This week we celebrate my husband, Brion’s birthday. Family birthdays forever bring me back to my childhood days. My mother always made the birthday person’s favorite meal on their day along with a cake. Although she excelled at cooking in general, her creative talent was put to good use when she decorated our birthday cakes.
Brion has always loved pineapple pie. I’m not sure where it came from but could possibly have been from time spent in the Cook Islands years ago.
In 1950, the Pillsbury company (General Mills) came out with a pie crust mix. Their promotion read that ‘the quality was assured by the finest ingredients, scientifically blended and perfectly balanced’. All you had to do was add water and mix. To further promote their product they included a recipe for Pineapple Pie supposedly having been written by ‘Ann Pillsbury’. This was a fictitious home economist created for marketing purposes. She essentially represented the members of the Pillsbury Home Service department. Unlike Betty Crocker, Ann Pillsbury did not catch on and was replaced in 1965 by the Pillsbury Doughboy who we still see in their current advertising.
My blog recipe is a bit different from the vintage one but is one of Brion’s favorites. Over the last six months, Brion’s love and support have helped me recover from shoulder replacement surgery for which I’m very grateful.
In a saucepan, combine cornstarch & sugar. Gradually stir in water until mixture is smooth. Add lemon zest & undrained crushed pineapple. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to boils; reduce heat slightly & continue to boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat; quickly stir in butter & beaten egg yolks, mixing well. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
In a food processor or with a rolling pin, crush biscuits finely & evenly. Melt butter; add to crumbs, mixing well with fork. Press evenly over bottom & up sides of a 9-inch flan or pie pan. Refrigerate crust while filling is cooling.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually add sugar. Beat until sugar is dissolved. Spread filling evenly into crust; top with meringue making sure to spread it to the edge of crust to form a seal.
Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until surface of meringue is evenly golden brown.
On February 12, 2016, I posted my first blog on this site. It was called ‘Bake Day Surprises’. It featured a simple little recipe from one of my mother’s many versions of dumplings. A sweet, caramel-like, bread dough dumpling that brings back another taste of a memory never to be forgotten.
Dumplings are made from a dough that can consist of ingredients such as flour, potatoes and bread crumbs. Most often formed into a ball shape, then boiled or steamed.
In German cuisine, you will find a dumpling for every occasion and course in a meal. They can be served as a main meal, side dish, part of a soup or as a sweet dessert. Other varieties are filled with fruit or meats.
The fact that my mother baked bread every week when I was a kid, meant that dumplings were the ‘norm’.
With fresh blueberries available at this time of year, why not use some in a few BLUEBERRY DUMPLINGS!
Place blueberries into a skillet. Add water, sugar & cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until blueberry juices start to flow & bubble. Turn heat to low.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, zest, nutmeg & salt. Add milk & stir until flour mixture is just moistened. With a spoon, drop 8 'dumplings' onto simmering blueberry mixture. Cover pan & allow to cook 14-15 minutes or until dumplings puff up nicely.
I was interested to know a little more about this idea of ‘food on a stick’. It seems its a fairly wide spread way of eating food. In Indonesia there are many forms of chicken satay and of course the shish kebab originating from Turkey. It all comes from a culture that has been around since before the 1840’s.
The North American classic ‘corn dog’ was patent in 1929. The patent cited that it was for a ‘combined dipping, cooking and article holding apparatus’ and was intended for ‘impaling foods such as wieners, boiled ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced fruit, etc., on a stick, covering them in a batter and deep frying it’.
This food on a stick phenomenon has grown greatly over the past 20 years or more. It has become some sort of extreme ‘sport’ on a stick. For entrepreneurs, its whatever I can put on a stick that nobody’s done before. I was reading an article that listed 83 different possibilities!
Here’s a couple of ideas I found interesting to try. TURKEY MEATBALL BREADSTICKS and BACON WRAPPED MUSHROOMS ON A STICK.
