Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Classic Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

I love peanut butter. It's been one of my favorite foods/tastes/flavors since I was a kid. I'll choose a peanut butter dessert over almost any other! One of my lifelong favorite cookies are classic peanut butter cookies. I loved to come home from school and have a big peanut butter cookie and a glass of chocolate milk. In fact, it's still one of my favorite things to do!

As I was looking through an ancient copy of the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (published in 1952), I saw a familiar old recipe for Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies. The "Crisscross" refers to a design made in the cookie by flattening it slightly with a fork.

At any rate, I had to try them! I tweaked the recipe a little bit to fit what I had in the pantry but it turned out pretty good even with my changes.

Ingredients:

1 cup shortening (I prefer butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup Peanut Butter
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream together shortening (or butter) sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter. Sift together dry ingredients and mix into creamed ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Dip a fork in flour and press cookie with a crisscross shape. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Note: I found that chilling the dough helped immensely since this dough is rather sticky. I also formed the dough into a long tube before chilling and then sliced off the amount I wanted for each cookie. Also, the original recipe calls for 2 cups of brown sugar. I didn't have brown sugar in the pantry so left it out. With the addition of the extra brown sugar the dough would be less sticky and easy to work with without chilling, I think.







Peanut Butter Cookies on Foodista

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Maple Snickerdoodles

Several people had mentioned making Snickerdoodles lately. So, this morning I decided I'd like to have some too. I didn't have a recipe at hand so started checking around the usual locations for one.

To my surprise, I found a recipe at Savor NY for a Maple Snickerdoodles. The recipe looked scrumptious and I had most of the ingredients, save some Maple Sugar. But, I thought with a few adjustments I could make this recipe work.

So, I got to work on it and sure enough the end result was fabulous. My apologies to the folks at Savor NY but I only had Vermont Maple Syrup so that just had to do!

This is a very blond cookie with little visible browning when done. The Maple taste is a nice counterpoint to the usual Cinnamon taste of a Snickerdoodle.


Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg

Sugar Coating:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and maple syrup. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients until just mixed.

In a small dish, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and roll the balls in the sugar mixture. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies will be crackly on top and look underdone in the middle. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Makes about 45-50 cookies.




Snickerdoodles on Foodista



Friday, September 25, 2009

Oughta' Be a Sin!

"It oughta' be a sin!" That was a phrase Mama would utter when she ran across things that were just too good or too decadent. Since I began Sugar Pies that phrase has run through my mind more than once! In the past couple weeks my kitchen has been full of great smells and great tastes as I've worked on recipes for the blog. In fact, I have way too many sweets right now for someone who is desperately trying to shed a few pounds before their next doctor's appointment!

So, I've taken a few days off from active baking till we use up what we have ("Waste not, want not" to quote my grandmother.) So, this morning I've decided to share with y'all some of the great recipes I've found at HalfHourMeals.com. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you'll consider joining that great and friendly site to share your own with this great community of cooks.

Kentucky Butter Cake caught my eye immediately. This superb and simple recipe from Annie is right up my alley and I can't wait to try it out in the future. It's sort of a take on a pound cake that uses buttermilk in the batter for that extra buttery goodness and moistness us Southerners love so much. Be sure to check out Anne's great blog: Cooking with Anne.

Sarah shared a great and easy recipe for Lemon Bars. I love lemon bars and had a good friend who used to make fantastic ones! I still have to ask her to give me that recipe again! At any rate, Sarah's bars are quite easy to do and look and sound delicious!

GuiltyKitchen featured a recipe for Idle Hand Bars that are made with peanut butter and chocolate and also feature hazelnuts and pecans! The photo of the dish itself will make your mouth water! You can also check out the Guilty Kitchen Blog.

RiverRose present a great non-dessert with Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta. I made this a couple weeks ago for supper and it turned out magnificently. It's an easy recipe and very affordable but makes a nice presentation. Be sure to check out her blog about cooking, life and travel!

Theresa has become a valued friend at HalfHourMeals.com and she recently shared her take on the Coconut Macaroon. She adds a cherry to these traditional treats making them perfect for the not-too-distant holidays! You can also find Theresa blogging at the wonderful Sleeping Kitten, Dancing Dog.

Annacia made my mouth water with Stardust Chocolate Pancakes. Pancakes and chocolate for breakfast, what could be better? You'll love this great and decadent take on a classic breakfast recipe. Just the thing to impress those holiday guests this year! Annacia blogs at The Dark Caffe.

Finally, since I cover mostly sweets and desserts on Sugar Pies, you don't know that I am the French Fry God. Yes, French Fries are by far my favorite food and despite what so many gourmands think... there is an art to them. I can tell you who has great fries and who couldn't fry a potato if their life depended on it. Amazingly, this simplest of dishes is the bane of many good chefs for some reason. Anyway, I ran across a tweet about making fries at home from some well known cooks who seemed to shocked to learn there is more to it than throwing some raw potatoes in hot oil. Oh yes, dear friends, fries are a 3 step process to be done right.

