Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shaker Lemon Pie

Shaker Lemon Pie is unusual as lemon pies go. Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Tart, and Lemon Chiffon pie all call for just the juice or the juice and zest to be made into a curd or a fluffy filling. Then the filling is topped with meringue, whipped cream, or nothing at all. But Shaker Lemon pie is actual slices of lemon baked with egg so it forms a kind of a custard, and topped with a pastry crust. Interesting. I found two recipes for this and the one I prefer is from the Joy of Cooking (Sorry, Martha Stewart, I tried yours and liked this other one better). IMPORTANT: The lemons have to macerate in the sugar for several hours, so plan ahead.

This will make an 8 or 9 inch pie. For larger pies or for deep dish, double the recipe:

1 dough recipe for a two-crust pie (see recipe section)
2 large Lemons
2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp salt
4 well-beaten eggs

Grate the zest from the lemons. With a very sharp knife, cut the white inner peel from the lemons and then slice them into paper-thin slices. Don't worry if the slices fall apart a bit - they won't stay in neat slices when mixed with the eggs anyhow. Remove all seeds. Combine the lemon slices with the sugar and let stand 2-24 hours (the longer the better).  After letting the lemons sit several hours (or overnight) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a pie pan with the bottom crust of the dough. Add the beaten eggs to the lemons and stir well. Pour it into the pie crust. Cover with top crust and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Bake at 425 for ten minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and bake 45 minutes longer. (Cover the edges with tin foil if they start browning too much). Cool pie completely before slicing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1922 Devil's Food Cake

This was one of my Great-Grandmother's recipes. When I came across it, there was something so intriguing about trying a cake recipe from 1922. The original recipe calls for lard, as you can see here, but I use shortening instead. Before you bake this, see my notes below on other possible adjustments that you might choose to make.

2 C Brown Sugar
1 C Lard (you can use shortening instead)
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup sour milk (instructions below)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C fresh hot coffee
2 C flour
1/2 C cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two round 9" pans or one 9x13" pan.

For sour milk: Put 1-1/2 tsp white vinegar in a measuring cup then add milk to equal 1/2 cup. Let sit for five minutes.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the crisco and sugar together, then add eggs and mix well. Dissolve the baking soda in the sour milk and beat until frothy. Add the sour milk mixture to the sugar/egg mixture and beat to combine. Add the hot coffee a little at a time with mixer running on low. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three shifts, mixing well after each addition of flour.

Note: I wanted to print this recipe as my great-grandmother made it, since I am a fan of retro recipes and I believe in preserving family recipes in their original form. However, while I love the flavor of this cake, I find it slightly dry, so I make a couple of minor adjustments to the recipe when I bake it: I use 3 eggs instead of two, and I increase the coffee to 3/4 Cup (instead of the 1/2 cup listed).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guinness Cake

After tinkering with a few different recipes for chocolate stout cake, this is what I came up with. It is delicious and versatile. You can leave off the icing and it will taste like a rich chocolate pound cake. Or bake it as a small layer cake instead of the bundt, frosting it with chocolate or vanilla buttercream. For a different flavor, I have substituted Coffee or Coca-Cola for the Guinness. Whenever I need a dense chocolate cake, this is my go-to recipe. It is actually better the day after you bake it, when the Guinness flavor has had time to mellow.

1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup Cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
2  eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

2 Cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp cup cocoa powder
2 Tbsp Guinness

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a bundt pan with baking spray.

Bring Guinness and butter to simmer in a pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, take off heat and add cocoa powder. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs then stir in the sour cream to blend. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture gradually and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring just until there are no large lumps of flour left. Pour into bundt pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let it cool 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to cool completely.

For icing, combine the sugar, cocoa, melted butter and Guinness and stir well until it is nice and smooth. Put into a microwave safe bowl and heat the icing for about 10 seconds to get it to a nice pouring consistency. Place the cooled cake on a rack and spoon the icing over the bundt cake. You can use as much or little as your taste desires.

