Category Archives: Dessert

Benne Wafers, or Sesame Seed Cookies

If there is one book every Southern household should posses, be it a one-bedroom apartment or a grand, ancestral estate; it’s Charleston Receipts. It’s full of amazing recipes, idioms and household tips from days gone by. Some of it is slightly out-dated, to be sure, but a good portion of it is delicious cookies. This recipe is one of a few for Benne Cookies, “benne” being another word for sesame seed.

Before we begin, let’s talk for a second about brown sugar. Brown sugar is my new best friend. Never, ever buy brown sugar. Whenever you need brown sugar, here’s what you do instead: Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 Tablespoon molasses. It will clump up a bit at first, but keep mixing and eventually you’ll end up with what is quite clearly brown sugar. Way cheaper and literally exactly the same thing. You’re welcome.

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Benne Wafers (makes 6-7 dozen, I made a half batch)

1 1/2 c. brown sugar (or 1 1/2 c. sugar mixed with 1 1/2 T. molasses, as per above)

3/4 lb. butter, room temp.

1 egg

3/4 c. flour

1/4 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 c. sesame seed

Pre-heat oven to 300F.

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This is just your standard cookie technique: Mix together sugar and butter, add the egg (a lot of people scoff at the notion of halving an egg, it’s very simple; scramble the egg, then measure it out and use half) and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix  until fully incorporated. Measure out in heaping teaspoons place about 2 or 3 inches apart on parchment paper (they spread pretty far) and bake for 15 minutes, one sheet at a time.

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Raivas: Easy Cookies Because I’m Training

I’ll be honest with all of you, this week I’m finishing up training for the AthHalf race so my posts are going to be short and sweet. Today we’re making raivas, a Portugese cookie that, yes, is supposed to be kind of cakey. It isn’t what we in The States are used to, but they’re great for dunking in tea, coffee or a mulled wine. And they look really cool! Every recipe I’ve found for this recipe is exactly the same (with the exception that some called for 4 Tablespoons of butter as opposed to 5), so I’m going to give credit to the book that I first found it in: Nick Malgieri‘s A Baker’s Tour.

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Raivas

-2 cups all purpose flour

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

-1/2 cup sugar

-3 eggs

First, pre-heat the oven to 350F.

This is a pretty standard technique for mixing cookie dough: mix together the dry ingredients (in this case flour and cinnamon) and set aside. Next, whip the butter and sugar together until it’s nice and fluffy. You can do this by hand or with and electric mixer. Now add the eggs to the butter mixture and mix until they are fully incorporated (you’re better off adding them one at a time, trust me). Add the flour mixture and mix that just until it’s all in there. You don’t want to make too much gluten.

Now comes the fun part: Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. An easy way to do this if you don’t have a scale is to divide the dough in half, then divide each of those into thirds, then divide each of those into quarters. And there you go: 2x3x4=24. Roll each one of these bad-boys into a snake 20 inches long. I find you’re better off just using your fingers, when I tried to use my palms they got all smooshed. Now join the ends together and gently scrunch them up into a scrunched-up shape. Elegant, me. You can also make most letters pretty well, while you’re scrunching. Play around with it. When you’ve got one done, place it on a buttered or papered baking sheet and move on to the next. These only puff a little bit during cooking, so you can place them pretty close togeter. Leave about 1 inche between each cookie. Bake the sheets, one at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once mid-way. Remove to a cooling rack and serve with a nice, hot beverage. Check out the links to some other cool cookie recipes I found.

 

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Oat Praline Buttermilk Bonbons. That’s Right.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think I just invented a new candy, then I dipped it in chocolate! I’m calling it the oat praline buttermilk bonbon. It’s a two-part recipe and takes a little doing, but it’s totally worth it.

Oat Praline Buttermilk Bonbons

Oat Praline

-1/3 cup steel-cut oats

-1/2 cup sugar

I haven’t tried this recipe with rolled oats yet, so I’m hesitant to say it will work just the same, but it might.

First things first, toast the oats by placing them in a dry frying pan (a six-inch if you have one) on a low heat. In a few minutes they’ll darken up a little and start to smell nice and toasty. Shimmy and stir them often to keep the toasting even. When they start to make a little crackly noise, transfer to a plate to cool.

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Now place the sugar in the same pan and melt on a medium low heat. When the sugar begins to melt, begin stirring with a rubber spatula and don’t stop until it’s smooth and slightly darkened. Turn off the heat, add in the oats and quickly stir until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture onto a parchment paper or, in a pinch, a buttered baking sheet.

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Let cool for about 15 minutes, then break into small pieces and crush either with a blender or chop on a cutting board, then use a cup and bowl as a makeshift mortar and pestle. This makes about 3/4 cup, which should be stored in an airtight container. Sprinkle on cakes, ice cream, oatmeal, or use in:

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Candy

When researching buttermilk candy I found this exact same recipe in no less than 6 different places, which means two things: 1) I have no idea where it originally came from, and 2) It had to be delicious. It is. My wife said it was candy for grown-ups.

-1 cup sugar

-1/2 cup buttermilk

-1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

-1/4 – 3/4  cup oat praline, depending on how oaty you like it.

Measure the sugar, buttermilk, and butter right into the frying pan and turn on a low heat. While waiting for things to get going, fill a clear glass with cold water. Trust me. You’re also going to need a spoon, mixing bowl, whisk, and small, buttered dish. A plate will work in a pinch.

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Once the sugar starts to belt and the milk boils, stir with your rubber spatula to dissolve the sugar. After that, stir just often enough to prevent sticking. After the mixture has been simmering for 10 minutes, when the mixture has thickened a bit, take a small spoonful of the liquid and dribble it into the water. It’s not really necessary to go through all the stages of candy temperatures (which wouldn’t be that accurate anyway due to the buttermilk and butter in the sugar) so I’ll just give you the pertinent information. When the liquid hits the water, it will probably dissipate into bits. This means it’s not ready yet. Try again about once a minute until the drop to turns into a little ball that stays more-or-less in ball form all the way down.

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When your candy reaches this stage, pour it into a mixing bowl, add the praline and start whisking. This is going to take about 10 minutes, so if you have an electric mixer you may want to use it.Keep whisking until pretty cool, at which point it should be thick and hold streaks pretty well.  Transfer this to  the buttered dish and allow to cool at room temp at least 3 hours or even overnight. Form into 1 1/2 inch balls, you should end up with about 14, depending on how much praline you used. Refrigerate until set, then store in an airtight container layered with parchment paper. These are super-delicious on their own or just rolled in a little powdered sugar, but if you want to chocolate coat them, who am I to stop you? Also, a little touch of sea salt never hurt.

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Chocolate Coating

-1/2 lb. semi-sweet chocolate

-that is all

Set up a double boiler by placing the chocolate in a bowl that is sitting on top of a pot with about an inch of water in it. Set to a medium heat and stir the chocolate until it melts. Be very careful not to let any water get in the chocolate or it will become all grainy and horrible.

When the chocolate is smooth, remove the bowl from the pot. Dip the candies in the chocolate one at a time, coating and removing as quickly as possible. You can cover them entirely if you like, or dip them partially like buckeyes. Refrigerate again to set the chocolate (half-an-hour) and store with parchment paper in an airtight container, which is always a good rule for storing candies.

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Marbleized Shortbread

Shortbread was one of the original posts I wanted to do for this site, but it seemed a little too simple. I don’t want this to be one of those blogs that posts a recipe for scrambled eggs or a cheese sandwich. I’d considered perhaps posting two or three different recipes, e.g. Scotch, brown sugar, and chocolate to make up for the utter simplicity of them, but that still didn’t seem right. Yesterday it hit me all at once, marbleize the Scotch shortbread and brown sugar shortbread. It took a little tinkering to make sure the consistency would be the same for both, but I worked it out and am pretty pleased with the results. Right after I put it in the pan I realized that next time I make this I should make an Earth, or if The Missus has her way, Westeros. Break out a little food coloring and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Marbleized Shortbread

makes an 8″ round (12 pieces)

For Scotch shortbread:

-1/3 cup white sugar

-1 stick butter, room temp.

