Archive for December, 2009

Café au Lait Fudge

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

coffeefudgeweb

 
I recently mused on these pages about the joys of making (and sharing) fudge, particularly at this time of year. I concluded with a chocolate fudge recipe.
 
Fudge isn’t always chocolate, however. I like to make a number of flavors–penuche (a brown-sugar confection), peanut butter, divinity … and this coffee fudge. It’s definitely more sophisticated than its chocolate country cousin.
 
I like to make it with a strong coffee such as Medaglia D’Oro Caffé Espresso. You may of course use any brand or flavor of instant coffee you like, including (gasp!) hazelnut coffee or some odd substance like that. I heard the 2 pound whole bean colombian coffee beans taste a little sweet so they would be perfect for this recipe.
 
The end product tastes like a particularly rich coffee milk shake.
 
I sent some as a gift to my friend Diana. She reports that her husband Sam inserted a piece of the fudge and a pat of butter into half an acorn squash before cooking it one evening, “and the result was delicious.”
 
Obviously, I have come up with a versatile confection!
 
The Fudge
 
Ingredients:
 
2 tablespoons instant coffee
3 cups sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup milk
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the coffee, sugar, and salt in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan, and stir in the cream, corn syrup, and milk. Place the pan over low to medium heat.
 
Stir the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil; then cover it for a minute or two to wash down the sides of the pan. Uncover the mixture, and cook it, without stirring, until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees). Remove from heat.
 
Add the butter and the vanilla, and let the mixture cool for a few minutes without stirring it (don’t let it get cooler than lukewarm; optimally, it should be a bit warmer than that).
 
Beat the warm fudge until it becomes creamy and thickens slightly–in other words until it begins to seem fudgy. Quickly pour it into a greased 8-by-8-inch pan, and let it cool. This recipe makes about 2 dozen pieces of fudge.
  
Naturally, I had to try A LITTLE piece of fudge myself!

Naturally, I had to try A LITTLE piece of fudge myself!

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Introducing: The Twelve Cookies of Christmas

Friday, December 18th, 2009
I'm getting ready to fill my cookie tin!

I'm getting ready to fill my cookie tin!

 
Welcome to a new monthly feature of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.
 
Nothing says “Christmas” like a plate of cookies, preferably accompanied by a glass of crisp cold milk or a mug of steaming hot cocoa.
 
After all, we wouldn’t give Santa anything less than our best.
 
A few days ago I came up with the idea of doing a series called “The Twelve Cookies of Christmas.”
 
Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy or the waistline necessary to make (and perhaps consume) twelve different kinds of cookies between now and December 25, 2009.
 
So I’m aiming for Christmas 2010.
 
Once a month from now until next December I plan to post a Christmas cookie recipe. When December rolls along the twelve cookies will all be in place. (You’ll have to supply the milk and cocoa yourselves.)
 
I hope readers and friends will submit their favorite cookies as the months roll by.
 
My “Partridge in a Pear Tree” cookie comes from Marcia Powell of Norwalk, Connecticut.
 
Marcia’s cranberry lemon cookies are unusual because their base is a cake mix. She writes that she and her grandchildren Allison and Cooper adapted the recipe from one in The Cake Mix Bible.
 
The cookies’ yellow-and-red color is striking. Their flavor is sophisticated enough for adults but sweet enough for kids. My nephew Michael and his friend Carson loved them.
 
I have a feeling I’m going to try them with orange cake mix and peel next………. Yum!
 
 
cranlemcookiesweb
  
Marcia Powell’s Cranberry Lemon Cookies
 
Ingredients:
 
1 package lemon cake mix (According to Marcia, The Cake Mix Bible calls for for Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Lemon Cake Mix. She has also used a Shop Rite mix)
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, melted (Marcia uses vegetable oil, but I used butter for flavor)
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cups (half of a 12-ounce bag) cranberries
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with silicone or parchment. (Marcia actually uses an ungreased cookie sheet, but my cookie sheets are old, and I tend to be paranoid about sticking.)
 
In a large bowl combine the cake mix and melted butter. Stir in the eggs, followed by the lemon peel and the cranberries.
 
Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoons onto the baking sheets. You may also make them larger—up to a tablespoon. Mine were about 2 teaspoons.
 
Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn light golden brown.
 
Cool the cookies for 1 minute on their baking sheets; then remove them to wire racks to cool completely.
 
Makes 20 to 48 cookies, depending on how large yours are.
 
 
Carson was happy to help test the cookies.

Carson was happy to help test the cookies.

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Yam-e-kes

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

yamekeweb

 
 
A few days ago, after making Samosa Latkes (yum, yum!), I promised I would post the recipe for the sweet potato latkes my family made the same evening.
 
We call them Yam-e-kes.
 
Yes, I know sweet potatoes aren’t really yams, but the name was too cute to resist!
 
Like most of my latkes (including my standard version, posted last year), these are a little messy. They’re also more than a little tasty.
 
They have a gorgeous rich color. (Unfortunately, my photograph doesn’t quite do them justice. We ate them so quickly I didn’t have time to snap another picture!)
 
I like adding rosemary to some of them, particularly when serving them with poultry. My nephew Michael, who calls rosemary leaves “those twigs,” prefers them plain.
 
So I’m making the rosemary optional.
 
Enjoy the last couple of days of Hanukkah (or Chanukah or however you want to spell it!)……..
  
sweets in bowlweb
 
Yam-e-kes
 
Ingredients:
 
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 large onion, more or less finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
6 tablespoons flour or matzo meal (plus a little more if you need it)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
several of grinds of your pepper mill
1 teaspoon dried (or 2 teaspoons fresh) rosemary (optional)
extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying
 
Instructions:
 
Wash the sweet potatoes well and peel them if you want to (the skins are nutritious so you don’t have to). Grate them using the grater attachment of a food processor.
 
In a medium bowl, combine the sweet-potato pieces, onion, eggs, flour, salt, pepper, and rosemary (if you’re using it). In a large frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil until the oil begins to shimmer.
 
Scoop some of the sweet-potato mixture out of the bowl with a soup spoon, and flatten it with your hand. Pop the flattened potato into the hot oil. It should hiss and bubble a bit; if not, wait before you put more pancakes into the oil.
 
It’s just fine if your yam-e-kes are a little ragged around the edges. If they don’t hold together and are hard to turn, however, you may want to add a little more flour to your batter.
 
Fry the pancakes a few at a time, turning each when the first side turns a golden brown. Drain the cooked latkes on paper towels; then pop them into a 250-degree oven to stay warm until you have finished cooking all the batter.
 
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.
Happy Hanukkah from my family to yours!

Happy Hanukkah from my family to yours!

 

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Latkes on Foodista

Latkes and Beyond!

Monday, December 14th, 2009
Samosa Latkes

A Samosa Latke

 
Once a year or so (usually at Hanukkah, of course!) my family loves latkes. We don’t fry a lot of food, but when a holiday is all about oil one has to indulge in a little frying.
 
We usually make the traditional latkes I chronicled in a post last year at this time. This year I thought we’d try something a little different. We actually made TWO new kinds of latkes.
 
One version, which I’ll detail in a future post (making and eating latkes can really wear a girl out), was made with sweet potatoes. We called these Yam-e-kes.
 
I got the idea for the second version from Chef Jamie Geller of Kosher.com. I had been toying with the idea of making samosas, my favorite potato-based Indian turnovers, for some time. Jamie came up with the idea of putting samosa spices into a latke.
 
Since “Sam-e-kes” sounds a little awkward I’m just using Jamie’s terminology and calling these Samosa Latkes. They represent a wonderful pairing of two cuisines I adore.
 
If you’d like to see Jamie’s version of these latkes, please visit Kosher.com’s recipes for Hanukkah (she offers other great ideas as well!). You’ll note that she has produced a relatively low-fat latke. Since we only make them once a year we kept the fat.
 
I should warn you that my nephew Michael doesn’t believe that EITHER of our experiments actually qualifies as a latke. Whatever they are, they’re pretty tasty.
 
One note: these are not particularly spicy Sam-e-kes, only flavorful ones. If you’d like more spice, feel free to add more to taste.
 
Happy Hanukkah!
 
Samosa Latkes
 
Ingredients:
 
2 large baking potatoes
1 large onion, more or less finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
6 tablespoons flour or matzo meal (plus a little more if you need it)
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
2 cups peas, barely cooked
extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
 
Instructions:
 
Wash the potatoes well and peel them if you want to (the skins are nutritious so you don’t have to). Grate them. This takes a really long time with a box grater so I prefer to use the grater attachment of a food processor.
 
(Do not use the main blade of a food processor as it will make the potato pieces small and wet.)
 
Wrap the potato shreds in a clean dishtowel. Carry it to the sink, and wring out as much liquid as you can. Leave the wrapped shreds in the sink to drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (and maybe have a cocktail or two).
 
In a medium bowl, combine the potato pieces, onion, eggs, flour, ginger, salt, and spices. Stir in the peas. In a large frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil until the oil begins to shimmer.
 
Scoop some of the potato mixture out of the bowl with a soup spoon, and flatten it with your hand. Pop the flattened potato into the hot oil. It should hiss and bubble a bit; if not, wait before you put more pancakes into the oil.
 
It’s just fine if your latkes are a little ragged around the edges. If they don’t hold together and are hard to turn, however, you may want to add a little more flour to your batter.
 
Fry the potato cakes a few at a time, turning each when the first side becomes golden. Drain the cooked latkes on paper towels; then pop them into a 250-degree oven to stay warm until their cousins are finished cooking.
 
When you run out of batter (or feel you have enough for your family!), sprinkle the chopped cilantro over your latkes, light the menorah, and eat. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.
 
 
Michael loves to light the Hanukkah candles.

Michael loves to light the Hanukkah candles.

 

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P.S. from much later…. Here I am making these on TV!

Fudge and Friendship

Friday, December 11th, 2009

chocolate fudge web

 
I love to cook, but I don’t love cooking that involves a lot of work. I seldom make a recipe that takes more than an hour or so to prepare. I figure I have better things to do with my time than linger in the kitchen–like watching reruns of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV.
 
One exception to this “no fuss, no lingering” rule is a culinary form perfectly suited to the winter months–candy making. In this mode of food preparation, taking your time is the whole point.
 
When I think of making candy I picture cool, crisp nights and soft, powdery snow. I also think of friendship. Candy is best made with others.
 
I grew up in a candy-making household. When I was little my mother frequently organized taffy pulls for my birthday, which fell (and still falls) at this time of year. Carefully supervised taffy tugging kept small hands busy and provided treats for party guests to take home.
 
During my teenage years I spent what now seems like hundreds of happy hours with friends gathered around the stove waiting for fudge to reach the soft-ball stage. As we watched the confection form, our friendships took on more lasting form as well.
 
Candy making has always seemed to me an ideal social tool. With its long waits and pauses, it is structured to foster conversation.
 
You don’t dare to leave the kitchen while you’re waiting for your sweets to reach just the right temperature. Instead you chat with those around you.
 
Candy making also encourages teamwork in those frenetic moments when you’re beating or pulling your treats.
 
The creation of confections is a delightful ritual with its own pace. Somehow even in its busiest moments it seems to epitomize leisure.
 
Today as an adult I still relish making candy with my family members and friends–and with my friends’ spouses and children.
 
The ritual fills winter evenings with warmth and conversation.
 
It even takes advantage of the cold weather: one of the quickest ways to cool candy to the right temperature is to stick your pan outside (well covered to discourage animals from sampling) in the December air.
 
This week I made fudge to send to friends in far-away places. One recipe I used, for a basic chocolate fudge, appears below.
 
Before we get to it, however, here are a few candy-making hints:
 
1. Testing candy by hand (to see whether it makes the appropriate type of ball in cold water) is great, but I like to use a candy thermometer as well just to be certain. If your candy comes out a congealed mess, chances are you need a new thermometer; they don’t last forever.
 
2. Always use a wooden spoon to beat fudge. And really beat your fudge hard. My grandfather, whose only culinary accomplishment was fudge-making (unless you count mixing Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Manhattans as cooking!), always said that the secret of good fudge was in the beating.
 
3. Aim for relatively dry weather; candy forms best when the air isn’t too humid.
 
4. Be sure to invite a sizeable crowd to share in your candy creation. Not only will you have livelier conversation and easier labor; you’ll also end up with fewer calories ingested by any one candy maker. Just make sure that someone is delegated to keep an eye on the candy thermometer while everyone else talks.
 
5. Never try to rush your candy. It will be done when it is good and ready! Relax, and concentrate on the friendships simmering around your stove.
 

Your Basic Chocolate Fudge
 
Ingredients:
 
3/4 cup rich milk (milk with cream added or half & half)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, and butter the foil.
 
Place the milk in a medium saucepan, and heat it until it is warm. Stir in the sugar, salt, chocolate, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring.
 
Cover the fudge and cook it for at least 1 minute over medium heat (watch to keep the pot from boiling over) to absorb any sugar crystals that are on the sides of the pan.
 
Uncover, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees). This could happen fairly quickly (it did the last time I made this fudge) so watch the pot!
 
Remove the fudge from the heat, place the butter and vanilla on top, and cool without stirring until the candy is lukewarm (about 110 degrees).
 
At this point, beat the fudge until JUST starts to thicken, and pour it into the pan. (Be careful, or it will get too thick!) Sprinkle with festive sprinkles if desired. Cool and cut into squares.
 
Makes about 16 pieces.
 
 
This week my companion in fudge making was my mother--always good company in the kitchen!

This week my companion in fudge making was my mother--always good company in the kitchen!

 

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