Charleston Chews

charleston chews.png

Charleston chews are one of my favorite things. No, not the candy. This is like a brown sugar blondie thing and it’s delicious! I always wait to have them when I’m in Charleston because I’ve been afraid of being disappointed in my own version. I don’t need to be afraid of that anymore! They weren’t as gooey in the middle as I’m used to, but I think I can solve that by baking for a few minutes less.

I researched a few recipes and read a few sections of the “How to Bake Everything” cookbook as I was trying to figure out the best way to make these. The only thing all of the recipes had in common was a stick of butter, a box of brown sugar, and a cup of chopped pecans. The amounts of eggs, flour, and everything else were all over the place. I decided on 1½ cups flour because 2 cups just seemed like a lot compared to everything else. I tasted the batter after mixing in 1½ cups of flour and decided that was enough (I don’t recommend doing this due to the raw eggs.) I think any more would have made them way too floury.

If you have parchment paper, I highly recommend using it to line your baking dish. These were very hard to get out of the pan, and I buttered it very well. Thankfully my Pampered Chef cake tester and releaser helped me work a miracle, and I was able to remove all of the bars.

Ingredients 

½ cup butter, softened
1 box brown sugar (I used light brown, but dark brown might be better)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour and baking powder, and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Gradually add flour, beating well until combined. Mix in chopped pecans.

Spread mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper (see note in narrative above – I greased it well with butter because I ran out of parchment, and they were still almost cemented into the pan.)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

The Banana Nut Bread That Almost Wasn’t

photo-feb-12-3-39-41-pm

As you might be able to tell from the uneven bake on these (top half lighter than the bottom) and the weird holes in the center of each loaf, this wasn’t my finest work. Overall it tastes pretty good. The top half tastes really good! But this recipe needs some work.

So what went wrong? I’m fairly certain I had a density problem, and I had the oven too hot (I did 375 like I do for my pumpkin bread). The centers were jiggly and the edges were way golden after baking for 15 minutes. Uh-oh. I turned down the heat and tented with aluminum foil. After it still being jiggly after an additional 10 minutes, I switched to convection mode. Normally I wouldn’t convection anything cake-like because it’ll dry it out, but I decided to try it since I actually kind of needed the center of this thing to dry out!

The ingredients list below is corrected for what I think I need to do next time. I’ll report back and post instructions once I have a chance for a do-over.

Ingredients

2 cups bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar  1 cup sugar
½ cup milk (I did not have this in my original attempt)
2 eggs
3 extra- or over-ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans

Mom’s Fruitcake Cookies

Fruitcake.png

We used to make fruitcake cookies every Christmas when I was little. My mom has come to visit the last several years for Christmas, and we’ve made them again every time. They’re just so good! If you hate fruitcake, don’t assume you’ll hate these. They really don’t taste like an actual fruitcake. The main similarity with actual fruitcake is the candied fruit. And I have no idea how the front and center one in the photo ended up with so much less fruit than the others. It must’ve come from the last bit of dough. Oh well!

As you’ll see below, the recipe calls for various candied fruits. I highly recommend buying the individual packages of each one and cutting them yourself instead of getting the one with chopped mixed fruit. There is usually too much citron in the mixed container. We made that mistake one year and it completely ruined the taste. If you want some citrus, add a small amount of citron or some lemon zest.

I think this recipe yields about 5 dozen, but give me a margin of error of +/- 2 dozen. Next time I make them I’ll update.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 package chopped dates (or you can get whole ones and chop them)
  • 1 package candied pineapple
  • 1 package candied red cherries
  • 1 package candied green cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional, I don’t usually add them)

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut candied cherries into quarters. (If you’re feeling lazy like I am sometimes, a rough chop is ok. Just make sure the pieces are 1/4 size or smaller.) If the pineapple pieces are larger than the quartered cherry pieces, chop into pieces similar in size to the chopped cherries. If your dates aren’t chopped, give them a rough chop. I like the dates a smaller than the cherry pieces, but that’s personal preference.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and set aside.

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat well until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Gradually add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Make sure the flour from each addition is incorporated before adding the next.

Stir in fruit and optional nuts.

Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. (Or use a cookie scoop. I seriously love this thing.)

Bake for about 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.