Sugar 'N' Spice Muffins

These muffins are easy to make and so nice on a cold winter morning. They are a great item to bring to a potluck brunch party.

1/3 Cup Shortening
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of cloves
1/2 Cup Milk

1 stick butter, melted
1/2 Cup sugar combined with 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the muffin tins.
Beat the shortening, sugar, and egg in a mixing bowl. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices, then add to the shortening mixture. Pour in the milk and beat until blended and smooth. Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full. I usually only get 10 out of this recipe, but you can fill the cups less for a full dozen if you wish. Bake about 20 minutes, until slightly browned.

For the topping, have the butter melted in a bowl and the cinnamon sugar in a separate bowl. When the muffins have cooled enough to remove them from the tins, dip the tops of each muffin in the butter then the cinnamon sugar. Place on a rack to dry. These are best served fresh, but they will still be okay the next day (though slightly drier).

Easy Cracker-Crumb Crust

Store-bought Graham Cracker Crust is so awful, and making a real cracker crumb crust is so easy. Try different varieties of crackers and cookies to make your pie interesting. Graham cracker crusts are always a favorite, but for some very sweet pies (i.e. Butterscotch) you may want a Ritz cracker crust to give it a touch of saltiness. You can also match the flavor of the crust to the pie (i.e. chocolate cookie crust for chocolate cream pie, vanilla wafer crust for vanilla cream pie). I have also used gingersnaps, almond wafers, and crunchy Lemon cookies.

1 1/2 Cups Cracker or cookie crumbs (use a food processor to get the finest crumb)
*optional: 1/4 to 1/2 Cup confectioner's sugar (see note below)
6 tablespoons melted butter

Stir ingredients together until well blended. Pat into the pie pan gently at first, to position the crumbs as evenly as possible. Then go over it, pressing more firmly to really set the crumbs in place. If you prefer, you can put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top to make it easier to press firmly without the crumbs sticking to your hands. Another method: If you have a second pie pan of the same size, you can rest it inside the crust and press firmly.

Crumb crusts can either be chilled (as for cream pies) or baked (for any kind of filling that will need to go back in the oven, like something with meringue topping). If you are chilling the crust to set it, just make sure you give it at least an hour in the fridge. For baking, bake at 350 for about ten minutes, then allow it to cool before filling.

About adding sugar to the crust:
For Graham Cracker Crust I usually add 1/4 Cup confectioner's sugar, more when making a crust from Ritz Crackers, and no sugar at all when using cookie crumbs for the crust.

Flaky Pie Crust

Some people prefer an all-butter crust for pies, but I find crusts made with a Crisco/Butter mixture to be lighter and flakier, as well as shrinking less in the baking process. My husband, who usually leaves the ends of his crust on the plate, eats ALL of the crust when it is this recipe, because it is lighter and flakier than other pie crusts. This pie crust recipe is two parts shortening to one part butter, so you get the tenderness of a shortening crust with some butter flavor. It is very versatile pie crust and easy to work with. If you are new to making crust from scratch, check out my Foolproof Pie Crust Tips.

The recipe makes a two-crust 9" pie:

2 Cups sifted All-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 Cup chilled shortening
4 Tbsp chilled butter
4 Tbsp Ice Water

Sift together Flour and Salt. Cut half of the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender, until it looks like the texture of cornmeal. Cut in the remaining shortening and butter until the dough is in pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle on the water and blend in lightly with a fork. If needed to hold the dough together, you can add more water a scant teaspoon at a time. When you can gather up the dough in a ball, stop working it. Pie Crust should be worked lightly, not kneaded like bread. Divide the dough in half, press circles between two sheets of waxed paper to make a disc. This makes chilling the dough faster and rolling it will be easier later. Put the dough in the fridge to chill for an hour or so before rolling. If not using it right away, put the dough in a large Ziploc bag and freeze it.

Then I just go ahead and roll my dough between the two pieces of waxed paper. You need to keep lifting and repositioning the paper when you do this, but it means that you add little or no extra flour to the dough.  It also makes transferring it from the board to the pie tin easier.

