The Southern Belle

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What a way to celebrate summer. Here is a lovely and lighter-than-air dessert with tasty peaches, rich whipped cream, and classic Genoise sponge cake soaked in juices.

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Unfortunately the peaches I bought at the store were on the smaller side, so it was less of a blossom design and more abstract-mosaic but it didn’t affect the taste any.

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Genoise is a new cake experience for me, and thanks to my mom’s experiences, I knew to watch out for the dreaded flour balls that popped up when incorporating wet and dry ingredients.

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It’s kind of fun to make the little well in the middle of the cake to fill with amazing juicy syrup and your peach flower design. Plus it gives you excess cake to nibble on!

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Since you have to put it back in the oven to broil the peaches, Rose recommends a little protection by aluminum foil to prevent over=browning or burning the cake.

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This recipe would be great for a small party or gathering, or a family meal. It’s on the smaller side and very light without the whipped cream. With the cream, it becomes heaven on a plate.

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Caramel Sticky Buns

Man oh man are these decadent buns dangerous, in the best of ways.

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I’m coming to love working with brioche. It smells heavenly when mixing up and also when rising, and it’s just a fun dough to work with overall. The best part about these sticky buns, though, is – let’s be honest – the OMGthisisheaven caramel.

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I’ve never made caramel before and was kind of excited to see if I could make a success of it. Rose’s recipe was so straightforward that even I couldn’t mess it up. And even better was getting to use my brand new AllClad Saucier pan (thank you, Mom!) to make it. I was having so much fun creating caramel (and tasting it).

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It’s so creamy and delicious that Offspring #1 and her best friend immediately took over the kitchen and made their own batch because I wouldn’t let them abscond with mine. That is high praise, I think!

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Because we’re not huge raisin fans, I omitted them from the recipe but still made up the syrup to use.

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I’ve never made a roll-up bread before, so I got a kick out of doing this part too. And using dental floss to slice up perfect rolls.

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To paraphrase Taylor Swift, I knew these sticky buns were trouble when they walked in. The smell alone as it permeated my kitchen was enough to make my mouth water. So I culled a few for the family, sliced off a smidgen of a corner for myself, and promptly took these into my husband’s work so the deputies could devour the calories instead of me. They were gone before I could leave the building!

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Russian Rivers Salmon Pie (Coulibiac)

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Talk about expanding my culinary repertoire! Fellow Melting-Potter Tony picked this dish out for June, and when I saw the recipe, I started shaking my head. There was no way I was skilled enough to complete this! Determined to see it through, though, I read and read, and read the recipe some more. Thank goodness Rose laid out the blueprint for this in such an easy to follow manner, including the important notes that each part of this dish can be made 1-2 days ahead of time, and assembled the last day. With this in mind, I started plotting out my strategy on multiple sheets of paper.

Since I’m vegetarian, I would also cut this recipe in half (from 12-16 servings to 6-8). Bummer for me because I love brioche, couscous, dill, and crepes! Ah well. Onwards!

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On day 1 I made the egg/parsley/couscous filling. Boy did it smell heavenly (and tasted yummy from the small forkful I allowed myself). This was a snap to make and would make a great side dish on its own, perfect when chilled as a summer evening patio meal.

Day 2 I started the brioche.

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Boy did this make my kitchen smell heavenly.

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It was a very warm day when I made this so the dough had absolutely no trouble rising to perfection!

I thought about making the crepes as well but ran out of time (busy work week and a very active 15 month old leaves little time for baking or cooking these days).

Day 3 I made the salmon. It was a lot of fun, and extra special because my brand new All-Clad saucier pan had just arrived by UPS in the morning. OMG I love this thing!!!

 

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It was a bit tricky separating out the mushrooms after they’d cooked with the salmon but I was victorious. Smelled sooo good cooking, worth the extra heat in the kitchen on a hot summer afternoon.

 

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Day 4 saw me making the dill crepes and assembling the coulibiac. Sad to say my crepe pan was 8in not 6in so they came out a little wonky, but I figured it was okay since no one would see them anyway. The secret to these beauties is using cornstarch instead of flour to soak up the fluids while baking – it keeps the brioche from getting soggy. Rose is brilliant as always!

