Category Archives: Family Cookbook Project

I come from a history of great cooks and grew up enjoying wonderful meals prepared with love in busy, happy kitchens. I am blessed to have many of the recipes from generations before and hope to test, photograph and preserve them in a family cookbook. Here I will share each of these recipes with you as I try them out.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

Today, I am excited to share something very special with you, just in time for Thanksgiving; Haddon Hall Gingerbread.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread is a delightful, dark and distinctive cakelike gingerbread with deep notes of rich molasses and warm spices. It is another of the treasures from my Grandmother Ibby’s recipe box and is a favorite of my mom’s. Not just a favorite fall treat but a favorite childhood memory.  Crisp fall days spent playing outside or afternoons walking home from school, cold nose, tingling fingers. Opening the front door of the big old Victorian house, a deep breath and a spreading smile as she is greeted by the scent of her favorite gingerbread baking in the oven.

I can just picture her standing there in her cotton dress, knit sweater, saddle shoes, dropping her books and inhaling deeply, happy to be home and anticipating that warm gingerbread dolloped with fresh whipped cream.

What a picture of home and comfort. Perfect for this time of year when we nestle in and regain our focus on what is most important. Home. Family. Tradition.

While in our family, this will always be my grandmother’s gingerbread, Haddon Hall Gingerbread does have some pretty interesting roots. And apparently a very interesting effect on men.

Yes, this post started out as a simple and sweet remembrance from my mother’s childhood. A favorite recipe to share for the upcoming holiday season. But as is so often the case, there is more to this story.

The research I have done has yielded some intriguing and even amusing results and several different variations on the recipe; none quite the same as my grandmother’s. From what I’ve read, Haddon Hall Gingerbread originally gained the attention of American housewives in 1933 with a Gold Medal flour ad on the back cover of the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

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Photo Credit

And after reading this advertisement, I must say, how could it not?

The ad encourages the lady of the house to buy Gold Medal flour for the “Kitchen Tested, simplest, surest, easiest way to baking success.” And if that wasn’t reason enough to purchase Gold Medal flour, the recipe set included in each bag was certainly an irresistible offer.

“Rich man… poor man… Every man goes for Haddon Hall Gingerbread. An old favorite marvelously transformed by adding cream cheese and lemon sauce. The recipe … with 19 others … is given free inside every size sack of Gold Medal ‘kitchen-tested’ flour.”

Intriguing? Perhaps. But irresistible?

“Amazing Collection brings the never before published secrets of world famous chefs for foods that enchant men including the one for Haddon Hall Gingerbread shown here – The creation of William J. Holmes, Pastry Chef, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, Atlantic City.”

Hmmmm, man enchanting recipes.

Still not convinced?

“What your husband has to say about this Haddon Hall gingerbread will bring the roses to your cheeks. And you’ll find baking this way a thrilling adventure.”

Rosey blushing cheeks? A thrilling adventure without putting your shoes on and leaving the kitchen? What self respecting gal could resist that promise.

“Get Gold Medal ‘Kitchen Tested’ flour at any grocery store. Each sack contains the recipe for Haddon Hall Gingerbread and 19 other ‘foods that enchant men.’ Try them.”

Now, before you set aside 80 years of progress and attempt to manipulate the man in your life with baked goods, keep in mind the Gold Medal flour sacks no longer contain these bewitching recipes.

Do not dismay! Fortunately for you, I have one of them right here. I’m not sure any of us could handle all 19 anyway but a little bit of a rosey cheeked thrill shouldn’t be too dangerous.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Molasses
  • 2 1/4 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Cup boiling water

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Blend in the eggs and the molasses.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the boiling water, beginning and ending with the dry.

Pour into a greased and floured 8×8 pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

My mom remembers my grandmother always serving this with whipped cream but I think a sprinkling of powder sugar is pretty nice too. She also never served it with the cream cheese layer or the lemon sauce and frankly, I can’t imagine it needing either.

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Just before Halloween, I made a batch and packaged some up for friends in a festive treat box. That was before I had done some research and discovered the true power of this recipe. I’m expecting a thank you note any day now.

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So, now we know that this is no ordinary gingerbread but where does the name “Haddon Hall” come from? It could be named for the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City where Chef William J. Holmes worked but I imagine it goes back further than that. The Gold Medal flour ad says that with the addition of a cream cheese layer and lemon sauce, Chef Holmes’ creation was an updated version of an “old favorite”.

