Archive for the ‘Cooking with Kids’ Category

Heart-y Cookies

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

heart cookiesweb

 
Happy Valentine’s Day!
 
Naturally, I have something chocolaty for this month’s installment in my Twelve Cookies of Christmas series.
 
Today’s chocolate sugar cookies were cut into hearts (although they could certainly be trees or stars or reindeer in December) and iced with a basic butter icing.
 
They tasted wonderful.
 
Royal icing would have been prettier and easier to transport than the butter version we used on the cookies—but royal is harder to make and harder to keep. It has to be used right away or it dries out.
 
I wanted my icing simple and foolproof to use because I had a vision of a bunch of children happily decorating and eating cookies—a vision that came true.
 
cookie joyweb
 
My nephew Michael and his friends in Virginia have been snow crazy this week. No one has been to school. Sleds and snowballs have replaced electronic games (well, almost).
 
We called around the neighborhood a couple of days ago and asked whether anyone would like to take a break from the snow and come decorate cookies.
 
We ended up with eleven joyful children gathered around the kitchen table slathering icing and tossing sprinkles around.
 
The resulting cookies were heavily decorated. (We actually ended up making a double batch of icing to make sure there was enough.)
 
And they were VERY popular. The pictures above and below were taken with a cell phone (my battery ran out of steam at the critical moment) so they’re a little fuzzy, but you can see that our gang had a really good time. One of them was camera shy so we have only ten in the group photo.
 
If you enjoy these cookies half as much as the kids did, you’ll be happy indeed………
 
kidswithcookiesweb
 
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
 
Ingredients:
 
for the cookies:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
 
for decoration:
 
1 recipe (2 if you MUST) butter icing (see below)
lots of festive sprinkles
 
Instructions:
 
Cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the baking powder, salt, and cocoa, followed by the vanilla. Stir in the flour.
 
Chill the resulting dough, covered, for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
 
On a nonstick surface (a silicone mat or a marble board) pat the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut it into the desired shapes.
 
Bake the cookies on parchment- or silicone-lined cookie sheets for 10 to 12 minutes. They should be solid but not rock hard.
 
Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before removing them to a rack to cool. Let them cool completely before frosting them with butter frosting (see below) and sprinkling the heck out of them.
 
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
 
Butter Icing
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
confectioner’s sugar to taste (probably between 1 and 2 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla
milk if necessary to stir
a couple of drops of food coloring (optional—I used my sister-in-law’s Wilton food coloring, which was excellent; I’ll have to get some!)
 
Instructions:
 
Beat the butter until it is fluffy; then add confectioner’s sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Add milk and/or more confectioner’s sugar until the icing is spreadable.
 
Truffle wasn't allowed to eat any cookies, but she loved being with the kids anyway. They are all her Valentines.

Truffle wasn't allowed to eat any cookies, but she loved being with the kids anyway. They are all her Valentines.

 

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Wacky Cake

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Michael with cake web

 
 
February may be the shortest month of the year, but it hosts a disproportionate number of holidays.
 
This month we are celebrating Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, the Chinese New Year, and Purim. (I’ve probably left out a few!)
 
We commemorate the birthdays of quite a few historical figures, from Charles Dickens on February 7 to Handel on February 23, not to mention Gypsy Rose Lee on February 9 and Susan B. Anthony on February 15.
 
And as a food writer I always love the nutty food holidays to be found in this month. These include National Indian Pudding Day on February 17, Cream-Cheese Brownie Day on February 10, National Tortilla Chip Day on February 24, and Surf & Turf Day on February 29.
 
(I guess most of us can afford that last holiday only once every four years.)
 
Clearly, despite the chill in the air there is much to celebrate this month.
 
In today’s post, looking forward to Valentine’s Day, I offer an amazingly simple chocolate-cake recipe sent in by Mattenylou, the blogger responsible for the charming On Larch Lane.
 
This “Wacky Cake” dates back to the early 20th century. It’s considered wacky because it includes a little vinegar and because all of the ingredients get dumped together in one bowl and mixed simply with a wooden spoon.
 
It includes neither eggs nor butter so you don’t have to wait for any ingredients to come to room temperature. (It’s dairy free, too—until you frost it!)
 
Reference librarian Lynne Olver, who runs the wonderful Food Timeline web site, suggests that Wacky Cake (a close relative of Dump Cake and Crazy Cake) first saw the light of day in its present form in the 1940s.
 
Olver adds that similar cakes first appeared during World War I, when (as in the Depression and during World War II) fresh ingredients were scarce.
 
Mattenylou originally sent the recipe to my nephew Michael to make for my birthday in December. She told him that she used to bake it every year for her mother, whose birthday was December 23 like mine, using Christmas-tree shaped pans.
 
Things got a little frantic this past December, as they so often do at that time of year, so Michael and I decided to save the recipe for February.
 
We tossed a little pink icing on top and threw a bunch of red and pink sprinkles on the cake (Michael is a whiz with sprinkles!)–and a Valentine cake was born.
 
Mattenylou points out that her recipe can be halved to put in a 9-by-9-inch pan (or a round single-layer pan). She adds that if one mixes up the dry ingredients and stores them in a bag one has a quick, easy cake mix to use when needed.
 
My family loved the cake, which was terrifically moist and rose beautifully. We certainly couldn’t taste the vinegar!
 
spinklingweb 
 
Wacky Cake
 
Ingredients:
 
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons vinegar (I used cider vinegar, but white distilled would do as well)
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cups water
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.
 
In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.
 
Make three wells in the combined dry ingredients. Pour the vanilla into one, the vinegar into the second, and the oil into the third. Pour the water over everything and stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are wet and everything is thoroughly combined.
 
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake the layers until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 30 to 35 minutes).
 
Frost as desired and decorate with festive sprinkles. Serves 12 to 16.
 
Mattenylou’s Cooked Frosting
 
Here is the recipe for the fluffy frosting Mattenylou puts on her Crazy Cake. We liked it but would probably use a standard buttercream or cream-cheese frosting another time; this one takes a LONG time to mix!
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Cook the milk and flour until the milk bubbles and is thick and smooth, stirring constantly with wooden spoon or whisk. Set the mixture aside and let it cool.
 
Beat the shortening, butter, sugar, and vanilla until they are blended.
 
Add the cooled milk/flour mixture and beat well, for 10 minutes.
 
Add a few drops of green (for Christmas) or red (for Valentine’s Day) food coloring and beat until fluffy. This may take up to 15 minutes, depending on your mixer. The frosting should be fluffy and hold peaks.
 
Ices 1 layer cake.
 
wackyweb
 
Don’t forget: You have until Friday night to enter the drawing for a tin of gourmet hamentaschen from Kosher.com.
 
Just leave a comment on this post (or post a tweet on Twitter) that mentions YOUR favorite food holiday and provides a link to the Kosher.com web site.
 
Good luck….

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Snow Day

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Sous Chefs Anna (left) and Mavourneen (right)
Sous Chefs Anna (left) and Mavourneen (right)

 

I used to jump up and down when I looked outside and saw fresh snow on the ground. Once I got old enough to shovel and drive through snow it lost a lot of its charm for me. I still like being reminded that it can be a source of joy and play, however.

 

My mother and I are visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in northern Virginia to get away from the ice and snow. Last week the snow followed us here for a couple of days, much to the delight of young Michael and his friends.

 

Unplanned snow days are perfect holidays for kids. The kids don’t have anywhere to go. (In fact, in many cases they CAN’T go anywhere.) They don’t have any extra homework. And they have mounds of cold, malleable snow to slide around in and hurl at each other.

 

Michael and his friends spent most of the morning last Wednesday outdoors trading sleds, throwing snowballs, and generally frolicking. By mid-afternoon some of them were beginning to long for a little indoor activity. I asked for volunteers to help make Boston Cream Pie. Several kids offered to EAT the pie (and in fact they all ended up getting some), but my most stalwart helpers were Michael’s neighbors and friends Anna Aguto and Mavourneen Carr.

 

The girls signed up, of course, to bake a “pie”—and they did look a little surprised to discover that Boston Cream Pie is a cake (so named because pie pans were more common than cake pans in the 19th century, and because the recipe supposedly originated in Boston’s Parker House Restaurant). They were terrific sous chefs nonetheless.

