Speculoos: Ginger Spice and Everything Nice Cookies

And one more cookie for the New Year:

speculaas

~ Speculoos: Spiced Holiday Cookies ~

Speculoos (or Speculaas) cookies are a Belgian and Dutch cookie. They are very spiced, but more fragrant than a gingersnap. What distinguishes a speculoos cookie is 2 things. The first is that they require a spice blend that reads like a laundry list of Asian and East Indian spices. The second is that Speculoos are traditionally prepared in a springerle mold, which produces picture-perfect cookies stamped with quaint images such as windmills, St. Nicholas, angels and cottages. The spice blend is easily prepared with commonly used spices, and you can make a large batch to keep on hand for extra cookies or seasoning breads and cakes. If you don’t have a springerle mold, no worries. The dough may be rolled and shaped with cookie cutters, or simple flattened into disks, as I have done in this recipe. While rolling and flattening may appear a tad less decorative and more homemade, once you take a bite of these spiced cookies you won’t mind one bit – happy new year!

Speculoos Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Spice blend:
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Cookies:
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons speculoos spice blend
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sliced almonds as garnish, optional
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Heat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Mix all of the spice blend ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Prepare the cookies: Cream the brown sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the flour, the spice blend, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add to the sugar and mix until combined without over-mixing.
4. Roll the dough into one-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a water glass to a 1 1/2-inch disk, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Press a few almonds into the top of each cookie and sprinkle with a pinch of Turbinado sugar. Bake until light golden and firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Gløgg – Mulled Spiced Wine

glogg wine TasteFood
Gløgg (Mulled Wine)

Hot, spiced, and boosted with wine and spirits, gløgg is an elixir capable of warming the hardiest Viking. Throughout the month of December, this libation is a Scandinavian staple, served in cafés, doled out from street carts, and ladled into mugs at social gatherings. It’s the fortified response to the season’s cold and seemingly endless darkness, and it’s as ubiquitous as pickled herring. Most home cooks will make their own brew, either enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found in pre-mixes, and it’s remarkably easy to prepare. You don’t have to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for this recipe, but be sure it’s something you wouldn’t mind drinking, and that it has body and heft–we’re talking Viking sustenance here, folks.

Serves 8 to 10 friends.

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
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, white pith removed
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine
Fresh orange slices as garnish

Prepare the garnish:
1. Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
2. Toast the almonds (if using) in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a large heavy pot with a lid. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 cups, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to low, add the red wine, and cover the pot. From this point on, do not let the gløgg come to a boil–or the alcohol will evaporate!
3. To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds (if using) to a heat-proof glass or mug. Strain the gløgg into the glass (a tea strainer works well for this). Garnish with fresh orange slices and/or a cinnamon stick and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.

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.

Cooking for your Health: Smoked Salmon Tartare

~ Smoked Salmon, Greek Yogurt, Lemon, Dill, Chives, Whole Grain Bread ~

Party food can be healthy, too. In fact, during the festive season, it’s important to have a few healthy recipes up our sleeves that are fancy enough to be invited to the holiday table while balancing the season’s excess. Smoked Salmon Tartare is a perfect multi-tasking appetizer: It has fresh, bold flavors, is rich in protein, B vitamins, and calcium and is low-fat to boot. It may be dressed up and served on brioche toasts, or kept more casual, presented on baguette slices, or, in this case, whole grain pumpernickel bread. Garnish it with fresh herbs and lemon, and don’t forget to pass the champagne – it’s the party season, after all.

Smoked Salmon Tartare

For best results, finely chop the salmon, onion and chives in similar minced size. I prefer to do this by hand with a knife, rather than use a food processor, which will often create a paste.

8 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Whole wheat or pumpernickel rounds
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely dice the smoked salmon. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in the onion, yogurt and lemon juice. Add the dill and chives and gently combine. Mound spoonfuls of the salmon on pumpernickel or whole wheat rounds. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with lemon segments.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

~ Cranberry, Fig & Rosemary Chutney ~

Thanksgiving dinner is simply not complete without a cranberry sauce. While I have nothing against the traditional cranberry-sugar combination, I often find missing an extra layer or kick of flavor – so I devised this chutney. Chutneys are concoctions of sweet and savory fruit, spices and herbs, resulting in a well-rounded mouthful that pops in your mouth. This recipe is not heavily weighed down by too many spices, so the humble cranberry shines through – which, of course, is a requisite for Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

This chutney is not just for the Thanksgiving table. Use it as a condiment for roasted pork, duck and chicken. It’s also delicious when served as a condiment on a cheese board, or dabbed on crostini with soft goat cheese. Makes about 2 cups.