Check out this post at Houseboateats.com for a step by step tutorial. Then, if you enjoy a little kick to those fries, try my Seasoned Salt Recipe:

1/4 cup Paprika
2 heaping Tbls. Cayenne Pepper
2 heeping Tbls. Finely Ground Tellicherry Pepper
2 heaping Tbls. Popcorn Salt (fine salt)
2 heaping Tbls. White Pepper
1 heaping Tbls. Garlic Powder
3 heaping Tbls. Chili Powder
pinch of ground Ginger

That is not for the faint of heart, but if you love some kick to your fries (or anything else) throw a little of that on there and I promise it will rock your world.

That's it for today, y'all. I'm working on a recipe for a Malibu Rum® Coconut Cake that I'll be testing in the next week or so and will present here should it be a success.




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Butter Rum Muffins

A couple years ago, we'd reached a rough point in our lives. I had almost died awaiting a liver transplant in 2006. I'd finally received that transplant in January of 2007. Meanwhile, Michael was suffering from colorectal cancer and had delayed treatment until after my recovery from the transplant. We'd been hit hard on all sides and eventually lost our home (hello! Health care reform!)

Anyway, we found ourselves living in a three room cabin out in the country thanks to the generosity of a dear friend. It was a quaint little place and very comfortable. In fact, looking back, with all the stress in our lives at that moment the closeness and solitude (no cable TV, no Internet) was a boon.

During that time we fell into a sort of ritual. Our local grocery store bakery had wonderful butter rum muffins. We'd buy a couple packs from the bakery and heat them up in the microwave (no stove in the cabin). Then we'd serve them with wonderful coffee, usually Southern Pecan or some other flavor. It was a special time of day for us although neither of us were coffee drinkers before or since!

Since that time butter rum muffins have become a special treat for us. Here in Arizona we've found them in a few stores although it's hard to get to them before they're sold out.

So, I finally decided to make some at home. The recipe is based in large part on one by EdsGirlAngie at Recipezaar.com. Although, I like this recipe, I have tweaked it a bit already and after this morning's experiment with it, will be working on it some more to more closely approximate our favorite muffins in the cabin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ginger Maple Spice Cookies

So, I have a taste for sweets and things are just running through my head. Should I make some butter rum muffins? Sounds good, but would have to run out to get a few things for that. Maybe a Queen Cake? Still, have the missing mixer problem and I'm not repeating the "Oh, I'll mix a cake by hand" mistake!

I really wanted something a little new, too. Finally, it dawned on me to adapt my maple cookie recipe a little bit for a softer cookie and one that has more subtle undertones to the flavor. So, I hit upon a Ginger Maple Spice Cookie.

I think you'll like the interplay of flavors with this softer cookie. When you first bite into it you will notice the distinct real maple flavor followed by the slightest "bite" of ginger and a finishing with a hint of orange. I know it sounds like I'm describing a wine, but the flavor of this cookie (particularly when served warm right out of the oven) is quite pleasing and I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely it turned out. This is a blond cookie, rather than the darker version for the all maple variety.

It's fairly easy and a take on the Maple Cookie batter you've seen here at Sugar Pies before. However, I played with some extras for the dough.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tbsp Fresh Ground Jamaican Ginger
1/4 tsp Orange extract
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup Maple syrup
1 large egg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
2. In medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, nutmeg and ginger well and set aside.
3. In separate medium bowl cream together butter and sugar until grainy.
4. Add syrup and egg and beat until thickened.
5. Add flour mixture and blend until combined. Be careful to not over beat the batter.
6. Place dough in plastic bag and refrigerate for one hour.
7. Remove dough from refrigerator and drop by teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet lined with silicone pads or parchment paper.
8. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes until cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool for a moment before removing from cookie sheet to retain softness.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies.



Maple Ginger Snaps on Foodista


Monday, September 21, 2009

Popcorn Balls

Halloween is fast approaching. It's my favorite holiday and not just for the candy. I love the costumes, I love ghosts and ghouls, and I love the celebration of Autumn.

Many years ago, in my small rural high school, even our teachers shared food and recipes with the students. One year my algebra teacher brought in wonderful popcorn balls. Luckily, everyone got to enjoy them no matter how badly we were doing in class!

Since then, I've loved this simple but tasty treat during the Halloween season. Once upon a time these would have been given away to neighborhood kids as a "treat" but unfortunately, in today's world, anything not prepackaged and made with chemicals is frowned upon. Still, they make a great complement to a "Horror Movie Fest." In fact, they'll be making an appearance when me and my best pal, Sandy have ours the Saturday before Halloween!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
8 cups popped popcorn

Directions:

Heat all ingredients except popcorn to simmering in dutch oven or medium stock pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in cooked popcorn. Cook, stirring constantly until popcorn is well coated (about 3 minutes). Allow to cool slightly. Dip hands in cold water and shape into balls about 2 1/2 inches in size. Place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely. Store in airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap. Makes about 8 balls.

Note: you can add a few drops of food coloring if you want colored popcorn balls.

For a Caramel variation: Substitute packed brown sugar and dark corn syrup for granulated sugar and light corn syrup.

For a Chocolate variation: Add 2 Tbls. cocoa to the sugar.

