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.

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.
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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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Pineapple Ginger Fruit Dip

I am forever looking for interesting ways to serve strawberries on a spring buffet. Their natural beauty brightens up any table, and I always want to make the most of their short growing season. Not that there is anything wrong with eating strawberries on their own, but it’s nice to have a little delicious extra to highlight their flavor. This sweet citrus saucehas been my go to, but I wanted to mix things up with this slightly tropical blend that hints of summer to come.

I like that this dip is full of flavor, but not too sweet. That way you really get the sweetness from the berries. But you could add a little powdered sugar into the mix if you like – just taste both the berries and the dip first so you don’t go overboard. And of course, this works beautifully with other fruit. You can leave out the rum if you must, but it adds a perfect undernote.

Pineapple Ginger Fruit Dip
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
  2. 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  3. ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  4. ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  5. 1 Tablespoon dark rum
Instructions
  1. Drain the pineapple well over a bowl to catch the juice. Beat the cream cheese, pineapple, yogurt, ginger and rum together in a food processor (a mini is fine) until smooth and well combined. Beat in enough of the reserved pineapple juice to create a dippable consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, then serve with strawberries or other fruit.
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Spiced Apple Torte

Recipes in my life go around in circles. I used to make a version of this apple dessert when I was just starting out in my first apartment, when a springform pan was considered exotic kitchen kit. I don’t know where I originally found it, but I imagine it might have been in my mom’s extensive file of apple recipes. My mother loves a good file folder, and when the apple tree my dad and I planted in the backyard started to produce fruit, she started filling a folder. I thought I was fancy because I added cinnamon for flair. Somehow, the recipe fell out of my rotation and I had not thought about it in years, but a recent internet search led me in a circuitous route to several recipes for apple sharlotka, a traditional Russian dessert. These recipes reminded me of this classic from my repertoire, so with apple season in full swing, I pulled it out again and updated and modernized it a bit. It was a treat to rediscover an old favorite.

What I love about this dish is that is mostly apple, tart chunks held together by a light, almost custard like filling – making the most of the season’s best fruit. In the spirit of autumn desserts, I’ve added a bouquet of warming spices – veering away from simple cinnamon to the less explored end of the spice rack. Of course, you can just use a dose of cinnamon, or leave out the spices altogether, but I think this combination adds a great hint of mystery and warmth. The cake is lovely on its own, but a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream never goes amiss, or a scoop of ice cream. I recently served it with salted caramel gelato to great effect.

Spiced Apple Torte
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 tart green apples, like Granny Smith
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  7. ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  8. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  9. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  10. ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  11. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  12. confectioners’ sugar for dusting the top
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, then spray the paper and the pan with cooking spray.
  2. Peel the apples and cut them into small chunks, about the size of dice. Layer the chunks directly in the prepared pan.
  3. Beat the eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla, spices and salt together in the bowl of stand mixer. At first, it may look like dough, but beat for a few minutes until you have a smooth, thick batter. Spread the batter evenly over the top of the apples. Use a spatula to cover all the apples with batter and to encourage it reach down between the apples. Let the pan sit for a few minutes for the batter to distribute, then bake for 50 – 60 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Cool the cake completely, then remove the springform ring. Sprinkle generously with confectioners’ sugar.
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Roasted Rosemary Grapes with Goat Cheese

Grapes are, I think, so unexpected in any form other than right off the stem for a snack. My parents always had a colander full of grapes near the sink, and the grandkids would snack off them constantly. So grapes have been sort of stuck in the realm of kid food to me, but this sophisticated dish dispels that idea quick smart. It has the effortless sophistication in food that I strive toward, but don’t always reach. And the broody color of the softened grapes garnished with a woody sprig of rosemary makes a striking and lovely Autumn treat.

This is one of the simplest, but still elegant appetizers in my repertoire. Toss grapes with oil and vinegar and roasting them creates this sweet, tangy rich topping for creamy goat cheese, with a wafting flavor of rosemary. I like dark, jammy black grapes, but fruity red grapes work as well. For me sherry vinegar or Jerez vinegar to have the perfect balance of richness and bite. I find balsamic a little syrupy for this, but use red wine vinegar if you need a substitute. You could also swap out the rosemary for another woodsy herb like thyme or marjoram. And of course you could serve the grapes with a different cheese, like brie or camembert, but I find the saltiness of goat cheese the perfect foil.

Roasted Rosemary Grapes with Goat Cheese
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups black or red seedless grapes
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  4. 1 teaspoon honey
  5. kosher salt and pepper
  6. 3 large stalks rosemary, plus one for garnish
  7. 1 4-ounce log soft goat cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the grapes with olive oil, sherry vinegar, honey, salt and a generous dose of ground black pepper in an 8 by 8 inch ceramic baking dish. Tuck the rosemary stalks among the grapes. Roast the grapes for 20 - 30 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the grapes are soft beginning to collapse.
  2. Let the grapes cool for about 5 minutes, remove the rosemary stalks, then spoon over the goat cheese. Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary. Serve with hearty crackers or baguette slices.
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Simple Summer Peach Pie

Pie speaks so of summer to me, particularly ones bursting with the best of summer fruit. And when it easy to make, like this one, it is a real bonus. I pulled the original version of this recipe from a community cookbook years ago when I had some peaches sitting on the counter. Like most of the best of summer produce, I buy peaches in bulk when they are at their peak, some to eat but mostly to make jams and preserves. When I buy by the quart or the basket, I always end up with a few more than I need for a canning. The first time I made this, I chose it because it uses ingredients I always have on hand. Now I buy peaches just to make the pie. I have often thought of this as a peaches and cream pie, but there is no cream, and though it has a creamy filling, it isn’t really a custard pie either. Just a simple summer peach pie.

I leave the peels on the peaches, because I think it adds extra flavor and color and helps keep the peach slices intact (and because it is easiest), but you can peel them if you prefer. And get creative with filling – use almond extract instead of vanilla, or scrape in the seeds of a vanilla bean. Add some cinnamon or cardamom, or a little fresh ginger. Some orange or lemon zest would work nicely as well.

Simple Summer Peach Pie
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Pastry for on 9-inch pie, homemade or store bought ready rolled
  2. 3 large or four small peaches
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
  6. 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a pie plate with the pastry and set aside.
  2. Slice the peaches into thin slices and layer in the pie crust. Fill the crust with peach slices right up to the top.
  3. Beat the eggs and vanilla in a bowl, then beat in the sugar until well combined. Stir in the melted butter, then pour over the peaches in the crust. It may not look like enough filling, but it will all come right in the end. Try to pour some over the surface of every exposed peach slice. Bake the pie for 45 minutes to an hour, until the center is firm with just a little bit of a wiggle. If the crust starts to brown more than you’d like, loosely cover the pie foil.
  4. Cool the pie completely, then refrigerate until chilled through.
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Blueberry Buttermilk Bread Pudding with Lemon Caramel Sauce

I have to say, this recipe involves a lot of words I like. Juicy fresh summer blueberries, rich buttermilk and caramel. Bread pudding has always been a favorite of mine and this fresh summer version bursting with berries is a great way to make the most of the farmers market fruit. Buttermilk adds a nice tang to the luscious custard. Top the whole with a silky caramel sauce freshened up with lemon juice for a lovely dessert, or brunch dish.

This recipe started life as a way to use up a basket of blueberries and an unused loaf of bread, but the idea was so solid that I set to work on a formal recipe. I added buttermilk because, well, I love buttermilk and always have some around. Challah is an airy, soft, eggy pairing for this summery version. I found a traditional caramel sauce a bit heavy for the fresh fruit, so lightened it up with a nice hint of fresh lemon. And, obviously, the sauce is delicious over ice cream or any variety of sweets.

Blueberry Buttermilk Bread Pudding with Lemon Caramel Sauce
Serves 6
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For the Caramel Sauce
  1. 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup boiling water
  4. Zest and juice of one lemon
  5. 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  6. Pinch of sea salt
For the Bread Pudding
  1. 1 pound loaf challah
  2. 2 cups fresh blueberries
  3. 3 whole large eggs
  4. 2 egg yolks
  5. ¾ cups packed light brown sugar
  6. 3 cups buttermilk
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. zest and juice of one lemon
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  10. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Caramel Sauce
  1. Whisk the brown sugar and flour together in a medium saucepan, then pour over the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat, and when it just begins to bubble, stir in the lemon zest and juice, then add the butter, whisking until melted. Bring to a low boil and cook for five minutes, watching carefully and stirring occasionally. The sauce will be just a little thicker than maple syrup. Stir in a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat. The sauce can be made a few hours ahead and served at room temperature or served warm.
For the Bread Pudding
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the challah into 1 inch cubes and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Don’t brown the bread, just let it crisp up slightly.
  2. Spray a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread cubes in a solid layer in the dish. You don’t want too much of the dish showing through, so use a little more than half of the bread if needed. Sprinkle over half of the blueberries, then repeat with the remaining bread and berries.
  3. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl, then whisk in the brown sugar. Add the buttermilk, cream, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and nutmeg and whisk until smooth. Pour the custard evenly over the bread in the dish. Press the bread cubes down into the custard to saturate. Leave to soak in for at least half an hour, but you can cover and refrigerated for several hours.
  4. When ready to serve, cook the bread pudding at 350 until set, golden and firm, about 30 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes, then serve drizzled with the caramel sauce.
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Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Recipes are born from many things. This one came one summer when I had promised to bring cookies to a gathering. When I volunteered, I was no doubt thinking it would be the easiest assignment – just whip up some chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies and go. But when it came down to it, I had this desire to make something lighter and more summery. I had some lemons on the counter, so I turned to an old recipe for a lemon poppy seed cookie and that seemed more like what I wanted. I opened the fridge to get out the butter, eggs and sour cream and found some blueberries I’d picked up in bulk at the farmers market. Why not, I thought. Thus this cookie was born.

These are a lightly sweet cookie in the old-fashioned Southern tea cake style. Pillowy and cakey with a simple glaze to sweeten things up. I love the burst of juicy berries this version has, and the poppy seeds add interest, and make them very pretty. By the way, they were a big hit at the event.

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 10 Tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter
  2. 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¼ cup sour cream
  5. zest and juice of one lemon
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  8. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  10. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  11. 1 cup fresh blueberries
  12. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, most of the lemon zest (save a pinch for the glaze) and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (save the rest for the glaze), vanilla and poppy seeds. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is smooth and well combined and there are no dry ingredients visible in the bowl. Fold the blueberries into the batter with a spatula.
  3. Use a cookie scoop or large spoon to scoop mounds of dough an inch or so apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until firm and just lightly golden on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for a few minutes, the remove to a wire rack placed over paper to catch drips from the glaze. Cool completely.
  4. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and a little lemon zest together with enough lemon juice to make a glaze you can drizzle over the cookies. If you don’t have enough lemon juice, add a touch of milk. You can add a pinch of poppy seed to the glaze as well if you’d like. Drizzle the tops of the cookies with the glaze and leave to set.
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Raspberry Orange Pudding Cake

Summer fruit desserts are such a sunny joy. And whether you call this type of dish a cobbler, a slump or a pudding cake, it makes the perfect summer dessert. Sweet and juicy summer fruit melts into a saucy layer tucked beneath a tender cake. I’ve shared before my Saucy Peach and Bluebbery Cobbler version. Raspberries are a rare local treat and when I find them I make the most of them. If I find them in abundance, I freeze them, and can then use them throughout the year for this lovely dessert.

Part of the beauty of this recipe is its adaptability. I love the twist of using fresh orange to compliment the raspberries, but you could certainly use lemon, or even lime. Add some scraped vanilla beans to the cake to pump up that flavor, or a little raspberry liqueur to the berries. This dish is perfect on its own, but there is something special about hot pudding cake served with a scoop of cold ice cream. You could also top it with whipped cream, plain, sweetened or with a little liqueur. I love bring the dish to the table, and watching the looks of delight when the juicy raspberry layer is revealed on the first scoop.

Raspberry Orange Pudding Cake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Raspberry Orange Pudding Cake
  2. 2 cups fresh raspberries
  3. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  4. 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice (zest before squeezing for the cake)
For the Cake
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. ¾ cups granulated sugar
  3. zest of one orange
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 large egg
  6. 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  10. 1 Tablespoon orange juice
For the Topping
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  3. ¾ cup hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread the raspberries evenly on the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top, then sprinkle over the orange juice.
For the Cake
  1. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar, orange zest and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg until the batter is smooth. Beat the flour, baking powder and baking soda in two additions alternately with the buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the batter is smooth. Dollop the batter evenly over the berries, then spread it out to cover the berries completely. I find lightly damp fingers the easiest way to do this.
For the Topping
  1. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan. Place the pan on the oven rack, then pour over the hot water evenly, making sure the entire surface is damp.
  2. Bake the cake for 50 minutes, until firm and golden. Serve warm
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Strawberry Basil Chiffon Cake with Strawberry Basil Sauce

Chiffon Cake always sounds so delightfully old-fashioned to me. Maybe because chiffon just sounds like a frilly, girly, poufy tea-party dress. I always see chiffon cake recipes in older community cookbooks, in all sorts of flavor combinations. I don’t think people make chiffon cakes much anymore, but the light, foamy sponge is a treat that shouldn’t be missed. Add some fresh in-season strawberries for a lovely light and and airy spring treat. I like to up the berry flavor with a sweet sauce and complement the whole with pillows of sweetened whipped cream.

Strawberries and basil work together beautifully, adding a lovely herbaceous note. And the fragrance is mouth-watering. The cake itself is such a pretty pink with little speckles of green, like a berry itself. This is a break-out the crystal cake plate dessert, colorful and bright on any spring table.

Strawberry Basil Chiffon Cake with Strawberry Basil Sauce
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ¼ cup cake flour, sifted
  2. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. Roughly 1 cup of hulled strawberries
  6. 7 egg yolks
  7. 7 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  8. 5- 6 large basil leaves
  9. ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. a drop or two of red or pink food coloring (optional)
  11. 7 egg whites
For the sauce
  1. 3 cups hulled, quartered strawberries
  2. ½ cup granulated sugar
  3. 6 large basil leaves on the stem
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Sift the flour, 1¼ cups of the sugar, the baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Drop the strawberries into a blender and puree. You will need ¾ cups, so measure it out and add more berries if needed. Put the puree back into the blender and add the egg yolks, vegetable oil, basil leaves, vanilla and food coloring, if using. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir to mix well, making sure there are no dry ingredients visible.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they become foamy. Slowly drizzle in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir ¼ of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites in three additions. Make sure there are no streaks of white visible. Scrape the batter into a 10 – inch angel food cake pan and bake for 50 – 6o minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back at a light touch. Immediately invert the pan, centering the hole over the neck of a bottle, or over a rack if your pan has “feet” the raise it from the surface. Cool completely.
For the Sauce
  1. Put the quartered berries and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir. Pluck the basil leaves off the stem and tuck the stem into the berries. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 - 7 minutes. Pick out he stem. Use an immersion blender to roughly puree the sauce – it’s nice to have a few pieces of berries in there, but do give it a whirl with the blender. Cook for a further five minutes or so to reduce the sauce slightly. Take the pan of the heat. Finely chop the basil leaves and immediately stir them into the sauce. Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate. The sauce can be made up to two days ahead.
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