The Luxury of Chocolate

Chocolate ranks high among all the comfort foods in which one can indulge. It’s even better when it’s incorporated into a homemade recipe lovingly prepared by Grandma’s hands. And while chocolate in all its many forms is delicious, I do believe there isn’t anything that can’t be made better by eating homemade chocolate pudding.

Grandma Josephine Tedesco believes in love as the main ingredient in everything she makes for her grandkids. And even though Grandma’s mind isn’t always in the present, when it comes to cooking or baking, she’s as sharp as Gordon Ramsay’s knives. The following recipe for chocolate pudding is the one I had in mind when writing about pudding in my novel, The Tedescos. It’s absolutely decadent and just the sort of dessert Grandma Josephine would proudly serve. It’s simple, elegant, and a little bit of chocolate heaven.

Grandma Josephine’s Chocolate Pudding

2 ¼ c whole milk

½ cup sugar (I used raw sugar for a deep, rich flavor)

Pinch of sea salt

1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 T cornstarch

2 large egg yolks

1 large egg

5 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped or in chips

2 T unsalted butter

2 t vanilla

STEP ONE: Whisk the cornstarch, cocoa, and ¼ c of the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add ¼ c of milk, and whisk until it’s smooth. Set aside.

STEP TWO: In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk the whole egg with the two egg yolks. Set aside.

STEP THREE: Combine the remaining 2 cups of milk, ¼ c of sugar, and the sea salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture in the saucepan comes to a boil, reduce the heat and stir in the mixture from Step One. Once the two are thoroughly combined, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Do this for about two minutes or until the pudding is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

STEP FOUR: Reduce the heat to low under the pudding and gradually whisk about ½ c of the hot pudding into the egg mixture from Step Two until thoroughly combined. Pour the egg/pudding combination back into the saucepan taking care to scrape out the bowl. Cook the pudding over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a soft boil is achieved, about two minutes.

STEP FIVE:  Remove the pudding from the heat and add the semi-sweet chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Stir until the butter and chocolate are melted and the pudding is smooth. Pour the pudding into six dessert dishes or ramekins that hold about 6 ounces each. A piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the pudding will keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate the pudding until chilled.

Serve with whipped cream and/or chopped peanuts if desired.

Enjoy!

La Cucina Povera

In the chapter of my novel, The Tedescos, titled “Soul Food,” the family attends church on Mother’s Day with their good friends, The Robertses. After the service, the Tedesco Clan is invited to attend a meal in the church fellowship hall. The men and boys prepared the meal they will serve to the mothers to honor them. Much of the food the Tedescos encounter is familiar, but one dish in particular initiates a conversation between Joe Jr. and Tabitha and Tonya Roberts and results in the explanation of ‘la cucina povera.’

The Italian phrase literally means the poor kitchen, and it is a style of cooking familiar among the lower classes (think peasants) of a particular society. Often, peasants had to cook with whatever they had on hand whether it came from the kitchen or the farm. The ‘poor kitchen’ can be found in every society. The great thing about this concept is that some really delicious recipes emerged from the simple, high-quality ingredients that were available.

Attempting to cook in the style of ‘la cucina povera’ may earn you a laugh especially from an older person who lived through the war in Italy. They may refuse to acknowledge ‘the poor kitchen’ style and argue that it was simply the preparation of the food they had on hand. Americans, with all their varied food choices and easy access to said food, have a tendency to romanticize a style of cooking that was a part of basic survival. Still, I can think of several recipes in which my family indulges that found their way into my writing because of my love to feed people whether real or imagined. Many cookbooks featuring this style of food have been published, and I highly recommend you try one or two meals from them if you’ve never encountered peasant cooking.

Beans and cornbread, cabbage and noodles, and soup made from some combination of vegetables are the types of peasant food I grew up with. I never knew that what we ate was considered to be from ‘the poor kitchen’ because the adults who prepared it for me cooked with love and made everything taste wonderful. Delicious, simple food is usually the tastiest, and in the end, that’s really what it’s all about. What does your family enjoy from ‘la cucina povera?’

