Friday, December 24, 2010

A Very, Merry Bovine-Protein-Allergy Christmas

The last of my Christmas baking recipes! All the yumminess that has been blogged about so far can't be consumed by Elly due to her bovine protein allergy. She's not allowed any dairy, or beef for that matter, though she can wear leather shoes, as long as she doesn't chew on them.

Not being able to eat butter can turn sharing Christmas treats into a bit of a challenge, but Elly has altered a few of the classics on her own, and I've found three new winning recipes that I'm able to offer.

From the Fall 2008 issue of Home for the Holidays Canadian Living comes Tropical Fruit Bark. In order for this to be dairy-free I buy the dark Bernard Callebaut chocolate, as I know for certain what's in it, whatever chocolate you buy, make sure it's good quality and check those ingredients!

Tropical Fruit Bark

1 lb. good quality 70% chocolate, melted
1/3 cup each chopped dried papaya, pineapple and mango (Elly also has a pineapple allergy, so I skip that and use either mango only, or mango, apricots and papaya - the all mango is best)
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (I've only ever used pepitas)

Line a 15x10 inch baking sheet with foil; grease foil. Set aside. In large bowl, stir together melted chocolate, fruits and seeds. Spread to about 1/4 inch thickness over the prepared pan. Tap on counter to release air bubbles. Refrigerate bark until firm, about 30 minutes. Break into chunks.

Was that easy, or what?

From the December 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine, this recipe doesn't make very many cookies, but they're low in fat and calories and very tasty.

Espresso Crinkles

4.5 ounces flour (about 1 cup)
1 1/4 cups icing sugar, divided
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
5 1/4 tsps canola oil
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (again, this needs to be dairy-free chocolate)
1 tsp instant espresso powder granules
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp light-coloured corn syrup
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
2 large egg whites

Combine flour, 3/4 cup icing sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat; cook until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Add espresso powder to pan; stir until blended. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, syrup and vanilla. Add egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring gently just until combined. Cover; chill at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dredge balls in remaining 1/2 cup icing sugar; place balls 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops crack and are almost set. Cool cookies on pan 2 minutes or until set; remove from pan. Cool cookies on wire rack. Makes about 2 dozen.

I highly recommend those espresso cookies, they're excellent.

From the Holiday 2000 issue of Canadian Living Holiday Best:

Sweet Spicy Pecans

1 lb. pecan halves
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp each chili powder and ground coriander
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp each cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper

Blanch pecan halves in boiling water for one minute; drain well. Transfer immediately to large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with oil; toss to coat well. Let stand for 10 minutes. Spread in single layer on greased foil-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake in 325 degree F oven, turning every 5 minutes, for about 25 minutes or until nuts are crisp and slightly darkened. Meanwhile, in metal cake pan or other heatproof pan, combine cumin, chili powder, coriander, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne; toast in oven alongside nuts for 5 minutes. Dump nuts into large bowl; sprinkle with spices and toss to coat well. Spread in single layer on baking sheet to cool. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

This is another excellent recipe, being savoury rather than sweet makes this a nice departure from the other baking being passed around this time of year. My batch didn't turn out as well as usual this year, when I reached in to take the pan of pecans out of the oven, I knocked the pan of spices and half of it spilled all over the inside of the oven. Not only was I facing small flames, but I had to act fast and pull extra spices (which I didn't bother to measure) from the cupboard and mix them into the hot pecans. I think they ended up needing more of something, possible cumin, or chili powder. However, they were still pretty good.

That's it for me for pre-Christmas blogging, I'll be back next week with some knitting to show you.

Have a happy and relaxing Christmas week-end.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Festive and Fruity

I've two more recipes for you today, plus a little knitting at the end of the post. If you're weary of all the baked goods, just skim done to see the jolly, red fellow I knit a couple of weeks ago.

First recipe today is for Orange Cherry Poundcake. I'm not sure where this recipe came from, my Mum use to make this when we were younger, so she must have discovered it from a book or a friend in either the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s (I had a lengthy childhood). Ian has discovered this year that he loves this cake, in years past he wouldn't try it, being too suspicious of "things" (like cherries) inside of other "things" (like cake). I guess he's not a baby anymore...

Orange Cherry Poundcake

1/4 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed is a nicest)
1/2 lb. red glace cherries, cut fine (sorry, i don't know how to make the wee accent mark over the "e" in glace)
1/2 lb. butter, softened (that's one cup, for you novice bakers)
1 1/4 cups berry sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Grease two standard loaf pans and line with wax paper. Mix the juice with the cherries in a small bowl and stir well to separate the fruit. Cream the butter thoroughly and add 3/4 cup of the sugar gradually. Continue beating, add flavouring, then flour sifted with the salt. Beat well. Scrape the batter into a larger bowl and add the cherry mixture and zest. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together until fluffy; add the remaining sugar gradually and beat until very stiff (the egg whites, not your arms). Fold the egg white mixture gently and thoroughly into the cherry batter and scrape into the prepared pans. bake at 300 degrees F oven for 1 1/4 hours or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan, then remove and peel off the wax paper. When cold, wrap airtight and store 24 hours before slicing.

