Danish Pastry With Lemon and Cream Cheese remains one of my family’s Christmas morning standards, just as it has been for the last ten years. It is not only a recipe that is deceptively easy to make, it also happens to be one that is easy to makeahead of the big day, which is very, very mportant.
Indeed, I have far better things to do with my time and energy on Christmas Eve than worry about what I’m going to feed everybody the next morning.
Like figuring out where I put all the gifts I’d tucked out of sight (and mind) during the previous year. And then gift wrapping them all. Every last one.
So here it is, folks. The most dee-licious cheese-filled danish, with a crisp-tender, yeast-based crust and a yummy lemony-cream cheese center.
Make it now. Freeze it for Christmas. Love your inner procrastinator.
Danish Pastry With Lemon and Cream Cheese
(Colorado Cache Cookbook)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 C lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 C all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C butter
2 – 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice + 1/2 tsp zest of lemon
Powdered sugar, to dust danishes
Mix yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add egg. Cut butter into flour and salt and mix well. Add yeast mixture. Divide into two balls and roll each out into 8×10 inch rectangles.
Make filling by combining cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice and zest.
Spread 1/2 of the filling on each rectangle in the center, and fold each long side in towards the middle, trying to make sure the sides overlap a little bit at first (they will spread).
Fold the short ends up about 1-1/2 inches.
Bake immediately at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Cool danishes on racks and dust with powdered sugar.
To serve, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into wedges.
I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago. What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.
During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.
(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long. And it was full.)
While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box. My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”
This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie. Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…
Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ C butter
½ C chunky peanut butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1-1/4 C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.
Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post
I will never forget the day I first tried my hand at making cranberry bread. I’d discovered this fantastic heirloom recipe in a fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine, and I was particularly excited because I happened to be experiencing one of those rare, breathtaking moments when the house was gleaming, the laundry was done, the kids were clean and contentedly immersed in their paper dolls upstairs, and the groceries were in-house – all before it started to snow.
I put some CD’s on shuffle, pulled out all the ingredients, and prepared for a fun afternoon of baking. All was going swimmingly well until I actually pondered the recipe.
It said to put the fresh cranberries with the sugar and orange peel in a pot, and bring it to a boil.
Just cranberries, orange peel, and sugar.
Something had to be wrong.
Call me crazy, but fresh cranberries look like little red leather balls. They don’t squirt when you pinch them. Having never worked with fresh cranberries before, I cut one open just to see if I was missing something.
It was still the equivalent of a little red leather ball.
I’ll admit I am a person who tends to over-think things. I also will reluctantly admit to having a few trust issues, which I personally prefer to label “Critical Thinking”. And my Critical Thinking Cap was spinning with visions of little red leather balls coated in a goopy sugar-brittle mess that would take weeks to clean. Heaven knows there was nothing to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan!
I called my mom to see if she had any insight into the world of cranberries, certain that the recipe was missing a step or some ingredients or something. Mom told me I had trust issues, and I should just do what the recipe said to do.
I told her I would enlist her assistance in cleaning up the mess if it didn’t work.
She said to bring her a loaf when it did.
The insides of those little red leather balls melted like butter once I turned on the heat; the internal pressure made the skins “pop”, and my terror visions of singed sugar-brittle turned into a ruby-colored mash that made the whole house smell like Christmas. I was ecstatic.
So now we know. And I have pictures to prove it.
This recipe is an annual favorite. It is a rich, moist, dark bread with the perfect balance of sweet-tart and savory, and it is equally delicious with a smear of cream cheese on top as it is served all by itself. Best of all, it takes mere minutes to make, and it freezes ahead like a charm.
Cranberry Nut Bread
(Taste of Home Magazine, December/January 1995 issue)
2-1/2 C halved fresh or frozen cranberries, divided (note: over the years, I’ve taken to leaving my cranberries whole – it gives a chunkier, jewel-studded texture to the bread)
2/3 C sugar
2 tsp grated orange peel
2-1/4 C all-purpose flour
¾ C light brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ C sour cream
¼ C butter or margarine, melted
1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferred)
In a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups cranberries, sugar, and orange peel. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining berries and set aside.
