Thursday, December 16, 2010

RECIPE: Henrietta's Peanut Butter Balls

Waiting to be chilled before being rolled in icing and coconut.
I'll tell you a little secret about Henrietta, one of her greatest weaknesses is anything containing peanut butter. It follows that every Christmas, she makes sheets and sheets of these wonderful little morsels, often doubling the recipe. She's had great fun trying endless variations (a few of which are below), and many friends of the witches love to get a small tin full of nothing but these scrumptious treats as a holiday gift.

The only real secret in making the rolled darlings is to keep your ingredients cool once they are mixed to avoid sticky situations, and to keep the wet to dry ingredient ration in balance. You don't want a dry ball that cracks, nor do you want a wet ball that looses its shape.

Try them for yourself and do let Henrietta know if you come up with any fun variations. She'll use any excuse to make another batch and none of us here at Creepstone cottage mind one bit!


What you will need for the basic cookies:
  • One cup of smooth peanut butter
  • Two tablespoons of butter at room temperature
  • One half a cup of finely chopped dates
  • One cup of icing sugar (some people call this confectioners sugar) 

How to make the cookies:
  1. In a trustworthy medium-sized bowl, stir the peanut butter and butter together with a sturdy wooden spoon until well blended.
  2. Add in your icing sugar a little at a time until it is completely mixed.
  3. Carefully stir in dates until incorporated.
  4. Grease your hands with a bit of butter and use them to form the mixture into bite-size balls.*
  5. Place the dear little things on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or tin foil.
  6. Chill the trays in your refrigerator until they are firm and well set (about an hour).
  7. Coat the balls as desired
Coatings:
The traditional coating is to roll the chilled balls in a thin icing made of milk and icing sugar, and then in sweetened flaked coconut. Let these set again on the wax paper covered baking sheet in fridge.

Another fun coating is chocolate or butterscotch. Instead of chilling the balls in your refrigerator, place them in the freezer until quite hard. Then roll them in gently melted semi-sweet chocolate or butterscotch chips, turning them to coat evenly. Let set on wax paper covered baking sheet in fridge.

Some of Henriettas other variations include:
  • Substituting mini chocolate chips, crispy rice cereal or raisins for the dates
  • Rolling in toasted, crumbled peanuts
  • Rolling in holiday coloured sprinkles
  • Rolling in white sprinkles for a snowball look
  • Rolling in melted white chocolate
  • Rolling in crushed corn flake or crispy rice cereal
Henrietta is also fond of putting each peanut butter ball in a little paper baking cup for a nice presentation. These come in many festive looks including plain white, berry red, holly green, sparkling gold or with joyful, printed Christmas designs.


HENRIETTA HINT: If you find the mixture is sticking to your hands but you are certain you have the right dry/wet ingredient ratio, it may be you are too warm yourself. Wash your hands off and then cool them under the coolest tap or well water you can get, or in a bowl of ice water. Re-grease them with butter and carry on.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

RECIPE: Auntie Patricia’s Christmas Shortbread


These old fashioned cookies are an absolute favorite at the cottage! A melt in your mouth buttery treat with a hint of maple flavoring, what sets this simple recipe apart from other shortbread is the use of brown sugar and no cornstarch. We’ve read where these are sometimes known as Cornish Shortbread, but we’ve not seen any evidence the recipe originated in Cornwall. The taste is so satisfying and hearty, It’s best not to over do the decorations with heavy icings so use candied cherries, glace fruits or a sprinkle of colored sugar instead.


What you’ll need for the cookies:
·         One pound of butter at room temperature
·         One cup of golden brown sugar (lump free if you please)
·         Four cups of flour
·         Red and green candied cherries cut into halves
·         Colored decorative sugar

Instructions for the cookies:
1.       First thing to do is to preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Then get out a good sized mixing bowl and place your butter in it.
2.       Next, cream your butter using a nice. Flat wooden spoon or if your new fangled, your electric mixer. Mind that you just cream it – don’t liquefy!
3.       Once that is done, add your brown sugar and cream it into the butter.
4.       Then slowly add the flour a bit at a time until everything is combined. (Be careful not to over work the dough or your cookies won’t be quite right.) By this time you should have a soft dough, but if you find it is too sticky, add a bit more flour. If it is a bit too soft o work, gently lay a dam tea towel over the dough and chill it for a while in your icebox or fridge.
5.       Lightly flour a large board and your most faithful rolling pin so that you can roll out your dough to an even ½ inch thickness.
6.       Cut the dough into shapes with either your best cookie cutters or the bottom of a juice glass. (Henrietta finds circle and round flower shapes work best though diamonds and stars do well too.) Gather the unused portions of dough form around the cut cookies and save them for another batch.*
7.       Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to the size of your most beloved baking sheet and fit it to lie flat. Transfer the dough cut outs to the parchment paper carefully using a thin, flat spatula. Space them about 1” apart.
8.       Gently press half a candied cherry into the center of each cookie or decorate with colored sugar as you fancy.
9.       If you find your kitchen is very warm and the dough is very soft, you can always place the tray of cookies in your freezer for a few minutes at this point, or even set them outside on a garden table (or other surface where the animals wont get to them) for a few minutes before baking them.
10.   Place the cookie tray in your preheated oven, but not for very long! They should bake until the bottoms are just ever so slightly browned on the bottom but still a bit soft and ivory white on the top. It is very easy to burn or over cook them so watch them very carefully.
11.   Remove them from the oven and let them sit still on the cookie sheet on a cool counter. After a few minutes, transfer the cookies from the sheet onto wire cooling racks and let it until completely cool.

