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.

Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

Make anything in the shape of a wreath or a tree at this time of the year and instant celebration! So I present this lovely and charming muffin tree for the holidays. It’s bound to bring a smile to the faces of your breakfast companions, and I love how fun it is to serve it right on the baking sheet and let everyone tear-and share.

These treats are something of a cross between a muffin and a scone (a scuffin?) and I think best served just warm, though they are still lovely at room temperature. I chose to flavor these with seasonal cranberries and tangy ginger which works so beautifully with the Christmas tree theme. But honestly,  you can use you imagination with any combination of dried fruits and perhaps some chopped nuts. Add whatever spices appeal – nutmeg and cinnamon would be holiday perfect. The muffins themselves are not overly sweet, with the flavor coming from the cranberries and ginger. The streusel top adds a hint of sweet. I add a purely optional glaze, for a little extra sweet and a pretty flourish. Using cranberry juice adds a festive pink tinge, but you can use just cream of milk, or a tiny drop of food coloring. I promise, making the tree shape is easy but don’t get too caught up in perfect – the delightfully homemade, rustic look is part of the charm.

Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

For the Streusel:

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ginger

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

For the Muffins:

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger pieces

2 cups buttermilk

For the Glaze:

2 teaspoons cranberry juice

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Milk, cream or water

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the Streusel:

Mix the flour, sugar and ginger together with your fingers, breaking up any lumps. Pour in the melted butter and use a fork to blend it together until crumbly. You may want to finish blending with your fingers to create a damp rubble.

For the Muffins:

Put the flour, baking soda, ginger and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low a few times to blend. Mix in the cranberries and ginger pieces. Cut the cold butter into small chunks and add the flour, tossing them around with your hands to separate. Mix on medium low to rub the butter into the flour until there are just very small pieces of butter left – you can help it along with your fingers if needed.  Add the buttermilk all at once and mix just until combined. If there are some dry ingredients stuck at the bottom of the bowl, knead those in with your fingers.

Use a large cookie scoop and run it under water to just wet the surface – shake it out so there is no pooled water and wet the scoop a few times while forming the tree to help keep the dough from sticking. Scoop one ball of dough at the top of the sheet, then two beneath it. The balls should touch. In the next row, center a ball between the two above, then put one on either side. Next row put four balls across, then five, then two centered at the bottom for the trunk. I sometimes have enough dough left for two or three more muffins, which I bake on a separate lined baking sheet.

Carefully sprinkle some of the streusel on top of each muffin ball. Some will get on the baking sheet, but try and keep that to a minimum, returning it to the top of the muffins, with some falling between the gaps is fine.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the muffins are firm and golden. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes.

For the Glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl and whisk it with the cranberry juice to blend, then whisk in just enough milk, cream or water to produce a drizzle-able glaze. Drizzle over the muffin tree, then sprinkle over a little powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Makes 16 – 18

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French Apple Hazelnut Loaf with Quatre Épices

French Apple Hazelnut Loaf

Some years ago, on a cooking trip to France, I bought every manner of French ingredient I could fit in my suitcase (removing the dirty clothes to an extra folded bag that came with me for this exact purpose). I visited gourmet markets, specialty traiteurs and big box grocery chains. It was marvelous. I tucked in jars of fine herbes, herbes de provence and a jar of quatre épices, to make sure I had covered all my seasoning bases. Quatre épices is a classic French seasoning of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with bite from black or white pepper. It is used in all manner of ways – traditionally in pates and terrines, but also in pain d’épices, a traditional spice bread I had tasted in a food tour in Paris. I made a version of pain d’épices for every occasion I could, and sprinkled it in daubes and on braised vegetables. Eventually, what was left lost its flavor and scent and I moved on to other things. But I recently stopped in a lovely spice shop on a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, and was thrilled to stumble across quatre épices on the shelf. I tucked a little bag in my suitcase (it’s a thing with me) and couldn’t wait to get home and use it.  I, of course, planned to make some pain d’ épices, but the first weekend home found me with some apples from the farmers market. As I pondered the best way to combine the two, it immediately came to me to incorporate my newest obsession, hazelnut flour, which I find at better grocery stores.

This loaf is homey and nutty and perfect for fall. Your house will smell wonderful while its baking. It’s a lightly sweet and spice treat – the elusive warmth of pepper adds a real difference. I love the sprinkling of rough textured demerara sugar to give a crackly topping. This loaf is perfect for a chilly autumn breakfast or as a lovely afternoon snack. It is the perfect companion to a mug of warm apple cider.

Make you own quatre épices and store the leftovers in a jar. You’ll want to come back to this recipe, but try it sprinkled over roasting sweet potatoes or to make spiced nuts.

French Apple Hazelnut Loaf with Quatre Épices

1 ½ cups hazelnut flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup tightly packed light brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons quatre épices

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

¾ cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large apples

1 Tablespoon chopped hazelnuts

1 Tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 8 ½ inch loaf pan with baking spray.

Mix the hazelnut flour, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, quatre épicesand salt together in a large mixing bowl, breaking up any lumps. Measure the buttermilk and oil in a 4-cup measuring jug, then break in the eggs and add the vanilla and beat together. Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix until just moist. Grate the unpeeled apples into the batter using the large holes of a box grater. I like to grate one side to the core, then turn to the next until I have grated the flesh from the whole apple and am left with the core. Quickly stir the apples into the batter until evenly distributed and there is no trace of dry ingredients visible. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts, then the demerara sugar.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes put clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Quatre Épices

1 tablespoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoons finely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all the ingredients into a small jar and tighten the lid. Shake until thoroughly and evenly combined. Store in the jar for a few months.

Fresh Fig Flaugnarde

Fresh Fig Flaugnarde

Flaugnarde is a regional variation of the classic French clafouti, and similar to a more American Dutch baby. A simple vanilla and nutmeg batter surrounds the seasonal fruit and comes out of the oven puffed and golden, but settles into a lovely custard-y base for the juicy figs. And let’s face it fig flaugnarde is fun to say (it’s pronounced Flo-nyard). Nutmeg highlights the honeyed richness of the figs without detracting from their flavor. I love the speckled look of vanilla beans, and paste is a simple way to get the falvor and effect, but you can certainly scrape the seeds from a full bean, or just use a healthy dose of extract.

This could not be easier to make. Slice up some figs, swirl the batter in the blender and bake. It’s the perfect treat when you are surprised by the first figs at the market or on your tree – the ingredients are staples that come together in a flash. Flaugnarde is a dessert in the French tradition – not sugary sweet, just enough to bring out the flavor of the fruit. So that makes this perfect for dessert, but it is also a lovely breakfast. You can drizzle a little honey over the top, serve it with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream, or leave it as is.

Fresh Fig Flaugnarde

8 – 10 fresh figs

2 eggs

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of salt

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup half-and-half

Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a 9-inch ceramic pie plate or baking dish with cooking spray.

Snip the stems from the figs and slice into about four vertical slices, around ¼ inch thick. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of fig slices, not overlapping.

Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla paste, nutmeg and a pinch of salt in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Add the flour and half and half and blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Pour the batter over the figs in the dish, then bake for 30 minutes, until the edges are puffed and golden and the center is set.

Serve warm, sprinkled with confectioners sugar.

Serves 6

Nectarine and Lemon Balm Cake

Nectarine and Lemon Balm Cake

This cake is absolutely the result of farmers market excitement. After being out of town for several weeks and missing my own local market, I couldn’t resist the abundance. I brought home with a basket of gorgeous nectarines and some fragrant lemon balm with no real plan to use them (there were also peaches, blueberries, blackberries and tomatoes in my bag). I have never really known what to do with lemon balm. I used to plant it in my herb bed and it grew like gangbusters. I’d use it to garnish plates or pitchers of tea. I dried some of it to make my own herbal tisane, but that was about it. So I stopped planting it. The thing is, I love the idea of lemon balm. It seems so delicate and old-fashioned to me. For some reason, it seems like something from Jane Austen or Miss Marple. With my unexpected market finds, I knew I needed to try a light and lovely cake, the kind of thing you might find on a linen draped outdoor tea table in an English country novel.

I am really pleased with myself on this one. The golden crumb is moist and tender and studded with pink and green from the fruit and herbs. The taste is really unique – lemony and fruity and herbal. A light sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar is enough for me, but a simple glaze could work. This cake is one of those ever-versatile treats, perfect with breakfast, with a lovely afternoon tea, or as a sweet summer dessert. If you can’t find lemon balm, you can use fresh garden mint and a little lemon zest. I have a small Bundt pan which is perfect for this and so delicate and lovely, but a loaf pan works just as well.

Nectarine and Lemon Balm Cake

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

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup finely chopped lemon balm

2 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 large nectarines, pitted and chopped

Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 6-cup Bundt pan or a loaf pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until combined, then add the lemon balm and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed, until thoroughly combined and the batter is light and fluffy. Fold the nectarine pieces into the batter with a spatula until evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan, then turn the cake out onto a platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 10

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

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

Spring has always been a season of brunch for me. Easter, graduations, wedding showers. It’s a great way to entertain elegantly and with a little planning, pretty easy to do ahead. Center the affair around a ham with biscuits or rolls, a perfect platter of stuffed eggs, add some vegetables, a casserole (maybe this hash brown version) and a few indulgent treats and you are good to go. Tangy mustard with a velvety fluffy texture is a lovely complement to the best spring and summer vegetables. I developed this to go with asparagus, but it works wonderfully well with pillowy snap peas or simply steamed green beans. But wait, there’s more – this is delicious with slices of ham, even with sliced beef tenderloin. So for the Easter buffet, you get a two for one deal – this makes enough to serve with two separate dishes. 

I love a platter of lightly steamed asparagus with a tangy, interesting sauce or dressing, and this fits the bill perfectly. If you’ve ever had the old-school molded mustard mousse once a staple of the Southern ham buffet, this is inspired by the classic, but with a much smoother and cleaner taste, old-fashioned and modern at the same time. I love the bracing flavor of tarragon, but vary that up with dill or, if you have it, chervil. And the sunshine-y yellow color adds its own touch of spring to the feast. I call it velvet because the smooth, fluffy texture works either as a dip or a spread.

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

2 egg yolks

3 Tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (use tarragon vinegar if you have it)

1 Tablespoon water

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

1 Tablespoon butter

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Beat the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, water and sugar together in a small sauce pan until smooth and combined. Stir in the tarragon and salt. Place the pan over medium heat and heat gently until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir almost constantly to prevent the mustard from catching on the bottom of the pan. The mixture should return to the consistency of the prepared mustard. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until melted and smooth. Scrape the mustard into a small bowl so it won’t continue cooking from the heat of the pan. Cool completely.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then fold through the mustard until well combined but still fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, but overnight is fine.

Collard and Cornbread Pudding

Any Southerner will tell you that you must eat greens on New Year’s day. It insures prosperity in the year to come (and black eyed peas) for luck. And if you got a big pot of greens to serve up, you just have to have some cornbread to go with it. So here, I have combined the two into a lovely casserole in the style of a savory bread pudding. Frozen chopped greens are a perfect shortcut and the cornbread is really easy to make from scratch.

To serve this on New Year’s Day, I usually whip up the pan of cornbread on December 30, assemble the casserole New Year’s Eve, and pop it in the oven on New Year’s Day. I prefer to cover the cornbread pan with a tea towel to leave overnight. Day-old cornbread soaks up the custard and creates a light and fluffy texture. Plus, it makes assembling the final result simpler. For your black eyed pea fix, try Hoppin’ John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Salad, or Slow Cooker Southern Black Eyed Peas, both of which would be a perfect match with the pudding. I have to say though, don’t limit this dish to New Year’s only, it’s a fabulous side for roast pork loin, or an excellent brunch dish. 