In a large bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, oil & salt. Allow to become frothy, about 10 minutes. Gradually add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until dough forms a ball. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise about 1 hour in a warm, draft-free place. While bread sticks are rising, prepare turkey meatballs.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a bowl, combine turkey, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper & garlic. Form into 36 - 1" diameter meatballs. When dough is ready, turn out onto a floured surface. Press or roll into a 12 x 8" rectangle. Cut into twelve strips about 1-inch wide x 8-inches long.
Starting with one bread stick, thread dough then a meatball, repeating process with 2 more meatballs alternating dough-meatball, ending with dough. Make sure to spread dough & meatballs away from each other by about 1/4", so the meatballs bake through & the dough has room to expand.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Stir together garlic powder & melted butter. Brush bread stick dough ONLY with mixture. Bake for 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from oven & sprinkle each skewer with 1-2 Tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese. Place back in oven for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve while hot with warm marinara sauce for dipping.
Bacon Wrapped Mushroom Kebabs
Soak skewers 30 minutes. Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap each mushroom with a bacon strip & thread 4 on each skewer. Grill on medium heat until bacon is done, about 10-15 minutes, basting with barbecue sauce. Serve immediately.
You could say the German pancake is a cross between a souffle and an omelet. Baked in a round pan with sides, it is quite similar to a Yorkshire pudding in which the center is sunken. It derived from the German Pfannkuchen and is also called Dutch baby pancake. This light, airy pancake is crispy around the edges while retaining a tender, custard like middle.
In most cases these pancakes would be served with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter. My choice today is to serve them with sliced bananas drizzled with orange sauce.
This is one of the simplest dishes to prepare and one of the most impressive to serve. I don’t actually recall my mother making these but we certainly did eat the more ‘common’ pancakes, which were so good as well.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously butter two 9-inch cake pans. In blender, process eggs gently until light in color. Add remaining ingredients; process until smooth & pour into pans. Bake 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350 F. & bake 10 minutes more. Slide onto warm plates. Prepare banana/orange sauce WHILE pancakes are baking.
In a skillet, combine butter, sugar, orange juice & zest; bring to a boil. Peel bananas & slice; add to orange sauce. Stir to coat. Remove from heat. Pour banana/orange sauce over baked pancakes & serve.
Sheet cakes are sometimes thought of by some as a lazy man’s cake. Yes, they are easy to bake and contain no fancy layers or have intricate decorations but ….
Traditionally a sheet cake refers to a cake baked in a large, shallow rectangular pan such as a jelly-roll pan. They are single layer and almost always frosted on both top and sides.
The famous ‘Texas Sheet Cake’ that is very popular in the US seems to be referenced as far back as 1936. I understand it started out as three layers and ultimately became a one layer, large sheet cake. By the 1970’s these recipes were using sour cream instead of buttermilk and alternative ingredients had evolved.
Today, if you are wanting to make a sheet cake you can find over 300 recipe choices on allrecipes.com alone. At this time of year with so many people hosting block parties, barbecues, family gatherings etc. I thought it would be nice to post a favorite recipe of mine. If you like poppy seed, you will absolutely love this cake.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside in fridge. In a small bowl, combine flour, poppy seed, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar, followed by oil, milk, flavorings & dry ingredients.
Gently fold in egg whites. Pour into 2 unbuttered 9 x 13" pans or onto an unbuttered cookie sheet 18 x 15 x 1". Bake on middle rack for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely.
Icing & Topping
In a small bowl, combine icing ingredients & beat until smooth; spread on cake & cool completely. Melt chocolate & margarine in microwave. QUICKLY spread topping over cooled cake.
I was only needing a small amount today so I made a quarter of the recipe & baked it in an 8 x 8-inch pan. It cuts nicely into 9 or 18 pieces.
