Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Fruitcake has a bad rap, I know. When it comes to that packaged stuff, I don't like it either. I have a recipe that I like, but that's mainly after it's been so soaked in booze for over a month that I get a buzz every slice. But, that is another story.
My mom, however, does love fruitcake. Her diabetes, however, does not. So, I worked on these cookies. Now, they are not exactly diabetic friendly. But, one or two during the holidays instead of some fruitcake satisfies her cravings, and don't impact her too much.
I have to tell you though. Whether you love or hate fruitcake, give these cookies a try. One of the beauties of these, and, of course, making them yourself is, if you don't like a particular taste of fruitcake, just leave that dried fruit out, and replace it with something else. I don't care for citron or candied lemon in fruitcake, so I left it out.
I started this dough from Ina Garten's Dried Fruit cookies, but changed them quite a bit. Since my mom doesn't like the taste of alcohol, I substituted orange juice, and it works well. While Ina's have quite a few dates in it, I wanted a more balanced cookie, so I chose to reduce the number of dates in them, and add some dried cherries and dried blueberries. And, I added some quartered dried apricots for good measure.
One of the tricks of this recipe is letting the fruit soak in the orange juice overnight. However, if you don't have the time for that, you can gently heat the juice (don't let it boil), and pour it over your dried fruit. Let it sit for about an hour, and it will be good to go.
If you like dried fruit, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. You won't regret it! These also freeze very well. You can roll them into a log and freeze for up to 2 months. Nothing better than giving your Christmas guests fresh from the oven cookies. They will never know they have been in the freezer!
I've gave you a few tips tonight, and here's another one. When you are making slice and bake cookies, if you want to keep them perfectly round, every time you cut a cookie off the roll, roll the dough 1/4", then make the next cut. That way it won't get flat on one end. I deliberately made these cookies a bit rectangular, but if I wanted them round, that's what I would do.
Inspired by: Dried Fruit Cookies by Ina Garten
Combined 3 1/2 cups dried fruit, I used 1 cup dates, 1/2 cup chopped apricots, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1 1/2 cups mixed cranberries, blueberries, and cherries
1/2 c. orange juice
1 T. maple syrup or honey
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup butter, softened
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
In a large plastic or glass bowl, combine the dried fruit, orange juice, and maple syrup. Cover, and let marinate overnight.
When ready to prepare cookies, combine butter, dark brown sugar, and sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and egg. Mix until well combined. Add flour and beat until fully combined. Add fruit mixture (most of the moisture from the juice will be absorbed, don't worry), and the nuts. Mix until evenly combined.
Divide mixture into 2 separate pieces, and from into 2" diameter logs. At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the dough for up to 2 months (in the freezer, 1 week in the refrigerator). You will want to refrigerate until firm, or they won't slice well. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Slice in 1/2" thin with a very sharp knife, and place on parchment lined cookie sheets, about 1/2" apart. They don't spread, so they don't need to be too far apart. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
However, they can be so much work. I did a lot of recipe testing and selecting this year...not to mention a few total screw ups...more on that later.
For those of you that think Christmas cookies are out of your area of expertise, they aren't. Most of the recipes I am going to share with you this year can be made ahead and frozen, then thawed and baked. I love those. Some will require some times, and others can require some decorating, if you wish. If you don't - slice roll in sugar and bake, then frost...they are just as tasty.
Now let's get to the first cookie recipe. I made this recipe after watching it on Barefoot Contessa. It's a great recipe. I did adjust the spices a bit, since I am continuing my love of ginger. I think that if you are going to call it the Ultimate Ginger cookie, it better taste more like ginger than cinnamon!
I first made this for Christmas last year. It was a big hit. My nephew, Ryan, astonished me by telling me this was his favorite cookie. I thought for sure it would be one of the chocolate ones.
