The Peanuts Movie

Cupcakes

When I first heard that The Peanuts Movie was in development, I was all full of mixed emotions. I so wanted to see “Good ol’ Charlie Brown” on the big screen, but I wasn’t completely sold on the idea either. I feared that someone was trying to make a quick buck off the Peanuts gang and the movie would be nothing short of obnoxious. When I finally got to see the movie, I was ecstatic to find that my fears were all for nothing. The Peanuts Movie is so soft and endearing and I can’t help but feel it’s a wonderful tribute to the late, great Charles M. Schulz and his beloved characters.

Charlie Brown is still the Charlie Browniest as he falls for The Little Red-Haired Girl and tries desperately to impress her. (The poor kid comes down with a serious case of inadequacy.) Lucky for him, his faithful friend Snoopy sticks close to his side and helps him along. But that doesn’t stop Snoopy from trying his darndest to steal the spotlight. Snoopy’s journey to the aerodrome has got to be my favorite part of the movie. (Sneaky, little, evil Snoopy on Peppermint Patty’s lights is too funny!) Oh, and I just love when Snoopy steals Charlie Brown’s cupcakes. Yeah, cupcakes. That Charlie Brown himself bakes. That’s quite a step up from toast! It’s not like Charlie Brown had a choice though when Peppermint Patty signs him up to make cupcakes for the Winter Dance. Okay, he sets out towards school with only 6 cupcakes, but judging from Snoopy’s actions they had to be good.

Recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

2/3 cup butter, room temperature

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 cups sifted cake flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk, room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Buttercream Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 cups sifted powdered sugar

6 tablespoons heavy cream

Green food coloring

 

Sprinkles (Optional) They look like either gold or green jimmies, but any sprinkles are fine.

 

Directions

Cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Beat in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla extract. Add flour mixture in four additions, alternately with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

Divide cupcake batter amongst tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when the cupcakes are tested. Cool in tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tins and cool on the rack completely.

Buttercream Icing:

In a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Beat powdered sugar in, a little at a time. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add heavy cream. Add a little green food coloring and beat until smooth.

Putting It All Together:

Top each cupcake with a large dollop of icing and smear/smooth with an offset spatula or tool of your choice. Top with a pinch of sprinkles. Now they’re ready for any winter dance or just for you.

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Can Charlie Brown really bake cupcakes and whip up icing all from scratch? I have no doubt in my mind that he can. If he can read War and Peace and write a superb 1000-word book report on it all in one weekend, he can make cupcakes no problem. (I know I can’t do that. Let me have a crack at Leo’s Toy Store instead.) Despite countless failures, Charlie Brown even manages to fly a kite. (Something else I can’t do.) I’m pretty sure that he can do anything, because every time he gets knocked down, he gets right back up. He’s also kind, compassionate, honest, brave, and funny. And I’m glad that he gets some recognition for it! So he’s not perfect. That doesn’t mean he’s an insecure, wishy-washy failure. He’s a good person and people like him. Why else would I still be watching him after all these years?

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Croissant

The Holiday Season is winding down, but we’re not out of it just yet. We still have the sixth of “Januervy” to consider. Of course it’s Epiphany, but did you know it’s also Topsy Turvy Day? (Yes, I’m talking about the one from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.) Hunchback has always been one of my top Disney movies, (Even as a kid, I liked how serious it is. The only thing I hate is Quasimodo getting his heart broken.) so every year I try to do something silly to celebrate Topsy Turvy Day. Unfortunately, every year I end up completely forgetting about it, waking up on the 7th, and immediately thinking, “Dang it! I missed it again.” Well it’s not happening this year! I came prepared. Sort of. I haven’t come up with actual topsy turvy, upsy daisy things to do yet. And it’s not like I can just stroll on down to the Feast of Fools and bob for snails or play “Dunk The Monk.” But I can at least watch Hunchback and eat yummy food. (Yeah, that’s as far as I’ve gotten, but what can you expect when I keep missing the holiday?) Ah, what food, pray tell? Here’s a hint. It’s from another wonderful song from this movie. (My Hunchback soundtrack has a lot of miles on it.)

In “A Guy Like You,” Hugo compares Quasimodo’s physical appearance to a croissant, which is a strange compliment but Hugo means well. (After all, he’s the fat, stupid one with the big mouth.) But everyone loves croissants, so since Quasimodo is shaped like one, there’s no question that everyone loves him. He’s my favorite character. I think that’s more because of things like his kindness, and courage, and the fact that “Out There” makes me cry, but I’m desperately trying to justify making croissants here. So croissants it is. And these babies are not for the faint of heart. They take days to make and can be a bit of a pain, but stick around ‘til the end and you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe makes about 1 dozen croissants.

