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.

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Caramel Frosting

Two of my very favorite Southern ingredients are creamy buttermilk and pig.  So, I just couldn’t resist adding the salty crunch of bacon to a classic, tender buttermilk cookie.  Swirling on a bourbon-y version of classic caramel icing makes this a real Southern overload cookie.

I created this recipe several years ago for a party.  I wanted to combine my favorite flavors for a snazzy, different sweet. And at the time, bacon in dessert was unusual. Since then, bacon has turned up everywhere – in donuts, chocolate, cocktails, potato chips.  I understand there is even an alarm app for your phone and a small attachment that wakes you with the wafting smell of bacon.  Then you can put on some bacon lip balm, grab your bacon – painted purse and meet the world.  So I have had this recipe in my files, thinking maybe I didn’t want to get mixed up with the bacon insanity.  But I had a request and made these again and they are worth sharing.

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

8 strips bacon

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

3 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 Tablespoons bourbon

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cook the bacon on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet until very crispy.  Pat dry with paper towels and leave to cool.  Chop 6 strips of the bacon finely with a sturdy knife and set aside. Reserve the remaining bacon for garnish.

Beat the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, a good three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the flour, baking soda and salt alternately with buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl and ending with a buttermilk addition.  Add the chopped bacon and beat until combined.

Line two rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop mounds of dough an inch apart onto the paper. I use a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop.  Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top shelf to bottom once, until the cookies are golden around the edges, puffed and firm.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

Combine the butter, cream, brown sugar and bourbon in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring, and cook for 2 minutes.  Set aside to cool, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and spreadable.  Spread the frosting on the cooled cookies.  Break the remaining slices of bacon into small pieces and embed them into the frosting if you’d like.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Baked Pudding

 

Chocolate Covered Cherry Baked PuddingAt the beginning of my path to being a serious cook, when I was a teenager, I used to make a Black Forest Cake, which seemed to me like the most sophisticated type of dessert. It was a chocolate layer cake with cherry filling and a rich frosting. I’d seen lots of pictures in which it was served on elegant cake stands with elaborate backgrounds.  Very much the vogue in food magazines at the time. It was a complicated recipe and I felt like a true gourmand when I made it.

The combination of chocolate and cherries still seems very sophisticated to me, though I haven’t the time or the patience to reconstruct the complicated version.  But this recipe creates that chic taste in a simple dish with as many layers of dimension as a layered cake.  The top is cakey, the center is soft and pudding-like and the bottom has a syrupy cherry sauce.  Serve it warm and you get all the gooey center, but the longer you let it cool, the more it firms up to a brownie-like texture.  This has the deep, rich taste of dark chocolate without a cloying sweetness.  The juicy cherries add a luscious contrast.  You could serve this with a little whipped cream or ice cream, but I don’t find that necessary.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Baked Pudding

16 ounces frozen dark sweet cherries

7 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup granulated sugar

Pour the cherries in a colander and thaw completely.  You don’t want the juice in the dish, but you can reserve it for another use (like a smoothie, or a cocktail).

When the cherries are thawed, preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the cherries in the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish.

Melt the chocolate and butter together.  You can do this by placing it in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water and stirring until melted, or microwaving it in 15-second bursts, stirring after each, until the mixture is smooth.  Leave to cool.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a mixer and the yolks into a small bowl.  Beat the yolks and stir into the cooled chocolate.  Stir in the vanilla.

Beat the egg whites in the mixer until frothy.  Slowly drizzle in the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Stir a big spoonful of whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites a bit at a time.  Pull all the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl and make sure there are no streaks of white in the mixture.  Spread the chocolate mixture over cherries in the baking dish, spreading it out to the edges, completely covering the cherries.

Bake the pudding for 25 minutes until the top is firm and does not jiggle.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 – 15 minutes.  Scoop into bowls and serve.

This is equally delicious served warm, when it will be soft and saucy or at room temperature when it will firm up a bit.

Serves 4

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Double Caramel Bars

Double Caramel Brownies

Sweet and rich and decadent – and a wonderful treat in the midst of the dark winter months. These caramel frosted brown sugar bars are a favorite of mine. I tend toward caramel. I love chocolate, of course, but if given the choice I’d choose caramel. So these are a nice deviation from a traditional chocolate brownie, packed with sweet caramel flavor. Share these with friends if you want to earn some brownie points, but make sure you save one or two for your ownself.

