Category Archives: dessert

Amigthalota (Flourless Almond Cookies)

I found it difficult not to pick them up by the stems as if they were real pears, resulting in several sad almond pears on the ground. But of course, I ate them anyway.

I have a bunch of almond flour in my cupboard leftover from my last flirtation with low-carb eating.* So this recipe published recently in the Miami Herald caught my attention. Just five ingredients—almond flour, powdered sugar, lemon zest, egg whites, and almond extract. Decorative clove “stems” optional.

like pears in the snow, which makes no sense, but is kind of pretty anyway They’re similar to marzipan, but not as sweet. Only 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar in the recipe goes into the cookies, and even a generous coating will only use another 1/2 cup, so most of the 2 1/2 cups called for is just for storing them. I’m not totally sure what the point of that is. I guess it might prevent them from absorbing moisture, although an air-tight container would probably suffice, especially if you eat them quickly.

The powdered sugar might detract a little bit from the pear resemblance, but it covers the cracks that appear during baking and I’m not sure they’d be quite sweet enough for me without it. If you generally like your sweets sweeter, you might want to double the amount of sugar in the dough. If that makes it too dry to work with, just add a little water. I suspect you could probably replace the egg whites with water if you wanted to make them vegan. There are other recipes that call for orange flower water and no eggs. I imagine you could use cinnamon and a dash of cayenne in place of the lemon zest for a spiced version.

But I’m also pretty pleased with what you get by following recipe as written—crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, not overly sweet, and kind of adorable.

before baking after baking

*In the short term, low-carb diets tend to perform better for both weight loss and health indicators like blood lipids than low-fat or calorie-restriction diets, but in most long-term controlled studies low-carb doesn’t do much (if any) better. As with most diet research, it’s hard to tell if the long-term failure is because most people stop following the diet or if weight regain happens even when people stick to the diet. If the former, it’s unclear if that’s primarily a psychological issue (will-power is a limited resource) or if there are physiological reasons (e.g. decreased leptin levels depress metabolism and increase appetite). Or both. Anyhow, I’m not interested in losing weight (or it might be more accurate to say I am interested in not being interested in losing weight), but many low carb adherents also claim to experience improved well-being, mental clarity, etc. so I was sufficiently intrigued to try it few times. Mostly it seems to make me slightly lethargic and depressed, so I never last longer than a couple of months.

Recipe: Amigthalota (Flourless Almond Cookies)
from the Miami Herald, who adapted it from The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos (Tuttle, original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, so I probably used more; can reduce or eliminate if desired1999)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups ground almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (only about 1 cup really necessary)
  • 2 egg whites
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 drops almond extract
  • 25-30 whole cloves (optional)

Method:

1. Whisk together the ground almonds and 1/2 cup sugar. Beat the egg whites until slightly frothy and stir them into the almond-sugar mixture. Add the lemon zest and almond extract and stir until it forms a firm dough.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly coat your hands with oil or butter, pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them between your palms to form smooth balls. Or, if desired, mold into a pear shape and stick a clove in the top.

3. Bake about 20 minutes, until set and lightly browned. If they look like they’re browning too quickly, cover them with another sheet of parchment paper.

4. While still warm, dip or roll the cookies in some of the remaining powered sugar and then let cool. Store in an airtight container, sprinkled with the rest of the powdered sugar (probably optional).

although pears seem to be traditional, I'm sure other shapes would also work; it's not quite as malleable as marzipan, but almost.

Mini Zucchini Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

and tri-color candied citrus zest

The Fine Line Between Bread and Cake

Quiz!

1) What would you call a baked good comprised primarily of grated carrot, flour, sugar, eggs, butter or oil, spices, and baking soda/powder?

A) Bread
B) Cake
C) It depends on the proportion of fat: flour: sugar
D) It depends on how you combine the ingredients (i.e. whether the egg whites are beaten into foam)
E) It depends on the presence of cream cheese frosting, as does my eagerness/willingness to consume it

2) What would you call a baked good comprised primarily of grated zucchini, flour, sugar, eggs, butter or oil, spices, and baking soda/powder?

A) Bread
B Cake
C) It depends on the proportion of fat: flour: sugar
D) It depends on how you combine the ingredients (i.e. whether the egg whites are beaten into foam)
E) It depends on the presence of cream cheese frosting, as does my eagerness/willingness to consume it

If you answered C or D, I admire your attempt to make sense of a senseless world, but you get no points from me. If you chose E, I like where your priorities are, but I think you’re still wrong. For most Americans most of the time, #1 is carrot cake and #2 is zucchini bread, regardless of the ingredient proportions or method. It’s true that cake has generally come to refer to sweeter baked goods and bread to less-sweet ones, but that doesn’t seem to matter in the case of these grated-vegetable cake/breads. If it did, the inclusion of chocolate chips would make probably push you in the “cake” direction, but there are dozens of chocolate chip zucchini “bread” recipes and others that make the whole loaf chocolate, but are still named “bread.” Both probably fall into the categories of “quick bread” or “snack cake” but there’s no fixed culinary meaning for either of those categories either.

Anyhow, I blame whatever historical contingency landed chemically-leavened grated-carrot-containing baked objects in the “cake” bin and chemically-leavened grated-zucchini-containing baked objects in the “bread” bin for my failure to realize until now that the latter could also achieve its apotheosis under a mantle of sweetened cream cheese. And maybe I was too quick to dismiss answer E, because as soon as I realized I could frost what I would normally call zucchini bread, I was suddenly inclined to call it “cake.” In further naming hijinks, without the frosting, I’m pretty sure these become “muffins.” Right?

many tasty little muffins

Not The Answer to Zucchini Excess

My garden was the victim of serious neglect this year, so I’m not facing the Great Zucchini Glut of a typical July-August. If I were, I’d probably be knee-deep in fritters and garlicky almond sautés and wouldn’t waste my time with recipes like this, which use a pretty pathetic amount of zucchini. 2 cups? Please. A moderately-neglected garden can produce that much in the average Olympics break between NBC commercial broadcasts. This is also why recipes for zucchini bread so often describe the squash flavor as “delicate.” That means you really can’t taste the squash at all, but that’s a probably a good thing unless you’re into baked goods that taste like bitter, watery mush.

The grated squash adds some moisture, a hint of green (or yellow, depending on the color of your squash), and maybe a vague nutritional halo to the cake part. The brown sugar and vanilla in the frosting give it a kind of caramelly flavor, much like taffy apple dip. The citrus zest on top is mostly for color, but also adds a little sweet and sour crunch. If any or all of those things sound appealing and you have a solitary medium-sized summer squash you don’t know what to do with (or one or two little ones), this could be the recipe for you.

the citrus zest defintely makes it prettier, but it's really all about the cream cheese frosting

Recipe: Zucchini Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Taste of Home, Ian Young via Martha Stewart, and ThatsSoYummy)

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour I used these two which was probably a little more than 2 cups, beer bottle for scale
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 medium or 2 small zucchini, shredded (1 1/2 – 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins (optional) candying zest--this was a triple batch with 2 oranges, 3 lemons, and 2 limes

Frosting:

  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened  
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Candied Citrus Zest

  • zest of 2-3 lemons, limes, and/or oranges
  • 1/3 cup water (plus much more for blanching zest)
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus a few tablespoons more for sparkle

Method

Cupcakes:

1. Optional: if using currants or raisins, soak them in the orange juice (with a splash of booze, if you like) for a few hours or overnight.

currants submerged in the orange juice with a splash of cognac after 4-5 hours of soaking, all plumped up

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins or coat with cooking spray or butter.

3. Whisk together the flour, sugars, spices, salt, and baking powder.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, vanilla, shredded zucchini, and currants or raisins with the soaking liquid (if using). Add this mixture to the flour and stir just until combined.

4. Fill prepared muffin tins approximately 2/3 full.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes (18-22 minutes for standard muffin tins, 45-60 min in a standard loaf pan), until a tester comes out clean or the centers are at least 190F.

6. Let cool in pans 5-10 min, turn out of pans and continue cooling on racks for at least an hour before frosting.

Frosting:

1. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or a spatula and lots of energy, beat the softened cream cheese until it’s soft and airy (3-5 minutes).

2. Add the softened butter and beat until evenly combined.

3. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. It may be a little gritty at first, just keep beating and the sugar will dissolve.

4. Optional: add powdered sugar if desired to increase sweetness or to make it stiffer for piping.

5. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

I just dipped the cupcakes in the frosting and swirled them around a little--much faster than piping. The extra makes a great dip for strawberries or apple slices.frosted but not yet zested

Candied Zest:

1. Peel fruits, minimizing white pith. Cut into shapes or strips as desired

this keeps well for a long time, so I made a big batch with 2 oranges, 3 small lemons, 2 limes; some people try to get all the white pith off, but I think blanching takes care of the bitterness cut into little strips, which is a little painstaking. could also use a zester that takes strips automatically to make it faster

2. Put peel in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7-10 minutes and drain. Taste and repeat if desired. More blanching = less bitterness, but also less flavor.

3. Return the blanched peel to the pot and add sugar and water in saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the peel is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Remove peel pieces and separate onto waxed paper to let cool.

