Tag Archives: baking

Sunday Sisters

By: Mary

There is no time of the week as pleasant to bake during then Sunday morning, and there is no day of the week better to eat doughnuts, then on a Sunday morning as well.

Wait, that’s a false statement.  Any given day is a great day to eat doughnuts!

Colleen and I have experienced many a Sunday morning baking session together as you may remember from the post Sunday Sugar Doughnuts. Today I brought a substitute baker into the kitchen to help mix the dough and fry the batter in oil.

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My eight-year-old niece may just end up being quite the baker.

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She’s a precious gift in my life and I’m glad to have spent this spring morning in her company.

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In just once week, though, my ” Sunday sister ” (Coleen) will be traveling back home from college in Dallas. I can hardly wait to spend early mornings baking with her and be forced to go on excruciating runs which I protest half-heartedly. Her trademark ugly apron is ready and waiting for her in an old farm house kitchen far away from the the biggest and proudest state in the union. Welcome back Colleen and best of luck to you as you cram for finals. Ace them before coming back home to your sophisticated ridge roots!

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When Bach and I Bake

By: Clare

Unlike all the rest of my sisters, who are all wonderful and imaginative bakers and cooks, I myself am quite helpless when it comes to concocting a dish in the kitchen. This is probably one of the effects of being the youngest kid and therefore always having an older sister to do the work instead of you. Which I didn’t have a problem with. I’ve got the basics down-cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, grilled cheese…toast…Ramen noodles….

And it just so happens that last Saturday my mother had me make some oatmeal bars as a dessert. The house was empty when I got to work the recipe. It was just me, Peter, and Grandma left at home which was quite peaceful. I wasn’t really too excited to start baking, so I got out my iPod to motivate me. I find that blasting music that only you can hear makes every situation a little more fun. Especially when your parents are calling you to come set the table and you can’t hear them at all. But I didn’t choose any rock or pop song to listen to. Surprising even myself, I decided I was in quite the mood for some classical piano. There  were only two Bach songs on the iPod, so I actually ended up listening to the same two songs for about half an hour.

Donning my apron I got to work.

It ended up taking a bit of time to make the bars because I was dancing around the kitchen pretending I was a ballerina. Also because I was doubling the recipe.

When I bake I do it in the most inconvenient ways possible. I don’t have any smart tactics that make baking so much easier and faster of a job. The fact that we’re usually missing one or two things in the recipe doesn’t help either. Or they’re just misplaced. I once found some maple syrup in the refrigerator. And James’ electric toothbrush was put in the baking utensil’s drawer for about a week by our grandmother. I never read the instructions on how to do the recipe correctly, either. Do you really need those? I’ve never taken the time to check and see if those are helpful or not. And I do not like measuring ingredients…

And do most people really stir the ingredients every time after they add an ingredient? Cause I don’t. I always, always, always forget to until all the ingredients are in and then it takes forever to mix it all up. I usually just try in vain for approximately thirty seconds, then run to Mom and have her mix it up. But  couldn’t do that this time, because she was gone. This time when I mixed it all I lost my patience, as I so often do when baking, and just stopped mixing after a while. There were quite a few lumps of non-mixed ingredients in the batch.

I shoved the whole doubled recipe into a pan, and quickly threw it into the oven. Done.

Then I promptly forgot about it, until a while later when I realized with horror I was in charge of taking the dang thing out of the oven too. Thankfully, it wasn’t burnt. But it did end up to be the hardest, most unappetizing bars I have ever eaten.

This baking catastrophe again came to mind this morning, as I was again forced to bake. Mom wanted some chocolate chip cookies for the Sunday dinner dessert. The recipe I was going to follow on the back of the chocolate chip bag was cut off, so I couldn’t see what we needed. But, alas, Mom found another cookie recipe for me to follow, one that I had never used before. I tried to finish the baking job as fast as possible, with little care of how it tasted or looked. It didn’t look so good. It was dry and crumbly and, not surprisingly, all the ingredients were poorly mixed together. But I didn’t care. I was sick and tired of baking.

There are so many mysteries to baking. Can’t we all just eat ice cream instead? So much less preparation time.

I think it’ll be a while before Mom asks me to bake again.

The Taste of Fall

by Colleen

I know, I know-what a weird title for a blog post from Dallas, right?  Fall in Texas?  I’m sure you weren’t expecting anything like that for another couple of months.  And you’d be right.  The weather here has been blazing hot since I touched down two weeks ago.  Excepting today, it’s been 100 and over every day.  For a Wisconsin girl with a deep love of fall, it’s been seriously disappointing.  I miss the crispness of autumn mornings, long sleeve t-shirts, watching the leaves turn brilliant hues, and of course, the apples of Sweet Ridge Farm.

