Gunga Galunga (Via Corona yard update)

After writing the final check to our builders in early 2018, we laid low with Via Corona for most the year.  It was nice to just hang out, let her settle (literally) and, you know, not hemhorrage money.

Our one major task for Via Corona in 2018 was to address the remaining strip of dirt that was our front and side yards.

Lest you have forgotten just how awful Via Corona’s yard began, allow me to refresh your memory.  Though there isn’t much to it, when we moved in, Via Corona’s yard was derelict.

Though we encountered its destitution every time we visited the house, we somehow completely forgot to include it in our renovation plans.

Which turned out to be okay since TD and I watched a ton of YouTube videos and learned how to do some yard stuff.

You can see the entire madcap adventure (montage included) in our Working Har Har Hard on the Yard Yard Yard post.

We gave ourselves some serious back pats for our landscaping accomplishments and have continued to do so while we’ve kept everything alive.

YouTube learning (actually, let’s be honest, TD and I) has its limits however and alas, a significant portion of the yard remained, shall we say, au natural.

A couple of things were keeping us from moving forward.  First, we needed an irrigation system and we needed to figure out if we could do it ourselves.  I’ll cut to the chase tout suite.  The answer was no.  Like, NO! With that out of the way we had a second obstacle: our neighbors.  We’ve got a leaning wall between the two properties.  They’ve got a leaning fence.  We wanted to pull down the wall and have a nice redwood fence built.  They had some “concerns.”  After several months and unsuccessful attempts at understanding their concerns in a way that would cost us less than $50,000, we gave up on that version of the plan.  We’ve got bigger, badder ideas for that wall down the road and have decided to play the neighbor long game.

Obstacles out of the way, we had the irrigation and sod installed in something like 48 hours. Almost over night we went from “dirt patch alley” to “pass me a beer, where’s the corn hole?”

Cool slider alert:

While we may have conceded (temporarily) on the long wall battle, we did win some view.  We’re quick learners and when it came to the short wall, we didn’t consult with anyone and had the nice professionals open things up a bit for us.

Another cool slider alert:

 

Via Corona has wrap-around grass.  All my life’s wishes I didn’t know I had have been fulfilled.

Final cool slide alert:

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished.  The sod had been down less than a week before the gophers moved in.  And then the skunks and raccoons started taking advantage of the worm-rich soil and regularly aerating the sod.

So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Mula Pie

Growing up in San Diego my family had a tradition of visiting Jake’s in Del Mar for special occasions.  Part of the TS Restaurant Group (think Kimo’s and Dukes), Jake’s edges right over the surf and is a favorite spot for watching the sunset while enjoying excellent seafood and fresh sourdough bread.

As much as we’d ooh and ahh over the the tenderness of the sea bass or buttery ahi, the whole meal was just prelude for the dinner’s denoument: the hula pie.

If you haven’t already been inducted (and you’d know if you were), hula pie is a concoction of mounds of macadamia nut ice cream perched on top of a cookie crust and drenched in hot fudge.  While meant to be shared, even a slice of the slice is enough to put you into a deep sugar coma in the very best way.

Since my parents moved to Montana full time nearly 10 years ago and Dukes in Malibu is a hearty drive, I decided to make my own version for my folk’s visit last month.  My parents live just outside of Bozeman Montana.  According to Sunset magazine and more than a handful of best places to live rankings, Bozeman is a happening place.  While this may be true, they still don’t have a Trader Joe’s and so as an homage to my mom’s favorite state’s away grocery, I used as many Trader Joes ingredients as I could muster.

The original hula pie I made with an alarming amount of academic nut ice cream.  This version has that in additional to a layer of coffee ice cream elevating the hula to a mula: the hula and mud pie love child.

I started with a nine-inch pie tin.  I quick baked a Joe Joe’s chocolate crust and painted on a thin layer of hot fudge.  To this I added a leveled-off layer of coffee ice cream.

Since macadamia nut ice cream can be hard to find outside of Hawaii, I came across an easy fix (that I really should have come up with on my own): soften the ice cream and then beat-in the macademia nuts.

The trick with the macadamia nut ice cream (that I somehow didn’t photograph) is to use a bowl with the same diameter as the inside of your pie tin.  Line that bowl with plastic wrap and then fill it with the softened ice cream.

This next part is important: freeze both the bowl and pie tin of ice cream over night.  The pieces need to be really, really frozen for what comes next.

Once everything is frozen and the pieces are fit together, it’s time for the fudge.  I’ll tell you, I had a hard time with this.  My suggestion is to have the fudge ready at room temp.  Then place the pie tin on a larger plate and working very quickly, pour out the fudge and “ice” the dome with an off-set spatula.  You are going to have some drippage over the side.  You may have more than some.  Don’t worry about it.  Just know–there will be chocolate all over your kitchen.

When you are ready to serve, heat up the leftover hot fudge, cut a thick slice.  Smother in the warmed fudge, sprinkle some macadamia nuts and garnish with whipped cream (if you dare).

It took four of us five sittings to get through the entire pie.  It was rough, but we’re not quitters.

Mula Pie

Ingredients

for the hot fudge

  • 6 ounces chocolate chips (pick your type)
  • 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 C corn syrup
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt

for the pie (this makes a nine-inch pie, adjust ingredient volume as needed)

  • One column plus two cookies of your favorite chocolate sandwich cookie (Oreo’s, Joe Joe’s, Hydrox etc)
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 Quart coffee ice cream (strongly recommend Trader Joe’s version) [you probably won’t use all…]
  • 1/2 Gallon vanilla ice cream [you won’t need all of it]
  • 4 + 1 ounces of macadamia nuts (I prefer roasted and salted) separated
  • Hot fudge sauce
  • Whipping cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If using a 9-inch pie tin, find a bowl that fits just inside the inner rim of the tin.  It’s okay if the bowl is just under the diameter (up to 1/4 inch) but it shouldn’t overhang.
  3. Using a food processor or by hand (a ziplock and rolling pin will work), finely grind chocolate sandwich cookies until you’ve got chocolate dirt.
  4. Melt butter.  Combine with ground sandwich cookies and press into pie tin.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  5. While crust bakes, pull ice creams from the freezer and allow to soften.
  6. Chop macadamia nuts.
  7. Once vanilla ice cream is softened to soft serve consistency, place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add-in four ounces of the chopped macadamia nuts and mix on low until nuts are combined.
  8. Line your pie-tin fitting bowl with plastic wrap so that there is enough allowance around the edges to wrap across the top of the bowl once it is filled.
  9. Fill plastic-lined bowl with the macadamia nut ice cream.  Press ice cream into the bowl so that it is densely packed.  Wrap top of bowl with edges and freeze over night.
  10. Fill cooled chocolate crust with coffee ice cream so that the ice cream is densely packed and level with the top of the crust (I know there is a layer of fudge in the pictures–my recommendation is to wait until you are ready to cover the dome with fudge to make the sauce–it will be easier to work with than attempting to reheat and spread).  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze over night.
  11. To make the fudge sauce, in a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, warm corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk, whisk to combine.  Remove from burner and add-in chocolate (chopped if not using chips) and butter.  Allow to sit for five minutes to melt.  Once chocolate is melted, add in salt and whisk until smooth.
  12. Pull pie tin and bowl of ice cream from freezer and unwrap. Fit ice cream dome on top of unwrapped pie.  The dome should fit level with rim of the tin (or just below).  Place pie tin on plate with enough lip to catch overflowing hot fudge.
  13. With the fudge sauce at room temp and starting at the top of the dome, quickly pour and spread 2/3 of the fudge with off-set spatula.  Work quickly and don’t worry if you have an occasional bald spot.  Place pie in freezer and allow to freeze for at least an hour.
  14. Check pie.  There is a good chance that some of the fudge will have migrated off the pie and onto the plate.  If so, scoop up and add to the top of the pie.  Freeze until ready to serve.
  15. To serve, gently heat remaining fudge sauce.  Cut pie, drizzle warmed fudge, sprinkle with remaining macadamia nuts and garnish with whipped cream.

 

 

Variations on a sable

At this point I must have half a dozen sable recipes scattered throughout TMH’s pages.  I just can’t help myself.  And, I have no intention of stopping.

When the Wall Street Journal published their mother recipe for sables in the Off Duty section just before the holidays I was on it like an otter on an oyster.

