Monday, December 29, 2014

Million Dollar Pound Cake

My son sent me a text a few days before Christmas asking for his dad's recipe for pound cake. I was in South Florida at my daughter's and did not have my recipe file. I told him to google Southern Living's Million Dollar Pound Cake and he should have no trouble finding the recipe. My husband, Walter, loved to cook and bake. He would do most of the holiday baking and turned up some great creations, but, also had some failures. About every third year, his Million Dollar pound cake would be "sad" as my mother would say. The center would not be done and have a gluey streak. I have done my homework and found that overcreaming the flour causes this "Sad" streak. The butter, eggs. and sugar can be beaten at medium speed, but once the flour is added, the mixer should be turned way down to as low as possible.

Pound Cakes originated in Europe during the 1700's, but as the first settlers landed in Virginia, the Carolina's, and Georgia, the recipe became quite popular in southern culture. The True Pound Cake recipe calls for a pound of butter, pound of sugar, pound of flour, and a pound of eggs. Over the decades, the cake has evolved into the delicacy that we enjoy today. In the 1851 cookbook, Direction of Cookery, the author Eliza Leslie uses ten eggs, beaten very lightly, mixed with a pound of flour and sugar. She then added the juice of two lemons and three oranges - sounds good to me. Never use cake flour in a pound cake as it lacks the strength to support the heavy batter.

My Daughter-in-law Dana is an excellent cook and made the perfect Million Dollar Pound Cake. She had no "sad" streaks, and that delectable crust on the top that the kids all pick off and eat first thing. My Bailey grandchildren are getting to be teenagers and have quite the flair for "eating"  and  cooking.

I am going to type the recipe word for word as it is in my Southern Living cookbook from 2002.  This is one cake that needs to be mixed correctly with no impromptu short cuts or missed steps. 

All ingredients should be brought to room temperature about 30 minutes before you begin your mixing.

Also, Preheat the oven to 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Million Dollar Southern Living Pound Cake

1 pound butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
4 cups all purpose flour - I always use King Arthur or White Lily
3/4 cups sweet milk - this is an old southern term that distinguishes whole milk from buttermilk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanillla extract

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. (The butter will become a lighter yellow color; this is an important step, as the job of the mixer is to incorporate air into the butter so the cake will rise. It will take 1 to 7 minutes, depending on the power of your mixer.) Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. (Again, the times will vary, and butter will turn to a fluffy white.) Add eggs one at at time, beating just until yellow yolk disappears. 

Add flour to creamed mixture alternately with mill, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at LOW speed just until blended after each addition. (The batter should be smooth and bits of flour should be well incorporated; to rid the batter of lumps, stir gently with a rubber spatula.) Stir in extracts. 

Pour into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan. (Use vegetable shortening or butter to grease the pan, getting every nook and cranny covered. Sprinkle a light coating of flour over the greased surface.)

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Lifelong Quest - The Perfect Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie is one our family favorite desserts for holidays or just anytime. I have been on a lifelong search for the perfect pecan pie. For years, I have used the recipe on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle. I find that it is fine and tastes good, but I want something a little more special. I have tried the chocolate pecan pie recipes, the cream cheese layer version, and even the pecan pie cake that Southern Living featured one Christmas. This year, I have settled on a recipe that uses brown sugar and dark Karo syrup. We had it at Thanksgiving and I thought that it was delicious. It is a version that I adapted from Taste of the South's magazine. 

Pecan Pie is not a new addition to our holiday meals. My grandparents had a small pecan orchard by the side of their home in South Georgia. Each year, my grandmother would gather the pecans and sell them at the local market. Her profit would be her Christmas money. Her instructions to my mother and her sisters would be to start at the base of the tree collecting the nuts. Then, the girls would work in a circle moving away from the center of the tree picking up the delicious pecans. 
Even after my grandmother has passed away, there was always a bowl of pecans in the TV room at my granddaddy's house with a nutcracker and pick. Pecans are a staple in South Georgia, They are stirred into almost all cakes and pies and eaten by the handful as snacks. They freeze wonderfully. When my mother was moving to Florida to live with us, we cleaned out her freezer and found pecans at least five years old. They tasted great and made many a pecan pie.

Southern Pecan Pie

1/2 package Pillsbury pie crust
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup butter melted- then cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt 
2 cups pecan halves

In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, brown sugar, Karo syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt. Gently stir in pecans. 
Pour mixture into unbaked prepared crust. 
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cover pie loosely with aluminum foil and bake another 20 minutes more, or until center is set. 
Cool completely on wire rack.
Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Get Ready for Christmas with Cinnamon Loaves

It is hard to believe that these delicious cinnamon loaves for Christmas morning start with a simple yellow cake mix. They are moist and sugary and will fill your home with sugar plum smells while baking. The very best thing about the loaves are that they wonderfully. Pull one out a few hours before serving, unwrap, and you will have an easy addition to your Christmas morning breakfast buffet.
We love cinnamon at my house, and I have recently learned to splurge a little and purchase the Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon. It makes a world of difference in baking, expecially during the holidays, when you will certainly want your home filled with the aroma of the season.

