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.

Chinese Braised Beef

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Hi. How are all of you doing?

So….climate change is not a hoax. It is not something you can ignore or put away to the back burner and pretend as though it’s inconsequential. It is real.

The man who lives in the White House (at least PART of the time, when he’s not golfing at one of his tacky resorts) is a corrupt, shameless, puny buffoon. A disgrace. He’s unfit for office and a menace to this country.

I didn’t vote for him. I despise him, completely.

There. Just wanted to make it clear to all of you where I stand on that. We can get back to the food now.

I like Chinese takeout. There’s just something about the food that, in spite of the msg-laden/syrupy sauces/mystery ‘meat’, I just can’t quit. It’s not fancy, God knows it’s not healthy and sometimes it’s not even that cheap, but if the president of your country is determined to give the middle finger to valid, proven scientific research that could be the difference in preserving this planet for future generations, what’s the point in turning your nose up at a little msg, eh?

However, there are times when I’m a ‘good girl’ and instead of picking up the phone to order takeout, I go into the kitchen instead to cook what I want instead.

My number one entree go-to at a Chinese takeout joint is Sesame Chicken. I haven’t gotten around to trying to make that on my own yet, but it’s definitely still on the radar. A meal of Sesame Chicken, Lo mein and egg rolls for me is pure comfort food. I’m pleased to say that this recipe is getting added to that list.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t quiiiiiite what I would classify as a ‘takeout style’ dish. Most wok-style takeout dishes use lean beef like flank or hangar steak that cook quickly at a very high heat. This recipe doesn’t come together quickly, because it’s a braise of a fattier cut of meat like bottom round, chuck or short ribs that require a low-and-slow cooking to make them fall-apart, fork tender.

There’s still lots of good news to go round: first, once you get the meat seared off and the sauce blended together, the oven does most of the rest of the work. Second, all of the ingredients you use for this dish are popular staples that should be easily found in most grocery stores (which isn’t always the case).

The only ‘downside’ is that you have to wait for the beef to braise for a couple of hours and once the smells start to waft up from your oven, into the kitchen and the rest of the house, waiting to dig in may get increasingly difficult as the hunger pangs start to settle in.

This dish is alternatively known as Chinese Red-Beef, and if I had to compare it to another cuisine I would say it’s in the same vein as Hungarian Red Goulash,  American Beef Stew, or a French Carbonnade. All are essentially braised hearty beef stews with incredible sauces with flavors that develop over the long cook-time in the oven.  The sauce in this dish is very reminiscent of Chinese takeout flavors to me; it’s sweet, acidic, salty and slightly spicy.   The fresh ginger really comes through and that bit of gelatin and cornstarch also helps to give it that sticky ‘takeout’ consistency. Like all beef stews/braises, this would also go wonderful with a starch on the side. My personal preference for a side dish to Asian food is brown rice and steamed brocoli, but I think white rice, or even noodles would be great mixed in with this sauce.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #174 this week.

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Chinese Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of chuck roast, bottom round, or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 4-inch lengths
  • Salt, pepper and onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin on bias
  • About 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 dashes of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Sesame seeds, optional for garnish

 

Directions

In a  large pot or Dutch oven, pour about 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil and bring to high heat.

Season the beef with the salt, pepper and onion powder evenly. Sear in the Dutch oven over high heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate or bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Leave the drippings in the pan.

Add the onion to the pot and saute until softened and limp. Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in the Dutch oven and allow to sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.  Allow for gelatin to melt, then stir in the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, molasses, ginger, onion and garlic mixture, red pepper flakes and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and stir together with a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Stir in the beef chunks.

Remove pot from the heat, then cover tightly with aluminum foil, then Dutch oven lid. Transfer to oven and cook until the beef is tender when pierced with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring halfway.

When finished remove the beef to a bowl. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and discard the bits. Separate/skim off as much fat as you can from the top, then place back into pot. Cook over medium high heat, until reduced to about 1 cup, about 20-25 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine the cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons of water, mixing together with a fork. Add this to the reduced sauce and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, until thickened and syrupy. Return the beef to the pot and stir to combine with the sauce. Sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds and serve with rice and/or broccoli.

Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Back when I was still in the Mitten, I didn’t eat too much red meat.

In that area, ground beef was pretty cheap before and when I first started cooking but almost directly after that, it suddenly became…not so cheap. And other cuts like chuck, eye of round, steak and whatnot were hardly ever within the price range of what was do-able for a girl who regularly peruses the sale ads and basically gets what most inexpensive. So, I didn’t eat it too much because I didn’t get to buy & cook it myself too much.

Figures.

It didn’t bother me ‘too’ much. If you guys have been following me for a while, you’ll know that my favorite protein, by far, is chicken. It’s not only delicious and better for you, it’s also usually more inexpensive than red meat. The last of which, really matters to yours truly.

However, I do like red meat. And in spite of not having quite as much of a chance to cook with it than with white meat, I do think I walk away with pretty tasty results. When I get the odd craving for it, I REALLY get a craving. It’s a stronger one than the one I get for chicken, to be honest. It can be satiated by one of three things:

An epic humongous, juicy burger, an epic humongous steak salad, or an epic humongous steak sandwich. Either will do: just so long as I get it.

While I was living in the Mitten, (since red meat wasn’t the most inexpensive choice in the grocery store when cooking for a family) I would usually just treat myself to one of the dishes at a take-out place or sit-down restaurant every once in a while and my craving would be satisfied and that was the end of it.

As it turns out, things are somewhat different on the west side. There are of course going to be certain things that are going to be pricey anywhere, at any time of year, guaranteed. However, since coming here I’ve discovered that for some reason, certain cuts of red meat are just cheaper than they are in the Midwest. I mean, REALLY good deals when and if you know how to find them. As a result, I’ve been able to flex my beef-recipe muscles out and giving them more experience than they’ve ever had before in the Mitten.

One of the meats that we’ve been able to get at a really good deal is Tri-Tip beef. The tri-tip is a cut of muscle; in diagram terms of the cow, it’s in front of the Round portion, beneath the tenderloin and above the flank. It’s kinda shaped like a boomerang, and is a really beautiful piece of meat. It’s got the lean cut of tenderloin, with just enough marbling of fat to give it the moisture and tenderness that’s on the fattier cuts, like round. I’d never heard of it at all since coming out here, but let me tell you: since we’ve been here I’ve prepared it three times.

Two out of three of those times was using this recipe.

Whenever I’m not largely familiar with a dish or an ingredient, I do prefer to keep things simple so as to not mess it up. That’s what I did here and even though it’s a simple enough recipe, the flavors more than make up for it. I looked up the standard way to cook a tri-tip in the oven (since me and the grill don’t get along), then I assembled together some of my favorite spices, blended the two together and came out on the other end with what you guys are seeing here.

There is one tool that I HIGHLY recommend you use when cooking this (and frankly, I think it’s something every home cook should have in their kitchen anyway): an instant read thermometer. Why?

Regardless of how you like your steak/burger cooked, the tri-tip is a cut that IS supposed to be cooked on the red/pinkish side. I don’t want to say it should still be bleeding by the time it’s done (after all I do take my steak/burgers  medium to medium well). But, this should still be somewhat…leaky. You cook it past medium and you’re in the danger zone of nuking it into leather. Now, if you’re a professional chef you MIGHT be able to guess-timate the exact moment when to take this out of the oven, let it rest (during which the temperature of the meat rises and continues to cook while the juices redistribute and settle), and slice it. But, most of us aren’t pros, and therefore, should rely on the trusty instant read thermometer that will tell us EXACTLY when the beef is at the right temp to take out of the oven. (Plus they’re very inexpensive and can be found at Target/Walmart/Marshall’s/Amazon so there’s really no excuse for you not to have one.)

I don’t know which I love more about this recipe: that it was an inexpensive way to hit the spot of my rare but strong craving for red meat, that it was so easy to put together with minimal ‘labor’ involved, or that it tasted so good. Why don’t we just call it all three?

Coffee and beef are a great combination and the coffee in this rub really does stand out nicely. The paprika and cumin give it an earthy, smoky flavor, while the other ingredients balance it out with sweetness and spice.  What this yields is a slab of meat that will more than deliver either an epic steak salad, steak sandwich or just a killer hunk of beef.

