November 26, 2013

Crazy about Carrots

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Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle

My Thanksgiving table will look different this year.  Thirteen family members will be absent and two, who normally don't come for Thanksgiving, will be here this year.  There will still be slices of turkey on a colorful platter; a big bowl of cornbread dressing; potato salad made with my mom's recipe; Aaron's green beans; a basket of homemade rolls hot from the oven; gravy in a turkey shaped gravy bowl; a congealed cranberry salad; a pitcher of refreshing fruit tea and, for dessert, pecan pie and pumpkin pie. Different faces around the table won't be the only difference, though. Sweet potatoes -- either in the form of sweet potato souffle or quick and easy candied sweet potatoes -- will be noticeably absent.  This year, sweet potatoes are being replaced by Carrot Souffle.

Carrot souffle isn't a souffle in the true sense of the word.  Traditionally, a souffle is comprised of two parts:  a thick egg based sauce or puree which gives the souffle flavor and beaten egg whites which gives the souffle lift. Carrot souffle doesn't use beaten egg whites which makes it more of a puree:  a thick, soft dish made by processing cooked food through a sieve or mixing it with a mixer, blender or food processor.  Carrot souffle definitely sounds more appealing than carrot puree!

I have three versions of this recipe, but the one I'm sharing is my favorite because it uses less sugar than the others.  Carrots are naturally sweet and, in my opinion, don't need as much sugar as the amounts called for in the other recipes.  I use baby cut carrots for two reasons.  One, I always have them on hand.  Two, I don't have to peel and cut the carrots, a real time saver when you're cooking a holiday meal.  Another way to save time is to assemble the remaining ingredients while the carrots are cooking in boiling water.

Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle
 The cooked carrots

When the carrots are tender, drain them thoroughly and combine them with the remaining ingredients.  One ingredient, baking powder, acts as a leavening agent.  However, don't expect the souffle to rise to the top of the baking dish like a souffle made with beaten egg whites.  It actually rises very little, if any.

Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle
Ready to be baked

A nice touch is to bake the souffle in a souffle dish -- a round bowl with straight edges -- but it can be baked in any 2-quart baking dish.  Grease the dish and coat it with granulated sugar.  Sprinkle the sugar in the bottom of the dish and rotate it like you would if you were coating a cake pan with flour, making sure to coat the bottom and sides.  The sugar adds a slight crust around the edges and additional sweetness to the cooked shuffle. Add the carrot mixture and bake until the souffle is set in the center when pressed lightly with your fingertip.

Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle

The souffle can be served hot, but I think it tastes better lukewarm.  This is helpful at the holidays since the souffle can be cooling while the rest of the food cooks in the oven.  I let the souffle cool 30 minutes on a wire rack before garnishing the top with powdered sugar. The easiest way to add the powdered sugar is to put it in a small mesh strainer and sprinkle it on the souffle.

Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle

If you want to cut out the additional sugar, serve it plain.

Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle

Carrot souffle is a nice change of pace from traditional sweet potatoes. Like sweet potatoes,  it's orange and sweet, but unlike sweet potatoes, most kids eat carrots!

Carrot Souffle
8 to 10 Servings

2 lb. peeled carrots
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup butter, softened
powdered sugar (for garnish; optional)

Put carrots in a large saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook carrots 30 to 45 minutes, until very tender.  Drain.  Heat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 2-quart souffle dish. Coat the bottom and sides with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.  Set aside.  Put carrots in a mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar.  Mix with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add butter and mix well.  Put carrot mixture in prepared souffle dish.  Bake 45 minutes, until souffle is set in center when lightly pressed with fingertip.  Let cool 30 minutes on a wire rack.  Sprinkle powdered sugar on top, if desired, and serve.

© Margaret's Morsels 

November 5, 2013

A Piece of Cake

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Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Not too long ago, I made a batch of coleslaw to go with our supper. Although the coleslaw was gone in a couple of days, a mostly full pint of buttermilk remained in the refrigerator.  I didn't want to throw it out so I used it to make my grandmother's loaf cake.  Calling this delectable dessert a loaf cake is a misnomer because my grandmother didn't bake it in a loaf pan.  My mother didn't use a loaf pan either and neither do I. What my family fondly refers to as a loaf cake is actually a pound cake.  The name isn't the only thing that's different about this recipe.

Pound cakes got their name because they were originally made with one pound each of flour, butter, sugar and eggs.  Now days, pound cakes can include leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder; flavoring or even multiple flavorings; add ins such as fruit, nuts and chocolate to name a few.

