Sitting in the refectory with my early morning coffee, I watched a young Sister stirring up something in the baking area of the kitchen. I speculated that she was making a treat of some sort to take to the office since she works at Paraclete Press, the Community’s publishing house. It was not out of the ordinary for this to be happening especially at this time of year. Homemade goodies are known to increase production as well as good spirits in the workplace so it was no surprise to see her doing this. What was a surprise was finding a little plate of Jan Hagel cookies on my desk after returning from church.
As I savored each bite of the crisp buttery delicacies, I asked myself “Why have you not ever made these yourself”? Almost every year someone I know has made these traditional Dutch shortbread cookies and I have enjoyed them at their hands, but have never made them myself. These are the perfect treat to have with a cup of tea with holiday guests and to send home with them as a simple holiday remembrance. I set about to whip up a batch….simple, quick, easy and satisfying. I suggest you consider doing the same. You’ll be glad you did!
For years I thought of making a soufflé as something too difficult to tackle except by the experts, so I put off making them. After finally trying one, I was amazed to discover how simple and straightforward it really is…and how very satisfying! The sight of your creation as it begins to rise before your eyes in the oven and then finally puffs up into all its glory… is reward enough to say nothing of the delight in tasting it.
In case you have been intimidated as I was, this may be the perfect time for you to overcome that fear and tackle one, because these light fluffy wonders are perfect for hot weather meals when you want to serve something other than cold food, and you don’t want anything cooked that’s too heavy. Guests in our retreat house are always thrilled when served a soufflé. They say it makes them feel so special!
Countless stories surround the origin and the history of hot cross buns. Suffice it to say they are eaten as a simple little sweet during Lent after weeks of abstinence and looking towards the crucifixion. It is our tradition to serve them here at the Community of Jesus every Good Friday.
There is one little saying about them that I particularly like. It is said that a bun baked on Good Friday and hung in one’s kitchen will guarantee the success of all baked goods prepared in that kitchen. Worth a try?
I think the biggest event of this past week (well, maybe not, but it seems that way…) was the visitation of the wild turkey. I was talking with a friend in one of the offices and she suddenly jumped up and said “there’s a wild turkey!” and ran out the door. He appeared in the entryway to our common, and proceeded to climb up onto the guest house patio, as if he belonged there. What a handsome fellow! I had never seen one close up, and it was a real treat to see him strutting back and forth, admiring himself in the windows.
For a recent brunch type reception, I was asked to come up with a mini egg dish that was similar to quiche, but not heavy. We tried a number of things, and discovered a delicious breakfast option. We tried it first in pastry, which is nice, but then switched it to a ham cup and…oh my!!! Here they are in a breakfast-sized form, which we made for a retreat this past weekend, but you can also do them mini-size, which are delightful for a brunch reception!
It is a sunny, slightly warm day here on the Cape, but cold weather is on its way again soon. I’m not quite ready for spring, though, I am still waiting for the BIG snow of the season. We did have a couple of snow falls of a couple of inches, but I would really love a good 10 to 12 inches. Snow is also great for the garden, and we are already planning what vegetable seeds to buy, along with starting another plot for a garden, so please pray that we get the big storm!
I recently had a birthday and was given one of my favorite desserts — a coconut cream trifle. I have served this in little glasses, and called it coconut cake in a glass — and it is truly divine. This recipe is a little complicated and time consuming, but I promise it is well worth the effort for any event or family gathering.
Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for about 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
Then the custard:
Bring milks to a simmer over low heat in a nonreactive saucepan.
Whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.
Whisk in a small amount of the milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper the eggs, then slowly whisk in the rest until smooth.
Return mixture to the pot over medium heat, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened.
Scrape mixture into a bowl, and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.
Now the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously butter and flour 2 (9″by 2″) cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time, and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs.
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes.
With mixer on low speed, add remaining milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more.
Scrape sides of bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.
Divide batter between the 2 pans and smooth tops with a spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 22 to 24 minutes.
Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then invert onto the rack, removing the parchment. Let cool completely.
Toast the 1 cup of coconut until golden for topping.
Whip the 1 1/2 cups of cream, and fold 2/3 of it into the cooled custard for the filling between layers of cake, reserving the last 1/3 for the final layer of the dessert.
Slice each cake into 2 layers, brush with the simple syrup, and then chunk up into bite size pieces.
You can make these either individually in glasses, or for a crowd in a large glass bowl.
Put a layer of cake pieces in the bottom of your container, then a layer of the custard mixture, continuing until your container is full, final layer being the last 1/3 of the whipped cream, and sprinkle with the toasted coconut.
This is most delicious if you refrigerate it for a couple of hours so the flavors meld.