Most people will go for the microwave popcorn, but if you can bring yourself to make it the "old fashioned" way on stovetop, your popcorn balls will be much better. If you do use microwave popcorn use a natural popcorn without butter (I like Pop Secret Homestyle or Orville Redenbacker Natural).




Saturday, September 19, 2009

Utterly Peanut Butter Bars

Yesterday, I saw a tweet from C&H Sugar about a recipe for Peanut Butter Bars that had peanut butter in both the crust and filling. It sounded great so I thought I would try the recipe this afternoon.

When I had finished with the mixing and preparing the pan, I must admit I wasn't optimistic. In raw form it didn't appear to be very substantial. Imagine my surprise when it was done to find that, though the bars are not thick, they are extremely flavorful with a rich peanut butter taste sweetened to perfection by both brown and white sugar.

The recipe was a winner in C&H Sugar's 1999 Baking Contest and was created by Norita Solt.

Crust Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Crust Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl mix butter, peanut butter and sugar until well blended. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and mix well. (Mixture will be crumbly.) Reserve about 1 cup of this mixture for top. Firmly press remaining mixture into bottom of lightly greased (or sprayed) 9” x 13” baking pan.

Filling Ingredients:

2 eggs
2 tbsp. peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Golden Brown Sugar, packed

Filling Directions:

Beat eggs, peanut butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together. Spread over unbaked crust. Sprinkle with reserved crust mixture. Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until set and top is golden. Cool in pan and cut into bars.

This recipe makes about 24 bars.




Top 10 Traditional Cooking Tips

Once upon a time helpful kitchen hints were passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, for many of us in the late to post Baby Boom era, we didn't pay close attention to that kitchen wisdom. Now, as we discover the joys of cooking (and particularly baking) we sometimes wish we had these little nuggets of wisdom.

So, here are 10 great traditional cooking tips.
  1. Corn Syrup or honey can be substituted for 1/2 amount of sugar in a recipe if you reduce the liquid measurements by 1/4.
  2. Reduce the odor of cabbage, cauliflower, greens, etc. when cooking by adding a bit of vinegar to the cooking water.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to water to keep egg white from seeping out of a cracked shell when boiling eggs.
  4. To peel a coconut: drain the milk, place coconut in oven until hot to the touch, remove and tap all over with a hammer and especially at the ends. Give it one hard knock and shell will crack. Lift off shell, peel brown skin and cool so you can grate or slice the meat.
  5. When measuring molasses, grease the measuring cup to prevent the molasses from sticking.
  6. To make nut meats come out of shells whole, soak overnight in salt water before cracking.
  7. Adding a pinch of salt to sugar when making icings will help prevent graininess.
  8. To make potatoes light and fluffy add a pinch of baking soda and use hot milk and butter.
  9. To sour sweet milk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to each cup and let stand for a few minutes. (Lots of old recipes call for "Sour Milk.")
  10. Sugar that has hardened can be softened by placing in a warm oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
There you have some great "Old Timey" tips that have been handed down for generations.

You'll notice quite a few have to do with conserving things in the kitchen that might otherwise be thrown out, such as the tip about hardened sugar. I can remember that my grandmother was quite frugal in the kitchen and did not like to waste anything. In today's throwaway culture we tend to throw away many things that could easily be used in our dishes.

Have a lovely Saturday and we'll be back tomorrow with more recipes and stories!




Thursday, September 17, 2009

Maple Almond Cake

I've got a few new cake pans. One is a nice Bundt pan and I've been itching to bake a cake. So, this afternoon I decided to try a new recipe that I adapted from a basic Bundt cake recipe.

As I busied myself gathering up ingredients, I realized that I didn't see my mixer. Now, I don't have a fancy mixer because, honestly, I can't afford those $300 and $400 jobs. What I have is a plain old everyday hand mixer. Still, it was nowhere to be found.

Being a masochist I trudged ahead. As an old social historian I know people made cakes for centuries before the advent of the electric mixer. How hard could it be?

Turns out, pretty hard. It was something of a workout and I still didn't get the batter mixed well enough to keep the cake from being too crumbly. However, I'm sure y'all won't have that problem with your nice electric mixers. In the meantime, I guess it's off to Big Lots or somewhere to see if I can find one on sale! Maybe one day I'll be able to afford this one!

I'm also wondering about the use of the Almond milk in the crumbly texture. I might try it with 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 real milk next time and see how it works. If you have had experience using Almond milk in your recipes, let me know what you thought of it.

So, here for your experimentation is the Maple Almond Cake.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter softened (tonight I used shortening because someone, ahem, forgot to get the butter yesterday.)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. Maple syrup
1 2/3 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1 cup Almond Milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and ground almonds. Set aside. In large mixing bowl cream together sugar and butter until light a fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture alternating with almond milk. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Cool cake for 10 minutes and invert on wire rack. Allow to cool completely and ice with vanilla glaze made with 1/8 tsp. vanilla added to 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Add 1-2 tbsp. water and mix until it forms a thick icing adjusting sugar and water as necessary. Drop in a few tablespoons of toasted and sliced almonds. Place wire rack and cake over cookie sheet lined with wax paper and pour icing over completely cooled cake.




Maple Almond Cake on Foodista



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lemon Cookies

Earlier this evening I was casting around the kitchen trying to come up with a quick treat to make with what was left in my depleted pantry. I finally came up with an adaptation for one of my old recipes.

Here's what I ended up doing.
Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2-3 tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/8 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 egg
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup Shortening
2 tbsp. butter
pinch of ground clove

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together shortening, butter and sugar. Beat egg thoroughly and add to sugar mixture and mix well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. Mix fully and add lemon juice and baking soda dissolved in water. Add extra flour if necessary to get dough to consistency to be rolled out. Roll out on floured surface about 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutter or small wine glass. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet or silicone baking pad. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack.

If you want to make a glaze you can make a quick one using lemon juice and powdered sugar. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Store in airtight container.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen medium to large size cookies.
The consistency of these cookies is fairly crisp but not crumbly. I might play with it again and try for a more "soft" texture and a richer lemony taste by adding lemon extract and lemon zest. Unfortunately, I didn't have either at hand this evening.




Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'll Take Potent Potables for $100, Alex

What would the Low Country of South Carolina be without that potent mix of charm, history and liquor?

While Savannah often gets the honors of being awash in booze (in a genteel way, unlike New Orleans they'll tell you), Charleston is also known for great alcoholic beverages. As I have been browsing my replacement copy of Charleston Receipts since yesterday afternoon, I have been reminded of both the history of Charleston's potent potables and their wonderful variety and flavor. So, let's take a moment to explore some of these great beverages!

The recipe for Regent's Punch dates to 1783 at Lewisfield Planation. Can't you just imagine Lord Rawdon sitting down to this to gird his loins just before the British left Charlestowne for good?
Dissolve 1/4 pound of rock candy in about 1 pint of high grade green tea. Allow to cool and add 1 bottle of champagne, 1/2 bottle of sherry, 1 tumbler of brandy and 1 lemon sliced.
The recipe for Legare Street Punch is pretty simple. For y'all who aren't from South Carolina and specifically SOB (South of Broad) that's pronounced Luh-GREE, not Luh-gair-EH. It's one of those weird mispronunciations that comes about when French Huguenot names run headlong into English filtered through Barbados and Gullah (a creole language).
Mix 1 quart of sauterne and 1 pint of Cognac with 2 quarts of champagne and 1 quart of carbonated water. Pour over ice and serve immediately.
In case you're not a oenophile, Sauternes is a type of white dessert wine.

Charleston is, of course, a port city and has had a long history with rum and rum based drinks. This recipe for a Rum Punch serves up to 140 people!
Mix 1 gallon of brandy and 1/2 gallon of rum with 1 pint of peach brandy and 2 quarts of black tea. Add 2 dozen lemons and sugar to taste. Just before serving add 5-6 quarts of carbonated water depending on how strong you want the punch. The recipe notes you can also add 1 pint of curacao, strawberries, pineapple slices or cherries if desired.
Ratafia is an old drink found in recipes from the various plantations along the Ashley River. This recipe dates to about 1830 and calls for one of my favorite wines, Madeira. I'm particularly fond of Rainwater Madeira and besides Port is my favorite alcoholic drink.

Here's an 1830 Ratafia from Mrs. Mazyck.
Take 1 gallon of best brandy, 1 quart of Madeira wine, 1 quart of muscat wine, 1 pint orange flower water, 3 pounds loaf sugar, 1 pint rose water, 1000 peach kernels. Put in a crock and keep in the sun for 4 to 5 weeks.
A word of caution, as tempting as that sounds, peach kernels contain a fair concentration of cyanide and in large doses can be toxic. I'm not sure how many it would take to get a toxic level, but I think I might try something a little different! I actually may experiment with that one a little bit and let you know the results of an easier and safer alternative.

Finally, what would the south be without the Mint Julep? Oh, yes, this particular drink is as much associated with Charleston as a Hurricane is with New Orleans. Like a Hurricane a Mint Julep is something of an art and if it's not made well can turn into a sickening concoction. (BTW: If in New Orleans, you want to get your Hurricanes at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar and stay far away from the dives on the upper end of Bourbon Street where the tourists and college kids hang out!)

Anyway, here's a recipe for a Mint Julep that is sure to please.
Crush mint leaves and let stand in 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar syrup. Transfer to a chilled silver julep cup or glass and add crushed ice that has been toweled dry. Make sure you don't get the outside of the glass wet because you'll lose the "frost" that is a signature of a fine Julep! Pour in 2 ounces of Bourbon. Stir very carefully making sure you do not touch the glass while stirring. Garnish with another sprig of mint and serve immediately.
So, there you have a few recipes for some of Charleston's more famous potent potables!

Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hush Puppies

"If it ain't fried, it ain't died." That was something my Daddy would say from time to time when faced with all the "Nouvelle Cuisine" in vogue during my teenage years. He was only joking, of course. He enjoyed lots of things that weren't fried, but frying was a primary way to prepare food in the traditional Southern kitchen.

One meal that was always welcome was fish and hush puppies. Hush Puppies are little fried balls of cornmeal with a little onion thrown in for good measure. Most people today are quite familiar with hush puppies thanks to chain fish restaurants. But, you ain't had pups till you have made them at home! That's especially true if your only exposure has been the bags of of frozen rocks sold in grocery stores!

Supposedly, the name "Hush Puppy" came about from the practice of cooking them ahead of time and carrying them when camping. When the hunting dogs would get restless a few would be tossed to the dogs with the admonition "Hush puppies!"

Now, I have no firm documentation of that beyond a little story in Charleston Receipts but it sounds as good as anything.

So, here's how to make real hush puppies to complement your meal. These are great when served with freshwater fish like catfish, bream or crappie that has been dipped in a corn meal, flour and milk mixture with a little salt and pepper and fried.

Hush Puppies

Ingredients:

2 cups Corn Meal
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
6 tbsp. chopped onion (I like to use green onion cut very fine)
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1 egg
2 cups Buttermilk
A little red pepper or black pepper to taste.

Directions:

Heat oil in pan or deep fryer to about 375 degrees. Oil must be deep enough to deep fry. Mix all dry ingredients together well. Add in chopped onion. Beat milk and egg together and add to dry ingredients. Mix well to make a thick batter. It will be rather sticky but should hold together nicely and not be soupy. Drop by small spoon into hot grease. Hush puppies will float to surface when done. Remove when they are dark golden brown in color. Drain on paper towels. This will serve about 6-8 people as a side dish.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

Most people have only come across Coconut Macaroons in the cookie section of the grocery store. If you're very lucky you've had the real thing in a bakery. But few people seem to make their own. Yet, they're a delicious and easy cookie with a wonderful history. "Macaroon" involves a torturous etymology involving the color of pasta maccarone in Italian.

We tend to think of such things as quite modern. However, there is a recipe for "Cocoa Nut Puffs" (not to be confused with a certain cereal) that dates from 1770 in a Charleston, SC cookbook. It was an adaptation by Harriet Pinckney Horry of her mother's recipe for a "Cocoa Nut Torte."

Mrs. Horry's recipe calls for a "Cocoa Nut" to be "dried well before the fire" then grated and a "spoonfull of butter" and "sugar to your taste" along with six eggs and "half the whites with 2 spoonfulls of rosewater" then all mixed up and "beat well" before being put in the oven.

Perhaps the good Mrs. Horry was a little light on the particulars in her recipe, but have no fear, plenty of folks have adapted these ancient recipes for modern use. In fact, here's an adaptation I found some years ago in Charleston, SC. Interestingly, it also calls for "dried coconut" as did Mrs. Horry's recipe. That's easy enough to accomplish by setting your oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the shredded coconut on a baking sheet evenly and set in the oven for 25 minutes. Toss once every 5 minutes and make sure not to let the coconut toast or brown! Alternatively, move to AZ and leave it by the window for an hour (never tried it, but everything else out here dries in 5 minutes... including my hair!)

Ingredients:

3 cups grated (shredded) coconut (dried)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large egg whites beaten until foamy

Directions:

Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. (I always use a silicone sheet anymore or grease parchment paper). Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Mix coconut and sugar together well then mix in egg whites. Scoop mixture with a tablespoon. Using your hands press the mixture into the spoon to make it hold together nicely. Place about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the macaroons are just brown. Place on a rack to cool and put in airtight container. These little cookies do not keep very long, so do NOT make ahead of time if you are using them for entertaining.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Traditional Southern Biscuits

In the mid 1940's my grandmother had become a single parent. My grandfather died suddenly on Christmas Eve in 1941, probably of complications related to severe asthma. She was managing to hold together house and home with a house full of teenagers.

One night a fire started in the house. Everyone got out without a scratch but unfortunately the house and all her possessions were a complete loss. The only item that survived the fire was her dough bowl.

A dough bowl is a traditional Southern cooking utensil used to make biscuits and other dishes requiring a dough. It's a long shallow bowl with sides that drop gently into the bowl. It's usually oblong shaped rather than round and made of wood.

Nanny's dough bowl was very old and had been handed down in the family. It is now the possession of one of my cousins who, the last time I saw it, had it displayed as a work of art. Over the years it's naturally smooth surface has been polished to a sheen by the constant rubbing of hands and dough. It's wood has taken on a golden brown glow from the oils used in the cooking. The bowl, crafted by hand by some unknown ancestor truly is a work of art.

It's hard to find a real dough bowl these days outside of an antique store. So, you'll probably have to opt for a large mixing bowl for this recipe for traditional Biscuits and do your folding and mixing on a floured counter top. Traditionally, the mixing of the ingredients was done in the bowl and then the folding done using the shallow sides to pull the dough and fold it over the center. You'll also notice this recipe calls for vegetable shortening. That's a concession to modern sensibilities and health concerns. Traditionally, lard would have been used.

This particular recipe calls for regular milk, however, Nanny used buttermilk in biscuits (the legendary "Buttermilk Biscuits"). I haven't substituted buttermilk in this particular recipe before, but I think it could easily be done. Just remember that making Southern Biscuits is a peculiar combination of science, art, and witchcraft! I don't know why but this simple recipe can get the best of some of the best cooks (and chefs) in the world! Baking biscuits, though, is an experiment everyone should try a few times, though!

