Sweet Memories

By Elizabeth Winslow
Photography by Knoxy

I married for love, but if I’m being completely honest, the recipes had something to do with it, too. My husband’s family is rich in recipes—the dog-eared, sugar-stained, time-tested and perfected kind. These recipes are for dishes that appear year after year at family gatherings, holidays, celebrations and special occasions. I fell in love with my husband’s grandmother’s pepper jelly and charlotte russe (known in East Texas family parlance as “charlotte rouge”), my mother-in-law’s famous dinner rolls and pecan fudge and the hot onion dip everyone seems to make. But the most famous and sought-after recipe of them all is my sister-in-law’s mother’s toffee recipe.



Elaine “Lainey” Smith’s toffee has legions of fans in our hometown. It’s the kind of recipe that makes for a true heirloom—worth sharing and keeping, worth handing down for generations to come, special, but simple to make and perfect for special occasions. Lainey was generous enough to share it with all of us and we offer it here, along with recipes from our community’s best pastry chefs that are sure to become family keepsakes.

Sweet-Mems-truffles

Edis Rezende of Edis’ Chocolates in Austin offers two chocolate truffle recipes—ideal for gift giving or serving with Champagne after an especially festive dinner.

 

SPICED MEXICAN VANILLA TRUFFLES

Courtesy of Edis Rezende
Makes approximately 12 to 18 truffles

For the truffles:
1 c. heavy cream
1 t. Mexican vanilla
1 dried chipotle chili
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
12 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 T. unsalted butter

To finish:
2 lb. dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream, vanilla, chili, cinnamon stick and cloves just to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes. Strain the solids from the cream, return the cream to the saucepan and bring just to a boil again. Remove from the heat immediately. Add the chopped chocolate and butter and stir until the mixture is completely smooth (this mixture is called ganache). Chill the ganache until it is hard enough to roll into balls. Measure out by heaping teaspoons, and quickly roll the ganache into 1- to 2-inch balls and place on a wire rack. Refrigerate the chocolate balls until firm, then pour melted dark chocolate over them to coat. Refrigerate until firm. Chocolate truffles should be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. To serve, bring to room temperature.

BLACK CYPRUS SALT TRUFFLES

Courtesy of Edis Rezende

Makes approximately 12 to 18 truffles

For the truffles:
1 c. heavy cream
12 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 T. unsalted butter

To finish:
2 lb. dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler
Black Cyprus salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately. Add the chopped chocolate and butter and stir until the mixture is completely smooth (this mixture is called ganache). Chill the ganache until it is hard enough to roll into balls. Measure out by heaping teaspoons, and quickly roll the ganache into 1- to 2-inch balls and place on a wire rack. Refrigerate the chocolate balls until firm, then pour melted dark chocolate over them to coat. After you coat the chocolate balls, sprinkle a little black salt on top before they harden completely. Refrigerate until firm. Chocolate truffles should be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. To serve, bring to room temperature.


Sweet-Mems-florettas

Lenoir’s Jessica Maher inherited a set of vintage rosette irons from her grandmother (who called them florettas) and still uses them in this rosette cookie recipe.

FLORETTAS (ROSETTES) AND CHOCOLATE

Courtesy of Jessica Maher
Photography of Florettas by Jenna Noel

Makes approximately 20 cookies

For the rosettes:
1 egg
1½ t. sugar
¹/8 t. salt
½ c. all-purpose flour

½ t. lemon or orange zest
½ c. milk
Grapeseed or canola oil for frying
Special equipment: rosette molds


Whisk together the egg and sugar. Whisk to add the dry ingredients, the zest and then the milk until the batter just comes together. Allow the batter to rest for 15 minutes, then heat the oil to 350° in a medium pot to a depth of 4–5 inches, with the rosette molds resting in the oil. Allow the oil to drip from the mold, then dip into the batter and then back into the oil. Jiggle the mold to release the cookie and continue cooking. Flip the cookie once to get an even color then use a slotted spoon to pull from the oil and drain on a rack. Repeat with the remaining batter. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

Spicy Chocolate:
2¼ c. milk, divided
1 strip orange zest
1 green cardamom pod
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1½ t. cornstarch
2 T. sugar
¹/8 t. salt


Bring 2 cups of the milk, zest and cardamom to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the milk—stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is melted, whisk together the sugar, salt and cornstarch, then whisk that mixture into the remaining milk. Return the chocolate mixture to the heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes—whisking constantly. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. When ready, the chocolate should thickly coat a spoon. Serve immediately with rosette cookies. (To reheat, warm slowly over heat and add milk if the mixture is too thick.)


Sweet-Mems-butter-cake

Alex Manley, pastry chef at Austin’s Elizabeth Street Café, learned this recipe for Breton butter cake from a woman who owns the local boulangerie in Coursel, France. This recipe has been in the Breton baker’s family for generations. Alex brought it back from her travels and now bakes it often at Elizabeth Street. You’ll need a bakery scale for this recipe.

