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.

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)

Decandent Chocolate Bread Pudding

I’ve been making this bread pudding for years, when I really want to pull out the stops for a decadent, but homey, dessert. It’s another of those recipes written on card, transferred to a notebook, moved to a file folder – the victim of my many attempts to organize a lifetimes worth of shared and saved recipes. The chocolate custard soaks through the bread and the chocolate morsels add little surprises of molten chocolate. This is not a dessert for the faint of heart.

When I was making this again to test and photograph it, I was suddenly struck with great indecision. Should I make a peppermint version? Add a new sauce? I finally decided the most helpful thing to do would be to stick with the basics and share this template recipe, which is utterly delicious and perfect as it is. But I offer some seasonal variations and additional trimmings from the archives.

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound loaf challah bread or soft Italian bread
  2. 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  3. 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  4. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. ½ cup whole milk
  9. 11.5 ounce bag milk chocolate morsels
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into roughly 1-inch chunks and set aside.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and drop it in a food processor. Heat 1 cup of the heavy cream in the microwave (about 45 seconds) or in a saucepan until just steaming. Do not boil or bubble. Process the chocolate for a few seconds to break it up, then pour over the warm cream and process until smooth. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, the melted butter and the vanilla to the chocolate mixture and process until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, processing until smooth between each addition. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a capacious bowl –one that will fit the bread too. Stir in the remaining 2 cups cream and ½ cup milk and stir until smooth. Add the bread cubes and the chocolate morsels to the bowl and gently stir until the bread is well coated, the morsels are evenly distributed and everything is well combined. Scrape the mixture into a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to six.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the baking dish out of the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes to get the chill off. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. You can serve this with ice cream, plain vanilla, salted caramel or peppermint or with whipped cream, or try it drizzled with Toffee Sauce or Bourbon Sauce.
  2. Give an autumn twist by adding 2 cups of dried cranberries, soaked in a little brandy to plump and ½ cup chopped walnuts, using just 1 cup of chocolate morsels.
  3. As the holidays approach, mix this up to make a Mint Chocolate Bread Pudding. Swap the vanilla for ½ teaspoon peppermint extract and use white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint candies before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter

Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter

I’ve been focusing this month on simple comfort foods; food to share with family and friends that are simple and delicious. And nothing is more comforting to me than a homemade biscuit. So in the fall, I like to pair up the best of the season’s apples with a little sweet maple syrup to make a perfectly appropriate treat for breakfast, brunch or a snack.

These biscuits have just a hint of sweetness, so they pair well with the sweet maple butter. Any sweet spread would be lovely from homemade apple butter to a drizzle of honey. Take them more to the savory side with plain butter, or use them for ham biscuits with a little swipe of mustard.

Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  2. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 3 teaspoons sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus ¼ teaspoon
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, divided
  7. ¼ cup milk
  8. 1 egg
  9. 2 Tablespoons grade B amber maple syrup
  10. 1 medium apple
For the Maple Butter
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons grade B amber maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease a small baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, 3 teaspoons sugar, salt and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon together with a fork in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Toss the butter to coat it with the flour, then use two knifes or your good clean hands to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.
  3. Measure the milk into a jug then add the egg and maple syrup. Beat with a fork until well combined. Add to the flour and butter and still with a fork until the dough is just coming together. Peel the apple, remove the core and cut it into very small pieces. Drop the pieces into the bowl and use your clean hands to lightly knead the dough until the flour is all incorporated and the apples are distributed evenly. (peeling and chopping the apples right before adding them prevents browning.)
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat it out into a rectangle about 4 by 8 inches. Press any stray apple pieces into the dough. Flour a knife or bench scraper and cut the dough into eight squares. Carefully transfer the biscuits to the greased baking sheet.
  5. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Stir in the 1 Tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until you have a thick paste. The sugar will not dissolve completely. Brush the butter mixture over the tops of the biscuits using a pastry brush. Make sure you get some sugar on the biscuits. Coat the biscuits well, but you may not use all the topping.
  6. Bake the biscuits until risen and golden on the edges, 8 – 12 minutes, watching closely.
  7. For the Maple Butter
  8. Whip the softened butter and maple syrup together with an electric mixer until completely combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Buttermilk Banana Bread

Buttermilk Banana Bread

Honestly, I have always been ambivalent about banana bread. Most of what I have been offered is filled with all kinds of additions, lots of nuts, chocolate chips, spices. It’s too much for me and masks any banana flavor. And it is often accompanied by the disclaimer “I had a bunch of old bananas, so I thought I ought to make bread,” which is not a very good introduction. But the generally popularity of banana bread cannot be disputed, so I decided I should create a recipe that meets my banana bread tastes. I started with buttermilk, because I adore using buttermilk for baking. It keeps the bread moist and adds a nice little tang. I find it highlights the fresh banana taste. I left out the extras – I like nuts, but not always in baked goods, and again, I want a banana bread that tastes like bananas. So this is my house banana bread. Simple and straightforward, with lots of banana flavor.

Buttermilk Banana Bread
Yields 1
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ½ cup buttermilk
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
Instructions
  1. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix the baking soda into the buttermilk and add the baking powder to the flour. Beat the flour and the buttermilk alternately into the butter, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times, until thoroughly combined. Beat in the mashed bananas.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few damp crumbs clinging to it. If the top begins to brown to deeply, loosely cover the top with foil.
  4. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

My life sometimes requires comfort cooking.  Not comfort food, but comfort cooking, though the two are not mutually exclusive.  Comfort food for me is old classics that bring back happy memories, sometimes bittersweet, or that make a down day worthwhile.  Often, that means food prepared by someone other than me.

Comfort cooking is me, in the kitchen, alone.  Usually silent but for the gentle whirr of the refrigerator, sometimes music in the background.  My favorite kitchen tools around me.  Absolute surety in what I am doing.  No complicated techniques, no ingredients I am hoping to understand better.  No attempt to deconstruct or decipher a dish created by someone more skilled than me.  No worries about how others will perceive the end result. No concerns that it might not turn out how I’d hoped.  Sometimes it’s a dish I want to share with my nearest and dearest, but I may not, just savor it comfortably, happily in splendid seclusion.

Chicken and dressing is comfort cooking for me.  In fact, I rather suspect that when this is seen by others, my friends and family may call to chide that I have never made chicken and dressing for them.  It’s not a dish from my childhood, in fact I may have first had a pallid version in a school cafeteria and later only in meat-and-three joints.  But it has all the elements of comfort cooking and comfort food for me.  Simple tasks – making stock, dicing vegetables, baking cornbread, mincing herbs.  A lot of steps, but none difficult or distracting.  I can stand at my post at the kitchen counter, my favorite spot in my beloved home, and work the knife or stir the stock, the fragrance of real cooking around me, and think.  Just think and feel and be. I don’t watch the clock or worry about what’s next.  Because what’s next is something simple and wonderful. Every step, every element made by me.  I don’t even care that the sinks are full of dishes, or there is cornmeal dusted on the floor.  Problems for another day.

The recipe may seem lengthy, but it can be done in gentle stages.  Your home will fill with the wonderful aroma of the stock simmering, the cornbread baking, the vegetables softening and the whole cooking together.  That alone is worth the effort.

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

The Stock and Chicken

3- 4 pound chicken, giblets removed

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

1 leek

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the chicken and all the stock ingredients in a 7 quart or larger pot and add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, skim off any scum that rises.  Reduce the heat to medium low and cover.  Simmer for 4 hours.  Taste the stock, it should be nice and rich.  Simmer a bit longer if needed.  Remove the chicken to a plate, then strain the broth through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a thin tea towel into a large bowl.  Discard the vegetables.  Pull the meat from the chicken and discard the skin, bones and any unpleasant bits.  Refrigerate the meat and the stock for several hours (I frequently do this the day before).  Skim the fat from the top of the stock. Reserve the chicken and the stock to complete the dish.

The Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Place a 9” cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.

Stir the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl until completely combined.  Add the milk, egg and oil and stir just until the batter comes together and there are no visible dry ingredients.  Remove the skillet from the oven using an oven mitt and carefully spread the batter in the hot pan.  Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cornbread is golden and dry.  Cool completely in the skillet.

The Dressing

¼ cup ( ½  stick) butter

2 carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic minced

3 sprigs sage, finely minced

2 stalks rosemary, finely minced

3 sprigs thyme, finely minced

¼ cup minced parsley

the reserved chicken meat

1 cup milk

2 eggs

3 – 4 cups reserved chicken broth

salt and black pepper

Break the cornbread into large chunks in a large bowl.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the diced carrot, celery and onion and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften and the onion is translucent, but not browning. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.  Add ½ cup of the reserved chicken broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the minced herbs and cook about a minute until fragrant.  Scrape the vegetables into the bowl with the cornbread.  Stir to combine and begin breaking the cornbread into smaller pieces.

Chop the chicken meat into small bite-sized pieces.  The tender meat will fall apart, but I think it is best when there are discernible pieces of chicken in the dressing rather than shreds.  Stir the chicken into the cornbread and vegetables to distribute evenly.

Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug, then add the eggs and beat well.  Stir into the dressing, then add 1 cup of chicken broth and stir until the dressing is evenly moist.  Spread the dressing into a deep 8-inch square baking dish.  Do not press it down, just spread it in a nice, even layer.  (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight).

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°.  Pour 1 ½ cups of stock over the dressing.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake a further 20 minutes until browned on the top.  If the dressing looks dry when you remove the foil, drizzle over a bit more stock.

The Gravy:

¼ cup bacon grease

¼ cup butter

½ cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the bacon grease and butter together in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the flour until it is smooth and combined.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes until the foaming subsides and you have a light toffee brown roux, like a fraternity boy’s khaki pants or a roasted peanut shell. Reduce the heat to medium low and slowly stir in the stock.  Cook until the gravy is smooth.  If you like a thinner gravy, add more stock to reach your preferred consistency. Season to taste with salt and black pepper (I like a lot of pepper).

Serves 6

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing wth Gravy

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Cottage Cheese Dinner Rolls

Coattage Cheese Dinner Rolls

When I leaf through cookbooks, I mark recipes that look interesting with little post-it flags.  I frequently go back through those marked pages when I am looking for ideas, and it is always interesting when I return to books to see what caught my attention at any particular moment.  Recently, I was flipping through some old community cookbooks to pass the time and I came across a marker on a recipe for cottage cheese rolls.  I can’t imagine what made me mark it, as I am neither a baker of rolls or a particular fan of cottage cheese.  But as it happened, I had a container of cottage cheese in the fridge I had mistakenly bought instead of ricotta, so I decided this would be a good way to use it.  And it was.  These rolls are simple enough for a yeast-fearing girl like myself, but the cottage cheese makes these rolls light and delightfully tangy.  The dough is wet so the finished rolls are moist and fluffy.

Cottage Cheese Dinner Rolls

2 packets active dry yeast

½ cup lukewarm water

16 ounces cottage cheese

¼ cup sugar

2 Teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs, at room temperature

4 ½ – 5 cups all-purpose flour

Rinse the bowl of a stand mixer with warm water so the bowl is not cold.  Pour the ½ cup lukewarm water over in the bowl and sprinkle the yeast over.  Sprinkle in a little of the sugar and stir.  Leave for about 5 minutes to proof.

Heat the cottage cheese in a small pan over medium-low heat just until it is lukewarm.  Do not let it scorch or bubble.  Add the cottage cheese to the yeast in the bowl, then add the rest of the sugar, the salt, baking soda and the eggs and 1 cup of flour and beat with the paddle attachment until combined.  Add about 3 – 3 ½  cups of flour, a little at a time, just until you have a shaggy, wet dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Scrape the dough into a well – greased bowl, turn it over so the top is greased as well then cover and leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume.*

Remove the risen dough to a surface dusted with about ½ cup of flour.  Knead the dough a few times in the flour to remove some of the stickiness. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces with a floured knife or bench scraper.  Lightly flour you hands and roll each portion into a ball.  Place the balls close together in two greased 9-inch round pans.  Cover the pans loosely with a towel and leave to rise for 30 – 40 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake the rolls for 20 minutes until firm and golden on the top.  Remove from the oven and cover loosely with a tea towel until ready to serve.  I like to serve these warm from the oven with butter to spread inside, but you can brush the tops of the cooled rolls with melted butter, loosely cover with foil and reheat in a low oven for a few minutes, just to warm through.

Makes 24 rolls

*Here’s a tip I learned from a friend. The microwave is a warm, draft free place great for rising dough.  Just leave a post-it not so no one turns it on.  Even better, create a moist, warm dough habitat by putting a measuring cup with ½ cup of water in the microwave before the bowl of dough and zap for 2 minutes, until the inside is nice and steamy.  Quickly stick the dough bowl in and shut the door.

Cottage Cheese Dinner Rolls

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Upside Down Pizza Pie Bake

Upside Down Pizza Pie Bake

An easy weeknight treat is a great recipe to have on hand. I love this version of a a classic pizza casserole, updated my way with no jarred sauces or chemical laden boxed mixes.  This is a real family pleaser, better than greasy delivery and easier than making or rolling out dough.  A mix of beef and Italian sausage with fun bites of pepperoni up the pizza factor.

If your dinners will stand it, you can sauté some shredded carrots, bell peppers and onion with the meat to add a little touch of vegetables.  Or sprinkle a little red pepper in with the filling if you like spice.  You could even use ground turkey and turkey or chicken Italian sausage.

Upside Down Pizza Pie Bake

½ pound ground beef

½ pound bulk Italian sausage (or links with casing removed)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

½ cup diced pepperoni*

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 Tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

Break the beef and sausage into a large skillet and cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking up into small pieces as you go.   When the meat is cooked, stir in the garlic and the oregano and stir to combine. Stir in the pepperoni.  Add the tomato sauce and 2 Tablespoons flour and stir until thoroughly combined and thick.

Spread the meat mixture a well-greased 8-inch square baking dish.  Leave to cool slightly, then spread the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Beat the eggs, milk and olive oil together in a small bowl, then add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the batter over the top of the meat and cheese and spread to cover the top completely.  Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.

Bake the pizza for 35 – 40 minutes until puffy, golden and the cheese has melted. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes. Loosen the sides of the pizza with a thin knife, then invert it onto a platter.  Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Serves 4

* The last time I made this, I found some “mini” pepperoni rounds at the grocery.  They are perfect for this recipe, and cute to boot!

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Buttermilk Bread

Buttermik Bread

Making a fresh loaf of lovely, real homemade bread gives me more of a sense of accomplishment than just about anything.  I am not an expert at it, you see, and I am still a little wary around yeast.  So I look for simple recipes and adapt them as best I can for my skill level.  Because I love that moment when you see that your dough has risen to a beautiful, soft round and then the smell of baking bread coming from your very own oven.  And my love for buttermilk is well known, so  creating a simple bread that makes the most of buttermilk tang was a natural step for me and this has become my go-to loaf.

This bread is delicious with any kind of jam or jelly and makes a very nice sandwich.  But for out January soup month extravaganza purposes, it’s amazing with a big bowl of soup.  Spread with a nice butter, toasted if you like.

Buttermilk Bread

1 packet (.25 ounces) rapid rise yeast

¼ cup warm water (about 110°)

¾ cup whole buttermilk

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon salt

2 ½ – ¾ cups bread flour

Sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the warm water.  Give it a little swirl to distribute then leave it to proof until bubbly and creamy, 5 – 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the buttermilk and the butter, cut into chunks, in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, just until the butter melts.  Let the mixture cool slightly – you want it just warm enough to touch.

Add the honey, salt and warm buttermilk mixture to the yeast in the bowl, then add 1 ½ cups of flour.  Use the dough hook on medium speed to blend the ingredients together until you have a wet, shaggy dough.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and the hook if necessary.  Add more flour, ¼ cup at a time, beating at medium until you have a mass of smooth dough (you may not use all the flour).  Continue beating until the dough is smooth and elastic and comes together in a nice ball.  All this should be about 5 minutes on the mixer.

Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a large, buttered bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours.  Here’s a tip I learned from my bread-baking friend Holly. The microwave is a warm, draft free place great for rising dough.  Just leave a post-it not so no one turns it on.  Even better, create a moist, warm dough habitat by putting a measuring cup with ½ cup of water in the microwave before the bowl of dough and zap for 2 minutes, until the inside is nice and steamy.  Quickly stick the dough bowl in and shut the door.

Punch down the risen dough and form it into a loaf.  Transfer it to a buttered 8 by 4 inch loaf pan and leave to rise until it fills the pan, about another hour.

Heat the oven to 375°.  Bake the bread until it is nicely browned, about 30 – 35 minutes.  Turn the bread out into your oven-mitted hand and tap on the bottom; it should give a nice hollow thud.  Remove it from the pan and wrap in it in a clean tea towel to cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf

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Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter

Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter

I adapted this recipe from an old community cookbook, modernizing and stream lining it a bit, but I can’t imagine its origins.  Maybe Scandinavian? Or a take on a French quatre epices? A Byzantine tradition?  I don’t know, but the unusual spice combination lightly sweetened with honey really sets this bread apart.   I want there to be some story that this is symbolic of the Three Kings riding in from the East, with the whiff of exotic spices.  Though that is just my fanciful imagining, there is something mysterious about the flavor of this alluring loaf.

I love this bread warm with honey butter, on a cold morning, with a cup of warm tea or hot chocolate. But it is also rather intriguing beside a bowl of creamy soup.  The honey butter, of course, has more uses than I can list here.

Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter

¼ cup warm water

1 packet active dry yeast

1 cup milk

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup honey

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

4 – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

Place the warm water in the large bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle over the yeast.  Leave to become foamy and bubbling.

Pour the milk into a 2 cup glass measuring jug or small bowl and add 6 Tablespoons of the butter cut into pieces.  Microwave in 20 second bursts until the milk is just warm and the butter is melted.  Stir well.

When the yeast has foamed up, add the honey, milk mixture spices and salt to the yeast in the bowl.  Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until everything is just blended.  Add the flour slowly, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  When you have added 2 cups of flour, beat in the egg, then continue adding the flour until you have a shaggy ball of dough, most of which clings to the paddle in a ball, but all of which you can easily scoop into a ball.

Butter a large bowl well, scoop the dough into a ball and transfer to the bowl.  Turn the dough ball around in the bowl so it is buttered on all sides.  Cover the bowl with a towel and place in  a warm place to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and knead it 3 – 4 times, then place in a well butttered 9-inch round casserole dish.  Cover and let rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake for 1 hour or until golden, firm and it makes a hollow sound when you knock on it.  You can tent the loaf lightly with foil if it starts gets darker than you prefer.

Melt the remaining butter (after using some to grease the bowl and the casserole) and brush over the top of the hot bread. Cover with a tea towel and cook in the pan (covering the bread keeps the crust soft).

Makes on 9 – inch loaf

Whipped Honey Butter

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¼ cup honey

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste, vanilla seeds or vanilla extract

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to smooth it out.  Add the honey and vanilla and beat on high speed, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times, until the butter is light and fluffy.  Scoop into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes ½ cup

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Tennessee Hot Browns

Tennessee Hot Browns

My mother used to make a dish she called Hot Browns on cold nights when we were kids.  I loved hot brown nights. I didn’t know that Hot Browns were a real dish, something with a history and many fanatical supporters and traditionalists, I just thought it was something yummy my mom invented, specific to our house.  I have to admit that my mom’s version was not traditional. It involved sliced turkey, ham and cheddar cheese soup from a can.  My mom always made them in these white porcelain dishes that I think of today as Hot Brown dishes.

As an adult, who cooks the vast majority of the Thanksgiving meal, I have asked my mom to make Hot Browns with the leftover turkey.  So it occurred to me some years ago that I should develop a recipe for this favorite treat.  In researching the idea, I discovered how serious the discussion of the Kentucky Hot Brown is, with fervent camps for versions with sliced tomatoes, and those without.  I even had a Hot Brown in Kentucky that had potato chips piled on top.  But I didn’t necessarily want to share the classic recipe, but to re-create the memory from my childhood.  So I call these Tennessee Hot Browns to stay out of the battle.  I like lots of cheddar cheese, and no tomatoes, but crispy bacon is always a good thing.  The sandwiches are hot and cheesy and comforting and perfect for a long weekend.

Tennessee Hot Browns

½ cup butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

6 Tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (plus a little for sprinkling)

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

8 slices white bread

About 2 pounds sliced roasted turkey

8 strips bacon, cooked until crispy

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk in the flour until smooth and pale in color.  Whisk in the milk, cooking until the sauce is thick.  Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler of your oven. Lay a slice of bread in the bottom of each of four oven proof dishes.  If you don’t have individual dishes, lay the bread in a 13 by 9 inch dish.  Layer the turkey on top of the bread, then pour the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of each sandwich.  Broil the hot browns until the tops are speckled brown and bubbling, about 5 minutes – but watch carefully.  Lay the bacon slices on top of the hot browns and serve immediately.

Makes 4 sandwiches

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Apple Gruyere Spread

Apple and Gruyere Spread

Here’s a fun fall snack that features beautiful green apples and nutty gruyere cheese. A great spread on hearty wheat crackers, this also makes a wonderful sandwich filling that’s particularly suited to rye bread.  In fact, those little square slices of party rye are great for an appetizer or little tea sandwiches.

This is a basic blueprint that is fabulous on its on, but feel free to stir in some pecan or walnut pieces, or some dried cranberries.

Apple Gruyere Spread

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces of gruyere cheese, grated

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled

Beat the cream cheese until it is soft, then fold in the gruyere, mustard and chives and mix until combined.  Grate the apples with their peels and immediately add to the cream cheese mixture and fold into to completely combined.  Make sure the apples are covered by the cream cheese to prevent browning. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors blend.  The spread will keep a few days in the fridge.

Makes about 1 ½ cups

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