Sunday, April 22, 2012

Share your kitchen strength to end childhood hunger

Long before some of the most influential members of Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina got books deals, they developed their craft making things to contribute to bake sales.

CHOP NC Founder Nancie McDermott
“I love and adore bake sales,” said CHOP NC Founder Nancie McDermott, author of two baking bibles, Southern Pies and Southern Cakes, both published by Chronicle Books. “They're like lemonade stands, only more substantial, and they speak of people happy to be baking, to be sharing, to be eating, and usually to be raising money for something dear to them.”

Events supporting the national Share Our Strength Great American Bake Sale are being held across the country to raise awareness of and end childhood hunger in our nation. Several events are registered for our area, and CHOP NC would like to help you get involved by sharing recipes that can be used for this or future bake sales. In addition to CHOP NC members and distinguished friends, like Virginia Willis, we even persuaded Executive Chef David Gaydeski to share the secrets of the chocolate chip cookies served to visitors at the North Carolina Executive Mansion.

"Bakes sales may seem silly but it shows you the power of people doing a little thing,” said Sheri Castle, author of The New Southern Garden Cookbook (UNC Press) and a recent winner of an International Association of Culinary Professionals award for foodwriting."You make a little something, sell the slice for more than it's worth, and it all adds up. It's a great premise and a worthy cause."

The recipes that follow cover a wide spectrum of regional flavors, from Atlanta-based Willis’ Shortbread Buttons to Sandra Gutierrez’s Chile-Chocolate Brownies, and Elizabeth Wiegand’s coastal Ocracoke Fig Cake to McDermott’s Shenandoah Valley Blueberry Cake.

“I for one am always on the prowl for something a little more edgy: the chipless cookie, the lemon bar made with lime, the gingerbread or even savory item,” McDermott said. “Here’s to chipping in for a worthy cause, coming home with an unexpected goodie for your dear ones, and most of all, to the baking folk amongst us, who make the wheels of the bake-sale bonanza go round and round in the direction of good things for all.”
Blueberry and Pecan Snack Cake
@ 2011 Sheri Castle from The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Recipes for Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands and CSA Farm Boxes. Used by permission of The University of North Carolina Press.

This is as a welcome change from a muffin, but just as handy for breakfast, snacks, and lunchboxes. If you nibble on it all through the day, just a sliver at a time, just a wee slice to even up the edge, you can pretend to be startled that evening when the pan is, somehow, empty.

Sheri Castle
Makes 8 servings

Vegetable oil spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole or low-fat milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar, raw sugar, or more regular sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Mist the inside of a 9-inch square light metal baking pan with the spray. (A dark metal or nonstick pan makes the crust very thick and dark.)

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer set to high speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Use the rubber spatula to gently fold in the berries.

Scrape the batter in the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the sanding sugar over the batter, followed by the pecans.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature. The cooler the cake, the more neatly it will cut.

What else works? You can replace some or all of the blueberries with finely diced peaches.

@ 2011 by Sandra Guitierrez from The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

Sandra Gutierrez
These decadent bars have a rich, moist, and dense texture. The luxurious taste of chocolate will meet your taste buds and the sweetness will seduce your senses. Then slowly the slight heat of chiles will spread across your tongue and surprise you with a tingling sensation. The combination of chocolate and chiles gives the well-known mole poblano of Mexico and the mole de plátano of Guatemala their distinctive flavor. And here, fruity ancho chiles are a perfect match for rich, dark chocolate. The meaty pecans lend an unmistakable Southern touch. These are “grown-up” goodies. Make a batch without chiles for the kids.

Makes 20 brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped and toasted pecans (optional)

For the glaze:
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Chile-Chocolate Brownies
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Place the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they have melted and are well combined. Lift the bowl carefully from the pan so no water droplets come into contact with the chocolate mixture; let cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a large bowl.

Stir in the sugar; add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; stir in the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ancho chile powder, and salt; gradually add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, beating well until fully combined. Add the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is set and the brownies begin to pull back from the sides of the pan. Cool brownies for 1 hour in the pan.

To make the glaze: in a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, butter, liqueur, vanilla, and chile powder; blend until smooth. Place the glaze in a pastry bag (or zip-top bag with a snipped corner), and drizzle back and forth over the brownies. Cut them into 20 bars.

@ Bill Smith, Crook’s Corner. Used by permission of Bill Smith.

Bill Smith at Crook's Corner (Photo: Soleil Konkle)
Butter, flour and parchment paper to prepare a springform pan
3/4 lb. sliced blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
zest of one orange
splash of vinegar
pinch of salt
1 cup (about 8) egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
Scant half cup of all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Butter the springform pan, line with the parchment, butter the parchment and dust with flour. Coarsely grind the almonds with the orange rind and half of the sugar.

