Have you ever stuck a fork into some food and said that you wished you had the recipe?

I did when I had this cake the second time.  It is THAT good!

Oh, and as a bonus for those who care, the cake itself … it’s actually Vegan!  Yeah, no milk, no eggs.

The icing is vegetarian since it requires butter and milk.  If you want to try making it Vegan, go ahead I won’t judge…

But this cake is excellent as is.  One of the best Chocolate Cakes I have had in memory.

It is a chocolate cake recipe from the Great Depression Era, when they had to be thrifty and scrimp on every corner they could.

But… whoever came up with this recipe came up with an amazing cake.

I find it every time I look for a chocolate cake recipe, and it haunted me until I took the time to make it.

You will find recipes like this one every time you search.  Some add things to it that are unnecessary and added fluff.   You can have it plain, without icing, and just a bit of confectioner’s sugar on top.  I opted for a rather simple buttercream icing and am really glad I did.

The trimmings I had of the cake to make it round the first time out tasted almost as rich as a brownie.  It stayed moist in the refrigerator longer than I expected, which is a big bonus.  My regular recipe is good, but this is better.

The process of making this is simple:

  • Add to a large mixing bowl (I recommend a stand mixer, but that is for speed) all your ingredients saving the vinegar for last.
  • Mix until smooth (See, that stand mixer would help)
  • Pour into floured and buttered 8 by 8 inch pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean when tested.

 

To make a more modern sized cake, I doubled the ingredients and got a two layer 9 inch cake.

Yes, Double the ingredients.  I did say Depression era and 8 by 8 one layer was the original size.

I also Doubled the icing for a 2 layer, 9 inch cake.

8 by 8 inch is a 20cm square.

9 inch round would be 23 cm.

Or so.

 

Ingredients:

 

For the cake (Each Layer):

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Cider or White vinegar

For the Icing (Each Layer):

  • 2 Tablespoons butter (room temp or melted)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
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Bread Dough in Five Minutes In A Plastic Bag

I guess the title says it all, if you’re looking for the short description.

There’s always a back story with me so hold on for the ride.

I wanted a Pizza, but really this can be used to make most basic breads.  I did not want to fuss around with a “full batch” of dough and make a cookie sheet full of rolls and … well you get the picture.

I will say that this will scale up to a larger batch and should be limited by how strong your own hands are.  You see, it’s all about your grip strength.  If you’ve got arthritis or some other limitation, use the machine.

On the other hand, this dough flew together so fast that it’s a great way to make fresh dough for small batches like one pizza dough ball or a couple of rolls.

Basically, I have a “Standard Recipe” for bread.  It’s “Pat’s Pizza Dough” recipe.   It makes 10 sandwich rolls, or about 8 torpedo rolls.  It also will make three pizza dough balls.  The original recipe is at the link – or you can even see my original note written 20 years ago in the picture.

The idea was cut the recipe down to one third of normal, then make it in a bag.

I added to a clean and food safe plastic bag the following ingredients.

  • 3 ounces of water
  • 2 teaspoons of oil
  • 1 cup of bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon of bread yeast
  • 1/3 teaspoon of salt (I used a well rounded 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/3 teaspoon of sugar (I used a well rounded 1/4 teaspoon)

The process was simple.

 

  • Squeeze most of the air out of the bag and wind the top up to close it.
  • Grip the mix at the bottom of the bag and squeeze it repeatedly.
  • The mix will eventually form a dough ball through repeated kneading.

 

You may have to adjust the water content to fit your needs.  Bread dough is effected by the weather and conditions in your house and kitchen just as you would expect.  Wet climate will make stickier dough, dry climate you may need to add more water.

For Pizza Dough, you need a dough ball that is more dry than tacky or sticky.  Similar to Play-doh or similar modeling clay compound.

For Bread Dough, you need a dough ball that will be a bit tacky and it may want to stick gently to your hands or the side of the bag – but you will be able to remove it from the bag.

Basically that’s about it.  I’ll use this again because it’s saving me a lot of time in preparation and clean up work.

But… it took me just five minutes to get this dough done.  Add to it rolling time and rising time as normal.

Three Ingredient Cake Recipe that actually tastes moist

This really shouldn’t be called a recipe.  It should be called a Hack.

It is so ridiculously easy to make that I laugh at it.

 

It is so popular that the recipe is just about everywhere including on the sites for the companies that make the mixes.

 

 

I tried it with a bulk white cake mix, but the recipe I keep seeing everywhere calls for a “Box Of Cake Mix”.  They are not specifying flavor.   Use your favorite.

The cake mix can’t be one of those “Just Add Water”.

You need a cake mix that wants you to add an egg.

I used White,  but a Yellow Cake mix would be fine.  Choose a flavor that is complementary to the Pie filling you are adding.

I wanted Cherry this time, but I have done it before with other flavors.  I have blueberry and lemon pie filling waiting in the wings for when I want to do it again.

 

 

Why do I have six cupcakes?  I have a small Bundt pan and I didn’t want to risk a mess.

The recipe calls for either two layers, or a Bundt Pan.  It was not very specific.  I would say two 9 inch layers or even perhaps 3 8 inches, but I suspect that may be a bit thin.

Butter and flour your pans.

Bake at 350F / 180C for 35 minutes (or whatever metric equivalent you need to have your toothpick come out clean).

I mean that really is it.  It is laughably simple.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box or 15 ounces of cake mix
  • 1 can of pie filling – 20 ounces or 590 ML
  • 3 large eggs

Process:

  • Butter and flour your pan.
  • Keep cupcake liner and pans aside for any extra cake batter.
  • Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.
  • To a large mixing bowl add 1 box/15 ounces cake mix, 1 can (20 ounces) of pie filling, and 3 eggs.
  • Mix the batter until smooth.
  • Add batter to pans taking care not to overfill.
  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes and test with a toothpick.
  • Make sure toothpick comes out clean

 

Optional:
Icing or not.  I have been putting Honey on top and I really do like that instead.

Personal preference!

Serve and enjoy

Does Water Matter That Much? The Story of Importing Water 1200 Miles From Philadelphia to Make Bread

Once upon a time, in the woods, up on top of a hill, there was a farm house.

It was a beautiful neighborhood, a wonderful home.  There was a large kitchen hung off the back of the house, 20 feet by 25.  It had a fire place that was a welcome addition in the winter.  Bright windows and skylights and plenty of room.  It was an amazing place to cook.

This was my house for only thirteen years, in Philadelphia.

I was fortunate.  I got the idea that I could try my hand at baking bread when the bread machines came out back in the 1990s.  They were easy and I got great results.  I quickly moved to use the bread machine as a mixer and proofer for bread dough.  The results were much better since the oven would caramelize the crusts in a traditional way.  I ended up having “artisan” quality loaves of bread for about $.50.

Yep, 50 cents a loaf.

That translated into a Seven Cent Roll.  Crispy crunchy crusts.  Italian Bread.  Sweet Breads.  Amazing Pizza Cracker Crusts that had flavor and cracked when you bit down.

 

Inside the crusts, I would have soft as a cloud and chewy bread.  It was easy in Philadelphia to make bread in that kitchen.  Everything “just worked”.  The chemistry of the water was not pleasant to drink.  Philadelphia’s water from the tap is described as “Schuylkill Punch”.  It had a strange color, taste, and smell.   Philadelphians would laugh about it and say “Yeah, it’s da wudder here” and change the subject.

But it made great bread.

2006 happened.  We moved from Philly to South Florida.   When I turned on the tap here, the water wasn’t better.  It was different.  It looks vaguely brown and has an unpleasant taste.  Fort Lauderdale is processing it and since this is a “semi-tropical” area just about 10 miles below the Freeze Line in Boca Raton, there’s a high amount of Chlorine to kill off the nasties that live in the pipes.

You don’t want nasties in the pipes.

But it made bad bread.

