms to tourists.Italian desserts are often known for being simple, yet elegant.

The only ingredients in Torta caprese are eggs, butter, chocolate, and almonds caprese actually replaces the ordinary and expected flour with ground almonds…giving the cake a unique taste and making it a great dessert for those who cannot eat gluten.

Torta caprese would make a sweet ending to any otherwise elaborate menu…especially served with a dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries.

Torta Caprese

1. Prep. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter 9″ springform pan. Line bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Make the batter.

—Grind 2c almonds… 6Tbsp sugar in food processor.
—Melt 8oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate…2 sticks butter in microwave.
—Beat 6 egg yolks with electric mixer for 5 minutes.
—Add…10Tbsp sugar…chocolate mixture…ground almonds.
—Beat 6 egg whites…1/4C sugar.until they form firm peaks.
—Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

3. Bake the cake.—Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of the springform pan. Let cool completely before serving.

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

16 Cooking Tips Just in Time for the Ucoming Holiday Baking Season

This time of year brings out the baker in me. The illsbury doughboy and I have an annual affair that ends at the same time that the Christmas tree is taken down.

Over our rhitty year relatinoshi, here are a few things that he has taught about baking a cake.

  1. Get an oven thermometer...It is important to always make sure your oven is heating at the correct temperature.  Even though your oven might say itself that it is at the right temperature, don’t trust it. If your oven isn’t at the right temperature, you might end up having a sunken, dry, or collapsed cake. Your best bet is to invest in an oven thermometer  and make sure that your oven isn’t telling you a lie.
  2. Consider whether you are using a glass or metal pan…Cakes baked in glass pans cook differently than cakes baked in versus metal bake differently. If using glass, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  3. Preheat your oven before you start mixing and prepping...It’s best if the oven is preheated for twenty to thirty minutes.
  4. Allow your ingredients to reach room temperature…Eggs, butter, milk, and any refrigerated ingredients should generally be used at room temperature. Cold ingredients could cause the batter to curdle.
  5. Prepare the pan…Make sure to properly grease and flour the pan before you add the batter. You may also want to try lining the bottom of your pan with parchment paper, especially when baking layer cakes.
  6. Take your time...When combining butter and sugar, take your time and cream them together for at least five minutes. This adds tiny air pockets to the batter and helps to ensure a lighter cake.
  7. Measure your dry ingredients exactly…Use a knife or other flat surface to level off dry ingredients in a measuring cup or spoon.
  8. Don’t skip the sifting...Sifting actually is important because doing this helps to add air and ensures that all dry ingredients are properly combined. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a wire mesh strainer.
  9. Filling the pan…Generally, the cake batter should fill the pan by at least 1/2 and not more than 2/3, unless otherwise instructed.
  10. Bake the cake...Bake the cake in the middle of the oven.
  11. Do not open the oven door…Opening the oven door too many times while your cake is baking could lower the oven temperature. Wait until the cake is nearly finished baking before you open the door.
  12. See if the cake is done...Insert a dinner knife into the center of the cake. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done…(we ALL knew that, right?)
  13. Let the cake cool properly…Remove the cake from the pan after allowing the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for five to ten minutes. Then invert it onto a plate or rack to remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely.
  14. Wait to frost the cake…Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Even the slightest warmth from a cake can quickly turn your frosting or icing into a mess.
  15. Apply a crumb coat…First brush your completely cooled cake with a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don’t have one) to remove excess crumbs. Next apply a “crumb coat”—a very thin layer of frosting—to the cake. This helps seal in the crumbs. You also could make frosting the cake easier by refrigerating the cake for an hour after applying the crumb coat so that the crumb coat will harden slightly and really hold in the crumbs.
  16. Frost the cake neatly as possible…Start frosting at the top before finishing with the sides. Wipe the spatula clean each time you swipe frosting onto the cake. You may want to spread it on smoothly for a clean finish, or you may opt to swirl it decoratively around the cake.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Peter Piper Pumpkin Picker

So this is the one and only time all year that all of us, or perhaps most of us at least, buy a pumpkin.

But how many of us would actually recognize the Great Pumpkin if we actually did see it?

1.PassionHalloween should be as fun as possible for your entire family. Don’t be like the lady that we all hate on the movie The Grinch who gets out her tape measure and actually measures the pumkin before buying it.

Never forget that the holidays—not only Halloween, but also Thanksgiving and Christmas—are supposed to be fun, Be passionate about spending time with your family, not spending more money than your neighbors did on the orange globe sitting on your front porches.

2. PerfectionThe pumpkin that you choose doesn’t have to be perfect. Choosing one with bumps and lumps have character.

3.Personal Preference…The perfect pumpkin is that one pumpkin that you or your child could never imagine leaving the PSL without—even though it isn’t the shape or size that everyone else is attracted to. Follow your heart, not the crowd.

4. PigmentationIt is okay if your pumpkin is not a bright orange like the ones that you see on children’s movies and books.

Even though many will say, “the darker the color, the better the pumpkin,” use your common sense here…most of us can tell if a pumkin is the “ugly duckling” of the pumpkin patch.

Just make sure that the top of the pumpkin, specifically around the stem, is not dull, because this indicates frost damage.

5. PitchThe pumpkin that you choose should have a deep, echoing sound when you pick it up, hold the pumpkin next to your ear, and knock on its side with your knuckles.

The louder the sound, the better the pumpkin.

6. PostBy “post” I simply mean the stem, but couldn’t come up with another synonym for the word “stem” that didn’t seem vulgar.

Anyway, the pumpkin that you choose should have a hard, dark green or black stem.

Squeeze the stem to test its firmness. If the stem is soft to the touch, it’s not an ideal pick.

The stem should not bend and break when you pick it up…that would be about like the trunk of the just-chosen Christmas tree snapping in two before you get out of the Christmas Tree lot.

7. Potholes…Gently press on the pumpkin with your finger to make sure that there aren’t any soft spots that indicate that the pumpkin has already started to decay and won’t last much longer.

The pumpkin should be firm all over.

Even though the pumpkin may look perfect from the outside, you do not want to start carving your pumpkin, only to find that it’s rotten.

8.  Profile…Choose an oblong pumpkin, as opposed to a round one. Round or oval pumpkins are easier to carve, have more workspace, and a bigger cavity filled with more seeds.

Choose a pumpkin with a flat bottom that sits well.

9. ProportionIf you are going to be using your pumpkin for baking and cooking, avoid those big pumpkins that are typically sold to be carved into jack-o’-lanterns, regardless of how appealing they may seem.

Those bigger pumpkins are definitely not the best when it comes to cooking and baking. In fact, bigger pumpkins are typically very stringy, bland, and watery.

Instead look for pumpkins that weigh from four to eight pounds and that are labeled as “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”—such as Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina , Cinderella, and Fairy Tale.

If only big carving pumpkins are available, choose a winter squash like butternut squash instead, if you will actually be cooking or baking with it.

10. Punctures and Pimples…Choose a pumpkin that has no scrapes, brown spots, bruises, cuts, or holes on its surface. Any of these “punctures and pimples” will make your pumpkin rot faster.

11.Purpose…Choose the thickness of the walls of your pumpkin according to what you will be using for. If you are going to be making a jack o’ lantern, choose a pumpkin with thin walls. If you are going to be cooking with it, choose a pumpkin with thicker walls.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s Apple Pickin’ Time

Okay, now that we’ve established the fact that in order to take care of an awesome type 2 diabetic husband, “resident four year old,” and whoever else may be surrounding our tables or grabbing whatever food they can find to eat in surplus===such as my college daughter….

…we’ve also decided that one way that we can start converting all of our collected Southern Living and Paula recipes into healthier alternatives is by baking with applesauce…

And now that another goal of mine is to start slowly weeding out all processed foods from our diet, I’ve also decided to make and can my own applesauce…and apple butter…

Wait, did I say that I was gonna actually “can” something?!

My mom will be so shocked—kinda like the day that I told her that I had bought my very first sewing machine and she thought to herself that I’d never sew a straight stitch in my life…(now quilting is my favorite hobby…more on that later)…

But if I’m ever going to actually make applesauce or apple butter, there’s obviously one very important ingredient that I’m gonna need…

APPLES!!

Big Deal…So go get you some apples…

Wish it were that simple…wish apples came with two options—red or green…

But it isn’t?

If I send my daughter out to get apples, she’d soon be calling me to ask which ones…

If I order apples from Instacart, ,I’ll have to first surf and see which apple variety to order.

