Monday, December 28, 2009

So this is Christmas: Marshmallows!!


3 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 Tblsp. pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Confectioner's sugar for dusting (Made by storing a vanilla bean in a pound of confectioner's sugar a few weeks)

Mix gelatin and 1/2 c. water in a mixer bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/4 c. water in a small pan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Clip a candy thermometer to edge of pan and cook on high heat until mixture reaches 240 deg.  Slowly pour mixture into dissolved gelatin in mixer bowl with mixer on low speed and using the whisk attachment.  Whip on high speed about 12 to 15 minutes until mixture is very thick.  Mix in vanilla.

Dust generously an 8 x 12 non-metal baking dish with confectioner's sugar.  Pour the mixture into the dish, smoothing the top.  Dust with more confectioner's sugar.  Allow to stand overnight to dry out.

Turn marshmallows out onto a sugar-dusted board or marble slab.  Oil a knife (wipe off excess) and cut the marshmallows into squares.   Dust with more confectioner's sugar.  Delicious eaten plain or on hot cocoa!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Ghost Pie

Our first big snow of the season!  It's deep and it's beautiful.  The news keeps reporting this as a record snowfall for our area for this time of year.  It's expected to be our first White Christmas in 20 years here.  Most of my Christmas shopping is done, cookies are baked, cards have been mailed and the tree is going to be decorated tomorrow.  It looks like the roads will be cleared enough for our family to make it home by the end of the week.
With all that snow outside my window and a warm fire in the woodstove, I decided I'd better make our annual Snow Ghost pie today.  An old Hershey Chocolate advertisement told a story of the Snow Ghost.  It claimed you must make a snow ghost pie when you get the first real snow of the season and you have to leave a piece in a snow bank for the Snow Ghost.  If you do, he will bring more snow.  When my children were little we made a snow ghost pie every winter. Sometimes we were so busy we just mixed up chocolate pudding and put it in a pie shell, but we made sure we put a piece in a snowbank for the ghost. (Be careful  not to leave it where a passing dog can find it and eat the chocolate and get sick.)  I make my own crust sometimes, but today I used a premade Mrs. Smith's deep dish crust that I baked.  If you like chocolate pie, this is a really good one and makes plenty of filling--I had some extra that I ate while it was hot!  Yummmm. . . .


1 9-inch baked pastry shell
1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
3 Tblsp. butter
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
Sweetened whipped cream

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Gradually blend milk into dry ingredients, stirring until smooth.   Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until filling boils; boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat; blend in butter and vanilla.  Pout into pie crust.  Carefully press plastic wrap directly onto pie filling.  Cool.  Chill 3 to 4 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream.

It's late--I'm the only one still awake--the woodstove is warm with a crackling fire.  I'm going to make myself a hot cup of tea and have just one more piece of that pie and look for a Christmas movie on tv.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

BBA Challenge Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta is one of my very favorite breads.  It's chewy with a good crust.  I was so busy with Christmas things that I didn't concentrate enough on this bread today--I just put it together quickly.  I used the Poolish starter and read later that the Biga starter produces larger holes.  Also, I would add more water next time--I believe my dough could have been softer and still be workable.  I'd like it to be a little flatter and with more holes.  This bread rises with larger holes when the dough is as wet as it can be handled.  The end had big holes, as you can see, but it's more dense toward the center.  I haven't cut the second one yet--it feels light and airy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Magazine Mondays Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is a Russian dish that is delicious!  I found this recipe in Gourmet magazine, April 1994. (I keep some magazines a long time.)  I've made Chicken Kiev before, but I found today that I really love this version.  I changed it a little.  I left out the garlic the recipe calls for and used just a little onion salt in place of the minced fresh chives, since our chives are under at least 1-1/2 feet of snow today.  I also fried the chicken instead of deep-frying as the recipe calls for.  Along with the chicken, I tried Delta Kitchen's Sesame Spatzle.  It is really good.  Check that site for the recipe.  I used just a little garlic and added the sesame seeds at the end with the parsley.  I think it would be good without any garlic, actually.


1 stick butter, softened
1 Tblsp. minced fresh Italian parsley
a few shakes onion salt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. grated fresh lemon zest
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large egg, beaten lightly with a little water
1 cup flour
1-1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Mash together butter, parsley, onion salt, lemon juice and zest and a little salt.  Form into "fingers" about 1/2 inch in diameter and wrap in plastic and chill about an hour.  Cut chicken breasts in half to make thinner pieces.  Cut those in half again to make a total of 8 pieces.  Place each between plastic wrap and pound thin with a meat pounder.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.  Cut sections of the chilled butter a little shorter than the width of the chicken and roll the meat up like a jelly roll around the butter.  Press the edges and seam to enclose the butter.  Dip rolled chicken in flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs.  Place all chicken pieces in a single layer on a plate and refrigerate to chill an hour.  Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet.  Brown the chicken on medium high until well browned on all sides.  Turn down the heat and cover the pan partially to allow the chicken to finish cooking all the way through. 