I love these. They are moist, and chewy, and are very gingery. When I made some of these this year, I was worried, since I overcooked a sheet of them. Hey, it happens. I didn't sweat it, they were still good, just a little crunchy. Don't worry if you do, they were chewy the next day.
Don't be intimidated by the amount of ginger and/or candied ginger in this recipe. It just enhances the overall experience. These are great with a nice cup of hot tea, or dipped in some left over cream cheese frosting. For the holidays, I rolled them in red sugar to add a festive touch. They taste the same, regardless of the color of sugar, and I love them!
A word of caution, though. Don't try to get cute and put very finely chopped ginger in the sugar you use to roll the cookies in. It will burn...and that tastes pretty nasty.
They can be frozen before baking, either shaped on balls, or in one big lump. Thaw in the refrigerator, and bake as normal.
Now for a tip. I'm sure all of you may know this already, but if you are measuring sticky ingredients, such as molasses, honey, or corn syrup (or even peanut butter), they come out of the measuring cup easier if you measure oil first. If the recipe doesn't call for any oil, you can lightly spray the inside of the measuring cup for the same effect.
"Ultimate" Ginger Cookies
Adapted from: Ina Garten
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 c. unsulfered molasses
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/4 cup chopped candied and/or crystalized ginger, finely chopped
Sugar for rolling the cookies in
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or a silicone mat.
In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, molasses, and oil for about 5 minutes, until a lighter color. Add egg and mix until well incorporated. Add cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and mix. Mix in flour until well incorporated. Stir in the chopped ginger.
Measure out cookies in 2 teaspoon sizes. Roll into a ball, then roll each of the balls in granulated sugar. When you place them on the cookie sheet, flatten slightly. Bake for 13 minutes, and remove from oven. Let cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.
Store in an air tight container when cooled.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
You may ask what does this have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, it was the perfect opportunity to cook something in it! It also gives me the opportunity to talk about our Thanksgiving. We are a bit untraditional. When I was living in So. Cal, I flew Mom out every year for Thanksgiving. Since my brothers kind of missed the holidays, Mom decided to basically move the holiday to the Sunday before. So, she (and my brothers) got 2 Thanksgivings for a while.
Now that I'm closer to home, we still have our untraditional Thanksgiving the Sunday before. It gives my brothers the chance to build their own family traditions, and provides a stress free family dinner that's fun! And, I do some different things on Thanksgiving, although this year, I should do more than play video games...
So what secrets are contained in that little bulb of garlic?
My thanksgiving sweet potatoes, of course! This recipe...well, I've been making it for a few years now. I just love sweet potatoes, and eat quite a few of them. One of the things I don't like, however, is candied yams. They are just too sweet for me. So, I decided to come up with a recipe that wasn't so sweet, but still had a little sweetness to it.
Of course, since I developed this recipe during my vegan years, my thoughts turned to coconut milk. Since I love sweet potatoes in curry, I thought coconut milk would be a great way to cook sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. And, I was right. The coconut milk adds a richness so you don't necessarily miss all the sugar.
After tweaking the recipe a bit, this has been the result. And, it's just delicious. I added a streusel-like topping a few years ago, so it would remind you of the toasted part of the marshmallows on candied yams, but still gave a little crunch and spice.
Based on a lot of things I've read, I tried putting some different spices in these this year. While I didn't like the result (I liked them a bit on the sweeter side, and I'm a bit of a pepper wimp), I can appreciate how some would enjoy a touch of cayenne or harissa added to the sweet potatoes.
If you are looking for a nice, tasty twist on your sweet potatoes this year, give these a try! You won't be disappointed. I usually cook these in a casserole dish, but they can easily be cooked in individual servings. This year, I cooked my own individual serving so I could have it for leftovers.
Now for my tip. I realize I have been negligent on my tips the last few posts, but I have been frantically working on Christmas Cookies. I hope you like the results, because they are coming soon! I can't wait. I even bought a bunch of boxes at Costco so I could bake all the remaining dough and give friendly gifts...
