Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Strawberry Popovers with Whipped Vanilla Bean Butter

Strawberry Popovers with Vanilla Bean Butter

When I was growing up, there was a very nice restaurant in Memphis that served an eclectic mix of southern, French and Hungarian food. My family went there for brunch after church all the time (and later in life I served on a board that had meetings there for lunch). The staple specialty of this place was popovers with strawberry butter. The table was always served a basket of big, airy popovers with a little dish of sweet pink butter (never enough in my opinion). It was a highlight of the whole experience. The restaurant has moved, but still serves the popovers. Many, many years later I learned that popovers with strawberry butter was a signature of restaurants at Neiman Marcus, not something unique to our little Memphis family favorite. But that is definitely where my love of popovers began.

I sometimes make the classic combo, but recently I decided to flip the script a little bit. My experimentation with popovers has produced these lovely celeryand pumpkinversions, so I figured strawberry was worth a try. The next obvious step was a sweetened butter to complement the fruity puffs, and sweet vanilla bean seemed the perfect complement.

The popovers aren’t particularly sweet, just ripe with strawberry flavor, so the butter brings the sweetness. These are amazing served as the bread feature with a brunch menu, and of course are also marvelous with some strawberry jam too.

Strawberry Popovers with Whipped Vanilla Bean Butter

For the Butter:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 vanilla bean

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

For the Popovers

1 cup quartered, hulled strawberries

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup all-purpose flour

A pinch of kosher salt

For the Butter:

Beat the softened butter in the small bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment for a few minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add directly to the butter, then add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth and completely combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Transfer the butter to a pretty bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed (up to four days). Soften to spreadable before serving.

For the Popovers:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 6 cup popover pan with cooking spray.

Put the quartered strawberries in the carafe of a blender and puree. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and blend to combine. Add the eggs, milk, butter, flour and salt (in that order) and blend until smooth and combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.

Pour the batter into the popover cups, filling just over half full (you may have a touch more batter than you need). Bake for 30 minutes without opening the oven, then open the oven, pierce the top of each popover with a thin sharp knife, close the door and bake ten more minutes.

Serve warm.

Makes 6

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Celery Popovers

Celery Popovers

Popovers are sort of kitchen secret weapon. They are so easy to make but produce such impressive results. Watching the simple batter transform into fluffy sculptures is one of the glories of cooking. My sister-in-law was given a popover pan years ago and I used to ask her to make them all the time because I thought she had some special secret. She eventually got tired of my requests and showed me how easy they are to make. I bought myself a popover pan the next day and now I love experimenting with different flavors, like these equally as interesting Pumpkin Popovers.

These celery popovers take on a lovely celadon hue from the celery and have this elusive, delicate celery-scented taste. These are marvelous with any soup, as the light celery note doesn’t compete with any other flavor, but I think they are a special treat with this Cream of Celery Soup. They are a fun treat for a meal anytime you have a little celery hanging around. A popover pan isn’t strictly necessary, but once you learn how easy it is to make them, I consider it a decent investment. I use this version. You can use a deep muffin tin, but the batter won’t rise as high and give you the full popover effect, though they will be delicious. Serve these warm, ready to dip into a bowl of soup or with good butter.

Celery Popovers

2 thin stalks of celery (about 2 ounces total)

2 -3 celery leaves

1 cup whole milk

½ teaspoon celery salt

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Spray a 6 well popover pan with cooking spray and put it in the oven while it preheats to 375°.

Break the celery into small pieces, pulling off any strings. Drop the pieces into the carafe of a blender, then add the celery leaves, milk, celery salt and kosher salt. Blend until smooth and combined. Add the eggs, flour and cooled melted butter and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the carafe as needed.

Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour the batter between the wells, filling them about 2/3 full. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for 30 minutes without opening the door. Open the oven and quickly poke a hole in the top of each popover with a sharp knife, then close the oven and cook a further 5 minutes.

Serve warm.

Makes 6

Brown Butter Bubble Bread

I like to call this bubble bread, particularly with the alliterative use of browned butter, but some people call it monkey bread. The sweet breakfast version was always a treat when I was a kid – I had a friend whose mom made it after sleepovers – but that version used canned biscuit dough. It never really occurred to me that you could do it from scratch until a few years ago. But you can and its easy and it doesn’t have to be the sticky, sugary, sweet cinnamon version. I started making this with simply melted butter, and I love that it is like having a whole pan of dinner rolls with much less trouble and a fun presentation. And then it occurred to me to try browning the butter first, and I really hit on something special.

The mixer makes this an easy bread to prepare, but the browned butter adds complexity that totally belies the simplicity. A hint of black pepper in the dough adds some extra dimension. And I love that this is communal food – just made for sharing with friends. Put it on a big platter and pass it around so everyone can tear off a perfect piece. It is rich and buttery on its own, but you could serve it with some browned butter spread. I also think this is fun for dipping – place a bowl of cheesy or creamy dip in the center and let your guests tear and share. You can make this during the day, leave it for its final rise and have the dishes washed and put away before popping it in the oven just in time for your guests.

Also, I was on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family last week making Country Ham Cheesecake from my latest book, Southern Snacks. Check out the recipe!

Brown Butter Bubble Bread

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (about 110°- 115°)

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup vegetable shortening, cut into cubes and at room temperature

1 large egg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½  ground black pepper

4 – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer, then with the paddle attachment, beat in the sugar, shortening, egg, salt and pepper and 1 cup of flour on medium speed until combined. Add the remaining flour a 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough. Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat until you have a smooth and elastic dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl in a tight ball, about 5 – 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl (use the wrapper the butter comes in), turn to coat and cover. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Stir the butter to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a measuring jug. Leave to cool, but not solidify. When it is cool, pour it into a shallow bowl, leaving the browned bits in the measuring jug.

Spray a 9-inch tube pan with baking spray. Punch down the dough, then pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into 1 ½ inch balls. Dip each ball in the browned butter to fully cover and drop it in the tube pan, arranging them evenly. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top of all the balls of dough in the pan. Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°, then bake the bread until golden brown and cooked through, about 30 – 35 minutes. Cool for five minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve the bread warm.

Savory Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cakes

I’ve never been completely sure what to title this recipe. They are more than muffins, but this is based on an old recipe I found in an English cookbook where they were called dumplings, but I don’t really think that translates. There’s a biscuit-y batter, but turn them upside down and there is a pretty and sweet onion surprise. Muffins, cakes, dumplings, upside down surprise, I still can’t quite decide.

What I do know is that these are delicious and unique and the perfect Vidalia for in-season sweet Vidalia onions. Caramelized Vidalias are one of my favorite uses for onion so I am always looking for ways to incorporate them into my repertoire when they come into season. I love these served with a good grilled steak, but honestly they make a lovely luncheon dish or dinner with fresh salad on the side. Sage complements the nutty walnuts and give the whole a sweet and savory woodsy feel, but you could use thyme, marjoram or chives.

Savory Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cakes
Yields 6
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For the Onions
  1. 2 Tablespoons butter
  2. 2 large Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
  3. ½ teaspoon salt
  4. 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
For the Cake Batter
  1. ½ cup chopped walnuts
  2. 1 cup self-rising flour
  3. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  4. ½ cup unslated butter, at room temperature
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
  7. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
For the Onions
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, salt and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and begin to brown. Pour in ½ cup of water, stir well and cook until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are a rich caramelized amber color. Remove the onions from the heat.
For the Batter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor until they are well crushed. Add the flour, baking powder, and butter and pulse until combined and crumbly. Add the eggs, milk and sage and process until smooth and combined. You can add a little more buttermilk if needed to create a smooth, thick batter.
  2. Spray a 6-cup muffin tin with cooking spray, then divide the onions between the cooks. Divide the batter between the cups covering the onions. Press the batter down into the cups with a spatula, then smooth the tops. Bake for 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Let the cakes cool for about five minutes in the pan, then invert the pan onto a rimmed baking sheet. Let the inverted pan sit for a few minutes before you lift it off the cakes. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy

I have combined a lot of words I like here. Strawberries and biscuits and chocolate. I’m not sure I can do any better for a strawberry season brunch treat. I think strawberries and chocolate are a timeless pairing, though usually found in desserts and candies. Of course, I’m not saying you can’t eat these for dessert, but they make a really lovely surprise on a breakfast or brunch menu. Classic Southern biscuits get an upgrade with seasonal strawberries and a little sweet sugar. Inspired by my Fresh Corn Buttermilk Biscuits, these pale pink beauties are tender and moist and packed with strawberry flavor. Traditional Southern chocolate gravy is rich and chocolate-y without being cloying or tooth-achingly sweet.

These biscuits are also wonderful for strawberry shortcake, split open and layered with whipped cream and sliced, macerated berries. Or mix up a little strawberry butter to spread on them, or your best homemade strawberry jam. The chocolate gravy is wonderful (and traditional) on plain buttermilk biscuits – but if you make these for breakfast or brunch and have some extra gravy, it is very good on ice cream after dinner!

Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  2. 12 ounces strawberries
  3. 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  5. 4 ½ - 5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  6. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  7. A pinch of salt
For the Gravy
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup cocoa powder
  3. 3 Tablespoons flour
  4. 2 cups whole milk
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
For the Biscuits
  1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Hull the strawberries, cut into chunks and place about 10 ounces in a blender with 4 Tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup). Puree until very smooth (you can add a drop of cream to get things going if needed). Pour the puree into a 2-cup measuring jug. You should have about 1 cup puree. Puree some more strawberries if needed. Add cream to measure 2 cups of liquid. Return the liquid to the blender, add the melted butter and blend until smooth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 ½ cups flour, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder and salt with a fork until blended. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the wet ingredients. Using the fork, blend everything together, pulling the flour into the wet ingredients until everything is incorporated. Lightly flour your hands and work in up to another 1 cup of flour until you have a soft, cohesive dough. Don’t treat the dough too rough – you want a tender biscuit. Cut three or four strawberries into small pieces and sprinkle them over the dough. Lightly knead in a little more flour and the strawberry pieces until you have a nice, soft, cohesive dough dotted with berries. Don’t be tempted to use more berries – they can make the dough watery.
  3. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Lightly knead the dough, folding it over on itself, about 6 times, then pat it out into a circle 1-inch thick. Using a floured 2- inch biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits by just pressing down and lifting out – don’t twist the cutter. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, almost touching. You can pat out the dough scraps to cut more biscuits, but they are never quite as pretty. I usually get nine biscuits on the first go, then three more from a second pat out. Refrigerate the biscuit dough for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees/
  5. Brush the tops of the biscuits with cream and sprinkle a light sparkle of sugar over the top. Bake the biscuits for 8 minutes, rotate the pan and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes until they are firm and cooked through.
For the Gravy
  1. Sift the sugar, cocoa powder and flour together into a medium saucepan. You want the dry ingredients lump free from the start. Add the milk and vanilla extract and cook over medium high heat, whisking frequently until the gravy is smooth and thick (like gravy). Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until it is melted and smooth.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Herbed Focaccia Dinner Rolls

If you search through the bread recipes on this site, you will see that it maps out my quest to bake fresh bread without too much effort. I am not one who is going to carefully nurse starters or delicately knead and form stylish loafs of artisan breads. The mysteries of yeast sometimes elude me. I love a shortcut, but I do love the smell of fresh bread baking and the sense of accomplishment of serving a basket of warm bread that I made my own self, so I am always intrigued by easy ideas. I shared my simple method of Super Simple Focaccia a while ago, and this is a take on that idea. Individual muffin tin dinner rolls look gorgeous piled in a pretty basket, and a dozen rolls passed around can be a little tidier to serve than a tear-and-share pan version. The zippy herb and garlic topping adds interest and a nice pop pf flavor.

I love the Italianate flavors of rosemary and oregano in this recipe, but of course you can vary the herbs to your taste and menu. I think a dose of cracked black pepper would be a nice touch. You can easily mix up these rolls, set them to rise and have the bowl washed and put away before guests arrive and just pop them in the oven.

Herbed Focaccia Dinner Rolls
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 7 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  2. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  3. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  4. 1 clove garlic, peeled
  5. 1 package (1/4 ounce) package quick rise yeast
  6. 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  7. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  8. 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  9. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  10. Flaky sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place 5 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saucepan with 1 Tablespoon rosemary, 1 Tablespoon of oregano and the garlic clove. Heat over medium heat until shimmering, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Place the yeast, sugar, salt and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Leave for about 5 minutes until the yeast starts to foam. Add the flour, remaining 2 Tablespoon olive oil and the remaining herbs and beat for about 2 minutes until everything is well combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Divide the dough evenly between twelve regular muffin cups. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the roll dough has risen, remove the garlic clove from the seasoned oil then spoon it evenly over the rolls, making sure to distribute the chopped herbs evenly. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with flaky sea salt, then bake until golden and firm, about 20 - 25 minutes. Place a sheet pan on a lower rack in the oven under the pan in case any oil bubbles over. Let the cooked rolls sit for about 5 minutes, then use a dull knife to loosen from the tins and remove.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Parmesan Thyme Cocktail Biscuits

Savory little cheese wafers are the perfect accompaniment to a sophisticated cocktail. I have made more versions with cheddar cheese than I can count, and have branched out with my famous Blue Cheese and Fig Savories. But you can never have too many variations of these lovely little nibbles, and this one is a perfect treat with a glass of champagne or a crisp white wine. And best of all, they are simple to make and can be prepared ahead. But for all that, they are still elegant and sophisticated.

