Chocolate Scones

chocolate scones

All confusion about the raw sugars (demerara, turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat) is resolved here, with the following detailed information and outstanding receipt.

In the mid-1990’s, I got this chocolate scone recipe from Cindy Mushet’s highly appraised Baking with the American Harvest.  I have adapted it by grinding my own flour, which is totally optional, as well as by adding some time-saving tips.  1

Ms. Mushet calls for sprinkling crystallized sugar, on top of the unbaked scones, after washing them with egg; I use demerara here.  This is a form of large granule sugar that gets its name from the location in Guyana, on the northern mainland of South America, where it originated centuries ago.  Today rather than Guyana, this form of cane sugar comes from a number of countries, such as Mexico and India; in the States it is produced in both Hawaii and Florida.

Demerara can be compared to turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat; these are all types of cane sugar, which are classified as raw, even though they do indeed require some processing.  Of these, the first three were originally known as “factory” brown sugars; all are produced during the initial processing of cane juice into unrefined sugar.  2

Most sugar cane grew in colonies or developing countries.  Sugar refining required expensive machinery to be produced; thus, its production came to be divided into two stages.  The initial stage of the crystallization of raw, unrefined sugar took place in factories near the plantations in these poor countries.  Industrial nations-the consumers-performed the expensive final stage, of refining this raw sugar product into white sugar.  3

The making of raw sugar requires two basic kinds of work: crushing the cane to collect the juice, then boiling off the juice’s water.  Originally the crushing called for hard physical labor, which in the Caribbean was accomplished by slaves, and the boiling called for large amounts of heat; thus, deforestation occurred there.  4

Three 19th century innovations helped make the production of raw sugar a more affordable luxury.  First, the application of steam power made this initial crushing process easier.  The next step, heating, was aided by the vacuum pan, which boils the syrup at a reduced pressure and therefore at a lower, gentler temperature.  Also, the multiple evaporator was added, which recycles the heat of one evaporation stage to heat the next.  5

From the Middle Ages until now, there was a clearing of many organic impurities; in the pre-industrial age, this was accomplished, at the beginning of the boiling stage, with the introduction of lime and a substance, such as egg white or animal blood.  These substances would coagulate and trap the coarse impurities.  Today, heat and lime only are generally used to coagulate and remove proteins and other impurities.  6

Then and now, with these boiling and clarification processes, dark brown syrup has resulted, to which seed crystals have then been introduced to bring about crystallization.  The final step, in making these factory sugars, has been the drawing off the molasses from the crystals, which originally occurred slowly-merely by the force of gravity.  For some time, refiners have used centrifuging-much like spinning lettuce-to quickly do this final step, producing raw sugar and the by-product of the first molasses.  7

Beginning in the 19th century until recently, this raw sugar has next been refined in refineries in industrial countries, where white sugar has been consumed.  Now it is produced in such developing countries as Mexico and India.

Today, the making of refined sugar starts with refined syrup being introduced, to wash the raw sugar.  Next, hot water dissolves it; then, a carbon absorbent clarifies and decolorizes it.  Evaporation and crystallization follow, with centrifuging being the final stage, producing white sugar, with the bi-product of cane syrups.  This last crystallization process is carefully controlled, giving individual sugar crystals a uniform size, with an astonishingly pure content of 99.85% sucrose-our white sugar.  8

As opposed to white sugar, “brown sugars” are sucrose crystals coated with a layer of dark syrup, from one stage or the other of sugar refining.  This provides them with a more complex flavor than white sugar.

There are several types of brown sugar.  The first type is factory brown sugars-produced during the initial processing of the cane juice into unrefined raw sugar, as defined above; the second is refinery brown sugars, or sugars produced at the refinery using this raw sugar as the starting material, not cane juice.  There are also what might be referred to as whole sugars, crystalline sugar still enveloped in the cooked cane juice from which it is formed (such as Indian jaggery or gur and Latin American piloncillo, papelon, or panela).

