Gingerbread Cookies


Gingerbread house with path.

Gingerbread house with path. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve used this gingerbread cookie recipe for a long time to make gingerbread men and women, and also to put together gingerbread houses for the Christmas season.  If done right, it makes up into a dough that cooks up crisply and that will hold up to the rigors of being frosting glued into a holiday gingerbread house.  I’m not wonderful using pastry bags to frost too finely, so I resort to using those plastic tubes of frosting that can be found in the baking section of a supermarket.  They come in all colors and some even have changeable tips to make different decorating effects for the finished cookies.  Use whatever shape of cookie cutters move you, but I still prefer the gingerbread men and Santa’s to make gingerbread shapes that can be punched with a hole and hung as decorations, too.  The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 lb. pound unsalted butter (not margarine)
1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg well beaten
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried ginger powder
1/4 cup boiling water

Cream butter and sugar until blended and light.  Add the egg and molasses.  Mix well.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.  Sift the flour with the salt and ginger powder and add the hot water to the first mixture and then stir this into the dry ingredients.   Chill this for at least one hour.  Roll the dough very thin and cut with a cookie cutter of your choosing which has been dipped in flour.  Bake in 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for approximately 15 minutes being careful to watch closely as these can burn quickly.  Cookies should be firm but not overly browned.

Cookies can be used as walls and roof for a gingerbread house with either a pre-bought kit or cut freehand from your own pattern.

Serving amount dependent on size of your cookie cutters.  I use a 2 inch cutter.  You  can also make ornament shaped ones using a 2 inch glass rim dipped in flour and then decorated with sugar frosting and sprinkles.

“The snow had begun n the gloaming.
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.
-LOWELL

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Holiday Fruit Cake


An American version of a fruitcake which conta...

An American version of a fruitcake which contains both fruit and nuts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve decided to broach the subject of the dreaded Christmas fruitcake which I know is not all as popular as it was years ago.  I’ll start by giving a brief history of the lowly fruitcake’s origins.

Fruit cake originated, it is believed, in ancient Rome in a much simpler form.  It started to be called ‘fruitcake’ in the Middle Ages when spice, honey and preserved fruits were added to it.  With the discovery of America and the sugars that were produced in the colonies and the abundance of fruits and nuts, the fruitcake began to come into it’s own.  It was now possible to obtain inexpensive sweeteners and many different types of ingredients to add to the cakes.  In the 1700’s nuts were often added to the fruitcake to celebrate good fortune and the abundant harvests.  A great many different types of fruitcakes were produced, varying from light to dark, according to what type of fruits, flours, and nuts were used.  Traditional fruitcake are soaked in liquor to flavor and preserve the cakes,  with brandy and rum being most often used for soaking.  Many fruitcake recipes have been handed down through generations of a family.

The following fruitcake recipe is at least seventy years old.  It is up to you whether you want to further soak the cake with brandy by drizzling it slowly over the top until it is moistened:

1/2 lb. dates, chopped
1/2 lb. dried apricots- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied cherries- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied pineapple- chopped
1/2 lb. dark raisins
1/2 lb. walnuts – toasted and chopped
1/2 lb. pecans- chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup softened butter
1 orange, juice and grated rind
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brandy
2 Tablespoons Curacao
2 Tablespoons dark rum

Measure out ingredients in advance for easier preparation.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Thoroughly grease two 8″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pans.  Dredge the fruit and nuts with flour and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Sift the remaining flour with spices, baking soda and salt.  Add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture alternating with adding the liquor, spices, and vanilla.  Fold the floured fruit and nuts into the batter.  Pour into prepared loaf pans – put the loaf pans into a large pan of hot water and bake for about 2-2  1/2 hours or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool ten minutes and gently remove cakes to a wire baking rack to further cool.

When cool, fruitcake can be further soaked in brandy or rum by drizzling liquor onto cake and letting it seep in to moisten.
Wrap cakes thoroughly in plastic wrap.  They can be aged for several weeks for flavors to meld.  Good served with cream cheese or butter.

HAPPY BAKING AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.

Scrappy Pie


Newfoundland Blue Ensign.

