1950’s Boiled Raisin Cake

boiled raisin cake

The glorious Big Sky country of Montana was the recent setting for my mother Pat’s memorial, which holds the story of redemption.  This couldn’t have been more special, with family there from all over the state, as well as Washington, California, and Oregon.  It was a blessed reunion of next of kin and old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for decades.  My 94-year old mother, who was so eager to be with her Maker and my father, was smiling down from heaven, highly pleased with all our gaiety.

Needless to say, the food at this week’s many meals was the greatest.  My sister Maureen, who follows a ketogenic diet, is highly gifted in creating memorable ailments. (She trains people in ketogenic-style cooking and presently is writing a cook book, which includes beautiful creative desserts; I will promote it when it comes out.)

Today’s boiled raisin cake, however, dates back to my early childhood in the 1950’s; my mother probably found this well-known cake recipe in a popular magazine.  Maureen knows the original instructions by heart, to which I have added a few twists of my own, such as freshly ground flour-this is totally optional, but oh so good!

Pleasing the palate beyond words, this world’s easiest, foolproof cake is mixed in the saucepan in which you boil the raisins.  I couldn’t help but share it at this time, thus honoring my mother.

Death normally brings loss; Mom’s departing, however, promoted life and goodness.  Her long-term desire to be with Jesus and my father “Buzzy Baby” was finally granted; our Redeemer brought great liberty to many with her passing.

Food, friends, and faith were the best description of her earthly sojourn; thus, these attributes also marked her transition to heaven, for my sister Maureen labored to insure their presence at all our gatherings, thus commemorating our beloved mother-nothing was overlooked.  This week-long series of family events highly esteemed this great woman, with the actual memorial, in our village of East Glacier Park, being the height of the glory which was signified by her home-coming.

At this treasured celebration, I was able to reunite with many childhood friends-some of whom I hadn’t seen since the 1970’s.  During the reception, extreme laughter blessed us at one table, as we traversed memory lane, for we were recalling our shared employment at my parent’s restaurant.

So many people who came to memorialize Mom’s life had worked for my parents in their fifty-plus years of restaurant ownership; all were bearing rich, belly shaking stories.  It was at this respected establishment that I first learned my love for food, in which I have a unique approach of educating with health and history.

Here I note that the raisins in this cake receipt were most likely sun-dried on rows of paper in the vineyards for about three weeks, as is their most common form of production in the United States.  There are many thousands of grape varieties, which are of the genus Vitis V. vinifera.  Here in North America, we have about 25 native grape species, where in temperate Asia, there are about 10; the major source of wine and table grapes, however, is native to Eurasia.  About two-thirds of the world’s grapes result in wine; of the rest, about two-thirds are consumed fresh, with the remaining made into raisins. 1

Urbain Dubois published a recipe in his 19th century cook book, in which he ingeniously combined raisins and capers; presently, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has capitalized on this unique paring, enhancing it even further by pureeing it with nutmeg as a sauce for skate (this popular dish is on his restaurant menu). 2

Loving food and adventure, my mother would have appreciated this daring treatment of raisins.  You may experiment with this raisin/caper combination, or just securely rest in Mom’s proven boiled raisin cake.  (I suggest making the latter with white vanilla, which is ideal for white frostings-this uncommon flavoring was my recent gift from friends traveling to Mexico, the home of the world’s most outstanding, dirt-cheap vanilla.)

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 363.
  2. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley& Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 70.
  3. https://calraisins.org/about/the-raisin-industry/

finished cake after final frosting

Boiled Raisin Cake  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 50 min, with 45 min inactive prep time for cooling raisins, unless you boil them ahead of time, following step one/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 45 min.

3 c flour  (Optional: may grind 2 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 3 c flour.)

2 c raisins

3 c water

1 cube butter

2 lg eggs, beaten

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index; for health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

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

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

1 c pecan pieces, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut oil is best for flavor and health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

Glaze:

2 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; Trader Joe’s has 1-lb packages, where Costco has more economical, larger packets.)

