Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cooking the Books: Bacardi Rum Cake

I said it was Cake Day, and Cake Day it is! I decided it was high time to make a Bacardi Rum Cake. I had all the ingredients in-house, including some lovely eggs from Washington's Green Grocer. Though I normally prefer to make a cake from scratch, I honored the original recipe and used a mix.

...Okay, I didn't honor it all the way...

I used half a cup of walnuts, not a full cup, and I'd feel free to omit them entirely if you have concerns about nut allergies (or if you don't know for absolutely sure that your cake audience is allergy-free).

I nabbed a box of cake mix that did have pudding included, and yet, rebel that I am, I added a box of pudding, used 4 eggs not 3, and had a full half cup of oil.

My oil was not Wesson.

My rum was not Bacardi.

And, believe it or no, I used a Bundt pan. I live in a 1937 apartment; my oven is TINY. As much as I love 9 x 13 inch pans, the narrower footprint of a Bundt just works better in my oven -- the heat can actually circulate.

The cake went together easy peasy. It filled the house with amazing scents. I had no problem getting the cake out (my Bundt is non-stick, and I buttered it liberally). And the glaze... well! I've never cooked a butter/sugar glaze before -- most cake glazes I do are water and confectioner's sugar. This took more time and stirring, but turned out beautifully. I poured it slowly over the cake, trying to let it all soak in, but there was still a pool of glaze when I was done -- you can see the pool in the picture above.

No worries. Just keep going back as it cools further, and use a spoon to, well, spoon the glaze from the pool over the cake. The glaze thickens as it cools; after a few times going back to lacquer the cake, there'll be nothing left to spoon.

The cake is gorgeous. It smells wonderful. And I can't wait to try it.

Cake Day!: Rhubarb Cake

It's Cake Day here chez Take One Cookbook. I've got a Bacardi Rum Cake baking away in the oven as we speak, and the scent is heavenly; it's distracted me utterly from all things non-cake. So, let's delve for the last time into the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008, and go for something seasonal and cakey from Aunt Agnes:
Rhubarb Cake
Agnes Bachman Pengilly

1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sour milk or buttermilk
1 tsp. soda
2 cups flour
2 cups rhubarb

Topping - 3/4 c. white sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Put on top of cake. Bake 30-35 minutes.
Get the feeling that, in my family, one is just expected to know how the heck to bake? Let's break this down for the non-Spratts/Bachmans/Mellbergs/McKenzies out there:

Pan: Use a 9 x 13. Yes, I know.
Oven temp: 350°F
  • Cream the butter and sugar together.
  • Beat in eggs.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
  • Alternate adding flour mixture and sour milk or buttermilk to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
  • Toss the cut up rhubarb in a bit of flour (so that it disperses nicely in the cake, or so my mother always told me).
  • Top as directed.
  • Bake as directed.
  • Cool in pan.
  • Serve hunks of cake topped with Cool Whip, whipped cream, or, heck, warmed up in a bowl and then topped with ice cream or whole milk.
Rhubarb's so darned moist, tangy, and tasty! I remember lots of rhubarb in the family, growing up. I never even thought to try buying it in the grocery store, though, as everyone back home seems to have it in their gardens -- well, assuming their house was built and garden established by someone in my Grandpa's generation. But, yes, it's purchase-able in grocery stores, and it's in season, so, get yourself some! Eat it raw, dipped in sugar; or make a compote, if cake-baking seems too much for you. Or, mmm, try it in a strawberry-rhubarb pie... I love late spring!

If you want to go the sour milk route, take 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar, and put it in your 1 cup liquid measuring cup. Top off with enough milk to make 1 cup. Let stand for about 10 minutes, and voila! Soured milk. Don't just use milk that's past date in your fridge; you don't want spoiled milk. If this sounds too chemistry-class for you, just buy some buttermilk.

This cake is great warm, or at room temperature. It's, of course, a good dessert, but it's equally tasty for a homey breakfast. Go get a couple stalks of rhubarb (which is a vegetable, even though normally eaten as a fruit), and enjoy the tang.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We'll Put Prunes In Anyting: Prune Pie

The one dish that says "Mom & Family" to me beyond all others is vinaterta, an Icelandic layered torte with stewed prunes between the layers. It's nice find out that the German side of her family also would put prunes in anything. From the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008:
Prune Pie
Magdalena Berger Bachman
Neva Spratt Bachman

1 c. prunes - cooked and pitted (1 lb.)
Beat well and add
1/2 c. cugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. milk
dash salt
Put in crust and add strip top and bake.
Another recipe where you'd best know what the hell you're doing. Do you have a favorite pie crust recipe? Use it. Do you know what temperature your oven prefers for pies? Use it. And then we come to the prunes.

