Pineapple, Chestnut and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Going crazy with using chestnuts these past few days lead me into dessert realm. If I could keep my hand out of the jar and stop snacking on these tasty morsels, they would actually make it into more things.

Alas, what to do?

Pineapple Upside Down Cake is one thing you can do. Please, forget about those horrible neon glaring cherries Betty Crocker used. This is a cake for adults because it has rum in it. Of course you could leave it out or use rum flavoring, but there isn’t anything quite like Pyrat Rum.

Upside down baking is a rather nice idea actually and can be adapted to may other fruits as well. One you may have heard of is the French famous Tarte Tatin. Flip the baked cake or tart over onto a plate and the bottom of the pan becomes the most wonderful caramelized fruity topping.

What a novel idea, upside down baking.

I found a can of baby pineapple rings at a gourmet store that were screaming to be made into a cake. With waning warm weather, this cake brings you smack dab into a nice tropical get-away.

Pineapple, Chestnut and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

For the caramel and pineapple topping:

1 can mini pineapple rings

You can use regular pineapple rings too. You may want to cut them to make an overlapping pattern.

3 ounces butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup chestnuts cut in half

You want enough so every hole has a chestnut. Or sprinkle chopped chestnuts over pineapple.

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Drain the pineapple, reserving juice for the cake batter.

Using a 9″ heavy bottomed saute pan, melt the butter and the brown sugar. Once melted, allow to simmer for 4 minutes, do not stir once simmering begins.

After 4 minutes, remove from heat and carefully place the pineapple all over the surface of the caramel.

Be careful about touching the caramel as it is very hot.

Arrange pineapple over caramel, place a chestnut over each hole or sprinkle them on.

Overlapping the pineapple, cover the entire surface of  the pan. Fill each hole with a chestnut half. If chopping, sprinkle the surface of the pineapple with the chopped chestnuts.

For the cake batter:

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift these together and set aside.

  • 3 ounces soft butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoons good quality rum (Or 1 teaspoon rum extract)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice ( left from straining the pineapple)

Using an electric mixer, whip the soft butter until it is light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time.

Add the vanilla and rum then add the pineapple juice.

The mixture will separate and look like a mess, but move on.

Add the flour in two stages. Once the flour is added, the mixture looks just fine.

Pour the batter over the fruit and caramel. Bake.

Pour the batter over the pineapple and chestnuts.

Place the pan into a 350°F oven for 45-50 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. When it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Remove the pan from the oven. Keep a cloth on the handle so no one burns their hands on a hot handle while the cake cools.

Cool for 10 minutes.

Lay a folded towel on the counter. Place the cake pan on the towel. Place the serving plate over the pan.

Fold the towel over the plate and holding it all tightly together, flip it so the cake turns out onto the plate.

Hopefully, all the pineapple will also follow. If not, just replace them.

If you like, sprinkle a bit of rum over the top of the cake. Totally optional.

Exploring Upside Down Baking is on the agenda for this winter.

What about an Upside Down Banana’s Foster Cake?

 

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Lemon Marmalade

Bitter Orange Marmalade made with Seville Oranges is one of life’s truly great pleasures. The intensity of the orange, the bitter-sweet finish that mixes with melted butter on good toast is something that could inspire sonnets.

Tempting Bite!

So humbly, I go into making a marmalade from the abundance of lemons in my kitchen. It is worth noticing that some recipes ask for the white pith to be removed, some include the entire lemon, some just peel and lots of interesting versions in between.

The main ratio you want to have for making a lovely marmalade is 1 part water: 1 part citrus fruit:  1 part sugar

All ingredients are equal parts and there are only three ingredients. Water, fruit and sugar. Simple recipe, right?

Armed with this knowledge, you can make as much or as little as you like. For me, I’ll make at least 4 pints and put it into 1/2 pint jars.

This makes a good gift and the holidays are just around the corner.

Lemon Marmalade

Remember the ratio

  • 1:1:1
  • Water
  • Lemons
  • Sugar

Wash and soak the lemons for at least 30 minutes. Scrub them gently.

Remove the zest using a 5-hole zester or a sharp knife. The best appearance comes from cutting thin strips of the peeling.

Peeled lemons. Sometime the citrus will have a thick pith between the zest and the fruit. Remove the peel, cut the pith away just as you would to remove the peeling for sectioning citrus. Refer to the “Related Article” below.

Pile the strips to cut into fine strips. Notice how much of the pith left on the peels. This will ensure a desirable bit of bitterness. This adds so much to the complexity of flavors involved in a great marmalade.

