The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Cold Weather Comforts

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1990

Issue: January, 1990

When the weather dips in the single digit numbers and the wind is howling around the corner of the house, everyone wants to curl up with some nice, comforting hot homemade things to eat and drink. The hot chocolate recipe was one I was given in Home Ec. class in 1959 and I am sure it was probably given to Home Ec. classes for years prior to that. It's more trouble than most people would go to in this cook it in an instant day and age, but if all you have ever tasted is instant cocoa, you're in for a real treat with a little work.

Real Hot Chocolate

This is the richest cup of hot chocolate you have ever tasted. It can be topped with whipped cream, a marshmallow or a scoop of ice cream for a real treat.

1/4 square chocolate (1/4 oz.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup milk
pinch salt
2 drops vanilla extract (not flavoring)

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Add the sugar, the water and then cook to a thick syrup (about 15 minutes). Add the milk, cook an additional 10 minutes. Place over hot water for a half hour if time permits. Then add the few grains of salt and the vanilla. Beat the beverage with a mixer just before serving. Serve very hot. Makes one serving.

What else do our thoughts turn to on a winter's day except taking the time to make a batch of homemade yeast bread. Oh, the thoughts of the aroma floating through your kitchen alone are enough to motivate most cooks. This recipe is especially nice because you can store the dough in your refrigerator and pinch off pieces of it to make rolls for several days.

Overnight Refrigerator Rolls

2 packages quick acting dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup soft or melted shortening
2 eggs well beaten
8 to 8 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Soften yeast in warm water. Add shortening, sugar, eggs, 4 cups flour and salt. Stir in the remaining flour (use hands to work in last 2 cups). This will be a soft dough. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator overnight or until needed. When ready to use, punch down and pinch off one third. Cover remaining dough and store in the refrigerator. Shape into rolls and place in a greased 9 x 9 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise in warm place for one hour.

Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn out on wire rack. Serve warm. One third of dough makes 12 pan rolls. You may wish to shape dough into a loaf and let rise and bake in a loaf pan.

Option: brush tops of rolls with melted butter before baking for a softer roll. Brush dough with egg white before baking for a glazed roll. You can also sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.

What winter day is complete without a hearty soup? The following soup is a quick one that tastes like you have had it simmering for hours.

Cream Of Corn Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 can creamed corn
2 cups milk
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
a dash of black pepper (course ground has more flavor)

Melt butter and add celery and onion. Sauté until tender over a medium heat. Stir in flour well so that there will be no lumps in the soup. Add other ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Serve hot. Makes four to five servings.

You have to have a good country desert to top off a winter's day. What better one than hot gingerbread, right out of the oven, with a pat of butter melting into it slowly?

Ginger Bread

1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons soda
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and add the sugar, molasses and buttermilk. Sift flour, salt, soda, allspice and ginger and add to liquid mixture. Mix well. Place in a well greased and floured loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven until a straw or flat toothpick inserted into gingerbread comes out clean. This is the way all old timey cooks tested for a cake's doneness. They usually inserted a broom straw. You can buy tiny kitchen brooms for this purpose in gourmet shops and kitchen centers of major department stores. Our grandmothers usually grew the broom straw themselves.

Now, if you make all of the above recipes at one time, you will have a complete meal to satisfy everyone on a cold wintry day. The only thing you could do to make it more like an old fashioned winter day in the Blue Ridge would be to bake sweet potatoes, pop home grown corn or parch peanuts over an open fire!