Gingerbread

Dear Anne,

Right now I have some gingerbread in the oven.  It’s your grandmother’s recipe.  I’m not sure how it will turn out because I used a little too much baking soda.  I may have got a little distracted belting out “Maybe This Time” with Liza.  Oh, I should mention I considered not using vegetable shortening for a hot second, but then I imagined Grandma Pat running after me with a wooden spoon, threatening me within an inch of my life for not using shortening, particularly Crisco.  It was terrifying.  Needless to say, I used the Crisco.  I think it will pay off.

This effort is not my best.  As I mentioned earlier, I was very distracted by my debut in Cabaret, playing one night only at Carolyne’s Kitchen, but on top of that, I don’t actually own an 8×8 pan, which is called for in the recipe.  I’m using something that looks like an 8×6, so we’ll see how that turns out.  The gingerbread has been baking for about 20 minutes thus far, and it still looks pretty wet in the middle. (The recipe says to bake for 25 minutes.) Now, while we wait for the gingerbread to finish baking, why don’t we all listen to some Liza?

I decided to make gingerbread tonight because yesterday was the epitome of a fall day.  The sky was a brooding, steely blue, threatening to rain at every turn, red and yellow leaves decorated the streets and sidewalks, and the air had that telltale crisp chill.  Above all, it smelled like fall.  Yesterday, I spent the entire workday listening to Nina Simone and drinking copious pots of tea, all while working, of course.  Today was beautiful, nearly perfect.  The sun was shining, and it was almost warm.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, which is perfect for more tea and a deliciously spicy and warm baked good.  I am all about preparation.

The gingerbread is out of the oven.  It took about 40-45 minutes to bake.  Hallelu! I didn’t ruin it!  You can’t taste the extra baking soda.  The sides aren’t dry.

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(Note to self: learn to take better food photos.)

I have not frosted the whole pan of gingerbread because I firmly believe that everyone has the right to choose how much frosting to put on their baked goods.  I am usually not a huge fan of frosting and am often forced to scrape a bunch off, and really that’s just wasteful.

The plan for this gingerbread is to pair with a giant pot of coffee and become breakfast for Ellie and me tomorrow morning.  What a charming way to start a dreary day in Upstate.

Dearest Anne, you already know this recipe, but for our potential readers, I post it below as you sent it to me.

“Grandma McLeod’s Gingerbread”
1/4 c. vegetable shortening (and it’d better be Crisco, or Grandma Pat will find you and scold you)
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda, divided
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 c. white flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 c. boiling water
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 325F.
Cream the shortening by mashing it against the sides of the mixing bowl until creamy.
Add the sugar and beat thoroughly.
Put 1/2 tsp of the baking soda and the molasses in a small bowl and beat until the molasses becomes “light and fluffy”. Then, mix into the shortening/sugar thoroughly.
In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt; set aside.
Stir together the boiling water and remaining 1/4 tsp baking soda. Gradually add about one third of this mixture to the molasses mixture, then add one third of the dry ingredients. Repeat until you’ve added all of the water and dry ingredients, then add the beaten egg and stir batter thoroughly.
Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan and sprinkle with a bit of flour. Pour batter into the pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.
THEN EAT THEM.

Kisses and kitten,

Carolyne

This post isn’t about broccoli, either.

Dear Anne,

Thanks for setting up this cooking blog! (I had to fight the urge to use the word “rad.” This is not the 90s, Carolyne.) I am very excited to share my recipes with you, and possibly the world, or at least some of our friends…maybe…

Shortly after I returned to Upstate after visiting you, I discovered this recipe for plum cake.  That Carolyn’s plum cake looks much better than my plum cake (see below), but this was a good first attempt.

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I know how you feel about fruit in general, but what’s your take on plums?  I thought this cake was sweet enough without being overbearing, reminiscent of a coffee cake.  Out of fear of the cake not being cooked all the way through, I left it in about five minutes too long, resulting in a drier product that desired.  However, I fixed that right up with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a cup of tea.

It would have been nice to have you here to enjoy this cake and some coffee with me, perhaps whilst playing a game of Apples to Apples.

Warmly,

Carolyne

Amazingly, the first post is not about broccoli

Dear Carolyne,

Hooray, we have a blog! I think this is going to be excellent, even if we are the only ones who read it.

I wish you had been here last week when I decided it would be a great idea to try and sort of recreate the Savory Quinoa Waffle I had at Birchwood Cafe back in April (side note: right now they have a Pumpkin, Millet and Gruyere waffle and I want to go to there). I do not, however, own a waffle iron, and I thought I could somehow take essentially the same elements (quinoa, asparagus, cheese, and bacon) and make them into muffins pretty feasibly.

Feasibly indeed.

Pardon the questionable phone picture I snapped, but here they are. They are not exactly what I wanted, having turned out a little sweeter and a little, um, breadier than what I was shooting for. They are pretty solid, though, and definitely edible. I wish you were here to eat them with me, though, because no one in close proximity likes asparagus. No one appreciates food like you, mon amie.

Here is what I did:

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup asparagus, cut into small pieces and softened in the microwave with some butter
3 pieces cooked bacon, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup shredded truffle cheese from Trader Joe’s
3/4 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350. You know the song and dance here, mix the dry ingredients in one bowl (including the asparagus and cheese and bacon), but save the quinoa for last. Combine the milk and egg in a separate bowl, then combine with the quinoa mixture. Don’t over mix it.

Prepare a muffin tin in whatever way suits you best. You could probably grease and flour the individual cups, but that seems like work. I opted for stylish muffin wrappers, and I only mildly regret it, as  the paper does seem to stick to these a little bit.

Fill each section 3/4 of the way full or so. The batter is pretty thick so I mostly just plopped a large spoonful in each one. Bake for about 30 minutes, and you’ll know they’re done with you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

I got about 16 muffins out of this, but you would probably get more if you are more stringent about measuring the amount of batter that goes into each muffin.

If I had these to do over again, I would increase the amount of extra savory stuff. More asparagus, more bacon, and maybe some roasted garlic or some shredded carrots too.

Negating any health benefits these might have, I find they are best slightly warm with a little butter and a dusting of grated Parmesan.

I do truly wish you were here to help me eat them, but at least we’ve got this blog thing going now!

Fondly,

Anne