Friday, December 31, 2004

Hot Cross Buns

Credit: CJorsch Wikimedia Commons
3 3/4 to 4 cups all purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup dried currants or raisins

  1. In large mixer bowl, thoroughly stir together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and the cinnamon.
  2. In a saucepan, heat together milk, oil, sugar, and salt just till warm (115 to 120 F.). Add to dry mixture in mixer bowl; add eggs. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for 1/2 minute, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes at high speed.
  3. By hand, stir in currants and enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. Cover and let rise till double, 1 to 1/2 hours.
  4. 4. Stir dough down. Shape dough into 14 balls. Place on greased baking sheet, 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover and let rise till dough is nearly double, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Bake in 375 oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly; pipe crosses through pastry tube or bag with using white icing or a powdered sugar glaze.
My mother makes these at Easter, and sometimes, at Christmas. The recipe is originally from Better Homes and Gardens, March 1973. The original recipe suggests making 24 buns; I like them slightly larger, so I usually make 16 to 18. I tend to use a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the milk and oil solution, and I use a generous 1 and a half teaspoons of cinnamon. I also use more currants; the original called for 1/3 cup. It also called for brushing the buns with a beaten egg white before baking; I don't bother. I often use put the balls of dough into greased muffin tins.

These freeze quite well.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Shaker Lemon Pie


2 large lemons (or 5–6 small ones)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
prepared pie crust for a double-crust pie


  1. Slice the lemons cross-wise (to make circles), rind and all, as thinly as possible, removing seeds as they appear. It's more important that the slices are thin than that the slices are perfect circles.
  2. Place the lemon slices in a bowl, alternating a layer of lemons with one of sugar. Mix the two. Let the sugar-and-lemons mixture stand in a refrigerator at least three hours, overnight if possible. Stir occasionally.
  3. Line a pie pan with half the pastry.
  4. Mix the four eggs and the vanilla with the lemons and sugar, then pour into the pie crust.
  5. Cover and seal the pie with the remaining pastry. Make small vents in the top crust.
  6. Cook the pie for fifteen minutes in a pre-heated oven at 450 F. then reduce the temperature to 375 F. and cook for about another 25–35 minutes, or until the blade of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.


Thinner-skinned, sweeter lemons, work best; I prefer Persian lemons, or Meyer's lemons. Limes can also be good. A serrated knife may work best for slicing the lemons thinly. The pie is even better served slightly warm.

The "authentic" Shaker pie doesn't use vanilla; I think it adds a nice touch, but I've also used vanilla sugar. I suspect that the Shakers favored this recipe because it doesn't waste any of the lemons; only the seeds are discarded.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Heinlein on Writing

"Writing is nothing to be ashamed of. But do it in private, and wash your hands afterward."

—Robert A. Heinlein

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Mac and Cheese with Ham

What "makes" this exceedingly simple recipe is the baked garlic that's stirred into the cheese sauce. Baking the garlic not only makes it soft, even creamy, it mellows the garlic scent and taste, making it milder and sweeter. It goes without saying that better ingredients make better food, and in this case that means good cheese, freshly grated. That said, I've found using canned evaporated milk rather than cream works fine, and you can get by with onions instead of shallots, though the shallots do make a difference. The original recipe is from Bon Appetit, October 2003 who attributes the recipe to The Federalist in the XV Beacon Hotel in Boston. It makes a very large quantity, so make sure you have a suitable container to mix the sauce and the cooked pasta. It freezes quite well; I like using ziplock bags which can be filled, flattened and frozen.

1 head of garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
2 cups whole milk
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound ditalini or conchiglie or other "small" pasta
8 ounces quality ham, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut top 1/4 inch off head of garlic to expose cloves. Place garlic, cut side up, on sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic with foil to enclose tightly. Bake until skin is golden brown and cloves are tender, about 55 minutes. Cool (I tend to put them in the fridge). Squeeze cloves from their skin.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Whisk in milk, cream, thyme, lemon peel, and roasted garlic. Simmer over medium heat until reduced to 2 3/4 cups, about 30 minutes. You don't want the milk/cream to boil or overcook. Reduce heat to low. Gradually stir in cheeses.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Toss cheese sauce, pasta, ham, and parsley in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Pumpkin Pie


9 inch unbaked pie shell
1 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 Cups canned pumpkin (Not the stuff with spices; just pumpkin)*
1 2/3 Cups evaporated milk**

  1. Blend sugar, spices and salt. 
  2. Add eggs, pumpkin and milk. 
  3. Mix well and pour into pie shell. 
  4. Bake about 60 minutes at 350 F. or until the pie is "set." 
  5. Check the pie after 40 minutes. Refrigerate when cool.
One and a half cups of canned pumpkin is one 15 oz. can or 425 grams. 
** One and two thirds cups of evaporated milk is one 12 ounce can or 354 ml.

As written, this makes a single pie. 
A smaller shell makes a thicker pie, but will take a bit longer to cook. 
Double for a large deep pie, or two pies. 
Adjust the spices to suit your taste; I favor a bit more ginger.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004


This is a rewrite of a scone recipe from "Stephanie" that Michael downloaded and printed back in 1998. My approach to scones is practical rather than fussy, so I don't, for instance, use a glass or cookie cutter to shape them. These freeze well; I suggest removing them from the oven just as soon as they are cooked through, cooling them, then freezing them. The recipe can be enhanced by adding dried fruit, lemon or orange zest—use your imagination. You can substitute milk for the cream, use a mixture, or in a pinch, use canned evaporated milk, as long as the quantity remains the same.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled butter
1 egg, beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour image of scones on a platewith a pastry blender. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. If you wish to add raisins, or dried fruit, add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup now, and stir them in. In a small measuring cup combine the whipping cream (or a mixture of cream and milk), beaten egg and vanilla. Add this to the dry ingredients, and stir just until it's combined into a dough you can handle. You want to mix and handle the dough as little as possible since the more you handle it, the tougher the scones will be.

Remove the dough from the bowl; most of it should adhere into a single lump. Knead the dough gently on a lightly floured surface to mix in any odd crumbs or dry flour left in the bowl. Roll or pat out the dough into a rectangle that's about an inch to an inch and a half thick (depending on how many scones you wish to make). If you want to make the scones sparkle, lightly sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the rectangle. Cut the rectangle into six to twelve scones.

Transfer the scones to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake 375 F. for about 15 minutes, or until the scones are lightly browned.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Peach or Fruit Cobbler

This is a recipe my mother gave me; she was given it by an unknown friend. I'll have to ask her who it was.

I generally make it with peaches, though I've used fresh berries, and even canned cherries. It's best with peaches. I use peaches I've frozen. I buy local fresh peaches (from California, sorry mom) at the Farmers' Market, let them ripen, dip them in boiling water just long enough to loosen the skin, peal them, slice them, and mix them with sugar and absorbic acid (to keep them from darkening), then freeze flat in gallon size ziploc freezer bags. Peach cobbler in January through March is a lovely treat, and the frozen peaches have a wonderful flavor.

Cobbler Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups Flour
  • 3/4 Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Stick (1/2 cup) Butter, melted
  • 6 cups fruit

For Syrup:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter

Mix dry ingredients; stir in melted butter and milk until smooth. Spread batter on bottom of a buttered 9 x 13 inch pan. Add and arrange fruit (reserving any fruit juice).

Combine water (substitute any fruit juice you reserved for water), sugar (I adjust the sugar based on the sweetness/sugar of the fruit), 3 Tablespoons of butter, and boil (you want a thick syrup). Pour the syrup over the fruit. Bake at about 400 F. for about an hour; you want the batter to be cooked, the fruit to be slightly crisp on the edges, and cooked all the way through. It can take a lot of cooking, especially if you use a deep dish rather than a flat pan. Serve warm with ice cream, or a little heavy cream.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Chocolate Pound Cake

When I was in my late teens, my mother gave my sister and I each a copy of a Hershey's Chocolate cook book. This recipe was in that book, though I've modified it a bit. It's one of the easiest cakes you could possibly make. You do need a good size mixing bowl, but other than that, it's very straight forward, and exceedingly unhealthy. It freezes very very well, and since it makes a larg bundt cake, you might want to freeze half.

I often add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits to the batter, just before pouring it into the Bundt pan. Alternatively, you may want to try soaking 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cherries (in warm water, or, my personal favorite, Grand Marnier, or Kirsch), pouring off the excess liquid (saving the liquor for the cook) before you stir the cherries gently into the batter.


1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla in a very large bowl for about five minutes, using a mixer at medium speed. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing them in thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Add this mixture, a little at a time, alternately with the coffee and buttermilk (or sour milk) to the creamed mixture, beating just until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottoms of the bowl.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 12 cup Bundt pan or ten inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. for about an hour and twenty minutes, or until a tester or knife blade inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely; sprinkle with confectioners' sugar if you'd like.

Notes: You can sour milk by adding a Tablespoon of vinegar to the milk, and subtracting an equivalent amount of milk.

The cooking time can vary quite a bit, depending on altitude and weather. Test for doneness with a knife inserted gently into the center; it should be moist, but not gooey.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Chocolate Mousse

Serves 5–6

8 Ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 Cup strong coffee
3 Ounces (6 Tbls.) Butter
Six eggs, separated
1 Cup Whipping Cream


Melt the chocolate and coffee. Stir in the butter, and add the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring after each egg.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Beat the cream until it forms soft traces on the surface of the bowl.

Scrape the chocolate down the sides of the bowl containing the egg whites, to mix them. Caefully fold in the whipped cream.



Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Voltaire on Burning Books

The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neghbors, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.


Sunday, January 11, 2004

Strunk on Conciseness

Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

—Strunk W., White E.B. The Elements of Style. Third Edition. MacMillan Publishing Company: New York, 1979. p. 23. ISBN: 0-02-418200-1.