Friday Recipe Exchange: Food In Fiction

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JeffreyW does beef stew but let’s pretend it’s venison. 

I’m travelling this week, so this is going to be a quick post. But I had this inspiration when John Cole was looking for Hot Chocolate recipes and all I could think of was the movie, Chocolat. I love food in movies and books. Especially when it is just casually mentioned, to set a mood or give a little description of a character or place.

A while ago I did a series of recipes called, yes, you guessed it, Food in Fiction (you can see all those recipes here). And I wanted to highlight it tonight because I really wanted to hear if you have any favorite foods from movies or books. Have you ever explored recipes for those favorites? Would you like me to rustle up a recipe if you haven’t?

Here are three of the books/recipes I had to search out and try.  At each link is the recipe and an excerpt from the book, describing the food.

From my childhood fav, Trixie Belden, Venison Stew (click here).

My all time favorite book, ever, To Kill a Mockingbird, has many, many fun ideas for recipes that I tackled (crackling bread, anyone?), here is the most challenging, the Lane Cake (recipe here, narrative here).

A little darker book, in a series I discovered a few years ago, Lomax and Biggs, Blood Thirsty, the lead character was having dinner with his girlfriend and they had something I’d never tried before, broccoli rabe, so I had to check it out. I came up with several recipes, including Broccoli Rabe and Hot Italian Sausage Pasta  (recipe here).

That’s just a few of the ones I played with, it was a fun idea I probably should explore more when I have the time.

Tonight’s featured recipe comes from Agnes and the Hitman, in which the heroine is a food columnist and chef. It was a wealth of ideas and I put together several recipes based on the story. But this was by far my favorite and I made them for Valentine’s day one year.

A little background, these cupcakes open the book and in the midst of making them, our heroine is attacked by a young man with a gun who wants to kidnap her dog and she defends herself with hot raspberry sauce and a skillet with deadly consequences. For the full narrative, click here.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Moist Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup chopped raspberries

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Grease and flour muffin tins. Cream together oil, butter and sugar. Mix in remaining moist ingredients, one at a time, until well mixed. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture and beat for 2 minutes at high-speed. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they bounce back when pressed lightly.

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and dollop over cooled cupcakes

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

saucepan

Puree raspberries until smooth, add raspberries and sugar to saucepan and heat to a low boil, stirring constantly. Let bubble  for 1 minute, reduce heat to medium low and stir constantly until thickened, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Let cool and spoon over frosted cupcakes.

Note:  While making the raspberry sauce I was never accosted by any strange men breaking into my house, forcing me to use the sauce as napalm.  Mores the pity.

That’s it for this week. If you missed it. the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for this week was Baked Ricotta Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce and Grilled Asparagus.  – TaMara

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Food In Fiction: To Kill A Mockingbird – Lane Cake

I actually did make this cake and posted a recipe for it in November 2009, here.

Originally posted: October 28, 2009

Photograph by Neil Ravenna

For the Lane Cake, I won’t be posting a recipe, but instead, because of the wonder of the internet can offer the history of how it came to be. In all the years I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, I really didn’t have a clear idea of what a Lane Cake was, except I knew it had liquor in it, as described when Atticus’ sister came to stay and help with Scout and Jem:

Maycomb welcomed her. Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane Cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight….

Before that, Miss Maudie baked a Lane Cake as a thank you to one of the men who helped fight the fire that burned her house to the ground:

“Mr. Avery will be in bed for a week – he’s right stove up. He’s too old to do things like that and I told him so. Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane Cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got another think coming.”

I reflected that if Miss Maudie broke down and gave it to her, Miss Stephanie couldn’t follow it anyway. Miss Maudie had once let me see it: among other things, the recipe called for one large cup of sugar.

From the Encyclopedia of Alabama:

The Lane cake, one of Alabama’s more famous culinary specialties, was created by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Barbour County. It is a type of white sponge cake made with egg whites and consists of four layers that are filled with a mixture of the egg yolks, butter, sugar, raisins, and whiskey. The cake is frosted with a boiled, fluffy white confection of water, sugar, and whipped egg whites. The cake is typically served in the South at birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other special occasions. The recipe was first printed in Lane’s cookbook Some Good Things to Eat, which she self-published in 1898.

According to chef and culinary scholar Neil Ravenna, Lane first brought her cake recipe to public attention at a county fair in Columbus, Georgia, when she entered her cake in a baking competition there and took first prize. She originally named the cake the Prize cake, but an acquaintance convinced her to lend her own name to the dessert.

The Recipe

Lane’s recipe states that the cake should be baked in medium pie tins lined on the bottom with ungreased brown paper, rather than in cake pans. She specified “one wine-glass of good whiskey or brandy” for the filling and that the raisins be “seeded and finely clipped.” She also insisted that the icing be tested with a clean spoon. In Lane’s time, the cake would have been baked in a wood stove. Lane also suggested that the cake is best if made a day or so in advance of serving, presumably to allow the flavors to meld. Lane used the cake recipe as the basis for other cakes in her book, some frosted with orange or lemon cream.

The Lane cake has been subjected to countless modifications and twists over the years. Coconut, dried fruit, and nuts are common additions to the filling described in the original recipe. Home bakers who wish to avoid the whiskey or brandy in the original recipe have substituted grape juice, especially for children’s birthdays. Another common variation is to ice the entire cake with the filling mixture. The Lane cake is often confused with the Lady Baltimore cake, another fruit-filled, liquor-laced dessert with a different pedigree.

In Alabama, and throughout the South, the presentation of an elegant, scratch-made, laborious Lane cake is a sign that a noteworthy life event is about to be celebrated. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Alabama native Harper Lee, character Maudie Atkinson bakes a Lane cake to welcome Aunt Alexandra when she comes to live with the Finch family. Noting the cake’s alcoholic kick, the character Scout remarks, “Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” Shinny is a slang term for liquor.

Lane Cake, Part Two

I was going to do a bit more blogging on cooking turkeys and some holiday sides, but I got sidetracked by a Lane Cake.  I wrote about it in Food In Fiction, but had never made it.  A friend asked me if I would make one for her, and since I owed her big time, it seemed the least I could do.  Thus started my adventure.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but it is far from a simple confectionary.  Here’s the recipe as I made it, a bit tweaked from several I found.  I wish I could have found the original recipe from Emma Lane, but couldn’t.  Though there is rumor it can be found in a southern cookbook, I had no luck finding it.  But what recipe I cobbled together seems to have worked, so I’ll pass it on.  And for those who know To Kill a Mockingbird, yes there is enough ‘shiny in it’  to make you tipsy.  My shiny was in the form of brandy,  your choice may vary.

Lane Cake

Cake:

  • ¾ cup vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups sifted flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brandy or whisky
  • 3 beaten egg whites

Four 9-inch pie tins, oiled and floured

Cream together oil, sugar and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix until blended. Add water and brandy and mix for 2 minutes on medium. Gently fold in egg whites until mixed in, but don’t over mix or the eggs will deflate. Use ladle to evenly pour into 4 9-inch pie pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until center springs back. Cool thoroughly on racks.

Filling:

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup melted and cooled butter
  • 1 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup brandy or whisky
  • ½ tsp vanilla

saucepan

In saucepan mix together eggs and sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly for 6 minutes. Do not let boil. Add chopped pecans and raisins and cook for 1 minute. Add brandy and vanilla, cook another minute. Set aside to cool.

Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, melted and cool
  • 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp brandy or milk (add more as needed)

Mix until smooth and fluffy.

Assembly:

Once cake is fully cooled, place on layer on the serving plate. Add 1/3 of the filling, spread evenly. Repeat for remaining layers and then frost.