I was fortunate to receive a UPS box full of said apples last week, though, and I put them to good use.  After initially chomping down 3 or 4, I shared many of these apples with my new friends around campus, proudly declaring that they are “the best apples ever”.  And everyone agreed (0f course).

Soon Sunday was on the horizon, and I was feeling nostalgic for both fall and home.  Following Slattery tradition, I decided to make a dessert with the heavenly apples.  And not just any desert: I was going to make apple crisp, my favorite dessert made by Mom.  I went to the source for the recipe, Mom on the telephone.

With my friend, Emma, the fun began.  She and I scoured the dorm kitchen looking for knives, measuring cups, mixing bowls, and a pan to bake the lovely concoction in.  We found everything we needed, although the knives were so dull that the apples resisted cutting and almost overpowered me.  Soon enough the crisp was in the oven, and we were back to reading for school, the smell of sugar, cinnamon, and apples distracting us from Plato and Homer.

The crisp came out of the oven, perfectly golden brown and steaming.

Bowls were found…..

And we dug in with all the ferocity of college kids who happen to hate all processed food (read: everything in the cafeteria except the fruit, salad, and whole milk, which I smuggle out in a water bottle and take back to the dorms daily).

As you can see, it was delicious!  Every bite was a taste of fall and a reminder of home.  I’ll admit that I am a bit homesick here and feel so out of place sometimes underneath the hot Texas sun, but having Sunday treats with a new friend (thank you, Emma!) like this make me feel a whole lot better.  And, it gets better, the weather today actually was in the upper 80s!  Perhaps fall isn’t so far away after all…..

Mom’s Best Apple (or any fruit!) Crisp Topping:

2 c. flour

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. white sugar

1 c. butter (softend)

Optional (although this is essential for me!): Cinnamon

Simply combine all ingredients with your hands in a mixing bowl until the mixture is in pea-sized lumps.  Spread over a pan full of your fruit of choice (apple is the best, though!), and bake at 375 F until bubbly.

Flying Tin Foil

(Kate’s Note- Pictures of the whirlwind of preparation and barn dance festivities coming soon.)

by Mary

To prepare for the barn dance, I have been mixing large quantities of sugar and butter, along with whatever else specific recipes call for. Generally, baking doesn’t bother me. It is something that I can do for others. With a bit of organization in advance, it’s not a big deal to bake and freeze large quantities of food. (This month I have baked for four events.)

Anyhow, Patrick caught me in a sour mood the other day as he advanced towards fresh loaves of banana bread with a butcher knife in his hand. Despite me body blocking him, he helped himself to a generous slice of the warm banana bread. I handled this situation by hurling a roll of tin foil at his head and hissing ” you really think that I can multiply loaves?”

In part, my frustration was from last weeks episode with Raphael and James taking frozen baking out of the freezer. They felt that it was fine to help themselves and “share” with the rest of the family. Poor Peter Drake almost broke a tooth after he innocently discovered a bucket of frozen cookies on the counter. I hear the stream of cuss words that he emitted after taking a bit of the rock hard desert, outdid my venom towards Patrick.

Now that I am done with baking and hurling tin foil, I am starting to look forward to Saturday. I actually will be spending all day out at the Devil’s Hole Ranch, where I will be helping flip calves and maybe give shots at their annual Round Up. When I get home though, I will likely enjoy some food and drink, and make sure Patrick gets as much banana bread as he pleases.

The Great Cake Flop

by Colleen

I wrote this post last Wednesday, during the start of the Long Journey to Oklahoma. I am now on my way back in THE VAN. Things are rough…..more on the ride back to come.

I’m on the plane on my way to the warm and sunny state of Texas as I write. Hopefully, my Wisconsin winter trained system won’t go into shock when I step out into the Dallas air. Saying that it is Spring doesn’t really mean much when in reality, it snowed almost seven inches in one day just last week, “springing” me out from school a couple of hours early with its severity.

Anyway, seeing as I don’t have much to do, I thought that I would report on this past Sunday’s great baking contest.

Mary and I are the bakers in the family and wanted a challenge this Easter. We decided on cakes, layer cakes to be exact. It is a sad but true fact that Slattery women can’t seem to make pretty looking cakes to save our lives, but Mary and I set out to shatter this barrier to our baking genius. All week we pored over recipes, each trying to find the perfect cake to make and consequently out-do each other.

Eventually, Mary decided on a marble layer cake with chocolate frosting, and then on a whim made a lemon layer cake with white chocolate frosting as well. I was packing some heat with the dynamic combination of chocolate and peanut butter, planning on a chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache.

Saturday came, and Mary and I got to work. A day that began with enthusiasm ended with disappointment, at least on my part. Mary churned out her cakes, but the prettiness factor we were so hoping for wasn’t there. I fared much worse, my cake falling into delicious pieces even as I rushed to set it in the freezer and away from hungry siblings. I came up from the basement freezer with chunks of chocolate cake in my hands, oozing dark chocolate ganache, and hoping that somehow, somehow the cake might freeze into a less hideous shape for the next day?

Sunday, Easter, Mary and I brought out our cakes, all thoughts of competition for the best cake pretty much destroyed. My cake looked as if it had been through the Japanese earthquake, and Mary was asked by our niece, Claire, if her lemon cake was made out of mashed potatoes. It did bear a certain resemblance to the aforementioned vegetable, but I was in no condition to judge at that point.

Simply put, the whole thing was a flop. And, although the cakes tasted fine (better than that according to the family), Mary and I didn’t even care. We’d been defeated by the layer cake. The saddest fact is, we don’t even like cake.

(Side note: luckily there was no available camera to document the truly appalling disaster area that I call my cake. Otherwise, there is no way I would have written a word of this post. My shame would have simply been too great.)

(Raw) Milk and Cookies

by Kate

I quit baking throughout my entire 20’s. Oh, now and then I would make my mom’s famous biscuit recipe for a holiday party, but those moments were few and far between. The thing that struck me when I began baking again after getting married was how incredibly effective baking is as a form of bribery. Baking something is such a simple way to make other people happy and create a moment of peace amidst chaos. Mad at me? Have a chocolate chip cookie! Works every time.

Chocolate chip cookies have become a daily staple in our household, at least for my husband who has the metabolism of a roadrunner and insists that he desperately needs the oats I add to the mix. I send half a dozen (small) cookies along with his lunch and he often has milk and cookies at night before going to bed. Which brings us to the second part of this post. Milk and cookies is an incredibly comforting phrase, conjuring up domesticity, children’s books, Santa Claus… until you start talking about RAW MILK. Dun dun dun DUNNNNNNNHHHHHH.

Raw milk brings up a great deal of raw emotion, between horrified opponents and embarrassingly passionate proponents duking it out with language on an apocalyptic level. How far we have come from the comforting biblical concept of the land flowing with (raw) milk and honey. Today, the mention of raw milk conjures up for many a vision of milk flowing with listeria and other dangerous micro-organisms. Here is the milk that is currently on tap here in my household.

Oh that label. It sears my farmer marketing soul. I spent years working with farmers to help them create clear,beautiful, recognizable labels for their products to help them sell as much local produce as possible. I spent years working with the brilliant minds at the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (follow that link! I took the picture on the bottom right of the Local Food Guide!) to create the most effective and aesthetically pleasing local branding and labeling possible, and here I am buying a product designed to strike fear into the soul.

Let me type out the small print.  The legally required label for raw milk here in Pennsylvania reads in uncompromising and unaesthetically appealing language:

RAW MILK -Whole unpastuerized milk-rBST free-Soy free-Grass fed

GOVERNMENT WARNING

Raw (unpasteurized) milk may contain disease causing microorganisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants, the elderly, pregnant women, those taking cortisteroids, antibiotics and antacids and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”

Pretty bleak. However, although I have aesthetic objections to the labeling and to the fact that raw milk producers are forced to display warnings on par with cigarette packaging, I am grateful that I can purchase this milk, in town, in a grocery store, legally. Pennsylvania laws allow raw milk production, and inspect the farms that sell raw milk here in the state. As a girl from the deep dairy country of Wisconsin, I am pretty realistic about milk production, the constant battle against tides of cow manure, and the vast ranges of cleanliness and animal health at different farms. I am happy to know that my raw milk comes from a local and legal small farm. I am also happy to consume locally produced pasteurized bGH free milk.

The reason that we drink raw milk is that last summer at a glorious party on a neighboring farm on the ridge, my husband was captured for a long and intense conversation with Vince from St. Brigid’s Meadows about the glories of raw milk. Vince is a passionate guy, and an intense salesman, and in the course of his pitch he mentioned that among many other things raw milk cures eczema. Now, Casey had been battling a patch of this for a while, exacerbated by his mixed martial arts hobby that has him rolling around on sweaty mats on a regular basis. He’d used steroid creams that had him warding me off and staying far away from the baby so we wouldn’t grow hair on our chests, and the creams had limited success. For months he begged me to try raw milk. I scoffed at this notion, sure that it was a pipe dream. However, I finally picked up half a gallon and lo and behold, it worked. As long as he drinks a glass of raw milk a day, the patch of itching miserable irritated skin subsides, stops itching, and looks normal. As soon as he quits the milk, it is back again. So that is why we drink raw milk. It works for us.

Whew. What an intense topic. Maybe you’d like some raw milk right now, and maybe you believe that it is the devils brew, but I bet that no matter what, you like cookies. I will now share my top secret, totally amazing, never fail, completely healthy (oats!) chocolate chip cookie recipe. Have some milk (raw or pasteurized or goat or almond if you absolutely must)  and cookies, and I promise that all will be well.

Kate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable oil (or more butter if you are a WI fanatic with access to an Organic Valley bucket of butter)

1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs (ideally farm fresh brown eggs, but any eggs will do)

2 cups flour

2 cups oats

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

chocolate chips to taste (I use 1/3- 1/2 of a bag at most with this recipe)

Preheat oven to 375 while you combine softened butter, oil, and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Add dry goods slowly, then chocolate chips. Drop with a teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Enjoy with a glass of milk.

Kate’s Chocolate Cake

by Kate

The forsythia is in bloom.

I fell in love with forsythia in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the early spring, when the mountains are blue and grey and white with fog. Before the green starts to steal over the hills the forsythia flames out through the mist, fiery and golden against the dull hues of chilly winter. Last year I noticed the flowers flaming into life as I trudged up the steep hills of Pittsburgh nine months pregnant and hoping to deliver at any moment, and I thought that if I had a girl I would name her Forsythia for this bright bud that explodes with color and dramatically ushers in the spring. I walked down to the river beneath my house and returned home with my arms full of woody stems three feet long, arranged them in a tall glass on the table, and waited for my baby to blossom.

Last year was warm, much warmer than this long cold spring, and the magnolia tree in the neighbor’s yard had burst forth in a lush cascade of blossoms. It was the perfect time for a baby.

We didn’t name her Forsythia, we named her Olympia Julianna.

Olympia is a saints name, after all- a perfectly respectable Greek widow, wise and appealing to my mother who was willing to tolerate eccentricity if it was appropriately linked to a powerful saint of some sort. Yesterday was Olympia’s birthday. It has been a beautiful year. My tiny blossom of a baby has grown into a curly haired staggering toddler, already dancing as she hurtles unsteadily across the floor.

There have been several birthdays already this past month, and Olympia has had ample opportunity to acquire a taste for chocolate cake. I have had ample opportunity to practice making the cakes. Baking is something I utterly neglected throughout my entire 20’s. When I began again as a newlywed bride I was grateful for the many hours I spent baking for my younger siblings as a homeschooler. I was also grateful for a magical cookbook that I received as a wedding present.

This cookbook is a compilation of recipes and a celebration of the life of Kate Hundt. The Hundt family are the royalty of the ridge where I grew up. When my family arrived, new and ragged and Irish and odd, they graciously reached out calloused and welcoming hands. Kate was an elegant and beautifulwoman, an incredible matriarch who raised 11 children on a windy remote ridge. The kids milked the cows and worked on the farm and then went on to a one room school in Middle Ridge, WI and then out into the world to study in Rome, join the peace corp, see the world . Some of the kids moved on to the big city, some of them stayed at home to continue ruling the ridge, battling it out between conventional and organic farming and all possessing an incredible intelligence, work ethic, and strength of personality. Kate was an artist in the kitchen and an amazing painter as well. The cover of the book features one of her paintings, and the pages are full of her artwork and stories gathered from her children and grandchildren, who are roughly as numerous as the stars in the heavens.

One of my favorite things about the cookbook is that it features journal entries that Kate wrote.

I love that the journal entries are a few lines each. This reminds me that I don’t have to write an epic sweep of pages every time I pick up my journal, an and encourages me to do it more often. I also love reading bits of life that remind me of the ridges and the people of home.

Inside Kate’s cookbook, I found what I consider at the moment to be the perfect chocolate cake.  This recipe was contributed by Kate’s daughter in law Dawn, a formidable matriarch in her own right. I have used it as a sheet cake for several birthday parties and festive occasions, and it has been an amazingly easy and consistent recipe. For Olympia’s birthday, I attempted to create a layer cake.

