I made the first batch of chili this season last Sunday. Usually the first night we eat it, we’ll have tortilla chips and all the fixings to go along with. But on the second night I always make cornbread. And the third night we usually make chili dogs, but I digress.

The cornbread. I’ve been making this recipe for as long as I can remember – it’s delicious and moist, and holds up well extremely well when dunked in thick chili or soups. Cornbread is one of those things that is fun to experiment with additions – cheese, chilis, different herbs and spices. Mix it up a little bit.

You guys know me, usually my favorite way to mix it up is by adding Old Bay – and it was a good call on my part. The savory spicy flavor of the seasoning was a wonderful contrast to the sweet nature of the cornbread. And it always looks so pretty sprinkled on top of anything.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first cornbread post here on Tide & Thyme – kinda embarrassing, right? If you’re looking for the dense, sweet “wet” cornbread commonly found here on the Shore (also known as spoonbread) – I’m working on it, but not quite there yet. If anyone has any favorite recipes for that style, I’d love to see them.

But for now here is my go-to sturdy staple, enjoy!

One of my favorite things in this world is a soft chewy pretzel. Sadly, most of the pretzels you find commercially these days are just sub-par excuses for what a pretzel should be – doughy twists of sadness. Sure, they’re edible dunked in mustard or cheese sauce, but I’m trying to live my best life y’all. Life is too short to eat shitty pretzels.

I’d made pretzel buns a few years ago, and they were surprisingly easy. Not to mention that they turned out absolutely delicious, and gorgeous. I was worried about the whole boiling process, but it was no big thing  – it’s as easy as cooking pasta.

These pretzel bites use the same process. There isn’t much rising time for the dough, so they can be made in a relatively short timeframe – perfect for snacking/munching/party purposes. They’re addicting, and you can’t help but eat “just one more”.

Then, there’s the sauce. Beer and cheese are awesome together to begin with, but in liquid form – kicked up with a little mustard and Old Bay? Pure heaven in a bowl. Do yourself a favor and pick up a six-pack on your way home one night soon, make these pretzels, and enjoy someone’s company – or Netflix and your couch. No judgement.

Source: adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

There are few things that scream Easter to me more than a sweet, fluffy coconut cake. I shared my favorite recipe for a traditional version years ago (six to be exact y’all – T & T gettin’ old af!), and it’s amazing. But, add an additional eight layers to the party? And you really have something that’s a showstopping level of spectacular going on.

I’d tackled the world of Smith Island Cake a couple of years back, and had alot of fun making it. I went with the traditional route then, yellow cake with chocolate icing. But, Smith Island cakes come in a rainbow of flavors these days, one of which is coconut. When I saw this cake gracing the cover of an issue of Edible Delmarva last year, I knew I had to make it.

The cake is the same base recipe that I used the last go-round (word to Francis Kitching, y’all), but instead of chocolate frosting, has a delectable cooked coconut frosting in between each layer. That add up to ten layers of coconutty perfection.

I did take a trick from my traditional coconut cake and added a bit of cream of coconut and coconut extract to the batter and frosting, just to kick the coconut factor up a notch. It was impressive and delicious. I also found the frosting to be alot sturdier and less temperamental than the chocolate fudge-type frosting I’d made in the past. The perfect addition to your spring time table this Easter!

Coconut Smith Island Cake

For the cake:
8 oz (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature (plus additional for greasing pans)
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup cream of coconut

For the frosting:
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
2 cans (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 pound flaked coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Use butter to lightly grease ten 9-inch cake pans, or use 2 or 3 cake pans at a time and re-grease them as needed.

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl, whisk to combine and set aside. Combine the evaporated milk, vanilla and coconut extract, and cream of coconut in a large measuring cup, whisk to combine and set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time; beat until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Place a hefty 1/2 cup of batter into each baking pan, spreading evenly. Bake 2 or 3 layers at a time on the middle oven rack for 8 to 9 minutes. (A layer is done when you hold it near your ear and do not hear it sizzle.) We’re aiming for 10 layers, but 8 or 9 is okay!

While the cakes are baking, make the icing: Cook sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and cream of coconut in a medium pan over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken (do not boil). Remove from heat. Add 3/4 of the package of coconut, and the extracts, stir off heat until stiffens.

