My Grandma’s Lemon Soda Pound Cake

My Grandma's Pound Cake3

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

False. At least, that’s my opinion.

There are some things in life that you just know, no matter what happens, that you will always, always ALWAYS be able to depend on.

Things besides death and taxes.

They may be good. They may be bad. But they’re a sure thing regardless.

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I’ll start out with a positive: my sisters. My sisters are as dependable and certain as death and taxes.

Except in a good way.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or going through, I can always depend on those two. They’re my best friends in the entire world. There’s nothing I can’t talk about, share with, or ask them for. They’re always there for me. They’re not going anywhere

Theoretically could I cheat and avoid death and taxes? Sure.

But cheating/avoiding my sisters? That’s never gonna happen.

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I heard someone say on a tv show once that the only thing just as certain as death and taxes were mistakes.

Here, I have to agree.

No matter how hard you try to strive for perfection, sooner or later you will mess up somehow. It’s gonna happen. You will make a mistake. And that’s okay; accept it, move on and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person.

In fact, NOT thinking you’re going to ever make a mistake IS actually making a mistake so if you’re thinking that way, then you should really stop because you’re actually mistaken.

Heh. See what I did there?

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I bring up the whole death, taxes and certainty bit because it’s really the first thought that came to my mind when I sat down to write out this post.

If I had to pick out a handful of things that have just been permanent fixtures throughout my life, then this recipe would certainly be one of them. And with good reason. It’s probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. Hands down. No contest.

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My grandma’s desserts are the thing of legend in my family, and although she knows how to do bake just about anything, this pound cake is still the most treasured darling of them all (with the possible exception of her caramel cake, but you guys aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness yet).

When I was growing up, I just got used to almost always seeing this pound cake sitting on my grandparent’s dining room table underneath her fancy clear glass- domed serving plate as the ‘standard’ dessert for everyone to have after dinner throughout the week. Everyone loves it. Everyone.

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I’ve made quite a few pound cake recipes before and I still have to say, my grandma’s is THE moistest I’ve ever had- which is no easy task for pound cake sometimes. It practically melts in your mouth. I used the phrasing “lemon soda” in the recipe title on purpose: we typically either use Squirt or 7-up in our cake, but honestly ANY name-brand lemon lime soda will do. (Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist, 7-Up, Faygo, etc). Just make sure that the soda isn’t flat. For some reason having the carbonation really makes the difference in helping the flavor come through.

Normally, I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts, but I just can’t get enough of the slight tartness from the citrus that offsets the sugar in the cake. I know it SEEMS like a lot of lemon flavoring with the extract, lemon juice AND lemon soda, but trust me: it all works beautifully together.

When Angie asked me to help co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #67 with Caroline@CarolinesCooking, I didn’t hesitate. Not just because I love co-hosting, but also because it would give me the chance to share this recipe with all of you that is so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy it.

For those that are new to the Fiesta, welcome! We’re happy to have you and invite you to join our link up and the festivities by clicking the link to the website.

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My Grandma's Lemon Soda Pound Cake


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon soda (like Squirt or 7-Up)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

For Glaze (Optional)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a fluted bundt pan (or 2 greased and floured loaf pans) and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour.

Beat in lemon extract, lemon soda and lemon juice

Pour batter into Bundt or loaf pan(s). Tap the bottom of the pans onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, or a direct read thermometer inserted into cake reads 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: if you’re using 2 loaf pans,the cook time will obviously be shorter, so check it sooner rather than later.)

Allow cake to cool for at least 35-45 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding from pan, then allowing to completely cool on a wire rack.

For Glaze: combine the sugar with a few tablespoons of milk until it forms a smooth, but still somewhat stiff glaze. Use a fork to drizzle on the top, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes until it is set.

Harvest Apple Challah

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Sometimes life is just made up of everyday annoyances, irritations, unfortunate circumstances and overall ‘sucky-‘ things.

It snowed earlier this week in Michigan.

End of April. We got snow.

I’m sorry to say that round here,  that’s nothing new. My senior year of high school, we got a full blown snow storm on Easter Sunday. I still remember going out to shovel the sidewalk in blowing snow when we got home from church.

It sucked.

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Oftentimes I can shrug off suck-y things as exactly that: suck-y things. For example:

Snow in April.

Random, unexpected and extremely inconvenient cooking fails (when I specifically planned on doing a photo shoot for the blog that day).

My paycheck doesn’t have a few extra zeros at the end.

Sucks.

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I’ve never been to Europe.

Stephanie Meyer is a gazillionaire and a bestselling ‘author’, and I’m…not either of those things.