Cinnamon Loaves

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix with pudding
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons Saigon cinnamon

Beat first five ingredients with an electric mixer about 3 minutes
Pour half of batter evenly into 2 greased and floured 8 X 3 3/4 inch loaf pans
Stir together cinnamon and sugar
Sprinkle half of sugar over batter in the pans
Pour remaining batter evenly into loaf pans, and sprinkle evenly with remaining sugar.
Gently swirl with a knife.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire racks
These freeze well
Wrap in saran wrap and then wrap in aluminum foil.

Enjoy!!!! So easy - the kids can bake them!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lemon Pudding Cake

When I was growing up, we had dessert every single night. My mother taught school and would start supper early in the morning. She would put on a pot of peas or green beans or even brown the meat for dinner. Then, after school, she would pull everything out of the refrigerator and finish the meal. We always had bread too. My daddy said that "bread was the staff of life". She either fried cornbread patties, made biscuits, or had grocery store brown 'n serve rolls. I do not know how she accomplished everything that she did. As I have mentioned before, she was a great improviser with cake mixes and specialty dessert products. I remember the Betty Crocker pudding cake mix very well. Mother would prepare it right before we sat down for dinner and then serve it warm for dessert.

When I married in 1970, one of the first recipes that I tried out of the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook was the lemon pudding cake. It is a sweet, yet tart, warm, and comforting dessert - just perfect for a weeknight treat. 

Lemon Pudding Cake

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sifted all purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 well-beaten egg yolks
3 stiffly beaten egg whites

Combine sugar, a dash of salt, and flour; stir in melted butter, lemon peel, and juice.
Combine milk and egg yolks, add to lemon mixture.
Fold in beaten egg whites.
Pour into 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan.
Place in larger pan on oven rack.
Pour hot water into larger pan one inch deep
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. 

We enjoy serving this pudding cake warm, just as my mother preferred. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Scotchy Fudge For the Holidays

I have been making this super easy stovetop fudge since 1970. My first Christmas as a new bride was in Vienna, Georgia. My husband and I lived on his Uncle's farm in a little house known to all of the neighbors as the Perkle place. I have no idea who the Perkle's were, but I loved that little house. We closed off one of the front bedrooms and the living room and lived in the family room/kitchen combination. Our little fresh cut pine tree decorated one corner of the room. I was still learning how to cook, and my mother sent me this recipe. She had been making the easy fudge for years and knew that I could possible succeed with these very simple ingredients and instructions.
Scotchy Fudge

1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Line an 8 X 8 inch square pan with aluminum foil or wax paper that has been lightly sprayed with Pam.
Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in condensed milk over hot, not boiling water, in a double boiler.
Stir until all chips are melted.
Remove pan from heat and let slightly cool.
Stir in vanilla and chopped nuts- if desired
Refrigerate until firm enough to cut into squares - several hours or overnight
Store in refrigerator.

At Thanksgiving, my daughter and I made several different batches. Some with and some without nuts. As the old saying goes, "Sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't". 
Package this fudge in cute little boxes to share with all of your neighbors. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cornbread Dressing and a Family Thanksgiving

Several years ago, I tried a recipe for cornbread dressing that I found in Southern Living's holiday cookbook. It was prepared the night before and cooked Thanksgiving morning in the slow cooker. Our family loved it and gave me the authority to never go back to my mother's egg bread and biscuit recipe. Her recipe is delicious, but is quite time consuming and takes up valuable cooking space in the oven. This "new" dressing is super moist, yet gets quite crusty on the sides, for those who love that aspect. Boiled eggs, oysters, or sausage can also be added, along with any other family preferences that you may have. 

The first step is to bake two pouches of Martha White cornbread mix the night before preparing the dressing.
I just simply use the directions on the  pouch with the exception of replacing the milk or water with buttermilk. Don't forget to preheat your greased pan in the very hot also for about 8 minutes. 

Cornbread Dressing

5 cups crumbled cornbread - this is two pouches of Martha White Cornbread Mix - be sure not to get the sweet version
1 14 ounce package of  herb stuffing mix
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 32 ounce container of chicken stock
1 large sweet Vidalia onion - diced
1 cup diced  celery
4 large eggs - lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
2 Tablespoons butter - cut up in pats

Saute onion and celery in 1 tablespoons butter in pan
Combine all ingredients except butter in large bowl.
Pour cornbread mixture into well greased 6 qt slow cooker
Dot with the butter
Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours until set and thoroughly cooked

Enjoy with your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey

Parker loved everything about his Thanksgiving turkey and dressing and didn't spill a thing on Aunt Phyllis's upholstered chairs.