Skillet Cornmeal Cake

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So I mixed this cake and put it in the oven and then took a phone call.

And by the time I took the cake out of the oven, I had a dream internship for this summer, so basically this cake is magic and you should make it.

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As a girl who grew up in the South, I obviously love cornbread. Duh. And since I already combined it with biscuits, I figured it was time to take another incredibly delicious thing and smash it together with cornbread (in a cast iron skillet, of course, because then you can pretend you live on a farm and are cool enough to wear overalls in public, which, sadly, I am not yet able to do).

The result is this cornmeal cake, which despite being one of the humbler cakes you might pull out of your oven, is also one of the most addicting. Sometimes simple is best.

The approach here is straightforward. You’ll mix together dry ingredients. Beat together wet ones. Then give it all a good stir. It’s intuitive baking– we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. Now for the fun part: the completed batter gets poured into the preheated cast iron skillet with a subtle sizzle that is way too satisfying. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, then no cake for you.

That’s a lie: you can just use a regular cake pan. Just don’t expect a sizzle.

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The cake comes out golden and smelling like sweet corn-y deliciousness…which is exactly what it is. It’s best served with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream. Alternatively, you can just keep cutting small slivers directly out of the pan while it cools until you realize you’ve eaten half a cake and need to stop.

Your choice.

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Snow Day DIY Butter

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Maybe you got snowed in this weekend. Maybe you didn’t have any butter because you forgot to go to the store, or all of the crazy people in the south who don’t know how to handle snow bought it all right before the flurries hit. Maybe you figured that sitting around watching movies all day and eating anything you can find in your pantry isn’t exactly the best thing in the world healthwise, so you want to give yourself a nice little arm workout. Maybe you have a bunch of extra cream left over from filling cream puffs and don’t know what in the world you’re going to do with it.

Or maybe you just want to be Laura Ingalls Wilder.

No matter the reason, you should make your own butter. Because all it takes is one ingredient (cream) and one utensil (a jar), plus a whole lot of arm movement, and suddenly you have BUTTER (and buttermilk too, but that’s not nearly as exciting).

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What you’re going to do is put some cream in a jar. Screw on the lid. And then just shake it. The cream will begin to thicken and expand, like whipped cream. This is good. Keep going. It’ll get thicker and thicker, and there might not be all that much movement going on in the jar. You might be tempted to stop, but you’re not there yet! Eventually, the cream will “break” and you will have clearly separated liquid and solids. This is your buttermilk and butter. You did it!

One of the best things about making your own butter is that you get to choose what kind of milk you make it out of. By choosing high quality, grass fed cream, you can make butter that is actually full of nutrients and other health benefits. Grass fed butter is five times higher in conjugated linoleic acid (a beneficial fatty acid that supports heart health and can actually aid in weight management) than grain fed butter. It’s also a great source of Vitamin A and K, as well as other antioxidants.

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I once saw this butter making process referred to as 1 + 0 = 2. That is, cream (1) plus exactly nothing else (0) gives you both butter and buttermilk (2). And that’s definitely the kind of mixed up math I can get behind.

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Coconut Oil Cream Puffs

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There are some things that are just straight up fun to make in the kitchen. Meringues, obviously. Swedish cinnamon buns, once you get past all the yeast-induced and “how in the world am I supposed to turn this mound of dough into those pretty twisty spirally things” panic. This 2-ingredient ice cream, because hot damn who knew that a can of evaporated milk could become so dreamy and delicious.

One of my favorite things to make is pate a choux, which is basically just a fancy French name for an eggy dough that starts with water, butter, and flour on the stove top (although this recipe uses coconut oil in place of that traditional butter), and then involves beating in a whole bunch of eggs to form a glossy, dripping batter that’s ready to be piped onto a baking sheet. It’s the dough that’s used to make everything from eclairs to gougeres, but here it’s just spooned straight as is to form the base of one of my favorite desserts, cream puffs.

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If you’ve never made pate a choux before, it might seem a little weird at first. After boiling your water and oil, you dump in the flour all at once, cooking it over heat until you have a smooth mass of dough that, frankly, seems a little too thick and dense to be right. Surely this isn’t going to puff up into lighter-than-air cream puffs, right?

