Pecan Praline Bread Pudd’n – Holiday cooking with love

English: Freshly hand-scooped pralines from So...

English: Freshly hand-scooped pralines from Southern Candymakers and cooling on the marble slab. These are the original creamy pralines, scooped daily in Southern Candymakers French Quarter kitchen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is in response to Hunt Mode’s post about food we fix for love, on special occasions. This is one of the regulars.  Here’s her link – go visit!!!!  http://wp.me/2YmRm

First of all, we say: Pray-leen.  Okey dokey, that’s out of the way.  Pralines, or rather, deep South N’awlins pralines are decadent morsels of butter, brown sugar, pecans, and cream or evaporated milk.  They are not caramel, they are not brittle.  Rather, they are in the middle being a little creamy, a little crumbly, dissolving on the tongue and setting your mouth aglow with flavor.  And feel free to add rum, bourbon or vanilla for flavoring.  Use nice fresh plump pecans – cut in large chunks or use whole.  “Hit don’t matter none” as a friend of mine says.  Don’t use a soft bread – use one with texture.  A sourdough works fine or a Tuscan broule is good.  You need a bread that stands up to the custard – absorbing it but not turning to mush under the custard.  Fix the bread pudding, let it cook about 20 minutes then add the coarsely chopped pecan pralines on top.  Toast the pecans to add a depth of browniness to the flavor mix.  I use a rich very bad for you recipe for the bread pudding and add a few of the pecan pralines to take it to a different level of WOW.  Enjoy this with a nice strong cup of coffee, cold glass of milk or, a couple of shots of bourbon.  The darkness/lightness of the brown sugar will determine the color of the pralines.  Ho! Ho! Ho!

どうぞめしあがれ douzo meshiagare y’all!

Pecan Pralines
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups firmly-packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup evaporated milk/heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups pecan halves – whole or chunked
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or bourbon (optional)

Directions:
Butter a large sheet of wax paper or parchment paper; set aside.   In a large heavy pan over medium heat, combine sugar, brown sugar, and evaporated milk/cream; cook, stirring constantly until the thermometer reaches 235 degrees F. or when a small amount of sugar mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard but not brittle threads. If you don’t know how to tell softball stage this way, use a candy thermometer.

As soon as the temperature reaches 235 degrees F, add the butter and vanilla; stir until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is well combined (about 1 minute). Immediately remove the mixture from heat; set saucepan in a large pan of cold water to cool.

When sugar mixture has almost cooled, beat with a wooden spoon 1 minute or until it begins to lose it gloss. Immediately stir in pecans and drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared buttered wax paper, leaving about 3 inches between each ball for the pralines to spread. NOTE: Work quickly before mixture sets. If it thickens up, just place pan back on low heat to re-soften.

When pralines have cooled and have become firm, wrap individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store in a covered container. Makes 36 small or 20 large pralines

Rich Bread Pudding
6 cups day-old bread ( take dense bread, cube, and leave out about 8 hours)
2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup cream
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1- 2 tsp. vanilla, bourbon, or rum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease well a 9×13-inch pan.

In a large bowl combine half and half, butter, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well. Add bread and press bread down to make sure it is thoroughly soaked with liquid mixture. Let soak about 15 minutes. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

 

Blondies

Except for the classic Hershey Brownie recipe, I am not fond of brownies.  I know there may be a collective gasp, but chocolate is not one of my favorite things.  When given the choice between a bittersweet chocolate truffle or a strawberry, I’ll choose the strawberry. Chocolate cake vs. apple pie?  The pie will win every time.

But Blondies?  Oh my.  Brown sugar, butter….sinful and sweet:  just like a Southern Belle.  This recipe is easy and doesn’t make a huge amount.  Fix it up quickly and give to your dinner guests, warm from the oven, for dessert.  Midnight munchies?  Gamer food chow down?  This recipe is for you. Top with ice cream if you dare.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup of butterscotch chips and or chopped walnuts and/or chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter and flour an 8×8 pan.  Whisk together melted butter and sugar in a bowl.   Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk.  Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mix it all together. Add the butterscotch chips or other mix-ins. Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

blondies

 

Japanese Cotton Cheesecake

cheesecake     cheesecake2

In the past, I have likened some desserts to a fairy princess, Southern Belle, expensive call girl, or empress.  This dessert is a prima ballerina – light, airy, delicate, but structured and sometimes difficult.  However, if handled correctly, you end up with a masterpiece.   This is a lovely dessert for any occasion.  With the advent of Spring, my heart (and tummy) turned to this dessert with longing.

Unlike heavy cheesy cheesecakes, Japanese cheesecakes are not as sweet and sort of a cross between a soufflé, a chiffon cake, a cheesecake.  “Cotton” in the name should tell you all you need to know.

IMPORTANT STUFF:  NO NO NO substitutions.  Use store-bought cake flour.  Use whole milk.  Butter, and superfine sugar.  If you can’t find any, grind some in your food processor or blender.  Sometimes superfine sugar is known as Bar Sugar.

Fold in well to ensure the whites are evenly distributed through the mixture.  Garnish with fruit or sifted cocoa or green tea powder.   A teaspoon of fresh lemon juice or vanilla can be added to the cooled butter, cheese, and milk mixture.

 

Japanese Cotton Cheesecake

9 oz. cream cheese (one 8 oz. brick plus 1 oz. of another brick)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup fresh, whole milk

6 eggs, room temperature – whites and yolks separated

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup extra fine granulated sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. cake flour

3 tbsp. corn starch

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Melt cream cheese, butter and milk in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Stir occasionally to break up cream cheese and combine the ingredients.  Remove bowl from heat and allow to cool. Mixture will be thick.  If lumpy, use a whisk to vigorously beat the mixture until smooth. Set aside.

 When mixture has cooled, fold in the egg yolks, flour and corn starch.  Fold until thoroughly incorporated.  In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and mix again, gradually adding the extra-fine sugar a little at a time until soft peaks form.  Note: Soft peaks:  mixture should be white and opaque, and meringue will fall onto itself when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and fold together until well incorporated.

Pour into an 8-inch round spring-form pan that has been lightly greased and lined (sides and bottom) with parchment paper.  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake so it does not brown.

Bake in a water bath for 1 hour 10 minutes.  Set timer for 1 hour 10 minutes.  When timer sounds, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes with the oven door cracked.  Carefully remove pan from water bath and let stand until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Remove spring-form ring,  let cool,  and serve.     Yield:  1 8” cheesecake

Simple Saturday Cooking and Recipes

Saturdays are always busy so it is KISS – Keep it simple Saturday. Yesterday I did snow day cooking (see post). Saturdays are for cleaning, running errands and watching Duke play basketball – unil the end of the season. Supper tonight will be leftover soup from yesterday’s cooking. Lunch everybody just grabs.

So for KISS, breakfast is simple: Egg in the Nest or, Toad in the Hole – the two names I have heard this dish called for years. there may be others but I only know these two. Simple breakfast, simple recipe. This is a satisfying breakfast or quick lunch or easy supper.

In between times, I will make Pimiento Cheese: A southern staple that is without seasons. It is a staple on picnics, wedding receptions, for kids to grab and go (in my day someone would grab two pieces of plain old white bread and slather with the mixture and hand to me as I was on my way out the door to play until suppertime), stuffed into pieces of celery for addition on a fancy appetizer tray or a cool summer nosh.  Pimiento cheese sandwiches are excellent grilled.  Those quick bread and butter pickles I made yesterday are a great aside for pimiento cheese.

Word of warning:
  I use Hellman’s mayo. This has been a source of dismay for my in-laws, relatives, and some friends. Daughters of the south, they use Duke’s mayo. Uhuh. To me, too oily tasting and sweet. Women in other states may use a local brand or Miracle Whip. Some of you may be tempted to use a “lite” mayo. I beg you, please don’t. I mean, you are already eating several mouthfuls of cheese. It’s like eating a Big Mac, large fries and a diet coke. So please use a good quality, full tilt, heavy duty mayo such as Hellman’s.
The sun is shining and a cold front has moved. The snow from yesterday is still much in evidence. I ended up not making sausage balls for my husband yesterday but will today. This recipe has been around since Hector was a pup. Some I bake for immediate eating – the rest I wrap up on rolls of eight and place in a freezer bag for bringing out at various times.
Y’all enjoy your Saturday. Whatever you do, be safe, be careful, have fun.

TOAD-IN-THE-HOLE or, EGG-IN-A-NEST
Per serving:
1 Egg, 1 slice of bread (your choice), butter or margarine, salt and pepper
Cut a hole, about the size of an egg yolk from the center of the bread. Smear one side of the bread with softened butter or margarine. Spray skillet with cooking spray. Break open the egg into the pan keeping the yolk intact and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let white start to cook (about a minute). Drop bread slice, butter side up, on egg with the yolk in the hole of the bread. Cook, depending on how you like your egg. I like over medium. The hole you cut out of the bread should be smeared with butter and allow to pan toast along side of the egg. When ready, flip egg over and allow buttered side of bread to pan toast. Remove to plate and put the “hole” on top of the yolk.

