Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last Minute Appetizer

Here's a very easy last minute appetizer that would be great for New Year's Eve. I prefer to bake the cups but I have also spooned the hot cranberry sauce onto the brie and it melts the cheese a little when you don't have an oven available. It's a recipe I demonstrated on Showcase MN. My friend Sue Doeden took the photo on a recent visit and I am always impressed with her work. In addition she wrote about it on her blog http://www.areavoices/suedoeden/

Hope you have a safe and happy holiday. We're waiting to see how much snow is coming and when. It's definitely a factor in everyone's plans. Will we really get up to 20 inches? More later!

Cranberry Brie Bites

During the holiday season, I make the sauce and keep it in the refrigerator. I like serving it with poultry or ham or having on hand for easy an appetizer. I also keep a box of the shells in my freezer and have Brie in the refrigerator for a last minute appetizer.

Makes 30 bites

1 pkg. (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
8 ounces Brie, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 pkg. ( 9 ounces), 30 mini fillo shells
30 pistachios, if desired

Combine the cranberries, sugar, wine, marmalade, cinnamon stick and cloves in a medium saucepan.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until berries pop and the mixture thickens.

Cool to room temperature. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place fillo cups on a baking sheet. Place a cube of Brie in each cup. Spoon about 1 teaspoon cranberry sauce into each cup.

Bake 5-7 minutes or until heated through and the Brie melts. Place a pistachio on each cup before serving.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lat Minute Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

By now cookie baking should be well under way, everywhere but here. I'm starting this weekend as it's been a very busy week. Tomorrow I'm teaching a baking class at the Kitchen Window in Minneapolis in their beautiful new space. We're going to have fun and definitely lots of treats!

If you need a food gift at the last minute, here's a very easy candy recipe. Candy and cookies are my favorite food gifts because one recipe always makes so much.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters Makes 36

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup chopped dried cherries
2 tablespoons almond liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fleur de sel or sea salt

Line 36 mini-muffin cups with paper liners or place waxed paper on a cookie sheet.

Melt chocolate with condensed milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. When it’s smooth stir in almonds and cherries. Cool slightly. Stir in liqueur and vanilla.

Drop chocolate by tablespoons into liners. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Refrigerate until firm. Remove from pans and store in the refrigerator.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Store Cookies

It's important that you store cookies carefully after they are baked. Store crisp cookies loosely covered at room temperature. Soft and chewy cookies should be tightly covered so that they don't dry out.

Don't mix strong flavored cookies (like Ginger Snaps) with other cookies because the flavor will transfer.

When I frost cookies, I let them dry at room temperature before placing them in cookie tins. Place waxed paper between the layers to prevent sticking.

To help control the chaos of the holiday season, bake your cookies ahead and freeze them. Cookies freeze well and thaw quickly at room temperature. Wrap them tightly and store them up to 3 months.

And don't forget- if you leave cookies for Santa, he'll need a glass of milk!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How do you make cookies for Santa?

Advice from a friend's kindergarten class:

You need sugar and cookie powder and you bake them in the oven for I think about 12 minutes that's "top temperature".
Ah, I have made Christmas cookies before! You need to make Christmas peanuts too. They should be turquoise.
You need to make to make Christmas tree cookies. You put them in an oven that's really hot. Get some milk too for Santa!
You use powder and sugar and honey. Mix it all up and bake for I think about 5 minutes. The oven should be "80".
You need dough and sugar and some sprinkles and some frosting and you put them in the oven for probably 10-15 minutes.

Here's cookie baking tip # 4 and #5.

4. Use shiny aluminum cookie sheets with one or two raised ends. Insulated baking sheets prevent cookies from browning too much on the bottom but it's hard to judge doneness because the edges don't brown as well either. Cookies bake faster on dark sheets so watch carefully.

5. Bake one sheet at a time or rotate sheets halfway through baking. Cool you cookie sheets between batches. Test your oven temperature using an oven thermometer and adjust the temperature if needed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Helpful Tips from Experts

Tuesday evening I attended the Les Dames d'Escoffier holiday party. Everyone was asked to share a special memory or helpful tip. I felt like I should be taking notes because there was a lot of great info shared.

Here are some of the things I remember:

Almost everything is helped with Tabasco or a little grated nutmeg. Use cayenne pepper if you don't want to add the vinegar that's in Tabasco.

Himalayan salt blocks add a unique taste to cooked foods.

Wrap celery in aluminum foil to preserve freshness (I'm going to try this for sure.)

Store fresh herbs with the stems in water and cover loosely with plastic to keep fresh longer.

The new whisks that contain straight wires with balls on the ends are fabulous.

And here's today's baking tip.

4. Many professionals prefer bleached all-purpose flour for cookies because they think it makes cookies are more tender. Some recipes that contain cornstarch or cake flour produce very delicate cookies. Whole wheat flour adds a certain nutty flavor but also makes cookies a little drier so substitute it for small amounts of all-purpose flour.