strawberry crisp

strawberry crispIt’s spring! It’s spring! …I can picture about 90% of you slowly getting up out of your chairs, making unintentional fists, and muttering something under your breaths about how you still have snow up to your eyeballs and consider it a grand ol’ time when your kids get to play outside because it’s over 35 degrees. I get it. Well…not really. I live in South Carolina for cryin’ out loud. I don’t really get it, but I feel for ya. Just know that the seasons are changing. And it is spring. And if you reach way down deep inside your soul I know you can feel it. Flowers…chirpy birds…50s music…strawberries.

strawberry crispSTRAWBERRIES. It really is almost time for them to be in full force here in the South and there’s nothing like biting into one that’s ripe and sun-kissed. They’re synonymous with warm, sunny days and are as pretty as they are sweet. They’re just happy berries. And that makes them really fun to toss around in some sugar and oats and spices to make a super quick dessert that’s fresh and comforting at the same time. Strawberries + crisp = happiness.

strawberry crispstrawberry crisp
serves 4
ingredients:
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup oats
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb strawberries, stems removed, halved, and sliced (about 8-9 medium sized berries)
optional:
vanilla ice cream
create:
Preheat the oven to 350º.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, oats, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until everything is well combined and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
In a separate bowl, add the strawberries and 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add the coated strawberries to a small baking dish (or you can use 4 small baking ramekins) and top evenly with the remaining flour mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the berries are bubbly and the topping is golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream.

strawberry crisp

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french meringues with grapefruit curd

meringue

A little over five years ago I remember sitting in Andy’s old house talking about where we were going on our honeymoon. We had been engaged only a few weeks and we both had pretty drastic ideas of the vacation we wanted (jessa=new york city, andy=riding a donkey to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). Since they were both so different, we started thinking of places that may be a compromise. I remember saying, “What about Paris?” and it sounded so magical and perfect for a honeymoon. Turns out, however, that traveling abroad is rather expensive. So, we didn’t end up going to Europe. We did end up going to NYC (I promise there was no arm twisting on my part) and, since then, we’ve always sort of jokingly said, “Yeah, har har, we’ll go to Paris for our 5 year, har.”

meringue

Fast forward five years. This past summer we spent a lot of time trying to plan our anniversary trip. The destination varied greatly depending on the day: the mountains, LA, Disney World (because we’re dorks), going back to NYC, Alaska, etc. etc. One night we were sitting on the couch and a thought popped into my head. “Hey. Paris. That’s right…Paris!” And I turned my head toward Andy and bit my lip and sorta giggled (a look that can never mean anything good) and said, “Andy…what about Paris?” And we looked at each other for a few seconds and he said, “Yeah, we can think about that.” And my heart spun around in all directions and I floated to my bed for a night of dream-filled slumber.

meringue

I’ll never forget the day that Andy told me he wanted to take me to Paris and that we could make it happen. Our trip was magical. In reality, Paris is just a city. Made of buildings. And pedestrians. And vendors. And restaurants. But to two people who had never before experienced it, it was a grand adventure. I’ll post more later on some of our favorite things, but for this first post, I wanted to try my hand at making meringues. We had one in Paris that was the size of my head and it was light and crisp and gooey. These meringues are just that, but they incorporate some citrus curd to make it a little less traditional.

meringue

french meringues with grapefruit curd
recipe adapted from all recipes & zoe bakes

ingredients:
meringue:
4 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/4 cups unrefined powdered sugar, sifted

grapefruit curd:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tbsp grapefruit zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

create:
Preheat oven to 200º. Prep 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
To make the meringue, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until foamy. On medium speed, add the powdered sugar a little at a time until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.
Using 2 spoons, place globs on meringue onto the prepared baking sheets (about 2 tablespoons each). Rinse one of the spoons and use it to make a well in the middle of each meringue (this space will hold the curd once they are cooked). Place in the oven with a wooden spoon in the door so the oven door doesn’t close all the way. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turn off the oven, leave them there, and let them rest for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool completely.
While the meringues are cooking, make the curd. In the top of a double boiler over medium heat (the bottom pan will have an inch of simmering water), whisk together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, grapefruit juice, and zest until well combined. Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken (this can take between 5 and 10 minutes) and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is incorporated and the mixture has thickened enough that it can coat the back of a spoon (coat the spoon and draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger. If the mixture is thick enough, the line will stay put).
Strain the curd through a sieve into another container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming). Put the curd in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool (but not to freeze).
Spoon the cooled curd into the cooled meringues and serve immediately.

