When cinnamon, sugar and butter are mixed together, the result is something many people all over the world find irresistible.
The first cinnamon roll was created in Sweden, around the 1920’s. After World War I, several goods such as sugar, eggs and butter, which had been heavily restricted, eventually returned to the grocery shelves. The spice trade from Southeast Asia also led to the invention of the roll. Cinnamon was not grown locally in the European countries, hence the spice trade from Sri Lanka led to the development of cinnamon use in the European countries. The influences of German baking techniques combine with Swedish and Danish ingredients can clearly be seen in the making of the cinnamon roll.
In Sweden, October 4th is ‘Kanelbulle’ day or national ‘Cinnamon Roll Day’. This holiday was originally created by the country’s Home Baking Council in 1999 to commemorate their 40th anniversary. Swedish cinnamon rolls are not as sweet and heavy as they are in North America. The dough contains a hint of cardamom spice and they are generally baked in muffin papers to make a more delicate treat.
Our family definitely enjoyed a lot of irresistible cinnamon rolls. As is everything that becomes the ‘norm’, you take it for granted until you no longer have it and it becomes a ‘taste of a memory’.
I recall my mother also making ‘potato’ doughnuts. The mashed potato seems to really add to the flavor of a yeast dough. In keeping with this Swedish ‘holiday’, I am making POTATO CINNAMON ROLLS or ‘Twists’.
In a large mixing bowl, combine lukewarm milk with yeast; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Allow to stand about 3 minutes or until foamy. Add warm mashed potato, melted butter, eggs, sugar, cardamom & salt; mix well. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning dough to completely coat it with grease. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size. Punch down, turn out on a lightly floured work surface & let rest for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar & cinnamon; set aside.
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 14 x 14-inch square. Brush with melted butter & evenly sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle. Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 18 -8-inch strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Take one end of the twisted strip & coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again & tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
Arrange on baking sheets. Cover with plastic & allow to rise in a draft-free place, 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Place oven rack in middle position & preheat oven to 350 F.
If you prefer, you can brush rolls with egg wash & sprinkle with pearl sugar or chopped almonds instead of using cream cheese glaze. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. While cinnamon rolls are baking, make glaze (if you are using it). With a mixer, beat together cream cheese & butter until light & fluffy. Blend in powdered sugar & vanilla. Add enough milk to achieve a drizzle-like consistency. Drizzle on rolls while still warm.
Freezer Instructions: Form cinnamon rolls into twisted shape & place several inches apart on baking sheet to freeze rolls individually. Once frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. When ready to bake, place on a lightly greased baking sheet & allow to come to room temperature before baking.
I was interested to know a little more about this idea of ‘food on a stick’. It seems its a fairly wide spread way of eating food. In Indonesia there are many forms of chicken satay and of course the shish kebab originating from Turkey. It all comes from a culture that has been around since before the 1840’s.
The North American classic ‘corn dog’ was patent in 1929. The patent cited that it was for a ‘combined dipping, cooking and article holding apparatus’ and was intended for ‘impaling foods such as wieners, boiled ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced fruit, etc., on a stick, covering them in a batter and deep frying it’.
This food on a stick phenomenon has grown greatly over the past 20 years or more. It has become some sort of extreme ‘sport’ on a stick. For entrepreneurs, its whatever I can put on a stick that nobody’s done before. I was reading an article that listed 83 different possibilities!
Here’s a couple of ideas I found interesting to try. TURKEY MEATBALL BREADSTICKS and BACON WRAPPED MUSHROOMS ON A STICK.
In a large bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, oil & salt. Allow to become frothy, about 10 minutes. Gradually add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until dough forms a ball. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise about 1 hour in a warm, draft-free place. While bread sticks are rising, prepare turkey meatballs.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a bowl, combine turkey, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper & garlic. Form into 36 - 1" diameter meatballs. When dough is ready, turn out onto a floured surface. Press or roll into a 12 x 8" rectangle. Cut into twelve strips about 1-inch wide x 8-inches long.
Starting with one bread stick, thread dough then a meatball, repeating process with 2 more meatballs alternating dough-meatball, ending with dough. Make sure to spread dough & meatballs away from each other by about 1/4", so the meatballs bake through & the dough has room to expand.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Stir together garlic powder & melted butter. Brush bread stick dough ONLY with mixture. Bake for 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from oven & sprinkle each skewer with 1-2 Tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese. Place back in oven for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve while hot with warm marinara sauce for dipping.
Bacon Wrapped Mushroom Kebabs
Soak skewers 30 minutes. Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap each mushroom with a bacon strip & thread 4 on each skewer. Grill on medium heat until bacon is done, about 10-15 minutes, basting with barbecue sauce. Serve immediately.
We are celebrating our country’s 150th ‘birthday’ this year. July 1st marks the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867. This important holiday celebrates the birth of Canada as an independent nation.
