About This Project

My Aunt Carol (Giampa) was a life long cook and the holder of my family's culinary traditions. When she passed, her recipe collection came to me. Having learned many of my cooking skills from her and forging traditions of my own, I am honored and challenged to explore the many recipes of her mother and aunts that never made it into my repertoire. Many of these recipes are desserts. This project is an attempt to both memorialize Aunt Carol (or Jumpy as she was known to most others) and explore/test/review these old family recipes. Join me?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Harvey, the reflection

When we first realized how much the bottle of Galliano was going to cost, Mander and I tried to think of other options. I thought of Craigslist and then thought better of it. The local food preservation/canning dork club was a better chance, at least we all know other, sorta. But Mander’s idea is the one that caught fire and became the official plan B, right behind just asking to order a smaller bottle, which is what we ended up doing. Which is almost a shame because the image of us madly searching for a bar with Galliano at all and then trying to discretely squirrel pee-yellow liquor into a Tupperware in my purse makes me cackle with glee. Ahh, to be young and silly.

I’m actually much more likely to do this the older I get.

Speaking of young and silly, I mentioned Harvey to my friend Ina, who told me a funny story about her daughter, when Caryn was about 5 and on a cross country trip with her other mom. Caryn and Carol had enough time before flights to grab a drink in the lounge. Ina reminds me that this was back when you could take kids into a bar!

They’re looking at the drink menu and Caryn complains that there’s no Harvey Wallbanger on it. I’m sure Carol was at least a little taken aback and asked why and Caryn said she just wanted one. So they got a Coke and a Wallbanger and split them and made the rest of their trip just fine. Hahah! No kids in bars indeed, they’ll drink up your Wallbanger!

We don’t go out to bars or lounges often and not with the kids so far, but I never know what to order if I don’t just want a glass of wine. Eric and Darcey are the friends most likely to hear me complain about this, since it’s usually with them we go out, so I brought the Galliano over to their place to give it the ole taste test. I’m not going to put it in a cake if it’s gross!

Floating a shot of Galliano on top is what takes a Screwdriver to a Harvey Wallbanger. The cocktail wants a maraschino cherry too, but I didn’t have any, so we skipped it. I made up for that by buying the big jar when I made the cake. Instead we just perched a half orange slice on the lip of our tall boys and boy did that look festive! I, for one, felt tres elegante and would get one in a lounge if I could. Now we know!

After tasting the cocktail and agreeing that expensive liquor may indeed be added to a boxed cake mix, I made the cake. This time I was super perfectionnoyed about greasing the pan, the Bundt Pan. Greased it, floured it, followed the batter recipe and everything. I almost forgot it was baking and was upstairs where I can’t hear the timer go off, but all was saved just in time and the cake came out of the pan beautifully! Success! The glaze on the other hand. Whoops. I forgot to MELT the butter before adding the sugar, instead trying to cream confectioner’s sugar and soft butter. Did not work! MELT the butter!

Because it was so good I had to get rid of it. I sent some to Eric and Darcey, who along with their son shouting praise in the background, EACH contacted me about how much they loved it. I felt bad only sending them 1 big fat slice for sharing and sending about 3 times that to work with Mander. Hey! They’re on a diet challenge right now, I thought I was being kind! Work was a good place for it though now we have hints about trying to recreate the cakes of her manager’s grandmother.

Our friend and neighbor Glynis stopped by last night and I was telling her about the blog. Mander whipped out the phone picture she had of Harvey and Glynis made involuntary yummy noises just looking at it. I said, it’s so sunny and 70s, doesn’t it just make you HAPPY? She agreed and then told us about her grandmother’s pineapple upsidedown cake. While she was here we chose the next recipe: The Good Neighbor Loaf.

Mmm, loaf!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harvey, the review

This cake is astounding. It's no secret, it's out there on the internet, and it's the epitome of easy-bake style. I love this cake. A box of cake mix and a box of pudding will never do you wrong. Add some liquor and the bright and sunny 60s palette with the bundt pan and the cherries: glorious.
I had to make myself give it away, sending half to work with Mander and taking about a quarter to friends. Everyone who's tried it LOVES it. I wonder if it's the liquor!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Applesauce Cake

Ah well, another recipe another lesson learned.