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, cold
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, cold
1 cup milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of the cold butter and the cold shortening and work it into the dry ingredients, using your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk. The dough will be sticky. Dust your work surface with some flour. Turn the dough onto the floured surface. Gently fold each side toward the center. Pick up the dough and dust the work surface with additional flour. Return the dough to the floured surface and fold each side towards the center again. Turn the dough over and press it out to 1-inch thickness. Cut the biscuits, straight down, do not twist the cutter, with a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Grease a pan or lipped cookie sheet with butter and place the biscuits on it about 1/4 inch apart. Let the biscuits rest for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Benne Wafers

Yesterday afternoon my copy of South of Broad by Pat Conroy arrived in the mail. I had a batch of Shrewsbury Cakes baking in the oven and a thunderstorm was just beginning over the parched desert. In all it was a very nice afternoon.

Reading Conroy's new work, set in Charleston, has me longing for the Holy City and its fabulous feast for the senses. In honor of diving into the latest of Conroy's works set in Charleston, I decided to search out an old recipe for Benne Wafers.

Benne Wafers have been popular along the Carolina coast since Colonial times. Benne is a Bantu African word referring to the Sesame Seed. It's these seeds that give this very simple treat it's unique texture and taste. Sesame was a common crop in 17th and 18th Century coastal South Carolina.

There a couple recipes floating around for these. In fact, Charleston Receipts has no fewer than three plus another for a type of benne seed candy! This particular version makes a very thin wafer that is similar to "Lace Cookies." If you like the kind that comes in the souvenir tins in Charleston, increase your flour a bit to get more of a traditional "cookie" and less of a wafer.

So, let's settle back with South of Broad, a cup of tea and a plate of Benne Wafers.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sesame (benne) seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar together and mix with other ingredients in the order given. Drop with a teaspoon onto a well-greased cookie pan, far enough apart to allow spreading while baking. Bake in a 325ยบ F oven for 7-10 minutes.

Yield: 7 dozen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Waffle House" Style Waffles

OK y'all, I will probably blow my "foodie" status by admitting this, but I love Waffle House. Yes, folks, I was brought up as truly trendy trailer trash! But, regardless of how much you turn up your nose at the clientele and the decor, there's nothing better than Waffle House at 4 in the morning after a night out! It's also a great roadside stop when traveling. After all, if it were as bad as food snobs pretend, there wouldn't be those long lines in the morning!

In the months before my transplant I lost my appetite for almost everything. One of the few foods that still was appetizing was a good ol' Waffle House waffle. Since it was impractical to send someone out all the time for them, my sister and a friend finally figured out a recipe that closely approximated their great sweet waffle taste!

So, if you're caught without a Waffle House nearby (is there a place without a Waffle House nearby?) give this nice recipe a try! I still use it as my "go to" waffle recipe for Sunday breakfast.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Egg
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Tbsp. Butter (softened)
2 Tbsp. Shortening
1/2 cup Half and Half
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Buttermilk
1/4 tsp. Vanilla

Directions:

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Lightly beat the egg in separate bowl and combine with sugar, butter and shortening. Mix well until smooth. Add the half & half, milk, buttermilk and vanilla and mix well. Add the dry flour mixture to the wet mixture while beating and mix until smooth. If possible for best taste and texture, cover and chill overnight although you can use batter immediately. Rub or Spray a light coating of vegetable oil on a waffle iron and preheat. Remove batter from refrigerator and allow to warm while waffle iron is heating. Spoon 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup batter onto warm waffle iron and cook until waffles are light brown.

If you're a fan of having stuff in your waffles, you can add chopped pecans, butterscotch morsels, chocolate chips or just about anything you want to the batter!

And always, always... serve with real butter and real warmed maple syrup!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Williamsburg Shrewsbury Cakes

When is a cake not a cake? When it's a cookie! What we would term a "cookie" today was called a "cake" in the 18th century thanks to our British roots. Shrewsbury (pronounced Shrows-bree) Cakes are most closely related to a "Sugar Cookie" today. But, they're so much better!

I first had real Shrewsbury Cakes at Colonial Williamsburg some 25 years ago. I was recovering from an illness that hit me my first month in college and knocked me out for a semester. Mama decided that since I was up and about that we should go to Colonial Williamsburg. After all, I was a history major and my specialty was Colonial American History.

So, we jumped in her 1977 Mercury Marquis station wagon and headed out on the 8 hour drive to the Virginia Peninsula. We found a motel outside the historic district where we stayed for our weekend jaunt.

Once we got into the historic area I was in love with the town. It was November and the trees were in full color with yellows and reds and oranges abounding. In the shops and homes fireplaces were burning to keep away the damp and chill and the smell of woodsmoke permeated the air. It was magical.

It wasn't long until we discovered the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. We wandered in expecting just another "demonstration" but were thrilled to learn we could buy the wonderful baked goods made in the old ovens! We purchased a few items that day including two that would become lifelong favorites of mine: Ginger Cakes and Shrewsbury Cakes.