Our July 1st holiday is comparable to the July 4th, ‘Independence Day’ holiday celebrated by the United States. Along with numerous parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals and firework displays, Parks Canada entrance fees are being waived in 2017 to mark this occasion.
Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day.
For ‘our’ barbecue, I am going with some BACON-WRAPPED BURGERS, POTATO SALAD with BLUEBERRY-LEMON CHEESECAKE CUPS. Yum!
In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients & 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce. Crumble beef over mixture & mix well. Form into 12 thick patties. Wrap a bacon slice around the sides of each patty & secure with a toothpick.
Barbecue at 350 F. until meat is no longer pink. Baste frequently with remaining barbecue sauce during latter part of cooking.
Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake Cups
Add boiling water to jelly powder; stir 2 minutes until dissolved. Refrigerate 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix graham crumbs & butter; press about 3 Tbsp onto bottom of each of 8 -125 ml, pyrex custard cups. Place on rimmed baking sheet; bake 6 minutes. Cool.
Beat cream cheese & sugar with mixer until blended. Gradually beat in half & half; Stir in jell-o. Spoon into cups; top with fresh blueberries.
You can find the potato salad recipe in the June 2016 blogs.
The aroma of Easter bread baking certainly brings back precious childhood memories. What I recall about my mother’s Easter bread, was that it was a dense, mildly sweet & a very egg rich bread. It was always baked in round ‘cans’ and the taste was unforgettable.
Nearly every country around the world has a traditional Easter bread. Each one is different in some way, a mix of symbolism and satisfying taste. They represent a continuity of traditions from centuries past, including much earlier pre-Christian times. Often these rich, yeasted breads are made in symbolic shapes and are elaborately decorated.
Germany and Austria make several shapes such as : Osterzopf – Easter braid, Osterkranz – Easter wreath or crown, Osternester – Easter nests, Eierimnest – Easter egg nest, Striezel – stacked braided bread.
That being said, I couldn’t resist doing a little ‘version’ of my own. I started with my favorite sweet yeast bread, added some anise flavor and a cream cheese filling. So now you have German osterkranz, Italian panettone and Romanian pasca all in one beautiful EUROPEAN EASTER BREAD.
In a large bowl, whisk yeast & sugar into lukewarm water; let stand about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed. Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
Add 4 CUPS flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom & go up the sides of a 10" spring form pan. When dough has risen enough, cut into four pieces.
On the parchment paper, press one piece of the dough into a circle measuring about 10" in diameter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mixed peel, leaving a gap at the edge. Press out second piece of the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper, place it on top of the first layer & sprinkle with another 1/3 of mixed peel. Repeat with the third & fourth pieces of dough but do not sprinkle mixed peel on the final layer.
Place a glass tumbler on top of the center of the dough circles. Cut dough into 16 segments, starting a the edge of the glass. Lift & twist them away from each other through 180 degrees. Lift & twist through 90 degrees so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process with all pairs of segments. Leave glass sitting on top at the center of the circle to form an indentation for the cheese filling. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to to 325 F. In a bowl, place cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla; mix well. When bread has risen, remove glass & fill indentation with cheese mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool. Brush with honey/water glaze. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
With Valentines Day almost here, I decided to do a prelude post with a few dessert ideas.
In the food industry, this day was always fun to prepare food for. Definitely a more intimate occasion, all revolving around chocolate, ‘hearts’ and roses. Strangely enough, every time Brion and I have tried to go out for supper on Valentines we usually come home wondering why we did that. The restaurants were packed, the wait is long, the music is loud, etc, etc. Nonetheless, I’m always happiest if I can prepare a ‘special meal’ for us to enjoy at home. That being said, my choice of dessert for this Valentines Day areStrawberry Yogurt Parfaits with Chocolate Cheesecake Squares.
The fresh strawberry compote has a nice lemony tang that pairs well with the creamy Greek vanilla yogurt. Brion isn’t much for cheesecake but just loves these chocolate cheesecake squares.
Rinse, hull & slice strawberries. Zest & juice lemon. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, water, lemon juice, zest & cornstarch. Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool.
In parfait glasses, spoon layers of strawberry compote & Greek yogurt. Garnish with a strawberry leaf if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.
Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper so cheesecake can easily be lifted out later. In a small bowl, combine the graham crumbs, pecans & butter. Press into prepared pan; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar & sour cream until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crust.
Bake at 325 F. for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until chilled. Freeze overnight.
Melt chocolate & shortening; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Using parchment paper, lift cheesecake out of pan. Gently peel off paper; cut into 49 squares. Remove a few pieces at a time for dipping; keep remaining squares refrigerated until ready to dip.
Using a toothpick, completely dip squares, one at a time, in melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; spoon about 1 tsp chocolate over each, reheating chocolate if needed to finish dipping. Let stand for 20 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Yield 49 squares.
