Tag Archives: butter

Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies with a Bourbon and Brown Butter Glaze…whew!

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Early to bed, early to rise.  I am an early riser.  Often I awaken in darkness and have some version of the following conversation with myself.  “If I get up now I can pull some butter and cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften on the counter while I have my coffee.  Am I going to even use the butter and cream cheese?  And I can look through some cookbooks for inspiration.  Do I have any eggs?  What was it I ran out of and was supposed to get at the store?  Did I remember to get it?”  Wide awake I grab the clock to learn it’s 4:17 in the morning.  Ugh.  I lie in bed as long as I can and then that’s it.  I have to get up…have to.  It’s still too early to wake the household with my banging about, but I WILL quietly pad to the kitchen, prepare the morning coffee and mull over what it is I want to cook or bake.  The morning is deliciously dark, the kitchen hushed and still.  It is an exquisite peace, well worth leaving 1200 thread count sheets.  No phones ringing, no dog barking, too early for music, my thoughts silently bounce around my noggin with the speed of a crazy ball.  This morning I focused on pecans.  And butter.  Brown butter.  And cookies.  With a glaze.  More brown butter.  Rum?  Uh-uh…too harsh.  Bourbon, yeah, bourbon.  A bourbon and brown butter glaze.  Bingo.  I know what I want to do with the morning.  Pecans mean autumn to me as does brown butter.  I pull out books, pens, recipes and notebooks.  My coffee sits on the window sill of the kitchen as I settle into the window box to sip and see what I can come up with.  I know everyone’s excited about pumpkin right now but I just can’t.  I’m sorry.  I’m already over and done with all the pumpkin.  Pumpkin lattes, coffee cake, Rice Krispy treats, cinnamon rolls and snickerdoodles.  Maybe sometime I’ll bake off some pumpkin bread but that’s it for pumpkin.  Maybe some soup, too.  However, pecans?  Georgia pecans?  Oh, hell yes.  Pecans say college ball, the occasional lit fireplace, short days and cool nights.  Pecans say gumbo parties, your favorite boots, cashmere, apples and no bad hair days.  The result of all this is a cookie that will blow your cozy, autumnal socks off.  The glaze is not at all boozy but a warm, soft blanket of icing with the deep, smooth flavor of butter hinting towards bourbon .  The cookie is ever so slightly crisp at the edge becoming chewy, salty and buttery with the joyous meeting of sweet pecan to tastebud.  Good Lord, but they were good!  I say were because I had to get them out of the house.  Too much temptation for this girl.

I was a fool for these cookies. Something about that sweet, salty combination.
I was a fool for these cookies. Something about that sweet, salty combination.

It’s an easy cookie but because the butter is melted when browned, the dough is best chilled overnight.  I put together my dough in the afternoon and bake the cookies off the following morning up to a day later.  I bake them for exactly 12 minutes because I have a “hot” oven.  I need to buy a new oven thermometer and calibrate it but until that happens I’ll just keep a watchful eye on what’s baking.  Also, with holiday baking right around the corner, I strongly urge you to pick up a pack of parchment paper.  I find the packs at food warehouses and Michael’s craft store also sells it.  The packs are by far easier to use rather than the parchment paper rolls sold in boxes.  The edges of the boxed paper curl uncontrollably back to their boxed form.  Plus I believe the packages are infinitely cheaper.  To form the cookies I used a medium cookie scoop which holds 1 1/2 tablespoons.  I packed the dough in generously with a bit extra spilling out.

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Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies with Brown Butter Bourbon Icing

Dough:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cup toasted pecans (400° for 7 minutes), roughly chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Bourbon Brown Butter Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Extra pecan halves for decoration, optional
  1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot brown the butter over medium heat.  Stir continuously and briskly to ensure even browning.  It will foam up and begin to brown from the center of the pot.  Continue stirring until the butter turns a dark brown.  Allow to cool 10-15 minutes off the heat.
  2. Pour browned butter into a large bowl and add both brown sugars. Mix to combine then add eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir to combine.
  4. Add toasted, chopped pecans to brown butter/sugar mixture and stir well.
  5. Add flour mixture to the wet pecan mixture and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  6. Transfer dough to plastic wrap, shape into a ball, wrap well and chill the dough in the refrigerator until hard and set.  I find overnight is best.
  7. When dough has chilled sufficiently pre-heat oven to 350° and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Using a medium cookie scoop, cut out dough and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  12 mounds per sheet works best.
  9.  Cover the bottom of a smooth meat pounder, salad plate or small flat-bottomed bowl with plastic wrap and press down on each ball of dough so that it measures about 2 1/2″ in diameter.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes.  Check the bottom of a cookie for browning and if further baking is needed return to oven checking every 2 minutes.  These cookies firm up on top once out of the oven so take care not to over bake.
  11. Cool on baking sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer to cooling rack until completely cool.

Bourbon Brown Butter Glaze

  1. Place glazing butter in a small heavy bottomed pot and melt over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat when the butter is dark brown.
  3. Carefully, because it will pop and splatter, pour in bourbon and stir vigorously.  The alcohol will burn off but you’ll still be left with that caramel like bourbon flavor.
  4. Stir in confectioner’s sugar and continue stirring until the glaze is smooth and there are no lumps of sugar.
  5. If the glaze is too thick add milk, water or bourbon one teaspoonful at a time taking care not to make it too runny as you’ll spread the glaze with the back of a spoon.
  6. Spread one teaspoonful of glaze over each cookie using the back of the spoon to swirl it around and cover the top of the cookie.
  7. Finish each cookie with one perfect pecan halve pressed into glaze.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

