Carolina Bed & Breakfast

177 Cumberland Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Innkeeper(s): James and Susan Murray

Pineapple Tarts: A Traditional Chinese New Year Treat 8 Feb 2016, 11:52 am

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year!  Before James and I bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, our Asheville Inn, we lived in Singapore for eleven years.  And every year, right after Christmas, the shops and markets would explode with sweets, cookies, fruits, flowers, paper goods and more, all in celebration of the Lunar New Year. And my favorite of all were the Pineapple tarts.

The country of Singapore is a true melting pot.  They celebrate more than 30 religious holidays, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and more.  But at its core, Singapore is Chinese and the Lunar New Year (or “Chinese” New Year as we call it) is the biggest holiday of all.  The celebrations stretch out over two weeks and for the first two days all  government offices and businesses are closed so that families can get together for the Reunion Dinner of the first night and to make the required visits to close relatives over the next day.

The holiday is highly ritualized. Symbols of good luck abound and food is a central part of this.  Over the first two weeks of the New Year, there will be multiple parties and open houses held. A guest should always offer two Mandarian Oranges to the host on arrival: the oranges symbolize prosperity, good luck and long life.  The host will also have a bowl of oranges to offer to those who visit.  (The oranges  do get passed around but I always seemed to end up with a lot left over.  This leads to a glut of Orange Marmalade in my house after the New Year!)  Children and unmarried young adults will also receive red envelopes containing money–always an even amount and never four, forty or four hundred.  Four is a highly unlucky number for the Chinese.  After the family meal on the eve of the New Year and the required visits to close relatives on the second day, visits will be made to friends and co-workers.  Often employers will hold an open house for their staff and customers.  And it is important to share a meal or some offering of food at all of these events!

Cookies and other treats abound on Chinese New Year!

As an American living in Asia it was  wonderful to explore the markets and try all of the delicacies.  Row after row of red-topped plastic jars held an enormous variety of cookies: Love Letters (a type of tuile), Almond Butter Cookies, and  Sesame Ball Cookies were just a few of our favorites.  Trays of sweets and nuts were displayed, ready to bring as a gift to a party or gathering.  Street vendors set up grills and barbecued slabs of Char Siu pork, suckling pigs and ducks hung from the ceilings of their shops. Florists offered orange trees, bamboo plants twisted into Chinese Characters and symbols, and beautiful flowers and orchids.  The bang of the drum was everywhere, as those who could afford it held lion dances at their homes and apartment blocks, and neighbourhood community centers performed the traditional dance for those who could not.

While I love Asheville and its many restaurants, in late January and February I often find myself missing the foods of the Lunar New Year.  I don’t remember exactly how I found this shop but Brown Cookie   (online) seems to have an amazing amount of cookie molds and “exotic food recipes” (note to self: they have Mooncake molds!!) and once I saw the Pineapple Tart Cookie press I knew I had to try recreating this favorite of all Lunar new Year treats!

My pineapple tart mold straight from Malaysia!

When the cookie press arrived, it was authentic right down to the rather esoteric recipe on the back.  It used metric weights, oddly named ingredients and had very little in the way of instruction. Knowing what the end product should be helped and Google did the rest.  But before I put down my final recipe, I have some notes for you!

The recipe calls for “custard flour” which is a slightly incorrect translation of “custard powder”. ( And you probably still don’t know what that is!)  There is a strong British influence throughout Asia leftover from the days of the British Empire.  The ships that brought tea and spices to England returned to Asia filled with products for the British ex-pats.  Among these were Bird’s Custard Powder: an egg-free instant custard powder which my children learned to love at their small English Grammer School outside London.  If you live in a major metropolitan area it’s not hard to find.  Any store stocking British foods will certainly stock it.  I believe some Walmart Stores have it.  Worse comes to worst, you can get it on Amazon.

Not strictly a “jam”, the pineapple will be more candy-like.

Pineapple is a low pectin fruit.  That means it is hard to turn it into jam without added pectin so what you are making here is not a “jam” so much as a candied fruit paste.  Watch it carefully the last five to ten minutes.  It should really dry out and thicken.  You will need to bring it up to room temperature in order to spoon it onto

You don’t have to have a tart press for delicious cookies!

your tarts.  But the good things is it doesn’t act like jam in the oven.  It will hold its shape and not bubble over and out of the cookie making a sticky mess.

