Christmas Eve Dinner Menu: Dessert Tray, Pt 1

cranberry-upside-down-cakeWith the dinner menu being fairly simple, I’ve spent the week baking desserts. I started with Spritz Cookies. I used this recipe, and then I divided the dough in half. I added 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about a 1/4 cup extra flour (a little at a time until it was workable dough again) and 2 tsp of lemon zest. I dusted those with powder sugar when done. The other batch was just the yummy butter half of the dough.

Next up, this cake. I had leftover Cranberry-Apple Sauce from Thanksgivingwhich I froze with this recipe in mind. It made for a very tasty fruit bottom.  Here’s the original recipe:

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, chopped*
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange zest (rind)
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk

Topping

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp orange juice (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp butter, softened

8×8 glass baking dish & mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350°

Melt 3 tbsp of butter and pour into baking dish, spread to cover bottom and up the sides. Add ½ cup sugar, mix with butter on bottom of pan. Add cranberries & walnuts, spread over bottom of pan. Cream remaining butter & sugar, add vanilla, egg, orange zest, mix well. Add flour, baking powder & milk, mix until well blended, don’t over mix. Pour batter over cranberry mixture. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and center bounces back at the touch. Invert on plate. Let cool.

Topping: Mix together butter, orange juice & powdered sugar, pour over cake and serve.

* if you don’t have a food processor, you can leave cranberries whole.

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I’m not done yet. I’ll be baking more later this week, so stay tuned….



 

Holiday Baking: Spritz Cookies With A Lemon-Lime Twist

I’m gearing up for my holiday baking and thinking citrus things. I remembered I was going to try these with some citrus zest next time.

From Christmas 2014:

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. 🙂 I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.

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Sure hope my friend still has that cookie press I can borrow. Nothing beats the spring loaded metal ones.

festive-holiday-wreaths

 

 

Friday Recipe Exchange: Ice Cream and Gelato Treats

Key Lime Pie2

I’m swamped with work, trying to catch up after a week away, so tonight in true summer fashion, we’re going to have a repeat. But it’s a delicious repeat. Last year, friends lent me their Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker to test drive, so I spent a week making various frozen treats, testing them on all the neighbors (I was very popular that week) and posted the results. This summer I bought my own Cuisinart, so I thought it was time to pull out the recipes and make some ice cream and gelato. After all, it’s just been too hot to cook. Perfect time for frozen treats.

While Gelato is by far my favorite, I played no favorites and included ice cream and sorbet in the selection. These recipes all make between 1 and 1-1/2 quarts.  Here’s the lineup:

Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream (recipes here)

Blueberry Sorbet (recipe here)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato (recipe here)

What’s your recipe for fun this weekend? What delicious things are you cooking up for this final weekend of July (oh, how can that be)?

Now for the recipe that started the whole thing, the reason I borrowed my friends’ ice cream maker. A while back I was searching for gelato recipes and came across one for Key Lime Pie. It sounded awesome. I tucked it away, planning to try it someday. Someday finally came and I put my own twist on it:

Key Lime Pie Gelato

  • Gelato Plain Base (recipe below)
  • 1 graham cracker crust, broken into pieces and frozen (recipe below)
  • 3 tbsps fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime*
  • 2 tsp grated lime zest

Make the Gelato Plain Base and chill as directed. Make the graham cracker crust as directed and freeze.

To make Key Lime Gelato: Gently whisk the limejuice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Just after churning quickly stir in the graham cracker crust pieces, reserving some for garnish. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

*after you mix in the lime and zest, give it a taste and add more limejuice as desired. If you’re prefer it a bit more tangy, you can add up to 2 more tbsp without worrying about consistency.

Graham Cracker Crust

Note: You can substitute graham cracker pieces if you don’t want to make an actual crust. I just like the buttery flavor and texture of the actual crust in the gelato.

For the graham cracker crust: Mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 cups graham cracker crumbs together. Press firmly onto the bottom of a well buttered 8×8 glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool and remove from the baking dish, break into bite-size pieces and freeze in a covered container.

This recipe is the base for most gelatos, it’s also good frozen by itself:

Gelato di Crema (Gelato Plain Base)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup sugar

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper* the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.

*The best way to temper is to add a tablespoon at a time until you’ve added about 1/4 cup. Then you can add a full ladle at a time, slowly.

One final note. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Gelato, Sorbet and Ice Cream, click here for a pretty good explanation.

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Friday Night Recipe Exchange: Sweet Treats

Coconut Lemon Cake c2011 W4DS

Coconut Lemon Cake

Something about frigid temps makes me crave sweets. So when I was thinking about tonight’s recipes, that is what I was drawn to and lemon themed recipes rose to the top. I suppose because it brings with it a reminder of warmer climates. Which is where I am headed later in the month. Beach weather. I’ll be the pale, wind swept one by the eucalyptus tree.

One of my favorite tangy, sweet desserts is Sour Cream Lemon Poppyseeed Cake, yum, recipe here.

Sliced Lemon Poppy Seed

Since next week bring with it the ultimate date night, I thought it would be a good idea to include some special sweets: Valentine’s Day Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, recipe here and Valentine’s Chocolates, recipes here.

Which is a good time to let you know there will be no recipe exchange next Friday. Do you have Valentine’s plans? Do you go out or stay home and cook? Or do you ignore it all together? (You should probably make sure your romantic partner is on board with that, if that’s your plan. Right?) And during these cold, cold days, what do you like to cook?

DSC_7759 (1600x1060)

Let’s not leave JeffreyW out of the mix, he and Mrs. J spent the cold week giving their kitchen a work out and this is one of the recipes that fortified them. Peanut Butter Granola Bars, click here.

And finally, tonight’s featured recipe (pictured at top):

Lemon Coconut Layer Cake

I have a friend who loves coconut cream pie.  I’m not a big fan, so I’ve never made one.  But when I saw a photo of a coconut-lemon cake, I thought she might like it, so I gave it a whirl.  The original cake was 6-layers, I just couldn’t fathom that, so I reduced it to a 4-layer cake.  Layering is easier to do if you use pie pans instead of cake pans.  This eliminates the need to cut each cake in half to achieve thin, even layers.  This cake works best if made the night before.  Refrigerate so the lemon filling stays firm. And shredded coconut covers any number of baking sins.

Coconut Cake:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 13 oz coconut milk
  • 3 eggs, separated

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch pie pans

Cream the butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, blending well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the coconut milk, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and beat to thoroughly combine.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then gently fold into the cake batter. Divide evenly and pour into the pans, spreading to the edges. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Loosen and invert onto racks to cool completely.

Lemon cream filling:

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter in the top of a double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Cool thoroughly before spreading on the cake layers.

Okay, so all the recipes for lemon filling wanted a double-boiler.  I started with one, but after 5 minutes of stirring and not thickening, I changed over to a saucepan and whisked it for 5 minutes while it boiled and thickened and had no issues with it burning or sticking.  High altitude may have been the reason for my original troubles.  Water boils at a lower temperature here, so the double boiler may not have offered enough heat to thicken the sauce.

Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups shredded coconut

With a mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

To assemble: Place first layer on cake plate, bottom side up, spread with a third of the lemon filling, sprinkle with coconut, place next layer, bottom side up, repeat and again with the third layer.  Place fourth layer, top side up.  Frost and garnish with more shredded coconut.

That’s it for this week. On Monday the full dinner menu and shopping list will post and it will be a Valentine’s dinner if you need ideas. Happy Valentine’s Day! – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Frozen Sweet Treats

Key Lime Pie2

My house was the most popular house on the block this week. That’s because I decided to make a different batch of frozen treats everyday. All so you could have something fun for the holiday weekend. I toiled away in the kitchen and gave no thought whatsoever to my hips, freezing and taste-testing five batches of creamy, sweet, cold goodness. Each one got rave reviews, and while it was a close vote, in the end the Chocolate-Hazelnut won by a nut. Tonight’s featured recipe is the flavor that inspired the entire week.

