Sunday, August 29, 2010

Confession is good for the soul.

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I thought Sunday morning was a fitting time for a little good old fashioned confession.

My confession? I have a slight obsession. Or maybe a not so slight obsession. With dishware. Beautiful, vintage, non-matching, shabby-chic style dishware. And beautiful daisies (from my thoughtful husband) in a vintage-style pitcher.

Check out the new additions to my obsession.

The whole, new tablescape:

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My beautiful, new, non-matching plates. And I like it that way!

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My new 2-tiered, vintage cake stand, along with those gorgeous scalloped edge dishes I'm planning on using for a new cake-creation, to be soon featured right here.

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My beautiful daisies, with green centers, that my sweet husband brought home for me, in my favorite old-fashioned looking pitcher (that I already had).

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So, now you know about my obsession. I hope you can still respect me, now that you know my secret. Also, if you happen to live in Utah, or near Rancho Cucamonga, California, head over to Tai Pan Trading today, they have some BEAUTIFUL things, for wholesale prices!

Now that I've shared my obsession, it's your turn. After all, sharing is caring. So, tell me, what is YOUR kitchen obsession?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eat out at home: {Homemade Pizza}

Is there any meal so deliciously complete as pizza? You've got your carbs, your dairy, your meat, and your vegetables all in one deliciously delectable bite. It's been called the perfect food, and I'd say it is deserving of such high accolades.

It's been said (by The Husband, and other crazies) that pizza is like sex...even when it's bad, it's good. But, I have to disagree. Homemade pizza is not often perfect. The crust is often very bready (and maybe even raw in the middle), the cheese is mediocre, and the sauce usually comes from a can. Because of these issues (and many others), I have previously not been much of a fan of homemade pizza. But, after doing some research, and several practice runs, I have finally found a homemade pizza recipe that tastes as good as the take-out variety. Dare I say, it actually tastes even better than some of those take-out versions.

There is such a thing as bad pizza (as for the other...I'll leave that up to you, and your bedroom!), and it is usually due to some bad crust. The crust makes the whole pizza, and a terrible crust can ruin an otherwise perfect venture. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (because it's SO TRUE), the Pioneer Woman has NEVER let me down. Her recipes are always foolproof, and amazing, and her pizza crust is no different. We had tried many different crust recipes before this one, and they all came out too bready, or too crunchy, or too...something we couldn't put our finger on. This one struck the PERFECT balance between NY Style thin crust, and something you could really sink your teeth into, and chew. After one bite, The Husband declared that we need not try any other recipes. Ever. And boy, what a relief that declaration was. Pizza crust, being a bread is a fairly lengthy process, in which one must make the batter, and then leave it, to rise for hours. There are not many things so disappointing as investing 2-4 hours in a recipe, only to have the end result be less than perfect.

The other "must-have," for amazing, at-home pizza, is a delicious sauce recipe. It can't be too sweet, or too acidic, and it must have a perfect balance of herbs, and spices. It's a critical part of the pizza process, and not easy to master. The sauce recipe I use is kind of a conglomeration of several recipes that I've kind of combined into my master recipe, which has received rave reviews from The Husband, and The Family, alike. So, to all of the almost-perfect pizza sauce recipes out there in internet-land, THANK YOU, for helping me to hone my own!

A quick note about this recipe. It is a VERY lengthy process. The first time we made this, it was about 3-4 hours of on-our-feet, in-the-kitchen, WORK. I thought, well, it was just the first time, next time will go much faster. But, it was not meant to be. This time, it was another 4 hours of cook/prep time. But, the end results were more than worth it. I think this is a really great Friday Night Date-Night-In type of meal. Because it gets you, and your loved ones in the kitchen together, working on a common goal, and maybe even having a flour fight or two. It's a lot of work, but a whole lot of fun, and sometimes the biggest messes make the most fun! I also smartened up this time, and made a double batch of dough, and froze the leftovers. I also made a double batch of sauce, and froze the rest of it, as well. So two of the big jobs will already be done the next time we want to have pizza night. Obviously, you can use whatever toppings you prefer, this time, we made a couple of meat lover's pizzas, frying the bacon, and sausage ahead of time, and one caprese pizza with some basil, and tomatoes from our own garden. There are not many things more satisfying than eating food that you have grown with your own two (dirty) hands.