Factory brown sugars originally got their name, because of their production in factories near the plantations in cane-producing, tropical countries.  The first, demerara, then and now, has been a partially refined, large, somewhat sticky, yellow-gold grain, produced from the first crystallization stage of light cane juice into raw sugar.  It has a delicate, caramel-like, toffee flavor that augments certain baked goods (it is especially good for sprinkling on top of them).  9

The second, turbinado, has been raw sugar partly washed of its molasses coat during the centrifugation, resulting in large golden crystals that are not as sticky as those of demerara.  Though more refined than demerara, turbinado is less refined than what we now call brown sugar (refinery brown sugar), which is generally white sugar with molasses added back into it.  10

The artisanal muscovado, appearing to be very dark form of our refinery brown sugar, actually has been the product of the final crystallization from the dark mother liquor, or first molasses, in the making of raw sugar.  It was and is an unrefined cane sugar in which all the molasses is not removed, like it is with what we call our regular brown sugar.  11

This muscovado sugar, however, is more refined than demerara and turbinado, with a small-grained, wet, sticky texture that has a sweet impression at first that dissolves into a rich, floral, bittersweet note, leaving a slightly smoky aftertaste. Most of the muscavodo sugars, of which there is both light and dark, come from Mauritius, a republic made up of islands off the southeast coast of Africa.  12

On the other hand, sucanat, which stands for “sugar cane natural”, is the most unrefined of the raw cane sugars; it is merely evaporated cane juice, which has been handpaddled; this cools and dries the dark syrup, which is obtained by heating the extracted cane juice in a large vat.  It is a much finer grain than the demerara and turbinado crystals, and it is the healthiest of all the cane sugars, with an intense, dark, rich flavor, which is ideal in spicy baked goods.  13

With their minimal processing, all these raw sugars retain some minerals and vitamins, making them somewhat healthier than refined white sugar.  They, however, contain large amounts of sucrose, which is a composite molecule made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose; thus, they should be eaten cautiously, as they may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, among other health issues.  14

How we treasure comfort foods, of which these scones are one of the best.  Our words, much like food, can comfort.  We are instructed to comfort those with the comfort which we have received; these opportunities delight our souls.

We are only equipped to do such, as we learn our lessons in life’s trials.  Slowing down in the midst of these storms allows for this equipping to best be established.

Webster’s describes establish, as to order, ordain, enact (a law, etc.) permanently.  Reading recipes isn’t required once our “muscles” have kinetically learned all the required movements, through multiple times of preparation.

Much like baking, establishing life’s lessons-and the laws they represent-is a process; we are perfected (matured) through practice, as we repeatedly go over the given steps, until the means for victory is indeed fixed in us.  By necessity, such progression requires patience, just like following a receipt, but once achieved we can share words of comfort with those in need around us.

I recently made a batch of these scones, with the following recipe, which I completed with clotted cream (I purchased a jar of imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream, from World Market).  Being unaware, my plans to take them to my regular prayer meeting, however, were thwarted, for it was the fourth of July, and prayer had been cancelled.  Quickly I decided to bless various neighbors with this treat, which brought great joy (and comfort) to all.

 

References:

  1. Cindy Mushet, Baking with the American Harvest, 5 volumes (Santa Monica, CA: Cindy Mushet, 1993-1996) Vol. 4, #1, p. 12.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 674.
  3. Ibid., p. 673.
  4. Ibid., p. 671.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., pp. 670-672.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 671, 672.
  9. Ibid., pp. 672, 674.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-is-demerara-sugar.html
  13. http://shop.wholesomesweet.com/Organic-Sucanat/p/WHSM-305000&c=Wholesome@GranulatedSugar
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/demerara-sugar

prepped scones

Chocolate Scones  Yields: 8 scones.  Adapted from Cindy Mushet’s Baking with the American Harvest, Vol. 4, # 1, Spring, 1996.  Total prep time: 1 hour (only if grinding flour fresh, an additional 3/4 hr resting time is needed)/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 20 min.

