Georgia Brunswick Stew

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.

I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.

Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.

Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.

Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.

To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.

Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.

Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.

Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.

It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.

A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.

Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.

The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.

A big pot of hearty brunswick stew and slices of bread

If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.

Advertisements

Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

Double Cookie Birthday Cake

Double Cookie Birthday Cake

I am positive after reading that title you are asking, “What the heck is a double cookie birthday cake?” It is a creation from my own head. A vanilla cake stuffed with eggless cookie dough then coated in a cookies and cream icing, i.e. double cookies.

The idea started with last years birthday celebration for my husband. His all-time favorite cookie is a snickerdoodle, so I made him a triple cookie birthday cake. It was literally three different layers of cookie smothered in a salted caramel buttercream icing.

My Triple Cookie Cake recipe can be found here.

For his birthday this year, I wanted to keep the theme going for my husband. So instead of three layers of cookie, I made three layers of classic vanilla cake; the cookie portion would come in with the icing and stuffing (making it only a double cookie cake).

To finish it off? An optional drizzle of creamy rich chocolate ganache and a big ball of cookie dough.

The finished result is a classic vanilla birthday cake that everyone knows and loves jammed with those nostalgic cookie flavors of your childhood.

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with joy and love–even if that means cuddling your dog a little extra.

I did not plan on posting for Valentine’s Day. That all changed when I watched the latest episode of Kids Baking Championship. I watch almost any baking show available.

On the last episode, the challenge was to create a tart with crazy ingredient. Pink peppercorns were one of the ingredients given to use. So, laying in bed, watching these kids kill it in the kitchen I thought, “I can do that!”

Strawberry, chocolate, and a little spice from peppercorns just seemed like the perfect Valentines combination. So the stars aligned, and this recipe would be the perfect one to post on Valentine’s.

Also, I knew my husband would love it. Two birds, one stone.

The tart itself is nothing crazy–simple dark chocolate pate sucree (crust) sits on the bottom with a swirled airy white chocolate mousse to full it. The crazy comes in with the sauce for the top, cooked down fresh strawberries with pulverized pink peppercorns.

Pink peppercorns work perfectly with fruit because they are much more floral than normal black peppercorns. They also have less of a peppery bite.

Finished tart ready to be served

This is not a beginners recipe so as always I want to give you a few tips to help:

  • Creating a light mousse only takes a few ingredients and proper technique. You use both meringue and whipped cream. To create a perfect meringue use room temperature egg whites and ensure there is not even a fleck of egg yolk in the whites.
  • Folding is how your incorporate meringue and whipped cream into the chocolate. Folding is not like whisking or stirring. To fold you gently cut down the middle of your mixture with a spatula, then fold over one half of the mixture over the second half. Repeat until everything is blended.
  • Always chill your tart shell before rolling it out, fit the shell to the tart pan once cooled, and also chill again before baking it once it is fit into the tart pan. This will prevent shrinkage.
  • Always poke holes with a fork in the bottom of the tart dough to prevent it from puffing during baking.

A close up of the tart

Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

The concept of a kitchen sink cookie is simple: you put everything in but the kitchen sink. It is one of those recipes that works with almost anything and everything you have in your baking pantry. This means it is a great recipe to keep in your pocket when a baking emergency comes up, i.e an impromptu party or impromptu house guests.

For my version of kitchen sink cookies I use a combination that I find is well balanced, salty, sweet, and spicy. For salt I throw in pretzels and kettle cooked chips, kettle cooked so they retain their crunchiness. The sweet comes from butterscotch and chocolate chips. Finally, the spicy from some chipotle roasted peanuts.

If you do not have spicy peanuts you can throw red pepper into the cookie mix, roast your own peanuts in a spice mixture, or simply use plain peanuts.

1X4A0399

The cookie base for the recipe is heavy in brown sugar and butter, which results a gooier more buttery cookie. In my book, the ultimate cookie is one that is cooked on the outside and still gooey on the center. The trick to a perfect texture is twofold, chilling the butter before baking and under baking the cookie. I take the cookies out of the oven when the edges just start to brown then I let them cool on the cookie sheet.

Chilling your cookie dough before baking it prevents the butter from spreading too much during baking. If the butter spreads too much the finished cookies will be thin and not thick and tender.

This recipe would also be delicious as a chocolate chip cookie using only chocolate chips as the add-in. And of course, I recommend a large glass of ice cold milk to accompany your fresh out of the oven warm cookies.

This cookie may be the strangest, most delicious, and well balanced cookie I have ever eaten.

For more tips on cookie making, see this post.

1X4A0408

1X4A0424

Chai Milk Cake

Chai Milk Cake

Being able to bake a cake is the cornerstone of becoming a good baker–especially an at-home baker. But if you are anything like me (I have been baking since my teenage years), you may feel as though you have baked every type of cake there is. After enough time you start pulling away from baking the same old cakes, and bake new and exiting things. At least until a new and exciting cake idea comes along.

