Sunday, April 29, 2012

This Week at the Market: Radishes


One of the great joys in my life is shopping at the Topeka farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Considering I’m not a morning person, it’s a minor miracle I can get myself out of bed that early on the weekend, but the allure of fresh vegetables, fruits, baked goods, meats, and dairy products is too much to ignore. (It also helps that I treat myself to a Storm Chaser coffee from KS Daily Grind, my favorite coffee shop.) I wrote a post last summer on my travel blog, Midwest Life and Cuisine, if you want to check out what our market has to offer.



The 2012 market opened three weeks ago and will continue until November. So for the rest of the spring and summer, I’ve decided to write a weekly post to feature one of the items I purchase.





This week, radishes are the market find, and also my all-time favorite vegetable. I like nothing better than munching on a bowl full of the peppery red and white globes while I watch television, read, write, or whatever.

These multi-colored beauties came from Rees Fruit Farm in Topeka.


A few weeks ago, I saw a pin on Pinterest from the blog OnceUpon a Chef that featured sliced radishes on top of a baguette slice spread with butter, with a sprinkling of sea salt on top. Jenn, the author, described them as “simple and lovely French canapés.”

Last week, on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten presented a bowl of radishes on a bed of sea salt with toasted and buttered French bread slices served on the side. She said it was a popular after school snack in France!

Evidently the French love radishes with butter and salt.

Then this week I was paging through the current issue of Bon Appetit magazine. On page 62 was a suggestion for shaved radish sandwiches with herb butter for a tea sandwich.

The idea of a simple sandwich with butter, salt, herbs and thinly sliced radishes was appealing, especially for summer time. It reminded me of the cucumber and watercress sandwiches served for an English tea.

Instead of French bread and herbed butter, I used a wonderful herb-garlic bread I also bought at the farmer’s market.





First I made it Ina’s way:


Then I made it the Once Upon a Chef way:


For both styles, I spread unsalted butter onto the herb-garlic bread. I didn’t toast the bread first, but I think it would be lovely served that way. Also, since I didn’t have sea salt, I used kosher salt instead.


Both styles were wonderful! I can see myself eating this for lunch throughout the summer.



 
Storage tips: First remove the leaves, and then place the radishes in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Radishes should keep for up to three to four weeks.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Flan from Diana Kennedy




My fellow food bloggers and I have reached week 45 on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in food. Almost to the end! This Friday’s featured chef is Diana Kennedy, who is an authority on Mexican cuisine.





Much the same way Julia Child introduced French food to American cooks, Diana Kennedy brought Mexican cooking to the American home kitchen in 1972 with her book The Cuisines of Mexico. Born in the United Kingdom, the 89 year-old Kennedy has lived in Mexico since 1957. She is the author of nine cookbooks, many of which are more studies of the social aspects of Mexican food than just how-to-prepare books.




For this week’s recipe, I decided to make Kennedy’s flan, a lovely custard dish with a caramel topping. I’ve made flan many times from a recipe in my Better Crocker cookbook. Typically I use custard dishes. This is the first time I’ve made it in a large dish. It didn’t turn out as beautiful as I’d hoped. I suspect I baked it for too long, or it may be my apartment oven, with its temperamental thermostat, was a little too hot.

However, the flan tasted wonderful! Cool and smooth with a hint of cinnamon and the lovely caramel sauce. This dessert is the perfect finish to a spicy meal, or a cool, refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day.

Flan
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy

For the caramel:
3/4 cup sugar

For the custard:
1 quart milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick (or vanilla bean)
4 eggs
6 egg yolks

A flan mold, ramekins, or a souffle dish [I used a 9-inch Pyrex pie dish.]

Heat the sugar for the caramel in a small, heavy frying pan over low heat until it begins to dissolve. [I used a heavy-bottomed saucepan.] Shake the pan slightly (do not stir) until all the sugar had melted. Increase the flame and let the sugar bubble and color. Pour the caramel into the mold and quickly turn it around in all directions, tipping it up in a circular motion until the surface, bottom and about 2 inches of up the sides has been lightly coated with the caramel. [Since I was using a 9-inch Pyrex pie dish, I could only cover the bottom.] If the caramel thickens and becomes sluggish, gently heat the mold in a pan of hot water or over low heat, depending on the material, and continue the coating action. Set aside to cool.

