Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

by Danica Waters

 

I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago.  What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.

 

During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.

 

(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long.  And it was full.)

 

While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box.  My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”

 

This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie.  Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…

 

Enjoy!

 

Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

 

½ C white sugar

½ C brown sugar

½ C butter

½ C chunky peanut butter

1 egg slightly beaten

1-1/4 C flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

 

In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter.  Add egg and mix thoroughly.  Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.

 

Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 

Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet.  Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.

 

Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Having grown up under the influence of heavy-duty Southern Sensibilities and then steeped in the sweet civility of British living once or twice, I must admit that I have come to truly appreciate the merits of a good pound cake.  While most folks shudder at the thought of what a pound cake can do to a diet, I personally feel better if I’ve got three or four of them tucked away in my freezer for gift giving and emergencies.  And tea.

My Nana was famous for handing out pound cakes to visitors.  It was just what she did.  The mailman came with packages during the summer and received pound cake and lemonade to go.  Mothers would come to pick up their kids after a play date, and they, too, received some version of a delectable pound cake.   A cake walk or a bake sale at the school?  Yep.  Pound cake.  She always spoke to the fact that a good pound cake went with everything, was admired by everyone,  remained virtually indestructible during transport, and always showed up looking good at a party.  While that sounds more like a great travel garment than something you’d eat, go figure; I now find myself collecting great pound cake recipes, baking them in wee tiny pans and putting them away for gift giving, emergencies, and yes, afternoon tea.

This is a lighter version of a pound cake I found on Martha Stewart’s website.  It could easily be made with any type of jam, but is completely smashing with a  fresh blackberry swirl.  As a footnote, I chose to leave my blackberries crushed but not pureed, and the result was fantastic.  Super easy to make ahead and freeze, this is a great way to get a head-start on the holiday season.

Enjoy!

 

Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

(Martha Stewart)

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. (Or, for a more rustic texture, simply crush blackberries and combine with sugar.)  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing.

 

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Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

by Danica Waters / nature photos courtesy of www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm

 

I first discovered this recipe about ten years ago, in the back of an issue of Taste of Home magazine.  It was October, the aspen were ablaze in the Colorado high country and I was excitedly planning an annual autumn picnic for a large group of friends and family.  Although our family made frequent pilgrimages to the mountains throughout the year, our October excursion was special in a spiritual sort of way.

 

In the lush valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, October heralds the return of the giant elk as they descend from higher elevations to mate and prepare for the onset of winter.  It is a humbling, transfixing ritual to observe, as old as time and as beautifully executed as a waltz in a king’s court.

 

On this particular October excursion, we arrived with enough time to spend the day hiking, and, of course, daring each other to dip our toes in the ice-cold burbling streams.   Finally, as the late afternoon chill set in, we returned to the small parking lot on the far side of the meadows. Wet, shivering children got tucked into clean, dry socks and loads of blankets; hearty picnic dinner offerings were devoured and steaming cups of hot cocoa were passed around as we, and the many other nature-lovers around us, waited for the elk to appear.

 

Venus twinkled over Long’s Peak, shining like a  diamond in the deepening periwinkle sky; then, as if by magic, the soft sounds of laughter and conversation suddenly gave way to reverent silence with the first sighting of a bull elk. He appeared from the shadowy depths of the forest and walked slowly and deliberately into the meadow, completely aware of and unfazed by our presence; we were mere courtiers in the presence of a King.

 

He assumed his position center stage in the tall grasses and stood magnificently still, waiting.  Then, on an impulse, he thrust his head back and let out a haunting, lonely cry that reverberated all the way through the valley.  The ensuing silence was nothing short of deafening; it was as though every molecule of every being in the entire valley had been suspended in time.

 

Ever-so-slowly, from the forest shadows appeared the does.  With almost-choreographed precision, they made their way, one by one, in front of the group of onlookers and then past the King, only to disappear back into the trees on the opposite side of the meadow.  After the last doe had made her appearance, the King turned and followed them, swallowed by the shadows of nightfall.

 

The whole experience was like a dream; we had to sit a minute to digest what we’d just seen.  Kids being kids, they decided this was the perfect opportunity to remind me that we hadn’t yet served dessert.  I absentmindedly broke out these little cupcakes, and suddenly realized I was experiencing another kind of dream, because that same sudden, magical hush fell over everyone in our group as they took their first bite.  Even the kids were quiet.  No joke.