Believe me, I’ve had them all.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #168, co-hosted by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Lina @ Lin’s Recipes this week.

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Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Recipe Adapted from NYT Cooking

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole Tri-tip steak, about 2-3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee; a dark blend preferably (I used French roast)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • About 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • About 2 tablespoons beer (I used Guinness)
  • About 1 tablespoon Canola or vegetable oil

Directions

Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside

Remove the silver skin and trim the excess fat from the steak; it’s fine if there is still some marbling on the surface.

 Rub the soy sauce and beer into the meat so that it seeps inside. Rub the spice mixture evenly into both sides of the meat. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch Oven or pot over high heat. Sear the Tri-Tip on both sides until a dark crust has formed, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Spray a  broiler rack or oven rack with cooking spray and place it over a sheet pan that you line with aluminum foil.

Place the meat on the rack and roast in the oven until the thickest, most center part reads about 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t allow it to cook for too long: this cut of meat is supposed to be reddish/pink.

Allow the meat to rest for about 10-20 minutes before slicing against the grain.

oven-roasted-tri-tip-steak-pin

Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

I went to a huge, popular science museum recently where there was a planetarium theater. The show I saw there was about the relationship between different ecosystems and consumers in the environment. The screen of the theater was huge; it felt like you were actually apart of the movie itself, which was nice. It was the overall message of the movie itself that had me feeling kinda, well…meh.

In a nutshell, the whole thing was one giant guilt trip for the way that humans burn through resources on the planet. Food, just about any and every kind of food takes a lot of energy, work and effort to produce. Humans not only eat too much of it, we waste too much of it. It’s more than the planet’s got to offer and if we don’t cut our consumption, alter our methods of collection and chill out overall, it’s all going to run out and we’ll be royally screwed.

No joke, that was legit the underlying, not-so-subtle point.

The movie heavily emphasized that to alleviate this concern, one of the main things we can all do is severely cut our consumption of meat–especially beef, and up our consumption of plant-based foods. Essentially, we should all become vegetarians.

Sigh.

Alright, so…listen. It’s not that I don’t get it. I do. Humans suck. We consume too much and produce too little. Heck, the US has a president, a whole damn administration and quite a few supporters who want to pretend that climate change is one big hoax that we don’t actually have to worry about.  It’s awful. I won’t deny it.

But. You see. Here’s the thing. Keeping it one hundred…

pork-shoulder-with-star-anise-and-soy-sauce5

I’m not giving up meat, B. It’s not gonna happen. I will likely be eating meat until the day I die an old lady in my bed, (or the day the president of my country gets us all killed in a nuclear war with Russia or North Korea). I tried to go vegetarian once. It ended badly for me and turned me into an…unpleasant person to be around to say the least. For all the vegetarians who follow my blog, I wish you nothing but the best and even thank you for lessening your planet footprint/ resource consumption.

But personally? The vegetarian lifestyle ain’t my ministry. I’m a carnivore, damn it.

Today’s recipe is one of those things that when I eat, I’m immediately reminded of how much I love meat and how hard (close to impossible) it would be for me to go without it. Apart from being pork shoulder (my favorite cut of the pig in general), the flavor combinations here are really unique and complex. Star anise is a sweetly fragrant, almost floral spice. It’s hard to explain the flavor if you’ve never used it before, but it’s something that goes well with both sweet and savory applications provided you don’t go overboard with it. It provides a great compliment to the saltiness of the soy and fish sauce that gets rubbed into the meat then set overnight in the fridge. I added a few of my other favorite spices to the mix to liven up the flavors, then the next day roasted the shoulder in the oven until it was tender and the aromas filling the kitchen were making me slobber.

We ate this dish with my recipe for Baked Egg Rolls that’s already on the blog and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Do yourself a favor and try it out for yourself.

This week’s Fiesta Friday #165  is co-hosted by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes. I’ll be sharing this dish at the link up. Have a good weekend, all.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 7–8-pound skin-on, bone-in pork picnic shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions 

Grind star anise and coriander seeds in either a coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle. Slice the  garlic, then mash to a paste using the side of a chef’s knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the dry spices, soy sauce, fish sauce, and paprika.

