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Filtering by Tag: Family Recipe

Lemon Pound Cake • Kelly Spivey

Brett Rawson

A note from Curator Rozanne Gold: In this beautiful story about a memorable lemon cake (and Brunswick stew), Kelly shares her experience as both a pastry chef and as a devoted member of a tight-knit family.  Kelly’s love of food led her to drop out of graduate school where she was pursuing a Master of Fine Arts to study baking (a girl after my own heart, I also dropped out of grad school long ago to pursue a career in New York’s food world.  I later went back to get an MFA — who knows — so might Kelly). After ten years as pastry chef, Kelly now works at a specialty coffee roaster and coffee bar in Memphis, Tennessee, while she researches and writes about the history of baking and pastry in the south. Southern food ways are so in vogue that I await her gorgeous prose.

In the South, our relatives are our people.

My people come from North Carolina. They were farmers and owners of a general store. They lived in Northampton County, almost at the border of Virginia, where the pine trees were just as much a commodity as the peanuts and cotton. 

My grandmother, Elizabeth Braswell Spivey, was born in Northampton County in 1925.  She lived on a farm very far out in the country.

On the property was a long, rectangular cook-house and an adjoining family room with a fireplace, couches, and games. The cook-house had a large wood-fired brick oven that housed two large cast iron pots, and a cast iron, gas-fueled fryer that only was used for cornbread.    

Starting somewhere in the ‘30s or ‘40s, my family has held a Brunswick Stew every year in the Fall.  We would wake up early for an hour drive to my grandparents’ house, usually arriving around seven. The men hauled firewood to the brick oven and lit the fire. The women gathered in the cookhouse family room to peel pounds and pounds potatoes, and to empty huge cans of tomatoes into the cast iron pots.  

Generally, the men did all the stirring with wooden paddles the size of boat oars, but as a defiant teenage girl, I refused to peel potatoes and insisted on stirring instead. I would sit on top of the warm bricks, next to the cast iron pots, and stir for hours. After three hours it was time to “take up the stew” and fry the cornbread.

I loved how we all came together and took hands as we gathered in a large circle. The head of the family (my grandfather and after he passed, my father), would lead us in giving thanks and each joined hand would gently squeeze the other before letting go.

Finally, we could reap the rewards for our work. Plates were filled with Brunswick stew, pulled pork, slaw, and fried cornbread. Then they filled again with brownies, pig pickin' cake, lemon pound cake, thick slices of pie, and occasionally, ice cream.

We made between 200 - 250 quarts of stew each year, to be shared with family and friends. It was kept in the freezer and sustained us all winter.   

After my grandmother's death in 2013, I received boxes of her cookbooks and recipes jotted down on envelopes or advertisements for fertilizer. Some were just newspaper clippings. I received all of this during a time when, as a pastry chef, I was beginning to delve into my own history and re-create the desserts of my people. 

The earlier recipes are written in cursive so neat you can almost see the lines of the grade school primer it was practiced in. The later recipes become smaller, cramped, and more hurried, making them illegible to the untrained eye. Sometimes there were just notes denoting "good" recipes.

As I worked my way through the scraps of paper and fragile books, I put the ingredients together in my head, tasting every dessert on the sideboard at Christmas and every contribution from my aunts at the annual Brunswick stew.  But it was my grandmother’s lemon pound cake that was in evidence at every gathering.  

The first bite was so good — the tart-sugary glaze on the pillowy, yellow-tasting cake.  The second bite was to make sure that yes, you can taste yellow. To this day, it is the only cake my brother will eat.

My assumption that this cake was a made-from-scratch triumph was quickly shattered when I asked my mother for her copy of the recipe and saw that a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and instant yellow pudding were two of the key ingredients.  I wanted to make the legendary cake for my brother's birthday.  This was years before my grandmother had passed and I was at the very beginning of my pastry career.  (I’m now 33). 

I tried to reverse-engineer it — omitting the instant pudding and cake mix (the horror!) and adding in real lemon zest and juice — but the results were never as good.  Some things are best left alone.  My grandmother understood, after all, that a cake is just a reason to gather together.

Lemon Pound Cake

Note:  Kelly says that she often uses a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment and beats the batter for 8 minutes.  Her grandmother did it by hand for 10.  Pour the batter into a large loaf pan that has been brushed with oil and lightly floured.  Although the handwritten recipe does not include instructions for icing, Kelly prepares a thin glaze made from 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar and 2 to 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.    

INGREDIENTS: 

1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 box instant lemon pudding
2/3 cups water
1/2 cup Mazola oil
4 eggs
Lemon flavoring to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Put in mixing bowl and beat for 10 min.
Preheat oven at 325. Cook for 1 hour
Does better if you do not open the oven door until the hour is up.
Makes 1 cake

20170603_192054.jpg

Kelly Spivey (left) and her grandmother, Elizabeth Braswell Spivey (above)

Pizza da Vovó (Grandma’s Pizza) • Ligia Mostazo

Brett Rawson

Note from Curator Rozanne Gold:  I met Brazilian journalist Ligia Mostazo one evening at the New School where I was guest lecturer during Stacey Harwood-Lehman’s “Food Narrative” class.  Ligia is a currently a student, honing her prowess as an essayist and food writer.  I was quite happy that she wanted to share a part of her history, but was even more impressed that in addition to perfecting her storytelling skills, she tested her recipe several times before sending it to us.  I know from personal experience how challenging it can be to make pizza dough in a home oven!  Many, many thanks to Ligia. 

Note from Ligia:  I am journalist. Although I have worked in hard news, I prefer texts that are more enduring. That’s why I became a screenwriter and editor of documentaries.  In the Summer of 2014 I moved from São Paulo, Brazil, to live in New York, where my journalist husband is working as an international correspondent for a Brazilian Broadcast news service.  We have two sons: João is 24 and is a graduate student in Literature. Thiago, who’s 22, lived for one year in New York with us, and went back to Brazil, where he’s an undergraduate student in journalism (one more!). They both now live together in São Paulo.  I always loved to cook and as I have to cook almost every day here in New York, I decided to explore new flavors, ingredients and recipes. Surfing the internet, I found the Food Narratives classes at The New School, where I was introduced to this lovely “Handwritten” project.

Pizza da Vovó by Ligia Mostazo

This pizza recipe is considered one of my family’s treasures. The tradition to bake began with my great grandfather, Manoel Mostazo, who moved to Brazil in the early 1900s from Periana, a small city in the south of Spain.  He left his hometown after an earthquake devastated the city and his family. Manoel was a young man with an entrepreneurial spirit and soon started his own business, a bakery. 

This bakery was the first in Santo Andre, a city nearby São Paulo where my family grew up, and became a business passed down from generation to generation. My great-grandfather learned to make pizza, cookies, and many varieties of bread from the best bakers he knew. He taught my grandfather, Antonio, who taught my father, Walter, from whom I inherited the love and respect for all things that grow with yeast and turn into food in the oven.

My father owned his own bakery, but it did not survive the Brazilian economic crisis in the 1970s. With three kids to raise, my mother, Elza, had the brilliant idea to sell homemade pizza dough, their bakery’s signature dish. The first clients were friends and family who already knew the delicious pizzas from the Saturday dinners in our house. Local rotisseries and restaurants became clients as well. We adapted our garage to house a professional oven, a big table, and other tools. My siblings and I helped my parents attend to clients. We usually had to make more than 500 pizza discs per week.
 
For more than fifteen years this was our job. Working together, we were able to afford the bills and keep the legacy of our family alive. Eventually, my siblings and I went different ways.  None of us became bakers. But pizza is still a great reason to gather the family around the table. 

Our favorite toppings continue to be mozzarella, simple and delicious; smoked sausage and onions; caned tuna, corn and onions. All of these sit upon a layer of fresh tomatoe and are finished with oregano and olive oil as soon as they come out of the oven.

In the early 2000s, when my father was teaching my sons how to make the best pizza dough, we decided to write the recipe down. In honor of my mother, we called the recipe Pizza da Vovó, which means, Grandma’s Pizza. I think this moment was the first time the recipe was written down! Although we now have the recipe, we never made pizza without my parents around. 

I had my first experience baking pizza alone in New York, far from my parents, far from home, and far from my country. I did it to take the pictures that you see here. My first attempt was frustrating. The dough was too soft. I called my father, who did not answer the phone. I didn’t have much time because the yeast was working fast. I was nervous. It was my sister-in-law who saved me with a simple piece of advice. “Follow your instinct,” she said, “add flour and try to remember how you felt the dough in your hands when you used to make it with your parents.”  

I recovered my self-confidence, but it did not work very well. After baking, the dough was too harsh. When I finally got to talk to my father he said the same: “follow your feelings and add the flour slowly, you will know when it is good.” 

The second time, the recipe worked and I could make the recipe adjustments needed to give you the correct quantities. Now that this recipe has been tested and approved, it can go on to nourish future generations.

 

Grandma’s Pizza

(translated from Portuguese by the author)

1-kilo (2.2 lbs) all-purpose flour
100 grams fresh yeast
200 ml vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
500 ml water

Step 1. Crumble the fresh yeast in a big bowl and add sugar. Wait until the yeast dissolves and then add water, salt and oil. Mix the ingredients well and add the flour little by little.  Mix until the dough is smooth and unglued from the bowl

Step 2. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Reshape the dough into seven balls of the same size and put them on a lightly floured surface. Cover the dough and let it rest about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, put six to eight (it depends on the size) ripe tomatoes in a blender, process quickly and rest in the refrigerator. 

Step 3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Press one dough ball at a time on the work surface with your hands, adding flour as needed to roll the dough until it is as thin as you want.** Fold the flat dough in a half and transfer to the baking sheet.  Unfold the dough and press down around the edges. Transfer the processed tomatoes into a colander with a plate underneath so it does not retain water. Sprinkle salt to taste, mix and spread a thin layer of tomato over the dough. Bake for about 5 minutes. The idea is to make a pre-baked dough.  It will be ready when the lower part is baked and light in color. The pre-baked dough can be used immediately, refrigerated for a week, or frozen for up to six months.

Step 4. Heat the oven to 350-400 degrees. Spread your favorite pizza toppings on the pre-baked dough and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

** If you want to make mini-pizzas, divide the ball into four parts and open each of them by hand doing a small edge. Then follow the same steps listed above.