Also, the one thing we HAVEN'T perfected is the method. These pizzas are meant to be grilled, at high heat in order to achieve that delicious wood-burned taste, and texture. We saw this method on an episode of "What would Brian Boitano Make?" on the Food Network. Of course, by "we," I mean, *I* saw this method, since The Husband wouldn't be caught dead watching Brian Boitano do ANYTHING. Basically you line your grill with red, clay bricks that you can find at the hardware store. Then, place a pizza stone on top, and close up the grill, cranking the heat way up, until the inside of your grill reaches 500*. However, each time we've made this recipe using this method, the bottom of the pizza crust cooks MUCH faster than the top, which means we have to be VERY careful not to let the bottoms burn. It also means, that if you aren't careful, your pizza stone (which is a must!) may turn black. You might want to set one aside specifically for pizzas, so you don't have a whole bunch of black stones, since I also use them for baking cookies. If anyone has any suggestions for improvement, we'd love to hear them, until then, I'll keep tinkering with it, and when I come up with the perfect method, I'll update you!

Hallelujahs:Delicious, Amazing, Fresh
Hellfires:Time-Consuming, Messy


Homemade Pizza Crust

a la my Hero, The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/3 cup Olive Oil


-Note, this amount of dough will make 2-3 fairly large sized pizzas. But, I highly suggest doubling the recipe, and freezing the extras, after rising. This will save you a lot of time in the future.

-Place warm water, and yeast in a bowl, and allow to proof until the mixture becomes frothy/bubbly. This should take about 5-7 minutes.
-I just let this proof in the bowl of my Bosch, and then after it's proofed, I added all of the other ingredients, in any, haphazard order, and turned it on. It worked perfectly. But, PW has a list of more specific instructions, as to the order of ingredients, in case you want to be perfect about it. The link is provided at the end of this recipe.
-Once you've added all your ingredients, turn on your mixer, and let it swirl! The important thing to note is that you do not need to knead this dough. You just mix it until it's well combined (only a couple of minutes), so this is much faster than traditional doughs.
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-Once the dough is mixed, place it into a well-oiled bowl, and cover with saran wrap. Place the bowl into a warm, dry place, and allow it to rise until it doubles in size. I think it took about an hour and a half for me.
Before Rising:
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After Rising:
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Original Recipe: PW Basic Pizza Crust Recipe

Homemade Pizza Sauce:
Ingredients:
A few tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, diced VERY finely
4-6 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can of crushed tomatoes (14 ounces)
1 can of tomato puree (14 ounces)
Handful of Sugar
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Fresh Basil, 10-12 leaves
Fresh Rosemary, 1 sprig


-First, drizzle the olive oil into a deep frying pan, and let it get hot.
-Add your finely chopped onion, and saute until it gets a little bit translucent.
-Interesting story here...I happen to HATE biting into large chunks of onions. So, I got the bright idea to place the onions, and garlic into my brand spankin' new food processor in order to have very finely chopped onions. Unfortunately, this did NOT work out. It turned them into an applesauce-like consistency that was watery, and disgusting. I had to scrap it all, and just chop the onion SUPER fine, the old-fashioned way.
The Mess:
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The RIGHT way:
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-Add garlic (use your handy-dandy garlic press), red pepper flakes, and oregano, and saute for about 3 minutes more. The oregano turns your onions and oil a beautiful bright green color.
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-Add your crushed tomatoes, and pureed tomatoes, along with your basil and rosemary. I like to add a LOT of basil, and a much smaller amount of rosemary.
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-The easiest way to cut fresh basil is to roll several leaves together, and slice along the short end. I like to then go back over, and dice a little bit finer after.
-Add your salt and pepper, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes.
-Add a handful of sugar to cut some of the acidity of the tomatoes. Stir, and re-cover.
-Continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Remove sauce to a bowl, to cool.
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-Note: I've provided the recipe for one batch of pizza sauce, but the best method is to make a double batch, and freeze the leftovers, making your next go-round MUCH simpler.
-Also, the original recipes said to allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before spreading it onto the dough, but I'm NEVER patient enough for that, and I've not ever had an adverse outcome because of it.

