Fruitcake

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My mom discovered this fruitcake recipe in the World Journal a few decades ago and has been using it since.  It produces a dense, rich cake perfect for the holidays.

 

Fruitcake
From World Journal

Yield: 9″ x 13″ cake

For the filling mixture:

  • 3 cups raisins
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 24 oz fruit cake mix (colorful bits of candied fruit)
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup brandy (or cognac or rum, depending on what you have)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

For the cake:

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • ¾ cup apple juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

 

Day 1:

  1. Prepare the filling mixture: Place raisins, dates, fruit cake mix, walnuts, and brandy in a large bowl.
  2. Mix together well, cover, and store in refrigerator overnight.

Day 2:

  1. Preheat oven to 275ºF. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with aluminum foil and grease it.
  2. Remove bowl of filling mixture from refrigerator and stir in ½ cup flour. Mix well.
  3. In a large bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, brown sugar, and eggs.
  4. Beat in molasses and apple juice.
  5. Beat in salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  6. Beat in flour. The batter will be runny.
  7. Stir in filling mixture.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 3 hours.

 

Peanut Butter Blossoms

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If you’re baking cookies for friends and family this holiday season, Hershey’s peanut butter cookies topped with Kisses are delicious.  They’re fun to make too, as you press Kisses into each hot cookie.

Original recipe

Baking notes:

  • Flatten each dough ball slightly to minimize cracking when you press the Kisses into the cookies.
  • Unwrap all the Kisses first, because you want to press them onto the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven.  Otherwise, the Kisses won’t stick as well.
  • Hershey’s Hugs look cute too, but they melt a lot more than Kisses, so I don’t recommend using them.

 

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Adapted from Hershey’s

Yield: 48 cookies

  • 48 Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/6-1/3 cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove wrappers from chocolates.
  2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended.
  3. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy.
  4. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Stir in baking soda and salt.
  6. Gradually beat flour into peanut butter mixture.
  7. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and flatten slightly between your palms.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie might crack slightly around edges.
  9. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely.  Try not to touch the chocolates until they’ve cooled because they partially melt from the heat from the cookie.

Spago Cheesecake

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Wolfgang Puck’s recipe makes a rich, creamy cheesecake with a nice nutty crust.

Baking notes:

  • With a hot water bath during baking, it’s a little scary to remove the pans from the oven, but I found that placing the pans on a baking sheet decreases the risk of burning yourself.
  • If you’re impatient and don’t mind a slightly warm cheesecake, you can eat it the same day you bake it.

Original recipe

 

Spago Cheesecake
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

Yield: One 9-inch cheesecake

For the butter crunch crust:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  •  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  •  2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 lb cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (yogurt also works)
  •  1 tablespoon dark rum (brandy also works)
  •  1 tablespoon lemon juice
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  3 eggs

 

  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the butter crunch with your hands, until the mixture resembles very small pebbles.
  3. Press the Butter Crunch Crust into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and cover base completely.
  4. Wrap heavy-duty foil (or 2 layers of regular foil) around the bottom and up the sides of the pan, pleating to tighten.
  5. Bake crust for about 8 minutes until lightly golden.
  6. Place the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle or beaters, on medium speed, beat until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides and under the beaters with a rubber spatula.
  7. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until nice and creamy.
  8. Stop the machine and add the sour cream, rum, lemon juice, and vanilla.  On medium speed, continue beating until well blended.
  9. Add eggs and beat just until combined.
  10. Scrape into the prepared springform pan and set the pan in the center of a larger baking pan.  If you’re nervous about the hot water, set the pans on a rimmed baking sheet.
  11. Pour enough hot water into the larger pan to reach about halfway up the sides of the springform pan, but not above the foil.
  12. Carefully place pans and sheet in the oven and bake until the top is lightly golden and slightly firm in the center, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cake will become firmer as it cools
  13. Remove pans and sheet from the oven.  Carefully lift out the springform pan and place on a rack. Remove foil from pan to help cool the cake.
  14. When completely cool, refrigerate, covered, overnight. The cake should not be served until it is very firm.

Ciabatta

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This recipe is very straightforward and reliable.  It doesn’t require kneading or special tools.  It’s also remarkably difficult to mess up – even if you don’t do all the steps correctly, the bread still turns out well.  We discovered that it goes well with ribs, because you can use it to soak up any extra sauce.

Baking note: The bread takes 2 days to make: 1 hour the first day, and another 3 hours 40 minutes the second day.

 

Ciabatta
Adapted from Peter Reinhardt

Yield: 1 loaf

  • 284g (2 1/4 cups) bread OR all-purpose flour
  • 227g (1 cup) warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

 

Day 1:  Takes about 1 hr

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (stir with wooden spoon).
  2. Repeat 4-5 times:
    1. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm place.
    2. Wait 10 min.
    3. Lightly oil a work surface and wet your hands so they don’t stick to the dough as much.
    4. Remove dough from bowl and fold in thirds like a letter.
    5. Rotate 90º and fold in thirds like a letter again. The dough will be extremely wet and gloopy at first.
    6. Return to bowl with folds facing down.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for ~23 hours.

 

Day 2: Start at the same time as day 1, takes about 3 hrs 40 min

  1. Take dough out of fridge and set it in a warm place.
  2. Wait 1 hour.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and liberally flour it.
  4. Transfer dough gently to paper.  Try not to degas it, but it’s okay if it happens.
  5. Dust top of dough and hands with flour, and gently coax dough into rectangle shape.
  6. Fold like a letter, gently.
  7. Place seam down on parchment.
  8. Wait 2 hours.  Halfway through, preheat oven to 500ºF.  (You won’t bake the bread at this temperature, but it will help offset the temperature drop when you open the oven to put the dough in.)
  9. Reduce heat to 425ºF.  Quickly put baking sheet into oven. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Rotate baking sheet.
  11. Bake 15-20 more until bread is golden brown all over and sounds hollow when tapped.

Filet Mignon

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If you love steak but not the prices in restaurants, Floating Kitchen has a great recipe for making filet mignon yourself.  The process is surprisingly simple and the result delicious.

Original recipe

 

Filet Mignon
Adapted from Floating Kitchen

Yield: Two 6-oz steaks

  • 2 filet mignon steaks, each about 6 ounces and 2 inches thick
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

  1. Remove steaks from refrigerator and set them on the counter until they come to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Filet mignon is very lean and doesn’t usually require any trimming.
  2. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  3. Season the filet mignon with salt and pepper on both sides. I use about 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper per side.
  4. Heat a large oven-proof sauté pan (such as a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet; don’t use a non-stick pan) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let it get hot.
  5. Add the filets to the hot pan and let them cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Use a timer and don’t move the filets around in the pan during this time.
  6. After 3 minutes, flip the filets. Let them cook undisturbed for 1 minute.
  7. Immediately transfer the sauté pan into oven and set a timer for 5-7 minutes, depending on your preferred level of doneness: 5 minutes for rare, 6 minutes for medium-rare, or 7 minutes for medium.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the filets to a clean plate. Tent with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes. Do not leave the filets to rest in your sauté pan or they will overcook from the residual heat in the pan.
  9. Spoon any juices from the sauté pan over the filets and serve immediately.