The Rescuers

The Rescuers
Ginger Snaps

“R-E-S-C-U-E. Rescue Aid Society. Heads held high, touch the sky. You mean everything to me.” Now that we’ve sang part of the Rescue Aid Society Anthem (and have the rest of it stuck in our heads.) we can now get to business. I will now present The Rescuers. I’ve watched enough cartoons to know that you should never underestimate mice. That goes especially for Miss Bianca and Bernard. Sure they’re small, but with enough faith, they can do things you wouldn’t believe. Traveling from New York to Devil’s Bayou, finding the world’s largest diamond, and taking on the evil Madame Medusa and her pet alligators to save one little orphan girl are all in a day’s work for Rescue Aid Society agents. The pair doesn’t do it all alone, but their help comes from other small animals. Orville the albatross flies them to Devil’s Bayou and Ellie Mae and the other bayou residents charge onto the riverboat to save Penny. Evinrude’s just a dragonfly and he puts his life on the line to help out. Clearly, little ones can do big things.

Even Rufus the Cat plays an important part in finding Penny. Miss Bianca and Bernard meet him at the Morningside Orphanage and he directs their search towards Madame Medusa, the owner of a sleazy pawnshop down the street. (Though he says that they’d be wasting their time going down there.) Rufus tells Miss Bianca and Bernard about the last time he saw Penny before she ran away. Penny was depressed about being passed over on Adoption Day, but Rufus reassured her by saying, “Faith is a bluebird, you see from afar. It’s for real and as sure as the first evening star. You can’t touch it, or buy it, or wrap it up tight, but it’s there just the same, making things turn out right.” Once Penny cheered up she gave Rufus two extra ginger snaps that she took from lunch even though she wasn’t supposed to. Rufus licked them and called them catnip snaps, much to Penny’s delight. Then Rufus’ tale ends with Penny telling Rufus that she loves him and carrying him (rather roughly) off to supper. Seeing all of this breaks my heart and makes me root harder for Miss Bianca and Bernard to succeed in finding and rescuing Penny. And then the stupid hungry side of me ruins the moment and says, “Hey, let’s go make our own Catnip Snaps!”

Recipe makes about 45 cookies.

Ingredients

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon molasses

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg. Add the molasses and corn syrup and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Drop dough with a 2-teaspoon sized scoop, 2 inches apart, onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies by hand or with the bottom of a glass.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, for 10-12 minutes for softer cookies or 15 minutes for crispier ones.

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

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Because I made these ginger snaps, I’ve got no problem taking two extra for my cat. (But I’m not really going to share them with her.) We’re close like Rufus and Penny, but she doesn’t talk back when I speak to her. I’ve tried talking to mice too and they don’t answer either. (I thought mice could talk like anybody.) Penny’s just special, not to mention incredibly brave. During her ordeal in Devil’s Bayou she never stops trying her hardest to flee from her captors. I’m beyond glad that Penny finds “someone waiting for her.” And Penny and her new parents aren’t the only ones brought together. Miss Bianca and Bernard are now ready to take on anything and jump right into another mission. That won’t be the last time we see the agents, but I think I’ve left you with enough for now. “Tomorrow is another day.”

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

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Monsters, Inc.

Snow Cones

Yes, you read that right. Snow cones. In January. Hey, this is the time of year for snow and ice, so I’m just using what’s on hand. And if your brain works like mine, when you think of snow cones, your thoughts immediately go to Monsters, Inc. (Which is one of the best Pixar movies ever!) Who’d of thought that monsters scare children because their screams are used to power everything? They just go to work and scare like it’s no big deal. Okay, well there’s one big deal. Scaring is considered dangerous work because monsters are afraid of the toxic kids. They believe that just one touch by a human child could kill them. (Actually, I think there’s a hint of truth in there. Kids are scary.) But I like Boo. She’s cute and harmless. Just like most of the monsters in Monstropolis. There’s no way they could scare me. Except for Mr. Waternoose. (*Shivers.* That guy’s icky.) Well, forget Mr. Waternoose. He’s not important. (Actually he’s very important, but I much more prefer Mike and Sulley.)

The stress of finding and hiding a human child and trying to safely send her home without being caught or tangled in a secret plot can be quite taxing on a friendship. Throw banishment on top of all that and Mike and Sulley are splitsville. I hate seeing them mad and hurt and I would just fast-forward through this part of the movie if not for the Abominable Snowman. When I’m not running around shouting, “Mike Wazowski!” or saying something like Roz, I’m yelling, “Welcome to the Himalayas!” I love the poor, messed up Yeti. He’d rather be referred to as the Adorable Snowman or the Agreeable Snowman and for good reason. Does a yak milk drinking, snow cone making monster sound abominable? And it’s awfully hospitable of the Yeti to offer Mike and Sulley snow cones, but the yellow color would concern anyone. (“No, no, no, don’t worry. It’s lemon.”) I’m pretty sure the Yeti, of all monsters, knows not to eat the yellow snow.

Recipe makes 1 cup snow cone syrup.

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup fresh lemon juice

Zest of ½ a lemon

Yellow Food Coloring (Optional)

Ice or Fresh, Clean Snow

 

Directions

Combine sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the syrup begins to boil, remove from heat. Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl. Let syrup cool completely and add yellow food coloring.

Crush your desired amount of ice using a blender, snow cone machine, or other device. If using snow, just collect it from a clean area. Scoop ice or snow into a paper cup and drizzle with your desired amount syrup. Dig in!

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It seems like the Yeti’s not taking his banishment too badly. (At least he’s handling it better than Bigfoot, a.k.a. King Itchy.) Maybe the snow cones have something to do with it? He can’t escape the snow and ice, so it’s best just to have some fun with it. (He does think the snow is fabulous.) Hey, that’s not a bad idea. I think I just found my way to survive the winter. I’m going to need a lot more syrup.

 

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!

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Cratchit Family Christmas Dinner

Another year, another Christmas Carol. There are just so many of them, I couldn’t resist. Last year, when I covered A Christmas Carol, I said it’s my very favorite animated version of the story. Well, so is Mickey’s Christmas Carol. (I have trouble picking favorites.) It was one of my first tastes of A Christmas Carol and, come on, it’s Disney. Everywhere you look, a beloved character shows up to take on a role from this classic. Among them you’ll see Mickey and Co., Mr. Toad, Willie the Giant, and Jiminy Cricket. And let’s not forget about Scrooge McDuck starring as his namesake! Ebenezer Scrooge is a cruel man, but his sense of humor and attitude make it tough to hate him. However, just because I like him doesn’t mean I’m happy with how he treats people like Fred (Donald), the Collectors for the poor (Ratty and Moley), and Isabelle (Daisy). And the poor Cratchits! Bob (Mickey) says he gets paid two shillings and a ha’penny and that’s only because he got a raise for doing Scrooge’s laundry. That’s not nearly enough to support his family. Did you see their Christmas dinner?

The Cratchit Family’s Christmas dinner consists of one very small bird, some brown stuff, and peas. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m sure Mrs. Cratchit (Minnie) is a wonderful cook, but that’s supposed to feed a family of five? And it doesn’t help that the Ghost of Christmas Present (Willie) shows up with the food of generosity. After seeing mince pies, turkey, and suckling pig, you know that the Cratchit dinner isn’t going to be a pretty sight. Then Scrooge compares it to a canary! If I didn’t feel for the Cratchits already, I would after seeing Tiny Tim (Morty Fieldmouse) walk in and say, “Oh, my! Look at all the wonderful things to eat.” (My heart!) And then there’s my favorite scene where Bob slices his one little pea. That’ll stay with me forever because of how unbelievably silly/sad it is. Oh, and if that isn’t enough to break your heart, Tiny Tim tries to give his dad his drumstick. (Tiny Tim, you sweet, little angel.) It’s sad when this meal is made for an entire family, but for one person, it’d be quite the little feast.

Just what bird Mrs. Cratchit cooked up, I have no idea, but I’m going to use a Cornish game hen. As for the mysterious brown stuff, I’m guessing it’s stuffing. And the peas, well they’re peas.

Recipe makes Christmas dinner for one.

Ingredients

Cornish Game Hen:

1 Cornish game hen

Butter

Salt

Pepper

Stuffing

½ large onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon butter

½ tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped

2 ounces bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

Salt

Pepper

Peas

½ cup peas, fresh or frozen

¾ tablespoon butter, melted

Salt

Pepper

Directions

Cornish Game Hen:

Rinse the Cornish game hen and dry thoroughly. Place on a rack over a pan in the fridge, uncovered, for 1-24 hours, the longer the better.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Rub a liberal amount of butter, up to a tablespoon, on the Cornish game hen, inside and out and under the skin. Then season it, inside and out, with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Truss the Cornish game hen and place on a small rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. You can also place it on a small rack inside the pan.

Stuffing:

Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Remove from heat and add the sage. Add the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Add enough egg until the mixture just comes together when pressed. Break up the stuffing into large chunks and place on the pan with the Cornish game hen.

Peas:

If you are using fresh peas, boil them for 2-3 minutes. Drain and dry thoroughly. If you are using frozen, thaw and dry thoroughly. In a bowl, combine peas, butter, salt, and pepper.

Putting It All Together:

Bake the Cornish game hen and stuffing until the thickest part of the thigh reads 160-165 degrees F and the juices run clear, about 1 hour. When you have about 20 minutes left of cooking time, add the peas to the pan. Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Let rest 10 minutes. Untruss the Cornish game hen and serve it up with some stuffing and peas. Enjoy!

Variations:
Everyone seems to have their own way of cooking birds, so do what works best for you and your oven. I didn’t use a brine, but you can if you prefer. Also, you can rub the Cornish game hen with olive oil or nothing at all. And you can easily make more or less of anything.

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I feel so awful. I used the smallest Cornish game hen I could find and it’s still huge compared to Mrs. Cratchit’s “canary.” I couldn’t even eat the whole thing in one sitting. But despite not having a whole lot, the Cratchits are still a pretty happy family because they have each other. And thanks to Scrooge’s change of heart, they can afford to keep it that way. The toys and the turkey aren’t bad either, but it’s being with family and friends that makes it a merry Christmas Day.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I’ll be taking a break for the next two weeks.
Tune in next year for more Cartoon Cravings!

A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving

Hot Chocolatey Ice Cream

Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal for my family because stuffing ourselves silly surrounded by our loved ones is essentially living the dream. And do you know what else (Who else actually.) is a big deal for my family? Winnie the Pooh. We’ve all fallen in love with that silly old bear and his friends. So writing about A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving just seems like a no brainer. Thanksgiving is a pretty important day in the Hundred Acre Wood too. It’s Pooh’s most favorite day of all. Most of the residents get together to share a feast and each one contributes something special to it. Pooh brings honey, Piglet haycorns, Gopher lemonade (52.6 gallons of it!), Owl biscuits, Eeyore thistles (Although he says no one will like them but him.), and Tigger brings hot chocolatey ice cream! It’s not the traditional Thanksgiving fare, but they’re happy with it. Then Rabbit shows up. He considers a Thanksgiving Day without turkey, cranberry dressing, the “once a year” plates, and pumpkin pie nothing more than a chilly Thursday. He then assigns duties and responsibilities to everyone in order to have a properly organized celebration. (Rabbit really expects Pooh and Piglet to catch a turkey?!)

My family does the standard turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie thing, but that’s because we want them, not because we’d be celebrating wrong without them. Before Thanksgiving every year, each of my family members gets to choose one dish for our meal. Think of it like our own contributions, except only my mom, sister, and I do the cooking. (We’d prefer not to have Gophers in the kitchen.) What we eat is important to us, but we’re just thankful that we can eat together. Even a Hundred Acre Wood Thanksgiving would be fine by me. There’s nothing wrong with honey, haycorns, and hot chocolatey ice cream. (Leave it to Tigger to bring ice cream!) Actually, I think some hot chocolatey ice cream would be a perfect addition to my Thanksgiving feast. Pie shouldn’t have all the glory.

Recipe makes 1 quart of ice cream.

Ingredients

½ cup hot chocolate mix

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

1 ½ cups heavy cream

¾ cup milk

¾ cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together 1 cup heavy cream and the hot chocolate mix. Once combined, add the rest of the heavy cream and the milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the unsweetened chocolate until fully melted and smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and whisk until light and thickened. While constantly whisking, pour small amounts of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Once 1/3 or so of the chocolate mixture has been added, pour in the rest of the chocolate mixture. Pour the new mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 degrees F. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer and into a bowl. Add the vanilla extract. Allow mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes to come to room temperature. You can set the bowl over an ice bath to cool the mixture quicker. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator until the mixture is fully chilled, 4 hours to overnight.

Pour the mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the ice cream and store in an airtight container in the freezer until fully hardened, about 4 hours. Enjoy!

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If hot chocolatey ice cream was the only thing to eat on Thanksgiving, I’d still have a very good day. (I’m about as obsessed with it as Tigger is.) But Rabbit believes that Thanksgiving is all about tradition and custom, habit and routine. He’s half right, but everyone has different traditions and can change them whenever they want. Turkey isn’t the most immensely important part of the holiday. And having enough food to calm the most ferocious of beasts is just a bonus. So if your food and decorations are ruined, you can’t just call off Thanksgiving and say there’s nothing to be thankful for. (I’m talking to you, Rabbit!) Don’t worry. Pooh helps Rabbit see the error in his ways once he rounds everyone up again to share Thanksgiving. Rabbit realizes that all he needs for Thanksgiving, or any other day, are the friends he has. That’s because Thanksgiving is truly about friends and family gathering together to give thanks for how things are and what they have. After all, the grandest thing we shall ever have is one another, or so it was said by a bear named Winnie the Pooh.

 

I’ll be taking a break next week.

Tune in next, 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!

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!