BRETON BUTTER CAKE (KOUIGN-AMANN)
Courtesy of Alex Manley

Makes 1 8-inch cake

For the dough:
357 g. flour
267 ml. milk
10 g. instant yeast
Pinch of salt

For the bourrage (stuffing):
230 g. Plugrá butter, slightly softened

To roll:
Granulated sugar
Gray sea salt

Preheat the oven to 360°. Put all the ingredients for the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix for 2 minutes on low. Turn to medium and mix a further 8 to 10 minutes. Let the dough rest in the mixing bowl at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Prepare the bourrage by pounding the butter between 2 silicone baking mats until it is a rectangle about ?-inch thick. Using a bench scraper, shape the butter into a neat rectangle about 5 by 7 inches. If it is very soft, refrigerate it for a couple of minutes. The bourrage should be malleable but not mushy. Roll out the dough so that it is about 11 by 8 inches. Place the bourrage on the lower half of the dough. Fold the dough over the butter and pinch the edges together. This is called a “lock in.” Sprinkle the work surface liberally with the granulated sugar and lightly with the salt. Roll out the dough (with the bourrage inside) into a rectangle 2 times as long as it is wide then fold it into thirds, like a letter. Repeat this rolling and folding 3 times, ending with a square of dough 3/8-inch thick after each repetition.  Keep the work surface well coated with granulated sugar and sprinkled lightly with salt, replenishing both as needed.

Place a square piece of parchment paper into a pie pan so that the edges hang over and the entire surface of the pan is covered with the paper. Place the dough in the pan and tuck the edges of the dough underneath itself so that it nestles nicely into the pan in a circular shape. Bake until caramelized, about 15 to 25 minutes.

Sweet-Mems-macarons

Macarons can be tricky to make, but as with many heritage recipes, practice makes perfect. La Boîte’s Dan Bereczki and Victoria Davies share this recipe for jewel-like macarons. You’ll need a baking scale for this recipe.

MACARONS
Courtesy of Dan Bereczki and Victoria Davies

Makes approximately 25 filled macarons

110 g. almond flour
200 g. powdered sugar
90 g. egg whites
25 g. granulated sugar
Confituras seasonal jams or lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 300°. Combine the almond flour and powdered sugar in a large bowl, then process the mixture in a food processor to thoroughly combine into a fine powder. Sift the processed mixture for a smoother finished texture.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment in a stand mixer at medium speed. Once the whites have become frothy, sprinkle in the granulated sugar without stopping the mixer. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the mixer speed to high. Continue beating the whites until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Transfer half of the flour-sugar mixture to a large bowl and add the meringue. Fold in the meringue using about 10 strokes. Add the rest of the flour-sugar mixture and continue folding. No need to be gentle—the goal is to knock a fair amount of air out of the meringue and fully combine it with the almond flour and sugar. About 40 more strokes will get the batter to the desired consistency. You want your batter to flow like lava.

When you think you are close to the right consistency, drop a spoonful onto a cookie sheet. If the spoonful settles into an even, smooth, flattened dome with no peaks or defined ridges, you’re ready to pipe. If the spoonful doesn’t settle into a flattened dome, give the batter two more folding strokes and test again. (If the spoonful spreads to a thin disk, you’ve overbeaten the batter. You can pipe and bake these, but they won’t form the pretty, delicate cookies you’re looking for.) Once the batter is ready to pipe, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) and pipe 1½-inch rounds spaced ½ inch apart. Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes or until the cookies look dry and are firm to the touch. After the macarons have cooled, peel them from the parchment paper and fill them with Confituras seasonal jams or lemon curd.

Sweet-Mems-toffee

And, now, the aforementioned famous toffee recipe. This is one you’ll come to treasure.

LAINEY'S TOFFEE

Courtesy of Elaine Smith

1 c. butter, plus extra for buttering the sheet pan
1½ c. sugar
½ c. water
½ c. light corn syrup
2 t. vanilla
2½ c. salted cashews, finely chopped
5 1.55-oz. Hershey’s milk chocolate bars, broken into pieces

Butter a 12- by 18-inch sheet pan and set aside. In a large nonstick skillet, combine the butter, sugar, water and corn syrup. Cook until the mixture turns a dark caramel color. Add the vanilla and cashews. Pour onto the buttered sheet pan and spread evenly. Immediately top with the broken chocolate bars. When the chocolate melts, spread the mixture evenly with a knife or spatula. Cool for several hours or overnight, then break into small pieces. (Other types of nuts and fancy chocolate may be substituted, but Lainey has found that cashews and “regular old Hershey’s bars” are everybody’s favorite.)

“Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory–this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?’
—Marcel Proust, from Remembrance of Things Past


Sweet-Mems-madeleines

Amity Bakery’s Barrie Cullinan shares this recipe for perfect madeleines. The small, delicate French cakes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past will make memories in your family, too.

 

CHOCOLATE MADELEINES
Courtesy of Barrie Cullinan

Makes 12 madeleines

6 T. butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
¹/³ c. sugar
2 eggs
¼ t. coffee extract
½ c. flour
3½ T. cocoa powder
½ t. baking powder
¹/8 t. salt

Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until light in color and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time—scraping down the contents of the bowl in between. Add the coffee extract. Sift together the dry ingredients and fold them into the butter mixture. Let the batter chill in the refrigerator 2 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a madeleine pan. Divide the batter evenly among the molds of the pan and press down on each to level out. Bake until the tops of the cakes feel just set to the touch, about 12 to 15 minutes.

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