Medjool Date & Apple Flans

There are so many culinary uses for Medjool dates, in both sweet and savory dishes, whether served hot or cold. Often called the king of dates, not only because they are quite expensive but are highly treasured for their size and rich, intensely sweet flesh.

These special fruits are pricey because their cultivation is incredibly labor-intensive. In order to ensure quality and yield, Medjool date palms need to be hand pollinated, pruned, protected and hand picked. While growing, the date bunches are wrapped in bags to prevent the birds from snacking on them and to keep them from falling on the ground.

Dates are usually left to dry on the tree before being harvested, which accounts for their wrinkly appearance. This places them in a peculiar category of being both dried and fresh. Different types of dates have different textures that fall into three categories: soft (like Medjool); semi-soft, which are chewy and are pitted before packaging to dry a little more; and dry, which are often sun-dried after harvest and sold chopped.

Dates can be paired with lamb or chicken and spiced with Middle Eastern flavors or added to dried apricots, cranberries and toasted walnuts in rice or couscous accompaniments. Their caramel-like flavor adds a hint of the exotic to whatever you choose to use them in.

We had some extra apples I needed to do something with. The thought of pairing them with some Medjool dates and walnuts …. Yum!

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Medjool Date & Apple Flans
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a dish, whisk together water, egg & apple cider vinegar. Make a well in flour mixture & pour all wet ingredients in it. Combine just until pastry pulls away from the bowl.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry; cut out eight 6-inch pastry circles. They should fit nicely into the mini flan pans that measure about 4 1/2-inches in diameter & are 3/4-inch in height. Once you have the pastry you need for the shells, form the remaining pastry in a 'tube' shape. Set the pastry shells in the fridge while you prepare the filling. FREEZE THE TUBE OF PASTRY. This you will use to GRATE on top of the flans for the top crust.
Filling
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add prepared apples & saute until they start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add spices & honey, combine & cook 1 minute. Take off heat & allow to cool to lukewarm.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove mini flan shells from refrigerator & place on a baking sheet. Spoon some apple mixture in the bottom of each shell. Top each with a portion of the dates & walnuts, then evenly divide the remaining apple mixture between them. Remove the frozen 'tube' of pastry from freezer & grate (on a cheese grater). Sprinkle over mini flans.
  2. Bake until nice & golden, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly. Whip cream with sugar, cinnamon & vanilla until stiff & serve on warm flans.

Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices

Bread Pudding ….. its just bread plus eggs plus a sweetened, spiced milk mixture. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.

When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding‘.

For today’s recipe, I started by making a loaf of Challah bread. This is an ‘eggy’ bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It will toast nicely on the outside and leave you with a creamy pudding inside.

Challah is a very straight forward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness and it doesn’t require any fussy techniques. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key…. if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven while baking.

Here’s where it becomes ‘comfort food‘ made with glorious challah, tropical mangos and spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai.

Chai, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.

For the finishing touch, I made a rum sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!

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Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
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Instructions
Challah Bread
  1. In a small bowl, place lukewarm water & sprinkle with yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place 4 cups flour, sugar & salt; whisk to combine.
  2. Make a well in the center of flour mixture & add eggs, egg yolk & oil; whisk to form a slurry. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Combine with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. On a floured work surface, turn out dough & knead for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough should be soft, smooth & hold a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16-inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest 5 minutes to relax the gluten & then try again. For the 6 stranded braid as I made, the name of the game is 'over two, under one, over two'. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together & tuck them under the loaf.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top & sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp. of water & brush carefully over challah. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove from oven & cool before cutting up for bread pudding.
Bread Pudding
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; toss bread & mango cubes together in it. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together & pour over the bread & mangoes; allow the mixture to soak for about 5 minutes. Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until set.
Rum Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Mix together sugar & cornstarch; stir into the melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum. Serve warm over bread pudding.

Halloween Treats

Well here we are, the end of October already, and Halloween has arrived. A number of years ago, Brion and I decided to take a different approach to this occasion. Rather than spending the evening running to the door to hand out treats, I would make some special goodies for our immediate neighbor’s ‘kids’. We have been lucky to have had the same neighbors for many years. Since food is my passion, its always fun to ‘create’ something that I think our four ‘young’ people will enjoy.

