Tag Archives: Marion Cunningham

MILE-HIGH STRAWBERRY PIE

One thing I have learned during the stove outage is that it is very difficult to make dessert without a stove and oven. Not impossible, of course, but difficult. You need to bake cakes and most pie crusts. Fillings sometimes need to be cooked on the stove. Even the custard for ice cream needs to be cooked. Since the breakdown, I have made a cheese plate with grapes and sliced pears. The grandchildren thought that was too fancy and not sweet.  I have served ice cream from the store, but that doesn’t count. This week was my turn for dessert for Sunday family dinner. I looked through several recipe books but had difficulty in finding a cooking-free recipe that sounded delicious. This comes from Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984). I have freed the original recipe from the oven by using a packaged graham cracker crust from the grocery shelf. I have also added gelatin so that the filling holds its shape. Key tips that don’t appear in the recipe and that you should follow include making certain that you beat the egg whites so they form stiff peaks. Any less and the filling will collapse. If you need it, a pinch of cream of tartar might help. The cream should also be beaten so that it holds peaks. Chilling overnight is highly recommended.

RECIPE

Mile-High Strawberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 10 ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 9-inch prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced in half

Method

  1. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar if you are using it. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until they hold stiff peaks.
  2. Set aside ½ cup of juice from the frozen strawberries before beating the berries and remaining juice into the egg whites. Continue beating until the mixture becomes fluffy and stands in soft peaks.
  3. Place ¼ cup of the reserved juice in a small bowl, sprinkle with the gelatin and let stand for 5 minutes until the gelatin has bloomed. Meanwhile, heat the remaining ¼ cup juice in the microwave, about 15 seconds on high. Stir the hot juice into the gelatin mixture, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Beat into the egg white mixture.
  4. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold into the egg white mixture.
  5. Pile the mixture into the prepared crust. Chill overnight in the refrigerator. Arrange fresh strawberries over the top and serve.
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RAISED WAFFLES

Things just came together. Our range and oven have been out of service for over two weeks while we await a back-ordered replacement computer board. We have been relying on ancillary kitchen appliances: the microwave, an induction plate that I bought, a George Forman grill, etc. We had not yet used our waffle iron, so it was time. Peter and René had brought us a bottle of Canadian maple syrup from a recent visit to Montreal. Finally, the cupboard was nearly bare as I had been putting off going to the grocery store. A waffle supper with fried eggs done on the induction plate, bacon cooked in the microwave, and waffles in the iron seemed obvious.

This is an old family recipe. Carol made these many years ago for a family gathering in Santa Fe. The waffles were so good that I asked her to contribute the recipe to the family cook book. She called them the best ever, so I titled the recipe, “Carol’s Best-Ever Raised Waffles”.

Actually, the recipe is not original. It came from Marion Cunningham’s masterful revision of The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Since then the recipe has been reprinted countless times, often verbatim, and including the internet sites, Epicurious and Food52. Most of the internet reviews are glowing, with some notable exceptions. One writer said that the waffles were so limp and tasteless that she threw the remaining batter down the disposal.  While it is true that the waffles will not be as crisp as what you might be used to, my hunch is that she used bad yeast or forgot to add the eggs in the morning or something. Other writers substituted oil for melted butter, vanilla-flavored almond milk for milk. or gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour. Some complained that the batter was too thin and added ¾ cup of flour. You could do any or all of those things, but then you would have a different recipe and a different waffle.

If you follow the recipe as written, you will wind up with a waffle that has the yeasty aroma of a French boulangerie, the taste of a fresh sweet roll straight from the oven, and a lightness that absorbs the unctuous flavors  of added melted butter and maple syrup. My latest effort resulted in waffles just as I remembered them from Carol’s introduction years ago. Keep in mind that if you plan on breakfast waffles, you need to start the night before; if you plan on a waffle supper, start in the morning.

RECIPE

Raised Waffles

Ingredients

  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Method

  1. Pour the warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.
  2. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer until smooth and blended.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature over night or all day. The batter should rise to about double its volume.
  4. Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs and baking soda, stirring until well mixed. The batter will be very thin.
  5. Pour ½ to ¾ cups of batter into each mold of a very hot waffle iron. Bake the waffles until they are golden and crisp. Serve immediately or cool on a baking rack to prevent then from getting soggy.

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MADELEINES AND PROUST

Every week I meet with my writing group to read some interesting poems, write some poetry, and read our work to one another. Sometimes we read bits of really classic writing. Seems like a good platform for reading a little of Swann’s Way from Remembrances of Things Past and thinking about madeleines. Also a good excuse for baking some madeleines. Years ago, I tried making them from one of Julia Child’s recipes, and they were a total flop, so I have never been brave enough to try them again until now. My recipe is a tweek of the version in Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer Baking Book. If you follow the directions carefully, it is an easy effort. You should also have all of the ingredients assembled and equipment at the ready before you start. (remember, mis en place.)