Note: best served with clotted cream, though butter and jam are also good; an imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream is available at World Market.

1 2/3 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached flour is ideal, or may grind 1 1/3 c organic soft winter wheat berries; this makes 2 c whole wheat pastry flour, with which 1/3 c flour must be removed after grinding-set this aside for flouring board.)

1/3 c cane sugar or coconut sugar  (Coconut sugar is healthier, with a lower glycemic index-for details see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder  (Trader Joe’s carries a brand of high quality, reasonably priced.)

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 stick (4 oz) cold unsalted butter

3/4 c heavy cream

To Finish

1 lg egg, lightly beaten

Demerara sugar, or crystallized sugar  (Demerara sugar is available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. grinding fresh flour with Kitchen Aid attachment

    If grinding flour fresh, do so now; see photo.

  2.  Preheat oven to 425 F (if grinding your own flour, wait to preheat oven).  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a sealed storage bag, shake together: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  4. cutting butter easily

    Easily cut cold butter into small pieces, by cutting stick in fourths length-wise; keeping cube in tact, rotate this stick and cut in fourths again; then, shave small pieces off end.  See photo below.

  5. Place butter in bowl with flour.  Using a pastry cutter, or two forks, blend until mixture is like a coarse corn meal, and flour is incorporated.  See photo below.
  6. Add cream and stir just until dough forms what Ms. Mushet calls “shaggy clumps”; flour will be barely incorporated.  See photo at bottom.
  7. mealy dough mixture

    Place this loosely formed mixture on a lightly floured board and knead several times, until dough is formed.  Do not over knead.  ONLY IF FRESHLY GROUND FLOUR IS BEING USED, place dough back in bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 45 minutes.   (Freshly ground flour is a coarser grind, which doesn’t absorb the moisture as readily as the store-bought white flour; thus, this resting time is required.)

  8. Pat out into a 7” round; cut into eighths.  Holding individual scones in hand, brush top and sides of each with egg wash and sprinkle top with crystallized sugar.  Place on parchment-covered pan (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. dough in “shaggy clumps”

    Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until edges are firm, but center is soft to the touch.  As you press on the edges, there will be a yielding, due to its high concentration of hot fat; scones, however, firm up as they cool.  Note: if using freshly ground flour, 18-20 minutes will be required for baking.

  10. Cool on wax paper at least 10 minutes before serving.  Ideally served with clotted cream, but butter and a good jam are also great.

Holiday Dips

cottage cheese/apricot/green onion dip

Let healthy, creative dips enhance your holiday entertaining; two of my favorites are made in just minutes, using protein-rich cottage cheese for a base.  One, which only adds salsa, dates back to my profound, childhood experience at a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona (see “About”).  The other was inspired by my recent need for additional potassium in my diet; thus, dried apricots, rich in this element, and green onions make another pleasing combination for this dairy product.

When I lived in Switzerland briefly in the 1970’s, I was captivated by their cottage cheese, which to my amazement was without the coagulated lumps that we are used to in the U.S.  Their smooth, thick, creamy substance was more like our cream cheese, though not as stiff.  These soft, uniform curds were excellent with muesli, fruits, raw vegetables, crackers, breads, and more.  (Some European cottage cheese is dry and salty, not so with my rhapsodic Swiss cottage cheese.)

In trying to learn more about this blessing from Europe, I discovered a good source for making one’s own; this site provides a recipe that produces either the creamy smooth or dry salty versions, simply by adjusting the heating time.  Access this incredible treat, which can’t be found in any U.S. grocery store, at: https://cheese.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-cottage-cheese-european-way-352742/

Different textured and flavored cheeses are produced by variations in the temperature the milk is heated to, the diverse procedures of draining and pressing the resultant curds, and aging.  For instance, soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, and hard cheeses are often categorized according to their moisture content, which is determined by whether they are pressed or not, and if so, the pressure with which the cheese is packed in molds, as well as upon aging.

