Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peach Cobbler Spirals

Fruits and vegetables are abundant right now, and I am enjoying the freshness and taste the seasonal bounty brings to my table. Peaches are favorites at our house, and some always find their way into a cobbler during the summer harvest. This year I tried a new recipe with peach-filled spirals baked atop more peaches for a bottom layer. The self-rising flour and the sugar syrup in this recipe combine to make a soft, sweet crust for this cobbler.

My dear mother-in-law gave me the peaches I used in this cobbler. Even though her favorite orchard is an hour drive away, every summer she makes her trek there as soon as she hears the peaches are ripe. She is sure to get the freshest of the fresh that way, and she always shares with me.

Recipe adapted from

Peach Cobbler Spirals

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups peaches (peeled and sliced), divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, melt the butter and set aside.
In a saucepan, combine sugar and water. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils, then boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place flour in a large bowl, then use a pastry cutter to cut in shortening until pieces are like small peas. Make a well in the center; add milk and vanilla. Stir just until combined, then knead about 10 strokes until nearly smooth. On a pastry sheet, lightly sprinkle dough with flour, cover with wax paper and roll dough into a 10 x 12-inch rectangle. 
In a large bowl, toss sliced peaches with cinnamon and nutmeg until well combined. Place 3 cups of the peach mixture on top of the melted butter in the baking dish. Spread the remaining 2 cups of peach mixture over the dough rectangle. Starting from the long side, roll the dough into a spiral and pinch to seal. Cut into twelve 1-inch rolls. Place spirals, cut side down on top of the peaches in the baking dish. Pour the sugar syrup mixture around the spirals. Bake for 45 minutes, then cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Peach cobbler spirals before baking

I am strictly a purist and love my cobbler plain, but some may like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with their peach cobbler.

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Full Plate Thursday

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Angel Food Cake

Most of my baking is done based on my own choices. Sometimes I have a new recipe to try or other times I may bake up something old and familiar. A time I don't choose what to bake is when we're celebrating a family member's birthday. Each one has their own group of favorite cakes or desserts, so I have an idea what might be requested. This year though, my daughter threw me a curve when I asked her for her birthday cake order. She told me she wanted an angel food cake with fresh strawberries. I love angel food cakes, but it has been years since one has been baked in my oven. The first step in fulfilling her request was to locate my recipe.

My Southern Living Annual Cookbook from 1986 was the source of the perfect angel food cake recipe. After finding the recipe though, I realized I didn't have the right pan to bake the cake. I decided to substitute one of my smaller decorative Bundt pans and a loaf pan in place of the 10-inch tube pan. That wasn't exactly a good choice. The loaf pan worked fine, but I wouldn't recommend baking an angel food cake in a Bundt pan. The one I used had small flower designs on the top, and those came out looking like bumps around the cake. Fortunately it was only an aesthetic issue, not one that affected the taste.

Print Recipe
(recipe adapted from Southern Living)

Angel Food Cake

12 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup cake flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat egg whites and salt until foamy. Add cream of tartar, continue beating until soft peaks form. Add 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.

Sift flour and remaining 1/2 cup sugar together. Gently fold flour mixture, almond extract, and vanilla extract into egg whites.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack; cool for 1 hour or until completely cool. Remove cake from pan.

This is a simple recipe to make. Anyone who can beat egg whites until they're stiff can bake an angel food cake. Even though it has been many years since I have baked an angel food cake, and I used the wrong kind of pan, the cake still turned out great, bumps and all. This cake may look funny, but it was delicious. I would still advise you to get the right pan if you make this recipe. I know I'll be putting a 10-inch tube pan on my shopping list. If Susan asks for an angel food cake next year I'll be ready.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Light Fruit Salad

A fruit salad is a colorful and delicious way to serve up fresh fruit in the summertime. I have a number of recipes I make that are variations of the traditional fruit salad, and I love them all. This recipe is a little different because it is sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with vanilla extract. The original recipe is from McCormick, but this is my adapted version and a favorite at my house.

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Light Fruit Salad

1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced peaches, sprinkled with Fruit Fresh
2 kiwis, sliced
1 cup grapes, halved
1 (8 oz.) can diced pineapple, drained
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine all fruits. Sprinkle powdered sugar over fruit then add vanilla extract; mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mother's Pecan Pie

I can never remember any time my mother baked one single pie at a time. She only baked in multiples, and often when expecting company she baked more than one variety, lest someone not have their favorite. Countless apple, chocolate, and pecan pies have been pulled from her oven, and I have that Pecan Pie recipe to share today.

I have wanted to share this recipe for several weeks now, but I have hesitated each time I sat down to write about it. The Pecan Pie recipe is just one of many keepsakes that came into my possession when my sister and I had the sad task of going through Mother's belongings. Mother's heart gave out, and she passed away in June.

I think of her each day, and I know I'll remember how much she enjoyed baking every time I use this recipe to bake her Pecan Pie.

Her recipe is written on an index card, and it has no directions. Many of Mother's recipes were like this. She simply remembered the instructions. I suppose if I baked these as often as she did, I MIGHT remember the instructions, too, maybe. Or maybe not.

The pecans I used for my pie came from Mother's freezer. She had her freezers well stocked with fruit and vegetables from her garden, along with these pecans she had shelled. Most of the food in her two freezers will be donated, but two bags of her pecans went home with me for baking.

Mother's Pecan Pie
(instructions are mine)

3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans

1 unbaked pie crust for 9-inch pie plate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, butter, and brown sugar; mix well. Add corn syrup, vanilla extract, and salt; stir until well mixed. Stir in pecans. Pour into unbaked pastry shell. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until center springs back when touched. Shield the edges of the pastry with aluminum foil for about the last 20 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning. Cool on a wire rack.

Mother's last birthday was her 89th in March. She enjoyed a party at church with family and friends. Three ministers spoke at her funeral, and all three of them referred to the abundance of food Mother always brought to the monthly potluck dinners. Someone asked me as I stood by her casket at the funeral home if anyone had her Yeast Roll recipe. I assured them that I did. Lots of people are going to miss my mother, especially me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

I made these Strawberry Cupcakes today to wish myself a happy birthday. The recipe came originally from Paula Deen and was called the Best Strawberry Cake. When the recipe was first written, cake mixes were still sold in 18.25 ounce boxes. Because cake mixes now come in a standard 16.5 ounce box, it takes an additional 1.75 ounces of cake mix to bring the size back up. One way to adjust a recipe like this one is to take the extra needed from a second cake mix. The amount to make up the difference is equal to about 1/3 cup. The remainder of the second cake mix can be stored in the freezer until the next time a recipe needs that extra 1.75 ounce boost.

Another adjustment I made was in the packages of frozen strawberries required for the recipe. Strawberry puree is needed in both the cake and the frosting. The cake calls for a 15 ounce package and the frosting calls for a 10 ounce package, although only 1/4 cup of puree is used in the frosting. I found it to be easier to buy one 23.5 ounce package of sweetened strawberries, puree all of them, then measure out 15 ounces for the cupcakes. Of the remaining puree, I used 1/4 cup for the frosting.

Print Recipe

Strawberry Cupcakes

1 (18.25 oz.) box white cake mix
1 (3 oz.) box strawberry gelatin
1 (15 oz.) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare pans for 24 cupcakes with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon into prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10 oz.) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
7 cups confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup strawberry puree and the strawberry extract. (The remaining strawberry puree is not used in this recipe. It can be saved to use in smoothies or as a topping on ice cream.) Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth. Spread frosting on tops of cooled cupcakes.

Making recipe adjustments is a lot easier than adjusting to all these birthdays.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Minny's Chocolate Pie

Since I am such a chocolate pie lover I don't know what took me so long to get around to trying the recipe for Minny's famous chocolate pie from The Help. Of course, there was that secret version of the recipe, but Minny will never divulge that one. This original version comes from Lee Ann Flemming and was printed in Food and Wine. It was reported in the magazine that Ms. Flemming made 53 chocolate pies during the filming of the movie, so she must be some baker.

Now I would never intentionally do anything to disrespect a baker with the experience of Ms. Fleming or Minny because they both obviously know their way around the kitchen, however, I made a minor adjustment to the recipe simply because I wanted to use less sugar. A girl like me has to save those calories anywhere she can, so I lopped off a half cup of sugar from the original. This recipe couldn't be easier to put together, that is, unless you should happen to leave an ingredient out of the filling, then you might have to start over, but who would do that?

The pie was simply wonderful, even made with less sugar, and I recommend you bake one as soon as possible.

Print Recipe

Minny's Chocolate Pie

1 package pie dough crust (or make your own)
1 cup sugar (original recipe uses 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pie crust in a 9-inch plate. Crimp edges decoratively and prick the crust lightly with a fork. Blind bake the crust by lining with parchment or foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and weights and bake for about 5 more minutes. Crust should be dry but not browned.

To make the filling -- Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir in butter, eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla until smooth. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for about 45 minutes. The filling should be set around the edges but a little jiggly in the center. Halfway through the baking time cover the crust with strips of foil. Cool on wire rack before cutting. Serve with whipped cream. This pie can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.

Spilled Milk Tip #29: When you pour the filling into the baked crust, if you should then notice the evaporated milk is measured and still on the counter and NOT mixed in the filling with the rest of the ingredients, no matter how well you scrape the filling out of the crust, you're going to have to bake a new crust and start over again.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two Books for Young Children

Today I was invited to one of my favorite places -- a school. A dear teacher friend of mine asked me to come to her classroom and read to the children, which was an offer I wouldn't refuse. I worked for many years in the school district I visited today, but today was very special because my friend Tammy has a classroom in a newly built primary building that didn't exist when I retired a few years ago. I was able to visit my friend, see the new building, and read to the children, a pretty big visit all rolled into one.

The classroom I visited was a four-year-old preschool, and I needed books on that level that followed the theme of dogs or cats because the children had been learning about pet adoption. I found two books I thought would be perfect, and I believe the children were in agreement.

The two books I read were Charlie the Ranch Dog and Charlie Goes to School, both by Ree Drummond. There were twenty children in the group, and the books held their attention. After I read, they had no problem at all answering the question about Charlie's favorite thing to do, which is, of course, to take naps. 

One thing, other than the character Charlie, the children loved was the recipe Ree includes at the end of each book. We talked about how she is famous for her cooking and her cookbooks, and some of them knew their parents had watched the Pioneer Woman's cooking show on television.

These are delightful books with beautiful illustrations I think most any young child would enjoy. In fact, I believe these children must have liked reading the books because I received a message from the teacher tonight that said the children had talked about Charlie all day after I left.