Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chocolate Crinkles and Merry Christmas!

Christmas is here!  Though my chosen color is blue, I'm not having a blue Christmas at all.  In fact, I'll be somewhere near the ocean, having a great time with family and friends.

Here's to my readers, chocolate crinkles, to end a sweet Christmas...

Chocolate Crinkles

Makes 60 to 72 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Confectioners' sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

In the top of a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, melt the shortening and chocolate.  Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer, beat in the granulated sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well.  Stir in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or butter them.

Form the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and roll each ball in confectioners' sugar.  Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets, flattening the ball slightly.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies are firm around the edges but still soft in the center.  For crisper cookies, bake a little longer.

Source:  The Christmas Cookie Book by Judy Knipe and Barbara Marks

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Sweet Ginger Syrup

A warm, comforting dessert in sweet ginger syrup that’s definitely influenced by the Chinese, it’s usually made during the Winter Solstice--it falls today--which is still celebrated by the Chinese-Indonesian families nowadays.  But in my household, we often make them throughout the year because we love this chewy and delicious dessert so much.  Often times, my mom will make some larger dumplings stuffed with sweetened crushed peanuts.  Those are the best!

Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Sweet Ginger Syrup

Serves 4

For ginger syrup:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup water

3-4 slices of ginger

1 screwpine/pandanus leaf, tied into knot, optional

For glutinous rice dumplings:

½ lbs. sweet rice/glutinous rice flour, such as Mochiko brand

½ cup water, more if needed, at room temperature

Food coloring, optional

Water for boiling the dumplings

Make ginger syrup:

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Let it boil for 5 minutes and stir often to make sure the sugar has completely dissolved.  Turn off heat and set aside.  This can be done a day ahead and store in refrigerator until ready to be used.

Make glutinous rice dumplings:

Place the flour in a medium bowl.  Add water ¼ cup at a time; mix it with hands until it reaches a consistency of play dough (a dough that will not stick to hands).  Add more water if the dough feels dry; you will use all ½ cup of water but may need more if needed.  Add a drop of food coloring to the dough if you prefer and continue kneading until the color has been incorporated thoroughly.

Ricotta Fruitcake

Christmas is in a few days and as a tradition I've always baked a variety of sweets during this festive month.  I've baked my cookies which are consumed daily by my family members, and I've also baked fruitcakes.  There's people who don't like fruitcakes but there's a few who likes them and that includes me and my family.  For me, fruitcake is like a cake with lots of fruits and nuts in them with a healthy dose of liquor.  Now, how good a fruitcake is, I conclude, depends on the recipe and who's making it :)

This particular recipe has a ricotta cheese pound cake as the base.  The cake itself is already flavorful and moist, so adding fruits and nuts is actually enhancing those qualities.  I agree that a lot of fruitcake is hard and could be dry at times; I don't quite like that in my fruitcake either.  And believe me, once this cake is made, it will never be kept for a long time and passed down to other people!  Quite the contrary, the cake has disappeared slice by slice before Christmas has even come.

Ricotta Fruitcake

Makes 4 loaves (about 8 servings per loaf)

1 cup chopped candied pineapple

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/3 cup dark rum

1 recipe Ricotta Cheese Pound Cake

2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or sweetened flaked coconut

2 tablespoons unbleached flour

At least an hour before baking, preferably longer, combine the candied pineapple, raisins, pecans, and rum in a mixing bowl.  Stir, then cover, periodically stirring to saturate the mixture thoroughly.  In the meantime butter 4 3 3/4-x 7 3/4-inch loaf pans and line them with buttered wax paper, buttered side out, letting the paper come over the edge by about an inch so you can pull the cakes out easily later.  Set aside.  When you start to prepare the cake, preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the cake as usual.  Mix the coconut with the dried fruit and rum, then mix in the 2 tablespoons flour.  Fold the fruit mixture into the batter, then divide the batter evenly among the pans.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then lift them out by the wax paper.  Cool for another 30 minutes, then carefully peel off wax paper.  As soon as the cakes no longer feel warm, wrap them in plastic wrap and overwrap in foil.  Store in a cool location in an airtight container.

Ricotta Cheese Pound Cake--adapted for the fruitcake

Makes 1 large cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups packed light brown sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

2 cups unbleached flour

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 3/4 cups milk or light cream

1 cup ricotta cheese

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer, gradually beating in the brown sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.  Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest.

Sift the flours, baking powder, salt, and ginger into another bowl, adding any pieces of bran that remain in the sifter; set aside.  Puree the milk or cream and the ricotta cheese in a blender.

Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk/ricotta; do this in several stages, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Proceed with the making of the fruitcakes as described above.

Source:  Country Baking by Ken Haedrich