Category Archives: Cake

Inventing Coffee Cake

Do You REALLY Live Here?

My Life As A Pilgrim

(the title of my yet to be written memoir….)

Chapter Six

Travel, travel back in time……..

And then there was the day we invented coffee cake.

Since most of Europe wasn’t all that into coffee in 1627, it’s really much more impressive then it sounds.

But we were young…..and we knew so little

me 1981 Joe Carlin

Seriously, young. What I looked like c. 1981.

baking bread Jean-François_Millet_1854 Kroller-Muller Museum

What I thought I looked like….Millet, for want of a 17th century role model (then – remember – no internet!)

It started out simply as baking.

Bread.

We baked and baked and baked. We baked just about everyday. We learned a lot about bread very quickly. But we did not know that there were actual 17th century instructions for bread. And we had the assumptions of the 1970’s – remember the Bi-Centennial? – to guide us.

Plat-bread-1

We didn’t know about this recipe. No internet. Not that many books on food history.

Basic bread – Four ingredients.

Flour. Water. Salt. Leaven.

We got it.

'Still life with a glass of Rhine wine, bread and fruits' by Sebastian Stosskopf (Alsatian painter, 1597-1657), 1644

We made bread that looked like the bread in the 17th century paintings.

And we learned to use the wood fired oven, before EVERYONE had a wood fired oven. And we were good at it. We saw the potential to use pizza as a training tool to learn about the wood fired oven.

Massive buy-in. Who wouldn’t want to help for pizza?

We got….a little bored by four, just four, always the same four, ingredients…

So we started

…..adding things.

Many things you can add to bread and they rather disappear in the loaf, at least visually.

A little sugar. We used brown sugar then  – because we didn’t have sugar loaves and most of us didn’t know we should want them.

still-life-with-fruit-and-sugar-loaf_unknown_about-1720

1720

Brown_sugar_examples

Because obviously brown sugar is more Oldie- Timie, right?

Butter. To make it richer.

A little milk Ditto.

A few eggs….why not?

chickens-at-Plimoth-Platation

Got hens? Use hen-fruit!

Not all at once, not every time, but more things, more frequently.

And then a few spices crept in.

cinnamon

Cinnamon

Ingwer_2_fcm

Ginger

Muscade

Nutmeg

ClovesDried

Cloves

Hmmmmm – that could be a song…..

Of All the Birds

Of all the birds that ever I see
The owl is the fairest in her degree:
For all the day long she sits on a tree
And when the night cometh away flies she.

Tu whit — Tu whoo,
To whom drink’st thou? — Sir Knave, to thee.
My song is well sung, I’ll make you a vow
That he is a knave that drinketh now.

Nose, nose, nose, nose,
And who gave thee thy jolly red nose?
Cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves:
that gave me my jolly red nose.

 

And then

 

Raisins.

More properly, raisins of the sunn.

Grape_Rasins_plus_Zante_Currants

Raisins and Currents – both are dried grapes, just different sized grapes.

The thing with raisins, is that everyone can see them.

Sometimes they are mistaken for flies….sometimes they concealed flies…….but with raisins you’ve made raisin bread, and everyone knows what that is.

So you learn to put the raisins in last and pull the un-raisined dough down around them….

We thought we’d made cinnamon raisin bread. But really, we had re-invented Gervase  Markham’s Banbury Cake.

Banbury_Cake_Gervase_Markham_1615

Because we didn’t know there were perfectly good cakes we could have made without any slights of hand and amazing feats of prestidigitation.

This was all in 1981 and 1982….it was Michael Best’s edition of The English Housewife where we saw the error – and genius – of our ways.

That wasn’t until 1986.

Markbested

We didn’t see it as coffee cake, or think of it as coffee cake, and certainly didn’t call it coffee cake. Bread . It was Bread.

UNTIL a day in 1981…in the fall….and a reporter for the Boston Globe was there when we were taking the loaves out of the oven and asked if it was coffee cake.…..

apearce

1981 – Abraham Pearce in the 1627 Village. This was the story the papers had come for. Or Thanksgiving. They were always there for Thanksgiving.

We neither agreed nor disagreed.

We may have pointed out a passing flock of geese overhead. Or those hens squawking about….and goats, we probably pointed to the goats, frolicking and gamboling as goats do…..

Perhaps another housewife threw the dishwater out her door, yelling, “Ware Slops!” like we used to do.

We may have sung…..

We all held our collective breath until the picture ran in the paper. The coffee cake was merely identified as bread, although if you looked close you could see the raisins…..

Just another day making history.

 

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Filed under Bread, Cake, Perception ways, The 17th century, The 1980's

Birthday Cake!

Today is someone’s birthday….

Well, that’s true about every day, but today it’s someone close to me….

Jacob and me

and much, much taller then he was twenty five years ago!

I found the recipe I used for his fifth birthday, so it seemed time to use it again.

First, get out the trusty 9×13 pan

13x9-pan nordicware bake and store

one with a lid…and get to work.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

2 eggs

1 ½ cups firm packed brown sugar

2 oz (2 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

2 cups sifted cake flour (like I had a 5 year old and cake flour in the house at the same time – HA!)

1 t. baking soda

½ t. salt

¼ C white vinegar

¾ C milk

1 t vanilla extract

½ C butter, softened

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Have all the ingredients at room temp
  3. Butter and flour a 13x9x2-inch pan.*(I used a pan that has its own travel lid.)
  4. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt (the Drys)
  5. Separately, combine vinegar, milk and vanilla (the Wets)
  6. In a big, deep bowl beat together eggs, brown sugar and chocolate (3 minutes by hand – 1 minute with an electric Mixer)
  7. Into the big, deep add the drys and half the wets.
  8. Beat 3 minutes by hand and or 1 minute electric.
  9. Add the rest of the wets and beat for another minute.
  10. Pour into the prepared pan.
  11. Bake for 45 minutes or until it shrinks from the sides of the pan and tests done.
  12. Cool completely and frost.

*or 2 8-inch layer cake pans

– Adapted from ‘3-Minute Fudge Cake’ in Nika Hazelton. From Nika Hazelton’s Kitchen. Viking Penguin. 1985. p. 298.

from-nika-hazeltons-kitchen

And don’t forget the candles – and some matches….

Birthday-Cakecandles closeup

Happy Birthday!

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Filed under 1990's, Birthday, Cake, Holiday, Recipe, Summer

HOPE

Hope is a thing with feathers…..

EmilyD

 

I was going through my files and found a recipe  for HOPE cake.

Not dated, not accredited, just a print out. I have no memory of ever  making it….it sounds great, though – Pineapple and orange pound-cake with a cream cheese honey icing….is HOPE Honey-Orange-Pineapple …???Eggs????

Google and discover.

Monday, really Big Fourth Celebrations here in America’s Hometown (that would be Plymouth, not to be confused with all those other America’s Hometowns). Parade with lots of fire trucks and police trucks, all with sirens blaring. Politicians smiling big, waving like the Queen of England, shaking hands; floats with people tossing candies into the crowd. Youth sports teams and other groups of young people, waving their trophies high. Bands, oh those bands. Marching bands, jazz bands, and even rock bands on floats…..and a group from the Priscilla Beach Theatre did a number from A Chorus Line in front of the Grandstand.

pbtchorus line

 

ONE

(Singular Sensation)

Kay and Bunk were there on their red, white and blue bicycles…this image is from another year…..there’s photo another of Bunk at July 4th – Plymouth MA

Bunky and Kay 4July

Cheering, waving.

Dragonflies like crazy all morning. HUGE dragonflies.

The woman seated near me up on Cole’s Hill passed her sunscreen over to me as the morning wore one, Hawaiian Tropics coco-nutty SPF 50 or 70 or 85 – something uber screening for pale Irish skin.Hawaiian tropic several

…..Hawaiian Tropic, an old summer friend, shared by a new friend by location

Milling with the post parade crowd, old friends to catch up with.

Time to head home, buy some OFF and take a little nap to go back for the Phil concert.

july-4th-ply-WATD-2016-phil-concert-full-v3-500x.jpg

Sprayed the OFF on, milled about, kept seeing people I knew, but not able to get up to them before they were lost in the crowd. And it was a crowd. Finally picked a spot where I could see the firework barges in the harbor that didn’t have trees crowding the view overhead AND see the bandstand.

A Bus comes down the blocked off street – the Philharmonic arriving!

They played all the  usual suspects, as well as a Star Trek tribute (50 years since the show first aired) and a tribute to the King – Elvis Presley.

Last number – The 1812 Overture, of course.

And then the fireworks begin.

OOOOOWWW!

AAAAAAHHH!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

 

And then – and then a really big display, mostly low down, close to the water.

And I thought to myself,” It almost looks as if the barge is on fire.”

Plymouth-photo---Denise-A--Maccaferri--1--jpg

Denise Maccaferri Photography

july4th 2016

Then nothing.

