Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Chocolate Ganache Truffels‘Tis The Season For Treats
I love this time of the holiday season. This is treat season. This is the time when I start planning what treats I am going to make to hand out to the people who mean a lot to me to thank them for services rendered or to thank them for just being a positive part of daily life.

So far my daughter and I have made our traditional Ginger Cookies.  (That first batch is always a sacred ceremony for everyone in my family.) Last weekend we made a batch of addictive and decadent caramels, a King Arthur Flour recipe, to hand out to a teacher who refers to them as holiday gold. We plan to continue the treat making this weekend with some more cookies. Shortbread? Check. Sugar cookies? Check? Gingerbread? Check. But I want to do something else a little special this year.

About 16 years ago I took a chocolate class to learn how to make truffles because I wanted to recreate the gorgeous treats that Joseph Schmidt was producing at that time. I quickly learned that tempering chocolate is no joke. It takes patience, and time, and passion for the art. While I had the passion, I was lacking in the other attributes. But, one of the recipes we made in that class is easy enough for anyone to do. I haven’t made many truffles since then. And, this year I wanted to make those basic ganache truffles. The biggest challenge was finding the recipe.

I have this drawer in my kitchen that holds all of my loose recipes that I have either printed off the internet or were part of a recipe packet from a class. I can’t tell you how many pages are in that drawer—but I can tell you that it is probably time to cull the heard. I can also tell you that the chocolate packet wasn’t in there and I sort of panicked because, after that many years, it’s not like I can call the place and get another one.

The elves took pity on me…I found it! My office is a revolving door of cookbooks and recipes. And, I happened across the chocolate packet while looking through a dessert binder I made after yet another cooking class. Yee Haw!

These truffles are so easy to make and you can choose to flavor them or not. (Adding a little espresso or Chambord liqueur can be a tasty thing)

Chocolate Ganache Truffles
Yields about 25 truffles Read more…

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Mom's Pumpkin Chiffon PieLife of Pie
It’s crazy to think that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. And, while today is a day to stop and give thanks that the political ads are done, it is also a day to start making plans.

For me, Thanksgiving is going to be different this year if for no other reason that I will be hosting it for the first time. It should be an adventure given that we will be a party of 16. Granted, I annually host Christmas Eve for 14 so two more people shouldn’t be that big of a deal and it’s not. The difference is what I will need to cook and if it will all fit in my oven. I expect I will be much like a game of Tetris. As of right now, I have ordered two 18 pound organic turkeys which should be plenty—we’re big on leftovers. However, if there is one area of concern from those who will be seated around the table, it is whether there will be enough pie.

Turkey is generally the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal and it is for us as well but the true star of Thanksgiving in our family is the pie and everyone has their favorite. This year, because we are blending three families for dinner, there is concern that there will not be enough pie and, of course, everyone is worried that their favorite will run out quickly which is why I will probably end up making 4 pies.

My Dad’s favorite is mince pie. This is the pie most likely to have leftovers because he is the only one who eats it but it’s tradition so we gotta have it. In my family of five, it’s all about the pecan pie. If there is no pecan pie there will be rioting in the streets. I’m thinking I will also do an apple pie because, why not? Last but not least, you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. We do pumpkin pie a little differently though.

Growing up my mother always made the pumpkin pie. But, it wasn’t your usual pumpkin pie. Mom made Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. If you have never heard of it, and most people haven’t, pumpkin chiffon is basically a lighter fluffier version. And, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it. Since this is the first Thanksgiving without my Mom, there is no question that her pie will be there….

Mom always made this pie using a traditional pie crust but feel free to use a graham cracker crust if you prefer.

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie  Read more…

Gravlax

GravlaxHomeland
Not too long ago I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown that was filmed in Copenhagen and I found myself glued to the seat fascinated by what I was watching on the screen. My mother’s side of the family is Danish — and I don’t mean mostly Danish with a little bit of “other” thrown in. I mean, “one hundred percent my ancestors wore breastplates and rode in boats to raid your shores” Danish.

