I decided not to fight the trend and picked my top 10 favorites. Also, I mistakenly thought this would be a quick post to finish up the year with but it turned out to be much more difficult than I thought to narrow them down to just ten. My sister-in-law (the healthy registered dietician one) recently pointed out that I lean toward desserts, which I have to admit is very true. They are just all around better, better tasting, better photos and a lot more fun to do so of course this list is also a little heavy on the dessert side (I did sort of consider which posts got the most hits but basically I reserved the right to make the final decisions.) In my quest for self-improvement, I promise to try to include more healthy items in the future (due to repeatedly failing at this in the past, I can’t actually promise – only promise to try). Drum roll . . . in no particular order, this years winners:
The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.
I have never made Stollen, but having spent several years living in Germany I have had some good ones and was quite happy to give it a try. I pretty much followed the recipe provided by Penny with a few minor changes. I opted to make my own citrus peel (lime and orange), substituted dried cherries and Kirsch for the raisins and rum (just not a raisin fan) and added some extra cinnamon to the batter and a layer of cinnamon and sugar while rolling to make it a little sweeter.
I followed the recipe from Harvest to Table for the Citrus Peel. First peeling the fruit and boiling several times, then boiling with the sugar/water. It was a little more candied than I recall them usually being, pretty crunchy, but it tasted good and actually gave a little texture to the stollen.
Step 2 – the Stollen
As I mentioned, I followed the recipe provided with the following exceptions:
Following the recipe I mixed the dough, using the dried cherries/Kirsch instead of the rum and raisins, using lime and orange for the zest (that’s what I had on hand) and using an extra teaspoon of cinnamon. I didn’t add the candied citrus in deciding to put it in just before rolling to make more of a ribbon effect (although it really wasn’t that obvious I could have just mixed it in.)
After kneading, it was set off to rest overnight.
I then rolled out the dough. It probably should have been a little more squared off but it turned out fine with a little squeezing during the circle shaping. Sprinkled it with the chopped candied citrus peel
and about 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
Next I rolled the dough.
I have to admit because of the extra cinnamon it was quite brownish and a little pointed due to the more rounded (rather than rectangular) shape the dough was in and daughter and I had a small giggle fit after we determined that the rolled up dough looked pretty much like one of those giant alien slugs from the movies. Fortunately it’s looks improved after forming it into the circle. I should have taken the suggestion to use a bowl for the center as it would have made it easier.
Then the cuts to make it wreathlike – again daughter had comments on a few of the misshapen “leaves” but after a little rising they were all pretty good looking!
Finally, baked, then the butter and powdered sugar sprinkling, add some cherries in the middle and it was done!
Here’s another recipe that is great for holiday gift giving. I am really not that fond of biscotti, maybe because I’m not a dunker or maybe because I prefer everything sweet, but these are a big hit with the rest of the family and those I have given them to as gifts.
This one takes a little time but is worth it.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp lime zest
3 tbsp honey
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped sliced chopped almonds
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
Mix sugar and eggs using the whisk attachment until they are a light lemon color. Add the lime zest, honey and almond extract.
Mix in the dry ingredients just until combined then add the dried cherries and almonds.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Split the dough into two equal parts and place on an oiled cookie sheets, shaping the dough into roughly a 13 x 2 inch log. Bake, rotating the pans once half way through, until golden and just beginning to crack, about 35 minutes.
Cool for 10 minutes and lower the oven to 325 degrees.
Slice the biscotti on the diagonal in about 1/2 slices.
Place back on the cookie sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes until crisp and lightly browned, turning each cookie over half way through the baking. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container and they will last at least a month. If you like, they can be dipped in melted chocolate.
Here’s another really easy one, great to do with the kids!
1/3 cup unpopped popcorn
1 12 oz pkg white chips
1-2 Tbs vegetable oil (optional)
2 crushed candy canes, nuts, M&M’s, etc (optional)
Set out a large cookie sheet sprayed with vegetable spray.
Pop the corn into a large bowl.
Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, start with 30 seconds, then stir and do 15 more seconds and another 15 if needed. Even when melted, the white will sometimes keep its shape so make sure to stir to check, otherwise you might burn it. If the chocolate seems to thick to pour, add 1-3 Tbs of vegetable oil until the consistency is pourable.
If you are adding anything like nuts or candies, add to the popcorn in the bowl. Pour the white chocolate over the popcorn, mixing as you pour. A large fork works better than a spoon so you don’t pick up so much of the chocolate and you can separate the popcorn.
Mix quickly, then spread in an even layer on the cookie sheet as it will harden quickly.
Once the chocolate has hardened, break it up and put in a holiday container for gifts or in a serving bowl for snacking. It will get soggy so keep it sealed up until you are ready to use it. Sealed it will keep very well for several weeks.
Here’s a great, simple recipe for pesto from David Rocco. Once you’ve made the recipe, place it in festive jars or plastic tubs for gifts (keeping a few for yourself of course). In case you haven’t noticed, I like David Rocco and if you haven’t had the chance to watch his show on the Cooking Channel you really should. It is not the typical cooking show. He travels around Italy and cooks with lots of different people in their kitchens and restaurants as well as his apartment. You get to see a lot of scenery and interesting people with some Italian history, not just a studio kitchen. His recipes are simple and delicious and generally quite traditional.
The pesto will last well in the fridge, or can be frozen. Adding equal measures of the pesto to heavy cream (1 cup to 1 cup for a pound of pasta) makes a wonderful quick pasta sauce. Just warm the cream and pesto in a saucepan while you cook the pasta, then serve with extra cheese. You can also add some leftover chicken, chicken strips or shrimp.