Putting it All Together
Ingredients:
A couple of tablespoons of olive oil
Toppings of choice (I used sausage, pepperoni, and bacon for one, and fresh tomatoes, and basil for the other)
FRESH mozzarella cheese
Cornmeal for sprinkling



-Roll Out your pizza dough, as thin as you like it. I prefer it to be really thin.
-Place the rolled out dough on top of a cookie sheet covered in cornmeal (to allow it to slide off onto the grill. If you have a pizza paddle, this would be even better, but I don't own one, so I use large cookie sheets. Use a LOT of cornmeal, so your pizzas don't stick to the cookie sheet (or pizza paddle).
-Place a tablespoon or so of olive oil on the dough, and then sprinkle on some garlic powder before adding your sauce.
-Add a ladle-full of sauce and spread it around the pizza.
-Slice your fresh mozzarella, and spread it around the pizza. It is REALLY important to use fresh mozzarella here. I bought mine from Wal-Mart, and it was only $3.22 for a pack, and it took 2 packs for 4 pizzas, so it's not as crazy expensive as you might be thinking.
-Add your toppings to the pizzas.
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-Take them to the grill, and slide them onto the hot pizza stone (cover the pizza stone with cornmeal too, to make removal of the pizza easier). Close up the grill, and bake for about 5 minutes. They cook VERY fast because of the high heat. Just check them at 4 minutes, and if they don't seem done, close that baby up, and give it another 2-3 minutes. Just watch that the bottoms of your crusts don't burn.
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-If it seems like the bottom of your pizzas are finished before the mozzarella is melted, you can always remove it from the grill, and put it in the oven, on broil to finish the top!
-ENJOY!

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-In order to save your leftover dough for next time, you need to shape it into individual sized balls, and then wrap them up EXTREMELY well in saran wrap. You want ALL areas of that dough to be covered. Then place the wrapped balls in a freezer bag, double bag it, and place it in your deep freeze. I usually spray the saran wrap with Pam, or the generic version of it, first, in order to make sure that it doesn't stick.

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-For the sauce, I like to place mine into a mason jar (but leave room at the top for expansion), and then put the mason jar into a freezer bag. Place this deliciousness inside the freezer, and you're already ahead for the next time.

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Now, THIS is why it's so important to us fresh mozzarella cheese. It makes feet, and feet, of delicious, melty goodness for cute kiddos, like my nephew, Nathan, to get all tangled up in!
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Southern Sunday Mornings {Biscuits 'n Gravy}

This week, we're going to round out the 3 most sought after "'n recipes," by posting the recipe for true, Southern style biscuits 'n gravy, which are a Sunday morning staple in my house. Sunday mornings always mean a few things in my house, and have since I was a little girl. Southern Sunday mornings mean old-school country music on my iPod:

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Southern Sunday mornings mean family time. Time for laughing, and playing, and taking walks, and just enjoying each other's company. And, Southern Sunday mornings mean light, fluffy biscuits covered in a delicious creamy sausage gravy.

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What's funny, is that as a child, I wasn't the biggest fan of biscuits, and refused to even try the gravy. But, now, few things evoke the feelings of home, and family, inside of me like biscuits 'n gravy. And the only trouble I have with them is stopping myself from eating the whole pan.

A few notes about this recipe. First, these ain't no Pillsbury canned biscuits. They are a whole different breed of biscuit (and a much better one, at that!). They have a much lighter texture, which means no rolling them out, or using cookie cutters in the process. The consistency of the dough, is more like the consistency of a batter, and I've included two videos of the process in order to let you get a feel for the actual consistency of this dough. One of the best things about the biscuits is that you can get them on the table in 15 minutes, which is pretty amazing. If you don't have time to make the gravy, or simply aren't craving it, today, my favorite way to serve them (other than with gravy) is with some grape jelly, and butter.

The other thing you should know is that Southern biscuit recipes are sacred. They have been passed down from generation to generation, and as such, you should feel sublimely lucky that I've included them here. We're all family now, and I love sharing these recipes with you.

