Mama’s Rock Cookies

If you are a person who really appreciates a good nibbling cookie (one that doesn’t fall apart or get all crumbly as you munch along), then do yourself a favor and bake up a batch of Rock Cookies this weekend after the Thanksgiving fussing is over! Store them airtight in a cool place, away from heat, and bring them out at Christmas. After a month of mellowing, these cookies will delight your every sense!  Rock Cookies, quite simply, rock!  This wonderful recipe came from a friend of mama’s, Katie Hinks, but I always think of them as mama’s cookies only as they were always a regular around our house at Christmas time in Marble Hill.

I know the above is true because mama always made her Rocks right after Thanksgiving.  Warned NOT to get into them (if we could find them!) it was all I  could do to not hunt those cookies down and open every container just to breathe the heavenly scent of the spices and black walnuts! This year, I made Rocks even earlier for a get-together this weekend and I still have been opening the container lids at least once a day.  A good whiff of Rock Cookies enhances any, and every day!  And don’t let their name fool you, a month of mellowing gives them a soft chewy texture with just a hint of crispness around the edges.

Be sure that your butter is sufficiently softened (and don’t be microwaving it trying to rush things along) so that it creams well with the sugar and eggs when you begin making the cookie dough.  The batter becomes stiff once the flour is added and even stiffer with the addition of the dates and the nuts so be prepared to fold well at that point using a rubber spatula or a flat-edged wooden spoon.  Fold well so the dates and nuts are evenly distributed in the dough. Using parchment lined cookies sheets makes for easy clean up as well as even browning on the bottom of the cookies.

This is one of my oldest family recipes, and it is definitely one of my cookie favorites.  The cutting of the dates is time-consuming so feel free to buy the dates already chopped. If you want them in smaller pieces still, get out your cutting board and have at it.  As the cookies mellow, the dates soften and infuse each morsel with date chewiness;  combine this texture with the crunch of flavorful black walnuts and you have a definite winner, sure to please everyone around your table.  Now IS the time: get your Rocks made for Christmas, folks!  I know you’ll thank me and you’re most welcome!

Mama’s Rock Cookies

Ingredients

2 sticks butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2-3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 1 T. boiling water
1 lb. dates, chopped fine
1-1/2 cups black walnuts

Directions Preheat oven to 325. In large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, and eggs, beating with electric mixer until creamed well. In separate bowl, combine flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Stir well with a fork to sift and add to egg mixture, folding well. Add the baking soda mixture and fold all again. Add the dates and nuts folding gently. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets; bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not over bake. After cookies have cooled slightly place in airtight containers and allow flavors to mellow for a month or at least hide them well to give them a chance at mellowing!

Apple Pecan Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting


I always have an eye out in whatever newspaper I am reading, hoping to run across new recipes that sound inviting, and spotted the recipe for this apple spice cake in our local Southeast Missourian newspaper several weeks ago and first made it to take to Deer Camp weekend in Kentucky in mid-November.  Though this cake does beautifully chilled in the refrigerator, this one barely made it through the first day of Deer Camp.

If your cake is allowed to sit, the chopped apples mellow and the spices mingle, producing a moist, dense cake packed with flavor.  Chop the apples into small pieces and chop the pecans coarsely for the best results.  Cinnamon and nutmeg season the apples perfectly, providing a taste of autumn in every bite.

You don’t need a stand mixer, but be prepared with a strong arm to thoroughly mix and fold all batter ingredients.  A hand electric mixer is all you need for preparing the frosting, but do beat the mixture until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved, at least five minutes.  The cake does require refrigerating once frosted, but after that, the amount of leftovers is up to you and your guests.  If you have any at all, keep the cake refrigerated.

Whether you are cooking for a crowd or a special family meal, you will have a hard time finding a cake more satisfying, more evocative of autumn and its blessings, than this concoction.  I hope you will try it soon and let me know how you like it.

Apple Pecan Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

4 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped small
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Wesson oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Frosting

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup golden brown sugar

Directions Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9×13” baking pan. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine apples and sugar. Stir in oil, eggs, and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the flour mixture to the apple mixture. Add milk and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Add chopped pecans. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.

For frosting: Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add butter and continue to beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla and brown sugar. Beat for 5 minutes until light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. Spread evenly on top of cake. Refrigerate after frosting.

Hot Milk Sponge Cake


hot milk sponge cake blog and FB

Today’s Hot Milk Sponge Cake turned out tasting every bit as good as it sounds! This simple and economical cake is a breeze to make and the results are nothing short of delicious. The recipe is from a baking book printed by General Foods Kitchens in 1960 and I can easily imagine this cake being tucked into someone’s lunchbox all week. It is a cake that will improve with age and so a 9×13″ pan full will go a long way for you and your family.

I used my stand mixer to beat the eggs and finish preparing the batter. You can certainly make it using a hand mixer as well but today I was glad for the power of the stand mixer since there is a good deal of beating required. Once you add the butter and hot milk, use a spatulas or metal whisk to incorporate the liquid. The batter is thin and pours easily in typical sponge cake fashion. The hot liquids give the cake its moistness and today’s cake rose beautifully. The hot milk creates steam as the cake bakes and acts as extra leavening. Definitely use a good cake flour such as Swans Down which is what this old recipe calls for. Other than that it’s just 1-2-3 and bake!

Today I frosted this one with the Broiled Coconut Topping recommended in the recipe though this cake wouldn’t be particular about frosting; buttercream would also be good. I do like the contrast of the fluffy cake with the crunch of the toasted coconut in this frosting. However you frost it, it is a winner and will surely be enjoyed by everyone at your table.  Enjoy!

Hot Milk Sponge Cake with Broiled Coconut Topping

Ingredients

2 cups sifted Swans Down cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4 eggs, unbeaten
2 cups sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 cup milk
2 T. butter

Directions Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Beat eggs in large deep bowl until very thick and light, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Add vanilla. Add flour to egg mixture, a small amount at a time, blending by hand or at low speed of electric mixer. Bring milk and butter just to a boil and very quickly stir into the flour mixture, blending thoroughly. Batter will be thin. Pour into a 9×13” pan which has been greased and floured on the bottom only. Bake at once for 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly, then spread with Broiled Coconut Topping.  Serve warm.

For Topping:

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1-1/2 T. milk
3/4 cup flaked coconut

Directions Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl. Add milk and beat until smooth. Add the coconut and stir to blend thoroughly. Spread on cake and broil for 3 minutes, turning pan as needed, until coconut is lightly toasted.

Cherry Spice Cake

Hooray! Another “no trip to the store” baking day! Fall baking comes easily when the ingredients in many recipes are already waiting on your pantry shelves, ready for use.   When everything you need to bake up something yummy is at your fingertips, it is much easier to begin!   I browsed through this collection of recipes from “A Taste of the South’s” Fall baking special issue, making note of the 1-2 items I need to buy but those items truly are few, and that is a definite plus for us bakers.  Use what you have when you can!

I appreciate the endless choices offered with Fall baking and the traditional flavors sure to shine in these recipes.   You can bet  your hard-earned dollars that the tastes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves will be showing up! There are basic batters and crusts using flour, sugar,  baking soda or powder, eggs, and a cup or two of buttermilk. And nuts! You will be using chopped nuts, guaranteed! Today, I chose walnuts for their rich flavor. You should  use whatever tickles your fancy because it’s all about easily preparing something spiced, warm,  and delicious for your family and friends.

The easiest way to make this cake, or any cake, is to gather your ingredients and sort them out, having them ready when you need them. Have it all in place, cut your prep time in half, and you will be so much more efficient in the kitchen. The French  say “mis en place”,  and that is good advice! Read your recipe several times, know where everything fits, fill your measuring cups and small bowls with what you’ll need, and you will have this cake ready for the oven quickly. Do set your butter out early so it is completely softened. And use your stand mixer for both the cake batter and the cream cheese frosting. You can wash everything up while the mixer does its work.