My tip today involves foreign cans. You know the ones. Since I buy things like coconut milk at Asian Grocery stores, sometimes I find the cans a bit difficult to open with my handy dandy American can opener. And I'm talking a manual can opener here - I'm not talented enough to be able to pull off using an electric one. If you find a can difficult to open, flip it over, and open the bottom instead of the top. There's always one side that is easier to open than the other, and you aren't going to hurt the can by opening the bottom instead of the top.
Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. harissa, or cayenne (totally optional, I won't add this again)
1 t. salt
1/3 c. orange juice
1/2 t. white pepper
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
2/3 c. chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the sweet potatoes. The milk may start to look curdled when you add the orange juice, but it really is fine. Place in an oven proof dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender. The amount of time you bake them will depend on the dish. If you use a pie tin or an 8x8 baking pan, it can take up to 20-30 minutes only. If you cook the sweet potatoes in a deeper dish, it can take a bit longer to cook.
For the topping, combine all ingredients in a smaller bowl. Place on top of the sweet potatoes after they have been in the oven about 30-40 minutes. Continue baking at least 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes and tender and a lot of the moisture has been baked out. Serve warm.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
What are these little pumpkins nested on whipped cream hiding? Could it be a tasty Thanksgiving dessert? Yes, I know that pic probably isn't the best, but I love it. The little pumpkin candies appear to be floating on a cloud, with just darkness below them. Like they hold a little secret.
Well, they do hold a little secret. See what they are nested on? 9" of pure pumpkin cheesecake.
See what I mean? Aren't those pretty pumpkins all lined up in a row cute?
I've been working on this Pumpkin Cheesecake for quite a while now. I first started making it when I was in California. While my family can be quite the traditionalist when it comes to some holiday desserts, I can always make this for lucky friends and family outside of Thanksgiving. Right?
When I first delivered this, the first thing I heard was - why don't you make something other than cheesecake? Ok, so I guess not everyone is a fan of cheesecake.
This recipe might convert you. It's much more of a pumpkin custard than it is a cheesecake. I put quite a bit of pumpkin in it. And, a ton of spices. Yes, a ton. Cheesecakes have quite a bit of fat in them. So, that gave me the perfect opportunity to overdose on cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. yes, I still love ginger.
Yea, it really does look like someone took a bite out of this one. It was good. I realized after nibbling at it for a while, that I needed to put the fork down and take the pic before the entire thing disappeared.
One thing I did want to mention about this cheesecake. I use Ana's Ginger Biscuits for the base. One package is usually enough, but I get two, since they shrink at my house. Yep, I love those too. And, they are amazing with my sister in laws pumpkin dip.
The final picture is a just in case picture. Just in case you worry that your cheesecake could never look like mine, never fear. This is how it looked before I piped on the whipped cream. I had to taste it, you see. Wanted to make sure it was tasty. (:grin:)
Happy Thanksgiving all!
Makes 1 9" cheesecake
For the crust:
8-10 ounces ginger cookies, finely chopped in a food processor (or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin if you are feeling punchy)
1/3 c. finely chopped pecans
6 T. butter, melted
Combine all ingredients and press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9" springform pan.
For the filling:
2 cups pumpkin puree
24 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. corn starch
Preheat oven t0 350. Fill a very large roasting pan 1 1/2" full of water and put in the preheating oven. Be sure your springform pan can fit inside the roaster.
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese lightly just to soften and incorporate a little air. Add brown sugar and continue beating about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until mixture is well incorporated. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and corn starch. Continue mixing until there are no lumps, and mixture is a smooth consistency.
Pour mixture over your crust mixture, and place your springform pan in the waterbath in the oven. Bake 90-110 minutes, until cheesecake just has a little jiggle left in it. If you are a thermometer freak like me, the middle should read about 160.