Pound cakes are still made with butter -- or margarine -- although not necessarily a pound.  Some recipes also call for shortening, in addition to the butter or margarine.  My grandmother's recipe is made with shortening. I can tell you from personal experience the cake isn't as good when it's made with anything other than shortening, so no substitutes!

A lot of pound cake recipes call for the fat (butter, margarine, shortening) to be creamed first and then the sugar gradually added.  Not this recipe.  The shortening and sugar are creamed together from the beginning

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

 until light and fluffy, about five to seven minutes.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Don't rush the creaming process.  It's an important component in baking for two reasons.  One, it incorporates air into the batter which results in a lighter cake.  Two, the sugar gets evenly dispersed throughout the fat.  The sugar doesn't dissolve so don't expect the creamed mixture to be perfectly smooth.  If you feel the creamed mixture with your fingertips, it will have a slightly gritty texture.

My grandmother's recipe is also different when it comes to adding the eggs. Every pound cake I've ever made, except this one, calls for the eggs to be added one at a time and beaten until combined.  My grandmother's recipe calls for beating the eggs together, adding them all at once 

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

and then mixing them into the creamed mixture until combined.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Cake recipes typically call for combining the dry ingredients and adding them alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  This sequence is very important.  The creamed mixture can't absorb much liquid so it's imperative to add the dry ingredients first. If you don't, you'll end up with a tough cake.  Unless otherwise directed, a good rule of thumb is to add 1/3 dry, 1/2 wet, 1/3 dry, 1/2 wet and 1/3 dry. When you add the ingredients, mix them only until combined.  Overmixing will cause the cake to be tough.  My grandmother's recipe alternates wet and dry ingredients, but there is a slight difference.

Instead of combining the dry ingredients, only the flour is added alternately with the wet ingredient I alluded to in the first paragraph, buttermilk.  Not only does buttermilk produce a cake that is tender, it also adds a slight tangy flavor to the finished product.  More importantly, though, it's a crucial ingredient for this cake to be successful.  For that reason, no substitutes allowed!  However, if you don't have buttermilk, you can make sour milk which will take the place of buttermilk.  To make 1 cup sour milk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1 cup.  Thoroughly stir the mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes; proceed as directed.

The only flavoring in my grandmother's recipe is vanilla.  I highly recommend using pure vanilla extract.  I know it's expensive, but it tastes so much better that imitation vanilla.  The vanilla and two leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda) are added at the same time and mixed into the batter. 

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Most baking powders are double-acting which means they release gas when mixed with a liquid and again when exposed to heat.  On the other hand, baking soda must be mixed with an acid in order to work as a leavening agent.  Buttermilk or sour milk acts as the acid.  This is why you can't substitute another liquid for the buttermilk.

The rest of the recipe is straightforward.  Grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan.  Or, what I do, spray the pan with Baker's Joy, a nonstick baking spray that contains flour.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Put the batter in the pan

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

and bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until done.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

The easiest way to tell when the cake is done is to insert a toothpick in the cake.  If the toothpick comes out clean, or with a few crumbs, the cake is done.  Other signs include a top that springs back when lightly touched and a cake that pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Let the cake cool in the pan 10 minutes and then remove it to a wire rack to cool completely.

I serve the cake plain just like my mother and grandmother did.  If you want it a little fancier, add fresh fruit or a scoop of ice cream on top of each slice when it's served.  If you want to garnish the whole cake, an easy way to do that is to sprinkle powdered sugar on top after the cake is completely cool.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

I don't know why the directions for my grandmother's recipe are different from other pound cake recipes.  I don't even know why or how the cake came to be know as a loaf cake!  What I do know, though, is that the cake is delicious and the method, although not conventional, works each and every time.  It's also a tasty way to use leftover buttermilk.  Even better, though, is to buy buttermilk specifically for this cake and find some other way to use the rest of the buttermilk!

Loaf Cake
12 to 16 Servings

1 cup shortening (no substitutes)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (no substitutes)*
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about five to seven minutes.  Beat eggs and add all at once to creamed mixture; mix well.  Add flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour; mix after each addition until just combined.  Add vanilla, baking soda and baking powder; mix until combined.  Pour batter in a greased and floured Bundt or tube pan.  Bake at 325° for 45 to 60 minutes, or until done.  Put the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove the cake and cool completely on the wire rack.

*To make 1 cup sour milk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1 cup.  Thoroughly stir the mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes; proceed as directed.

© Margaret's Morsels