Dried, or fresh? A quick internet check shows recipes using both (sometimes in the same pie). And, yes, I do call fresh prunes "prunes" -- Grandpa had a prune tree in his side yard. Regardless!

When in doubt about a family recipe, call on family. I gave my mom a call, and she was sort of surprised by my question. "Dried, of course! Why?" I explained about not wanting to lead anyone astray, and through a twisty conversation, she assured me that the Bachman family prune pie was really very very very good, and then secured a promise that I would make it for her when next we are together.

My grandma died when I was three; I don't have first-hand memories of her. But, oh, the stories. Everyone says she was the best pie maker ever. Grandpa had an entire lot devoted to gardening, and that which he grew, she canned, or froze, or baked into pies and cakes. The lot is gone now; when Grandpa and Grandma Fran moved into assisted living, the house was sold and the lots divided. A new, big house was built, and it's more than a little bit strange to know the garden's gone. I don't know if the prune tree remains.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cooking the Books: Tangy Cucumbers

Some things in life seem so basic, so natural that to discover them writen down can come as a shock. "Wait, there's a recipe for that?" I cried, when I came across the basic natural it's-always-that-way cucumber dish in the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008:
Tangy Cucumbers
Betty Mellberg McKenzie

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Slice cucumbers into a bowl. Add above and then put enough water to just cover the cucumbers. Keep in fridge. They get better the longer they sit.
"Seriously, a recipe?"

But then, if this isn't the only way you were ever served cucumbers as a child, this is just the sort of thing you need. (No hyperbole there; it seems we always had a jar of these in the fridge, which is a neat trick, because I could eat all the cukes in one sitting without trying.) It is, indeed, tangy, as the title (and the vinegar) suggest. You could fancy it up by adding dried hot pepper flakes, or thinly sliced onions. I do not. You could use a food processor or mandoline to ensure uniform, nearly-transparent thin slices. I do not. And yesterday, Washington's Green Grocer brought me two cucumbers...

I scrubbed them, and realized they were still very waxy. Out came my trusty Oxo vegetable peeler, and in a trice, off came the waxy peel. A bit of casual knife work, and I had a bowl full of uneven but beautiful slices. I ground a good healthy amount of black pepper on top, and sprinkled a hefty pinch of salt over. Then, I poured 3/4 a cup of vinegar over, slowly, to wash the spices into solution. Yes, 3/4 cup. I love vinegar. And, yes, white vinegar. Other than Easter egg dying, this is the only food application for white vinegar in my life; otherwise, I use it mostly for cleaning. I topped off the cukes with one scant cup of cold water...

...and then I ate the top layer, with my fingers. Yes, it tastes better after it sits. But, yes, I could eat it right away. It took all my willpower to not tuck in with a fork, but... there's always tomorrow.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Attractive To The Eye and Soothing To The Smell: Poppy Seed Buns

When Mom got the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008, she wanted to know if it had "her" recipes, the ones she remembered her grandmother and aunts making. It's all well and good to have a new-to-you Rice Krispies Brownie recipe on hand, but what makes a family cookbook really sing is to find the recipes you wish you'd snagged from your aunt's recipe box the last time you swung through North Dakota. Mom was very happy to find that the sweet poppy seed buns were included.
Poppy Seed Buns
Magdalena Berger Bachman

2 cups warm milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 cakes (pgks) yeast
2 eggs
1/2 c. soft shortening
7 - 7 1/2 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 c. warm water. Mix well the milk, sugar and salt together with yeast. Add eggs and shortening. Add flour. Let rise. Punch down. Let rise again.

Poppy seeds, raisins thickened with water and cornstarch. Add some sugar. Place small amount on circular shape of dough. Roll. Let rise. Bake.
Wow, we went from a standardized recipe to one a bit more ... trusting. Assume a 350°F oven, and think either "cinnamon roll" or "knish" when shaping your buns. Yes, I know they're different shapes, but either should yield good results. Personally, I'd go with "cinnamon roll" so that I get well distributed bits of bread and filling with every bite.