Remove from the oven, and the waterbath, and let cool at room temperature for 2 hours, then put in refrigerator overnight to cool.
Serve with whipped cream.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
What an awesome challenge! Thank you Dave and Linda for the great job on selecting and hosting this challenge. I've always wanted to make a souffle. It has been on my "to try" list what seems like forever.
So, it was a great opportunity to get the little "push" I needed to complete this. I chose the chocolate souffle, with one change - I substituted semi-sweet chocolate for the bittersweet. I knew I was going to make this at my brothers house, and they don't care for the bittersweet chocolate, so semi-sweet was a good choice.
While this was my first time making a souffle, it was Fawn and Amanda's first time eating the souffle. They had no clue that I overcooked it by about 3 minutes. But, it was still good. A little less luxurious and rich than I was hoping, but it was still tasty.
You know, I had such plans for this challenge. But, it feels like that as my to do list grows, my actual output shrinks. Of course, I may not feel that way once I see the results of my HUGE Christmas Cookie Project I have been working on for about 6 weeks. So, stay tuned! Maybe I have been busier than I actually think!
Souffle's really aren't as tough as their reputation. I encourage to try one. If you don't like chocolate, check out the Daring Cooks blogroll for a ton of creativity on display and take your pick!
Adapted From BBC Good Food Recipe by Gordon Ramsay
FOR THE DISHES
2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing
Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate
FOR THE CREME PATISSERIE
2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsp (10 gm) (0.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
½ tsp (4½ gm) (0.15 oz) corn starch (aka cornflour)
1 medium egg yolk
1 medium whole egg
4 Tbsp (60 ml) milk
5 Tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
3 oz (90gm) good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces (I used semi-sweet)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
FOR THE EGG WHITES
6 medium egg whites
6½ Tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90g) superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK)
1. Heat oven to moderate 375 ˚F/190 ˚C/gas mark 5.
2. Take four 1 cup/~240ml soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter. Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round.
3. For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl. Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl, beat lightly, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.
4. To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.
5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie.
6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés.
7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the crème patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.
8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.
9. Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes.
10. The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
When I was a little girl, the only time I ever had fresh bread was when my Aunt Eva made rye bread during Christmas. She would make it on cookie sheets, and it turned out about 4" high. So we would get these short, thin slices of wonderful tasting bread.
While I didn't have a lot of experience with different grains and the like, I knew I loved rye bread. Who know that when I was in college, I would get dark rye with caraway seeds. What a shock to my system.
This rye bread is really simple. It substitutes rye flour for some of the white flour in a basic bread recipe. No additions, very basic. And that's why it's so lovely. It's rye at its most simple and basic. I have changed the recipe a little bit, and, of course, increased the directions from Mix everything together and bake.
I chose to bake these into large hamburger buns, thinking they would make great buns. Well, they didn't last that long, but they do make great turkey sandwiches :). I've never made this into loafs, always preferring to shape it into rolls or the baking sheet loaves I remember from my childhood.
Sometimes I add up to 1 t. cardamom to this bread, when I want a change of pace. This stuff is great on its own, or to make little cream cheese based tea sandwiches for the holidays.
Aunt Eva's Rye Bread
1 T. yeast (1 package)
3 1/2 to 5 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. salt
2 c. rye flour
1 c. warm water (body temperature)
1/4 c. shortening or butter
1 t. ground cardamom, optional
In a mixing bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 t. brown sugar, and let rest until yeast starts to bubble. If yeast doesn't become frothy after 10 minutes, discard and start again.
Once yeast has bubbled, add 1 c flour, rye flour, salt, brown sugar, and shortening to your yeast mixture, and mix until well combined in your mixer. Let rest 20 minutes to allow rye to hydrate a little bit.
Change to a dough hook, and add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Add flour until dough forms a sticky ball, then let process with a dough hook 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
Take dough out, and roll on counter a bit, making sure dough is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball. Place in a large oiled bowl, turning to make sure dough is well oiled on all sides. Cover, and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.
