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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

02/24/2017

~ My Buttery Sour Cream & Buttermilk Pound Cake ~

IMG_6087No embellishments necessary.  There is nothing like the first slice of a perfectly baked, slightly-warm pound cake.  With or without a dusting of Confectioners' sugar or a drizzling of sweet creamy glaze, it's the perfect foil for berries, ice cream, whipped cream or all three.  For me, just as pictured here, it is all I need for breakfast or brunch with a cup of coffee or tea.  It's irresistible.

Pound cake is personal.  I'd never proclaim to have the best recipe because almost everyone's mother or grandmother made the best pound cake they ever tasted.  I'm no exception:  My grandmother made the best pound cake I ever tasted.  Like all pound-cake-baking grandmas, she used the same basic ingredients as everyone (flour, sugar, butter and eggs plus vanilla), then she incorporated two tangy ingredients common to her Eastern European heritage:

Sour cream & buttermilk teamed up w/a double dose of vanilla.

IMG_9649My grandmother didn't own a bundt pan, she owned a tube pan.  Why? Because she was baking long before two women from Minneapolis approached the Nordic Ware founder, H. David Dalquist (in the 1940's), to ask him if he would produce a modern version of the IMG_9683German Gugelhupf pan.  In 1950, the bundt pan (the "t" was added to the name for trademarking purposes) was sold for the first time. My mom bought one sometime in the latter 1950's and this is her pan -- one of the originals -- cast in unembellished aluminum.

The bundt pan itself, didn't gain in popularity until a woman by the name of Ella Heifrich won second place in the 1966 Pillsbury Bakeoff with her "Tunnel of Fudge" cake.

I only remember my mom using this  IMG_9688pan during the 1960's to make bundt cakes from recipes she clipped out of magazines like Redbook and Women's Day.  She never made my grandmother's pound cake in a bundt pan, and, until today, neither did I.

IMG_5995I just bought a Nordic Ware Platinum Collection "Anniversary" 10-15  cup nonstick bundt pan and I can't wait to try it.

To learn the difference between a bundt pan and a tube pan, read my post ~ Bakeware Essentials:  A Bundt Pan & A Tube Pan ~ simply by clicking on the Related Article link below.

A bit about pound cake ("quatre-quarts" in French, meaning "four fourths":  Originally, this fine-textured loaf-shaped cake was made with 1-pound each of flour, sugar, butter and eggs, plus a flavoring, most commonly vanilla.  That is the original recipe, nothing more, nothing less.  Over the years, variations evolved, mostly adding leaveners like baking powder and baking soda to encourage rising, resulting in a less dense cake.  Vegetable oil is sometimes substituted in place of some of the butter, to produce a moister cake.  "Sour cream pound cake" and "buttermilk pound cake" recipes substitute sour cream or buttermilk in place of some of the butter to produce a moister cake with a pleasant tang too.  My grandmother's recipe uses a bit of both.

It's time to bake an old-school pound cake in my new bundt pan!

This is an easy cake to bake.  That said, it's important to make sure that the butter is very soft and the eggs are at room temperature.  I remove the butter 2 1/2-3 hours prior to baking the cake and my eggs about an hour in advance.  The extra step of separating the eggs and whipping the whites before folding them in the batter is well worth the extra few moments it takes.  That said, before whipping those whites, be sure to wash and dry the beaters or they won't whip. 

IMG_60006 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1  cup salted butter (yes, salted butter), at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3  cups sugar 

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon baking powder

1/2  cup sour cream

1/2  cup buttermilk

1  tablespoon vanilla extract (Note:  Sometimes I use a combination of vanilla extract and butter-rum flavoring.)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing pan

IMG_6006Step 1.  Place the egg whites in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.  In a second medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.  In a 1 cup measuring container, stir together the sour cream, buttermilk and vanilla extract, until smooth.  Set aside. Spray a 15-cup bundt pan with no-stick cooking spray and preheat oven to a moderate 325°-330°.

IMG_6009 IMG_6012 IMG_6016~ Step 2.  In a large bowl, place butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speed of mixer for three minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium and in a thin stream add and thoroughly incorporate the sour cream and buttermilk mixture, increase speed to medium-high and beat another minute.  

IMG_6018 IMG_6023~ Step 3.  Lower mixer speed.  In 3 increments, incorporate the flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula constantly.  Increase mixer speed to medium-high again and beat three more full minutes.  Set batter aside.

IMG_6024 IMG_6028 IMG_6027 IMG_6034~Step 4.  Wash and  thoroughly dry beaters.  On  high speed, whip the egg whites until soft curly peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Using the spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

IMG_6039 IMG_6040~ Step 5.  Transfer batter by large scoopfuls to prepared pan.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325° oven 50-55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool, in pan, 10-15 minutes.  Invert cake onto rack to cool completely, about 2-3 hours.

Pound cake going into 325° oven to bake for 50-55 minutes:

IMG_6040Pound cake out of oven, cooling in pan for 15 minutes:

IMG_6051Poundcake inverted on rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours:

IMG_6054That very first irresistible slightly-warm slice:

IMG_6064My Buttery Sour Cream & Buttermilk Pound Cake:  Recipe yields 12-16-20 servings, depending on how thick or thin you slice it.

Special Equipment List:  plastic wrap; 1-cup measuring container; spoon; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; cake tester

IMG_0270Cook's Note:  When it comes to dessert, I don't like things overly sweet or over embellished.  For example, when I want a chocolate cookie, I keep it simple. My recipe for, ~ I'm in the Mood for:  Plain-Jane Chocolate Cookies ~ can be found in Category 7.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

02/22/2017

~ Pretty in Pink: Thousand Islands Salad Dressing ~

IMG_5978No matter how easy or complicated, recipes that have a history or a lore are always on my short list of blog posts to share because, for me, they are the most fun to write.  They fascinate me.  I'd like to think that, like myself, if one knows the story, it's more fun to prepare and eat the dish.  Let me explain it this way:  Part of the fun of eating a Caesar Salad or a Toll House cookie is pondering what part of their story is documented fact, romantic fiction or a combination of both.  

IMG_5960Growing up in the latter 1950's, '60's and into the 1970's, Thousand Islands dressing was a common condiment option for all sorts of salads and sandwiches -- besides Italian, it was the only dressing my dad would eat, so we always had a bottle on the door of our refrigerator.  As a kid and a young adult,  I found a thousand ways to love it.  I ordered it on wedge salads, chef salads, and, to this day I adore it in place of mayo on a turkey club.  It's a fantastic dressing for potato salad or cole slaw, and, like Ranch, is a great dip for veggies.  When fast food chains started offering a "special" or "secret" sauce, it was nothing more than a version of this iconic dressing.  I never gave its history much thought, until, a few years ago.  After returning from a trip along the upper St. Lawrence River between the United States and Canada, my parents handed me a copy of the following famous "Thousand Islands Dressing Legend" -- a handout at lunch during their boat ride.

Bolt Castle on Heart Island located in the Thousand Islands.

HelicopterIt was supposed to be a six story, 120 room dream of a castle  -- a symbol of George Boldt's love for his wife Louise.

Boldt-Castle-castles-543276_500_333Boldt Castle is the palatial Rhenish structure perched atop a high hill on Heart Island, in the 1000 Islands. George Boldt came to the United States as a poor immigrant boy at age 13 from Germany.  Through perseverance and hard work, he achieved fame and fortune as one time owner of the well-known New York Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and, the equally renowned Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

Boldt Castle OverviewAs a tribute to his wife, he decided to build a castle reminiscent of those he had admired as a youth in the Rhineland.  First, he had the then named Hart Island reshaped as a heart, and then, renamed it Heart Island.  Construction on his castle began, and materials started arriving from all over the world. With the outside shell of the building completed, and over $2,000,000 into the project, word came that his beloved wife had sadly and suddenly passed away.  

