Painting by William Berra. www.ellarichardsonfineart.com
Pull up a front porch rocker, grab a cool glass of sweet tea, a slice of Chantilly cake and ‘sit a bit’ as we say in the South. Welcome to the land of shrimp, collards, and grits.
I believe those who lead the most joyous lives in the summer are those endowed with natural spontaneity and guiltless abandon – in both how they live and how they cook. Where I live there are miles of sandy beaches to explore, endlessly cresting waves to ride, fields of wildflowers to gaze upon, acres of ripening blueberries and blackberries to gather, fish to catch and all of summer’s sizzling passion to embrace. No wonder there is very little time left to think of traditional meals. Instead, I find myself nibbling on seductive and savory morsels while watching children playing on the beach and bottle-nosed dolphins swimming by.
Nibbling at whim on savory morsels just might be the perfect way to breeze through summer. I might grab a watermelon from a roadside stand and ice it down, pluck a cucumber and some tomatoes off the vines out back, and maybe add a few shrimp leftover from yesterday’s catch. Now that’s a simple summer supper with no fuss.
“What a joy to have beautiful raw ingredients from our beloved islands to harvest cucumbers and melons from nearby farms, arrange tomatoes in splashes of red, yellow and orange in tribute to our sunsets, and seal memories of summertime in jars of blueberry jam.”
Art by Paula Holtzclaw www.paulaholtclawfineart.com
Southern Culture in a Glass – Here’s Our Secret to Success!
No matter what you do, no summer afternoon would be any good at all without a tall glass of sweet tea – it’s Southern culture in a glass. It was quite some time ago that I determined a few criteria for being a true Southern girl. A real Southern girl should own a sweet tea pitcher, at least one deviled egg plate, and never leave the house without her lipstick and a string of pearls. Sweet tea is not just a drink – it’s tradition. Sweet tea is to the South what Guiness is to Ireland or ouzo is to Greece.
If you’re in South Carolina and don’t order sweet tea, well, bless your heart. It’s a sure sign you’re not from here.
People divide the North from the South at the Mason-Dixon line, but in reality, it’s the sweet tea line. You may never bake a perfect tray of Angel biscuits, lighter than air, cure your own country ham, but I promise you, you can make a perfect pitcher of sweet tea.
There are countless small details that can take this drink from OK to great. One such trick? Putting a pinch of baking soda in sweet tea. It neutralizes bitterness and astringency in black tea and prevents it from becoming cloudy.
That’s a tip I learned many years ago from a grand Southern lady, Nathalie Dupree. In case you are new to the South, Nathalie Dupree is the grande dame of Southern cooking and veteran of more than 50 years in the kitchen. She’s like E F Hutton – when she gives advice, the room goes silent and people listen to every word. www.nathaliedupree.com
I only add ice to my tea when I pour it into a serving glass, giving me a crystal-clear glass of tea every time.
Yields 2 quarts
6 individual tea bags
2 quarts filtered cool water
Pinch of baking soda
For the sugar syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
Fresh mint, if desired
Boil 2 quarts of cool filtered water, bringing it just to a boil, then turn it off.
Steep tea bags in this hot water for as long as you can – several hours is good. Gently squeeze bags of excess water and remove.
Add a pinch of baking soda to keep it from turning cloudy. Next add lemon, or ginger or mint.
For the sugar water:
Bring the cup of sugar and the cup of water just to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Add this to the hot tea. Once cooled down, add to a lovely pitcher and stir. Pour into ice-filled glasses.
William Berra – artist
With the fourth of July just around the corner, you may want to get a bit fancy with the most scrumptious vanilla cake on the face of the earth. Every now and then I depart from my routine and decide to create something truly memorable. It may look impressive but if you follow the instructions carefully, you can do it! One of the key facts to keep in mind – have all your ingredients at room temperature before you start. As the French say- “mise en place” – or translated – get all your ingredients out on the counter before you start. Not only does this ensure you have all the ingredients, but it makes baking so much easier if everything is in front of you. And don’t forget to read the recipe before you begin.
Sweet tea is the perfect beverage to serve with this perfect cake. It has a few steps but it’s well worth the effort and is a real show stopper if you want to develop the reputation for being a cake baking aficionado. I guarantee your friends will be impressed – and these easy steps will make it a breeze. Just one bite and your friends will be “fit to be tied.” I reckon I’ll go over yonder and have a piece right now!
Fourth of July Berry Chantilly Cake
This cake combines my love of vanilla cake, mousse, and fruit. The perfect way to celebrate your July 4th summer supper!
Recipe by cake baker extraordinaire, Minette Rushing of Savannah.
Berry Chantilly Cake
Keep Chantilly cake refrigerated until ready to serve and return the unused portion of the cake to the refrigerator. Decorate the top and side with berries.
Have all ingredients at room temperature.
31/4 cups cake flour (no substitutes)
3 cups of sugar
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup egg whites
⅛ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups whole buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325° and prepare cake pans by lining with parchment paper and
spraying with release or grease and flour. This recipe makes 3-8”
- Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment
and mix on low until the ingredients are combined -one to two minutes.
- Cut butter into chunks. Butter should be at room temperature.
- With the mixer on low, add the chunks of butter. Mix until the mixture becomes
crumbly and no large pieces of butter remain. Should resemble wet sand.
- Pour in egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated.
- Add buttermilk in two installments, on low. Scrape the bowl between the two
- Add vanilla and oil, mixing on low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape sides of
bowl and beat an additional 15 seconds.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 28-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the
center of the cakes comes out clean. A few crumbs are fine but if liquid is
present on the toothpick, return to oven.
- Let cakes cool in pans for 10-12 minutes. Turn out onto cooling rack. When
cakes are warm but cool enough to handle with your hands, wrap in plastic wrap
and allow to finish cooling.
- Place in refrigerator and allow to cool before adding the filling and frosting.
A delightful mousse that makes a wonderful cake filling. Fold in some fresh fruit and oh my, is it good! Refrigerate your bowl and whisk for best results. Be sure to use HEAVY cream and no substitutions. Before mixing, refrigerate your bowl for the best results.
21/2 cups heavy cream, cold ( no substitutions)
2 – 8-ounce containers Mascarpone cheese, cold (Belgioloso brand is my favorite)
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place in refrigerator to chill. Spread a thin layer of mousse onto the cake layer. Place berries on top of the mousse. Cover the berries with a generous amount of mascarpone mousse. Repeat with the second and third cake layer.
Faux Swiss Meringue Buttercream
¾ cup pasteurized egg whites
6 cups powdered sugar
3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
Combine egg whites and powdered sugar in a heavy-duty mixing bowl with a whisk attachment. Whisk on low to combine. Once combined, turn mixer to high and whisk for 5-10 minutes until stiff peaks have formed.
Turn off mixer and switch from whisk to paddle attachment.
With the mixer on low speed, begin adding butter a few pieces at a time until all butter has been added.
Mix on medium-low until buttercream is creamy, about 5-10 minutes.
Add pure vanilla extract and beat on low to incorporate.
Painting by Kathy Anderson. www.kathyandersonstudio.com