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons bread flour

½ cup, plus 1 tablespoons water, cold

½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, cold

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon instant yeast

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter (with the highest butterfat content you can find), cold, for laminating

1 large egg, plus 1 teaspoon water for egg wash

 

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours and salt. Add the sugar and instant yeast. Add the water, milk, and the 3 tablespoons of butter. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed for 3 minutes. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl once. Turn out the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten slightly. Place the dough on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

After making the dough, prepare the butter layer by cutting the 2 ½ sticks of butter in fourths, lengthwise. Arrange the butter sticks into a rectangle on top of a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Place another piece of paper on top and smash and roll the butter until it becomes an even 9 X 6 (L X W) inch rectangle. Wrap the butter slab and refrigerate overnight.

Begin the laminating process by unwrapping the dough and laying it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle with the width of it facing you. Ultimately, you’ll want the rectangle to be large enough to completely encase the butter slab without any overlap, so it’ll be about 14 X 9 inches. Place the butter slab in the center of the dough so its length is facing you. Fold the top and bottom sides of the dough so they meet in the middle without overlapping. Pinch the center and both ends together to completely seal in the butter. Turn the dough rectangle 90 degrees so it resembles a book. Completely cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough “book” and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough out so it’s a rectangle 24 inches in length. We’re more worried about length than width, so the dough can get little wider but you don’t want more than a couple of inches. Gently run your hands under the dough to keep it from sticking. This is also where things start getting tough. If you notice the dough is fighting back or the butter is beginning to ooze, place the dough back into the fridge for 10-20 minutes. Once the dough has reached the desired length, fold one end (Top or bottom.) toward the center of the dough. Then fold the other end on top of that one. Now that it’s stacked, make sure all the edges line up perfectly. Turn the dough 90 degrees so it resembles a book again. Completely cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough and repeat the rolling and folding process. Place the dough book in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then unwrap the dough and repeat the rolling and folding process again. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Unwrap the laminated dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 24 X 9 inch rectangle. If the dough begins fighting back, fold it into thirds and place in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes. Once the dough has reached the desired length, gently lift it up about an inch and allow it to shrink on both sides. Doing this now will keep the dough from shrinking after it’s been cut. If the edges of the dough rounded while being rolled, you can trim a bit off so they’re straight. Measure and mark the dough with a knife or pizza cutter, so you will be able to cut out triangles that are 3 inches wide and 9 inches long. Cut out the triangles and cut a ½ inch slit in the center of the flat end of each one. With the flat side toward you, place your hands on each side of the slit. Press your hands forward so the sides of the croissant, or the legs, get longer as you roll the dough all the way to the point. Press just enough so the layers will stick together, but be careful not to squish them. Bend the legs so the croissant forms a crescent shape and place on a baking sheet. Repeat the rolling and folding with each croissant. Leave room between the croissants on the baking sheets. Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash and brush a thin layer on each croissant. Refrigerate the remaining egg wash. Let the croissants proof somewhere warm, but not too warm that the butter oozes out, until they have increased in size and the dough springs back when you gently press the surface, 1 ½-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with the racks in the top and lower thirds.

Brush the croissants with the remaining egg wash and bake for 10-15 minutes. Rotate the trays and bake another 10-15 minutes or until they are fully browned. Remove from the oven and let rest on their sheets for a couple minutes. Move the croissants to a wire rack and cool completely. Now you can finally eat them.

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My croissants aren’t perfect looking, but they’re not too shabby for my first try and they taste so good. Since I had a lot of down time while making these, I did quite a bit of thinking and I realized Quasimodo really is like a croissant. With their many layers, there’s a complexity to them that you don’t understand until you take a closer look and see them for who/what they truly are.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

