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RECIPE: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies

Chocolate Chip Ginger Cookies

Swedish Pearl Sugar

Mini Chocolate Chips

[1] Gingerbread cookies with two hits of chocolate: cocoa powder and chocolate chips. [2] Swedish pearl sugar, not to be confused with Belgian pearl sugar, which is much larger. [3] Don’t forget the mini chips! (Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.)

 

How can you improve gingerbread?

Add chocolate chips, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder. Swedish pearl sugar adds a festive touch.

The cookies are soft and chewy, and are a delight served warm from the oven. They’ll keep for several days in an airtight container.

Prep time is 10 to 15 minutes, bake time is 10 to 12 minutes.

RECIPE: CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP GINGERBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients For 30-32 Cookies

  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose baking cocoa, or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 cup semisweet mini mini chips
  • 5 tablespoons Swedish pearl sugar*
  •  
    ________________
    *The difference between Swedish pearl sugar and Belgian pearl sugar (they’re not interchangeable) and all types of sugar.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease the sheets lightly.

    2. COMBINE the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and cocoa. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and creamy. Add the molasses and beat until combined.

    3. BEAT in the dry ingredients, then stir in the chips.

    4. SCOOP the dough a tablespoon at a time (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here). Roll the top portion of each dough ball in the pearl sugar.

    5. PLACE the unbaked cookies 1-1/2″ apart, sugar side up, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookie surface begins to crack.

    6. REMOVE from the oven, cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Struffoli, An Italian Christmas Tradition

    Struffoli Candied Fruit

    Struffoli Wreath

    Struffoli Cornucopia

    Frying Stuffoli

    Croque Em Bouche

    1000 Italian Recipes Book

    [1] A mound of struffoli, the traditional shape, from Linda’s Italian Table. It can be cut into slices, or for a party, put on the buffet so everyone can pick off what they like. [2] A loose wreath style from Il Cuori In Pentola. [3] A cornucopia shape, called Cornucopia di Sfoglia in Italian. It’s decorated with chocolate foil coins, by Oggi Cucino Cosi. [4] Frying the dough at My Spice Sage. If you can fry, you can make struffoli. [5] Croque em bouche, a special occasion treat in France, is often served instead of wedding cake. These smaller versions are decorated for the holidays by François Payard Bakery in New York City. [6] The recipes in this book include one for struffoli, reprinted below. You can see the recipes for any of these photos by clicking their links.

     

    How about a holiday baking project for family and friends?

    If you don’t have your own holiday baking tradition like Christmas cookies, gingerbread people or spritz cookies, how about struffoli?

    Struffoli (STROO-fo-lee) are puffy balls of eggy fried dough coated in honey. They are a traditional Christmas sweet in Naples and other parts of central and southern Italy.

    The fried dough is stacked into a cone-shape centerpiece or assembled into a wreath design. More ambitious cooks have the puffs spilling out a pastry horn of plenty. We like to present it with after-dinner coffee.

    It’s actually quite easy: If you can fry, you can make struffoli.

    Struffoli look like a smaller, flat croquembouche. Both have a crunchy outside and soft inside.

  • Croque Em Bouche is made from profiteroles—cream puffs—that are baked, filled and stacked into the shape of a large cone. The puffs are held together by caramelized (spun) sugar and finished with drizzled caramel. It is served for weddings and other celebrations.
  • Struffoli is made from deep-fried dough the size of marbles. There is no filling, but the balls are rolled in honey to stick together. They can be shaped into a cone or a wreath.
  • Stuffoli can be set on a cone base made from nougatine, a mixture of caramelized sugar and sliced almonds.
  • Croque em bouche is also traditionally served during baptisms and other special occasions. The name means “[it] cracks in the mouth,” which is what the caramelized sugar does!
  •  
    DECORATING THE STRUFFOLI

    While struffoli can be served plain, you can express your creativity with decorations.

  • The Italian preference is for pastel sprinkle mixes. We suggest red, green and white sugar holiday confetti or sprinkles.
  • For an old-fashioned approach: candied red and green cherries or other candied fruits.
  • You may want to avoid Jordan almonds or candied nuts, another traditional decoration, if any guest may be allergic.
  • Like to roll fondant? Drape a red “ribbon” around the pastry and top with a “bow.” You can use real ribbon if you prefer.
  • Want elegance? Get gold and silver edible dragées and pearls.
  • Our favorite: strips of candied orange peel or an assortment of all the citrus peels you can collect. Dipping the peels in chocolate is our own personal touch. Here’s a recipe.
  •  
    RECIPE: STRUFFOLI (NEAPOLITAN HONEY BALLS)

    This recipe, from 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone, can easily be doubled. It is © copyright Michele Scicolone.

