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.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

Cranberry Oatmeal MuffinsThe holidays are filled with so much sweet and sugary (not that I’m complaining), so sometimes it’s nice to have a treat that’s seasonal and festive, but not as cloying or overly sweet. These muffins hit the spot. Hearty with oatmeal and moist from yogurt, these muffins are filling and comforting with a nice holiday kick. Perfect for a Christmas morning buffet or as a little early morning present opening snack before the big meal. They make a great gift, wrapped up in a pretty gift bag or napkin.

These muffins are not overly sweet and have a tangy kick from the fresh cranberries. That means they are the perfect vehicle for sweet spreads like apple butter or pumpkin butter, or try my Egg Nog Butter for a nice holiday feel. They are also great in a bread basket with a main meal, with a little smidge of butter.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 1 cup whole yogurt
  3. ½ cup canola oil
  4. 1 egg
  5. ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
  10. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  11. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1 cup fresh cranberries
Instructions
  1. Stir the oats and the yogurt together in a large bowl, making sure all the oats are covered. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  3. Add the oil and the egg to the oat and yogurt mixture and stir well to combine. Stir in the brown sugar until combined, then add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices and stir just until well combined and there is no dry flour visible. Fold in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the dough between the muffin cups – I like to use a large cookie scoop for this – then bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the muffins have browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool. The muffins will keep for one day in an airtight container.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Icing

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum IcingYou have to love a dessert that ticks all the holiday entertaining boxes – feeds a crowd, can be made ahead and is full of festive flavor. And this dish does that in spades. Not to mention that is easy to prepare, but impressive in taste and presentation. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to mess this up. I made it once thinking I’d be so smart and set the oven to a timed cook while I was off opening presents with family so it would be perfectly ready for its icing and transport to the Christmas brunch. But I set the oven timer wrong and it didn’t cook in time for the festivities. So I let it cook later in the day, iced it and stuck it in the fridge. The next day I heated it up and it was still delicious. I wouldn’t recommend doing that though. But if you cook the bread pudding, pour over the icing and let it sit while you eat the main meal, it will be nice and warm and saucy for dessert.

All that being said, I also like it on the buffet with a large brunch spread, not just as a dessert. It is not cloyingly sweet, just a nice hint of rum and spice and that perfectly Christmas taste of egg nog. While I prefer it warm, I can assure you it is equally good at room temperature, so it can hang around while everyone makes their way through the buffet. The icing could be served as a sauce to pour over, but I find it so much easier to during the hectic holiday cooking to serve it all in one dish with no sauce boat or ladle hanging around.

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Icing
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Bread Pudding
  2. 1 (1 pound) loaf of soft crust Italian bread or challah
  3. ½ cup dried cranberries
  4. 5 eggs
  5. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  6. ¾ teaspoons nutmeg
  7. 1 quart (4 cups) dairy egg nog
For the Icing
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  3. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  4. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  5. dash of ground cloves
  6. dash of allspice
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. ¼ cup dark rum
For the Bread Pudding
  1. Cut the loaf of bread into small chinks and spread on a baking sheet. Cover lightly with a clean tea towel and leave dry out for several hours, or overnight.
  2. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread cubes evenly in the dish. Sprinkle the cranberries between the bread, doing your best to distribute them evenly. Whisk the eggs, sugar and nutmeg together in a large bowl, until well combined, then whisk in the egg nog. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and press down the cubes of bread so they are submerged in the liquid. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  3. When you are ready to cook the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 350. Take the dish out of the refrigerator and leave it to take the chill off for about 15 – 20 minutes, then put in the oven, still covered with foil, and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove the foil cover and cook for a further 5 -10 minutes until the bread turns a lovely golden brown. Take the bread pudding from the oven and immediately prepare the icing.
For the Icing
  1. Put the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat to melt. Sift the powdered sugar and spices together in a bowl, and when the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar. Add the cream slowly, whisking until the icing is smooth, then whisk in the rum. While the bread pudding is still warm, pour the icing evenly over the top, making sure to cover it all. Leave the icing to soak in for a few minutes, then serve the bread pudding. The icing does not totally soak into the pudding, but the remainder forms a nice puddle of sauce for each serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard Dip

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard DipThanksgiving involves a lot of food. But even when I know how much will end up on the table, I like to put out a little nibble for guests before the main event, while we finish cooking the turkey, have a few friendly drinks and settle in with each other. Sausage balls are one of my very favorite snacks at any time, and a great childhood memory for me and my brother, so when I can add that type of delicious nostalgia to the spread, I like to make the most of it.

