Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cookies



These are a favorite cookie that I blogged about a year ago and are shown above from Valentine's Day.

Nonie Cookies Revisited

I thought I'd share with you my family's favorite cookie recipe. This was my great-grandmother Eleanor's recipe for sugar cookies. They've since come to be called "Nonie Cookies" since she was "Grandma Nonie." It is a classic cookie recipe, enjoyed all year long. I like them a little thick, while my Mom likes them thin and crispy. See what you think.


NONIE COOKIES

Mix together 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and a dash of freshly ground nutmeg. Make a well in the center and add 1 cup shortening, 1 egg, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well.

Roll half the dough on a floured cloth or board. Sprinkle with sugar and roll it in gently. Cut with your favorite cookie cutters. Bake at 350° until lightly brown. Roll and cut remaining dough. You can use colored sugars if desired.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cocoa Drops with Browned Butter Icing


My nut roll turned out very nice. I probably should have baked two at a time instead of crowding them all onto one sheet, but it is delicious! I made the gingerbread, but haven't decorated it yet. It is quite tasty, especially with the fresh lemon and orange juice and zests!
I also made Cocoa Drops, which are a family favorite. They are frosted with Browned Butter Icing and it really makes it a stand-out, or outstanding cookie! This is a big batch. Feel free to make a 1/2 batch.

COCOA DROPS

Mix together 2 cups Crisco shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat well. Add 4 eggs and mix well and add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Add 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well. I use a small cookie scoop, but you can drop by tablespoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 12 - 15 minutes. Frost when cool.
BROWNED BUTTER ICING
Brown 1/4 cup butter, add 2 cups powdered sugar and enough milk to make the right consistency. (Make sure to really brown the butter. You want that toasted flavor, but not burned.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh Nuts!

The Nut Roll dough is rising and the filling is made. I followed this gingerbread recipe and the wet ingredients are cooling. Oh my it smells so good with lemon, orange and spices! Watch this short video to see how fantastic this gingerbread looks.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/104296/food-network-originals-gingerbread-cookies
Now that I'm waiting, I think I'll bake some mini loaves of Aunt John's Nut Bread. Yes, her name was Lucille, but everyone called her John. I miss my Grandma. She used to whip up a loaf of nut bread in no time. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I wrote this card.
Note...there's no butter or shortening in this recipe. I have called my Mom several times to make sure I wrote it down correctly. It is simple and tasty.
More no-nuts recipes in the coming days!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

White Christmas


Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. Since we've no place to go.... Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!!!

Looks like we're going to have a White Christmas this year! I was just looking at some pictures from last year and remembering that we had no snow. Next week's forecast is promising!

There's still time to order some last minute gifts to snuggle up in...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rugelach and Nut Roll Cookies


These are Ina's Rugelach from Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies newsletter. Rugelach have cream cheese in the dough, and a fruity filling.
My father-in-law gave me this recipe for Nut Rolls. It's a yeast-based dough that you roll out small balls, fill and roll individual cookies in sugar. (Make the dough the night before!)

NUT ROLLS

1/2 # melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 can evaporated milk
1 package dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 - 5 cups flour

Mix dough and put it in a greased, covered bowl. Refrigerate for 12 hours.

Filling: 1 cup ground nuts, 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter, 1/8 cup water, 1/6 cup dark Karo syrup, 1/2 cup hot milk. Stir and cook filling to boiling point. Add one beaten egg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature.

Take a small ball of dough the size of a walnut. Roll thin in granulated sugar. Fill, roll and shape into a crescent. Bake at 350° 20 minutes...more or less.

Tasty Cookie Mishap


I wanted to make a shortbread style cookie with a chocolate disc on top...kind of like the Peanut Butter Kisses, but I didn't want peanut butter and all I had were the chocolate discs.

I found a recipe that used Hershey's Hugs and you made half the dough chocolate and half white. I just left it all white and thought it would work. Well, as you can see, it didn't.
The cookies spread too much. They taste good, but it's like a sugar cookie with a chocolate center.
I'll try again, but definitely need a shortbread recipe.
Happy baking!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'll Never Buy A Nut Roll Again

I made a terrible mistake the other day and actually bought a nut roll at the grocery store! It was so tempting since I've been way too busy and nut roll is one of my favorite things at the holidays.
I am digging out my nut roll recipe to share with you since I vow to NEVER buy one again. The hollow, dry, flavorless dough is not worth the price. Yes, it takes awhile to make these, but you'll have extra for yourself, or to give as a gift. They freeze well...if you don't eat it all!