The recipe called for a "tube pan" and not having my aunt to call and ask what the hell that is and arriving at no general consensus among those I DID ask, I used a loaf pan and a half round (half a tube?) When I pulled them out of the oven they looked good but I think I rushed getting them out of the pans. The loaf just completely fell apart. Then I did a stupid thing and tried to even the bottom of the half round since it was all funky. Should have waited for it to cool if I was going to do that... I think they both should have cooled completely in their pans before trying to tip them out. Whoops. So that one came out all funky and flopped about a bit before I just folded it in half (now a full round!) and stuck it in the freezer. I think when I'm ready to deal with it I'll put a whipped frosted in between for a sort of pumpkin roll/whoopie pie action. The "loaf" we ate up in handfuls.

The cake itself was super tasty, very moist and easy to press into cakeballs for consumption. I imagine if it had been allowed to cool it would have sliced up with no trouble. It was tasty enough I would try it again and find out.

As much as I hate too-specific instructions in general recipes, the lack of specifics for baking is maddening. And funny. :D

Next up: Harvey and the cake he'll make! I have the Galliano and I have tasted the cocktail, now we will have cake. Dude help me, I think this one wants a bundt pan. Shortening and flour for decent removal? Any other suggestions to avoid pile o crumbs?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grandmother's Applesauce Cake

This is the original but my aunt's polished copy was the same and this has so much character how could I resist? The note on Aunt Carol's copy said "Margaret's grandmother, 1886." Margaret was a friend of my aunt's whom she loved very much. I think they were each other's adopted mother and daughter.

It's official

I suck at baking. Sigh. Since the Galliano is being ordered and not available until this weekend, and the weather was perfect for a comforting baked treat, I decided to skip ahead to another recipe, which I'll post later this evening (after dinner, which I can make with no troubles at all.)

Maybe by the time we get through the stack I'll be a decent baker. Let's not place any bets yet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And more good news!

I can actually (and did) order a small bottle of Galliano for the Harvey! Wallbanger! Cake! I'm going to make this weekend. The big bottle of pee-yellow liqueur was $35 and that's more than I'm willing to dedicate even to CAKE. Especially since Mander already knows she doesn't like Galliano. Just too much pee-yellow to commit to, even looking forward to a great name like Harvey Wallbanger Cake.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good news!

At least for me! I sorted all of the recipes last night, dessert and not dessert. A good number are not dessert. I'll post those too as I get around to them but they aren't likely to be the train wreck the baking ones are. But! The good news is my aunt was very very smart and wise. She'd promised me that someday she'd write all the old recipes out for me and she did! Complete with INSTRUCTIONS! There is one in particular that we'll get to, Aunt Angie's Apricot Strudel, that really dumbfounded me. But now I can see that there were just VERBS missing. Oh verbs, you silly little action words, how your absence can vex. Chances of a 'success' tag on Angie's Strudel just got much much better.

But before we get to that, a hint about what's next.

Have you ever heard of Galliano?? I hadn't until I started researching our next confection.

Lovely image of a 70s Galliano ad from http://www.postmodernbarney.com. Thanks PostModernBarney!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Such lovely buns!

Cinnamon buns were a success I'd say. There are some things I would do differently next time but overall I'm pleased with the result and how I didn't panic or anything.

When I first dumped the dough out after its second rising it looked like this:

Weep-womp! It was super gooey and while Henry's wife warned it would still be a "light batter" and not to make it too stiff with more flour, I ended up adding probably almost 2 more cups of flour to be able to even pat it flat, let alone roll it. It was a relief that it got there, at least. I think it could have used less flour than I ended up putting in, but not by a lot.

Once it was flat and vaguely rectangular I spread the butter. The recipe didn't say, but taking a cue from the other recipes I looked at, I melted the butter first. The recipe also had the afterthought of raisins and nuts... add them too! Um, ok! Being proud of myself for having read the whole recipe before starting I chose to add them to the middle. I saved some extra nuts for the topping but forgot to use them, whoops. The only downside so far is I used the last of my fancy cinnamon from The Spice Shop in Chicago. So sad. On the other hand, I resisted adding red curry or some other not-called-for spice, just for fun. Go me.

It rolled up fairly nicely but nothing compared to the Pioneer Woman's. :) I don't think it matters much in the long run. I made a huge mess of the counter in the process. Yay!