Chris Evans hasn’t figured out that we’re meant to be together and proposed to me.

I don’t have the thighs of a Victoria Secret Model.

Sucks.

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But for every one of the daily, inconvenient ‘suck-y’ circumstances of every day life, I bet we all can think of just as many (if not more) convenient, not suck-y circumstances that make up for all that. I certainly can.

For one: challah. Challah is one of my all-time favorite things ever, period. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious. It’s the best.

Challah can make up for a lot of those daily suck-y things.

(Except maybe the one about Chris Evans. That still smarts pretty bad no matter what.)

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Somehow, I always end up baking challah around this time of year. Last year, I went all out and made regular Challah and a Vanilla Bean Challah. This year, I still wanted to try and make a twist on the original so I decided to go with this recipe for Challah stuffed with apples.

Challah itself can be a labor of love if you’re keen on twisting the dough into elaborate shapes. Or if you’re like me, and still has to Google EVERY SINGLE TIME how to correctly braid the dough no matter how many times I’ve made this bread before. This apple challah is, I will admit, somewhat more  labor intensive.

However, it’s worth it. More than worth it.

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As you guys can see, this dough is as soft, fluffy and moist as a bread dough can get. The fat challah rolls pull apart at the slightest tug, letting the tender apple chunks fall out into your hands. Best of all, the filling leaks out ever so little so that the bottom of the dough has a thin layer of syrupy brown sugar goo. And of course, there’s the trademark challah golden brown crust on top that is ever so ‘thunk-able’ with your fingers so that you know for sure that you’ve done it right.

So.much.yum.

Definitely does not suck.

If I had to critique one thing about this recipe, it’s that I had way too much dough to try and stuff into a 9 inch cake pan. Mine wasn’t wide or tall enough by far, so I opted for one of deep, oval casserole pans instead. I think it gave me a much bigger rise for my dough anyway, so that was totally cool with me.

Cheers, guys!

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Harvest Apple Challah

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

For Apple Filling

  • 2 medium-to-large apples, NOT peeled; cored and diced in ¾” chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  ¼ cup granulated sugar

Glaze

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • coarse white sugar, optional

 Directions

1) Pour water in a small bowl; add yeast and 1 tsp. white sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until proofed and foamy at the surface.

2) Pour yeast mixture into a stand mixer and add vegetable oil, honey, eggs and salt, stirring well to combine. Using dough hook add the flour, 1 cup at  a time until dough is smooth and elastic.

3) Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

4) Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan that’s at least 2″ deep, or grease a 9″ or 10″ springform pan.  Toss the apple chunks with the sugar and cinnamon. Gently deflate the dough, transfer it to a lightly greased work surface, and flatten it into a rough rectangle, about 8″ x 10″.

5) Spread half the apple chunks in the center of the dough. Fold a short edge of the dough over the apple to cover it, patting firmly to seal the apples and spread the dough a bit.  Spread the remaining apple atop the folded-over dough. Cover the apples with the other side of the dough, again patting firmly. Basically, you’ve folded the dough like a letter, enclosing the apples inside. Take a bench knife or a knife, or even a pair of scissors, and cut the apple-filled dough into 16 pieces. Cut in half, then each half in halves, etc.  Lay the dough chunks into the pan; crowd them so that they all fit in a single layer (barely). Lots of apple chunks will fall out during this process; just tuck them in among the dough pieces, or simply spread them on top. Cover the challah gently with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s a generous 2″ high. It should just crest the rim of a 9″ round cake pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 325°F.

6) Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the dough with the egg mixture, and sprinkle heavily with the coarse sugar, if desired. If you’re going to drizzle with honey before serving, omit the sugar. Place the bread in the lower third of the oven. Bake it for 55 minutes, or until the top is at least light brown all over, with no white spots. Remove the challah from the oven, and after 5 minutes loosen the edges and carefully transfer it to a rack.

Market Fresh Cornbread

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Up until now, there are only two cornbread recipes that I’ve ever used. Just two.

The first default choice is my grandmother’s recipe, which is one I’ve shared on the blog before. We use it for the ‘bread’ part of every family dinner that we have, and also use it for the base of our special family dressing that we make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keeping it true to our Southern roots, it’s non-sweet, mainly cornmeal based and rather crumbly in texture. There is a very simple explanation for this: it’s friggin marvelous.

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The second recipe that I’ve used and actually been pretty satisfied with, is one I found on Allrecipes.com. It’s a ‘Northerner’ recipe that’s rather sweet with a more even ratio of flour to cornmeal. As a result, the crumb is more finer than my grandma’s. It’s pretty tasty I’ll admit, and when I’m trying to aim for a cornbread that caters to my more “Northern” tastebuds, I’ll throw it together on the quick.

And just in case you were wondering…no. I don’t do Jiffy Mix. It’s nothing personal, I don’t even think Jiffy Mix tastes that bad. But…no.

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I’m stuck up when it comes to my cornbread guys. The truth is, most of the time it’s a hit-or-miss game. And I can think of very few other things that are  more depressing to me than cornbread that is a big fat ‘miss’.

I really didn’t think I’d ever be saying this, but with my recent Christmas gift of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s newest cookbook “Marcus Off Duty,” I think I’ve found a third cornbread recipe that I’m actually going to be willing to keep on my super exclusive roster. The almost immediate appeal to me was finding out that this is the recipe for the cornbread that is served at Marcus’ Harlem restaurant Red Rooster- a place that is on my Food Bucket List to attend before I buy the farm.

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Word of warning for my Southern friends: this is not exactly what we think of when it comes to ‘cornbread’. In the first place, it’s extremely moist, almost to the point where it melts in your mouth. Secondly, us folks used to Dixie cornbread- and likely some Yankees too- will at best give a double take at the inclusion of ginger, cardamom, chile powder and paprika in a cornbread recipe. At worst, we’ll start a riot.  But just hear me out- I was skeptical too. But it works. It really does. The spices aren’t overpowering at all, and they somehow work REALLY well with the inclusion of the sharp cheddar cheese.

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Oh yeah- and did I mention there’s fresh corn baked into the batter? Cause there is. And it was a really good idea. It gives a special ‘chew’ to the bread that is absent in most other recipes that can result in a bland one-note texture. None of that here, I can assure you.

I think my favorite part of cornbread is the crust that forms on the top and sides while baking. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re doing the ‘cornbread’ thing wrong and you should rethink your entire life. This loaf’s crust baked up perfectly.

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All of that being said, I do intend to stick with just these three cornbread recipes for both the near and distant future. Life shouldn’t be TOO complicated. Some things need to be kept simple and stream-lined.  Am I right or am I right?

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Market Fresh Cornbread

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cu grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 1 large or 2 small ears of corn)

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Put the butter, ginger, cardamom, chile powder, paprika, and sugar into a small pot over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and spicy butter together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cheddar and corn, then fold in the scallions if using.

4. Scrap the batter into the loaf pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven and bake until a skewer stuck in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the loaf upside down onto a rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Then lift off the pan.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls1

One of things that I am really proud of myself for learning how to do in the kitchen is bake fresh bread. It takes some getting used to in the beginning, and to be honest there are still things I have to learn but once you get the hang of it, going back to store bought bread pretty much becomes impossible. I can’t really explain in detail what the difference is, but I suspect that is has something to do with the preservatives found in store bread, especially white bread. I can literally taste the preservatives they put in it- it almost leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth that’s just really unpleasant, so I don’t even touch the stuff anymore. If I’m eating white bread at all, it’s only because I made it myself first. The aftertaste of THAT stuff is pretty darn good if I may say so myself. But my point is, whenever we run out of bread in my house, I know that I just have to make some more. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for new yeast bread recipes to try out just to keep things around here interesting.

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I remember it was about a year or so ago where I was writing up a post complaining about how I was struggling to get my yeast bread doughs to rise on sheet pans. It just wouldn’t work, and frustrated me to no end. Whenever I shaped and set my dough out for its second rise on the sheet pan, most time it just barely expanded, if at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, especially whenever I would make the bread in round pans or in pyrex glass dishes, it worked out beautifully. For a while, I just avoided baking bread in sheet pans altogether, but recently I decided to try and get back on the horse again and slightly tweak my methods in the second rise to see if that would yield different results. These crescent rolls were my guinea pigs.

How do you guys think I did?

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Well I’ll just go ahead and say it if you won’t: I think it turned out rather well. Here’s what I changed in case you were curious.

See, in the past what I was doing was using very large sheet pans for my second rise and spacing the rolled out dough pretty far apart from each other. I’m no food scientist like Alton Brown or the folks at America’s Test Kitchen but what I THINK was happening in my previous attempts was that rather than expanding ‘up’ on the second rise and giving that heightened fluffiness that you see in the above picture, my dough was expanding ‘out’ since there was so much space between each individual one and giving it the appearance of being flatter. Now is it possible that the dough would eventually rise and become taller? Yeah probably, but I do think that it would’ve taken longer than an hour or two so long as I was using the larger sheet pans.

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So what I did this time around was use one of the smallest sheet pans that I had for my second dough rise, which left a much smaller space between each one of the crescent rolls- this way, the only place that the dough would have to ‘go’ when expanding would be ‘up’; get it? Also, I dampened a clean kitchen towel and placed it over the sheet pan of crescents, put the whole thing in my overhead microwave, then turned on my oven. The heat from my oven created a warmth inside the microwave that combined with the damp cloth created a humidity that made it into a kind of DIY proof-box, so to speak.

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This time after the second rise, I was having the exact opposite problem that I’d been having with sheet pans all along: now, the dough had proofed and risen so well that they were all nearly crammed together slightly rising up over the pan itself. But I didn’t care about that: I was too busy doing Snoopy/Victory dances from finally overcoming my sheet pan-bread baking woes. Plus, who was I to get upset over jumbo size crescent rolls that baked up so golden and pretty like these ones did here? Nobody, that’s who.

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Wait a minute; I’m completely forgetting that there’s vegetables in these crescents, which is crazy since the sweet potatoes are what give them the deliciously golden orange color. But they’re there: one whole cup of fresh sweet potato mash. Which, you know should make you feel pretty good about eating one of these…or two…or…another undisclosed amount.

….Why are you guys staring at me like that?

So I think the moral of the story here is that when encountering difficulties in the kitchen, just keep at it. Even if it doesn’t work the first, second or third time. I did. And I think my diligence was rewarded.

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Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Recipe Courtesy of Red Star Yeast via Completely Delicious

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/2 tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 1 medium) sweet potato puree

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, warm the butter, honey and milk until butter is melted and mixture begins to steam. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, or until the temperature is between 120-130 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1½ cups of the flour with the yeast, salt and nutmeg. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each, followed by the sweet potato puree. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time until dough clears the side of the bowl but is still slightly sticky to the touch. You may not need all 4 cups of flour.

3. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Gently punch down dough and knead a few times. Cover it with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean surface roll the dough out into a 16-inch circle. Using a pizza slicer, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Working with each piece individually, roll the dough up starting with the fat end. Place the roll on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so the skinny point is on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and rise again for 30 minutes.

6. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Pumpkin Scones

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Jas and I are self-proclaimed, unapologetic coffee addicts. We need it. We crave it. We have to have it. Every morning. Or else.

The sad thing is I was ‘clean’ for going on 3 years. I had truly kicked the habit- but one rotten morning I had at work a few months ago made me cave back into the urge and from then on, I was right back where I started: hopelessly devoted to coffee.

It can expensive if you’re like us and like the gourmet stuff. Plus you constantly have to invest in buying special, also not-too-cheap whitening toothpaste. It’s the devil in a red dress, I’m telling you.

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In my area, we have two major ‘coffee corporation giants’; for the sake of subtlety I’ll call one Bucksstar and the other Bybigs. (I know, I know; REAL subtle there Jess.)

Over all the years of our coffee connoisseurship, Jas and I have worked out our own special theories about the strengths, weaknesses and similarities between Bucksstar and Bybigs. And since we’re self-proclaimed addicts that go to all and any lengths to get their fixes, you should just take our word for it. Cause we’re pros and we just know what we’re talking about.

When it comes to straight hot coffee, with little to no bells and whistles, Bucksstar wins. It’s fancier and you really can taste the difference in the quality of the ingredients. However, when it comes to hot lattes and cappuccinos then we do tend to lean more towards Bybigs. Plus, the caramel apple cider they sell in the autumn is truly out of this world.

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The funny thing about Bucksstar’s lattes is that they taste much better cold than hot to us. In fact, the iced lattes and frappuccinos at Bucksstar’s are the stuff of dreams. The ones at Bybig’s just can’t compare.

Interestingly enough, Jas and I think that the biggest difference between these two coffee giants is NOT their coffee, but their baked goods. There’s just SUCH a huge difference. Want to know what it is? Here’s the answer, direct from us to you:

Bucksstar’s baked goods rock. Bybigs suck.

Seriously. I’m not being overly dramatic or just trying to straight out diss Bybig’s. I’m just being honest. I don’t know who it is that formulated their recipes for pastries- but whoever it is, should probably get the sack. The cookies are flat and cardboard-like in texture. The muffins taste like something the Little Debbie company churned out. The bagels are tough hockey pucks.  The rice krispie treats don’t have enough marshmallow creme and butter. And don’t get me started on those friggin scones; they’re drydryDRY with little to no flavor.

