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.

 

 

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Bars

So when I buy buttermilk to bake something I try to find other things to make with what is left. I know, I know, you can freeze leftover buttermilk, but I never seem to do it.

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Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

 

It is funny I do not remember my mom making anything with buttermilk – really nothing. Not even biscuits and that is strange for a Southern woman. I do not have it on hand all the time, but most of the time.

Most recently, I have used buttermilk in Savory Herb Muffins and in Basil Sun-Dried Tomato Mozzarella Bread, and of course, Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze which was the original intent of the buttermilk purchase. And now another recipe with just a bit of buttermilk in it.

In the grand scheme of things, it is kind of a test. What can you do with it, and make it different. Not just cake or biscuits or whatever – try to make a variety of things. I am sure the next time I have buttermilk (like now) homemade ranch dressing will be in my future as is often the case in the spring. And that always means spinach and mushroom quiche. One of my favorite things ever and a recipe I have had since before the boy was born – way before.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs canola oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup roughly chopped pecans (Renfroe’s, of course)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9 x 13 inch baking pan*, spray with baking spray and line with parchment and spray again.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and both sugars. In a small bowl, crack egg, add canola oil, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add flour a little at a time. Stir in chocolate and pecans.

Spread dough, it will be thick, into pan making sure to get dough all the way into the corners. Bake 30 – 35 minutes until center is set and the edges are golden. Cool bars in pan and the cut into bite-sized pieces with a plastic knife because you do not want to jack up the pan with a metal knife.

Source: Baking Bites – one of my favorite baking sites. Must, at some point, figure out how many recipes that I have used from this site. I think there will be several.

* Love William-Sonoma Gold Touch Pans – they really are the best. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen for showing me how amazing these pans are. They really live up to all the hype.

Best Sugar Cookies

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Sugar Cookies

Remember when I was “devastated” over a lost sugar cookie recipe? I really did look everywhere, which to me meant I looked in binder after binder and I decided one thing – I’m bloody terrible at keeping up with recipes. Once I pull them out of the binder everything pretty much goes to hell. I finally found this recipe on the back side of another cookie recipe that I had been planning to make for a few weeks – duh, turn things over. This is not the first time this has happened. Sad.

That said, I’ve been making this sugar cookie recipe for about ever – over ten years now. Originally, I made this for Christmas – Christmas Eve in particular, but with so much other stuff going on, I kind of pushed these into the new year and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A few years back I started making these for Mardi Gras. I had the colored sugars for it, but that was about it.

The cookie cutters I used for a few year are those of my mom. She had a set of card suits cookie cutters – spade, heart, diamond, club – which is kind of strange to be honest, but she was a great card player, especially with her sister. I never could get the hang of gin rummy. But I am happy to have these cookie cutters – along with a couple of others. They have been around as long as I can remember.

I do like to order weird colors of sanding sugars (those are usually the ones on sale), so one year I got a dark purple and a pale green – both from William-Sonoma. When you mix the pale green with a Christmas green, it works. Kind of like when you mix orange and yellow together you get the gold that you’re looking for  – the Mardi Gras colors.

Truth be told, I have ordered Mardi Gras cookie cutters for our pot luck at work. This makes me happy. I guess it’s just the simple things – or maybe I’m just a bit simple.

So here’s the recipe from the Food Network Kitchens – at least I think that’s where it is from. Again – me a keeping up with recipes – ugh.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,  cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Sift flour into butter mixture, 1 cup at a time until just combined. Dump out onto plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Cover with plastic and chill 3 to 4 hours.*

Roll out dough until 1/4 inch and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Brush and sprinkle with colored sugars. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 – 10 minutes until edges are slightly golden. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely.

December 2002 – best sugar cookies ever
January 2003 – bake on parchment, spilled sugar comes off easier than a Silpat – for cast boy – granulated sugar is pretty too.
24 December 2003 – 8 minutes, to D&S for Christmas Eve
24 December 2004 – vvg as always
24 December 2006
December 2007
December 2008
February 2012 – Mardi Gras
28 January 2014
19 January 2016 – Mardi Gras practice

*Or overnight. This dough keeps pretty damn well for a few days as long as it is properly wrapped.

Shortbread Chocolate Squares

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Spiffy Shortbread bars with chocolate and pecans

You know I have to do a chocolate thing now and again. And this sort of sounded like a bit of riff on a blondie with some toppings. It is obvious, at least to me to try it, but I’m not sure about its original name. But what the hell is in a name after all?

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 ozs semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) Ghirardelli is always preferred.
1 cups chopped pecans, toasted – Local Renfroe’s pecans are always best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan in parchment and spray with cooking spray – just in case. Thank you William-Sonoma.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. Gradually mix in flour until just mixed. The dough will be stiff. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through – this is required – I do it whether it is called for or not – kind of OCD that way. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the crust. Return pan to the oven for a minute or two. Remove and using an offset spatula spread the chocolate over the surface. Sprinkle the nuts across evenly.

Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into small squares – very small because they are rich. And excellent.

Source: Epicurious, but adapted.

Notes: these were called toffee squares, but to my mind really don’t taste much like toffee. Even though there is a cup of brown sugar in the crust. They are kind of a shortbread crust with chocolate and nuts on top. There is nothing wrong with that, by the way.

Butterscotch Brownies – basically, Blondies

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Butterscotch Chocolate Blondies

I have always had an affinity for blondies. I guess it is because it is a nice mix of cookie dough w/chips and, honestly, it is dead simple – no batches of cookies, only turning the pan once – simple and done. Now the Boy is a blondie fan so I try to make things for him that I think he will enjoy and – again – dead simple. I guess that may mean I am kind of lazy.

I do love butterscotch. I am well aware the butterscotch chips are, truth be told, not real, but as America’s Test Kitchen says – sometimes you just need a butterscotch chip to have the right butterscotch flavor. Improving the world through chemicals – sounds so 70’s and slightly mostly creepy, but this recipe is pretty much, um, great.

This time I made them, I added a few semi-sweet chocolate chips just … well, just because I had some left from another recipe and it seems to work pretty dang well.

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened (16 Tbs)
1 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar – I always use light brown sugar
1 Tbs vanilla – yeah! Not may recipes call for this much, but I never measure strictly. More is better. Kind of like chocolate or cheese.
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13” baking pan. I still have a preference for William-Sonoma (RIP Chuck Williams) gold-touch baking pans. They are beyond words my favorites and I am slowly replacing everything I have with them.

Sift together, over a piece of waxed paper, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy (someone needs to define “fluffy”). Add eggs, one at a time and then mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of butterscotch chips and all chocolate chips.

Spread dough in pan and smooth. Top with finally 1/4 cup butterscotch chips (and a handful of chocolate chips if you are so inclined). Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until they begin to pull away from the edge of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

24 December 2009

15 February 2014 – for Em. vg not too dense – try adding a bit of chocolate

19 December 2015 – for sharing at the holidays with friends.

I think this may be my new favorite Blondie. It is really good. And I think that may be the mix of the chips, but it is probably it is the tablespoon of vanilla. Yep, that may be it.

Banana Bread Challenge

So me and my friend Shelly had a banana bread challenge this weekend.  Zach was supposed to compete, but said all the bananas were too green. Seem suspicious to me since I went to one of the same stores. Ask the produce guy – they are always happy to get rid of what is perceived as “over ripe” fruit. And spotty brown bananas are required for banana bread – according to my mom and she is, without a doubt, an authority on the subject.

My mom made so many loafs of banana nut bread for Christmas it was ridiculous. I feel like I spent most of my Christmas breaks from DD_0206school chopping individual pecans into four pieces each. Yes. I did that. These days, as the baker myself, I’m more relaxed in my attitude. Rough chop – totally works.  Three bananas are needed for 1 1/2 cups of mashed bananas, and you need the full-sized loaf pan. a 1.5 pound, 10 x 5″ pan. My go-to one is a William-Sonoma Goldtouch. I’m a huge fan of the Goldtouch brand – the browning is pretty amazing –  not too much or too little. Thanks, once again, to America’s Test Kitchen.

I always say that this recipe is such a tradition that I don’t change, but that is not quite true. I add more pecans. Local pecans from Renfroe’s. 1 1/2 cups chopped, but everything else remains the same. It is so funny. I remember my mom sifting the dry ingredients together and putting them in bags for her assembly line baking between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had to (and I still have to) have this for Christmas morning. Run it under the broiler until the edges are crunchy and smear with butter. When I was a kid it margarine – better living through weird stuff – ugh. But I have done my food snob thing for years and have never used margarine. It’s salted European butter. Yes, excellent. But any salted butter will do.

One of the best things about this bread is that it keeps really well in the fridge and also in the freezer. So I usually cut the loaf in half and double wrap one half in foil and put in the freezer. It can keep there for several months. Then over a couple of weeks, I eat the half thats’s in the fridge. Works really well.

Now’s here the thing that I thought was so cool. Shelly, for our competition, made banana nut muffins. How have I never thought about it? But in discussing with another friend, she had the best idea I heard this weekend. Make little mini-muffin banana nut muffins. Holy hell! Excellent idea! I will have to work on the temperature / timing to do this, but it sounds, to use an over-used word, awesome. And I just purchased a Goldtouch mini-muffin pan. Do I sound like a commercial for William-Sonoma? I don’t mean to, but I really like this brand. It makes baking so easy.

 

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake

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Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake

I’m a huge fan of pound cake, mostly because it is not too sweet – at least the ones I make are not. Now this one has two of my favorite things in it  – lemon & buttermilk. Sorry, but buttermilk (or sour cream) in any cake is a very good thing. I’m sure there is some chemical reason for this, but to me it’s just good eats (thanks AB).

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbs lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Lemon Glaze
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cool
1 Tbs lemon zest
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a ten inch tube pan.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon zest, then eggs, one at a time mixing well after each addition.
In a measuring cup, combine vanilla, buttermilk, and vanilla. Alternating add flour and buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with flour. Stir only until no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until toothpick into the center comes out clean (Be sure to be careful about this and make sure the skewer, a toothpick really won’t do, really comes out clean and dry).
Cool on a wire rack before topping with lemon glaze.

Combine all glaze ingredients in a bowl. Mix until smooth

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Stained Glass Bundt Pan – Nordic Wear via William-Sonoma

24 June 2012 – vvvg
25 November 2014 – Thanksgiving @ Doug & Samantha’s
2 June 2015 – went over well @ home and @ the office. Truly, a no fail pound cake. Really pretty in my newest cake pan – love the Nordic Wear (for W&S) gold baking pans. I have several. Best part – they are made in the U.S.A! Something I think is very important.