Keep stored in a sealed, airtight container, or freeze them until you need them.


*HENRIETTA HINT: Always try to cut as many cookies at once as possible because every time you roll out the leftover dough scraps, the resulting cookie gets tougher. If you use more than one cookie sheet, you can have one being filled, one in the oven, and one cooling.

We're back!

It's been a long time since we've posted, but we are back at last! For those of you who are unfamiliar with our witchy ways, we generally sleep through most of November and this year was no exception.

October was a splendid month but busy, busy, busy. So many parties and events, so much to do and see. Priscilla and Henrietta made a visit to Toronto on their way to the annual All Hallows Eve Party and met lots of lovely people including a charming couple dressed as Alice and the Hatter from Wonderland.



The party itself was a smashing success and we danced around the bonfire until dawn munching on baked apples, candy corn, roasted pumpkin slices and lots of other goodies. Well done, sisters! We were so sleepy and contented by the time we arrived back at Creepstone Cottage, we barely had the strength to change into our night clothes, sip on some warm milk, and put ourselves to bed for a good, long sleep.

As we slept, the cottage and gardens did too. We had finished harvesting what was left of our fruits and vegetables before Halloween, and hung all the herbs we had left in the pantry to dry out for winter so the garden was ready for its long winter slumber. The nettlewart flowers have long since fallen away leaving their crisp brown vines woven over the outside walls and the pumpkin patch gave up the last of her golden fruits some time ago. Lord Oak and Lady Elm threw off their colorful fall robes piece by piece to ready for their wintry naps while Scotty, Fraser and Douglas (who stay awake and green all seasons) watch over them quietly.

We had the presence of mind to put up the storm windows and latch all he shutters tightly before we went to bed and Hyacinth made a lovely charm for the stove and fireplace that kept them lit and slowly burning so that the cottage wouldn't get too cold while we were in dreaming upstairs. Imagine our delight when we awoke to find it was December already and the cottage and marsh were covered in a sparkling blanket of fluffy, white snow! Even the spare pumpkins we left on the back porch now have jolly white caps on.



With December of course comes Christmas and after a good hearty breakfast (three days long, mind you) we are now bustling about getting ready for you know who to visit on the eve of December 24. We can't wait!
 In the following days we'll post some of Henrietta's favorite Christmas cookie recipes as well as some lovely poems, crafts, cards and other fun holiday thingamabobs.

Happy December and keep checking back!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Balls Falls Thanksgiving Festival 2010


This photo of our trip to Balls Falls for the Thanksgiving Festival this year was just sent in by a Mr Jeff Winger. Henrietta is looking proud as a peach in her new hat and dress and Priscilla is stunning as always in a new lace skirt. Granny and Tessie seem to be having  marvelous time of it and teh Wizard... well, he looks confused as always!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

RECIPE: Caramel Apple Pie

Hello darlings, Henrietta here with a new recipe for you to try! I recently found this delightful looking concoction on a wonderful blog called Orange and Black - the Spirit of Halloween. The author of the bog had discovered it in the Apple a Day Cookbook by Janet Reeves. I must confess this is one cookbook that isn’t in my collection but I do love apples so it seems time I found a copy! The recipe sounded delicious and many of the blogs followers had tried it with success so I made up my mind to do so as well.

The perfect opportunity came when the Princess invited Priscilla and I over for dinner and a spooky movie last week, after our visit to Balls Falls. We volunteered to bring desert and agreed this pie would be the perfect thing. Priscilla whipped up the pie in no time (I was having quick nap after our long flight home) and we took it with us, baking it while we dined on a lovely feast set out by the Princess. 

As we sipped tea and talked of our days adventure, the enticing aromas of cinnamon, caramel and apples came wafting through the castle and beckoning us back to the kitchen where the pie was cooling. It was irresistible! I’m embarrassed to say we could wait no longer and sliced the pie up before it was properly cooled. The result was steaming clumps of apple, caramel and pastry. We should have waited longer and let it set but it was delicious all the same. It’s a lovely pie, and surprisingly not too sweet. The Princess declared it the best apple pie she had ever had and even had seconds. Priscilla and I agreed – it’s our favorite new recipe for Fall.

Here it is then, with a few alterations by Priscilla – Caramel Apple Pie.

