THE PRODIGIOUS GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

While driving down the long, dusty road to Lacassine, Louisiana, cleared sugarcane fields revealed new life from the rich soil and a mellow, sweet fragrance filled the warm air. I imagined the empty field later in the year, taking over the landscape with its towering pampas-like foliage. As I became entranced by the pale jade landscape, we crept closer and closer to my great grandma’s house.

I tiptoed across the tiny, white shells in my great grandmother’s driveway and peaked around the corner of her small, whitewashed house and stepped into the garden. To me, this was an enchanted backyard, filled with life from one end of the tiny lot to the other. Strategically placed rows of perfectly ripe tomatoes and fingerlike okra pods smelled of sweet grass as I walked by. Tiny yet vibrant red and green peppers pirouetted in the breeze, reminding me of flickering Christmas lights. A protective fig tree magically became the perfect umbrella to take refuge under in the midst of afternoon showers, and near the back of the property, there was a gaggle of disgruntled chickens that became ruffled around the feathers if you got too close to their coop.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

On this particular trip, I decided to keep my distance from the foul fowls and kept to the side of the house, close to my grandmother. She was reaching over her head, picking what looked like spotted yellow basketballs. Quietly and curiously, I filled as many plastic shopping bags with the enormous unidentified fruit as I could and piled into the backseat of the car. I remember how the combination of the saccharine air from the sugarcane fields and the fresh scent of the mysterious citrus resting on my lap made my mouth water.

Immediately when we got back to the house, my grandma grabbed a large carving knife and split the colossal clandestine citrus in half, revealing blushing pink flesh. My grandma smiled proudly and said in her sweet Cajun accent, “Dat’s a biiggg grapefruit!” My mouth dropped in sheer disbelief, and we both started laughing and began ripping into the slightly sweet and tart flesh.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

With a mouthful of ruby grapefruit and pink juice dribbling down my chin, I wondered what the secret was to the gigantic, sugary grapefruits that grew in my great grandmother’s backyard. Suddenly, I recalled the soft, spring breeze coming from the sugarcane field across the way and became sweetly satisfied in solving the mystery of the prodigious grapefruits.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf Cake

Note: If you don’t have plain yogurt or buttermilk in the fridge, have no fear. Just add 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice to 1/3 cup of milk and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes to get nice and funky! It works perfectly in a pinch! 

Using the zest and juice from 2 medium-sized grapefruits for this recipe usually makes enough leftover juice for a simple glaze. Just whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar while slowly adding the leftover grapefruit juice until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and serve!

1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons (30ml) of grapefruit juice, plus 1/3 cup (80ml) for syrup

1/3 cup (80ml) of buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 tablespoons of freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 2 medium-sized grapefruits)

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for syrup

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

½ cup (120ml) of olive oil (choose a mild olive oil, not extra virgin)

2 eggs, at room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a glass-measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and buttermilk (or yogurt).

In a large mixing bowl, add grapefruit zest, ½ cup of granulated sugar, and raw cane sugar. Rub the zest and sugars together with your fingertips. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the cake batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with 1/3 cup of grapefruit juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

When the cake has finished baking, let it cool for 10 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbs the syrup. Serve the cake all by itself or create simple glaze to pour over the top  (see note). Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

KING FOR A DAY

Mardi Gras King Cake | for the love of the south

The cool, brisk air gave me goose bumps as I waiting in line for my class to proudly march out in the Mardi Gras parade. My blacked out teeth were chattering from the cold and my blonde, matted hair (teased to ultimate perfection) was being bullied every which way by the wind. My clothes were baggy, carefully mended with pastel yellow and pink patches, which was a very poor wardrobe choice on my part seeing how the patches did not shield me from the biting wind very well. Nevertheless, I held my head high and braved the bitter chill. We, the 1st grade class of St. John Elementary, were the Krewe des Hobos, and I must represent with great pride.

Every class had their own krewe (pronounced crew). Like the traditional Mardi Gras parade, each grade dressed up according to their assigned group, or krewe. Waiting anxiously in line were the Krewe des Pirates, Krewe des Cowboys, Krewe des Indians, and, of course, Krewe des Hobos. When our teacher let this bunch of 6 year olds choose what they wanted to be for Mardi Gras, it was almost unanimously hobos, with the exception of Maggie Mouton, who wanted the entire class to dress up like fairies. Her request was seriously considered in pure silence and an impressive array of spit wads. Hobos it was!

