Sunday in Iowa...

An end-of-summer garden 
on an Amish farm near Cantril, Iowa
Much of central Iowa had the first hard freeze Friday night

Buying Chocolate Squares

 In the baking aisle, there are five main formats of baking chocolate: bars, blocks, wafers, chips, and cocoa powder.   For cookies, puddings, cakes, hot chocolate, and more.  
Squares are the most versatile and commonly found form of baking chocolate. They can be easily chopped into smaller pieces for melting or folding into cookie dough. Baker's brand chocolate is sold in individually wrapped 1-ounce squares with eight squares in each box. Baker's also sells whole 4-ounce bars that are segmented into ¼-ounce squares for easy breaking. Most brands will come sized like this, unless you are buying from specialty shops or baking sites like King Arthur. Be sure to check the weight on the package.  They come in several types, Bittersweet chocolate hovers in the 70% cacao range, and can be used interchangeably with semisweet. Anywhere you'd use one, you can use the other (and, to be honest, most of us don't have refined-enough palates to taste the difference in a dessert). Your best bet for bittersweet and semisweet chocolate is a recipe where the chocolate is really the star player, like a decadent pie or simple buttercream frosting.
 Semisweet chocolate has a cacao content of around 60%, and can be used interchangeably with bittersweet chocolate. It's frequently found in the form of baking chips, but we prefer buying it in squares or block form. It's a great all-purpose option to have on hand. 
 Unsweetened chocolate is very dark and bitter, and crumbly in texture. It's best for melting into other ingredients like butter and cream, because the consistency of the chocolate is chalky, without the smooth richness of bittersweet or semisweet. It should be used in recipes where there's a sweetener already present, like brownies. 
 Milk chocolate is sweeter and less bitter than dark chocolate, and has a higher amount of milk solids and sugar. 
 No matter which one you choose chocolate should be kept in a cool place, like a cabinet away from the stovetop and oven. There's no need to keep it in the fridge or freezer if it's wrapped well. If using just a portion of the chocolate, re-wrap it with the original packaging and add a snug layer of plastic wrap. Chocolate will "bloom" (exhibit lighter colored spots on the surface) if exposed to moisture, so avoid dampness. If your chocolate does bloom, it's still edible. The blemish is just cosmetic, but should be avoided for chocolate that's not going to be melted (as in the case of, say, chocolate chunk cookies).

Cooking with Chocolate...Chocolate Nut Clusters

Here’s a favorite from the 1934 Hershey's Cook Book.  We like salted peanuts best, but you can use whatever nuts you have on hand or even miniature marshmallows.  I’m giving this recipe with the original directions.  
Don’t use butter for the shortening, as it has too much water content and will make your chocolate seize up.  If you don't have a double boiler, use a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water...don't let the water touch the top pan or bowl.  This is a very easy, delicious candy recipe.   
Chocolate Nut Clusters  
1 cup (5 ¾ ounce) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips 
1 teaspoon Shortening 
½ cup Nuts:  Choose cashews, peanuts, pecan halves, English walnut halves or miniature marshmallows    
Pick over the nutmeats.  
Melt the chocolate pieces with the shortening in top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling water  
Throw in half a cupful of nuts (one kind at a time) and stir around in the melted chocolate.  Take out the nuts with a fork (or a couple of teaspoons)  and place in little piles on a waxed paper covered cookie sheet. 
Refrigerate until set.

Here's a link to a PDF download of the cookbook:
1934 Hersheys Cook Book

Image result for 1934 hershey's cookbook

Sunday in Iowa...

The bridge across the Des Moines River at Bentonsport, Iowa
Built in 1882, it is the oldest truss span bridge across the Des Moines River

Chocolate Cookbooks

I have had these cookbooks for many years now. I bought them new when they first came out. While I like the Ghirardelli cookbook, I use the Hershey Chocolate Treasury the most. It has recipes ranging from cakes and frostings to Microwave specialties and breads, beverages, candies and many more. Let’s not forget the pie recipes. One of my favorite easy to make cakes is their recipe for Deluxe Ice Cream Cocoa Roll. What could be better, than a chocolate jelly roll filled with ice cream. Drizzle some hot fudge over it and everyone will think you are a great baker. 
 It gives you great instructions, hints, some of the history of chocolate. It was published in 1984 by the Hershey Company who has published many cookbooks over the years. The photos are great and will surely tempt you to try some of the recipes.
 Hershey’s Best Loved Recipes published in 2000 has recipes using not only chocolate but other Hershey products such as Heath Bars and Peanut Butter Chips. It also has clear instructions, and great photos. 
If for no other reason, the hints and tips on using chocolate in all of its forms make these a great buy if you can find them used. Or if you look on the internet they show up on many sites including Amazon. I have seen them in thrift stores and at book sales also. While I could list many more recipes there are just too many that I like and use to even began. If you see one pick it up and look through it. If you like chocolate and even if you don’t bake you will find something to make such as recipes for drinks, and puddings and sauces.
 I find I don’t use the Ghirardelli book as often but my daughter does and likes it.

Baked Apples

Before adding Jam and nuts
This is another good recipe from Martha Stewart. It is easily divided for as many apples as you have. I had one Honey Crisp apple that I hadn’t eaten and wanted to do something different with it, Most baked apples use brown sugar and maybe raisins, this uses white sugar, berry jam, and orange peel. 
Makes a nice change and eaten with ice cream, an especially good dessert. If you prefer the brown sugar use it and about a pinch of cinnamon and a handful of raisins if you want them.
 I did not have any Hazelnuts so used pecans which is what I usually have on hand. Slivered almonds would work well or walnuts.

Baked Apples

 6 baking apples  such as Honeycrisp), cored
 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (6 tablespoons)
 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
 Grated zest of 1/2 orange
 1/2 cup raspberry or mixed berry jam
 2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit apples snugly in a medium oval baking dish (apples should not tip over).
 2. In a small bowl, combine sugar, butter, and orange zest until well incorporated. Transfer to a piping bag; pipe or spoon butter mixture into each apple, dividing evenly. Add 2 tablespoons water to baking dish.
 3. Bake, basting twice with pan juices, until apples are tender but not falling apart, 40 to 50 minutes.
 4. Transfer baking dish to a wire rack. Add a heaping tablespoon of jam to each apple; sprinkle each with a scant tablespoon of hazelnuts.

Baking with Oil... Lemon Chiffon Cake

 This is an excellent recipe for a lemon chiffon cake. It has a great texture and taste.
 It calls for oil instead of butter or shortening.  The oil is the secret ingredient that makes this cake a success.
 Take note that it also calls for cake flour not all purpose. There is a difference and chiffon and angel food cakes need cake flour. Any flour left over will keep well in the freezer in a freezer bag. 
 This type of cake is great alone or as a base for a trifle, shortcake or with ice cream. Do not grease the pan or it will not rise. I have an angel food cake pan with a removable bottom that I use just for this type of cake.  
Lemon Chiffon Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder (this is the correct amount)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (Not Olive oil)
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup water
6 eggs separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
Powdered sugar for a garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set aside a 10-inch ungreased tube cake pan.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Place the oil, lemon juice, water, vanilla and lemon zest in a large measuring cup. Stir in the egg yolks.
Make a well in the bowl of the flour mixture and pour the wet mixture in. Whisk until the two mixtures are just combined.
In a medium bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer, whip the whites until stiff. Fold into the cake batter until no more streaks of white appear. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and invert to cool for 1 hour. If your pan does not have legs, invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle. Once cooled, use a thin spatula to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Gently pull the cake to separate it from the pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar when cool.