Making a Classic Calzone

By the time most Fridays roll around, I want an easy meal that I can get on the table quickly, and often times that’s when I make a pizza. Luckily Mr. D. and I love pizza, and we are both pretty adventuresome when it comes to food.  So I have made pizzas with many different toppings;  some traditional and others non-traditional or down-right unusual;  like clean-out-the-fridge-and-use-up-the-leftovers-pizza. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting that one!

My first attempt at making a calzone. Not the traditional shape, but it sure tasted good.

What I want to tell you about today, is how I made a calzone.  It’s sort of like a pizza with the filling wrapped inside the dough.  And just like pizza, you can make any kind of filling you like.  For this one, my first attempt, I used the classic filling of marinara sauce, sliced genoa salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.  It was bigger than I thought it would be, and I needed a second pair of hands to help me get it onto the baking sheet once it was made.  The smell of it baking was heavenly, and I couldn’t wait to eat it.  I was not disappointed in the least.  With more practice rolling and shaping the dough my future calzones will most likely look more like a calzone should i.e. a half moon shape, but as I frequently say, ” Pretty doesn’t taste any better”, and we both enjoyed it very much.

CLASSIC CALZONE

SERVINGS    4

This is what you need to have ready:

  • olive oil for brushing
  • all-purpose flour for your work surface
  • 1 pound of pizza dough, thawed if frozen
  • 1/3 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced genoa salami
  • a few slices of pepperoni
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil, or line with parchment paper.

2.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 16 inch circle.  If the dough is “fighting” you, let it rest periodically, then roll some more.  I found it a little difficult to get any where near a perfect circle.

3.  Spread the marinara on the bottom half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border.  Cover the marinara with slices of salami, then pepperoni and finally the mozzarella cheese.  (So sorry, in my enthusiasm for getting it all rolled up, I forgot to get a photo of it at this stage.)

4.  Fold the top half over the bottom half, pinch the edges together and roll up, pinching to seal as you go.  Brush off any excess flour.

Filled and ready for the oven.

5.  Carefully transfer to baking sheet.  Lightly brush with oil, and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  Bake until golden brown 22 – 25 minutes.

Serve with additional marinara sauce.

Cut into serving size slices and serve with additional marinara sauce to spoon on or dip into.   MMMMMM, good.

SOURCE:  Everyday Food

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J. Gilbert’s Steak House

J. Gilbert’s Steak House

Back in October my husband celebrated his birthday and so we went out to dinner.  It was not a hard choice where to go because for his birthday Mr. D. had received a gift card from J. Gilbert’s and it just happens to be his favorite place to go for dinner out.  They are best known for their steaks, and that suits Mr. D. just fine as that is what he always orders.  I am more adventuresome in my choices, and have always been very well satisfied with whatever I have ordered there.

One of the things we like about J. Gilbert’s is the ambiance.  It has a “clubby” type of atmosphere with lots of wood furnishings.  Parties are seated in secluded booths with stained glass dividers, so there is a sense of privacy.

The ambiance is cozy and warm.

Even though the restaurant has a large interior, once seated you cannot see into other parts of the dining areas.

On this particular evening we were greeted at the door and escorted to our reserved table right near the massive stone fireplace where there was a gas-fire burning.

The hostess placed a “Happy Birthday” card on the table so all servers and wait staff would know that we were celebrating a birthday. Everyone who came to our table wished Mr. D. a “Happy Birthday”.  Even the couple sitting across the isle from us greeted us warmly and eventually offered to take our picture with my camera.

Everyone knew we were celebrating a birthday.

When our waiter arrived at the table to take our order he was well prepared to tell us about the evening’s special menu offerings, and to suggest an appropriate wine to complement our meal.   We began with wine and the bread offering which was a small loaf of sour dough bread accompanied by sweet butter, and also an herb butter.  We ordered our wine by the glass and I had a smooth, buttery  California Chardonnay, and Mr. D. had a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  Both lovely.

Next we had our appetizers.  Mine was the Caesar Salad, served with a crispy disc of Parmesan-Reggiano cheese that had been melted then allowed to become crisp.  The salad was  garnished with two anchovies on top.  All the traditional ingredients of a Caesar Salad but put together in a non-traditional way.  Delicious!

Caesar Salad, garnished with two anchovies and a crisp disc of cheese.

Mr. D. had the Chicken Tortilla Soup,  a spicy chicken broth base with bits of chicken, and vegetables, plus crispy tortilla strips and garnished with a scoop of guacamole on top.  He loves this soup and always orders it whenever we go there.

Chicken Tortilla Soup, garnished with guacamole.

For his entree my husband ordered the Kansas City Strip Steak, medium rare, and it was perfect.  Along with it he had Lobster Mac and Cheese and Green Beans with Almonds.  The amount of food was plentiful, and he took part of his meal home.

Kansas City Strip Steak served with Lobster Mac and Cheese and Green Beans with Almonds.

My entree was the Georges Banks Seared Scallops in a lemon butter sauce and served with Lobster Risotto.  The risotto was garnished with lightly sautéed onion rings. It was beautifully plated and outstanding in flavor. The quantity of food was such that I was able to finish my whole dinner, but with little room for dessert.

Georges Banks Seared Scallops with Lobster Risotto in Lemon Butter Sauce.

Our waiter allowed us to take our time with dinner, with no sense of being rushed.  At the completion of the main course, he presented us with a tray of dessert options from which to choose.  We decided to share one dessert and chose the Creme Brûlée.  When it was brought to the table, it was garnished with two raspberries one of which had a lighted birthday candle in it.

Creme Brûlée with a Birthday candle.

Eating this luscious dessert was like eating velvet, it was so smooth, custardy and creamy, with a layer of crisp caramelized sugar on top.  Along with dessert we had coffee.  It was a wonderful ending to a great dinner and Birthday celebration.

We tend to go to this restaurant on special occasions and we are never disappointed.  All the meats are from grain-fed animals, and no hormones are used; the seafood is from waters off the coast of New England, never farm-raised.  All produce is grown and sourced from nearby farms.  The chef is creative in his use of seasonal produce, and presents traditional offerings with a slight twist.

As you might expect for a restaurant of this caliber, the meals are pricy, with dinner for two costing not less than $100.00.  However, we  are always well-satisfied,  so when we want to enjoy a leisurely dinner for a special night out, the cost is justified.  I can whole-heartedly recommend this lovely restaurant to anyone living in the vicinity or to vacationers or travelers passing through the the central Connecticut area.

Pumpkin Butterscotch Granola Bars

Pumpkin Butterscotch Granola Bars

Are you tired of recipes with pumpkin?  I hope not, because this is another one, and as long as no one raises a red flag and shouts STOP, they’ll probably keep coming.  You know me and pumpkin by now, so as long as a recipe has the “P” word in it, I’m on it.

These are the BEST Granola Bars I have ever made.  I know that because my husband told me so, and I believe what he says.  🙂

Seriously, they are awfully good tasting, but also hold their shape without crumbling and cut nicely when cool.  They make a nutritional after school snack, or lunch box treat.  You can wrap them individually in wax paper or parchment paper and freeze them so they are available to grab on short notice.  Actually mine never made it to the freezer, because as you are chewing the last bite of the first one, your hand will be reaching for another one so in my house they didn’t last long.  Give them a try and I think you’ll agree with me —they are the best!

PUMPKIN BUTTERSCOTCH GRANOLA BARS

YIELD:  makes 20 – 24 bars depending on how you cut them.

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a 13″ x 9″ pan with a sheet of parchment paper  lining the bottom.

2.  Get these ingredients ready:

  • 4 cups oats, preferably old fashioned whole oats, but quick oats work, too.

    Get all the ingredients ready in advance.

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas ( I used toasted sunflower seeds)
  • 11 ounces butterscotch chips ( 1 bag)

3   In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, and vegetable oil, mixing until the oats are well coated.

4.  Add the honey and the  brown sugar, pumpkin and cinnamon and salt and mix to combine.

5.  Add the almonds and pepitas and mix in.

6.  Stir in the butterscotch chips.

7.  Transfer the granola to the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.

8.  Bake the bars at 325 degrees for 30 minutes and then press down hard with a spatula.

9.  Bake for another 20 minutes.

10.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.  Wrap individually and store in an air-tight container, or freeze.

PUMPKIN BUTTERSCOTCH GRANOLA BARS, a delicious snack.

SOURCE:    blog:  Heather Christo Cooks

Spiced Pumpkin Cornbread

Spiced Pumpkin Corn Bread

This is the cornbread recipe I made to go with the Southwestern Lentil Soup.  It’s a little unusual in that it contains pumpkin, but it makes the cornbread so moist.  The added spices also give some additional flavor and were a nice complement to the soup—like they were made for each other.

I almost overlooked this recipe as it was on a magazine page that was an advertisement for Kenmore Products, and credit for  the recipe was given to Cliff Hagerman.  So I would like to thank Mr. Hagerman for his recipe; its a little unusual, but we really liked it.

SPICED PUMPKIN CORNBREAD

SERVINGS:  about 9

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry jerk seasoning  ( I did not have any on hand so I used Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming, the same seasonings I used in the Lentil Soup)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

2.  Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in cornmeal.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs lightly.  Whisk in pumpkin, brown sugar, oil and molasses. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Batter poured into a 9-inch square pan, ready for the oven.

4.  Pour batter into a 9-inch square, greased baking pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cornbread is browned and surface springs back to the touch.

Golden brown, hot out of the oven.

I served it with soup but this cornbread would also be a good accompaniment to chili.

SOURCE:     Magazine clipping, ? the source.

Southwestern Lentil Soup

Southwestern Lentil Soup

I love soups.  I love to make them and eat them.  In fact I have gained quite a reputation for the variety of soups I make; hot or cold you can always eat soup.  No matter what time of year it is there’s always a great soup to make.  Starting in the Fall I think of hearty soups that include meat and lots of vegetables.  Of course some soups are purely vegetable based, made smooth and creamy by pureeing.

The soup I made a few days ago  is one I’ve made several times before and both Mr. D. and I like it very much. It’s sort of a cross between a soup and chili. A beef and vegetable soup made doubly nutritious by the addition of lentils, and Southwestern seasonings to give it some zip.  You might want to try this instead of chili for your next football party.  Add a pan of spicy corn bread to go with it and you’ve got a terrific meal.  (My recipe for corn bread will be featured in tomorrow’s post).  This could easily be a vegetarian or vegan soup by omitting the beef, and perhaps adding some mushrooms for that meaty umami flavor.

SOUTHWESTERN LENTIL SOUP

YIELD:  6 – 8 servings

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into coins
  • 1 ( 14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  •  1 ( 4 ounce ) can diced greens chiles
  • 1  8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 6  1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon southwestern seasoning ( This can be a combination of chili, cumin, coriander, garlic, etc.)  I use Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming.

1.  Rinse lentils, drain and set aside.

2.  Brown the ground beef in a hot skillet or soup pot.  Drain away the fat and set the meat aside.

Brown the ground beef well.

3.  Heat the oil in the same pan.  Add the onion and carrots, sauté until slightly softened. (My method of choice is to first brown the meat and then saute the vegetables in a skillet, and when each is done I add it to a large soup kettle.  Then I proceed to step  #4.)

Lightly saute onions and carrots.

4.  Add the lentils, beef, tomatoes, green chiles, tomato sauce, water, salt, pepper, and other seasonings to the soup kettle.

Add in all the other ingredients.

5.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for about an hour until lentils are tender.  Stir occasionally to prevent lentils from sticking.

Is it soup yet?

You can really amp up the spiciness factor to whatever level you like by adding some cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper to the soup, or serve with some hot sauce on the table for those who like it a little hotter.

Soup served with Pumpkin Spice Corn Bread.

SOURCE:   Penzey’s Spices

Crusty Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Onions

Crusty Potatoes with Tomatoes and Onions

Potatoes are one vegetable that seem to have limitless ways to prepare them.  I love potatoes in all forms, however Mr. D.  can be a little particular about how he likes his potatoes, preferring them to be more “fancy” than plain.  He would say “interesting, not boring”.  And  so I try to find recipes that fit the bill.

Flipping through one of my vegetarian cookbooks recently I came upon this recipe for “the spud” that combines potatoes with tomatoes and onions.  The onions and tomatoes caramelize and create an irresistible crust in this country-style casserole.  For a vegetarian meal just add a salad and some bread.  When I made it I served it with pan sautéed fish fillets and a salad.   The next day I had the leftovers with a poached egg;  also a very satisfying meal.  I know that I will be making this casserole many more times as it seems to fit into many meal combinations.  Both Mr. D. and I liked it very much.  It’s the kind of dish where you keep going back for one more bite!.

Please note that I made half a recipe, using one large and three small(ish) potatoes and the resulting dish in my opinion would serve four people, so the recipe as written will make quite a large amount.

CRUSTY POTATOES, TOMATOES, AND ONIONS

SERVINGS:   4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 medium (about 2 pounds) potatoes, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 3 large onions, halved vertically and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  28-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup fruity olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Lightly grease a 12″ x 7″ x 2″ baking dish or other 2 1/2 quart ovenproof shallow dish.

Slice potatoes evenly.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, garlic and tomatoes.

Combine potatoes, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, olive oil, water, oregano, salt and pepper.   Pour over the vegetable mixture and toss to coat well.

Combine tomato paste, water, olive oil and seasonings.

Pour seasoning mixture over vegetables and toss well to coat.

4.  Spread this mixture in the prepared baking dish.

Ready for the oven. Cover with foil before baking.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 45 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are easily pierced and tender.

Crusty Potatoes with Tomatoes and Onion

SOURCE:     Quick Vegetarian Pleasures,  Jeanne Lemlin

Pumpkin Ginger Scones

Pumpkin Ginger Scones

Pumpkin used in baked goods seems to be gaining in popularity.  It is one of the most common flavors of Fall and gets used right through the Holidays.  Most typically it gets made into pies and served as dessert, however I am seeing more and more recipes for pumpkin used in breads, muffins and scones.  I love pumpkin in any form, I am also crazy about scones and as most of you know by now, crystalized ginger.  So when this recipe with those three magic words as its title found its way into my house recently I was preheating the oven before I got to the end of the recipe.

An absolutely lovely breakfast item they are full of flavor from the spices and dried fruit, and they also have a pleasant bite from the ginger bits that will get you going in the morning.  They are extremely easy to mix together, bake up in a jiffy, and you can be enjoying them within an hour.  They are wonderful warm from the oven, but also reheat nicely in the microwave.  This is another recipe you might want to have handy for Thanksgiving morning.  If you are having house guests, set out a basket of muffins and scones, hot coffee and juice and let your guests help themselves to breakfast.

INGREDIENTS

YIELD:  Makes 8 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    Essential ingredients: pumpkin, raisins, and crystalized ginger.

  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup ( 1 stick ) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup raisins ( use golden, dark, or some of both )
  • 1/2 cup crystalized ginger cut into fine dice
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment, or lightly grease a scone pan.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices.  Cut in the butter until it’s the size of peas.  Stir in the raisins and ginger bits.

3.  Stir the pumpkin, vanilla, and egg together and add to the dry mixture, mixing until the dough comes together.  Pat the dough into a circle on the prepared baking sheet, or scoop into the wells of your scone pan.

4.  Cut the dough into 8 wedges with a greased bench knife or other knife.  Pull the scones back away from each other to give them 1/2″ space between them.  Bake for 14 – 17 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and serve warm or cold.  (They are best warm!)

Fresh out of the oven, just waiting for YOU!

SOURCE:    The Baking Sheet,  King Arthur Flour,  Holiday 2012

Shepherd’s Pie with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Shepherd’s Pie with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

This recipe takes me back–way back–to when I was growing up.  Shepherd’s Pie was a casserole dish that my mother made frequently  because it was a favorite of my father’s.  He also loved horseradish, and often told my brother and me about how his grandfather grew horseradish, and ground it fresh, so it was really tangy and hot, with no added ingredients to tame it down. So he grew up with a taste for the real thing fresh from the garden.  Maybe I have a “gene” for horseradish, inherited from my father.  However I came by it, I like it  pretty well too, and I use it like relish to garnish some meats(like corned beef), and add it to other dishes just for the flavor it imparts.  Mashed potatoes is one of those dishes.  So—combine horseradish flavored mashed potatoes with a meat and vegetable pie and you’ve got one deeelish dish.  However if the thought of adding horseradish to your mashed potatoes doesn’t appeal to you just leave it out.

The other thing this casserole has going for it is parsnips.  Yep, parsnips.  Not a vegetable that gets a whole lot of press, and that’s a shame because parsnips add a lot of sweetness to whatever they are cooked with, or they are wonderful on their own either roasted or baked.  As a matter of fact, I will most likely be cooking parsnips again soon as I now have half a bag to use up after making this dish.

HORSERADISH-MASHED POTATO SHEPHERD’S PIE

SERVINGS:    4

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds ground beef sirloin
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 Tablespoons chopped green onions or chives

DIRECTIONS

1.  Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil.   Salt the water, lower the heat and simmer until fork-tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain, then mash with the milk, egg and horseradish, until light and fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Sautee the onions a little.

2.  In a deep, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, parsnips, carrots and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until crisp tender, 8 – 10 minutes.

Add carrots, parsnip and bay leaf.

3.  Crumble the beef into the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

Crumble in the beef, then sprinkle flour over the top.

Stir in the beef broth and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Season with Worcestershire sauce.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Discard the bay leaf.

4.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a shallow, medium casserole dish;  add the meat mixture and top with the mashed potatoes.  Bake until golden and heated through.  Sprinkle chives or green onions on top before serving.

Hot out of the oven, ready to be served.

SOURCE:   A Carolyn Original

Apple Cobbler Cupcakes

Apple Cobbler Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

After deliberating for several days over what kind of cupcakes to make for my father-in-law’s birthday party.  I finally decided on these:  Apple Cobbler Cupcakes.  Since this celebration was the weekend before Halloween, it seemed logical to make a tie-in.  Then I thought, well no, his birthday should be the main focus, but it is Fall so something with apples would be good.  When you frost these with a caramel frosting, you get a riff on the traditional caramel apple—a Halloween treat.  Makes perfect sense, yes?  Everyone at the party thought so, and didn’t waste any time in making them disappear.   In fact, I had to hold back the crowds so I could get a picture or two.:)

Presentation on the Dessert Table

This recipe is supposed to make 12 cupcakes; that’s filling the baking cups nearly full.  I felt they didn’t need to be that big since we also had Birthday cake and ice-cream for dessert.  So I filled my cupcake tins (paper lined ) about half full and I got a total of 18 cupcakes.  Once baked they came up to the tops of the liners.  I topped them with a generous swirl of frosting, some orange colored sugar and a “gummy ” pumpkin for decoration.

APPLE COBBLER CUPCAKES

YIELD:   12 – 18 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 cup ( 1 stick ) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 1/2 cups apples, roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcakes tins with paper liners or grease lightly.

2.  Whisk together the dry ingredients;  flour through ginger.

3.  Beat butter and sugars together in a large mixer bowl until light and fluffy.

4.  Beat in eggs, sour cream, and lemon extract till well blended. Scrape down the bowl once or twice.

5.  Mix in the flour mixture till well incorporated.

6.  Fold in the apples.

7.  Scoop into 12 – 18 cupcake liners.

8.  Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes (18 cupcakes) or 25 minutes (12 cupcakes).  A toothpick inserted into the center of one should come out clean.

9.  Cool for a few minutes in their pans, then transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.

CARAMEL FROSTING

YIELD:  Makes about 2 1/4 cups

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk or light cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2  – 3 cups confectionery sugar, sifted.  It’s always best to sift your confectionery sugar for a silky smooth frosting.

1.  In a saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar and milk.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Add vanilla.  Cool to lukewarm.

2.  Gradually beat in the confectionery sugar till you get a spreadable consistency.  If you are piping on the frosting it needs to be a little stiffer to hold its shape.

3.  Frost cupcakes and decorate as desired.

  

SOURCES:    Cupcakes:  The Cupcake Connection

Frosting:        Luscious Bakeshop Favorites From Your own Kitchen,  Shelly Kaldunski

Election Day Cake

Election Day Cake

With tomorrow being Election Day I thought it might be fun to share with you a recipe for Election Day Cake.  No kidding, there really was such a thing–and there still is if you care to make it.

The custom of making a special cake for  Election Day has a long history.  Back in the early days of America, voters would have to travel great distances to cast their ballots, often to the state Capitol.   Since only the men were allowed to vote back then, the women of the hosting towns would serve cake to the visiting voters.  Election Day was a festive occasion calling for a special treat.   The Election Cake ( also called Hartford Election Cakes) is a yeast-raised fruitcake first reported as early as 1771 in New England, and then spreading in popularity across the country to the West throughout the nineteenth century. This cake is not heavy like a true fruitcake, but more cake-like with spices, whisky and colorful dried fruits, making this a delicious and patriotic treat.

The recipe takes a good bit of time to make having several steps to it, but the end result is a very impressive tall, tube cake.  Most of the syrup that the fruits were soaked in is used to brush on the cake as it cools adding some additional flavor and moisture.  A small amount of the soaking syrup is also used to make the glaze topping. With whisky as a preservative and containing a good quantity of dried fruits that have been soaked in the whisky, the cake is definitely a keeper,  I mean it keeps well.

ELECTION DAY CAKE

YIELD:   Makes one 10-inch tube cake or bundt cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

    Cranberries, blueberries, and golden raisins soaked in American Whisky.

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, such as cranberries, golden raisins, and blueberries ( red, white and blue)
  • 1/2 cup American whiskey
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 package (3/4 ounce) rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) soft unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar for glaze

PREPARATION

1.  Grease a 10-inch tube pan or spray with non-stick baking spray and lightly flour.

2.  Combine 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the water  in a small saucepan.  Simmer over med-high heat until sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat.

3.  Place the dried fruit in a large bowl.  Add the sugar mixture and whiskey;  stir and set aside.

4.  In a measuring cup, combine the warm water and milk.

Add warm milk mixture to the yeast and whole wheat flour.

5.  Combine yeast with 1 cup of whole-wheat flour in a medium bowl.  Add the milk mixture and stir in.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup whole wheat flour on top.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup whole wheat flour over the top.

Set aside to allow the yeast to ferment until the  yeast breaks through the surface of the flour, approximately 30 minutes.  This is called a sponge.

“Sponge” is ready, when yeast breaks through top layer of flour.

6.  Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and set aside.

7.  Drain the fruit mixture; reserve the syrup for later use in the glaze.

8.  In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar until light in texture.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition.

Beating in the eggs one at a time.

9.  Turn the mixer to low speed and add the sponge; mix until fully combined.

Beating in the sponge and  dry ingredients.

Add the remaining dry ingredients.  The batter will be stiff.  Stir in the drained fruit.

Stir in the drained dry fruits.

10. Place the batter in the pan, cover, and set in a warm place to allow the cake to rise, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.***  I gave my dough the full two hours and it doubled in size.

Batter in the tube pan before rising.

11. Meanwhile, make the glaze:  In a medium bowl, combine the 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of the reserved syrup drained from the fruit.  Stir until smooth and set aside.

12.Bake cake in a 350 degree oven for 45 – 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

A nice, tall tube cake after baking.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  When cool, lightly brush the cake all over with reserved syrup, and finally top with glaze, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides.

Brush cake all over with the fruit syrup.

Frost with glaze, allowing some to drip down the sides.

A tender cake, studded with bits of fruit, and lightly sweetened by the glaze.

***TIP:  To provide a uniform temperature for yeast doughs to rise, set the bowl of batter on a heating pad set at LOW temperature. The microwave oven provides a draft free place to raise yeast doughs.  Works beautifully!

Cover yeast batter, place in microwave oven on a heating pad set at LOW temperature.

SOURCE:    About.com,    courtesy of Culinary Institute of America