Archive for the ‘Breads, Muffins, and Scones’ Category

A Southern Twist on Funeral Food

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I LOVE funeral foods, an affection I inherited from my mother. With a nod to Shakespeare, she billed herself as a “specialist in funeral baked meats.” When a neighbor died she sprang into action organizing contributions to the post-funeral repast.

One of these days I will find a publisher for my death-related cookbook, which will be titled Dishes to Die For: America’s Favorite Funeral Foods. Meanwhile, I take inspiration from a new funeral-food cookbook that highlights the south.

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist (Countryman Press, $22.95, 176 pages) comes from the fertile pen and kitchen of Perre Coleman Magness. Magness, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, is the author of Pimento Cheese the Cookbook. She is clearly my soul sister. In addition to doting on funeral food, I adore pimento cheese. I ate it almost daily when I lived in Tennessee.

Magness’s new book abounds with tempting recipes for classic southern foods, from fried chicken to chess pie. It also adapts many typical southern dishes into crowd-friendly form, providing for example a mini version of cinnamon buns and an easily sliced caramel Bundt cake (much handier for a large group than the typical layered version).

I recognized many of Magness’s recipes from my southern sojourns and also from funerals I have attended, but some were new to me. I can’t wait to try her paper-bag chicken (yes, it’s chicken roasted in a paper bag, and it sounds WONDERFUL) and her buttermilk pie bars.

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook is a keeper—perfect to consult when you’re heading out to a funeral or just entertaining friends and family at home.

Photo courtesy of Perry Coleman Magness and Countryman Press

Southern Sympathy Sweet Tea Bread (Courtesy of Perre Coleman Magness/Countryman Press)

Sweet tea is a staple of southern hospitality. Almost every restaurant at which I dined in Tennessee and Texas provided large pitchers of sweetened iced tea at low cost. Here Magness uses this ingredient as the basis for an elegant sweet loaf.

Ingredients:

1 family-sized tea bag
2 sprigs mint, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
the zest of one medium lemon
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions:

Put the tea bag and 2 sprigs of mint in a measuring cup. Add 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes; then remove the tea bag and mint. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the tea, reserving the rest for the glaze. Add the flour, the baking powder, and the salt to the butter in the bowl in three additions, alternating with the tea and scraping down the sides of the bowl. When everything is well combined, beat on high for 5 seconds; then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes; then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining tea slowly until you have a pourable glaze about the consistency of heavy cream. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a spoon, spreading to cover the top with a few attractive drips down the sides. Let the glaze set for about an hour.

The loaf will keep in an airtight container for a day. Makes one loaf.

Just for fun, here I am in full funeral mode, leaning on the tombstone of Abigail Baker, my hometown’s best known baker. Mrs. Baker won the famed pudding contest our town sponsored in 1780. This photo will grace the cover of my own funeral-food book.

Biscuits and Rhubarb Salad!

Friday, May 12th, 2017

A Mother’s Day Hug

I write this on May 12, the birthday of Edward Lear. In addition to many other works, Lear wrote (and illustrated!) “The Owl and the Pussycat.” My late mother started reciting this poem early in life—and it was one of the last things she forgot as she succumbed to dementia.

(To hear me read it in her style, visit my YouTube channel.)

I thought about the owl, the pussycat, and my mother this morning as I drove to Chicopee, Massachusetts, to cook on Mass Appeal. Appropriately, today’s show was devoted to Mother’s Day.

It was one of the most delightful editions of Mass Appeal I can remember; the mothers of both of the hosts participated (and got makeovers!), and a happy spirit reigned.

I prepared two dishes that struck me as suitable for Mother’s Day. The first was a biscuit recipe from Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. I discovered the book and the recipe while trying to satisfy my southern sister-in-law’s craving for biscuits earlier this year.

It’s a simple, satisfying formula that produces puffy, delectable biscuits. Thanks to Nathalie for giving me permission to reprint it here.

Since rhubarb is just starting to pop up in my area, I also made a recipe from my forthcoming rhubarb book. This salad combines sweet and tart flavors and provides the mouth with a lot of satisfying textures: crunchy nuts, soft rhubarb, creamy cheese.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers—those who are mothers, and those who have or had mothers. (That should take care of pretty much everybody!) Enjoy the day—and these recipes….

 

Nathalie Dupree’s Two-Ingredient Biscuits

Ingredients:

about 2-1/4 cups self-rising flour (I use White Lily)
about 1-1/4 cups heavy cream
melted butter for finishing

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with silicone, or brush the sheet with melted butter.

Whisk 2 cups of the flour in a wide, large bowl. Make a hollow in the middle of the flour with the back of your hand. Slowly stir in 1 cup of the cream with a rubber spatula. Use broad stokes to pull the flour into the cream. Mix the batter just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is remaining flour, add more cream.

Lightly sprinkle a board or silicone sheet with some of the leftover flour. Turn the dough out onto the board—it will be messy—and sprinkle the top with more flour. Using your floured hands, gently fold the dough in half and pat it into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Flour the dough again if you need to, and fold it in half again and pat it out again. If it’s still clumpy fold it for a third time—but don’t over work it.

Dip a biscuit cutter in flour and use it to cut out biscuits, starting from the outside edges. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for 6 minutes; then rotate the pan in the oven and bake until the biscuits are light golden brown, another 4 to 8 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the oven, and brush them with melted butter. Serve warm.

Makes about 8 to 12 biscuits, depending on how big you cut them.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

for the strawberry vinegar:

strawberries (don’t use too many at a time or this will take forever)
enough distilled white vinegar to cover them
equal amounts of sugar and water

for the salad:

1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon strawberry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups spinach
toasted pecans to taste
feta cheese to taste

Instructions:

The day before you want to eat your salad (or any time up to a year before!) start the vinegar.

Place the berries in a non-aluminum pan. (A porcelain dish is great.) Cover them with the vinegar, and leave them to soak, covered, overnight. If you forget them for a day and wait 2 nights, they will still be fine.

The next day (or the day after that), gently strain the juice through cheesecloth. You may squeeze the berries a little, but don’t overdo; letting the juice drip out on its own is best.

Measure the juice. Then measure a little under 1-1/2 times as much sugar and water as juice (i.e., if you have a cup of juice, use just under 1-1/2 cups of sugar and 1-1/2 cups of water) into a saucepan.

Cook the sugar/water mixture until it threads. Measure the resultant sugar syrup. Add an equal quantity of berry juice to it, and boil the mixture for 10 minutes. Strain this boiled vinegar through cheesecloth, and decant it into sterlized bottles. Cork or cover. Stored in the dark, strawberry vinegar should keep its color and flavor for up to a year.

When you are ready to start your salad, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is preheating toss the rhubarb and sugar together in a bowl, and let them sit for at least 10 minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and place the sugared rhubarb pieces on it. Bake until the rhubarb just begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the rhubarb from the oven and set it aside.

In a small bowl or jar combine the vinegar, salt and pepper and oil.

Place the spinach in a salad bowl. Add the rhubarb, the pecans, and the feta; then remix the salad dressing and toss it over the salad. Serves 4 as a side salad.

And now the videos!

Two-Ingredient Biscuits

Strawberry-Rhubarb Spinach Salad

A Tasty Blend of History and Food

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

I’m a sucker for history and for food so I’m always interested in any project that combines the two. I recently received a copy of The Pleasure of the Taste from the Partnership of Historic Bostons. This booklet examines the intersecting culinary opportunities and habits of English settlers and their Native American neighbors in the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The book was put together by the Partnership, a nonprofit history group that “encourages discussion and debate” about daily life in Massachusetts in the 17th century.

Lorén Spears served as an adviser to the project. Spears is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe and the executive director of the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island.

Spears obviously knows her way around a kitchen; she contributed a number of Native American recipes to the booklet, describing how they would have been prepared in the 17th century but also adapting them for modern kitchens.

The other major adviser was my friend Kathleen Wall, the colonial foodways culinarian at Plimoth Plantation. Kathleen is a wonderful source of knowledge about food in Massachusetts over the centuries and has frequently judged the charity pudding contest (last year it was a pie contest!) I organize from time to time.

Like Spears, Kathleen provided both vintage and modern-day versions of her recipes.

The recipes are not extensive, but they do give the reader (and the cook) a good idea of what Puritan housewives would have had to deal with in terms of cooking conditions and ingredients.

Samp was apparently a major staple of the 17th-century colonists’ diet. An adaptation of the Native American nasaump, this cornmeal-based bread constituted a major bread/starch for both communities.

The booklet delivers versions of both nasaump and samp, along with recipes for stews, tarts, and of course puddings. I’m going to start experimenting with the modern versions of the recipes, but as I go along I may in fact try a bit of historical reenactment.

The Pleasure of the Taste is charming: informative, quick to read, and useful. It may be ordered from the Partnership at www.historicbostons.com.

I leave you with Kathleen’s recipe for English samp, courtesy of the Partnership of Historic Bostons.

English Samp

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups boiling water or milk
1 cup cornmeal
a pinch of salt
a pinch of sugar (optional)
butter or bacon drippings as needed

Instructions:

Stir the boiling water or milk into the cornmeal in a heat-safe bowl. Add the salt and, if using, the sugar. Mix well.

Heat butter or bacon drippings in a cast-iron skillet. When the butter or drippings simmer, add the batter in half-cup measures to the pan.

Flip repeatedly. “They take their own sweet time,” Kathleen says of these cakes.

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Kathleen sampling pudding.

Blueberry Sugar-Top Muffins

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

muffsweb

These simple, super tasty muffins are best made with the tiny, low-bush blueberries we have locally in western Massachusetts at this time of year. I call them blue pearls and can’t get enough of them. As I have probably mentioned too many times on this blog, I find them smaller, sweeter, and more freezable than those clunky high-bush berries.

The recipe will work with any kind of blueberry, of course. If your berries are frozen, you will no doubt have to increase the baking time.

This muffin formula comes from a musical acquaintance of mine named Theresa Kubasak, who obtained it from a teaching nun named Gen Cassani. My nephew Michael wolfed down several of these muffins the morning I first baked them.

So of course I made them on Mass Appeal this week, where they were once again a hit. If you watch the video below (and I hope you do, if only to see my spectacular hat in its full glory!), you will have all the information you need by 6:15. I just kept the video rolling so you could see co-host Lauren Zenzie’s enthusiastic reaction to the muffins a couple of minutes later.

Happy blueberry weather!

blue hat wideweb

The Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
sanding sugar (or regular sugar if that’s all you have) as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin tins with cupcake/muffin liners. Melt the butter over low heat (or in a microwave oven), and set it aside.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. Place the blueberries in a smaller bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dry mixture to the berries, and toss with a spoon.

Return to the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the melted butter, followed by the floured berries. Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to fill the prepared muffin tins with batter. Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake until the muffins begin to brown on top and have no wet batter in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 18 small muffins.

And now, the video….

Asparagus Quiche

Friday, May 20th, 2016
It looks as though we're in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy—but we’re actually discussing diets.

It may look as though we’re in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy. Actually, we’re discussing diets.

After a wet couple of weeks we finally have enough sun to bring asparagus up in our area. I eat grocery-store asparagus in the winter from time to time. But I CAN’T STOP EATING farm-stand asparagus in the spring. To me the flavor of asparagus embodies this green, lush, delicious season.

I tend to eat asparagus plain, but as the many asparagus recipes in these pages attest I do also put it into other dishes. Yesterday on Mass Appeal Seth Stutman and I put it into a quiche I have served several times already this spring—first with sautéed dandelion greens, then with sautéed spinach, and now with asparagus.

I based it on the idea of a spinach salad so I wanted to add red onion and plenty of cheese. One could of course add a bit of cooked bacon as well—particularly in the spinach or dandelion versions. I’m not sure the asparagus version needed the bacon; it has plenty of flavor the way it is. In fact, another time I might try a milder cheese to let the asparagus flavor dominate more. I’m happy with the recipe as is, however. (I just like to tinker!)

Seth and I also made rhubarb bread. That recipe was adapted from Land O Lakes. If you want to try my version, add 1 tablespoon orange zest to the batter and double the streusel. And if you’d like to use three little pans as I did, bake the bread for less time than the recipe suggests. The mini-breads took 45 minutes in my oven, but when in doubt use that toothpick!

You’ll note from the rhubarb video below that I forgot to add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I also FORGOT TO ADD THE CHOPPED RHUBARB!

I’m sure all TV stars have days like yesterday. At any rate, I hope they do.

I stirred the missing ingredients into the batter in the pans before baking the bread and threw a little more brown sugar on top for color. The end result was delicious; the recipe is very forgiving.

quicheweb

My Quiche

Ingredients:

1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 splashes of extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
2 pinches salt (divided)
3 cloves of garlic, slivered
1 large bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and blanched for 1 minute (about 2 cups of pieces)
4 eggs
1 cup cream
5 to 6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 9-inch pie shell

Instructions:

Sauté the onion pieces in a little oil until they caramelize (ideally, half an hour or more, but you can get away with 15 minutes if you have to). Sprinkle on a little salt, and remove them from the sauté pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Splash a little more oil into the pan, and sauté the garlic briefly (3 to 4 minutes) to soften it. Toss in the asparagus pieces, and sauté them just until they are warm.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the cream, and a pinch of salt.

Sprinkle two thirds of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the onion, asparagus, and garlic pieces; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and top with the remaining cheese.

Place the quiche on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetite.

And now the videos….

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