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Little White Cakes

It’s James’ 21st birthday and, well..we are so happy!!  We had a great day, I spent a bit of time with our koumbaros, the best man at our wedding, who is also James’ nouno, godfather.  In our house James’ godmother and godfather are known as AmyNouna and ArthurNouno.  It’s just how it is.  In an Orthodox wedding the best man is always the godfather of the first child.  It’s just how it is.  ArthurNouno came with his son and James’ close friend and brother, Gary.  Gary is the world’s most darling bad boy.  He is truly legendary!  I imagine there are just scads of girls out there that consider being dumped by Gary an honor.  Charming, good-looking Greek boy…mm, mm, mm.  He bad!!  Anyway, they came down and all four boys, Arti, Gary, Jimmy and James, went to the Marlins game.  And I’m at home on my fourth glass of Prosecco.  It’s okay because I will not be operating any heavy machinery…not even hot rollers.  I started baking James’ birthday cake for tomorrow, Little White Cakes.  They’re made at home, incredibly easy and are awfully close to that delicious treat called the “Petit Four”.  I mixed and measured remembering the first time I ever tasted petit fours.  I was six and Cynthia eight.  We were being sent to Puerto Rico with my uncle, my mother’s brother Enrique, because Mama had just had a baby, Tommy, it was summer and Mama needed some easy time.  Tio Enrique had been doing his fraternity work I MEAN undergraduate work at Baldwin Wallace in Berea, Ohio.  Why my parents thought my uncle was an  appropriate guardian I’ll never know.  To me, he was the most handsome man on the planet.  At six years old I was head over heels in love with him.  He had this slow sexy smile that made me just melt when I saw it.  He was just a dream!  And he was bad.  Right up my alley.  Mama and Daddy put us on a Pan American flight with Tio Enrique and we were off!!  I sat quietly next to Cynthia, she got the window seat, and eventually we were served our meal.  This was back in the days of silverware and linen tablecloths.  My kind of travel.  Tio Enrique had pretty much forgotten about his nieces, his CHARGES.  I could see him up front with the first class stewardesses…they were all having drinks and laughing…every so often one would lean provocatively forward and my uncle would murmur something in glamor girl’s  ear.  I could see his hand on the small of one of the glamor girl’s backs.  It was all very sophisticated and intimate.  Our dinner was served and when we finished there was a small petit four for dessert.  I ate all of mine.  It was so good!!  Light and sweet.  I wanted more.  Common sense told me NOT to bother Tio Enrique, he didn’t care what we did.  He was tossing his handsome head back laughing at something one of the glamor girls had said.  So, ever so gingerly, I squeezed past my dinner tray and landed in the aisle.  I looked to see who had eaten their petit four and who hadn’t.  Solemnly and politely I asked the gentleman behind me if he wasn’t eating his petit four may I have it?????  With a big smile he said of course!!!  I discreetly ate it and moved on.  “Excuse me, Ma’am?  Are you going to eat your petit four?”  “Why, no!  Would you like it?”  “Yes, please.”  I continued working both sides of the aisle, rounding the rear of the plane and again ridding both sides of the aisles of their pastries.  Every so often I would look up at Tio Enrique who never even saw me, so occupied was he with the conquests at hand.  I ate all the petit fours that were given to me.  I returned to my seat and there was Cynthia where I had left her, quietly reading her book.  She didn’t question where I had been nor what I had been doing.  By then it was evening, we could see city lights as we left the water and approached the island.  After a smooth landing we gathered our things and made our way down the cool, metal stairs across the tarmac which was still warm from the day’s heat.  The entire family was there… our grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins.  Everyone was kissing and hugging, my grandparents ecstatic to have another boy home.  I remember all the lights on in the airport, night-time was setting in.  We walked down a side-walk, en masse, I recall a short little hedge of ixora.  I remember because that’s where I turned my head and, in front on my INCREDIBLY smothering, overprotective  family, projectile vomited.  I barfed up all those exquisite little petit fours all over that perfectly manicured ixora hedge.  I hadn’t felt sick but after that I felt all the more better!!  My family was horrified.  “Aye, Dios mio, pero esta nena esta enferma!” ” Oh, my God, this girl is sick!”  No I’m not!!!  I AM NOT!!!  I’m fine.  Just had a few sweets, that’s all.  There was to be a huge party back at my grandparents beautiful home….oh, God.  I looked at Cynthia.  Could she be any happier?  Just skipping along, refusing to look at me, “Oh, no, missy.  I ain’t savin’ YO ass.  Uh uh.  You’re on your own.  I gotta party waitin’ on me.”  Her look said it all.  Meanwhile, my aunts and uncles were all discussing “my condition” and making plans as to who was going to the party and who would be going to the DOCTOR’S.  Granted, the doctor was my grandfather’s cousin who lived down the street but still…. she didn’t REALLY know me and I didn’t care about her.  We pulled onto our street and Cynthia and her entourage disappeared into my grandparent ‘s house and off the rest of us went to Doctora Polo’s house.  Shit.  I was furious.  There was nothing wrong with me.  I puked, I feel fine.  She welcomed us all in and they began chattering away, everyone speaking on top of the other.  God.  Only my cousins know what I’m talking about.   She took me into her office and all them followed.  I was told to undress.  EXCUSE ME?  I may be six but I’m not baring my little bird-like chest to anyone.  Some of my uncles were there!!  I had to strip down to my panties.  I was livid.  I hated them all.  Especially when Dra. Polo said, “She’s fine!  No te preocupes!  Ella esta de lo mas bien!”  I quickly dressed and off we went down the street back to my grandparent’s house.  I was so humiliated.  We walked into the party and there was Cynthia holding court and I remember thinking, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do, but I’m gonna do SOMETHING and when I do you’re gonna be sorry!!”  I was angry at all my relatives except Tio Enrique.  The one who let me eat all those pastries.  He didn’t even make it back to my grandparent’s or the doctors!  Must have been one of those glamor girls in a big hotel in the Old City!!  So, Gentle Reader, please find Little White Cakes.  They are truly paradise!  And you WILL want to eat them all!