meringuemeringue

homemade applesauce

apples5The smallest things can inspire me. A bulbous lamp base cast between an omelet maker from the 80s and a Guitar Hero guitar missing the first and third buttons at Goodwill. The stale smell and wide plank hardwood floor creaks from a house built in the 1700s. Lorde’s “Tennis Court” on repeat.  And, yes, as you may imagine, food inspires me, too.

homemade applesaucehomemade applesauceapples4But I can’t say that it’s always the food itself that inspires me. While pink macarons and bubble gum themselves possess an ability to make me squeal, other foods require a little more foundation. A lot of my food inspiration/motivation comes from the stories that accompany a particular dish. Biscuits (you may remember me confessing my obsession over them in a previous post), for example, are basically blobs of flour and butter. But because they are so deeply rooted in Southern culture, I find myself yearning for them so I can feel connected to the mamas in the 1800s who got up with the sun to cook all day long or the grandma over in Georgia patiently teaching her granddaughter to push the biscuit cutter straight down or the little boy spreading home-canned summer-strawberry preserves on freshly torn buttery layers. You see, food is not simply nourishment. It’s resonance.

apples3Gowie used to give us a little glass bowl filled with applesauce as a dessert when we’d spend our weekends with her. She’d always ask, “Do you want some sugar sprinkled on that?” while my sister and I made no audible noise, but violently nodded our heads, mouths agape, like we’d never heard of such a grand idea. And then (probably with no chewing involved) we’d finish the sweet applesauce, slip into some PJs, and shove a rented episode of The Little Rascals into the VCR. This dear and comforting story was the backbone in my desire to create my own applesauce.

apples6homemade applesauce
recipe from Simply Recipes
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 25 minutes yield: about 1 1/2 quarts
ingredients:
3 to 4 pounds of peeled, cored, and quartered apples
4 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler)
juice of 1 lemon, about 3-4 tbsp
3 inches of cinnamon stick
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
up to 1/4 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

create
Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels. Mash with potato masher. The applesauce is now ready to serve, hot or refrigerated.

apples7

chocolate espresso cookies

espresso6

Merrrrry December, my little ones! As I type, there is a Christmas tree…thistle? needle? branch?…I think it’s needle…stuck in my number 8 key. So, please pardon any funky symbols. It’s not secret code or anything.

espresso10espresso11My Christmas season thus far hasn’t been too whirlwindy. The past few weekends have entertained a couple of parades, my city’s tree lighting, and the Lights at the Zoo, which is basically that: our sweet zoo covers the place with lights and it’s sort of a South Carolina tradition to spend an evening there during Christmastime. It’s pretty magical, BUT…I am rather partial/biased. I haven’t found too many nights to sleep under the tree yet, mostly because our tree branches this year are practically touching the ground. I think our trembling-causing Christmas excitement forced our bodies to skip the tree-trimming itself and skip right to fun part of popping on those ornaments. But it’s cool. I’ve still found lots of time for music and cleaning (…weird? Prepping the house reminds me of Christmas) and baking.

espresso9espresso8espresso7

Last week, my kitchen was devoted to testing, baking, and sampling cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It’s basically like a cookie swap party (bake cookies, go to party with cookies, swap cookies with other attendees who baked cookies, come home with an assortment of cookies), except it’s worldwide. Each blogger baked a dozen cookies for three other bloggers and, in return, received three different types of cookies for themselves (I received cookies from Beth’s Blue Plate Special, The Cultural Dish, and Princesss Pea. Thanks, y’all!). The whole event is a great connection tool. Plus, 100% of our sign-up costs went directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, an organization that supports research of new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer. So, yeah. Basically, this swap is the bomb. I decided to do a chocolate cookie with a vibrant, yet deep, espresso glaze. Why? I like chocolate. Husband likes coffee. BAM. Winning combo.

espresso4espresso5espresso2

chocolate espresso cookies
yield: 3 dozen cookies

cookies
ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

glaze
ingredients
1/2 cup unrefined powdered sugar
2 tbsp (or so) brewed espresso

create
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in 1/4 cup brewed espresso until well combined.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powders together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cookies are baking, make the glaze. In a bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and brewed espresso together until smooth. The glaze should thin enough to pipe over the cookies, but not watery. Use more or less brewed espresso to reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the glaze to a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a very small amount of one of the tips cup off). When the cookies have cooled, quickly pipe the glaze over the cookies in a zig-zag motion.
Tip: Use a wire rack with foil or parchment underneath it. It will prevent mess, help the glaze dry correctly, and save any glaze dripping from the cookies.
Let the glaze dry/harden and store in an air-tight container.

espresso3espresso

The espresso I used to bake and glaze these cookies comes from the super-fly (sorry, my 90s is showing), super-knowledgable owner of Loveland Coffee, a coffee company based here in Columbia which focuses on local roasts, ingredients, and the process. The respect of the ingredients and process is the whole idea behind and the whole reason I started Heed the Feed, so I totally appreciate Loveland Coffee’s stance. That being said, I am nowhere close to being a coffee authority (my husband had to make the cookies’ espresso, for Pete’s sake), so I will just let Loveland Coffee describe the espresso to you :

” Our espresso is a blissful union of base, body and aroma that produces an amazingly long lasting crema when extracted properly as espresso. Used in lattes and cappucinos, it offers a strong, smooth chocolate taste. Roasted light, in the Northern Itailian style, as all fine espressos are… it has no flaws to hide by roasting to a crisp.”

Ehh, ehh (with a little elbow nudge)? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Heck yeah, it does. Well, here’s your chance to get your hands on some of those carefully-prepared beans. That’s right, Bob, it’s time for Heed the Feed’s very first giveaway! Come on down! (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)

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The Prize: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. One Pound Whole Bean Northern Italian Style Espresso
AND
2. One Pound Whole Bean Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

How to Enter: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and let me know you’ve Liked it in the comments below this post
and/or
2. Subscribe to Heed the Feed!
(You will receive one entry for each task. For example, if you like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and tell me in the comments below, you will receive one entry. If you subscribe to Heed the Feed, you will receive on entry. If you do both, you will receive two entries.)
That’s it!

A Few Other Things I Should Mention: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Open to U.S. residents only. Frown. Sorry, international friends.
2. The giveaway will open at 12:00am EST 12/12/12 (cool) and close at 12:00am EST 12/19/12.
3. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted after 12:00am EST on 12/19/12.

Good luck and happy cookie baking!

Loveland Coffee will soon open at a brand new location: 7001 St. Andrews Rd. Columbia, SC 29212. Visit the website at www.lovelandcoffee.com

cranberry hand pies


If I may, I will now bore entertain you with the list I wrote to my grandmother six years ago of the things I love about my family’s Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

1. The traditional football game between the boys and the girls.
2. Wearing a sweater – even if it’s 73 degrees.
3. Getting out of the car in your driveway holding some kind of food.
4. Walking to your front door and smelling the food cooking.
5. Getting inside and being told it isn’t ready yet.
6. Washing my hands before dinner with 15 other people in the bathroom and only 1 sink.
7. Lisa’s (my aunt) potato salad.
8. Sweet tea.
9. Walking in the living room and seeing all the men and LaLa (my cousin) sleeping on the chairs, couch, and floor.
10. Smelling cinnamon and apples.
11. Going outside when the sun is just going down and feeling the Autumn wind blow.
12. Seeing the brown, yellow, orange, and red leaves.
13. Walking on the grass with leaves crunching under my feet.
14. Taking pictures of everyone preparing the food.
15. Listening to Brandon (my cousin) say the blessing before we eat.
16. And really being thankful for God and what He has given us.
17. Being able to say across a huge table, “Hey, can you pass the ____?”
18. The actual process of passing around each dish of food.
19. More football.
20. And simply spending time with family that I feel like I haven’t seen in months.




