November 28, 2011

Chocolate-Buttercream Cake

This was almost a true Nancy cake.
If it were* a true Nancy cake, its maker would have followed the directions to a tee instead of trying to bake the cakes without lining the pans with parchment paper (result: not-so-pretty cake innards; fortunately icing covers most any mess-ups, and speckled icing is more than okay).

If it were* a true Nancy cake, it would have about 15 more accessories and 7 more colors.

But because it is still a Nancy cake, it is homemade chocolate.

And it is covered in buttercream. Mother Dearest is to credit for why I know how to make the beauty of chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

And it was delivered to the honoree during Thankslakecabinfest 2011 because, among many other things, I am quite thankful for the one who taught me to love to bake and eat well (and pretty much everything else I value in life).

And like her, this selfish baker also likes to eat chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate with buttercream. Apparently so does the rest of my extended family. The cake was down to this lone piece 24 hours after it first appeared for our Thanksgiving Eve spaghetti dinner.

I can't say the same about the pecan or pumpkin chiffon pie we had for actual Thanksgiving.

This cake's cousins (same moist chocolate cake layers):
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake
Chocolate Oreo Cake

Did you bake anything tasty for Thanksgiving?

*I am 99 percent sure my use of "were" is correct grammar because it is in the subjunctive mood, but if any grammar nerds out there would argue otherwise, please do assert yourselves.

November 21, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Things that make me happy:
1. Celebrations involving food
2. Getting introduced to local restaurants
3. Menu items that make me say, "Wow!"

More specifically:
1. My friend Katie's bachelorette party
2. Cabana in Nashville, which was full of Southern food with a twist
3. Tennessee Sliders: mini sweet potato biscuits with peach preserves and fried chicken

 My attempt at replication:
1. Lunch/life catch-up session with Hannah
2. My house
3. Biscuits ala Paula Deen stuffed with fried chicken from Publix and some peach preserves, served with an arugula salad

Good, but but quite as good as the original three.
Also on the list to replicate from this restaurant:
1. Lemon poppyseed bread pudding
2. Sweet potato ravioli with spiced pecans, prosciutto, mustard greens and sorghum sage butter, ohmygoodness
3. Gathering of a particularly wonderful cohort of college friends. Good news: already on the calendar for the next one in line to become an Mrs. Jackson, Mississippi, here we come; you'd better have some places worthy of celebrating a bride of this par.

(This post officially proves the strength of my love of lists, just to self proclaim my nerdiness.)

November 15, 2011

The Southern Culinary Bible: A History of Southern Living

Once upon a time I devoted hours to reading and writing about Southern food culture and Southern Living magazine. Exactly four professors read my giant final report and let me have a master’s degree (woohoo) and put it in at a nice j-library in Missouri. I am resurrecting the best parts of said giant report in a more digestible blog version.

Southern women love them some Southern Living recipes. Millions of then read the magazine. They cook from it. They write love letters to it. They trust it, they revere it, it is part of who they are as Southerners, as women, as cooks.
My mom's SL-filled kitchen bookshelf.
In the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Dianne Young calls Southern Living “one of the South’s self-proclaimed culinary bibles,” and Patricia Gantt refers to the magazine as “that great dame of southern cookery.” Food is essential to the Southern Living but is only part of the larger history of the iconic Southern lifestyle magazine.

In 1966 Southern Living was born as vehicle for emphasizing Southern identity for publisher Progressive Farmer’s non-farm circulation. Beginning in the 1930s, the region had become increasingly urban and nonagrarian with a diversification of manufacturing and of agriculture. As the region progressed toward mainstream America and a global economy, Southerners faced an identity crisis and looked for reaffirmations of Southerness. However, after the Jim Crow era, the South no longer could use the North as a strong contrast upon which to draw their identity, so they exaggerated their small differences in distinctiveness.

The magazine was launched to serve a new reader divorced from rural roots and to celebrate the white Southern lifestyle at a time when Southerners faced negative perceptions in the media and the stress of change during the Civil Rights Movement. According to Southern historian James Cobb, Southern Living became “the most convenient fig leaf” to cover Southerners’ “cultural nakedness” after being stripped of their Jim Crow identity.

November 9, 2011

Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Gouda Chowder

Slurping down the first bowl of warm cream-laced soup after jacket weather hits is like curling up under my down comforter with the first escape novel I've picked up in far too long. Hello, stay-inside-more season, I've missed the comforts you bring.

And what better way to welcome you than with mushrooms and sweet potatoes and gouda and bacon? Soup Week at The Kitchn got back in the habit reading its 1,467 daily posts if nothing else it's worth the screen time to discover links like this.

Now if only there were more time in the day to curl up and read I Capture the Castle for hours at a time with hot chocolate and soup breaks.

This scrumptious chowder is part of my seasonal kick of sweet potatoes and pumpkin and squashes. What fall comfort are you cooking up?

November 2, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

If you send Madoline an email with a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes, she will use roommate dinner and her mom's Madoline-sweet-deprived coworkers as excuse to make them. And if she makes them, she will taste test the apple-cinnamon cake and find it quite sweet. And if she finds it quite sweet, she will only put so much uber-decadent caramel icing on top of each cake (as opposed to the Dreamcakes Bakery volume, which is about seven times more than necessary).
And if she only puts so much icing on each cake, she will have pounds and pounds of  luscious caramel icing leftover. And if she has icing leftover, she will make another half batch of mini cupcakes for a block party. And if she only bakes half a batch, she will still have icing leftover.
And if there is still icing leftover, she will set it next to the brownie bites her roommate made. And if she sets it next to the brownies, the brownies will get dunked and disappear.
And if the brownies disappear, someone clever will think to dip Tostito's in the caramel for a sweet-salty snack. And if they dip Tostitos, then they'll try pretzels. And if they try pretzels, the caramel icing will vanish.

Reference (in case you missed it): If You Give a Mouse a Cookie