This version has an immense amount of Thanksgiving appeal. They are packed with fresh sage, which just smells and tastes like the holiday. Nutty gruyere replaces the traditional cheddar to amp up the autumn flavor and cream cheese keeps them rich. I couldn’t resist adding another seasonal touch with a cranberry mustard dip, which, by the way, is also a great spread on leftover turkey sandwiches.

And of course, they also make a great breakfast for the holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard Dip
Yields 30
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For the Sausage Bites
  1. 8 ounces cream cheese
  2. 1 pound sausage meat
  3. 4 ounces grated gruyere cheese
  4. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (like Bell’s)
  7. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  8. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  12. 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Dip
  1. 2 cups fresh cranberries
  2. ½ a red onions, chopped (about ½ cup)
  3. ½ cup honey
  4. ½ cup water
  5. ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  6. ¼ cup Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Place the cream cheese, sausage and gruyere in the large bowl of a stand mixer and leave to come to room temperature, about one hour. This makes the dough easier to blend.
  2. Using the paddle attachment, blend the sausage and cheese mixture a few minutes to break everything up. Add the sage, baking powder, poultry seasoning, salt, garlic, pepper, celery salt and paprika and blend until everything is distributed through the sausage. Add the flour and blend until everything comes together in a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until the balls are golden brown and cooked through.
  4. The uncooked balls can be placed on a waxed paper lined tray and frozen until hard. Transfer to a ziptop bag and keep in the freezer for three months. Cook from frozen, increasing the cooking time by about 10 minutes.
  5. Make about 30 balls
  6. For the Dip
  7. Put the cranberries, onion, honey, water and ground mustard in a large pot and cook over medium high heat until the cranberries burst and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to scrape down the sides of the pan and to prevent catching on the bottom.
  8. Let the mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the Dijon mustard and blend (holding the top of the blender with a tea towel) until you have a smooth puree.
  9. The dip will keep cooled and covered in the fridge for one week.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Peach Julep Jam

Peach Julep JamThe joy of summer peaches! There is nothing like a fresh, local, juicy peach. I eat them up during their season.I bake with them and But they are just so good, I try to preserve them as well for a fresh taste of summer any time of year, spiced, pickled and jammed. My obsession with the peach and bourbon pairing is well documented, from Peach Butterbourbon Sauce to Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peach Bourbon Sauce, so it had to make it into my jam repertoire as well.

I didn’t make a batch of this jam last peach season, and I regretted it all winter, so it was the first peach preserve I made this season. It’s a rich, deeply flavorful jam packed with fresh peach flavor and garden mint with a hit of bourbon for depth and kick. I have already made my way through a jar, even thought he peach season is going strong, I just can’t resist. I love this spread on English muffins, but it is also delicious with tangy goat cheese on a cheese plate or on a bruschetta. This even works well as a glaze for a pork roast or tenderloin.

For a step-by-step guide to canning, click here. This makes 5 – 6 half pint jars. I always like to have an extra jar or two sterilized and ready justin case.

Peach Julep Jam
Yields 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds peaches, to make six cups when peeled, pitted and chopped
  2. 1/3 cup lemon juice
  3. 3 cups brown sugar
  4. 2 cups granulate white sugar
  5. 5 Tablespoons bourbon
  6. 1 large bunch mint
Instructions
  1. Put peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher or an immersion blender. I like to leave a few chunks of juicy peach.
  2. Bundle the mint together and tie with kitchen string so none of the leaves are free. Add both sugars, bourbon and mint to the peaches and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until thick and set, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the bundle of mint.
  3. While your jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going and place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jelly onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jelly stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jelly on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
  5. When the jam has met the set test, fill the jars. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  6. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  7. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

Zucchini breads and cakes are a go to during the growing season, when there is always one left from your farmers market haul, or just too many growing in your garden. I like my zucchini bakes light and fresh, rather than dark and spiced, so with that one lingering zucchini on the counter, I returned to my recipe for Zucchini Lemon Gems to make a loaf cake. I’ve switched to lime for a little difference, and used rich olive oil and tangy Greek yogurt to make the cake moist and zippy.

I debated whether to call this a bread or a cake. It is a cake more in the sense of an English cake, served at tea, rather than the rich frosted confections we think of. But the crackly sweet glaze makes it a little richer than a zucchini bread. Without the glaze, you definitely have a simple bread, but I really think it adds a special touch. Serve this as snack (with iced tea in the summer of course) or for breakfast. But served with a scattering of fresh berries and some lightly sweetened whipped cream, it makes a creative summer dessert packed full of in season flavor.

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake
Serves 10
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For the Cake
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 1/2 cup olive oil
  3. 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  5. Zest of 1 medium limes
  6. 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  7. 1 cup finely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  8. 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  9. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the glaze
  1. Zest of one medium lime
  2. 3 Tablespoons lime juice
  3. 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs then stir in the oil, sugar and yogurt until well blended. Add the lime juice and zest and the zucchini. Stir until blended, making sure the zucchini is evenly distributed. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until just blended, with no streaks of flour left.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. While the cake is cooking, mix the sugar and lemon juice for the glaze in a small bowl. The sugar should not dissolve completely.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then poke holes all over the surface with a skewer or cake tester. Stir the glaze to blend, then spoon it over the cake while it is still hot. Leave the cake to cool and soak up the glaze, then run a thin knofe around the edges to loosen and remove from the pan.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Honey Raspberry Cake

Honey Raspberry CakeRaspberry season is short, and it’s a little hard to find locally grown berries around here. A farmer at the market once told me they were just too labor intensive for him to make much of a profit. When I find them grown here, I jump at the chance. I love to eat them over yogurt with a drizzle of honey, but with a real abundance I like to bake. So I translated that idea into a lovely cake that can be served for breakfast, or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some sweetened whipped cream

What I particularly love about his cake is that it truly tastes of honey. And there is quite a bit of honey in it to make that happen. I often find baking with honey produces sweetness, but the flavor of the honey just sort of melds into the whole. Not so this cake – it has a very honey forward, with the lovely burst of raspberries throughout. The honey glaze puts the honey front and center again, so use a good, local harvested honey, one with a nice floral undertone if you can find it.

Honey Raspberry Cake
Serves 12
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For the Cake
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 2 cups honey
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  4. zest from one lemon
  5. 6 large eggs
  6. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  7. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  10. 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  11. 2 cups fresh raspberries
For the Glaze
  1. 2 Tablespoons honey
  2. 2 Tablespoons milk
  3. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 10 –inch tube pan or a 12 – cup bundt pan with cooking spray (I like Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the butter and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium low until the mixture is smooth and pale in color, almost white, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled- don’t worry, it will smooth out.
  3. Beat in the flours, baking soda and salt, one cup at a time, alternating with the yogurt, until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined. Gently fold in 1 ½ cups of the raspberries using a spatula. Place several of the remaining berries in the bottom of the prepared pan, the spoon the batter over them. Spread the batter out evenly to fill the pan, then press the remaining raspberries into the top of the batter.
  4. Bale for 45 – 50 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan set on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.
For the Glaze
  1. Beat the milk and honey together in a medium bowl, then add the confectioners’ sugar until you have a spoonable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, creating an even layer on the top with which attractively drips down the sides.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

In the kitchen, excess is often the mother of invention and this recipe is a perfect example of that principle. I went overboard buying fresh strawberries, and decided to bake them into something delicious before the overflow went bad. I hadn’t made muffins in awhile, so that seemed like a good idea. As I gathered my ingredients, I found some rosemary left from another cooking project and though why not? After I baked up the muffins, I still had a few berries and a stalk of rosemary left, so I whipped up this delicious butter to go with the muffins.

These muffins are not too sweet and have a subtle whiff of rosemary. A sprinkle of rosemary sugar on the top gives a nice sugary-crackle. This butter is delicious on anything (think popovers or waffles), so you may find yourself making it for other uses.

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter
Yields 12
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For the Muffins
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup loosely packed rosemary needles
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  5. ¾ cup buttermilk
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 ½ teas;oon baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. ¼ teaspoon salt
  10. 1 cup diced strawberries
For the Butter
  1. ½ cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons of rosemary sugar (leftover from the muffins)
  3. ¼ cup diced strawberries
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place the sugar and rosemary in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and pulse until the rosemary is finely ground and blended with the sugar.
  3. Cark the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the melted and cooled butter and the buttermilk until well combined. Stir in ½ cup of the rosemary sugar, then stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until combined and there are no dry ingredients visible. Fold in the diced strawberries.
  4. Divide the batter into the muffin cups (I like to use a ¼ cup cookie scoop). Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon of the rosemary sugar over the top of each muffin, then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
For the Butter
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place in the bowl of a small food processor. Ad the sugar and strawberries and blend until smooth. The butter can be covered and kept in the fridge for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Buttermilk Grits with Bacon Gravy