You have to expect that.  All that chlorine would kill off your yeasts or simply retard their growth.  After all, Yeast is a Living Thing.

We went through “steps”.  I have tried various water to make bread here.  I am using the same recipe as I always have, “Pat’s Pizza Dough” recipe.  The flour is the same, although I do switch in various kinds of flour from time to time.

I get an adequate result when I use tap water.  The crusts are very thin and soft.  Better than what I would get in the supermarket, it just wasn’t what I was used to.

I was playing around with water for a while.  Take it from the filter on the refrigerator, warm it to 105F or 40C.  Use the same recipe.  Better.  The crust would be a little thicker, a little crisper, but not quite that Artisan quality.  Bottled water had similar results.

One day I was driving through downtown Fort Lauderdale and we passed by one of those bagel places that promises to make their products from what can only be described as reconstituted New York Water.   The only explanation that I have is that they’re adding salts and minerals to local water to get the balance of water that is approximately what comes from the tap in Brooklyn.

My Aunt’s Mother in Law had an apartment in Brooklyn.  I remember as a small child turning on the water tap and getting something that looked like milk out of the tap from all of the suspended gasses that were precipitating out.  I don’t know that Brooklyn Water was what I wanted.

So the conversation went like this:

“Yeah but you’re going to Philadelphia in July.  Can you bring me back some water?  A quart would be fine, a gallon would be amazing!”

We decided that we would go to a sporting goods store and get the first jug we could find that would be suitable that was more than a gallon.  More than that and I felt it would go funny from storage.  Less than that and I would be frustrated.

We ended up with a seven gallon blue plastic cube.  It got trucked to Glen Mills, PA in the back of my friend’s SUV where he filled it with about three gallons of water.  Right from the tap.

Coming home, I got a text that read:  “Slosh, Slosh, Slosh”.  As he drove down US 1 to the Maryland Line, the motion of the car was making the water splash around in the cube.  I was glad it was semi-rigid and larger than we needed.

When he got here to Florida, I got chapter and verse about how it was in the car making a racket in the back sloshing around for 400 or so miles until he got onto the Auto Train, then from Sanford, FL to here.

But we had PA Water!  Now to make bread rolls and pizza.

Just as they went into the oven, the power cut out and I ended up finishing everything off in the Barbecue Grill.

Strangely enough, it didn’t harm the rolls.  They were some of the best I have ever had since we moved.  The crust was crispy like a cracker, and the rolls had flavor.

 

Clearly there was something to this!

So while we laughed at Philly Wudder tasting like Schuylkill Punch, it made good bread.

I still am not certain what it was all about.

It is possible that it is that the water is better for baking.

It is possible that all the sloshing helped to de-gas the water of all the Chlorine and Fluorine in it.

It is possible that since it has been out of the tap for a couple weeks at the time of baking it was at its peak.

I just don’t know.

What I do know is that the crust was crispy, the “crumb” inside was soft but full of pockets of “air” that you would expect from a high quality bread.

There is now one question left to answer.  Was it the water from Philly, or can I recreate the results using local water that was either filtered or distilled, and left to “de-gas” on the counter.

All I know is I finally have a loaf of bread that I made in Florida that tastes like I remember it in Philly.

Yes, there is something to all of this.  The actual taste of the bread has changed subtly. The crumb is definitely better and the crust is wonderful.

All of this from a big blue cube that is taking up space in my kitchen.

So in six months when a return trip happens… yep, you guessed it.  Someone will have a big blue cube riding North to Glen Mills.

 

Here’s hoping that the water doesn’t freeze overnight!

Why Does FPL Want To Ruin My Pizza?

Sundays.  They have turned into Pizza Day.

Specifically, one half 7 cheese, one half 7 cheese with Mushroom, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Grilled Onions.

Made from scratch.  Scratch Crust, Scratch Sauce, and the toppings are my own mix.

I have this pizza recipe down.  The dough is Pat’s Pizza Dough.  The recipe comes from my sister.  She had it in a recipe book that she was given when she got married back in The Nineties.  I sat at her table with a stack of little square pieces of paper and wrote a whole bunch of recipes down and kept them.

