Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stretching Your Eggs and Your Dollars

The moment we've been waiting for two whole years is here:  we are utterly swimming in eggs!  This is so exciting after the devastation we endured last year.  It's almost like Mother Nature giving us a really awesome Christmas gift. :)

Even though we are swimming in them, strategy is still important to me.  I like to try to save as many as possible for dishes where the eggs are the highlight of the meal instead of buried in it, since organic eggs tend to be more expensive, yet well worth the cost.  I was checking our health food market today, and the same type of eggs we offer here at the farm (cage free, non-GMO, organically raised) sell for $10.19 per dozen!!

Sometimes we just need to bake though, right?  Holiday baking is where it's at, eh?

We are big Christmas bakers in this household.  We could go through a dozen eggs easily during a day of baking.  With eggs scarce this past year, I had to come up with some creative ways to stretch those we did get from our ladies, so we wouldn't need to buy any in addition to what we produced. And that meant breaking up the eggs into yolks and whites and seeing what could be done.  My plan worked so well, I wanted to share it with you.

My family has been keen on thumbprint cookies for what seems like all of forever.  They are Lil' Farmer Mac's favorite cookie.  Come to think of it, they were probably my favourite cookie too as a kid, because my mom and my grandpa always let me help them make a batch or three.  As far as I know, this recipe is my Grandpa's.  He was an ol' farm boy from Ohio.  I remember taking a trip back there with him when I was a little girl.  He showed me how to coax a baby cow into sucking your thumb and how to catch big green grasshoppers and fireflies.  He was one cool dude, and he loved his cookie baking.

The recipe only uses yolks.  Depending on the number of batches you make, you could end up with 1-4 eggs whites.  While scouring my cookbooks, many ideas jumped out at me:  tuile cookies, meringue, macaroons.  Martha Stewart has a fabulous looking recipe for Peppermint Meringues with chocolate filling.  We ended up making French macaronswhich you could just about get a cavity from reading all the recipes out there.  (You say you don't have a pastry bag?  No worries, you can use a plastic zip-top bag with one corner snipped to pipe the cookies.)

Macarons left us with more yolks, which were turned into manicotti filling.  Or you could turn them into Swedish meatballs.

Surprisingly, after all this was prepared, we still had 6 eggs left for Eggs in a Window in the morning.

Grandpa's Thumbprint Cookies

Grandpas or Daddies are the best assistants when making these cookies because their thumbs tend to be bigger.  The bigger the thumbprint, the more delicious jam you can pack in!

1 cup butter (Grandpa used Crisco.  I'll let you be the judge.)
3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup would even do)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 - 1/2 cups all purpose flour
jam or fruit spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix shortening, cream cheese, and sugar until well blended.  Stir in egg yolk and vanilla.  Add flour; mix well.  Roll into about 1 inch balls, place on lined cookie sheet, and make a thumbprint in each cookie.  Fill with approximately 1/2 teaspoon of jam.  Bake 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown around the bottom edges.  Please, please let them cool on the sheet pan.  The jam is searing hot.  These cookies are delectable, but not worth a trip to the Burn Unit.  

And if you've just plain run out of eggs, here's a bonus cookie recipe that doesn't need any eggs. :)


Reprinted by popular demand from Seattle’s Child, December 1981.

In our family, the spicy odor of pepparkakor baking in the oven heralds the beginning of the holiday season. Pepparkahor (Scandinavian ginger cookies) not only taste wonderful but are also durable enough to decorate a Christmas tree or to be given as gifts, when shaped like ginger people, hearts, pigs or birds and decorated with white icing swirls and a red ribbon bow. While these are traditional shapes, I remember, there is no limit to the shapes they can take when you make your own cardboard cutout patterns. Trimming the tree with cranberries, popcorn, paper snowflakes and homemade cookies brings us back to an earlier era when life was simpler.

The following recipe was used by my aunt, Stina Hurlen, who is from Dalarna, Sweden and was well-known for her excellent Scandinavian cooking. It will yield enough cookies to trim a small tree and can be doubled successfully. The dough keeps well in the freezer.