Ingredients you will need for the pie:
·         Pie pastry to line a nine inch deep dish pie pan
·         Four cups of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
·         One and a half cups of brown sugar
·         One half of a cup of softened butter
·         One half of a cup of all purpose flour
·         One eight a teaspoon of salt
·         Two teaspoons of cinnamon
·         One half of a cup of chopped pecans

Instructions for the pie:
1.       Start by preheating your oven to a toasty three hundred and fifty degrees.
2.       Then line a sturdy nine inch deep dish pie pan with your pastry. Trim and finish the edges of the pastry. I haven’t included a pastry recipe because I find each cook has his or her own favorite – but if pastry isn’t your strong point feel free to buy a frozen pie crust, I won’t tell.
3.       Arrange the apple slices in the pastry-lined pan.
4.       Sprinkle the apples with the pecans and salt. Set aside.
5.       In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, flour, salt and cinnamon until a paste-like consistence forms.
6.       Pat the brown sugar paste mixture on top of the apple slices to form a top crust.
7.       Place pie on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for fifty minutes.
8.       Remove pie form oven and transfer onto a cooling rack.
9.       Let sit to cool until just warm (at least 45 minutes). I know it’s a chore but do try and wait if you can. We let our enthusiasm get the better of us and sliced it early but the result was mounds of pie instead of slices!
10.   Serve with freshly whipped cream or a rich vanilla ice cream.
Let us know how your pie turns out and if you agree it’s the perfect desert for a crisp cool day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A New Dress for Henrietta - Part I

As you may know, Henrietta's favorite color is purple and many of her favorite dresses are purple as well. For years she has proudly worn one long purple dress in particular. It is made of simple cotton broadcloth which has grown soft and comfortable from years of washing. It's edges are a bit frayed and it has been patched several times. She always thought of some of the patches as proud reminders of how much she has done in the dress, even dressing the patches up with sequins and bold colorful stitches.

This year, as she was looking at photos of herself with Priscilla and Tessie at Balls Falls, she began to notice that the purple in her favorite dress has faded quite a bit. The edges had frayed considerably and it needed mending in a variety of ways and places. The old zipper up the back was sticking, the neckline had ripped a bit, the sleeves had threads pulling at the hems and the seams at the waist were straining a bit (probably the result of too many pumpkin tarts).

Poor old thing, she loved that dress and it had been worn through many a good time, but the more she looked at the picture of herself next to the fashionable Tessie and the grand dame Priscilla, the more she began to feel a new dress was in order. Something with a bit more stylish and polished. Something dressier that befitted one of her favorite occasions. All these years she had been wearing a simple house dress and an everyday traveling cape and hat, and never thought a thing of it. Suddenly she was ashamed to look so dowdy and ordinary for such an extraordinary occasion. She made up her mind to go to the fabric store with Priscilla and pick out a snazzy new cloth to make a dress from.


When they got to the fabric store, it wasn't long before Henrietta found just what she wanted. It was a bolt of cloth nearly the same shade of purple as her old dress but it had a silky sheen to it that shined in the light. There was a subtle pattern woven into it that resembled scaly snake skin and best of all it was marked down half price! They had the nice lady at the counter measure out lengths and lengths of the new fabric to make sure there was enough for the full skirts Henrietta enjoyed plus a little extra in case it was needed for embellishments. Then they visited the racks upon racks of brightly colored threads for all sorts of things - all lined up from red to violet. They found a shade of purple that matched exactly and then picked up  new zipper and some pink rick rack trim and checked out in the most merry of moods.


Back at the cottage, Henrietta couldn't wait to get started so after a quick snack of pumpkin cookies and a spot of spiced tea, she careful spread out her old dress on her lap. She had always liked the style of it and apart from the slightly too-tight waist, it fit her well. Why pay for a new pattern when she could use her old dress as a guide to making the new one? She carefully parted the well worn seams with a small tool called a seam ripper until the dress was separated into 11 pieces, and then using a hot iron, gently pressed all the pieces flat. The new fabric which had been carefully folded down the middle, was smoothed out onto the long craft table in the back room of the cottage and the pieces of the original dressed were laid out on top of the fabric and pinned in place. Using a heave pair of metal scissors, Henrietta patiently cut around the old pieces, using them as a pattern to create new ones, leaving a little extra allowance near the waist for pumpkin tarts past and future. When all the pieces had been cut and the old fabric folded and stored, she sat down at her faithful old Singer sewing machine and began to stitch all the bits of the dress together. That was when things began to go horribly wrong.

First she pinned the edges of the fabric together so that the shiny sides faced each other and she stitched the shoulders together. She pressed open the seams with her iron and and then she began to line up the side seams, but the back of one side was far longer than the other. She realized she had matched up the wrong pieces so she took her seam riper and began to undo the work she had just done. After a bit of confusion, she lined up the proper seams and sewed them correctly, once again pressing to finish. She then pinned together the 5 great, long, pie-shaped pieces that made up the skirt, but again something wasn't right. Some pieces were longer than others and didn't seem the right fit at all.

She went back to the remains of her old worn dress and reassembled the skirt. It all seemed so much clearer when she could see where the zipper had been to mark the center back and so forth. To make the bits easier to identify, she took a piece of soft, white, triangle-shaped tailor's chalk and labeled each piece of the new fabric so she knew exactly where it should go. Using this as a guide, she pinned together the new skirt once more and found to her joy that they all matched up. She deftly stitched them together, leaving the back open a bit for the zipper, and then lining up the center front of the skit to the center front of the bodice, she stitched the top of the dress to the bottom and tried it on for size.

