I think most people will agree that an essential ingredient to the
recipe for an “old fashioned Merry Christmas” (or even a contemporary
one) is the baking of homemade cookies. Old favorites are always a
must and adding new ones is also fun, as are cookie swaps where each
person brings their favorites and samples everyone else’s. If you
haven’t done this in a while, you might want to consider it for this
This buttery almond cherry cookie recipe is one I came by in such
manner, and it has remained as a “keeper” ever since. These “cheery”
little creations are great to have on hand for unexpected holiday
guests, or scheduled ones. They can make an attractive gift as well.
However you use them, you will never have too many, so make plenty of
them when you do.
Sprinkle almonds in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown. Cool 10 minutes.
In food processor, process almonds until finely chopped; set aside.
In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Add egg and almond extract. On medium speed, beat until smooth.
On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, and salt until dough forms. Stir in cherries and chopped almonds.
Form dough into 2 (8-inch) logs. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 375°F. Cut dough into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices. On ungreased cookie sheets, place slices 2 inches apart. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.
Apple Fritters… crunchy, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth on the outside, cinnamon-y dough with apple chunks on the inside. I can’t think of a better use for our apple drops that we are collecting in the early hours of the morning. A delightful early morning treat to pair with a steaming cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning.
Pour oil into a cast iron or other heavy duty skillet so that it is approximately 1 ½” deep. Heat oil on medium high. Oil is ready when dough floats to top. (don’t let it get too hot or the fritters will burn!)—do a little tester with the dough to be sure the oil is hot enough.
Prepare the glaze by stirring the milk (or half and half) and sifted powdered sugar together in a small bowl—you want it to be a fairly thick glaze.
Prepare the fritter by combining the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in milk, vanilla and egg until just combined (add enough milk to make a thick batter).
Fold in apple chunks
Carefully add dough to the oil in heaping tablespoons. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then flip. Cook another 1-2 minutes, until both sides are browned.
Transfer briefly to paper towels to absorb excess oil, then transfer to cooling rack.
Drizzle glaze over the apple fritters while they are still warm. Wait approximately 3 minutes for glaze to harden, then flip fritters and drizzle glaze over the other side.
Best served warm. Enjoy!
Advent is a very special time in our Community. To me, it symbolizes not only waiting, but also preparation– preparing our hearts and our homes to receive the Christ-Child. We welcome Advent with a festive weekend open to the public. One of the highlights is our candlelit service of Advent Lessons and Carols – a service steeped in English tradition. Throughout the weekend, we serve an elegant afternoon tea at Bethany Guest House situated in scenic Rock Harbor, Orleans. This tradition was started by one of our founders, Mother Cay. She took great pride in entertaining and hospitality, and her sharp and loving eye for beauty and detail has been passed down to all of us. Bethany becomes a magical place at Christmastime. Throughout the weekend, our gift shop, Priory Books and Gifts is bustling with activity. We stock our shop with home baked goods From a Monastery Kitchen – our famous Kentucky Bourbon Cakes, Fresh Baked Cinnamon Rolls, Cranberry Pear Chutney and English Toffee are just a few of the items sold throughout December in our shop.
For years now, it has been my responsibility to get the Monastic Bakeshop “ready” for Advent. We start preparing in the summer – sampling recipes, making lists of ingredients and then going to companies to see if they would be able to “gift” items to us. In turn, we offer our prayers on their behalf, as well as a tin of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It has been such a blessing to see the response. Year after year, we have faithful donors that have given of themselves to support our outreach – sugar, flour, oats, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins and yes, even Jim Beam Bourbon, have been generously given to us – enabling a profit of the sales to help support our community.
A few years ago, I became friends with a woman who frequented our bakeshop. She told me of a wonderful almond cake that I really should try sometime – and perhaps even sell in our shop. She came back a couple days later with a gift for us – the special Scandinavian Almond Cake pan and recipe. What a touching gift that was! This has become one of our favorite cakes to make at Christmas time – or anytime. We now share it with you.
We’ve been cooking up lots of strawberry jam for Christmas gifts with this summer’s bountiful crop of berries from our garden. One of our sisters has been dying to make a strawberry tart with it and today she did.
I loved the looks of it when it came out of the oven. I loved the taste of it even more, as did some of the other kitchen sisters who sampled it. The unusual flavor of fresh lemon zested crust was a taste treat in itself even without the filling.
“Leave it right here”, I said “I’ll be back in a minute to take a picture. This has to be a blog!” Locating the camera as quickly as possible I returned to take this photo…..
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Italian Strawberry Crostata
The pastry for this simple jam tart is made with olive oil and flavored with vanilla, lemon rind and a little alcohol, which makes it tender. It is an easy, smooth dough to handle and does not go hard when stored in the fridge.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on a clean surface. Lightly beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, alcohol and rind. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture.
Using your hands, work the flour in gradually to form a dough. Work dough lightly until it comes together into a smooth ball.
Divide dough into 3 pieces. Roll out all pieces to about 1/2 inch thickness. Press 2 of them into the base of 9-10 inch sallow baking pans. Spread each generously with jam.
Cut remaining piece of dough into very thin long strips. Form a ring around edge of dough and make a criss-cross pattern on top of the tarts. Cut tiny diamonds of leftover dough and place into the center of each criss-cross.
Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly golden.
P.S. — We added a few fresh berries on top of the jam the second time we tried it, and felt it added yet another dimension of wonderful flavor.
Today I am looking out on a winter wonderland! We are in the midst of a blizzard that has dumped an amazing amount of snow as far as the eye can see. One of those days to sit by the fire with a hot cup of tea and a slice of warm Apple cranberry bread.
We still have apples in the refrigerator from our fall harvest which are in surprisingly good shape – the one I munched on while making this bread wasn’t fresh from the tree, but still crisp and sweet. We also were given a large quantity of cranberries from a local bog, so it seemed like a good use of the two to put them together in a quick bread. We are always looking for different morning snack ideas to serve at our community work time break. I tried a couple of different recipes and actually left the peels on the Apple’s to give the breads a little more texture. Here is one variety that I thought the most flavorful and moist.
We are exceptionally fortunate to have a variety of fruit trees so close to the convent where we can actually see the fruit daily ripening on their branches. I never tire of watching them, year after year, as they develop from buds and blossoms to fully formed peaches, plums, pears and apples. Right now nectarines are the main attraction and center stage in all their beauty, with peaches just behind waiting in the wings to make their appearance.
There is a sweet little cake with a zesty fresh lemon flavor that lends itself perfectly as an accompaniment to any fresh fruit. It is a simple to mix batter into which you add slices of your choice of fruit according to the season; apricots, peaches and apples. It is surprisingly versatile and appealing and can be served in many ways. Lovely all by itself with a cup of tea, or alongside a dish of fresh fruit, it also packs nicely into a lunch box or picnic basket. This morning a beautiful basket of freshly picked nectarines appeared on the kitchen counter, some of them still on their leafy branches. This afternoon we made little nectarine cakes. They all disappeared in no time.