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Saturday, February 06, 2021

Recipe Round Up: Braided Egg Bread, Orange Cranberry Cookies, Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cookies, Pistachio and Cardamom Crescents and Pomegranate Poppyseed Cookies

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Braided Egg Bread

This is based on a recipe I found when Rich and I were about to get married. The internet was exploding and Bon Appétit was putting its recipes online. The recipe included some things we didn't care for, so I modified it to work for our tastes, and I have made it, off and on, for the past 24 years. This makes quite a lot of bread, and leftovers are great either frozen or used in French toast. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze up to 2 weeks. It makes 2 loaves, but can also be made into rolls. You may wish to reduce the baking time for the rolls.

This recipe is really forgiving, and if you have too much potato/liquid, just add a little more flour, or vice versa. Also, normally I do a three strand braid, but this year, I tried a four strand crown braid and really thought it turned out well. Normally, I braid it in a normal three strand braid, but this year, I did a four strand round braid.

16 oz red-skinned potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled
5 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
4 large eggs
8 cups bread flour

Cornmeal for the pan
1 egg, beaten to blend with a tablespoon of warm water (glaze)
2 teaspoons each poppy seeds and sesame seeds (optional, but really good)

Combine potatoes and 5 cups water in large pot. Cover and boil until potatoes are very tender, about 40 minutes. Ladle 1 1/4 cups cooking water into a bowl and reserve; cool liquid. Drain potatoes and mash in a medium bowl until smooth. Add 3/4 cups sugar, butter, salt, and reserved liquid to mashed potatoes. Beat until well blended.

Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and pinch sugar in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add to potato mixture and beat to blend. Beat in 4 eggs. Mix in enough flour, 1 cup at a time, to form a soft dough. When it seems as though only 1 more cup of flour is necessary, add 1/2 cup and reserve 1/2 cup for kneading. Turn out dough onto generously floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding reserved flour as necessary to form soft dough, about 10 minutes. Lightly oil large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel. Let rise in warm area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Oil 2 large baking sheets. Sprinkle generously with cornmeal. Turn out dough onto floured surface. Divide dough in half; knead each piece lightly. Divide each half into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each portion to make a 15-inch-long rope. Form into braids using 3 ropes for each braid. Tuck ends under and pinch together. Place 1 loaf on each baking sheet. Cover with towel and let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Brush loaves with egg glaze. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce over temperature to 350˚F. Continue baking until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on bottom, about 25 - 30 minutes longer.

Orange Cranberry Cookies

This easy to make cookie is delicious and beautiful, and makes a lovely gift on a cookie plate. Also, they both freeze and ship fairly well. Makes about 3 dozen.

Sugar Coating:
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Cookie:
1 cup sugar
3/4 c softened, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pastry flour (or all purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or instead, use 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped pistachios)

Preheat oven to 350˚F and line baking sheets with parchment. Combine sugar coating ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.

Cream sugar and butter. Add orange zest and continue beating to incorporate. Add vanilla extract and egg and combine. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add, a little at a time, to the creamed butter mixture. Stir in dried cranberries, scraping in the ingredients on the sides of the bowl.

Form balls of dough, about a tablespoon each (I use a small scooper), and roll in the sugar coating mixture. Place on prepared pans, about 2 inches apart, and bake for 9 - 11 minutes, until just beginning to brown on the edges. Cool on pans for about a minute or two, then remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cookies

These cookies were one of the family's favorites this year. It does take a little extra effort to brown the butter and toast the walnuts, but both of those can be done ahead of time. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

1 cup (8 ounces/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (Ceylon, if you can get it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (or extract, but the paste does make a difference)
2 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
10 ounces dark chocolate chunks
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking until solids turn golden brown and begin to fall to the bottom of the pan. About 8 to 10 minutes, depending on your stove's heat. Remove pan from heat and pour into a medium sized bowl. Set aside until it solidifies again, or place in the refrigerator about an hour to solidify. You want it to be soft like a stick of butter for baking normally is softened, but not melted. You can toast your walnuts over medium heat while the butter is browning, in a little frying pan on another burner. Do not look away, and stir or shake the walnuts in the pan until they just start to brown on the edges and smell fragrant, then remove from the heat immediately.

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the browned butter and both sugars. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and mix, scraping sides down. Beat in egg and egg yolk, one at a time, mixing until just combined, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

While the butter and sugars are creaming, In a large bowl combine flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Whisk well to combine.

Add the flour mixture to the stand mixer, a third at a time, mixing well in between additions. Stir in the chocolate, cranberries, and walnuts by pulsing in the stand mixer. I put them in the bowl, then turned on the mixer for a couple seconds at a time to stir them in, then finished mixing with a strong spatula.

Scoop 2 tablespoon sized rounds of dough onto the prepared sheet, leaving 2 inches in between each cookie for spreading. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until edges are set and the center is still a tiny bit soft. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Pistachio and Cardamom Crescents

This is such a delicious cookie, and much easier to make than you might think. If you have a stand mixer and a food processor, it goes together quickly, and the dough is relatively easy to work with for shaping.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups + 1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 teaspoons rosewater (or use an additional teaspoon of vanilla, if you can't get rosewater)
1 cup raw, unsalted pistachios
2 cups pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F and prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter with 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar until light and pale. Add the vanilla paste and rosewater and blend, scraping down the sides to incorporate completely.

While the stand mixer is blending the butter and sugar, grind the pistachios with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, pulsing in your food processor until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add the pastry flour, ground cardamom, and salt, and pulse a few more times to mix thoroughly.

Slowly, add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer bowl, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Knead lightly to form a ball.

Using 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into a log and bend into a crescent. It may crack a little, and that is fine. Place on prepared baking sheet spaced about an inch apart and repeat with the remaining dough. Bake 10 - 12 minutes. Allow to cool on the pan about 3 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool completely. Carefully roll each crescent in a dish of powdered sugar and serve.

Poppyseed Pomegranate Thumbprints

These are a little pricier to make than some of the other Christmas cookies I make each year, but they are so good! You can usually find pomegranate juice at the store in the refigerator or produce section, but I had to order the jelly online. We live in a small town.

1 cup (8 ounces/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 2/3 cups flour
2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pomegranate jelly, stirred so it is uniform in texture

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the egg and pomegranate juice.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, little by little until a crumbly dough forms.

Shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, and make an indentation in the middle of each ball of dough with your thumb.

Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Enlarge the indentation in the middle of each cookie, if necessary. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Spoon 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of the jelly into the center of each cookie.

To store, layer cookies between wax paper and place in an airtight container up to 3 days at a cool room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months, unfilled.

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