Banny’s Famous Chocolate Pie

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What’s in a name? The name of this post might have drawn you to this recipe, wondering who someone named “Banny” was. Or maybe it was the pictures, worth a thousand words. Either way, you’re going to get the story, as every good recipe should have a story behind it. Banny was my great-grandmother, a tough, outspoken, petite woman of the South. You know, the type to fuss at the preacher man for not getting by to see her more often. Banny was also a dedicated woman, loyal to her faith and her family, even when it wasn’t easy. I have few things of hers today, a few jewelry pieces my mother gave me, a pair of fancy red gloves. I will probably inherit some of her old clothes my mom keeps in a cedar chest. And I still have her smell. Smells are easy memories. But perhaps the thing I have the most is her recipe for chocolate pie.

It was one of the first pies I made, and it is, at the same time, both one of the best and one of the most difficult. Perhaps that’s what family gives us: delight and joy in the midst of serious effort. Her chocolate pie takes time to cook – the pudding filling is real, not some jello-based faux pas. The pie shell must be baked ahead. The meringue must be whipped, perfectly, and remember, Banny would have made meringue with a true hand mixer, an old-timey metal contraption with a crank and two mix-hands that whirred into each other, slowly. And then it must be baked again to seal the meringue on top and finish the perfect, beautiful topping that is a chocolate meringue pie. I am proud of this pie, each time I make it, because it is a piece of my past, a piece of a strong woman who knew what it took to create something beautiful. I hope you do, too. Enjoy.

 

Ingredients

Pie filling:

2 1/2 tbsp. flour (all purpose)

2 egg yolks

3 tbsp. cocoa

2 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 deep dish pie shell

Topping:

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

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Directions:

1. Pre-cook pie shell at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden.

2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites, putting the whites into a small bowl, and the yolks into a nonstick pot (or the top of a double boiler; I find either works).

3. Add the rest of the pie ingredients to the pot (the flour, cocoa, milk, sugar and vanilla). Cook on medium heat until pudding “consists.” (These are the original directions; this word mainly means until the pudding starts to thicken.)

4. Pour the chocolate pudding into the cooked pie shell.

5. Prepare the topping by beating the egg whites until stiff, then adding the sugar and vanilla. Pour the meringue topping over the chocolate pudding layer and spread evenly.

6. Cook on 350 for about 10 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown.

7. Allow to cool, then refrigerate to make sure it solidifies well. Keep refrigerated. Best enjoyed either slightly warmed or cold.

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Matthew’s Take: The chocolate pudding portion of Banny’s pie is the best I’ve ever eaten. What makes it even better: This pie is part of our family history. When you combine the chocolate pudding with a golden crust and the creamy, slightly crunchy meringue, you get one of the best desserts you’ll put in your mouth. This recipe gets my highest marks for taste. I will warn you that it’s not the simplest of pies to make, but just take that as an opportunity to bake and enjoy something uniquely special.

Molly’s Take: Clearly, this pie is one of my favorites. The strategy of baking the pie shell first, as well as the limited amount of time the pie actually spends in the oven, ensures that the shell itself doesn’t burn as easily as it tends to do in many pies. So you end up with a perfectly done pie shell, a creamy, chocolate pudding center, and a toasted, sweet meringue topping. I like this pie warmed or cold. It’s truly a treat.

Foodie Travels: Hamrick’s Country Store & Grill, Cleveland County, NC

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The more I travel this amazing country of ours, I can picture the evolution of the American restaurant, living out the timeline of growth through my own eating stops.

In the past year especially, I’ve noticed a specific trend from the past that’s getting harder to find — the country grocery and diner. From Texas to Mississippi to my home state of North Carolina, I’ve experienced the wonderfully familiar feeling of walking into a longtime business that houses both convenience items, groceries and a restaurant. Or, in some cases, these places used to offer all of those goods and services. Many of the former “grocery” spots that also serve made-to-order food have turned into one or the other — but not all have changed completely.

A visit to Hamrick’s Country Store & Grill is a blissful step back in Southern time.

The roadside corner shop is a convenience and home goods store in the front and a meat counter and grill in the back. You can pick up fresh meat, hand-canned goods, a made-to-order cheeseburger or meat-and-vegetable plate and a snack for on down the road, all in one place.

“Speak up, or you’ll be hungry.”

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Photo Credit: @hamricksgrillandstore on Facebook

When you step to the back grill counter, the wait and cook staff exudes familiarity. Even if they don’t know you, they’ll welcome your order and bring it out to you. If they do know you, expect to be greeted by name. And either way, don’t be shy, or you might hear the prodding statement above.

I’ve known people who’ve eaten for many years at Hamrick’s, which as the crow flies is just a couple of miles from where my Dad grew up here in western North Carolina. Most repeat diners I’ve known are fans of the burger off the Hamrick’s grill, and so am I.

It’s like unwrapping a homemade burger, right off the grill. You can get other toppings, but I like mine with what I call the basics: lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The tomato is like a thick cut you’d slice yourself, and the hearty bun aptly houses the whole sandwich.

“Anything else I can get for you today, hon?”

When you step toward the front register to pay, the friendly experience comes full circle. There are plenty of options to take with you from the country store. On a recent visit, I spotted a handmade book shelf, cookbooks from a nearby church, jars of home-canned food, and plenty of convenience items like bottled drinks, snacks and more.

