Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas!  I have a few recipes that I wanted to share before the big day so I decided to do one big post. 

I will start with the appetizer.  Gougères are my favorite holiday app.  They are incredibly easy and you really can’t go wrong with this much butter and cheese.  If you have ever had popovers, these are like miniature, cheesy versions.  I made these for my friends after our last final on Wednesday and I promised to post them the next day when I was flying home to Seattle so that everybody could get the recipe quickly.  Unfortunately my hangover prevented me from doing anything productive on the flight yesterday.   I blame “L’Chaim!”- a newly invented drinking game involving a dreidel, beer, and cherry vodka… I think it also didn’t help that my dinner consisted solely of gougeres, pigs in a blanket, and mozzarella sticks.  Luckily I have made a full recovery today, so if you are searching for a last minute Christmas hors d’oeuvres, make these! 

1 cup water
½ cup butter (1 stick), cut into tablespoon sized pieces
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 ½ cups gruyere, grated (feel free to get creative- cheddar would also be delicious)

Preheat the oven to 425.  Combine the water and butter in a medium sauce pan over high heat.  When it reaches a boil and the butter is completely melted, add the flour all at once and stir quickly until everything combines.  Reduce the heat to medium, and continue to stir for about 2 minutes- this dries out the dough so that it can absorb the eggs and cheese.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. 

Add one egg at a time, beating to completely incorporate each one.  It may seem like they don't want to mix in at first, but keep stirring.  If you have a stand mixer you can use the paddle attachment to spare your hand.  Once the eggs are in, add the cheese and cayenne.  Spoon small tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  You can also put the batter in a large plastic bag, cut a corner, and pipe it onto the sheet.

Now for the dinner portion of the post, which also features gruyère!  As I have mentioned before, my family has an abundance of traditions, especially this time of year.  On Christmas eve eve (the night before Christmas eve), we always eat fondue and decorate cookies with my grandparents.  Upon reflection, I’ve realized that almost all of our traditions revolve around food- nothing makes me happier than prepping in the kitchen all day.  I really can’t take much credit for these recipes though- the fondue is my dad’s territory, salad is mom’s recipe, and my sister rolls out the cookies.  I am always in charge of frosting though! 
My dad doesn’t believe in recipes and never measures so it was kind of hard to nail down the proportions for the fondue.  My advice is to just taste as you go and add more cheese until it reaches a good consistency. 

serves 6
¾ lb gruyère
¾ lb emmentaler cheese
1 ½ - 2 cups dry white wine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kirshwasser (cherry brandy)
Pinch of nutmeg
Bread cubes

Grate the cheese into a big bowl.  Add flour and toss to lightly coat the cheese.  Heat ½ cup of wine in your fondue pot.  Add the minced garlic and stir for a minute or two.  Don’t let the garlic brown.  Add another cup of wine and heat until it is almost simmering.  Start sprinkling in the grated cheese, stirring as you go.  Don’t add too much at once- you want it to stay hot enough to melt while you are adding.  As it gets thick add a little more wine and then continue adding your cheese.  Once you finish adding the cheese, add the kirshwasser and the nutmeg.  Light the fondue burner and set the pot over it.  Serve with bread and enjoy!

serves 6
1 bag prewashed spinach
5 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 hardboiled eggs, crumbled
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
Dressing (see below)

Toss the spinach with the dressing until it is well-coated.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.  Enjoy!

for the dressing:
2 garlic cloves
5 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Put the garlic cloves in a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the next 4 ingredients and pulse until well combined.  Slowly add the olive oil so it can emulsify. 

I wanted to post these cookies not only because the recipe is delicious (usually choices are limited to gingerbread and sugar cookies- so this is nice variety), but also because I wanted to share this ingenious decorating technique from Gourmet.  It requires very little artistic skill and looks so professional!  Using egg whites in the frosting allows it to harden so that you can stack your finished cookies without destroying your designs. 

2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream the butter, shortening, and both sugars using either a stand mixer or hand held beater.  Add eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Then slowly blend with sugar mixture.  Divide into three disks, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours (or longer).  Roll out each disc, cut into desired shapes, then bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes. 
Eric's interpretation of my mom riding in the tractor to cut down our Christmas Tree (it was pretty hilarious at the time)

makes about 3 cups
1 (1-lb) box of confectioners sugar
4 teaspoons powdered egg whites
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat together all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until just combined, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to high and continue to beat until icing holds stiff peaks, about 3 minutes.  If not using icing immediately, cover the surface with a dampened paper towel and cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Add food coloring as desired.

Now for some other cookies that I also can’t take credit for- these are my friend Noelle’s famous snickerdoodles.  They are chewy and best served right out of the oven.  If I had to pick one kind of cookie to take with me to a desert island, I would probably choose these. 

from Noelle, and
makes about 16 cookies
1/2 cup butter , softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar 
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars at high speed.  Add egg, vanilla, and beat until smooth.  In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix well.

Preheat oven to 300° while you let dough rest 30-60 minutes in fridge.  In a small bowl combine topping.  Take about 2 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball.  Roll this dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and press onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, NO MORE.  Cookies may seem undercooked but will continue to cook out of the oven.

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