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Oh, life is bigger

In Chef on September 21, 2017 at 5:00 am
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Chocolate cake filled with raspberry filling and pistachio buttercream. Sometimes I get to make new cakes at my new job!

Hi! I can’t believe it’s September, more than mid-September, and I haven’t blogged since May. WOWOWOW. My life kind of exploded in a good way, and although I’ve had so much to say and share, I keep falling asleep. When we put both our daughters in braces the same month, it became clear that we needed more money and better insurance. So I applied for full-time at the Wegmans bakery. Wegmans offered me a job as a bakery coordinator–yes, please!–so I got transferred to a new store and started on Memorial Day.

 

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I liked this cake (white with apple pie filling and cinnamon buttercream) but…

 

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It turned into this one, which my savvy managers think will sell better! It is also white cake, apple pie filling, and cinnamon buttercream, but we added a cinnamon glaze, caramel drizzle, and dried apple chips. We are going to call it “Apple-y Ever After! Of course!

I love the job and my new people, but starting any new job is rough. Last Saturday was the first Saturday I’ve had off since May. I’ve had to be more organized than EVER just to keep life rolling. I’m happy to say I haven’t lost touch with the book I’m writing, but it’s going sloooooowly. Slow is fine. Life is good. I’m tired. 

I’m also co-teaching a class two nights a week, which MAY have been a poor life decision because I literally have to explain to everyone dealing with me why I am a hot mess who can’t stop yawning and takes three full blinks to answer yes or no questions.

Work. Eat. Sleep. Write. Text. Write everything down. Yoga. Kiss the kids. Love the husband. Shower. (Don’t forget to shower.)

A new normal is emerging.

Happy September! I’m back! 🙂

bottoms-up-webOH! I’m making BOTTOMS UP free for a little bit, Amazon only. I’m experimenting with marketing on KDP Select. I suck at marketing! LOL. The new job threw a kink in my plan to improve my business skill set. I figured it couldn’t hurt. So if you haven’t read it, and you want to take a walk on the wild side, grab it and have a good time. 😉

 

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Jerkalicious Party Mix Recipe

In Chef on December 23, 2016 at 10:23 am

usen-party-mixHappy soon to be holidays, everyone! I work in a bakery, and it’s totally nuts. But I LOVE nuts! Especially in party mix, which I eat by the bowlful at this time of year. Is party mix/Chex Mix part of your holiday tradition? My mother always made it, and my father’s mother always made it (which is probably why my mom makes it, come to think of it!). This particular batch got decimated by my children before I could get a decent picture. I actually had to make a fresh batch the next morning, so that I could send a box to my mommy!

We all make it a little differently. I’m usually a traditionalist, but this year, my friend Chef Krista gave me a bottle of her Jerkalicious Hot Sauce. At first whiff, I knew it would be a great addition to party mix. usen-hot-sauceIt smells like Worcestershire Sauce having an affair with Caribbean food! You can get the recipe and a link to Chef Krista’s website, where you can buy the Jerkalicious Hot Sauce, on Entangled in Romance, along with some other great recipes from Entangled authors.

Do you have a favorite holiday food? One without which it doesn’t feel like Christmas (or Hanukkah or Solstice or whatever)? What is it? Leave a comment before midnight, and I’ll enter you in my Come Again Giveaway! (A $15 GC to The Ripper Bodice or a super-secret good sex toy. Yes, it sounds strange, but trust me.) 🙂

Meanwhile, I’m off to the bakery, where I will be making fruit tarts until my fingers fall off!

 

Do you holi-craze?

In Chef on December 6, 2016 at 10:08 am
Get this delightful Christmas e-short story when you sign up for Jessica Topper's newsletter, which you should totally do. And then buy her books because they are delightful.

Get this delightful Christmas e-short story when you sign up for Jessica Topper’s newsletter, which you should totally do! And then buy her books because they are delightful!

My Christian roots are damn glad Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year! Almost every year I get blindsided by an early Hanukkah, and my internal clock is, like, WTF? Are you kidding me? I have no gift ideas and no holiday spirit yet! Luckily, the Jewish folks in my world are pretty low key about that holiday. They get their groove on hardcore for the high holidays like Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, but for Hanukkah we just get together as a family on one day during the eight and exchange gifts. Of course, over-achiever mother-of Jews that I am, I try to have a gift for the kids to open every night. Basically, that means I rush out to buy gifts last minute, and then rush to wrap one for each kid each night. I’m going on year 15 of that ridiculous behavior, but at least this year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah don’t collide because THAT was a huge surprise. Or maybe, I’ll change my procrastinating ways. I have a list going. It could happen.

