Thursday, December 25, 2014

COOKIES: SUGAR, GINGERPEOPLE, SHORTBREAD AND MORE!

Merry Christmas to you all! I have never blogged on Christmas Day, but it seemed like the right thing to do this afternoon. None of these cookie recipes are exclusively for Christmas, although they are traditional. If you are cutting the sugar cookies into shapes, you could fashion for any occasion.
OLD FASHIONED SUGAR COOKIES
This recipe came from Betty Crocker. They are easy to put together and roll out and looked great on our tree! It was also fun eating them off the tree if you get a sugar craving during the festive holiday season!
I sometimes struggle with rolled cookies, but these have so much butter in them they rolled very easily. Plus another hint is to make the dough the day before and keep chilled in fridge overnight until ready to roll. Just let them sit out a bit before rolling next day.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter (that's 2 sticks) softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Preparation:
In large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, the butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, almond extract and egg until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 375. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into assorted shapes with cookie cutters; free-form; or use patterns from children's books or Christmas motifs. If cookies are to be hung as decorations, make a hole in each 1/4 inch from top. I used a skewer and then when they came out of the oven reinforced the opening of each hole. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 7-10 minutes or until light brown. They get browner as they cool. Remove from cookie sheet to rack. Cool completely--about 30 minutes and then decorate either with frosting or colored sugar or let your imagination run wild. My decorations were not very sophisticated or fancy, but the cookies tasted great.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
One year I made anatomically correct Ginger People. I decorated my tree that year with the cookies and it was so fun watching people's reactions as they viewed the tree and realized these Ginger People were without clothes! This year I made only Men and put little pants on them. I also made some Ginger Flowers.
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup molasses
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional; but I used it)

Preparation:
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended.
In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended.
Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to mix until well blended.
Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.
Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. I refrigerated overnight and then let stand at room temp for about 1/2 hour before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 375. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment. I skipped that step and just put the rolled and cut Ginger People onto the baking sheet.
Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface. I rolled each of these recipes right on my counter.
Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin. Roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch. This dough was not as forgiving as the Sugar Cookies, but look at the butter ratio! Use additional flour to avoid sticking.
Cut out cookies with desired cutter-Gingerbread, of course, being the most traditional.
Space cookies 1 1/2 inch part. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes. Lower cooking time means softer cookies so depends if you like them crispy or soft. I like them crispy.
After cookies are cooled decorate as you like.

I thought these 2 batches would do it, but my husband asked if I would make MORE...so I made a shortbread cookie and melted 2 different types of chocolate on top.

CLASSIC SHORTBREAD COOKIES
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, cut into chunks
1 tsp. water

Preparation:
Add flour, salt and powdered sugar to food processor and pulse to combine. This is a case where you really do need to use your food processor. Add vanilla, butter and 1 tsp. water. Pulse together just until dough is formed. Put the dough on a sheet of plastic and roll into a log about 2 1/2 inches in diameter (I wish I had taken a picture of this because it looks awesome all rolled up in plastic!). Tightly twist each end of the wrap in opposite directions. Chill dough in fridge at least 30 minutes. I chilled for about 5 hours.
Slice the log into 1/3 inch thick discs. Arrange on nonstick cookies sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just light brown--about 7-10 minutes; rotating the pans half way through the baking process. Remove from the oven and if topping with chocolate add 1 square per cookie and pop back in the oven for a few seconds. Remove and swirl chocolate. I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet and Ghiradelli white chocolate with peppermint bark. Let cool completely on racks and then start eating! Next time I am going to add toasted pecans to the dough before forming.

Closing today with the dessert we are having with our own Christmas dinner. My husband loved his Boston Cream Pie birthday cake so much he asked if I would make another for Christmas. I decided to make a Boston Cream Yule log using the Pastry Cream (see previous blog recipe, but note I forgot to say how much sugar to use in the Pastry Cream. Use 1/2 cup.). I made a Jelly Roll for the cake base, rolled it with the Pastry Cream and frosted with Karen's fabulous Chocolate Ganache. I should've used the traditional Mocha butter cream my Mom used to make with her Yule log. Because a Jelly Roll is basically sponge cake, it totally absorbed the sauce. It doesn't look that pretty, but I assure you it is insanely delicious!
Here's the Jelly Roll right out of the oven.
Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup cold water
2 tsp. vanilla