I had some leftover candied orange peel and ginger from my own holiday baking and decided to throw them in.

As a category, sables are a lesson in simplicity.  Just four ingredients: butter, sugar, flour and salt.  And this recipe my friends, is the closest I’ve come to the golden quadrangle.

Slightly sweet, crumbly and while delicious plain, just asking for fun and unique combinations.

If you decide to fancy-up your sables, you’ll need about 3/4 to 1 cup of goodies.  Need some ideas?  How about:

  • Any kind of freeze dried fruit, chopped (Trader Joes is a great source)
  • Citrus zest: lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange
  • Herbs: fresh mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender (as a note–start with 1 TBS chopped and go from there).  If you are going to herbs, a good way to further infuse flavor is to measure out your sugar and add it and your herbs to a ziplock bag.  Let “steep” for at least an hour.
  • Chocolate: any kind.  Chop it up and add it in
  • Teas: Chai, Earl Grey and fruity teas work well.  Depending on how strong you want the flavor,  start with a teaspoon and go from there
  • Candied fruit

Master Sable Recipe

The Wall Street Journal

makes 24 cookies

note–this recipe doubles very well

Ingredients

  • 11 TBS (1 stick plus 3 TBS) unsalted butter at room temp (use good quality here with high fat content like Plugra)
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 1 3/4 C all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 C sanding sugar, turbanado or Demarara for rolling
  • 1 C total mix-ins of choice

Directions

  1. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and whipped, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add sugar and continue beating until well incorporated. Add salt and beat to combine.
  3. Add flour and beat until almost all flour disappears into the dough.  Finish by giving the dough a few good folds with a rubber spatula.  The dough will be crumbly.
  4. Divide dough in half (I use the food scale here but eye balling works).  Gently coax first half into a general log shape.  Set the log on to parchment paper and roll it back and forth until you have an even log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 8ish inches long.  Set aside and repeat with other log.
  5. Sprinkle the sanding/decorating sugar onto your parchment and gently roll each log until the surface is completely coated.
  6. Roll each log individually in either plastic wrap or parchment.  As a note, I first roll the log in a sheet of parchment, then place in a paper-towel roll and THEN wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap.  Rolls can now be frozen for up to two months.  They can also be baked from frozen but I prefer to move them to the fridge a couple of hours before I want to bake, I think they cut more nicely.
  7. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds in the oven.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
  8. Remove parchment/paper towel/plastic wrap from logs.  Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/8 inch disks.  Arrange cookies on baking sheets with about an inch in-between (the sables will not spread).
  9. Bake for 18-21 minutes rotating sheets halfway through and until sables are lightly toasted.  Let stand for 1-2 minutes then slide the parchment off the pan and onto a heat-proof surface.  Allow cookies to cool completely before removing from parchment.
  10. These freeze well.

Chocolate Licorice Brownie Cookies

Hey, hey, hey wait a second.  Give this a chance before you run away screaming.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve made every cookie out there.  Were I enterprising, the next step would be to work out my own original recipes.  Alas, that will have to wait until my brain is less stuffed with other, more important things (eg whether our bathtub is big enough to keep a pet otter happy and, when I get a pet otter, what I will name it).

So, when I came across a recipe for salty black licorice brownie cookies by Charli Nowak over on Food 52, I was over on Amazon ordering ingredients before I’d even finished reading the article.

Now, I know what you are thinking–adding chocolate to black licorice is like putting lipstick on a pig.  But, stick with me. Something cool happens when you mix the earthy, herbal flavors of anise and licorice root with the smoky sweet flavors of deep dark chocolate.

I’ll admit, my own pump for licorice and chocolate were primed before I saw the recipe.  I’ve been thinking about creating an All Sorts French macaroon for a few months.  If you are a fan of these licorice candies paired with a host of flavors and stacked into colorful little blocks, you already know that chocolate and licorice are good friends.

These cookies are indulgent and immensely satisfying.  They’re deeply chocolate with enough je ne sais quoi to make them sophisticated and dare I say, sexy. Think Valentine’s Day worthy.

Still not convinced?  I’ve got you covered.

In the name of research, I offered up a couple to TD without mentioning the unusual ingredients.  TD is squarely in the no black jelly bean camp.

