Simply South Carolina Peach Pie

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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!

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Back in the saddle with some old fashioned summer shortcake…


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The saying goes that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” may or may not be true for everyone but when it comes to my southbyse.com blog, I agree wholeheartedly. I am happy to be back blogging and cooking!

I decided it would also be a good time to ‘refresh’ the site a bit too. The new background photo is of an old homestead on Edisto Island, SC – one of my family’s favorite places to spend time, doing nothing – or as close to that as we possibly can! We happened upon this sight when out exploring one afternoon.

Nestled in perfect contentment among a large overgrowth of field and wood, what was once a Lowcountry beauty still radiates a shabby luster in the waning days of a long Southern summer. I seriously wanted to venture in toward the house, but my fear of the Eastern Diamondback, poison oak and deer tick kept me smartly along the roadside. Perhaps if our paths cross in cooler weather I’ll don steel-toed boots, bug repellent, and some courage to check out this place closer. We’ll see.

My recipe is perfect for summer – shortcake. The streusal-like topping adds a subtle twist elevating every mouthful well above the traditional shortcake ,and waaaaay past any ‘off the shelf’ cake. With the abundant weather (rain) experienced this summer in the South we are enjoying a bonanza of local fruits and berries. While it may be past strawberry season most places (except in the Blue Ridge perhaps), there are plenty of plump blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to be found. Peaches make a delicious filling too, so use your favorite or create a combination!

This recipe serves a crowd and makes a lovely presentation when filled whole, but you can also serve as individual shortcakes by creating slices (like I did) or bake in a muffin tin. This shortcake is also a good ‘make ahead’ dessert as the cake stays moist and tender for up to three days – just wrap in plastic after it cools and refrigerate. Allow the cake to sit out and come to room temperature before filling and serving. And by all means use real whipped cream – anything else (well maybe, besides homemade custard) would be a travesty!

The best fruit of summer deserves the best shortcake…don’t you think? 

Mix the streusal topping in a separate bowl. It should be crumbly.

Mix the streusal topping in a separate bowl. It should be crumbly.

Begin the 'cake' by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.

Begin the ‘cake’ by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.

Mix all the premixed wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, similar to making muffins or a quick bread.

Mix all the premixed wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, similar to making muffins or a quick bread.

Press the 'cake' into the prepared pan.

Press the ‘cake’ into the prepared pan.

Top with the streusal and pop into the preheated oven.

Top with the streusal and pop into the preheated oven.

After about 20 minutes you'll have shortcake! Allow to cool on a rack before slicing and splitting open - fill with fresh berries, fruit and whipped cream!

After about 20 minutes you’ll have shortcake! Allow to cool on a rack before slicing and splitting open – fill with fresh berries, fruit and whipped cream!

These luscious beauties deserve a great shortcake and real whipped cream!

These luscious beauties deserve a great shortcake and real whipped cream!

Another shot of tonight's dessert. A little bit of heaven on a plate...

Another shot of tonight’s dessert. A little bit of heaven on a plate…

Best of Summer Shortcake

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbl sugar plus extra
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tbl baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt (fine)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup buttermilk (non fat or light)
  • 3-4 cups of fresh fruit, washed and sliced if necessary (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches all work well but use your favorite – or a combo!)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a small bowl mix the brown sugar, ¼ tsp salt and ½ cup flour. With a pastry blender or fork cut in 4 tablespoons butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease one 9-inch square (or round) baking pan. In a large bowl mix remaining flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, ¾ tsp salt, and baking powder. Cut in ½ cup butter until mixture resembles small peas or course crumbles. In another small bowl whisk the egg and milk. All at once stir the egg/milk mixture into the flour /butter mixture and mix until just combined.

Spread this into the prepared pan and sprinkle on the streusel topping. Bake about 20 minutes. Do not over bake. Allow shortcake to cool slightly on a rack and then carefully remove from the baking pan to cool completely on the rack. At this point you could also wrap the cooled shortcake in plastic wrap to finish later.

Prepare your fruit – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches are wonderful or a combination. You may sprinkle extra sugar on your fruit if you like. In a separate mixing bowl whip 1 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside or keep chilled in the refrigerator.

After the shortcake is completely cooled and when you are ready to serve, carefully cut large squares* of shortcake and using a serrated knife spilt each piece of shortcake in two. Place the bottom piece on an individual plate, top with some fruit and a small dollop of whipped cream, cover with the top piece of shortcake and add more fruit and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

*Alternatively if you used a round cake pan, you may use slices OR split the entire cake in half and prepare the whole shortcake using all the fruit and whipped cream. This works great and is quite the showstopper if you are serving a crowd.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe: Best of Summer Shortcake

Parting is such sweet sorrow: Peach Upside-Down Cake

Not to brag too much but I have a farmer’s market in my neighborhood on Friday afternoons. And even though it is sometimes difficult to find a real farmer at this “farmers market” (it is very small and tends to have more resellers of produce and/or ‘artisans’ selling non-food wares), I did come across some of the last local peaches of the season here. They were plump SC grown peaches and I could not pass them up even though they cost, ‘gulp’, about twice what they did a couple of weeks before.

