Baking pans that sparkle

More kitcheny stuff — sorry, but I keep falling into a rabbit hole of interesting stuff when I research things.

Have you ever seen a pan that looked like this?

Photo by JillHannah via CreativeCommons/Flickr.

How about this?

Photo by GranniesKitchen via Creative Commons/Flickr.

These are Ovenex vintage baking pans. I have never seen one in person, but stumbled on this blog post this week, showing off a beautiful assortment of these pans, all decorated with that starburst pattern. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

See more of them in this Google Images search or this Flickr search. And of course, Pinterest has a few to look at as well.

The last thing I need is something else cool to search for in thrift stores!

Guess which of these stoves isn’t in my kitchen anymore

Hint: not the old-looking one.

On a whim, a few weeks ago I removed the microwave from my kitchen. It took up too much space, and I realized that all I really used it for was to heat up frozen dinners I shouldn’t be eating anyway. Reheating food and cooking soups and such? That I do on the big stove. It’s better that way. (Microwaved pizza is nasty. It’s so much better when I reheat it on the pizza stone in the oven.) So I decided to try to go a few months without the microwave to see if I miss it enough to bring it back.

So far, the only time I’ve missed it much is when I was trying to de-crystallize some honey. Putting it in the microwave is the quickest way to do it. But it’s not worth keeping it around just for that.

I didn’t have a microwave until I was well into my adulthood, so I think I should be fine without it.

Anyone else given up on their microwave?

Cast iron rocks

Egg and (veggie) bacon.

Egg and (veggie) bacon.

I love my cast iron pans.

I always heard how great cast iron was supposed to be. How a decades-old seasoning on the pan is something to treasure. How properly-seasoned pans are completely non-stick. How easy iron is to care for. And I didn’t believe any of it.

My ex-husband and I picked up a humongous cast-iron pan once, and I do mean huge. One of those giant skillets that has a second handle so you can carry it without dropping it. It was a new pan, a Lodge, completely unseasoned. I don’t recall what we did to try to season it, but we did use it at some point. I think it’s possible that all we did is start cooking in it, figuring that the seasoning would then develop. Which is sort of true. But as soon as we tried to clean it, we discovered it was a pain. It started rusting quickly, and it was too heavy to use regularly, so we gave up.

But, more recently, I’ve been converted. With good pans and the right treatment, cast iron is non-stick, and is incredibly easy to care for.

The pans

I bet when you think of cast iron you think of a rough, rustic sort of pan, right?

It turns out that modern pans aren’t like the old ones. You can get modern pans, made in the U.S.A. with reasonable quality, from Lodge. Now they come with a bit of pre-seasoning so you can use them right away. They are heavy, and a bit rough. Some other pans on the market are rougher and more rustic. You can get them to be nicely seasoned, eventually.

But the old pans — pre-1960 or so — they are a completely different beast. Old pans were more finely finished — machined mirror-smooth. They are thinner, so they are lighter weight. And being so smooth already, once you get them seasoned… well, they are amazing. Better than any modern non-stick pan. So I buy vintage pans when I can find them at the thrift store. Mostly I’ve found Wagner Ware. Sometimes they are so abused you can’t even tell what brand they are, but you get a nice surprise when you clean them up.

Caring for them

It turns out that once you get the pans ready for use by reconditioning and seasoning (both of which are thoroughly addressed at the Black Iron Blog), taking care of the pans is dead easy. Here’s what you do:

  1. Cook your awesome meal. Eggs, fish, bacon, fried chicken, deep-dish pizza, whatever.
  2. Let the pan cool a bit so you can handle it.
  3. Run hot water on it. Don’t worry, it won’t rust if it’s seasoned. Rinse out some of the crud.
  4. Wipe out the rest of the crud with a towel. If there is something you can’t get out, you can use a paste of salt and water to get it out, or a plastic scrubbie. Not one of those flat green pads. If you absolutely can’t get something out, put a bit of water in the pan and bring it to a boil. That will loosen up the stubborn crud. Wipe the pan as thoroughly as you can. Spotless.
  5. You know what you don’t do? That’s right. Use soap. “But,” you say with a look of horror, “how can I not use soap?” Here’s why and how. Dish soap is designed to cut down grease and oil. What do you use to make a good seasoning on your pan? Grease and oil. So what does dish soap do to the developing seasoning layer? It damages it. Eats away at it. You don’t want that.

    Instead, you wipe it as clean as possible. Run more hot water on it if you must. And then — you dry it off thoroughly, wipe it with the thinnest possible layer of oil, and set it on the burner, set to low, for seven minutes. This dries out any remaining water to prevent rust, and it also gets the pan temperature so damn hot that no nastiness can survive on your cast iron.

  6. Leave the pan on the burner until the time is up. (Don’t forget it!) Then take a clean cloth or paper towel, and wipe the pan down, removing the excess oil (there will be a bit more now that the pan has heated) and leaving an even thinner layer. You want it thin, or it might get sticky. Don’t worry, even with a very thin layer, the pan will be happy. Your pan is now ready to store.

The oil you use is something that everyone has an opinion about. I seasoned my pans initially with Crisco, and I think that works just fine. But now I mostly cook with olive oil, and so that’s what I wipe the pans down with too. Olive oil isn’t supposed to be great for this, but with the technique I’ve been using, it works just fine. It does contribute to the seasoning polymer that builds up on the pan, which keeps getting better and slicker as I use it.

Keep doing this everytime you cook in the pan, and pretty soon you will have what I have — a pan that is completely nonstick, that allows you to flip an egg by shaking the pan (well — it takes some practice), that even burnt teriyaki sauce won’t stick to.

When you cook in it, heat the pan first, then add oil. This also prevents sticking. I heat it until drops of water tossed in it sizzle and jump around, then add some olive oil or any other oil I may need to use.

Resurrected Recipes is back

When Kristen and I started the Resurrected Recipes blog some time ago, its momentum was stalled quickly by the implosion (not literally) of my kitchen stove, and the resulting deconstruction and remodeling of the kitchen that followed. It was difficult to cook anything with no kitchen. But I continued thinking of things to post about, and now I have a bunch of topics waiting to go. (Still not enough actual cooking, but there will be that, too.) There are a bunch of new posts there now, so please do stop by if you are interested.

Another new project: Resurrected Recipes

picture-28

While working on the recent attempt to bake the 1930s Gold-N-Sno cake, Kristen and I were talking about how much fun it would be to make a blog of “resurrected recipes” — food that no one makes any more. The stuff that was commonplace for our grandparents, but is no longer in vogue. After all, even in our lifetimes, we’ve seen food preferences change pretty strongly. (When I was a kid, the bread aisle had multiple shelves of white Wonder bread and just a little bit of wheat bread. Now Wonder is gone, and if any of that squishy-style pure white bread remains at all, it’s only a few loaves at a time.)

So here it is: Resurrected Recipes. Both of us will contribute to the blog as we get a chance. Kristen’s computer is currently in the shop, though, so she might not get to post much for a bit.

The search for the Gold-N-Sno cake

The cake naming contest ad featuring the cake eventually called "Gold-N-Sno."

Yesterday I picked up a book at the library: Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food. I haven’t read too much of it yet, but I did see the ad, pictured here, from 1933, for the Betty Crocker Cake Naming Contest. The contest promised a $5,000 in cash prizes to winners who suggested a name for the cake pictured: “a light, fluffy, orange-flavored cake, three full 9-inch layers, with creamy orange filling and covered with luscious white icing and moist shredded cocoanut (sic). The layer cake itself also contains cocoanut.”

This caught my eye. I love coconut. I love orange cake. I must make this cake. Maybe for New Year’s. According to the book, the winning name for the cake was… Gold-N-Sno. Times must have been more innocent then, because to me, golden snow means the yellow snow you had better not eat. But the cake looks good, so I’ll make it anyway.

Sometimes it seems that every recipe ever written down has found its way onto the Web somewhere, so I figured I’d find the Gold-N-Sno cake — maybe spelled a little differently — with a quick Google search. How wrong I was.

I found a few vintage newspapers with Gold-N-Sno mentions — invariably in ads for bakeries who made this cake. The cake seems to have been relatively well-known. Here are a couple from Oswego, New York, in 1934 and 1939, and one from Sewickley, Pennsylvania in 1940 (please click to see the complete images):

But no recipes. (There is a site, newspaperarchive.com, which charges a hefty sum to look at their archived newspapers. The Gold-N-Sno cake is mentioned pretty frequently in newspapers there from the 1930s, but I cannot tell if the recipe is lurking there without paying them. Most of the examples there did also seem to be ads, though.)

I tried changing the spelling to “Gold-N-Snow”. I found a few more ads, from Cass City, Michigan, 1941 and 1942, and Oswego again in 1934 and 1940 (once again, please click to see the full images):

Still, no recipes. I still thought the recipe must probably be online somewhere, but someone must have changed the name. So I looked more closely at the ad pictured in Finding Betty Crocker. Underneath the picture of the cake, I saw that Betty Crocker ever-so-helpfully labeled every part of the cake, and listed all the ingredients. Thank you, Betty!

With arrows pointing to the various parts of the cake, I read “Cocoanut Icing,” “Oranges” (these are orange pieces arranged decoratively around the base of the cake), “Three Layer Orange Cake,” “Cocoanut in Cake,” and “Creamy Orange Filling.”

The ingredient list “for Cake, Filling and Icing” is: “Shortening, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, orange juice, orange rind, cocoanut, corn starch, lemon juice.”