In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Combine eggs, sour cream and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended. Fold in cranberries and pecans. Pour into two greased 8-1/2 in x 4-1/2 in x 2-1/2 in loaf pans (mini loaf pans and muffin tins work, too – just adjust your baking time accordingly!).
Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests done.
Cranberry photo courtesy www.vegetarian-nutrition.info via Google images
Of all the napkin folds, the French Fold is one of the easiest to achieve; it’s simple, elegant, and fast! When you’ve finished the fold, simply drape it at the dinner place. Voila!
Here’s the “How-To”:
Lay the napkin face down in front of you.
Fold the napkin in half diagonally, making sure the corners line up neatly.
Bring the top corner down diagonally towards you, so that the crease is an inch or two in from the original bottom corner and creates a new point a few inches to the right of the same original bottom corner.
Bring the top point down towards you, being sure to pivot at the same place the last fold pivoted, to create a new point on the far right. Ensure the new fold is placed at an equal distance from the other folds for a crisp, symmetrical presentation.
by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.unwinnable.com
Traditionally, any yam served in my childhood home during the month of November was baked, mashed with butter, cream, a wee bit of salt and brown sugar, and covered with mounds of fluffy marshmallows that were subsequently broiled until nearly black and gooey on top. Come to think of it, the only time we actually ate yams back then was during the month of November.
Upon having children of my own and deciding early on there was no way I was going to feed my babies processed baby nasty-food, I did some research into the nutritional merits of these terrific tubers. It seems they have a far lower glycemic index than regular potatoes. They also happen to be packed with potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B3 while registering low on the sodium counter. Best of all, kids actually like to eat them with little or no negotiation, marshmallows or no marshmallows. I started serving them regularly to the whole family as a tasty side that could double as homemade baby food. Two birds with one stone? That’s how I roll! Baked in their skins with a dash of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, or cut up and oven-roasted, yams are delicious and appear on my household menus at least once a week.
However tasty the good old fashioned yam might happen to be all by itself, the holidays call for something a bit more elegant, more celebratory. This is it. From the Heritage of Southern Cooking, author (and southern cooking guru) Camille Glenn has this to say:
” This is the Deep South way with yams or sweet potatoes. It seems to always show up with the Thanksgiving turkey, but it is just as compatible with a good ham or chicken. Do not peel either the potatoes or the orange. If you don’t have a luscious rich sauce, you have been too cautious with the butter.”
Amen. Be sure to slice the oranges as thin as possible – if you have a mandoline slicer, use it, but if not, just be sure to cut the slices super-thin. Use real butter, and for heaven’s sake, listen to Ms. Glenn! Don’t be shy! It’s the holidays, after all. This dish is excellent served with Green Beans Sauteed With Olive Oil; the citrus overtones keep the palate fresh and thoroughly entertained.
Alabama Yams With Oranges
(Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn)
6 yams or sweet potatoes, fully cooked and cooled (I bake mine for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees – the yam shouldn’t be too mushy, but it should be cooked to the point that it can be easily sliced)
3 navel oranges, thinly sliced
1/2 to 3/4 C (1 to –1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 C sugar
1 C fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and slice the cooked sweet potatoes very thin and place one layer in a shallow buttered baking dish. Top with a layer of orange slices. Dot generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Continue layering. You should have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, butter, and topping it off with sugar.
Mix the orange juice with the lemon juice and pour it over the potatoes.
Bake until a pleasant syrup has formed and the top is tinged with brown.
Now that we’ve mastered the Basic Silverware Pouch, it’s time to turn the aesthetics up a notch. Ready? You’re about to become a napkin-folding, silverware-pouch-creatin’ BOSS. Here’s instructions on how to make a Tiered Silverware Pouch.
Tiered Silverware Pouch
Lay the napkin face down in front of you. Keep your tag in the upper left corner.
Fold the napkin in half so the open end faces towards you.
Fold the napkin in quarters.
Orient the napkin so that the open corner faces away from you and to the right.
Roll the top layer down to the center and press down.
NOTE: Your tendency is probably going to be to try to create a hard fold the first time out. Don’t – it overcomplicates everything and causes your tiers to overlap rather than lay flat neatly next to eachother.
