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Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Victorian Kitchen - Afternoon Tea episode

The Victorian Kitchen was a television series made by the BBC in 1989 (no one does a documentary like the Beebs). Set in a restored Victorian kitchen, cook Ruth Mott - herself a former kitchen maid in a prominent English household - recreated meals that would have traditionally been served in Victorian times.

I really, really enjoyed watching these, especially the segment above on Afternoon Tea. Near the end of the video, I like the little trick used to check cakes before sending them upstairs for serving.

The Victorian Kitchen DVD series (check for compatibility with U.S. DVD players) and its companion The Victorian Kitchen book would be an excellent addition to anyone's library.

Alternatively, you can watch the entire series on YouTube:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lady Baltimore

Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

Lady Baltimore is:

a. A novel by Owen Wister
b. A popular Southern cake
c. A former tearoom in Charleston, South Carolina
d. All of the above
If you chose "d" as your answer, you are right!

In 1898 an American writer named Owen Wister came to Charleston on his honeymoon and fell in love with our beautiful city and its people. After that first trip, Wister returned to Charleston again and again because he couldn't forget it ~ or was it the cake he couldn't forget???

There was a tea room in Charleston back then called the Woman's Exchange. The Exchange was the first of several tea rooms in Charleston and also the first eating place in town where a lady could go without an escort. There, one could buy homemade jams and jellies, needlework, simple lunches, and homemade desserts. On one of Wister's visits, he had lunch at the tea room and tasted a slice of Lady Baltimore Cake that had been made by an employee.

Something about the tea room and the cake and the pretty young woman who baked it and - of course - the romantic old city of Charleston took shape in the author's mind. He later spun his ideas into a novel called Lady Baltimore (read it online here) with the cake at the heart of the story. The book was hugely successful, luring thousands of visitors to Charleston from around the country at the turn of the century. (By the way, the Woman's Exchange later changed its name to the Lady Baltimore Tea Room no doubt to capitalize on the attention that followed the April 1906 publication of the novel.)

Needless to say, Lady Baltimore Cake became so popular that lots of versions of it were developed and to this day there seems to be no real agreement on which one is the original.

You might want to know that this cake has nothing to do with Baltimore or Maryland! Lady Baltimore Cake is simply a lady cake (a popular name at the time for a butter cake or pound cake), Baltimore-style (i.e., its candy-like cooked filling made with walnuts is what made this cake distinctive and Baltimore, at the time, had made itself a reputation for its candy-making.)

Nope, I've never made this cake. It requires a candy thermometer. I don't do candy thermometers! But for all you brave foodies out there, here's the local Charleston receipt that most of us down here believe is the original:

Lady Baltimore Cake
1 cup raisins
1 cup sherry
2 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 egg whites, at room temperature
Soft icing:1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Hard icing:2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites, beaten until frothy
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped black walnuts

Soak the raisins in the sherry for several hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans; set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder several times; set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Alternately add the flour and milk in three parts, beating well after each addition. Stir in the almond extract.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Fold a quarter of them into the batter, then fold the batter into the remaining egg whites. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepared the soft icing. Blend the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and almond extracts. When the cake layers have cooled for 5 minutes in the pan on a rack, remove them from the pans and, while still hot, spoon the icing over them.

To make the hard icing, boil the sugar and water in a medium saucepan until a very think, long thread drops from a spoon. If you're using a candy thermometer, which I advise you do, it should register between 238 degrees and 240 degrees. Pour the boiling liquid in a thin stream over the egg whites, beating continuously with an electric mixer. Add the cream of tartar, lemon juice and almond extract. Continue beating for about 4 minutes, until soft peaks form.

Spread the hard icing over the top of each of the cooled layers. Drain the raisins and sprinkle them over the top of each layer, then sprinkle the walnuts over the top of each layer. Carefully transfer one layer to a cake plate and then place the second layer on top of it. Spread icing on the sides of the cake. Allow the icing to harden before serving. (Serves 12)
Recipe courtesy of "Mrs. Whaley Entertains: Advice, Opinions, and 100 Recipes from a Charleston Kitchen," by Emily Whaley in conversation with William Baldwin (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1998)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Book of the Week: "Tea & Sympathy"

This book sat and sat and sat on my Wish List until it eventually went out of print and I more or less forgot about it. But last week-end, Tall and Handsome and I visited a local antiques shop and there it was, on a table, with a $10 price tag so I snatched it up.

What an entertaining read! The subtitle of this book is "The Life of an English Teashop in New York" and it is written more or less in "memoir" form by a former waitress. It's full of superb, atmospheric black & white photographs, and the stories about the staff, patrons, and famous customers are just delightful. The owner, most of the staff, and many customers were British and characters in their own right!

An added bonus to this book are the traditional English recipes to "Tea & Sympathy's" most popular dishes - they are simple to follow and use ingredients available at most any American supermarket.

The only question remaining is ... should the book now reside on my bookshelf, or amongst my cookbooks in the kitchen???

(Dedicated to Stephanie!)

Makes about 20 squares

3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup (available at most British food shops, online or otherwise)
1 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups instant oatmeal
1/2 cup shredded coconut (supermarket variety)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Heat the butter and syrup together in a large pan until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.
  • Turn the batter onto a greased nonstick 7 x 11-inch tin and spread evenly. Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Cool slightly and then cut into squares or fingers, if you prefer. Mark out and cut the cookies before they cool; otherwise, it is too difficult to cut them. If it does go too cold, you can always return it to the oven for 1 minutes to soften.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Book of the Week: "Time For Tea"

There are loads of tea books on my bookshelf - most of them from the US, a few from the UK. It's very difficult to single any one out in particular as my "favorite" so from time to time I'll be sharing all my favorites. Without further ado, here's the first:

Time for Tea: Tea and Conversation with Thirteen English Women by Michele Rivers is a delightful read! The idea for the book came about when the author was at Afternoon Tea with some American friends. Amidst the clink of fine china on starched linen, she found herself trying to explain to them that tea for English women, really, is not usually quite so formal. (I discovered this to be so true when I lived in England. Alas! The myth was shattered!) It was then that Michele decided to write a book containing interviews with very different English women - from store clerks to horse women to 15-year old students to tea shoppe owners to Virginia, Lady Bath Marchioness of Bath - who share with her their personal tea time rituals. It's full of recipes for tea treats and some of the most delicious tea time photography you will ever see. Read more about it by clicking on the title under "Recommended Reading".
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