Cooking with Annie: Episode 2 – How to Use What You Have

I’m hearing a number of people talk about not being able to find one or more ingredients at the grocery store these days.  This makes menu planning, something I highly recommend for all sorts of efficiency reasons, difficult.  Does one still plan and then change the plan according to what is available?  Or does one go to the store without a plan and then create a weekly menu once the selections are made and purchased.  Well, I’d propose that both could be true. The question really becomes, HOW to be flexible and HOW to think creatively about what’s on hand.

This has always been true for those of us who have gardens or buy from a farmer’s market.  Sometimes certain ingredients are just not in season, in stock, or ready for harvest just yet.  Even with that, our current challenges are causing us to exercise our flexibility muscle even more than usual. In this latest video, I talk about what we picked up from our farmer this week and how I think about creating a menu around the fresh ingredients we were lucky enough to bring home.  Here’s a list of what we got and then some of what we ended up making through out the week.  While they aren’t recipes, per se, they are guidelines and ideas.  Have at ’em!

Large yellow carrots
Carrot Salad – Grate and toss with diced tomato, some radish micro greens, a minced green onion, some minced sorrel from the garden, evoo, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Sliced Carrots – Serve with preserved lemon hummus made with garbanzo beans.
Steamed Carrots – Toss with a little butter and fresh dill.

Baby Orange Carrots
Pan-roasted – Sear in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The leftovers became a carrot, ginger, coconut soup.
Fresh – As a snack with dip or not.

Rutabaga
Mashed – Peel and cut into chunks just like for mashed potatoes.  When tender, drain the water and mash with a little butter and creme fraiche.  To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for this dish and I was wrong to be so skeptical.  They were delicious.

Daikon Radish
Radish Salad – Grate and toss with garlic, ginger, lime zest, lime juice, sesame oil, and tamari.
Radish Pickles – Slice thinly and toss with salt.  Let rest for at least 30 minutes and then add apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Greens
They all got sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper and then became a part of other meals.  I’ll often use greens in place of the carbohydrate at the meal.  So for example, if we are having lamb stew with mashed potatoes, I’d skip the potatoes and substitute the greens.

Pea Shoots
Pea Shoot and Quinoa Salad – Mix with dried blueberries, spiced pecans, crumbled feta cheese, and tangerine balsamic vinegar.

The list above is just an example of what could happen in your kitchen.  It was based entirely on my pantry and ingredients we already had on hand.  Yours might look completely different, but hopefully this gives you a starting point from which to begin creating in your own kitchen.

So what do you have in your fridge that you don’t know what to do with it?  What recipe do you want to make with an ingredient you can’t get right now?  Ask away!  I can help.

Annie
#staysafe, #becalm, #bekind

Cooking with Annie: Episode 1 – Crusty Peasant Bread

It seems just right that my first foray into the YouTube world would be about yeast bread.  Especially at this time of uncertainty when cooking and baking at home feels and is one of the most comforting things we can do – nurturing for the maker and those on the receiving end.  There is so much right now that causes concern or worse, and yet, I find myself looking for and appreciating the little things even more than usual.  The big things are BIG!  And out of my control.  What I focus on and bring my attention to, however, is in my realm of control (to a greater or lesser extent depending on if I’ve just spent any time on the internet), and therefore, what I can do something about.

As I, like many of you, am also home with my family, I’m noticing that we are settling into a rhythm and a routine.  The first several days were a bit rough with all of us emotionally and physically bumping into each other a bit.  Now, although our house, just like the boat, is small, we seem to be finding a good balance between together and alone, even in the same space.  This piece feels familiar, as on the boat, this sort of mental distance is needed at times even when we are all in the same cabin, nearly right on top of each other.  I am also grateful for cooking and baking right now.  There’s something so primal about being able to feed your family – both the actual doing of it and the ability to have actual food on the table.  What a blessing.  Never have I loved being outside more.  In Maine right now, the wind is howling and it’s been raining off and on for two days, but I just don’t care.  I dress in my foulies (foul-weather gear that we use on the Riggin) and step out to breathe fresh air and somehow it’s never been more precious.  I’m sure many of you feel some of the same things I am.

And that gets me to, “Why a video series right now?”  Well, there’s so much I can’t do.  I’m not a medical professional.  As our business is travel, money couldn’t be tighter, so donating to one or more of the many worthy causes is not on the list.  But cooking?  That I can do.  So if there’s something you are struggling with or something that you’d love to see me make, let me know.  It’s my hope that these videos can be a way of connecting even though we aren’t together on the deck of the Riggin just yet.

