What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies! For years I was on a quest to bake soft, chewy cookies. No matter what I did, it seemed as soon as the cookies cooled, they turned crunchy rather than chewy. Don’t get me wrong, they still disappeared in my house because…well, kids seem to love homemade cookies no matter how they turn out. Then, the other day I was rifling through a stack of recipes scribbled on random slips of paper tucked away in a ziplock bag. I came across the familiar handwriting of my beloved Grandma Frieda. I remembered visiting her in the summertime when she’d bring out the Game of Cootie for us to play. Afterwards, she serve a plate of sugary molasses cookies with a glass of milk. Those are good memories, that’s for sure.
YOUR GRANDMA’S MOLASSES COOKIES
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
1 teaspoon cloves, ground
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar plus 1/2 cup
1/2 cup molasses
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with a silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and 2 cups sugar until combined. Add in the molasses and eggs and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the ingredients of the stand mixer and mix until all is combined. Fill a small bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form teaspoon-size dough into balls then gently roll them in the granulated sugar. Place onto baking sheet, two inches apart. Repeat until all the cookie dough has been used. Bake only 10 minutes for soft and chewy results. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Xmas Pear Pupus! A popular Polynesian appetizer, served hot or cold, comes from the Hawaiian word “pūpū”. It can be anything from a buffet table of skewered meat, tempura veggies, raw fish, and other finger foods to simple cold trays of tropical fruits, deviled eggs, edamame, and smoked salmon. Remember to make everything bite-size when planning an informal gathering. Because pear trees live such a long time, their fruit is very symbolic during the holiday season. The pear often represents immortality, wisdom, and health; a treat fit for royalty. By creating a pear pupu platter, you’re giving your guests a gift of intangibles they may treasure for years to come. Get the conversation started. Serve freshly sliced ripe pears and cinnamon dusted pear chips with a wheel of warm Brie. How festive!
XMAS PEAR PUPUS
2 pears, thinly sliced for baking
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 wheel Brie cheese, warmed
2 tablespoons cranberry relish
2 tablespoons sugared pecans
2 pears, cut into wedges for eating
Cinnamon Dusted Pear Chips must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 225°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Pat dry sliced pears. Place them on the parchment paper in a single layer. Dust with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 3 hours until dried and crisp. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
For Pear Pupus, warm a wheel of Brie cheese in a 350°oven for 5-10 minutes to soften. Spread cranberry relish over top. Sprinkle with sugared pecans and chopped pears. Serve with pear wedges and cinnamon dusted pear chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Walnut Brown Sugar Butter! Ahh, sweet butter. I don’t know if it’s the winter weather or the upcoming holidays that get me in the mood for bakery ideas. Who doesn’t appreciate aromatic cinnamon, sweet nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice? The smell of bread baking in the oven triggers all kinds of emotions. It can lift our mood and impact our behavior. Honestly, it would have been pretty easy to feature today’s compound butter all by itself. But tell me, isn’t it better to imagine slathering it all over those freshly-baked cinnamon rolls?
WALNUT BROWN SUGAR BUTTER
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto plastic wrap. Roll layer of plastic wrap over butter to form a log. Roll tight and place in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Serve over toast, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, or muffins.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.
OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS
1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*
12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles
5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar
14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes
Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Candied Orange Peel! Anything with the word “candy” grabs my attention this time of year. And the fact that I’m a fan of oranges makes it that much better. Wait a minute, you think, are you talking about actually eating the peel of the oranges? I am. Of course there are a few secrets to making them delectable. We all know, from childhood, that orange peelings can be a trifle bitter. First of all, take a clean kitchen scrubbie and run it over the outer skin. This can eliminate the shiny look that makes it attractive in the produce aisle. Some places put a thin coat of wax on produce to make fruit enticing to the consumer. Secondly, remove as much of the white pith on the inside of the peel. Otherwise the orange peel might taste bitter, even with copious amounts of sugar. That being said, shall we begin?
