Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies 

I never thought this recipe made any sense. I love lemons, I know that is astonishing to everyone that reads this. But I am not a huge fan of white chocolate, or any chocolate –  for that matter …. but these cookies really work in an amazing way. It makes stupid sense. And science is involved. Cool.

We can all thank Shirley Corriher* for this recipe. And we won’t even go into her biscuits – they are heaven. I guess why they are called “Touch of Grace” biscuits. They are pretty much amazing. Another amazing recipe that kind of makes not too much sense, but is sublime. dd_1648

1 cup unsalted butter, cut in 2 Tbs pieces, room temperature 
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp light corn syrup – science
1/2 tsp lemon extract
zest of one lemon
2 large egg yolks – science, you’ll see
2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 cup white chocolate chips

In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup, lemon extract, and lemon zest until light and creamy. Add yolks, one at a time, beat until blended in thoroughly.

On low speed, add flour, scraping the sides and bottom of bowl. Stir in white chocolate 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.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment. Slice cookies into 3/8 inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the sheet. Bake until edges just beginning to brown, about 13 minutes. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

*Shirley Corriher is a scientist after all. Really, a biochemist from Vanderbilt. Holy hell. That is pretty much amazing. I first saw her on AB’s show – Good Eats  – that great Southern lady with the short grey hair and all the answers and so many science facts that it kind of scared me a bit.

But then I realized she had written two cook books. Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, and also Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. But I fell in love with this recipe long before I knew of her cookbooks.

The Boy loves the recipe and asks me to make it on a regular basis and I completely understand. While you might think it is odd, as I first did, it comes together in, sigh, and amazing way. And who does not love a slice and bake cookie? They are pretty much my favorite kind of cookie. Yep.

I have a bundt pan problem. There I said it.

I love a good pound cake. I have quite a few favorites in this category: a sour cream one, a cream cheese one, a lemon buttermilk one. Yes, I just could go on and on, I am Southern after all.

I think pound cake is a favorite for me because this is one of the few desserts the the MotH* likes. It is simple, slightly sweet, but not too sweet, and I think that appeals to him. It does not hurt that the Boy is a big fan too, as am I.

Funny, my mom used to make pound cake (or as my paternal grandmother would call plain cake)** and toast it in the toaster oven and then smear it with peanut butter. Not something I would do, no matter how much I love some peanut butter, but I understand the idea. Crunchy cake with goopy peanut butter. To each her own.

So in the next few posts, I’ll share my favorite pound cake recipes and my favorite bundt pans as well. They really are, in my opinion, works of art. And the ones I order are all Made in America. Pretty cool, right? Yes, it is Nordic Wear and it is pretty damn cool.

My first non-traditional bundt pan is one that a great friend got for me ages ago – from William-Sonoma – which I could never had afforded at that time. Since my degrees were in Art History and I focused on 17th-century French Chateaus and 18th-century British Country Houses, I had a thing for the Fleur-de-lis.dd_1524 Living here lots of people mistake my fleur-de-lis thing for a support of New Orleans, and most of the time I do not bother to correct people and I do love New Orleans a lot. But the people that know me – really know me – understand the origin of this symbol for me. And my dearest friend bought this bundt pan for me – and shared her sour cream pound cake recipe with me. We are similar in that family recipes are very important and Southern Living magazine has produced some of our favorite things to make (see: Cranberry Relish).

*Man of the House.

** I have made my grandmother’s Plain Cake recipe as an adult and it was pretty much disappointing. Just not inspiring in the least. That said, she made the most amazing fried apple pies. Yes, this conversation will continue.

 

 

M & M Cookies

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M&M Cookies – for Easter

This is one of those recipes I make over and over again. It is a family recipe that figures largely in my history of the holidays, especially Christmas. Though this is an any time cookie. The main reason is because it uses vegetable shortening, so no need to deal with getting butter to room temperature. I just had to buy spring M&M’s – I mean it is a limited time, right? They are kind of cute – ugh.

1 cup crisco
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups M & M’s plain (11.40 ozs) really nice spring colors (read: Easter egg colors)

Sift together, over a piece of waxed paper, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream together crisco and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir in M & M’s. Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Dead Simple. My favorite kind of recipe.

Notes: a 11.40 ozs bag is a bit more than one and a half cups. But I usually just dump them all in the cookies. This time I mixed in one cup and topped each cookies with the extras trying to make them pretty. For nice spring colors. Yes, I did this and it is nothing like me at all. Nope. But they were pretty.

Chess Tart

I have always wanted to make a chess tart, but have no idea why. Really. Perhaps just simple curiosity because the list of ingredients is super simple stuff you have on hand. Maybe it is because every reference to it says “classic Southern pie” and I have never had one. Ever. Granted I had Southern parents, but did not really grow in the South. I’ll say it once again – sorry, Jacksonville, FL – you are not the South. Not by any stretch of the imagination. D&D_1124.jpg
“Chess pie – This is one of the South’s favorite pies, with a simple filling of eggs, sugar, butter, and a small amount of flour. Chess pie can be varied by adding flavoring so such as lemon juice or vanilla, or substituting brown sugar for granulated sugar.” Food Lover’s Companion, p. 123.

Tart Shell
1 1/4 cup ground cookies*
5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Filling
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbs fine cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) with vegetable oil spray. Grind cookies*  in the food processor. Then add butter, granulated sugar, and salt. Pulse together. Press mixture into bottom and sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press it tightly.

Transfer pan to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tart shell is golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.

For the filling, whisk together sugars, cornmeal, and salt making sure there are no lumps. Whisk together eggs, yolk, vanilla, and then butter. Combine sugar mixture and egg mixture. Pour into tart shell. Bake until top is golden brown and edge is set but center is wobbly, about 35 minutes.

Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and cool 15 minutes. Then refrigerate until cooled for at least two hours, but better overnight.

* You can use graham crackers, Nilla wafers, or animal crackers.

Notes: Well, I now know why I have never made a Chess Pie – it is cloyingly sweet and underwhelming. Or maybe it’s just the recipe…
I will try again, at some point though. I can’t leave something like this alone. I have to win. I just saw a recipe from King Arthur Flour for a lemon chess pie that I will do. I just don’t like to lose – if that makes any sense. Yep, not losing to a recipe or an idea – that’s me.

AYA**

Thomas’ California French Bread

Ham & Swiss Sliders

** A Year Ago

Grape Salad – not really a salad, but a dessert thing

This is purportedly a southern dish, but honestly I’ve never heard of such a thing. Curiosity got the better of me though and I had to try it. But not with a full blown 4 pounds of grapes that the recipe calls for. Wasn’t going to take a risk and ruin a bunch of grapes that way.

This should tell you how much of a skeptic I am – very very skeptical. I had seen the recipe somewhere in the internet, but really thought it was some strange thing that I would never do or like – like a jello salad. Had even considered it a joke of sorts. I mean who does this? Then I saw in one of Trisha Yearwood’s cookbooks, Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood (page 200), which has many recipes that are so very similar to many of my own extended family recipes. So I thought I’d give it a shot.

So here is a very pared down version –  no wasting of grapes involved – to at least get an idea if this thing even works or not. Verdict below.D&D_0242

1/2 pound grapes – pick your color, washed and dried very well
1 Tbs cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs sour cream
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Pinch of table salt
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Wash grapes and dry completely on paper towels. In a bowl big enough to hold your grapes, mix together cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and pinch of salt. Add your grapes, and mix well. Pour the grapes into a shallow pan and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, sprinkle with pecans.

Notes: Salt was not in the original recipe, but I thought it was necessary. The actual recipe also calls for adding brown sugar before serving. That just seemed like overkill to me.

I’m still not sure about this recipe, but it is kind of tasty for breakfast. Everyone at work that tried it, liked it, but  none of the true southerns had heard of it either.  Just saying.

I don’t think this picture does it justice, but I may have over done it with the cream cheese. I just can’t help myself when it comes to cream cheese. Or any kind of cheese. I mean what is wrong with any kind of extra cheese?  Nothing I can think of … and local pecans – so sweet and tasty. Thank you Renfroe’s.

 

Food: the pulse of my southern culture and my community

I buy more cookbooks than I use which makes me feel bad that I don’t give each of them their due – Not enough time in the day – not enough days in a week – seasons go by so fast. I have great intentions, make lists (surprise!), read and consider things to make, but too often I get side-tracked by another cookbook I already have, or by some random thing that I’m obsessed with making at that moment. Friggin inter web. Or something the Boy wants – don’t mind that at all.

Being from south of the Mason-Dixon, born of two North Carolinians in Florida (which isn’t, if you are from NE Florida, part of the South really – too many transplants), raised on what could best be described as country food, Southern food, soul food, and poor people food, but wickedly good food, is an amazing heritage to have and one that is strangely unique.

There are so many things that I remember and want to share with my family. There is also so much that I have yet to learn and didn’t learn before my mom died. That is the heart of this problem.

My father’s family was from North Carolina via Georgia and my mom is also from a very small town North Carolina town – town is kind of stretch when my uncle was mayor and there is only one stop light. Her first husband was from rural North Florida which I think influenced her NC cooking because my mom spent lots of time with her lovely in-laws, who I was blessed to know, but briefly.

So my cooking influences are plain and simple and Southern. There is so much history in the south of iconic Southern recipes – some simplified, but those aren’t the ones I am really interested in. I’d like the ones that my two lovely short grandmothers worked with – you know, the ones without the inclusion of processed foods that seem some times so ubiquitous now in “southern” food.*

I think there are so many Southern recipes that have moved around the south and you see slight variations from all your family and friends (and their families). Sausage balls, creamed beef on toast, collards and cornbread, tomato gravy over rice, country fried steaks, real mac n cheese, sweet potato casserole with lots of pecans – this could just go on forever.  Not to mention boiled peanuts  – can’t wait for fall for the biggest and best green peanuts from Jay, Fl. Totally forgot about hoe cakes – damn.

Now if I could only find a recipe for pork ‘n bean salad with celery and onions.** Guess I need to start looking at church cookbooks.

This feels like an odd kind of manifesto. Maybe it is.

*Think bisquick and condensed soups, especially condensed soups – ugh.

**I do want this recipe, but somehow I have the strange feeling it won’t measure up to my memory of it. I do think memories work that way and maybe it’s best to leave things alone. Who is to say?

 

Pecan Pie Muffins – A Southern Tradition

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Pecan Pie Muffin

It’s strange how often Southern recipes make the rounds. I saw a recipe in Trisha Yearwood’s Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen and remembered that I had had something like this before. Amusing how it works since we are all connected. I had my original recipe from my friend Dawn who grew up in a very small North Florida town. I found out today it was her mom’s favorite and she still makes it for her and I totally get it.
This was a huge success with my friends and with the Boy, who I think might expect me to make them weekly. They are easy enough to make after work as long as you get the eggs to room temperature.
Of course, it helps that we have the best local pecans around. Renfroe‘s is our local pecan place and I get about 3 pounds at a time and keep them in the freezer. And I never follow the measurements on nuts – kind of the same way I think about cheese – there is always room for just a bit more.

1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
13.5 Tbs butter, melted and cooled * **

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 9 muffin cups and spray with non stick spray.
In a large bowl, combine pecans, flour, and sugar and mix well to combine. Make a well in the center of these ingredients.
In another bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add the cooled melted butter and stir to combine. Pour butter mixture into dry ingredients, stir until just mixed.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.

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Pecan Pie Muffin

7 March 2004
6 July 2015

* I hate measurements for butter that give both cups and then tablespoons. Pick one please. Or by weight.  Ugh.

** I just played this by ear and went with something that was between the two recipes. And was probably more butter than needed, but I baked them a bit longer than needed and they were amazing.