Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Daring Baker ~ Flourless Chocolate cake and Vanilla Ice Cream!

I have two post today -- Pink Satuday is below this February Daring Baker Challenge


The first of the month is always exciting as I sign into the Daring Baker Forum, sign in with my password and click on the section that has the new challenge for the month! This is what I saw when I signed in on February first:

"The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge."

A flour less chocolate cake and home made ice cream! A double challenge for two delicious tastes, and a perfect dessert to prepare for Valentine's Day. I was very excited about this month's challenge!

We were given two recipes to choose from for vanilla ice cream, but told we could make it any flavor we desired. I actually love vanilla ice cream so I decided to keep the original flavor and I used the first recipe which could be made without an ice cream maker. I was very happy with the results! The ice cream was creamy and smooth.

The recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)

Ingredients:

1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.

4 large egg yolks

75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}

5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}

300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat){you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthwise. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Lift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. Set the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.

2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.

3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly.


Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time

4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.

5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze f or 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)

By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

The Chocolate Valentino Cake

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped --the better the quality of the chocolate the better the taste of your cake!

½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.
I made my cakes in assorted small heart molds and one ramekin, and decorated them with a confectioner's sugar icing and red sugar sprinkles to give them a holiday appearance.

I had enough to give the larger hearts to my Mom, and to a friend, and I saved the smaller ones for my husband and I to enjoy.

Both the ice cream and the chocolate cakes were divine! The cake was dense, fudgy, and "melt in the mouth" good! They were even better the next day as their fudginess seemed to increase with time.

The ice cream recipe made about a pint, and we've been savoring a little bit of it at a time as it is very creamy and rich.

Thanks Wendy and Dharm! These are definitely recipes I'll use again and again. If you are looking for an extra special dessert I encourage you to try them.

If you would like to see wonderful versions of the cake and ice cream, made by other members of The Daring Bakers, check the links on the Daring Bakers blogroll to visit other blogs.

There is also an open forum for general baking discussions here, but you have to be a member of Daring Bakers in order to register to log in to see a special section that has each month's challenge and any discussions regarding it.

If you think you are up to taking the monthly challenge the instructions are on the Daring Baker blog sidebar as how to join!
Don't delay, as there is only a 24 hour time limit to join every month for the next month's challenge, and you will be sent a secret password in e-mail to read the next challenge on the forum.

I hope to see you during the March Daring Baker Challenge!
Please check out my Pink Satuday post below -- thanks!

Pink Saturday ~ Goodbye To A Few Favorites!

I have two posts today!


My Daring Baker February Challenge and Pink Saturday.


My first post is for our host Beverly of the How Sweet The Sound blog's delightful and popular Pink Saturday blogathon. Be sure to click on the link to Beverly's blog and see a list of all the blogs participating in Pink Saturday this week --it's lots of fun to be in the pink!


I'm sorry but this is a sad Pink Saturday post. I'm sure many bloggers got a magazine delivery recently with this sad notice attached to it:

Another loss in the wonderful world of women's magazines! I subscribed to Country Home for many years, always enjoying the many stages and trends of country decorating, antiquing, artisan crafts, and country recipes.

It followed the demise of two other magazines that I also had subscribed to -- Cottage Living and Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion.


But the next magazine, which I just recently heard had published it's last issue, really broke my heart!

Here it is with its last cover in all its pretty bright pink splendor:


It was a magazine filled with warm, uplifting and interesting stories about the true substance of our lives --our families, friends, communities, and our traditions and celebrations. I tried so many of the wonderful heirloom recipes that were accompanied by their background stories, and I enjoyed many of the wonderful crafts that the Lifestyle editor Amy Palanjian developed. The snowmen and valentines in this issue are adorable!
I believe the magazine website will be taken down after March 6, 2009, so hurry and download all you can for your records! Perhaps if you've also been a fan of this fine magazine send an e-mail wishing the staff the best of luck!

Hallmark.com and the greeting cards we all know so well, are not going out of business, only the magazine. I hope the wonderful editors, Amy Palanjian, Kate Slate, and Helen Rogan will be able to bring their wonderful talents and abilities to other publications.