I chose the Crusty Peasant Bread recipe because it’s one I use again and again on the Riggin and at home.  It’s on page 140 of At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer 2nd Edition.  All of the variations are there too.  Now, just to switch things up, as I do, I used a technique to make the bread which doesn’t involve kneading, but instead involves turning the dough several times.  Please forgive our first attempt at using the video function on the camera.  Toward the end we ran out of battery.  We’ll get better as we go along!

Crusty Peasant Bread
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons table salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
cornmeal for dusting

Turning Method (as shown in the video)
Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved water if needed. Turn the dough 10 to 15 times, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes.  Repeat 3 to 4 more times, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

Kneading Method
Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved water if needed. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide the dough into the number of loaves you plan to make, and shape them into French-style loaves. Dust a baking sheet with corn meal and place the loaves onto the sheet. Cover and allow to rise again. When the loaves have nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on each loaf with a very sharp knife. Place the pans in the oven, throw a cup of water over hot stones set in a pan in the bottom of the oven to generate steam and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until an internal-read thermometer registers 190°F.

Makes 2 large or 4 small loaves

Variations
Caramelized Onion Bread – When shaping the dough, divide and shape the dough into 4 rectangles.  Add 1 cup of caramelized onion to the surface of each rectangle and roll up into a log.  Pinch the ends and place onto a baking sheet.  Rise and bake as above.
Roasted Red Pepper and Rosemary Bread – Add 2 cups roasted red peppers and 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary to the dough.
Kalamata Olive and Roasted Garlic – Add 1 1/2 cups pitted Kalamata olives and 1/2 cup roasted garlic cloves to the dough.

Stay safe, be calm, be kind
Annie

Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Fennel and Red Bell Pepper Tartlet

prosciutto chevre fennel red bell pepper tartlet, savory tart recipe, cooking, recipe, baking, maine windjammer

“Summer’s here!” proclaimed my youngest daughter several years ago as she climbed into bed full of satisfaction that she was without the need to set her alarm in preparation for another day of school. The time for formal education had come to a close for the year. The structure and the rhythm of a school year released into the dreamier, looser days of summer, opening up the unstructured, but no less important, time of summer discovery and adventure.

At least that’s what we think summer should be – one big adventure. My memories of summer, on the other hand, are like a jigsaw puzzle of moments of boredom interspersed with swimming, reading, and capture the flag which then circled back around to boredom. I lost myself in books time and time again, then would leave that imaginary world for another by the creek or in the swimming pool and then onward to a game of capture the flag. Back to listless ennui and the cycle repeated itself.

As I look back on my childhood and compare a similar rhythm to my own children’s summer days, I don’t regret that boredom.  From those moments of lethargy came inspiration and imagination.  As my girls grew, I was privileged to witness the same transformation in them.  And what came after boredom was always full of creativity and fun.

Just as the schedule of summer loosens and becomes more elastic and flexible, what we eat and how we prepare it does too. The structure of recipes and needing meals to be on time and planned around family schedules relaxes. The found treasures of the farmer’s markets turn into impromptu salads, pastas, pizzas, grilled anything or… tartlets.

This is the time of year to be playful and creative with your time and your meals. Enjoy both!

Prosciutto, Chèvre, Fennel, and Red Bell Pepper Tartlet
While this dish is delicious with the fennel and red pepper, the sky is really the limit when it comes to the meat, cheese, and vegetables that you use. Substitute some Genoa salami, an aged cheddar, spinach, and spring onions OR bacon, Parmesan, zucchini, and tomatoes OR grilled chicken, mozzarella, and pea shoots OR strips of salmon, farmer’s cheese, fresh corn, and cherry tomatoes…. Play with what you find from the farmer’s market or what you have leftover in the refrigerator from another meal.

Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
9 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice cold water

Filling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced fennel; about 1/2 bulb
2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper, seeded and cored; about 1 pepper
1 cup thinly sliced onion; about 1 small onion
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
4 ounces crumbled chèvre; about 1 cup
3 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about ¼ cup lightly packed

Crust
In a food processor pulse flour, salt, and butter. Add the egg yolk and water and pulse until combined. If the mixture is too dry, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time until it forms a ball. Remove from processor, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When ready, dust the surface of the counter with flour and roll out to 1/4-inch thick. Press into an 11-inch tart pan. Cover with parchment paper and beans or pie beads and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden brown. Meanwhile prepare the filling. When the crust is done, remove from oven, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, and add the filling mixtures beginning with the fennel and then the chèvre. Lay the prosciutto slices on top and sprinkle with thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese.

Filling
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the fennel, peppers, onions, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and pliable, about 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, mash the chèvre with a fork and add the eggs one at a time incorporating each time until there are few if any lumps in the mixture. Add the half and half and mix well.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the center is just barely cooked and still wiggly. Serve hot or room temperature.

Serves 6

Annie
Get bored, then get creative

Chicken Paprikash with Wide Hand-cut Noodles

Several weeks ago, a friend surprised me by bringing dinner to my family – unannounced and seemingly without cause. There hadn’t been a death or tragedy in our family. She just knew that I’d had a busy week, could see that I was a little ragged around the edges, and could use a little care. It’s rare when someone makes me dinner and it was such a gift to be given a night off from the planning all the way to the cleanup for one busy weeknight.  Thank you, Friend.

Holding that care in my heart long after the meal had disappeared from our plates, I was making this Chicken Paprikash several nights later and decided to make extra. To pay that care given to me forward to another friend, also a busy working mom.

Chicken Paprikash with Wide Cut Noodles Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

Chicken Paprikash
This recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The dark meat on chicken is much more flavorful and in a stew type dish holds up a little longer, allowing for an extended cooking time to develop more flavor before it completely falls apart in shreds as chicken breasts are likely to do.

If you plan to freeze or refrigerate this dish to serve later, leave out the sour cream. When you reheat it, add the sour cream just before serving. It won’t curdle if you freeze it and it will keep longer if you refrigerate it.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
2 cups diced onions; about 1 large onion
1 1/2 cups diced green bell pepper, seeded and diced; about 1 large pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
several dashes of Worcestershire
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered; about 3 cups
1 cup sour cream
2 ounces finely shaved Romano cheese; about 1 cup lightly packed (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large, wide stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, salt, and pepper to the pot and cook until browned on all sides. Add the onions, peppers, garlic and paprika and sauté for another 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste, stirring for about a minute. Add the wine, tomatoes, and Worcestershire. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Add water if needed. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream. Serve with noodles, potatoes, rice, or polenta. Garnish with Romano cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

Wide Hand Cut Noodles Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

Wide Hand Cut Noodles

Wide Hand Cut Noodles

Wide Hand-cut Noodles
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 teaspoons or more water, if needed

On the counter, combine flour and salt and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and yolks into the well and stir with the tips of your fingers working the flour on the outside into the eggs. Add enough water to bring the mix together in a ball. The water will vary with the size of the eggs and the moisture in the flour. Turn it out onto the counter and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover to prevent a dry skin from forming and let rest for 45 minutes. Roll out the dough using a hand-cranked or electric pasta machine to create sheets of pasta, dusting with flour where needed.  You should be able to see through the sheets when you are finished. Lay the sheets of pasta out on the counter and roll them up loosely into a log.  Cut strips 3/4-inch wide and then toss to loosen the roll until you are ready to cook.

When ready to serve, drop the pasta loosely into a pot of salted, boiling water. Stir well but gently. The pasta is done when it floats or is al dente – just the tiniest bit firm when you bite into it, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

How to Make Delicious Baking Powder Biscuits

I learned to make biscuits from my grandma while sitting on her kitchen counter as she measured by eye and hand a formula she’d made hundreds of times.  When my grandma was gone, my mom, armed with the written recipe, finished my formal education into this culinary comfort food.  There is a good bit of mystique that surrounds the making of biscuits, but in reality, just like pie crust, a little practice and some simple rules are the difference between hard tack and sublime.

Because the recipe is so simple, there are only a couple of places where a person can get a bit tripped up.
1. To start, make sure that the fat is well incorporated. Using a pastry knife is the easiest.
2. Like my grandma taught me, I use my hands to incorporate the milk so I can feel the exact amount of liquid to add.
3. Adding the liquid is the trickiest part. Too much and the biscuits aren’t fluffy. Too little and the biscuits are dry.  The recipe wants just enough milk to incorporate all of the flour, no more. It’s okay to reserve a little to make sure your batch needs all the recipe calls for.
4. Don’t over mix. As soon as you begin mixing in the milk, gluten begins to develop and this is what makes biscuits chewy instead of fluffy. The less mixing the better.
5. Pat out your biscuits on a well-floured counter. Instead of rolling, which sometimes has us touching the dough too much, pat the dough out with your hands, again because working the dough too much makes hard, chewy biscuits.
6. If you find that you might have overworked the dough, a little helpful trick is to set the biscuit aside once you’ve cut them for 10 minutes or so to give the gluten time to relax before baking.

