Wednesday, March 28, 2012

April showers bring...

Tiger Lilies
May flowers, wedding showers, baby showers, communions, confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvah's, graduations, barbeque, and a multitude of other activites including "High Tea."  My mother came from an era when women, especially wives were expected to be good in the kitchen. It really was a rite of passage with recipes being passed down from generation to generation.There were even classes in “home economics.” Mostly girls took this class and they were taught how to run a home, including how to cook. 
Ribbon Sandwich Loaf, aka. Pirates Treasure
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with mom and High Tea. This was, in a way, the way it was when my Mom was a young wife. She actually took some art and cooking classes so that she could improve her home skills. She was, in my opinion always trying something new in her younger years. What you may or may not know is that Mom was also an artist. What some of you might not also know is that she actually worked sometimes. 
My Dad colorized
Color photography was not invented yet, so they would add color to black and white prints. Mom was skilled at this technique and that is really how she met my Dad. She had a job coloring prints of soldiers returning home from WWII. She fell in love with my Dad's picture, while she was colorizing it, much like they do with old black and white movies today.
Loaf of bread
While writing this cookbook I discovered that when it came to cooking, mom was amazing for her time. I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that when she was growing up and living with her grandmother and mother's house she learned from them.
When mom gave me her tattered cookbook it had no front or back cover, and the spine was missing. While going through the pages I came across a picture of something called a “Pirates Treasure Sandwich Loaf.” I did not find a recipe in the book for it. The picture sparked a memory of Mom making a similar, if not the same loaf. I immediately called her and described the picture and the layers of the sandwich. Much to my amazement she immediately knew what I was talking about. She said that she was often asked to make one of these for a wedding, or baby shower.
Bread sliced horizontally
You’re probably wondering by now exactly what a “Pirates Treasure Sandwich Loaf” is. So did I. Mom said that you get a unsliced loaf of bread from the bakery. She would cut the loaf lengthwise into layers. The fillings or the "Pirates Treasure Sandwich Loaf” can be almost anything that you can think of. The consistency of the fillings has to be such that it will stay in place when you slice it. The filling can be Egg salad, Tuna salad, Chicken salad, or any other thing that you can think of. You can’t use tomato slices! They will slip out when you try and cut it. There are many recipes on the Internet called sandwich loaf, ribbon sandwich loaf, pirates treasure and many other names. What ever you call it and however you make it, it is serious retro-comfort-food. My Mom used chicken salad, egg salad, and ham salad for hers. The frosting was made from cream cheese and a little bit of milk. You don't have to make it in a loaf shape. Thin sliced "Pepperidge Farm  Very Thin Wheat, or white bread works well for this.    
Add butter and egg salad layer
When you create the “Pirates Treasure Sandwich Loaf,” You build the layers carefully by taste and the number of layers is really dependent on how old the bread is (day old works best), the actual density of the bread and how good you are at cutting the layers. It is very similar to making a torte cake (see recipe in desserts). I just had to try it.
Wrap and refrigerate until firm
So if you’re like me, I just had to try it. Armed with the basic concept, off to the retro kitchen I went recreate a classic. It really is worth the effort. I would wager a guess that none of your friends or family have ever heard of it, or tasted it. 
Remove crust from loaf (snacks for the cook)
Once the crust is removed it's time to frost the loaf. It is a simple mixture of softened cream cheese and milk. The cold sandwich will make it easier to frost the loaf using an offset spatula. If you can frost a cake you've got an advantage over me. 
Cream cheese frosting
Next you have to decorate your sandwich loaf. They didn't have ultrasound and people generally did not know what kind of baby they were having. My mom stuck with yellow and other colors. Today you could use pink for girls, or blue for boys. People would ask my Mom to make this loaf because she was so good at decorating it. 
Decorated sandwich loaf
When you are finished and before you cut it into finger sandwich slices or squares, it will look just like a frosted cake. My kids opened the refrigerator and asked “what kind of cake is this?” The payoff is when you slice into the loaf and discover the treasure. 
Side view sliced loaf
If you prefer to make tiny finger sandwiches try making the loaf using the thin sliced Pepperidge Farm white or wheat bread. Enjoy! 
Tiny finger sandwiches

© TMelle 1998-2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Soft Boiled Eggs

Soft boiled egg in an egg cup
Every now and then my mother would make soft boiled eggs. She called them 3 minute eggs. How she made them amazed me, and scared me at the same time. I'll get into how to prepare soft boiled eggs in a minute. Cutting them open is really the tricky part. I watched her many times pull a very sharp knife from the drawer to crack open the egg. 
Crack the shell through in one motion into the palm of your hand
She would hold the egg in a cloth napkin in her left hand and without a second thought slam the knife blade into the egg shell in one swift motion. It scared the hell out of me. This is something that seemed extremely dangerous from a safety point of view.  She did it perfectly almost every time. My wife can do this as well as my mother. It never worked when I tried it. If you're going to try this at home, get a Kevlar® kitchen glove so you don't cut your hand by accident. I don't have a Kevlar glove so I had to look to a different method.  
Not exactly a soft boiled egg
Once the shell is cut open she would use a small teaspoon spoon to scoop the egg out of the shell, leaving the egg shells behind. She would serve the soft boiled eggs with toast points. You just dip the toast points into the runny yolk of a perfectly prepared soft boiled egg and enjoy. I preferred serving them with English muffins.
Slightly over cooked - you get the idea
My personal view is that poaching an egg is far less difficult than making a soft boiled egg. When do you add the egg to the pot? When do you start timing a 3 minute egg? Prep and timing seems to be the key. Finding the exact moment when the egg white and egg yolk are perfectly cooked without being able to see it is extremely difficult. None of this matters when you can't crack open the egg when it's done cooking.
To make soft boiled eggs, start with room temperature eggs. Place them into a pot and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn off the heat, remove pan from the hot burner, cover with a lid and let them sit for 3-4 minutes (your choice). My mother preferred 3 minute eggs with toast. I prefer them at 4 minutes with English muffins. Since peeling a soft boiled egg is extremely difficult, I needed a way to cut them open. Enter the "Egg Topper."  I don't know anyone who has one, or has ever used one, I was sailing into uncharted waters here. 
Traditional Egg Topper
The traditional egg topper has many teeth that cut through the shell. The one I tried did not work very well and seemed to crush the egg top when cutting it. It still was better than using a knife.  Egg shells should not be in your soft or hard boiled eggs.
Rösle Egg Topper
One day while looking at glass tile for our kitchen we noticed several very cool and functional kitchen tool and towel racks mounted on the tile walls. We asked the salesman if they sold these racks and kitchen tool holders. They did not, but he gave me the company name (Rösle) and suggested that I go on line to find them. When I went to their website I found what I was looking for. They also sold an egg topper. Their description of the topper said  it "Cleanly cracks the top of the egg shell so that it's easily lifted off by hand or with a knife (works on both soft and hard boiled eggs). Pull handle up and release, spring mechanism causes vibration and sharp edge in dome perfectly cuts shell. No more egg shells for breakfast! Fast, efficient and fun for Kids - one snap of the handle and then lift off shell top". I had to have it and promptly placed my order. 
When I received the egg topper I wasn't disappointed. It was a modern version of the toothy mid-evil torture device I purchased earlier. It worked! Now all I have to do is get the egg cooking timing right. If they're any soft boiled egg lovers out there please let me know how you make perfect soft boiled egg.
Off with their heads

© TMelle 1998-2011