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.

Cajeta Caramel Cake with Cajeta Whipped Cream

Cinco de Mayo is something of a silly commercial enterprise, but all the ads and instore displays do peak my interest in recipe with the flavors of Mexico. I usually focus on meals, like Chicken Tingatacos or Queso Fundido Soup, but there is always room for dessert. I am certainly no expert on Mexican cuisine, but I love to explore ingredients and ideas. I was introduced to cajeta some years ago at an ice cream parlor here in Memphis that specializes in Mexican paleta popsicles, and I have become a little obsessed – I use it in all sorts of applications instead of a standard caramel. Of course, this cake is good at anytime of the year, but it is a lovely end to a spicy fiesta-style meal.

Cajeta is a delicious caramel, dulce de leche-like sauce made with goat milk and that goat milk tang makes it a truly special treat. The first time I served this, one of my dinner guests immediately recognized the bite of goat cheese-like bite. You can find cajeta in jars or bottles in the Hispanic food section of many grocery stores or a Latin market but making your own is easy and really adds a special touch. People are always impressed when you do things like this from scratch! Once you master it, you may find yourself making it all the time. It is fantastic over ice cream or with fruit for dipping. I love to layer the rich cajeta flovor by adding it to a whipped cream that perfectly complements the rich cake.

Cajeta Caramel Cake with Cajeta Whipped Cream
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For the Cake
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  3. 1 cup cajeta (homemade or purchased), at room temperature, see below
  4. 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  5. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  6. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  7. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  11. Confectioners’ sugar
For the Cajeta Whipped Cream
  1. ¾ cups heavy whipping cream
  2. ¼ cup cajeta (homemade or purchased), at room temperature
  3. A pinch of flaky salt
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with baking spray.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the cajeta and beat until smooth and completely combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is combined before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract, then add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, until the batter is smooth and combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out to an even layer. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles, then bake for 45 – 55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
For the Whipped Cream
  1. Scoop the cajeta into the bowl of stand mixer and add the cream and salt. Beat with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Transfer to an airtight container and keep covered in the fridge for 3 days.
Notes
  1. Homemade Cajeta
  2. 2 quarts whole goats milk
  3. 2 cups sugar
  4. 1 cinnamon stick
  5. A pinch of salt
  6. ½ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in one Tablespoon water
  7. Heat the goats milk and sugar with the cinnamon stick and salt in a large, deep pot (5 – 6 quart) over medium heat until the milk is simmering and the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pull the pot off the heat and stir in the baking soda and water – it may foam up, just give it a good stir. Return the pot to the heat and continue cooking the milk, stirring frequently, until it becomes a light amber color, anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Watch carefully and keep it at gentle but meaningful bubble or it will boil over. When the milk begins to turn golden, stir very frequently and watch carefully until the mix turns a caramel brown and thickens to the consistency of syrup. Drop a few spoonfuls on a cold plate and see that it thickens to a caramel sauce consistency. Pour the cajeta through a strainer into a bowl and cool, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a month.
  8. When cooking the cajeta, if it gets too thick, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a few tablespoons of water until it reaches the right consistency. When using the cajeta, you can warm it in the microwave to loosen it up, or if it is really thick, transfer it to a saucepan over medium heat and whisk in some water until it thins out.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Carrot Ginger Bundt Cake

There are some flavors that are a natural match. Tomatoes and basil, leek and potato, cucumber and mint, and for me, carrot and ginger. The combination works in both sweet and savory applications. Carrot cake needs a lot of spice to complement the sweetness of the carrots, and its usually lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. I have slowly been upping the ginger in my carrot cakes for years, until I just decided to go all the way. A lovely dose of ground ginger in the cake plus bright, sweet candied ginger pieces rather than the more traditional raisins, adds a subtle heat and spice and a delightful texture. Fresh ginger pumps up the glaze adding another layer of zing.

I love this version of carrot cake for a variety of reasons. I always find Bundt cakes easier to make than layer cakes and simply because of the pan’s shape, you easily get a pretty presentation. This cake is very moist which is the key to delicious carrot cake. The glaze is a crackly sweet gingery glaze, almost like a glazed donut. The cake will keep well for a couple of days.

Carrot Ginger Bundt Cake
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For the Cake
  1. 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  2. 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  3. Zest of one medium navel orange
  4. ½ cup fresh orange juice
  5. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  6. 3 large eggs
  7. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  8. 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  9. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  10. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  11. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. 3 cups grated carrots, from about 4 - 5 carrots
  13. ½ cup crystalized ginger bits (small piece), plus more for garnish
For the Glaze
  1. 6 Tablespoons whole milk
  2. 3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  3. 2 cups confectioner's sugar
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10 -cup Bundt pan with baking spray.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, orange juice, zest and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure each addition is completely combined before adding the next. Beat in the flour, baking soda, ginger, salt and nutmeg until the batter is smooth and combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the carrots and ginger bits and mix on low until evenly distributed. Give the batter a good stir with the spatula to make sure the carrots are distributed, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Glaze
  1. While the cake is cooking, heat the milk and the ginger slices in a small saucepan just until the milk begins to bubble at the edges. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse and cool. Strain the milk through a fine sieve into a large bowl and discard the ginger. Beat in the confectioners' sugar until smooth and spoon over the cooled cake.
Notes
  1. I transfer the cake to a serving platter and tuck some wax or parchment paper around the edges before glazing the cake. When you've finished the glazing, just pull out the paper and you have a clean platter. This glaze is a little drippy to begin with, so I gently spoon the glaze that collects in the center around the edges and return it to the top of the cake covering the entire surface.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Frittata Brunch Bites

Brunch has become one of my favorite ways to entertain, and spring is the perfect time for a brunch. I love morning food, from sausage casseroles to biscuits and grits, and so do my guests. And in spring, you just start to get beautiful produce, like strawberries and asparagus and fresh colorful flowers that can just be dropped in a pretty vase and still look gorgeous – tulips, daffodils, and peonies. But I’ll be honest, I also love kicking off the season in bright floral dresses after months of sweaters and tights!

Serving eggs to a crowd poses a problem, but who doesn’t love eggs for brunch? While I love a good, eggy bread-based casserole, sometimes with biscuits or muffins on the menu, it’s a little too much. My go to has for years been this Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole, but I wanted to branch out a little. These hearty bites are perfect for a brunch buffet, hearty with potatoes and bacon, but still with a pleasantly eggy taste. You can cut these into small squares and serve as an appetizer, or portion out larger pieces as part of a main spread. You can make the potatoes and bacon a day ahead, spread them on the pan, cover and refrigerate overnight then just blitz up the eggs, pour over and bake.

Frittata Brunch Bites
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Ingredients
  1. 6 strips of bacon, cut in to small pieces
  2. 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  3. ¼ cup chopped chives
  4. 6 large eggs
  5. 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  6. 2/3 cup whole ricotta cheese
  7. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  8. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  9. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  10. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  11. paprika for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 . Line a 9 by 13 inch small rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper with some overhanging ends.
  2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Transfer to paper towel lined plates with a slotted spoon. Drain all but 2 Tablespoons bacon grease from the pan, then drop in the potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are beginning to turn golden and a knife is inserted in the center of a piece meets no resistance. Spread the potatoes in one even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the bacon evenly over the potatoes, then the chopped chives.
  3. Put the eggs, cheddar cheese, flour, baking powder salt and pepper into the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe as needed to make sure all the flour is blended in. Pour the eggs evenly over the potatoes, then use a spatula to make sure the potatoes and bacon are well distributed and the egg is in all parts of the pan. Sprinkle over a little paprika and some extra salt and pepper.
  4. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then lift out the frittata by the overhanging pan liner and cut into small squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Guinness Caramel Sauce or Caramel Chews

This starts as a tale of failure. I set out to make a rich, Guinness-laced caramel sauce to drizzle over ice cream. In my first attempt, I dropped the ball, got distracted and cooked the caramel little longer than needed. But as the caramel was setting up, I thought perhaps I could save the day by pouring the thick caramel into a pan to see what happened. What happened was lovely little chewy caramels. I hit my intended goal on my second batch, which made the lovely sauce I imagined. This recipe(s) has been sitting in my files for awhile now, as I wasn’t sure exactly how to share it. But in the end, I couldn’t resist sharing the intended and unintended consequences.

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I frequently pull out the Guinness and start cooking. Deep stout beer adds flavor and depth to so many preparations, from Guinness and Oatmeal Quick Bread to Guinness Sausage Coddle. It’s also an interesting ingredient in sweet recipes too, adding a heady note to this decadent sauce – and the caramel chews. I love the sauce poured over simple vanilla ice cream or drizzled over pound cake. The caramels make a lovely little gift – a special pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Guinness Caramel Sauce or Caramel Chews
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ¼ cup white sugar
  2. ½ cup Guinness Extra Stout, divided
  3. ¾ cup heavy cream
  4. 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  5. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Mix the sugar and ¼ cup of the Guinness together in a high sided saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Measure the heavy cream and remaining Guinness together in a measuring cup. Carefully add it and the butter and salt to the caramel, stirring to combine. It will bubble heavily and seize up a little, just keep stirring until it is smooth and creamy.
  2. For Sauce: Cook for 2 minutes, until it is thick and smooth. Let the sauce cool. Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the fridge for up to a week. Place the jar in a bowl of warm water to soften the caramel.
  3. For Caramel Chews: Line an 8 by 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Cook the caramel for 4 minutes, then pour directly into the prepared pan. Don't worry if it doesn't spread all the way to the edges of the pan; when it is just cool enough to handle, shape any ragged edges into a square. When the caramel is completely firm and cool, cut it into 1 - inch pieces. Wrap each piece in a twist of waxed paper. You can use clean fingers to shape the pieces into a bit more of a cylinder if you prefer, or leave them in rough squares.
Notes
  1. Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce or 20 caramel chews
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Shrimp Sauce Piquant

Somewhere between an etouffee and a gumbo lies sauce piquant, a rich, roux-based stew with a little kick. The layered flavors of a caramel dark roux, the trinity of Louisiana cooking, rich tomatoes and the added kick of Creole seasoning and chiles is everything you want in a Cajun meal. It’s a perfect winter dish, warm and comforting and spicy, a slow simmered stew packed with flavor. What could be better for a February Mardi Gras?

You can make this with crawfish, chicken or catfish (or heck, alligator if you want) cut into pieces, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. Traditionally, this is served over rice, but I think it also makes a delicious topping for grits. Serve it in deep bowls with some hot sauce to shake over the top. Make it a Mardi Gras meal with some Cafe Brulot Brownies or Bananas Foster Pound Cake.

Shrimp Sauce Piquant
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 stalks celery
  2. 1 green bell pepper
  3. 1 medium white onion
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. 1 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 Tablespoon creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere's)
  8. 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  9. 1 (10-ounce) ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  10. 1 (4-ounce can) diced green chiles
  11. 4 cups chicken broth
  12. 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (thawed if frozen)
  13. Hot sauce to taste
  14. Salt and pepper to taste
  15. Cooked rice
Instructions
  1. Finely dice the celery, bell pepper and onion. Finely mince the garlic and have it all near the stove.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 5 quart) heavy pan (I like enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and creole seasoning and give it a good stir. Now add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, green chiles and chicken broth, stirring constantly as you pour them in. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the shrimp to the sauce, cover the pot, and cook for about 10 minutes, just until the shrimp are pink, curled and cooked through. Serve over cooked white rice.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Good Luck Gumbo

Enjoy this repost one of my favorite New Years’ Day recipes from 2011.

I am not an overly suspicious person. Sure, I have my little quirks, but I don’t worry about black cats, walking under ladders, throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. But there are a few traditions that I adhere to because, well, it can’t hurt. Particularly if that tradition involves delicious food. So on New Year’s Day, I always eat black-eyed peas and greens. For luck and prosperity. Sometimes I eat them separately, but this gumbo includes all the ingredients for a good year. The traditional ingredients of good-luck hoppin’ john (rice and black-eyed peas), which is another New Year tradition in the South, plus greens for prosperity. Here’s a little more information on Southern luck traditions.

This gumbo can be made the day before and reheated, which is a boon if you have been out all night celebrating. Just reheat, cook some rice and add the collards. I highly recommend using smoked ham hock stock. It really gives the gumbo a smoky, earthy, rich flavor. Making it in the slow cooker is a breeze, and you can do it ahead of time. If you can’t manage, look for ham stock at some grocery stores, or use the combo of chicken and beef.

Good Luck Gumbo

1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa

2 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 onion

1 green pepper

4 stalks celery

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

6 cups ham hock stock*, or 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

3 ½ cups water

1 small bunch collard greens

Cut the smoked sausage into bite-size cubes. Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook over medium high heat until the sausage begins to brown. Finely chop the onion, seeded bell pepper and celery. I do this in a small food processor, one vegetable at a time, pulsing to chop the vegetable finely. Add the “trinity” vegetables to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables, then remove the cover, stir well and cook until everything is nice and soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the flour and cook a further minute, then stir in the creole seasoning. Pour in the stock and the canned tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes uncovered, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and continue cooking for another half an hour. The gumbo should reduce and thicken slightly. The gumbo can be made up to this point, cooled and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan.

Cut the collard leaves in half and cut out the stems. Stack the leaf halves, three at a time, on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. You can further chop the collard ribbons if you’d like.

Heat the gumbo to a low boil over medium high heat. It will thicken as it sits, but loosen up when heated. But add a little water if you need to get things moving. Add the collards, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until the collards are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. If you have saved some ham hock meat from making the stock, dice that and stir it into the gumbo as well. And if you’d like, sprinkle some hot sauce over the gumbo.

*Smoked Ham Hock Stock

Hock Stock is an amazing cooking medium for field peas, beans and greens, as well as a great base for soup or gumbo. I always look for a naturally smoked hock (not one that has no artificial smoke flavoring added). I get these from farmers market vendors when I can, and make a batch of stock to freeze. I can then have to the long, slow cooked taste in quick versions of my favorite southern dishes.

1 large smoked ham hock, cut into three pieces

1 onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 Tablespoon black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

Place all the ingredients in the crock of a large slow cooker. Add 10 – 12 cups of water to fill the crock. Cook on the low setting for 10 – 12 hours. Strain the solids from the stock and refrigerate for several hours. When the stock is cold, skim any solidified fat from the top and discard. Strain the stock through cheesecloth to remove any last bits of debris.

If you’d like, pull the meat from the ham hock pieces and dice. It is a great addition to any soup or beans you are cooking with the stock.

The stock will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen for up to a year. The same goes for the hock meat, in a separate container from the stock.

Makes 6 – 8 cups

Gorgonzola and Rosemary Gougères

I discovered gougères quite by accident when I was a teenager curious in the kitchen, though not at that point by the name gougères. I found a recipe for cheese pastry puffs in a cookbook or a magazine and gave them a try. They were such a hit, particularly with one family we used to have for dinner, that I made them over and over and over again. I think I wanted that family to come to dinner so I could make the little puffs and bask in the praise. Years later, when I really got serious about cooking, I discovered that those simple little bites where in fact a classic of French cuisine. It’s a traditional choux pastry with the added cheese, which will impress your guests when you say “oh, it’s just a basic choux puff.”

My original version used parmesan cheese, more traditionally gruyere is the cheese component. Gougères are spectacularly adaptable. I include a pimento cheese version in Pimento Cheese The Cookbook, and I vary the combinations frequently. This particular version has become a favorite, but honestly it was born from the ingredients I had on hand in the fridge. Making gougères takes a little elbow grease, but it is not difficult by any means. And they are a perfect holiday appetizer, as they can be made ahead, frozen and baked just before serving. And they never fail to impress. They are traditionally served with wine or champagne, and there is nothing better than a warm, cheesy gougère with a cold glass of bubbles, so it makes an elegant sanck on New Years Eve.

Gorgonzola and Rosemary Gougères
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1 cup flour
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  6. 4 eggs, at room temperature
  7. 4 ounces finely crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  8. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  9. Coarse salt, like Maldon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the butter into chunks and put it and the water into a large, sturdy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to melt the butter. When the butter is melted and the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and dump in the flour, salt and pepepr in one go. Stir vigorously with a sturdy wooden spoon. It will all come together in a big ball. Continue cooking for about two minutes, stirring constantly. You want to cook out any raw flour taste. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for about 4 minutes, so the eggs won’t cook when they come into contact with the dough.
  3. Stir the eggs in one at a time until you have a smooth dough a little looser than what you started with. Make sure the egg is completely incorporated. Stir in the cheese and rosemary until everything is completely combined and the cheese is evenly distributed. This all takes a little elbow grease.
  4. Scoop the dough onto the prepared sheets using a cookie scoop or rounded tablespoon. Space them about 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with a bit of a pinch of coarse salt. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° and bake a further 15 minutes until they are puffed and golden and lovely.
  5. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. Scoop the dough onto a parchment lined and freeze until firm. Transfer to a ziptop bag and freeze up to a month. Bake the puffs from frozen, adding a few minutes to the final cooking time.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Egg Nog Custard Tarts

In the busy, crazy holiday season, necessity is often the mother of invention, and this recipe is proof of that. Some years ago, after a trip to Portugal with a group of girlfriends, I worked out a recipe for Portuguese Custard Tarts. It was really an attempt to recreate a memory for my friends, but they are so easy to make and lovely to serve, that they became something of a staple for me. I always seem to have the ingredients in the house.

Until last year at Christmas, a last minute event was added to an already busy calendar and I was tasked with bringing something sweet. These delicate tarts immediately came to mind. But alas, I had no milk. It being the whirlwind of the season, however, I had a bottle of egg nog from a local dairy in the fridge (as I usually do in December) and I thought why not give it a go. And the results are as lovely as the original, with an added holiday flair. This version is a little sweeter than the original because there is some sugar in the egg nog, but in the holiday season I like my sweets sweet, so I think it is a perfect result.

As with the original, these tarts are perfect all on their own – with just a little dusting of nutmeg on top, but they are also versatile. You could still try a drizzle of dulce de leche, and the little hollows on the top are a perfect cradle for a pretty, wintery dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. And I’d like to try a sweet cranberry sauce on the top for a very festive dessert.

Egg Nog Custard Tarts
Yields 18
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Ingredients
  1. 3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 2 cups granulated sugar
  4. 2 cups dairy egg nog
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling
  7. ¾ cups flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°.
  2. Put the butter, eggs and sugar in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of the egg nog and blend, then add the flour and the remaining egg nog, vanilla and nutmeg. Blend until smooth.
  3. Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray. Spray them really thoroughly right before you pour the batter in. Pour the batter into the cups, filling them ¾ full. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top of each tart. Bake the tarts on the upper and middle shelves of the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until firm and golden in the center. Do not bake less than 40 minutes. If using two muffin trays, swap them from the top shelf to the bottom after 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. Cool the tarts in the tins, then use a plastic knife to loosen the tarts and remove them carefully from the muffin cups. (A plastic knife won’t scratch the surface of the tin). These want to stick, but be patient and gentle and ease them out.
  5. The tarts keep remarkably well for several days in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. I used a nifty little fluted muffin tin I happen to have which adds a pretty touch, but plain tins work beautifully.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Gingerbread Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting

I didn’t really grow up eating gingerbread, though there is a long history of gingerbread cake in the South. I mostly knew those classic gingerbread men cookies, which I have never much liked. I think they dry out too much and never have enough spice for me. But over the years, I started to experiment with various gingerbread recipes, both cookie and cake form, and it is now an essential part of the holiday season to me. And I think gingerbread and spiced cookies just scream holiday. So I’ve combined them in to one moist, delicious dessert that feeds a crowd, perfect for holiday entertaining. I love a good 9 by 13 cake for serving at a party, either in large slabs on a dessert plate or smaller squares on a bigger spread.

The joy of gingerbread is that not only the taste, but also the wafting fragrance of sugar and spice while it’s in the oven. It’s like a nice extra gift. I sprinkle crushed cookie crumbs on the top, but I have been known to add a little gold glitter to jazz things up. I once had some little reindeer cake picks that have unfortunately disappeared, which is a shame, because they would be adorable marching across this cake.

Gingerbread Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  9. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  10. 1 1/2 cups molasses
  11. 1/2 cup water
  12. 2 eggs
  13. 2 cups buttermilk
For the Frosting
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. 3/4 cup cookie butter spread, such as Biscoff
  3. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  4. 3 cups powdered sugar
  5. 3-4 Tablespoons milk
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9 pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted butter and molasses, mixing until combined (the batter will be thick). Add the water, mixing until everything is loosened. Beat in the eggs and buttermilk then until evenly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 45-50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
For the Frosting
  1. Beat the softened butter and the cookie butter together in the bowl of the stand mixer until smooth and combined. Beat in the powdered sugar at low speed 1 cup at a time. Drizzle in the milk a little at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Spread the icing over the top of the cooled cake.
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Slow Cooker Sorghum Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an absolutely essential part of Thanksgiving. I love a good sweet potato casserole, both the mashed version and a sliced version. I’m fortunate, particularly at the holidays, that I have plenty of oven space to prepare the full Thanksgiving menu, but I know that is not the case for everyone, so here as my space solution, which I think as a brilliant idea. This recipe didn’t start as a Thanksgiving dish for me, but as a hands-off way to cook a big batch of sweet potatoes for a dinner party. And I have made it many times for weeknight dinners because it really is unbelievably easy.

I love the flavor of grassy sorghum with earthy sweet potatoes. The smoked paprika adds a lovely depth and hint of smokiness. The result of slow cooking is similar to roasting on a sheet pan – the edges aren’t as crisp, but there are lovely browned rims with fluffy centers and a lovely seasoned exterior. Make these for Thanksgiving, but I promise you’ll pull the recipe out throughout the year.

Slow Cooker Sorghum Sweet Potatoes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  2. 3 Tablespoons sorghum syrup
  3. 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  4. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  5. 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. ½ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes into evenly sized cubes, about 1 inches. Spray the crock of a slow cooker with cooking spray then spread the potatoes in the crock.
  2. Whisk the sorghum, vinegar, mustard, paprika salt and pepper together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then pour over the sweet potatoes. Stir to coat the sweet potatoes, cover the crock and cook on low for eight hours, which I prefer, or high for 4 hours.
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