If you have a poppy seed grinder handy, by all means, grind those seeds! You could, of course, also buy pre-ground poppy seeds. The texture is lovely, and odds are, you don't have your own poppy seed grinder sitting about.

I know some folks are anti-raisin; feel free to substitute a dried fruit of your choice. Dates, apricots, or even apples would make a good substitution.

As for the sugar, add to taste -- I'm thinking a 1/4 cup is a good starting point. Mix up your filling, taste it, and add sugar if you think you need it.

I'm really liking digging through family food history; my grandfather passed away last month, and this is a ...non-maudlin... way to remember him and his. Speaking of his, the stern looking couple above are my great great grandparents, so were his grandparents (I have to double check if that makes this Magdalena-of-this-recipe, or Magdalena's mother-in-law). If any of the recipes in this book don't work out, well...we can probably pin the blame on them or their children. This will become important when I post the prune pie recipe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why, Yes, We Are From North Dakota: Knephla Soup

One thing you should know: I come from North Dakotan, German-by-way-of-Russia folk. My family left the Alsace, moved to Russia, and then left Russia for the wilds of the North American Midwest. (Well, the part of the family that didn't come over from Iceland at about the same time. Or Ireland fifty or so years before that. Or, you know, England, pre-Revolution -- yes, I could join the D.A.R.) Anyway, the Germany/North Dakota connection shines through in a lot of the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008 recipes. Take the North Dakotan soup:
Knephla Soup
Anthony Bachman

4 qts water
1/4 cup + 1 T. chicken bouillon
5 med. Potatoes
1 c. dice Carrots
1 c. diced ham
1 small onion
2 bay leaves
Simmer until potatoes and carrots are soft


2 c. flour
1 egg
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1/4 c. milk or enough to make a soft dough

Mix knephla dough together with a fork and add enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll into a quarter inch rope and snip off with kitchen shears or knife. Drop into soup and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Aaaah, farm food! Hearty, cheap, easy to make in large quantities. I'd eschew the bouillon, and just use 4 quarts of good chicken stock. I'm torn between calling the knephla (spelled elsewhere as knoephla) "dumplings" or "spaetzle" or "gnocchi," but whatever you call 'em, they're going to be tasty little blobs of carby goodness, and I'd wager they'd make you feel better when you're recovering from a cold.

Knephla seems to come from the German word "knopf," which means button, or knob. So, wee knobby buttons, in your soup -- an interesting image. Though some recipes call for adding milk or cream to the broth, you're going to get some creaminess from the knephla themselves -- the flour will thicken the surrounding broth somewhat. I'm tempted to throw in a hearty knob of butter to enrich the soup, myself, and if I did feel a need for more dairy, I'd go to the Irish side of my family, and open a can of evaporate milk to pour in -- it's a staple for our family's potato soup.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection in Fargo, N.D., has a great foodways section with links to cookbooks for sale, recipes, and articles on food culture in the German-by-way-of-Russia community. Check it out, especially if you want to see other ways to make knoephla/knephla.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reuben Was The Eldest Of The Children Of Israel: Reuben Dip

First things first: there's a revision to German Twists. We've a better method, a more-complete ingredient list, and, well, a repudiation of the idea that "German Twist" and "Cinnamon Twist" are really the same thing.

Most of the recipes in the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008 are from my mom's generation, her mom's generation, or her grandmother's generation. There are some, though, from "the kids." This is one of those:
Reuben Dip
Michelle Bachman

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 16 oz. can sauerkraut, drained
1 5 oz. jar dried beef, chopped

Soften cheese and add rest of ingredients. Serve warm with crackers.
I'll admit it: I adore sauerkraut. It's so darned tasty! Every once and a while, I'll make a dinner out of rye cocktail bread, smeared with Russian dressing, topped with pastrami, sauerkraut, and a sprinkling of cheese (mini-Reubens, yay!). I even tried to make my own 'kraut once, cutting and salting and curing pounds and pounds of cabbage in a big ceramic crock. If you're not a fan of the 'kraut, this may well not be the recipe for you.

For the rest of you... dang! Doesn't this sound like a tasty dish to bring to a potluck? Or something to have on hand for a rainy night in front of the TV with some beer, friends, and old movies? I wish there were some sort of tomato in the dish to stand in for the Russian dressing (and give it some color), but it sounds good as is, too.

And it sounds like something almost everyone in my family would wolf down without regret.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008: German Twists

When I was a kid, every summer we'd have a big family picnic. My mom's one of 7 kids, and her parents were each one of several, and there were cousins, aunts, uncles, third cousins twice removed, kids, ancients, games, silliness, and fabulous food. The picnic sort of fell into memory when my generation hit their 20s, but now that we're older and have families of our own, it's come back with a vengeance. At the 2008 picnic, there were even representatives from the heartland -- North Dakota, where both Grandma and Grandpa came from. These relations brought with them a fabulous surprise: a family cookbook. The Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008, to be precise. Lots of family recipes, some of which I remember from picnics, some of which Mom remembers from visiting the family farm as a little girl. There's also stories, some of which made Mom laugh outloud. This week, we'll delve into the family. First, a note from the compiler:
The cover of this cookbook was a special find, thanks to Marjorie Pengilly Mostad for bringing it to our attention. It is taken from an actual Betty Crocker magazine with Grandpa Andrew Bachman's address on the address label, and a hand written note explaining that these twists were made by Grandma Bachman. I don't remember ever eating the twists, but the recipe is in this book, and I am told they were delicious.
Well, the compiler may never have had 'em, but my mom remembers them well. The good folk at Betty Crocker may have called them Cinnamon Twists, but along the way, the name changed.
German Twists (Cover Photo)
Magdalena Berger Bachman

1 c. lard or butter
1 c. sour cream
1 cake yeast
2 beaten eggs
3-1/2 c. flour
dash of salt

Mix shortening and flour until crumbly. Beat eggs, add cream and yeast. Add to flour mixtures and knead a little. Put in fridge overnight with wet cloth on top. Take little pieces (about handful) of dough sprinkle board with sugar and put some on top of dough. Roll out and then fold over and over until dough is small. Put more sugar on board and on top of dough as you roll. Cut in strips 1 inch wide and 3 or 4 inches long. Twist and put on greased pan. Bake until real light brown at 375 degrees. Very good and flaky.
I'm sure this tastes just fine. I'm not sure where the heck the sugar comes from, nor how this is supposed to be a cinnamon twist when there's no cinnamon. Frankly, I think there's missing information between "dough" and "sprinkle," and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the sugar in question is cinnamon sugar. There was always cinnamon sugar about the house as I was growing up, so I'm guessing that a common enough thing in our family. I think that if you want to try this out, you're going to have to be patient as all heck with it, and/or find some other instructions for yeast-raised pastry dough and use them as a crib sheet. Try it. What the heck. Worst thing that happens is you have just okay pastry as opposed to stellar pastry.


Whatever this recipe is, it is not the cinnamon twist on the front of the cookbook. Here's another German Twist recipe, from the glorious internet, such that you can see how it should actually be rolled and handled:

3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening (part butter)
1 pkg. yeast
1/4 c. warm water
3/4 c. sour cream
1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks, well beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Refrigerate 2 hours. Using half of dough, roll into 8x16 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with sugar and fold each end into the middle and roll out again in rectangle and sprinkle with sugar. Do this 3 times using 1/2 cup sugar for each half.

After the third time, roll out in a rectangle and cut in 1x4 inch strips and twist. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen.
There are TONS of recipes out there for German Sour Cream Twists, and clearly, that's what Magdalena Bachman's recipe is for. Don't use cinnamon sugar (or, heck, do, but know you'll be concocting a different sort of beast). And plan on a whole cup of sugar for your rolling and twisting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Craving Flaky Sandwiches: Nutty Sweet Potato Biscuits

Wrapping up a week of recipes from The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish, we turn to the one recipe that my friend Heather had dog-eared herself before showing me the book.
Nutty Sweet Potato Biscuits
Opal Fazenbaker

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 c. chopped nuts
2 c. mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts. In another bowl, combine sweet potatoes, sugar, butter and vanilla; add to flour mixture and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead slightly. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter and place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
Yes, the same Opal Fazenbaker as gave us the "That's It Salad". I suspect if ever you are invited to lunch or dinner at the Fazenbakers, you're in for a heck of a meal.