“Fresh cheeses” are the most simple of all, in which milk is curdled and drained, with little other processing.  Among these “acid-set cheeses”, cottage cheese, cream cheese, fromage blanc, and curd cheese (also known as quark) are not pressed; when fresh cheese is pressed, it becomes the malleable, solid pot cheese; even further pressing makes a drier, more crumbly farmer’s cheese, paneer, and goat’s milk chevre, for instance.  All are easy to spread, velvety, and mild-flavored.

The unpressed quark/curd cheese is common in the German-speaking countries and those of northern Europe, the Netherlands, Hungary, Belgium, Albania, Israel, Romania, as well as with the Slavic peoples.  It is also found in some parts of the United States and Canada.

Quark is usually synonymous with cottage cheese in Eastern Europe, though these differ in America and Germany, where cottage cheese has lumps (the flavor of German cottage cheese is much more sour than ours).  Curd cheese or quark is similar to French fromage blanc, Indian paneer, Spanish queso blanco, as well as the yogurt cheeses of south and central Asia and parts of the Arab world.

These (fresh) acid-set cheeses are coagulated milk, which has been soured naturally, or by the addition of lactic acid bacteria; this in turn is heated to a 20-27 degrees C, or until the desired curdling is met; then, the curds are drained, but not pressed, such as in the link above.

In America, quark, which is always smooth, differs from our cottage cheese, which has curdled chunks in it.  These lumps are large in the low-acid variant, which uses rennet in coagulating the milk, or small in the high-acid form, without any rennet. In Germany, Sauermilchkase (sour milk cheese) applies to ripened (aged) acid-set cheeses only, not to fresh ones-such as their cottage cheese, which is called Huttenkase.

The world of cheese is a complex one:  I have vivid memories of this smooth European cottage cheese, from my time in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, which has left me with a love for this dairy product.  To this day I frequently employ its American version in my diet.  Enjoy these quick dips!

References:

https://www.thespruce.com/what-is-pot-cheese-591193

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark_(dairy_product)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottage_cheese

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sour_milk_cheese

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_cheese#Fresh.2C_whey.2C_and_stretched_curd_cheeses

https://cheese.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-cottage-cheese-european-way-352742/

Salsa and Cottage Cheese Dip  Yields: about 1 1/2 pint.  Total prep time: 5 min.

1 pint cottage cheese  (Whole milk is best for your health; Trader Joe’s brand is hormone and additive free.)

1/2 c salsa  (Trader’s Pineapple Salsa is superb here.)

Tortilla chips  (Que Pasa makes an organic red chip, colored with beet dye, available in nutrition center at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-

ingredients for salsa dip

stores.)

  1. Mix cottage cheese and salsa in a bowl.
  2. Serve with chips.  (Keeps well in refrigerator.)

ingredients for apricot dip

Cottage Cheese, Apricots, and Green Onion Dip  Yields: about 1 3/4 pints.  Total prep time: 15 min.  Note: may choose to refrigerate for at least 8 hr for ideal flavor and texture.

1 pint cottage cheese

1/2 c dried apricots, minced

1 c green onion, including green part, chopped

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt, pink salt, is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

  1. Mix the above together in a bowl.
  2. Serve with a high quality cracker.  (May use immediately, but this is much better when refrigerated for at least 8 hours-the flavors not only meld, but the excess moisture in the cottage cheese is absorbed by the dried apricots, producing superb texture and taste!)

“Cuban” Holiday Rolls

holiday rolls

In the early 1980’s, when I first began catering historical foods (see Scottish Oat Scones, 2016/06/20), I was inspired by the enduring works of such renown writer/chefs as Julia Child, James Beard, Jacques Pepin, and Graham Kerr, to mention a few.  It was actually their written works, rather than those of food TV that influenced me so greatly.

My mother often sent clippings of their receipts, which were profuse in the media; this is how I got this bread recipe, which I started using, even before my own work began in 1982.