Lastly,  you don’t have to have a pineapple tart mold.  The tarts are visually lovely but you can also cut a 2-3″ circle out of the dough, spread some of the jam inside, fold it over (like an omelet) and fold in the ends.  Pinch it shut and place it seam side down on the cookie sheet.  Score the “finger” in diamond shapes with a sharp knife and brush with an egg wash before baking.

 

PINEAPPLE TARTS

1 medium pineapple
1 ¾ to 2 cups sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites)
1 ½ cups flour
1 ¼ cups Bird’s Custard powder
¼ Vanilla
FOR THE PINEAPPLE JAM
Peel and core the pineapple. Chop into large pieces and process or blend the pineapple until it’s mushy. Place the pineapple in a large saucepan with the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil until it is very thick and golden. This will take about 25-30 minutes. In the beginning you can stir occasionally but for the last 5-10 minutes you will need to stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add the lemon juice and salt at the end of cooking.
Cool until ready to use. If you make this the day before, store it in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using.
FOR THE COOKIES
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper
Beat together the butter, powdered sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Add the flour and custard powder and mix well until it comes together.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to not less than ½” thick. If you have a pineapple tart press, cut out the cookies and fill the centers with about ¼ to ½ teaspoon of pineapple jam.
If you do not have a press, cut out circles (2.5” diameter). Place a line of jam down the middle of each circle and fold the dough over the filling, folding in the ends as well. Use your hands to shape it into a roll. Place the rolls, seam-side down, on the prepared sheet. With a sharp knife score the top into diamond shapes. Brush with reserved eggs whites which have been beaten with a little water.
Bake until just turning golden. 10 minutes for the tarts and 15 minutes for the rolls.

Pineapple Tarts Two Ways!

Superbowl 2016: GAME SNACKS! 6 Feb 2016, 7:05 am

You know it:  Superbowl 2016 is tomorrow night and everyone is talking about “Game Snacks”:  the food they will be eating, sharing, bringing to the party, and regretting the next day.  Recipes abound for Nachos, Wings, and 7 layer dip.

Really people?

STOP!

This is Superbowl 2016 with the Carolina Panthers playing the Denver Broncos!

Buffalo Wings?? No way!  This show is made for some great Southern food!  So we put our heads together and came up with a way to say “Go Panthers!” with every bite. After all this is the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.

On the menu: Pimento Cheese, Hot Crab Dip, Peel and Eat Shrimp, and, of course, BBQ.  Bringing the low country and the mountains of the Carolinas to your TV!

Everything except the shrimp can be prepared the day before, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the game and make sure you don’t miss the halftime show!

CAROLINA BED & BREAKFAST PIMENTO CHEESE

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
½ cup chopped peppadew peppers
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp finely grated onion
8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese
8 oz Gouda cheese
Mix together the mayonnaise, peppers, Worcestershire sauce, and onion. Grate half of each cheese finely and half on the coarse side of the grater. Mix them together with the other ingredients and chill

HOT CRAB DIP
1 lb crabmeat
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 ½ tbsp Miracle Whip
1 + tsps. Old Bay Seasoning
Splash of Tabasco
¾ cup grated chedder
Juice of one lemon
Mix everything together and then give it a taste, adjust the seasonings to taste.
Put it in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with some extra cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree oven until it is puffed and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Serve with crackers.

PEEL AND EAT SHRIMP

I can’t take credit for this recipe.  It’s right off the Old Bay Seasoning box.  After all, why mess with perfection?

For every pound of shrimp:
2 heaping tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water

You will need between 1/4 to 1/2 pound of shrimp per person depending on how much other food you are serving (and the appetites of your guests!). Put the liquids and seasonings in a large pot bring to a solid boil.  Add the shrimp, stir gently, cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Serve with a good quality shrimp sauce.

BBQ PORK SLIDERS

You can make the pulled pork yourself (and I will append a pulled pork recipe at the end) but you are in the South and there ought to be a great place for BBQ somewhere in your area.  (If there isn’t, you need to reconsider where you live!). The easiest option is therefore to buy some great pulled pork and to make the coleslaw yourself. This recipe serves about 10 people.

2 pounds or more BBQ pulled pork
Asian Coleslaw
Hawaiian Rolls

ASIAN COLESLAW

Vinegar Coleslaw By Emily
Time: 3.5 hours
Serves: 5 people (double recipe if serving with pulled pork)
Ingredients
1 bag of pre-chopped coleslaw cabbage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked white or black pepper
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

1) Place the cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt and pepper and toss, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before proceeding
2) Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, and celery seeds in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring periodically
3) Pour the vinegar mixture (while still hot) over the cabbage
4) Add the vegetable oil and mix
5) Cover with plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving

* This recipe makes a very soupy coleslaw and so I drain the coleslaw in a colander before serving it.

Heat the pulled pork, served on a Hawaiian roll topped with coleslaw.

SPICY PULLED PORK
Time: 6.5 hours

Ingredients:
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 whole pork butt/shoulder roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 11-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cans pop (I use Dr Pepper)
4 packed tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 300 F
2) Place onion quarters in the bottom of a large Dutch oven
3) Generously salt and pepper both sides of the pork then place it on top of the onions
4) Pour the can of chipotle peppers and cans of Dr Pepper over top of the pork
5) Add brown sugar to the liquid
6) Place the top on the Dutch oven and cook for 6 hours, turning the pork 2-3 times during the cooking time
7) Remove the meat and shred the pork (the bone should come right out and be completely clean if the meat is done) and then place the pork back into the liquid
8) Serve with Hawaiian buns and coleslaw

* Use half of the can of chipotle peppers if this recipe is too spicy. Also I remove all of the peppers from the sauce after the meat is done cooking before replacing the shredded meat back into the pot. Otherwise it is WAY too spicy.
* I cook the pork with the fat still on (to get the yummy flavors) and then remove the fat from the pork when shredding.

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Asheville! Going Beyond Chocolates and Roses 17 Jan 2016, 11:28 am

Happy Valentine’s Day Asheville!
(kiss courtesy of emily)

I have to be honest, as I write this our Asheville inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, is already fully booked for Valentine’s Day Weekend (although not for Valentine’s Day itself–more about that later!).  But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to share with you, our guests and future guests, some great ideas for  how to enjoy a romantic holiday in our mountain town.

Let’s start at the beginning:  you need a place to stay.  Unless you can afford a luxury suite at one of Asheville’s big hotels, the most romantic holiday is going to be found at one of Asheville’s Bed & Breakfasts.  And while we may be full, I know for a fact that there are still some wonderful rooms available at some of Asheville’s finest B&Bs (and Asheville has some mighty fine B&Bs). Check the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association for availability. If that doesn’t work out, and you live locally or fairly nearby, consider the idea of a Staycation.  Surprise your Valentine with a one-night stay at our inn over Valentine Day’s itself.  This year the holiday falls on a Sunday which means you will have to get up and go to work the next day but I’m willing to offer breakfast a little earlier so that you can end your staycation in style!  Call 828-254-3608 to book.

Find love and romance at our Asheville Bed & Breakfast where even the cookies are made just for you!

According to the Huffington Post more than six million couples will get engaged on Valentine’s Day.  If you are thinking of being one of them I have an idea for a different kind of proposal.  Most people who visit Asheville go to see the Biltmore.  With more than 250 rooms and stunning landscaping and gardens by Frederick Law Olmstead it provides a glimpse into a romantic lifestyle long past.  This year the Biltmore is upping the game and has created a display of some of the most iconic wedding gowns in history and film.  Lavish floral arrangements will be included in each room bringing romance and weddings to life.  The display opens February 12th, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Walk with your beloved past wedding dresses reflecting more than 300 years of fashion, including the first ever display of the wedding veil worn by Jacqueline Bouvier to Jack Kennedy.  And at the end?  Get down on one knee and ask her if she is ready to pick out her wedding dress. The display runs from February 12-July 4, 2016.   A Biltmore House entry time will be needed for Feb. 13th and 14th.  We have tickets for sale at the Carolina B&B and will be happy to help you arrange your visit.

On display for the first time at the Biltmore this February, the lace veil worn at the marriage of Jacqueline and John Kennedy

Even if you live in Asheville or have visited numerous times I bet there are things to do that you haven’t thought of.  Well, that’s okay because a group of Asheville innkeepers have put their heads together and come up with some great suggestions.  As a rule, Bed & Breakfast owners know their town well.  One of the added benefits to staying a a B&B is access to that knowledge.  We deal in smaller numbers and can take the time to carefully curate our suggestions to fit the likes and needs of our guests.  At the Carolina Bed & Breakfast James and I make it a point never to suggest an activity, site or restaurant we haven’t tried.  From inside to outside, daytime to nighttime, The innkeepers of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association have created a list of wonderful places to steal a kiss in Asheville this Valentine’s Day or any day! Check out the list on their blog, here.