A few weeks ago I read about the idea of a milk cake and was thrilled – I found a cake I have never made before.

The concept is simple. Much like a tres leches cake, you bake a dense cake then soak it in flavored milk. The result is half custard, half super moist cake. The milk mixture for the soak is similar to that of a tres leches, but you take the time to flavor the cream by heating it up and steeping it.

1X4A0326

Like many of my recipes, you can steep the milk with anything. Any tea, honey, cinnamon, vanilla–the list is endless.

Within the last year I have started to like chai tea. The spicy flavors of chai tea steeped in the milk soak would be the perfect balance to a sweet and sticky cake. I carried the flavor of the chai tea into the topping for the cake.

Again, this cake would pair well with many toppings, whipped cream, caramel, and most fruits. I chose to make a fig, apricot, golden raisin compote to keep with the theme of warm winter flavors.

After testing the recipe out, I served it at a quaint little dinner party last weekend. I normally find fault in my own baked goods but could not find much fault in this cake. The cake did not last through the weekend.

Finsihed soaked cake topped with compote

 

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional baker. I have baked for many, many years, but am in no way at the level of professional. I have just as many bad days in the kitchen as good ones.

This is especially true when it comes to yeast. Yeast is my kryptonite.
Anytime I go into the kitchen with plans to bake yeast risen bread, I am fully prepared to have the bake come out wrong. The silver lining is that you can always learn by messing up.

This past weekend may have been my worst weekend in the kitchen to date. I decided to challenge myself by attempting a Babka. A Babka is a traditional Jewish sweet yeast risen bread that is swirled with chocolate or cinnamon. The bread dough itself is basically a brioche dough. Technically speaking, it is medium of the difficulty of yeast breads.

Three days and four attempts is what it took to get this recipe right. I threw out two doughs and one finished loaf before the fourth and final loaf came out soft and pillow-like. So you do not make the same mistakes, I wanted to share what I learned from my experience. What else is a blog good for?

As for the filling, (per usual) I did not want to take the traditional route. My husband’s grandmother gave me a some homegrown lemons. Her lemon tree yielded for the first time this winter. Lemon is the perfect pick-me-up during the cold months when we lack sun and fresh ingredients. I juiced and zested them, combined them with softened cream cheese, then rolled the mixture up into the dough. My poor husband had to go to the store to get me more cream cheese after I threw out my third attempt.

The finished loaf is delightfully sweet, with a hint of tang. I think a glob of raspberry jelly would adorn a slice of fresh baked lemon cream cheese babka perfectly.

Several slices of lemon cream cheese babka sitting on a wood tray

What I learned throwing out three batches of babka dough:

Batch one and two:

  • Always check your yeast. Yeast will last in the fridge, but of course not forever. Instead of wasting your time making an entire batch of dough to only realize that it will not rise, take the first 5 minutes and make sure the yeast you are using is alive. It is simple, always bloom your yeast in warm water or milk (depending on the recipe). If it sits for 5-10 minutes and it is not bubbly…your yeast is bad. If it is bubbly…it is living!
  • Make sure your ingredients are not cold. If you know you are baking with yeast, set out your eggs, flour (if you store it in the fridge), etc in advance to ensure it is they are room temperature. Cold items will slow down the growth of your yeast. Just like a warm environment will speed up the yeast’s growth.

Batch three:

  • Kneed your dough for longer that you think. Let me explain: Written recipes have various times for kneading dough with a stand mixer. Truly you can only tell when a dough is ready by touch or sight. Just because a recipe says knead for 5 minutes, does not mean that dough will be ready to rise after 5 minutes of kneading. It is easiest to tell when a dough is ready by kneading it by hand. If that is not you (me either), then you must look at your dough to see if it has been kneaded enough. If the recipe says the dough should “pull away from the bowl and form a soft smooth dough”, then make sure it does just that. Otherwise your finished bread will be more like cake than bread.
  • It often takes longer than the recipe says to let your dough double during a rise. Each home and each region is different. For example, I live in the deep south where it is humid. So during the summer it may take less time for my dough to rise. Right now it is dead of winter, and it took a bit longer for my dough to rise to double. My house was very cold. The moral of the story–watch your dough and only move on to the next step when the dough has actually doubled. Do not simply let it sit for the time designated in the recipe.
  • This is babka specific. Some methods call for slicing your rolled up dough down the middle then twisting it. Next, you stuff it into your bread pan to allow it to rise. The finished loaf has exposed filling on the top. The slicing method works great for certain fillings, but not all fillings. Cinnamon sugar or chocolate are ideal, cream cheese is not ideal to cook exposed to the heat of your oven. For my version I used a different method, I did not slice the dough. I rolled it up then twisted it together before placing it in the loaf pan. This way the filling stayed inside of the bread without being directly exposed to the heat of the oven. Consider the method of babka rolling you want to use based upon the type of filling you stick in your babka. Literally you can stuff anything inside a babka, sweet or savory.Upclose picture of the inside of the lemon swirrled babka

For more recipes click here.

