28 June 2012

Mmm, Mmm, Bourbon



I have a confession to make:  I don't drink bourbon.  This is completely un-southern of me. Bourbon is as quintessetially southern as a drink gets.  Bourbon is a type of whiskey.  It is usually made of corn and aged in oak barrels.  Its name comes from an area in Kentucky that is now known as Bourbon County.  You can drink it straight, over ice, or in any number of mixed drinks.  The bourbon drink most associated with the South is the Mint Julep.  You can also cook with bourbon.  I love cooking with bourbon.  I may not drink it, but I think it is pure magic when you cook with it.

So, I am going to start a little series of posts relating to my love of cooking with bourbon. It's all starting with my homemade Bourbon Cream Liqueur.  I recently read about Bourbon Cream Liqueur on the blog "Love and Olive Oil."  She got hers from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.  Unfortunately, they don't have a distributorship in Arkansas for their liqueur, only the straight bourbon.  I love cooking with bourbon so much that I decided to do research and try whipping up some on my own.  Bourbon Cream Liqueur is similar to Irish Cream (i.e., Bailey's), but uses bourbon as its base instead of Irish Whiskey.  This is easy-peasy stuff.  Just pour and mix.  Then you throw it in the fridge for a couple of days to let the flavors meld. 

One thing to remember when picking out alcohol for recipes -- don't cook with it if you wouldn't drink it.  We are big fans of Knob Creek and Maker's Mark bourbons at my house.  My husband drinks it; I cook with it.  It's a staple in my pantry.

25 June 2012

It's a Cookie Party!

I had a cookie party at my house yesterday.  Just a small one, since I only had time to make a couple of batches, but it was cookie party for the family nonetheless. 

raw cookies waiting for their other halves
My husband was the catalyst for the cookie party.  Most of the goodies I make for the blog get taken to work with me or to dinner with friends, so my husband doesn't get too much of a sugar overdose.  It turned out he was a little upset about my blog project because, even though I've been posting for less than two weeks, I haven't made cookies yet.  He made a very polite request for peanut butter cookies, and I set to work brainstorming ideas for a slightly out-of-the-box peanut butter cookie.

My husband was kind enough to point out that you can't get more southern than peanut butter and he's exactly right.  The peanut is native to the southern part of the United States and Mexico.  Peanuts have been ground up into some sort of peanut spread by Native Americans for hundreds of years.
other halves added and about to go in the oven
I ended up filling my peanut butter cookies with chunks of peanut butter cups, Roloand grape jelly.  They were quite the success with the exception that once they were baked you couldn't tell what filling was contained within each cookie. 
These were pretty darn easy to make.  You make the dough, roll it into a log, and throw it in the fridge.  I mixed up the dough on Saturday night and made the cookies Sunday morning.  Slice the dough, sick some filling on half the slices and throw the other half of the slices on top.  To seal the filling, you just smash the edges of each cookie with the tines of a fork.  It's super easy.  So easy, in fact, that my 5 year old helped out with the cookie construction.

22 June 2012

The Ugliest Cake I've Ever Made



not as ugly from the side....


Last weekend the boys and I went to pick blackberries.  My five year old was psyched until he saw the thorns on the bushes.  He was still determined to have me fill up his bucket with blackberries though.  We went to a public farm, and the outer berries had been picked earlier in the week.  There were still lots of good berries to be had, but they were buried in the middle of the bushes.  My forearms show the marks of the thorns, but the four pints of blackberries we got were totally worth the scrapes.

With a huge bag of blackberries I knew needed to make something blog-worthy out of them.  I contemplated making another cobbler.  The Lemon Cobbler I posted earlier this week turned out so yummy, I wanted more.  When I make cobbler out of fresh blackberries I use a teaspoon of cinnamon in the batter, and the cakey part of the cobbler tastes sort of oatmeal cookie-ish.  The family almost fights over who gets the first steaming hot piece with a big scoop of ice cream on top.  

I decided to make a cake last night instead.  I have had a craving for pineapple upside-down cake lately, but haven't gotten around to making one.  So I thought I would make an upside down cake, but try it with blackberries instead of the pineapple.  Fresh peaches are also just getting ripe and I bought a couple at the local grocery store next door to my office.  I figured if I threw the two together I could have a winning combination.

An upside down cake is one of the fastest, easiest cakes you can make since you don't have to fuss with cooling it down and frosting it.  They can also be beautiful, with all that gooey, caramelized fruit on top.  My Blackberry-Peach Upside-Down Cake was not so beautiful, hence the title of this post.  This was literally the ugliest cake I have ever made.  I almost didn't take pictures.  As a matter of fact, I didn't take pictures until I had a slice.  It was such a great combination: rich caramel, bittersweet blackberries and peaches, and buttery-soft cake.  I can't recommend it enough.  Just throw some whipped cream or ice cream on top to hide its not-so-beautiful appearance.

This has a slightly unusual addition to the gooey caramel makings for the top -- instant espresso powder.  It adds a great depth of flavor to the caramel topping of this cake.  The addition of the espresso powder is what made this cake so ugly.  The espresso powder combined with the blackberry juice made the top a really dark, muddy brown color.  You could leave the espresso powder out and make a prettier cake, but you're missing out if you do.

19 June 2012

Super Easy Lemon Cobbler


I had a last minute gathering to go to on Sunday and only had 90 minutes to come up with a dessert to bring.  This Lemon Cobbler was so easy to make that it almost doesn't qualify as a recipe, but it was super delicious so I decided to post it anyway.

The cobbler I had as a kid isn't what most people think of as a cobbler.  Cobblers are similar to pies, but, unlike pies, they only have a top crust.  The cobblers I grew up with don't use pie crust.  They have a batter base, like a cake with a crispy top and edges.  This means they require less fuss than most cobblers.  Just heat up the oven, mix up some ingredients, pour, and bake.  It's that easy.

You can make this cobbler recipe with any fruit (fresh or frozen) or canned pie filling.  If you are using fresh or frozen fruit use 2-3 cups of fruit.  You can add more or less depending on how fruity you want your cobbler.  You can also add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to the batter to change it up as well.  Make the cobbler batter and anything else you add is up to you.

In my rush to come up with a dessert, I immediately pulled out a jar of lemon fruit tart filling I got as a gift.  Since the lemon divinity turned out so great, I thought I would bust out another lemon dessert.  I freshened up the lemon filling with some grated lemon zest, but this is optional.  This cobbler only requires 15 minutes of hands-on time, so I got to use the other 75 minutes to get the kids and myself ready to go to the party.  We served it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a handful of fresh blackberries.

17 June 2012

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband and all the other great dads out there!

15 June 2012

Lemon Divinity...even more divine!!!

lemon divinity...yum!

I have been stuck on this flavored divinity idea all week.  I had to make at least one more flavor to get it out of my system.  I decided to try my hand at lemon divinity, since just about everyone I know loves all things lemon.  The consensus is that lemon divinity is the best yet. 

The ingredients and techniques for the lemon flavor only vary a little from the strawberry flavor I posted earlier this week.  I decided to leave out the nuts this time, and the creamy texture is the best thing about these.  They are so light and airy.  They're a perfect summertime treat for the hottest weekend so far this year.

This divinity was super easy to make, and the same rules I gave in my post about the Strawberry Divinity also apply to the lemon flavor.  Make it on a relatively nice day (the cream of tartar will help it set even if the humidity is a little high) and don't stir the sugar-corn syrup mixture once the sugar is melted.  Be sure to stir the sugar-corn syrup mixture early though, or you will end up with burnt sugar on the bottom of your pan instead of a lovely sugar syrup.

13 June 2012

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Divinity...Divine!!!


strawberry divinity...all finished and yummy!
One of the fondest memories of my childhood was when a day was nice enough for my grandmother to make divinity.  If you aren't familiar, divinity is a candy similar to nougat, made with egg whites, corn syrup, and sugar.  You can also replace the sugar with brown sugar and end up with another candy called "sea foam". 

I collect vintage cookbooks and recently acquired a new batch.  The first one I really dove into is "Homemade Candy" by the Editors of the Farm Journal.  As soon as I came across the recipe for divinity, I started flashing back to my grandmother's kitchen.   But then I turned the page, and I had my world rocked...flavored divinity.  I had never heard of such a thing, so I knew it had to be the first undertaking for my blog.

sugar syrup bubbling away
Divinity has a bad reputation for being difficult to make.  The first and most important factor in making a good batch of divinity is the weather.  It needs to be a nice day out -- moderate temperatures and low humidity.  Anyone from the South knows this kind of day can be hard to come by, so you have the take advantage of "Divinity Weather" whenever you're lucky enough to get it.  The second factor, which is almost as important as the first, is patience.  When the sugar and corn syrup mixture is on the stove, stir to your heart's content until the sugar melts.  Once the sugar has melted, clip on your candy thermometer, and walk away.  Get these two things right and divinity's a snap to make.

I decided to make Strawberry Divinity because I refuse to let go of strawberry season.  It's been really hot this year, so strawberry season came and went about a month early.  The divinity came out with a nice strawberry flavor.  The recipe uses one of my secret ingredients when I want a super strong fruit flavor -- strawberry gelatin.  It works.  It is also screaming, bright pink. 

11 June 2012

Welcome to Southern Sweets and Eats

Welcome to Southern Sweets and Eats, a blog devoted to Southern desserts, with the occasional savory dish thrown in for good measure.  I'm Amy, a Little Rock, Arkansas native, former fashion designer and punk rocker, wife, and mom.


I am starting this blog hoping to pass on a little bit of my passion for the Southern sweets I was raised baking and eating with my mom and grandmothers.  We Southerners have such a wonderful legacy in the kitchen, and I hope to contribute my own little part to it. 


So, I hope you enjoy.  There will be lots of yummy sweets and eats coming your way soon.  Feel free to contact me at littlerockbaker@gmail.com.

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