Something seemed odd to her. The shoulders seemed too far forward and it was pulling across the back. The  bosom was down near the waist and there were great extra pockets of fabric under the arms. Priscilla could see the disappointment on her cousins face and kindly suggested that perhaps it would hang better once the zipper was in. Henrietta wasn't convinced but determinedly went back to work at the sewing machine, pinning and sewing the zipper in place as well as adding a pleasant Peter Peter Pan collar to finish the neck. She had never made this kind of collar and consulted a few sewing books on how to draft one up and attach it to the dress. After a few trial and errors, she succeeded and tried the whole dress on again.

It still wasn't right. The front was baggy and the back was tight. The neck was too open and the collar wouldn't lie flat. She put the dress on inside out and Priscilla tried to help by pinning in darts (slashes in the fabric that help a dress to fit to the wearer). Henrietta became cross at herself for putting the collar and zipper in too early. What if the bodice had to be reconstructed? All that work would be for for nothing. Luckily she had resisted the urge of putting the sleeves in as well. Despite Priscilla's best intentions, the bodice wasn't fitting any better. What could be done? The trip to Balls Falls was less than 2 days away and with her old dress reduced to scraps, she didn't have anything suitable to wear at all.

Suddenly a thought occurred to Henrietta: in an ivory tower not far from Balls Falls lived a clever and crafty princess who was an old friend of the witches. Being a great beauty, she had an eye for style and being a princess she had a great understanding of how clothes should fit and be worn. She also made the most delicious chocolate zucchini cake! Henrietta made up her mind to go and visit her old friend and beg for help getting the dress done. With a little luck, she might get a bit of zucchini cake as well!


...To be continued.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doesn't anyone still wear a hat?

Hello dears, Henrietta here!

I feel a bit of a neglectful old girl for not posting before now, but it's that busy time of year again for us! Priscilla and I spent hours on Saturday going through all sorts of little shops looking for hat pins. It wasn't easy, I must tell you. We saw wonderful glass beads, beautiful feathers and dazzling rhinestones, but store after store had no hat pins. Who would have thought these little, metal delights would become such a precious commodity?

It's very windy riding a broom and being fans of a wide-brimmed look in the hat department, it's quite necessary to affix them on securely. The unfortunate things is even the most obedient and well-trained hat pins tend to wander off on their own, getting helplessly lost. All of the wonderful old silver pins Auntie Willemeana left us have one by one gone missing. This culminated last year at our annual Balls Falls outing when we found ourselves without a single pin to protect our points!Luckily the ever resourceful Priscilla came our rescue.

You see she had been enjoying a pumpkn spice tea while chatting as I organized the kitchen in anticipation of stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey. I had bought a brand new package of skewers with sparkling sharp tips and I had washed and laid them out to dry. I prefer the long, metal skewers to sewing up a turkey with kitchen twine and a needle. It's something my mother taught me and I've never been convinced the other way is any better. Priscilla asked about this and I shared my technique with her, demonstrating on an old tea towel.

Later that morning as we gathered out hats and brooms in preparation for th journey to Balls Falls, Tessie broke the news that all of our hat pins were missing in action. Luckily, Priscilla recalled the long, metal skewers and thought that if they worked in turkey skin and tea towels, they would work just as well in satin or felt. We swore each other to secrecy and thrust the things through our hats. To our great joy they worked quite well, thought perhaps not as pleasing to the eye as they could be. Priscilla remarked that it being Thanksgiving, they were quite appropriate and thought them a novel fashion choice. (Mind you, she's a witch that can make a potato sack look like a Paris original with a bit of work.)

Well my dears, I am proud to tell you all that after much searching we found some new and unadorned hat pins and are looking forward to adding jewels, beads, feathers and more over he next few days so that we will have them for Thanksgiving this year. Do look for them if you run into us at the festival, though if you look closely you may a few turkey skewers in with the mix just for fun!






Here's an interesting looking little book on hat pins. I must confess I haven't read it myself but I am intrigued. Perhaps it would do for a stocking stuffer this Christmas for Priscilla? Shhh! Don't mention it to her so we can keep the surprise.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Panorama of Witches!

Click HERE to see the interactive version of this photo!
Clay Morehead is a talented photographer who treated us to a unique photograph of ourselves last year at the Balls Falls Thanksgiving Festival. Using a very special camera that we had to stand quite still for, he made a marvelous and magical photo of us called a panoramic photo - a wonderfully weird image that you can spin about and see not only us, but everyone and everything around us from the ground to the sky to all the lovely people standing about admiring our stunning good looks!

Would you like to see it? I bet you would! Just click here and you will be taken to Mr. Morehead's  posting at the Port Colborne Camera Club. Once there, right click on our photo and hold the button down. Roll the mouse about to see how the word around us looked at that precise moment in time. Isn't it exciting, my dears? And if you'd like to see more of Mr. Morehead's work, do visit his blog at http://clayswpandvr.wordpress.com/ .


P.S. You'll notice Priscilla was experimenting with what she believed was a new high-fashion hairstyle featuring tumbles of black and white tresses. She realizes now this was perhaps a misjudgment but at the time thought herself quite stylish. It's best not to mention it to her as she is rather sensitive about it. Thankfully she's let her unnatural auburn grow back in!

