Friday, November 29, 2013

White Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Day 52

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to try a new cookie recipe. For me, it’s the holiday when I begin to think about and to look forward to making some Christmas goodies too. While I focus primarily on main dishes and sides for Thanksgiving, I tend to lean more toward sweets throughout the month of December. 

Thus, today’s cookie recipe, and I think you’ll love it!
Photo by Maggie Kapustin

Since my Christmas cookie and bread baking officially begins this weekend, I ventured to try something new. Ginger cookies are usually an old stand-by for fall, which made me want to start with a basic ginger cookie base. Finding the perfect ginger cookie recipe is a chore, but I happened upon one by Ina Garten and I’m hooked. This time, to her recipe, I decided to add white chocolate. At first, the combination sounded odd, but the results were phenomenal. 

You’ll choose to add these cookies to your holiday baking collection, with or without the white chocolate chips, I’m sure. It’s important to note that one additional  modification I tried for today’s batch was not to dip the cookie dough in sugar before baking. You choose for your batch! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

White Chocolate Ginger Cookies

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons ground cloves 

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

¼ cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 extra-large egg, at room temperature

1 ¼ cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces) 
1 cup mini- white chocolate chips or chunks

Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. 

Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and white chocolate chips, and mix until combined.

Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1¾-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. 

*Optional: Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. 

Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a minute or two, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

(Modification of orginial recipe by Ina Garten, link )

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tourtière de Québec (French Canadian Meat Pie)

Day 51

The idea of dinner pies has always been comforting—Shepherd’s Pie, quiche, Ricotta Pie, and now a Canadian Tourtière. This recipe is packed with flavor, and will most likely become a hearty favorite on your winter dinner rotations. 

Although not pictured, I sometimes make the dish more company-ready or “presentation pretty” by making a Parmesan sauce to drizzle on each slice. To make this, simply heat 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 clove minced garlic,
Copyright, Doug Kapustin  Photography, 2013
and ½ stick of butter on medium low until hot. Then, add a block of cream cheese, cubed. Stir constantly until cream cheese is melted. Add ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until fully incorporated. Serve immediately. 

Tourtière de Québec (French Canadian Meat Pie)

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
¾ cup chopped onion
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, sliced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup beef broth
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ tsp. dried, crushed rosemary
½ tsp. sage
½ tsp. dried thyme
5 cups cooked, diced potatoes or shredded hashbrowns, browned in olive oil 
16 oz. Muenster cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic pepper seasoning
4 pie crusts for 2 pies

Brown ground beef and ground pork in a large pot or stove-top Dutch oven.  Remove from pan and drain in colander or on paper towels. In same pot, sauté onion, celery, and carrots until tender. Add garlic, beef broth, pork and beef, cooked potatoes, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. 

Combine and heat together for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. 

Place bottom pie crusts in two 9-inch pie pans and fill each with half of the meat mixture. Cover with top crust. Cut slits in tops of both pies and seal edges by pinching or by using a fork to press the two crusts together. Brush with one beaten egg OR butter. Sprinkle top of crusts with garlic pepper seasoning.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blackberry Wine Cake

Day 50 

The first professional job of my teaching career was a Godsend. I worked in a small private school with a kind, generous, and helpful group of people who taught me so much that I still use on a daily basis, 16 years later. One lady with whom I worked was quite a bit older when we were colleagues, but we had a very special past connection because she had also been my first and fifth grade teacher. As a teacher, Mrs. Cooper was of that older, no-nonsense generation of instruction that was strict and demanding. As students, we respected her and worked hard to meet her academic demands.
Copyright 2013, Doug Kapustin Photography
She was the best kind of teacher, truth be told. This remarkable lady was also a gentle spirit who truly cared about her students. Mrs. Cooper was the sort of teacher and colleague that made everyone more confident and ready to face any challenge. Just knowing her made all of us—co-workers and students alike— feel empowered. Although she has passed on now, I have many fond memories of her.

Once, for a potluck meal at work years ago, Mrs. Cooper made a blackberry wine cake that was sinfully rich and delicious. She shared the recipe with anyone who wanted it, and I made it right away. Over the years, the recipe somehow made it to the back of my recipe collection, and I had almost forgotten about it.  What a mistake that was!

I received a letter from my aunt Sarah recently, who shared the recipe again with me, after she had tried it for her weekly dessert. So many memories came rushing back when I saw Ms. Cooper’s potluck contribution, and I simply had to make it again.  It was tremendous; even better than I remembered, I’m happy to report. The fruity, tangy flavor of fermented blackberries and vanilla are pleasantly overwhelming to the senses. They present an explosion of flavor. 

I hope you’ll try this one. The fact that it uses a cake mix and jello powder makes it easier to make for a last minute function or family dessert. If you tend to prefer from-scratch cakes, I’d venture to say that you would be happy to take a preference detour for this one.  I recommend some vanilla ice cream and fresh sugared blackberries to make a berry shortcake, but even plain, it’s delicious. You can use any blackberry wine that you like, but Manischewitz is a really good choice for this one. 

Here’s to you, Ms. Cooper, for sharing this cake with your friends and colleagues all those years ago, and for being a truly admirable lady. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we truly miss you. 

And, what better time to dedicate a recipe than on my 50th entry! Bon appétit! 

Blackberry Wine Cake

1 box Duncan Hines white cake mix
1 box blackberry flavored jello
4 eggs, beaten
¾ cup canola oil 
1 cup blackberry wine (Manischewitz works nicely)
1 tsp. vanilla

For glaze: 
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup blackberry wine
2 tsp. melted butter
1-3 tsp. milk, as needed 

In a mixer, blend the eggs, oil, and wine. Add jello, vanilla, and cake mix. Mix well. Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until knife in center comes out clean. 

Cool on wire rack. 

To make glaze, mix butter, wine, and sugar until glaze forms. Add milk one teaspoon at a time, and ONLY if you need it to make the glaze thinner. The glaze should be able to pour but should be thick. You might not need any milk at all.