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

For Brown Sugar Shortbread

-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

-1 stick butter

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

I would suggest making the Scotch shortbread dough first so you won’t have to wash the bowl between batches. The technique for making each is the same, so I’ll just go over it once. Preheat the oven to 350F.

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Place the butter in a mixing bowl and whisk it good for at least one full minute, then add the sugar and continue whisking for another minute and a half. When the butter climbs the sides of the bowl, just scrape it down and continue whisking. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and salt just until it becomes a solid mass. Place the dough on a plate and start over with the brown sugar, don’t forget to add the cinnamon with the flour this time. For an even more dramatic color difference, you can substitute 1 or 1.5 Tablespoons of cocoa powder for the flour with no  ill effects.

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I baked mine in the 8″ cast iron, but if you don’t have a cast iron skillet you’re comfortable baking in you can use a glass baking dish of the same size. Shockingly, there is no need to grease the pan for this recipe. Take little hunks of both doughs and randomly distribute them around the pan.

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When you’ve got a pretty even distributiton, use your fingertips and gently press it down to make sure the height and density are even. Now use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the surface. Good. Now score it with a knife to make 12 pettiecoats (as they are called) and poke it all over with a fork. No one knows why.

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Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, turning about halfway through. When done, the edges will be browned, although the center may feel a little soft. Re-cut the score marks and let cool in the pan 15-20 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. The color will darken as it cools, serve at room temperature.

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Clafoutis, Southern Style

I don’t do a lot of desserts here, which is weird because I do make a lot of them in my day-to-day life. One of these days I’ll get around to making a Queen of Puddings, but today I just wanted something quick and fruit-based. I’ve been on kind of a French kick lately so I decided on a nice clafoutis. Also, as it turns out, since the recipe is mostly eggs, milk and fruit, it’s very easy to convince yourself (and spouse) that this is a suitable breakfast. Awesome

The first question of course is, which fruit? Cherries are the traditional filling because cherries are cheap and plentiful in Limousin, the province of France from which this dish hails, and it’s meant to be a simple dessert. Not anything you’d have to go far out of your way to make. In my case (Northern Georgia in the late summer,) that means blueberries.

I strated with a recipe I found in French Feasts, but figured it would need some alteration due to the juiciness of blueberries, so I dipped into the classic Mastering the Art… which is one of those books I don’t pull out very often, but when I do I’m glad to have it. And as luck would have it, the section on clafoutis has instructtions for a blueberry variation calling for additional flour. Now, this isn’t a verbatim reprint, Mrs. Child and I still have minor disagreements over things like the use of vanilla extract. But I still go to her when I have a question about desserts.

Blueberry Clafoutis

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-1 1/4 lb fresh or frozen blueberries

-1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1 cup milk

-2 eggs

-2 Tabespoons sugar

-butter for the pan

First, butter a pie pan or 8×8 baking pan and preheat the oven to 350F. Place the berries in the pan and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, milk and eggs. Whisk until smooth. Pour the batter over the berries, and let it sit 5-10 minutes to settle in the crevices. Bake for 1 hour, it will be puffed and browned when done. Sprinkle all over with the other 2 Tablespoons of sugar and let cool to room temp by which time it will have sunk.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

The secret to making the best possibe scones, in my opinion, is to take a page from a vegan cookbook and use bananas instead of eggs. Two notes here: the usual conversion is 1 egg to half a banana, but this ignores the fact that bananas come in different sizes. I always go with 1 egg to 1/4 cup banana. Also, I’ve gotten a few requests to give my flour measurements in volume and weight, so for this recipe I measured out my flour and then weighed it. I also updated Whole Wheat Focaccia with volume measurements.