Not that my waistline needs it, but I felt like these fresh peaches, most likely my last of 2012, deserved to be eaten with some pomp and circumstance. I’ve been itching to make something “upside down” too, thus peach upside-down cake was birthed. Inspired by a recipe in my Fannie Farmer Cookbook, I set about testing this cake recipe and lo and behold it came out great on the first try. This never happens for me, I must confess. Usually it’s at least twice before I get it just right and deem worthy to share on southbyse.com

I would imagine that this basic technique and cake (adjust the spices) would work with any firm or semi-firm fruit like apple, apricot, pear and maybe even fig (if you can get them). Apples and pears may also require pre-cooking … perhaps on the grill? That would add an interesting twist.

This cake was also fun to make with the assistance of Girly Girl and she was astonished when I told her we would be flipping the cake upside down to get it out of the pan. I think she was even more surprised when she tasted it and decided that it was indeed ‘good’.

The last of the summer peaches got a fitting send off nestled in this rum and brown sugar infused butter-cake, served warm and topped with a dollop of real, homemade whipped cream. Farewell sweet, delicious South Carolina peaches…until we meet once again… next July.

Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside, while creaming the butter and sugar in the mixer and preparing the butter/rum/sugar topping.

Sliced, fresh peaches.

Mix the rum into the brown sugar and add the softened butter.

Spread this rum/butter/brown sugar mixture into the springform pan.

Place sliced peaches over the rum/butter/brown sugar mixture.

After creaming the butter and sugar together, add the eggs, mixing well after each. Mix in the vanilla extract.

In a food processor or with a hand blender puree the remaining peaches with the buttermilk and 1 tablespoon rum.

Mix the buttermilk/peach puree into the creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture alternating with the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter (it will be thick) over the sliced peaches.

Ready for the oven!

Allow the baked cake to cool for only a few minutes, then remove the sides of the springform pan then…

…place your cake platter or serving plate over the cake and…

carefully flip everything right side up. Remove the springform pan bottom.

Voila! Peach upside down cake. I like mine warm topped with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

I topped it all off with a dash of nutmeg too!

Peach Upside-Down Cake

14 tbl butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tbl. dark rum
4 large ripe (but not over-ripe) peaches (about 2 ½ cups sliced)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then measured
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. ground coriander
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees. In medium bowl mix 6 tablespoons melted butter with the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons rum. Pour this into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (wrap the bottom of the pan in foil to catch any sugar/butter that may leak out the bottom). Arrange about 2 cups of the peaches over this mixture. Set aside.

In a mixer cream 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) of butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, beating the mixture well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix well.

Sift flour, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In a food processor or blender puree the remaining peaches, buttermilk and remaining 1 tablespoon rum. Add this to the sugar/butter mixture and mix well. Mix in the flour mixture.

Pour the batter over the peach slices in the springform pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until center is cooked through.

Remove to a rack but while cake is still very warm run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the side of the pan and invert onto serving platter. Remove cake pan bottom. Serve warm with whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Winner, winner…sticky toffee banana pudding – for dinner?

Have you been enjoying the London Olympics? Our family is burning the mid-night oil this week, viewing much more television that normal. How about that Gabby Douglas? Not to mention Missy Franklin and world-record setting Rebecca Soni – it’s been exciting to see our teams do so well this time  and during this Olympiad sharing the excitement with our 4-year old has been a treat. Yes, we‘ve let her stay up late to watch. Perhaps we’ll pay for that after another week (when she’ll go back to a normal bedtime), but the summer games are only every 4 years, so what the hay?

I remember seeing many spectacular moments as I watched the games throughout my childhood. Let’s see… Mark Spitz winning 7 gold medals and setting 7 world records, Nadia Comaneci awarded a perfect 10 for her uneven bar routine and the 1996 ‘Magnificent Seven’ winning gold in Atlanta. I was very lucky to attend the games in ‘96 and although I did not get to attend any gymnastics I did go to some diving, baseball and celebrate at the Warsteiner Village with some refreshing Premium Verum and Dunkel.

