Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Williamsburg Lemon Pie

I've been trying to use up my basket of lemons so decided to visit a wonderful recipe from Colonial Williamsburg. This is a lemon pie (or lemon pye) that is based on a recipe from 1742 from a book titled The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentleman's Companion. The book was sold in Williamsburg during the time that people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others were frequent visitors to the capital of the colony.

The original recipe is rather interesting to note. It calls for 3 lemons, 3/4 pound of fine sugar, 12 egg yolks, 6 egg whites, and 3/4 pound of butter. That's a lot of eggs and butter for modern tastes. It also makes the original a very tricky recipe since the thickening of the filling is dependent on getting those eggs to bind the lemon pulp! Luckily, we have some modern conveniences and techniques that can help us out and cut down our work.

The updated version of this recipe from Williamsburg calls for cornstarch as the main binder for the filling. Cornstarch works fine, but I find that flour often gives a silkier texture. The Williamsburg copy also doesn't utilize gelatin to help set the filling. I find that adding gelatin to fruit pie fillings really makes a big difference. Often, even if you cook the filling to perfection you'll find that when you slice your pie the filling wants to run out of the crust. I love the look of a nice clean edge on a fruit pie slice. So, adding a bit of gelatin insures your filling won't decide to run all over the dessert plate.

When I bake this pie I reserve my egg whites and make a wash which I then brush over both the bottom of the pie to seal it nicely and prevent any soggy patches and also to brush over the top of the pie for a beautiful shiny crust. I also sprinkle the top with some sugar for some sparkle and shine. If you prefer you can cut slits in your top piece, but I like to cut out designs. In this example I used a little round fondant cutter to make circles. But you can use any small cookie cutter or pie crust cutter.

The taste of this pie is wonderful. You get lots of lemon flavor but without that eye watering tartness so often associated with lemon pies. The brown sugar gives this some real flavor depth and while sweetening the pie, it doesn't cause sugar shock like the loads of white sugar used in most lemon pies. This is a real taste treat and a great update of a pie that may well have graced Jefferson's table in the 18th Century.

Recipe: Williamsburg Lemon Pye

Summary: An updated version of a 1742 recipe for lemon pie from Colonial Williamsburg's Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop.


  • 2 9-inch pie crusts
  • 3 medium lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 7 tbs. flour (or cornstarch)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten (reserve whites)
  • 2 tbs. butter, room temperature
  • 1 packet gelatin


The filling should be thick, resembling applesauce before
removing from the heat and adding butter.
  1. Zest the lemons and then peel, making sure to remove as much of the white pith as possible. Reserve the zest. Slice the lemons and remove the seeds. Process the lemon slices in a food processor or blender for 1 minute. Place the lemon pulp and zest in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Cook on medium low heat until zest is tender - about 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 cup sugar and continue cooking until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg yolks and mix well until a thick paste forms. Gradually add a little of the hot lemon/sugar mixture to the paste until it stirs easily. Pour the paste into the saucepan with the lemon mixture and cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Add the packet of gelatin to hot mixture and continue to cook until mixture is opaque and thick - about the consistency of applesauce (about 15-25 minutes). Remove from heat and add the butter. Stir will until butter is melted and incorporated into mixture. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a 9-inch pie dish with a pie crust and brush lightly with reserved egg whites mixed with a tablespoon of water. Pour warm lemon mixture into prepared crust. Take second crust and place on top of pie. Crimp and seal edges and flute. Cut slits in top of pie or cut out designs in crust before placing on pie. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar for a sparkling top.
  4. Bake at 400° for 40-50 or until crust is golden brown. After first 15 minutes place tinfoil around edges of pie to prevent edges from over browning.
  5. Allow pie to cool completely on wire rack before cutting.

Quick Notes

The addition of the gelatin in the pie helps insure the filling remains firm when the pie is sliced.

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 50 min
Total time: 1 hour 20 min
Number of servings (yield): 8
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe adapted by Buck Bannister.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Olive Oil Cake

I was watching Kitchen Nightmares the other night (yes, it's a guilty pleasure) and Chef Ramsey presented an Olive Oil Cake as part of his revamped menu for a little Italian restaurant. It looked very interesting - sort of like a pound cake but without all the butter and excess sugar. I admit I was a little intrigued so decided to look around for recipes for Olive Oil Cake or as it is known in Italian - Pissota con l'Oio.

There are lots of versions out there and it appears the main component is simply the substitution of olive oil for butter or shortening and the reduction of sugar. The flavors range from very simple to very complex but most trade on the fact that the olive is a fruit. Thus, fruit and citrus notes play big parts. Since I didn't want to go out shopping in the middle of the night, I decided to adapt the classic Pissota con l'Oio using what I had in the kitchen. What I ended up with is a cake with notes of lemon and coconut that has a dense texture but is, at the same time, rather light.

I chose to glaze my cake with a cross between a lemon glaze and a lemon frosting. Then I sprinkled it with some colored sugar for a little sparkle. If you want something more suited to a formal dinner you can skip the frosting and serve the cake slices slightly warm with a lemon sauce or topped with a dollop of fresh lemon curd.

Instead of the coconut rum, you can use any fruity liqueur such as Grand Marnier, Limoncello, Amabilli (banana liqueur), Kirsch, or Cointreau. This is a great cake to experiment with flavors simply because the flavor notes are so delicate and you aren't competing with tons of butter and sugar to get a flavor across.

Give the Pissota con l'Oio a try. I think you'll be really pleased with the great flavor and texture of this Italian gem!

Recipe: Olive Oil Cake

Summary: A dense cake flavored with the lovely fruity flavors of olive oil, lemon, and coconut


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup top quality olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk or cream
  • 3 tbs. coconut rum or citrus flavored liqueur
  • 1 tbs. baking powder

For Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2-4 tbs. fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease an 11 cup Bundt pan with butter and dust with flour (or use a non-stick spray with flour included such as Baker's Secret). Set cake pan aside.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment beat together eggs and sugar until pale yellow and the mixture forms the ribbon. Add flour and mix just until combined. Add olive oil, milk, lemon zest, and liqueur and stir at low speed until well combined. Add baking powder and stir until well mixed and smooth.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan evenly. Use spatula to smooth top of batter. Bake until cake is a deep golden brown and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean - about 40-50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow cake to cool completely in pan. When cooled remove from pan and glaze with lemon glaze.

    Lemon Glaze: Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium high speed until smooth. Add more lemon juice if necessary to get desired consistency.

Quick Notes

I made my lemon glaze a bit thick - more of a loose frosting. However, you can make a very thin glaze if you wish or even skip the glaze completely and use a lemon sauce on the individual pieces when sliced.
This is also great served slightly warm with a spoonful of lemon curd on top.

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 50 min
Total time: 1 hour
Number of servings (yield): 12
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: Italian
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe adapted by Buck Bannister.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Fashioned Yeast Doughnuts

Early this morning I had a craving for doughnuts. The Circle K convenience store on the corner usually has good doughnuts between 4a.m. and 6a.m. each morning. But I didn't want to go out to the Circle K. Finally, I decided that I'd just make some doughnuts of my own. This is a fairly easy yeast doughnut recipe which gives nice results. While these are yeast doughnuts they're a little more akin to cake doughnuts or ones you'd find at Dunkin' Donuts rather than the super light Krispy Kreme variety. In short, these are just good old fashioned make-at-home doughnuts like your grandmother might have made.

I decided to use a simple cinnamon-sugar topping for these. You just mix some granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and drop in the warm doughnut and shake it around on both sides. Nothing could be simpler. If you're looking for a glazed or frosted doughnut the recipe includes both a vanilla glaze and chocolate glaze. You could even do my favorite maple flavored doughnuts by substituting maple flavoring or maple syrup in the vanilla glaze recipe for the vanilla extract.

Even better than the doughnuts themselves are the real doughnut holes these make. In fact, I thought about making an entire batch of just doughnut holes! They're simply scrumptious and turn out a little lighter than the doughnuts themselves so are a real taste treat.

You don't want to let these doughnuts sit for too long, though - no more than 12-24 hours. Like most fried breads they'll eventually get heavy and greasy. They're best served slightly warm!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Triple Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Daddy's favorite confection was chocolate covered cherries. Every Christmas he was sure to get at least one box (often many boxes) because they were always sure to please. That combination of cherry and chocolate flavors is classic and always a big hit.

When I sat down this week to try to come up with something for Karin and her homeless project, I decided to look in the direction of chocolate. I thought of a classic chocolate-chocolate chip cookie. Then I thought about adding a white chocolate dip which seemed even better. Now we had Triple Chocolate Cookies. As I was grabbing supplies off the shelf in the baking aisle the other day, my eye happened to land on some "cherry morsels." They looked like chocolate chips only cherry flavored and red. "How cute?" I thought. I grabbed a bag and decided to add them to my Triple Chocolate Cookies to create Triple Chocolate Cherry Cookies. Of course, if you can't find the cherry morsels you can always use dried cherries or maraschinos which have been finely chopped.

These are really fun cookies with a nice presentation and a big chocolate and cherry flavor. Whether or not it's Christmas this classic combination deserves a trial any time of year!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Food Blogger Advice

You can learn a lot in 2-1/2 years. When I first started Sugar Pies it was sort of a lark. I'd just watched Julie and Julia and thought: "OK, why not do a blog about food?" I knew in a general sense how to cook. I'd always like baked goods and I figured if the mishaps reported in that original "food blog" could be a major hit, then my mishaps at least could be a minor ripple. So, I set out to create this blog.