Double Caramel Bars

For the Brownies:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

¾ cup flour

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

For the Frosting:

¼ cup butter

½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 8 by 8 inch square pan with non-stick foil or parchment, or spray with cooking spray.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer until light. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt until well combined and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, just until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the Frosting:

The brownies must be completely cool, or the frosting won’t set.

Cut the butter into cubes and place in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt. After everything melts together, bring to a full, rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it reaches that boil, count to 60 Mississippi, then pull it off the heat. Leave the pan to cool for about 5 minutes, then vigorously beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Spread the glaze over the brownies. Leave the glaze to set, then slice and enjoy. Covered tightly, this cake will last a few days.

Makes 16 bars

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Eggnog Bars

Eggnog Bars

I can’t make it through the holiday season without the flavor of eggnog.  I cook and bake with eggnog in all sorts of ways, from Overnight Eggnog French Toast Caserole to Eggnog Pie and I fall for all the eggnog seasonal flavors on the grocery shelves.  That perfect holiday richness with the whiff of nutmeg really puts me in the holiday spirit.

These simple bars are a perfect take-along to a party or great wrapped up as a gift.  I like them with a mug of eggnog or steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Eggnog Bars

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

¾ cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup refrigerated dairy egg nog

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 by 8 inch pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper with some overhang on each end, which makes it easier to remove, then slice the bars.

Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and creamy.  Add the egg, beating well, then add the eggnog and vanilla.  Beat until thoroughly combined. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled.

Add the flour, baking powder and nutmeg and beat until the batter is completely incorporated and smooth.  Stir in the white chocolate chips.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle a bit of nutmeg over the top of the batter. Bake the bars for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool the bars in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently lift them out using the overhanging foil and palce on a rack to cool completely. Cut into small squares.

The bars will keep for 2 days in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper.

Makes 16 bars

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Red Velvet Pound Cake

Red Velvet Pound Cake

Christmas is the perfect time for red velvet.  It’s the festive color of the season, and it is just so fun.  I’ve made Red Velvet Polka Dot Cookies and Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes, and experiment with even more ideas.  But this may be the most practical.  Pound Cake is such a holiday staple – it’s easy to make, keeps well and freezes beautifully.  Serve hefty slices with whipped cream or ice cream and some festive sprinkles for a dessert, or smaller slices on a buffet. Wrap a loaf in plastic wrap with pretty ribbon and it makes a beautifully fun, festive gift. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would be lovely baked in those little decorated paper mini loaf pans as a gift.

I’ve added a simple glaze (skip it for freezing or wrapping) because it adds a lovely snowy top, but the cake is rich and lovely without it.  I’ve even sprinkled the glaze with sparkling sanding sugar to give it a real winter wonderland effect.

Red Velvet Pound Cake

½ cup (1 stick) butter,  at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ Tablespoons red food coloring

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

a pinch of salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar

½ cup buttermilk

For the Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan or use baking spray like Bakers’ Joy.

Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and food coloring on slow speed.

Sift the flour, salt and cocoa together in a bowl. Dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and add to the buttermilk in the measuring jug. Beat the dry ingredients into the butter and egg alternately with the buttermilk in three additions, mixing well after each and scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Bake for about 50 minutes or until cake is done and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan about 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Glaze:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and buttermilk until you have a runny galze (use a bit more buttermilk if needed.  Pour the galze evenly over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

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Spiced Dolly Bars

Spiced Dolly Bars

In the kitchen, surrounded by a surfeit of holiday baking supplies, I had a sudden craving for Hello Dolly Bars.  I love Hello Dollies (or Seven Layer Bars or Magic Bars, whatever you call them), but they are not something I generally make, because I have lots of friends for whom it’s their standard recipe for to parties and weekends away.  So I generally rely on others for my dolly fix.  But standing there, with that craving, I suddenly thought I could get a little creative.  I simply substituted warm, spicy speculoos cookies in the crust and added cinnamon chips to the butterscotch.  I left out the coconut, because I don’t love it, but also because I think it takes away from the unique spicy note of this version of the classic.

Spiced Dolly Bars

2 (8.8 ounce) packages Biscoff cookies (about 60 cookies)

½ (1 stick) cup butter, melted and cooled

1 (14 – ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (11-ounce) package butterscotch chips

1 (10-ounce) package cinnamon baking chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with foil, with the edges overhanging.  Use non-stick foil if you can, spray it well with cooking spray if you can’t.