Use leftover mashed up sweet potatoes, or if you're cooking strictly to make these biscuits, cook up your taters the night before; you want cold (or at least room temperature) mash to make these biscuits. And, for the love of all things holy, ignore the "margarine" option. There is no margarine option here. Use butter. If you can not bring yourself to use butter, use lard. Margarine has no place here. If you can not use animal products, still, please, don't use margarine. Use some vegetable shortening. Margarine is not going to give you the flaky soft texture you want here.

I read this recipe and think, "Damn, I want a sandwich!" I want to pull a biscuit apart, slather it with chicken curry salad, wrap a paper towel around it and run outside to eat it in the soft green grass. With a crisp white wine. Or a beer.

Oh, yes. These would be fine on a holiday buffet (choose your holiday...Easter ham, Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey, Valentine's Day sweet cream butter). They'd be great with a good lashing of Branston pickle and a crumbling of cheddar. They'd be out of this world as the base for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

...I really need to bake. Soon.

Now All We Need Is A Gang: Grandma's Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings

I grew up in the 1970s, and cut my entertainment consumer teeth on the offerings of the Walt Disney Company. I saw everything, and loved it all. I didn't necessarily understand it all, but that's part of the fun of a Disney movie -- you can still laugh along. Take The Apple Dumpling Gang. I adored that movie! But... I didn't really know what apple dumplings were. In fact, I didn't have an apple dumpling until ...

Crap. I've never had an apple dumpling. Okay, we'll fix that! And, just because we can, I'll use a recipe from The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish (Chefly Husband suggests I can try it right away, if I just clean the kitchen! Love is strong in our household, but the cleaning instinct needs a little bit of a push here and there.).
Grandma's Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings
Kristen Shawley

6 med. sized Granny Smith apples
2 c. flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. shortening
1/2 c. milk

Peel and core apples. Cut in half. For pastry, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in shortening, until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle milk over mixture and press together lightly, working dough only enough to hold together. Roll dough as for pastry and cut 12 squares and place 1/2 an apple on each. Fill cavity in apple with sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon. Pat dough around apple, to cover it completely. Fasten edges securely on top of apple. Place in baking pan and cover with sauce (recipe follows). Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes. Baste every 15 minutes, during baking. (Unbaked dumplings with sauce may be frozen. If frozen, increase baking time to approximately 1 hour.)

2 c. brown sugar
2 c. water
1/4 c. butter
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine brown sugar, water and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Cook for 5 minutes; remove from heat and add butter. Stir until butter is melted.
According to Wikipedia, apple dumplings are a Northeastern thing -- so I don't feel so terrible that my Northwestern self grew up so deprived -- and that they are a common dessert but also breakfast.

Oooo, I'm a fan of hot pastry for breakfast. Hot pastry, with milk or ice cream. For breakfast. Hot, sauce-covered, sugary, healthful apples.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Setting A Man Trap: Blueberry Boy Bait

Okay, okay, once you see the size of the pan required, you may not believe that I chose this recipe based on the name and not the pan. But, really, when I found "Blueberry Boy Bait" in The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish, I first started giggling madly, then started thinking that I hadn't watched Gidget or Tammy and The Bachelor in far too long, and then that I really needed to post this recipe.
Blueberry Boy Bait
Ethel Buckel

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 c. softened butter
1 c. milk
2 eggs
1 c. blueberries
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Add eggs. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Add milk, alternately, with combined dry ingredients. Pour into 9 x 13-inch pan. Top with blueberries, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes.
Despite the off-putting lack of serial commas, this is just a delightful recipe! I particularly like that instead of saying "1 3/4 c. sugar, divided" in the initial recipe list, they break it out for you, in order and volume of use. Some folks may prefer it the other way, but for me, a serial ingredient list is as important as a serial comma.

Serial commas: they're good enough for the U.S. G.P.O., they're good enough for you.

