a Charleston cookie legend…spirited

Charleston, SC – food and restaurants and bakeries at every turn.
I remember benne wafers from a Savannah, GA trip to Byrd Cookie Company 20 years ago. But, I didn’t make the connection in Charleston i.e. Olde Colony Bakery until I was leaving the city. And, the benne wafers at the airport were not packaged as a product of Olde Colony Bakery. Thus began the internet search for a benne wafer recipe. I found several, and decided to try one of the versions I found here.
I really should follow the recipe exactly on the first baking attempt, but I seldom do. I’ll list my variations below. In short, my cookies don’t look exactly like the cookies in the above blog post, nor do they look like the wafers in Charleston, but they are delicious nonetheless.
The benne wafers being sold at the Charleston airport list ingredients as follows:
unbromated wheat flour
egg whites
white sessame seeds
palm oil
salt baking powder
baking soda
(If I can acquire a package of Olde Colony Bakery benne wafers, I’ll update this post.)
Listed below is the recipe I followed; my adjustments are in capital letters:

Benne Wafers (adapted from a recipe by Jean Anderson)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar FIRMLY PACKED
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 TEASPOONS
1 large egg 1 EXTRA LARGE EGG
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour 5 OZ KA WHITE WHEAT FLOUR
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup lightly toasted sesame seeds THE BROWN ONES

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light, about 2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add the egg and beat until just incorporated. Add the flour and salt, mixing to

combine. Fold in the sesame seeds.

Drop the dough from rounded 1/2 teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. The cookies will spread when baking.

Bake on the middle oven shelf for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

Let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 7 dozen cookies.

Thank you for sharing, Tim! Visit Tim’s blog, Lottie + Doof for more really good cooking and fabulous photography.

Visit Tim’s weblog:Lottie + Doof (giving credit where credit is due)

My cookies did not spread, as listed in the recipe above, but they are DELICIOUS.

Once I realized my recipe/ingredient mistake, I began using my #100 scoop (which is about 1 1/2 teaspoons) to portion the cookies.

And, I added 2 teaspoons of Praline Liqueur to the last half of the benne wafer batter. This added a richness to the cookies. I could not really taste the liqueur in the cookies, but I could smell the praline. I will add this ingredient to my permament benne wafer recipe.

Though not the traditional southern, small, thin, crisp benne, I’m very pleased with my benne wafer/cookie version.

Gesine’s (Ghe-see-neh’s) new book

I’ve just finished reading Gesine Bullock-Prado’s book, “Confections of a Closet Master Baker.” I would highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys baking and/or a touching, life changing story. I, too, can relate to the loss of a parent and the life changing events that follow.

I baked her ‘Golden Eggs’ (page 12) and they are delicious. Two weeks later, after being frozen, they are still moist and springy to the touch. Here’s the link to her video where she bakes the little cakes. I must say, my cakes did not turn out of the decorative bundt pan. That didn’t affect the flavor, and I baked the remainder of the batter in regular muffin pans, which turned out beautifully.
It’s a great book. Along with the touching stories, and the grueling details of a baker’s daily life, there are several recipes sprinkled in the mix. I can’t wait to try the others.

CIA snapshot – day 1 & 2

CIA Pastry Bootcamp is everything I had imagined and more. The same Chef is teaching this class that taught baking bootcamp last year! What a treat. And, I’ve seen one of the TAs from last year and another Chef from one of our classes last year. How wonderful of them to take time to stop by and say hello!

I’ll post bootcamp details next week, when life returns to normal. In the meantime, I’ll give you a short summary of day 1 & 2. (15+ hour long days, and we love it!)
Day 1 – I can’t even remember without looking at my instruction book. We’ve baked and mixed and eaten so much!
Oh yes…pastry cream, pate a choux, and creme caramel. Long gone are my fears of a making a custard and caramelizing sugar. That’s not to say that everything we made was prefect, because it was not. But, we learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.
Day 2 – Filled and glazed pate a choux; unmolded our beautiful creme caramel; mixed, piped, and baked spritz cookies; and, we made a vanilla sponge cake. The mixer turned the sponge cake ingredients into mounds and mounds of stabilized bubbles. Our cakes baked to a golden brown. Tomorrow we will soak them with a flavored simple syrup, and frost with buttercream. The chocolate demo offered instructions regarding various tempering techniques. And Chef brought beautiful, tiny chocolates for us to taste while she piped chocolate butterflies with wings in flight.
The tasting is one of the many benefits of a trip to CIA. Everyone wants you to taste everything. I gazed through the window of our TA’s classroom late in the afternoon. They were making petite fours, invited me into the room, and offered a taste. I just didn’t have room for another bite- what a shame!

