Maybe it’s the to and fro of the tide that pull us south to the Beaches of Alabama… Our hearts yearn for it. Perhaps Southern Saltwater flows in our veins; we need the Gulf’s infusion every now and then. To stand in the sea casting a line or in solitude as the ever patient Egret watching the horizon…
The ancient rhythm of the tides echo the soul’s heartbeat. White Sugar Sands gently scrub our bare feet of ordinary workday cares…
Gulf Breezes clear our heads to dream of sandcastles again; built in a day- gone the next. Yet always worth the temporary wonder…
‘Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should be empty, open, choiceless as a beach- waiting for the gift from the sea.’ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
A sunrise walk. A perfect shell. Tiny sandpipers chasing seawater…running out, scampering back on twiggy feet while the ocean plays it’s foamy game. Beaches of Alabama- the jeweled land of Royal Reds, Brown Pelicans, Crystal White Sand, Sapphire Skies and Emerald Water.
We are like Boats waiting…Rocking our silent lullabies. Tethered, waiting to be set free- to sail away to the Beaches of Alabama.
Stunning sunsets, breathtaking colors- then gently the air, sky and water turn to shimmering priceless Twilight’s Gold.
Take a child, a sweetheart, old friends or heartache to the Beaches of Alabama… patiently wait for the enchantment to begin…
‘Alabama just breaks my heart- it’s so pretty, it just breaks my heart into little pieces’ Michael Lee West
Here in our Sweet Home Alabama, summer vacations, we know- the Beaches of Alabama have their own special magic- a tonic all year round. Salt Air, Sunlight and Gulf Waters- refresh, renew, heal and restore…
Love y’all, Camellia
*All of these glorious stunning photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard. We are perpetually grateful for his generosity in sharing them with us! Find Jeremy at jeremy.miniard.fineartsofamerica.com
*Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s quote is from her landmark work- ‘Gift of the Sea’. * The absolutely true quote…’Alabama is so pretty… it breaks my heart in tiny pieces’ by Michael Lee West is from her wonderful and zany book set in Alabama…’ Mermaids in the Basement.’ Both would be tremendous beach reads this summer!
*Beaches of Alabama was first written here on Camellia’s Cottage in July 2017 and has been slightly edited and updated. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Lemonade was so common in the South that finding a recipe for it is almost impossible! We just knew how to make it- and when we did …it was usually for a picnic or a special occasion. Believe it or not even Orangeade was first made from real oranges. And then…it was mass produced. Local milkmen delivered small glass bottled orangeade and lemonade with a paper tab, that children drank at school and vacation Bible School alongside cookies which I still recall as a delicious combination! Only a few years later, mass produced lemonade and orangeade in wax paper cartons large and small were available. With the space age came mass produced citrus drinks and powdered versions of fruit flavored drinks like Tang or Koolaid; we loved those drinks too… anything to quench thirst in hot humid climates. Still. There’s nothing really to compare with homemade southern lemonade.
These days, I find myself craving the real thing, real southern lemonade- I’ve conjured it up from memory and honestly, it’s worth the effort- and really? There’s very little effort to it, and believe me a pitcher of homemade lemonade will make anyday feel like a special occasion! Here’s how you make Camellia’s Southern Lemonade:
Zest of 2 Lemons
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup of fresh squeezed Lemon juice (approximately 4-6 medium size lemons)
4 cups chilled water
Mint leaves, lemon and lime slices for garnish are optional. Also optional- add a few maraschino cherries and a tablespoon of cherry liquid to make Pink Lemonade.
In a small saucepan, combine lemon zest, sugar and 1 cup of water. On low heat bring to a simmer until sugar has completely dissolved, to make a lemon flavored sugar syrup. Strain and chill. In a pitcher, thoroughly combine 1 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of chilled water. Add chilled lemon sugar syrup, again, until thoroughly combined. Add plenty of ice and garnish as desired.
Now y’all, the sugar syrup is easy to make- you can keep it in a glass jar with a tight lid in your refrigerator for at least a week, maybe longer…Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! Here’s hoping your summer is the best ever with lots of Real Southern Lemonade alongside a few nostalgic cookies!
Love yall, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine. * Koolaid and Tang are registered trademarks. *And, here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming Instagram image and short story- if you get a chance check out our feed there too! We’re having lots of fun!
Mimi’s Potato Salad is, of course my favorite- though I have to admit that any Southern cook worth her salt generally has a recipe that is her family’s favorite too! And, it’s crazy, yet many southerners add potato salad to their meals almost all year round! Mimi didn’t. She considered it a Spring and Summer side dish or even put a scoop on a plate and with a few extras like tomatoes and crackers, she considered potato salad to be a light lunch or a cool supper. Here’s the thing. Mimi was particular about her food and the way it was prepared and for what reason and why. She instilled things like this into my brain- I can still hear her now…
‘ Now, grate that onion! Who wants to bite down on a big chunk of onion in their potato salad!’ Then later she would say- ‘Grate those boiled eggson the coarse side of the grater!’ Why? Boiled eggs can look unattractive if they aren’t perfect and especially unattractive all mixed up ‘with a mess of potatoes’. Also Mimi simply liked the look of the coarse grated boiled eggs! Don’t ask me why. I was just a simple soldier and followed my orders.
Mimi’s Potato Salad was singularly simple with few ingredients. Many southern cooks add other things to theirs, which is fine and also tastes wonderful. Still. If a recipe is the flavor from your childhood or family- I believe we tend to enjoy our own version the best! Mimi used russet potatoes, in spring, she sometimes combined new potatoes and russets, making sure they weren’t peeled yet were cut to approximately the same size. There’s an art to it- unpeeled potatoes hold their shape better, then it’s easy to slip the skins off after they’ve been brought to fork tender, definitely not overcooked! Cut the cooked and peeled potatoes into approximately the same size for the potato salad. (If thepotatoes were overcooked? Start over. You don’t want mashed potato salad.)
While the potatoes are cooking, grate the onion and mix up the dressing of good mayonnaise, yellow mustard and spices. Now, Mimi’s rule for the celery was to either do a fine dice or thinly sliced. You might not want to bite down on a big chunk of onion, yet the celery gave her potato salad a subtle flavor with just the right amount of crunch and a pretty color. Again, I followed orders. My mother did too! Mimi boiled her eggs alongwith the potatoes- claimed the calcium from the egg shells made potato salad healthier. Who knows? I do it too. Gently mix the potatoes into the dressing and chill. This made the potatoes firm up and gave the flavors time to develop. Here’s how you make Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad:
Boil potatoes with skins on until fork tender, not over cooked. Allow potatoes to cool slightly, slip skins off of potatoes and dice into approximately 3/4 inch cubes or slightly larger. Finely slice or fine dice celery. Grate onion reserving juice as well. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yellow mustard, grated onion and cayenne, until combined. Add diced potatoes, grated boiled eggs and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, gently to combine. Chill. Flavors will develop. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. This recipe doubles well.
With the spring and summer get togethers in full swing, I think you’ll enjoy Mimi’s Potato Salad, feel free to put whatever you want to in it. Some like pickles or olives. I personally will still be following orders… I sure wouldn’t want to think Mimi was rolling over in her grave if I didn’t! Oh me…
Love y’all, Camellia *all photographs are obviously mine!
Some of the finest cooks I have ever known often left out a step or two that enhanced their southern dishes. I’ve often thought about this as I’ve tried to hang on to the heirloom recipes so near and dear to my heart. Often, as I’m cooking a flash of memory streaks through my feeble brain and I can ‘see’ the dish being made and realize what it was that made a subtle or distinctive difference in the recipe- whether ingredient or method. I rounded up a few and they are so easy…no recipe required!
Citrus elevates so many southern dishes, from appetizers to desserts- it’s hard to imagine cooking without it! Roasted Lemons are a sure fire way to add interest to your meal…soft and warm… squeeze the juice over almost any vegetable or seafood and it’s a sure crowd pleaser! Yet, the zest is often overlooked in my recipes. To add zest of any citrus, be sure and do it first before cutting or juicing! Here, the zest of lemon is added to a mixture of chopped garlic, dried oregano, fresh thyme leaves- all warmed in a mixture of melted butter and olive oil- then lemon juice and a splash of white wine. Added before roasting chicken, fish or shrimp- it’s amazing! Even added to new potatoes, green beans or asparagus it’s wonderful. Any recipe that calls for citrus juice is greatly enhanced by the addition of citrus zest.