Simply roll the first layer down…
… and then roll the second layer down to meet the first; press flat…
… and then repeat with the third and final layer. Press all layers down well – you might want to use a warm iron at this point to reinforce the folds and give a super-crisp appearance. Usually, though, pressing the folds with your hands is sufficient.
Carefully turn the napkin over.
Fold the right side in about a third of the way and press it down hard.
Now fold the left side back and press down hard. This is another good time to use an iron, to make sure everything looks nice and crisp.
Flip over your pouch, insert your utensils, et voila! Oooooh – Aaaaaah! The Tiered Silverware Pouch is so pretty, it brings “tiers” to my eyes. (Ok! Ok! I couldn’t resist!)
Having published the recipe for what I think are the Best Traditional Scones In The World, it’s high time to get into how to make the perfect cup of tea to accompany them. Take a look:
There’s a lot of speculation as to whether it’s best to add milk to the cup before or after the tea is poured. According to Margot Cooper, a tea specialist at London’s Fortnum & Mason, milk was originally added to the cup before pouring the tea to keep the teacups from breaking. However, as finer materials were introduced, such as bone china, the English took to pouring the milk after the tea was served to demonstrate that they were serving on china of the finest quality. She also advised that the advantage to adding milk afterwards is that you have the ability to gauge the strength of your tea prior to diluting it with milk. While this train of thought made certain sense, it went against everything I’d ever been taught by my mother-in-law about making tea, so I decided to look into it a bit further.
It appears that my mother-in-law was right; scientists at the Royal Society of Chemists in England had something else to say about the “milk matter “entirely. It seems that at high temperatures, milk proteins unfold and clump together in a process called “denaturation”. Essentially, adding a thin stream of cold milk to a cup of hot tea causes your milk to go “bad”. The RSC advises that to maintain the freshest flavor possible, “It is better to have the chilled milk massed at the bottom of the cup, awaiting the stream of hot tea. This allows the milk to cool the tea, rather than the tea ruinously raise the temperature of the milk.” (source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/3016342.stm)
So now we know.
And according to my mother-in-law, there’s one more essential step to making the perfect pot of tea: Pour a bit off the top. That’s right. Before your serve anyone, pour a little tea off the top of the pot down the sink. It is said to improve the flavor by removing any bitterness. While I haven’t been able to find any scientific information to support this, I’m not going to question it. Her tea is perfect every time.
To Loose-Leaf or Bag It:
Regarding whether or not it’s best to use tea bags or loose-leaf tea, either will work. However, loose leaf tea is allowed to freely circulate in the water, allowing for maximum oil extraction and renders a richer, more flavorful cup of tea. When using loose-leaf tea, figure on using one teaspoon per cup, plus one teaspoon for the pot, if desired.
Steeping Times and Temperatures:
Courtesy of www.seattleteacup.com, following is a handy reference chart for temperature and steeping times for different types of tea:
1.5 to 2 minutes
Oolong tea (greener)
Oolong tea (darker)
What to do with all those loose tea leaves?
Read them, of course! Do you see birds? Triangles? Courtesy of www.teausa.com, here’s a list of some of the more commonly seen symbols and their meanings:
“ ACORN—Continued health—improved health.
ANCHOR—Lucky symbol. Success in business or in love. If blurred or indistinct just the reverse.
HEART—A lover. If close to a ring, marriage to the present lover. If indistinct, the lover is fickle.
HEAVENLY BODIES—(Sun, Moon, Star)—Good luck—great happiness and success.
OWL—Indicates sickness or poverty. Warning against starting a new venture.
PALM TREE —Good omen. Success in any undertaking. Single people learn of marriage. MOON (crescent)—Prosperity, fame. If cloudy, difficulties will be solved.
ELEPHANT—Good Luck—good health—happiness.
TRIANGLES—Unexpected good fortune.
BIRDS—Good Luck. If flying, good news from the direction it comes. If at rest a fortunate journey.” (www.teausa.com)
For a complete, step-by-step guide on tasseography, or the art of reading tea leaves, check out their website. It makes for loads of fun on chilly afternoons.