Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rum-Craisin Sour Cream Pie

The Bat occasionally talks about the raisin pies her aunt used to make, back in the day.  Sadly, I am allergic to grapes, so this legendary treat will never be mine to enjoy. Nevertheless, I was determined to come up with my own variation on this theme – minus the old aunt's methodist aversion to a little "kick" in the fruit.

Granted, raisins tend toward sweetness, and I've never been that much of a fan of excessively sweet foods, so I'd likely not have been fond of old auntie's pie, and have asked for a lemon, instead. I'd eventually have had to compromise.

Tonight, I believe I have found that compromise.  Not overly sweet, and fairly simple, it substitutes dried cranberries for the raisins, which adds a nice tart bite to the otherwise sweet custardy treat.

It takes more than a little prep-time, because the fruit needs to soak in rum for several hours, and the pie is best served chilled. Plus, the custard tends to expand, then resettle a bit, so it needs large ventilation of some fashion, not mere piercing. Since I, personally, hate lattice crusts because they're a lot of work for half the crust, I heartily recommend taking your favorite tiny cookie cutter and making the pie yet a little merrier…

and you can get little cookies out of this, then, too! (see footnote)

Rum-Craisin Sour Cream Pie


2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup rum (use any variety you like - either light or dark is fine)
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 crusts for 8-inch pie (top and bottom)

1 pint whipping cream
1 Tablespoon wild honey


(If you want the cranberries to be chewier, and/or if you have no interest in making them slightly rummy, this first stage may be skipped. I recommend "plumping" the fruit, however, as dried cranberries tend to bake up tougher than raisins do.)

To "plump" and tenderize the dried cranberries, in a small microwave-safe mixing bowl or small saucepan on stovetop, combine water and dried cranberries. Bring to nearly boiling, stirring once (in microwave oven, about 1 minute on High). Remove from heat, drain liquids away. Add rum and refrigerate several hours (overnight is best).

When the cranberries have absorbed most of the rum, remove from refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 450º F.

Lay in bottom crust in 8-inch pie pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs thoroughly. Add in sour cream, mix well. Add brown sugar, spices. Finally, stir in cranberries, making sure any remaining liquid does not get into the mixture. Pour into pie shell. Top with lattice crust, or, using a cookie cutter*, make sure the crust has plenty of openings for ventilation and expansion.

Bake 10 minutes at 450º F., then reduce oven temperature to 350º F. Continue to bake another 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, allow to cool completely (refrigeration for at least an hour before serving is advised, if possible). 

Before serving pie, in a chilled bowl combine whipping cream and honey, and mix at high speed. If you wish, slowly add in 1 teaspoonful of rum while mixing (very slowly, in small stream! Dumping the rum in will curdle the cream!). Continue mixing until semi-stiff peaks form (do not overmix, or you will have butter).

Serve cold.

*If you use a cookie cutter to ventilate the top crust, save the cut-outs, lay them on an ungreased cookie sheet, and, using a pastry brush, brush them with a little cream, cranberry juice, or milk, then sprinkle them very lightly with sugar and nutmeg. Or, if you have a little pie filling left in the mixing bowl because you didn't use a rubber spatula to thoroughly empty the bowl,  brush on a little of the custard mixture. Bake in middle of 450º F. oven for 4 minutes. Voilá! cookies! (For the record, I nibbled two before my phone camera setting started up. They're simple, yet nummy.)
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Benne Seed Cookies: a Bite of Charleston Decadence

My father never forgave his mother for moving to Charleston, SC, so that she could give birth to him, there. He has his reasons, not the least of which being, he's a big fan of football, and her move took him away from the chance to claim a Green Bay birthright.

But regardless of Pop's view of the city, I have found a number of reasons for being thankful my grandmother settled within cannon-shot of Fort Sumter. Right up there at the top of the list is…benne seeds.

The rest of the world, as far as I can tell, calls these treats "sesame seeds", but the good people of Charleston have stuck to their guns, and, contrarian that I am, as far as this goes, I stick with them over the rest of the world.

At any rate, some years back, our family received a copy of this recipe for what has become a very special treat, usually reserved for Christmas (or at least for the autumn/winter holiday season). The recipe is simple enough, but somewhat time-consuming, as compared to your standard oatmeal or Toll House drop cookie. Plus, benne seeds are, in our house, a luxury ingredient, to be saved for special occasions.

Still, here we are, with summer approaching (off-season for holidays), and I must share the recipe, for no other reason than that I stumbled across the recipe card and decided to go crazy in the kitchen, again.


Benne Seed Cookies


2 cups butter, divided
2/3 cup benne (sesame) seeds
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tablespoons water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 375º F.

In a small/medium saucepan, melt 1 cup butter with benne seeds. Continue to cook over low or medium heat until golden brown. Remove from heat.

