Thursday, December 17, 2009

Royal Icing

A wonderful icing for gingerbread cookies or cutout cookies. Left to dry overnight it will completely harden. Perfect as the "glue" for a gingerbread house or to attach decorations and sprinkles to cookies. I would NOT attempt this if my mixer was broken.

1/4 cup of pasteurized egg white (buy in the carton in the egg section at the grocery store)
1 pound powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
1 Tablespoon of vanilla
water, if necessary
food coloring (paste type), if desired

Mix the powdered sugar into the egg white, vanilla and lemon juice about a cup at a time. Once somewhat combined, turn mixer to a high setting (using whisk attachment) and beat until stiff peaks stage.

Once you reach this stage you can use in a few different ways:

1. Spread the thick mixture directly onto cookies.

2. Use as "glue" in cookie house construction)

3. Scoop out approximately a third of this recipe into a smaller bowl. Combine with about a tablespoon of water and food coloring of your choice. Spoon into a sandwich size zip-top bag. Cut a VERY small hole in one corner, and use to squeeze onto cookies. (Do the same thing omitting the color to decorate with white)

Christmas Cookies: Gingerbread (gingerbread men, gingerbread starts, gingerbread trees ....)


1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons ground ginger (for a spicy cookie - use less if you like)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (again, for a spicy cookie)

1.5 tsp ground cloves

pinch of salt

pinch of ground allspice, just because it there in the spice drawer

2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1 cup molasses (I used blackstrap, but regular will be fine too)

5 cups all purpose flour

In electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Add spices and salt and mix well. Add the baking soda mixture and molasses - beat for a while until thoroughly combined or until you reach the commercial break of the holiday special you are watching. Add the flour one cup at a time, then beat for two more minutes until well mixed. Let the dough stand while you go eat dinner or some other activity of your choice for about an hour.

Place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on the counter. Put about a third of the dough in the middle of the sheet, then rip another piece off of equal length to make a parchment-dough-parchment sandwich. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out. Make sure to flip over your "sandwich" every minute or so. If the paper on either side starts to crinkle into cracks of the dough, carefully peel off the paper and lay it out flat and roll away. (Deep cracks will result in cracked cookies when baked). I think you are supposed to be getting the dough no greater than a quarter of an inch thick. If you ever figure out how to accomplish this, please let me know. Mine are probably 1/2 inch thick.

Place the dough sandwich on a cookie tray in your refrigerator overnight, or lay it on top of the ice cream containers (or any items the same height) in your freezer for 20-30 minutes. Repeat with the remaning thirds of dough.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking sheets. Remove a dough sandwich, which should now be cold and firm, from the fridge or freezer. Peel off the top layer of parchment, carefully flip it over so its is still sitting on parchment, and peel off the bottom layer. Now use whatever cookie cutters you like, and arrange cut cookies on a baking tray, no closer than 1.5 inches apart. If you like you can add the hard cinnamon candies for gingerbread men buttons or raisins before baking. Reroll and refrigerate the scraps from between the cookie cutters. Because you are not rolling on flour, the chance of a tough and overworked dough from the scraps is much reduced.

If you actually managed 1/4 inch thickness for your dough, then try baking for seven minutes. Mine were taking 10-12 per tray, depending on the size of the cookie. Remove to wire racks for cooling.

I decorate mine with royal icing:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pistachio Wedding Cakes

New Christmas season, same recipe as last year: Pistachio Wedding Cakes. If it ain't broke ...

Christmas Cookies: Maple Glazed Cookies

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream together until light and fluffy:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Sugar
Mix in:
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup maple syrup
Mix in gently (on low setting if using mixer):
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
Drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto baking tray, spacing 3" apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden on the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
For glaze: reduce 1/2 cup maple syrup by half. Drizzle over cookies, then sprinkle LIGHTLY with coarse salt. Allow glaze to harden overnight. Store in airtight containers.

Walnut Rum Blondies

Any recipe that includes butter, brown sugar and rum is bound to be a winner ....

2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons dark rum
Pinch salt
2 cup flour

2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Butter a 13 x 9 pan.

Pour melted butter into mixer, and add brown sugar. Cream until well mixed. Mix in eggs, vanilla, salt and rum. Add flour and beat until just combined. Add walnuts and mix until stirred in.

Scrape batter into pan and spread with spatula until about evenly covering pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until done (like brownies be careful not to overbake - they'll set up a bit more as they cool). Cool completely before cutting, if you can wait.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homemade Cinnamon buns

These are SOOOO good, and they make your house smell like a Cinnabon while they are baking. (Cinnabon is, I'm quite certain, a registered trademark. I am not claiming these are the Cinnabon recipe. But two different people told me they were better)

In the bread machine, run these ingredients on the dough setting (the second time I made these, I actually set the dough cycle to run right before going to bed, and didn't die because there was milk in the recipe. On the other hand, we keep our house in the mid 50's overnight during the winter nights, so take that into consideration if you try it in the African heat):

1 cup warm milk
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 packed (2 1/2 tsp) yeast

When finished, punch dough down and transfer to board:

Very lightly flour, and roll/stretch out, then brush w/ 1/4 cup butter, melted (or spread if you thought ahead enough to have some very spreadable):

Combine 1 cup brown sugar with 1 Tablespoon cinnamon. (GOOD cinnamon. Not been in your cabinet since Reagan was president cinnamon) If the smell isn't incredible when you open the container, don't bother making this recipe)

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on all but the far edge (make sure to cover all the way to the edge of the other three sides):

Roll it up. To do this, start by turning the closest edge over once, then run your hands down to finish that "crease", stretching the dough to the sides a bit as you go, and keep rolling. Sprinkle a bit of water on the very edge to help the dough seal to dough to close the roll.