Grow Your Own Southern cooks have been berated for years for their use of canned goods in many of our wonderful dishes, for instance while we grow and preserve our own tomatoes- we do often add a can of good quality tomatoes to chili or spaghetti sauce. What rarely reported is that good southern cooks always add fresh, often home grown produce! Tomato Relish in this beautiful mixture of tomatoes, green onions, chopped garlic along with chopped basil. Combined with a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar and allowed to sit while the spaghetti sauce is bubbling on the stove. This mixture is used as a cool topping much like salsa. You honestly won’t believe the flavor. And I’m here to tell you- in the summer when I make it- those tomatoes, green onions and basil are home grown!
Flour Power Ever wonder about the name Butter Balls? Well, you’re looking at them and those little balls of flour and butter are rarely spoken of- yet, they elevate pan juices into a silky glossy sauce, While everyone else is wondering why your sauce or gravy always tastes a bit better than anyone else’s. Mixture ratio is one to one- 1 Tablespoon of butter to 1 Tablespoon of Flour and rolled into little balls. I generally do an 8 to 8 ration and make up a whole sheet pan of Butter Balls- place in a single layer in the freezer, when frozen place in a freezer bag and when your pan juices are ready- add 1 or 3 or 5! Believe me, these little simple pack real flour power and elevate your cooking from delicious to amazing! Also, while we’re talking about Flour Power– many wonderful southern recipes start with this fear inducing phrase- ‘First you make aroux’… and the truth is? if you get making a roux wrong- throw it out and start over! Okay. No more fear of making a roux! On a sheet pan, put less than an inch thick layer of flour. Put in cool oven set to 375 degrees… when the oven is preheated, check the flour it should be browning nicely… however, you will need to bake the flour for up to 20 more minutes! It needs to be a rich brown and will smell toasted and warm. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow to cool. Store in a tightly covered jar. This brown flour is your head start to elevating your spicy thick gumbos or even rich brown gravies! Mix the brown flour in some sort of oil- we use butter or bacon fat! Stir until all of the oil is absorbed and the mixture is even darker and thick, commence with the recipe with your quicker version of a roux. Just look at that rich mahogany color! That color is what you’re looking for when you’ve made a roux.
In a Pickle Almost every truly southern table is almost groaning with the addition of pickled this or that. Pickled Beets might be one of my all time favorites! Canned beets (yes, feel free to roast your own!) are mixed with thinly sliced sweet onion- Vidalia if available- and often in the summer months we also add homegrown cucumbers too! Pack them in a heat proof jar. Heat apple cider vinegar to boiling and pour the beets and onions. Cool down before adding the lid. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. They’re amazing with almost anything- let’s face it field peas, greens and summer squash with a side of pickled beets might be a match made in culinary heaven! And that’s not all! We tend to pickle almost anything that stands still long enough- especially our hot peppers! This is the best way to get that all important Pepper Sauce- so make lots!
Turn up the Heat Folks outside the South tend to think the Southern diet is almost exclusively- fried. Not so, I rarely fry chicken… it’s a treat when I do- yet certainly not an everyday food. And Fried Okra is a glorious treat, yet that also is an occasion. When I do? There’s a secret to that this as well. Please don’t batter okra and certainly not with flour- oh no, blend 2 parts self rising cornmeal with 1 part cornstarch! Read that again- dredge fresh cut okra (don’t rinse!) in a blend of self rising cornmeal and cornstarch! Get the frying oil hot! Add in dredged okra, but don’t crowd! Hot oil and self rising cornmeal give the okra that beautiful battered look, the cornstarch keeps it light and crisp!
Now, the next time you’re wondering if that dish ‘needs a little something’ or you want to save a bit of time- you may find these 5 ways to enhance southern cooking will work with almost any other cuisine too!
With all of the beautiful cakes, the decadent chocolates and luscious pies, it seems to me that Bread Pudding deserves a place on the dessert table, especially at Easter. Many holy days serve symbolic food and Bread Pudding seems to be a teachable opportunity. It’s ‘the Bread of Life broken for you…’ It’s a rustic dessert- reminding me of that oft sung hymn ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ … Bread Pudding is a dessert made by hand with love, served humbly and simply among friends and family, even stretched to feed a crowd.