4. Optional: after 20-30 minutes, sprinkle with additional sugar and toss to coat. Continue to let dry 8-12 hours.

you can leave the zest unsugared, and then it'll look sort of glossy I prefer it with a little sparkle

Blue Sky Cake with Pop Rocks and Crème de Violette

apparently the blue meth is a fictional device; people do sometimes color meth, but that's a sign of impurities added to create signature brands, not the sign of a non-Sudafed precursor

In honor of the premiere of the final season of Breaking Bad, I made a mousse cake inspired by the signature color of Walt & Jesse’s meth. The base has Blue Razz Pop Rocks coated in a mixture of white chocolate & almonds. The center is a lemon mousse with a hint of Crème de Violette. The mirror is mostly white grape juice with a little more lemon juice, Luxardo Maraschino, and Crème de Violette set with gelatin. On top is a whipped white chocolate ganache studded with more Pop Rocks and blue hard candy. It’s the bluest, fizziest thing I’ve ever made, not that it has much competition.

the color's a little hard to see here, but it's the only screenshot I could find of Jesse breaking the sheets of glass

this is a better shot of the color

Blue Sky meth (aka Big Blue aka Blue Magic)

shattering a sheet of candy that looks like glass is really funanyone know what the "meth" in the show is actually made of

Blue Sky candy (no street name)

Pop Rocks!

I’m pretty sure meth doesn’t fizz, but I’ve been wanting to incorporate Pop Rocks into a dessert for years. They’re a little tricky to work with because they’re activated by moisture—any moisture, including the moisture in the air. Leave a package open for long enough, and they’ll get flat and gummy. The only way to get them into a dessert with their fizziness intact is to coat them in fat.

For the crust, I used Heston Blumenthal’s method, which involves incorporating them into a chocolate & nut base. It worked well. The pop rocks retained a substantial amount of fizz, even 30+ hours after the packages were first opened. You could use the same technique with any kind of chocolate, nut, and flavor of Pop Rocks to make fizzy truffles or molded chocolates. For the ganache, I coated them with cooking spray and powdered sugar and hoped the fat content of the chocolate and cream would protect them, at least a little bit. It wasn’t quite as fizzy as the crust, but the moisture in the cream didn’t kill the effect completely—there were still a few reactive candy pieces in every bite.

Crème de Violette!

I'm a little surprised this cocktail isn't more common. It's really delicious.

Crème de Violette is a liqueur made from violets that plays a small but crucial role in the classic cocktail The Aviation, which I had for the first time recently at The Last Word. The liqueur itself is a deep purple, but when combined with lemon juice, gin, and maraschino liqueur, it’s the color of a clear blue sky. I was hoping it would have the same effect in the cake, but instead I got shades ranging from pale lavender to a truly unappetizing gray, so I ended up using food coloring anyway.

In terms of flavor, Crème de Violette is (unsurprisingly) sweet and floral. Beyond that it’s hard to define. It’s not quite like lavender or rose or jasmine or orange blossom, but it’s more like all of those than any fruit or herbs I know. If you’re think floral scents belong only in toiletries, you might find it off-putting. Even though I like floral scents in food, I wouldn’t want to drink it straight. However, I think it can be an appealing and enigmatic accent. It obviously works well with gin and lemon and cherries—the Aviation is a great cocktail. I can also imagine pairing it with other citrus fruits and berries, melon, honey, chocolate, or nuts.

If I had known it wouldn’t supply the color I wanted, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to track it down. Any other clear or pale liqueur, juice, or flavor extract would have worked just as well, and flavor-wise, I think it might have been better to stick to white chocolate, lemon, & almond.
 
ugly pictures! dropped my bounce flash. sad face.the crust was a little hard to cut through; individually-molded cakes would make for a prettier presentation 

Things That Went Wrong

  • My first attempt at making candy included lemon juice and Crème de Violette, and it started to darken and caramelize at 250F, long before it was hot enough to set properly. I’m not sure if the problem was the lemon & liqueur or if I was cooking it over too-low heat. I pulled it off the heat at 270F because it was threatening to burn, at which point any discernable violet/blue color had been completely obscured by the amber of burning sugar. Amber + blue food coloring = bottle-glass green, not sky blue, so I started over without the extras & cooked it over higher heat.
  • half toasted, half untoastedFor the crust, I initially used the ratios provided by the Blumenthal recipe, but there wasn’t nearly enough chocolate to coat all of the pop rocks and it only covered about 1/2 the springform pan. I threw together another batch and didn’t bother toasting the almonds for the sake of speed. I liked the color & flavor of the half with untoasted almonds better and adjusted the recipe to reflect the total amount of chocolate & nuts used to cover the 9” pan base.
  • White grape juice was the first nearly-colorless substitute I came up with for the strawberry juice in the recipe for the mirror. It was only as I was pouring the simmering grape juice over the bloomed gelatin that I realized I could have used champagne instead. Champagne might have needed more gelatin to set, but I bet the ratio I used in the Jell-O shots for NYE 2012 would have worked. Sad missed opportunity to reference Jesse, Combo, and Skinny Pete’s night at the strip club in “Mas.”
  • I intended to pipe the ganache on top in some kind of decorative manner, leaving at least part of the mirror exposed, but I over-whipped the ganache so it was a little grainy and weepy and not in good shape for piping.

Despite all that, it turned out mostly the way I had imagined: strange, fruity, fizzy, and very blue. It was designed more for looks than taste, but the flavor combination was kind of weirdly compelling. All hail King Heisenberg!

candy, before breakingRecipe: Blue Sky Cake

Ingredients

Hard Candy (from Allrecipes)  

  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon flavoring oil (I used almond)
  • 2-3 drops food coloring

Fizzy Chocolate Nut Crust mixing pop rocks into chocolate(adapted from Heston Blumenthal via Chubby Hubby

  • 1 cup (6 oz) blanched almonds
  • 1 cup (6 oz) white chocolate chips
  • 11 packages of Pop Rocks (I used Blue Razz)

Blue Lemon Mousse (adapted from Gordon Ramsay via Almond Corner and Hidemi Sugino via Chubby Hubby)

  • 5 leaves of gelatin or 1 package powdered gelatin
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Crème de Violette (or other liqueur)
  • just after folding the meringue into the gelatin-cream mixture and adding some color3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • a few drops of blue food coloring

Blue Mirror (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

  • 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Crème de Violette
  • 1 Tablespoon maraschino liqueur (like Luxardo, not Grenadine)
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • mirror poured on top of mousse--many of the bubbles went away as the gelatin set1 1/2 packages unflavored gelatin (1 1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups white grape juice
  • a few drops of blue food coloring

Whipped White Chocolate Ganache with Pop Rocks

  • 8 oz white chocolate (about 1 cup chips)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 packages Pop Rocks (Blue Razz)
  • cooking spray
  • powdered sugar

Extras: 2 packages Pop Rocks for garnish

Method

meth cake 023CANDY: 

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine everything but the flavoring oil and food coloring in a pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer and continue cooking without stirring until it reaches 290 F (the hard crack stage). If sugar crystals form on sides of pan, wipe them off with a brush dipped in water.

3. Remove from the heat, add flavor and color and stir just until mixed. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool completely.

4. Crack into pieces (I used the back of a cleaver), wrap in waxed paper or toss in a small amount of powdered sugar, and store in an airtight container.

CRUST:

1. Generously butter a 9” springform pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom.

2. Toast almonds, if desired. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the blanched almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes, or until fragrant and just beginning to color. Toasted or not, blend them in a food processor until they form a smooth paste.

3. Melt the white chocolate in a pan held over simmering water. Gently stir in the Pop Rocks. Then, fold in the almond puree.

4. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

toasted almond puree; you could probably sub almond butter if you didn't want to bother with this step combining the chocolate, pop rocks, and almond puree

MOUSSE:

this was the color of the gelatin mixture--depressing grey instead of Aviation blue, but once mixed with the cream and meringue, it basically looked white1. If using gelatin leaves, soak them in cold water. If using powder, sprinkle it over 1/4 cup cold water.

2. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it will hold soft peaks and refrigerate until needed.

3. Warm the lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the gelatin, gently wringing out the leaves if using them. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved, and then add the liqueur.

4. Combine the sugar and water in a pot, bring to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and remove from the you can see the drip along the side where I poured the sugar syrup--you want to avoid the tines of the whisk or they'll spray the syrup all over the insides of the bowlheat when it reaches 235 F (soft ball stage).

5. Whisk the egg whites until foamy, and the continue whisking as you drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Keep whisking until stiff peaks form. 

6. Fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture. Then fold in the meringue. Add coloring if desired

7. Pour the mixture on top of the chocolate base and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

MIRROR:

1. Place lemon juice, liqueur, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.

2. Pour the juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour over the gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Tint with food coloring if desired. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir until the mixture is syrupy and just beginning to thicken.

3. Gently pour it over the mousse, tilting if necessary to create a thin, even layer. Refrigerate until set.most of the larger bubbles created by stirring the gelatin mixture will escape before the gelatin sets, I'm not sure how to get rid of the smaller bubbles

GANACHE:

don't do what I did and overbeat it, as soon as it will hold soft peaks, stop whipping 1. Heat the cream until there are small bubbles around the edges of the pot. Add the chocolate and let it soften, and then whisk until smooth.

2. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and let it cool completely (~6 hrs or overnight).

3. Whip with a whisk or electric beaters/stand mixer until fluffy.

4. Spread the Pop Rocks on a baking sheet in a thin layer and coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and toss to coat. Then, gently fold them into the ganache.

UNMOLDING, DECORATING, & SERVING:

Warm a knife by running it under hot water for a few minutes and use it to cut around the edge of the springform pan. Release the mold and remove it. Slide the cake onto a serving plate (or not, I just left it on the springform base). Fill a zip-top or piping bag with the ganache and decorate as desired. Top with the hard candy. Refrigerate until ready to serve. For the cleanest cuts, run the knife under hot water before & between slices. Sprinkle a few additional Pop Rocks on the plate before serving.

using a thin knife also helps this mirror turned out a bit thick--if I did it again, I might halve the recipe

Mother Waddles’ Sweet Potato Pone

much wetter than I expected; the liquid wasn't milky, it was more like the juice that seeps out of baked sweet potatoes so I'm not sure if reducing the milk would actually make it firmer or not

The Mother Waddles Soul Food Cookbook

this image appears at least three times in the book too, a constant visual assurance that everything is going to be a-okayA couple of weeks ago at John King Books, I found a pamphlet called The Mother Waddles Soul Food  Cookbook published by Perpetual Soul Saving Mission For All Nations, Inc. © 1970. Perpetual Soul Mission was an aid society founded by the Rev. Charleszetta Waddles (aka Mother Waddles) in 1957 to provide 24-hour emergency services to Detroiters in need, including food, shelter, clothing, medical and dental care, legal aid, transportation, job placement, training programs, and help for drug addicts.

Waddles also ran a kitchen on Cass Avenue which served 70,000 meals a year for 35 cents each, or “free if you have no money.” And she hosted a radio hour every weekday morning on WCHD-FM. She doesn’t sound like the kind of woman who sat still very often. According to a note on the inside front cover, she only found the time to write this cookbook while confined to a hospital bed after falling down a flight of stairs.

There are prayers and poems interspersed with recipes for oyster pot pie, chitterlings, beef gumbo, and hot dogs with spaghetti. The soup section is prefaced, “In the upper crust sections of each and every town, the serving of soup is quite reknown, but all you have to do in the ghetto sections of the same town is to mention soup and you might get knocked down.” There are nine recipes and one poem about neck bones, short meditations on what it means to be a “a true brother” or “grass roots people,” and a poem titled “The Devout Weight Watcher” describing a family party as a form of torture:

Look at uncle Bill eating all that meat
Boy, I wish I could have about 10 Bar-B-Que pigs feet
They said because of calories, I can’t eat what I please
Therefore, I just have myself some cottage cheese

I'm partial to any recipe books that call for bacon fat by the half-cup

And in the very back, there’s the full text of a resolution signed by Governor William H. Milliken proclaiming Mother Waddles week: 

WHEREAS The estimable and loquacious Mother Waddles has led this community in a fuller understanding of the mandate to, “Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Self,” and,

. . . .

WHEREAS Mother Waddles is in constant need of assistance, for money, for meat and potatoes, for clothing and shelter, and,

WHEREAS Mother Waddles’ dedication and commitment commands all of us to meet her half-way*

Be it therefore Resolved that October 19 through 26, 1970, be declared Mother Waddles’ week throughout the glorious State of Michigan, and, on this day let every citizen become cognizant of quest [sic] of this lovely lady who in a simple way labors for the gains of her neighbors and the glorification of her society.

topped with graham cracker streusel, a bit like an inverted sweet potato pie

*I love the idea of declaring an honorary week as a method of meeting someone “half-way.”

What the Heck is Pone?

Before the Mother Waddles cookbook, I’d only ever heard of corn pone, which usually refers to a southern-style corn bread made without any eggs or milk and traditionally cooked in a cast iron skillet. The word “pone” was apparently derived from the Powhatan word apan, meaning “something baked.” It was adopted by English-speaking settlers in Virginia to refer to what was also called “Indian bread,” or bread made from corn instead of wheat. But I can’t figure out how it also came to refer to what turns out to be a custardy sweet potato casserole, which, unlike corn pone, is full of eggs, milk, and sugar.

Mother Waddles’ recipe actually calls for so much sugar that’ I’m almost certain it’s a typo: 1 1/2 lbs (3 3/8 cups) in a recipe with only 2 lbs sweet potato? The rest of the recipes in the book give sugar amounts by the cup and some other recipes for sweet potato pone call for as little as 1/2 cup of sugar (or 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup molasses) for comparable quantities of sweet potato. I’m guessing the recipe was supposed to read 1 1/2 cups not pounds. The other recipes also claim that sweet potato pone originated as a 19th Century street food in New Orleans also called pain patate (potato bread), so perhaps this “pone” comes from pain not apan. 

Most recipes call for spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and most describe it as firm enough to slice and eat by hand. According to one cranky commenter on the recipe for Jazz Fest Sweet Potato Pone on Food.com, the “real deal” also involves coconut and raisins and a “darker topping that isn’t all sugar.” A Times-Picayune article says many home recipes call for a hefty dose of black pepper to give it a little kick. Some more recent versions add brandy and orange zest.

I used Mother Waddles’ recipe as a base, cut the sugar to 1 cup, added 1/4 cup molasses and a cup of raisins soaked in orange juice and topped it with a graham cracker & pecan streusel. It definitely wasn’t firm enough to eat by hand, although it might be if I’d used half as much milk & eggs, like some of the other recipes linked above. Instead, what it reminded me of most was bread pudding, but straddling the line between a sweet side dish and dessert. It also makes enough to feed a lot of hungry people, which I suspect was probably exactly what Mother Waddles had in mind.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Pone (adapted from Mother Waddles and assorted others)

Ingredients

  • 2 –2 1/2 lbs sweet potato (about 2 very large or 3 medium) I was initially going to bake this in a souffle dish, but there was too much of it
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 6 eggs*
  • 4 cups milk*
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace and/or allspice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • juice and zest of a large lemon
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 cup orange juice (optional)

*For a less custardy, possibly hand-holdable version, reduce to 3 eggs and 2 cups milk

Streusel (optional) next time I might make more streusel

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Method

1. Soak the raisins, if using, in the orange juice for a few hours. A splash of bourbon or brandy would also be welcome.

2. Peel & grate the potatoes and cover with milk to prevent browning.

3. Generously butter a 9×13 or 2 quart baking dish and preheat the oven to 250 F.

4. Beat the eggs well and add the rest of the ingredients, including the sweet potatoes and milk, mixing well to combine. Pour into the prepared dish.

5. Combine the streusel ingredients in a bowl and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the sweet potato mixture.

6. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until browned on top and set in the center.

7. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.

halving recipe recommended; this makes an unseemly amount of sweet potato pone

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Buttercream, St. Patrick’s Day, and Racism

A most astonishing thing
Seventy years have I lived;

(Hurrah for the flowers of Spring
For Spring is here again.)
                                  -WB Yeats

Apparently I only make cupcakes with booze in them.

A Missed Opportunity…

car bomb ingredients; kaluha has been dropped from most people's version. image from Sgt Mac's BarA friend sent me this recipe and actually offered to pay me to make it (as if that would be necessary). Even though I didn’t take him up on the cash, the offer somehow short-circuited my typical urge to tweak. I felt like I was “on assignment,” so it wasn’t until I was dusting the tops with cocoa powder and watching the caramel sauce cool that I realized I’d missed an opportunity to make another cocktail in cupcake form. If only I’d thought of it sooner, I could have come up with some kind of Irish Cream element, and these could have been Car Bomb Cupcakes.

An Irish Cream fudge or custard filling? Or maybe I could have added Bailey’s to the frosting along with the whisky, so the topping would mimic the shot traditionally dropped into the Guinness. Of course I would not have been the first person to come up with this idea.

…to Offend Someone?

Maybe it’s better that I didn’t go that route, though. Apparently some people find the “car bomb” name offensive because it seems to celebrate the violent tactics used by the IRA. The Connecticut bartender who claims to have invented the drink initially called his Bailey’s, Kaluha, and Jameson shot the “Grandfather” in honor of the “many grandfathers in Irish history.” It became known as the “IRA” because of the way Bailey’s bubbles up when you add whisky to it.* From there, it was a short conceptual leap to “car bomb” when he dropped it in a glass of Guinness on St. Patrick’s day in 1979.

No longer available, unclear if that's due to complaints or not. I’m sure Charles B. Oat meant no disrespect, he was just celebrating the holiday commemorating the death of the sainted Catholic Bishop who supposedly converted many Irish pagans by using shamrocks to illustrate the holy trinity the way most Americans do: with copious amounts of alcohol. Of course, that upsets some people, too, as seen in the recent controversy over American Apparel’s St. Patrick’s Day-themed merchandise, including shirts reading: “Kiss Me, I’m Drunk. Or Irish. Or Whatever.”   