 

I still have the original square paper for this.  It’s faded, water spotted, stained, and just about everything else you can think of that can happen to a piece of paper after some 20 plus years.  But the recipe is bullet proof.  Never fails.

Oh sure, I have adjusted it for Florida Conditions.  Bad water that comes out of the tap slightly brown and tastes like it has been sitting in a garden hose in the heat.  Flour that is commercial high grade, and rather thirsty and seems to like brown water.

Instead of what the recipe says, I’ve bumped it up to 12 ounces of water.  I know what the dough “feels” like when it is right.  Every experienced cook has a recipe they do By Eye and get right.

Pizza is mine.

In fact, I’ll put my own pizza up against anyone else’s on the island now.

The dough makes 1400 calories of bread, I weigh that in grams, divide by 10, reserve 30 percent and that makes one crust.  The cheese is exactly 6 ounces.  Sauce is exactly 7 ounces and is a home developed clone of the best sauce on the island from a closed Pizza Shop.  Yield is a pizza that is just about 1000 calories total depending on whether I go with 30% or 33% of the dough.

The point of that is I Know This Recipe.  It goes well with a single beer for Sunday Lunch.

I start this all at 9 AM.  Make the dough, weigh and separate it out.  This pizza was 30% crust, allowing me to make 6 rolls out of the remainder.  101 grams per roll.

It got rolled out and allowed to rise in a protected place.

11:30, I put the pizza together.  The vegetables were sauteed to drive out the moisture. Cheese mixed.  Sauce layered, followed by the cheese, and finally the veg.

I reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a fine ale, and sat down to enjoy a brief rest as the oven came up to temperature.

About 20 minutes later I hear the oven snap.  “It’s ready!  I guess I should get up.  The pizza will be ready in …”

BOOM.  I hear that apocalyptic sound of a “Pew” as capacitors in all the appliances discharge.  The fans stop.  It is silent except the ticking of the mechanical clocks.

You see this part of Florida, Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, and Oakland Park is in Broward County.  The East side.of the county was built up first and it was built to the edge of the Everglades National Park until no more room at the inn.

Florida is full.  If you’re moving here from somewhere else, don’t think it is an open place of palm trees and wading birds.  It is, but those places are usually redneck, infested with evil things like alligators, mosquitoes that would carry off a large car, and Republicans.  Swamp People.

Broward is nice.  It’s diverse, having lots of interesting people from lots of interesting cultures, and everyone is from somewhere else.   The Native Floridians here are comparatively few on the ground.

But all that demographic nonsense?  You see what happens is that every so often we get, yes, a Hurricane.  The last one that hit here was Wilma in 2006, and we’re overdue.

 

The telephone poles look like they were here before Wilma.  You may ask, how can I tell?  Simple, they all seem to lean slightly to one side.  They’re almost all sun-bleached on the South side as well.  Southern exposure here is redundant, they’re kind of a grey color.   I know, I’m looking at one now.

Motley assortment of old beat up infrastructure.  Old Beat Up Infrastructure fails.  Randomly and spectacularly at times.

That would be that boom I was talking about.  It happened as I was just out of my chair and took my very first step across the living room to the kitchen.

What caused it was a two or three year old repair to a High Voltage wire on a pole about 100 feet from my house.  We were told it was “done badly” and “it just let go”.

I walked into the kitchen.  Oven temperature was 450. It was dropping.  I slid the pizza in anyway, and went into the living room.
“I really don’t want to finish this off in the grill.”

Crappy infrastructure means we have backup plans here.  In places where the weather is more gentle, like, say New Jersey in my sister’s native Cherry Hill, you talk about power outages, but they never last more than two hours or so.

My friend works for the power company in Atlanta.  When I tell him what I go through here with the power, he shudders and says “Southern Company would never accept that sort of failure rate” and then segue into a long conversation about how awful the power is here in Florida.