The Pudding and Sauce are enriched and softly scented- a very comforting combination. Wrapped in orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg, the classic Bread Pudding is then dusted with unrefined cane sugar. Who would disagree that plain old broken bread is elevated to an entirely new life, beautifully sweet and dear. Just in time for Easter with its gloriously easy Southern Creme Anglaise… Here’s how you make – Classic Bread Pudding with extra easy Southern Creme Anglaise!
Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise
A classic Bread Pudding made with a custard base that uses the old fashioned evaporated milk with whipped eggs and classic spices including orange zest. Served with a refreshing cool creme anglaise flavored with Bourbon giving the distinctive southern flavor associated with Bread Pudding.
4 LargeEggs Whisked
1 Large canEvaporated Milk
1-2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1Teaspoon Orange Zest
1/2- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Grated whole Nutmeg
1 1/4 Cup Pure Cane Sugar Plus more for top of bread pudding
5-6Cups Torn Day Old Yeast Bread* I used 1 dozen small yeast rolls
Easy Creme Anglaise with Bourbon
4Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream Full fat and flavor
3-4TablespoonsHigh Quality Bourbon
1/2+Teaspoon Fresh Orange Zest
For Bread Pudding- Whisk eggs until very well combined and slightly foamy. Add one large can of evaporated milk (not low fat) - whisk into eggs. Add spices, vanilla, 1 cup pure cane sugar and orange zest, then whisk to combine well. In a buttered oven safe bowl, pour this custard mix over torn Day old yeast bread. * Cover tightly and allow bread to soak up custard 4 hours or overnight. Sprinkle remainder of cane sugar on top of Pudding. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until puffed, golden and glistening with sugar crystals. Add more sugar and orange zest and a bit of melted butter if desired.
For Easy Bourbon Creme Anglaise
Melt four large scoops of high quality Vanilla Ice Cream. Do not use low fat! When ice cream has melted - Add 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest (if desired) and 3-4 tablespoons of high quality Bourbon. With a small whisk blend and keep covered and chilled until ready to serve over warm bread pudding.
Please use full fat evaporated milk and for sauce. Creme Anglaise is typically a custard sauce made with milk, eggs and sugar...which coincidentally is the same base used to make the custard base for ice cream! Hard sauce is the classic sauce generally served with Bread Pudding- most southern hard sauce calls for Bourbon. This sauce is chilled and a refreshing option to top Bread Pudding.
Now, about that sauce- a heavier warm hard sauce (denoting the alcohol) is generally served with Bread Pudding yet seems to be more suitable in the fall and winter. This sauce is cooler and more refreshing in Spring and Summer. And… The custard base of ice cream is strikingly similar to the famous Creme Anglaise- just be sure to use full fat ice cream!
Also, you may choose to omit the Bourbon and use pure Vanilla Extract ( one of the notes in bourbon), if you do, add Rum or Almond flavoring, adjusting the quantity to taste. The ‘sauce’ is wonderful on its own as well, if high quality ice cream is used. The Orange Zest adds a crisp citrus note for Spring; and it’s worth noting that spices played a role in the Easter Story as well. This classic bread pudding has an abundance of eggs which are also plentiful now. Eggs are symbolic in holy celebrations. And, I omitted the butter except for buttering the baking dish, if you prefer- melt a few tablespoons and pour over the pudding right before baking. If you don’t have access to raw cane sugar, use sanding sugar, you’ll definitely want the glisten when you pull the puffed and golden Classic Bread Pudding from the oven! Here’s wishing you a beautiful meaning filled Easter!
Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs were obviously taken by me.
Three years ago, when I first started writing – I was sorely lacking in photographic skills. Not much better now, but have learned a thing or two… Anyway, award winning photographer Jeremy Miniard took pity on me and provided some stunning photographs, then generously offered to let me use them! One of the first groups of photographs I asked him about were Doors; Jeremy has a treasure trove of photographs taken during his ramblings throughout Alabama. The doors he sent to me were amazing. They still are! I posted ‘Doors of Alabama’ using some other photographs offered to me- also out of pity I’m sure. This time… a poster worthy collection of Doors of Alabama are all Jeremy Miniard’s work… be prepared to be impressed!
Doors of Alabama
Thank you Jeremy! This journey just wouldn’t have been the same without you! Now. Y’all. I hope you’re inspired as I was by Jeremy’s photography – and also the beauty and history that surely was behind these old doors…peeling paint and all! Now….on your mark, get set and.. Get out there and take some photographs wherever you are! I’d love to see what you come up with! By the way, can you believe we’re still around after three years? Me either. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your support, for following this blog and for your kind words; and yes! the funny comments too! And as always…
Love y’all, Camellia
And I saved one of my favorites for last!
