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.

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.