Dec 082014
 

It’s hard to believe my favorite holiday is only a few weeks away – Christmas. This week I managed to finish all of my Christmas shopping for friends and family along with planning some unforgettable recipes to share with all of them.
December is a month of various Multicultural holidays. There are some wonderful holiday customs carried out all over the world, but also many delicious desserts, I would love to share a few with you.

Christmas in France
In French Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Joyeux Noël’. In France, Father Christmas / Santa Claus / St. Nicholas is called Père Noël (Father Christmas).
The main Christmas meal, called Réveillon, is eaten on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning after people have returned from the midnight Church Service. Dishes might include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël (Yule Log) is normally eaten.

a buche de noel

To try this beautiful recipe for  Buche de Noel click here 

Christmas in Sweden
In Sweden, presents might be brought by Santa called ‘Jultomten’ or by gnomes/elves called ‘Nissar’ or ‘Tomte’. They’re called Nisse’ in Norway.
Around Christmas time in Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) on December 13th. The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden. St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.
A popular food eaten at St. Lucia’s day are ‘Lussekatts’, St Lucia’s day buns flavored with saffron and dotted with raisins which are eaten for breakfast.

a lussekatter 2

Click here for this delicious Lussekatter recipe

Christmas in Italy
On Christmas Eve, it’s common that no meat (and also sometimes all dairy) is eaten. Often a light seafood meal is eaten people go to the Midnight Mass service. The types of fish and how they are served vary between different regions in Italy.
For many Italian-American families a big Christmas Eve meal of different fish dishes is now a very popular tradition! It’s known as The Feast of the Seven Fishes (‘Esta dei Sette Pesci’ in Italian). The feast seems to have its root in southern Italy and was bought over to the USA by Italian immigrants in the 1800s. It now seems more popular in America than it is in Italy! When people return from Mass, if it’s cold, you might have a slice of Italian Christmas Cake called ‘Panettone’ which is like a dry fruity sponge cake and a cup of hot chocolate!

a panettone

Click here to try this Panettone recipe for yourself

Christmas in Greece
In Greek Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Kala Christougenna’.
On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing ‘kalanda’ (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes they will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands.
If the children sing well, they might be given money, nuts, sweets and dried figs to eat.
The main Christmas meal is often Lamb or pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It’s often served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and new year foods include ‘Baklava’ (a sweet pastry made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made from a special form of shredded filo dough and flavored with nuts and cinnamon), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). Another popular Christmas dessert are melomakarono, egg or oblong shaped biscuit/cakes made from flour, olive oil, and honey and rolled in chopped walnuts.

Food Stylist:  Jamie Kimm

Click here to try this mouthwatering Greek Baklava treat

Christmas in Japan
In Japanese Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Meri Kurisumasu’.
In Japan, Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine’s Day celebrations in the UK and the USA. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant – booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult as it’s so popular!
Fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas day. It is the busiest time of year for restaurants such as KFC and people can place orders at their local fast food restaurant in advance!
The traditional Japanese Christmas food is Christmas cake, but it’s not a rich fruit cake, but is usually a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream.

a strawberry sponge 2

Click here for a traditional sponge cake recipe

I hope you enjoyed this “sweet” trip around the world…Let the holiday baking begin!

Panettone (Italian Christmas Bread)

 Breads, Holiday/Entertaining, International  Comments Off on Panettone (Italian Christmas Bread)
Dec 082014
 

Panettone (Italian Christmas Bread)
Cuisine: Italian
 
Ingredients
  • Makes 2 Panettone
  • Ingredients
  • Sponge:
  • 1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) warm water
  • ½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour
  • First Dough:
  • 1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
  • ¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • Second Dough:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ⅔ cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon essence/extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange essence/extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading
  • Filling and Final Dough:
  • 1½ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) golden raisins or golden sultanas
  • ½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied citron
  • ½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied orange peel
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) (15-25 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
Instructions
  1. For the Sponge: Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy; about 10 minutes or so.
  2. Mix in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. For the First Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy, about 10 minutes or so.
  4. With the paddle attachment, mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  5. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours.
  7. For the Second Dough: To the first dough, with the paddle attachment, mix in the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt until well combined.
  8. Mix in the butter until smooth.
  9. Add the flour and slowly incorporate.
  10. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  11. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
  12. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
  13. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as ⅔ cup (100 gm).
  14. Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product
  15. For the First Rise: Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap.
  16. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size.
  17. There a few ways to go about this: Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours OR find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight OR rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  18. If you do this it will take some time to wake up the next morning (maybe another hour or two).
  19. For the Filling and Final Rise: Soak the raisin/sultanas in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise.
  20. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
  21. Now take your dough and cut it in half.
  22. Combine all your filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  23. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape.
  24. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log.
  25. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling.
  26. Roll into a log shape again.
  27. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
  28. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.
  29. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
  30. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise.
  31. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more.
  32. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours.
  33. For Baking: When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
  34. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (about a tablespoon) of butter.
  35. Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  36. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes.
  37. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
  38. Cooling your panettone is also important.
  39. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels.
  40. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels.

