Happy Halloween! Celebrate with a batch of Soul Cakes

October 31, 2011

Princess Arwen

Happy Halloween! I know I’ve said it before, but I LOVE Halloween. Unfortunately, this year Jay and I did not have any fabulous Halloween parties to attend. We didn’t actually get to go to one last year either (note to self: start planning to throw Halloween party myself on 2012, thus ensuring we get to dress up!) Even without the party, I still love it and as you can see, if Jay and I can’t get gussied up for the occasion, I have no problem tormenting my pets with little costumes! (Yes, sadly I am one of those people…)

The Dread Pirate Gimlet

Howdy Partner! Arwen just loves Halloween...

Here is a bit from a blog I wrote last year on the origins of our Halloween celebrations:

Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. As Christian beliefs took hold, Samhain celebrations became re-branded as All Soul’s Eve. By the eighth century beggars, rather than the spirits from the other world, would travel door to door on this night. In exchange for their prayers for the family’s departed, they were given a small cake, known as a Soul Cake.

I wasn’t going to bake any Soul Cakes this year, I thought I’d just publish a picture from last year, but this time include the recipe for folks. However, once I started reading over the recipe, the desire to keep up the holiday traditions, no matter how old they may be, took over and before I knew it, I had an impromptu batch of Soul Cakes. I’m glad that I baked them. These cakes are a mildly sweet and a bit spicy, a cross between a cookie and a cake that is topped with currants in the shape of a cross. Jay, who tends not to like super-sweet desserts (what?!!) really liked them. They are quite nice with a cup of tea. The recipe comes together very quickly, so it’s not too late! Make a batch for any wandering souls that you may come upon tonight!

Soul Cakes

recipe from NPR by T. Susan Chang

yield: 12-15 2″ Soul Cakes

ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Generous pinch of saffron (I left this out of my cakes and thought they were fine if not a bit anemic looking :) )
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup currants

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten or a bit of watered down heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.

Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.

One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won’t need the entire half-cup.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.

Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk or cream. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny.


Witches’ Froth

October 28, 2011

Oooooooo! Spooky, Spooky! That’s right, this is the dessert that is a favourite among all witches’ covens. Witches’ Froth is a baked apple mousse. Very light, apple-y and refreshing, especially so after we’ve been chowing down on all of those heavy Halloween chocolate goodies. I first came across this recipe all the way back in May on the blog, Girl Cooks World: Gluten Free Recipes from Around the Globe. Apparently this is a Hungarian dessert (Boszorkanyhab in that language…I think I’ll just stick with calling it “Witches’ Froth)

It has a bunch of stuff I love like apples and vanilla and booze (not Jack Daniels this time but Rum). I knew this would be a perfect and unique adult treat for Halloween and have been planning on whipping it up ever since. I was not disappointed. Very yummy and once the apples are done baking, it comes together in a snap. I served this treat a couple of different ways, in spooky fall tree glasses and as a cute mini dessert/taster  in little dark Belgian chocolate cordial & toasting cups topped with candy corn.

Witches’ Froth

Recipe from: Girl Cooks World

Yields: 4 servings in glasses and many little dessert cups

Ingredients:

  •  4 baking apples
  •  1 cup vanilla sugar
  •  2 egg whites
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  •  2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  •  whipped cream, optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wash and bake the apples for 50-60 minutes, until softened.  Let them cool, peel and core them, and puree the pulp in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the egg whites and sugar and beat 10 minutes with an electric mixer, until fluffy and thick.  Add the rum and lemon juice and continue beating for another 5 minutes.

Spoon into individual serving glasses or bowls and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Note: This dessert uses raw egg whites, so please be aware that there is a small risk of salmonella contamination.


Harvest Apple French Toast

October 24, 2011

I’m happy to say the Fall weather held through the weekend around here! We went for a great hike on Saturday in a local park. The temperature was great (could’ve been a bit cooler…) and the changing leaves were gorgeous. On Sunday morning I decided to make some French Toast with a bit of the Harvest Apple Challah bread that I had made earlier in the week. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision mind you. I had thought about it shortly after I had my first bite of that fantastic bread. I knew if I didn’t squirrel a couple pieces away for French Toast, there would be none left. So I acted quickly before we gobbled it all up!

