breads and crackers

Southern sausage biscuits

Sausage biscuits for r breakfastI was craving some big old fluffy biscuits with country sausage.

Off to the store we went to grab some savory sausage.

Back home in the kitchen, we got busy with the flour, Crisco, butter and rolling pin.

My mom has an old Calumet baking powder can she uses to make perfect little cat's paw-sized biscuits.

That's how the old school Southern gals do it. They're not using any cookie cutter. 

Mom's biscuits are some of the best I've ever eaten, real met in the mouth goodness.  I make a decent biscuit, but it takes a lot of biscuit-making to master this simple home recipe.

Not to worry, you can make good biscuits too.  The Alton Brown recipe below is as good a starting place as any.

Southern Biscuits

makes 1 dozen


  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

Bread baking: how to make whole wheat bread

Four beautifully browned loaves

Fresh baked bread is tradition in most of the world's cultures. Busy cooks often rely on store-baked goods to fill the gap, but if one is willing to make the effort, home baked is best.

Preparing the dough

When I was growing up, we rarely had a loaf of bread from the grocery store. Forget Wonder Bread! As a teenager, my Mom taught me to bake yeast breads and it's a skill I am really grateful to have acquired.

Baking bread is not the daunting project many novice cooks expect. Baking successfully does require time, attention to detail, and patience.

This recipe is a favorite from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook published in 1963 (probably long out of print) which my Mom still uses and I hope to inherit. Today we baked four loaves of whole wheat bread, filling the house with wonderful aromas.

Dough ready for shaping

Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves


1 package active dry yeast or 1 cake compressed yeast

1/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups hot water

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons salt

1 stick butter

3 cups stirred whole wheat flower

5 cups sifted all purpose white flour


Soften active dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F) or compressed yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (85 degrees F). Use a cooking thermometer to ensure proper temperature.

Combine in a separate large mixing bowl hot water, sugar, salt and shortening. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Shaping and rolling the loaves

Stir in the whole wheat flour and one cup of the white flour and beat well. Stir in the softened yeast, then add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. 

Turn out on a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and satiny (10-12 minutes).

Shape dough into a ball, then place in a lightly buttered bowl - turning once to coat the surface. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

After the dough has risen, punch down. Then cut into two equal portions, shaping each into a smooth ball.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Browning up the loaves

To shape into loaves, roll out each portion of dough into a rectangle to smooth out air bubbles. Then roll each piece of dough up, pinching slightly while rolling up the loaf.  Pinch the ends under, then place loaves into greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 1 1/4 hours until loaves have doubled.

Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F) about 45 minutes, covering with tin foil the last 20 minutes.

One Banana, Two Banana

Food & georgia 005Unlike Jessica Seinfeld, I've had very little luck fooling my kid by sneaking fruits and vegetables into other foods that my kid likes.  My kid has a sniffer that won't be fooled.

I pureed bananas and put them in his pancakes -- with a few chocolate chip to throw him off track.  Ha!

"This tastes funny," he sniffed and shoved the plate away.

I made strawberry smoothies to get a fruit into him.  Good thing I like strawberry smoothies because I was the only one drinking it.

One week he loves vanilla yogurt, the next week he's not touching the stuff. 

Until a month ago, he refused to eat all fruit. Now it's grapes, grapes, grapes.  I have a picture of him eating a banana at about 18 months.  My proof that he did, indeed, eat this maligned tropical delight.

It's a challenge sorting out what to do with all those bananas I keep buying, hoping against hope.  I used to freeze them and make smoothies.  Recently I made some banana bread with a recipe that I love from Gourmet's cookbook.  Naturally, I had to tweak it because I wanted something festive.  In went with the chocolate chips.  Macadamia nuts optional. Next time I think I'll add some glaceed cherries.

It makes a huge loaf, so there's plenty for me to eat now and later. And in case I tire of gooey chocolatey and tropical banana bread for breakfast, I can always transform my leftover loaf into a fabulous bread pudding with caramel rum sauce. Just substitute banana bread for brioche and go bananas!

French and Fabulous in My Kitchen

There is a reason we pop down to the patisserie for our delicious homemade brioche.

It's simple. 

Few of us have the 15 plus hours it takes to produce these delicious treats.  That said, I decided to try my hand at making brioche.  I have been baking breads intermittently with some success (and a few failures) since I was a teenager, so I'm not afraid of working with yeast.  I particularly like yeasty beer, but that's another post.

Like most kitchen endeavors, baking yeast breads requires patience and practice, plus the willingness to fail.

The recipe I used came from Gourmet's cookbook.  It's not particularly complicated, just all time-consuming. You don't really need a Kitchen Aid mixer (but it's a darn sight easier) nor do you need the special brioche tins (you can use your muffin pan), but the fancy fluted tins give your finished product that certain Je ne sai quois that marks it as French and fabulous.

Two things to remember: do not over-knead the dough at the end or the outcome will be tough and know how hot your oven burns.  I forgot my oven runs hot, so I baked my brioche too long. 

Translation: I almost burned them. They were not a complete toss-away, but nor would I serve them to anyone other than myself and the kid. 

I like a perfect product every time. Who doesn't?  I did not achieve perfection this time, so I have something to strive for.  However, the 15 plus hours puttering around the kitchen and house (sleeping too) was well worth the experience and certainly worth a future repeat.