Friday, December 19, 2014

Pomegranate Gelato

This delicious gelato came into being thanks to a salmon fillet.

Let me explain.

Last year Mr. O-P, our then resident fish cooker, got it into his head that he wanted to make salmon wrapped in cedar papers and topped with a pomegranate sauce. As he is notoriously difficult to shop for around holiday time, I put the bug in dad's ear that some cedar wraps and bottle of PAMA liqueur might be an appropriate gift. Not one to pass up a sale, when dad found the PAMA at a good price, instead of buying one bottle, he bought two. That is a lot of pomegranate liqueur! Fast forward to yesterday when, yet again, I was looking for a place to move these taller-than-the-shelf, top-heavy bottles so as not to be in my way. In desperation, I decided to give it a google and see if I could find an appealing recipe that was quick and easy. Enter the gelato recipe that I found on I was a bit short of heavy cream and only had an 8-ounce bottle of pomegranate juice (for yet another of the mister's salmon recipes), so made a few adaptations that are reflected below. It was heavenly! I say was because it is now just a memory. Even the mister, a vanilla (I call it dull-nilla) ice cream purist gobbled it down and asked for more. As the liqueur is stirred in after the cooking, it is not for the kids, so don't feel guilty when you don't share. Just be thankful, and enjoy!

Pomegranate Gelato
Adapted from a recipe on

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce bottle pomegranate juice
1/2 cup pomegranate liqueur such as PAMA
1 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon juice

Special equipment: an ice cream maker

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, until the cornstarch is fully incorporated and the mixture looks powdery. Do this, and you will not have any lumps.

Slowly pour in milk and cream while continuing to whisk, doing so until well blended. Pour mixture into a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan.

 Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking occasionally, then boil, whisking, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients.

Transfer to a bowl and chill, uncovered, until cold, 1-2 hours.
Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.

Soften gelato slightly in refrigerator, about 20 minutes, before serving.

Cook's notes:
Cream mixture (before churning) can be chilled, covered, up to 1 day ahead.
Gelato keeps 1 week. (This made me laugh.)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gingerbread Challah

Let me give you an idea as to how my mind works.

  The other night Mr. O-P and I were watching football. At one of the breaks a commercial came on for a breakfast place. Could have been Denny's, could have been IHOP, could have been Bob Evans, I really don't know, because all I heard were the words gingerbread French toast.  All of a sudden I started to think, ooooooh that sounds tasty.  The plate of French toast in the commercial looked as if ordinary bread had been used, but I immediately started to wonder how I could turn my challah recipe (because French toast isn't French toast, good French toast anyway, unless it is made with challah) into gingerbread challah.  Gingerbread contains molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. So I decided to substitute the honey in the original recipe for molasses and add ground cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I can't tell you how amazing it smelled while it was baking; when people walked into the house they commented. As luck would have it, it tasted as good as it smelled.

Here is the recipe so you can try it yourself. It's a bit denser than plain challah because molasses is heavier than honey. It is also not sweet because it contains no sugar. It is intensely flavorful, however, and makes excellent toast, cinnamon toast, and is superb when used for a turkey sandwich. Later on I'll be trying it to make French toast. I'll let you know.

Gingerbread Challah

1 pinch saffron thread
1 tablespoon water, boiling
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons molasses
2/3 cup hot water (100°F-105°F)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups white bread flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1 egg, beaten

In a small bowl, soak the saffron threads in the 1 tablespoon of boiling water for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, place the beaten eggs, molasses, hot water and melted butter in a bowl. Mix well.

Add the saffron threads with the soaking water; stir and pour the mixture into the baking pan of your bread machine.

Mix the salt and spices into the flour and add to the baking pan and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Set the program to ‘dough.’

When the dough is ready (mine takes 90 minutes), transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it for 2-3 minutes.

Shape the dough into a loaf and place into a greased standard loaf pan. Cover with a sheet of plastic that you have sprayed with PAM.

When the dough has nearly doubled in size (30-45 minutes), remove the plastic wrap and lightly brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave it to cool before serving.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Delicious Homemade Gifts from Your Kitchen

I never go to someone’s house empty-handed, during the holidays, or at any other time of the year.  As someone who has thrown her share of parties, I can tell you (as if you didn’t already know) that it is a lot of exhausting work.  As such, I can’t think of anyone who deserves a prize more than a hostess!

If holiday get-togethers are on your To Do list for this season, here are a number of ideas for tasty little make-at-home gifts that the recipient is sure to appreciate.  Click on the links for the recipe and instructions, as well as some packaging ideas.

An excellent addition to a salad, or to top a soup, these are also a tasty snack alone.  In fact, once you taste them it will be hard to stop eating them, so make a lot.

A rich and tangy barbecue sauce that makes anything taste better.

Another addicting snack, making this has become a holiday tradition for us.

If you are looking for something homemade to give a man, this is a sure pleaser.

Need I say more here?  Really?  These turn vanilla ice cream into an elegant dessert.