Another cherry-filled recipe that I found through Mum, this one comes from the November 2006 issue of Chatelaine. It was a recipe submitted by a reader, who mentions in the preamble that her Mother found it in a recipe book back in the '50s and they've made it ever since at Christmas time.

Festive Cherry Bars

2 cups flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. each baking powder and salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped almonds
3/4 cup maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. In a bowl, using a fork, stir flour with 1/2 cup icing sugar. Using a pastry blender, or two knives, cut in 1 cup butter until coarse crumbs form (or instead pulse ingredients together briefly in a food processor). Press over bottom of baking dish. Bake until light golden around edges, 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir flour with baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat eggs, then stir in brown sugar. gradually stir in flour mixture, then almonds and cherries. Spread over base (no need to cool the base after baking, as it's going right back in the oven). Bake at 350 degrees until filling is set, 25-30 minutes. While filling is baking, in a small bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cherry juice with 3 Tbsp butter and almond extract. Gradually beat in 2 cups icing sugar until fluffy. Cover and set aside. Cool bars, then evenly spread icing overtop. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before cutting into bars. Store in airtight container.

My Festive Cherry Bars didn't look so great this year because I forgot to chill the bars before cutting into them, I just left them to cool on the counter, and now the icing looks a tad sad and wilted. This, of course, won't happen to you because you'll follow the recipe.

Off the needles recently is another Alan Dart toy, this one is the Little Devil from the October issue of Simply Knitting.

I thought why not Old Nick instead of Saint Nick for the festive season. He's not all that threatening though, as I never did make his trident.

On an unrelated-to-anything-except-for-Christmas note, this video makes me wish I'd asked for a timpani drum for Christmas:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Something Nutty

More recipes today! Three, in fact.

Mmmm....see that, it's called Tiger Butter and it's wee Ian's favourite. Like the rest of the Christmas baking, I make this treat early and then squirrel it away in the freezer to dole out in small plate-fuls through the holiday season, most other years I've noticed this item dwindles quite quickly, despite being frozen solid, as Ian would quietly help himself after school. This year has been different, and even now, so close to Christmas, there's still plenty in its little box in the freezer. It tastes just as good as always, so I suspect that Ian, now 14, is simply going through a "lacking initiative" phase (also evident in his algebra marks).

It's one of the easiest of all the Christmas baking, involving simply measuring, melting, marbling and cooling. It's important to use good quality chocolates and a natural peanut butter for this recipe, it makes a huge difference in the flavours. I use Bernard Callebaut chocolate and I purchase it at Scoop 'n Weigh on Taylor Avenue.

Tiger Butter

1/2 lb. white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 lb. semisweet chocolate, chopped

Line the bottom of a 9-inch square cake pan with wax paper. You will use two glass bowls set separately over a saucepan with hot, but not boiling water. In first glass bowl, melt white chocolate. Stir in peanut butter, and pour into prepared pan. In second glass bowl, melt semisweet chocolate over hot water. Pour the semisweet chocolate over white chocolate in prepared pan. Spread evenly, then draw a table knife through both layers to create a marbled effect. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until solid. Cut into wedges or squares to serve.

More nuttiness:

Here's a classic Northern and Eastern European Cookie, Almond Crescents, the little lovelies on the plate aren't actually "almond", other nuts can be substituted for the ground almonds, I've used pecans in the past and this year I used ground hazelnuts. They're very nice, but I'm going to recommend almonds, because the flavour is stronger and more defined (more festive...?). Nigel and I both agreed that the hazelnuts were just a little too delicate in flavour.

Almond Crescents

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (or other nuts)
2 1/3 cups flour
more icing sugar for dusting

Cream the butter and icing sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts, than add the almonds. Stir in the flour and beat until well combined. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a roll 1-inch in diameter. Cut each roll into 3/4 inch slices, roll each slice into a cylinder 2 inches long, place 1 inch apart on baking sheet and form into crescent. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool, then dust liberally with icing sugar.

This next recipe is from the Canadian Living Holiday Best magazine from 2005, reading through the recipe, they sound a little fiddly to make, but they're not as bad as they initially seem, and very tasty if you're partial to coconut.

Coconut Macaroons

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup icing sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each coconut and almond extracts
2 cups flour
45 chocolate macaroon candies (this would be one box of Neilson Original Macaroons)
1 3/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Line baking sheets with parchment or grease; set aside. In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in egg yolk, salt and extracts. Add flour, stir until smooth. Roll dough into 1 Tbsp balls. Press 1 coconut macaroon candy into centre of each, covering candy with dough. Roll with hands into smooth balls. In small bowl, beat egg white with 1 Tbsp water. Place coconut in shallow dish. Dip each cookie into egg white mixture; roll in coconut to coat. Place, about 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake in 350 degree F oven until coconut is lightly browned, about 18 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool. of my new faves.