Also, before we start these biscuits, we need to have a little chat about a certain Southern staple. You may want to brace yourself here.  Have a seat, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of our little chat about health (HERE!). Now, butter aside, this here ingredient may be the single most important tool in my kitchen, and is a staple in Southern-style kitchens across the United States. I can still remember the metal container that my Mom kept her bacon grease in, as I was growing up. Yes.  I said bacon grease. In all it's fatty, delicious glory.

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Every time you make a pound of bacon, just pour the remaining grease into your container of choice (I have been meaning to buy a prettier one, but haven't gotten around to it yet), seal it up, and save it! Now, bacon grease doesn't necessarily have to be refrigerated. I know this because my Mom's bacon grease lived (and still lives) in her spice cabinet. And in 26 years, I've never gotten sick from a recipe involving her bacon grease. However, as I did just finish a microbiology series, and I know about all those lovely little creatures that can grow in/on our food, I choose to keep mine in the refrigerator, where it seems a little safer. Where you decide to keep yours is between you, and your own level of OCD! I can't underestimate the flavor that this stuff brings to the table. It's pretty amazing, and I use it in a number of recipes, including the sausage gravy you'll see here today, fried potatoes, ham, eggs, all kinds of delicious things.

Now, I'm aware that this concept is foreign to many of you, and may take some time to fully digest. The Husband about passed out when he was helping me to pack up my apartment when we were engaged, and he came across my bacon grease. He was disgusted, and almost lost his hand when he tried to throw it out! But, as he would attest to you today, that jewel of deliciousness has never left our kitchen since, and is worth every ounce of controversy it creates. Just trust me on this one.

The biscuits are also a really FUN recipe to let the kids help out with. Something about smooshing that dough/batter around in their little fingers just gets them tickled pink! Though it's a little messy to clean up, faces like these make it all worth the mess:

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Now, onto the recipes!


Mamal's Southern Biscuits


Hallelujahs:Incredible, Fast, Easy, Delicious, BUTTERMILK!
Hellfires:Can't come up with a single one.

Ingredients:
Self-Rising Flour
Sugar
Canola/Vegetable Oil
Buttermilk
Water


-First, you're going to pre-heat your oven to 500*. Yes, 500.
-While your oven pre-heats, begin making your biscuits, by pouring self-rising flour into your mixing bowl. Again, no measurements here, the only important thing is the consistency at the end. If I absolutely had to guess, I'd say there's probably about 4 cups of flour here.
-Using self-rising flour is VERY important here. If you talk to most Southern cooks (all of my family included) they will insist that not only is self-rising flour a necessity, but a specific brand of self-rising flour (Hudson Cream, or Gold Medal). But, if I'm being 100% honest (which I always am), I have made these biscuits with just about every kind of self-rising flour out there, and have found no difference between the "good stuff," and old reliable Great Value brand flour. So, the thrifty chick in me reigns, and Great Value is what I had in the house today. As long as it says "Self-Rising" on the front of the bag, you should be A-OK.

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-Next, you're going to add some sugar. For the size of bowl I made this day, I added about 4 tablespoons (regular tablespoons you eat with, not measuring spoons) to my flour. Experiment with it, and don't stress, it won't make a huge difference. My uber healthy sister-in-law, Andrea, substitutes honey for the sugar, and even that works out fine!

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-Next comes some oil. I use vegetable oil, and canola oil interchangeably. Again, whatever you have on hand. Another few tablespoons full (regular spoons, not measuring spoons). A good rule of thumb is to use about the same amount of oil, as sugar.

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-Now for the good part. The buttermilk. Ah, buttermilk, the greatest smell in the history of the earth, and one of my favorite ingredients.
-For reasons that I do not understand, you are going to mix buttermilk, and water in equal parts. So, you're going to fill a cup (again, a regular drinking cup, not a measuring cup) halfway full with buttermilk, and then add enough water to fill it completely. Stir it up really good before adding it to your bowl.

