Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Archive for September, 2008

Potato Pie

Posted by bakinghistory on September 30, 2008

A tasty savory pie filled with potatoes and onions, milk and a touch of butter.

Ivy of Kopiaste is the host of a blog event all about savory pies. My contribution is a simple one, made with a buttery crust filled with shredded potatoes, onions, milk and butter. The filling is assembled in the pie crust with raw ingredients, which makes the preparation easy and quick. Furthermore, it does not contain any eggs. The result is a truly wonderful pie, with a perfectly flaky crust enclosing a tender, buttery filling, which is best enjoyed warm. Something worth trying for a simple dinner on a cold winter night.

ROUNDUP IS HERE

From the original recipes by  Jane Cunningham Croly

In: Jennie June’s American Cookery Book”, 1878—USA

and Juniata L. Shepperd

In: “Handbook of Household Science”, 1902—USA

Ingredients:

Filling:

4-5 large potatoes

1 small onion

1 tbsp butter

1/4 to1/3 cup cup whole milk (or half-and-half)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Crust

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (scant) butter

1/4 tsp salt

ice water as needed

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Make the Crust: In a food processor put flour salt and butter (diced), and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running add enough water for the dough to come together. Do not overprocess. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and line a deep pie dish, letting the extra pastry hang over the sides of the pan.

Filling: peel, wash and dry the potatoes. Shred them finely, mix them with the shredded onion and salt.  Put the mixture into the pie plate lined with pastry, then pour over enough milk (or half-and-half) to barely cover the filling. Distribute the butter in small pieces all over the filling, fold over the pastry so that the filling is partially covered. Bake for about 1 hour. Serve warm.

This pie does not freeze well, either baked or raw, because the potatoes turn mushy.


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Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Dairy, Eggless, Milk, Pies & Tarts, vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Baked Honey Custards (Rosh Hashanah 5769)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 25, 2008

A golden and velvety dairy dessert flavored with honey and cinnamon

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is approaching soon: the celebration begins at sundown Monday September 28th.

It is customary to eat honey to celebrate, in the hope that the new year will be a sweet one.

This simple custard is sweetened entirely with honey and could be a delicious addition to the table for this Holiday. It is milk based, but it could work as well with strained orange juice for a parve version. It is also very easy and quick to assemble.

Other ideas for Rosh Hashanah desserts are these:

Honey Cake—which I posted last year

Honey Cookies—from Miri at Room for Dessert

Magical Honey Cake—from Baroness Tapuzina

September is also National Honey Month and you can read all about it at Louise‘s Months of Edible Celebrations

From the original recipe by the United States Dept. of Agriculture

In: “Farmers’ Bulletin”, 1917—USA

Ingredients

5 eggs

1/2 cup of honey

4 cups scalded milk

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325F (170C).

Mix the eggs, honey, cinnamon and salt, then add the milk in a fine stream. Mix well to combine but try to avoid making the mixture foam too much.

Fill 8-10 ramekins and bake the custard in a water bath: place the ramekins in a roasting pan, preferably placing a rack underneath them, fill the pan with hot water so that it reaches half-way up the side of the ramekins. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the custards are still giggly in the center. Let them cool in the water bath, then refrigerate. Serve well chilled.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Posted in American Cooking, Dairy, Holidays, Honey, Puddings, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Seed-Cake (Novel Food, Fall ’08 edition)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 20, 2008

A nice cup of hot tea and a slice of this cake are best enjoyed in the company of good friends

Roundup 1 —-Roundup 2

For this season’s edition of Novel Food—one of my favorite blog events, co-hosted by Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste—I chose to recreate a food item from Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë‘s masterpiece.

This also goes to Susan’s Yeast Spotting

I read the book for the first time many years ago, in Junior High School, and loved it ever since. Over the years I returned to it once in a while, and the story never ceased to fascinate me. In time I realized what I found consistently so appealing in it. The novel contains all the necessary components of Romantic literature: a love story full of passion, mystery and tragedy, a good touch of the supernatural and a happy ending against all odds.

However, besides all of that, what truly brought me back to this novel is how its main character, Jane, is portrayed. She is a young woman, orphaned and destitute, very smart and barely pretty—in other words a person apparently lacking all of the desirable qualities that would ensure her any happiness in life or at least a comfortable place in society.

And yet, even in the worst of her circumstances and situations, Jane never compromises, never gives up her dignity as a person, never loses her solid moral principles. She is able to balance a good heart with cool rationality, always seeing beyond appearances and never settling for the easiest path. It was—and is—her strength in being able to say no, even if compromise would seem to ensure her gaining everything she most dearly wishes, that I find admirable, as is her unshakable belief that the qualities of the heart and the spirit have a value very much above those of wealth, position and social approval.

In the book food is mentioned quite often, from the dreadful meals at Lowood, the boarding school for orphaned girls that Jane attends—and survives—for eight years, to that offered to Jane after she leaves Thornfield and is rescued by the Rivers family.

Among all of the possibilities, I chose to bake a seed-cake, like the one Jane shares one perfect evening with her beloved schoolmate Helen and their teacher Miss Temple. The reason of my choice is that, to me, that simple cake eaten with friends and kindred spirits shows how, despite the dreariest circumstances, the comfort of true friendship can lighten one’s heart and console of any sadness.

Miss Temple invites Helen and Jane for tea: 

“[…] she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.

‘I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you,’ said she: ‘but as there is so little toast, you must have it now,’and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.

We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.”

In the many vintage cookbooks I have read I found different versions of seed-cakes, some rather plain, made with a yeasted and sweetened dough and others closer to pound cakes, very sweet and rich in eggs and butter. The common trait between all of these versions is, of course, the caraway seeds that speckle their crumb. Caraway seed once was used in sweet baked goods such as cakes and biscuits and not limited to savory ones. The effect is amazingly good: the pungency and complex aroma of these seeds, as well as their slight crunchiness provide a wonderful counterpoint to the sweetness and tenderness of the cakes.

As much as I love the flavor of caraway in the tangy sourdough ryes found in the baking repertoire of Central and Eastern Europe, I have to say that tasting caraway in a sweet baked good allows to appreciate this pleasant spice even more.

I tried more than one version, and it was difficult to choose one among all, since all have pleasant qualities that made them worth recommending. Charlotte Brontë does not give a detailed description of the seed-cake Jane and her friends have together with tea. Given the time at which the novel was published (1847) I thought at least I could write off any of the more recent recipes made with actual baking powder, which became popular only in the late nineteenth century. I tried a yeasted version made with only a little sugar and butter and no eggs, and another rather rich made with great quantities of all of these ingredients. The yeasted, plainer version is my favorite, and is the one I feature here.

From the original recipe by Margaret Dods

in: “The Cook and Housewife’s Manual”, 1828—UK

Ingredients

1/2 lb white sugar

2 lbs bread flour

1 tbsp active dry yeast

2 cups whole milk, plus more as needed

1/2 lb butter

1 oz. caraway seeds

a pinch of allspice, nutmeg, and ginger

Mix the sugar and flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Scald the milk and let it cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm milk and pour it over the flour-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until some of the flour and the milk form a soft soupy dough (the rest of the flour will stay underneath. Cover the bowl and let the sponge ferment until doubled and bubbly. Switch to the dough hook, add the ground spices (except for the caraway) and knead until the dough starts to come together, adding the rest of the milk by the tablespoon as necessary (the dough should not be too soft at this point).

With the mixer running add the cold butter, diced, and knead until the dough is well developed, supple and smooth. Once the butter is well incorporated add the caraway seeds and knead a little more until well distributed in the dough.

Let the dough ferment until doubled in a covered bowl. Shape into two oval or round loaves and bake in a preheated oven at 350F (180C) for about 50 minutes, or until nice and golden. The loaves should be allowed to cool on a rack and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

If you prefer to use a bread pan, you will need two 9×5-inches pans.

Posted in Blog Events, Dairy, Eggless, Spices, Tea, Yeasted Cakes, Kuchen, Coffee Cakes | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Prune and Walnut Whole-Wheat Loaf

Posted by bakinghistory on September 8, 2008

A sweet whole wheat bread full of prunes and walnuts

This is my entry for this month edition of Weekend Breakfast Blogging, a blog event started by Nandita of Saffron Trail and hosted this time by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. The theme proposed by Aparna is “Grains in my Breakfast”.

HERE IS THE ROUNDUP

This simple whole-wheat bread is one of my favorites to have for breakfast, usually lightly spread with very fresh cream cheese and paired with a cup of strong black tea.

The liquid for this dough is provided by the water in which prunes are briefly simmered to soften, which provide flavor and just the right sweetness, counterbalanced by the slightly bitter aftertaste of the walnuts and the full  flavor of whole wheat.

Other dried fruits can be used instead of prunes, and in my opinion dried tart cherries work amazingly well—however, my favorite remains the one made with prunes, as in the original recipe.

This bread also goes to Susan’s Yeast Spotting

From the original recipe by Carolyn Putnam Webber

In: “Two Hundred and Seventy-five War-time Recipes, 1918—USA

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried prunes (I used unsulfured, organic prunes)

1 cup water

1/4 cup (organic) sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup walnut pieces

2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or as needed)

1-1/4 tsp active dry yeast dissolved in 1 tbsp warm water.

Briefly simmer the prunes in 1 cup of water, just until tender—they should not be mushy. Strain the prunes and reserve the cooking liquid (add extra water to make 1 cup). Cut the prunes in quarters, then set aside.

Add the sugar and salt to the cooking liquid, mix well and set aside until lukewarm

Place 2 cups of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast and then the cooled cooking liquid. Mix on low speed until a dough forms, and towards the end add the butter cut in small pieces. The dough should be well developed and supple, but not too stiff. Add the remaining flour as necessary.

Let the dough ferment, covered, until doubled in bulk. Knead briefly again, let ferment once more in a covered bowl until doubled in bulk. Gently flatten and stretch the fermented dough to form a rectangle, then spread the walnut and prune pieces, pressing them into the dough. Roll up like a jelly-roll, pushing to avoid trapping air inside. Form into a loaf and place into a lightly greased  8 x 4-inches bread pan and let it ferment covered until the dough reaches about 1/2-inch above the rim of the pan.

Bake in a preheated oven (350F) for about 35 minutes, until golden brown. Unmold the bread and let it cool on a rack before slicing.

Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Eggless, Fruit, Tea, Treenuts, whole grains, Yeasted Breads | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »