Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Platter of Pancakes and Blueberriest Blueberry Syrup


I've eaten a fair number of pancakes along the way, have tried a number of different recipes, and never complained.  It's pancakes, right?  They're all good.  But this recipe is very good.  Good enough to eat without syrup or butter.  Good enough to eat while they're so hot they'll burn your tongue good.  So good, this is my go-to recipe for pancakes.  When I crave pancakes, these are the ones I'm dreaming of.

I guess what makes them so good is they have more sugar than other recipes and less salt, so if you like a sweeter pancake, you'll like these.

However, a little syrup does go so nicely, and I want to share my favorite blueberry syrup of all time.  I've made it for years and have never strayed from it.  I swear, the blueberry flavor in this is so vibrant it's even blueberrier than fresh blueberries.  Doggone it's good!



SWEET, FLUFFY PANCAKES

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Melt the butter and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a small, separate bowl mix the egg and milk together.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Mix together, pulling dry ingredients from the sides to the wet center, until just combined.  Batter will probably still be slightly lumpy, but that's okay, as long as everything is mixed in.
Allow the batter to rest a bit while your greased pan or griddle is heating over medium high heat.
Once heated, use a 1/4 cup scoop, measure batter onto the griddle.
Cook each side until light golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

BLUEBERRIEST BLUEBERRY SAUCE

In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, a good pinch of ground nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.  (That equates to about 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg and even less than that for the salt.)

Stir in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  Cook and stir until mixture becomes clear and thick and bubbly, about two minutes or so.

Add one cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and cook and stir, bringing mixture back to the boil and the blueberries begin to burst.

Remove from heat and add one tablespoon lemon juice and stir.

Serve warm.

COOK'S NOTES:  The first time I made these, I burnt them.  Yep, sure did but they were still good.  I was overzealous with the heat.  It's my thought that since these tend to be a little thicker pancake, they needed to be on a lower heat to give the pancake time enough to cook through.  Even these aren't as quite as golden brown and picture perfect as I would've wished, we loved them anyway.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Frost-on-Apples Apple Cider Cake


I had promised myself that I would not become silly over this cake.  I mean it's just a simple breakfast cake after all, right?  It wasn't going to be a big deal.  Until...

I took that first bite and all the scents and aromas and memories of a New England autumn flooded my mouth and I was transported back to a time of golden meadows and golden days, frosty mornings and those first crisp apples. 

Our local library used to have an apple cider doughnut and coffee bazaar.  Piles of fresh doughnuts delighted the eye and the warm scents of spices and cider and steaming coffee and hot chocolate filled the air.  Community members would gather 'round to exchange pleasantries while stuffing their mouths with big mouthfuls of doughnuts and hot drink.

So, I found this keeper recipe on a blog I have been following for years, The Circle B Kitchen, and have made several of her recipes and once again her recipe did not disappoint.  I followed it as she wrote it, and I would not change a thing.  Well I did change the name of it, because when I looked mine and I was admiring the simple sugar coating, all I became wistful and thought, geesh, that looks like the old apple orchard we had after the first frost.

There's a few steps to this, none of them difficult, but read through so that those ingredients that need to be at room temperature are ready and waiting for you.  Take the time to enjoy the experience, maybe enjoy the luxury of a little reminiscence.  Reward awaits.

APPLE CIDER CAKE


1 large apple (or 2 small), about 8 ounces total, peeled, cored, diced
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup milk (at room temperature)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

CINNAMON SUGAR COATING

6 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Position rack to middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease Bundt pan well, making sure to get all the crevices and the middle tube.

In a medium-sized saucepan add the apple cider and chopped apples and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat a notch to medium and allow mixture to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the apples are easily mashable with a fork.  Letting this cook about few minutes longer (say five to eight minutes) will deepen the apple flavors.

Remove from heat and allow to cool in the pan.  Once cool enough to process, puree with a stick blender or mini food processor if you want something smooth.  I used a regular ole pastry fork and gave it a good mash up.  Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the puree and combine with the milk; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and mace; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the 1/2 cup softened butter with the two sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Decrease mixer speed to low, and slowly add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the apple puree mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Use a rubber spatula as necessary to scrape down batter to ensure it's all combined.  Increase mixer speed to  medium and beat until just combined, about 20 seconds.  Add vanilla and beat about 10 seconds, just to combine.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit 35 to 45 minutes, rotating cake midway during baking, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Transfer cake to cooling rack and allow to rest for about ten minutes before inverting directly on the cooling rack.  Coat the cake with the sugar coating while cake is still warm.

For the cinnamon sugar coating, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  I used a pastry brush to gently work the coating over the entire cake, and once the cake was covered, any remainder was generously sprinkled over the top.

COOK'S NOTES:  This cake keeps well for several days if well covered and flavors only get better.
I rarely have unsalted butter in the house so I use 3/4 teaspoon salt with the difference being made up more or less in the butter.  If you don't have mace, you can just increase the amount of nutmeg used.  I happen to have it in my cabinet, so used it plus the higher amount of nutmeg and don't regret it, grins.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Onion Fritters, Onion Pancakes, Onion Patties - A Rose by Any Other Name

Onion Fritters







































Love onions?  Love onion rings?  If you are a fan of onion rings but don't like the bother of slicing, separating, and battering individual onion rings, this recipe may be for you.  If when you bite into a ring, you inadvertently pull the onion from its coating and you have a dangling ring down the front of your chin and a handful of batter in your hand, this recipe may be for you.