But no matter when Hanukkah happens, I can’t quite shake the urge to give gifts to all the people I love at Christmas time. Even though it drives me up a wall. And costs a mint. Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas, and every year I think to myself, “Self, get your act together and give all of these people gifts at Thanksgiving. Because you are grateful for them.” Even if I did get my act together in time, which I won’t, I’d still catch the Christmas fever and drive myself nuts anyway. *groan*

Just one little way I drive myself crazy at Christmas. It's fun! Try it!

Just one little way I drive myself crazy at Christmas. It’s fun! Try it!

I can’t help it! It doesn’t smell like Christmas without baking fruitcakes. I baked my first fruitcake a LONG time ago in an effort to give my father something he might actually like for Christmas. Now it’s tradition, and I bake four batches, roughly 28 mini loaves. Everyone who tastes one wants one, and once you get on the fruitcake list, you pretty much have to perish to get off of it. If you would like to make YOUR house smell like Christmas heaven and have a small pile of delightful fruitcakes to give as gifts, here’s the recipe for Grandpa Baker’s Amazing Fruitcake, a little Christmas gift from me to you.

And for my Jewish friends, a latke cooking tip. The other night, my husband made latkes for dinner, and he tried something new. He grated the potatoes and onion, and then he blanched them, cooking almost fully but not falling apart, before he drained them. (Next time he said he would omit the onion because he didn’t like it with the sour cream and apple sauce. I put ketchup on mine, lol, so all good.) He cooled them and squeezed them dry before proceeding with a latke recipe. At least, you would proceed with a latke recipe. He just made it up, but he has a lot of cooking experience and probably a latke shared genetic memory or something. THEY WERE SO AMAZING. Less starchy. Without that “is it done or not?” texture. Insanely good with all the usual accoutrements like sour cream and apple sauce. Also good with ketchup and Sriracha and a fried egg on top. Super good leftover the next day on a sandwich… So, latke makers, please try cooking your grated potatoes first and tell me how it turns out for you!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, INDEED!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, INDEED!

Lastly, a gift for all the faiths! Because this Christmas story written by a nice Jewish girl is a treat for anyone. I love my pal Jessica Topper’s books, and she’s offering a FREE short story to her newsletter subscribers. It’s totally worth signing up for her (very occasional) newsletter to get this heartwarming Love & Steel short story (KAT AND ADRIAN!) and to be alerted when her books come out. Because I have no words for how beautiful HER words are. You don’t want to miss out on this amazing author.

Enjoy the holi-craze, my friends! And if you don’t celebrate anything in this month, enjoy the contact high! 🙂

 

Fall Equinox

In Chef on September 23, 2016 at 8:37 am

Hello, friends!

Yesterday, at 4:02 pm EDT, day and night balanced, and fall officially began! Which means it’s time for my seasonal giveaway! I’m offering a gift card for $15 to Amazon, B&N, or The Ripped Bodice. (Amazon only for International entrees.) To enter, leave me a comment here or on one of my last  few blogs: The Sonic Egg that Saved My Sanity, Be The Happy Ruler of Your Pile of Scattered Poop, Oh, Darling, Worry About Your Heart. Not Your Butt, or Bring it on, Fall!

What should the topic of your comment be? How about the best thing you did, large or small, this summer? It’s the little things, people, it really is. Except when it’s the big things. Those are great, too.

My family visited Watkins Glen Farm Sanctuary for my daughter’s 13th birthday because she wanted to hug a pig. Then I made this graphic. I’m not very good at making graphics. That’s ok.keep-your-chin-up

I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake Snickerdoodles by The Recipe Critic on FB and made them in class as a demo. They were damn good. One thing I changed to make my life easier: I rolled the dough into balls, jammed my thumb ALMOST all the way through the center, used a pastry bag to fill the center (leaving a little room), and pinched the dough shut over the ball. Then I flattened the ball. I would not have had the patience to do it any other way. Once you go pastry bag, you don’t go back.img_1842

