Suzi's Blog

Vermont Maple Syrup Frosting: The Clementine Paddleford Project

By now, this year’s batch of maple syrup has arrived at the farmers markets. Fresh, new and with the same questions of vintage and terroir that accompany the arrival of any wine. What hath a warm winter wrought?

And what to do with that syrup? A frosting, of course. Here is one from a woman famed for her sweet tooth, Clementine Paddleford whose classic How America Eats has been lovely edited by Kelly Alexander into a new edition The Great American Cookbook. Kelly, with a superb forward by Molly O’Neill, describes why this book is so important and should be readily at hand on your bookshelf.

Clem, as she was known, was the food editor for the then greatest New York City newspaper, The New York Herald Tribune. From 1936 until 1966, she traveled and she wrote. She drove 800,000 miles and she flew her own Piper Cub to wonderfully un-urban locales, like lumberjack camps in Washington State.

Clem’s mission was to capture the food of the nation in that period. She had a readership of 12 million people per week, when this country had only 140 million residents. She wrote of the regional specialties before our influx of Latin and Asian immigrants. She wrote of food before Julia or Marcella. She wrote about a different America at a different time.

The Great American Cookbook has 500 recipes. Some are classics, some are hysterically outdated. Some sound like a dish you would only serve to your most hated relative. But they are here in this book, and they are authentic as hell.

So, from time to time, this blog will pay tribute to Clem by working our way through The Great American Cookbook, working our way mostly from East to West but with occasional side trips. We won’t post every single recipe and we’ll avoid those ones that you could use for justified vengeance on that relative. But, like this Vermont Maple Frosting, we will post the recipes that are obviously wonderful.

In an age when a recipe can run for 3 or 4 pages, Clem’s recipes are often as short as this one. Often simple and impeccably authentic, these are gems for you. Perhaps a bit dusty. Perhaps unfamiliar. But gems still and ones you deserve to try.

Truthfully, Suzen and I have not made this frosting yet. It’s on my schedule to do in a week. And, I have to say that beating just one egg white makes me think this is a real Depression era recipe when each egg had deep value for many families. With a modern mixer, even a hand held one, doing one egg white is much harder than two. So, I’ll tell you now that I plan on a little experiment. Two egg whites. Fresh from chickens down the hill.

I don’t think Clem would mind. In fact, she’d be the first to put her finger in the bowl and say, “Ah.”

Vermont Maple Frosting

Yield: 2 cups, enough for one 9”x13” cake or the tops and sides of two 8” or 9” rounds

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups maple syrup
  • 1 large egg white, stiffly beaten
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preparation:

In a 1-quart saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Gradually pour the hot syrup over the beaten egg white, beating constantly until the frosting forms soft peaks. Gently fold in the walnuts. The frosting may be stored in an airtight container or heavy duty-freezer bag in the refrigerator for a month.

Source: The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford

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Mexican Chocolate Fudge Pecan Cake

“What do you think?” I asked Suzen proudly. I hadn’t seen a look like this on her face in over twenty years.

“No,” she said quietly.

“But,” I began, astounded.

“I mean no,” her voice was forceful.

“No one has ever written a cookbook like this,” I emphasized.

She paused. “No, no one has. For good reason. You need to think about this idea.”

“Still,” I rebutted. “It’s a great idea, different I know, but the publishers will see the potential.”

She came forward. No anger in her face. Her eyes opened wide. She put her lovely hands on my shoulders. “Brian, are you taking all your meds?”

So, let me try this idea out on you. I want to write a cookbook called Cooking Chemistry the Way it OUGHT to Be. It will have recipes for great foods that ought, and I repeat ought, to have certain characteristics. And they would, if just God had made chemistry work differently.

Like that cake up above. That rich gorgeous cake. That cake should have no calories. In my world it would. You see, it’s a tube cake, so when it bakes all the calories go out the top hole. And then, to prevent the cake from reabsorbing any calories from the air, you put a THIN glaze around it. And because the glaze is thin, it can’t have any calories. There you have it, a rich chocolate cake with no calories.

You know, now that I put this idea down on paper, I can see Suzen’s point.

However, nothing, nothing can detract from this Mexican Chocolate Fudge Pecan Cake. Rebecca Rather is truly a Pastry Queen and her book The Pastry Queen is based on the delights from her Hill Country bakery west of Austin the Texas Hill Country. An incredibly well trained and experienced culinary expert, her foods draw crowds from the Fredericksburg, Texas sidewalks. It’s a great food town, frosted with antique stores and offering Texas hospitality. Rebecca’s shop is the must-stop location in town.

The cake smells good, looks better, and tastes the best. It’s a delight by itself, with rich but not too rich chocolate flavor. The pecans, Texas pecans of course, are essential. But it would not be heresy to partner this cake with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream, or coffee ice cream, or …

 

Mexican Chocolate Fudge Pecan Cake

Yield: serves 8

 

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • I cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter i
  • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup high-quality dark cocoa powder,
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar (sifted then measured)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch tube pan or a 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan with butter, sprinkle lightly with flour and tap over the sink to remove any excess flour (or spray evenly with Baker’s Joy spray). For cupcakes, line standard-size muffin pans with muffin wrappers or spray Texas-size (3 ½inches in diameter and 2 inches deep) muffin cups with Baker’s Joy.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth. Add the water and whisk until smooth. Be careful not to boil the mixture. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla to the warm cocoa mixture all at once; whisk until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt all at once; whisk until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated. Don’t worry if there are some small lumps. Pour the batter into the cake pan or, if using muffin pans, fill each cup two-thirds full.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes: until the cake is done and has pulled away slightly from the pan and feels firm to the touch. For cupcakes, check for doneness after 20 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan about 20 min. Cupcakes need only a total of 10 minutes cooling time.

While the cake is finishing cooling, make the glaze. Place the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast them in the 350° oven for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic.

Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, cocoa, and powdered sugar and whisk until glossy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Loosen the cake with a knife or spatula and invert onto a serving plate. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake, covering it thoroughly. Don’t worry if some of the glaze pools inside and around the cake. For cupcakes, remove them from the pan, and peel off the paper liners. Invert each cupcake onto a small serving plate —this way they look like tiny cakes—and cover with glaze

Source: The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery and Café by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman