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Happy Christmas everyone! I hope your holiday has been, and will continue to be filled with love, joy, family, friends and endless layers of sweetness like this fluffy carrot cake.

Carrot cake isn’t necessarily a conventional Christmas dessert, not like a steamed pudding or trifle anyway, but it does make a nice addition to the holiday feasting because it incorporates a lot of the foods we associate with the holidays.  The delicate layers of cake are full of sugar, spices, nuts, fruit and shredded carrots layered between thick, creamy cream cheese frosting for a smooth and satisfying finish to any holiday meal. It’s not overly sweet and can be a welcome change to some of the sweeter desserts being whipped up right now.

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Though I usually wrap the whole cake in frosting, this time I wanted to cut back on the richness a little and thought I’d just layer the cake with frosting and top it off with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  I placed a doilie upside down on top of the cake and sprinkled powdered sugar with a little sifter around the edges until the holes in the doilie were covered.  The result was a pretty outline of the doilie to decorate the cake, without the heaviness of a lot of cream cheese frosting. My family was delighted with the results as they raved about the rich and satisfying taste of the cake without some of the extra calories that usually come with a lot of frosting.

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Wrapped entirely in frosting or filled just between the layers, this carrot cake is a delicious way to entertain family or friends during the holiday season because the ingredients can be adjusted to suit your preferences by changing golden raisins for dried currants, shredded coconut (my personal favorite) or pineapple chunks.

My sincere best wishes for a wonderful year of sweetness and joy!

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

11/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 pound peeled and coarsely grated carrots (approximately 3 cups)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, untoasted

1/2 cup golden raisins

Method

1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars with the oil on low-speed until the mixture resembles wet sand. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and blend for 3 minutes.  The thick batter will increase in volume and lighten in color. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not over-beat the batter. Fold in the carrots, golden raisins and the walnuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between four prepared pans.  Place the pans in the center of the oven and bake until the cakes are golden and spring back when lightly touched in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Promptly run a knife around the edge of the pan to help the cake retract evenly from the sides while cooling. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10-12 minutes, taking extra care as they are fragile and could crack. Leave them to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature and you are ready to assemble the cake.

6. To assemble the cake, place one of the layers, top side up, on a serving plate. If the cake is domed in the middle you may need to use a serrated knife to trim off the domed area.  Using a metal spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the cake, spreading it slightly to the edge. Place the next layer of cake, top side down, on top of the frosted layer, remembering to trim any excessive doming first, if necessary.  Repeat again, ending with the last layer placed top side up on the frosting. Place a doilie upside down on top the cake and press it down until it sticks slightly. Fill a small sifter with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, taping it gently with your hand over the edges of the doilie until you have gone all the way around.  Carefully remove the doilie by lifting it gently up and away from the cake and you should have a lovely decorative pattern that will last for several hours.  If left overnight the powdered sugar will be absorbed into the cake so if you are entertaining, it may be best to leave this part until just before your guests arrive.

Notes:

This cake is fabulous the day it’s made but can be kept fresh for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator due to the frosting.  Allow at least 1 hour for the cake to come to room temperature before serving. I’ve also frozen this cake with great results. Just let it defrost at room temperature and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Food Network Website

Ingredients
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter and it was just as good)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method
1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.
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I love Christmas and all the baking and festivities that make the season so joyful. Every year I imagine all of the wonderful treats I’m going to whip up and regardless of the many baking books and clippings I already have stashed away, a new magazine of Christmas baking is always hard to resist.  This year wasn’t any different as I carried home a new, 100 Best Desserts, Special Edition of Best-Loved Recipes from Taste of Home for 2012.

The funny thing is, that after poring over every single page, the very first recipe I opted to make were these decadent Black Bottom Cupcakes that I actually discovered a couple of years ago and simply cannot resist.

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The first time I discovered them, I was looking for something that my youngest son could take to school.  The idea of cupcakes that didn’t require icing was appealing, given that he and not me, would be transporting them. They turned out to be so easy and delicious that I’ve been making them for the holidays ever since.

Chocolate and cream cheese are a delightful combination and these cupcakes are sure to fill any craving you may have during the holidays for a lush, moist, deep chocolate flavoured cupcake paired with a smooth, creamy cheesecake centre.