I realize we are still weeks away from Christmas, but there are some things that are just better if given the time to ‘ripen’ and develop a rich and complex flavor. German stollen, also known as (Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen) is one of them.
In my previous blog I mentioned that stollen was a close ‘kin’ to fruitcake, but one thing it is not– is fruitcake! Stollen is a yeast bread that is fortified with a colorful collection of candied fruit, citrus peel, raisins/currants, nuts, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, mace or cloves, brandy or rum and lots of butter.
The tradition of Christmas stollen dates back to 14th century Germany. The sweeteners in this period were honey and dried fruits; until the 17th century, sugar was a scarce and expensive commodity. For this reason, sweets were only meant for times of great festivity and joy. Originally it was made without milk or butter because these items were forbidden by the church during Advent. That changed in 1490 when Pope Innocent VIII signed the ‘butter document’ allowing bakers to use butter. It was much later when the use of milk was finally permitted.
The cake’s distinctive shape, which it retains to this day, is meant to symbolize the Christ child ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager’. Baked loaves are brushed with butter then cloaked in a thick layer of powdered sugar.
Holiday food traditions are a miraculous mix of time, place, ideology and ingredients. Often times, a single person can be the catalyst for a family culinary tradition. They bring it to the table as a delectable ‘gift’, wrapped with their own cherished memories and life experiences, enriching our holiday celebrations.
When I think of German stollen, a very unique memory comes back to me. One of the few newspapers my folks were interested in and had access to was the ‘Free Press Weekly Prairie Farmer’. It was a small newspaper published by the Manitoba Free Press for the prairie provinces in Canada. The newspaper’s middle section, ‘Home Loving Hearts’, contained ads from people requesting pen pals across Canada as well as recipes, ads for patterns of aprons, dresses, pot holders, baby clothes and knitting.
It was here my mother acquired a pen pal by the name of Renate Leitner in about 1956, that lasted for over 20 years,until the time of my mother’s passing. Every Christmas, Mrs. Leitner would send our family a beautiful loaf of German stollen bread in the mail. I remember how we looked forward to receiving it and how good it always tasted. This definitely attests to the durability of this bread.
German Stollen (Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen)
Marinate raisins, candied fruit & almonds in rum overnight, Stirring occasionally.
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1 tsp sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift 2 cups of the flour. Stir in yeast mixture & lukewarm milk. Cover with plastic wrap & let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough firmly & work in beaten eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla & pieces of softened butter.
Sift remaining 3 cups of flour with salt, nutmeg & cardamom & work in 2 cups to form a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead in remaining cup of flour mixture to form a smooth and satiny dough without any stickiness. Work in fruit & nut mixture.
Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll each portion into an oval shape about 12 x 8 inches (30 x 20 cm) & 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Brush each piece with melted butter & fold the dough over lengthwise, almost in half.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly press edges together to seal (brush tops with a beaten egg if you wish). Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden. Cover with foil if loaves are browning to fast. Brush warm loaves with melted butter & dust thickly with powdered sugar. Cool on a rack.
When completely cool, wrap tightly in foil & keep in a cool place for 2-3 weeks to ripen.
You can customize your filling ingredients any way you like. For example, use dried cranberries or cherries instead of raisins -- candied citrus peel or candied ginger instead of citron peel -- your favorite dried fruit instead of apricots. You can even use sweet poppy seed paste or marzipan to fill your stollen -- your choice!
Stollen freezes well so it can be made weeks in advance of Christmas.
When I think back over the years, I have many fond memories of picnics. For the most part, picnics differ from barbecues in that the food is usually served cold. They can be large or small events with the food varying from a simple sandwich or pot luck to an elegant gourmet feast. In any case, it’s a fact that dining ‘al fresco’ makes food taste so much better.
Having been raised in rural Alberta, Canada a community summer picnic was always a special event. It would be held at a one of the ‘country schools’ in our farming community. The men would play a game called ‘horseshoe’ while they visited. This game involved throwing metal horseshoes a set distance to land over a metal peg that had been pounded in the ground. Each family would bring a contribution to the picnic food. The women would set up this wonderful feast on picnic tables at lunch time. The kids ‘mingled’, chased around, drank kool-aid and loved every minute of it. The variety of pot luck meals the women would bring made it so special.
Later on in my life, I recall a few other picnic memories that are precious to me. One occasion when Brion and I were staying in Carmel, California, USA. Just outside Carmel is the Point Lobos State Reserve. It runs adjacent to the beautiful Pacific ocean. Numerous times we would pick up a sandwich with a juice/pop and spend the afternoon walking the beach and enjoy our ‘picnic’ lunch there. Another time we were staying further down the California coast and decided to take a wine country tour. The tour was with a company called Wine Affair. You were picked up at your hotel and it lasted about 5 1/2 hours. It was very personal with only one other couple, ourselves, and the driver/guide. He took us on a scenic drive through the Paso Robles wine country. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside with it’s beautiful vineyards as well as wine tasting at six different wineries. At lunch time we arrived at a estate winery called Summerwood (which I have show cased in my blog photos). Here our guide took us to a lovely patio setting overlooking the estate vineyards. He then laid out an amazing gourmet ‘picnic’ lunch for the four of us to enjoy. What’s not to love about picnics!
