Cooking

Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

This is the first cookie I can remember making with my Mother. She sat me down at the kitchen table with a pile of chilled dough. I think I was 7. She put a piece of wax paper on the table, then rolled out one small  ball of dough. She told me to do what she had just done. Roll out the rest of the dough into little balls. I sat there and made one tiny dough ball after another, until I was done. I can’t make these cookies without thinking of her. A special memory, indeed.

I had a conversation with a childhood friend recently about these cookies. She remembered that my Mom used to make them, and she wondered if I still did. I still do make them. Wouldn’t seem like Christmas without them.

Russian Teacakes, also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes are a delicate nut-filled shortbread cookie coated in powdered sugar. The magic is created when the cookies, hot from the oven, are rolled in powdered sugar. The powdered sugar clings to the hot cookies and makes a sort of sweet coating.  Once cooled, they are dusted with more powdered sugar. Whether you call them Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, or as another friend always refers to them, butter balls, these cookies are a must for your holiday cookie baking.

 

 

Russian Teacakes

1 c. butter
½ c. powdered sugar, plus extra for coating
1 t. vanilla
2 ¼ c. flour
¼ t. salt
¾ c. finely chopped nuts, nearly ground

Mix butter, ½ cup sugar and vanilla well. Stir flour and salt together and then add to butter mixture. Mix well and stir in nuts. Wrap dough and chill. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned on the bottom. While still warm, roll cookies in powdered sugar. Dust again with sugar once cooled. Makes about 4 dozen.

 

Holiday Apple Bread

Holiday Apple Bread

This bread is such a nice addition to any holiday meal.  It is one of my favorite recipes.

Not too sweet, it is moist from the shredded apples, flavored with cinnamon, and studded with raisins and nuts.

This apple bread makes a great breakfast or snack. I serve it at lunch, toasted, then topped with cream cheese and jam.  I have also been known to top a slice with ice cream and a little caramel sauce for a simple dessert.

The recipe makes one loaf, but I often double it. I divide the batter in smaller pans- ending up with 5 or 6 loaves.  I use them as gifts, or freeze for later use.

The cinnamon sugar topping is optional, but adds a little extra sweetness to the bread. The picture does not do this bread justice. It is so good.

 

Enjoy!!

 

 

Holiday Apple Bread

1/3 c. butter, softened

2/3 c. sugar

2 t. grated lemon or orange peel

1 t. cinnamon

2 eggs

3 T. milk

1 t. lemon juice

1 t. each baking powder and salt

1/2 t. baking soda

2 c. flour

1 1/2 c. peeled shredded apples, about 2 large apples

1 c. raisins*

1/2 c. chopped nuts

Topping:

3 T. sugar

1 t. cinnamon

 

Cream together butter, sugar, peel and cinnamon. Beat in eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in milk and lemon juice. Stir in dry ingredients then fold in apples, raisins and nuts. Pour batter into greased 9×5 – inch loaf pan. Combine topping and sprinkle over the top of the batter.  Bake in a preheated 350 -degree oven for 1 hour. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Cool 15-20 minutes before removing from pan. Yield: 1 loaf.

*You can use other dried fruits. I sometimes use dried cranberries or cherries.

Cream Wafer Cookies

Cream Wafer Cookies

Cream Wafers  are a little more work than most cookies, but they are worth it. They are the most requested cookies of all the ones I make. The secret is the dough, which contains no sugar. It is made from only three ingredients- flour, butter and heavy whipping cream.

When baked, they turn into flaky layers that melt in your mouth.  Seriously, if you want to really impress this holiday season, show up at a party with these cookies.

Cream wafers are coated in sugar before baking. You can use tinted sugar, if you like. Once baked and cooled, they are made into little sandwich cookies, using a buttercream frosting. You can also tint the frosting if you like.

Because they puff when baking and become thicker, and you are using two of them to make the sandwich cookie, be sure to roll them out pretty thin.

Here is the recipe. Hope you enjoy!!

 

Cream Wafers

1 c. butter
1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
2 c. flour
extra fine or granulated sugar
Frosting:
¼ c. butter, softened
¾ c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
food coloring, if desired

Mix butter, cream and flour well. Wrap and chill at least an hour. Roll chilled dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut out into 1½ inch rounds or even little hearts or stars. Transfer cookies to a sheet of wax paper heavily coated with extra fine or granulated sugar and coat both sides. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and prick each cookie 4 times with a fork. Bake at 375-degrees 7-9 minutes until lightly browned and puffy. Cool on rack. Mix frosting ingredients. Put 2 cookies together with frosting to make “sandwiches”.