What do you do with the pie scraps (you can’t re-roll) from a dozen students when you are ALL sick of eating pie? Make hand pies and fill them with the soup your kids won’t eat! I could’ve inhaled a dozen of those suckers. Note for next semester: Would’ve been better with a thicker filling. Beef stew?img_1895

I also revived my starter, Baby Mac, from his winter’s sleep and started baking again. Twenty years ago, I bought Nancy Silverton’s BREADS FROM THE LA BREA BAKERY cookbook, read it, and was like, holy crap, it takes two days to make bread? You have  to WHAT? With what? HOW? Well, now that I’ve been teaching for almost a decade, I think I’ll give it another shot. I made this cinnamon apple bread from our textbook last week. Definitely room for improvement, but look, Ma! No commercial yeast! Baby Mac is aliiiiiive!img_1921

Basically, I’ve been working a lot. How about you? Tell me something good, large or small, and I’ll announce a winner on Monday!

Xoxo and have a good weekend,

Amanda

Bring It On, Fall!

In Chef on August 31, 2016 at 10:45 am
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Even bread is happy about school starting.

Happy last day of August! That means I’ll be doing my fall giveaway soon (gift card to Amazon, B&N or The Ripped Bodice). To enter, leave me a comment here or on one of my last  few blogs: The Sonic Egg that Saved My Sanity, Be The Happy Ruler of Your Pile of Scattered Poop, Oh, Darling, Worry About Your Heart. Not Your Butt.

Meanwhile I’m eating fruit salad with a skewer because my son made it. It’s shish kabob culinary performance art, apparently, and I want to encourage him in his culinary adventures. This is to make up for all the times when he was younger, and I threw him out of the kitchen when he wanted to “help.” We’re going to call it reverse psychology and say that it worked. He’s ten, and he just made fruit salad, scrambled eggs, and toast (for me, too) while I shopped the clearance sale online at JCP. Then he unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. I am pinching myself. Seriously.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and fist bump all you parents out there who are/have getting/gotten kids back to school this year. And for anyone for whom fall means starting new things. My pastry arts community college teaching semester started two nights ago, and it was a huge relief to begin! OMG. I spent a good bit of the summer creating comprehensive course guides for both of my classes so I won’t have to go in early every day to make copies for quizzes, lecture notes, recipes, etc. AND most of my kids’ school supplies have been purchased. AND the second child’s bat mitzvah planning is underway, and I have successfully surmounted a freaking TYPO on the return address envelopes. *face palm*

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

The first thing we baked in class was chocolate chip cookies, and they were largely successful. They were so good, in fact, that I was able to sell most of them in the cafe. I also brought some home. They got the thumbs up from the neighbors drinking beer in my driveway and my kids. My son said they were awesomely “crispy around the edges and soft in the middle.” It cracks me up that my kids can critique baked goods, but I guess it isn’t surprising. They are far from cobbler’s children when it comes to cookies!

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The innocent victim.

While the beer drinking and cookie eating was going on, a visiting neighbor’s dog crapped on our lawn. Said neighbor loves his dog and posts many pictures of her on FB. Now…my husband is full of mischief. A few weeks ago, he captured a picture of the much-loved dog taking a poop on her own lawn and posted THAT on FB – and tagged our neighbor, of course. So when the visiting dog pooped on our lawn last night, it was absolute karmic hilarity!

Naturally, when the neighbors left, my husband went looking for a box. He wrapped up that pile of poop, waited until the neighbors went to bed, and put it on their lawn. That’s normal, right? Do other people do that sort of thing? Does this go on in your neighborhood?

Regardless of the payback that is undoubtedly coming our way, I’m excited about fall. And, seriously, does your spouse do that kind of shit? 🙂

Correction: When my husband came across the blog, he said he put the box on our neighbor's car.  Awesome.

Correction: When my husband came across the blog, he said he put the box on our neighbor’s car. Awesome.

Hot Greek Sausage Right Here!

In Chef on June 21, 2016 at 11:54 am

* The winner of the Ripped Bodice Giveaway is Anita H.! Anita, you will hear from me soooon! Thanks to ALL for the comments! ❤ *

Now back to the sausage.

EAT ME. Said every sausage ever.

