Friday, February 28, 2020

Going Retro for Dessert

Something I used to absolutely love as a child was Chocolate Pudding Cake. I never had anything but Chocolate Pudding cake, though later on, as a young wife with just a small handful of cookbooks, I went experimenting. My Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes cookbook came with not just one, but FOUR different Pudding Cakes. 
Fudge Pudding Cake
Fudge Pudding Cake

Aside from the Chocolate recipe, there was a Lemon Pudding Cake that was just delish. That said, I have been dubiously blessed with two husbands that do now care for lemon flavored things. Highly frustrating to me, as I love lemon flavored things, as long as it is made with real lemon or lime and not "candy flavored." I never tried the Peach Pudding Cake, but aside from the chocolate and lemon versions, I did try the Date pudding cake, which had to have been good, I am sure, but somehow didn't leave an impression.

Left with two Pudding Cakes that have remained my favorites over the years, I was sure they had been shared here in past, but I guess I realized that the recipes have been straight from the old cookbook, copyright 1966. That's right: 54 years ago. Apparently, the book is still in demand, probably by other baby boomers like me, who grew up eating these recipes. It is available in many places. And in many price ranges.

I am going to place these two favorite recipes here, with the caveat that they are not my own recipes. They are from this cookbook, though I am updating some of the ingredient names and wording. And there are slews of other great recipes in the book as well, so if anyone wants some really great time tested recipes, you will know what to look for. The photos here are my own!

Fudge Pudding Cake

Fudge Pudding Cake
Fudge Pudding Cake

Makes one 8 x 8-inch pan

1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
¾ cup brown sugar
1½ cups boiling water
2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and set aside.

Whisk together the first four ingredients in a mixing bowl. Melt the first 1-ounce square of unsweetened chocolate with the butter, then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla and pour into the dry ingredients; stir until blended. Mix in the walnuts and pour into the prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top of the batter. Combine the boiling water and the 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Pour this liquid over top of the brown sugar. Bake the pudding cake for 40 to 45 minutes. Do not over bake; despite the pudding part, the cake can get too dry. It is difficult to test, as the pudding part makes any tester inserted come out wet. 


Lemon Pudding Cake

While this is a "lemon" pudding cake, it can as easily be made with limes.

Makes one 8 x 8-inch pan
Lemon Pudding Cake with Blueberries and Whipped Cream
Lemon Pudding Cake with Blueberries and Whipped Cream

¾ cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1½ cups milk
3 well-beaten egg yolks
3 stiffly beaten egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and set aside. 

In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, salt and butter. Stir in the flour, then the lemon peel and juice. Whisk together the milk and egg yolks and add to the lemon mixture, stirring well to combine. Fold in the egg whites until no white remains. Pour this mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Serve warm or chilled. (Fresh blueberries make a wonderful accompaniment.)

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

New Crepes and Other Things

To any who might read my blog, I apologize for being so conspicuously absent this past month. I got a craving of a different sort - a craving to draw, paint or something along those lines and that has occupied my time of late. Since we moved to Arizona last summer, we are occupying a far smaller house than had been our usual, and there are no spare rooms to set up my painting supplies (easel, table to hold all my paints, brushes, paraphernalia, chair). That leaves me with a lot of supplies, but no way to truly use them. Racking my brain for some way to satisfy this urge to create a picture of some kind, I finally remembered my iPad Pro and an app called Procreate. I love the app. I love being able to zoom in and work on intricate things. And I love what I've created. I have yet to attempt printing my work, so I have no idea whether this is a truly viable venue to work from, but at least it has calmed my creative urges to some degree. These are some things I have done this month.
My Procreate Art
My "Procreate" Art

