Sarah Ann’s pimento cheese is the real deal!

pimento cheese

Need a delicious and easy snackie for, I don’t know…New Year’s day football watching?How about pimento cheese topped with slices of pickled okra!

There are just some specialities (many would say, “a lot of them!”) that the South is well known for having invented, or at least will take take any and all credit for perfecting. This would include: barbeque (of course), grits, fried chicken, iced tea, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and one of my favorites, pimento cheese.

Just like many good southern gals, I believe that my momma makes the best pimento cheese in the world. On any given day there will be pimento cheese in my mother’s refrigerator. Unless she’s out on a jaunt with the “gambling grandma’s” (this is story for another time!) there’s a Tupperware bowl of her pimento cheese on hand. As she says, “just in case anyone gets hungry.”

If your taste for this delectable spread has thus far been limited to any grocery store brand pimento cheese, then I urge you to try this recipe. This is applicable even if you 1) think said commercial brand(s) you have tried are putrid OR 2) you consider the commercial brand(s) palatable but nothing special. Good homemade pimento cheese will change your mind. But before I go further, I will state that there is one commercially-produced brand out there that I consider very, very good.

The brand is Palmetto Cheese, out of Pawley’s Island, SC. It is carried by Publix, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly and Costco among other mainstream grocers throughout the Lowcountry. For those who live outside this area (sorry!) you can order it online through the Palmetto Cheese web site. I especially like the Palmetto Cheese with jaleponos. When time is short and sandy Lowcountry beaches beckon, we’ll pick up a container at the Edisto Piggly Wiggly and enjoy it right out the carton with crackers (and a cocktail!) on the breezy back porch. It makes a simple, tasty sandwich for lunch, too.

But when there is time, we get out the grater and make Sarah Ann’s pimento cheese. Just be prepared to make another batch because this stuff is addictive! Just go ahead and buy a whole pound of cheddar to make that batch, you know you want to!

The ingredients are straight forward and simple. However, there is magic in the technique.

The ingredients are straight forward and simple. However, there is magic in the technique.

First off grate real cheddar cheese by hand. The better the cheese, the better the pimento cheese although a good brand of real cheddar cheese will suffice. I'm not that snobby!

First off grate real cheddar cheese by hand. The better the cheese, the better the pimento cheese although a good brand of real cheddar cheese will suffice. I’m not that snobby!

Hand grating will give you about 3 cups of finely grated cheddar.

Hand grating will give you about 3 cups of finely grated cheddar.

Secondly, mx the ingredients together using a fork. Use a light touch and stir until just combined.

Secondly, mix the ingredients together using a fork. Use a light touch and mix until just combined.

Lastly, is the pickle juice. This is juice from my own bread-and-butter pickle (sweet pickles). Adds a great tang and touch of sweetness. It is my mom's "secret ingredient".

Lastly, is the pickle juice. This is juice from my own bread-and-butter pickles (sweet pickles). Adds a great tang and just a touch of sweetness. This is my Mom’s “secret ingredient”.

These are homemade pickled okra I snagged at a local Church bazaar. I topped each 'snackie' with a slice of it - perfection in a single bite!

These are homemade pickled okra I snagged at a local Church bazaar. I topped each ‘snackie’ with a slice of it – perfection in a single bite!

Another look at the little bits of goodness. If you like some snappy heat stir in some chopped jalepeno peppers or top with a slice of jalepeno instead of the pickled okra.

Another look at the little bits of goodness. If you like some snappy heat stir in minced jalepeno peppers or top with a slice of jalepeno instead of the okra.

Sarah Ann’s Pimento Cheese

  • ½ pound cheddar cheese – medium or sharp or a combination
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • (1) 4 oz small jar pimentos, drained
  • 1-2 tbl sweet pickle juice
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional: minced jalepeno peppers.
  • Optional: sliced pickled okra or pickled jalepenos

First step is to use a decent cheese. DO NOT use “cheese product”, i.e. American cheese or anything like that. This requires real cheese. The next step is to grate the cheese by hand, preferable using the smaller cheese grating slot, but not a microplane grater. You should get approximately 3 cups of grated cheese – place this in a medium mixing bowl.

The pimentos should be in a small chop so do that step, if necessary. However, note that you still want to recognize the ‘pimentos as pimentos’ so don’t mash them into oblivion. Add these to the cheese in the bowl.

Add the mayo to the cheese/pimento mixture. Using a fork (this is important) gently stir everything until just combined. *Add in 1 tablespoon of pickle juice and a few cracks of pepper and stir again just enough to combine. Then taste the pimento cheese. If it’s to your liking you’re good, if not, add another tablespoon of pickle juice and/or more cracked pepper. Stir and taste test. Makes about 2 cups of great pimento cheese. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered until ready to use.

* If you like hot & spicy pimento cheese, at this point you should stir in several tablespoons of minced jalepeno peppers.

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It’s a Christmas miracle: sizzling grit cakes with rarified roast beef, creamy horseradish and Asiago.

sizzling grt cake with rare roast beef, asiago, horseradish

This year I prepared Christmas dinner, our first back in the Lowcountry. Over the week or so leading up to the big day I also made several of my usual holiday recipes – “fantasy” fudge (yes, I use jarred Fluff), cut out cookies (Martha Stewart recipe) and I dry-aged a well marbled, choice rib roast. This is about the sixth time I have attempted the ‘dry aging’ treatment on a rib roast, and I think it came out the best ever this year – rarified beef indeed!

I like rib roast or lamb for Christmas dinner, ham for Easter and turkey for Thanksgiving. But I am not one to be overly traditional, so if I have some duck or even a nice venison tenderloin, either would be more than satisfactory for such an occasion as Christmas dinner. This year, though, it was rib roast. I aged it for 72 hours following the method of Alton Brown. I have a leave-in digital meat thermometer and it served its purpose perfectly. We enjoyed a wonderful rib roast cooked rare/medium rare as our main course and I happily packed a decent portion back into the frig afterwards.

Apparently I also had my thinking cap on this Christmas as I made a pot of grits Christmas morning for my daughter and myself (Dear Hubby still insists he doesn’t like grits) and I made extra for grit cakes. Now, I use the term ‘cake’ loosely as the congealed, sliced grits are not at all the consistency of a cake and that’s just how I like them. I’ve had restaurant grit cakes that are heavier than mine, and can be used almost like a cracker…or a hockey puck. Personally I like grit cakes to taste great, not just serve as a miniature, flavorless ‘plate’ for holding toppings. So my grit cakes are not portable – they need to be served warm, on a plate them selves and accompanied by a fork.

So, I have my grit cakes and I have my rare, tender roast beef. I also saved the bacon drippings from the Christmas morning breakfast. Easy enough to pair the roast beef with some horseradish (and I have a jar in the frig!). What else would be delicious with this combo? I do have a hunk of Asiago in the cheese drawer…I wonder?

But I did more than wonder. I put myself back to work in the kitchen to make these ‘snackies’. Leftovers never tasted so good! But that is not the miracle.Read on…

Dear Hubby noticed the aroma of bacon and asked, “What are you making?” I replied, “Oh just something for the blog.” He then heard the frying pan sizzling and saw me shaving some Asiago cheese. As he sat down with a glass of ale from his growler (a gift from me) I asked if he was up for taste testing. He said, “Sure!” and I lifted a fork to his mouth, casually mentioning that there were grits involved. But it was to late for him to resist, as all the flavors on the fork were already melding together in his mouth. I heard him fight back a “yumm” type sound as I wistfully asked, “What do you think? Do you like it? Think it’s good enough for the blog?”

His reaction of “Yes, it’s good.”  but included little enthusiasm. In a few minutes I added, “I can make some more up on a plate…if you’d like.” Surprisingly he answered, “Okay.” I proceeded to make him two more small plates. As I sat eating a few bites myself, he added, “This is definitely ‘blog worthy’. It’s really quite good”.

So as my Dear Hubby scraped the last morsel off his plate I thought, “Christmas is truly a time for miracles!” After almost 8 years of the ‘no grits, no way, no time’ I’ve broken through the no grits barrier, once as stubborn as the overcooked, leftover grits in the bottom of a thin, aluminum pot.

These grits may be slathered in bacon grease and topped with tender beef and tangy Asiago, but they’re still grits… and as the state of South Carolina wrote in 1976 when grits was declared the official state food:

Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if, as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: ‘An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man* full of [grits] is a man of peace.’


As for me, I’ll take this little ‘miracle’. May the grits of peace be with you and happy holidays!

* or woman

dry aged rib roast

Here is the leftover dry-aged rib roast.

dry aged beef rib roast slices

Slice the rib roast when it is cold and then allow the slices to reach room temperature (or almost).

grit slices, grit cakes

Slice the congealed grits into about 1/2 inch thick slices. You could also use ramekins or even a large loaf pan. If doubling the recipe, use a lined and oiled jelly roll pan.Then just cut out squares of grits.

Brown the grits slices in bacon grease (or butter or a high heat oil like grape oil). However use a NONSTICK pan. Believe me, you'll be glad you did.  Also clear away children from the immediate cooking area and use a splatter screen!

Brown the grits slices in bacon grease (or butter or a high heat oil like grape oil). However, use a NONSTICK pan. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. Also clear away children from the immediate cooking area and use a splatter screen!

grit cakes

Gently turn each grit cake over and allow to brown. Remove to a warm platter or individual plates. Then add more grease/oil/butter, heat the pan and brown up the rest of the grit cakes.

creamy horseradish sauce

Mix mayo with prepared horseradish and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Use homemade mayo or store bought. Of course my store brand of choice is Duke’s.

warm grit cakes with rare roast beef, horseradish cream and asiago.

Once all the parts of this ‘snackie’ are assembled put it all together: grit cake, then roast beef, a dollop of horseradish cream and a shave or two of Asiago cheese. That’s it!

Sizzling grit cakes with roast beef, creamy horseradish, and shaved Asiago cheese

  • 2 cups cooked grits (see my recipe)
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 tbl bacon grease/drippings (or butter or grape oil)
  • tender roast beef – cooked medium rare to rare (rib roast, beef tenderloin), chilled
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tsp prepared horseradish
  • several cracks of fresh pepper
  • shaved Asiago cheese

Prepare grits per my previous recipe or as you see fit. The grits should be on the thick side (rather than thin and runny). Prepare two mini loaf pans, round ramekins or any container you think would make a good mould for sliced grits. Line pan(s) with foil and spray lightly with oil.

Pour half the warm, cooked grits into each pan and set in the refrigerator to congeal. Cover ad allow to cool completely – at least 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile cut small, very thin slices of beef from the cold roast beef. Set aside shaved roast beef to allow it  reach room temperature (or close to it). In a small bowl mix the mayo, horseradish and cracked pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount of horseradish to your taste. Set aside.

When grits have congealed, remove from the ‘moulds’ and slice into ½ inch thick pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon bacon grease in a non-stick sauté or frying pan to very hot (but not smoking). Add half the sliced grits and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until a nice crust has formed. Note that the grits will sputter and pop so using a  frying screen will help protect your arms and hands as tiny, sizzling hot grits will fly at you. Remove the grit slices to plates and keep warm while you finish frying the rest of the sliced grits with 1 more tablespoon of bacon grease (or butter or grape oil).

Plate this up with 3 slices per person as a first course: top each grit cake with roast beef, then a dollop of horseradish mayo and then a shave of Asiago cheese. Serves 4 with 3 slices per person. This recipe can be doubled.

Hindo’s holiday* black bean chicken chili satisfies.

in the bowl 1

Before that winter storm apparently closes down the top half of our country, run out and get the ingredients to make this chicken chili! It will warm you up from the inside out as you finish up holiday preparations and/or will be a simple reheat if all that ‘prep’ has you exhausted. This is chili for a crowd so a very large pot is required!

In my ‘burg it is a balmy 70 plus degrees this afternoon with sunny skies and a slight breeze, so I am guessing a white Christmas is not on the agenda for us again this year. Not a surprise in these parts! But to all those out there who will be rolling in the deep… deep snow, that is… I salute you. May your holiday be festive, your home be warm with comfort, and your chicken chili spicy!

* This chili is deemed “holiday” by use of red and green bell peppers, but freestyle it with any bell pepper color you like!

The ingredients for this chili - well almost. Missing are the stock/broth, the beer and the other large can of tomatoes. Oops!

The ingredients for this chili – well almost. Missing are the stock/broth, the beer and the other large can of tomatoes. Oops!

Cut the chicken into small chunks. I like to cut up the chicken when it's partially frozen, easier to evenly cut up, I think.

Cut the chicken into small chunks. I like to cut up the chicken when it’s partially frozen, I find it easier to cut up into an even dice like this.

After cooking the chicken, saute the veggies in more olive oil. So pretty and smells delicious in my kitchen!

After cooking the chicken, saute the veggies in more olive oil. So pretty and smells delicious in my kitchen!

Mix teh seasonings (like salt) , the spices and the teaspoon of sugar in a bowl. Add this to cooked veggies.

Mix the seasonings, the spices and the teaspoon of sugar in a bowl. Add this to cooked veggies.

I use black beans in this chili. Wash them in a colander and allow to drain for a few minutes before adding to the veggies with the tomatoes.

I use black beans in this chili. Wash them in a colander and allow to drain for a few minutes before adding to the chili mixture.

Add the broth and stir gently.

Add the broth and stir gently.

Here is the beer I used in this batch - a nice amber ale. Use your favorite.

Here is the beer I used in this batch – a nice amber ale. Use your favorite.

I realize you probably know how to pour beer into a pot...but this was such a good shot - you can almost smell the beer and spices wafting  in the air!

I realize you know how to pour beer into a pot…but this was such a good “action” shot. You can almost smell the beer and spices wafting through the air!

If your chili is sort of foamy looking at this point (like this!) do not worry. It will calm down soon.

If your chili is sort of foamy looking at this point (like this!) do not worry. It will calm down soon.

After simmering for awhile, the mixture thickens and the flavors concentrate. Time to add the chicken!

After simmering for awhile, the mixture thickens and the flavors concentrate. Time to add the chicken!

Simmer the chile for awhile longer and add the hot peppers. I've always felt that spicy heat  is a personal choice. Thus, I use fresh peppers to bring up the heat to my liking and offer condiments to accommodate personal heat and spice preferences.

Simmer the chile for awhile longer and add the hot peppers. I’ve always felt that spicy heat is a personal choice. Thus, I use fresh peppers to bring up the heat to my liking, and offer condiments to accommodate personal heat and spice preferences “in the bowl”.

The chili is ready! Remember to remove any hot pepper halves from the completed pot. If not some one may get a surprise in their bowl.

The chili is ready! Remember to remove any hot pepper halves from the completed pot. If not, someone may get a spicy surprise in their bowl!

Here's my own bowl - with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of smoked pepper sauce. Yum!

Here’s my own bowl – with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of smoked pepper sauce. Yum!

