Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Butterscotch Sauce Recipe and the Art of Sharing

I have to admit, I debated about whether to post this butterscotch sauce recipe.  It's actually from my mother-in-law, who got it, as you can see from the recipe name, from her Great Aunt Ethel.  Maybe I was hoping she would tell me not to post it so that I wouldn't have to decide for myself whether or not to do so, but she said to go right ahead and let it out onto the great wide internet.  

So here I am, sharing this recipe with you.  Several of you have already asked me for it, and I have stalled or promised to make you more of the stuff myself.  (I made jars of these and gave them away as holiday gifts.)  And, when I really think about it, I fully believe in sharing good things, not hoarding them.  So, in the spirit of sharing, here it is:
Great Aunt Ethel’s Butterscotch Sauce
As the name hints, this recipe comes from Margie’s great aunt Ethel.  When Margie first poured this sauce on some vanilla ice cream for Steve and me, I fell in love instantly.  The sauce is thick and it solidifies when it hits the cold ice cream so that when the sauce enters your mouth it is ever so slightly crunchy.  Margie’s recipe book states that she gave this ice-cream topping as a Christmas gift in 1985 and that a triple recipe will make about 9 cups, or 9 small jars. 
4 T butter
1 ¼ c brown sugar
2/3 c white corn syrup
¾ condensed milk
Melt butter, add sugar and corn syrup and boil to 230° or until it forms a soft ball in water.  Add milk and serve warm.  Makes 1 ½ cups, which serves about 6 people. 

Do make it and let us know how it comes out.  

I would also like to share with you some other wonderful things.  I am constantly inspired by the blogs around me and grateful that people have the courage to share themselves with those around them, something that I am slowly learning how to do.  It's not an easy thing for me, but reading what others have shared makes the endeavor that much more doable.  

First, you should check out Jules Blogspot, a new blog by a woman who I know will share some great lessons with us, along with recipes and photographs from her travel.  I always appreciate this woman's willingness to share herself with others, from giving tons of time to her work and her community to being open about herself and her own life.    

After reading Jules' blog, do visit my cousin Lauren's blog, Write a Pumpkin, Bake Some Prose.  The author of this blog posts constantly, and I love that she simply snaps a picture of whatever it is she made that night for dinner or dessert and immediately puts it out there.  This is a place you can return to often and always find something new.  Also, Lauren used her own jar of Great Aunt Ethel's Butterscotch Sauce on this Coconut-Banana Cream Pie that looks heavenly.  I haven't made this yet, but I plan to soon.  Talk about sharing the love and paying it forward!  Thank you for this wonderful gift, Pumpkin Prose.  You can find her pie recipe here.   

Once you have decided on a recipe to try from Pumpkin Prose, you can pop on over to More Than a Weed, a hilarious blog written about pregnancy, motherhood, and life by another cousin of mine, Christy.  Christy began this blog while pregnant with her daughter, Purslane (not a weed!), and made me literally laugh out loud while reading it.  Now that Pursy is an adorable 7 or 8 month old, Christy posts about many other things besides pregnancy.  Like Jules from Jules' Blogspot, Christy has a unique gift for sharing herself with those around her.  It has been a treat to hear her thoughts via More Than a Weed.  

By the time you are finished digging into these three places, hopefully the snow will be melting and your mind will turn to what mine always turns to...weddings!  Yes, despite this crazy winter we are having, the snow will be replaced with green grass and sunshine.  Those of you who are engaged, are helping the bride as a bridesmaid, or who just love to look at beautiful wedding pictures (great ideas for other non-wedding events, too) will find this site and blog, Down the Aisle, to come in handy.  Christine is woman I met more recently who used to be in health insurance and realized that what she really loved to do was plan weddings.  She now owns and manages her own successful wedding planning business, Down the Aisle, LLC, and is an inspiration to all of us who want to cut our own paths towards work we truly love.  

Another woman who quit her job as the art director at a publishing firm to do what she had always wanted to and open her own successful cookie business is Ricki Hellner.  She owns Haiku's Luscious Cookies and graciously agreed to take me on as a baker this past summer when I had quit my teaching job.  You can find her cookies at the Whole Foods stores in CT, RI, NY, and MA, and at many small specialty food stores in Connecticut.  To find specific store locations, go here.  You can even find a picture of me on the Haiku site if you go here!  A portion of the proceeds from the cookies goes to help wild mustangs--another example of a woman doing inspiring work that positively impacts those around her.  

After wedding dreaming and finding and sampling some of Haiku's cookies, you need to make time to visit Eyes Peeled Always, a blog written by a young woman that I have known since first grade.  While we don't talk any longer, we do visit each others' blogs, and I think of her often.  Hers is one of the most inspiring blogs I have read, and her words are a constant reminder to me about what is truly important in life.  Last summer when I was gearing up to return to teaching, reading this woman's blog helped realize it would be my last year of teaching and helped me gain the courage to quit.  

If you are not already full of all kinds of share time inspiration, or even if you are, you should not forget to look at Cup O' Cake Designs.  I put this one last on the list because it is here that I come full circle.  Reading this woman's blog in January of 2009, I was inspired to create my own baking blog.  If she could do it, then couldn't I?  And so her blog is really the reason I began my own and highlights the true joy in sharing.  Since this blogger is pregnant and thus soon to be immersed in newborn baby activities, I imagine she will be very busy over the next few months.  However, perhaps she will share with us some of the things she creates for the baby and some of the things she makes for herself along the way!

Finally, do put yourself out there and share the blogs that have inspired you by posting links to them in the comments section.  And, if you are one of those people who has been thinking about starting your own blog, now is a good time to do so.  Once you've got your first post, please let us know!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Coconut Ice-Cream Swirled with Mango Sorbet

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm in love.  His name is David, and he makes my eyes light up with anticipation and my tongue tingle.  In the midst of this icy cold winter, he is heating me up with his warm-weather flavors and allowing me to pretend for a few blissful moments that it's not -5 outside.  I met him almost a year ago now, and, if my husband's approval of him is any measure, I think our relationship is going pretty well.  

So well, in fact, that I decided to share him.  Like everyone else I know, my husband and I celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday night, and I cooked him Thai food.  I made Thai Lemon Shrimp (the recipe can be found here) from Closet Cooking; the same blog I used for my green tomatoes over the summer.  I served the shrimp with stir-fried vegetables from here and plain white rice.  Dessert is where David came in.  David Lebovitz, that is.  We had one of his lovely ice-creams from The Perfect Scoop.  After infusing toasted coconut into warm cream and sugar, you make a quick custard (see tips passed on from David, below) and then freeze it in your ice-cream maker.  Then, if you wish, you swirl it with mango sorbet (technique below).  I cheated and used store-bought sorbet (I like Haagen Dazs), but David has a recipe for that, too.  (See why I adore him?)  I also added sweetened flaked coconut to the ice-cream after it had been in the ice-cream maker for 20 minutes.  

Today, the temperature rose to 57 degrees and we had David's coconut mango ice cream for dessert once again.  I am, like the groundhog, anticipating a swifty spring arrival.  But in the meantime, David's ice-cream will have to suffice.  

David's Toasted Coconut Ice-Cream Swirled with Mango Sorbet
1 cup dried shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
1 cup whole milk
2 c heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
Big pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp rum

Toast the coconut at 350 for about 5 minutes, or until golden.  Meanwhile, warm the milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Add the toasted coconut.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk, then add the pod as well.  Cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature 1 hour.  

Rewarm the coconut infused mixture.  Set a mesh strainer over another medium saucepan and strain the coconut-infused liquid through the strainer into the saucepan.  Press down on the coconut to extract as much flavor as possible.  (A rubber spatula works well for this.)  Remove the vanilla bean seeds and the coconut and reserve for another use.  

Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set the mesh strainer on top.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm coconut-infused mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.  

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.  Mix in the vanilla or rum and stir until cool over an ice bath.  Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least four hours but perhaps more), then freeze it in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.  

My notes:  I skipped the vanilla altogether but did add 1 tsp rum.  You could add 1 tsp vanilla in place of the vanilla bean (just add it at the end after the mixture has been warmed).  I also added sweetened flaked coconut to the ice-cream as a "mix-in" after it had been mixing in the ice-cream maker for 20 minutes.  

Ice-Cream Tips:

To "swirl" two ice-creams:  Alternate scoops of two different ice-creams (or ice-cream and sorbet) in a large dish that can be covered.  Smooth the top and bang the dish on the counter to release air bubbles.  Repeat with remaining scoops.  

To fix a broken custard (one that has curdled):  Blend the warm custard before straining it.  

How to know your custard is done cooking:  Ice-cream custard is ready when steam starts rising from the pan.  You can also tell by the fact that the custard will coat the back of a spoon.  When you run your finger across the back of the spoon, the custard should hold its shape and not run over your finger line.  The custard will seem thin, but it's ready.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rose's Apple Sour Cream Crumb Cake

 Here is a delightful coffee cake for you.  I love everything that Rose Levy Beranbaum creates, and this cake, from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, is no exception.  It is similar to the sour cream coffee cake recipe from her older book, The Cake Bible, but, as she explains in the recipe intro, she has made a key change here:  baking the cake for a half hour before adding the crumb mixture.  This keeps the crumb topping from sinking too much into the cake batter and out comes full, luscious crumbs.  You might want to make this cake for someone special on Valentine's morning...and special could just mean you!  It's also delicious with jam in the center instead of or along with the apples--I like it with blueberry.  Just spread the jam on top of the apples or on top of the batter if using it alone, top with the remaining batter, and there you go.  

Apple-Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
Serves 8-10

Cinnamon Crumb Topping:
1 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup light brown sugar, preferably Muscovado
2 T granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup (sifted into the cup and leveled off) plus 1 T
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla 

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon until the walnuts are coarsely chopped.  Remove and set aside 1/2 cup to use for the filling.  To the remainder, add the flour, butter, vanilla, and pulse briefly to form a coarse, crumbly mixture.  Scrape it into a medium bowl and refrigerate it for 20 minutes to firm up the butter and make it easier to crumble.  

1 small tart apple, such as Granny Smith
2 tsp lemon juice
2/3 c sour cream, divided
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c bleached all purpose flour (sifted into the cup and leveled off)
1 c superfine sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter 

Prepare your pan and oven:  Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan and, if you have one, encircle it with a cake strip (don't forget to soak it in water).  If you want to get fancy, you can add a parchment round to the greased pan and then coat the parchment round with grease and flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 and set the rack in the lower third of your oven.  

Prepare the apple slices:  Just before mixing the batter, peel, core, and slice the apple about 1/4 inch thick.  (You should have about 1 heaping cup of slices.)  Sprinkle with the lemon juice and set aside.  

Mix the liquid ingredients:  Whisk together the eggs, 3 T of the sour cream, and the vanilla until just combined. 

Make the batter:  In a mixer bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add the butter and remaining sour cream and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1  1/2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  

Starting on medium speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  

Scrape about two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.  Using your fingers, sprinkle lightly with the reserved 1/2 c crumb topping (do not press it into the batter) and top with two rows of overlapping apple slices.  Drop the remaining batter in large blobs over the apples and spread it evenly.  

Bake the cake:  Bake for 35 minutes.  Meanwhile, use your fingertips to pinch together the refrigerated crumb topping, breaking up the larger pieces so that about one-third of the mixture is formed into 1/4-inch balls or clumps and the rest is in small particles.  (Do not make them too large because they will make it difficult to cut when serving.)  Let them fall onto a large piece of parchment and add the rest of the lightly pinched crumbs.  

Finish the cake:  Remove the pan from the oven and gently place on a wire rack.  Using the parchment as a funnel, quickly and evenly strew the surface with the crumb topping.  Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for 20-30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center.  Cool on rack 10 minutes, then loosen sides of cake and remove the springform sides.  Cool completely, 1 1/2 hours.   

This cake is pretty simple to make and could easily be made the night before you plan to serve it.  I took part of this one to the New Hartford Historical Society where I volunteer every Wednesday night, and I'm pretty sure people loved it.  That, or they were just being polite!  

Speaking of the Historical Society, I've been thinking a lot lately about work.  Mainly, the purpose of work and the ways in which work fulfills us.  For me, teaching has always been incredibly fulfilling work, and I can't imagine doing something that didn't challenge me in new ways and fulfill some kind of larger purpose.  By helping others, I felt I was always serving a purpose, even though I wasn't crazy about all of the practical aspects of teaching:  arriving to work at 6 am (I am far from a "morning person"), being surrounded by over a hundred people all day long, performing all day (if I could just teach 1 class per day, that would be the perfect amount of performance for me, but teaching is not like that!), and having to follow the same darn routine day in and day out.  That last part was the hardest for me.  I was a big fan of the schedule my own high school followed, where our classes met every other day and for different amounts of time each meeting.  It mixed things up a bit and cut through the monotony.  I am just not a routines type of person.  

Since quitting teaching, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do instead.  I haven't come up with the perfect answer yet, if there is a perfect answer.  But, in the meantime, I find a lot of fulfillment from the volunteer work I do with the Historical Society, the Collinsville Farmers' Market, and the Women's Club.  These commitments don't take up a lot of time, but they allow me to feel as though I am doing something useful for my community while I search for other work, and they make me immensely happy.  What are your thoughts about work?      

If you buy no other cake books besides The Cake Bible and this one (a bit fancier cakes but still has some basics), you will be happy and will be able to impress your friends with delicious cake.