In mixing bowl, cream well 1 cup butter and the granulated sugar. Add eggs and 4 Tablespoons of the browned benne seeds (draining away most of the browned butter as you scoop). Add water, thoroughly mix.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Grease the bottom of a tumbler or small flat-bottomed bowl, dip in sugar, and use to flatten cookies.

Bake about 10 minutes, or until edges begin to turn golden-brown.

Cool, then frost with Browned Benne Butter Frosting (below).

Browned Benne Butter Frosting


Remaining browned benne seed butter from above recipe
6 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
6 Tablespoons milk or half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Stir all ingredients until smooth and spreadable, or, if you prefer, use mixer to whip until slightly fluffy. Spread generously on tops of cooled cookies. 

Makes several dozen, but never enough.

Gitchi gitchi ya ya Mixed Citrus and Honey Marmalade

There was this sale, you see…

One of the local stores had lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits marked at a price I could by no means resist. And, yet, there is no way on God's green earth that I could eat a baker's dozen of lemons, three pounds of key limes, three pounds of Clementines, or two pounds of standard limes.

At least, not as they were.

So I started experimenting with putting them by. Some of the processes will take a month or more to establish whether or not they were successful (I'm pickling some key limes, for the fun of it, with a little sliced chili pepper and a mess of salt, and tomorrow I start in on another option for limes). But today, I made marmalade.

Yes, marmalade.

Not your typical marmalade, either.  I used some wild honey and mixed my fruits until I had an entertaining blend of flavors and colors. I suppose, if you wanted to, you could do this with one single variety of citrus fruit (maybe Meyer lemons). But I went with what I had and what I had a craving for.

And it wasn't until I was completely finished with the process of canning the stuff and sitting down to supper that the LaBelle song bubbled up from deeeeep inside me.

Still, I have to say, Patti LaBelle notwithstanding, the day was a success.

I made jellied citrus. So. There.

It may even become Christmas prezzies, if I'm in a really good mood, come winter.

But the recipe went something like this:

Mixed Citrus and Honey Marmalade


8 cups citrus fruits (my blend was 6 cups thin-skinned lemons, 1 cup tangerines, 1 cup key limes). This amounts to, roughly, 14 lemons, 4 "cuties" tangerines, and 10 key limes, but that will vary according to the size of your fruits. You're likely to need a little more than 3 lbs of whatever fruit you choose.
2 cups strong honey something like wild honey or sorghum honey.  I went wild.
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups sugar
2 packets liquid pectin (do not use powder!!!!!)

jelly jars to contain approximately 20 cups


Carefully wash fruit (with a vegetable wash, not soap. If you don't have veggie wash, rinse carefully, allow to soak for a few hours or overnight, drain away water, rinse, and allow them to soak as you prepare everything else.

Give your jars a hot bath and soak the flat lids in simmering water until you need them. I have a good dishwasher with hot-bath setting, so I prepped the jars in that, and put the lids in a small saucepan, separated, covered with simmering water.

Trim away stem ends and slice lemons* into small sections, approximately 1 centimeter wide and very thin (but not paper-thin). I found the easiest way to do this was to cut the lemon in half lengthwise (cutting through from blossom to stem end), then cut each half into 4 equal lengthwise wedges, and finally slice crosswise into small, thin bits. You will want a very sharp knife to do this well.

When all your lemons have been cut, combine them with honey, sugar, and water in a large (at least 5 quart), nonreactive saucepan. Stir well, bring to boil, immediately reduce heat and simmer very low for 30 minutes (overheating amplifies the bitterness of the skins).

Prepare work surface for hawtness of a traditional kind while this is simmering. If you are a little sloppy, the way I am, put out a large jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with walls) on a flat surface near the stove. Have ready your ladle, funnel, lid rings, and tongs (for fishing out lid flats from hot bath and for fishing jars out of hot bath, if necessary).

Add in liquid pectin, bring to low boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat immediately. Working quickly, ladle into jars, putting lids & rings on each one as you go, and turning upside-down to help them seal. When they are sufficiently cooled, turn them right-side-up and wash any stickiness away before labeling them. (You will know they are sealed if you press the center of the lid and it doesn't "pop" or otherwise make a noise.)

Enjoy a jar or two at a later date, or, if you must, share with loved ones, but when I make jellies, I always make sure one jar "accidentally" fails to seal, so I can have it for dessert that evening. This can be accomplished by re-using a flat lid, or by using a jar & lid from some store-bought preserved food (I don't recommend using one which used to hold peppers, though, unless you really want that added flavor in your first bite of this marmalade).

*For the sake of brevity, I am calling all citrus "lemons" at this point. If you're using others, go ahead and pretend I've included the rest of them in the description.