Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

dessert

Yankee Tradition Goes Southern with Sweet Potato and Grits Twist

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that Thanksgiving,  my favorite holiday, is a little over a week away. October flew this year, with travel to visit my father who was ill (but thankfully is much better), a dreadful cold that lived in my sinuses for two weeks, and fast and furious recipe development for my newest cookbook baby (working title: Mashed) that will be released by my publisher Gibbs Smith in fall 2016. I wanted to share this recipe with you, because it’s one of my favorites from those yet developed for the book, but also because it’s a perfect ending for your Thanksgiving feast. I love the color and flavor sweet potato adds, and the grist of the grits melts into the pudding as it cooks. Delicious! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I think I’ll be making it again next week.

Sweet Potato Indian Pudding

(Yields 6 to 8 servings)

This rustic and gorgeous sweet pudding combines elements of the traditional Indian pudding I grew to know and love as a child in my native New England, with ingredients widely used in in my adult hometown of Charleston, SC and throughout the South – sweet potatoes and grits. The New England version skips the sweet potatoes all together and uses cornmeal as the “corn” element of the pudding, while this recipe adds the perfectly appropriate flavor and texture girth of mashed sweet potatoes and grits – a rougher, stone-ground version of cornmeal. The results are stunning. As southerners are apt to say, “It’s the best thing you’ll ever put in your mouth.”

It’s best warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top. If you can’t find stone-ground grits, cornmeal or polenta will work fine. But, skip the instant variety. Longer cooking soaks up all the flavor of the pudding and melts the corn into one integrated bowl of perfection.

Sweet Potato Indian Pudding – an advance preview from Holly Herrick’s next cookbook release.

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups Half & Half

1/3 cup stone ground white or yellow grits (or substitute cornmeal)

1/4 cup molasses

2 large eggs

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

 

The day before cooking, prep the mashed sweet potatoes. Preheat oven to 425F. Scrub and pierce a large sweet potato a couple times with a knife. Bake until soft and skin is puckered, about one hour. Remove skin when cook enough to handle and mash until fine and fluffy. Reserve (refrigerate, covered, for several days).

On pudding day, preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 1 1/2 to 2 quart deep-sided baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Bring the Half & Half up to a simmer over medium high heat in a medium-sized pot. Do not boil! When simmering, whisk in the sweet potatoes, grits and molasses. Whisk, constantly, over medium high heat until thickened to a thin pudding stage, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon until frothy. Whisk in 1 cup of the warm pudding mixture. Pour in the remaining pudding mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the pudding into the buttered baking dish. Bake on center rack for 40 minutes. Add the cold butter cubes, sprinkling evenly over the top. Reduce the heat to 325F. Cook 45 – 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The pudding will quiver slightly to the touch. Remove from oven. Rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

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Red, White and Beignet

Valentine’s Day, the holiday that almost everyone loves to hate, is upon us. While not one of this diehard romantic’s favorite holidays due to its forced, contrived nature and requisite expense, I can still see the value in this lovers’ holiday. However, it’s not via cards, chocolate or heart candies. It is, of course, the process of cooking. While cooking French stews for a very special guest this weekend, I was sweetly reminded of the process of cooking, the meditative, nurturing act of cooking as one of the most sincere expressions of love. For those who love to nurture through food, it just feels right, and better than unwrapping any red bow.   The recipe for beignets with a fresh raspberry coulis from The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs seem to fit the bill nicely for a loving Valentine treat. Hot out of the fryer, they are exquisite with just a dusting of powdered sugar and served on a plate of brilliant red, acid/sweet raspberry coulis.

Recipe adapted from The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs (Gibbs Smith, March 2013) This post should guide you through the cooking process fuss-free, but if you’d like to see me demonstrate how to make them, I’ll be doing so this Sunday at Le Creuset in downtown Charleston, SC. See picture below for details. Book signing to follow.  Come on by and bite into a beignet and maybe a book. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Beignets with Raspberry Coulis

(Yields 12 Beignets)

Beignets with Raspberry Coulis. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio

Beignets with Raspberry Coulis. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio

 

Raspberry Sauce

4 cups (2 pints) fresh raspberries

1/3 cup sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon grenadine syrup

2 tablespoons creme de cassis liqueur, optional

1/4 cup water

Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt

Make the sauce first. In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients by stirring with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce to a steady simmer, stirring until the berries begin to break up, about 5 minutes. Puree with a blender or food processor until smooth and frothy. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Sweet Choux Pastry Recipe

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

4 large eggs (about 1 cup) room temperature, beaten together

(Note: Keep in mind that things move fast once the pastry is made. You’ll want to keep it warm while you heat up the oil for frying, so only make it once you’re able to fully commit to making it from beginning to end. Only minutes are involved before the delicious beignets are ready!)

In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, heat the water and butter together over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium.

Sift together the two flours and salt over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the water mixture, and set the bowl nearby. Stire the dough vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring it together. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl and let sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your fingertip for at least 10 seconds. Add half of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously until it looks uniform and glossy about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir until the pastry is uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.  Reserve the pastry warm while the oil heats.

For Frying and Garnish:

6 cups vegetable, peanut or canola oil

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pour the oil into a high-sided, 2-quart saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil starts to slither and swirl along the bottom of the pan and begins to make popping noises. This will take about 5 minutes.

The ideal temperature for deep-frying is about 300F. (I recommend using a thermometer). When the oil is hot, begin cooking the beignets in batches of 4 or 5 at a time. Dip an everyday table service soup spoon into cold water. Fill to heaping with choux. Carefully drop the first “test” beignet from the spoon into the hot oil. It should pop to the surface within 30 seconds. (If it doesn’t, the oil isn’t hot enough. Wait a few more minutes and try again.)  Add 3 or 4 additional beignets to the oil in rapid succession. After 4 or 5 minutes, they will start to puff and expand noticeably. Turn each with a spoon from time to time, to brown and cook evenly. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, total, or until airy and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining beignets. Reserved drained beignets in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Serve the beignets warm, 1 to 2 per plate over a 1/3-cup of the cool sauce. Sprinkle each with a tablespoon or so of powderered sugar. Serve immediately.

Bon appetit!

 

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Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

These beautiful little cream puffs actually look a bit like pumpkins, are light as air, and practically whisper “autumn” in every bite.

Creamy sweet marscapone, ginger, nutmeg, ginger and a splash of Cognac recall the classic flavors of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. The pastry gets a colorful pumpkin flavor glow from the addition of pumpkin puree to classic choux pastry.  And, finely chopped pecans in the filling deliver an unexpected crunch surprise. On top? A fuss-free,  fluttery dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

What’s  not to love? These would make a lovely,  light ending to any meal and are sure to please. Give them a go for Halloween or Thanksgiving or any time simple and delicious sounds just about right.

(Adapted from The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs, Gibbs Smith, October, 1, 2013, by Holly Herrick)

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

(Makes 22 – 24 “petite” cream puffs)

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

Begin by preparing the pastry.

Sweet Pumpkin Choux Pastry

Special Equipment Needed: 2 silicon baking sheets or parchment paper, 2 half-sheet baking pans, one 12” piping bag, #806 round pastry tip, pastry brush.

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Generous pinch kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together

Egg wash: 1 egg, splash water and pinch kosher or sea salt, beaten together

Preheat the oven to 425F. Have everything measured and in place in before starting to actually prepare the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Whisk in the pumpkin puree until blended. Reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour, sugar, and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. This should take about 1 – 2 minutes.

Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

While the pastry is still warm, pipe and bake the pastry using a 1/2″-round tip (#806)  onto a silicon or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pipe so that the choux puffs are all the same size, about 1 1/1″ wide (round) and about 3/4″ high. Brush the top of each pastry with a light coating of egg wash, being careful not to allow the wash to drip down the sides of the pastry.

Bake the choux puffs for 22 to 25  minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the pastry stand for 5 minutes. Pierce the bottom of each choux gently with the tip of a knife. Allow to cool completely before filling. (Note: The pastry can be prepared ahead and baked several days before filling. Store in the freezer in plastic freezer bags for up to three weeks).

Creamy Spiced Pecan and Mascarpone Filling

1 cup mascarpone cheese (or substitute regular cream cheese), room temperature

1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon best-quality vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Cognac or bourbon

3 tablespoons whipping cream

Pinch kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Whisk together all of the ingredients, except the pecans,  in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold in the pecans and blend to combine. Reserve cold until ready to use (Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered. Sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before filling the cream puffs).

Putting It Together – Assemblage

If you’re not inclined to fuss with a pastry bag, simply cut each choux puff in half horizontally with a serrated knife. “Plop” a teaspoon of the filling on the bottom half of each puff and cap each with its respective top. Or, fit a clean pastry bag with a clean #806 round pastry bag, and fill the halved choux, piping about 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of each, and capping each with their respective choux hoods.

Spiced Sugar Garnish

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the sugar and the cinnamon in a small sifter. Sprinkle generously over the top of the filled cream puffs.  Serve immediately and watch ’em swoon. These are first-place-delicious-good.

Bon appetit!

 

 

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