Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Read Full Post »

The revered judges of the annual Washington bureau holiday bake-off have spoken…. and they’ve crowned these almond florentines as king in 2009!  Sources tell me it was the “ooooh” factor that tipped the scale vis a vis some of the formidable competition.  And that reaction is not all that surprising, since these are indeed surprisingly tasty (read: addictive) cookie-candies.

The florentine is not quite a “brittle” or a “bark”:  it’s a thin, carmel-sugary crisp with a hint of chewiness and a light layer of bittersweet chocolate on the outside. It’s virtually all sliced almonds held together by a honey-butter-sugar mixture that gets golden brown when baked for 10 minutes.

Almond Florentines

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup whipping cream

4 cups sliced almonds

1 cup semisweet chocolate

6 foil pans

(1) Preheat the oven to 375. Grease the aluminum pans.

(2) Over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar, honey and cream. Cook until boiling — stirring constantly for 1 1/2 mins at boiling.

(3) Remove from heat and add almonds.  Then, divide the mixture between the 6 pans. The layer should be very, very thin.

(4) Bake at 10-14 minutes until bubbling around the edges and a rich golden brown. Watch closely so as not to burn!

(5) Cool the florentines completely in the pans, even refrigerating or freezing if needed. After 5-10 minutes, pop them out onto wax paper.

(6) Melt the chocolate over low heat and then spread a thin layer atop the florentine discs. Allow chocolate to cool and harden completely.

(7) Slice using a sharp, long knife and serve!

Read Full Post »

Turkey is celebration food. And this weekend I had much to celebrate, including a new kitchen!  Beautiful granite countertops, stainless appliances, a gas range — and a dishwasher! — make this a wonderful place to cook a Thanksgiving meal.  And my 12-pound, free-range turkey from Whole Foods did not disappoint: the meat was flavorful and moist, the skin golden crisp.

I stuffed my bird with two whole lemons, garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, green onion, and parsley.  For beneath the skin, I created a rub of sea salt, cracked pepper, sage, oregano, thyme and garlic.  And in an unusual twist, I took a page out of my mother’s cookbook and covered the bird in cheesecloth soaked in a butter, white wine, orange juice glaze.

The cloth kept the skin infused with flavor as I continued to moisten/baste it every 30 minutes or so. Parts of it did turn dark brown, and I was concerned about it burning, but it didn’t matter.  About 2 hours into the roasting, I removed the cloth and let the skin get crispy. The result was amazing.

Read Full Post »


In my family, Tea Ring is one of those sweet breakfast treats that never sticks around very long after it comes out of the oven. It has almost legendary appeal for it’s crispy outer frosted crust and chewy, slightly-sweet filled inside.

The warm, chewy pastry can be swirled with raspberry and cream cheese (shown here), cinnamon, raisins and nuts, or an orange-almond filling.

The Legendary Tea Ring

1 loaf frozen sweet bread dough

1 can fruit filling


chopped nuts, if desired

orange rind, if desired

cake pan or pie pan

(1) Thaw out the frozen bread dough in a plastic bag overnight in the refrigerator.

(2) Flour a flat surface and roll out dough into a rectangle.

(3) Spread 1/2 can of filling onto the dough. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and other desired toppings.

(4) Roll up dough tightly along the long side, and put the rolled “rope” of dough into a greased pan and connect the ends.

(5) Snip the ring ever 2 inches all around — this creates the openings to expose the filling as it rises. Then, cover with plastic and put in the refrigerator.

(6) Before you go to bed, take the pan out, cover with a towel, and set to rise overnight.

(7) In the morning, bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  When it’s golden brown on top, remove from the over and brush with butter.  Let it cool before frosting.

Tea Ring Frosting

1/4 cup softened butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

a splash of cream or milk, if needed

*Combine these with a whisk or mixer to a creamy consistency.

Read Full Post »


Read Full Post »