Eggnog Overnight Oats

Eggnog Overnight Oats

In many of my posts I speak about using what you have in the fridge. Groceries are expensive and it is very easy to waste food when you have a small household. I cook for two, my husband and I, and cook a lot.

There always seems to be a baked good on the counter or leftovers in the fridge. Although my husband gives a valiant effort in eating everything I make, most days it is just impossible.

Bowl of mixing ingredients, oats, chai, yogurt

So where I can, I attempt to reuse or repurpose food. Even if you do not have a small household, limiting waste is never a bad idea.

Since the holidays, I have had a brand new jug of eggnog just sitting in my fridge bugging me. Although eggnog is a holiday flavor, I still wanted to use the jug even after the holidays passed.

1X4A0109

Everyone has started their New Year’s diet, so I figured provided a healthy (kind of) recipe would be ideal. This one is very simple as well, consider it a bonus. I say kind of healthy because I use eggnog in the place of milk, and eggnog has full fat.

This recipe is very versatile in that you can change out a lot of ingredients. For example, you can use a flavored yogurt instead of plain, pecans instead of almonds, and so on.

Sealed and stacked jars of overnight oats

Salted Caramel Filled Kouign Amann

Salted Caramel Filled Kouign Amann

My latest Connect Savannah food feature on The Topiary Cake Design (I will post the article this week) reminded me just how much I love to bake. So this week I told myself I would get back into the kitchen and practice what I love.

I am not going to sugar coat it–I have been slacking in the blog/baking/cooking department. The holidays drained me, especially considering how much of an introvert I tend to be. I truly have no excuse considering my Christmas decorations and house have been cleaned since the day after Christmas. Truly, I have just been lazy.

Going back into the kitchen needed to start with a bang. I have been baking since I was young, so an intermediate pastry recipe would be a great challenge.

IMG_7538

For those who do not know the difference in pastries verses regular baked goods let me explain. Unlike cakes, breads, or other common baked goods, making a pastry refers to a very specific type of dough or baked item that is created using a sweet dough. For example, when you make a pie crust for a pie, you are making a pastry. Other common pastries include croissants, eclairs, macarons, profiteroles, tart shells, and Kouign Amann. The dough for making a pastry is commonly made with flour, fat, sugar, and water, which you can see is very different than the dough for making a bread. The tricky part in making a proper pastry comes with the type of pastry for which you opt—for example croissants require a process called lamination. Lamination is the folding in of cold butter to create layers. It takes many hours and proper technique to succeed.

IMG_7507

You may be asking, what the heck is a Kougin Amann? By far it is one of the most delicious pastries put on this earth. Originating in France, the time consuming bite sized croissant and brioche cross is made with a ton of butter, which is to be expected with a French pastry. The end result of folding cold butter into your dough (laminating), then slicing it, coating it in coarse sugar, and smashing it into muffin tins creates a sweet crunchy flaky palm sized treat. The best part, the technique of using a muffin pan leaves a large hole in the center of the pastry, perfect for filling your Kougin Amann with anything you desire.

My selection was salted caramel. The butter used to create the layers of your Kougin Amann bring saltiness to the pastry, so why not complement the overall flavor of the baked good by amplifying its qualities with a salty-sweet filling.

IMG_7515

I will warn you, this recipe is not for a beginner. It takes patience and love to get through the process. I do not want to discourage anyone from trying the recipe, I truly hope you are inspired, even beginners, to try this recipe out. The only way to learn is to try. I could probably fill a dumpster with the amount of baked goods I have thrown out due to trying. You have to start somewhere.

 

 

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Colder weather means throwing something in the crockpot before work, letting it cook all day, and coming home to a bubbly, home cooked meal. The preceding is especially true when your book club decides to host their monthly meeting at your house.

I can think of no better way to feed a bunch of hungry ladies than to prepare something that is quick and easy.

If you are like me, crockpot cooking can be difficult because there are so few dishes or variations of dishes that you can make in a crockpot—soup, roast, or chili seem to be the go tos.

I tested out this recipe a few weeks ago on my husband, so when my book club meeting was scheduled for my house I thought the recipe would be perfect. The most work this recipe requires is steaming some jasmine rice for the side.

A beautiful bowl of lentil and butternut squash curry

There is no added fat or meat, which results in a relatively healthy dinner. The base is made entirely of vegetables and a little bit of low sodium chicken stock. Low calorie cooking means more room for wine.

As the seasons change you can trade out the butternut squash for something more seasonal like mango or sweet potato. You literally throw everything into the crockpot the morning before your meal is planned, and let the lentils cook down with the vegetables until a thick creamy curry is created.

Just like you can switch out the vegetables that fill this curry, you can pick any of you favorite toppings to sprinkle over each finished bowl. I opted for cilantro and pickled onion, but the leftover seeds from the butter squash would have also been delicious roasted then peppered over the top.

Chopsticks sit besides this rice filled bowl of curry