Historic Everyday Eats – Ginger Cakes

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This week in Historic Everyday Eats, I went back into my comfort zone and made another dessert. (What can I say? It’s what I’m best at!) After doing a little digging around, I found a recipe that specifically said it was for “cold weather,” so I figured, why not (since snowstorms have been THE hot topic this week)?

The recipe comes from a cookbook titled The Universal Receipt Book; Being a Compendious Repository of Practical Information in Cookery, Preserving, Pickling, Distilling, and All the Branches of Domestic Economy. To Which is Added Some Advice to Farmers. (1818) by one Miss Priscilla Homespun. With a title like that, authored by someone whose last name is literally “homespun,” you just can’t go wrong!

Universal Receipt Book 1818

This is another book with a lot of great recipes, so I hope to use it several times in the future. The recipe I chose from it for this week is for a nice little dessert called “Ginger Cakes.” The recipe for “Fine Ginger Cakes for cold weather” reads as follows:

Ginger Cakes

“Break three eggs in a basin, beat them well, and add half a pint of cream, which must be also beat well with them, and the whole put over the fire in a saucepan and stirred till it gets warm, then add a pound of butter, with half a pound of loaf sugar, and two ounces and a half of ginger, both finely powdered, carefully stirring the ingredients together, over a very moderate fire, just to melt all the butter, then pour it into the centre of two pounds of fine flour, and make it into a good paste. Roll it out, without any flour beneath it, of such a thickness as may be thought proper. It is usually made about a quarter of an inch thick, and cut the cakes to shape with the top of a large breakfast cup–lay them on three thicknesses of paper and bake them in a hot oven.”

I cut this recipe in half so that I wouldn’t have sixty “cakes” laying around my apartment, so let’s see how that went for me!

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Cutting the recipe in half (essentially), the ingredients were: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 sticks butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons ginger, 3 1/3 cups flour. (Please excuse the salt underneath the eggs in this photo–I was in the process of making a crock pot dish while also making this one and completely didn’t notice it!)

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Full confession: I had to repeat the first step of this recipe twice! It involves slowly heating eggs beaten with cream, and I heated it WAY too quickly the first time and ended up with creamy scrambled eggs [not what the recipe calls for!]. So, the second time around, I beat two eggs with half a cup of cream in a bowl, then added that to a cold saucepan. I then slowly heated the pan and the mixture over LOW heat. This only took a few minutes.

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I then added the 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of ginger, and 2 sticks of butter to the egg and cream mixture all at once.

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I mixed in the ginger, sugar, and butter until everything had melted and/or thoroughly combined, still over low heat.

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I then poured the egg, cream, butter, sugar, and ginger mixture over 3 1/3 cups of flour.

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I mixed the ingredients together until I came out with a dough that looked like this.

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I then rolled out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick without any additional flour underneath it or on the rolling pin as the recipe states. Trust me, it does not need the extra flour. This dough is kind of “greasy” feeling and not sticky in the least, so it did not stick to the surface of my counter at all. I then used a “breakfast cup” [aka just a regular cup] to cut out circles.

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My “cakes” went into a 400 degree oven on cookie sheets, not “three thicknesses of paper,” because I did not want to burn my entire building down. 😉

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After baking 8 minutes, the “cakes” were done!

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To be honest, these are way more like cookies than cakes, but either way, they taste great! The ginger adds a nice spiciness [flavor, not level of heat] to the dough, and the final product is dense and aromatic–perfect for “cold weather”!

If you’re having some cold weather, give these ginger cakes a shot! They’re easy, fast, and very tasty! Plus, I bet you already have almost all of these ingredients in your kitchen already, so it’s really a no-brainer. 🙂

Sleepy Hollow Season 2, Episode 14 Recap

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Last night’s episode of Sleepy Hollow, “Kali Yuga,” was a much-needed breath of fresh air for this series. While the premise of the episode focused on Nick Hawley, a good looking but somewhat (well, very) useless character, the core of the show was all about Ichabod, Abbie, and making repairs to their relationship. It didn’t hurt that these repairs featured singing karaoke, either!

“Kali Yuga” was an episode that really let all of the characters shine: we got to see Jenny Mills being a total badass once again; we saw Ichabod glowing with pride over Abbie’s singing, and we finally were able to see him be WRONG about a hunch (about time!); we saw Abbie let down her guard for her partner while still getting the job done; we saw Hawley go away finally; we saw Irving struggle with his new, undead yet “exonerated” life status; we saw minimal, yet very, very shady Katrina (which is how she is best utilized until she can be done away with permanently).

This episode definitely takes season 2 into a new and much better direction. Hopefully the episodes will continue to improve from this point so that we will get a season 3.

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THIS is why I watch Sleepy Hollow.

 

Historic Everyday Eats – Beef-Steak Pie

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Happy Wednesday, everyone! This week in Historic Everyday Eats, I decided to go with a historic recipe that was NOT a dessert–I know, it’s shocking. I’ve only made a “savory” dish one other time in my weeks of following historic recipes, so I figured it was about time to do it again. 😉

I found a recipe in the same cookbook that I used last week, (Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, 1832) and I didn’t break anything this time while making it! (Yay!) The non-dessert I chose out of this book was Beef-Steak Pie.

The recipe for “Beef-Steak Pie” reads as follows:

Beef-Steak Pie

 

“Butter a deep dish, and spread a sheet of paste all over the bottom, sides, and edge.

Cut away from your beef-steak all the bone,fat, gristle, and skin. Cut the lean in small thin pieces, about as large, generally, as the palm of your hand. Beat the meat well with the rolling-pin, to make it juicy and tender. If you put in the fat, it will make the gravy too greasy and strong, as it cannot be skimmed.

Put a layer of meat over the bottom-crust of your dish, and season it to your taste, with pepper, salt, and, if you choose, a little nutmeg. A small quantity of mushroom ketchup is an improvement; so, also, is a little minced onion.

Have ready some cold boiled potatoes sliced thin. Spread over themeat, a layer of potatoes, and a small piece of butter; then another layer of meat, seasoned, and then a layer of potatoes, and so on till the dish is full and heaped up in the middle, having a layer of meaton the top. Pour in a little water.

Cover the pie with a sheet of paste, and trim the edges. Notch it handsomely with a knife; and, if you choose, make a tulip of paste,and stick it in the middle of the lid, and lay leaves of paste round it.

Fresh oysters will greatly improve a beef-steak pie. So also will mushrooms.

Any meat pie may be made in a similar manner.”

(In case you’re wondering, mushroom ketchup is exactly what it sounds like–ketchup made from mushrooms instead of tomatoes. I could not find this in the store, but I still used mushrooms in the pie!)

Let’s see how I did with this savory dish!

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The ingredients: 2 cups flour, 2 beaten eggs, 3 sticks butter (for the crust). 1 pound beef (I used sandwich steaks), 1/2 cup onion, 1/2 cup mushrooms, 1 pound potatoes, and salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

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First, I made the dough for my pie crusts using the same method as I did for pumpkin pie and apple pie. I mixed the 3 sticks of butter (in large, cold chunks) into the 2 cups of flour with the 2 beaten eggs and a few tablespoons of water. I then let the dough sit, covered in the refrigerator for about thirty minutes while I prepared the other ingredients.

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I then sliced and diced my onion and mushrooms while I boiled the potatoes. (I cut up WAY too many mushrooms and onion, but that’s okay. I just used the leftovers as a side!)

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Since I got packaged meat from the grocery store, I didn’t actually have to cut away the fat and bone , and since I got “sandwich steaks,” the pieces were already cut thin. (Thanking my lucky stars for grocery stores!) I cut the pieces roughly into the size of my palm (about 2ish inches), as the recipe states.

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I then rolled out my pie dough and laid it into a disposable pie pan.

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Next, I “beat” the chunks of meat with my rolling pin [I really just rolled them with the rolling pin because that was easier], and I began to layer my pie. I put down a layer of meat, followed by a sprinkling of pepper, salt, and nutmeg, followed by potatoes [boiled and cut thin], onions, and mushrooms. [Shock of all shocks–I forgot to put extra butter in the layers. Oh well. It still turned out well.]

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I continued the layering until I had my final layer of beef “heaped” on top. [I had three layers of beef total.] I then poured on about two tablespoons of water.

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I then topped the pie with a top layer of crust [or “paste”] and tried my best to cut fancy holes in it, but I did not even attempt to make a tulip out of leftover dough and lay pretty leaves all around the top because I am just not that talented. 😉 I poked more holes in the crust with a fork to release as much steam as possible.

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I baked the pie in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour [on a cookie sheet in case of spill over]. This was a complete guess, of course, because there are absolutely no baking instructions with this recipe! The crust came out golden brown, and the filling was cooked perfectly.

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While the pie was baking, I made a side of sauteed mushrooms and onions since I purchased way too many. 🙂

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I was very hungry when I made this pie, so I cut into it after about 10 minutes of letting it sit after it came out of the oven. Because of that, it kind of fell apart when I took it out of the pan, but it was still delicious! The pepper and nutmeg go really well together and give the beef a distinct flavor. The onions, mushrooms, and potatoes inside the pie were a great combination, and the pie crust was flaky and buttery.

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When it was time to get seconds, the pie had set for about 40 minutes, and it stayed together much better out of the pan [even the bottom crust stayed in place].

Beef-steak pie was definitely a winner in my house (especially with my dog Cosmo who tried to steal it off of our plates several times and finally succeeded in stealing some off of the counter while we weren’t looking). This recipe is pretty simple, and it is a nice hearty meal to have in the middle of winter!

I may have to give more savory recipes a go in the future, even though my heart does remain most strongly attached to desserts!

Sleepy Hollow Season 2, Episode 13 Recap

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The most recent episode of Sleepy Hollow, “Pittura Infamante,” was a perfect example of what I do not want to see in a TV show. The leading actress (Nicole Beharie) was given a B-plot, the A-plot was a dragging, boring mess, and the show’s worst character (Katrina) was meant to look like a hero but once again came out as a dimwit in the end. (Honestly, what the show’s writers have done to her character is a complete travesty. The only thing that could partially redeem the situation is if she becomes evil, which I hope for EVERY. DAY.)

What I did like about this episode were the interactions between Abbie, Jenny, Frank Irving, and Cynthia Irving. This B-plot should have been the A-plot of the episode–it was much more interesting and much better acted than the mess that was Ichabod and Katrina on a “date” that turned into a murder mystery. Of course, at the end of the episode, Ichabod and Katrina are completely defenseless against their foe, and Abbie comes in at the last minute and saves the day. This show would be nothing and go nowhere without Abbie Mills.

This show is in trouble. FOX hasn’t decided if it’s going to renew Sleepy Hollow for a third season, and the ratings continue to plummet. If this show has a chance, the writers and producers have to get back to what works–the relationship between Ichabod and Abbie. Hopefully by the end of this season, we can begin to see a new direction in the show, but based on last night’s episode, I just don’t know what will happen.

Abbie done with it

Historic Everyday Eats – Crullers

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Over the course of the last month, I read a book titled A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole for my book club. It focuses on the story of a man named Ignatius Reilly, an insane (and insanely funny) character who lives in New Orleans. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.

Our book club met this past Sunday to discuss this book, and I wanted to make a historic recipe that sort of went along with the theme of the book. Since Ignatius loved sweets and was deeply embedded in the French-American culture of New Orleans, I decided to try out a recipe for crullers (originally a French dessert) that I found in a U.S. cookbook from 1832.

That cookbook is called Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats

1832 Boston cookbook

 

This lovely book by “Miss Leslie” contained a lot of very interesting recipes, so I might be coming back to it for more in the future! The recipe for this week, “Crullers,” reads as follows:

Crullers

“Half a pound of butter.
Three quarters of a pound of powdered white sugar.
Six eggs, or seven if they are small.
Two pounds of flour, sifted.
A grated nutmeg.
A tea-spoonful of powdered cinnamon.
A table-spoonful of rose-water.

Cut the butter into the flour, add the sugar and spice, and mix them well together.

Beat the eggs, and pour them into the pan of flour, &c. Add the rose water, and mix the whole into a dough. If the eggs and rose-water are not found sufficient to wet it, add a very little cold water. Mix the dough very well with a knife.

Spread some flour on your paste-board, take the dough out of the pan, and knead it very well. Cut it into small pieces, and knead each separately. Put all the pieces together, and knead the whole in one lump. Roll it out into a large square sheet, about half an inch thick. Take a jagging-iron, or, if you have not one, a sharp knife; run it along the sheet, and cut the dough into long narrow slips. Twist them up in various forms. Have ready an iron pan with melted lard. Lay the crullers lightly in it, and fry them of a light brown, turning them with a knife and fork, so as not to break them, and taking care that both sides are equally done.

When sufficiently fried, spread them on a large dish to cool, and grate loaf-sugar over them.

Crullers may be made in a plainer way, with the best brown sugar,(rolled very fine,) and without spice or rose-water.

They can be fried, or rather boiled, in a deep iron pot. They should be done in a large quantity of lard, and taken out with a skimmer that has holes in it, and held on the skimmer till the lard drains from them. If for family use, they can be made an inch thick.”

Before we get started on the process of making this dessert, I will let you know that I encountered a series of mishaps while making them, but the crullers still turned out just fine. Let’s see what happened!

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The ingredients: 2 sticks butter, 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar, 3 2/3 cups flour, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 6 large eggs, 1 tablespoon of rosewater, and about half of a 24 ounce container of vegetable shortening (for frying).

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Since the recipe repeatedly called for “cutting” the dough and using a knife to combine the ingredients, I decided to pull out my food processor, which has a 10 cup capacity, to mix the ingredients. I first cut up the 2 sticks of butter and “cut” those into the flour.

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The butter became very small clumps within the flour after about a minute of processing.

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I then mixed in the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (1 whole nutmeg is equal to about 2 teaspoons ground).

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I then added the rosewater and 6 beaten eggs to the mixture.

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The dough came together pretty nicely in the food processor, until the processor shut off and started smoking. (Note to self: don’t make such a thick dough in food processors ever again.)

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When the dough first came out of the now-broken food processor, it was entirely too sticky. I ended up having to add about another half a cup of flour to the dough through kneading to get it to a point where it wouldn’t stick to my hands and everything else. Also, when pulling out the dough, I nicked one of my fingers on the blade and am now sporting a lovely band aid because of it. No worries, though–no blood went into this dough!

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After the dough was no longer a sticky mess, I rolled it into as good of a “square” as I could.

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I then cut the dough into long narrow strips and twisted the pieces into different shapes.

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I heated approximately 12 ounces of shortening over medium-high heat and fried the crullers for 2 minutes on each side. I used a small amount of shortening to do a sort of pan fry rather than a deep fry, but in the future, I would definitely say that deep frying would be the better option. More on that in a moment. (Note: I used shortening instead of lard in this recipe to fry the dough because I have some Jewish friends who were coming to book club and wanted to make this dessert Kosher. If you want to use lard, go for it!)

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My first couple of batches of crullers turned out golden brown and delicious! However, many of them broke apart when I flipped them in the pan, which is one reason why I think deep frying would be better next time. However, they still tasted delicious even though some of them were broken! I topped them with more powdered sugar, and they looked as good as they tasted.

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Did you notice how I said, “the first couple of batches” turned out great? That’s because the last couple of batches didn’t. I wasn’t able to control the heat as well for subsequent batches, and they either turned out charred or still doughy. Yet another reason why deep frying is definitely the option to go with next time–you can fit more pieces in, the whole piece fries without being flipped, and it is easier to keep the temperature regulated. Live and learn, I guess. 😉

When I arrived at the book club meeting, my friends immediately took an interest in the crullers. The rosewater in these adds another layer of flavor that many of us don’t taste that often today, so everyone who tried these wanted to know how I made them and what was in them.

Overall, the (first couples of batches of) crullers were a great success, and even though I may have injured myself and lost a kitchen appliance, I’ll definitely make these again in the future!