Desserts, Uncategorized

Granny’s Ginger Cakes (familiarly known as Granny Cakes)

Ask any member of the Stein family what recipe they remember best about Christmas holiday gatherings and chances are they’ll say, “Granny Cakes.”2015-08-25-12-13-21

The boys’ Grandma Marie made these, but LaVerne always attested that the recipe actually originated with her, and her own grandchildren certainly associate their existence with Grandma LaVerne. The real story may be lost to the mists of time unless the Stein brothers remember the truth…


This dough was used to make gingerbread people at Christmas when our kids were small, customized for each visiting grandchild. The dough was most often rolled out and sliced into odd-shaped slabs, though. LaVerne always got a twinkle in her eye after they’d been around a couple of days because, as she said, “They’re better when they have a chance to get a little bit tough. Especially with a hot cup of coffee.” That’s still my favorite way to eat them.

Granny’s Ginger Cakes (also known as Granny Cakes)

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups flour (+3/4 if needed to roll easier)

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses, ginger, cinnamon and salt to creamed mixture and blend well. Stir soda into buttermilk and stir into molasses mixture (mixture will appear curdled). Gradually add flour and beat until smooth after each addition. Chill dough several hours or overnight. Working with a small amount at a time, pat dough out on floured surface with floured hands to a thickness of half-inch. With sharp floured knife cut into pieces about 3 in. square. Bake on greased baking sheet 375°F for 15 minutes. Do not overbake!



Take your time with this dough. Chill it plenty and work with small portions, or rolling out can be a horrible sticky mess. I use lightly floured parchment paper to help me now.

We have used both fresh and powdered buttermilk with success in this recipe.

In addition to making wonderful fat gingerbread men, this is lovely dough for Valentine’s hearts or birthday dinosaurs or what have you, but it puffs up a fair amount in the baking, so simple shapes are best.


Desserts, Uncategorized

Nestle Toll House Cookies (Stein Style)

Especially toward the end of her time with us, LaVerne would begin to worry about what to serve as soon as she knew folks were coming to visit, but she could relax as soon as I told her we’d either bake these cookies before a visit, or pull some out of the freezer. Many batches of cookies have passed through Stein ovens, but this is probably the recipe that has been baked most.


Many thanks to Barbara for supporting my fundraising effort in The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. You can support my walk here.

Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened. The Stein family recipe replaces with shortening, as in the original Nestlé recipe
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
One 12 oz. package Nestlé Toll House semi sweet chocolate morsels (2 cups)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract; beat until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts. Drop by spoonfuls onto on greased cookie sheets. Bake: at 375°F 9 to 11 minutes. Makes: about five dozen 2 1/4 inch cookies.
Pan cookie variation: prepared though as directed. Spread into greased 15.5 x 10.5 by 1 inch baking pan. Bake: at 375°F. 20 to 25 minutes. Cool; cut into 35 2 inch squares.


I put a note about shortening into the actual recipe above because the Steins are so opinionated about that difference, and we wouldn’t want you to get your butter ready in vain.

Our recipe card is simply the recipe from a bag of chocolate chips taped to an index card and family lore says that there is a very old card made the same way showing the shortening as an ingredient, but I am unable to provide photo evidence.

The Steins use pecans when they feel like using nuts as there is walnut allergy in the family.

What is your favorite cookie?

PS I hope this isn’t a repeat post! My records show that I have recorded the recipe but had not yet shared it with you. My apologies if I have – but you know, it’s always good to make a good cookie time and time again.

Do you have a  favorite cookie?


Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It must be stated right away that this is not a historical Stein family recipe. I was just about to gather ingredients for Mom’s best chocolate chip cookies when the gargantuan zucchinis came through the door this past week. That’s when the garden stories began to flow and Mom’s cookbooks came out.