 

Need some magic?  Try these.   Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes are the best cupcakes in the WORLD.  They have no frosting.  Instead, they have chunks of chocolate and walnuts baked into a peek-a-boo cream cheese center. Not too sweet, modestly decadent, easily transportable, and visually stunning; this is the perfect cupcake to make for every occasion.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

Taste of Home August/September 1994

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

¼ C baking cocoa

½ tsp salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

¾ C water

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Filling:

 

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 C sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 tsp salt

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1 C chopped walnuts

 

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; mix well.  Pour into 18 greased or paper lined muffin cups.  For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in another mixing bowl.  Add egg and salt; mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

 

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Blackberry Cobbler: Alice Bay Cookbook

by Danica Waters
Following our coverage of the National Can-It-Forward Day held mid-August out of the world-famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA, the Allspice Chronicles traveled up the West Coast just in time for blackberry season.  Called “brambles” in the UK, blackberries grow EVERYWHERE in the great Northwest.  They line the freeways, small country roads, back yards, you name it.

We were  informed early-on that the locals could spot a tourist from 100 yards away simply because they were picking blackberries at the sides of busy roads;  old-timers and people in-the-know stay away from these berries because of the contaminants they pick up from car exhaust.   While it seemed a terrible waste, there were plenty of walking paths and offbeat hiking trails that rendered  BUCKETS of these beauties.

On our first berry picking excursion, less than an hour of picking rendered over three quarts of berries.   Because blackberries are extremely perishable, they need to be frozen or cooked quickly.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was to turn the first fruits of the season into a juicy cobbler, so that’s precisely what we did.

My sister-in-law, who is an impeccable housekeeper, a fabulous cook and creative, over-the-top entertainer in her own right, produced what she referred to as the Northwest “Recipe Bible” from her kitchen cabinet.  It was a relatively small, thick, pink book called Alice Bay Cookbook:  A Savory Sampler from Washington’s Skagit ValleyInside is a collection of the most delicious heirloom recipes, each a celebration in its own right of the bounty of the land, the rivers, and the oceans that make up the Great Northwest.  Originally published in 1985, the Alice Bay Cookbook celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010.   Authored by Julie Wilkinson Rousseau, it was noted by the New York Times Bestseller List as “Paperback Best Seller”, and with good reason.  No matter where you live, if you like to cook, this is one book you should have in your collection.

Please note:  before you gasp at the thought of using eight whole cups of blackberries for a single cobbler, please understand that this recipe is designed to feed a very large crowd, and is easily scaled down.  It is the most delicious cobbler you’ll ever care to taste.  Be sure to top it off with vanilla ice cream or some heavy cream – it is simply to die for.

Enjoy!

 

Blackberry Cobbler:

(Alice Bay Cookbook)

1½ cups sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups blackberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

BISCUIT TOPPING:

2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2/3  cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix together sugar, flour, salt, berries, and lemon juice. Pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and dot with butter. Bake for 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Meanwhile, make biscuit topping:   Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add milk and beaten egg, and stir with a fork until blended.
When blackberry mixture is hot and bubbly, spoon biscuit mixture on top in 10 or 12 dollops. Return to oven for 20 minutes, until biscuits are browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Camille Glenn’s Golden Cointreau Cake

by Danica Waters

 

This is one of the most fantastic and truly unusual cakes I’ve ever made.  Having contemplated this recipe again and again over the last five years or so, I finally decided that an occasion such as my daughter’s 23rd birthday would warrant the labor involved.  Honestly, the cake turned out to be surprisingly easy to make; it was just very different from anything I’d done before.

 

The recipe was created by the late Camille Glenn (Queen of Southern Cuisine) when she catered debutante parties and weddings in Louisville.  The passage that hooked me can be found in her cookbook The Heritage of Southern Cooking, where she writes:

 

“This cake holds a secret all to itself – a magical formula that will fool you.  The texture is unusually moist, tender, and diaphanous.  This delicacy in contrast to the elusive, rich frosting sets the cake apart.  It is a gala occasion cake.  In fact, if the occasion is not gala, the cake will make it so.  You’ll see.”