So my goal in these three upcoming posts are to show…

  1. How to select apples
  2. How to store apples
  3. Which variety to choose for what

…,and then share a few of my very favorite apple recipes…

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Baking with Applesauce

IMG_4908

Being the wife of a type 2 diabetic makes you reconsider the old ways that you have learned to cook, not only in WHAT you cook, but also in HOW you cook.

You become more aware of the amount of saturated fats, sugar, and calories contained in your baked goods.

For example, check out these facts about the nutritional value of Paula Deen’s Sour Cream Pound Cake found in my last post. I’ve been making this cake for about thirty-five years my self and eating it for about fifty, but never stopped to really think about the ingredients until here lately.

But still, being from the Deep South, I absolutely love to bake and would gladly put my sour cream pound cake in competition with anyone else’s at any upcoming state fair this fall.

But how do I still manage to make moist, delicious baked goods that will rival any competitors while also keeping my type 2 diabetic husband’s blood sugar and cholesterol levels in line?

One way is by replacing some of the fat called for in cookie and cake recipes with applesauce.

So this holiday baking season, I plan on making at least some of my traditional recipes using applesauce so that at least some of my offerings will contain less sugar and perhaps even healthy(?!)…since apples have been shown to have great health benefits.—such as helping to prevent cancer, reducing your risk of cardiovascular difficulties, acting as an antioxidant, and diminishing the effects of bad cholesterol.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sorry, Paula Dean…But…

Now that our family is having to change our eating habits and stop cooking like the Southern Baptists from the deepest of the Deep South, all in the name of middle age and type 2 diabetes, are we to live the rest of our lives totally without the Trinity of Deep Southern Cooking—cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter?!

 

So not happening!!!

Nothing makes my husband smile nearly as much as a Sour Cream Pound Cake fresh out of the oven.

But we have been trying to limit how many caloriess and how much added sugars and saturated fat we consume since becoming more health-conscientious.

Thankfully there are a few suggestions out there that will make your baking supposedly healthier, while keeping it delicious…techniques that will help cut heart-harming fats, refined sugars, and empty calories.

So just in time for the upcoming holiday season, and in time to start completing this year’s Christmas Notebook, here are some ideas…

 

But first, the recipe for Sout Cream Pound Cake, the one and only recipe that I have actually memorized after my thirty-plus years of having my own kitchen, not to mention my very own KitchenAid miser.

Three cups of sugar, six eggs, one cup of sour cream…perhaps a type 2 diabetic from the Deep South’s greatest temptation ever…

 

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Sour Cream Pound Cake

  • 3C flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1C sour cream
  • 3C sugar
  • 2C butter

Preheat oven to 350 °F….Cream the butter and sugar together…Add sour cream…Sift the baking soda and flour together…Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating in each egg 1 at a time…Add vanilla…Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan…Bake for 1 hour.

Now taking all of the ingredients in this cake, let’s see if and how we can hopefully make this cake a little less deadly, while keeping it delicious…

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Flout

Time and time again, I have read to simply replace the white flour called for in a recipe with the same amount of whole wheat flour. While whole wheat flour is not as heavily refined and processed as regular white flour, I just don’t want to end up with a sour cream pound cake that tastes like rye bread.

Honestly, I don’t even know that I could replace up to half, or even a spoonful of the all-purpose flour in this recipe with whole-grain flour, That almost sounds like the ultimate kitchen sin.

If you are willing to start using whole grain flours instead of white flour, try first substituting whole gtrain flour for only half of the flour originally called for in the recipe.

Another option is to try  experimenting with flours that are a little more our of the ordinary—such as chickpea or almond flour.

But perhaps the best way to reduce the amount of fat in baking recipes is to use high-quality, low-gluten flour—whole wheat, oat, brown rice––such as King Arthur Brand.

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Sugar…So many baked goods contain completely and entirely way too much sugar in the first place. So as a general rule, you can typically go ahead and reduce the amount of sugar called for in a given recipe by about 25% right out of the bat.

Two other options to help reduce the amount and impact of sugar in your baked goods would be to…

Increasing the amount of other spices—such as ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg—to make up for any sugar that you may be taking out of the recipe will often allow the finished product to still taste good.

Try other sweetener alternatives—such as honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, pitted dates, or molasses.

 

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Butter…A few substitutes for the “bad fats” often called for in recipes—such as butter, stick margarine, and shortening—would include

  1. Canola oil or any other type of “heart-healthy oil”
  2. Greek yogurt
  3. Ground flax seeds
  4. Ground nuts
  5. Low-fat sour cream
  6.  Prepared all natural nut butters

 

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Egg

Eggs…As far as eggs go, try one of the following ideas…

  1. Replace one whole egg in any given recipe with ¼C zero-fat, zero-cholesterol egg product substitute, such as ConAgra’s Egg Beaters.
  2. Use two egg yolks instead of one complete egg.

 

Getting Healthy

Date-Sugar Sugar Cookies

Now that we know that date sugar is a healthy sweetener alternative for diabetics than standard granulated sugar…where do we find it?…how do we make it ourselves?…how do we use it in a recipe?

What are the benefits of using date sugar instead of regular granulated sugar?

  • Antioxidants…Dates contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of any dried fruits.
  • Caloric Content…Date sugar contains 288 calories per half-cup, as opposed to regular white refined sugar which has 387 calories per half-cup.
  • Energy Boost…Dates contain 29 grams of natural sugars—such as glucose, sucrose and fructose—and are one of the best snacks that you could eat to help you have more energy.
  • Intestinal Health…Dates helps increase the amount of “good” bacteria found is in the intestines and as a result help to keep you “regular” and prevent constipation.
  • Nutritional Value…Date sugar is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium; where white sugar does not.
  • Potassium Content…Date sugar actually has more potassium per serving size than bananas do.
  • Weight Control…Date sugar is loaded with fiber, protein and carbs which make you feel full much longer. This can help to curb hunger and help prevent weight gain.

Where do we find it?

Commercial date sugar made from unsulfured, organically grown dates is typically hard to find in actual local grocery stores and even health food stores. Your best bet is to buy your date sugar online from such sources as Thrive Market, Bob’s Red Mill, and Amazon.

How do we make it ourselves?

The problem with date sugar, however, especially organic types, is that they can be very expensive.

But it is possible to save money by making your own date sugar.

Making your own date sugar is actually quite simple. Simply buy inexpensive fresh or dried dates in bulk…It is not even important that the dates that you choose to make your date sugar are  the richest, sweetest, moist varieties. Just any old date will do.

Pit and slice them, and dry them using a food dehydrator or a very low-temperature oven. Once your date slices are fully dry, pulverize them in a food processor.

How do we use it in a recipe?!

Commercial or homemade date sugar can be substituted measure for measure for both granulated white sugar and brown sugar…but many people claim that this makes their baked goods taste too sweet, and reduce the amount of date sugar to only 2/3C date sugar for every cup of sugar called for in the original recipe.

Date sugar is particularly good when baking nut or fruit breads that will also contain whole pieces or chunks of another type of fruit or nut….such as banana-nut bread or an apple-walnut bread.

Date Sugar and Liquids…Remember that date sugar does not dissolve when stirred into water or liquids. Many chefs try dissolving the date sugar in boiling water before adding to the batter. This might work if water is already an ingredient in the given recipe. I personally hate changing ratios and proportions, and leave all this to the people who actually passed college algebra the first time that they took it.

Otherwise, just be aware that date sugar may show up as distinct, sweet flecks in cake, pancake or waffle batters.

Storing Your Date Sugar

Date sugar, just like brown sugar, tends to clump together…because they both are naturally “hygroscopic”…new word of the day, simply meaning “able to readily absorbs and retains moisture.”

So be sure to store your date sugar in an airtight jar or other container…probably in your pantry with perfectly-alphabetically-lined Mason jars containing brown sugar, coconut sugar, and now date sugar…

If you want to store your date sugar in a shaker, place a saltine cracker or two in the container to absorb any moisture.

Date-Sugar Cookies

Date Filling:

  • 2C chopped dates
    1C sugar
    1C water
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pound chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine chopped dates, sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer ten minutes. Add lemon juice and salt. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dough

  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1C butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground cloves
    1Tbsp baking soda
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together vanilla, eggs, sugar, milk, and butter until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Add to creamed mixture.

Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter.

Cut out and remove 1″ round hole from center of half of the cookies. Return dough centers to remaining dough for rerolling.

Place the whole cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.

Spoon 1tsp cooled filling onto center of each whole cookie.

Top with dough ring. Press the edges of each filled cookie together with the tip of a fork to seal.

Bake for ten minutes. Let cool on pans two minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

Let cool. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.