Cheese Danish Braid

At our Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed celebrating God’s blessings. One of them, the best in my opinion, is of course, lovely breakfast treats. In specific, a golden cream cheese danish with a hint of almond…can you see where were going with this?

Danishes can be a little tricky – below is simple version of the recipe. If you’d like a flakier danish, I suggest doing the square of butter version (see notes at end of recipe).
But either way, with a straight-forward approach and a little bit of time, you can enjoy the sweet, flaky treat for a Sunday brunch or with your mid-morning coffee. We are so grateful to God’s many blessings and pray that you also were able to appreciate God’s goodness this year. Happy belated Thanksgiving!

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Cheese Danish Braid
SERVINGS
12servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15-20mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
30mins (plus overnight for resting dough)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, add the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and warm water. Let the yeast rest until it proofs (5 minutes). Once the yeast has proofed, add the egg, milk, sugar, and salt. Stir with a whisk, and set to the side.
  2. Place the flour and 1/2 cup cubed butter into a large bowl. With a pastry blender, combine until the butter is in tiny pieces. (You can also use the food processor for this step.) **NOTE** If you'd like a flakier Danish, set aside 1/2 cup of butter and make into a butter square.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour and combine until the dough comes together. Place the dough onto a floured work surface and shape into a square. Roll the dough into a rectangle 9 x 13-inches. If you'd like a flakier crust, place the butter square (see #8) in the middle and fold the dough lengthwise into thirds (similar to folding a letter to fit into an envelope). Roll the dough into a rectangle again, and then again fold into thirds. Repeat this process twice more, until you've done it a total of 3 times. Cut the dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight. The dough keeps for one week in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer.
  4. Beat Cream Cheese till very smooth and no lumps remain. Combine with rest of filling ingredients.
  5. Remove one piece of dough from the fridge, and save the other for a rainy day (the dough can last in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for 3 months). On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a 9 x 13-inch rectangle. Spoon some of the cream cheese filling in the middle of the dough. With the dough laid in front of you vertically (so that the smaller 9-inch end is facing you), make 1-inch diagonal cuts down the left and right sides of the dough (imagine you are making a Christmas tree). Once you have reached the bottom, cut away two triangle pieces, so that the dough now has a tree trunk. Fold the tree trunk flap over the apples, then go back to the top and fold each strip over the cheese filling, alternating from left to right and moving towards the bottom.Preheat the oven to 400º F.
  6. Gently lift the parchment paper and the braid onto a baking sheet. Brush the top of the pastry with an egg wash (one egg white and a teaspoon of water). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until brown on top.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, and vanilla until you get a desired consistency. Add a tablespoon more milk if the icing is too thick. (It should be pourable, but not so thin that it drips off of the pastry.) Drizzle over the top of the braid and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm. The danish lasts for 3 to 4 days. It's best to store in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, and then reheated in the oven or microwave before eating.

*NOTE: Option for Flakier Dough: Before cubing butter, set aside 1/2 cup of butter. Cut into 4 squares, sprinkle with a little flour and roll to a 1/4" width between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Refrigerate till ready to use in Step #5.

Apple Fritter Quick Bread

Several of us Sisters were recently sharing our favorite fall doughnut flavors, and it seemed the most popular Fall favorite was Apple Fritters. As a child, I remember getting these as a treat at our Fall fairs – crispy on the outside and slathered with creamy frosting, it just takes one quick bite to sink your teeth into the most delightful apple pieces covered with cinnamon. Yum! Just writing about it now makes my mouth water! Since our waistlines aren’t exactly what they were when we were kids, but still just dying to bring the memory back, I stumbled upon an Apple Fritter Bread. With a few modifications, this bread, although slightly healthier, still has those magical flavors. It’s a perfect recipe for young children to participate in making. And the aroma it brings into your kitchen…you don’t want to miss it!

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Apple Fritter Quick Bread
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
1hr
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1 hr15 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9x5 -inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray or line with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  5. Combine flour, baking powder and salt together in another bowl and add into creamed butter mixture and stir until blended.
  6. Mix milk into batter until smooth.
  7. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the chopped apple mixture.
  8. Sprinkle 1/2 of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture you set aside earlier, on top of apple layer.
  9. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining chopped apples, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  10. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 60 minutes.
  12. To make a glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed.
  13. Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

(add chopped walnuts or pecans if you'd like)

Yeast-Free Homemade Pita Bread

There’s just something about the aroma of freshly baked bread that brings one back to their childhood – but a torture when allergic to yeast!
I was baking for a friend recently, and this was their story. So, I did a little experimenting to see what I could come up with besides biscuits and quick breads – I really wanted something they could enjoy as a sandwich bread. I never thought pita bread would rise without the presence of yeast, but in this easy and quick recipe, it surely does, AND creates a wonderful pocket of joy that can be filled with your favorite sweet or savory fillings.

