Monday, December 21, 2009

Cheese - oh how I love thee

An unfortunate consequence of this venture, may be that I learn just how unhealthy some of the things that I grew up loving are. Take this recipe for example. Here she calls them cheese rounds, I've also heard my great-grandmother refer to them as cheese straws or cheese biscuits.

They're a holiday staple, I love them and have always thought of them as a cracker - baked, wholesome and tasty. But this recipe, this recipe tells the horrifying truth - it calls for a half pound of grated cheese, a half pound of butter and two and a half cups of flour. There aren't any eggs, no milk, just butter and cheese.

Stirred together with flour, a dash of salt and a dash of cayenne; these cheese rounds were incredibly (and dangerously) easy to whip up. Great for taking to parties, but entirely to tempting to keep around the house.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Ok, so I may not attempt every recipe. I mean really? Blackberry acid?

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the season

I actually don't remember my great-grandmother ever making gingerbread, but there are two gingerbread recipes in her collection and well, 'tis the season.

The main ingredient in gingerbread (or this recipe anyway) is molasses. My great-grandmother used to buy molasses by the quart jar from a man down the road named Roger Toney. Mr. Toney, in addition to working on cars, still grows his own sugar cane, which he then boils down into molasses. My dad still buys it from him and pours pools of the tar-colored liquid onto his plate, cuts in a dabs of butter and slathers it onto biscuits. He makes it look incredible. I've tried to follow suit, but have never quite developed a taste for the stuff straight.

As a result of growing up seeing my great-grandmother cook with the homemade stuff, I don't really trust molasses that don't come in an unlabeled mason jar. But I live almost four hours away from Mr. Toney in a relatively urban area, so I had to settle for the one brand the grocery store carries.

This was my first time making gingerbread and despite my store-bought molasses, this bread was a revelation.

As quick to whip up as a loaf of banana bread, it came out of the oven deep and rich. Sliced warm, it was spicy, moist and comforting.

And even though gingerbread wasn't a part of my holiday tradition growing up, this tastes like Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lesson Learned

These rolls are a family staple and I've actually tried to make them before with mediocre success. I found about 10 versions of this recipe in my great-grandmother's collection, all entitled Agnes Young's Yeast Rolls.

I'm not sure if I choose poorly among the many versions, my yeast was old or it was simply user error - but this recipe was kind of a disaster.

Everything was going swimmingly at first. I melted my crisco, dissolved my yeast and added in sugar and flour. Thanks to a quick consult from my grandmother, I learned that I should let the dough rise overnight before trying to roll them out.

Well, the next day the dough had risen, but it was an impossible-to-work-with, gooey mess. I made the best of it, forming sticky balls and dropping them into melted crisco per my grandmother's instruction. About 10 rolls in, I realized the futility of this endeavor and threw the whole mess into a loaf pan and hoped for the best.

After letting the dough rise another two hours, which didn't improve its appearance any. I threw it into a 400º oven with very low expectations.

The loaf tasted great warm out of the over and was gone within the hour. But it wasn't anything like the rolls I was craving and expecting.

Lesson learned - many of these recipes are simple road maps. They haven't been tested and perfected in a professional kitchen. They are quick sketches that are going to require adjustment, advice and repeated trial in order to fill in those finer details. I should use them as guides rather than rule books.

I'm going to have make them more than once, learn from my mistakes and hopefully be a better cook in the end for all of my failures.