Saturday, December 31, 2016

Figgy Date Nut Bread

Figgy Date Nut Bread
A lack of dates to fulfill the recipe led to this tasty combination of figs and dates in this easy, old-fashioned recipe.

The original recipe comes from a really old cookbook we used to use when I was growing up.

Tom says that I am "on to something" with the figs in this bread.  That means he really liked it.

Since I make date nut bread for Tom for most Christmases, I am making the effort to write up the modified, figgy version so I can make it for him again next year.

Here are both the original and the modified versions of the recipe:

Date Nut Bread
(from Madge M. Shaw, Borger H.S., Borger, Texas)

Serves 12

1 package dates (2 cups)
1 cup boiling water
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1 t. soda
1/8 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 cup nuts

Cut up dates, pour 1 cup boiling water over and soak.  Beat egg and sugar until creamy, add dry ingredients, nuts and dates.   Bake in loaf pan 55 minutes in 350 degree F. oven.

FIGGY Date Nut Bread
(adapted from above recipe)

1 1/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup chopped dried dates, stems removed
1 cup boiling water
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
1 t. soda
1/8 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 cup pecans, broken in to large pieces or chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a loaf pan generously with butter.

Be sure to remove the stems from the figs.  Cut up dried fruit, then pour 1 cup boiling water over and soak for 15 minutes. Fruit should be soft.   If not, soak longer. In a separate bowl, beat together egg and sugar until creamy.  Add the dry ingredients, then fold in the nuts and the dates.

Pour into loaf pan, and bake until a tooth pick comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lemon Sugar Cookies by Tom

Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Sugar Cookies 

What is not to like about a cookie that is both a sugar cookie and a lemon cookie all in one.  Two of my favorite taste combinations in a simple but flavorful cookie. 

In perusing Barbara's new "Dorie's Cookies" cookbook, this was the first cookie that I highlighted to make.  And, although it took me a couple of weeks before I actually got around to making them, I was not disappointed.  I made enough to include in our "cookie packages" for this year's gifts to our neighbors. 


Lemon Sugar Cookies
(from Dorie's Cookies cookbook)

Makes approx. 50 cookies (she says 60)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 or 2 lemons to obtain 1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or regular salt)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 drop lemon extract (optional) (my addition)
Granulated sugar, for dredging

Position the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder together in a medium size bowl.

Finely grate the zest of one lemon.  Squeeze 1/4 cup of lemon juice using one or both of the lemons.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and the mixer off, put the sugar and lemon zest in the large bowl.  Use your fingertips to mash and rub the sugar and lemon zest together until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  Next add the butter and salt to the bowl and beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.  This will take about two minutes.

Beat in the egg, the vanilla extract, the optional lemon extract and the lemon juice until well combined.

Turn off the mixer and add half of the dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed until they are almost completely incorporated together.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with the mixer off, and add the remaining dry ingredients.  Beat on low speed until fully incorporated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

In a separate small bowl, pour in the granulated sugar.  You will use this to coat the cookie dough.

Using a small cookie scoop or a teaspoon, scoop out even portions of the dough and using your fingers make round dough balls.  Drop the dough ball into the granulated sugar and roll it around to coat the balls.  Place on a cookie sheet leaving about 2" between each dough ball.  I was able to place between 12-15 cookies on each baking sheet.  These cookies will spread when baking, so it is important to have some spacing between them.

Bake the cookies for 8-14 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through.  If you bake them for 8-10 minutes, they will be very soft and quite pale.  If you bake them for 12-14 minutes, they will be browned on the edges and the bottoms will be lightly browned as well.  They will be crispier but still chewy in the center.  I opted for about 11-12 minutes.

After you remove the cookies from the oven, let them cool pretty completely on the cookie sheet before you transfer them to a cooling rack.  If you try to transfer them while still pretty warm, they will fall apart.  Never good unless you like to serve broken cookies.

Repeat with the remaining dough always using cool baking sheets.  Takes a little longer, but worth it.

