Friday, December 31, 2010

Baked Berry Brie

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2/3 C berry preserves
8 oz round brie wheel
¼ C chopped hazelnuts or pecans
1 egg
1 Tbls water

Thaw puff pastry; unfold on a lightly floured surface and roll gently to seal any cracks. Spoon preserves onto center; place cheese on top of preserves. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. (I'm allergic, so I skip this step...but I'll leave it in the recipe for the rest of you.) Fold pastry to cover cheese; trim excess pastry and press to seal seams.

Whisk egg and water in a small bowl. Brush pastry seams with egg mixture. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. (I line mine with parchment, some cheese and berry juice always seems to seep out no matter how well I seal the seams; the parchment saves me from needing to scrub my cookie sheets.) If desired, cut pastry scraps into decorative shapes and arrange on top. Brush with egg mixture.

Bake 25 minutes (or until golden brown) at 400°. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with crackers and/or sliced fruit (apple and pear are delicious).

Raspberry Sorbet

I got an ice cream maker for Christmas. :) Here's my first creation...right out of the recipe book that came with it. I hope to get more creative in the future, but I figured I'd start simple.

2 c water
1½ C sugar
pinch salt
4 C raspberries

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Add salt and raspberries. Using an immersion blender, blend mixture until smooth. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove seeds, using a spatula to aid the purée through the strainer. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours (or overnight).

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and mix about 20 minutes until thickened. Sorbet should be soft and creamy. For a firmer consistency, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. (Mine definitely needed extra time in the freezer! Then...delicious!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

¼ C warm water
1 pkg yeast
¼ C + ½ tsp sugar
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
¼ C shortening
¾ C milk, slightly warmed
1 egg

butter, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, nuts...

In a small bowl or glass, mix yeast and ½ teaspoon sugar with warm water and set aside.

In a large bowl, cut shortening into flour, salt and remaining sugar. Add warm milk, egg and yeast mixture. Up to ½ C more flour can be added, but dough should be sticky, just handle-able. Knead 5 mintutes. Form ball; let rise, covered, 1 to 1½ hours. Punch down. Roll out to oblong (about 15x9"). Spread with butter; sprinkle generously with sugar (I use brown), cinnamon, nuts, raisins, etc. as desired. Roll into a long log, pinching ends together. Cut into 12 rolls. Place in greased pans. Let rise until double (about an hour). Bake at 375°, 25-30 minutes.

Butter alone or a simple powdered sugar icing is all these really need, but they're especially tasty with a cream cheese icing. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meringues

Meringues...or, as my family sometimes calls them: Styrofoam cookies.

½ tsp peppermint extract
2 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
¾ C sugar
1 C chocolate chips
(the mini ones are great in this recipe)

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add cream of tarter and sugar. Gently fold in peppermint (and food coloring if desired). Add chocolate chips. Cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil. Drop meringue by spoonfuls onto covered cookie sheets.

Preheat oven to 350°. Put cookies in oven and TURN OVEN OFF. "Bake" cookies 6 hours (or just leave them in overnight). Gently remove cookies from aluminum foil.

Cream Wafers

Wafers:
(makes about 100 cookies)
1 C butter, softened
1/3 C heavy cream
2 C flour
sugar

Thoroughly mix butter, cream and flour. Roll out thinly. Cut in tiny rounds using a cookie cutter or mini-biscuit round. Put a thin layer of sugar on a plate or shallow dish. Turn (flip) wafer rounds in sugar, pressing gently on both sides. Place on ungreased cookie sheeets; prick with a fork. Bake 7-9 minutes at 375°. Cool completely.

Buttercream Filling:
½ C butter, softened
1½ C powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla

Mix butter, egg yolks and vanilla until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Spread buttercream filling on a wafer, top with a second wafer...


Decorating the top really adds to the visual appeal (red and green 'holly' for festive Christmas cookie plates; pastels or brights for showers or other holidays, etc). But they're so light and creamy and buttery they'll be a favorite even served without any embellishments!