My choice of treats this year are brownie ghosts, krispie candy corn and some bite size pizzas. Most kids love chocolate so I think brownies will cover that and I swapped out the ‘waxy’ candy for rice krispies in the candy corn treats. Pizza bites aren’t exactly following the Halloween theme but the kids are getting older and I’m sure they will love them anyway.

Just an interesting little side note on the actual candy corn ‘candy’ since they seem to be synonymous with Halloween. Originally they were never tied to any time of year. Many candies of the day were molded into what was recognizable to regular folks. At the time, that was vegetables, fruits and other simple, earthy things.

When the Goelitz Confectionery Company first produced candy corn, it was called ‘chicken feed’. The boxes were illustrated with a colorful rooster logo and a tag line that read: ‘Something Worth Crowing For’. The multi-colored design was ground-breaking in the candy industry at the time it was invented. One of candy corn’s least favored qualities is that waxy texture. Strangely enough, even after more than 120 years, it still has a huge following as well as many other candy corn related and/or flavored recipes on the market.

ENJOY YOUR HALLOWEEN IN WHATEVER WAY WORKS FOR YOU!

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Brownie Ghosts - 'Krispie' Candy Corn - Pizza Pinwheels
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
BOTTOM Layer of Brownies
MIDDLE Layer of Brownies
Fudge Frosting
White Chocolate Ghosts
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
BOTTOM Layer of Brownies
MIDDLE Layer of Brownies
Fudge Frosting
White Chocolate Ghosts
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
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Instructions
Bottom Layer of Brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 X 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Combine all bottom layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into pan & bake for 10 minutes.
Middle Layer of Brownies
  1. In the microwave, very carefully melt chocolate (do NOT overheat) & add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over bottom layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes; do not OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & cool. Slice into 20 squares.
Fudge Frosting
  1. If you prefer to make your chocolate ghosts BEFORE the frosting, it will give them ample time to set before needed. TO MAKE FROSTING: Carefully melt chocolate & butter in microwave. Cool slightly; stir in powdered sugar & vanilla. Blend in hot water & beat until a smooth consistency. Spread icing evenly over brownies & decorate with a white chocolate ghosts.
White Chocolate Ghosts
  1. Carefully melt white chocolate wafers in microwave. Pour melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small hole tip. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface with a printout of ghost shapes underneath. Trace outline, then fill in the center. Allow to set completely, then peel ghosts from waxed paper & press lightly on top of brownies.
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
  1. Butter 2 round 5-inch baking pans. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows & stir constantly until they are melted. Stir in a few drops of orange coloring & remove the pot from heat. Add rice krispies, being sure to stir until well coated. Press into prepared pans to set. Once treats have set, cut them into triangles & use your hand to gently round the corners for a more realistic look.
  2. Melt candy coatings in separate dishes. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper. Dip the base of each triangle into the yellow chocolate, shaking off excess, then dip the tips into the white chocolate. Place them onto the parchment paper. Once the chocolate has set, you can store the treats at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days. Yield 30 treats.
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. set aside.
  2. Grate cheeses & combine in a small dish. Remove dough from packaging but DO NOT unroll. Slice each roll into 12 disks & space out on parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, (make sure you lightly butter & flour the bottom of your measure or it will stick to the dough). Press down the little disks to form a cavity. Divide the pizza sauce & grated cheese between the 24 disks.
  3. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.

Pork & Smoked Oyster Pot Pies

Perhaps one of the ultimate ‘retro’ cocktail party snacks, smoked oysters are something people either love or hate.

Here in our province of Alberta, Canada fresh seafood and fish are definitely not always available. Brion and I enjoy pretty much ‘anything seafood’, so I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals. Of course, this means using canned or frozen for most part, so thinking ‘outside the box’ is important.

You can do almost anything with smoked oysters that you do with any seafood. They’re at their freshest when packaged. Canned smoked oysters are usually steamed when they are fresh, smoked for extra flavor and finally packaged in oil.

Over the years, I’ve used them in pate, stew, soup and stuffing, so why wouldn’t they work in pot pie?! Doing a little of my favorite ‘recipe development’ cooking, this is what materialized. We had two for supper and I froze the other two ….. bonus for a later date.

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Pork & Smoked Oyster Pot Pies
Instructions
  1. Prepare pastry for Pot Pies. Preheat oven to 425 F. Dice tenderloin into 1/2-inch cubes & roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven & set aside. Turn oven off, if you wish until ready to bake pot pies.
  2. In a large saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. Saute onion, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings for a few minutes. Add carrots, celery & potatoes & continue to saute until soft; add flour & seasoning.
  3. Saute for another minute, making sure to coat everything with the flour. Add clam nectar & chicken broth, stirring well to dissolve the flour; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add oysters, roasted tenderloin, crumbled bacon, cream & salt & pepper to taste; stir to combine.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove filling from heat & allow to cool for a few minutes then divide between individual pot pie pastry shells. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is baked & golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Another pastry that would go real well with this filling would be the one with cornmeal in it.

Pulled Corned Beef with Sprouts & Potatoes

Although brussel sprouts fall in that ‘love to hate them’ category for many, not so for me. I remember my mother growing them in her garden. They just seemed so unique … little mini cabbages on a stem! The fact that we can buy them pretty much year round takes away from these Autumn jewels somewhat.

But, it seems more people have realized that soggy, boiled, overcooked sprouts are a thing of the past. These tasty little treats are often dressed up with salty bacon, sweet balsamic vinegar or nutty Parmesan cheese. The smaller the sprouts, the more tender they are and even more tender and sweet after a frost. I probably appreciate the texture as much as the flavor.

In this casserole they are paired with some very tender corned beef, potatoes and Parmesan cheese. In regards to the corned beef, the key is either to slow roast at a very low temperature or a long, slow simmer in a liquid infused with spices. The ‘corned’ part of the beef refers to the brining process. The meat is submerged in a brine mixture which is flavored with spices. This process usually takes about seven to ten days. At this point its ready to cook.

Most often you can buy a piece that is sold in a vacuum sealed pouch which is in a spiced ‘gel’ mixture. All you have to do is rinse it in cold water, place it in a baking dish with a bit of fresh water and roast at about 250 F. until it becomes ultra tender.

This was such a nice fall meal. The flavors came together so well.

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Pulled Corned Beef with Sprouts & Potatoes
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F. Rinse spiced gel off of corned beef. Place in a shallow baking dish; add a small bit of water & roast until VERY tender. Remove from oven; using 2 forks, pull meat apart & set aside.
  2. Peel & slice potatoes into 1/4-inches slices. Slice the shallots & Brussels sprouts thin; set aside
  3. In a large saucepan, add the sliced potatoes & cover with milk & butter. Bring to a boil, lower heat & simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; lift potatoes from milk with a slotted spoon & reserve the milk & butter for sauce.
  4. Adjust oven temperature to 375 F. Coat a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with oil or butter; layer the potato, then corned beef, shallots & Brussels sprouts. Repeat again using all the ingredients. Whisk the flour into the cooled milk/butter combo. Pour sauce over all; sprinkle with garlic powder & top with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; cool for a few minutes & serve.

Pumpkin Dinner Buns

Autumn is in full swing with all its fabulous foliage and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. For Canadians, this holiday is linked to the tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia or horn filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘horn of plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Pumpkins, turkeys, ears of corn and large displays of food are used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

The ‘flavor of fall’ always brings pumpkin to mind (or butternut squash) for me. Since there are only two days left before our Thanksgiving day, when we will stir, boil, grate & grease our way to a table filled with wonderful food. While everyone has their own traditions and ‘must eat’ dishes, these pumpkin yeast buns are a perfect compliment to this autumn feast.

Lightly sweet and beautifully light and fluffy, this recipe can be made in two ways. One as a dinner bun to have with the main course and two as a cream cheese filled sweet roll for breakfast.

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Pumpkin Dinner Buns
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Course Main Dish
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Pumpkin Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to rise for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, knead for about 2-3 minutes. Divide into 16 equal pieces, shaping into balls. For 16 buns you will need about 16-90 cm pieces of kitchen thread. Tie thread around the dough ball in a way that the ball is divided into 8 parts. Do not tie the ball too tightly as it will continue to rise a lot more during the second proofing & baking. Cover the pumpkin shaped dough balls with a tea towel & set aside to proof until buns have doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
For FILLED Buns
  1. In a small bowl, beat together filling ingredients. Follow directions above. At the point where you have divided the dough into 16 pieces, fill each one with some cream cheese filling ( I had divided my filling into 16 portions to make it easy). Gather the corners together to form a ball. Follow tying directions in above instructions to form the pumpkin effect. Cover & allow to rise until doubled in size.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't have the time to do all this tying, place the dough balls onto the lined baking tray about 3-4 cm apart. Gently flatten the balls a little. Dip the tip of a scissors into oil. Cut the dough into 'petals' to form the pumpkin look. After they are baked, insert a piece of pecan or even use pumpkin seeds to make the stems.

Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake

We seem to have had all the right weather conditions this year for our little cherry tree. It’s yield was close to 8 lbs (3.6 kg) of really beautiful fruit. I personally like using these cherries for cooking and baking as opposed to eating them fresh. The sweet/tart flavor lends itself so well to numerous recipes.

While the warmer summer months certainly slow down my baking activities, they never really stop completely. On the cooler or rainy days, I still heed the call to head to the kitchen for some baking therapy.

My recipe idea today was inspired by the 1970’s ‘Poke Cakes’. Originally created to increase sluggish sales for Jello-O gelatin, poke cakes are colorful and easy to make. A fork, chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon is used to poke deep holes all over the top of the baked cake(mix). Next, it is topped with a colorful Jell-O syrup, which trickles into the cake looking like brightly colored streamers. Once it is refrigerated until set, the cake is then slathered with Cool Whip.

Although it seems like poke cakes are a phenomenon born in corporate American kitchens, drenching cake in flavorful liquids is not new, or entirely an American tradition. England’s sticky toffee pudding, a single layer date cake, is poked all over while still warm from the oven with a fork or skewer and drenched in sticky butterscotch sauce. Genoise, the classic French sponge cake, is almost always soaked in sugar syrups spiked with liqueur, not just for flavor, but to keep the cake fresh and prevent it from drying out. Pastel de tres leches, or ‘three-milks cake’, is a beloved Latin American classic. Made from sponge cake soaked in a milky syrup combining evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. All three called for this hole-poking action long before the 1970’s.

Of course, getting back to my German heritage, brings to mind a German butter cake or Butter Kuchen. This classic yeasted cake (actually more like a bread), seems to be very closely aligned with the poke cake idea. After the dough has risen and been rolled out, deep impressions are made for the filling to nestle in.

For our ‘cake’, I used an almond cream cheese filling to compliment the fresh cherries. We really enjoyed it!

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Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
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Instructions
Cake Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. Beat together filling ingredients & set aside in fridge until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a 15" X 10"-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Place dough on paper & press out evenly in pan. Make about 20 deep impressions in dough with your fingertips. Fill each one with a spoonful of filling & top with a couple of cherries. Allow cake to rise 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake cake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients. Remove from oven: cool for just a few minutes then drizzle with glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cut into 24 serving pieces.

Apple Cinnamon Candy Cakes

It’s that time of year when apples (& pumpkins) seem to be everywhere. I think sometimes we get caught up in the abundance of fresh fruit choices over summer that we overlook these precious little gems. I have heard it said that apples are only second to bananas as one of the most eaten fruits.

The fact that they are so versatile, relatively inexpensive, easy to find, available all year round and keep for a long time, what more could we want!

If you plan to bake with them, keep in mind, not all apples are designed for baking. The texture is uppermost important. A good baking apple needs to have a balance of intense sweet-tart flavor as well as not fall apart when baked. Even though some apples are better suited for certain kinds of recipes than others, don’t limit yourself to using just one kind of apple. Using a mixture of apples will result in more complex flavors and textures.

I wanted to make some upside-down cakes with poaching the apple slices in a cinnamon candy syrup. Hopefully it works the way I think it should.

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Apple Cinnamon Candy Cakes
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Candied Apples/Raisins
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Candied Apples/Raisins
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Instructions
Candied Apples/Raisins
  1. In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, cinnamon candies & heat until sugar & candy dissolve. Add apple slices & raisins to the pan & bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes; drain & return the syrup to the pan. Bring syrup to a boil until it thickens slightly; remove from heat. Divide the apples & raisins between 4 mini bundt pans.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over fruit in mini bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes have risen & are firm to the touch in center.
  2. Remove from oven & allow them to cool in pans for a few minutes. Carefully turn cakes out onto serving plates Top with a dollop of whipped topping & drizzle with cinnamon candy syrup.

Seed Encrusted Ham Cordon Bleu

Many variations exist to the basic idea of the French ‘cordon bleu’ dish. It would seem that its one of those recipes that has evolved over time, starting in the late 1840’s. Veal cordon bleu was created in Paris, France to later be swapped out for chicken in Moscow.