How Murray Saved Christmas

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

South of the North Pole in the U.S. of A., my family’s been prepping for the big holiday. We’ve decked the halls and trimmed the tree, and watched every special on our TV. You can’t knock the classics ’cause they’re all works of art, but I’m thinking more modern and funny and smart. It’s How Murray Saved Christmas that we’ve come to hold dear and we take bets on how often we’ll watch it each year. That’s it. I’m done with the rhyming. Hey, it’s tough stuff and I shouldn’t be doing it without a poetic license. But that doesn’t stop the residents of Stinky Cigars. (I know, doesn’t that just sound like the perfect place to live?) The town honors a banner with two smelly (cigar) butts on it. Oh, and it just gets better. Turns out, Stinky Cigars is home to many holiday stars with so much pride, they’ll kill half the day singing their town anthem. I’m pretty sure that place was made for me. Actually, my siblings and I feel that everything about How Murray Saved Christmas was made for us. It’s over the top and hilariously odd, but it means well. (Wow. That does kind of describe us.) I love how it turns the typical holiday stuff on its head. Santa isn’t the hero, he’s a likeable jerk. (“He’s a great guy outside the office.”) Then an elf causes him to get a concussion which leaves a grumpy diner owner as the only person qualified to be a St. Nick Substitute. (I feel bad for Santa, but I’m a big fan of Queen Hannah of Bananaland.) I think it’s safe to say that this special is one of a kind.

With Murray Weiner being the owner of a bustling holiday diner, we see a lot of his handy work in this special, from chili and roast beef to a lean pastrami sandwich with coleslaw and a triple-thick chocolate milkshake. Murray may have Antisocial claustrophobic paranoid neurosis, (I can’t help but sing that like Doc Holiday!) but he can sure cook. Even when The April Fool orders compact discs on rye, Murray doesn’t disappoint. I wasn’t allowed to make that. My sister also banned me from making Edison Elf’s pizza and spaghetti racket. (“It’s wasteful and dirty and terribly rude.”) That’s fine because I got to try making Murray’s chocolate chip cheesecake. It looks incredible and if anyone knows his dairy products, it’s Murray.

Recipe makes one 9-inch cheesecake.

Ingredients

Crust:

25 Oreo cookies (About 2 cups)

5 tablespoons butter, melted

 

Filling

2 ½ pounds cream cheese, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sour cream, room temperature

5 large eggs, room temperature

2 egg yolks, room temperature

1 cup roughly chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips or mini chips

Boiling water for water bath

 

Ganache

8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with rack positioned in the lower third of the oven.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Cut two large pieces of foil and crisscross them. Place the springform pan in the center of the foil and wrap the edges around the sides of the pan.

Crust:

In a food processor, pulse the cookies until they form fine crumbs. Add butter and pulse until the mixture holds together when pressed. Pour the mixture into the springform pan and press evenly into the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust until it is fragrant and set, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling:

In a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is light and smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips

Ganache:

Place the dark chocolate into a food processor. Pour the heavy cream into a microwave-safe bowl and heat until it begins to simmer, 3-4 minutes. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Pulse until the chocolate mixture is smooth.

Putting It All Together:

Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled crust and evenly spread. Place the springform pan into a roasting pan or large baking dish. Carefully pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform and place in the oven.

Bake the cheesecake until the edges are set and the center slightly jiggles, 55-60 minutes. Turn off the oven and crack open the door. Let the cheesecake cool for one hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath and unwrap the foil. Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill the cheesecake, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Prepare the ganache and allow it to cool slightly before evenly pouring over the cheesecake. Allow the ganache to spill over and cover the sides as well. Chill the cheesecake, uncovered, until the ganache is set, about 4 hours. Now it’s finally ready to be sliced and served!

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Santa gives Murray’s chocolate chip cheesecake credit for making him fat. Yep, I’m pretty sure the same thing’s going to happen to me. Whether it’s making cheesecakes or deliveries, The Milkman’s still got it. Murray proves that when he’s giving out presents. And he has such a good time, his curmudgeonly shell melts away and he delivers gifts to everyone in the world, regardless of behavior or religion. See, there’s some warm and fuzzy holiday feels in this too. And Murray wraps up with an ending that’s sweet. I’d love to type more, but I’ve got cheesecake to eat.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

 

 

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Episode: Dale Beside Himself
Walnut Wallaroos

If I had enough know-how to be a detective, I’d start my own agency right away. I’m more of the fun-loving, laid back type, so I’d bring on my sister because she’s much more serious and responsible. I also think we’d need someone really smart to invent gadgets and vehicles to aid us in our crime solving. And to round everything out, we should have a loveable, well-traveled Australian with a little squeaky/buzzy “sidekick.” Wait a minute. I think I just described the Rescue Rangers! I guess it can’t be helped. The show’s been near and dear to me for as long as I can remember. Day after day, my Mom and I would get up early and watch some of The Disney Channel’s finest. I loved seeing those mischievous, little chipmunks don some snazzy outfits and take on hero roles. (Yeah, I didn’t get the Indiana Jones and Magnum P.I. references until many years later.) And Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper are all forces to be reckoned with and were perfect additions to the Disney family. But the best thing about the Rescue Rangers is how they specialize in cases that have “slipped through the cracks.” And believe me, they take on more than simple missing kitty cases. (Can you say “mad scientist?”) Through their many adventures, whether on a case or not, they’ve crossed paths with the likes of crime bosses, pirates, and even aliens.