I haven't researched the history of the nut roll. I do know that it's an Eastern European recipe that is sometimes filled with a fruit spread or poppy seed instead of a nut filling. It's sometimes called Kolachi or Potica and comes from Poland, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovak recipes.
Take time to make these yourself. You won't regret it!

NUT ROLL
Makes 4 loaves

2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
2 cups warm milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 egg yolks
8 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm (not hot) water. In a large bowl mix the flour, butter, shortening, salt and sugar. Add the milk, egg yolks and dissolved yeast. Mix well and knead about 5 minutes, until it's smooth and elastic and doesn't stick (adding more flour if necessary). Place in a greased bowl and cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 2 - 3 hours).
Make the filling...
2# ground walnuts
2 cups sugar
12 oz. evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
4 beaten egg whites to stretch the filling, if desired

I like to bake these on parchment paper, but I still spray a little bit of cooking spray on the paper. After the dough has risen, divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece to 1/8 to 1/4" thick. Spread with cooled filling. (Some recipes spread melted butter first, then the filling. Others spread the filling and drizzle with honey and/or cinnamon.) Roll it up like a jelly roll and place seam-side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with a light towel and let them rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool completely on a cooling rack.

*** "Hungarian Nut Rolls" are a little different. They're more of a roll and fill cookie and I'll share that recipe with you next.***

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Illustrious Yule Log



The holiday baking season, along with the release of "Julie and Julia", reminds me of watching Julia Child and wishing I could make the illustrious Buche de Noel or Yule Log. I can still hear Julia saying "Buche de Noel!" My childhood love of HoHo's had me longing for this rolled chocolate spongecake with chocolate ganache. Yum!
Last year I finally decided to try it. I don't have any Julia Child cookbooks, but I did have a hand-written recipe card in my recipe box for many years. When I was in my teens, I wrote down a lot of recipes from my Mom's recipe box, but I never knew her to make Buche de Noel. So, who knows where this recipe came from.Well, it ended up being a total flop! I was interrupted too many times with people and dogs and who knows what. The cake was over-mixed and was a rubbery mess, despite the long time it took to make the filling and frosting and assemble it.
I won't be trusting that old recipe card, if I even kept it! There are several online sources for Buche de Noel (or Yule Log) recipes. Some trustworthy, tested sites are the JoyofBaking, Food Network, Epicurious, and, of course Martha Stewart. I'm not sure yet which I'll try, but will take a look at the different styles, techniques, and ingredients to see what suits my tastes.
I am not a gourmet chef, but I do love to bake. Some tips for a sponge cake like this are, get yourself a jelly roll pan, don't use it for anything other than sponge cakes, and don't use waxed paper. Some recipes call for using waxed paper on the pan and I just can't get that smell of melted wax out of my head. While I use parchment paper for most other baking, I opt for aluminum foil for a sponge cake. It forms to the pan. You can grease and flour it easily and the cake comes off clean.
I hope this inspires you to make a Yule Log or Buche de Noel this year. Heck, I may even try the little marzipan mushrooms! Just keep in mind that looks don't matter as must as taste.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

DATE NUT CAKE

There's no time to bake this week, but I wanted to share some recipes to start off the holiday season. I'd also love to hear from you. If you have a family favorite, a traditional seasonal dish or story to tell, feel free to share!
We baked a lot of goodies at Thanksgiving. Sarah and her cousin, Emily, baked two pumpkin pies from one big can of pumpkin. I opened a small can to make a quick pumpkin roll that morning and, not wanting to waste what pumpkin was left, we made a batch of cookies with frosting. Lots of pumpkin, but it was delicious! One tradition that was missing was the date nut cake. My grandmother's German background influenced many family food traditions, this one included. The Amish have a date nut cake recipe that's more pudding-like. This one is a moist cake with a warm sauce. I didn't make date nut cake this Thanksgiving, but it was traditionally served at both Thanksgiving and Christmas for as long as I can remember.

DATE NUT CAKE

Put 1 cup of chopped dates in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and add 1 cup of hot water. Let stand.
Cream together 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1 egg. Mix together 1 1/2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Alternate adding the flour and date mixtures to the creamed butter and mix well. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 cup chopped walnuts.
Bake at 350° in a greased and floured tube or bundt pan until it's done (time will vary depending on the pan size).
Cool completely.

SAUCE FOR DATE NUT CAKE

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil 1 cup hot water and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Mix a cornstarch paste with a little cornstarch and water. Add to boiling pan and stir until thickened. (Don't make it too thick.) Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Serve warm over date nut cake.


Stay tuned for more holiday recipes and food traditions and be sure to send me yours!

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