As a child I was always barely waiting for my mother to make crepes and eat them filled with home made sour cherry preserves! Back then is when I learned how easy it actually is to make the crepe batter whether you are mixing it by hand or using a food processor or blender. Just follow a few basic guidelines and you’ll always have perfect crepe batter!
Making the crepe batter requires a different technique based on the tools you have at hand to make it. If you have a blender or food processor you can just put all the ingredients together and mix until you get a smooth consistency. If you mix it by hand using a whisk start by beating the eggs then add a bit of flour and milk at a time. Sifting the flour will also help avoiding the flour to clump up but if you don’t have access to a sifter just add the flour one tablespoon at a time and try to spread it all over the batter surface rather than dumping it all in one place. Doing it this way is a bit more tedious but it will ensure that your final batter will be smooth and free of flour clumps.
Consistency wise, I prefer having the batter a bit thicker when using a spreader tool on a heavy cast iron crepe pan or an electric crepe maker, or runny if I use a light pan and spread the batter by tilting the pan. The best consistency is achieved when you poor the batter from a ladle 8 to 10 inches above the batter into the rest of the batter and it forms a continuous stream which does not splash when falling in the rest of the batter. Also you have to keep in mind that if you are refrigerating the batter for a couple hours to leave the flour absorb all the liquid, you will end up with a thicker batter. To compensate for this I usually check the consistency before cooking the crepes and add more milk to achieve the desired consistency.
The basic ingredients and quantities for the basic crepe batter are as follows:
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1-1/2 cups milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt to taste
This will create a thicker batter best suited for use with a spreader. Add about 1/2 cup of milk for a thinner batter that will easily spread by tilting the crepe pan.
This batter will work for both sweet and savory crepes but if you want to make just sweet crepes you can add a bit of sugar and vanilla for more flavor!
When I was a child, my grandmother would always make my favorite dessert when we came to visit. By the way, she made EVERY grandchild’s favorite. Her chest freezer sat in her dining room, and when we arrived it would be covered by a tablecloth, displaying an assortment of desserts that boggled the mind. Every grandchild would find their favorite among the offerings, accompanied by her pound cake and a few others for the adults. She must have baked all week prior to our arrival.
I always requested Banana Pudding. She would make a large pan of Banana Pudding crowned with meringue. To this day, I cannot see a bunch of bananas without thinking of her banana pudding. When bananas were scarce or too expensive, she would use drained canned pineapple (crushed). That was excellent, also.
I admit that I am a lazy cook. Usually I will leave off the meringue. But you should try it this way- it is worth it.
Banana Pudding Recipe
2 Tablespoons self-rising flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounce package vanilla wafers- a good quality wafer
3 large bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place flour, sugar and salt into a heavy saucepan, stir well and set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl at high speed of an electric mixer until foamy, add milk, mix well.
4. Stir the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture and cook over MEDIUM heat, stirring constantly until thick and smooth.
5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
6. Layer the vanilla wafers alternately with the bananas in a 1 ½ quart baking dish, beginning with wafers. Put down 1 layer of wafers, then a single layer of bananas, more wafers, more bananas, so on until all the wafers and bananas are used.
7. Pour custard over the top of all so that all the bananas and wafers are covered. You want the pudding to run down between the cookies and cover all. Usually I will shift them around slightly with a knife to allow the custard to run down into all.
8. Beat the egg whites at high speed of electric mixer for 1 minute. Then gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating constantly until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. This may take 2-5 minutes. Peaks should be stiff enough to hold their own when the beaters are lifted.
9. Spread meringue over pudding, pushing it all the way to the edge of the casserole dish to seal.
10. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.
NOTES: Some cooks add the pudding between the layers: 1 layer cookies, l layer banana, 1 layer pudding. I usually layer the cookies and bananas first then make the meringue, then the pudding, this way it is poured over the cookies while hot. The pudding will thicken as it cools.
Safety Note on Meringue: Since meringue is not thoroughly cooked there is a chance of salmonella using raw egg whites. Instead, use pasturized eggs or powdered egg whites (reconstituted) to make your meringue.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON MERINGUE: The egg whites must be beat with an absolutely clean and grease free beater and bowl. Don’t use a plastic bowl as they tend to harbor a layer of grease that never comes out. You have to clean the beaters thoroughly after the pudding is made, before making the meringue.
Note on making the pudding: You tend to get tired of stirring the pudding, and want to increase the heat to high. Don’t! If you get impatient and increase the heat, you risk burning the pudding.
Easy Cookie Recipes – One Recipe with Many Variations
By Karen Ciancio
There are so many cookie recipes around but often so little time to bake during the busy holiday season.
The solution? A great tasting basic cookie recipe that quickly and easily turns into such a variety of easy to make Christmas treats, friends and family will think you poured over all your favorite Christmas cookie recipes.
Let’s start with the basics.
Basic Cookie Dough Recipe
1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter (or margarine) at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the flour. Beat with an electric mixer, scraping the sides of the bowl several times, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With mixer at a low speed, add the flour gradually, beating just until everything is well blended.
Place the mixture on a baking sheet using a tablespoon measure and press down with a spoon to flatten a bit. Or roll our and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake at 350ºF for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.
This basic cookie mixture is also the base for the following cookie recipes (all baked in a preheated oven at 350ºF).
(Makes about 32)
Add 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest to the recipe. Shape into a log that is about 1 1/2″ in diameter and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Slice dough into 1/4″ thick slices. Place on cookie sheet. Cookies can be decorated with candies, rolled in colored sugar, or cut into pretty holiday shapes before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
Cherry Coconut Chocolate Squares
(Makes about 54 squares)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, well drained and coarsely chopped
Line a 13″x9″ baking pan with foil.
Stir cocoa powder into basic dough mixture. Press evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust looks dry.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, almond extract and baking powder until well blended. Stir in coconut and cherries. Pour over the baked crust.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Lift it out on to a cutting board using the foil ends and cut into 1 1/2″ squares. Squares can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Coconut Pineapple Cookies
(Makes about 36)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup pineapple preserves (use raspberry or apricot if you prefer)
Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the basic dough mixture and mix well. Shape the dough into 1 1/2″ balls and roll in the remaining coconut to coat them. Place the balls 1″ apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make a deep indentation in the center of each cookie with your fingertip.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookie is firm and the coconut is lightly toasted. When cooled, fill each hole in the center of the cookies with the preserves.
You can vary this basic dough to make a wide variety of cookie recipes. Add other flavorings like maple, ginger or cinnamon. Add chopped dried fruits like apricots or dates. Or bake them plain in holiday shapes and decorate with colored icing.
Karen Ciancio is a cook and lover of all things food and cooking related. Her website http://www.cookingnook.com contains easy dessert recipes, plus lots of other recipes, cooking tips, measurement conversions and kitchen ideas.
Molten Chocolate Cake (serves 6)
Powder sugar for dusting
4 large egg yolks
4 large whole eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb. high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cake flour (plus more for dusting)
2 sticks unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using vegetable spray, grease (6) 6-ounce ramekins and dust with cake flour.
In the top of a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, whole eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk in the cake flour.
Evenly distribute the batter among the 6 ramekins, and bake for 10 minutes or until the sides of the cakes are set but the center still jiggles.
Let the cakes cool for 2-3 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and invert onto plates. Garnish with powder sugar and serve with either vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
This chocolate truffle cake is perfect for the holidays or a special occasion. It is a little more complicated to make, requiring a filling and a ganache coating, but the results are well worth the effort.
Chocolate Truffle Cake
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
* 1 large egg
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 1/2 cup walnuts
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 pound fine-quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch springform pan.
Make base: In a small saucepan melt butter and stir in cocoa powder. Remove pan from heat and add brown sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in flour, walnuts, egg, and vanilla and spread batter evenly in spring form pan. Bake base in middle of oven 10 minutes, or just until firm, and transfer to a rack to cool, still in the spring form pan.
Make filling: Arrange walnuts in one layer on top of base. In a small heavy saucepan combine butter, brown sugar, and honey and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 280°F. Remove pan from heat and add cream, vanilla, and lemon juice, stirring until smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature and pour over walnuts, spreading evenly.
Make ganache: In a saucepan bring cream just to a boil. Finely chop chocolate. Put chocolate in a metal bowl and pour hot cream over it, stirring until smooth. Cool ganache to room temperature and beat with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks (do not over beat or it will become grainy).
Spread ganache evenly over filling. Chill cake, covered, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. With a large spatula transfer cake to a plate and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
The Perfect Cake
By Diane Watkins
The perfect cake is easily recognizable. It’s shape is perfectly symmetrical with a golden brown crust. It has a feathery velvet texture. It is moist and light. The taste is pure heaven. You can certainly recognize a perfect cake, but can you make one?
When making a cake it is important to follow the recipe exactly. If you try to skip a step you may have less than desirable results. Skip the sifting step and your flour will be heavier than it should, creating a heavy, dry cake. Over-mix and your cake will be tough and chewy, more like a good bread.
So, what are the steps in making a good cake? Lets explore these separately.
The Right Ingredients
First, use the right ingredients and measure carefully. If the recipe calls for cake flour, you will have best results with cake flour. All-purpose flour can be substituted, but will not make as tender a cake.
Beat the liquid ingredients well before combining with the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are added, the cake should be stirred gently, unless the directions tell you otherwise. If your cake is course and dry, or has tunnels, you have probably over-mixed.
All-purpose flour has a higher gluten content, and this will affect your results. Also realize that all-purpose flour varies according to the region of the country it is produced. Southern brands of flour are a softer gluten than those in the northern US. If you must substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour, either use a southern product, or use 2 Tablespoons less per cup of flour suggested.
There are three different leavening agents used in cake making. Baking powder, baking soda, and air. Occasionally, you may see a recipe calling for yeast, but this is not the norm. If the recipe does not call for either baking powder or baking soda, then your leavening agent is air and your beating step is very important. Pound cakes, sponge cakes, and angel food cakes all use air as their leavening agent. Many cakes use a combination of leavening agents, including air. Beating the cake at the suggested speed for the appropriate time listed will beat in the air and make your cake light.
Baking powder also comes in different varieties, including regular and double acting. If your recipe specifies a variety, be sure to use the one called for. Most recipes that call for baking soda require buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar. Do not substitute regular milk for buttermilk without adding acid, as it is necessary to activate the baking soda and make the cake rise.
Shortening, Oil, and Butter
Again, using the correct shortening is important. If substituting, be aware of the liquid content. Everyone is aware of the need to decrease the liquid when using oil, but you may not know that butter contains more liquid than shortening, requiring an increase in volume and a decrease in the liquid added to the recipe.
Choose the correct size and shape of baking pan. The batter should almost fill the pan, without any spillage or bulging. Baking times and temperature will be dependent on the pan size. A thinner pan may need a higher temperature to bake the cake without drying it out.
Prepare the pan as directed. Most recipes call for the pan to be greased and floured. A piece of waxed paper or parchment paper cut to fit the bottom may be placed in the greased pan if desired. This will aid removing the cake when done. If using the paper, grease the bottom and sides, place the paper into the bottom and then flour the sides if directed.
Baking the Cake
Preheat the oven as directed. Starting in a cold oven, or too hot an oven will affect the rising and browning of the cake. A cake started in a cool oven will not allow the cake to rise sufficiently before the crust forms and the cake may fall. Too hot an oven may cause a crack to develop, and the crust might harden and over brown. The cake should be placed in the center of the oven for best heat distribution. Be aware of your oven, if there are hot spots in your oven you may need to adjust.
The cake is done when it is lightly browned and it springs back when lightly pressed with the fingertip in the center or when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and dry. The cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan.
Follow the recipe on removing the cake from the pan. Some cakes can be removed immediately, some need a 5 minute rest, and others must be allowed to cool completely in the pan. Proper attention to this detail will prevent repairs caused by the cake sticking to the pan and tearing.
Using the proper ingredients, mixing well at the proper time, and careful baking will produce a light tender cake that you will be proud to serve. Follow the recipe, understand the reasons behind the directions, and you, too will have the “knack” for cakes.