Hush Puppies Y’all

It’s funny to think that the words that we use everyday can be considered historical relics. We forget that our day-to-day vocabulary is peppered with expressions and phrases that preserve elements of our history, offering insight into the ordinary lives of our ancestors.

The ways in which we refer to different types of meat is a fascinating example of class and authority in English society during the 11th century.

Sheep, cow, ox all have an Ango-saxon root. In contrast, what we call meat once it gets to the table (boeuf, mutton, veal) has a French root. These differences emerged in the post Norman invasion of England. Those who were preparing the meat were Anglo Saxon commoners, hence why the names for livestock have retained an Anglo-Saxon origin. In contrast, the names for prepared meat have a French root because the meat would have already been prepared for and eaten by the Norman nobility and aristocracy (who spoke French).

All these musings on language are interesting segue into my bread of the month – hush puppies!

How deep fried cornmeal bread balls came to have the delightful name ‘hush puppies’ is an interesting insight into the folklore and cultural history of the southern part of the United States in the 1700s. There are several versions for how hush puppies got their name:

The one common thread is that this fried cornmeal was used to “hush the dogs.” I have heard that Confederate soldiers used it to hush their dogs when the Union troops were getting near. I also have heard a similar story in which runaway slaves would use this favourite food to hush the dogs. The characters change but the story is the same.

The link to the need to quell barking dogs is also found in this story:

Hushpuppies are also said to have gotten their name from the dredging of the catfish that would have been thrown out. Being thrifty, the cook from the house would send them down the slave quarters and the women added a little milk, egg and onion and fried it up. It is said they were tossed to the dogs to keep them quiet while the food was being transferred from the pot to the table. “Hush puppy! Hush puppy!”

There is also reason to believe that the name developed because refined southern ladies didn’t want to be known for eating fried dough which was considered lowly:

Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins cites a Southern reader’s account that in the South the aquatic reptile called the salamander was often known as a “water dog” or “water puppy.” These were deep fried with cornmeal dough and formed into sticks. They were called “hushpuppies” because eating such a lowly food was not something a Southern wife would want known to her neighbours.

If you’re interested, the second story appears to be the most accepted origin story.

My attempt

I made my hush puppies with a recipe from Joy.

I’ve never had hush puppies before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from them. The dough didn’t seem to bind together and when I put them in the deep fryer they kept on falling apart. But I did I managed to refine my spooning technique by the third batch.

Hush puppies don’t have a particularly strong flavour. There was a hint of spiciness from the cayenne pepper but not much else. If was going to make these again, I would chop up some jalapenos and add these to the dough for a fiery taste.

I served mine in true southern style – with BBQ pulled pork and coleslaw.

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Golden Syrup and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Sticky Buns

I know I’ve already posted about sticky buns before, but they are one of my favourite recipes and they are especially delicious to eat on a cold winter’s day with a hot drink.

The sticky buns that my family usually make have a toffee and walnut base, but lately, I’ve been experimenting with different sticky elements. Last time I used a caramel sauce and this time I decided to give golden syrup a go. Both were equally delicious. A+ would recommend.

One thing to I will remember for next time is to increase the stickiness element. Sticky buns, of course, need to be sticky. It really does means you have to be generous with the sticky element even though it increases the likelihood of sticky hands and really sticky cake tins.

Bake these in a cake tin to get a pretty design when you pull them out of the oven and flip upside down.

 

Golden Syrup and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Ingredients

Yeasted coffee cake dough

1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
½ cup flour (cake flour if possible)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour (bread flour if possible)
65g butter, cut into chunks and left to soften

Glaze

¼ cup golden syrup
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Method

Yeasted coffee cake dough

Mix yeast and warm water together and leave for 5 minutes until dissolved. Add cake flour, sugar, salt, eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add bread flour and mix for one minute until dough comes together. Tip onto a floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. At this point add the butter.

I found the easiest way to do this is to stretch the dough out and add around ¼ of the butter you have and then fold the dough in half and stretch it out again. Add another ¼ of the butter and repeat. The dough will be very sticky and you’ll feel like it’s not working, but you need to persist! Keep kneading it and the butter will eventually incorporate itself into the dough.