Looking back on my stint as a homeschooling baker, I seem to recall every single layer cake I made falling apart. I crossed my fingers and hoped that perhaps the years would somehow magically have imparted to me vital missing knowledge. This was not the case. Although the cakes coming out of the oven were as fragrant and moist and perfect as ever, my attempt to ease them out of the round pans onto the cooling rack was a disaster and they fell into several pieces. It looked like my barbarian brothers had attacked them, wresting away greedy fistfuls.  However! All hope was not lost. I was determined to try a new chocolate frosting at the request of my husband. The frosting (also from the Kate Hundt cookbook)  luckily turned out to have the thick rich consistency required to architecturally reconstruct the shape of a layer cake.

Having staved off disaster by spackling the cake back together, I needed to let it set. I knew the frosting would harden a bit at a cool temperature, but there was not even a remote chance I could fit the thing into my refrigerator. Luckily for me, this spring has been bitterly cold, forestalling all but the most determined blooming, and the afternoon was chilly with a good chance of snow. The back porch beckoned, but there is something about the thought of setting baked goods outside which perturbs me. I am not sure if this is because if this is because I am a country girl afraid that a stray chicken will attack it, or because as a child I read too many books involving hobos stealing pies from the open window of the pantry. I ignored my instincts, though, and put the cake out to cool and set. An hour later, I fetched it back in. The cold spring air had worked its magic, and the cake was almost perfect, except for the slight fact that my country girl instincts had been correct and a tiny corner of the thick chocolate frosting had indeed been attacked by one happy city mouse- or something. I sighed, and cut off that section of that cake, smoothed out the frosting, and gathered it up for the birthday party. I think that is what Kate Hundt would have done.

And so, Olympia had her birthday cake.

She was wildly appreciative.  Wild being the operative word.

Here is the recipe for the perfect chocolate birthday cake and thick, rich chocolate frosting.

Kate’s Chocolate Cake

4 squares unsweetened chocolate                1 t vanilla

½ stick butter                                                        1 2/3 cup boiling water

2 1/3 cup flour                                                       2 cups sugar

½ cup sour cream                                                 2 eggs

2 t baking soda                                                        1 t salt

Combine chocolate, butter, and water. Stir till chocolate is melted and smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat till smooth. Pour batter in a greased 9×13 pan or 2 layer pans. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. You want it to be beyond gooey, but still moist and not overdone. If you are making a layer cake, cool on wire rack at your own risk. If you have any tips on getting cakes out of pans onto wire racks, please please leave a message in the comments with advice on this matter.

A couple notes on ingredients. I often use baking cocoa instead of bars of baking chocolate. I finally researched the substitution ratio for cocoa/bar chocolate and it has been incredibly helpful to me because now I can switch back and forth at will. Sometimes I mix the two forms together to create an added depth of chocolate.  Here is the ratio:

1 square chocolate (1 0z) = 3 T cocoa + 1 T butter/oil/shortening

Haha! Who said homeschoolers can’t do math!

Also, I substituted buttermilk for the sour cream yesterday and it turned out perfectly. Now, onto the frosting.

Thick Chocolate Frosting

3/4  stick butter                                               1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 t vanilla                                                             2 squares unsweetened chocolate

2 egg whites                                                        dash salt

Cream butter and add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and blend. Add vanilla, melted chocolate, and salt. Mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff and gradually add remaining cup of powdered sugar, 2 T at a time. Beat after each addition. If you are incredibly motivated, beat till mixture stands in peaks. Fold in chocolate mixture.

A couple notes on this one. For some reason I rarely buy powdered sugar. I think it has some anti-caking ingredient that may be unhealthy but really I am just cheap and lazy. When a recipe calls for powdered sugar I simply pour some sugar into my coffee grinder and powder it. This works like a charm. As for the eggs- yesterday I discovered that when the eggs are warm, they whip up much quicker. I was using a wire whisk and doing it by hand, so this was an important discovery for me. I suggest setting the eggs you will be using for the frosting out when you begin baking- they will have ample time to warm up a bit.

And with that, I am going to head to the kitchen and cut a tiny slice of leftover birthday cake. Let me know if you have any questions, please tell me how to get the layer cake out of the pans without disaster, watch out for city mice and country mice and hobos. Good luck. Happy Birthday!

 

For more about the story of Olympia’s entrance into our lives, click here.