That’s it!  Fluffy, buttery biscuits are yours!

Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010
Use a pastry knife to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010)
Feel the dough with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Add liquid and stir with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Use your hands to best tell when you’ve added enough milk.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Only mix until combined,
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Press the dough flat with hands dusted with flour.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter and bake!

Baking Powder Biscuits
This recipe is excerpted from my cookbook, At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer.  My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry knife to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP!  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 12 biscuits

Easy and Healthy Appetizers for Super Bowl Sunday

Sunday will surely see me on the couch with a wide perimeter given by my family (football viewing is an active sport for some).  Before the big day, though, I’ll do some prep work so that we can all snack and graze while I watch.  May the best team win!

Appetizer Menu for Super Bowl Sunday
Rosemary Cheese with Apricot Preserves
Baked Brie variations
Homemade Crackers
Tomato, Dill, and Fontina Tartlet
Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina
Steamed Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
Endive with Green Pea Hummus

healthy appetizers by Elizabeth Poisson

Steamed Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
When you trim artichokes immediately rubbing them with lemon juice can help keep them from turning brown.For those new to artichoke eating, break the leaves off of the artichoke and use your teeth to gently scrape the meat on the inside of the leaf. Discard the leaf. Once the leaves are gone, use a spoon to remove the choke (the fuzzy part) and enjoy the artichoke bottom.

2 artichokes, leaves and stems trimmed
1/2 lemon (plus extra for rubbing)
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Cover 2 artichokes with water in a small saucepan or stockpot large enough to accommodate. Add the lemon and salt. Bring the water to a boil with the cover on and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain upside down. Serve warm or chilled with the Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip.

Serves 4

Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
The curry flavor will increase the longer you let it sit.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or less)
several pinches of kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Makes 1 cup

Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip by Elizabeth Poisson

Annie
Let’s have some fun rooting for our teams!  Go Pats!

Easy Holiday Baking – Lemon Madeleines

These little gems are best eaten shortly after they come out of the oven, but the batter can wait in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake and this is why I love them for entertaining.  Typically served with coffee or tea, these little ‘cakes’ are beautiful on any cookie tray.  You can even bake them ahead of time and freeze them.  If you choose this route, let them come to room temperature first and then dust them with powdered sugar before serving.

Lemon Madelines Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

Some of my other favorite holiday baking recipes are Buche de Noel; Chocolate Rosemary Tart; Holiday Pumpkin Roll; Apricot Orange Pound CakeChocolate Candy Cane Cookies; Pear Frangipane TartWhite Chocolate, Cranberry, Pecan Bars; Snickerdoodles; and Lemon Curd Cheesecake.

 

Lemon Madelines Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

Lemon Madeleines
I used to make these for the girls as an afternoon snack on winter days.  The initial recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan, my hero, in Baking with Julia and then was first published in Sugar & Salt: The Blue Book.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra for the madeleine pan
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest; about 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 12-cookie madeleine pan generously. Sift the flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar onto parchment paper or waxed paper and set aside. Combine the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl and immediately begin to whisk with either the whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer until the color has lightened considerably; the volume has tripled and the mixer forms ribbons on the surface for 10 seconds or so. Add vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest and whisk briefly. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the sifted flour and sugar in thirds. Add a little bit of the batter to the melted butter and gently fold, then fold the butter mixture into the rest of the batter in the mixing bowl. Do this ever so gently. Rest the batter in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Spoon half of the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until the cookies are spongy in the middle. Remove from pan and set on a cooling rack. Wipe the cookie pan clean, butter again generously, spoon rest of batter into the forms and bake again for 5 to 6 minutes.

Makes 24 cookies

Annie
Yum!

Top 10 Gifts for the Bakers in Your Life

baking powder biscuits
As anyone who has sailed with us knows, Kitchen Aides and Cuisinarts are not a part of my tool kit on the Riggin.  They require electricity, something I don’t have in my galley.  What I do have is good, old-fashioned muscle and technique.  I use very basic tools to make very special baked goods and I don’t need a lot to accomplish this.

Also, because I have limited space, the tools I do have on the boat need to be ones that I use all the time or they need to do more than one task.  Here’s my list of tools that I wouldn’t go sailing without and that might spark an idea or two for the baker in your life, whether they bake on dry land or on the water.

My three favorite stores for baking and cooking tools are: The Good Table, Now You’re Cooking, and King Arthur Flour.  All are wonderful, local stores with a well-curated supply of useful baking tools.

