Sunday, December 19, 2010

Treat #2

I ended up making Miniature Golden Fruitcakes for my book club cookie exchange. I had never attempted any type of fruitcake recipe before, and regardless of the bad rap fruitcake traditionally gets, this recipe looked good. And, to my surprise, it also tastes good. Give them a try...or just come over and try some of mine. The recipe was supposed to make 4 dozen but it made 6. I'll have fruitcake forever!

Miniature Golden Fruitcakes
From Everyday Food

6 c. finely dices mixed dried fruit, such as dried apples, pears, apricots and golden raisins (I used everything but pears)
1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (5 1/2 oz)
1 3/4 c. brandy
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c. packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom (I didn't have this, was going to buy it, but ouch, it's expensive...substituted 1/4 tsp. ginger)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. apricot jam, warmed, for topping

In a large non-reactive bowl, combine dried fruit, walnuts and 1 1/4 c. brandy. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 8 hours (or up to 1 day), stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs in two additions, scraping down bowl in between. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and spices. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture in two additions, scraping down bowl in between. Fold fruit mixture into batter.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two mini muffin pans with paper liners. Fill each liner with about 1 TB of batter. Tap pans to settle batter (I couldn't get my batter to settle - I wet the tips of my fingers with water and pressed it down gently...not much though as they don't change shape really at all while baking).

Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and edges are light golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through.

Brush cakes immediately with 1/2 c. brandy; transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Just before serving, brush with jam.

They will keep covered and in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Inspiration

I've been feeling a little humbug this year. I'm not sure why, since I love Christmas and all that it entails. In fact, one of my favorite things about Christmas is making different candies and goodies and sharing them with friends. But even thinking about that hasn't put me in the mood. Instead I'm feeling a bit "grinchy" about the whole thing.

Today I was thinking about what to do to get out of this funk. I've seen several blogs that have declared a "Cookie Week" or "12 Days of Cookies". And I think I need to get in on the action to get back the Christmas spirit. I've decided to put my own spin on it, though.

My goal is to do 12 Days of New Tasty Treats (don't really want to be limited to cookies). I've seen several new recipes I want to try and am hoping this is just the kick in the pants I need to get after it. And, I really need to come up with something to take to a cookie exchange next week.

So, tonight was the kick off. First up, Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch (sounds a little out there, doesn't it?) from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. I was intrigued by this recipe and had everything but the Lyle's Golden Syrup it calls for (and apparently, there is no good substition). Fortunately, Lyle's Golden Syrup, native to England, can be found at World Market...and I went there today. So, I threw these simple cookies together and put them in the oven while we ate dinner.

Delicious! They are not your typical cookie. It's a very thin shortbread, topped with a delicious icing with a hint of ginger. See Peabody's blog for her beautiful pictures.

Confession: my goal was to share some of these with my co-workers tomorrow. I don't know that there will be enough left to share. Oops.

If you want a tasty new treat to try, here's 1 of 12 that I hope to post here. (Of course, it may end up being the 3 Days of Tasty New Treats...we'll just see how things go). Hoping this brings back my Christmas mojo.

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch
For the shortbread:
1 1/4 c. flour
3 TB sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

For the icing:
6 TB unsalted butter
1 TB Lyle's Golden Syrup (find it at World Market)
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. vanilla (I didn't realize I was out of vanilla, so mine were missing this.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch metal baking pan.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender or your fingers, work it until it resembles coarse crumbs. Press evenly in bottom of pan. It will be thin. Bake on the center rack until golden (but not browned) and crisp for 20-25 minutes.

Shortly before the shortbread is done, make the icing. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Heat to a boil and simmer, stirring, for 30 seconds.

Remove shortbread from oven and pour the topping over it, tilting pan to cover shortbread evenly. Cool in pan on a rack. Then, enjoy!

Please note: if you don't like a cookie that isn't gooey or chewy or super sweet, these aren't for you. In fact, I read that they are more of an adult cookie...but CJ gave them 2 thumbs up.