A number of these food authorities gave slightly varying directions for making Cuban bread; I don’t recall in these various versions the crucial lard or the palmetto leave, used to form the seam down the center of every authentic loaf; rather, that which I took from them is a simple bread recipe, using only 2 teaspoons each of salt and sugar plus flour, yeast, and water.

I wondered why so many of these chefs were publishing this same recipe, each utilizing specific alterations; I queried: which recipe is actually accurate?  In that period, I didn’t have the glorious bounty of facts for discovering food history, which internet provides at our fingertips today.

One chef, I don’t’ recall which one, wrote that the baking of this loaf need start in a cold oven, which I erroneously attributed to the Cuban baking process; a number of them also covered the pan with corn meal, on which a free-formed loaf was placed; hence, I employed these directions and unknowingly professed them as being national, which today I know were not genuine.  Note: you may access the real deal for Cuban bread at https://icuban.com/food/pan_cubano2.html

I learned about the legality of copyrighting recipes, when embarking on my journey as a food historian, after graduating with my Masters Degree in 1991. (My degree is in Pacific Northwest history, in which I specialized in food history, for there were no schools offering a degree in this unique subject, when I began my studies.)

Graduate school taught me the highest respect for avoiding plagiarism; thus, I sought the expertise of the leading copyright lawyer in Portland, Oregon in the early 90’s.  Dressed to the nines on a hot summer day, I stepped into one of multiple air-conditioned elevators, which took me to this qualified man’s office, with its pent-house view.  There this skilled expert patiently listened to my heart, as I fervently expressed my need for safety, in the writing and performing of my treasured work; it became apparent to me that all its colorful detail was holding him spell-bound.  Much to my relief, his directives were: ingredients in recipes may always be the same, but to be legally protected, instructions must vary.

I was exuberant, for I, like my beloved famous chefs, could take any promising receipt and produce it as my own, simply by improving on its directions, with my own culinary wisdom and historical knowledge.

My joy over this freedom was immense; there is more, however, for with his heart seemingly expanding, as was mine, the following words came out of this great lawyer’s mouth: “My services this day are free!”  God’s favor perpetually blesses our gratitude.

I don’t profess this to be Cuban bread, but rather my simple recipe for delicious holiday rolls.  Enjoy!

finished product

Holiday Rolls  Yields: 14-16 rolls or 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 2 hr & 20 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hours/  baking time: 20 min.  Note: this method utilizes a food processor, producing quick, mess-free bread, the greatest!

4 cups flour  (May blend 3 cups whole wheat flour with 1 cup unbleached white flour, or better yet, grind 2 2/3 cup organic hard red spring wheat berries, to make 4 cups of fresh-ground flour.)

1 3/8-1 5/8 cups tepid water  (110-115 degrees in temperature.)

3 tsp yeast, or 1 individual packet  (Red Star Active Dry Yeast comes inexpensively in a 2-pound package at Costco; this freezes well in a sealed container for long-term use.)

2 1/4 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in nutrition section at local supermarket.)

Coconut spray oil  (Coconut is best for quality and flavor; Pam is available in most grocery stores; our local Winco brand, however, is much cheaper.)

  1. grinding flour with Kitchen Aid attachment

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see photo).

  2. Place 1/4 cup lukewarm water-110 to 115 degrees-in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until nearly double in size, about 10 minutes.  Note: frozen yeast will take somewhat longer to proof.
  3. Place flour, 2 tsp sugar, and salt in processor; blend well, stopping machine and stirring once with hard plastic spatula.
  4. When yeast is proofed, add it and 1 3/8 cup tepid water to flour mixture (with fresh-ground flour, however, only 1 1/8 cups of water is needed, as the grind is coarser).  Turn machine on and knead for 35 seconds; turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes (see photo below of dough, after this first kneading in machine, using fresh-ground flour).  This resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat, and too much heat will kill the yeast.
  5. After pausing for 4 minutes, turn on the processor; knead dough for 35 seconds; let rest for 4 minutes.
  6. Take out and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes, or until satiny smooth.  As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse them as needed to facilitate easy kneading (store-bought flour is finer; therefore, it absorbs the moisture more