Also, I’ve never read Remembrance of Things Past, so I was anxious to find out what the fuss was all about. Here’s a quote from Proust:

 Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray… had any existence for me when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea…She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell.. I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shivver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.  An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with not suggestion of its origin… I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature.

No wonder everyone wants to  be transformed by a madeleine with tea.

None of the group writes as well as Proust, but I thought we might get some inspiration with a fresh madeleine.

RECIPE

Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour placed in a flour sifter
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter. melted
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter to coat lining of baking forms
  • confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Method

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest. Set the bowl in a pan of simmering water. Be sure the level of the water is above the level of the egg mixture. (See my post on seven-minute frosting.) Using an instant-read thermometer, beat on low speed with an electric mixer until the temperature is 130 – 140° F. If it is too cool, the batter will not come together. If it is too hot, the eggs may scramble and you will have to start again.
  2. Remove the bowl from the water bath. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is tripled in volume and is light and fluffy – about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.
  4. Sift half of the flour over the egg mixture and fold in with a spoon or spatula. Pour in the melted butter, and sift in the remaining flour, folding in gently until the batter is smooth.
  5. Spoon the batter by generous tablespoons into madeleine molds that have been greased generously with the remaining butter. There should be enough batter for 24 regular-sized molds.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes in the middle of an oven that has been pre-heated to 400°F. The edges of the cookies should be golden and lift easily from the molds. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. The cookies should be served within a few hours or wrapped and frozen. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

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ZUCCHINI BREAD

Probably everyone who reads this has a favorite zucchini bread recipe. And probably everyone who reads this has worn out that recipe in the last few weeks. “Abundance” is not the right word for our current supply of zucchini. They are in the fridge. They are packed away in the freezer. They are on the kitchen counter. And they just keep coming even though we don’t have a single plant in our garden.

Summer squashes make a light side dish for a summer supper on a hot day. But they shine in sweet breads and cakes. Like carrots, they make a moist tender cake or bread. You don’t need to peel them, just grate them in the big holes of a box grater, and pack them lightly in a two-cup measure without squeezing out any moisture.  Here is a good all-purpose zucchini bread recipe that I found in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984, p. 553) I have substituted buttermilk for milk.

RECIPE

Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups grated raw zucchini
  • 2 cups walnuts, very coarsely chopped

Method

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs lightly and then add the buttermilk, shortening, and sugar. Beat until well combined.
  3. Then, by thirds, beat in the flour mixture until completely combined.
  4. Beat in the zucchini and walnuts.
  5. Divide equally between two 8½ x 4½ inch bread pans that have been greased and floured. Bake in the middle of an oven that has been pre-heated to 350° F. Bake for 50 minutes or until a broom straw or skewer inserted straight down in the middle of the loaf comes out clean
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack for 5 minutes before turning the loaves out to cool completely.

 

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LIL’S ICE WATER CRACKERS – SANTA FÉ MONSOONS

At last the summer monsoons (Yes, that’s what they are called.) have come to Santa Fé. Clouds build over the mountains in the early afternoon and develop into towering thunderheads. By late afternoon the clouds darken and horsetails of rain begin to stream in patches over the valleys and mesas. Sometimes you get a shower. Sometimes you don’t. We have been suffering from a severe drought for the past three years, so the rains have been a welcome relief. Even though the drought has not been broken, the new moisture has helped the grasses to green and ripen, and the flowers have been encouraged to bloom. The white clouds and blue skies are an important part of the New Mexico landscape, They are among the things that have attracted so many artists over the years. Georgia O’Keeffe clearly loved the clouds, and that love is captured in her famous series of paintings, Sky Over Clouds. One of the series, Sky Over Clouds IV, has a prominent place in the Art Institute of Chicago, while others hang in museums all over the world.

Georgia O'Keefe's Sky Above Clouds, IV, Art Institute of Chicago

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky Above Clouds, IV, Art Institute of Chicago

The rains have brought water to the dry arroyo in our back yard, and the water, lightning, and thunder have encouraged the spade-foot toads from their long sleep in the mud at the bottom of the pond to serenade us all night long.

My digression on monsoons has led me far away from the food topic of this entry, but I wanted to share the good news of moisture at last. Now on to crackers.