Did you click because you have a dirty mind, and you saw the word sausage? You aren’t the only one! An e-mail from Wegmans appeared in my inbox with the subject heading, “4 ways to make your sausage sensational!” I couldn’t resist. I didn’t expect to see anything I hadn’t seen before *snerk*, but I was wrong. So wrong. Once I saw it, I had to have it. I did promise a forthcoming dinner party menu in my “Friends For Dinner” post…

I struggle with sausage. *giggle* What do you put on it? Onions and peppers? Okay, that’s good, but it needs some goo. Ketchup? Mustard? Both? Sriracha? I like spicy sausage. *that’s what s/he said* (I’m really sorry. I won’t be able to stop. You should know this now. But the recipe will be worth it.) Dijon? Also good, but it only works for me without the bun. The bun just gets in the way of the fatty sausage/astringent mustard battle for mouth domination. I also like sausage with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella, hoagy-style, but that isn’t exactly backyard barbecue, is it? Sausage is good plain, but I’ve always wanted an epic sausage condiment experience.

The first Wegmans sausage idea blew me away. Hot Italian sausage (actually theirs was chicken sausage with spinach and feta, but this is MY sausage fantasy) getting it on Greek-style with tzatziki, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and red onion. The other three were variations on sausage with onions, but this one? PURE GENIUS.

Tzatziki on my sausage makes me haaaaapppy!

Coincidentally, we were having family over this weekend. My husband grilled sausage, hot dogs, and burgers and I put out tzatziki, chopped tomatoes with diced cucumber and feta, red onion, bacon, pickles, banana peppers, jalapenos, ketchup, mustard, crunchy fungus (something my husband picked up at the Asian store), basically, everything in the fridge that could go on a grilled food. Plus three bags of chips.

Absolute sausage satisfaction. I tore through that thing so fast I didn’t even take a picture. The sausage you see in front of you is the leftovers I’m having for lunch. I might have another one for dinner. Yes, you should have sausage envy…and go buy the stuff to make your own. (I like red onion near my food but not actually on it which is probably why I forgot to put it on for the picture.)

Click here for the tzatziki recipe. Or click any pic for the recipe. I linked them all!

Grilled Grapefruit Margarita heaven is within your grasp.

Grilled Grapefruit Margarita heaven is within your grasp.

During cocktail hour, we enjoyed a grilled grapefruit variation of my margaritas with some chips salsa and guacamole, and for dessert…

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Red Velvet Oreo Brownies. OMG.

Head on over to Sally’s Baking Addiction for the recipe. I normally don’t go for red velvet. It just seems silly to add food coloring to something for no reason but to make it red. (Well, I guess that’s an excellent reason since the colors practically FORCED me to make the recipe. The visual impact cannot be denied.) I even made them again sans dye for a party because the combination of rich chocolate brownie, sweet creamy buttercream, and crunchy Oreo hit all my happy places.

Happy National Yoga Day everyone! And happy SUMMER! Do you have a favorite way to eat sausage? I’m all eyes and mouth…

 

 

Mid-life Margaritas

In Chef on June 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

IMG_1220I meant to write a post about the gorgeously pink prickly pear margaritas my neighborhood BFF Melissa introduced me to the other week (because how could I have worked in food service this long without knowing prickly pear syrup was so delightfully PINK?!), but it keeps turning introspective.

I have ages and stages on my mind. (Maybe it’s because my silver roots are showing, and maybe THIS time I’ll let them grow in. Maybe it’s because I’ve got PMS. Or maybe it’s that I’ve got one kid headed into middle school and one headed into high school. I don’t have small children anymore. I have medium-sized children.) But it’s probably/mostly that when my friend Melissa and I got together to tinker with the prickly pear margarita recipe for this blog, we talked about our lives, as we always do because Melissa is my daily/weekly/monthly minutiae friend. Her kids have been just enough older than mine for the last fifteen years that she’s given me great advice on breastfeeding, preschools, soccer schedules, and college admissions. She’s all that plus top-shelf liquor. #keeper

Our kids are growing and grown. Our parents are aging. Our marriages are mature. Here’s my question: does everyone get to this point in their lives and feel like they are standing in the middle of a see-saw with juicy youth under one foot and middle age under the other? Is that what a mid-life crisis is about? Dying those roots and seeing if you can lean into the action a little longer? Feeling like you better change/hustle/break out RIGHT NOW because this is your last chance to seize YOUR moment?

