Happy Holidays! A few favorites…
Here are a few holiday favorites, French Onion Soup, pop-overs and desserts. Enjoy! Ahhh… the aroma of homemade Gingerbread, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it. I love, love, LOVE a deep, dark, delicious gingerbread, served with whipped cream, luscious lemon sauce, or simply sprinkled with confectioner sugar. One of our holiday favorites, this “old school” recipe dates back to Colonial times and has been updated to be healthier with whole wheat flour and spicier, loaded with lots of extra ginger. Just like Grandmother’s only better. A gingery gingerbread cake, whole-grain, less fat, less sugar and maybe just as magical…
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or (sub. white whole wheat)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ginger, ground
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, finely grated (optional)
- 1 cup blueberries (optional summer treat)
- Dash of allspice (optional)
- Dash of nutmeg (optional)
- Dash of cloves (optional)
- 1/2 cup butter, Smart Balance, or apple sauce.
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease/spray and flour 2 (9″) round cake pans or a 9″ X 12″ rectangular pan.
- Mix the dry ingredients in medium bowl; set aside.
- Beat butter, brown sugar and molasses in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Add eggs; beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with boiling water, beating on low-speed after each addition until smooth. If you’re using blueberries, add them now. Pour into prepared pan/s.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.
- Buy a little Christmas tree stencil or cut one out yourself. Sprinkle generously with confectioner’s sugar (I used a tiny fine mesh sieve). Serve with whipped cream and crystalized ginger, chopped. *Or enjoy some lemon sauce (below)…
* Optional Toppings:
- 2-3 cups whipped cream, flavor with vanilla and/or molasses
- 1 teaspoon of crystalized ginger, chopped (topping)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar for topping (optional)
- Or, fresh lemon sauce, below:
Ingredients (lemon sauce):
- 1 large lemon, juice of
- 1 lemon zest, grated
- 1 1/4 cups boiling water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup sugar, (or to taste)
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Boil water; add lemon zest, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix cornstarch, sugar and salt together.
- Add water slowly, whisking constantly.
- Return to saucepan (and whisk) over medium heat for about 10 minutes until thickened.
- Lower heat and simmer for about 5-6 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and stir in fresh lemon juice and melted butter.
- Best served warm, over gingerbread or even fish.
Peppermint Bark (William’s-Sonoma Famous Recipe)
What’s better than deep dark chocolate, drizzled in creamy white chocolate infused with peppermint oil, and topped with crushed candy canes? Nothing. Here’s the world-famous “William’s Sonoma” recipe for classic Peppermint Bark. A well-loved holiday tradition in my family and I’m sure your family will love it too. Guaranteed to make your taste buds sing!
- 12 ounces high quality chocolate chips or pieces
- 1 lb white chocolate chips pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 cup peppermint candy canes, broken in tiny pieces
- Preheat oven to 250. Line a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment, letting it hang over the sides a bit, so you can remove the bark easier. Spray foil. Pour the chocolate chips or chocolate pieces in an even layer on the foil. Place in oven for 5 minutes or so, until almost melted. Remove from the oven, and smooth with an offset spatula or butter knife. Let cool (set-up) for an hour or more or (if you’re in a hurry) place in the fridge until cold and firm, about 15-20 minutes.
- Melt the white chocolate chips, (or pieces) in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let bottom of bowl touch water), until it’s almost melted. If you are daring, you can use your microwave in 50 second increments. Stir with a spatula until completely melted, stir in the peppermint oil/or extract. Let that cool a little bit so that it doesn’t melt the dark chocolate layer when you pour it on top. Pour the white chocolate over the dark layer, and working quickly, spread to cover. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes pressing it in just a bit). This really is a delicious way to use left-over candy canes.
- Wait (or chill) until both layers are firm. Lift foil out of pan and break into pieces. I like to use a decorative tin for gift-giving or to store it but in won’t it last that long, trust me.
French Onion Soup
I just made the most delicious French onion soup. It was very easy, so simple that I could be tempted to make a pot every week. There’s just everything to love about this scrumptious classic soup. I’m certain that it’s the divine combination of sweet caramelized onions, the rich aromatic broth, and the Swiss cheese. Oh, let’s talk about the cheese. Gruyère is the most delicious mild and smooth cheese, (a bit pricy, but well worth every penny!) Served-up all melted in the middle with crunchy bits around the bowl…
You’ll love this soup!
From Wikipedia; “Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in France in the 18century,made from beef broth, and caramelized onions. It is often finished by being placed under a broiler in a ramekin traditionally with croutons and gruyère melted on top. The crouton on top is reminiscent of ancient soups (see History of Soup).”
- 10 medium yellow onions (about 4 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
- 3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken or beef broth.
- 3/4 cup dry red wine cognac or sherry
For Cheese Toast (croutons)
- 4-6 slices toasted GF, multi-grain or French bread
- 4-6 ounces thickly sliced Swiss cheese or Gruyère
- In a large soup pot, toss together onions, oil, butter, sugar, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook on medium to low heat, uncovered; stirring every 30 minutes or so, until onions are golden brown and caramelized, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Deglaze the pan with the booze, then stir in broth and 4-5 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until liquid has darkened, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- To make the cheese toast: Heat broiler. Place sliced bread on a baking sheet; top with cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. We sometimes skip this step and place the toasted cheese topped bread on top of the soup filled bowl and broil (see photos). Be sure to use oven-proof bowls.
- Or, ladle into bowls; topping each with two slices of pre-broiled cheese toast.
Do you every have a craving for popovers? Well, I do. In fact, just the other day I was dreaming about the popovers from Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor. Or even the huge delicious popovers that Mom used to make. I really do love everything about popovers, from the crunchy outside to the chewy middle. For those of you new to this old classic. A popover is a hollow roll best served warm, slathered with butter and jam served hot from the oven…. ahh yes, the perfect popover!
*Another variation of the popover is called Yorkshire pudding… In American Food(1974), author Evan Jones writes: “Settlers from Maine who founded Portland, OregonAmericanized the pudding from Yorkshire by cooking the batter in custard cups lubricated with drippings from the roasting beef (or sometimes pork); another modification was the use of garlic, and frequently, herbs. The result is called Portland popover pudding: individual balloons of crusty meat-flavored pastry.”
Make your own Perfect Popovers….
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a popover (or muffin) tin. Place oven rack in the lower third of the oven.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk (or use a mixer) eggs, milk, and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Add to flour mixture, and whisk until combined.
- Fill the popover cups two-thirds to three-quarters full.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Resist the urge to open the oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until well browned and crusty, about 20 minutes. Remove popovers from the oven, and puncture the sides to let steam escape so they don’t collapse. Best served warm.