Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taste of Home: Learning to make flour bread

Flour bread is nothing fancy. It has only three ingredients: flour, buttermilk and shortening. Yet it has a story; it has history.
This simple bread, made for more than 100 years in my family — and perhaps yours — is nothing more than biscuit dough flattened and cooked on an iron griddle. As the dough cooks, lovely brown spots form and make a crust, sending an aroma that I remembered instantly when my aunt made it for me last week. That smell, that wonderful smell, brought to mind meals of flour bread dipped in chicken and gravy at Mama’s house.
Mama made flour bread from time to time. It was a recipe from her own childhood that she cooked with meals she grew up with, including fresh-picked field peas and country ham. She cooked flour bread in a cast iron griddle that was used for little else, unless it was Daddy’s pancakes on Saturday morning.
I remember pinching off bits of the round cake and eating them while they were still hot.
But I never made flour bread at my house.
A reader asked me recently if I had a recipe for a flat bread she remembered. From her description, I thought of Mama’s flour bread. I asked my sister and cousins if they remembered it; they did and even make it some. But I knew it was mama’s sister who could teach me.
Aunt Margaret Thigpen, at age 91, has made her fair share of flour bread over the years. She remembers her own mother making it as well. Women made it instead of biscuits, she said, because they didn’t have to heat up the wood-burning stove to cook it. They could make it on the stove top or even the heater.
Mama used to say it was faster to pat out one large cake of flour bread rather than roll out the dough to make biscuits. 
Aunt Margaret didn’t need a recipe to make her flour bread for my daughter, Anna, and me Friday morning. She sifted flour into a bowl until she had enough, then spooned in a little shortening and mixed it in with a vegetable chopper. She wasn’t happy with the consistency, so she added a little more shortening and then buttermilk until it was just right.
With her hands, she worked the dough until it was smooth and soft and formed a ball that she flattened.
Before putting the dough on the griddle, she dabbed on some shortening with a piece of paper towel. It immediately melted and spread across the same hot griddle that’s been in the family for at least three generations.
Once the dough was on the griddle, she used her hands to pat it down and spread it across the hot surface.
Within a few minutes, I started smelling the dough cooking. It’s a different aroma than biscuits cooking, with the dough almost sizzling as it starts to brown. I peeked underneath the flour bread and saw the trademark brown spots starting to pop out. I grinned. This was the flour bread I grew up on, and I couldn’t wait to eat it!
We flipped the bread and let it cook a few minutes on the other side, and then we placed it on the black and white plate I always liked to eat on at Aunt Margaret and Uncle Buster’s house. I love my food hot, so I wasted no time breaking off a piece and eating it. 
That piece of flour bread was the real thing. Soft in the middle, a bit crunchy on the outside, and very, very good. It tasted like home — comfort food at its best. Just like Mama made it. Just like her mama made it.
Aunt Margaret gave Anna and me a gift Friday — she taught us how to make flour bread. She shared something simple that has nourished my family for many generations.
On Monday night, I made flour bread at my own house. I don’t have an iron griddle, but I did use my black, cast iron skillet. I followed the biscuit recipe I use often and made two cakes of flour bread. My house smelled like Mama’s kitchen. And I had a sense of satisfaction that’s hard to explain. 
It was a feeling of accomplishment. The knowledge that I had made something my mama made quite often. And I did it right.

Flour Bread
2 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk
Blend flour and shortening with a pastry blender or vegetable chopper. Pour in buttermilk and stir to combine; use hands to finish combining, adding more flour or buttermilk as needed. Dough should be soft and easy to handle. Divide into two balls and flatten slightly.
Heat cast iron griddle on medium heat. Spread a little shortening; it should melt immediately.
Once griddle is hot, place one ball of dough in middle. Flatten to around 1/2-inch thickness using your hands, the back of a large spoon or a spatula (or a combination of all three, which is what I did!) 
Let cook for a few minutes, then lift edge to check. Don’t allow griddle to get too hot or it will burn the outside before the inside is done. Once brown spots have appeared and the bottom is firm, flip. I used a large spatula, guiding it with my hand. Cook on the other side for a few minutes until bread starts to brown. (Aunt Margaret applied shortening again when she turned it; I forgot to do this step but had not problems.)
Repeat with remaining dough.
This is best served hot. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Delicious cake for Easter

