Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Announcement: More pie!

Guess what's coming up?
Check out my awesome MSPaint logo-updating skills.

After traumatizing our nearest and dearest last time*, we're getting ready for another Pieathlon! We haven't seen the recipes everyone else has submitted yet, but that's not stopping us from looking for something really good to make in case this year's pie is as memorable as the last. Credit for organizing this goes to Yinzerella at Dinner is Served 1972.

*Seriously, some of those who were there still shudder at the mention of that night.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spinach Squares, or, Grass Clippings with Cheese!

Hands up who likes trying random recipes that fall out of cookbooks!

Well, how about if it features.... this!
And here I thought bagging grass clippings was a waste of time.

Today's recipe comes to us from a typewritten page a previous owner tucked into a cookbook. It looks like the unhealthy 1970's ancestor of the cauliflower thing.

Spinach Squares
1 egg (2 if medium-sized)
½ c flour
¼ c milk
1½ tbsp baking powder
Salt, pepper
8 oz shredded cheese*
1 (10 oz) brick of frozen chopped spinach

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a square or round pan.
Thaw spinach, retaining juices. Mix in cheese, eggs, salt, and pepper. Stir in the flour, then the milk.
Pour into the pan and shake paprika on top. Bake until browned on top, about 20-25 minutes. This reheats in the oven very nicely.

*The original recipe said cheddar, but you want to use pepper jack.

I know very few people who actually like frozen spinach. Whoever wrote this recipe seems to agree with you, because look at how much cheese we're supposed to put on this!
By weight, it's nearly 50/50 spinach and cheese.

By the time you put this much cheese on top, it takes a certain amount of panache to convincingly say "eat up, it's good for you." But you know what? There's a brief instant where this recipe looks like it might actually be pretty. Heck, it kinda looks like the makings of a pretty good quiche.

This looks like one of those recipes that propagated around the time factory-frozen vegetables entered kitchens. It appears a lot of people acknowledged that even if the vitamin content was the same, they didn't need to be cooked so much as buried under things that actually tasted edible. That is why we now have spinach swimming in white slime with cheese grubs.
Eat your vegetables, kids!

Of course (this being America) we've been doing similarly unhealthy things to fresh vegetables even though they're not bland and mushy from being frozen. A friend of mine just shared a summer squash recipe on Facebook that involves lots of bacon.
There's a knack to even paprika coverage, and it's not really worth spending the time to cultivate.

Quite fortunately for those trying this at home, this stops looking so terrible after baking. Actually, it goes past "stops looking terrible" and actually appears to be good. As an added bonus, it smells mostly like cheese and paprika.

The recipe put spinach in the recipe name, but it ended up more like macaroni and cheese with some spinach that wandered in. Also, somehow, the cheese cancelled out the sad, bitter taste of  frozen spinach- it actually is good in this.
Actually, you know what this tastes like? The spinach calzones at those pizza places that have pictures of Italy in the front and a long list of pasta dishes on the menu, all of which come with lots of cheese on top and garlic knots on the side. In other words, these are delicious.
It's oozing cheesy goodness! Also, vitamins.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rosemeg Cake, or RIP My Bowl

Rosemeg Cake
½ c butter
1 c sugar
1½ c flour
2 eggs
1½ tsp rose water
1 tsp nutmeg

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a round cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, rose water, and nutmeg; beat thoroughly. Mix in the flour.
Bake until it springs back when lightly pressed, about 20-35 minutes.

Today, we at A Book of Cookrye must mourn our one and only bowl which died in a tragic dishwashing accident.
You get surprisingly attached to dinnerware when you have but one place setting.

RIP, the A Book of Cookrye Bowl. You have been a storage tub, a mixing bowl, a dish cover, a cup and many other things. Many are the times you were filled with tea and passed around a table of friends. And now you have a crack from center to edge.

The Book of Cookrye Bowl was handmade. It entered the A Book of Cookrye kitchens on the last day of a Renaissance fair when most of the sellers had steep discounts. It was black clay with a beautiful dark blue glaze on top. It journeyed many miles up and down stairs in its short but extensive life in service. It will be greatly missed.
However, since it was the only bowl we had, we needed a replacement in short order. This turned up in the thrift store.

