Blog and Tips

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Our Bakery’s Top Tips for Baking with Chocolate

Our Bakery’s Top Tips for Baking with Chocolate

They say that cooking is love made visible, and there’s perhaps no better testament to that quote than the world’s favorite dessert: chocolate. Crack open a gooey chocolate chip cookie, bite into a homemade brownie, or cut into a chocolate lava cake, and you’ll know what we mean.

If you’re like us, sharing what you love with the people you love this Valentine’s Day means baking a whole lot of chocolaty treats. That’s why we’re sharing a few of our bakery’s tips for baking with chocolate that are bound to make your sweet treats even better.

Make Sure All of Your Surfaces and Tools are Completely Dry
A single drop of water can completely ruin a bowl of melted chocolate. Why? Water can act like a glue that causes chocolate to seize – or clump up. It’s vital that you dry all of your tools and surfaces before you start baking.

Skip the Chips
Unless a recipe specifically calls for chocolate chips, keep them in the pantry and use real chocolate instead – especially if a recipe calls for melted chocolate. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate chips are actually not designed to melt, and they have a less-intense flavor than the real deal. Chopping your own chocolate chunks might take a little extra effort, but it’s well worth it.

A Serrated Knife is the Easiest Way to Cut Chocolate
If your chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for big chunks of chocolate, a serrated knife is the best way to cut an otherwise tough chocolate block down to size.

Espresso Powder Enhances Chocolate’s Flavor
Amp up the chocolaty flavor by adding a shot of espresso or a couple of spoonfuls of extra-dark coffee (or espresso powder) into your batter. Your brownies might have an extra kick, but they won’t come out tasting like coffee.

Water Baths are a Foolproof Way to Melt Chocolate
Melting chocolate in the microwave can be tricky: take it out too soon, and you’ll have a thick, clumpy paste. Leave it in for too long, you run the risk of burning your chocolate. That’s why we recommend melting chocolate in a water bath instead. First, place a wide skillet with about one inch of water on a burner. Then place your chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl (stainless steel or tempered glass), and set the bowl directly in the water. Bring the water to a simmer, then turn off the flame and let the chocolate sit until it is melted.

Use Vegetable Oil to Thin the Chocolate
If you’re trying to dip something in chocolate (like strawberries) but the chocolate is too thick, thin it out with a bit of vegetable oil.

Don’t have extra time to spend in the kitchen? This year, skip the store-bought chocolates and treat your sweeties to a selection of house-made pastries from our bakery. Browse our pastry case Mon-Fri (9 am-3 pm), Sat (8 am-3 pm), and Sun (8 am-2 pm), or call (843) 757-0508 to place a custom order with our bakery.

The Cottage’s Italian Sesame Christmas Cookie Recipe

The Cottage’s Italian Sesame Christmas Cookie Recipe

While chestnuts roasting on an open fire sounds nice, we would much rather have Christmas cookies baking in the oven. Whether you’re heading to a neighborhood potluck, your best friend’s cocktail party, or a good old-fashioned Southern cookie swap, these Gingerbread Snickerdoodles will be the first to disappear from the dessert table. And the best part? They take less than 20 minutes to bake, making it easy to whip up a batch during the busiest time of the year.

Ingredients
2½ cups/320 grams of all-purpose flour
1teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1½ sticks), at room temperature
¼cup molasses
1¼ cups/250 grams sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, molasses, and 1 cup sugar on medium speed until creamy and smooth, scraping bowl occasionally. With machine running, add eggs and beat until incorporated, scraping bowl occasionally. Turn speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. (You can make the dough by hand, too: In a large bowl, beat butter, molasses and sugar with a wooden spoon until creamy and smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. While stirring with the spoon, gradually add flour mixture and stir until no traces of flour remain.)
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, mix remaining ¼ cup sugar, 1½ teaspoons cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon salt. Portion ¾-ounce (1½ tablespoons) dough by packing dough level into a ¾-ounce cookie scoop or scooping a rounded ball in a measuring tablespoon. Drop into the cinnamon sugar and roll to coat. Put on a prepared sheet. Repeat with dough and cinnamon sugar, spacing balls 2 inches apart, until sheet is filled.


Bake until tops crackle and bottoms are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake; the cookies should look dry and set. While first batch bakes, scoop and roll remaining dough, then bake after first batch comes out. Cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Secrets for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Secrets for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Behind every family photo of loved ones gathered around a Thanksgiving dinner table, there’s one person who’s spent two days slicing, dicing, baking, and basting. And if you’re reading this, we’re guessing that person is you.

