Monday, August 31, 2015

Pink lemon cake: or, A new year begins!

A new year is starting for us at A Book of Cookrye! We have moved into our domicile for the impending school year and are as ready as we'll ever be. Since this year will be full of coding and math classes, we decided we wanted to have something good for us at the beginning of the year. And it's pink!
Yes, that's a bowl of tea. My cup was stolen.

Pink Lemon Cake
½ c butter
1 c sugar
¼ c + 2 tbsp (⅜ c) maraschino cherry juice
Juice and rind of 2 small lemons
2 eggs
1½ c flour
1 tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a round cake pan.
Combine the lemon and cherry juice. Mix the lemon rind and sugar, pinching it so the sugar grates at the rind, until the sugar is tinted yellow and has a lemon flavor.
Cream the butter and sugar. Thoroughly beat in the eggs. Alternately add the flour in three portions and the lemon/cherry juice in two, beginning with the flour, mixing thoroughly each time. Add the baking powder with the last addition of flour.
Pour into the pan and bake until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center, about 20 minutes.

We had leftover maraschino cherries from Our First Lady's Salad, extra lemons from Mary's Snow Pudding, and we wanted cake!
Butter is dairy, so cake gives you strong bones!

We read in a Maida Heatter (author of The Holy Bible) recipe that if you rub citrus rinds and sugar between your fingers, it releases the oils and gives a much stronger flavor to the cake than if you just drop the rind in. It appears she was right; this smelled so nice and lemony, and tasted divoon when we tried a pinch. Don't you just love when you find recipe tips that not only work, but also are really easy, make your food come out a lot better, and don't involve buying expensive, specialized kitchen tools?
This tasted amazing.

As a new year dawns, we at A Book of Cookrye wonder what it holds for us. Well, aside from the math class. We're not looking forward to that at all. But will we get to do anything as fun as showing drag queens to engineering students again?

All right, it's time to add the lemon juice and that syrupy stuff the cherries were floating in. My inner nine-year-old who loves dumping lots of food coloring into cakes was unbecomingly ecstatic at this.


The batter tasted like pink lemonade- only not artificial and weird. The cherry flavor was surprisingly subtle- you could tell there was something in there besides lemon, but it wasn't quite so obvious what. Given what shade of pink the batter ended up, you could easily have thought it was strawberry and not cherry.
It's pink!!!!!

This cake could either go to a baby shower with for an impending daughter or to a breast cancer event. Although I'd sooner bring it to a baby shower under blue icing with IT'S A BOY written on top. This is why no one ever asks me to bring the cake to a baby shower.

While we did like the kitchen where we lived in the summer, we had really missed having a built-in cake cooler.

We thought about putting some cinnamon icing on top, but decided that this already had cherry and lemon in it. Adding cinnamon on top seemed like it would be too many different flavors all at once. We soon after decided icing was too much unnecessary bother. However, the top did turn out an odd color. It turns out bright pink doesn't look good after getting browned.

However, it was as bright as ever once cut. Look at it! The browned top makes the inside look more festive and pink than ever.
If anything, the camera desaturated the picture.

We gave a lot of this cake away, and it went over a lot better than we thought it was. Two people gave us a hug and one a salute. The best part: giving away cake inspired one of our neighbors from India to share some leftovers.
Truly a feast.

I don't know if it's going to be a good year, but it's off to a decent start.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Payasam: or, A Book of Cookrye abuses pasta and ruins Indian desserts

Today, we at A Book of Cookrye present an adventure in cooking!

The Complete Around-the-World Cookbook, Pan-Am Airways, 1954

We could have looked this up and seen what it looks like successfully executed. Really, we could have. However, we wanted the slightly masochistic fun of going at a recipe the likes of which we've never seen before with absolutely nothing to guide us.
That's a lot of butter.

And by nothing to guide us, we really mean nothing to guide us. A lot of people in our building with whom we share a kitchen are from India, and they make a lot of food from home, but we've never seen them make any Indian desserts.