We gathered outside the building, teachers and parents waiting with their point-and-shoot cameras and camcorders (which were roughly the size of an ice chest back then). We began parading around the school in decorated red Radio Flyer wagons while tossing tangled plastic beads, root beer Dum Dums and half melted chocolate coins out of our pillowcases to the lucky participators. Purple, green and gold beads littered the power lines, tree limbs and street signs forever after, to serve as a reminder of the day I felt like a king, disguised as a hobo, in the Mardi Gras parade.

*This article was originally posted on Coca-Cola

-In honor of the Mardi Gras season, Relish.com asked me to write a New Orleans City Guide to Good Eating! You can click the link to read more.

.Mardi Gras Beads & Coins | for the love of the south

Recipe: Roasted Pecan King Cake with Buttermilk Icing

Serves 6-8

Note: I used small pieces of gold leaf to decorate the cake, but you can use whatever you like, whether it be colored sugars, edible gold and silver pearls or colored icing!

Filling:

1 cup of pecan halves

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

½ cup of light brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Toss the pecans onto a roasting pan and toast for 5 minutes in preheated oven. Whenever the pecans come out of the oven, roughly chop the pecans. Let the pecans to cool for a few minutes.

Combine cinnamon and brown sugar together in a small bowl.

Dough:

1 cup of warm water (110-116 degrees)

1 package of dry active yeast (1/4 ounce package)

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 egg, slightly beaten, for egg wash

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine warm water, yeast and sugar. Allow the yeast to bloom for 5-10 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add 2 tablespoons of melted butter and salt. Slowly begin to add the flour until you have incorporated the entire 3 cups of flour. Continue mixing until the dough comes together and gathers around the hook attachment. Place the dough in a large, butter-greased bowl. Flip the dough over once so the top and bottom of the dough is slightly greased. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm spot for 1-1 ½ hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until thin and slightly rectangular (don’t worry if it’s not perfect!) Lightly brush the dough with melted butter, leaving a 2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar cinnamon and pecans onto the dough.

Roll the dough up tightly, longwise, beginning with the side closest to you (this step is a lot like making homemade cinnamon rolls.) Once the dough is in one long, snake-like shape, pinch the seams together (using the melted butter as an adhesive agent), and begin rolling the dough out with your palms gently until the length reaches about 1 ½ feet (depending on the length of your counter space!) Be very gentle when rolling out the dough, the pecans can easily cause a tear in the dough if too much pressure is applied. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Place the two snake-like logs of dough side by side. Pinch together two ends of the logs and adhere with melted butter. Gently begin braiding the dough while forming the dough into a circle. Pinch the ends together and tuck under the king cake. Cover and let rise for 1 hour in a warm space.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Once the dough has risen for the second time, place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with slightly beaten egg. Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow the cake to cool completely on a cooling rack. Decorate with icing (recipe below) and gold leaf if you wish!

Icing:

¾ cup of powdered sugar

2-3 teaspoons of buttermilk

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and one teaspoon of buttermilk. While whisking, add a little more buttermilk until the mixture is thick and smooth.

VALENTINE’S DAY + A SWEET GIVEAWAY

Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies | for the love of the south

When I was a little girl, I let people know how much I loved them by stretching out my arms as wide as I could while saying, “I love you dissss much….” Giggles and cooing commenced, and I smiled, knowing my audience of family and friends were well pleased. Now that I’m grown, my affection is shown over a cup of coffee and conversation, a sweet handwritten letter, or, more commonly, a plate full of goodies.

There is something about Valentine’s Day that always makes me exultant. Rose and crimson blossoms strewn across the markets, lovely angelic cards being sent to loved ones, and the best part of this holiday is the divine excuse to eat piles and piles of chocolate. Whenever I began to think of what to prepare on this special day, I immediately started thinking of chocolate. Since it is a natural aphrodisiac, I figured a triple chocolate cookie would be the best dessert to make for Michael (also known as a triple threat)!