While Gelato is by far my favorite, I played no favorites and included ice cream and sorbet in the selection. These recipes all make between 1 and 1-1/2 quarts.  Here’s the lineup in order of appearance:

Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream (recipes here)

Blueberry Sorbet (recipe here)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato (recipe here)

Before we get to the featured recipe, what fun things do you have planned for this holiday weekend? What delicious things are you making for your cookout/picnic/get-togethers? I’ll probably take advantage of the predicted good weather to hike and cycle. Maybe even drive up to the mountains.

Now for the recipe that started this whole week of  treats. A while back I was searching for gelato recipes and came across one for Key Lime Pie. It sounded awesome. I tucked it away, planning to try it someday. Someday finally came and I put my own twist on it:

Key Lime Pie Gelato

  • Gelato Plain Base (recipe below)
  • 1 graham cracker crust, broken into pieces and frozen (recipe below)
  • 3 tbsps fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime*
  • 2 tsp grated lime zest

Make the Gelato Plain Base and chill as directed. Make the graham cracker crust as directed and freeze.

To make Key Lime Gelato: Gently whisk the limejuice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Just after churning quickly stir in the graham cracker crust pieces, reserving some for garnish. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

*after you mix in the lime and zest, give it a taste and add more limejuice as desired. If you’re prefer it a bit more tangy, you can add up to 2 more tbsp without worrying about consistency.

Graham Cracker Crust

Note: You can substitute graham cracker pieces if you don’t want to make an actual crust. I just like the buttery flavor and texture of the actual crust in the gelato.

For the graham cracker crust: Mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 cups graham cracker crumbs together. Press firmly onto the bottom of a well buttered 8×8 glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool and remove from the baking dish, break into bite-size pieces and freeze in a covered container.

This recipe is the base for most gelatos, it’s also good frozen by itself:

Gelato di Crema (Gelato Plain Base)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup sugar

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper* the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.

*The best way to temper is to add a tablespoon at a time until you’ve added about 1/4 cup. Then you can add a full ladle at a time, slowly.

One final note. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Gelato, Sorbet and Ice Cream, click here for a pretty good explanation.

==================================================

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Road Trip!

This will have to be quick today. It’s been crazy here and I’m once again on a deadline. Some day I’ll be able to actually cook  more than stir-fry and salads again. But let’s have some fun tonight. I thought in honor of our friends at Balloon-Juice’s “LOUDMOUTHS ACROSS AMERICA TOUR 2012” it might be fun to put together some road food for their trip.

JeffreyW thinks sandwiches are the perfect trip food:

JeffreyW Sandwich

And he has a treasure trove of  mouth-watering sandwich ideas, right here

I like the idea of a flavorful sandwich, I mean what’s to argue with there? For my car trips, I often pick up a bag of Vic’s popcorn and some mixed nuts. Then I always make a batch of something sweet to take along, too.  Last couple of trips it’s been Orange Cookies (recipe below). What do think our intrepid explorers should take with them to North Carolina? Anyone else going to be there? Who else thinks this trip is going to be epic? Can’t wait for the videos…

Orange Cookies

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts or almonds

bowl & baking sheet

Add lemon juice to milk and let set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cream butter & sugar, add egg, orange peel, orange juice, vanilla, & milk. Mix well. Sift together dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture. Add nuts. Refrigerate 15 minutes or more (keep refrigerated between batches, also).

Drop by teaspoons full to baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 3 dozen

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Fruit Desserts

Cross-posted at Balloon-Juice

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m having fun with these Thursday night recipe posts. Thanks for playing.

I love chocolate, so it’s usually my sweet of choice. But a very close second is fruit desserts. Strawberries, apples, oranges, blueberries, citrus anything, I love them all. So I have a wide range of fruit dessert recipes available:

Strawberry Bread, Orange Cookies, Key Lime Pie Bars,  Coconut Lemon Cake (perfect for Easter dinner), pineapple and cranberry upside-down cakes, blueberry oatmeal cookies, the list goes on…and on.

