Sunday, October 17, 2010

- Time flies: Old recipes in a new home

This is the best I can do for a picture since
I don't have any red velvet cake or birthday bites on hand
I recently ran across the planning sheet for Bridget's bridal shower, which featured 60 scones among other things. I must admit that I can't recall making half the stuff on the menu (which might have something to do with the mind-altering pharmaceuticals I was taking for my back at the time), but I do recall that everything was bite-sized ... 90 fruit kabobs, 90 shrimp cocktail, 72 crab tarts, 90 Smithfield ham tarts, 30 salmon pinwheels, 90 cucumber and chive finger sandwiches, 60 artichoke-filled phyllo shells, 120 birthday bites, 90 simnel cake bars, 90 lemon curd tarts (which I do recall did not work out very well), and 1 red velvet cake (which did).

Both the birthday bites and the red velvet cake recipes evolved as a result of requests for Bridget's birthday bashes over the years. The birthday bites had their genesis in a fudge pie recipe from my college roommate and bridesmaid, Jane Tucker. And the red velvet cake was concocted after comparing umpteen internet recipes and coming up with a a version that has stood me in good stead ever since.

Now Bridget is expecting her first child in December. Guess it's time to pass on those recipes so she can start practicing for future birthday parties.

Birthday Bites

  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
Melt chocolate and butter in microwave. Cool slightly. Beat in sugar, eggs, and flour.
Scoop into 24 mini-muffin cups that have been prepped with Baker's Joy.
Bake at 350 until just set ... I start peeking at the 10 minute mark.
Best topped with whipped cream and raspberries.

Red Velvet Cake
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ounces of red food coloring (no scrimping here)
  • 1/4 cup Droste cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 scant cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbs. wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the food coloring and cocoa in a cup, then blend into the batter.
Mix in flour and buttermilk alternately by thirds. Sprinkle baking soda over batter and beat in vinegar by hand.
Put in two layer cake pans or a 9x13 baking pan prepped with Baker's Joy spray.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, being careful not to overbake ... I usually turn off the oven and open the door for about five minutes or until the cake just pulls away from the sides of the pan so it won't collapse in the middle.

Frosting (aka Butter Overload)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk (don't substitute cream, it doesn't work)
  • 1 1/4 cup butter (yes, that's two and a half sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
Whisk flour into milk and cook on the stove until thickened. Put in a bowl and place plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a "skin" from forming (very unappetizing). Cool in the fridge.
Cream room temperature butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Then beat in vanilla and milk/flour paste until light and fluffy.
Frost cake and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve (or the butter will melt off the cake)

- Bit by Bittman: My take on scones

Mark Bittman's "Minimalist" in the New York Times Dining section is the column I love to hate. All too often he comes up with a recipe that is close to, but not quite like one of my own, which makes me thump the table and declare, "I could have written that!" and/or "No, mine is better!"

The cool weather had me thinking of giving the convection oven a whirl, so my mind was already on scones. Thus it was that this week's Minimalist merited a double thump because "Of course I use the food processor!" but "How could he have left out the demerara sugar?" So then I had to make some. Life is hard.

And no, I don't have a picture of the scones ... only the twice-thumped table, since we ate them all before Don could get out the camera.

Scones (with thanks to Mom for the 1997 edition of the Joy of Cooking on which this is based)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 generous Tbs. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup heavy cream and/or half-and-half
  • Demerara sugar
Put dry ingredients in food processor, and slice in pats of butter. Process until flour resembles coarse cornmeal. Put into a mixing bowl.
Whisk egg white into cream and/or half-and-half. Pour 3/4 of the egg/cream mixture over the flour mixture and blend gently with a large fork. Add more cream if dough appears at all dry.
Scrape out dough with a rubber spatula and place on a lightly floured pastry cloth. Press gently to desired thickness (a generous half inch or so). 
Cut into small rounds (1 1/2"), place on an ungreased aluminum sheet pan, brush with cream and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
Bake in a 400 degree convection oven for 7 minutes. Then check and bake an extra minute or until scones are lightly brown on the bottom. Let cool on sheet. 
Worthy toppings include clotted cream, mascarpone or double Devon, plus lemon curd or strawberry jam.