Barefoot and giddy as a schoolgirl, I threw on my crinkled, linen waist apron and began tearing through bags and bags of chocolate. Chopping the deeply rich morsels while watching thin tatters of chocolate wrinkle and pucker under the weight of my knife gave me a pleasure all its own. Ella Fitzgerald kept me company as she continued crooning about “These Simple Things” in the background.

Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies | for the love of the south

I melted the chocolate gently, stirring the gravel-sized matte shards until they slowly but surely gave way and became a gleaming pool of silken chocolate. Adding the melted chocolate to the batter magically transformed the mixture to an almost mousse-like consistency. I was already in heaven. Once the cookies bake and cool to a lacelike chocolate crisp, the only garnish these beauties need is a crowning glory of smooth and shiny glaze.

These triple threat cookies are a lovely display of affection, satisfying whoever is on the receiving end. I gave a plate full to Michael and watched him bite off the edge of the cookie. It shattered under his teeth and chocolate crumbs tumbled down into the depths of our taupe couch. He looked at me in sheer satisfaction. With impeccable timing and a humble heart, I asked him how much he loved me. He smirked, stuck a cookie in his mouth and with his arms stretched out as wide as he could, he said, “I love you this much!” Be still my heart…

Mohawk Valley Raw Honey Giveaway | for the love of the south

{Because y’all are the bee’s knees, I’m giving away an array of wonderful Raw Honey from Mohawk Valley Trading Co. All you have to do is leave a comment below, letting me know your favorite Valentine’s Day sweet treat! The contest ends at midnight on February 16th, and the winner will be chosen and contacted on February 17th!} Congrats to Emily who is the winner of the raw honey!

(A little about Raw Honey from Mohawk Valley Trading Co.: If you are planning to use honey for its health-benefits, it must be raw honey. Heating honey (pasteurization) destroys the all of the pollen, enzymes, propolis, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, and aromatics.)

Recipe: Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies

Inspired by Bon Appétit

Note: You can use your favorite chocolate in this recipe whether it is milk, dark or bittersweet chocolate. Also, you can make this dough ahead and keep it in the fridge. I would keep it stored in a container rather than try and make a log out of the dough (trust me, it’s too soft)!

20 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat 8 ounces of chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Let cool slightly. Keep the saucepan out for melting more chocolate for the glaze.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat brown sugar and butter together on a medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Switch to a whisk attachment and add eggs, vanilla and sour cream and whisk just until combined. Gradually mix in melted chocolate, whisking for a few more minutes (the mixture will begin to resemble chocolate mousse at this point.) Stir in flour mixture, and fold in 8 ounces chopped chocolate. Cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop heaping tablespoons of dough about 2-inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheet halfway through, about 15-18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes (this will seem like an eternity but they are well worth the wait!) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Melt the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate in reserved bowl and set over reserved saucepan of simmering water. Let chocolate cool slightly and drizzle glaze over cookies. Eat immediately if you cannot help yourself any longer (and do not mind chocolate smeared across your face), and for the more patient souls, allow to set for 15-20 minutes.

IT’S A MARSHMALLOW WORLD IN THE WINTER

Bourbon Vanilla Marshmallows | for the love of the south

Christmastime is magical. Gleaming lights flicker and illuminate the night sky like stars twinkling pugnaciously to capture our attention. Fir trees are spotted on the rooftops of cars, silently nestled in their orange, netted jackets, just waiting to be adored and adorned. Fireplaces and kitchen stoves become a gathering place of comfort and conversation with loves ones. Mistletoe hangs innocently under every doorway, blushing at the thought of couples stealing a kiss right under its nose. Then, there is solace under the twinkling stars while cradling a piping hot mug of chocolate topped with a shamelessly melting homemade marshmallow.

Making homemade candies during the holidays is a great pleasure of mine. These marshmallows are particularly wonderful. The sound of the sugar and syrup boiling in the saucepan sounds like the pinging crackle of snowflakes hitting the ground, and the texture of the dusted, springy marshmallows remind me of a perfect blanket of freshly fallen snow. Mostly, I adore making these because I love hot chocolate, and these little beaming beauties are like the lights on the tree and the warmth of the hearth, they are the perfect crowning glory to a season of childlike wonder, pure happiness and eternal bliss.

May God bless your homes and hearts this holiday season!