There it is!  Lemon Sugar Cookies.  Easy to make and better to eat.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pecan Bars from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook

Pecan Pie in a Cookie

The two Toms:  my husband, Tom and our nephew, Tom, really liked these pecan bars with chocolate and a shortbread crust.

And I thought they were much easier to make than a pecan pie.  No rolling out the dough.  Just press the shortbread dough into the pan with your hands.  

However, you will need a food processor and have to clean it afterwards.  And pie weights or dried bean/rice for par-baking the crust.

The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Dorie's Cookies, which came out this fall.  My sister-in-law, Laddie told me about Dorie, back in 2009 when I started Feast Everyday.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Cookie Bars
(from Dorie Greenspans's cookbook, Dorie's Cookies)

Makes 24 bars

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 t. salt (she prefers fine sea salt)
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 T.) unsalted butter, 
        very cold, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

For the topping:
1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup or light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 T. dark rum or bourbon
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt (she prefers fine sea salt)
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) pecan pieces
3 ounces chopped semisweet or
      bittersweet chocolate OR 1/2 cup chips

Note:  Be sure to grease your pan very well, or use parchment paper.  My bars were difficult to get out of the pan.

Center the rack in the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F.  Butter a 9 inch square baking pan, and butter a piece of aluminum foil to use to cover the crust.  

To make the crust:  Put the flour, confectioners'sugar and salt in a  food processor and pulse a couple of times to blend.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely--  don't worry about getting it evenly mixed.  (Mine took 15 pulses)  Stir the yolk just to break it up and add it a little at a time (through the top opening), pulsing after each addition.  Then process in long pulses (I had to do it 6 times) --about 10 seconds each--until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms moist clumps and curds.  Pinch a piece of the dough, and it will hold together nicely.  

Turn the dough out into the butter pan and spread it evenly.  Using your fingertips (I used the back of a measuring cup), press the dough down into the pan so that you've got a compact layer.  Prick the dough all over with a fork.  

Cover with the foil, buttered side down, and pour in the pie weights or dried beans or rice.  Place the pan on a baking sheet. 

Bake the crust for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove the foil and weights, return the pan, still on the baking sheet, to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are golden brown.

Place the pan on a rack and let the crust rest while you make the topping.  (Leave the oven on.)

To make the topping:  Working in a large bowl, whisk the syrup and brown sugar together.  One by one, gently whisk in all of the remaining ingredients except the nuts and the chocolate.  Don't whisk energetically---you want a homogeneous topping, but you don't want bubbles.  Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the pecans and chocolate.

Pour the topping over the crust and, if the nuts seem to be unevenly distributed, use the spatula to spread them around.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the topping has puffed across the top and set. It shouldn't jiggle when you tap the pan.

Transfer the pan to a rack to cool until the bottom of the pan feels comfortably warm or reaches room temperature.  If you want to unmold the bars, run a table knife between the bars and sides of the pan.  Invert the bars onto a rack and then turn right side up on to a cutting board.  Or work in the pan (carefully, so you don't gouge it).   Cut into 24 bars, each 2  1/4 x 1 1/2 inches.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Two New Favorites

Look for these in the frozen food section

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!

We really enjoyed ours, even though it was a condensed version of our normal weekend.

Here are two new favorites that we added to our Thanksgiving table this year, after testing and enjoying them.

In case you haven't tried them, Pepperidge Farm frozen rolls are really quite good!

They are baked while still frozen  --- no need to defrost them --- in a hot oven or toaster oven in 7 to 9 minutes.
And presto, you have almost freshly baked roll!  Crispy on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside.

They come in bags of 8 for $3.99 at our Wegman's which is comparable to buying rolls from the bakery section, but these are better.

The white rolls are better than the whole wheat rolls.

The bags are resealable.  You can bake one at a time, if you want.
Look for the Kerry Gold butter in the cheese section

Top it with our other new favorite, Kerry Gold butter and you are in for a real treat.

We have been pleasantly surprised by how good these rolls and butter are...