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-Add it to the bowl, and stir well. Try not to overmix, and don't forget, you want a very different consistency than you're used to. Almost a very thick pancake batter:

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-Next, you're going to spray your pans with cooking spray. There are two kinds of pans that work really well for this recipe. Glass pans, and Cast Iron pans. I occasionally use a metal brownie pan (as you'll see in the following photo), but the results aren't nearly as good as with the glass pan. The bottoms tend to brown faster than the tops. Sometimes, I even use a glass pie pan, when I have a small batch to do.
-Now, add some more self rising flour onto a large plate.

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-Now, turn out a small portion of your dough, onto the floured plate.

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-The next steps are sort of difficult to explain, so I've included two videos to show you what to do. Basically you're just going to fold up the corners of your dough, from the bottom, pulling up some of that flour, and patting it into the dough. Then, you'll pinch off a biscuit sized corner, and place it in your pan. Watching the videos should also help you to see the consistency you're looking for here, but please, don't take note of my clashing apron, and PJ pants!

video
And, one more time:

video


-Next, you're going to drizzle some more oil (veggie or canola), on the top of your biscuits, and kind of rub it in with the back of your spoon.

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-Now, place the pans in your 500* oven, and set the timer for 10 minutes.  They may take 2 minutes more, or even 2 minutes less, depending on your oven, just keep an eye on them.  You want the tops, sides, and bottom to be a beautiful golden brown.

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-If the bottoms of the biscuits, and the insides seem to be cooking faster than the top, you can always turn on the broil function, and broil the tops for 5 minutes, too.
-Turn them out onto a platter, let them cool for a couple of minutes, and enjoy with some butter, some jelly/jam, some gravy, or just plain!


Southern Sausage Gravy

Ingredients:
1 lb of ground sausage (I like Jimmy Dean)
1-3 tablespoons of bacon grease (optional)
Several tablespoons of flour
Milk
Salt/Pepper to taste
Onion Powder to taste


-First, you're going to brown off your sausage, breaking it up with your spatula as you go. I really like Jimmy Dean's regular sausage for this, but you can use whatever brand, and flavor you like best (italian, maple, etc).

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-Once your sausage is browned, you're going to add your bacon grease. The reason for this is twofold. First, the sausage doesn't really make a whole lot of grease by itself, which makes it slightly difficult to get the right consistency, and amount of gravy. Second, the depth of flavor that the bacon grease adds is downright amazing!
-Just drop a few tablespoons into the pan, and mix it around with your whisk, or spatula until it melts.

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-Can you see how much more grease we have to work with here?

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-Next, you're going to sprinkle in a few tablespoons of flour, in order to make a roux. The amount is going to vary, based on the amount of grease you've got, and the thickness of the roux. The important thing here, is to whisk almost constantly once you've added your flour.

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-Continue whisking your roux on medium heat until it turns a deep, golden brown color. You're going to want to whisk this for at least 7-10 minutes in order to cook out some of the flour flavor. Do not stress if it gets clumpy, just keep whisking, and stop worrying!

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-Next, you're going to add your milk, and begin whisking right away. You're probably going to add the milk in several batches, unless you have perfect guesstimating skills (which I do not). The amount is going to vary based upon how thick you prefer your gravy.

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-Now, I can't stress enough that you do NOT need to flip out if your mixture gets all clumpy, like this:
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-Just take a deep breath, and add some more milk, whisking some more as it begins to come together. This is a VERY forgiving recipe.
-After you've added your first batch of milk, you're going to add your seasonings, to taste. Salt, Pepper, and Onion Powder. You don't need a lot of onion powder. Start small, and taste as you go. Same for the salt, and pepper.

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-Keep adding your milk, and whisking until you've achieved the texture of gravy that you like. I tend to like a thicker gravy than my Mom, who prefers hers more runny. This is YOUR party, so you get to choose.
-For me, I like the gravy to coat the back of the spoon, nice and thick, like so:

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-Now, if you get to the end and your gravy still tastes a little bit flour-y, don't fret. Continue cooking over low/medium heat, and add a little bit more salt. The salt will cut the flour flavor, and the cooking will continue to cook it out.

-Next, you're going to pour this deliciousness over your fluffy biscuits, and DIG IN! There are a few methods to this.