People around me started saying it was a pretty short show this year and were getting up to leave.

I had to get up so I wouldn’t get trampled by the people climbing up the hill to get to their cars.

Almost every announcement about the fireworks during the day included remarks about how expensive they were, it wasn’t too late to donate…..so a short show WAS a possibility.

I only live a couple of blocks from the waterfront, so I was home lickety-split.

An hour or so late, I found it there really was a fire on the barge.

And thus begins a week of promise that just kept going downhill……

As if Orlando weren’t bad enough, St. Paul, Baton Rouge and then Dallas….too much red blood on too many American streets….

Early this morning a little bird held on the the edge of my window screen,

House_sparrow04

and I thought of Emily Dickinson…Hope is a thing with feathers…..

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
– Emily Dickinson

And I remembered the cake –

A  Cake called HOPE

It was from Tinky Weisblat’s blog  In Our Grandmothers Kitchens to celebrate the Inaugural of Barack Obama back in January of 2009…
Tinky had also e-mailed me on Thursday to ask me to judge in a Pie Contest.

I said YES.

I’ve been to Pudding Hollow before for judging Puddings….and I love Pies
Pudding hollowjudgesweb

Edie Clark on my left; Michelangelo Wescott to my right – was this 5 years ago?

Feathers of hope, wafting this was way and that

 

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Filed under Cake, Holiday, Pie, Recipe, Summer

Susie’s Brownies

Susie loves to bake and she bakes great cakes. Susie makes some pretty awesome brownies, too, and since her sons are grown and live away, she doesn’t bake as often as she used to. Often when she does bake, she brings in plates of things to share with all of us at work because otherwise it’s too much. We do not object.

Susie makes a mint chocolate brownie that is simply divine – fudgy, rich and just a hint, a whiff of mint. So often mint overpowers the party, but not on this plate.

Susie has been making brownies with the Ghirardelli’s sweet ground cocoa.

Ghiradelli sweet ground cocoa

She also adds chocolate chips and Andes crème de menthe baking bits to thoroughly gild this lily. The Andes bits are fairly fantastic because they’re not too mint, encased as they are in chocolate.

Andes creme de menthe chips

The recipe is on the back of the Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa bag. Susie left me a bag full of ingredients (talk about your Merry Christmas) with a note that said she didn’t use the baking soda.

I started getting ready:

Oven to 350° (open it and make a quick check that nothing besides the racks are lurking there….)

2 eggs; ¼ cup sugar; 1 tsp vanilla;

½ cup butter

……and it needs to be melted – this is a job for the new mini-saucepan! Don’t throw that butter wrapper away – use it to grease the pan [I have a baggie in the freezer for saving butter wrappers].

¾ cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa (note: this is on the bag, too:Unsweetened Cocoa Substitution: For each ½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa, use 1 cup of Sweet Ground Cocoa and decrease the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by ½ cup.” In short, the Sweet Ground stuff is equal amounts of cocoa and sugar, adjust accordingly.

2/3 cup unsifted flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder*

(*When Susie left me a note that she said doesn’t include the baking soda,  I went through and as there was no baking soda, I put the baking powder in. Later, I realized she must have meant baking powder; the brownies from the batch I put it into were still good and squidgy…you’re on your own here. I’m sure Alton Brown has a video somewhere of the difference between leavens in the brownies or not, probably called “Welcome to the Dark Side: The Brownie Apocalypse”….but I digress.)

AB

¼ tsp salt; ½ cup of walnuts, chopped; ½ cup chocolate chips and ½ cup creme de menthe bits

  • Grease an 8 or 9 inch pan.
  • Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla, add butter.
  • Mix the cocoa, flour and salt together.
  • Add the drys to the wets, stirring well.
  • Stir in the nuts and then the chips.
  • Spread into the prepared pan.
  • Bake 20-30 minutes.
    • From bag: for extra chewy brownies, use 9” pan and longer baking time.
  • Cut into squares. Makes 16-20 brownies. Serves 2 (or more if they insist….)

Adapted from the back of the Ghirardelli’s Sweet Cocoa Powder bag, notes and technical assistance from Susie Walker.

 

PS – Alton Brown HAS covered the brownie…..

ABbrownie message

Here’s the link to his website

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Filed under Cake, Recipe

Cookbook Club(chair)

Evidently cookbook clubs are a

thing

thing-thing-1

A rather silly thing. If I know a group of people who all have the SAME cookbook, I’ll borrow it. And then I’ll just check out the dishes they’ve been dishing and maybe shop it a little more…..But every one cooking from the same book, at the same time …. unless they’re planning to cook their way through the book, which has done with assorted classics, books by Julia Child

julia1

or by Marcella Hazen

marcellahazaninterview

or other assorted sorts who have stood the test of time. But with something new?