This recipe is loosely based on one from seminal British food writer Elizabeth David, and in a nod to the original, I have veered away from a traditional thin cheese wafer and cut these thicker. I love that this creates crispy edges with a crumbly center. David was known for bringing the flavors of the Mediterranean to a postwar, ration-weary Britain, and though this recipe certainly has an Italian flair, her inspiration was a recipe from a cookbook published in 1909 from the notes of an English aristocrat. I have simplified things with the food processor and the roll and slice method and added a nice herbaceous note from fresh thyme. A final sprinkling of nice flaky sea salt is the perfect finish.

Parmesan Thyme Cocktail Biscuits
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
  2. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  3. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  4. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  5. ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to sprinkle the tops
  6. 2 egg yolks
  7. ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and put it on top of the flour in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cheese, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pulse until crumbly and combined. Add the egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together and looks moist and grainy. With motor running, drizzle in the water until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and form a ball.
  2. Remove the dough to a piece of waxed paper and knead a few times to bring it all together. Form the dough a log and roll tightly, pressing in to form a nice solid log. Twist the ends of the waxed paper like a candy wrapper. Refrigerate for at least an hour before baking, but you can refrigerate them for two days or freeze them for 3 months.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 320° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the rolls from the fridge and slice into medium-thick wafers, about ½ inch each. Place them on the baking sheet with a little room to spread and sprinkle the tops with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Bake until golden around the edged and firm on the top, about 25 - 30 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown. Cool on the pans for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Pumpkin Popovers with Sage Browned Butter Spread

Sometimes, there is so much prep for a Thanksgiving meal, that the bread basket is left as an afterthought. But I think that is a shame, because there is a lot of scope in a simple bread. I’ve traditionally gone full Southern with Pumpkin Sage Biscuits or Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits. This time however, I am inspired by my sister-in-law, who makes great popovers, and she has prepared them for our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Everyone loves the warm hollows filled with melting butter. I decided to add a special Thanksgiving twist, with the seasonal flavors of pumpkin and sage and an absolutely fantastic browned butter spread. If you are tasked with provided the bread for a Thanksgiving meal, you can really impress the crowd with these lovely gems instead of a pan of purchased rolls.

These pumpkin-y delights are a beautiful addition to the Thanksgiving table, but they are easy enough to make that they can be a treat on any night. The browned butter spread is so rich and perfect for autumn, that I highly recommend you add it to the festive spread even if the rolls are store-bought. I personally have never regretted the purchase of a not-too-expensive popover pan, but a deep-holed muffin pan or deep ramekins work too.

Pumpkin Popovers with Sage Browned Butter Spread
Yields 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Browned Butter Spread
  2. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  3. 10 leaves of fresh sage
  4. ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
For the Popovers
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. ½ cup pumpkin puree
  4. 3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  5. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
For the Spread
  1. Cut one stick of the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Add the sage leaves (if you can, I find it best to keep them on the stalks, which are easier to remove). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Stir the butter to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a measuring jug. Leave to cool, but not solidify.
  2. When the browned butter has cooled, remove the sage leaves. Place the remaining stick of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat to loosen up the butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, drizzle in the browned butter, leaving the brown bits at the bottom of the measuring jug. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the salt and beat until well blended. Scrape the butter into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours (or up to three days) to allow the flavors to meld. Return to room temperature before serving.
For the Popovers
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a popover pan with six cups thoroughly with cooking spray. If you don’t have popover pans, use deep muffin tins or ramekins.
  2. Place all the ingredients in the order listed in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup about half full. Bake for 30 minutes until the popovers are risen and golden. Do not open the oven during cooking. After thirty minutes, open the door and pierce the top of each popover with a sharp thin knife, then close the door and cook another 5 minutes. Serve warm.
  3. You can blend the batter a few hours in advance and keep in the fridge, give it a whirl on the blender before pouring into the pan.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Honey Black Pepper Cornmeal Dinner Rolls

I’ve spoken many times before about my desire to produce perfect baked breads and rolls, and my all-to-frequent failures with yeast, kneading and patience. But my quest for easy, no fuss, no fail breads and dinner rolls is an on-going adventure. Sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss, but this recipe is definitely a hit. Instant yeast and the stand mixer make idiot proof rolls like these possible. Really, if I can produce soft, light and fluffy pillowy rolls like these, so can you.

The flavor combination here is inspired by the simplest of corn bread muffins I’ve made for years, a basic recipe jazzed up with a good dose of black pepper and a nice hint of honey. But these light and airy rolls take it to a whole new level. The cornmeal adds a little texture and depth, and the sweet hit of honey plays beautifully with the bite of black pepper. Don’t’ skimp on the pepper, it really elevates these rolls. Butter melting into these rolls is delicious, but a little honey butter could take these up a notch. An extra benefit of this recipe is that it makes a big batch of rolls, perfect for entertaining or big family suppers.

Honey Black Pepper Cornmeal Dinner Rolls
Serves 24
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups whole milk
  2. 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal, plus a little for sprinkling
  3. 1/3 cup honey
  4. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  5. 1 ½ Tablespoons instant yeast
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  8. 3 large eggs
  9. 5 – 6 cups all purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until it is warm through and bubbles form around the edges. Stir in the cornmeal and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Scrape the cornmeal mush into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and leave to cool to lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Beat in the honey, butter and yeast until smooth, then add the salt, pepper and eggs and beat until well combined and smooth. Beat in the flour, a cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pull the dough off the hook if needed to combine the flour and liquid. You are looking for a wet, shaggy dough, but it should cling together in a ball. You may not need all the flour. Beat the dough for 2 – 3 minutes on medium speed.
  2. Gather up all the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
  3. Line a 12 by 17 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough, then roll it into 24 equal balls, each about the size of a golf ball and place on the baking sheet close but not touching. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled, about an hour. Sprinkle a little cornmeal evenly over the top of the rolls.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375.
  5. Bake the rolls until golden and baked through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Super Simple Focaccia with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

There is nothing like freshly baked bread, of any kind. And there is a real pride when you manage to do it yourself. That being said, I find a lot of traditional bread recipes a little too intimidating and technical for me, so I am always looking for the easy way out. Hence this unbelievably simple method for making focaccia. The base recipe comes from the fine folks at King Arthur Flour, and I have been making versions of this for years. It never fails to impress when you pull out a handmade, fresh pan of golden focaccia from the oven, and of course the scent of baking bread makes everyone happy.

I share here my favorite iteration of my many experiments with the recipe. I think it is perfect for fall, scattered with toasty walnuts, rich blue cheese and woodsy rosemary. Generous squares of this can make a decadent accompaniment to a roast dinner or a meal served beside a hearty salad. The olive oil in the bread makes butter unnecessary. This is best served warm, and though I always try to give instructions for making something ahead, this recipe is so easy, there really is no need. You can have the dough spread in the pan and topped and the bowl washed and put away before your guests arrive or dinner is ready, then pop it in the oven. Use the instant yeast from a jar rather than the packets of active dry yeast for this. You’ll find this so amazing to make, that you’ll add it to your repertoire and use that yeast in no time.

Super Simple Focaccia with Gorgonzola and Walnuts
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. Olive oil
  2. 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  3. 1 ½ cups warm water
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  6. ½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  7. ½ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  8. 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped rosemary
  9. flaky salt and black pepper for topping
Instructions
  1. Pour 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into a 9 by 13 inch metal baking pan. Swirl to coat the pan.
  2. Put the yeast, warm water, salt, 3 Tablespoon of olive oil and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium for 60 seconds, until you have a cohesive but sticky dough. Dump the dough into the oiled pan and use your fingers to spread it out. Don’t worry too much about getting it to the edges of the pan; rising will take care of that. Cover the pan with a tea towel and leave at room temperature to rise for one hour. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until brown and fragrant and quickly remove to a plate to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375. When the dough has risen and is nice and puffy, sprinkle the walnuts and crumbled cheese evenly over the top of the dough. Sprinkle over the rosemary, then a generous grinding of pepper and some flaky salt. Lightly press everything into the dough, then make three rows of three indentions in the dough by pressing you thumb into the dough to make a little divot. Drizzle over about a tablespoon more olive oil, then bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden and firm.
  4. Leave the focaccia to cool for a few minutes before slicing, but serve warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/