Newfoundland Blue Ensign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remembrance Day falls this year in Canada on November 11th.  Some provinces and territories celebrate it, also, on November 12th.  My Dad hails from Newfoundland, and at times he made what he called scrappy pie to celebrate it.  It is on Remembrance Day there that Canadians  remember  all of the fallen soldiers from past wars.

My great-uncle Charles was killed in Belgium in the first World War and is buried  where he was killed defending his fallen comrades.  His name is called out and his memory is saluted by a contingent of military members at Parliament every year on this day.  For this I simply give you my father’s Americanized version of Scrappy Pie (or Newfoundland Seafood Pie):

Potato topping ingredients:   1 cup all purpose flour,  1/2 cup fresh mashed potato, 4 ounces butter, 1 tablespoon milk, 2  Tablespoons dried breadcrumbs.

Filling:  16 ounces whitefish (cod, haddock, whiting or your choice), large cooked shrimp (8 ounces), 1 small onion- chopped fine, 1 cup frozen peas, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley – chopped fine, zest of a lemon – grated, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 2 cups milk.

Sift flour into a large bowl.  Using a pastry blender or fork, mix this with the mashed potato until thoroughly blended.  Blend in the  butter,  then draw into a dough, adding a bit of water until dough sticks together.  Wrap dough in pastic and chill in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.

Prepare filling by cutting fish into chucks and putting them into a 10 inch pie pan or baking dish.   Mix in the seafood, onions, peas, parsley and zest.  Blend the cornstarch with a bit of milk in a bowl.  Heat the remaining milk almost to boiling and stir it into the cornstarch mixture.  Return mixture to pan and stir until the mixture thickens.  Add seasoning and pour over fish filling.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Bring oven to 400F (200C).

Roll out the dough between sheets of wax paper to overlap to of pie plate.  Remove the top of the waxed paper and use the bottom sheet to help position dough on top of seafood mixture.

Press dough around edges of pan and clean up the edges.  Slash center of pie with small knife to vent steam.  Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle liberally with plain breadcrumbs.

Put pie on a baking sheet  Bake for 10 minutes – then drop temperature to 350F (180C).   Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

My father cooked this for us when we were very young and it’s the closest I can come to the original recipe.  I sought out Scrappy Pie recipes everywhere to no avail, so if someone could forward me more from the great nation of Canada, I would greatly appreciate it.

May you stay safe and sound on Remembrance Day.  And to my remaining Newfoundland cousins, may the sea treat you right and the cod keep running.

Old Hartford Election Cake


Cake!

I’ve decided to share with my readers a recipe for  Election Cake that is interesting in that there are a few very old variations that have not differed too much throughout the years.  The citron has been adjusted and you may use an extract in place of the pure brandy.  Just add 1 teaspoon of the extract instead of the 1/4 cup of brandy.

I’m offering this recipe in honor of the upcoming U.S. elections to be held next Tuesday, November 6th.  This will decide who our  next President will be and will shape the course our nation will take for the next four years.  Even though Election Day is not considered one of the national holidays here in America, it is a day of grave decision and reflection as Americans cast their votes.  If you have a night of poll watching or an election day function to arrange perhaps this cake might be a novel treat to serve to your guests.

OLD HARTFORD ELECTION CAKE

1 Tablespoon margarine (or other shortening)
1 package regular rise yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1  1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup margarine (or other shortening)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 well beaten large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon rind (grated fine)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped citron
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brandy (or omit and use 1 tsp. brandy extract)

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add one tablespoon butter, salt, sugar and 1 1/4 cups of flour, mixing thoroughly.
Set this aside in a warm place to rise overnight. Blend the 1/2 cup of margarine and cup of sugar and beat until light.
Add eggs, raising, citron, lemon rind, lemon extract and juice. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.
Add this to first mixture, adding some brandy or extract slowly into mix. Combine raised dough with cake dough and pour into greased
pan. Let rise in warm place for one hour or until dough, pressed with finger, indents and is risen. Bake in 350 degree oven for one hour
While the cake is still warm, spread with icing made of confectioners sugar dissolved in enough warm water to make
a spreading consistency.

TO CELEBRATE OUR RIGHT TO VOTE!!