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.

Calvados and Hazelnut Camembert

Camembert with Hazelnuts and Calvados

Fall gets busy. I know. It’s easy to forgo a nice little appetizer before a festive meal, or just throw some cheese and crackers on a plate (nothing wrong with that). But creating something special with just a little effort can really add to the experience. If you get asked (or volunteer) to bring a snack to an event, make it something truly unique. This makes a fantastically impressive appetizer, packed with punchy flavors perfect for fall, inspired by the calvados washed cheeses of Normandy. It takes a little time, but it is mostly hands off, and the payoff is worth it.

Calvados has that lovely orchardy kick with a hint of cider and I think it pairs amazingly well with tangy camembert and woodsy hazelnuts. You can sometimes find a hip flask sized bottle which is perfect for this, but I do think you will find lots of uses for a whole bottle – I use it in French Onion Soup and in a maple butter to top pork chops. I small dose in champagne with a thin slice of apple makes a fantastic cocktail. You can use a regular brandy if you must. I love the combination of toasty hazelnuts with the calvados and camembert, but you can use toasted walnuts or pecans. Camembert is the best cheese for this preparation, but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. Buy one that is not yet too soft or ripe. Sliced apples make a perfect go-with and look pretty. You could even go with read and green apples in the season.  A crusty bread would be lovely too – try a darker loaf like rich wheat or pumpernickel. 

Calvados and Hazelnut Camembert

1 8 ounce round of camembert

1 cup calvados or brandy

3/4 cup raw hazelnuts

1 teaspoon flaky salt

2 apples

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Take the camembert from the fridge and place in a small deep bowl and leave to come to room temperature for at least an hour, but a few is okay.

Put the hazelnuts in a dry skillet and toast for a few minutes over medium heat just to warm them through. Transfer to a tea towel, then fold over the towel and rub the hazelnuts around to loosen the skins. Don’t worry about getting every piece of skin, just the majority of it. Place the nuts in a small food processor with the salt and process until finely chopped – do not let them become pasty or oily. Put the chopped hazelnuts in a shallow bowl.

Warm the calvados in a small sauce pan, then pour it over the camembert in the bowl. Leave to marinate for at least an hour, but up to 2.  Roll the cheese in the nuts – start by rolling the sides, then press one side and flip over to the other. Gently press the nuts to adhere.

Mix the lemon juice with water in a small bowl. Slice the apples and toss in the acidulated water to prevent browning. Pat the apples dry before serving.

Serve the cheese at room temperature. If needed, you can refrigerate the cheese for a few hours, just take it out of the fridge at least an hour before serving.

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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

Pavlova with Peach Curd, Fresh Peaches and Blackberries

Pavlova is a dinner party secret weapon. It is easy to make, can be done ahead in stages, is incredibly versatile and never fails to impress. Crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside topped whatever delicious ideas you choose. I dreamed up this combination for a casual evening with friends inspired by an overabundance of summer fruit. I needed to use a lot of peaches, so adding a delicious layer of curd under some fresh slices upped the peach factor. When I served this, everyone oohed and aahed and took a small piece, but we ended up digging our forks into the slab right off the platter set in the center of the table.

The curd can be made several days ahead (just remember not to keep dipping into it too much while you wait!) and if there is any leftover it is wonderful on toast or swirled through yogurt. I like to make my pavlova the night before and leave it in the oven until ready use.  Humidity is not the friend of meringue and the oven is a nice, sealed storage unit. If you need the oven, transfer the pavlova to an airtight container. Assemble the whole right before serving or the pavlova will lose its lovely structure.

A note on the shape of your pavlova: Round is traditional, and you can certainly go that route. I like this rectangular version as well because it makes lots of space for the lovely toppings and is easy to slice and serve. Whichever way you go, pick out a serving platter and trace an outline on the parchment paper so that the finished product will fit. I used a 9 by 13 pan for this one or make about a 9-inch circle. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet with the ink side down to use as guide to form the meringue. I like to use rimmed baking sheet flipped over so the parchment just slides right off without a risk of damaging the pavlova. You can spray a little cooking spray on the baking sheet to adhere the paper.

Pavlova with Peach Curd, Fresh Peaches and Blackberries

For the Peach Curd

2 peaches (about 14 ounces)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

For the Pavlova:

4 egg white

A pinch of salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Assembly:

2 cups whipping cream

3 fresh peaches

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 cups fresh blackberries

For the Curd:

Put a strainer over a medium bowl and set by the stove.

Peel the peaches. For just two peaches, I use a vegetable peeler and leave a little bit of skin on to add color to the final product. Pit the peaches cut into rough chunks and puree in a blender with the lemon juice until smooth. Add the egg yolks and sugar and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the curd thickens. When you pull a spatula through the mixture, it should not run back together immediately. Dip a metal spoon in the mixture and when you run your finger through the clinging curd, the two sides should stay totally separate.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter a couple of pieces at a time, waiting until one addition is melted until adding more. When all the butter is incorporated, pour the curd through the waiting strainer, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and transfer to the fridge. The curd will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

For the Pavlova:

Preheat the oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see the note above) and set aside. 

