If you need me this weekend, I’ll be in the kitchen making my holiday cookies and gifts.
There’s still time to join me and whip together some treats for others before the season slips away. I'm fussing over ideas for the Meyer lemons I found this weekend at Costco. I was thinking of lemon curd, but I'm cranky about the recipes I've found because they call for bottled lemon juice to ensure they are canned safely. I may end up with a freezer curd instead. I'll report back on what I make.
Here are some of the recipes I’ve made in the past that were well received:
From “Gifts Cooks Love,” by Diane Morgan (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010)
2 1/2 pounds (6 to 8 medium) oranges (such as Valencia or Cara Cara)
3/4 pound (2 large) lemons
6 cups cold water
20 green cardamom pods, crushed
8 cups granulated sugar
Prepare the fruit 12 to 24 hours before you plan to cook and preserve the marmalade. Wash and pat dry all the fruit. Trim and discard the stem ends. Cut the oranges and lemons into quarters and poke out all the seeds with the tip of a paring knife. Reserve the seeds in a small covered container. Using a sharp chef’s knife or mandoline, cut all the citrus, including the rinds, into 1/16-inch-thick slices. Put the sliced fruit in a large pot, including any juices left on the cutting board. Add the 6 cups of water. Gently press down on the fruit to make sure it is submerged. Cover the pot and set aside at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (This softens the rinds and releases the pectin.)
The next day, bring the pot of sliced fruit and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils steadily without splattering, and cook for 30 minutes. Wrap the crushed cardamom pods and the reserved lemon and orange seeds in a cheesecloth bag tied securely with kitchen twine.
While the fruit is cooking, prepare the preserving jars and bring water to a boil in a water bath canner. Sterilize the jars and lids.
Add the sugar to the fruit mixture and stir until dissolved. Add the cheesecloth bag of cardamom and seeds. Continue to cook the marmalade at a steady boil until it reaches the gel stage (see note) or reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
Remove the cheesecloth bag from the marmalade, pressing any liquids back into the pan.
Remove the marmalade from the heat. Using a wide-mouth funnel and filling one jar at a time, ladle the marmalade into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles by running a long wooden utensil, such as a chopstick or wooden skewer, between the jar and the marmalade. Wipe the rims clean. Seal according to the manufacturer’s directions. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, and then turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes, and then lift the canning rack and, using a canning jar lifter, transfer the jars to a towel-lined, sturdy rimmed baking sheet and let them rest. Check the seals, wipe the jars, and label.
Note: Here’s an easy way to check whether the marmalade is set. Put a small plate in the freezer. When the marmalade looks thickish and a bit gelled, put a small amount of the marmalade on the frozen plate and return it to the freezer. After a couple of minutes, run your finger or a spoon down the center and see if it stays separated and is a bit wrinkled. If so, it is done.
Storing: Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Yield: 11 half-pint jars
Nutella Biscotti with Hazelnuts and Chocolate
From “The Art and Soul of Baking,” by Cindy Mushet (Andrews McMeel, 2008). These crisp, twice-baked Italian favorites are perfect for dunking in coffee, tea or hot chocolate. They’ll keep in an airtight container for two months.
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup Nutella, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) chopped skinned toasted hazelnuts (see note)
5 ounces good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch chunks, or 1 cup (6 1/2 ounces) mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) superfine sugar, optional (see note)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position oven rack in the center.
For the dough: Place the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth and slightly lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. You also can use a hand mixer in a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results.
Add Nutella and blend well. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (15 to 20 seconds) and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture all at once. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and blend slowly, just until there are no more patches of flour. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips and mix on low, just until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir gently a few times with the spatula to make sure the nuts and chips are evenly distributed and there are no patches of unincorporated flour or butter lurking near the bottom of the bowl.
To shape and bake the dough: Divide the dough in half. On a work surface lightly dusted with flour, gently squeeze and roll each piece to shape into logs about 13 inches long. Line one baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the logs on the sheet about 4 inches apart. Press down the logs, flattening them slightly until they are each about 2 inches across the top. Place a second baking sheet under the first (to prevent the bottoms of the logs from browning too quickly).
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the logs are firm to the touch and lightly golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the logs cool completely. (If you attempt to slice them while warm, the chocolate will smear and the cookies will look messy.)
Cut the logs and bake them a second time. Turn the oven down to 275 degrees and position two racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Carefully transfer the cookie logs to a cutting surface. Use a serrated knife to slice the logs on a slight diagonal into cookies 3/8-inch thick.
Line the second baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cookies, cut side down, on the parchment-lined sheets. (You’ll need both sheets to hold all the cookies).
Toast the cookies in the oven, switching the sheets between the rack and rotating each front to back halfway through, for 30 to 40 minutes, until dry and lightly tinged with color. Transfer to a cooling rack.
While the cookies are toasting, prepare the finishing sugar if you like. Whisk together the superfine sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. As soon as the cookies are out of the oven and off the rack, immediately roll them in the cinnamon sugar and return to the baking sheet to cool completely.
The cookies will keep in an airtight container for 2 months. If the cookies soften during storage, re-crisp them in a 300-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool and return to storage container.
Notes: To toast and skin hazelnuts, place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 10 to 14 minutes. The skins will begin to split and come away from the nuts. Transfer the hot nuts to a clean kitchen towel and wrap them lightly inside it so the steam will help loosen the skins. After 3 to 4 minutes, rub hazelnuts vigorously inside the towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. Depending on the variety, you may be able to remove some of the skin, but sometimes very little rubs off. Don’t worry, the remaining skin will add flavor and color to your baking.
Superfine sugar is sometimes labeled “baker’s sugar.” To make your own, whirl granulated sugar in the food processor for about 60 seconds. You can substitute superfine sugar for granulated sugar on a 1 to 1 ratio one to one.
Yield: About 45 biscotti
Cranberry Turtle Bars
From “The Gourmet Cookie Book,” from the editors of Gourmet magazine. The recipe is also available at www.epicurious.com, along with dozens of other cookie and treat recipes. I chopped the cranberries when I made this recipe, but some reviewers suggested keeping the cranberries whole. I’m going to try that when I make these again.
For the base:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the topping:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed; 6 3/4 oz), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups pecans (12 ounces), toasted and cooled, then coarsely chopped
For the decoration:
2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), very finely chopped
Special equipment: a candy thermometer
To make the base: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 short sides. Butter all 4 sides (but not bottom).
Blend flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture begins to form small (roughly pea-size) lumps. Sprinkle into baking pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer. Bake in middle of oven until golden and firm to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.
To make the topping: Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245 degrees F on thermometer, about 8 minutes. Carefully stir in cranberries, then boil until caramel returns to 245 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated. Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly. Cool completely.
Cut and decorate bars: Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 6 crosswise strips, then 6 lengthwise strips to form 36 bars.
Melt half of chocolate in top of a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Transfer chocolate to a small heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Seal bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner to form a small hole, then pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.
Note: Bars keep in an airtight container (use wax paper between layers) 1 week.
Yield: 36 bars