Grief stricken, Boldt halted work and never returned.  It stands today, just as it was left, with some restoration and interpretive work undertaken in recent years to preserve this unique and historic structure.  Tourists now wander in awe and and only imagine "what might have been".

Bits and tidbits about Thousand Islands salad dressing:

It's said to have been the creation of a fishing guide's wife, Sophia LaLonde.  After trying it, actress May Irwin requested and gave the recipe to her friend, another Thousand Islands part-time Summer resident, George Boldt.  While cruising on his yacht, Boldt requested the easy-to-make dressing be prepared by his steward and served on his luncheon salad.  After trying it, Boldt was so impressed, he decided to serve it in his hotel restaurants.  He named it "Thousand Islands Dressing" in honor of the beautiful area where it was first served to him.  Boldt's steward later became the internationally famous chef "Oscar (Tschirky) of the Waldorf".

All Thousand Islands dressings have bits of ingredients floating around in them.  Many think that's how it got its name -- the tiny bits represent the islands.

IMG_5970The two main ingredients in Thousand Islands salad dressing are mayonnaise and some type of tomato product (chili sauce, ketchup or tomato purée) and sometimes a splash of cayenne pepper or Worcestershire sauce. Past that, recipes vary quite a bit from region to region.  Minced onion and/or pressed garlic are common additions.  Some versions add minced green pepper or olives and/or pimento.  Others add minced hard-cooked egg and/or sweet pickles.  That said, all recipes contain tiny bits of minced something floating in the dressing.

My Favorite Thousand Islands Dressing Concoction:

IMG_59441  cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup chili sauce, or a bit more, to taste

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish, or a bit more, to taste

1  hard-cooked egg, white and yolk separated and minced separately (optional)

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, or a bit more, to taste

IMG_5953 IMG_5958~ Step 1.  Place all of the ingredients in a 2-cup food storage container.  Stir to thoroughly combine the dressing.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, 2-4 hours or overnight.  Overnight is great because it gives the flavors time to marry.

Store in the refrigerator up to one week or indefinitely if egg is omitted: 

IMG_5964Pretty in Pink:  Thousand Islands Salad Dressing:  Recipe yields 1 3/4 cups Thousand Islands salad dressing.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b019102066fb1970cCook's Note:  I love hard-cooked egg in my Thousand Islands salad dressing as much as I love them in a chef's salad, tuna salad or an egg-salad sandwich (as long as they are perfectly cooked with tender whites and bright yellow yolks).  I am so picky about how my eggs are hard-cooked, it was one of the first posts I published here on Kitchen Encounters back in September of 2010.  ~ A Little Thing Called: Boiling Eggs (Hard-Cooked) ~, can be found by clicking into Category 15.  Think Spring!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017.  Photos of the Thousand Islands, Boldt Castle and Heart Island courtesy of the Thousand Islands website.)

02/20/2017

~ All-American Presidents' Day Gingerbread Cake ~

IMG_5900Say "snack cake" and folks my age think "Twinkie" or "TandyCake".  Interestingly, snack cakes have been in America since Colonial times.  Recipes for gingerbread, both the hard cookie and the soft cake or loaf, came to the us with the English and German settlers.  Gingeroot was delivered by boat to the pilgims -- they used it fresh, dried it, and, made syrup from it. Ginger beer, made by pouring boiling water over brown sugar and pounded ginger combined with yeast proofed in warm milk was bottled and served as a refreshing beverage on hot days.

The first recipe for gingerbread is said to have come from Greece in 2400 BC (see Plebeian Ginger Bread recipe below).  Thanks to Crusaders returning from the Middle East with ginger and spices, by the middle ages, European countries each had their own version, although it was baked and served only by government recognized guilds at and for state-sanctioned events. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of handing out decorated cookies made to resemble the images of visiting dignitaries.  Gingerbread baking in home kitchens was allowed sometime in the 15th century, then made its way to the New World sometime in the latter 1600's.

