Category Archives: Cakes & Pies

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

This is one outrageous zucchini bread.  The batter will have your eyes rolling to the back of your head.  I can honestly say the first time I tasted the batter I seriously considered not baking the bread at all and , instead, simply eating it all…one generous, sloppy spoonful after another until there was no more.   I first began baking zucchini bread for my son, James, when he was a toddler but I never called it zucchini bread.  I’m pretty sure he would have turned his cute little Greek nose up at it, but how about “tea bread”?  He loved Mama’s “tea bread” and even helped me bake it.  Many a morning he suggested we invite his grandmother, Mimi, over for a tea party with “tea bread”.  Little scamp.  I covered his small, round child’s table with a linen tablecloth and set places for James, Mimi and his two best friends, Bert and Ernie.  I prepared cafe con leche or James’ favorite tea, Constant Comment and served the guests while they chatted politely about Curious George, which day that week they would go feed the ducks or the latest happenings on Sesame Street…”Mimi! Did you know there is a number 9?”  We have some lovely memories.  I hope this recipe makes it to your next tea party!

Baking day circa 1993-94. Someone was in charge of sprinkles:)

This wonderful recipe I found in the booklet of directions and recipes which came with my Cuisinart food processor.  I made no changes except for the addition of vanilla extract.  The recipe is that perfect.  It does state milk chocolate chips may be used as well but I’d rather have a sharp chocolate presence so I’ll stick with semi-sweet chips.  If your food processor is another brand I’m pretty sure it will be just fine.  (But I DO adore my Cuisinart!)

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

  • Servings: one 9-inch loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of nutmeg (I used almost 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated)
  • 1 large zucchini (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (this is not part of the original recipe)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F.  Lightly coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Reserve.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Reserve.
  3. Insert the shredding disc with the medium side facing up.  Shred zucchini.  Add to the bowl with the reserved dry ingredients.
  4. Put the sugar, eggs and oil into the large work bowl fitted with the large chopping blade.  Process on high for 30 seconds.  Add dry ingredients and pulse, to just combine, about 8 to 10 times.  Remove blade.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
  6. Let cool in pan and serve warm if desired.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Olive Oil Cake at the Greek Table

The 2018 Saint Demetrios  Greek Festival is upon us and I couldn’t be more excited.  I am one of the thousands who love this church’s festival because of it’s authenticity…baked goods and Greek dishes prepared from old family recipes which over the years have been converted to feed the hordes of festival goers.  Whether in Crete, the mainland or the islands, these festival dishes are the foods you find in the Greek home.  The Greek table is a marvel regardless of lean times or times of ease and plenty.  Every time I’ve been to Greece, I’ve discovered new foods or a completely new spin on an old dish.  Of course, we all know feta cheese; briny and tangy sitting atop a Greek salad wearing a green and gold crown of locally grown oregano or still salty but now creamy tucked between several buttery sheets of shatteringly crisp filo dough married with spinach and sliced spring onion having been baked to perfection.  How surprised I was when I was introduced to a typical appetizer, Feta Psiti, which is baked feta cheese topped with a good shower of hot pepper flakes and local oregano then doused with a liberal splash of fruity Greek olive oil!  I had never had anything like that here in the States.  My husband’s Greek family looked on with amusement as I dove in with abandon scooping up the melted cheese with torn off chunks of hot, crunchy bread.  At another family gathering around the table, I thought I had found my new favorite food when my husband’s cousin served me Koukia, a gorgeous, creamy dish made from yellow split peas which have cooked down to a smooth, firm dip.  Considered a salad, this dish is topped with Greek olive oil, chopped red onion, and a good dusting of oregano and I’m more than happy to call this dinner.  My husband’s cousin was thrilled to have presented me with this humble yet unexpected treasure.  The Greek table is like that.  Always gathering one in, never shutting one out.  “Come!  Have coffee at my house and we’ll talk.  I baked a cake”,  is heard so often all through Greece.  When you hear that, you ought to take them up on the offer for Greek coffee and baked goods are beyond delicious and the Greek table is where you’ll hear all the good village gossip.  The following Greek olive oil cake is a recipe found throughout the country of Greece.  Each recipe is slightly different…some add Greek yoghurt, liquors, orange or lemon but all are lovely and will bring you to the Greek table.