    If you like the idea but not the labor, call the nearest Italian bakery and order one.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for kneading the dough
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey (about 6 ounces)
  •  
    TIP: Use quality honey instead of the generic supermarket variety for a more elegant flavor.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cup of flour and the salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and lemon zest and stir until well blended.

    2. TURN OUT the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes). Add a bit more flour if the dough seems sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with an overturned bowl. Let the dough rest 30 minutes.

    3. CUT the dough into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Roll one slice between your palms into a 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut the rope into 1/2-inch nuggets. If the dough feels sticky, use a teeny bit of flour to dust the board or your hands. (Excess flour will cause the oil to foam up when you fry the struffoli.)

    4. LINE a tray with paper towels. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a wide heavy saucepan and heat to 370°F, or until a small bit of the dough dropped into the oil sizzles and turns brown in 1 minute.

    5. PLACE just enough struffoli in the pan to fit without crowding, taking care not to splash the hot oil. Cook, stirring once or twice with a slotted spoon, until the struffoli are crisp and evenly golden brown (1 to 2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining dough. When all of the struffoli are fried…

     

    6. GENTLY HEAT the honey to just a simmer in a large, shallow saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the drained struffoli and toss well. Transfer the struffoli to a serving plate and shape into a mound or wreath. Decorate as desired.

    7. TO SERVE: For each person, break off a portion of the struffoli with two large spoons or a salad server. Or, pass the plate so people can take what they like.

    You can store struffoli at room temperature, covered with an overturned bowl, for up to 3 days.

    STRUFFOLI HISTORY

    The ancestor of struffoli dates back to ancient Greece. A similar dish is described by Archestratus, a Greek poet from Sicily.

    Called enkris, the dough balls were fried in olive oil (source).

    The name derives from the Greek word strongoulos, meaning “rounded in shape.”

    Fast forward to the early 17th century. The nuns of Naples were famous for their sweets, which they sold to the public. Each convent had a specialty. According to tradition, struffoli are considered good luck because the balls are a symbol of abundance.

    At Christmas, the nuns made struffoli as gifts for their aristocratic patrons, to thank them for their charity throughout the year. The tradition was copied by home cooks and became a Christmas tradition (source).

     
      

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    RECIPE: Skillet Cornbread

    Skillet Cornbread Recipe

    New England Open House Cookbook

    Corn Bread Squares

    [1] The earliest cornbread was made in a skillet: Rectangular baking pans were not yet in use. This recipe is courtesy [2] the New England Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. [3] Corn pone, also called hoe cakes and johnny cakes, was the immigrant European’s version of the Native American cornmeal flatbread. [4] Today cornbread is most often cooked in a rectangular pan, like this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

     

    Serve this skillet cornbread for breakfast with eggs.

    Or serve it for lunch with a bowl of hearty soup and/or a salad.

    The recipe is from the New England Open House Cookbook via Vermont Creamery, which used its exquisite cultured butter and crème fraîche. Chopped scallions create a piquant counterpoint to the rich dairy.

    The garnish is optional, but adds excitement to an already yummy dish. Crème fraîche or sour cream, plus fresh chopped scallions, are a delightful finish.

    We have three more cornbread recipes for your perusal:

  • Buffalo Chicken Cornbread With Blue Cheese Salad
  • Queso Fresco & Scallion Cornbread
  • Marcus Samuelsson’s Jalapeño Cornbread (video recipe)
  •  
    RECIPE: SKILLET CORNBREAD

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can make your own—see footnote*)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh jalapeños, mixed red and green, or to taste
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 8 ounces crème fraîche (you can make your own) (substitute sour cream)
  • 2-3 scallions or fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme), chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.

    2. WHISK together in another bowl the milk, buttermilk and eggs. Pour in the melted butter and stir well. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir till combined. Gently fold in the corn kernels.

    3. POUR into the prepared cast iron skillet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.

    4. TO SERVE: Top with crème fraîche and a sprinkle of scallions.
     
    ________________
    *To make buttermilk, just add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to a cup measure and add enough milk to make an even cup. Let stand five minutes.

     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn, which originated in what today is Mexico, was turned into flatbread–the tortilla—in its native land. Leavened breads were not indigenous, and the concept of raised bread wasn’t known until the arrival of the Spanish.

    As corn spread from Mexico northward, it was cultivated by Native Americans across the southern region of what is now the United States. When European settlers arrived, they learned to cultivate and cook corn from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek.

    The North American natives had also learned to make another unleavened cornbread, in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves. Mixing cornmeal and water, they cooked the batter in hot ashes.

    The Europeans called it cornpone, or pone. Pone is a shortened version of the Virginia Algonquian word for bread, appone; although pone is fried cooked gruel rather than flatbread (the fine points can be argued, but not here and now).

     

    The immigrant Europeans added some salt and fried the mixture in lard in their skillets. Skillet breads, pies, etc. date back generations before people had home ovens, much less baking pans. Everything was cooked over a fire in a cast iron pot or a skillet; or in some towns, in a central community oven.

    In parts of England, hoe was a colloquial term for griddle. The tale that hoe cakes were cooked by field workers on their hoes over a fire is a story perpetuated but not substantiated.

    The fried corn batter is also known as hoe cakes and johnnycakes. Today, outside the South, we call them corn pancakes.

    Here’s a recipe for hoecakes and for johnnycakes; the photos are below.
     
    Johnnycake is similar, The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened

    The immigrants adapted cornmeal to their European recipes: bread loaves and muffins, corncakes, fritters, hoecakes and pancakes, liquor, porridge and so on. Most people had little cooking equipment. The skillet served multiple purposes, from frying to baking.

    Cornbread became popular as the main ingredient for a dressing or stuffing with fowl (the difference: stuffing is cooked inside the bird; dressing is cooked in a separate pan).
     
    What Is Cornmeal?

    Cornmeal is produced by grinding dried raw corn grains. The finest grind is used for baking, a medium grind for porridge and polenta, and a coarse grind for grits. Raw corn kernels spoked in hot water and an alkaline mineral like calcium hydroxide is called hominy (pozole in Spanish) and ground and mixed into masa harina, the dough used to make tamales and tortillas.

    Cornbread can be baked or fried, even steamed. Steamed cornbread is more like cornmeal pudding or mush, moist and chewier than a traditional bread. Here’s more on the evolution of cornbread plus early cornbread recipes.

    One thing to note: Originally cornbread did not contain sugar. As disposable income increased, this expensive ingredient was added as a variation, to make cornbread more like a cake.

    Unfortunately, more and more sugar was added until cornbread became an overly-sweet, simple bread. That’s fine if you want cake; you can serve sweet cornbread with berries and whipped cream.

    But if it’s bread you want, lose the sugar. We prefer to add whole corn kernels for sweetness, or enjoy cornbread as a savory bread.
     
    CRÈME FRAÎCHE, MASCARPONE OR SOUR CREAM?

    When should you use which? Here are the differences.

    Here are the differences.

     

    Corn Pone

    Johnnycakes

    Original Corn Plant

    [1] Hoecakes. Here’s the recipe from the Wall Street Journal (photo Christopher Testani | Wall Street Journal). [2] Johnnycakes come in different shapes—flatter, plumper, individual or the size of an entire skillet. Here’s the recipe for these pancake-syle johnnycakes from About.SouthernFood.com. [3] Who would have imagined that the wisp at the left evolved into the plump ear of corn we know today? Here’s the whole story.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Poinsettia Hors d’Oeuvre

    .

    Turn spinach dip into poinsettia hors d’oeuvre.

    The ones in the top photo, from Mackenzie Limited.

    They have a base of focaccia bread topped with creamy spinach dip with a hint of truffle oil. The flower is made from piped goat cheese flower.

    We created our own version of the canapés, which pair well with beer, wine or a savory Martini.

    They are best assembled as close as possible to serving time, although you can prepare the spread and other ingredients in advance.

    RECIPE: POINSETTIA CANAPÉS

    Ingredients

  • Base of choice: bread or toast rounds or squares
  • Spinach spread of choice (or other green spread)
  • Cheese of choice: cream cheese spread, goat cheese spread or other pipeable cheese
  • Flower center: piece of peppadew, pimento or sundried tomato
  • Piping bag (or substitute) and tip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the bread into rounds with a 1-1/2″ cookie cutter and top with some of the spread. Place on a serving tray.

    2. PIPE five petals on top of each and add the red center.
     
    WHAT’S A CANAPÉ?

    A canapé (can-uh-PAY) is a type of hors d’oeuvre: a small, savory bite on a base of bread, pastry, toast or a cracker. It is cocktail party fare, a finger food eaten in one or two bites.

       

    spinach-goat-cheese-focaccia-mackenzieltd-230r

    Poinsettia Hors d'Oeuvre

    [1] White poinsettia goat cheese blossoms atop a spinach and foccaccia base (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.). [2] This version uses roasted red peppers to create the flower and fresh thyme leaves and flowers for the center (photo courtesy Tara’s Table caterers).

