Sunday, May 30, 2010

are we there yet?

just like the annoying little kid in the back seat, the little voice in my head keeps asking "are we there yet?" no i haven't lost my mind (at least i don't think i have), yes i am dangerously close to that point and just what the heck am i talking about anyway? the deadline to finish the book that's what. the thing is due on tuesday and we are hammering away at it trying to make it to the party on time.

all of the recipes have been tested (WOO HOO!!!) all of the equipment has been washed and my fridge is showing signs of emptiness (hard to believe). i even got on a scale last week and discovered that i did not gain any weight during this adventure (not so sure about the cholesterol count though). i almost feel like a sentence has been served and i am suddenly free. then it hits me, i still have to do the photo shoot...

last week was a blur, i needed to get the last 12 recipes tested and what a fun time that was. i tasted so much sweet fruit and cake/biscuits that i made myself sick. a salt lick sounded pretty good to me by the time i was done.

just in case you needed to know, this last chapter was a collection of cobblers, crisps and shortcakes-mainly fruit desserts.

first up was an apple crisp. here it is in one of my nifty thrift shop finds-an apple shaped baking dish. apples hold a special place in our family. my uncle (and coauthor of sky high) wrote a book on apples years ago and everyone in the family seems drawn to anything apple.

one of my favorite fruity desserts is a buckle. it is a cross between cobbler and cake. fruit is flavored and sweetened and poured over the cake batter. while it bakes, some fruit sinks and some cake rises giving it a buckled look and the name as well. this one is blueberry and peach with a cornbread cake.

blueberry skillet cobbler portioned out and on display in one of the many little coffee cups and plates in my collection.

and because i am who i am, i made the buckle again today using blackberries. each sunday morning, darry and i go to the ellington ag center to work in the demo garden (we are master gardeners and this is our project). when we arrive, i always have a cake to share with our fellow gardeners.

just because i am done with recipe testing that does not mean i am finished here. look for posts from the photo shoot.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

what a wake up call

the last month has been a blur. so many recipes and so much tasting-i am over fruit desserts, honestly. give me something salty please. so much has gone on here; on 4/20, someone tried to break into the house-in broad daylight while we were at work/school. on 5/1 & 2, we had a little rain, about 16" of it. surely you heard about the flooding? this morning, i was awakened at 5:30 to the sound of my hysterical husband screaming "i've been robbed, @#*%!!!!!" and so the day started. we weren't the only ones who had overnight visitors. a neighbor who lives down the street and around the corner (about half a mile) was visited as well. as he was leaving for work, he discovered that someone had ransacked his car and taken his wallet too. then he found the contents of his wallet and darry's out in the street. amazingly enough, i.d.'s and credit/debit cards were all intact. thankfully, he stopped by and returned darry's i.d. and cards to me.

so my message to anyone who is listening, never mind the dog. beware of the angry woman on the verge of menopause who just may be suffering from pms this week-she's got a mattock and she will use it...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

i'm burning for you...

everybody has a list of favorite things. mine includes caramel, thick and gooey caramel, and it makes no difference if it is enrobed in chocolate or drizzled over ice cream. it's caramel and i like it. there are several desserts in this book that use caramel sauce so i decided to post the how to for those of you who might want to try it out.

good caramel sauce has a consistency that is viscous enough to coat a spoon but not clump up. it should swirl around on a plate with ease and not set immediately. it should also have some additional flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla and booze (imagine that...).

drunken caramel-the slide show
put your cream on to heat up with the butter, cinnamon and vanilla bean

set the sugar up to burn with the corn syrup (for stability) and water (to prevent scorching before all of the sugar is dissolved)

slowly but surely, the color will change from crystal clear to a light amber

and get darker

and darker

and darker still...
it will be obvious that the caramel is near 350 degrees because it will be less bubbly

and when it is finally to the proper temperature, pull it off the heat!

add your warmed cream mixture slowly, it will foam up and splatter a lot so be careful and use a whip with a long handle!

add all of the cream slowly and whisk to melt the caramel and combine the ingredients

strain the mixture to remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean

now it's party time-get the caramel drunk so you can take advantage of it...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

pudding cups for everyone

this week's assignment: pudding. not very exciting, i know. even so, if you stop and replay your childhood, there are memories of pudding lurking in the shadows. little dishes of creamy pudding with a dollop of whipped cream (most likely shot straight out of a can or spooned out from the tub and plopped on top). vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch or something more substantial like tapioca or rice pudding. maybe you were lucky enough to have a family member who made bread pudding on special occasions, i never did. my husband always mentions kugel when it comes to pudding, specifically noodle kugel; he does come from a jewish family so that shouldn't surprise anyone. when i was a kid, we had pudding on occasion. open the box, follow the directions and presto, pudding in a cup. if not a box, premade cups of it were purchased from time to time. i even remember visiting the deli down the street(showing my yankee heritage here, we had delis in every town) and buying rice pudding by the pound-a quarter pound goes a long way! mostly, i remember my mother making tapioca pudding. every now and then, she would buy a box of mix and make it. she would pour it into little pyrex bowls and sprinkle a tiny bit of nutmeg over the top. my mom is not a baker and she didn't make many desserts at home besides cookies but she would make two things that i still remember; angelfood cake and tapioca pudding. i still like it. as weird as the texture is, i find something comforting about it.

a flight of puddings to satisfy everyone at the table. from front to back; vanilla, chocolate, tapioca and butterscotch.

rice pudding is fun to experiment with. there are so many different rices out there. from front to back; arborio(the creamiest), basmati(most flavorful) and long grain(unremarkable when compared to the other two).
for the truly decadent-bread pudding, loveless style. what is that? well, at the loveless when we close at the end of the night, there are always a bunch of biscuits leftover. it is our policy to never run out before we close so that everyone eating has a chance to eat their fill of fresh hot biscuits. it seems like such a waste to toss them out but let's be honest, cold biscuits taste awful! rather than toss them, i occasionally collect them and make a pan (or two) of bread pudding and it is served warm with a drizzle of drunken caramel( i can hear some groans and even a gasp or two, not the drunk thing again!!!). recently, i was faced with a small mountain of stale brownies that had been leftover from a catering order and once again, i hated to waste them. this thought occurred to me: since i knew that making a chocolate custard for a bread pudding was tricky since they tend to layer upon baking(meaning that the chocolate can settle to the bottom of the dish and the top of the custard is a little lacking and light on the chocolate) why not try making it chocolate by using brownies instead of the chocolate custard...let's just say this, the possums in the garden will not be feasting on brownie bread pudding and neither will the neighbors. we may be waddling around for a while though.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

flood waters recede and baker is left with a mountain of cheesecakes

last sunday was a day like no other. while i have lived through more than a few really rainy days, never have i experienced rain like this. i was awakened by the sound of my husbands voice telling me to get out of bed now! he was already awake because of the awful thunderstorm we had earlier and according to the weather report, the straight line winds headed our way were too dangerous for me to be lollygagging in bed any longer. that scraggly old locust tree just might fall this time and if it did, the chances of it landing on the roof above the bedroom were pretty good. now in my own defense, i was tired; we had spent about 4 hours on saturday bailing out the basement from the first 6+ inches of rain that fell. sunday wasn't going to be any better with the forecast of at least another 6+ inches of rain to come. and come it did. the official measurement at the airport was a bit lower than what we had in our part of town. we had somewhere between 16 and 18 inches of rain in that 48 hour period.

we spent much of the early morning glued to the tv weather report. we sat there sipping coffee and staring at the images on the screen and worrying about our own house and the damage that was being done by the water seeping in. as we sat, darry worried about getting the water out and i could not convince him to wait for it to stop falling to bail it out. what was the point of doing all the work if it was only going fill right back up? no matter what i said, i lost the battle and darry wandered down to the basement, push broom in hand, and he began his half day of sweeping the water out through the carport doors. not me, i stayed upstairs and reveled in the fact that we still had electricity, cable tv and internet service. so i decided to keep busy and work on a few recipes. cheesecake recipes to be specific and the result was a trio of cheesecakes worthy of a golden girls reunion show. dorothy, blanche, rose and sofia would be so proud...

perfect cheesecakes are easy to bake. forget about using the name brand cream cheese, you know the one named for some yankee locale. it may be creamy but it liquifies when you mix it up with other things and it just isn't a good texture. use a food processor to mix the batter because it will not incorporate air and excess air is what makes a cheesecake that soufflees and cracks. and last but not least-throw away your springform pan and the stupid water bath!!! those pans leak, they make a mess in the oven and they are a thin gauge which makes it easy to overbake the cake. and that water bath-just plain crazy as well as unnecessary. what kind of pan should you use? a heavy gauge aluminum cake pan, trust me on this. just bake the cake the day before you need it, let it chill over night and then follow these easy steps to unmold the cake.

take a flat tray or plate and wrap it with plastic and grease it.

place the pan on the burner of the stove for a minute on low heat. the idea is to gently warm the cake bottom to loosen it. then give it a side to side shake to make sure the cake has released from the pan.

place the greased tray over the top of the cake with the grease touching the top of the cake.

invert the pan and the cake should just slide out. sometimes you may need to shake it a bit but it will slide out easily.

and here it is, out of the pan and upside down. put your serving tray over it and invert it again. voila, cheesecake!

