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Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Southern Living Community Cookbook by Sheri Castle

I was thrilled to see cookbook author Sheri Castle in town again the day after the launch of her Southern Living Community Cookbook. Her book signing and cooking demo took place at local farm-to-fork favorite Mary's Gourmet Diner. Created in the spirit of your spiral-bound church/fire department/PTO fundraiser cookbook, the beautifully illustrated and photographed Southern Living Community Cookbook is a curated selection of ALLLL the recipes submitted for consideration in the Southern Living Annual Recipe Cookbooks over the years. After reading more than 45,000 new and old recipes, Sheri explained that only 250 made the cut.

As she writes in the cookbook's introduction, not only were these community cookbooks powerful fundraisers for good causes, they were also "love letters, gifts and mementos," but they "also serve as a documentary of American foodways .... and at their core, a form of folklore."

While the recipes included in the cookbook are from kitchens from all over the South, I was happy to see many North Carolina dishes from the Piedmont Triad. (Not surprisingly, we showed strong in the dessert chapter.) Winston-Salem favorite Moravian Sugar Cake made the cut (recipe below). Other local favorites include a recipe by beloved former Winston-Salem Journal food editor Beth Tartan, a Cream Cheese Pound Cake from Elkin, and a Hummingbird Cake, Cold-Oven Brown Sugar Pound Cake, and Praline Cheesecake all from Greensboro kitchens. Castle noted that the Hummingbird Cake recipe is the most requested recipe in Southern Living Magazine history.

Not only will you find familiar Southern family favorites in the book, but other interesting recipes with "good stories" and quotes from the letters that came along with those recipes are also featured. Consider "Kudzu Jelly," for example, made from kudzu vines which have "delicate purple blossoms" with a "fragrance similar to grapes." The recipe submitter goes on to state, "We all low that kudzu runs rampant in the South. If you can't beat it, eat it."

Sheri demonstrated how to make the Chili Relleño Squares and we got to taste it along with the amazing Banana Cobbler with Streusel Topping from Lexington, NC, featured in the book. (So amazing, I almost licked a hole in my styrofoam plate.)

Get your signed copy of The Southern Living Community Cookbook locally at the Bookmarks office, or find unsigned copy at your local bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

From Southern Living Community Cookbook: 

Moravian Sugar Cake

1 medium-size russet potato (about 8 oz.),
peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 (1/4-oz.) envelope dry active yeast

1/2 tsp. plus 1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup warm potato water (100º to 110º)

1/2 cup shortening

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. salt

2 large eggs, beaten

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup butter, cut into 1/8-inch slices

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Place potato in a small saucepan, cover with water to depth of 1 inch, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well, reserving cooking water. Force potato through a food mill or ricer into a small bowl, or max as smooth as possible with a fork. Measure out 1 cup of potatoes, and stir in 2 Tbsp, cooking water. Cover and keep warm.

2. Dissolve yeast and 1/2 tsp. sugar in warm potato water; let stand 5 minutes or until mixture bubbles.

3. Combine potatoes, remaining 1 cup sugar, shortening, 1/4 cup butter, and salt in a large mixing bowl; stir until shortening melts. Stir in yeast mixture. Cover and let rise in a warm place (80º to 85º), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until spongy.

4. Stir in eggs and flour to make a soft dough. Shape dough into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (80º to 85º), free from drafts, 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pat dough evenly in a greased 13- x 9-inch baking pan. cover and let rise in a warm place (80º to 85º), free from drafts, 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in bulk

6. Preheat oven to 375º. Deeply dimple surface of dough with your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon. Tuck buts of butter into the dimples. Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl sprinkle evenly over dough and down into dimples. 

7. Bake at 375º in center of oven for 20 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

From the kitchen of Elizabeth Hedgecock Sparks
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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