Friday, December 23, 2011

English Trifle has been our Christmas Eve dessert for many years. When the whole family is gathered, I prepare it in a clear glass trifle bowl and line the inside of the bowl with sliced strawberries. This Christmas it will be a table for two so I've adapted my recipe and added it here. Because this makes enough for two meals, Christmas dinner is easy.

Christmas Trifle

            You can use leftover pound cake or purchase one frozen and save the remaining for another use. Instead of Pastry Cream, you can also use Bird's Custard Powder  to make the pudding. Lots of sherry is important, too!

Serves 2 to 4

            4 slices (3/8 inch thick) pound cake

1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

2 to 3 tablespoons cream sherry

Pastry Cream (see recipe below)

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ pint fresh raspberries

For trifle, spread the jam on each slice of cake. Arrange the cake in a small glass bowl, breaking to fit, and drizzle with the sherry. Spoon the warm pastry cream into the bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Whip the cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla continue beating until thick. Spoon onto the trifle and garnish with raspberries. Refrigerate until serving, at least 4 hours.

Pastry Cream 

Makes 1 cup

¾ cup half-and-half

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Heat the half-and-half in a small saucepan until it almost comes to a boil.

 Mix the sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl, slowly add the sugar mixture and continue whisking until the mixture lightens.

Slowly stir in the hot half-and-half beating constantly with a whisk. Pour the sauce back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until the custard thickens. Do not let the custard boil. (I use an instant read thermometer and cook to 160 degrees F.)

Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Stir until it cools slightly and cover with plastic wrap until needed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Feast of Santa Lucia

December 13, the day the feast of Santa Lucia, is celebrated in all of the Scandinavian countries but especially in Sweden and Norway on December 13. This day was thought to be the shortest day of the year as late as the 19th century. The lighted candles symbolize the fire that refused to take the life of Santa Lucia when she was condemned to death. In Sweden, one girl is selected to be Santa Lucia and she wears a crown of candles on her hear. Star Boys also participate in the celebration. Lucia Buns flavored with saffron and cookies are usually served on this day.

Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Central MN to the Valley Troll for a book signing of Scandinavian Classic Baking. The shop owners has invited friends to a feast of cookies, rice pudding and fruit soup. We were fortunate to have "Santa Lucia and Star Boy" join the fun. Santa Lucia shared ginger cookies and after they were tapped by Star Boy with his wand, we made a wish and pressed to break the cookie. If the cookie broke into 3 pieces, wishes will come true.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Scottish Shortbread- Classic and Easy!

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. Although, the days are very short, the lights on Christmas trees and fronts of houses brighten the darkness. There are many times that I'm standing in a hot kitchen in the summer, alone, while other are out enjoying the day. But this time of year, almost everyone does some baking. Do you try to add one new cookie every year or go back to all your tried and true recipes.

Here's a recipe for Scottish Shortbread from Baking Basics and Beyond that is very quick and easy. You can dress it up by drizzling it with melted chocolate or dipping the ends in chocolate. It's a great cookie to include in a package that is being mailed because it is sturdy and the rich butter keeps the flavor fresh.

Scottish Shortbread

 Shortbread is the most basic cookie—made only of flour, sugar, and butter. Traditionally, the dough was pressed into a circle and cut into wedges before baking, but I like to cut it into bars because they are smaller and easier to eat.

Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen bars

                         4 cups all-purpose flour

                        1 cup powdered sugar

                        2 cups unsalted butter

 Garnish, if desired

                        2  ounces bittersweet or semisweet, chocolate

                        1 teaspoon solid vegetable shortening

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle.

Beat flour, sugar, and butter in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until crumbly and evenly mixed, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.

Press dough, about 3/8 inch thick, into an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. The dough will not fill the whole pan. I usually press to fill the width and about 3/4 of the length. Cut into 3 x 1-inch bars, using a pizza wheel. Prick well with a fork.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown. Classic shortbread is very pale. While bars are still warm, cut again. After cutting, the bars can cool in pan on wire cooling rack.


Melt butter and chocolate in a medium bowl set over, not in, simmering water, or use a double boiler. Using a fork, drizzle chocolate over shortbread. When chocolate is set, remove the shortbread from pan.

Store loosely covered at room temperature. Do not refrigerate or the chocolate will loose its gloss.

Baking Basics and Beyond is now available in a second edition that includes color photos. It's a great gift for novice and experienced bakers.