Back to the title. It seems like this is going to hav eto be something simple enough for a novice cook to whip together on her own (yes, "her"... I think it's safe to say that whomever came up with this recipe was pretty much trying to help a girl get her boy, though I wholeheartedly support boys using it to bait girls and girls using it to bait girls and so and so and so forth) without much supervision from her mother (yes, "mother" ... for the sake of the rest of this post, let's just role play and think that Mrs. Lawrence is trying to help Francie/Gidget to ensnare Jeffrey/Moondoggie -- embrace your 1959 teen romance). It should also be incredibly tasty. I'm surprised there's no vanilla or cinnamon to up the smell of the bait, but nutmeg -- so linked with pumpkin pie -- is going to bring a lot of good baking spice to the man trap.

We're in season for blueberries in the US, and I've seen some great buy-one-get-one-free specials at the grocery store. The pick-your-own farms around DC aren't open for blueberries yet; maybe later this summer I can cook the book on this one, with freshly-picked local (false) berries.

Even if you've already sprung a perfectly serviceable trap, why not try out the boy bait when next you need a 9 x 13 baked good? At the very least, file it away for Independence Day, where the blue will play nicely with some cut strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Only Enough To Act As A Preservative: Bacardi Rum Cake

Yesterday, I shared my love of the 9 x 13-inch pan. Growing up, all cakes were made in this venerable dish. My sister's must-have birthday cake (Lemon Jell-O Cake, which I'll post when I do the Fishwives cookbook) was always the friendly rectangle. It was only much later in life that I read the full recipe and realized that the cake was supposed to be baked in a Bundt pan. Today's recipe from The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish says to use a Bundt, too -- but out of cakely familial loyalty, I'd be tempted to use the tried and true 9 x 13.
Bacardi Rum Cake
Linda Thomas


1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 sm. pkg. vanilla instant pudding
4 eggs
1/2 c. cold water
1/2 c. Wesson oil
1/2 c. Bacardi rum


1/4 lb. butter
1/4 c. water
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. rum

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour tube or bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix all cake ingredients together over nuts. Pour batter over nuts. Bake 1 hour. Cool. Invert on serving plate. Prick top. Spoon or brush glaze evenly over top, allowing cake to absorb glaze. Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum. *If using cake mix with pudding already in the mix, omit instant pudding, use 3 eggs instead of 4, use 1/3 cup oil instead of 1/2 cup.
Pudding: the great moisturizer of cake. I like the substitution hints here, as I bet they can be used for lots of other cake-doctoring recipes.

Some of you may not keep rum around the house. If you're one of those people, you might want to know how much, really, you need to buy. Well, a fifth of rum is 750 ml, which is about 25 ounces, or just over three cups. So, one regular-sized bottle of Bacardi is going to get you through this cake and two others (or this cake and several Cuba Libres). Should you go for a light rum, or a dark rum? I leave it to your personal tastes. If you don't think you have personal tastes when it comes to rum, then I suggest going for a light rum, so that your cake color is still light and lovely. You can up the amount of rum you use in the glaze (1/4 cup of rum brings more flavor to the cake than 1/4 cup of water, after all) if you want to have really rummy cake.

I remember my first rum cake (eating, not making). I was over at the Schrader's house, and Martha had made an apple rum cake. It was delicious, and I probably ate too much of it, especially considering that I was a kid. Remember: alcohol can cook out of dishes, and probably does cook out of the cake. However, it's NOT cooking out of the glaze. There's active, boozy rum here; do not serve to those who have medical, religious, or other reasons to avoid, well, Demon Rum.

Not to sound like a complete lush, but a rum cake (be it in a 9 x 13 or a Bundt) would be a great dish to take to your Memorial Day barbeque/picnic/potluck/what have you, if you're going to be around mostly-grown-ups. The pudding guarantees a moist cake, the Bacardi guarantees a delicious one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seven Similar Salads: Jell-O and Dairy

Memorial Day is fast upon us, and it's time to think about salads and sides to take to barbeques, picnics, and potlucks. I've always been a fan of Jell-O based salads, be they molded or unstructured. Thankfully, as my friend Heather pointed out, The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish offers up seven (seven!) similar salads, so we can take our pick of those that fit our needs/desires/fears/etc.
I'm In A Hurry Salad
Linda Buckel

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cottage cheese
1 sm. box orange Jello
1 sm. ctn. Cool Whip
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can pineapple

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate.
I assume we're draining the liquid on the fruits here. If you're making this for a party that will have rum-fueled punch, I suggest reserving the liquid to throw in your punch bucket.