 

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It was a lot of fun assembling the pie though the brioche was a bit tricky to handle. I loved how it looked at the end, all neatly tucked up and ready to bake. I used a fluted heart cookie cutter to make some vents, but they looked a little big so I put half the dough back in. Rose suggests decorating with pastry bits but I didn’t have time to make up a batch of dough.

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A little unsure of the baking time because I halved the recipe, I decided to error on the side of caution and make sure it cooked thoroughly. Looked beautiful coming out of the oven!

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My husband isn’t a fan of dill or mushrooms, so alas I didn’t get him to try this dish. But my in-laws loved it when they came over for the 4th of July, and received rave reviews from my husband’s co-workers. One suggested making a tzatziki sauce instead of serving with melted butter – might have to try that next time! It was a huge hit and I’m told I can make this again any time I feel like it. “You’d have to be stupid not to love this,” was one review (pointedly but with humor directed at my husband).

If you are serving a big crowd and have access to several pounds of salmon, I highly recommend this dish. It’s a showstopper and has so many layers of flavor that it’s sure to please a wide variety of pallettes.

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Flaky Scones

Scones, how I love thee. Better than bagels. More delicious than donuts. More fantastic than fritters. Magnificent versus muffins. Yum, yum, yum is what I’m saying.

But for some reason, I never make them myself. It’s my go-to at coffee shops, tea rooms, or the baked goods section of the grocery store. I craved them like nobody’s business during my pregnancy. Still, I have an adversion to baking them. I think it’s because I tried to when I was a kid and they turned out to be dry, crumbly messes. Until today!

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In anticipation of making these, I splurged on some Kerry Gold irish butter. I think it definitely added a decadent, buttery sin to the scones.

I’m so glad I made the scones this week because my eldest offspring and I are heart-broken that our favorite local coffee chain retired their scones and jam. Believe me, I am going to write a very strongly-worded email about our opinion on that. And by that I mean begging like my dog DJ for a biscuit to please bring them back (or give me the recipe?).

 

I liked how Rose said to cut the triangles – first the dough in two rectangles, then triangles off those pieces. There was a fair amount of rolling, folding, and refrigerating of the dough which made me a bit nervous (would they be tough??? dry??? was I just making some pretty-looking doorstops???) I even called my mom to have her weigh in on my possible brick-making.

I shouldn’t have worried, though. These scones were so soft, delicate, and melt-in-my-mouth! I omitted the currants because we like just simple plain scones around here. I did brush the tops with milk and sprinkled sugar on top. It was the perfect compliment.

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I made these this evening on a whim, a perfect counterpoint to a rainy Wednesday afternoon. I just wish I hadn’t made them so late it was too late to pair these lovelies with a cup of soothing earl grey tea. Can’t wait until tomorrow morning!

 

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Yorkshire Popovers

I’ve never made a popover. In fact, I’d never seen or tasted one until this recipe! The only experience I have with these airy little beauties was a line from Little Women (the one with Liz Taylor as Amy). On Christmas morning the girls ran down stairs, greeted by a lovely breakfast feast. Amy exclaimed, “Popovers! Oh I don’t know when I last had a popover!”

So there you go.. It only took me about 30 years to finally see what all the fuss was about!

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I don’t have a popover pan, but I might have to add that to my baking wishlist. These were fun and easy to make!

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Rose said the mixture should look like little peas, please

I decided to stick close to Rose’s recipe and make 6 popovers instead of 12 small ones. I’m glad I did because they looked glorious (smelled better, tasted best). I filled the empty muffin pan spots with water, so that way the heat wouldn’t gravitate and trap there.

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My eldest daughter and I definitely liked these better when paired with savory things – parmesean, dried herbs, and brushed with melted butter. I am excited to try the garlic-herb version Rose suggests!

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Blueberry Muffins

I am such a fan of blueberry muffins! A reliable star of my pastry roster, my recipes are usually quick and simple, because if I’m making muffins on a Saturday morning, I better not be using much brain power.

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Not only was this recipe a breeze, it was fantastic! With the zesty zinger of lemon to set off the wonderful, juicy sweetness of blueberries, these muffins were inhaled by the household.

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So pretty!

I loved that these muffins don’t crumble apart. They are almost cake-like inside, which is an extra gold star from me (mmm cake). Wonderful warm or room-temperature, they will be a definite go-to when I need me some muffins. Would love to try again with different fruits, too!

