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With its strong association to the holidays, homemade eggnog was a holiday tradition growing up. I always had a strong affinity for the wintery drink despite it being quite an acquired taste. Despite the hefty price tag at the store, this festive drink is fairly easy to make. Eggnog is best made the night before or early in the morning to give it enough time to chill.

Ingredients:

  • 12 large eggs, separated
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 6 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 Tbps. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 c. bourbon or 1½ c. bourbon & ½ c. rum (optional)

Directions:

Separate yolks and whites.

Separate yolks and whites.

Separate eggs. Set aside egg whites.

Mix yolks and sugar until pale yellow.

Mix yolks and sugar until pale yellow.

In a bowl large, whisk together egg yolks and granulated sugar until thick and pale yellow. Set aside.

Add milk, cream, vanilla to pot.

Add milk, cream, vanilla to pot.

Combine milk, heavy cream and vanilla in a large pot. Slowly heat over medium heat until hot and just about to simmer.

Stir quickly to temper the mixture.

Stir quickly to temper the mixture.

Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture. Stir continuously to temper.*

The mixture will lose the white foam when it begins to thicken, then will coat a metal spoon when done.

The mixture will lose the white foam when it begins to thicken, then will coat a metal spoon when done.

Pour mixture back into pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly—about 18-20 minutes. Mixture will thicken and coat a metal spoon. Do not allow mixture to boil or it will curdle.

Mix in nutmeg.

Mix in nutmeg.

Remove from heat. Stir in nutmeg. Cover and chill for 8 hours. Sticking the mixture in a freezer will speed along the process, but must be stirred frequently.

Beat until stiff peaks form.

Beat until stiff peaks form.

Once mixture is chilled, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into mixture. If desired, stir in bourbon/rum.

Before serving, sprinkle top with nutmeg.

Tips:

  • *Tempering the milk and egg yolk mixture prevents the eggs from cooking in the hot milk.
  • Did the egg and milk mixture begin curdling? Try vigorously whisking the mixture until smooth again.
  • When beating egg whites, make sure they’re room temperature and add ¼ tsp. salt or cream of tartar to stabilize whites.
  • If not adding the alcohol, eggnog may seem thick, but usually deflates with time. Because of this, I prefer to make mine the night before as I feel it always tastes better the following day.
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Looking for last minute holiday cookie ideas? This year, I chose a mix of traditional Christmas cookies along with the always popular Chocolate Chip Cookie. As usual, I have made some changes to the recipes, listing my suggestions below.

LEBKUCHEN (The Spice Cookbook yr 1964)

This traditional German Christmas cookie will keep for at least three months if kept in an airtight container. The flavor will improve with age and is best served 3-4 days after baking.

LebkuchenIngredients:

  • ¾ c. honey
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbps. milk
  • 2 ¾ c. sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ c. chopped citron
  • ½ c. chopped blanched almonds
  • Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze*

Heat honey to boiling point (DO NOT BOIL) in a saucepan large enough for mixing dough. Stir in sugar. Beat in egg. Blend in lemon zest and milk.

Sift together flour, salt, cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Gradually stir into the honey-sugar mixture. Add citron and almonds. Chill dough overnight

Spread in 2 lightly greased and lightly floured 9”x9”x2” pans. Bake in a preheated oven (400F) 15 minutes or until done. While cookies are hot; quickly brush tops with Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze. Cool in pans. Cut each square into 32 bars. Store airtight.

Yield: 64 bars

*Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze

  • 4 tsp. water
  • 1 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar

Stir water into confectioners’ sugar. Mix well.

Yield: Glaze for a 9-inch square cake

Tip:

  • Try adding lemon zest to the glaze mixture for a little extra kick in flavor.
  • Also try rolling dough into 1-inch balls and bake for 7-10 minutes. While hot, lightly brush cookies with Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze.

MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES (Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

What cookie isn’t known by more names?

Mexican Wedding CakesIngredients:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. finely chopped nuts
  • Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400F. Mix butter, ½ c. powdered sugar, and vanilla. Mix in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together.

Shape into 1-inch balls. Place about 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set, but not brown, 10-12 minutes.

Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Cool. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Yield: approximately 4 dozen cookies

Tip:

  • This dough can become very soft, so chill in the fridge for a few hours before rolling.

ROSETTES (Swedish Food)

A well-loved traditional Swedish fried cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. heavy cream

To fry:

Deep fat or oil

Beat eggs, egg yolk, and cream together. Add flour and sugar. Stir until well blended. Let stand 2 hours.

Put rosette iron in cold fat to cover. Heat fat to 375F, remove iron, drain on absorbent paper and dip I nto well stirred batter. Hold coated iron over hot fat for a moment before dipping in. Cook until golden brown. Remove, slip rosette carefully from iron and drain on absorbent paper. Heat iron again and repeat. Sprinkle rosettes with sugar.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

A simple cookie that is sure to please everyone!

