Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

cranberry cake view TasteFood

~ Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake ~

For the past few days I’ve been reaching around a big container of cranberry sauce sitting in my refrigerator – a left over from our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve pointedly ignored it until yesterday, when I realized I needed to take action, either by freezing it or repurposing it. I am done with turkey for the moment, so the thought of freezing sauce for another round of dolloping over a roasted bird was not terribly enticing. Baking, however, was something I could get excited about. It’s been raining cats and dogs lately, and the holiday season is before us, so something warm, spiced and sweet, wafting fragrant aromas from the oven into the kitchen would be perfect.

Cranberry Cake TasteFood

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Use a whole cranberry sauce (not gelee) for this recipe – preferably homemade. A recipe for a quick and easy sauce is included at the bottom of this post. Serves 12.

Streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cubed

Cake:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups whole cranberry sauce

For the streusel:
Combine all of the ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside while you prepare the cake.

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Beat sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the zest, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, alternating with the yogurt and finishing with the flour. Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. Spoon the cranberry sauce evenly over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce (it will be sticky). Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cake. Bake in oven until knife inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. The flavors will develop as the cake cools.

For the cranberry sauce:
Place 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest and a pinch of salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

~ Spicy Butternut Squash Soup ~

One of my favorite ways to eat butternut squash is roasted then pureed in a soup. When the squash roasts, its flesh morphs into a squidgy paste, intensifying its nutty flavor and coaxing out its natural sugars. I pair it with fall fruit such as apple, pear or quince and balance the sweetness with a savory stock and a kick of spice and heat. While the soup is thick, it’s light in ingredients with no added cream, relying on the squash for body. This recipe includes apples and chicken stock, and for spice I’ve added a little southwestern flair with cumin, cayenne and cilantro. It’s a vibrant start to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as an hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash – I prefer hokkaido pumpkins.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Roasting the squash coaxes out its natural sugars and gives the best flavor to the soup. Serves 4 to 6.

1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley leaves for garnish.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until squash is fork tender, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add apple, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, 1 minute. Add squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. Add additional stock as necessary). Simmer, covered, until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes. Carefully puree soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to desired consistency with apple cider. Stir in brown sugar, salt and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm with fresh cilantro leaves.

Thanksgiving Side: Spinach Gratin with Cheesy Breadcrumbs

~ Spinach Gratin with Cheesy Breadcrumbs ~

You might also call this a “fill-in-the-blank gratin.” I had spinach in the fridge, but other sturdy greens such as kale or Swiss chard will work equally well in this recipe. The preparation is simple, consisting of sautéing the greens-of-your-choice, followed by a quick nap of cream. A crunchy topping of breadcrumbs and cheese finishes the gratins in the oven. And I dare say if there is someone in your family who is less inclined to favor these leafy superfoods, this gratin may be just the vehicle to get them munching.

Spinach Gratin

There is no thickener such as egg or flour in this recipe, so the results are akin to creamed spinach in a cup, with a cheesy breadcrumb topping. Because of this, I like to serve the gratin in individual ramekins. Makes enough for 4 individual gratins.

1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped if large
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté 1 minute. Add spinach, cover pot and cook over medium-low heat until leaves soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and salt. Simmer, uncovered, 1 minute. Divide spinach between 4 (3/4-cup) ramekins. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese. Bake in oven until tops are golden and gratins are bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

If you like this, you might enjoy these seasonal gratin recipes:
Potato Gratins from TasteFood
Broccoli Blue Cheese Gratin from Leite’s Culinaria
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian from TasteFood
Artichoke Hearst au Gratin from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Cauliflower au Gratin from TasteFood

Ring in the New Year with these Party Appetizer and Menu Ideas

The New Year is approaching, and the holiday festivities continue. During this busy time it’s fun and easy to get caught up in socializing, so it’s important to have a few tricks up our sleeve for entertaining, drop-in visitors or an impromptu get-together. Let this blog do some of the work for you. Here are a few menu ideas for holiday bites and appetizers to have on hand or to serve for a party. Meanwhile, savor the moment and enjoy some family time, take a walk in the forest or open that new book  you got from Santa.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!

