Tonight, our Convent was humming with Christmas cheer as we readied our home for Christmas. Some wrapped presents to send to families, other Sisters spent time catching up with old friends as they penned their lovely cards. In the kitchen, we turned on Bing Crosby and poured over old fashioned family recipes as we pondered which cookies we would make this year. The royal icing was prepared and crispy butter cookies were being decorated with sprinkles covering every surface. I remembered a cookie that I hadn’t baked in years and a favorite to be sure. In fact, you won’t find this anywhere else on the internet, at least I couldn’t. Cut from an old magazine, pressed onto an index card and covered in plastic, this shows how treasured this recipe is. Sometimes baking can restore wonderful memories of times past and other times it just puts a smile on your face, honey in your belly and much joy for the adventures ahead. I love Christmas. The beauty, the magic and most of all the precious gift that is awaiting us in the form of a little baby on Christmas morning.
May the season of light be yours this year. Blessed Christmas!
- To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the apricots, sugar and water and simmer for 15-18 min. or until the liquid is reduced by half and add the rum or brandy. Let the mixture cool slightly and in a food processor or blender, puree it.
- Make the shortbread cookie dough. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate standing mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg, beating the mixture until it is well combined. Slowly, add the flour mixture in stages and mix until just combined, but don't over mix or your shortbread will be tough.
- Form the dough into a log, wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hr. Divide the log into 4 pieces.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, place the dough in plastic wrap and roll into an 8 inch long rope - place on a parchment covered sheet pan and make a canal down the center with your finger so the log becomes a 8 x 2" rectangle with a channel in the middle.
- Spread the apricot puree in the canals.
- Bake the cookie sticks in a 350 degree oven for 18-20 min. until the edges are slightly golden.
- Transfer to a rack and let them cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients and add just enough water to make a thick but pour-able icing - you want it to be on the thick side.
- If desired, transfer the glaze to a squeeze bottle or piping bag and drizzle the icing over the cookies.
- Cut the rectangles diagonally into 1" strips.
- The cookies will keep in the freezer or in an airtight container for 1 week.
Merry Christmas from our home to yours!
Our Gregorian Chant Retreat has just come to a close today, ending on a very positive and productive note, with a number of first timers wanting to return! Always a rewarding finale to any retreat.
In addition to the new faces in attendance were a number of new menus that brought many sincere compliments from the eaters. One of the new dishes was this warm autumn salad, featuring golden roasted butternut squash topped with smooth soft goat cheese.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine butternut squash, pecans, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and brown sugar.
- Spread on rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool on pan.
- Assemble salad by topping mixed greens with squash mixture, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and green onions.
- Drizzle with maple mustard vinaigrette.
As we finished harvesting all of our winter squash for the season, it only felt appropriate to take a few inside and enjoy a lovely, warm bisque that has all the flavors of fall. By roasting the squash along with all the spices and sugar in this recipe, you’ll bring alive the essential oils buried in them and caramelizing the squash at the same time—achieving a depth of flavor you can’t get by starting this on the stove top.
We are busy bustling around and getting ready for our Arts in Celebration weekend, but remembering how important it is to balance our life with the simple pleasures that God gives us. We do hope you will consider joining us over this next week to experience beauty and the arts, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Ginger Bisque
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Prepare butternut squash and toss in a bowl with 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar
- Spread squash on two parchment or foil lined baking trays and roast in oven for 30 - 35 min. or until tender when pierced with a fork (stirring occasionally).
- While the squash is roasting, prepare your leeks and pears. Place the sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any excess dirt, then remove.
- Heat a large dutch oven with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Saute leeks over medium heat until golden and soft. Add pears and then the roasted butternut squash, scraping all the goodness off the pan.
- Add the broth and bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 min.
- Remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
- Adjust seasonings (add additional 1 tsp. salt) and cream, milk (or additional stock) to the consistency you prefer.
- Serve warm, enjoying the flavors of fall!
Many years ago, we had a cookbook from Maine that had the most extraordinary apple pie recipe. It had a layer of crushed graham crackers and caramel sauce underneath the apples. We lost that cookbook in the move to our new kitchen, but every fall when the apples are being harvested I think back to this recipe. This year, I decided to re-create it in an apple crisp. It sure took less time than making a pie, but the flavor combination was there.
For gluten-free cooking, try substituting gluten-free cookies for the graham crackers and brown rice flour for the flour. I think you might be pleased.
Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
- Lightly grease 8x8” square baking dish
- Filling: Toss apples together with brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and the melted butter.
- Topping: Melt butter in a medium bowl and add all other topping ingredients. Mix until crumbly and evenly mixed.
- Sprinkle over apples and pat down lightly. Bake at 350º for about 30-40 minutes, until apples are soft and the filling bubbles and the crisp is golden.
- Meanwhile make Salted Caramel Sauce: Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. It's okay if the sugar begins to form clumps- keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
- Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, it will be around 350 degrees F. Watch this step very carefully!
- Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
- Slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will bubble up ferociously.
- Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel or kosher salt and whisk to incorporate.
- Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into jars. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
- Serve crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce.