Monday, October 20, 2014

Date Squares revisited

Thanksgiving came and went - thankfully with no real impact to my waistline! It was a good day and evening.  We made the Turkey, vegetables, stuffing etc at my sisters house and then took it over to my moms to enjoy. It might seem like extra work, but it really did minimize any cleanup that had to be done at my mom's house and we spent our time visiting instead of slaving over dirty dishes.

A while ago I made Date Squares from the 1938 Five Roses Flour Cookbook and having no real creative motivation last week...I think I was still in a Turkey coma :)  I decided to remake the date squares using the updated Five Roses Flour recipe, plus I still had leftover dates and no real ideas on what to do with them...and I got a wee bit obsessed on crocheting headbands!

The recipes are pretty much the same with a few modifications that seem to make sense, like the removal of the baking powder and baking soda. I didn't really notice a difference in how they cooked up.

What I did notice was that the date mixture seemed drier and I had to add more water to get it to cook enough to be mushy, and...the newer recipe mentions

"Cook over medium heat until dates are soft and water is absorbed. Add vanilla and let cool."

But no where in the recipe does it mention vanilla as an ingredient, so I didn't add it in.

In the newer cookbook they have the Orange Date filling as a variation of the basic one, so I included both below. I chose the Orange Date filling to make since it more closely resembled the 1938 recipe.

Out of both recipes, I think I prefer the newer variation better. It just seemed more substantial and the bars were less thin. I guess it depends on if you like a thicker date middle, but flavourwise, I don't think there was much difference at all. 

Date Shortbread (Matrimony Cake)
Five Roses Flour Cook Book - 1970? (page 122)


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4  1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2  cups old fashioned oatmeal

  • 500 g pitted dates
  • 3/4 cup hotwater
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Combine dry ingredients together
  2. Rub in butter with the tips of your fingers
  3. Spread half the mixture in a greased shallow pan (about 8 X 14 inches) and pat to make smooth.
  4. Cover with cooled Date Filling, spreading it evenly, then cover with remaining crumbs, pat to make smooth.
  5. Bake at 375F for 30 - 35 minutes.
  6. Increase heat slightly and bake for a few minutes longer to lightly brown the mixture.
  7. Cut in squares while warm and allow the shortbread to cool in the pan.

Orange Date Filling
Five Roses Flour Cook Book - 1970? (page 122)

  • 1/2 lb  1 lb chopped dates (500 g)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tbsp 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Grated rind of 1/2 orange
  • 2 tbsp 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Cook dates, water, orange rind, and sugar in a small saucepan, over a moderate heat until thick and smooth
  2. Remove from heat and let cool

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cranberry Tarts for Thanksgiving

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada. Mmmmm Turkey, stuffing, veggies and homemade cranberry sauce...and of course dessert. I'm not overly excited for pumpkin pie, so I decided to make something that still would blend in nicely with the holiday.

Cranberry Tart with Heart cutout

My mom and aunt made tarts when my aunt was here visiting this summer and my mom talks about them quite often. They used a recipe for Cranberry Meringue Pie from the Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic cookbook, but without the Meringue. Right next to that recipe is a similar recipe for Cranberry Pie, so I'm not sure why they didn't use that one instead. I'll have to ask when I'm over there on Sunday.

Cranberry Heart Tart

I cheated a wee bit and used pre-made pastry shells for the base and used extra shells to make the pastry decorations. I think it would of been easier to get the dough out of the shell when they were's way too soft and fragile trying to get it out in a less than frozen state. Just sayin'.

It's a pretty easy recipe to follow but it takes a little bit of time to wait for all the cranberries to pop and also for the final cooking part. Just a wee bit of standing around.

I doubled the recipe, which made about 60 tarts. The recipe (as it's written below) says it makes 1 9" pie, so I wasn't sure what that equaled out to in tarts, so to be safe I doubled it. More to share!


After dissolving the sugar in 1.5 cups of the water, I added in the cranberries and let it cook down for a while on medium heat. A bit more than a simmer, but not a boil, so I could walk away from the stove without things burning.  I could hear the cranberries popping!

After cooking so that most of the cranberries had burst, I tempered the egg, butter, water, salt, cornstarch mixture with some of the hot cranberry mix, and then while stirring the cranberries on the stove, I slowly poured the tempered egg mix in. Please don't scramble the eggs...please don't scramble the eggs...please don't scramble the eggs...hahah, that was what I was thinking in my head. It was scary to think it all could go wrong in an instant.


At this point you let it cook until it turns clear and thickens up. I had the stove on medium-low (closer to medium) and it was taking quite a while to clear up, but it was getting less cloudy and thick. After about 20 minutes I had enough and to me it looked great..and goopy!

Cranberry filling cooking

I put the cranberry filling in the tart shells using a soup spoon. Yes, I know, I need to learn to do this more neatly...or you might be nice and think that the below picture isn't too bad, but well...this was the cleanest looking set of tarts I had :)

Cranberry Tarts filled with goodness

I added on cutouts of acorns, hearts, and baby hearts.  Wala! Off to the oven.

Cranberry Tarts with acorn cutouts

I poked little holes in the tops of the acorns to give them a more acorny look. My sis thought it was cute :)  I'm not sure how people make nice clean looking tarts that don't bubble up and over. These ones weren't overly full and they sank down quite a bit once I brought them out of the oven. Guess I'll have to google that..

Cranberry Tarts out of the oven

But messy or not, they are yummy. They are sweet and tart...and sticky! Sure, it's sad when a few tarts stick together, but there is a way to fix it...put them in your belly so no one sees them!

Cranberry Tarts
Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook - 1950 (pg 572)

Cranberry Tarts for Thanksgiving

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten

  1. Cook sugar and 3/4 cup water until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add cranberries and cook until they stop popping.
  3. Combine cornstarch, remaining water, salt, butter, and egg yolks and add a small amount of cranberries. 
  4. Mix thoroughly, add to remaining cranberries and cook until thickened and clear. 
  5. Pour into pastry shell, cover with meringue and proceed as directed.

Or in my case, pour into a bunch of tart shells.

The recipe for butter pecan tarts says to bake at 325 F for 20 - 25 minute, so that's what I did. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Banbury Cakes are my one weakness!

I've just finished watching the BBC TV series Lark Rise To Candleford a second time. This time with my sister and we just finished the last episode on Sunday night. It's a nice British period piece, if you are into those. Some laughs, some tears, and some characters who get annoying to listen to after a time :)
Banbury Cakes and Tea

"It's my one weakness", is a favorite saying of Dorcas Lane of the Candleford Post Office and Banbury Cakes just happens to be one of her weaknesses. Technically she has a lot of weaknesses, like milk baths and cashmere, but they don't happen to be something I can bake.

I was going to make Butter or Pecan Tarts this week, so imagine my excitement to come across a recipe for Banbury Cakes in my moms see that it's not a cake either, it's more of a fruit pastry made with currants (hahah, I thought it was a strange English countryside berry..banberry, not an English countryside place!).  I've never heard of this pastry before the TV series so I did a quick check online to see if the recipe in the 1938 Five Roses cookbook was somewhat similar to what Dorcas Lane might be been talking about in 19th century England, and it seemed to be so, so off to store to get the ingredients.

The lady at the checkout asked me if I was making a Christmas cake because I had all the fruity makings for one. I explained I was making Banbury cakes to which she just looked at me funny but the guy behind me in line asked me if I had ever been to Banbury or Oxfordshire because he grew up on Banbury cakes! I am more amazed every day how small the world is!

Anyone know the odds of a guy from England standing behind me in a grocery store in a town of 4000 people, who grew up on the not-a-berry-not-a-real-cake Banbury Cakes I was going to make after I stumbled across the recipe which I only knew about because I just watched a tv show that mentioned it???

Anyone??? I think very high winning the lottery odds :)

The filling for the Banbury Cakes is simple enough. I actually doubled the recipe - I wish I hadn't, because it doesn't sound like a lot, but it is! I tripled the pastry recipe and I still have a cup of the Banbury mixture left over!  Banbury Cakes are made with mixed peel and Currants. And, I just learned (by reading the package of currants) that they need to be put in the fridge after opening, odd - they look like tiny raisins.

I beat the butter... hahaha, mashed it about with a spatula is what I should of said...since it seemed a huge waste to try to use a mixer/blender for 4 tablespoons of butter. Then added the sugar and eggs.

The recipe calls for a few grains of allspice., I gave it a pinch since I had doubled the recipe after all and seriously...a few grains, the stuff looks like powder!

I then tossed in all the rest of the ingredients. It looks so pretty and festive! I had no clue what kind of crumbs to use, so I decided on a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and regular Premium Plus soda crackers. Also, my local store doesn't carry 'mixed peel' so I used citron peel and a bit of mixed fruit glace.

Banbury Cakes filling

Stir it all together. From pretty to pretty ugly in 2.5 seconds!

Banbury Cakes filling

I let that sit while I made up the pastry dough (there will be plenty of time for writing about that - just not today).

From what I saw online, Banbury cakes look more free form or at least like a big perogy where the dough is cut in a circle and folded over, but the recipe I have called for a round to be placed on a round and then sealed, so that's what I did :)  Follower of directions, that's me...somewhat, ha!

Putting the filling in the Banbury Cakes

I tried a few methods, first with the two rounds being the same size and then with the top round being a bit larger. I prefer the rounds being different sizes. With the top one being a bit larger, it folds around the filling better.  I have a dollar store set of stacking round cookie cutters, so it was easy since they all go up in size.

Banbury Cakes perogies!

I cut little slits in the top before baking and brushed with milk. Half of them I forgot to sprinkle sugar on, but I think they still turned out pretty.

Banbury Cakes out of the oven

Banbury Cake
Five Roses Cook Book - 1938 (pg 144)
Banbury Cakes and Tea

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed peel
  • 1 egg
  • 1 oz cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • few grains of allspice
  • Pastry

  1. Beat butter to a cream, add sugar, then add well-beaten egg.  
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. 
  3. Cut rounds of rich pastry and place spoonfuls of this mixture in the centre of half of them; moisten edges, cover with a second round of pastry. Seal edges carefully.
  4. Brush over with milk, prick tops, sprinkle with fine sugar, and bake in a hot oven (425 F) for 15 minutes.

Standard Plain Pastry
Five Roses Cook Book - 1938 (pg 135)

  • 1 1/2 cups FIVE ROSES flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water
  1. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Mix in shortening with tips of fingers or two knives.
  3. Add the water, a little at a time, using just enough to bind the mixture.
  4. Collect all the moistened particles into a ball of dough.
  5. With as little handling as possible, form dough into a round disk.
  6. Place disk on slightly floured board. 
  7. The dough should be soft enough not to break when it is rolled; it should be stiff enough not to stick to a lightly floured board.
  8. Handle the pastry as lightly as possible. Kneading will toughen it.
  9. Roll the dough from the center outward - always rolling wiht a light even pressure, to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch.
  10. Line pie plates, tart shells, etc., and bake as directed.

Note: Enough pastry for 1 two-crust pie of average size, or 1 pie-shell and 6 tarts.
For a richer pastry, increase the amount of shortening to 2/3 cup. The amount of water required will depend on the type of shortening used.