1/2 c butter, melted

1/2 c cream  (Organic heavy whipping cream is better for your health.)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

  1. easy mixing of batter

    In a 3-quart sauce pan, bring raisins to a boil in 3 cups of water over medium heat; cook for exactly 5 minutes; add butter.  Place in a sink full of cold water to cool quickly.

  2. If using fresh ground flour, grind wheat berries now.
  3. Make glaze by mixing above “glaze” ingredients, set aside.
  4. When raisins are cool, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Add flour and all other “cake” ingredients to pan; blend well; do not over-beat, however, as this toughens cakes and cookies.  IF grinding your own flour, be sure to let batter sit for 45 minutes, as freshly ground flour is coarser and absorbs the liquid more slowly.
  6. Pour batter into 9”x13” pan, which has been sprayed with coconut spray oil.
  7. icing cake the first time

    Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and cake lightly responds when pressed with finger.

  8. When hot out of oven, immediately poke holes over the whole cake with a toothpick or skewer.
  9. Pour 2/3’s of glaze evenly on cake (see photo).  When cake has cooled, frost with remaining icing; see photo of finished product at top of recipe.
  10. This cake is dynamite, and it gets better as it sits over time!

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies

plate of mor monsen’s kaker (my mother’s cake)

 

I took the winter off from college in 1973, to work at Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana.  There in my small studio apartment’s kitchen, I first made these incredible bars, which are known for gracing Norwegian Christmases.

Scandinavian baking is in a class all its own.  These people are known to be masters of pastry as well as open-face sandwiches-often incorporating cardamom, rye, and saffron in their creations.   Presently, their culinary genius has reached new heights: numerous times in this past decade, Noma of Copenhagen has been the title winner of The World’s Best Restaurant; it promotes the popular New Nordic cuisine, which is a style of food that has gone beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia.

New Nordic is best known by the terms local and healthy.  In Norway, with a growing season that might last from June until August, it creatively uses the ocean, wild game, root vegetables, and cold-climate berries, such as the native cloudberry, which is highly valued in this country, as it can only be foraged, not cultivated commercially.

My simple, rich recipe exemplifies the culinary excellence of Norway; these lavish bars only call for currants and almonds, amidst the flour, eggs, sugar, and typical pound of butter.

Currants have an interesting history.  Today, these small dried seedless grapes, known as Zante currants, essentially come from the grape cultivar Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera), which is from the genus Ribes.  Related varieties, such as the White and Red Corinth (and other cultivars from the Black Corinth), are used rarely.

There are a total of about 150 categories in Ribes, including the above, as well as golden currants, gooseberries, and ornamental currants.  These various kinds are native to the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America, and within each individual species there are many cultivars-horticulturally derived plants, as distinguished from natural varieties-which have been developed over time.

Currants, which are most commonly dried, are generally referred to as Champagne grapes, when sold fresh, by U.S. specialty grocers.

The study of the origin of the word currant helps identify the history of our tiny fruit.  Written records of it initially date back to Pliny the Elder in 75 A.D.  A millennium later, we see the Middle English term raysons of couraunte, also known as raisins of Corinth (a region in ancient Greece which produced and exported these Ribes).

The word couraunte stands for (raisins of) Corinth, taken from the name Courauntz, which is of the Norman French dialect-a variety of speech used in Normandy and England in the Middle Ages-for this Greek region; this in turn comes from the medieval Old French Corinthe; thus, the dialectal name reysons de corauntz was first used for these grapes, when they were brought to the English market in the 14th century, from which the word currants eventually evolved.

In the 1600’s trade patterns shifted from Corinth to the Ionian Islands, particularly Zakynthos (Zante); thus, this small grape became known as Zante currant.

In 1854, the Zante currant the Black Corinth cultivar came via a trade ship to the United States, which eventually resulted in its commercial production in California; the related varieties the White and Red Corinth were established there in 1861.  (Presently, this state is one of the four major world producers of currants, with Greece covering about 80% of this total generation.)

Actually, trade ships were bringing varieties of Ribes to our soil as early as the 16th and 17th century; natural Corinth raisins, however, were indigenous here as well; the Native Americans had been harvesting them from the wild, long before any Europeans arrived, using them for medicines and dyes.

