Archive for October, 2009

Teri’s Pumpkin Cake

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Teri's Pumpkin Cake web

 
Before I get to today’s recipe, I’d like to remind readers about my beloved Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, scheduled for TOMORRROW—Halloween!
 
Anyone within shouting distance of western Massachusetts should definitely come (and perhaps enter the festival’s pudding contest). This event offers food, music, and lots of fun.
 
You may come as you are, of course, but there WILL be a prize for best costume for those who feel like dressing up.
 
AND I wanted to mention that we have a winner in the drawng for the book The Perfect Pumpkin. Congratulations to Madge Solomon of Falls Church, Virgnia! I hope to have another drawing soon.
 
Now, on to a perfect Halloween recipe. This cake is ideal for the season—moist, full of good things (a treat), and a little surprising (a treat).
 
I learned to make it from my graduate-school friend Teri Tynes. Teri is smart, vivacious, and just plain fun. Her award-winning blog, Walking Off the Big Apple, is the thinking woman’s (and yes, the thinking man’s) guide to New York.
 
Teri uses her vast knowledge of American culture and history to view the city through the prisms of art, literature, fashion, and photography.
 
I love to make her pumpkin cake at this time of year and think of her.
 
The Cake: 
 
Ingredients: 
 
1-1/2 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
3-1/8 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups mashed pumpkin
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins
 
My friend Chas grew this lovely little pumpkin.

My friend Chas grew this lovely little pumpkin.

 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (or spray it with Baker’s Joy). Mix the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Combine 3 cups of the flour and the other dry ingredients and add them to the oil and sugar along with the pumpkin. (Reserve the remaining flour.) Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
 
In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/8 cup flour with the nuts and raisins. Add them to the batter. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Frost with raisin frosting. Serves 10 to 12.
 
Teri’s Secret Raisin Frosting
 
This icing is a bit tricky. It can almost burn if you don’t stir carefully. It looks a little strange and lumpy as it goes on the cake, but the texture of the final product is one of its joys. I love the fact that it’s SUPPOSED to look messy since most of my baked goods look that way anyway.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup raisins (plus a few more if you can’t resist; I usually just throw them in impulsively)
1 generous handful of flaked, sweetened coconut
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 12 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the coconut and raisins. Let the frosting stand for a minute (or maybe 2 or 3) to cool slightly. Spoon and spread it generously over your pumpkin cake.  
 
I was hoping to look exotic and gorgeous in these glasses, like Halle Berry in "Catwoman." Instead, I'm afraid I look more like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard"--creepy and middle aged. In any case, I wish you a Happy Halloween!

I was hoping to look exotic and gorgeous in these glasses, like Halle Berry in "Catwoman." Instead, I'm afraid I look more like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard"--creepy and middle aged. Oh, well ... Halle, Gloria, and Tinky all wish you a Happy Halloween!

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Autumn Apple Pizza

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

apple pizza web

 
At this time of year I like to put apples in just about everything. So I decided to try baking an apple pizza.
 
My family was skeptical about the idea and made me order a traditional tomato pie as a backup just in case the apple version was a dud. I was proud to note that my pizza disappeared long before the pizzeria product.
 
Another time I think I’ll try throwing a little fresh rosemary or sage into the apple mixture. It was pretty flavorful this way, however. For those of you who can’t eat cheddar cheese, I recommend substituting a little goat feta.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 pound commercial pizza dough (make your own if you want to; I was feeling lazy!)

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

butter as needed for sautéing

2 apples, cored (but not peeled) and sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

cooking spray for pan

a tiny bit of extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the pan

1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

4 pieces cooked bacon, cut or ripped into tiny pieces (optional)

  
tambweb
 
Instructions:
 
Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and preheat the oven as indicated in your dough instructions.
 
Sauté the onion slices in a little butter, starting with high heat and then reducing it to low. Stir occasionally and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions have caramelized.
 
Toss in the apple slices (and a little more butter if it is absolutely necessary) and cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes. The apples should soften only slightly but should be lightly coated with onion/butter juice.
 