Chicken Kiev, stuffed with an herb butter was likely the meal that inspired chicken cordon bleu. In North America, the first mention of this upscale dish was in 1967. It consists of chicken breast, pounded thin, stuffed with a slice of ham and Swiss cheese then breaded and baked or fried.

Today, a lot of interesting versions are being made using everything from bacon, avocado, spinach, onions, cheese varieties as well as numerous ways in which to prepare them.

I have chosen to kind of reverse the basic idea by using ham slices and stuffing them with turkey, stuffing and cheese. The sunflower seeds in the breading added a nice flavor dimension.

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Seed Encrusted Ham Cordon Bleu
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms, onions & seasonings in butter until tender. Add water & bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add stove top stuffing & allow to stand, covered for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork; cool slightly. Grate cheese.
Breading
  1. In a food processor, pulse sunflower seeds for a few seconds ONLY. In a bowl, combine seeds, Panko crumbs, grated Parmesan & melted butter.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. On a work surface, lay out the ham slices & spread with mustard. Divide stuffing mixture evenly between ham slices. Top each with a turkey slice then divide the Swiss cheese between the 8 'cordon bleu'. Wrap each by laying one side over the other, securing with toothpicks. Carefully transfer each roll to the baking pan. Using your fingers, place some beaten egg on all exposed ham slices. With a spoon, sprinkle breading mixture over ham rolls, covering evenly.
  3. Place a pan of water on the bottom shelf of oven. Position the pan with ham rolls directly over your water bath. This will help to 'steam' the rolls as opposed to drying & over baking them since all ingredients are already cooked. The flavors come together nicely as a result. Bake for about 15- 20 minutes.
Mushroom Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, saute sliced mushrooms in melted butter. Whisk in flour & continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth, continuing to simmer mixture until sauce is thickened & bubbly. If you are using cream, whisk it in now.
  2. Top baked ham cordon bleu with mushroom sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes & a hot veggie of choice.

Sour Cherry Custard Buns

Fall is that time of year that we can enjoy some more of those wonderful cherries from our own little tree. The fact that we live in the northern part of Alberta, Canada and can eat cherries fresh from our tree is such a bonus.

Even though these cherries are classed as a semi-sweet variety, there are still endless ways to enjoy them. When I was growing up, I remember my mother making something she called ‘dampfnudeln’. The taste was wonderful and as I recall, these were sweet yeast dumplings in a vanilla custard sauce. I’m not sure if they had anything in the center or not.

It seems there are endless recipes and preparations, variations on recipes and variations on variations …. ROHRNUDELN, HEFENUDELN, GERMKNODEL, DAMPFNUDELN, BUCHTELN and on and on. Basically they are all yeast dumplings, sweet (or savory) but the preparation varies somewhat. Some are poached in a milk/sugar liquid, whereas others are baked. Some are filled, some not. Most seem to be served with a vanilla custard.

For mine, I’m trying to incorporate some of our cherries in a soft, sweet yeast bun with some vanilla custard. I think I’ll call them ‘dampfbuchteln’. Buchteln are a typical Bohemian dish from the region in the middle of Europe that was formerly German. It was from there that recipes like this made their way into German and Austrian kitchens. That name seems fitting, having the characteristics of both kinds of buns.

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Sour Cherry Custard Buns
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Roll Dough
Vanilla Custard
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Roll Dough
Vanilla Custard
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Instructions
Sour Cherry Compote
  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch & salt; add juice & stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, simmer until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Gradually fold in cherries. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. I found it easier to make the compote a day ahead of the buns.
Sweet Roll Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time combining well after each addition. Once the flour has all been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic & a tea towel. Allow to rise for at least 1 hour in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
  4. Punch dough down & turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized pieces & roll each into a ball. Place under a tea towel so they won't dry out. Take one ball & shape it into a flat circle large enough to hold a spoonful of compote.
  5. Fold over & pinch the edges, then carefully shape into a ball again. Place in a buttered 12-inch spring form pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough balls. Cover with tea towel & let rise for another 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake buns for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; cool for just a few minutes then pat with butter. When completely cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.
Vanilla Custard
  1. Sift together cornstarch & flour. Using a whisk, combine the beaten eggs & the flour mixture until powders are dissolved. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together milk, sugar & salt. Once sugar & salt are dissolved, add in the egg mixture & keep stirring everything until the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat & stir in butter & vanilla. Nice to serve warm under the cherry buns.