-1 3/4 cup (9 oz.) all purpose flour

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

-1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, medium dice (or vegetable oil if you’re sticking with the vegan theme)

-1 banana, mashed up real good (should equal 1/2 cup, if shy add milk to make up the difference)

-1/3 cup soymilk or milk (or heavy cream if you’re feeling sassy)

-1 cup additional stuff (here I used some chocolate chips and almonds I had left over, feel free to use dried fruits or nuts)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

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Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the diced up butter. The clumps will stick together so rub them in with your hands to break them up. People tend to freak out about this stage but don’t as long as none of your butter is bigger than a marble, you’re fine. If you’re making this vegan, mix the oil in with the other wet ingredients.

If you’re adding stuff, do this now. Make sure to coat the stuff with flour so it will mix in better.

The best way to mash up a single banana is on a plate, with a fork. No need to dirty up your blender or another mixing bowl. Transfer into a measuring cup, you should have about half a cup. If you have less make it up with milk, if you have more eat it.

Once you’ve got that sorted out, add 1/3 cup of milk to the banana and mix them up together.

Pour over the dry ingredients and mix together very quickly just until everything is combined into a solid mass. I will be best to use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, a whisk will just get all clumpy.

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Transfer to a baking sheet and form into an 8 inch disk. It won’t be perfect, it’s fine, they’re scones.

Dribble 1 Tablespoon of milk over the dough and use your fingers or a pastry brush to even it out. If you like, now would be the time to sprinkle additional sugar over the top although this is not strictly necessary.

Cut the disk into sixths or eighths now, that way when it comes out of the oven it will be much easier to divide.

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Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, immediately re-cut and transfer your little babies to a cooling rack. You can enjoy these right away or over the next 2 to 3 days. Any longer than that and you’ll want to freeze them (be sure to use an airtight bag.) To defrost just pop them in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.

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Update on Corned Beef and Liqueur Recipes

My computer’s been on the blink (fixed now, though) which is why this week’s post is a little late.

Today I just wanted to re-visit two of my previous posts and give some updates.

Corned Beef Revisited (original post)

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It’s been two weeks since I started corning this nice brisket, and right now I have a few options:

1) I can let it keep going for a little while longer before boiling it

2) I can go ahead and boil it now

Since my sister-in-law is coming to visit with her family this weekend, I’m going to hold off. I’ll boil it for a few hours on Friday, slice it while it’s hot, and serve it Saturday for sandwiches.

Ice Cream Liqueur (original post)

Back when I did my Leftover cake liqueur post I mentioned that I should try it with ice cream. Well I finally got around to buying some Ben & Jerry’s “everything but the…” and whipping up a batch. Wow. You have got to try this. And I encourage you to experiment. This one was good, but let me know how other flavors turn out.

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-1/2 cup ice cream (any flavor)

-1/2 cup vodka (I stick with my Tito’s)

Mix together the vodka and ice cream in a blender or a bowl and hit with an immersion blender just long enough to melt the ice cream and get the chunck broken up.

Let sit at least four, preferably six hours so all the flavors can mingle and mellow.

Strain trough a fine strainer, double cheese cloth or butter muslin to get out any grit from ground up chunks. Serve chilled, room temp or in coffee. So easy, so good.

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Leftover Cake Liqueur

I’ve had this post written and sitting on the back burner for a while now, but I’m sending my book proposal to a publisher next week so I thought it apropo to ‘dip into storage’.

Say you only have one slice of cake (any kind will do) but you want to share it with 4 or 5 people and not have to worry about who’s getting the biggest single bite of cake. What’s a fella to do?