    dough after initial kneading in processor, using fresh-ground flour

    readily and won’t be as sticky); see photo below for dough before and after kneading by hand.  Ideally it should be firm and pliable when finished.  (Note: dough may be somewhat wet and sticky at first, but much moisture is absorbed with kneading by hand; this is especially true with fresh-ground flour.  These instructions should be foolproof, but IF needed, do the following: if dough remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead; if it is too stiff to knead by hand easily, place back in processor; knead in 1 tbsp water.  If called for, repeat this step until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile, carefully resting dough so as not to overheat.  See before and after photo below.

  7. Place prepared dough in a well-oiled 13-gallon plastic bag; let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double; time varies depending on room temperature.  (To facilitate proofing in a cold kitchen, you may place it in a warm oven, which has been heated for 20-30 seconds only.  Be careful to only take edge off cold, as too much heat will kill the yeast.)
  8. dough before and after kneading by hand

    Spray a cookie sheet with oil.  Without punching down, form risen dough into 14-16 rolls or an oblong loaf; place on pan.  Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed with oil-this keeps dough moist.

  9. Let rise until doubled, for about 50-60 minutes.  To insure oven is ready when it is time to bake, preheat it to 400 degrees, 30 minutes into rising process.  IMPORTANT NOTE: if proofing rolls in oven, be sure to remove them, before preheating.
  10. When doubled, bake rolls for 20 minutes-a loaf will take up to 30 minutes-or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.  Enjoy this excellent staff of life!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

This incredible hors d’ouvres dates back to the early 1980’s.  My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer. Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.

This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London.  I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.

The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend.  She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.

With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer. My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times.  Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items. Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.

While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.

Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet.  During one of these relished trips, she offered this  delectable cheese ball to me.  I was enamored with it then and still am today.  Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events;  today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.

May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball  Yields: 2 1/2 c.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 15 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 c slivered almonds

1/2 c unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at our local Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (3 spoonfuls gives full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

3-4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast almond slivers for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool on a plate.
  2. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in warm water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water.  When center is white, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator on a plate.  Do not overcook to avoid toughness.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken and almonds.  Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it.  Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
  4. Chop roasted almonds with a sharp knife; add to cream cheese.
  5. Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool.  When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces; finally, mix chicken into cream cheese very gently, as not to shred it.
  6. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap; place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering and refrigerate on a small plate.
  7. Soften ball at room temperature before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  8. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.  This is a winner!

1950’s Pear Pie

Fresh pear pie

fresh pear pie

The history of sugar is intriguing, spanning the continents.  Here we will examine the major turning points in the background of this substance.

My mother gave her children the choice of birthday cakes.  I was hard put to choose between banana cake-see 2016/08/08-and fresh pear pie.  My soul still thrills with the beautiful taste of baked pears, rich crumb topping, and the best of pie crusts.

I am so health conscious; thus I have experimented with using sugar alternatives here.  Coconut sugar or sucanat (evaporated cane juice) can not compete with cane sugar in this receipt. Only sugar insures the right texture and flavor in pear pie.

Sugar has been around for the longest time.  Saccharum officinarum, sugar cane, originated in the South Pacific’s New Guinea and was subsequently carried by human migration into Asia.  Sometime before 500 B.C., people in India were producing raw, unrefined sugar.  1

Its first known reference was in 325 B.C., when  Alexander the Great’s admiral Nearchus wrote of reeds in India that produce “honey” without any bees.  The word sugar began to appear frequently in Indian literature around 300 B.C.  This Sanskrit word sarkara, meaning gravel or pebble, became the Arabic sukhar, which finally came to be sugar.  2