IMG_5883Gingerbread generally refers to one of two desserts. It can be a dense, hard ginger-spiced cookie cut into fanciful shapes, or, particularly in the United States, it can describe a dense, moist cake flavored with molasses, ginger and other spices. In the US, the terms "gingerbread cake" or "ginger cake" are used to distinguish it from the harder forms.  American bakers usually sweeten gingerbread with molasses, while British bakers use brown sugar and German bakers use honey.  Aside from ginger (in fresh, preserved and/or powdered form), cinnamon is almost always included, with allspice, cloves and nutmeg being the next most common spices. 

IMG_5936Americans have been baking gingerbread for over 200 years.

IMG_5890  Washington, Jefferson & Lincoln all had a favorite family recipe.

IMG_58496a0120a8551282970b01a73dca8dba970dMary Ball Washington, George's mom, served her gingerbread to the Marquis de Lafayette when he visted her Virginia home -- soon afterward it was formally named Gingerbread Layfayette.

On pages 159 and 160 of The Virginia House-Wife (the first cookbook published in America and written by Mary Randolph, a relative of founding foodie Thomas Jefferson) three recipes for three types of Ginger Bread appear.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and made some gingerbread cake.  It wasn't often and it was our biggest treat." It's said that ginger cookies were used to sway Virginia voters to choose a favorite candidate too.

 "Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and made some gingerbread cake.  It wasn't often and it was our biggest treat." ~ Abraham Lincoln

99ebc650-4605-4eac-882a-435fa563d1dc_2.c58d70c3a9bff86e2c2235475fe9c196I'm not going to lie.  I do not have Abraham Lincoln's mother's recipe for gingerbread cake -- heck I don't even have my own grandmother's. There's more.  When my mom made gingerbread cake for a snack or dessert, she used a Betty Crocker mix.  Once again, I'm not going to lie. She served it warm with Cool Whip on top and our family of four would eat almost the entire 8" x 8" x 2" cake in one sitting.  During the latter 1970's and all through the '80's, my pantry was never without two boxed gingerbread mixes in it.  My kids loved it, and, no alternative facts here:  If someone called me to say they were stopping by, it got served to them too.  Haha -- If I could still buy it, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

IMG_6400 IMG_5854It should come as no surprise, the first place I looked to find a recipe was in a 1970's edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  Their recipe, found on page 180, was the one I tried first.  It was very good (and very easy too).  As Betty Crocker says in the book, "Measure everything into a bowl and beat.  It couldn't be easier except with a mix."  That said, as you shall see below, over time I did quite a bit of tweeking to the recipe, mostly in the form of additional spices.

"Fairly often, my mom would buy a Betty Crocker gingerbread mix and bake a gingerbread cake.  Served warm, topped with whipped cream, we adored it."  ~ Melanie Preschutti

IMG_58582 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

6  tablespoons granulated sugar

2  teaspoons baking soda

2  teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon ground allspice

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon salt

1  cup dark or light molasses, or a combination of both, your choice

1/2  cup butter-flavored shortening, at room temperature, cut into pieces

1  large egg, at room temperature

1/4  cup hot water

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing pan

IMG_5863 IMG_5866~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Starting on low speed of mixer and working your way up to medium- medium-high speed, beat a full three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula frequently.

IMG_5871 IMG_5876~ Step 2.  Transfer mixture into a 8" x 8" x 2 " baking pan sprayed with no-stick.  Bake in 325° oven, 40-45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Note:  As often as I have baked and do bake this gingerbread cake, it always slumps a bit in the center as it cools.  I do not take it personally as its dense, moist texture and rich taste is divine.

Slice & serve, warm or at room temp, topped w/whipped cream. 

IMG_5911All-American Presidents' Day Gingerbread Cake:  Recipe yields 9-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack

IMG_6769Cook's Note:  I love ginger in all of its forms, so, it goes without saying I adore ginger cookies too.  To get my recipe, which I posted back in 2013,  for ~ My Favorite Spice-y Cookie:  The Ginger Snap ~, just click into Categories 7 or 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)