Simply South Carolina Peach Pie

on the plate 1

Summer in South Carolina means peaches. From roadside stands to supermarkets, this delectable fruit graces our shelves and palates from early June straight through to September.

South Carolina is #2 in the nation in peach production (second only to California). No hurt feelings to any Georgia natives out there, but we lead all southern states – including Georgia! – we are fondly called the “Tastier Peach State.” As a matter of fact, the peach is SC’s state fruit.

This pie recipe brings me back to my childhood growing up in Columbia, SC and lazy summer nights on the ‘Bluff’ with my family and our extended family of cousins and neighbors. Throw in a fish fry with bluegills caught that day, hot homemade hushpuppies, cold slices of watermelon and an evening of firefly catching (plus some tall tales told by my dad and uncle) and to me that is what childhood should be like.

I’ve heard that one can immerse a peach in boiling water for a few seconds and the skin will slip right off. Has anyone out there ever tried this? I’d love to know how it worked for you. I sort of enjoy peeling fruit (yes, I admit it) and am actually good at it if I do say so myself – fast and accurate, removing the peel without much fruit attached. I am also fairly good at removing a whole peel in one piece. But that trick works better for apples than peaches…

Anyhow, while I love a good marinade or barbeque sauce infused with peach flavor, peach ice cream and an occasional fuzzy navel (brunch, people!) my favorite way to eat a peach is either fresh out of hand or in a pie. Homemade peach pie is one of those desserts that requires little accoutrement either in the pie itself or served along with it, in my humble opinion.

The secret to really great peach pie is: Don’t muck it up with a bunch of spices, additions or worse, odd sauces served along side. If you have a flaky, buttery pie crust and perhaps a dollop of quality vanilla ice cream you’ve got a winner. Let the peaches speak for themselves!

Lovely, fragrant SC peaches. Our abundant rain has made the peaches larger than normal and I found them very flavorful nonetheless.

Lovely, fragrant SC peaches. Our abundant rain has made the peaches larger than normal and I found them very flavorful nonetheless.

Cups of fresh peeled  peaches... squeeze on some fresh lemon juice.

Cups of fresh peeled peaches… squeeze on some fresh lemon juice.

Gently mix the peaches with the dry mixture of sugar, cornstarch and salt. Next roll out your pie crust and fit to the pie plate.

Gently mix the peaches with the dry mixture of sugar, cornstarch and salt. Next roll out your pie crust and fit to the pie plate.

Pour the peaches into the pie shell and ...

Pour the peaches into the pie shell and …

Add the top pie crust . I like a lattice crust peach pies - so pretty and allows me to better gauge when the pie is ready to come out of the oven.

Add the top pie crust . I like a lattice crust peach pies – so pretty and allows me to better gauge when the pie is ready to come out of the oven.

Here we go! Right out the oven and wow it smells good. It's tempting to dig right in, but be warned... slicing a hot or warm pie equals a runny pie. If you do not care, I say go for it! Otherwise, allow to cool almost completely (or refrigerate) before slicing.

Here we go! Right out the oven and wow it smells good. It’s tempting to dig right in, but be warned… slicing a hot or warm pie equals a runny pie. If you do not care, I say go for it! Otherwise, allow to cool almost completely (or refrigerate) before slicing.

South Carolina Peach Pie

7-8 medium to large peaches, preferably SC
Juice of ½ of a fresh lemon (no seeds!)
2/3 cup* Demera sugar or regular cane sugar
½ tsp salt
3-4 tbl cornstarch
Pie pastry for a double crust
Egg wash, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the peaches and slice. You should have between 4 ½ and 5 cups of sliced peaches. Taste one slice to determine sweetness and juiciness. If peaches are very sweet you can decrease the sugar by 2 to 3 tablespoons. If the peaches are really ripe and juicy use 4 tablespoons of cornstarch, if they are not 3 tablespoons should suffice.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the peaches and gently stir to distribute. In a small bowl mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Pour this over the peaches and stir gently.

Place the bottom pastry in a 9-inch pie pan. Reserve the other pastry for the top crust which you can cut for a lattice top, or use whole (cut slits in top if using a whole crust). Pour the peaches into the pie pan and top with the crust.

In you wish, make an egg wash out of one whisked egg yolk and a tablespoon of water do this and brush over the crust (I did not use an egg wash on this pie). Bake in the preheated 400 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is soft and the pie is all bubbly. The egg wash can make the crust brown quickly so if that happens cover the edges of the pie with some foil.

Cool for at least 2 hours before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Note that placing the pie in the refrigerator will allow the pie filling to thicken – if you slice while warm it will most probably be runny…

Serves 8… or maybe 4 peach pie fanatics… or maybe just one depending on the severity of your peach love!

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

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

Cornbread: plain & simple

There are basically two kinds of cornbread, sweet or savory. Being a South Carolina girl I was raised on the traditional, southern-style unsweetened type. My mother made cornbread and corn muffins quite often especially in the fall and winter. Or if she was making certain other dishes like her wonderful vegetable soup or catfish stew or hoppin’ john – there must be cornbread being baked to soak up all that good stuff in the botttom of the bowl. I love my cornbread with a heaping helping of homemade, spicy chili or better yet, a brimming bowl of seafood gumbo.

I don’t think I ever tasted sweet cornbread until I was in college. I remember thinking that’s pretty good, but… “Shouldn’t it be served at breakfast?” It was so much like a bakery muffin I was hoping for a cup of coffee to go with it.

And just like the sweet versus savory preference, most folks I know have a favorite recipe or likewise, acknowledge someone who “makes the best, ever!” In my family this would be my mother, of course. I love her cornbread. Maybe it’s the old cast iron skillet or the brand of cornmeal she uses, but hers always tastes the best. For years I have tried to duplicate her heaven-sent cornbread, but to no avail. Mine was always too dry or tasteless or hard or greasy or (insert something negative here). Well, up until today’s recipe…

After conferring with my mama once again, I challenged myself to yet another round of cornbread disappointment but, lo and behold, this go ‘round came up with a winner. It’s moist and light with a soft crumb but also a nice crunchy crust around the outside. This is thanks to my mother’s special hot grease technique – genius!

Yes, it’s still savory – no sugar – but I add in corn cut off the cob for extra texture – some nice folks dropped some fresh, local corn off at the husband’s office this week – yahoo! Yes, this recipe does call for rendered pork drippings but with only 1 egg, no sugar and healthy canola/olive oil, I think that the insalubrious factor, i.e. bacon/jowl grease, is canceled out.  I’d like to think that anyway, because the flavor it adds, along with the fresh corn and tangy buttermilk, make this recipe g-o-o-d.

Ingredients for some good cornbread. Notice the “smart balance” oil … and also the sliced “hog jowl”, much like fatty bacon. Also the black cast iron skillet – well seasoned and it’s only about 20 years old…ha-ha!

Hog jowls…not that familiar but they worked out great. Not too salty but they provided just the right amount of fat for my cornbread. Bacon… or ‘pork belly’ would work well too. If you want to be really nutritionally naughty, chop these up after cooking and add them back to the batter with the corn kernels. Remember: you did not get this tip from me…

Whisk the buttermilk into the egg. I used “full strength” buttermilk but light or low fat will work just as well.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg/buttermilk mixture.

Add the oil mixture (oil plus leftover pork grease) to the batter. The grease/oil should be room temperature so the egg in the batter will be safe from ‘cooking’. After a good stir, add the corn kernels and a few cracks of fresh pepper and you’re ready for the hot skillet.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet.

The hot skillet may sizzle when you add the batter and it will most likely start to curl and cook around the edges, like its doing here. That’s a good thing.

Bake in a HOT oven (450 degrees) for 5 or 6 minutes and then reduce the temp to 425 for another 14 or 15 minutes. Do not over bake.

Out of the oven…looks good, smells great!

We have a winner! Finally a cornbread worthy of my cast iron skillet!

Cornbread: plain & simple

  • 1 ½ cup self-rising cornmeal (good quality like White Lily or Adluh)
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 slices of bacon or 4 slices smoked hog jowl
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk (whole or light)
  • 2/3 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Oil (vegetable, canola or mixture)
  • Pepper, preferably fresh cracked

In a heavy ovenproof skillet – preferably cast iron – cook the bacon or hog jowls on medium high heat until the fat is rendered. Remove the meat and pour the remaining grease into a heatproof measuring cup. Add enough vegetable oil to make just under ½ cup.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl or piece of wax paper stir together the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk the egg with the buttermilk until well combined. Add 3 tablespoons of the grease/oil mixture back to the skillet and place the skillet in the preheated oven.

Complete the next tasks post haste. The oil/grease in the skillet is heating but you do not want it to smoke or worse, burn so work rather quickly. Add the flour/cornmeal mixture to the buttermilk/egg mixture. Stir in the remaining oil mixture and then the corn. Add a few cracks of fresh pepper and stir again. Carefully remove the hot skillet form the oven and pour the batter into the hot oil. Place the hot skillet back in the oven and bake 5-6 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake an additional 14-15 minutes until the cornbread is baked through. Do not overcook. Cool on a rack for a minute, slice, and serve.