This recipe uses egg yolks. I often make meringues or divinity with the egg whites. :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Black & Whites --or-- Chocolate Crinkles

½ C butter, melted
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 C white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 C chocolate chips
½ C powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350° Stir chocolate into melted butter until melted and smooth. Mix in the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Gradually blend in flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Roll the chilled dough into 1 inch balls; roll each ball in powdered sugar. Place cookies 2" apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes, until tops are cracked. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Punch

1 C sugar
1 C lime juice
½ tsp mint extract
1 C rum
48 oz cranberry juice
(or cran-raspberry, cran-apple, cran-grape...)

Combine all ingredients, stirring well until sugar is completely dissolved. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs, cranberries, or lime slices.

For a non-alcoholic, sparkling alternative, skip the rum and add gingerale instead.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cranberry Blondies

Ingredients:
½ C butter, softened
½ C sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
11/3 C flour
½ C dried cranberries
½ C coarsely chopped white chocolate
½-1 C fresh cranberries

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combined flour, soda, powder and salt.

Stir dry ingredients into creamed sugar & egg mixture. Gently blend in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. Spread mixture evenly in 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with fresh cranberries and gently press them in halfway using a rubber spatula.

Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool in pan at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into squares or bars for serving.

Makes 12 roughly 3” squares, or 24  3” x 1½” bars (or 48 1½" bite-sized squares...pictured).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Toffee

½ pound butter
1 C brown sugar
optional: 1 C nuts or chocolate chips

Melt butter in a saucepan; stir in brown sugar. Heat to 300° on a candy thermometer, stirring constantly. Pour immediately into a 9x9" pan. Cool completely.

To serve, invert the pan...the toffee will fall out. 'Whack' it to crack it into bite sized chunks. :)

Optional: Before pouring in the hot toffee, throw a cup of chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips into the bottom of the pan; pour the hot toffee over them -- do not stir.

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Ingredients
¾ C shortening
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
¼ C molasses
2 tsp soda
2¼ C flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
sugar for dipping

Directions
Mix shortening, sugar, egg and molasses until smooth and creamy. Add dry ingredients all at once. Chill dough. Roll into balls. Dip in sugar. Place 3" apart on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes at 375°.

Makes about 4 dozen small 1½" cookies.








As an alternative...skip dipping the cookies in sugar, top them with a vanilla and powdered sugar icing and colored sugar sprinkles.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gingerbread

These photos are from past years; I'm not sure if I'll make one this year. They're scanned, and the color isn't great, but here are a couple of my gingerbread house creations. ...and a shot of my nephew Tate and I enthusiastically preparing to devour one. :)

1/3 C shortening
1 C brown sugar
1½ C dark molasses
6 C flour*
2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp each: allspice, ginger, cloves, cinnamon







Mix shortening, brown sugar, molasses and 2/3 C cold water until thoroughly combined. Combine flour, soda, salt and spices; stir into molasses mixture until well combined. Chill dough 1 hour. Roll and cut into desired shapes. Bake 15 minutes at 350°.

* For gingerbread houses (or gingerbread men), add another cup of flour. The firmer cookies are easier to build with. :)




Sweet Spiced Nuts

1 egg white
2 Tbls cold water
1½ C nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds,
pecans...or a mixture)
½ C sguar
1½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg

Beat egg white and water until very frothy. Stir nuts into egg mixture to coat, then drain briefly in a colander. Mix sugar and spices in a plastic bag. Add nuts and shake to coat.

Spread coatead nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place nuts under broiler on high for 2-3 minutes until mixture is bubbly. Remove from oven briefly; stir. Return to oven, under broiler, for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven; stir to separate. Cool. Store in air tight containers.

OR...

Spread coated nuts in a single layer on a microwave safe plate; microwave on HIGH 1½ minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Stir. Microwave another 1½ minutes. Stir to separate; cool.