cranberry hand pies
adapted from Cynthia Wong’s recipe, as seen in bon appétit
yield: 16 servings

dough
ingredients
3 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup natural cane sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), frozen
ice cold water

filling
ingredients
1 pound fresh cranberries (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten to blend
natural cane sugar

create
For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture and toss together, rubbing any big pieces of butter into the flour with your fingers. Add ice cold water to the mixture one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together. Turn onto a floured surface and knead just a few times until smooth and even. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and then flatten slightly to form a disc. Tightly wrap each half in plastic. Chill for 2 hours.
For the filling, combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice, cornstarch, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Let stand for juices to accumulate, about 10 minutes, then cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer and begins to thicken, 5-6 minutes. (Some cranberries will have burst.) Let cool completely.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until very thin, about 1/16-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles.
Brush edges of 8 circles with beaten egg. Place 1 heaping tablespoon filling in the center of each egg-washed circle. Top with remaining circles to form 8 pies. Using a fork, crimp 1/4-inch around edges to seal. Repeat with remaining dough, egg, and filling. Divide pies between prepared sheets; chill for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°. Working with 1 baking sheet of pies at a time, score dough, forming a small X in the center of each pie. Brush tops of pies with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake pies until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles out of Xs, 17-20 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining baking sheet of pies.



Happy Thanksgiving!

pumpkin chai pie

Happy November, my friends! This is a rather important month. I was married in this month. Some kind of national election is in this month. Carolina plays Clemson in this month. And, not to place any discredit by placing it last, Thanksgiving is in this month. When I was in high school, I sent Gowie a rather lengthy e-mail giving her a very detailed list of all of the things I treasured about this holiday. I can’t remember the whole thing, nor do I know if she even still has the list, but I remember a couple of them being simple, yet beautiful things like, “I love Thanksgiving because the whole family sits around the table and we pass the food to the right” or “The cousins leave with grass stains from our annual front yard football game” or “I get to wear a sweater.” That last statement, however, can be translated into a forced sweater wearing on my part, mainly because Thanksgiving in South Carolina is usually still in the 70s. Oh, well.


But Thanksgiving is one of my favorites because of its simplicity. I can picture people screaming, “Simple? What? WHAT?!” I get it. There’s houses to clean. There’s casseroles to prep. There’s turkey to photograph and tea to brew. But in the midst of all that craziness is a reminder to ourselves that we are doing these crazy chores and checklists because we are anticipating the arrival of family. We’re doing these things for others. And it’s beautiful. Holy cow, when did my blog become a motivational blog? Well, now you know how I feel about Thanksgiving. Thank you, Jesus, for a time of year filled with such intense beauty.


Perhaps we can talk about food now, no? I suppose we’ll finish off this year’s pumpkin series (and I’m not promising that I won’t use pumpkin in any more recipes before next year. It’s a good possibility that I will) with the cornerstone of most Thanksgiving tables: pumpkin pie! Pie and pumpkin, pumpkin and pie, the combination is perfect and irresistible. I decided to amp the traditional pie up a little bit and add a bit of chai, another one of my favorite flavors.

pumpkin chai pie
prep time: 90 minutes cook time: 90 minutes yield: 8 servings

pie crust (this is the recipe for my favorite pie crust, from Smitten Kitchen)
ingredients
1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces

filling
ingredients
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups roasted pumpkin purée (I used a white pumpkin, but any baking pumpkin will work)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chai latté concentrate

create
For the crust, fill a small bowl with water and drop a few ice cubes in. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the very cold pieces of butter into the flour mixture and quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles little peas. Add ice water (no ice cubes!) one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together (I think I used almost 1/2 cup of cold water). Gather it up and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead gently and very quickly until it all comes together (Don’t let that butter melt. Those pieces of butter are gonna make a beautiful, flaky crust). Shape into a dish and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350º. For the filling, stir together the sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs and then the pumpkin, milk, and chai. It will be a little thin.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand until malleable. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 inch circle. Transfer the flat dough to a pie plate (I usually roll it around the rolling-pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. This way, it doesn’t tear and stretch). Gently ease the dough into the plate corners. Tip the pumpkin filling into the pie crust and bake for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely and allow it to set before serving.


I told y’all last year that I was going to buy a prettier pie plate than the glass gas station one I have now. Oy. Still haven’t done it. I’m sorry I had to subject you to that once again. But pie plates fall to the bottom of the list when you’re trying to buy a house. Whoops. Secret’s out. Another time, another post, you guys.

pumpkin latte milkshakes

If you can sift through all of my ramblings over the past year, you may remember that I once, in a previous post, referred to myself as the real life Linus. I still do. It’s not that I ever believed in (or heard of) the Great Pumpkin as a child, but Linus and I share a strange, almost enchanting, enthrallment with this glorified gourd.

What makes it different from other seasonal, autumnal squashes? The flavor is different, but eh, not that different from, say, a butternut squash. It grows in patches on the ground just like other squashes. What makes it stand high on a pedestal and makes it the ever-loved symbol of Autumn?