And then, anyone who knows me, also knows how much I love frogs, and tadpoles. Frogs have been a life-long fascination for me. In all their strange forms, I just find them cute / adorable / interesting. I also love the color red. And so, I chose to create a little folly with a whole lot of tiny little Poison Dart Frogs. These little bitty frogs are often less than an inch long. While they mainly love on the rainforest floor, once their tadpoles emerge, they are taken individually to great heights up into the trees and deposited in any tiny body of water - often in the centers of bromeliads. Each tadpole is placed into its own body of water, with this great journey undertaken repeatedly until all are safely stowed, and then mama frog has to repeat the journey to each tadpole daily, for feeding. And so, my little folly; with one or two more frogs still to be set into the picture before I am done:
Frog Frolicking Folly
Frog Frolicking Folly

On to FOOD:

My First Try at Buckwheat Rye Crepes
My First Try at Buckwheat Rye Crepes
My son and his significant other also live in AZ, but nearly 4 hours away from us. They are currently living in a huge motor home, by choice. And over winter, it sprang a leak and mold was forming, so it is now in the shop for repairs. While it is being repaired, they needed to dispose of a lot of foods that would spoil in their fridge, so they bestowed their largesse on me. 

Crepes, Belgium and Buckwheat

One of the things they gave me was an unopened, but thawed, box of "Belgian Boys" Belgian Crepes. I had never bought crepes before, though I have made them - see my recipe here. I had no idea what the crepes in the box were like, only that they said "Belgian style." Once I opened the box, knowing I had the ingredients for fillings whether these turned out to be sweet or savory style, I found them to be a little sweet, so that left out a savory filling. They were also rather dark in color, compared to any crepes I had made or eaten in past. Until we sat down to have them as dessert, I had reserved any possible judgement on them, but oh my, were they ever tasty! I commented to my husband that they might just have buckwheat in them, as I am pretty familiar with that flavor. I use buckwheat flour in pancakes, breads, scones and anywhere I can find use for it. So, I checked the ingredient list on the package. 

Lo and behold, not only buckwheat flour, but also rye flour and "maize starch," (I am assuming might mean cornstarch, but I am not certain) in addition to "wheat flour."These crepes are made in Belgium. I am not at all sure that the ingredient list shows things in order of how much of any one thing is in them, as is the usual for in the U.S. The ingredients listed "water, wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, buckwheat flour, rye flour, maize starch, soy flour, dextrose, salt, natural flavoring, natural vanilla extract." 
Second Try at Buckwheat and Rye Crepes
Second Try at Buckwheat and Rye Crepes

I felt that I might just be able to duplicate these crepes, at least to my own standards of taste. As usual, I went online and checked out recipes for "Belgian crepes with buckwheat flour." I had no idea what I was getting into!

Turns out that in parts of France, and Belgium, buckwheat crepes are a real "thing." Two ingredients: buckwheat and water. Period, end of story. Eaten as a savory crepe and often folded around a food as with a galette or rustic pie, these are apparently very well known and loved - as well as devilishly tricky to make!

Okay, this was so NOT what I was looking for. Yet any search that involved the word buckwheat along with crepes yielded only this sort of crepe. If I skipped the word buckwheat in the search for "Belgian Crepes," I got plain white flour crepes. Okay, so back to my drawing board.

My Version of These Crepes

Second Try at Buckwheat and Rye Crepes
Second Try at Buckwheat and Rye Crepes
I opted to take my old tried and true recipe for crepes and just play with the flour amounts. In essence, the ingredient list on the box of Belgian Boy crepes listed all the normal things in my crepes: flour, liquid, fat, eggs. All I had to do was change the flours out a bit, add vanilla, use oil rather than butter. My first attempt at these was day before yesterday. They came out splendidly, if I do say so myself. The flavor was exceedingly close to what the boxed crepes tasted like, though I felt that a little more buckwheat was called for. To that end, I remade the recipe yesterday morning, using more buckwheat and less white flour. Other than that, the identical recipe. They already tasted great; this was just my own finickiness at work. 

The results were not hugely noticeable. Still, I could tell a difference, and so my second attempt remains my preferred recipe. If you happen to be able to get hands on buckwheat and rye flours, do give these crepes a try. I made a dulce de leche and cream cheese mixture to put inside them, and this was also amazing.