According to Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes, “Haddon Hall is a famous old medieval mansion in Derbyshire, England. It’s not too distant from a Derbyshire town named Ashbourne, which is famous for it’s gingerbread. According to Derbyshire tradition, Ashbourne gingerbread was first created by a French prisoner of war, who decided to remain in the town after the Napoleonic wars. His special gingerbread recipe was then handed down through generations of  his descendants.

Gingerbread is a tradition in the area. Gingerbread men were made and sold in country towns at Easter Fairs and Autumn Wakes Weeks. Fashioned in molds, they were decorated with colored hats and scarlet or white sugar buttons. They can still be found for sale today in Ashbourne and the surrounding area.

So, I’m speculating that the Betty Crocker ‘Haddon Hall’ (there is a version of the recipe in the 1965 Betty Crocker cookbook) gingerbread recipe  was likely an Americanized version of the below Ashbourne gingerbread recipe.”

More about Haddon Hall.

Perhaps that “old favorite” does have its roots in the accounting above and in Ashbourne Gingerbread and the Haddon Hall of Derbyshire; I’d like to think so. But I could find nothing to confirm the origin with certainty so, it remains a food mystery. Which kind of makes this recipe all the more intriguing.

Regardless of the origin and the mystery, the romantic Madison Avenue promises of 1933, or if this is an exact duplicate of the recipe from that magical little booklet in the flour sack or was again altered by my grandmother, this recipe is special.

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So break out the mixer, pans and measuring cups (if you dare) and be ready for your kitchen to be filled with the scent of fall and family and home.

Anything else is your business.

Enjoy!

If you are looking for some great recipes for your Thanksgiving Dinner, here are a few of my favorite sides and Thanksgiving Traditions, originally posted last fall.

This Thanksgiving,  I hope you have a beautiful day filled with the people you love and a grateful heart brimming with joy for all that makes you thankful. As for me, I am so thankful for the incredible friends, readers and blogging community that stick with me and make writing Welcome Company such a joy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Grandma Ibby’s Chocolate Oaties

If you have read my blog for a while, you may have heard of Grandma Ibby. I have been cooking and baking my way through her treasure box of recipes over the past year and have shared many of these special recipes with you along the way.

I’m thinking we are a bit overdue for a Grandma Ibby post so today I am going to share her fantastic Chocolate Oaties with you.

Translation: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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What makes these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies special is that they are both thin and crispy and chewy and tender all at the same time.

They feel very old fashioned and I love that. I also remember eating them a lot as a kid and of course, I love that too!

Grandma Ibby’s Chocolate Oaties

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 Cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups Oatmeal – I’ve used instant and it works fine
  • 1/2 Cup nutmeats, optional – I don’t add the nuts – picky no-nut people around here.
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips – I use semi-sweet but milk chocolate or butterscotch would be great.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together with a mixer until light and well combined; about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each well. Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Gently mix in by hand the oatmeal, nutmeats and chocolate chips until just combined.

Use a cookie scoop or teaspoons to drop dough on a cookie sheet that is greased or lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Bake for about 10 minutes.

These are thin and delicate cookies so let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet to allow them to set up a bit. Then finish cooling on a wire rack.

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The thin, chewy nature and crisp texture of these cookies also make them perfect for ice cream sandwiches.

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A scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream and a few chocolate sprinkles and you have a very special, very old fashioned treat!

Yes, you can have an ice cream sandwich in October. Especially in Arizona!

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I hope you’ll give them a try and as always, Enjoy!

 

Nothing Says “I Love You” Quite Like Banana Pudding

A few weeks ago, the phone rang. All plans were set aside. The busy-ness on my ever-present “to-do” list suddenly became unimportant and I found myself hastily throwing a bag together and waiting in the airport for a seat on a flight to Oklahoma.

My husband’s Uncle Milt passed away. My Uncle Milt passed away.

We quickly decided I would be the one to go and be with the family for the funeral services and my husband would stay home with the boys (Sara is in Washington with my mom for a month). It might seem strange that I was the one to go when the loss was on my husband’s side of the family but that is the funny thing about family, love blurs the lines. And I loved my Uncle Milt so very much.

I first told you a little about Uncle Milt and Aunt Peggy last fall when I shared Aunt Peggy’s delicious corn casserole recipe with you. I told you a bit about their love story and what they came to mean to me so many years ago when I was a new military bride desperately missing my own family. And I briefly mentioned the banana pudding.

This is the first chance I have had to sit down and gather my thoughts after the five beautiful days I spent in Oklahoma (that busy list didn’t go away while I was away). And I am struggling a bit. It is hard to find the words to sum up this sweet man. To sum up what he meant to me; to so many. To sum up a life lived so well that left behind is a far-reaching legacy that winds its way through an entire family, binding together a wife of 56 years, four children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, sisters and brother-in-law, nieces and nephews. And me, married to a nephew but embraced as a daughter.

As I write, I remember that today is Aunt Peggy’s birthday and I am thankful that these words have waited until today. I can think of no better gift than to remind her of the blessing she and Uncle Milt have been in my life.

And it all started with banana pudding.

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I don’t remember the exact moment I had Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding for the first time but it instantly became my absolute favorite thing in the universe. No exaggeration. Better than French fries.

And Uncle Milt quietly took notice.

We lived about 45 minutes away from Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg when my husband was stationed at Altus Air Force base. We spent a lot of weekends playing cribbage around their cozy dining room table; always Aunt Peg and I teamed up against Uncle Milt and my husband. Those boys like to think that they won most of the time but I don’t remember it quite that way. What I do remember is feeling loved and welcome. I remember missing my own family a whole lot less because Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg became like parents to us and their four children and their families like siblings.

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So many times I walked through their front door to hear Uncle Milt quietly say “it must be ‘That Girl’! Go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Always there was a banana pudding waiting for me. If it wasn’t Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding, it was a Styrofoam container from Ryan’s Buffet heaped full of banana pudding that he had gone and gotten for me. He was a big man with a big presence and an even bigger heart and I adored him.

We were stationed in Oklahoma for only two years and too soon, it was time for us to move to Arizona where my husband would fly part-time for the National Guard and full-time for American Airlines. I was devastated to leave and cried most of the way through Texas. Life quickly took over and we didn’t see or talk with Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg nearly enough but the bond we had forged with them in that two years remains such a part of us.

Over the years, Uncle Milt’s health declined with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s/Dementia. He eventually had to be placed in the Veteran’s Center where his growing needs could be met. Aunt Peg was right by his side everyday. Such love. Such an example.

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I have heard it said that while Alzheimer’s may rob your loved one of his memory, what matters is that you remember. You remember.

I remember.

I remember and was blessed to join this amazing family  to celebrate the life of a man who meant the world to me. Cousin Jim’s sweet wife Yvonne even made a banana pudding for me shortly after I arrived and I jumped off of the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon. Only for banana pudding. And I did stick five spoons in the bowl and share it. The only thing better than a big bowl of banana pudding all to yourself is a big bowl of banana pudding shared with five people you love.

We told stories, we laughed, we cried, we prayed and we rejoiced in the knowledge that Uncle Milt is restored and again whole in the arms of the Savior he spent his life glorifying.

I promise you Uncle Milt, I will remember.

And I will forever remember so many things about saying goodbye.

I will remember Uncle Chuck’s story about the anger he felt when his own father passed. A man poor in the pocket but rich in all the ways that matter. How he was unable to comprehend that the sum of a man’s life could end up a few papers and documents in a shoebox. It was you who showed him that the true sum of his father’s life was not in that shoebox but was in him and his four beautiful sisters. It was you who helped him to realize just how remarkable his own father was. He remembers.

I will remember Jim’s eulogy and the stories of a husband and father’s love and strength. Your wife and your children and their children remember.

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I will remember the internment ceremony at the beautiful military cemetery that is your final resting place. I will remember the full military honors for a man and a career that included two tours in Korea and one in Vietnam. I will remember the cry of the bugler sounding TAPS as the wind gusted mightily and it was finished. All of your family remembers. And a grateful and free nation remembers.

I will see you again Uncle Milt. I know you will have the cribbage board waiting and I will smile to again hear “oh, here comes ‘That Girl’ – go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Until that day, I will remember.

Aunt Peggy’s Banana Pudding

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It isn’t a fancy recipe. It isn’t a complicated recipe. But it is how someone very special shared with me just how much I meant to him. How he reminded me how much I was loved. I am happy to share it with you and hope that you will make if for someone you love.

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Ingredients

  • 1 – 3.4 ounce package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 36-48 Vanilla Wafers

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Directions

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water. Add the instant vanilla pudding and whisk again until smooth and well blended. Chill the pudding mixture for 5 minutes.

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The pudding mixture will be starting to set. Fold in the whipped cream.

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Begin layering the ingredients …

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Start with pudding,

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add a layer of vanilla wafers

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and then a layer of sliced bananas.

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Top with more pudding, wafers and bananas and finish with pudding.

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It is always pretty to have some of the wafers peaking through a glass bowl.

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Top with crushed vanilla wafer crumbs. You can garnish with a few fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers just before serving.

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Or dress up individual serving bowls. You can also eat it right out of a Styrofoam container. Whatever works for you!

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When I got home from Oklahoma, I whipped up a batch for the girlfriends who had stepped up to take care of my boys for the two days I was gone and my husband had to work. One batch fit nicely into two 8×8 disposable pans.

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Just layer in the same manner as above.

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Top with vanilla wafer crumbs and pretty up the packaging and you will have a gift that is well received.

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It is simple but it is my absolute favorite banana pudding. For many reasons. I hope you love it too!

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Happy Birthday Aunt Peggy. I love you so much!

One final note, I am working on a gluten-free/sugar-free version. Right now, as we speak. I’m having a little trouble with the vanilla wafers but I am determined to eat this whenever I wish. Well the bananas will still be a splurge but not the end of the world. Stay tuned …

I Take Thee Banana Bread

Finally, the Banana Bread Post.

This another of my grandmother Ibby’s wonderful recipes and I absolutely love it. It feels very old fashioned to me and it always comes out perfect.

My grandmother did a lot of catering in the 1960’s and 70’s for the women’s circle at her Presbyterian church, the Whitworth College Music Department (Spokane, WA) and numerous weddings and showers and dinner parties for regular clients. She used this banana bread recipe often, making lovely little tea sandwiches with an orange cream cheese spread.

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This is my grandma Ibby with my mom and my stepdad at their wedding, which my grandma catered.

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There are the banana bread tea sandwiches with the dark crusts on the platter upper right. They made an appearance at a lot of weddings and bridal showers. This picture is from my mom and stepdad’s wedding reception. I take thee banana bread. Get it? Remember, I have a cold. My intellectual capacity is diminished.

Incidentally, my mom and stepdad were brought together by me. I found him. My sister owes her existence to me. She’ll read this so I just wanted to remind her.

He was the Mountain Manager at the ski area my mom worked at and would always say hi and stop to chat a moment with me when I was outside playing at the condominiums we all lived in. I took a shine to him; he was quite a catch. He was a widower 18 years older than my mom and I got three pretty great step-brothers in the deal. And my little sister of course but she came later. My dad passed away in 1995 and I miss him so much but I am so very thankful for all the years I got to spend with him.

My parents would have celebrated their 40th Anniversary this June.

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Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.

Recently, I made my grandma’s banana bread tea sandwiches, just as she always did.

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The china, linens and pink depression glass came from my other incredible grandmother, Eileen. The one who let me eat Froot Loops before bed. Remember? Grandmas are the best!

Grandma Ibby’s Banana Bread

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Ingredients

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  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add and incorporate the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients and then the bananas and chopped nuts.

Note: I don’t mix the nuts in but instead, sprinkle them over the top before baking. They look nice and are easy to pick off for anyone who doesn’t like them. Skip the nuts entirely if you are going to make the tea sandwiches as the bread slices up more cleanly.

Pour into a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

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Orange Cream Cheese Filling for Tea Sandwiches

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  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • And just a little freshly grated nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a mixer and spread between banana bread slices.

Banana-Bread-Tea-SandwichesCut the crust off of both ends and then slice into four finger sandwiches by slicing in half and then slicing each half in half.

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And then, it’s time for tea!

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This recipe also makes wonderful muffins.

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I sprinkle the nuts on top just like I do with the loaf option.

It will make 12 muffins and bakes for 20-25 minutes.

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This is a treasured recipe and is something I will always associate with my grandma Ibby. Especially the tea sandwiches which were just so her.

It is moist and perfectly textured with just the right banana flavor. I have been cutting out the sugar and recently (this morning) baked the muffins with Truvia sugar substitute and they turned out great! Next, to try them with almond or coconut flour. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Enjoy!

Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

As I have worked my way through so many of my grandmother’s incredible recipes, I have come to notice a few things about her “style” or signature touches, especially with baking. Two big stand outs are the use of orange zest and sour cream as so many of her recipes call for one or both.

In her coffee cake recipe there is no orange zest but the addition of sour cream makes for a wonderfully rich and moist cake. I have made the cake a few times now and have been playing around with it, gilding the lily a bit.

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The first time I made it, I made the mistake of questioning grandma Ibby. Why would you want to top the cake with the streusel mixture and then end up with all of the “good stuff” on the bottom of the plate when you invert it out of the pan? So I put the streusel in the bundt pan first in order to have a pretty crumbly crunchy top to my cake. What I ended up with was an unattractive just about burnt mess. Sorry grandma, you do know best.

Still determined to update the recipe a bit and add my own touches, I decided to embrace the current salted caramel craze (a craze I am very fond of by the way) and add Fleur de Sel to the streusel. Let me tell you, that crunchy hit of salt on your tongue mingled with the sweet of brown sugar and spice of cinnamon – glorious. I’m talking Hallelujia Chorus G.L.O.R.I.O.U.S.

But how to finish the cake? How to add a little flourish to it without overdoing it or taking away from the beauty of the base recipe. I opted for finishing it with a simple maple glaze and Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze was born; a most welcome addition.

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Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

Streusel

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Fleur de Sel or coarse sea salt
  • 1 Cup finely chopped pecans

Cream together the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon (I just do it with a fork, not with a mixer) and stir in the Fleur de Sel and chopped pecans.

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Cake Ingredients

  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 Cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream

Cake Directions

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).

Grandma’s Tip: Cream the butter for a few seconds before adding the sugar. Add the sugar slowly, a little bit at a time and then add the vanilla and cream 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time until just incorporated.

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Grandma’s Tip: Crack each egg into a small bowl, not directly into the mixer. This way you will avoid any stray pieces of shell and the potential for a bad egg ruining your whole mixture.

Mix in the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the sour cream; start and end with dry and mix each addition until just combined being careful not to overmix or overwork your batter.

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Take your time, do it right, enjoy the process and  you will end up with one gorgeous batter.

In a prepared 10 inch bundt pan (buttered and floured or coated with baking spray) spoon half of the batter and spread smooth. Sprinkle with half of the streusel mixture. Top with remaining batter and spread smooth. Sprinkle with remaining streusel mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees 40-45 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack and then invert onto a cake stand or serving platter – make sure your serving dish has enough room for the maple glaze to pool around the cake. Let the cake cool completely (about an hour) before icing with the glaze.

Maple Glaze

Maple-Glaze

  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup

MIx together until smooth.

Maple-Glaze-2The glaze should leave a sturdy “ribbon” when drizzled back into the bowl as you want it thin enough to run over the cake but thick enough to form a beautiful icing.

Drizzle over the cake and decorate the top with a few pecan halves or a light sprinkling of chopped pecans.

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Let me tell you what happens with the addition of the glaze.

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It puddles and pools around the base of the cake, seeping underneath and mingling with the salted pecan streusel creating a gooey almost caramel like sauce that is plate licking delicious.

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How I would love it if you could pull up a seat at our backyard picnic table under the blooming Palo Verde tree and enjoy a leisurely late breakfast. Happy conversation, a gentle warm breeze, bird song and the soft buzzing of honey bees in the tree’s yellow spring blossoms.

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I enjoyed just such a morning this past Saturday with a wonderful group of ladies who make up the prayer team I am blessed to be a part of. We spent some peaceful time in the comfort of the spring sun praying together and then enjoyed each other’s company as we shared this very special cake. My grandmother would have loved it; the prayer and the fellowship. And the cake.

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My grandmother’s original coffee cake recipe specified only “nut meats” in the streusel ingredients; leaving the possibilities wide open. I started with pecans, which is the recipe you have here. Next up, a walnut orange combo using the same basic batter and then having a little fun with orange; a bit of a tribute to her love of orange zest. I also have a hazelnut chocolate chip version rolling around in my head. Stay tuned!

Kitchen table, dining room table or backyard picnic table, I hope you find a moment to slow down, gather round and enjoy!

“Our Creator knows just what we need. God, who made food for our provision and pleasure, made the table for our souls.” – Joanne Thompson, Table Life

How to Make a Bran Muffin Look Pretty

Grandma Ibby’s Bran Muffins are not pretty. They are delicious but they are not photogenic. Not at all. They are also not overly exciting as far as culinary creations go. In fact, I saw many a similar recipe in the church/fundraising cookbooks I have been combing through lately and am pretty sure they were another 1960’s-70’s homecook’s staple.