These Zante currants,  which were initially reported at the time of Christ, are presently hard to find.  In earlier days, I could find boxes of dried currants in many local supermarkets, but recently I can only find them in bulk at such upscale grocers as the national chain New Seasons, which also carries the seasonal, fresh Champagne grapes.

Try adding this dried delight to your next Waldorf salad, a batch of scones (see Scottish Oat Scones, 2016/06/20), or these superb Norwegian Christmas cookies.  Expect wonders!

References:

https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/fact-sheets/pdf/currants.pdf

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

https://1historyofgreekfood.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/raisins-currants-sultanas/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-scandinavian-cookbooks_us_5756c7e2e4b07823f951302c

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookbook-reviews/cookbook-review-scandinavian-baking-by-trine-hahnemann/

cutting bars in triangles

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies  Yields: 4 dozen bars.  Total prep time: 60 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min.   Note: these freeze extra well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.

1 lb plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 c sugar  (Organic is best; available at Costco and Trader Joe’s.)

4 lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal; may also grind 1-1/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make 2 c fresh-ground flour.)

distributing currants on dough

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

3/4 c almonds, chopped small (May purchase almond slivers for easy chopping.)

1 c dried currants

A large 11” x 16” cake pan*, or a 12” x 16” jelly roll pan  (May use a 9” x 11” pan, in addition to a 9” x 9” square pan.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease pan-see optional sizes listed above-with 2 tbsp butter; set aside.
  3. Cream pound of butter with sugar, until light and fluffy, using an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition; mix in vanilla.
  4. distributing almonds on top of currants

    Blend flour and salt easily, by shaking vigorously in a sealed gallon-size storage bag; then, add this to butter mixture, beating only until all is incorporated, to keep cookies from toughening; set aside.

  5. Chop almonds fine with a sharp knife, or use a food processor, by repeatedly pressing down on the pulse button, cutting any big chunks in half with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  6. Spread batter evenly on greased pan; sprinkle surface FIRST with currants; see photo in list of ingredients; then, distribute almond pieces over the top of these; see photo above.  Press nuts and currants down into batter slightly with fingers, so they are embedded; see photo below.  (This keeps them from falling off the baked bars in crumbles.)
  7. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown, time varies with pan-size.
  8. While bars are still hot-using an 11” x 16” pan-cut 4 rows across the width and 6 rows across the length; then, cut these squares in half; see photo of cutting technique at top of recipe.  (Amount of rows may vary with differing pan

    pressing almonds and currants into dough, to embed them before baking

    sizes.)

  9. These freeze really well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.  They are a treat!

Portuguese Figos Recheados

figos recheados

When I entertain, I always serve homemade candies along with the dessert.  Usually these are my Peruvian bolitos de chocolat y coco (see 2016/11/28) and the treasured national candy of India barfi; this recipe will follow in the future.  Sometimes, however, Portuguese figos recheados (figs stuffed with chocolate and almonds) are the final inspiration at my dinners.  Such was the recent case with my beloved missionary friends Val and Waffle Lomilo.  I take a tangent today into their world, so we can learn better to eat with reverence.

My relationship with Val goes back 22 years.  Our mutual friend Kelly, who now resides in heaven, introduced us over slides in her basement of Val’s mission work in Uganda.   My heart had just been softened, by my asking Jesus to live in it; thus, my supple emotions were mesmerized by this people and especially their food.

I learned that the meager diet of these poorest of poor, which are in my friends’ arid mission region, consists primarily of foraged herbs and a bitter fruit with its nuts, which are boiled three times to be made palatable; garden vegetables are available only as the frequent droughts allow; maize (cooked corn mush) and beans are also a luxury, which they can’t always afford.

The diet of the wealthier, in Uganda’s more lush areas, has a greater amount of organic garden vegetables, such fruits as mangoes and papayas, and ample beans and maize.  Also, it delightfully includes the ceremonial slaughter of a chicken for honored guests.  This nourishment of these better off is simple and pure, making it healthier than ours with all our fast foods and altered ingredients-added hormones in meat/dairy products, foods with GMO’s, etc.  (Note: in this poor country genetically moderated organisms being added to their crops is just now a controversy; they have already lifted the ban for GMO’s in the banana crop, due to its recent huge failure.)