Hyde Park, NY – CIA – how exciting

(bridge east across Hudson River, then north to Hyde Park and CIA)

Sunday September 13
I’m really here again! When I left last September, I knew I would return at some point in the future, and here I am. Alarm clocks (yes, more than one) are set for 4:30 AM EST. Orientation begins on campus at 6 AM tomorrow morning.
I drove around the campus earlier today, fondly remembering last year’s week of Baking BootCamp (my links here), and wondering what wonderful experiences are yet to unfold at this Pastry BootCamp.
Does one week make one a pro? NO. But I do know where to park, where to attend class, and where to get the hot water for my morning tea.
It will be an exhausting week, as our days begin at 7AM and end around 9:30PM. I intend to post during the week (intend being an imaginary bold font).
As an aside, the Barnes & Noble bookstore here (in Poughkeepsie) is two stories high. I’ve never seen one that large. I now have the new book, “Confections of a Closet Master Baker – A Memoir.” Rather than reading, I need to be sleeping…..

finally!!!!! – a cream scone that is awesome

I still believe Ina’s orange cranberry scone is the absolute best scone (made with butter) that I have ever tasted. I’ve tried cream scones in the past – all very unsuccessful.
“The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread” page 5 – ‘Cherry Cream Scones’ (this is going to be a great book after such success early in the book) I must admit, I mixed these and the shaping and cutting of the dough was a huge sticky mess. I added what I thought was too much flour. I cut them into something resembling a square, baked 2 (which turned out looking more like a puffy pancake), and froze the remainder. I’m done with this! (I thought.)

As an aside, the two I baked were DELICIOUS. The combination of tart fresh cranberries and the orange zest I added, along with the creamy scone was perfect. So, great flavor, but terrible presentation, and I like ‘pretty.’
As I said, I froze the remaining 10 scones. That’s where the miracle happened. Tonight, I pulled two out of the freezer, popped them into the oven as frozen cubes of dough, baked, and who!!! hooo! Beautifully shaped scones. They held their shape perfectly. And they tasted every bit as delicious as the fresh baked dough.
FREEZE this scone dough before baking. You’ll be glad you did.
As an aside, the next time I bake these, I’m going to prepare the scone dough, and then scoop the dough into some very small pottery dishes and bake. I think they will be pretty in the pottery, and I will not have to worry about shaping and cutting.
Again, these are delicious. Do Not hesitate to try this recipe.

Joe Pastry on ‘fruitcake’

Here’s the link to his post today. He says it time to make your Christmas fruitcakes!

Now is the time to make and bake your loaves. This way, they’ll have plenty of time to mellow..”

And, here’s his reply to my email:

From: joe@joepastry.com

Subject: Re: ahhhh

Date: September 8, 2009 9:09:02 PM CDT

To: studio1014@mac.com

Don’t let ANYONE laugh at your fruitcake, Gale. Crack it open and eat it proudly!
(Then send me a slice because I’m going through serious withdrawal.)
- Joe

On Sep 8, 2009, at 9:00 PM, Gale Reeves wrote:
I have one (Alton Brown’s recipe) in the freezer from last Christmas. Maybe I should cut the cake and taste. My friends just laugh when I talk about fruitcake.


(repost from November 16, 2008)

If you could smell the smooth, sweet aroma drifting through my entire house at this

moment, you would never make a ‘fruitcake’ joke again!!!!!!

Yes, I’m baking a Christmas Fruitcake…my first ever.

I’m using a recipe from Alton Brown, and adjusting a little here and there. Rather than the rum the recipe suggests, I have used Cruzan Vanilla Rum. I left out the candied ginger. There’s nothing in this fruitcake that I wouldn’t put in a scone or muffin…well maybe not the rum…

The pictures below will tell the story.

I had to taste while it was still warm. It was delicious. I will bake this again!

The three cakes are now wrapped in cheesecloth, and resting inside a tin. I’ll soak them over the next few weeks with more of the vanilla rum. The flavor should improve with each passing day.

(repost from December 4, 2008)

Would you rather taste a cake named Vanilla Rum Raisin Cake than one named Fruitcake? What is in a name?

I’ll call it whatever you want…it tastes good!

It passed a few food critics at work. Next week, I’ll serve slices to my brothers, who, up to this point have offered very ‘creative comments’ about my fruitcake.

Grey Goose and vanilla beans

(repost from April 4, 2009)

“even the plastic bags smell de-vine”

I couldn’t throw away the plastic storage bags in which the vanilla beans were shipped. They smelled sooooo goood. I kept them in the utility room for a week, enjoying the lingering aroma.

I split about 15 Vanilla Beans (Planifolia) [purchased from www.saffron.com] & about 5 tahitian vanilla beans. Then I added a bottle of double strength Nielsen-Massey vanilla, and filled the quart fruit jar with Grey Goose Vodka. NOW, THAT’S A RECIPE!

The jar of vanilla is brewing in the back of my cabinet. Every day or so, I take it out, shake it a little, wonder what is happening on the inside, and return it to it’s aging place in the cabinet. This project began March 7. I’ll open it on May 7th to see what I have created.

