Christmas Traditions – more Baking!

Christmas 2011

As I was driving to work this morning, listening to NPR, I heard the most delicious recipe for gingerbread from Nigella Lawson.
You can read the entire article here: Nigellas Tips For A Frugal Yet Festive Holiday http://www.npr.org/2011/12/12/143391781/nigellas-tips-for-a-frugal-yet-festive-holiday?sc=emaf
It just sounds so inviting – I can almost smell the ginger, cinnamon and cloves. And its an old fashioned kind of goodie. Reminds me of my grandmothers and their kitchens, filled with wonderful treats during the Christmas season.
Here is the recipe – I will let you know how it turns out!

Recipe: Sticky Gingerbread

Makes 20 squares

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup dark corn syrup

3/4 cup molasses

2/3 cup packed soft dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 teaspoons warm water

1 cup whole milk

2 eggs, beaten to mix

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a roasting pan or ovenproof dish (approx. 12 x 8 x 2-inches) with aluminum foil or parchment paper (if using foil, grease it too).

In a saucepan, melt the butter over a lowish heat along with the sugar, syrup, molasses, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves.

Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and dissolved baking soda in its water.

Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry. This is part of what makes it sticky later.

Pour it into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the pan before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it.

Make ahead tip:

Make the gingerbread up to 2 weeks ahead, wrap loosely in parchment paper and store in an airtight container. Cut into squares as required.

Freeze ahead tip:

Make the gingerbread, wrap in parchment paper and a layer of aluminum foil then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 3-4 hours and cut into squares.

Recipes reprinted from the book Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2011 by Nigella Lawson. Published by Hyperion Books.

Christmas Traditions – Baking

Christmas eve 2014

I know that there are lots of jokes about fruitcakes this time of year. And I agree that some are pretty awful.
But this recipe has always been a favorite one in our house and even folks who do not like fruitcake love these little morsels. It will take time because it makes a lot of cookies – so a good time to write a few notes to friends or wrap some gifts while they bake. Have fun!

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs

1 lb dates, cut into small pieces ( I use kitchen shears for this job – so much easier!)
1 lb fruitcake fruit, cut into small pieces ( you can use what you like – all candied cherries or a mixture of citron and cherries- just make sure that you have red, green and yellow fruit)
1 lb pecan pieces

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time until well blended. Sift dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture. Mix well.
Stir in dates, fruit and nuts until incorporated into dough. The dough will be very stiff.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes at 350 until golden.

These cookies are very pretty and make wonderful gifts. Enjoy!

The Christmas Baking Frenzy is On

Christmas 2013

This is the week of non-stop baking in our home. Batches of fudge, peanut blossoms, Date Orange cake, and fruitcake cookies will soon be ready to share – sweet gifts to be delivered to friends.
Now I know that there are lots of jokes about fruitcakes this time of year. And I agree that some are pretty awful.
But this recipe has always been a favorite one in our house and even folks who do not like fruitcake love these little morsels. It will take time because it makes a lot of cookies – so its a good time to write a few notes to friends or wrap some gifts while they bake. Have fun!

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs

1 lb dates, cut into small pieces ( I use kitchen shears for this job – so much easier!)
1 lb fruitcake fruit, cut into small pieces ( you can use what you like – all candied cherries or a mixture of citron and cherries- just make sure that you have red, green and yellow fruit)
1 lb pecan pieces

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time until well blended. Sift dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture. Mix well.
Stir in dates, fruit and nuts until incorporated into dough. The dough will be very stiff.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes at 350 until golden.

These cookies are very pretty and make wonderful gifts. Enjoy!

Have a Slice of Lemonade

This time of year, it is always fun to have a quick and easy recipe for a refreshing dessert. And you are going to love this Lemonade Pie. It is sweet, tart and delicious!