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Mix it with booze of course! The example above is a German Chocolate Cake that my wife made for my birthday but you could do this with most any dessert. So far I’ve made this with a few different cakes and tiramisu, but I would absolutely try it with a slice of pie or some Ben and Jerry’s. I’ll make some Chunky Monkey Liqueur and get back to you.

You will need:

-1 slice of cake (whatever a serving is for the cake in question)

-1/2 cup of good vodka (I like Tito’s). #freevodkaplease

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Put the cake and vodka into your blender or a mixing bowl if you’re using an immersion blender. Blend it for 30 seconds to a minute, until it’s really smooth.

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If you’re using a blender, pour the contents into a new container. If you used and immersion blender, you can leave it in the same bowl. Now let it hang out and steep at least four hours. I call this the “let everybody get to know each other” step.

Next, strain through a double layer of cheese cloth or butter muslin if you have any. This also might take a while, although it will go faster if you hang it. When it’s almost stopped dripping, give the cheese cloth a good squeeze to get the last of the liquid out.

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If it’s perfect, awesome. More likely it will be either 1) too thick and require more booze or 2) it’s too boozy and require some heavy cream (you need something with a high fat content, regular milk might break.) You can also use egg yolks, the alcohol will kill off any salmonella.

Serve in little cordial glasses or whatever you have. Depending on what your dessert was (tiramisu or something super creamy) you may be able to serve this in coffee, but test a bit before you present it in case it breaks.

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Unbelievable Flourless Chocolate Torte

This is my first blog post, so to make sure I get you all hook, line, and sinker I decided to go with my new favorite recipe for chocolate torte. This recipe has it all: only four ingredients, rich chocolate flavor, and room to play around. The only drawback is that it needs to chill at least 8 hours before serving. You will also need to make a steam bath, but that’s easy. By the way, people who are lucky enough to live in Iowa City can try a markedly similar recipe to this at Clinton Street Social Club.

-3 eggs, separated
-1/2 Tbl. sugar
-5 Tbls butter (this is equal to 1/4 cup + 1 Tbl.)
-1/2 lb. chocolate – You can use either milk or dark chocolate in this recipe, but keep in mind that there is very little sugar added.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Line the bottom of an 6 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and place over a low heat. If you need to, turn up the heat a little bit at a time, you don’t want to risk burning the chocolate, although the butter should keep everyone happy. Start stirring when the butter starts to melt.

If you’re feeling crazy you can use a different fat. I just made on of these with olive oil which worked out very well.

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When the chocolate and butter are smooth transfer to a mixing bowl, let it cool down and stir in the egg yolks. Then set this mixture aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until your arm falls off. You can also use an electric mixer, if you like having two arms. When things get good and foamy, or by the time soft peaks form, add the sugar and keep whisking until you get stiff peaks.

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Fold one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate. When it’s fully incorporated flop the rest of the whites in a continue folding.

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Gently pour the batter into the 6 inch pan and smooth it out as best you can.

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Let’s talk for a minute about the top of this cake: it’s perfectly lovely as is, but there’s really so much you could do with it. Sprinkle some chopped nuts or dried fruit on there. Sprinkling on a thin crust of demerara or turbinado sugar on top would be nice. Or, you can wait until just before you serve it and hit it with some powdered sugar. Just promise me that you won’t, “BAM!” if you do. Say it. Say, “I promise.” Okay.
Now that the cake is in the pan you’re going to set up a steam bath, which means you take the cake pan, put it in a larger pan with some room to maneuver (a roasting pan works well or a 12 inch cake pan) and pour boiling water into the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the smaller pan. This is why God made tea kettles.

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Put the whole kit-and-caboodle in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and bath. Wait about an hour, until it comes down to room temperature, and then chuck it in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove the cake and set it on the counter about an hour before you want to serve it. If you’re lucky it will have pulled away from the sides of the  pan as it cooled. If not, use a thin knife to loosen the cake, then flip it onto a plate.

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Serve like how we talked about earlier or top with a spoonful of jam or marmalade.

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