Monterey Jack’s previous experiences adventuring have been a big help to the Rescue Rangers in many of these cases. But they can also be a problem. I’m talking about the Walnut Wallaroos. Monterey Jack was taught this cookie recipe by The Great Eskimo Chief MightyMuckLuck when he was hitchhiking through the Southern Arctic in the middle of a snowstorm. (That’s quite a mouthful and I haven’t eaten gotten to actually making the cookies.) Now what’s wrong with Walnut Wallaroos? It’s not like Monterey Jack uses walrus nail clippings. The problem here is the sheer number of cookies made. Monterey Jack goes just a teensy bit overboard and bakes over 30 dozen! And the ones who have to pay the price are Gadget, Chip, and Zipper. (Gadget and Chip resort to hiding cookies when they get too full.) Monterey Jack doesn’t seem to mind though. He just dumps the entire pile into his mouth. Hey, they’re not cheese, but those cookies must be pretty good.

Recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

3 cups chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add the milk and the dry ingredients alternatingly and mix until combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies begin to brown and are set, 10-12 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow the cookies to cool slightly before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Dig in!

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With all of this Walnut Wallaroo business, Monterey Jack, Gadget, and Chip don’t realize that an alien has switched places with Dale. They notice “Dale” acting weird, but they would never suspect that the real one was flying through outer space. I can’t blame them. I’m not sure if I could tell if there was an alien in my house. And my senses would be severely dulled by all those Walnut Wallaroo Cookies. I don’t know if my household could eat through over 30 dozen cookies, but we’d give it our all. Hey, we can’t let food go to waste. I guess I’m a touch like DTZ as well. Cookies are basically my erkburgles and I could never be happy living anywhere without them.

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Ginger Cake

I’ve always been kind of a fraidy-cat, but that’s never kept me from grabbing up every spooky story I could get my hands on. I started off with series like Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and quickly moved on to longer and darker books. So I’m one of those people who just can’t wait for Halloween because hair-raising stories are in abundance. It’s also the best time of year to hear my favorite scary tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I don’t remember the first time I heard the story, but Disney made sure I’d never forget it. Washington Irving’s legend of Ichabod Crane is fun and mysterious in its own right, but when sprinkled with Disney magic, it comes to life as a classic that I still watch every year. It’s entertaining, a bit spooky, and narrated by the incomparable, Bing Crosby. (Of course he sings too!) The tunes are so catchy, I just have to hear “Headless Horseman” once and it’s stuck in my head until well into December. This animated Sleepy Hollow may not be the most elaborate interpretation of the legend, but it’s always been my favorite.

I know that food is a big part of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but I wasn’t prepared to be given so many options. Ichabod is always eating pies, turkeys, cakes, and whatever else is in his reach. How can that scarecrow of a man put so much food away? Ultimately, I chose from the large spread at Baltus Van Tassel’s Halloween Frolic. During his dance with Katrina, Ichabod grabs up a large slice of cake and eats it all in one bite, without missing a beat. My sister and I almost immediately got into a mini debate over the flavor of the cake. Although it could’ve been chocolate or carrot, I gave Irving’s story another run through and read that the Van Tassels had ginger cakes at their party. So I settled on a gingerbread cake that wouldn’t be too far off from cakes served around that time. But what about icing? Back then, many icings were just a mix of water and powdered sugar or beaten egg whites and sugar. I was leaning more toward the egg whites and figured that Seven-Minute Frosting was a descendent of that simple icing and would work just fine. So the cake isn’t historically accurate, but I doubt Ichabod would complain.

Recipe makes one double-layered cake.

Ingredients

Ginger Cake:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 ½ cups molasses

1 cup buttermilk

3 eggs, beaten

4 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground ginger

Pecan or Walnut Halves (Could be either but I had pecans on hand.)