IMG_1340The Prickly Lady Cocktail recipe, by the way, is a keeper, too. I wanted to put my own spin on it and make it mine for the blog, so I bought Pavan, a liquer made from muscat grapes and redolent of orange blossoms, thinking I could swap it for the ginger liquer. I’d never seen Pavan, and I was captivated by the rainbow peacock on the bottle. As it turned out, I could not improve on the original recipe. There is something perfectly balanced in the combination of prickly pear, ginger liquer, tequila, and lime, so please go on over to loveandoliveoil.com for the recipe. I’m thinking a Pavan and grilled grapefruit margarita might be pretty spectacular, so I’ll keep trying with the Pavan. (Oh, don’t you worry!)

Ah, mid-life. I always thought I would age gracefully. Soften into it. Surrender youth for something equally desirable: wisdom. I didn’t think it would feel like giving up. I didn’t think I’d be sorry. I thought I’d be ready, but there’s some inner kicking and screaming going on. Please don’t misunderstand my despair. I’m WELL aware I’ve got it really good in many big life categories, and I’m deeply grateful. I’m just having a moment or twenty of introspection, and, like with that prickly pear margarita and your BFF’s troubles, sometimes you can’t make it better.

IMG_1345But you can be there. Acknowledge. Appreciate. Be prickly. Fill a glass with a Prickly Lady Cocktail and raise it to life’s pretty pink surprises. Of course, it’s easier with cocktails, when you can give the rainbow peacock a try without making any major life changes…especially when you realize you had it right the first time.

L’Chaim!

Are you prickly? Have you been prickly? Have wisdom to share? Please do! All comments left on this post and A Visit to the Ripped Bodice will enter you in a contest to win a book from Culver City’s most romantic bookstore.

To be the first to know when my next book comes out, sign up for my newsletter. Said book is currently killing me, but it will be done soon. Ish. 🙂IMG_1346

Everyone Should Do This

In Chef on February 2, 2016 at 11:12 pm

Okay, so yesterday I was walking up Swan Street in Buffalo being glad that it’s not cold. The wind really whistles up Swan Street, and I’ll likely be freezing my ass off in a month. The sun was out. I didn’t even have my new coat zipped. It was pretty sweet! And all of the sudden three thought bubbles popped into my head.

  1. I’m writing a book.
  2. I’m writing it slowly.
  3. I’m happy.

Now, mind you, I was walking into a night teaching Introduction to Pastry Arts, and I was happy. That’s a victory in itself because I usually teach the slightly seasoned students, and we just aren’t there yet. But to be happy with maybe writing a few dozen words today? To have tinkered with a paragraph? And being cheerful? Unheard of in my previous incarnation. YAY! *ass shake* *confetti* PROGRESS!

Or my glee could have been residual delight leftover from lunch, I suppose. I made myself a pita pizza because I love cheese and carbs. Then I remembered I should really be eating salad because I tasted twenty-six pieces of pie last week in class. Really, it was a lot of pie. Apple and cream pies, G*d help me. So I took a pair of kitchen scissors and I chopped up my pita pizza and tossed it with romaine, balsamic vinaigrette, and feta cheese. OMG. It was like a pizza piadina but lazy. Or panzanella but warmer. Or fattoush but Italian! It was HEAVEN! Which is why everyone who grooves on carbs, cheese, and greens should make one. It was so good that I made another one the next day for my neighborhood BFF Melissa. I was all, “I’m sure people do this all the time, but I feel like a fucking genius! We have leftover pizza in the fridge all the time. It’s like croutons, but softer, and with CHEESE!” Melissa is very tapped in to the food blogs, and she hasn’t seen it so GUYS! MAKE THIS. And let’s call it… PIZZA-NELLA!

Lettuce, warm, chopped up pizza, salad dressing. FREAKING AWESOME.

Lettuce. Warm, chopped up pizza. Salad dressing. FREAKING AWESOME.

And…things didn’t go so well in the kitchen tonight. BLARG. “Mistakes are excellent teachers” is all well and good. TRULY. But now we won’t have time in the production schedule to make BAGELS. *sob*

*deep breath*

We will make bagels once we can make a simpler dough. *nods* The process is as important as the product. Right?

So what’s the next best recipe you plan to make? Has something tickled your pickle? HAVE YOU EVER CHOPPED UP PIZZA ON A SALAD? Tell me something good! I’m hungry. 🙂

 

 

Damn good fruitcake!

In Chef on December 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm

SEDUCING THE PLAYBOY is being featured as the Christmas Steal at Entangled today.  Tell all your friends, okay? 🙂

I’ve been planning on posting this recipe even though it’s a little late for fruitcake baking. However, if you still have some baking left in you, and you want to tackle a big, yummy, heavenly, totally-worth-it labor of love…make my fruitcake. I guess if you make it, it will be your fruitcake, but I’ve been baking these for so many years now I kind of feel possessive of them. In a good way. Such a good way! IMG_3371

It started because my father has everything, and I could never figure out what to get him for Christmas or his New Year’s Eve birthday. We share a love of books–for example, he introduced me to both Tolkien and the Outlander series–but every time I bought him a book, I struck out. I can’t even remember how many different books I bought him, and then quietly stole out of the basement the next year. But I struck gift gold with fruitcake.

Fruitcake lovers are a unique breed. Maybe you have to be brought up with it, as my father was. His mother’s fruitcake is, of course, the best. I will never top it. Unfortunately, she passed away a good twenty years ago. I named my daughter after her, so her name lives on lives on. Unfortunately, her fruitcake recipe does not.  Many years ago, I found an old-timey recipe in Richard Sax’s book CLASSIC HOME DESSERTS, and gave it a shot. My father loved it! And I’ve made fruitcake every year since. A labor of love, indeed! This fruitcake is Christmas to me. It’s the intoxicating smell of warm, buttery dried fruit soaked in brandy. It’s the search for the perfect gift for someone I love.

I’ve tweaked Mr. Sax’s recipe a bit because I like more fruit, less lemon, less time in the oven, less cheesecloth. Oh, fine, I’ve tweaked it until it’s nearly unrecognizable to anyone but me! However, I mention the book because I love it, and you might love it, too. A last-minute Amazon Prime gift for the home baker on your list? If your holiday baking is done, keep this recipe on tap for next year. It’s a delicious, delightful, holiday tradition in-the-making!

Grandpa Baker’s Holiday Fruitcake

(makes seven mini-loaf pans or two regular-size loaf pans)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 large eggs, separated

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I separate my eggs with my hands. Less chance of breaking yolk on the edge of the shell. Egg whites won’t whip up with any kind of fat in the bowl, so be careful!

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1/2 pound golden raisins

1/2 pound dried cranberries

1/2 pound prunes, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 pound dried apricots, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced into tiny pieces

Use any kind of dried fruit that suits your fancy. I like a variety of colors!

Use any kind of dried fruit that suits your fancy. I like a variety of colors!

1 pound walnuts, chopped

pinch of salt

2 cups brandy, as needed

1.Preheat oven to 235

2. Line pans with parchment so that the ends overhang the long sides of the pan. Then cut a strip to line the short sides. I’ve discovered it likes to stick to the pan, and lining both sides makes it MUCH easier to get it out without cracking the top. Spray lightly with pan release.

I spent a lot of years lining them like this before I discovered lining both sides works better.

I spent a lot of years lining them like this before I discovered lining both sides works better.

MUCH BETTER.

MUCH BETTER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Toss 1/2 cup of the flour with cut-up dried fruit.

I've heard tossing it with flour will keep your fruit from sinking in the batter.

I’ve heard tossing it with flour will keep your fruit from sinking in the batter.

4. Sift remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder. Set aside.

5. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until pale, light, and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Then beat in the vanilla.

Pale, light, and fluffy!

Pale, light, and fluffy!

6. Lower the speed to slow and beat in sifted flour mixture. Mix only until flour disappears.

7. Add dried fruit mixture. Combine.

8. Add walnuts. Combine.

Abort! Abort! (Not really.)

Abort! Abort! (Not really.)

9. At this point, I exceed the capacity of my Heavy Duty Kitchen-Aid mixer and have to transfer the very thick batter to a bigger bowl.

It's all good now. Gotta have some room to work.

It’s all good now. Gotta have some room to work.

10. Wash your mixing bowl well to eliminate all traces of butter fat, and then whip the egg whites with the salt until they hold a nice shape/medium peaks/just past soft peaks. Do not beat them until they are stiff. If they are stiff, it’s hard to fold them into the batter.

This will work.

This will work.

So will this.

So will this.

11. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter. The first time I did this, I was very skeptical. The batter is super thick, and whipped egg whites are…not. However, once you get everything combined, the batter becomes a little more friendly and manageable. The egg whites make it nicer, I promise!

12. Divide the batter among 7 mini loaf pans or two regular loaf pans. Or any permutation of pan you desire, although I would not pick an intricately designed pan. As I said, it likes to stick.

13. Bake for about 3 hours at 335. Seriously. They take forever, and your house will smell amazing. Mostly I judge by color. I take them out of the over, stare at them, and wonder if they are done yet. Then I make my husband look at them, and I ask, “Do they look done?” Mostly he says “Yes,” and follows up with, “Can I eat one now?” I poke them a few times, and if they feel firm, I declare them done.

Done looks something like this.

Done looks something like this.

14. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and then ease them out using the overhanging edges of parchment. Cool completely.

15. Baste them with brandy. My father insists I wrap his in cheesecloth and baste it a few more times through the cheesecloth over a period of weeks, so I do that for him. For the rest of the legion of fruitcakes, I put them in individual Ziploc bags and baste them a few times without the cheesecloth. Does the cheesecloth make a difference? Probably. Dad says it’s slimy without it. I disagree but am willing to humor him!

16. Store them in the refrigerator and baste them with brandy once a week for a couple weeks.

17. I highly recommend eating one while it’s warm. 🙂 I always give the kids a warm one before I baste it with brandy. Especially this year’s brandy…

The secret ingredient in my fruitcake.

The secret ingredient in my fruitcake.

Merry Christmas and Happy Fruitcake!

Just the facts, ma’am straight-up recipe no pictures version:

 

Grandpa Baker’s Holiday Fruitcake

(makes seven mini-loaf pans or two regular-size loaf pans)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 large eggs, separated

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1/2 pound golden raisins

1/2 pound dried cranberries

1/2 pound prunes, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 pound dried apricots, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced into tiny pieces

1 pound walnuts, chopped

pinch of salt

2 cups brandy, as needed

1.Preheat oven to 235

2. Line pans with parchment so that the ends overhang the long sides of the pan. Then cut a strip to line the short sides. I’ve discovered it likes to stick to the pan, and lining both sides makes it MUCH easier to get it out without cracking the top. Spray lightly with pan release.

3. Toss 1/2 cup of the flour with cut-up dried fruit.

4. Sift remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder. Set aside.

5. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until pale, light, and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Then beat in the vanilla.

6. Lower the speed to slow and beat in sifted flour mixture. Mix only until flour disappears.

7. Add dried fruit mixture. Combine.

8. Add walnuts. Combine.

9. At this point, I exceed the capacity of my Heavy Duty Kitchen-Aid mixer and have to transfer the very thick batter to a bigger bowl.

10. Wash your mixing bowl well to eliminate all traces of butter fat, and then whip the egg whites with the salt until they hold a nice shape/medium peaks/just past soft peaks. Do not beat them until they are stiff. If they are stiff, it’s hard to fold them into the batter.

11. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter. The first time I did this, I was very skeptical. The batter is super thick, and whipped egg whites are…not. However, once you get everything combined, the batter becomes a little more friendly and manageable. The egg whites make it nicer, I promise!

12. Divide the batter among 7 mini loaf pans or two regular loaf pans. Or any permutation of pan you desire, although I would not pick an intricately designed pan. As I said, it likes to stick.

13. Bake for about 3 hours at 335. Seriously. They take forever, and your house will smell amazing. Mostly I judge by color. I take them out of the over, stare at them, and wonder if they are done yet. Then I make my husband look at them, and I ask, “Do they look done?” Mostly he says “Yes,” and follows up with, “Can I eat one now?” I poke them a few times, and if they feel firm, I declare them done.

14. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and then ease them out using the overhanging edges of parchment. Cool completely.

15. Baste them with brandy. My father insists I wrap his in cheesecloth and baste it a few more times through the cheesecloth over a period of weeks, so I do that for him. For the rest of the legion of fruitcakes, I put them in individual Ziploc bags and baste them a few times without the cheesecloth. Does the cheesecloth make a difference? Probably. Dad says it’s slimy without it. I disagree but am willing to humor him!

16. Store them in the refrigerator and baste them with brandy once a week for a couple weeks.

17. I highly recommend eating one while it’s warm. 🙂 I always give the kids a warm one before I baste it with brandy. Especially this year’s brandy…

 

It isn’t Christmas without…

In Chef on December 14, 2015 at 3:27 pm
Visit Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews for the recipe for this Very Merry Cranberry Cocktail!

