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; Snickerdooles; 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!

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).

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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.

Holiday Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin Roll Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

This recipe was given to me by my friend, Linda Bournival, and I’ve only adjusted it for style, not content. She makes it for holiday gifts and gifts it with the recipe included since so many people ask her for it. It will forever be one of my favorites.

Pumpkin Roll
Cake
unsalted butter (for the jelly roll pan)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup minced pecans
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 15 1/2- x 10 1/2- inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment paper. Place a sifter on top of a small plate and measure the dry ingredients into the sifter. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with a whisk or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the pumpkin, combine well, and then sift in the dry ingredients. Spread the batter onto the prepared pan and sprinkle with the pecans. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center is done and the edges pull slightly away from the pan. Meanwhile, spread a kitchen towel out on the counter and sprinkle with the confectioner’s sugar. Turn the finished cake onto the towel to cool. Peel off the parchment paper and roll the cake and towel into a log. Set aside to cool.

Filling
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides occasionally. Unroll the cooled cake and spread the filling over the whole cake. Roll up again, removing the towel and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour for the filling to set and slice into 8 to 12 pieces.

Serves 8 to 12

Annie
May your holidays be filled with love and laughter

Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake with Lemon Butter Sauce

My mom sent me a recipe for my Nana’s Lemon Sauce via email, which was a little odd.  Normally, when I ask for a recipe, it comes by mail – photocopied recipe card complete with my Nana’s handwriting.  Even though I bless the convenience of computers every day, there is something a little sad inside of me that misses the recipe written in her own hand, stained with drops of milk and string of egg white.

I remembered the sauce well from my childhood when my Nana would don a ruffled gingham apron and create a tiny bit of magic in her small kitchen.  I loved that space, not much bigger than my own kitchen now, with really tall cabinets, an old-fashioned oven complete with warmer and a small aluminum-edged table in the middle of it all where everyone gathered.  For the big meals, we ate in the dinning room, but the real heart and action happened in that small kitchen.

Prune Cake Photo Rocky Coast Photography

The sauce itself was silky, tart, lip-smacking… but I didn’t remember how she served it.  After questioning my mom, the reason became clear.  My Nana served it with fruit cake – never my favorite on the best of days.   I went to bed that night thinking about what would go well with my Nana’s Lemon Sauce and how I could reinvent fruit cake into something not only palatable, but actually yummy.  That is how this recipe was born.

My Nana always called it Butter Sauce, but I always remember calling it Lemon Sauce.  When I think of butter sauce now, it brings to mind a Creme Anglaise, and this sauce is much like that, only less smooth vanilla and more punch of lemon.

Lemon Prune Cake with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from about 1 lemon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup diced prunes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until just well mixed. Pour into prepared cake pan using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan before serving either warm or room temperature with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce.

Serves 12

Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

In a medium double boiler heat egg yolks until they lighten in color, whisking fairly consistently.  Gradually add sugar, continuing to heat and whisk.  Remove from heat and add butter, lemon rind, juice, and salt. Fold in whipped cream.  Chill and serve on top of warm cake.

Makes enough to serve with cake plus extra — have a spoon ready.

Annie
Thanks, Nana!

Apricot Orange Pound Cake – Holiday Baking

Wondering what to bake for the mail man and your kids’ teachers?  This pound cake, filled with the fragrant, fruity flavors of apricot and orange could be just the thing.

While the apricot and orange extracts might not be readily on hand in your pantry, they make all the difference. I’ve seen them at my local grocery store and have also had some happy luck on Olive Nation with some seriously delicious extracts that have kept my creative baking spirit happy all summer long on the boat.

This recipe was given to me by an exceptional family that sailed with us several years ago. They own a bakery in Amish country and the original recipe is one of their top sellers.  I’ve, of course, changed some of the extracts, due in large part to running out rather than because the recipe needed a single tweak.  Thank you Beiler family for your gift of the original recipe.

Apricot Orange Poundcake Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Apricot Orange Pound Cake
If you end up doubling the recipe, then use five eggs instead of four.  I’ve found the recipe works just a wee bit better.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon apricot extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon apricot extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one, 9 x 5 inch, loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a sifter.  Measure the milk and add the extracts.  Sift half of the flour mixture and add half of the milk mixture to the butter and sugar and mix until incorporated.  Repeat and pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center of the cake comes clean.

Glaze:
Bring all the glaze ingredients to a boil; pour it over the cake just as it comes out of the oven. Let the cake cool a bit before removing it from the pan.

Serves 8

Annie

Maine Gourmet Food Cruises – Bread Baking

Fresh sourdough baguette straight from a wood fired oven?  Sure!  Off the coast of Maine on an historic sail boat?  Even better.

Gourmet cooking cruises, culinary travel, or Maine Food Cruises, no matter what you call them, they all have the same thing in common – local Maine food, grown sustainably, and served with care and attention on the deck of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin.  We serve what I call swanky comfort food all summer long, but our special Cooking with Annie trips have an additional element – a bit of education.

Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread.  Yum.
Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread. Yum.

We aren’t “in class” all day long, so if you have a spouse or friends that are just interested in eating well while you learn a few more tips and techniques to add to your culinary arsenal, this is perfectly planned.

That said, anyone who wants to spend all day in the galley with me, watching and learning, absolutely can.  From 6am to 7pm, I’m in the galley making breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there are plenty of chances to get your hands doughy or dirty, so to speak.

The first in the series of topics that we talk about during the trip is bread.

Breads – to knead or not to knead, sourdough or quick breads, baguette or stirata, the world of bread is big and the options are many.

Bread Tip:  Did you know that there are two ways to encourage the formation of gluten (what gives a loaf it’s loft and structure) in bread?  Kneading is one and more moisture is another.  So to achieve a similar result, you can either spend 5 to 10 minutes kneading your bread or you can add more liquid to your dough and let time do the work.

 

Annie
Gourmet cooking cruises?  Who doesn’t want to eat well on vacation?  July 6 to 9th is our next Maine Gourmet Food Cruise.

Drunken Pepper Pie – It’s a Beautiful Thing

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This recipe is a riff on an old classic in the Maine Windjammer fleet – Congo Bars.  Usually made for lunch and scarfed up by mid-afternoon, this recipe is amped up for a dinner dessert with the addition of both Ancho chili powder and Kentucky Bourbon.  Both give a punch and a depth that makes the perfect cross between comfort dessert and swanky dessert.  As with the bar recipe, the pie recipe is much better slightly underdone than even the smallest bit overdone.  Of course, this recipe is for one pie, whereas on the Riggin, I’m making 3 or 4 pies at at time, hence the several pies in the photos below.

Drunken Pepper Pie
Pie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unflavored vodka
2 tablespoons ice cold water (or more)

Combine the flour, salt, and butter into a medium bowl; cut in well with a pastry knife.
Add vodka and water and mix until dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball.  Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove and roll onto a floured board to at least 12 inches in diameter.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and pinch the edges.  Let rest in the refrigerator again until the pie batter is done.

Makes 1 crust

Pie Batter
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Kentucky Bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the brown sugar and butter over low heat.  Cool slightly so that the pan is comfortable to touch and then add the bourbon and vanilla extract.  Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour, baking powder, ancho chili powder, and salt into the sugar and butter mixture and stir.  When the dry ingredients are completely incorporated, add the chocolate chips.

Spatula the pie batter into the prepared pie shell and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown.  If a fork poked into the center comes out slightly gooey this is okay.

Cool slightly and serve while still warm with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.

Serves 8 to 12

Brown Sugar Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and beat with a whisk until soft peaks form.

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Annie
Getting excited to go sailing!  You should come with us this summer!

No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread – Easy Peasy

No-knead techniques have taken the baking world by storm, or really been rediscovered by storm, and are a wonderful addition to any bread baker’s arsenal.  Truly, there is nothing I love better than pulling several loaves of freshly baked bread from the oven, whether it’s on the boat or in our home.

For me, the connection of homemade bread to our roots, to our communities, to our families and to our personal nutrition is a tie that weaves beautifully through all of these multi-layered parts of our lives.  I know, I know, there are a number of us that can’t have gluten and even more who shun bread due to the carbohydrate thing, but truly, a kale smoothie just doesn’t make the same heart and soul connection for me.

This bread is wonderful with a bowl of soup on a chilly spring day or toasted for breakfast and slathered with some homemade jam.  It’s a staple on our Maine windjammer and one I make at home all the time too.

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No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing the pans
12 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 cups warm water (more or less)

Grease 3 loaf pans and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mixing with one hand while turning the bowl with the other, add the water.  When the flour is fully incorporated into the dough, turn out onto a floured counter and cut into three equal pieces.  Press into rectangular shapes and roll the dough gently into a log.  Transfer to the prepared loaf pans, cover, and set aside for several hours until the loaves have doubled in size.   Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown on the outside and the loaves come out of the pans easily. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 3 loaves

Annie
Happy baking to you and to me!