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Now Bucksstar? They’ve got this thing on lock. Everyone, EVERYONE knows that Bucksstar baked goods are delicious. I can’t remember the last time I went into one to buy coffee and didn’t end up walking out of there with some kind of pastry. The banana bread is thick, soft and fragrant. Their croissants are flaky and buttery. The cookies are sublime. Even their breakfast sandwiches are the bomb.com.  And the scones? Dude. Their SCONES. I think they must put crack in those scones. It’s the only explanation for their being so addictively awesome, right?

Although I’m not a huge pumpkin pie fan, I gotta admit that my favorite scone to get from good old Bucksstar has always been their pumpkin scone. There’s just something about the blend of all those autumn spices that goes SO well with a cup of hot coffee. So when I saw this recipe posted on Bonappetit.com, I jumped at the chance to try it out. It’s really VERY delicious, whether you decide to ice them or leave them plain- I did both and honestly can’t decide which is better.

Scones are so easy to put together and they yield such marvelous results. They also give me an excuse to drink more coffee- and you know I’ll always find ways to do that.

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Pumpkin Scones

Recipe Courtesy of Beauty and Essex via BonAppetit.com 

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup canned pure pumpkin
  • ¼ cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

 Directions

1. Whisk granulated sugar, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, cloves, baking soda, and 2 cups flour in a large bowl.
2. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate in butter, tossing to coat in dry ingredients as you go; toss in cranberries. Mix in egg, pumpkin, and ¼ cup buttermilk.

3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1½”-thick disk. Cut into 8 wedges; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, 25–30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400°. Brush scones with buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes

Nestle Toll House Cookie Pie

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Bad news, guys: for the past few days I’ve had a pretty bad case of writer’s block.

Seriously. It’s really, really bad. I’ve been meaning to put up a post for the past couple of days, but I just couldn’t make it happen. Every time I tried to start writing a post with something ‘meaningful’ to say, it just backfired and I would get distracted with something else. Usually I can manage to pair a recipe with some kind of vaguely interesting story, reflection or topic but today I’ve got absolutely nothing meaningful or interesting to say.

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But I still really wanted to put SOMETHING up. So I guess I can rattle off some random, meaningless tidbits of info to fill up white space.

My twin sister’s getting married in September. I’m (naturally) one of the bridesmaids. Next Saturday I have to go shopping for a dress. Here’s hoping I can find a nice one.

I’ve just discovered the show “Sherlock” and have been binge watching it on Netflix this weekend. It’s pretty good, I think. Benedict Cumberbatch was a good casting choice to play Sherlock Holmes.

I got 2 new cookbooks for Christmas and have already made 2 recipes from them that I’ll be sharing on the blog soon enough.

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That’s 3 things about my life in general; I guess I can also share 3 things about this recipe.

It was a really cloudy, gloomy day outside when I did this photo shoot. Thus, the rather unsatisfactory quality of these pictures. Just try and overlook it.

For those that have never had it, a Toll House Cookie Pie (particularly when it’s piping hot) tastes like the thickest, chewiest, gooiest chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever had. In other words, it tastes like a foodgasm that will make your eyes roll back in your head. Ice cream on top  is also mandatory.

I used some walnuts in this that had been sitting in my cupboard for…a while. It wasn’t a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, nothing bad happened. The pie still tasted delicious. But still, a lesson was still learned: don’t use old nuts. For anything.

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I doubt there’s still anyone at the Fiesta Friday Party #50 this week, but I’m still dragging my late self there anyway. Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting as always, and  Selma @Selma’s Table and Sue @birgerbird for co-hosting. Don’t mind me, I’m just dropping off my little pie.

Now if you’ll excuse me: I have an appointment with my sofa, blanket and a man named Benedict that I’ve got to be getting back to now….

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Nestle Toll House Cookie Pie

Recipe Courtesy of Nestle

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Ingredients

  • unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (6 oz.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter.

3. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

4. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Sally Lunn Bread

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I wonder just how exactly a person gets a food, dish or meal named after him or her.

I only bring up the subject because I think that it would be pretty cool. I mean, if there’s anything that’s stood the test of time, it’s food. It’s not going anywhere. People have always got to eat. So even if you don’t have any children to pass on your name to, if you have a food named in your honor that turns out to be pretty good, then you’ve got a good chance of standing the test of time so to speak, right?

Sure enough, I know of several famous foods with people’s names in them that have been around for a while. I also just Googled some. Cause why not?