As the cake layers are done, run a spatula around the edge of the pan and ease out the layers. Let them cool. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate; spread 2 or 3 spoonfuls of icing on each layer. (Don’t worry if a layer tears; no one will notice when the cake is finished.) Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing; push any icing that runs onto the plate back onto the cake. Press remaining coconut onto the top and sides of the cake.

Source: adapted from Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook, via Edible Delmarva

There are few things in this world that are better than a fresh, crusty French baguette smeared with salty butter. I’ve learned to bake many breads in my kitchen, which really makes me proud – because dough, of any variety, was something that terrified me for a long time. Even once I was confident in my bread making skills, baguettes always just seemed out of my league.

A couple of weeks ago I started binge-watching The Great British Bake-Off, and the baguette episode piqued my interest. Santa had brought me a baker’s couche for Christmas – that I’m ashamed to admit was still setting in it’s package. I resolved to kick my fears to the curb and give it a go – you’ll never tackle anything new if you don’t at least try!

I’d envisioned it to be very time consuming and tedious, with a bunch of stipulations and fancy equipment needed. And I certainly never thought that if I ever did have the nerve to try it, that they’d turn out anything like a presentable baguette…

Well, I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded and incorrect on pretty much all of those fronts. Sure, the whole process does take a whole day – as in 24 hours. You start off making a “poolish” overnight , which is pretty much just a fancy word for a starter. The next day, that starter is then dumped into the other ingredients to make the dough, which has a couple rises ahead of itself, as well as shaping and final proofing – before being put in the oven.

I used the same process when I made Italian Bread – it’s what gives bread that chewy and crunchy exterior. It’s definitely worth the extra time while you sleep!

I made my starter on Friday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon I was munching on the most flavorful and crispy baguette I’ve had in my life! The only special equipment you need is a couche to help the baguettes retain their shape while they rise. They’re relatively cheap (around $20), but you can totally use a flour sack dish towel instead. Word to King Arthur Flour for another winning recipe!

Crispy French Baguettes

For the poolish:
1/2 cup cool water
1/16 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the dough:
1 tsp tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt

To make the starter: Mix everything together to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well.

To make the dough: Mix and knead everything together — by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. If you’re using a stand mixer, knead for about 4 minutes on medium-low speed (speed 2 on a KitchenAid); the finished dough should stick a bit at the bottom of the bowl.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-sized bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it, folding the edges into the center, and turning it over after 1 hour. Let rise additional 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Gently deflate it, and divide it into three equal pieces.

Round each piece of dough into a rough ball by pulling the edges into the center. Cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes (up to 1 hour).

Working with one piece at a time, flatten the dough slightly then fold it nearly (but not quite) in half, sealing the edges with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough around, and repeat: fold, then flatten. Repeat this whole process again; the dough should have started to elongate itself. Click here for a video.

With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 16″ log. Taper each end of the log slightly to create the baguette’s typical “pointy” end.

Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans; or into the folds of a heavily floured cotton dish towel (or couche). Cover them with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise until they’re slightly puffy. This should take about 45 minutes to an hour at room temperature (about 68°F).

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F with a cast iron pan on the floor of the oven, or on the lowest rack. If you’re using a baking stone, place it on a middle rack. Start to heat 1 1/2 cups water to boiling.

If your baguettes have risen in a dish towel or couche, gently roll them (seam side down) onto a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. If you plan on baking them on a baking stone, roll them onto a piece of parchment, and lift the parchment onto a baker’s peel. Using a baker’s lame (a special curved blade) or a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three to five long lengthwise slashes in each baguette.

Load the baguettes into the oven. If you’re baking on a stone, use a baker’s peel to transfer the baguettes, parchment and all, onto the hot stone. Carefully pour the boiling water into the cast iron pan, and quickly shut the oven door.

Bake the baguettes — on the pan, or on a stone — for 24 to 28 minutes, or until they’re a very deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool them on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool completely in the oven, until both baguettes and oven are at room temperature.

Store any leftover baguettes in a paper bag overnight; freeze for longer storage. Thaw and reheat just before serving.

Source: King Arthur Flour