A Tradition

When I’m at home visiting my parent’s house, my mom and I like to try out new recipes and play around with menu ideas for dinner.  Even though we love to try new ideas, there are a few meals every year where the menu remains the same.  One of them is Christmas dinner.my flower arrangement

For Christmas dinner we do what we call “The Italian Feast.”  When my brothers and I were younger and still all living at home, it was a meal that would be made every couple  months or so for a nice family dinner.  The past few years, Christmas is the only time this menu roles around.  The menu includes: Chicken Parmesan, Garlic and Oil Pasta, Steamed Broccoli, Caesar Salad, and Garlic Bread.  The “piece de resistance” (read that with a french accent), however, is the special Christmas day Chocolate Soufflé.  That’s how we roll in our house hold.  It gets pretty fancy smancy around here on December 25th.dinner table

Nothing says Christmas like a perfectly timed delicacy served piping hot with a dab of cold ice cream or whipped cream.  You should give it a try.Dessert!

Chocolate Soufflé

An old recipe taken from the New York Times article about Cleo’s La Cuisine Catering, Published February 11, 1981

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 eggs, separated, plus 2 eggs whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate bits (my mom uses standard chocolate chips)

Method

  1. Scald milk in double boiler.
  2. Use an electric mixer to beat the six egg yolks with the sugar for about 4 minutes, until it forms a “ribbon.”  Add the flour gradually and continue to beat until smooth.
  3. Transfer the egg mixture to a double boiler and gradually add in the scalded milk.  Beat vigorously making sure to temper the eggs and not let them get cooked.  Beat for about five minutes.
  4. Add chocolate to the mixture and stir until melted.  Remove from the heat and let it cool.
  5. Beat all eight egg whites wand a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry.
  6. Fold the egg whites into cooled chocolate mixture.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350.
  8. Butter a two quart soulfe dish and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Fill the soufle dish with the batter and bake 80-90 minutes until there is about a two inch cap above the rim of the dish.right out of the oven!
  9. Enjoy it right out of the oven with colder accompaniment, but wait a sec so you don’t burn your mouth!ready to serveplating it up!
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One More for Good Measure

I hope Santa was good to everyone this year.  He was certainly good to me!  Christmas was nice and low key this year.  I enjoyed that it was on a Tuesday because it created a four day long weekend of celebration.  In my house that means lots of cooking, baking and several shopping trips with and without various family members.tree

Even though Christmas has already passed, I would be remiss if I did not post about chocolate pixie cookies.  These are an absolute staple in our household during December.  Most people know them Chocolate Crackles, but my grandmother has always called them pixies, so I do the same.flowers

Since these are such popular cookies, and there are several recipes available online, I have took the opportunity a couple years ago to shop recipes and find the best one.  While I love my grandmother’s cookies, there is a chance that an expert like David Rocco over at the Cooking Channel might have some good ideas about cookies.  His addition of espresso powder makes all the difference in this recipe, and develops an optimal chocolate flavor.

You should make these even when it’s not Christmas.

Chocolate Espresso Pixie Cookies

Yields about 20 cookies, from David Rocco

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 2/3 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 c plain flour
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp instant espresso coffee granules
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • confectioner’s sugar

Method

  1. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and cooled melted chocolate.
  2. In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.  Add milk.  The mixture will be sticky and pretty stiff.  It’s like a delicious stiff brownie dough!
  4. Allow dough to chill for at least 1 hour.  I typically stick it in the freezer overnight for best results.
  5. Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Put a cup or so of confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl.
  7. Roll dough into small balls, probably a little smaller than a tablespoon.  Drop the balls in the bowl of sugar, and coat them.  Tap off excess and place balls on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. The cookies will spread so give them a little space.
  9. Bake 12-14 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy!pixies

A Christmas Classic

Happy Christmas Eve!  There are about three or four Christmas cookie recipes that get made every December in my household.  Gingerbread cookies are one of them.  And this is a recipe I do not mess around with.  Sometimes I’ll try variations of my favorite Christmas cookies to make sure I’m making the best possible version, but not with these.  This recipe is basic and hits the spot every time.

One special thing about these cookies is that baking them is a tradition with my brothers and me.  The three of us typically find some time over our Christmas vacation and we make these.  My mom or I usually make the dough ahead of time, and when my brothers and I find a moment, we break out the cookie cutters.  We usually divide and conquer.  I am in charge of rolling out the dough and doing most of the cookie cutting.  Then one of my brother’s is in charge of egg washing the cookies, and the other decorates them with sprinkles.

Warning: this dough is best if it’s chilled overnight, you should just make it when you have a minute, stick it in the freezer, and pull it out later that week/month when you’re ready to bake them off

Gingerbread Cookies

Yields a lot, this is a big batch, From my mom

Ingredients

  • 1 cup molasses (NOT blackstrap)
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda (dissolved in ½ cup water)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5-6 cups flour (sometimes I put in some whole wheat flour)

Method

  1. Cream together molasses, shortening, and sugar.  Add eggs and baking soda dissolved in water.  Mixture will look a little curdled at this point.wet part
  2. In a separate bowl combine 2 cups of flour with the spices, and salt.
  3. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet.  After combined, continue to add 3-4 more cups of flour until the mixture is pretty stiff.batter up
  4. Allow dough to chill in freezer overnight.
  5. Let dough defrost on counter for about an hour, or move it from the freezer to the fridge when you wake up in the morning.
  6. Preheat oven to 375.
  7. Use flour on your surface and rolling pin.  Roll out cookies in batches and use cookie cutters to cut them out.  Try to put cookies on baking sheets that are of similar sizes.  I usually categorize by big cookies, medium size, and tiny ones, and I’ll do a couple trays of each.  You can choose to do an egg wash and apply sprinkles before they go in the oven, or frost after the bake.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes until a little puffy and firm to the touch.  Allow to cool and decorate as you see fit.yum

expertly decorated