Posts Tagged 'Holiday Recipes'

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

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I briefly contemplated skipping this challenge because of Christmas chaos, and I just barely managed to bake off my stollen loaves before my husband and I hopped on an airplane home, but I am so glad I participated this month.  My husband enjoys my day-to-day cooking and he definitely lets me know, but he has never heaped praise on me the way he did with this stollen.  He loves it.  I stashed the majority of the loaf I cut for the photos below in my carry-on bag and hauled it back to Nebraska; my family loved it as well.  I guess my dad tried to go to a European bakery to buy some Czech Christmas bread on the 23rd or 24th and they were completely cleaned out at 10 a.m.; this bread was similar and satisfying enough to save the day.

Here are my notes and variations from the challenge:

  • After reading Audax’s posts in the forums, I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour.
  • I used orange extract when we had the choice between orange and lemon.
  • I made my own candied orange peel using the recipe provided.  (It will be my next blog post!)
  • I did not use any maraschino cherries because I didn’t want to risk turning my bread pink.
  • I used slivered almonds instead of sliced almonds because that’s what I had in my pantry.
  • From there, I followed the recipe exactly as written except that I formed my dough into two wreaths instead of one.  I saw how large the wreaths were in the forum posts and figured that my tiny 24-inch oven wouldn’t be able to handle one.  I baked each half-recipe wreath for 36 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through.  The major upside of baking two wreaths?  We came home to one waiting for us in the refrigerator.

Baked Stollen

Sugared Stollen

Sliced Stollen

This bread was so tasty!  It wasn’t like fruitcake at all.  The bread texture reminded me a lot of cinnamon rolls; it was moist and chewy, though the crust was pleasantly crisp.  The powdered sugar and butter coating was heavenly.  My bread had a distinct orange flavor since I used orange extract and all candied orange peel (instead of candied mixed peel), and I would make it this way again next time.  I could have gone for a bit more fruit and nuts in the bread, but I appreciated that it wasn’t totally packed.

My family enjoyed this recipe so much that I’ll be adding it to our permanent Christmas collection.  Thanks for a new family tradition and a great challenge, Penny!

Recipe link: Christmas Stollen

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Barrington Mints

Who says cream cheese mints are only for weddings?

I came across the recipe for Barrington Mints as I was paging through my copy of The Rocky Mountain Sweet Shoppe Cookbook a few weeks ago.  I’ve only ever sampled cream cheese mints on Midwestern wedding dessert tables, but they seemed easy and festive enough to fit the Christmas bill.  Despite a mild misadventure (I’ll tell you after the recipe!) and an extreme piping strength requirement, I was pretty pleased with the results.

Barrington Mints
Makes 150 mints

Ingredients:
8 ounces soft cream cheese (I used Philadelphia regular)
6 tablespoons soft butter (I used unsalted)
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (NOT mint extract)
2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 drops red food coloring (Mine is pretty strong, so I used only one)

Method:
Melt the cream cheese with the butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the burner, and stir in about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, food coloring, and vanilla. (My note: Add peppermint here as well.)  Stir in the rest of the sugar until well blended.

Line a large baking sheet with wax paper.  Push mint mixture into a pastry bag, icing syringe or squeeze bottle with a decorative tip.  Create desired shapes for mints.  Let set 1 hour.

Store between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, or in the freezer up to 4 months.  Do not store at room temperature.

Barrington Mints

Aren’t they pretty?  They taste just like other cream cheese mints I’ve tried: sweet, minty, and melt-in-your-mouth creamy.  Despite Dr. O’s raging sweet tooth, we are never going to get through this many mints; thankfully, we have a few dinner guests coming later this month who might be willing to help.

As for the misadventure, I had piped 20 or 30 mints when I realized that I hadn’t added the peppermint extract.  I just realized (as I was typing this post), that what seemed like a spacey mistake was probably actually the result of the fact that they don’t specifically mention adding the peppermint in the recipe instructions. Whoops.  Anyway, I just tossed my mixture back in the pot, turned the heat on medium-low, added the peppermint extract, and then stirred the mixture for a minute or two until I was confident that it was pretty evenly incorporated.  Problem solved.

It’s also worth noting that I had to let these set in the refrigerator (not on the counter) so they would firm up enough to hold their shape when I pulled them off of the wax paper.  Since they get softer the longer they sit at room temperature, I would probably put a plate of these out when I serve dessert rather than have them sit on a buffet for hours.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Does anyone else still have cranberries left over from Thanksgiving?  Since they keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and also freeze beautifully, I’ve been steadily working my way through the half-full jumbo bag my mom sent home with us last month.  Today’s recipe – Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake from the December 2010 issue of Cooking Light – was a special request from my darling husband.  The dessert looked so good on the cover of the magazine that we just had to try it.

Since the process was a bit long, I’ll spare you the play-by-play today.  I did have several issues and modifications, though.

  • When I bake cheesecakes in a water bath, I always use the 18-inch-wide heavy-duty Reynolds foil because it allows me to wrap the entire 9-inch springform pan with one piece.  When I would overlap two pieces of the 12-inch foil in the past, I would consistently get leakage and a soggy crust.  I bring the foil all the way up the sides and then roll any excess at the top into a “lip” so the foil doesn’t extend down into the pan.  Works like a charm!
  • The only chocolate graham crackers my grocery store had were chocolate Teddy Grahams, so that’s what I bought.  Once they’re ground up, they’re pretty much all the same, right?
  • There was no way I was going to put oil in my cheesecake crust, so I substituted 3 tablespoons of melted butter for the 3 tablespoons of canola oil.
  • I didn’t have any Chambord and I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle for the recipe, so I bought two mini bottles at the liquor store for $5.  (I have half of one bottle left.)
  • I don’t know if it was the saucepan I used (a hard anodized Calphalon) or the fact that water evaporates more quickly at high altitude, but my cranberry topping was initially more like candied cranberries than sauce (and that was even after I shaved a minute off of the cooking time).  I ended up adding 5 tablespoons of water to the sauce in the food processor step to thin it out.
  • I don’t ever use fat-free cream cheese (it’s like plastic!), so I used all reduced-fat cream cheese instead of using both types.
  • I used Fage 0% for the Greek yogurt.
  • My whole eggs were room temperature; my egg whites were pretty cold. (Eggs separate best when they’re fresh from the refrigerator.)
  • Many of the recipe reviewers complained that a 9-inch springform pan won’t fit inside a 9 x 13-inch metal pan for the water bath, and it’s true.  Luckily, I have a large lasagna pan (11 x 16) that worked well.
  • I boiled my water in a tea kettle before pouring it around the foil-wrapped cheesecake.
  • The recipe indicated that the cheesecake should barely move in the center after 50 minutes of baking time at 325°F.  Several reviewers said they had to add baking time, whether it was 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or more.  I ended up giving my cheesecake 65 minutes at 325°F before turning off the oven and giving it 30 minutes of in-oven cooling time.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

This recipe isn’t going to knock my all-time favorite cheesecake (Margarita Cheesecake!) off its throne, but it was pretty fantastic (and far more seasonally appropriate).  This recipe produced a light, fluffy, creamy texture and I loved the play between the slightly tart cranberry topping and the sweetness of the cheesecake.  One of the recipe reviewers on the Cooking Light site said that she didn’t like the chocolate crust because it created “too many flavors” in the final result; I think chocolate and cranberry go together beautifully, though, so I loved it. It was a bit challenging to get the crust out when I cut the first piece (the first piece is always the hardest!), but subsequent pieces came out easily.

I’ve made quite a few cheesecakes and have a pretty sensitive palate, so I could tell this was a lower-fat cheesecake.  I don’t think your average dinner guest would have an inkling, though.  Since this cheesecake is gorgeous, delicious, and able to be made ahead, I’m definitely putting it in my holiday recipe arsenal.

Recipe link: Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip

The holidays are about get-togethers, and get-togethers often include dip. Today’s recipe – Pampered Chef’s Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip – is one of my favorites. I first made it waaaay back when (2002?  Eek!), and I decided to pull the recipe out for last month’s game day-themed gourmet club meeting.  As always, it was a hit!

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it:

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip
Yields approximately 2 1/2 cups of dip
Prep time: 15 min. | Chill time: 3 hours

Ingredients:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced (about 3/4 cup)
6 bacon slices, crisply cooked, drained and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon sugar
Lettuce leaves
Bread or crackers for serving

Method:
Place cream cheese in a medium bowl.  Gradually stir in dressing; mix well

Remove seeds from tomato and dice it.  Reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish.  Finely chop bacon, celery, and onion.  Add tomato, bacon, celery, onion, and sugar to cream cheese mixture; mix well.  Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

To serve, line a bowl with lettuce leaves.  Fill with dip.  Garnish with reserved tomato.  Serve with bread, crackers, or crudités.