Yes, I said "bucket." At my last (okay, "only") tiki party, I mixed up my rum punch in a big paint bucket. Worked great.

I'd be tempted to throw shredded coconut and bananas in here, too, but that might just be because I'm fondly remembering the tiki party. On to salad #2!
Jello Salad
Ruth Ann Beckman

1 (3-oz.) pkg. Jello (flavor of choice)
1 (3-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 can crushed pineapple
1/3 c. sugar
Dash salt
1 pkg. Dream Whip, whipped

Combine Jello, pineapple, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Heat until Jello is dissolved; cool. Whip Dream Whip. Mix in cream cheese. Add pineapple mixture. Pour into mold.
And here, let's assume we're not draining the pineapple. I know, I'm being all sorts of guess-y about it, but I think the Jell-O needs some liquid to dissolve. Since this involves both cooking and setting, it doesn't get a pithy title like "I'm In A Hurry Salad," above. No, it's more of a "I Knew About This Potluck A Day In Advance, So Actually Did Something Requiring Some Planning" Salad. But what about when you're looking for something a little more festive?
Lutheran Recipe for Holiday Jello
Marvin Beckman
1 sm. pkg. green Jello
1 c. boiling water
1 sm. pkg. cream cheese

Mix these three ingredients together and let Jello set until fold stage. Whip 1 small carton of whipping cream. Add to Jello, along with 1 small can of crushed pineapple and just enough chopped walnuts. Chill and serve.

Hint: Do not use red Jello for this recipe!
...I wonder what happens when you use red Jell-O for this recipe? I also wonder if Marvin is husband, son, cousin, or some other relation to Ruth Ann, whose Jello salad looks to be a bit better documented. Why did Marvin leave out the whipping cream in his list of ingredients?

And what happens if you use red Jell-O?
Orange Jello Salad Dessert
Ethel Buckel

2 (3-oz.) pkgs. orange Jello
2 c. boiling water
1 sm. can frozen orange juice
1 sm. can mandarin oranges
1 med. can crushed pineapple
1 pkg. lemon pudding mix
1 c. milk
8 oz. Cool Whip
Chopped nuts

Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Add orange juice. When jelled, add one small can mandarin oranges, drained. Add pineapple, juice and all. When set, top with one package lemon pudding mix, made with one cup milk. Mix with 8 ounces Cool Whip. Top with chopped nuts. Makes 9 x 13-inch pan.
Blame it on my upbringing, but I automatically think "good food here" when I see something served up in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Salads. Cakes. Casseroles. Lasagnes. If you do it in a 9 x 13-incher, you are clearly thinking of feeding a crowd.

The pudding mix in the recipe is pretty clearly supposed to be instant pudding mix, which makes this a natural for using more than one Jell-O brand product in one recipe. Personally, I'd not be putting nuts on top -- too many of my friends are nut-allergic. I'm thinking crushed Nilla Wafers or graham crackers would add a crunchy component if you think one is missing from the toothless joy of this dessert.

I think the Buckels are orange Jell-O loyalists. I can get behind that. But, let's get back to that maligned red Jell-O...
Star Cranberry Salad
Lois Watson

2 c. ground raw cranberries
2 c. sugar
2 boxes red Jello
2 c. hot water
2 c. pineapple, drained and juice reserved
2 c. celery, cut fine
1 c. chopped walnuts

Mix the cranberries and sugar. Set aside. Mix the Jello into the hot water and pineapple juice until dissolved. Add cranberries. Mix in celery and walnuts. Refrigerate until thick. Best if made a day ahead.
Jell-O and celery, folks. Celery. In your Jell-O.

Maybe that's what happens when you start using red Jell-O. Unexpected vegetables start sneaking in and trying to come to the party. (Okay, actually, I suspect one shouldn't use red Jell-O in the previous recipe because the salad has no cranberries in it, and a holiday table with a red gelatinous salad should have cranberries...)

Not sure why this is "star" cranberry salad. Should one use a star-shaped mold? Is it the star of any buffet table it graces?