The lack of malice doesn’t automatically exonerate American Apparel or the many people who will spend this Saturday drinking too many car bombs or green Budweiser. But I think the people who claim that American St. Patrick’s day celebrations perpetuate a hurtful “Drunken Paddy” stereotype or otherwise show disrespect for Irish people might be mistaken about how “Irish” anyone really thinks green beer and “car bombs” are. Sure, contemporary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are inevitably mired in the complex history of racial politics and European imperialism. The fact that lots of Americans are really over-eager to identify with the one (now-) white ethnic group they know of that experienced overt racism and colonization is kind of bizarre and yet totally understandable. But the idea that it’s racist seems to imply that the widespread practice of wearing green while participating in an otherwise-unextraordinary early Spring bacchanalia actually bears some relationship to how people really think about or act towards Irish people.

The American Apparel shirt doesn’t mock Irish people so much as it mocks people who pretend to be Irish once a year while drinking until they do something stupid. It’s only offensive if you think there really is something characteristically Irish about drinking to excess. Similarly, the name “car bomb” is only offensive if you think there really is something uniquely Irish about vehicle-borne explosives or dropping Baileys in Guinness and chugging it before it curdles. I think the “Irishness” being performed and celebrated on March 17 bears about as much relation to Irishness as eating at Olive Garden has to Italianness. The American enthusiasm for consuming vast quantities of beer and breadsticks in the name of celebrating an ethnic heritage—whether their own or someone else’s—seems pretty innocent to me.**

Disclaimer: the lepruchan on the bottle is not meant to represent all Irish people or all people named Steve who have nieces and/or nephews, nor to imply that all Irish people or Uncles Steve wear green suits habitually or drink or even *like* Stout beer brewed in the style associated with Ireland, although it's not exclusive to Ireland, nor should it imply that they like any other kind of beer or alcholic beverages much, or at least not any more than anyone else does. Back to the subject of cupcakes after the jump…

*Does this actually happen? Why would whisky added to a liqueur that’s basically just a blend of cream and whisky with a few other flavorings bubble?

**On the other hand, I also tend to think that if someone tells you something you’re doing offends them, you should probably consider stopping it. I’m looking at you, University of Illinois fans who won’t let go of the Chief. On the other other hand, if there’s a clear and obvious distinction between offensive practices that perpetuate racial or ethnic stereotypes and hurt people’s feelings and inoffensive ones that benignly reference or perhaps even positively celebrate invented identities and traditions, I don’t know what it is.

Boo, Crystallized CaramelThey were reasonably pretty before the drizzle. Alas.

Instead of something Irish Cream-related, the third element in the original recipe I followed was a brown sugar caramel. Unfortunately, it crystallized and got clumpy before it was cool enough to drizzle. I followed the recipe exactly, even though I had misgivings, knowing how finicky caramel can be. But the recipe didn’t mention washing the sides of the pot with water or making sure you stop stirring at some point, and the brown sugar made it hard to go by visual cues. So, if you want a smooth, pretty amber drizzle instead of something vaguely excremental, I’d try another recipe—perhaps this one if you wanted to keep it vegan. The agave nectar probably works like the corn syrup that helps prevent crystallization in many normal recipes. Or you could amp up the Irish Whisky flavor by subbing that for the bourbon in a recipe like this.

Verdict

Honestly, these basically tasted like chocolate cupcakes with super-sweet vanilla buttercream. The flavor of the stout in the cake part came through a little, but the whiskey barely at all. So although they certainly sound like they’re in the spirit of the coming holiday, their “Irishness” might require some explanation, a bit like a bad Halloween costume. If I make them again, I’ll frost them with a meringe-based buttercream flavored with Irish Cream and drizzle them with a different caramel recipe, probably spiked with Irish whiskey. And maybe I’ll call them “Grandfather bomb cupcakes.” 

Recipe: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Buttercream (from Chef Chloe)

Ingredients:

with no extended butter-creaming or egg-beating, this is one of the easiest cupcake recipes I've ever madeCupcakes
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup stout beer (I used Short’s Uncle Steve’s Irish Stout)
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
ButtercreamJameson or Powers or whatever your favorite Irish whisky is would also work fine here
  • 1 cup shortening or margarine, at room temperature (vegan if desired)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons milk (vegan if desired)
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons Irish whiskey
Caramel
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup margarine (vegan if desired, like Earth Balance)
  • 4 teaspoons milk (vegan if desired)

Method:

For the cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line regular cupcake pans with 14-16 liners (I used 14 as called for, but they overflowed the cups a bit and then sank, so I would do 16 next time.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the stout, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Batter may be lumpy—that’s okay. Don’t over-mix or you’ll get too much gluten development and they’ll be tough and/or they’ll be flat because you deflated some of the leavening that begins as soon as the baking soda mixes with the liquid and acid.

3. Fill the lined cupcake tins between half and two-thirds full. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

slightly fallen. probably means the cups were filled too full.

For the buttercream:

1. Beat the shortening or margarine (or other solid fat at room temperature) until smooth. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix until combined. Add the milk 1 Tablespoon at at time until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Add the whiskey, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you achieve the desired taste. Beat on high for 2 more minutes until very light and fluffy.

2. If your cupcakes also fell, you can level the top with frosting if desired. To decorate with a soft-serve style swirl, transfer the frosting to a piping bag or zip-top bag with a corner snipped off, and pipe in a spiral, starting on the outside edge and working towards the center.

3. Dust the top with cocoa powder if desired—I put about a teaspoon of cocoa in a fine mesh sieve and then hold the sieve over the frosted cupcakes and tap the side of the basket with the spoon.

It's possible that I undercooked or overcooked the caramel? Based on this recipe,it's impossible to tell. Really, just don't use this part of this recipe, please.For the (gritty, crystallized) caramel:

1. Combine the brown sugar, margarine, and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until it  comes together.

2. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat.

3. Let cool slightly and transfer to a ziptop bag and drizzle over the cupcakes.

New Year’s Eve 2012

Happy last year of the Mayan calendar! Here’s how I welcomed it: 

punch and jello shots just barely visible in the upper left corner

How the spread looked around 8pm

not pictured: meatballs, hummus, and quinoa-blackeyed pea bundles, all of which were delicious, but none of which I made so I can't tell you/link you to the recipe

Cheese Balls Three Ways: Cheddar-Cranberry, Roquefort-Shallot-Walnut, and Herbed Goat Cheese
Sourdough-risen Baguette
Sourdough-risen No-Knead Bread
Crudités
Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with Parmeggiano & Almonds
Deviled Eggs with Caviar
Shrimp Cocktail
Cheddar-Ale Gougères
Mini Crab Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Ailoi 
Candied Cranberries
Dulce de Leche Crisps
Chocolate-covered Strawberries
Champagne Jell-O Shots with Raspberries
Dark Chocolate Truffles rolled in Coconut or Spiced Nut Crumble
Spiced Nuts
Admiral’s Punch

Mostly crudites and cheese balls left.

How it looked around 2am

Everything linked above was a repeat. New things I would make again: the mini-crab cakes, the champagne Jell-O shots, and the cheddar-ale gougères. All three were easy, delicious, and gone by the end of the night. Things I probably won’t make again: the dulce de leche crisps, which were kind of boring—neither sweet nor salty enough to be interesting, the truffles, because the nut butter made them a little grainy, and the cocktail sauce, which was exactly like cocktail sauce out of a bottle so why bother? Nothing else exceeded or fell short of expectations. Cheese balls are cheese balls. Caviar deviled eggs are caviar deviled eggs. Details on all of it after the jump.

Cheese Balls Three Ways (from Martha Stewart)

I think swiss cheese with rosemary rolled in crushed potato chips might be pretty good. Or a pimento cheese version with american + pimentos, rolled in...I don't know, maybe pecans?

These are tasty, pretty, and super simple: all three use the same cream cheese base and then you just fold in the different cheeses and roll them in different coatings. They’re also infinitely adaptable and can be made a few days in advance. Don’t like blue cheese and walnuts? How about pepper jack and pecans? Hate cheddar? Try swiss. Vehemently opposed to fruit and cheese combinations? Sundried tomatoes would be just as festive as the craisins. The one thing I might do in the future is halve everything: 3 lbs of cheese ball is a little much, even for a pretty big gathering. 

Candied Cranberries (from the Boston Examiner)

I keep thinking these would be a good garnish for something, but I'm not sure what...maybe some kind of custard? Eggnog creme brulee?Last year, I cooked the simple syrup to the hard ball stage, and the cranberries were almost impossible to extract and separate. This year, I followed the instructions exactly and they were much easier, but retained a lot more tartness & bitterness. I loved them anyway, but not everyone will. If you want them sweeter, you might try cooking the syrup to thread stage (230-235 F) before letting it cool and adding the berries.

Dulce de Leche Crisps (from Food and Wine)

I think unless "a grown-up twist" means "with booze in it," it's probably a bad thing.