Over the next few blogs, I thought it would be fun to create four picnic menus that maybe would inspire some summer picnic ideas. Some of the recipes I have featured in earlier blogs and a few new ones I’ve added.
The first one includes Easy Pork Short Ribs, Picnic Oven Fried Chicken (from the April 11/16 blog), Potato Salad (from June 9/16 blog) Oriental Rice Salad, and Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas.
Remove any fat & cut ribs into serving size pieces; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over ribs. Seal bag & turn to coat; Refrigerate for several hours, turning bag occasionally.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a large piece of foil paper on a baking tray. Make 'temporary' sides on sheet of foil paper. Lay ribs in the center & pour marinade over them. Bring up two edges over center & fold down twice. Fold in side edges, allowing a each to have a small 'air vent'. Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender. Remove ribs to a platter to cool. Ribs will be a great served cold with the rest of your picnic menu.
Oriental Rice Salad
To cold, cooked rice add peas, celery, onion & water chestnuts. Combine with salad dressing & refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toss with chow mein noodles shortly before serving time.
Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & orange zest until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup strawberries until well blended. Spread 2 Tbsp on one side of each rice cake. Arrange prepared fresh fruit on top of strawberry cream cheese in patterns of your choice.
This recipe for Oriental Rice Salad I had been given by a friend in 1988. She had made it with a dressing which contained curry. I have never enjoyed the flavor of curry so I have been using other dressing ideas. Being such a simple salad it will lend itself easily to other choices.
Chicken wings — versatile, affordable and one of North America’s most undisputed favorite ‘finger foods’. Even if they are classed as an appetizer, there is no problem fitting them in as the main course of a meal. The thing I like about them is how many different flavors you can give them. Gone are the days when everything had to be deep fried to taste good. Whether you prefer to barbecue them outdoors or bake in the oven, ‘wings’ taste great!
It seems like the grocery store meat counters have endless amounts of chicken wings in stock at this time. Of course, like most things nowadays, you have your choice — full wings, wing drumettes, wing tips and split wings. Good grief, we are so spoiled for choice! Then we go to cook them and there is more choice.
When I needed to make some of these tasty little morsels for company ‘finger food’ gatherings three of my favorites were ‘Parmesan’, ‘Rosemary’ and ‘Savory’ wings. I hope you enjoy them as well.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 11 x 17 x 1-inch baking pan with foil. Place a 10 x 18-inch wire (cooling) rack on top. Combine parmesan cheese, parsley & spices in a large resealable plastic bag. Dip each chicken drumette in melted butter. Place a few in the bag at a time. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange drumettes in a single layer on wire rack. Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes or until cooked.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 11 x 17 x 1-inch pan with foil; spray foil with baking spray. In a resealable plastic bag, combine oil & spices. Add chicken; toss to coat evenly. Place drumettes on prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until cooked.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 11 x 17 x 1-inch baking pan with foil. Place a 10 x 18-inch wire (cooling) rack on top. Combine bread crumbs & seasoning mix in a large resealable plastic bag. Dip each chicken drumette in melted butter. Place a few in the bag at a time. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange drumettes in a single layer on wire rack. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until cooked.
Whenever I have made wings, I prepared them to baking point early on in the day and popped them in the oven just prior to serving time.
With Easter right around the corner I couldn’t pass up the chance to once again try to create ‘the taste of a memory’.
It seems that every country as well as anyone who enjoys to make bread has their own version of ‘Easter Bread’. My mother’s Easter bread was baked in coffee cans, a beautiful yellow color and slightly sweet. As the saying goes, it was ‘to die for’. Somehow my sister and I can’t remember it having fruit or special flavorings but it was almost ‘cake like’ in taste and texture.
With my Easter ‘braid’, I’ve tried to capture that same texture as well as making some additions of citrus peel and flavorings. Not quite as memorable as my mother’s but a good second. Hopefully you will enjoy trying it.
In a large bowl, warm water in microwave to lukewarm.
Whisk in yeast & sugar; let stand about 10 minutes.
With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed.
Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
In another bowl, combine 4 cups flour with mixed peel & add 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently punch down dough & divide in half.
Divide each portion into 3 ropes. Braid ropes to form loaves & let rise until doubled in size.
If you prefer, you can brush with a little bit of beaten egg white.
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Bake until golden, about 40 minutes.
If you choose to ice braids, cool completely before doing so.