Nov 30, 2007

American Gothic

" I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa."
-Grant Wood
Take a bite out of the American heartland or better yet, dig in your pitchfork into this apple cake recipe straight from The American Gothic Cookbook, a compilation of American painter Grant Wood's family and friends heirloom recipes.

This is a deliciously satisfying afternoon coffee cake. I make this recipe with a pinch of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon mixed into the cake batter. So good with vanilla ice cream too.

Apple Cake


1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups peeled and diced apples
1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Cinnamon sugar for topping

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in the remaining ingredients, except cinnamon sugar.Pour into a lightly buttered 8-inch square pan or loaf pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes until firm.

Yield: 6-9

Nov 29, 2007

The pleasure of scented sugar

Tarragon, lemon and rosemary sugar

I've prepared a batch of assorted scented sugar just in time for my annual sugar cookie baking fete. It takes at least 2 weeks for the herbs and citrus to sufficiently infuse the sugar. By then, it's ready to roll.

Sugar cookies are the yummiest, most versatile cookies in the world and they're my absolute favourite. They can be decorated with royal icing and and decorated with silver or gold dragees for an edible Christmas tree. Alternately, they can also be used as a scrumptious base for tiramisu in lieu of lady fingers. Sugar cookies can be spritzed or fancifully cut with cookie cutters. I prefer to make them the old fashioned way-rolled into a ball , dipped in sparkling sugar and pressed down with a fork for criss cross effect. This year, I look forward to rolling my sugar cookies in citrus and herb scented sparkling sugar. There's rosemary, lemon and tarragon sugar to choose from!

Best Rolled Sugar Cookies
(Recipe courtesy of


1 1/2 cups butter or maragarine
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt


1. Cream together butter/margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Cover and chill dough for at least an hour (or overnight).
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Roll out dough in floured surface 1/4- 1/2 inch thick. Cut with any cookie cutter. Bake 6-8 minutes on ungreased pan. Cool completely.

Yield: 5 dozen

Nov 28, 2007

A taste of vintage Christmas

I've always loved the extraordinary illustrations of America's living national treasure Tasha Tudor. Her artworks have graced children's books as well as numerous well-loved vintage cookbooks. One of those rare cookbooks that gives us a glimpse of New England kitchen life is Mary Mason Campbell's rare and charming book Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook: Receipts for Very Special Occasions. A butt'ry is a New England cottage pantry, the hub of cooking and baking and where all good things abound. In this book, Mary delights us with her prose as well as with time honoured family recipes passed from generation to generation. Anecdotes about New England country life and Tasha's delightful illustrations sprinkle each page, like nutmeg on apple pie.
One of the delightful recipes featured is this old fashioned Gingerbread recipe that has won many country fair awards. As a Christmas treat or tea party staple, this gingerbread is just perfect. Not too sweet and overwhelming, it comes out moist yet richly dense. The aroma of ginger, cinnamon and cloves brings in a heady rush of good for the soul kitchen aromatherapy. Serve a slice of this lovely gingerbread with either sweetened whipped cream, white frosting or maple cream.

½ cup sugar
½ cup butter
1 egg beaten
1 cup molasses
1 cup hot water
1 ½ cups raisins
2 ½ cups sifted flour
1 ½ tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp powdered cloves
½ tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar together, add beaten egg and the molasses. Then add dry ingredients sifted together. Add hot water and beat until smooth. Fold in the raisins. Bake in a well buttered gem pans or in a loaf or cake pan. Bake in a medium oven 350 until tests done with a toothpick.
Maple Cream
1 cup heavy sour cream
1/4 cup maple syrup with a pinch of salt
Grated nutmeg

Nov 11, 2007

Hallmark's Cookie Exchange HQ

Yay! Free cookie recipe collection from Hallmark Magazine! Get yours now!

