Sweet Cornmeal Scones

Sweet Cornmeal Scones5

Smoked paprika. Onion powder. Worcestershire sauce.  Hoisin sauce. Onion soup mix.

This seems like a random list, I know. But in my private little world of cooking and baking, it totally makes sense.

There are certain ingredients that I have a slight obsession with. If you’re a cook, you’ll know what I mean. No matter what, you always have to have them in your house/kitchen. You search for excuses to put them to use. You’ll swap them in recipes that don’t necessarily call for them, because YOU know from experience that they serve their own unique purpose. I’ve certainly found that to be the case for me with the above mentioned ingredients.

I used to think paprika was pointless. It gave dishes a reddish hue but I never could distinguish a prominent flavor in regular paprika. I still can’t. But the day I discovered smoked paprika? Whooooo. I was hooked. The earthy smokiness is a flavor that will work with just about ANY savory dish, especially Latin and Middle Eastern ones. I freely admit to dumping entire tablespoonfuls of smoked paprika in braises and spice rubs. The tastebuds of the people I’m feeding always thank me later–and if you start using it generously in your food I promise that the tastebuds of the people you feed will thank you as well.

I’m gonna keep it 100 with you guys: I depend on onion powder in seasoning my food even more than I do salt and pepper. Yes. It’s that serious. I’m really sitting here trying to think if there is ANY savory dish that I make where I don’t use onion powder…….yeah, no. There’s not, and that’s because onion powder makes everything taste better. Worcestershire sauce and Hoisin sauce kinda go hand in hand. If you’re making a beef or pork dish and you want to add a deeper, richer layer of flavor to your sauce, then I highly recommend you keep them handy. A tablespoon of hoisin  and few shakes of Worcestershire sauce in a beef stew will REALLY give it that extra boost: trust me on this. lastly, If you think you’re really bad at making gravy–or you’re not bad at it, but you need to make some fast in a pinch, then using dry onion soup mix combined with beef broth is a quick & easy way to get good results.

I left one ingredient off that list on purpose, because it’s largely centered on today’s recipe.  Here’s the thing, guys: I have a slight obsession with cornmeal. I love it. I search for ways to put the stuff in everything, in both sweet and savory applications. I’ve shared two cornbread recipes on the blog already (my grandma’s recipe included which is made of more cornmeal than flour). The fried chicken recipe I shared a few weeks ago was posted alongside a recipe for biscuits that had cornmeal in them. I’ve made several yeast breads that have cornmeal in the dough–heck, I just made one yesterday that I’ll be sharing soon. There’s even a cookie recipe I tried with cornmeal that I really liked. I even sometimes put a sprinkle of cornmeal in my stews, chilis or braises to both thicken the liquid, and give it a subtle corny flavor.

And now, just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be yet another cornmeal recipe I could throw at y’all, here I am… throwing another cornmeal recipe at you.

You only have to take a brief glance at the Recipe Index to figure out that I’m kinda fond of scones.Every so often I get a crazy craving for one that I just have to appease, whether it means finding a coffee shop with a good selection or just making them myself. This time, I went with the latter and decided to see what would happen if I made my favored breakfast pastry with one of my favored ingredients.

This is what happened, and I gotta say: I like it. Cornmeal does admittedly add a coarser, grittier texture to ANY dough you make so if you’re searching for a light and fluffy scone, this may not be the one for you. However, these still do have layers and a flakiness to them that I think the cornmeal adds an interesting and different texture to. They’re somehow flaky and bready at the same time. Flavor-wise, you taste the sweetness from the light brown sugar then the subtle sweetness of the corn-y flavor and somehow, the two just really work together. Oh, and did I mention these were made even better smeared with butter and jam? Cause they were.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #184, co-hosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Sweet Cornmeal Scones

Recipe Adapted from Food.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling, optional

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal salt, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the scones to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size scones you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut scones on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the scones with melted butter and the turbinado sugar, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Serve warm, spread with butter or jam.

 

S’mores Cake

It’s summer time and in the summer time we eat s’mores. This is non-negotiable.

IF by some odd chance you think you don’t like s’mores, you’re dead wrong. More than dead wrong. You’re lost. You’re confused. You don’t actually believe that you deserve nice things.

Let me enlighten you. Let me bring you back into the light. Trust, I’m only here to help. You do deserve nice things in life and one of the greatest is a s’more, or (come to think of it), anything that is s’mores flavored.

If you’ve been following along with the blog for a bit then you know by now that I’m…fond of s’mores flavored desserts. So far I’ve hit you guys with popcorn, sandwich cookies and brownies–ALL of which, you should try because they’re friggin delicious.

Today I’m back with a new addition to the collection that I’m pretty proud of: a s’mores flavored layer cake.

The first thing that I want to point out about this recipe is rather obvious: this isn’t a conventional round layer cake. Most layer cake recipes call for you to have at least 2, and at times up to 4 or 6 different pans to bake the batter in, and even though I bake often I have 3 cake pans and never really feel like using them much. You have to measure out and weigh the batter in each pan to make sure there’s an even amount in each and sometimes I just can’t be be bothered. All of this cake’s batter bakes in one single loaf pan–the kind that MOST people already have in their cabinets. Rather than divvy up the batter between multiple pans, it’s baked into one cake that’s then split into three rectangular layers later on.

I’ve seen recipes for other s’mores cakes before and interestingly enough, the cake is often chocolate flavored. I…don’t understand this. The base of the s’more are graham crackers that house the marshmallow and chocolate inside. You’ve just got to have that graham cracker flavor to balance the other two. In this recipe, the cake batter is given a warm, nutty, caramel-y flavor with brown sugar and the essential graham base flavor by the addition of finely crushed graham cracker crumbs.

If that doesn’t sound yummy enough all on it’s own, after you split the layers of the cake and start to assemble it is where things get REALLY tasty. We’re not just putting melted marshmallows into the buttercream; to give it that special ‘campfire’ flavor, the marshmallows are first toasted underneath the broiler until they are JUST the right color and brownish hue (much like you’d get holding them over a flame on a stick), then mixed into a smooth buttercream. This buttercream gets spread in between and on top of all the cake layers along with…what else? Smooth, rich semi sweet chocolate. Once you’ve assembled the cake, it get completely covered with the toasted marshmallow buttercream then broken graham cracker shards and mini marshmallows are pressed into the gooey deliciousness and the whole thing gets drizzled with even more melted chocolate.

Guys, I am so proud of this thing. You don’t even know. It is soooo good. There’s not one single thing I would change and I’m excited to share what is trully a perfect summer dessert. Please try it. I’m sharing this cake at Fiesta Friday #182, co-hosted this week by Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons and Jenny @ Jenny Is Baking.

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S'mores Cake

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine and The Cookies & Cups Cookbook

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs, from half a sleeve
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Marshmallow Buttercream

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened)
  • 8 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For decorating: extra graham crackers, broken into pieces and partially crushed, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a hand held one, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl combine the milk, heavy cream, whole milk, eggs and vanilla extract with a fork, whisking until egg yolks are broken and thoroughly combined.

Alternatively add the dry ingredients and egg mixture to the creamed butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Make sure you use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you add the ingredients to ensure even mixing.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50-55 minutes in the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at about an internal temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit if you have an instant thermometer.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.  Place the cake in the fridge for about one hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes to let it firm up.

For Marshmallow Buttercream: Preheat the broiler. In the bowl of a standing mixer cream the butter together with the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Spread the marshmallows out in a single layer, keeping them close together. Place underneath the broiler and let them get lightly browned; DON’T WALK AWAY. This takes no more than 30-40 seconds. Using a rubber spatula you spray with cooking spray immediately scrape the toasted marshmallow into the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until combined. If it seems too stiff, you may add the heavy cream to your desired consistency.

Gently heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl (about 45 seconds should do it). Pour it directly over the chocolate in another bowl and gently stir until it completely melts. If it’s too stiff you can add more warm heavy cream.

Take the cake out of the fridge/freezer. Cut it into three layers (it’s okay if they’re not perfectly even. Mine weren’t either.) Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Smear a little of the chocolate or buttercream in the center to keep the cake from moving around. Place one cake layer on the platter. Spread or pipe a border of the marshmallow buttercream around the edges, bringing them up almost like a fence. Fill in the center with more buttercream, then dollop the chocolate ganache on top, trying to keep it inside the buttercream ‘fence’. Add the second layer and repeat then place the third cake layer on top. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Using a spatula to smooth out the sides of the cake, dipping it in some warm water intermittently.

