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Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Fried Scones

I once had a friend, a mom of four kids, tell me that all she wanted for Christmas was for it to be over. I, too, often felt overwhelmed by the season and refused to cook an elegant Christmas dinner. Following my mom's example, I served homemade soups and what we called "scones". Growing up in Utah that was the only kind of scone I was aware of. Over the years I've run into other types of fried bread: sopapillas, fry bread, and beignets. Of course there were always doughnuts and these are similar since we serve them rolled in cinnamon sugar or drizzled with honey.



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Christmas Fried Scones 

(or Fry Bread)


Adapted from a recipe I received in the early 80s from Debbie Wade, a friend at K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan. Of course, these can be served any time of year but to me they are distinctly related to Christmas. 

2 c milk
3/4 c butter
3/4 c sugar
2 teas salt

2 pkg yeast (or a rounded 1 1/2 T granulated yeast
1/2 c warm water (just above body temperature, approximately 110F)

2 beaten eggs
7-9 c all purpose flour

Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt and scald in a saucepan (you'll see little bubbles where the milk meets the pan). Set aside and allow to cool. If you are in a hurry, scald the milk, sugar, and salt and add the cold butter to cool the mixture.

While this mixture continues to cool, mix the following together and allow to sit until the yeast has started to bubble. Add the yeast mixture to the cool milk mixture. (If you have instant yeast you can add the yeast directly with the flour but don't forget to add the water to the milk mixture.) 

Mix the cool milk/yeast mixture into the eggs and add the flour. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Add more flour if needed. (A good measure of dough texture is taught by teachers of my Turkish cooking class who say dough should have the same "give" as your ear lobe.) Knead for 5 minutes or so. Cover and let rise until double in size.

Heat oil to the depth of 3/4 inches in a skillet over medium heat, testing the heat of the oil by how it spatters when flicked with water. Or test by dropping a tiny bit of dough in the oil and when it rises to the top of the oil and starts to brown, you're ready to go. I find I have to fiddle with the stove top controls often to keep it at an appropriate heat for cooking. If you have an instant-read thermometer use it to test the oil and shoot for 300-350F.

Roll out dough in batches on a floured surface with a rolling pin or pat it with your hands until about a half inch thick.  Cut into rough rectangles about 3 inches in size. Place 3-4 pieces of dough in the hot oil, stretching them a little just before they go in. Allow to cook on one side and turn and allow to cook on the other. You may want to tear open an early finished scone to make sure it isn't doughy inside. Or take its temperature with an instant-read thermometer and look for 190-200F. Cook subsequent scones at a lower heat for a little longer. Or stretch them a bit thinner before cooking.

Keep the "scones" in the oven at 200F to keep them warm until time to serve. Our family has warmed them up in the microwave the following morning but their quality suffers. If you have more dough than you need, it can be refrigerated and fried in the next couple of days.

Serve with butter, jams, cinnamon sugar, Nutella, or honey.





Sunday, December 9, 2018

Peppermint Popcorn

I made this often when kids were in high school and college and then it rather faded from memory for some reason and I misplaced it. I am grateful Betsy had it in her files.

Popcorn without optional green food coloring. Just as tasty.

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Peppermint Popcorn


Serves: 6 or so

1 c popcorn kernels
1 cube (8 T) unsalted butter
1 c sugar
1/2 teas salt
1/4 c corn syrup
1/2 teas peppermint extract
1/8 teas green food coloring if you want it to be green

Preheat oven to 250F. Pop the popcorn and keep it warm in the oven in a large roasting pan or two 9X13 pans. Another alternative to a roasting pan might be your largest pasta pot, instead; or a canning pot if it fits in your oven.

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, salt, and corn syrup. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. If you are at sea level, let it continue boiling for 4-5 minutes without stirring. At 4500-5000 feet above sea level this step may take 7-8 minutes. The syrup will start to turn a light golden color and smell nutty, rather like browned butter--but it shouldn't get really brown.  Remove from heat and add the peppermint extract. Remove popcorn from oven and carefully stir the syrup into popcorn until it is coated. (You'll have to estimate what half the syrup is, if you use two cake pans.)

Place the pan back in the oven and let it cook for an hour stirring 3-4 times. (This is the hardest step because by the time you're at this stage, you're hungry!)

Notes:

I found when I used a thinner bottomed pan, I had to cook it less time to get to the lightly colored stage.

I like it a little less sweet so I cooked 1 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels. There was enough syrup to coat all the popcorn lightly. It might be harder to fit into two cake pans with extra popcorn, though.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Grandma Betty's Strawberry Pie (or Raspberry or Peach)

My mother was part of the American generation of cooks who fully relied on the convenience offered and marketed in the mid-nineteenth century and most of our family dinners were dishes concocted with a can of soup. Naturally this is how I learned to cook. Strawberry pies started to make frequent appearances in Mom's kitchen when I was in late high school and I came to make strawberry pies almost as often as she did. True to form, this pie relies on a convenience food: jello.

I'm ambivalent about jello so I've tried other recipes for strawberry pie, but history and funny memories attached to this pie keep me returning to the old recipe box. If I load it up with berries, it tastes good, too.



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Grandma Betty's Strawberry Pie (or Raspberry or Peach) 


One 9-inch pre-baked pie shell, cooled
1 pkg strawberry jello (American--jello isn't reliably the same outside of this country)
2 T cornstarch
1 c sugar
2 c boiling water
2-3 c sliced strawberries (or more if you like)

Bring the water to a boil in a kettle, small saucepan, or microwave. Mix the dry ingredients together in another small saucepan and pour the water over. Whisk together, place on the burner, and return mixture to a boil. Stir carefully and remove from heat. Let sit on counter until cool enough to place in refrigerator. Let it chill for an hour or more until the mixture has gelled but hasn't set. Stir in berries. (I like more fruit than jello and a thicker pie so I definitely go with the higher amount.) Place fruit mixture in the pie shell and let rest in fridge for several more hours until the mixture has set. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

This is particularly good with tiny strawberries left whole although these can be hard to lay your hands on.

Raspberries or sliced peaches also make good pies (make sure you use matching flavors of jello, but good luck finding peach).