The next day we continued our trip with breakfast at a little restaurant next door to our motel. I can still remember the wonderful pancakes with powdered sugar they served. The restaurant was owned by a couple and they were very friendly. We returned the next day for breakfast again and Mama had to buy a few of the little ceramic cow creamers they had for sale! We also signed their guest book and that Christmas got a hand signed card from the couple. Every year when we returned we ate at that restaurant every morning and every year until they finally sold their restaurant we got a Christmas card - even after we no longer were going each year to Williamsburg.

On our final day Mama informed me we had to go to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. I figured she wanted to get a snack for the road. After all, she'd already gotten the "Raleigh Tavern Bakery" cookbook as well as one with recipes for Christmas.

So, we walked into the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and lined up with other tourists. Finally, it was our turn and Mama began:

"I'll have 3 loaves of the Sally Lunn Bread." she announced. The baker looked at her a bit strangely. After all, most people got a loaf at most. But Mama wasn't finished. She began a recitation that eventually included a minimum of 3 of each of their breads and 4 dozen of each of their cookies!

Yes, she was stocking up for everyone she knew. We left the bakery loaded down with boxes and bags of baked goods!

Moderation wasn't something Mama did too well when it came to bakeries and gifts!

So, in memory of that first visit 25 years ago this Autumn, I give you Williamsburg Shrewsbury Cakes. We'll start with an original 1808 recipe and then adapt it for modern use (and taste).
1 pound Sugar
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
3 pounds Flour
Rosewater
3 Eggs
melted Butter

Instructions:
Sift one pound of sugar, some pounded cinnamon, and a nutmeg grated, into three pounds of flour, the finest sort; add a little rose-water to three eggs, well-beaten, and mix these with the flour, etc. then pour into it as much butter melted as will make it a good thickness to roll out. Mold it well, and roll thin, and cut it into such shapes as you like. Bake in light oven.
So, that's the original.
And here's a modern variant that's a tad more suited to our modern tastes and batch sizes!

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. of grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
3 Tbl. milk
2 c. sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cream or tartar

Directions:

Cream the butter, shortening and sugar. Add the orange peel and vanilla extract. Add the egg and milk. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar and add to the creamed mixture. Mix well. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll the balls in sugar. Arrange the balls 1-1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls gently with a small glass. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until very light golden brown.

I've actually made both. The original I used for demonstrations at 18th Century living history events. The taste is a bit more bland than we generally expect in a cookie and it's also flatter and more crisp (more of what the British term a "biscuit"). Without the addition of the Baking Soda it doesn't "rise" like we generally are used to with cookies. However, I encourage those into food history to try both!


A Little Positive Feedback

I'm very flattered to be the featured community member at HalfHourMeals.com today. Anne Coleman, over there, contacted me last week for a quick interview about this site and my love of baking.

Please take a look at the interview there and let me know what you think! It's certainly nice to be receiving such great feedback for Sugar Pies so soon after launching the blog!

Thanks to Anne and everyone at Half Hour Meals for the support and encouragement. If you haven't heard of the site, here's your chance. Make sure you join. It's a great cooking community with fantastic original recipes! Hey, anyplace you can find a recipe for a fantastic No-Bake Chocolate Fudge Tart is right up my alley!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Russian Tea Cakes

I'll never forget the first time I had "Russian Tea Cakes" I'd also heard these called "Mexican Tea Cakes" although I'm certain there are differences. Unfortunately, in the South where Russians and Mexicans (until recently) were both in short supply, we didn't bother with real cultural distinctions.

These little cookies also remind me of the ubiquitous "Lady Fingers" of my youth and I'm sure you could tweak this to use for that as well. I loved Lady Fingers and there was a small bakery on Main Street in my hometown that made fabulous cookies and sweets. You'd go in and your order would be placed in a tidy white box and tied up with string. Those were the days!

A few years ago a new bakery opened up on Main Street in my hometown and they have continued the tradition of excellent sweet treats. Unfortunately, in today's world where a cake from Wal-Mart is $9.00 and a couple dozen cookies are $1.99 most people aren't willing to pay for the quality of a real bakery. So, their selection is limited and they concentrate on higher end catering for the most part.

Still, there's nothing nicer than a sugary tea cake (or lady finger) and a nice cup of hot tea with lemon on a cool Fall day.

Now, if only I could get a cool Fall day here in the desert!

Russian Tea Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour (do NOT substitute self-rising!)
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I use cashews)
1/4 tsp. salt
Powdered Sugar to coat cookies

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla together. Stir in flour, nuts, and salt until dough holds together. Shape into 1-inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set (but not brown) - about 10-12 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while warm and allow to cool. Once cool, roll in powdered sugar again. Store in airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen.

Buck's special touch: If you want to make yours a bit distinctive, add about 1/8 tsp. lemon extract to the batter!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

This weekend kicks off the start of the college football season. All across the country tailgating is back in fashion and people are gathering in living rooms or sports bars to watch their favorite teams. College football in the south is very important and the rivalries are hard fought every year for bragging rights.

Football was the one sport my Dad and I enjoyed together. In fact, the last visit I had with him before his death was to watch a football game. A frequent accompaniment to our Saturday viewing when Clemson was on TV were Mama's Buffalo Wings and Raw Fries.

