Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Headstart Holiday Baking: Vanilla Pillows

One of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes that I'm NEVER allowed to skip are the wonderful, tender, melting and vanilla-laden Vanilla Pillows. Far from being a boring or plain cookie, these have amped up vanilla flavor and a divine texture. I'm putting them up here now, because while they are easy to make, there is a certain amount of lead time needed to make the Vanilla Sugar that coats them. Like two weeks, minimum. That, and making them in advance actually improves their flavor. 
Here is the Vanilla Sugar recipe. Make it in a large glass jar with a screw on lid and you can keep the jar going all the time for Vanilla Pillows whenever the mood strikes you:

Vanilla Sugar for Vanilla Pillows
(requires a minimum of two weeks for flavors to marry properly)

2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean

Cut a slit in the vanilla bean, and place it in a large GLASS jar with a tight fitting lid (tall enough for the vanilla bean -- like a peanut butter jar) and scoop the sugar in around it. Shake the jar every couple of days for at least two weeks to marry the flavors. Use to coat Vanilla Pillows.

great Christmas favorite, makes 180 cookies!

4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup confectioners (10X) sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
tablespoon vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda; set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening together until fluffy, and add the confectioners sugar a little at a time until all is added, then beat for 2 additional minutes. Add granulated sugar a little at a time until it is all added, then beat an additional 2 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition; add vanilla and beat one additional minute. Add flour in 3 additions, blending at low speed until it is just combined after each addition. Chill dough, covered, for 2 hours.
Have ready a wide flat bowl with Vanillla Sugar (see recipe above). Roll a teaspoon of dough into a ball, then roll in vanilla sugar, coating completely. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, 1.5" apart, and flatten slightly with a cross hatch design with the tines of a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes. Cookies should be very pale golden on bottom.
Transfer to racks to cool. Store in AIRTIGHT tins/containers (important to develop flavor!) overnight before serving.
These keep very well, with the flavor improving over time. Keeps up to two weeks.
Makes 180 cookies.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011: Roast Chicken and Hot Fudge Pudding Cake for Cold Nights

One of my knitting friends, Beedle Hinely, shared a recipe for roast chicken that is to die for. We love to make roast chicken during the cold months: no meal is as comforting or as satisfying on a cold fall or winter night. Enjoy! For dessert, something gooey and chocolatey seems just right. How about an old-fashioned Hot Fudge Pudding Cake? Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.


Roasting Chicken – 5 to 8  lbs.
A lemon, quartered (leave rind intact)
One or two red onions, quartered
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Olive oil
4 or 5 russet potatos, halved
Butternut squash, peeled and cubed
A red pepper, seeded and cut in eight pieces
2 or 3 heads of garlic, separated but not peeled
6 to 8 carrots, peeled and left whole
Pepper, garlic salt

Several hours ahead of roasting: Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold running water and pat dry. Refrigerate on a platter to allow to dry thoroughly.

Peel vegetables and set aside.

Dust cavity of the chicken with salt and sage. Stuff with the quartered lemon, 1 red onion quartered, and some of the fresh rosemary.

Rub the chicken skin with olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic salt. Brush the bottom of the baking pan with olive oil, and lay several rosemary sprigs in a bed in the center bottom. Lay chicken on top of rosemary.

Toss the second quartered onion, the potatoes, the red pepper, the butternut squash cubes, carrots, garlic lightly in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Arrange vegetables around the chicken, and sprinkle with pepper and garlic salt. Roast in a 375 degree oven (with rack in quarter of the oven),  until done, based on weight of chicken. Baste chicken occasionally with pan juices, and turn vegetables a couple of times during roasting.
Roast for 2 to 3 hours, based on weight of chicken. Use pop up timer or thermometer to determine when the chicken is done.

* * * * * * * * * *

To be served warm

1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tblsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup milk
2 tblsp. Melted shortening or butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 ¾ cups hot water

Oven 350 degrees

Measure flour, sugar, 2 tblsp. Cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Blend in milk and shortening. Pour into ungreased square 9 X 9 pan.
Stir together brown sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa; sprinkle over batter. Pur HOT water over batter, and place in preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 mins.
While warm, spoon cake into dessert dishes and top with whipped cream or ice cream.

8 servings