With all the ingredients, I ought to be able to find the recipe online somewhere, yes? And sure enough, it wasn’t long before I stumbled on the “Prize Orange Coconut Cake.” This recipe is all over the various web recipe collections. It seems to come from a single source, one with quite a few typos. It is unclear what that source may be. The ingredients match the list in the ad exactly, with the exception of corn syrup in the frosting, as does the construction of the cake. I think this is probably the once popular Gold-N-Sno. Here it is, with typos fixed and some editing to make it easier to read (I hope):

(Note: since I posted this, I have actually made the cake. See here for comments. I’ve edited a couple of things in this post, now that I’ve tried the cake.)

Prize Orange Coconut Cake (possibly the 1933 Gold-N-Sno cake)

Total quantities of ingredients you need to have on hand, if I’ve counted correctly (I rounded up a couple of times):

  • 3/4 c shortening
  • 4 3/4 c sugar
  • Rind of two oranges
  • 6 eggs (you’ll be using the yolks and the whites separately, so don’t throw any away)
  • 3 1/2 c cake flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Slightly over a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 c orange juice
  • 1 c water
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 4 T corn starch
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 tsp corn syrup

Batter:

From the ingredients you’ve gathered for this recipe, take:

  • 3/4 c shortening (I used Crisco Butter Flavor)
  • 2 c sugar

Cream together, then add:

  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind (preferably organic)
  • 2 egg yolks, well beaten

Blend together,then sift:

  • 3 1/4 c cake flour, sift once (I used Softasilk)
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add sifted ingredients to first mixture with:

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 3/4 c water

Beat enough to make batter smooth. Blend in:

  • 1/2 c moist, shredded coconut
  • 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

Pour into three 9-inch cake pans, greased and floured.
Bake 30 minutes in moderate oven at 350 degrees F.
Cool completely on cooling rack before frosting.
Put the layers together with orange filling (see below) and cover with orange frosting (also below). Sprinkle with 3/4 cup moist shredded coconut.

Orange Filling:

  • 2 level T flour
  • 4 level T cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks, well beaten
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix until smooth in double boiler.
Add, slowly, the following, stirring constantly:

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 c water

Then add:

  • 2 T butter
  • grated rind of 1 orange

Cook over water, stirring occasionally until thick, about 20 minutes. Cool. Spread between layers of cake. (Ours thickened a little more quickly than 20 minutes.) The result is sort of an orange curd; very orangey and good.

Orange Frosting:

(This is a variant on the 7-Minute Frosting boiled frosting recipe that can be found in many sources. You should wait until the cake is ready to frost before you make this, as it must be used immediately after cooking.)
IMPORTANT: When we made this, it did not make enough frosting to cover the whole cake. I recommend doubling this recipe. However, I have not yet tried it with the doubled amount so I can’t be sure the proportions wouldn’t need to be tweaked. So I’m leaving the original amount here for now.

  • 1 tsp light corn syrup
  • 7/8 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 T orange juice

Put in double boiler.
Beat constantly with rotary beater while cooking over boiling water 6-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and add:

  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • sprinkling of salt

Beat thoroughly for about 2 minutes until it’s a spreadable consistency, and then spread on cake immediately.

So. Is this the Gold-N-Sno cake from 1933? Anyone know? I think I will try it soon and see if I like it. I’d like to know if it’s the same cake, and if it’s good at all.

(Added later: Yes. It’s good. I think it is the same cake, too.)

Incidentally, while researching this, I found Kitty Wells’ Orange Coconut Cake, which is somewhat similar and apparently quite tasty.

One other thing — I noticed that a couple of those vintage bakery ads mentioned “malted milk” cakes. If there is any cake that sounds as good to me as orange-coconut, it is chocolate malted milk. Good God, I love chocolate malt flavor. That vintage recipe, at least, is easier to track down, and the results are apparently excellent. I can see I might have to make two cakes for New Year’s Eve.

Another way to use up extra milk: Dulce de Leche

A few weeks ago I posted about my homemade cheese experiment to use up excess milk. This week I had an unusual amount of extra milk to get rid of — a whole half gallon! Well, Halloween is coming up and so my thoughts turned to sweets… and found the perfect way to use up a lot of milk, simply. Dulce de leche is easy, if not quick, and has only four ingredients: milk, sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of baking soda.

I basically used Alton Brown’s recipe, with a little inspiration from this one as well. I cooked it for about three hours and ended up with this lovely thick sauce. I had it today drizzled over bananas, and in coffee, and on oatmeal.

I think I need to give the rest away or I may regret it. I am not sure I need the sugar overload. But wow, it’s good.

70s kids, check this out



Photo by Waffle Whiffer.

