Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gingerbread House Tips and Recipes

Chef Sara Beth Thomas
Sara Beth Thomas, Executive Pastry Chef at Carolina Crossroads Restaurant at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N. C., is a pro at creating gingerbread houses. She has generously shared her recipes and tips to make your holiday treat a success.

Crossroads Restaurant
 Chef Thomas' Tips
1. Have a theme, not necessarily a Christmas one. It could be a local landmark, your own house or somewhere special,to your family.

2. Icing is key and it needs to be right. This could take a little trial and error but follow the recipe below. The trick is to make sure it is not too firm because it will be too hard to pipe. But if it is too loose it will not stand up and make a mess.

3.  It is also important to have a solid gingerbread recipe. Now this is not like a gingerbread that you would eat on Christmas morning; it is a little more dense so it can stand up. I've include one that works.

4. Make sure you have all the tools you need ready so that you are not looking for the ruler when you need it. Gingerbread houses are like building a regular house; all your measurements need to be consistent and precise.

5.  Let your imagination run wild and have fun!


Gingerbread House Dough
 Yield: 1 14in. X 12in. House with Roof

1 ½ cups Shortening                     
1 ½ cups Sugar                                 
3 Eggs
1 cup Molasses
6 ¾ cups All-purpose flour                           
1 ½ TBS. Ginger                               
1 ½tsp Cinnamon                        
1 ½tsp Baking Soda                    
In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs slowly.

Add molasses followed by all of the dry ingredients. Chill the dough for about one hour.
Roll out the dough for your desired pieces and bake at 300 degrees (F) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Royal Icing

12 oz. Egg whites
4 lbs. Powdered sugar
1 TBS. Cream of tartar

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment add the powdered sugar and cream of tartar.

Slowly add the egg whites until you get the desired consistency. You might need to add more egg whites if the batter is too thick or you might need more powdered sugar if the batter is too runny.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

St. Francis Inn's German Chocolate Cake

St. Francis Inn
'Tis the season to indulge and this recipe for German Chocolate Cake fits the trend. It comes from Margaret and Joe Finnegan, innkeepers of St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city.

St. Francis Inn's German Chocolate Cake

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 TBS. plus 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Grease and flour 2 9-inch round pans.

Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

Pour batter into prepared pans, bake for 20-35 minutes, until set.  Let cool on wire racks.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup of white sugar
3 egg yolks (mixed with one tsp of water)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups shredded coconut
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine milk, sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla in a sauce pan, bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Boil for about 5 minutes, remove from heat them mix in the coconut and pecans.

Spread on top of cake.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cool weather Dutch cheese soup

French housewives are often portrayed as the most frugal, making use of every scrap that comes into the kitchen. I suspect that Dutch housewives would make their French counterparts look wasteful. Both, however, create delicious dishes.

 This recipe from Viking River Cruises reminded me of some grand Dutch meals - with cheese, of course.

Dutch Cheese Soup
4 servings

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 TBS butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup diced cauliflower
2 potatoes, cut into half-inch cubes
1/2 cup carrots, cut into half-inch cubes
4 cups chicken stock
4 oz. Canadian bacon, diced
5 oz. Gouda cheese, thinly sliced
8 slices sourdough baguette
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil on medium-high heat in a 1.5-quart saucepan. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add cauliflower, carrots and potato; sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and bring to a boil.

In a small skillet, heat the butter. Add the Canadian bacon and sauté until lightly browned. Add bacon to soup. Reduce heat to low and cover, simmering until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes).

Pour soup into four individual flameproof crocks or bowls. Top each portion with two bread slices and one-quarter of the cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dennis Chan's Hip Asian Comfort Food, part 2

Chef Dennis Chan watches over foodies more accustomed to eating, photographing and reporting than cooking.
Last week, I shared the first part of Chef Dennis Chan's do-some-of-it-yourself dinner for food writers. Now it's on to the main dish and dessert.

Dennis, owner of Blue Bamboo Restaurant in Jacksonville, FL, and author of Hip Asian Comfort Food, showed everyone how much fun cooking his way could be.

Sophie stirs while her mother, Belinda Hulin Crissman, holds.
Thai Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry was so easy even a child could do it; Sophie, daughter of food writer ( Roux Memories, A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes) Belinda Hulin, did.

Here's the recipe.

Thai Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
 Makes three generous servings, four or five if one of a multi-course Asian-style dinner).

2 TBS. oil
8 (that is not a typo!) cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 lb. chicken breast, sliced
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onions, sliced
1/2 cup green onion, sliced
1 Thai chili pepper, sliced (the seeds are where the hot is so add accordingly)
1 TBS. dark soy sauce
2 TBS fish sauce
2 TBS. rice vinegar
2 TBS. sugar
1/3 cup slivered fresh ginger
Thai basil for garnish

Complete measuring, slicing, slivering and crushing.

Heat wok. Add oil, swirl to coat pan. Saute garlic. Add chicken and saute for about one minute. Add mushrooms and saute for another minute.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir until all are completely cooked.

Serve over steamed rice and garnish with basil.

We had two desserts; this was the most popular and featured the most unique serving style.

Kaya Creme Toasts (Egg or Coconut Jam)
Serves six

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
9 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 TBS. vanilla
toast rounds or crackers for serving

Pour heavy cream and coconut milk into a saucepan. Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar onto cream and bring to a boil.

Combine remaining sugar with egg and yolks. Slowly drizzle in hot cream mixture. Add vanilla, mix gently and pour into small ramekins.

Bake at about 350 degrees (F) in a water bath for approximately one hour. Creme will jiggle slightly when ready.

Spread on toast/crackers to eat.

(It's perfectly good bruleed or just eaten as a creme but the crackers will give you and your guests a new taste treat.)