I wonder if there's a trick to cutting them where they don't get all squashed like this, like you use vinegar to keep your sushi rice from sticking to the knife. There may be, I just don't know it. By this point I was feeling pretty good about it all. This recipe doesn't use a frosting, which I appreciate. Cinnamon buns are always too sweet. This one has a topping that you put in the bottom of the pan, and then put the buns on top to bake.

I left them in the oven a little too long, just a couple of minutes. No real harm but they would have been less bready if I'd gotten them on time.

And here they are inverted and plated:

Mmmm. The topping has a glob of light syrup in it, which cooks up to a crispy outer coating as the buns bake. It's all caramel in your mouth, mmm. I took the plate over to the neighbor's for dessert and they were pronounced delicious. There were 2 pans so what was left stayed there and we dug into the other pan this morning for 2nd breakfast. Good and not too cloying. I approve. We have one in the freezer too to test how they warm back up. A little stash of cinnamon buns in the freezer sounds lovely.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cinnamon Buns pt 2

The recipe complete with its afterthought note about raisins and walnuts. They're in the oven now. It uh wasn't seamless let's say. And not nearly as pretty as the Pioneer Woman's but I bet they taste good! We shall see.

Photos of the mayhem and a full post mortem to come.

For those too young to get the reference...

Uh yeah it's looking a little bit like this...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So it begins

To make a light batter? Huh? Ok, I took it to a sort of pancake consistency, we'll see what it looks like tomorrow. Mander was kind enough to stop and get me lard and fresh yeast cake so we're all authentic at this point.

I keep getting weep-womp images of this light batter taking over my kitchen over night, so I put the bowl in a big pan, just in case. Stay tuned for our next installment!

Searching for "cooking terms from the 50s" I found this gem! Enjoy!


I was about to do it anyway, throw all caution to the wind and combine aspects of the Pioneer Woman's and the Copycat Cinnabon doughs. As if that would work! I liked aspects of the Pioneer Woman's but man that was too much dough! The proportions made more sense for my project in the copycat recipe but it seemed too simple, too modern somehow. So I went back to my cookbook cupboard and pulled out the slim volume called Cape May County Cook Book. Fifty cents! It boasts "Over 200 Fine and Original Recipes." It was published in 1953 and so I think a bit more in keeping with the rest of the recipe I plan to use.

I love the ads in this little book but don't recognize any of the businesses. The foreward it too charming, here is an excerpt:

A well planned, carefully prepared and attractively served meal is truly a work of art. Disparaging as her job may be, in some instances, the family cook, or kitchen artist, will long be remembered for her ability to satisfy the inner man with her palate tickling repasts.

Well, pass the repast! My inner man is hungry!

On page 7, compliments of Mrs. Henry F. Daugherty, we have cinnamon buns. It's the yin to my recipe's yang, providing the dough in detailed instruction and then letting you wing the sugar/butter/cinnamon and raisin bits for inside. There are actual measurements for the sauce at least. In a note of affirmation, Mrs. Daugherty also wants the dough to rise overnight!

2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening and butter
1 yeast cake

Scald the milk and pour over the sugar and lard and butter mixture. Soak the yeast cake in warm water and add when softened. Add enough flour to make a light batter. Let rise all night.

In the morning add:
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Again, add only enough flour to make batter light. Let rise again until dough is not too stiff; roll out on a floured board...

I'm sure Mrs. Daugherty's recipe is just lovely and that ole Mr. Henry was quite satisfied inside and out, but this is where I'm going to finish up with the handwritten recipe. For which I'm going to make you wait until tomorrow. Our recipe calls for a mmm technique I haven't seen in any of the recipes I've looked at so far. That leaves just the big question: use 100% butter or ask Mander to stop at the store on her way home and get me some LARD.

Oh and hm. I only have active dry yeast, not fresh yeast cake. The interwebs say I can sub. Anyone have experience with that? Will it work?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It figures!

Well! I looked at the cinnamon bun recipe and it starts with "let dough rise overnight" and then moves on to what you do with the dough after that! I guess back in the day a lady just knew how to throw together a dough for cinnamon buns, but I don't!

Anyone have a recipe for cinnamon bun dough they'd like to share?


