Sunday, July 31, 2011

Elsie Pondrom's Homemade Donuts

The first time I sank my teeth into these babies, I thought I died and went to heaven. I spent a lot of time at my best friend Susan’s house when I was younger after my mom died. Probably before that too. I’m sure Susan’s mom was sick of me, but was always gracious and kind—never refusing Susan’s request to have me over. I’m surprised I didn’t move in.

One morning Susan’s mom, Elsie—although I always called her Mrs. Pondrom, (up until a few years ago). Anyway, one morning Elsie made homemade donuts. I tried to be polite and eat just a few, but I don’t know how many I ate. As many as I was allowed. With four other kids in the family, I don’t know how many we each could have, but I ate them all. Then dreamed about them. Hoped I’d be over again when donuts were made. They stayed with me. It seemed too difficult to make even though I was attempting to prepare dinner at home fro my dad and little sister.

The first time I remember making the donuts, I was pregnant with my first born. I was watching my older sister’s two kids, Jason and Vicki. I can’t remember how old they were—let’s see if I do the math—I’d say Jason was around 11 and Vicki about 5. At that time their mom wasn’t allowing them to have sugary stuff or junk food. I decided to make them donuts. Dough fried in oil and then coated in powdered sugar. I never saw two kids gobble down donuts so fast. I wondered if I had been feeding them enough regular food. I couldn’t fry those donuts fast enough. Afterwards I cringed to think I ruined their pure sugarless bodies, although I suspect it wasn’t quite pure. Watching them devour those donuts made me happy though. I knew they were feeling the same thing I did when I bit into my first doughy goodness.

I’ve made donuts for my own kids throughout the years. Whenever friends would spend the night, the request would be, “Mom, will you make homemade donuts?”

When my stepdaugther and her daughter Logan moved in, I found out that Logan loves donuts, so for her birthday I had to make her homemade donuts. Here’s the look on her face as she sank her teeth into the first bite and it’s pretty much the look everyone has as they experience this delight. Logan had goggles on while she powder-sugared the donuts so as not to get sugar in her eyes, I guess.

And the donut coma look. Here’s Elsie Pondrom’s Homemade Donuts

Pillsbury Biscuits—the cheapest ones. They usually come in a 4 pack, blue wrapping. And depending on how many you’re feeding will depend on how many packages to use. I’d say at least two… that’ll make 20 donuts and 20 donut holes. It sounds like a lot, but they’ll go quick. Although I guess if you’re only making them for yourself or one other person, one package would do the trick. Because it can be messy, I usually make them for a group.

Heat up a skillet of vegetable oil, at least an inch and a half or two inches deep. Your oil is hot enough when you drop in a donut hole and it sizzles around the dough. If it stays flat, wait until it begins to sizzle before adding any more dough.

While the oil is heating up, open the package and lay out the biscuit dough. Find a cap of some sort to make a hole in the middle by twisting it around until the hole comes out. Kids like to do this.

When the oil is ready, drop in enough to fill the pan and wait until golden brown before turning. When golden brown on the other side, take out and let cool slightly on a paper towel. You might want to have this ready too—a plate covered with paper towels and a bowl of powdered sugar, and another plate to put the finished powered donuts on.

When the donut is slightly cool, drop in powdered sugar and coat thoroughly. Kids like to do this too, but be prepared for a mess—both in your kitchen and all over the clothes. After coated, put on plate. Or if you can’t wait, bite into the warmed fried goodness of Elsie’s donuts.

And be prepared to get powdered sugar all over you too—I suggest eating over a table with your face over your plate. That and a nice cold glass of milk will put you into a good donut coma.

A little tip on the donut holes. I try and fry these together, or as many as I can handle. You want to flip these around constantly because once they get brown on one side and if it’s still raw on the other, they are hard to turn over. By flipping them around, they’re more apt to turn over. Not sure if that makes sense.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Now this didn’t come from my favorite cupcake cookbook, Hello, Cupcakes! like all my other cupcakes. My best friend gave me this silicone ice cream cone cupcake mold.

Susan handed me the mold and said, “I thought you’d like this to make ice cream cone cupcakes for the grandkids.”

Susan’s thoughtful like that.

For Lily, Lucas and Jack’s birthday—since their birthdays are days apart—I decided I would make them instead of the traditional birthday cake.

I thought if I filled the cake batter to the top of the mold, it would round over like a normal cupcake would do, but even fuller. Boy was I wrong. They spilled over, batter landing on the oven racks, in the bottom of my spotless (not) oven. The cupcakes ended up flat on top.

I wondered what I’d do to make the tops rounded and then I remembered the trick from, ta-da, Hello, Cupcakes! I took miniature marshmallows (coated with icing so they’d stick together) and placed them on top of the cupcake. I covered the entire marshmallow blob with icing, added sprinkles and whoo-hoo, ice cream cone cupcakes! Only they wouldn’t stand up on their own—too top heavy. I found some clear glasses to place them in. The grandkids seemed to love them. But then what’s not to love?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Sounds pretty fancy, but this is relatively easy to make. I first tried these at my sister Ruthie’s who had me over for a birthday dinner. This was one of my three—yes three—desserts she made me. You can read about it when I featured Ruthie.

Even though I have a ton of cookbooks, I felt compelled to add yet another to my collection where I got the recipe for these caramels. I’m not a big plain ole caramel fan. I like it with some chocolate and/or pecans. But these caramels, well… I end up in a caramel coma from eating too many.

I made my own batch for my husband (snicker snicker, he’s always a good excuse to make something that I really have a hankering for).

When making something for the fist time, I like being prepared, and measure everything out before hand. I think for these caramels, it’s a good idea.

If you’re a tightwad like me, you might think it’s a good idea to substitute Fleur de Sel salt for another salt. Don’t. Even at the high price of this salt, I have no doubt it’s the salt that makes this caramel. What else could it be?

Oh and the recipe—you can find it in Barefoot Contessa, how easy is that? by Ina Garten.

Be prepared to go into a caramel coma.

Here's my pictures of my adventure in making caramels, starting with prepping the pan.

The cream, butter and salt before heated.

The sugar, water and syrup before heated.

The cream mixture blended and heated.

The syrupy mixture in stages.

After about five minutes.

After about 10 minutes to the stage of warm golden brown.

Adding the cream mixture to the syrupy mixture.

Adding the vanilla.

After it's cooked and ready to be put into the prepared pan.

After they've cooled.

Then you cut the caramels and wrap them in parchment paper, that is if you don't eat them all before hand.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Apple Pie

Who doesn’t like this All American Favorite? When someone says pie, usually people think apple. If you make the entire pie from scratch, it can take a while. See my Cherry Pie for the pie crust.

Peeling and slicing the apples can take a good deal of time, but if you have a peeler/slicer gadget thing that certainly helps.

After you have the two-pie crust made and you’re ready for the filling, I use Betty Crocker’s recipe, but sometimes I add an extra apple or two.

For a 9 inch pie:
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of salt
6 cups thinly sliced pared tart apples (about 6 medium)
2 tablespoons of butter

Prepare your pastry or see my post for step-by-step directions of making pie crust. Mix sugar, flour, spices and then stir in apples. Turn into pastry lined pie plate and dot with butter. Cover with top crust with slits, seal and flute. Cover the edge with 3 inch aluminum strip and remove during the last 15 minutes of baking if necessary. Bake at 425 degrees until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits, about 40-50 minutes.

I have one of those pie crust covers, but they don’t seem to work for me even though it’s much easier to plop that over the pie plate then fooling around with the foil strips. I have found if I tear the three strips in half (so there’s six little strips), it’s easier to keep around the pie plate. One always wants to fall off causing the others to fall off. I don’t know why the smaller strips stay on better, you’d think it’d be the opposite. Another tip of mine—I always use glass pie plates. I don’t know why I don’t like the metal or tin plates, but for some reason they seem to take on the flavor of the metal.

Oh yeah, after the pie comes out of the oven, I sprinkle it with a sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Watermelon Cake

My little sister and I had a little time to kill in an area we weren’t familiar with, so as we drove around we came upon a used bookstore. A bright yellow house. You couldn’t miss it. We had to stop.

As we browsed around and did some last minute peeking at various things, I saw on the front of a magazine—maybe Woman’s Day—the cutest watermelon cake.

Did you know I’m a fan of watermelon? My favorite fruit—and it’s such a cute and refreshing delight. And it reminds me of my momma.

Too cheap to buy a used magazine, I turned to the instructions in the back and did my best to memorize how the cake was put together. It seemed simple enough.

Here’s my attempt.

I know you could make a box cake and I’m pretty sure that’s what it said, but I felt that a homemade cake would be more dense, therefore holding shape better.

There’s two round cakes. You cut both in half—leaving you with four halves. One of those halves you cut in thirds, so you have watermelon “slices.” The other three halves you will stack on top of each other. Then you’re going to turn the three halves on its side—rounded end down—so it’s going to look like a watermelon hunk.

Here's my icing:

In the magazine it said to use chocolate covered raisins as the seeds. My shopaholic best friend helps me shop. We were out one day and as we were leaving a store, I spotted these chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Inside there were black ones. After conferring with my personal shopper, we decided they’d make better seeds for my cake. Darn, I had to eat the chocolate covered raisins. What I do to sacrifice, can you imagine?

What is not to love about this cutie cake? And a cute dessert for a summer gathering.

As a side note, I was originally going to make my mom’s Breath of Spring Cake that had lemon filling. Except that I decided to try a different yellow cake. I also made a chocolate cake since I couldn’t decide between yellow or chocolate. I used a buttercream icing. But how fun would it be to make the lemon filling and decorate the cake to look like a lemon instead of a watermelon? Or use orange filling and make an orange slice? Oh the possibilities.

Let me also just say, forget the “slices” because the icing sticks to the crumbs and makes this crummy looking mess. I’m a little embarrassed to show this photo, but what the heck.

I fed it to my sweet-toothed husband who didn’t seem to mind. That slice was all chocolate. My yellow Butter Bonnie Cake (from Betty Crocker Cookbook) was on the dry side.

Overall icing the cake was the hardest part.

I made this cake for bunco and I decided to have the other cake be on its side rather than standing up as it was easier to put the icing on.