     
    Canapé is the French word for sofa. The idea is that the toppings sit on a “sofa” of bread or pastry. In the hands of a good caterer or chef, they can be beautifully decorated works of edible art.

    The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook.

    Beyond canapés, hors d’oeuvre include everything from deviled eggs and crab puffs to mini-quiches to rumaki (bacon-wrapped dates). There are scores of options in French cuisine alone.

     

    Poinsettia Plant

    A poinsettia plant (photo courtesy 1-800-Flowers).

     

    ABOUT THE POINSETTIA PLANT

    Native to southern Mexico, what we call the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was used for dye and decorative purposes by the Aztecs. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

    Cuetlaxochitl, the Aztec name for the plant, is actually a small tree. It was bred down to a tabletop plant, although you may still come across a lovely small tree at better florists.

    In Mexico, it blooms naturally in Mexico around Christmastime. The poinsettia achieved fame in the U.S. thanks to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829), who had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    An amateur botanist, he sent spectacular plant to botanist colleagues in the U.S. for breeding. It became known as the poinsettia (try pronouncing cuetlaxochitl). Its vibrant red color made it a natural for holiday decorations, and it was subsequently bred into pink and white varieties as well.

     
    Ambassador Poinsett later served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren, and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution).

    Note that his name is Poinsett, not Pointsett; there is no “pointsettia” plant.

    Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day.

      

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    HOLIDAY COCKTAIL: Christmas Martini Recipe

    Christmas Martini

    Christmas Martini

    Pickled Cauliflower

    Castelvetrano Olives

    Fresh Dill

    [1] [2] It’s a Christmas Martini (photos courtesy World Market). [3] You can find actual rose and purple cauliflower heads at farmers markets, but at this time of year, you may have to color your own with beet juice. Here’s a recipe for pickled cauliflower and beets from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [4] Castelvetrano olives are the greenest, for Christmas garnishing. [5] Fresh dill, along with rosemary, are the two most Christmasy herbs: They look like evergreens (photo courtesy Burpee).

     

    Is there such a thing as a Christmas Martini?

    According to us: Yes!

    We’re not talking a peppermint “Martini” garnished with candy canes, but a real, savory vodka/gin-and-vermouth cocktail as its creators intended it to be (here’s the history of the Martini).

    We adapted this Dill Martini recipe from WorldMarket.com and gave it more holiday spirit.

    If you switch the evergreen-like dill to chive or other herb and perhaps make all the pickles red or pink, you can serve this as a Valentine Martini as well.
     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce pickle brine*
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • Beet juice
  • Ice
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Cauliflower floret pickled in brine and beet juice†
  • Fresh grape tomato
  • Baby radish, pickled or not
  • Pimento-stuffed green olive or pitted Castelventrano olive (it’s bright green)
  • Whole baby beet (from can or jar, regular or pickled)
  • Cocktail pick
  •  
    ________________
    *If you make pickled vegetables, you can use your homemade brine.

    *If you aren’t using beets, you can buy a bottle of beet juice (delicious!) at a natural- or health-food store.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PICKLE the vegetables as desired and make the cocktail pick.

    2. COMBINE the vodka, pickle brine, vermouth mustard seeds, and fresh dill in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour into a glass.

    2. ADD enough beet juice until you get the color you want (an assertive blush as in the photo is a good start).

    3. ADD ice to the shaker along with the contents of the glass. Shake well, strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with the vegetable pick.
     
    HOW TO MAKE PICKLED VEGETABLES

    It couldn’t be easier to make “quick pickles”: just the vegetables, vinegar, spices and two hours to marinate.

    You can pickle just about any vegetable, and you can also pickle fruits: from grapes to sliced fruits.

  • Use your favorite spices in the brine. Look at your spices for inspiration: allspice, bay leaf, crushed red peppers, dill seed, juniper berries, mace, mustard seed, and peppercorns are all contenders. Pickled vegetables never met a spice they didn’t like. We often add a touch of nutmeg.
  • For the brine, use cider vinegar or other vinegar (you can use half vinegar and half salted water if you like). To color white veggies like cauliflower red, add beet to the brine. Be sure the brine covers the tops of the vegetables.
  • You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
  • Pickles will be ready in just two hours; although you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks (trust us, they will eaten quickly).
  •  
    Since these pickled vegetables aren’t sterilized in a water bath, they need to be kept in the fridge. Eat them within two weeks (more likely, they’ll be gone in two days).

    If you’re excited about pickling, pick up a book on the topic. The Joy Of Pickling, first published in 1999, is now in its second edition.

    You may find yourself making classic bread-and-butter and dill pickles, pickled beets and kimchi.

  • Check out our Pickle Glossary for the different types of pickles.
  •   

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