At first I had no idea what I was doing. I, more or less, approached it much like my old days as a political blogger or content author for I was also terrified that my skills wouldn't stack up to others. If you look back at the beginning you'll see a lot of careful recipes with little to no experimentation outside the original. I stuck close to the printed process and because I often lacked proper tools, the results were mixed. Now, I'm more confident and usually experiment somewhat with any recipe I try (unless I'm asked to review the process and results) and often create my own original recipes. Heck, sometimes by the time I finish putting my spin on something it might not even resemble the original!

During that steep learning curve I've made a few missteps - often because I never expected anyone to care about Sugar Pies beyond family and friends. So, if you're an aspiring food blogger, I hope you'll find this departure from recipes helpful as I talk a bit about my mistakes and the lessons I've learned.
  1. Don't undervalue yourself. Sure, when you look at those page views the first few months or even the first year or two you'll be desperate to get your content out there. But don't do it for free. Don't give away your content to other websites where they'll reap ad revenues and money while you do all the work for them. One of my biggest mistakes was running off to these corporate sites to post my latest recipe and photo hoping to get people interested in what I was doing. That's fine every once in awhile to get word out, but don't do it for every recipe - maybe one in ten or twenty.  Make sure if you do submit to sites that they provide a way to link back to your site. Otherwise, what's the point? Remember, someone has to buy the supplies in your kitchen so you can keep blogging. If you're the one swiping your credit card at the grocery story, you should be the one getting the money for the content!
  2. Beware the "Recipe Blog List" - Often startup companies will send you glowing emails praising your prowess and growing reputation. They make you feel really good and you might walk around all day beaming. Beware! Many times this "list" of influential blogs will get you to submit your site feed so that they can pull "excerpts." Make sure they continue to only pull excerpts. I just had to write to demand deletion of content from a website that was going to pull excerpts of my posts with links back to my site. What I found was they eventually started pulling my entire feed. In short, they were mirroring my blog on their site, deleting my ads, and subbing their own! So, they were making lots of money off my work and I wasn't making a penny! 
  3. Read the fine print! I joined one of the big food blogger groups when I first started blogging after getting one of those glowing emails. There was a lot of really technical legalese in the agreement to become one of their "featured" blogs. But, I did it anyway. It was fine for awhile, but then as my blog grew I learned that the agreement was extremely restrictive of my freedom as a blogger. To be part of the group I could not accept any advertising but theirs. I also could not establish any relationships with companies unless this site set up the relationship and reaped the rewards (and profits). It was good exposure at first for a blog that was brand new. After two years, though, I took a look around and realized I could be making two or three times what I was from ad revenue on my site by working with other companies independently. I was also being approached by manufacturers and even restauranteurs asking to establish relationships to develop recipes with their products or to test recipes for the home cook of restaurant classics. That's when I learned just how restrictive my agreement was with this other company and had to take steps to terminate it. I also learned that I had signed away my traffic. This may not make much sense if you're new to blogging so let me explain. Alexa rank and Google Page Rank are used by advertisers to establish fair rates (like ratings on TV). When I signed this agreement I had assigned all of the traffic coming through my blog to the other website. In short, my Alexa rank would always be low because they were getting the benefit of my traffic! So, read the fine print carefully and don't give up control of your destiny to a company who has its own best interests at heart!
  4. Be original. Sure, you may not have the fancy digital SLR camera people talk about on websites about food photography but don't let that stop you. If you look back over Sugar Pies you'll see a real evolution in my photography. At first, I was scared to put any photos up of my dishes because the photos never looked good. Then I said, "What the heck?" and started posting my own photos. Then I began to be a little patient and try to get better quality photos with better lighting. Now, I get pretty decent photographs of my food, good enough to be Cook's Country's Photo of the Week last week. I also get it with a little Canon digital point and shoot camera (Canon Power Shot A590). No $3000 digital SLR required. That has also become a hallmark of this blog. I don't manipulate food and photos to make them look like something they aren't. What you see is what you get. If you see a photo on this blog, then follow the directions your result should be just as good (or maybe better!) 
  5. Don't be intimidated. If you're any good you'll invariably find someone lifting your photos and content. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it rarely helps you pay your bills or restock the pantry. I have a very liberal policy of sharing my content with other bloggers. If someone asks me if they may use a photo, perhaps in a theme post, I nearly always allow it as long as they link back to my site. Likewise, if someone wishes to reprint a recipe I also allow it as long as I get a link back and credit. However, you're sure to run across the "Social Foodie" type who belongs to one of those huge network sites that gobbles up other people's content to make money. Those folks rarely ask if they can copy your recipe or photo to put on their "page" at these sites. They just do it because the sites tell them recipes can't be copyrighted. The list of ingredients can't but all the other parts can... descriptions, directions, stories about the recipe, etc. Of course, photos can always be copyrighted. So, if you find that someone who belongs to one of these sites (and there are hundreds) is lifting your content, contact the site immediately and defend your copyrighted content. There's no reason for someone else to not only get credit for your work but also make money off of it. 
  6. Get a Spam Policy in place. You're going to be comment spammed. Once you get a modicum of eyes on your blog the broken English crowd of comment spammers will descend to peddle whatever affiliate program they are scamming this week. Have a strong and consistent policy in place. I have developed one whereby no one is allowed to post links in the body of a comment. There is a space on the comment form for people with legitimate websites to put their URL so they can get a link back. (I'm always happy to help other food bloggers!) However, affiliate links are always stripped out of comments, regardless. Spam is spam and you aren't accomplishing anything by sending people away from your blog to give someone else money!
  7. Be patient. You should be patient in allowing your blog to grow and gain viewers of course, but you should be patient in other areas as well. There are a lot of "know-it-alls" out there. You'll almost certainly come across someone who wants to take you to task over something you say or how you present a recipe. If you're lucky, they'll just email you their diatribe (it's amazing how serious some people get about stuff) like the guy who took me to task for my "UN-traditional" (his quotes) corn bread because it uses butter and not bacon fat. It was like I'd somehow personally affronted him or called him bad names. In retrospect it was really kind of funny because the recipe goes back well over 150 years in my family and the bacon fat substitution comes in when making what is known as "Cracklin' Cornbread." Note: I loathe Cracklin' Cornbread with all my being! Anyway, my first impulse as a former political blogger was to hit back and respond in kind with righteous indignation. It was really difficult for me to finally just write, "Thanks for your input." and then delete the email. But, patience with people is a virtue in food blogging especially when dealing with folks who have some ax to grind - be it dieting, vegetarianism, self promotion, insecurity, etc. 
  8. Have fun. That's the best lesson I've learned. Just have fun with what you're doing. Let yourself go and enjoy the triumphs and the failures. If you're having fun with what you're doing it will show through in your work and people will have fun with you. Don't try to be something you're not. One of my biggest hurdles to overcome was trying to keep up with the Joneses. There are folks I know who are pretty... well... let's just say they have a very developed palate. I'm a pretty traditional southern cook. I didn't attend culinary school and there were no Michelin rated restaurants where I grew up. So, when I started blogging about food, I felt really intimidated by these friends at times. They'd be talking about dinner and it would sound like some sort of six course meal at Maze or Alain Ducasse. I'd feel I had to do something along those lines for the blog. Eventually I realized a truth. I don't like that kind of food. Sure, it sounds great, but who the heck is going to make that 7 days a week for dinner? So, I took a page from Ina Garten who is one of my inspirations, I would make food that was simple and accessible. I'd focus on traditional food with a twist or on things that could be done by the most humble home cook and dressed up for a nice dinner. When I did that, I started having fun and stopped worrying about whether I would have to pull off some over the top dish to impress others.
  9. Find your niche and stick to it. Obviously, my niche is baking and baked goods. Sure, I sometimes post recipes for entrĂ©es or side dishes if I have something I find really interesting or good. Most of the time, however, I stick to my theme. Now, my niche does not typically lend itself to internet wide cooking contests. I made the mistake last fall of doing one of those and I wasted about three weeks of my life that I won't get back (not to mention about $300 in ingredients). Let's face it, I do baking. I don't do over the top 5 Star cuisine, so the chances of me wowing the people whose lives are dedicated to creating that cuisine and charging enough for it to feed a third world country is about nil. So, in this cooking contest I was trying to come up with all sorts of bizarre things to get attention. It was a headache, expensive, and ultimately a waste of my time. If there's a baking contest, sure, I might submit a recipe. But I learned that these long drawn out contests where every week you end up buying expensive ingredients to try to wow people you'll never meet really are a waste of time. If that's your niche, however, go for it! If it's not, then stick to what you do best and do it!
  10. Know from whence they come. Get Google Analytics and track your traffic. Know where people come from to find your blog and concentrate your efforts on those sites. I get a huge amount of traffic from where I always post a photo of my latest dish. They just have the photo and a link back to the recipe at my site. I get a lot of traffic from there so I stick with them. There are other sites that always want me to give them links but whose sites don't really provide much traffic to me. Knowing where my visitors are coming from helps me decide what websites are worth my time in cross promoting or using to promote my site by supplying them with a little content. 
  11. Don't get discouraged. There are some really, well, nasty people out there and some of them run food websites. You'll submit something to them hoping to get exposure - maybe a recipe or a photo and they'll tell you that you just aren't up to snuff. Sometimes they'll tell you that in a really snooty way, too. Don't worry. Nine times out of ten at some point you'll get an email from them begging for your content. Then you can have the exquisite pleasure of turning them down. (Just did that again last week and loved it... yes, I'm bad!) 

So, there you have some things that I've learned in the past two and a half years of working on Sugar Pies. If you're new to food blogging, I hope you'll find these helpful in avoiding some of the pitfalls as you begin. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Garlic Knots

One of the few breads that Michael likes with dinner is garlic bread. Of course, it's not hard to make, just some garlic and butter and bread, but it seems to lack a little something on the table. It's not the most attractive complement to a dinner and it often misses in the taste department (especially the refrigerated or frozen versions from the supermarket).

So, when I ran across a recipe for Garlic Knots at Cook's County I thought this might be a good choice for my kitchen. These lovely little rolls are very attractive and have a big, big hit of garlic and butter flavor. They're just chewy enough to let you know you're biting into something good! These leave a great scent in the house and combined with an Italian dinner your neighbors will be envious! In fact, one of ours commented on how wonderful my kitchen smelled when she was out taking her afternoon walk.

For a yeast bread these are really fairly easy and quick to make. There's only a 40-60 minute rise followed by a short 25 minute rise after the rolls are formed. I found that the directions in the recipe make great sized rolls, but if you want something a little bigger, you can switch around the cutting direction and cut out 6 strips that are 12 inches long for 6 large knots instead of 12 smaller knots. It just depends on what your needs are for your meal.

Michael also discovered that the larger version of these make great sandwiches. After dinner he took one and sliced it open and added some sliced chicken and swiss to make a great tasting little sandwich. In fact, I've been informed the remaining ones are to be used to make sandwiches for work.

Recipe: Garlic Knots

Summary: Warm, toasty rolls shaped into knots with a double hit of fresh garlic and butter right in the roll then brushed over the tops during baking!


  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. plus 3/4 cup water, heated to 110°
  • 1 1/8 tsp. rapid rise yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt


Take each rope and begin
by tying knot like tying a
Cross one end over top
and tuck into middle.
Bring other end up from
bottom into middle.

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200° and immediately turn off oven. Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil or spray and set aside.
  2. Cook garlic, 1 tbs. butter and 1 tsp. water in small non-stick saute pan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is straw colored (about 8-10 minutes). Add rest of butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Strain garlic butter through small mesh strainer into a small bowl. Reserve garlic solids.
  3. Whisk remaining warm water, 1 tbs. garlic butter, reserved garlic solids, and yeast in measuring cup until yeast dissolves. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until dough comes together (about 1 minute.) Increase speed to medium and knead until dough comes away from sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic (about 4-6 minutes.) Turn dough out onto clean work surface and knead to form smooth, cohesive ball (about 4-6 turns). Transfer dough to prepared greased bowl and turn to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough has doubled in size, 40-50 minutes.
  4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from warm oven and punch down on floured surface. Roll dough into 12 by 6-inch rectangle and cut into 12 strips. With flat of hands, roll each strip into 12-inch rope.
  5. Take each rope and tie into a knot beginning by crossing ends like tying a shoelace. then tucking end on the left over and under the knot. Bring end on the right up under knot into center. Place on baking sheet and cover knots with plastic wrap. Place covered knots in warm oven for 25 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Remove from warm oven and discard plastic wrap. Heat oven to 500° and return knots to oven for 5 minutes (just until set.) Remove from oven and brush with 2 tbs. of reserved garlic butter. Rotate the baking sheet back to front and return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes or until knots are golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with remaining garlic butter. Allow to cool 5 minutes then remove to wire rack. Serve warm.
Total time: 1 hour 30 min
Number of servings (yield): 12
Meal type: supper
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Author: Cook's Country
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

Being from the south, I was raised on grits at breakfast. Michael, however, is from Wisconsin and prefers oatmeal. Grits only need some butter for good flavor, however oatmeal seems to need lots of help: maple syrup, fruit, sugar, and who knows what else.

Of course, oatmeal cookies are always great. Whether packed with chocolate chips, butterscotch or raisins (even cranberries or candy!) But, I thought, why not reflect those breakfast flavors in the cookie itself? So, I decided to do a Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookie. This really turned out nicely with a lovely maple flavor and chewy texture in a plump little cookie. You can also use this as a base for many variations by adding some chopped a dried banana chips, walnuts, raisins, pecans, or whatever else you use to spice up your morning oatmeal.

Recipe: Maple Oatmeal Cookies

Summary: The rich maple flavor of morning oatmeal distilled into cookie form!


