DEB56360-6FD2-450F-9C32-4E96D2E133A6I remember the first time I tasted Shortbread, my grandmother opened a package and gasped- ‘Oh! Tea Biscuits!’ Imagine my surprise when there were no biscuits inside! Mimi told what sounded like an exotic tale about real shortbread; she said the young Queen Elizabeth liked Scottish Shortbread served with Afternoon Tea! Small Square Shortbread in a distinctive red plaid tin was a delicacy to my grandmother-  who didn’t waste time making cookies of any sort that I recall- with the exception being the occasional Southern Tea Cakes which are a totally different thing in the South. If Tea Cakes aren’t baked just right they  ‘stick in your craw’ -they’re heavy and tend to have baking powder in them.  However, fine Southern bakers did make Sweet Tea Biscuits or Butter Cookies which are interchangeable with traditional and variations of Shortbread.5EE297AB-F84B-444C-B2DF-A90FC4991676

Without a doubt, Shortbread is my favorite cookie- it’s not too sweet, it’s rich and it lends itself to shapes and variations. Pecan Shortbread is wonderful and has a distinctly Southern flavor, add Orange Zest to Shortbread dough and it’s elevated to new heights, the plain dough can be iced, sugared or dipped in chocolate. Filled with jam- strawberry, apricot or raspberry between shortbread and it even has a name… Linzer Cookies, which could often be found on Southern Tea Tables. Cut into the traditional squares, triangles or rectangles or my favorite rounds, cut like little Scottie Dogs and hearts of different sizes are sweet too. Savory Shortbreads are wonderful as well, but then I’m getting off on a tangent…

65F0A5AC-9298-4D9E-9910-91E4A6C8811CShortbread is a great choice throughout the year, though I tend to make it for the Winter Holidays because it is rich in butter. The truth is- add an extra cup of sugar, another stick of butter and 6 eggs, why you’d have Pound Cake batter! Shortbread is just that rich! The dough can be made in batches and put in the freezer for at least two months. If you make the dough now you’ll have plenty throughout the Holidays. Baked off fresh, Shortbread will mellow and keep for a good while in airtight tins. Packaged up, Shortbread is great for small favors or gifts. Here’s how we make it:

Camellia’s Cottage Shortbread

  • Ingredients-
  •  3 sticks of salted butter – room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar – * we call it pure cane sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups of sifted all purpose flour

*Southerners tend to use salted butter, if you use unsalted add a pinch or two of salt to dry ingredients.  *Also have on hand a tablespoon or two of granulated sugar to sprinkle cookies warm from the oven.

  • Method: In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together- do not overbeat! Add vanilla and blend.
  • Add all purpose flour to butter/sugar mixture just until a soft dough starts to come together. Scrape and dump dough onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or plastic wrap, using a piece of plastic wrap, pat dough into a round. Wrap well and chill. *At this point, you may want to freeze the dough for future use.
  • If using right away- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Roll chilled dough 1/2 inch thick and cut in desired shapes.  *For decorative purposes, use a bamboo skewer to poke holes in the dough.*You may need to keep portions of the dough chilled throughout this process.
  • Bake at 350 degrees on parchment lined ungreased pans for 20 minutes. If cookies are larger you may add up to 5 minutes longer. When cookies are warm sprinkle with sugar, unless you intend to glaze or fill. CEF8908D-E556-485C-8006-C6FC1E385AA6
  • Cool completely.  Yield approximately 2-3 dozen, varies according to size and shape.

No matter if you make Shortbread for gifts, to round out Holiday Dessert Tables or to serve with coffee or tea for drop in guests- one thing’s for sure… it’s always delicious! Love y’all, CamelliaDEB56360-6FD2-450F-9C32-4E96D2E133A6*All photographs are obviously mine. *The little plaid tins of Shortbread are made by Walker’s® and can be found, literally, around the world.

Bear Cubs…

IMG_3417Brown Butter, Brown Sugar and Pecans, now that makes a special cookie. There’s nothing like coming home from school to an afternoon snack- especially if it’s warm and home baked! Something sweet after a meal or before bedtime is extra good! Bear Cubs have been on my list of must-try cookies  for a good while… They aren’t true Shortbread but filed away with my favorite Shortbread recipes, this old cookie recipe made with browned butter, brown sugar and pecans has a notation- ‘not a true shortbread cookie’ – But so close…so deliciously close, it would make a hungry bear cub very happy!