Food and Wine described these as a “a grown-up twist on the classic Rice Krispies Treats,” which I guess is accurate in so far as adulthood is generally harder and less enjoyable. The rice gets toasted and combined with dulce de leche and sliced almonds, shaped into little mounds, sprinkled with salt and more dulce de leche, and baked. I think the main problem is they’re not quite sweet enough to provide a good counterpoint to the salt and just end up kind of “meh.” It’s possible that a drizzle of chocolate, a handful of butterscotch chips, and/or a pre-sweetened cereal would improve them, although those are probably all ways of regressing back to a less grown-up treat. Maybe the lesson here is that Rice Krispies, unlike cheddars and wine, don’t get better with age.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (from The Food Network)

This was another one of the things we had a lot of leftovers of. It's possible I should have only made 1 lb of strawberries.

You don’t really need a recipe for this: melt some chocolate, dip strawberries in it. But the link above is useful for providing guidelines about how much chocolate to melt. I added some shortening because it prevents the chocolate from blooming without the fuss of perfect tempering and doesn’t change the taste/texture all that much. I also used a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off for drizzling, which is especially useful for the white chocolate which doesn’t really get runny enough to drizzle even when melted.

Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with Parmeggiano & Almonds

pro-tip: use not-thick-cut bacon

After trying these with chorizo, goat cheese, blue cheese, parmeggiano matchsticks, marcona almonds, and parmeggiano+almonds together, I think my favorite filling is still the first one I tried: chorizo. But they’re all pretty good. This year, I made the mistake of buying bacon that was too nice—really thick and gorgeously smoky, but it kept splitting as I tried to wrap the dates. Normal, not-thick, not specially-smoked bacon or proscuitto is the way to go.

Deviled Eggs with Caviar (from The Splendid Table)

we always have to have something with caviar, even though by "caviar" I usually mean cheap, frozen capelin roe

I added a few tablespoons of Dijon to these because eggs just don’t taste “deviled” to me without any mustard. You could probably use all sour cream or all Greek yogurt instead of a combination. The idea of sour cream + dill + caviar combo seemed vaguely Baltic to me, but they basically just tasted like deviled eggs with caviar. Good, but nothing all that special.

Shrimp Cocktail (from Smitten Kitchen)

ice in the bowl kept these nice and chilly all night I roughly followed poaching method described by Smitten Kitchen—simmered the shrimp shells and strained them out to make a stock, and then added a hefty glug of white wine, a dozen or so peppercorns, some tarragon and thyme and a lot of salt and sugar. Brought it all to a boil, threw the shrimp in, took it off the heat and covered it, let it sit for 8 minutes. Simple, tasty, but as mentioned above: the homemade cocktail sauce is not different or better than the prepared kind.

Champagne Jell-O Shots with Raspberries (aka “Champagne gelée” per Saveur, Epicurious, and Martha Stewart)

You could also use an 8x8 or 9x13 and just cut them into "shots"

These were definitely one of the highlights of the evening. I didn’t really follow any of the recipes linked above, although they provided the inspiration. Instead, I sprinkled two envelopes of plain gelatin over 2 cups of champagne and let it soak for 5 minutes while I boiled 1 cup of champagne with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup Elderberry cordial. I stirred the hot champagne syrup into the bowl with the soaked gelatin, stirred until the gelatin dissolved and then poured it into mini-muffin tins and plopped a raspberry in each one. I chilled them for about an hour. To unmold them, I set the mini-muffin pan in a shallow baking sheet filled with lukewarm water for 30-45 seconds and then inverted the pan over another baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. I had to shake it a little, but they popped out pretty easily.

I was really hoping some bubbles would get trapped in the gelatin, but no such luck—the champagne fizzed up when I sprinkled the gelatin over it and the boiled stuff also released all its gasses long before chilling. Based on this article, I think you’d have to add some champagne at the very end. Blumenthal dissolves the gelatin in about 2 1/2 oz champagne + 3 1/2 oz liqueur and then adds the rest of the champagne directly to the molds. So I think next time I’ll try dissolving the sugar in 1/2 cup champagne + 1/4 cup Elderberry cordial (or another liqueur), sprinkling the gelatin over 1/2 cup champagne, stirring those two together and letting them cool to room temp, and then pouring in the remaining 2 cups of champagne just before pouring it into the molds.  

Cheddar-Ale Gougères (from 101 Cookbooks)

gougeres are kind of like un-filled cream puffs, and might be tasty filled with something like a Greek or mayonnaise-based salad

I took Heidi’s advice to make these in advance up to the baking step and then freeze them—worked perfectly. They still puffed up like magic in the oven. I under-baked them slightly, so a few of them collapsed just a bit and they were a little doughy inside but still tasty. Like the cheese balls, you can flavor these however you like—any kind of cheese/herb liquid will work. I used a chocolate ale, sharp cheddar, and thyme. Maybe next time, I’ll try gruyere, white wine, and rosemary.

Mini Crab Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Ailoi (from Always Order Dessert)

I think these were my favorite

Easy, delicious bite-sized crabcakes that don’t have to be deep-fried and are tasty even at room temperature. Can be baked in advance and held at room temp or re-warmed just before people show up.

Dark Chocolate Truffles (adapted from a Gourmet recipe)

in retrospect, I should have made a truffle yin-yang. my thirteen-year-old self is disappointed in me for failing to realize that at the time.

These were just okay. I used cashew butter in place of the almond butter, but neither that nor the dulce de leche came through much. So they just tasted like chocolate and the coatings, which wasn’t bad or anything, just nothing special. Plus, the centers weren’t nearly as smooth as traditional ganache-filled truffles. Instead of rolling them in cocoa powder, I did half in white chocolate with shredded coconut and half in dark chocolate with spiced nuts and chopped sliced almonds—the latter of which was great, and I would do again. I know I’m kind of doing the: “this recipe is mediocre. I didn’t follow it at all” thing, but I don’t think following it exactly would have yielded significantly better results.

So, there you have it: a merrily excessive farewell to the old and hello to the new. Wishing everyone a 2012 precisely as productive, pleasurable, meaningful, irreverent, nourishing, exciting, and relaxing as you want it to be.

Margaritas in Cupcake Form

Note: There are about 8 million entries I want to write. If I haven’t addressed your question or posted the recipe for that thing you liked—sorry. I probably haven’t forgotten about it. I just had a dissertation to finish, a wedding to plan, a honeymoon to go on, a book chapter to write, and three new classes to create. There’s no way I will get to all of the entries on my to-do list before the semester begins. In the meantime: have a cupcake recipe.

the buttercream was a little too soft and my hands a little to warm for perfectly pretty piping. whatever. they looked homemade, which they were.

TeacherPatti hosted a fiesta-themed cookout for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers last weekend, and I decided tor take margarita-flavored cupcakes. Which are basically just lime cupcakes spiked with tequila and triple sec (or Cointreau, because that’s what I had on hand. If you really wanted to get fancy you could use Grand Marnier).

I used Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe, adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride, because BEB added booze to the batter and I’m also of the "More booze = better” school of baking. However, I’m not sure it mattered, as the tequila flavor didn’t come through in the cakes much. Not to worry: there’s more tequila and triple sec brushed on top after baking, and still more in the frosting. So this is probably not the recipe to make for a kid’s birthday party or playdate, unless your intention is to mellow the rugrats out a bit.

BEB used a classic American buttercream, but I opted for the original CFB choice of a Swiss buttercream. The former is just softened butter whipped with powdered sugar, which is what you get on most bakery cakes. The latter begins with egg whites and sugar cooked on the stovetop and then whipped into an airy meringue, which you gradually add softened butter to, bit by bit, until it forms an airy emulsion. It’s silkier, richer, and much less sweet than American buttercream. For these cupcakes, it also gets a splash of lime juice, tequila, and triple sec. I halved the recipe below because the full recipe made more than twice as much as I needed.

To further boost the margarita mimic factor, I made a “rim” around the top of each cupcake with coarse salt & sugar before piping the frosting in the middle and I topped them with slices of candied lime.

Whole slices might have had more structural integrity. Another option: just candy the peel and make shapes or curls.

Needs More Tequila

If I make them again, I’ll use a tequila with a stronger flavor. Hornitos silver turned out to be a little too smooth. Their resposado might have worked, and classic Cuervo Gold probably would have been okay, too. This is definitely not the place for sipping-quality tequila, for much the same reason that it’s usually foolish to cook with expensive wine.

I’ll also let cut the limes differently and let them simmer in the simple syrup longer. This time, I cut them in half and then into thin slices, and they kind of fell apart in the blanching and candying process. I removed them from the simple syrup before the pith was completely translucent because I was afraid I was going to end up with just candied lime rinds. As a result, they were kind of bitter—which I enjoy, but I know not everyone does. Next time: full round slices for candying. I’ll cut them in half before using them

Despite the subtlety of the tequila and the bitterness of the candied limes, the MLFBs seemed to enjoy them—several described it as a “nice adult cupcake.” And that’s not just because of the tequila. Unlike most cupcakes, these are not overly sweet, dominated instead by the richness of the butter and the tartness of the lime. Nice ending for a smoky, spicy meal.

even before being brushed with tequila, these were super moist. nice base recipe.

Recipe: Margarita Cupcakes (from Brown Eyed Baker)
makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the liquor:

  • 6 Tablespoons tequila (Sauza Hornitos or your favorite inexpensive brand)
  • 2 Tablespoons Grand Mariner, Cointreau or other orange liqueur

For the cupcakes:I wonder if the candied limes would have stayed a brighter green if I'd blanched them for less time...