Visit Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews for the recipe for this Very Merry Cranberry Cocktail!

BOOZE! To find out why, go here. 🙂 I’m visiting Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews today because my friend Sharon asked me to write a little something about my holiday traditions. Since I’m a Protestant who went to Catholic school and then married a Jew, things get wild and wooly around the holidays. Mostly because of all the fruitcakes I make, but that’s not the recipe I’m sharing today. That one’s next.

IMG_3335

Four layers of Ultimate White Cake filled with whole cranberry filling, frosted with vanilla bean buttercream, and garnished with sugared cranberries and a white chocolate bow!

But first, please visit Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews for my Very Merry Cranberry Cocktail! I honestly can’t remember which came first, the desire to create a cocktail for the Guilty Pleasures blog or the need to come up with a new cake for the patisserie case at Wegmans, but I killed two birds with one stone with those gorgeous sugared cranberries. Three, if you count the fact that they make a great snack. I even put them in my daughter’s lunch and labeled them “magic berries.” They are seriously yummy. Sweet on the outside and tart on the inside. (Anyone else identify with that description? The next time I have to describe myself I’ll say: I’m a string of sugared cranberries perched on the rim of a martini. Sounds about right these days. Ha!)

Usen_Baked Sugar Cake

Moravian Sugar Cake

In my Guilty Pleasures post, I mentioned that it isn’t Christmas without Moravian Sugar Cakes. I first shared the recipe on Stella Ex-Libris’s blog a few years ago, the real from-scratch-with-mashed-potatoes-to-keep-it-moist recipe. However…I always cheat. So did my mom. And my grandmother, who actually WAS a Moravian. (As I understand it, the Moravians were a small sect that split off from Catholicism before the Protestant Reformation. They settled in Winston Salem, NC, and, mysteriously, Hope, IN, which is where my grandmother lived.)

Back to the cheating…

IMG_3399I use Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix! It’s super-easy, especially if you have a mixer. (The dough is kind of sticky.) Follow the directions on the box. If you want round sugar cakes, divide it between two 8″ or 9″ round pans. Proof it. Poke it. Top it with melted butter and cinnamon sugar (the more the merrier!). Then bake it! Your house will smell cinna-mazing! The cinnamon sugar collects in the dimples in the dough, and when you pour melted butter over it, it makes a salty-sweet cinnamon goo that is THE BEST THING EVER.

For those of you who appreciate a bit more technicality in your recipes, here you go:

Moravian Sugar Cake (Pillsbury-style)

(makes 1 13X9 pan or two 8″ or 9″ pans)

The Cake:

One box Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix

The Topping:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

½ cup (one stick) butter, melted (I use salted.)

The Method:

Follow the directions on the box all the way through step 4.

5. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, turn to coat with butter, and cover. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

6. Butter your baking pans. Divide the dough into two pieces if you are making rounds. Keep it in one if you are making a 13X9 pan. Lay it in the pan(s) and encourage it to cover the bottom(s). Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the topping.

7. Melt the butter for the topping. Then dimple the dough with your fingers to create deep pockets. Spread the brown sugar and cinnamon topping over the top of each cake, then drizzle the melted butter over the topping. As it bakes, the butter and sugar will sink into the pockets, creating deliciousness!

The Drizzling!

The Drizzling!

The Dimpling!

The Dimpling!

8. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until it begins to get brown around any tiny edge that might not be covered by the topping. I tend to overbake them, and then complain about it, so watch them carefully. If your pans are shallow, place something beneath them to catch the drips. These cakes love to rise, and the topping might need somewhere to go.

9. Cool briefly and serve warm. Mmmm…Christmas!

The Eating!

The Eating!

Do you have a favorite Christmas/Holiday thing? What is it? Please share so we can all be sentimental with you! Speaking of sharing, thanks to all of you who shared perspective, experiences, and encouragement after my Not failure. Not the death of  dream blog. I’m not alone! Neither are you. We will get through this grown-up-life-thing together with kindness to ourselves and each other and with as much grace as we can muster. When grace isn’t possible, we will forgive ourselves for showing our butts and celebrate getting through it. Period.

It’s not too late to get in on the candy giveaway if you have something you’d like to share. 🙂

Happy Monday! Happy drinking, baking, and eating! I love you guys. ❤