I suppose, the way the pecan is inserted makes the cookie look like it has a tiny bear paw print! I’ve seen similar recipes by other names-

  • Brown Sugar Shortbread,
  • Brown Babies and even
  • Browned Butter Cookies.
  • Without the pecan, I have also found several recipes which were made for fussy babies!

I like the name Bear Cubs….They are an excellent After School treat, wonderful for Holiday Cookie Swaps, delicious at Baby Showers and alongside a cup of Coffee or Tea is just perfect.  Even a Grumpy Bear of a man will settle down if you give him a few Bear Cubs!IMG_3426

Bear Cubs aren’t overly sweet cookies. I find them easy to make, easy to freeze and even easier on the tastebuds. Don’t expect them to hang around long once they’re baked! The method for making Bear Cubs is unusual. Butter must be browned and cooled first.





Browned Butter – Melt 3/4 cup of salted butter on medium low in a small saucepan; for approximately 5 minutes heat until nutty brown. There will be foam on the top when it’s hot from the butter fat, but as it cools the foam will subside. Strain it for clarified brown butter- but for Bear Cubs, simply cool the browned butter along with the tasty brown bits before incorporating it into the mixture.  (Southerners generally use salted butter but you may use unsalted and add a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients.)

Camellia’s Cottage Bear Cubs

  • Ingredients: 1 and 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of salted butter – Browned and Cooled,
  • 1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar- packed firmly,
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk,
  • 2 cups of Self Rising Flour, 3/4 teaspoons Baking Powder,  (if you use AP- add  1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder plus 1/4 teaspoons Baking Soda) ,
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract,
  • Approximately 30 pecan halves cut crosswise in halves,
  • A few tablespoons of Granulated Sugar. for dipping.

Sift Self Rising Flour and Baking Powder, set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cooled Brown Butter in a large bowl until fully incorporated and fluffy. Add whole egg /egg yolk and vanilla extract to Brown Sugar/Brown Butter mixture. Mix very well. Stir Flour Mixture into the Butter Mixture in 2-3 batches mixing well after each addition but do not overbeat. With rounded Tablespoon, scoop cookie dough and roll into balls. Then dip roll each ball in granulated sugar, placing them 3 inches apart on a parchment lined sheet pans. Press each ball with a small glass until the cookie is about 1/2 inch thick. Take a pecan piece and insert cut side up in the center of each, as shown. (*At this point Bear Cubs may be frozen on sheet pans for 45 minutes to an hour then stored in freezer safe bags.)  Bake each sheet pan on center rack for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Cool in the pans, then transfer to cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container. Makes 4 dozen. IMG_3416

I have to admit, these Bear Cubs don’t hang around any longer than a bear raidin’ a trash can! Bear Cubs are wonderful all by themselves and excellent with Vanilla or Caramel Ice Cream. I think these Brown Butter cookies will become a favorite Autumn treat! Make up a batch of dough to keep in your freezer! *Do not thaw, additional baking time may be required.

The  South’s mountainous areas have always had Bears- remember Davy Crockett? He was from Tennessee! Bears are now seen occasionally in populated areas, I heard a Mother Bear and her Cubs were seen walking through a gated community just a couple of weeks ago!





If you find yourself in a den filled with cute little Cubs and growling tummies, a tired Momma Bear or a Grumpy Old Papa Bear- give ’em a Bear Cub!  I’ve heard if you eat one of these sweet Bear Cubs before bedtime- you’ll hibernate very well!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine! *Bear Cubs should not be given to very young children- unless made without pecans, which could be a choking hazard or in the case of nut allergies. *Bear Cubs will remain crisp if covered tightly, but are easily crisped up when toasted a few minutes in a 350 degree oven…well, if they last that long!

Cheese Straws…


Real Southern Cheese Straws are a must-have pick up food particularly if you live in the South. I can hardly think of an occasion when Cheese Straws are not appropriate.