Buckwheat and Rye Crepes

Makes 7 to 8 Crepes, about 10-inches in diameter

Early in the day, combine together in a bowl the three kinds of flour, sugar and salt. Stir or whisk to dry ingredients to evenly distribute the ingredients. In a measuring cup, combine the water, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk well and pour all at once into the dry ingredients. Using a whisk, briskly combine the ingredients until the mixture is smooth. No need to overwork the batter. Mix only until smooth. Cover the container and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight before proceeding.

Heat a non-stick skillet with a 10-inch diameter base over medium heat until very hot. Put a small amount of neutral oil in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to very lightly coat the surface of the pan. Pour in at least a one-third-cup portion of batter, then quickly lift and rotate the skillet to let the batter reach the edges of the bottom of the pan. You are looking for a 10-inch crepe, made slightly thicker than usual crepes. Once back on heat, watch as for pancakes: there will be small bubbles form, the wet, shiny surface will become dry looking and the edges will begin to turn golden brown and lift slightly away from the pan. This should take about 2½ minutes. Lift an edge with a spatula, and once the bottom is golden, flip the crepe and cook this side for about 1 to 1½ minutes. Remove the crepe to waxed paper and begin again, with lightly brushing the pan with oil. As each crepe is done, set a new piece pf waxed paper atop the first, set the next crepe on top and repeat with each. Keep watch on the heat of the pan. If the crepes begin to get done too quickly and look like there are dark brown spots, lower the heat to medium low. This seems to happen by the end of the second crepe.

Process of cooking crepes
Process of cooking crepes

If not using right away, refrigerate the crepes. They can be rewarmed briefly in the pan before using, if needed. 

Dulce de Leche Filling or Dip

Makes 1¼ cup

8 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons dulce de leche
2 small pinches of Kosher salt

Place the ingredients into a bowl and stir until smooth or use a hand mixer to mix until smooth. Use a tablespoon or two per crepe, spreading over the surface of the crepe, then roll or fold the crepe to serve, dusted with confectioner's sugar.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Please Enjoy My February Newsletter

Polvorones, Ethnic, Guatemalan
It's Midwinter,  Friend

In the north, with frigid winters this time of year, celebrating Midwinter seems rather over the top for most people's expectations. For the southern states, a bit of a chill now and again might seem an annoyance, or perhaps a glad reprieve from summer's excessive heat. One thing never changes though, and that is food. We must eat. We must have recipes or some way or method to go about feeding ourselves and our families. 

Valentine's Day will be here soon, Mardi Gras comes toward end of month. Celebrations will be in the air, despite winter's chill. 
I hope to offer some appetizing suggestions for this time of awaiting Spring once more. While it might be a bleak time of year, cooking something interesting and new is just the ticket, in my book. This month, I am featuring some interesting recipes from my time in Guatemala back in the 1970s. I learned to love the food and the people and enjoyed my time there. Whether learning how to use known spices in new ways or learning about foods I had never previously heard of, it was an amazing time, and one I look back on at least weekly.

If new foods, new methods or new flavors tempt you, this month's newsletter should be quite intriguing. None of these "foreign" recipes are difficult to make or have flavors so far out of the realm of "normal" that they should pose difficulty for most, so I do encourage trying out something new!

Please view my "A Harmony of Flavors" blog site, continually being updated with new recipes. There is a lot to choose from!
Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Midwinter
Guatemalan food, Guatemalan Recipes
Great Meal Ideas

In Guatemala, I was surprised at the many ways foods were prepared so very differently from what I knew as a Midwest Ohio girl. Boiled meatloaf? For real? And things like Enchiladas were a total unknown, back in the 1970s in Ohio. These were a brand new experience all 'round! I still prefer Guatemalan style Enchiladas to any other sort, because I love their freshness. Stew type meals were hugely common, but ingredients were so different. And nowhere down there did one ever thicken a sauce or a stew with flour, oh no, but instead using leftover corn tortillas or leftover breads. All this was totally new to me. These days, we have a lot more options for ingredients. So much more availability, nearly everywhere. So, if you are enterprising, ambitious, and interested in something totally new, read on...

Clockwise from top left:
  • Carne Fria: Literally translated, this means "Cold Meat." It is often seen on buffet tables for parties, just because it is good cold - or room temperature, anyway, and equally great hot, of course. This is a meatloaf with hard boiled eggs set into the center. Wrapped in a clean towel or cheesecloth, it is submerged whole into boiling water to cook. Make a simple pureed tomato sauce (such as the one featured below) to serve with it. Some of the things mixed into this meatloaf are unusual, but it comes out with amazing flavors. This is one of my husband's favorites! If you don't own a large enough pot to submerge this whole loaf into, simply divide the ingredients into two smaller ones and use two pots.
  • Guatemalan Style Enchiladas: These enchiladas are one of my all-time favorites. I don't make them often, as my husband will not eat beets, one of the key ingredients. And, there is the little matter of having to assemble them last minute. Those little snags aside, these have some of the most amazingly fresh flavors. It is more of a salad on a fried tortilla; certainly not a gloppy, cheesy, high calorie mess. Freshly made tomato sauce layered atop a fried corn tortilla, a slice of lettuce (iceberg was common in Guatemala, but I updated that to leaf lettuce per my taste), slightly "pickled" veggies, cooked, minced & fried beef roast of some kind, a slice of hard boiled egg, a slice of onion, Cotija cheese and parsley tops them off. Mmmmm-mmmm-GOOD!
  • Guatemalan Hilachas: This meal is perhaps more commonly known in the U.S. as Ropa Vieja by Puerto Ricans and Cubans. "Hilachas" means "rags." "Ropa Vieja" means "old clothes." Similar concept. Very similar dish. This is a recipe I developed over time, until its taste finally matched my memory. This stew is thickened with bread crumbs, something that completely surprised me when I first encountered this method. Try this delightful stew on a chilly evening!
  • Pollo en Jocon: Simply translated, this yummy recipe is for Chicken in Jocon Sauce. Jocon sauce is a green sauce, and if you've already got Green Sauce (Salsa Verde) in your freezer, you'd be all set. This dish can also be made with beef stew meat. Simply cook cubed meat in the sauce instead of the chicken, and in this case it is called Carne en Jocon. This stew is thickened with leftover tortillas, though it is far simpler to use some corn tortilla flour (Masa Harina or Torti-ya) for this purpose.

Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month.
CLICK HERE for a Bonus Recipe
Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Midwinter
Chimichurri Sauce, Adobo Sauce, Green Sauce, Tomato Sauce
Brightening your Meals

Some of these sauces are marinades, used then to cook food, and some are simply delicious as a sauce. No matter which, if made up is larger batches and divided in containers, the sauces/marinades can be frozen and kept for later use. Amazing flavors make these four recipes must-haves.

There are lots more ideas are available on my blog, just check out the Recipe Index!

Clockwise from top left:

  • Chimichurri Marinade: Chimichurri is a word used in many Latin countries, but this marinade is wholly Guatemalan. A mix of flavors makes this marinade a must for fajita type meats, but is equally delicious used as a cooking sauce for a braised dish, whether beef, pork or chicken. Not meant to be eaten raw, this marinade does make a great tasting gravy once cooked with your meat of choice. Mix it up, divide into batches and freeze, for multiple later uses.
  • Adobo Sauce: This Adobo Sauce is used as a marinade, often with the meat being cooked in the sauce, making a gravy of sorts. The meat of choice can also be grilled, meaning there is no "sauce" left  for serving. Either way, use this sauce for beef meat or pork and grill or braise, as desired. It makes a most heavenly flavored meat dish.
  • Green Sauce or Salsa Verde: This Green Sauce, once made, is ready for use. It can be used as a dip for chips, or as a base sauce to add things in for a braised dish. My most favorite is cooking pork shoulder meat in green sauce, truly a match made in heaven. Use Green Sauce as a base for making Pollo (or Carne) en Jocon, shown above. Add in sour cream for a great dip. Add in some chopped jalapeno pepper for a bit of spice.
  • Tomato Sauce: This recipe is simplicity itself. Included in the recipe for Guatemalan Enchiladas, it can be used as a sauce to go with Carne Fria (shown above), or to serve with Cauliflower in Egg Batter, or Guatemalan Style Chilies Rellenos. It is simply an essential tomato sauce for multiple uses.
Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Midwinter
Wonderful Dessert Ideas