The verdict?  He was a big fan.

When I asked if he could identify the secret ingredients he guessed chocolate.

Did you know TD is the Latin abbreviation for Captain Obvious?

I ordered my licorice root powder and ground anise from Amazon in larger quantities because, as I mentioned, I have bigger plans for these flavors.  However, you should be able to find them at a spice shop like Penzy’s.  Or, if you live close and want to make these, let me know and I’ll share my stash.

Salty Black Licorice Brownie Cookies

adapted just a bit from Charli Nowak for Food 52

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces 60% dark chocolate chips
  • 2 TBS water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • stick (1/4 pound or 8 TBS) unsalted butter
  • large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBS black cocoa powder (or Dutch-processed cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS licorice root powder (available in specialty spice stores)
  • 2 tsp ground anise
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (plus more or flaky salt for sprinkling on top)
  • optional: 6 ounces mini chocolate chips or finely chopped dark chocolate bits optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 4 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Place butter in a small pot over medium heat and begin melting. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until butter begins to brown and smell nutty. Immediately pour over chocolate mixture and stir until completely melted. Set aside.
  3. To the hot, melted butter, add chocolate, water, and vanilla extract.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then whisk until smooth.
  4. Place eggs and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed for 7 minutes until eggs are pale and ribbony.
  5. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, licorice root power, anise, and salt. Set aside.
  6. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add melted chocolate mixture. Once combined, add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
  7. Gently fold in chocolate chips
  8. Using your choice of scoop size (I used my favorite 1 1/2 TBS size, the original recipe called for a 3 TBS scoop), portion batter onto prepared trays leaving two inches between each. Sprinkle tops with flaky salt and bake until puffed and crackly, about 11 minutes. Remove from oven, give the tray a good smack against the counter, and let cool for at least 20 minutes.

TMH turned 10 this year and I completely forgot

Oops.

I am a very bad blog custodian and completely missed the 10th anniversary of The Misanthropic Hostess  (I started this blog in August of 2008).  In fact, it wasn’t until I was doing some longitudinal statistical stuff (technical term) for my day job  that I realized I’d been entertaining myself in written word and recipe for an entire decade.  For what it’s worth I also have a hard time keeping track of my own wedding anniversary (though that I chalk up to the fact that TD and I dated for so long before formally institutionalizing ourselves that the actual date of recognition was just a chance to get together with friends and family, wear awesome shoes and eat cake).

For those of you who are new to this dog and pony show, the Misanthropic Hostess started as a way for me to document an attempt to build my beloved alma mater’s Royce Hall out of gingerbread.  Every weekend  throughout the fall of 2008, as the economy imploded and the world became uncertain, I played with flour, cinnamon and royal icing.   Nobody was more surprised than me when it actually came together: Extreme Makeover: Gingerbread Royce Hall.

Unlike nearly everything else in my life, I’ve never had a plan for The Misanthropic Hostess.  Other professional and  life responsibilities have always kept me from having to take her too seriously.  Instead, we’ve enjoyed our casual but steady relationship as the months turned into years. Here we are, 10 years and 400 or so posts later and I find myself feeling indelibly grateful for this little hobby of mine.

While I don’t know where we are headed, I have no plans to end this carnival.  If you read, thank you.  If you don’t, no biggie.  Here’s to another 10!

 

 

Posession with intent to distribute

Sometimes I feel like a drug dealer when I deliver baked goods to friends and colleagues.  And, that’s not just because I like to lurk in dark alleyways and whisper, “hey kid, you wanna smoke some drugs?” out of the side of my mouth.

It’s also not the whole sugar is a drug thing (Yes, I know it is.  No, I’m not going to stop baking).

Maybe it’s because my hobby yields something people generally seem to want to consume. Then there is that part where people enjoy and then talk about why they shouldn’t have.  It may also have something to do with my ties to the Salamancas Family.   Anyhow on to the biggest baking drug deal of the year: 2018 Holiday Baking!

My analytics weren’t super awesome this year.  I just didn’t have time to work on data visualization. In their place,  I offer a summary:

  • 35 pounds of butter
  • 75 pounds of sugar
  • 25 pounds of fruits and nuts
  • 25 pounds of chocolate
  • 3500 units

And some old fashioned visuals.  You’ll find a  list of everything I baked with links at the bottom.

 

Holiday Baking 2018: The List

Candied Orange Peel

Candied Ginger

Triple Gingersnaps

World Peace Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Royal Icing (Sweet Sugarbelle)

Rum Butter Nuts

Peanut butter (schweddy) balls

Almond Butter Crunch

Cranberry White Chocolate Doodles (recipe isn’t quite ready for prime time)

 

 

Cranberry Curd Tart

Curd is an unfortunate word.  Especially for something as lovely as when it comes in fruit form.

This recipe caught my eye by the gorgeousness of the color of the curd alone.  Gem-like and rich, I imagined how good something this pretty might taste.

The original recipe appeared in the New York Times and calls for a hazelnut crust.  However, when I went to buy my nuts, the nice lady restocking the bulk bins informed me that she’d seen nary a hazel or macadamia nut in weeks.  I was undeterred.  As we were chatting, I spied whole blanched almonds.  Skinning hazelnuts is not my idea of a good time so I took it as win-win.

Fair warning.  While this is a beautiful dessert (and delicious each of the three times I tried a square just to make sure), it is fiddly.  It would be a wonderful addition to a holiday meal if it was  your sole charge.  However, if you need a dessert along with everything else you are making, save this one until Valentines day.  Or, get someone else to make it for you.

Because I had an extra bag of cranberries, I decided to sugar some for a garnish.  Not necessary, I promise.

But seriously, this color!  My crust was a little thicker because the recipe calls for a 10 inch tart pan and the one I used was 8.  So, while not as refined as a traditional tart, the trade-off was even more rich almond shell in each bite.

The original version of this tart came from the New York Times.

Like the recipe however, the NYT can be fiddly about letting you behind their firewall for recipe content.  I don’t believe in secret recipes so while I’ve attributed to the original below, I think I’ve made enough changes that they won’t arrest me.

Cranberry Curd Tart

Ingredients

For the (insert your nut here) crust

  • 1 ¼ cups/180 grams raw hazelnuts (I subbed in the same weight of blanched almonds and just skipped the skinning step)
  • 1 cup/125 grams rice flour (I used brown rice flour because that’s what I had)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup/112 grams sugar
  • 6 tablespoons/100 grams softened butter, more as necessary, torn or cut into dice-sized pieces 

For the cranberry curd

  • 12 ounces/340 grams cranberries
  • 1 cup/225 grams sugar
  •  Juice and peel (orange part only) of 1 orange
  • 4 ounces/113 grams softened butter(1 stick)
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

For the sugared cranberries, optional

  • 6 ounces/ 170 grams fresh cranberries
  • 1 C sugar, divided (1/2)
  • 1/2 C water

Directions

  1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put hazelnuts (or almonds) on a baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool.
  2. In a food processor, grind nuts with half the rice flour until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining rice flour, salt and sugar and pulse briefly.
  3. With the processor running, add-in butter a few pieces at a time until the dough just comes together.  If it seems crumbly, add 1 to 2 additional tablespoons softened butter or a little cold water.
  4. Press dough evenly into a 10-inch French tart pan; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom. Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).
  5. Make the sugared cranberries (skip ahead if you aren’t doing this).  Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pan, stirring until sugar is disolved.  Bring to boil and add cranberries.  Remove from heat and place cranberries on a cooling rack over a sheet pan (or parchment to catch the excess syrup).  Allow to sit for at least an hour.  Add remaining sugar into a small dish.  Toss cranberries to coat.
  6. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.
  7. Make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar and orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food mill or medium mesh sieve and press cooking liquid into a bowl. Whisk the butter into the warm liquid.
  8. Put eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk a cup of warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then combine both and whisk together. Wipe out pot if necessary, return liquid to pot and cook over low heat until nearly bubbling and thickened, about 10 minutes. If using immediately, let cool to room temperature. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
  9. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Cranberry shortbread squares

Since it is the season, we’re giving it up for the Cran Man for the next couple of weeks.

As everyone knows, cranberries are delicious.  Especially when they are jellied or sauced.  Despite this established fact, when I started to think about it, I realized  I’ve done very little baking with them.  Which, is sort of a slap on the forehead considering the little ruby orbs of tartness are filled with tons of pectin making them ideal for filling things.