Having that secret stash of bread was brilliant, just like this french toast turned out to be! All French toast is pretty great in my opinion, but the Apple Challah bread made this French toast particularly stunning. The recipe below is a basic french toast recipe with a little nutmeg thrown in as well as some “maple sugar”, to give it a nice fall, mapley taste. Maple Sugar is a sugar prepared from the sap of the sugar maple tree. It is sweeter than granulated sugar, so a little goes a long way. I found mine with all the other sugars in my local grocery store. It’s a bit pricey, but I really like it. It would be fine to substitute in granulated sugar and rely on Maple Syrup to provide the maple flavour. To each his own.

So, to sum it up, I guess I’m saying that you really should whip up some of that Harvest Apple Challah bread, if only to have it for the Harvest Apple French Toast. But if your family is anything like mine, you better think ahead and hide some before it’s gone. To let you in on a little secret… I have a bit more stashed away and will be making some Harvest Apple Bread Puddings soon. Stay tuned and in the meantime, enjoy the Harvest Apple French Toast!

Harvest Apple French Toast

yield: 2 pieces of French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of Harvest Apple Challah Bread (for recipe click here)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon maple sugar (or granulated sugar if you prefer)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Place milk, egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maple sugar in bowl. Whisk until well combined. Place Harvest Apple Challah slices in bowl and allow bread to soak up some liquid on one side and then flip bread over.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in frying pan over medium heat. Place soaked bread slices in pan and cook, flipping as necessary, until both sides are golden brown.

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Enjoy!


Halloween Popcorn Balls

October 20, 2011

It’s getting to be that spooky time of the year. Recently when walking our pup through the neighbourhood, I’ve noticed tiny cemeteries full of scary tombstones and skeletons springing up where the flowers used to grow among the otherwise pristine lawns. There are a plethora of ghosts to be seen fluttering from every tree branch. And we couldn’t help but notice the twin 8 foot tall grim reapers standing vigil at the end of the driveway across the court. Yup…pretty dang spooky everywhere you look. This can only mean one thing Yay! It’s Halloween! (At least I hope so or my neighbourhood has really taken a turn for the strange!) Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. I have been wanting to make popcorn balls for some time now, so there’s no time like the present.

Popcorn balls are great as they can be customized for almost any holiday. I made these particular ones “Halloween” popcorn balls because I added good old candy corn to them. Really you could add anything”halloween-y” that you wanted, say M&M’s – plain or peanut, or chopped up bits of any of your favourite halloween candies. I’ve even heard M&M’s are making a white chocolate M&Ms in candy corn colours for this year’s festivities. Apparently you can only get these at Walmart, and I don’t have a Walmart close to me. But for those of you who do, they might be worth a try. I was quite happy with the simple addition of candy corn and since I didn’t use any chocolate, that meant my dog could enjoy a bite or two as well, which made him quite happy.

"Hey! Does anyone else see this treat here on the edge of the table?"

"Guys...this smells like popcorn!"

"Guys...this smells like popcorn!

"Oh Please! Oh Please!"

"Score!"

These treats are super easy to make and a real crowd pleaser! Essentially they are Rice Krispie Treats but with popcorn used instead of the puffed rice. And don’t forget the addition of the fabulous, seasonal candy corn (or “root canals in a bag” as we used to call it in the dental office. (Remember to brush and floss folks :) )

I do have a couple of hints to offer before you get to work on these beauties. After you pop the popcorn for the treats, remember to add salt to it as you normally would as if you were going to be eating it as a snack. I am a total sucker for that salty/sweet combo. Also, once you add your candy corn to the melted marshmallow/ popcorn mix, work quickly, because that candy corn will start to melt. Once the marshmallows, popcorn and candy corn are all combined, you can use an ice cream scoop to form the balls if you like, but I usually just butter up my hands and shape them that way.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Halloween Popcorn Balls

Yield: 12 popcorn balls (medium sized)

Ingredients:

  • 9-10 cups of popped corn – salted as you like it
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag of mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 bag candy corn or whatever your desired Halloween treats might be

Directions:

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add popcorn and stir gently until combined with melted marshmallows. Quickly add desired amount of candy corn or treat of your choice. Remember, work quickly once your treat is added as it may melt.

Butter an ice cream scoop, or simply butter your hands. Shape popcorn mixture into balls and place on parchment paper lined baking tray to cool.

Enjoy!


Boozy Peanut Butter & Banana Pound Cake with a Peanut Butter Nutella Glaze

October 14, 2011

So the other day I had a real hankering for something with peanut butter and bananas. Then I saw the bottle of Jack Daniels sitting there and decided bourbon would have to be involved in the dish as well. I don’t know why it is that I want to put Jack Daniels in everything. I think I’m borderline obsessed with the stuff! What’s even stranger is that I never drink Jack Daniels in any type of cocktail form. In fact, I only drink it straight after the most harrowing of days. :) Yet I want to put it in everything I bake. Go figure…. Perhaps I lived in Tennessee in a previous life…

The man himself!

Well, I had come across a recipe that called for all of the desired ingredients. It was listed on a blog from which I had never attempted to make any dishes and which due to the following outcome, shall remain nameless. I must admit, I was a bit sceptical about said recipe because it did not call for any eggs. Hmmm…. And it seemed a bit short on flour. Hmmm…. But I soldiered on and popped the ill-fated concoction in the oven. The cloud of doubt grew ever darker as I peeked in the oven to check on its progress ( ie. lack of progress). With growing apprehension, I went to one of my favourite blogs, Buns in My Oven, because I knew Karly had published a recipe for a fantastic looking Peanut Butter & Banana Pound cake not too long ago. I checked her ingredients…yup…5 eggs and over double the amount of sugar and flour. Oh no! Why did I ever stray! But what could I do but sit with a horrible sinking feeling, hoping for the best, yet fearing the worst. Sadly, my perseverance merely resulted in  a terribly disappointing blob emerging from the oven. Utter failure! I hate it when that happens. But I proceeded to pick myself up ( after uttering a string of expletives which I wouldn’t even think of replicating here ) and began to mix up the recipe for Peanut Butter & Banana Pound Cake with a Peanut Butter Nutella Glaze from Buns in My Oven, but with the addition of some lovely Jack Daniels. It was obvious from the get-go that this was much more like it. I felt my spirits lifting and knew I would be redeemed in this cake.

Sure enough… This cake is stunning!

I bet it’s even awesome without the Jack. You could leave it out if you were taking it to a church pot-luck or a children’s party or some other such teetotalling thing. But it just makes me feel better knowing Jack’s in there.

Boozy Peanut Butter & Banana Pound Cake with a Peanut Butter Nutella Glaze

Recipe slightly adapted ( I added the Jack Daniels :) ) from Buns In My Oven

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used JIF), divided
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 3 Tablespoons Jack Daniels (or your preferred Bourbon)
  • 1 cup Nutella, divided
  • 2 tablespoons milk or water (optional – or you could use some more Bourbon – as you seen fit)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and 3/4 cup of the peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, mixing until light and airy, around 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Add the flour and salt to the mixer, all at once, and mix just until incorporated. Mix in the mashed banana on low. Add the Jack Daniels and mix until incorporated.

Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Drop heaping spoonfuls of Nutella over the top of the batter, about 1/2 a cup. Using a butter knife, swirl the Nutella all throughout the cake to get a marbled look.

Bake the cake for 60 – 75 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heat remaining Nutella and peanut butter in the microwave in 10 second intervals to soften it up enough to drizzle. If desired, mix in a little milk or water or even some more bourbon, depending on the day you’ve had, to thin out the glaze until it reaches the desired consistency.

Drizzle on top of the bundt cake.

Enjoy!


Vanilla Bourbon Blackberry Jam

October 10, 2011

Jay loves blackberries. And the blackberries have looked great this year.

I have been wanting to make him a delicious blackberry treat for some time now. I had planned to make him some blackberry cupcakes filled with blackberry curd and topped with a lime cream cheese frosting for his birthday. Sounds awesome huh? But alas…you know that thing about plans and mice and men? Well, his birthday came and went and it didn’t happen :( He was kind enough to give me a rain check on those cupcakes though, so I’m determined to make good on my promise. Keep your eyes peeled for  the recipe here when I finally am able to make them appear. In the meantime, I was able to make him some Vanilla Bourbon Blackberry Jam.

It has blackberries and bourbon, Jack Daniels to be specific, both things of which Jay is quite fond. And, with this jam, he will still have the fresh taste of blackberries stored away, long after their season is over. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway…You know, a good dose of justification to assuage the old guilt.

I’m happy to report Jay loves the jam. He’s been eating it on toast every morning since its creation and says its very tasty! I’ll have to take his word for it. I really don’t care for blackberries. Don’t like those crunchy seeds in them, which ironically is one of the things about them that Jay really likes. But this recipe wasn’t for me, it was for my fantastic, understanding and patient (still waiting for those cupcakes) husband. Lucky me!

Vanilla Bourbon Blackberry Jam

Recipe adapted from See Brooke Cook

yields: 2 Half Pint (8 0z) Jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs  blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice and the zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of Bourbon – I used Jack Daniels – a favourite around here!
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Directions:

Wash the blackberries and toss them into a preserving pan, or any stainless steel pan you have. Lightly mash the berries with a wooden spoon to break them open, add the rest of the ingredients, but not the butter, and stir. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Place a small plate in the freezer to test the jam’s consistency later if desired.

Fill a large pot with tap water. Submerge two 1/2 pint jars and their lids, making sure they are completely covered by the water. Boil the water.

After allowing the mixture to sit, start cooking it over medium-high heat. At this point, add the butter which will keep the mixture from frothing. The mixture will bubble vigorously. Eventually, the boil will subside to larger bubbles, but still bubble vigorously. Begin gently stirring the jam frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
After about 25 minutes you can begin testing the jam’s consistency if desired by placing a small amount on the cold plate, then allowing 30 seconds to pass. You can run your finger through it to see what the cooled consistency will be. Boil for a few minutes longer if you would like a thicker jam.

When the desired consistency is reached, ladle the jam into jars. If you’re going to gobble both jars up without delay, just place them in the refrigerator. If you would like to save one or both for later, screw rims onto jam jars. Using tongs, pick up the full jam jars and place them back into the boiling water for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove the jars and place them on the towel. As they cool, you should hear a ping type noise which tells you the jam jars are sealed. When you push down in the center of the top of the jar, there should be no click noise. Make sure the lids are sealed tightly. You’re done!

Enjoy!


Harvest Apple Challah

October 5, 2011

This past weekend really felt like Fall! I can not tell you how thrilled I am!!! That goes double for Gimlet. He pranced the entirety of our walk and I was prancing right along with him! (a sight to see, I assure you) Yeah, we did get a bit of rain, a guess quite a bit of rain, over saturday and sunday. That just didn’t matter to me. The air was crisp and even though it was raining that horrible muggy oppressive air had moved on. As much as I loathe summers in Virginia, (and this one particularly sucked what with the Hades-like heat and humidity, hurricanes and earthquakes and all manner of bad news), I LOVE Fall! I love the nip in the air and the smell of wood fires, I love the colour change in the leaves, I love the holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving) and I love the food… Think maple syrup, gingerbread, a plethora of pumpkin dishes, chilli, pot pies, stews and maybe best of all fresh apples. That’s right, we are heading into apple season and my favourite fruit is…you guessed it… apples! Yippee…I think it’s finally here! What better way to celebrate than with some yummy Harvest Apple Challah.

