December 24, 2016

24. Christmas Eve Cinnamon Rolls

Christmas Eve Cinnamon Rolls
Our family has a tradition of eating breakfast food for dinner on Christmas Eve.  These cinnamon rolls baking in the oven fill our home with a fragrance that is extremely comforting.

I've tried many recipes for cinnamon rolls that promise to be the best, but in addition to tasting good I also wanted something that is extremely easy to make.

I've made this recipe for many years and even after trying many other recipes for cinnamon rolls, I believe that this is still the BEST.  It is fast and easy to make, especially if you have a bread machine.

This is a wonderful, gooey, delicious recipe to end our Countdown to Christmas! (Of course, all of these recipes are delicious any time of the year!)

Happy Holidays!

May you enjoy this wonderful time with friends and family.

Christmas Eve Cinnamon Rolls

Dough
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 cup warm skim milk (or 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 cup warm milk)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour

Follow the directions of the bread machine and add all of the ingredients.  Set the machine to dough cycle.  Let the dough rise one time.

Remove the dough from the machine and gently shape it into a rectangle.  Don't overwork the dough.  I like to just stretch it out with my hands instead of rolling it.  It doesn't have to be a perfect rectangle, but the dough should be about 14 inches on the long side and 1/4 inch thick.  Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you are preparing the filling.

Filling
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
sugar (about 3/4 cup)
cinnamon (about 1 Tablespoon)

I usually just mix the cinnamon and sugar together without measuring it.  You can tell by the color and the taste if it is a good combination.  It should be medium brown and it should not taste too sweet.

Christmas Eve Cinnamon Rolls from Bake Chocolate Cake - Countdown to ChristmasSpread the softened butter onto the rectangle of dough.  The secret to delicious cinnamon rolls is using A LOT of butter.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter.

Start on a long side of the rectangle and roll it up.  Once you reach the other side, pinch the dough together to hold the shape of the roll.

Cut the roll into 16 pieces.

Place the rolls in a 12x12 inch baking pan (4 rows of 4)

Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes.

Bake the rolls in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  Prepare the icing while the rolls are baking.

Icing
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Stir all of the ingredients together with just a little bit of the milk.  Add additional milk if the mixture is too thick.  (Add additional powdered sugar if the mixture gets too thin.)

Spread the icing over the hot cinnamon rolls.

Now, the best part...choose a hot cinnamon roll to taste.  Watch how the icing melts down into the buttery center.  I think the center is the very best part - lots of butter and sugar.

The cinnamon rolls are best stored in a plastic bag after they have cooled (although it is not likely there will be any left once they are out of the oven!)  If there are rolls left for the next day they can be reheated in the microwave for a few seconds.

Enjoy!  These are perfect any time of the day or night.

December 23, 2016

23. Lemon Meringue Drops

Lemon Meringue Drops from Bake Chocolate Cake - Countdown to Christmas
When I was making Lemon Curd recently I had extra egg whites so I decided to experiment with a lemon cookie. I wanted something that had an intense fresh lemon flavor.

The result is this cookie recipe!  The outside is a delicate meringue that melts into a chewy, intense lemon taffy.


Lemon Meringue Drops

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice*

In a small bowl combine sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Mix well and then set aside.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue to beat until it forms stiff peaks.

This is the tricky part!  Carefully fold in the sugar mixture.   If it is over-mixed the batter will become runny.

Carefully spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag or a small plastic bag.  Squeeze small dots (about 1-inch) onto a parchment lined baking sheet leaving at least 2 inches between the cookies.  This recipe will make about 60 bite-size cookies.

Bake in a 200 degree oven for 1 hour and thirty minutes.  Turn off the oven and leave the cookies in the oven to cool for another hour.

The cookies will flatten and spread and become like thin wafers.

*If you want a thicker cookie with just a hint of lemon, then leave out the lemon juice.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

December 22, 2016

22. Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle on Bake Chocolate Cake - Countdown to Christmas
I think Santa likes Peanut Brittle!

This is a great recipe for the holidays because it can be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container for several days.  It is easy to transport and it tastes delicious! For individuals with peanut allergies, this recipe can be made with almonds.

Peanut Brittle

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup peanuts
2 teaspoons baking soda

In a pot over medium heat stir sugar, corn syrup, salt, water and butter.