The canned  cherries are a great surprise in this cake; their tart flavor perfectly complements the sweet cream cheese frosting.  Today I used the reserved juice from the cherries for the liquid in the cake frosting. I didn’t want it completely pink, however, so only used 2 T. This cake would also be great with a rich butter cream frosting. Ahhh, more choices! However you slice it, my friends, place it in the refrigerator once frosted until sliced; if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, place it back into the fridge. I set aside a large chunk last night to enjoy with coffee this morning.   Yum, breakfast too!

Cherry Spice Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1-14-1/2 oz. can pitted tart cherries, drained
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

Frosting Ingredients

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
3-3/4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 t. water
2-3 drops red food coloring, optional
Additional chopped pecans or walnuts, chopped, optional

Directions Preheat oven to 350. Line two 9” round baking pans with waxed paper. Grease and flour the pans and paper; set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and powder, and the salt then add to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Fold in the cherries and pecans.

Transfer batter to prepared pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

For frosting, in large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and enough water to achieve spreading consistency. Tint with food coloring if desired. Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. Garnish with additional chopped nuts. Store in refrigerator, covered.

Apple Caramel Pie

More apples! I am so definitely still in an “apple everything” frame of mind! It’s October, y’all, and there are beautiful Granny Smiths, Gala, Braeburn, and Fuji apples everywhere!  I say, and say again, “Bring them ON!”  Today’s  rich  apple pie recipe is from  a “Taste of Home” magazine’s special Fall baking issue, and it is just in time for our cooler October evenings.  You won’t go wrong investing time in preparing this one for your family.

To be honest, there is a good bit of prep work for this dish, but,  take it one step at a time and you’ll be removing this fragrant pie from the oven in no time. Today, I used both Granny Smith and Gala apples today because I had both on hand. I also used lemon juice instead of the lime juice called for in the recipe. Prepare the apples and toss them with the juice, spices, flour and sugar then get your pie crust made. You will need to follow the instructions and amounts given for the 2-crust pie as listed in the recipe; don’t skimp or you won’t have enough dough for both crusts. The butter in the dough makes for a deliciously tender crust for spiced apples piled high, topped with a second crust and drizzled with a rich caramel sauce.

Baker’s Tip:  Use a box grater and grate the butter for the crust; the photo above is one stick of butter grated; you’ll need one more stick.

Make the topping when the pie has finished baking and slowly pour it over the top crust then bake the pie a few minutes longer. I’m sure you’ve already decided to serve this one still warm, with individual scoops of country-style vanilla ice cream, and you are spot-on with that choice. Nothing’s better on a chilly Fall evening! Enjoy!

Apple Caramel Pie

Ingredients

6 cups sliced peeled tart apples
2 T. lemon or lime juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t. salt
Pastry for a double crust 9” pie (see below)
2 T. butter, chopped

Topping Ingredients

2 T. butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 T. heavy cream
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Directions Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, toss apples with juice. Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt; add to apples and toss lightly. Set aside.

Prepare pie dough and line a 9” pie plate with bottom crust and trim even with edges; fill with apple mixture. Dot with butter. Place top crust over filling. Trim, seal, and flute edges, cut slits in top pastry. Brush the top crust with an egg wash (egg yolk and water, beaten).

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and apples are tender. Prepare topping by melting butter in a small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and cream; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add chopped pecans, and pour mixture over top crust; bake pie for 2-3 minutes longer or until bubbly. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Note: Recipe ingredients for a double crust 9” pie: 2-1/2 cups flour, 1/2 t. salt, 1 cup cold butter, grated, and 2/3 cups ice water

Directions Combine flour and salt and stir to sift. Cut in the cold butter with your fingers, working fast. Add ice water and toss with a fork just until the dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. Separate into two discs, wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Chill your rolling pin also.

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