The use of Indian sugar cane spread.  Around the 6th century after Christ, it was planted in the moist terrains of the Middle East, where the Persians made sugar a prized ingredient in their cooking.  After Islamic Arabs conquered Persia in the 7th century, they took the cane to northern Africa and Syria; it eventually made its way to Spain and Sicily.  3

Sugar in Europe was barely known until around 1100, and it remained a mere luxury until the 1700’s.  The western Europeans’ first encounter with sugar was during their Crusades to the Holy Lands in the 11th century.  Shortly thereafter Venice became the hub of Arabic sugar trade for western Europe, while the first known large shipment went to England in 1319.  4

At first the western Europeans treated it like other exotic imports-e.g., pepper and ginger-strictly as medicine and flavoring: it was produced in small medicinal morsels, as well as preserved fruits and flowers.  These sweets or candy first began being made by apothecaries, or druggists, which were making “confections” to balance the body’s principles.  The word confection is taken from Latin conficere. meaning “to put together” or “to prepare”.  5

The medieval years brought sugary nonconfections to Europe, such as candied almonds, as well as the use of this substance in recipes for French and English courts.  The chefs of royalty employed sugar in sauces for fish and fowl, for candying hams, and in desserts of various fruit and cream/egg combinations.  Around 1475, the Vatican librarian Platina wrote that sugar was now being produced in Crete and Sicily, as well as India and Arabia.  Columbus carried the cane to what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1493, on his second voyage.  6

By the 18th century, whole cook books were devoted to confectionery, which had become an art no longer associated with medicine.  During this century, sugar consumption exploded in Europe, with the rise of colonial rule in the West Indies and the enslavement of millions of Africans, resulting in the sugar industry becoming the major force behind slavery in the Americas (one estimate holds that fully two-thirds of the twenty million African slaves worked on sugar plantations).  This industry saw rapid decline later in the 1700’s, with the abolition movements, especially in Britain; the other European countries followed, one by one through the mid-19th century, in outlawing slavery in the colonies.  7

Sugar, however, had now become a world staple.  Presently 80% of its production comes from sugar cane, while most of the rest is derived from sugar beets.  8

Wisdom and moderation are needed with this substance.  Today our nation consumes sugar in unhealthy amounts.  Personally I hold fast to the adage of Mary Poppin’s:  “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  My standard is to substitute more beneficial sweeteners wherever possible.  However, there are times when only cane sugar will do.   My precious pear pie is one of them!

Enjoy this carefree, mess-free recipe.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 648.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology  (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 19.
  3. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 648, 649.
  4.  Ibid., pp. 648, 649.
  5. Ibid., p. 649.
  6. Ibid., pp. 649, 650.
  7. Ibid., pp. 650, 651.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarcane
Pear pie, whipped cream, and freshly ground nutmeg

pear pie, whipped cream, and freshly ground nutmeg

Pear Pie with Hot Water Pastry Crust  Yields: 1-10″pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 45 min.

1 1/4 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1 1/3  c whole wheat pastry flour  (May grind 1 c soft white winter wheat berries for 1 1/2 c total fresh ground whole wheat pastry flour, carefully measuring needed amounts.)

1 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available very reasonably at Costco.)

2/3 c oil  (Grapeseed or avocado oil is best, available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1/3 c boiling water.

1 c sugar  (Organic cane sugar id preferable; available in 2 lb packages at Trader’s, but more economical  in 10 lb bags at Costco)

1/3 c butter, softened

5 lg Bartlett pears, ripened  (May use Anjou pears as well, but Bartletts are best, must be ripened.)

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Lightly sweeten this with powdered sugar.)

