Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buttermilk Pie

Being from the South, having never lived anywhere but there, I have always seen buttermilk and chess pies but never ate one due to the name. It all had to do with the buttermilk, if it had been given another name I would have dove in, but that name was just too much for a little boy. I think it had to do with the fact that I hated straight buttermilk. I can't tell you how many times I watched my Granny put saltine crackers in a glass, slightly broken, then pour buttermilk in the glass and eat it! It was just revolting and I'm cringing even now as I type. I just couldn't embrace the buttermilk.

In adulthood, I've come to love the power that buttermilk holds in it's ability to enhance baking and cooking in general. With few exceptions, buttermilk instead of water or milk really makes a difference. Try buttermilk and cheddar cheese the next time you mash potatoes. I say all of this to say that I'm a fan of buttermilk in cooking but will NOT be planning to guzzle a glass of buttermilk any time soon. My Granny also scrambled pig brains into her eggs, incidentally. I won't be going there!

Buttermilk pie is very southern and totally delicious. It falls into the custard category, but isn't as difficult to make as custard pies are. The thing I love about buttermilk pie is the "crust" that forms on top of the pie. It is an amber colored caramelized sugar cookie like crust that is probably my favorite part of eating the pie. Chess pie, is the exact same thing as buttermilk pie save the use of cornmeal instead of flour.

This recipe for Buttermilk pie couldn't be easier. It takes all of five minutes to get the pie ready to go into the oven, but bakes for 50 minutes. I found that if I put the pie in the oven right as I was getting dinner served, it was ready by the time we were done eating, had the kitchen clean and were actually ready for something sweet to eat. The other wonderful thing about this pie is it doesn't need a crust. The baking mix in the batter makes the crust. It's one of those kitchen miracles I can't explain.

If you don't have buttermilk in your fridge, follow this easy substitution:
  1. In a 1-cup measure, add one tablespoon white vinegar.
  2. Pour in cold milk to the 1-cup line. Stir and let sit for two to five minutes.
That's it...nothing more to it. The milk is acidulated by the vinegar and thickens to the consistency of buttermilk.

Buttermilk Pie
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup biscuit mix (recommended: Bisquick)
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9" pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, place all of the ingredients. Using a whisk or electric mixer, beat until smooth an free of lump. Pour into the prepared pie plate. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (just like when you test a cake). Cool for a minimum of five minutes, unless you enjoy the top layer of skin peeling off the roof of your mouth.

This is so good, especially with coffee. You could add a tablespoon of lemon, lime, or, orange zest to give it a citrus flavor, but I find this to be perfectly delicious.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

White Chocolate Craisin Cookies

I can imagine about 10 million years ago the caveman who drug his deflated ego back into the cave having just realized that someone else invented the same exact unique discovery--the wheel.  I feel his pain.  Snicker doodles, Chocolate Crinkles, Chocolate Chip, just a few of my favorite cookies.  With Kendra being on Weight Watchers and not exactly having these cookies on her meal plan I was searching for an alternative cookie.  I knew that oatmeal cookies were 'better" for her than the other choices, but the thought of putting a raisin in my mouth just...just...ewww.  Not a fan of the raisin.  We had dried cranberries in the pantry and some white chocolate chips (I'm still developing a chocolate white chocolate chip cookie) so I just threw those babies in and whiffenpoof!  We discovered our favorite cookie.  Good thing is one cookie is only 2 points.  How cool is that?

These cookies are sweet, buttery, tangy, chewy all the things that make a cookie delicious in my book.  The cookie begins with my basic oatmeal cookie recipe, minus the cinnamon because my sweet wife doesn't like cinnamon (I know who doesn't like cinnamon?).  I think if you try these cookies you'll fall in love with them like we did.  I've seen this recipe on the Internet where others take the credit for its origin and just think to myself, "hey, that's my cookie!  I created it!"

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Instant Oatmeal
2 cups dried cranberries (I just get a "regular" bag and dump it in)
2 cups white chocolate chips (I insist on Ghiradelli white chocolate chips)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add butter and sugars.  Mix on medium high until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add eggs one at a time, waiting until the egg is mixed completely. Pour in vanilla and milk, mix to combine.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add oatmeal, chips, and cranberries.  

Using a spring loaded scoop, drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes until just turning lightly browned.  Allow to cool in pan for 1-2 minutes then removed to a cooling rack.

I think I baked my cookies for 13 minutes.  We like soft chewy cookies, not hard and crispy.  They are so good.

Make sure you have plenty of milk on hand!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I bought this cookbook at the last JBF sale, mostly for the cover art, and read through it while waiting for customers to come check out. I love cookbooks in which the author shares the why, the history behind a particular recipes existence in their book. I connects me to the author and often will endear me to a recipe. Having read hundreds of cookbooks and thousands of recipes I can read a recipe and know if it will be good, by my tastes, or not. The authors, Roxie Kelley and Shelley Reeves Smith have apparently written quite a few books, as I have discovered on Amazon. I'll be keep a sharp eye out for their other cookbooks.

Chocolate Chip Muffins have a tendency to be really, really dry which is not something I like in a muffin. I like moist and tender muffins full of flavor that don't leave your mouth dry and desolate like the Arizona desert. I've had plenty of muffins that have left me parched and very unsatisfied.

This particular muffin recipe required little adjustment for my tastes, only a few tweaks. Probably the hardest step is that of melting the chocolate chips and butter to make the ganache that will mix with the dry ingredients to form the chocolate muffin batter. The recipe called for microwave melting, but I am firmly against that, opting instead for the old-fashioned double boiler method. I have a much higher failure rate with microwave melting than with the double boiler method. A glass or metal bowl and pot of boiling water is all you need to create a double boiler, just make sure the bowl is wide enough to fit on top of the pot in which the water is boiling and that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Another valuable tool is a spring-loaded scoop which makes for the easiest of dispensing the exact portion of batter into a muffin tin.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

12 oz. Chocolate Chips (basically a regular bag)
1/3 cup real butter
3/4 c. Buttermilk
1/2 cup Sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare muffin tins by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Melt 6oz of chocolate chips (half a bag) and 1/3 cup butter over double boiler until melted. In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, and soda, stirring to combine. Make a well in the flour mixture (it will look like a volcano) and set aside. When the chocolate and butter have melted, remove from double boiler. Stir until smooth. Add buttermilk, vanilla, and egg, stirring until smooth and combined. Slowly pour chocolate mixture into the well of the flour. Stir until combined, or no white flour is showing. Add chips and stir to combine. Dispense into muffin tins, using a spring loaded scoop. Bake 10-15 minutes at 375.

  • If you have dark pans, like me, decrease the temperature to 375 (the recipe calls for 400).
  • The original recipe called for the muffins to bake 20-25 minutes, which would have made charcoal briquettes out of my muffins.
  • I found that my muffins baked in about 10-12 minutes. You know your oven and how quickly or slowly it produces, so judge that.
  • I also found that I could get 18 muffins out of this batch, the 18th muffin was created when I used my rubber spatula and scraped the bowl clean. If you have empty muffin compartments, fill them half full of water. This will ensure even baking and also provide a nice little mini-sauna for the muffins.
  • Remove to a rack to cool.
  • These had a really great, crunchy crust and were moist and delicious.
  • I used Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips for this. There is a difference, trust me, convert, convert, taste and see that the chip is good--better.
I think you will love these muffins if you are a muffin and chocolate loving kind of person.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

Pineapple upside down cake is among my top favorite cakes. It's for sure the cake I remember most as a child. It's my Dad's hands down favorite cake. He would prefer to have the cake made with crushed pineapple so you get pineapple in every bite, me I would prefer to have nothing but the crispy, buttery, crunchy, golden corner that eliminate 17 years of stress per bite. This is some powerfully good comfort food.

The craving for pineapple upside down cake hit me this week when I saw a can of pineapple rings in our pantry. It was this instant drive that I would have to have a pineapple upside down cake--NOW. We were home Sunday after morning worship for the day so I took advantage of making this cake and not be hurried. The only problem is, I didn't have my families recipe for the cake and I didn't trust my memory of Mom made it, since I never saw her make it. I just knew the corners were MINE and everyone better back off! I flipped through my southern cookbooks and found very few recipes for pineapple upside down cake. I did find one in the Blue Willow Inn cookbook and decided that I would give it a go. Of course, I changed it up and made it my own.

What I found interesting is the amount of "glaze" recommended for this cake. I do remember my Mom's glaze being very thick and pasty, not liquidy like this one. I doubled the amount of brown sugar and butter for the glaze and kept the liquid amount the same. The other interesting result was the batter not flipping. I expected the heavy batter to settle to the bottom of the pan and the watery glaze to rise to the top and "flip" while baking. It did not do that at all, much to my surprise. This picture to the left shows the two layers right after I poured the cake batter over the pineapple and glaze liquid. Maybe the pineapple had something to do with this. Because there was so much liquid I did learn that next time I make this cake, I'll let it rest for a bit longer than usual so some of that liquid has time to retreat inside the cake and not panic and run to the serving tray.

All in all I think this will be my next favorite recipe for pineapple upside down cake. My sister said that we used the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but I can't imagine Mom making the cake batter from scratch. I think I'll try the glaze from BHG and use my cake batter. I have a standard cake batter kick up anytime I make a box cake. I use milk instead of water, add vanilla, and add an extra egg. It gives the cake a more homemade taste, try it next time and see if you don't agree.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

18 1/4 oz box Yellow Cake, mix according to package directions
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pineapple juice
20 oz can pineapple rings
Maraschino Cherries (I didn't have any on hand)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray glass 9x13 baking dish set aside. Pour juice from pineapple into a 1 cup measure (add water if you don't have enough) and add that to a 2 quart pan. Place pan over medium heat, add brown sugar and butter. Bring to a boil. While the pan is heating up, place the pineapple rings in the pan. Note: watch the pan because the liquid will foam quite a bit and could spill over if you aren't careful. When the brown sugar, butter, and pineapple juice comes to a boil remove from heat. Pour over the pineapple.

Mix the cake batter, according to package directions, and slowly pour over pineapple and glaze mixture. Place in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cake rest for 5-10 minutes then invert onto a large tray, or serving platter.

Note: If you are using crushed pineapple I would empty the can of pineapple juice and all into the pot, then add the brown sugar and butter and bring all of that to a boil, then pour into the baking pan when it just comes to a boil.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cassoulet winter's warm regard.

I really, really love comfort foods. I prefer eating comfort foods over any other food. I usually default to familiar dishes that I have always known and loved which give me comfort, maybe from my childhood or from friends and family whom I love and miss and can have a visit with when I enjoy the dishes we made together.

One comfort food that I want to get in touch with again is cassoulet, which I've only made one time but now want to make again because I got the coolest pot for Christmas from my Mom. It's a cast iron, enamel coated dutch oven. I'm totally excited about that baby! This cassoulet is perfectly suited for such a pot as this. Cassoulet hales from the Southwestern region of France and is likened to what we would think of as stew, only ALOT less liquid.

What I love about this dish is how the flavors develop as it steeps on the stove. With the weather being bone chilling cassoulet is the perfect dish. Serve this with crusty bread and a wonderful salad and you are set. Here's the scoop:

Cassoulet (KASS-OU-LAY)
1 whole Rotisserie Chicken
16 oz. Turkey Kielbasa, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup Carrot, diced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 1/2-2 cups Chicken Stock
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (19 oz.) cans Cannelli beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon Thyme
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Remove skin and debone chicken. Loosely chop and set aside. In a large stock pot over medium high head, add olive oil, celery, onion, and carrot. Saute over medium heat until onion is clear (5-7 minutes). Add sausage and garlic, cook 3 minutes to heat through. Add remaining ingredients except bread crumbs, cheese. Stir well, taste and add salt and pepper to personal taste, I added about a teaspoon Kosher salt and about a tablespoon of fresh cracked pepper. Combine the bread crumbs and cheese, toss together. Sprinkle over the cassoulet and place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. If you don't have a cast-iron enamel pan place in a 9x13 baking dish.

It's hearty and delicious. I am not a stew person but loved, loved this dish. I think the combination of sausage and chicken comes together so well. I also think this would make a terrific Crock Pot dish. I would saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic with the Olive oil then add everything to my crock pot and cook it all day on low. I think it would work. You would want to play with the breadcrumb topping by maybe toasting it with some butter in the skillet you used for the veggies. It's really good, trust me.

The photo is courtesy of Southern Living ( I could never take a picture that good). As far as salad is concerned, here are some tips I always follow:
  • use organic sping mix lettuces
  • Season lettuce with salt and pepper
  • Add seven other ingredients
  • Make your own vinaigrette dressings (I use the Good Seasons mixes and just play with the acids and oils).
  • I like to include nuts, protein (usually bacon), veggies, cheese (Parmesan or feta), dried and fresh fruit (diced apricot, cranberry are great, fresh apple and pear are also good)
  • I love croutons, so I put a lot in there to.
I can't imagine anyone not being excited about coming home to this meal. Don't forget the crusty bread,with dipping sauces (balsamic and Olive oil with cracked pepper; sun-dried tomato and olive oil).

What better end to a french dinner than these babies?