Angels Among Us & Biscuits

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Brush of An Angel’s Wing by Charlie Shedd was gifted to me in 2015. It’s a quick read of miraculous, but true stories of healing, rescues and sweet waves of comforts. The book is as uplifting as having an angel on your shoulder.

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While I did not need convincing that God’s messengers do exist I wondered if this book of divine intervention could help or inspire other parents who have lost a child. After such a harrowing experience finally believing my son is an angel among us was a real positive turning point in my own grief experience. Whoosh moments inspire me to celebrate him.

The brush of an angel’s wing eases the torment. It happens at unexpected times and when needed most. The book and its wonderful message needs to be shared. So, here is what I did.

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I wrote William’s name on the inside cover with his date of birth and the day he died. I then mailed the book to a friend who had also lost a child with instructions to add her child’s name to the “Angels Among Us” list and then to pass it on after reading. I then forgot all about it until now.

Fast forward to a month or so ago when I received an apology note from a mom who had lost her son last year. She said she was sorry for holding onto the book for so long, but she just could not bring herself to write her son’s name in the cover. Suddenly, I recalled my own first year of numbness, shock and disbelief. I knew exactly what she felt. I still have days when I can’t believe it. Back then I would not have been able to write my son’s name in the book either. Glad I was able to pick myself up and in time you will, too.

Hang On Pain Eases (H.O.P.E.)

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Have you been apple picking? Have you tried angel biscuits? I suppose they got their name because they are not only made with the typical baking powder, but also leavened with yeast making them rise to heavenly heights. I made some spicy apple butter with all those apples that Annabelle picked adding it to the biscuit mix for some fall flavor. These would be an unexpected pleasure on your Thanksgiving day table and easy to do because the dough is made in advance and can be refrigerated for a day or two.

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Apple Butter Angel Biscuits

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 teaspoon active dry yeast*
1/4 cup warm water (105º-115º F)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
½-teaspoon baking powder
½-teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2-stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup apple butter
½ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons heavy cream and 2 tablespoons turbinado (demera) sugar
In a small bowl, stir yeast in warm water to dissolve it; set aside.
In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender (or rub together with your fingers) until the butter is the size of small peas. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée and buttermilk.  Add the buttermilk mixture and the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the ingredients are moistened.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

Heat the oven to 450º F.  Line a 9-10-round baking pan with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 4-5 times.  Roll or pat the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch.  Cut the dough with a 2-inch floured cutter using a straight up and down motion; don’t twist the cutter.  Cut out as many biscuits as you can.  Fit as many biscuits in the baking pan as you can with just a slight space between them.  You can also put them side-by-side on a baking sheet. Gather the remaining dough scraps, then gently roll out the dough again. Cut out the remaining biscuits and place on the baking sheet. Brush tops with heavy cream. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  As soon as the biscuits come out of the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter.  Serve warm with butter and apple butter.

*as always I recommend Redstar yeast and King Arthur Flour for consistent, tasty results

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Kitchen Prayer & Quick Irish Soda Bread

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It’s been 2521 days since I lost my son. It’s been nearly that long since I have been able to pray. Unanswered prayers asking to keep my kids safe just set me off onto a negative path. Crazy mad at God doesn’t accurately describe the feeling of losing my son in a senseless accident, but when a wise and faithful friend named Angie wrote on her FB page “faith does not protect us from our sorrow, but prayer will hold you up” it hit me. I’ve been angry too long and it is of no use. In fact the anger is a complete waste of energy that could be better spent in meditation. Putting spirituality back into my life has been a fine turning point. I thank my friends, Kare, Rebecka, Mark, Hilary and my cousin Carol who have gently nudged me forward to believe that life is better with a higher power in it. How about you?

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You know what else makes life better? Recipe videos. That’s right. If you are a visual learner as I am cookbook photos and on-line videos make cooking and baking so much easier. Today I feature a re-do of this Irish Soda Bread blog from 2016. Click on that link to get the written recipe, turn up the volume and sit back and enjoy the show.

 

Are you serving a corned beef and cabbage dinner or Beef Stew? This Irish soda bread will go great beside either. If you like Guinness check out my beef stew and boxty recipe here.  Happy St. Patrick’s, happy week, happy delicious day in the kitchen with your family.

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The Best Darn Lemon Cake

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After last week’s revelation of whether internet recipes were well tested or NOT I promised to deliver a better lemon cake. The photo below is the recipe dud my friend experienced that kicked off lemon cake mania in my kitchen.

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~friend’s photo

Looking over the written recipe she used I guessed those sinking centers were a result of too much leavening. The cake collapsed down the middle because the batter could not hold the excess carbon dioxide. She also mentioned that the cake was very oily. With a half cup of oil stirred in at the end that came as no surprise. Based on the concept that oil and water don’t mix I imagine the oil just coating the wet batter rather than joining into the pool. The next photo is that same recipe with less baking soda and half the amount of oil with the oil incorporated in the beginning of the recipe rather than at the end. The collapse is gone, but it still felt oily and didn’t have much lemon flavor.

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too oily and not enough lemon flavor

 

It took a bit of internet recipe research and thumbing through a variety of my own cookbooks AND a field trip to Starbuck’s to understand the many variations available. Baked with everything from oil to instant pudding mix I knew I wanted a less processed ingredient cake that would tingle all the way down to your toes with fresh lemon flavor. It was not an easy task.

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In addition to my daughter and husband, my neighbor agreed to be a taste tester. Pam is a very good cook and I trust her tastebuds. Then it happened. The first slice I sent over her response is “this is better than Starbuck’s”. I knew I needed to get my hands on a slice to properly compare since this whole project started over a copycat recipe that failed.

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I am not sure why anyone likes this cake. See those tunnels in that slice? That most likely means the leavening is not distributed evenly into the flour. Oh, and it also collapses. AND at $3.00 a slice Starbuck’s is not cheap. Even before the cashier handed me the bag I was hit by a waft of lemon scent. Sadly, it was an odor that brought memories of my mom dusting the living room furniture with lemon Pledge rather than something baking in the oven.  Back home, as my sense of smell and taste mingled over a bite of the cake I guessed it was heavily dosed with either lemon oil or extract. It was an overwhelming and unpleasant bite. An assault to my nose as there was no flavor in my mouth. It was all in my nose. I wondered why anyone would want to recreate it, but taste is subjective. Right? I will give it props for the icing. I think it’s a simple mix of fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar.

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When it comes to the flavor of our food the sense of smell rather than that of taste is the dominant force. The common experience of pinching our nostrils close to swallow a spoonful of awful tasting medicine during cold and flu season illustrates the point. While the tastebuds distinguish between salty, sweet, bitter and sour the nose is far more sensitive and can discriminate among 100’s of different substances. We smell and taste the flavor of our food at the same time because the nose and mouth share an air passage known as the pharynx. Ingredients like lemon extract and lemon oil add aroma. In small doses it’s a good thing. I think Starbuck’s is using too much of a good thing in their cake recipe. Okay, enough science lets get down to the recipe.

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Second try using lemon pudding mix and a soaking lemon glaze. Taste testers like it. Still not enough lemon punch and a bit dense in my opinion. Find the recipe below.

In an attempt to enhance the lemon flavor I try instant lemon pudding in the next test plus a soaking lemon glaze. This cake bakes up dark and a bit dense. All the taste testers like it, but I don’t love it.

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Buttery light cake with a wallop of real lemon flavor

 

So, onto test #3. This is it. The goal is to eliminate the processed ingredients and create a buttery light cake with that punch in your face, lip-smakin’, pucker power fresh lemon flavor that make your shoulders shiver. It might not be yours, but it is my favorite lemon loaf cake. If you try it I would love to hear your honest opinion. I can thank one of my dessert heroes, Maida Heatter, for the inspiration.

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soaked in glaze

The Best Darn Lemon Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup sugar

grated zest of 2 large lemons

2 eggs

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons lemon extract

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup almond flour

Glaze

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup sugar

Icing(optional)

1 tablespoon soft unsalted butter

½ cup powdered sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 350F. Butter an 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a strip of parchment paper leaving a 1-inch overhang. Butter the parchment or use a no-stick spray. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add zest and eggs; blend well. Add 1/3rd of flour mixture, alternating with half the milk, blending well after each addition and scraping bottom of the bowl. Add lemon extract and lemon juice; blend well. Stir in almond flour. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 65 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. The cake should have cracks in the top. Transfer cake in pan to a cooling rack. For glaze: heat lemon juice and sugar together in small saucepan, stirring, just until sugar is dissolved. While cake is still hot in pan slowly brush the glaze over top of cake until it is absorbed. The cracks in the cake are a gateway to the inside, so no need to poke holes all over it unless you are in a hurry. Let cake cool completely before lifting it from the pan using the parchment paper as handles. Makes 8 to 10 slices.

If you like icing just mix the butter, powdered sugar and salt together and then add enough lemon juice to create the desired consistency. Spread over the top and let set.

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Lemon Loaf with Pudding in the Mix

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 (3.4 oz) instant lemon pudding mix

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup canola oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon extract

3 eggs

zest of 2 lemons

1/3 cup buttermilk

Glaze

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Icing

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven 350F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with no-stick baking spray. Line pan with a strip of parchment paper with a 1-inch overhang. Lightly coat parchment with baking spray. In bowl, whisk flour, pudding mix, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In stand mixer, beat butter, oil and sugar until combined. Add vanilla and lemon extract, eggs and lemon zest; blend well. Add half the flour mixture; blend just until moistened. Add buttermilk; blend well. Add remaining flour mixture just until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cover with foil last 10 minutes if browning too much. Transfer cake in pan to a cooling rack. Prepare glaze. In small saucepan, over medium heat, stir sugar and lemon juice just until sugar is dissolved. Brush glaze over loaf while it is still warm. Cool completely. Using parchment overhang as handles lift cake from pan. Peel off parchment and place on serving plate. For icing mash butter, powdered sugar and salt together with the back of a spoon until well blended. Add just enough lemon juice, stirring, to desired icing consistency. I like it lemony. You can substitute milk if you don’t like so much lemon, but then why are you here? (LOL)

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Note that Starbuck’s bakes in a narrow pan to get that height

And as an added bonus for all you Gluten-Free foodies check out my friend Kim’s blog for a delicious dairy free, gluten free version of the best darn blueberry lemon loaf. Just click on this link: The Gluten Free Gathering