Thursday, July 31, 2014

Carrot Cake VIII: You call these brownies?

Today we present the 8th carrot cake recipe I've perpetrated. Unlike Henry VIII who couldn't keep a wife's head attached, I'm just pulverizing more vegetable roots!

Carrot "Brownies"
¼ c butter
¾ c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp salt
1 c whole wheat flour
about 1 c shredded carrots (4 of them)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a square pan.
Mix butter and brown sugar, beat in egg. Stir in baking powder and salt, and when mixed add the flour. Mix in the carrots last.
Pour into the pan and bake 30 minutes.

I usually like to make recipes out of books that have somehow or other made their way into my hands- looking up something specific just doesn't have the same element of surprise. But we at A Book of Cookrye have exhausted all the carrot cake recipes we have! So, hoping for brownies, we turned up this.

My carrots are hairy.

After this inadvertent (and surprisingly long!) series of carrot cakes, I really want to start a series on something I really like. Maybe brownies? Cheesecakes? Ice creams? Although if I'm going to do 8 recipes of the same thing, I want it to be something with a lot of room for variation. Although I do think I've found out why so many people don't like carrot cake: most recipes are terrible. Check out the overlap between the carrot cake and disappointing tags. And most of the carrot cakes sold are crammed full of walnuts despite no one I know liking walnuts in cakes. 
A cutting board of carrot hairs.

Since the carrots are sprouting anyway, I planted one in the yard. It looks to be doing better than the sprouted garlic bulbs which turned into stringy looking plants and then died.
If nothing else, most carrot cakes are really quick to mix up.

Partway through, I realized we'd run out of white flour.

Now it's good for you!

I actually had really high hopes this would turn into brownies. As with one or two brownie recipes
I really like, this ended up really thick.

However, we ended up with cake.
It's fluffy and everything.
It was kind of spongy, but it was a decent cake nonetheless. The wheat flour went surprisingly well with it. It was kind of bland, but a quick addition fixed that:

Peanut butter is good on so many things. One of my friends, while pregnant, took to eating slices of ham spread with it. I thought it was weird, but in its own way, it's really good. With that in mind, spreading it right out of the jar onto carrot cake is really normal. And honestly, while it's not at all brownies and not that great of a cake, with whole wheat flour it was really nice to have in the morning.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Have you dumped Dr. Pepper into your cookies today?

Today on A Book of Cookrye, we're busting out a cookpamphlet that is a big deal to a lot of people in my house:
I am so disappointed there is no recipe for Dr. Pepper French bread.

And making this!

Holiday Cutouts

1 c butter or margarine
1 c light brown sugar
1 egg
1½ c raw oatmeal*
2¼ c flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
¼ c Dr. Pepper

Cream butter and sugar, beat until light. Mix in vanilla and egg. Add oats, then salt and baking soda. When mixed, alternately add the flour and Dr. Pepper. Chill, then roll out and cut.
Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes.

*I didn't feel like putting this in.

I'm not kidding when I say Dr. Pepper is a big deal here. Not only do they have a museum, but we regularly stop there for the working 1900s soda fountain. So it is only natural and good I should start dumping that high fructose goodness into my culinary perpetrations.
I was surprised at how fluffy the butter and brown sugar ended up being.

There's always a case of the stuff at home, so I'm surprised I haven't put a few cans to culinary use before. Y'know, since we have the book for it and all.
I once threw out a batch of cookies because it looked curdled like this, and was embarrassed when the next time they did the same thing and came out fine anyway. 

However, this is all the Dr. Pepper that's supposed to go into these cookies.
Barely a puddle in the measuring cup.

Nevertheless, this was my cookie dough:

I know I left out the oatmeal and stuff, but I don't think that would have made these thick enough to be cookies.

However, it turned out to be a really nice, surprisingly fluffy cake:
Honestly, not bad!

