A Southern Grace: December 2010

December 21, 2010

sandwich of choice


When I think about the uses for orange as a flavor, desserts aren't the first thing that pop into my head.

Morning beverage tops the list, followed closely by pork enhancer and frequent partner of the cranberry.

That may all be changing now, thanks to these unique and dainty little sandwich cookies. Granted, my love for them has a lot to do with the cinnamon-spiked buttercream frosting gluing the cookies together, but I'm sure you've come to expect that from me by now.

How do I judge how much frosting to use between the melt-in-your-mouth cookies? Like so:

-If, when I take a bite, frosting does not squirt out, then I haven't used enough.
-If, when I take a bite, frosting squirts out onto the floor or my lap, then I've used too much.
-Alternatively, if I've only sandwiched 10 cookies or so out of a 40-cookie batch and run out of frosting, then I've used too much.

Just kidding--you can never use too much. Make more frosting and continue.

Orange-You-Glad-They-Exist Milano Sandwich Cookies
(based on a recipe by Gale Gand)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Freshly grated zest of 2 medium oranges
2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
pounds and pounds of your frosting of choice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
With a mixer, beat the butter, orange zest, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and mix. Add the sifted flour and mix until smooth. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Form into two thin disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place disk of dough on it, and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the cookies a little apart on lined baking sheets.
Bake for 6 to 10 minutes; obviously it depends on the shape you're using and whether they are on the upper or lower shelf, though you can swap them around after about 5 minutes. When they're ready expect them to be tinged a pronounced gold around the edges; they'll be softish still in the middle, but set while they cool.
Fill with your favorite frosting, whether it be chocolate ganache or cream cheese. I went the cinnamon buttercream route and it took me to a happy place.

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December 18, 2010

all together now...



Yes, they rip up my carpet (and my skin), and yes, they've learned how to open my medicine cabinet and remove things like my flossers and tweezers, and yes, they seem to miss the litter box more often than they hit it, but how can I not love them?

Congrats to...Hornsfan, the winner of my Ghirardelli giveaway! Send me an email, would ya?

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December 14, 2010

the secret of the ooze (and another giveaway)


What IS it about oozing glazes, fruit juices, syrups, and sauces (to name a few palate-pleasers) that gets those saliva glands achurnin'? I'm fairly certain that no other family of images whets my appetite more.

What is it about simply seeing such drippage and seepage that instantly gives me a powerful craving for sweet treats that aren't within my reach? We may never know.

Regardless of the messy pool of drool and frustration that ensue, those pictures are what keep me coming back to the world of food blogs day after day.

Are there any specific types of food porn that make you particularly weak in the knees and thankful for that chair in which you're sitting?

I'm sure some folks are partial to the savory end of things, and although I do enjoy the juicy-burger-with-melted cheese shots, I'm much more partial to desserts.

I blame (and thank) my grandmothers, two super-sweet ladies who happen to be super sweet-lovers.

Here's hoping you soon see your favorite drool-inducing dish in THREE dimensions, rather than two. To aid in that endeavor, I'm giving away a handful of coupons for Ghirardelli's new LUXE MILK Chocolate, whether you prefer almond, hazelnut, toffee, or pure chocolate. I'll randomly pick a winner on Saturday, December 18th. To be eligible for the win, simply leave a comment on this post telling me the best and most thoughtful gift you've ever given someone--I like to hear about generous souls. Good luck!

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December 8, 2010

as pure as the (un)driven snow


Driven snow is gross, right? So where did that saying come from? I like my snow untouched and pristine. (In related news, I don't like my snow in ball-form on its way to my face or in any shade of yellow...)

Okay, so by driven, the writer means wind-blown into fluffy drifts, but all I can envision when I hear that phrase is the nasty, sullied, dirty snow along the side of the roads.

Whatever. I'm digressing, as usual.

In honor of our first real snowfall here in southwestern Virginia, I topped these moist, tender pumpkin bars with a thick, white chocolate glaze. I guess I could've done powdered sugar for a more realistic effect, but that just wasn't going to cut it on this occasion. The crunchy, super-sweet, frozen snow-like topping (combined with my space heater) made me very happy about the snow indeed.

Congratulations to Ally, the winner of my Tate's Bake Shop giveaway! Ally, I certainly hope you get that ring. :)

Snow-Covered Pumpkin Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 package (12 ounces) white chocolate chips, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in 1 cup white chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup of chips and oil and microwave in 15-second intervals until the chips have melted. Drizzle decoratively over bars. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into squares.

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December 3, 2010

mr (or mrs) versatility


I've decided that the apple is the ultimate fruit.

Your opinion may differ, but hear me out.

The apple can be used in savory applications (hello, pork!) as well as sweet ones. It's perfect for condiments, salads, breads and muffins, and heck, even garnishes. What other fruit can say all that?

The cherry? Perhaps, but you have to deal with those stinkin' pits. I love berries and find them the easiest fruits (or seeds) with which to work, but, like bananas, they don't usually slide so seamlessly into entrees. In contrast, dates and figs don't necessarily shine in desserts. Your citrus usually has to be peeled, which I find to be a hassle. There's no way around it--the apple is king (or queen)(queeng?)!

I am a lazy bum.

And what luck--the spherical stunners are in season! I made some muffins, which I'll admit required a bit of prep in chopping the apples, but hey--at least they didn't have to be peeled. That's a fiber bonus, folks. The chunks of pome lent moistness and lots of great flavor, and in combination with the crunchy pecans, created a very tasty morning treat.

And hey--if you have an argument for a superior fruit, I'd love to hear it!

**There's still some time left to enter my cookie giveaway. Don't miss your chance!

Almighty Apple Pecan Muffins
(kinda sorta based on this recipe)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large apples, cored, and coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease and flour or line 12 muffin cups and set aside.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the buttermilk and vanilla gently. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks and pecans.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the tops with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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