Cheese Puffs

Cheese Puffs

These little crackers are addictive. We made them in a kids’ cooking class last week, and again with adults last night. They were a big hit. So tasty, so easy.

Forget any of the store bought “cheesy” crackers you have had in the past. These are so much better. The dough is pretty simple, just 5 ingredients- cheese, butter, salt, hot sauce and flour.

Homemade crackers are not hard to make at all. They do involve a little time, but it is well worth it.

We used miniature cookie cutters (also called aspic cutters) that come in all sorts of adorable shapes. You can also just cut the dough into thin strips, or small squares. We even cut some in little fish shapes, like a popular snack cracker.

I used sharp cheddar cheese, but you can play around with other cheeses. I have made these with Swiss cheese and they were also good. You can add more cayenne or add some herbs, if you like. I really recommend using a food processor to make the dough. It helps to get the cheese and flour to combine.

They don’t spread at all, so you can place them pretty close together on the baking sheet.

Think of how much fun these would be to serve at your next party. They make a nice gift, too.

 

Cheese Puffs

 

1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ c. butter

½ t. salt

¼ t. cayenne pepper or  hot pepper sauce to taste

1¾ c. flour

In mixer or food processor, combine cheese and butter until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until pretty smooth. Roll out onto lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into thin strips or use mini cookie cutters to make shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheet, nearly touching, as they do not spread.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Bottoms should be lightly browned. Makes about 100, freeze well.

Ready for the oven

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

This Christmas “tree” has become a tradition around here. I make one as a gift for a dear friend every year. If you are looking for something to serve for Christmas morning, or even as a dessert option, I suggest you make this coffee cake.

The recipe actually makes 2 “trees,” so you can have one to give- and one to keep. Or perhaps, one for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day.

The yeast dough is prepared, then chilled before rolling. You can do that a day, or even two days, ahead of time. The rolls are filled with a pineapple and cream cheese mixture and are very tasty.

The rolls are arranged in a tree pattern before baking. Then, after baking,  the “tree” is topped with a light glaze and gently sprinkled with red and green sugars. The original recipe called for candied cherries. You can use them, or Maraschino cherries or even dried cherries or cranberries. I can my own spiced cherries and sometimes use them.   So pretty, and not that hard to make.

 

Here is the recipe.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

Dough:
4-4 1/2 c. bread flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
2 packages active dry yeast
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
Filling:
1 lb. Cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash salt
1/4 t. vanilla
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple in its own juice drained and squeezed dry
Topping:
11 Maraschino cherries, halved
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. milk
red and green sugars

For dough in large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the sugar, salt and yeast. Heat together the milk, water and butter until very warm. Add to flour mixture and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and 1 more cup of flour and beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining dough to make a stiff batter, about 1 cup. Cover bowl tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days before using. For filling combine all ingredients for the filling except the pineapple and beat until smooth. Stir in pineapple and set aside until ready to use. Remove dough from fridge cut in half. Roll out one piece on lightly floured surface into a 10×11- inch rectangle. Spread with half the filling, leaving an inch at the end of 11-inch side. Roll up from eleven- inch side. Use thread or dental floss to cut through dough in 1-inch pieces by placing thread under roll and crossing ends. Pull outward and thread should cut through dough. If you aren’t having any luck you can always use a knife, but they tend to flatten the rolls. On a greased baking sheet arrange the slices (you should have 11) into a tree shape. Start with one on the top and then a row of 2 below then 3 and then 4. The last roll will serve as the trunk. Cover dough with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. When dough is risen, about 1-2 hours bake in a 375- degree oven for 15 minutes then cover edges with foil to prevent over browning and return to oven for 10 minutes more. Cool on wire rack. Place half a cherry in the middle of each roll. Make a glaze with powdered sugar and milk and drizzle over. Sprinkle with the sugars. Makes 2 trees, 11 rolls each. Can be frozen up to a month ahead . Defrost in a 350 -degree oven for 10 minutes and apply toppings.

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Fresh out of the oven

Eva’s Kolachy

Eva’s Kolachy

Over the years, I have shared many of my family recipes. This is another family recipe- but not my family. Tia Houpt found this recipe when going  through her Grandmother’s recipe collection. She was kind enough to share the recipe- and gave me permission to share it with you. Her grandmother was Eva Skero- so I have named the kolachy in Eva’s honor.