Monday, September 6, 2010

THE PUMPKIN by John Greenleaf Whittier (1850)

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o’er Nineveh’s prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin, — our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who traveled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

RECIPE: Old Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing


With the abundance of carrots in our gardens, we do enjoy a good carrot cake at Creepstone Cottage and this recipe works quite well whether for afternoon tea, or a good home-style desert.

A small square is really all that’s needed of this rich and moist version, but no one can blame you if you go back for seconds. Store any rogue leftovers you have covered and in the refrigerator, though they won't last long. Check out the Henrietta Hint at the bottom of this post for a fine variation on this cake that a very dear friend of the witches came up with one bright summer's day.


Ingredients you will need for the cake:
  • One and a half cup of walnuts that have been toasted and coarsely chopped
  • Two and a half cups of peeled and grated raw carrots
  • Two cups of flour
  • One teaspoon of baking soda
  • One and a half teaspoons of baking powder
  • One half a teaspoon of salt
  • One and a half teaspoon of dried, ground cinnamon bark
  • Half a teaspoon of dried, ground ginger root
  • Half a teaspoon of dried, ground cloves
  • Four large chicken’s eggs
  • One and a half cups of packed brown sugar
  • One cup of vegetable oil
  • One half a cup of applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
The first thing to do is to get your tools ready. In this case that means making sure the oven rack is the center and then turning the oven on to three hundred and fifty degrees so it’s nice and warm when the cake goes in. You’ll also want to grease a nine by thirteen baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. This is also a good time to take the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge and let em romp about it for a bit so that they are softened and at room temperature when you go to make the icing. Now you can start to mix things up!

Instructions for the cake:
  1. Take a good-sized bowl and into it sift your flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Set it aside but let it know that you won’t be long and so not to worry.
  2. Now in a smaller bowl, beat the eggs until they have a nice froth about them.
  3. Gradually add your brown sugar and beat together until the batter is thick and lovely.
  4. Stirring constantly, add the oil in a good steady stream until it is well combined.
  5. Stir in the apple sauce and add the vanilla, beating until just incorporated.
  6. Now return to your flour mixture (which should be fairly confident if you remembered to reassure it earlier) and stir that into the egg mixture just until mixed.
  7. Gently fold in the grated carrots and one cup of the chopped walnuts.
  8. Poor the resulting batter into your greased and lined baking pan and slide it into your oven for a good thirty-five to forty minutes, or until a toothpick thrust into the middle of the cake comes out quite clean and batter free.
  9. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for about ten minutes, and then invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan and parchment paper so that it can cool completely before you frost it.
Ingredients you will need for the icing:
  • One quarter of a cup of butter
  • Two hundred and fifty grams of cream cheese (that’s usually a brick if store bought)
  • Two cups of icing sugar
  • One teaspoon of vanilla extract
Instructions for the icing:
  1. In a small but well meaning bowl, beat the cream cheese together with the butter and vanilla until they are blended and there are not nasty lumps.
  2. Slowly add the sugar bit by bit and beat until once again smooth.
Ice the cake with the mixture nice and evenly and sprinkle the top with the remaining walnuts. What a delight!


HENRIETTA HINT: Although we tend to think of carrot cake as a fall thing, it is delicious all year round. A good friend of the witches named Lori Nancy made a beautiful carrot cake for a Canada Day picnic using white sugar in place of the brown and crushed and drained canned pineapple in place of the apple sauce. To decorate it for the occasion, she cleverly placed a pattern of freshly picked and sliced strawberries on top of the cake making it into a Canadian flag! The sweet berries next to the somewhat tart cream cheese icing over the spicy cake was a wonderful variation and very tasty indeed.

RECIPE: Halloween Gingerbread Cookies

Why must Christmas have the monopoly on gingerbread?


These comfortable cookies look marvelously festive and taste just as good. Henrietta has great fun collecting metal cookie cutters and is always looking for new shapes. She has ones shaped like bats, pumpkins, ghosts, owls, witches, and more. She once did a beautiful plateful shaped like acorns, oak leaves, maple leaves, and chestnuts. Each was iced in a vibrant color just like the real thing. It made for a beautiful plate to nibble from with a nice cup of tea after an afternoon in the pumpkin patch.fall