If you’ve ever cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner, you know that it’s easy to become completely consumed (a.k.a. totally stressed out) with getting every aspect of the meal just right. The kitchen choreography needed to pull off the meal leaves most home cooks in a state of panic in the days before Thanksgiving, but there’s a way to approach the big day that saves you precious time and energy while still getting a delicious meal on the table.

Don’t Do It All Yourself
You don’t have to make everything yourself to enjoy a made-from-scratch meal. If the prospect of making multiple trips to the grocery, spending long hours in the kitchen, and hosting over 10 hungry people sounds overwhelming (which, yes – yes it does), then look no further than The Cottage’s Thanksgiving menu. Our gourmet stuffing, green bean casserole, and classic pumpkin pie are sure to have your guests going back for seconds, and yes, you can even say that you made it yourself.

Cook Ahead
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how many people wait to make mashed potatoes and pies on the morning of Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes reheat beautifully in the oven or a slow cooker. If you aren’t stuffing the bird, the dressing can be made ahead and baked right before dinner. Almost all the desserts can be made ahead of time. Even if you can’t cook the whole dish, you can do prep work ahead of time. Peeling potatoes, pre-measuring ingredients, and layering the casserole can save you hours on the big day.

Have Tasks Ready for Your Sous Chefs
Instead of pushing friends and family away when they’re willing to lend a hand, let them help out in the kitchen so you can focus on one task at a time. Just make sure you have pre-planned tasks that are appropriate for our sous chefs. Serving a veggie tray? Even your cousin Becky can arrange baby carrots on a plate while she’s sipping her third glass of wine. The kids can help you crack eggs and whisk gravy, and your S.O.? Two words: trash duty.

Take Breaks
At the risk of sounding corny, carving out time for yourself is just as important as carving the turkey. If you’re on your feet all day and don’t have a bottle of water nearby while you’re over a hot stove, you’ll be so exhausted by dinner that you won’t fully appreciate the meal you worked so hard to make. Worse, you’ll be spending less time with your guests on the day that celebrates gathering together. If you have to trade baking a third pie to watch part of the football game, do it – you won’t regret it.

This year, bring The Cottage home for Thanksgiving dinner! If you’re joining us for breakfast, brunch, or lunch soon, tell a hostess, server, or manager that you would like to place a Thanksgiving order. They’ll bring the order form out to you. Mark your quantities and leave the rest to us! Call (843) 757-0508 for more information.

Five Ways to Use Pumpkin (Besides Baking Pumpkin Bread)

Five Ways to Use Pumpkin (Besides Baking Pumpkin Bread)

Ahh, fall is in the air…or maybe that’s just pumpkin bread we smell?

If you’re like us, you’ve been looking forward to the return of your favorite fall treats since, well, longer than you’d probably care to admit. There’s nothing quite like the first guilt-free bite of warm, gooey pumpkin bread when it’s finally back in season – but let’s be honest: there are only so many pumpkin bread loaves you can bake before you start to get a little sick of it. We’d all been there with banana bread during the pandemic, right?

But what do you do with all that pumpkin pureé that’s not baking a pie (and eating it all by yourself)? Here are five creative uses for pumpkin that you probably haven’t thought of yet.

1# Make Pumpkin Butter

If you’re a fan of apple butter, then pumpkin butter is about to be your new favorite fall treat. This sweet, creamy spread belongs on everything from toast to buttermilk biscuits. You can also freeze it to enjoy your favorite fall flavors all year round.

#2 Snack on Pumpkin Seeds

You might have seen bags of roasted pumpkin seeds on farmers market stands, but it’s surprisingly easy to make your own. Dry the seeds completely then bake them on a sheet with olive oil and salt, or pop your pumpkin seeds in the air fryer for an extra crispy treat.

#3 Pass Around a Pumpkin Lasagna

Move over, butternut squash ravioli – pumpkin lasagna is our new go-to dish for fall family nights and Friendsgiving parties.

#4 Sip a Homemade PSL…

The only thing better than a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly(er) fall morning is a homemade pumpkin spice latte. It’s warm, rich, and comforting – basically everything we love about the season in a mug.

#5Or a PSC (Pumpkin Spice Cocktail)

For those craving something a little stronger than a latte, check out these 15 pumpkin cocktail recipes that have us looking forward to happy hour.

From Southern comfort favorites to seasonal treats from our bakery, fall has officially arrived at The Cottage! We’re open Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm).

