Recipe & Text by Megan Crist Photography and Styling by Michelle Smith
I’ve been diving into southern culture lately. I make a lot of multicultural dishes, but hello! I’m looking everywhere except where I am for something mouthwatering to make for dinner. The American South really does have its own repertoire of delicious food. Trust me when I tell you, I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject. I’m still no expert, partly because I’m vegetarian, but one of my favorites is, and always will be, the classic biscuit.
They say you can’t get a truly good biscuit outside of the South and I don’t know how true that is, since I’ve never actually had a biscuit outside of the south. So this is my savory biscuit recipe, for which I’ve learned many uses. It’s not just a vehicle for bacon, eggs, and cheese… Try topping casseroles or cobblers with biscuit dough for example. Crumbling day-old baked biscuits into tomato pie lends texture and keeps the sogginess away. It means cozy comfort food like this Tomato Florentine Soup (link) has an equally delicious and flavorful carb for dipping.
TIME 3 Hours
parchment paper or silpat
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup cheddar cheese
⅓ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley or herbs of your choice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1¾ teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces butter, ½ inch cubes, cold + 2 tablespoons for melting
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
8 ounces milk
Mix the herbs and dry ingredients in the food processor.
Add the cold butter cubes and pulse a couple times.
Pulse several more times while streaming in the liquid.
Turn the dough out into the mixing bowl.
Gently work the dough together by pressing, not by kneading. If you REALLY need more moisture to bring the dough together, try adding a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
Roll out dough to about ¾-1 inch thick. This is highly debatable, but there is a nice spring to this recipe.
Layer the scraps on top of each other to roll out once more. There should be about 12 biscuits.
Freeze biscuits at least 2 hours, or up to one month ahead.
Preheat oven to 425F. When ready to bake, remove as many biscuits as needed from the freezer and brush the tops with melted butter. Do not defrost before baking.
Collaboration is a key element to my business that not only makes it fun and interesting but also rewarding. I love learning about other people and discovering and bouncing ideas around to create something that doesn’t yet exist. Now that the dust is starting to settle from making Gather Studios into a beautiful, functional space, I’ve been thinking of ways I could collaborate even further with the other studio tenants that are here alongside me, and in ways we can share those collaborations with you.
There are so many talented people in this shared office building doing really interesting things, Megan of Triangle Pastry Company is just one of them. She specializes in no-frills, seasonally inspired menu of sweet and savory treats. She sells them locally at the Apex Farmers Market as well as the Wake Med Farmers Market. She also delivers throughout the Triangle and her items are available to pickup by appointment here at Gather as well.
I had asked Megan if she would make some treats for our Grand Opening celebration a few weeks ago and she showed up with among other things, a pan full of a creation she had invented called a S’mores Bar. To say it was amazing would be an understatement. Seriously, if you are local, you need to get some of her foods, they are that good.
Meanwhile, the two of us will be sharing a recipe here once a month with me photographing and styling it and her writing and sharing the recipe.
I’ve got more fun collaborations coming up here too in the future so keep your eyes out for that. I’ll let Megan take it away from here:
Summertime nights in the South are the stuff of nostalgia… full of barefoot potluck BBQs, glittering with lightning bugs, tiki torches, local beer, and backyard games. I grew up playing badminton, croquet, baseball, and volleyball while my dad ran the grill and my mom… well, basically did everything else (you know how that goes). After dinner, my brother and I hunted for the perfect marshmallow skewer sticks in the woods, and my dad carved the ends into little points with a pocket knife. Roasting those gelatinous, sugary jet puffs over an open flame, then peeling off that one blackened side, was the highlight of warm weather cuisine for me. When we got out the Nabisco Honey Maid graham crackers and a couple of Hershey’s chocolate bars, I was a happy camper.
Then I grew up, learned how to bake, and (sadly) couldn’t have a grill on my apartment patio. Enter S’more Bars. These are the perfect potluck dessert… they’re easily transportable and can be cut to almost any size to serve as many people as you need. Bonus: they’re a little bit gooey, without having to be kept warm.
I’m just going to channel Ina Garten right here and say, if you can’t be bothered to make your own graham crackers, store-bought is fine. If you do want to make your own honey grahams, though, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
TIME: 1 Hour
mixer bowl with handle
small aluminum bowl
fine mesh sieve
12”x16” sheet pan (x2)
large (12”) whisk
liquid measuring cup
12 ounces graham crackers
4 ounces sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
5 ounces butter, melted
1 pound chocolate (Note: dark chocolate flavor comes through stronger than milk chocolate.)
4 ounces heavy cream
7 egg whites
14 ounces sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
To Make the Graham Cracker Base:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 12×18 sheet pan with parchment paper. DO NOT USE A SILPAT! I REPEAT, DO NOT USE A SILPAT if you will be cutting the bars in the pan (which is what I recommend).
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Grind together the graham crackers, sugar, salt, and cinnamon, in a food processor as finely as possible. Stream in the melted butter.
Turn the mixture out onto the sheet pan and spread it evenly over the surface. Press firmly into place so that there are no loose crumbs. Pressing another pan of the same size on top of the mixture helps to ensure a level crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.
Remove from oven, and immediately press the crust firmly into the pan again with another sheet pan. It will be hot, so take care to keep your fingers insulated with a dry towel or potholder.
Set aside to cool while you make the chocolate filling.
To Make the Chocolate Filling:
Place chocolate and cream in a double boiler over a pot of simmering water. If you don’t have an actual double boiler, just use a small aluminum bowl set over the top of a small saucepan. This is what I use, because… convenience.
Stir gently as the chocolate melts.
Once you have a uniform consistency, hold the fine mesh sieve over the graham cracker crust and pour the chocolate filling through the sieve onto the base.
Spread the chocolate evenly over the surface of the base with the offset spatula.
Rinse the spatula (you will use it for the marshmallow topping) and allow the chocolate to set while you make the marshmallow topping.
To Make the Marshmallow Topping:
This is a basic Swiss meringue. If you’re into cakes, you might have your own recipe that I’m sure would work just fine. You can also swap other flavors in place of or in addition to the vanilla. Orange zest, cardamom, anise, chili powder, mint, espresso powder, you name it.
Fill a medium pot with about one or two inches of water, and bring to a simmer.
Mix the cream of tartar, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of the stand mixer. This bowl must be completely clean and dry for optimal development.
Add the egg whites to the sugar mixture, and whisk to incorporate.
Set the mixer bowl over the medium pot of simmering water and whisk continuously.
*I recommend a bowl with a handle, because it makes it easy to keep the bowl from spinning obnoxiously in this step, without steam-burning your fingers.
After a couple minutes, when the mixture starts to thicken and begins to turn opaque versus translucent, use the back of a spoon to extract a tiny amount. Feel the texture. If the sugar is not dissolved, keep whisking for another minute. It should feel silky-smooth, with no sandy sugar bits remaining.
When your sugar is dissolved, turn off the burner, remove the mixer bowl from the pot, and lock it onto the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. You may want to use a towel or potholder, because the bowl will be hot.
Whip the whites on medium-high (KitchenAid Speed 7 or 8) until the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch, about ten minutes. At this point, there should be nice firm peaks when you remove the whisk from the bowl and it should make a distinctive smacking sound. Add the vanilla bean paste and incorporate.
Check to make sure the chocolate is set before you start plopping the marshmallow on top. If it is firm to a gentle touch, go ahead and dump the meringue out of the bowl.
Use swooping motions to spread the meringue over the entire surface of the bar. It is pretty forgiving, so you can push it around a bit until you get a look that you like. You could also use a pastry bag with fancy tips to pipe designs, if that’s your style.
The last step is torching the meringue. You’ll get that nice toasted marshmallow effect. Follow the manufacturer instructions on your kitchen torch, but four to six inches between the meringue and the torch is generally a reliable distance for me.
Slice into 24 bars and use a square spatula to lift and serve.These should store well in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple days, but I have to be honest, they have never stayed around longer than a potluck dinner for me to tell.
Rhubarb is a vegetable that looks like red celery and uncooked tastes somewhat green like a sour apple, but, when it is cooked and combined with sugar it takes on a delicious flavor that compliments many dishes and pairs especially well with strawberry. Both rhubarb and strawberries are in season around the same time from mid May to the beginning of June here in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. One lazy Sunday afternoon, with a bucket of fresh picked strawberries straight from a farm down the road, my husband and I decided to make a rhubarb cake with buttermilk and strawberries.
The resulting cake is light, delicious and easy to make, and when paired with vanilla ice cream it becomes even more sublime. The rhubarb and strawberries can be replaced with any fruit and would continue to yield an excellent dessert, we think plums would be especially delicious. Below is the recipe. If you make it, let us know how it turned out.
Preheat oven to 400°F and put your rack in the middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and ⅔ cup sugar with a mixer at medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.
Mix in the flour mixture at low speed in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Cut rhubarb stalk into small chunks, scatter those and the strawberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1½ tablespoons sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.
Recipe adapted from this raspberry buttermilk cake from Epicurious
Photos by Michelle Smith. Hire me for your next project.