Blog - biscuits and such
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Solstice Yule Log

Happy Winter Solstice! Today marks the longest night of the year, the turning of the seasons, the return of the sun. Winter holidays around the world draw inspiration from the solstice, and it’s certainly an event worth celebrating.



We celebrated (a night early) with a potluck with friends, popping bottles of bubbly wine and feasting on the bounty of root vegetables. It’s one of my favorite nights of the holiday season, particularly because we always mark it with a small, low key dinner. It feels right to mark the occasion, to toast the changing of the seasons and the shifts as the earth makes its slow rotation around the sun.



This year I decided to try my hand at a fancy buche de noel, a yule log cake. A thin, almost flour-less cake layered with hazelnut mousse and rolled on itself, topped with more mousse and then decorated to look like a yule log. It’s above and beyond the effort I usually put into the appearance of cakes but Everett took a particularly long and agreeable nap yesterday, so I decided to challenge myself.



Probably because it’s mostly mousse, the end result was fantastic. Chocolatey and rich and soft and light and heavenly. And, amazingly, very easy. The hardest part of the whole process was picking holly from my yard in the rain.



All in all, it was a wonderful celebration. I’m ready to close the door on 2017, and it feels good to be turning the corner into a new season. Happy Solstice, friends!



Solstice Yule Log Cake


6 eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus 1 tbsp for dusting

1 tbsp all purpose flour

Pinch of salt

Butter for greasing



7 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

3 cups heavy cream

1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread

1 tsp vanilla extract



1/4 cup powdered sugar

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Handful slivered almonds

Fresh holly leaves


Heat oven to 350F.


Grease a 10×15″ rimmed baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Whip together the eggs and sugar on high until they have thickened and doubled in volume. This takes approximately 3-5 minutes.


Mix together flour, cocoa, and salt and then fold into eggs. Carefully cut and fold, making sure to fully incorporate the dry ingredients. Pour gently onto the baking sheet and spread so it reaches the edges. Take care not to deflate. Bake for 15 minutes.


While the cake is baking, dust a second sheet of parchment with cocoa powder. When the cake is done allow it to cool for 5 minutes and then gently peel the edges of the cake away from the parchment. Flip the cake onto the second parchment paper and then, using a knife to help separate, peel the parchment off the cake. Cover with a towel and allow to cool.


Scald 1 1/4 cups of cream, removing from heat before it boils. Stir in chocolate chips and hazelnut spread, along with vanilla. Stir well, until the chocolate is melted and well incorporated. Whip remaining cream until stiff. Fold the ganache into the whipped cream, stirring until fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl!


Remove the towel from the cake and, using the parchment to help, roll the cake tightly on itself. Allow to sit, rolled, for 5 minutes, and then unroll it. Top the cake with a thick layer (1/4″) of mousse. Again using the parchment to guide, roll the cake onto itself. Have your serving platter ready and use the parchment to roll the cake directly onto your serving platter.


Cut a 3-4″ piece of the cake off at an angle, and position it on the side so it resembles a log. Use a pastry knife to spread the remaining mouse thickly over the cake. Then use a fork to add bark texture, and decorate as you’d like with holly leaves, pomegranate seeds, and almond slivers. Chill for 3-4 hours.


Directly before serving top with powdered sugar. Enjoy!



Make this gluten free:


This is an easy one! Simply substitute measure for measure gluten free flour (I used King Arthur) and follow the recipe as written!

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Persimmon & Pecan Bread

When we moved onto our new street we heard rumors of the amazing persimmon tree in our neighbor’s yard– Japanese persimmons grafted onto a Carolina persimmon trunk. When the tree set fruit it was magnificent; bright orange persimmons, a shock against the crisp fall sky. To my delight I came home one day this fall to a basket full of these beauties on my kitchen counter.




A strong craving for freshly baked bread this weekend inspired me to adapt my classic banana bread recipe to compliment my bounty of persimmons. Brown sugar, buttermilk, raw pecans, and roasted persimmons combine to make a bread that is slightly sweet, chewy, and crisp around the edges. I’ve been eating it once slice at a time this week, toasted and smeared with a little salted butter.



There are two varieties of persimmons readily available in American grocery stores- Fuyu and Hachiya. Fuyu are lighter in color, a bit squat in shape, and beloved for their sweet, honeyed flavor when eaten fresh. Hachiya are darker in color, oblong in shape, and are best when eaten very ripe or roasted. All 100 counties of North Carolina are also home to a third variety of persimmon- the American persimmon. These persimmons (including the bountiful one in my neighbor’s yard) bare fruit that must be gathered from the ground when very ripe and boast a sweet, spicy flavor. Roasted persimmons have a sweet, mellow flavor that lends itself well to both dessert and savory dishes.



As we roll straight into the holidays and my desk fills higher and higher with sweets and candy, it’s nice to have a balance. Nothing beats a slice of hot buttered sweet bread with my morning cup of coffee and I’m so thankful that I have enough roasted persimmons in the freezer to see me through winter. It’s the little things, you know?



Persimmon & Pecan Bread


2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

3 persimmons

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Butter to grease the pan


Heat oven to 425F. Chop persimmons into bite sized pieces. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until they are soft and beginning to bubble. Reduce oven temperature to 400F.


Mix together all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Gently smash the persimmons with a fork and mix into batter. Grease a loaf pan or 8″ skillet and pour batter into the pan, taking care to evenly distribute the persimmons. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the bread is baked through (and a knife comes out clean).


Transfer to a rack to cool.



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Apple & Gouda Skillet Pies

This weekend my family is coming to Wilmington, traveling from places as far flung as Ireland and New Orleans, for a week of Thanksgiving fun. Three of my five siblings (and their families) will be in town, plus my parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. We’ll be baking biscuits, roasting oysters, watching toddlers wrestle, playing football in the park (the “we” on that one is pretty loose), toasting to new engagements, and enjoying the experience and madness of being together.




The pressure of helping to host Thanksgiving in a house where the paint is still drying (that’s only kind of a joke) has been a great motivator in getting things done. This week we stripped the wallpaper off another room, primed and painted walls, hung quarter round over the kitchen cabinets, painted the trim and rolled seven doors and door frames, and hung a serious amount of art all over the house. What is it about getting art on the walls that makes it feel like YOUR HOUSE all of the sudden? We’ve almost reached the point where I won’t be embarrassed to host my sister’s engagement party (assuming everyone has enough champagne not to look at the trim too closely).



One of my favorite events of the holidays is the whole family White Elephant gift exchange. We’ve honed the rules and routine over the course of a few decades and it’s quite the event. The stakes are high, and deciding what gifts to add every year comes with a lot of pressure- nobody wants to gift the dud. Thankfully this year I had a new cookbook published and (family spoiler ahead!) I’ll be including a copy in one of our gifts.



This recipe from The Southern Cast Iron Cookbook will also have a place in our holiday extravaganza, most likely on the Thanksgiving table itself. Apple pies with a little gouda grated into the crust, baked in a cast iron biscuit pan for the optimal crispy edges, are one of my favorite autumnal desserts. They’ll be the first dessert baked in my new kitchen, and I can’t think of a better occasion for its grand debut.



Apple & Gouda Skillet Pies


For the dough 

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cubed smoked Gouda cheese

¾ cup (1½ sticks) salted butter, cubed

3 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 egg, beaten



For the filling 

4 tablespoons salted butter

6 honey crisp or pink lady apples, skin on, cored and sliced ½ inch thick

4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



To make the dough

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, Gouda, butter, sugar, and sea salt. Pulse until everything is crumbled and roughly resembles the texture of cornmeal.
  2. While pulsing, add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until a dough ball forms. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.


To make the filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In your skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter.
  3. Stir the apples into the melted butter.
  4. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. With the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, grease the wells of the biscuit pan.
  6. On a floured surface or a silicone baking mat, roll out 7 chunks of piecrust dough, each into a 5-inch circle about ¼ inch thick, and press 1 into each well. Fill each with equal amounts of the apples.
  7. Roll out the remaining dough ¼ inch thick and, with a circular piecrust dough cutter, cut out 7 (4-inch) rounds. Top each pie with one, joining the bottom crust with the top and pinching off any excess. Cut 3 or 4 (1-inch) slits into each pie top.
  8. Brush the top of each pie with beaten egg.
  9. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until browned and bubbling.
  10. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before gently removing the pies from the pan. Serve warm.


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