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The cupcake is made in two parts, first the creamy cheesecake centre followed by the chocolate cupcake batter. The liners are filled 1/3 full of chocolate batter followed by a generous dollop of cream cheese filling. Before adding the dollop of cream cheese filling, however, add a cup of mini chocolate chips to heighten the chocolate factor and add some extra dimension.

Still warm from the oven, the little bits of chocolate are silky and smooth against the rich cream cheese and the moist, almost gooey chocolate cake. I baked these up in some holiday liners I had on hand to give them a festive touch of Christmas holiday cheer. During the holidays, I’ve also been known to add an extra dollop of cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese before baking, so that they’re almost like a piece of black forest cake when they come out of the oven.

Either way is equally delicious and always a hit with visitors and family alike.

Served up with a cold glass of milk, a mug of hot cocoa or packaged up with a bright red ribbon for a friend, these tasty cupcakes are a nice addition to the holidays or pretty much any day of the year.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup water

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Method

1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips; set aside.

2. For batter, in a large bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.  Combine remaining ingredients; add to the liquid mixture and mix well (batter is on the thin side).

3. Fill liners 1/3  full with batter and top with a generous dollop of cream cheese filling.

4. Bake at 350 degree F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake portion comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing to  wire racks to cool completely.

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One of my favourite things to make around the holidays is a pavlova.   A pavlova is a round, pie shaped meringue, filled with curd or custard and topped with cream and fruit.  It’s positively delicious.  Last year I made one my mother-in-law loves to make, called angel pie.  It’s a white meringue, filled with lemon filling and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.  I’m sure it’s called angel pie because it tastes so heavenly.

Looking for holiday dessert ideas, I was flipping through a 2010 Food & Drink Magazine from the LCBO, when I saw a recipe for individual meringues filled with blackberry jam and whipped cream. I  just knew I’d have to try them.

The meringues are quite sweet, with a crispy outer shell, and a nice and chewy marshmallow texture on the inside.  In this desert, the sugary sweetness of the meringue, is balanced by the whipped cream and little pockets of blackberry jam filling.  The burst of fresh blackberry on the top, cuts through the cream and meringue and cleanses your palette, for a nice clean finish.  

  

The result is a really delicious and satisfying desert that may seem simple, but really delivers through layers of tastes and textures. You have the outer crunchy shell of the meringue, followed by a soft chewiness of the centre, filled with a smooth whipped cream flavoured with vanilla, that’s complimented by ribbons of blackberry preserves, and topped with a luscious berry bursting with natural juice and sweetness.  

The recipe originally called for bits of white chocolate and vanilla in the meringue but when I added them, the meringue lost it’s thickness and I ended up with meringue puddles when I piped it onto the parchment. So I started over with just a plain meringue, of egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar.  Once I did that, I was able to pipe the little nests without any trouble at all and they stayed up nice and high so that the filling could easily nestle inside, with the jam.

 

The trick to these meringues is to keep the jam and whipped cream separate until they are being piped into the meringue.  That way you get layers and pockets of jam, instead of a uniform purple blackberry cream, which is fine too, but if you want the two-tone texture you see in my photos, you don’t want to over mix them.  A fold or two, before filling the pastry bag should be enough.  And remember, once the blackberry jam and whipped cream are pushed through the pastry bag in order to fill the nests, they will mix together  even more. 

 

 Blackberry Meringues

Ingredients

3 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp (50 ml) cream of tartar

3/4 cup (150 ml) of superfine sugar

1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

1/4 cup (50 ml) blackberry preserves, I used Smucker’s with good results

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200 °F (105 °C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.  

2.  In a large, especially clean bowl, use an electric mixer to beat whites on low-speed, until foamy.  As the whites begin to whiten and foam, add the cream of tartar and beat on medium high-speed until soft peaks form.  Add the superfine sugar, also commonly referred to as castor sugar by the spoonful (I used  Instant Dissolving Sugar, by Redpath, because it was the only superfine sugar I could find, and it dissolves instantly when added to moisture.  Instant Dissolving Sugar by Redpath, used to be called, Fruit Powder Sugar). Beat well after each addition until all of the sugar has been incorporated, the whites are stiff and glossy and when you press a bit of the mixture between your thumb and index finger it doesn’t feel gritty, about 6 minutes.