After dough has risen, gently remove from bowl, and roll dough a bit with the heels of your hand. Cut into 2 equal pieces, and place each piece on an oiled cookie sheet, shaping to the desired shape. If you want hamburger shaped buns, divide one half of the dough into 10 equal pieces, and roll into soft rounds and place on cookie sheet.
Gently brush tops with a light coating of oil, and let rise in a warm place until double. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350, and bake rolls for 30 minutes, and sheet loaves for 40-50 minutes, until golden. Serve warm.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
But, I was puzzled by one simple question - should I try for a full on recreate of my favorite - brown sugar poptarts? Or, should I try something a little different. Of course, I picked different.
But first, I went looking for a good crust recipe. I chose the crust from the Brown Eyed Baker.
Her recipe seemed the tastiest, and it was. I made a modification to the method I will discuss below, but if you don't have any fruit butter laying around, give her fillings a try.
I thought this would be a perfect time to fill my poptarts with some flavors I have preserved this winter - or new flavors I created for breakfast. Before I reveal my flavors, let me just say - these little things are just perfect for all those fruit butters we have all been making.
Turns out, Kaya, or coconut jam makes heavenly poptarts. Yes, that's right, you heard it heard it here first - coconut poptarts! And, they were amazing. On another note, I made 2 dulche de leche poptarts, and those are incredible as well.
You are probably wondering why my poptarts are frosted with green icing. I chose pandan essence to flavor the frosting, thinking it would go well with the mango and coconut. It does go very well. I love pandan, it's just so very green. Added some interest to my poptarts, though! If you want to give pandan a try, look for it in your local asian market. It's sold as pandan essence, or screwpine.
I strongly recommend you try shredding the butter for this pastry. I really like this technique. It is a nice foolproof way to make a flaky pastry. I use this for biscuits, scones, and pie crusts, and have not had a tough one yet. And it's so easy. Just shred in your food processor. If you don't have a food processor, a salad shooter, or hand grater also works.
I decided to make the poptarts mini, and I think that was a great idea. These were perfect as 3-4 bites. So you can have one of each and some fruit for breakfast. These freeze well. To reheat, just stick in a toaster oven. If you want to reheat in a toaster, simply don't frost them.
These are the mango butter ones. For some, I finely diced a mango and mixed it with the mango butter. I really preferred the mango butter on its own.
I think it's a great idea to use fruit butters in your poptarts or turnovers. Since they contain little water, there is no danger of the crust getting soggy.
Mango Butter and Kaya poptarts
Adapted from Brown eyed baker
For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 cup frozen butter, grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
For the fillings:
1/3 c. mango butter
1/3 c. kaya, aka coconut jam
For the frosting:
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. pandan essence (you can use coconut extract if you can't find the essence)
2 t. milk
1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 t. water (to seal the pastries together)
To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and mix with your hands. Add the cold shredded butter, and mix with your hands until the butter has been coated with the flour. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, add milk and egg, and mix just until mixture starts to become a ball.
Take dough out of the bowl and put on a floured board. Gently combine dough into a ball, kneading briefly just to get dough into a ball. Divide in 1/2 and wrap each 1/2 in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
Once the dough has been chilled, preheat oven to 350. Place it on a floured surface and roll thin, about 1/8", into a 9x12 rectangle. Cut into 18 3x2" rectangles. Place 9 of those rectangles on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and fill with 2 t. of your selected filling. Brush the edges with your egg mixture and place a piece of dough on top. Crimp the edges closed with the tins of a fork.
Brush each pastry with the egg mixture and prick the middle with a fork so any steam can escape. I didn't do this to some of the pastries, and they were still fine. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Combine flour and pandan essence in a small bowl with a fork. Add milk until icing is thin enough to drizzle on your poptarts. Drizzle on cooled poptarts.
These are best served warm.