Break the cookies into the bowl of a food processor and girnd to crumbs.  Add the melted butter an process until themixture comes together.  Press the crumbs in a layer on the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure there are no holes.  Pour the condensed milk over the crust, spreading it out evenly.  Sprinkle the butterscotch and cinnamon chops over evenly over the crust, then the walnuts.  Gently press the chips and nuts into the condensed milk.

Bake the bars for 25 minutes, until everything is bubbly.  It will look a little liquid, but will firm up as it cools.  Cool the bars completely, then lift the whole thing out of the pan using the overhanging foil.

Makes 16 bars

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Sorghum Buttermilk Pie

Sorghum Buttermilk Pie

In case you haven’t noticed, I love cooking with buttermilk.  It tenderizes, flavorizes, tangifies and creamifies anything it works with.  I go out of my way to seek out good, thick country buttermilk.  It is the most important ingredient in fried chicken, biscuits and cornbread.  I use it in dressings, gravies, marinades, cookies cakes and pies.  It is always on my refrigerator.

And one of the best resources I’ve found for buttermilk recipes is Southern Cooking by Mrs. S.R. Dull, first published in 1928.  Tucked into the tightly packed pages are more recipes that use buttermilk than I could count, and I have a little post-it flag on almost all of them.  I marked “Molasses Custard” on one page and recently returned to it.  I hadn’t at first marking realized it was a pie filling, but figured that was even better.  These old-fashioned recipes are short and not particularly detailed, and the pie crust part is just a short line at the end.  But I couldn’t resist.  I switched out the molasses for sorghum, because I love the earthy, Southern sweetness of the syrup.

Sorghum Buttermilk Pie

Pastry for one 9-inch pie

1 cup sorghum

½ cup buttermilk

1 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 300°.  Fit the pastry into a pie plate and set aside.

Stir the sorghum, buttermilk, sugar flour and soda together in a large, high sided saucepan.  Crack the eggs into the measuring jug you used for the sorghum and milk and beat together.  Pour into the pan and stir to thoroughly combine all the ingredients.  You might want to use a whisk to break up any flour lumps, but use a heatproof spatula while cooking.

Place the pan over medium high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan frequently to prevent scorching.  The filling will bubble up so needs to be stirred and watched carefully.  When it reaches a boil, remove from the heat and stir it down for a few minutes until some of the foaming subsides.  Carefully pour it into the prepared crust.  Fill it right to the top, if you have more in the pan than will fit in the crust, let it settle a few minutes, then gently stir the remaining filling into the crust.

Bake the pie for 40 – 45 minutes, until it is firm with just a little wobble to it.  I’ve never had the filling spill over, but just to be safe I like to put a foil lined baking sheet on the rack below to catch any potential drips.

Place the pie plate on a rack to cool completely, then chill until firm.

Serves 8

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Milky Way Crazy Candy Bar Cake

Milky Way Crazy Candy Bar Cake

Milky Way Cake is a classic recipe and there are versions of it all over community cookbooks and the Internet.  Some are layer cakes with marshmallow frosting; some are sheet cakes with boiled fudge icing.  But I like this simple Bundt version.  This is a sweet cake, with a lovely caramel undernote and adding masses of thick gooey icing, in my opinion, would make this too achingly sweet and take away from the lovely flavor of the cake itself.  So I just make a very simple glaze, and affix some chunks of candy bar for decoration and a little extra sweet.  A cake like this is great for Halloween – and a way to use up those extra candy bars.

Milky Way Crazy Candy Bar Cake

I used seven regular candy bars and a bag of mixed mini size (smaller than funsize) Milky Way, Milky Way Dark, Snickers and Twix.

7 (1.84 ounce) Milky Way bars or the equivalent in mini size bars (about 50)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, divided

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Topping:

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

6 mini sized candy bars (Milky Way or Three Musketeers)

1 bag mini candy bars (as many as you would like to use!)

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Cut ½ cup (1 stick) of butter and the candy bars into pieces and place in a saucepan.  Melt over medium heat, stirring frequently, until smooth and combined.  Do not let the mixture scorch.

Meanwhile, cream the remaining ½ cup butter and the sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour and baking soda alternately with the buttermilk, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

Pour in the melted chocolate bars and beat until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan, then turn out onto a platter.

For the topping:

Melt the cream and the candy bars in a small saucepan, or in the microwave.  Stir until melted and smooth, though a few flecks of nougat is fine.  Leave to cool for a few minutes while you chop the candy bars into pieces.

Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  Use the wet glaze to affix pieces of chopped candy bar to the cake.  Sprinkle any remaining pieces around the platter.

Serves 10 – 12

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Simple Butterscotch Pie

Simple Butterscotch Pie

I have a whole stack of recipes acquired a parties and other gatherings, scribbled on cocktail napkins, crumpled receipts from my purse or monogrammed note paper from host houses.  Because any comment on food always leads to a discussion of favorites and how they are made.  And I don’t just idly nod.  I ask questions and take notes.  Some of my favorite recipes have come tome in that way, though sometimes I can’t read my handwriting or have to reconstruct my short hand when I get in the kitchen.

Here’s is another one of these recipes.  I took my crazy simple Blender Lemon Pie to a party and was happy to tell everyone how easy it was to make.  Then other people started sharing their easy pie recipes, and I jotted this one down.  The sweet girl who shared it told me it was here grandmother’s, but her mom started doing it in the blender. Her grandmother topped it with merengue, but not her mom and she doesn’t either.  I like a little whipped cream on the top – why clutter such a simple recipe with a complicated topping?

Simple Butterscotch Pie

Pastry for 1 9 – inch pie (homemade or store bought ready-roll)

1 ¼ cup whole milk

2 eggs

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 ½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Line a pie dish with the pastry.  Cover the crust with waxed paper and weight down with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool and remove the waxed paper and weights.  Cool completely.

Place the remaining ingredients in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick and pudding like, about 3 minutes.  Scape the mixture into the cooled pie crust and smooth the top.  Bake  for 10 minutes until the filling is set and just jiggly.  Cool completely, then refrigerate for several hours.

Serve with dollops of whipped cream.

Serves 6

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Peach Bourbon Buttermilk Pudding with Candied Pecans

Peach Bourbon Buttermilk Pudding with Candied Pecans

The combination of fresh summer peaches and Southern bourbon is a favorite of mine, and I use it in savory dishes, like Peach Bourbon Grilled Pork Tenderloin, or in sweets, like Peach Butterbourbon Sauce. Faced with an abundance of gorgeous peaches this year, I wanted to create a simple, cool dessert – perfect for hot days. Lightly sweet, fresh with peaches with the tang and kick of bourbon and buttermilk, this has fast become a peach-season favorite for me.

This lovely dessert can be homey or elegant, served in delicate demitasse cups or mismatched small Mason jars.  Top it with the crunch of candied pecans or a soft dollop of whipped cream, or even some fresh peach slices.

Peach Bourbon Buttermilk Pudding with Candied Pecans

1 envelope plain, unflavored gelatin

2 cups peeled, pitted chopped peaches (about 4 peaches)

1 Tablespoon bourbon

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Stir the gelatin and 2 Tablespoons of water together in a small bowl and set aside to become soft.

Puree the peaches, bourbon and sugar in a blender or food processor.  You should end up with 2 cups puree.  Pour ½ cup of the peach puree into a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir in the gelatin and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rest of the peach puree.  Refrigerate until the puree is cooled, but not set, about 1 hour.

Whip the buttermilk and heavy cream together with an electric or stand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold the whipped cream into the cold peach puree, making sure all the puree is distributed through the cream.

Gently spoon the pudding into small cups or ramekins and refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours until softly set.

Serves 6

 

Candied Pecans

2 cups pecan halves

1 cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray. Toast the pecans in a large skillet over medium heat until they smell nutty.  Remove from the skillet to a plate immediately.  Wipe out the skillet to remove any bits of pecan.  Place the brown sugar and water in the skillet and cook over medium heat until thickened.  Stir in the cinnamon and salt then add the pecan halves and stir to coat.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the pecans are completely coated and there is very little glaze remaining in the skillet.

Turn the pecans out onto the prepared sheet.  Use two forks to carefully separate the pecan halves and lay them out flat on the sheet.  Leave to cool and for the glaze to harden.

The pecans can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and kept tightly wrapped in an airtight container.

Makes 2 cups

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