The original recipe calls for deep-frying instead of panfrying.  It also includes 1 tsp. minced garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp. salt to be added to the butter when mixing.  Instead of the onion salt, the recipe calls for adding 1 Tblsp. minched fresh chives.

Simple green beans finished out this meal. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Cookies Apricot-filled

We have been baking these cookies for many years.  My husband's mother gave me the recipe.  She was Italian with parents who came over from Parma.  These cookies were popular in the ethnic neighborhoods that she lived near not far from Pittsburgh.  It seems they are actually Polish.  Every Christmas she made these cookies in quantity and kept them in her freezer.  They were light and fresh and we couldn't stop eating them.  Now my family wants to see them around every Christmas.

Granny's Apricot-Filled Cookies

1/2 lb. Oleo (I use butter now - room temp.)
8 oz. cream cheese (room temp.)
1 Tblsp. sugar
2 egg yolks
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Confectioner's sugar

1 12 oz. can Apricot Cake and Pastry Filling

Mix cream cheese and butter thoroughly.  Add yolks and blend well.  Add sugar, flour and salt.  Mix gently to form stiff dough.  Form 10 balls, about 3 oz. each.  Chill in refrigerator several hours.  Sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on a dough board to prevent dough sticking.  Roll each ball out on the confectioner's sugar to about an 8-inch square.  Cut each square into 9 small squares.  Place 1/2 tsp. apricot filling in the center of each small square.  Bring opposite corners together to seal.  (You can use an egg wash made of an egg beaten with a little water to brush over one of those corners to help make a seal.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 deg.
Makes 90 cookies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Poppy Seed Roll Makowiec

I grew up eating poppy seed rolls for Christmas and Easter.  I could never get enough of the filling.  Mama ground her poppy seeds, soaked them in hot milk and ran them through the grinder again after they had softened.  All she added was sugar and egg white.  That was my favorite.  She never iced her rolls--it would have taken away from the poppy seed taste.  I've bought poppy seed rolls when I've found them in bakeries in Pennsylvania, but they're often flavored with lemon and honey.  I can't find them at all in local bakeries here.  It's also impossible to buy poppy seeds in bulk here so I've used canned filling this time and decided to add some cream cheese icing and walnuts to make them look more festive.


4 cups flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tblsp. granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, 115 deg.
14 oz. (approximately) poppy seed filling or make your own

Mix flour, butter and sugar with a pastry blender.  Add egg yolks and mix well. 
Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to dough.  Mix well.  Chill overnight in covered bowl.
Next day, whip room temperature egg whites until stiff.
Roll out half of dough to 13-inch circle.  Spread 1/2 of the filling over the dough.  Spread half the egg white over the filling.  Roll up like a jelly roll.  Place on one side of lightly greased large cookie sheet (or parchment-lined sheet pan).  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Cover with towel and let rise for 1 hour.
Bake at 350 deg. 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool.

Icing (optional)

3-oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tblsp. melted butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Beat everything together, except walnuts.  Spread over cooled loaves.  Sprinkle with walnuts.

Wesolych Swiat!

BBA Challenge Dresden Stollen

Dresden Stollen is a traditional German Christmas bread.  This version, from Peter Reinhart's book is delicious and not too difficult to make.  For my fruits, I used 1 cup golden raisins and 1 cup of a mixture of currants, citron, candied orange peel and a few candied red cherries.  I presoaked the fruit in rum and lemon extract for several days before using it.
I rolled the fruit-filled dough around a roll of almond paste before the final proofing. (I used almond paste, not marzipan.)  When the bread was baked, I brushed it with melted butter and covered it in vanilla sugar (confectioner's sugar which has had vanilla bean stored in it).  I had to cut a piece to try before I put it away for Christmas.  It is moist and luscious.  I love this bread.  The fruit combination and the almond paste in each slice are so good. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Cookies: Biscochitos and Dark Chocolate with Sour Cherries

I tried two new recipes from Martha Stewart's Cookies.  The Dark Chocolate with Sour Cherries was not a recipe I thought I would love.  I don't bake chocolate cookies, although I do appreciate a good chocolate cake and love dark chocolate.    I love these cookies.  The chocolate is dark, rich and chewy with occasional bites of fruity dried cherry that are just the right contrast in the rich chocolate cookie.  I plan to make these every Christmas.  They're going into my Christmas File.  They were not hard to make. 

