Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saturday is.....

For real, even! When I googled the image above, I was thinking, "Saturday probably isn't even considered baking day," but it really is. (And while I didn't embroider that dish towel, I have embroidered ones similar to it.)

Actually, yesterday may not have been baking day, but it was a cooking day:

(they're upside down so they can seal)

Yup, I spent my Fourth of July making the chokecherry jelly of lore. Somehow, I had imagined it to be a lot harder than what it was. Mom already had the juice canned, so all I really had to do was add the SureJel to the juice, boil it, add a ton of sugar, boil it some more, and pour it into jars. Slicker than snot. Granted, getting the juice is a bit of a pain, but I truly can't imagine why anyone would bother buying jelly. It's easy to make and so much better than anything in the store.

Today started with a quest to prove that I really could still bake bread. I've been trying for several weeks now to make sourdough bread, and not one loaf has turned out well; they're all doughy in the center. I was concerned that I had lost my tou
ch. Today, I decided to make just a normal loaf of bread. Unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture until the loaves were in this state:

(of course I had to do a taste test)

I'm pleased to report that I have not lost my touch. Apparently I'm just not cut out to make sourdough bread. (A pity; I'd really gotten excited about not needing to buy yeast.) I ended up with three delicious, attractive loaves of bread--that are not at all doughy in the center! The recipe I used follows. I honestly think it may be the only bread recipe I've ever used. The cookbook is an old one (1942):

(this was the best of many pictures)

My mom has one just like it, only more beat up (probably because I spent the last 15 years spilling stuff all over it). Throughout high school, I always kinda mourned the fact that that cookbook would stay with Mom; not only was it my favorite bread book, it was her favorite, as well. Fortunately, a couple of years back, I happened upon one in an antique shop. I paid $5 for it, which is normally more than I'd probably pay for a recipe booklet (I'm cheap), but this one was worth every penny. Some day, I'll share the Parker House Rolls recipe from this book, too.


That wasn't the only baking I did today, oh no. A little over-achiever am I. I also made a chocolate cake to take to Ryan's family gathering. This recipe comes from a cookbook that's even more special to me:

My grandma's. My grandma died a year ago in March, but several years back, she promised me her cookbook. As you can see, it's not an ordinary cookbook, but one that she wrote/typed out herself. (In addition to cake recipes, there's also a couple of recipes for soap and one for Head Cheese.) This recipe in particular is one of family lore: apparently only Grandma could make it. When anyone else attempted to make it, it resulted in an inedible mass. When I first set out to make this a month or so ago, I quickly realized why: the original recipe, as written, doesn't call for salt or vanilla. After talking to Mom, we decided that Grandma wrote it down quickly and just didn't write down the salt or vanilla. When she made the cake, she knew that they should be in there, and just added them on her own. However, whenever any of the kids made it, they followed the recipe, sans vanilla or salt. (I like to think that it was a brilliant conspiracy on the part of Grandma. By not writing down the recipe in its entirety, she was a baker of great renown; she had a recipe only she could make.) The recipe posted below is as I make it: with vanilla and salt added.

There's no picture of the cake, but since one chocolate cake pretty much looks like another, I assure you, you're not missing out on much.

For frosting, I used my mom's chocolate butter cream frosting.


The recipes (in backwards order, because it won't let me cut and paste today).

Mom's Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
Melt together in a double boiler:
1 1/3 cup butter or marg
3 sqs chocolate

Add to:
3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk

Beat thoroughly. If too thick, add some milk (a little at a time!); if too thin, add some powdered sugar.

Monica's Cocoa Cake
(Monica was Grandma's sister; I'm pretty sure the one who was crazy. Literally. Although, she may have also been the alcoholic; I can't remember which. Not that it's relevant, but it is an amusing side note.)

2 eggs
2 c. sour milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix and beat hard, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream 2 cups sugar, 1 cup butter, 2 tbsp. cold water.

In a smaller bowl, sift 3 cups flour, 2 round tsp. baking soda, 1 level tsp. baking powder, 1/2 c. cocoa, and a pinch of salt.

To butter mixture, add liquid and dry mixtures alternately, beating on high for 3 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.

White Bread*
(From: The Bread Basket, Copyright 1942, Standard Brands Incorporated)

2 c. milk
5 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. salt
2 cakes Fleischmann's Yeast
2 c. lukewarm water
12-13 c. sifted flour
5 tbsp. melted shortening

Scald milk, add sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and add to lukewarm milk. Add half the flour and beat until smooth. Add melted shortening and remaining flour, or enough to make easily handled dough. Knead dough quickly and lightly until smooth and elastic.
Place dough in greased bowl, cover and set in warm place, free from draft. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1.5 hours. When light, divide into 4 equal portions and shape into loaves. Place in greased bread pans. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Bake in hot over at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate, or 375, and finish baking about 30 minutes longer.

*I made some changes to this recipe that I suppose I should note:

1. I didn't scald the milk. I'm pretty sure the old cookbooks only tell you to do that because this was in the days before pasteurization and it was a safety precaution. And actually, I used powdered milk this time, so I just used lukewarm water to mix it up. Normally, though, I just heat the milk to lukewarm.

2. I didn't use yeast cakes. Honestly, I've never seen them. But a cake of yeast equals 2.25 tsp.

3. I didn't sift the flour. Honestly, I didn't really even measure it after 10 cups. Making bread is a pretty tactile process. It's not so much about measurements as it is about feel. You just "know" when you've used enough flour and when you've kneaded it enough. But by all means, if this is your first time making bread, go ahead and measure. Eventually, you won't need to as much. (And actually, if this is your first time making bread, see if you can get your mom or grandma to help you out. I can't describe what bread dough should look like, but I can feel when it's right. If you've got some experienced help, it eliminates some of the guess-work.)

4. I used vegetable oil instead of melted shortening.

5. I made three loaves, because I was afraid my loaves would be too small otherwise. In retrospect, I really should have made four. The rose out of the pans and looked kinda funny coming out of the oven. (Perhaps that's why I forgot to take pictures sooner.)