Gløgg, Glüwein, Mulled Wine

Gløgg, glüwein, mulled wine – the names and languages are different but not the results. Orange, cinnamon and cloves steep in red wine fortified with a reduction of port wine spiked with Cointreau. Goodness, if that isn’t enough to get you fired up for the holiday season, then I’m not sure what will.

There are many pre-made mixes for gløgg, but the best way to make it is from scratch. It’s easy to do and requires an inexpensive full-bodied red wine.  When you make the gløgg, the aroma of simmering spices and wine will fill your home with winter cheer. Best served in front of a fire on a cold and snowy day.

Gløgg 
Serves 8 to 10

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau, Gran Marnier, or rum
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)

For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of 2 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine

Fresh orange slices as garnish

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (The raisins may be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use). Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop into large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the gløgg ingredients, except the 2 bottles of red wine, in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about 2 cups, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the red wine, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Heat the gløgg without letting it come to a boil (or the spirits will evaporate!)

To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds, if using, to a glass or mug.  Strain the gløgg into the glass. Garnish with fresh orange slices and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Buttermilk Pound Cake, Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, Orange Mascarpone Cream

Here is a holiday trifle that I couldn’t wait for Christmas to make. The good news is that it’s perfect for Thanksgiving, too. This sumptuous dessert is sweet, tart, crunchy and creamy at once. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone whipped cream and candied walnuts. (Do you see why I couldn’t wait?) Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. And, even better, the trifle can rest in the refrigerator overnight, so it’s a perfect do-ahead holiday dessert.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8-10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line bottom with parchment; butter parchment. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into loaf pan. Bake in oven until wooden skewer inserted in center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and cool completely. Pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and release juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange walnuts on a baking tray. Bake in oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Heat sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add walnuts and stir to coat. Add salt and cinnamon. Remove from heat and pour walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or silpac sheet. Allow to cool completely. Break into pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine cream and mascarpone in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until traces of whisk are visible. Add remaining ingredients and continue to beat until peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual glasses. Cut the pound cake in 3/4 inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle with a few of the nuts. Repeat layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Holiday Pumpkin Pecan Roulade

Holiday Pumpkin Pecan Roulade

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream

The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get dressed up. The silver needs polishing, the shoes need shining and the kids need scrubbing. Even our food gets dressed up, with stuffings and dressings, garnishes and twists. Nothing escapes scrutiny, including dessert where dustings and dollops are par for the course. And, in the spirit of fancifying, what is known as the ordinary cake roll becomes an elegant roulade at the Thanksgiving table.

What is the difference between a cake roll and roulade? you may ask. Well, nothing. Both terms describe a light cake which is rolled in a spiral with a creamy filling. Yet the blandly descriptive cake roll is what I might consider an afternoon dalliance. For my Thanksgiving dinner, I am inviting the roulade, a French term which elegantly and aptly sums up the nature of the dessert as the word itself rolls off the tongue. I want that dessert at our dressed up holiday table.

Language aside, there are other reasons to include a roulade on your menu. It’s elegant yet uncomplicated, remarkably easy to prepare with stunning results. It’s a no-fail recipe, which is a welcome relief during the holidays and frees up more time to dress ourselves up for the guests.

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream
Inspired by a recipe from Ina Garten. Serves 8 to 10.

For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin or butternut squash puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting

For the filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a 12 by 9 by 1-inch sheet pan. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with flour.
Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk eggs and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer until light and thick, 2 minutes. Add pumpkin and vanilla; mix until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients until combined without over-mixing. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake in oven until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 12-14 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack 5 minutes. While the cake is cooling, lay a clean kitchen towel on the work surface. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar. Invert cake onto the sugared towel. Carefully peel away the parchment paper and discard. Starting at the long end, carefully roll up the cake, jelly-roll style, in the towel. Cool completely on the wire rack.

Prepare filling:
While the cake is cooling, combine mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, cream and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in orange zest.

Assemble roulade:
Gently unroll cake on work surface. Spread filling evenly over cake with a spatula. Carefully roll the cake back up in the same direction, using the towel. Arrange seam-side down on a platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut in 3/4 inch slices to serve.