Put the milk, salt, sugar, and cinnamon or vanilla into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue boiling slowly, taking care that it does not boil over, until the milk has reduced by about 2/3 cup. Set aside to cool. [I didn’t measure to see if it had reduced by 2/3 cup. I just eyeballed it.]

Place an oven rack on the lowest rung of the oven and heat to 325 degrees F.

Beat the eggs and yolks together and stir into the tepid milk. Pour the mixture through a strainer into the flan mold and place it in a hot water bath in the oven. Test after 2 hours with a skewer or cake tester; if it comes out quite clean, the flan is cooked. Remove from the oven, but allow to sit in the water bath for about 15 minutes longer. Remove and set aside to cool completely before refrigerating. [My flan baked for 1 hour due to the wider pie dish, and it probably should have only baked for 50 minutes. It should still jiggle in the middle and a knife inserted should come out almost clean. For ramekins, bake for 40 to 60 minutes.]

To unmold, carefully slip a blunt-ended, thin metal spatula around the rim of the flan and gently tip the mold from side to side to see if the flan is loose. If the caramel has hardened at the bottom of the mold, place it in a pan of hot water for a short time and test again. Place the serving dish (it must have a rim to hold the syrup) on top of the mold, invert quickly, and pray that the flan comes out whole. Always serve a wedge of the flan with plenty of the extra syrup.

Be sure to check out my fellow food bloggers to see what they prepared to honor Diana Kennedy:

Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed,
Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef,
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney,
Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary - One Perfect Bite,
Sue - The View from Great Island,
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Nancy - Picadillo,
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen,
Annie - Most Lovely Things,
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook,
Alyce - More Time at the Table
Kathy - Bakeaway with Me,
Martha - Simple Nourished Living,
Jill - Saucy Cooks
Sara - Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Claudia -A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Egg Salad BLT Sandwich

I think Mother Nature must be drunk. The weather she’s sending us would seem to prove it. A little more than a week ago, tornadoes were populating Kansas. Last weekend, we had frost advisories and high temps in the 60s. Today the temperature was 90 here in Topeka, and it’s projected to be higher tomorrow. At least she is keeping the humidity in check for now. And by this weekend we will be seeing frost advisories again.


This unusual weather has me thinking of summer meals. Last Saturday I went to the Topeka Farmers Market (the only thing that will get me up early on the weekend) and my haul included bacon and tomatoes. So I thought BLTs would be a good idea and started surfing the Web to get ideas for a sandwich spread recipe to use instead of just plain mayo.

That’s when I came across a recipe title for an Egg Salad BLT. Brilliant! Two of my favorite summer sandwiches combined. Plus, weren’t eggs and bacon meant to be together? And, as you can see from the picture, eggs were also a part of my market purchases.

I made the egg salad the way I always do, with the egg cut in a large dice and combined with mayo, a little onion, celery, and a bit of celery seed. (Actually, I made two versions of egg salad since my husband, Michael, likes his made with Miracle Whip and sweet pickles.)



Then I fried-up the bacon until it was brown and crunchy, sliced up the juicy red tomatoes, and broke off some leaves of crispy romaine lettuce. Then it was just a matter of piling it all between two slices of toasted wheat bread.





Michael, being the selective eater that he is, didn’t go for the sandwich at first. He made himself an egg salad one with tomato and lettuce, and then ate the bacon on the side. However, after he saw my sandwich, he said, “That looks pretty good!” Unfortunately for him, he was too full at this point to try one. I bet he does next time.

Because it was pretty good! Really good!

An egg salad BLT, with a side of potato chips and a glass of cold iced tea—ah, summer has arrived. Even if it is just for a day or two.

Egg Salad BLT Sandwich

For the egg salad:
6 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 stalk celery, diced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sandwich:
Your favorite bread
Bacon, fried crisp
Sliced tomatoes
Leaves of romaine lettuce
Extra mayo for the bread (optional)

To make the egg salad, diced to hard boiled eggs to desired size. [I like mine chunky.] Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

Spread a layer of egg salad onto a piece of bread. Layer the remaining ingredients on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake Redo



I was excited to finally reach this week in the Gourmet Live50 Women Game-Changers that I and my fellow food bloggers post about each Friday. Nigella Lawson is one of my favorite food personalities. She makes cooking a sensual experience, and her gift for descriptive words warms my writer’s heart. But most of all, I like her because she always emphasizes recipes that are enjoyable for everyone—delicious for the guests and stress-free for the cook. Plus she’s British, and I’m a life-long anglophile.

After searching through her cookbooks for one in the many recipes I wanted to feature, I decided on her chocolate orange loaf cake, primarily because I had all of the ingredients and I didn’t want to let my partially-used can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup go to waste. I was surprised by the image in her cookbook, Nigella Kitchen. The cake had sunk a great deal and wasn’t the most beautiful one I’ve seen. According to her website, that is how the cake should look and she wants all of the images to look real so the home cook won’t be surprised by the results.

My relationship with this cake didn’t start off well.

I mixed up the ingredients, poured the batter into the loaf pan, and popped it into the oven. About five minutes before the timer was about to buzz, I began to smell something burning. When I investigated, I found the batter had oozed over the top of the loaf pan and into the bottom of my oven! I quickly turned it off, pulled out the surprisingly still soupy cake, and turned on a fan in hopes the smoke would not set off my apartment building’s fire alarm.

What had gone wrong? I checked out the Kitchen Queries section of Nigella’s website. The recipe in the cookbook called for a two-pound loaf pan, which is one that measures 9 x 5 1/2 x 3 inches. My loaf pan is 9 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches. I guess it was just too small.

So I decided to try again, this time using a 9-inch spring form pan. The result was wonderful! The cake itself only sank slightly in the middle. The flavor is a delightful combination of rich chocolate with just a hint of orange that will have guests guessing, “What is that flavor I’m tasting?”

The cake is crumbly, but I noticed in the cookbook photo it also looked that way, so I guess it is just the nature of this cake. Made in the spring form pan, it can fit any special occasion, be it an elegant tea or a casual birthday party. Next time I plan to serve it with a little whipped cream on the side.

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake
From Nigella Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson

1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tablespoons golden syrup (such as Lyle’s), or dark corn syrup
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 eggs
Zest of 2 regular oranges and juice of 1

1 x 2-pound loaf pan (9 x 5 1/2 x 3 inches) [or 9-inch spring form pan]

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line your loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the sides, or line with a paper loaf-pan liner.

Beat the already soft butter with the syrup — if you dab a little oil on your tablespoon measure with a sheet of paper towel, the syrup shouldn't stick to the spoon — and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth caffe Americano cream, though the sugar will have a bit of grit about it.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder together, and beat into the syrup mixture 1 tablespoonful of these dry ingredients before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg.

Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the juice. At this stage, the batter may suddenly look dimpled, as if slightly curdled. No need to panic! [This didn’t happen to me.]

Pour and scrape into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, though check 5 minutes before and be prepared to keep it in the oven 5 minutes longer if need be. A cake tester won't come out entirely clean, as the point of this cake, light though it may be, is to have just a hint of inner stickiness.

[For a spring form pan, bake for 20 to 25 minutes.]

Let cool a little in its pan on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.

Be sure to check out my fellow food bloggers to see what they prepared to honor Nigella Lawson:

Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed,
Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef,
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney,
Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary - One Perfect Bite,
Sue - The View from Great Island,
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Nancy - Picadillo,
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen,
Annie - Most Lovely Things,
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook,
Alyce - More Time at the Table
Kathy - Bakeaway with Me,
Martha - Simple Nourished Living,
Jill - Saucy Cooks
Sara - Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Claudia -A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mamaw’s Recipe Box #6: Cherry Nut Cookies

When I look through the vast selection of recipe cards in Mamaw’s box, I always know which ones she wrote herself by her distinctive handwriting. (Read more about Mamaw and the recipe file here.) She told me many times about how important penmanship was for her in school during the 1920s. Teachers would make students practice over and over until their letters came together in a neat, legible row. The more artistic the handwriting, the more praise was given to the “artist.” I also seem to remember Mamaw won prizes for her handwriting. Or perhaps it was just good grades and the approval of her teacher.

I made this recipe for cherry nut cookies a few years ago and thought they were delicious. So when I came across the card again in my search for the next of Mamaw’s creations to feature, I immediately pulled it out of the file. Besides her distinctive handwriting, Mamaw almost always put the name of the person who gave her the recipe, often with the date. I was shocked to see my name printed at the card’s bottom. She got the recipe from me? I don’t remember ever giving it to her. In fact, I thought I got it from her. The only explanation is she copied it from a cookbook I showed to her, or from an article I’d clipped from a newspaper or magazine. Whatever the reason, my heart warmed at the sight of my name in her beautiful script.

