Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Candied Orange Peel

Candied peel is beautiful as a garnish on a traditional pound cake, Madeira cake or even chopped and sprinkled on cookies. Dip the peel in some dark chocolate and serve it as an after dinner sweet. 

2 oranges
1 cup or 200g granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups or 310ml water
1/4 cup or 50g caster sugar, for sprinkling on before baking

Note: This recipe is from The Great British Bake Off’s first master class from season 6, as demonstrated by the great Mary Berry. The only change I have made is to switch out the lemon for two oranges. Mary made it to decorate her traditional Madeira cake

Cut the oranges into eight or 16 slices each. Use a very sharp knife to carefully remove the flesh of the oranges and most of the white pith from the peel.

If you’ve cut them into eight, you might want to cut the peel again lengthwise to make narrower strips. (Mary didn’t actually say this but I could tell her strips were smaller than mine.)

Warm the water in a small pot over low heat and then add the sugar. Stir gently until all the sugar has dissolved.

Add the sliced peels and simmer over a low fire until lovely and shiny, about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 100°F or 38°C.

Drain the peel well in a metal sieve or strainer.

The simmering syrup can be cooled and kept refrigerated in a clean jar to be used for glazing cakes or making cocktails.

Spread the peel out on baking sheet lined with baking parchment and sprinkle the pieces with the additional sugar.

Put the baking sheet in your preheated oven for one hour, or until the peels have dried out.

Candied peel should be hard and dry when done, making a satisfying "tink" when dropped on a plate.

And so says Mary Berry.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

Cream cheese cookie dough is filled with cinnamon and brown sugar, rolled up, sliced and baked till golden then drizzled with sweet cream cheese glaze.

Is there anything that smells better than a kitchen with something cinnamon baking in the oven? I’m pretty sure there isn’t! I have a quite a few recipes, sweet and savory, that call for cinnamon and it’s not uncommon for me to increase the amounts, especially in a sweet dish.

One of our first overseas posting after marriage was in Balikpapan, Indonesia where fragrant cinnamon sticks were cheap and easy to find. When we moved on to Paris, I made sure to pack loads of spices needed for curries and the like, pretty sure that they wouldn’t be as available. And so began my on-again-off-again quest for spices, especially quills of cinnamon bark, from the markets of southeast Asia to South America, to northern Africa and the Middle East, even in a little out-of-the-way Mom and Pop shop called Flores’ Spice Co. in Houston, Texas. It’s been sort of a personal mission and I am please to say that our current home, Dubai, has a fabulous spice souk too, just near the far bank of the Dubai Creek. Do put it on your list if you ever come to visit.

This month my Creative Cookie Exchange group is baking with cinnamon. These cinnamon roll cookies are great for when you’d like the flavors of a cinnamon roll without waiting for the dough to rise. That said, the rolled, filled dough keeps for several days well wrapped in the refrigerator or for a few weeks in the freezer. Just thaw, slice and bake when you are ready.

Make sure you scroll down to see the other great cinnamon recipes our fearless leader, Laura of The Spiced Life and the rest of the group have for you this month. Special thanks to Renee from Magnolia Days for handling the technical details and creating our link list.

This recipe was adapted from one on A Spicy Perspective.

Ingredients for 2 dozen cookies
For the cookie dough:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
3/4 cup or 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz or 57g cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
2 cups or 250g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
1/4 cup or 50g dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch fine sea salt

For the cream cheese glaze:
1 1/4 oz or 35g cream cheese, at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup or 125g powdered sugar

Hydrate your dry yeast by mixing it with the teaspoon of vanilla extract. Without any warmth, it doesn't really activate but the slight yeasty flavor is still there.

Cream your butter and cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla/yeast until light and fluffy using handheld electric beaters or in the bowl of your stand mixer.

With the mixer on low, add in the salt and then the flour, a little at a time. Scrape down the bowl occasionally and mix until everything is well combined.

Flatten the dough and wrap it in cling film. Refrigerate at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 375°F or 190°C and line your baking sheet with baking parchment or a silicone mat.

Mix your brown sugar, cinnamon and the pinch of salt together, making sure to press out any lumps in the brown sugar.

Lightly flour a piece of wax paper and roll the dough into a 7x18 in or 18x46cm rectangle that is approximately 1/4 in or a little more than 1/2cm thick. I marked my lengths on the underside of my waxed paper with a permanent marker for easier measuring. Tidy the edges up a little by pushing inwards with the side of a blunt knife.

Sprinkle on the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture covering the dough completely on three sides but leaving the one long side farthest from you bare about 1 1/2 in or 3cm from the edge.

Starting on the long side closest to you, begin rolling the dough up tightly.

Use the waxed paper to make sure you get it rolling evenly all the way along.

Once you get to the other side, bring the waxed paper up from that edge and fold the naked dough over to form a seal with the dough roll.

Now roll the whole thing up in the waxed paper. Cut off the uneven end of the roll and discard. (Read: Eat raw.) Then cut the roll into 1/2 in or 1cm slices. (I sliced half and saved the other half for later, wrapping it tightly in cling film around the waxed paper and freezing.)

Remove the waxed paper from each slice and put them on your prepared baking sheet. Bake in your preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the edges start to brown .

Allow to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze
Use a fork to loosen the cream cheese by mixing it with one tablespoon milk and the vanilla extract.

Add in the powdered sugar a little at a time and stir well to combine. Add in a little more milk if you want a thinner glaze.