  • Baby Showers
  • Afternoon Teas
  • Anniversary Parties Cocktail Parties
  • Gatherings,Open House
  • And yes, Funeral Food

We do adjust the amount of spice depending on the event, an expectant mother may not be able to tolerate heavy spice, nor can mourners be expected to appreciate a Cheese Straw which in anyway indicates a ‘Hotter than Hades’ flavor, it just wouldn’t send the right message for the bereaved.  From the cradle to the grave, with Cheese Straws we know we can count on a savory bit of crunch whether festive or as a consolation. No self respecting Southern Hostess would be caught dead without Cheese Straws on hand, whether she can actually make them or not. In fact, give Southern Hostesses several dozen Petit Fours, a  pound of fresh toasted Pecans. some small handmade Mints and Cheese Straws- and we can throw an Afternoon Tea fit for the Queen. The problem is that most Southern folks who know how to make good Cheese Straws hold the recipe in the family vault and have been known to sweetly give forth a recipe but accidently leave out an ingredient or a critical part of the method- so that others will say, ‘Well, these are good but they sure don’t taste as good as Dixie Jean’s; nobody can make ’em like she does!’   Southern Cheese Straws are not made with puff pastry sprinkled with cheese, twisted and baked.Those taste like cheese flavored cardboard by comparison. The difference in homemade Cheese Straws and purchased- is like comparing a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese to the cardboard box version.  fullsizerender-3Real Cheese Straws are a spicy, flavorful short pastry. An elevated pie crust dough, put through a cookie press. My press is dedicated solely cheese straws! Some ladies inherit their momma’s press, which is a sturdy metal, not those flimsy plastic models! So, with that in mind- I have decided to be magnanimous and share my recipe with you. I try to keep Cheeze Straws ready to bake in the freezer -so that in 15 minutes I have a hostess gift, an unexpected occasion or to bake fresh for drop in guests. A good Cheese Straw recipe is invaluable. Just understand at the getgo that this is not just a recipe – it is also a method.

Camellia’s Southern Cheese Straws

  • 1 pound of chilled sharp or extra sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated by hand (Don’t you dare use already grated in a package!)
  • 1 1/4 sticks of  cold butter, butter flavored shortening or butter flavored oleo margarine (I actually prefer oleo because real butter has milk solids in it and can result in a stickier dough and one that will not dry out as it should while baking.
  • Grate cheese and oleo into a large bowl and cover with a clean flour sack towel. Let sit over night to soften. Sorry, but this is a two day process.img_1623Toss the Cheese and Oleo together gently when softened, until just mixed.
  • Sift together 2 cups of plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika and  1/4-3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper- depending on how spicy you like them- I like them spicy!
  • Carefully toss the flour mixture into the cheese mixture with your hands, the dough will be tough if you don’t. Mix well into a soft dough. A food processor works well for this- if the dough seems stiff add a bit more oleo. Do not chill.
  • Use a cookie press with a star plate. Put just enough dough in to almost fill the tube. Press out approximately 4inch strips onto an ungreased cookie sheet. *Note: I put the filled cookie sheet(s) into the freezer at this point- when frozen I pack them in freezer bags and label. If I need Cheese Straws right away, I put them in the refrigerator to chill, while the oven is preheating. Chilling helps the Cheese Straws keep that cute squiggly shape!
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make sure Cheese Straw dough shapes are not touching or crowded on the pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until dry but not brown. Store in a tin or airtight container after the Cheese Straws have cooled completely.
  • Hide them from yourself and others until the gathering- otherwise you will never have enough. They can be baked ahead and gently crisped up in a 350 degree oven but Sugah, you really have to watch them. No side trips to watch General Hospital or Guiding Light. Heat for just a few minutes being careful not to brown. *That rule always applies- dry but not brown.
  • This recipe makes 4-6 dozen Cheese Straws. I usually double it and freeze at least half, for other occasions.fullsizerender-5

If you don’t have a cookie press, please don’t despair. Your Cheese Straws won’t be as cute as mine- but you can gently roll this dough and cut into 3/4″ by 4 ” strips. Some roughen the dough a bit by running the tines of a fork through the dough before cutting into strips. Bake as directed. Another method would be to put the dough into a pastry bag and with a medium to large star tip, the dough can be pressed out into smallish dots- adjust cooking time for this! Dry but not brown is the rule.Some have been known to roll the dough into a log, chill or freeze and then cut into rounds for crackers. However, the Southern thing to do is to commit to the idea that Cheese Straws are a necessity, then buy, beg or borrow a cookie press to make them! Let me know if you decide to make them- I won’t have a 24 hour hotline but if there’s trouble, bless your heart, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible, or as a dear baker said- If it doesn’t work- start over. Truly, once you make them I think you’ll be convinced, Cheese Straws are the ultimate in good taste.