When the raisins turned into little raisin balloons as the butter started to look burnt, we asked for the first time a question that came up a lot while making this.

All right, the pan-fried raisins were weird, and they may have absorbed enough butter to reconstitute into grapes, but here's where we really ran into problems.
Break in half? We should have broken it into thirds!

Does this look fully cooked to you? The pot had dried up by this point.

Nothing like a pot of half-cooked spaghetti and nearly-burnt milk!

We'll let Lucy and Ethel speak on our behalf.

Furthermore, the noodles stayed crunchy well after we added about twice as much water as originally went into the pot.

Even if the pasta had cooled, we were having problems with our hard raisins and burnt nuts. Once the raisins had cooled, they shattered if you tried to spear them with a fork. The whole mess ended up in the trash.
I sauteed them for five minutes, does this look right?

Ever wanted to eat a bird's nest?

If you want to try this yourself in half the time, partially cook some spaghetti and toss it in condensed milk. It was nearly really good, but still terrible. However, what should one of our neighbors offer to share with us but this exact dessert!
It's like rice pudding but with pasta.

I think we can look at our attempt and say...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hump-Day Quickie, Italian-Style: Bacon and Egg Spaghetti

Today on A Book of Cookrye, we present an actual Italian recipe!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (typical recipe of Rome) 
   for 4 person you have to use:
Half pound (mezzo chilo) of spaghetti (but it depends how much you are hungry…)
3 eggs
A quarter of pound (3 etti circa) of bacon in cubes
Extra virgin oil
Pecorino cheese (if you cannot find it you can use Parmesan cheese)
Salt and pepper

What you have to do:
Put a boil water with salt (one spoon)
Beat the eggs in a dish and put some salt and pepper together
Fry slightly bacon with some extra virgin oil
When spaghetti are ready drain them and bacon and oil on them quickly
Put and mix well the eggs quickly
Put some cheese and pepper
Don't you just love the phrasing? When I read it, I imagine someone in the kitchen with me saying this out loud as we make it together.
This comes to us from a friend who went to Italy and visited his relatives. We repeat, a friend's Italian cousin sent him home with this recipe!

We will point out that that by bacon, they really meant something closer to ham (which it why you're supposed to add oil to the pan when you cook it). However, this was leftover in the refrigerator, so therefore cost nothing. And by the time it cooked, it shrivelled up from covering the entire skillet to nearly nothing.

Ambiguous phrasing in the recipe caused a minor controversy among those present about how the eggs are cooked. There were two lines of thought:

    1. I think you dump them raw and the heat in the noodles flash-cooks them
    2. I just got over a stomach virus and don't want to eat raw eggs.

We ended up scrambling the eggs first.

Not at all authentic, but damn tasty.

All right, so we took an Italian recipe from actual Italians and veered way off what they had in mind when writing it out. Out of curiosity, we decided to see if pouring the raw eggs over the noodles right after draining would cook them. Turns out it does! However, you can't really stir anything into them afterward. Whatever you try to add will just sit at the bottom of the bowl while you try to make it mix into the spaghetti.

In conclusion, this is really hard to make bad. However, if you want to have something closer to what you'd get in Italy, use ham cubes. And so that they'll actually mix into the noodles instead of staying in the bottom of the bowl, add them separately. Then dump the eggs on the pasta- if you do it immediately after draining and toss very quickly, the eggs will get cooked as they coat everything.
And seriously, you won't be hungry for hours.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mysteriously Successful Eggless Cake

We at A Book of Cookrye have been pondering eggless cakes ever since the tragic waste of a perfectly good Diet Coke. We have one eggless cake recipe that is seriously delicious, and now we're going to try out a second.
Good Things to Eat, Rufus Estes, 1911 source

This comes to us from a cookbook written by an emancipated slave. After the introduction, he has a brief autobiography which he begins by describing the conditions in which he grew up. If anyone had justification for putting that at the beginning of their book, it's someone who spent beginning of his life in slavery. And you get the idea that he's understating a lot as you read it.

