Thursday, May 7, 2015

An old recipe book has surprises

On another matter, recently I visited a friend in a nursing home in Ducktown, TN. While there she and I began talking recipes, like I usually do. As we talked, she asked me if I knew about a cook book produced by the teachers and faculty (even down to the janitors and lunchroom staff). It was a school cookbook from Epworth School. The school is actually in Epworth, Georgia. It still stands today and is still in operation in some form today.

Well, she asked if I ever made banana pudding and of course I had. Then she asked if I had ever
make lemon pudding- substituting lemon pudding for banana. I can't remember if she said she still used bananas or not. But I have to agree, this one was a new one for me. When I see her again I will ask her for more information.

After I visited her, I called another friend who has a home up here, but lives elsewhere and asked
her if she had ever heard of that cookbook. She said no and asked why. I explained about the recipe and she said she just read about it, or one similar to it. Hers had bananas in it, but lemon pudding and meringue. Sounds awful to me, but to each his own. She has collected recipes for years and was
just sitting going through a bag of them. I love doing that.

I also collect cookbooks, especially old ones, and loose recipes too. My collection has overgrown my space, but I can't make myself stop, I'm addicted. I'm afraid I don't want to be cured either.
Have any of you ever looked at some of the old cookbooks? Look at the drawings or pictures and maybe even the writing. I have some that were handwritten, then printed. And that particular book
has drawings of all the historic homes in the town. This is from my hometown, and most of the homes are still there today!

Do you need help with a recipe? Or do you need to know how to do something? Let me know...

I'm Back!

Hey guys, sorry I've been gone. I still bake and still like a challenge. Like the upcoming trip to Sevierville, TN in a couple of weeks.

It is a bbq cook-off, but it has ancillary events for Friday night and a dessert contest for Saturday after the meat categories have been turned in. To tell you the truth, these are fun for me. Even though I am a baker, even had a bakery, I never have won the dessert category. I like a challenge- like the bean category and sausage category. I've won these several times. It amazed me the first time, even the second time. But I began pushing myself even more since then, just to see how far out I can go and still win.

Since I love to bake so much, I usually try to make something sweet with the beans or sausage.
The two times I tried to make something savory with sausage, I didn't win.

The first time I made Cajun crab cakes with sausage and a spicy remoualade sauce. I expected to win because of the taste tests I did before I made it for the contest. After the contest was over, one of the judges came to talk to me and said that if I hadn't put in the little cup of sauce, I would have won.
He said that if the judges (local people) not smothered both sides of the little crab cakes with it, and instead  used it just to lightly dress the crab cake or dip it lightly, then it wouldn't have burned them so badly. After all, it was called Cajun crab cakes-what would you think that would mean? HOT!

Anyway, after another failure, I went back to my old standby- sweets. Now even sweets didn't
work for me with sausage, but on the third try, it did!

Before at another contest, I made turtles with sausage and LOST again. The judge representative came over to our site and asked if I was sure this was my sausage entry. I told him yes, the he said he wasn't sure how it would go over. I didn't think about that, no one had told me there were restrictions against using sausage for dessert. Regardless, they threw it out. Told me it was absolutely great, but improper use of sausage. How dare they!

Now when I go to contests, I ask before I make anything. This year in our contests, I'm going to concentrate on winning the dessert category. It's embarrassing to lose these when I am a baker.

Follow me and see what I make this year at Tennessee.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hello fellow bakers. I would like to extend this invitation to follow me and maybe learn some new ways to do things or maybe you're looking for a special recipe or maybe even a way to do a recipe to make it healthier for a diabetic. Whatever your reason, I'm glad you're here.

My journey to this blog began many years ago and I took  it to heart seriously. I have been collecting recipes and cookbooks since I was a preteen. I used baking to earn extra points in classes in school and whenever I could.  I have always been interested in doing things that looked interesting or appeared challenging. Here I'll show you some things I was challenged to do and sometimes I hit it on the nail and others, well let's just say I gave it a good try.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sugar Cookie recipe

Let's start our demonstration with a sugar cookie recipe. This is just a basic recipe for sugar cookies.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (opt.)
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla

 Measure and blend the dry ingredients together, (flour, salt, nutmeg).
Cream butter in mixer, then add the sugar.
Once creamed mixture looks well blended, add the egg and mix.
Now add the dry ingredients slowly until well blended.
Add vanilla and blend.

This cookie should bake up good, but sometimes there are circumstances that inhibit the cookies from turning out like you want them to. The very first thing you should to before making any recipe, is read through the recipe and assemble the ingredients. The ingredients should be at room temperature before you begin. 
Let's say that the ingredients are at room temperature and are all accounted for. We follow the step-by-step directions given. The only ingredient in question is nutmeg. Personally I don't like nutmeg, so I would leave it out. But if you like it use it, but if you want to you can substitute another spice in the same amount.

Overall, the recipe looks good. You may change several things right off. You can add nuts if you like. Or you may add chocolate chips if you like. You get my drift. The one thing that is absolute is that your vanilla (or whatever extract you may be using) is top quality, no imitation. This being a sugar cookie, I would probably up the extract to either two teaspoons or maybe even a tablespoon. A sugar cookie is synonymous with vanilla.