Easter’s only a few days away, and you probably already have your special meal planned. I’ll be making a traditional glazed ham dinner on Saturday night, and we will enjoy the leftovers after church on Sunday.
If you haven’t decided on a dessert yet, I have a delicious cake recipe you can try. Reba Lucas shared with me her recipe for coconut-pineapple cake. She said it’s her family’s favorite Easter dinner dessert and was one of her grandmother’s favorite recipes.
I’ve always liked the combination of coconut and pineapple and tried the recipe the same day Reba sent it.
The cake is simple enough to make, starting with a doctored cake mix that uses softened butter instead of oil. Sour cream is also added (or milk) along with a teaspoon of vanilla.
For the frosting, Reba uses Betty Crocker’s home style fluffy white frosting mix. I’ve used this frosting before, and it is very good. I agree with Reba that it tastes like 7-minute frosting (which I’ve never made but watched my mama make many times.) I know this mix is very hard to find in Wilson, so I didn’t even try. Instead, I made the cake with two different frostings to suggest.
I did make the cake twice. The first time, I used a canned vanilla frosting and mixed in about a 1⁄2 cup of coconut. It was a very good frosting and was sort of firm once the cake had chilled. I really liked it that way. If you make it this way, I suggesting using at least one and a half cans of frosting, maybe two. One wasn’t enough if you want frosting between the layers.
The second time I made the cake, I used whipped topping with coconut mixed in. I make that same frosting for another coconut cake and know how good it is.
I made the cake twice because I needed a pretty slice to photograph. The first time I made the cake, I added too much pineapple juice to my layers, and the top one fell apart. I also should have added the juice after I placed it on top, not before. Lesson learned. 
The second time I made the cake, I let the layers sit on the cooling rack too long (several hours). Don’t make that mistake either. One layer stuck to the cooling rack and cracked when I pulled it off. But that’s OK. It still tasted good!
I don’t always have a lot of luck with layer cakes, as you can see. Next time I make this recipe, I might just prepare it in a baking dish!
This cake needs to be refrigerated several hours before slicing. And it stays moist and delicious for several days, so you can certainly make it in advance.
I think this cake would be very pretty with a nest of seasonal jelly beans in the middle!
The cake layers in this recipe are very good. The next time I want a chocolate cake, I will make these layers and frost with a favorite homemade frosting.

Coconut-Pineapple Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter (softened at room temperature) 
1 8 oz. container sour cream or 1 cup of whole milk
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 box Betty Crocker fluffy white cake frosting*
1 bag sweetened coconut flakes
1 can crushed pineapple 

Preheat oven to 340-345 degrees.  
To make layers, add eggs, sour cream or milk, cake mix and butter and mix as directed on box. Add vanilla last. Pour batter into prepared pans (either for layers or a sheet cake). Bake layers or sheet cake for 20-25 minutes or until center is done. Cool completely before frosting.
Make frosting as directed on package. Add vanilla for flavor.
Poke holes in cake and pour juice over layers.* Spread crushed pineapple over bottom layer. Frost that layer and sprinkle on mounds of coconut. Repeat steps for second layer, adding coconut and frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to serving. It tastes better when prepared a day ahead.
Reba J. Lucas 

NOTE: Use a small amount of juice, maybe 1-2 teaspoons per layer. You might not need all of the pineapple. For the frosting, you can also use 1 1/2 cans of prepared vanilla frosting with about 1/2 cup of coconut mixed in or a container of Cool-Whip with coconut mixed in.

Monday, April 7, 2014

From time to time, I'm asked to review products. Here are a few things I've tried recently:

Chick-fil-A grilled chicken

Last week I was invited to taste the new grilled chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A. I was happy to oblige and invited my cousin Nancy to go with me.
Nancy and I both love Chick-fil-A and have fond memories of begging our daddies to take us to the Chick-fil-A in Crabtree when we were girls.
Christy Proctor, local owner/ operator, talked to the dozen or so people gathered for the premiere, telling us about the new sandwich, which went through 1,000 recipes before this one was put on the menu recently.
The sandwich we tried was the grilled club that includes Colby Jack cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. The sandwich is served with a piece of paper wrapped around it; it's so juicy, you need the wrapper to keep it from dripping! I made the mistake of taking off the paper for my first bite, but I put it back on after the juice started dripping.
This sandwich is very good. I loved the fresh, multi-grain roll, and the grilled chicken has a better taste than the previous grilled sandwich. An entirely new grill was developed to cook it, Christy told us. The cheese on the sandwich adds a nice flavor and texture surprise.
I ate every bite of the sandwich, which is a little unusual for me. But it was so good that I didn't want to leave any behind. I looked around me and saw that most people finished theirs as well.
Our sandwiches were served with a bottle of water and a fruit cup. Chick-fil-A has also revamped its fresh fruit cup to include apples, blueberries, strawberries and mandarin oranges.
Our meal had just under 500 calories.
Before we left, Christy brought out a tray of the new grilled chicken nugget for us to sample. They are also better than the previous grilled product.
I have thought about the grilled chicken club sandwich several times since eating it last week and really want to try it again!
The grilled club sandwich is $5.49.

Welch's Fruit Snacks

I got a sample box of the Easter fruit snacks from Welch's in the mail recently. I often buy fruit snacks for my granddaughter and knew she would like these.
I was right! Not only did she like the taste, but she was excited to see the different shapes, including a chick, eggs, a flower and a bunny. I've had a few of the pouches myself and liked the flavor.
The box includes 28 pouches. Each pouch is 45 calories and contains 100 percent of the RDA of Vitamin C. The fruit bites are also fat-free and gluten-free.
The small pouches would work great in Easter baskets or as a classroom treat.
Cost for the box of 28 pouches is around $4.99.

Fuze Sweet Tea Concentrate

This product was not sent to me, but I have to share it because it's so good! My family and I have enjoyed it so much.
I recently purchased my second cartoon of Fuze iced tea concentrate from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It couldn't be easier to make!
You follow carton instructions for mixing the concentrate and water to make two gallons. It only takes a few minutes. There are also instructions for making single servings.
I've only tried the half-tea, half-lemonade concentrate, but it also comes in sweetened iced tea, unsweetened ice tea and raspberry-flavored iced tea.
The carton costs under $4.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7810