PIMIENTO CHEESE
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
2 cup grated sharp or extra sharp or mixture cheddar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 6 oz. jar or 2 4 oz. jars pimentos, drained and smashed
salt and pepper to taste
dash of hot sauce (Franks or Crystal)
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. It can be used as a dip for raw veggies or crackers, sandwich filling, filling for celery, topping for beef or turkey burgers. it is also a primo midnight snack: Just open the container and spoon a spoonful or two into your mouth.

SAUSAGE AND CHEESE BALLS
1 pound good quality breakfast sausage (I use homemade) regular, hot, maple, etc.
1 c. all purpose baking mix (such as regular Bisquick or store brand)
2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbs. grated onion (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients just until blended. Doing this by hand is good. Shape into about 40 1 inch balls and place onto two lightly greased baking pans. I cover my pans with foil and lightly grease. Bake about 12 – 14 minutes until done. These are also good for breakfast.

thCAKIW57G                    thCAQLM4LM

Snow Day Cooking – Recipes

It snowed last night – great gouts of clustered snow flakes rapidly covering the ground and everything else it       would stick to.  A wet snow, in some areas it will be gone by late afternoon and in some protected areas, sometime tomorrow.  The snow covers our lawn in a smooth sheet until it gets to the woods and then it decorates the leaves, bare tree branches, and sides of downed trees.  The line of azaleas in front of our house and the ones that separate the woods from our lawn, blossom with huge clusters of pure white snow.

Still…today is one of those days I am going to pretend the roads are impassable and we are snowed in.  That means – a whole day of cooking!  This morning started off with my husband begging for sausage, eggs, and silver dollar pancakes.  Usually our breakfast is what we grab in passing – yogurt or oatmeal for me and Danish for him.  The pancakes are from a standard recipe of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, and milk – standard, fluffy and satisfying.  I’ve been making these since I was five and had to stand on a chair by the stove to reach the pan.  The sausage is homemade – lean bits of pork left over from the killing and butchering and then ground with a bit of suet and spiced with salt, black pepper, some sugar, red pepper flakes, and lots of sage – in the south, in farm co-op stores, you can buy bags of sausage seasoning for batches from 2 – 100 pounds.  Beats bought sausage all to pieces and you know what is in it.

My husband’s uncle has a massive farm – every year they kill hogs and butcher and sell the meat or give away.  His sausage is made from trimmed pieces of tenderloin and hams and seasoned with co-op seasoning – hot or mild.   This same sausage will be used later in the day when I make sausage and cheese balls – some for munching on now and the rest to be pulled out of the freezer and cooked for the rest of the football season and on to March Madness basketball (Go Duke!).

Snow day cooking can be done on a cold rainy day or just a day you want to hide from everything and everyone and be in your own kitchen world.  On the counter great northern beans are soaking.  I am going to make a big pot of white bean (navy or great northern) and ham (leftover from Christmas and portioned out and put in the freezer) with cornbread.  This will be for dinner tonight.  I am also going to make quickles – quick pickles with a bread and butter taste to go with the beans to add a bit of sparkles.  I am in the process of writing a most learned and riveting two part article about quickles…snow day came up though and took precedence.    Sliced cucumbers and onions are on the kitchen table in a colander over a dish with a smaller saucer on top with a large heavy can of tomatoes on top to help press out excess liquid.  Bread and butter style quickles are also on the menu for tonight.

Sticks of unsalted butter are on also  the counter softening.  On the  for dessert are Mexican wedding cookies.  The pecans in them came from Georgia.  Every Thanksgiving, I go to Charlotte Courthouse where Mr. Claxton comes up from his home in Thomasville, GA and brings a huge truck loaded with this season shelled or unshelled pecans.  I buy both – enough to take me through to next Thanksgiving.  For about two miles on either direction of him along 360, you’ll see hand-lettered signs:  Pecans Ahead!  The Pecan Man  – 1 mi. Awa!!!  Your Close!!!  (big arrow) Right there – PECANS!!!!   I’ve done this for a long time but I always eagerly look for the first sign. The excitement builds.   Only in the South, folks.

