Monday, July 28, 2014

Dolly's Crisp Toffee Bars

I started teaching myself to cook in junior high when I was home alone during the summers.  I began by baking cookies and baking is still what I love to do the most.  Alas, my jeans tell me that I'm only allowed to have limited quantities of these indulgences, so I usually only bake once a week.

This week I decided to try Dolly's Crisp Toffee Bars from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts (1980).  Normally I wouldn't consider a recipe from 1980 to be 'vintage', but it involves chocolate, so I'm good with it.

I was intrigued because the recipe calls for no leavening, eggs or milk, but otherwise was similar to a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The bars were very easy to make and taste like really decadent chocolate chip cookies.  Mine are a little more 'hard' than 'crispy', but they do have a nice flavor and they seem to store well in the cookie jar.  I might even say that they taste better after aging for a couple days.  Sometimes that comes in handy.

If I make them again, I will chop the walnuts a little smaller.  I wasn't sure what medium-size meant, but I definitely over shot it (they are also a little on the sharp side - ouch!).  I would also cut the bars smaller, because they are very rich.   I think 2" long narrow strips would be about the right size.

chambers stove range

So not in focus!

Dolly's Crisp Toffee Bars  (Printable Recipe)
from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
Makes 32 bars

1/2 pound (2 sticks) (softened) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 ounces (generous 1 cup) walnuts, cut into medium-size pieces
6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate morsels

Adjust oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer (I used a stand mixer).  Add the salt, vanilla and sugar and beat well.  On low speed, gradually add the flour, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating until the mixture holds together.

Add the nuts and chocolate morsels and stir until they are evenly distributed.

The dough will be stiff.  Drop small mounds of the dough in an unbuttered 10.5x15.5x1-inch jellyroll pan.  With floured fingertips, press the dough firmly to make and even layer.

Bake for 25 minutes, reversing the pan front to back halfway through.  The bars will be golden brown.

Let the bars stand for a minute, then cut into bars with a small, sharp knife.  Let them stand in the pan until cool.

Transfer the bars to paper towels to dry the bottoms.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Maraschino Cherry Cake

Hmmm, over a year has gone by without a post...  But here I am trying again!  I think I can, I think I can.

I love any excuse to consume maraschino cherries, so this recipe for Maraschino Cherry Cake caught my eye in my 1952 copy of the Ohio State Grange Cook Book:

I thought it would be good with a chocolate glaze instead of the 7 minute icing recommended in the recipe. I looked through a few more cookbooks and found a promising contender, Cocoa Icing, in my battered copy of the Pine Springs Community Center Cook Book (Tyler, Texas).

I decided to give the cake recipe a good read the night before making it and I'm glad I did, since Mrs. S. E. Beers provided absolutely no instructions for how to bake the cake and my cookbook is missing a bit of the text where something sticky had been pulled off the page.  Apparently I saw "maraschino" and "cake" and that was enough for me.  A quick search (I love you, Internet!) led me to A Book of Cookrye where I found the identical recipe and much-needed instructions from a Dormeyer Mixer booklet.  (As an aside, I would love to have a vintage Dormey hand mixer.  It's called a Dormey, for cryin' out loud.  How cute is that?)

The cake is mixed up a little differently than I am used to.  All the dry ingredients are sifted together*, then the shortening (I used butter.  Butter makes everything better!), liquids and cherries are added at once, followed by adding the egg whites at the end.  It mixed up really fast and the cake turned out tender and moist, so I guess there's more than one way to assemble cake batter.

*I am generally too lazy to sift, so I just give it all a good stir with a whisk.

I got so caught up in mixing the cake that I forgot to take any pictures, but here is the batter before it went in the oven.

Speaking of the oven, have I introduced my good friend, Betty?  She is the 1950s Chambers gas range (Cooks with the Gas Turned OFF!) that Farm Boy restored for me. Best. Stove. Ever.

Chambers stove range

I managed to spill a little batter on the floor, but fortunately my assistant baker, Daisy May, was there for clean up duty.  She rated it two dewclaws up. 

Here is the finished cake.  The cocoa icing didn't go as far as I had hoped.  I wanted it to ooze down the sides a bit, but there wasn't quite enough and it was starting to set up by the time I got to the top.  It still tasted nice, though.

The inside is so pink! 

All in all, I really liked the cake.  I would make it again, but with a few changes.  I think a white icing (as suggested by the recipe author) that covers the whole cake  would make the pink interior stand out more and hide the browned edges.  Chocolate and cherries do go together very well, so I might do a thin layer of chocolate in the center. I might also use making it again as an excuse to buy some cherry extract for even more cherry (cherrier?) flavor.  It's tough work, but someone has to do these experiments!

Maraschino Cherry Cake (Printable Recipe)
from the Ohio State Grange Cook Book, 1952 with directions and corrections

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (I used all-purpose)
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup room temperature shortening (I used butter, of course.)
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
16 maraschino cherries, cut into eighths (I just chopped them with scissors)
1/2 cup milk
4 large egg whites (1/2 to 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I omitted these)

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour 2 round 8" cake pans.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixer bowl.  Add butter, cherry juice, milk and cherries.  Mix on low to medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently.  Add egg whites and beat for 2 more minutes, scraping the bowl frequently.  Fold in nuts, if using.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes.  When cake is cool, frost and decorate with cherries.

Cocoa Icing (Printable Recipe)

from the Pine Springs Community Center Cook Book (Tyler, Texas), 1975

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup canned milk (I used regular milk)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients except vanilla and bring to a boil.  Boil one minute.  Remove from heat, add vanilla and beat to a spreading consistency.  Spread between and on top of cake.

Note: I don't think it will cover and entire layer cake, but it might cover a 9x13" sheet cake.