Black Bean Chicken Chili

  • 5-6 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast (cut into small cubes)
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 large sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 3 large cans (26.5 oz) black beans (about 6 cups) rinsed and drained
  • (2) 28 oz size cans fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • (4) 14.5 oz size cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 tbl olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock/broth
  • 2 bottles of good quality beer
  • 2-4 hot peppers (jalepeno, serrano, habernaro or your choice for the heat you like)

Spice & seasoning mixture:

  • 2 tsp. salt +
  • 2 tsp. adobo seasoning
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp ancho chili pepper – ground
  • 1 tsp. chipolte pepper – ground
  • 2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika (Spanish style)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Favorite toppings and accoutrements like pepper sauce, hot sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped onions, etc.

In a very large pot heat 2 tbl olive oil to medium high (not smoking). Add in chicken and cook, stirring every so often until all chicken is just cooked through. This will take about 10-12 minutes. You may also cook in two batches, dividing olive oil and chicken between the two.

Remove chicken to a platter or bowl and set aside in the refrigerator. Pour out any leftover juices from the chicken. Add remaining 2 tbl oil to pot and heat to medium. Stir in the garlic, onions and bell pepper. Stir mixture and cook on medium about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile mix all the spices and seasonings (and sugar) together in a small bowl. Uncover the vegetables and stir in the spices and seasoning mixture. Add in the beans. Stir. Add in the broth and all the tomatoes. Stir again. Bring up the heat to a simmer – this may take 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally. Leave lid off.

When heated and starting to bubble around the edges add the beer, stirring gently after each bottle is added. Keep heating the chili mixture at a simmer (not a rolling boil). Simmer at this temperature about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Turn heat down slightly and add chicken. Stir gently. Allow to cook, uncovered, for 30 more minutes. Meanwhile, slice the hot peppers in half and remove the seeds. Use gloves to handle the peppers, if necessary. Place as many hot pepper halves into the chili as you like. Stir. Allow to cook on low for 15 minutes, stirring gently every 3 or 4 minutes.

At this point taste a sample of the chili to see if it has the heat you like. If it does, remove the pepper halves and if it does not, leave them in for another 10 minutes or so before tasting again. You can repeat this step again if you like. When the heat is right, adjust the salt, if necessary, as well. Be sure to remove the hot peppers prior to serving unless you’d like someone to get a rather fiery surprise!

Serve in warm bowls with hot sauce, pepper sauce, sour cream, chopped jalepeno, onion, what have you…

This makes a whole lotta chili. Enough for at least 15 large bowls, but it freezes well up to two weeks and leftovers are very tasty too!

Holidays were made for caramel cinnamon rolls.

Since Santa arrives in less than 2 weeks I thought it appropriate to repost my favorite holiday breakfast recipe: Caramel Cinnamon Rolls.  Although I’ll make these for any gathering where breakfast is served to a crowd, there is nothing I enjoy more to nibble on while gathered ’round the tree on Christmas morning than one of these beauties, drizzled with warm caramel. They also make a good hostess gift as they freeze well too. Just remember to include  some of the caramel sauce, as that sauce truly makes this recipe shine. Happy 14 days ’til Christmas!

Honestly I can’t remember when I began making these cinnamon rolls. It’s been a long time, though. I fooled around with different recipes for years before perfecting this recipe. Well, I think it’s perfect, although some may have suggestions for improvement. Being a southerner, I love pecans so there’s plenty of those nestled throughout the cinnamon swirl, but feel free to leave them out or switch to walnuts or hazelnuts or what have you.

The true ‘secret’ of these cinnamon rolls is the caramel sauce. This sauce lifts the cinnamon bun above the ordinary breakfast roll… in my opinion it leaves the ones that are crowned with white icing in the proverbial dust. I like gooey and I like caramel and that combination soaked into every morsel of buttery cinnamon-laced sweet bread… this is my idea of heaven on a plate.

I’ve saved this recipe all summer waiting for fall to arrive. And while it’s still somewhat balmy here in the Lowcountry, we have been able to shut off the air conditioning and open the windows for the most part. With the scent of cinnamon and bread baking I deem it officially fall.

Ingredients include good quality cinnamon, a couple of eggs and my favorite, King Arthur Flour.

After dissolving the yeast, add a little sugar and then the eggs.

After whisking in the eggs, add the milk and softened butter.

Begin adding in the flour first with the whisk and then…

a wooden spoon. Continue adding in the flour to create a soft dough.

Here’s the dough ready to knead. Turn onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead 6-8 minutes. Then place in a bowl, loosely cover and allow to rise in a warm place (NOT hot ) until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile you can make the caramel sauce. In a heavy saucepan heat the water and sugar.

Allow the mixture to come to a boil but do not stir once it gets going. You can use a brush with a little water around the outside edges of the saucepan to brush down (melt) any crystalized sugar that forms.

Watch the caramelizing sugar carefully – don’t walk away. It can burn very quickly. In this image the caramel is almost ready, not quite, but almost…

Hey, it’s ready. Turn off the heat and time to add the butter…

The mixture will foam after adding the butter – keep whisking and…

Add the cream and the vanilla extract. Whisk some more and allow to cool before pouring into a covered container.

Now back to that dough…punch it down and…

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Brush with melted butter.

This part goes quick…sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Then add the pecans (if you like) and begin rolling up – along the long dimension.

When rolled you can use a touch of water to help “seal” the dough.

Slice the roll into relatively equal pieces. I find the easiest way to accomplish this is to slice in the center first, and then slice each piece in the center after that, until you have the size and number of slices you like. This recipe will make 12 nice sized buns.

After rising in a warm spot for about an hour, bake the rolls in a preheated 325 degree oven.

Remove the rolls from the oven and pour about half the carmel sauce over the top. Reserve the rest of the sauce for individual portions , or to top a bowl of ice cream! If only serving a few of the cinnamon rolls, I remove the rolls from the pan individually and then top each one with the sauce. But it’s a personal preference!

Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 pkg. plus 1 tsp dry yeast
  • ½ cup scalded and cooled milk (no less than 2%!)
  • ½ cup barely warm water (NOT hot)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups (plus extra for kneading) bread flour (or regular unbleached, all-purpose will work)
  • 1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided and softened
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl pour the water over the yeast, swirl to mix and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar and then add each egg, whisking after each. Pour in the milk and then 5 Tbl. of the softened butter. Whisk together – it will not be completely smooth. Mix the salt with the flour and add 1 cup of this flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Whisk to dissipate the lumps of butter. Keep adding the flour about a cup at the time and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.

When almost all of the flour is incorporated turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6-8 minutes adding small amounts of flour (1-2 teaspoons) as needed. I use about 1/3 cup of additional flour. The dough should not be sticky but smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl and allow to sit in a warm place (NOT hot) for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. If you like, you can store in the refrigerator at this point (prior to rising) overnight. Just be sure the dough is in an airtight container with room for expansion as it will rise some overnight, even in a refrigerator.

Once the dough has risen, roll out into a large rectangle on a flat, lightly floured surface. Approximately 18” x 13”. Brush 3 Tbl. of melted butter on the dough. Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the buttered dough. Then sprinkle on the chopped pecans. Brush one of the long edges of the dough lightly with cool water. Starting along the opposite long edge roll up the dough. Crimp the edge that has been brushed with water to seal as best you can.

With a sharp knife, cut 1” slices of the roll and place in a lightly oiled or buttered baking pan. Leave some space between the individual rolls. At this point you can cover the pan tightly with foil and freeze for up to 1 week. Or continue with preparing now. Place the bowl in a warm spot and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. They should double in size.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 25-30 minutes until browned. Cool slightly and serve with warmed caramel poured over the entire pan of rolls OR pour over each individually after you remove them from the baking pan. Makes 12  cinnamon rolls.

Note: For frozen cinnamon rolls, allow to defrost over night in the refrigerator. Then allow the pans of rolls to rise in a warm place and follow the instructions above.