Buttermilk Grits with Bacon GravyI have combined in this recipe three of my favorite Southern ingredients. Flavor-packed, stone ground corn grits, creamy, sharp buttermilk and, of course, bacon. The trifecta of flavor elevates the simplicity of each ingredient to a new, sophisticated level. Buttermilk adds an elusive edge of tang and the smoky bacon plays off it beautifully. Another reason I love this recipe is that with the burgeoning local food scene, I find carefully, traditionally and creatively made local versions of each ingredient. Many farmers, restaurants are and markets are curing their own bacon, and small producers are grinding locally grown corn and heritage strains on traditional mills to make hearty, rich grits. And as people rediscover the beauty of buttermilk, local dairies selling rich, whole buttermilk, which makes all the differences in recipes like this. Seek out the best versions of these components you can, and prepare to be wowed.

Of course these grits and gravy are delicious at breakfast, but I generally serve this hearty combination as a supper side dish. It’s wonderful beside a good pork roast, with a little gravy drizzled over the pork as well. And imagine this with a plate of fried chicken!

Buttermilk Grits with Bacon Gravy
Serves 6
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For the Grits
  1. 2 cups whole buttermilk
  2. 2 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
  3. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, cut in pieces
  4. 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  5. 1 cup stone ground yellow grits
For the Gravy
  1. 5 strips of bacon
  2. I medium yellow onion
  3. 3 sprigs of thyme
  4. 2 tablespoons flour
  5. 2 cups pork stock or beef stock
  6. generous grinds of black pepper
For the Grits
  1. Stir the buttermilk, chicken broth, butter and salt together in heavy bottomed large Dutch oven. Cook over medium high heat until the butter is melted and it all comes to a low boil. Stir in the grits and reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. The grits should be tender and the liquid absorbed. You may add a bit more broth if needed. When cooked, the grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth.
For the Gravy
  1. Finely dice the bacon and place in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Finely dice the onion, and when the bacon has released its fat and is beginning to brown, add the onions to the pan. Stir to coat the onions evenly in the bacon grease. Drop in the thyme stalks. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and brown and the bacon is cooked, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  2. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the bacon onion mixture into the strainer. Stir to release as much bacon grease as possible. Discard the thyme stalks. Measure out 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease and return it to the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook until smooth. Slowly whisk in the stock, scraping the lovely browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you go. Simmer until the gravy begins to thicken, stirring frequently, then stir the bacon and onions back in the pot. Simmer until the gravy has thickened to coat the back of a spoon. Season generously with black pepper. The gravy may be made several hours ahead. Reheat over low, stirring in a little extra stock if you think it needs it.
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Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and cream cheese is a classic pairing that always makes an appearance around Easter. But the combination is usually in sweet recipes. I love a moist carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing, or a carrot cookie with a drizzle of cream cheese glaze. But I decided to turn that combo around, creating a savory interpretation perfect for an Easter brunch. And what Easter brunch would be complete without biscuits?

Cornmeal adds interest to the texture of these biscuits, and carrots contribute a hint of sweetness. Dill is such a perfect pairing with carrots I just had to add a dose to the recipe. The cream cheese butter is rich and flavorful and perfect with these biscuits, but they are also delicious with a smear of plain butter. Try these next to an Easter ham to make a very interesting sandwich combo.

Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1 ¼ cup soft wheat flour (I like White Lily)
  2. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3 teaaspoons baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  7. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  8. ½ cup finely grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
  9. ¾ cup whole milk
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  3. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  4. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Biscuits
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl using a fork. Add the chopped dill and toss to distribute it evenly. Add the butter cubes, and using a pastry blender or your good clean hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until you have a fine, sandy texture with a few pea size pieces of butter visible. Add the grated carrots and use your hands to toss them into the flour mixture so there are no clumps of carrot and everything is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Add the milk and stir with a spatula just until combined. Knead with your hands in the bowl a few times just to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or a pastry cloth and dump the biscuit dough on it. Pat the dough into a rectangle, fold it in half, turn it over and pat into a rectangle again. Do this three times, patting the dough into a ½-inch slab, then use a well-floured 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits. Place the biscuits vey close together, almost touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Gently fold and pat the scraps of dough and cut more biscuits.
  4. Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until risen, puffed and lightly browned. If you like a burnished top to your biscuits, turn the broiler on for the last 1 – 2 minutes of baking.
  5. Makes at least 12 2-inch biscuits
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Bring to room temperature before serving. The cream cheese butter can be keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. Makes about 1 cup
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Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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