When I moved here, I lost two computers because of the twice daily “Power Pops” I get.

Trust me, it really is that bad.

Six minutes passed.  The pizza was actually done.  A wee bit under, but since I opened the oven, I lost the rest of my heat.  It was now down to around 300F.

“Well, lunch is served.  I’ll put the rolls on the grill.”

The pizza was actually quite good, better than most here.  But it wasn’t exactly a crispy cracker crust I obsess over.

Freaking FPL.

I go outside and put the rolls on the grill and close the lid.  I know exactly where to turn the knobs to get the grill to heat to 430F.

Setting the timer for 11 minutes, I come back later.

The first rolls are done.  Surprisingly good looking for something that was cooked under the Lanai.  I put in the second set.   They come out perfect too.

Actually the grill hot spots, so I will remember next time to put bricks in the grill to keep the cookie sheet up off the actual grill work.

“Now what?”  We were without power.  Full but no power.

“Luckily the house has hurricane glass and new roof.  We’ll have to see”.

The day went up to 92F here.  I watched the indoor temperature inch up a degree an hour or so.  It started at 76, and by 5PM it was up to 84.

We had some small battery operated fans for when it was warmest, but it served to remind me that while we do have a generator, it won’t power the Air Conditioning in the house without some more work.  Yes, we’ve got more hurricane prep to do or else it’s pile the dog and the parrot in the Jeep and drive North in case of a power outage.

Wilma did that.  My block was without power for two weeks.  I was told this over and over.  Two weeks of sitting on a floor and using D Batteries to power a small battery powered fan in an emergency is not fun.

So please, FPL, fix your infrastructure.  I don’t want to get used to baking rolls on a grill.

How To Ruin a Decent Cookie – Just Wait!

I am sure that I am not the only person who ruined a “Bulletproof” baking mix this way.

I am also sure that I do it from a slightly different angle than most since I have a long list of “quick and dirty” baking treats that I make on a whim.

But there are only so many treats you can have around the house.

You see, while I am baking scratch mixes, blending chocolate with fruit or nuts to make candy bars, or even going so far as to make pretzels, I forgot.

I forgot that I have a shelf.   We all have that shelf.  If you bake at all, you have a collection of boxed mixes.

 

You picked that mix up from the supermarket and thought Hmmm, That’s Tasty!

You drop that mix into the cart and then wander off paying for it on your way out.

I even have a habit of quickly scanning the bins at the back of the market where there are mixes that are close to their expiration date.  You know the ones.  They’re being discontinued or they weren’t all that popular.   They’ve got the badge of shame on them.  Big red sticker saying “Discount!  Half Off” or less.

Yeah, those.  I’m that guy.

I really do prefer home made cookies to what you can get at the mall or the store.  My chocolate chip cookies are asked for when I am invited to parties because how can you compete with freshly churned butter, toasted nuts, and scratch ingredients?

But that also means that I have to watch what I have on hand.

That Shelf is in clear view.  In fact when you step over the threshold into my house it is in clear view of the front door on top of a bread rack.

It’s a Logical Place.  That also means it is doomed.

Those “special” mixes are waiting for a “special” occasion.

When I went looking for something the other day, I believe it was the crock pot but it easily could have been treats for the dog or some tea for Iced Tea, I spotted them.

Then I noticed that there was actually dust on top of the box.

DUST!  On top of a mix of Lemon Squares!

That. Is. Not. Good.

I checked the expiration date and found it expired four years ago.  April 2012.

Going through that stack, I found that there were five other mixes that were more than just a few weeks over their Best By date.

Not good.

That Lemon Square mix was a simple one, add egg and water.   It smelled funny.  Tasted worse.  I took one bite and out it went.

Next the Snickerdoodles.  They were January 2013.  Open the package and the mix smelled reasonably wholesome.  Of course there was that problem of how do you know how long to cook something that looks “done” when they go into the oven and come out soft?

 

I didn’t.  They ended up crunchy.  They’re supposed to be soft.  Still tasted “ok” and nobody got sick.

