Tag Archives: baking

47. Petit Fours Like You’ll Never Find in Paris

4 Oct

petit fours -Brandi Korte

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the topic of petit fours with Geoff (I mean, it’s not like I EVER talk about sweets), but here’s another example of Dixie and Non worlds colliding:

I’m explaining to him that petit fours are little cakes with icing poured over them. About this big (imagine my hands making the universal 2 inch square symbol). And he goes, “Oh! They sell those at Whole Foods.” Me: “WHAT??” See, I have searched the internets more times than I care to mention trying to find petit fours in Seattle, and he’s telling me I overlooked Whole Foods. I would have hopped in the car immediately, but it was well past Whole Foods’ closing time. Ok, maybe not, but I was already in pajamas.

So the next day I set out for Whole Foods in Ravenna, giddy because I was moments away from petit four bliss. As I perused the bakery case, I encountered lots of lovely, lovely baked goods, but nary a petit four in sight. I made no less than three trips around the entire bakery area. No petit fours ANYWHERE. What they did have, though, were a ton of yummy looking bite-sized desserts. The price was a foreboding $18.99 a pound, but then how much could these really weigh? I got a tiny key lime pie and a wee cheesecake and they worked out to about two bucks each. Yes, a little steep for bite sized dessert, but you’d just have to see how cute these things are.

The next day, I was near another Whole Foods. Ok, it was maybe three miles out of the way, but who’s counting? Again, no petit fours. Ack!!

Meanwhile my sister calls to tell me about these awesome petit fours her friends ordered for her baby shower. (My sister’s two requirements for any shower thrown in her honor are petit fours and punch. It may not get more Southern than that. Especially if the punch is the lime sherbet variety. Alas, this is not Jenna’s favorite.)

I tell her about my wild petit four chase and tell her we’ve GOT to get petit fours when I go down to Memphis to help attend to the baby for whom she was recently showered.

Geoff has a client on the eastside, so he swung by Whole Foods to check out the PF situation there. He comes home and says, “Ok, they have a whole bunch of petit fours. They’re all different kinds of bite-sized desserts and they’re $18.99 a pound.” Me: “Yeah, I saw THOSE, but do they have any that are pieces of cake about this big with icing poured over them?” Him: “Uh, no.” Me: “Then they’re not petit fours!” Him: “Well, the sign says ‘Petit Fours.’” Me: “The sign lied.”

Fast forward to me in Memphis. I got the name of the petit four place from Jenna’s friend Tricia. I found their website, which was…somewhat off-putting. Some of their cakes were worthy of Cakewrecks. I would love to link to the site, but now Google warns that the site might harm my (or your) computer.

Nevertheless, Jenna and Tricia vouched for the deliciousness of the Kay Bakery petit fours, so I ordered a dozen. Ok, a dozen and a half because I was determined to bring some home to show Geoff. Not for him to TASTE, mind you, because I knew he would hate them.

kay bakery petit four

If the website put me off, the actual bakery did not do much to assuage my misgivings. But the guy showed me the petit fours, and while they weren’t exactly square, I could tell right away that they were honest-to-God petit fours. Hallelujah!

And they were as good as promised. Yay!

Epilogue: Geoff’s response upon seeing them: “Those aren’t small! They’re not petit fours; they’re grande eights!”

Some folks have no appreciation for the finer things in life.

Where’s your favorite placeto get petit fours? Have you ever attempted to make them yourself?

44. Caramel Cake–Like a Hug, but Tastier

26 Jun

I made this. Yum.

If you happen to be in the South and happen to be offered a slice of caramel cake (or better yet, somebody’s grandmother’s caramel cake), proceed with caution. Much like heroin, one hit’s too many and a thousand is never enough.

I have never met a caramel cake I didn’t like. Mostly, I think, because Betty Crocker has yet to throw her hat in the ring. That I know of, anyway.

Caramel cake is a bit of a misnomer, seeing as the cake isn’t caramel at all. It’s the icing that’s caramel. Well, actually, even the icing isn’t caramel. It’s caramel-esque. And way better than any plastic-wrapped caramel you’ve ever encountered.

The first time I attempted a caramel cake, the icing turned out gritty. Did I still eat it? You bet. See “never met a caramel cake I didn’t like” above.

caramel cake in progress, a still life

The second time, I turned to the Patron Saint of Southern Cooking, Paula Deen. She did not disappoint. And, so, having mastered my technique, I decided to treat my sister to a home-baked caramel cake. What I didn’t plan on was my sister’s sad, sad baking pans. Perhaps I should have switched to sheet cake mode, but I was determined to wow my sister. And wow her I did.

So the cakes stuck to the pans, but I ingeniously inverted them, crumbly side down. Which worked ok for the first layer. Halfway through icing the second layer, an avalanche sent one side of the cake sliding. Not to be defeated, I kept icing that sucker, which was getting crumblier by the second. Even my six-year-old nephew who loves to help in the kitchen decided it was hopeless and abandoned the project in favor of Sponge Bob.

My sister took one look at the cake and said, “What happened??” Me: “It stuck to the pans.” Jenna: “What pans did you USE?” I showed her the culprits. Jenna: “Well, no wonder!”

It wasn’t pretty, but that did not deter us from enjoying a slice. (Well, not so much a slice as a glob). But then, we’ve been known to eat my sister-in-law’s carrot cake rescued from a fall to the floor, which is a story for another time.

If you take a notion to make your own caramel cake, I recommend Paula Deen’s recipe. However, I leave out her layer of filling and have never missed those extra two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar. The icing isn’t a true caramel, but I’ve yet to figure out how that culinary feat is accomplished. I’ve tried many a time, but for me caramel always ends in disappointment or disaster.

Anybody happen to have their grandmother’s caramel cake recipe? Please do share!!

30. Biscuits: Our Daily Bread

3 Mar

Let’s settle one thing right up front: if it comes out of a can, it is not a biscuit. Not that there aren’t uses for Hungry Jacks. They’re a key ingredient in monkey bread and will also make a semi-decent Krispy Kreme substitute if you’re desperate, just don’t serve them with butter and jam expecting them to pass.

Some Southern folks have gotten a little lazy about the biscuit making and rely on the frozen Pillsbury variety. One advantage to these is that you can heat up however many you want and never be stuck with cold, leftover biscuits. Although for some reason my dad hasn’t caught on to this idea. He heats up a whole bunch of them at once, butters them, and then leaves them out on the counter. Just in case somebody happens by and wants a biscuit, I reckon.

I really don’t get why folks would want to eat some kind of bland, biscuit-like substitute. How hard is it to make a biscuit? Ok, I will confess that I, myself, had never made a biscuit till last Saturday, but it’s not at all difficult.

As often as I watched my mom making biscuits while I was growing up, you’d think I’d have the recipe embedded in my brain like a Barry Manilow song. Au contraire, mes amis. (Imagine that pronounced with a Southern accent. On second thought: don’t.) My mom didn’t have a recipe. She dumped some flour in a bowl, cut it with Crisco, poured in some buttermilk, mixed it up, dropped the dough on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. And Voila! Light, fluffy drops of heaven on a plate.

She always swore her biscuits were not as good as her sister Juanita’s, but I wouldn’t know because I never actually tasted one of my aunt’s biscuits while it was hot. My uncle J.P. had a habit of reading a bible passage before breakfast, usually directed toward someone at the table. By the time we got to eat, the o.j. was warm and the biscuits were cold.

All this is to say that I can’t give you my Mom’s biscuit recipe, but I did encounter one that’s almost as good. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve attempted a bunch of scone recipes because that’s what you do here. But last weekend, I figured it was about time to learn to make biscuits. Sorry, scones, it was nice knowing you…

Sour Cream Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 450.
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Cut in butter until small crumbs form. (easier to do this in food processor)
Add sour cream and stir until mixture is moistened.
Mush together with your hands (wash first!) until the dough holds together with no stray flour bits.
Drop onto ungreased baking sheet in biscuit-sized lumps.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.

Slather with butter and jam (or gravy if you like. i don’t.) and eat. Then nap, if necessary.

What’s your favorite biscuit recipe? Can you make them as good as your own mama?

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