In America food is so available that obesity is a major problem.  Our countrymen are often thrilled with weight loss when they visit Africa.  I learned, to my delight, that Africans are overjoyed with the compliment ‘you look so fat’; gratitude is expressed after a meal with ‘thank you for increasing my volume’.

At present there is a famine in Uganda’s arid region, which hurts the children and elderly the most.  We in this country can’t comprehend such food shortage and its effect on the human spirit.  According to my friends, it produces a sense of deep community, in those that withstand it, as they share each other’s pain.   These humble people know the true meaning of grace-God’s grace that keeps them alive in stark adversity.

Waffle and Val, who experience a heart for the broken, feed these hungry souls the word of God, which is also known as the bread of life.  This proven substance, in turn, can provide them with answers to their natural needs, for this is what our gracious Father does best.

We are grateful for our vast provision here in America, striving to honor our bodies with healthy eating.  Our faithful prayers move mountains as we intercede for those less-fortunate.

Now, may we take courage to experience moderate, joy-filled pleasure in this incredible dessert: be blessed by these simple figos recheados, the third recipe in my Portuguese series.

shaving chocolate

figs ready for baking

Figos Recheados (dried figs stuffed with almonds and chocolate)  Yields: 12 large stuffed figs.  Total prep time: 1 hr /  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 50 min.

Note: these are best served hot, but they are also great at either room temperature or cold.

1/4 cup almonds, plus 12 extra almonds (18 extra almonds will be needed for topping smaller figs, such as mission figs.)

12 large figs   (Turkish figs are best for size and quality; 18 figs will be needed, if using the smaller mission fig.)

1/2 ounce (1/2 square) semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated

  1. Best if served hot, but room temperature is also good.  (For hot figs, do steps 2-9; then, set aside.  Twenty minutes before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake as directed in step 10-11.)
  2. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  3. Place almonds on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes in middle of oven; go to next step.
  4. With a sharp knife, finely grate the chocolate, place in a small bowl, set aside (see photo).
  5. Cut off stems of figs; make a careful, but deep, indentation in the opening of each with the tip of your finger; set aside.
  6. After nuts are toasted, remove from oven, and turn up oven temperature to 350 degrees, unless you are waiting to bake just before serving.
  7. Set aside 12 almonds (18 for smaller figs) and pulverize the other 1/4 cup in a food processor, by repeatedly touching the pulse button.  (May use a blender or Vita Mix.)
  8. Add almond meal to grated chocolate, mix well.
  9. Using a spoon and your finger, press this mixture in the hollow of each of the figs; pinch openings together firmly (see photo).  Place stuffed figs, stem side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake in middle of an oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 5 minutes; then, turn figs upside down and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Gently, but firmly, press a whole toasted almond in top of each hot fig.
  12. May keep leftovers in refrigerator for future use, cold figs are also excellent.

Sweet Potato Pie

sweet potato pie

sweet potato pie

Sweet potato pie and Christmas go together.  “Ring those Christmas bells; light the Christmas tree!”  This familiar carol burst forth vitally for me first in 1994; then, I had just invited Jesus into my heart.  Incipient living joy impacted me with this song, in my initial Sunday service during that month of December.

For decades the Salvation Army has rung those Christmas bells every holiday season; they have invited us always to reach out to the less fortunate.

Last year a dear bell-ringer came into my life; George lite up the Fred Meyer’s grocery store, where I took my daily coffee.  During the holidays, this man reminisced about his mother’s sweet potato pie.  As he formed his words, my heart contrived an extraordinary surprise: I could develop a sweet potato pie for him.

Days later Christmas came alive for me much the same as in 1994: I delivered my newfound creation, this seasonal treat, to my cherished bell-ringer.

My heart leaped with joy, when George returned this year, for once more I got to give my sweet potato pie to him.  May you too shower your loved ones this holiday with this blessed recipe!

  1. dscf0070Sweet Potato Pie  Yields 1-10″ pie.  Total prep time: 3 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 1 hr/  baking time: 1 hr, day before; 1 1/3 hr, day of.

