Saturday, December 24, 2011

There's a Holiday App for that! Quick, last minute recipes.

If you’re hosting or attending a Christmas Eve soiree and need a last-minute app or two, check out these recipes. If they look familiar, you’re right, I have presented them here on my blog in various articles over the last few years.

A very good entertaining tip I learned from Simone Choy, my baking and pastry arts teacher at Algonquin College: draw an overview picture of your serving table showing the placement of the dishes you are serving. It is a very simple idea and one that will save you on many fronts: your table won’t be over crowded with food, you will be less inclined to make, purchase and put out too much food, and other people can help you set the table! Also, set up the drinks and glassware away from the food area so that your bartender can serve easily or guests can get their own refills. Remember too, to have plenty of exciting non-alcoholic beverages on hand for those who are driving and have the number of a drive-your car service or cab company too.

Happy Holidays!

The Nutty Canadian Cheese Log

You can make this ahead and freeze it, allowing it to thaw in the fridge overnight.

1 pkg cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups finely grated Old Cheddar Cheese

4 tbsp syrup, divided

1/2 cup toasted, finely chopped pecans

Blend cheeses with 2 tbsp maple syrup. Chill until firm in plastic wrap, about 1 hr. Using plastic wrap, shape the cheese mixture into a rectangle block. Place block on wax paper and brush with remaining 2 tbsp syrup. On another sheet of wax paper, place chopped pecans and roll the block in the nuts to coat all sides. Wrap nut-covered log in this wax paper and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or freeze and thaw for a few hours in the refrigerator). Serve with crackers.

Irresistible Emmenthal Cheese and Garlic Spread

1 lb Emmenthal cheese, finely grated

3 tbsp low fat mayonnaise

4 garlic cloves, minced

Coarse black pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Let stand 30 at room temperature or overnight in the fridge to develop flavour. Great served with mini pitas or very firm crackers. Do not heat. (Tip: Allow grated cheese to reach room temperature before mixing with other ingredients. This will make it easier to mix.)

Smoked Trout Mousse

1 1/2 lbs smoked trout or salmon (Loblaws makes a nice frozen peppered/smoked whiskey trout that works well in this recipe)

1/3 c mayonnaise

1 tbsp white horseradish

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp dill, chopped

2 tbsp fresh chives or green onion

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Cook trout and remove the bones you can see. Chop by hand or in food processor. Blend in remaining ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with crackers or mini pitas or on sliced cucumber rounds topped with a few sprinkles of dill.

Smoky Apple Oka Cheese Bites

12 slices smoked bacon

1/4 cup grainy mustard

2 crunchy apples cut into 24 wedges

250 g Oka cheese, cubed into 24 pieces

(Or, try other cheeses like Gorgonzola or Stilton for savoury substitutes)

In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon in batches until cooked through, limp but not crispy. Place on a paper-towel lined plate to soak up fat and let cool. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut each strip of bacon in half to make 24 small strips. Spread each strip with 1/4 tsp mustard and wrap around an apple wedge and piece of cheese. Secure with toothpick. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Arrange bites on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven just until bacon starts to bubble and cheese begins to melt, about 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Serve immediately or refrigerate and quickly reheat under the broiler. Makes 24 pieces.

Almond-crusted Brie

1 (8-ounce wheel) Brie cheese

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the top rind off of cheese. Place cheese on a pie plate or round glass baking dish with a rim. Spread apricot jam across top of exposed cheese. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of jam. Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the almonds begin to brown. Serve warm, with slices of granny smith apples, crackers or crusty bread. Makes approximately 8 servings.

Curried Cashews

[For a tasty side dish, add these nuts to steamed green beans, Brussels sprouts, rice or couscous]

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups raw cashews

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp garam marsala (optional)

pinch cayenne

1 tsp salt

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (if a drop of water sizzles in the oil, it’s ready) add the cashews.

Stir fry the cashews for 3-5 minutes until just golden brown. Watch carefully and stir frequently to prevent them from burning. Note: they continue to fry after being removed from the pan. Remove to a large, flat, rimmed cookie sheet lined with paper towels to soak up the oil. In small bowl, combine the curry powder, cumin, cayenne and salt and garam marsala. Pour the drained nuts into a large bowl, sprinkle spice mixture over the warm cashews and toss well to coat. Makes 2 cups. Store in small glass jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.

Christmas Nuts

[Any time of the year, these are nuts are a great addition to a goat cheese salad with apple or pear wedges]

2 tbsp butter

2 cups pecans

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 300 F. In heavy skillet, warm the butter and sauté the nuts over medium-high heat 2-3 minutes until light brown.