Chocolate Chip CookiesIngredients:

  • ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. shortening or oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ c. chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 375F. Mix sugars, butter, shortening (or oil), egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2-inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until light brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

Yield: approximately 3 ½ dozen cookies

Tips:

  • Add a little cinnamon for the perfect little something’ to kick up the flavor.
  • Short on time? Make a sheet cookie by doubling all ingredients and press dough into a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Interested in learning how to make Old-fashioned Fudge to add to your arsenal of Christmas baked goods? Check out How to Make Old-fashioned Fudge and Fix Mistakes for simple, step-by-step instructions.

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Old-fashioned FudgeOld-fashioned fudge (without marshmallows!) has a reputation for being finicky and tough. It will quickly tire arms out—my mom even has stories of sharing the efforts of fudge making with her siblings. Making fudge has been a bane in my baking existence for several years. I couldn’t get it to set no matter how cautious I was with measurements and temperature. Through my search for a good recipe, I have found one that has yet to fail me with resolutions to prevent and fix common mistakes.

I have had no problems with the following recipe. The fudge has always turned out completely smooth. I use a hand mixer with no ill effects and it does not get grainy if I overbeat. I was even able to fix it when I didn’t cook it enough due to a candy thermometer that wasn’t calibrated correctly (Correct calibration is essential). Testing for soft ball* stage does work as I have successfully made it this way as well. The most important thing is making sure to watch the fudge and the temperatures throughout the entire cooking process.

Ingredients (Recipe from – Better Homes & Garden: The New Cook Book yr.1965):

  • 2 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. milk
  • 2 1-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. corn syrup**
  • 2 Tbps. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ c. chopped nuts (optional)***

Getting Started

Butter the sides of a heavy saucepan—this will prevent the sugar from sticking and crystalizing.Old-fashioned Fudge

Combine sugar, milk, unsweetened chocolate, salt and corn syrup.Old-fashioned Fudge

Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is boiling.

Lower temperature to a simmer and do not stir unless necessary. Cook until it reaches 234F or soft ball stage***.Old-fashioned Fudge

Immediately remove from heat and cool in cold water (no ice) until it reaches 110F. While cooling, add butter on top of mixture—do not stir.

Once cool, add vanilla.Old-fashioned Fudge

Beat fudge—this will get tiring, so either find a few extra, willing arms; however, I always cheat and use a hand mixer. Once the fudge thickens and loses its gloss, pour into a buttered pan.

***Optionally, stir in nuts at the end of the beating time.Old-fashioned Fudge

Fixing Mistakes

  • Too thick: If fudge became too thick during beating (Oops! The hand mixer can be overzealous), knead with hands until it softens then press into buttered pan or roll and slice. Optionally, cut cute shapes with cookie cutters!
  • Too soft: If it doesn’t set, it was either poured too soon (Tired arms! Give me a break!) or wasn’t cooked enough. Fix by mixing in ¼ c. milk and recooking to 234F or soft ball stage. Cool to 110F. Beat until it loses gloss.Testing for soft ball stage

*Testing for Soft Ball Stage

Test for soft ball stage (234F-238F) by dropping mixture into a bowl of cold water (no ice). If ready, mixture will hold shape and can be formed into a soft ball between your fingers.

**Substitute Corn Syrup

If you do not have corn syrup, you may make a substitute sugar syrup by combining:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 pinch salt

Heat until boiling. Lower heat to a simmer and put lid on for 3 minutes to soften any sugar crystals. Cook until it arrives at 234F, or soft ball stage. Syrup will keep for approximately two months. I have tried this and it does work—I never have corn syrup around.

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Candied citrus peel can be a special treat enjoyed anytime of the year and often used in holiday baking. Have a recipe that calls for candied citron, but unable to locate any? Try making your own or substituting with homemade candied lemon peel. Luckily, candied peels are simple to make and the taste will be unrivaled when compared to something bought in a grocery store.

Remove citrus peels.

Remove citrus peels.

Start by peeling the chosen citrus, I chose lemons as a substitute for citron in a recipe. I found the easiest way to do this was to cut the outside into 5-6 sections, skin-deep and then simply peeling back the skin.

Clean off the peels, ensuring there is no fruit attached. You may also choose to remove the white pith. Since I was looking to substitute for the thick-skinned citron, I chose to leave the piths attached.

Slice citrus peels.

Slice citrus peels.

Thinly slice the peels into strips, lengthwise.

Cover citrus peels with cold water, boil.

Cover citrus peels with cold water, boil.

Place peels in a pot, cover with cold water. Slowly bring water to a boil, simmer 10-15 minutes. Replace the water 3-5 times and re-boil to help remove any bitter flavors.

Simmer peels in sugar syrup.

Simmer peels in sugar syrup.