2 c baked, peeled sweet potatoes, packed down in cup  (You will need 1 1/2 lbs or 2 medium sweet potatoes-note that yams are a variety of sweet potatoes.)

3/4 c heavy whipping cream

3/4 c milk

1 c brown sugar, packed  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s; coconut sugar is also excellent.)

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

4 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp vanilla

3 extra lg eggs (May use 4 smaller eggs.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash sweet potatoes, dry, and pierce with a fork.  Wrap potatoes in foil and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake in oven until soft, for about 1 hour, depending on size of potatoes.  Cool.  MAY BE DONE A DAY AHEAD.
  2. Note: if you don’t have a food processor, go to step 5 for doing this by hand.  If using a food processor, place peeled sweet potatoes in the processor.  Blend well.
  3. Add cream, milk, sugar, salt, spices, and vanilla; blend; stop and scrape down sides; blend again.
  4. Add eggs.  Blend very lightly again, just until eggs are mixed in.  Do not over-blend, or pie will have a chiffon-like substance.  Set aside.  Proceed to pie crust.
  5. If doing this by hand, mash peeled sweet potatoes well with a potato masher or large fork.  Follow steps 3 and 4, but blend with a hand mixer. Set aside when filling is complete.  Proceed to pie crust.

Pie Crust  Yields: 2 simple, foolproof pie crusts.  (Note: this recipe requires 3/5’s of this dough; the rest may be baked into cinnamon sugar strips.)

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

1 c whole wheat pastry flour  (I grind 2/3 c organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 1 c of whole wheat pastry flour.)

1 tsp salt

2/3 c oil  (Grapeseed or canola oil is best.)

1/3 c plus 1 tbsp boiling water

Wax paper  (This makes for a mess-free rolling out of the pie crust.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With a fork, blend flours and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Mix in oil and boiling water until all flour is incorporated.
  4. Form into two balls and cover in plastic wrap.  (One ball should be 3/5’s of the dough; the other smaller ball can be made into cinnamon strips and baked along with the pie.)  Place balls on top of hot oven to keep warm.
  5. Using a rolling-pin, roll out larger ball, between 2-18″ pieces of wax paper. Make a big, slightly oblong circle-12 1/2″ x 15″-with the dough (see above photo).  Peel off top piece of wax paper.  Turn upside down and gently place pie crust over a 10-inch pie plate, with the wax paper side up.  Very carefully peel the wax paper off.  With fingers, seal any cracks in crust and form a rim around the edge of plate with the dough; patch lean areas of the crust with excess from other areas.
  6. Pour the sweet potato puree in the pie crust.  Bake for 1 1/3 hr, or until a knife comes out clean, when inserted in center.
  7. This is good!

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco

Bolitos de chocolat y coco

bolitos de chocolat y coco

1985 was a big year for me, for I traveled to Peru-from whence this recipe is derived-that summer to study food, while later in September I went to Paris, with the intent of moving my business there. (Read more about my time in France in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 2016/08/22.)

My jocund days in Peru were filled with the warm blazing sun, but nights were very cold, as July brings winter to this nation in the southern hemisphere.

Machu Picchu met my love for mountains in a grand way.  The ancient trail leading to these ruins made for an arduous climb; we got off the train and labored, with copious sweat, for hours to complete its last leg.  What a memorable day!

My far-reaching, historical catering business was three years old during my time in South America, in the 1980’s, and my mind was a sponge for details about food. While there, every morsel that went into my mouth came out as a comment in my journal.  Most of this keen eating took place in inexpensive cafes, where chickens were always roasting on open hearths.  The better of these humble restaurants had guinea pig and Cebiche, raw white fish “cooked” in lemon juice.  Street vendors’ food also provided me with rich information, but my greatest joy was the private dinner invitations I received, to both rich and poor homes.  Note: there are only these two classes there.

Karen, my then neighbor in Billings, Montana, and her Peruvian boyfriend inspired me to make this colorful sojourn.  Indeed Chino’s family blessed my trip: I may not be alive today, but for them, as great trauma occurred for me in this country. Fortunately for me, his family was extremely influential; for instance, his second cousin was president during my visit.  (This man was ousted a number of days after I left; Chino’s brother-in-law was murdered by terrorists several months later.)

