Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year




We had a sweet treat after dinner tonight and wished a happy birthday to the upcoming year.
Happy New Year to all of you! En gueta Rutsch and may 2011 be filled with joy and happiness.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Spaetzle for dinner



On the 24th, my husband asked me to make spaetzle (no surprise here) and liver (indeed a surprise). Growing up in Switzerland, spaetzle is a staple and I've made them many times in the past. There is no real difficulty in making them, but I find the heat of the boiling water and the use of the real German Spaetzle press thingy tedious and annoying every time.

So I started off again with my very basic recipe that I learned when I was 12, right out of my Tiptopf cookbook. I also looked at Claire Robinson's cookbook that has a ricotta thyme version - so I added thyme to my dough and used milk instead of water. I started with this infamous spaetzle press and once again cried out in frustration, so I reverted back to the old fashioned way of putting the dough on a cutting board and 'slicing' pieces into the boiling water, cooking them until they float to the top. I also increased the 'health rating' by then tossing them in a little butter and frying them in the pan to get the crispyness that my kids love. They turned out great.


Compared to spaetzle, liver is not a request I get every day. I like liver, it's economical and I find the taste interesting - in moderation. Again, I reverted back to my Tiptopf cookbook and fried the liver up in some oil, removed the meat, added onions until they softened, some seasoning, a bit of broth and fresh lemon juice and a splash of heavy cream. Voila, a very germanic Christmas Eve meal that was eaten with much appreciation. Sometimes going back to basics is all it takes.



My basic spaetzle recipe

200g of flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 dl Milk or water


Boil a very large pot of salted water
Add salt to flour in large bowl
Mix liquid with eggs. Add mixed liquid to flour stirring it from the middle.
Mix dough well until it's smooth, bubbles and comes off your spoon in torn strips.

Keep dough in covered bowl at room temperature for about 30 minutes

Press through a colander into boiling water, or cut strips off of cutting board directly into water. Once they float to the top, scoop them out of the water. Fry them in butter if you wish, or enjoy them plain with meat sauce.


You can also add herbs to the dough. For green spaetzle you may add pureed spinach. You can serve them with different meats, goulash types lend themselves well, or serve speatzle (fried or not) on their own with a strong cheese and applesauce.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas



Wishing everyone out there a Merry Christmas. While days are still short and afternoon sledging is cut short, we enjoy the brightly lit houses, crisp snow, visible sunsets, fires and smell of decorated pine trees.



Along with present chaos, family visits and festive food I will be enjoying the beautiful side of winter. We get a lot of it here, but I still enjoy it in December and January. Looking forward to my kids bright eyes tomorrow when they see the bounty left by Santa.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas is almost here



Christmas is five days away and I am very calm. Work has slowed down a little and everything is pretty much ready here for the big day. All gifts are bought, I'm done with baking, we put up the outdoor lights a week or so ago and now I am just waiting for a couple of days off between Christmas and New Year.







I am just posting a couple of pictures to show that we've decorated the house a little more, got our tree trimmed and most of the gift wrapping done. No need for trips to the mall, nothing else to mail. Just light that last advent candle, go to work another five days, pick up my mom and brace ourselves for two spoiled, sugar enhanced toddlers next Saturday. Maybe I should take up the egg nog?



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Last batch? - Cranberry Coins



Ok, so my initial thought of at least six batches of cookies, plus a batch of brownies is probably not going to happen. This is batch four and I am cookied out...can't stand another cookie. I am giving them away left right and centre and I think my co-workers are quite fond of me these days. My other challenge is the still missing hand mixer. I have not gotten around to replace the one that broke with the first batch of cookies- these cranberry delights are done with just a wooden spoon.

I might have had enough cookies to eat, but these are my favourite! I love the shortbread with the sweet cranberry. Easy to make, easy to ship and last a very long time.

Again, I found these along with 100 other recipes in the holiday cookies magazine by Martha Stewart.

Cranberry Coins
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups of sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
2 cups of flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped dried cranberries


1. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla with wooden spoon until smooth. Add flour and salt, stir until combined. Stir in dried cranberries. Divide dough into quarters.

2. On parchment, shape each portion into a log about 1.5 inches thick. Wrap logs tightly in parchment or plastic. Chill 30 minutes or up to one day.

3. Preheat oven to 325 F. With a sharp knife, slice dough into 1/4 inch rounds. Rotate log to avoid flattening. Place rounds on parchment lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

4. Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 4 dozen

Friday, December 10, 2010

Batch three - Krefli



These are cookies originating in the Leventina valley in Switzerland. I like them for several reasons: first being nostalgia. I've been making these for thirty years now, not every year, but on a regular basis.

My second reason for liking this recipe - the simple ingredients. These cookies were made in the alps, they are based on five ingredients that are easy to get and you most likely have in your pantry. No fancy vanilla that's imported or gourmet chocolate - just simple things they probably produced themselves back in the day. It's really back to basics. You don't need a blender/mixer either, which was great as mine broke making my other cookie dough!