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According to Wikipedia (which y’know, is SUCH a reliable source, winkwink)General Tso Chicken was apparently named after a famous Chinese general during the Qing Dynasty from the Hunan province. Although apparently, the people from the actual place have never heard of it, and the real General Tso couldn’t have eaten it the way it’s prepared now anyway.

I bet you thought that the Caesar salad was named after the famous Roman emperor, right? WRONG! It actually got it’s name from a chef called Caesar Cardini from Mexico who came up with the salad  when the few basic ingredients were all that he had on hand.

Graham Crackers were first brought about by a Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham. He got the ‘brilliant’ idea in his head that coarsely ground wheat flour biscuits would subdue sexual urges. No comment on what I think about that.

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The Margarita drink was brought about by a Dallas socialite named Margaret Sames who put together the flavor combinations while on a vacation in Mexico. I can’t personally say that I think she was successful as Margaritas really aren’t my thing, but no one asked me so moving on.

Salisbury Steak came from an American surgeon during the civil war that believed that vegetables and starches were health hazards; so he came up with the idea of mixing ground beef up with onions and prescribing it 3 times a day with hot water in order to flush out toxins.

The legend of Beef Welllington originated with the winning of the Battle of Waterloo by Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. The Duke’s chef made him the pastry wrapped beef in the shape of a Wellington boot.

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Then there’s Sally Lunn Bread. This tradition got started with a young Huguenot refugee from France named Solange Lyon who immigrated to Bath in 1680 and found work in a bakery in Lilliput Alley. Solange eventually became famous for a delicious brioche style bread she would make, and as its fame spread, her name gradually took on the name Sally Lunn. Thus, the Sally Lunn bread was sensationalized.  It eventually made its way across the pond and into Southern cooking, which is how my grandma came to hear of it and make it as a breakfast bread for her daughters smeared with butter and jam.

This is one of my family’s favorite breads for me to make. It’s thick, spongy, chewy and slightly sweet. We eat it all on it’s own as a side for dinner but I think it would also make an excellent base for French Toast or stratas. Plus, it has a really cool name.

By the way, this post just begs the question: what do I have to do to get  someone to name a food after me?

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Sally Lunn Bread

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Recipe Courtesy of Southern Living Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm milk (100°-110°)
  • 2. Stir
  • 1 (1/4 oz.) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100°-110°)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions

1. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and let stand 10 minutes, until yeast is proofed.

2. Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. (Dough will look shaggy).

3. Stir together warm water and baking soda. Stir yeast mixture , soda mixture and melted butter into flour mixture until well blended.

4. Spoon batter into a well greased 10-inch (14 cup) tube pan, or split equally between 2 well greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (80°-85°), 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

5. Preheat oven to 400°. Carefully place pan(s) in oven. Don’t agitate the dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a wooden stick inserted in center comes out clean and when internal temperature reaches 190°.

6.Wait ten minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Wait 30 minutes before slicing.

Cardamom Print Wafers

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I’ve only done actual Christmas caroling a handful of times in my life- but I remember that I loved it. One of the times I can clearly remember is when I was still in elementary school and the children’s choir went caroling to the governor’s mansion. It was a quiet, slightly snowy night and after we sang a few songs, I can remember being invited inside to a big beautiful ‘house’ where we got served hot chocolate, cookies and candy in a ‘study’ type of room with bright golden lights. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t mind if 1 or 2 of the people in your group are off-key and love to laugh, then caroling is a blast. Plus, people usually give you free food as a way to say ‘thank you’.

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Everyone ‘s got their own favorite Christmas carols, and I’m no exception. However, my favorites have shifted throughout the years. Now I’m willing to admit that I just can’t pick one as my favorite. I’ve got several. Okay, more than that.

The Holiday Playlist on my ipod’s got over 100 songs. Yeah. I really love Christmas songs.’

When I was very young, around 5 or 6, my favorite Christmas carol was The First Noel. I loved the melody and would always hum the last part to myself, “Born is the King of Israel,” over and over again.

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Then when I was around 8 or 9, it was Silver Bells- but that was because at the time (mid 90’s), there was a commercial that would constantly come on at Christmas time with the Silver Bells melody playing in the background that I really liked. After that, I think it was Angels We Have Heard on High- although to be honest, I went YEARS without even knowing what some of the lyrics were because I was too young to understand that some of the lyrics were in Latin (“in excelsis deo IS Latin, right? Right??).

Christmastime is Here was my favorite Christmas Carol in middle school; I heard it played once on the piano at a holiday party and just fell in love with it. That one’s still remained one of my favorites over the years, and I have a few versions of it on my playlist, including the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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Honorable mentions should also go out to Give Love on Christmas Day, The Christmas Song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, O What a Merry Christmas Day, All I Want for Christmas Is You, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells.