So I hereby decree another sort of cook book club –  the

Cook Book Club Chair.

I’ll sit in the chair and read the cook book and write about the cook book. Eventually, some one will get hungry and get up and cook, and we can talk about that, too.

Book Review

Confections of a Closet Master Baker

by Gesine Bullock-Prado. 2009, Broadways Books

Confections GBP

1st read – July 2013; re-read Dec 2015

The timing of the first read tells me I bought it 2nd hand at a really great used book store that was next to my most frequently shopped supermarket. The store had great selection and fantastic help and was around for less than a year. Why does Plymouth have such a hard time keeping a book store open????? A lament for another day.

I had to double check the title more than once because my memory kept mangling it :

Confessions of a Closet Baker

or

Conversations of a Master Baker…..

Close, but no cigar. In subsequent reprinting, it has a new title: My Life From Scratch – not poetic, but easier to remember

My Life fom Scratch

Off the top – Bullock is yes, that Bullock – this is Sandra’s younger sister, who is proud to take her Big Sista’s ‘Sandmedowns’ but is also a trained lawyer in her own right. She worked in her sister’s production company, met the man she married (and seems to still married to) and felt wholly out of place in Hollywood.

Bullock-Prado

The Book is not really a cookbook, it’s a memoir with recipes, and an essential run through of her typical workday, so the first chapter is 3 am… and at the end of the chapter there is a recipe for Golden Eggs, one of the confections that was an early hit and has a family story, too. Her website G Bakes! has many of the recipes (and more!) as well as videos.

19 chapters and 17 recipes. (3 am – 6pm from getting ready in the morning to arriving back home again at night)

She actually writes well, and her German opera singer mother, as well as her movie star sister, keep things lively. And the ins and outs of starting a business aren’t exactly dull, either, and the fish out of water aspects…..there’s plenty going on to keep your attention, but with the bakery day as the framework, it’s also pretty focused.

The recipes she shares all have backstories, too.

The recipes often call for food processor, blender and /or stand mixer, and instead of down home and Grandma versions (or in her case Oma versions), they seem like scaled back production versions.

There’s a cheese cake and a cream pie that each have a different kind of cookie crust –  one Oreo that I will definitely be trying…especially since Marnie from work made me a chocolate ice cream pie with an Oreo crust for my birthday… because if birthday’s aren’t an excuse to eat ice cream, why bother? and Oreo’s  re-imagined as pie crust is GENIUS.

There is also an apple pie where the apple filling is cooked down somewhat, hence no empty dome with skim of apples at the bottom pie later that made me wish it were still October to get really good apple…

Although I thoroughly enjoyed eating – READING – this, I wasn’t sure that I’d actually be making anything from it. Lots of butter and cream, natch, and good doses of spice and sugar and high quality chocolate but…it made me think about the kitchen, but it didn’t get me out of my chair to check and see if I had any this that or the other thing.

There’s probably a reason I do the more folksy brownies/slumps/plain ole cookies then

CONFECTIONS

I have earmarked the apple pie and the cookie crusts.

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Filed under Books, Cake, Pie

Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Adoration of the Magi. Fresco in Lower Church, Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi
And if you’re not entertaining newly arrived Wise Men, you might be the King of the Bean…
beankingGM

The Feast of the Bean King – at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich  Gabriel Metsu 17th century

Le gâteau des Rois, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1774 (Musée Fabre)

Le gateau des Rois by Jean-Baptist Greuze 1774, Musee Fabre

 

Kingcake

King Cake, 21st century, Louisiana

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Filed under Cake, Christmas

Coffee Cake

Cardamon Coffee Cake. Sour Cream Cardamom Coffee Cake.

I first had this cake maybe thirty years ago, and I remember it as if it were yesterday….and the memory still makes my mouth water.

It was a cold, crisp day in the fall…a day much like today.

Pat and Troy, two excellent bakers, were at work standing with a cake dish that had the most amazing cake smell coming from it.

I immediately became so focused on the CAKE that I can’t remember who made that particular cake, but it did inspire the other to make a second cake a few weeks later, so I had this cake twice in a month, lucky lucky lucky me…

Back to that first CAKE.

This image is from the Bakepedia website - there will be a link in a minute.

This image is from the Bakepedia website – there will be a link in a minute.