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

Place the figs in a small bowl. Pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes. When the figs are ready, place the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs

~ Orange Almond Semifreddo, Port Wine Poached Figs, Almond Praline ~

This dessert has the whiff of Christmas. The good news is that you don’t need to wait until December to taste it. It’s really a 2-part dessert, with each component stand-alone good. Fresh figs are poached in a heady reduction of Port wine, balsamic vinegar, citrus and spice yielding intense results reminiscent of Christmas puddings and mulled wine. You could stop there and serve the figs in their stew as a simple dessert soup, but why hold back? That was my thought, when I ladled the figs and their sauce over a wedge of melt-in-your-mouth semifreddo. Semifreddo is a fancy way to describe this frozen Italian concoction of whipped cream and meringue, which, in this case, is flecked with toasted almonds and orange zest. Each bite is ethereal, light and airy, disappearing on the tongue in a teasing poof. For a little structure and lasting crunch, I topped the dessert with a shard of caramelized almond praline. Like I said – why hold back?

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs

Active Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus cooling and freezing time
Serves 8

Semifreddo:
3/4 cup whole almonds
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon orange liqueur, such as Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Figs Compote:
1 cup Port wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
12 large dried figs, stems removed, halved

Praline:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Prepare the semifreddo:
1. Line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with plastic, leaving a 3-inch overhang.
2. Place the almonds and the 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add the orange zest and salt and pulse once or twice to blend.
3. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they begin to hold soft peaks. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the cream, orange liqueur, and vanilla extract in a clean mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream until no traces are visible. Gently fold the almonds into the egg whites until evenly distributed. Spoon into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover tightly with plastic. Freeze at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prepare the figs:
Bring all of the compote ingredients, except the figs, to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and boil until the liquid reduces by half. Strain the liquid and return to the saucepan. Add the figs and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and cool completely in the liquid. (Figs may be prepared up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate until use. Bring to room temperature to serve.)

Prepare the praline:
Heat the sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until sugar turns amber in color. Add the almonds and sea salt and stir quickly to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and spread into a thin layer. Do not touch with your fingers. Cool completely. Break into small pieces.

Serve:
When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo from the loaf pan. Working quickly, cut in 3/4-inch slices and arrange on serving plates or shallow bowls. Spoon figs and juice over the semifreddo and garnish with praline shards. Serve immediately.

 

Chocolate Stout Pound Cake with Whiskey Cream

Chocolate Stout Pound Cake with Whiskey Cream

~ Chocolate Stout Pound Cake with Irish Whiskey Cream ~

When life hands you lemons you make lemonade. When life hands you lemons and Guinness Stout, I’d ignore the lemons and drink the stout. But be sure to save a bottle or two, because you can use any extra beer to make Irish Beef Stew and a decadent Chocolate Stout Pound Cake, which I’m including in a double post series this week in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. And just in case life has, in fact, been handing you lemons lately, I will post the dessert first. Simple things like chocolate, stout, and the phrase “dessert first” are guaranteed to make things better.

Chocolate Stout Pound Cake
Makes 1 large pound cake or bundt cake  (or 12 mini-bundt cakes)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup stout beer
12 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and line a large loaf pan with parchment. Butter the parchment paper. If using a bundt pan or mini-bundt pans, butter the pans.
2. Heat the butter and stout in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the dark chocolate and stir until smooth.
3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
4. Whisk the eggs and sugar until light. Whisk in the sour cream and add to the chocolate. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine without over-mixing.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or mini bundt pans. Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake until the cake is set and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, 55 to 65 minutes for a large cake or 25 minutes for mini-cakes.
6. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Serve with Irish Whiskey Whipped Cream.

Irish Whiskey Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Irish Whiskey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until traces of the whisk are visible. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to whip until soft peaks form.

Potato Gratins

Yes, that’s potato gratins in the plural – not singular. I made these last weekend. Not only are they very cute in their individual ramekins, they are also elegantly and cleverly portioned. This ensures that you will be less likely to find yourself gobbling up half a baking dish of gratinéed potatoes or wrestling your child for the last crunchy cheesy corner stuck to the rim. Just saying. It happens.