As many of them as I like, there are also other carols that I don’t really care for: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Away in a Manger. I guess I just don’t really like the ‘story’ Christmas carols all that much.

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Today’s recipe is super, super easy to put together, but still packs a great punch. These cookies are thin, slightly crisp but still somewhat chewy in the centeer. The cardamom gives it a very unique spicy bite that combined with the cinnamon really reminds me of a delicious Speculoos biscuit. Hands down, these are meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. I decided to leave them plain and just let the design from the cookie stamps speak for themselves- these are honestly good enough to stand without icing or sprinkles.

If you still need to catch up on the 12 Days of Christmas Series we’re doing, I’m still including a list of the past recipes and posts below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Cardamom Print Wafers

Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookies for Christmas

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp, ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

 Directions

1. Stir together flour, cardamom, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a small mixer bowl, beat til fluffy, Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Stir in flour mixture till well mixed. Cover and chill about 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

4. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten firmly with a floured cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass with a design in it.

5. Bake in a 350° oven about 8 minutes. Remove and cool.

Brown Sugar Cookies

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Warning: if you’re not a Christmas movie buff, then this post probably won’t make much sense to you. Sorry.

Me and my sister have a thing for running inside jokes related to movie one-liners we think are funny.When we come across one that we all find hilarious, we’ll always find ways to frequently and randomly stick it into conversations to make each other laugh.

Remember that part in the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding where Dermot Mulroney is arguing with Cameron Diaz in the restaurant while Julia Roberts looks on and he screams at her, “My job’s not good enough- I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”? Yeah, we use that one all the time. Then there’s the scene with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz at the end where she’s talking to her in food metaphors. I don’t know how many times I’ve screamed at my sisters, “You’re NEVER gonna be jello!”

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The same goes for Christmas movies. In fact, the classic Christmas movies have so many memorable one-liners to choose from, it’s almost not even funny. Except, it really is.

Take the movie “Love Actually”. Jas and I cannot go a single Christmas season without throwing out a few “I HATE Uncle Jamie!”s at each other. (In British accents, of course.)

Remember in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Snoopy is mimicking Lucy as she lectures the gang about the Christmas play until she finally stops and screams out, “No, no! LISTEN all of you!” We throw that one out at each other all the time when we’re trying to get each other’s attention.

We have the entire scene from “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie goes to visit Santa in the department store memorized, but our favorite part is definitely at the end where Ralphie climbs back up the slide to tell Santa he wants the BB gun for Christmas and Santa says: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, hoooo!” Yeah we mimic the foot shove too. Cause we’re weird like that.

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The newest favorite is from the movie “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarznegger where Phil Hartman is in the car at the end with Rita Wilson, “You asked me how to marinate ahi tuna. And I said, all you need is Italian salad dressing.” I don’t know why we find out so funny, but we do. I guess Phil Hartman could literally make anything hilarious.

And of course, what would Christmas be without throwing out a great big, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” or calling each other a “cotton headed ninny muggins” at least once? (I don’t think I have to say which movie those come from, right? I better not.)

All of those inside jokes and quotes with my sisters have over the years come to make for a lot of fun, hilarious memories for us-and hilarious memories are one of the very best parts about Christmas, am I right? Of course right.

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This past weekend, I was the in-house Cookie Elf…or at least that’s what it felt like. I was in the kitchen from Saturday morning to late Saturday night baking up batch after batch of cookies both for the blog as well as for a community outreach effort to spread some Christmas cheer to some kids. Because if Christmas cheer tastes like anything at all, I’m pretty sure it tastes like cookies. These cookies take on the classic sugar cookie and give it a creative spin, using all brown sugar rather than white. I was really impressed with the results. The cookies bake up thick and brown and almost take on a dark, robustly praline flavor from the brown sugar caramelizing while baking. The original recipe calls for them to decorated using sanding sugar but because I’m super complicated and can’t follow simple instructions, I whipped up a quick confectioner’s sugar glaze and spread them on the cookies instead. I then sprinkled on some Christmas nonpareils. I think they look much better this way than with just plain old sanding sugar, don’t they?