What Hamrick’s offers in hometown gusto, it lacks in frilly and impersonal modern commercial culture. And that makes it a good place to pick up a biscuit for breakfast, pause for lunch, gather the family for supper, stop to stock up for the road, or even make a few new friends.

It’s places like Hamrick’s that connect our fond memories of the past with the lives we lead in the present.

Hamrick’s Country Store & Grill, 3142 Cliffside Road, Shelby

Phone: (704) 313-7270

Foodie Travels: Sunny’s Donuts, Gaffney, S.C.

Pay careful attention as you near the intersection of Granard, Logan and Yale streets in Gaffney, S.C. You don’t want to miss this.

It looks like a convenience store and gas station, and it is. But Sunny’s Quik Stop offers so much more on one corner of the shop.

Look for the blue and orange-yellow sign that announces “Sunny’s Donuts.” It’s flanked on each side by “Voted Best Donut Shop in South Carolina” signs. And you know you’re in South Carolina because one of those signs offers University of South Carolina Gamecocks colors and the other Clemson University Tigers colors.

Most importantly, inside you’ll find a donut display case that offers a plethora of tasty treats. There’s everything from basic donuts to bear claws to peach fritters and more. If I had to liken the donuts to something familiar for everyone, I’d say they’re more Dunkin’ than Krispy Kreme. But don’t let that deter you if you have a hard allegiance to a brand and product. This place is special, and with all of the establishments you’ll find on #FoodieScore it’s all about the one-of-a-kind angle.

The shop and its owners have a unique story behind them. You can read more about that here.

There is a convenience store in the other part of the building, but the Donut wing is what makes this a destination more than just a stop on the highway.

Many of the treats you choose will provide more than you’re able to eat in one sitting. So bring the family or a group of friends, prepare to take some home and go ahead and make plans to come back when you get to Gaffney.

Unique donut shops and bakeries are commonplace in big cities, but they’re somewhat of a rare breed these days in some small towns in the South. Don’t pass this one.

Sunny’s Donuts

720 S. Granard St., Gaffney, S.C.

More on Facebook (And let their Instagram posts tempt you each day.)

Simple Crockpot Apple Butter

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Imagine the scent of apples and autumn. When Matthew and I made apple butter (twice!) over the past few weeks, our home smelled gloriously like fall, cinnamon, apples and allspice. After a visit to the Lincoln County Apple Festival, we found ourselves in possession of a peck of apples. With nearly 40 on our hands, we decided to try a recipe for crockpot apple butter. An old Methodist cookbook provided us with a fantastic recipe. (We only tweaked a few things – removing cloves, for instance.) It was simple enough: peel and chop the apples to fill the crockpot, cook, measure, add other ingredients and continue to cook. The total cooking time was over 12 hours, but using the crockpot made it easy. We only had to check it from time to time. When we were finally done with both batches, we had 6 full jars (half-pint-size) of apple butter. One batch we made with green apples – the other with red. Both resulted in delicious, smooth, spreadable, sweet apple butter. If you ever find yourself with a peck of apples, we encourage you to try this recipe, too. Don’t forget to share!

Crockpot Apple Butter

Ingredients
8 cups cooked apples (takes about 15 uncooked apples)
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice

Directions
1. Peel and chop enough apples to fill the crockpot. (We found we needed at least 15.)
2. Cook on high for several hours until the apples begin to cook into pieces.
3. Measure the cooked apples and put 8 cups back in the crockpot. Mix in all other ingredients and stir.
4. Cook on high until hot, then turn down to low and cook for 8-12 hours.
5. Remove the lid and cook just until the mixture is of spreading consistency.
6. Jar and enjoy! Apple butter is delectable on a bagel, croissant, biscuit, toast and more!

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Chocolate Syrup Pound Cake

This delicious chocolate cake recipe came from a news story I did as a reporter for The Star. A couple in Shelby turned their grandmother Nell’s old home into Nell’s Farm House, a place for quiet, country lodging near Shelby and Gardner-Webb University. Included in your stay is access to some of Nell’s amazingly unique recipes, like this Chocolate Syrup Pound Cake.

I was very excited to make it, mainly because of the unique ingredient of chocolate syrup, as opposed to using the more traditional ingredient: cocoa. I wanted to see how it changed the flavor and texture. So how was it? The flavor is delicious, and the texture, dense. It is a pound cake after all. But let me tell you this – its chocolate-y taste does not need icing.

Ingredients

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup Crisco

3 cups sugar

3 large eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Dash of salt

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 lb. can chocolate syrup

Directions

1. Cream the butter, Crisco and sugar. Beat well.

2. Add eggs, one at a time.

3. Add chocolate syrup and vanilla.

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4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

5. Mix the dry mixture into the chocolate mixture, alternating with adding the milk.

6. Pour into a buttered and floured Bundt cake pan.

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7. Start in a cold oven. Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. Do not open the door for one hour.

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Molly’s take: I love the different taste you get using chocolate syrup in this cake. It makes it a little richer and more chocolate-y than if you had used cocoa. I also love that, unlike most pound cake recipes, this one truly is delicious enough not to need icing or frosting. Definitely one I’ll try again! Maybe with a tall glass of milk…

Matthew’s take: A thick slice of this cake and a glass of milk is the perfect pairing for a delicious dessert or snack. I believe the chocolate syrup makes the cake more moist than cocoa does, and I think that moisture helped keep the cake from getting dry after a few days. But we also didn’t have to worry about the cake getting dry because it was so good that it didn’t sit around for long. If you want a solid cake that stands alone, try this recipe.