We'll close out the Jell-O parade with a salad that seems a lot like our first option at first glance.
That's It Salad
Opal Fazenbaker

1 pkg. Jello (any flavor)
1 sm. can crushed pineapple
1 sm. ctn. cottage cheese
1 sm. ctn. non-dairy whipped topping

Transfer pineapple to microwave-safe container and heat in microwave, about 90 seconds. Dissolve the Jello mix in the hot pineapple; let cool to room temperature. Add cottage cheese and mix well. Add the whipped topping and mix well again and that's it!
How's it different from "I'm In A Hurry"? Well, there's no mandarin oranges (I'm sure the recipe could take 'em, though, if stirred in at the same time as one of the white and creamy elements -- just drain first). Also, the heating and dissolving is going to give a different texture. As for me, I'll admit it -- I really do like salads that have Cool Whip and undissolved Jell-O powder. They remind me of my childhood, and they make me smile. If the idea of seeing grains of fake coloring and gelatin in your salad makes you a little squeamish, try "That's It," instead.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bug Juice? No, Green Punch!

I had half a mind to be high-minded about the The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish recipe selections. I really thought I wanted to prove that community cookbooks were treasure troves of fabulous recipes you might otherwise never find.

And then I found Green Punch.
Green Punch
Lottie Brenneman

2 pkgs. lemon-lime Kool-Aid
1 (46-oz.) can pineapple juice
2 quts. water
1 qt. 7-Up or ginger ale
Mix together and add ginger ale or 7-Up last. Sherbert may be added.
Oh, hell, yes. It's nearly Memorial Day weekend, it's going to be in the mid-80s here in DC, and Green Punch? Green Punch sounds like icy cold perfection.

I'm assuming that the packages of Kool-Aid are the "add 1 cup of sugar" envelope each, which would normally make 2 quarts of Kool-Aid. I also assume that, with the soda and the juice, there's no need at all to actually add sugar, so the omission in the ingredient list is not so much an omission as a nod to not developing diabetes. Personally, I find diet 7-Up and diet ginger ale to be perfectly acceptable substitutes for the full-sugar variety, so you could shave a couple hundred calories off every serving if you want to make a substitution.

Then again, on the same page, there's "Easy Punch," which has Kool-Aid, pineapple juice, water, 7-Up, ice cream and 3 cups of sugar. If you want to get your sugar high on, you certainly have options in The Fruit of the Spirit.

Green drinks make me think of camp (but in a good way), picnics, birthday parties, field days... It's the sort of thing that feels fancy when you're five. As summer comes on, I think that fancy-for-a-five-year-old is well worth embracing in our culinary endeavors. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish; Poor Man's Crab Cakes

Last night, at a lovely supper with friends (pork roast, scalloped potatoes, roasted asparagus, pinot noir), our hostess took out The Fruit of the Spirit: 100th Anniversary of Bittinger Lutheran Parish (Morris Press, 2008). Seems her mom gave her this church cookbook, and she knew of my love for all things cookbook-y, so we started going through it. Community cookbooks can get a bad rap; people think everything's going to be "take four cans of this sodium bomb and twelve cans of this mushy veg and call it a casserole." There's so much more that can be found, though! Take the first recipe I stopped at:
Poor Man's Crab Cakes
Glenne Blocher

2 c. grated zucchini squash
1 c. bread crumbs (plain or Italian)
1 tsp. mayonnaise
1 T. Old Bay seasoning
2 eggs

Mix squash, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning and eggs. Shape into small patties. Dip in flour. Fry until brown. Serve hot or cold.
I don't know that I'd bother calling it a crab cake, but this sounds darned tasty. And, though right now you'd probably have to go to the grocers for some zucchini, we're not so far from the bumper crop times where you'll be finding zucchini in big bags on your desk or stoop if you even mention in passing that you'd be willing to take some off a gardener friend's hands. File this away until you have a surplus, and have fun with it. Perhaps make a nice remoulade for dipping or garnish...

Chefly Husband says that he's never heard of a recipe that used 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. "What's the point of 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise?" I kind of agree with him, and would be tempted to reduce the number of eggs and up the amount of mayo for taste purposes. It's worth tinkering with.

You can't find a copy of The Fruit of the Spirit through Amazon yet, but you can still get a copy for $10 from the fine folks of Bittinger Lutheran Parish in Bittinger, MD. It's out in Garrett County, Maryland. As my friend says, "You know, where Maryland gets skinny, and then gets fat again?" Garrett County.

This week, we'll look at the happy surprises in this community cookbook.