Copenhagen, and Denmark in general, have always been on my bucket list of places to visit, mainly because I want to know more about where my family is from. It never occurred to me to go because of the food. But, as I sat there watching this show, it was a revelation. Because, more often than not, when I think of Scandinavian food I am transported back to the nights my grandmother would make red cabbage. (The smell when we entered the house was horrendous. But, Gam and Mom loved it.) Other times it makes me think of the herring in cream sauce we sell here at the store. Apparently, it’s delicious. I…just…can’t…even. I’ll sell it but I don’t have to eat it.

What I was seeing on the tv screen, however, was something completely different. And, it made me hungry. To be fair, Smørrebrød is not new and, in fact, it makes a perfect lunch. But, watching the chef create classic Scandinavian dishes in a way that made the old ways new again was energizing. His emphasis on ingredients that could be grown and used sustainably was icing on the cake. Now, he did use moss that he gathered off the trees in his backyard.(Foraging is big in Denmark.) Not sure I’m ready to go there yet. But, it did get me fired up about my garden again.

If you look really closely, on the menus of the nicer restaurants around us you will notice more and more chefs creating dishes with Scandinavian influences. (Akvavit comes to mind.) I started noticing it before my virtual trip to Copenhagen and even more so since. If those sixty minutes have done anything they have made me seek those places and recipes out.

In the meantime, as I thumb through some recent cookbook purchases, I am content to make myself a little bit of Smørrebrød for snacking. And, if it includes a little homemade Gravlax, so much the better….

Gravlax
Adapted from The Spruce
Gravlax is salmon that has been cold-cured with sugar, salt, and fresh dill. Modern gravlax has a fresh, delicate flavor and is delicious served either as an elegant appetizer or as a topping for smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches). Read more…

Let the Christmas Begin

Let the Christmas BeginI have always been one of those people that work better under pressure. Probably because I was a procrastinator in high school, but I digress…

When there is a lot going on, and even more to be done, I get hyper-organized and efficient. This is why I have spent the last hour organizing my shopping list for the holiday weekend. I have it split out by day (‘cause I am going to have to do multiple trips) and by aisle to make it easier to maneuver and get it home. You may be asking what could possibly require multiple trips to the store and aisle mapping? Let me explain…

Most years, I am responsible for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas dinner—which is also my husband’s birthday dinner. This year my sister is hopping on a plane Christmas Day. Therefore I am responsible for Christmas Eve dinner for 14 people, Christmas Morning breakfast for 7, and Christmas/Birthday Night dinner for 8.

So, you see why my fridge may not be able to handle it all at once (and you can believe there is some wine on that shopping list!) It is also why I start planning the menu pretty far in advance so I can map out what can be made ahead and what is last minute.

In case you’re curious here’s what’s on the menu:

Christmas Eve
Spinach Salad
Roasted Fresh Ham
Ginger Glazed Turnips, Carrots and Chestnuts
Potatoes Au Gratin
Sticky Toffee Ginger Bread Read more…

Red and White Pinwheel Cookies

Red and White Pinwheel CookiesCookie Conundrum
If it’s December, that means it’s cookie baking time. In fact, I was reminded over the weekend by my family that I hadn’t made the traditional batch of Swedish Gingies yet. It was December 2. My bad…

This week I am in full-on cookie mode because I have people coming over on Saturday plus two other cookie-friendly events next week. One is a cookie exchange that my sister is hosting—which presents a bit of a problem. I have a set of go-to cookies that I bring to such gatherings because they are always well received. The problem is they are a family favorite, so my sister tends to make the same cookies for her parties. This means I am on the hunt for a new recipe to try this year.

When it comes to finding new Christmas cookie recipes I don’t have too many requirements save one: A Christmas cookie is a cookie you only make at Christmas. Chocolate chip cookies are not a Christmas cookie.

The one exception I would make to this rule is shortbread. Every day is Christmas if there is shortbread.

As much as I love a beautifully decorated sugar cookie, the royal icing and the drying time can be a pain. So, I am thinking of going a little less labor intensive yet still colorful. I found a couple of versions of these tasty Red and White Pinwheel Cookies that seem to fit the bill nicely. I have never actually tried to make pinwheels so this might be a bit of an adventure. The good news is I have four impatient elves more than willing to do quality control sampling…

Red and White Pinwheel Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
These vanilla flavored cookies add a splash of pure color to your Christmas Cookie tray.  We recommend mixing the white and red dough separately rather than trying to add coloring to the already-mixed dough—the color incorporates better. Read more…