Meet me here tomorrow, I'll have two more recipes for you!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Shortbreads

I had big plans for December, and though I've accomplished a fair bit, I never did blog all my Christmas Baking recipes like I'd planned, so I mentioned to Nigel the other day that I was going to blog every day until Christmas with one cookie recipe. He scoffed when I said this, and it seems he may have been right - there's only four days left before Christmas day and I have more than four recipes to share, hence, the title of the post.

Let's get down to some baking:

Everyone I know has some recipe or another for Shortbread, but I'm here to share with you how it's really done. Shortbread is the purest of all the baking at Christmas, there are very few ingredients (specific ingredients, please) and a simple, though exhausting technique.

Real Scottish Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened (that's butter, please, no margarine or other faux fats)
1/3 cup berry sugar (not granulated sugar, and not icing sugar, those are wrong)
1 2/3 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup rice flour (you can use 2 cups unbleached flour, but you'll get your hands slapped)

Cream the butter very well (this sounds simple doesn't it? It's not, I put my butter in the stand mixer and beat, beat, beat until it's very pale and soft. If you don't have an electric mixer you can expect to develop big, brawny Scottish forearms.) Gradually add the sugar (again this sounds very straightforward, but the word to remember in that line is gradually, just a spoonful at a time). Gradually add the flours (see sugar reference). Turn out of bowl and knead dough until it begins to crack (this shouldn't take long if you've done everything else I told you). Wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface about 1/4 inch thick using as little flour as possible (too much flour will make them tough). Cut into fancy shapes - try to be economical in your shape cutting, you want to roll and cut as few times as possible. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes (if you've rolled them a little thin you'll want to make sure to check them so they don't burn).

Well done! Here's another recipe that's for "shortbread" too:

Lemon Shortbread

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar (I know, that's why I call it "shortbread")
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 tsp salt (I don't bother with this if the only butter I have in the house is salted)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light. Sift the flour and salt together in another bowl, and add to the butter mixture. Then add the vanilla and lemon zest, and blend thoroughly. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in wax paper, chill for 4-6 hours (well...sometimes I cheat a little on the time). Remove from the refrigerator and let softened slightly. Line an 8-inch cake pan with foil or parchment. Press the dough into cake pan. Sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp sugar, and refrigerate, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake until the shortbread is just starting to colour. about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut into 2 x 1 inch bars.

Not real Shortbread, but very nice none-the-less.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Begins

Winter has arrived of late and I've been busy, busy, busy.

I'd been thinking through November that I should blog all my favourite Christmas baking as I baked - showing the finished project and sharing the recipes, but then I went ahead and started baking and completely forgot about sharing. Already baked and squirreled away in the freezer are my Cherry Pound Cakes, Hazelnut Crescents, Lemon Shortbread and Coconut Macaroons. I think, perhaps, I'll treat a sampling to a visit to a plate and do a wee photo shoot. I suspect Nigel and Ian will help make sure that none of them have to return to the freezer...

Today though, was Jan Hagels day...

this cookie recipe was one Mum use to make years ago, and one I've made every Christmas for a long, long time. I suspect the recipe came from a magazine, possibly a Canadian Living, but I'm honestly not sure, all I do know is that it's not listed in their recipe index.

But don't despair, because I've got the recipe right here:

Jan Hagels

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I use granulated)
1 egg, separated
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups flour (I use unbleached white)
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds (I suspect I use more than that)
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

With mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolk and almond extract. Blend thoroughly. Stir in flour (I don't stir, but beat it in with the mixer). Turn cookie dough into an ungreased 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan. Spread evenly to edges with spatula (for many year the pan I had was too big, so I only spread it to three edges and about 3/4 the length of the pan - use your judgement people!). Beat the egg white until foamy. Spread evenly over cookie dough (I don't use all of it, I brush it on with a pastry brush until there's a nice even coating on top), spread nuts evenly over top (I use a fair bit, probably more like 3/4 cup, rather than the 1/2 cup stated in the original). Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over nuts (I always have a shaker full of cinnamon and sugar in the cupboard, for making cinnamon toast, I don't measure this out I just shake, shake, shake all over the top of the almonds). Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes until lightly browned (hmmm...actually, I check them at about 22 minutes, and if they look and smell done then I take them out - don't let them burn). Let cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Cut into 8 lengthwise cuts and 12 diagonal cuts (I use a pizza cutter). Cool in pan, remove with spatula. Mmmmm...

There's always a few odd, too-skinny shaped pieces that are left over for snacking. This makes Nigel very happy.

I got a tree for the landing and decorated it with a collection of vintage ornaments.

My favourite...

and the tree topper, so lovely...

Every year since Ian was tiny we've put up the Playmobil Advent calendar. It's been amusing me every year that no matter how old he gets, he'll make a bee-line for the calendar and open the little box first thing in the morning, before anything else, but today...for the first time... number 1 still sits and waits.

They break your hearts for the first time at fourteen.