Destination Wedding Tips the Magazines Won’t Tell You

Destination Wedding Tips the Magazines Won’t Tell You

Beautiful beaches, winding rivers, and romantic oak trees are only a few reasons why so many couples are choosing the Lowcountry for their destination weddings. In addition to the timeless scenery, the area’s laid-back lifestyle lends a similar atmosphere to weddings and elopements. But couples know that there’s a lot of work that goes into planning a wedding – no matter the guest count or location.

Are you traveling to the Lowcountry to tie the knot? Here’s what the magazines don’t tell you about planning a destination wedding.

Arrive Early

While your guests are looking forward to your destination wedding weekend, you and your fiancé should be planning a full wedding week. Arriving at your destination a few days early will give you time to do a final venue walk-through, confirm with your vendors in person, and greet guests as they arrive.

Hand Out Welcome Bags

Party favors are a staple at any sized wedding, but for a destination wedding, trade the traditional favors for a curated welcome box with items specific to the Lowcountry. Your guests will be delighted to sample locally grown teas, small batch roasted May River Coffee Roasters coffee and handmade pastries found right here at The Cottage.

Go Local

Whether you hired a wedding planner back home, are transporting the wedding favors and bridal party gifts yourself, or simply need to get your dress from Point A to Point B, chances are, you’ll have a lot to pack the week before your wedding. And that’s not including your pre-wedding, day-of, and honeymoon bags.

Sourcing services and decor from as many local vendors as possible is not only more practical in most situations, but it’s also a way to cut back on costs. Importing exotic flowers, liquors, or – yes, we’ve seen this one go terribly wrong – a cake is typically more expensive because of the effort it takes to transport those items. Instead, look to local vendors, goods, and flora to bring your dream wedding to life. After all, you chose to get married here for a reason, so why not incorporate your destination of choice into your wedding day wherever you can?

Send Email Updates – But Don’t Overdo It

Wedding websites and invitations are a helpful (and necessary) way of relaying important information to your guests. But when you’re planning a wedding from a distance, things are almost bound to change. Ask for your guests’ email addresses when they RSVP so you can keep them in the loop with updates regarding weather contingency plans, accommodations, transportation, etc. Sending a mass email will save you a lot of phone calls (and your guests a lot of confusion) if you need to pivot your plans, but remember, only email when you must.

You deserve nothing but the best for your big day, including a gorgeous wedding cake. Our showstopping cakes are sure to wow your crowd – big or small. Give us a call at 843-757-0508 for a free wedding cake consultation today. 

Southern Cooking Debates

Southern Cooking Debates

The Great Southern Cooking Debates

If there’s one thing Southerners take seriously, it’s food. Well…maybe there are three things Southerners take seriously: Thanksgiving, cookouts, and old family recipes.

Whether she made her fried chicken with cornstarch or cornflakes, Grandma’s word – and recipes – are law. That’s why so many of our neighbors are sure they know the “right” way to make buttermilk biscuits or chicken salad…even if their recipes are a bit non-traditional.

We’re not normally ones to stir up controversy, but these Southern cooking debates have to be settled.

Cornstarch vs. Cornflake-Coated Fried Chicken

While fried chicken is traditionally made with a cornstarch batter, some people prefer to coat the chicken in crushed cornflakes for a sweet, salty, and crunchy effect (similar to that of fried chicken and waffles). But not everyone is a fan of this updated take on fried chicken, swearing that in this case, you can’t beat the classics.

Fried Chicken vs. “Baked” Fried Chicken

As if people weren’t ready to raise spatulas over the cornstarch vs. cornflakes debate, the argument over whether or not you can bake fried chicken is even more contentious below the Mason-Dixon line. While slightly healthier than the original recipe, is it worth going to the trouble of baking “fried” chicken to cut a few calories, or is it better to get your once-in-a-while fix with the original deep-fried recipe as it was meant to be made? 

Instant vs. Slow Cooked Grits

While you can churn out breakfast in a pinch with instant grits, some Southerners would say that if the word “instant” is on the label, you’re not cooking real grits at all. We might be a little biased, but one of the reasons why our Shrimp & Grits has won so many awards is that we take the time to do things the long way.

Carolina vs. Kansas City BBQ

Carolina vs. Kansas City BBQ is mostly a matter of preference. In general, Kansas City BBQ is best for beef and Carolina BBQ is best for pork. Kansas City-style barbecue is slow-cooked with a sweet sauce made from tomato soup or ketchup mixed with sugar, vinegar, and spices, while Carolina BBQ is typically made with a tangy, spicy sauce that features vinegar as the main ingredient.

Sweet Potato vs. Pecan Pie

We’ll be honest: if we see both pecan pie and sweet potato pie laid out on a dessert table, we’re going for a slice of both. But people will argue that one is the more “traditional” Southern dessert, especially around the holidays.

Craving some good ol’ Southern cooking now? We can help with that. We serve up Southern classics, sandwiches, and salads with a twist daily! We’re open for breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm).

Cooking Secrets from Your Southern Grandma’s Kitchen

Cooking Secrets from Your Southern Grandma’s Kitchen

Sometimes, you really can taste the difference an old family recipe makes. When it comes to cooking, Grandma knows best, especially if she’s Southern. One bite of her country-fried chicken or peach cobbler could take you straight back to a simpler time when food seemed to magically appear on plates. It’s a comfort we could all use every once in a while, which is why we’re sharing some of our favorite secrets from our Southern grandmas’ kitchens.

 

Use a Paper Bag to Dredge Foods for Frying

Meemaw might not have had a restaurant-style deep-fryer, but she did have a paper bag – which was even better. After coating chicken in buttermilk or doing an egg wash, drop the cutlets into a paper bag filled with flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and other seasonings, then shake it up to coat every nook and cranny of the chicken. It’s less messy, and no piece of chicken is cheated out of seasoning.

 

You Can’t Go Wrong with Cast Iron

Cast iron skillets are the workhorses of the kitchen: one cast iron pan can do the work of 10 stainless steel pans. Seasoned over the course of decades, cast iron skillets are treated as family heirlooms in the South. Just remember to only ever wash them by hand!

 

Always Save the Bacon Grease

Trust us – a bit of bacon grease will add so much more smokey, savory flavor to your scrambled eggs, burgers, or biscuits than butter ever will. Instead of throwing the grease away, let it cool in the pan then store it in an airtight container for future use.

 

Don’t Try to Bake on a Humid Day

​​If you’ve ever attempted to make a batch of Southern pralines that didn’t set or a layer cake that was a little wonky, it probably wasn’t your fault. Always check the humidity levels before tackling a major backing project, as the extra moisture might make your brownies a little too fudgy.

 

Coca-Cola is More Than a Drink

Add a splash of Grandma’s favorite soft drink to thick stews and sauces as a sweetener, or mix it into cake batter for an extra fluffy dessert.

 

Only Bake with Cold Biscuit Dough

If you refrigerate your pan of biscuits before baking, the gluten in the dough will relax (yielding more tender biscuits), and the butter will harden up. Cold butter creates more layers and will give them a photo-worthy golden crust.

 

Craving some good ol’ Southern cooking now? We can help with that. We serve up Southern classics, sandwiches, and salads with a twist daily! We’re open for breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm).

Three More Reasons to Love Dining Outdoors

Three More Reasons to Love Dining Outdoors

Three More Reasons to Love Dining Outdoors

There’s a lot to love about Summer in the Lowcountry (besides the obvious beach days). Warm-weather produce is back on the menu, festival season is in full swing, and Old Town Bluffton is bustling with locals and visitors enjoying the sunny weather. We love hosting guests on our patio to indulge in great food, great weather, and even better company.

If you’re like us, you probably already ask for a table outside every chance you get, but here are a few more reasons to dine outdoors this summer.

You Get to Enjoy Some Fresh Air

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Fresh air has a profound effect on your mood and health – from cleansing your lungs to raising your levels of serotonin, your happiness hormone – so you might as well nourish your body in multiple ways by moving your meals outside.

The Relaxation Value

Plant lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike know that surrounding yourself with natural elements, like greenery and sunlight, is instantly relaxing. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily life by enjoying some soothing scenery while you eat your salad. The fresh air also lowers your stress hormones and blood pressure, so you’re more relaxed and even focused while you eat. People are less likely to focus on their food when they’re stressed, causing them to overeat or enjoy their meals less. Eating outside will help you savor the moment (and every bite).

It Keeps You Social

Not only is our patio the perfect place for people-watching, but it’s easier to chat with your friends outside than it is over the voices of other indoor guests. People are also more likely to stay at the table longer to enjoy the weather and views, giving you more time to spend with the people who matter most.

Whether you’re a Lowcountry local or an out-of-towner, there’s a seat for you on our sunny patio! Join us for breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) or Sat (8-11 am), lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm) to see why we’re consistently voted Bluffton’s best outdoor dining location.

How to Make Your Favorite Southern Foods a Bit Healthier

How to Make Your Favorite Southern Foods a Bit Healthier

Whether you’re planning to visit the Lowcountry soon or are lucky enough to live here, two things are probably on your mind this month: beach season and indulging in your favorite Southern foods, especially as RBC Heritage week approaches. But your two priorities don’t work well together…right?

Southern food has a bad rap for being unhealthy, but you don’t have to give up your clean eating habits to try this cuisine! With a few simple swaps, you can enjoy Lowcountry fare while staying on track to meet your wellness goals.

  1. Load up on the veggies. Southern food is based on simple ingredients, many of which are vegetables. Collard greens, okra, and mashed sweet potatoes are both nutritious and flavorful. Try trading fried sides for plant-based alternatives, or order a salad as your main meal. The Cottage’s salads are anything but basic: our Avocado Caprese with Grilled Shrimp and Beets and Blue salads are made with the freshest ingredients and a little Lowcountry flare.

 

2. Pay attention to portion sizes. The nutritional value of Southern food doesn’t only depend on what you’re eating – it also depends on the portion size. If you want to sample a traditional dish without committing to an entire meal, order one of our appetizers, like our famous Fried Green Tomatoes. We can also split any of our entrees so you and a friend can share.

 

3. Look for lean proteins. The Lowcountry is known for its world-class seafood, which is a smart choice for health-conscious consumers. It’s a lean protein that delivers a host of health benefits, including omega-3s. Fish and shellfish are lower in saturated fat than red meats and are also lower in cholesterol than other proteins. Try our Blue Crab, Shrimp & and Avocado Roll or the Fish Taco Salad. Not a fan of fish? Ask for a grilled chicken breast instead.

Not ready to give up jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and pimento dip? Neither are we. But choosing lighter alternatives of your favorite Southern dishes is a great way to fuel your body while savoring the region’s classic flavors. We’re open Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm)!

Three Ways to Make a Better Cup of Coffee at Home

Three Ways to Make a Better Cup of Coffee at Home

A day without coffee is like…just kidding. We have no idea. If you’re like us, you can’t start your morning without a hot cup o’ joe, whether you brew it at home or stand in line at your favorite coffee shop, wondering how the barista serves up everything from cold brew creations to specialty drip roasts with (seemingly) little effort. And no matter what you order, the taste is always 10 times as rich as whatever you get from your old coffee pot, no matter how many grounds you add. So if you crave that rich, café-style coffee taste but don’t want to spend $6 every day on a latte, then keep reading: we’re sharing our favorite tips for making better coffee at home.

Start With Great Coffee Beans

A great cup of coffee is made from the ground up – literally. So if you buy high-quality beans, you’re more likely to brew a richer, more flavorful cup of coffee. For a lighter, brighter, coffee, go with a light or medium roast. If you want a deep, more complex flavor, go for a dark roast. We love coffees that are infused with unexpected flavors (like Creamed Honey, English Toffee, or Maple Brown Sugar), but no matter what you wake up craving, make sure that your coffee beans are fresh, and, if possible, locally roasted.

Coffee beans can last up to a month if they’re stored in a cool, dry place, but immediately after roasting, compounds begin to escape from the beans in a process called degassing – taking a lot of flavor with them. After 8 days, up to 70% of those compounds will be gone. As time goes on, you lose more flavor and are left with stale-tasting coffee. Buying local coffee ensures that less of your coffee’s “shelf life” has been wasted on packaging and transportation.

Get On the Daily Grind

We know what you’re thinking: grinding coffee yourself is pain. But it’s really not…so long as you use a great coffee grinder. Different brewing methods require different grind sizes to make great coffee, so make sure you pay attention to your grinder’s coarseness (or fineness) setting. If the coffee brews too quickly, it means the grind was too coarse. If it brews too slowly, it means the grind was too fine. Additionally, if the coffee tastes too acidic and sour it usually means the grind was too coarse, and if it tastes too bitter, it means the grind was too fine. Generally speaking, espresso requires a fine grind, pour-overs and AeroPress require a medium grind, and French Presses require a coarse grind.

Use the Right Amount of Coffee

Your coffee-to-water ratio will determine how strong or weak your cup of coffee will be – but exactly how much coffee should you use? As a general rule, use 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water, but feel free to experiment with your measurements depending on the coffee’s flavor (and fast you need to wake up).

Too much morning and not enough coffee? We can fix that. Enjoy a mug (or two) of locally-roasted May River Coffee Roasters coffee over breakfast then buy a bag of beans for later. Each small batch is infused with inspired flavors like Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Covered Oranges, and Blueberry Cream. Learn more about May River Coffee Roasters here: https://mayrivercoffeeroasters.com/?v=c65242dc6c2c

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