Brownie Points

Brownies are the easiest holiday gifts to whip out of the kitchen. Just start with a basic, moist brownie recipe and you can create several delightful versions. Mix in liqueurs to the basic ganache frosting or blend in your favourite nuts (I prefer my brownies sans the nuts) and spiced dried fruits to the batter and voila, you've elevated the homely brownie to a whole new level!

Here's my favourite standard moist brownie recipe:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter, sugar , eggs and beat well. Blend in melted chocolate, all purpose flour and vanilla. Mix in nuts if you like and pour batter into a greased square pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

Nov 7, 2007

Better than a Gingerbread Boy

“Had I but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for gingerbread.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Nothing evokes fond memories of my childhood than bedtime stories of the Gingerbread Boy and Hansel and Gretel.

"Run! run! as fast as you can!
You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

And so throughout the ages, gingerbread was celebrated for its magical flavours. Steamy dark and warmly rich or delicately crisp, gingerbread is a glorious amalgamation of molasses, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and of course ginger.

I like sticky gingerbread bars, oozing with deep, penetrating layers of molasses and brown sugar. Gingerbread boys (and gals!) I have religiously baked year after year and decorated with royal icing and red hot cinnamon candies. Today, I herald the coming of the holiday season with a batch of Gingerbread Cupcakes! How unbelievably good is the aroma of warm gingerbread cupcakes on a warm, sunshine filled afternoon.

This gingerbread cupcake recipe is from I tweaked the original recipe a little bit to suit my liking:

Gingerbread Cupcakes


1 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Thai galangal powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
90 g butter, softened
1/4 cup milk (optional)
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 330 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12 muffin pan with cupcake papers. Sift the cake flour together with the baking soda, galangal powder, cinnamon into a large bowl . Add the remaining ingredients. Meanwhile, cream the butter with egg and sugar. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Combine well.

Divide mixture into cupcake cases. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes

More gingerbread fun in here.

Nov 4, 2007

Simply chocolate

I'm not really a cupcake person but once in a while I like to indulge my chocolate cake cravings with these petite versions of Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake. I think silky ganache (with an innocent tinge of Bourbon) makes the perfect frosting for this incredibly lush and moist chocolate cupcake.

I like my cupcakes simple. Just pure, naked, tongue curling chocolate with no nuts or candy sprinkles. Just a dusting of snowy confectioners' sugar or cocoa and or maybe a pinch of chili powder to suit the mood I'm in.

Nov 1, 2007

Sandwiches sweet and savoury

I love these delightful sandwich recipes from cooking class.

Chocolate, Cherries and Orange Liquor

2 tablespoons orange liquer
20 cherries or 10 strawberries, halved
Chocolate spread
4 slices challah

Drizzle the orange liquer over the cherries and marinate for several minutes. Generously spread the chocolate over the challah slices and top with the soaked cherries.

Peanut Butter, Apricot and Walnuts

4 sliced apricots or dates
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/4 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1/4 cup honey
4 slices raisin-walnut bread

Chop the apricots and raisins, add the walnuts, peanut butter and honey and mix well. Spread over 2 slices of the bread and cover with the remaining slices.

Ricotta and Brandied Raisins

1 cup raisins
1 cup brandy or cognac
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons butter, softened
Confectioners' sugar
4 slices challah or toast

Shrimp, Asparagus and Herb Mayonnaise

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced mixed herb mixture (chives, parsley and basil)
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, garlic and herbs in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Spread w bread slices with half the mayonnaise mixture. Place the shrimp and asparagus spears on top. Dollop on the remaining mayonnaise and cover with the other 2 bread slices.

Spicy Shrimp and Cucumber

Shrimp Marinade

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chile pepper, minced
2 dhallots, chopped
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 4-inch strips
4 slices peasant bread

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add teh shrimp, make sure that they are well coated, and marinate for 30 minutes.

In another bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and add the cucumber and scallion. Let them absorb the liquid.

Heat a barbeque grill or grill pan and cook teh shrimp on for 2 minutes on each side. Place the cucumber and scallion slices on 2 pieces of bread. Add the marinated shrimp and cover with the remaining bread.

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