We chose a recipe that looked tasty from one of the most-thumbed books and gave it a try. The result was a moist cake with a big chocolate punch that’s not too sweet. The chopped pecans got tender in the baking and added a nice chewy texture. Based on its short life, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a new family favorite, and it was obvious then that I’d have to include this recipe in the collection.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon each salt and ground cinnamon

3/4 cup (1/4 lb plus 4 tablespoons) butter or margarine, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons each grated orange peel and vanilla

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (about 4 medium-size),lightly packed

1/2 cup milk

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Glaze (recipe follows)

In a bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In large bowl of electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in orange peel, vanilla, and zucchini.
Alternately stir flour mixture and milk into zucchini mixture, including nuts with last addition.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube or Bundt pan. Bake in a 350° oven for about one hour until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 25 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.
Prepare glaze and drizzle over cooled cake. Let glaze harden.
Makes 10 to 12 servings

Powdered Sugar Glaze (included with recipe)

In a bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth

Chocolate Glaze (what we used)
In top of a double boiler, combine four squares (1 ounce each) semi-sweet baking chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter or margarine; stir over barely simmering water just until melted. Remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.

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** Notes:

This recipe comes from The Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes II.

Several of Mom’s other cookbooks seem to be old enough not to include many zucchini recipes, if any at all.

I replaced the powdered sugar/milk glaze with a chocolate glaze from another cake recipe from the same book.

I always use butter.

I used dark cocoa powder, and lemon instead of orange peel because it was what we had.

I seeded this zucchini because the mature seeds were quite large and tough.

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Do you make a favorite dessert from vegetables?


Millionaire Cookies

I haven’t gotten any input from the boys, so I’ll ask here if anyone can clear up a memory: was this Grandma Marie’s recipe, which is what I remember, of was your Mom the first to make these? They were a part of Stein family gatherings, Christmas in particular, for years, I do know that much.

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Millionaire Cookies

1 cup white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1-1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup nuts
Mix together and form into 2 long round logs.
Let stand overnight or freeze.
Slice thin and bake in 375° oven.
Brown and white sugar amounts may be interchanged.
Makes 13 dozen 2 inch cookies

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** Notes
This is a HUGE recipe. Making a half recipe seemed more trouble than it was worth, though, so we went for the whole thing. We made the dough into two logs, reserving one in the refrigerator to bake the next day as instructed, and the other in the freezer to bake on my next visit. What a brilliant move. I’m going to try preparing more cookie dough of various kinds to bake at a moment’s notice this way. Mom enjoyed helping when we needed something to do of an afternoon.
We made about 12 1/2 dozen cookies total, and the frozen cookies were only slightly drier than the ones we made first.

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Do you have a favorite family cookie recipe? Please share!

Breads, Desserts

Dad’s Sweet Rolls

My husband’s Dad and I used to joke that he was the Lady of the house, because my mom taught me the etymology of the word lady, which means, “Baker of the bread.”
James’ Dad was the bread guy, the grill guy, and the supreme scrambled egg guy.
He taught me everything I know about amazing, fluffy scrambled eggs, and we lovingly critiqued each other’s bread textures over the years. What an honor to have him compliment my efforts!

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Everyone loved Mike’s sweet rolls, and he would often make some when a crowd was set to descend upon the house for a weekend. He shared that recipe in a handwritten letter, in his own sort of shorthand, so this is not exactly taken from a cookbook.

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He said, “The recipe for these sweet rolls basically comes from the Fleischmann’s New Treasury of Yeast Baking of about 1968. It’s been modified slightly. Good luck with it.
Practice at least once before we next come up then allow me to critique your product.”

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Dad’s Sweet Rolls

4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 packages yeast (1 tablespoon +1-1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 stick margarine or butter
2 room temperature eggs

Liquids and margarine – warm together
Mix sugar, salt and yeast, and 1 cup flour together. Add liquids in, beat for 2 minutes.
Add the eggs and 1 more cup flour. Beat at speed 2 in the mixer 2 minutes.
Put on the dough hook add enough flour to produce dough.
Raise until doubled in bulk.
Punch down and divide into two halves.
Roll each half into long rectangle. Roll thin, 18″ x 9″. The dough will probably be half inch or less in thickness.
Brush with melted butter or margarine-will probably require about half stick. Leave one long edge of dough uncoated
Spread dough with one half of filling.
Roll out the dough toward unbuttered edge. Seal edge.
Cut roll every inch or so. Place cut rolls in greased pan. Don’t crowd them too much. Allow them to raise until they look about right.
Bake in 350° oven for 25 minutes. Cool and frost with mixture of confectioners’ sugar and milk or orange juice.