Once the cookies are completely cool, drizzle on the glaze or spread it on with a knife.


Check out all the other fragrant cinnamon cookies we have for you today!

The Creative Cookie Exchange gets together once a month to bake cookies with a chosen theme or ingredient. We post on the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month.

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board as well as our monthly posts, collected for you on The Spiced Life.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Traditional Tartiflette

Pure comfort food, tartiflette is made with potatoes, bacon and lots and lots of melty cheese. Make it and serve it to someone who could use some love today.
Food Lust People Love: Pure comfort food, tartiflette is made with potatoes, bacon and lots and lots of melty cheese. Make it and serve it to someone who could use some love today.

Ah, Paris. The City of Light, the City of Love. Every city we move to is unexpected and an adventure. Fast into the fray I plunge, learning new words, new places, getting lost with regularity and discovering the hidden corners by chance. Paris was no different. My high school French opened the doors just a crack. I could read signs and ask simple questions. Conversations about anything less than the mundane were impossible. Ou est le toilette, s’il vous plaît? Est-ce que il-y-a des oignons? 

I negotiated markets and buses and the Metro, all pushing a bundled-up toddler in an umbrella stroller, upstairs and down, trying hard to move at the same breakneck speed as the rest and not hold up the busy, busy people all dressed in grey and black.

In time my French became more fluent, as I practiced daily with neighbors, shopkeepers, the pediatrician, the pharmacist. Our second baby was born there in a local maternity hospital, chosen for its proximity to home and baby-centric focus, rather than the big, swanky American Hospital of Paris where the nurses might speak English. 

However decent my French, they still called me la américaine but it was a title I was pleased to wear because it was always accompanied by an approving nod of the head. I wasn’t their typical patient and they seemed to appreciate that I wanted to do everything for my baby, including keeping her with me all night.

I made friends with long time expat residents as well as a few local ladies who had lived abroad. We met for tea, for lunch, to watch our children on swings and slides in a nearby park. We compared notes on child rearing, schools and swapped recipes. 

As a family, we traveled around France, ogling the stained glass in churches and and the masterpieces in museums, often sitting with a picnic lunch of cheese and baguettes in the beautifully maintained grounds, feeling quite at one with the families playing and eating around us, just enjoying the view and the sunshine. And, of course, the wine. 

We planted tomatoes in early summer, feasted on the cherries from our large backyard tree when the weather turned warm and pruned the climbing roses when the bright yellow Forsythia bloomed in the front yard. My neighbor would call out to me in greeting, “Coo, coo!” then we chatted companionably across our party wall and the baker around the corner knew just what I would order, smiling in welcome as I pushed into her warm shop, my two small blondies in tow.

In short, Paris, like many other places we have lived, became home.

As I watch the news this morning, horrified at the terrorist attacks on the people of Paris, I was reminded of a meme I shared a few years back with a friend who writes often on the third culture kid experience.

Credit: Girl Gone International 

I mourn for the Paris that was home and for the friends I still love there, who keep part of my heart. Even as I pray for Paris, I am thanking God that they are safe. Which makes me feel guilty because so many have lost loved ones. Pray for Paris with me! God help us all.

When the cold weather starts closing in and the skies turn grey, French mothers warm and comfort their families with tartiflette, a rich hearty dish made with potatoes and melty Reblochon cheese. It seemed like the perfect dish for dinner tonight, when we could all use some comforting.

My tartiflette has been adapted from these two recipes from Journal des Femmes and Marmiton.

1 Reblochon cheese (1.1lb or 500g) (My nearby grocery store carries a cheese made specifically for tartiflette apparently. Since it's a French chain, I am guessing this is still the traditional Reblochon.)
2.2lbs or 1kg waxy, small potatoes
1.1lbs or 500g onions
7 oz or 200g bacon
2/3 cup or 150ml white wine (a Sauvignon Blanc is good, not a sweet wine!)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley, optional

Peel the potatoes and cook them in a large pot of salted water just until a knife slides in easily. Drain and set them aside to cool.

While the potatoes are cooking, cut your bacon into little strips and chop your onions.

In a large oven-proof pan, fry the bacon until it is crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Remove all but a tablespoon or two of the bacon grease and discard.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Add the chopped onions to the bacon pan and sauté until golden.

Pour in the white wine and cook until the alcohol has evaporated.

Remove half of the onions and spread the remainder evenly in the pan. Top with half of the fried bacon.

Slice the potatoes and lay them out in the pan.

Top with the rest of the onions and bacon.

Cut the cheese in half lengthwise. By which I mean right through its equator.

Put the pieces in the pan, cut side down. I also cut mine in half again to better distribute melty cheese over all of the potatoes.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted. If it's not browned enough for your liking, put it under the broiler or grill for a few minutes or until it is lovely and golden.

Sprinkle with some fresh ground black pepper.

If you are serving the tartiflette from the pan, which I highly recommend, you can also add a sprinkle of minced parsley for decoration.

Make this for someone you love and serve it with a fresh green salad dressed in a light vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Food Lust People Love: Pure comfort food, tartiflette is made with potatoes, bacon and lots and lots of melty cheese. Make it and serve it to someone who could use some love today.

Pin this Tartiflette!

Food Lust People Love: Pure comfort food, tartiflette is made with potatoes, bacon and lots and lots of melty cheese. Make it and serve it to someone who could use some love today.