Wishing all my dear friends and faithful followers a happy and healthy New Year!
This is one of those breads you just can't resist slicing into for your afternoon tea. Light, lemony perfection all wrapped up in one loaf. The glaze is a final touch and nothing more is needed. Another plus: I make this in small loaves, wrap them up and take them as gifts for holidays, hostesses or under-the-weather friends. It always brings raves.
From An Italian In My Kitchen
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (zest from 1 lemon)
4½ teaspoons lemon juice (I used 1 medium lemon)
2¼ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup butter softened
¾ cup milk
Preheat oven to 350° and butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with dry bread crumbs and knock out the excess.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and 1¼ cups sugar, add the softened butter and with a pastry blender blend until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the lemon peel.
In a small bowl beat the eggs lightly with a fork add milk and mix until combined, then pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until flour is moistened.
Add the batter to your loaf pan and bake for 1 - 1¼ hours (or until tooth pick comes out clean). Cool then move to a wire rack.
For the glaze:
In a small pan add 4½ teaspoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar, over medium heat stirring constantly bring to a boil until thickened. With a pastry brush, brush syrup over the top of the bread.
Well, this Christmas cake was a surprise! I really don't care for prunes and am not a great chocolate fan. With that in mind, no doubt you wonder why I even made it....but I read so many rave reviews and it looks so luscious in her Christmas Cookbook that I decided this year I'd try it.
Let me begin by saying you don't taste the prunes at all and the cocoa is only a smokey thought in the background. It's a moist, dark and utterly divine cake for the holidays. And easy? Absolutely. The batter is actually made all in one pan and takes no time at all to throw together. It bakes for about an hour and 45 minutes, but while it's baking, all you need to do is breathe in the lovely fragrance of the cake. Trust me on this one, it will be a hit. Try to find some pretty gold stars to scatter around on the top. I just had gold glitter and balls. Silver might be pretty too.
Nigella's Chocolate Fruit Cake
From her book Nigella's Christmas
2 cups roughly chopped prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/3 cups currants
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup dark muscovado sugar (or use brown sugar)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup coffee liqueur
juice and zest of two oranges
1 teaspoon allspice (or pumpkin spice)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
For garnishing: chocolate covered espresso beans, edible gold balls, stars and glitter
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray an 8 inch springform pan and then line the bottom with parchment. Cut a parchment collar a couple inches higher than the pan and wrap that around the inside, rather like a souffle collar.
In a large pan, combine the first 10 ingredients and place on the stove. Stir while the butter is melting and then allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
Add the eggs, flours, baking powder and soda. Pour into the springform pan and bake for one hour and 45 minutes. It should be a little shiny on top, barely done in the center. Cool on a rack...it will take a while. You can wrap it in parchment and store it in an air tight container at this point or decorate and serve it.
At Christmastime in most Italian homes you will find Sbrisolona on the table, which traditionally brings good luck to the family.
"Sbrisolona comes from the Mantova dialect and means ‘sbriciolare’ ‘to crumble’, because of the very crumbly consistency of the cake. This recipe originated around 1600 in the grand Gonzaga court of the Duchy of Mantova, and soon became popular throughout the more modest houses of the Po Valley. It is said that walnuts, which are more typical of our area, were originally used instead of almonds. But walnuts were meant to be the ‘fruits of the witches’, while almonds have luckier significance, meaning ‘light’ and ‘rebirth’. Hence the change of ingredient!"
It really looks like a giant cookie and is quite crisp...you certainly can't slice or cut it. Best to place it in the center of your table and give it a tap with a light hammer or heavy knife handle. (Someone suggested using your fist! Effective, but messy.)Not too sweet, a little salty, brittle and very nutty. Served with coffee or a dessert wine, it's lovely. Get your kids or grandkids involved in the creation of this charming Italian tradition...it's so easy to make. And don't forget to give everyone a spoon so they can scoop up all the crumbs....the best part.
I used Gayle's recipe which she adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin.
From :pastry studio
3/4 cup natural almonds (4 ounces) (I used a scant cup)
1 large egg yolk
1 T finely grated orange zest (I used 1 large orange)
1 large egg yolk
1 T finely grated orange zest (I used 1 large orange)
1/4 t pure almond extract
1/4 t pure vanilla extract
1 C + 2 T flour
6 T cornmeal
1/2 t salt
3 1/2 oz (7 T) cold butter cut into 1/2” pieces
1/3 C granulated sugar
3 T brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8” springform pan.
Toast the almonds for about 10 minutes until golden. Coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces.
Combine the egg yolk, orange zest and the extracts.
Separately, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingers (which is what I did) until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Stir in both sugars and the chopped toasted almonds.
