Monday, November 30, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

Ah… the holiday season!
Ah… the holiday baking!
Ah… the holiday cookies!
Ah… the holiday time crunch!

Okay, if you’re in a rush, the stuff in the refrigerator section of the supermarket are handy.
But, with all the worry over the ingredients we’re eating, never mind allergies, many prefer whipping up a batch of cookies in the kitchen.

And why not?  Sugar cookies are pretty simple to make.
And the kids have fun making them.


If you prefer orange, almond, anise, rum, brandy extract or totally vanilla, fine.
You can also tone down or boost the flavouring.
They're your cookies.

If you don't have coloured sugar, no problem.  Just use the regular stuff.
If you want to decorate the cookies with royal icing, first let the baked plain cookies cool thoroughly on wire racks before icing them.

The kids want holiday cookies and your Christmas cookie cutters are in a safe place.
Where ever the hell that is...
No problem.
Ma’s Easy Sugar Cookies look festive and are perfect for dunking.  
All you need is the bottom of a drinking glass - any size - glass, metal or plastic.  

                        Sugar Cookies 

Makes about 24 cookies          

Have on hand
red and / or green-coloured sugar (or about 1/4 Cup regular)

Sift together
2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place in a large mixer bowl 
1/2 Cup butter
1 Cup sugar
Beat until fluffy.
Blend in 
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Stir in the flour mixture.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 to 2 hours.

grease 3 cookie sheets          
preheat oven to 375º 

Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. 
Cut out cookie shapes with cookie cutters. 
Place the cookies on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about an inch between them.
Sprinkle the cookies with the coloured sugar before baking.
If you are going to ice the cookies, do not decorate with sugar.

Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are golden.
Remove from pans and cool on racks.

                        Royal Icing

In a medium bowl combine
1 2/3 Cups confectioner’s sugar        
2 Tablespoons warm water

If you want different coloured icing, place portions of the mixture in small bowls.
Add a few drops of food colouring to each batch to make the colours you want.
The icing should be slightly runny.

Decorate the cooled cookies with a drizzle of Royal Icing.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Caramel Apple Cake and the Full Beaver Moon

Over the years Ma and I liked to send each other recipes that we’d tried and had turned out well.
A few years into the 21st century Ma tried a recipe she'd found that had a cake mix among its ingredients.
Well, why not... She was in her eighties and didn’t have to prove anything.
Pop and her guests had enjoyed eating it, so she sent me the recipe.
After she’d made a few changes, of course.

I recently posted the recipe for Ma’s Spiced Banana Cake.
That post also has links for a few other banana cake, bread and dessert recipes.

I think I’ll do the same for apples.
Well, for starters, here is the link for Ma’s Caramel Apple Cheesecake.
This post also has links for five other cheesecakes.


Place caramels in the freezer for 5 minutes before unwrapping. 
The plastic will peel off more easily.

Allow the caramel sauce to sit 45 to 60 minutes until thickened.
Make sure the cake has completely cooled before topping with the caramel sauce.
it's best if you top with the sauce right before serving.

In a rush? 
I know… really dumb question.
You can top the cake with store bought butterscotch sundae topping.
Or leave it plain and serve it with ice cream and / or whipped cream.
It also is good with a cream cheese frosting.
Don't have a cream cheese frosting recipe?
Here’s a recipe for Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting.

Want a little variety?
The cake can be made using French Vanilla pudding or lemon cake mix.
Butter pecan cake mix goes particularly well with butterscotch pudding.
You can also add
1 Cup chopped pecans and 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Counting calories?
Replace the oil with an equal amount of unsweetened apple sauce.

Making this in the summer?
Use diced fresh peeled peaches with butter pecan cake mix.

                        Caramel Apple Cake

For the Cake

Grease very well and flour a 10-inch tube pan or a 12-cup fluted tube pan

In a small bow combine
1/4 Cup sugar 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 Granny Smith apples
Shred the apples.
You want to have 2 Cups of shredded apples.
Coat apples in sugar and spice mix
Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º F 

Place in a large mixer bowl
1 package (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
1 package (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding 
Stir to combine.
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup milk
4 large eggs
1/3 Cup oil
Beat on low speed until blended.
Beat on high speed 2 minutes. 
Stir in shredded apples. 
Pour into prepared pan. 