 

I had made the filling (which has to chill) the day before, but the girls helped with every other step of the process—mixing, baking, filling the pie, creating the glaze, and applying the glaze. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner they went just a little wild with heart-shaped sprinkles on top, but the final product was lovely, festive, and consumed before sundown.

 

I hope we cook again soon. In the meantime, here is our recipe. The filling and glaze are from Dede Wilson’s fun new Birthday Cake Book (published by Harvard Common Press). 

This is all that remains of the snow in Virginia........

This is all that remains of the snow in Virginia........

Boston Cream Pie

Ingredients:

 

for the filling:

 

1-1/4 cups milk (whole milk or lesser milk mixed with cream)

1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
2-1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

 

for the cake:

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

 

for the glaze:

 

3/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
7-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, VERY finely chopped

 

Instructions

 

for the filling:

 

Place the milk in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat; remove it from the heat and keep it warm.

 

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Whisk in the flour, cornstarch, and salt until smooth.

 

Pour about 1/4 of the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking gently. Add the remaining milk, and whisk to combine. Immediately pour the mixture back into the pan, and cook over low-medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, whisk vigorously and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to keep the filling from scorching. It should be thick enough to mound when dropped from a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

 

Allow the filling to cool, stirring occasionally to release heat. When it is almost at room temperature, scrape it into an airtight container, press some plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming, snap on the cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

 

for the cake:

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch-round cake pans.

 

In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the sugar, mixing well. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

 

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add them alternately with the milk to the butter batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

 

Wash your beaters so that they are clean for the egg whites! In a small bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks fold. Fold them into the batter, and pour the batter into the pans.

 

Bake the layers for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool the layers completely.

 

for the glaze:

 

Place the cream and corn syrup in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate in. Cover the pot and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. The warm cream will melt the chocolate. Gently stir the ganache until smooth.

 

for assembly:

 

Place one cake layer on a large serving platter. Spread the filling evenly over the layer, and top it with the other layer.

 

Pour the chocolate glaze on top. Gently spread it toward the edges. Allow it to drop down the sides. You will have a little too much glaze, but your helpers will help you eat it.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (up to 6 hours) before serving. It is best eaten on the day on which it is made. Serves 8 to 10.

 

pieweb3

 

Cooking with Sugar

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

michael-and-tinky-stir-web

          My nephew Michael loves having my mother and me in the house. Although I’d like to attribute his joy to our adorable personalities, I’m afraid that the real lure is, in Michael’s words, “cooking with sugar.” We tend to make delicious sweet things for and with him, particularly during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

          As far as I’m concerned, the sugar we cook with is really our boy. If you haven’t cooked with children lately, grab yours or go out and borrow one and head right into the kitchen. Kids remind us that sifting, kneading, and stirring can all be forms of play. Young cooks tend to make a bit of a mess in the kitchen, but grownups almost always end up smiling as they mop up. Moreover, the junior chefs are usually game to help erase the marks of their work in the kitchen, especially if bribed with a home-made treat.

          Last Monday, Michael, his mom Leigh, my mother Jan, and I all got together to work on one of Michael’s cub-scout tasks, reading and following through on a recipe. Naturally, he chose to make something sweet–butterscotch brownies. This recipe is a great starter for kids because it takes only 15 to 20 minutes to get into the oven, and all of the prep work can be done in the saucepan with which you melt butter at the very beginning.

          Michael proudly took the brownies to his scout meeting that evening. He did save one or two for home consumption, however!

michael-brownie-web

Butterscotch Brownies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter

1 pound light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

Instructions:
          Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with aluminum foil, and grease the foil as well as you can (it’s a little awkward to work with).

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, stirring frequently to keep it from burning. Remove it from the heat.

          Using a wooden spoon, stir in the brown sugar, being careful to crush any lumps in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, and then stir in the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour, followed by the vanilla.

         Spoon the batter into the prepared pan (the batter will be thick so you’ll need a spatula), and bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are ALMOST firm to the touch. Allow them to cool on a rack; then slice them into squares. Makes about 32 squares (depending on how big you cut them!).

Nana's Birthday Cake

MORE Cooking with Sugar: Nana's Birthday Cake