One of the food blogs I like to follow is Dinner of Herbs. The author has been trying out a lot of different recipes for crackers lately, so I decided to look through my collection of cracker recipes. I came across an old favorite that I got from Bernard Clayton’s classic, New Complete Book of Breads, (Simon and Schuster, 1987) I’m not sure if the recipe is in the original edition, published in 1973. Marion Cunningham has also been credited with first publishing the recipe. That has some importance because there are a lot of entries on the Internet describing this or that as the “original” version. In any event, Clayton says that he got the recipe from Lillian Marshall, a noted cook and author from Kentucky, hence the name, “Lil’s Ice Water Crackers”. I have made some changes and suggestions about the recipe that you can read in the “Comments” section after the recipe.

Actually, the recipe is NOT for crackers, but instead how to turn plain saltines into something tastier and fit for company. When you read the recipe you will ask yourself how can this turn out to be anything but a pile of glop?

Trust me, you will love the results.

RECIPE

Lil’s Ice Water Crackers

Ingredients

  • 24 single saltine crackers (a sleeve of crackers contains about 36)
  • 1 quart ice water
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Method

  1. Arrange the crackers in a single layer in a 11 x 17 inch jelly roll pan with a turned up edge
  2. Pour the ice water over the crackers and let them stand for 3 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the crackers with a spatula or slotted spoon and place them on a towel covered layers of paper towels. The crackers will be soggy and fragile so take extra care with this step.
  4. While the crackers are draining, wash and dry the jelly roll pan.
  5. Pour half of the melted butter into the pan and spread with a spatula or your fingers so that the bottom of the pan is completely coated.
  6. Arrange the crackers in the pan and drizzle the remaining butter over them.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 475°F for 15 to 20 minutes, checking frequently to make sure that they don’t burn
  8. Serve immediately while still hot.

Comments

  • A sleeve of saltines contains about 36 crackers, but some of them will probably be broken. Also, 36 crackers may be too many to work with at one time, especially if you are just trying out this recipe. Some of the crackers might begin to disintegrate before you can transfer them. As well, if they are too close to one another, they tend to stick together.
  • The original recipe called for 2 quarts of ice water, You don’t need that much to moisten the crackers, and the amount is a bit unwieldy.
  • Three minutes is tops for the crackers to soak. Some recipes say 10 minutes, but that is too long. The crackers need to swell up, but they will start to disintegrate with long soaking.
  • Wet crackers may stick to a wet paper towel, so be sure to have enough layers of towelling to absorb all of the excess moisture.
  • Allow plenty of space between the crackers so they don’t stick together.
  • If some of the crackers do stick together, don’t worry. They may take longer to crisp than the single crackers, but the way to deal with that is to remove crackers when they are golden and crisp and return the unfinished crackers to the oven until they are fully baked.

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PALMIERS – COOKING WITH KIDS, PART ONE

We had two of our grandchildren visit us for a few days before their parents came to take them back home. The kids wanted to do some cooking while they were here, so I tried to think of recipes that would be not only easy but also tasty. The latter is sometimes a bit of a challenge with kids who are in the process of forming their own likes and dislikes.

I remembered a leftover sheet of puff pastry in the freezer. What could be easier and tastier than a batch of palmiers, the crisp sugary  French cookies? Problem one solved.

The kids and I prepared dinner for their first evening with us. Palmiers would be the dessert, and nachos would be the main dish. All of that seemed simple enough.

We made the palmiers first so that they would be ready as soon as we finished eating the nachos.

We used a recipe from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984, p 262). The only ingredients are puff pastry and sugar. That made it fun for the kids to roll out the pastry dough on a bed of sugar, fold them up, slice them, flatten them a bit with the rolling-pin, and bake them for only a few minutes. The hardest part of the process was resisting eating them before we made the nachos.

RECIPE

Palmiers

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough, thawed
  • granulated sugar (about one cup)

Method

  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry over night in the refrigerator according to package instructions
  2. Sprinkle a generous layer of granulated sugar on the work surface. The sugar should be spread to a larger size than the sheet of puff pastry
  3. Unfold the thawed puff pastry on the sugar. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch thick using a rolling-pin and being careful to maintain the rectangular shape of the pastry.
  4. Sprinkle the top generously with more sugar.
  5. Fold the two long sides of the pastry sheet so that they meet in the middle of the sheet. Then fold one side onto the other.
  6. With a very sharp knife, using a sawing motion, cut the pastry roll into ½ inch slices. Then place each slice on one of its cut sides, flatten with the rolling-pin, and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat cooking mat.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until the cookies are crisp and lightly browned and the sugar is caramelized.
  8. When the cookies are baked, remove from the oven, and transfer to a cooling rack.

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