Ingredients you will need for the cookies:
  • One cup of flour
  • Three quarters of a teaspoon of baking soda
  • One half a cup of butter (leave this out a bit before so it is soft)
  • One half a cup of shortening
  • One  half a cup of packed brown sugar
  • One and a half tablespoon of dried ground ginger root
  • One and a half tablespoon of dried ground cinnamon bark
  • One teaspoon of dried ground cloves
  • One half a teaspoon of dried ground nutmeg
  • One half a teaspoon of ground salt
  • One large chicken’s egg
  • One half a cup of molasses*
Instructions for the cookies:
  1. Take out a large mixing bowl that has always been faithful to you in times of holiday baking. Into that bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and all the lovely spices. Set this mixture aside (you may want to say something reassuring to the mixture at this point so it doesn’t feel abandoned when you go to work with the butter and sugar).
  2. In a second mixing bowl (equally large and just as faithful), cream the butter and shortening. If you have a new-fangled electric mixer or a beater with a slow setting and paddles, by all means use it - but be careful not to over mix as it will break down the butter too much too soon (I still prefer a good, sturdy wooden spoon).
  3. To the butter and shortening, add your brown sugar and beat the lot Add sugar and beat until fluffy.
  4. When that’s done, mix in the egg and the molasses until well combined.
  5. Now back our faithful mixing bowl with the lovely sifted mixture in it. Bit by bit, add that sifted mixture to the wet mixture. If you are using an electric mixer you’ll want to use a low speed. Either way, you’ll want to abandon the wooden spoon or mixer and simply use your hands to work the resulting dough and get the last bit of the flour mixture incorporated.
  6. Divide the dough into three balls of equal sizes and place all three into your ever faithful bowl. Cover the top with a damp tea towel and chill in your refrigerator for at least an hour, but longer if you have the time. Overnight is fine so long as you check every so often to see that the tea towel is still damp and so keeping the dough from dying out.
  7. About ten minutes before you are ready to roll out your dough, take it from the fridge so it can warm a bit, and turn your oven on so that it warms to three hundred and fifty degrees.
  8. Cut a large piece of parchment paper and lightly flour it. Turn one of the dough balls out onto the parchment paper and using a floured rolling pin, work the dough until it is about a quarter on n inch thick. If it feels too soft or sticky to roll well, work in a little more flour first.
  9. Using your favorite pumpkin, witch, cat, ghost or other spooky cookie cutters, cut the dough into individual cookies. It’s best to cut the shapes as closely together as possible and use as much of the dough as you can to avoid re-rolling the scraps which can produce tougher cookies.
  10. Using a thin metal spatula, carefully lift the cookies onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Get as many as you can on one sheet but make sure to leave space between each cookie so they don’t bake together. Transfer the full sheet to your freezer for about five minutes to chill again.
  11. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes. They will be a dark brown and so difficult to tell when they are done. It’s best to under bake the cookies a bit for a more cakey texture than to over bake them as they d tend to get a bit too crisp and have a faint burnt taste otherwise..
  12. Once they are done, take them from the oven and let them sit for a few minutes to cool a bit. Then use your spatula and carefully move them to a dependable wire rack to finish cooling completely before icing.

In a pinch these cookies are fine served plain, but if you are entertaining, making a gift or having a special occasion, do take the time to give them colorful icing coatings. It's also a  fun and safe way to spend some time with your loved ones in the kitchen! Before you start, Henrietta recommends you lay out wax paper all over your work surface as well as a large flat area your cookies can rest on to dry. She also finds it useful to rub a little butter into our fingers and hands so that the food color doesn’t stain your skin as badly.

Ingredients you will need for the icing:
  • One cup of icing sugar (sometimes called confectioners’ sugar)
  • Two teaspoons of cow’s milk
  • Two teaspoons of light corn syrup (golden syrup would also work in a pinch)
  • One quarter of a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Assorted food coloring (paste or gel food colorings give the most vibrant results)
Instructions for the icing:
  1. In a small but significant bowl, stir together the sugar and milk until they have been properly introduced and are quite smooth.
  2. Add the syrup and vanilla and beat it all until the mixture is quite smooth and glossy. If you find the icing is a bit too thick, add more corn syrup or a touch more sugar.
  3. Depending on how many colors you want, divide the icing into separate small bowls and add food colorings to each to get the color you like best. Suggested colors would be orange, black (you have to use a lot of coloring to get a good black), yellow, white and green.
  4. Mix the color well into the icing and then use small clean paintbrushes to paint the icing onto the cookies. 
We like to paint each cookie with a base color and let that dry before coming back and adding different colors. Once the icing has set, the cookies can be stored in tins with tightly fitting lids or in plastic containers. Separate the layers with squares or rounds of wax paper to keep the icing nice. You can also freeze them until you are ready to eat them, but ours never seem to make it that far!

*A WORD ON MOLASSES: There is a raging debate from many bakers as to what type of molasses makes the best gingerbread cookies – Fancy Molasses, Cooking Molasses or Blackstrap Molasses. The good people at Crosby’s Molasses Company explain the differences between the three:
“Fancy molasses is the syrup obtained when sugar cane is crushed and the resulting liquid is clarified and evaporated. The use of Fancy molasses in baking results in a lighter colored, sweeter product. Blackstrap molasses is a by product resulting from the manufacture of refined white sugar. Blackstrap molasses is darker and has a slight bitter, robust flavor. Cooking molasses is a blend of Fancy and Blackstrap molasses.”
 It is interesting to note that Crosby’s recommends using Fancy Molasses in their recipes but here at Creepstone Cottage we say it’s a matter of taste. We’ve used both Fancy and Blackstrap and both create interesting results. Henrietta enjoyed the almost licorice-like flavor the Blackstrap provided while Tessie adored the lighter and sweeter cookie using the Fancy gave. So experiment and see which you like the best!

