The dense chew of a crackly molasses cookie is good on its own, but combine it with a flavor redolent of the holidays and you have true Christmas magic.
I came across these cookies last Christmas in the opus that is Gourmet Today. I was searching for an activity that my lil' jalapeño and I could do instead of going outside in the -10°F weather. Some people craft with their kids—I bake. Anyhoo, they turned out really good—chewy, just enough spice and a bitter edge that begs you to eat another.
I've been dreaming about them lately and had a quart of pumpkin ice cream in the freezer, just begging me to eat it. Then it struck me that those two would probably like to meet. So it was only right that I introduce them, and whattaya know? A match made in heaven.
Pumpkin ice cream is one of those seasonal ice cream flavors, like peppermint and egg nog, that I wait for all year long. If made right it is like a frozen, meltable version of pumpkin pie.
Molasses Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich
Adapted from Gourmet Today
Makes 12 sandwiches
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses (not robust)
1/2 cup sanding sugar or granulated sugar for dusting
3 cups pumpkin ice cream
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine shortening and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until combined. Turn off mixer and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture and beat on low until flour is incorporated.
3. Form tablespoon-sized balls of dough and roll in sugar. Place 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, then press balls down with the back of a measuring cup or bottom of a glass. Sprinkle tops with sugar.
4. Bake until slightly darker around the edges, but top is still soft, about 10-12 minutes. Let sit on baking sheet a couple of minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Repeat with remaining dough.
5. Scoop 1/4 cup of ice cream onto the bottom of 1 cookie, top with another cookie and press down to evenly distribute ice cream, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Repeat with remaining cookies and ice cream.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, candied yams, all the standards of the holiday season, all wonderful, all delicious—all filling!
Start Christmas dinner off with a delicate touch. Start with something simple, but still long on flavor. This effortless white bean dip makes a great app before a big meal, it feels substantial enough that you don't eat 10 pounds of it before dinnertime, and doesn't have the guilt-inducing after effects of say a nut-covered cheese ball.
White Bean Dip
(Print This Recipe)
Adapted from CHOW.com
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 (15-ounce) cans white navy beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or chives
Radish halves, celery sticks, cucumber slices, cauliflower florets, and/or wheat crackers for serving
1. Place beans, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, add oil in a thin stream until completely incorporated and mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.
2. Add basil and pulse 5 times to evenly incorporate. Serve with veggies and crackers.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
As a mother I sometimes jump the gun a bit on appropriate activities to do with a 2-year-old. Take making Christmas cookies for example, it's like I think at the ripe old age of three my 'lil jalapeño will want nothing to do with me and my opportunity for making cookies with her will be over. Just a note to all you other mothers of 2-year-olds out there: this is not a good activity to do with your child. Here's how my experience went:
Act 1: Making the dough.
Me: "Don't eat too much dough"
LJ: "Just a little bit," as she shoves a huge glob in her mouth.
Act 2: Cutting out the shapes.
Me: "Use your cutters to cut out the shapes and then we will bake them."
LJ: "Okay Mommy." She cuts out a shape, picks it up with the spatula.....and shoves it in her mouth.
Act 3: Frosting and sprinkles.
Me: "Spread the frosting on the cookies, then add some sprinkles."
LJ: "Garumph." You can't understand her because she's simultaneously shoving spoonfuls of frosting and sprinkles in her mouth.
Act 4: Call it quits
Me: "Yea, wasn't that fun!" As I'm stuffing everything in the refrigerator to do after she goes to bed.
Plans for that Gingerbread House we were going to make—cancelled.
Note: My mom sent me this lovely vanilla-citrus Fiori di Sicilia extract from King Arthur Flour which I use here. You can leave it out or substitute your favorite flavoring (almond, vanilla, etc.) instead.
Christmas Cookie Cutouts
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 30 cookies
1 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia extract (optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Royal Icing for decorating (see recipe below)
1. Place shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth and very creamy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and the salt and beat on medium speed until smooth and velvety, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg yolks and extract (if using) beating until incorporated, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
2. Add the flour to the bowl. Drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and make 5 (2-second) pulses on low speed to start to incorporate the flour. Remove the towel and mix on low speed just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks soft, clumpy, and moist, about 30 seconds. (If you still have some flour in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to work it into the dough.) Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half.
3. Place a ball of dough between 2 large pieces of parchment or waxed paper. Flatten the ball with our your hands into a disk, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough, turning it over frequently, until it's 1/8 inch thick. Transfer dough (paper and all) to a baking sheet; set aside. Repeat with the second ball and place on top of the first. Refrigerate until the dough is very firm, about 1 hour.
4. Heat oven to 350°F. Remove a round of dough from the refrigerator and place on work surface. Remove top sheet of parchment and place on a clean baking sheet. Using a cookie cutter, stamp out as many cookies as possible. Transfer cookies to the parchment-covered baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. Save scraps to reroll later.
5. Bake until cookies are light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top, about 12 minutes. Let cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula.
6. Gather scraps, press into a disk, and roll between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm. Repeat cutting, baking, and cooling with the remaining dough.
7. Once cool, decorate cookies with royal icing.
I love this frosting because it's dairy-free (always a plus for me) and it hardens forming a nice shell for easily stackable cookies—a bonus for the gift giving season.
It also keeps very nicely in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Just press a piece of parchment or waxed paper onto the surface and cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating. Give a stir before using as it has a tendency to separate.
Adapted from CHOW.com
Makes 1 3/4 cups
4 cups powdered sugar (1 1-pound box)
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
5 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Combine ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed, stopping to scrape down the bowl, until glossy and stiff, about 5 minutes.
2. This is a good consistency for piping; if spreading the frosting, thin with more lemon juice (a teaspoon at a time) until desired consistency.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
If you like your meatballs real dense and sausage-like, these are not the meatballs for you. These are pillowy meatballs. Hunker down, warm-you-up meatballs. Meatballs with heart.
I cannot lay claim to these beauties. They are the creation of Aida Mollenkamp whose long line of Italian family members can attest to what makes or breaks a good meatball. The genius lies in the fennel-garlic mash—a mixture of fennel seeds, garlic, salt, and pepper chopped so fine that it permeates every ragged crag of the meatball.
Clearly her recipe does not call for soy milk, (that substitution is made so the Professor can eat them) and her recipe also has about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan added to the mix. So if you are in a house where dairy flows freely, go ahead and make those substitutions/additions.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
(Print this Recipe)
Adapted from CHOW.com
Makes 8 to 10 servings
For the meatballs:
4 ounces stale country bread, crust removed and torn into large pieces (about 2 cups packed)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 medium sweet onion, minced
6 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
For the meatballs:
1. Place torn bread in a small bowl and cover with beaten eggs. (Push bread down so it all gets moistened.) Let soak until most of the egg is absorbed and bread is broken down, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place garlic and fennel seeds on a cutting board and sprinkle all of the pepper and salt on top. Chop mixture until it is a rough paste (it will resemble cornmeal).
3. Heat oven to 375°F. Place meats in a large bowl and mix until evenly combined, about 3 minutes. Add bread and any remaining egg and mix until bread is fully incorporated (break up any bread chunks). Add onion and mix well. Add garlic-fennel paste, parsley, oregano, and mix until very evenly combined.
4. Gather mixture into round balls, about 2 inches in diameter, and place on a baking sheet. Bake until browned and firm, about 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile prepare tomato sauce: Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring.
6. Add crushed tomatoes (juices and all) and bay leaf. Stir to combine and lower heat to low. Cover and cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Once meatballs are done, transfer them to sauce and let simmer while pasta cooks.
7. To serve: While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain. Return to pot.
8. Pour meatballs and sauce over pasta and gently toss to combine. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Here's your dilemma, you have a party coming up and you really want to Wow your guests, but you don't have the time to make something intricate. Well, worry no more. What you need is a beautiful stuffed pork roast.
It looks like you spent a millennium getting that stuffing in there just so, but really it takes about 5 minutes and the pale green hue of the pistachios and the peachy apricots create a stunning mosaic once sliced that will have everyone calling you Martha before the night is over.
If you do have more than 5 minutes you can even make slits along the outside of the roast and stuff whole pistachios inside for an even more jaw-dropping affect.
To complete the meal, roast some carrots and onion wedges alongside the pork, then serve with a spinach salad and some Israeli couscous.
Makes 4 servings
3 ounces dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup roasted, salted pistachios, shelled and chopped
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pound center-cut pork loin roast
olive oil, salt and pepper
1. Heat oven to 425°F. Combine apricots, pistachios, honey, and garlic in a medium bowl.
2. Horizontally slice pork loin halfway down its side, leaving about 1/2-inch border on the other side (don't cut all the way through) and butterfly the roast open. Using your palm press both sides down to make them as flat as possible. Season open side generously with salt and pepper.
3. Spread filling over pork, leaving an inch border on all sides. Starting on one long end, roll pork up and tie with 3 or 4 pieces of kitchen twine. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on all sides.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add pork and cook, undisturbed, until caramel colored, about 5 minutes. Repeat on all sides, then transfer to oven.
5. Roast until internal temperature is about 140°F, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Remove kitchen twine, slice into 1-inch thick slices and serve.
*Note: To stuff outside with pistachios: reserve 3 tablespoons whole pistachios before chopping. Make as many slits as you have pistachios all around the outside of the pork before butterflying. Stuff pistachios into slits, then proceed with recipe.
Monday, December 6, 2010
The real character of a good Gumbo is all in the roux, a combination of flour and fat cooked until brown and toasty. It takes some practice to get it toasted without becoming burnt. You have to be gutsy enough to keep cooking until the flour is browned within an inch of insanity, when you are certain that you killed it—but no—perfect.
I like to sauté my vegetables in the roux while it is cooking, becoming so tender and soft they almost melt into the finished sauce. This is a good base recipe, you can substitute seafood or andouille sausage for the smoked. Add some chopped okra with the other vegetables and a dash of filé powder at the end if you can get your hands on some.
There is enough stew here to serve a crowd for a casual holiday get-together and would be a nice respite from more traditional fare. Make it up to 3 days ahead and keep in the refrigerator, or a couple weeks in the freezer, then all you have to do is heat and serve.
Recipe adapted from EAT
Makes 10 servings
1 whole fryer chicken (about 3-4 pounds) cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 large onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound smoked sausage (such as kielbasa), sliced
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1. Season chicken pieces on all sides with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Once shimmering place 3 or 4 chicken pieces in the hot oil. Cook, undisturbed, until dark golden brown on one side, flip and repeat on other side. Brown remaining chicken pieces and transfer to a plate.
2. Add onion to pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add celery and bell pepper and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables begin to soften. Add flour and cook, stirring often, until flour is toasted and turns a dark caramel color. Add 3/4 of the scallions and all the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
3. Stir in sausage and return chicken to pot along with any accumulated juices. Add Worcestershire, cayenne, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through and stew has thickened, about 3 hours. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with remaining scallions.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
These scone-like cookies are a specialty of my grandmother, especially at Christmas time. The last couple of years she just hasn't had the motivation she used to, and at 87 I would say she has every right. I've proudly taken oven the reigns as the Orange Cookie Queen, much to the pleasure of my father who last year had the audacity to steal some of my grandmother's stash because I only sent him a measly dozen!
I have to admit, I've made a couple of adjustments to the recipe. I use butter instead of margarine and sour cream in place of the "soured milk". I even added orange marmalade to the dough. When she tasted them last year she said, "Mmmm, these are good what did you do different?"
"Nothing," I responded.
"But they look different," she insisted.
"I think it's just the microplane I used to grate the oranges with," I replied.
"Hmmm," she said.
Do you think she bought it? No, I don't think so either.
Makes 9 dozen cookies
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
8 ounces sour cream
Juice and zest of 2 oranges
1/2 cup orange marmalade
For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Juice and zest of 2 oranges
4 to 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Heat oven to 350°F and arrange rack in the middle. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
- Combine butter and sugar in the bowl in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and sugar is dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add eggs and continue beating on medium until combined.
- Add sour cream, orange zest, juice, and marmalade and beat until combined. Stop mixer and scrape down sides and paddle with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture and beat on low until incorporated.
- Drop by tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting: Combine butter, orange juice and zest in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until combined. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Add more, a 1/2 cup at a time if needed—frosting should be thick, but still spreadable.
- Once cookies are cool, frost and serve immediately or can be frozen for up to 1 month.
This recipe was included in Culinary Smackdown Battle: Cookies.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Don't let the laundry list of ingredients scare you off, there is some chopping involved, but most of the ingredients are spices and other flavor-enhancers that require little more than a flick of the wrist.
It will be worth it in the end because this big, hearty stew will be calling to you when the temperature dips to the single digits, or if you live where I live, below the single digits. I love dishes like this in the cold winter months—rich broth, studded with starchy potato and loaded with spice and flavor.
I made this on Thanksgiving-eve in spite of myself. It really was the last thing I wanted to do after rolling out pie dough, toasting baking sheet after baking sheet of bread and chopping mounds of onions and celery. But the joy I received from pulling that bad boy out of the freezer a week later when all the Turkey Day leftovers had run out made it all worthwhile.
I get a kind of happiness from being organized and prepared that one would normally associate with life changing experiences. It's not normal and probably not sane, but when I've done something like make a meal ahead of time and granted myself an extra hour in the day to do something unexpected, I'm like the Grinch whose heart has just doubled in size.
By the way, this curry freezes beautifully, and even improved in flavor after a long winter's nap. Keep this in mind if you will be expecting vegetarian guests this holiday season, this is a great dish to have on hand.
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
Makes 6 servings
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, medium diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and large dice
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 ounces baby spinach
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup raisins
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion starts to brown. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute more.
2. Add cauliflower, season again with salt and pepper and cook until slightly tender. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes more. Add sweet potato and season again with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes become tender around the edges. Add tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper, cook until tomatoes release their juices, about 2 minutes.
3. Add coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne and stir until vegetables are coated. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in broth and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan with the back of the spoon. Add coconut milk and cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes; discard cinnamon stick.
4. Stir in garbanzo beans, spinach lime juice, cilantro, and raisins. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve over steamed rice.