American-Style Lemon Pudding Cake

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This is not a pudding in the UK sense of the word; it's just a cake (sponge) made with pudding (custard) mix to give it a moister texture and stronger flavour. But it is delicious. You know when you go to a chain coffeeshop and want a snack or breakfast, and you just know there's like an 80% chance that any slice of cake, any muffin, any scone you get is going to be dry, crumbly and terrible? And yet you do it anyway because you're already there and what else are you going to do, and then you take that first bite, thinking all the while about how you want your slice of cake to taste and then it doesn't. You know that feeling? This cake is what I always want a lemon loaf from a chain coffeeshop to be: moist, citrusy, sweet, with a crisp crust and plush texture perfect for pairing with a cup of tea. And as so often here in the Recipe Box kitchen, I'll defend this cake to the death as an option for breakfast, as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea or for dessert, maybe with a scoop of macerated berries on top.

If you make this in a mini tube pan, as I did, you'll have enough left for a very tiny loaf pan. Otherwise, this works great in a standard-sized tube pan or, even easier, a loaf pan. If you're looking for a more strongly citrus flavour, this works well with a lemon drizzle poured over it while still warm. It's also great with a heaping dose of poppy seeds thrown in at the end, but as I can't find them at my supermarket currently, you'll just have to trust me on that.

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Make this on the night before you start a new job, when you want something home-y to calm you down in the morning before your first day hitting the grind... Or, you know, for any other occasion, too.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. You know I love a citrus dessert, and one this easy that perfects the snack that coffee shops everywhere so often ruin is the best way to spend a rainy day.

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One year ago: Mocha Cake with Caramel Frosting
two years ago: Battle of the Carrot Cakes
three years ago: Peanut Butter Cookies

the recipe:

Lemon Pudding Cake

the directions:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F and grease a tube pan (or loaf pan).
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.
Add lemon extract, zest and dry pudding mix.
Beat in eggs until smooth.
Add oil and orange juice and beat until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 40 minutes, until golden brown on top and a pick inserted in the middle comes out barely sticky.
If using a tube pan, allow to cool for 5-7 minutes, then turn out.

the ingredients:

2 ¾ c (352g) flour
1 ¾ c (350g) sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp lemon extract
Zest from one lemon
1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant lemon pudding mix
4 eggs
½ c (120ml) vegetable oil
¾ c (180ml) orange juice

Shamrock Cookies

Just in time for St Paddy's Day, here's a recipe for shamrock cookies (aka regular sugar cookies shaped & dyed like shamrocks). I'm in the US just now, so this is a short one, but basically, these cookies, though cute, are so temperamental. The dough didn't firm up enough to really slice through it cleanly, even with my sharpest knife, so the first ones I made had leaves shaped like ovals. Then I started forming the dough into balls and flattening them with the bottom of a glass, but they stuck so badly to the glass that those ones ended up ragged on top. Finally I came up with the idea of forming the dough into three small balls, placing them next to each other and baking like that, which was fine but it yielded a very cakey cookie that went from undercooked to burnt in the time it took me to put on my oven mitt so I could get the pan out of the oven. They reminded me a lot of these, actually.

The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. Adorable! But not very practical, unless you are having a St Patrick's Day party, in which case I would totally make these. I hear green beer washes them down just swell.

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ONE YEAR AGO: MOCHA CAKE WITH CARAMEL FROSTING
TWO YEARS AGO: HONEY CHOCOLATE CAKE
three years ago: French Pudding

the recipe:

Shamrock Cookies

the directions:

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda, then set aside.
In another bowl, mix shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla.
Blend flour mixture into shortening mixture, adding enough food colouring to tint the dough green about halfway through.
Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log about 1-inch wide and 10-inches long.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour or up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 200C/400F.
With your sharpest knife, slice 1/8-inch slices and place slices just touching on an ungreased baking sheet.
Use the remnant dough from each end to make stems for the shamrocks.
(If your knife, like mine, is not sharp enough to slice cleanly through the cookie dough, you can roll small teaspoons of dough into balls and arrange them as above. This will yield a puffier, cakier cookie).

the ingredients:

1 ½ c (180g) flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ c (110g) Stork (shortening in the US)
½ c (100g) sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Green food dye

Classic Apple Pie

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I don't know who Genevieve Riordan was, but apparently she was a good enough cook to be featured in a Craig Claiborne New York Times cookbook back in the 1960s, and from what I've been able to find on the internet, it seems she was just a woman who owned a pie stand somewhere between New York City and wherever Claiborne's beach house was located. Honestly, it's a simple recipe with a classic apple pie flavour, but the classics are classics for a reason, right?*

Because this recipe is pretty simple (I mean, as simple as any apple pie recipe can be- you still have to peel and slice a load of apples, but there's no parcooking, no prebaking the crust, and no watery filling to contend with at the end), I opted to go fancy with my crust, making a plaited decoration that took me ages to finish but was really fun to do.

If you're looking for a more traditional alternative for your pi(e) day celebration this week than the sugary wonder I presented to you last week, this is your pie. Make it and enjoy by itself, warm with ice cream, or, as Eleanor's family always did, with a slice of cheddar cheese. Happy pi day!

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*On an episode of The Great British Bake Off focused on American bakes, a food historian was interviewed who posited that when British soldiers in World War II were asked why they fought, they claimed 'King and country' as their motivation, but when American soldiers were asked the same question, their response was 'mom and apple pie.' I feel like maybe Americans need to broaden our mindsets a little?

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The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Slice those apples as thin as you can and your finished pie will be dense with apple flavour and toasty cinnamon.

one year ago: Mocha Cake with Caramel Frosting
two years ago: Honey Chocolate Cake
three years ago: Dressed-Up Tomato Soup

the recipe:

Classic Apple Pie

the directions:

Make your pastry according to directions, then divide in half.
Roll out one half of dough and line a 9-inch pie plate.
Refrigerate the remaining dough until needed.
Fill a large mixing bowl halfway with very cold water and set aside.
Peel and core the apples, then chop them into quarters and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible.
As you work, put sliced apples into cold water to keep them from browning.
Once all apples are sliced, drain the water, add ½ c sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir well, then set aside.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Blend the flour with remaining sugar, then sprinkle over the bottom crust of the pie, rotating pie pan to coat dough evenly.
Pour apples into prepared pan, then dot with butter and sprinkle lemon over.
Roll out the second half of the crust, wet the rim of the bottom crust and lay top crust over the whole thing.
Press any air bubbles out, then seal the edges to avoid leaks.
Use a sharp knife to slice vents into the top crust, then bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.