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups rolled or quick cooking oats


  1. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and maple syrup and beat until combined. Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients until incorporated. Stir in oats.
  2. Chill batter for 30-45 minutes in refrigerator (this helps the cookies stay plump in the oven.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove batter from refrigerator and drop by 1 1/2 tsp. or 1 tbs. onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges just begin to brown and middles remain light in color.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.


Maple Banana Walnut Cookies: Add 1/4 cup dried banana pieces that have been chopped along with 1/4 cup chopped walnut pieces to batter.

Cooking time (duration): 40
Number of servings (yield): 4-5 dozen small cookies
Meal type: snack
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe by Buck Bannister.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kentucky Transparent Pie

When I asked for recipe requests recently on our Facebook Fan page, I got a number of requests for pies. One of those was for "Transparent Pie." I'll admit I'd never heard of that and it conjured up thoughts of some strange concoction with the consistency of Jell-O or something. Intrigued I decided to research the elusive Transparent Pie.

What I found was that it was akin to the more common Chess Pie. In fact, the major difference is that the Transparent Pie that hails from Kentucky doesn't contain lemon or vinegar to cut the sweetness. Other than that, they're pretty close. Now, that said, in my research I ran across all kinds of variations that use the title Transparent Pie but are, in reality, other things. Some are fruit pies, some are actually chess pies, and some... I'm not even sure what to call them. However, it appears that the classic Transparent Pie from Kentucky is pretty straightforward, simple, and delicious!

This pie can be made in a traditional pie plate, or as I've adapted it, in a tart shell. In fact, mini tarts made with the transparent filling seem to be quite popular in Kentucky. This is a very rich and sweet pie with lots of vanilla flavor - think of it like a rich buttery genoise cake that is super moist!

Recipe: Transparent Pie


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan with unbaked pie shell (either homemade or refrigerated.) Place in freezer while you prepare filling. This will keep the shell from shrinking when in the oven.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add cream, and mix until smooth. Beat in eggs until combined, then stir in flour and vanilla. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Bake at 375°. for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Quick Notes

Pie will rise in oven almost like a cake then sink when removed to cool. Don't be alarmed!

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 40 min
Total time: 50 min
Number of servings (yield): 8
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe adapted by Buck Bannister.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

Most of the dishes I make remind me of Mama in some way. Fresh Squeezed Lemonade, however, is one that reminds me of Daddy. He loved fresh lemonade in the summer and would often fix a batch when left to his own devices with a bowl of lemons. I can still hear his little rhyme: "Lemonade, Lemonade. Made in the shade, sold in the sun. Gimme a nickel and you'll get some!" Then after his first big gulp from a frosty glass he'd lean back and proclaim: "Attaboy!"

When my friend Karin presented me with two bags of lemons the other day I knew I had more than I could use for a baked dessert so decided to put some to use in fresh lemonade. This is really very easy to make and is superior to almost every lemonade you'll find in the grocery store (especially those mixed monstrosities!) If you're worried about sugar, this is one of those things that lends itself to other sweeteners like Splenda.

Crisp, tart, ice-cold and delicious, fresh squeezed lemonade is the perfect way to greet Spring!

Recipe: Fresh Squeezed Lemonade


  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups water, plus more to mix
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice


  1. In small saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining the 3 cups of sugar with 3 cups of water over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool just slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, juice enough lemons to equal 2 cups (depending on lemon size 8-10). Pour lemon juice into gallon container and add simple syrup. Pour in enough cold water to fill up container.
  3. Chill lemonade and serve very cold with a slice of lemon garnish and optional sprig of mint.


For a Lemonade Slush: Combine 8 oz. lemonade with 8 oz. of crushed ice in blender. Add 2-3 tbs. heavy cream and pulse until smooth and creamy. Serve in chilled glass rimmed with sugar (like a Margarita).

For a Lemonade Margarita: Make lemonade slushes and add 3oz. white tequila and 1 oz. Triple Sec to each drink. Serve in chilled margarita glass rimmed with sugar and garnished with a lemon wedge.

Total time: 15 min
Meal type: cocktail
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe by Buck Bannister.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Sawdust Pie

When I was kid back in South Carolina we lived out "in the country" as Mama termed it. In reality even if you lived in the "city" which was a very small town you were still in rural South Carolina. Regardless, Mama liked living "in the country."

There were a group of us kids who spent our free time together: Me, Sharon, Darvin, Wanda, Jeff, and Susan. There were others around who sort of came and went over time but this was the core group for our little neighborhood. We spent our Saturdays and Summers roaming the dirt roads and woods near our houses - often to well after dusk. One of the places that seemed a little mysterious was the "Sawdust Pile." Located at the end of a dead end dirt road, this was a huge mound of sawdust towering a couple stories high. Our families would sometimes go down and get sawdust to use in flower beds or landscaping and we'd happily tag along so we could climb this huge mound and slide down the sides. It was our own little mountain in the woods. We were always cautioned to be careful in case there were voids in the pile because we might "fall in." This added a great degree of danger in our minds and really made the Sawdust Pile a place of great childhood interest.

I really don't know why that pile of sawdust was there in the middle of the woods. I suppose at some point a local logging company was harvesting pine in the area (a big industry in the area of South Carolina where I grew up) and left behind the pile when they finished. But we reveled in this mysterious soft mountain of sawdust that was hidden in the woods.

I couldn't help but think about the Sawdust Pile when I made this pie today. One of Sugar Pies' fans on Facebook, Mary Reynolds Levee, suggested we post a recipe for this and we were happy to oblige. Obviously, the name comes from the fact that the finished pie does look a bit like compacted sawdust. But I can assure you it's a lot tastier than a mouth of sawdust (and here I speak from experience).

Featuring coconut, pecans, and graham cracker crumbs the taste is a real treat. Sweet and tasty like any coconut pie but with a lovely texture unlike more custard type pies. It's a snap to make with a just a handful of ingredients and using a refrigerated crust means you can have it ready for the table in no time. This is great served warm with a dollop of whipped cream and even a little fruit (bananas and strawberries make great choices).

You'd think looking at the ingredients that this should be some traditional Southern dessert. After all, coconut and pecans screams Southern Christmas dessert. But, it appears that this popped up in the 1980's after being served at a restaurant in Kentucky. Possibly, this was some inventive cook's take on the Japanese Fruitcake which bears a striking resemblance with its coconut filling and meringue type binder. Regardless, after being mentioned in Bon Apetit, it caught on and spread like wildfire, becoming wildly popular by the 1990's.

There are a number of versions of this pie out there but most stick fairly close to the basics of egg whites, graham cracker crumbs, pecans, coconut, and sugar. I have seen a few versions when researching the history and variations that strangely left out the eggs and bulked it up with flour and even canned fruit. But, I think this version with eggs doing the work of binding the ingredients really is tops. In fact, after finishing his test piece Michael gave this one "6 Gazillion Stars" out of "5 Gazillion." Pretty good, considering he's not much of a fan of coconut!

Recipe: Sawdust Pie


  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked


  1. In large bowl, mix together egg whites and sugar. Add coconut, pecans, salt and graham cracker crumbs and stir with spoon or spatula until combined.
  2. Place mixture in unbaked pie shell and bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes until pie is set and no longer jiggles with liquid when lightly shaken. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Serve slightly warm with some sweetened whipped cream and fruit (optional).
Total time: 45 min
Number of servings (yield): 8
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe adapted by Buck Bannister.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lemon Linzer Cookies

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade - or at least Lemon Linzer Cookies. This is my own interpretation of the classic Linzer Cookie so often found around Christmas. Instead of raspberry or strawberry, I decided to use a lemon creme which makes these great for Spring.

I ended up sending these to Karin for her charity work this week. I'd originally intended to do some of the Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies featured last week, but I never could seem to get any butterscotch chips. When we stopped by the grocery store the other day, I waited in the car with Snow while Michael ran in to pick up a few things. One of my requests was butterscotch chips. When we got home and unpacked the groceries, what I found was barbecue potato chips. Somehow, I didn't think that would work in the cookies. Luckily, Karin had given me some lemons that I'd stuck in the refrigerator so decided to make use of those.

In other news, I'll be making a return appearance at Odyssey Storytelling on April 7th at Club Congress. This time, I won't be talking about food, but rather my experience with an organ transplant. If you're in Tucson on the 7th, come out and join us. It's always a fun and interesting experience.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Growing up in the south, my doughnut of choice was always Krispy Kreme. Those yeasty marvels bathed in sugar (or chocolate or maple glaze) simply couldn't be beat. When I was in nursing I had to drive past Krispy Kreme in Columbia, South Carolina to get home. I'd work the weekend night shift (7pm to 7am) and heading home in the morning I'd invariably hit the Krispy Kreme when the "Hot Donuts" sign was lit. That meant fresh doughnuts right off the line and those things are like crack for fat people! I'd pull into the drive-thru for a dozen and before I hit the first stoplight, I'd have the box open and be munching away. I'm embarrassed to say that most of the time they didn't even make it home. Of course, hospitals run on sugar and caffeine.

While Krispy Kremes were my favorite, I also enjoyed cake doughnuts from time to time. They aren't quite as obsession inducing as their counterpart from Winston-Salem, but they're still pretty good. They're also a lot easier to make for the home cook.

Entenmann's produces some fabulous old-fashioned cake doughnuts. We have a little bakery outlet near our house where we can get them pretty cheaply and I love to get a dozen now and again. The sour cream doughnuts are great with a little tang.