Cut the fruit into quarters; remove the core and slip out all the seeds. Reserve core and seeds in a bowl; chop the fruit and place it into another bowl. Try to reserve as much juice as you can.

Measure chopped fruit and sliced peel to determine how much water and sugar are needed. Remember equal parts of all three.

Here you have the chopped seedless fruit, the sliced zest and the trimmings from seed removal in separate bowls. Place all of the trimmings into a cheesecloth, tie it and put into the pot to cook with the fruit, water and sugar. You will want to remove it after cooking. Add the same amount of water, sugar. and the fruit and peel to a deep heavy bottomed pot.

Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to an active simmer. Place your thermometer into the mixture and let it simmer until it reaches 220°F.

Remove from heat. Please be careful handling this as it is hot melted sugar and can really cause a nasty burn. Keep a small bowl of ice water near to dip your hand into just in case it splashes.

Fill sterilized jars with the hot marmalade, place the lids on and flip them upside down to cool. This will seal the jar.

Cooling jars upside down will seal them or you can use traditional canning methods.

I use small 1/2 pint jars so I can have extra to take along with me when ever I need a small gift. These are also great office gifts and hostess gifts too.

When the Keller family of  Dundee Scotland started making Bitter Orange Marmalade, they bought a lot of oranges from Spain they thought were sweet. Upon the discovery of the oranges being bitter, Mrs. Keller took them into her kitchen and boiled them with water and sugar to make what became the wildly popular “Bitter Orange Marmalade”.

In my opinion the best marmalade is full of fruit and peel with that lovely bitter element tucked into the sweet flavor.

California made marmalade is made with sweet oranges therefore does not have that bitter bite marmalade fans enjoy.

Lemon Marmalade

When buying or making marmalade you can get the fruit just the way you like it. I like it full of chunked fruit with lots of peel. You can make it (and buy it) with just peel too.

Making marmalade is easy as long as you have time and a candy thermometer. Besides, there is something quite satisfying to see a line of nice glistening jars all full of  lovely marmalade that you made.

It makes you feel as if you can do anything.

Cinnamon Blueberry Almond Scones

Getting around to making scones for International Scone Week took some doing but finally, here is my dedicated scone.

Celia at Fig jam and Lime Cordial I believe started this “tradition” that now has an international reach.

There aren’t many photos as I figured most reading this would also have posted their scones and know the basic mixing process.

(Mix dry, cut in fat, add liquid, pat into shape, cut, bake)

This recipe is inspired by some pages from over 10 years ago entitled “The Joy of Baking Newsletter”.

This particular article had several scone recipes; some marked with “this is my favorite scone” so I thought it a good place to start.

Taking a basic “English” scone recipe ( less sugar) I added several elements together to create:

Cinnamon Blueberry Almond Scones

Cinnamon Blueberry Toasted Almond Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Cut the butter int the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal.

Mix the half and half with the egg.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the milk and eggs into the well and mix together with a wooden spoon. Mix just until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Pat it into a 16×10 rectangle.

Allow the dough to rest while you mix the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Cinnamon mixture:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.

Spread the cinnamon mixture all over the 16 x 10 dough, covering it completely.

Sprinkle fresh blueberries and toasted almonds over the surface.

Roll the dough into a cylinder, pinching seams closed.

Cut into 1 inch slices.

Spray a 9 x 9 inch square cake pan with pan release spray.

Place each slice, spiral slice up, into the cake pan, fill it up with the rolled slices.

Brush half and half over the surface of each slice.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown. Test doneness by using a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the scones are done.

Remove from the oven, invert onto a serving plate, flipping them again so the scones are right side up. Two plates are needed for this.

Drizzle the scones with fondant frosting and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Fondant frosting:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons half and half or enough to create the desired consistency to drizzle the scones.

Mix together to reach desired consistency, drizzle over scones.

Serve with fresh blueberries.

Now, go out for a brisk walk or run to work off all these scones!

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Pepper Jelly, Another Southern Staple

Chances are, if you live in the southern USA, you have seen and tasted pepper jelly. Pepper jelly is one of those staples that can be used in many things.

Hostess Saver

It saves a hostess when guests show up; pour some pepper jelly over cream cheese and some crackers and you have a marvelous snack with wine, beer or even iced tea.

It adds a special something to pan-fried pork chops and makes scrambled eggs amazing. Slathering some onto a biscuit or over some ham will leave you in taste bud heaven.

While pepper jelly is a bit on the pricy side ($4.99 USD for a small 6 oz jar) it can be made rather quickly and you can adjust the heat to make it hot or just make it sweet.

When you make this, set aside time to give it your full attention because it needs to be stirred constantly to prevent lumping and scorching.