Sifter – While a whisk will work for this task, there’s nothing that works better for making light, fluffy cakes.

Scale – The best bakers weigh all of their ingredients.  If nothing else, sometimes a recipe calls for a weighed amount and not a measured amount.  Super helpful.

Thermometer – All baking is about details and precision.  Don’t over or under bake anything again by removing it from the heat at just the right temperature.

Parchment paper – A gift from the non-stick gods.  Lining cake pans and cookies sheets with parchment or with a silicone sheet helps with the least favorite part of baking – the clean up!

Whisk – Just don’t try a baking life without one.  Great for thin batters, egg whites, and whipped cream, but a whisk will also work as a sifter in a pinch.  Just not for those super fluffy genoise cakes and such.

Rolling pin – Wooden ones are my favorite.  With or without handles, this is an essential piece of any bakers arsenal.

Pastry bag – At some point you’ll want to try your hand at pate au choux or decorating a cake.  The professional way to go is with a pastry bag and at least a few basic pastry tips.

Cookie scoop – Bake cookies that are all the same size by scooping them with this cookie scoop.  It makes the process go so much faster too.

Pastry knife – For making biscuits and pie crust, this tool is essential.  There isn’t a day on the boat that goes by where I don’t use this handy tool.

Bench scraper – Bread bakers, pie bakers, biscuit bakers and basically anyone who gets dough on the counter for any reason will love this tool.  Again, I use it on a daily basis.

Cooling rack – While this is one tool that I don’t have space for on the Riggin, I do use them at home all the time, and there I almost never have enough. 🙂

Annie
Also, doesn’t it go without saying that every baker (and cook) should have cookbooks that they love and trust (like Sugar & Salt and At Home, At Sea)?

Holiday Baking – White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pecan Bars

The windows are slightly foggy in the corners and the house is filled with the redolent smells of baking chocolate, toasted coconut, and warm pecans.  Right now, there might not be anything more tempting.  All the while outside, the wind howls and the snow pelts the side of the house.  Occasionally, a large mound of snow will slide off the roof to announce itself and inside, we are warm and cozy, baking one of our many holiday gifts.  Later, when the wind dies down, I’ll go for a snow shoe in the field out back.  If it’s really late, I’ll cross my fingers the sky is clear and the moon lights the way.  Moments like these have me feeling grateful for family, warmth, small houses, little things, rosy cheeks, and Maine winters.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pecan, and Coconut Bars Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pecan Bars
We also called these Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Bars.  They first appeared in At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer and this is a riff on that original recipe.

Crust
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (plus a little extra for the pan)
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers or graham crackers
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

Topping
6 ounces shaved white chocolate or white chocolate chips; about 1 1/4 cup
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Crust
Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread the coconut in a 9- x 13-inch pan and toast for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring two or three times. In a medium bowl, combine the graham crackers, melted butter, and toasted coconut. Lightly butter the 9- x 13-inch pan and then transfer the mixture, pressing firmly with your hands to pack evenly. Turn the oven temperature up to 325°F. Chill the pan for 15 minutes and then bake for 10 minutes or until it begins to turn golden.

Topping
Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate, cranberries, and pecans over the crust. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over all and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes or until the center begins to bubble just slightly.

Let cool on a wire rack and cut into 12 or 24 even pieces.

Makes 12 or 24 bars

Annie
P.S. Cookbooks make a wonderful holiday gift.  Just saying.

Holiday Baking – Homemade Crackers

Almost always, making something from scratch is better than anything you can buy at the grocery store.  These crackers are no exception.  Super crispy, super flavor, super fun – and a special addition to any holiday appetizer board (especially with Rosemary Cheese with Apricot Preserves).

20150904_142706a

Homemade Crackers
I like them simple – with just salt and pepper sprinkled on them, but if you prefer, sprinkle fennel, sesame, or poppy seeds instead.  Recipe excerpted from Sugar & Salt: Book 2 (The Orange Book).

Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Topping
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and then add the oil and water. Mix together for 1 to 2 minutes until fully combined. If there are still bits of flour in the bottom of the bowl, add more water a teaspoon at a time until the flour is fully incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a floured counter. Cut the dough in half and cover one half with plastic wrap while you roll out the other to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Slice into small squares with a pizza cutter and with a spatula, transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and the other optional toppings and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the centers are firm. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

Makes about 8 dozen crackers

Annie
These crackers also make a special hostess gift, wrapped in a cellophane bag and tied up with some red and white kitchen twine.