Recipes are below.   As usual, I do not take pictures of ingredients and step-by-steps as most folks seem to do on their cooking blogs.  I’ve said it before:  you all are grownups and know how to cook.  A chopped carrot is a chopped carrot, a pound of great northern beans are great northern beans, confectioners sugar is……you all get my drift.  Enjoy my day with me!  I’ll glady share recipes but you can’t have my happy shoes.  Y’all stay for or come by for supper.  The cornbread is in the oven and the golden crust is liberally smeared with butter.  Sweet tea, the table wine of the South, will be your beverage to complement our meal.  Plenty of napkins are on hand to catch the powdered sugar from the cookies.

 

 WHITE BEAN AND HAM SOUP 

  • 1 lb of white beans -navy or Great Northern, picked over and washed
  • 2 quarts of water HOT water – soak beans in this for about three hours and drain
  • Ham chunks, ham bone, ham hocks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of diced onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrots
  • Salt and pepper

Fill a pot or bowl large enough to hold the beans with water, soak and drain. some folks soak the beans in cold water for 8 hours.  others bring the beans in water to a boil and soak the beans for about 2 hours. Your choice.

Meanwhile, put the ham hocks, ham chunks, or ham bone and cover with 2 quarts of water.  For frugality, I am using leftover frozen Christmas ham and the hambone.  I am not using a huge amount of ham, maybe about a 3/4 pound.  I will simmer the ham bone and add the bay and sautéed veggies, bring to a simmer and simmer for about an hour.  When I add the beans, I will add the ham chunks, bits, shreds…whatever. Cook for another couple of hours or so, until the beans are tender.  Cook longer to thicken.  Check and stir mixture in pot to ensure no sticking.   Add more water if necessary.

Serve with hot cornbread and butter or other bread of your choice.  When serving, put  a good sprinkle of chopped onion, parsley, Crystal or Franks hot sauce on top – any or all is good.  Let the individual season their beans or not.  Remove bay leaves before serving.

FOR VEGETARIAN/VEGAN VERSION:  omit ham (duh).  Saute veggies along with several cloves of garlic.  You may want to add more veggies to the sauté mixture to flavor and hearten up the taste and texture.  I use regular vegetable oil to sauté veggies but you can use fancy olive oils if you choose.

ANTI-FART (haha) TIP:  When cooking dried beans, take a nice stringy large rib of celery and cut in half.  Add to the cooking beans at the beginning.  At the end of cooking, remove the two pieces of celery.  The cellulose in the celery absorb the sulfur dioxide from the cooking liquid and help cut down/prevent stomach gas.  Be careful to remove the fart-absorbing celery ribs from the soup.

MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES (or SNOWBALL COOKIES)

1 cup  (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup  powdered sugar, divided
2 tsp.  vanilla
2 cups  flour – all purpose
1 cup  finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Beat butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually add flour and pecans, beating on low speed after each addition until well blended.  Shape into 1 inch balls (I use a 1 inch cookie scoop).   Place, 1-1/2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets.  I use cooking parchment.

Bake 14 to 16 min. or until bottoms of cookies are lightly browned.  Roll warm cookies in about 1 cup of powdered sugar until evenly coated; place on wire racks to cool.  The sugar will coat the cookies and give a happy white coating guaranteed to “snow” on your black sweater and stick to your fingers.   Cool completely.  Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.  They really don’t last long because they are such a good, short cookie – not too sweet but rich and yummy with cold milk, hot tea or coffee. makes about 28 balls of yumminess.

QUICK BREAD AND BUTTER STYLE PICKLES

1    pound pickling cucumbers , sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch  rounds OR equivalent in standard or English cucumber. Peel, cut cukes in            half  and scoop out seeds if necessary

1     medium onion, halved and sliced thin

1   tablespoon kosher or non-iodized salt

1    cup cider vinegar

1/2  cup sugar

1/2   teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/4    teaspoon celery seeds

1/4    teaspoon corriander seeds

1/8    teaspoon ground tumeric

Toss cucumbers, onion, and salt in colander set over bowl.  Let stand 1 hour.  hour.  Discard any liquid collected in the bowl. Rinse and press out excess water and put in large non-reactive bowl.  Bring vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, corriander seeds and turmeric to boil in large saucepan.  Pour over cucumbers and onion onion, and press to submerge in liquid.  Let cool.  Put into smaller glass container or quart jar and allow to chill at least two hours before serving.   Pickles can be refrigerated in a clean jar or covered container for 2 weeks.

snowball cookies            quick bread and butter pickles         white bean and ham soup with cornbread

Aside

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