Love y’all, Camellia



Raisin’ Cain in the Pantry…

imageIn an earlier post we talked about shoppin’ our closets, the pantry and fridge- working down what we have on hand. This week, we cleared out the pantry and found 3/4 of a loaf of raisin bread, some raisins, a can of evaporated  milk and a jar of hot fudge sauce. In the south we love our bread puddings! Raisin Bread is almost perfect for a good bread pudding but how could we make this one different? Bread pudding usually has a hard sauce for the topping- we had the jar of Hot Fudge Sauce and who doesn’t like chocolate covered raisins? Hold the popcorn at the movies, give me some chocolate covered raisins! So, what about a hard sauce made with raisins, rum, and hot fudge sauce? We keep some ‘likker’ here just for medicinal and cooking purposes you know…whiskey, bourbon and rum are ‘must-haves’ in the southern kitchen, almost like strings of pearls and white blouses in a southern lady’s wardrobe, got have those accessories! We had plenty of eggs, milk, pure cane sugar and vanilla extract so we were set!





Camellia’s Cottage Raisin’ Cain Bread Pudding

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees if baking right away.
  • Tear 3/4 loaf of raisin bread into large pieces- (we used Pepperidge Farm) in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a Pyrex 4 cup measure, crack 4 large eggs, add one can of evaporated milk, 1/4 cup of brewed coffee, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 stick of melted and cooled butter, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • With a whisk, mix the egg mixture until foamy, pour over raisin bread pieces and allow the mixture to set until the bread is completely soaked – about 15 minutes or you can refrigerate overnight.
  • Butter a 9×12 glass baking dish. Pour in soaked bread mixture. This bread pudding will rise.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes in hot oven. Do not over bake!
  • Meanwhile soak 3/4 cup of raisins in 1 cup of dark rum (we used Bacardi Dark Puerto Rican Rum).
  • Remove from oven when Bread Pudding is set and tops of bread are beginning to brown. Dot with more butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top- you can use plain sugar if you don’t have cinnamon sugar mixed up. We always have that in our pantry!
  • Lightly drain the plumped rum raisins and drizzle the excess rum over the hot bread pudding. Don’t waste any of that hard stuff!
  • Bread Puddings can be served hot or at room temperature, we let ours cool a bit while we prepared the hard sauce, Rum Raisin Hot Fudge Sauce, are you raisin’ cain yet? We never said this was going to be low cal…

Camellia’s Cottage Rum Raisin Hot Fudge Sauce 

We had a jar of Hershey’s Hot Fudge Sauce which we heated in the microwave according to directions on the jar. We spooned it into a small saucepan and added the rum soaked raisins to chocolate sauce- now, how else are you gonna make hot fudge sauce into a ‘hard sauce’ without the ‘hard likker’?


Darlin’ you’re gonna want to keep this recipe on hand, even if you just spoon the sauce  over ice cream! We topped our bread pudding with the Rum Raisin Hot Fudge Sauce, whipped cream and to make it healthy we added that sweet sprig of fresh mint!

Sugar Cane is grown in Alabama, that’s why we’re so sweet! Shoppin’ our pantry is going to be fun!

Love y’all, Camellia


Cornbread Rules Sugah!

2016-03-23 13.50.11Alabama has thrived on cornbread for generations, all of us, not just some of us. We all love it, eat it- crave it, need it. I learned the cornbread rules at an early age from my grandmother. I have her iron skillet and it still makes the best cornbread, though I do love corn muffins too!2016-03-23 11.24.20 And oh my! corn sticks! I have an iron corn stick pan too! But the rules never change. You are the first to know my grandmother’s rules. Use your own cornbread recipe, with one exception…which we will cover first.