Dense, moist and velvety, this cake is an unlikely wonder touched with tones of orange, lemon, almond, and of course, green, fruity olive oil.  Olive oil cake is a classic throughout Greece and once you have a taste you’ll know why.  Somehow it works…all the flavors sing in perfect harmony.  It’s a rather substantial cake so don’t be alarmed at the large amount of olive oil called for nor the fact that the batter will be rather runny.  It will be gorgeous.  And it’s a great do-ahead as the flavor improves the following day.  Kali orexi!

 

Greek Olive Oil Cake

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin Greek olive oil, Trader Joe’s makes a decent one
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, I’ve used almond milk and the cake turned out fabulous
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange liquor
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3/4 cup finely, finely chopped sliced almonds.  I use a mini-processor and pulse the nuts until they are small bits.

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • zest of one lime
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Butter an 11-inch cake pan and set aside.
  2. Into a medium-sized bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix well the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, lemon juice, liquor, lemon and orange zest and almond bits.  Mix well until there are no lumps of sugar and the olive oil is completely incorporated.
  4. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture until well blended, pour  into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  6. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a plate.
  7. Allow to cool completely prior to icing the cake.  If the cake is to be served the following day, prepare and drizzle the glaze right before serving.

Glaze:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the lemon and lime zest in a small bowl and whisk until smooth
  2. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake.
  3. Sprinkle with lemon and lime zest and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

 

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Icing

Y’all.  These cupcakes have me crazy.  They are PERFECTION and the best to enjoy with a Hallmark Christmas movie.  I know… I know.  Sappy, schmaltzy and totally predictable Hallmark movies are sweet and romantic and what most girls want during the Christmas season.  Back to these cupcakes.  I hadn’t made them in eons and thought I’d bake a quick batch to put up here on the blog.  I had forgotten how dense and rich they are… almost like pound cake.  And this icing… any thoughts of sticking to a diet are rapidly going through the window.  I had to get them out of the house and my reach so I took them over to our neighbors who have twin boys in middle school.  They’re all skinny… let them be tempted!  Anyway, these cupcakes are wonderfully flexible in that a variety of flavorings may be added to the batter and also the icing to suit your mood and craving.  If extracts are added to the icing add them sparingly as they can be awfully strong.  For instance, I added 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract to the whipped cream whereas if I were making a vanilla icing I would have added 1 tablespoon.  So almond, peppermint, coconut and rum extracts are capped at 1/2 teaspoon.  That said, feel free to use up to 2 tablespoons of liqueur to flavor the cream.  Coffee, raspberry, Irish cream and orange are, singularly, heavenly additions.  And with so many vibrant and richly colored sprinkles, crystals and decorations on the market, (Home Goods is a treasure trove!), a girl can go crazy.  The paper baking cups and liners are also a way to transform your goodies to a higher level.  I keep my baking cups and liners in a designer bag on the top shelf of my closet and when I take it down and spread all those lovely boxes on my bed it’s like an Italian fashion show.  Oh, the colors and prints!  The next time you’re in a discount designer store take a leisurely stroll down the baking aisle and prepare to be enchanted.  Until then enjoy these goodies with the one you love and a sweet Christmas flick.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Peppermint Whipped Cream Icing

Cupcakes

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk, whole milk will do but it’s not as rich
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened but not melted
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and set baking cups on a baking sheet or line muffin tin with paper liners.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium size bowl combine eggs, milk, vanilla extract and mix well.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix until completely combined.
  4. Add the butter to the flour mixture and, using a hand-held mixer set on low, mix until the pieces of butter are no larger than baby peas.
  5. Add the egg mixture and mix on low for 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing on medium for 60 seconds.
  6. Fill each baking cup or paper liner 2/3 full.  I use an ice cream scoop that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick baking spray.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden on top and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool completely on a cooling rack prior to icing.