And here's me spreading the Pastry Cream into the Jelly Roll sponge cake.
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet (11 x 15) with Pam. Fit with waxed paper (it's good to have a little overhang on short sides) and spray again with Pam or any cooking spray.
Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and water until light.
Mix in dry ingredients. Pour the very thin batter onto the baking/cookie sheet.
Bake about 10 minutes until the sponge is golden and springs to the touch.
Turn out on a dishtowel wrung out in cold water.
Remove the waxed paper immediately. I got a phone call just as I was about to remove. Because the cake keeps cooking even after out of the oven, do not wait to remove the waxed paper. Let cool slightly and then fill with either jelly, jam, or in this case Pastry Cream!
The dishtowel will help you begin the process of rolling. It really is easy as the cake is super-moist and very pliable. I then topped with the Chocolate Ganache (see previous blog recipe) and decorated with a little colored butter cream frosting. A cake decorator I am not!, but I do love playing with food so had a ball putting this Yule log together for our festive Christmas dinner.

I hope you have all had a warm and wonderful Christmas filled with love, family, good food and holiday cheer.

Until next time...

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!
 
ALL THE BEST OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON!



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

TALKING TURKEY

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I hope you had a beautiful day filled with food and good cheer. I have so much to be grateful for and am blessed with lots of love, good health, a beautiful family and many wonderful friends. Thank you all for helping to make my life tremendous!
TURKEY 
BEFORE...

AND AFTER!
These floats appeared at this year's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Plymouth, MA
America's Hometown!
Last time we talked about Jerry's birthday--the unofficial kick-off of the holiday season. From that event we roll into Thanksgiving and then our wedding anniversary (21 years and counting!) and now we're steaming ahead toward Christmas!

I made too much food (again) for our Thanksgiving gathering, which may not surprise you, but it all came out beautifully and was loads of fun. I prepped for about one week prior to the big day so things came together easily on Thanksgiving day. I included 3 new items this year that I want to share with you: Mile-High Apple Pie (a Martha Stewart recipe); the most delicious and moist Cranberry Nut bread, and Cranberry Nut Biscotti's. My brother, Skip and wife Esther also brought a Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Bourbon frosting and a very special Ginger-infused Pumpkin Pie with Toasted Hazelnuts; both very yummy. Let's start with the apple pie.
MILE-HIGH APPLE PIE
This is one of the best apple pie recipes I have ever used. It calls for 14 apples! The Pate Brisee crust is loaded with 2 sticks of butter! Best of all Martha suggests making it the day before.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour; more for rolling the Pate Brisee
5 1/2 lbs. firm tart apples (about 14). I used Granny Smith, Cortland, Gala and a couple Macs.
Juice from 2 lemons
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk (...For brushing on crust. I used the whole egg, slightly beaten.)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the smaller piece of Pate Brisee (recipe follows) into a 15 inch round about 1/8 inch thick, dusting surface with flour to prevent sticking, as needed. Brush off excess flour. Line pie plate with dough, pressing it into the corners. Trim the dough to within 1 inch of the pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 18 inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Peel and core apples, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place slices in a large bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss with apple slices.
Remove remaining dough from fridge. Place apple mixture into prepared pie plate, mounding it in a tall pie. It will be very high! Dot filling with butter. Place the larger piece of dough over the apples. Tuck edge of top dough between edge of bottom dough and rim of pan. Using your fingers, gently press both layers of dough along the edge to seal, and crimp. You can also use a fork to make an interesting pattern on the edge. I just used my fingers.
Pie, glazed with egg wash and ready to go into the hot oven.
Using a paring knife, cut several vents in top of dough to allow steam to escape. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk with 2 Tbsp. water to make a glaze. Brush surface with egg glaze; sprinkle with sugar. Place on a foil lined baking sheet to catch any juices that may overflow during baking. Bake until crust begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 and continue baking until crust is a rich, golden brown and juices are bubbling; 45-50 minutes.
Remove from oven, and let cool completely (or overnight) before serving.
PATE BRISEE
I love this rich French pie crust and it is perfect for either sweet or savory pies, such as quiche. By nature this is a crumbly dough, but is quite forgiving because it has so much butter in it.
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour, more for dusting
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Preparation:
Pulse flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter, pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining. Unfortunately my food processer is in Arizona and I am still in Massachusetts so had to use the old-fashioned method of cutting the butter and flour together using two table knives--much more work and not as even texture, but can be done.
Evenly drizzle 1/4 cup ice water over mixture. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. If dough is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup more ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and pulse to combine.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide dough in two with one piece slightly larger than the other. Wrap each piece in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Roll out the smaller piece first to a 15 inch round. Line the pie plate; cover and put back in fridge until ready to use. Roll the second piece out to about an 18 inch (1/8 inch thick) round and do the same. I have to admit making pie crust is not my strong suit, but this time it actually worked pretty well.

For this years meal I made my traditional Cranberry-Ginger Sauce, but added more fresh ginger root than usual and a couple Granny Smith apples. I also used Clementines (both juice and zest) instead of orange. The cranberries came from Teri's Farmstand (https://www.facebook.com/teri.a.snyder?fref=nf). She is selling them for The Edible Yard right here in Plymouth. They were perfectly ripe with no rotten berries among them. I used these cranberries for the Cranberry Nut Bread as well.

CRANBERRY NUT BREAD
This recipe came from a food blogger called Once Upon a Chef. Similar to Jennifer Segal I thought I would use the recipe from Oceanspray, but did a little more digging and hers sounded MUCH better.
Ingredients:
1/3 cup orange juice (I used freshly squeezed Clementine juice.)
2 tsp. granted orange zest from 1 orange or in my case 2 Clementines.
2/3 cup Buttermilk (I did not have Buttermilk so placed 2/3 cup whole milk in a jar with 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Shake vigorously and it makes a good Buttermilk substitute.)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
2 cups flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries, coarsely chopped (I used my mini-max to chop.)
1/2 cups walnuts or pecans (I used walnuts, roughly chopped.)
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375. Spray bottom of 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. I was out so used a generous amount of butter. In a small bowl, stir together orange juice, orange zest, buttermilk, butter and egg. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir liquid ingredients into dry with rubber spatula until just moistened. Gently stir in cranberries and nuts. Do not overmix.
Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue to bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean; about 45 minutes longer. Cool loaf in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool at least one hour before serving. I made this bread the day before the big meal, too. Flavorful, moist and delicious. Definitely will become an annual tradition!
CRANBERRY NUT BISCOTTI

Biscotti is not difficult to make, but does require several steps to prepare.
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest-from 1 1/2 lemons
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
3 large eggs
1 tsp.vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Preparation:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet. Put the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the almonds and cranberries and mix to combine and break the nuts into pieces about 1/3 to 1/4 their original size--1 to 2 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and pat it into a 5 inch disk. Halve the disc.

The dough will be sticky. Lightly moisten your hands with oil or water, then squeeze and pat one piece of dough into a log. Lay the log lengthwise on one side of the prepared baking sheet. Stretch and pat the dough into a flat loaf that's about 12 inches long and 2-2 1/2 inches wide. Repeat with the remaining dough. Leave at least 2 inches of space between the loaves.

Mix the reserved beaten egg with 2 tsp. water. Lightly brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. You will not use all of the egg.
Bake until pale golden around the edges and just set, 20 to 25 minutes. There may be cracks on the surface. This is not a problem. Reduce the oven temp to 300 degrees. Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack. Gently slide an offset spatula under each loaf to loosen it. The egg wash may make the loaves stick a bit. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to the rack and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes longer. They will cut easier when they are still a little warm.
Transfer the loaves to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the loaves on the diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange the slices, cut side up, on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and bake until golden, about 10 more minutes. Transfer the biscotti to the rack and cool completely. They will become firm and crunchy as they cool. The biscotti can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for up to 2 weeks. Mine made it until the weekend after Thanksgiving! If they lose some of their crispness you can reheat in a low oven (200 degrees) for a few minutes and they become crunchy again.

We had a crowd spending the night and the next morning I made a modified Monte Cristo for breakfast. Beat 1 egg per person in a large bowl with a little salt. Dredge sliced bread through the egg--I used a nice multi grain with seeds--and fry in butter as you would French Toast. Layer slices of turkey, ham, and lots of Swiss (or other) cheese onto the eggy bread. Top with another piece of egged fried bread. Cover the frying pan and reheat to melt the cheese. Serve.
From l to r: My brother Skip, his wife Esther, Justin's girlfriend Alison, my husband Jerry and son Justin
Because I also made a ham for Thanksgiving, throwing together this breakfast sandwich was very easy.

Thank you for sharing another meal with me. If you'd like to see my whole Thanksgiving menu, shoot me an email.

I am also very grateful to all of you
who continue to follow my blog.
 
Until next time...HAPPY COOKING!

And remember...SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN!
Here's Santa at the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in Plymouth!

...SO YOU BEST BE GOOD!