  • Never, ever use sugar! I don’t even store sugar in the vicinity of my cornmeal.
  • Use self rising cornmeal- yes you read that right! If you buy it in small bags it will be fresh and to be honest, I make it so often that my ‘meal’ always rises just right! I prefer white cornmeal, yellow seems heavy to me but whatever…
  • Get the oil hot in the iron skillet, in the oven not on top of the stove! Putting yourself at considerable risk to pour the oil is worth it! Get that oil or shortening hot! I put it in the oven until it is preheated. when it gets hot, don’t  measure it, just pour most of it into the cornbread mixture, stir a bit ~then pour that back in the hot pan.Okay now, you are about to get the ‘held- in- the- vault’ secrets of cornbread, if you follow these? Your cornbread will always pair up perfectly with whatever you are making to go with the cornbread.
  • ‘Egg’ cornbread- that’s the recipe that has SR Cornmeal, eggs and sweet milk and no sugar, sugah! Egg cornbread pairs with anything that ‘lays an egg’…that means chicken, turkey and fish! Write that down and memorize it. Poultry and Fish! Egg cornbread is lighter, rises higher and has a milder flavor than…
  • Buttermilk cornbread- this recipe calls for SR Cornmeal and buttermilk. Timing is important to this mix ~ you must darlin’- you must stir in that buttermilk at almost the exact moment that your hot oil is ready to come out of the oven! Buttermilk cornbread has sharper tangier flavor than ‘egg bread’ – therefore, to quote my grandmother- ‘Buttermilk cornbread can stand up to heavier meat!’ Pair it with beef, pork, ham…the heavier meats!

Are you getting a picture here? Commit these rules to memory, learn to recite them in your sleep. Now, a little test to see if you got it…I will list some foods and meats, see if you can answer the correct type of cornbread to go with each. I’m watching so don’t cheat! the answers will be at the bottom of the page.

  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Beef Stew
  • Dried Butterbeans with Ham
  • Fried Fish
  • Turkey and Dressing (which type of cornbread for the dressing?)
  • Barbeque Pork
  • Vegetable Soup with Chicken
  • Chili

2016-03-23 12.03.02Chicken and Dumplings

I made some the other day! Yum! and what kind of cornbread do you think I made? Ok, here are the answers-

  1. Chicken and Dumplings- egg
  2. Beef Stew- buttermilk
  3. Butterbeans with Ham – buttermilk
  4. Fried Fish- make those hushpuppies with eggs!
  5. Turkey and Dressing- dressing is made with egg cornbread
  6. Barbeque Pork – buttermilk
  7. Vegetable Soup with Chicken – egg
  8. Chili – buttermilk

Here’s a trick question…What if you just have a vegetable plate? We do love our vegetable plates here in Alabama…the answer is… it depends…my rule of thumb is that if you have something with ‘dairy’ in it like macaroni and cheese- go with the buttermilk cornbread, that’s the ‘heavier’ meat rule.  If you have a ‘mixed’ vegetable plate, egg cornbread will always be good, and if turnip greens are anywhere on any plate? cornbread is a must!  If you have any questions or comments- would love to hear from you!

Here is my basic Egg Cornbread recipe:

Heat oven to 375 degrees, pour 1/3-1/2 cup of oil or shortening into cast iron skillet, get scalding hot in the oven, meanwhile mix 1 1/3 -1 2/3 cups of self rising cornmeal, 2-3 eggs, 1 cup- 1 1/3 cup of milk-(you will know by the texture, not too thick) stir until just mixed then add hot oil, about 1/3 cup…quickly stir and pour into hot pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes until it has risen beautifully to golden brown.

For Buttermilk Cornbread: Heat oven to 375, pour 1/3-1/2 cup of oil, shortening or lard (yes, lard) into cast iron skillet as above, quickly mix 1 2/3 cup of self rising cornmeal with 1 – 1/3 cup of buttermilk until just mixed and not too thick- you can add more of either – mix should look thicker than pancake batter. Stir in very quickly about 1/3 cup of hot oil and then pour batter back into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown- this cornbread will be thinner, crisp on the outside but very moist on the inside.

Make some cornbread! Mine’s about to come out of the oven!  Love y’all, Camellia