A Southern Grace: June 2012

June 24, 2012

ah'll be bahck.


I've decided that tapioca is the Arnold Schwarzenegger* (or any other over-avid bodybuilder, for that matter) of thickeners. Why? Simply because it's super strong and, if we're being honest, a little bit gross.

*Ah, just kidding, Ahnold. You came to mind first because I recently rewatched Total Recall (quality eye-bulging effects and stimulating dialogue!). I'll be the first to admit that you've made some really enjoyable flicks in your time, and as I understand it, some people really liked you as the Governator.

Let's discuss tapioca. In the past, I've always used either cornstarch or plain, good ol' all-purpose flour to thicken my pies, so this blueberry pie was definitely an experiment. Admittedly, in those past pies, the filling has been quite runny more often than not (but always delicious!). Not so with this one, friends--that tapioca is powerful!

I can appreciate the impressive absorption abilities, but to me, it's not a pie if it's dry! What's worse is that you can actually see the unabsorbed little pearls of tapioca, and that absolutely taints an otherwise lovely pie. Yep, this was definitely an overuse of the tapioca. Solutions: Use less, or just stick with the cornstarch.

So other than my terrible trouble with tricky tapioca, this is an excellent pie, thanks mostly to a magnificent crust--it's flaky, buttery, and sturdy yet tender. Fresh or frozen blueberries will work, but if you can get fresh ones, do it! You can also adjust the amount of sugar to suit your tastes (3/4 cup would be plenty for those of you with a less dominating sweet tooth).

Hasta la vista, babies!

Blueberry Pie
(based mostly on a recipe from Joy of Cooking)

one batch of pie dough (enough for a double crust)
about 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, for extra absorption

5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup tapioca
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
egg wash and granulated or coarse sugar, for top

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out your bottom crust and nestle it into the pan. At this point, I've learned that sprinkling some graham cracker crumbs (just a smattering, don't go crazy!) helps absorbs some juices...if you're using a reasonable amount of tapioca, of course. Set this aside.
Combine all the pie ingredients in a large bowl and gently combine. Pour into the prepared pan and store in fridge while you roll out the top half.
Place the top crust on, crimp the edges in a decorative fashion, and poke the top with plenty of air slits or decorative holes. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Place a baking sheet underneath the pie to catch any overflow. Place in the oven and bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the juice starts to bubble out of the slits. Let cool completely before serving.

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June 17, 2012

i'm all shook up


As you might imagine, I make many, many treats for my friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, and some are outright experiments. All are appreciated, but a rare few inspire hugs, squeals of delight, and requests for more. These cupcakes fall into that category.

If I had any idea that simply including bacon in one of my creations would generate such a positive response, I would've done it much sooner. With all the buzz about the unveiling of Burger King's bacon sundae, I guess I should've known the cupcakes would be a hit.

So, what are they? Well, I'll tell ya. Elvis was my inspiration, and what a lovely inspiration he was. Banana cupcakes were filled with a fluffy and decadent peanut butter mousse and topped with smooth vanilla buttercream frosting. The finishing touch was a generous sprinkling of crispy bacon.

I think most people would love these, even if salty and sweet isn't their thing. While the bacon is undeniably salty, it's not overwhelming. Plus, the crunch is terrific. The mousse is lovely, too, and I'm thinking some fluffernutter cupcakes might be in order next. After all, marshmallow frosting is amazing.

In the words of Mr. Presley:
A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite...{of cupcake! Posthaste!}

The King's Cupcakes
(makes 28!)

One batch of banana cupcakes

Peanut butter mousse:
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
Pinch of salt
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk, room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

5-6 slices bacon, more or less, as suits your bacon needs, cooked crispy and chopped

Make the cupcakes and let them cool completely.
To prepare the mousse, using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, and coarse salt in medium bowl to blend. With mixer running, gradually beat in 1/4 cup cream. Add another 1/4 cup cream and beat just to blend. Beat remaining 1/2 cup cream, sugar, and vanilla in another medium bowl until peaks form; fold into peanut butter mixture in 3 additions. Chill until ready to use.
To make the frosting, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few minutes. Add the vanilla and milk and briefly blend. Add the powdered sugar gradually until the frosting is thick enough to spread easily. If the frosting is too dry, add additional milk until the desired consistency is reached.
To fill the cupcakes, carve out a cone-shaped hole (and immediately eat the cone)(after plopping on some frosting, of course) and carefully squirt or spoon the peanut butter mousse inside. Apply frosting generously to cupcakes, sprinkle the tops with the chopped bacon, and devour.
Note: The longer these go uneaten, the soggier the bacon gets. However, I don't think they'll go uneaten for long.

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June 11, 2012

lawsy, lawsy


If you live in the southern chunk of America, chances are good that you've heard some flabbergasted woman utter the made-up word lawsy at some point. Heck, I've even said it myself. In fact, it's what came to mind when I saw the name of a product I was asked to review.

Yes, these are real hot dogs.  No foolin'.

Slawsa. Ever heard of it? I hadn't, but thank goodness I have now. It's a combination of salsa and slaw made by a small southern company looking to go nation-wide. It's similar to chow chow in that it's the ultimate topper to things like hot dogs, brats, burgers, pulled pork, and beans, but it's so much more! Slawsa is fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, (but certainly not flavor-free!) and contains a LOT less sodium than your traditional store-bought condiments.

Sometimes I get asked to review things that don't merit high praise, but that's far from the case here--this stuff is awesome, and it'll make you say "Lawsy, lawsy!" even if you've never heard the word in your life. It's the PERFECT hot dog accompaniment, which is high praise from someone who previously allowed only one certain kind of cole slaw or her mamster's red pepper relish to bedeck her weiner. Try Slawsa if you can find it--people in the South and parts of the Midwest should have no trouble! Add it to your grocery list for your next cookout!

*Disclaimer: While I was sent a free jar of Slawsa to review, the opinions are my own!

Red Pepper Relish
(yields about 3 cups)

4 red bell peppers, chopped in small pieces

1 onion, chopped in small pieces
2-2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Add everything to a small sauce pan and stir all the ingredients until well incorporated. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes and turn down the heat to medium-low for an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has reduced. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.

For the record, I still haven't stumbled upon that perfect cole slaw recipe.
Dang it.
So elusive.

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June 2, 2012

hot diggity dog!


I'm giddy with excitement about these cookies, folks.

That's right, they're cookies.

At first nanosecond-long glance, they totally look like real hot dogs, right? The truth is that they're sugar, fat, and flour, my holy trinity. The bun is made using sugar cookie dough, baked up in an oblong shape with a dent down the middle. The dogs are made of red buttercream frosting and the mustard is buttercream frosting colored with a lot of yellow and a teensy bit of brown. The onions are simply flaked coconut. Aren't they cute? Credit to Jessie of Cakespy for the idea!

Hot Dog Bun Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not meltingly soft
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl beat the sugar, butter, shortening, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, corn syrup, and vanilla, and beat at medium speed for a total of 1 minute.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and baking soda to combine; then add to the mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, just to combine. Scrape down the bowl and then mix on medium-low speed for another 30 seconds to mix the dough uniformly.
Gently roll the dough into ovals of about 1/4 cup each. Roll the balls in sugar, then lightly press a dent into the middle of each log with your finger. Arrange at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the edges are golden and the tops are cracked but not completely set, 13 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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