Since I always jump in before really planning anything I am just now starting to look through and quasi-inventory the recipes I plan to share here. I went through the box and the folder and separated the handwritten or home typed recipes from ones she'd cut out of magazines and those that had obviously been given to her by someone else. On one of them, the giver scrawled across the top "Here Twit." I'm imagining her coercing someone into writing out a recipe she liked, everyone know full well she wasn't going to follow it anyway.

There were so many cookbooks at her house and yet I never saw her use one. I know I must have followed recipes when I first started cooking - of course I did! But now I really only use them for inspiration: ideas for combining things I wouldn't have thought of and pretty pictures. If I've tried to throw something together a couple of times and it was never Just Right, maybe I'll follow one as closely as possible to see if I can get it right. Usually I end up improvising or substituting anyway. Maybe it's some kind of family curse.

That's one of the reasons, actually, for this here blog-like blog. So many of these recipes are for baked goods and we all know you can't (ok, I can't) just throw baked goods together and have them come true. There's actual chemistry in baking! We'll see how it goes. A certain cinnamon bun recipe caught my eye as I was sorting... shop for actual ingredients? On purpose? It could happen!

In the meantime, a view into Jumpy's* world. I'll have to start inventorying photos as well (housekeepy!) and find a good one to illustrate, I'm sure there's something.

* It's weird to call her Jumpy but you don't want to hear me say "my aunt" a million times and just plain "Carol" would never ever fly. She gave Mander The Look one time for calling her Carol without an honorary. :D As must as I'd love to see her again, not if she's giving me The Look.

Aunt Carol was an institutional cook by career. I recall there being temptations to go chef it up on a cruise ship or one of the casinos, but she was tethered to home by more things than I can probably ever understand. She retired with her pension after 30 years of service with the county, half at the jail and half at the nursing home. She liked cooking at the jail much much more. "At least they have a hope of getting out." she'd say. We'd go visit her and my grandfather for holidays and she'd get up at 4am to go to work, cook 100 turkeys and more and then come home to cook another.

While sorting recipes I found this one.

Beef Stew
80lbs stew beef
4-5 stalks celery (I'm thinking that's heads?)
10-12 bags carrots
10 large onions
salt, pepper
garlic salt
can potatoes (think drum size can)

That's it. If I had to guess, I'd say she would brown up those 80lbs of beef (in batches!) and throw it into the giantest pot imaginable, or three. Chop those veggies pretty thick, a stew wants to be able to set up on itself. You'd have to make a gravy from the browned meat, thickened with flour - maybe cornstarch - I'm not sure what she preferred. Maybe in jail you just dump a big can of brown gravy on top of everything and cook it. But that's not what made people get arrested in her county on purpose, no. I can just see her tiny but meaty hand measuring out a fist full of salt for this immense pot of stew.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I've added the first recipe under the very creatively named section "Recipes" below. Since it's a typed recipe I don't need to translate it for you, let me know if you think it's too small.

I chose Stollen partly because it's a Christmas bread and so there is no pressure to make it right now and partly because it's one my mom mentioned specifically when I was gathering the recipes from my aunt's house. She remembers it as HER grandmother's stollen, and that her grandmother must have gotten it from HER mother, who brought it from Germany. I'll leave the genealogy to others but will get my mom to fill in the names here. Eventually we may be able to link a photo of her grandmother to it as well.

If you look at the recipe you will see it calls for ingredients of ridiculous quantity. I said to mom, enough to feed the whole county! She said when they made it at Christmastime they made it for EVERYONE. I guess so! Next time you have 4lbs of raisins or 1/2 a quart of orange peel hanging around, you know what to do.

Since I didn't whip up a 10lb batch of stollen for this post, please enjoy the lovely photo above, gratefully lifted from http://www.thefreshloaf.com. Thanks Fresh Loaf!

Experimenting with set up and all that! Bear with me as I learn Blogger please!

The first inkling

Cross posted from my journal:

How ambitious am I? Ambitious enough to actually try to make/test each of my aunt's hand written recipes before publishing them to the family, or just scanning them and letting people figure it out? Some recipes show up multiple times, I need to see how consistent they are, etc. First step, look through them without wanting to just lay down and go to sleep for a year.

Doing something tangible seems like a good way to deal with my grief over losing my aunt, not remembering my grandmother. I can't do it all by myself though, I hope once this gets going my mom's cousins and their kids will want to take up a recipe or two (or 10!) and report back on their experience with it.