It is that dark and difficult time in the little jam kitchen. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that the world is beset by violence, famine, and floods and yet I come to you to complain about my longing for berries. It is less than a month, until the first strawberries arrive; ripe and sweet and red but I grow weary of waiting.
We jam ladies go about our business of making delicious spreads out every kind of fruit from our local farms but around this time of year we feel the challenge of “going local” more than any other time. Our friends and customers see supermarkets counters filled with every type of produce and so naturally it is reasonable for them to ask for a jar of a particular strawberry or raspberry jam. They are often shocked to find during this time of year that we have sold them all and no more will be made until the season comes around again. It reinforces our own craving to have that Summer fruit now.
So what do we do? It is easier and cheaper to stop buying fruit from our local family farms but that was the point of my starting Doves and Figs in the first place. We could have strawberries from somewhere all year round but it would not be the same for me. The first sun-warmed berries will arrive soon from the fields and they will again taste of shortcakes and childhood adventures and the essence of Summer.
What do we do? We wait and we hope that you find beauty in embracing the seasons too.
Passover is a time of stories and symbols. As the holiday draws to an end, I wanted to share one of the most fun things we served at our Seder this year. Last year my hubby, Mark, led us in the The Two Minute Haggadah for the second night of Passover. Everyone thought it was a riot and we joked that there should be a dish to match that contained the essence of the Seder in a few bites. A few days before Passover began, we remembered the conversation and tossed around various ideas of how to make a bite-size Seder. We hit on deviled eggs as the perfect medium for our holiday madness and Mark insisted that we call them “Wicked Son Eggs”. Off to the kitchen I went to figure out a recipe.
After a day of shopping and cooking, the lamb confit was ready and I assembled the rest of our Wicked Son Eggs as follows:
Peel and sliced 12 hard boiled eggs
Scoop yolks out and mix with mayonnaise, little shreds of lamb confit, fresh grated horseradish, and parsley
In another bowl mix finely diced apple with chopped walnuts and sweet wine
Stuff the eggs with yolk mixture
Top eggs with apples and walnuts
Serve on romaine lettuce leaves
It is practically blasphemy to say it this time of year; but I don’t like eggnog. A nice frothy homemade batch will do as a conduit for bringing rum to lips, but it is just not my favorite holiday beverage. A warm mulled wine, cocoa spiked with spirits, or an elegant tall glass of bubbles are more my style for celebrating.
When my stepdaughter insisted on buying some eggnog at the supermarket, I groaned. She is the only one in the house who would drink it and as I predicted after sipping a tiny glass, she grew bored with it and moved on to something else. I hated to waste the rest of the container of eggnog so I decided to see if I could bake it into something I would like.
Much of what I don’t like about commercial eggnog is the syrupy sweet flavor and the heavy texture. I like rich creamy feel in custards but not in drinks so I decided to whip up a custard and offset the sweetness with some farmers cheese. I am sure ricotta would have worked as well but farmers cheese was what I had on hand and the slighty salty flavor was perfect.
I made a quick basic tart dough (I love Sweet Tart Dough from Fanny Farmer Baking Book, 1984) and chilled it. Then I put together the filling (recipe below)
and poured it in the chilled shell. I baked the tart for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees and then let it cool. Since I had leftover candied citrus and cranberries which I had made for another recipe, I sprinkled them on the tart along with some blanched almonds for extra crunch.
NOTE: An unbaked pie shell would also work for this recipe as well.
With my first bite, I knew that I would never feel the same about eggnog again. After my friends devoured slices of my eggnog “pie”, I realized that I might even have to keep some of the previously maligned beverage on hand just for this recipe. Happy and Delicious New Year to everyone!
Egg Nog Pie or Tart Filling
1 cup of eggnog
8 oz farmer cheese
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup dried currants
2 Tbs Southern Comfort (optional)
Whisk together all ingredients and pour into prepared tart or pie shell
Although my family celebrates Chanukkah, every year at this time my kitchen is filled with joy and piles of Christmas delights. I bake holiday cookies and make candy for friends and business associates and always make some kind of crazy cake creation for Christmas dinner. I will be posting more about my cake next week, but for today it is all about sweet ways to spread some holiday cheer.
This year’s treats included apple cider and walnut brittle, cranberry and pepita caramel, breakfast bark (dark chocolate with raisin bran cereal, ground coffee, and drizzled white chocolate”milk”), peanut butter bark, chocolate treat cups, candy cane & cocoa swirl cookies, chocolate M&M trees, and my favorite, bacon & coffee piglets. The recipe for these adorable cookies is below and they are as tasty as they are cute.
Bacon and Coffee Butter Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup crumbled crisp bacon
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Cook bacon until crisp in the oven or a frying pan
Cool and crumble into small bits and set aside
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Cream softened butter and sugar
Add egg yolk and water
Blend until combined
Add flour, coffee, and cinnamon and mix until a ragged dough begins to form
Stir in bacon and mix just until dough comes together in a ball
Gather dough together and wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour
Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out cookies with cookie cutters (such as the cute little pig shown)
Bake for about 12 minutes until edges are barely brown
I bought some peaches as soon as they showed up at the farmers market and they were delicious if a tiny bit under ripe. The next week I bought more and we ate some for a snack and made a delicious salmon with white wine and sliced peaches and grilled peaches with mint and honey.
Next I bought a small bag of perfectly ripe nectarines which was demolished amid contented sighs and sticky hands coated in juice. The peaches and nectarines and plums were so good this year that they made me feel sad to think that the season would soon draw to a close.
I could not imagine being without this friend through the long winter so out came the canning supplies and soon I had created a small winter stash of white and yellow peach preserves with cinnamon and port wine, spicy peach with Hungarian peppers, a small batch of peach and lavender, and a tart plum and ginger sauce. We often think of jams and preserves as spreads for toast; but they are wonderful for savory and sweet dishes. Try serving homemade jam on a cheese platter, or use as a meat or fish glaze, and use preserves for filling tarts and cookies as I did with the simple shortbread cookies shown here stuffed with peach and lavender jam.
I am always looking for low-fat and fat-free treats to balance out my richer offerings. This recipe eliminates all the oil and uses apple cider to give the bread a slight sweetness and a tender texture. I used fast rise yeast but you can also use regular yeast and give it extra time to rise. With the fast rise, it makes a great last-minute addition to dinner or brunch.
The main recipe is below and you can top the bread simply with kosher salt and rosemary or other herbs, brandy soaked apples as in the picture, or carmelized onions.
Apple Cider Foccocia
- 1 cup fresh Apple Cider
1 cup water
2 Pkgs Rapid Rise Yeast
4 1/2 to 5 cup Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
Oil or Non-Stick SPray for pans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Warm the water and cider together to 110 to 115 degrees
Add warm water and cider to the yeast in a large bowl or mixer
Stir in flour and salt to make a sticky dough
Knead additional flour into the dough by hand until it is smooth and soft but not sticky
Allow to rise about 20 minutes until doubled in size
Oil or spray two 8″ round baking pans
Pat half of the dough into each pan
Top with your choice of toppings
Bake for about 25 minutes until brown on top. The bread should have a slightly hollow sound when tapped.