Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Recipes From Our Past

   I am not only a purist in the kitchen, but a softy when it comes to recipes our ancestors made. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't think about what kitchens smelled like in the era of no electricity yet food was cooked all day lone to feed the large, sprouting families of our "fore-families". So here are some of my favorite recipes that I have prepared that stick to the past as close as I can. 

Christmas Orange Cake
     This recipe really isn't one from the past, but the taste of it reminds me of that special orange I found in my 
Christmas stocking every year. A delicious blend of tart and sweet with the flavors of Christmas, this super moist cake is easy to make and bake and the topping is as simple as it gets. 

Nonstick cooking spray
1(18-ounce)jar orange marmalade(about 26 T.), divided
1 cup cranberry juice concentrate, thawed and divided
1/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and dried ginger
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten well

Liberally grease a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a small saucepan, add half the jar of marmalade, 1/2 cup cranberry juice concentrate, milk and butter and bring to scalding over medium heat, stirring often. Once butter is melted, set aside.
In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and spices. Add the marmalade mixture, brown sugar and eggs. Beat until as smooth as possible. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes, or until it bounces back in the middle when pressed. 
Make Orange Sauce by heating remainder of marmalade and remainder cranberry juice concentrate, whisk well and heat until warmed throughout. Pour over warm or cold cake.

Sweet Molasses Cake

    Molasses cake was a staple at lumber camps many generations ago and sadly it is very seldom made now. But I will guarantee you one thing. If you switch your gingerbread with this recipe for the Holidays, you will be thrilled at the comments from everyone, especially if you top it with vanilla ice cream while warm. I can honestly say that this is the perfect cold weather cake and my all time favorite.

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1 stick(1/2 cup) melted butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves*

An hour before making cake, cover raisins with boiling water, cover and set aside. Line an 9-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
When ready, drain and set aside.(See NOTE)
In a bowl, with a hand held whisk, NOT an electric mixer because you don't want every single lump to disappear, add milk,lemon juice or vinegar, molasses,melted butter or margarine,sugar and egg. Whisk well. In a separate bowl, thoroughly blend flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves and add this mixture to molasses mixture. Whisk until just incorporated and then fold in raisins. Pour into prepared pan and bake 38-40 minutes, or until it springs back when touched in the center. Remove cool slightly cut and eat it NOW

* Use allspice if you like that netter, but you really should use cloves

NOTE: The reason we treat the raisins this way is because if you don't, they will sink to the bottom of the batter and burn while cooking. The batter is not thick enough to suspend them and don't listen to other chefs or articles that tell you to coat them in flour to prevent this from happening. It simply does not work in thin batter.

Maine Chocolate Potato Donuts

     I found this recipe in one of my grandfathers music books from his days at the Boston Conservatory from 1918-1920. He was cooking at that time in Boston and am sure he slipped in this while there. I just made them for my family during Thanksgiving and want a fantastic donut to make throughout the winter? This is it folks!

1 1/2 quarts frying oil
Spiced Sugar Coating, recipe below
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups cocoa
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cold mashed potatoes*
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter or oleo, melted

Heat oil in deep fat fryer until 350-degrees F. You can also heat oil in a sturdy pot over medium heat, using a clip-on thermometer.
 For the Spiced Sugar Coating, mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon nutmeg in a shallow bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder, blending well. Add milk, mashed potatoes, eggs and butter. Beat with a sturdy wooden spoon until it leaves the side of the bowl. A tabletop mixer with a dough hook or paddle attachment works as well
 Empty out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead only for a minute, until smooth. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut out with a 3 to 3 1/2-inch donut cutter or glass. If using a glass, find the top of a screw on lid of a soda bottle and press in the center of each dough disc to remove donut hole.
Cooking 2-3 donuts at a time, fry them for 3 minutes per side.
 Remove each donut onto a rack or paper towel-lined plate,
allowing grease to come back to temperature before continuing to cook the remainder of donuts. When cooking the donut holes, you will need to gently swirl them as they are cooking because once the bottom side is cooked and you flip them over, they will NOT, repeat will NOT stay that way!
 While the donuts are still warm, dip in cinnamon sugar to evenly coat both sides or dip in Maple Glaze on both sides, drain excess glaze and transfer to rack for the glaze to harden.

* After you boil, mash and chill potatoes in refrigerator, remove from container and place on double folded paper towels. Place paper towels on top as well and push down to remove any excess water. Put into recipe.

True New England Stuffed Squash

For those of you who enjoy polenta and think only high end, expensive polenta is the best...think again! We New Englanders were the first to make corn meal mush back in the 17th century and this delicious side dish is so cheap to make, I hope you rethink spending so much in an upscale restaurant for something you can make at home for pennies a serving. When combined with other Yankee ingredients, you end up with a Holiday feast accompaniment that is killer.