Eggless Cake
½ c shortening*
1½ c sugar
1 tsp soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
3 c flour
1 c sour milk or buttermilk
1 c firmly packed raisins

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two layer cake pans or one 9"x13" pan.
Chop the raisins, or put them in a cup and have at them with scissors, stirring them as you go so they all get snipped.
Cream shortening and sugar. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda, mix well. Add the flour one cup at a time, alternating with the milk ½ cup at a time. Mix thoroughly after every addition. Stir in the raisins, being sure to break up any clumps.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until it springs back in the center when lightly pressed.

*A lot of recipes from this time use the word shortening to refer to any solid fat. So if you prefer to use margarine or butter, go right ahead.

Good Things to Eat, Rufus Estes, 1911

On that cheerful note, on to the eggless cake!
We've seen a lot of eggless cake recipes, and most of them have very odd instructions because when you leave the eggs out of a cake, it will not want to turn out right on its own. This one has no instructions whatsoever, so we assumed there's nothing weird you're supposed to do.

In the book, he says that these recipes are the result of extensive testing over the course of his career, which we're willing to believe since he worked as a chef for most of his adult life. He was hired to cook for everyone from railroad companies to royalty. Therefore, the fact that we're apparently just taking what looks like a normal cake recipe and removing the eggs may seem daffy, but presumably it works.
We've secretly removed the eggs and replaced them with nothing! Let's see if they notice the difference...

All right, we may have said the recipe had no unusual instructions to make up for removing the eggs, but that's not completely true. We did have to chop the raisins. Who chops raisins, like, ever? We're therefore going to say the chopped raisins are the egg substitute here.
This is eggs.

Well, if nothing else, it looked like a cake batter. It did not look suspiciously runny, unnervingly curdled, or otherwise wrong. More promisingly, it tasted really good.

Furthermore, it actually turned into a cake! Seriously, look at this!

However, just because it looks like a cake doesn't mean it is one. So, we sliced it and...
What is this new devilry?

It's a cake! Seriously, it turned into a nice, surprisingly tart cake! You can tell the spices are there, but it's not a spice cake. It tastes very old-fashioned. Or at least, like our idea of old-fashioned. It's a very dense cake, but it's so divoon.
Those who are looking for vegan desserts can use margarine or vegetable shortening and serve something really good-- instead of the disappointing things people usually expect in vegan desserts. Anyone who ran out of eggs but still wants to make a cake can make this one. It's really good.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Apple Airs could have been made a lot faster

Guess what was 50% off at the store!

You know what this means, right? Yes indeed, we're putting these in recipes because we have nothing else to do with them.

I'm going to have to do something about my produce-buying ways. There's something a bit ill-founded about passing up all the perfectly good fruit because it's full price, only to see the squishy things you can't eat as-is and purchase two bags. It's especially daft if you'd have just kept your money in your pocket if the only fruit they had was perfectly fit to just eat without making into a pie.

Apple Airs involves a lot of time working over what looks like that paste they use for texturing walls.
I don't know whether to bake this or get out a paintbrush.

Also, that extended whipping time earlier in the recipe was utterly pointless. It deflated before it was done cooking. But that's all right, we made up for lost volume with a big hunk of butter.
The South may or may not rise again.

Upon tasting, the spackle-like pudding-to-be was very bland. A shake of cinnamon made it better, but cinnamon is not magical and therefore we had a pot of bland with cinnamon in it.

You know, I think this is the color of a 1990s computer.

Astonishingly, this actually turned out kind of pretty. It looks oddly like a pot pie. Does anyone else looking at this think they would find chicken and potatoes in there when they cut it?
It baked exactly twice as long as the recipe said before the apples were cooked.

However, this looked exactly like bread pudding when cut.

Not only look like bread pudding, it tasted exactly like it. It's not that we object to bread pudding, but making mush of stale bread would have been a lot faster than this business with a double boiler.
Other people liked this a lot more than I did. One person described it as "subtle." I was just annoyed that I could have gotten nearly the same thing in the time it takes for bread slices to get thoroughly soaked. If you like bread pudding and want it to be so homemade you don't even bake the bread first, this recipe is for you!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mocha Cake: or, More coffee!