Combine the citrus peels with a sugar syrup (listed below) and bring to a boil. Simmer peels until syrup is nearly gone.

Sugar Syrup (for every two cups of peels):

  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar

Let peels dry for only a couple minutes—I used a strainer to help drain off excess syrup.

The finished product! Yum!

The finished product! Yum!

Roll in sugar and dry on waxed paper. However, if using the peels for baking, rolling in sugar is optional.

Once dry, store in an airtight container.

Looking for a sweet treat? Try dipping in melted chocolate—they make excellent holiday gifts!

Lebkuchen made with homemade candied lemon peels as a substitute for the citron required.

Lebkuchen made with homemade candied lemon peels as a substitute for the citron required.

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Growing up, buttermilk was the weird, thick milk beloved by my dad whom would trick me into taking drinks. Despite my father’s love for it, it’s something I would never normally keep in my fridge—until now. Too often, a recipe has required buttermilk and (unfortunately) a stick of butter in a glass of milk does not make a suitable substitute. Buttermilk comes in two forms—traditional and cultured. Traditional buttermilk is the liquid left after butter making and can be very pricey. Luckily, cultured buttermilk is incredibly cheap and simple to make.

You will need (could this be any simpler?):

  • Jar with lid
  • Milk
  • Cultured buttermilk

Let’s Get Started

Pour some buttermilk into an empty jar—I’m never specific with measurements, but a 1:3 ratio is safe to follow. I like to use mason jars because the lid won’t “pop” when pressed if the mixture is culturing correctly.

Fill the rest of the jar up with milk.

Shake, shake, shake.

Put the lid on the jar and shake to evenly distribute the buttermilk bacteria throughout the milk.

The waiting game.

Let the mixture sit on the counter for approximately 24 hours. After a day, the mixture will be cultured and should stick to the side of the jar. Take a whiff, it should smell slightly sour.

Cultured buttermilk sticks to the side of the jar.

Make some up ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for the next time you have a hankerin’ for some fried chicken or buttermilk pancakes.

Buttermilk Pancakes – Delicious!

Interested in making traditional buttermilk? Try reading Alli Cobra’s Butter-making for the Adventurous.

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When I was a little girl, my dad would share stories of the yogurt his grandmother made in a jar without modern simplicities. Yogurt is still a refrigerator staple for my father, but the cost of buying it can quickly eat away at the thrifty shopper’s wallet. Making yogurt is not only a fraction of the cost, but is one of the few old traditions that can be made simple.

What is needed?

  • Milk
  • Yogurt or freeze dried yogurt starter
  • Pot
  • Candy thermometer
  • Containers or jars
  • Whisk
  • Spoon
  • Powdered milk (optional)

Heat the Milk

Heat the milk to 185ºF (85ºC). Stir frequently to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of pot. As the milk cools, powdered milk may be added (optional). The addition of powdered milk will create a richer, thicker yogurt.

Let milk cool to 100ºF-120ºF (38ºC-49ºC).

Add Yogurt Starter

Add the yogurt starter to the cooled milk. I typically add approximately 2 tablespoons per pint of milk. Whisk the yogurt starter into the milk to evenly distribute the bacteria. I am using a favorite yogurt brand; however, they do sell freeze-dried yogurt starters. If using premade yogurt for a starter, try to choose a brand you prefer as they all have different tastes. The yogurt must contain live active cultures and should not have any added flavors.

Distribute Mixture

Distribute mixture into containers—I prefer mason jars to keep water out.

Keep the Mixture Warm (100ºF-120ºF/38ºC-49ºC)

Place the containers into a cooler filled halfway with hot water (100ºF-120ºF/38ºC-49ºC). Don’t have a cooler? An electric yogurt maker, a preheated crock pot wrapped in towels, or sunny window sill work as well.

The Waiting Game

Let sit for 6-12 hours, or overnight. I prefer to leave mine overnight, but I recommend rechecking the temperature of the water-filled cooler to make sure the proper heat is being maintained.

Fresh cultured yogurt.

Prefer Greek Yogurt?

Strain the yogurt in cheesecloth until desired consistency is achieved. Alternatively, use a white kitchen rag or towel. Whey will drain from the yogurt as it thickens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to make Yogurt Cheese? 

Yogurt cheese is a healthier alternative to cream cheese and is very easy to make. Simply strain yogurt through cheesecloth overnight until the yogurt is thick and spreadable.

Tips

  • If yogurt doesn’t turn out and temperatures were correct throughout, try switching brands. I went through two brands before I found one that cultured correctly.
  • Save a little yogurt to use as a starter for the next batch.
  • Honey drizzled over Greek yogurt.

    Add any flavor to taste: jam, honey and maple syrup all work well.

  • Save leftover whey from strained yogurt to boost the health of tomato plants.
  • Whey is a healthy addition to any diet.

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