Brown Sugar Facts and History

 Brown sugar has a long history, as it is the earliest recorded sugar used. It has been grown all over the world, and reached a popularity peak in the 1700s with the rise of Atlantic sugar plantations. It comes in several types, and while it originally was an unfinished form of refined sugar, now it is more often created by adding molasses to white sugar (for better consistency). It has almost identical food properties to white sugar, but adds a molasses-like flavor to foods.Types of Brown Sugar
The Four Main Types of Brown Sugar are listed below
1. Dark, golden (yellow) and light
These are the brown sugars most often found in grocery stores and used for everyday consumption. 
2. Demerara
This unrefined medium-brown sugar is named for the Demerera region of Guyana, South America, where it originated. Sugarcane juice is boiled until the water evaporates, leaving behind sugar crystals that contain molasses, which are then spun in a centrifuge to remove more moisture.
3. Muscovado
This is an unrefined, very dark brown sugar with a strong molasses flavor. 
4. Turbinado
A light colored, crystalline brown sugar, turbinado is made from sugarcane juice that has been heat-evaporated then crystallized. 
How To Store Brown Sugar
Brown Sugar should be kept in an air-tight container. This will help retain its moisture content. When left open to air, brown sugar may harden as the moisture in it slowly evaporates out.
A trick – you can soften up the hardened brown sugar by adding a bread slice or an apple wedge to the container and then sealing it tightly.
 You can make your own brown sugar using this recipe. I haven’t tried it myself as brown sugar is on sale so often and I find it works just fine for me. I do use light brown sugar unless the recipe calls for the dark brown which I think is quite strong flavored.
Recipe for brown sugar
Light brown sugar from white sugar and molasses: Measure 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses into a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork until completely mixed. If you want a darker brown add more molasses a little at a time till it is the flavor and color you want.

Small Recipes...Simple Baked Eggs

 A good, easy, recipe from for one, two, or as many as you need up to six eggs at a time. 
I made one egg and an extra yolk that I needed to use. I followed the directions time wise and thought they were more done than I prefer mine. Next time I will cut off about 4 minutes for my taste as I like mine runny. These were not over hard but more set than I like. If you want your yolks set than use the longest time given. If you like your egg harder and someone else likes a softer egg baking each in a dish gives you that option. 
 Placing the ramekins in a hot water bath keeps the whites from burning and keeps them tender.
 They were certainly easy to make and I didn’t have whipping cream to put on top before baking so used half and half which worked fine. If you don’t want the extra calories just leave the cream off. With bacon already precooked from my freezer and a slice of Gluten Free bread also from the freezer supper was ready in no time with very little cleanup. Always a plus my book. 
Simple Baked Eggs
Large Egg
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cream per egg
Preheat oven to 350°
Coat each 6 or 7 ounce ramekin with butter. 
Break each egg into each buttered ramekin
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
Spoon one teaspoon of whipping or half and half cream over each egg.
Place ramekin(s) in a pan (with a cloth on the bottom) of hot water.
Bake at 350°F. For 20 to 25 minutes or until as set as you like your egg.

Sunday in Iowa...

 Old tractors on display at the Southern Iowa Fair in Mahaska County...

It must be Summer in Iowa.  One of our friends has his dad's old Ford tractor on display.  The tractors were driven on parade around each of the nursing homes in town for the enjoyment of the residents.  
Of course, all of the other activities of county fairs went on too...including a full campground, a big stockcar race, livestock shows and auction, a queen contest, a kids talent contest, a kiddie rodeo, and big name country music concerts with a gospel concert this evening to finish the week.

Saturday Thoughts...Teaching Kids to be self-sufficient

 Last week, one of the men at our walker’s coffeetime commented that his older sister’s new apartment was “neat as a pin”.  One of the other ladies and I both thought…right, she doesn’t have any kids or cats or dogs or a husband to clean up after like his wife does.  
But both of us had also expected our kids to help around the house when they were at home.  Our son and I used to watch old reruns of Gene Autry Melody Ranch TV shows on public television on Saturdays when we cleaned house together. And my husband avoids making a mess, and helps with cleaning and cooking too.
Today as I was cleaning our home, and was dusting baseboards, I thought about the fact that this was one of the first “chores” I was given as a child; on the theory that a child is “closer to the floor” already, and, I suspect, if the kid missed a spot most visitors wouldn’t notice.  I progressed to scrubbing closet floors and polishing the family shoes before Sunday, (carefully inspected by one of my parents; redoing might be required).  As we grew up, we learned how to meet non-negotiable housekeeping standards, learned to cook, bake and clean up, learned how to do laundry, hang up clothes on the line even in the winter, how to iron correctly, how to sew and do needlework, how to garden and can the results of our efforts, how to fish, clean fish, cook fish…in other words how to be self-sufficient.
Our dad was an equal opportunity trainer…he had been a military cook so he could help us there, he taught us to help in their carpenter shop, employed us in the summers to tape sheet rock and do clean up on their job sites, how to mow the lawn, change tires for ourselves and so on.  He thought girls should know the same things boys did.
Back then, parents felt that they had the responsibility to train their children for adulthood, and if we were housed, clothed and fed, we should contribute to the well-being of the family.  Obviously, television and video games didn’t distract us from our chores. You never whined about nothing to do…you would have a job immediately!
Today, our son and grandson were rewiring our grandson’s garage together…our son commented that he wasn’t just doing the work, he was trying to teach his son how to do it safely and correctly by himself.  I’m proud of them still being self-sufficient today!  You can tell we live in the rural heartland of America.