(sorry but the photo of that last step looked a little like one that a tipsy cake would have taken and i just couldn't use it

what kind of cakes did i make? these are some that i feature at the cafe from time to time. this one is banana split. banana cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust and a chocolate swirl with strawberry sauce. you could easily add more fruit; bananas, pineapple or strawberry slices.

key lime in a gingerbread crust with a white chocolate whipped cream topping.

last up is turtle. caramel cheesecake in a mixed nut cookie crust with chocolate topping and pecans. for this one, you can make your own caramel sauce and use some in the cake and some for garnish or you could buy some cajeta.

the storms have passed and we will recover. we are fortunate when compared to so many others, including several of my loveless coworkers. if you want to help, check out the community foundation to make donations or hands on nashville if you want to volunteer.

one other bit of information:

National Telethon to Aid Nashville Flood Victims

Music City Keep on Playin - A Benefit for Flood Relief

May 16 on Great American Country Television

NASHVILLE, TENN. (May 6, 2010) – The first national telethon and concert event to raise money to aid victims of last weekend’s flooding disaster in middle Tennessee has been announced by Great American Country Television (, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau ( and Gaylord Entertainment ( Music City Keep on Playin - A Benefit for Flood Relief will air commercial-free on GAC, Sunday, May 16, 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

so if you are looking for ways to donate, there are several options. thanks, we appreciate the help!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

knee deep in cookies

the "flood of 2010" (the new marketing moniker for our weather event), is being upstaged by a renegade band of cookies and cookie monsters at my house. it all started with a song. no it didn't or, oh never mind-it all has begun to far, this has been my favorite group of recipes to work on. i am sure that i could eat my weight in cookies. this said, it was easy to concoct cookie recipes for the cafe and my sweet tooth. the hard part was not stuffing myself full of them.

from the top left on the dark plate, going clockwise: blondies, strawberry jam bars, magic bars,
oatmeal peach, chocolate cherry cha chas, snickerdoodles, wicked brownies and in the center-lemon bars.

my version of the seven layer bars, also known as hello dollies. coconut, walnuts, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips mixed into sweetened condensed milk and slathered on top of a cookie crumb crust. in this case, the crumbs are home made biscotti crumbs. why, cause that's how we do it at the cafe!

jesse gave me his mama's wicked brownie recipe and i tweeked it a bit, sorry mama...these didn't last long at the house

strawberry jam bars are so easy to make that even carol fay would make them at home to give as gifts. (i say that because she did not like to bake at all-except the biscuits!) oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans in a crumbly crust with our home made strawberry preserves. these make frequent appearances at the cafe

what do you do when someone has a baking mishap with 10# of granola? you make peanut butter cookies then add granola and chocolate chips-what more could you possibly need?

and if cookies weren't enough, i made some dr. pepper cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

my kitchen table and all of the various boxes, tins and containers holding the cookies and cupcakes. i don't mind being knee deep in cookies, at least i can't drown.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

waterlogged but hard at work

the view from the front porch of the cafe on saturday

haven't been to the cafe since the "historic flooding" (that's what the local media has titled the weather event this past weekend). I can only say that my house was taking on water faster than we could bail it out-literally, we used buckets and a broom to sweep it out the carport door. my husband spent the day yesterday cleaning the floor; he moved everything he could and cleaned it with bleach water while i worked on the upstairs. now we wait for the contractor to give us the news-our slab took a major hit with lots of cracks all around it. it seems that the water was coming downhill so fast that when it couldn't get around the house, it went under it and the pressure caused cracking in the slab and the block walls. we watched the water bubble up through the cracks, it was scary!

in the mean time, i have been keeping busy and will have photos posted soon! keep your fingers crossed for the rest of the city, lend a hand if you can. there are many organizations seeking donations and volunteers but the mayor has asked that all interested in helping go through the community foundation in order to simplify things.