Remove the apple mixture from the heat and toss in the salt.
 
Roll and/or stretch the pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan).
 
Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray and oil it even more lightly. Place the dough on the pan. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dough; then spread on the apple-onion mixture. Toss on the bacon pieces if you’re using them. (We were serving half meat eaters and half vegetarians so we put bacon on half of the pizza. Everyone was happy.)
 
Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven (old) this took 10 to 12 minutes, but do check frequently. You won’t want your work of art to burn. Makes one medium pizza.
 
 
Truffle loves pizza--and fall--so she was happy with her tiny taste of apple pizza.

Truffle loves pizza--and fall--so she was happy with her tiny taste of apple pizza.

 

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Teacher Bread

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Teacherbread web

 
This moist, sweet bread makes a better bribe than a plain old apple. I was going to try it with raisins or dried cranberries (which you may certainly do), but my nephew Michael cast his vote for apricots.
 
The bread we made together goes perfectly with mulled cider.
 
My Familiar is getting ready for Halloween. Ladies and gentlemen, the lovely and talented Lorelei Lee.

My Familiar is getting ready for Halloween. Ladies and gentlemen, the lovely and talented Lorelei Lee.

 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup canola oil
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour
2 cups grated apples
1 cup cut-up dried apricots
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the oil and sugar and beat in the eggs.
 
Beat in the baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder. Stir in the salt. Stir in the apples, apricots and nuts (if desired).
 
Bake in greased loaf pans for 45 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
 
Makes 2 loaves.
I'm getting ready for Halloween myself!

I'm getting ready for Halloween myself!

 

 
Don’t forget: readers have until tonight at midnight to register for the drawing for a copy of the book The Perfect Pumpkin. All active email subscribers to this blog will be eligible for the drawing. If you’re not a subscriber and would like to sign up, please click on the link below.
 

Apple-Sage Cheese Spread

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

sage and cheddar web

 
I am FINALLY back to apples, thanks to my friends at the West County Independent. My apple recipes and photos were lost in the most recent Great Tinky Computer Debacle, but the wonderful Ginny and Kim have retrieved some of them from an article I wrote for the paper.
 
So–here is the apple-cheddar spread I promised a couple of weeks ago. It is creamy and refreshing on crackers or even on apples. If you don’t have fresh sage, you may use dried, but fresh is best.
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
a small amount of butter for sautéing
1 medium apple, cored and sliced but not peeled
4 ounces (1/2 brick) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (packed) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 to 10 fresh sage leaves, depending on taste, finely chopped (plus additional unchopped sage for garnish)
 
Instructions:
 
In a small, nonstick frying pan, sauté the onion pieces in the butter until they start to soften.
 
Add the apple pieces. Cook and keep stirring until they are slightly soft as well.
 
Beat the cheeses together with a mixer or a wooden spoon. Stir in the apples, onion pieces, and chopped sage.
Place the mixture in a bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend; then bring the spread to room temperature before serving.
 
Makes just under two cups, more or less, depending on the size of your apple.
 
witch1webtry
 
Don’t forget: readers have until Monday night to register for the drawing for a copy of the book The Perfect Pumpkin. All active email subscribers to this blog will be eligible for the drawing. If you’re not a subscriber and would like to sign up, please click on the link below.
 

Night Kitchen Chai Panna Cotta

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

pannacotta web

 
The atmosphere in the Night Kitchen is serene.
 
Perhaps the Sawmill River calms the owner/chef, Max Brody, and his colleagues. The restaurant is perched above the water in an old gristmill in Montague, Massachusetts.
 
Perhaps Max is just a peaceful sort of person. The colors he has chosen for the restaurant—soft browns, natural wood tones, and shades of rose—gently gladden the heart. His food does as well.
 
Max grew up loving and preparing food. “I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 10 years old,” he told me recently while sitting at a riverside table in his dining room. “Friends of my parents owned a little bistro. I did my duty as a dishwasher for many years.”
 