Don’t be deceived by appearances, it’s not just the look – which is that of a very nice coffee cake – but the aroma,

Oh, The AROMA!

And thus I smelled cardamom (or evidently, as  the English call it cardamon , which must be why I am going back and forth between the two spellings) for the very first time. 

Troy and Pat were discussing pre-ground cardamon versus buying the pod and grinding your own, as well as the expense….for the money, buy the pods and grind your own, it doesn’t take that much time or effort and it is 100 times better at much less then 100 times the cost.

spice-islands-ground-cardamom-2-oz-pack-of-3_1566247

Ground cardamom – sure , it’s good….but you can do better!

If you don't have a spice grinder OR a little mortar and pestle, you can use a baggie and a rolling pin (or other weight object) to grind it fresh - no excuses!

If you don’t have a spice grinder OR a little mortar and pestle, you can use a baggie and a rolling pin (or other weighty object) to grind it fresh – no excuses!

Then the conversation went to the vast amount of butter – a POUND – that goes in, as well as the vast amount of sour cream that goes in – a POUND – ….

This is not a cake to make impulsively, or for yourself.

This is a cake for an OCCASION, an  EVENT, a HOLIDAY, a GATHERING, a CROWD.

You will need a big bowl.

But first, you will need a recipe.

So did I.

It took me a while to find the recipes. Every time I got into a bookstore, I couldn’t remember WHICH of the Mollie Katzan

Mollie Katzan, the Moosewood years

Mollie Katzan, the Moosewood years

books it was, and when I got one I made soups and salads, because REALLY how is a dessert vegetarian??????Most desserts don’t have meat in them….and I had cake and cookie and dessert cookbooks to give me all the sugar and spice and everything nice recipes that I could make.

moosewood_large

This is the cookbook with the Sour Cream Cardamon Coffee Cake to Die For Recipe in it

When I finally brought the right cookbook home, and got past the Gypsy Soup – this is SUCH Gypsy Soup weather….

page from the book - I recognized Gypsy Soup at a glance!

page from the book – I recognized Gypsy Soup at a glance!

I bought the cardamon and copious amounts of sour cream and butter and got everything mise-en-place, I went to bed to get up early, make coffee and make the cake. Had to use my trusty Kitchen-Aid, my biggest Budnt pan, which I put on a baking sheet, just in case there was overflow……it’s a LONG bake, but after about 25 minutes….back to

Oh, The AROMA!

It was a downright cold day the day I baked, and I hesitated to take it out of the pan because I didn’t want it to collapse, so I popped the pan, on the baking sheet in the back seat of the car, the one that smelled like baked beans in the hot summer sun, and set off to work. Once more,

Oh, The AROMA!

and when I arrived at work, before I could find a plate big enough to turn the cake out of the pan on, I found myself  surround by curious co-workers, and conversation about cardamon being so important to Finnish Christmas cooking, and the secret ingredient  of really good Chai …..and when the cake came out, a little slumped under the weight of the sour cream and the butter and the sugar and the spice…..and there were pieces of cake and plates and all passed around and then….silence.

A moment of silence.

We don’t get many of those in the workplace, so I wasn’t sure if it was endorsement or disappointment.

NOT disappointment!

More plates, pieces saved for lunch, pieces saved for those not in quite yet…..

I’ve made this cake several times, always the same reception.  But I haven’t made it recently.

But a lunchtime conversation about cardamom with someone named Molly….cardamon flashback

I will be making this coffee cake sooner rather then later…..

Being separated from my cookbooks only makes things more interesting.

What I’ve found on the Internet:

  1. This is an Occasional Cake – crave it occasionally, make it for a special occasion. This is not an everyday  cake.
  2. There are some who would cut back on the butter and/or the sour cream or shrink the volume to fit into an 8×8 pan- IGNORE THEM. They are idiots. They have completely missed the point. If you want low fat make an angelfood cake or eat a piece of fruit.
  3. You will need a big bowl, a big pan and some big time. It’s 90 minutes, at least, in the oven alone.
  4. It will be totally worth it.

And now for the links:

  • Bakepedia – Cardomom Coffee Cake – the first of their Throwback Thursday posts, and Mollie in her own words
  • Enchanted Fig Huge and Beautiful Cardamom Coffee Cake:  Momma Diaries 2
  •  Art of Gluten-free Baking  – Coffee Cake Friday: Cardamom Coffee Cake, Gluten-Free
cardamom in flower

cardamom in flower

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Filed under Autumn, Cake, Influencers, winter