Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Soft Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Molasses!  What is it about molasses?  All I have to do is open the tin and mess and mayhem ensues.  It only takes one escaped drop to destroy the whole kitchen.  It sticks to your fingers which transfer the goo to every surface you touch, and some surfaces you don't touch.  How did molasses get on the kitchen window?!  

Perhaps molasses behaves in this unruly way because it only comes out around Christmas time each year.  I never think of using it until it's time to do the holiday baking.  Let's face it, you can't make a Christmas cake, gingerbread, or spicy cookies without it.  So get ready, this is going to get messy.  


2 1/4 cup plain flour
1 cup white caster sugar
3/4 cup margarine - softened (I used Stork)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses or black treacle
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt 

Sugar for coating cookie dough before baking

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C  Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.  Set these to one side.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar.  Add the egg and mix well.  Stir in the molasses.  Gradually stir the sifted dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.  Place the cookie dough in the refrigerator to chill while you clean the molasses off the cupboards, ceiling, floor, and yourself.  (If you have pets, they may need molasses removal, too.)  When every surface in the kitchen has been de-gooed it's time to bake the cookies.

Place three tablespoons of sugar into a small bowl.  Roll the cookie dough into walnut size balls and coat them in the sugar.  Place the dough balls onto an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them two inches apart, and slightly flatten them to make a cookie shape.   Bake for about 8 - 10 minutes.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for about five minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.  

To keep these cookies soft, store them in an airtight container.   I am pretty sure these are the cookies you are supposed to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve.  I think it says that on the side of the molasses tin.  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas Tree Update - Giant Snowflakes

In our house, decorating for Christmas begins the first day of December and continues until the very last minute on Christmas Day.  Just when you think you've finished, a new ornament will catch your eye and it all begins again.

This is what happened yesterday when Andy found these GIANT snowflakes at the garden center. They are the size of breakfast plates, look like crystal, and are stunningly beautiful with the lights twinkling through them.   Needless to say, I am currently rearranging the ornaments to make room for them on the tree.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lazy Potatoes Dauphinoise

Cream, potatoes, garlic, and butter...these are things that you know are going to be delicious no matter what you do to them.  These are also the ingredients for Dauphinoise.  Once I'd tasted Potatoes Dauphinoise, on a trip back from France, I was hooked.  I've made them the classic French way and now I'm going to show you my cheat's method.  (No potato peeling, no garlic crushing, no fuss)

The first thing to do is heat the oven to 350F/180C.  Generously butter the bottom and sides of an oven proof casserole dish. 

Scrub three or four good size potatoes, cut out any gnarly bits, and pat them dry.   Don't bother peeling them but do slice them as thinly as you can.  I used the slicing side of a box grater and finished off with a very sharp knife.  You can use the slicing blade of a food processor if you have one.  

While you are slicing the potatoes, start making the sauce.  In a small saucepan place the following ingredients:

300 ml cream
150 ml milk- pour the milk into the cream carton and swish it around to get out all the cream
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
cracked black pepper to taste

Place the saucepan over a low heat and cook until steaming hot and slightly simmering.  Give the sauce a good stir to distribute the pepper and garlic powder.

Arrange half of the potatoes in the bottom of the casserole dish. (Use the ugly slices for this layer) Dot the top of the potatoes with about a tablespoon of butter and pour over half of the hot cream mixture.  

Place the rest of the sliced potatoes into the casserole dish, taking a moment or two to arrange some 'pretty' slices on the top.  Pour over the rest of the hot cream mixture. Press the potatoes down into the sauce with the back of a spoon to make sure they are just covered by cream sauce. Add a splash of milk if necessary.

Cover the baking dish with foil, place it on a baking tray and put it in the oven to bake for about 30 - 45 minutes.  Once the potatoes are tender, remove the foil and return the casserole dish to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Bake, uncovered, until the top is lightly golden and the sauce is bubbling like lava.  Serve with ANYTHING and enjoy!  

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Not Quite Christmas Cake

Let's just say it straight... I haven't baked a Christmas Cake.  Shock! Horror! I've only ever tried to make a Christmas Cake once and it was a dismal failure. They cost a fortune to make and have to be fed and cossetted like an infant.  By now it's become clear that I don't particularly like Christmas Cake. Unfortunately, Andy does! 

Each year I cheerfully bake and decorate Christmas cookies with that niggling feeling of guilt... I should make Andy a Christmas cake.  Each year I turn up the Christmas music to drown out the guilt.  This time I think I may have found a solution...NOT QUITE CHRISTMAS CAKE.

This cake is quick and easy to make,no heavy machinery required. You only need a spoon and a big mixing bowl.  You won't have to buy £20 worth of dried fruit and candied peel.  If you've got a well stocked baking cupboard and a jar of good mincemeat you are ready to bake. 

Here's how to do it:

Heat the oven to 160C/325F.  Grease a loaf pan (17 x 11cm) and line it with baking paper.  

Measure out the following ingredients:

75 grams butter - room temperature
1 egg
75 grams soft brown sugar
120 grams mincemeat (I used Waitrose Traditional) 
120 grams self-rising flour 
100 grams sultanas 

Cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, mincemeat and sultanas.  Add the flour and stir well to combine.  

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 1 hour or until the cake is a light golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.  Test your cake at about 50 minutes...some ovens will take longer or even less time.  

Let the cake cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning it out to cool on a wire rack.  Once cool, wrap in cling film and store in an airtight container.  

And that's my guilt-free, Not Quite Christmas Cake.  

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday Snowflakes

We don't get much snow down here on the south coast of Devon, so I like to hang snowflakes on the tree to remind me of all those white Christmases I used to know.

You never know,  we might get some Christmas snow!  

Monday, 8 December 2014

Potato Boats

This time of year always makes me nostalgic.  I think about childhood Christmases, ice skating on the frozen pond at the municipal park, and of course, food.  I don't know what sparks these memories but today I thought about something my Mom used to make for our lunch, Potato Boats! I haven't had one of these in decades.

I suppose they are called Potato Boats to get kids to eat them but to be more precise they are a twice baked potato stuffed with all sorts of tasty tidbits.  Mom used to keep them simple, just mashed potato and cheddar cheese.  Today I filled my boat with mustard and garlic mash.  

They are really easy to make.  No measuring required, just scrub as many potatoes as you need.  Dry them well and poke them with a fork so the steam will be released while baking.  Rub the outside of each potato with a bit of vegetable oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Heat the oven to 400F/200C and bake the potatoes for about 50 - 60 minutes or until they are cooked completely.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool a bit while you prepare you fillings and the cheese for topping.  Leave the oven on, you want it to be hot for the second baking.  

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and gently scoop out the fluffy flesh leaving the outer skins intact.  Place the potato flesh into a big bowl and mash.  This is where you can use your imagination and add the ingredients you like.

I used whole grain mustard, garlic powder, mixed dried herbs, and single cream to make my mash.  You can use sour cream and chives or just go the old fashion route and make mash with butter and milk.

Spoon the flavoured mash back into the potato skins, top with shredded cheese, and any other tasty bits you'd like.  I used smoked paprika but crispy bacon would be delicious...or maybe little cubes of salty ham.  You get the idea, it's what ever floats your boat.  *sorry*

Pop the potatoes back into the hot oven for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Serve as a side dish or with a salad as a main course.  

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas Tree 2014

We are all so busy this time of year, buying gifts, writing cards, making Christmas cakes, and decorating the house.   It's important to stop and take a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful things you've created.  

The pre-holiday madness will resume tomorrow.  Tonight, try to spend some quality time with your Christmas tree.