This recipe reminds me of a cross between a shortbread cookie (because of the shape and the butter) and a chocolate chip cookie (because of the brown sugar.) The original called for butter-flavored Crisco, but I used unsalted butter.

The ingredients also list chopped maraschino cherries, which I used the first time I made these cookies. They tasted great and looked pretty with the small flecks of red. However, this time I wanted to use real cherries—or at least real canned cherries since they are not in season—so I chopped up some dark, sweet cherries. They changed the look a bit—a little less pretty and more rustic—but the cookies still tasted wonderful. Next time I may try canned tart cherries, or perhaps wait until cherry season and use some bought fresh at the farmer’s market.

Cherry Nut Cookies

1/2 cup butter-flavored Crisco (or unsalted butter)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans, only because that’s what I had on hand.)
1/3 cup chopped maraschino cherries

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.

Blend in flour, baking soda and salt. (I whisked these ingredients together in a small bowl before adding to the butter/sugar mixture.) Stir in the nuts and cherries.

Shape the dough into a roll about 14-inches long. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4-inch slices. Place on an un-greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until just golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool on racks. Store in an air-tight container.

Mamaw and I, sometime in 1963.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chicken with Vinegar Sauce

One of the things I enjoy most about participating with my fellow food bloggers in the weekly Friday posts of the Gourmet Live 50 WomenGame-Changers is discovering a new chef. This week’s selection, April Bloomfield, was new to me. A native of Birmingham, England, she is the owner and chef of the Spotted Pig, a gastropub in New York’s West Village. In 2005, she received a surprise Michelin star in New York’s first Michelin Guide.

Before landing in New York, Bloomfield worked in the kitchens of some well-known restaurants, including two I’m dying to try: River Café in London and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.

The reviews I read of her food at the Spotted Pig call it a mix of English and Italian. The recipes I read sounded more French to me. Perhaps that proves more than ever that food is the one thing that crosses all cultural borders.

I came across this recipe for chicken with a vinegar sauce the day after I saw Laura Calder make a similar dish on her Cooking Channel show, French Food at Home. I thought it sounded easy and intriguing: How could that much vinegar make a good sauce?

When I first tasted the sauce before serving, I thought I’d made a huge mistake. It was awful! The sauce was very tart—too tart—and the flavor wasn’t enjoyable. Just about when I was ready to throw it all into the trash, I thought, “Maybe the sauce tastes better when eaten with the chicken.”



It does! In fact, the chicken’s flavor is enhanced by the sauce so much I kept dipping bites into it before eating. Don’t ask me how it works, but it does! Even my food-picky husband liked it. [Note: Bloomfield recommends serving the dish with herbed steamed rice. I chose roasted potatoes.]

Even if you don't make the sauce, this recipe is a great way to roast chicken. But without the sauce it would be a bit bland. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Lyon-Style Chicken with Vinegar Sauce
By April Bloomfield
Food and Wine Magazine, October 2011
 
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1 cup Banyuls vinegar or red wine vinegar [I used white wine vinegar.]
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until browned. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the skillet and swirl to coat the chicken. Turn the chicken skin side up and add the garlic and bay leaf.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the chicken for 8 minutes, until the breast pieces are just white throughout. Transfer the breast pieces to a plate. Add the vinegar to the skillet, return to the oven and bake the remaining chicken, basting a few times, until cooked through, 15 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken and garlic to the plate.

Add the chicken stock to the skillet and boil, scraping up the browned bits, until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Return the chicken to the skillet along with any accumulated juices. Simmer over moderately high heat, basting a few times, until the sauce thickens slightly and the chicken is heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the Herbed Steamed Rice.

Be sure to check out my fellow food bloggers to see what they prepared to honor April Bloomfield:

Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed,
Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef,
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney,
Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary - One Perfect Bite,
Sue - The View from Great Island,
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Nancy - Picadillo,
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen,
Annie - Most Lovely Things,
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook,
Alyce - More Time at the Table
Kathy - Bakeaway with Me,
Martha - Simple Nourished Living,
Jill - Saucy Cooks
Sara - Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Claudia -A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chiffon Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Every holiday has its own signature dessert style. For Thanksgiving, it’s pies. At Christmas, cookies take center stage, and Valentine’s Day brings anything chocolate. For me, Easter has always meant cake.

I usually make a coconut cake, with some of the coconut colored with green food coloring to make little nests for jelly bean eggs. However, this year I wanted to feature strawberries, perhaps because the weather has been very warm and summer thoughts of strawberry shortcake keep popping to mind.

A few weeks ago The Country Cook blog featured a recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cake. It looked wonderful! She used a cake mix, a pre-made strawberry glaze, and a container of whipped topping as ingredients, which made the recipe easy to prepare. However, I wanted to give it a try from scratch.

I went with a chiffon cake—like an angel food cake but made with whole eggs instead of just egg whites. I used freshly whipped cream in the frosting, and the strawberry glaze was melted strawberry jam.

The cake was delicious! The combination of vanilla and almond extracts in the cake gave it a wonderful flavor to complement the strawberries. And the cream cheese in the frosting not only added to the flavor, but it also stabilized the whipped cream so it would stand up longer on the cake.

Actually, I made two cakes. One was a 9-inch round cake we took to my parent’s farm in Missouri the day before Easter, and the other was a larger 9- by 13-inch one I left in the glass baking dish that was dessert at a gathering of my husband’s family on the actual holiday. Both were devoured! I even had someone request I make one for her birthday—in December!

Chiffon Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:
(Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.)
7 eggs separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

For the frosting:
(Adapted from allrecipes.com.)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 pints strawberries, cut in half
1/4 cup strawberry jelly or jam

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Set aside.

Whisk together the remaining 1 cup sugar with the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the oil, milk, egg yolks, and flavorings until pale yellow. Add the dry ingredients and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer, or longer with a hand mixer.

Gently fold in the whipped egg whites using a wire whisk. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so the batter is well blended. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, 2 ungreased 9-inch round cake pans [springform pans work best], or 1 ungreased 9- by 13-inch cake pan. Bake tube pan for 1 hour, 9-inch pans for 45 to 50 minutes, and the 9-by-13 pan for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake is done when a finger gently pressed in the center doesn’t leave a print. You’ll be able to hear a crackling sound if you listen carefully.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool it upside down for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan. (If you’ve used a tube pan, set it atop a thin-necked bottle, like a wine bottle, threading the bottle neck through the hole in the tube. The other cakes can be cooled upside down on top for 4 over-tuned glasses.) When the cake is completely cool, run a knife around the outside edge and around the tube. Turn the pan upside down and tap it to remove the cake.

To make the frosting, beat the whipping cream in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth. (This may take a few minutes. Be patient.) Then fold in the whipped cream.

Frost the cake, reserving some frosting for decorations, and then cover the top of the cake with the strawberry halves. Place the jelly or jam into a bowl and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds until melted. Brush the melted jelly/jam on top of the strawberries to glaze. Place the reserved frosting into a piping bag and decorate the cake as desired.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Perfect Muffin

Blueberry, apple spice, banana nut, lemon poppy seed, pumpkin, peach, raspberry, zucchini nut, bran, corn—you name the flavor and there is probably a muffin out there to match. However, in all of the flavor mania is lost the joy of a simple, plain muffin. It is the easy and perfect choice for just about any meal.

Remember the muffins we all learned to make in home economics class decades ago? (Okay, so I may have just dated myself with that question.)  This simple muffin becomes the ideal background for any topping—jams, jellies, butters, honey, cheese spread, etc. And it’s quick to make, so you always have fresh, hot bread to serve, whether for breakfast or dinner.

This recipe is the one I learned to make it high school. It was also in my mom’s copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, originally published in 1950 and still available today.  (The recipe says the name muffin means “little muffs” to warm the fingers.)

I made up a batch to take to my co-workers at the preschool where I teach, along with a selection of jams and honey.  They were very much enjoyed before our staff meeting.

The Perfect Muffin
[That’s what I call them. The recipe’s name is Popular Muffins.]
From Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a tin for 12 medium-sized muffins.

Sift together into a mixing bowl:
2 cups sifted flour [sift the flour first, then measure]
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add:
1/4 cup soft shortening [I used canola oil. You could also use half oil and half melted butter, or as the recipe suggests, shortening cut in with a pastry cutter.]
1 egg
1 cup milk

Mix together with a blending fork or pastry blender. [I just stirred it all together.] Then stir just until the ingredients are blended. [There will be some small lumps. Don’t over mix or the muffins will be tough.] Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot.