Sunday, October 30, 2011

Put some Soul Cakes into Your Halloween or Samhain Celebrations

Soul Cakes: Hallowed Offerings for Hungry Ghosts

For a fuller history of Soul Cakes, check out the link above...  You really didn't want to get the burned cake.

It is always fun to learn something new, especially if it is really old... We never made Soul Cakes when I was growing up, so I learned about them just this week. So of course had to try them.  As these are originally a pagan food, later adopted and blessed by Christians a perfect treat this time of year. 

Soul Cakes

T. Susan Chang for NPR
Soul cakes get stale within a day or two, so eat 'em while they're hot.
Makes 12 to 15 2-inch soul cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of saffron
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup currants
For the Glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.
Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.
One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won't need the entire half-cup.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.
Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Serve warm, with cold pumpkin juice.

 Tips from Cotton Eyed Jo
******Important tip to self, brush the cookies with egg wash before putting on raisins to make life simpler... :)  
  • I used Parkay, rather than butter as we don't generally keep it in our fridge except for Christmas cookies.
  • lightly floured board and hands would keep yours from being too floury. It didn't make them taste bad, but not better either.
  • In my oven, (electric) it took the full 15 minutes for them to be finished. I know cause I always under time, but the second sheet full I set at 15 minutes and they came out great.
  • Next time I'm adding a little more milk too, I added about 9 tablespoons of milk or slightly more if I forgot.
  • Raisins instead of currants, cause we don't keep currants on hand, but do almost always have raisins.
When you look at the recipe and think about the middle ages or renaissance, it's clear these wouldn't have been baking up in a serf's or poor person's cottage. Saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt... all those and the currants too would have been in very limited supply. So count our blessings today for the easy availability of  all kinds of wonderful ingredients from all over the world, at bargain prices, at least compared to gathering it yourself.

Happy Halloween.  Grandpaparazzi will be in his traditional pirate costume, I'll be a somewhat whimsical penguin at the request of Livvie. She will be Belle and has the Disney store tiara to toes and everything beautiful in between version. Her mama and Daddy will go with her as Mrs. Potts and the Beast.  Ya gotta love when parents are willing to be the supporting roles so Belle can trick or treat safely.

Ps Grandpaparazzi and I are making Mummy Wraps and Baked Apples for dinner. We'll hold down their candy bowl and answer the doorbell while they are gone...  The mummy wraps are hot dogs with breadstick wrapped around them, part of some great quick Halloween foods that don't take much time. Check our the others by visiting    Anybody want some spiderweb soup?

Post script.... sadly, the stomach flu hit two of the three cast members. Belle and her daddy, weren't able to go on the trick or treating tour. Grandpaparazzi and I just ate regular hot dogs, and the first evening in November used a couple of the left over soul cakes as a base for serving baked apples that didn't get done on Halloween. I'll be planning baked apples ala soul cakes from now on out. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Knitting bug bit me...

I've had some fun the last couple of weeks knitting little and bigger caps. My first project was all the sizes of the pumpkin caps. A teacher friend now in another state, has a precious preemie son named Eli. She's used Facebook to share all his growth during the first weeks of life, and I wanted to knit him a little cap or two, so he will get a package this week with the smallest pumpkin, and the smaller of the two variegated caps.  The larger variegated and pumpkin caps are for Livvie. Her two cousins will get the cap with the snowflake and the one to its left. Our Alaskan part of the family will be coming back for a short visit! Visits from faraway family and friends are always too short!

My rug hook has been calling my name the whole time, I'm working on my Karen Kahle "Sweet Bower", and have a new one from Kris Miller, Spruce Ridge Studios. It is Kris's adaptation of Not Forgotten Farms *Lori Brechlin* original note card of a Mermaid. I'm in the thinking about a story part of the planning.  I've been thinking about weather above and below the water, whether I want a "fancy Nancy" type mermaid, or one more simple and elegant. Thinking about the colors I'll want above and below the waterline...

So even while I've been using my hands to knit, my mind has been hooking, rehooking, and the rug is starting to come into focus for me. Sometimes that daily 10 minute rughooking stretches out to much longer even without picking up a hook.

I've started dyeing the extended colors for my personal palette, and again love April DeConick's organization method, for her book, THE WOOL PALETTE.  Just heard that Lulu's book's will soon be downloadable on a Barnes and Noble Nook, so that might be another way to get a look at and try her method.

I can choose colors for MY grays, blue greens, yellow greens or deeper blue violets. The extended colors are even easier than the original 12 because of her method... but no less exciting to see in the reveal. At one point in my life, I'd have enjoyed combining to see what happens, now I appreciate knowing that combining orange and yellow green will give me.... if you'd like to know the answer to that her book, or try dyeing it to find out. ]:)