A Southern Grace: January 2009

January 31, 2009

dare i say it?


Dare I?

Yes, I dare.

The snickerdoodle is my favorite cookie.*

There. I said it. I couldn't pick a favorite candy bar, but as of this instant, I can pick a favorite cookie.

*This declaration is subject to change.

It's hard to narrow down all the cookies in all the lands to even a few favorites, but I simply can't deny how strongly I feel about snickerdoodles. The nudge that sent me over the edge into absolute certainty was the addition of my freshly-grated Vietnamese cinnamon. It added a whole new level of tastiness to the already luscious and so-buttery-it-melts-right-on-your-tongue cookie.

I'm sure nearly everyone has a go-to snickerdoodle recipe, and I do too, but as I am currently cream-of-tartar-less, I opted to try a new recipe using baking powder instead. Although the resulting cookie was good (the utter excellence of the cinnamon-sugar coating aside), it just wasn't as praiseworthy as my tried-and-true. Combining that recipe with the fresh cinnamon would be extremely detrimental to my wardrobe...

Don't forget about my Cinnamon Celebration--the deadline is in two weeks. Just a spoonful of cinnamon helps the aliment go down. :)

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January 28, 2009

i've got a lovely bunch of coconuts


I could never, ever pick a favorite candy bar. No way, no how.

Three Musketeers Mint, Reese's anything, Milky Way Midnight, Skor & Heath (is there a difference between those two?), Whatchamacallit, NutRageous. I don't discriminate.

Another winner in my book? Mounds.

Sweet, chewy coconut. Rich, dark chocolate. A whole lotta yum.

Eb needed something to do, so I went looking for and found a new recipe using sourdough. I made two changes to the enticing muffin recipe that I found; one was intentional and one was by mistake. First of all, having been inspired by the Mounds bar, I opted to flavor the muffins with coconut rather than include walnuts. Secondly, I failed to read ahead, so instead of melting the chocolate and stirring it in, I simply tossed the chopped chocolate into the batter willy-nilly. That'll teach me to ass-u-me.

I was extremely pleased with these muffins. My error had no adverse effects on the final products; in fact, I don't think they could've been better. I happen to be a fan of chocolate chunkage, but if you're not, feel free to follow the original recipe exactly. A future project using this recipe might be creating a black-bottom-type cupcake, flavoring the cream cheese with coconut. Decadence? I think so.

When all is said and done, though, I think I'd still rather have a Mounds.

Mounds Muffins
(based on these beauties)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup sourdough starter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup coconut, toasted if it pleases you

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line two muffins trays.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda, and salt in a medium
bowl; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to blend between each addition. Add the starter and vanilla and mix to blend. Mix in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Toss in your chopped chocolate and coconut and stir just until evenly mixed.
Fill the muffin cups with 1/4 cup batter each and bake for 20 minutes,
rotating halfway through baking. The muffins are done when puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer them to racks to cool completely.

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January 26, 2009

what else have you been hiding?


I've been a fan of Australia for as long as I can remember...

...even when all I knew about the place was that the people had the most awesome accents.

Now I find that, until recently, they've been keeping some delightful cookies all to themselves. How many other fabulous things do they have over there to which I've been completely oblivious?

I received an offer to sample and review Pepperidge Farm Tim Tams. After a bit of research, I found that they've only been available to Americans for a short time. People, we were missing out--they are delicious!

The batch I got was Chocolate Creme--chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate (two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate, to be more specific), and it's good chocolate to boot. Creamy, rich, melt-in-your-mouth (and on your fingers) good.

Other variations include Chewy Caramel, Mocha, Double Coat, Chili Chocolate, Classic Dark Chocolate, Black Forest Fantasy, Creamy Truffle Temptation, and even Chocolate Orange. The only types currently available in the US are Chocolate Creme and Chewy Caramel, and apparently that's only for a limited time (through March 2009). I'd like to see Tim Tams become a permanent addition to the cookie shelf, and in all varieties.

After my Tim Tams were long gone, I came across the practice of the Tim Tam Slam. It sounds like a tasty experience, and it's more than enough motivation for me to purchase a sleeve or thirteen for myself...before they're taken from us.

And hey, even though I totally didn't plan this ahead of time--happy Australia Day!!

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January 24, 2009

freaky fruity phenomenon


Some people sing in the shower. Me? I sing in the kitchen (when no one is within hearing distance, that is--ear trauma could probably be an actionable offense...).

The song that popped into my head while dealing with this bread?

"Magic," by Pilot (a song well before my time, yet still completely appreciated).

No, there wasn't any voodoo involved, and no rabbits were harmed in the making of this treat. It's magical for two reasons. First of all, one loaf spent a month in the freezer and came out about 27 times better than the loaf consumed fresh out of the oven. I kid you not. It's as though the cold temperature enhanced the spices and encouraged canoodling amongst all the flavors.

The second reason I consider this bread to be of the magical persuasion is because the pink hue seemed to migrate to the top center of the loaf. Why? Beats the heck out of me, but I like it. To me, that was the best-tasting portion of the bread, even though it very well could've been no different from the rest of the loaf flavor-wise.

Can you see that concentrated berry color? Oh, oh, it's...

Magical Mixed Berry Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups mixed berry applesauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the dry ingredients (minus the sugar) in a small bowl and mix well. In a large bowl, thoroughly blend the oil, sugar, and applesauce until smooth. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir just until incorporated. Spoon the thick batter into two greased 9x5" loaf pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, using a toothpick to test for doneness.

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January 21, 2009

an easier way to eat pie


As if I needed any help in that endeavor...

Note to self: Seal better.

I was feeling brave and adventurous the other day and decided to tackle hand pies--first, I would tackle the recipe with my mind and mad baking skills (hmm...), then I'd tackle the actual pies with my teeth. Good plan.

This undertaking required courage on my part mostly because hand pies or turnovers are not something I've attempted, and I'm usually hesitant to try new things. Dealing with finicky doughs is always a little risky, especially when said dough requires more handling than for your typical pie.

Regardless of the risks, I jumped in and met with great success. Beginner's luck? Probably. The crust was delicious (the freshly-grated Vietnamese cinnamon sprinkled on top had a lot to do with that), and the blueberry filling was perfectly sweet and only a wee bit too juicy (as evidenced by the overflowing ooze).

I'll be making these again posthaste. Here's hoping it wasn't actually beginner's luck, but simply a display of my growing competency in the kitchen. :)

Blueberry Hand Pies
(based on this recipe)

1 batch of sweet butter pie dough (recipe below)
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a large baking sheet.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine berries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon; mix well. Microwave for 5 minutes and stir, then microwave in one-minute increments until all the berries burst and the mixture begins to thicken.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide in two; rewrap one half and place it back in fridge to stay cold. Roll the pie dough out until it reaches a thickness of about 1/8". Using round pastry cutter (or a bowl, if that happens to be all that you have...), cut out about 4-5" rounds. Place rounds onto the baking sheet and back into the fridge if necessary. If not, place about 2-3 tablespoons of the blueberry mixture into center of each round.

Using a pastry brush dipped in a small amount of egg, brush the edge of half of each round. Fold dry edge onto egg-brushed half, forming semicircle shape, and press edges together with a fork to seal in an aesthetically-pleasing manner. Brush the top of each pie with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Use a small knife to make a 1 inch slit in the top of the pie for steam to escape. Repeat with remaining pastry dough.

Place the pies in the oven and bake until tops are beginning to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 7-10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably smothered in vanilla ice cream.

Sweet Butter Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons cold buttermilk (or milk with a bit of lemon juice)

In a small bowl, combine vanilla and buttermilk, stir to combine and set aside. In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, and salt and whisk to combine. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk mixture a bit at a time and stir in until dough comes together.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and shape into a flat disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

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January 18, 2009

corny bread for a corny gal


There are oodles of blog events out there, but one of the very best that I've found is Taste & Create. Its premise is that each blogger is paired with another and asked to recreate a recipe from his or her blog. It’s a brilliant way to introduce a person to a new blog and a new recipe (or two)(or twelve).

For this go-round (XVI, for those of you keeping track), I was paired with Min of The Bad Girl’s Kitchen. Finding just one recipe to replicate was not an easy task--her blog is loaded with a variety of tasty dishes. It came down to deciding between the Blueberry Cornbread and the Grilled Rosemary Garlic Pork Tenderloin. Taking into consideration the sour milk, almost-expired cornmeal, and gorgeous frozen blackberries in my possession, I finally opted for the cornbread.

Mark Twain once said: "Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern cornbread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it."

To that I say yowza.

I also should mention that I'm a corny person. I love puns and corny jokes--anything eliciting an eye-roll or groan is a winner in my book. Some food-related favorites:

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
The butcher backed up into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

Enough of the fluff--the cornbread was an excellent choice. The texture imparted by the cornmeal really stood out. I followed Min's recipe pretty closely, only substituting blackberries for blueberries. Also, I poured my batter into mini-muffin and mini-loaf trays.

Before you ask, no, I did not add cinnamon. :)

I highly recommend participating in Taste & Create, and checking out The Bad Girl’s Kitchen.

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January 15, 2009

for the purist


I’ve often heard people proclaim “Oh, fudge!” and mean it as a profanity. That just seems wrong to me--fudge should in no way be associated with anything negative. In my eyes, it’s a gift from God. Manna from Heaven, if you will. Would you agree?

Although I personally prefer my mint fudge, this version by my Mammacita is for the chocolate purist. If ever anything melted in your mouth, this is it. It’s smooth and creamy, as fudge should be, but some of its appeal is that it’s not too rich. It seems to be the perfect balance of decadent chocolate and subtle sweetness. Kudos to you, Mamster. Kudos to you. And by kudos, I mean bear hugs and more fudge.

Fudge a la Mammicus
18 oz semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/2 bags)
14 oz condensed milk
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup marshmallow crème

Combine chocolate chips and condensed milk in a heat-safe bowl and microwave in intervals until chips are melted. Stir in the peanut butter and marshmallow crème and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into an 8x8" pan lined with wax paper and refrigerate until set. Cut into bite-sized morsels of delight.

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January 13, 2009

a cinnamon celebration


The community of food bloggers is an amazing group of people. They entertain and amuse, provide many a feast for the eyes, and are always quick with an encouraging word. I’ve been amazed by the generosity of my fellow bloggers, and I'd like to thank you all for everything you do!

I recently received the gift of all gifts, Vietnamese cinnamon bark, from two separate sources. Todd & Diane, the White on Rice Couple, took it upon themselves to send me some simply because they knew about my cinnamon obsession. Then, immediately thereafter, I was the oh-so-fortunate winner of a sampling of the bark from Krysta of Evil Chef Mom. Imagine my delight—so much cinnamon, and all for me!

In light of the new year and that resolution thing, I’ve decided to share my bounty. It’s hard, believe you me, because this is some powerfully amazing stuff. I’ll show you a couple of the things I’ve used it in soon, but in the meantime, I want to hold a little contest.

To enter, all you have to do is make a recipe containing at least one teaspoon of cinnamon, although more is encouraged. Send it to me at asoutherngrace @ gmail . com using the subject "Cinnamon Celebration" by February 13, along with a picture of your creation, your name, the name of your blog, and the link to your post.

Also, please link this page in your post and feel free to display the slightly illegible little logo below. If you don't have a blog but would like to participate, just send me your recipe, your name, and a picture, if desired.

*UPDATE: Although I'd prefer a new post, you can certainly submit a dish that you've already discussed.

The challenge is officially open when this post goes up and will close at 12 pm EST on Friday, February 13th. (However, I’ve been known to be pretty flexible about such things...) A round-up will follow shortly thereafter (hopefully right in time for Valentine's Day!).

I hope you’ll enter and do what you can to bring attention to the best spice in all the lands. I’ll use that ubiquitous random number generator to pick a winner, and that person will receive a bit of my Vietnamese cinnamon stash. And trust me, if you like cinnamon at all, you’ll want to win.

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January 11, 2009

if you're gonna eat raisins...


...this is the way you should do it.

Dense (in a good way), moist, chock-full of textures and tastes--I think you need this cake in your repertoire.

Funny story: The recipe originated as one that made use of pork fat. A friend of mine had recently obtained a whole pig and thought a pork cake would be a good way to use some of said porker. As one might expect, there are different types of fat on the pig, and apparently my friend picked the wrong one--belly fat. He ended up spending quite a bit of time trying to incorporate the fat into the hot coffee, all the while becoming more and more verklempt.

Needless to say, his next batch was made with butter. And it was splendid. My advice--save your pork belly for other things.

Pork Cake (or, in this instance, Cow Cake)

1/2 cup strong coffee
1/2 pound pork fat (or unsalted butter)
1 pound brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup walnuts or pecans, tossed in flour
1 pound raisins, tossed in flour
4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Pour the hot coffee over the pork fat and mix until the fat melts. Add brown sugar, baking soda, nuts, raisins, and flour; mix thoroughly. Pour into tube pans or loaf pans and bake for at least an hour, using the toothpick test to ensure doneness.

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January 8, 2009

you're getting sleepy...


Hypnotic, yes?

The only thing I don't like about the candy you see above is that it looks like it might be an unrisen cinnamon roll. Talk about misleading. Talk about false advertising. Imagine my disappointment when I discover that, sadly, it contains no cinnamon whatsoever.

Now that that’s out of the way, you should know that although this candy a bit of a beast to make, the final result is quite delicious. Is that any surprise, considering that it consists of butter, sugar, and peanut butter? I think not. When I spotted these on Robin Sue’s blog Big Red Kitchen, I bookmarked it immediately, and when my dear grandma mentioned a spiral-shaped, peanut-butter-containing treat from her younger days, I knew I had to make it for her.

The primary mistake one should avoid in making this is adding too much milk too quickly (and yes, I speak from experience). If you accidentally do this, you must compensate by adding more sugar and making use of your fridge.

Although it wasn't exactly what she had in mind, my grandmother was thrilled with the candy, so thanks Robin Sue!

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January 6, 2009

more balls o' meat


Three ingredients, three food groups. Easy to make, easy to eat.


These particular meat morsels are quite a bit different from my previous batch o' balls. For one thing, sausage is the main ingredient. For another thing, there's no sauce, and the only binder is flour. Those things being said, these balls are just as good as, if not better than, the saucy stuff.

Most recipes for sausage balls call for baking mix, which is pretty much just flour, a leavening agent, and some form of fat. As Mamma-lama-ding-dong says, the sausage and cheese have enough fat already, so we just use self-rising flour. Also, since I'm not what one would call a fan of cheddar cheese, I'd be interested to see how these would taste with something like jack cheese.

Simple Sausage Balls
1 pound sausage (pork is preferred)
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups self-rising flour

Mix the ingredients with your paws until thoroughly combined. This will take time and effort, but trust me, it's well worth it. Roll into small balls about the size of a walnut. Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees F until the tops are golden brown. Take care not to burn the bottoms--that takes away from the delight. :)

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January 3, 2009

deja vu


I like it. I love it. I want some more of it.

Yeah, you've seen all these before. But I'd be remiss if I didn't show them again--they're all that good.

First, good ol' chicken barbecue with cole slaw on sourdough bread. See all that fresh-cracked black pepper? It's the perfect accent to a delicious combination.

Next up, we have the mint fudge remix. If you haven't tried this yet, I greatly encourage it. Why wait for a holiday to pamper yourself? There are other food colorings.

Finally, bananner puddin'--smooth and creamy and full of banana-ness. So what if the recipe's full of shortcuts? It's divine.

Keep cool, my babies--original stuff coming soon.

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