Both those dishes had their origins in sports bars. Raw Fries in particular seem to be a Southern thing. Try as I might, I have not found a single sports bar or wing place in Arizona that makes Raw Fries. So, for those who don't know Raw Fries can best be described as sort of a homemade potato chip. They're a bit thicker than "potato chips" though and also aren't as crisp. They're a wonderful and full potato flavored side dish. The added benefit is that you can also control how they are prepared - unlike packaged chips that are overloaded with salt and chemicals!

So, let's have a Football Party with some great Buffalo Wings and Raw Fries!

Buffalo Wings

Ingredients:

4 lbs Boneless Chicken Wings
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 Cup melted butter
3 Tbs vinegar
4 oz. Package Dry Ranch Dressing

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place wings in baking dish. Mix butter, hot sauce and vinegar and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with dry Ranch Dressing. Bake for 1 hour. Serve with celery sticks and ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Raw Fries

Ingredients:

2 lbs. potatoes (about 6 large)
5 cups Peanut Oil (or Canola Oil) for frying
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Wash the potatoes and cut into thin slices with skin on. You may use a mandolin slicer or food processor for consistent slices and speed. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet. When hot, place potatoes in oil and fry. Be sure not to overcrowd. Turn potatoes once with tongs for even browning. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Blot potatoes with another paper towel to remove excess oil. When all potatoes are done sprinkle with salt and pepper or use a seasoning salt for more kick! Serve in a basket or bowl lined with napkins!


Gert's Mama's Pound Cake

I know, I know. You're thinking, "Weird name for a cake, guy." Well it is a weird name I suppose. Perhaps a more fitting name for a recipe site would be the more generic "Sour Cream Pound Cake" but that just is so generic and doesn't tell the story of this cake.

But first, let's talk food history. Why is a pound cake a pound cake? Well, originally a "Pound Cake" was just that, a cake consisting of a pound each of the main ingredients. In fact if you get Pound Cake in Great Britain you're going to get that traditional variant with the addition of fruit. Here in the states we'd consider a "real" pound cake to be more of a fruit cake. They're pretty dense and heavy.

In the South, the Pound Cake is a must for most special occassions. Whether it be a birthday, church dinner, picnic, or family reunion you can bet at least one Pound Cake will be there. However, the ancient recipe has been altered a bit to produce a cake that is lighter and more moist. This tends to suit our modern tastes a bit more than the original recipe that lacked any type of leavening.

Now back to that weird name. "Sour Cream Pound Cake" is just so generic. So, this is the title Mama had written on the little slip of paper on which she'd jotted this recipe some 35 years ago. Gert was a lady who worked with my brother in one of his first jobs as a floral manager. Her mama was a great traditional baker too and made this cake often. When my mother got a sample she had to have the recipe so Gert had her mother write it down and gave it to my mother. I suppose Mama didn't get or didn't remember Gert's Mama's name because this recipe went into the file as "Gert's Mama's Pound Cake." We just called it "The Cake." So, if you heard Mama say "I'm going to bake a cake." You could be sure she meant a Sour Cream Pound Cake from this recipe.

So, I now give you: Gert's Mama's Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (softened)
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
8 oz. Sour Cream
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
3 cups Plain Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. Lemon extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift flour and slowly add flour and sour cream - alternating each and ending with flour. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into well greased tube cake pan or Bundt Cake pan. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Allow to cool and glaze, ice, or garnish with powdered sugar


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Baba's Pecan Pies

When I was growing up we had three huge pecan trees in our yard. My grandmother and other relatives also had pecan trees so each Fall we'd be out collecting the pecans as they fell from the trees. Along with Pumpkin Pie the Pecan Pie was a Fall favorite in South Carolina. My mother loved to make Pecan Pies and to be honest, to this day the sweet smell is almost overwhelming for me. Hopefully, you haven't been overexposed though and can enjoy this most Southern of desserts!

The name of the recipe "Baba's Pecan Pies" refers to my mother's nickname that was given her by cousins. Don't ask me how they came up with "Baba" from Aunt Frances. For that matter don't ask me how I came up with "Mama Noonie" for their mother! I think it's a Southern thing. BTW: That's pronounced "Bah-Bah."

I'll be adding a recipe in a few days for another Pecan treat that I find addictive... the Praline!

You might be wondering why this recipe is for FOUR pies. Well, when Mama made pies and sweets she was rarely baking for just us. Normally pies or cakes would be spread around to other family members or friends. So, her recipe for Pecan Pie actually makes a total of 4! If you aren't in a sharing mood, just cut everything by 1/4. Now you know why the sweet smell of pecan pie baking can make me swoon!
Ingredients:

4 8" or 9" Pie Shells
4 cups Pecans (chopped)
2-4 cups Pecans (whole for topping)
4 cups Dark Karo Syrup
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Butter
4 tsp. Vanilla
12 eggs

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter and mix together sugar, eggs, syrup and vanilla. Add chopped pecans and mix. Pour into pie shells. Top with whole pecans. Bake for 1 hour or until middle of pie is set.
Servings: 24
Yield: 4 pies





 
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