I know it sounds quite ordinary but we are not just talking about just any plum cake. Variations of the German specialty, ‘zwetschgenkuchen’, exist where some versions are made with a shortbread pastry verses a yeast dough, some have streusel – some do not – some are round, other’s are rectangular. One thing for sure is that they all use the plump, sweet, juicy European plums also known as Italian Prune Plums or Empress Plums. This variety is ideal for cooking not only because of their texture but also because their flavor becomes more complex through cooking.
Fruit and yeast-based cakes are a German hallmark with this cake being a perfect example. Its not overly sweet, has a touch of tartness to it, a small hint of cinnamon and that tender yeast dough.
When I was growing up and my mother used Italian Prune Plums in her canning or baking, I just thought it was because they were available at the time. I had no idea that they played such a special part in German baking until I was older.
I realize this is probably not the kind of thing you feel like making on a hot summer day. I suggest putting it on hold for a rainy day because it is well worth the effort. Just to encourage you further, I’ve added an alternate yogurt dough you could use instead of the yeasted one which would speed things up.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm milk & allow to become frothy, about 5-10 minutes. With an electric hand mixer, beat together sugar, salt, warm melted butter, egg & vanilla. When yeast is ready, Combine with egg mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition; dough should become smooth & elastic. It will not be firm enough to knead into a ball, more like thick batter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & set in a warm, draft-free place to rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.
In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Using fingertips, rub mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
'ALTERNATE' Yogurt Dough
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. In small bowl, beat together yogurt, milk, oil & vanilla. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add wet mixture & combine until dough forms a ball.
To make Plum Cake Tarts
Generously butter eight - 4 x 3/4" mini tart pans or press out a rectangle of dough about 8 x 10" size on a baking sheet or a jelly-roll pan could be used. For tart pans, divide dough into 8 pieces & press dough out over bottom & up sides. For the rectangle shape, dough could be rolled out on parchment paper & laid directly on pan.
Lay plums close together in rows, covering the entire dough. If using YEAST DOUGH, set pan in a warm place & let rise rise an hour. Sprinkle the streusel over the top & bake at 350 F. for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden. If using YOGURT DOUGH, evenly sprinkle farina over dough before placing the plums on the pastry ( it helps to keep the pastry from becoming soggy). Arrange plums on pastry; distribute streusel over cake. Bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes or streusel is light golden.
Rhubarb was originally cultivated for its medicinal properties and was not used in European cooking until the late 18th century. The history of rhubarb is very complicated but simply put there are only two broad categories, medicinal and culinary.
Thought of by many as an old fashioned ‘vegetable’, it never has really fallen out of favor. In Germany, rhubarb season is from April until June. There are countless recipes using rhubarb as the German people are very passionate about eating produce they have grown themselves.
I have an inherited love of rhubarb — the way it tastes, its huge beautiful foliage, its hardiness, productiveness …….
RHUBARB SOUR CREAM PIE (German Rhabarber Sauerrahn Kuchen) has been in my pie ‘go to’ file forever. The combination of these two ingredients works magic. Just for something different, I decided to use the same recipe but make it into tarts today.
In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, flour & citrus zest. Cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & nutmeg; beat in sour cream & egg. Gently fold in rhubarb. Pour into pastry shell. Sprinkle topping mixture over the filling.
Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for 35-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
In order to obtain nice slices, refrigerate pie until cold then slice & heat a bit in the microwave if preferred.
Father’s Day, that special day set aside to honor our fathers and the father figures who have influenced our lives. A father’s love is such a special gift beyond compare. You only know the meaning when he is no longer there.
My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. The passage of time will never dim those precious memories we have of them. They followed very different paths in their life’s journey; my father was a farmer and Brion’s an army soldier. Both of them gave so much of themselves to their life’s work as well as to their families.
There are not enough words to describe how important my father was to me and the powerful influence he continues to be in my life even though he’s gone.