With this recipe you have forkfuls of  onion flavor in golden batter with every bite and no embarrassing dangling ring, grins.  These fritters go well with just about any roasted meat of course.  A friend of mine loves these so much he wants to use them in place of hamburger buns.  That's a little much in my mind, but I understand it.  Made smaller, I think they would make a mighty tasty appetizer.

ONION FRITTERS

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar ***
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-2 teaspoons salt (according to taste)
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
Oil for frying

Mix together the dry ingredients and then add the milk; the batter will be quite thick.

Add onions and mix thoroughly.

Heat about a half an inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Drop batter by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil, using a second spoon if necessary to scoop it from the tablespoon.  Flatten slightly.  Brown on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.  Serve warm.  Best eaten soon after they're made.

COOK'S NOTES:  Be careful!  The oil is hot and you can get a splatter burn (as me how I know this).  After scooping the batter into the hot oil, you can gently reshape the batter if you're quick. Just take a spoon or a spatula and push the batter in the direction you want it to go. 

These do not reheat well but then I can't think of anything fried that does.

***A note about the sugar called for in this recipe.  I happen to think it's a perfect addition.  Someone tried the recipe and said it was too sweet.  So you might want to consider the amount of sugar, reducing it or eliminating it, especially if you're using a sweeter onion like Vidalia or Walla-Walla.  I was using regular plain ole yellow onions, so I think the sugar was a good addition, but then I'm a fan of sweet.




Saturday, December 23, 2017

Good Biscuits



My grandmother lived a humble life, ascetic by modern standards.  She didn't have much and she didn't ask for much.  She worked every day of her life until she couldn't, prayed daily until she forgot the words, head reverently bowed, knobby, wrinkled hands clasped in devotion, worn Bible in her lap, dog-eared from years of reading.

Early on in her marriage, my grandfather "took to logging" and settled her down in what she called The Camp.  She never described it in detail to me to me but since it was at the midst of the Great Depression, I'm pretty sure it was stark, no indoor plumbing and no electricity.  It was wood stoves, kerosene lanterns and outhouses.  And wide wood pine plank floors that she said she'd mop every day with bleach until they were white.

While my grandfather was out logging with the men-folk, sweating and swearing all day, heaving and hawing, two-man saws ringing in the dark woods, she'd be preparing supper for them. These were the days when bread of some sort was served at every meal, the days before we were knew that carbohydrates were bad, and white flour even worse.  Sliced bread was still a novelty and a luxury for her threadbare existence, so every day she made some kind of bread or biscuits.

The Great Depression, thankfully, came to an end.  She bought sliced bread, marveled at its convenience, and I thought she was being funny. But on Sundays, when we went to visit her in her little white house that my grandfather built for her, she'd make up a big pot of chicken fricassee, mashed potatoes, peas, and fluffy, tender biscuits that spilled off the platter.

Bless her heart, she tried to teach me how to make biscuits:  a pile of flour on the pastry board, shortening, baking powder, salt, a little milk.  No measuring, just feeling it.  I didn't get the biscuit-making gene I'm afraid.  I'm thinking that more than one of her prayers might've been for me.

Anyway, fast forwarded through years of biscuits in a can and more failed attempts, to the day I found this recipe. I'm not going to kid you, these are not the biscuits of my childhood.  There isn't going to be any biscuit on this earth that's as good as my grandmother's, smiles, but I'm satisfied.  Gosh, these are good with hamburger gravy, chipped beef gravy, chicken fricassee, even good as a base for strawberry shortcake.  The secret is not to overwork the dough; stop mixing when it all comes together and gently roll it out.  You'll be rewarded with nice, tender, flaky biscuits, slightly sweet, and golden deliciousness.

I'm pretty sure Gram is smiling down on me from Heaven, nodding approvingly, praising God for prayers answered.

Never Fail Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced (not margarine)
3/4 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using two knives, cut the cold, diced butter into the dry ingredients.  (You're looking to cover the flour with butter, which is a different thought than covering the butter with flour.)  Anyway, cut the butter in until you get something about the size of coarse oatmeal.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk.  Stir until mixture just begins to pull together and dump out onto a floured surface.

Press dough together until about 3/4 of an inch thick.  Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out about 8 biscuits, gently gathering up scraps of dough to shape into biscuits.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.



COOK'S NOTES:  The cream of tartar in this is important to this recipe;  it's what makes the biscuit tender.  People have said they omit it, but I'm suggesting you don't.  It may seem like an extravagance to have it, but once you have it, you'll find it as an ingredient in beautiful soft sugar cookies, for example, as well as other recipes.

You can use a glass to cut the biscuits out, but a good biscuit cutter made for that purpose is a better choice.  A glass can compress the edges, making the biscuits less light and flaky, but go with what you have.  No judgment from me.  When I've been in a hurry (or couldn't find my biscuit cutter!) I've patted this out into a rectangle and just used a sharp knife to cut them into squares.  Works a charm.

Lastly, I saw this hint in an old Fanny Farmer or Farmer's Journal cookbook years ago, and I think it bears sharing.  Instead of rolling or patting the dough out to the 3/4 inch thickness, go a little thinner and fold the dough over in half on itself and then cut the biscuits out and bake.  This will make it easier to split the biscuit in half at the table.