HENRIETTA HINT: Great Auntie Zimmerman had a lovely trick to keep cookies soft and fresh and it worked especially well with gingerbread. No magic required - simply put a slice of fresh bread in the tin alongside the cookies which keeps them soft and fresh much longer. Even if your cookies have come out over baked and are a bit too hard, this will soften them right up.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

LET'S WATCH: The Hilarious House of Frightenstein

The Hilarious House of Frightenstein is  a ghoulishly good television series that aired long ago. It was made right here in Canada in a studio in Hamilton. The host is the always delightful Vincent Price who pops up every so often to introduce the next bit. And what bits they are! Frightenstone Castle is chock full of some of the most wonderfully weird characters you could ever hope to meet such as:
  • The Count - a vampire mad scientist with a thick Pennsylvanian accent who is always trying to resurrect his monster, Bruce ( handsome fellow who bears a strong resemblance to the Frankenstein monster)
  • Igor - the Counts dashing assistant
  • Grizelda - a vivacious witch who has her own cooking show
  • Wolfman - a furry and fun radio host who spins records and jokes galore
...and many more.


If you like a good laugh and a spooky scare at the same time, don't hesitate to knock on the doors of Frightenstone Castle and join in the mayhem in this treasured old series.




Another lovely day begins
For ghosts and ghouls with greenish skin
So close your eyes and you will find
That you've arrived in Frightenstein

Perhaps the Count will find a way
To make his monster work today
For if he solves this monster-mania
He can return to Transylvania

So welcome where the sun won't shine
To the castle of Count Frightenstein!

FROM THE LIBRARY: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a classic if ever there was one (even if some very unpleasant things happen to some of the witches in it*), and it's very clear why. Author L. Frank Baum (known to fans as The Royal Historian of  Oz) recorded the story of little Dorothy Gale from Kansas and her dog Toto who get swept up in a tornado and land in a strange place over one hundred and ten years ago - but it remains as fresh and timeless as if it were written yesterday.

If you have seen the wonderful movie musical based on this book, you may think you know the story already - but there is so much more to the story than that! Imagine a dainty country where all the inhabitants are china figurines! An army of field mice! A witch with three pigtails and only one eye who commands armies of wolves, bees and crows! A city of emeralds where everyone must wear green tinted glasses to protect their eyes from the dazzling jewels! These are just a few of the adventures the movie left out and they are a joy not to be missed.

Best of all, there's no need for the adventures in this magical land to end after just one book for Mr.Baum was able to continue telling stories from Oz until he passed away leaving us 14 glorious books in all. Later Historians took up the call as well giving us 40 books in total!

The copy we have at Creepstone Cottage has been read and reread many times over, as I'm sure your copy will be too. Read it for yourself and join little Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion as they journey down the road of yellow brick and learn of all their real adventures for yourself.

* Do try not to get too upset by the fate of the witches in the book my dears - the Witch of the East was very unpleasant, but what happened to her was entirely an accident. As for the Witch of the West, well she was a downright meanie and Dorothy really had no idea of her allergies to water. The kindly Witch of the North who points Dorothy towards the Wizard and the breathtaking Glinda, Witch of the South who shows Dorothy how to get home both make out very well!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

RECIPE: Pumpkin Waffles with Apple Topping

This is a lovely treat on a smokey fall day! Quite appropriate for breakfast, they also make a fine change of pace for supper with some lovely farmers sausage links on the side.

If you don't have a waffle iron, the batter works just as well for pancakes in a skillet. Henrietta prefers them topped with butter, a dollop of whipped cream and pure maple syrup that's been warmed and spiced a little (all the spices used in the batter work nicely). Priscilla prefers therm served with a topping of apples that have been peeled, cored, sliced and cooked in a skillet and that's how it's done below. If you haven't any apples or maple syrup, Aunt Ruby suggests a drizzle of corn syrup can also be quite nice.

Ingredients you will need for the waffles:
  • Two cups of flour
  • One and one quarter teaspoon of baking powder
  • One heaping teaspoon of dried ground cinnamon
  • One scant quarter of a teaspoon of dried ground nutmeg
  • One quarter of a teaspoon of salt
  • Two fresh chickens eggs, lightly whisked
  • One and a half cup of fresh cows's milk
  • One cup of cooked, well-mashed pumpkin
  • One half a cup of packed brown sugar
  • Three tablespoons of butter that has been melted
  • One tablespoon of solid butter
  • One teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Two good-sized baking apples that have been cored and sliced
  • One half cup of apple cider
Instructions for the waffles:
  1. Begin by getting down a good, large mixing bowl. Into that, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Into a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and pumpkin. Then add in one third of a cup of the brown sugar, the melted butter and the vanilla extract. Stir well to combine.
  3. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the large bowl of dry ingredients and then stir very gently - just until moistened. You want a fluffy batter so be careful not to over mix it. Set the mixture aside for a few minutes and lets get to the stove!
  4. Preheat your waffle iron and while you are waiting, set a large skillet over medium-high heat. In the skillet place the solid butter and warm just until melted. Take care not to burn or brown it. Then add the sliced apples and the remaining brown sugar (no one wil be the woser of you sprinkle a bit more in, dear) and cook them just until tender being sure to stir regularly so they don't stick.
  5. Pour in the apple cider and cook the mixture for a few minutes more until the cider becomes syrupy and the apples are softened right through.
  6. Cooking the waffles depends on the sort of waffle iron you are using (See HINT below) so be sure and check the manufacturers directions before starting. Generally each waffle will need about one half a cup of batter but take care not to remix or restir the batter before pouring it as the waffles will not be as light and fluffy if you do.
  7. When the waffles are golden yellow, serve them smothered in the warm apple mixture and there won't be a discontented tummy at the table.
Enjoy!

