Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cranberry Sorbet

Cranberry Sorbet


Everyone is making cranberries this season, and my mouth is watering.  I buy at least 8 bags to use throughout the year, surprisingly fresh cranberries are hard to find immediately after Thanksgiving and I like to have them throughout the year!  The fresh ones freeze in the bag just as they are and will keep for at least one year- that is, if you don’t eat them up!

Here’s a refreshing way to serve cranberries.  You do need an ice cream machine, if not spread the sorbet mixture in a 9 x 11 pan, and place in the freezer, stirring occasionally until frozen.  Then you can make a GRANITA out of it!  What’s that – well use your fork, and scrape up the mixture – like a frozen ice, and scoop it out – it’s still wonderful!


Cranberry Sorbet

4 ½ cups fresh cranberries, washed, drained, stems removed and discard
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 ¼ cups white cranberry juice
1 ½ cups water
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2teaspoons chopped fresh lime or orange zest


Place cranberries, sugar, white cranberry juice water and salt in a 3 ¾ quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, until the berries pop.  Cool 10 – 15 minutes.  Drain cranberries (reserve liquid) and place in a work bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade or a blender.  You may need to do this in two patches.  Add 1 cup cooking liquid and puree until smooth.  Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp; discard seeds and pulp.  Stir in remaining liquid, corn syrup and zest.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 6 hours.


Follow the manufacturer’s directions for your machine


Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Bake & Decorate a Cookie

Even Big Kids love to decorate cookies!

Now that it's Christmas time everyone wants to decorate cookies!

The number one rule - patience
The number two rule - more patience, especially if you are expecting young children to decorate expertly!

Cookie – defined: “small cake”

Yes that’s basically a cookie, and like cakes a multitude of problems can sometimes arises from poor ingredients, over mixing, or oven temperature is incorrect.


Basic Cookie Traits



When making cookies to decorate or roll out, spread is one of the most important factors!  You want your cookie to maintain it’s shape and a dough that is proportionate to butter and flour will make the best match.


Butter Cookies (like sugar cookies) require special attention.  If you make a large batch and your kitchen is warm, keep the extra dough in the refrigerator while it waits to be rolled. 

Chill dough for rolled cookies at least 5 hours in the refrigerator

When you bake delicate butter cookies, use bright shiny baking sheets, they don’t get as hot

Line your cookie pans with parchment paper, it helps with clean up, and your cookies won’t stick as much.  If you need to, you can lightly spray the paper
When your cookies cool, do not let them “steam” the cooling rack should be a good 5 – 6 inches above the counter

Margarine and butter have different shortening powers and cannot be “interchanged” in a recipe and get the same results

Use the best ingredients that you can!  Pure vanilla is so much better than imitation.
Check your baking powder if using – spoon ½ teaspoon in a bowl and pour ¼ cup of boiling water over it.  It should bubble up right away, if not discard it and purchase more.
Baking Soda does not have a “shelf” life, but some manufacturer’s suggest replacing after 3 years.  Check the box for the expiration date!
Measure the same way all the time!  If you spoon your flour lightly into a cup, do that every time; if you weigh it on a scale, do that every time.
Though these are chocolate chip cookies, you can see the difference in the basic recipe.  Just as with sugar cookies, the more butter, the stiffer the batter

-most sugar cookies use a little bit of baking soda or none at all! 


1.  Out line your cookies - take your time (notice the "candy cane") and let it dry completely.

2.  If you are using royal icing - after filling in the cookie, wait until it sets to add some accents, otherwise, it just runs together and you have a Picasso!
3.  If it gets sloppy - eat em!
4.  If you wait to long and the royal icing sets, the sprinkles will roll off!

5.  It takes a steady hand, and lots of time to outline a cookie with pearls!  Unless you have a lot of time, use them for accents on trees and stars, otherwise, it'll look like my crooked stocking!
Basic Sugar Cookies
Makes approximately 18 cookies 


2 ½ cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for dusting the cutting board for shaping/rolling out

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature, but not soft

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (clear vanilla extract if available)


Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt – set aside

Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until smooth.  Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated – the dough will be stiff.  Shape into a disk and refrigerate, for at least one hour, and up to 3 days.  If you want you can shape it into a “log” for slicing cookies.

Preheat oven to 350° F

Roll out cookies on a cutting board that has been dusted lightly with flour.  You may choose to do this between two sheets of parchment paper.  Roll out to 1/8”.  Cut out shapes and place on cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until the edges are firm, and the cookie is lightly browned.  Remove from oven.  After 1 minute, remove from cookie sheet and place on a cooling grid/rack.

Cool completely before frosting.

Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days or freeze for up to 3 months



There are many different icing recipes.  I use royal icing for almost everything, why, I usually have confectioner’s sugar and water available.  You can use flavorings and color your icing as you choose.

Simple Royal Icing

3 – 6 tablespoons water
1 pound sifted confectioner’s sugar
food coloring as needed

Mix the water into the sugar, slowly. 

To outline cookies use a b it more water – check for consistency less water will be thicker and allow you to have a “straight” line

To fill in cookies you may need to add water to the batter.







Thursday, November 7, 2013

A little bit of salt

I love salt. Salt gets a bad rap out in the “foodie” world, especially from people who eat lots of processed foods.

I also teach at a culinary classroom, and am amazed by the “shock” when I salt my water for pasta and potatoes.  A gasp usually comes from the group, and I ask – “who did that?”  Usually someone will fess up, and I’ll explain the science behind salting water.  Most package directions ask for about 2 tablespoons of salt for 8 quarts of water.  Now, granted, that seems like a lot, but it’s not like I poured 2 tablespoons on top of cooked pasta!  That would be salty!

The human adult body needs approximately 250 grams  of salt to survive.   We get that in food, and our excess comes from processed foods.  Most babies when they are born don’t care about salt.  It’s not until we start ingesting foods with lots of salt, that we become addicted to it.


I’m fortunate that my blood pressure is usually in line, and I don’t add much table salt to my food.  I do love salty snacks on occasion.  But back to why salt the water?


Salting water brightens the dish’s final flavor, while keeping the sodium level in check.  When pasta or potatoes hit the boiling water, its starch molecules absorb only about 10% of the salt.  One of the key words is “it absorbs”, meaning it gets into the food, not just shaken on the top!  That’s enough to take care of your salt sensors on your tongue!  A 4 oz portion of pasta will have 92 mg of sodium.  Sprinkle 1/8 of a teaspoon on that pasta and you’ll consume 290 mg!


Remember; if you spill some salt throw it over your shoulder for good luck.  Here’s one of the explanations – there are lots out there!

The belief of tossing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder to get rid of bad luck come from the legend that the devil is always standing behind you, and throwing salt in his eye distracts him from causing trouble. Nowadays, most people only do this after spilling salt, which is thought to be bad luck because salt, was an expensive commodity long ago and folklore linked it to unlucky omens in order to prevent wasteful behavior.