He worked his way up through the ranks in American restaurants and continued his culinary and life education with three years cooking and traveling overseas. One of his favorite gigs during this period of his life found him in a restaurant in a former monastery in Tuscany owned by a guy named Lorenzo de’ Medici.
 
I told him I thought Lorenzo the Magnificent lived in the 15th century, and he informed me that there is now ANOTHER Lorenzo who frequents culinary rather than political circles.
 
Max learned from chefs in India and Nepal as well as those in Europe and the U.S.
 
He returned to the United States to cement his cooking expertise with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. He and his wife, an elementary school teacher, settled here in the Pioneer Valley when she pursued graduate work at Smith College. Max ended up running the executive dining room at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Springfield.
 
The pair lived in Montague. When the space in which the Night Kitchen now resides became available five and a half years ago Max saw a new future opening up almost literally in front of him.
 
“I think I just kind of got tired of working for other people,” he told me. “While there’s much more responsibility [owning a restaurant] it’s also more fulfilling and gratifying. I find it more worthwhile.”
 
I asked Max how he would characterize his cuisine. He didn’t actually definite it, describing it as eclectic.
 
“I didn’t want to limit what we could cook to a certain cuisine,” he explained. “I try to take different things from different areas, to use different flavor combinations while keeping everything simple.” He noted that he also likes to make his dishes appropriate to the season.
 
The Night Kitchen is open only four evenings a week (Thursday through Sunday). Max noted that he has a one-year-old child at home whom he wants to see. “It’s a matter of trying to keep [the business] sustainable,” he said. “The restaurant industry is known for burning people out.”
 
He noted that his business has remained steady despite the economy. “We haven’t raised our prices in two years, and I think people appreciate that. Nobody leaves hungry, and people appreciate the value.”
 
Max speculated that something about the restaurant, perhaps the river flowing beside it, is conducive to romance. The Night Kitchen has had seven weddings scheduled in October and has seen its fair share of proposals as well. “We have people coming back time after time. It’s memorable,” he said.
 
The pudding Max Brody made for me at the Night Kitchen was certainly memorable—an Italian panna cotta (cream custard) that combined local sweet potatoes and fruit with South Asian spices. The recipe, which involves tea bags, sounds odd, but the final product comes together beautifully. It’s creamy, aromatic, and easy to cook and eat.
 
I’ll be back soon with another recipe, and I promise it won’t be for pudding! Meanwhile, here is Max’s delectable dessert.
 
The Old Mill

The Old Mill

 
The Panna Cotta
 
Max Brody uses sheet gelatin for this recipe. He knew that most home cooks wouldn’t have it in the house so we substituted packaged gelatin in this recipe. If you happen to have access to sheets, you don’t need to worry about blooming them; just add two sheets to the custard when asked to add the gelatin and water in the recipe.
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 package gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2-1/2 cups heavy cream (Max uses Mapleline)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup mashed, pureed sweet potatoes
2 chai-flavored tea bags (such as Celestial Seasonings)
3/4 cup crème fraîche
 
Instructions:
 
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set it aside to “bloom” (dissolve) for 5 to 10 minutes.
 
In a saucepan combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Add the sweet potatoes and then the tea bags.
 
Bring the liquid just to the boil (watch it, or it will boil over!). Remove the pan from the heat. Take out the tea bags, and whisk in the crème fraîche.
 
Stir the gelatin into the water so that it dissolves completely. Slowly whisk the gelatin water into the panna cotta until it is completely incorporated.
 
Grease 6 6-ounce silicone molds with nonstick spray. Divide the gelatin mixture among them.
 
Chill for at least two hours, or until set; then unmold and serve. Max likes to garnish these little custards with fruits, nuts—whatever takes his fancy. The day I visited he pressed peach slices in sugar and browned them in butter in a grill pan for extra flavor and texture. Now that peaches are out of season, I think I’d use apples.
 
Serves 6.
 
Sawmill River web
 
Don’t forget: readers have until Monday night to register for the drawing for a copy of the book The Perfect Pumpkin. All email subscribers to this blog will be eligible for the drawing. If you’re not a subscriber and would like to sign up, please click on the link below.