Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Olive Oil and so much more!

Olive oil has increasingly become a necessity in every kitchen. While traditional southern kitchens used to turn to vegetable oil (if somewhat healthy) or artery clogging lard, now we find olive oils being used more and more. Certainly, here at Sugar Pies we love using olive oil for sautes as well as in some baked goods (our Italian Olive Oil Cake). But olive oil can be wonderful as a stand alone product. Used for dipping or as a flavorful enhancement to many dishes.

O&CO. has been cultivating tradition, expertise, and high standards for over 15 years, in order to offer  customers the best selections of olive oils and delicacies from across the Mediterranean.

With a respect for tradition, O&CO. cherishes originality where tastes and smells converge to delight the senses. Emerging from the high Alpes-de-Haute, in the village of Mane, France, O&CO. became the brainchild of two men united around a common passion, the olive tree.

More than ten years since its creation, O&CO. has forged a new image of the olive tree, rooted in tradition but firmly anchored in the modern world. While olive oils serve as the foundation, O&CO. also offers an exclusive collection of vinegars, tapenades, spreads, crackers, and sweets as well as an organic skincare range that showcase the flavors and the spirit of the Mediterranean.

Wait, did I say sweets? Yes, O&CO. creates some wonderful sweet additions for your kitchen. I'm particularly entranced by the Lavender Honey which is harvested in August and contains the enticing flavors and aromas of Provence lavender fields.

If that doesn't get your taste buds excited how about the Clementine and Cinnamon Spread which brings together the marvelous taste of the clementine, "Queen of Winter Fruit" with warm cinnamon for a spread that hints of gingerbread? Simply unbelievable!

How about an Pistachio and Almond Torrone? Produced in the Piedmont region of Italy, O&CO's Torrone, otherwise known as nougat, is an artisanal confection made with pistachios from Bronte, honey, and well-whipped egg whites.

O&CO. is a destination for your own cooking experience as well as for gifts. Founded in 1996, O&CO's mission is to provide customer with the finest olive oils and Mediterranean food products in stores and online.

You simply must visit this wonderful destination and check out the range of wonderful flavors available from the Mediterranean region!

This sponsorship is brought to you by O&CO. whom we have partnered with for this promotion.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Butter and Brown Butter Bars Recipe

Let's stop for a moment and consider one of the basic ingredients of almost all baking - butter. Now butter gets a bad rap from some people (we won't mention names) if it's not slathered on in some fancy French or Italian dish. If it's in a good old American, particularly Southern recipe, well that's a bad thing.

Prejudices aside,  butter is integral to baking. It's needed to coat flour to create a beautiful crumb in baked goods. It lends its flavor to delightful treats like shortbread and butter cookies. It even works as an emulsifying agent at times.

Of course, you can find all sorts of butters in the supermarket these days. There are the old standbys of salted and unsalted. Almost all bakers utilize unsalted butter because it allows us to control just how much salt goes into a recipe. But even in those two you'll find dozens of brands on the shelf. It's generally a good idea to pick the best butter you can find that fits your budget and your recipe. Sometimes, if I'm doing a recipe where butter is just a workhorse, say coating the flour and not contributing a whole lot to the taste profile, I'll choose the generic store butter. This is particularly true in recipes where there is the need for a lot of butter but not a lot of butter taste. However, if I'm working on a recipe where butter is going to play a starring role in the flavor profile, I'll opt for the best butter my budget allows. Amazingly, about the best supermarket brand (and this even backed up by Cook's Illustrated) is Challenge butter. Normally, it's only 25 cents or so more than the store brand, so certainly worth the slight upgrade in price. Now you can go all out and use imported butters from Ireland, Denmark and any other number of countries. Normally, I would reserve those for use in butter spreads where I want a spectacular butter flavor combined with herbs or something else.

Brown Butter Bars served with a
dollop of Cream Cheese Frosting
and Halloween sprinkles.
If you're very lucky you may find a store or farmer's market that carries fresh locally churned butter. If you have access to that grab it up! Many years ago when I did living history at a national park we often were blessed with fresh butter and buttermilk thanks to 18th century life demonstrations. One of our volunteers would bring in fresh milk and spend the day churning it into butter. To be perfectly honest, a lot of visitors and tourists spent the day churning it into butter. It's amazing what people find fun when they don't have to do it all the time. By the end of the day we would have wonderfully fresh butter and buttermilk to use in recipes. The taste is simply unmatched. So, if you can get fresh butter, get it and thank your lucky stars!

Regardless of what butter you choose, it is essential to baking. But there is one trick you can do that will take an ordinary recipe using ordinary supermarket butter and kick it to the next level. Anytime you run across  a recipe where melted butter is called for, take a few extra minutes and make a brown butter. It's incredibly easy to do. Just pull out your light colored skillet, add the butter in small chunks, and melt it on medium high temperature. Swirl the pan from time to time and you'll see the butter foam and small brown bits begin to form. That's the butter fat. Watch closely and you'll notice the butter turn a delightful golden brown color and give off the most incredible buttery and nutty scent. Your butter is ready. Take it off the burner and use in your recipe as directed.

Brown butter imparts an incredible complexity to the flavor profile of a dish. It is both buttery but with a nuttiness that is hard to describe. If you ever have the chance to make two identical dishes - one with melted butter and one with brown butter you'll notice the difference immediately. It's much like adding a bit of coffee or espresso to chocolate - you won't miss it if you've never had it, but you'll notice the startling taste difference if you do it.

That's what sets these bar cookies apart. This recipe is based on a traditional Shaker recipe and is very, very simple - as are most of their crafts. It's simply butter, brown sugar, flour, eggs, leavening and vanilla. So, butter is carrying a big load for the flavor of this. Browning the butter instead of just melting makes this bar cookie incredibly decadent and delicious. The richness of good brown sugar and brown butter together can't be matched. It's like a perfect marriage of flavors that sends shivers down your spine. By the way, when you're looking for brown sugar for something like this go with a dark brown sugar which has a richer and more molasses like taste. Also, try to find sugar that is not made from sugar beets but rather real cane. There is a subtle difference in flavor and brown sugar and butter are what makes this dish.

So, brown your butter, choose a good sugar and enjoy these rich and delicious Brown Butter Bars!

Brown Butter Bars

Brown butter kicks this traditional Shaker recipe up a notch into a decadent and mouth watering treat!

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, browned
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and create a foil sling for a 9x13-inch pan. Butter the pan or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small light bottomed skillet melt the butter over medium high heat. Swirl the pan gently from time to time as the butter fat separates and forms a foamy surface. You will see the fat begin to form brown particle on the bottom of the pan. Continue swirling until the butter turns a golden brown and gives off a nutty scent. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the brown butter and brown sugar until well mixed. Add the baking powder, salt, and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the flour and mix well. The batter will be quite stiff at this point. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Give the batter one least stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spatula, smooth out the batter into the corners of the pan and evenly across the bottom.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or just until the edges are brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Be sure not to over bake this. It's better a little underdone than overdone!
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan on wire rack. When cool, remove from the pan using the foil sling and slice.
  7. This can be stored up to 3 days in an airtight container. 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Print This Recipe

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tupelo Honey Cafe Contest

Van Morrison once sang: "She's as sweet as Tupelo honey. She's an angel of the first degree. She's as sweet as Tupelo honey. Just like honey from the bee."

Well, there's a restaurant I hear that's just about that sweet in Asheville, NC (one of my favorite places) called the Tupelo Honey Cafe. They have a great menu designed by Chef Brian Sonoskus a 2001 graduate of Johnson and Wales. He has created an incredible Southern Fusion menu that has my mouth watering. How could you pass up a dessert like Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean and Caramel Sauce. Honestly, that just sounds sinful and beyond delicious. Chef Brian also has come up with some delectable sides and main dishes that meld the best in Southern food with international cuisine. How about some Appalachian Egg Rolls featuring pulled pork tossed in smoked jalapeno barbeque sauce rolled with braised greens, pickled onions and shredded carrots served with Dijon and smoked jalapeno barbeque dipping sauces and a garnish of seasonal greens? Doesn't that sound incredible?

Maybe this is more your style: Root Beer Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Green Apple Salsa. A succulent pork tenderloin takes on the wonderful hints of sassafras and sorghum with its marinade. It’s served with green apple salsa, smoked jalapeno barbecue sauce, smashed sweet potatoes and garnished with asparagus spears. Wow!

But here's the fun part. You have an opportunity to impress Chef Brian with your own creativity. Tupelo Honey Cafe is sponsoring a contest this holiday season where you can submit your own recipe(s) to see if they can make Chef Brian's mouth water! They have three categories: sides, desserts, and leftovers. To enter the contest just go to the Tupelo Honey Cafe Holiday Recipe Contest on their site and follow the directions.

Now here's the fine print, courtesy the good folks at Tupelo Honey Cafe:

The ‘Tupelo Honey Cafe - Holiday Recipe Contest!’
At Tupelo Honey Cafe, we’re dedicated to marrying Southern tradition & ingenuity with vibrant, refashioned flavors. We currently serve two locations in Asheville, NC. A third Tupelo Honey Cafe opens this month in Knoxville, TN, and an additional location is slated to open in fall of 2013 in Johnson City, TN!

With the holiday season fast approaching, we’d love to see what fantastic festive fare you can come up with!

The Contest:
Do your tasty recipes have what it takes to impress Tupelo top-chef Brian Sonoskus? This holiday season we're accepting creative and flavorful holiday-inspired recipes in three categories:

  • Sides
  • Desserts
  • Leftovers!

The Holiday Recipe Contest runs from October 1st through November 16th, and all entries will be judged by Chef Brian Sonoskus and his hungry team of taste-testers! The three winners will be announced on December 3rd, each receiving a $200 gift card to be used at the Tupelo Honey Cafe Online Store, or at one of our restaurants.

Each week during the contest a drawing will also be held where one lucky participant will win a copy of our cookbook: Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen.

We can’t wait to see what delicious holiday helpings you’ve shared with us!

To keep up with additional news and offers please follow Tupelo Honey Cafe on Facebook.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Spice Cookies

You'll really love this spice cookie with its one spice that tastes
like a whole palette of spices! It's perfect for getting ready for
those cool Autumn nights. With a cup of spiced Chai tea
you'll be in spice islands heaven!
Well, here it is the beginning of October and we've had a heat break for about a week in the desert! It's only been in the 90's. Unfortunately, our weather report indicates some triple digit heat returning this week. Sigh.

To make it worse, my nephew posted on Facebook that he, his wife and my sister were on their way to the mountains of North Carolina to pick apples and get pumpkins. He even posted a picture and it looked so wonderfully cool up there. Oh well, we'll suffer through here. Honestly, though I still can't get used to 80 or 85 degrees on Halloween.

Regardless, I persevere with the Autumnal spirit by baking some delicious Autumn Spice Cookies. These guys are loosely adapted from an old Amish recipe. The best way to describe them is somewhat like a faux gingersnap but softer and chewier. Amazingly, they don't contain ginger. Instead I use an old standby spice - Allspice. If you aren't familiar with this handy little spice you should be. It's one of those spices that became a big part of the English spice palette in the 17th century.

While Allspice makes its appearance in other cuisine in savory dishes, in America and particularly the south, it is primarily used in desserts.  That's mainly because the flavor closely resembles a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. But as the French say, there's a little je ne sais quoi to this spice. There's the faintest hint of pepper flavor. When used in this cookie that's what sets it apart from a run of the mill spice cookie. It's that little hit of heat you get as you chew. Of course, there's no mystery to that heat since it is known in other areas as Jamaican Pepper or Myrtle Pepper and in raw form resembles peppercorns.

You'll really love this spice cookie with its one spice that tastes like a whole palette of spices! It's perfect for getting ready for those cool Autumn nights. With a cup of spiced Chai tea you'll be in spice islands heaven!

Autumn Spice Cookies

Recipe by Buck Bannister

A spice cookie with its one spice that tastes like a whole palette of spices! It's perfect for getting ready for those cool Autumn nights. With a cup of spiced Chai tea you'll be in spice islands heaven!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 24 cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. maple extract
  • 3-4 tbs. granulated sugar for rolling
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, honey and maple extract and beat on medium speed until combined.
  3. In separate bowl whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and allspice.
  4. With mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture beating after each addition.
  5. Finish combining ingredients with a wooden spoon and shape cookies into balls using a 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons cookie scoop. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and place on baking sheets. (Note: cookies spread so on a standard half sheet pan do 3 rows of 3 to avoid the cookies touching when baking.)
  6. Bake until cookies are browned on edges and tops are crackled - about 10-12 minutes. It's better to under bake these than over bake!
  7. Allow cookies to cool on pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Print This Recipe

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