Top a brick of cream cheese with this and it will make it gourmet.  It is also delicious on small biscuit ham sandwiches.

A delicious breakfast, healthy snack, and darned good pudding, ice cream, or yogurt topping.  Versatile!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Make Candy Cane Vodka

I am a fan of minty deliciousness, so when I saw a post on the Home is Where the Boat Is blog on how to make candy cane vodka, I had to give it a try. Now I am not a vodka fan, per se. People like to assert that vodka has no taste, but it definitely does have a taste. If you've done any traveling out of your immediate surroundings then you have become aware that even water has a taste, so vodka certainly does as well, and not a particularly good one from my standpoint. So, in my opinion, flavored vodkas are genius.

This is a fun little project. It is also unbelievably easy, immensely practical, and a great little seasonal gift.
A clean, empty bottle, box of candy canes, and bottle of vodka is all that you need. 
I used an 8-ounce spring top bottle and about a dozen miniature candy canes.  You can use fewer candy canes if you want a more subtle taste. The dissolution process takes about three hours. 
I watched intently for the first twenty minutes or so as the candy canes began to dissolve, creating a bit of a head at the top of the bottle in the process. 
Thereafter I'd give the bottle a bit of a shake every half hour or so. 
That is all you do. No straining. No nothing. 

Just tie on a tag and add it to your gift basket, take it to a deserving host or hostess, or do what I did, pour some into a steaming cup of hot cocoa. Marvelous!

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Peppermint Patties

I was intrigued by this recipe from the moment I laid eyes on it while mindlessly flipping through an issue of Saveur Magazine. I like York Peppermint Patties (Boy, do I!), but had no real clue as to how they were made, so in order to discover this I had to try making them myself. In addition to being a bit challenged in the candy-making area, I have no fondant making experience, so didn't quite know what to expect when I started.

I waited until the house was empty before beginning (as I tend to do when experimenting) in order to avoid the rather amused and pithy remarks that often come from the mouth of Mr. O-P when he sees a genius at work. As I'd allowed an entire evening to make these I was quite surprised that it took relatively little time. I followed the directions to the letter and poured the hot mixture onto the marble slabs. What a pile of glop! Good tasting, minty-fresh glop, but glop nonetheless. How on earth, I asked myself (Yes, I often talk to myself while cooking.), could this turn into anything other than goo (one step up from glop)? But I continued on, sliding it back and forth on the slabs with the only two heat-proof spatulas I had in the house -- pancake turners.

Absolutely NOTHING changed for quite some time, all the while I was thinking of various methods of disposal that would neither point a finger at me nor what I'd been doing. The peppermint aroma was delightful, but strong, and a clever nose could sniff out my failure if it ended up in someplace as obvious as the kitchen garbage. But then, a miracle occurred, dough was forming! Excitedly I continued by gathering the mixture into a ball and kneading it. It was very oily from the butter and I thought, once again, that I'd failed, but then all of a sudden I was there. Fondant! It was like magic! One minute I had goo, the next minute fondant, and such a firm fondant that I had to quickly reach for the spray bottle to keep it moist.

It was fascinating to see what I'd perceived as a failed mess turn into peppermint patties. In fact, once this process began I really needed help because it was drying out faster than I could shape it into patties (be advised). It was supposed to make 36, but I ended up with 20 rather large ones, partially due to the speed at which the fondant was hardening and my enormous zeal to get them formed and shaped before the mixture dried beyond use.

Once the patties were formed, melting the chocolate and dipping them was a breeze. The fondant is sweet, rich, and peppermint-y, so certainly you wouldn't want to indulge in more than one, but they are very good, and your family and friends will be dazzled by your skills. I put one atop a small doily at each place setting for a holiday dinner party one evening and they were quite the topic of conversation. Can you say, 

If you're the intrepid (and by this I mean foolish) cook that I am, here's the recipe. Give it a try and report back. I'd love to know your experience.

Peppermint Patties
The recipe for this fondant-centered candy is based on one in The Candy Cookbook by Mildred Brand (Ideals, 1979).

2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. peppermint oil
6 drops green food coloring
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted in a bowl

1. Stir together sugar, cream, milk, butter, and cream of tartar in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, without stirring; reduce heat to medium. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pot; cook, without stirring, until it registers 236°F (soft-ball stage), 12-14 minutes.

2. Pour sugar mixture onto a marble slab. Using 2 heatproof spatulas, scrape mixture back and forth to make a fondant, moving it across the marble quickly until it becomes thick and just cool enough to touch, 3-4 minutes. Toward the end, completely work in the oil and coloring.

3. Gather fondant into a ball; knead until it resembles smooth dough, 3-4 minutes. (If it becomes powdery, work in a few drops of water.) Shape fondant into thirty-six 1 1/2"-wide disks, each about 1/3" thick. (Keep unshaped fondant covered while you work.)

4. Working with one fondant disk at a time, dip them into chocolate using a fork; let excess drip off. Transfer to a wax paper-lined sheet pan. Let set in a cool spot. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

Makes 3 dozen.

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