 3. Spoon half the mixture into a piping bag (I used a Wilton 14″ Piping Bag ) fitted with a swirl piping tip (I used Wilton tip #1M).  If you don’t have a pastry bag you can make one by cutting a corner off of a large plastic ziplock bag. Pipe the mixture into a 1-inch (2.5cm) rosettes, in rows onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving a “nest” in the center of each.  Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour (the time will vary depending on the humidity of the environment), until they are crisp and dry.  Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar until the oven and meringues are completely cool (they are best if left overnight).

 Making the Meringue Nests

4.  In a bowl, beat the whipping cream with a whisk or mixer until you see soft peaks begin to form.  Add vanilla and sugar and beat again until incorporated and soft peaks are formed.  Gently fold in the blackberry preserves with a spatula (being careful not to overmix) and fill a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton tip #2A, half full. If you don’t have this tip you can use the piping bag without it, just as well. Pipe the blackberry cream into cooled meringue nests just before serving.  Garnish each meringue with a blackberry and serve immediately.

This recipe is very versatile.  You can replace the berries and jam with one of your favourite flavours. I think it would be absolutely gorgeous and delicious with strawberries, raspberries, or even peaches. You may want to keep the recipe handy as summer fruits begin to ripen and flavours peak,  your family and friends will be delighted.

Good luck & enjoy!

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No matter how you bake them, butter tarts are hailed as a true Canadian

favourite.  Dating back to the early 1900’s, butter tarts recipes have been

passed down from generation to generation and many family recipes have

debuted at county fairs all across this nation. Synonymous with tradition

and old-fashioned goodness, many recipes originate from our mothers or

grandmothers who thought nothing of throwing together a batch of pastry,

mixing some butter, sugar and dried fruit and turning out these sweet

confections by the dozen. They were filled with whatever happened to line

the pantry shelf that day and often included raisins, currants, walnuts,

chocolate, cranberries, coconut, pecans or any combination of these.

The perfect butter tart all comes down to preference  and Canadians have

definite opinions about whether the filling should be firm and custard-like

or gooey and runny when you bite into it. Over the holidays, I baked

up several recipes while looking for the perfect butter tart but was mostly

disappointed, until finally, I found it.  The most delicious butter tart

filling I found, was from a blog called Under the High Chair by Aimée from

Montreal, Canada. These are her mother’s tarts and the only one’s she eats. 

If you make them, you’ll be sure to see why.

 The filling for these tarts is a perfect combination of both a gooey filling and a

chewy texture. The filling bakes up to a perfect stickiness that’s delicious on

it’s own, or paired with dried fruits and nuts.  These tarts perfectly capture the

homemade taste of sweet Canadian baking and are a delight of buttery

goodness from start to finish.  First you’ll want to start with a pastry that gives

you a light, flaky crust.  This sour cream pastry is easy to handle, rolls out

nicely and bakes up flaky, golden and tender.  It’s a perfect butter tart dough.

Double-Crust Sour Cream Pastry

2 1/2 cups (625 ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

1/2 cup (125 ml) cold butter, cubed

1/2 cup (125 ml) cold lard, cubed

1/4 cup (50 ml) ice water (approx.)

3 tbsp (50 ml) sour cream

 

Method

1. In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the cold

butter and lard until it’s in fine pieces with just a few larger pieces.

2. Using a liquid measure, whisk water with sour cream.  Drizzle over the flour

mixture, tossing briskly with a fork and adding a little more water if necessary,

until a ragged dough forms.

3. Divide the dough in half; press it into 2 discs.  Wrap; refrigerate until chilled,

approximately 30 minutes.

Notes

The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days or freeze in an

airtight container for up to 1 month. This is a double crust pie recipe that will

make enough for 18-24 butter tarts.

Recipe Source:  The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book

Butter Tart Filling  

1/3 cup (75 ml) butter, softened

1 cup (250 ml) brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup (125 ml) corn syrup

2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla

1/4 cup (50 ml) raisins

1/4 cup (50 ml) chopped walnuts

1/2 cup (125 ml) coconut, toasted

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

2 tablespoons cream

Method

1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to generous 1/8-inch (3 mm)

thickness.

2. Using a 4-inch (10 cm) round cutter, cut out 12 circles, re-rolling any

scraps. Fit into muffin cups; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light.

Beat in eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla and mix well.  Mix in raisins, walnuts,

coconut, salt and cream.  Combine thoroughly. Divide evenly between the

pastry shells, approximately 1/4 cup (50 ml) into each shell.

4. Bake in the centre of a 350 °F (180 ° C) oven until filling is set and pastry is

golden, approximately 20 minutes.  Run a thin knife blade around the edges to

release the tarts.  Let cool in the muffin cups on a rack for 20 minutes before

transferring to a rack to cool. These tarts can be made ahead and stored in a

single layer in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen 2-inch tarts.

Notes

Ease the rounds of pastry dough into the muffin cups and gently press them 

up against the sides of the cup with your fingertips. Without stretching the

pastry, fit the dough into the cup, working out as many of the folds as possible

for a circular tart shell or leave them wavy for a ruffled effect. 

Recipe Source:  Under the High Chair

Butter Tart Variations

Plain Butter Tarts:  omit the raisins, walnuts and toasted coconut.

Chocolate Butter Tarts:   add 3/4 cup ( 175 ml) semi-sweet chocolate

chips, omit raisins, and coconut.

Cranberry Coconut Butter Tarts:  add 3/4 cup ( 175 ml) cranberries,

omit  raisins and nuts.

Pecan Butter Tarts: add 3/4 cup ( 175 ml) chopped pecans, omit the

raisins, walnuts and toasted coconut.

There are, of course, the tried and trues, but the variations for these tarts are

endless. And, of course, that is what makes them so much fun ~ there’s

something for everyone!  I know I had my fair share.

Sshh!  That’s all I’m saying about that.

This Sweet Wife

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With Christmas just around the corner, I’ve got recipe ideas flying around my

head like freshly falling snow.  If only I had the time to make them all! Aahh,

that would be so very nice.  Over the next two weeks, I’ll make as many

interesting recipes as I can, that tie into the holidays and help us to bake and

cook up the delicious scents and aromas that we love about them. 

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I love this time of year and I love all of the desserts and sweets that go with it

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These tartlets hold a medley of four different kinds of nuts and red chopped

glace cherries in a cookie-like shell.  Wrapped up in a honey caramel, the fruit

and nuts offer a taste and crunch that are a perfect match for each other. 

Drizzled with milk chocolate, these tartlets will add a delightful festive

appearance to your holiday table that will have your guests reaching for

more. Make and freeze these tartlets ahead of the holidays and you’ll have one

less thing to do once the festivities begin. Hhmmm, that sure sounds good!

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Nutty Cherry Tartlets with Honey Caramel

Crust

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (125 ml) icing sugar

1/3 cup (75 ml) cold butter, cut into cubes

 1 egg

1/4 tsp (1 ml) vanilla

Filling

1/2 cup (125 ml) each of pistachios, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts

1/2 cup (125 ml)  glace cherries

1/3 cup  (75 ml) clear honey

1/4 cup (50 ml) sugar

1/2 cup (125 ml) 35 % whipping cream

2 tbsp (25 ml) butter

1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate

Method

1. To make shells, coat three dozen mini-muffin cups with cooking spray or

lightly butter.  If you have non-stick pans, you can skip this step.  Whirl flour

with icing sugar and butter in food processor until butter is in tiny, barely

visible pieces. Add egg and vanilla; whirl until moist crumbs form.  Turn out

onto a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper and form into a solid disc of

dough.  For ease in rolling, divide dough in half  and roll between two sheets of

waxed paper or parchment. Roll out each half until slightly thinner than

normal pie dough.  Cut with a 2 1/2 -inch (6-cm) cutter; line cups, extending

the dough slightly above the cup edge.  Use scraps to repair any breaks or fill

in thin spots.  Freeze while making the filling or for at least 10 minutes.

Note:  You could certainly use your own favourite pastry recipe for the shell

instead of following the one here. 

2.  Spread the nuts onto a baking pan and toast in a 400 °F (200 °C) oven for 6

minutes or until lightly browned.  Use a tea towel to rub papery skins from the

hazelnuts.  Coarsely chop nuts and cherries.  Stir together; set aside.

3.  To make the honey caramel, combine the honey and sugar in a medium

heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Without stirring, bring it to a boil over medium

heat.  Meanwhile, in a measuring cup in the microwave, heat the cream and

butter together for 45 to 60 seconds or until very hot, but not boiling. 

Continue boiling sugar mixture until it has turned a deep caramel colour. 

Remove the pan from the heat.  Avert your face while slowly pouring in the

cream mixture (because it will really bubble up); stir.  Reduce heat to low and

return pan to stove.  Gently boil, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Stir in

nuts and cherries; remove from heat and set aside.

