The venerable rum butter nut

This is my absolute favorite holiday cookie. It’s a rich shortbread bite with pecans, butterscotch bits and a light rum-laced icing. Come December, radio stations can ring out holiday music and stores can deck the halls all they want, but for me, it isn’t Christmas until my first flaky bite of a rum butter nut cookie. Those who know me will probably chalk it up to the rum. Those who know me even better will know that on their own, I’m not a particular fan of any of the cookie’s main ingredients—even the rum. But, combine them and something miraculous happens.

I have absolutely no idea where the original recipe came from. My own is written on a pink cardstock note card so old that it calls for a margarine-like substance called Oleo. I have no idea if the stuff exists anymore which doesn’t matter because I’ve always just used butter.

I will warn you that this tends to be a polarizing cookie. People either really love it. Or don’t. To those who don’t, I say “more for me,”

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The dough, once mixed, will be crumbly. Back in the dark ages, I used to form my own balls. Now I use a one-ounce scooper. The result is that mine come out as domes–not balls. I happen to be okay with this geometric configuration. If you are not, form the dough into balls of your desired size.

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Go ahead and line them up on the cookie sheet in close proximity. Like any shortbread, they won’t expand during the baking process. You’ll know they are done when the bottoms are a light golden brown.

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But wait, there’s more. Once completely cooled, these little nuggets get a nice bath in icing made of rum and confectioner’s sugar (you can always replace the rum with water).

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Do you think the cookie was feeling a little “over-exposed” on that last picture? What? That was the photographers fault? Oh. Anyhow, moving on.

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The result? Pure cookie perfection.

Rum Butter Nut Cookies

Preheat over to 325 degrees

Makes about 5 dozen 1.5” balls

Cookies

1.5 C butter, softened

1 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted

½ t. salt

3.5 C flour, sifted

12 oz butterscotch chips

2 C pecans

Glaze

2 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted

¼ C light rum (or water)

With a standing or hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift salt and flour together. With mixer on low, add in flour mixture until dough just comes together. By hand, mix in chips and pecans. Shape into 1-1.5” balls (I use a 1 ounce scooper). Space evenly on parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are just starting to brown.

Let cool completely.

Mix up glaze to desired consistency. Glaze cookies. Tip: Once glaze, I set them on a cooling rack to let the excess glaze drip off.

Turducken? Baduckey? It’s all meat to me.

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I threatened to provide follow-up on our Thanksgiving turducken breast—and who am I to not follow through on my threats (or as my mom would say to us kids when she was mad, ‘this is not a threat, it is a fact.’)?

Let’s start out by saying it was my husband’s idea. Around July he began opining on how tasty it would be if we had turducken for Thanksgiving. Now, if you haven’t been previously informed—or don’t pay any attention to the “Popular Searches” box on Yahoo’s homepage, I’m happy to enlighten you. Traditionally, a turducken is a turkey wrapped around a duck wrapped around a chicken—with the appropriate stuffings filled in between each layer of meat. According to the always reliable Wikipedia, its origins are of some dispute (as is generally true of all excessive meat products worth their weight in fat), but it seems to have appeared on the scene earlier this decade. Of course if you have any idea who John Madden is, you’ll also know that the dude loves him some turducken.

For the purposes of our small Thanksgiving assemblage, an entire turducken would be, well, just too much meat. So, a little research yielded a recipe for a turduken breast. This is effectively the same thing but only the breasts and stuffing—a veritable meat roll.

While I knew I could be up to the challenge of paillarding multiple layers of raw foul and then wrapping it all in bacon, I almost wept with joy when the butcher at Whole Foods told me I could order one from their special holiday list.

Well, the idea was good in theory. There seemed to be some sort of confusion when I showed up at the appointed time to procure my pre-ordered turducken breast. After much shuffling and running around, the butcher on duty presented me with what looked like it could be a turducken. He also mentioned that he’d knocked off three dollars a pound for my trouble. Hmmm.

All was explained the next day when I went to prepare the meat for grilling. I opened the neatly packaged birds to find duck. And chicken. But not turkey. Ahha! That explains the apologetic look in the butcher’s eyes. I could have taken it back, but in the spirit of culinary adventure I figured we already had enough birds to feed four. So, I wrapped it in bacon and a baducken was born.