All you need for the pie are
2 ready made shortbread pie shells. (you can use graham cracker crusts but I prefer the shortbread)
1 container of frozen lemonade concentrate
1 gallon vanilla ice cream (and you want the cheapest store brand, not the fancy expensive stuff)

Let the ice cream soften and the lemonade thaw. In a large bowl, combine the softened ice cream and the lemonade concentrate. Spoon into the pie shells. It will be pretty loose – dont worry – it will harden up.
Put in the freezer for a couple of hours.
And that is it!
Slice and serve – and you and your guests will love this, I promise!

This is especially good after BBQ or spicy food. Or for an afternoon snack or just any old time!

I have also made ice cream pies using coffee ice cream spooned into chocolate pie shells. You can decorate the top with chocolate covered nuts or shaved chocolate.

Enjoy your weekend and I hope you will try the Lemonade Pie.
Mmmmm – now for a slice of lemonade!
K

In Praise of Peaches and the Glories of Summer Fruit

If you have never eaten a peach fresh off the tree, it is one of the wonders of the natural world and you should get yourself to the nearest orchard and try it. Peaches are the fruit of summer for me.
Of course, all spring and summer fruit are anticipated with great affection.
My first love, the strawberry, it one of the most delicate. The strawberries that I fell head over heels for, were the small, locally grown fruit of central Texas. They were red all the way through the berry and had a strong perfumey fragrance that was intoxicating. Because of our countrys ability to produce and deliver produce so well, the strawberry has been cultivated into large, hardy berries, that have some resemblence to the luscious fruit of the past. We will, on very rare occasion, find a small grower with these delicate jewels for the very few days or weeks they are available in the spring. The difference in a really perfect local berry and the strawberries we are accustomed to, will shock you. But in a very good way.
Blueberries are easier to find in local gardens. Many varieties are suited to the different climates across our country and mature during the early and mid summer months. These delicious and nutritious berries can be frozen for eating pleasure all year long. And always find your local grower and get to know them and their produce – you will not be sorry.
Among the delicate treasures of summer fruit are blackberries. There again, I long for the days of wild blackberry picking. We would bring our filled buckets to the house, eaten up by chiggers and mosquitoes, always checking for the hidden tick. But the pain was worth the pleasure of fresh wild blackberry cobbler that evening or the opening of a jar of blackberry jam on a cold winter’s day. The cultivated fruit has a resemblance to the wild taste, and, in a pinch, will do. At least one cobbler with the local growers fruit will grace our summer table, and will be eaten and enjoyed by those who don’t know any better.
Then the melons of summer are always a favorite. Our family’s tradition is cantalope with breakfast throughout the season, liberally seasoned with black pepper because that is the way our grandfather ate it. And who can have a picnic or Fourth of July without a cold watermelon. A farmstand full of melons will always have samples available to taste and help with the thumping until the perfect melon is found to bring home.
But it is the peach – that luscious, beautiful, fragrant, delicious golden orb of perfection- that is my fruit of summer. And we are doubly blessed this year with the long spring with warm temperatures and no late freeze, so the peaches are coming off the trees now. Our local orchardman said it was only the second time he has had peaches this early in the summer.
I love the look of a peach – that fuzzy covering across the rose, pink, yellow, peach skin – the soft pastel colors of summer. Some people, including a few souls in our family, are squeamish about the feel of the peach fuzz. So they ask very nicely to have their fruit peeled and sliced nicely in a bowl, to be eaten with a spoon. But not me, I just wash and eat and let the juice go where it will. Perfection in hand.
Now we will eat sliced peaches on morning cereals, bowls of ice cream, in yogurt and on pancakes or waffles. We will never turn down the chance to have peaches.

And perhaps my favorite is a peach cobbler, hot out of the oven, or cold left over ( if there ever was any left over!) So here is my recipe for peach cobbler. And now my disclaimer – purist will say this is not a cobbler. Cobblers have certain requirements that this recipe does not fulfill. I agree. But this is what we call it in our family – so it is our version of cobbler. Also any fresh fruit can be baked this way – just use your best judgement on amounts of sugar and flour.

Peach Cobbler
Pie crust for a double crust pie. Now in my younger years, I would make a crust from scratch with butter and Crisco, but now I just keep a package of the store bought crusts in the refrigerator. No muss, no fuss.
Peel peaches and slice – the size of your cobbler will depend on the amount of fruit you have on hand. But realistically, you will need at least 4-5 cups of sliced fruit.
Add at least one cup of sugar. Again, use your best judgment. If the fruit is very sweet, cut back a bit; a little under ripe or not so sweet, add a little more.
Add at least 1/2 cup of flour. This is to thicken the juices as they cook.  So add a little more if very juicy, a little less if the fruit is less ripe.
Mix the fruit, sugar and flour until flour is well incorporated without beaking up the fruit.
In a baking dish – and this can be a pie plate, a casserole, a foil pan, anything ovenproof- spray with a cooking spray or butter the dish.
Cut the pie crust. I use a biscuit cutter or cookie cutters, but have also just sliced it into ribbons or have even torn strips of the dough. Put the trimmings of the dough, those bits and pieces from around the circles or small end cuts, in the bottom of the dish.
Pour fruit into container and add several pats of butter across the top.
Arrange the dough into a pleasing pattern.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, then turn the heat to 350 for an additional 30 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden.
Dish out hot with ice cream or whipped cream. Leftovers should be refrigerated after a day, if they last that long!

And as a side note – no one ever complained about hot, fresh home made cobbler – so if it turns out a little runny, just act like that was the way you wanted it to be and nobody will know the difference. If it is a little tart, just add more ice cream! A little overdone, just add more whipped cream. It is a very forgiving dish – just fruit and sugar and crust. And the more often you bake one, the better they will be. ENJOY!

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

I know that there are lots of jokes about fruitcakes this time of year. And I agree that some are pretty awful.
But this recipe has always been a favorite one in our house and even folks who do not like fruitcake love these little morsels. It will take time because it makes a lot of cookies – so a good time to write a few notes to friends or wrap some gifts while they bake. Have fun!

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

2 1/2 cups  all purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs

1 lb dates, cut into small pieces ( I use kitchen shears for this job – so much easier!)
1 lb fruitcake fruit, cut into small pieces ( you can use what you like – all candied cherries or a mixture of citron and cherries- just make sure that you have red, green and yellow fruit)
1 lb pecan pieces

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time until well blended. Sift dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture. Mix well.
Stir in dates, fruit and nuts until incorporated into dough. The dough will be very stiff.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes at 350 until golden.

These cookies are very pretty and make wonderful gifts. Enjoy!

Christmas Baking – Gingerbread

As I was driving to work this morning, listening to NPR, I heard the most delicious recipe for gingerbread from Nigella Lawson.
You can read the entire article here: Nigellas Tips For A Frugal Yet Festive Holiday http://www.npr.org/2011/12/12/143391781/nigellas-tips-for-a-frugal-yet-festive-holiday?sc=emaf
It just sounds so inviting – I can almost smell the ginger, cinnamon and cloves. And its an old fashioned kind of goodie. Reminds me of my grandmothers and their kitchens, filled with wonderful treats during the Christmas season.
Here is the recipe – I will let you know how it turns out!

Recipe: Sticky Gingerbread

Makes 20 squares

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup dark corn syrup

3/4 cup molasses

2/3 cup packed soft dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 teaspoons warm water

1 cup whole milk

2 eggs, beaten to mix

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a roasting pan or ovenproof dish (approx. 12 x 8 x 2-inches) with aluminum foil or parchment paper (if using foil, grease it too).

In a saucepan, melt the butter over a lowish heat along with the sugar, syrup, molasses, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves.

Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and dissolved baking soda in its water.

Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry. This is part of what makes it sticky later.

Pour it into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the pan before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it.

Make ahead tip:

Make the gingerbread up to 2 weeks ahead, wrap loosely in parchment paper and store in an airtight container. Cut into squares as required.

Freeze ahead tip:

Make the gingerbread, wrap in parchment paper and a layer of aluminum foil then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 3-4 hours and cut into squares.

Recipes reprinted from the book Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2011 by Nigella Lawson. Published by Hyperion Books.