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Carrot Cake with Goat’s Milk Caramel

It would seem that, somehow, I have become known as someone who hates cake.  And I would like to set the record straight.  I don’t hate cake.  I merely prefer pie.  And there is one time of year when I always make cake- Dan’s birthday.  Because somehow I ended up married to someone who prefers cake.  Weirdsies.

This year his request was carrot cake. I hate to admit (knowing full well that I will never hear the end of it) that I am especially not a fan of carrot cake.  Or anything with a cream cheese frosting.  I’m sorry.  I had to get that off my chest.  But because I could never deny this face anything, my favorite cake lover got just what he asked for.  Seven days after his birthday, because I’m nothing if not a procrastinator.

I must say, for cake, this was good.  And for a cake with cream cheese frosting, in my opinion, it was really good.  Even my brother-in-law, who is a devoted fan of carrot cake, gave it a nod.  It was incredibly moist and was made significantly more delicious by the goat’s milk caramel I spread between the two layers.  I’m a sucker for anything with goat’s milk and this caramel had just the right balance of flavor and smooth creamy texture.  Most importantly, though, the birthday boy was happy.

Carrot Cake with Goat’s Milk Caramel

Cake:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup pastry flour

6-8 medium carrots, peeled

2 tsps baking soda

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Pinch of salt

4 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Goat’s Milk Caramel:

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup goat’s milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup corn syrup

5 tbsp salted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream cheese frosting:

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

6 tbsp butter, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

Toasted pecans for topping

A few hours before you make your cake, start with your caramel.  In a heavy pan combine sugar, syrup, and water.  In another pan scald cream, milk, and butter.  Allow sugar mixture to continue to cook over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until golden brown.  Remove from heat and add milk mixture slowly.  It will bubble up but remain calm and keep stirring!  Stir in vanilla.  Pour into a dish lined with wax paper and allow to cool.

Butter two 9″ cake pans.

Shred your carrots.  Sift dry ingredients.  Add in eggs, oil, and vanilla, mixing thoroughly.  Stir in carrots.  Pour batter into cake pans and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until cooked through.  Turn onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

While your cake is cooling, prepare your icing.  Cream cheese and butter.  Add sugar slowly.  Stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract.

To assemble your cake place down your first layer, top down.  Top with a generous helping of caramel.  Place the next layer on top, top side up.  Spread frosting equally over the top and sides.  Finish with toasted pecans.  Enjoy!

Dan & my cousin Taylor on his 26th birthday!

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Roasted Chicken & Root Vegetables

This year we managed to make Christmas last until January 15th.  One benefit of having large families spread all over the country is that there’s a great excuse to celebrate and celebrate and celebrate.  We started in the beginning of December with my grandparents, visiting a beautiful lighted garden and enjoying a nice dinner.  After that we (I) broke all rules about withholding presents until, you know, Christmas, and started giving Dan his presents a little at a time.  That was a great idea.  Next came Meredith’s dance recital and Amelie’s baptism.  We love nieces.  After that we headed to North Carolina to do Christmas with my family.  We were so lucky that we were able to see aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, siblings, and friends.  Once we returned we had a week of New Year’s downtime before we celebrated first with Dan’s parents and then the next weekend with Megan, John & the nieces.  These last two celebrations were at our house, which gave me the opportunity to cook recipes I’d had tucked away for company, something I love to do.

For these celebrations I made a roasted chicken on a bed of root vegetables, rice, sauteed beet greens, and a lemon meringue pie.  The first week the pie was a disaster (because I used tapioca beads, silly me) but the second week it was silky and perfect.  The flip side, of course is that the fudge I made for the Turcotte family to take home the second week was grainy and totally off.  Because- and I say this in all seriousness- there is no such thing as a perfect meal when I have company. Something always goes wrong.

The roasted chicken, however, was perfect.  Rubbed down with butter and stuffed with garlic cloves it had brown crunchy skin and moist, flavorful meat.  The vegetables were bursting with flavor, all pink from the beets in the mix.  It was a wonderful meal to wrap up this year’s Christmas celebrations!  And now that the decorations are down, I’ll just need it to be spring… immediately (closes eyes and ignores freezing rain outside the window).

The nieces and I with their new Christmas hats! Photo by Dan

Roasted Chicken & Root Vegetables

1 whole chicken

4 tbsp butter

1 tbsp salt

8-10 cloves garlic

3 beets

4-6 medium size carrots

3 red potatoes

1 large vidalia onion

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt & pepper

1 hour before you’re ready to cook your chicken, take your chicken out of the fridge.  Remove the innards, rinse with cold water, and allow to come to room temperature.  Also allow your butter to come to room temp.  Tie legs together.

Begin by rubbing your chicken down with butter.  Then, cut slits throughout the body and legs of the chicken.  Stuff each slit with a clove of garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 475.

Peel and dice your beets and carrots.  Cube your potatoes and cut your onion into large chunks.  Place all vegetables into a large roasting dish.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Make a bed in the vegetables and place the chicken on top.

Cook at 475 for 20 minutes and then lower the temperature to 400.  Cook an additional 45 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.  Baste with juices.

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Lemon Meringue Pie

I find myself completely fascinated by a certain movement that I see happening all around me, across all fronts, to all sorts of people.  It’s a phenomenon that I’m a part of, and one that doesn’t surprise me at all.  It’s a return to a lifestyle where everything isn’t automatic.  Where baking your own bread and canning vegetables you grew in your garden is fun, but also important.  It’s taking the activities that our grandparents and great grandparents considered part of daily life and blending them with the lessons and values our culture has picked up over the past 60 years.  It’s me, in the kitchen barefoot (not pregnant) baking a pie because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to.  It’s a meeting of old and new that I, and a lot of others, are drawing hope from.

What I find most interesting about this whole movement is that it seems obvious (to me, whose anthropological knowledge ends with the amount of Bones I’ve watched) what happened, over the course of a few generations.  Starting with our grandparents (I use “our” referring to people in their 20’s and 30’s, children of Baby Boomers).  Our grandparents came of age in a post WWII world, where the values and traditions of generations past clashed with a lifestyle that had developed during the war, one of convenience and making due.  It’s why my grandmother’s recipe box contained her grandmother’s roll recipe right next to the recipe for ambrosia salad.  It’s why when, upon my mother’s request, I called my great Aunt for her lemon meringue pie recipe years ago only to be told that it was the one from the side of the pudding box (but that she had made special tweaks to improve it).  It was a culture created first by necessity and then by availability.

Our parents, the baby boomers, continued the trend.  Now my parents aren’t the best example of this because they have always done things like smoke their own fish and make their own pasta sauce.  A vegetable garden was always a staple in our home.  But things like preserving, canning, and for some even cooking dinner every night became a lost art, as women became more successful in the business world and as homemaking became associated with a kind of oppression.  And then there’s my generation.  As I’ve come into my own I’ve found a lot of joy in making things from scratch, growing and preserving my own fruits and vegetables, standing in the kitchen with no shoes on making pies.  I credit my parent’s love of the kitchen for my love of the kitchen but there’s more.  It’s partly because I love it but partly because I know it’s the right thing to do.  What the world needs now is not another shrink wrapped plastic encased overly processed pastry.  It’s homemade pie.  It’s beer brewed underneath a kitchen table.  It’s meringue made with eggs from the farmer’s market.  I know I joked last week about the apocalypse but in a time where the future really does seem scary and uncertain it’s important to remember that the little things you can do WILL help.  So go, bake a pie.  Or start a compost pile.  Or walk to work.  Or do whatever it is that you can do to help, however small it seems.  Remember that, if no matter what generation you fall into, you can make a difference.  We’re working for the future.  One pie at a time.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust:

6-8 graham crackers

1 stick butter

1/4 cup sugar

Filling:

Juice of 4 lemons

1/2 cup corn starch

Yolks of 5 medium size eggs (hold onto the whites)

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

Zest from 2 lemons

Meringue:

6 egg whites

1 tsp cream of tartar

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

Start with your crust.  Crush graham crackers and melt butter.  Combine, stirring in sugar.  Press into bottom (not sides) of a pie dish.  Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.  Oven should stay on at 375.

To make your filling, whisk together yolks in a large bowl.  Next, combine water, corn starch, and sugar in a medium size pot.  Stir over medium heat until thick.  When  mixture is thick remove from heat and slowly mix into egg yolks, stirring carefully.  Return the mixture to the pot and, over medium heat, cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and zest.  Scoop into pie dish, spreading evenly over the crust.

Combine whites, tartar, and sugar in a mixer.  Whip until stiff.  Spoon into pie dish, making sure you completely cover the filling and that the meringue touches the edges of the pie dish.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool completely before serving.

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