Evolution of the Hamburg Steak

The all-American classic hamburger has is origins in a dish called the Hamburg Steak. It arrived on our sunny shores in the hands of German immigrants in the nineteenth century. These facts are of no importance whatsoever to Joe Tedesco as he takes in the mounds of perfectly grilled hamburgers Charlie Rollins and Graham Silver serve during their all-guy, neighborhood party. Joe just wants to get his hands on a couple burgers before you can say, “Pass the ketchup.”

To make sure Joe’s dining experience is memorable, Charlie and Graham season the ground chuck before grilling. I let the fellas borrow my own special blend of spices for the above-mentioned scene. It’s what I call my ‘burger masala.’ Read here (What I Like About Being an American) to discover how the seasoning recipe came to be, and then you’ll understand why an exact recipe doesn’t exist.

To feed my family and parents, I used the quantities below, but again, it’s alterable based on how many you need to serve. The variety of cheese and whether or not you use seeded buns is also up to you.

Classic Grilled Hamburgers

2 lbs. 80/20 ground chuck

6 bakery fresh hamburger buns

Butter

6 slices of cheese

Worcestershire sauce

Sea salt

Black pepper (I used ground quad-colored peppercorns)

Garlic powder

Hot Hungarian paprika

Raw sugar

Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce or any desired topping

I started with two one-pound portions of ground chuck. I like the 80/20 blend that gives flavor and juiciness. I find that ground chuck has a ‘grain pattern’ to it much like a whole steak. Cutting across this pattern ensures that the ground chuck stays together when pattying.

Cut the 2 lbs. ground chuck across the ‘grain pattern’ into six equal portions. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and gently press down from the center with the flat of your hand. While pressing the ground chuck into a thinner dimension, shape it into a round patty with the fingers of your other hand. I prefer 4 ½ inch hamburger patties. Remember, starting with a patty larger than your bun will guarantee you end up with a hamburger that covers the bun after cooking.

Place the hamburger patties on a platter and liberally douse with Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle them with a hearty pinch of raw sugar. Season the hamburgers to your taste preference with the garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Give the hamburgers enough time to reach room temperature before grilling.

Heat a grill to high heat and cook the hamburgers to preferred doneness, flipping once to keep them from burning. Don’t press the hamburgers with a spatula while cooking. You want the juices to stay in your meat. Add slices of cheese to the hamburgers and allow it to melt. Remove the hamburgers to a platter, place them in an oven on warm, and allow them to rest.

Slice your hamburger buns if necessary. Spread each side with butter and toast them in a skillet or on a griddle until golden brown. Place the cheesy hamburgers on the toasted buns, add your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

Devilishly Delicious

No wimpy hors d’oeuvres are the order of the day where Joe Tedesco is concerned. He’s an Italian/American version of a meat-and-potatoes man if you traded pasta and sauce for meat and potatoes. When Joe receives an invitation to the new neighbors’ all-guy bash, he assumes he’ll be served something subpar. To make sure this doesn’t happen, and to guarantee he has something he likes to eat, Joe brings a tray of Shirley’s famous deviled eggs.

The following recipe for deviled eggs is the one I had in mind when writing the above-mentioned scene. While there are a lot of great recipes out there for deviled eggs, and some of them are quite flamboyant with unexpected ingredients, I find this recipe satisfies on both the taste scale and elegance factor.