As a tribute to our dad’s on Father’s day, I am featuring a CHEESE CRUSTED APPLE PIE. Both of them loved apple pie so it seems like a good choice for the blog recipe.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt & cheese. Cut in half the shortening to resemble coarse meal; then remaining shortening until it resembles small peas. Add water, a little at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. Shape dough into a firm ball; chill for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry out to fit a 9-inch flan pan; trim edges. Cover pastry with a piece of parchment paper; cover with dried beans & bake for 7 minutes. Carefully remove beans & bake another 7 minutes. Remove from oven & cool.
Chop apples coarsely, place in a saucepan with lemon juice; cover & cook about 10 minutes or until just tender. Stir in flour, sugar & cinnamon; cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour & pecans. Rub in butter until mixture is coarse & crumbly.
Place filling into pastry shell, sprinkle with topping. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 375 F. & bake further for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Decorate with whipped cream, extra chopped pecans & powdered sugar, if desired.
Due to the fact that ovens sometimes vary in temperature, you may need to adjust the baking temperature a little higher or lower than recipe states.
I guess because of my German heritage I forever gravitate to German cuisine and food history. Although my mother’s cooking was a mix of German and Canadian, I can definitely see how she correlated the two quite well.
When most people think of pizza, Italy comes to mind. That’s why I’d like to talk about Flammkuchen, a crisp, smoky bacon German pizza. The name translates to ‘flame cake’ and comes from south Germany and the Alsace region of France. Originally it was used by bakers to test the temperature of their ovens. A bit of dough was rolled flat, topped with ‘sour cream’ and baked in their wood fired bread ovens for a few minutes. The oven’s temperature was told in the nearly blistered crispiness of the flammkuchen. When it came out just right the oven was ready to bake bread.
The classic version of German pizza is characterized by its thin, crisp, blistered crust. The dough is spread with soured cream (creme fraiche) then topped with partially cooked bacon, caramelized onions and spices.
Other savory variations include Gruyere or Munster cheese and mushrooms while sweet versions may include apples, cinnamon and a sweet liqueur.
For those of you who enjoy a thin, crispy crust pizza, this one’s for you!
In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, water & oil. Mix until dough begins to form; turn dough out onto lightly floured surface & knead until soft & smooth about 3-5 minutes. Place dough back in bowl; cover & set aside. In a small bowl, mix together yogurt & nutmeg; set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In skillet, saute bacon until it is half way to crisp, 2-4 minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel. Break or cut bacon into small pieces.
Preheat oven to 400 F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 11 x 16-inch rectangle. Generously sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal & place dough on it. Spread yogurt mixture over crust, leaving a small border. Distribute onions & bacon evenly over yogurt. Top all with a dusting of black pepper.
A ‘galette’ (French) or ‘crostata’ (Italian) was an early way to form a pie crust in the absence of pie pans. The dough was rolled flat, the filling placed in the middle with the edges turned up to contain the filling.
The origin of the pie (pye) has been traced to Egypt where savory fillings were baked, using woven reeds as the baking vessel. The concept was brought to Greece and then to Rome. It is believed the ancient Greeks created pie pastry and the trade of ‘pastry chef’ was then distinguished from that of a baker. The use of lard and butter in northern Europe led to a dough that could be rolled out and molded into what has become our modern pie crust. Before the emergence of tin or ceramic pie pans, the ancient practice of using the bottom of the oven or fireplace was used to bake this rustic tart.
Galettes can be made in any size, as well as sweet or savory, using only a simple baking sheet. No technique to create an even, fluted crust is necessary. Rusticity is its charm! No worries about tearing the dough or if the final result is perfectly round or rectangular.
The crust of this galette is made with the addition of a small amount of cornmeal to give it a bit of crunch and is equally as good with a sweet or savory filling.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over the dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a bowl, toss together the fruit, all but 1 Tbsp of the sugar, salt, lemon juice & zest & cornstarch.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough into a circle & set on baking sheet. Place the fruit filling in the middle, leaving a border of 1 1/2 to 2-inches. Gently fold pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Brush pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle the reserved 1 Tbsp sugar over the crust.
Bake 35-45 minutes until the filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Best served warm or at room temperature.