Recently, I ran across a number of recipes for cake doughnuts. Looking at them I thought it might be interesting to adapt a cake doughnut and cross it with my orange muffins for an orange cake doughnut. These have a nice taste and I found that letting them mellow a few hours (versus eating them hot) make a lot of difference in the taste. When right out of the oil, they tended to taste a bit heavy and greasy. Letting them sit for a few hours reduced that significantly. They remained soft inside with just a bit of crunch outside and the lovely sugary taste is balanced with a little hit of orange. Good stuff! I also discovered that this dough can be baked for a "cookie" that is equally delicious - especially when drizzled with an orange sugar glaze! (Just follow the directions for the doughnuts through cutting them out then heat the oven to 350° and bake for 15-18 minutes.)

Recipe: Old Fashioned Cake Donuts


  • 2 tbl. shortening, room temperature
  • 2 tbl. butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for processing
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. allspice
    2 tbl. fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar for decorating


  1. In electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add heavy cream and vanilla and continue beating until mixture is light, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add orange zest and mix. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and allspice and add to mixture, beating until combined. Transfer dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter dipped in flour, cut the dough into doughnuts. Place the doughnuts and holes on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  4. Place enough vegetable oil in a tall, heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven to fill it about 1/3 full. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375°. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.
  5. Working in small batches, fry the doughnuts and holes, turning once until they are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towels to drain and cool. Repeat until all doughnuts and holes are fried. Make sure the oil returns to 375° between batches!
  6. Sprinkle doughnuts with powdered sugar or roll in sugar and orange zest that has been processed in a food processor until mixed.

Quick Notes

To keep the doughnuts from hitting the bottom of the pot and deforming while cooking, place them on a spatula and gently lower them into the oil until they float.

Prep time: 4 hour 20 min
Cook time: 30 min
Number of servings (yield): 24 Doughnuts and Doughnut Holes
Meal type: snack
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe by Buck Bannister.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

We're back to warm weather here in Arizona. The last few days have been in the mid-80's. Of course, Lady Snow has been happy because it means nice afternoon walks and lots of play time at the dog park. I have to say that is one of the nicest parts of living in a city. When we lived back east in a small town there were very few opportunities to socialize your dog or to socialize yourself with other dog owners. Everyone had their own yard and pretty much stuck to it except for walks on a leash. Living in a city, we can take Snow to the park and she can play with lots of other dogs and other people as well. I've also found that she is a real chick magnet. Well, at least if the "chicks" are under 10 years old. It's so funny to watch kids, especially the little girls with her. She does look like a stuffed animal and they just can't get enough of her.

Lady Snow in her K9KoolHat that she got at the Fair.
Our girl has also gotten into a routine in the kitchen. Whenever I am working in the kitchen she parks herself right up against the counter in case anything should happen to fall off. She's more than happy to scoop up whatever lands on the floor before I can get to it. Of course, I now have to be extra careful when I'm baking with chocolate because she's right there waiting for any to go flying when I'm chopping or grating!

This morning, we're headed over to a citywide pet event at Reid Park. Some friends of ours want to meet her and were going to be at the event. So, we'll be dropping off Michael at work then heading to the Arizona Animal Fair for a few hours. I decided to make some Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies to share with Tomi and Cara when we saw them this morning at the park.

These cookies are really easy to do and have a great butterscotch flavor. I just love the taste of butterscotch played against a subtle flavor of cinnamon with a chewy oatmeal base and the slightest hint of salt. Very satisfying and filling for a cookie! This recipe turns out about 4-5 dozen scrumptious cookies (depending on your measure).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cinnamon Anise Mexican Wedding Cookies

These delightful little cookies are a snap to make. Traditionally, they are served at weddings and other important events in Mexico and the Southwestern United States, but they make great treats for just about any occasion - for instance, Tuesday.

Because they're so easy and quick they are perfect for quick treats or to share with friends and neighbors. The Anise seed gives these cookies a delicious licorice tone and combined with the cinnamon is a real taste treat. If you want something simpler, you can leave out the spices for a plainer taste where the pecan shines through more. Regardless, you'll be delighted with these flavorful and fast cookies.

Recipe: Cinnamon Anise Mexican Wedding Cookies


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. anise seeds
  • 1 cup pecans, ground
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add the flour and salt and mix until blended. Stir in pecans, anise seed, cinnamon and vanilla.
  4. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes, until light brown. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheets.
  5. Put remaining 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar in small bowl. While cookies are still warm, roll in sugar. When ready to serve, freshen the cookies with more sugar.
Total time: 25 min
Number of servings (yield): 48
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: USA (Southwestern)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe by Buck Bannister.

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