Tag Archives: family
Post by Alison Hein.
Do you have someone special in your family who, through masterful cooking, can elevate a simple recipe to the height of perfection? Or someone who, through artful mixing, can swirl a few splashes in a glass to create a bountiful ocean of flavor?
In my husband’s family, it’s Aunt Frannie. With just a handful of ingredients, she will mix you up one mean Irish Coffee. One sip of her concoction, and you will never want another mixed by anyone else.
Her secret? You must use brown sugar, and you must enthusiastically muddle it with a hefty pour of fine Irish whiskey before adding coffee. Aunt Frannie likes to use Jameson whiskey (ironically established by a Scot in 1780) for its smooth, woody depth. You must also use strong, hot fresh-brewed coffee. Aunt Frannie recommends switching to decaf if you plan on having more than one – trust me, they go down just a little too easy.
The story goes that the original Irish Coffee was created in the 1940s by Joe Sheridan, a chef who worked in the Shannon port. A group of traveling Americans was looking for something warming after arriving in Ireland on a cold winter night. When one of the passengers inquired if Chef Sheridan was serving them Brazilian coffee, he replied, tongue-in-cheek like a perfect Irishman, “No, it’s Irish Coffee.”
Even with this recipe it’s not possible to precisely recreate Aunt Frannie’s amazing Irish Coffee. (I think she secretly pours a lot of love and tradition in there!) It is possible, however, to begin your own family tradition and create an amazing Irish breakfast in bed.
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
¼ cup Irish whiskey
¾ cup hot, fresh-brewed coffee
Whipped cream, for garnish
Add sugar to a small heat-proof glass, such as an Irish coffee mug. Pour in Irish whiskey and muddle until sugar and whiskey are well-mixed. Pour in coffee and stir. Top with whipped cream and serve immediately.
Makes one Irish Coffee.
Post by Alison Hein.
My husband’s firm conducts charitable activities each year during the month of November. The company comes up with different ideas to get people to donate money to various charities. Lo and behold, last week they decided to hold a bake sale in the office to benefit City Harvest, a New York-based food rescue organization which we support. Kevin asked me if I wanted to provide something tempting for the sale.
And so I baked. Benne Wafers, Green Tea Macadamia Cookies, and Pistachio Biscotti. Only one tiny problem – I didn’t have any pistachio nuts. I did, however, have a nice fat bag of crunchy, plump hazelnuts. And, a couple of tiles of bittersweet chocolate mixed into the batter added rich depth and a lovely tan color to the cookies.
The toughest part of baking biscotti is slicing them into strips after the first baking. They tend to crumble if not cooled enough, or if overcooled and too crispy. After a little practice (all mistakes are deliciously edible!), you will have it down to a science.
So, you should add Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti to your cooking repertoire – whether you are baking to support your favorite charity or to serve your favorite person a charitable breakfast in bed.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ounces baking chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time. Mix in vanilla and melted chocolate. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and hazelnuts. Dough should be thick and moldable.
Wet or flour hands, split dough in half, and shape into two long, mounded loaves (approximately 8 inches long by 3½ inches wide). Place loaves on prepared baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool at least 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, slice loaves into roughly ¾-inch slices. Place slices cut-side down on parchment paper and bake for another 30 minutes or so, turning biscotti once during baking, until golden brown. Remove to wire rack and cool.
Makes about 20 to 25 biscotti.
Post by Alison Hein.
We recently had a major garden renovation, with a tight timeframe for completion. One morning, in an effort to speed the finish, our landscape designers sent a group of six hard workers. It turned out to be an unseasonably cold morning, and as I looked out from inside my warm and cozy house and watched these guys toiling, my feelings of guilt turned to recipe inspiration.
I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to offer them a little bite of hot food for energy and warmth? Something savory, perhaps, with a little cheese, a little bread, a little spice. Something breakfasty, fast, and easy to eat. Something to accompany a good hot cup of strong coffee.
Why not a take on bread pudding, with a savory Italian twist enhanced by salty pancetta and a touch of parmesan? A little sautéing, a little chopping, and a little baking later, my Pancetta Breakfast Bake was done. I sliced it into little squares, and brought it out to my valiant landscapers.
A warming little break from hard work for them, a warming little breakfast in bed for you.
5 ounces fresh leaf spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ loaf stale French or Italian bread4 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Grease a 9×9-inch baking dish and set aside. Wash, trim and dry spinach. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until lightly wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spread spinach evenly in the prepared dish. Add remaining olive oil to same pan, and sauté pancetta, shallot and minced garlic over medium heat until softened and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
Cut or tear bread into bite-sized cubes (should be around 3 cups). Spread bread cubes out evenly on top of the spinach. Arrange the sautéed pancetta, shallot and garlic on top of the bread cubes.
Add eggs and milk to large bowl and whisk until slightly thickened. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, basil, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes to allow bread to absorb liquid. Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly puffed up and the top is golden brown.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Post by Alison Hein.
Well Brian B, this is your cake!
Since I couldn’t think of anything new, I fell back to something old – Barm Brack – a colorful fruit-filled yeast cake traditionally baked at Halloween. It is customary to hide small metal charms in the brack. A coin means wealth in the coming year; a ring foretells upcoming nuptials; a thimble signifies spinsterhood; and a piece of cloth indicates poverty. If you plan to bake anything into your cake (I did not), be sure to wrap the tokens in large pieces of foil, forewarn anyone having a slice, and do not serve to young children or people with dental problems!
The word “brack” stems from the Irish “breac”, or speckled, due to the dried fruit strewn throughout the cake. The word “barm” means yeast.
Most barm brack recipes call for candied fruit peel in addition to dried fruit, but in this version I used a combination of currants, dark and golden raisins, and dried sweet cherries. Some people also like to soak the dried fruit in tea, cider or whiskey overnight before baking for intense flavors and to add moisture to the cake.
So feel free to experiment. Bake your brack the night before, then slice, toast and butter it for a Halloween morn breakfast in bed.
I wish you good fortune in the year ahead…
1½ cups milk
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 packet yeast
4 – 5 cups flour
¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups mixed dried fruit (such as currants, raisins, golden raisins, dried cherries)
Grated rind of one lemon (or substitute orange)
Add milk to small, heavy saucepan and place on stove over medium heat. Allow to heat, without stirring, until tiny ripples begin to form across the surface of the milk (scalded milk). Remove milk from heat and add butter, brown sugar and salt. Pour milk mixture into food processer. Allow to cool until tepid, then sprinkle yeast lightly and evenly across surface.
Let yeast rest about 10 minutes, until it begins to activate and resembles wet sand. Add 1 cup of flour, spices, and most of beaten eggs, retaining about 1 tablespoon of eggs to glaze the cake before baking. Gently pulse the food processer, adding flour about 1 cup at a time, until dough is compressed and begins to pull away from side of bowl. Stir in the dried fruit and lemon rind. Transfer to a well-greased 8-inch round cake pan. Cover with a light tea towel and set in warm, non-drafty place to rise. Let dough rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.
Fifteen minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 400°. Brush the top of the barm brack with remaining beaten egg. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.
NOTE: If adding charms, wrap them in foil and push them into the dough after mixing in fruit, but before dough is set to rise.