For Cinnamon Rolls
1-1/2 cups of sugar (I use half and half white and brown)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cups raisins
I also add chopped nuts if available

For Orange Rolls
1-1/2 cups of sugar
Grated rind of a large orange
Chopped nuts

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From Dad: The original recipe called for 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. I don’t like that much so cut it and see no affect but flavor on the product. You may find you can get by with a bit less oleo to grease the dough and or a bit less filling (sugar component). I use it all and what leaks out when I cut the rolls gets thrown in the pan wherever it hits.

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From us: Mike preferred the orange rolls. I prefer the cinnamon rolls, so that’s what we’ve typically made over the years. Watch how much flour you use rolling out the dough. A little sticky is okay it will be easier to get at the size you want if it’s not too elastic.

The steps given here assume the use of the Kitchenaid mixer we all have in our kitchens thanks to James’ folks. Use whatever tools you have to get the job done – but this is easy and fast with the dough hook.

Roll the log even tighter than you think you should. Stretch the outer layer around the roll to capture everything tightly. When it says “don’t crowd too much,” really, don’t. This batch came out tiny on one end of the pan because they didn’t have quite enough room to rise. Tiny just meant a person could eat two, but the texture of the bigger ones was nicer.
What sweet treat do you favor?

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Pear or Apple Crisp

This recipe was always called Pear or Apple Crisp on every recipe card and cookbook entry that was ever noted down, and pears were always listed first. In all the time it was made at the Steins’ house, they only ever used apples, often from their own trees. Not too long ago, we had way too many pears and used them instead, and though apple crisp is still the family go-to, LaVerne herself agreed when she tasted it that it’s maybe even better with pears.

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Pear or Apple Crisp

4 pears (Anjou or Bartlett) or 5 cooking apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
Whipping cream
Put sliced fruit into buttered 9 inch square pan.
Sprinkle with spices, add lemon juice and water. In separate bowl (we use the mixer), mix sugar and flour; work in butter to make a crumbly mixture. Spread over fruit.
Bake 350° of in about one hour.
Serve warm with cream.
Serves four
-Nuts, chopped may be added to the topping.
-Canned pears may be used-reduce time to 30 minutes.

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Though the recipe calls for cream, the Steins usually topped warm crisp with a scoop of ice cream.

No one ever tried it with canned pears as far as I know. It was always the thing to make when there was a bounty of fruit.

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It’s also good left over for breakfast with some coconut milk, but that is straying wildly from family tradition, to be sure.

What recipes does your family turn to when there’s a bounty of a fruit or vegetables?


Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

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Susan’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake

From LaVerne’s Good Housekeeping Cookbook

1-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed
1- number 2 can pineapple chunks (*or rings – see note below)
5 maraschino cherries
1/3 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup syrup drained from pineapple

1. Start heating oven to 350°F. Sift flour, baking powder, salt. Melt butter in 8″ x 8″ x 2″ aluminum cake pan over low heat on top burner: remove from heat; sprinkle with brown sugar.

2. Meanwhile, drain pineapple chunks, reserving syrup. On brown sugar mixture, arrange to six pineapple chunks to form small daisy. Repeat, making five daisies in all. Extra chunks maybe placed between daisies and at edges of pan. (*James remembers that Mom used pineapple rings instead here). Fill in with partial rings. Place drained maraschino cherry in center of each daisy (*or ring).

3. Starting in large electric mixer bowl, with mixer at medium speed, mix shortening with sugar, then with egg and vanilla, until very light and fluffy-about four minutes altogether. At low speed, beat in alternately, just until smooth, flour mixture in thirds and pineapple syrup in halves. Spread batter carefully over pineapple daisies, keeping design intact.

4. Bake cake one hour, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool on cake rack 10 minutes. Then, with spatula, loosen cake from sides of pan. Invert serving plate onto pan; then, with one hand under pan and other on top of plate, turn both until cake rests, with fruit side up, on serving plate. Remove pan. If fruit sticks to pan, lift off with a spatula and return to its place on cake.
Serve cake warm; top with cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Mom remembers this from a very long time ago. All the boys mentioned it, I think, and James remembers it as the only cake he ever really liked as a kid (the Steins are pretty much a pie family). I remember from our dating years, and from early in our marriage, that it was made (and doubled) when there was a crowd visiting, just for a little something special.

We’re fairly certain this was the recipe she used for this cake, since it has messy pages in her copy of the cookbook. She helped me to put this recipe together when she was visiting. It made one small pan, just right for our little family group to eat in a few days.

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What do you serve as a little something special?