Rinse a mixing bowl with the vinegar and salt. Dump out over the sink. Beat the egg whites in the bowl with the cream of tartar until stiff and glossy. Quickly fold the egg whites into the nuts by thirds. Include the flour in the last fold.

Turn batter into the cake pan and bake for about an hour, until the center is firm and the cake has begun to pull away from the pan. Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes before releasing the springform. Good hot or cold with fruit or fresh whipped cream.

Shenandoah Valley Blueberry Cake 
@ 2011 Nancie McDermott from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations (Chronicle Books, 2007).

Enjoy this simple, delicious cake for breakfast, a tea party, or a midnight snack. If you can’t pick your own blueberries in the Shenandoah Valley, don’t worry. The cake comes out just fine using fresh blueberries from wherever you are, or even frozen berries from the grocery store.

Makes 1 cake (8- or 9-inch layer, square or round)

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Heat the oven to 375 F, and generously grease a 9-inch square or round pan.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. In a medium bowl, combine the butter and sugar, and beat with a mixer at high speed until well combined. Add the egg and beat well for 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl, until the mixture is smooth and light.
Stir in half the flour mixture, and then half the milk, mixing just enough to keep the batter fairly smooth and well combined. Add the remaining flour, and then the milk, mixing gently. Stir in the blueberries.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 375 F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden, springs back when touched gently in the center, and is pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Serve the cake right from the pan, warm or at room temperature, cut into squares. Or if you made a round cake layer, cool it in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10-20 minutes, loosen it around the edges, and then turn it out to finish cooling on a wire rack, top side up.    

Mansion Chocolate Chip Cookies
@ David Gaydeski, Executive Chef, with permission of the North Carolina Executive Mansion.

Assortment of cookies served at the Executive Mansion.
Cookies conjure up childhood for me – the wonderful smell of the local bakery where I grew up, setting them out for Santa on Christmas Eve, or bake sales at school. As a chef, they offer unlimited possibilities. A basic dough can be transformed by minor adjustments in proportions or the addition any number of ingredients.

Cookies have been a fixture at the Executive Mansion going back decades. I know the recipes have changed over time, but there’s something uniquely comforting about being in such a beautiful, formal place and biting into a taste of childhood.

Makes 3 dozen
North Carolina Executive Mansion

1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2¼ cups bread flour*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cream butter, brown and white sugars together in a large bowl. Mix egg, yolk and cream in a small bowl and add to sugar mixture. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together and blend in. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by golf-ball sized rounds onto either a greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until edges start to brown.

*Bread flour makes for a chewier cookie

Shortbread BUTTONS
@ 2011 Virginia Willis and reprinted with her permission. For more information or about Virginia, please visit

Virginia Willis
These are delicious and incredible. The recipe basically contains just enough flour to hold the butter together. These cookies are perfect along with ice cream or a cup of tea. And, since they are so very indulgent, it’s good to know they freeze exceptionally well in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen

2 cups all purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar, more for flattening the cookies

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Willis' Shortbread Buttons
Heat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick silicone baking sheets. Set aside. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and vanilla; beat until just combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop, portion the cookies about 2-inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Dip a smooth glass in confectioners’ sugar. Press to flatten to about 1/4-inch thick. Using a wooden skewer, make 4 holes in the center of a cookie so that it resembles a button.

Transfer the cookie sheets to the refrigerator and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Bake until the cookies are pale golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly on the cookie sheet then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container up to 7 days.

@ Elizabeth Wiegand from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK:  Recipes & Traditions from NC’s Barrier Islands (Globe Pequot Press, 2008).

Elizabeth Wiegand is working
on a revised edition of
The Outer Banks Cookbook.
Figs grow profusely in Ocracoke village, perhaps due to the moist, salty air.  Residents tend to place oyster shells around the base of their trees, or add a fish to the soil around them.  Although figs were grown on most Southern homesteads, they are not native to the New World but rather to Asia Minor.  They probably migrated with the Spanish via the West Indies, but perhaps it was a pirate, like Blackbeard, who frequented the port of Ocracoke and left this treasure.
The ladies of Ocracoke are known for their fig cakes, using the preserves they “put up” from all the figs that ripen during the summer.  Some use a cream cheese frosting between layers, others make a tube cake. 
Dale Mutro’s grandmother, Mrs. Ollie Styron Mutro, taught him how to make this version, which uses twice as much fig preserves as the standard Ocracoke recipe.  Dale claims this one is so moist it needs no frosting.   

Serves 10 to 12
Ocracoke Fig Cake

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup nuts, preferably pecans
1 pint (2 cups) fig preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10-inch tube pan. 

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar and oil. 

Alternately add the dry ingredients with the buttermilk.  Add vanilla, then soda dissolved in hot water.

Gently stir in nuts and fig preserves. 

Pour in prepared pan, and bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

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