I followed that up with some Whoopie Pies.  When I opened up the mix my eyes watered.  Right into the bin!

So at this point the oldest mix is from June 2015, a full 11 months overdue.  It will get used before the end of this month.  I’m just going to have to stop “Baking for the Blog”!

Boxed Baking Mixes.  Ugh.  So … blah!  Where’s the challenge in that?

I’ll tell you, the challenge is to use the stuff up before it goes funny and I had a whole shelf of mixes just laughing at me!

This week, we’re going to enjoy a cake.  It’s a “Holiday” cake.  Peppermint and Chocolate, great for your holiday celebrations!  It was just within the “safe” zone.

I’m sure I will enjoy it.  But those mixes?  I have to be more careful since I do enjoy them, I really do.

I’m just a bit absent minded!

Three Ingredient Beer Batter English Muffins

I had to update this before I posted it.  It really is not a three ingredient recipe.

It is a TWO Ingredient Recipe.  The Sugar is completely optional.  I made this for breakfast since I originally wrote this, and found that I didn’t need the extra sweet to it.

Yep, English Muffins from a bottle of beer and some Self-Rising Flour.  If you are patient, and cook them well, they actually have a pretty good texture.   A Wee bit Soft, but that’s the nature of a Beer Bread.

So, the original write up below has been tweaked.

A while back, I got to try a Beer Bread recipe.  Beer bread is one of those things.  It doesn’t make a bread so much as a muffin that people pretend is bread.

There is normally way too much sugar added, they tend to use fruit and spices to hide the taste of the beer, and it just isn’t what I would call “Bread”.

Sure, you might, but you also will admit it just isn’t the right texture for sandwiches.

However, it is tasty and very easy to make.

I got involved hacking the recipe and came to some conclusions.

First, the sugar is DEFINITELY optional.  My original recipe was three tablespoons to the batch.  I was able to reduce that to 1 tablespoon and I will be making this again and leaving the sugar out.  I did, as I said above, and it tastes really much better as an English Muffin – which shouldn’t really be all that sweet.

Second, the leavening is “mechanical”.  It’s all from the carbonation in the beer hitting the salt that is in the self rising flour.  You can use soda if you prefer to avoid the little bit of alcohol in a beer bottle.

Sure, take all the fun away!

But the use of soda also will add flavor to the bread.  A Black Cherry soda used in a beer bread would go well with Raisins or dried Cherries.

So with all that hacking and thoughts, I decided to try this on a griddle.  Like pancakes.  The end result was

to give me a nice pile of English Muffins.  Basically they came out like a tall pancake.  I ended cooking them until they started to bubble through the batter in the rings.

The rings are optional, by the time I got to the middle of the batch I was just dumping 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle and waited.  It is up to you whether you want to use the rings, I have crumpet rings and will use them.  The batter seems to be a little on the dry side for Crumpet Rings.

It all goes together very quickly since you don’t have to wait for it to rise, and you don’t want to stir this mix too quickly or too vigorously because you will deflate your batter.

Nobody wants a deflated batter.

So here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup of Self Rising Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar – Optional and to taste.
  • 1 can of room temperature beer, 12 ounces.

Process

  • Preheat your griddle or skillet to 375F
  • Add the self rising flour to a large mixing bowl.
  • Sprinkle the sugar on top evenly and lightly mix the two ingredients with a fork.
  • Pour the beer on top of the mixture and gently mix the batter with a scoop or a paddle.
  • Do not mix the batter vigorously, but make sure that the flour is evenly mixed in.
  • Oil your skillet and crumpet rings (optional) with a towel and preheat the rings before cooking.  Note:  At 375F and using Sesame Oil, I had zero smoking.  Check your oil smoke-point before cooking.  Wikipedia has a great reference for this!
  • Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet and cook until golden brown or bubbles begin to show on the top side of the muffin.
  • Flip the muffin and cook the tops until golden brown.

Split and toast and serve as you would your favorite English Muffin.