On Cooking Southern: Chocolate, Caramel, Apples And Bacon Signal Spectacular Tailgate Time

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-51-54-pmSOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Suck it up and go (keep on going):
What Rebel Bears need to do in the wake of being Rolled. This favorite catchphrase of all good Southern daddies is the only acceptable response to adversity when life womps us up the side of the head.


Like many hot and bothered folks, this cook has been playing hooky from the kitchen for the past month. The thought of adding more heat to anything was unappealing during the longest hottest summer in recent memory.

But Autumn arrived this week. And with the new season came the promise of change. Like that relative who stayed too long after the wedding, the Dog Days’ 90-plus temperatures must soon go bye-bye until next year’s reunion.

Good riddance, I say.

I’m not alone. And it’s not just because of the weather. Autumn signals the official season of our favorite SEC pastime. To misquote Andy Griffith, what it IS, is tailgating.

We have a national tailgating reputation to uphold here in the Hotty Toddy Nation. This week’s tailgate recipes are guaranteed to maintain our No. 1 status. The sheetcake brownies may be made ahead and frozen until the day of the tailgate if it’s still hot as blazes outside. The other two recipes are so simple they can even be made up the day of the tailgate.

Oh by the way, along with tailgating comes football, our second favorite activity of the season. For some of us, win or lose, the gridiron activity provides the excuse for the party.


TEXAS SHEETCAKE BROWNIES WITH SALTED CARAMEL GLAZE

texas-saltedcaramel-sheetcake-dscn1161My Oxford friend Sally shared this variation of classic chocolate sheetcake with about a hundred other friends and acquaintances this summer. It’s our new favorite feed-the-masses dessert. The cake will not overflow the sides of a jelly roll pan. And yes, it’s do-able in a disposable aluminum pan.

The sheetcake

2 c all-purpose flour
2 c white granulated sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 c)
1-1/2 c coconut or extra light olive oil
3 heaping T cocoa
1 c cold water
1/2 c buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Lightly spray a large jelly roll pan or 10-by-15-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. LIGHTLY, I say.

Whisk flour and sugar together in a large non-reactive bowl and set aside. Combine next four ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring to prevent scorching. When boiling, pour over the flour and sugar and stir to mix completely.

Using a hand mixer, combine buttermilk, eggs baking soda and vanilla. Pour mixture over the batter and mix thoroughly. Scrape into the baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake approximately 15-20 minutes, until cake separates from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make frosting.

Frosting and glaze

1 stick salted butter (1/2 c)
6 T milk (whole or skim)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 box (16 oz) confectioners sugar
Chopped roasted pecans or walnuts, optional
Half of an 11.5-oz jar of caramel topping (I use Smuckers Simple Delight Salted Caramel Topping)
Coarse kosher salt

Combine first four ingredients in same medium saucepan used to make the batter. Don’t even bother to wash saucepan first. Boil, stirring, until all ingredients are dissolved and mixed. Turn off heat.

As soon as cake comes out of the oven, pour still-hot frosting evenly over the top, carefully spreading it out to cover completely. Allow it to cool about 15-20 minutes, then drizzle generously with caramel topping (half a jar). Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt. NOTE: The salt will dissolve into the wet caramel, if cake is still warm, which is the baker’s option. Sprinkle with optional chopped nuts if desired.

Allow cake to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for several hours before cutting into squares. One pan yields about 40-48 squares. Serve with vanilla ice cream for extra decadence.


BRICKLED CARAMEL APPLE DIP
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Nothing speaks Autumn more clearly than apples and caramel. And nothing is easier than this recipe.

Two 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 lb (8 oz) confectioners sugar
Caramel Sauce (Mrs. Richardson’s or Smuckers in a jar)
8-oz pkg Heath toffee bits, OR chopped pecans, or both
Tart apples such as Rome, Granny Smith, or Winesaps

Use mixer to blend cream cheese and powdered sugar. Spread in shallow dish. Spread with caramel topping to about 1/4-inch thickness. Evenly top with Heath brickle bits and/or with fine-chopped roasted pecans.  Refrigerate until 30 minutes before time to use. Serve with wedges of apples.


STUFFED DATE HEAVEN

Homemade Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
Homemade Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese

I have always loved to stuff dates with feta or bleu cheese and wrap them in bacon or prosciutto. Illinois foodwriting colleague Cynthia Clampitt suggested adding garlic slices for crunch and a burst of added flavor. WOW. She was right!

Whole dates
Crumbled bleu cheese
Thin slices of garlic
Strips of bacon, cut in half lengthwise

Cut one long side of the dates and remove the seed. Pat a small amount of bleu cheese around a garlic slice and insert into the date opening. Wrap the date with the half-strip of bacon, ends ticked underneath, and spike it closed with an uncolored wooden toothpick.

Place wrapped dates on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake in a preheated oven set to 350˚F until the bacon becomes crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Serve hot or cold.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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