Good morning, good cooks. We'll begin as always with your requests: potato soup made with either grated potatoes or hash browns, and where to buy store-bought crepes.
A certain Mr. or Ms. Blaylock attended a Watch Night service and a potluck supper, "where someone brought a delicious potato soup. It was made with either grated potatoes or hash browns. Recipe, anyone?"
Lennis Duban wrote, "I have been seeing some recipes calling for crepes that can be bought in the grocery store but haven't found them yet. If anyone knows where I can get them, I would appreciate it."
And there is an echo of a request for where to find plum baby food. (Read on, and you will find an answer.)
If you copied the authentic recipe for quiche Lorraine from last week, as I did, please make a correction. When you cover the bottom of the quiche with bacon, it should be uncooked country bacon. The chef reported that the rendering of the fat in the bacon is what gives this dish its delicious taste.
Interestingly, I had just prepared this very quiche using cooked bacon, and while it probably did not attain the heights of the original recipe, it was still mighty good.
We have more quiches fit to print, but for now here's a general advisory for French cooking; it came from Valerie Bowers. "When it comes to preparing French cuisine at my house, I refer to my well-worn copy of Julia Child's 'The Way To Cook.' I suggest your reader invest in this wonderful cookbook that makes French cooking easy ... the directions include photos and are quite lengthy." One of those recipes was for the shell-shaped tea cakes called madeleines.
2 large eggs, lightly beaten in a 2-cup measuring cup
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled) plus 1 tablespoon extra for preparing the molds
5 ounces (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Pinch of salt
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon (organic lemons are preferable when using the rind)
Drops of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Drops of pure vanilla extract
Confectioners sugar for sprinkling
Heat oven to 375 F and set the racks in the upper and lower middle levels. You will need 2 madeleine pans with 12 cups each, or they may be baked in muffin tins.
Measure 1/4 cup of the eggs into a bowl and then beat in the sugar and cup of flour. Blend thoroughly and let rest 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a 6-cup saucepan, bring to a boil and let brown lightly. Place 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl and blend in 11/2 tablespoons of the browned butter; set aside for preparing the Madeleine pans.
Stir the rest of the butter over ice until cool but liquid; blend it and the rest of the eggs into the batter along with the salt, lemon rind and juices, and vanilla.
Paint the madeleine cups with the reserved butter-flour mixture. Divide the batter into 24 lumps, a generous tablespoon each, and drop the into the Madeleine cups.
Bake in a preheated oven about 15 minutes. Cakes are done when lightly browned around edges, humped in the middle and slightly shrunk from the cups. Unmold onto a baking rack to cool. When cool, turn shell side up and dust with confectioners sugar. Store a day or two in the refrigerator or freeze.
The next recipe was painstakingly printed by hand by Jill Furr Noll, who has been baking plum cakes since her teens. First, she addresses the call for substitutes for baby-food plums, because they don't seem to be sold any longer. "What I did when they stopped using pure plums: I purchased fresh plums and blanched them by plunging them into a saucepan of boiling water. I then removed them, peeled them and mashed the fruit to a pulp -- no need to cook first. I used one cup of mashed fresh plums instead of the commercial ones. This changes the texture of the cake and also the flavor, but it's still delicious. And here is her favorite plum cake, one that also may be made with a confectioners sugar glaze, producing a "wonderful and pungent cake."
Jill-O's Plum or Apricot Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup Wesson or Crisco oil
1 cup fresh-peeled and mashed plums or 2 jars apricot baby food
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
Ginger to taste
Nutmeg to taste
1 cup chopped black walnuts
12/3 cups golden raisins, plumped in boiling water, drained and thoroughly dried
Combine sugar, oil, eggs, plums, vanilla and spices. Pour into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Place nuts and raisins atop batter, patting gently with a spoon so they are slightly beneath the batter. They will sink while baking but won't stick to the bottom
Bake in a preheated oven at 325 F for about 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Prick top of cake with knife. While still warm, pour this mixture over cake while still in pan:
11/2 cups confectioners sugar
Juice of 2 to 3 lemons
Bring confectioners sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Let cake cool a bit after pouring glaze over top while it is still in the pan. Remove cake from pan; glaze will now be on the bottom. Serve with sweetened fresh-whipped cream and top each serving with a lemon slice.
Variation: You may substitute baby food apricots, but use pecans instead of walnuts. Also, you may sprinkle a little nutmeg atop the whipped cream for color.
Peggy Walkup of Cleveland, Tenn., found these crepes in "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" -- again, crediting Julia Child. This recipe uses a fry pan instead of an electric crepe maker and works simply and deliciously with strawberry jam in the center; then roll up the crepe.
1 cup instant-blending flour or all-purpose flour, scooped and leveled
2/3 cup cold milk
2/3 cup cold water
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for brushing on pan
Mix all ingredients smoothly in a blender or food processor or with a wire whisk. Refrigerate 10 minutes if you have used instant flour, a half-hour or more if you used all-purpose flour. A rest allows the flour particles to absorb the liquid, making for a tender crepe.
Heat a nonstick frying pan with bottom diameter of 5 to 8 inches until drops of water dance on it; brush lightly with melted butter. Pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter and tilt pan in all directions to cover bottom evenly. Cook about 1 minute, or until browned on the bottom; turn and cook briefly on the other side. Cool on a rack as you continue with rest. When thoroughly cool, stack with wax paper between each one. Refrigerate for 2 days or freeze for several weeks.