So, now that you are intrigued and can hardly wait to make them, I will tell you that while they may not be pretty or exciting, they are delicious. D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. My mom made them for us often and usually served them with a light, crisp Waldorf salad – I will most certainly have to tell you about that soon. And that Waldorf salad/bran muffin combo is by far one of my absolute favorite childhood meal memories.

So while I am excited to tell you about these muffins I do have to say, they were a challenge to photograph. Who says hummus and oatmeal are the hardest? I’m telling you, its bran muffins. I actually considered trying to artfully arrange some of the bran cereal with the other ingredients but a shot of flour, one egg, baking soda and a pile of shredded bran is about as exciting as the wall in the doctor’s office after 45 minutes of waiting; just staring at the mint green wall.

Making these bran muffins look pretty was important to me. Add that to the long list of comments that in my career driven 20’s I could never have imagined myself making. Get off of your brother’s head. Why are you standing on the table? No, NO Legos in the toilet. Don’t bite your toenails. You get the idea. Sorry, that last one might have been a little gross for a food post; unless you have boys, then you get me and are no longer grossed out by much.

You see, I have really been working on my photography skills, particularly my food photography skills, and my knowledge of the Nikon D3100 that is just begging me to use it to its full potential.  So, I am reading, studying and learning all there is to know about how to photograph food. Not because I want to be a professional photographer or because I’m obsessive or because I think everything needs to look perfect but because it is fun! Okay, so it is also because I like it when things look sort of perfect. Okay, and I’m a little bit obsessive. Do you think they make a bumper sticker that says “I ♥ Depth of Field?” No?

Bran-Muffins-4

All-Bran Muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 cups 100% Shredded All-Bran
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter and flour or spray with baking spray, 2 muffin trays.

Mix together 1 cup of the All-Bran and 1 cup boiling water and set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add in the egg and mix to incorporate. Add the buttermilk and wet All-Bran mixture, mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt and then mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Fold in the remaining 2 cups dry All-Bran.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Yield: 24 muffins.

Bran-Muffins-1

So, I am still a novice photographer and have a long way to go but I’m sure having a good time. I am absolutely inspired by so many of the photographs of my fellow bloggers; food, nature, architecture, landscape, you name it, you guys are amazing. Photography is such a true individual expression and I love that when I sit down to go through my reader, I can almost always tell who’s post I am about to read, just by looking at the featured photo.

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I would love it if you would share with me any tips, thoughts or ideas you have for taking great photos. Or even if you’d just like share what you love about taking pictures; whether you consider yourself a photographer or not.

Blackberries

I did my best with the bran muffins. But really, it was the blackberries that stole the show!

Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

I mentioned a while back that I am working my way through some treasured family recipes which at some point will culminate into a family cookbook. Many of the recipes I am making right now originated with my Grandma Elizabeth or Ibby as she was known to those closest to her.

Grandma-Ibby

When I came across this photo, I couldn’t help but spend some time with it; really looking at it. Studying my grandmother’s face and bearing. Remembering her.  It is a beautiful picture of her, but not just of her. As I take it in, I see my aunt, my mother, my sister, myself. I wish I could tell her but I’m pretty sure she knows just how fondly she is remembered.

I remember the aroma and the warmth of her zucchini bread; fresh from the oven, a pat of rich butter melting into the moist crumb. I remember all of the times my mom made it for us just as grandma Ibby had made it; the rich flavor of cinnamon and bright hint of orange making it absolutely irresistible.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini-Bread-IngredientsIngredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 Tbsp orange zest
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like walnuts best in this)

Directions

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until well combined, another minute or two. Stir in the vegetable oil, vanilla, grated zucchini and orange zest.

Shredded-Zucchini

Adding-Orange-Zest

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon and then stir into the wet mixture until just combined. Fold in the chopped nuts.

Walnuts-in-Zucchini-Bread

Divide the batter between two buttered and floured 8×4 inch loaf pans.

Zucchini-Bread-ready-for-th

 Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

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Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to finish cooling,

Zucchini-Bread-2

or slice and serve warm with a little bit of butter.

Zucchini-Bread-4

This particular loaf was on its way to bible study along with Grandma Ibby’s bran muffins and some pretty tasty individual crustless quiche. I will share those recipes with you this week as well. Until then, I hope you will try the zucchini bread. My Grandma Ibby would be so happy to know that her “cooking” is still making some very special people feel loved and well fed.

Enjoy!