Martha Washington’s Great Cake Recipe

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All that’s left of Martha Washington’s Great Cake.

Well I told you I would get Martha Washington’s Great Cake recipe out and so after you’ve made your snow cream start soaking your fruits for this delicious cake that will bring you back to 18th century Virginia.

The recipe below was clipped from:  http://www.seasonalwisdom.com/2012/11/recipe-for-martha-washingtons-great-cake/

You will enjoy reading the original recipe there that calls for 40 eggs, 5 pounds of flour, 5 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of fruit…you get the picture.  No wonder it was called her Great Cake!
Below is a modernized version of Martha Washington’s Great Cake, created by the author of Dining with the Washingtons (Nancy Carter Crump). The only  change I made was to add  a hearty splash of vanilla and almond extracts as well as toasted the almonds. I don’t think Martha would mind.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups currants

1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel

1/3 cup chopped candied lemon peel

1/3 cup chopped candied citron

3/4 cup Madiera, divided

1/4 cup French brandy

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs, separated

Directions:

Combine currants, orange and lemon peels, and citron in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of Madeira and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Stir the reminder of the Madeira with the brandy; cover and set aside.
When ready to bake the cake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
Drain fruits in a large strainer set over a bowl, stirring occasionally to extract as much Madeira as possible. Add the strained Madeira to the set-aside Madeira and brandy.
Combine 1/4 cup of the flour with the fruit, and mix well. Add the almonds, and set aside. Sift the remaining flour with the nutmeg and mace.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until it is light. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating for several minutes after adding each ingredient. Whisk the egg yolks until they are light and smooth, and add them to the butter and sugar. Continue to beat for several minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Alternatively add the spiced flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and the Madiera and brandy, beating until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. By hand, gently fold them into the batter, combining lightly until well blended. By hand, fold in the fruit in thirds, mixing until well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula, or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. If serving the cake plain, turn it out of the pan to cool completely. If finishing it with icing, turn the warm cake out of the pan onto a baking sheet, and proceed with the icing.
To ice the cake, spread Sugar Icing generously onto the surface, piling it high and swirling it around the top and sides. Set in the turned-off warm oven, and let sit for at least 3 hours, or until the cake is cool and the icing has hardened. The icing will crumble when the cake is sliced.
Sugar Icing Recipe for Great Cake:

Ingredients:

3 large egg whites at room temperature

1 1/2 cups of sugar

2 tablespoons rose water or orange-flower water

Directions:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, start beating the egg whites on low speed, gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar. After about 3 minutes, or when they just begin to form soft peaks, increase the speed to high and continue adding the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites form soft peaks.
Add the rose water, and continue beating to form stiff peaks. Use immediately to ice the cake.

NOTE TO MY AGA FOLLOWERS: I baked this cake in the baking oven, (~325°), for one hour, in a tube pan placed on a rack that was sitting directly on the floor of my baking oven. As your oven temperature may vary  I would suggest you start testing the cake for doneness with a cake tester or wooden skewer after it has baked for one hour. I doubt you will  have to bake it beyond 1 hour 15 minutes.  Let cool completely before attempting to ice the cake. I placed my cooled cake on an upside down sheet pan covered in parchment paper. This will allow you to easily transfer the cake to your cake stand after the icing sets. After icing I slid the sheet pan with cake into my warming oven for two hours. Then  remove and completely cool. The icing will have formed a hard crust and crumble when cut just like it’s supposed to.

Bon Appetit y’all!

Ode to Laura: Her Famous Red Beans & Rice!

On August 9th we sadly lost my DH’s 92 year old mom…still vibrant, smiling, feisty, active, and healthy right up to her sudden and unexpected end. But that’s how we’ll remember her, laughing, enjoying her lite beer, hi-balls, crawfish, oysters, and her love of family to which she was tirelessly devoted. She loved the city of New Orleans, which she called home for most of her life. Even though she came there from Nicaragua she readily adopted their culture, food, and habits. And in New Orleans it’s a tradition to have red beans and rice on Mondays. Almost every restaurant will offer it as their Monday special and you will find it on the tables of most native New Orleanians’ homes every Monday night. You see, back in the day, Monday was your typical wash day and the women needed a meal that they didn’t have to watch over or tend while they were busy washing clothes and therefore otherwise occupied. Slow cooking red beans, (kidney beans in case you weren’t sure what a red bean was), fit that bill perfectly.
All varieties of Camellia Brand dry beans were a staple on our Louisiana pantry shelves. Laura followed the tradition and religiously made red beans every Monday… and hers were legendary. She made them not only on Mondays but for all family gatherings, parties, and special requests from her three grown kids. We’d all frequently ask her to make a batch just to have in our freezers for quick meals.
So to honor Laura today, this Monday, I am sharing her recipe and technique which she gave to me many years ago. If you follow it I promise you won’t be disappointed! So plan ahead and make red beans and rice next Monday for your family. Here’s to you, Laura. R.I.P.

Laura’s New Orleans Style Red Beans & Rice:
This is a pressure cooker method so it’s fast and easy! Please follow your pressure cooker instructions. Cookers should never exceed half full when cooking beans.
The night before you plan on cooking your beans soak 1 lb of dry red beans/kidney beans overnight. The next day discard the water and now your beans are ready to be cooked.
In your pressure cooker melt 2 TBLS bacon grease.
Fry 1 lg onion chopped and 1 lg green bell pepper chopped
Brown chucks of pickled pork, (about 8 oz) and 1 lb of an all beef smoked sausage, sliced into 1″ rounds. (Laura preferred all beef to pork yet I’ve used whatever was handy, but today we are being true to HER recipe!)
Add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
Now add your soaked beans
Add a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce
Season with onion powder and salt and pepper.

Cover beans with about 2 inches of water….Laura used the “width of her two fingers” method of measuring. Hummm, my fingers were bigger than hers so maybe add a little less water than 2 inches.

Bring pressure up in your cooker until you have a steady rocking  and then start timing 45 minutes from that point. Turn off or take cooker off fire after 45 minutes and let pressure drop of its own accord. Do not run water over the top or try to speed up the cooling. This stage is an important part of the cooking process.

After pressure valve depresses on it’s own you can open the lid. Using a potato masher, smash some of the beans to make it a creamy consistency, but leave some beans whole.

NOTE: while beans are cooking, be sure to cook your rice. It’s traditional to use a long grain white rice with red beans. Ratio is 2 cups of water to 1 cup rice. Salt water. Cover & bring to boil, add rice. Then simmer covered for 20 minutes. Fluff with fork only.

To serve ladle your beans in a rimmed plate or gumbo bowl, making sure to include meat in each portion. Then top with a large scoop of cooked rice. (I like to use my large ice cream scoop for a pretty rounded presentation).

Garnish with some parsley or chopped green onions. Be sure to have a bottle of Tabasco or Crystal Hot Sauce, (my all time favorite!), on the table for guests to heat it up to their own tastes.
Serve with fresh French bread.

Here's a batch my brother cooked. He was compelled to text me the photo to brag on their deliciousness.

Here’s a batch my brother cooked. He was compelled to text me the photo to brag on their deliciousness.

 

Fresh GA Peaches Means It’s Time To Can Jam!

Oh yeah.. How I remember growing up with an abundance of sweet ripe juicy peaches during our Georgia summers… in particular the fresh peach ice cream, hand-cranked of course, was a taste I’ll never forget. But I’ll save that for another post.

Now one of my all-time favorites is peach preserves or peach jam depending on how much you crush your peaches. So today I thought I’d show you the “fruits” of my recent labor…my process of making peach preserves. If you have some nice chewy bread in the house, or better yet if you’ve made my sourdough bread from an earlier post, you will definitely want to put these preserves on top of a hot crispy piece of it. Double Yumm!

First let me stress the importance of having all your tools out and ready for use. Mise en place is a French phrase which means “putting in place”, as in set up. For canning in particular this is definitely necessary because in this case you’re  going to be working with hot sugared jam and when it’s  ready to be canned, you need to work efficiently and methodically. You can’t over or under-cook jam or else it won’t gel properly. Things will need your attention quickly and you’ll want to have your tools, food etc. within arms reach. So take the time to get everything set up before you start.

Here I’ve laid out all my tools, pots, jars, lids, everything I’m going to need, so these pictures are like reference lists for me for future canning projects.

Deep pots for water bath method of processing, along with helpful jar lifter, magnetized lid retriever and a wand that measures the head space. (All these can be gotten in a Ball canning accessory kit)

Deep pots for water bath method of processing, along with helpful jar lifter, magnetized lid retriever and a wand that measures the head space. (All these can be gotten in a Ball canning accessory kit)

 

Mixing bowls, jam pot, thermometer, funnel, spatula, spoons, paring knife, potato masher.

Mixing bowls, jam pot, thermometer, funnel, spatula, spoons, paring knife, potato masher.

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Dough day, in my kitchen that means Sourdough Day!

After Hubby went to bed Wednesday night I realized I hadn’t fed my sourdough starter. Thursday evening we had a picnic planned with friends and I’d promised to bring deviled eggs….(my speciality since we have fresh eggs from our 14 happy hens…but I’ll save the chicken stories for another post!) So I figure I can knock those out by midday. But one of my friends has requested my infamous sourdough bread. I am happy to oblige, I just needed to feed my starter before bed so it would be ready for bread baking by morning. I have a wonderful very old sourdough starter that is very happy at our high mt altitude.. Or maybe it likes our mineral rich mountain well water. After feeding it the required flour and water, I then place it on the warm Aga to let the magic happen overnight. If you have not had the experience of using sourdough starters before, it really is like magic. Who knew flour and water and the bacteria from the air could do that! By morning, over the obligatory first cuppa coffee, I checked on my starter to make sure it was alive and well. I always get excited to see it’s active cultures bubbling and gurgling up the sides of the glass because THAT my friends makes the tangiest well risen loaves of bread. YUMM! Oh yes, it definitely grew overnight, the magic occurred. 👍

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Starter the next morning after feeding.

Starter the next morning after feeding.

So that means it’s dough time!

For my friend, I made a rustic sourdough boule with my “everything style topping” consisting of a variety of sesame seeds and onions. The beauty of bread baking in an Aga is you get that brick oven effect with a wonderful crusty exterior and a soft chewy interior crumb. For regular ovens just get a baking stone for the same effect. Oh it smells devine! I think my friend will be pleased. (good thing I doubled my recipe so DH and I can enjoy some hot bread out of the oven……now where’s the butter! 😋

Ingredients:

1 cup “fed” sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant rise yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups all purpose flour

Directions:
1) Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough. I like to use my Kitchenaid with dough hook.

2) Allow the dough to rise, in a covered oiled bowl, until it’s doubled in size, about 60- 90 minutes, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

3) Divide the dough in half; it’ll deflate somewhat. A bench cutter helps this task.

4) Shape the dough into two oval or round loaves, lightly kneading. Place the loaves on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Tip: sprinkle some cornmeal under the loaf to keep it from sticking as well. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 425°F. (In my Aga I bake the bread directly of the floor of the roasting oven and on another stone pan on the top rack).

5) Spray the loaves with lukewarm water and add your toppings. Optional.

6) Make two fairly deep diagonal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here, but I prefer the traditional French dough cutting tool, a Lame, …or you can use a razor blade, Be careful!

7) Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack, if you can resist tearing into it that is! 😉

Sourdough Everything Topping Boule

Sourdough Everything Topping Boule