Two great desserts enjoyed in Guatemala were Polvorones (shortbread cookie-like treats) and Plantains in Mole Sauce. Plantains look much like very large bananas, and must be cooked to eat. Depending on the maturity level of the plantains, they can be used as a "vegetable," with no real sweetness, or cooked and eaten about midway towards maturity, and then once they are nearly totally blackened and their sweetness level and softness are just amazing, they can be fried and enjoyed as is or sprinkled with a little cinnamon and sugar for a real treat.

For the Mole Sauce, as with many things Guatemalan, unusual ingredients come together to make an unusual, but totally delightful sauce, preferably for plantains that have reached maturity and are nearly all black. Not at all difficult to make, don't be put off by the ingredients; tomatoes and tomatillos are fruits, after all. For this dessert, look for plantains that are midway to totally blackened for best flavor.

Continuing below is a description of Plantains and their maturity levels and uses.
Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Midwinter

How to Select Plantains

If you are unfamiliar with plantains, choosing them can be daunting. Unlike with bananas, they must be cooked in order to eat them. And then comes the obstacle course of what to expect from them once you do choose to cook them. There are levels of maturity to plantains, and understanding what to expect as they ripen from green to mostly yellow to mostly black can be a minefield of disasters if one is unaware. Choosing plantains, first off, look for ones whose lengthwise ridges are not too deeply pronounced, no matter their ripeness. If the ridges are too sharp, this means they have been picked far too green and maturing them will still not yield best flavor or softness.
  1. In this picture, at top are green plantains. Completely green, these can be treated as a vegetable, with almost no sweetness at all. Remove the skins and cut up as for any vegetable, like potato, squash, etc., and cook in a soup or stew until mostly tender. They still may be a little hard if they were too green, even after cooking. They can be cooked and served alone as a side dish, something that was often served alongside the ubiquitous black beans and rice. Puerto Ricans cook slices, then smash them flat and fry them for something called "Tostones."
  2. In the center of this picture are plantains that have gone yellow. As soon as yellow appears, black spots will also be present; this is just fine. To cook plantains in this mid range, their sweetness level will have gone up, so they will cook a little more quickly. Remove the skins and cook them in chunks in plain water and have a slightly more sweet side dish as a vegetable. As they will cook more quickly, they can be added to soups or stews and be a far softer "vegetable" addition. And also, at this point they can be fried, either whole or in chunks or slices, with no seasoning, and served as a side dish to a meal. Or, they can be sliced, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar just before serving, or instead, with a little maple syrup just before serving.
  3. At the bottom of the picture are plantains that have gone mostly black. They can go even blacker still, by which point a little mold may have started at the ends: simply cup off the ends when peeling the plantain, then slice them in 1/4-inch thick slices and fry them until browned on each side. Serve them as is, or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar to serve. A dollop of Mexican Crema or sour cream on the side and these are an excellent dessert. This is also the point where they are best to use in the recipe for Plantains in Mole Sauce, shown above. Fry them, make the Mole Sauce and combine to serve. Rather then slicing them across, they can be sliced lengthwise to fry. Or, if the plantains are too large, cut each length into two, making 4 smaller sections per plantain. Fry until nicely browned and serve. 
February, when Mother Nature seems to enjoy playing jokes on us all, is still a great time for great food.. Please visit my blog-site and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It does require advanced planning. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick. Take a look through my suggestions here in this newsletter, as well as looking through past newsletters here, for more ideas. My blog site has a  site index of all my recipes, for many more options.
Please forward this newsletter to any friends who may find my stories, articles and recipes of interest. Subscribe to this Newsletter by hitting the  Subscribe Button below. Follow me on  Facebook, check out my  A Harmony of Flavors blog. Find all my food (and lots of other) photos on Pinterest at AHOFpin.
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