Food & Drink | January 2020

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Cherished Family Heirlooms

On this past Thanksgiving Day, Andrea Barefield posted just one picture to Facebook. It wasn’t a family group photo or a picture of a dining table loaded down with all the makings of a huge holiday meal.

Instead, it was a simple photo of a cake pan, buttered and floured and ready for some batter.

“This Bundt pan is at least as old as I am,” Barefield wrote on her post. “It was my Grandmother’s. This pan has been sung over, prayed over, loved over by one of Heaven’s best. Know when you get gifts from it, they are truly gifts of love!”

Barefield inherited the pan from her grandmother, Eula Mae Johnson, who was a homemaking teacher at Booker T. Washington High School and then Teague High School in Teague, which is about 55 miles east of Waco. Her husband, A.M. Johnson, was a school principal in Teague.

For most of her growing up years, Barefield — Waco City Council member and executive director of Texas Brazos Trail — would spend summers with her grandparents. “The week school let out, I went to my grandmother’s house until the week before school started again,” she said, and that’s where she learned to bake.

“My grandmother was a baker, so my sweet potato pies, my Bundt cake, my pound cake, all of that came from her,” Barefield said. “I love to bake and always have because she loved it so. I express love through baking because I got that from her.”

And much like Barefield learned to bake from her grandmother, Nikki Wilmoth’s grandmother was an inspiration to her.

“My Meamaw, Mildred ‘Red’ Davis was a fantastic cook,” said Wilmoth, who is director of marketing communications at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor. Davis’ family grew heirloom butterbeans, which are picked when they’re young and green, then cooked with bacon and sugar, with a little evaporated milk added at the end.

“With butterbeans, this sweet cornbread was a must-have accompaniment,” Wilmoth said. “For as long as I could remember, we would
break up this cornbread into a bowl and put a spoonful or two of beans with the juice over the cornbread. The sweet cornbread would soak up the sweet juice of the beans, and it was so yummy.”

Not so yummy, she said, was leftover cornbread that was crumbled into a glass and then topped with buttermilk.

“Anytime butterbeans and cornbread are on the stove in my house, I’m immediately taken back to my childhood, and it takes my family right into the kitchen with me,” she said.

While Davis always made the cornbread from scratch, Wilmoth’s mother “realized it was just a bit easier to start with the [cornbread] mix and then make it better by using Meamaw’s tricks,” Wilmoth said. And one of those tricks is to start cooking the cornbread in a skillet on the stove. The melted butter in the skillet, “gives the cornbread a nice crisp bottom,”
she said.

Wilmoth inherited from her grandmother the iron skillet used to make the sweet cornbread, and her husband has a rolling pin that has been handed down through his family.

“My grandmother-in-law, Ollie Wilmoth, passed away before I could meet her, but I’ve always heard she was a great cook,” Wilmoth said. “After my father-in-law died a few years ago, my husband acquired the rolling pin. Anytime I try a new bread, pasta or cookie dough that requires rolling, I pull out Grandma Wilmoth’s rolling pin. It is the only one I own now.”

For this month’s recipes, we’ve included two pound cakes from Barefield and a lemon sauce that can be served over the Cream Cheese Pound Cake. There’s Wilmoth’s recipe for Sweet Cornbread, and a savory frittata that’s also prepared in an iron skillet.

The marble slab in the photo belongs to Kathleen Seaman. She said it’s as old as her — 33 — if not older. Her dad, Jack McKinney, retired executive director of the Dr Pepper Museum, bought the slab when he was out on a shopping excursion when he worked for the Science Place in Dallas. Although McKinney might be guilty of overbuying at times, “this thing turned out to be pretty cool,” his daughter said.

“It’s been used as a cutting board, a pastry slab or just general workspace in the kitchen,” she said. “But it’s got a good-size gash in it now, and the original feet have come off.” So when her parents were ready to replace the slab, they passed it on to Seaman and her husband, Joe.

The Recipes

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Lemon Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
  • Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a Bundt pan; set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, and incorporate fully before adding the next. Add the flour all at once and mix until well combined. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 80 minutes. Use a toothpick or cake tester and start checking for doneness after 60 minutes. The cake is ready when the tester comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Slice and serve with Lemon Sauce, whipped cream and fresh berries.

Makes about 12 servings.
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Lemon Sauce

  • 3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. When the sauce begins to thicken, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and zest and vanilla. Stir until combined.

Taste and add more sugar or vanilla if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature over the pound cake. Add whipped cream and fresh berries, if desired.
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Mahogany Pound Cake

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Fresh berries (optional)

Heat oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a Bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. With the mixer on medium, gradually add the sugar and brown sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cocoa together. In another bowl, combine the sour cream and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the batter, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just blended after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Serve with whipped cream dusted with cocoa powder and fresh berries, if desired.

Makes about 12 servings.
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Mildred “Red” Davis/Sandy Davis’ Sweet Cornbread

  • 1 package of cornbread mix, such as Jiffy or Morrison’s Corn-Kits
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar (more if you want a sweeter cornbread)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter

Heat oven to 425 F. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornbread mix, egg, sugar and buttermilk. Mix well.

Heat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it just begin to sizzle. Add the cornbread mixture. Leave on the stove until it just begins to bubble, then transfer to the hot oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it’s nicely browned on top. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Place a plate over the skillet and invert the skillet and plate, releasing the cornbread onto the plate. Slice and serve.

Makes about 8 servings.
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Leek, Mushroom and Grits Frittata

  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup uncooked regular grits
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely shredded (about 3/4 cup), divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 pound smoked sausage, chopped
  • 12 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, chopped (1 cup chopped)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • Fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 425 F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring stock to a boil. Whisk in the grits and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, until grits are thickened and tender, 8-10 minutes.

Uncover and stir in butter, cream cheese, 1 1/2 ounces of the Parmesan, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, until butter and cheese are melted. The mixture will be thick. Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature until ready to use.

In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausage until browned and crisp on all sides, 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet.

Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin releasing liquid, 5-6 minutes. Add leek and cook, stirring often, until tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe the skillet clean.

Whisk together the eggs, milk and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Stir in grits mixture, vegetables and sausage. Pour the mixture into the skillet.

Bake until almost set, 15-20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to broil. Sprinkle the remaining ounce Parmesan over the top and broil until top of frittata is slightly golden, 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven, and garnish frittata with thyme before serving, if desired.

Makes about 6 servings.
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