 

Kitchen Questions: Does Egg Size Matter (And How Much)? 10 Jan 2016, 12:07 pm

Extra Large Egg vs. Large Egg. What’s the Difference?

Two eggs, side by side.  They are both the same length but one is a little fatter and weighs 10 grams more than the other.  Does that matter? When does it matter and how much?

I’ve been cooking for a long time but it was not until we bought our Asheville Inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, that I started making the same dish often enough to notice variations in how it came out and to be able to experiment and find out why.  A good example of this is my quiche recipe.

My original basic quiche recipe came from a friend of mine way back in the 1970’s:  4 eggs and a cup and a half of Half & Half.  This makes a light and fluffy quiche which people love. I’ve used it for almost 40 years without fail.  Until this summer at the inn.  Suddenly the quiche became very unpredictable.  It could take anywhere from 35 minutes to almost 50 minutes to cook and sometimes, but not always, it would be runny and wet on the bottom.  It didn’t seem to matter what type of quiche I was making.  Asparagus, Sweet Pepper, Butternut Squash, Tomato-Brie, Apple and Bacon, they all had developed a mind of their own.

What was going on? Same recipe, same ingredients.  Or were they?

James buys our eggs in large quantity.  They come in cartons of 18 and one can buy a single carton or a two-pack which is packaged together.  How many eggs we go through in a week depends on how many people are here, how much baking we have to do and what we are serving for breakfast.  Usually two two-packs will do but occasionally I will ask him to pick up a single as well, especially on a busy weekend.  Before we had the inn, I did the shopping and I always bought extra-large eggs.  No reason, really.  I guess that’s what my mother bought so it must be right!  This was when I noticed that the eggs in the two-pack were extra-large and the eggs in the single carton were large.  A little internet research was no help at all in figuring out whether or not this was the issue.  Recipes were all over the place.  I even saw one which suggested a 1:2 ratio (eggs to dairy) which was great except she was using weight for the eggs and liquid volume for the dairy, an apples to oranges approach which I have my doubts about. I asked some other innkeepers and checked recipes on B&B sites and,as a rule, people were going for more eggs  rather than fewer.  I got an answer of up to 8 in a quiche.  Given the way eggs perform in baking, eight eggs will insure a solid quiche, probably too solid!

So I decided to take a look at my large and extra large eggs and see just how great a difference there was.

First I made a visual inspection.  Two eggs side by side.  In the picture above the extra-large egg is on the left.  Both eggs are approximately two inches long but the extra large egg is rounder in the middle.  (It wanted to roll around on the counter whereas the large egg stayed where I put it).

Then I weighed the eggs.  Five large eggs ranged in weight from 67 grams to 75, averaging 71.2 grams.  Five extra-large eggs ranged in weight from 79 grams to 86, averaging 80.2 grams.  So extra large egg is 11% bigger than the large egg.  Not a huge number but enough to be possibly significant.

On to the important part (in my eyes): how much “egg” is in an egg?

Here is a picture of a single large egg in a glass measuring cup:

This Large Egg is Slightly Less than 1/4 Cup Liquid Measurement

And here is a picture of a single extra large egg in a glass measuring cup:

This Extra-Large Egg is Almost Exactly 1/4 cup

It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, does it?  But let’s see what happens when we go to the full amount needed for my quiche recipe.  Here are four large eggs in a glass liquid measuring cup:

4 Large Eggs are 2 Tablespoons shy of One Cup

And here are four extra-large eggs in a glass liquid measuring cup:

4 Extra-large Eggs Come to Exactly One Cup.

That is starting to be a visible difference and if one extrapolates it into larger quantities it makes a big difference. Eight large eggs provide at least 1/4 cup less “egg” than eight extra-large eggs.  Since the eggs are the binding ingredient in the quiche, and I want my quiche as light and fluffy as possible, I need to skate as close to the fewest possible number of eggs in my quiche which will still produce a dry crust.  For now I am sticking with 4 extra large egg for one quiche and 9 extra large eggs for two.  If I need to use large eggs I will go for 5 in a single quiche and 11 eggs for two.  So far it’s been working!

Got a kitchen question?  Send to me and I’ll see if I can find an answer!

(and I would share the basic quiche recipe but I think I already have: 4 extra large eggs  to 1 1/2 cups half and half, salt and pepper.  Prepare your filling, place in a unbaked tart shell and cook in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until set in the center. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting).