Lightly score pork skin crosswise in a tight pattern with a very sharp knife, cutting through the skin and some fat, but taking care not to slash the meat itself. Transfer pork to a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid or a roasting pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub with marinade. Cover (use foil if using a roasting pan) and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place pork, covered, in oven; reduce oven temp to 300°. Roast pork, basting with juices every hour, until meat is fork-tender and bones are very loose, 5–5½ hours.

Uncover pork and increase temperature to 450°. Roast, basting every 5 minutes and adding water by ¼-cupfuls if juices become syrupy, until pork is dark brown and skin is crisp, 15–20 minutes.

Carefully transfer pork to a platter. Skim fat from pan juices and pour remaining juices over.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

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I don’t really remember when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped liking straight white sandwich bread. I don’t mean *all* white bread; I still bake with white flour when making biscuits, rolls, challah and whatnot. I mean that when it comes to specifically eating sandwiches, I will give a hard pass to white bread.

I don’t even know how I ever ate white Wonder Bread at all anymore, there’s such a sour, acrid after taste to it for me now that is just…nah. These days I prefer whole grain, wheat, five seed, or oatnut flavored bread when building my epic sandwiches. I like the nutty earthy flavors in the whole wheat flour much better.

Whenever a long time passes where I don’t make homemade bread, I start getting an ‘itch’. Suddenly, bread baking becomes all I think about, where my thoughts automatically start to wander, all I want to do. My taste buds suddenly crave bread more than anything else.

Actually, no. That’s not one hundred percent accurate. My taste buds want and crave bread/carbs ALL the time, in general. Which is simultaneously annoying and glorious. But y’know, whatever.

This time around to satisfy my bread baking itch, I turned to this recipe from King Arthur Flour that I’d had my eye on for a while. The original calls for it to be made in a bread machine. I don’t have one of those, but bread machine recipes aren’t that difficult to adapt to using with standing mixers, so that’s what I did here. The ingredients were all things I had on hand in the house at the time. It made a single loaf and it was all very easy to throw together.

Honey wheat breads are probably my favorite, flavor-wise. There’s a perfect balance of the nutty grains with a slight sweetness from honey that just works. I will say though that breads that are based in whole wheat and bread flour (like this one) do tend to be more dense than those made with white. They’re often not light and/or fluffy; think chewy, heartier textures. Because they’re denser, they also can require longer proof times before the dough will rise. Just be patient with it because if you do it right, the results will be worth it.

Apart from being made with whole wheat flour, there’s also 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato in the dough, which is a sneaky yet tasty way to get a serving of vegetables in; y’know, just in case the angel on your shoulder is trying to make you feel guilty for eating carbs instead of a carrot stick.

Not that EYE would know anything about that, I’m just trying to help you guys out.

I really wish there was a way I could transmit the smells of this loaf baking in the oven to each and every one of you guys. It just smelled SO good. It took a lot of patience on my part before it was cooled down and I could cut into it. I toasted two thick slices, smeared them with some  Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, made some eggs & sausage and had myself a delicious Breakfast for Dinner. Although, this bread would work very well for french toast too, methinks.

Linking this post with this week’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons.

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Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mashed cooked yam or sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins, packed
  • melted butter for brushing on top, optional

 

Directions

Combine the warm water and milk with the instant yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp of white sugar on top. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, bread flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer use the whisk attachment to combine yeast mixture with the unsalted butter, mashed sweet potato and honey and mix until well blended.

Using the dough hook attachment, fold in the flour mixture. Half way through, add the raisins. Mix until dough is smooth and surface of bowl is clean, about 8-10 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan.

When dough is finished rising, gently turn out on a floured surface and deflate it. Divide in half and roll each half into a log. Wind the two haves together in a loose braid, pinching the ends together. Place braid in the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap/damp towel and allow to rise for another hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the bread and brush with the melted butter. Bake for about 45 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too fast. Bake until golden brown and the inner temp reads 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cool completely before serving.

Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

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It’s my niece’s 4th birthday tomorrow. I have no idea how this kid is four already. I swear it was just yesterday I was sitting in the hospital room when she was wheeled in from the delivery with her mom, swaddled in her little burrito blanket. Time really does fly when it comes to kids, even when you’re just helping raise them.

I know I’m biased, but she really is such a sweetheart. I love her to death and feel blessed to have been able to be a major part of her life.

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I’ve been making her cakes for her day for the past two years. Last years was this Funfetti Cake. This year when I asked her what kind she wanted, she didn’t hesitate to reply: “Strawberry Cake, Auntie.”

I had my marching orders. A Strawberry Birthday Cake it was.

What first comes to y’all’s minds when you hear Strawberry Cake?

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If you’re like me, maybe you thought about strawberry shortcake–which is delicious, but I also knew wasn’t what my niece was talking about. There’s strawberry shortcake; a fluffy biscuit-y cake that’s served with whipped cream and strawberries. Then, there’s the Strawberry Cake; a pink colored cake that usually comes from a box mix. I loved it myself as a kid, and what little kid wouldn’t? It’s pink. It’s EXTREMELY sweet. 9 times out of 10 it’s spread with pink frosting.

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What’s the problem? Well, that cake is just so overly sweet  and artificial tasting. The ‘strawberry’ flavor and color often comes from the addition of a packet of strawberry jello packet. While this may not make a huge difference to a four year old little girl, it sure makes a difference to her 27 year old foodie and baker auntie who doesn’t like to have anything to do with box cake mixes.

I still wanted to give my baby what she wanted though: a yummy, pretty strawberry birthday cake. Guess what? I think I did, even sans cake mix.

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I won’t lie: layer cakes of any kind take patience and time. They can be a labor of love, and this cake is no exception. However, I’ve found that the work can be spread out over two days so that you’re not so rushed or in the kitchen for hours at a time by baking the cakes themselves on Day 1, refrigerating them overnight, then making the filling/frostings and assembling the whole thing on Day 2.

And I do have to say, the work is one hundred percent worth it. I don’t think this cake could be more of a Strawberry Cake if it tried: strawberries are literally in EVERY SINGLE part of it. There are pureed strawberries in the batter. The cake is filled with a fresh strawberry curd. The frosting is mixed with even more pureed strawberries.

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Strawberry on strawberry on strawberry.

The cake bakes up very moist and fluffy. The only downside was that the pureed strawberries in the batter did sink to the bottom of the pans. But that turned out okay too because they just melded together more with the strawberry curd. I’ve made lemon curd before, but never strawberry. This one was extremely easy to do and the result is a tart, smooth curd which gives a real punch of strawberry freshness to the overall taste of the cake. I think it might be the best part, to be honest. The frosting isn’t overly sweet thanks to the addition of the cream cheese to the butter and powdered sugar. And the scoop of the fresh strawberry puree gave it that pretty in pink tint that I knew my niece would love.

Linking this post with Fiesta Friday #161, co-hosted this week by Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup butter shortening, at room temp
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

For Strawberry Curd Filling

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed and drained
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract

For Strawberry Frosting

  • 1⁄2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1⁄2 cup reserved strawberry purée (from Strawberry Curd)
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 °. Flour, grease and line three round 8 or 9 inch cake pans with wax paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Pulse strawberries in a food processor or blender until well blended, but still with some chunks inside. Set aside in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the ice water, whole milk and buttermilk. In bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and shortening until creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, mixing another 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat just until combined. Alternating adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the bowl, starting and ending with flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula to ensure it’s well mixed. Remove this mixture to another bowl, & wipe out thoroughly. Using clean beaters, place the egg whites and cream of tartar together in the bowl at medium speed, beating until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Fold in the strawberries. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, smoothing the tops with spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted inside cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting cool completely on wire racks.

For Curd: Pour the drained strawberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup of t he puree for the Strawberry frosting. In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and lemon juice over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened; about 7-8 minutes., Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks, then the strawberry extract. Let mixture cool slightly, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using.

For Frosting: Cream together the butter and cream cheese in bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one until fluffy. Add the reserved strawberry puree and the extract and mix until just combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and beat together until smooth and creamy.

To Assemble: 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. Place one cake layer on the platter. Pipe a border of frosting around the edges of the cake. Spread about half of the strawberry curd inside the border, smoothing with a spatula. Top with another cake layer and repeat process. Top with final cake layer. Spread entire cake with just frosting enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin).  Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake, decorating with sprinkles if desired. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

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