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Shelia Huffman: The Lake Hoods Lady

Sweet On Texas: Loveable Confections From The Lone Star State, is the title of Denise Gee’s latest book on perfect endings to a Texas feast.

Friends Of The Lakewood Branch of the Dallas Public Library hosted Denise and her husband, Robert Peacock, at a presentation and book signing Thursday evening, Nov. 8.

In addition to this new cookbook on Texas desserts, Denise is the author of Porch Parties and Southern Cocktails as well as the food stylist for the newly released The Mansion On Turtle Creek: Haute Cuisine Texas Style. She has worked at popular magazines like Southern Living, Coastal Living and Better Homes and Gardens.

Born in Houston, Denise spent much of her childhood in Mississippi, but when she returned to Texas she chose East Dallas as her home. She and Robert now live in Oak Cliff, but Denise works close by at SMU.

Sweet On Texas is a collection of traditional Texas desserts, but often with a new twist. Banana pudding ice cream, anyone? The book, beautifully illustrated by Robert Peacock, makes it hard to decide which is more colorful — the photographs of the desserts or the stories that accompany them.

As with any project involving Texas, the size and diversity of our state has to be reckoned with right off.  Denise divided the state into regions: East Texas, Wild West, Hill Country and so on, and selected recipes for each one according to the influence of that locality. For instance, desserts stemming from East Texas clearly have roots in the Deep South while those South Texas Deserts frequently reflect the flavors of Mexico. Local legends are often associated with foods of a particular region. Sharing those stories along with the recipes resulted in a cook book as chock full of Texas Tales as it is pecans and brown sugar.

Try Babe’s Banana Cake with Creamy Nut Frosting, a delectable treat from the Texas Panhandle. When Babe Hodges wasn’t dishing up dessert she was belting out songs with the Hodges Sisters and went on to sing with several big bands.

The book is full of yummy recipes. (Top your lemon tart with “big hair” meringue or your Dutch Oven Cobbler with Butter Milk Lime Ice Cream). Some food for thought: Is that luscious cocoa cake with a hint of cinnamon a sheet cake or a sheath cake? Those of us who grew up in Texas have heard it both ways.

Did you know that a Texas pioneer from New York named Gail Borden Jr. invented that delicious creamy concoction that we know today as Eagle Brand Milk, a staple ingredient in many dessert recipes? Borden, Texas, in Colorado County was named for Gail Borden.

And those happy cows in Brenham are now producing one of the top three best selling ice creams in America. So popular that it is available online for people who can’t get it at their local market.

Denise even shares her favorite mail-order desserts. Consider adding the buttermilk pie from Royer’s Round Top Café Online Store to your Thanksgiving table. Denise says it is the best one she has ever eaten. Or Lily’s Custom Cookies from San Antonio. Imagine those beautifully detailed Oaxacan dress cookies along side sweet tamales on your Christmas Eve Buffet.

Do you want to organize a cookie swap with friends and neighbors for the holidays? Denise tells you how, step by step.

Texas! It is as rich in sweets as it is in culture. The book can be purchased online or at local book stores like Barnes & Noble.

If you are interested in joining the Lakewood Holiday Cookie Swap, email lakehoodslady@gmail.com.

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Denise Gee Recipe

Babe’s Banana Cake

Banana Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Creamy Nut Frosting:
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts*

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the granulated sugar, shortening, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer on high until fluffy. Turn the mixer down to medium and alternate adding the mashed bananas and flour mixture (about 1/2 cup at a time), mixing well after each addition.

Add the buttermilk last and all at once; mix until well combined. The batter should look fluffy and hold its shape slightly. Fold in the pecans (if using).

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Tap the pans on the counter or other hard surface to distribute the batter evenly and to knock out any large air bubbles.

Bake for 27 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes on wire racks in the pans for 10 minutes then remove from the pans and allow to cool completely on the racks.

To make the frosting: Whisk together the milk and flour in a saucepan and cook over low heat until very thick and smooth, stirring constantly for 5 to 7 minutes, without letting the paste brown. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening, granulated sugar and salt on high speed until fluffy. Add the flour paste and vanilla; beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar 1/3 cup at a time, mixing well on low with each addition. Beat on high for 1 or 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Fold in the nuts (or sprinkle them atop the cake as a garnish).

Put one cake layer on a plate or cake stand and spread with about 1/2 cup of the frosting. Top with the other layer. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Store the cake at room temperature beneath a cake cover if planning to eat within a day, or refrigerate, tented with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. Let the cake return to room temperature (this takes about 1 hour) before serving.

*Toast nuts in a baking pan for 5 to 8 minutes at 350°F. Watch carefully to prevent burning.

Yield: One 9-inch double-layer cake

Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:48 pm   862 Views   Shelia Huffman

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