This time around I am enjoying seeing the sights around London and remembering the trip I made there several years ago with two of my sisters. Cudos to the London Olympic Committee and the all British travel professionals because I really want to go back now. During my previous excursion, our accommodations were a pretty flat located very near Buckingham Palace that boasted a terrace view of Big Ben. We took in many of the regular touristy sights (love that British Museum as well as the Tate) and saw the show “Chicago!’ (ironic to see it in “London!”), visited Greenwich (of ‘Mean Time’ fame) and had several delightful meals around town including lunch at The Ivy, where we lucked into a reservation at a moment’s notice.

As I remember all three of us ordered à la carte and everything we ate (and shared) was quite good. Being a foodie-type person even then, I had done my homework and knew something about The Ivy and it’s fabled sticky toffee pudding. As stuffed as we were from our entrees and as one sis left to work (that’s we were able to tag along on the trip), my other sister and I hunkered down for dessert. I was not leaving without that sticky toffee pudding! In fact, I think I inquired if they had it on the menu that day before we were even seated.

Needless to say the pudding was more than I had hoped for, it was rich and dense and gooey with toffee/caramel flavor. It was simply fantastic. I’m pretty sure I rolled myself back to the flat for a power nap afterwards.

My new purpose in life was to recreate it, once I returned home. I found The Ivy recipe and had fun making it a few times for dinner parties, telling anecdotes from my trip to London and The Ivy. Over the years I have played around with the original recipe, making additions occasionally and reducing the serving quantity. Honestly it is a very rich dessert, so a little goes a long way.

It’s my small homage to the Brits and London, in particular. Here’s to you London for being a great host of the games this time around. Nice to see you on the telly, but I do hope to visit again in person. Cherrio!

Use good quality, pitted dates and ripe bananas.

Mix the oil and sugar in a mixing bowl.

After the butter add the eggs one at a time. Mix well, scraping the bowl if necessary.

Add the flour mixture to the egg/oil/sugar mixture. Then add the vanilla extract.

Add the pureed dates to the batter. You can see the consistency is chunky but moist since soaking them in the hot water.

Here’s the batter as I stir in the dates and banana. Almost ready for the baking pan!

Pouring the batter into the prepared pan.

The baked pudding. Leave it in the pan because we are going to smother it in ooey, gooey toffee sauce!

This toffee/caramel sauce is so easy to make. Melt the butter with the brown sugar over low heat. Add the cream.

Next turn up the heat but keep stirring. Bring to a simmer and when the mixture starts to foam remove from the heat. Sir in the vanilla extract.

Using a skewer poke holes in the pudding in an even pattern. Pour about half of the hot toffee sauce over the pudding. Allow to ‘soak’ at least 15 minutes before serving.

Another shot of the finished sticky toffee banana pudding. Yummy!

Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding

  • 1 cup pitted dates, rough chopped
  • 1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tbl. butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe caramel toffee sauce (see below)
  • ice cream, whipped cream or crème fraiche

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter a 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.

In a bowl place dates and pour boiling water. Allow mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Place dates and soaking water in food processor and chop until fine – almost a puree but with keeping some small bits. Add the baking soda and set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat vegetable oil and sugar. Add melted butter and mix. Add egg one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix in vanilla extract and stir in the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed 1-2 minutes, scraping bowl. Stir in dates and banana.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20-23 minutes or just until the center of the pudding is not jiggly in the center. Do not over bake. Remove pudding to a rack to cook – but leave in the pan! Make the caramel toffee sauce (below).

Using a skewer punch holes across and all over the top of the pudding. Pour half of the hot caramel toffee sauce over the pudding so it soaks in for at least 15 minutes. Cut warm pudding into squares, top with a dollop of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche. Drizzle a spoonful (or two!) of caramel toffee sauce.

Make 6-9 servings. Store leftover pudding, covered, in the refrigerator.

Caramel Toffee Sauce

  • 2/3 cup  dark brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tbl. butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, heat the butter with the sugar over low heat. Add the cream and stir. Increase heat to a simmer and keep stirring. When the mixture begins to foam, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour half over the pudding & reserve other half for serving with individual portions of the pudding. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Feel the love with ‘perfect’ carrot cake!

I simply adore carrot cake. It is neck-in-neck with my mother’s caramel cake as my absolute favorite cake. Carrot cake is moist, it is sinfully rich (especially with cream cheese frosting), and you can enjoy it for breakfast and no one will give a second look. Its main ingredient is a vegetable AND most carrot cake recipes are both straightforward and simple.

There’s no down side – well maybe my backside (!) – after eating too much cake. That being said, carrot cake is also a wonderful cake to share…at a picnic or a potluck or at the office. Coffee klatsch time! However, I have made an observation or rather, have a question about men and carrot cake. In my experience, they don’t seem to care for it, at least not overtly.

Now my dear hubby will eat a piece or two of my carrot cake – even eat a slice of leftover cake (I think its better the next day) of this own free will. But he would never order it in a restaurant or request that I make it – ever. I’ve never heard a man say, “Alright! Carrot cake! Can’t wait to have a slice.” Or utter anything to that effect – like I have heard women, with passion in their voices, say many times.

Do men not like carrot cake? Like I said, when presented with a nice big fresh hunk most I know devour it. So what’s up with the lack of carrot cake love, men? Is eating a vegetable in a dessert off-putting for you? Or are carrots in cake form not considered “manly”? Is there some secret anti- carrot cake ‘man-law’? Inquiring minds would like to know. Enlighten me to your take on men’s blasé attitude toward carrot cake… please.

I call this recipe “perfect” because it is my perfect carrot cake – no raisins, no coconut and no pineapple. I do like nuts – either pecan or walnuts in my carrot cake. And I also shred my own carrots, preferably whole ones – not the mini carrots as I find them too watery for cake. The credit for this fine recipe belongs to Marian Morash and her Victory Garden cookbook. My copy was published way back in 1987 (newest version published 2010) and yes, it is based off the PBS television series. It’s an excellent cookbook and I have made many wonderful recipes from its pages. If you ever come across a copy I suggest checking it out!

Ingredients for the perfect carrot cake.

In this recipe, fresh carrots make a difference so shred your own. The Cuisinart makes quick work of it.

Making the batter is easy: first mix together the sugar, oil and eggs…

Then just add in the flour mixture.

Last, stir in the shredded carrots and chopped nuts.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan. This recipe allows one to use a variety of pan sizes. You can even make cupcakes with this batter, just use cupcake liners.

After baking, cool on a rack. I made it easy on myself and simply frosted the cake in the pan I baked it in. But you can use a tube or bundt pan or make three 8-inch layers.

To make the frosting start by creaming the butter and cream cheese. Then add in the confectioners sugar about 1 cup at a time.

After adding about 3 cups of sugar add the flavorings of lemon juice and vanilla extract. Add more confectioner’s sugar a little at a time until you get the consistency you prefer.

This is my preferred consistency – creamy and spreadable but thick enough to hold up in the humidity that can blanket the South.

Spread the frosting over the cake and you’re done. Now time for a piece with a big glass of milk!

Perfect Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground mace
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease either a 9” x 13” baking pan, a 10-inch tube/Bundt pan or (3) 8-inch round cake pans.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat together the sugar and the oil. Gradually beat in the eggs and then the flour mixture. Stir in the carrots and then the nuts. Pour in the batter and tap on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the 45-50 minutes for the baking pan, 50-60 minutes for the tube pan, and 25-30 minutes if baking in the 8-inch pans. If you insert a toothpick in the center of the cake and it comes out clean it is done. If it comes out with batter on it, it’s not… so keep baking and check again in 5-8 minutes.

Cool cake on a rack. If using the tube pan or the 8-inch rounds, cool 15 minutes and then invert and remove from the pan. Cool and frost with classic cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (8) oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tbl. butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream the butter and cream cheese. Slowly add in confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time until you’ve mixed in 3 cups. Add in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Add more confectioners sugar a tablespoon at a time until the frosting is at your desired consistency.

Note: If you are making a 3-layer cake you may prefer more frosting. I suggest using 12 oz of cream cheese, 6 tablespoons butter and 6-7 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Also increase the lemon juice to 1 tablespoon.

Real Southern-style Banana Pudding.

Hey, it’s summer and it’s sizzling here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. We have family down for a long weekend and we’ll all be heading to our historic town for their annual festivalapolooza… the “Beaufort Water Festival”. Actually it will be the first one I’ve attended, so I’ll be checking out the vibe and get back on the blog with some insider’s information and a recap. It lasts 2 weeks with events and different things going on every day. Should be fun if we don’t all melt in the heat but hey, that’s July in the South so it’s par for the course.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for a Southern favorite, banana pudding. It utilizes my Mama’s southern custard recipe with the addition of homemade whipped cream plus vanilla wafers, bananas and a surprise meringue topping. The meringue is not my original idea. At last year’s Music to your Mouth Festival, I encountered the banana pudding from Crook’s Corner (Chapel Hill, NC). What made it the bees knees was this meringue topping, so hats off to them for actually adding a new twist to this old favorite. I would say the key to banana pudding is the homemade custard and the vanilla wafers. I always use Nabisco “Nilla Wafers” and I would never even bother making it unless I had homemade custard. Does that make me a banana pudding snob? Then guilty as charged.

The ingredients for authentic banana pudding. I cut off the image so you can”t see the confectioner’s sugar and the cream of tartar at the bottom. Sorry about that!

Fold the whipped cream into the chilled custard – makes it just that much richer.

First layer the wafers in the bottom of the serving dish.

Then spoon on the custard and the banana slices. Then repeat the entire process.

Make the meringue with egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar. Whip it all until stiff peaks are formed.

Spread the meringue on a greased piece of parchment on a baking sheet.

After baking a few minutes you get a crusty sweet topping for your ‘nanner pudding.

Close-up of the finished, plated pudding. A cool and rich dessert perfect for summer.

Southern-Style Banana Pudding 

  • custard – 1 full recipe’s worth (see below), chilled
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tbl. confectioners sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 3 tbl. sugar
  • 2-3 large bananas, ripe but not brown
  • vanilla wafers

In a mixing bowl whip the cream until frothy, add the confectioner’s sugar and continue to whip until fluffy. Fold into the custard.

In a large and deep baking dish layer layers vanilla wafers to cover the bottom. Spread ½ the custard and add a layer of sliced bananas on top of that. Repeat the layers. Cover and chill until just before ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whip the eggs whites with the cream of tartar until frothy. Continue to whip the egg whites, adding the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until the meringue is light, fluffy and hold it’s shape when the beaters are lifted.

Lightly oil or butter a piece of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Spread the meringue on the parchment and bake until lightly browned – about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and scoop immediately to top individual portions of the banana pudding.

Note: If you are serving a crowd and expect all the banana pudding will be eaten you can spread the meringue on top of the chilled banana pudding and bake the entire pan at once.

Custard

  • 3 large eggs, well beaten
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 quart of whole milk
  • 2 tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan or double boiler, scald the milk and allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl mix the sugar and flour. Whisk the sugar/flour mixture into the eggs. Make sure this mixture is well incorporated and smooth. Spoon or scoop out about ¼ cup of the egg mixture and quickly whisk this into the scalded milk. Repeat and mix well.

Place the milk back on the heat and whisk the remaining egg/sugar mixture into the milk as it heats. Keep whisking and heating until the mixture come almost to a boil and coats a spoon when it is dipped into the hot custard. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. *Allow to cool slightly and place in the refrigerator.

Cover the slightly cooled custard with plastic wrap that touches the top of the custard. This should prevent a “skin” from forming on top of the custard.

Fantastic butterscotch brownies make the flax seeds go dowwwn…

It’s fascinating how the human mind works. I wanted to post a recipe for butterscotch brownies, which is a childhood favorite of mine. I also want to find ways to make rich bakery treats like these, less caloric or at least healthier.

So I made these and tweaked my Mom’s recipe including adding some ground flax seed. Then I started thinking about how one can add or remove ingredients, change a recipe a little and make something wonderful better for you, many times with just a subtle difference.

In writing this post, the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” from the movie Mary Poppins, ‘popped’ into my mind… “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go dowwwn”.  Adding or altering to make the-not-so-appetizing “go down”.  This lead me to think about playing the “favorite all time” game with my husband or friends. The topic of movies is an easy one.  Mary Poppins is one of my top three movies – along with Out of Africa and wait for it, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a movie our family loves – no sugar required to make the humor in this one “go dowwwn”. Fox Searchlight Pictures.

My criteria is that I can watch the movie over and over again, without getting sick of it – well, with a limit of maybe once or twice a month a month, for years. If I can watch and enjoy it that often, then it is great. Another movie that is creeping up to the top of the pops is Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, it’s chocked full of adult humor and witty repartee, it is also a clean movie and even our 4-year-old loves it – although she is clueless over why we are both chuckling most of the time. It’s good like that. Looking back it should have been named “best picture” of 2009… in my opinion.

Now dear hubby is a movie buff. He knows a lot about movies, old and new, with a particular fondness for science fiction and old classics like Lawrence of Arabia. Me, I can be content with viewing a movie relaxing on the couch at home, but he loves a real movie experience, i.e. going to the theater, eating popcorn, etc. I admit I do enjoy this too, although between the prices of the tickets and the snacks, our authentic movie theater “experience” is going the way of the dodo. I can wait awhile until the movie comes to blue ray or on-demand cable, thank you very much. We save the authentic and expensive movie experience for actual, great movies we truly want to view on a big screen, not a poorly written, awfully acted romantic comedy or special effects-laden bomb with no plot.

So you ask, what about those butterscotch brownies, huh? I got off on a tangent… see how the human mind works? Or maybe it’s just my human mind. Sigh. These butterscotch chewies remind me of childhood summers… picnics at the lake, fish fry’s in our backyard, and taking turns swinging in the hammock at the beach house. And while they’re certainly not “Mrs. Bean’s Famous Nutmeg Ginger Apple Snaps”, the inclusion of healthy flax seeds makes this snack just that much more, well, fantastic. Here’s hoping Mr. Fox would agree…

Straightforward ingredients including just 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of butter. I used light brown sugar but the dark brown variety will work too.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom medium-sized sauce pan. We mix everything in this sauce pan except beating the eggs and milk together first.

This is a good recipe for young cooks and bakers – my daughter can break the eggs (no shells, either!) and whisk in the milk.

Once the butter/sugar mixture has cooled and the egg mixture has been incorporated, we add the flour mixture and those ground flax seeds.

After adding the vanilla and nuts (I like walnuts), pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Pop into a preheated 350 degree oven to bake about 25 minutes. Hint: Check after 22 minutes or so just in case your oven bakes fast – you don’t want to over bake these. They should be ‘chewy’.

…and soon enough you’ll have these gooey, delicious brownies. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan (that is elevated on a rack) and then cut into bars. Like chocolate brownies these travel well…for picnics, cookouts, tailgating.

Butterscotch Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbl. vanilla
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tbl. ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 9 x 13 pan with shortening.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat and stir in sugar. Stir until edges bubble, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes. Mix together the flour, salt and baking soda.

In a mixing bowl whisk eggs and milk until well blended. Using the whisk quickly add in a little of the warm butter/sugar mixture in the egg mixture. Then whisk the egg mixture back into the butter/sugar mixture. Beat until very well combined.

Add in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 23-25 minutes. Do not over bake. Allow to cool on rack for 5-10 minutes before cutting into bars.

Something delicious this way comes… blueberry streusel cobbler

Hey there, it’s blueberry season across the USA ya’ll. Blueberries are my favorite fruit and I am always on the lookout for new delicious ways to make use of them, especially in the summer when they are fresh. Of course, they lend themselves best to desserts and baked goods and that’s how I first enjoyed them as a kid. Being Southern I also have a love for that most quintessential of southern desserts, the cobbler.

I enjoy a cobbler of the crispy, pie crust like variety as well as the more gooey, cakey type. My favorite recipe of the latter is probably well known to you if you’re a southern cook, as the “1-cup cobbler” recipe. Over the years I have taken this recipe, played with some of the ingredients and created a variation I find perfect for blueberries. This goes together in a snap.

It works well with blackberries too or a mixture of both. Top it with a big dollop of real whipped cream, good quality vanilla ice cream or for an authentic taste of the south, homemade vanilla custard (which I posted a few weeks ago).

Ingredients for this recipe plus the baking dish I use.

The streusel topping is made by mixing 4 tablespoons softened butter with the oatmeal, some Demera sugar, flour, cornmeal, a little salt and allspice. It will be crumbly.

Melt the butter right in the baking dish (and use the preheating oven for energy efficiency). Add in the sugar, the flour mixture and the vanilla.

The cobbler “mix” is also crumbly before adding the milk.

Add the milk and stir but do not over mix. There will be some lumps.

Blueberries go on top, looks like I missed a tiny piece of stem. Oh well, good for digestion!

At last the streusel topping goes…on top!

Out of the oven. Serve immediately. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap or foil and store in the refrigerator. You could also prepare this in individual portions by using small ramekins (should fill about (8) 1/2 cup size) and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Blueberry streusel cobbler

Streusel topping:

  • 4 tbl. unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 2 tbl. cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose four
  • ½ cup Demera or light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. allspice

Mix all ingredients together. The topping will be crumbly. Set aside while you make the cobbler.

Cobbler:

  • 6 tbl. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 ½ -2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe streusel topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together. Melt butter in an ovenproof baking dish and stir in the sugar, flour mixture and vanilla extract. It will be crumbly. Stir in the milk until just mixed together – it will have lumps. Top evenly with the blueberries and then sprinkle streusel on top of that. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or custard.

Rolling in the deep: luscious, comfy custard

When cooking is your hobby and food a passion, epiphanies occur often. I’ve had a fare share of epiphanies throughout by life with the crux usually involving food, somehow. Understanding that most kids in this country did not have a big backyard garden or meals regularly featuring venison, quail or shrimp – provided by their own family members, as I did – was a surprise and an important insight. It’s also a point of guilt for me, when I remember how I begged my mom to buy Chef Boyardee that I had seen on television or tried at one of my school friend’s houses during a “spend the night party”.

I would complain in a whiny tone, “But why does everything we eat have to come from the garden? I want canned food!”,  I would exclaim. My heart sinks a little when I think of this now. I was so very lucky to have parents who not only knew how to raise their own food, but who loved gardening and home cooking and imparted that knowledge and love into their children.

My mom was (and is still) a wonderful home cook, but her claim to fame is her baking and dessert making. A classic dessert that was always to be found in our refrigerator, especially in the summer, was custard. I guess in some parts of the world this would be called ‘boiled custard’ but in our extended family, we just say ‘custard’ and everyone knows what you’re talking about. As I got older and understood a few of those epiphanies, I realized that lots of people had never had the pleasure of this luscious, homemade comfort food. What a shame.

My family eats custard plain, with fresh fruit, as an accompaniment to cakes and pies, as the pudding in banana pudding, and the pièce de résistance, as a base for making homemade peach ice cream! No July 4th holiday was complete at my house without peach ice cream. Since there was an abundance of free labor (5 kids in my family and at least another dozen or so between cousins and neighbors) the hand cranked ice cream churn was placed into production. We really worked for that ice cream but it was worth it!

Under the blazing Carolina sun, we would have the sprinkler set up in the backyard and our bathing suits on. After running through the sprinkler a few times, and we’d go relieve the “churner” at the helm. We’d turn the crank a few times and when the next kid/churner arrived, head back to the sprinkler. Every 20 or 30 minutes we’d add more rock salt and ice. After 3 or 4 hours (yes hours!) of this, the ice cream would go into the freezer for another couple of hours to harden up before being dished out after supper.

Rich and creamy, not too sweet with chunks of fresh SC peaches*, this ice cream was in a word, scrumptious. I think all the work made it that much better too, and when I think about it now, I suppose we did not see it as ‘work’ but as play. For me no store bought ice cream, no matter how decadent, will ever match this taste (and the warm & fuzzy feeling I get remembering those times).

One of my goals this summer is to make some of that peach ice cream with my daughter (and I’ll post on southbyse, of course!) but in the meantime here’s our family recipe for custard. Some folks actually drink custard, but not at our house – this recipe is fairly thick so we always used a spoon.

* South Carolina, the state where I was born and reside today, produces more peaches than any other state in the US. I know you thought that would be Georgia (since it’s motto is “the peach state”), but nope – we’re number one in peaches! In fact, according to the Clemson University extension service, just one grower in SC, Titan, produces more peaches than the entire state of Georgia. How about those apples – err, I mean peaches.

Simple ingredients: Whole milk, fresh eggs, a little sugar and flour and vanilla extract.

Mix the flour with the sugar. My mother always uses flour in this recipe to insure the custard thickened but don’t over do it. “Flour-ery” custard is blahhhh.

After the milk is scalded, add some of the scalded milk into the egg/sugar mixture and whisk away. You don’t want the eggs to ‘cook’ and end up with scrambled eggs.

After incorporating some of the scalded milk into the egg mixture do the reverse and whisk the egg mixture back into the scalded milk as the milk is reheating on low. Keep whisking as this mixture cooks. I use my ancient Calphalon saucepan but you can use a double boiler or a heavy pan like mine. This pan is so old (and used so often) the anodized finish is gone. It’s like an old friend to me now.

Keep cooking the mixture and stirring or whisking. Do not bring it to a full-on boil but just under a boil. The mixture will start to thicken and when it coats the back of a spoon it’s done. This image shows that it is NOT coating the spoon, yet.

Keep stirring/whisking and the custard will be thickening. Test with a spoon – and yes! This is coating the back of a spoon. It’s ready so remove from direct heat.

Stir the vanilla extract into the custard and pour into a container. Allow to cool slightly and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly to the top of the custard. This will prevent a ‘skin’ from forming on it. Cover the bowl with more plastic wrap (or a lid) and place in the refrigerator.

Here is a pound cake I made recently… and what’s that there? Yes, it’s custard (and some peaches too). This custard is versatile and it keeps for several days well covered, in the refrigerator.

Custard

  • 3 large eggs, well beaten
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 quart of whole milk
  • 2 tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a heavy, medium-sized saucepan or top of a double-boiler, scald the milk and allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl mix the sugar and flour. Whisk the sugar/flour mixture into the eggs. Make sure this mixture is well incorporated and smooth. Spoon or scoop out about ¼ cup of the egg mixture and quickly whisk this into the scalded milk. Repeat and mix well.

Place the milk back on the heat and whisk the remaining egg/sugar mixture into the milk as it heats. Keep whisking and heating until the mixture comes almost to a boil and coats a spoon when it is dipped into the hot custard (see image). Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. *Allow to cool slightly and place in the refrigerator.

Serve on it’s own, with berries or as a cake or pie topping. This is awesome in banana pudding!

*Cover the slightly cooled custard with plastic wrap that touches the top of the custard. This should prevent a “skin” from forming on top.

Great expectations, meet my mama’s poundcake!

Browsing through some of my old cooking magazines for inspiration, I became increasingly aware that tastes have quite literally changed over the last 20 years or so. Ingredients and techniques that I thought were exotic and unusual (raspberry vinegar and foods wrapped into ‘purses’ or bundled together) now seem over the top AND staid. Curious. I will admit that I have and still do love some food fads – like artisanal cheese and the current bacon infatuation.

Hey, I am Southern… so the love of the pig (and all it’s piggy parts) have always been a constant in my life. But today I’m not writing about pork, but rather the “other” P-word. Born in the 18th century kitchen and revered since time immortal (or at least since the first days of even oven temperature), famed as the traditional wedding cake, and the best loved dessert on the southern sideboard – the pound cake.

For as much as tastes change and fads come and go, I know this much is true: a good pound cake never goes out of style and is always in high demand. My mother’s pound cake is quite possibly – and according to my daddy, most definitely – the best pound cake, ever. Period. The end. It is the item most requested at any family potluck or social gathering at which my Mother is expected to attend. And see that I specified “item”, not just food, but anything from beverages (adult and otherwise) to the main dish.

Luckily, I happen to not only have access to the recipe, but was taught by my mother the techniques employed in creating this cake since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. In as much as it is very important to use quality ingredients, it is essential to follow the mixing techniques. This cake uses no chemical leaveners. The cake rises due to mechanical leaveners – chiefly “creaming” the butter and sugar and incorporating the eggs into the batter one at a time, beating well after each.

This cake has only 6 ingredients so yes, the better the butter, the cream, the eggs and the flour, the better the pound cake. This is one time that I do use salted butter too. I usually serve this cake plain but have been known to spoon on some homemade vanilla custard and in-season fruit from time to time.

Before I finish, I do have a word of warning: Once you try this pound cake you will forever more compare all other pound cakes to this one. This may bring some disappointment into your life, since once you’ve have the best, nothing else can match it. I’ll add too, that with high caloric intake there will be high expectations – this recipe will not disappoint on either count. Just go for an after-dinner stroll… and have another piece!

Sift some flour once and then measure out exactly 3 level cups.

Yes, I said sift 3 times!

This fabulous cake has only 6 ingredients and no “chemical leavening agents”.

Grease and flour the pan, even one with a non-stick surface.

Tip of the day: Save your wrappers! Instead of tossing out butter wrappers into the trash, place in a plastic bag and toss into the freezer. You never know when you may need to butter a casserole dish!

In this recipe creaming the butter with the sugar is as important as sifting the flour 3 times. I usually start by whipping up the butter first.

Creaming the butter and sugar is the leavening agent in this cake recipe. This is after only 1 minute of creaming, a long way to go!

At 3 minutes the mixture is still crumbly and not light. With my KitchenAid mixer I use the No. 4 speed setting.

After 8 minutes the sugar and butter are much lighter and we’re almost there!

After 10 minutes, the sugar/butter mixture is light, creamy with only a hint of sugar granules.

Next add in the eggs ONE AT A TIME. Beat well and I mean really well after each. With my mixer I mix at the No. 4 speed setting for about 60 seconds after each egg. I also scrape down the sides of the bowl after every second egg too.

After the addition of all the eggs. Very creamy.

After you alternately add the flour and cream (begin and end with the flour), mix in the vanilla extract. Sometimes my mother uses almond extract instead.

The finished batter, ready for the pan. I thought this image was sort of pretty in an industrial chic meets the bakery sort of way.

Batter up! Yes, I am a little messy but it can be difficult to pour batter and take a photo at the same time.

After 90 minutes, the cake is ready to be pulled from the oven. Allow to rest on a rack for 10 minutes or so and then turn onto a serving plate. You may need to cut away some of the crust in the center first, though, especially if your cake pan is smallish like mine. I think I need a new tube pan!

Pound cake with homemade vanilla custard and fresh peaches. Hello summer!

Pound Cake

  • 1 cup butter (salted)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour – sifted 3 times (*see below)
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ pint whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter and flour a tube or Bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar. It should be light and fluffy. It will take about 10 minutes at medium speed in a heavy-duty mixer. Be sure to scrape down the sides during this process at least once. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl after every second egg.

After all eggs have been added, mix in the flour (in 4ths) alternately with the whipping cream (in 3rds) – beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl, if necessary. Mix in the vanilla extract and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Cool cake on a rack for about 10 minutes and turn out onto a serving platter. Allow to cool completely before covering.

* Sift at least 3 cups of flour once. Then accurately measure 3 cups of flour out of the first batch and sift twice more.