It was hard to narrow down the recipe for tonight, I ended up choosing two, Perfect Apple Crisp and Sour Cream Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake.  One is decadant, one is quick and easy. What fruit desserts make the top of your list? Hit the comments with the recipes. Next week: I’ll be traveling again, but I’m thinking pizza, since JeffreyW has so many varieties and I’m usually hunting perfect pizza places while I travel.

On to tonight’s recipes.

This is one of the most requested birthday cakes at our office:

Sour Cream Lemon-Poppy Seed Pound Cake

You’ll want to prep the lemon juice, lime juice and zests ahead of time. You’ll need 2 lemons and 3 limes to complete the recipe.

  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds

Bundt or Angel Food pan, greased and floured

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix sugar, eggs, zests, lemon, juice, limejuice, sour cream, butter and salt until well blended. Mix together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture in three sections to egg mixture, mixing until blended, but do not over blend. Fold in poppy seeds. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 75-90 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, or until cool to touch, then remove from pan to cool completely, about 2 hours.

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Dash of vanilla extract

Whisk together until smooth. Pour over the top of cooled cake. Let stand about 10 minutes until set.

Next is a different take on apple crisp.  I had seen video of a recipe that pre-cooked the apples in a cast iron skillet. The idea looked really good and since I’m all about cooking in my cast iron skillets, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  And I have to say, that yes it did make the best apple crisp ever.  It allows the apples to fully cook, then you can bake the “crisp” part at a higher temperature for a shorter time, giving it a really crisp top.

Cast Iron Apple Crisp

  • 2 lbs apples – mix of sweet and tart (about 3 apples)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (more as desired)
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup flour

10 inch cast iron skillet and small mixing bowl

Core and cut apples into small pieces (about 1/2 inch). Peeling is optional, but with this method the peels cook nice and soft, so it isn’t necessary.

Melt butter in skillet, add apples and sugar, stir until apples are well coated. Cover and cook on medium heat until apple mixture is soft and caramelized, stirring occasionally. About 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In mixing bowl, stir together butter, sugar, flour and oats, mix until crumbly. Crumble over the apple mixture. Bake for 10-15 minutes, just until top is crispy golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes and serve warm.

What makes this so good is that because the apples are cooked on the stovetop, you can use a much higher heat in the oven and get a good, crisp top without drying the whole mixture out or under cooking the apples. Really, this is one of the best apple crisps I’ve made.

Alternately, if you don’t have an oven-proof skillet, you can transfer the cooked apple mixture to a glass baking dish, add topping and bake that way.

Road Trip Requires Orange Cookies

 

I’m heading out tomorrow and won’t be back until mid-week, so JeffreyW will have to keep you entertained.  I’ll be spending my time at a spa/retreat, soaking in various mineral springs and mud pools in NM.  Not to mention the massage, pedicures and other treats that await.  No phones, no computers allowed.  Woo. Hoo.

It will be a 5 hour drive for us to get there, so treats are necessary.  I decided Orange Cookies would be a good choice.  The original recipe is great, but as usual I did not plan ahead and had no zest of any kind on hand – I used it all up on the Sour Cream Lemon Poppy Seed Cake.  What to do, what to do?  I decided that instead of using orange juice, I would use the same amount of orange juice frozen concentrate, undiluted.  This upped the orange flavor without adding excess liquid.  That worked so well, I think I will do it that way from now on.   That is also how the recipe ended up with sour lemon milk instead of buttermilk.  I was out of buttermilk powder and knew I could substitute the sour lemon milk (2 tsp lemon juice to 1/4 cup milk) this added an additional citrus flavor to the cookies that buttermilk would not have done and is now part of the original recipe.

Next change comes courtesy of Cook’s Magazine.  Cookie dough that rests in the refrigerator for 15 minutes makes a much more flavorful cookie that is crisper on the outside and chewier on the inside.  Also sets up better in the oven.  So that’s what I did.  I also put the dough back in the refrigerator between batches.

All in all, I think this batch of Orange Cookies exceeds any that have come before.  Yum.