A Southern Grace: May 2010

May 29, 2010

you'd smile too...


...if you were full of nutty cinnamon sugar.

See how the streusel forms a smile? 'Tis a happy loaf.

Heck, just seeing or hearing the word cinnamon makes me smile, and I like the fact that this particular cake is able to reflect that sentiment.

This is one of the most interesting recipes I've made in some time. There's only one egg and very little fat, yet the density, appearance, and texture all rival that of your typical pound cake. It's magical--you can get every form of satisfaction from this relatively light cake that you normally would from a calorie-bomb pound cake.

You're welcome.

Incidentally, I would recommend that you make this stellar cake as mini loaves or muffins. When you go the full-loaf route, it's incredibly difficult to get the middle and center done without completely drying out the rest. You may have to make more streusel (what a sacrifice, right?), but it's absolutely worth it.

*There's still time for you to enter to win a $50 gift certificate from CSNStores.com.

Cinnamon Smile Cake
(adapted slightly from this recipe)

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/3 cup sugar, divided use
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″×5″×3″ loaf pan. Combine 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. Set aside.
Combine remaining 1 cup of sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, and oil. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet mixture. Stir just until mixed; do not over-mix.
Pour half of the batter into loaf pan. Evenly sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture. Top with the rest of the batter.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick test is passed. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

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May 25, 2010

hot tamales and free money*


*That's an oxymoron, right? Whatever the case, in this instance it translates to GIVEAWAY.

While I've never endeavored to make my own tamales (the whole wrapping and steaming bit is entirely too involved for my limited attention span), I do like to eat them, especially when someone else is footing the bill. Boy, I'm not coming across as a gem of a person, am I? It seems like I want tamales to be made solely for me and paid for by anyone other than me. AND I want 'em NOW! :)

They even come wrapped like a present!

I kid, I kid. I think generosity has a boomerang effect--if someone's good to you, you should return the favor in some way if you ever want to be on the receiving end again. So with that in mind, I'm sharing my recent gift from CSNStores.com with one of you! Just leave a comment telling me your favorite number and why it means so much to you, and I'll randomly pick a winner to receive a $50 gift certificate from CSNStores.com to spend as he or she pleases. Comments will close when May ends (it'll be a bittersweet farewell), and I'll announce the winner on the first of June.

And hey--I'm serious about the number thing. If you get picked and haven't told me your lucky number, I'm picking again. I'm petty like that. Good luck!

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May 21, 2010

equal billing


Generally when a cake is made, there's an ingredient as the focus--German chocolate cake, carrot cake, pineapple upside-down cake, and on it goes. Sometimes, however, several components end up sharing center stage in such a way that you can't quite put your finger on what, if anything, is meant to stand out.

This is one of those cakes. Something about the quantity of each special ingredient combined with the texture of the cake makes each bite a bombardment of flavors.

Are the blueberries the star? Certainly, if you're only looking at the beauty. Does the coconut cream steal the spotlight? Not really--it just delivers a subtle hint of that tropical tang. What about the vanilla bean and vanilla yogurt--is that the first strong taste that you detect? My palate would argue that it's not and that the vanilla just enhances the complexity of the mouthful.

Deb called this her Yogurt Anything Cake. I'd say that's a pretty apt name, as the three random things I decided to add all danced together quite nicely and many other combinations would undoubtedly do the same.

Diva-less Cake
(based on this recipe)

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup cream of coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, coconut extract, oil, and vanilla bean seeds. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the cream of coconut over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes into which the sticky sweet stuff can flow). Cool.

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May 17, 2010

festive but flawed


This loaf of bread had such potential. It could've been a star--perfectly pink, terrifically tasty, and oh-so-festive. Alas, things don't always work out as we hope.

See, once upon a time, I had a sugar cookie pizza topped with sweetened cream cheese and a cranberry-orange relish that totally rocked my world. Having blissfully recalled that treat, I decided to incorporate some cranberry-orange relish into a recipe for cranberry nut bread that I had recently seen.

The original recipe called for orange juice and chopped cranberries, but my experiment involved the orange juice and cranberries (and a bit of orange zest) being pureed to within an inch of their lives and folded into the batter. Even before baking, I could tell I was headed down a dangerous road. The batter was uber-thick and a little bit pasty, but I plowed onward (somewhat literally).

The loaf that came out of the oven looked surprisingly lovely and smelled quite appetizing. Sadly, its pretty appearance couldn't make up for the fact that it was extremely tart and not nearly sweet enough for my tastes. The texture was weird too--a little gummy, but not completely off-putting. All in all, although entirely edible and, some might argue, tasty, this is not something I'd recommend or repeat.

Cream of Cranberry Bread
(inspired by this recipe)

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice, freshly-squeezed (but not pureed with cranberries)(bad idea)
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, pureed coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening, and egg. Mix until well-blended. Stir in cranberries (coarsely-chopped, mind you)(not pureed) and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

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May 13, 2010

rally caps!


Am I the only person in the world who associates sunflower seeds with baseball? Even my earliest memories of playing t-ball and little league softball involve sitting in the dugout and going to town on a bag of those crunchy munchies.

The ground was always littered with the shells, and many of us kids wouldn't be recognizable without a wad of seeds stuck in our cheeks. You displayed great talent if you could de-shell a seed using just your teeth and tongue, no fingers required. (I'm sure that was the hope of the mothers out there, too--our hands were always filthy.)

Ah. Good times. I haven't had many sunflower seeds since then, but I recently found a tasty recipe calling for some and had to give it a try. This is not your light, la-di-dah kind of breakfast food. No, it's hearty and dense and filling--perfect for those needing a quick and long-lasting shot of oomph to start the day. Go team!

Little League Loaves
(adapted from this recipe)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon wheat germ
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1 bar of chocolate, smashed into bits

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Spray pan of choice.
In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flours, sugars, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, oil, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquids. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquids by pushing them from the side of the bowl to the center. Stir just to blend, eventually folding in the raisins and bits of chocolate.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes for mini loaves, 22 to 25 minutes for muffins, or until the bread is golden brown and the tops are springy to the touch. To ensure even baking, toward the end of baking time, rotate pans top to bottom and front to back. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

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May 9, 2010

cake mix kick


One of my biggest kitchen-related dilemmas is trying to decide whether using a cake mix is a bad thing (preservatives! slothitude!) or a good thing (quick! easy! cheap!). Yes, I clearly lead a tortured existence.

Droopy and weepy, but oh-so-scrumptious.

After my success with the almond joy cake (made with boxed cake mix and pudding mix) and having perused the latest book from the Cake Mix Doctor, I was inspired to break out the mix once again. The cake that caught my eye in the aforementioned cookbook by Anne Byrn was a layered spice cake with a filling consisting of tart 'n tangy apple butter goo and coated with a rich caramel frosting. Just try and tell me that doesn't sound amazing.

I made a few alterations here and there. First and foremost, carrot cake mix was what I found in the cabinet, so carrot cake mix was what I used. Secondly, in continuing with my maple kick, I added a bit of maple flavoring to both the cake and the frosting.  Oh, the smells coming out of my kitchen--they were enough to buckle your knees.

In case you missed it, today is Mother's Day. I have a mother; you might recall some of my pet names for her--Mammy, Mamster, Mamburger, and the like. She's a pretty great lady, and since she's keen on caramel frosting, I applied it to the cake even though I had a hunch it'd give me trouble. Not surprisingly, it was a pain in the patootie, dripping down the sides of the cake before it set, but it worked out all right. Yeah, it looks a bit sad and saggy, but it's worth the hassle since it tastes like heaven in goopy form. Plus, it's for my Mama-lama-ding-dong.

Happy Mother's Day, ladies!

Maple Carrot Cake with Apple Butter Filling and Caramel Frosting (in other words, Bliss)
adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns by Anne Byrn

1 box carrot cake mix
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon maple flavoring

1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups apple butter
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup walnuts, chopped

8 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup milk
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350F and thoroughly spray three 9-inch round cake pans.
Combine cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well-incorporated. Divide among the three prepared pans and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the toothpick test is passed. Let the layers cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then carefully remove them onto cooling racks until they become completely cooled.

Make the filling:
Beat the egg in a small bowl until it becomes lemon-colored. Add the buttermilk and blend well. In a separate bowl, heat the apple butter in the microwave or over medium heat until it becomes bubbly. Temper in the egg mixture and then heat the filling another 3 to 4 minutes until it thickens. Add in the butter and stir until it melts. Stir in the walnuts and let cool.

Assemble cake:
Transfer one layer to a plate or cake stand and spread half of the filling on top. Repeat with second layer and the rest of the filling. Top with the third layer and set cake aside.

Make frosting:
Heat the butter and brown sugar over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, stir, and bring the mixture back to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool a bit and whisk in the powdered sugar until thickened and smooth, lightened in color, and beginning to lose its sheen. Stir in the flavoring at the last minute and stir to combine.  Pour the frosting onto the top of the cake quickly before it hardens, smoothing as you go. It's tricky to get the sides just right, but do what you can! Let the frosting harden before attempting to slice the beast.

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May 5, 2010

crumby, but not crummy


I'd like to personally thank the chap or dame who first decided that eating cake for breakfast was a good and acceptable idea.

Although I enjoy oatmeal and cheesy grits (especially in the winter) and biscuit sandwiches and heck, even cold cereal as breakfast fare, I think cake is a fine way to go. I can easily convince myself that I'll get my daily dose of protein, vitamins, and other healthy stuff from my lunch and supper.

I love pancakes, but they're not ideal for occasions when I'm in a hurry (although I try my darnedest to give myself plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast). On those days, a slab of coffee cake is perfect.

Like banana bread, gazillions of coffee cake recipes are floating around out there. Some make use of sour cream, others employ cream cheese. Add-ins range from chocolate chips to orange marmalade. Many involve a streusel of some sort (and I would argue that those streusel-less recipes are simply not worth my time, effort, and ingredients...).

Speaking of a tasty streusel, it's by far the redeeming quality of this particular coffee cake. Had it not been so thick and rich and flavorful, I probably wouldn't feel as strongly about the treat as I do. The blueberries are also nice--they're plentiful and provide a nice burst of flavor in every bite. My one gripe would be regarding the cake portion--it was a bit dry. This is undoubtedly my fault--I replaced the sour cream and egg yolk with low-fat yogurt and an entire egg, respectively. Oops.

Crumby Crumb Cake
(based on this recipe, which is based on this recipe)

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup vanilla yogurt, low fat (not recommended in lieu of sour cream)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
To make the crumbs, in a large bowl, stir together the sugars, cinnamon, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in the flour with a spatula. It should look like a solid dough. Pat it down and set it aside.
To prepare the cake, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla. In a larger bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the softened butter and a spoonful of the yogurt mixture and mix until flour is moistened. Add the remaining yogurt mixture in two batches, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the blueberries over the batter. Using your fingers, break the topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch in size. Sprinkle the lovely crumbs over the blueberries. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

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it's not nice to tease...


...but I'm doing it anyway. Aside from the lovely warm feeling I get whenever a comment is left on one of my posts, the freebies are clearly the next best perk to blogging. Like around 9,214 other bloggers out there, I'll be holding a giveaway soon thanks to the fine folks at CSNstores.com. (Seriously, is there any other company now or in the past that has ever promoted so aggressively? Right on, folks!) They offer great deals on everything from computer desks to hand mixers to cat scratching posts.

Something to rip into with my claws? Yes, please!
Stay tuned!

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May 1, 2010

as american as leftover turkey pot pie


I know many people value the sandwiches that come the day after a huge holiday meal, and I'll admit that I often enjoy my leftovers prepared like that too. However, when there're ample hunks of cooked turkey sitting around, I simply can't resist the urge to make some good ol' pot pie.

If you happen to have some already-made pie dough in the freezer (as I often do)(proud pie-lover, at your service) along with an assortment of frozen or leftover veggies, this creamy epitome of comfort food can be put together in hardly any time at all and with very little effort. The result is a belly-filling, heart-warming, and "mmmmm"-inducing dish.

It's so good, I'm usually inclined to make sure there's leftover turkey breast, even if it means hiding it away in the deep recesses of the fridge.

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
(cobbled together from various recipes)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) all-vegetable shortening
3-4 tablespoons ice water

1/3 cup butter
1 onion, finely diced
1/3 cup flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
salt, pepper, and herbs to taste
2 cups leftover turkey, chopped
2 cups vegetables, fresh or frozen, all similar in size

Make crust:
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt with a fork until combined. Scatter the shortening over the top and mix with a pastry cutter, two knives, or your magnificent hands until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and mix until the dough resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Stir and press the dough together, using a stiff rubber spatula until the dough sticks together. If the dough does not come together, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.
Flatten the dough into a 4-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let the chilled dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out and laying it across the pie filling.

Make filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Melt butter in a large skillet and saute onion until soft. Sprinkle with flour and cook until golden. Add broth, milk, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thick. Add turkey and vegetables and cook until hot and thick. Pour into a sprayed 2-quart dish and cover with the prepared crust. Brush top crust lightly with butter, milk, or egg. Cut vents in the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes. If at all possible, allow to cool 10-15 minutes before cutting.

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