People, this is one of the most exquisite recipes of the Ages!!  It hails from my New Orlean’s born friend, Harriet.  These perfect Little White Cakes just melt in your mouth.  I know they spawn from a box mix but they are brilliant and wildly popular in our family.  I don’t use much of the icing…I just drizzle a little over each layer of cakes on the platter and continue stacking.  Then I tuck in deep, red garnet strawberry in random pockets and corners and it’s just gorgeous.  Harriet’s recipe calls for cutting off and discarding the edges of the cakes but I just can’t do it.  I just can’t.  I’ll eat them.  Don’t tell me to give them to James or Jimmy, I’m here to tell ya I’LL EAT THEM.  And it’s more than my girlish figure can stand.  So, it’s your choice.  But fair warning, those nasty, old dried edges?  They ain’t nasty and they ain’t dried.  They will melt in your mouth.  Birthday perfection!!!

Little White Cakes

yield:  1 9X13 pan

Pillsbury Moist Supreme White Cake Mix Pudding in the Mix

Ignore box directions.  Instead:

Preheat oven to 325°.

Melt 1 stick of butter.  Add to this 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and 2 eggs.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Underbake.  If you use a 9X13 pan, bake no more than 25 minutes.  Till your thumbprint stays depressed.  Cool.  Put tinfoil over pan and invert. Cut off all edges 1/4″.  OPTIONAL!  then cut into small squares.  I do this diagonally.  Separate squares.  Frost.  Discard those old dry edges you cut off and any imperfect ones.  Perfect Little White Cakes remain.  For you.  For me.  If you don’t eat them all you can freeze them.

Icing

Melt 1/4 cup butter.  Stir in 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup evaporated milk.  Thin if necessary with a little more evaporated milk.  Pour over cake as icing or pour into a sturdy baggie, cut off the corner and drizzle all over the squares by gently squeezing the icing out.

Double Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti for my Chocolate Queen

I love those special days, Mother’s Day being one, when everyone’s nice to you and you get to do anything you want.  I got out of bed this morning when I wanted to, got dressed and left the house to work out.  What a gorgeous day!!  The sun was out and stiff breezes kept me cool.  An hour later I returned home red-faced, wet and happy knowing I won’t have to do this again until tomorrow!  I prepared my breakfast while listening to Rick Steve’s travel program on NPR.  It was a predictable Mother’s Day program but I almost lost it when he spoke of his mother who had passed away a few days after this past Christmas.  It was quite touching.  He spoke of the gifts his mother had given him and credited her with giving him the gift of travel.  Made me think of our Cookie.  She was so cool, we just didn’t know it!   She gave us the gift of language when she insisted we speak Spanish.  Keep in mind, when I was growing up, there were really no Hispanics in Fort Lauderdale.  Granted, we traveled often to Puerto Rico and would stay for long periods of time, but we also had to write our thank you notes and letters in Spanish and her frequent calls to the family meant WE had to actively participate in those conversations.  I’d always try to sneak out of the house when I heard her speaking in Spanish on the telephone.  And I’d always get caught.  Mama would pull me to the phone, hissing in my ear “YOU GET ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW AND SAY HELLO TO EVERYONE.  DO NOT EMBARRASS ME!”.  I hated it.  With a dark and sullen look on my face I would brightly say, “Hi, Madrinita!  It’s Alicia.  How are you?”.  I could feel my tongue getting thick and tangled up and self-consciousness would creep in.  Well, guess what?  At 56 years old I still speak Spanish.  Relatively well, and without an accent.  I can thank Mama for the gift of language.  That just staggers me.  She gave us ANOTHER LANGUAGE.  Mama also gave us the gift of faith.  We were all raised Catholic and we WERE at church every Sunday morning.  And we went to catechism.  Holy days of obligation were always observed and confession was said every week.  I don’t talk about it much because religion is extremely intimate to me.  Faith was not a big deal until I hit a rough patch.  Loneliness and fear struck debilitating blows at 3:00 in the morning.  Anger, pain and confusion played dominant roles in my pathetic, crumbling life.  What did I do?  More importantly, where did I turn?  My church.   Mama had given us the foundation and solace of religion.  Without it, I would not be here today.  ‘Nuff said.  On a more shallow note, she taught us to appreciate….JEWELS!!!  Pearls, gold, rubies, emeralds, it matters not which stone.  If you love it, it CAN be yours!  Anything!  A car.  That $800.00 bag you just can’t live without.  Save.  Just save.  She taught me that even 10 bucks a week will one day become seven thousand dollars and, you TOO, can be the proud owner of the fillintheblank!  She taught us no matter how little money you have, you can always save.  You girls out there need to pay attention to this.  Open your own account and keep it.  Maintain it.  You don’t have to tell anybody, either.  It’s MORE than humiliating to have to ask.  It’s contemptible to have to ask a man.  Get it yourself and you’ll enjoy whatever it is way more!  Mama taught us, in NO uncertain terms, your name is one of the few things you always have.  You represent your entire family…in my case, the Puerto Rican, the French, the English, and the more recent Greek.  Anytime we’d leave the house, especially after nightfall, she would call out to us, “Fly your banner high!”.  I have to admit, I made more wrong choices than I would have liked, but there WERE times when her words would ring in my ears and I did the right thing.  “Fly your banner high.”  I really do believe we all did.  Well, at least we tried!

My birthday, 2006

Mama loved chocolate.  One could safely say she loved chocolate as she would have a fifth child!  It mattered not if it was a Snickers bar or the finest chocolates of Europe.  She loved them all.  And you could never, EVER, have too much.  She and Daddy never really fussed much but one time, when Dad came home from a speaking trip abroad, he mentioned to her that he had been given boxes and boxes of fine Swiss and French chocolates, gifts from his clients.  He didn’t want to be weighted down or inconvenienced by carrying them on the flight home so he just left them unopened in the hotel room for the chambermaid.  Mama was furious.  She just BLEW UP.  “But, Jackson, you KNOW how I love chocolate!  How could you!! How could you!!”.  It wasn’t pretty.  So, itty bitty precious Mama, I give you CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP PISTACHIO BISCOTTI.  And Happy Mother’s Day!  You duh Mama!!!!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pistachio Biscotti

yield: 13-14 biscotti not including the end pieces, (they’re the baker’s treat!)