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
A toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean.
Place the pan on a wire rack.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Loosen the cake from the side of the pan and invert onto a wire rack. 
Gently remove the pan. 
Cool cake completely. 
Transfer it to a serving platter.

For the Caramel Sauce

Place in a microwaveable bowl 
20 caramels
1/4 Cup heavy cream 
Stirring every 30 seconds, microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes or more, until the caramels are completely melted. 
Stir sauce until blended. 
Cool 45 to 60 minutes or until thickened. 
Drizzle over the cake. 

Serve topped with whipped cream and / or vanilla ice cream.

About the sky this week…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

November 23 — The waxing Moon is at its closest to Earth. Orion The Mighty Hunter also comes out around 9 p.m. tonight. Look for him in the eastern sky for the remainder of November and early December.

November 25 — The full Beaver Moon, 5:44 p.m. The entire disc of the Moon appears full for three days. Watch this video to see how this full Moon got this name

November 26 — Happy Thanksgiving! After dinner go outside and see if you can spot The Summer Triangle (also called Autumn Triangle) high in the western evening sky.

November 28 — When you’re looking at lovely Venus in predawn hours, see if you can spot Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, to her lower right, about 5º. Visible for the next 4 days.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Spiced Banana Cake and the North Taurids Meteor Shower

Sometimes recipes can be like the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the three bears.
One recipe is too big, or one recipe is too small for one’s own needs.
Luckily, as in the tale, one can always find a recipe that is just right for the situation.

Last month I posted the recipe for Anna Sultana’s Banana Pound Cake With Caramel Glaze.
For a few of you that recipe made a cake that was too big.

An easy recipe that you can make for an everyday dessert.

I got a few messages asking if bananas can be used in a cake with icing.
Of course they can, and I’m posting a recipe for that today.


Over ripe bananas are also great for Anna Sultana’s Banana Bread.

Have a half a banana left over?

If you have bananas that haven’t reached that stage you can use them when you make Sweetened Condensed Milk Cheesecake with fruit.
This post also has the recipe for Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk.

                        Spiced Banana Cake

Grease and flour 2 9 inch round pans

For the Cake

Combine together in a medium bowl
1 1/4 Cups flour 
3/4 Cup rolled oats 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Set aside.

Peel and place in a measuring cup (a 2 Cup size gives you room to work)
2 very ripe bananas
Mash well.
You want to have 1 Cup of mashed bananas

Preheat oven to 350º F

Place in a large mixer bowl
1/2 Cup butter, softened 
Cream until fluffy.
1 Cup light brown sugar, packed  
1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Beat until light and fluffy. 

Beat in
2 eggs 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture; mix well. 
1/3 cup sour cream 
Mix well. 
Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients; mix well. 
Add half of the bananas; mix well. 
Repeat with remaining 1/3 of the dry ingredients and remaining bananas. 
Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
A toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean.
Place the pans on a wire rack.
Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then turn onto wire rack to cool. 

When completely cool, place one layer on a serving plate.
Frost with half of Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting.
Top with second layer and repeat.

For the Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

Place in a medium bowl
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1⁄3 Cup butter, softened
3⁄4 teaspoon allspice
Beat until blended.
Gradually add 
4 cups confectioners' sugar
Mix until well combined.
Stir in 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
Gradually add 
2 tablespoons milk
Beat until frosting is of spreading consistency.

About the sky this week…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

November 7 — Before dawn, look to the southeast to see the tiny, waning crescent Moon paired up with Venus, with Mars nearby, and Jupiter above them.  The Moon is also it’s farthest from Earth.

November 9 – Start your Monday off early – see the tiny, waning crescent Moon paired up with the blue-white star, Spica, way low in the horizon before dawn. Venus, Mars and Jupiter will be high above them.

November 11 — New Moon, 12:47 p.m. The Moon is not illuminated and is completely invisible to the naked eye. After that, it will now start growing!

November 12-14— North Taurids Meteor Shower, best viewing direction south 12 – 2 a.m. EST. The Taurids are actually two annual meteor showers created by the comet Encke. They are named for constellation Taurus, where they are seen to come from in the sky.