Then I became intrigued by the Biscochitos, also in Martha's Cookie book.  This is, apparently, the state cookie of New Mexico.  I couldn't imagine the flavor of a cookie that contains vanilla, Grand Marnier, orange zest, anise seeds and cinnamon and lard (in addition to the usual cookie ingredients).  Well, this dough almost went into the trash.  It was sooo soft that I almost couldn't work with it.  I didn't have the traditional shape of cookie cutter so I used my chicken cutter.  The dough kept becoming messed up as I tried to transfer it from the dough board to the cookie sheet.  I finally got enough cookies cut out to bake some of them.  The flavor turned out to be really good.  I was so glad I stuck with these.  I love that combination of flavors.  The texture is softly crisp.  The next time I make these (And I WILL make these again), I'll probably cut them into square or diamond shapes so I don't waste any dough scraps and will be able to transfer them more easily.
 Both of these are now definitely added to our favorites.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Cookies: Zitronenherzen

Zitronenherzen or lemon hearts are Christmas cookies that are made without any flour. Ground almonds are substituted.  I found some almond meal/flour at Whole Foods that I used for these.  It's just finely ground blanched almonds.  Here are the ingredients:

3 egg yolks
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 to 2-1/4 cups finely ground almonds
1/8 tsp lemon extract (I used 1/2 tsp. lemon oil instead)
1/8 tsp. baking powder (I used just a little more)

Beat egg yolks, 2/3 c. sugar and vanilla until thick and lemon-colored.  Stir in 1/2 the almonds, the lemon oil and baking powder.

Transfer dough to sugared doughboard and knead in enough of the remaining almond to form soft dough.  Shape into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1-1/2 hrs.

Take a break, make some hot chocolate, pick up your knitting and listen to Christmas music for a while.
Ok.  Time's up--back to the cookies:

Heat oven to 400 deg.  Line cookie sheets with greased waxed paper (unless you have a Silpat, which is wonderful).  Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick on lightly sugared surface. Cut out cookies with 2-inch heart-shaped cutter.  Place on cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. (I took mine out at about 7 min.  They were set without being brown. Don't bake them too long.)

When they are done, remove to racks immediately and cool.  Glaze with the following icing recipe:

1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Beat lemon juice into sugar in small mixer bowl until the consistency of corn syrup.  (I didn't sift my sugar so I had a higher proportion of sugar making it more like icing, which gave a more intensely-lemon flavor to the iced cookies.)

These cookies have a nice chewy texture with an almond flavor that I love and very lemony icing, which I also love.  If you wanted to tone the lemon a bit (I don't), you could make the icing thinner and use less--the way the recipe says.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Magazine Mondays

I love this challenge since I have such a stack of old magazines that I'm finally getting around to.  If it weren't for the Magazine Mondays, I would still not try all these recipes.  Today's recipes come from another issue of  donna hay Issue 35.  This issue is loaded with recipes for making and using your own ricotta, clotted cream, curd and preserved lemons. 

I had tried clotted cream once from a store, expecting a good thick cream to spread on biscuits.  It tasted off--not fresh.  So, I'm making my own.  I put 3 cups of heavy cream in a dish and am leaving it in a 275 oven for 8 hrs.  It should be a thick spread good on the scones I plan to make in the morning.

 Then I made some ricotta cheese.  I've seen various versions of how to make it.  This one was the simplest.  I just heated 6 cups of whole milk to 176 deg., added 2 Tblsp. white vinegar and let it sit for 5 minutes to form curds.  Then I spooned it into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain about 20 minutes.  I then picked up the corners of the cheesecloth and twisted them to squeeze out more of the moisture.  This ricotta was really sweet and creamy.  I loved it.

  I used the homemade ricotta for a Ricotta, Pancetta and Pumpkin bake from this magazine.  I had enough ricotta for a 1/2 recipe.  I combined my 3/4 lb. ricotta with 3/4 cups grated parmesan and 3 eggs.  Then I added 4 oz. thawed and drained chopped spinach and 1/4 c. chopped basil along with some salt and pepper.  I peeled and sliced, thinly, an 8 oz. piece of butternut squash (this Australian magazine refers to it as butternut pumpkin) and used 6 slices of pancetta.  The recipe said to grease a baking dish and layer 1/2 of the squash, 3 slices of pancetta, 1/2 of the cheese mixture and then repeat with the rest.  It is baked for 50 minutes at 320 deg.

I don't think I'm a huge fan of pancetta.  As I ate this, I thought it was full of flavor--the sweetness of the squash was nice with the savory cheese and herb custard--but I didn't care for the pancetta in it.  I kept thinking I'd like it better with really thin ham or with no meat at all.  If you like quiches, this might be worth a try.

Expect to see something about Christmas cookies soon!