My trouble came when I and my traveling companion, a longtime friend from Paris, let down our guards.  We always covered each other’s backs in the marketplace, as robbery is ever-present in this poor nation; we, however, went our separate ways one day in Cusco.  On my own, I was mesmerized by the wide array of vendor’s goods: blankets on the ground displayed raw meats, brightly dressed women loudly announced their vibrant vegetables, modest pots and pans were set up elsewhere.  Stopping I indulged in a delicious, doughnut-like pastry; next, I reached for my funds to buy freshly squeezed orange juice.  My wallet was gone!

Absolutely everything of importance was in it: my passport, money, travelers’ checks, credit cards, and return ticket home.  This unseasoned traveler was without identity and provision in a volatile place.

God’s grace got me to my homeland safely through a multitude of miracles. The last of these happened just hours before my plane’s departure, for the president of Aero Peru, a friend of Chino’s family, reinstated my plane ticket at this critical moment.

Even before I experienced this culture, my repertoire of catered meals included a Peruvian dinner. The background for this authentic repast came from a cook book, from that country, shared by Chino’s girlfriend; nevertheless, this account was strictly for the upper class.  For hors d’ouvres at these events, I used the youth’s favored dish Ocopa-chunks of boiled, bland purple potatoes, topped with cheese, walnuts, mild chiles, and eggs. The main course boasted of Aji de Gallina, an incredible walnut chicken. Dessert was Suspiro Limeno, a light, airy custard; the feast ended with Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco.  To this day, these chocolate/coconut balls are the finishing touch at ever meal I host.

Chocolate has an interesting history.  Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez introduced cocao beans to Europe in 1528, when he returned from “New Spain”.  There the Aztecs mixed cocao paste with spices to make a thick drink.  In their convent at Oaxaca, creative Spanish nuns added sugar, which made this chocolate beverage even more palatable.  1

Chocolate was highly prized then and still is today; these superb, truffle-like candies-a rich man’s food in Peru-will please any chocolate lover.  This recipe is simple and foolproof; don’t miss this delectable treat.

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 89.
Making bolitos de chocolat y coco

chocolate after stirring in coconut

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco (Peruvian chocolate/coconut balls)  Yields: about 6 dozen balls. Total prep time: 45 min.

12 oz unsweetened chocolate  (Baker’s works well.)

1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk  (It’s important to use Borden’s Eagle Brand.)

2 tsp butter

2 c unsweetened fine-flake coconut  (Available in bulk at our local Winco and other supermarkets.)

  1. Break chocolate into pieces in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Add butter, melt slowly over low heat.  Watch carefully, so as not to burn.
  3. Meanwhile open the can of milk and place 1/2 c of coconut in a measuring cup.  Set aside.
  4. When chocolate is completely melted, quickly add condensed milk.
  5. Stir over low heat for about 30 seconds; it will start forming a soft ball. Toward the end of the 30 seconds, stir in the coconut.  Do not overcook, or chocolate will be dry.  Immediately remove from heat after these 30 seconds; continue to stir vigorously until soft ball is formed all the way.  See photo.
  6. Cool just enough for handling.
  7. Place 1/2 c of coconut in a small bowl.  (You will add more coconut to the dish as needed.)  Form small balls of chocolate and roll in coconut, placing them in an 8×8 inch pan.
  8. Chill chocolate for several hours; then, transfer balls to a freezer-storage bag.  These will keep for a very long time, if you double the bag for long-term freezing.
  9. Excellent chocolate, so easy, absolutely foolproof.

 

Rosee, a Medieval Dish Flavored with Rose Petals

Rosee-a medieval dish flavored with rose petals

rosee, a dish flavored with rose petals

As I was envisioning this series on foods of the Middle Ages, I was told of a renaissance happening here in our city: we have been chosen as one of eight finalists in a national competition called America’s Best Communities.  Its goal is community revival in America.  This makes me aspire towards Tualatin leading the United States in the regeneration of its local people.