Shirley Tedesco’s Famous Deviled Eggs

12 large eggs

¼ c mayonnaise

1 T unsalted butter, left at room temperature to soften

2 t yellow mustard

2 t Dijon mustard

3 T finely diced bread and butter pickle chips ***(see below)

2 T juice from bread and butter pickle chips

¼ t sea salt

¼ t black pepper (I used table grind)

3 – 4 hearty dashes of Tabasco sauce

2 T fresh dill, destemmed and chopped

Paprika for sprinkling

Fresh dill for garnish

Most recipes for deviled eggs will tell you not to use fresh eggs (only a day or two since laying) because despite an ice water bath, the shells will stick to the cooked eggs. You’ll end up with ragged deviled eggs. While this is true, please don’t use store-bought eggs if you can help it. They are low in nutrition and have been sitting around for far too long even for ease of use in deviled eggs. I suggest eggs from a local farmer that you allow to sit in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Trust me, this won’t hurt them.

Place the eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to be at least one inch over the eggs. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to a soft rolling simmer. You don’t want the eggs banging around in the pot. Time the eggs for ten minutes. When they are done, drain the water from the pot and refill it with cold water until you are able to handle the eggs.

Peel the eggs and gently blot excess moisture and bits of shell with a paper towel. Set them on a plate until all are peeled. Chilling the eggs will firm them up even more and make them easier to handle, but you can proceed with deviling if necessary. Slice the eggs in half and carefully remove each half of yolk from the white. Set the whites on an egg tray or the dish on which you wish to serve them.

Place the yolks, mayo, butter, two mustards, diced pickles, pickle juice, salt, pepper, Tabasco, and dill in a glass mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork, stirring them into the other ingredients until smooth, and then continue with a whisk. The mixture will have a chunky texture from the diced pickles. If you desire a smoother filling, you may transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until completely smooth.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape the egg yolk filling into a pastry bag with a star or round tip big enough to allow the bits of pickle to pass. (You can also substitute a plastic storage bag with the corner cut or create a piping bag out of parchment paper.)

Sprinkle the whites of the egg with paprika. Pipe the egg filling in a spiral into the empty whites. Garnish each egg with a piece of fresh dill tucked into the egg where the filling meets the white. Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

***When choosing sweetened pickled vegetables, there are many choices on the market. Unfortunately, most have high fructose corn syrup in them. Try a farmer’s market that sells products with recipes closer to home-canned goods. I’ve had great success in such stores.

Nice to Meat You

Joe Tedesco likes his neighbors… as long as they keep the grass mowed and don’t throw loud parties. These standards, to which Joe himself conforms, are most definitely kept by the new neighbors, and yet they still cannot win over Joe to liking them. In a last ditch effort to secure the head of the Tedesco Clan’s friendship, they invite Joe and all the men from the neighborhood over for a party.

The new neighbors are clever and know the way to Joe’s heart is through is stomach. The menu they plan is spectacular and includes the following recipe for classic Reuben sandwiches. These babies are mammoth and worth every savory, saucy bite, so don’t skimp on the corned beef.

Classic Reuben Sandwich

2 lbs. quality corned beef, thick sliced

1 pound Swiss cheese

12 slices Jewish Rye

16 oz. jar of sauerkraut

1 McIntosh apple, peeled and diced

1 – 2 T brown sugar

¾ c apple juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

Unsalted butter, softened

 

Russian Dressing

½ c mayonnaise

2 T ketchup

3 T finely diced bread and butter pickle chips ***(see below)

2 t finely diced red onion

1 clove finely minced garlic

¼ t sea salt

3 – 4 hearty dashes Tabasco sauce

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator. The dressing lasts for three days stored in this fashion. I recommend making the dressing at least one day in advance to give the flavors time to meld.

 

To prepare the sauerkraut:

Empty the jar of sauerkraut into a colander and press out any remaining juice. Place the drained sauerkraut in a saucepan with the apple, brown sugar, apple juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the apple is tender. Turn off the heat, cover, and leave on the stove until needed for sandwich assembly.

 

Preheat the oven to 350° F. I opt for thick slices of corned beef because I find it keeps the sandwiches from sliding around on the bread.

