Cranberry Jelly

Cranberry Jelly

My holiday mantra this year is “keep it simple” and these sparkling jellies are simplicity in a glass. Made of cranberry juice and a splash of Grand Marnier, these grown-up jellies are both sweet and tart. I’ve dusted the rims of sherry glasses with fine sugar before pouring in the fortified juice. Once the gelatin does its magic in the refrigerator, the jelly can be topped with a boozy little cranberry marinated in liqueur and rolled in fine sugar.

Wishing you a sweet and joyful holiday.

Frosted Cranberry Jellies

Makes 2 cups

2 cups cranberry juice
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
1 package (1 Tbsp) unflavoured gelatin
Optional garnish: whole cranberries, soaked overnight in Grand Marnier and rolled in fine sugar just before serving.

In a small saucepan, heat one cup of cranberry juice. When the juice is warm, add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a large measuring cup with a spout and add the balance of the cranberry juice and the Grand Marnier. Mix until combined and cool slightly.

If you wish to add sugar to the rim of your glassware, do this before you add the cranberry juice. Pour the sugar onto a small plate. Dip the rim of your glassware into a bit of water and then onto the plate with the sugar. Fill the sugar-rimmed glassware with the cooled cranberry juice mixture. Refrigerate until set.

If desired, garnish with cranberry

Serve chilled, with small spoons.

Note: Port can be substituted for the Grand Marnier if you don’t mind an opaque, rather than clear, jelly.


Linzer Torte Cookies

Image by Deb Garlick

Nothing says holiday like a sugar-dusted cookie filled with jam. Linzer Torte cookies are scrumptious and gorgeous in equal measures. Made of toasted ground almonds, sweet butter and a whisper of lemon zest, these dainty cookies sandwich a filling of raspberry preserves. An adaptation of Austria’s classic Linzer Torte, these cookies are one of the simplest in my holiday repertoire.

The dough comes together as quickly as any sugar cookie but for the extra step of toasting and grinding the almonds — a cinch in a food processor. I use a two-inch cookie cutter, with a heart cut-out, but they can be made any shape or size you wish — and filled with any sort of jam. Apricot preserves make a lovely alternative.

If you’re a stickler for uniformity, portion the jam with a  pastry bag or a plastic sandwich bag with a small hold cut from a corner. (This will help you fill the heart cut-out.)

If you like your cookies crisp, bake them a little longer and fill with jam the day you serve them. I prefer them on the soft side so I prepare them ahead of time. Either way, they don’t disappoint.

Recipe adapted from joyofbaking.com, one of my favourite online resources.

Makes about 30 – 2 inch cookies

1 cup whole almonds, outer skin intact
1/4 cup  granulated white sugar
1/2 cup golden (light) brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature**
Zest from one small washed lemon
1 large egg

Topping:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup Raspberry or Apricot Jam

Special Equipment
2 same-shaped cookie cutters, one smaller than the other (for the cut-out)
2 baking sheets lined with parchment or a non-stick baking mat
small piping bag or sandwich bag with a small hole cut from one corner – optional but handy

** To use butter is straight from the fridge, measure 1 cup, then grate the firm butter into a bowl. This will soften the butter without having to wait for it to come to room temperature.

Note: Before the cookies are baked, they’re placed on a baking sheet and firmed in the fridge. If you’re fridge looks anything like mine, you’ll need to make room. Alternatively, firm the unbaked cookies on a plate lined with parchment, then transfer them to a baking sheet when firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer, and bake until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. When the nuts have cooled, tip them into a food processor with the white sugar and process until finely ground.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of standup mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a medium bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar and lemon zest until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Beat in the egg, ground almonds and the flour mixture until well incorporated.

Scrape the dough from the bowl, divide in half, and shape each portion into a squat disk. Working with one portion of dough at a time, place the dough on a sheet of parchment lightly dusted with flour. Cover with another sheet of parchment or plastic wrap and, using a rolling rolling pin, flatten the disk to about 1/4” thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. (Properly covered, the dough will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator.)

Remove one portion of dough from the refrigerator and run a hand over the parchment to  make sure it’s rolled out evenly. Adjust if necessary with a rolling pin.

Stamp out the cookies with the larger cookie cutter and place half on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Refrigerate about 15 minutes before baking. Use the smaller cookie cutter to stamp out the centers from the remaining cookies. Place on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart and refrigerate for about 15 minutes before baking.

Re-roll any scraps of dough and cut out the remaining cookies.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges, rotating the pans once to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

The fun part:

Spread a thin layer of jam on the underside of the cooled full cookies (good side facing down).

Place the cooled cut-out cookies on a sheet of parchment (good side facing up). Place the powered sugar in a small sieve and dust the cookies with the sugar.

Carefully, so as not to mar the sugar, place the sugar-dusted cookies on top of the jam-layered cookies, pressing them together.

Using a small spoon, jam-filled piping bag or sandwich bag, fill in the heart cut-out with additional jam.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for several days.


Almond Chocolate Toffee

Image by Deb Garlick

The first time I made toffee, it turned out beautifully: a crisp sheet of caramel-coloured ice that snapped into shards of buttery bliss. The second time I made toffee, it crumbled in my hands. The third time, it turned a grainy mess ….  I’ve had my issues with toffee. Fortunately, I discovered a few tips and tricks along the way to help you get it right the first time — and the second and third.

Temperature plays a key role in candy-making. Here in Vancouver, we enjoy a temperate climate, with plenty of humidity. Candy doesn’t work best when it’s too humid so take this into consideration when making toffee. If it’s only slightly humid, cook the sugar a few degrees beyond the recommended 300 F (hard crack stage) for best results. You’ll want to read your candy thermometer at eye-level for an accurate reading. And, at the risk of sounding too pedantic, first test your thermometer in boiling water to ensure it’s properly calibrated (water boils 100°C or 212°F). If you’ve wasted as much sugar as I have, you won’t mind double-checking your thermometer for accuracy.

As with any recipe that involves cooking sugar, read the recipe from beginning to end before you start. Then read it again. You’ll need to have your ingredients measured and your tools in reaching distance before you start. And, make sure to use a heavy pot, otherwise, you risk burning the sugar.

It may seem like a lot of rules for a little treat, but the recipe is really easy, comes together quickly, and is sure to become a holiday favourite.

Recipe adapted from Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds

2 cups (200 grams) sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
150 grams bittersweet chocolate (I use Lindt 70% dark), melted and cooled (but still spreadable)

Special Equipment
candy thermometer
baking sheet lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat
lightly oiled off-set palette knife (a regular knife will do, but an off-set knife is easier)
a silicone pastry brush placed in a cup of water

Preheat oven to 375 F

Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, in a single layer.  Bake about 7 – 10 minutes until the nuts are golden and aromatic. Set aside. When they’ve cooled, ensure the nuts are spread evenly on the parchment as you’ll be pouring hot toffee directly onto them.

In a deep, medium-sized heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, water, molasses and salt. Gently stir to combine then clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, ensuring the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture starts to boil, stop stirring. Brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down any sugar crystals.

Cook the toffee until the mixture reaches a few degrees over 300F on a humid day and 295F when humidity is not an issue.

Remove the saucepan from heat, and working quickly, stir in the baking soda. This will cause the sugar to bubble up so be very careful.

Pour the mixture over the almonds. Use a lightly-oiled off-set palette knife to spread the toffee, if necessary.

When the toffee has firmed a bit and is still warm, spread on the melted chocolate. Allow the mixture to cool, then break into pieces.

Keep in an airtight container in a cool dry place. It lasts for several weeks.

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Savarin Cake

Savarin filled with tipsy fruit

Savarian Cake

If you like your cakes boozy and moist, this yeast cake is sure to become a favourite. Once the cake is baked, it is saturated with warm cherry brandy (Kirsch) or rum-spiked syrup. The cake soaks up the booze like a drunken sponge and swells in a happy stupor. You can, of course, omit the booze and flavour the syrup with vanilla, citrus zest, or any sober flavouring you wish.