Whipped Cream Icing

  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon peppermint, almond, rum or coconut extract or up to 2 tablespoons flavored liqueur
  1. In a medium size bowl add the confectioner’s sugar and place the beaters on top.  Place the bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cream to the chilled bowl and whip on medium for 30 seconds.
  3. Change speed to high and whip until soft peaks form.
  4. Add extract or liqueur and continue whipping until the peaks are almost stiff.
  5. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 6 hours.  Whisk for a few seconds prior to using.
  6. This is also great over fresh, macerated berries.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Deep South Tomato Pie

The end of tomato season is almost tragic.  Not only is this favorite food lying low for four or five months but it’s an obvious sign that summer is over.  Pools are way too cold to dip a toe in.   Cotton nightgowns have been put away and it’s dark out at 6:00 p.m.  I told a friend it makes me feel like Persephone on her way to the underworld.  I hate you, Hades, and your stupid pomegranate, too!  On the upside we have college ball which I’m crazy about.  Plus this is the time of year when Trader Joe’s carries brussel sprouts on the stalk, figs are in season and one can work out outside and not faint from heat stroke.  Tomatoes, though, are not the sweet, juicy apples of love they were just last month.  It’s okay if the last of the tomatoes just don’t have enough flavor because this is the recipe which will make them sing.  Baked with a generous amount of fresh basil and grated cheeses, this pie is heaven served next to a homemade mixed green salad.  Tomato Pie has been around forever in the South and not only makes wise use of the last-of-the-season fruit but is a perennial favorite at baptisms, first communions, funerals, brunches and pot lucks.  I always make two; one for my house and one to give away or take to one of the aforementioned functions.  The pie needs to be enjoyed relatively soon after baking as the bottom will get soggy if it sits around too long, as with any pie.  It can be re-heated but only in the oven.  Heated in a microwave turns this little jewel into a squishy, wet mess.  It’s super easy to prepare and the crust is merely Bisquick and milk mixed together and patted into your pan.  There’s no ice-cold, cubed butter or rolling out involved.  And everybody loves it.  So when you’re craving some ‘maters but Mother Earth has other ideas, try this recipe out.  It won’t let you down and Fall’s injustices will turn into Autumn’s glories!

 

Deep South Tomato Pie

  • Servings: one 9 inch deep dish pie
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise, Duke’s or Hellman’s
  • about 2 pounds not-so-ripe tomatoes, peeled, sliced and drained on a thick layer of paper towels.  It’s okay if you don’t quite have the 2 pounds but you don’t want more as the ingredients will over flow when the pie is baked.  We’ve all been there!
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and cover lightly a 9″ pie pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. Place cheddar, basil, parmesan and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl and mix until completely combined.  Set aside.
  3. While the tomatoes drain on the paper towels, mix the Bisquick with the milk in a medium size bowl until a dough ball has formed.
  4. Dump the dough into the pie pan and lightly grease your hands.  Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom of the dish and all the way up the sides.
  5. Using your fingers or a pastry brush spread the mustard over the pressed pie shell.
  6. Sprinkle tomatoes with the black pepper and layer the tomatoes evenly over the pie shell.
  7. Cover the tomatoes with the cheese mixture and spread evenly.  I find breaking it apart with my hands is easiest.
  8. Bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes until the cheese turns a warm, golden color.
  9. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes prior to serving to make for easier slicing.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen .com

Deep South Co-Cola Cake

This past weekend was the annual oratorical competition for the regional at Saint Demetrios church here in Fort Lauderdale.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi came for the weekend each hoping to take home the gold, a chance at the national competition to be held this June in Boston.  Although it is voluntary, “the oratorical” was a mandatory exercise for our son James; mean, demanding parents that we are.  But James did well.  Extremely well and, I have to say, the competition certainly honed James’ public speaking skills.  To this day he has no self-doubts, fears or hesitation taking a microphone and making a presentation in front of any one, no matter the number of people gathered.  Representing the southeast region, James competed the last three years of high school traveling to New Orleans, Knoxville and Clearwater.  It was in Clearwater, his senior year, that I met a girl who made such an impression on me.  We were drawn to each other like magnets and the more we talked the more we found in common with each other.  Her name was Harriet, born and raised in Rome, Georgia, a sassy, stunning Southern belle through and through.  At the Saturday night celebratory dinner in Clearwater, I invited the moms at our table for a late night drinking and gab fest in the lobby of the hotel where all of us were staying.  Any mom could join us the only caveat being was you had to wear your pajamas and bring your own hooch, every Southern girl’s dream.  The kids all knew each other, the Greek network is positively astounding, and had planned a midnight pool party.  Sippin’ and sassin’ in the lobby also allowed us to keep one eye on the kids.  It goes without saying, we had a blast!  All of us tried to outdo the others with tales of our husbands and children.  We screamed and cackled with laughter until tears came out of our eyes.  At some ungodly hour the bottles of booze were empty and we all stumbled back to our rooms but not before Harriet and I exchanged emails and cell numbers.  By then we were solid, blood sisters.  Back in our home towns we texted and emailed frequently, learning about each other and liking each other more and more.  She lived in Warren, Georgia, a rural town, with her husband and two hunky sons on a working farm.  They had a lake or stream where the boys brought home tons of freshly caught fish all neatly strung waiting for Harriet to fry ’em up.  Harriet’s role on the farm besides wife and mom was raising baby lambs.  All this was straight up my alley but this was the clincher…she, also, had a blog.  We gave each other shout outs on our posts, commiserated one with the other frustrations we encountered,  encouraged and  supported the habit of daily writing .  We shared intimacies only lifelong friends divulge.  Serious stuff.  And we laughed.  Boy, did we laugh.  Harriet had been published several times in different local publications, her forte being daily life in rural Georgia.  I recall one Thanksgiving article she wrote dealt with the most shameful fact that she, the only living Southern woman, could not, to save her life, make gravy.  She crept into the local Piggly Wiggly, surreptitiously grabbed a couple of jars of ready made gravy and casually ambled up to the check out line.  Her heart was pounding like a rabbit on crack as she looked around to see if anyone she knew had seen her.  Didn’t matter.  She knew she was dead meat…small town like Warren an’ all.  Sure enough, the jars wouldn’t scan.  The sweet check out girl took one look at them and asked, “Miz Jacobs, you shore you wont that gravy stuff in the jar?  Whah don’ chew jes make it?”  In spite of Harriet’s protests the check out girl reassured her saying, “Now don’t chew worry, Miz Jacobs, ah kin git that price fir ya.”  Harriet hissed, “No!  No!  Ah don’t wont it!  Stop!  It’s okay.  Ah don’t wont it.”  Too late.  BobbySue, the check out girl was on the microphone an’ you know what she was sayin’.  “Price check own aisle 4.  Ah don’ know wah, but Miz Jacobs wonts some a that store bought gravy an’ ah don tole ‘er is B-A-D, bad but she wonts it so could somebody puhleeze check the price?”  The manager replied on HIS microphone, “Miz Jacobs wonts that? Joo tell ‘er it ain’t as good as homemade?  Wale, okay…ah guess.  Tell ‘er tuh hang own an’ ahl check.”  Harriet and I howled with laughter.  “Oh, my stars! Whad joo do?”, I asked.  “Ah jes threw some money down, grabbed the gravy and ran.  I had to have gravy fer Thanksgiving!  My boys get hungry an’ wont all the fixin’s!”  Oh, my goodness, but that girl could tell a story.  Tragically, she died in the Fall of 2014 and I miss her terribly, as I would blood.  I still cry for her in the privacy of my bathroom, where I do my best crying.  I wasn’t able to attend the kid’s presentations at the oratorical competition yesterday.  Brings back too many memories.  But I made this cake.  An old-fashioned, Southern, country cake, sinfully sweet made in her honor.  Meanwhile, Harriet, I know you’re in heaven showin’ everybody just how Southern sassy’s done!

This is probably the sweetest cake I’ve EVER tasted!  Consequently, a little goes a long way.  All the recipes I have call for 2 cups of sugar.  I cut it back to 1 1/2 cups.  Also, most of the recipes list 1 1/2 cups of miniature marshmallows to be mixed into the batter.  I’m not a fan of marshmallows so, like Cracker Barrel, I chose to spread Marshmallow Fluff over the still hot out of the oven cake followed by a chocolate coca cola frosting.  Some recipes call for a scattering of toasted, chopped pecans either in the cake batter or on the icing and I happen to embrace this idea.  The savory pecans offset the wallop of sweetness each bite delivers.  It’s best to let the cake cool for a few hours prior to serving so that the icing can set.  Wrapped tightly with tin foil and left in the pan, this cake will keep for a good 3-4 days out of the refrigerator.

Deep South Co-Cola Cake

  • Servings: 15-20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Coke
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff

Second icing:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coke
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cover a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  3. Toast chopped pecans in oven for 7-10 minutes and set aside.
  4. Pour flour and sugar in a medium size bowl and sift together.  Set aside.
  5. In a heavy bottom pot melt the butter then add the cocoa powder and Coke and bring to a boil stirring well.  Take off the heat.
  6. To the pot add the flour sugar mixture and stir well.
  7. Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla extract mixing thoroughly until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  8. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and, using all the Marshmallow Fluff, immediately drop four or five dollops (the entire jar) on the top of the hot cake.
  10. With a spatula or the back of a spoon gently spread the Fluff taking cake not to tear the cake.
  11. While the cake and topping cool a bit, prepare the second icing.
  12. In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the cocoa and Coke.  Stir until completely combined.
  13. Remove from the heat and add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract to the pot.
  14. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps.
  15. Spoon the icing over the Marshmallow Fluff stirring the icing all the while.
  16. Allow the cake to cool at least 2-3 hours before serving to allow the cake and icings to set.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Southern Peanut Butter Cake Squares

Growing up here in Fort Lauderdale I was lucky enough to attend a grade school close to home, with all my friends from kindergarten, boasting a killer baking staff.  The East Side School cafeteria ladies didn’t open boxes when it came to cakes, pies and cookies for us kiddies.  No ma’am.  The predominantly black women who staffed the cafeteria were accomplished cooks and bakers who cranked out old school baked goods on a daily basis.  They were kind to all of us students and we in turn bowed down to them with reverence and respect because they were grown ups…you watch your p’s and q’s around grown ups.  These ladies were experts in the kitchen and coming from a home where Mama didn’t cook or bake I was highly appreciative and anticipated lunch every day knowing it would be far better than anything I would ever be served at home.  Do you recall the peanut butter cake you had in grade school?  The squares were heavy and thick in texture yet the cakes melted in your mouth leaving a certain salty sweet taste.  Oh, heaven.  Lately I’ve been craving that same salty sweet sensation and set about to have it.  I came up with this.  Alone in the house with two pans was virtual diet suicide.  I took four squares over to my friend Rob’s house.  He had fiddled with my father’s ancient bedside table lamp which wasn’t working.  At 94 years old Daddy really depends on that lamp for the inordinate amount of reading he does.  And after 5 minutes of fooling with it Rob had tightened it up, fine tuned the sockets and turned the on/off chains to a place where Dad could control the lamp with ease.  Make my Daddy happy, make me happy.  I made Rob take a bite of the cake and watched his reaction like a hawk.  His first words after clearing his palate of the dense stuff were, “I’m sorry Miz Whitcomb, but I don’t have my math homework cuz I didn’t do it!”  He was back in grade school and that’s what I wanted.  Old school peanut butter cake will take you back…and in a good way.

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This is a crazy simple cake recipe.  It’s best served with coffee or milk.  Iced water will do but coffee or milk are best.   When the cake smells done it probably is done.  I have light-colored baking sheets however if yours are dark keep an eye on them as they’ll bake your cake much faster.  It’s a thin cake, not big and puffy and you don’t want it to burn.  When preparing the icing you must stir continuously.  I can’t stress that enough.  Peanut butter scorches easily.   But if you use a whisk and keep stirring until smooth you will be rewarded with a trip back in time.  When you serve this to your children or grandchildren you can regale them with stories of how you had to walk 10 miles uphill BOTH WAYS to school.  Enjoy!

Southern Peanut Butter Squares

  • Servings: 24 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Icing:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups confectioners sugars
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Set aside a standard 12’X17″ light-colored baking sheet with a lip or 2 12″X9″ light colored baking sheets each with a lip.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, water and whisk over medium heat until completely combined.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  6. Pour into baking sheet/ sheets and bake 18-20 minutes or until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan.  If using dark-colored baking sheets test for doneness at 15 minutes.
  7.   Remove cake from oven and cool on cooling rack, make the icing as the cake cools.

Icing:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine peanut butter, milk and butter and whisk until all ingredients have dissolved and are combined.
  2. Add confectioners sugar and continue whisking until completely smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and pour over cake.
  4. Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes.
  5. Cut into 3″X3″ squares and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Double Strawberries and Cream Cheese in Puff Pastry

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When last Jim and I were in Paris we had the good fortune to meet several times with my extended family.  They entertained us as only Parisians can, in fine restaurants with lots of yummy champagne.  My cousins also rounded up the family who were in town for a Sunday afternoon reunion in the house of my father’s cousin, Marie Claire, where we spent the afternoon reminiscing  over days long past and laughing at our young foolishness, sipping champagne and nibbling on a gorgeous mirabelle plum tart made by my cousin Hubert’s wife, Anne.  Marie Claire’s apartment had been her sister, Francoise’, and that was where I began my first adventure in France oh, so many years ago.  Whenever I went to Paris I stayed with Francoise and having gone all over the city by foot I came to know her neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine pretty well.  With Mama and without, I took the Metro to get around, and found the walk to the station and back to the apartment an absolute delight.  Magnificent  maple trees lined the streets leading to her house and, I have to tell you, I never felt prettier or happier than when I my feet hit those sidewalks.  I felt as though I was walking on air.  Francoise’ building was, and still is, magnificent.  The entrance hall was mahogany, the floor large black and white tiles whilst an antiquated brass elevator  waited at the right…or was it the on the left?  Regardless, it was there in all its creaky, rumbling glory.  However, if you chose not to wait, an exquisite caracol staircase was ready to take you to the second floor.  Although the elevator was majestic it was still a bit utilitarian so I always chose to take the staircase, resplendent with a dark ruby Persian runner held in place by old brass stair runners tacked into the well-worn mahogany steps,  stained obsidian and sunken in the middle by years of use.  And the apartment!  I remember some rooms being sea-green in color, enormous oils of our ancestors hung in heavy gold frames on most walls and the dining room and her generous bathroom completely beguiled me with its charming fireplace and mammoth, cast-iron claw-foot bathtub.  For me Francoise’ house was, and will always be, the height of luxury.  She introduced me to the French press for coffee, the beauty and pleasure of engraved calling cards, the importance of knowing how to read a map and the notion that a sterling porringer makes a fine ash tray.

Treasured bits from years past. Crazy about her calling card!
Treasured bits from years past. Crazy about her calling card!

Meals were small and only when necessary.  We were too busy to eat.  We left the flat early in the morning.   Most days Francoise went to her office where she wrote for various magazines while Mama and I were off to museums, shops and concerts, all possible by taking the Metro.  Towards the end of the day we met up for a glass of wine or champagne then back to the apartment to dress for dinner.  How I love that apartment and how special it was to be back in it with Hubert, Anne and their daughters and Grand-cousin, Marie Claire.  Still lovely and well-appointed with family pieces but now with bursts of life and color from the artwork of many grandchildren.  Merci encore, Marie Claire, pour un apres-midi splendide!

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This pastry is not only easy but dramatic in its presentation.  The puff pastry is store-bought and although it appears braided it is not.  Strips of dough are folded over and the end result is one good-looking dessert.  The dried and fresh berries compliment each other quite well, the dried berries mixed with cream cheese lend a creamy texture while the fresh give a juicy blast of flavor.

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Double Strawberry and Cream Cheese in Puff Pastry

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 12-14 fresh, ripe strawberries, sliced vertically 1/4″ in thickness
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, I like using vanilla sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1.2-ounce bag or 2 cups of freeze-dried strawberries, available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 (that’s 1 sheet) of a 17.3 ounce box of puff pastry, thawed but kept in the refrigerator until needed
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Toss the fresh strawberry slices with tablespoon of sugar and set aside to macerate.
  3. In a blender, mini-food processor or magic bullet process the freeze-dried strawberries until they are the texture of powder.
  4. In a small bowl mix the cream cheese until it becomes loose and easy to handle.
  5.  Add the strawberry powder and confectioners’ sugar to the cream cheese and stir until both are completely mixed together.
  6. Remove the sheet of puff pastry from the refrigerator and gently unfold on top of the baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.  Place the pastry so the fold marks run vertically.  The pastry will look like 3 equal rectangles attached together by the folds.
  7. Working as quickly as possible so the dough stays chilled, lightly roll out the dough so that it measures roughly 9 1/2″X 10 1/2″.
  8. Leaving the inside rectangle intact, make 1/2″ diagonal cuts into the two outside pastry rectangles.  Discard the 4 corners of the pastry.
  9. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly down the center rectangle all the way to the cuts.  Mound the fresh berries on top of the cream cheese mixture evenly.
  10. Fold the top and bottom flap of dough over the berry filling.
  11. Fold the diagonal cuts over the berry mixture alternating left and right until the entire pastry is braided.  Tuck in any loose ends.
  12. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
  13. Bake pastry for 30-35 minutes or until golden.
  14. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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