Holy Crap, we’re over  halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas already! 7 days down, just 5 more to go. Thanks to all those who’ve been faithfully following along, but for those that missed a day or two (or more), I’m again including a list of the past days below with links to the previous posts. 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Christmas with Southern Living (1997)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 Directions

1. Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

2. Combine flour, baking sofa and salt; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

3. Roll dough to 1/4” thickness between two sheets of wax paper. Cut with 4: cookie cutters. Place 1” apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool 1 minute on cookie sheets and carefully transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

St. Lucia Buns

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I don’t mean to brag or anything, but my Christmas list as a little kid was never really long or exhorbitant. My mom would even tell you now that we were easy kids to shop for.We never ha a problem sharing, and we grew up with a certain awareness that money didn’t grow on trees and that she didn’t have a whole lot of it. We never asked for anything that we knew would break the bank, so to speak.

In fact I can still look back now and remember there were several particular toys, dolls and games that all  3 of us ‘knew better’ than to ask for. When we did the math on certain toys, we knew that it was just way too expensive to spend money on- not necessarily because we knew we’d get shot down, but because our mom was really the type of parent that would have felt guilty that she could’t afford to buy us the toys that we wanted. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty, so I never raised the subject. But I was still a  kid that could dream.

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Some of those dream toys for me were the line of American Girl dolls and products. Any girl that grew up during the 90’s should understand where I’m coming from with this. The original American girl dolls were based on 5 preteen fictional girl characters that grew up in various stages of American history. Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly. They each had five short chapter books dedicated to ‘milestone’ events in their lives that were sold alongside the dolls. You could buy the doll, the books and the 5 sets of dresses, accessories and furniture that came with each corresponding book.

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I’ll go right head and say it: in my eyes, an American Girl doll was a status symbol. If you had one, your parents had shelled out some serious cash. The dolls and merchandise were friggin expensive and frankly, overpriced. (Heck, they still are.) But it didn’t stop me from wanting one. Really bad.

Even though we couldn’t afford to buy the American Girl dolls and accessories, we still subscribed to the catalog. It came in the mail around 2 times a year: Christmas and Easter. We all used to have a nickname for it as a joke, our “Dream Wish List,” since we knew we’d never get the stuff inside. Still, we could dream, wish and window shop anyway. I used to pour over that thing like it was a novel sometimes, wishing we could afford to get just one 1 American Girl doll set.

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One of the characters/dolls was named Kirsten, a Swedish girl who immigrated to America with her family as pioneers on the Minnesota plains during the mid 1800’s. Admittedly, she wasn’t my favorite character of the 5, but there is still something about her that’s stuck with me all these years and is of actual relevance to this post. In the Holiday-themed Kirsten chapter book, she prepares what are called St. Lucia Buns for her family in celebration of Christmas. They’re Swedish golden rolls flavored with saffron, rolled into scroll shapes and topped with raisins. The American Girl catalog offered a particular set with the Kirsten doll dressed in a beautiful white dress and sash, a candle wreath crown, and several plastic make-believe St. Lucia Buns on a tray.

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Guys, I must have been a foodie even back then as a little girl because for some reason, I fixated on those St. Lucia Buns almost more than I did on the doll and clothes. I really, really, REALLY wanted to know what they tasted like. I remember figuring that since everything else about American Girl was amazing, the St. Lucia Buns would probably taste amazing as well. But just as I knew I would never get to have an American Girl anything, I also figured I would never get to ever try real, authentic St. Lucia Buns either.

Well, I was only 50% wrong about that. I never did get an American Girl doll or set. But this year, I’ve finally been able to try the buns. And yeah…they ARE amazing. Although they aren’t overly sweet, the one word I would use to describe their overall taste is “rich”. The saffron causes the buns to bake up in such a rich, golden color and they’re just so immensely chewy and soft. I almost immediately wanted to make more after that first  bite.

So thanks American Girl- I guess that catalog WAS good for something after all.

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below!

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

 

 

St. Lucia Buns


Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp.  instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • golden raisins

 

Directions

In a small saucepan set over medium heat milk and saffron to a simmer; remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt, and for it to cool to lukewarm, 30 to 35 minutes.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flours, salt and sugar.

Separate one of the eggs, and set the white aside; you’ll use it later.

Pour the lukewarm milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Add the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes by mixer, about 10 minutes by hand, till the dough is smooth and supple.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape the pieces of dough into rough logs, and let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Roll each log into a 15″ to 18″ rope. They’ll shrink once you stop rolling; that’s OK. Shape each rope into an “S” shape. Tuck a golden raisin into the center of each of the two side-by-side coils, if desired.

Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them. Cover them, and let them rise for about 30 minutes, till they’re noticeably puffy, but definitely not doubled. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Brush each bun with some of the egg white/water glaze. Bake the buns until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used raisins, tent them with foil for the final 3 minutes, to prevent the raisins from burning. Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.