No… but it will after we add the eggs!

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Eggs are beaten in one at a time, waiting just long enough for your dough to get just a little bit smoother and glossier before adding the next one. Eventually you’ll get a rich, slightly yellow batter that’s just spoonable enough to plop onto your baking sheet. Then into the oven, where those mounds will puff up into golden brown clouds as effortlessly as Jennifer Aniston’s hair.

Let them dry out, slice in half, then fill with an assortment of options. I love just plain, slightly sweetened whipped cream, but coconut whipped cream or a pastry cream of your choice are also wonderful. And chopped chocolate will never not be a brilliant idea. Obviously.

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Spiced Pumpkin Cream Tart

 

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Happy 2016! I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start! I haven’t broken any resolutions yet… but that’s only because I didn’t make any in the first place. It’s a strategy that I highly recommend.

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Is pumpkin out? It’s definitely out. We’re all supposed to be eating citrus right now and complaining about the dreary weather, aren’t we?

Well too bad because this tart is damn good, and don’t even pretend like you don’t have a can of pumpkin lurking in the back of your pantry from that pumpkin pie you meant to make sometime over the holidays. I know you do. Because I definitely do too.

This tart is also no-bake and cold… which is probably not ideal for this time of year either. But that’s really neither here nor there.

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This entire tart was eaten in one day. By not that many people. So that should tell you a lot about how good it is. It’s creamy and cold and lightly sweetened, with spices and pumpkin flavor too. And it’s also super easy! All you have to do is whisk some stuff together then throw it in a pie shell and into the freezer. Ta-da. Top with whipped cream, maybe even drizzle it with caramel, and you’re all set.

Oh! On a completely separate note, guess what… I finally (finally) made croissants! And it took forever and a day and involved a giant block of solid butter and they came frighteningly close to burning  in the oven, but they made the kitchen smell like an absolute dream and now I can finally cross them off my baking bucket list. Hallelujah. (In case you’re wondering, I used this recipe, which includes gifs that are an absolute lifesaver).

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Homemade Sesame Milk

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Happy Christmas Eve friends! (I had every intention of making Christmas tree meringues to celebrate, but it’s too darn humid here and they all deflated. So all you get is milk instead. Maybe it’ll go well with Santa’s cookies?)

I could talk about how this milk is perfect for your upcoming New Year’s cleanse. About how it’s dairy free and gluten free and lactose free and sugar free and nut free and basically free of anything else you could come up with because it’s made out of just sesame seeds and water.

But who actually wants to talk about cleanses? Let’s just talk about how we made milk out of sesame seeds and it’s the coolest thing ever.

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I bought a nut milk bag over a year ago with the intention of making my own almond milk (because I drink the stuff like water)… and of course have never used it. And then, when I did finally break it out, it was to make milk out of sesame seeds instead. Plot twist.

A quick note about this milk: it tastes like sesame seeds. So if you’re not a fan of tahini, chances are you’re not going to like sesame milk either. Butttttttt if you eat unhulled tahini straight out of the jar by the spoonful (or make fudge out of it), then this just might be your new favorite dairy free milk.

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The method here is pretty much the same as any sort of nut milk you might have come across: soak the seeds overnight, blend them with water, then strain everything out. Plain and simple and ridiculously easy to do.

What you’ll wind up with is a smooth, creamy drink that tastes strongly of sesame and is made without carageenan or lecithin or any of those other random things that are thrown in with your regular nut milk. And bonus! You can add vanilla, maple syrup, cinnamon, or any other additions to really take your milk over the top.

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Beer & Coffee Caramel Sauce

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When it comes to gift giving, I would love to be the girl who knitted her mom a sweater or who tracked down a first edition copy of her best friend’s favorite book. I want to find the perfect gift for the perfect person and knock it out of the park every time.

Unfortunately for me, a lack in funds and an even greater lack in time management skills (not to mention knitting ability), means that I’m just not that person. (YET.)

So instead, I just focus on not screwing up. And making people happy. Because making someone happy during Christmastime is pretty much the best thing ever.

This means that my sister will not be getting anything fashion related this year, because what I consider fashion, she considers to be suitable for a generous donation to the church rummage sale. It also means that I can get my dad anything related to his college alma mater and he’ll be thrilled, which is the same tactic I’ve used pretty much every Christmas for the past five years.

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As far as gifts go, I don’t think this caramel is your ticket. But it’s delicious and  remarkably easy to eat straight out of the fridge with a spoon, so there’s that. Because here’s the thing about caramel– it’s way too sweet. Especially when it’s paired with something else equally as full of sugar (so pretty much always).

That’s why the addition of the beer and the coffee here is so stellar. The bitterness balances out all of the sugar while providing the right dose of complexity to make it unlike any caramel sauce you’ve had before. I mean it’s beer. And coffee. And caramel. Alllllllll together in one stand out sauce.

The method is pretty straightforward: just boil most of the ingredients together on the stove until it all reduces to a dark, concentrated sauce. The only thing to watch out for is the mixture bubbling up and overflowing over your pot. If you keep an eye on things and don’t let it get too hot, you should be just fine.

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Cranberry Vanilla Pecan Custard Cake

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My little sister texted me the other day to tell me that my blog was kind of boring. And that she thought I should include more “lifestyle stuff.”

As someone who spent the first month of the semester sleeping on the ground because she didn’t have a completed bed and who only just got a real mattress a few weeks ago, I don’t really feel equipped to give out lifestyle advice.

Also… I definitely don’t even know what qualifies as lifestyle advice.

Buy your socks in bulk so that you only have to do it once? Almost always wear your hair in a braid so that you don’t have to think about styling it in the morning? Don’t forget to leave your clothes in the wash because trust me, they will get all mildewy and gross?

This really isn’t my forte.

So until I get all of this lifestyle stuff figured out, I’m just going to stick with the baking (in case you’re wondering, my sister did tell me that “the baking stuff is still good though.” So at least she likes me a little bit). And that means cranberry vanilla pecan custard cake, so things are all good.

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This is a pretty interesting cake. And it also goes full throttle on the cranberries, so if those are your thing then you’re in luck. It’s a lot like a clafoutis, with an egg and (almond) milk based batter that’s very loose. There are the cranberries for tartness and juiciness, while the pecans add crunch. The cake itself comes out eggy, firm, custardy, still soft, not too sweet… I’m really not doing a good job at describing this. Basically, it’s a custard cake, and it’s darn good, and that’s really all you need to know.

It’s also an insanely simple one bowl situation that you can make in a heartbeat. Best served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar because obviously.

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Happy December baking everyone!! I hope there are plenty of cookies and tacky Christmas sweaters in your life, and that Mariah Carey is blasting on repeat.

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Cranberry Cornmeal Loaf Cake

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I got asked the other day what I want to do after graduation. I tried to play it off like I usually do (*laughter* “Now that’s a great question…” *more laughter*), but as I awkwardly trailed off I realized this person actually expected a real answer.

I should have told them I wanted to work on a cranberry farm. Partially because then they would have been like, excuse me, why the hell are you in college if that’s all you want to do with your life. But also because how cool would it be to work on a cranberry farm?

Full disclosure: the only thing I know about cranberry farms (farms? bogs?) is based solely on the Ocean Spray commercials with the two guys standing waist deep in water. But that looks super fun and also I love cranberries, so I’m pretty sure it’ll be a perfect fit.

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In case you couldn’t tell from last week’s post, I’ve currently got a bag of cornmeal and after a failed batch of polenta sticks, I’m trying to find other ways to use it up. Hence, this loaf cake, which by the way is an utter dream. It’s a bit more complicated than it needs to be– did we really have to break out the electric mixer for one egg white?– but the end result is worth it.

It’s moist and sweet and bursting with tart cranberries, plus bonus: it’s almost fat-free. Greek yogurt and applesauce do most of the heavy lifting to keep this loaf from going dry, while that one slightly annoying egg white keeps it from becoming too dense. There’s cornmeal for texture and added flavor, plus cranberries scattered throughout. All in all, it’s a total win.

ALSO: Just because they’re so good I can’t handle it, you should know that these caramels are the most November thing you will ever encounter in your life. You’re welcome. You are so welcome.

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