Cut into 12 pieces. I do this by cutting in half, then the half in half, then each quarter into three:

Place in a 13 x 9 pan, which you already greased. Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the buns with a cloth just dampened with warm water, and allow them to rise, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another part of the kitchen, put 1/2 brick of cream cheese (4 oz) with half a stick of butter into the merry go round with 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and some vanilla (I actually used vanilla paste):

Give'm a whirl!

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes - until they are light brown on top:
Immediately after removing from the oven, spread with the frosting, so it gets ooey gooey melty on top:
By the way - did you know sticky buns, a regional favorite in Philadelphia are made almost the same way, but omitting the cream cheese frosting? You would just put a brown sugar (1 cup)/butter (half stick)/pecan (1 cup, chopped) or raisins mixture on the BOTTOM of the pan before allowing the buns to rise. They come out of the oven, you immediately flip them out of the pan so the gooey mixture on the bottom becomes the topping. If I was making sticky buns I would have used two 9" cake pans instead of one 13x9, for easier flipping.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Doctored Soups: Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup; Tortellini and Spinach Soup

I love a good soup, made from scratch. With a homemade long brewed stock. But during the winter, especially when our lives are very busy and/or we're fighting illness, I want to eat soup more often than I have bones to make homemade stock.

So instead, frequently I doctor prepared soups:

Trader Joes Corn & Pepper soup:

+ some type of already cooked protein (in this case, Langostino Tails, which I've been dying to try. Ok, but I wouldn't buy them again) Canned chicken, frozen shrimp, leftover poultry or sausage would all work.

Heat and serve!

Another soup - tortellini & spinach soup.
Chicken broth:

Add some flavors:

frozen tortellini:

+ some frozen spinach

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reconnecting with an old flame ...

Look what I found in my basement! He first made my heart light up at a large church yard sale (the type where everyone donates their old junk, and the missions committee gets the money from the sales). For five dollars, he was mine.

By the way - I have yet to be burned buying this type of thing used. So often people buy (or receive as gifts) fancy equipment, use it twice, and store it away .... and you can almost always look up the manuals on the web these days!

We make beautiful music together, don't you think?

Molasses Wheat Bread

3/4 cup water
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons fast rising yeast or quick-rising yeast

- I used medium crust setting, large size (choices on my machine are M, L, XL) and the quick (two hour) bread cycle

Freezer Berry Crisp

A quick dessert from ingredients on hand - and a VERY flexible recipe to boot. Any combination of berries (actually almost any soft fruit) will mix well. Just adjust the sugar added to the tartness of the fruit.

Berries, from your freezer. I used blueberries:

Cranberries, and some mixed berries - about 8 cups in total:

I added about a cup and a half of sugar (less if it hadn't included all those tart cranberries) and a splash of vanilla:

Meanwhile in another part of the kitchen:

Butter was melted:

Leftover, stale storebought cookies were tried and sentenced to execution by spatula:

Then mixed with about three cups of oats and the butter. (I didn't sweeten because of the cookies. If you're using all oats, add a bit of brown sugar)

Pour the berries into a 13 x 9 pan, followed by the topping. Bake at 375, 35-45 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Making Do Dinners

You know, I haven't been blogging much because the last few weeks (or perhaps even the last couple of months) have been more about eating for survival and frugality (i.e. not getting take-out again), then anything particularly interesting. Life has been busy, we've been sick off and on, we are dealing with insecurity in employment, and because of that wondering if we'll have to move .... and yet it didn't dawn on me until this morning that I am probably not the only one who needs "Make Do Dinner" ... so without any claims to originality, chefosity, or gourmet taste, here's a few easy meal ideas.
  • Stuffed Shells & Turkey Meatballs, from the freezer: I frequently stock frozen stuffed shell, bought frozen at the grocery store, as well as frozen meatballs. Those, with a jar of tomato sauce (or homemade from your freezer, if you happen to be challenging Martha for her crown), layer them in a 13 x 9 pan, and bake for an hour at 400 ... easy dinner.
  • Breakfast foods: eggs and toast (my favorite is frying a piece of bread, with a whole ripped out, then cooking the egg in the middle .... yum); pancakes w/ yogurt and fruit; corned beef hash from a can with a poached egg ...
  • Fried rice, especially if you have leftover chinese take-out rice and various leftovers to use up.
  • doctored soups - more on that soon.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pretty Easy Baked Chicken Wings

If you don't happen to be in an area experiencing chicken wing shortages this week, try this recipe on for size:

Start with 3-4 pounds of THAWED wings. This was a bag of all drumettes from my local Super Walmart. Yes, I do sometimes I go all out with gourmet food sources.

Add some garlic powder and hot sauce, and marinade overnight.
Then preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Put a few pats of butter in a large pan, and melt them in the oven:

Drain off the marinade.

In a one gallon ziplock bag, make a breading mixture of 2 cups Bisquick, paprika, fresh pepper, garlic salt, and onion salt. Then, add the drummettes about five at a time and SHAKE IT UP BABY!

Bake for about twenty minutes, then turn and bake for another fifteen-twenty:

If you like, toss the baked wings with buffallo sauce. But in all honesty, next time I would probably just increase the heat in the breading, instead DRIZZLE the wings with hot sauce. Either way, pretty tasty. Either way, pretty messy as well.

As is tradition, serve with celery, carrot sticks and blue cheese dressing.