I’m really not quite sure of the answer to that, but I will take you back a little bit. The Irish and English traditionally carved scary faces and whatnot into turnips, like, a long time ago. Fast forward a little bit to when people started moving to North America and that’s when native pumpkins started being used for scary carvings. Pumpkins, however, were used for a ton of things long before that and long before people started moving across the Atlantic. Native Americans used them for flour, mats, medicine, you name it. They knew what was up. And they stored during really cold months super well and, in turn, helped early settlers and Native Americans get through winters. They were so important to early North America. So, they were eaten and eaten and eaten and served, most iconically, at the first Thanksgiving dinners. I think after years of them being so incredibly versatile and then being around for early Halloween celebrations as lanterns and then sitting on Thanksgiving tables, pumpkins kind of snowballed themselves into becoming a general Autumn tradition. Plus, who doesn’t love a pumpkin dish with a blend of good spices? And they’re just so darn pretty.

History gets me going. Pumpkins get me going. Mix ’em together and BOOM you’ve got an excitement explosion. I’m sorry I talk too much. But this recipe is inspired by, yes, you guessed it, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. I almost feel like that one drink release each year is the ribbon-cutting ceremony to the season (although I never order it. I love chai too much to get mixed up in all that coffee business). Plus, my husband loves it and I knew it would make him happy.

I based the recipes in my pumpkin series last year on roasted pumpkin purée, a simple mash-up of cooked pumpkin flesh. To get a refresher or to get the recipe, visit my archives from September 2011 or click on the link provided.

pumpkin latte milkshakes
total time: 5 minutes (assuming your pumpkin purée is prepared) yield: 2 servings 
ingredients
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin purée
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of allspice
1/4 cup brewed espresso
1 pint good vanilla ice cream

create
Add pumpkin, spices, and espresso to a blender and blend until smooth and completely combined. Add ice cream and mix until creamy and ice cream is fully incorporated. You may add more or less espresso depending on how thick or thin you like your milkshake. Serve immediately.

“…Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!”

-excerpted from John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Pumpkin”, 1850.

happy birthday, heed the feed!

Today marks the one year anniversary of HTF’s first post! This year has been filled with learning, more learning, fun, lots of blessings, and, um, yes! More learning! Thank you to my encouragers and thanks to my new friends and readers!

Happy Birthday, Heed the Feed!

These pictures are taken from a recipe from the archives: Mama’s Birthday Cake, October 7, 2011

plum upside-down cakes

One of the first houses I lived in was a little one-story brick dwelling with black shutters and a side yard made up of a cement pad that my grandma made with her own hard-workin’ hands. She would mix up each small batch of cement in her wheel barrow with a garden hoe that had the handle broken off and would call my sister and me over to help her scrape out the mixture into her two-by-four square frames she was working in. I felt like she was making that cement patio for the first 16 years of my life. That’s not real. It didn’t take her that long. She had muscles. But I remember in the summer we’d take a break and walk to the front yard where our plum tree lived and she’d flick a branch and we’d run around the bottom of it catching fruits as if the tree were a piñata. And we’d sit on our railing-less porch with our feet dangling and eat those plums like we didn’t know anything different. I used to be afraid of the skins. I remember peeling the skins off and throwing them in the grass. Don’t listen to my child self. The skins of plums are really good and the whole fruit kind of tastes like a giant grape.

Plums, along with other stone fruits like peaches and apricots, love this time of year and taste best right about now. The category of fruits called stone fruits is called that because of the pit in the middle. The seed is really hard, like a stone. And, in addition to them tasting good, plums have lots of fiber. Ah, yes, now you remember. Prunes=dried plums. Haha. Prunes. That word just makes me laugh. Feeling clogged up? Try eating a plum before reaching for that prune juice….pbbb, prune.

I decided to make a version of a Martha upside-down cake I found on her website. Hers are way prettier than mine, but I wanted to use some little pans I recently inherited from my family’s bakery, which, unfortunately, no longer exists. My great grandmother and her husband opened the first one in Myrtle Beach in the 1940s and they made some really neat, intricate cakes and, according to my dad, some awesome doughnuts. After seeing Martha’s recipe and remembering these cute, little, family-enriched pans, I decided to make a few individual plum upside-down cakes.

plum upside-down cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart’s nectarine, plum, and apricot upside-down cake
prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 30 minutes yield: 36 small cakes

fruit enhancer
ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dark rum
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coarse salt

cake
ingredients
2 pounds black plums, about 10
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups natural cane sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

create
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the fruit enhancer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, maple syrup, dark rum, light-brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until well blended.