You can use this recipe as a template and tailor it to your own tastes. Leave out the bacon and sauté the vegetables in olive oil for a meat-free version. Or stir in some chopped county ham instead of bacon. Use a red bell pepper instead of green to add a little color. Add a finely chopped hot pepper to the vegetables, up the amount of hot sauce or add a dash or red pepper flakes. You add some freshly chopped herbs and switch up the cheese with parmesan.

Collard Cornbread Pudding

For the Cornbread:

1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Pudding:

1 (14-ounce) bag frozen chopped collard greens

4 strips of bacon

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

6 eggs

2 ½ cups milk

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon hot sauce

lots of freshly ground black pepper

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

For the Cornbread:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8 by 8 inch square pan.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the egg, milk and oil until the batter is well combined, with no dry ingredients visible.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until firm and lightly golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

The cornbread can be made up to one day ahead and kept covered loosely with a tea towel on the counter. 

For the Pudding:

Place the collards in a large, deep skillet and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the greens for 20 minutes. Drain the greens through a colander, pressing out excess liquid with a spatula.

Wipe out the skillet, then cook the bacon strips until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain. Drain all but two tablespoons bacon grease from the pan, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook over medium-high heat until soft and glassy. Stir in the garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in the collard greens, separating them and making sure the vegetables are well distributed in the greens. Break the cornbread into small pieces and add to the greens, stirring to distribute everything evenly. Chop the bacon into small pieces and stir into the mix. Turn the mixture into a 3-quart baking dish and leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl, then whisk in the hot sauce, salt and pepper.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cornbread and greens and leave to soak for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to 12 is fine.

When ready to bake, take the pudding out of the fridge to take some chill off while you preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the pudding until puffed and golden, about 30 – 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8 – 10

Nectarine and Almond Coffee Cake with Whipped Honey Yogurt

I’ll be honest, the first time I set out to make this cake, my idea was to use purple plums, which I had seen at the farmers market the previous week. At that Saturdays market though, there were no plums, but I had promised to make a fruity coffee cake for a girls’ brunch the next day. Fortunately, I found some lovely, rosy nectarines and knew they would work just as well and be a little unique, as I find I don’t make use of nectarines as much as I do the plums or peaches which are in season alongside. I love the grainy, sweet and nutty flavor of almond paste and think it is just perfect paired with fresh stone fruits. It creates a dense, moist cake that is not to sweet and really highlights the fruit. I consider it a coffee cake, but it could perfectly well serve as dessert along with some ice cream. And of course, you can use plums to beautiful effect as well.

The sprinkling of demerara sugar over the batter gives it a lovely, crackly crust that I just love on a brunch cake, but you can omit it or use granulated sugar, though the top won’t be quite as textured. The tangy yogurt whip matches beautifully to the dense almond cake and adds a hint of earthy sweetness. This yogurt makes a wonderful dip for any sliced fruit, or pairs well with other cakes.  The afternoon that I served this, I sliced the one left over nectarine and served it with a little of the slightly deflated yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts for a lovely snack.

Nectarine and Almond Coffee Cake with Whipped Honey Yogurt
Serves 8
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For the Coffee Cake
  1. 8 ounces almond paste
  2. 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  4. 6 eggs
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  9. 3- 4 nectarines, pitted
  10. 1 Tablespoon demerara sugar
For the Yogurt
  1. 1 cup Greek yogurt (whole or low fat)
  2. ½ cup heavy cream
  3. 2 Tablespoons honey
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the almond paste and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined and creamy. Add the butter and beat until smooth, light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, then add the flour, baking soda and salt and beat until the batter is thick and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Scrape the butter into the prepared pan and smooth the top to an even layer with a spatula.
  3. Cut the nectarines into chunks and spread evenly over the top of the cake batter. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the top, then bake until no longer wobbly in the center and a tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool completely.
For the Yogurt
  1. Right before serving the coffee cake, beat the yogurt, cream and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until completely combined and fluffy. Serve dolloped over wedges of the cake.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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.
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