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Baking with Powdered Sugar...Russian Tea Cakes

The recipe I have used for Russian Tea Cakes, (Mexican Wedding Cakes, etc.) over many years is from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book from the early 60’s. 
 These are quick to mix up, but do need to chill as they are mostly butter and will spread otherwise. The messy part is rolling them in powdered sugar twice, but they are worth the mess. I have made them and rolled them in colored large flake sugar though we like them best rolled in the white powdered sugar. I always use pecans as that is what I buy for nuts. However, walnuts would work just as well.
 This recipe uses powdered sugar in the cookie dough and to roll them in. The powdered sugar in the cookie dough gives you a melt in your mouth cookie.
 Note that it calls for sifted powdered sugar in the dough, this means to sift before measuring, If it said 1/2 cup powdered sugar sifted  then you would measure and sift afterwards. Where in the directions the word sifted comes tells you which to do.
 If you are going to the work of making cookies, always use the best ingredients you can afford. Real butter if the recipe calls for it instead of margarine and real vanilla instead of imitation. The cost difference for purchased cookies will still be more than making them from scratch with good ingredients.

Russian Tea Cakes
1 cup butter (Butter works best here)
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour and stir in the salt. Blend into the butter mixture. Mix in nuts. Chill dough.

Heat oven to 400°.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls or use small cookie scoop. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Cookies do not spread so you can put them closer together.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes till set, but not brown. While still warm roll in powdered sugar, cool and roll in sugar again. Makes about 4 dozen

Small Recipes...Cheese Burger Buns

Here’s a simple homemade hamburger bun recipe that only makes 4 buns…a nice small recipe.  The food processor is the obvious choice for making this small amount of dough; it handles it perfectly. 
I let the dough rest right in the processor bowl the first time…why wash any extra dishes?  I use dry cheese powder I buy at the Dutchman’s in Cantril, Iowa, but King Arthur sells a similar product.  If you can’t find the cheese powder, try the fine Parmesan cheese powder you get with the green label; weigh out the same amount and proceed with the recipe.   We like it either way.
I use an egg yolk instead of half an egg…I can use the white in other recipes, like our favorite, Coconut Macaroons, another small recipe.   You can also make this recipe by hand, the very small amount of dough makes it easy to knead. 
The buns are light and fluffy;  and the dough is very easy to work with.  They are perfect with hamburgers and we also like them with ham salad or any other sandwich meat you like.  Obviously, you can shape them for brat or hot dog buns too, or maybe 2 of each?              
Cheese Burger Buns
  6             ounces  bread Flour -- (or all-purpose) (1 1/2 cups sifted)
     3/4      ounce  cheese powder -- or parmesan cheese (the stuff in the green jar)  (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
     3/8      teaspoon  salt
     1/2      teaspoon  onion powder -- optional  (can use garlic powder with Parmesan)
     1/2      tablespoon  sugar
  1 1/4      teaspoons  instant yeast
  1             ounce  softened butter (2 tablespoons)
  1             large  egg yolk -- Save white for another use
     1/3      cup  lukewarm water
                 Softened butter -- for tops
Weigh the flour and dry ingredients into the food processor bowl.  Weigh in the softened butter and add the egg yolk; pulse 3 or 4 times; scrape down if needed.
Heat the water to 115°.  Add to the processor through the feed tube a little at a time, pulsing until all water is absorbed.
Run the processor until the dough comes together; then run 1 minute, until kneaded.  Don’t over-process, use a timer or stopwatch.
Leave the dough in the processor bowl, covered, in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 4 pieces; each will be about 2.95 ounces.
Shape the dough into balls, and space them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  (I used a quarter sheet pan, 9 x 12")
Gently flatten the buns with your hand until they're about 3 1/2" to 4" wide.
Cover the buns, and let them rise in a warm place for 30-35 minutes, until they're noticeably puffy.   About 20 minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the buns for 16 to 19 minutes, until they're a light, golden brown, and their interior temperature is at least 195-200°F, measured with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the buns from the oven, transfer them to a rack, and brush with the remaining warm, softened butter.  Allow the buns to cool completely, then store airtight at room temperature, or slice and freeze.
Yield: 4 buns a scant 3 oz each