Recipe: Bourbon Vanilla Marshmallows

Adapted from Bon Appetit |Orangette

Makes 24, 2-inch marshmallows

Note: Serve these wonderfully springy marshmallows with your favorite hot chocolate, sandwich them in between chocolate and graham crackers for luscious s’mores, or package up in cellophane bags as Christmas favors for guests to bring home and indulge in later.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup of cold water, divided

¼ cup of cold bourbon

3 ¼-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin

2 cups of sugar

2/3 cup of light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1/4 cup of cornstarch

1/4 cup of powdered sugar

Line a 13x9x2-inch pan (or a 8×8-inch pan for taller, cubed marshmallows) with parchment paper. Lightly coat parchment paper with nonstick spray.

Pour ¼ cup of cold water and ¼ cup cold bourbon into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water and bourbon. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs liquid, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups of sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining ½ cup of water in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium to medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240 degrees, about 8 minutes.

With the mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture is thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds.

Quickly scrape the mixture into prepared pan. Smooth the top with wet offset spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Stir cornstarch and powdered sugar together in a small bowl to blend. Sift a generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto a work surface, forming a rectangle slightly larger than your pan. Turn marshmallow slab onto the starch-sugar mixture and peel parchment off of the slab. Sift more starch-sugar over slab. Coat large knife with nonstick spray and cut marshmallows into squares. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to a rack, shaking off excess mixture.

Marshmallows can be made two weeks ahead, kept in an airtight container with parchment paper in between the layers of marshmallows.

TURNOVERS FOR A CHANGE

Spiced Pear Turnovers | for the love of the south

As the gilded foliage gently blows from the safety of its boughs, so does the peaceful lull of autumn as we quickly approach the flurry of the holiday season. Midafternoon strolls turn into hurried shopping trips, quiet nights at home are transformed into long evenings at holiday get-togethers, and there is an endless supply of homemade candies that have staked claim in my teeny tiny fridge.

So, I wanted to take a moment before the holidays are in full swing to spend time in the kitchen, peeling, slicing, chopping and stewing these lovely honey-scented pears. Their season is quickly fading with the serenity of autumn days. These turnovers are packaged with love and perfectly puffed pastry, which crunches like leaves under foot as golden flakes of pastry fall onto my wooly plaid shirt. These pear turnovers fill my heart with warmth and craft a beautiful calm before the sensation of the season. I take another bite as I say goodbye to lazy afternoons and say hello to this wonderful holiday season.

Spiced Pear Turnover | for the love of the south

Recipe: Spiced Pear Turnovers

Serves 6

Note: Make sure you allow time for the pear filling to completely cool before placing it into the puff pastry. If you add the filling to the pastry when it is still warm, the pastry will become impossible to work with, and it will become the bane of your existence and you will most likely curse my name! So pretty please, allow the filling to cool!

4 large, firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1”cubes

Juice from ½ lemon

1 tablespoon of flour

½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of honey

1 package of puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon of sugar, for sprinkling

Toss the pears with the lemon juice. Add flour, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon to the pears and lemon juice. Toss to combine, making sure all of the pears are coated with the spices and flour.

Place a large sauté pan on medium to medium-low heat and add the butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the honey and the spiced pears. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The pears are finished cooking whenever they are soft, not mushy (think of the texture of a perfectly ripe pear.) While cooking the pears, you should notice a thick, dark syrup forming. The longer you cook the pears, the darker and thicker the syrup will be! This adds wonderful flavor to the dish. Once the pears have finished cooking, take them off the heat and allow them to cool. If you need to speed up the cooling process, just spread the pears out onto a roasting tray and pop it in the fridge until completely cooled.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Turn out 1 sheet of the puff pastry onto a cutting board. Cut into thirds lengthwise. Cut again down the center across crosswise, creating 6 equal rectangles. Repeat with the second piece of puff pastry.