If you’re nervous about baking with yeast, don’t let that put you off — this cake rises in its mould without any punching down or second-guessing.

I filled the hollow of my Savarin with pastry cream mousseline — a simple custard “lightened” with whipping cream. The cake is topped with caramelized pears, pistachios and a dried fruit compote steeped in wine. In the summer, fresh berries would do nicely.

Oh, those wispy golden shards poking out of the cake? That’s just a little caramelized sugar for a bit of sweet drama. They’re easy to make and I’ve explained how to do so, below.

Individual Rum Babas
Photo by Caroline West

The dough for this recipe was adapted from Julia Child’s enduring classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Originally published in EAT Magazine‘s Nov/Dec 2012 issue.

Makes one Savarin or 8 Rum Babas, depending on the size of mould.

Dough

  • 1 Tbsp instant yeast
  • ¼ cup 2% or whole milk, lukewarm
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 ⅔ cup of all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • For the Babas: 1/3 cup of currants (or any dried fruit), finely chopped

Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

For the Babas: add 1/2 cup dark rum
For the Savarin: add 1/2 cup Kirsch
Optional flavouring: vanilla , citrus zest, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise

Glaze

  • Apple or apricot jelly, warmed

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush mould(s) liberally with butter and dust with flour.

If mixing by hand: Dissolve the yeast with the lukewarm milk in a medium-sized bowl. Add the melted butter, sugar, salt, eggs and lemon zest and mix with a fork until well combined. If making Babas, add the currants. Add the flour all at once and, when the mixture becomes too difficult to mix with a fork, transfer it to a floured work surface and knead by hand, adding additional flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking.

If mixing by machine: Dissolve the yeast with the lukewarm milk in the bowl of a standup mixer. Add the melted butter, sugar, salt, eggs and lemon zest and mix until well combined using the whisk attachment. If making Babas, add the currants. Change the attachment to a dough hook and add the flour all at once, mixing at medium speed until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. You may have to add additional flour, one tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking.

You will know that you have mixed the dough enough when you can stretch it into a thick, long rope without breaking it. The dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Savarin mould: Stretch the dough into one long rope, place it in the circular mould and pinch the ends together. The dough should only fill the mould half way to the top. (As it rises the seam will disappear.)

Baba moulds: Place the moulds on a baking tray and break off the dough in uniform pieces, filling the moulds only half way to the top.

Allow the dough to rise in a warm draft-free area for about 30 – 45 minutes or until it reaches the top of the mould(s).

While the dough is rising, make the syrup: combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir, heating gently until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the rum or Kirsch. If using vanilla, split the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise, and scrape the minute seeds from the pod. Add the vanilla seeds, and the pod, to the cooling syrup and infuse for 30 minutes. (If you don’t want specks of vanilla seeds in your cakes, strain the syrup through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer.) The syrup will be gently re-heated before pouring it onto the cake(s).

When the dough has risen, place the mould(s) in the pre-heated oven and bake until the tops are golden and the dough is cooked through. Babas take about 12 – 15 minutes, Savarins about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the mould(s) and cool on a rack. Using a fine skewer or a toothpick, prick the cake(s) in several places (this will help to draw in the flavoured syrup).

Babas: Warm the syrup and pour it in a shallow bowl, such as a deep dish pie plate, and place the cooled cakes in the syrup, turning them over to saturate them completely. Place the Babas onto individual serving plates or dessert bowls and brush with the warmed jelly. Serve with pastry cream mousseline and/or fruit.

Savarin: Position the Savarin on a rack placed over a baking pan and pour half of the warmed syrup over the cake. Gently turn the Savarin over and repeat on the other side. Place the Savarin onto a cake platter and brush with the warmed jelly. Fill the center with pastry cream mousseline and garnish with fruit. Dust with icing sugar, if desired.

Pastry Cream Mousseline

Yields 4 cups

  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour (or 2 Tbsp cornstarch)
  • 1 1/2 cups 35% whipping cream

In a small saucepan, combine the milk with half the sugar. Heat the sweetened milk until the mixture starts to boil. Remove it from the heat.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks with the balance of the sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the flour and whisk until well incorporated. (The mixture will be very thick.) Add about a cup of the warm milk to thin the mixture; mix well and return the mixture it to the saucepan of sweetened milk.
Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for about a minute. The mixture (now a custard) should be thick and free of lumps.
Pour the hot custard into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and, when it is not longer hot, refrigerate until well chilled.
When you are ready to serve, whip the whipping cream to a soft peak and fold it into the chilled pastry cream.
Serve with fruit, if desired.

Dried Fruit Steeped in Wine

  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 cups dried fruits (figs, apricots, cherries, etc.)
  • 1 piece candied ginger
  • 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
  • 1 star anise
  • pinch of peppercorns
  • a handful of cranberries, if desired (thawed, if frozen)

In a saucepan, warm the wine and molasses and remove from the heat. Add the fruit and remaining ingredients to the warm wine mixture and allow to steep for about 30 minutes.

When the mixture has cooled, place in a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Serve at room temperature with pastry cream mousseline, Savarin or Rum Babas.

Sugar Decorations

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup

Read the instructions to the end before you start this recipe.

Line a baking tray with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of parchment paper brushed with a thin coat of butter.

In a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring. When the sugar starts to colour (this takes about 5 minutes), swirl the pot to evenly distribute the colour. When the sugar turns golden (this take about 3 minutes), quickly, and carefully, drizzle the hot sugar onto the prepared baking tray. When the sugar cools slightly and becomes malleable — this happens very quickly — carefully drape the sugar-coated mat (or parchment) over a canister or rolling pin, sugar side up. Once the sugar has cooled and hardened, peel it from the baking mat.

To clean the saucepan of hardened sugar, fill it with water and bring it to a boil.


Rösti

Rösti

The humble spud — satisfying, comforting, and reliable.  Just because potatoes are cheap doesn’t mean they can’t be sexy.   Enter Rösti — just one more way to love a potato.

Rösti (pronounced ROOSH-tee) is simply grated potatoes pressed into a sizzling, well-oiled pan.  They’re traditionally served flat, but I’ve nudged them into a little potato nest with a ring of chopped bacon and a coin of goat cheese.  A perfectly poached egg would work nicely too.

The tricky part of this dish is making sure both the top and bottom are crispy.  This involves flipping the potatoes — but don’t panic — a dinner plate makes the job easy.  When the potatoes are crisp on the bottom, cover the pan with a plate, flip the pan onto the plate, then slide the rösti (now on the plate) back into the pan, crispy side up.  It’s that simple.

I use a small, well-seasoned, cast iron pan for this dish.  Make sure your pan has a non-stick surface so the potatoes come out in one piece.  Keep in mind, the smaller the pan, the easier to flip.

Originally published in Eat Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2012 issue.

Serves 1 as a main dish or 2 as a side dish

  • 1 large new or Yukon Gold potato, washed (no need to peel)
  • ½ shallot, grated
  • generous pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, rendered bacon or duck fat
  • 1 Tbsp of goat cheese
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, drained on a paper towel and diced
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, add the potato and enough water to cover the potato by one inch. Bring the water to a gentle boil and parboil (partially cook) the potato for about 8 minutes until the potato is still firm when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove the potato from the hot water and plunge into cool water to stop the cooking and cool the potato.

Grate the potato into a bowl and combine it with the shallot and Kosher salt.

In a small non-stick pan (cast iron is ideal) heat the oil until shimmering. Add the grated potato, leveling with a spatula. When the bottom is well browned, place a plate on top of the skillet, flip the pan onto the plate to release the potatoes, then slide the potatoes from the plate back into the hot pan. Cook until well browned, then nudge the sides of the potato into a little nest with your spatula. Slide the rösti onto a clean plate, season with Kosher salt and garnish with goat cheese (or a poached egg), chopped bacon, and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve immediately.