Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Anna Sultana’s Ice Creams: Maltese Style, American Style, with Orion and The False Dawn


A little over a month ago I posted the recipe for Ma’s Gelatt, a traditional Maltese recipe for an ice cream dessert.

And, as with most traditional Maltese recipes for anything - especially a dessert - there was more than one traditional Maltese frozen dairy dessert recipe.

Crema is very easy to make, as you can see:
Pour the contents of a 354 ml can evaporated milk into a bowl.
Cover the bowl, and place it in the freezer for an hour.
Take it out and beat in 6 Tablespoons sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.
Cover the bowl and place it back in the freezer for an hour.
Remove the bowl, beat the mixture and serve.
What could be easier?

Ma also made an American style ice cream.
This recipe calls for eight large egg yolks, so it’s not great if you’re worried about cholesterol content.
Nobody in the 1950s worried about cholesterol.

Our mothers had received government issued papers from our teachers saying how important it was for us to eat eggs.
Those were the days when moms regarded eggnogs as the perfect drink for any and, if possible, every meal.
Our meals were cholesterol covered with cholesterol.
Picture sitting down to this dinner at least once a week: 
a nice thick slab of fried liver, served with creamed corn dotted with butter, and a mound of mashed potatoes with gravy.
Of course there was a pitcher of egg nog, flavoured with Ovaltine.
None of this water crap for us when our loving mothers could give us even more protein, vitamins and minerals.
Oh, well, they meant well.


Ma got an ice cream recipe from another Mom, who loved it because it was a fun way to get a bit more nutrition into the kids.
Her friend had said it was as good as a glass of V8 for sneaking in the vitamins.
If your Mom wasn’t as sneaky, V8 was a canned drink that was made from water and the concentrate of eight vegetables: beets, celery, carrots, lettuce, parsley, watercress, spinach and tomato.

For our mothers it was a slippery slope from sneaking vegetables to sneaking eggs.
So Ma was happy to get the ice cream recipe.
But, of course, it would need a bit of her tweaking.
Ma added her own touches and made this when she wanted a little something extra nutritious to balance out a lighter meal that seemed to need a bit more cholesterol.
Which was just fine with us.
Hey, it was the 50s!


Hints:

Add the heated half and half very gradually to the egg yolks. This heats the egg yolks slowly and tempers them, which prevents the yolks from cooking.

When you are beating the frozen mixture be sure to beat in the frozen bits so that it will be smooth.

If you’d like a bit of variety, you could add chocolate chips or candied peel or roasted chopped nuts (some, such as almonds, are better if you roast the chopped nuts and let them cool before adding).
Want a more ice cream parlour effect? Add crushed chocolate cookies or chopped chocolate bars or brownies.
Or anything else that suits you or your family.

If you are adding anything, add it to the mixture after you’ve removed it from the freezer after it’s been frozen for an hour, when it is similar to soft serve.
Fold in your addition, then repeat the mixing and freezing until fully frozen. 

Don’t know what to do with the leftover egg whites?
They’d be perfect for Ma’s Dead Man's Bones cookies or Almond Macaroons.


                        Vanilla Ice Cream 

Place in a medium saucepan 
2 1/2 Cups half and half cream
Stirring often, heat over medium heat until very hot but not boiling. 
Remove from heat and set aside.

Place in a large bowl 
8 large egg yolks
1 Cup sugar
Whisk until well blended and slightly thickened. 
Continue whisking and gradually pour in the heated half and half. 
Pour the mixture into the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. 
Check for doneness by dipping a spatula into the mixture to coat it entirely. 
Let the spatula cool a few minutes, then run your finger along it. If the line holds, the mixture is ready.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Stir in 
2 1/2 Cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Pour the chilled mixture into a 9 × 13 inch baking pan. 
Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, then remove and beat the mixture. 
Return to the freezer, and continue to beat every 30 minutes or so, until the ice cream is too stiff to beat.
Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze.
Leave to thaw for about ten minutes before serving.
Scoop and serve.


If you’re in the mood for an alcoholic recipe, check out Carmela’s Gelato Affogato.
It means "Drowned Ice Cream" and is easy to make - ice cream covered with rum and espresso coffee.
Definitely not for the kiddies.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

If you set your alarm clock for around 5:15 a.m. this week, you’ll be able to enjoy Orion, the Hunter ascending the sky. About two-thirds of the way up from the eastern horizon to the point directly overhead (the zenith), is the brilliant yellowish star, Capella. About halfway between Capella and the eastern horizon are the two bright stars marking the heads of Gemini, the Twins, Pollux and Castor. Straight out to the right of Capella is the fuzzy patch of light marking the famous Pleiades star cluster, also known as the “Seven Sisters.” Using Orion’s belt, drop an imaginary line almost straight down to the southeast horizon and you’ll find the brightest of all stars, Sirius.

August 30 – This is a great time to spot the Zodiacal Light, a hazy pyramid of light also known as “False Dawn.” It looks like dawn coming over the horizon but it’s fooled many a sky watcher.

September 1 - New Moon. Just enjoy Orion.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Anna Sultana’s Butterbeer Cupcakes, Folklorama and The Full Sturgeon Moon


During the past two weeks Winnipeg has been celebrating Folklorama.
Back in 1975, when we moved to Winnipeg, we went to all of the Folklorama pavilions.
Back then all of the fun - and I’m talking 40 pavilions - took place in one week.

Well, we were 25 then, and seeing everything seemed like a good idea at the time.
Now, older and wiser, (and less energetic) we just focused on going to three pavilions.

We didn’t go to our old favourites, such as the Greek pavilion.
Nothing personal - I’m sure they put on their usual fantastic shows and that the food was excellent.
We just decided to take it easy and go to three other pavilions.

First we went to the Punjab Pavilion at the Punjab Cultural Centre.
The Centre opened a few years ago and is near where we now live.
We had an ulterior motive: we have new neighbours and we wanted to know a bit more about their culture, without subjecting them to a bunch of questions.
Mission accomplished - we learned a bit, and enjoyed the food and show.

Next we visited the Scandinavian Pavilion at the Scandinavian Cultural Centre, which is in our old neighbourhood.
This was a four-fer, as we were able to see exhibits from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
Actually the folks there were calling it the Nordic Pavilion, since they had included a display about Finland, which is not a Scandinavian country.
Just because they were former vikings doesn’t mean they aren’t politically correct.

Speaking about politics... the folks in the United States are quite excited about having a woman as a presidential candidate.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Manitoba and Canada had a woman Prime Minister a few years ago.
Nordic women have had the vote for 1000 years and have elected women leaders.
So, once again we learned a bit, and enjoyed the food and show.

A week later we returned to the Punjab Cultural Centre to see what was happening at the United Kingdom Pavilion.
Back in the 70s there was an English Pavilion at the University of Manitoba.
It was a bit of a trip for folks in the north end of Winnipeg, but it was an extremely popular show and there were always long lineups.
Then the English Pavilion was discontinued, probably due to a lack of volunteers.

The new United Kingdom Pavilion was another four-fer.
We were able to learn about and see crafts and art work from England, Northern ireland, Scotland and Wales.
There were informative exhibits, and the food and drinks were excellent.
But, there was a little something extra in their pavilion.

I guess they’d been inspired by how England hosted the Olympic Games.
Ah… the Mary Poppins gently swooping down, Mr. Bean playing in the orchestra… 
It was great fun seeing the many popular cultural icons Britain has gifted to the world over the years.
And how could anyone forget Queen Elizabeth joining James Bond in a parachute jump at the start of the games?


Well, not to be outdone, this United Kingdom Pavilion had theme nights: James Bond, Monty Python, British television shows and Mary Poppins each had a night.
We arrived on Slytherin Saturday.
That’s right - a celebration of Harry Potter, complete with butterbeer!
The Sorting Hat was there to sort us into our proper houses.
We saw Harry studying for his OWLs, as well as a few professors, as well as Bellatrix and Dolores Umbridge.
The butterbeer (a mixture of cream soda and butterscotch syrup) was a bit sweet, but it was fun, as was the show we enjoyed there.

The butterbeer reminded me of a recipe for Butterbeer Cupcakes which Ma had sent when Harry Potter was first becoming popular.
She had clipped the recipe from a newspaper, and, as she always did, had noted that she’d made a few changes.
Well, that’s what Ma did.


Hints:

The recipe called for 
club soda or cream soda
1/2 Cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon butter flavour each in the cupcakes and buttercream
1/3 to 1/4 Cup butterscotch ganache

Ma used 
cream soda
dark brown sugar
no butter flavour
1/3 Cup butterscotch ganache

Don’t try to use melted butter as it ruins the batter.
Butter flavour can't be replaced. You'll still get a good flavour if you skip it.

Don’t have butterscotch chips? 
In a pinch you can use some butterscotch topping instead of the ganache.

If you freeze the unfrosted cooled cupcakes in an airtight container, they can keep for 6 weeks. Thaw them in the refrigerator the night before you need them and continue preparing after they are thawed. 

Store iced cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature.
They will keep in the refrigerator frosted, but no longer than overnight. 
Serve them at room temperature. 



                        Butterbeer Cupcakes 

Makes 18 cupcakes

Butterbeer Cupcakes 

Place paper cupcake liners in tins.

Place in a large bowl 
2 Cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine together and set aside.

Have on hand
1/2 Cup buttermilk
1/2 Cup cream soda

Place in a large mixer bowl 
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
Cream together until light and fluffy. 

Add, one at a time
3 large eggs
Scrape the bowl with a spatula between each addition. 
Add 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Fold a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
Add half of the buttermilk and half of the club soda.
Make another dry, then another liquid, then a third dry addition until all is added.

Heat oven to 350° F 

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cupcakes are golden and spring back when touched. 
Remove from tin and cool completely.


While the cupcakes are baking prepare
Butterscotch Ganache

Place in a small saucepan
1 (11 ounce) package of butterscotch chips
1 Cup heavy cream
Stir over over low heat to melt the butterscotch chips in the heavy cream. 
Mix until smooth. 
Let cool to room temperature. The ganache does thicken while cooling.
Fill a squeeze bottle with ganache.

Butterscotch Buttercream

Place in a medium mixer bowl
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
Cream until light and fluffy.
Beat in
1/3 Cup butterscotch ganache
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
Beat until smooth
1/2 - 2 Cups confectioners’ sugar


After the cupcakes have cooled
Make a small hole with an apple corer in the centre of the top of each cupcake.
Insert the nozzle of the ganache container into the centre of each cupcake.
Squeeze until filling comes to top.
Top each cupcake with buttercream frosting.
Drizzle with butterscotch topping (optional)


I hope you were able to enjoy The Perseids Meteor Shower.
A bit of meteor trivia…
These showers are named for the constellation Perseus but are bits and pieces of the Comet Swift-Tuttle which visited the inner part of the Solar System in 1992. These meteors, no bigger than grains of sand, enter the Earth’s atmosphere about 80 miles above its surface.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

August 16: Look to see “the Evening Star,” Venus, hovering just above the western horizon right after the Sun has gone down. Mercury is at its greatest elongation from the Sun today. Try to catch a view of it right after sunset in the western horizon before it disappears along with the Sun!

August 18 –  August's Full Sturgeon Moon at 5:27 a.m.  Learn about its various names in the short Farmers’ Almanac video.

August 21 – The bright, waning gibbous Moon will be at perigee, meaning it’s at its closest point to the Earth, which happens each month. An easy way to remember: Apogee has an “A” = Away, so Perigee = closest

August 24 –  Last Quarter Moon, 11:41 p.m. Look to the southwest to see Mars pass in between Saturn and the ruddy star Antares, creating a straight line. Antares is the so-called “rival of Mars,” because it shares the same reddish hue. 

August 27 – This will be the year’s closest conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. Look to the west, approximate 40 minutes after the sun sets. 
BONUS: See if you can spot Mercury as well!

August 29 – Set your alarm clock for around 5:15 a.m. to enjoy Orion, the Hunter ascending the sky. About two-thirds of the way up from the eastern horizon to the point directly overhead (the zenith), is the brilliant yellowish star, Capella. About halfway between Capella and the eastern horizon are the two bright stars marking the heads of Gemini, the Twins, Pollux and Castor. Straight out to the right of Capella is the fuzzy patch of light marking the famous Pleiades star cluster, also known as the “Seven Sisters.” Using Orion’s belt, drop an imaginary line almost straight down to the southeast horizon and you’ll find the brightest of all stars, Sirius.

August 30 – This is a great time to spot the Zodiacal Light, a hazy pyramid of light also known as “False Dawn.” It looks like dawn coming over the horizon but it’s fooled many a sky watcher.