Place 6 of the cut rectangles on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving about 1 ½-2 inches of room in between each piece of pastry. Brush the edges of the rectangles with the egg wash. Using a tablespoon, fill the centers of the rectangles with the cooled pear filling. Place the remaining 6 pieces of pastry onto the filled pieces, lining up the corners as best as you can. Using a fork, gently seal up all of the edges of the turnovers with the tines of the fork. Using a paring knife, score the tops of the turnovers and brush the egg wash over the entire pastry. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GREAT APPLE CAKE

Spiced Apple Coffee Loaf Cake | for the love of the south

I’m in love with the autumn weather in my new home state of Tennessee. I relish in the leaves as they wave to me from their boughs, showing off their blazing reds, vibrant oranges and luminous yellows. As Michael and I take our daily jaunt into downtown Franklin, leaves shower from the trees above, frolic and play for a whisper of a moment in the breeze and collect around our worn leather boots.

Spiced Apple Coffee Cake | for the love of the south

Morning times are filled with wonder and beauty as fog gracefully laces the paths between rolling emerald fields peppered with bales of hay and cows enjoying their morning graze. Trees with arms like scarecrows bend and bow and give way to the weight of apples, which are scattered at its roots like a piñata with it’s stuffing knocked out. Pumpkin fields are dotted with jade foliage and lurid orange pumpkins. Farmers markets overflow with spotty gourds, ice blue pumpkins, rainbow hues of Indian corn and luscious, sharp apples. I have never lived so far north where there were so many varieties of apples at the farmers markets. I plunged the apple cartons and brought a beautiful bounty home to my cozy Tennessee loft.

Farmers Market Pumpkin | for the love of the south

I stare outside at the fiery leaves, wondering what I should make with my glut of apples. I gaze at my afternoon coffee and realize I want an apple coffee cake. I begin whisking together flour, eggs, fresh pressed apple juice and toss the fresh apples and spicy cinnamon in my trusty cast iron skillet and baked it till golden brown. I sit quite content with my apple cake in one hand and coffee in another, being entertained by the pirouetting of leaves outside my window. There’s no place I’d rather be than my cozy corner in Tennessee.

Fall Coffee | for the love of the south

Recipe: Spiced Apple Coffee Cake

Makes 1 10” Cake or 1 Loaf Cake

Note: I have made this cake in a loaf pan, cast-iron skillet and a cake pan, and it came out beautiful every time. For the loaf cake, I diced the apples and allowed the cake to cook a few minutes longer. For the skillet and cake pan, I sliced the apples and fanned them out on the pan.

Butter or vegetable oil, to grease pan

12 ounces of peeled, cored and diced apples (or sliced if you prefer)

1 ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

½ cup of granulated sugar, plus 2 ½ tablespoons, divided

1 ½ cup of flour, plus 2 tablespoons

1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

½ cup of brown sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons of pure pressed apple juice

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

2 eggs

Powdered sugar, to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 10” skillet with butter or vegetable oil. Set aside.

Toss diced apples, ground cinnamon and 2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar together in a medium-sized bowl.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk the remaining ½ cup of granulated sugar, ½ cup of brown sugar, melted butter, apple juice, vanilla extract and eggs together in a medium-sized bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, making sure all of the components are well combined.

Pour half of the batter into the greased skillet. The batter will be very thick so you may need to use an offset spatula to even out the batter in the pan. Spread half of the apples over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and top with the remaining apples and whatever liquid was released from the apples.

Bake for 1-1 ½ hours or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack and transfer onto a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Walking Through Corn Stalks | for the love of the south

DEPRIVED TRICK-OR-TREATERS

Bacon Bourbon Brittle | for the love of the southHalloween used to be a much simpler time. I remember dressing up like a genie, head to toe in cheap magenta polyester, lagging around a plastic pumpkin pail. The pumpkin and I grinned from ear to ear as we both filled to the brim with sweet treats. Under the cover of night, my friends and I scurried around the neighborhood, harmoniously shrilling “trick or treat” to whoever dared open their front doors. We sat on the curb at the end of the evening, rummaging through our loot of glassine bags chockfull with homemade cookies, crinkled parchment wrapped caramels and silver foil bound candies.

Now a day, kids saunter through the streets with their parents at hand and go door-to-door during the “safety hours” of dusk. Instead of the homemade caramels and brittle and popcorn balls, youngsters are only allowed to relish in prepackaged candies, for fear there may be a razors or poison in the candy. Razors or poison? Since when did Halloween get so treacherous? I long for the days when the faces on jack-o-lanterns were the creepiest part of the evenings, grinning from ear to ear from the dimly lit porch lights.