Press the broken graham crackers and crumbs onto the sides of the cake (They don’t have to cover it completely). Sprinkle more of the crumbs on the top, then use a fork to drizzle the rest of the chocolate ganache on the top.) Place the cake in the fridge to let the buttercream and chocolate to firm up a bit, 15-20 minutes before serving.

Cookies n’ Cream Layer Cake

There is a tangible difference in food that’s been made with care and love versus food that’s been made without them and don’t you let anyone tell you there isn’t. Anyone who says there isn’t has never had food made for them with love, and that’s truly unfortunate. When I was younger, I thought it just boiled down to some people were good cooks and some people weren’t–now that I’m older and that I’ve learned how to cook and bake rather well myself I understand that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve eaten in swank restaurants where the food was both expensive and undoubtedly delicious, but given the choice I still would’ve rather been in my grandma’s house eating a dish of her smothered steak and gravy.  I would take her Lemon Pound Cake over the most pricey, fancy souffle from the best pastry chef in the world ANY DAY.

Know why? Because regardless of whether or not the fancy food tastes delicious, I know for a fact that there is more love for ME personally in her dishes than anything a chef that doesn’t know me from Eve can put into his food, no matter how technically flawless it is. It may sound corny, but for me, food made with love tastes like home; the taste that gives you the ‘itis’ where you’re full, satisfied, and want to take a nap afterwards, then wake up and have a little bit more.

The only thing more gratifying for me than eating food made with love is being the one to make it for my loved ones, especially when it’s a special request/favorite of theirs. Because I know them, I know exactly what they want and how they’re going to want the food to taste and that knowledge makes me all the more determined to put as much care and consideration into what I’m doing to make sure the food meets their anticipation for it. My fellow food bloggers/cooks out there will know the immense feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching someone you love eat and rave over their favorite food and know that YOU were the one to make it for them. It’s a wonderful thing.

My twin sister came out to visit us a few months ago. There’s little to nothing that I don’t know about her, including the fact that she loves practically ANYTHING cookies and cream flavored. The Cookies and Cream flavor is best described as that of the Oreo sandwich cookie: a sweet vanilla base mixed with chocolate. She mostly eats ice cream, and we very well could’ve just got a pint of it to keep in the freezer but when she booked her flight to come out here I decided to make something that was bit more special than ice cream to surprise her with.

This may be the easiest layer cake I’ve ever made. Unlike most others that have lengthy ingredients and complex instructions this cake is so simple it doesn’t even require a standing or hand held mixer. If you’ve got a large bowl, a whisk (or even a fork), you can make this cake and have it baking in the oven in less than ten minutes, no joke. The recipe that I included does give instructions for making whipped cream from scratch. However. In the case that you don’t have a standing or handheld mixer….lean in closer. A little bit closer. Little bit closer.

*whisper*  You can buy pre-made cool whip that you thaw and it will still work out fine.

The finished product is what is probably the most “Cookies and Cream”-y thing I’ve ever seen or tasted. Normally I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate cake, but the combination of the cake with the cookies and cream whipped cream filling just really works. The cake texture itself is very moist, the chocolate flavor isn’t overwhelming and there’s a fluffiness in the whipped cream that adds lightness to the cake that cuts some of its richness. Then again, I DID make it with lots of love. That was bound to have an effect on the tastebuds.

Sharing this cake at this week’s Fiesta Friday #180  co-hosted this week by Tracey @ My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Cookies n' Cream Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Whipped Cream

  • 50 Oreo cookies
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with cooking spray, then line with wax or parchment paper; spray the paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork or wire whisk and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla and beat with a fork or a whisk. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix thoroughly.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place the pans on a large sheet pan. Bake in the oven until cake separates from the sides of the pans and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about ten minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Take a knife and cut 10 of the Oreos in half and set aside. Put the rest of the cookies in a Ziploc plastic bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass to crush into crumbs.

In a mixing bowl beat the heavy cream in 2 batches, 2 cups at a time until the cream has stiff peaks. Beat the vanilla and powdered sugar in with the second batch, then combine them together. Reserve about 3/4 cup of whipped cream in a small bowl in the fridge.  Gently fold in all but about 1 cup of the crushed Oreo cookie crumbs with a spatula.

Level both cakes so that they are flat on the tops. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter.  Spread about half of the Oreo whipped cream onto the cake, then place the second cake layer on top. Use a spatula to cover the tops and sides of the cakes with a thin layer of the cream, then refrigerate for about 1 hour until the layer is firm, to allow a crumb coat to form.

Place the rest of the cookie cream on top and on the sides of the cake. Take the reserved cookie crumbs and press evenly onto the sides of the cake with your fingers. (This may get a little messy so you can place a layer of foil or wax paper underneath the cake to pick up any of the spare crumbs.) Take the Oreos you’ve sliced in half and press onto the top of the cake. Remove the bottom strips of parchment paper. Take the reserved whipped cream and pipe small rosettes in between the sliced Oreos and along the bottom of the cake to form a border. You can also place one whole Oreo in the center of the cake and pipe rosettes around that, if you like.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour to allow whipped cream to set before slicing and serving. Keep cake refrigerated when not eating.

Five Spice Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

So. Apparently, yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day, and not a single one of you told me ahead of time so I could get this post up sooner.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, guys–VERY disappointed.

If you’ve been following me for a while then you KNOW how seriously I take fried chicken. There are few foods that I love more, I’m ALWAYS down for it, and as I’ve said in previous posts: I worked very hard and practiced quite a lot to become one of the cookers of fried chicken that I know. I wear it like a badge of honor. Everyone loves my fried chicken. Everyone.

For a long time, whenever I made it I mainly stuck to one recipe/technique that I shared a while ago on the blog. It’s definitely still a winner that I highly recommend, but I also recently decided to start experimenting with different flavors to see if I could put a different kind of twist to the standard ‘flavor’ of salty/peppery flour and egg mix that most fried chicken recipes have. The first experiment I did was with this Mexican rendition of fried chicken where the chicken was marinated in oregano-spiced buttermilk, then dipped in a flour mix containing cumin and chili powder; spices both used heavily in Mexican cuisine. Because I MUST eat biscuits with my fried chicken, I also included a recipe for drop biscuits that I flavored with mixed dried herbs.

I’m happy to report back to you guys that I’ve found yet another twist to give to my precious meal of fried chicken and biscuits that’s every bit as delicious as it looks. This time it’s given an Asian flair, with several differences to both the flavors and techniques that I’m used to when making the dish.

First, whereas most chicken is soaked overnight in buttermilk before frying, here it’s instead marinaded in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger and Chinese five spice powder. I was skeptical of this at first for a couple reasons:  buttermilk is supposed to be what keeps the meat moist and since I strictly use chicken breasts, this is key to me. Second, sesame oil is a VERY potent ingredient where a little usually goes a long way.

The second change that I noticed was first that the wet wash contained not only rice flour (something I’ve previously only baked with and never for savory dishes) but a LOT of cornstarch. More cornstarch than I think I’ve ever used in a single dish, ever. I do know that some fried chicken recipes use cornstarch because it helps the breading stick to the chicken and not slide off. I’ve scooped a tablespoon or two into my dry flour mixes before myself. But this time, the rice flour and cornstarch are used in the wet wash, which I thought was different. However, I decided to go with the recipe and just…see what happened.

These biscuits are probably the most ‘out there’ biscuits I’ve ever made. I could’ve just made standard herb biscuits with this dish and it would’ve turned out fine. However, because I was giving the fried chicken an Asian twist, I wanted to see if I could successfully do the same thing with the biscuits. The first change to them is that there is a generous amount of cornmeal in the dough. The second modification I did was to add two spices to the dough which I thought would give it those Asian flavors I was looking for without being too overpowering: Chinese five spice powder and ground ginger.

This meal was so good, guys. In the first place, this is one of the best fried chicken batters, ever. The crust is sturdy and crunchy, and all that cornstarch is a godsend: the breading doesn’t go anywhere, not even when it’s cooled off. You can taste the flavor of the sesame oil marinade but it isn’t overpowering. The ginger and five spice gives it an aromatic spicy-sweet flavor that’s a good compliment to the saltiness of the breading. Because the biscuits have cornmeal in them, they have a slightly coarser texture, a darker color and (my favorite part) a crustier exterior that makes them have the texture of both biscuits AND cornbread (my other staple side with fried chicken). The ginger and five spice give it that same spicy-sweet flavor that’s in the aftertaste of the chicken.  The only thing that made this even better was when I sliced a biscuit, sandwiched the chicken between two halves, then drizzled the whole thing with honey and Sriracha. Yum.

I was VERY pleased with how this dish turned out and am amped to be able to share it with all of you here, and at Fiesta Friday #179, co-hosted this week by  Petra @ Food Eat Love and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Five Spice Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

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Ingredients

For Chicken Marinade

  • About 3 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in halves
  • 6 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne or black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced or grated ginger 

For Assembly

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

For Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup buttermilk (plus more as needed)

 

Directions

For Chicken: Place the chicken in re-sealable Ziploc bag(s). In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, five spice powder, garlic powder, cayenne or black pepper and minced ginger. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag and massage the bag with your hands until chicken is thoroughly coated with marinade inside. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, five spice, and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Work in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

For Biscuits: Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, five spice powder and ginger with a fork. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the bowl . Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

vanilla-sugar-cookies1

Our current location is pretty convenient for several reasons. First, there’s a park nearby that me and my niece have gone to at least once a week since we moved out here. Second, we live a hop, skip and a jump away from a pretty dope children’s museum that my niece has become very fond of. Because the weather here’s been so hot and pretty much unbearable to play outside, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time at it. It’s a very nice museum, but it’s certainly not the biggest one that we’ve ever taken her to. You’d think that after going two or three times, a kid would get tired of it.

But…nope. Not ours.

The museum has the option to purchase what’s called a family membership where after paying one lump sum, you can go to the museum as many times as you like for an entire year. After our first two visits, her mother decided that she’d just go ahead and gift her with a membership. That way, on days when she doesn’t want to go to the park, or when stormy or hot weather doesn’t permit us to go (like nowadays) she still has a way to get out of the house and have some fun.

And boy, does she have fun. It’s become kind of amusing for me to see her go through the same exhibits, play with the same toys, see the exact same things and never seem to get tired of it–like, ever. Each time we go is like the first time for her.  In fact, she’s already asked me if we can go back there on Monday. I figure it beats standing out in the hot sun on a playground that has little to no trees for shade.

I said sure; why not?

Now that I think about it, I can’t really blame my niece for loving the museum that much. I can be like that in other ways about other things.

For instance, oh well…sugar cookies. I think my unending love and obsession for the sugar cookie has been well documented on this blog. There is no dessert or sweet that I love more. No matter how many different ones I’ve made, I’m always willing to try another recipe and try to either improve it or give it another creative twist.

Today’s recipe is kinda like yet another one of my niece’s visits to the museum: I’m showing up with yet another sugar cookie recipe. You all will not only deal, you will love it.

Ever since I bought my Springerle Cookie molds, I’ve developed a small obsession with making stamped/imprinted cookies.  They’re a really quick way to give your cookies a lift aesthetically and with some practice I’ve gotten pretty decent at getting the results that I want. The problem with Springerle molds is that because each one is hand carved, they’re not cheap. Right now I’ve only got two and because I wanted to widen my collection of cookie stamps, I knew I would have to try and find a cheaper alternative. A little digging on Amazon led me to some perfectly nice rubber ones from Tovolo. They came in a set of one plunger that fit three rubber stamps that could be switched out alternatively.

I used one of the stamps in the Tovolo set to make these very simple, but still sooooo delicious sugar cookies. Sugar cookies are one of the foods I love most. Baking itself is therapeutic for me, so I think that love just goes into it naturally. The stamp of choice just seemed appropriate. I would like to say though that although I used one for this recipe, these cookies DO NOT require you to use them for it to work. If you’re like me and are also obsessed with sugar cookies–especially ones heavily flavored with vanilla- but don’t have a cookie stamp, don’t worry about it. You can still make un-stamped but still perfectly fine vanilla sugar cookies. And I gotta say, in addition to being simple to put together, these ARE also pretty perfect.

Provided you roll the dough thick enough, these bake up soft and slightly chewy. The flavor I used was vanilla because that’s what I think works best with sugar cookies, but if there’s another flavor you’re fond of, like lemon or almond, I think that would work just as well.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #178.

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Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 2/ 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix just until combined.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Add this in batches to the wet ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour and up to overnight. Take out for about 10-20 minutes to allow to soften a little.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 30-45 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, just until bottoms start to turn golden brown. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: You don’t HAVE to use cookie stamps for this recipe. I think it would work just as well without it. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, or shape the dough into a log, freeze for about 30 minutes, then cut into slices and bake as directed. Also,  no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Malinda Russell’s Washington Cake

Gather round guys. Hi(story) lesson time.

The ‘official’ independence day for the United States is July 4th, as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed by the colonists of the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. However, if we’re going to get down to brass tacks, the facts are these: freedom in the colonies was at that  time only extended to white men and women; the independence/emancipation of the sizable population of Africans who had been stolen from their homes & transported to the colonies through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were not included in the Constitution, nor were they granted their freedom after the Revolutionary War.

A widely held belief is that the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln authorized and put into effect in 1863 during the Civil War is what ultimately freed the slaves. This is somewhat inaccurate.  The official laws of the post-Civil War United States did not grant freedom to all African Americans until the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865, almost 90 years after the Revolutionary War (and even then, there was still a loophole to that amendment if the individual had committed a crime, see Ava Duvernay’s “13th” documentary on Netflix for more on that). Without getting too bogged down into historical details, I’ll just say this: the EP was a military tactic that specifically freed slaves in the Southern rebel Confederate states that had committed treason against the Union and were then considered enemy territory, but had been won and occupied by the Union Army during the war. It left out slaves within the border states as well as territory within 3 Confederate states that were under Union control.

Why am I saying all of this?

Well, next Monday will be June 19th.  Even though the Emancipation had taken effect on January 1st 1863, the slaves in the state of Texas, widely isolated from the North and Southern parts of the country did not even receive word of it until June 19th 1865, after the Civil War had ended and President Lincoln had been assassinated. Many of these freed people of Texas commemorated June 19th as the day of their emancipation and made it one of celebration and religious ceremonies. Like any other celebration, this included good food.

(There’s a point to all of this, and I’m getting to it now, I swear.)

Malinda Russell was an African American woman born in 1820 in the state of Tennessee. Because her grandmother was freed by her owner, her subsequent children and grandchildren were also freed. By her account, Malinda wanted to immigrate to Liberia where there was a colony of former African American slaves, but was robbed by one of her traveling companions & forced to stay in Virginia. She worked there and in Tennessee again as a washerwoman, nurse, cook, and later kept a pastry shop. After this, she moved to Michigan where she published “A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen ” in 1866. The pamphlet that Malinda published became the first cook book published by a Black woman in the United States.

As an African American, I am the descendant of slaves myself on both sides of my family, so the date/celebration of June 19th, holds a particular historical significance to me. Second, like Mrs. Russell,  I’m a Black woman from Michigan who loves to cook/bake, and can do it rather well. (I’d also love to write a cookbook of my own one day, knock on wood)

Her story resonates with me. Her food resonates with me. Therefore, I decided I would pay tribute to the lady, her story and her food in this post.

This is, hands down, one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. The texture inside is SO tender and moist. When I first took it out of the oven, I was concerned that despite being the right temperature, I’d under-baked it because it seemed a little wet in the center of the tube. Nope. It wasn’t underdone in the slightest. It was just perfect.

I can’t claim to have altered this recipe too much; it’s practically perfect enough all on its own. My personal modification was to add orange zest and juice to the batter to give a citrus flavor to what’s already a dynamite butter cake, then add an icing also flavored with orange juice. If you’d like to try another citrus, like lemon, lime, (heck maybe even grapefruit), I think you’d get equally wonderful results.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #176, co-hosted this week by  Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Malinda Russell's Washington Cake