Pour the egg yolk mixture on top and work it in gently with your hands. The dough should be very crumbly and look like streusel.
Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and loosely press the crumbs mostly around the edges and just very lightly across the top; the surface should be uneven and dimpled.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before unmolding. Place on a platter, break however you choose and enjoy!
Here are the famous Elizabeth's Eggnog Cheesecake Bars from Martha Stewart Living magazine. (But I made them in tart form.) Been wanting to make these for ages as I am an eggnog fan. Unfortunately, I never make eggnog anymore and even when I made the effort, I was always the only one drinking it. Looks pretty, but no takers in my family.
Then I tried a friend's recipe for Harvard Milk Punch. Well. A close second to eggnog, much simpler to make and after the first time, I made it every year as there were three of us who imbibed. (If you're the hostess and serve milk punch, watch yourself or you'll never get dinner on the table! It may look innocuous, but oh no! Voice of experience speaking here.) I posted that delectable milk punch recipe HERE.
Back to eggnog. I'm hoping the family will like this tart/bar more than they do regular eggnog. I gave it a test run and decided to make it a dressier dessert by baking it in my 9 inch springform pan rather than a square pan. I think a wedge of this looks prettier plated for Christmas dinner than a bar. It will all depend on how you're going to serve it. If you use a springform pan, keep in mind it bakes in a bain marie...you'll need to seal the entire outside of the pan with foil. Please note the recipe below is the original, made in a square pan.
I thought this lovely Christmas dessert was delicious; keeping my fingers crossed for the family reviews.
Elizabeth's Eggnog Cheesecake Bars
From Martha Stewart Living, December 2009
Vegetable oil cooking spray, for pan
12 graham crackers, finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup eggnog
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. I used a 9" springform pan, sprayed it and then lined the outside with foil.
Stir together graham crackers, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the melted butter. Press into bottom of pan. Bake until crust is just brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the eggs, yolk, eggnog, flour, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt; beat until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Set pan in a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of baking pan. Bake until just set, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove baking pan from water bath, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. (And yes, it needs the overnight.)
Cut into 1 1/2-by-3-inch bars. Lightly dust tops of bars with freshly grated nutmeg just before serving.
Bars can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Everyone loves dinner rolls with holiday meals...my mother always made them and when I was in charge of the big family dinners, I always made them too. Usually I made cloverleaf rolls because they freeze a dream and I made them ahead.
I ran across this recipe a few months ago and while they appear to have been made for an Easter dinner, I thought they'd be perfect with either a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Who wouldn't love a roll with some cheese built right in and topped with rosemary, Kosher salt and fresh black pepper? These are totally amazing; you can easily taste (and see) the manchego cheese throughout and I clipped some fresh rosemary right out of the pots on my front porch for the topping. When done, I stuck them in the freezer, but later thawed and warmed one to double check that they held up perfectly. They did.
Notes: I used the quick rising yeast, so began making them in the morning and baked them at lunchtime. The directions below are from the original recipe, using active dry yeast and the dough is refrigerated overnight, then shaped the next day. It all depends on which yeast you prefer to use.
Rosemary and Cheese Dinner Rolls
By Gerry Speirs at Foodness Gracious
2 envelopes of Red Star Active Dry Yeast
1 tablespoons sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 pound all purpose flour (4 cups)
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups grated manchego (or cheddar)
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Cornmeal for the baking tray (I used parchment paper)
Mix the yeast, sugar and warm water (meaning 125 degrees) until it has dissolved.
In a large bowl add 3 cups of the flour and salt; make a well in the center.
Add the yeast mixture to the center and mix with a wooden spoon until it makes a soft dough. (I found I didn't need the full 4 cups of flour, so if your dough is too wet, add until the mixture comes together and forms a soft ball. Flours are different as are locations...I live in South Florida so it may be somewhat different for those who live in cooler climes.)
Knead on a floured board for 4 or 5 minutes and then shape into a round ball. (I used the dough hook on my mixer.) Grease a bowl with olive oil, dump in the dough, slide it around and then turn it upside down so both sides are slightly greased.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. (I didn't do this step because I used the quick rising yeast. I just covered the bowl with a tea towel and let it rise for an hour or so...then continued on to the next step.)
Take the bowl from the fridge the next day and place on floured board. Roll it flat until it's about an inch thick. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and begin to knead and fold again. Once the cheese is incorporated, cut it in half and roll out to a rectangle. Cut the dough in strips (you should get about 8 with each half) and roll each strip into a rope shape about 6 inches long. Tie a knot and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with both halves of dough.
With a pastry brush, glaze each roll and then sprinkle with a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about another 45 minutes or so.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Place the rolls in the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden. Mine took a tad less than 20 minutes. All ovens are different.
Makes about 16.