-First, the method I prefer, which involves crumbling the biscuits into bite-sized pieces before pouring the gravy over top. This makes it easier to eat, in my opinion:

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-Next, the method The Husband prefers. Leave your biscuits whole, and place them on the plate, pouring the gravy over top. This requires you to do some cutting with your fork, which is just too much work for me.

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-Alternately, you can place the gravy in a little container, and dip the biscuits into it, if you're into that sort of thing.

-This recipe is popular with every member of our family, including the littlest one!

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I hope you have a GREAT Southern Sunday, or whatever day of the week you choose to make these!

Plain Text Recipe

Mamal's Southern Biscuits


Ingredients:
Self-Rising Flour
Sugar
Canola/Vegetable Oil
Buttermilk
Water


-First, you're going to pre-heat your oven to 500*. Yes, 500.
-While your oven pre-heats, begin making your biscuits, by pouring self-rising flour into your mixing bowl. Again, no measurements here, the only important thing is the consistency at the end. If I absolutely had to guess, I'd say there's probably about 4 cups of flour here.
-Using self-rising flour is VERY important here. If you talk to most Southern cooks (all of my family included) they will insist that not only is self-rising flour a necessity, but a specific brand of self-rising flour (Hudson Cream, or Gold Medal). But, if I'm being 100% honest (which I always am), I have made these biscuits with just about every kind of self-rising flour out there, and have found no difference between the "good stuff," and old reliable Great Value brand flour. So, the thrifty chick in me reigns, and Great Value is what I had in the house today. As long as it says "Self-Rising" on the front of the bag, you should be A-OK.
-Next, you're going to add some sugar. For the size of bowl I made this day, I added about 4 tablespoons (regular tablespoons you eat with, not measuring spoons) to my flour. Experiment with it, and don't stress, it won't make a huge difference. My uber healthy sister-in-law, Andrea, substitutes honey for the sugar, and even that works out fine!
-Next comes some oil. I use vegetable oil, and canola oil interchangeably. Again, whatever you have on hand. Another few tablespoons full (regular spoons, not measuring spoons). A good rule of thumb is to use about the same amount of oil, as sugar.
-Now for the good part. The buttermilk. Ah, buttermilk, the greatest smell in the history of the earth, and one of my favorite ingredients.
-For reasons that I do not understand, you are going to mix buttermilk, and water in equal parts. So, you're going to fill a cup (again, a regular drinking cup, not a measuring cup) halfway full with buttermilk, and then add enough water to fill it completely. Stir it up really good before adding it to your bowl.
-Add it to the bowl, and stir well. Try not to overmix, and don't forget, you want a very different consistency than you're used to. Almost a very thick pancake batter.
-Next, you're going to spray your pans with cooking spray. There are two kinds of pans that work really well for this recipe. Glass pans, and Cast Iron pans. I occasionally use a metal brownie pan (as you'll see in the following photo), but the results aren't nearly as good as with the glass pan. The bottoms tend to brown faster than the tops. Sometimes, I even use a glass pie pan, when I have a small batch to do.
-Now, add some more self rising flour onto a large plate.
-The next steps are sort of difficult to explain, so I've included two videos to show you what to do. Basically you're just going to fold up the corners of your dough, from the bottom, pulling up some of that flour, and patting it into the dough. Then, you'll pinch off a biscuit sized corner, and place it in your pan. Watching the videos should also help you to see the consistency you're looking for here, but please, don't take note of my clashing apron, and PJ pants!
-Next, you're going to drizzle some more oil (veggie or canola), on the top of your biscuits, and kind of rub it in with the back of your spoon.
-Now, place the pans in your 500* oven, and set the timer for 10 minutes.  They may take 2 minutes more, or even 2 minutes less, depending on your oven, just keep an eye on them.  You want the tops, sides, and bottom to be a beautiful golden brown.
-If the bottoms of the biscuits, and the insides seem to be cooking faster than the top, you can always turn on the broil function, and broil the tops for 5 minutes, too.
-Turn them out onto a platter, let them cool for a couple of minutes, and enjoy with some butter, some jelly/jam, some gravy, or just plain!


Southern Sausage Gravy
Ingredients:
1 lb of ground sausage (I like Jimmy Dean)
1-3 tablespoons of bacon grease (optional)
Several tablespoons of flour
Milk
Salt/Pepper to taste
Onion Powder to taste


-First, you're going to brown off your sausage, breaking it up with your spatula as you go. I really like Jimmy Dean's regular sausage for this, but you can use whatever brand, and flavor you like best (italian, maple, etc).
-Once your sausage is browned, you're going to add your bacon grease. The reason for this is twofold. First, the sausage doesn't really make a whole lot of grease by itself, which makes it slightly difficult to get the right consistency, and amount of gravy. Second, the depth of flavor that the bacon grease adds is downright amazing!
-Just drop a few tablespoons into the pan, and mix it around with your whisk, or spatula until it melts.
-Next, you're going to sprinkle in a few tablespoons of flour, in order to make a roux. The amount is going to vary, based on the amount of grease you've got, and the thickness of the roux. The important thing here, is to whisk almost constantly once you've added your flour.
-Continue whisking your roux on medium heat until it turns a deep, golden brown color. You're going to want to whisk this for at least 7-10 minutes in order to cook out some of the flour flavor. Do not stress if it gets clumpy, just keep whisking, and stop worrying!
-Next, you're going to add your milk, and begin whisking right away. You're probably going to add the milk in several batches, unless you have perfect guesstimating skills (which I do not). The amount is going to vary based upon how thick you prefer your gravy.
-Now, I can't stress enough that you do NOT need to flip out if your mixture gets all clumpy.
-Just take a deep breath, and add some more milk, whisking some more as it begins to come together. This is a VERY forgiving recipe.
-After you've added your first batch of milk, you're going to add your seasonings, to taste. Salt, Pepper, and Onion Powder. You don't need a lot of onion powder. Start small, and taste as you go. Same for the salt, and pepper.
-Keep adding your milk, and whisking until you've achieved the texture of gravy that you like. I tend to like a thicker gravy than my Mom, who prefers hers more runny. This is YOUR party, so you get to choose.
-For me, I like the gravy to coat the back of the spoon, nice and thick.
-Now, if you get to the end and your gravy still tastes a little bit flour-y, don't fret. Continue cooking over low/medium heat, and add a little bit more salt. The salt will cut the flour flavor, and the cooking will continue to cook it out.
-Next, you're going to pour this deliciousness over your fluffy biscuits, and DIG IN!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tiramisu Cake with chocolate ganache filling!

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This recipe is actually one of the very first recipes I made after beginning the blog, and accordingly, I didn't take very many photos, and the ones I did get are not nearly as high in quality as some of the later photos. But, I promise that the recipe is so delicious, it makes the lack of nice pictures a moot point. You will be way too busy eating your cake to worry about pictures. Or, maybe, you'll take some of your own, and post them to our facebook wall! Please do!

A few quick notes. This is essentially a yellow cake. But, not just any yellow cake. This has become my go-to cake recipe, that I make ANYTIME I want a delicious cake, that's guaranteed to turn out perfectly, and taste amazing. Then, there is a chocolate ganache between the layers, that is reminiscent of the cocoa grated on top of tiramisu. The icing is a buttercream, flavored with instant coffee, and although it's a little bit "slippery" in terms of the texture for my liking, it really does evoke the creaminess of tiramisu.

One of the BEST things about this cake is the fact that it includes one of my absolute FAVORITE ingredients. Buttermilk! I love buttermilk, the smell alone is enough to awaken feelings of nostalgia, and peace, and take me to my own, personal happy place. Unfortunately, prior to the discovery of from-scratch cake-baking, the only recipe in which I utilized this deliciousness was biscuits. Which meant that I often found myself throwing out left over buttermilk that I was unable to use before its expiration. This made for a very sad Kelley. Now, this recipe, along with several other cake recipes provides me another way to experience my love of buttermilk.