You need to decide if you want your cookie to be more crispy or softer. As is the cookie could go either way depending upon how long you bake it. Other than that option, I would suggest that you use 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening because that seems to produce a great textured cookie. And once the recipe is together I would look at it and try to judge if it was too soft or too stiff. The too stiff is easy, you (or the mixer) can hardly stir it or the mixer sounds like it's straining. If that is the case, you can add a little liquid. You could choose either milk, water or a fruit juice. Since this is a sugar cookie recipe, I immediately discount the fruit juice idea. Of the other two, it is just personal preference. Milk will make the cookie more cakey, and the water should have no effect at all, it will evaporate while baking. I suggest you make a couple of cookies and test bake them for texture and taste before you bake the batch.

Now if the dough is too soft (and sugar cookie dough often times is) you can either add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the texture looks and feels right. Or you may add something like oatmeal, cornstarch or even confectioners' sugar. Of the three, I would choose one of the last two. If I want the texture of the finished cookie to be tender then I would choose the cornstarch. If the texture was okay, then I would go with the confectioners' sugar because most cookie wouldn't be harmed by a little more sugar. Which ever way you go, be sure to start small. You can always add more, but it is impossible to remove it once it is in.

As for temperature of this cookie, if the dough is softer then I would start the oven at 375 or 400 degrees and watch the time closely. And don't forget to roll the dough in sugar for the look and slight crunch of the first bite.

Try this cookie and see what you think. Don't forget to use good quality ingredients and allow them to come to room temperature first. And always remember, you can always change the flavor by changing the extract. In this recipe I would probably use lemon, but not as much as the vanilla. Lemon extract is strong, so start with half the amount of the vanilla. Taste the dough before you bake it and see if the lemon is strong enough, if not, add more.

Another thing to take into consideration is the humidity of your kitchen and the outside humidity. If it is raining, sometimes it affects some doughs.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How Do You Know If a Recipe Will Work Before You Try It

How many times have you tried a recipe someone told you about only to be disappointed? It happens. I can share some things to look out for BEFORE you make the recipe. First, a little background. I have never been to culinary school, even though I tried to go. I have only taken the Wilton classes of cake decorating that you can sign up for at places like Michael's. With that said, let's consider a cookie recipe.

The first thing to look at is what type of fat is being used. Butter gives a better flavor, but it also has a tendency to make the cookie a little more crisp and has a tendency to spread a little more in the oven. Shortening doesn't have the same flavor, but it produces a softer cookie usually, and doesn't spread as much in the oven as butter. I know shortening has a bad rap, but consider this. If you compare butter to shortening, the room temperature test is equal. Both are soft at room temperature. You also have to consider the quality of the butter or shortening you use. The preferred butter for me is Land Of Lakes, unsalted. I've tried many others over the years and found this one to be stable. I used to use supermarket brands until I had cookies go flat. When I researched the store brand I found out that the manufacture had decided to make it a little cheaper by adding more water. Well, after this happened to several brands, I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of making the cookies, I would prefer they turn out right. Therefore I only use Land of Lakes for my cookies. I use store brand for other things, just not cookies. The same thing goes for your shortening. I only use Crisco, because they have proven their reliability time after time. You have to find the best shortening and butter for where you live, but do your research.

Now, all that said, I usually mix shortening and butter for my cookies. I want soft cookies always. If I want a crispy one, I bake it a little longer or flatten it more.

The next ingredient you need to look at is your eggs. I usually use large because most standard recipes specify that large be used. If however, all you have is medium, I usually use 3 medium to replace 2 large.
Next would be the dry ingredients. Be sure to use the flour specified. Most cookies require all-purpose flour.
Cake flour would make cookies too soft and fragile and bread flour would make them tough. Self rising flour usually isn't used because when you are making cookies, you need better control of your salt and baking powder.

Lastly, comes the flavoring or extract. I try not to use imitation flavors, but sometimes it is all you have. For the best flavor, especially in sugar cookies, you need an extract like Neilson-Massey. They have a top quality product. They are more expensive, but the flavor will prove to be worth it. Of course Watkins products are good too, but I think Neilson-Massey edges them out a little.

So, since you have your information about the specific ingredients, let's take a look at the overall recipe.
You  should always omit ingredients that you are allergic to or just plain don't like. When I peruse a recipe for the first time, I look at ingredients first, then amounts of ingredients. Finally I look at the directions and see if they make sense. If you look at a recipe and notice it has an ingredient you're not sure of, take a minute to look it up online. Find out if it is necessary to the recipe. For instance, once I looked over a recipe from Martha Stewart that included Creme de Cassis as one of the ingredients, but didn't know what it was, except that it was a liqueur. Since I live in a dry county, I decided to make it with a non-alcoholic substitute of something else. The cookies looked the same, but until I remade them with the Creme de Cassis, I didn't know what difference it made. I found out that it didn't make much difference to me. I don't usually drink except a little wine now and then, but they did taste different. Creme de Cassis liqueur is a currant flavored liqueur. I'm not a great fan of liqueurs anyway, but they do serve a purpose.

Tomorrow I will give you a recipe for a pound cake that is excellent, but includes an alcoholic ingredient that works great.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello fellow bakers! Welcome to my baking blog where together we can find recipes, fix recipes, and share our baking disasters and more. I've been collecting recipes and cookbooks since I was twelve and since I have gotten quite a bit older, I have quite a collection. I'll share recipes that work and even some of my failures. I find the most fun (and stress) in trying to fix someone's recipe to suit them or trying to do something I have doubts I could do, like a ladybug cake that I think turned out fairly well. See for yourself.

It wasn't perfect, but I was satisfied for a first try.
Or maybe things like Danish that I was terrified to attempt. I thought about these for actual years before I got up the nerve to make them. They turned out even better than I thought. Here are a couple of pictures of some of my Danish.