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Yeast-Free Homemade Pita Bread
SERVINGS
8pita pockets
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pita pockets
COOK TIME
6-8mins
PREP TIME
5mins
READY IN
30-40mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the water and olive oil and knead to form a moist dough. Form into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 5-30 min.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Roll out the dough into a long log on a very lightly floured work space.
  4. Cut the dough into 8 equal parts and form 8 balls.
  5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten each into an 1/8" high flat disk
  6. Lay pita bread on two sheet pans lined with baking paper - spacing the disks apart from each other.
  7. Spray lightly (or brush) with water and bake immediately for 6-8 min. or until puffed and golden. 8. Remove from oven and serve immediately or allow to cool to store for later. Store in a zip lock bag or air tight container.

Flemish Beef Stew

Every time our lace making sister comes home from Belgium, one of the first things she’s eager to do is cook something from her adopted homeland for all the sisters here at home. Not only does she want to introduce us to Flemish cooking, she also wants to be able to share the response of the sisters “here” with those “back there.”

This time, she’s chosen to make Flemish Beef stew, a simple stew with a unique flavor provided by one key ingredient, which is beer. Frequently when referring to this meal it will be said “The better the beer the better the stew.” Now beer is not something we regularly have on hand in the convent, but only when its given to us as a gift for some celebratory occasion, but our determined sister would not be put off by lack of one ingredient, even though it be the most important one in the recipe. She is known for having everything fall into place at the right moment regardless of the odds. So it was no surprise to anyone when a 6 pack of Stella Artois appeared on the kitchen counter. Without skipping a beat, she continued working on her stew while quietly throughout the convent sisters could be heard quietly chanting “The better the beer, the better the stew.”

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Flemish Beef Stew
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
8 hrs45 min

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes
  2. Transfer to a slow cooker and drain any fat from the pan.
  3. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and brown the remaining geef and add to the slow cooker.
  4. Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they give off their liquid (5-7 minutes).
  5. Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms and cook for half a minute. Add beer and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to reduce foaming, until thickened and bubbliing, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the beef in the slow cooker.
  6. Add carrots, onion, garlic, mustard, caraway seeds, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
  7. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the beef is very tender, about 8 hrs.

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

This past week, ​​we did a pot-luck lunch at Paraclete Press to celebrate the ​s​eason and get our company decorated for Christmas. Several of us brought crock pots of goodness to the table – each excited to try someone else’s creation. I think this one received the most ooh’s and aaah’s, as it was completely emptied by the end of lunch and given back to me, clean as a whistle as if begging for more. This is such a great recipe – so easy to make the night before, let the crock pot do the magic during the night and finish it off in the morning. ​This is a perfect recipe to pull out over the holidays when you want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with friends and family. Blessed Advent!​

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Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup
SERVINGS
8 servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
8hrs
PREP TIME
25mins
READY IN
8 hrs25 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Add diced potatoes, diced onion, minced garlic,​ ​10 slices of chopped cooked bacon, parsley and chicken broth to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 6-8 hours on low or on high for 3-4 hours, until the potatoes are fork tender.
  2. Once the soup has cooked, make the béchamel sauce. Add butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt, whisk in the flour until completely combined and gradually add in the half and half or heavy cream (or milk, whatever you prefer). Whisk until smooth. Over low heat, let the mixture cook until it starts to simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Immediately add the​ béchamel ​to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash about 3/4 of the potatoes​ until you reach the desired consistency for your soup.​​​
  5. Stir in ​2 cups ​shredded cheddar cheese and ​1/2 cup ​sour cream. Stir well, until fully combined and creamy. Taste for seasoning, ad​just​ salt and pepper to taste. ​If you want to thin the soup a bit, you can add more milk, cream or chicken broth. ​Continue cooking the soup on low for 30 minutes or on high for 15 minutes.​ Serve warm with the toppings of your choice. ​

O​ptional ​T​oppings:​ chopped scallions or chives, shredded cheddar cheese​, sour cream and ​bacon

Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)

​With the holidays​ just​ around the corner, you might be looking for a new and unusual crowd-pleasing side dish to wow your guests. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, introduced to me by Tessa Kiros in her wonderful cookbook: Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book. She introduces the readers to the twelve months of Tuscan cooking and seasonal ingredients. When I’ve served at our mission house in Tuscany, I would cook through this book and this recipe became one of our house favorites. As Tessa says, “pastry-less baked vegetable pies are very common and are made with various vegetables depending on the season, such as green beans, artichokes and spinach.” You can also use broccoli in place of cauliflower.

We just served this last night for the opening to our Gregorian Chant Retreat and received great compliments. This would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you want to make it gluten free, just substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour in the the béchamel sauce.

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Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
55mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 3​50 degrees/ Wash the cauliflower and trim away the hard stem. Put it into a pot of boiling salted water and boil for about 10 min. or until it has softened.
  2. Meanwhile, make the béchamel​ ​​sauce:
    1) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.

    2) Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

    3) Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
  3. Drain the cauliflower and​ chop it up finely or roughly puree it. Put into a bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 cups béchamel​,​ parmesan cheese, a grating of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, adjusting if necessary. Mix well with wooden spoon.
  4. Butter an oven dish or loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs to line the pan, shaking away the excess (use gluten free breadcrumbs if making gluten free). Pour in the mixture and sprinkle the surface with the remaining breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.