CANDIED ORANGE PEEL
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Sugar, for rolling
Remove the skin from the oranges. You can do this by scoring the skin into 4 vertical portions. Cut each section into strips. Set aside. Reserve the oranges for another use. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to a simmer. Add orange peel strips. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain well. Allow peels to cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle sugar into a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll an orange peel strip in the sugar. Transfer candied orange peel to a wire rack to dry. Repeat until all are coated. Store in an airtight container.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Iced Peach Spritzers! Ripe peaches are succulent and running-down-your-chin juicy. When you have an abundance of them, think peach cocktails. By adding a sparkling mixer, such as seltzer water or Prosecco, you’ll feel as though every meal is as special as dining out. The blend of flavors and textures is far from ho-hum. Both versions are suitable for mixed company. Go completely non-alcoholic or throw together a grown-up concoction made with a nice white wine and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.
ICED PEACH SPRITZERS
4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 8 wedges each
1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle white wine, chilled
12 ounces seltzer water
Layer peach wedges on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. To serve, place 3-4 frozen peach wedges into a stemmed glass. Add 3 ounces of white wine. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of seltzer water over top. Stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Nutmeg Cinnamon Popovers! Don’t hate me. These bakery-style popovers come with a warning label: Highly Addictive! Perhaps I might include a disclaimer. If you never suffer with sweet tooth cravings or for some unknown reason dislike cinnamon, no worries. For the rest of us, all I can say is “Try to resist licking your fingers!”.
NUTMEG CINNAMON POPOVERS
6 large eggs
2 cups light cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400°. Move the oven rack one setting below the middle row. Grease a 12-count bouchon pan. In a food processor, combine eggs, light cream, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract, sea salt, sugar, and flour. Blend until no lumps remain and batter is light yellow and frothy, approximately one minute. Fill each bouchon cup 2/3 full. Do not overfill. (Refrigerate leftover batter until ready to make the next batch. At that time, use a whisk to vigorously stir the batter.) Place bouchon pan in the oven; bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven door during baking or the popovers will deflate. When golden brown, remove from the oven. After 2 minutes in the pan, transfer popovers to a wire rack. Do not allow them to cool in the pan or they may turn soggy. Meanwhile place melted butter in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well. Take a popover and brush it with melted butter to coat. Place the popover in the sugar mixture and roll to coat. Repeat with entire batch of popovers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Foolproof Strawberry Galette! It’s more than the sweet strawberries that make this an appealing dessert. In my opinion, the delicious buttery cream cheese crust is as good as it gets. First of all, to keep your galette foolproof, here are a few tips. Make sure the dough is not too moist or it will turn chewy instead of crisp. Pay attention to the strawberries. If they appear too juicy, add more cornstarch to help the filling thicken. And don’t overfill the galette. Remember, there is no pie plate to contain the abundance. It’s better to make two smaller galettes than a big sloppy one. And lastly, be sure to use parchment paper on the baking sheet or you may find yourself replacing bakeware from the runoff. All that being said, let’s roll.
FOOLPROOF STRAWBERRY GALETTE
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, cubed
1/2 cup butter, cold and cubed
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and cut up
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sanding sugar
Pulse flour, sea salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a food processor. Add Neufchâtel cheese and butter. Pulse until crumbly. Add 3-4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse just until dough forms a ball. Remove onto a lightly floured board. Gently knead to tighten dough. Pat into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour. Unwrap dough and roll to 1/8 inch thickness between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Create a 12″ diameter circle. Transfer dough to a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss strawberries with cornstarch, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar. Leaving an inch border, arrange strawberries atop dough. Fold border up and over strawberries to create a rim. Brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake galette 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden. Cool on a wire rack.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Watermelon Waffle Wedges! Bring back childhood memories of lazy summer days leaning against the back porch chomping on a mouthwatering slice of watermelon. As the juice runs down your chin, a swipe of the shirt sleeve doubles as a napkin. Your mischievous brother takes aim at your bare feet, shooting tiny black seeds as if his mouth is a pea shooter. You squeal with delight and sometimes run away. Those were the days. Now we think about nutrition. That’s okay. Watermelon, with its juicy red flesh, is high in lycopene which makes it heart-healthy. Chomp away.
WATERMELON WAFFLE WEDGES
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 slices watermelon, cut in wedges
Maple syrup, to taste
Butter, to taste
Strawberries, cherries, almonds, powdered sugar, mint sprig for Garnish
Preheat waffle iron. Place eggs in a bowl and beat on medium-high using a hand mixer. Eggs will get fluffy. Slowly add flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and vanilla extract. Beat just until smooth. Brush waffle iron with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray. Pour mix into waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve warm with watermelon wedges, strawberries, cherries, almond slices. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with fresh mint.