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.

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

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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