I have nut allergies, so I use all peanuts. This is an easy recipe to play around with different spice combinations. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate Fudge

3 C sugar
¾ C butter
2/3 C evaporated milk
½ tsp salt
12 oz chocolate chips
7 oz marshmallow cream
(or equivalent of mini-marshmallows)
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: 1 C chopped nuts

Combine sugar, butter, evaporated milk and salt in a saucepan. Bring just to a rolling boil; remove from heat. Immediately stir in chocolate chips and marshmallows until completely combined and melted. Add vanilla and nuts, if desired, stirring until well blended. Pour immediately into container(s) lightly coated with non-stick spray. Cool. Cut into squares to serve.

For "rocky road fudge", add an additional cup of mini-marshmallows just before pouring into containers to cool; fold them gently into the fudge, just to combine -- but not to melt and mix them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Russian Tea Cookies

1 C butter, softened
½ C powdered sugar
additional for rolling/dusting
1 tsp vanilla
2½ C flour
¼ tsp salt
optional: finely chopped nuts

Cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, salt and nuts (if desired). Chill dough. Roll into 1" balls. Bake 10-12 minutes at 400°.

While still warm (not hot), roll in additional powdered sugar. Cool. Roll again in powdered sugar.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peppermint Bon Bons

This is another recipe that makes a BUNCH -- at least 5-6 dozen or more, depending on the size of your bon bons. Still, with Christmas get togethers with family, church groups, faculty, friends...they generally disappear in a hurry!

8 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ C butter, softened
2 tsp peppermint extract
6+ C powdered sugar
18-24 oz chocolate chips
2 Tbls paraffin
optional: food coloring

Mix the cream cheese, butter and peppermint until smooth and creamy. Add food coloring at this point if desired; a pale green can look festive and minty. Add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until mixture is firm and beginning to form a ball and pull away from the bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Note: Suit your personal preference: adding more powdered sugar creates a firmer consistency; you may even be able to skip the refrigeration. But I like soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth centers to my bon-bons...which means slightly less powdered sugar and it really needs to be refrigerated or it melts-in-your-hands when you try to roll it into balls!

Roll into bite sized balls. Return to refrigerator for 1 hour.

Melt chocolate chips and paraffin in a double boiler. Using one or two forks, dip peppermint balls in chocolate and place on wax paper or aluminum foil to cool and harden. Store in covered container(s) in the refrigerator. Remove from frig an hour before serving for softer bon-bons.

Variations: Substitute a different extract for any variety of flavors...orange is a favorite of my sister's, but feel free to get creative! If you have anyone who is allergic to chocolate, or (gasp!) doesn't like it...simply roll the bon-bons in colored sugar or other festive 'sprinkles' (like you'd buy to decorate a cake/cupcakes).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peanut Butter Bon Bons

This is a big recipe...makes 12 dozen or more. Peanut butter bon bons are a favorite with my family and friends, and are even remembered by some of the faculty at work and friends from church from our annual Christmas parties...so I end up making more than one batch, even of this big recipe, throughout the holidays. You might cut it in 1/2 the first time...all the rolling and dipping does take TIME.

Ingredients:
1 C butter, softened
1 18oz jar peanut butter
(creamy or crunchy)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4-5 C powdered sugar
24 oz chocolate chips
2 Tbls parafin

Directions: Mix butter and peanut butter until creamy; stir in vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until mixture is still soft (not crumbly) but managable -- you'll need to roll it into balls. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Note: Every brand of peanut butter is different -- moister/creamier or dryer. You can simply add more powdered sugar, for a firmer consistency, and even skip the refrigeration. But I like soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth centers to my bon-bons...which means slightly less powdered sugar and it really needs to be refrigerated or it melts-in-your-hands when you try to roll it into balls!

Roll into bite sized balls. Return to refrigerator for 1 hour.

Melt chocolate chips and parafin in a double boiler. Using one or two forks, dip peanut butter balls in chocolate and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or aluminum foil to cool and harden (in the frig). Store in covered container(s) in the refrigerator. Remove from frig an hour before serving for softer bon-bons.

Variation: I have sometimes used creamy peanut butter and added a cup or two of crisped rice cereal for a lighter crunch. It's delicious, but after a day or two the crisped rice absorbs some of the moisture from the peanut butter mixture and gets a little chewy instead of light and crispy. It's usually not a problem (these go fast around my family!), but something to keep in mind.