dimanche 27 décembre 2009

Happiness Cake

Today would have been my mother's 75th birthday. In the late 60's or early 70's she was fond of Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet cooking show and would laugh at his entrance of jumping over a chair with a glass of wine in hand. She would try to write down his recipes - her handwriting started off very neat and tidy but got larger and messier as the show progressed. The pace of the show was too fast to be able to copy down the recipes! Mum did try to introduce us to some new recipes but we kids weren't too keen at the time. It's a different story now but sadly she was not around to see how our cooking and tastes have progressed over the years.

While going through the binder where she kept the handwritten recipes, I found one which is different from all the rest. I don't know where this recipe originated but here is my Mother's copy.

vendredi 25 décembre 2009

Everyone's Favourite Apricot Squares

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone all the best for the holiday season.

I first made Apricot Squares many years ago for Christmas. The recipe is adapted from a Canadian Living recipe magazine - Christmas Edition from the 1980's . I not only make this at Christmas but anytime when I have company visit and everyone loves it. My friend and former housemate, Suzanne, used to excitedly ask "Are you going to make THEM?" whenever I brought home dried apricots. My Aunts worriedly wondered why I was putting the rest in the freezer when they would be visiting for a couple more days. Almost everyone asks for the recipe so here it is!

Everyone's Favourite Apricot Squares

125 mL (1/2 cup) butter, softened
250 mL (1 cup) all-purpose flour
60 mL (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

150 mL (2/3 cup) dried apricots
250 mL (1cup) water
2 egg yolks
175 mL (3/4 cup) packed brown sugar
125 mL (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
2 mL (1/2 tsp) baking powder

425 mL (1-3/4 cups) approx. icing sugar
50 mL (1/4 cup) butter, softened
30 mL (2 Tbsp) lemon juice
7.5 mL (1-1/2 tsp) grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

In bowl, cream butter. Add flour and sugar; mix well. Press into bottom of 2.5 L (9-inch) square cake pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.

While base is baking, chop apricots into small pieces. In small saucepan, combine apricots with water and bring to a boil; simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and apricots are tender. Set aside.
In bowl and using electric mixer, beat egg yolks for 1 minute; add brown sugar and beat for 1 minute. Stir in flour and baking powder; mix well. Blend in apricot mixture; spread over warm base.
Bake in 160ºC (325ºF) for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is golden and springs back when lightly touched. Let cool.

In small bowl, gradually beat icing sugar into butter to a smooth spreadable consistency. Blend in lemon juice and rind. Spread over apricot filling. Cut into small rectangles to serve.

These freeze beautifully so you can make them in advance.

dimanche 20 décembre 2009

Fresh Ginger Cookies

I awakened to a snow covered landscape and -14°C outside. Not much snow but for me any snow is too much and any temperature below +10°C is way too cold. We have more snow on the way but the temperatures should warm up a bit. Some think of a white Christmas as romantic and special. It can be as long as you don’t have to leave the house. After so many years of Canadian winters I know the reality of having to clean the car and the sidewalks of snow and ice, treacherous driving conditions, late flights and missed airline connections, and other such annoyances and hazards.

My idea of a White Christmas in
volves palm trees, white sandy beaches and warm temperatures. Something feels right about Christmas in the tropics.

Since I am not in the tropics and am surrounded by a winter wonderland, I decided to make some Fresh Ginger Cookies. These use freshly grated ginger and molasses to make dark and spicy cookies that are a cross between ginger cookies and gingerbread.

Fresh Ginger Cookies
Makes about 30

500 mL (2¼ cups) flour
5 mL (1 tsp) baking soda
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
30 mL (2 Tbsp) grated fresh ginger
180 mL (12 Tbsp) butter, at room temperature
180 mL (3/4 cup) sugar
60 mL (¼ cup) molasses
1 egg
Additional sugar for rolling

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream together ginger, butter and sugar. Beat in molasses and egg. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Chill for a minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Roll dough into cm (1-1/2”) balls and roll in extra sugar. Place 5cm (2”) apart on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until edges start to brown (centres will be slightly soft). Let stand on baking sheet for 1 minute then transfer to racks to cool completely.

dimanche 13 décembre 2009

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

Fruitcake is a British specialty. These heavy cakes laden with preserved fruit and nuts are a Christmas tradition. There are two versions – dark and light. Fruitcakes have a mixed review. They are loved by some and hated by others. They can be soaked with rum or brandy.

My preference is for light fruitcake using some mixed peel, dried apricots, the traditional raisins and almonds. My friend Anne and I would get together in Ottawa to prepare the fruitcakes over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. In recent years, I have switched from making fruitcakes to making fruitcake cookies, which seem to be more popular. The best ones are made from freshly prepared candied fruit (from my olive merchant at the marché in Paris or specialty food stores) mixed with dried apricots. The mixed candied fruit from supermarkets tends to all taste the same and should be avoided if possible. When it is not possible, use in combination with other dried fruit.

This recipe uses a combination of mixed candied fruit and peel, dried apricots, raisins and dried cranberries with almonds.

Fruitcake Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

250 mL (1 cup) golden raisins
250 mL (1 cup) candied fruit (Macedonia mix, yellow & green pineapple, candied peel), chopped
125 mL (1/2 cup) dried apricots, chopped
125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh, dried cranberries, coarsely copped
125 mL (1/2 cup) slivered blanched almonds
125 mL (4 Tbsp / 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
250 mL (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg
50 mL (1/4 cup) orange juice
425 mL (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Combine raisins, candied fruit and peel, cranberries, apricots and almonds; toss with 50 mL (1/4 cup) flour. Set aside.
In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg and orange juice. Combine remaining flour and baking powder; stir into batter. Add reserved fruit and mix thoroughly.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cookies can be stored in airtight containers for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 weeks.