Shape into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Keep dough in warm place for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.

If you want to make really flavoursome dough, Joy recommends you leave it for 1 ½ hours, punch it down after that and then let rise again for 4 – 12 hours. Punch it down again and then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Glaze

Once your dough is ready, roll it out onto a 12 x 9 inch rectangle. Mix cinnamon, brown sugar and butter together and brush over dough. Carefully roll the dough as if you were making a chocolate log. Cut crosswise into 6 – 8 slices.

Grease a cake tin. At the bottom, carefully pour the golden syrup so it lines the base. Place buns on top of golden syrup and pack them in carefully so they fill the tin completely. Place in a 180° preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Invert the pan onto a hot sheet or plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

New project: editing the family cook book

Just another family dinnerEvery second Sunday since I have been on this earth (barring illness, travel and other engagements) my extended family get together for dinner. We eat delicious food, drink a bit of wine and catch up. We’ll celebrate each other’s achievements but also provide support in times of sadness. And we always have lots of laughs.

I always look forward to family dinners as the food is always delicious. It’s usually very rich and we always will have more than enough. There is a joke in our family that none of us are able to correctly estimate how much food to make, so we will always double the quantity, forgetting that everyone else is doing the same thing.

We’ve often talked about putting together a family cook book with a selection of our favourite recipes. My personal favourites are Grandpa’s tomato sauce, my mum’s jambalaya bread and butter pudding with bourbon whiskey sauce and the range of tarts and pies that my Grandma makes. As part of this, we would also include some history about the recipe and why we like it.

I’ve decided that this year (and probably next) will be the year in which we get this project underway.

One of the reasons why I’m interested in this idea is I think it’s a really distinctive way in which family history can be recorded. It’s a well-known fact that sensory experiences can trigger memories much more effectively than trying to directly remember past events and people. I believe that by writing through the lens of food and cooking, you can get a much richer insight into your family history and gain a better understand of the character and personality of your ancestors. It is also a valuable way of capturing the spirit and atmosphere of family occasions – bringing to life the dynamics of family life.

I’ve made an initial start on the project by beginning the process of sourcing the recipes. My next step is to start interviewing everyone and sourcing further recipes. I’m very excited about this project! I hope to share the process with you.

Plum Jam and Raisin Swirl Bread

Mystery ingredient time!

Today’s mystery ingredient is the delicious Anathoth Plum Jam. I originally planned to create a Louise Cake Tart using the jam but I lacked a loose bottom tart tin so I thought I might save that recipe for when I eventually get around to buying some new tart tins.

Instead I decided to have a go at creating a bread swirl. I’ve seen bread swirls a lot on Pinterest and they look very intricate and detailed even though they appear to very easy create and very pretty to look at. In saying that however, Pinterest is known for having pins which are not an accurate representation of what would happen if you actually followed the instructions. There are many BuzzFeed articles which document attempts by Pinterest users to recreate ideas they have seen on the social networking site and the spectacular failures that result.

I can safely say that bread swirls are not one of these Pinterest fails. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to make this swirl. I would also recommend playing around with the filling. I used plum jam and raisins, but you could use a whole range of different things – fresh fruit, spices, caramel, chocolate or even something savoury like cheese.

I used the recipe from Joy the Baker as part of her Baking Bootcamp, but I think any enriched dough would work fine. Instead of berries and cinnamon I used jam and raisins.

I also learnt two things when making this bread which I would like to share.

When I first pulled it out of the oven, the centre of this bread was a little undercooked and I had to put it back into the oven for ten more minutes. This happened because:

Once I had threaded the dough I didn’t let the it prove in the cake tin.

If I had done so, the dough would have more air bubbles. This would have created a lighter, airier dough and would have been less dense in the centre thus ensuring a consistent bake.

My oven is hotter than what the temperature reads.

I believe that this is the main reason. Because it was too hot, the bread cooked too fast on the outside. Cover the bread in foil and keep cooking if you find yourself in this situation.