 

Seven-Minute Frosting

1 ½ cups sugar

1/3 cup water

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Ginger Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add molasses, buttermilk, cinnamon, and ginger and mix thoroughly. Mix in the eggs and then 2 cups of flour. Once combined, add the baking soda water. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of flour and stir until just combined.

Divide cake batter amongst pans. Gently tap or drop pans on the counter to remove air pockets. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when the cakes are tested. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out cakes on a wire rack and cool completely.

Seven-Minute Frosting:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan or bottom of a double boiler. Combine sugar, water, egg whites, corn syrup, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl or top of the double boiler. Place the bowl over the boiling water. Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water or else the frosting may become grainy. Begin beating the mixture with an electric hand mixer on low speed for a minute. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy, 5-7 minutes. Remove the frosting from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Beat again for 1 minute.

Putting It All Together:

Trim excess cake so both rounds are level. Spread a layer of the seven-minute frosting on top of one of the cakes. Top with the other cake. Evenly frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining seven-minute frosting. Garnish the cake with pecan or walnut halves. Cut into 5 very large slices (Or more if you don’t have an Ichabod-like appetite.) and serve!

Variations: I watched through The Legend of Sleepy Hollow several times before making the cake and never noticed a color difference between the filling and the outer frosting. (You can bet I was miffed when I found a quality photo of the cake scene.) So feel free to substitute any kind of colored or flavored filling. Also, if you’re not a fan of seven-minute frosting, (Because it can be a pain sometimes.) buttercream and cream cheese frosting both go really well with gingerbread.

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No one in my house is as nimble as Ichabod, but I had to test how easily someone could pull off Ichabod’s “cake dancing.” Turns out, it’s a lot harder than it looks. (Injuries were sustained while trying to take a decent photo.) But at least we were rewarded with giant slices of tasty cake. But Ichabod needed the cake more than we did. Not that he knew at the time, but he’d need all the energy he could muster when finding himself face-to-flaming pumpkin face with the Headless Horseman.

 In the end, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow leaves you questioning Ichabod’s fate. I like to side with those who believe he was spirited away by the Headless Horseman. (Sorry Ichabod.) And maybe I’ve watched this cartoon a few too many times, but I almost believe there is a Headless Horseman out there. It doesn’t help when I start comparing him to my cake. That sounds odd, but hear me out. Both the Horseman and my cake started out as ideas put to paper that evolved to the point where they were brought to life by lovers of the legend. If my cake turned out this well, I’d hate to encounter the Headless Horseman. (*Shudders*) Man, I’m getting out of here.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

Bump in the Night

Episode: Better Homes & Garbage
Slice of Sweet Potato Pie

I never dare sleep with my hands or feet dangling off my bed for fear of being grabbed by something under there. I know it’s silly. Why am I assuming that the monster under my bed is a bad one? My monster could be just like Mr. Bumpy. Sure, he’s a little rough around the edges, but he’s not bad at all. In fact, he really cares for The Boy. (He’s Mr. Bumpy’s hero.) And Mr. Bumpy is a great pal too. He does whatever he can for Squishington and Molly. He’d even give them the warts off his own back.

However, all friendships have limits and there are times when even the best of friends will fight. Squishington tries to repay Mr. Bumpy’s kindness for letting him stay under the bed, but he takes things a bit too far. (After seeing his nest cleaned and organized, Mr. Bumpy pinches his arm so hard it comes off.) And things only go from bad to worse when Squishington tries to feed Mr. Bumpy lunch. For a monster who craves dirty socks, used facial tissues, and the occasional clogged drain hair and toenail sundae, foods like lettuce, carrots, and celery aren’t very appetizing. When Mr. Bumpy runs for the filing cabinet to get some socks, Squishington tries to have him eat a slice of sweet potato pie. Instead of eating it though, Mr. Bumpy just pretends and tosses it on the floor. That doesn’t sit too well with Squishington. He feels his cleaning, cooking, and comforting aren’t being appreciated and after another fight, he says he never wants to see Mr. Bumpy again. I hate to see the bosomest of buddies fighting, especially over things like pillows, garbage, and pie.

Recipe makes one deep-dish 9-inch pie.

Ingredients

Crust:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter, cold and cut into chunks

4-5 tablespoons ice water, plus 1 or 2 more tablespoons if needed

Filling:

3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly

¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

1 cup heavy whipping cream

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until dough just comes together when pressed. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse again. Form dough into a disk and cover in plastic wrap. Let dough chill until firm, 30 minutes to an hour.

Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, eggs, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in sweet potato. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually stir in heavy cream and beat until combined.

Putting It All Together:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough 14-16 inches across and place in a pie tin. Gently press dough into place. Trim excess dough or fold it back on itself. Crimp edge for a more decorative look.

Pour filling evenly into pie crust and bake for 1-1 ½ hours, or until skewer inserted in it comes out clean. Remove pie from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Variations: As soon as I saw the slice of sweet potato pie in Bump in the Night, I got all sorts of excited to make one. I came up with the recipe, made the pie, fell in love with it, AND THEN realized that it’s supposed to be good for you. Whoops! Although sweet potatoes are pretty healthy, loading them down with cream, sugar, and butter probably isn’t the best thing for you. (But Molly considers stray sock holes to be a part of a comforting and nutritious meal, so who knows?) Anyway, here are some tips to make a lighter version.
For a healthier pie crust: Replace half or all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat (I’d use white whole wheat.) and you can omit the sugar.
For the pie: Reduce the granulated sugar to 1/4 cup or omit it all together. Feel free to use a sugar substitute or baking blend for the brown sugar. Reduce the butter to 3 tablespoons and replace the heavy cream with 3/4 cup of milk.

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It doesn’t take long for Mr. Bumpy and Squishington to start missing each other and make up. (Causing the “Moral Alert” sign to hit Mr. Bumpy on the head.) I’m just glad to see those two getting along again. And I got a yummy sweet potato pie out of it too. Maybe I can make friends with my own monster by leaving some pie out for him or her. (I know Squishington likes eating pie in the dark.) Alright, time to fess up. Do I have a monster living under my bed? No, and I know for sure that I don’t have one in my bathroom. (Although one would so come in handy.) But my closet, that’s another story.

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

Pocahontas

Hardtack (Ship’s Biscuits)

“Seasons go and seasons come steady as the beating drum.” Isn’t that the truth? I can’t believe we’re entering another season already! Time just keeps pushing us along, leaving us to make choices and find our own paths in life. You’d think after all the times I watched Pocahontas I’d be prepped for this. Pocahontas is another one of my go-to Disney movies. It’s absolutely stunning and always makes me feel like a pile of mush by the end of it. The title character is courageous and understanding and has taught me to look just around the riverbend and to paint with all the colors of the wind.

Today I’m taking a cue from my beloved movie and being a little daring by making hardtack. Yeah, that’s got nothing on traveling to a new world or uniting different peoples, but it’s scary in its own right. This food (Does this still count as food?) has sustained many a traveler, soldier, etc. at sea and on foot so I’m curious to experience it first-hand. Plus, Meeko can’t seem to get enough of these biscuits, so they must be good right?

Recipe makes about seven 3-inch biscuits.

Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt

Less than 1 cup water

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Gradually mix in water until the dough comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 1/2 inch thickness. Use a cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough. Mine were 3 inches in diameter but you can make them any size. Place the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and use a skewer or similar tool to poke a liberal amount of holes into each round.

Bake hardtack for 4 hours, turning over halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and cool completely. (If you actually want to eat one without soaking it in hot milk or something for at least 30 minutes, now would be the time because they’re still kind of soft.) Let the hardtack sit overnight to harden. Now they’re ready for anything!

Variations: Traditional hardtack was baked multiple times to extend its shelf life, so if you want to make true “molar breakers,” bake them again and let them cool completely.
There are no holes in the hardtack in the movie, so you can try making some that aren’t docked, like the one in the picture below. They get a little puffier and stay a little softer than traditional hardtack.
You can also replace the water with milk and add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of softened butter to make a tastier dough. This will result in softer hardtack that won’t keep as long.

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Turns out hardtack’s not all that bad. I can say that because I’m not like the settlers aboard the Susan Constant who had nothing else to eat besides hardtack and gruel for months. But I do think it’s pretty good in a survivalist sort of way. I even embraced my inner John Smith and gave a softer one to a raccoon. (Yes, a live raccoon. It’s a long story.) She ate it, so I guess she liked it. Unsurprisingly, she’s camera shy, so I had to settle for a picture with my Meeko stuffed animal instead. (He’s the one that makes the fun raccoon noise when you squeeze him!) Playing with toys and hardtack makes me wonder if I’m really on the right path. As weird as it is, it’s the one I’ve chosen and I’m sticking to it.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!