In a medium bowl, put the spices and sugar and stir until well combined. Toss the nuts with the spice mixture. Pour the nuts into a foil-lined, lightly spray-greased, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven, for about 10-15 minutes (stirring often) or until nuts are drier and spices adhere. Store in small glass jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.

Easy French Bread (for the breadmaker)

On your breadmaker, choose the Dough menu function to make the dough and shape it into traditional, long loaves. OR, choose the French Bread menu function and bake the bread in the breadmaker.

1 ½ c water

1 ½ salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar

4 c all-purpose Canadian flour or white bread machine flour

1 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast

Egg white, water and cornmeal.

Measure ingredients into the breadmaker pan. Insert pan into the breadmaker chamber. Choose the Dough function. Press start. Dough will be ready in about 2 hours and breadmaker will beep. Remove dough and let it rest under a tea towel for 10 minutes. Divide ball in half. With a rolling pin, flatten each ball into a 8x12” rectangle. Roll up each rectangle like a long jellyroll. Pinch the edges to make a seam. Roll the ends back and forth to taper the ends. Place both loaves on a greased baking sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal, seam side down. They will double in size, so allow enough room between them. Spray-grease two sheets of plastic wrap. Place wrap over the loaves—greased side touching the dough. Cover with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm draft free place (over the fridge perhaps) for 30-40 minutes or until double in size. Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix 1 egg white with 1 tbsp water. Remove plastic wraps, brush with the egg mixture, make three diagonal slashes with a VERY sharp knife on each loaf, and sprinkle with a pinch of cornmeal. For a crispy crust like the bakery-style French loaves, place a pan of cold water with a few ice cubes in it on the bottom rack of the oven while the bread is baking. You may also spritz the oven walls with water just after you place the bread in the oven. Bake the bread on the upper middle rack in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow loaves to cool for 10 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Cool before packaging.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nanaimo Bars - The Ottawa version!

I have created this recipe from several different sources, i.e. from a very old Baker's chocolate brochure, a Bird's Custard pamphlet and four cookbooks. The bottom crust layer sticks together well because the mixture contains an egg and during the assembly step, this mixture is cooked--a bonus if you're not a fan of eating food with raw eggs! This recipe is a family favourite. On my daughter's sixth birthday, as a treat, I let her eat one in the bathtub. I blame Dr. Suess' and the Cat in the Hat for sparking my interest in eating cake in the bathtub. Such decadence! I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Nanaimo Bars

Grease a 9-inch square cake pan.

In a saucepan combine:

½ cup butter

¼ cup white sugar

5 tbsp cocoa

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and slightly thickened.

Stir in:

1 2/3 cups fine graham wafer crumbs

1 cup desiccated coconuts

½ cup chopped walnuts

Press into prepared pan. Chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare filling:

¼ cup butter, softened

3 tbsp milk

2 tbsp Bird’s or vanilla Custard Powder

2 cups icing sugar

Combine butter, milk and custard powder. Blend in icing sugar. Spread over base. Chill 15 minutes.

For the top chocolate layer:

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate

1 tbsp butter

Partially melt chocolate with butter in microwave or over hot water (watch carefully). Remove from heat; stir until melted. Quckly spread over custard layer with spatula. Chill for 30 minutes or until set. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator. {Store in the freezer with duct tape and mislabel as Lima Bean Stew, otherwise they’ll be discovered and devoured within the day!}

Monday, December 19, 2011

These are a few of my favourite things!

Looking for a few holiday baked goods for host gifts, or to store in your freezer for a snowy January afternoon apres-ski/skate? Put the kettle on, crank up the holiday music and bring on the heat. Create your own holiday hits with these traditional recipes... with a twist. And remember, everyone looks good in an apron...anytime! It's the universal, "I am helpful" uniform.

Sugar Plum Spice Tea Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. finely ground Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice Herbal Tea leaves from about 4 tea bags (This is a Holiday Tea sold only at Christmas time. It is sold at the Bulk Barn and grocery stores in the tea section)

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup butter, room temperature

½ c confectioners’ (icing) sugar

1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest (that’s orange rind)

Whisk together flour, tea and salt in a bowl.

Put butter, confectioner’s sugar and orange zest in a bowl and beat together with an electric mixture (or your own brute strength!). Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper; or lightly floured cutting board and shape into logs. Roll each log to 1 ¼ inch in diameter. Each log will be about 9 inches in length. Roll up each log in parchment paper and twist the paper ends-like a Christmas cracker. Freeze logs—just until firm, about 1 hr.

Preheat oven to 350F. With a sharp knife, cut logs into ¼ inch thick slices. Space about 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets at half-time, until edges are golden, about 13-15 minutes in total. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in airtight containers for up to five days. They freeze well and make lovely gifts. Gift idea: place cookies in a canister-style tin, wrap the tin in Christmas paper and place a bow on top…or place in small festive cookie tins. The great feature about these cookies is: they are so darned tasty, cute and svelte-like!

Sambuca Pannetone (Italian Christmas Bread)

Bake in the bread maker using the Sweet or Specialty option or make two small round loaves by using the Dough cycle and bake the dough in two 6-inch springform pans

1/3 c currants or raisins

1/3 c diced dried apricots

1/3 c Sambuca liqueur

1 c water

6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled (Psst: This is equal to ½ c butter, less 2 tbsp)

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp salt

¼ c dry milk powder (I use dry buttermilk powder, available at the Bulk Barn)

3 1/3 cups Canadian all-purpose flour or white bread machine flour

¼ cup gluten flour (Bulk Barn)

3 tsp bread machine yeast

¼ c lightly-toasted (and cooled) pine nuts

¼ c slivered, lightly-toasted (and cooled) almonds

3 tbsp sugar for glazing

In a small bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in the Sambuca for 1 hour or more. Drain well and reserve the sweet liquid. Set aside.

Place the ingredients [except the nuts and soaked fruit] in the bread machine pan in the order given. Set the pan in the chamber. Set the bread maker to the 2 lb loaf size. Choose Specialty or Sweet as the menu function. Press start. When the “add ingredient” beep sounds, open the lid of the bread maker and add the drained fruit, pine nuts and slivered almonds. Close lid. Once the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the machine to a cooling rack.

Glazing the bread:

Prepare a glaze by combining the reserved liqueur with enough water to make ¼ c liquid. Place liquid in a small saucepan and add 3 tbsp sugar. Heat over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and bubbling slightly. (Watch carefully!) Brush the warm bread with the warm sugar mixture and let this gorgeous masterpiece cool to room temperature before slicing. It makes lovely host gift OR you may choose to toast it and eat it all yourself!

As an alternative to making one loaf in the breadmachine, you can make to small round loaves which you can bake in the oven. Here’s how: Set the breadmaker menu cycle to DOUGH. Add the ingredients when the “add ingredients” beep sounds. When the dough cycle is complete, remove dough and place on a cutting board. Slice dough evenly in half. Shape each piece into a round ball and flatten slightly to a disc shape. Lightly spray grease two small 6 inch spring form pans. Place each disc into each pan.

To set dough to rise:

Cover the surface of each dough piece with plastic wrap—the wrap should be touching the dough to act like a skin. Place the two pans on a cooling rack and place over a pan of hot water and cover with a heavy tea towel. (This creates a warm, humid, draft free environment to help the dough rise.) Let dough rise until double in size. This bread can take a long time to rise because the fruit and nuts hinder the rising process.

Preheat oven to 350F. Set oven rack to the middle section of the oven.

The dough could take 1 hr or more to rise. To test for baking readiness, lightly press your fingertip into the dough. If your fingerprint impression remains, it is ready! Be careful not to over-rise the dough.

When dough is ready, remove wrap and brush the tops of the bread lightly with milk and place in the oven to bake at 350F for approximately 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

When done, remove from oven and carefully remove from the spring form pans. Place on cooling racks and brush with prepared glaze (see above). Let cool

For a gift, wrap the outside of the bread in waxed paper, place bread on a festive disposable paper plate, wrap the plate and bread in clear cellophane and tie up with a pretty bow.

Oatmeal Molasses Bread or Buns!

(For 2 lb bread machine loaf or 18 round buns)

1 ½ cups water

¼ cup skim milk or buttermilk powder

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ cup molasses

2 tbsp butter (room temperature)

2 cups whole wheat flour for the bread machine

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour or white bread machine flour

¾ cup quick cooking oats

½ cup 7-grain or 12-grain cereal (Bulk Barn)

1 ½ tsp breadmachine yeast

Put the ingredients in the breadmachine pan in the exact order given above. Place the pan into the bread machine. Select the 2lb loaf size and select the Wholewheat cycle. Press start.

To make buns:

Select the Dough cycle on the breadmaker after inserting the pan. When the Dough cycle is complete and signal beeps, remove dough from the breadmaker.

Divide dough into 18 evenly sized dough pieces. Using your primary math skills: divide dough into three even size pieces, then divide each third into six pieces. Be sure to cover the dough to be worked with plastic wrap. It should be touching the dough to act like a skin.