  • 7 tablespoons of softened butter, one is for the baking sheet
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line a standard size baking sheet with parchment paper and, using on tablespoon of butter, spread evenly on parchment, down the middle, covering approximately 13 X 5 inches.  Just eyeball it.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Using a stand-up mixer if you have one, otherwise use an electric mixer or arm power, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs and beat until well combined.
  6. Add flour mixture and stir to form a stiff dough.
  7. Add pistachios and chocolate chips.  I stir this addition in by hand.
  8. Transfer dough to prepared parchment paper and form into a 12″ X 4″ flat log.  Smooth and shape where needed.
  9. Bake until slightly firm, roughly 25 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  11. Reduce oven temperature to 300°.
  12. Transfer log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1″ thick slices.  I always use a serrated knife.
  13. Return to baking sheet, cut side down, and bake until crisp but still slightly soft in the center, about 8-10 minutes.
  14. Cool completely before storing.

An Unexpected Friend

Banging around the kitchen this evening, I heard an interview on NPR of Greece’s ex-PM, George Papandreou.  I had just gotten home, still had to change my clothes but first let me just straighten this, wait, let me put that away… Y’all know what I mean.  As I wiped down the counters, or did something equally significant, I stopped to listen.  There were no surprises in his comments but they DID turn my cerebral energies towards my island, my heaven, one of the most beautiful places on this planet.  Lesvos, Greece.  I thought of our daily activities and all the people we’ve gotten to know…and really like.  Not just family, but shop owners, hotel staff, restaurant owners, waiters, locals, dogs, donkeys, horses, farmers, our tastes run the gamut!

We try to go for at least two or three weeks every summer but last year, when the temperature in the house soared to the high eighty-somethings, we took the envelope marked VACATION 2011 and handed it to the AC man.  Yes, we needed an entire new central air system.  So it’s been two years this summer since we’ve been to Greece.  I miss it.  And I worry about it.  We’re going this August.  What will we find? Thankfully, the island of Lesvos is not dependant on tourism.  We’re usually about the only Americans there!  None the less, I’m sure the island, like the entire country, is reeling from this hideous financial quagmire.  I thought of my early morning runs,

never starting later than 6:30  in the morning because of the crushing heat.  The sun would start coming up at 5:30, I would see it peeking through the hotel curtains.  It felt soooo good in that bed, especially since we had usually been drinking the night before!  Sunscreen on, contacts in, hair back, shades, cap, music and I was off!  The resort where we stay is terraced and there must be 7 gazillion steps from top to bottom.  Each terrace has vines with velvety, deep orange flowers growing and I would always stop and just look out.  It’s unbelievably magnificent!  The swath of brilliant orange, the ancient, gnarled olive trees and then… the Aegean.

I’d trot down the steps figuring that would be a sufficient warm up, there really isn’t any place to sit and stretch, and, on my way down, decide which direction I would go.  But each morning I would always start in the same direction!  Off I’d go with my walk-man, then in later years, an iPod, music blaring just way too loud for my poor eardrums but I felt incredibly happy and free.  Leaving the Sunrise, that’s where we stay, I ALWAYS turned left and headed towards the hot springs.  I would race-walk on the winding road and my unbreakable rule was any hill, you gotta run.  Up AND down.  Those are the rules.  And you can’t stop unless you come across something really cool or pretty or dead.  My favorites tunes would come on, maybe Bob Seger’s “Katmando” and I would jam!  I would find the most darling little dogs sitting at the end of the driveway of their hotels or family’s summer home every morning. They’d watch, loyally guarding their homestead, and at attention, too!  It took a few years for us to become friends, but we did.  There was a pack of wild dogs that lived on the beach but they didn’t look feral.  They were small and cute, however, as I’m not one to temp the fates, mutual respect was observed by all.  They lived close to the guy who would be homeless except HE INHERITED A SHACK ON THE BEACH AND THE SAND IT SITS ON.  I have a photo of it somewhere, I had to kind of sneak up on it and quickly take the picture before the dogs alerted the man.  Things like that just scare me to death!

Continuing on, I passed older, sprawling hotels, newly renovated with flowers everywhere, lemon and orange trees jumping out from around every corner and majestic swimming pools all lined with local marble.  Old school meets new school.  Up and down the hills I welcomed the gusty winds as I would begin to feel the morning heat.  I’d still be riding on happy, it’s just so incredibly gorgeous.  The Aegean was right next to me, waves gently lapping at the stone beach!!  Can you stand it??!!  When I heard fast, hard music, I’d look around, not that there would ever be anybody out, and play MY version of air guitar.  I love my classic rock and, in years past, would carefully pack my fave CD’s, Allman Brothers, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top.  “Southbound”, “Done Somebody Wrong” or “Tush” would come on and I was in another world.  I ran in some kind of reverie and, when my most loved chorus would come on, I’d burst into a blistering air guitar riff.  And that’s when the sound of a deafening horn BLEW me off the road.  Scared the life out of me!!!  A chain of foul and ugly words spewed forth from my mouth as I was harshly jolted out of La-La land.  Almost falling, I spun around to see who was the dolt, the dunderhead, the ASS who was fixin’ to feel my wrath TAKE.HIM.DOWN.  I turned to see a mammoth tractor, dressed with a flowered wreath and finished with a smokestack train whistle. Seated on the very top was a man with THE biggest handlebar mustache I had ever, EVER seen.  And he was laughing at me.  Yes, laughing.  He had on one of those black and white checked headscarves like Yasser Arafat used to wear.  I spoke no Greek, none, except for my food vocabulary and what was I going to call him?  You freakin’ loser stuffed grape leaf?  Well, I showed him!  I gave him my haughtiest, scathing look and off he chugged, laughing all the way down the road.  In the following days I’d hear him coming and, you bet I made it a point, I would just stand out of the way until he passed.  A full year passed, we’re on vacation, YAY!, and I’m back to working out.  I heard the familiar chug-chug-chug.  As he passed I didn’t reward him with a smile but I did, ever so imperceptibly, give him a polite nod.  That’s it… that’s all he got that year.  Now we’re into the following summer.  Back on the road, hot, sweaty, winding down with Freebird, and I hear it.  Chug-chug-chug.  I was elated!!  By then I had been taking Greek for a few years.  Every so often I would think of this man, almost fondly, during the year especially during winter when the days would get dark early and I longed for a 9:00 p.m. sunset.  Jimmy, Selene and I gave him a name, “My Friend”.  He tooted his horn, still laughing at me, but this time I managed to sputter my name and my nationality as my face lit up with a smile to match his.  I saw him at least every other morning, we’d laugh and wave, I have no idea where he was going or where he’d been.  On my last day I took my camera.  This is before cell phones with cameras.  I’d run, take a few photos, run, take a few photos and then I heard that familiar engine cough.  I turned, smiled and waved.  I gestured with my camera, was it okay?  He just laughed and kept smiling but brought the tractor to a halt giving me enough time to snap a few shots. The sun had just come up and was just blazing away behind him.  It was too, too bright, the photos would NEVER come out!  And I knew he wouldn’t turn the tractor around just so I could take his picture, he seemed to be a real man’s man.  What I had would just have to do.  The following year I never saw him on the road but, one day, driving through some village, in the corner of my eye, I saw him, headdress on, sitting outside a taverna with his cronies flipping his worry beads.  I felt SO much better that I knew my friend was all right!  I hope he’s well.  I hope I see my friend.  And I hope he’s on his tractor.  I’ll keep you posted!

My Friend.

I want to give you a quintessential Greek dish, Baklava.  It’s easy.  You just need a little time.  The nuts are interchangeable so you can combine them any way you’d like.  A syrup is made to pour over the Baklava in the final stages of preparation and either fresh orange or lemon juice and peel can be used.  The spices in the syrup call for cinnamon, but as of late, I’ve also been adding a spice called Mahlep.  Mahlep is the kernel of a kind of wild cherry.  Its flavor is extremely subtle, its addition adds another layer of flavor.  If you don’t have an international market close to you, don’t fret.  It will be still be fabulous!  But if you DO, grab some.  It’s not expensive at all.  The kernels look like enormous sesame seeds.  When I make the syrup, I toss a tablespoon of the mahlep into a ziplock bag and pound it with a pestle, of the mortar and pestle combo, on the counter.  Enough to break it up.

The syrup will later be strained so there’s no right or wrong here.  Butter is now used more frequently between the sheets of phyllo whereas in the past, the fat of choice was high-grade, local olive oil.  As I mentioned, different combinations of nuts can, and are, used.  Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, even pecans can be gently layered in the sheets of dough, and all taste great!  I hope you won’t let phyllo intimidate or torture you.  Just follow a couple of simple rules and you’ll be golden!  Like the Baklava I’m sure you’ll make!  Oh, and let me be so bold to add, it’s better the next day!

Baklava

yield: 1 13X9 pan

  • 2-2 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts, or 1 cup walnuts, the other cup your nut of choice, but finely chopped not ground
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 pound phyllo dough, opened and covered with a clean, damp linen towel.  Turn your ceiling fan off.  It’ll dry out the dough.
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups syrup, at room temp, recipe follows

Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2-3 wide strips of lemon or orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice if using. 3 tablespoons of juice if using fresh orange.
  • 2 teaspoons of smashed Mahlep, if you can find it.  Greek markets carry it.
  1. Combine all the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer until thickened, maybe 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Strain into a bowl and let come to room temperature.

Baklava

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Mix nuts, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of butter together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Spray the bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray.
  4. With a pastry brush, butter one sheet of phyllo and place on bottom of pan, taking care to fit into corners.  Don’t worry if any sheets tear, you’ll never know looking at the final product. Butter and stack 9 or 10 sheets.  Ends can hang over as long as they’re buttered.
  5. Scatter 1/3 of the nut mixture over the buttered phyllo.
  6. Butter and layer another 9 or 10 sheets of phyllo and scatter another third of the nut mixture over that.
  7. Repeat once more and finish with the last sheets of buttered phyllo.  Any remaining butter can be liberally brushed all over phyllo.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut through all the layers, making diamond or square-shaped serving pieces, being careful not to scratch the bottom of your pan.
  9. Holding the pan in one hand, use your other hand to sprinkle water from your faucet aaaaaaallllll over the baklava.  But be careful to only sprinkle, if you drench it it’ll be soggy.  It takes a minute or two but keeps the phyllo edges from curling up.
  10. Bake 40-45 minutes until the top is light gold  and crisp to the touch.
  11. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  12. When the liquids in the dish no longer sizzle, carefully spoon the syrup in the cuts in between the pieces and around the edges of the baklava.  Try not to pour the syrup over the phyllo because it will make it soggy.
  13. Let it cool completely and when completely cooled, but only then, cover.  Let it sit all day or over night to soak up the syrup.

Derby Day, Y’all! Celebrate with Cheese Straws

Hey, y’all!  It’s Derby Day!  So pull out your Jack Roger’s and Lilly’s, get that hair shiny and big, and let’s gamble!  And drink!  When James was growing up, we always had such a good time at our own Kentucky Derby party.  A couple of hours before the race, we’d start mixing our drinks.  Jimmy and I would have juleps and James would have Sprite with a couple of cherries.  Jimmy would measure from my grandfather’s silver jigger.  Drinks just tasted so much better out of that thing!  And the mint, without fail, came from the garden.  I had juleps for the longest time until the year Jimmy made them with confectioners sugar instead of granulated sugar.  No simple syrup, just powdered sugar.  No muddling, just powdered sugar.  Lordy!  After that I thought, “Why ruin perfectly good bourbon by adding anything to it other than ice??”  And y’all know, I LOOOVE my bourbon!  While I prepared a little pick-up food, James and Jimmy would be cutting out of the newspaper all the names of the horses in the running.  James would then fold them into teeny-tiny bits and into a pretty little bowl they would go.  The pre-race highlights would always be on early and whenever one of us would walk by the television set we’d stop and catch some pretty filly prancing about, tossing her mane, sometimes of the four-legged variety, sometimes of the two.  We’d each carve out our little space in the study and get down to business.  Serious business.