As aforementioned, we at A Book of Cookrye are always looking for new caffeine delivery systems. We've tried dumping coffee into cake batter before, which was delicious. It appears in the Depression, people were doing the same thing.
A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs George Thurn, 1934

Mocha Cake
1 c sugar
½ c shortening*
3 eggs
1 c cold coffee
2 c flour
2½ tbsp baking powder
½ c chopped walnuts, optional
⅓ c butter
1 tsp cocoa
½ c powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350°. Grease two round cake pans.
Cream sugar and shortening. Thoroughly beat in the eggs. Alternately add the flour in three portions and the coffee in two. Add the baking powder with the first addition of flour. Stir in the walnuts.
Pour into the pans and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until they spring back when pressed in the center.
Cream butter and sugar. Stir in the cocoa and beat until well mixed. Add coffee until it's of a spreading consistency.

*A lot of recipes from this time use the word shortening to refer to any solid fat. So if you prefer to use margarine or butter, go right ahead.  
We at A Book of Cookrye don't believe in that sort of thing.
These are the original recipe's quantities for the icing, but it only makes enough to spread very thinly. You may want to double it.

A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs. George Thurn, 1934

Presumably with the Depression on, people needed to economize on time, hence combining coffee and dessert. This recipe translates beautifully into the life of a 21st century engineering student since it covers two principal food groups: caffeine and junk food.
No one is allowed to remind me of any assignments until this is ready.

We tried pouring the coffee into the cake pan to cool it off, but it required some extra work to make it cool off in thirty seconds or fewer.
"Patience" does not belong in the same sentence as "caffeine" and "cake."

It looks like this recipe does more or less what we did when we independently discovered literal coffee cakes: just dump coffee into the batter. Not that there's a problem with that.
This cake is now good for you.

We must admit that in our caffeine-deprived state, we mistakenly added three cups of flour rather than the two cups the recipe tells us to. This is the first time in a long time we've made a layer cake rather than cutting the recipe in half, and already we're messing up. But, we told ourselves, if you're already having a two-layer caffeine cake, some extra gluten can't make it any particularly worse for you.

Like the last time we at A Book of Cookrye made a coffee cake, the color was an odd beige. It's neither brown enough to be a spice cake nor light enough to be a yellow cake. It's just beige. That said, the batter was delicious.

Also, quite fortunately, there was enough leftover coffee in the pot to make us one of these!
Plan ahead. Make extra coffee. Be awake to enjoy dessert.

All right, now that we've been drugged back into existence, we can make the icing that contains a puny ration of chocolate.

Here we must admit we'd forgotten that we used up the powdered sugar and decided "Well, the recipe doesn't say we can't use regular granulated." This was a gritty mistake. On the bright side, the chocolate was surprisingly sufficient. We'd expected it to be just enough to make you wish it tasted like chocolate.

Fortunately, when we added enough coffee, the sugar grains dissolved. We had little butter globules floating in the hypersweetened coffee, though.
"Coffee to moisten," eh?

While we have previously noted our oven's lack of horizontality, this cake demonstrates the tilt better than any other we've made.

I'm sorry. I know there's a Depression on, but this is a pathetic ration of icing. We tried to just put it between the layers on top so it would temptingly drip down the sides, and it looked pathetic. Also, we tried to stack the layers so they'd be tilted opposite each other and end up leveling out. It didn't work.
If this didn't look so sad it'd be pathetic.

However, this cake did improve overnight. By which we mean all the excess coffee in the icing soaked into the layers. We may have failed at measuring the flour, but this was a seriously tender and divoon cake. It was simultaneously dense and light, and was almost like slicing into coffee-flavored fudge. It was amazing.
See what I meant about the icing looking better after the coffee soaked in?

Purely for the heck of it, and because this cake is so good, we made it again measuring all the ingredients correctly. Not only was it divoon and even more coffee-flavored than before, but everyone loved it. This is how much was left after a few hours:

I think we'll save this recipe.