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Archive for December, 2010

The impulse to bake arrived later than usual this December.

Although a White Fruit Cake, from the pages of Diane Tye’s book, Baking as Biography, was part of my food column line-up for the holidays, it wasn’t until Wednesday, the 22nd, that I began to make use of my three bricks of butter, gunny sack of flour, and two wholesaler-sized packages of brown sugar.

Honestly, I was beginning to think this would be an unsweetened holiday. Even my church’s annual call for bakers, to help fill the need for 20,000 plus cookies at the Living Nativity, came and went. Last year I delivered twelve dozen chocolate gingerbread cookies. This year, not a one.

If an explanation is required, I can only say that launching and promoting a first book, touring it in different cities as though I’m a public speaker, not an established recluse, took everything, everything, I might otherwise have put into things like writing Christmas cards. And baking.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for my new Moleskine Recipe Journal, passed on to me by Alberta Books Canada’s, Susan Toy, I don’t know from where inspiration might otherwise have come.

As it happened, the other evening, I took the journal (a gorgeous little black book, so eternal looking) from the stack of titles on my dresser, having had a sudden impulse to write something down. It was well after midnight (as tonight), but I started with a Mennonite recipe for Rhubarb Platz, then moved on to Lemon Butter, a recipe my chef husband pinched from a pastry chef.

Heirlooms followed, including Grandma Friesen’s Verenyky with Cream Gravy. And recent forever favourites, like Braised Short Ribs with Winter Root Vegetables. Served with Potato Gnocchi, these two recipes are now also entered in the journal, and will be featured for Christmas Eve supper with my dad, ‘nother mother and brother.

The Chocolate Gingerbread and White Fruit Cake are already inked in, too. (A bucket of cookies and two loaves cooling on the kitchen island as I type).

It’s a little too late in the season, this being Christmas Eve Eve. But it occurred to me while writing things down, that the journals, while marvy gifts on their own, would be made even more special if they were started for friends and family. Family especially, with the passed-down recipes from generations already taking up pages before they’re unwrapped on Christmas morning.

It’s something to consider for next near. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of pages left. And I can see filling them in the following years. Like Diane Tye, I find baking (and cooking) is a biographical act. Especially when recorded by simply putting ink to paper in a journal so beautifully made, it’s likely to survive several generations.

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You can use suet if you really want to, but I wouldn’t tell your guests! It’s hard enough to explain the potatoes.

1 cup beef suet (or butter), softened
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups grated raw carrots
3 cups grated raw potatoes
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pistachios
1 cup mixed citrus peel (3 oranges, 2 lemons, 2 limes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together suet or butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Fold in flour and spices, then carrots and ½ of the potatoes, raisins, pistachios and citrus peel. Toss remaining potatoes in baking soda and fold into batter. Scrape into a buttered bundt pan, cover with foil and set into a deep roasting pan. Place in oven and fill roasting pan with 2-inches of boiling water. Bake for 2 hours or until pudding is set and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let set for ½ an hour before turning out onto a cake dish. Serve warm with custard sauce.

Custard Sauce: Into a medium saucepan, measure 3 tbs “Bird’s” custard powder and 3 tbs sugar. Over medium heat, gradually whisk in 2 ½ cups milk. Whisk constantly until custard comes to a full boil. Cool slightly.

Notes: If you’re feeling so intrepid, suet is occasionally available at better butcher’s shops. And also, don’t waste time trying to zest a whole cup of citrus peel using a cheese grater. Get instead a hand-held citrus zester that adeptly shears away thin curls of pretty peel, while leaving behind the bitter white pith.

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My friend Julie is not known for her love of cooking, but every so often she comes up with a recipe that’s better than any of mine. And when that happens, I steal.

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup molasses

2 1/3 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves(granulated sugar for rolling)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and molasses. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture and beat until combined, scraping down sides at least once.
Shape into 24 equal balls. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar. Place on two baking sheets and bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, until cookies are crackled.
Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days, with a brown sugar keeper, if necessary. If refrigerated or frozen, allow cookies to return to room temperature before serving.
Note: Don’t flatten cookies before baking.

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Haystack Cookies

This was a favourite of mine when I was a kid. And while I’ve come to prefer cookies with a little more panache, kids still love these easy, no-bake cookies, that are a lot like coconut macaroons.
3 cups quick oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oats and coconut. Set aside.
In a medium pot, bring butter, milk, vanilla, sugar and cocoa to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour chocolate mixture over oats and coconut, using a rubber spatula to scrape out all the contents of the pot. Stir together until well combined.
Using a tablespoon, spoon cookie mixture onto 2 parchment paper or Silpat-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until set. Makes about 48 cookies.

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Chocolate in chilli? Trust me. Or trust my sister, who never makes chilli without it.

2 tbs oil
1 lb lean ground lamb or beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp cumin
4 tsp paprika
28 oz can plum tomatoes plus ½ can water
3 tbs tomato paste
19 oz can kidney beans
1 small green Bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow Bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium chipotle chillies (from canned), finely chopped
1 tbs adobo sauce (from the canned chipotles)
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate (3 squares of Baker’s chocolate)
2 tsp dried oregano
¼-½ cup red wine (optional)
3 tsp brown sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown meat in oil. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Add cumin and paprika. Transfer to a large saucepan and add tomatoes and water (breaking them up with a wooden spoon), tomato paste, kidney beans, bell peppers and chipotle with adobo sauce.

Break up chocolate using a chocolate fork or serrated knife. Add to saucepan and stir in to melt. Add oregano and stir in red wine, brown sugar and lemon juice and simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for about 1 hour, stirring periodically, until thickened and rich and deep in colour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice or with a wedge of fresh corn bread.

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Eggnog Mousse

I brought this to a potluck once. After much overheard inquiring, I was found out, and had to share the recipe.

2 cups eggnog (not light)
3 large egg yolks
2 tbs brown sugar
1 ¼ cups heavy cream, whipped
1/3 oz (6 sheets) gelatine

In a large bowl set over a pot of simmering water over medium heat, whisk together eggnog, egg yolks and brown sugar. Continue whisking, vigorously, until mixture has tripled in volume and is very hot.

Meanwhile, soften gelatine in hot water according to package directions, for about 2 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and thoroughly whisk in to eggnog mixture. Float bowl in a sink partially filled with cold water and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

Whip cream until it is stiff. Fold 1/3 of the cream into the eggnog mixture with a rubber spatula (this is to lighten the mixture), then fold in remaining 2/3. Spoon into individual dessert dishes or into one large decorative bowl. Refrigerate until set; several hours or overnight. Garnish with extra whipped cream and chocolate shavings

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Eggnog Bread Pudding

4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups store-bought eggnog
1/4 cup brown sugar
2-4 tbs dark rum
1 lb day old cinnamon-raisin bread, about 12 slices
softened butter for bread and baking dish
Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, eggnog, brown sugar, and rum.
Moderately butter one side of each slice of cinnamon-raisin bread and cut into 1/2 cubes. Place bread in prepared dish and pour eggnog mixture over top. Let stand for five minutes. Gently push bread down into custard. Refrigerate for 2 hours, occasionally pushing bread down into custard.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place bread pudding dish into a larger baking dish. Add enough boiling water to bottom pan to come 1 inch up the side of the dish with the bread pudding. Bake until pudding is puffed up and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove dish from water bath and let cool slightly. Cut into squares. Serve pudding with warm eggnog.

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