 

She was right.  It’s almost like an ethereal combination of an angel food cake and a pound cake; it’s light as a feather but incredibly moist like a sponge cake.

 

With this recipe, Camille provides two options for frosting the cake; one is a bit heavier on the Cointreau, and the other is more a classic buttercream.  I chose the first option and it was wonderful.  I must advise, however, that the frosting is very strong, and is actually better when allowed to rest overnight in the refrigerator.  The resting time not only allowed the sharpness of the Cointreau to mellow a bit,  it also seemed to enhance the overall texture of the cake.

 

Enjoy!

 

Camille Glenn’s Golden Cointreau Cake

(from the Heritage of Southern Cooking)

 

8 large eggs

1-1/2 C sugar

1/3 C fresh orange juice

1 C all purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp Cointreau

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp cream of tartar

Cointreau Frosting or Classic Buttercream with Cointreau (recipe follows)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

 

Separate the eggs.  Put the yolks in one large mixing bowl and the whites in another large mixing bowl.

 

Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until they have thickened and are smooth.  Beat in the sugar slowly, then continue beating until the mixture turns a lighter shade of yellow and is smooth.  Add the orange juice and blend thoroughly.

 

Measure the flour, then sift it twice.  Sprinkle the sifted flour over the egg yolk mixture and gently fold it in by hand with a whisk or a rubber spatula, or with the electric mixer on a very low speed.  Fold in the Cointreau and vanilla.

 

Add the salt to the egg whites and beat until they begin to turn white and foamy.  Add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat until the egg whites hold a stiff peak but are not dry and grainy, about 4 minutes more.

 

Fold a few spoonfuls of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it.  Then add the remaining egg whites to the batter, gently folding them in.

 

Spoon the batter into a 10 x 4-1/2 inch angel food cake pan (a tube pan with a removable bottom)  The pan should be no more than three quarters full.

 

Place the cake pan on the middle shelf of the oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, or until the cake springs back at once when lightly touched, about 1-1/4 hours.

 

Remove the cake from the oven, turn it upside down on the tube pan legs, and allow it to rest overnight before frosting.

 

Loosen the cake with a thin sharp knife, and unmold it.  Put the cake on a plate or on a flat surface covered with wax paper or foil.  Spread the frosting over the cake.

 

Cointreau Frosting  (*** I used this frosting***)

 

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2-3/4 C confectioner’s sugar sifted

1/8 tsp salt

1 large egg yolk

6-8 Tbsp Cointreau or more as needed

 

Put the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Beat well with an electric mixer.  Add the egg yolk, then slowly add 6 Tbsp of the Cointreau.  Continue to beat the frosting until it is smooth, thick, and pliable, 3 minutes.  Add more Cointreau as needed; it usually takes 8 Tbsp.  This frosting must be thick.

 

Frost the cake generously in a swirl design.  Allow the frosting to firm for 30 minutes, then lift the cake to a serving platter.  Keep cake refrigerated.

 

 

Classic Buttercream with Cointreau

 

1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

5 large egg yolks

2/3 C sugar

¼ tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp salt, or to taste

5 Tbsp cold water

3 Tbsp Cointreau

 

Cream the butter until it is light and smooth; set aside.

 

Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until they have doubled in bulk, 3 minutes.

 

Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and water ini a heavy saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat until the syrup spins a thread when it falls from a wooden spoon or until a candy thermometer registers 235-236 degrees F.  (If the syrup is not cooked to this point, the frosting will never firm up.)

 

Immediately pour the hot syrup in a steady stream into the egg yolks, beating constantly.  Continue to beat until the mixture has cooled, 15 – 20 minutes.

 

Add the butter to the yolk mixture a tablespoonful at a time.  If the frosting should look curdled while you are adding the butter, place the frosting over hot (not boiling) water and beat vigorously until it is smooth again.  Add the Cointreau and mix thoroughly.  If necessary, chill the frosting until it has a good spreading consistency, 35-45 minutes.

 

Frost the cake generously in a beautiful swirling design, and then keep the cake refrigerated.

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Dad’s Wicked Chocolate Pie

by Danica Waters

My father was a quiet Midwestern man who grew up just outside the Amana Colonies in the great state of Iowa.  I don’t know of any other region in the US that holds pie of all sorts in such high esteem, but I can tell you that in Iowa, pie is a big deal.  It also happens to be an incredibly accurate indicator of one’s personality type.

My grandparents, who were very meticulous and practical people, preferred the simplicity of fruit pies. My grandmother could whip out a pie crust faster than you can blink, and dinner was not dinner without a simple, unadorned slice of homemade apple, peach, or cherry pie afterwards.  It was always one of those three, and they were served like religion.

Through his young-adulthood, my fun-loving father grew very close to my Grandmother’s sister, whose tastes veered more in the direction of the decadent cream pies.  My grandmother once told me under her breath that she viewed that type of pie with great disdain because they invariably did a “number on your figure”.  Be that what it may, my Large Great Aunt didn’t care a hoot; along with a piping hot cup of the blackest coffee known to man, at her house you could always expect to be served a generous slice of either a banana or coconut cream pie, topped off with a billowing mound of Redi-Whip that rivaled the clouds of cigarette smoke coming at you from across the kitchen table.  But my Dad didn’t find his favorite pie until he moved out on his own.

Far away from the rolling hills of Iowa, high in the Colorado mountains, my father decided the best pie in the world was Chocolate Pie.  Not just any Chocolate Pie, mind you.  This Chocolate Pie. Steering more towards the Dark Side of the chocolate world, it’s much more rich and wicked than most of its mild-mannered cousins.  That’s probably why my dad liked it so much.  You see, as quiet and proper as he appeared to be, my dad had a wicked sense of humor (he was a huge fan of Bill the Cat) and an unmistakable flare for the dramatic.  If ever he were to bring you flowers, he’d never bring just one – he’d bring armfuls of the biggest, most beautiful blooms he could find.  This pie is like that. So in honor of my dearly departed Dad this Father’s Day, here’s the recipe for his favorite Wicked Chocolate Pie.

 

 

Dad’s Wicked Chocolate Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When oven is ready, pierce and bake until pale golden, approximately 7 minutes:

 

1 – 9” pie shell, regular ok but graham cracker preferred!

Remove from oven and set aside.  Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together and set aside:

¾ C sugar

2 – 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

½ tsp salt

3 rounding Tbsp cocoa powder

In top portion of double-boiler, add:

3 large eggs, separated (set aside whites for meringue), yolks beaten lightly

2 C milk (use unsweetened evaporated milk for a richer texture)

1 tsp vanilla

Add water and a pinch of salt to lower portion of double-boiler; bring to a boil and reduce heat until water is at a gentle but active simmer.  In top portion of double-boiler, gently stir together the egg yolks, milk, and vanilla; add dry ingredients and combine thoroughly.  Cook mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk, until thick.  Turn off the flame; cover the filling to keep it warm while you make the meringue:

In a small bowl, combine and set aside:

¼ tsp cream of tartar

½ C white granulated sugar

In small saucepan, combine:

1 Tbsp corn starch

1/3 C cold water

Heat mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture is bubbly and forms a gel.  Remove from heat.

In a very clean bowl of electric mixer, combine on low speed until frothy:

3 large egg whites (be sure there’s absolutely NO pieces of shell or remnants of yolk in your egg whites)

½ tsp vanilla extract

Increase mixer speed to medium, and slowly add the sugar and cream of tartar mixture, one Tablespoon at a time.  Beat until the sugar is thoroughly incorporated and soft peaks form.  Then add the cornstarch mixture, one Tablespoon at a time.  Increase mixer speed to High, and beat until stiff peaks form.  Be careful – don’t overbeat.

The filling needs to be hot when the meringue goes on top, so if it’s cooled too much, reheat it until it’s steamy.  Then pour filling into prepared pie crust, spreading it evenly along bottom of shell.  Using a rubber spatula, immediately spread the meringue mixture evenly around the edge of the pie, making sure that the meringue attaches to the pie crust to prevent shrinking.  Then spread meringue to the center of the pie.  Use the back of a spoon to create peaks and valleys all over the meringue.

Bake at 325 degrees F until the meringue is golden brown, which should take about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

 

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