Create a foil packet and place the corned beef inside. Place the packet on a cookie sheet with edges. Add 3 T of water to the packet and seal the meat inside. Put the baking sheet with the foil packet on it in the oven and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

While the meat bakes, spread one side of each slice of bread with softened butter and toast the buttered side in a cast iron skillet. Transfer the toasted pieces to a baking sheet with the buttered side down. Spread the Russian dressing on the untoasted sides facing up. On six of the bread slices, layer pieces of corned beef, making sure to drain any moisture, until the meat is evenly divided. You may need to fold your corned beef slices in half to make them fit. Place a hefty portion of well-drained sauerkraut on top of the corned beef. Top off with a slice of Swiss cheese. On the remaining six slices of bread, place another piece of Swiss cheese.

Pop the sandwiches into the oven and toast for three minutes or until the Swiss cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and match up the corned beef, Swiss, and sauerkraut side with its Swiss cheese only mate. Give a gentle press to hold it all together. You may wish to cut it in half. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

***When choosing sweetened pickled vegetables, there are many choices on the market. Unfortunately, most have high fructose corn syrup in them. Try a farmer’s market that sells products with recipes closer to home-canned goods. I’ve had great success in such stores.

May I Take Your Order, Please?

I’m not a big fan of blog posts that are nothing but links, but a few people have requested this of me, and I dare not disappoint my loyal followers.  What they wanted to know was which recipes I featured from my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, went together to create the meals.  I didn’t write the posts in order, and since my novel has yet to be published, I thought I’d do them this favor.

From Chapter One, I featured fried eggs and potatoes, ham and redeye gravy, buttermilk biscuits with butter and jelly, creamed peas, fried apples, and canned peaches for the breakfast celebrating my protagonist’s birth.

In Chapter Six, the first time Johnny Welles meets his Aunt Prudence, I had his stepmother, Collie, serve fried chicken, black eyed peas, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

The menu for the meal I created for Chapter Seven, when Johnny leaves the farm with his Aunt Prudence, includes cold fried chicken (See recipe above), fresh peaches, apple pie, and lemonade.

The pork chops I served in Chapter Nine went with the buttermilk biscuits, fried eggs, and fried apples from Chapter One.  If the food item appeared twice in my novel, I only featured the recipe once.

The brisket from Chapter Twelve, when John and Claude celebrated Hanukkah with their friend, Sam Feldman, was enjoyed with latkes.

John and his girlfriend, Garland, were served roast chicken, buttermilk biscuits (See recipe above), and peach pie by Garland’s father, Hugh Griffin, in Chapter Fifteen.  Those buttermilk biscuits were obviously a favorite of mine!

But then I must have liked the latkes, too, because they reappeared in Chapter Twenty Eight when John dined with the Hannah and Reuben Wise and I featured salmon patties topped with carrot slices and horseradish, latkes (See recipe above) with applesauce and sour cream, and homemade grape juice.

The last little meal I have to mention is the brown beans and cornbread served in Chapter Twenty Nine.  I assumed most people would figure out they go together, but they’re just too delicious not to mention.

I hope this satisfies the request to group my recipes as they were featured in my novel.  I still laugh to myself when I think how I feed my characters as if entertaining good friends.  It’s probably because I grew up with parents who can cook and enjoy doing so, and a grandmother whose simple food prepared with love forms some of my best memories.

There are only a handful of chapters that do not include a single mention of food.  As for the ones that do, and aren’t included here, I hope you’ll enjoy a trip through the Edible Fiction portion of my blog discovering the recipes.

Have a Holly, Jelly Christmas

Christmas morning of 1917 was a time of excitement for Johnny Welles and his three older siblings.  In addition to celebrating the special day, a secret was brewing behind the scenes that would add to the festive holiday season and bring joy to the entire family.  In a passage leading up to the discovery of this secret, I wrote a portion for my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, that included the special treat of apple jelly on pound cake served for Christmas breakfast.  The following recipe is the one I had in mind when writing the above-mentioned scene.