Nutmeg  (Freshly ground is superb!)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Blend unbleached white flour, 1 c of whole wheat pastry flour, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add oil and boiling water; mix lightly with a fork.
  4. Divide into two balls, one much larger than the other; cover balls with plastic wrap and place on hot stove to keep warm.  (You will need to use 3/5’s of dough for this single crust for a 10″-pie plate; may bake leftover 2/5’s of dough in strips with butter and cinnamon sugar.)
  5. Roll out the large ball of dough between 2-18″ long pieces of wax paper. Form a very large, oblong circle which reaches to the sides of the paper.
  6. Gently peel off the top sheet of wax paper; turn over and place piece of rolled dough, wax paper side up, over a 10″-pie plate. Very carefully peel off the second piece of wax paper.
  7. Patch any holes in crust by pressing warm dough together with fingers. Form rim of crust on edge of pie plate by pressing dough together gently, using excess dough from heavier areas to make up for areas where dough is sparse.
  8. Mix 1/3 c of whole wheat pastry flour and sugar in same bowl in which you made the pie crust.  Blend in butter with a fork, until mealy in texture.
  9. Sprinkle 1/3 of this mixture in bottom of unbaked pie shell.
  10. Fill crust with peeled pear halves.  Fill in spaces with smaller pieces.
  11. Evenly spread remaining flour mixture on top of pears.
  12. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more, or until crust is golden brown.
  13. Cool, serve with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg.  Mouthwatering!

1950’s Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

When we were young, my siblings and I chose the meals for our birthdays and holidays; we always picked sweet and sour meatloaf.  How we loved it!  There was never a Christmas Eve that our home didn’t boast of its tantalizing smells, for they arose from the roasting of beef, with its contrast of vinegar and brown sugar, mustard and tomato sauce.  The aroma was remarkable.

My memory of festivities back then was that of heightened anxiety, with my troubled soul.  Celebrations  made me deeply aware of the void in my being, as I suffered greatly from lifelong mental illness.  But no more.  The powerful word of God has completely healed me; it removed all wreckage from my mind and body, just as it promises to do.

I asked Jesus into my life on December 16, 1994, but my healing didn’t begin to materialize with clarity until Mother’s Day of 2013; this marked the start of my attendance at Abundant Life Family Church (alfc.net), where the word is taught in all its pure simplicity.

I am indeed set free!  Now I thoroughly enjoy gala affairs; moreover everyday is a glorious party.  May you realize that heaven is here on earth.

My family still holds fast to our traditional repast of sweet and sour meatloaf.  It is ever-present at celebrations, and blesses us on my every trip home.  Always I envision this mouth-watering dish when I think of family and food, for it’s an inseparable part of our clan.  It is extremely easy to prepare; I guarantee you will be wowed by it.

1950's sweet and sour meatloaf

1950’s sweet and sour meatloaf

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 2 hr/ active prep time: 20 min/ cooking time: nearly 2 hr.  Note: You may double this for superb sandwiches from leftovers.

4 med russet or baker potatoes, cleaned and wrapped in tin foil

1 lg egg, beaten

1/2 c fresh bread crumbs

1 med yellow onion, chopped

1 1/3 c tomato sauce

3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 lb ground beef  (Beef fat MUST be 15% /85%; natural or organic ground beef is best; available frequently at a very good price at our local Grocery Outlet.)

2 tbsp brown sugar, packed down  (Organic is best, available at Trader Joe’s.)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar  (Raw has health benefits; most economical at Trader’s.)

2 tbsp yellow mustard  (Only use yellow mustard, such as Frenchies)

1 c water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 2 hours before serving.
  2. Place potatoes in oven; bake for nearly 2 hours, for medium-size potatoes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix egg, bread crumbs, onion, 1/3 c tomato sauce, salt, and pepper; then, thoroughly blend the hamburger into the sauce (it works best to use your hand to do this.)
  4. Form a loaf in a 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 3 inch Pyrex pan, or other deep baking dish.  Use a 13 x 9 1/2 inch pan if doubling.  Make a deep indentation in the center of the loaf, so it looks like a boat (this will hold the sauce in the center of meatloaf); therefore, basting isn’t necessary.  Place meat in oven.
  5. Using the same bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients: 1 c tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, and water.
  6. Remove loaf from oven, pour the sauce over the meat, and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Serve with unwrapped, split baked potatoes, on which lots of sauce is poured.  SO GOOD!