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and cracked, black pepper to taste
1 large(3 pound)butternut squash *
Twine or butchers string

Prepare polenta by bringing milk and chicken broth to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, salt and cracked pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until cooled and firm. When ready, prepare squash.
Cut an inch off of both the stem and bulb ends of squash. Cut in half lengthwise. 
Pare just enough skin and flesh from 2 halves to stand up level on a sheet pan(which you should have lined with foil).
With a sturdy spoon or melon baller, scoop seeds and membrane from each squash half. Continue making this 'well' down the skinnier portion of the squash. This may prove difficult with these utensils so use a sharp knife to begin with by cutting into the flesh at angles if needed. Do not allow this 'well' to go through the outside surface or you will have a mess in your pan while roasting.
Remove polenta from refrigerator and mound it equally among 2 halves of prepared squash. Cover with unfilled squash half, pressing down lightly just to make sure upper half is filled with polenta. Tie firmly but not too aggressive and place on prepared pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes, or until the flesh of squash is soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven to cool slightly before carving and serving in 1-inch slices.

Super Easy(and Original) Sugar Plums

     True Sugar Plums were so-named because, although not actually 'sugared plums', the original recipes used raisins or dried plums, otherwise known as prunes. Raisins were held together with nuts of various types and other dried fruits and rolled into small truffle-like balls They were a hit with youngsters and oldsters alike many generations ago. Without altering the original too much, try The Yankee Chef's version of this Christmas sweet the way your forebears tasted them, with only a couple of extra touches to round off the textural experience.
     Today's recipes use the food processor or blender to finely mince all the ingredients, but I think that method muddles the flavor too much and gives it a monotone texture.......Blah! By simply chopping the ingredients by hand, the taste is fantastic and you can actually distinguish the different flavors all "rolled up into one". Adding granola is a great touch as well, but if you happen to have some granola-type cereal on hand, even the nut-laden variety, by all means this is a nice alternative too. Refer to NOTE for extended list of various alternatives to use.
1/2 cup raisins, left whole or chopped
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup dried banana chips, crushed
1/2 cup candied green cherries, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums(prunes), orange-scented, chopped
1/2 cup candied red cherries, chopped
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup honey
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients well with damp hands or use gloves(latex that is.....work gloves won't work so well here, sad Yankee humor). This may be best accomplished if you have a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. With your hands still slightly wet from water, mold into small balls, pressing tightly to mold. Place on a large platter and let air dry for an hour to dry the outside and make less sticky. Cover and keep until needed at room temperature. For a 'sweet and salty' flavor, sprinkle some kosher or other large-grained salt on top of each Sugar Plum.

NOTE: You may also substitute the following or use some imagination to form that perfect Sugar Plum, I promise Santa will love it just the same. I use candied fruits here because it adds that special flavor and extra holding power. Use all dried ingredients if desired. Try dried apple slices, candied pineapple(both yellow and green), crushed walnut, pecans or slivered almonds, golden raisins, dried apricots, candied or grated lemon or lime peel, candied citron or shredded coconut.

Easy and Delicious Gingerbread Men

     What joy it is when you can gather the children around the table to help cut out gingerbread men. Not only do you have the scent of ginger and molasses wafting through the air, but the joy that is Christmas truly shines through. So what if the shapes or icing is haphazard and not perfect. It is the time spent and the joy created that is important.....don't you think?

  • 1/2 cup(1 stick)butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Decorating Icing:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • Red, green, blue or other colored food coloring
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Line two cookie pans with parchment paper or grease with nonstick cooking spray*; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with brown sugar using an electric mixer until as smooth as possible. Add molasses, milk, vanilla and lemon juice, if using. Continue to beat until everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, blend all dry ingredients. Add dry to wet and beat an additional minute or two until cookie dough is stiff and well mixed.
On a floured work surface, transfer dough and roll out to about 1/4-inch thick, adding more flour to prevent sticking. Cut out gingerbread men, or desired shapes. Lift shapes off counter onto prepared pans with a spatula, leaving an inch between cookies. Reknead dough, cutting out more shapes. Continue until all dough is used. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush, cloth or paper towel. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until evenly puffed and they bounce back in the middle of each cookie when touched.
Remove from oven to cool completely on pans with paper. Peel cookies off parchment and set aside to decorate.
To decorate, simply mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 5 drops desired food coloring and 2 teaspoons water. Repeat with remaining powdered sugar in separate bowls.
Transfer icing to piping bag with round tip or into a very sturdy plastic baggie with a very small corner snipped off.

* Let cool for a couple minutes if using nonstick cooking spray before lifting off onto a rack to cool completely.

NOTE: Want Peanut Butter Gingerbread Men for a change? Simpl omit the molasses and place 1/2 cup peanut butter into a saucepan with milk listed. Over medium heat, stir and heat until smooth and melted. Remove from heat to cool for a few minutes. Beat in butter mixture before adding dry ingredients. The dough will be much softer when done, so you will have to cover and refrigerate until it has stiffened back up, about 30-45 minutes. Continue as directed.Makes about 30(3 1/2-inch) Gingerbread Men