Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cream Cheese Poundcake

I know it's January and everyone is dieting- or at least "cutting back on sweets".  BUT it's my birthday this week and I believe a cake would be lovely! I can think of many complicated, fancy, frou frou cakes that would be yummy, but IF I have one, I will be the one baking it so I get to chose. My all time favorite is an old Southern favorite... Cream Cheese Pound Cake. It tastes best after a few days in a cool place (usually the formal dining room table covered in Grandmother's Depression glass cake dome.)  Cream Cheese Pound Cake becomes moist and the flavors "ripen.

Slice it thickly and top with fresh fruit and ice cream. Slice it thinly, slather it with butter and toast it for breakfast. Drizzle it with chocolate or lemon glaze. Dust it with powdered sugar. Frost it with caramel icing (ahhhh.. if only Mama were here to make it!). Dollop it with REAL whipped cream and  sprinkle with chocolate curls..........

However you serve it, you've first got to bake it! So, let's get to the kitchen! This is soooo easy....

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
1 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened (no substitutes!)
1 (8-oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups sifted cake flour (or use all-purpose, sift 3 times and remove 2T per cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch tube pan with Crisco (not Pam!).

Combine margarine, butter and cream cheese in large bowl of heavy duty electric mixer; beat well. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition. Add flour to creamed mixture; mix until well combined. Stir in flavorings. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 mintues. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter weather calls for soup! I just can't seem to get warm without either a hot mug of chocolate (Have you tried Wms Sonoma hot chocolate? To die for! Especially with homemade marshmallows!), hot tea or a bowl of soup. I want either or all of them HOT and steamy... you know, the kind of mug/bowl that you can see the steam curling above?

When I was a little girl, a special treat was lunch at a drugstore in Selma, AL (That I cannot for the life of me remember the name of! Help me out, some of my Alabama friends!) that served Chicken Pot Pie. It was the favorite stop when Mama and I went shopping. For Christmas, I got this great Nordstrom's cookbook from my cousin Carol with a recipe for Chicken Pot Pie Soup! Wow! What a great combination of flavors. Let's try this one on a cold January day.

One of the things I really like about this soup is the process for thickening. If you've never tried this, it is something you will want to learn and use often. (In French it's called Buerre manie, kneaded butter). Simply work the flour into softened butter, then stir that mixture into the liquid. Easy way to thicken soups or stews without lumps! You'll have chicken broth leftover, but save it to use in another soup or freeze it for later. This soup is velvety smooth. Serve with biscuits or strips of baked pie crust.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
adapted from Norstrom's Family Table Cookbook

5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2  chicken breast halves with skin on and bone in
1 medium onion, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoons black peppercorns (or 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1 stick butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 mushrooms, quartered
2 unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup thawed frozen peas

Combine broth, 1 cup water, chicken breasts, onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Bring to boil and turn down to simmer. Add parsley, thyme and peppercorns; partially cover and cook slowly until chicken is tender and cooked through (approx 30 minutes).

Strain into a heatproof bowl, reserving the broth. Place chicken on carving board and set aside to cool.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven. Place the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a heatproof medium bowl and let stand at room temperature to soften. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms and cook, stirring until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and stir well. Stir in 4 cups reserved broth and bring to a simmer. (Reserve the remaining broth for another recipe. Can be frozen.) Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add flour to softened butter and mash with a fork or rubber spatula to make a smooth paste. Whisk in about 2 cups of cooking liquid from the Dutch oven to make a thin paste. Whisk this mixture back into the Dutch oven along with cream. Simmer until the soup is velvety smooth and lightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and peas and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.