I know many have said to me in the past, when I blogged before about my favorite magazines, as to "why buy magazines when we have so many beautiful blogs to read and enjoy?" But there is still something wonderful about going to the mailbox and seeing a fresh new copy of a favorite magazine that you can spend some free time relaxing and reading and being inspired and informed by it. You can carry it on an airplane or to a doctor's office or the school pick up line and pass it around to family and friends. No need for a computer, and you can tear out the recipes and have them in front of you as you cook, and save the glossy photos for a collage project or use the resource page to find where to buy that lamp you like so much in the page about the pretty pink bedroom.
More than 525 US magazines ceased publication in 2008, and 40 have already folded in 2009 as the downturn in the economy continues to heavily impact most forms of print media, according to MediaFinder.com. A blog which updates which magazine is slated to cease publishing can be found at this link.

There are many wonderful reasons to own a copy of a magazine and every loss is like losing an old friend. Let's hope there won't be many more that disappear and maybe hopefully some of the favorites will be able to make a comeback someday soon!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Clara's Depression Cooking

Have you heard about one of YouTube's most popular chefs? She is Clara Cannucciari, a great-grandmother, and a child of the Great Depression, now 93 years old.

Mrs. Cannucciari was 91 when her grandson had the idea to keep a video tape record of her as she cooked some of the the simple, inexpensive and delicious meals her mother made during the Great Depression. As she cooked, Clara reminisced about her life and her sweet, yet feisty, personality shined through. Being an aspiring film maker her grandson edited the films, added some graphics, posted them to Youtube, and soon Clara's popularity grew!

Born in 1915 in Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant Italian parents, Clara remembers in one video how she had to drop out of high school because she didn't have stockings to wear, and how potatoes were one of the more affordable foods and were served at almost every meal, in just about every form imaginable. Home made bread and pasta were other depression staples made by her Mom. She said that they had no refrigerator in their home so they kept food frozen outside in the snow, and in order to conserve the coal that they used to burn for heat they often wore all their clothes and sat by the stove for warmth, as her Mother baked bread for the week.

You can view all 10 episodes of Clara's "Depression Cooking" on her Youtube web page.

I've included one of my favorites here, because I remember my 87 year old Mom making this dish for us when we were children. It was simple, but so good!

To view this video on this page please turn off my playlist music on the purple box on the right sidebar of my blog, by clicking on the double bars in the top center of the playlist box, or double click on the Youtube photo below, which will bring you right to this video on the Youtube web site.



Clara has said in recent TV interviews that at 93 years of age her cooking days are almost over, so there will probably be no more future cooking videos made, but her grandson has plans to offer a DVD for sale of all her cooking shows combined, plus bonus video material not shown before. Check their Great Depression Cooking web site to learn more.

Do you have an elderly Mom, Aunt or Mother-in-law that still is able to cook your favorite meals? Perhaps it's time to ask her if you could take a video of her cooking, or at the very least sit down with her and ask her to tell you the recipe before they are lost for good. They will become a family heirloom treasured by future generations!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pumpkin Update

My sweet grandson is growing big and strong and is fast approaching three months of age!

Unlike his Nonna (me) he is a morning lark and wakes up early with lots of smiles and coos.

Cranky time, if any, is in the evening, but Mommy & Daddy tell us he's usually a very good boy.



He already has a few favorite toys and enjoys his outings to the park, riding in his stroller and baby carrier. He even has a few other baby friends!

Nonna and Nonno have enjoyed talking to him through our web cams, and when he smiles our hearts leap with joy!



We love him so much and can't wait to see him again, to hug him and cover him with kisses!

An extra special thank you to Laura @Shore(house)Chic for the adorable jacket, specially embroidered with Leo's name! Leo loves wearing it, and gets a lot of compliments wherever he goes in it.

It's just perfect for our little pumpkin, Laura! Thanks again!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A King Cake for Mardi Gras

The "King Cake," or "Gateau de Roi" is a traditional New Orleans, Louisiana dessert served anytime during Mardi Gras or Carnival which begins Kings' Day or Twelfth night on January 6. Kings Day celebrates the arrival of the three kings to Jesus' birthplace, and the ensuing carnival season ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the forty days of Lent before Easter.

The King Cake is really more of a sweet bread or brioche, decorated in the colors of the Mardi Gras Carnival which are purple, green, and gold — apparently established by an early Mardi Gras king to represent justice, faith, and power.

King Cakes range from simple cinnamon roll coffeecakes to giant concoctions filled with just about anything you can imagine including pecans, fruit, various flavors of cream cheese, and chocolate.

The secret ingredient in every King Cake is a tiny plastic or porcelain baby, which represents the baby Jesus. The New Orleans tradition is that each person takes a piece of cake hoping to find the plastic baby inside. The recipient of the plastic baby is "crowned" King or Queen for the day and that person is obligated to host the following year's party and supply the King Cake.

