Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Sweets

I’ve written before (July 11, 2009 blog) about my issues with making desserts, especially baking. While I’m over being scared, I still don’t make desserts very often. For weekday dinners, Katherine and I try to stay away from sweets—for several reasons, all with an eye toward our spreading mid-sections. I do make them whenever friends and family come to dinner, especially during the holidays. I prefer them to be small and not too sweet. My daughter-in-law-Michelle and her friend Nicole continue to instruct me on these matters.

Chocolate Pots
These little pots are so good. And so easy. Nigella calls for 70% cocoa solids but I find that percentage just too intense. You can experiment for yourself. Some folks might be nervous about putting the raw egg into the chocolate mixture. If you are, don’t make this recipe. I’ve never had a problem.

6 ounces best-quality chocolate, minimum 62% cocoa solids
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon allspice, optional
1 egg at room temperature, use the freshest you can find
8 ¼-cup pots, sake cups, or tiny custard cups
Roasted strawberries during strawberry season, optional
A dab of slightly sweetened whipped cream, optional

1. Crush the chocolate to crumbs in the food processor.
2. Heat the cream and milk until just about boiling. Add the vanilla and the optional allspice to the milk and pour it through the funnel over the chocolate. Let it stand for 30 seconds.
3. Process for 30 seconds. Then crack the egg down the funnel and process for 45 seconds. It’s done.
4. Pour into whatever little cups you have and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Take them out about 20 minutes before you want to serve them.
Note: Don’t be tempted to use larger dishes. The chocolate is very intense and just a little is sufficient.

8 servings
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites

Apple Crumb Pie
This is such a delicious dessert. Basically it’s an Apple Crisp with a granola-like crust. A little more complicated than I usually make. But after a nice simple dinner, it is a splendid holiday treat. Plus I get to use more of my apples from the backyard tree.

1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons butter, melted

6 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 7)
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon coriander
Zest from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice (½ Meyer lemon)

¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup finely chopped candied ginger, optional
Serving options: whipped cream or ice cream

1. Take your 8½-inch spring-form pan apart. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil over the round base/bottom of the pan. Place the sides on the base over the foil and attach to the base. Fold the excess foil up around the outside of the pan. (This procedure is an attempt to prevent leakage in baking.)
2. Place the crust ingredients in a bowl and stir with a fork until completely combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the spring-form pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350°F.
3. Turn the temperature up to 375°F.
4. Place the apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is evenly distributed. Pour the apples into the crust and press down lightly to even them out and pack them down.
5. Place the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork, a pastry cutter, or your fingers until crumbly. Distribute evenly over the apples.
6. Place the pie in the oven with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drippings. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the apples are soft. If the top browns too quickly, cover the pan loosely with foil and continue baking. Cool on a rack.
7. To serve, slip a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the filling; release the sides of the springform pan. Slide the pie off the spring-form bottom and onto a serving plate leaving the foil underneath. Peel the foil from around the edges, leaving the rest hidden underneath the pie. If you find an easy way to remove all of it, let me know. When you cut the pie, leave the foil on the serving plate. Serve the pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.

6 servings
Adapted from Megan and Jill Carle’s Teens Cook Dessert.  This is a great cookbook for any young person you know who likes to cook.

Persimmon Bread

Finally my hachiya persimmons are soft enough for eating and baking. Slices of this persimmon bread are great with tea, as an appetizer with goat cheese, for dessert with whipped cream, or anytime you want a sweet holiday treat. These mini-loaves wrapped up with a bow make great holiday presents.

3½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2-2½ cups sugar (I use the smaller amount)
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Jack Daniels or cognac
2 cups persimmon purée (about 7 medium very soft hachiya persimmons)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

1. Sift flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and sugar together into a bowl. Mix together the melted butter, eggs, Jack Daniels, and persimmon purée.
2. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter mixture. Mix together. Fold in the nuts and raisins and mix well.
3. Pour the mixture into 6 buttered mini pans, filling ¾ full.
4. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes; then turn out of the pans onto a rack to finish cooling. Wrap well in plastic wrap or foil. They freeze well.

Makes 6 mini loaves, 4 small loaves, or 2-3 regular loaves.
You’ll need to increase the baking time for the bigger loaves.
Adapted from Susan Weeks, Co-President, Meals on Wheels, Sonoma, as it appeared in The Sun, December 2005

1 comment:

Tinky said...

Thanks for the riches! You HAVE been busy. I envy your persimmons. Keep on cooking....