Picking our horses.  Jimmy and I would graciously let James choose first.  After all, he is our child.  He should be awarded first pick in the gambling game!  Round and round we would go until the little bowl was empty and we had our prospective winners before us.  We’d each settle back, leisurely going over each horse, the odds, and it’s stats.  The beauty of our competition was that after randomly picking the horses, you didn’t have to pick the winner, you didn’t have to commit.  All you had to do was hold the name of the winning horse!  As the race would grow closer and closer, I would bring whatever I had prepared, just a little something pretty to nibble on with your drink, something civilized, to the study.  We so enjoyed ourselves!  Then, all of a sudden, we’d hear the first strains of “My Old Kentucky Home”.  Just to mess with James I would insist we ALL stand up while the song played.  I’m mean that way.  The last few years we got together on Derby Day, James just flat out refused to stand up!  “Sorry, Mama. Just ain’t happenin'”.  It was alright because, by then, I had had a couple of cocktails and the song would just about move me to tears!  It is just the saddest!  I mean really!  “…then my old Kentucky Home, good night!”  I’m not alluding to other parts of the song, I recognize they’re controversial, only that it’s a really sad anthem.  However, I am fickle and childlike, so after a few more sips and maybe a bite or two, I was back to my wicked, happy self!  And then came the race!!!  All three of us would start out leaning forward, calling out to our best performers, “C’mon, Easy Grades!”  “Awright, Proud Citizen!” “Do it, War Emblem! Woo hoo!”  Actually, I was the only one that yelled “Woo hoo!”.  The race was over and to the winner went the spoils!  All $27.00!  (Or whatever Jimmy had in his pocket that day!)  If Jimmy won, he’d just put the money back in his wallet and I’d just steal it the following day for groceries!!  If either James or I won, we’d squirrel it away in some top-secret hiding place.  And since we had good food and drink, there were never hurt feelings when the race was over.  Who says gambling isn’t a wholesome family activity?

Cheese straws are one of the many classic Southern foods served at get togethers, big and small.  They are served at parties, luncheons, weddings, funerals, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year and they are served with cocktails.  So, you won’t see too many of them at a church’s Sunday dinner! They’re easy on the eye, uncomplicated and effortless.  Many, and I’m one of them, maintain rolls of cheese straw dough in their refrigerator, especially during holiday times.  It’s as simple as pulling a portioned roll out of the freezer, as it softens, slice and bake!  I’m sure more than a few of you have looked at the photo above and thought, “pecans?”.  Well, I make my cheese straws a little differently thus ratcheting up the flavor just a little bit more.  The pecan takes first place in the South and I am a HUGE fan.  I place the finished dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, fold the plastic over and form the dough into logs.  Tightly wrapped, they chill in the refrigerator to rest and firm up.  When I’m ready to bake I take them out, cut the logs into 1/4″ thick rounds and brush lightly with just a  touch of egg white. To that is crowned a gorgeous, sweet, mahogany pecan half.  Heaven!  Put a pretty glass packed with ice and some really smooth bourbon next to a cunning little plate of these cheese straws… and well, it’s better than cookies and crack!!!

 

Cheese Straws

  • Servings: approximately 50
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

yield: approx. 50 (but remember you can portion the dough and freeze it for up to 3 months)

  • 1/2 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated and at room temperature
  • 1 stick soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, you can cut back if you like, we like ours with a little kick
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Whole pecan halves, you’ll need one for each round of dough
  • 1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325°.

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together then add the moist, mixing well. mix into a dough that is somewhat soft and pliable.
  2. Tear sheets of plastic wrap to your desired lengths and drop dough onto plastic wrap.  Fold to cover, shape into logs, wrap well and chill in refrigerator until hard and stiff.
  3. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or tin foil.
  4. Cut dough into rounds no more than 1/4″ thick.
  5. Place rounds on prepared baking sheet, they can be close but leave a quarter-inch between them.
  6. With a brush or your finger, dab a little egg white into the middle of each round and gently but firmly press a pecan half into dough.
  7. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