While the candy is cooking line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Continue to cook the sugar mixture until it turns golden brown (300 degrees on a candy thermometer).

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the baking soda.  Stir quickly until the soda is mixed into the candy.  Add the peanuts and stir.

Quickly pour the mixture onto the parchment lined cookie sheet and spread into a thin layer.  Allow the candy to cool.

Once cool, break the candy into bite-size pieces.


December 21, 2016

21. Granny's Divinity

Granny's Divinity on Bake Chocolate Cake - Countdown to Christmas
I am including this recipe in the Countdown to Christmas because it is a candy my granny and my mom always made throughout the year and for the holidays they sometimes stirred in pieces of maraschino cherries.

This recipe can be a little tricky to make, but if you have a candy thermometer it will be easier.

Granny's Divinity

2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites, beat stiff
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place two teaspoons by the parchment paper.

In a pot over medium heat, place sugar, corn syrup, water and salt.  

While the sugar is melting, in a large bowl beat the egg whites until stiff.

Continue to cook the sugar mixture until it reaches 260 degrees (hard ball stage).

Turn on the beaters and while mixing begin to pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites.  Add vanilla.  Continue to mix for 4-5 minutes.  As the mixture cools it will become thicker.

When the candy starts to hold its shape then turn off the beaters and begin to spoon bite-size pieces of divinity onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.  The fastest way to spoon the candy is to use one spoon to scoop up the candy and the second to scrape the candy off onto the parchment (forming small balls).

Allow the candy to cool. This candy is best eaten within a day.  It should be stored in an open container or plate.  (In a closed container it becomes soft and sticky)

NOTE:  If after 5 minutes the candy is not getting thicker, then it was not cooked long enough. Adding some powdered sugar will thicken the candy.  It does not taste quite as good, or look as pretty, but it works.

Enjoy!

December 20, 2016

20. Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd on Bake Chocolate Cake - Countdown to Christmas
This is the recipe to make when the holidays feel rushed and you need an excuse to slow down.  The wonderful fragrance of lemons combined with the need to constantly stir the lemon curd while it is cooking is a therapeutic combination of mindful meditation and aromatherapy!

The last time I was in the grocery store I picked up an organic Meyer lemon.  The fragrance was unbelievable!  It actually smelled like a lemon - unlike the lemons that are usually in the produce department.  I looked at the sign and saw that it was almost six times the price of the other lemons.   In a perfect world I would have bought the Meyer lemon.  In my practical world, I wandered over to get the other lemons to use in this recipe.

Place the lemon curd into cute jars to have on hand during the holidays as a last minute gift.  One recipe makes four 4-oz jars.  The lemon curd is delicious on just about everything - crepes, cheesecake, toast, a spoon . . .

Lemon Curd

1/4 cup Lemon zest
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 egg yolks (save the whites for other recipes like Coconut Macaroons)
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh Lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
6 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Heat a large pot of water on the stove until it boils.  Reduce the heat to a medium simmer.

In a bowl that is the size that fits on top of the pot (double boiler) place lemon zest and sugar.  Stir the sugar and zest until they are thoroughly combined.

Add the eggs to the sugar/zest and whisk.  Add the lemon juice and the butter.


Prepare to cook the curd
1.  Fill a tall glass with cold drinking water and add a couple of slices of lemon.
2.  Turn on some favorite Christmas music.

Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water.  Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.  Stir with a rubber spatula.  Continue stirring and cooking the mixture until it is thick and coats the back of the spatula.  The temperature on a candy thermometer should read about 190 degrees.  It will take about 6-9 minutes.

This is a good time to smell the lemon, sip the cold drinking water, enjoy the holiday music and think about all of the wonderful things you like about this time of year.

When the curd is thick, remove it from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

The curd can be spooned into small bottles.

To preserve the curd:
Leave at least 1/2 inch space at the top of each jar.  Follow regular guidelines for preserving food.  This particular recipe requires the bottles of curd to be placed in boiling water for 25 minutes and then removed from the heat to cool in the pot for 5 minutes.  After the 30 minutes then remove the bottles from the pot and place them on a towel on a counter away from drafts.

Once the seals on the bottles have been broken then store the lemon curd in the refrigerator.