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!

Dark, Rich Secrets

Twice in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, I featured chocolate pie. The first time was in December of 1925 when John and his Aunt Prudence discussed the painful details surrounding his father’s death. Prudence kept trying to turn the conversation away from the truth of the situation even going so far as to use the pie as a diversion. The delicious dessert popped up again in a scene between John and his best friend’s wife, Babby, in June of 1964, as they worked through the awkwardness of not seeing each other for sixteen years.

As many of my followers already know, my food choices actually play a peripheral roll in my writing. In this case, chocolate pie is dark, not unlike the secrets about to be revealed in the above-mentioned scenes. In both cases, John’s past was dredged up for him to face yet again, and someone would try to smooth over the situation. Keep in mind that chocolate pie is exceptionally smooth. It is also rich and sweet which matched the outcome for John in his conversation with his Aunt Prudence as a young man and again with Babby as an adult.

The recipe I had in mind for the chocolate pie is simple yet elegant. It is a favorite at church bakeoffs and picnics as well as a top off to any family dinner. I hope you will enjoy it as much as my characters did.

Lucia’s Chocolate Pie

Single Crust:

1 c flour

¼ t salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced into ¼-inch pieces

½ c cold water with an ice cube

To make a bottom crust, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Work with your hands until the flour and butter combine to make pea-sized pieces. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and work through until you can form a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill for twenty minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 425°. Roll the dough on a floured surface to fit a nine-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges and prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or baking beans. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, remove the baking weights and continue cooking for 10 minute in 5 minute increments or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Pie Filling:

½ c cocoa

¼ c cornstarch

3 egg yolks, beaten

1½ c sugar (I used raw)

¼ t salt

2 c half and half

1 t vanilla

3 T unsalted butter

Sift the cocoa, cornstarch, and salt directly into a saucepan. Add the sugar** and half and half, and stir carefully to mix. Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and spoon a small amount of the mixture into the egg yolks to warm them. Pour the warmed yolks in a thin stream into the saucepan taking care to stir them in thoroughly.

Return the pan to the heat and boil for two more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the baked pie shell and allow it to cool for a few minutes before topping with a piece of waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming. Bring the pie to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to cool completely. Whipped cream is the perfect topping for a chilled pie.

**If using granulated white sugar, sift it as well. The large crystals of raw sugar will not pass through a sifter. Simply break up any lumps before adding to the mixture.

~OR~

You can top it with meringue using the following recipe. Make the meringue while the pie is cooling on the countertop. Once topped with meringue set in the oven, you can continue cooling in the refrigerator.

Meringue:

4 egg whites

6 T sugar (I used granulated white as the raw is too coarse for this step)

Pinch of cream of tartar

Whip the egg whites on a high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pie and seal at the edges of the crust. Set the meringue in a 425° oven for eight minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool the pie on a wire rack until you can handle the edges of the pie plate and serve warm, or chill the pie in the refrigerator for a couple hours and serve cold.

Tips for success:

Chill the beaters and bowl in which you will beat the egg whites for meringue

That pinch of cream of tartar is what will keep your egg whites from breaking down and becoming watery.

Enjoy!

Getting Out of a Jam With Marmalade

sweet-solution-4The character of Lucia in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, started out as one of peripheral importance. I created her simply to serve in the role of head cook to John’s Aunt Prudence, but she evolved into someone much more important. Just short of handling finances, it was understood that Lucia ran the household. She also ran Prudence with a style somewhere between a tough love guidance counselor and a wise, older mentor. Lucia also came to John’s rescue in the years following his brief service during World War II. John was unable to deal with the horrors he witnessed and most specifically for the one he caused that he kept secret from those he loved.

One day over a breakfast of popovers and orange marmalade, Lucia suggested that John go on a journey taking him away from his family so he could deal with the ghosts haunting him. John’s Aunt Prudence was heartbroken at the suggestion, but Lucia knew John needed time away to heal his mind and body. Besides, she would still be in Baltimore tending Prudence more as a close friend than as an employee. Prudence would only admit if pressed to say, but her relationship with her feisty cook was exactly how she liked it.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene. There are some nice orange marmalades on the market in upscale food shops, but nothing quite compares to the flavor of homemade orange marmalade. Not only will your house smell wonderful while it’s cooking, the taste of homemade orange marmalade on toast, vanilla ice cream, or whole grain pancakes defies any description of deliciousness.