As always, when working with hot sugar, be careful. Keep a bowl of ice water near your working space so if you get splashed, you can plunge it into ice water to prevent a bad burn.

There are many recipes for pepper jelly. This one does not use a large amount of pectin so it sets on a medium gel which makes it perfect for pouring over cream cheese, making a sauce or slathering onto a nice hot buttermilk biscuit.

Pepper Jelly Biscuit with herb and cheese scrambled eggs

Southern Pepper Jelly

1 1/4 cup of finely diced red and orange peppers (one large pepper of each color)

3/4 cup finely diced green pepper

2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno pepper OR 1 small Habanero

Wear gloves when handling hot peppers. If you get the hot peppers on your skin, soak the skin in milk, 1/2 & 1/2 or cream.

Do not rub your eyes or touch small children or babies with hands that have just handled hot peppers.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1.75 ounce package of powdered pectin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Take your time cutting the peppers. The best jelly has lovely evenly diced cubes of multicolored peppers floating the jelly. If you just hack and chop, you see uneven strands and bits and pieces of peppers which isn’t so nice to look at through the jar or when you are eating the jelly.

Here is how to cut a nice looking pepper:

Wash the peppers and remove any sticky labels.

Trim the top and bottom off, remove the stem and save the trimmed ends for kebab or in a salad or stir-fry.

Remove the ribs and seeds, open the pepper so it lays flat, skin side down.

Carefully remove the membrane

See how much prettier the pepper is with the membrane removed?

Slice into julienne, cut even slices all the way down the pepper strip.

Turn the julienne and cut into dice. The cubes should be of even size.

Pepper Jelly, a southern staple and hostess saver.

Slice the pepper so it becomes one long strip. Lay the pepper out with the skin side down. Remove the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper.

Using a sharp knife, remove the membrane from the inside of the pepper, leaving the plump pepper flesh. Just take a very thin slice from the surface to remove the membrane.

Make long thin slices from the pepper (Julienne cut), then turn the strips and cut them into cubes. Do this carefully so you create a bowl full of nicely diced peppers.

Trust me, it really makes a difference to take the time to do it right.

Place the diced peppers, vinegar and pectin into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Be careful of vinegar fumes, turn your exhaust fan on so you don’t get all choked up.

When the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, add the sugar.

Return the mixture to another rolling boil, then boil it for 1 full minute while stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may have formed on the top.

You can process the jelly in canning jars, hot water bath etc to seal and make them shelf stable. (Great idea for gifts)

Or using clean, sterile jars, fill and invert them on the counter to cool. Once cool, turn them over and they seal will set, but you will need to refrigerate the jars.

This makes slightly over a pint.

Soften cream cheese, to fancy it up a bit, put it in a piping bag and pipe the cream cheese out in a decorative pattern rather than just plopping a chunk of cream cheese on a plate.

But if you want to, you can do it that way. Lots of southern folks do.

A Southern Staple: Simple Syrup

Bottle of simple syrup

This basic southern staple, simple syrup, is a must have in any kitchen or bar.

This style of syrup is used all over the world for lots of things, not just in the south.

It is, however the secret to true southern iced tea.

Simple syrup is easy and quick to make and there are endless ways to use it in the kitchen and bar.

Basic Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water, enough to cover the sugar by 1/2 inch.
  • 3-4 drops lemon juice

Put sugar in a sauce pot

Add water to cover sugar by 1/2 inch; add 2-3 drops of lemon juice, stir

Bring to a boil; boil for 1-2 minutes

Place a ‘sign or symbol’ to signify pot is hot;
Put the pot away from accidents to cool

Method:

Put the sugar in a sauce pot, add water to cover the sugar by 1/2 inch. Stir well.

Place the pot over high heat; add the lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Stir, not constantly, but often enough to prevent scorching on the bottom.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, the sugar will turn clear. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes, turn off.

Cool the mixture before transferring to a jar or bottle.

While the sugar syrup is cooling, put some kind of “sign or symbol” on the  handle so others know the pot and contents are hot and to leave the pot alone.

Use caution and place the pot well to the back of the stove out of harms way.

Sugar burns are very nasty and go really deep. Avoid at all costs, especially around children.

The syrup is shelf stable. Keep it handy to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, tea or coffee, use it over fresh fruit, in meringues, or even in marinades and specialty bar drinks.

You can infuse flavors into simple syrup, add a vanilla pod, lemon, lime or orange zest, fruit puree, basil, lavender, or mint for a few ideas. Be sure to strain the flavor elements out before using. The vanilla pods or herb leaves do look nice in the bottle.