*All photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard, please respect this and do not use them without his express permission. You will find his work at Remy Photography- jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com
I’ve said it before- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine, the better your life will be. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, southerners start dreaming of summer tomatoes. Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is an early start on summer- while we wait for our tomato vies to bear. Tomato sandwiches are on our minds. Simple sliced summer tomato slices make an appearance on almost every southern plate. We do everything we can, to preserve the taste of summer as long as we can. I think planting cherry tomatoes offers a head start on the taste only a fresh tomato offers, and yes- the closer you live to a tomato vine the better your life will be.
I believe that fresh tomato pies are a distinctly southern dish. When colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes showed up in my grocery store last week… well, after a bit of testing, we came up with a spring version of Tomato Pie- here’s how you make- Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart.
Using cherry tomatoes, this Spring version of the classic southern favorite, Tomato Pie, is light refreshing and delicious. Served with a mixed green salad and crumbled bacon for a luncheon or as a side for Spring and Easter Dinners, Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is a beautiful addition.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
1 9 inchPrepared Pie CrustRolled, not in pie crust pan.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll prepared pie crust in a lightly buttered springform pan. * the pie crust should come up the sides about an inch or less. With a fork prick bottom of crust. Bake 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned. While crust is baking, combine grated Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup of green onion tops over cheeses and toss to combine. Place on warm crust and allow to sit until filling is ready. *Do not put filling on cheeses and warm pie crust. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, softened cream cheese, chopped garlic and pesto until combined; mix in more red pepper flakes, 1/2 of remaining green onion tops, dry basil and cracked black pepper. * Salt is not added until Tomato Tart is served. Complete melting cheeses in tart Shell by returning to 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Smooth Filling over melted cheese while still in springform pan. Carefully remove filled tart and top generously with halved cherry tomatoes, * Discard an juices from tomatoes before topping tart.Top tart with additional green onion tops, a sprinkling of dried basil and cracked black pepper. Cut in wedges with serrated knife. Serves 4-6 generously.
We found - a 10 inch springform pan is the best and easiest to use for this tomato tart. The tart shell may be baked in a shallow 9” baking pan, however, this tart does not lend itself to a deep dish pie.
Perfect for Brunch, a ladies luncheon or even as a side dish on the Easter table, Spring Tomato Tart is great on its own for a meatless meal, however, ours was served with a mixed green salad with lots of crumbled bacon. Also wonderful alongside ham, roasted fish or shrimp-this tart is beautiful, cool and delicious. Easy enough to assemble that you’ll find time to get the ground ready for those summer tomato plants! Welcome Spring with an early Tomato Tart!
Love y’all, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine.
*Tip: For easy, quick assembly, we decided to use prepared pie crust, prepared pesto and pre-grated cheeses may be used as well. It makes an easy weeknight meal, if you blend the cheeses and the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. You may, of course, make your own piecrust or grate your own cheese. Here’s another photograph of how ours came together- .
My first serving of Roulage was at a tiny tea room where ladies met for elegant brunch, where mother-daughter luncheons or bridesmaids’ met the day before a wedding to dine with the bride and her female family members. This beloved place was down a cobbled lane on Southside, a place aptly named Cobb’s Lane. When I was a mere teenager, yet I believed I had never tasted any dessert that was more decadent. A deep rich chocolate roll around a cloud of whipped cream. Yes, there were other dishes we enjoyed there, a beautiful salad plate, a chicken imperial, if not in name- regal in taste, though as someone recently recalled- ‘We went to Cobb’s Lane for the roulage.’ And we did.
The Roulage recipe I have is old, it has no attribution, yet I’ve always been told it was the famous Cobb’s Lane Roulage. And while I’ve updated the technique, the ingredients are essentially the same. Eggs separately beaten, confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons of cocoa- no flour no butter- poured into a squeaky clean and dry jelly roll pan. Filled and rolled with lightly sweetened whipped cream – the presentation is always impressive even if the cocoa is uneven when dusted or whether the roll cracks a bit. It’s imperfections are just part of a fresh made Roulage.