 

Dec 082014
 

Lussekatter ( St. Lucia Buns)
Cuisine: Swedish
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1-1/3 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, chopped fine and soaked in a few drops of water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, divided use
  • 4 cups unbleached flour + flour for kneading
  • Raisins for garnish
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat.
  2. Add milk and saffron and heat until just until warm.
  3. Pour into bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  4. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Add sugar, salt, 1 egg and 2 cups flour.
  6. Beat with paddle attachment until smooth and well combine, about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  7. Add final 2 cups of flour.
  8. Using dough hook, beat until mixture is smooth and begins to climb beater.
  9. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until perfectly smooth.
  10. This dough has a wonderful velvety texture to it.
  11. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to coat all surfaces, and let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  12. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  13. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Punch dough down, roll into a cylinder 36 inches long.
  14. Cut 18 2-inch pieces from cylinder.
  15. Roll each piece into a 10-inch rope.
  16. Form each piece into an S, spiraling ends to form a figure eight.
  17. Transfer pieces to to prepared baking sheet.
  18. Let rise, covered, until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  19. Brush buns with reserved egg.
  20. Tuck raisins into spirals at each end of figure eight.
  21. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Yield: 18 buns.

 

May 302012
 

I enjoy traveling all over the world and South America was one of my latest stops. It is one of the must-dos among travel agents today also.Argentina is South America’s second largest country, snugly situated between the Andes mountain range, the Pacific Ocean, and the South American countries of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile. Being situated in such a manner, Argentina is exposed to many different cultural influences from all directions, including countries all the way across the Pacific. Spain took it upon themselves to permanently settle in the country in the late 1500s, and remained there until Buenos Aires formally emancipated themselves in 1853. One of the most remarkable differences between Argentine Cuisine and exotic cuisines from around the world is the heavy influence that the cuisine of the Italian and Spanish cultures had on it.

Startlingly enough, due to the influence of the Italian culture on the country of Argentina, Italian food staples such as lasagna, pizza, pasta, and ravioli are commonly seen on the Argentine table, at least in the country’s major cities. Unusually enough (when it comes to Italian food), white bread is also common, as are side dishes made of vegetables native to Argentina, such as potatoes, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, and zucchini.

Argentina is also one of the world’s leading producers of milk, wheat, corn, and meat (including, but not limited to beef, goat meat, pork, and lamb) so naturally, these things are very common in the Argentine dish.Argentine dishes are normally very high in protein, so grilled meats are commonly seen on a plate of Argentine food.

Empanadas, pastries stuffed with meat or cheese, are also an Argentine favorite. They are commonly served in Argentine restaurants, and are national favorites. Empanadas are normally eaten baked or fried, and are often served at parties or festivals as appetizers. The dessert version of an empanada usually consists of brown sugar or fruit such as apples or oranges.

In smaller cities, the foreign influences of Spain and Italy are less apparent. Milanesas, thin slivers of meat dipped in eggs, bread crumbs, and then fried in oil, are common fare in the rural areas of Argentina. Their simplicity makes them great snacks, but they can also be served as part of a meal piping hot served with mashed potatoes, or between two slices of bread as a sandwich.

The master chefs are more apt to return to the more classic, provincial style of preparing and cooking food, which bears more of a resemblance to Mexican cuisine than that of Italy. Bolder, more intense spices are used. Calling forth once more the Spanish influences in Argentina, Argentine cooks are famous for their tortillas; unlike the Mexican version of the tortilla the Argentines use potato dough, in contrast to the traditional Mexican corn or flour tortilla.

Desserts are more popular in these areas, as well. Dulce de leche (which roughly translates into “Milk Jam”), a sweet pudding of sugar and milk, is a popular dessert in Argentina. This lightly brown-colored pudding is eaten alone, or stuffed in cakes or pies. Sometimes the treat is also crystallized into a solid wafer-like candy substance.

May 072012
 

While enjoying a fantastic glass of your favorite fine Italian wine with dinner, consider also using the nectar of the gods as an ingredient in your favorite dish. Cooking with wine has never been more popular and endless recipes abound that incorporate all different types of wine into favorite dishes and unique spins on classic cuisine. When you cook with Italian wine, the alcohol evaporates, so the dish will be appropriate for individuals unable to consume alcohol, underage eaters, or individuals who do not wish to imbibe any alcohol. Many international dishes include wine, especially Italian, French, and Spanish favorites. You can use any type of wine or alcohol to cook with, but Italian wine has substantial fan following when it comes to cooking with wine. Whether you want to add a unique flavor or a powerful zest to your dishes, adding your favorite Italian wine will have everyone raving over your cooking skills and the dishes you serve.


1. Choose Good Quality Italian Wine
The key to cooking with wine is to choose good quality Italian wine. Just as quality directly affects the drinking enjoyment of a glass of Italian wine, the quality will also affect the end taste of dishes that are prepared using wine as an ingredient. Remember, quality wines are not necessarily the most expensive wines, so avoid associating price with taste. It is safe to say that if you enjoy drinking a particular vineyard’s wine, you will also enjoy cooking with the same wine.

2. Cooking with Red Wine vs. White Wine
Also, you should carefully choose an Italian wine appropriate for the dish. Generally, the recipe you choose will come with the appropriate Italian wine included, but the traditional rules for serving wine with food applies to including the wine as ingredients with food. Many individuals choose to cook with white wine for a tangier, crisp taste and choose red wines for heartier dishes, including those filled with tasty cuts of meats.

3. Why You Would Boil Wine
Even though water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, alcohol has a much lower boiling point, around 175 degree Fahrenheit. For this reason, you can quickly remove alcohol in Italian wine, in fact, approximately 40 percent of the alcohol is boiled out in approximately 15 minutes. Eventually, the Italian wine will turn into a thick syrup if boiled long enough. This syrup is perfect for use as a glaze with meats or vegetables. Once the alcohol has been evaporated, the flavors are emphasized. Also, alcohol, including Italian wine, brings out the flavor of tomatoes and other ingredients. Consider adding a bit of white Italian wine to tomato sauces to bring out the flavors.

4. Cooking Wine – A Bad Idea?
There are a variety of cooking wines on the market, but you should avoid these products, since they are of lower quality than a fine Italian wine and usually contain a high amount of sodium. However, if you are a collector of fine Italian wine, save these delicious drinks from the heat, since the alcohol will only be evaporated and the importance of the wine will be lost. There are a variety of quality Italian wines on the market that are perfect for cooking.

5. Cooking Tips for Red and White Wine
Choose rich, fruity wines for dessert dishes and strong white wines for sautéed or baking dishes.  Also keep in mind the red wine will turn your chicken purple, so when cooking chicken or fish, white wine is probably best.

May 042012
 

Cuba has a rich heritage that is influenced by the Moors, Spaniards, French immigrants fleeing uprisings in Haiti, and Africans. As these various influences came together, a distinctly Cuban flavor and style evolved, which is reminiscent of country peasant styles of cooking. Traditional Cuban dishes tend to be simple, yet hearty. Fussy, heavy sauces are unusual and deep-frying is simply not a favored cooking method. The island nation, naturally, uses a great deal of seafood in its cuisine, which encourages the use of simple cooking techniques and spicing that is meant to enhance, not smother, natural flavors.

The most common spices used in Cuban cuisine recipes are garlic, cumin, oregano and bay or laurel leaves. Sofrito is also popular, and used in a wide range of dishes, from those of beans to those of meats to those that are  made from a base of tomato sauce. A typical sofrito is made of green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and black pepper fried in olive oil until the pepper, onion and garlic are soft and translucent and the flavors blend to  perfection.

The dense, nutritious, energy producing vegetables commonly used belie the African and native peoples’ influence on the cuisine of Cuba. Yuca, malanga, boniato, and plantano are among these, and are often simmered together with complementary vegetables and served simply, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh onion – a satisfying, strengthening and simple dish for a hard working people.

Meats are often prepared using island flavored marinades that use lime juice or the juice of a sour variety of the orange as a base. Then, the meats are roasted or simmered very slowly with spices, often for hours. Beans and rice are an essential part of most meals, with black beans being well known as a Cuban specialty.

Cuban cuisine is also notable for its baked goods, which include a variety of turnovers. Some are filled with spiced meats and other types feature a particularly Cuban blend of cream cheese and guava paste. Flan is among
Cuba’s most beloved dessert items.

In Cuban dishes, the subtle flavors of healthy foods are enhanced by cooking and spicing methods designed to bring out the best in each component of a dish. The culinary traditions of Cuba are a delight to the tongue.