Grease pan of your choice. You can make one big cake or multiple small ones. I used small tart pans (about 5”). Divide fruit enhancer evenly among pans and spread to make smooth. Slice fruit into 1/4-inch wedges. Arrange fruit slices in a fanlike, circular pattern on top of fruit enhancer.

Make cake: Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until combined after each addition.

Divide the batter between the pans prepared with the fruit. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, loosen sides of cakes with paring knife and invert onto plate or cake stand.

I have another little brick house plum tree story. My sister and I had a good friend who lived across the street named Pedro. We did everything with Pedro. We had Power Ranger marathons, I saw my first Coolio music video at his house, and I’m pretty sure we purposely made mud pits in his back yard to play in. One day we decided we wanted to bury a box in the ground with our most precious valuables enclosed so the future explorers of the world would dig it up and learn of the vast history of the time and we’d become famous long after we’d already passed. I’m pretty sure I just placed a plastic Barbie shell bracelet in the shoebox and I know we all signed our names with the date on a piece of paper. We dug a hole under the plum tree and scooted the dirt over the box with our hands. It is still there. We never dug it up. I’m actually impressed. There have been several families that have lived there since we left and I’ll bet none of them were aware of the shell bracelet beneath the dirt, but I’m sure they enjoyed those oh-so-good plums every summer. To those families: you’re welcome.

peach cheesecake cookie bars

Oh, sweet, sweet, beautiful peaches. South Carolina’s gold, the southeastern United States’ pride, a symbol of Southern charm and grace (although, dare I say, that I believe California is the US’ number one peach producer, with Georgia actually being third behind SC). Regional competition and rivalry aside, peaches are probably the fruit that I anticipate the most when summer settles in (oo, strawberries. Hmm. Argh, and then there’s blueberries. Okay, okay, I can’t decide). The pretty fuzz, the sound of the pit being removed from the fruit, the gentle transition of red to orange to yellow in the center. Mm. Mm, mm, mm.

On the fourth of July, my husband and I spent the day at his parents’ house, swimming and doing a lot of eating. Somehow we ended up with these peach cheesecake cookie bars, peach cobbler, peach drinks, and peach ice cream. I think somewhere in there we had some meat and perhaps a vegetable, but those were scarfed down rather quickly while we kept our eyes on that dessert table. These bars are kind of a combination of several desserts: the bottom crust is like a shortbread, the middle cheesecake layer being the star of the show, and the top gives it almost a pie taste with an oatmeal cinnamon crumble.

peach cheesecake cookie bars
prep time: 25 minutes cook time: 35 minutes yield: 12 servings
cookie crust
ingredients
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
pinch of salt
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cold water

peach cheesecake filling
ingredients
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 peaches, peeled and pitted and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

oatmeal crumble topping
ingredients
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
dash of ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

create
Preheat the oven to 350º. For the cookie crust, cream the butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour a little at a time, mixing after each addition, and rubbing the last bit of flour in with your hands to make it crumbly. Add the cold water and bring together. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides in a greased square baking pan and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes and remove to let cool.
While the crust in cooking, prepare the oatmeal topping. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, and cinnamon and then toss with the melted butter. Rub together with your fingers until the mixture becomes crumbly.
For the cheesecake filling, combine the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla until just incorporated. By hand, fold in the peach cubes, being careful not to overmix.
Lower the heat in the oven to 325º. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared cookie crust and spread evenly. Crumble the oatmeal topping over the cheesecake filling and bake for about 35 minutes until the pan looks set when given a shake and the top looks dry.
Let cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator before cutting into squares.

My sister has a very successful peach tree in her side yard and it explodes these cute, little peaches out of its branches relatively quickly every summer. I mean, the tree can’t even hold these babies. Its limbs drag the ground and hang out into the road and cars swerve around it trying to protect its heavy-set beauty. Okay, cars don’t really swerve and crash or anything. My sister isn’t evading the law. She maintains the tree pretty well. The point is, peach trees love this climate, the soil here, and are so good at pumping out food. It’s so cool. Agriculture is a beautiful thing.