Put the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium until the whites are foamy, then sprinkle over the cream of tartar. Beat at medium high until the whites hold soft peaks. While beating at medium high, slowly stream in the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, until the whites are really shiny and stiff. Beat until really stiff peaks form – run a spoon or a spatula through the mixture and the peaks should stand straight up and not flop over. The sugar should also dissolve. Take a pinck of the meringue between your fingers and when you rub then together there should be no grittiness. When the egg whites are stiff, sprinkle over the cornstarch and fold it in gently, making sure not to deflate your meringue. Add the vanilla and fold it in.

Scoop dollops of the meringue onto the prepared parchment paper, staying within the lines. Use an offset spatula to spread the meringue to fill your desired shape. Use the spatula to make a bit of an indention on the top of the pavlova to hold your fillings. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in for 4- 5 hours at least, but overnight is best.

Assembly:

Put the lemon juice in a bowl and add some water. Slice the peaches (leave the skin on) and drop into the water. Stir to coat, then drain the peaches. This will keep them from browning. (the peaches can be treated, drained and kept in covered bowl for about an hour).  

Right before you are ready to serve, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks in the stand mixer with the whisk. Carefully transfer the pavlova to a serving platter. Gently spread a generous layer of peach curd over the top of the pavlova, then spread the whipped cream over that. Top with the sliced peaches and blackberries.

Slice and serve.

Serves 8

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

Lemon Blueberry Bars

Lemon Blueberry Bars

Sweet, sweet summer – the season bursting with berries. I try my best to eat seasonally – I very rarely have fresh blueberries when they are not in season, so I wait with anticipation for them to show up at the farmers markets. It makes them all the sweeter for the waiting. But that sometimes leads me to overbuy, so after the syrup and jams are made and I’ve eaten my fill out of hand, I look for some fun ways to bake with them. I found a blueberry lemon bar recipe in a magazine and the idea really excite me. I made it, but it was a disaster as a bar. It never set, the blueberries sort of bled out of the runny filling and all the crust was a sodden mess. I did taste the bit that had almost firmed up around the edges, and I will say, the flavor was delicious. The recipe, however, was a complete failure (that’s why I test and test). I went to work tinkering around until I ended up with what I wanted – a tangy lemon bar with delicious pops of fresh blueberry.

The lemon filling falls somewhere between custard and cake with a nice, tart finish and a sweet swirl of blueberry. They cut into lovely bars and make a wonderful picnic treat. They are nicely sweet, so you can serve them in small pieces. I get requests for these every summer!

Lemon Blueberry Bars

For the Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¼ cup granulated sugar

Zest of one lemon (see below)

1 Tablespoon milk

For the filling:

5 ounces blueberries

1 ½ cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons, divided

4 lemons, zested and juiced

4 eggs

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar

For the Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper, with some edges overhanging.

Place the flour, butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor and process until crumbly. Drizzle in the milk until the dough begins to come together. Spread the dough into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes.

For the Filling:

Wipe out the food processor and drop in the berries. Puree until smooth then push through a fine mesh strainer into a small sauce pan. Add 2 Tablespoons sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and boil for a few minutes until thickened. Set aside.

Rinse and dry the food processor completely, then add the zest of three lemons, the juice of all four and the eggs. Process until fluffy, then add the remaining 1 ½ cup sugar and blend until smooth. Add the flour and blend until completely combined and smooth, Pour the filling over the crust, then drizzle over the blueberry puree. It will sink into the lemon filling.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the center is set and no longer jiggly in the center. Cool the bars completely then sprinkle the tops generously with confectioners’ sugar and cut into small pieces

Makes 16

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

Strawberry Ginger Cake

Strawberry Ginger Cake

Strawberries ring in the start of the canning season for me. I get so excited, I buy quarts and quarts. Which means I sometimes end up with some surplus after I make jars and jars of jam, more than I can eat on my own. So I look for simple, quick ways to use them creatively. I love baking with strawberries that bleed sweet pink juices into the finished product and give a nice pop of berry in every bite. I keep this recipe in my back pocket for those extra strawberries, sure. But now I also make it for its own merits, as a treat for myself or to share with friends and family.

I adapted this super simple cake from a recipe that used raspberries. I figured it needed a little oomph, but I didn’t want to go with the typical vanilla or lemon zest. I love sweet tender chunks of zingy crystallized ginger which make a lovely complement to strawberries that’s a little unexpected. On its own, this cake is sweetly simple, perfect for breakfast or an afternoon tea or snack. It makes a lovely dessert as well – add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or make a simple glaze of powdered sugar and milk and sprinkle a few pieces of the crystallized ginger over the top; you could even top it with a simple cream cheese frosting. I have loved serving it on my grandmother’s floral cake plate for a beautiful spring table.

Strawberry Ginger Cake

Strawberry Ginger Cake

3 large eggs at room temperature

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger

10 ounces fresh strawberries, halved or quartered

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs and the sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium high until light and fluffy and pale in color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed and beat in the flour and ground ginger until completely combined. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds.

Fold the crystallized ginger and strawberry pieces into the batter with a spatula, then spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 5 minutes at 400°, then lower the heat to 350°and cook for 25- 30 minutes until golden and firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.

Serves 8

Strawberry Champagne Mousse with Champagne Cakelettes

What could be more elegant during the short Spring season of balmy weather and strawberries? Wedding and baby showers, graduation parties, and end of school events all need a little sophisticated touch. What I love about these recipes is the result really surpasses the effort. For a little work, you get two delightful sweet bites that are simple to present. And they can be made ahead, which is always a bonus. I serve these in some lovely (inexpensive) pink toned wine tumblers on a plate with two little cakes and a fresh berry. For the picture here, I rimmed the glasses with some sparkling gold sugar for a little added style.

Use a drinklable champagne, but not a pricey bottle. I have also used prosecco and cava to lovely effect. These recipes are also good uses for leftover champagne, an idea I think is an urban myth. I love my little mini bundt pan mold – it wasn’t very expensive but I use it to make all sorts of little treats that impress. If you don’t have one, feel free to use mini muffin pans. You can make a glaze from a little champagne and some powdered sugar if you like, or just dust with the powdered sugar, but I like these plain and simple to go with the rich, creamy mousse.

Strawberry Champagne Mousse with Champagne Cakelettes

For the Mousse:

2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided

1 cup flat champagne or sparkling wine

2 cups heavy cream

Seeds scraped from half of one vanilla bean

For the Cake:

½ cup champagne or sparkling wine

8 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

Seeds scraped from half of one vanilla bean

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Mousse:

Place the strawberries, ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and ¼ cup champagne in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Add the remaining champagne and blend until combined. Beat the cream and the remaining ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and vanilla seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the strawberry mixture in with a spatula by hand, then beat with the mixer on medium high speed until stiff and thick. Divide the mousse between 8 small ramekins or champagne coupes and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

For the Cakes:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray 12 mini bundtlette pans or mini muffin pans. 

Place the champagne, melted butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until well mixed and no signs of dry ingredients remain. Divide the batter between the prepared molds and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. The cakelettes can be stored in an airtight container for up to a day.

Serves 6

Banana Brown Butter Bars

I’ll be completely honest here. I like banana bread, and this Bananas Foster Pound Cake is a champion. I like banana in cookies too. But I don’t much like a banana. Not straight up, right out of the peel. I think it is a texture thing. So I don’t really have bananas hanging around my house going brown just waiting to be turned into a delicious baked good. That is to say, it’s a special event when I do make a banana treat, so it has got to be good. These were born of a request for something different than a brownie, but still a square or a bar that could be served to a group or sold to at a bake sale. I found a banana brownie recipe in an old community cookbook, but that was only the umping off point. The recipe as written was fine. But just fine. I thought it needed a little icing. I started with a simple butter and confectioners’ sugar version, but again, it needed something. Then I turned to one of my favorite tricks- browned butter. It adds this whole deep, nutty note that really makes the banana shine. And now it’s a regular in my repertoire that always pleases people who were expecting something a little run of the mill.

It’s a little hard to judge how many bananas to start with – I’ve gotten ½ cup of mashed banana from 1 banana, but often have to use two, with a little leftover. Stir a little honey into the leftover mash and spread it on a piece of toast.

Banana Brown Butter Bars

For the Bars:

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup mashed banana (from about 1 large or 2 regular bananas)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

For the Frosting:

¼ cup unsalted butter

6 Tablespoons light brown sugar

4 tablespoons heavy cream, divided

½ teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

For the Bars:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 by 8 inch pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.

Cut one stick of the butter into small pieces and place in a large saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Stir the butter to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, remove from the heat and immediately stir in the brown sugar until well combined. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then beat in the bananas, egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour until smooth and combined, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, until the center is firm.

For the Frosting:

Rinse and dry the sauce pan thoroughly, then brown the butter as above. Remove from the heat in beat in the brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons heavy cream, the vanilla and salt and stir until smooth. Leave to cool for 10 – 15 minutes, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar and remaining cream until smooth and spreadable (you can add a bit more cream if needed). When the bars have cooked, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then spread the frosting evenly over the top. I find an offset spatula the best tool for this, and I smooth the top with a spatula if needed.  Cool completely, then cut into squares.

Makes 16 bars