Potato Gratins

A mandoline works best for thinly slicing the potatoes. Keep the skins on for extra nutrients and texture to balance out all of the cheesy goodness. Makes 8.

Unsalted butter
2 cups full-fat sour cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds small white, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, very thinly sliced – no more than 1/8 inch thick
8 ounces grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 8 3/4-cup ramekins. Whisk sour cream, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper together in a bowl. Arrange 2 layers of potatoes overlapping in ramekins. Top with a heaping teaspoon of sour cream, spreading to cover the potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat layering process, occasionally sprinkling with additional salt and pepper, until ramekins are full, gently pressing down on each layer. Finish with a layer of sour cream and grated cheeese. Arrange ramekins on a baking tray. Bake until potatoes are tender and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 hour. (If top browns before potatoes are fully cooked, lightly cover with foil to prevent burning.) Serve hot.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese


~ Yellow Beets, Wheat Berries, Goat Cheese, Chervil, Winter Greens ~

I used to hate beets. Now I can’t get enough of them. Perhaps I am scrambling to make up for all of those lost beet-eating years when I shuddered at the thought of tasting the earthy beet. Now that I am a covert, I always have a bunch of beets in my refrigerator, ready to accompany a roasting chicken or stir into a couscous or rice pilaf. Beets’ murky sweetness also adds a fresh foil to grains and salads, working especially well when matched with other strong flavors like bitter greens or tangy citrus. In this recipe they team up with healthy wheat berries and a mix of peppery, sharp greens. A shower of chervil adds a complementary anise note to this wintry salad.

Mixed Greens and Beet Salad with Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese

Don’t discard the pan juices from the roasted beets in olive oil. Once cool it makes a lovely dressing for the beets. Serves 4.

4 medium golden (or red) beets, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt
6 cups mixed greens, such as arugula, chicory, mizuna, red oak lettuce
1/3 cup cooked wheat berries (or farro)
1/2 cup fresh chervil sprigs
3 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese
1/2 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the beets:
Preheat oven to 400 F. Trim ends of beets and scrub clean; throughly dry. Place beets in an oven-proof rimmed pan or pot with a lid. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Cover pot with lid or aluminum foil. Bake until beets are tender but not too soft, 50 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven. Transfer beets to a cutting board and cool. Reserve cooking liquid in pot. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel away skins. Slice 1/4 inch thick and place in a bowl. Whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt into reserved beet juice. Drizzle the beet juice over the beets and gently toss to coat.

Assemble salad:
Arrange greens on a serving plate. Sprinkle wheat berries over the greens and arrange beets over the salad. Scatter with chervil and sprinkle goat cheese over the salad. Drizzle any remaining beet juice over the greens. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the salad, to taste. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

~ Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies ~

We’ve waited until very late (for us) to get our Christmas tree this year. Normally it’s up in early December, and by time the 25th arrives, we light the candles in a last hurrah, before dismantling it the next day. This year is a little different. We harvested our tree only this past weekend, on Saturday evening in the dark. As we picked it out, it felt like we were back in Denmark, searching for a tree in the darkness of the nordic winter. We spent Sunday decorating and will continue to do so over the next few days – after all, everyone has to have their way with the decorations. Then on the 24th, we will light the tree in its full glory as we celebrate julaften or Christmas eve, when we eat our big holiday dinner. In true Scandinavian fashion we use live candles, and it’s truly the most beautiful sight to behold.

Since the tree is so fresh, it will remain standing for a good week after Christmas, which is perfect, since we are home for the holidays this year and look forward to friends stopping in for wine and gløgg.  In anticipation, I’ve made an extra large batch of these Ginger Molasses Spiced Cookies to have on hand for any last minute tree tweaking and unexpected guests who might surprise us. The spice of these cookies goes very well with a glass of warm spiced gløgg.

Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

I was honored that Food52 selected these cookies last week as their contribution to a virtual cookie swap, hosted by Food Network and Yahoo! Shine. And Alicia, the talent behind the delicious blog Weekly Greens, has featured this recipe in her Whole Foods Market Cooking Column. Christmas has indeed come early this year!

Makes about 42 (1 1/2 inch) cookies.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/3 cup finely diced candied ginger, optional
Granulated sugar for rolling

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, salt, and cloves in a bowl to combine.  Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and molasses and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir in the candied ginger. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Pour some granulated sugar into a small bowl. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, then in the sugar. Arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and gently flatten. Bake in oven until set and crinkled on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool.