Posts Tagged ‘funeral foods’

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.

Purim Poppy Seed Cake

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

poppy seed cakeweb


Happy spring! This week we celebrate a couple of spring holidays—Easter, of course, but also the Jewish festival of Purim.

Purim begins tomorrow evening. I have always enjoyed the story of Queen Esther, who saved not only her guardian but her people with a mixture of charm and craft. (These were the only weapons available to women for centuries, particularly to Jewish women living in an alien culture.)

Married to the king of Persia and hiding her Jewish identity, Esther could only keep Kosher if she subsisted on a vegan diet. Seeds were important to that diet; hence, people often eat dishes made with poppy seeds on Purim.

Becky Bixler, a friend of my neighbor Alice, provided the recipe for this simple, rich cake. It will represent the state of Iowa (where Becky lives) in my forthcoming book about funeral foods. Becky takes it to funerals frequently.

Happy Purim! May we all be as resourceful as Esther this week and every week.

If you’d like another Purim recipe, try my hamentaschen.

The Cake

Ingredients:

4 eggs, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (salted is best as there is no salt in the recipe, but sweet will work), at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup poppy seeds
a little confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. (Becky says “oil a Bundt pan,” but I’m paranoid so I add the flour as well.)

Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites on high speed until they form peaks. Spoon the fluffy whites into a clean bowl, and set them aside.

Using the same mixer bowl you used for the egg whites (it doesn’t matter if a tiny bit of white is left in it), cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Combine the sour cream and the baking soda, and add them to the butter mixture. On low speed stir in the flour, the vanilla, and the poppy seeds.

Gently fold in the egg whites, and spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let it cool for 10 to 12 minutes before removing the cake.

Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar if you want to make it look festive. Serves 10.

 poppysliceweb