Source: Pampered Chef’s Celebrate!

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip

I didn't have any lettuce on hand, so I supposed this is technically Bacon and Tomato Dip. It's delicious nonetheless!

Bacon flavor and general creamy goodness is enough to bring this to the top of my list, but I especially love it because it’s easy, it can be made ahead, and it can be made with light ingredients.  (I used real bacon – although turkey bacon would work – with light ranch and light cream cheese.)  So.  So.  Good.  Try it for your next holiday gathering or game day party!

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

I’m a bit disappointed that I missed posting yesterday in accordance with my anniversary commitment, but I’ve been completely consumed by The Sickness.  I felt like I got hit by a truck yesterday, and I think I spent approximately 30 minutes of the entire day upright with my eyes open.  Yuck.

I was actually supposed to have a dinner party tonight, but I had to cancel it because of my illness.  (I know I wouldn’t want someone with flu-like symptoms preparing my food, never mind that I couldn’t work up the energy to go to the grocery store.  I’m also not talking at this point because my throat hurts so bad.  Wah, wah.)  I did spend the earlier part of my week experimenting with a few recipes I intended to use for the dinner party, though, including Martha Stewart’s No-Knead Dinner Rolls.

Back in 2006, there was all this hullabaloo about “no-knead bread.”  (Mark Bittman then created some residual hullabaloo in 2008 with his Faster No-Knead Bread recipe.)  Apparently, some people hate kneading bread so much that it’s the one thing stopping them from making it.  I actually love kneading bread; I think it’s therapeutic (and a good mini workout).  When I was looking for dinner roll recipes (kneading allowed) earlier this week, though, most had a yield much greater than what I needed and they weren’t easily halved.  (While it is possible to reduce recipes that call for only one egg, I can’t say that I enjoy weighing and dividing one; I never feel like I get a good white-to-yolk ratio.)  The No-Knead Dinner Roll recipe, though, had quantities that were easily reduced.  The half-yield was still a bit too much (9 rolls), but I couldn’t deal with the waste that making two or three dozen rolls would create.  Plus, they’re super easy, which is always a plus.

Note: The ingredient quantities mentioned below are for a half recipe; click on the recipe link at the end of the post for the original amounts.

First, I put 1 cup of warm (105F to 115F) water in a large bowl.  I sprinkled it with 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of active dry yeast and let the mixture stand until it was foamy (about 5 minutes).

Next, I added 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), and 3/4 teaspoon of table salt to the yeast-water mixture, whisking to combine.  I added 3 cups of all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), stirring with a wooden spoon until everything was incorporated and a sticky dough had formed.  Using a pastry brush, I brushed the top of the dough with more melted butter, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside until the dough had doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

After the hour had passed, I turned the dough out onto my well-floured kitchen counter.  With floured hands, I rolled the dough into a thick log and cut it into 9 equal pieces.  (I cut the log into thirds, and then cut each third into thirds.)

To prepare for baking, I brushed an 8 x 8-inch pan with melted butter.  I used my hands to flatten each piece of dough individually, then folded the edges towards the center, pressing to secure, until a smooth ball formed.  I put the dough balls in the prepared baking pan (smooth side up), covered the pan loosely with plastic wrap, and let them rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 30 minutes).

Unbaked No-Knead Dinner Rolls

After the rolls had risen adequately, I removed the plastic wrap from the pan and baked them at 400F for 35 minutes.  The recipe said to tent the rolls if they were browning too quickly.  I tented them when I checked them at the 20-minute mark, but I probably would have tented them at the 15-minute mark if I had checked them sooner.  (The ended up a bit more brown that I would have liked.)  I pulled the rolls apart and served them warm.

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

Considering that this was just about the easiest bread recipe ever, the rolls were pretty good.  The “shell” was a bit firmer than I like and I already mentioned that they were a bit too brown, but the bread really was delicious.  Plus, I could take the credit for making them from scratch (with hardly any work, seriously) and the house smelled heavenly.  I think this recipe would be absolutely perfect for “beginner” bread makers; it’s pretty straightforward and hard to screw up, but the results are worthwhile.

TIP:  The recipe says you can skip the second rise and refrigerate the rolls for 4 hours or up to 1 day instead.  That way, you could make the dough and form the rolls the night before or the morning of, and then just move them directly from the refrigerator to the oven when you’re ready to bake them.

Recipe link: No-Knead Dinner Rolls




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