The best is always saved for last-dessert!  This medieval recipe, rosee, reproduces more of the excellent flavors of King Richard II’s court.  However there is a greater value in this post; here I share my vision for revival along with this delicious dish.

Some historians say the Renaissance, or birth of humanism, had its heritage in the beliefs and customs of the Middle Ages.  I discovered this truth in The Encyclopedia of the Renaissance.  This movement’s inheritance is defined there, for its patrons were often the medieval church and the papacy, while its artistic themes reflected the lives of the saints and stories from the Bible.  The questions of the Christian faith and morals were its issues, while the prayers and canons of the Mass constituted the texts for its music. Indeed the burgeoning of the Renaissance is founded in the spiritual and intellectual traditions of the medieval church. 1

A number of historians made this connection.  Likewise my series on 14th century, medieval foods gave me impetus for a proclamation: I see an awakening happening here in Tualatin, which began with prayer in my Abundant Life Family Church.  Indeed, we will lead our country in renewal, a renaissance.

Our town has already received $100,000, as a finalist in the above competition, to establish this vision.  Mobile Makerspaces, a well-equipped trailer, presently reaches certain schools.  It establishes a powerful birthright in our children, who are our future.  This happens with a bounty of traveling technical equipment, such as creative electronics and 3-D pens.  These ingenious tools give tomorrow’s citizens hands-on experience with big concepts in STEAM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).  Mobile Makerspaces is igniting our youth with passion for these disciplines.

Our city’s Mayor Lou Ogden, the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, Mirror & Mask Community Theatre, Tualatin Public Library, and Tigard-Tualatin Public School District are all partnered together to implement our winning project.  Tualatin will grow as a result of this promotion of ‘on-fire learning’.  These powerful activities draw our excited youth into careers in these areas.  Much will be accomplished as a result of this.  Our own underemployed and unemployed will get jobs, while our local industries’ deep need for skilled workers will be met.

I clearly see us as winners; we will lead the nation in community revival.  Tualatin’s future is rosy, so is America’s!

  1.  Paul F. Grendler, ed., Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, 6 volumes (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999), Vol. 1, p.431-436.

Rosee, a Dish Flavored with Rose Petals  Yields: 4 servings.  Total active prep time: 1 hr, with an additional 1 1/2 hr for chilling.  This is adapted from a historical recipe in Lorna Sass’ To the King’s Taste (New York: Metropolitan Art Museum, 1975), pp. 100, 101, 116, 117.

5/8 c whole raw almonds

1 1/4 c boiling water

1 1/2  tbsp honey

dash salt, plus more for garnishing  (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/4 c dried, crushed rose petals  (You may use the 1/2 c fresh petals that haven’t been sprayed; tear these into small pieces.)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp rice flour  (Rice flour is available in bulk at certain supermarkets, such as our local, upscale New Seasons.)

1/2 c dates, chopped fine

1 1/2 tbsp pine nuts

1/2 c heavy whipping cream

Fresh rose petals for garnish  (These are optional.)

  1. Chill a med/large bowl and beaters for an electric mixer in the freezer; this facilitates the whipping of the cream.
  2. Prepare almond milk: place almonds in a food processor and repeatedly press the pulse button, until nuts are finely ground.
  3. Boil water in a medium saucepan.  Dissolve honey and dash of salt in boiling water.  Stir in ground nuts.  Take off heat, let sit for 10 minutes, stir several times.
  4. Add rose petals to almond milk and let soak for 10 minutes more.
  5. Add cinnamon and ginger.  Cook for 5 minutes over low heat; stir occasionally.
  6. Sprinkle flour over milk mixture; continue cooking, while beating with a wire whisk until thickened.
  7. Add dates and pine nuts.  Mix well with a spoon.  Remove from heat, set aside, and cool to room temperature.  Do not cool in refrigerator.
  8. After custard is cool, easily beat the cream in the frozen bowl, until it forms soft peaks.
  9. Fold whipped cream into cooled custard.  Chill in individual serving dishes.
  10. Lightly salt each serving; garnish with 2 fresh rose petals, if desired.

 

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!