½ lb. butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup  (We use molasses. decide.)
½ pint sour cream
1 tsp. allspice
2 T. cinnamon
1 T. ginger
1 T. cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
4-5 cups flour

Combine the butter, sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture comes to a slow simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Blend in spices and sour cream.
Add soda and flour, a little at a time, until well-blended.
The dough will be soft. Shape into a roll, wrap well and refrigerate overnight or for as long as a week. Unused portions can be frozen.

To Shape the Cookies
With a floured rolling pin, start rolling portions of the chilled dough on a well-floured board, then transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet and with a floured rolling pin roll the dough directly onto the cookie sheet to 1/8-inch thick.
Cut with cookie cutters or with a sharp knife cut around cardboard patterns you and your children have made. Lift away dough between the cookies.
Bake in a 325 oven for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Cool on the pan before removing.

To Decorate
Typically, these cookies are decorated with a white icing such as Royal Icing or use your favorite decorating icing or buy decorating icing in tubes at the grocery. Press the icing through a decorating tube with a plain tip, making swirls, writing names, and designs on the cookies. Allow the frosting to dry before hanging or storing the gifts.

To Hang the Cookies
Use regular sewing thread and a fine needle. Support the cookie from behind and carefully insert the needle and thread through the cookie at least ½ to ¾ inch from the top center. Leave enough thread to form a loop large enough to fit over tree branches. Or for gift cookies, attach a small red satin or yarn bow to the top center of each cookie. 

–Sonia Cole 

We'll have oodles of eggs for the foreseeable future, so if you are in need of some from the holidays, pay us a visit.  By the by, farm fresh eggs make FANTASTIC stocking stuffers. :)

What are your favourite baked goods for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe to Remember

It was only the second time that i was in charge of The Bird.  Making me especially anxious was the fact that i was making the bird for my folks and their there anything more stressful than a peer performance review at the Thanksgiving table?  For sure the time crunch is a close second.

Coincidentally, my dad and i had happened to stumble upon the directions for a 45 Minute Turkey around the same time.  Mark Bittman's instructions for roasting turkey this way in his How to Cook Everything book was my inspiration, and i concocted the ingredients myself.  So this time of year, with my folk's encouragement, i decided to try something new.

The premise of a 45 minute bird is to flatten ol' Tom Turkey out, so that all the meat roasts on an even plane.  I cut out the backbone out of an eleven pound bird, flatten the breastbones, and tucked the wings under so they wouldn't block the breast meat.  I also learned that tying the legs together would be helpful to.  You could also part out the whole bird, but i wanted to save what i could of the idea of "presentation".

Next i made a compound butter with chopped rosemary, orange zest, and salt and pepper and a brick (two sticks) of butter.  Hold onto this for later. :)

On a roasting pan or cookie sheet, i placed one sliced onion, sliced orange, three chopped carrots and celery sticks (i used the inside part with the leaves and all), and 12 cloves of garlic.  There were whole sprigs of rosemary and leaves of sage that i laid on top of the veg as well.  On top of that, i placed the bird, and rubbed him down with butter, under the skin as well as on top.

Into a 450 degree F oven he went, where he was ignored for 20 minutes.  After that time, turn down the oven to 350 and baste him a little.  I didn't have much juice in the pan, so i used chicken stock to baste him.

Twenty minutes into the process.
After another 15 minutes, i took his temperature.  He was already measuring 155 - 160 degrees F, which is what was recommended as the finishing temperature.  We didn't know if we could trust this, so we put him back in the oven at 325 and stuck him in for another 10 minutes, after basting of course.

We took him out of the oven, tented him with foil, and waited 30 minutes.

And this is how he turned out!!  The meat was so moist and still pink in the middle.  Normally we're sawing through the dried out turkey breasts when i cook it.  And the best thing was he was done in 45 minutes, leaving plenty of time for cooking a couple side dishes and a batch of rolls.   He did pick up a lot of orange flavour, which we found refreshing, but if that isn't your style, you might want to leave out the zest or the slices.

This preparation makes me think we should eat turkey more often!!

How was your Thanksgiving turkey?  Any unusual recipes your family loves?