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Macaroni and Cheese

Remember that delicious feeling of wonderment when you went waaaay under water in a swimming pool as a child?  I think it starts at 4 or 5 years old and it’s pure magic.  The water would always be crystal clear, reflecting the sunlight on the sides and bottom of the pool in dancing, shimmering fragments.  It was the color of a perfect aquamarine, almost completely silent, all sounds muted and softened by the silky mantle of water.  And it was so pretty, all blue and white.  I believe I was five and Cynthia seven the first time our parents took us to the Bahamas.  I don’t recall anything about the flight but I remember that hotel as if it was yesterday.  It was the height of beauty and elegance.  The epitome of luxury for the two little girls!  There was an exhibit all through the hotel of the crown jewels, Grand Bahama and the rest of the islands in the Bahamian chain being part of Great Britain’s territories.   I remember standing in front of case after case thinking, “I want that.”  And, “I want THAT.”  5-year-old girls will kill for large jewels, or at least that one would.  Upon our arrival, I had found while exploring the vast domain of our room, a white, plastic pen with a wide gold band around the middle and a huge, white feather on the end that would sway back and forth when you wrote.  I immediately claimed it for my own.  I don’t know what Cynthia got, maybe stationary, but that pen was MINE.   And I carried it everywhere, knowing that everyone who saw me with it was able to discern, “Why, she’s not a mere 5-year-old.  She’s a glamorous, mysterious woman.”  The hotel had open, breezy walkways with huge potted palms and exotic flower arrangements everywhere.  And the pool.  Oh, my goodness!  It was one of those free-form configurations that curved and meandered around palms, hibiscus and alamandas.  Every corner of the property had immense bursts of hot pink, fire-engine red and sunset purple Bougainvillea.  The pool was something from a tropical fairytale for us.  And right smack dab in the middle of that pool was a bar.  A BAR.  For 1960 that was pretty crazy stuff.  You could swim right up to it and get a drink.  Grownups would get their cocktails and lucky children would get Coca-Cola.  The two little girls didn’t get anything because we were allowed nothing other than water or milk.  I spent all my days there in that pool, swimming around the bar like a bee over honey.  Early on, I had spied that section of the bar that housed the olives, lemon, lime and orange sections, cocktail onions, and nirvana…maraschino cherries.  My grandmother in Puerto Rico would, every blue moon, make us cherry milkshakes with vanilla ice cream and syrup from the maraschino cherries.   With a real milkshake machine.  Anyway, round and round that bar I swam until finally the bartender asked, “Hi!  Would you like a cherry?”  Would I? Yes, please!  Shyness cast aside, I asked for more until the bartender said, “Listen, just take what you want.  Help yourself.”  Clearly, he had no children.  Well, I helped myself.  And when the garnish container was empty, he’d just fill it right back up with the gallon jug of cherries stashed under the bar.   I ate those cherries until I got that ookie feeling, you know what I’m talking about.  Like there’s a red-hot runaway freight train about to fly out of your bottom.  There were lots of frantic calls to Mama, so incredibly gorgeous in her black maillot.  Of course, she took care of everything, in her loving, graceful way and never made mention of it again.  Dinners were in the formal dining room and Cynthia and I were served macaroni and cheese, or macaroni pie as it was called in the islands, a new treat never before tasted by us.  I don’t remember anything else of that vacation except the flight back to Fort Lauderdale.   For all my parents eccentricities and unconventionality, they were rather formal.  When Cynthia and I were in public we were seen and not heard, we were not the center of attention.  We had flown often to Puerto Rico so were accustomed to flying.  The two little girls sat side by side on the flight, nicely dressed and quiet.  Until the older one started messing with the younger one.  She just wouldn’t leave me alone.  I recall hissing as quietly as possible, “Stop it.  Stop it.  Leave me alone.”  But nooooo.  I remember, in slow motion and with narrowed eyes, holding up my  plumed pen, and with clenched teeth, striking Cynthia in the upper, fleshy part of her arm.  I can still hear that faint “pop!” when the ball point punctured her flesh and the indentation the pen made before it entered.  Yes.  I had stabbed my sister.  Well.  You have never seen such drama, from both of us, as the realization sank in for her, that she could get me in major trouble and score big points with Mama and Daddy.  I understood I had broken the rules of public behavior and chances were… well,  things didn’t look too good for me.  Mama and Daddy were shocked by the scandal we had caused and were none too happy.   But they knew how to punish me.  Oh, yes, they knew the way of correction and discipline all too well.  They broke my heart, that’s what they did.  I remember sobbing uncontrollably, I was heartbroken.  Heartbroken.  Daddy, gently but firmly, asked, “Where’s the pen?  Give it to me, please.”  And I never saw that exquisite pen again.  NEVER.  So, I guess the moral of the story is, if you need to stab your sister then use a pointy stick, a Bic pen, scissors, garden shears, anything but your newly found precious treasure!

 

IMG_1619

This is an updated version of what Cynthia and I dined on for dinner during our vacation.  I scattered Panko on top, unheard of, and used whole grain pasta, also inconceivable for those times.  I like a deep, rich mac and cheese, strong with flavor and character.  If there are no children involved I’m quite liberal with the cayenne.  If you’re not a lover of heat, add the pepper slowly, tasting the sauce as you add and stir.  You can always add more if you like but if you add too much your dish may be compromised.  Thankfully, if it’s James or my nieces, I need not worry.  They love it anyway I prepare it.  I know some people are turned off by the addition of the tomatoes baked on top, but I say they add color, obviously flavor, and most importantly, the acid they bring cuts the richness of the cheese and bechamel ever so nicely.  With or without, it’s a great dish!

 

Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni or other shape of choice
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 stick of butter, divided, 6 tablespoons and 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard, I like Colman’s
  • 1 lb. sharp or extra sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1-6 oz. container shredded parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 6 or 7 ripe, plum tomatoes

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. To a large pot of boiling water add the salt and then macaroni.  Cook according to the instructions on the box and drain well.  Return drained macaroni to pot and stir in the vegetable oil making sure to incorporate well.
  3. In a pot or the microwave, heat the milk but not to boiling.
  4. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour, stirring continuously with whisk.  Continue whisking and slowly add hot milk and whisk until smooth and creamy.
  5. Remove from heat and add all cheese, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk well, again, until smooth.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Add salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Add cooked macaroni, stir and pour into a 3-quart baking dish.  You probably don’t need to spray with nonstick spray, but I always do because I hate that ugly, baked on residue that can build up.
  8. Slice tomatoes and arrange on top.  Tomatoes shrink as they bake so feel free to overlap if you’re a tomato lover.
  9. Melt the remaining butter and mix with the Panko breadcrumbs.  Scatter Panko over tomatoes.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden on top.
  11. Let cool for 15 minutes or so before serving otherwise it will run all over your guest’s plates.  And it’s hot, hot as molten lava, so serve little ones and keep an eye out so they don’t get burned.

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Sugar and Spice, Sweet Potato Bread

 

