Posts tagged holiday

peppermint meringues

So.  Three points to anyone who can name the products sitting on my kitchen table behind the tray of meringues!  I conquered the art of American-style cookies months ago.  Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, brownies – all are things I consider to be among the easiest of baking projects.  Even the sugar cookie, which in its simplicity had long eluded me, has finally become manageable.  I had always heard that cookies like meringues, which involved touchy issues of egg white whipping and precise measurements, were very difficult, so I’d lived in fear.

Plus, I had always equated meringues to chewing on styrofoam, so I wasn’t exactly jazzed to give it a try.

At last I decided to conquer this fear, and turned out row after row of pretty, peppermint flavored puffs that melt in your mouth.  They were among the easiest cookies I have ever made, and might even be my go-to cookie in the future when I want something simple.  Sure, they’re not the quickest things I’ve ever made, but honestly, the time spent in the oven isn’t so different from the time spent scooping out dough of traditional cookies and switching baking sheets half a dozen times because they spread out.  So, I’d say it might even out, but with meringues I can spend more time with my feet up!

peppermint meringues (makes about 100, depending on size)

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. red food coloring gel

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place egg whites and salt in a stand mixer with wire whip.  Beat on medium-high speed until foamy, and then gradually add granulated sugar, allowing the mixer to beat a few minutes in between additions.  Beat to firm peaks, 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.
  3. Add confectioners’ sugar and peppermint extract.  Beat in until blended.
  4. If you want meringue to come out in stripes, drip small blobs of food coloring gel on the meringue in various locations.  Scoop into pastry bag fitted with round or star tip and pipe out about 1-inch meringues, about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake 2 1/2 hours, then let cool completely.

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stollen (candied fruit + marzipan)

I’ve become sort of a resident snack-bringer for the community choir I sing in.  As those who know me already know, and those who find my blog soon find out, baking is a bit of an obsession for me.  I never tire of the fascination of turning endless combinations of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs into delicious things.  I never tire of the amazement of having something turn out just like things I’ve bought, and I usually attribute it to a good recipe rather to any indefinable magic coming from my fingertips.

So as you can imagine, new baking projects are constantly filling up my imagination, and I’ve been known to bake several different batches of items, when it’s just my husband and I in the house, and most people I know are on a diet.  On an impulse last year, I brought cookies to choir rehearsal, and they were snatched up pretty quickly, and it’s become kind of a tradition.  I don’t bring them every week, but it definitely gives me an outlet.

The first semester of our season ends tomorrow evening, and for the past few rehearsals, I’ve been getting increasingly seasonal.  Having an abundance of hand-candied citrus peel and hand-glaceed cherries, I sought out a recipe I could use them in, and settled on stollen, a German Christmastime bread with a center of marzipan.  I made some tweaks to the recipe I based it on, and it came out redolent of spices and rum.  I definitely recommend it!

stollen (makes 1 loaf)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. glaceed cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. candied citrus peel, chopped
  • 1/2 c. currants
  • 1/4 c. spiced rum
  • 1 c. + 3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. wheat gluten (aka gluten flour)
  • rounded 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. each cardamom, cloves, and allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 9 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 egg + 2 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 8 oz. marzipan, rolled into a cylinder
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. Mix glaceed cherries, candied citrus peel, and currants in a bowl.  Pour spiced rum over and mix.  Let macerate for about 20-30 minutes before and during preparation of the bread dough, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour some of the milk into a small bowl and heat until warm in the microwave.  Add yeast, with a pinch of sugar, and let stand a minute to be sure it foams.
  3. Combine 1 c. of the whole-wheat flour, the all-purpose flour, wheat gluten, sugar, salt, and spices.  Whisk briefly to combine.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour and remaining milk.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, only about a minute or so.  Let cool for a moment, and then add melted butter, eggs, lemon zest, and macerated fruit, along with all of the spiced rum.
  5. Add the yeast, and wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix until combined.
  6. Rest 15 minutes.
  7. Knead until the dough is smooth.
  8. Rest until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2″ thick.   Place the marzipan slightly off-center, and roll the dough over it, pinching the ends to seal.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 and rest the dough until doubled in size, about an hour.
  11. Bake for 35 minutes or until a deep golden brown.
  12. When cool, brush with melted butter and dust generously with confectioners’ sugar.
  13. Wrap tightly and keep for several days to age the bread before slicing and serving.

candied citrus peel

Ingredients:

  • assorted citrus fruits (lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit, buddha’s hand, etc.)
  • sugar
  • water

Directions:

  1. With a paring knife or vegetable peeler, slice off long strips of citrus peel.  Be sure there is as little pith as possible.  Slice into thinner strips.
  2. Bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil, and add citrus peel strips.  Boil about 10-15 minutes, or until a piece of peel when removed is soft, chewy, and sweet.
  3. Drain syrup and keep for things like cocktails.  Spread peel strips in a single layer on racks to dry.
  4. Toss in granulated sugar, and store in an airtight container.

 

glaceed cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. water

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Boil.
  2. Seriously, that’s it.
  3. Really.
  4. Okay, it might take about a half hour.  You want the cherries to be soft, cooked, and the syrup to be thicker and sticky, like syrup.  It will thicken up a lot once it has been refrigerated.  Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

marzipan (makes about 2 lbs.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. blanched almonds
  • 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Grind almonds to a fine powder in a food processor.  Pour out into a bowl and add confectioners’ sugar.  Whisk briefly to combine.
  2. Add egg whites and stir until it is evenly combined.  Knead once or twice to be sure it comes together.
  3. Roll or shape, or just eat it plain!

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