New Year’s Resolutions for the Carolina Bed & Breakfast 30 Dec 2015, 10:36 am

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!

Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions for 2016?  Here’s mine for our Asheville inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. Actually this is more in the way of a to-do list but that is so often the way, isn’t it?

  1. This winter I will finish writing my second cookbook, tentatively titled “Cupcakes and Canapés”.  I have worked on it during the slow season for the past two years but have allowed myself to get distracted by other chores and activities.  This year 4 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, until it is done.  No joke.  Someone else will have to paint, clean and shop.  Three months seems like a long time but it goes so by so fast and after the season starts up in March there is not enough time in the day!  I am putting myself out on a limb by making this a public resolution but look for it in print sometime this summer (finger’s crossed).
  2. This winter James and I will spend 24 hours in each of our guest rooms.  This includes packing a suitcase and using the room as our guests do.  This is the best way to find out if the room needs another shelf in the bathroom, better lighting or anything else. We want to make sure our rooms are as comfortable as possible!
  3. Re-decorate The Cardinal Room.  The deep crimson walls and lace curtains are seriously out of date.  I would like to keep the slightly masculine vibe while brightening up the room.  I just have to figure out how to do this and keep to the Cardinal theme.
  4. New curtains for the Robin’s Nest.  Preferably ones which reach the end of the windows.

That’s my list of unique projects for this winter.  In addition there are the annual projects of deep cleaning every room in the house, repainting and making repairs as needed and doing an inventory of all the linens and supplies in the house.

We manage to fit all of this in Monday through Thursday so that we can open our doors to guests over the weekends and holidays.

What are your resolutions?  I hope they include a visit to Asheville and a stay at our inn!

A Compendium of Christmas Decorating Tips From Asheville, NC 13 Dec 2015, 6:00 am

Compendium, isn’t that a great word?  It means a numbered, or detailed, list about a particular subject (according to Google). So, in the spirit of Christmas and Asheville and the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, here is a brief compendium of decorating tips from some of the businesses around town.

  1.  Creating a Wreath, courtesy of the Biltmore Estate.  The Biltmore Estate is justifiably famous for their Christmas display with countless trees, wreaths, garlands and lights.  In this blog, the design team at the Biltmore share with you some tips and ideas for creating your own wreath at home. Just follow this link to find out more:  Biltmore Blog

    Create beautiful wreath like this one with tips from the Biltmore Estate. (Photo courtesy of the Biltmore Estate)

     

  2. 4 Quick Tips for Decorating A Christmas Tree From B.B. Barns Garden and Gift Center.  Who knows Christmas Trees better than a Garden Center?  B.B. Barns is one of our favorite Garden Centers in Asheville.  As a matter of fact, a number of the plants in our garden come from there.  Now, to be honest, Christmas tree decor is a matter of taste. Some people like fake trees, some people like real ones.  Colored lights, white lights, big lights, little lights, co-ordinated ornaments, hodge-podge of ornaments from your past, tinsel or no tinsel: it’s all a matter of taste.  This series of tips and the accompanying video are from a professional decorator so if you want to find out how someone does it who decorates trees for a living, follow this link:  BBBarns Blog

    It’s pretty clear what school of decorating I come from!

     

  3. Window and Table Treatments from Biltmore Lamp and Shade Gallery This is not really a collection of decorating tips so much as it is a series of pictures designed to give you ideas.  The Biltmore Lamp and Shade Gallery is so much more than just lamps and shades!  I love how they frame a window in white glittery branches or hang a red berry wreath right in front of an antique mirror.  Sometimes the best decoration is one you have in your home framed by a little greenery or a ribbon.  For more pictures follow this link:  Biltmore Lamp and Shade Gallery

    Tiny White Fairy Lights and Glittery Branches make a Lovely Frame for a Window, inside or out! (Photo courtesy of Biltmore Lamp and Shade Gallery)

     

  4. Decorating your Front Porch from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast In Asheville, as in many Southern towns, the front porch acts as a another room in the house.  Even in winter, warm sunshine encourages resting on the front porch swing or settee and watching the world go by.  At the Carolina Bed & Breakfast we use large colorful balls, lighted garlands and lots of fresh greenery to add to the festive feel.  One of my favorite things is to set a small wreath on a glass topped table and nest one or two glass balls inside.  The reflections are beautiful, day or night! For more ideas follow this link:  Carolina Bed & Breakfast

    A fresh wreath and a large glass ball make an easy and attractive centerpiece.