To shape each bun, knead each piece lightly: Push dough away from you with your thumbs, then fold over on itself, then repeat. Then, holding the dough piece in your hand, gently pull the dough from the top of the ball and push this into the underside, as if you were shaping a mushroom. Then gently roll the round dough piece under the palm of your hand (on a cutting board) with your fingertips gently touching the cutting board surface, as though you were rolling the dough in a round cage or playing a shell game!

Place each round ball on a large pizza pan lined with parchment paper. Place balls about 1 inch apart. No worries if they are touching, they will just bake together. Also, remember to cover dough to be worked or baked with plastic wrap at all times. This prevents a skin from forming on the dough.

Preheat oven to 350F. Set oven rack to middle of the oven.

Set dough to rise:

Place pan of dough balls over a cookie rack, resting on top of a warm pan of water. Cover dough balls with plastic wrap (touching the dough) and a heavy tea towel. The objective is to create a warm, humid and draft-free environment. Let rise until just double in bulk (about 35 minutes).

When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap, brush with milk and sprinkle with a little oatmeal and lightly press into dough.

Bake in centre of oven for 25-30 minutes. These buns make a lovely tower of buns on a round, festive tray, wrapped in cellophane and tied up with a pretty bow. Brings a whole new meaning to Nice Buns!

German Partybrot Buns

(Use the bread maker Dough option)

This recipe will win you rave reviews! It can be used as a base and shaped into many types of buns. It is also a good recipe to teach children how to knead dough and basic math division skills.

1 c milk

4 tbsp butter melted

2 tbsp sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp salt

4 c all-purpose white Canadian flour

2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast (Bulk Barn)


1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp milk mixed with a fork

1 tbsp EACH sesame seeds and poppy seeds

Assemble all ingredients in the bread maker chamber in the order listed. Select the “Dough” cycle and press start. When the dough cycle is finished, remove dough and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes under a tea towel.

Divide the dough into 19 equal pieces. Cover with tea towel while shaping each piece into a smooth ball. (To shape a ball: knead each dough piece gently with your thumbs: push dough away from yourself, fold over and turn. Repeat until smooth and satiny. Pull dough from the bottom to top of ball and push into the centre of the ball, like a mushroom. Roll between palms for a smooth, round ball. Cover dough while working.

Grease a spring form pan (about 9 ½-10 inches in diameter) with a little cooking spray. Arrange the shaped rolls in the prepared pan by making an outer ring of 12 rolls and an inner ring of six rolls, placing the last roll in the center of the two rings. Cover the rolls loosely with spray-greased saran wrap. The wrap should be placed grease side down touching all of the dough but loose enough around the edges to let the dough to rise and expand freely. Cover with a tea towel. Preheat oven to 350F. Let the dough to rise on a cookie cooling rack over a pan of hot water placed over the vent burner of the oven while the oven is preheating. Let rise until doubled in size, about 30-40 minutes. Set timer and don’t allow rolls to over rise or they will “fall” before you bake them.

When fully risen, carefully remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle alternately with sesame seeds and poppy seeds (like a checkerboard pattern). Bake in 350F oven on upper middle rack position for 25 minutes. Turn around pan after 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom of pan. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing sides from spring form pan. Remove sides of pan and then slide (don’t lift) buns from pan bottom to cooling rack. Cover loosely with tea towel. Serve warm or wrap when cooled in heavy tin foil to reheat or for transport.

Candy Cane Biscotti

1/2 cup butter softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes

For glaze (optional)

¼ cup crushed candy canes

¼ cup red decorating icing

Heat oven to 350. Combine butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until creamy. Add eggs; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and baking powder; continue beating until well mixed. Stir in crushed candy. Divide dough into fourths on lightly floured surface. Shape each fourth into 9 x 1 1/2 inch round logs with lightly floured hands. Place logs 3 inches apart onto lightly greased or parchment paper lined large cookie sheet.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are cracked and ends just start to turn light brown. Remove from oven; reduce temperature to 325. Cool logs 10 minutes on cookie sheet.

Carefully remove logs to cutting surface. Cut each log into 1/2 inch slices with sharp serrated knife. [Discard ends] Arrange pieces on same cookie sheet, cut-side down.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning once, or until cookies are light golden brown and crisp on both sides. Place onto cool rack; cool completely. Makes 24 biscotti.

Optional glaze:

Place cooled biscotti on wax paper. Warm ¼ cup red decorating icing in the microwave to a runny consistency. Drizzle glaze over top in a zigzag pattern with a fork. Dip each cookie in crushed candy canes. Allow glaze and topping to set before storing in an airtight container for up to one month, or freeze for several months.