Now, if you're dying to make this cake, and don't happen to have any buttermilk on hand, or you've been to Wal-Mart on a Sunday evening when they are out of virtually every item you need, you can mimic the action of buttermilk with this little tip. Take a 1 cup measuring cup, and place 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in it. Then add enough whole milk to fill to the 1 cup line. Mix well, let stand for 10-15 minutes, and voila. It's not going to smell as delicious, and homey as the real thing, but it can be used in a pinch! And now you can't say I never taught you anything useful!

The first time I made this cake, The Husband, being the sweet man that he is brought me home a dozen roses, just because! I'm not sure there are any centerpieces that decorate a table more beautifully than a homemade three-layer cake, and a dozen red roses.

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Hallelujahs:Delicious, Amazing, Versatile cake recipe you can combine with just about any icing/filling combination for a foolproof addition to your recipe binder. Really tastes like tiramisu. VERY impressive looking, being three layers!
Hellfires:As I stated in above information, the icing consistency is a little slippery, but it works in this recipe. I have not yet perfected the art of making frosting though, so if you have any tips, be sure to let me know!

Tiramisu Cake with Chocolate Ganache Filling



Ingredients

Cake:
3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Buttercream: (halve this recipe if you will be covering the cake with fondant)
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon instant coffee

Ganache:
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.

Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Allow cakes to cool for about 20 minutes, and then wrap them in plastic wrap, COMPLETELY covering them. You're going to then place these in the freezer while you make your ganache, and buttercream. Placing them in the freezer is a really important step. It helps TREMENDOUSLY when you're icing your cakes. You can skip it if you're feeling really impatient, but it does make it much easier to work with when it comes time to ice them!

To make buttercream, combine the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high speed until mixture is completely cooled and stiff peaks form, about 6 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, on low speed, mixing well after each addition. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Stir instant coffee into warm water until dissolved. Add, 1 teaspoon at a time, to buttercream, mixing well after each addition, until you’re satisfied with the strength of the coffee flavor (I added about 2-3 tablespoons).

To make ganche, place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the stove and pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined. Let cool until just firm enough to spread onto cake layers.

After leveling cake layers as necessary, place one cake layer on a cake plate, flat side up. Spread the buttercream over the top, followed by the buttercream. Repeat with the second cake layer, Top the cake with the third layer. You can choose to place more ganache here, or not. I tend to think that you can never have enough ganache, but for some reason the day I made this, I chose not to add more ganache to the top layer. C'est la vie.

To decorate the cake, I just chopped up some of the same semi-sweet chocolate I used for the ganache, and sprinkled it in a circular pattern around the edge of the cake. I even let Landon get in on some of the action, and he thought it was great.

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Plain Text Recipe
Tiramisu Cake with Chocolate Ganache Filling


Ingredients

Cake:
3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Buttercream: (halve this recipe if you will be covering the cake with fondant)
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon instant coffee

Ganache:
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.

Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow cakes to cool for about 20 minutes, and then wrap them in plastic wrap, COMPLETELY covering them. You're going to then place these in the freezer while you make your ganache, and buttercream. Placing them in the freezer is a really important step. It helps TREMENDOUSLY when you're icing your cakes. You can skip it if you're feeling really impatient, but it does make it much easier to work with when it comes time to ice them!

To make buttercream, combine the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high speed until mixture is completely cooled and stiff peaks form, about 6 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, on low speed, mixing well after each addition. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Stir instant coffee into warm water until dissolved. Add, 1 teaspoon at a time, to buttercream, mixing well after each addition, until you’re satisfied with the strength of the coffee flavor (I added about 2-3 tablespoons).

To make ganche, place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the stove and pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined. Let cool until just firm enough to spread onto cake layers.

After leveling cake layers as necessary, place one cake layer on a cake plate, flat side up. Spread the buttercream over the top, followed by the buttercream. Repeat with the second cake layer, Top the cake with the third layer. You can choose to place more ganache here, or not. I tend to think that you can never have enough ganache, but for some reason the day I made this, I chose not to add more ganache to the top layer. C'est la vie.

To decorate the cake, I just chopped up some of the same semi-sweet chocolate I used for the ganache, and sprinkled it in a circular pattern around the edge of the cake. I even let Landon get in on some of the action, and he thought it was great.

Original Recipe can be found HERE