Christmas Cookies: Pfeffernusse and Peppermint Whoopie Pies 6 Dec 2015, 3:21 pm

For most of the year people avoid baking like the plague but something about the end of the year brings out the pastry chef in all of us.  Thanksgiving is all about pie.  And Christmas?  Christmas is the season of the cookie!  This is true for me too.  Most of the year we stick to four or five tried and true cookie recipes here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.  And it is true that there are old friends who show up every December as well, but this is also when I love to experiment.  So here to help you with your baking are two new (to me) cookie recipes.  Lovely German Pfeffernusse are a favorite of mine, filled with spices and coated with icing sugar while the classic combination of chocolate and peppermint come together in a holiday rendition of the Amish Whoopie Pie.

The Pfeffernusse recipe comes from Zingerman’s  in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Zingerman’s is one of my favorite resources to hard to find foods, sauces and condiments and the people are so friendly!  They shared this recipe with me as a part of the “Food Explorer’s Club” which I gifted myself with last year.  Pfeffernusse are one of those things which show up in boxes in the gourmet aisle at supermarkets and department stores during the holidays and they are always delicious.  Since my theory is that if they are delicious when store-bought, how much more delicious would they be home made?

Pfeffernüesse (Germany)

Pfeffernusse: Not the prettiest cookie but so good!

Recipe from Zingermans.com

Ingredients
Butter (room temp) ½ cup
Brown Sugar 2 cups
Baking Soda ½ tsp.
Cream of Tarter ½ tsp.
Sea Salt ¼ tsp.
Ground Cinnamon ½ tsp.
Ground Nutmeg ½ tsp.
Black Pepper (finely ground) ½ tsp.
Ground Clove ½ tsp.
Ground Anise 1 tsp.
Eggs (room temp) 2 each
All Purpose Flour 2 ½ cups
Powdered Sugar 1 cup

Preheat the oven to 350°F 20 minutes prior to baking.  Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies
Directions:
1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, baking soda, cream of
tarter, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, clove, and anise, until well
combined. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and creamy.
2. Add the flour to the creamed mixture. Mix until the dough is well combined.
3. Using a small scoop, scoop out walnut size balls (about 1 oz or 2 tbsp) and place
on a parchment lined sheet pan.
4. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will puff slightly and become
lightly browned. Do not over bake.
5. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely and then
toss with powdered sugar to coat completely. Shake off any excess powdered
sugar.
6. Store in an airtight container.
*NOTE: The cookies will only get better as the spices mellow and meld together
**MY NOTE: This makes a big flat cookie. I am going to try refrigerating the dough for an hour and making smaller cookies to see if I can get something that more closely approximates the small round ones found in the stores.

 

And here is your bonus recipe for Chocolate-Peppermint Whoopie Pies. Traditionally the Whoopie Pie is a fairly large cookie, fitting for its “Am I a cake or a cookie?” confusion, but I like to make them a little smaller so they become a bite rather than a meal.  It’s up to you.  Either way the cooking time is the same.

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pie

 

For the Pies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup soured milk (1/2 tsp white vinegar in ½ cup of milk)
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup hot water
2 cups flour
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together the shortening and sugar until light. Beat in the egg then stir in the milk and vanilla.
Combine flour, chocolate and salt in a separate bowl then stir into the egg and sugar mixture.
Stir together the baking soda and hot water and add to the cookie mixture.
Drop by tablespoon onto the cookie sheets.
Bake 8 minutes or until the top springs back when touched. Cool

For the Icing

1/2 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
pinch of salt
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)

1-2 crushed candy canes

Put all of the ingredients (except the candy canes) together in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream together at medium speed for three to five minutes until light and fluffy.

Assemble the Pies

Spread one cookie thickly with icing, making sure to reach to the edges, then top with a second cookie. Roll sides in crushed candy cane to coat. Makes about 1 dozen large cookies

Inside Asheville: Interview with a Florist at the Biltmore 22 Nov 2015, 12:00 pm

The Floral Displays of the Biltmore at Christmas are a must-see (photo courtesy of the Biltmore)

Over the past six years I have interviewed a number of craftsmen and artists about their lives and businesses here in Asheville.  These have been some of my favorite blogs to write for our Asheville Bed and Breakfast website.  So I was delighted when I found myself seated at a dinner next to woman who worked in the floral department at the Biltmore Estate.  We all know about the 106 decorated Christmas trees on the Biltmore Estate as well as the miles of garlands and gazillion lights but this was my chance to find out about what it is like to be one of the people who make this happen. Janine and I met for lunch this week and we spent a fascinating hour while I listened to her stories about life as a Floral Reserve at the Biltmore.

Janine is an Asheville “transplant”.  She moved here from Ohio where she had been a volunteer at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens and thought she would like to volunteer at the Biltmore. But Stan Hywet is a non-profit museum whereas  the Biltmore is a privately owned home and business and does not need volunteer workers.  So Janine applied for and was hired as a part-time floral reserve member.  She is one of a team of 14 floral reserves who work with and support the 7 full time floral designers.

The floral designers decide on the theme and create the concepts for each year’s display but it is the reserve team who put the ornaments on the trees, water the more than 2,000 potted plants and replace the 7,527 feet of evergreen garlands every week.  And then at the end of the season they take it all down: separate and sort the dried berries and flowers, take apart and roll the ribbon from 1,500+ bows and carefully pack away the thousands of ornaments. The Biltmore owns all of the ornaments they display, some get reused  the next year and some get stored until needed, and some break.  Janine says this is most likely to happen towards the end of an 8 hour day of tree decorating.  There are 1000 ornaments on each of the 4 trees in the Tapestry room, 4000 in that one room alone and 27,000 in use in all, a mere 1,286 per floral staff member!  (And yes, Janine says she does decorate her home as well because “if you are the sort of person who likes that kind of thing…”  A sentiment I understand entirely.)

While the 35-foot-tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall is put up and decorated in the space of a single day the rest of the house is decorated over the course of a number of weeks. This is one of the few times a visitor will actually see members of the Floral Department at work as they decorate the 65 trees inside the house.  I asked Janine if each ornament had a specific spot to be hung on the tree and she told me that, while it is not that proscribed, they are given guidance by the designer as to which colors go on the inside of the tree  and working outward and, of course, the trees are inspected before being judged “finished” with the smallest imperfection being noticed and corrected.

The Centerpiece of the Biltmore Christmas display is the 35-foot tree in the Banquet Room. (photo courtesy of RomanticAsheville)

During the season the staff come in early to replace the garlands and to water the plants before guests arrive.  Janine has seen the sunrise over the Estate many times as it takes almost 30 minutes for her to get to her workspace once she enters the grounds.  While she is most definitely not a morning person, the beauty of the Estate and her solitary ownership of it at this hour does much to ameliorate the pain of an early rising!

The Winter Garden in the Main House is a lush display of live plants–all of which need watering regularly. (photo courtesy of RomanticAsheville)

Work on the next year’s display starts while the current one is up. By January the year’s theme has been decided, the designers have been assigned their rooms and are already making choices from the existing inventory.  As the year progresses bows are tied, ornaments selected and sorted and floral orders placed.  While all this is going on the staff is also responsible for daily floral arrangements and displays as well as the Spring exhibit of Biltmore Blooms.  I asked Janine what she liked best to do and she said it wasn’t so much what she was doing as the fact that she does it with a group of people she likes and respects.  And while she didn’t want to tell me exactly what her least favorite job was, I suspect it is sorting the many different type of dried berries and finding the correct box for in which each is stored.  One job she has yet to take part in is the demolition of the Gingerbread Model of the Biltmore House.  It needs to be completely destroyed every year, making sure that it is history!

As we talked about her work at the house and the organization which goes into the smooth running of the Estate I was struck by how similar this sounded to the running of a large estate house 150 years ago.  The public may not have walked through the house then but the pride in making it look good for guests and the attention to detail has not really changed.

This year’s theme is the “Gilded Age” reflecting the opulence and extravagance of high society in the period after the end of the Civil War up to the turn of the century.  Rich reds and golds are accented by sparkling silver.  I think the tree and decor of the Banquet Hall is absolutely stunning this year.  Pause for moment when you enter the room and breath in the scent of the Fraser fir. After you have visited the house, be sure to stop in the greenhouse on your way out.  Here you will find an array of poinsettias, in all shades of pink, white and red with some unusual blooms.  The lush plants give off a sense of serenity and warmth which will send you on your way with a glow!