*********************** *********************** *********************

fast-forward six months:

I need to buy more Grey Goose! The vanilla beans need alcohol to continue to produce this liquor (the liquid from which a substance has been extracted – from Apple dictionary widget)

I have about $60 invested in this quart of vanilla liquor/extract.

Nielsen-Massey is about $19 per 8 fl. oz. at Williams Sonoma. Though there is a little savings in money, it’s not as much about the money as about the experience of watching this process unfold.


bacon – potato – asparagus – cheese

…sounds a bit healthier than my usual posts…

This quiche is very good. It’s light and fluffy, and the flavors work well together. And, I think this will be a much healthier lunch option than some of my others during the work week.

The recipe is adapted from “Brunch,” a Betty Crocker publication from March 2008 (page 21)

refrigerated pie crust (I blind baked mine before filling)
1 c. frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1 c. asparagus, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 c. diced smoked bacon
6 oz diced Havarti cheese
I didn’t pre cook any of the above; I chopped, mixed together, and placed in pie shell.

Mix very will with hand mixer (you need the bubbles!)
4 extra large eggs
1 c. whole milk
(I added a little dried thyme and dried basil)
1/8 t. salt
Pour this over the ingredients in the pie shell.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 55 minutes. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean when the quiche is done.


From www.ask.com:
"Quiche freezes well for up to two months after baking or for one month before baking. Use any favorite filling like bacon and green chilies, onion and cheese or ham and artichoke hearts. To freeze quiche before baking: Tray-freeze until firm; then wrap with freezer paper, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or slide it into a freezer bag. Seal, label and freeze up to one month. Do not thaw before baking. Unwrap and bake as usual, allowing 10 to 20 minutes additional time. To freeze quiche after baking: Tray-freeze; then wrap with freezer paper, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or slide it into a freezer bag. Seal, label and freeze up to two months. Do not thaw before reheating. Unwrap and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until heated through.  from: Missouri Families: Food Safety"

your point of concentration

Do you want to concentrate on the hazelnuts?Or, do you want to concentrate on the Nutella?Either way, these two ingredients and a few other healthy additions yield a delicious granola bar.
I’ve been testing granola bar recipes. The first recipe I tried was a huge hit with the work crew, but the bars crumbled too easily. You can find the original Barefoot Contessa recipe here. And, you can find another version here at Smitten Kitchen. I made a few substitutions based on the ingredients in my pantry.

The bars pictured above were my second attempt. They cut beautifully, and did not crumble as I nibbled on the healthy goodness.
Fresh Market and Whole Foods have isles of ingredients just waiting to be made into granola bars. I can’t wait to try many more combinations.
Listed below is my latest version of the Barefoot Contessa/Smitten Kitchen granola bar recipe. I have decided that honey works better than maple syrup. And, a Nutella type ingredient (i.e. peanut butter/ nut butters) aids in the texture creation , holding the bars together, and cutting the bars.

This recipe makes about 16 granola bars. I baked the mixture in 2 – 8.5 x 5 loaf pans. Be sure to press the mixture into the pans really well (even roll over the ingredients with a small rolling pin). And don’t cut the bars until completely cooled. (I pressed another loaf pan over the baked bars and allowed them to cool overnight before cutting.)


2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup sliced almonds (any combination of nuts; I used 2 c. hazelnuts, skins included)

1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I used 1/2 sweetened & 1/2 unsweetened)

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (I used bran cereal)

¼ cup brown sugar

2/3 cup honey

1/4 cup Nutella

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cup dried fruit, or a mix of dried fruit (I used dates with the hazelnuts)

I added a few chocolate chips (about 1/4c.) to one pan of the granola bars before baking.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Toss the oatmeal, nuts, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. (Watch the sweetened coconut; it browns quickly.) Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the brown sugar/honey/Nutella (I heated these slightly to melt.) Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Add all other ingredients.

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking pans and press it in the pans until the mixture is packed as tightly as possible. (Parchment paper placed inside the pan [before you add the granola mixture] and extended over the sides will aid in removing the full bar from the pan prior to cutting. – Butter the parchment paper.)

Bake for 25 minutes, until light golden brown.

Cool for 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares — your best serrated knife is great for this. ( I let mine cool overnight before cutting)

You can store these in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two, as you would cookies, or store them in the freezer. They should remain crisp frozen, as all granola tends to soften at room temperature after a day or more.

concentrated tomato flavor

I’m a southern girl and I don’t like tomatoes. There…I’ve said it…

And then I tried Barefoot Contessa’s Roasted Tomatoes page 183 (recipe here). I made a few adjustments based on other blog postings I have read, and I now have a tray of delicious garlic/vinegar/caramelized goodness. As I tasted these hot from the oven, the concentrated flavors begged to be used on pizza or in anything pasta, or just smeared on bread (or my finger).
I roasted the tomatoes at 300 degrees for about 3 1/2 hours.