Vanilla Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 Tbl. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extra

Have all measured ingredients assembled close by your stove. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the sugar with the water over high heat. Watch continuously – do not walk away. When the mixture boils do not stir but swirl carefully. You can also use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan if necessary.

The sugar water will begin to turn brown. When to your liking turn off the heat (remove from the heat) and add the butter. Stir and whisk in the cream. It will bubble a lot. Allow to cool and stir in the vanilla. This can be poured immediately over the baked caramel rolls or into a container, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 cup. Can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 5 days

Fruit tart with rum cream, chocolate and blackberries

rum cream tart

The recipe today reaches back, way back, for me. It combines many elements that I find appealing in a dessert… fresh fruit, a cookie or shortbread type crust, whipped cream and chocolate.  Honestly, this is a dessert that lends itself more toward a fancy ladies tea than anything else. Baked as small individual tarts and artfully embellished with various summer fruits it’s a pretty and pleasing sweet for a wedding or baby shower spread. And I have made it for that purpose in the past, but for a dinner party a big ‘ole tart works just fine and is much faster to put together. While there are several steps and I do end up using lots of bowls, spoons, spatulas and such, none of the techniques are difficult and the resulting tart (or tartlets) are very well worth any trouble.

My Dear Hubby just went bananas for this dessert, surprising me to be honest. I think the rum cream filling is superb and works well with many types of fruit. The added layer of chocolate  helps keep the pastry crust from becoming soggy and hey, who doesn’t like chocolate? But I will confess,  you can skip the chocolate layer if you so desire, just be sure to assemble the tart at the last moment or you’ll have a ‘soggy bottom’. And if you don’t care to glaze the berries that’s okay too – it  just makes the fruit shiny and pretty.

The biggest secret to this recipe is the fruit. Use the best fresh fruit you can find – so ideally this is a summer dessert here in the USA. However, we’ve been getting some very good, large blackberries and raspberries here at our local grocery, so while I splurged here in December, you (and Dear Hubby) reap the reward. Enjoy!

Rolling in or rather, out the pastry. This pastry dough is very buttery so it must rest in the refrigerator before being placed into action under the pin....

Rolling in, or rather out, the pastry. This pastry dough is very buttery so it must rest in the refrigerator before being placed into action under the pin….

Line the tart pan with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the bottom and side a with a fork. This will keep the pastry flat while it bakes. You can also use pastry beans/beads but the fork method works great for me.

Line the tart pan with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the bottom and sides with a fork. This will keep the pastry flat while it bakes. You can also use pastry beans/beads but the fork method works great for me.

Mixing the egg, rum and milk.

Mixing the egg, rum and milk.

Mix the egg/milk mixture into the "dry" mixture. Then cook this slowly over heat to get the rum pastry cream.

Mix the egg/milk mixture into the “dry” mixture. Then cook this slowly over heat to get the rum pastry cream.

Here the rum pastry cream is cooking and I am whisking (or stirring)  continuously. Once it just starts to boil, remove form the heat and...

Here the rum pastry cream is cooking and I am whisking (or stirring) continuously. Once it just starts to boil, remove from the heat and…

chill OVER ice water. Keep stirring or whisking until it is cooled. Refrigerate while you make the other parts.

chill OVER ice water. Keep stirring or whisking until it is cooled. Refrigerate while you make the other parts.

The layer of chocolate  acts like a barrier to the rum cream and fruit so the crust stays "crustier" longer.  Plus chocolate goes together so well with fruit like berries...

The layer of chocolate acts like a barrier to the rum cream and fruit so the crust stays “crustier” longer. Plus chocolate goes together so well with fruit like berries…

Pour the warm chocolate into the cooled crust. Use a spatula or back of a large spoon to smooth the chocolate layer. Refrigerate the tart at this point. It must be cool before adding the top rum cream layer.

Pour the warm chocolate into the cooled crust. Use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to smooth the chocolate layer. Refrigerate the tart at this point. It must be cool before adding the top rum cream layer.

Fold the sweetened whipped cream to the cooled rum pastry cream. You can stir in about a third of the whipped cream if the pastry cream is thick and heavy. Then fold in the remainder of the whipped cream.

Fold the sweetened whipped cream to the cooled rum pastry cream. You can stir in about a third of the whipped cream if the pastry cream is thick and heavy. Then fold in the remainder of the whipped cream.

Spread the finished rum cream on top of the chocolate layer of the tart. Now we're ready for those berries!

Spread the finished rum cream on top of the chocolate layer of the tart. Now we’re ready for those berries!

Top the tart with the fruit and brush with the glaze. You can also glaze each berry by dipping it in the glaze and then placing it on the tart. I think the former technique is easier, though.

Top the tart with the fruit and brush with the glaze. You can also glaze each berry by dipping it in the glaze and then placing it on the tart. I think the former technique is easier, though.

The whole finished tart.

The whole finished tart.

Here's a close up of the sliced tart so you can see the layers better.

Here’s a close up of the sliced tart so you can see the layers better.

Fruit Tart with Rum Cream and Chocolate

Pastry

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus extra
  • 1 egg white
  • 1-2 tbl cold water

In a large bowl stir flour with salt and sugar. Cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Stir in egg white and just enough water to make a dough. Gather dough and warp in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up until 4 hours. When ready roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and line a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick pastry with a fork many times and place back in refrigerator while the oven preheats to 400 degrees. Bake pastry crust 12-15 minutes, and cool in the pan placed on a rack.

Rum Cream

  • 1 tbl gelatin (1 packet plus a little more)
  • 2 tbl sugar
  • 2 tbl flour
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbl confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tbl rum
  • salt (dash)
  • ice water

In a sauce pan mix gelatin, sugar, flour and dash of salt. In a medium bowl whisk egg yolk, milk and rum until very well combined. Pout this into the gelatin mixture and heat slowly over low heat, whisking continuously. Turn up heat to medium and continue to whisk. Cook until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil. Remove from heat and set pan over ice water and continue to whisk until the mixture is cooled. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

In a mixing bowl whip the heavy cream and confectioners until peaks form and the cream is whipped. Remove the rum cream from the refrigerator and stir well –using a whisk if it has set. Fold sweetened whipped cream into the rum cream until well combined. Cover and refrigerate.

Chocolate Layer

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi sweet or bitter sweet – use your favorite good quality chocolate)
  • 1-2 tbl Crisco or other solid vegetable shortening

In a heavy bottomed pan or double boiler heat chocolate chips slowly, stirring as they melt. Add shortening and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth to your liking. Pour warm chocolate into cooled tart pastry and spread to smooth. Refrigerate 15-20 minutes or until chocolate filling is completely cool. Spoon the rum cream on top of the cooled chocolate. Refrigerate.

Glaze and Assembly

  • 1 pint fresh berries* (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination) washed and dried
  • ¼ cup light colored jelly, jam or preserves (apricot, peach, persimmon, etc)
  • 1 tbl water

In a small saucepan heat jam and add the water. Stir. Remove from the heat and set aside. Place fruit on the tart evenly and/or in a pattern if you like. Brush each berry with the warm glaze, careful not to drip the warm glaze on the rum cream. Alternately, you can brush glaze on each berry and then place the berries on the tart.

Serve immediately or can be held in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour or so. Makes 10-12 servings.

*Top the tart with whole berries to avoid a runny tart. Sliced fruit will drain onto the rum cream and while it will still taste fine, it may make a messy dessert, especially when sliced.

Breakfast of champions (and busy moms everywhere): cereal muffins

on the plate

So I’m calling this week: “comfort and joy”, rolling into mid week with this recipe for simple cereal muffins. Not counting the prepackaged ‘masterpieces’ I created in my Easy Bake Oven, making muffins from cereal was most likely the first actual edible food I ever baked (or roasted, sauteed or what have you). Being I am, ahem o-l-d, we had two kinds of cereal in my childhood home – either Raisin Bran and some super sugary preservative laden stuff. Back then, anything considered ‘healthy’ was also considered ‘hippy’ so not to be found in my parent’s house, that’s for sure…

The latter type cereal surely came with a highly touted  (and cheap!) prize of some kind, which my brother most certainly had already fished out as soon as he spied the box in the pantry. For me, it was usually Raisin Bran all the way – it tasted delicious even to an 8-year-old me, but I had no thought that bran might actually be good for me too. These days I sometimes still enjoy a bowl of Raisin Bran – no other  bran with cereal will do, mind you! And if I feel like making muffins, I can always make easy, tasty ones with just a few additional ingredients. Oh, and I hope this recipe isn’t too “Sandra-esque” in it’s semi-homemade fashion…I figured since this recipe goes back way before the Food Channel, it’s ‘grandfathered in’…safely ensconced from any Bourdain-like criticism. Okay? Have a good day, my friends.

Probably have all these items in your frig. Well, maybe not the preschool sized cup of applesauce but hey, just use 1/2 cup from the big boy jar.

Probably have all these items in your frig. Well, maybe not the preschool sized cup of applesauce but hey, just use 1/2 cup from the big boy jar.

Mix the wet ingredients, well everything but that applesauce.

Mix the wet ingredients, well everything but that applesauce.

Add that egg mixture to the cereal, stir and allow to sit a few minutes.

Add that egg mixture to the cereal, stir and allow to sit a few minutes.

I find when making muffins its best to mix everything together at once. Here is the cereal mixture, applesauce and dry ingredients ready for a few stirs.

I find when making muffins its best to mix everything together at once. Here is the cereal mixture, applesauce and dry ingredients ready for a few stirs.

Whoaaaa there, don't overmix. That will make the muffins heavy and 'tough". And nobody wants tough muffins - tee hee hee...

Whoaaaa there, don’t over mix. That makes muffins heavy and ‘tough’. And nobody wants tough muffins…tee-hee-hee.

Fill the muffin tin. I use paper liners -no muss, no fuss!

Fill the muffin tin. I use paper liners -no muss, no fuss!

Here they are, hot from the oven. This recipe will make about 8 or 9 regular sized muffins.

Here they are, hot from the oven. This recipe will make about 8 or 9 regular sized muffins.

Cereal Muffins

  • 2 cups cereal with flakes – I used Great Grains, crunchy pecan, but Raisin Bran is great too
  • 1 cup all purpose or white wheat flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk (low fat or whole)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 4-oz cup apple sauce with cinnamon (about ½ a cup)
  • 2 tbl Demera or white sugar
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp salt

In a large bowl pour the buttermilk over the cereal and stir just to combine. In a separate bowl whisk the egg, agave nectar, and the oil. Add this to the cereal/buttermilk mixture. Stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In another bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add the cereal/liquid mixture and the apple sauce to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Do not over mix! Fill prepared muffins cups (use liners, I do!) and bake for 15 minutes. Makes about 8 to 9 medium/large muffins.

Down home goodness with braised chicken with leeks

Braised chicken with leeks on the plate

Now that almost two weeks has passed since the big turkey feast, it seems that poultry may be back on the menu for some. While I enjoyed our turkey (brined to perfection I may add!) and I will surely be grateful for the stock I made over 8 hours out of the carcass, the bird, of the genus Meleagris, will be the last served at our house for a while. I am not one to roast a turkey other than for Thanksgiving mainly because the inevitable overload of leftovers allow us all to get our fill, tackling any possible “craving” for roasted turkey for a good six months, if not until next November. However, we are back to partaking in a bird of a different feather – chicken.

Personally I like to buy and prepare whole chicken for the most part. I have some decent knives, I know the technique required to properly cut up a whole bird so there’s no reason not to. I also prefer organic or “natural” (hormone and antibiotic free) chicken so buying whole birds and preparing them myself is less expensive too.

Since the time change, and as cooler weather approaches here in the Lowcountry, its time for comfort foods like soups, stews, and all manner of slow cooked goodness. There are several Southern specialties that fall into this category. Maybe you’re heard of some of these and wondered, what the ??? Here are four of which I am familiar:

  • Bog: Typically a chicken bog that includes smoked sausage and rice in its ingredient list. This is a “South Carolina thing” for sure. Similar to a “pilau” but well, more “boggy”, and less “highfalutin”. Usually made for a crowd this pairs well with an oyster roast (and beer) on a cold night.
  • Pilau: Also called ‘purloo’ and pronounced PER-low. Specifically associated with Charleston, (also in South Carolina) with rice as a central ingredient and incorporating chicken or shrimp as the protein, the typical celery and onion duet and perhaps, okra and tomatoes. Basically fancy ‘chicken and rice’. The main difference in this and a bog is that the rice is fluffier (drier?).
  • Burgoo: My experience with this is at Derby parties as it is typically a Kentucky dish or in the least folks from that state have taken ownership of this concoction made from “whatever the good Lord provided” – venison, squirrel, game birds, raccoon or opossum. This is a thick stew and it is said a good burgoo should be able to have a spoon stand up in it. The ones I’ve tasted included lima or butter beans and corn plus a good kick of heat.
  • Brunswick Stew: Tomato based and includes chicken, but historically rabbit and/or squirrel were utilized in this stew. Includes lots of veggies like corn, okra and lima or butter beans as well. Versions and bragging rights for formulating this stew run the Southern gamut from Brunswick, Georgia into North Carolina up to Virginia. I see this served quite often these days as a side to barbeque in NC and Virginia. But not in SC – sacrilege!

In my home state we serve another distinctively South Carolina dish called ‘hash’ with our barbeque (along with coleslaw, potato salad and brown or red rice, perhaps). But hash deserves its own post so I’ll leave that for another day…

While my recipe for braised chicken with leeks is neither a bog nor a burgoo nor a pilau, it is quite tasty nevertheless and relatively simple. The good Carolina girl I am serves this with fluffy rice – and lots of sauce spooned over the top.

Be sure to wash the leeks well as sand gets stuck between the stalk/leaves. No one likes gritty braised chicken!

Be sure to wash the leeks well as sand gets stuck between the stalk/leaves. No one likes gritty braised chicken!

Fresh pork sides or better known as "belly". Yum.

Fresh pork sides or better known as “belly”. Yum.

I really like that Montreal Seasoning - both the chicken and the steak varieties  are very good.

I really like that Montreal Seasoning – both the chicken and the steak varieties are very good.

Drain the cooked pork belly on paper towels. You can top each serving with a few of these or use them in crackin' cornbread or... if you're like me just sneak a few as a cook's treat.

Drain the cooked pork belly on paper towels. You can top each serving with a few of these or use them in crackin’ cornbread or… if you’re like me just sneak a few as a cook’s treat.

Brown the dredged chicken in the pork belly drippings. It took two batches for me as I have a very large Dutch oven.

Brown the dredged chicken in the pork belly drippings. It took two batches for me as I have a very large Dutch oven.

After browning the chicken and removing it to a hlding plate or platter, wipe out the Dutch oven. Then melt the butter in the pan and add the leeks and the whole garlic cloves. Sprinkle with flour.

After browning the chicken and removing it to a hlding plate or platter, wipe out the Dutch oven. Then melt the butter in the pan and add the leeks and the whole garlic cloves. Sprinkle with flour.

Add the stock and heat to a simmer or low boil stirring constantly.

Add the stock and heat to a simmer or low boil stirring constantly.

Add the browned chicken back to the Dutch Oven in one layer.

Add the browned chicken back to the Dutch Oven in one layer.

After braising in the oven, looks and smells so delicious.  Remove the chicken carefully to a warmed platter. The platter should also be somewhat deep to hold all the delectable sauce!

After braising in the oven, looks and smells so delicious. Remove the chicken carefully to a warmed platter. The platter should also be somewhat deep to hold all the delectable sauce!

Here the sherry goes into the sauce on the stove top. Boil a few minutes, turn down (or off) the heat and add the cream.

Here the sherry goes into the sauce on the stove top. Boil a few minutes, turn down (or off) the heat and add the cream.

Pour the sauce over the warm chicken (you did keep it warm, right?). Serve at once with biscuits or crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the warm chicken (you did keep it warm, right?). Serve at once with biscuits or crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

Braised Chicken with Leeks

  • 2 leeks, washed thoroughly and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cut-up chicken (or a combination of breast, thighs and wings and legs) extra skin removed
  • 2 slices pork belly (or side), chopped into pieces
  • 1 tsp Montreal chicken seasoning
  • ½ tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • ¼ tsp ground thyme
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbl all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cream sherry
  • 1 1/2 tbl butter
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
  • ½ cup light cream (half & half)
  • fresh cracked pepper

In a small bowl mix the Montreal chicken seasoning, tarragon, thyme, sage and ½ tsp salt with the flour. Set aside. In a large, heavy pan or Dutch oven cook the pork belly until crisp. Remove and drain the cracklings on paper towels.

Heat pork drippings remaining in the pan. Dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour mixture. Brown chicken well in two or three batches in the drippings. Remove chicken to a platter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wipe out the Dutch oven and melt the butter in the pan. Sauté the leeks and garlic in the butter until soft, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tbl of flour and cook another minute, stirring often. Add 3 cups stock, stirring or whisking to combine. Bring up to a low boil and carefully add chicken pieces back into the pan so the chicken is in one layer. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and several cracks of black pepper (or about 1 tsp ground pepper).

Cover and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover, turn chicken pieces, and reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and place back in oven for another 25-30 minutes. Remove chicken to a large, deep platter and cover to keep warm. Place Dutch oven back on the stove top and heat remaining pan sauce, adding sherry and stirring to combine. Allow to bubble and simmer about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add the cream, stirring to combine. Pour sauce over chicken and add more cracked fresh pepper over the top if you like. Serve immediately with fluffy brown or white rice or broad noodles. If your cholesterol is in check, top each serving with a few of the leftover pork belly cracklings’ if you like. Serves 4-6.

Ramblings: “All In” at Palmetto Bluff’s Music to Your Mouth.

Hugh Acheson’s (Empire State South in Atlanta) roasted Caw Caw pork belly with woodland fermented carrot and radish, kimchi, sorghum soy lime vinaigrette and “Anson” benne. Caw Caw is an ‘artisan’ pork producer in St. Matthews, SC.

Fall is an awesome time of the year to be in Bluffton, South Carolina! Not only is it the season for oyster roasts and all manner of outdoor activities, when the calendar rolls over to November then it’s time to gear up for Music to Your Mouth (MTYM) at Palmetto Bluff. Attending the Culinary Festival during this week-long event is an honest-to-goodness gift of the highest order, if you are, like me, a foodie.

Music to Your Mouth is now in it’s seventh year of laser-focusing attention on all things delicious and Southern set against the wild, beguiling beauty of Bluffton’s May River and environs. And being the good neighbors they are, MTYM dedicates a portion of ticket sales to local non-profit Second Helpings, who distributes food destined for landfill to the disadvantaged in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton Counties in South Carolina.

Chef Acheson’s visual recipe explains the genius behind this great concoction…

During the week leading up to the crescendo of the Culinary Festival (and afterwards too) there are food-centric events like a “foraging cruise” nearby Daufuskie Island, a cooking class with James Beard award-winner Chris Hastings and a floating cocktail party aboard the resort’s circa 1913 yacht, dubbed the “Stink & Drink”. I love that name!  Add in the annual Potlikker Block Party and the Kiss the Pig Oyster Roast and you’ll find that the “best sips, swills, sweets and savories in the south” and the most “talented local and regional chefs and artisans” are to be found at MTYM.

The bacon “forest” complete with sweet and savory porkalicious offerings.

Not only that, but this year there was even a “bacon forest” – I am not joking people! The Culinary Festival also included a veritable king’s cellar of fine wines and spirits for the sampling and cooking demonstrations by the likes of celebrity chefs Kevin Gillespie, Mike Lata, Sean Brock, Hugh Acheson and Ashley Christensen. Southern Foodways Alliance director and all-around Southern food enthusiast, John T. Edge, hosted all proceedings for the day.

Even with all the regional chef-celebrité under the tent it was exciting to see local favorites Orchid Paulmeier (One Hot Mama’s), Ted Huffman (Bluffton BBQ) and Matt Jording (Sage Room) bring on the creativity. Ted’s creamy, smoky pork barbeque with traditional crunchy slaw started my culinary tour off right! Orchid kicked it up with her “Lowcountry sushi” and Chef Jording’s duck with microgreens and crisp sesame noodles was perfection on a plate.

Chef Chris Hastings

Chef Chris Hastings and his wife, Idie, hard at work under the big tent. In the two years I lived in Birmingham I could not make it to his restaurant, Hot & Hot Fish Club (dang it!), but I do have his cookbook, which is excellent by the way!

Other favorites were Chris Hastings lamb with quinoa and Craig Diehl’s paté wrapped in pastry. I am not exaggerating when I state that everything I tasted was over-the-top fantastic. However, I will go out on a limb or rather a palm frond, and pin my top taste “award” of the day on Chef Sean Brock (Husk & McGrady’s restaurants in Charleston, SC) and his ‘apple salad’.

At first glance this plate deceivingly presents a few crisp apple slices with what appears to be black sawdust on top. Huh? Just dig in with a fork… and surprise! There’s local lump crabmeat nestled underneath the black butter (not saw dust!) and thin apple slices, lightly drizzled with delicious hazelnut oil and circled with a trace of bright green tarragon puree. Managing to get a bit of it all in one bite, it was in two words: extraordinary and sublime, all at once. Chef Brock, you did it, again. If my mouth could swoon then it just did… and I’ll be trying to figure out how to make black butter for the next month.

Chef Sean Brock’s FABULOUS apple “salad” with fresh lump crab, hazelnut oil, a trace of bright green tarragon puree and that unusual black butter. It was great.

Once again the Music to Your Mouth Culinary Festival delivered the goods – in every way possible, I may add. If you’ve never been, its a unique and wonderful foodie experience like no other, and if you have, then lucky you! Either way, may the foodie Gods (and the fine folks at Palmetto Bluff) hold another fabulous MTYM in 2013. Count me all in!

Bacchanalia (Atlanta) served a yummy hand pie with hot pot likker consomme – great on a cold day as it were. Some more table “art” too. Chef Anne Quatrano participated on the chef’s demonstration stage and was quite the card. It’s refreshing to know these “celebrity” chefs don’t take themselves or their “art” too seriously!

Jeremiah Bacon, The Mcintosh

Jeremiah Bacon’s clam filled ravioli with pine nuts and kale. His restaurant, The McIntosh, is located down the road in Charleston, SC.

The Sage Room (Hilton Head Island) and chef Matt Jording hit all the perfect notes with his duck dish – served with micro-greens and sesame ‘crispies’.

All that great food and libations were accompanied by river front scenery and some live music fitting for the day. The columns you see are the remements of tabby ruins and some brick work from the original home on the property.

The big tent at the Culinary Festival is perched adjacent to the May River and the Inn at Palmetto Bluff. Don’t be put off by the Orvis and Burberry clad “Garden & Gun” set. At this event you’ll find a veritable foodie paradise where you can actually meet some of the best chefs in the South. Ask questions too… they love that!

Down But Not Out: Nutella Cake with Dark Chocolate Baileys Irish Cream Glaze

Nutella cake with dark chocolate Irish cream glaze

Hi Ya’ll. Projects have kept me away from southbyse.com for a while but now I am ready to get back to the blogosphere. Thanks for hanging with me! Since my last post there has been a “super storm”, election mania, and a bizarre scandal unfolding within the CIA, FBI and military.

It’s all enough to make me want to sit down and eat a huge hunk of chocolate cake! Add a tall glass of cold milk and ahhhh….now then, that’s better.

While Nutella is not a Southern concoction, it does produce a wonderfully moist and fine textured cake – both hallmarks of traditionally “southern-style” cakes. I made this one in a sheet pan keeping it all casual, but this recipe could easily be baked in 2 layers. Spread half a cup of raspberry jam in between the layers, pour the glaze over top, and sprinkle on some toasted hazelnuts for a fabulously impressive holiday dessert. Or eat it plain, sans the glaze. It’s all good.

This cake batter comes together quickly once you get your ingredients out and measured.

Add the Nutella to the batter. Nutella is made with hazelnuts and chocolate.

The batter is ready. It will be light and fluffy but thick.

Spread the batter into a prepared 9″ x 13″ pan. I butter and flour the pan and also line with parchment – better safe than have the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan!

Here is the baked cake, cooling a bit. Now make the glaze…

Simple ingredients for the glaze. This is so easy and so awesome you will not buy pre-made chocolate glaze again.

This is the chocolate I used – very rich and “chocolate-y”. Use whatever brad you prefer. I also like Scharffen Berger and Callebaut, which is sold in big hunks at Whole Foods if you’re lucky to have one close by.

Slowly melt the chocolate with the cream. Use a double boiler, or a very heavy saucepan. If you have never melted chocolate before I recommend using a double boiler and remember to go s-l-o-w!

Okay, the chocolate has melted, the sugar was added and there was a lot of stirring (or whisking).

Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the butter and the Irish Cream.

Poke holes in the cake in a regular pattern (a metal or bamboo skewer works well for this) and then pour about half of the warm glaze over the top of the cake.

Allow the cake to sit a little bit, then cut into squares and serve with a spoonful more warm glaze over the top. Add a sprinkle of hazelnuts – or not – and enjoy!

Nutella Cake with Dark Chocolate Baileys Irish Cream Glaze

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup Demera sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup of milk (at least 2%)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup Hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl or on parchment. Beat the sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs (one at a time) followed by the Nutella. Gradually add the dry ingredients alternately the milk. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Spread the mixture into a greased and parchment lined baking pan. I used a 9” x 12”. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes. The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack while you make the glaze

Glaze

  • 4 oz chopped unsweetened chocolate, good quality
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbl sugar
  • 2 tbl unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream

In a very heavy saucepan or double boiler. Melt the chocolate with the cream over very low heat. Stir until the chocolate is melted – this may take 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Keep stirring (or use a whisk) the mixture over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. This is very important! This may take another 10 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil or come near boiling. It should be very warm but not super hot. Once you are positive the sugar has dissolved, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time stirring and whisking. Remove from heat and stir in the Bailey’s.

To assemble:
Using a skewer, poke holes into the warm cake in intervals – not too many – about every inch and a half. Pour about half the warm glaze over the cake.

Slice into serving sized squares and top with more a few chopped hazelnuts and more glaze if desired.

Note: leftover glaze should be covered in an air tight container and refrigerated. Makes a great ice cream topping too!

Pumpkin bread revved up with pecan rum streusal

pumpkin bread with pecan rum streusal

Hey, it’s Fall so that means apples and cinnamon and pumpkin. This recipe features two of those ingredients plus that Southern favorite, pecans, and a touch of rum. You could punch up the “ya’ll” factor by switching out the rum for bourbon if you like. Of course the alcohol evaporates out of the pecan streusal, so the residual flavor is what’s important here, thus use a good quality bourbon like Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark or your favorite small batch whiskey.

This pumpkin bread utilizes canned pumpkin too so it’s easy-peasy, but feel free to prepare fresh pumpkin if you like. I am not sure what the outcome may be using fresh due to the varying water content of pumpkin – but I’d love to know how it works out if you do try it. So please let me know!

I hope you enjoy this “bread” that is more like a coffee cake – it’s especially nice with a cup of hot coffee or tea for breakfast or a big cold cup of milk at snack time.

To start the streusal filling melt the brown sugar and water in a saucepan.

Once the sugar dissolves, add the chopped pecans and stir.

Add in the rum (or bourbon) and stir again.

This is ready so remove from the heat and allow to cool while you mix…

Mix the other streusal ingredients together in a small bowl.

Add in the ‘revved’ up pecans, stir and set aside while you make the pumpkin cake batter.

First though, let me introduce you to my new tube pan. It has been buttered and lightly floured. So pretty!

In a bowl or on a piece of parchment paper mix the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl mix the oil and sugar and then add in the eggs, one at time. Beat well.

Here’s the pumpkin, use whatever brand you like. I wondered exactly how much was in this can so…

I measured it and it was just under 2 cups. So if you use fresh pumpkin you have a better gauge than guessing the ounces needed.

Back to the cake…add the dry ingredients into the oil/sugar/egg mixture.

Then stir in the pumpkin.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and the top with the streusal.

Pour the rest of the batter on top and pop the pan into the preheated oven.

After about 50 minutes the bread comes out the oven looking great – smells great too!

Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack.

yummy pumpkin bread with pecan rum streusal

This is a moist ‘bread’ with a sweet, crunchy streusal surprise inside.

Pumpkin Bread with pecan rum streusal

Streusal filling

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed plus 1 tbl. brown sugar
  • ½ heaping cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbl flour
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 2 tbl water
  • 1 ½ tbl dark rum (or good quality bourbon)

Cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup all purpose)
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. mace or nutmeg
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 can pumpkin ( or 1 2/3 cup cooked  fresh pumpkin puree) Do not use pumpkin pie filling!
  • 3 eggs

In a skillet melt 1 tbl. brown sugar and whisk in 2 tbl. water. When sugar is dissolved add in the pecans. Stir, turn up the heat slightly and add in the rum. Cook on medium heat about 1 minute or so. Keep stirring, do not allow to burn. Remove from heat and set aside while making the streusal. In a medium bowl mix all other streusal ingredients, adding in pecan mixture last. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift the flour and then measure. Mix the flour, flax, spices, salt and baking powder together. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat the oil and sugar then add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each. Add in the flour mixture and then the pumpkin.

Grease and lightly flour a tube or bundt pan*. Pour approximately ½ the batter into the pan, spreading if necessary so it is even. Sprinkle or spoon the streusal mixture evenly on the batter, avoiding getting too close to the outside edges. Pour the rest of the batter over the streusal, covering it completely. Bake for approximately 60 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack and invert onto a serving platter.

* Use 2 traditional prepared loaf pans if you like. Pouring ¼ of the batter in each pan, ad the streusal and top each loaf with the remaining batter. Cooking time would be reduced to approximately 45 minutes.

To brag or not to brag – that is the question…

My advertorial appearing in the November Bon Appetite magazine (page 118 to be exact). It’s about biking and dining on Hilton Head Island, SC.

“Make him stop Mom! He took the lollipops and licked them both! He took mine!” I exclaimed, stomping out the room.

Another ‘fight’ among siblings, echoing many that took place in my childhood home between my brother and me. My younger brother and I were at constant battle for several years arguing over every thing from who got to watch what on television to who broke all of mother’s fancy beeswax candles. Funny thing was that on more than one occasion, even when I was most assuredly in the right, the episode ended with me bawling my eyes out over my brother receiving his stinging punishment.

Like a tiny Sybil I would go from telling my brother to “stop it!” and pleading for my parent’s intervention only to get it…and then cry even louder as my brother was marched out to choose his own punishment from the infamous “switches bush”. At the time I remember thinking, “Why am I crying?” and to this day I have no idea, but obviously it still sticks in my mind. I was relieved to no longer be “picked on” but curiously, not happy that my brother was being punished, either.

So when I was told that an advertorial I was writing as the Hilton Head Island Foodie Vibe Blog (one of my paying gigs) was going to be in Bon Appétit magazine, I was, needless to say, thrilled. I’ve been a BA fan for many years and to get my name in print in this, a national food magazine; it’s a big deal… I think.

But, and here’s where my “Sybil” personality steps in. Do I tell people? I mean my southbyse.com followers and fellow bloggers? My Facebook friends? Will I seem like a braggart? After all, it’s an advertorial, not an editorial, so is it really anything to be that excited about? Yes, I wrote the advertorial. Yes, I’ve enjoyed eating at the restaurants I mention. Yes, that is my name in print.

Maybe I care too much about what others think of me or question if I can live up to anything positive that (I hope) people think about my writing and my blog projects. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”, so I’ve got that taken care of for today, apparently.

But yes! I will be excited and try not to be scared of the critics out there in cyberspace. And while I did not break any of my mother’s candles and the switches bush has long been pruned away, I still argue with my brother – over which kind of cranberry sauce is better with Thanksgiving turkey or the correct temperature for smoking a pork butt.

Let’s just say the blogger in BON APPETITE wins – for now at least!

PS. In this issue there is also an excellent article on preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, including my preferred method – brining.  If you’d like to ‘practice’ this method before your big turkey day fête, try my tea brined chicken recipe.

The food nerd strikes again with classic apple pie.

Once a food nerd always a food nerd. I am making this statement with this particular apple pie recipe because with it I won two blue ribbons at the South Carolina State Fair…in the junior category when I was 16 and then in the adult division when I was 17.

Needless to say, I was very proud of this accomplishment, but not enough to EVER tell any of my friends at the time, lest it get out into the general population of my high school. In those days, and actually to this day in my soul, I was what would be considered a wallflower. If I could blend into the background I was comfortable, which became tricky as I grew to a height of 5 foot 10, towered over all the boys, and sported the typecast Irish/Welsh look of ultra pale skin, freckles and thick red hair.

Even as I got older I tucked my ribbons away, dreading any mention of “the blue ribbon winning apple pie” that would surely be revealed to every boy I dared bring home. In my family of cooks it did give me a boost in confidence especially around my mother, who is a very fine baker in her own right.

We tried for years to get her to enter her superb caramel cake (my favorite) or her billowy, 4-layer coconut cake in the State Fair. But she never would, she’d just say, “It would be wasteful. You know they take one slice and then the rest of the cake just sits there… and rots.” If there’s one thing my mother is NOT, its wasteful. Long before being green was hip (like 30 years ago!), we (lovingly) called her the “original recycler” as she insisted we rinse out and reuse every plastic Ziploc bag and save all the aluminum cans to take to the local metals salvager.

Nothing was safe from the ‘original recycler’. I can still see my dad rummaging through a waste basket at the insistence of my mom, searching for pantyhose (women, even girls wore pantyhose back in the 70’s and 80’s, people) and then seeing all manner of lady’s unmentionables propping up row upon row of tomato plants and runner bean trellis in our garden. Ugh.

But in all truthfulness I do now use old tights to prop up my own tomato and pepper plants, so for that Mom and Dad, I salute you. But I still don’t ante up to the blue ribbons – well at least until now, I suppose. They reside somewhere at the family homestead – dusty and disintegrating in an old metal frame. Next time I’m there, maybe I’ll look for them and show them off to Girly Girl, who now proudly proclaims herself to be my “little sous chef”. Good girl, good girl.

I do have a “secret” ingredient to this pie, proclaimed to the world here for the first time ever, and it is… molasses. Actually when I won the blue ribbons all those years ago I had 3 secret ingredients…one was the molasses, one was the apples I used which were hand picked from a family-owned orchard in Easley, South Carolina and the last, the pièce de résistance was…

my Father. Dressed in his work suit and tie, he hand delivered the pie first thing in the morning, fresh baked and toasty from the oven. It was the first pie tasted. I’m not saying that this necessarily had any influence what so ever, and I do like to think this recipe is “award-winning”, but that pie was delivered warm and my Dad, well, he was a very charming man…

Obviously the apples are very important in this pie. I like to use a combination of McIntosh and maybe Granny Smith, but this year Michigan lost 90% of its apple crop so no McIntosh… these were organic Fugi and Yellow Delicious, the latter not usually a pie-making apple but I added a couple for their great apple-y flavor.

Sliced apples soaking in the lemon water.

Mix the sugars, the spices and the cornstarch (2 tablespoons).

Toss the sugar mixture with the drained apples.

The apples sit for awhile. Feel free to stir them, gently, a couple of times. After awhile you’ll get a sort of syrup in the bottom. This is a good thing!

Spoon the apples into the prepare crust – but NOT the syrup. How do you like the smiley face spoon? Borrowed from Girly Girl…

Time for the ‘secret’ ingredient – molasses. Use whatever brand you like, but get the unsulphured kind.

Add the molasses, flour and cornstarch to the ‘syrup’. Stir well or use a whisk.

Pour the molasses mixture over the apple slices as evenly has you can. When it heats up it will all come together in the crust so don’t stress about this!

Top with a full crust, like I did here, or use a pretty lattice crust, whatever you like. You can also brush on an egg wash and sprinkle with Demera sugar for a fancy bakery look.

Out of the oven and lookin’ good. Allow the pie to cool some for easier slicing.

Here’s another shot of a slice on the plate. So perfect with vanilla ice cream – good homemade apple pie tastes like Fall to me!

Apple Pie

  • 6-8 large apples (about 3 lbs), washed, peeled, and cored
  • ½ lemon
  • Ice water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbl flour
  • 2-3 tbl cornstarch*
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbl molasses
  • egg wash, if desired

In a large bowl squeeze the lemon into several cups of ice water. Slice your apples and place in the water. Stir the mixture around as you continue to more apple slices. This will help the apple from turning brown. When finished, stir once more and drain the apple slices in a colander. Pat dry if necessary.

In a small bowl mix the sugars, spices, 2 tbl. cornstarch and salt. Pour the drained apple slices back into the large bowl and sprinkle the sugar/cornstarch mixture over them, stir gently to coat. Allow the apples to sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.

If I have pastry crust to make this is when I make it.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees ahrenheit . After the allotted time, stir the apples and see that the juice from the apples and the sugar mixture has created a ‘syrup’. Stir the apples again and spoon them, but not the ‘syrup’, into the prepared pie crust.

Add the remaining tablespoon of cornstarch*, the flour and the molasses into the ‘syrup’. Stir or whisk. Pour this mixture over the apples evenly. Cover the pie with the top or lattice crust and crimp the edges. If you like, brush the crust with an egg wash.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 45-55 minutes or until the apples are cooked through and the filling is bubbly. Remove to a rack to cool. Slice and serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes 8 deep-dish slices or 10 regular size portions.

* I added in 1 extra tablespoon cornstarch to compensate for the using the Yellow Delicious apples, which tend to contain more moisture than classic pie making apples.