There is something special in having old family recipes. We find so many recipes online these days, we sometimes forget there was a time when recipes were handwritten. Often, they were stored in a drawer or in a shoe box. There is usually a mix of handwritten recipes and recipes cut out of newspapers and magazines.

Sometimes you just find a list of ingredients. Measurements aren’t always precise. A handful of this a pinch of that. The phrase moderately hot oven doesn’t real help, does it? And what exactly is a number 2 can? Still, there are some real gems in those collections.

This is one of those recipes.

I have made kolachy for years and have used the recipe for the crust that my mom used. I love my mom’s recipe. I love this recipe even more.

I was intrigued that the dough contains both baking powder and yeast. I had to make it, just to see what it was like.

The dough is tender and very easy to work with. It doesn’t get chilled. You just make the dough, then roll it out and make the cookies. I did let my butter soften a little before cutting it into the flour. I could see using cold butter instead.

The dough rolled out beautifully and baked up a perfect golden brown. I had to let them cool a bit before I could taste one. I am not kidding- they were heavenly. Tender and so flaky. Tia and I both see this as a very nice tart dough, too.

So here is Eva’s recipe. I hope you will give it a try. Thanks, Tia, for sharing it.

 

Eva’s Kolachy

 

Dough:

 

3 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

1 c. butter*

3 eggs

2 pkts. Yeast

½ c. warm milk

Filling:

Assorted pie fillings, jams, sweetened cream cheese or ricotta cheese You will need about three cups of filling.

 

In mixing bowl, combine flour with baking powder and salt. Cut  butter into flour until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Set aside.  Place eggs in a small bowl and beat until smooth. In small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add to egg mixture and stir to combine. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. If mixture is sticky add a small amount of flour. Roll dough out on floured board. Thinner the better, as this dough will puff some when baked. Cut into squares- or whatever shape you like. I did 2-inch squares. Place a spoonful of filling into center of each cookie. Fold up two of the corners and press firmly to seal. Fold over and press seam again. These like to pop open when baking, so the second fold over and pressing helps them to stay closed. Some people like to add a bit of egg wash or milk to the tops to help them seal better. I just squeeze together and fold twice.  Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet, about an inch apart. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cook on a rack. Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar or with a powdered sugar glaze. Makes about 5-6 dozen.

*The original recipe called for shortening. Tia and  I both decided butter was better!! That is the only change we made to Eva’s original recipe.

Cooled and dusted with powdered sugar

 

This post is dedicated to Eva Skero and all the home cooks out there who lovingly kept their recipes for us to find.

Homemade Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Truffles

In keeping with my homemade gift theme this week, I wanted to share this simple, yet very tasty recipe, for Homemade Chocolate Truffles. These melt in your mouth, with a smooth, creamy texture and rich, chocolate flavor.

They can be a lovely hostess gift. Kids can make them, too.

The secret for making really good truffles is using the best quality chocolate you can. You can use chocolate chips, but get good quality chips.

They are very soft, and melt quickly when handled. When rolling them out, I prefer to wear plastic gloves. Make them without gloves, and you will understand why.

At candy making stores, you can get small papers cups and small boxes or tins for wrapping up your truffles.

 

 

Chocolate Truffles

1/3 c. Whipping cream

6 T. butter, cut into small pieces

2 c. chocolate chips- or 12 oz. dark chocolate, grated or chopped coarsely

Unsweetened cocoa

Heat cream to boiling in small saucepan. Stir in butter and cook until melted. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Place in shallow bowl and chill until firm, at least a couple of hours. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in cocoa. Sometimes the mixture is quite firm and hard to roll into perfectly smooth balls. You can roll them out as smooth as you can, roll in cocoa and then roll again to smooth out. You might want to give them another roll in the cocoa after that.  Makes about 30.

 

Chocolate Truffles

Cookie Candies

Cookie Candies

There are so many cookies I bake this time of year, I could never pick a favorite. There are some cookies that are a MUST bake, however.

These cookie-candies are one of them. They get their name because, once decorated, they look like little pieces of candy.

Under the sprinkles are rich and tasty oatmeal shortbread cookies. Shortbread cookies are always a favorite of mine. I think I make half a dozen varieties of shortbread.

The dough is easy to handle. You just shape small amounts into shapes like circles, squares and ovals. They hold their shape. Like most shortbread, they bake at a lower temperature than other cookies. They also bake a bit longer. They should be a little golden on the bottom when done.

