Sweet Potato Casserole – required for Thanksgiving

This is such a family tradition that I am sure I have posted about this to the point that everyone might just be sick of it. That said, I just cannot help myself. It is not Thanksgiving without it. Or Christmas either, for that matter.

D&D_2344The recipe is from my brother’s wife. It was a tradition in her family and when she brought it to our family – well, let’s just say that was it. One of us, usually me, always made it for Thanksgiving and now I have been making it for our family, including the MotH’s family that I just cannot get out of it – not that I would want to. It is just dumbly good. It is just expected on Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Never hurts that this is when sweet potatoes are really cheap either.
How cool is it that one family’s recipe becomes another’s and then another’s. I guess that is the value of tradition – that, and excellent food.

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes – lately, I prefer roasting them ahead of time
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes or more
1 cup chopped pecans – or more if you prefer, which I do*
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Put sweet potato mixture into glass casserole dish**.

In another bowl, blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture – use your fingers, it is easier that way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until brown on top and slightly bubbly around the edges.

D&D_2306*I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup because that is what you should do.

**You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – thinner sweet potato layer and more crunchy bits on top).

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love a recipe where I pretty much have everything on hand and this is one of those kind of recipes. My chip stash (various forms of chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, white chocolate chips and probably some random crunch chips and toffee bits too) in the fridge and the freezer is, in my mind anyway, legendary. And then the chocolate bars too. I can not help myself, I buy when things are on sale and store them in the fridge or freezer. The same way I do when butter is on sale. It is just a thing.D&D_2386

I did chocolate inventory recently and if I had to divulge it in public, I think it might be slightly embarrassing.

This is a one bowl, easy-peasy no-brainer kind of dessert.

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, butter and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes, turning half way through and then check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Source: Taste of Home

1 December 2017 – made them after our work Christmas party. It was just that easy.

D&D_2390That said, I think this is a recipe that you could make many variations with the basic batter. So, next time no chocolate chips, but maybe some blueberries and lemon zest. Or just some lemon juice/zest and a lemon glaze. Or cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins with a cream cheese frosting. Just keep in mind that the batter, without the additions, is pretty simple and not too sweet. To my mind that makes it a pretty blank canvas to work with and I plan to work through my ideas as this holiday season fades into the icky part of winter. Baking always makes winter feel a little bit better. With the days so short, you need to have something to look forward to.

Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.

Sweet Potato Pecan Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 

So what do you do when you have extra roasted sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? Make anything that sounds good then feed the rest of the sweet potatoes to the dog. At least that is what we do at our house. Who knew dogs liked sweet potatoes? The things you learn. This is half the original recipe and makes 12 cupcakes.

D&D_23201 cup roughly chopped pecans – oops, forgot
1 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a large lemon

2 tsp lemon juice powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans/walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until fragrant.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, Grate nutmeg over the top of the mixture and whisk together.

Beat together sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

Whisk together sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just blended; fold in pecans (again – oops).

Line cups of muffin pans with foil liners and spray with vegetable spray. Spoon batter into cups filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 – 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans and cool for 1 hour until completely cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon juice powder  – taste and adjust. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth). Frost cupcakes and top with chopped pecans if desired.

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

D&D_2316

Need cupcake carrier – this is just sad. 

New recipe

Okay without nuts, but would be better with – pecans or walnuts

Good without frosting too, we’ll just call it breakfast, yep. Not sure, but I think it is the orange juice that makes it. Will certainly be making these again. Think they will go over well at the office.

Sweet Potato Biscuits – a cautionary tale

Yes. It’s that time of year, again. Sweet potatoes biscuits with ham, horseradish cream, and cranberry relish. Another Thanksgiving and a new version of a sweet potato biscuit. I am still searching for some illusive thing in the sweet potato biscuit department. Will I ever find it? Not sure, but I will not stop looking until I am very satisfied with what I am baking.

Tried a new recipe – did not work, um, at all.
Source: Chowhound. Don’t make this recipe. Just saying. 8 November 2017

I am sorry. I am not satisfied. These were blah. I did like the idea of the grated frozen butter though but I am thinking I am going back to my recipe from Foster’s Market. Lord I loved that place. Maybe Sara Foster would let me open one here it the best part of Florida which is, by the way, just Lower Alabama. This is LA.

D&D_1363So here is my go-to so far. And what I will make this weekend for our Friends-giving pot luck appetizer lunch on Monday. Thank goodness is we have a three day weekend, because otherwise this would never happen especially since I have to plan for way more food than I may never make.

Sweet Potato Biscuits (easy recipe to half)

5 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato – usually 1 sweet potato (roasted)
2 Tbsp. salted European butter, melted – spend the little bit extra.

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato in a large measuring cup. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over work this – I think it effects the rise.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once (Do not twist cutter – this is way more important than you may think, but biscuits are a bit fussy about things like this – just don’t do it. The won’t rise well if you twist.).* Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted (salted) butter – do this, yes. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 dozen.

Source: Foster’s Market – Foster’s is on the 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. It is a fanciful place that does so many things well. I miss it greatly, but I loved going there. Sara Foster is gifted in a way not many people are and it was a great joy to be able to frequent the shop/restaurant/coffee shop/whatever. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is the ONLY signed cookbook I have. Ms. Foster is charming, engaging, and lovely.

Made a half recipe this time, excellent as always.

Had been using Emeril’s recipe for sweet potato biscuits for years – a dozen or so, but I think the Foster’s Market version rose a bit better. I do like the use of ground pecans in Emeril’s recipe. Need to figure out how to combine the two. Both recipes are now in my Thanksgiving binder, so that means something

*This year, did not bother with biscuit cutters at all and just used my # 30 disher and it worked out really well as a drop biscuit. Yeah, so much easier than rolling and cutting and whatnot. Not quite as uniform, but tasty all the same.

Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

So one of my friends had birthday a few weeks ago and we got her a small (6″, 3 layer) cake. Yellow cake with fudge frosting. It reminded me of my mom’s best cake. The one we all loved. But I haven’t tried to make it – yet. But I saw this and thought — okay, single layer – yes; frosting seems pretty simple – yes. I was going to try it and so a few days latter, I did. I am beyond pleased with it. MotH and the Boy both liked it though they are not big sweets fans. The office seemed to really like it too and that makes me happy. I will make this again. Really simple for a great tasting cake and frosting. Next time cupcakes??!!
D&D_2203
CAKE:
1 cup granulated sugar
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream (8 ozs)

FROSTING:
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (2 ozs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with a parchment round and spray again.

Beat together the sugar and butter until thoroughly combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes; the batter will lighten in color and become fluffy. Yes, very fluffy. Set your iPhone timer for this.

Add the vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, stirring to combine.

Starting and ending with the flour, alternately add the flour and sour cream to the mixture. Beat gently to combine after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Do not overwork.

Pour batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula (a Get it Right ultimate spatula). Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes turning the pan half way through, until it’s golden brown on top, the edges are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or mostly clean

After 10 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.*

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the cocoa and vanilla yogurt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. It may look like it is seperating, but just hang in there. Add the butter mixture to the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl, beating until smooth. Quickly pour over the cooled cake, while the frosting is still warm. Smooth with an off-set spatula.**

* You can make the cake up to this point and wrap in plastic (as long as you are sure it is cool) and refrigerate for a day or two before frosting. I did it – and it worked really well.

** This is a very simple frosting, but it works really well. I am stunned at how simple this whole cake is to make. Really. This could surely be a weeknight cake.

D&D_2196I will say, I would eat this cake any day without frosting. It is that good. Like a snack cake – wonder what it would take to put it in a loaf pan and decorate with a little powdered sugar when it is finished and cool?

Guess I will be chatting with the bakers from King Arthur Flour again. I love that you can just chat and ask the questions you need answers to – a great service to the KAF customers.

Butterscotch Cookies

Why not take a recipe in which the methodology works and just switch up the flavors? I had no white chocolate chips – which was slightly astonishing, but I had an abundance of butterscotch chips  (no surprise at all) and also this is one of my favorite kinds of cookies to make: mix one day, chill, and then bake another day. These need to chill and I have always done that overnight, mostly because I can be (a little) lazy, but it has always served me well in the cookie department. I do think cookies benefit from a bit of a rest.
Next time, I may add some local Renfroe‘s chopped pecans to the mix – yes.

D&D_21061 cup unsalted butter, room temperature cut into 2 Tbs pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 Tbs vanilla
2 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butterscotch chips (or more, maybe, um, yes, quite a few more)

Do the usual thing: In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup, and vanilla until light and creamy. Add yolks, one at a time, beat until blended.

On low speed, add flour, scraping the sides and bottom of bowl. Stir in butterscotch chips. Divide dough and roll into log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Go for overnight in my experience.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment. Slice cookies into 3/8~ inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the sheet – they do not spread at all. Bake until edges just beginning to brown, about 13 minutes. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Source: Based on Shirley Corriher‘s recipe for lemon white chocolate chip cookies. I first “met” Shirley on Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. I love her Southern accent and am largely intimated by her use of science when it comes to baking (she’s a real scientist from Vandy). Science was never my strong suit at all. She’s just a hoot and I am a huge fan. Even though the science throws me at every turn.  This one goes out to the one I love. 

~Have no idea how to measure what 3/8 inch slices is. I am just not good with math, um, at all. Ever. Or, as noted above, science. Sigh. Just make sure the slices are similar.