And I can’t forget to mention just how strangely satisfying it is to combine them with a little water, sugar,  heat and hear them quietly pop and squeak as they cook.

These bars are a take on the more traditional raspberry or apricot bars with an interesting twist on preparing the shortbread.

Like some short breads, the dough is combined until it just comes together.  Then it goes into the freezer for at least an hour.

While the dough freezes, you bust out the food processor and affix the shredding tool.

The frozen dough is then fed through the processor so that the result is basically dough confetti.  If you can get past the part where it really does look like something that belongs on a taco, this hack is brilliant.  By shredding the dough rather than rolling, it remains tender, crumbly and of course, buttery.

Once the base is pressed into the pan, it is topped with a generous slathering of cranberry sauce.  The whole shebang is then finished with the other half of the dough shreds.

The result is delightful.  And festive.  And exactly what we all need.

Cranberry Shortbread Squares

from Southern Living

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 C granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 C salted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Bring cranberries, water, and 1/4 cup of the sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Cook, stirring and smashing berries occasionally, until mixture thickens, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool completely.
  2. Beat butter, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add egg yolks and vanilla; beat on low speed until combined. Add flour to butter mixture; beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until dough comes together, 3 to 4 times. Shape into a 14-inch-long log. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze at least 1 hour or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing paper to extend past edges of pan. Grease paper.
  5. Remove plastic wrap from dough log; cut in half crosswise, and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Feed dough log quarters through the chute of a food processor fitted with a shredding blade. Press half of grated dough into the bottom of prepared pan. Spread cranberry mixture over 1 dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with remaining half of grated dough, pressing to seal edges.
    Bake in preheated oven until firm and golden brown, 33 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan. Lift cranberry shortbread from pan using parchment as handles; cut into rectangles; then cut into triangles.

Candied Ginger

…candy her? But I hardly know her!

Don’t worry, I’m keeping my day job.

Candied and/or crystalized ginger can be hard to find in stores here in California.  I used to be able to buy it at Trader Joes but they stopped carrying it in the golden state because of food and drug regulations (something about the way the ginger is processed doesn’t play well with the rules).  Since my triple gingersnaps would not be triple without it, I usually hit up Amazon.

But then I was at H Mart, the giant Korean market that’s taken up residence in the old Osh store at the bottom of the hill, and they had fresh ginger at a ridiculously low price.  So, I decided to make my own.

As a note, candied and crystallized ginger are often discussed interchangeably,  though I’ve come across recipes that call for one and are specific about it not being the other.  As a newbie candied ginger maker, I did a little research to set the record straight.  From what I could tell, preparation is what makes the difference.  Crystallized ginger is dried and then sugared (and maybe sometimes not sugared) while candied ginger is cooked in simple syrup as you would candied citrus peel.  I realize this is about as clear as the difference between yams and sweet potatoes (one I still don’t understand), but there you have it.  For the record, what we’re making here is definitely candied ginger.

While I don’t do it very often, I love making candy.  Let’s face it, my chosen hobby is about a risky as petting kittens.  So, getting to work with a mandolin and molten hot sugar in the same go is about as exciting as it gets for me.

Truth–you can find candied ginger on Amazon for a great price.  But, if you have a little time and a candy thermometer, making your own is incredibly satisfying. And, unless I unwittingly used some extra potent ginger, the home maid kind is the far superior product.

I made about five pounds worth for holiday baking.  But I’ll tell you a secret.  In my opinion, the best way to enjoy candied ginger is as a garnish for a moscow mule.

You’ve got to love a cocktail that comes with its own snacks.

Candied Ginger

Adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh ginger root
  • 5 C water
  • About 1 1/2 lb granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment.
  2. Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandolin (you can also hand cut the slices if you are the world’s most patient person).
  3. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
  4. Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 C of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 C water to the pan and add the sugar.
  5. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.  If using a thermometer, pull the ginger off the heat at 225 degrees.
  6. Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces (they cool down pretty quickly. Once completely cool, roll in granulated sugar.
  7. Store in an airtight container with the sugar for up to a month (to be honest, I use it much longer)