While browsing Flickr this weekend, I stumbled on an amazing photostream with lots of great pop culture stuff, particularly packaging and advertising characters from the 1960s-1980s. If you grew up in that era as I did, you’ll see a lot of familiar stuff in Waffle Whiffer’s great photostream. Look and reminisce. The photo here is just one example of the fun stuff found there: a late 70s Kool-Aid package with the classic Kool-Aid design, before the envelopes got busy and over-designed. I didn’t even like Kool-Aid that much as a kid, and yet the envelope always made it look so good! Heyyyyyy Kool-Aid!

Homemade cheese is tasty



Photo by dfinnecy.

When I was a kid in the 70s, we had milk delivered by a milkman. We had a little white wooden Vitamilk box on the porch, and every few days the milkman would put a couple of bottles of milk in the box. To me, it seemed like magic. After a while, they stopped using glass bottles, and then they stopped delivering milk at all. Like much of the rest of America, we had to start buying our milk at the grocery store. This was a sad thing.

A few years ago, I was surprised to see that milk delivery still existed in the Seattle area. I contacted a local dairy to inquire about service. “Sorry,” they said, “we don’t deliver to Beacon Hill.” I was disappointed.

This year, though, I browsed around to the Smith Brothers Farms website and discovered that now they do deliver to Beacon Hill. Joy! I signed us up for regular delivery.

A week later, the milkman showed up and dropped off our delivery box with our first delivery. Like my childhood Vitamilk box, it is white. The milk inside, sadly, is not in glass bottles, but in cardboard cartons. But it is fresh and tasty.

The one problem, however, is that there is a minimum order of two half-gallons per week. We don’t always drink that much in a week; usually we have up to half a carton left over. I don’t want to be wasteful, so tonight I went looking for ways to make use of extra milk.

I found this. Homemade soft cheese (basically the same as paneer), made from milk and lemon juice. I took the leftover milk, heated it to 190F, added lemon juice, and was amazed to see that, yes, it works, and it tastes really, really good!

We ate some of the cheese in our dinner tacos (with pico de gallo), and will probably snack on the rest. It’s darned good, and I should have no trouble using up every drop of milk the milkman brings us from now on.

Next experiment: homemade yogurt!

(The photo here is not my cheese, but it looks just like the cheese I made. Thanks to dfinnecy on Flickr for making this photo available in Creative Commons.)


Happy St. Patrick’s Day

It’s that day again; yes, the day when all Irish pubs are jam-packed full of people and you can’t hear yourself think.

On St. Pat’s, I recommend going to a Mexican place. It will be dead quiet.

Cinco de Mayo — now that’s the day to visit the Irish pubs.

If you decide to stay in, how about a couple of Irish recipes from the always great gumbopages.com website? Stew with Lamb and Guinness and Scallion Champ oughta do the trick.

Emmett Watson’s Thompson Turkey

As a kid growing up in a Seattle home with a P-I subscription (and later the Times), every Thanksgiving for many years I read a familiar recipe: Emmett Watson’s Thompson Turkey. Watson printed it in his column every year, and though I’m sure it was just an easy way to slack for a column, and I’ve never actually cooked or eaten a Thompson Turkey, the recipe itself is part of the Thanksgiving ritual, right down to the closing lines: “You do not have to be a carver to eat this turkey. Speak harshly to it and it will fall apart.” Another local columnist, John Owen, had this to say about the Thompson: “A Thompson Turkey emerges from the oven neither white nor dark. It is usually charred blacker than a newspaper columnist’s soul. ” Jean Godden, another P-I columnist and now city councilperson, said “No one has ever eaten a Thompson Turkey and lived to tell about it. But that’s understandable because no one has ever actually baked one of the things either.”

So. Has anyone tried it? Anyone dare? I don’t eat turkey anymore or I would have tried it by now. Really.

How Creme Eggs have changed



Photo by LemonDrizzleCake.

It’s not quite Eastertime yet, but there are already Cadbury Creme Eggs to be found at some shops. Have you noticed that they’ve been getting smaller and smaller? LemonDrizzleCake, on Flickr, has. Her grandma has knitted chicken-shaped egg covers for them for 20 years, to give as gifts to children. She’s gradually had to change the pattern to make the covers smaller, and has ended up with enough leftover yarn to make wings for the chickens!

It’s sad that the eggs have gotten smaller, but in a way I don’t mind, because they are so darned sweet that one egg is really too much sweetness anyway. I’ve also noticed they don’t taste as good as they used to, but I’m not sure if the egg recipe has changed or if it’s just my taste that has.

Some things are just wrong

I found this at QFC tonight: Tailgate Bagels and Tailgate Bread, from Brenner Brothers bakery. The bread and bagels come in local football team colors: Seahawks blue and green, Cougar crimson and gray (!) and Husky purple and gold.

This bread is scary. Bread is not supposed to be blue, or gray. How do you know if it’s gone moldy?