My favorite way to use this syrup is to splash some into iced tea and top with a lemon wedge.

The perfect thirst quencher!

Iced Tea and Simple Syrup

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Interview Cookies

I was asked to bring cookies to a job interview one day so I made a batch of Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies. Walking across the street for the interview, I realized the cookies were still on my kitchen counter. Going in empty-handed was not an option so running home as fast as possible, I grabbed the cookies and waltzed into the interview only a few minutes before it was time to start. Typically being there 5-10 minutes early is preferred rather entering right on time. Luckily I lived close by.

I was right about going home to get the cookies. There was a “refreshment” table set with a big empty space for the platter. Milk, tea, coffee, plates and napkins –  a successful interview hinged on good cookies. The interview panel was outfitted by the colleges cookie monsters.

Being cookie monsters, they were satisfied munching while they took turns grilling me with questions. After the cookie interview, it was required to film a ten-minute lesson of their random choosing.

I wondered what they wanted to eat next.

After several more interviews over several weeks, they awarded me the position.  I always wondered if they were curious why I talked so fast or was out of breath at the initial interview. Probably not.

My son called from college the other day and asked for some cookies. These will work nicely.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Recipe adapted from Quaker Oats Company “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies”
  • 1/2 cup ( 1 stick) + 6 tablespoons soft room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup  dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Dry Ingredients
  • 1- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt
Measure to fold in last
  • 3 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large bowl.

Mix  the dry ingredients together well with a dry whisk, spoon or fork.

On low-speed, slowly add the dry flour mixture to the creamed eggs and sugar.

Add the oats, then the cranberries, mix well to combine all ingredients.

Use a scoop and scrape it along the edge of the bowl to level the portion size for consistent sized cookies

Drop by rounded spoonfuls, or use a cookie scoop, onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Space 2″ apart.

Space evenly 2" apart to allow spreading. Use silpat or parchment on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Use a spatula to lift the cookies from the parchment.

Cool completely.

Drizzle the cookies with icing. Make note of the parchment and tray under the cookies to catch icing drips.

Watch out, cookies disappear before they are finished!

Drizzle with fondant icing if desired.

Fondant Icing

1 cup 10x confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon milk and more as needed.

Place the 10x sugar in a bowl. Add the milk and stir. Drip more milk, drop by drop, into the sugar until drizzling consistency is reached.

It is easy to make this too liquid so start with a small amount of milk first and add while stirring. It changes quickly.

Using a fork, drizzle the frosting over the cookies while still on the cooling rack.

Allow the frosting to dry before storing in an air tight container.

These cookies are best inside of tummies, guarded by a glass of milk or cup of tea.

Take a bite!

Potato Chip Cookies

I wrote this post on Potato Chip Cookies before I realized how many others have recently posted recipes for potato chip cookies. In studying some books on food photography, cookies were an “assignment”. These have been on my mind lately and decided to make them for pictures.

Oh well, here is another version that isn’t adapted from Emeril or Smitten Kitchen. Guess a good thing is hard to keep quiet!

We have enjoyed these for years. So addicting and rich a small batch is all you need.

These potato chip cookies are a style of shortbread. There is no salt in the recipe due to the addition of the crushed potato chips. It is a simple and deliciously sweet and salty cookie. They remind me of Pecan Sandies.

The use of baking powder is optional. Using it creates a meringue like texture to the cookie. Quite yummy.

This recipe was discovered in Mom’s Big Book of Cookies which has many delightful cookie recipes, many of which are “kid helper” friendly. I tweaked it a little bit.

If you wanted, you can add some dark chocolate chips to the mix or melt chocolate and dip half the cookie in the melted chocolate.

Or perhaps use pretzels instead of potato chips.

After this potato chip shortbread cookie, maybe a bacon shortbread cookie would be in order. . . just sub out minced crispy bacon for the potato chips and see what you end up with.

Potato Chip Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter

6 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup crushed regular potato chips (non flavored-low fat ones work too)

1 teaspoon baking powder – optional

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silpat silicone  mat
  • Cream the butter and sugar together
  • Add vanilla
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl
  • Measure the flour, baking powder, if using, chopped nuts and crushed chips into a bowl and stir together well.
  • Incorporate the dry mixture into the creamed butter, sugar and vanilla.
  • Make 1 inch sized balls and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
  • Using a flat-bottomed glass of cup, flatten each ball, dipping the bottom of the glass into sugar between each cookie.
    • Or you could roll the balls in sugar and then flatten them
  • Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown.
  • Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving the cookies to a cooling rack.

Serve with a tall cold glass of milk.