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sweet potato biscuits

Originally uploaded by ted_major

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Inspired by Granny Hester, I’ve been working on a sweet potato biscuit recipe.

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup baked sweet potato, coarsely mashed
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 Tbs), softened
  • milk, 1 Tbs at a time

Preheat oven to 425F (use convection if you have it)

Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl, then in a large measuring cup mix butter and sweet potato. Stir sweet potato mixture into flour mix and then add milk 1 Tbs at a time until you have a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured counter and knead a couple of times to mix, then pat out into a 3/8″ thick rectangle. Cut into 12 square biscuits. (Use a round biscuit cutter if you like, but cutting into squares means no wastage and no re-rolling of the dough.)

Bake 10 mins or until golden brown.


Aunt Carmen's Quick BreadI don’t know who Aunt Carmen is, but she has a monster sweet tooth, and makes a fine cake quick bread. (That ingredient list looks suspiciously like pound cake . . .)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. Mix together flour and baking powder, then mix with butter-sugar-egg mix alternating with milk.
Bake in greased and floured loaf pan or crock at 350F for 1 hour.


Originally uploaded by ted_major

I’ve blogged previously that the corn pone is the ne plus ultra of cornbread, and it is. Nonetheless, there is a place in the world for corn muffins. They’re sweeter and fluffier, and they’re better as leftovers. You will need cast iron muffin tins–ask your grandmother or cruise yard sales and thrift stores. Visit antique stores as a last (and costly) resort. They’re critical, though, so do what you must: you’ll need 2, or better yet, 3 of them.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (you can’t go wrong with Pollard’s or other fine, stone-ground meal)
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk (you may need to add a little more to get a smooth consistency)
  • 3/4 cup oil or shortening

Preheat oven to 425F. When the oven is hot, put the muffin pans in while you mix the batter. Combine the dry ingredients, then mix eggs, oil, and milk, and stir into the batter. Take the muffin pans out (one at a time), grease lightly (cooking spray works well) and put a tablespoon or two of batter into the pans. Repeat with other muffin pans in turn. Bake until golden brown, about 20 mins. Makes 12-18 muffins.


Corn Pones

Originally uploaded by ted_major

Say what you will about whether corn bread should be sweet or savory, but the apotheosis of cornbread is the corn pone. To make a proper corn pone, though, you’ve got to have the right corn meal. That coarse stuff from the grocery won’t do. You need fine (or better yet, extra-fine) stone ground cornmeal. When we lived in Georgia, we could get Alabama King brand corn meal (made in Tennessee), but now that we’re in Alabama, it’s not available. Go figure. The best corn meal for pones, though, is from J.T. Pollard Milling Co., 3431 N. Highway 123, Hartford, AL 36344, 334-588-3391. They do mail order, but you’ll have to buy a case (and pay more for shipping than for the corn meal!)

To make corn pones, preheat the oven to 425F, Then put 2 cast iron skillets in the oven to preheat while you mix the dough.

Combine 2 cups of corn meal and 2 tsp of salt, then mix in just enough water to make a loose dough (stiffer than pancake batter, looser than bread dough). Take the skillets out of the oven one at a time and add some oil or shortening to the bottom. Then, with wet hands, make small balls of dough and flatten into pones, filling the skillet with about half the dough. Repeat with the other skillet. After about 20 minutes, put a pat of butter on each pone and then cook until golden-brown, about 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and eat while hot.

Corn pones are sublime when fresh–hot, crispy, and buttery on the outside, creamy and smooth on the inside, and salty throughout. The next day, they’re rubbish. The outside becomes rubbery, and the inside dries out. Eat ’em while they’re hot!


UPDATE! Though fine, stone-ground cornmeal appears to be utterly unavailable in the grocery stores here in Tuscaloosa (Publix has an especially bad cornmeal selection), <a href=””>Masa</a&gt; is available. It’s a fine ground cornmeal used for making tortillas, and may even be better than traditional fine cornmeal because it has <a href=””>been treated with lime, making the niacin more available</a>. The pones also seem creamier inside, but I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison yet.

Claire’s weekly treat for Christopher’s preschool class:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup butter or applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Combine bananas, sugar, egg, apple sauce (or butter), and vanilla (or cinnamon). Fold in flour. Mix until smooth, and scoop into mini muffin tins.

Bake 12-13 minutes.

The menu:

  • Melon & prosciutto
  • Tortilla Española
  • Spanish-style tuna salad on flatbread
  • Smoked salmon with cream cheese
  • Goat cheese with paprika, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers
  • Marinated olives
  • Marinated manchego

The preceding menu (and following recipes) were just the right amount for a party of around 25 folks. We served Spanish white and rose wines and Granny’s peach gin freezes to drink. Two days before, we did most of the shopping. The day before, we made bread dough and prepared the marinated olives and cheese, tuna salad, and made the garlic-goat cheese mixture. The afternoon of the party, we made the Tortilla, baked the bread, and assembled the appetizers.

The recipes:

Melon and Prosciutto

  • Honeydew or canteloupe
  • 1/4 lb proscuitto, thinly sliced (use Serrano ham if it’s available)

Seed and peel the melon and cut onto bite size pieces. Wrap with a piece of ham and secure with a toothpick.

Tortilla Española

  • 6 medium sized red potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic (or to taste)
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated manchego cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Dice the potatoes, then heat oilover medium heat in a nonstick, heat resistant 10″ skillet. When oil is hot, add garlic and sautee briefly. Add potatoes and cook until browned. Meanwhile, beat eggs and add 3/4 cup of cheese and salt and pepper. When the potatoes are done, pour the egg-cheese mixture into the skillet. As the egg starts to set, use a rubber spatula to lift the edges and allow egg to run under the omelet. When the center starts to set, place pan under broiler and broil until the top is browned. Let cool and cut into bite sized pieces.

Spanish-style Tuna Salad

  • 2 red bell peppers, peeled and diced
  • 4 6-oz cans tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 30 pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 4-5 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 TBS olive oil

Mix ingredients and serve on flatbread or sliced and toasted baguette. (Note: leftovers make a great sandwich on toasted whole wheat with goat cheese/garlic/paprika mix from goat cheese tapas and a slice of tomato.)

Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese

  • 4 oz smoked salmon
  • 8 oz cream cheese (or other soft cheese; next time I’ll use goat cheese)
  • Toasted baguette slices or flatbread
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Assemble bread slices with a bit of cheese and an appropriately sized piece of smoked salmon. Garnish with thin slices of lemon.

Goat Cheese with Paprika, Garlic, Sun-Dried tomatoes, and Capers

  • 8-10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 8-10 oz goat cheese
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2-3 TBS capers, drained
  • Baguette slices

Heat oven to 350F. toss garlic with olive oil, and roast uncovered for 15 minutes or until soft. Let cool.

Add paprika to goat cheese and mix. Squeeze the garlic into the cheese and add olive oil. Mix thoroughly.

On each baguette slice, smear some cheese mixture and then add a piece of sun dried tomato and a couple of capers.

Marinated Olives

  • 2 jars pitted Kalamata olives
  • 4 green onions
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sweet paprika
  • 2 TBS sherry vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Rinse olives in cold water, then combine in a bowl with remaining ingredients, stir well, and marinate at least one hour, preferable overnight.

Marinated Manchego

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 4-inch sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz manchego, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil and thyme, rosemary, and red pepper until the oil is hot (about 160F). Set aside and cool to room temperature. Place manchego in a bowl, cover with the oil mixture and marinate at least 4 hours and preferable overnight.

Dough for flatbread and baguettes

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp yeast

Mix water and yeast, then add flour and salt. Stir to mix, then refrigerate overnight. The next day, knead and divide in half. Roll out half to fit a 13 x 18 baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Divide the other half and form into two baguette loaves. Preheat oven to 550F (use a baking stone or tiles if you have them). Brush the flatbread with olive oil and bake until golden brown. Bake the baguettes until well-browned.

Fresh Bread

Originally uploaded by ted_major

But, surprisingly, you can in an hour and a half. Claire gave me a funny look when I started mixing up dough at 5:30 yesterday evening, but the bread turned out nicely. The dough structure wasn’t perfect (I didn’t get those lovely translucent bubble walls that come from an overnight ferment), but it was by far better than any of the par-baked frozen loaves available from the grocery and bakeries here. Fungal enzyme just doesn’t belong in bread.

  • 1 cup hot tap water
  • 1 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Combine the water, yeast and sugar, and whisk to dissolve. Add flour and salt and stir until mixed. The dough will be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until you don’t feel any bubbles pop. The dough will be very sticky, so you’ll need a good bit of flour. Form into two loaves and let rise on a piece of parchment paper. Cover with another piece of parchment and a towel to keep the dough from drying.

Put a baking stone (or baking tiles) into the oven and preheat to 550F.

Let the dough rise 45 minutes and then put into the oven (use a peel or the back of a cookie sheet). Spray the sides and bottom of the oven with water when you put the loaves in and then ca few more times every couple of minutes so you have enough steam to make a decent crust.

Bake 15 minutes or until browned to your liking.

5-hour bread

Originally uploaded by ted_major

5-Hour Bread

Lately, there have been a number of “no-knead” bread recipes that make wonderful loaves, but unfortunately take 20 hours or more to make. What’s so hard about kneading? I’ve combined some aspects of various no-knead recipes (such as the recent “almost no-knead bread” from Cook’s Illustrated,) and combined them with a bit of kneading to cut the time down to 5 hours—start the bread after lunch, and it will be ready for dinner.

• ¾ cup hot water
• ¼ cup light lager beer
• 1 Tbs white vinegar
• 2 tsp dried yeast (or 1 package)
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp sugar

Combine water, beer, vinegar, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl, whisking to dissolve. Add flour and then salt. Mix until a dough forms, then turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 mins. Return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise about 2 hours at room temperature.

When dough has risen, turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Form into a round loaf. Line a skillet with parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, and place loaf on parchment to rise. Spray dough with non-stick cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise about another 2 hours.

Thirty minutes before bread has finished rising, place a cast-iron dutch oven with lid into the oven and preheat to 500F. When oven has heated, uncover dough, make decorative slashes in top of loaf, and sprinkle with flour. Remove dutch oven from from the oven and take off the lid. Using the parchment paper, lift to loaf and gently place in dutch oven, parchment and all. Return the lid to the dutch oven.

Return dutch oven to the oven, and reduce heat to 425F. Bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 20 to 30 minutes.

banana bread

From an email from Mom: “Here is the banana bread recipe. I must have made this every week when you and Claire were little. This was Aunt Helen’s recipe. I added the bran and wheat germ to keep you healthy!”

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3 very ripe bananas mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teas. Soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Optional: 3 T. bran and 2 T. wheat germ (or use white whole wheat flour)

Beat eggs and sugar, add butter and bananas, mix well. Add flour and other dry ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a slow oven, 265 degrees for about 45 minutes (In my oven, it takes 1:15 to 1:30).