So here is a treat of homemade bacon bourbon brittle, not for the kiddies trick or treating this year, but for myself. I will devour this brittle on the couch, in the dark watching Arsenic and Old Lace, nibbling and awaiting the end of this scary season whichsomersaults into Thanksgiving and cartwheels onto Christmas. No tricks, just treats (which just so happens to be my favorite part of this holiday.) I’ll grin ear to ear like the pumpkin on the front porch, eating my homemade candy, dreaming of a simpler world, or at least a simpler Halloween.

Bacon Bourbon Brittle | for the love of the southRecipe: Bacon Bourbon Brittle

Serves 8

Vegetable oil, for greasing parchment paper

½ cup of sugar

¼ cup of light corn syrup

1 ½ tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of butter

3/8 teaspoon of baking soda

1 tablespoon of bourbon

½ cup of crispy bacon, torn into small pieces

Sea salt, to sprinkle

Brush a parchment-lined baking sheet with vegetable oil; set aside. Bring sugar, corn syrup and water to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Fit the saucepan with a candy thermometer and cook until the thermometer registers 290 degrees, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in butter, cook, stirring often until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees. Take off heat and add baking soda, bourbon and bacon pieces. Stir together and immediately spread onto prepared, greased parchment paper and spread with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt. Let cool and break the brittle into pieces. Enjoy!

Make Ahead: Brittle can be made one week ahead. Store airtight, layered between pieces of parchment paper at room temperature.

FINALLY FEELING LIKE FALL

Single Salted Caramel Apple | for the love of the southWhile being raised in Louisiana, it was difficult to distinguish by the weather when summer had departed and autumn hushed in its place. Foliage and temperatures never seemed to alter, but there was one event that took place in the kitchen, which inaugurated the turn of the season.

Like clockwork around this time of year, my mom would buy the most beautiful red and green apples she could find, lined them all in a row on our ivory-speckled Formica countertops. She speared them with snowy lollipop sticks and deliberately dipped the rosy apples in a fiercely red candy concoction and spun them ever so slightly so the neon confection perfectly coated the matte skin of the ruby apples. Jade-hued apples were adorned with a disk of latte-colored caramel conveniently prepped with a teeny hole in the center to fit over the sticks. She popped them in a warm oven where the caramel leisurely oozed, skirting the apples and finally pooling at the bottom of the baking sheet.

I remember watching my mother stand in charge over the scalding sugars and melting caramel like an enchantress at her cauldron churning out one flawless apple after another. Bubbles had mysteriously suspended in the thick, gleaming façade, wafts of sugar pervaded my senses, the hard coating covering the apple cracked under much application of my tiny jaw, and my chin was neon red and tasted somewhat of caramel for the rest of the afternoon. I knew in that small, sweet kitchen fall had officially begun.

Salted Caramel Apples | for the love of the south

Recipe: Inspired by Donna Hay

Makes 8 small apples

Note: You can use any apple you like for this recipe, but I use Golden Delicious (they are a favorite of mine!) Also, instead of using wooden skewers for the apples, I used twigs that had been thoroughly scrubbed and dried to give the dish a more natural look and feel!

8 wooden sticks

8 small apples, washed and dried

1 ½ cups light corn syrup, divided

2 ½ sticks of butter, chopped into cubes

2 cups of sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon of coarsely ground sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

Insert a stick into the center of each apple and set aside.

Place 1 cup of the corn syrup, butter and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is well combined. Bring to a boil. Swirl the pan every few minutes while the mixture is boiling, and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 275 degrees.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in vanilla, remaining ½ cup of corn syrup and sea salt. Dip the prepared apples into the caramel and place on a cookie sheet fitted with a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle the tops of the apples with more sea salt if desired. Set aside for 30 minutes to completely harden. Enjoy!

MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT STORMS & MERINGUES

Chocolate Cloud Meringues | for the love of the south

Growing up on the Gulf, billowing and bellowing beginnings of tropical storms vehemently interrupted many summer slumbers. No matter the time of night, staying under the covers whenever a storm was brewing right outside was not an option. I remember meandering downstairs and finding the largest window in our house to sit next to (which is NOT recommended during a storm!) I lugged a heavy, wooden chair next to one already perched at the window. I knew someone else was awake and being amused by the marvel of belly aching thunderclouds and blinding streaks of lightning. A small thud came from the kitchen and within moments, my dad sat next to me with a glass filled to the brim with milk, an entire package of Oreos and handed me a cookie. We sat in silence for what seemed like hours, observing cracks of lightning illuminating the sky and thunder so booming the windows shuddered from its mighty force. Gusts of wind blew over the landscape, toppling over our poor ferns that hung in between the towering white columns of our plantation-style home.

In the morning, Mom went on about the massacre of ferns on her front porch destroyed by the storm and the mystery of an opened package of Oreos left on the counter. I shot a glance at Dad, and we both just smirked at each other over our toast and chocolate milk. Neither one of us was willing to confess about our clandestine weather related midnight meetings and countless cookie consumption.

Recipe: Adapted from Zoe Bakes

Makes 16 cookies

Note: These murky meringues remind me of heavy-bottomed rainclouds and the countless chocolate cookies I consumed during thunderstorms, and please do not fret if there are cracks in the meringues after they are baked and set aside to cool. The cracks remind me of cracks of lightning and I consider these imperfections beautiful!

4 egg whites

¾ cup of sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites, sugar and salt just until combined. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar has completely dissolved. This can take a few minutes. Feel the egg mixture between your fingers to check for graininess.

Once the mixture feels completely smooth, put it back on the stand mixer and beat with whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the mixture is light, fluffy and glossy. Carefully fold in cocoa powder.

Using a tablespoon, create mounds of meringue on the prepared baking sheets. With a teaspoon, create the “swirl” pattern by circling around the base and working your way up the meringue.

Bake for 1 ½ hours in a 200 degree oven, then shut off the oven for 30 minutes. Take the meringues out of the oven and let cool. Using a spatula, gently remove the meringues off of the baking sheets and store in an airtight container if not consuming immediately.

CHICORY COFFEE & RITUALS

Chicory Granita & Bourbon Whipped Cream | for the love of the south

I have an inherited adoration for coffee. Notice I did not say inherent but inherited. I grew up drinking coffee. I did not grow up around coffee but drinking coffee. I distinctly remember my first cup.

My grannie fixed my sister and I two tiny glasses of coffee milk (which seemed to consist of more sugar than coffee or milk.) I stretched out my hands and took hold of the cold crystal glass filled with this lovely blonde beverage. My little fingernails slowly etched the scrolling flowery design on the tumbler as I quietly imbibed my very first glass of smoky, chicory coffee. In that one moment, I had unknowingly become part of a treasured ritual I would carry with me daily.

I’m not sure if it was the percolating sound of the coffeemaker puttering about or the smoky aroma that beckoned us out of our beds, but whatever it was brought us together in the mornings. In those small hours, we sat at my grannie’s solid wooden kitchen table and visited for the better part of an hour, hot coffee in hand, sharing life together.

Now, no matter how far I am from my grannie’s kitchen table, I sit with my morning cup of coffee and the comfort of knowing my loved ones are taking part of the same ritual that connects our hearts. Like Luisa Weiss once said, “Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home,” or in my case, coffee.

Recipe: Cold-Brewed Chicory Coffee Granita with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Serves 2

Note:  I love using Community Coffee, but If you can’t find chicory in whole bean coffee your favorite whole bean coffee will work just fine for this recipe. Also, the bourbon in the recipe is optional, just substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract if you prefer.

P.S. As the granita melts into the cream, the combination creates a lovely, silky latte effect so it’s good to the last drop, even if it melts!

For the Chicory Coffee Granita:

2 cups of strong chicory coffee, freshly brewed

2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar

Dissolve the cane sugar in the freshly brewed coffee. Allow the coffee to cool slightly.

Pour the  coffee into a shallow container with a lid. Let the coffee sit in the freezer for an hour. After an hour, take a fork and scrape the ice crystals. Place back into the freezer and scrape the ice every 30 minutes until the granita is fluffy and light. Serve in glasses topped with the Bourbon Whipped Cream (recipe below) if desired!

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream:

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 tablespoon of bourbon (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)

Whip all of the ingredients in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. The whipped cream should be able to hold a slight peak if inverted.