Chicken Cacciatore

I wish I could go back in time to my younger-self and try to explain how much fun it is to cook! When I was younger, I was all about baking. Cookies, cakes, brownies. I certainly had a sweet tooth, but more than that, I think I was comforted by the exactness of baking. It is a science. Cooking though, that’s an art-form. A strict one, sure, with exactness. But there’s a creativity in cooking that is the other side of the culinary coin from baking.

Ah well. I’ve certainly discovered a love of cooking through Rose’s Melting Pot! For April, we cooked a homey, cozy classic. Chicken cacciatore. Funny story with this one.. Grab a bowl of popcorn. Maybe throw in some M&Ms for good measure.

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I decided this would make a lovely dinner for Mother’s Day, having over my in-laws for the occasion, I thought what could be better for a family meal? Well, the gods of irony decided to have some fun with me. It turns out Donald Trump decided to pick that day to come to our very small corner of the pacific northwest and stump for his campaign (only because his original venue fell through down in Seattle). On less than 48 hours notice, every law enforcement officer, including my husband, was called up to staff the roads, venue, and everything in between. There went our Mother’s Day dinner (done the day before because he already had to work that Sunday).

Let’s just say I was not pleased at having my Mother’s Day, and my chicken cacciatore, infringed upon in this fashion. He wouldn’t have got my vote anyway, but this clenched it.

Political intrigue not withstanding, this was a great recipe and one I will for sure be making again when I need something nice and tasty to make when we have family or friends over for dinner. And it plates up so lovely, too!

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New Zealand Almond Fig Bread

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If you love almonds, you will love this bread!

I really enjoyed branching out again and incorporating different elements to jazz up this pretty, round loaf. Coated in scrumptious apricot glaze with almonds both inside and out, the single whole fig in the middle was like a tasty cherry on top of this creation.

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As usual, I couldn’t wait for it to finish cooling before I sliced it open to get a look at the crumb. I think it turned out really well! I added a bit more jam to my slice because, yum!

 

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Definitely recommend this as a lovely slice with afternoon tea or a lazy sunday morning.

Grandma Sarah’s Lamb with Prune Glaze

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“When you come over and I cook for you? I’m the best cook in the family!”

“Yeah, that may be a problem.. You see, Ian doesn’t eat meat.”

“What do you mean HE DON’T EAT NO MEAT??… Wait, that’s okay! I make lamb.”

If you recognize that dialog from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll understand what it’s like being the lone vegetarian in a group! My co-worker loves to quote this at me whenever we discuss eating out. So this month, you can be sure I texted her to let her know what would be the main course at Easter dinner – and who was in charge of making it!

Let me tell you, everyone (myself included) were pretty darn incredulous at the idea of the vegetarian making the main course. Good thing I was supremely confident in this recipe from Rose, even if I was a bit shakier in my own confidence level as a cook. I’ve never made a dish like this before. I can make a basic turkey or skillet chicken, but nothing of this caliber and never with lamb. I was a study in zen, meaning I had to work at NOT concentrating on what I was doing while handling the lamb shanks.

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My own trials and tribulations aside, this recipe got rave reviews from everyone that tried it: My husband, father-in law, mother-in law, and the lucky co-worker of my husband’s that got to try some left-overs the next day. The look on that co-workers face when he heard the circumstances of the chef was pretty entertaining accoring to my husband!

This recipe was so easy to follow and I learned SO MUCH! I can’t tell you how happy I was to add this to my repertoire of cooking. I’m always at a loss for what to cook when we host some friends, so I’m ecstatic to be able to cook up something that’s not just a DIY taco bar. What an awesome experience in expanding culinary horizons.

I didn’t have a big enough pot/pan for everything, so I made it in simultaneous batches, so if anyone else is in a similar boat, don’t let that stop you from creating this amazing dish.

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All-American French Toast with Raspberry Sauce

I loooove french toast. The more unique and flavorful, the better – so I was really excited to make this with the beautiful raspberry sauce Rose described.

The sauce was definitely my favorite part, and I learned a good lesson in choosing what type of bread to use for the french toast. I had no idea that not all breads are equal when it comes to making this lazy-morning treat!

I didn’t have any yogurt on hand, so I sweetened up some ricotta cheese with honey and thought it divine with the sauce. Yum!

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