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.

Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

I adore chestnuts and when they start to turn up in the shops around the holidays, I go a little nuts (pun intended!) and stock up. What I mean here are the ready peeled and cooked version, sold vacuum packed or in jars. They are so easy to use and so very wintery and festive. I use them in lots of savory recipes, like this lovely Roasted Chestnut Bisque or a hearty Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage. But chocolate and chestnut is a wonderful, rich combination with a very indulgent and celebratory feel. It has, to me, a sort of old world, old fashioned charm that is perfect for the festive season. And this dessert delivers.

This is everything you want in a holiday dessert. Rich, decadent, elegant and it can be made ahead – like five days ahead – and tucked in the fridge. In the photo here, I brushed the top with some edible gold powder, but the decorative options are endless. Candied chestnuts, curls of chocolate – white or dark – fancy glitter or sprinkles, powdered sugar, a sprig of holly. Small slices are rich enough (thought there is nothing wrong with a big piece) and very rich, but you could add a dollop of whipped cream to the plate. I tend to call this elegant because it is stunning on a silver tray and fine china dessert plates, but it would look just as attractive on a wooden slab served on pottery dishes as a more rustic sweet.

Chocolate Chestnut Terrine

For the Filling:

14 ½ ounces roasted and peeled chestnuts

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

3 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons cognac, brandy or chestnut liqueur

For the Ganache:

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

Process the chestnuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor until fairly smooth. Put the butter, chocolate and milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla and cognac. Add to the chestnuts in the food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, smoothing it out as much as possible. Leave lots of overhang to wrap the top fully. Scoop the filling into the pan and smooth the top, pressing It down to fill the corners. Cover the top with the plastic, then chill for at least 24 hours.

For the topping:

Melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a small saucepan, stirring frequently, until smooth. Unwrap the top of the filling and then invert it onto a serving platter. Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and sides. Place in the fridge, uncovered, until set, then loosely cover with plastic wrap and keep for up to four days.

Serves 8

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Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache

I cut out a recipe from a magazine ages ago that has become a real emergency staple for me – Nutella Cookies. It is literally a jar of Nutella, a cup of flour and an egg beaten together, rolled into balls and rolled in granulated sugar. It’s the perfect last minute recipe because its easy to have those ingredients always on hand. I send them to my nieces at college in care packages, and whip them up if I need to take a last minute treat to a friend. Eventually, this got me thinking about baking other treats with Nutella, and I landed on a Bundt cake. I found several simple recipes on the internet, and with some tinkering ended up with a version that I really liked.

That being said, the first time I made this, I served it straight up and it was delicious, but I felt like I wanted something a little more decadent. Unadorned, it felt more like a breakfast or a snack cake than dessert to me. So I have since added this rich, glossy chocolate ganache. It takes it from a playful little sweet to an elegant dessert worthy of the best parties. You could even get fancy and call it a chocolate and hazelnut or gianduja cake if you want! I also love that the ganache holds onto the lovely shards of hazelnut with their amber and taupe autumn colors. That’s also why I make it in a tube pan – I find the flat top allows for a deep layer of frosting and the delicate hazelnut garnish. You can certainly make it in a bundt pan instead. One of the many attributes of this cake is that it serves a crowd, so it is perfect for a party.

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache

For the Cake:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 cup Nutella (1 jar)

2 ¾ cups flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

For the Ganache:

5 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ cup chopped hazelnuts

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a tube pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the Nutella until completely combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the milk and beat until smooth and combined, again scraping the bowl. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, then bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Ganache:

When the cake is cool, break the chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the cream until it is almost boiling, just bubbling away around the sides, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a minute or two, then stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted, thick and smooth. Spoon the ganache slowly over the top of the cake, letting a little drip down the sides. While the ganache is wet, sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the ganache so they adhere to the surface.

Serves 12

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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

Cranberry Oatmeal MuffinsThe holidays are filled with so much sweet and sugary (not that I’m complaining), so sometimes it’s nice to have a treat that’s seasonal and festive, but not as cloying or overly sweet. These muffins hit the spot. Hearty with oatmeal and moist from yogurt, these muffins are filling and comforting with a nice holiday kick. Perfect for a Christmas morning buffet or as a little early morning present opening snack before the big meal. They make a great gift, wrapped up in a pretty gift bag or napkin.

These muffins are not overly sweet and have a tangy kick from the fresh cranberries. That means they are the perfect vehicle for sweet spreads like apple butter or pumpkin butter, or try my Egg Nog Butter for a nice holiday feel. They are also great in a bread basket with a main meal, with a little smidge of butter.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 1 cup whole yogurt
  3. ½ cup canola oil
  4. 1 egg
  5. ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
  10. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  11. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1 cup fresh cranberries
Instructions
  1. Stir the oats and the yogurt together in a large bowl, making sure all the oats are covered. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  3. Add the oil and the egg to the oat and yogurt mixture and stir well to combine. Stir in the brown sugar until combined, then add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices and stir just until well combined and there is no dry flour visible. Fold in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the dough between the muffin cups – I like to use a large cookie scoop for this – then bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the muffins have browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool. The muffins will keep for one day in an airtight container.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/