Recipe Adapted from “American Cake” by Anne Byrn

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy on medium speed, about 1 minute. With mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and salt beat until mixture becomes light and creamy again. Make sure to frequently scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 15 seconds each. Turn mixer off.
In a small bowl combine the baking soda with the buttermilk. In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the cream of tartar. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter-egg mixture; start AND end with the flour and be sure to remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula to ensure even mixing. Fold in the orange juice and zest last, stirring until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing with a spatula. Tap the pan a few times on the counter top to help prevent air bubbles.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of around a 195-200°. Fahrenheit)
Allow to cool in pan for about 25-30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar with the orange juice and just enough of the milk to make a thick icing. Use the tines of a fork to drizzled on top of the cake, then allow icing to harden completely.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

chocolate-chip-cookie-sticks1

When I first started baking cookies, I used to get frustrated a lot. I really wasn’t that good at it for a while. I hit a lot of…speed bumps that would get in the way of me getting the results that I wanted.

These speed bumps varied from recipe to recipe but if I had to rank them, I’d say that the number one issue I would have MOST frequently is spreading.

Just about all of my cookies would spread into flat, thin pancakes. I absolutely HATED it.  To this day the memory is triggering.

For some recipes, flat cookies (although not aesthetically pleasing) aren’t so bad and will pass. However, when it comes to others, a flat disk just won’t do for looks or taste.

If you look up practically any cookie recipe on this blog, I’m just about positive that the directions will direct you to chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour before baking. I’ve intentionally modified recipes I’ve read elsewhere and chilled my dough even when they do not direct to just because from my experience, most traditional drop, cutout or rolled cookie doughs DO need to be chilled at least a little while to minimize spreading and give them the right height and lift.  They just do. Trust me on this, guys. If your cookies frequently spread in the oven, start chilling the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, bake, then get back to me and tell me that it didn’t help your results.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of maybe…two or three instances where I made cookies that I didn’t refrigerate the dough and still got the results I wanted. The subject of today’s recipe is one of those exceptions: biscotti. Why doesn’t biscotti need to be chilled? Well for one, the dough isn’t nearly as wet as other cookie doughs. Wet/moist cookie dough makes cookies that spread in the oven. (Remember that for other recipes; this why chilling them in the fridge helps.)

Biscotti dough is usually first shaped into an oblong mass on a sheet pan, then baked as a whole in the oven until just set. After that, it’s removed and given some time to cool. From there, what would be a giant soft cookie is then sliced into straight or diagonal sticks that are then baked a second time. During this second bake, all of the residual moisture is dried out of the biscotti, giving them that traditional crisp, crunchy texture.

So far as I’m concerned, I think there is but one downside to making chocolate chip cookies from scratch: the resting period in the fridge, which also means that whenever I make them, I’ll have to plan ahead a day in advance to satisfy my craving. This isn’t always ideal. That’s one of the reasons why this recipe is so awesome: it’s a CCC recipe where there’s absolutely no chilling time required and there’s also no need to worry about that pesky spreading problem.

Like traditional biscotti, this dough is first baked in one mass. I spread it in a glass square baking dish, which did help to give the outer edges more definition–if/when you try this, just make sure you line your pan with aluminum foil so that when you have to take it out to slice, it’s one easy lift. After the slicing, the individual biscotti are arrayed onto a sheet pan and baked off for a second time. They won’t spread. Promise. The first bake took care of that problem. This second one is just to take them out of that realm of ‘soft chocolate chip cookies’ to crispy, crunchy chocolate chip flavored biscotti.

Traditional Italian biscotti is intentionally made so crispy that it HAS to be dunked in a cup of coffee or tea just to soften the tight, crunchy crumb enough to bite. These biscotti are certainly not as tough as all that. However, with this recipe I’ve now given you an excuse to essentially, eat a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast alongside your morning cup of Joe or Earl Grey.

You’re welcome.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #175, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Suzanne @ A Pug in the Kitchen.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

 

Directions

Line a 13 x 9 square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening for about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and baking soda and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, all while scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the flour in batches, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate as best you can.

Spray your spatula with cooking spray, or sprinkle and rub both sides with flour. Spread and press the cookie dough in an even layer in the pan. Bake in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, until set and the edges are golden brown.

Cool in the pan for one hour. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use the edges of the foil or parchment paper to lift out of the pan. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the baked dough into strips/logs. Place them, cut side down, on an ungreased or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and edges are crispy. (They may still be a little soft in the middles. That’s ok.)

Carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely; they will harden and crispen fully as they cool.