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We then covered it in aluminum foil, threw it on the grill for a couple of hours and voila!

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I’ll admit, it was pretty tasty, though turducken it was not. Will there be a rematch next year in which I do what I should have done the first time and make the thing myself? Perhaps. Until then, happy Thanksgiving. And, to those of you frying your turkeys this year? I hope you have homeowners insurance.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, the nectar of a sound relationship

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I was a bad food blogger and did not take process pictures of the red velvet cupcakes featured in the previous post. Bad, bad blogger.

My husband is from the midwest. I’m from Southern California. What this means is that while our native tongues may be the same, our cultural icons aren’t always. In our relationship, nowhere is this more present than at the dinner table. When we first started dating, he’d never had a churro and I’d never even heard of a strange concoction he called red velvet cake.

Back at the start of the century, when our courting commenced, red velvet cake hadn’t yet burst onto the trendy LA baking scene. In fact, I doubted its very existence. For months we had to take a stroll down the baking aisle of every grocery store we visited looking for evidence of this mysterious cake variety. Not once did we find any. So set was my husband on proving himself right however that around the holidays he had his dad send a box from Tennessee.

So, it did exist!

Well, one box of red velvet cake is all fine and good until it is gone. So, I womaned up and found a few recipes for red velvet cake. After much experimentation and too much money spent on Schilling red food coloring, I found a winner. Of course, this was just about the time that red velvet cake became the next big thing in Los Angeles. While our local grocery stores now carry the boxed stuff, and every bakery seems to offer it in cake and cupcake form, this recipe is pretty darn easy to make and much better if you ask me.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 2 round cakes or about 16 regular size cupcakes.

For cake

2.5 C all purpose flour

1.5 C sugar

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 t. cocoa powder

1.5 C vegetable oil

1 C buttermilk at room temp.

2 large eggs at room temp.

1 ounce red food coloring (see note)

1 t. white vinegar

For frosting

1 lb light cream cheese, softened (full fat works well too through I like the lightness of the reduced fat)

4 C sifted powdered sugar

1 C unsalted butter, softened

1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Lightly oil and flour 2 round cake pans (8” or 9”)

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle (or large bowl) mix together buttermilk, eggs, oil, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.

With the setting on low, slowly add in dry ingredients until just combined. Batter will be very wet and oily looking.

Divide cake evenly in prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes rotating halfway through until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Removed cakes from oven, let sit for 5 minutes. Run the edge of a butter knife around the rim of the cakes, loosening them. Invert pans on to cooling racks, let cakes cool completely.

Frosting

In standing mixer fitted with a paddle or a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine all ingredients on low. Once combined, increase speed to high and whip mixture until light and fluffy. Use immediately.

Notes:

Red food coloring: an ounce is a small bottle of the stuff. In our neighborhood, this runs around $4. However, gel food colors such as the ones made by Ateco are less expensive and will get you more bang for the buck. You can find them in restaurant supply stores, suburban cooking shops like Sur La Table or can order them all over the place online (just enter in “Ateco food gel” as the search term).

The cakes don’t rise a whole lot. When I’m making a layer cake, I usually bake two batches and use three of the layers (you can freeze the fourth for later assuming it doesn’t get eaten on the spot like it seems to in our household).

For cupcakes, fill to a generous ¾.

It’s (almost) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hi there.

It’s been a while.

I take full responsibility. Gingerbread Royce really took it out of me. But, I seem to have found the human growth hormone equivalent for baking (really great vanilla perhaps) and am planned, organized and ready to embrace this holiday baking season. As someone who has always equated new beginnings with new outfits it seemed fitting that The Misanthropic Hostess blog found a new home and new look as well. So, here we are. Welcome!

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting my 2009 holiday recipes along with mediocre process pictures. By my count, there are about a dozen. At no extra charge (save shipping and handling), I also plan to document the full blow by blow of the preparation, grilling and final product that is to be our Thanksgiving Turducken Breast. Yeah, I know, ‘gee thanks.’

Just to get us started, I’ve posted a teaser photo. Stay tuned for details.

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