Tag Archives: Easter

RECENT FAMILY FEASTS AND HOMEMADE ROLLS

The holidays of spring are nearly over, and I have been eyeing my bathroom scale with disbelief. My son and his family were in SoCal this past week because of a family situation that did not foster celebration. They’re back in the Bay Area with the plan to observe a family Seder last night. Carol invited us to her house for a feast on Sunday. And a feast it was! I spent several days making gravlax along with a Swedish dill-mustard sauce from a recipe of a dear, old-time friend. That, along with garlic crostini, deviled eggs (some stuffed with shrimp), and olives, made the appetizers for our Happy Hour on the patio while watching the sun go down over the ocean. Why wouldn’t you like Southern California?

But that was only a modest prelude to the meal that lay ahead. Here’s the menu:

  • roasted leg of lamb
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • rice pilaf with currents and hazelnuts
  • fresh green peas, snap peas, and watercress sprouts
  • Moroccan carrots

Susan made two contributions to the meal. First she made a batch of rolls from her mother’s recipe. Over the years we had had them at many meals on the farm when there weren’t biscuits. They were always popular – and delicious. She also made coconut cupcakes at the request of one of the young folks. Then they decorated them with frosting, shredded coconut and nerds (I lost points when that was the only candy I could find at the store, but they actually turned out to be a positive addition to the final version.)

Carol has a very large collection of cookbooks, and she is always looking for different versions of common foods along with unusual foods. Over the years she has gradually brought her whole family out of the doldrums of eating only meat and potatoes. She also always puts her own twist on the recipe.  I’m not sure of the source recipes of several of the dishes, but I know that the Moroccan carrots came from Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook (W.W. Norton and Co, New York, 2010) The dish is delicious, and Carol used a mix of various colors of carrot to create a stunning visual effect. The same thing was true with a dish of fresh green peas and snap peas. The recipe called for pea tendrils, but my son-in-law struck out looking for them in several stores, and the farmers’ market was closed for Easter. Carol, always innovative, substituted watercress sprouts. IMHO the substitution improved the dish.

Kevin had bought some special wine for the occasion, and I contributed a bottle of Klinker Brick old vine zinfandel from last year’s visit to Lodi.

Needless to say, it was a very special and memorable family evening.

Here’s the recipe for Mom Mom’s homemade rolls.

RECIPE

Mom Mom’s Homemade Rolls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 6½ cups all-purpose flour

Method

  1. Place sugar, shortening, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Scald milk and pour over ingredients in bowl. Stir until mixed, and let cool.
  3. Dissolve yeast in water.
  4. Beat eggs lightly and add to yeast mixture. Then add these ingredients to the cooled milk mixture.
  5. Beat in the flour to form a smooth dough. Allow to rise until doubled (about 2 hours) or refrigerate for later use.
  6. Shape into rolls and place in greased muffin pans. Let rise again until doubled.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until browned to your liking

Makes 36 medium rolls

Cook’s Note: The easiest shape is to cut out circles with a biscuit cutter and place them in the pans. You can make fancier shapes by rolling balls of dough between your palms; clover leaf rolls with three small balls dipped in melted butter and placed 3 to each cup; fan-tans with 5 or 6 layers of rolled-out dough separated with melted butter and cut into squares; Parker House with flattened balls of dough with an off-set crease cut across them, topped with melted butter, folded on the crease,  and baked on a greased cookie sheet.

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CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ AND SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

Our daughter in Los Angeles invited us to join her family for Easter. The visit would include holiday activities along with birthday celebrations, real estate adventures, and lots of cooking. On Saturday, the ritual dying of Easter eggs was completed. At dawn, the traditional Easter egg hunt was finished in record time.

Easter breakfast was an event that we could never have experienced in Santa Fe. The meal included something that could only be enjoyed in a few places across the country – most notably California and Florida. Our daughter’s husband and son went out into the backyard to harvest oranges for freshly squeezed juice. Meanwhile, she stirred up a delicious coffee cake and fried some link sausages.  She served it all with a fresh berry and kiwi fruit compote. Here’s the recipe for the coffee cake, copied from her hand-written recipe card.

RECIPE

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • ¾  cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  •  1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons for greasing pan
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoons salt

Method

  1. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, and cinnamon. Process for 15 seconds. Transfer 1¼ cups of the mixture to small bowl, and stir in the remaining brown sugar. Set aside for filling.
  2. Add butter and chopped pecans to the mixture remaining in the food processor. Pulse to a coarse pebbly consistency. Set aside for topping.
  3. Grease a 10 inch tube pan. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, one cup of sour cream, and vanilla.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add butter and remaining ½  cup of sour cream. Beat on low until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 1½ minutes. Increase speed to medium and beat for 10 seconds. Scrape down.
  6. Lower the mixer speed to medium low and add the egg and sour cream mixture in three additions. Increase speed to medium high and beat for about 1 minute, until light and fluffy.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, spread 2 cups of batter on the bottom of the pan, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle evenly with ¾ cup filling. Repeat and then spread remaining batter over top. Sprinkle with topping.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake is firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan on cooling rack for 30 minutes. Then invert onto plate, removing the baking pan. Invert again onto the cooling rack, and cool to room temperature. Serves 12-16

 

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PIZZELLE

Special pizzelle iron

As Easter approaches, I remember a wonderful treat from my childhood.

Batter ready to be spooned into the baking iron

When I was about 10 years old, my family lived in an apartment in the midst of a big Italian family. The grandparents, known to all as “Ma and Pa”, lived in the “Big House” which was surrounded by the smaller homes of their many children and their families. Two unmarried daughters as well as the family of one of their brothers also lived in the Big House. It was clear that the Big House served as the social and communications center for the whole family.

Heating the pizzelle iron

Evening meals were a gathering of the famíglia, with the women serving the meal to the men who ate at a long wooden table in the kitchen. Then the children took their turn, and finally the women ate and cleaned up. This family tradition carried over into many other activities, especially near the holidays. In the spring, before Easter, there was a great deal of cooking and baking in preparation for the celebration ahead.

A spoonful of batter ready to bake

A favorite during this baking spree was the pizzelle. These delicate cookies were baked outside over a hot stove.  Kids clustered around to get them still warm from the griddle. That’s still the best way to eat them. You can spread them with butter or jam while they are still warm, and they are so good. You can also form them around a conical wooden dowel (like the plunger in a chinois) while they are still soft and warm. As they cool, they will firm up and make a perfect cone for your gelato or ice cream.

Nearly ready to take off the iron

You will need a special pizzelle baking iron, but you can find one in most specialty cooking stores or websites.

A crispy pizzelle

 Ingredients
1¾ Cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 eggs
½ Cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon anise extract
melted butter to brush the pizzelle iron

Wrapping a still-warm pizzelle to make a cone

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until pale yellow and smooth. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and anise extract and beat until completely combined.
3. Gradually stir in the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest mixture to form a smooth batter.
4. Heat the pizzelle iron on both sides until very hot. Brush both sides of the mold lightly with butter, spoon in about 1 tablespoon of batter, and close the iron. Trim off any batter that oozes out of the iron. Bake about 1 minute on each side or until the pizzelle is golden brown. Transfer the baked pizzelle to a cooling rack and repeat the process until the batter is used up.

A stack of pizzelles ready to eat

Yield: 24 to 30  5-inch cookies

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