Lucia’s Orange Marmalade

6 large oranges with thin skin

1 lemon

6 c water

8 ¼ c of granulated sugar

Approximately 14 – 6 oz. canning jars, lids, rings

Water bath canner with canning rack

Wash the oranges and lemon using a mushroom brush or another type of soft, clean brush. Cut the oranges into 1/8 inch slices. Remove any seeds. Cut the stacked slices of orange into quarters. Trim any thick pieces of rind into slivers to use. Place the oranges in a large cooking pot. Zest the lemon and juice it. Add the zest and juice to the oranges in the pot along with the water. Bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat and maintain a bubbling simmer. Stir frequently and cook for forty minutes until the rinds of the oranges are tender enough to cut with a spoon.

sweet-solution-3While the orange/lemon mixture cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the canning jars in the water. Sterilize the jars by boiling for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lids and rings. Let everything sit until the marmalade is ready. You may need to do this in two separate pots due to the quantity of jars.

After the orange/lemon mixture has cooked for forty minutes, add the sugar and return to a full boil. Stir frequently so the sugar doesn’t burn and the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Boil until the mixture reaches 223° on a candy thermometer. This process should take at least twenty minutes, but depending on your stove and/or cooking pot of choice, it may take longer. Keep a close eye on your thermometer and watch as the mixture darkens, turns glossy, and thickens. Adjust the heat if needed to keep it from boiling over.

To test the readiness of the marmalade, place a saucer in the freezer to chill. A small dollop of the marmalade placed on the chilled plate and allowed to cool should gel and move slightly. Anything runnier and the marmalade isn’t ready. Keep cooking, and watch your thermometer.

When the marmalade is ready, remove the jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Carefully ladle the marmalade into the jars to just below the threads of the jar. Using a ladle and slotted spoon ensures that you don’t end up with too much peel or too much liquid for the jars at the end. Keep the juice to rind mixture balanced in each jar. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a clean, damp cloth and top each with a lid. Add a ring and tighten securely. You may use fewer jars than the recipe called for, but I suggest having fourteen ready just in case.

sweet-solution-2

Cooling Jars of Marmalade

Bring water to a boil in a water bath canner (approximately half full). Using the canning rack, add the jars of marmalade to the boiling water. Add additional hot water to the canner if needed to cover the jars at least one inch. Boil for ten minutes. Carefully remove the rack of jars and set on a clean towel in a cool, dry place to come to room temperature. You should begin to hear the lids pop indicating the jars of marmalade are sealing properly. Do not move for 24 hours. Refrigerate the marmalade once a jar has been opened. Unopened marmalade will last for up to six months.

Enjoy!

sweet-solution

Taking Stock of the Situation

Taking Stock of the Situation 1The summer of 1929 held a world of promise for young John Welles. He was succeeding brilliantly at the University of Maryland, had made two lifelong friends in Sam Feldman and Claude Willoughby, and the once competitive relationship he had with Garland Griffin turned into a romantic one unlike anything John ever imagined.

The opportunity to pamper the young woman who was swiftly becoming the love of his life occurred a few days after their visit to Garland’s home. An unexpected cold kept Garland away from John for a few days, and when he could stand it no longer, he took a crock of chicken soup to her.

Lucia, the sassy cook who works for John’s Aunt Prudence and keeps her on her toes, made the recipe for chicken noodle soup Sam’s mother, Gladys Feldman, gave her. Per Mrs. Feldman, Jewish chicken soup cured everything. Unfortunately, neither Lucia nor Gladys could predict how Garland’s secret would crash down upon John’s world, a secret for which there was no remedy.

The recipe I had in mind for the above-mentioned scene actually starts with the post Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. This recipe provides the carcass you’ll need for the stock that is the base of the soup. I highly recommend using this particular carcass as the seasoning from that recipe tastes amazing in the soup.

Chicken Stock:

1 roasted chicken carcass

2 T olive oil

12 c water

1 medium carrot

1 medium celery stalk

1/2 medium Vidalia onion

1 t thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

1 t quad-colored whole peppercorns

Remove the meat from the chicken carcass and reserve it for the soup. Break up the carcass into several pieces using a large knife or kitchen scissors. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot to medium heat and brown the carcass pieces on all sides. Be sure to scrape any browned tidbits from the bottom of the pot and occasionally turn the pieces.

Peel the vegetables and coarsely chop them. Add the water, vegetables, and seasonings to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Do not let the stock boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, occasionally skimming any scum off the surface of the stock using a large spoon. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the stock at a simmer until the flavors have melded, about 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Remove and discard the pieces of chicken carcass. Pour the stock through a wire mesh strainer placed over a large crock or bowl. Do not save the vegetables for the soup as the flavor has gone into the stock. The stock can be cooled to room temperature and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three days or frozen for one month.

Or you can pour the stock into a six quart pot and proceed with making soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup:

Reserved chicken meat

2 medium carrots

2 medium celery stalks

1/2 medium Vidalia onion

1 t sea salt

1 t thyme leaves

Freshly ground quad-colored peppercorns to taste

2 c dried egg noodles

Bring the stock to a simmer over medium-high heat. Peel and dice the vegetables to a medium dice. Add them and the seasonings to the pot and stir thoroughly. Return to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about twenty minutes.

In a separate pot, bring water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente. Drain them in a colander. Do not cook the noodles in the stock or they will become mushy and your stock pasty.

Shred the reserved chicken meat into small pieces. You’ll need about 2 c for the soup. Save any extra for another use.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the shredded chicken and drained noodles to the stock. Stir thoroughly and return to a simmer. Cook about five minutes to meld the flavors. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Enjoy!

Taking Stock of the Situation 2

Masking the Truth

Clove Gum 2Everything seemed peaceful for Dr. John Welles in August of 1952. Despite a lifetime of dealing with secrets, whether keeping them for the sake of a loved one or generating secrets of his own, Dr. Welles believed he had finally found sanctuary in the hills of West Virginia. But it wasn’t to be.

By helping Bea Turner, who had become quite dear to him, John made a deal with the representatives of evil itself: the Ku Klux Klan. In his naiveté, he underestimated how truly wicked the Klan was and promised a favor in return to be fulfilled at the Klan leader’s whim. The day the favor was called in set John on his most destructive path so far. He turned to alcohol as a stabilizing factor in his downward spiraling life, yet he was unable to retain any sort of control. Alcohol claimed Dr. Welles for its own, and by submitting to the influence, he continued to lose what was dear to him.

One way the doctor kept people from discovering his alcoholism was to chew strong clove gum. Although I never mentioned brands, I always had Adams Clove Gum in mind for John when masking his drinking. He wouldn’t have been the first to do so.

Clove gum was first manufactured by the Thomas Adams Company in 1914. After working as a photographer and glassmaker, Adams tried his hand at inventing. The only thing he invented of any worth was achieved in the 1850s. While working as a secretary to the Mexican President, Antonio López de Santa Anna, the pair attempted the business venture of using chicle as a cheap alternative to expensive rubber tires. After a year of trying, the project was abandoned, and Adams eventually realized he could use chicle to produce a better type of chewing gum. He formed a company that by the late-1880s was making gum sold across the country.

In 1899, Thomas Adams became part of a new company called American Chicle Company which merged the six largest American chewing gum manufacturers. He remained a member on its board of directors until 1905 when he died. American Chicle Company was renamed Adams in 1997, and The Adams Company has since been acquired by Cadbury. Today it is known as Cadbury Adams. Cadbury Adams continues to use the same packaging used in 1914 to capitalize on the nostalgia factor, and the formula has remained essentially the same as well.

Commercial production of gum dates only to the mid-1800s making clove gum one of the oldest, continuously sold flavored gums on the market. It was especially popular in the Prohibition era, when people believed that they could cover up the scent of alcohol on their breath by chewing it.

Every few years, Adams Clove Gum makes an appearance on the market and is scooped up by longtime fans ensuring that candy and gum sellers run out quickly. The Internet helps when looking for new suppliers, however, my recent tour around the Internet didn’t reveal any sources at the moment.

While many young people today haven’t heard of clove gum, among its devotees, Thomas Adams will forever be remembered as the father of the modern day chewing gum industry.

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