Every year my husband's office is gifted by a business client from Louisiana with a King Cake, and he'd often bring a piece of it home for me to enjoy. This year I wanted to make my own.
There are many different recipes for King Cake, but this one was a wonderful basic cinnamon flavored one from the New Orleans Time's Picauyne:


King Cake

Makes 1 large ring -- recipe adapted from The New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper.

DOUGH:

Butter (for the bowl)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
Extra flour (for sprinkling)

1. Butter a large bowl.
2. In another large warm bowl, pour the water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir until it dissolves. Stir in the milk, butter, granulated sugar, nutmeg, and salt. (The butter will not blend in completely.)
3. Add 1 cup of the flour and blend well. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour to make a soft dough.

4. Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough out and knead it for 5 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if the dough sticks.

5. Transfer to the buttered bowl and turn the dough so it is buttered all over. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

FILLING:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 small plastic baby figurine or you can substitute with a red bean

1. Have on hand a large rimmed baking sheet. Butter the sheet.
Punch down the dough. Lightly flour the work surface and with a rolling pin, roll the dough to a 30-by-9-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter.

2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Beginning at the long end, roll it up tightly, as for a jelly roll. Pinch the long seam to seal the roll. Form the roll into a ring and join the ends, pinching them together; keep the cut sides up. Transfer the ring to the baking sheet.

3. If using a red bean or pecan half, push it into the underside of the dough to hide it. (A baby charm will go in after baking.) Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 20 to 40 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

FROSTING:

1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 tablespoons milk
Purple, green, and yellow paste food coloring or sprinkles

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees.

2. Bake the ring for 30 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. Remove the cake from the baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. (If using a plastic baby figurine, push it into the underside of the cake.)

3. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, almond extract, and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Stir until smooth, adding more of the remaining 1 tablespoon milk to make a smooth, pourable frosting.

4. Divide the frosting among 3 small bowls. Tint 1 mixture purple, 1 green, and 1 yellow, stirring each well. Drizzle each color over the top of the cake in 3 separate places.

If using sprinkles leave the frosting white and drizzle it over the cake and then sprinkle bands of green, purple and yellow sprinkles on top.

The cake was delicious and perfect accompanied by a cup of New Orleans Cafe Du M0nde coffee & chicory.


Happy "Fat Tuesday"! Laissez les bons temps rouler ...... enjoy your day!

King Cake

Traditionally offered in New Orleans from Jan 6 until "Fat ...

See King Cake on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peaceful Sunday

Ever felt an angel's breath in the gentle breeze?
A teardrop in the falling rain?
Hear a whisper amongst the rustle of leaves?
Or been kissed by a lone snowflake?
Nature is an angel's favorite hiding place.
~Carrie Latet

Friday, February 20, 2009

First Foodie Friday! Pasta e Fagioli Soup



I am participating in the first "Foodie Friday" event, hosted by Gollum on her beautiful blog, Designs By Gollum, today. Be sure to visit Gollum's blog and follow her Mr. Linky links to see all the other wonderful Foodie Friday blog posts for today's event!

"Pasta e Fagioli" or "Pasta and Beans" is a favorite comfort soup found in many homes of Italian ethnicity. Just as there many regions and towns in Italy, there are a tremendous number of local variations for this soup's recipe, and all are good! There is nothing like a bowl of hearty soup to warm you on a cold Winter's day!

In my version of pasta e fagioli soup I add mini ground turkey meatballs and one of my favorite soup vegetables: escarole.

Ground beef, meatballs or diced pancetta can be substituted for the turkey meatballs if so desired, and spinach can be substituted for the escarole, or both can be left out entirely. I also used red kidney beans in my recipe, but more often you'll see white cannelini beans used. You can also use one can of each.

Be creative! There is no right or wrong as long as your soup tastes good!

First, prepare your mini turkey meatballs using your favorite recipe and set aside. I used one pound of ground turkey.

Next, in a large stock pot, saute a diced onion, two stalks of diced celery, two carrots diced, and one diced sweet red pepper in a few tablespoons of olive oil until they are soft. Add two large diced cloves of garlic.

Pour in one 32 ounce container of prepared chicken broth and one 28 ounce can of chopped plum tomatoes, stir well.

Add a bay leaf, some springs of rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, one teaspoon dried basil, crumbled, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Have another pot started full of water to boil to cook the pasta. A 12 0r 16 ounce small pasta such as small shells, elbow macaroni, ditalini, etc., is best. When pasta is cooked, drain and hold to the side.

Simmer soup on medium heat until all comes to a low boil. Add the mini meatballs and continue to simmer at a low boil, stirring occasionally.

When the meatballs are firm, and almost cooked through, add two 15.5 ounce cans of drained and rinsed red kidney beans. Stir well and continue to simmer.

Turn up heat and add two medium bunches of rinsed and dried chopped escarole, a little at a time, continually stirring until all is added. It will wilt down quickly. Once wilted turn down heat again to a low boiling simmer.

Add the small pasta cooked "al dente," which means slightly hard to the tooth when it is tasted, as it will absorb some more flavor when added to the soup and become softer. Stir well.
Remove bay leaf, adjust seasonings to your taste, and serve!
It's wonderful eaten with a sprinkle of freshly ground Parmesan or Romano cheese on top. Serve with a nice crusty loaf of bread and it is a complete satisfying and healthy meal.
Buon appetito!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stack & Fill Star Buttermilk Pancakes

What a treat to eat blueberry filled, star shaped pancakes for breakfast!


I am a big fan of Williams Sonoma, known for their gourmet foods and professional-style cookware products. I shop through their web site, catalog and stores. I admit that their prices can be high on many items, however, so I love to bargain hunt and usually scour the sale section of their web site or look first at the sale section in their stores. Lucky are the people who have a Williams Sonoma Outlet near them, where they can go to find bargains all the time!

I was so excited to find these "Stack and Fill" Star shaped pancake molds for sale recently for less than $6! They made my husband and my Valentine breakfast fun this past weekend.

Here is the Buttermilk Pancake recipe on the box, which includes the directions for using these molds. If you do not have pancake molds I'm sure you can just ladle the batter by 1/3 cups onto your greased griddle to make 12 regular individual pancakes.

Buttermilk Pancakes


Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbs. vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray
Maple syrup for serving

Directions:
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Stir just until the batter is smooth and no lumps of flour remain; do not overbeat.

Heat a griddle over medium-high heat until a few drops of water flicked onto the surface skitter across it. Lightly grease the griddle and the inside surface of the pancake molds with vegetable oil, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set the molds on the griddle and heat until hot.


Pour about 1/2 cup batter into the large star mold, 1/3 cup of the batter into the medium mold, and two tablespoons in to the small mold. Cook until bubbles form on top and the batter is set, about 2 minutes. Remove the molds and, using a spatula, flip the pancakes. Cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes more.

Keep warm until all the pancakes are cooked.

Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil to the griddle as needed. Serve with maple syrup.


Makes 12 pancakes; serves 4.

Source -- the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.



Check out the sale section of your nearest Williams Sonoma store and maybe you'll also be lucky to find these or other molds for sale. They make eating pancakes even more fun!

Monday, February 16, 2009

W.H. Auden and Thomas Wolfe In Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights is one of New York’s best preserved and most attractive nineteenth–century historic districts. Those interested in literature may wish to peek at two buildings on Montague Terrace, which is a small side street just before the Promenade, at the end of Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Plaques on two buildings commemorate famous writers who once lived in them: W.H. Auden and Thomas Wolfe.

Esteemed 20th century poet W.H. Auden (1907-1973) lived at One Montague Terrace in Brooklyn Heights for a brief time circa 1939-1940.

He wrote his long philosophical poem "New Year Letter" at this address.

"And love illuminates again
The city and the lion's den
The world's great rage, the travel of young men."
~ W. H. Auden from the poem "New Year Letter"

"A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language."

~ W. H. Auden from the poem Squares and Oblongs

An unusual window box motif of praying angels outside One Montague Terrace.

American author Thomas Wolfe lived in Brooklyn Heights from 1931 to 1939 and at 5 Montague Terrace from 1933 - 1939 where he wrote the novel " Of Time And The River."

"Great God the only bridge, the bridge of power, life, and joy, the bridge that was a span, a cry, an ecstasy --that was America."
~ Thomas Wolfe

This is the entrance to the building Wolfe lived in.

A panoramic view of the Montague terrace buildings.
"At that instant he saw, in one blaze of light, an image of unutterable conviction, the reason why the artist works and lives and has his being — the reward he seeks — the only reward he really cares about, without which there is nothing. It is to snare the spirits of mankind in nets of magic, to make his life prevail through his creation, to wreak the vision of his life, the rude and painful substance of his own experience, into the congruence of blazing and enchanted images that are themselves the core of life, the essential pattern whence all other things proceed, the kernel of eternity. " ~ Thomas Wolfe from the novel "Of Time And The River."

