Forsyth County: Moravian Sugar Cake

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After a short hiatus, the project “Discovering North Carolina” is in full swing again and I am so happy to be able to share my experiences researching this great state. This is the first of three articles that will display the experiences I’ve had over the course of the past nine months and will leave you with three recipes, one representing each designated county. Check out my page Discovering North Carolina for project details and previous posts.

After attending the Got to be NC Festival and briefly learning about the Moravian culture, I continued my research for Forsyth County to gain a better understanding of its unique food culture. I browsed Old Salem’s website and corresponded with a couple of Forsyth County locals as I planned a visit to Old Salem Museums & Gardens. I was eager to stop by The Tavern for lunch to learn more about the traditional food and what life was like in this Moravian community.

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Salem, NC, currently known as Winston-Salem, was founded in 1766 by a Protestant denomination seeking religious freedom who traveled from Bohemia and Moravia (currently known as the Czech Republic) to Pennsylvania and finally Salem, North Carolina. The settlers, known as Moravians, kept records of their lives, recipes or ‘receipts’ of what they ate, which allows for the Moravian food culture to be continued to this day.

I had the opportunity to bring my parents, who were visiting from Wisconsin, on a day trip to Old Salem. They were happy to browse through the Moravian history and culture as my father’s genealogy includes Bohemian heritage. As we eagerly waited for lunch at The Tavern, Lori who co-owns the restaurant spent some time with us discussing the Moravian food-ways they were striving to recreate. She expressed the importance of using seasonal foods, fresh produce from the gardens and using only items that would have been traded such as molasses and brown sugar in her pies and desserts. We also discussed her stance on using white or dark meat in the Moravian chicken pie, as this is an on-going debate among Forsyth natives. We sank our teeth into the savory grilled cornbread, crisp pear salad and flaky, tender, all white meat chicken pie. Dad enjoyed the fried chicken liver platter and we all savored each bite, embracing the sights and the sounds of the staff dressed in Moravian attire bustling around the hardwood floors. Our server enticed us with six mouth-watering dessert options to complete the meal. After a fairly quick decision, we smiled happily and let the luscious German Chocolate Pie and the warm, melt-in-your-mouth Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie consume us.

As we strolled around the town, Winkler’s Bakery was high on my priority list of places to visit. Before visiting Old Salem, I knew baked goods such as Moravian Ginger Cookies, Lovefeast Buns, Lemon Tarts and Moravian Sugar Cake were all favorites. Walking into the cool, brick building and being surrounded by the sweet aroma of yeast and sugar, we couldn’t resist sampling the sugar cake and sweet yeast roll. The interpreter dressed in his baker’s attire gave us a history lesson of how Christian Winkler bought the bakery in 1807 and discussed how each of the desserts were incorporated traditionally in holiday celebrations.

After choosing which sweet treats I wanted to take home with me, I had the opportunity to discuss the history of Moravian food with Joanna Roberts, Assistant Director of Interpretation at Old Salem. She discussed how sugar cake was known as a “Great Cake” in the 16-17th centuries, and later named “Sugar Cake” in the 19th century. A Great Cake was defined as any cake made from yeast, eggs, milk and butter. Sugar Cake was different in that it frequently contained potatoes, as most do to this day. According to Mrs. Hanes from Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies, the main purpose for using potatoes was to keep the dough moist and prevent it from drying out too quickly.

On the drive home I reflected on my experience at Old Salem and what I learned about the Moravian culture and food ways. The next step was to decide on a recipe which defined Moravian life. After much thought, I decided Moravian Sugar Cake would be the recipe of choice I would try my hand at making. After browsing through Preserving the Past, various recipes online and testing one recipe, I finally found a recipe that fit the buttery taste, soft texture and sweet flavor I was aiming for. Although Sugar Cake mixes and pre-made Sugar Cakes are available to purchase at Old Salem or Dewey’s, making your own from scratch brings the experience full circle.

Forsyth County may be known for being the home of Krispy Kreme, but the Moravian Sugar Cake has become a staple for holiday celebrations. Forsyth County and Old Salem have much to offer as they aim to celebrate their past heritage and unparalleled food culture. If you’re making your way to North Carolina during the summer or holidays, activities such as participating in a Lovefeast, learning the history of the Moravian Star or sampling the traditional Moravian fare may be just the ticket to embrace the unique food culture of this historical county.

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Moravian Sugar Cake

Slightly adapted from Winklers Moravian Sugar Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients:

Cake:

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup water (110 degrees F)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided

3/4 cup water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon whole milk

6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

1 tablespoon butter, sliced into bits

Topping:

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup melted cooled butter

Directions:

Pour yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar into warm water, stir with wire whisk until yeast dissolves. Set aside until liquid has foamed. Combine dry ingredients (sugar, instant mashed potatoes, salt, 1 cup flour) in large bowl and mix with wooden spoon. Add wet ingredients (3/4 cup water, yeast mixture, eggs, milk, butter) to dry mixture, stir to combine. Gradually add remaining flour to mixture and combine to form a soft bread dough consistency. (This is not intended to be kneaded.) Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat thoroughly. Place the one tablespoon of butter bits into dough. Let dough rise in warmed oven until it doubles in size, about an hour. Punch dough down, transfer and spread in greased 9×13 baking pan with 2 inch sides. Let rise for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Punch fingers into dough, making small holes. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 cup of melted cooled butter over the dough to cover, let dough rise 30 minutes. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 13-14 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and is golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy!

Tip: Cake can be frozen and reheated in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

Resource: The Town of Salem. http://www.oldsalem.org/learn/the-town-of-salem/ Accessed October 11, 2014. Updated March 3, 2015.

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Post-semester Raleigh Staycation

My first week/weekend free in months. What does a girl do? Celebrate of course!

IMG_0268Bida Manda – Raleigh, with the lovely ladies I spent the semester with

IMG_0279Trampled by Turtles Concert- an awesome experience reflecting on the time since I first saw these guys at Waterfront Bar at UW-Stout to where I am today

IMG_0283Pretty happy with this homemade lunch creation

IMG_0325Indulging at Raleigh Brewing with good friends, Katie & Tara and my love, Michael

 

Took advantage of the brilliant sunshine & 57 degree day at the North Carolina Museum of Art-Museum Park.

IMG_0289Received new Christmas ornaments from mom and dad!

Enjoyed another gorgeous day hiking at Umstead State Park with my love. Incredible lunch at La Farm Bakery.

Putting into practice what I learned in Food and Society…indulging in food from past memories of home- WI and embracing new memories of home here in NC with chocolate from Escazu, Raleigh.

Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the semester 🙂

Exploring Southern Foodways with John T. Edge

It’s not everyday that an aspiring food writer has the opportunity to learn from a distinguished Southern food writer such as John T. Edge. Opportunities like this one leads me to believe that the path that I’m on is where I’m suppose to be. The Masters of Nutrition Program at Meredith College has opened up so many doors in the last four years, and continues to. Last Monday night I had the privilege to be in a room full of nutrition grad students and listen to John T.’s journey in becoming an iconic Southern food writer.

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John T. began by giving us a brief explanation how his Southern roots gave him the inspiration to change careers and earn a Master’s Degree in Southern Studies. This has allowed him to write about the South’s identity around food. Topics such as farming cash crops, race, poverty and power are near to John T., as his work for the Southern Foodways Alliance documents and educates about Southern foodways. Thinking about food in new ways and distinguishing food and place are crucial aspects when telling the story of the South.

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A couple of John T.’s main points were that the Southern food culture continues to evolve and the South is defined by culture and the people who live it. Rather than trying to preserve the culture, John T.’s work focuses on documenting the evolution of Southern Foodways, through working class people. He discussed how a newer Southern cuisine is emerging such as fried chicken from The General Muir, a restaurant located in Georgia inspired by a New York Jewish Deli. Although Southern food is evolving, we learned a little about his own food traditions. You will never find sweet cornbread on his plate and holidays will always include pickled peaches.

As the discussion was wrapping up, I had a chance to gain a little insight on how I can work to become a successful food writer. Unique ideas, passion and practice are a few words that I took away and will remain with me as I continue to write. 057

After our classroom discussion, we headed over to Meredith’s Jones Auditorium to hear from an expert panel of North Carolina chefs and farmers while John T. moderated the discussion. Chefs Ashley Christensen, Scott Crawford, Ricky Moore and Andrea Reusing, along with farmers from Coon Rock Farm, Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb discussed how they celebrate the diverse variety of Southern foods. Agreeing with John T. that Southern food is continually evolving, they discussed the importance of discovering and re-discovering methods and techniques of Southern cooking to stimulate new interest with customers while continuing to reflect the Southern culture they love.

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I walked away from this event with a new sense of appreciation for Southern foodways and am eager to continue my exploration. Thank again John T. and Triangle chefs for sharing your stories with us!

Thank your farmer and celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

Have you been indulging in summer’s fresh and local produce lately? I hope you have. If not, now is the time to start. The USDA recognizes this week as National Farmers Market Week. There’s nothing better then taking in the sights and sounds of the market, tasting samples, meeting your farmer and going home to sink your teeth into juicy peaches, savory green beans and vibrant heirloom tomatoes alongside grilled grass-fed meat. In honor of this week, here are a few of the farmers I visit quite frequently in the Raleigh area. I am so thankful for their passion to grow wholesome, quality food!

Peaches

Michele’s Fresh Fruit at Raleigh Farmer’s Market

Walker Farms, Franklinville, NC

Amy from Walker Farms at Raleigh Farmer’s Market

Mae Farm Meats

Mae Farm Meats at Raleigh Farmer’s Market

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Brock and Mary Beth from Coon Rock Farm, Hillsborough, NC

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Sandra from Rainbow Meadow Farms, Snow Hill, NC

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Audrey from Two Chicks Farm, Hillsborough, NC

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Produce from Wild Onion Farms, Johnston County, NC

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Produce from Rob’s Fresh Produce, Bailey, NC

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Bruschetta made with Heirloom tomatoes from Edible Earthscapes, Moncure, NC,  baguette from La Farm Bakery, Cary, NC, basil from Wild Onion Farms, Johnston County NC.

Food for thought: Do you have a favorite farmer or farmers market? What is your favorite dish to make using local ingredients?

Ice Cream

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What crosses your mind when you hear the word Ice Cream? Is it a certain flavor, the texture or mouth-feel of this creamy, luscious dessert? Does it bring you back to warm summer evenings and the attempts made to lick the cascade of melting decadence before it drips down the side of your cone?  Ah yes… the smiles the word itself brings to faces and contentment to the heart.

The word Ice Cream, to me, brings me back to my high-school years of working at the local Dairy Queen. Not that it was REAL ice cream, it was considered close enough. I dabbled in the gelato craze, which, I do highly recommend trying. However, not until recently have I felt any strong feelings toward ice cream. When I tasted Howling Cow’s Campfire Delight my taste buds danced and I couldn’t help but smile. Now THIS is Ice Cream. THIS is what all ice cream should be remembered as. The first bites brought back the childhood remembrance of crisp cinnamon graham crackers. The hint of smooth marshmallow along with the mildly sweet chocolate chunks (yes, chunks) made this experience one to remember. And to repeat.

Where can you find Howling Cow Ice Cream? Only on North Carolina State’s Campus…..and once a year at the NC State Fair. Why I’ve lived in Raleigh for 4 years and have just stumbled upon it in Our State Magazine is beyond me. Luckily I’m beyond my dairy free days and ice cream is welcomed.

If you happen to live in this great state, or are passing by Raleigh on a late summer road trip, I highly encourage you to pick up a pint, a waffle cone or a sundae and rediscover what ice cream means to you.

Food for thought: How does ice cream relate to your life? Do you have a favorite flavor or brand? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!