Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

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

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

Strawberry Popovers with Whipped Vanilla Bean Butter

Strawberry Popovers with Vanilla Bean Butter

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

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

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

Strawberry Popovers with Whipped Vanilla Bean Butter

For the Butter:

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

1 vanilla bean

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

For the Popovers

1 cup quartered, hulled strawberries

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup all-purpose flour

A pinch of kosher salt

For the Butter:

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

For the Popovers:

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

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

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

Serve warm.

Makes 6

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

Peach Amaretto Cheesecake

I accidently bought 25 pounds of peaches. I’ve been reading about these peaches from a certain farm that only come to Memphis twice a season. People rave about these peaches. I missed any notification that they were coming, but then one day going about my own business, I got stuck in traffic behind cars turning into a nursery and saw the big sign advertising the peaches. So I figured I better turn in too and see what all the fuss was about. The peaches are only sold in 25 pound boxes, which is a lot of peaches, but I had waited and parked and just decided I better go ahead and buy them. And they are delicious peaches. I gave quite a few to a friend, I made Peach Julep Jam, a peach jalapeno jam, peach chutney, spiced peach butter and vin du peche, a French liqueur.

At the start of peach season, I had some idea about a dessert with peaches and amaretti cookies – my mom used to make delicious peach halves stuffed with buttered amaretti crumbs and baked – but I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it. I wanted something composed, like a tart or an ice cream. I bought a couple of bags of amaretti and they sat on my counter for weeks, taunting me to come up with an idea. In my panic over this spectacular array of peaches I acquired with no coherent plan, the idea came to me while I stirred a pot of peach jam. Creamy, rich, decadent cheesecake with a sweet-bitter amaretti crust and a healthy dose of amaretto liqueur. My niece who sampled the finished result texted me “that cheesecake. I can’t get over it.” So clearly in this case, abundance was the mother of invention.

I live to serve this with some sliced or cubed fresh peaches, for the contrast of the sweetly cooked fruit that almost melts into the filling with the bite of fresh, but a lightly sweetened puree would be delicious as well if you like your cheesecake that way.

Peach Amaretto Cheese Cake with Amaretti Crust

For the Crust:

1 (7-ounce) package amaretti cookies

4 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

For the Filling

3 large fresh peaches

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup amaretto liqueur

½ teaspoon almond extract

For the Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. 

Set a few of the cookie aside, then place the rest in the bowl of a small food processor and process until finely ground. Drizzle in the butter and process until the crumbs are wet through. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press them into an even layer completely covering the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely. Put the remaining cookies in a small ziptop bag and crush well. Set aside.

For the Filling:

Peel and pit the peaches, then cut into small, bite-sized pieces.

Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for a few minutes, then stream in the sugar, beating until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream, amaretto and almond extract until completely smooth. Add the chopped peaches and stir to combine and evenly distribute them. Scrape the filling into the pan over the crust and spread the top evenly.  Place a large piece of foil on the oven rack, then place the cheesecake on the foil and bake for about 1 hour, until puffed up, set in the center and just begining to brown. Remove from the oven to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen from the ring. Leave to cool another 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator overnight to chill. You can cover the cake after it is firm and refrigerate for up to two days.

Before serving, sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs over the top of the cake. Serve with sliced peaches if you’d like.

 

No Churn Peach Ice Cream with Sweet Tea Caramel Sauce

It is hot here. All summer. So ice cream is must. Homemade ice cream is a special treat, but it involves a little effort in the kitchen that I’m not always up to in the heat of summer. I have memories of making ice cream with my family as a child. We had this electric contraption that fit over a basin that went in a bucket filled with rock salt and ice. Making the base and pouring it in the machine was exciting, but for my brother and I, the excitement faded after about 5 minutes of watching the churn do its job, leaving my mother to wait the rest of the time watching and adding ice and salt for the rather lengthy time the whole process took. Technology has advanced and now I have a little electric ice cream maker that has a bowl that stores in the freezer – the problem is I don’t always have room in the freezer. So when I started seeing lots of no churn recipes on the internet, I was intrigued. And it turns out it’s good. The texture is a bit thicker and grainier than the type churned in a machine that whips in air, but to me the ease of preparation fully justifies the denser texture. And the recipe is highly adaptable too. Start with condensed milk and cream, then you can add fruits, herbs and spices to your tastes.

I went for sweet in season peaches, heated lightly to release some juice. I added a little buttermilk here for the tang and creaminess. My favorite part of ice cream is usually a sweet sauce, so I wanted to create a perfect complement for the peaches, which leads me to sweet tea. I’ve been there before, in this Peach Bourbon Cake with Sweet Tea Peaches. This caramel sauce is rich and with the lovely tannic bite of tea and the freshness of mint and lemon. It’s a perfect summer version of caramel sauce that would be lovely on any kind of ice cream or with fresh fruit.

No Churn Peach Ice Cream with Sweet Tea Caramel Sauce
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For the Ice Cream
  1. 3 large peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
  2. 1 cup heavy cream
  3. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  4. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  5. Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
For the Caramel
  1. 4 black tea bags
  2. 1 sprig of fresh mint
  3. 2 cups water
  4. 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  5. ½ cup granulated sugar
  6. ½ cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Put the peaches in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the peaches are soft and some juice begins to run. Set aside to cool.
  2. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks form. Add the condensed milk and whip until the mixture is thick and soft peaks form then add the buttermilk and vanilla beans seeds and beat until completely combined and thick. Stir in the peaches and their juice until evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into a metal loaf pan and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream. Freeze overnight.
For the Caramel
  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then drop in the tea bags and mint sprig. Leave to infuse off the heat for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bags and the mint. Return to the heat and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture is reduced to one cup of tea, then stir in the lemon juice and sugar until dissolved. Boil until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, stirring frequently. Stir in the heavy cream and continue cooking until the syrup is thickened back to a syrupy consistency – it will thicken a little when it cools. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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/

Blueberry Zucchini Cake

What grows together goes together is a good way to cook in the kitchen. I love to make the most of in-season produce. I always seem to end up with one more zucchini hanging around and my market bag is always bursting with berries when they are in season. So it seemed only natural to find a way to use them together. And I really love this unique, fresh, summery sheet cake.

I saw a recipe for a zucchini bread with blueberries somewhere, but I didn’t save it our cut it out, the idea just stuck with me. I worked on that idea for a while, but in the end, it seemed to me like a great idea for a straight-up sweet with a twist. The zucchini adds this grassy, vegetal note to the sweetness of the cake and the pop of juicy blueberries. Buttermilk adds a little tang with some freshness brought in with a zip of lemon to the cake and to the sweet, crackly glaze. The added bonus here is that this makes a great big sheet cake that serves a real crowd, so it’s perfect for a summer picnic party.

Blueberry Zucchini Cake
Serves 24
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For the Cake
  1. 2 cups grated zucchini, from about 1 large zucchini
  2. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  3. zest of one lemon
  4. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  5. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  6. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  10. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  11. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. 2 cups fresh blueberries
For the Glaze
  1. 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  2. ¼ cup whole buttermilk
  3. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  4. a dash of nutmeg
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 15 by 10 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment or nonstick foil with some overlapping ends.
  2. Combine the grated zucchini, buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg alternately with the zucchini mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When fully combined and smooth, fold in the blueberries with a spatula to evenly distribute them. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, scooting the berries around as needed to distribute them throughout the cake. Bake for 30- 40 minutes until golden and firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.
For the glaze
  1. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice and nutmeg together until smooth. Slowly spread it over the top of the cooled cake to cover the top. Go slow so the glaze doesn’t drip off the sides. Let the glaze set for at least an hour, then slice and serve.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Limoncello Compote

I used to make this cake all the time because it is so simple to put together but is so luscious. I think the original recipe is from a Mollie Katzen Moosewood book, but I have it scrawled in one of my many recipe keeping notebooks. I used to serve it with raspberry coulis when that was in vogue, or with chocolate sauce. That’s kind of the great thing about this cake. It is so simple that it can be the vehicle for any manner of delicious toppings without overwhelming it. The smooth, creamy cake has the texture of cheese cake and is not overly sweet, so it really lets a fruit accompaniment shine. The compote I top it with here was honestly born from having some blackberries from the farmers market and some limoncello a friend made on the counter at the same time. When I whipped up this tart and sweet topping, I knew immediately I had to search through my files for the ricotta cake recipe. I inadvertently pulled together a delightful summer Italian inspired dessert.

Nothing could be an easier summer treat – a few seconds in the food processor and a little time on the stove – no chopping, dicing, whipping and very little clean up involved! This would be equally delicious with Blueberry Basil Compote or Peach Butterbourbon Sauce.

Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Limoncello Compote
Serves 6
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For the Cake
  1. Softened butter for greasing the pan
  2. 2 (15-ounce) containers whole milk ricotta cheese
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  6. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  7. Zest from one lemon
  8. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
For the Compote
  1. 1 Tablespoon butter
  2. 2 pints blackberries
  3. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. ¼ cup limoncello liqueur
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, then sprinkle with flour. Shake the pan to coat with the flour and dump out any excess. Don’t be tempted to use cooking spray – this is an important step.
  2. Put the ricotta, eggs, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and blend until smooth and combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes until the center is set. Touch it lightly with your finger and it should be firm to the touch. Cool completely, then chill for several hours or overnight.
For the Compote
  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan, then tumble in the blackberries. Stir them around to coat in the butter and cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest and cook for about 3 minutes until the berries release their juices. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to mash about half of the berries as they soften so you have a nice, juicy sauce. Carefully add the limoncello away from heat, and stir to combine. Cook the compote for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid had reduced a little and is thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Rhubarb Ginger Chess Bars

Rhubarb reminds me of England. I didn’t really eat rhubarb as a child – it doesn’t grow much in the South – and the only thing I really ever heard about it was my mother lamenting a horrible dessert served at her boarding school. So I discovered rhubarb when I started spending time in England, where it is very popular and figures in a many classic English desserts. Sure, I had some pretty dismal versions in the college dining hall, but when its good, it’s is really good. I had a small obsession with rhubarb and cream hard candies and bought bags full back from my travels, and I always pick up yogurt with a swirl of rhubarb in at my favorite grocery in London. When I find rhubarb in the produce section here, I go a little overboard, making cakes, infusing gin, and as a dyed-in-the-wool Memphian, a zippy Rhubarb-e-cue sauce. This particular recipe combines my love of all things English with my Southern roots – chess pie is one of my all time favorite desserts. And in this recipe, the sweet stickiness of a sugary, eggy chess style filling is perfectly cut with the tart rhubarb.

Rhubarb and ginger are a popular combo in England – I used to have a recipe (long since lost) for a cheesecake-like dessert on gingersnap crumbs with rhubarb compote on top. I think the ginger in both the crust and the filling of these bars really sparks. A little spicy bite with the tart rhubarb and sweet filling marry together beautifully.

Rhubarb Ginger Chess Bars
Yields 16
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Ingredients
  1. For the Crust
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. ½ cup powdered sugar
  4. ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  5. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the Filling
  1. 4 large eggs
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. ½ cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. A pinch of salt
  6. 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  7. 4 cups diced rhubarb (about 5 medium stalks)
For the Crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 19 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Put the flour, the powdered sugar, the butter and the salt in the bowl of a mixer and blend until combined but crumbly. Scatter the crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and press evenly into a uniform crust. Bake for 15 minutes until firm and golden in places.
For the Filling
  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then add the sugar, flour, vanilla and salt and stir together until well combined and there is no trace of sugar or flour in the bowl. Stir in the ginger and the chopped rhubarb until completely combined. Spread the filling over the crust while it is still warm, then return to the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, until the top is firm and no longer jiggly and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares.
Notes
  1. I like to cut the rhubarb in half lengthwise, then into small pieces across. Smaller pieces are less stringy and blend into the filling better.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/