My third reason for liking these is the taste. People look at them and think they are shortbread cookies, then they taste them and are surprised by the honey flavour...not crumbly like a shortbread, smoother in texture. You can bake them a little longer and they get that wonderful combination of firmness at the bottom and softness on top. These are great stale as well.

Krefli

1 kg sugar
1/2 kg of honey
1/2 liter of milk
250 of butter
2.3 kg of flour


Mix all of the ingredients except the flour in a pot and melt ingredients at medium temperature ( do not boil). Let it cool and add flour.

Roll out dough, cut cookies and bake at 200 C (ca. 400 F) for 8 - 10 minutes.

I make half the recipe - it gives you PLENTY of cookies.
I also melt the ingredients and add the flower the next day - it's less sticky to combine.
Use a lot of flour when rolling out the dough, it can get very sticky and make it hard to handle. You can also cool it in the fridge making it easier to cut. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second batch




Chocolate Caramel Pecan Clusters


Now these are technically not cookies. I've seen different versions of these candies in magazines, cookbooks and at parties. It is super easy and people love them. I've also seen them with pecans and pretzels combined!

Pecans
Caramel
Dark Chocolate


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Place 2 pecans vertically next to each other on parchment lined baking sheet.

3. Place caramel on top of pecans. Bake clusters for about 5 minutes.

4. Take out baking sheet. Add one piece of chocolate to each cluster, press down gently into soft caramel.

5. Put back in oven for another 2 minutes. Take out once chocolate is starting to melt.

6. Use a spoon to gently press down the chocolate over caramel without completely covering it.

7. If you wish add crushed pecans on soft chocolate. Let cool completely. Can be stored in airtight container for 2-3 days.

First batch



Slice and Bake Bull's Eye and Spiral Cookies

I wanted to make these colourful cookies because M really liked the pictures of them. I saw them in the Martha Stewart holiday cookies magazine and they jumped out at me.

If you are pressed for time, these are not for you. They require several steps of cooling and you can see by the shape of mine that I was not patient enough in the last stage and skipped the paper-towel roll refrigeration, therefore mine are not perfect circles. Oh well, they still taste good and are nonetheless fun to look at. Another word of caution. This recipe takes five cups of flower - so much that my old hand-mixer gave up and died a miserable death of smoke and sparks!



1.5 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups of sugar
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg white for brushing
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
5 cups of flour
plus cocoa for colouring and other gel-paste food colouring


1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add whole eggs and salt, mix well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add flour a little at a time, mixing just until incorporated.

2. Divide dough into equal portions (1 for each colour). Mix well with whatever colours you choose. Wrap each portion in plastic and press flat to form into rectangles. Chill for 1 hour or up to 1 day.

3. Dust piece of parchment with flour. Roll out each piece of dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness to make the spiral; use thicker layers for bull's eyes. Trim dough edges to make them even.

4. Roll a log for centre of bull's eye. Refrigerate. Place log on edge of rolled dough brushed with egg white. Roll log inside sheet of dough, cut where it joins. Pinch and press gently to seal. Chill and repeat if you want more layers.

5. To make spirals, measure and trim 2 or more colours of dough the same size. Brush with egg white, stack layers and roll dough starting at short end.

6. Roll each log in parchment paper, set in cardboard paper towel tube sliced open lengthwise. Chill logs, seam side down, 90 minutes or up to one day.

7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut 1/4 inch slices with very sharp knife or dental floss.

8. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake, rotating halfway through until firm but not browned, 12 -15 minutes. Cool completely. Can be stored up to 3 days in sealed container.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent images



This time of the year seems to be crazy busy, but at the same time advent time is so cozy. We decorate, bake, light candles and fires and get to enjoy the weeks working up to Christmas.
I went out and bought some amaryllis this year. I was hoping for white, but they were not labeled very well, so I think I got a red and a white. I'll have to wait and see.



This is the first year we are doing an advent calendar with the kids. They are sharing this one, which can be challenging at times if M insists that she wants both pieces of chocolate. It is cute though to see her waking up in the morning, wanting to open another door.



I got some decorations down and we created an advent candle decoration piece out of a serving dish. I used to have the traditional wreath with the four pillar candles, but that was too risky in my opinion with little D being drawn to the flames. this way it's out of reach and we still get to light the candle in the evening. Lighting number two tomorrow!



Getting our Christmas cards out this year seemed to be more of a challenge. It took us forever to get a picture of the four of us, then ordered them and then we never had time to write them and put stamps on them. Finally we finished last night and they were all dropped in the mailbox this morning.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. We are waiting for some more snow and I'll be posting pictures of our first two batches of christmas cookies. Four more to go, a tree to get and trim, outdoor lights to hang and gifts to wrap. I think I would not mind a couple of elves this time of the year!