HENRIETTA HINT: Whether they are cast iron, Teflon coated, fireplace, stove top, Belgin style or modern and electric, waffle irons are a fun and fascinating thing to have in the kitchen.Some of them require greasing before use - either by brushing on a shortening or spraying with a no-stick cooking spray, though this may not be needed depending on how much fat or oil is in your recipe. The best designs allow steam to escape to avoid soggy waffles. It's always best to have two irons if possible so that you can be serving form one while the second one cooks. It's always best no matter what kind you have to read the directions provided by the manufacturer and adjust the recipe you are using to match. I always make a little extra batter than I think I will need because the first couple of waffles inevitable come out wrong as I adjust the amount of batter and cooking time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

RECIPE: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Sauce

It's coming to that time of the year again when the lovely round, green pumpkins and squash in the fields are starting to turn the most marvelous oranges and golds! It's also the time of  year when people write Henrietta and ask for her favorite recipes for what is surely her favorite vegetable and she is only happy to oblige. She dedicated an entire chapter to them in her cookbook and this is one of them!

Along with all the traditional soups, brews, pies and tarts, she likes to encourage friends to explore a few lesser known things to do with pumpkin and squash - and bread pudding is a wonderful way to start. This delicious and satisfying treat is a perfect way to warm up on a cold autumn day and a very simple thing to make.

Ingredients you will need for the pudding:
  • One cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin*
  • One half a cup of good, rich brown sugar
  • Two chicken eggs
  • One teaspoon of  vanilla extract
  • One half of a teaspoon of dried, ground ginger
  • One quarter a teaspoon of dried ground cinnamon
  • One eighth a teaspoon of dried ground cloves (optional)
  • One half a cup of raisins
  • One can evaporated skim milk
  • One third of a cup of chopped pecans  (see a Henrietta Hint below on this)
  • Half a loaf of fresh raisin bread
* Canned pumpkin works just fine for this recipe, but do be careful it is pure pumpkin you buy and not pumpkin pie filling!

Instructions for the pudding:
  1. The first thing to do is to preheat your oven to a toasty four hundred degrees. While it's warming up, cut your raisin bread up into small, bite-sized cubes, grease a nine inch pie plate lightly and then arrange the bread cubes on the bottom. Set it all aside and start mucking about with your pumpkin. 
  2.  In a not too big but bot too small mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and ginger just until mixed. Then gently stir in milk and pour the entire mixture over the bread cubes, coating it with pumpkin mixture. 
  3. Take your pecans and sprinkle them with abandon over the top. If you sneak a few for yourself, no one will be the wiser.
  4. Put the entire glorious concoction into your preheated oven and leave it be for twenty five to thirty minutes or until a knife poked into the middle comes out clean.
I always serve this warm, cut into wedges and with some lovely cream over top. To really make it rich, you can also drizzle a delightful warm brown sugar sauce over the top (recipe below), though I'd reduce the sugar a little in the pudding if that were he case.

Ingredients you will need for the brown sugar sauce:
  • One quarter of a cup of butter (and do use butter, not margarine for this sauce)
  • Three tablespoons of flour
  • Two thirds of a cup of packed brown sugar
  • One cup of cold milk
  • One cup of a lovely brandy (this is optional but does give a very nice taste)
  • One quarter of a teaspoon if vanilla extract
Instructions for the brown sugar sauce:

  1. Take out your favorite small saucepan and over a medium heat, gently melt the butter. Take i off the heat once ready and set it aside.
  2. Take out your favorite medium-sized bowl and into it sift together the flour and sugar.
  3. Take out your favorite whisk and slowly add the sifted ingredients into your favorite small saucepan of melted butter until the mixture is moist and happy.
  4. Without too much of a fuss, stir in cold milk until the sauce is smooth and then return your favorite small saucepan to the medium heat.
  5. Cook until thickened and smooth (about five minutes) but mind that your pay close attention to the mixture, using your favorite whisk frequently to ensure there is no burning!  
  6. When the consistency seems agreeable, delicately stir in the brandy and vanilla and remove your favorite saucepan form the heat
Serve right away over your Pumpkin Bread Pudding, or cover it and refrigerate it for up to a week (warm before serving). This is also delicious over coffee cake, apple crisp and ice cream!


HENRIETTA HINT: I always recommend roasting nuts for a richer flavor if you are using raw ones. Simply put them in a mixing bowl with just a drizzle of peanut or vegetable oil and toss until lightly coated. Spread them out on a cookie sheet that has been lined in parchment paper and using a pastry brush, lightly dab them with some soft butter. Roast in a three hundred and fifty degree oven for four and half minutes, then turn them over and roast for four and a half minutes more. Take care not to burn them!


Our Very First Post

Hooray! The Witches of Muckmire Marsh have a blog for you to read!

Aren't we modern witches to have such a thing? Isn't it exciting?

Well the truth is we're very new at this and just feeling our way around but keep checking back for lots of new from Muckmire Marsh including recipes, decorating ideas, Halloween fun, Thanksgiving fun, costume ideas, photos, crafts and links to other weird and wonderful websites.