Reading the passage above convinced me that is why we keep a blog -- for the reward of recording life -- a kernel of eternity.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

My husband surprised me with 35 red roses, one for each years we've been married.

A rose blooms and then fades, but the memory and fragrance last forever"
~David Eddings

"There are many beautiful things, but the silent beauty of a flower surpasses them all"
~ Tishigahara

Tonight I'll make a special celebration dinner and we'll enjoy the special Daring Baker Challenge dessert I made, but you'll have to come back on February 28th to see what that is, as that is the date when all the Daring Bakers reveal their creations.

We celebrate Valentine's Day as a day of love and affection, but do you know the origins of the holiday and the Saint it was named after? I found a church in Dublin, Ireland that had some of the relics of Saint Valentine in an altar ( photo above) and I did a blog post about it with a synopsis of why this Saint's holy day became a day to celebrate love that you can read at this link




I'm participating in Beverly @ How Sweet The Sound "Pink Saturday Posts" and I'd like to wish a special day of happiness to her, and all the sweet ladies who join in each and every week with the vintage pink rose Valentine post card above!
Be sure to visit Beverly's blog today to see a list of all the blogs who are a part of Pink Saturday --there will be many pretty treats to enjoy!

"Love flies, runs and rejoices;
It is free and nothing can hold it back"
~Thomas A Kempis


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Plymouth Church and Henry Ward Beecher

Plymouth Church, located in Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, was founded in 1847 by transplanted New Englanders who wanted a Congregational church like those in which they had been raised, with a simple order of worship, governed by the congregation. The 21 men and women who founded the church in Brooklyn Heights called as their first pastor Henry Ward Beecher , thus beginning the most prominent ministry in the second half of 19th century America.

Beecher's powerful preaching and outspoken opposition to slavery filled the pews to overflowing, and his sermons were so wildly popular that the ferries from Manhattan to Brooklyn were dubbed “Beecher Boats.” Under Beecher's influence, Plymouth Church developed connections with the Underground Railroad - the secretive network of people who helped slaves escape to the North and Canada.

Beecher was also a master at creating public events to strengthen the fight against slavery. He staged mock “auctions” at Plymouth, urging the congregation to purchase the freedom of actual slaves. During one service, he trampled the chains that had bound John Brown. He invited famous anti-slavery advocates to speak at the Church, including William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass.

Beecher's sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, also joined in the anti-slavery movement and penned the century's bestselling book "Uncle Tom's Cabin"in 1852.

President Abraham Lincoln worshiped at the church twice in 1860, the only church in New York City Lincoln ever attended.

The Beecher Garden is a formal garden on Orange Street, and is located between the Church House and the Sanctuary. It contains a statue of Henry Ward Beecher and a bas-relief of Abraham Lincoln, both by Gutzon Borglum, who later sculpted Mount Rushmore.

Many celebrated Americans became a part of Plymouth history. In 1867, a group from the Church undertook a five-and-a-half month voyage aboard the steamer Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Land. Joining them as a journalist was the young Mark Twain. His satiric account of this pioneering tour group," The Innocents Abroad," was Twain's best-selling work throughout his lifetime.
Twain spoke at Plymouth, as did many other famous writers and activists, including Clara Barton, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Horace Greeley, and William Thackery.

More recently, in January 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave an early version of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at Plymouth. Later that August, “I Have a Dream” was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Source

Henry Ward Beecher - Cadman Plaza, Columbus Park at Johnson Street, Brooklyn, New York

Unfortunately Beecher's career was rocked by allegations of adultery. In 1872 Theodore Tilton, his longtime friend and sometime journalistic collaborator, accused the preacher of committing adultery with his wife, Elizabeth. A salacious trial resulted which became the most widely covered event of the century, garnering more newspaper headlines than the entire Civil War!

There was a hung jury, and Beecher survived and was ultimately exonerated by the church, but his reputation and some of his causes suffered devastating setbacks.

Beecher suffered a stroke in March of 1887 and died quietly in his sleep two days later. Brooklyn, which was still an independent city at that time, declared a day of mourning. The state legislature recessed, and telegrams of condolence were sent by national figures, including President Cleveland.

Henry Ward Beecher was laid to rest in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery on March 11, 1887, followed by his wife Eunice in 1897.

To learn more about Beecher you can read a fascinating book entitled "The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher" by Debby Applegate, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner for biography.