The French call the method a roulade, other cultures call it a Swiss Roll. Some have been redundant in calling this version- a chocolate roulage- in the the South, the essence of a Roulage is that it’s a chocolate roll. I suppose I thought of roulage as a jelly roll, but it’s not exactly a simple sponge cake, since the batter does contain egg yolks, but no flour- though the baker does indeed use her jelly roll pan. There are those who’ve tried to improve the unimproveable by adding Bourbon or Grand Mariner to the whipped cream, or by setting a slice of Roulage in a pool of raspberry sauce- still, the classic is best. To be honest, I don’t make Roulage often enough. Or at least that’s what I think every time I make it. Still. When I make a roulage, it takes me back to a tiny, elegant, hidden-away place, called Cobb’s Lane.
The classic dark chocolate roulage, is a light flourless sponge cake filled with whipped cream and rolled, then dusted with cocoa powder.
5 LargeEgg Yolks
1Cup Confectioners SugarSifted
3 TbsDutch Processed CocoaPlus more for dusting
5LargeEgg WhitesStiffly Beaten
1/2PintHeavy CreamWhipped and chilled
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With the whisk attachment, stiffly beat 5 large egg whites and set aside. In another mixing bowl Beat 5 egg yolks until pale yellow. Add 1 cup confectioners sugar. Blend in 3 Tbs of Dutch Cocoa until blended well. Fold in gently, the stiffly beaten eggs whites. Smooth mixture lightly into an untreated 9x13 jelly roll pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes making sure mixture springs back lightly to the touch. During bake time, dampen a kitchen towel *Or you may use a silicone baking mat, which is what I have used with very good results. Put 3-6 Tablespoons Dutch Cocoa in a small bowl with a small sieve. Sift cocoa over a large piece of parchment paper. When roll is baked, turn out onto silicone damp towel immediately. (You may need to quickly loosen lightly before turning out) Trim edges of roll, then roll in damp towel - while still hot. Cool , while covered with an additional kitchen towel. ( Note: I have had excellent results turning the Roulage base in a silicone baking mat, instead of the damp towel, then wrapping the mat in a damp towel. When cool, remove the towel covering the roll and unroll on a cocoa covered parchment which coats the outside of roll. Spread whipped cream over surface, then roll. Place roll on waxed paper, cover. Cover this in plastic wrap securely and chill. With a serrated knife, slice roulage and serve on dessert plates, garnished with berries. ( Roulage may be frozen,if not serving right away. Serves 6 beautifully.
You will need a 9x14 jelly roll pan with a 1 inch rim or a similar size baking pan with rim. The pan must be squeaky clean and undressed to accept the batter.A silicone baking mat or a dampened flour sack kitchen towel must be used to roll the roulade for cooling. A good grade of parchment paper or a second dry silicone mat or flour sack towel covered with sifted cocoa must be ready to unroll the Roulage, before filling with slightly sweetened whipped cream( you will need 2 approximately 2 cups of whipped cream- please do not use non-dairy whipped topping!Very old recipes call for the dampened flour sack towel, I used silicone baking mats to roll and cool- with excellent results. Roulage is best served fresh rolled, chilled and cut, however it may also be made a day ahead, placed infilled with whipped creamin freezer. The roulade must allowed to thaw completely to unroll. Fill with whipped cream, roll gently. Slice and place carefully on dessert plates.
It does take a bit of self confidence to make a Roulage, just remember that the imperfections of a Roulage, only add to its beauty. For really, it’s a dessert that shouldn’t-couldn’t-wouldn’t want to be mass produced perfection. Here’s hoping that some time, you’ll challenge yourself to make a Roulage.
If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.
Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.
The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!
Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!
The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-
A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert.
2SticksButterCut in pieces- plus more for pan
1/4CupUnsweetened Cocoa PowderMore for dusting pan
2Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
1/4 CupHeavy Cream
8Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Chopped
1/4CupPowdered SugarAs needed for dusting
Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers For garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices.
And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:
Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?
I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-
. Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!
Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!
From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with – Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered sugar. I think even the formidable Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares!
Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping - it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection.
ZestLemon from 1 large or 2 small lemons
1/4 teasBaking Powder
3-4TbsLemon Juice* Freshly Squeezed - use zested lemons
Powdered Sugarfor Dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8x8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar. When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste.
While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!
I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!
Love y’all, Camellia
Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons, are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!
* You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves- at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
*And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…