4. Remove tart shells from freezer; immediately place in preheated oven. 

Bake until pastry is golden, about 8 minutes (for a dark pan) or 10 minutes (for

a light pan). Cool; then generously fill with caramel nut mixture. 

5. Drizzle with melted milk or dark chocolate. For this small amount you can

easily melt the chocolate in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for 30

seconds, remove & stir until completely melted. Drizzle back & forth with a

spoon across the tarts.

Covered, these tartlets keep well at room temperature for up to 2 days; or

freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 3 dozen tartlets. 

Thanks for the company, and good luck with all your Christmas baking!

This Sweet Wife

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With the holidays fast approaching, Christmas morning recipe ideas are at the top of my to-do list.  Lots of folks will be busy opening gifts and sharing time with their families and no one wants to be stored away in the kitchen and miss out on all the fun.  So, while many a strata will be made on December 24th, here’s another idea that will bring a festive dimension to your holiday breakfast that can be made ahead.  Orange, Cranberry, Carrot Cake Muffins.

When it comes to muffins, I’m pretty fussy.  I like them moist, with nutritious ingredients, full of flavour and not too sweet.  A muffin should not be a cupcake.  I don’t think muffins need a lot of sweet, sticky toppings; I think the muffin should be good enough that it can stand alone. I like muffins that work for breakfast, can be packed with a lunch, are great  grab n’ go’s, and fill the void between after school and supper. This muffin really fits the bill.  But it also brings a dimension of satisfying holiday flavours in the orange, the cranberries, the carrots, the nuts, coconut and spices that your family and guests will really love. 

These muffins do not have an oily taste, they’re light and very moist from  the use of the whole orange.  The fruit and nuts add texture, flavour and good nutrition. Whip up a batch of these muffins over the holidays; prepared ahead,they’ll keep you out of the kitchen and free to enjoy the spirit of Christmas.

 

Cranberry Orange Carrot Cake Muffins

Ingredients

1 seedless navel orange, quartered, rind included

2/3 cup (150 ml) orange juice (approx.)

2 eggs

3/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar

1/3 cup ( 75 ml) canola oil

2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla

1 3/4 cups (425 ml) all-purpose flour

1 tsp (10 ml) cinnamon

1 tsp. (5 ml) baking powder

1 tsp. (5 ml) baking solda

1/2 tsp (2 ml) each ground nutmeg and salt

2 cups (500 ml) grated carrots

1/2 cup (125 ml) each dried cranberries and chopped toasted pecans

1/2 cup (125 ml) shredded coconut

Method

1. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease and set aside. 2. In food processor, finely chop the orange.  My food processor didn’t chop the orange fine enough for me so I ended up using my hand-held blender.  I really ground up the orange to a fine pulp until it was foamy and resembled jam. How much you grind up the orange is really a personal preference.  You may like to leave little fine pieces of orange or you can grind it to a foaming pulp like I did.  The skin of the orange can be quite strong so if you like a milder orange taste, grind it up well.

2. Scrape the orange into a liquid measuring cup; add enough orange juice to make 1 1/3 cups (325 ml).  Scrape into a bowl and whisk in eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until well mixed.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt; scrape orange mixture over the top. Add carrots, cranberries, chopped pecans and 1/2 cup (125 ml)  of the coconut; stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Spoon into prepared muffin cups,  approximately 3/4 full and evenly distributed (I personally have trouble with this part; too much in some, not enough in another — whatever; don’t fuss, it always works out in the end).

4. Bake in the centre of a 350 °F (180 °C) oven until tops are firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.  Let cool on the rack for 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and let cool on the rack. (If you decide to make these ahead; store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours or wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month.)

Adapted from Canadian Living Holiday Baking, Fall 2004

Happy Baking ~ I hope you stop by again real soon! 

Love,

This Sweet Wife

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Ryan James Thompson was born November 14, 1990 … 21 years ago. It feels

more like 10, maybe 12.  For me, time is like a dangling carrot, you chase it

frantically, but you just never quite reach it … there just never seems to be

quite enough time.   Despite our long days and short nights here on the farm,

the years seem to roll along at a breakneck pace and as much as we try to cram

in every last detail of work and play, the days just get away on us.  21 years

ago Ryan came into the world and thrust his dad and I on an

amazing adventure of raising an awesome and inspiring son, so today is a

special day. 

Since I bake a lot of birthday cakes you would think I would have had an

amazing cake in honour of Ryan’s 21st birthday but with other orders to fill,

cake just wasn’t on the menu.  So, with little time, I needed to come up with a

desert that would be special and delicious.  This ended up being a perfect

finish to a perfect day. 

Served warm with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a scoop of vanilla bean

ice cream, this is the kind of food I live for. The cranberries are slightly tart

and the orange offers a beautiful subtle, citrus flavour.  The apples are

scrumptiously sweet because of the carmelly brown sugar and heavenly

vanilla. In fact, Ryan would have been quite happy to have sat down with just

the bowl of apples and called it a day.  In fact, I had to keep slapping his hand

to get it out of the bowl.

Served warm, (not hot, because you want people to really enjoy the flavours)

these turnovers ooze fruity goodness that contrasts beautifully with the crisp,

flaky phyllo.  The balsamic drizzle enhances the sweet, tart and citrus flavours

and the vanilla bean ice cream adds a delicious creaminess and more vanilla

flavour.

All in all, this dessert is awesome and really does not take a great deal of

time.  Peel and chop your apples while the cranberries are simmering and you

can be serving these up in an hour. This recipe makes 16 turnovers.  You

could make double that amount if you were to reduce the size for a dessert

table.

Cranberry Orange Jam

1 pkg. fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup (250 ml) water

1 cup (250 ml) sugar

1 orange, peeled

Put all ingredients together in a pot to simmer, stirring frequently.

Simmer until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Remember that the

mixture will thicken once it cools so you don’t want to let it get too thick. Set

aside to cool.  Once it’s cool you’ll want to puree it just enough to grind up the

orange.  You can use a blender, food processor, or a hand-held blender, giving

it just a few bursts of power so that you still have the odd whole cranberry in

there. A hand-held blender is perfect for this because you don’t have to

transfer the mixture back and forth. Just pop the blender in the saucepan, give

it a couple bursts of power and wham, bam, you’re done.

Apple Filling

6-7 apples, MacIntosh, or whatever you like

1/2 (125 ml) fresh lemon

1/2 cup (125 ml) brown sugar

 1 tsp (25 ml) pure vanilla

Wash, peel and chop 6-7 apples.  I like to use MacIntosh because they have a

delicious sweetness.  I didn’t have quite enough so I used a couple of delicious

off of the tree in the front yard.  Use whatever you like best, you can even use

a variety, it’s up to you. Cut the apples up into bite-size pieces.  Squeeze 1/2 a

lemon into the apple pieces to prevent browning and add a splash of flavour.

Add 1/2 cup (125 ml) brown sugar and 1 tsp (25 ml) pure vanilla.  Stir and set aside.

Phyllo

Frozen phyllo dough

1 cup (250 ml) butter, melted

16 teaspoons coarse brown sugar

Use a package of store bought frozen phyllo pastry found in the freezer section

of most grocery stores.  Allow the phyllo to thaw in the package in the

refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for about 5 hours.  Do not open

the package until all of your filling is prepared and ready to use.  Unwrap the

phyllo and lay out flat.  Take one sheet of phyllo and place in down on a baking

sheet or cutting board.  Brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter using a

pastry brush.  Brush the phyllo gently making sure to get the edges.  The

phyllo does not have to be completely covered in butter just lightly make

broad strokes across the surface.

Repeat this 7 more times until you have a pile of phyllo sheets, 8 sheets high. 

With a sharp knife, cut your phyllo into 8 sections.

Add 1/4 cup of the chopped apple mixture followed by a 1/8 cup of cranberry

orange jam. (Don’t mind me … as you can clearly see, I couldn’t figure out

what I was doing.  I do have moments like that … even whole days actually).

Brush around the edge of the phyllo section with melted butter and fold over. 

Press to seal the edges as much as possible.

 Brush the top of the turnover with more melted butter and sprinkle with 1

teaspoon of coarse brown sugar. Cut 3 slits into the top for the steam to escape

while it bakes.

Place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in a 325 °oven for 20-25

minutes or until lightly brown and crispy.

Repeat the process, building another 8 sheets of phyllo, cut, fill and fold.

 If you want to get fancy, you could make triangles.

Serve with a balsamic reduction that you can get from most grocery stores or

make it yourself by simmering a 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar until it thickens. 

Add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and enjoy.  Heavenly!!!

Love,

This Sweet Wife (Ryan’s mom)

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