Our friends in the glass industry made a casserole for single people. You can store your food in the bottom of it and eat out of the lid. Further sparing us from having to buy dishes, the lid works as a plate or a bowl. However, it had some chips in it--- you know, the sort you forget are there until, in the middle of washing dishes, you cut your finger and wonder how you can bleed so much from such a tiny wound. We handed the casserole off to a friend who has a Dremel and asked that he round off the sharp and pointy bit. It came back with a surprise.
I like how it's not a question but a promise.

What better way could there be to christen it than to put a cake in it?

Seriously, you know this was made for a single person who has no space for dishes. You can mix your single-person sized cake in the bottom part and bake it in the top, which is also perfect for pie! Although now I want to bake a cake in the bowl and decorate it like a boob. Don't judge me.

As for the cake itself, we borrowed the flavoring from this and put it in this. It's divoon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hump-Day Quickie for those who like it frigid: It turns out homemade ice cream doesn't take that much work

We at A Book of Cookrye previously picked a cupcake recipe to use the egg whites left over from making a cheesecake. After all, nothing says thrifty like taking the leftovers and throwing perfectly good fresh ingredients after them. We had extra whipped cream after putting it on the cupcakes, and didn't want to waste that either. However, we went with the path of least effort this time.

Easy Ice Cream
Heavy cream
Powdered sugar to taste*
Flavorings of your choice

Whip everything together until it holds up a point when you pull the beaters out of it. Put it in a covered container and freeze until firm (pick something broad and shallow if you haven't got that much patience).

*Whipped cream seems to work better with powdered sugar than granulated.

Yes indeed, if you just put whipped cream in the freezer, you have ice cream!

This isn't some "eh, good enough" ice cream substitute. It is actual ice cream and only took a few minutes to get it from the carton to the freezer! Granted, it needed to freeze overnight, but it didn't even need intermittent stirring- you just leave it in the freezer and it works. This barely was any more effort than making a tray of ice cubes!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Who knew you could fail at icing?

After a cupcake recipe turned out to be so good, we at A Book of Cookrye decided to see how well one of the icing recipes from the same book would turn out. After all, no one likes naked cupcakes.
Choice Receipts Arranged for the Gas Stove, Miss Andrews (United Gas Improvement Co), 1893

Make cajeta and put it on top of cakes? Sounds good to me!
The island of butter.

By the way, here's an interesting experiment I discovered while attempting to carry everything downstairs in one trip. If you hold the side of a cup to a spoon handle like so and scratch the paddle end of the spoon, you'll hear the amplified sound coming out of the cup.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, stir this for thirteen minutes. Cooking times that are not divisible by five are really unusual in recipes, so presumably the recipe writer(s) arrived at thirteen minutes after extensive testing which means we're guaranteed success!

Rather oddly for this book, no burner setting was given. It just says to boil it. Granted, many people were still used to wood-fired stoves at the time, but all the recipes in this book that involve the oven proudly list the temperatures. Paragraphs throughout the book say things like "Look! No guesswork! No poking a fire! Just set the temperature dial and you're done!". Therefore, I find it odd they don't gush over the then-new idea of being able to adjust the stovetop burners with a twist of a knob. You'd think a gas company trying to get people to use gas stoves would have given very explicit instructions of what to set the burners to at each step of every recipe just to show how easily that works.
At any rate, the icing turned a pretty shade of brown around the 12 minute mark.

So, once it's cooked, you're supposed to beat it with a "surprise egg beater" until it cools.
Nothing wrong with making it cool faster.

 Have you ever heard of a surprise egg beater? I hadn't either. It turns out that there were many kinds of egg beaters before someone strapped a motor to one and gave us the electric mixer.

At any rate, this is the surprise we got when beating the icing. Upon cooling while getting subjected to a thorough beating, it turned to gravel.
It's like the disappointing offspring of cake frosting and Dippin' Dots.

And attempting to add water and force it to act like icing gave us this.

Seriously? Who puts an icing recipe into a promotional cookbook that fails this hard? The only good thing about it is that it hardened into shards before I tried to put it on a cake. No one would have wanted the armor-plated results of pouring it over the cupcakes right out of the pot.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Scientific Rose Cupcakes

Today on A Book of Cookrye, we're looking at recipes from a time when women tried to reform America by way of home economics!

We're making #58 there.

After a cheesecake recipe that involved three egg yolks, we had three unused egg whites, so cupcakes it is!
We found this chart in Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro, but it scanned so badly we went online and found the original book in its digitized entirety. In an effort to make this seem all scientific and such, the author reduced all these cupcake recipes to a single chart with some really generalized instructions on cake mixing above it. If you didn't already know how to make cakes, the instructions would be of no help. If you already know how, you'd have skipped over them anyway.

Scientific Rose Cupcakes #58
¼ c butter
1 c sugar
1½ c flour
1½ tbsp. baking powder
3 egg whites
½ c milk
1½ tsp rose water

Heat oven to 350°. Have cupcake papers ready.
Cream the butter and sugar. Alternately add the flour (in three additions) with the milk (in two additions), starting and ending with the flour Add the baking powder with the first addition of flour. Stir in the rose water and check for taste- a lot of the rose flavor will come out as it bakes, so make it a bit stronger than you'd like it to be once they're done.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (ideally, you'll stop just before they are completely stiff). Gently but thoroughly stir in two spoonfuls, one at a time. Fold the rest in.
Fill the cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (I have an easier time holding a paper in my hand to fill it than putting all of them in the pan and then trying to scoop/pour batter in). Bake until done, about 15-20 minutes. The rose flavor bakes out quickly, so be sure to take them out as soon as they're done.
If you flavor them with rose rather than something else, a small shake of nutmeg in the icing will complement it very nicely.

Choice Receipts Arranged for the Gas Stove, Miss Andrews (United Gas Improvement Co), 1893

By the way, if you don't have a cupcake pan and think you'll get by just carefully setting the little paper cups of batter on a plain pan, this will happen.
If it wasn't so sad, it'd be pathetic.

In keeping with the massive trend in scientific cooking when it was published, this promotional recipe pamphlet is full of statements like this one over in the bread section: "A part of the crust is changed to dextrine, which makes it sweeter and more easily digested."
What do the butter and sugar change into?

Digestibility was big business in the era of scientific cookery. Analysts carefully dissected everything to see whether it aided digestion, was indigestible, took too long to digest, etc. However, the state of nutrition as a scientific field being what it was around the 1890s, it was not the best time to attempt to digest the latest dishes to come out of the scientific kitchen. Digestibility also spilled over into the world of advertising in amusing ways. Shortening was digestible, lard was digestible, sugar was digestible (and a great source of energy!).
Pictured: a great source of energy!

But getting back to this recipe chart. It was meant to make cake recipes look all scientific and codified. This was the most modern way of writing recipes- a complete reversal of the recipe paragraphs in cookbooks a few decades earlier that read something like "Take 4 ounces of butter and mix it with a teacup of sugar...". It also means the cook is very likely to have accidentally read from one line above or below the intended one for some of the ingredients, but that's the price of modernity.
Rather than seeming innovative, it makes all the cake recipes look the same aside from the flavoring. I just look at this and wonder why they didn't run a single cake recipe and a long list of suggested extracts and other variations. It also seems lazy- like they knew an advertising cookbook is supposed to have a lot of cake recipes so they just flung them at you in one page to get it over with. At the same time, it is kind of convenient when matching a recipe to what you have in the kitchen. I picked #58 because it called for three egg whites, and (as previously mentioned) I saved exactly that many when making the cheesecake which required three egg yolks.
Egg whites!

Clearly Miss Andrews (who appears to have been a fictitious mascot aimed at housewives- kind of like a less successful Betty Crocker) had no faith in baking powders, since after using a very high amount for so small a recipe, she added stiffly-beaten egg whites anyway in case it didn't work. Granted, early baking powders were apparently an iffy proposition.  An image search for 1890s baking powder ads shows a liberal use of words like "pure," "reliable," and "perfection," and phrases like "success ensured" which make it sound like such reliability didn't happen often enough for such success and perfection to be implied. In a scene in Anne of Green Gables (published 15 years after this recipe book) which I identify very deeply with, she accidentally flavors a cake with skin medicine. As soon as everyone tastes the cake, she blames the baking powder and insists she'd had suspicions about that baking powder.

Since the baking powder worked, these double-leavened creations are the lightest, fluffiest cupcakes we at A Book of Cookrye have ever made. Since we still had most of a half-pint of cream left over from the cheesecake, we decided to use it for icing rather than letting it rot in the freezer.
Buying cream is always unnerving when you have a 2-mile bike ride over bumpy roads between yourself and the grocery. One always worries that one will open the carton to find lumps of butter floating in it. But since the cream survived the journey, all we had to do was splot it on top and it ended up looking kind of pretty.

And so, the scientific, modern cupcakes of 1893 are delicious! This recipe makes a very nice amount- you'll have a decent-sized plate of them, but you won't have an army of cupcakes conquering all the vacant territory on the kitchen counter (nor will you have to pull batch after batch out of the oven).

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Mad Men Finale Dinner Party: Cheesecake Cheesecake Cheesecake! or, Making things up to my friends who have tried some ungodly things

Today is the...
Virtual Mad Men Finale Party!
Click the picture to read all about it!

We at A Book of Cookrye used this as an excuse to have a lot of friends over and eat this:
"Would you like to come over for cheesecake and tea?"

If you haven't seen the cookbook, it's a collection of recipes from in and around the 1960s. The nice thing about it being a modern collection of old recipes (rather than a book from when said recipes were new) is all the scary awful things like molded olive and mayonnaise salads have been removed! What's left, you ask? An unusually long chapter of drinks, and this!
The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, 2011

Cherry Topping
About 1 lb frozen cherries
¼ c sugar
⅓ c water
3 tbsp cornstarch or 4 tbsp rice flour
Juice of 1 lemon (optional)

Stir together the cornstarch, sugar, and water until the starch is dissolved. Put over high heat until it starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice, if desired, when you take it off the stove (it'll boil away if you put it in earlier).

I've actually been to Lindy's in New York. A friend and I took a day trip there and we decided to go there for, appropriately enough, cheesecake. We entered a surprisingly empty restaurant (it was late afternoon on a weekend) restaurant and got shown to a table. Someone set plates, silverware in napkin burritos, and menus in front of us. We looked at the prices and very quickly made for the door.
So the making of the cheesecake begins...

Anyway, the note leading up to the recipe said Lindy's was famous for its cookie dough crust.  I very nearly could tell you if they still are, but they didn't have them in a glass cabinet for us to see as we we ran for it. Or maybe they did, but the waitstaff seemed very angry to see us flee. Honestly, given that it's rigged up to be a tourist trap these days, I don't know why they were so mad to see us go. We can't be the first to do so. Famous for cookie dough crust or not, there wasn't going to be much crust to be famous for.

After we decided to spare an hour of waiting followed by another fifteen minutes holding a rolling pin and swearing, patting half of the dough into the pan left us with a very thin bottom crust that came out very well-done.

We briefly considered trying to press it onto the sides before deciding that no one gives extra points for that. Besides, we really miss making Play-Doh sausages.
It's kinda like a cookie dough wreath (which gives me a great edible centerpiece idea).
This next step involved reaching into a burning hot saucepan while trying not to burn our wrists.

While there were some grated rinds in the cookie dough, the cheese shredder we borrowed got considerably more involved in the actual cheesecake.

Does anyone else see the pile of lemon and orange rinds and think of the rhyme from 1984? You know,
"Oranges and lemons,
The bells of St Clement's,
The government's spying on me"?

 Never mind. Let's get to the cream cheese!
The last time we made a cheesecake, it had not four cream cheese bricks. This one has five. We had no mixing bowl up to the task and ended up making it in the big casserole we got because it looked smaller in the store. We'd have mixed it in the saucepan as we have many times before, but it was already lined with tinfoil and ready to be experience life as a springform pan.
Kinda looks like a cream cheese tuxedo, doesn't it?

You may not understand how many bricks of cream cheese are involved in a Lindy's cheesecake.
We had to wait for these to go on sale.
Please think about this: the cream cheese overflowed the casserole.

Now, to fully understand just how much cream cheese is going into this, please contemplate how many wrappers got left behind.

The cream cheese overwhelmed my mixer and nearly drowned the beaters.
Those little hand mixers can only do so much.

We shortly realized that we'd have to do it with a wooden spoon and attempting this with the mixer would only result in a burnt out motor and having to do this with a wooden spoon anyway. Then the cream cheese swallowed an egg.

Speaking of, I'm not sure why I'm supposed to add two egg yolks on top of five(!) eggs, but here they are. For those keeping track, we had to crack open 8 eggs for this.

However, we had a neat surprise when we added the cream and vanilla- the vanilla shot across the cream kind of like those milk, food coloring, and soap experiments.

I've previously mentioned how much cream cheese went into this thing, but to fully grasp this, please look at how full my saucepan (which can hold whole chickens) is.

Meanwhile, we had decided there was no point in making a cheesecake from scratch and putting canned pie filling on it. So, we cadged some frozen cherries from Marcus.

Did you know that rice flour seems to thicken things about as well as cornstarch? I didn't, but since I had no cornstarch but had rice flour leftover from a foray into the world of gluten free, I was very glad to find out. The resulting cherry filling looked like boiling entrails and sounded like the mudpots in Yellowstone (or at least, the way said mudpots sounded in The Wonderful World of Disney).
Blup blup blup...
I must admit I chickened out of the 200° baking temperature. Averaged out with the 400° starting temp, it might result in something that's only just set and ever so delicate. But I didn't want to risk serving glop to a whole bunch of people driving quite a ways see me. I've foisted enough deliberately scary recipes on my friends and this was meant to make things up to them. Therefore, I baked it at 300° instead.

The nice thing about baking cheesecakes in a pot is that you have a lid to put on when you leave this in the refrigerator. However, as we found out, if a cheesecake is the slightest bit warm when you cover it, it will get rained on in the night.

Fortunately, cheesecakes are more forgiving than anything else of getting wet.
Seriously, you'd never know we had a problem.
Looks kind of like a cheesecake Jiffy-Pop, doesn't it?

We then realized that we had invited people over and therefore had to actually come up with dinnerware. When your domicile is half a bedroom, you do not tend to keep a large supply of tableware. However, we came up with five place settings.
Five "cups"

Yes, two people would eat off pot lids and another person off a pizza pan. Also, one person got to drink out of a small pot and another out of a bowl. However, it's five place settings! It'd have been perfect had I not had seven people coming over. Fortunately, there were two pairs dating. Each single person at table got their own plate cup, and cutlery, and those who brought a plus one got to be all sappy and share with them.
Given how many "do you work on Thursday night?" and "All right, T and Mike have Friday and Saturday, what about you?" phone calls were made over the three weeks leading up to this night, I really missed how easy it was to get everyone together when we were in high school. Back then it was just "Want to do something this weekend?". And maybe, if we were planning something big like someone's birthday party, we'd tell people a week or so ahead about it. Now we all have to see when we have off from work, no class, or anything else planned. I guess a sign we're all falling into adulthood-- that we just don't see each other as often as we wish we could. I think it's best summed up in a text I sent someone a few years ago: "Remember when life was simple and all you needed on speed dial was two Chinese delivery places and a bike shop?"
Five plates- well, plate-objects- with a piece of cutlery for each!

The recipe may have said this serves 12-16, but we sliced the cheesecake 8 ways. The crust on this thing was sturdy and defied all attempts to cut through it. We ended up lifting the cake up and breaking it off once we'd sliced through the filling. People may have been breaking bread since the time of Jesus, but that's because they never tried breaking cheesecake.
Pictured: A single person's plate. You know it's a single person because there's only one slice.

We passed the cherries around with a spoon instead of pouring it on top before cutting the cake.
This left you full after a piece. Like, I barely remembered it was suppertime hours later. As a final sign of how good this was, those in my building who ate was left after serving everyone who came over were telling me nine days later how good it was.