This Challah is very easy to make. I used to be afraid of any recipe that included yeast. But I’m way over that now. The only problem I have with the whole yeast bread preparation is getting the dough to rise in the amount of time indicated in the recipe. We like to keep it fairly chilly in the house, so all of my yeasty baked goods seem to take double the time to proof that the recipes actually call for. Luckily, I’ve figured that out and just plan for it to take longer than indicated. Patience is a virtue I’ve been told. After you let the dough rise until doubled in size, you roll it out into a rectangle. Add half of the apples which you have cored, but not peeled

Cored Honey Crisp Apples

and tossed with cinnamon a sugar.

Cinnamon and sugar coated apples

Fold the dough over the apples once – like you would a letter -

Getting ready to make the first fold

adding more apples and then folding it over again.

Folded apple stuffed dough

Then you cut the apple filled dough the long way, down the center and then across which forms little apple filled dough bits.

Messy!

Yup…this is messy as you can see, but as those apple bits fall out, just toss them into your prepared springform pan. No worries!. Once the pan is filled, you cover and let that dough rise again for about an hour.

In the pan and ready to rise for a second time

I know, that is a lot of rising time. You’d have to get up pretty early in the morning if you wanted to serve this for breakfast. Maybe you should adjust your plans and aim to serve it for afternoon tea.

Apple Challah - Hot out of the oven! YUM!!!

Or serve it for breakfast the next day, it is very tasty reheated ( or cold in the middle of the night for that matter…not that I’d know anything about that…)

Remember that thing I said about patience. Believe me, this bread was worth the wait! I couldn’t believe I had actually made this it was so perfect. Full of red, ripe, cinnamon coated honey crisp apples and drizzled alluringly with honey, (if you should choose to do so… go on, you know you want to!), every bite is a little taste of the long-awaited perfect Fall season.

Harvest Apple Challah

recipe adapted from Janae Monir blog who adapted it from the King Arthur Flour site (I love King Arthur flour! It is the only kind I will use!)

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

For the apples:

  • 2 medium-to-large apples, NOT peeled; cored and diced in ¾” chunks
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

For the glaze:

  • heavy whipping cream
  • demerara sugar to sprinkle over the top

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or other bowl), mix the water and honey together until honey dissolves.  Sprinkle on the yeast and lightly mix.  Let stand 10-15 minutes until slightly foamy and activated .

Add the rest of the dough ingredients to the yeast mixture and mix with the paddle attachment (or by hand) until the mixture just comes together.  Replace paddle attachment with dough hook and knead the mixture until a cohesive dough forms.  If you’re not using a stand mixer, you can knead it by hand.  The dough should be smooth. Form the dough into a ball in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise about 2 hours, until doubled and puffy.

Toward the end of the rising time, coat a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Coat a piece of foil with cooking spray and wrap it around the outside bottom and sides of the pan. So that the juices don’t leak out.

Core and slice the apples into ¾” pieces.  (Do not peel them.)  Toss apples with cinnamon and sugar.  Set aside.

When dough is ready, gently deflate, transfer to a lightly greased surface, and flatten into a rough rectangle, about 8×10″, with the short side facing you.  Place half of the apples down the center of the dough, and fold the left side over the apples, sealing the edges.  Place the rest of the apples on top and to the side of the folded over dough.  Fold the remaining half of the dough over the apples (like folding a letter) and seal the edges.  Now, the messy part: using a knife or bench scraper, cut the dough in half the long way.  Then, cut the dough crosswise eight times, resulting in 16 pieces.  Don’t worry about the pieces being the same size or keeping it neat.

Squeeze the dough pieces into the pan in a single layer.  You don’t have to put them in any sort of pattern or design; place some in sideways or flat or on their sides, and jumble it all up; it doesn’t matter.  Apple chunks will fall out, just put them on top.  Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap and let rise again about 1 hour, until puffy and about 2″ high.  Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 325º.

When ready, brush the heavy cream over the surface of the bread.  Sprinkle demerara sugar (coarse sugar) over the top to give it an extra sweet crunch.  Bake bread about 55 minutes, or until bread reaches an internal temperature of 190º F.  Remove from oven, let sit 5 minutes, then carefully remove from pan.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, preferably drizzled with honey.

Happy Fall!


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