After they are baked and cooled, the cookies are dipped in melted chocolate and then in assorted toppings. You can dip them in sprinkles, finely chopped nuts and coconut. Pretty and tasty.

 

Cookie-Candies

1 c. butter

¾ c. powdered sugar

1 T. vanilla

2 c. flour

½ c. rolled oats

½ c. chocolate chips

¼ c. milk

finely chopped nuts

assorted sprinkles

shredded coconut

Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour and oats. Shape teaspoonfuls of the dough into different shapes like rounds, ovals, cones cubes etc. Try to make them look like little candies. They will hold their shape very well while baking. Bake in a 325- degree oven for 20-25 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet. Cool. In microwave safe dish combine chocolate and milk and melt. Dip tops of cookies in chocolate mixture and then in one of the toppings you have. Chocolate topping will harden up after a while. Makes about 4 dozen.

Candied Orange Peel

Candied Orange Peels

In a recent class about making homemade food gifts, some of the students made candied orange peels. I think they were skeptical about how they would come out. In the end, several said it was their favorite of the foods we made in class.

During the winter months, when citrus is in season, I find myself eating a lot of oranges. I also find myself with a lot of orange peels. I dry some, and powder it up for use in baking and cooking.  But there is always more.

It’s a pretty easy thing to make and a nifty way of turning something that might otherwise be discarded into something tasty. You can also candy other citrus peel this way like grapefruit or even make candied ginger by using slices of fresh ginger. Best to use organic oranges, since you are eating the peels.

Once finished, the candied peels can also be dipped in dark chocolate for a special treat.

They make a nice gift, too.

 

Candied Orange Peel

2 large oranges ( you can also use 1 grapefruit or 3 lemons)

or 1 lb. of ginger root*

¾ c. water

¾ c. sugar, plus extra for rolling

3 T. light corn syrup, optional

Remove peel from fruit using a sharp knife. Try to get the peel off in 4 pieces. Cut the peel into ¼-inch wide strips. Place peel in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, drain and rinse under cold water. Repeat process 2 more times. Return to pan with fresh water and boil 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Bring ¾ c. water and ¾ c. sugar to boil in sauce pan with the corn syrup. Boil 2-3 minutes and then add the peel. Simmer, stirring occasionally until all but a spoonful of the syrup is left. This should take about 10 minutes. On a wax-paper lined baking sheet sprinkle 1 cup of sugar and arrange the peels on top of the sugar. Toss the peels around until cooled adding more sugar if needed.  Place peels on a drying rack for 24 hours before storing. Once dried you can also dip one end of the peels in dark chocolate. Makes ½ pound.

* If making the candied ginger root peel and cut into 1/4- inch slices. Then cut the slices into 1/4-inch thick strips

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Ice Cream Cone

Since I posted the recipe for homemade marshmallows yesterday, I thought I would post the recipe for hot cocoa mix today.

I am always looking for homemade gift ideas for the holidays. I really like gifts that both adults and kids can make. This one is just a simple way to package homemade hot cocoa mix to make it special. We made these in a holiday gift class the other night. People really enjoyed making them.

You start with hot cocoa mix- recipe follows. Then you get these cone shaped bags. I use a 12-inch size and a 17-inch size. I buy my online but they are available in some craft and candy making stores. Just put about 1 cup of the hot cocoa mix in the smaller cone shaped bag. Fold the top down and tape it shut. Now place the smaller bag inside the larger bag. Add about a cup of mini marshmallows mixed with some chocolate chips. The chips are optional. Tie shut with a ribbon. It ends up looking (sort of) like an ice cream cone.  I add a label that says “Hot Cocoa for Two” with directions that say, “Divide hot cocoa mix between two large mugs. Fill with a cup of boiling water in each. Stir and top with the marshmallows”. You can make whatever label you like. A quick and simple gift. You could also include mugs with the gift. This is a great idea for kids to make for grandparents, teachers, etc.

 

 

Here is the recipe for the hot cocoa mix.

Hot Cocoa Mix

3 c. nonfat dry milk
1 c. cocoa
1 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 c. mini marshmallows (optional)

In large bowl, mix all ingredients well. I like to sift the ingredients in because it powders the milk even finer than the way it comes. Store in an airtight jar and use within 6 months. To use add 5 tablespoonfuls to 8 ounces boiling water. Variation, flavor with cinnamon, instant coffee, cayenne pepper or even dried orange peel.