Collie’s Apple Jelly

3 lbs. tart apples (¼ underripe and ¾ ripe)

3 c water

2 T lemon juice, strained

3 c white sugar

This recipe doesn’t require an outside source of pectin because it uses tart apples which are higher in pectin.  Also, the slightly underripe apples further ensure a natural source of pectin.

Sort and wash the apples.  Remove the stems and blossom ends.  Do not pare or core the apples.  Cut them into small pieces.  Add the water, cover, and bring to a boil on high heat.  Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.  Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the apple pieces are soft.  Do not over boil or you’ll destroy the pectin, flavor, and color in the fruit.

Dampen a jelly bag and suspend over a clean bowl.  Ladle the cooked apples and liquid into the jelly bag and allow the juices to drip through on their own.  Pressing out the juice will result in cloudy jelly.  If a fruit press is used, pass the juice through a jelly bag to reduce cloudiness.

Pour the apple juice into a flat-bottomed pot.  Add the lemon juice and sugar.  Stir thoroughly.  Boil the mixture over high heat to eight degrees above the boiling point of water (this temperature depends on where you live in regards to sea level) or until the jelly sheets from a spoon.  Remove the jelly from the heat and quickly skim off the foam.

Immediately pour the jelly into hot, sterile jars.  Be sure to leave ¼ inch headspace.  Wipe the rims with a clean, damp paper towel.  Fit a canning lid into a ring and place on the jars of jelly.  Take care to level and tighten them properly.  Process the jars in a water bath canner.  The time required will depend on the altitude at which you live:

0 – 1000 ft. for five minutes

1001 – 6000 ft. for 10 minutes

Above 6000 ft. for 15 minutes

Remove the processed jars using canning tongs.  Allow the jars to cool on several layers of towels.  During this time, you’ll hear the lids pop indicating successful canning.  You can remove the rings for reuse once the lids pop and the jars cool.  Any lid that does not pop has not sealed properly.  These jars should be cooled and refrigerated for immediate use.  This recipe yields about four to five half-pint jars of golden sweet deliciousness.

Now it’s time for the confession portion of this post.  Thinking like a modern woman, I had Collie making the apple jelly a few days before she served it for Christmas.  In my world, one would simply go to the store for apples or pull them from the refrigerator where they waited patiently to be eaten or made into something delicious.  Refrigerators for home use weren’t invented until 1913, and I seriously doubt the Welles family would have had one by 1917.  They could have had a cellar, but I never mentioned this in the description of the house, and to do so for the sake of one scene would feel contrived.

Apples will last for six to eight weeks with refrigeration, but left on a counter, they will ripen ten times faster because enzymes are much more active at room temperature, and they will only last for a week or two.  More likely, Collie would have made the jelly during the months when apples were in season.  So while I made a small culinary mistake in my novel, fortunately I discovered it prior to publication.  As I’ve always said, the research begins with the author.  It will be easy to edit this scene by having Collie say she held back one jar to use on Christmas morning.

Doughnuts and Dilemmas

The summer of 1949 was a time of trial and error for Dr. John Welles as he moved forward in his relationship with diner owner, Bea Turner.  Unbeknownst to the doctor, a secret from Bea’s past was about to spill over into his life and drastically change the course of their association.  Already Bea had begun dealing with the misfortune headed their way, but for Dr. Welles, the decisions he made regarding the woman he loves would resurface years later in a most unwelcome way.

On the day after Bea’s bad luck returned, she tried to hurry her patrons along so she could take action to protect herself.  She offered them homemade doughnuts to take along to their jobs at the railyards, but her plan backfired, and the men stayed around drinking their coffee and eating Bea’s delicious baked goods.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene.  I love a simple cake doughnut unadorned by glazes, frosting, sprinkles, or any topping, but these can be enjoyed however you choose.

Bea Turner’s Homemade Doughnuts

1 c sugar (I used raw)

2 t baking powder

1 ½ t salt

½ t nutmeg

½ t cinnamon

¼ c unsalted butter, melted

1 t vanilla

1 c buttermilk

4 c flour

Peanut oil for frying

I used a stand mixer for this recipe because the dough is quite heavy and sticky.

Combine the sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the bowl of the mixer.  Add the melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined.  Add one cup of flour at a time, mixing well between each addition.  The dough should be soft and sticky but firm enough to handle.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.  Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and heat about one inch of peanut oil to 360° in a large skillet.  (I used my electric skillet to maintain a constant heat, but you can do this in cast iron with a candy thermometer.)

Work with half the dough and roll it out on a floured surface to about half-inch thickness.  Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter.  (You may also use a biscuit cutter, but you’ll need to improvise for cutting the hole.  A cap from a two-liter pop bottle will do in a pinch.)

Gently place the doughnuts in batches in the hot oil using a slotted spoon or bamboo-handled skimmer, sometimes called a Chinese strainer.  Fry for two to three minutes total turning them over a couple of times as they begin to puff.  When the doughnuts are golden brown, remove them from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel or paper bag covered cooling rack.

Warm doughnuts can be tossed in cinnamon sugar, glazed, iced with melted chocolate, and topped with sprinkles.

Enjoy!

It’s What Liv Ordered

In May of 1951, diner owner, Bea Turner, was asked to make a birthday cake for Toby Bruce Robishaw who was turning one.  Toby’s mother, Liv, was an extravagant woman who loved to make a show of everything she did.  Her son’s first birthday party was no exception.

The people Liv invited to Toby’s party were simple folk living in the hills of West Virginia.  They had simple tastes and probably expected a simple dessert such as Crazy Cake.  However, Liv used the occasion of her son’s birthday to show off yet again.  The cake she came up with is lovely, but it was completely lost on the birthday guests.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind for the above-mentioned scene taking place in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles.  By tweaking portions of other recipes, I created a cake suitable for the splashy tastes of Liv Barrette Robishaw.

Now don’t get me wrong; the cake is delicious.  It’s not what one would serve at a child’s party.  Here’s a passage from my novel describing exactly what Liv requested of Bea:

Three, double-layer cakes were divided by pillars with plastic circus animals placed in the space between.  Red and blue icing crisscrossed the edges of the cake in every direction.  A handful of colorful flags exploded out of the top layer.  Every inch of the cake not already taken up with decoration had a piece of candy pressed into the icing like a gingerbread house.

Liv’s outlandish request is what prompted Bea to say, “It’s what Liv ordered.”  Bea’s statement was offered as an explanation and apology to the townsfolk who understood completely.

The quantities listed below will make one layer of the cake I described above.

Hazelnut Cake

12 oz. hazelnuts

2 t baking powder

6 egg yolks

5/8 c white sugar

6 egg whites

Toast the hazelnuts in a 350° oven for 10–15 minutes or until lightly golden in color.  Cool completely.  Remove the skins from the toasted nuts by placing in a tea towel and briskly rubbing them together or place them in a colander and swirl them around to remove the skins.  Grind the hazelnuts until very fine.  Add baking powder and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325°.  Thoroughly grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand-held electric mixer to combine the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow in color.  Beat in the ground hazelnuts.  This mixture will be extremely heavy and sticky.

Wash your beaters to remove any traces of fats.  In a separate bowl, beat room temperature egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Carefully whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten the batter.  Fold in another 1/3 of the egg whites taking care not to delate them.  Fold in the remaining 1/3 of the egg whites until no streaks of batter remain.

Gently pour into the prepared 9-inch springform pan.  Bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly tapped.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Cinnamon Crème Filling

1 c heavy cream, chilled

1 c powdered sugar

1 ½ t ground cinnamon

1 t vanilla

Chill a metal bowl and the beaters of a hand-held mixer in the freezer for ten minutes.  Pour the heavy cream into the chilled metal bowl and beat on high speed with a hand mixer until the cream is frothy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Place the bowl of cinnamon crème filling in the refrigerator until needed or use immediately.

Whipped Buttercream Frosting

3 c powdered sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 T heavy cream

2 t vanilla

Beat the butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and one cup of powdered sugar with a hand mixer until they are completely combined.  Add the remaining two cups of powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Blend well after each addition.  The lighter weight of this buttercream frosting is perfect for the delicate hazelnut cake.

You can use this frosting immediately or chill for later use.

Assembling the Cake

Once the cake has cooled completely, cut it in half horizontally.  Place the bottom half (cut side up) on a cake stand  and spread the Cinnamon Crème Filling generously over the top with a spatula or knife to within ¼ inch of the cake edge.  Place the top layer of cake (cut side down) over the filling, taking care to position it correctly.

Using a knife or spatula, ice the top of the cake with the Whipped Buttercream Frosting.  Do not drag the frosting too hard across the cake.  Level the top with icing and proceed to ice the sides until they are completely covered.  Wipe any icing smears from the edge of the cake stand with a clean, damp cloth.  Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

SIDE NOTE:  If you’ve never folded egg whites into batter, I strongly suggest you watch the video I’ve provided.  It’s a delicate process, but don’t be daunted by it.  Regardless of how you whip your egg whites, it’s the folding process the chef demonstrates that is of the utmost importance.

The Art of Folding

Plum Lucky

By spring of 1920, twelve year-old Johnny Welles had made up his mind to leave the only home he’d ever known.  As hard as it was to say goodbye to his beloved stepmother, Collie, Johnny was determined to escape the tragedies that marred his childhood.

His three older siblings, Stanley, James, and Eunice, supported Johnny in his decision even though it broke their hearts to see him go.  His Aunt Prudence, who would take over Johnny’s care, was thrilled by his choice to reside with her in Baltimore and even more so with his pronouncement that he wanted to become a doctor.

In the months after his youthful declaration, Johnny spent all of his free time with Doctor and Mrs. Hager.  The Hagers, German immigrants with no children of their own, welcomed Johnny when they discovered his passion for all things medical.  The Hagers, aware of and sensitive to Johnny’s heartbreaks, couldn’t resist the opportunity to share their medical knowledge with the young boy.

Whenever possible, Doc and Mrs. Hager included Johnny in consultations and examinations.  Between patients, the three would pore over medical journals and Mrs. Hager’s pflaumenkuchen (plum cake).  The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the scene above.  This rich, delicious cake is quick and easy to make.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can substitute any stone fruit for the plums.  Consider peaches, nectarines, or cherries as an alternative.

Little Italian plums are my favorite when making pflaumenkuchen with black plums as a close second.  Italian plums aren’t available in my area until July, so I’ve presented this cake with black plums which are also quite appealing.  If using Italian plums, cut them in half and pit them.  The same goes for cherries.  For large stone fruits, cut them in half, pit them, and cut into slices.

The Gibson household enjoys this cake still slightly warm and served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Pflaumenkuchen

1 c sugar (I used raw)

½ unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

1 c flour

1 t baking powder

Plums, pitted and halved

2 T sugar (I used raw)

1 t cinnamon

Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Grease an 8 X 8 glass baking dish.

Cream the sugar and butter.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat well.  Add the flour and baking powder, and mix thoroughly.  The batter with be thick like soft cookie dough.

Spread the batter into the baking dish and level it with a knife or spatula.  Place the halved plums (if using Italian) cut side down in even rows across the surface.  The same applies to cherries.  All other stone fruits should be placed in single-layer rows across the surface.

Combine the two tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle the mixture across the top of the cake and plums.  Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

When cooled, sift powdered sugar over the cake if desired.

Enjoy!

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