Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holidays with Heritage

It's been such a whirlwind during this holiday season, but I have had many opportunities to spend some time reminiscing with whoever happened to be home~ mostly Mary~ about my holidays growing up and the heritage that has come out of them.

Of course, most families have certain recipes they end up making during the holidays, and I am pretty sure there are dissertations from psychology majors aplenty to this affect. If, for some reason, I am the first one to actually put something down on paper, I would be happy to help some future psychologist with their research. The main question I have is~ why do we do this? Is it just me, or do we have a plethora of recipes floating around in cardboard boxes,
overstuffed envelopes and, of course, well used cookbooks? I have a habit of immediately going to the internet for a recipe even when I am pretty sure I have a recipe for what I want to make somewhere in my collection. Now I know there are some great recipes out on the internet~ if not, I wouldn't have bothered to start this blog. But please hear me- if you have access to family recipes, give them a try!!!

Our resident "pastry chef", Mary, and I had a wonderful time trying this recipe thesis out during our holiday season. We made such things as Cousin Rosie's Italian Pizelles, Grandpa Aziz's pizza dough, Grandma Aziz's oatmeal cookies as well as

Mahmul- an interesting cookie from my bit of Arabic background

plus, of course my "famous" cinnamon rolls.

Here's the recipe for my Grandpa's pizza dough. It is a fairly basic recipe, and it mak
es a great base for many applications- pizza, bread, rolls- you name it, it works! Give it a try and make sure to look through the recipes you may have lurking in some dark corner of your cupboards~

Grandpa Aziz's Bread Dough

6 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
3 t. salt
1 T. sugar
2 cups hot water
1/4 cup olive oil (you can use vegetable oil in a pinch, but the flavor won't be quite the same)
non-stick cooking spray

Mix all dry ingredients together, holding back 1 cup of flour in a large mixing bowl from your stand mixer if you have one (if not, just use a large bowl). Add 2 cups of water heated to the point of just being able to put your finger in it. Add the 1/4 oil. Mix well, either using the mixer's flat beater or with a large spoon.

Using mixer's bread hook, knead dough for 5-7 minutes- adding up to 1 cup of flour if needed to make a nice smooth dough. If doing this by hand (which is sometimes great and cheap therapy), then knead the dough on a floured surface for 10-12 minutes- still adding the extra flour as needed.

Form dough into a ball. Spray another large mixing bowl with non-stick spray and place dough in bowl. Turn once to coat dough. Cover with plastic wrap then a towel. Set somewhere warm (I like the top of our refrigerator- when there's room) for 30-45 minutes to rise. Once risen, dough will be ready to be used or can be placed in zipper-top plastic freezer bags and held in the freezer for up to 3 months (if it lasts that long).

This recipe doubles easily. Just be careful of too much flour in your mixer~ I have a large Cuisinart stand mixer that I love, but sometimes too much flour will glunk up the mixing mechanism. I usually do a double batch of the dough partially in my mixer then finishing it up by hand~ again, it's great therapy and even better exercise!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mary's Cranberry Blessed Bars

Tis the season to enjoy so many sweets~ of course in moderation, and at our house that usually means just getting to try one piece if we're lucky before the boys swoop in for the taking! This year Mary and I have tried lots of delicious recipes with great success. The latest was her take on Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars which everyone decided were definitely as good, if not better, than the originals as well as a lot cheaper!!

I've decided to post this recipe for Mary as my facebook profile status about these "cranberry blessed bars" got lots of comments~ this recipe would be for all the folks that wanted it~ with lots of Christmas wishes for all of you~ from Mary too!!

Cranberry Blessed Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice (Mary used clementine juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons Crisco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar with electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt; beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. Mix in 3/4 cup cranberries and white chocolate chips. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13-inch baking pan and spread evenly. bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is light brown around the edges. Let cool.

For the frosting, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, orange juice, and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth. After your cake is cool, spread the frosting over the top of the cake, then sprinkle the cranberries over the cake.

Create your icing by whisking the powdered sugar, milk, and shortening. Drizzle the icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion. Allow the cake to sit for several hours, then slice the cake sideways through the middle. Slice across the width three times to create 8 rectangles, slicing again diagonally to create 16 total triangles.
These can be enjoyed with any coffee and are great for gifts!