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs (room temp)
  • zest and juice of 3 large limes
  • 1/4 cup liquor
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1-2 Tablespoons liquor for brushing

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 12 you kind of need a whole bag of limes for this recipeTablespoons butter, softened
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lime juice (zest before juicing if desired for garnishing)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons liquor

For the candied limes:

  • 2 large or 4 small limes
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup water

For the salty-sugar rim:

  • 2 Tablespoons sanding sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method

To candy the limes:

Slice thinly, and blanche in boiling water—meaning, boil some water, drop the slices in, let them simmer for 2 minutes, and then drain them well. Next, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water  in the same pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Return the blanched lime slices to the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the white pith looks translucent. Place the slices on a cooling rack and let dry for about an hour. Toss with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar and spread on waxed paper. Let dry overnight or at least another 6-8 hours. Store in an airtight container.  blanching

I'm not sure if there's a way to keep them bright & green...maybe an oven candying method?

For the cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Either grease and flour muffin tins or line them with cups.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes with an electric mixer (or 10 minutes by hand with a whisk), until fluffy and lightened in color. The sugar cuts through the butter and helps aerate it, which is part of what leavens the cake, so don’t skip or shorten this step.

butter before whipping--golden and dense butter after whipping: almost white, fluffy and increased volume

4. Add the eggs to the whipped butter one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

5. Add the lime zest, juice, vanilla, and liquor. Mix until combined. Don’t worry if it looks curdled.

at some points, it may look lumpy or curdled but it will smooth out the last addition of flour

6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk, starting and ending with dry—first, 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 the buttermilk, then another 1/3 of the dry, then the second 1/2 of the buttermilk, and lastly the remaining 1/3 dry. After each addition, stir just until combined. I like to do this part by hand with a spatula so as not to over-mix the batter, which will create gluten networks and make the cake tough.

7. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins—they should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

8. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then remove and cool completely on a rack.

this was just a leetle too full--they rose over the edges and then fell a bit while cooling. But I was out of muffin tins as it was--you could maybe get as many as 28-30 cupcakes out of this recipe. a few overflowed a lot, but most just poufed above the papers and then sunk a little in the middle

For the frosting:

1. Fill a large pot or skillet with 1-2” water and heat to a simmer.

2. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Hold the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160F.

the base of the bowl actually keeps the bowl out of the water, which is perfect--the meringue cooks slowly without curdling. alternately, you can use a pot that's small enough that the bowl just sits on top instead of all the way inside. after 10 minutes of whipping--a glossy, fluffy meringue

3. Attach the bowl to the mixer and beat at high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is cool and holds stiff, glossy peaks (about 10 minutes).

4. Using the paddle attachment, beat in the softened butter one tablespoon at a time. Beat each addition in fully before adding more. The mixture might seem to curdle or separate, just keep beating. You’re creating an emulsion, and sometimes it takes time to come together.

Buttercream troubleshooting: If you’ve added all the butter and beaten it for 20 minutes and it’s just not coming together, put the entire bowl in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes and then try beating it again. If that fails, scoop out about a cup, zap it in the microwave on high for 15-20 seconds, and then slowly pour the melted buttercream into the bowl while beating at medium speed with the whisk attachment.

5. Add 1 Tablespoon of the liquor and lime juice, beat until combined and taste. Add more of either or both if desired.

it doesn't increase in volume as you add butter--it seems like you're basically replacing the air in the meringue with butter

To Decorate:

1. Combine the sanding sugar and salt.

2. Brush the surface of each cupcake with some of the liquor mix.

3. Cover the center of the cupcakes with something that leaves just a small ring around the edge exposed, and sprinkle with the salty-sugar mix.tequila for brushing in the background, making the salty-sugar rim in the foregroundyou can adjust the ratio of salt:sugar to your taste

you could also just make a tequila-powdered sugar glaze and let the salty-sugar rim be the main decoration. and/or top with a whole slice of candied lime.

4. Either pipe or spoon the frosting into the center. Garnish with a piece of candied lime or fresh lime zest.cocktails as finger food!

Dulce de Leche Macarons, Defense Catering Part II

If cupcakes were typically glazed with dulce de leche instead of piled high with too-sweet buttercream, I might feel differently about them.

According Bon Apetit, NPR, Salon, and The New York Post, macarons are “the new cupcake.” I, for one, welcome our new, smaller, less frosting-dominated confectionery overlords.

Unlike the American macaroon, usually composed mostly of shredded coconut, the French macaron is a little sandwich cookie made from two airy disks of sweetened almond meal and beaten egg whites stuck together with buttercream or jam. The meringue-like shells usually aren’t flavored, although they are often tinted to match the filling. Traditional filling flavors include vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, and  pistachio. I decided to fill mine with dulce de leche, which I prefer to even the most delicious cooked buttercream. Dulce de leche is basically the apotheosis of the Maillard reaction—milk cooked down with sugar until it forms a thick, sticky caramel. You can start with fresh milk if you prefer, but most people just use sweetened condensed milk.

I baked the dulce du leche in a water bath this time; in the past, I've used the dangerous boiling-a-whole-can method. Both detailed below.

If you cover the dish, you won't have to pull off the burned layer...if you forget, like I did, don't throw it away. That part is almost more delicious than the regular stuff. 

I used a recipe from Tartelette, which appeared to be studded with some kind of caramelized sugar. That turned out to be a praline. However, it wasn’t clear from the recipe when the almonds were supposed to be added to the sugar or in what form (whole? chopped? all it said was “not blanched”). For my first attempt, I added whole almonds to the praline, but once I chopped it up in a food processor as instructed, it just looked like regular chopped up almonds, not at all like Tartelette’s pictures. So I made a second hard caramel without the almonds. That looked right…but then, in the oven, the bits sprinkled on the macaron shells melted and made half of the shells collapse.

I later discovered a much more thorough write-up on all things macaron at Not So Humble Pie. In the future, I’ll use that recipe and skip sprinkling the shells with anything.

The shells, before baking. As they bake, the meringue rises up and forms the little ruffled "feet"

Anyhow, despite being half-collapsed, they were pretty delicious, although they are intensely sweet. You can make them significantly in advance of serving—the quality doesn’t begin to degrade noticeably for at least a few days. We’re still enjoying the leftovers, a full week after the defense. Also, any leftover dulce de leche is incredible on ice cream, pancakes, apple slices, or just licked off a spoon.

Recipe: Dulce de Leche Macarons (adapted from Tartelette)

For the praline sprinkle (if using):Whenever I'm blending powdered sugar, I cover the food processor bowl with plastic wrap so it doesn't billow out like smoke and coat the kitchen in stickyness

  • 2/3 cup sugar

For the dulce du leche:

  • 1 can sweetened condense milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1/4 t. vanilla bean paste)

For the macaron shells:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 50 g. granulated sugar
  • 200 g. powdered sugar
  • 110 g. almond meal

1. Place the sugar in a dry saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar melts and begins to caramelize. Cook to a light amber, and then spread on an oiled baking sheet. Let cool for about 10 minutes, and then break into pieces and whiz to a fine powder in a blender or food processor.

dry caramel cooking shards of praline in the food processor

2. If you feel like living dangerously, simply cover the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk with water and boil for 3-4 hours. Make sure to check the water level frequently—if the can gets too hot, it may explode. If there’s any air trapped in the can and it expands, it’ll explode anyway. Assuming no explosions happen, let the can cool, open it, and whisk in the salt and vanilla bean seeds.

Alternatively: poke 2 holes in one side of the can and place it in a pot with water up to 1” from the top of the can and simmer for about 2 hrs, adding water periodically to keep the can at least half-submerged. A washcloth placed under the can will keep it from rattling. Ditto with the whisking salt and vanilla bean in after it’s cool.

Or use the oven method: Preheat the oven to 425F. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a shallow pan and whisk in the salt and vanilla bean seeds. Cover that pan tightly with foil and place it in another larger pan. Pour enough water into the larger pan to rise at least halfway up the sides of the smaller pan, and bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until it’s as thick and dark as you want it. Whisk until smooth.

If you’re dumb like me and forget to cover the pan with foil, you’ll end up with a dark, blistered skin on top that you’ll have to skin off if you want your dulce de leche to be smooth and creamy.

3. Measure the powdered sugar and almond meal into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Alternatively, just whisk them together by hand.

4. Whip the egg whites using electric beaters or a whisk. Gradually add the granulated sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture forms a glossy meringue. Beat just until there are semi-stiff peaks. You don’t want to overbeat the mixture to the point where it looks dry. Not So Humble Pie swears by hand-beating in a copper bowl. I used a KitchenAid and checked the mixture every 10-15 seconds once it looked thick and glossy. I stopped as soon as the peak formed by lifting up the beaters would stay standing up.

the peak folded over a bit, but the peak was stiff

4. Gently sprinkle 1/3 of the almond-powdered sugar mixture over the egg whites, and then fold in with a spatula just until almost combined. Use big strokes that scoop from the bottom of the bowl—you don’t want to deflate the egg white foam you’ve created too much. Repeat with the remaining two thirds of the almond meal—sprinkle and fold, sprinkle and fold, and then continue folding just until fully combined. It should flow like thick cream or pouring custard—if you spoon a little bit onto a plate, it should flatten into a smooth round on its own within 30 seconds with no peaks. If there are peaks that won’t flatten out, give the batter a few more turns with the spatula until it flows like magma.

5. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag or a ziploc with the tip cut off. Pipe little circles about the size of a quarter or a bit larger onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

6. Let the shells sit for 30-60 minutes, or until the tops are dry. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 290F.

7. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until the shells are set. Watch carefully in the last minutes and remove them before they begin to brown. They should remain a tiny bit moist inside, like a mini version of pavlova.

8. Let cool completely, and then fill with dulce du leche (or whatever else you like).

Ozark Pudding, aka Huguenot Torte: Dessert in a Flash (albeit an unnecessarily belabored flash)

Not really what I think of when I think of a pie or a torte. Maybe it needs a new name? Mystery meringue? Apple-pecan pouf?

This is a rough transcript of the internal monologue that followed a semi-last-minute decision to take dessert to a friend’s house for dinner yesterday (scroll down to “results” if you just want to know what the heck Ozark pie/Huguenot Torte is and aren’t interested in the documentation of my neuroses):

The Process

“I should just buy something. I don’t have time to bake. But how do you even do that? I can’t just buy a bag of Oreos or something, can I? A grocery store bakery pie? I don’t even want to eat that. Is there anywhere else I can buy a pie? Why are there a half a dozen stores that sell cupcakes and nowhere I can buy a goatforsaken pie…

Goat in a hat from Off Base Percentage My goat, my goat, why have you forsaken me pie?

“Is it okay to show up at someone’s house with a pint of ice cream? What if they don’t have any freezer space? Is that offensive—like a suggestion that they are incapable of purchasing ice cream or perhaps that if they did have ice cream on hand it wouldn’t be as good as whatever you brought? Oh, this is so stupid. [Generous host] specifically said there was no need for me to bring anything. What is wrong with me that I don’t know how to be a dinner guest without bringing something I made “from scratch”? This is why I am not done with my dissertation and will obviously fail at everything forever. Thanks, superego, helpful as always. sigh Surely there is something I can make that won’t take very long and will make me happier than showing up empty-handed or with a bag of Oreos…

filters Delicious tags by “recipe” and “dessert” and opens these four links

“What was Huguenot Torte again? Oh, right, some kind of sunken apple-pecan meringue thing. Huh. Maria del Mar Sacasa of Serious Eats says it’s simple, ugly, and delicious, which sounds about perfect. Maria del Mar Sacasa's cherry-hazelnut Huguenot Torte--I think hers is darker because she included some of the liquid from the jarred cherries, reducedBut she also gave it a “makeover” with sour cherries and hazelnuts in place of the apples and pecans. I was not impressed with the canned sour cherries I got for NYE. Maybe I should just make the original…

opens these three links

“Egad, that sounds awfully sweet. And Amanda Hesser of the NYTimes says she likes it warm and that when it’s cold ‘you have to do battle to cut it.’ That does not sound like the best thing to make in advance and take somewhere. I wonder if I could make individual portions? Hey, the 2009 Recipe Redux by Sarah Magid is for ‘boozy apple-thyme meringue cookies’—maybe that would work?

“Curses! This recipe is so much fussier. You have to caramelize the apples separately and then use a piping bag to make individual meringues and it calls for both superfine and confectioner’s sugar…guh. The whole point of this recipe was that it was going to be simple. Hm. I wonder what the internet thinks about ‘individual Huguenot tortes’…

googles “individual Huguenot tortes,” and opens these four links

Balls. None of these are actually for individual-sized portions, although Up Chef Creek came to the same conclusion because the caramelized crust, which is the best part, sticks to the pan & becomes impossible to serve after it’s cooled. So it would probably be better to bake it in individual ramekins. But who knows how that would affect the baking time? Or how full I should fill the cups? And do I really want to cart a bunch of individual cups of ugly apple-pecan meringue business to someone’s house? That seems stupid. I should just make the original. ‘Golden oldie’ Maria del Mar Sacasa, said. ‘I cooked it fairly often,’ she said. That is not something you do with a recipe that sucks…

“Wait, didn’t Amanda Hesser say this wasn’t actually related to the Huguenots at all and actually descended from something called Ozark Pudding? I wonder what the internet thinks about Ozark Pudding…

googles “Ozark Pudding,” and opens these three links

Nostalgia Snark fom the Economical Epicurean, who got it from Amazon.com“Amen, Economical Epicurean, that Recipe Redux is the perfect example of taking something that sounds simple, easy, & relatively cheap and making it into a huge, fussy production. Although sometimes huge, fussy productions are worth it, and I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that cookies and cupcakes are ‘tearing at the fabric of society.’ I guess you did admit this was a melodramatic rant.

“Oh, Marion Cunningham, it’s actually unclear whether or not fewer Americans are sitting down to a ‘traditional home-cooked dinner these days’ or how many of them ever did and I never did get around to writing the follow-up to that post about the studies about families who eat dinner together and how the television being on doesn’t actually matter. Of course, the researchers just shrugged and decided that there must be another causal mechanism, not that the relationship isn’t causal or that the arrow might go in the opposite direction (happy, healthy families –> more likely to eat dinner together).

“However, this recipe attributed to Bess Truman does sound easy and is scaled to fit in a pie pan and I have almost everything I need to make it already. I guess it’s worth a try.”

The Results

Totally easy—prep time was 15 minutes, start to finish even though I added a few extra steps. And pretty darn delicious—kind of like a cross between pavlova and pecan pie. The top was crunchy and the middle was kind of gooey and the bottom was chewy and sort of caramelized. I would totally make this again.

Brown sugar cognac cream makes the world seem lovely in spite of imminent defense datesMy modifications:

1) Instead of just greasing the pan, I greased it, dusted it with flour, and then sprayed it with cooking spray. It still stuck a little bit, but overall was pretty easy to get out of the pan, even though it sat for at least two hours before we served it.

2) I whipped the cream with some brown sugar and cognac. I would have used bourbon if I’d had any on hand because that would have been a natural pairing for the apples and pecans, but there was an unfortunate incident earlier this week involving a bottle of Bulleit and a flimsy plastic bag (yet another reason to take your own bags to the grocery store).

3) I tossed the apple pieces in a lemon-water bath to prevent oxidation while I was making the batter because I just do that automatically whenever I’m baking with apples.

This might be part of the reason my dissertation isn’t finished in a more general sense—the above doesn’t even begin to compare to the consternation and fussing about cooking I usually do when I’m not panicking about an imminent defense date—but it’s certainly not this particular recipe’s fault. I’d rank Ozark Pie near the top of my list of high reward/effort recipes. Right up there with no-knead bread and popcorn chickpeas and butternut squash soup.

The base recipe is also kind of a blank slate, so you could probably substitute just about any kind of fruit and nuts you had around…or chopped up chocolate or butterscotch or toffee bits or whatever else you thought might taste good in a meringue-type base as long as it isn’t super watery. Berries and chopped white chocolate might be good, or pear and almonds. If you wanted to fancy it up a bit, you could try any of the following: baking it in 1/2 cup ramekins filled slightly less than halfway, adding an herb or spice, or making a sabayon instead of just whipping some cream (bourbon-spiked would probably be great with the original apple-pecan).

Recipe: Ozark Pudding, aka Huguenot Torte (from Marion Cunningham’s Lost Recipes, via NPR)
serves 5-6 as written, or double and make in an 8×12 or 9×13 pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • I threw the apple pieces in some water with the juice of half a lemon while I prepared the other ingredients. probably not necessary, but so easy why not? 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup apple pieces, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 of a large Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon, rum, or cognac (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease, flour, and spray a 10” pie pan (or just grease it, but don’t be surprised if it sticks).

2. Beat the egg and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well until combined. Fold in the apple pieces, nuts, and vanilla.

3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. It will poof up, and then will fall when you remove it from the oven.

4. Whip the cream to soft peaks, adding the brown sugar and alcohol if desired.

It makes less than 2 cups of batter, don't be alarmed if it's just barely enough to cover the bottom of the panPouf! It isn't the prettiest thing I've ever made, but I think the Serious Eats writer was a little harsh. Even after it fell a little more, it wasn't "ugly"

Green Tomato Double-Feature: Fried Green Tomatoes and Green Tomato Mincemeat Bars

the yield from six plants: 4 lbs, 10 oz

Green Tomatoes: Get Them While They’re Cold

We’re past due for a killing frost, and it’s virtually guaranteed before Halloween. According to Climate-charts.com, there’s a 10% chance of frost by September 30 in Ann Arbor and a 90% chance by October 30. You can, obviously, tempt fate and leave your tomatoes out to see how long you can stretch the caprese salad and BLT season, but even if we end up in the long tail this year, the end is nigh. Also, the end is delicious. Here are the two best ways I’ve found use up the tomatoes that didn’t get a chance to ripen on the vine:

great on their own, or with any kind of mayonnaise-based dressing like Ranch or Thousand Island

if "green tomato mincemeat" squicks you out, just call them "spiced streusel bars"

This should conclude Tomatofest 2010 (previous entries this year: Tomato Jam, Tomato Soup, and Sweet Tomato Curd Squares). However, I also have an article about tomatoes coming out in a community recipe and resource book by Edible Avalon, and I should have more details about that soon.

I. Fried Green Tomatoes

A friend mentioned recently that knowing “fried green tomatoes” were a classic, he’d tried just slicing up some tomatoes and throwing them into a skillet with some rendered bacon fat. That actually doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, but you should be prepared to watch the tomatoes fall apart as they cook. So depending on how much bacon fat there is and what you’d planned on doing with them, it might not have the desired effect.

Raw green tomatoes are much firmer than ripe ones—coring them is almost like coring an apple. However, as they cook, the cell walls break down and the bitterness abates and whatever acids and glutamates and aromatic compounds the tomato accumulated before it got prematurely yanked from the vine will intensify. Once it’s cooked through, it will taste kind of like a ripe tomato, or at least like a roasted grocery store tomato, which is to say, not bad.

I find that medium heat is about right on my stovetop--you want them to get nice and brown in about 2-3 minutes on each sideThe classic way to prevent them from dissolving before they cook long enough to be palatable is to dredge them in egg and flour (or cornmeal or bread or cracker crumbs). Then, you fry them in about 1/4” of hot oil, melted lard or shortening (not butter, unless it’s clarified, because the milk solids will burn and the water content will make them soggy). When they’re golden brown on the outside and cooked through inside, they’re done.

Even if a few pieces of the breading fall off, they should stay together well enough to be crispy on the outside and soft and savory on the outside. However, you have to eat them immediately—fried tomatoes retain too much moisture to be kept crisp in an oven or re-crisped in a toaster, so only make as many as you want to eat right away. If you want to save some of your green tomatoes for later in the year, you can slice them, spread them out individually on a foil-lined sheet and freeze them for a few hours (just to keep them from freezing into one big hunk). Then transfer them to another container, like a gallon zip-top freezer storage bag. When you want to cook them, just pull them out of the freezer, bread them, and fry them. Don’t defrost them first, or they’ll turn to mush (that’s also why you need to slice and freeze them separately). But if you get them in the pan while they’re still frozen, the breading should keep them together once they cook through.

II. Green Tomato Mincemeat Bars

the "before" shot: all the mincemeat ingredients dumped in a pot to simmerthe "after" shot: what really stands out are the golden raisins, but basically everything else is cooked green tomato

The other recipe that pops up the most in google searches “green tomatoes” is green tomato mincemeat. Mincemeat was originally one of those Early Modern dishes that seems pretty odd to most Americans now because comes from a time and place before meat and sweets were firmly separated (with transgressors like bacon desserts merely reinforcing the binary by playing up how “wrong” it is to violate it). Mincemeat usually included less desirable cuts or leftover bits of meat and suet (raw beef or mutton fat) cooked with dried fruits, sugar, alcohol, and spices. It was a way to stretch the meat, make it palatable, and preserve it, and was most often baked in a pastry crust, either as single-serving pockets or double-crusted pie. Here’s an 18th C. recipe that calls for making a massive amount of the suet and dried fruit mixture to bake and eat over four months, with the option of adding a little boiled tongue or beef later:

To make Mince-Pies the best Way
Take three Pounds of Suet shread very fine, and chopped as small as possible, two Pounds of Raisins stoned, and chopped as fine as possible, two Pounds of Currans, nicely picked, washed, rubbed, and dried at the Fire, half a hundred of fine Pippins [apples], pared, cored, and chopped small, half a Pound of fine Sugar pounded fine, a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, a quarter of an Ounce of Cloves, a Pint of Brandy, and half a pint of Sack [sherry]; put it down close in a Stone-pot, and it will keep good four Months. When you make your Pies, take a little Dish, something bigger than a Soop-plate, lay a very thin Crust all over it, lay a thin Layer of Meat, and then a thin Layer of Cittron cut very thin, then a Layer of Mince meat, and a thin Layer of Orange-peel cut think over that a little Meat; squeeze half the Juice of a fine Sevile Orange, or Lemon, and pour in three Spoonfuls of Red Wine; lay on your Crust, and bake it nicely. These Pies eat finely cold. If you make them in little Patties, mix your Meat and Sweet-meats accordingly: if you chuse Meat in your Pies, parboil a Neat’s Tongue [ox tongue], peel it, and chop the Meat as finely as possible, and mix with the rest; or two Pounds of the Inside of a Surloin or Beef Boiled." From The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, 1747 (Prospect Books: Devon, 1995, p. 74). From The Food Timeline

Gradually over the 18th and 19th C, meat went from central to optional to uncommon and the dried fruit & spice preparation eaten alone was still referred to as “mincemeat” or sometimes just “mince.” It became a favorite way to use green tomatoes, because their savory glutamates stood in well for the meat and because boiling them with sugar and dried fruits was a good way to flavor and preserve them, too. Just like the meaty versions, the mixture is usually baked into a pastry. Also, like most cooked tomato products, it can be preserved in canning jars processed in a boiling water bath.

I had 4 1/2 lbs of green tomatoes, which made enough mincemeat for two recipes. I froze half of it rather than canning it, and perhaps I’ll bake that into a mincemeat pie for Christmas. I decided to treat the other half like any standard fruit preserve and bake it into a simple streusel bar cookie. What’s great about this recipe is you use the same mixture for the crust and the topping, so it’s dead simple to throw together. You could also substitute any kind of pie filling or preserves for the tomato mincemeat, use any kind of nuts you want in the crust and topping, use any kind of fat, any kind of flour. It’s entirely customizable. Same goes for the mincemeat—add some crystallized ginger if you have it, add other spices like cardamom or mace if you want them or leave out the cloves or nutmeg if you’re not a fan, throw in a tart apple or two or some carrots or winter squash, use currants or cranberries in place of the golden raisins, etc. It’s a template, not a chemical formula.

The result is just a great, simple spiced bar cookie. The tomato mincemeat is salty-sweet and has a kind of savory umami funkiness, almost like a sweet tomato chutney. The spices evoke pumpkin pie and apple crisp and piles of raked leaves and itchy hay rides. The oats and nuts in the streusel give it a sort of rustic chew and crunch. If my tomato curd squares were Summer in a bar cookie, this is the same idea dressed in a sweater and scarf for Fall.

you'll get a close-up of the Jack o'Lantern when I post about roasting pumpkin seeds

Recipe: Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • green tomatoes (one medium tomato per person)
  • 1 egg for every 4 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, cracker crumbs, bread crumbs, panko, or something else with crunch
  • 2-3 t. seasoned salt, Old Bay, Bacon Salt, Jerk or Cajun seasoning blend, or whatever other herbs or spices you desire (just nothing that burns easily, like cinnamon or Chinese Five Spice)
  • 2 t. kosher salt, divided (or slightly less regular salt)
  • 1/2-1 cup oil, lard, or shortening for frying

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.

2. Combine the flour, crunchy bits, seasonings, and salt in one bowl and lightly beat the egg in a second bowl.

3. Core the tomatoes and slice them into 1/4-1/2” rounds.

three tomatoes was too many for two of us to eat. really, one tomato per person is plenty breading and frying set-up; Bacon Salt!

4. Test the oil for heat by flinging a few water droplets at it (mind the splatter). If it sizzles, it’s ready. Dip each slice of tomato in the egg and then then the flour mixture, turning to coat, and place them gently in the hot oil.

5. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle the hot tomatoes with a little more salt. Eat immediately. 

best to salt them when they're just out of the oil so it adheres served along side tilapia with lemon and shallots

Recipe: Spiced Green Tomato Streusel Bars (adapted from CDKitchen and GardenTenders)

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 4 cups finely chopped green tomatoes (~2 lbs)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or 1 cup white sugar with a glug of molasses)
  • a hearty glug of rum or brandy (optional)
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • juice from one medium lemon (3-4 T.)
  • zest from one medium lemon (2-3 t.)

For the crust and topping:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or 1 cup white sugar with a glug of molasses)
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, or macadamia nuts

Method:

1. Core and chop the tomatoes. I usually cut them in half first and then cut a wedge-shaped piece around the stem and the toughest white part in the center. I let the food processor do the chopping part.

minced green tomatoes minceMEATed green tomatoes

2. Combine the tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and spices in a large pot and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I cooked it for almost an hour because I doubled the recipe. Some recipes call for cooking it for up to 3 hrs. Just keep an eye on it as it thickens to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot).

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the dry ingredients for the crust and topping and then mix in the softened butter until the mixture is crumbly and all of the flour is moistened.

green tomato bars and pumpkins 045 pressed into the bottom of the pan for the crust

4. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9×13 pan, and press 2 1/2 cups of the crumbs into the bottom. Spread the cooked tomato mixture over the crust, and sprinkle with the remaining crumbs.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing—or, for the cleanest cuts, chill. For the best flavor, let it come back to room temperature before serving.

sprinkling the reserved streusel on top