I love my girls!  My friend, Dana, called this evening just to chit-chat and, just like always, we laughed and laughed.  Her little sister, Dawn, had been in the hospital all week and was FINALLY allowed to go home.  Thankfully, she’s on the mend.  Part of our conversation was the topic of Dawn’s best friend, Alyson.  For those of you who didn’t grow up here, Alyson is Andrea’s baby sister.  Isn’t that great?  We’re all friends, laughing a mile a minute.  We have massive amounts of dirt on each other, but in the South, we glorify that.  And we DON’T rat on each other.  We feel it makes us special.  And scandal gives us color.  Alyson helped Dawn with those incredibly personal things that only a sister or mother will do.  She spent the night in the hospital so Dawn’s husband could go home.  And after that, helped her bathe and took her to get her hair done.  THAT’S a true, blue friend.  Anyway, Dana and I would segue off onto some silly girlie tangent, like I just did, about all of us. We laughed when Dana mentioned how we used to dance at her house for her parents.  Full out, go in the living room and put on a show.  And her parents never made fun of us.  Heck, sometimes they’d get up, dance with us and jitter bug the night away. We all went to each other’s birthday parties.  First wearing black, patent leather Mary Janes, then into tennis shoes, and on into Go-Go boots.  I have the black and whites to prove it.  We grew up on streets parallel to each other, right side by side.  I was on Sea Island, Ang and Al on Barcelona, Dana and Dawn on Aqua Vista.  As young girls, we rode our bikes to each other’s houses.  Back then, there were still a few vacant lots on the islands so we might end up in the shade under the canopy of some big Florida oak.  Just wiling away another hot afternoon.  We walked to the bus stop in junior high and the early years of high school, together, sometimes talking, sometimes not.  And in the afternoon, same thing, opposite direction.  We each had our own daily MAJOR problem.  I remember it felt as tho weight of the world was on our bony shoulders.  Our conversations were quiet, no big deal, scattered snippets of our safe, little lives.  I don’t remember any problems, except one of mine.  Would my father let me go to “the store” to get an outfit for that weekend’s party?  My father had a women’s clothing store and it was the hottest place in town.  Remember, we’re talking pre-Galleria days.  I’d say if not getting the latest outfit is YOUR biggest problem, you’re doing okay.  We all saw each other day in, day out.  And we spent the night at each other’s houses on Friday and Saturday nights.  Saturdays were always spent at the beach or shopping.  Sometimes we’d get along, and sometimes there would be a small explosion and you wouldn’t see a sister for a couple of days.  She’d make herself scarce.  But then it would all melt away and there we’d be, trudging back to the bus stop for school.  We just accepted walking to the bus stop, never noticing that our route was through one of the most beautiful areas of South Florida.  Our bus stop was at a gas station, Pier 66 on Las Olas.  Walt was the owner, and with his son, Wally, they would take care of our parent’s cars and always allow us to fill our bike tires with their air.  There was also a small, family run market a few doors down.  Everybody had a house charge so, when you thought you could get away with it, you’d charge a little candy after school.  Heath Bars, Bazooka, Mary Jane’s, sour apple bubble gum and fireballs were popular favorites.  If you knew you’d get in trouble for charging or you had to pay for it and you barely had any money, there were also large, rectangular sheets of taffy, about a foot long and half a foot wide, in all different shades and rainbow-colored, for 5¢.  A NICKEL!  Everyone HATED that taffy, but if that’s all you could get…   and you wanted some sugar…  well, I ate A LOT of taffy.  How we were never thrown into hypoglycemic shock, I’ll never know.  As we got older, driving and dating, our happy encounters were at the hallowed halls of Fort Lauderdale High School or standing in the keg line at parties.  There was such a beautiful ease to our relationships.   We all moved away for school, moved back, maybe moved around a bit more.  We’d just fall in and fall out with the tempo of the times.   Luckily, we all recognize how fortunate we are.  I can go a year without talking to Andrea.   But on her birthday,  when her phone rings and she hears someone whistling the ENTIRE “Happy Birthday” into her telephone without ANY hesitation or self-consciousness, she knows it’s ME.  ME.  And no one else.  And if I hear the sweet, chirping of Jiminy Cricket, I know my Ang is right around the corner and just a laugh away.  (She’s the only person I’ve ever known who can replicate that darling chirp!)  It’s a beautiful rhythm.  We’re concerned about each other’s parents and all our children.  I used to see Effie, the nickname I had for Andrea and Alyson’s father, F.J., at the Dixie.  I’d get so excited.  I’d chew that sweet man’s ear off.  He is just the NICEST man.  It’s wonderful when we see each other and then, clairvoyantly, voice each other’s thoughts.  Or we hear a song, and BAM!  We’re propelled back into somebody’s kitchen or bedroom, riding bikes or back to that 2nd grade classroom with the teacher nobody liked.

“Listen,

Do you want to know a secret,

Do you promise not to tell, whoa oh, oh.

Closer,

Let me whisper in your ear,

Say the words you long to hear,

I’m in love with you…”

This bread, Sweet Potato Bread, is what I like to take to a friend who needs a little love and care.  I’ll grant you, it does take some time, but the recipe yields TWO loaves!  One for you and one for me!!  I love the spicy aroma that fills my house while it’s baking.  And it always looks spectacular, all golden and glossy.  It’s Bill Neal’s recipe from his book entitled, “Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie”.  It’s fabulous lightly toasted with a little butter or peanut butter.  It also pairs REALLY well with a cold, spicy crab or shrimp salad.  Something about sweet, spicy and savory.  It’s just gorgeous and delicious with a rich crumb. Oh, and, somehow, the oats just meld into the dough.  I often send it to James at school.  It’s perfect on the fly with a quick smear of any nut butter.  I love it toasted with my morning cafe con leche.  And it is most excellent in the afternoon as a quick pick me up.  Enjoy!!

Sweet Potato Yeast Bread

  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1/4 warm water
  • 1 cup milk, fat-free is fine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, that’s one stick
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked, mashed, cold sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, please don’t use that jarred, powdered stuff
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, I always combine 2-3 cups white whole wheat with 2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose
  • 1 cup uncooked oats, quick is fine but not instant
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk

 

  1. Dissolve the dry yeast in the warm water.
  2. Heat the milk with the sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  If I’m short on time I’ll even put it in the freezer for short period to cool.
  3. Cream the butter and the sweet potatoes well.  Add the dissolved yeast, the milk mixture, and then all the dry ingredients.  Beat very well, then turn out onto a floured surface.
  4. Knead vigorously until satiny, about 10 minutes.
  5. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Punch down, and using a dough scraper or knife, divide into two equal portions.
  7. Divide 1 portion into 3 equal parts.  Roll each part out to make a rope.  Place side by side on an ungreased sheet.  Braid and tuck the ends under.  Cover loosely and let rise about an hour or until doubled.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400° for about 20 minutes, then brush with the beaten egg and continue baking 15 minutes more for a total of 35 minutes.
  9. The loaves should be a lovely, deep honeyed color.
  10. Bask in your cleverness!

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