Don’t miss the display of poinsettias and orchids in the Greenhouse

The Biltmore at Christmas is not to be missed.  We still have weekday packages available but best to book early in order to get the entry time of your choice to the Candlelight Evening.  Visit our Specials Page at www.carolinabb.com/specials or 828-254-3608.  We will be happy to assist.

Before I finish I would like to extend a special thank you to Janine for letting me interview her, to the Public Relations Department at the Biltmore for supplying me with a wealth of numbers, and to Mark File of RomanticAsheville who is responsible for the interior shots of the Biltmore.  You can view more of his pictures at

 

Thanksgiving Baking: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes 13 Nov 2015, 9:58 am

No sooner had I posted a picture of our delicious little Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes than the request was made for the recipe.  Everyone seems to be in the mood for some Thanksgiving baking! So this morning I quickly whipped up a second batch so I could try some adjustments to the seasoning before posting.  And quick is the operative word.  Like the Pecan Pie Cupcakes in the previous post, these yummy little bites are a snap to put together. No messing around with chit-chat today, here is the recipe fresh from the kitchen of the Carolina Bed & Breakfast!

PUMPKIN PIE CUPCAKES WITH CINNAMON ICING

Ingredients

Cupcake:

2/3 cup flour
3/4 sugar
1/4 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
1/4 salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
2 eggs
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Icing:

1/4 butter softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs milk
Pinch of salt
For the Cupcake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 mini-cupcake tins with paper liners (Don’t skip this step!)
Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together pumpkin, eggs, sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla until well combined.
Add dry ingredient to wet and mix well.
Fill cupcake tins and bake 12 minutes until set. Cool in tins for at least 15 minutes before removing then chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Top with a dollop of Cinnamon icing. (The icing is sweet so don’t overdo it!)
For the Icing
Place butter, powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, milk and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium-low until it comes together. Add a little more milk if needed. Mix on medium for three minutes until light and fluffy.
Pipe sparingly onto cupcakes.

 

Thanksgiving Baking: Pecan Pie Cupcakes. 11 Nov 2015, 11:38 am

Its a pie-cake! Pecan Pie Cupcakes

Poor Thanksgiving.  It’s one of my favorite holidays and it so often gets lost between the excitement of Halloween and the hype of Christmas.  There’s not a lot to the holiday:  it’s about baking, food, family and appreciating all we have. (Although to my mind, that is a great deal!).  But we try to respect the holiday here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast and keep to Fall flavours and treats until it is over.

Those of you who stay with us know that I like to place cupcakes in our guests’ rooms in the evening.

Cupcakes make a wonderful evening treat at our Bed & Breakfast

I love to make mini ones, just a small sweet bite to end the evening!  And when I think abut Thanksgiving, I think about pecan pie.  What could be better than a pecan pie cupcake?  Off I went to Pinterest, looking for inspiration.  Along the way I started a Thanksgiving Board which you can view here  .  I will be adding to it over the next few weeks so check back for ideas!  There I found a simple recipe for a cupcake which a number of people had tried and it seemed like a good place to start.  Over the years, I have made a lot of pecan pies: some with bourbon, some with chocolate and some with butterscotch. I have used dark corn syrup, light corn syrup and honey. I like the fact that this is an easy recipe so I didn’t do much to just added some spiced pecan dust.  You can Spiced Pecan Dust online from Zingerman’s or you can make your own buy grinding up some spiced pecans.  It makes lovely sugary, spicy dust which I use all winter long on almost anything I can think of!

Before you start, here are two tips to make your cupcake pies turn out well:

  1.  Like the pecan pie they resemble these cupcakes can be a little sticky in the pan.  Grease and flour your cupcake tins or spray with a baking spray.  Don’t let them rest in the pan too long. Turn them out onto a cooling rack as soon as you can.
  2. For a more pie-like center, under-cook the cupcakes a little.

PECAN PIE CUPCAKES

Ingredients
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
24 whole pecan halves
Spiced pecan dust

Preheat oven to 350^. Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tin or 24 cup mini muffin tin.
Combine first four ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.

Everything goes into one bowl for easy mixing and clean-up!

Fill your muffin tins, then top with a pecan half and a sprinkle of pecan dust (about ¼ tsp for a mini cupcake and ½ tsp for a large cupcake).
Bake until edges are browned and centers are set, about 18-20 minutes for a mini (I cooked mine 16 minutes) and 2o-25 minutes for a fullsize cupcake.
Turn out of the pan immediately.

 
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