But I was so bummed it didn't actually taste like Dr. Pepper at all. It was really good, if a little bland for want of flavoring (I was really light on the vanilla and such because I'd thought the Dr. Pepper would be adding to it). I doubt I'll be making it again, though. The Dr. Pepper was pointless. The cake was good, but I've had better.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carrot Cake Part VII: This time with strawberries!

Today I am saying something I never thought I would: I have made more carrot cakes than there are Rocky sequels. Wait a minute, what? Seriously? Oh, Sylvester Stallone, bless your heart.
Anyway, carrots completely mystify me. Where do they come from? I don't mean botanically; I mean how do they end up in my kitchen?

Well, like all things that get on one's nerves, it's time to start experimenting on them! We're taking a regular yellow cake recipe we've used before (and therefore know is a good one) and seeing if it'll turn into...

Strawberry Carrot Cake

½ c butter
16 oz strawberries
¾ c sugar
3 eggs
¼ c milk
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 c flour
1½ c shredded carrots

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13 pan.
Beat strawberries a bit with a mixer to break them up. Add butter and beat well. Then mix in the sugar, and then the milk. Mix in the baking powder and salt, then add the flour, stirring just until mixed. Stir in the carrots.
Pour into pan and bake 1 hour, apparently.

And like all experiments, a procedure! It'll look better than writing "make it up as you go and hope for the best."

Step one: Get the strawberries pulverized! Forget to really soften the butter and figure you may as well give it an extended beating while you've got the mixer running.
Iffy looking strawberries and a stick of butter. This'll be good.

When the butter doesn't quite mix in, think of Fanny Cradock in industrial-grade-drag-queen war paint making an omelet and going on about little butter cushions which melt as it cooks so you can wonder if it'll work here too. Or think of how the butter looks like little larvae of something or other.
Oh dear, a butter infestation.

Step 2: Sugar! Reduce it because the fruit and carrots already have a lot.
Aside from the great gobs of butter, it might sorta work.

Step 3: Leave the eggs in the original amount, they probably do... something or other. But use a lot less milk since you've got the strawberries and carrots in there which have made things go runny already.

Step 4: The rest of the stuff. Reassuringly, it now resembles cake batter and tastes insanely good. Go ahead and daintily dip your finger in a time or five.
Devoid of artificial food coloring, it wasn't as pretty a shade of pink as this.

Step 5: Temper the tastiness with carrot shards.
The color... I suddenly crave macaroni.

And now.... to the pan! Mutter a bit how you wish it was still pink.
Maybe I should have busted out the food coloring.

Step 6: Bake it 30 minutes, and then put this icing on top. Slice it and find that despite the knife you tested it with coming out clean, it's insanely wet. Back into the oven with it!

Step 7: Be annoyed that your icing melted into the cake and made this weird crackly stuff on top.
Behold, the before and after!

Step 8: Slice it and be dumbfounded that baking it for another half hour (that's 1 hour total) made barely any difference, and figure it's either a cake that went past moist and straight into wet or one that baked until it was a rock.
Eh.... tada?

Post-Experiment Analysis: Really tasty- the baked carrots tasted good with the strawberries. But it was like a damp sponge. It needs something besides the baking powder to lighten it. Also, the baking powder left a slight baking soda taste in there.

Further experiments:
Possibly try separating the eggs and beating the whites into a foam?

Not a bad way to dispose of carrots and also the strawberries that are going wrinkly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Carrot Cake part VI: The Most Important Meal of the Day

Carrots are like grocery bags, apparently. They just turn up in the refrigerator for no reason, and then you have to do something with them lest you feel bad about wasting food. On the bright side, I've gotten to try all manner of different cake recipes. However, it turns out there are a lot of bad carrot cake recipes. Some of them come out flavorless. Most of them are variations on this. Today, on the grounds that carrots are clearly good for you, we are going to attempt to start our day with...

Carrot Pancakes

1 c minus 2 tbsp cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Cinnamon to taste
½ teaspoon salt
1 c sour cream
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 egg
1 c packed shredded carrots
½ c milk

Beat sour cream, brown sugar, oil, and egg, and vanilla together. Stir in the baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix in the carrots, and last the flour.
Add the milk gradually until batter is thinned as you like, and cook on a well-oiled griddle over medium heat.

This actually looked fairly promising. The sour cream should theoretically add a nice kick, and there's not so much oil that we'll have another turns-the-paper-clear cake like the first one we ever made. Besides, whole wheat flour is very healthy, isn't it?
Kinda chunky, but looks about right.
This is when I realize why I hardly ever make pancakes. My mother used to make them all the time for us. She can pour them nearly to the edge of the griddle like this...

...and actually turn them. When I try that, I get this:
Is it believable to say my religion says to always scrape the first attempt away as an offering to the gods?
Well, that one ended up in the disposal. I poured the second to a more manageable size.
Eh, silver-dollar pancakes are better anyway.
It smelled really nice and toasty when I flipped it.

...And it was raw in the middle! I thought I'd write it off as I'm just terrible at pancakes, and let the next ones cook a really long time before turning them.
If they ain't cooked through now, they never will be.
And they were still raw and gummy in the middle! That's it, time to bring out the big guns.
This was last seen in the making of this divoon creation which I wish I had right now.
 That batter took 8 minutes to cook. For reference, most waffles take 2-4. The peanut butter cookies were done in 45-60 seconds. This should by all rights be burnt and inedible. Instead, it looks tempting and nice.

...And it was still like paste in the middle! Since I didn't eat any of these, here's a shot of who did:

But making this wasn't all bad. It made the kitchen smell nice, and we had really good leftovers from last night anyway.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Brownies! Or, I should get more recipes from library Special Collections

Today on A Book of Cookrye, we are delighted to present another recipe handwritten into the pages of a cookbook from a university library's special collections!
I saw the word "Brownies" and knew I had to make it.
I thought about calling this recipe Special Collections Brownies, but enough people go "Ooooo, will you make special brownies?"when I make brownies already.
2 oz chocolate
¼ c shortening
1 c sugar
2 eggs
⅛ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ c flour*
1 c nuts

Heat oven to 325°. Grease a square pan.
Melt the chocolate and the shortening. Add the sugar, mix well. Then add the eggs, and beat thoroughly. Stir in the salt and vanilla.  Mix in the flour and spread into pan. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife in the center comes out with no liquid batter on it (little clumps of baked brownie are OK). Ideally, you want to take them out of the oven just when you get no liquid but they're not so set that it comes out completely clean and dry.

*Substituting whole-wheat flour (for all of it, not half-and-half) is surprisingly good, maybe better than using white. It adds a really strong kick and an earthy undertone.
No. They get in the way of the chocolate.

Tonight brings us to the intersection of three things I really love: getting recipes out of forgotten places, chocolate, and brownie batter. Since the last recipe I found written in the university's copy of The Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book was so delicious, and since this one is brownies, I just had to.
Why does the shortening always melt so much faster?
I really like trying out recipes that really seem as genuinely forgotten as this one is. If you go online, there are a few copies of the Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book floating around for sale. But the handwritten recipes are unique to this one copy which is now in a library's special collections (read: you can't take it home) and not in someone's kitchen. So it feels like whatever recipes someone thought were good enough to write down are now locked away. Who, when looking for new recipes, goes to a university library and has something retrieved out of special collections to flip through? So to people who like cooking and old things as much as I do, it is like like finding something trapped and letting it back into the world - which you then get to eat and which has chocolate in it .

I also... well, it's a recipe for brownies. Just like graphic designers have 14 versions of Helvetica all of which look like Arial, I have an embarrassing number of brownie recipes. There's the one that is really dark but takes forever to mix, the one that is really easy but more sweet than chocolate, the one that's really good with other random stuff stirred in.... Despite this having plenty on file already, I still love trying out more.
Tonight I skipped adding the eggs one at a time and they still mixed in. Life just got better.
This is the most detailed recipe I've seen handwritten in this book aside from something called Chicken Mousse (which will not happen on A Book of Cookrye), so naturally I skipped a lot of the steps, particularly the ones involving getting out a sifter. Who wants to track down where all the flour dust drifted to?
The finished batter was delicious.
This is all the batter there was. Though no one wrote down a pan size, I think whoever wrote this may have had a smaller one in mind.
Thin brownies don't bother me.
You can see it juuuust not making it to the corners.
Because it was so thin, I decided the written baking time of 35 minutes would yield sad brownie husks. They were done in 15. Disbelieving that they'd be done that fast, I baked them for 20. They were delicious, but slightly overbaked.
I have no idea why I felt the need to balance one on a container lid.
Another batch, baked only 15 minutes, was divoon. It was like really soft fudge with a crackly top. These brownies are more dark chocolate than the Betty Feezor recipe. These are some seriously delicious brownies, and you should try them.

Edit: Purely for the heck of it, I sent this to the Weekend Potluck, where I may get a distinction for least fancy photos!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Got Slightly Drunk off Divoon Divinity

Today, we on A Book of Cookrye are really really happy to present one of my favorite things ever: Divinity!
Or, The Ghost Turds of Diabetes.
This comes to us from a cookbook that I've used quite a bit on this blog:

Divinity is my favorite candy ever. I first had it when I was around 14 or so, and therefore something that's nearly pure sugar appealed to me a lot. I realize I'm supposed to say that now that I've grown up I've lost the taste for such candy and would therefore never eat an entire box of it at once. However, that would require lying.
That's a lot of sugar, ain't it?
I've tried to make divinity many, many times over the years. One attempt burnt out my mother's mixer somewhere in the early 2000s. A lot of other times I've gotten this gloop that never actually set. Therefore, I have been trying to make this off and on for some time, and every time been frustrated at the failure.
It occurs to me I may need a bigger pot.
It seems every recipe I've seen really underestimates how long to cook the syrup, resulting in me having to throw out the failure and face the mess without having any candy. And the few times I tried to do it with my hand mixer..... well, it only managed to do one or two rotations per second once it was all in the bowl. However, today we're using this mixer again. If the company that made the first electric vibrator doesn't know how to make a good motor, no one does.
What sort of idiot tips out a pot of scalding syrup one-handed just to take a picture of it?
But this recipe calls to pour out half the syrup and then boil what remains some more. Given that it's impossible to pour it without some running down the side of the pot, this was inevitable.
At first it smelled like crème brûlée.
As the remaining syrup boiled on and I had to keep reminding myself that the burning smell is coming from what's under the pot and not what's in it, the stuff in the mixer somehow glued itself to the beaters.
See? Hardly any in the rest of the bowl.

And in the course of tilting the mixer up so everything would get flung back into the bowl, I forgot the syrup on the stove until it was 20 degrees hotter than the recipe said it should be. But somehow adding it made the divinity stop getting stuck in the beaters. Then I dumped in the vanilla- and a little bit of almond extract as well. Well, I tried to add just a little, but I had a badly timed wrist twitch. The alcohol in the extracts evaporated on contact. Since I was standing right over the mixer working a rubber spatula as the alcohol fumes came off, I got slightly dizzy.

At this point, the mixer was getting kind of hot and was slowing down under the strain. Would divinity outdo a motor descended from electric vibrators? Heck no it wouldn't!
Also, who feels like having to wash a buttered platter?
It really goes to show that people who started off with vibrators really know how to make a good electric motor. Behold how thick this got by the time it was done:
Kinda like a flocked Christmas tree, isn't it?
 It was so, so, so good! I was so happy! I texted Marcus that I'd made divinity and it worked, and that I'd be going his way on my way to visit T and Kelly. The latter two may be remembered from the Pieathlon experience.


"It's divoon!"
As for T: "Tastes like cake frosting."