Peel back one side of the waxed paper and put that side down into the pie pan. Then gently peel back the top sheet of waxed paper:

Gently push the dough into the corners of the pan:
If any part of the edges breaks, you can patch it with dough from an area that has too much:
If you are making a single-crust pie, proceed below. If you are making a double-crust pie, fill
the pie and then place the top crust over the filling. Then proceed with crimping directions below.
Fold over the edges and pinch them together like this:

 Crimp edges in a fluted pattern (see below) or press them with the tines of a fork.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring is here!

These Easter/Spring cookies will be wrapped (with about four dozen others) and donated to our local library to be sold at their April fundraiser. The cookies are a standard rolled Butter Cookie with Royal Icing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crazy for Butterscotch

Butterscotch Bars

Butterscotch Pie with cracker-crumb crust

I LOVE butterscotch desserts. The rich flavor of brown sugar and butter together is heavenly, but for some reason this retro flavor just isn't around much anymore. I have several recipes for great Butterscotch desserts, which I will post in the recipe section. Butterscotch Bars are a variation on shortbread bars - they are crumbly and addictive, yet sooo easy to make! Butterscotch Pie is a rich, creamy pie that is dense with butterscotch flavor, and the slightly salty cracker crust is a perfect foil for its over-the-top sweetness.

Simple Shortbread

This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking. It is so simple to make and deliciously buttery.  It is also very versatile - you can spread raspberry jam and crumb topping on top to make raspberry bars, or add lemon zest to the dough then drizzle a lemon glaze on top for lemon bars.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1 Cup Butter (at room temperature)
2 Cups sifted all-purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter until soft. Sift together the Flour, Sugar, Salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter just until well combined. It will be crumbly. Pat into a 9x9 pan and press down. Pierce with a fork through the dough in several places. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares while warm.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

These shortbread bars are rich with the flavors of brown sugar and butter. And the best part is they are quick and easy to make!

1 Cup Butter (at room temperature)
2 Cups sifted all-purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Crumb topping:
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream the butter and vanilla just until soft. Sift together the Flour, Sugar, Salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter just until well combined. It will be crumbly. Pat into a 9x9 pan and press down. Pierce with a fork through the dough in several places. Sprinkle with crumb topping (use as little or as much topping as you'd like). Bake 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares while warm.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Seven-Minute Icing

Seven-Minute Icing, a.k.a "Boiled Icing" is simple to make and tastes fantastic. It used to be one of the most common cake frostings, so why did it fall off the radar? If you have never tasted it, I can only describe it as having a taste and consistency like whipped marshmallows. The light, billowy texture is an instant hit with cake lovers. The one drawback is that it is best eaten the same day it is made, because it will stiffen slightly after the first day. But seven-minute icing is a great alternative to rich buttercreams, and it goes particularly well with chocolate, spice or carrot cakes.

Seven-Minute Icing

There are so many recipes for this, but here is one I like:

2/3 Cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/4 Cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 Egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Cook, while stirring, over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Put egg whites in a mixing bowl. Whip on high speed about 45 seconds, or until egg whites begin to hold their shape. With the mixer on high, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup in a stream into the egg whites and continue to whip for another minute to a minute and a half. Add vanilla and whip about five more minutes, until the frosting can stand in stiff peaks. Frost cake right away.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


These days, everything you could want to bake comes in a box, can, or refrigerated tube. Cakes, muffins, breads, cinnamon rolls, you name it. The "semi-homemade" trend is big because people want to make something, but don't have a lot of time or they are intimidated by baking from scratch. But for me, baking is like therapy. I love to try out new recipes and tweak them until I get something wonderful.

When I first put away the mixes and started doing everything from scratch, I was surprised to learn that it isn't really that intimidating at all. And there are many recipes out there that don't take much longer (but taste much better) than using a mix. I often try out some recipe or technique that intimidates me, only to learn that it is actually pretty simple.

I would love to have other bakers share their comments, tips and recipes too. If you have a great recipe or a fantastic tip that I could try out and post here, let me know!