Sunday, November 30, 2008

Potica (pah-TEET-zah)

Baking potica is something that always reminds me of my great-grandmother. She could roll the dough so thinly - the point was to read the newspaper through the dough. I finally had the chance to try out the recipe in a large bakery kitchen. Somehow, working in a real bakery allowed the dough to stretch more thinly than I can ever get it at home.

Working with my Mom was even more special. She saw my great-grandmother make this many more times than I ever did. She has the right cloth to roll up the dough and heavy duty ovens to make many loaves at once.

The recipe is a bit of a family secret - and permission has not yet been obtained to publish. However, if you have at least learned how to pronouce Potica - this was worth the read. The walnut filled coffee cake is a favorite for my family.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Planning a Cookie Exchange

Cookie Exchanges are so fun - and a great way to get a unique assortment of cookies. I'm planning an upcoming exchange with a bunch of friends - many of whom have never participated in the exchange. The questions are mostly around acceptable cookie choices. Are brownies OK? How many cookies will I need to make? I am getting some feedback that my 'invitation' is a little intimidating... well, it's straightforward - and this is serious business! I even removed some of the rules that I found online when looking for some guidelines!

Below is my version of the Cookie Exchange Rules:

Take a break from the holiday rush and spend some time with old and new friends. Appetizers and hot drinks will be provided while sampling all of the great holiday cookies!



* Please RSVP by 12/01

* include type of cookie that you plan on baking to avoid duplicates

What to bring:

* 1 dozen cookies per attendee (official count to be made by 12/01)

* 1 dozen cookies for sample buffet (broken cookies OK to sample!)

* Containers to carry away your assortment

* Copies of your recipe for others

Cookie Rules:

* "no-bake" cookies not allowed (not fair to exchange rice krispies for hand-decorated sugar cookies!)

*If you would like to see the cookie on a holiday platter it will be perfect for the exchange!

* If you don't have time to bake, or if your recipe took a turn for the worse, you can substitute with yummy, real-bakery cookies.

* If you cannot attend and would still like to exchange cookies, you may deliver your cookies the day before the party. I will exchange for you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chocolate-Cherry-Almond Biscotti

Once again, I am looking through the cabinets to see what I can bake tonight. I love bringing biscotti into work as it gives an excuse to eat cookies in the morning. Dried cherries, a small amount of dark chocolate chips, a small amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and almonds. I have to admit that I rummaged through a snack mix to get a few more almonds. It's not something that I would recommend, but in this case the almonds were raw and mixed with dried blueberries - so I think they will do the trick. This is my second Monday in a new job, and the second Monday that I have brought cookies in - I think I might be setting a dangerous protocol that will require cookie baking every Sunday night. Sounds fun!

 Biscotti with cherries, chocolate and almonds
adapted from The New Best Recipe
2 cups (10
 oz) flour
1 tsp baki
ng powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 TBSP butter (softened)
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup almonds: toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
egg white for egg wash

preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, then mix in extracts. 
3. Stir in cooled almonds, cherries, and chocolate chips.
4. Fold in flour mixture until just mixed.
5. With floured hands, shape dough into 2 long 'logs' that are 2" wide by 13" long.
6. Smooth sides and brush with egg wash.
7. Bake for 35 minutes, until top begins to brown.
8. Pull logs out of oven. Let cool for 10 minutes. Turn down oven to 325 degrees.
9. Using a serrated life, cut each log into cookies 3/8 inch thick - on the bias.
10. Place cookies back on sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until crisp and golden on each side (about 15 minutes)
Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Simple Goodness

A last minute dinner invitation reminded me of my scandonavian roots - and how tasty it can be to stick with the familiar sometimes. After a slow cooked lamb stew - the rice pudding came out. Rice pudding is fantastic when it is done right, but is so often done wrong:too sweet, too mushy or too heavy. But when done right, it is slightly sweet and you can still feel the individual grains of rice without any crunch.

So, rice pudding it is. Now the scandonavian roots are to be debated. It just happens that my finnish side would often include rice pudding in with the holiday spread of food. Our tradition included an almond in the pudding. Whomever "won" the almond was supposed to do the dishes - but usually just got to brag that they found it.

Rice Pudding
1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed and drained well
6 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar, plus
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a 3-quart covered saucepan. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove and then place, covered, in the preheated oven.
Bake without disturbing or stirring for 2 hours and 45 minutes. The pudding will almost caramelize and become a pale golden color.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Compromise with cookies

Making chocolate chip cookies has always brought smiles and good will. As a new wife a few years ago, I offered to make cookies for my husband to bring into the office. His only request - make them thin and crispy. Now, I prefer them thick and chewy - quite the opposite from what I was imagining. After an argument - I reluctantly made the cookies that he would like most. The 'thin and crisp chocolate chip cookie' recipe from the American Test Kitchen has since become my FAVORITE cookie recipe - turning out fantastic carmelized cookies that stay chewy for days.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick melted and cooled unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz) brown sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

* using a scoop will ensure uniform sized cookies. You can also shape the dough into a long roll on parchment paper, cool in the fridge, then slice off the amount you want for each cookie.

* Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 375 degrees.

* Cool the dough before baking.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Treats

While attending a mixed election party (people on both sides of the fence!) last night - I was lucky enough to try some really tasty treats. One - a lemon meringue tartlette - really caught my attention, and I will be looking for a recipe to try this fall. The meringue seemed unbaked: completely white and a little sticky, but very stable. Maybe it was made more like marshmallow and cooked before piping very cute tops to the tarts. I'm now on the lookout!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Some friends are stopping by for my husband's fantastic pizza - deep dish tonight. Thinking about a dessert that will be fun - and tasty on this unseasonally warm fall day - and ice cream it is. The pumpkin is for the fall - and the amaretti cookies to tie it to the italian tastes of the evening.

Pumpkin Ice Cream with Amaretti Cookies
1 cup (8 oz) pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups (16 oz) heavy cream
3/4 cup (6 oz) dark brown sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp bourbon
Amaretti cookies

1. whisk pumpkin and vanilla together. Cover and chill for 3-8 hours. Go to step 2 after pumkin is at least 3 hours cold.
2. Scald Cream: In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cup (12 fl oz) of the cream and 1/2 cup (4 oz) of brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, spices and salt, remaining (4 fk. oz) cream and remaining (2 oz) sugar in a bowl. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth.
4. Temper egg mixture and cook custard: Remove cream from heat. Slowly dribble about 1/2 cup (1 laddle) of hot cream into the egg mixture - constantly whisking - until smooth. Pour egg mixture into the cream mixture and cook over medium low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until 160-170 degrees - coats the back of the wooden spoon and your finger leaves a clear trail. This will take about 4-6 minutes of cooking. Do not let the custard boil. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
5. Cool down custard to room temperature by placing bowl into ice bath and stirring occasionally. Whisk in pumpkin mixture. Cover with plastic wrap - directly on top of custard to avoid a skin forming. Refrigerate until well chilled - at least 3 hours or up to 24.
6. Pour custard into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to directions. Stir in bourbon during the last minute of churning (any earlier will lower freezing point and slow down the freezing process). Transfer ice cream to freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving.

Serve with amaretti cookies.