Monday, December 23, 2013

Yummy Holiday Recipes: 5 Tips and 3 Desserts to Make Entertaining for the Holidays Easy

We wanted to have some yummy recipes for our Holiday Gift Guide and so we could only think of one person to ask...Jason Shriner, The Aubergine Chef! And sure enough Jason delivered with some pure deliciousness. 

Consider adding one or both recipes to your holiday meal and you will not be disappointed.  See below for recipes...happy cooking and happy holidays!

5 Tips and 3 Desserts to Make Entertaining for the Holidays Easy 
Jason Shriner, The Aubergine Chef 

I get it.  The holiday season stresses you out.  Trust me when I say I can relate.  I’ve worked in bakeshops during the holidays and few things are more stressful.  You deserve a chance to relax and enjoy the holidays just as much as the friends and families you entertain.  If preparing for the holidays is makes you want to hide under the covers consider these tips: 

1. Delegate tasks 
The most stressful part about entertaining is easily the cooking.  Preparing on your own a main item like a turkey and then a buffet of sides and desserts is no easy task.  My grandma used to do this for Thanksgiving for 30 people.  We were all convinced she had superpowers.   

There’s no shame in asking for help, especially if the extra pressure puts you on edge for your guests.  If you’re unhappy, nobody’s happy.  So consider hosting a potluck making sure to assign side dishes to guests.  You can give them recipes to follow or if you have a favorite dish of theirs ask them to make it.  This can also be especially helpful if you’ll have guests with certain food allergies or prohibitions.  If you’re worried that certain guests lack culinary skills ask them to pick up rolls from your favorite bakery or to bring the wine. 

2.  Utilize your crockpot and stovetop 
Not everything has to be roasted in the oven!  Your kitchen is a magical place with burners and electric sockets – use them!  Having 6 recipes that require the oven when you don’t own a double oven is a nightmare.  When I entertain, I use my crockpot to make an amazingly tender chicken thigh recipe, my stovetop to make the sides, the oven to roast brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, and my fridge houses my pumpkin mousse pie (made the night before).  With that strategy I can prepare everything within a short time span and keep everything fresh and warm. 

3.  Plan out your menu a month in advance and utilize your freezer whenever possible 
Whenever I tell people I freeze cakes and icing, they almost always recoil in horror.  Did you know that bakeshops of all sizes utilize their freezers more than their fridges?  So many bakery products freeze well including doughs, cakes, icings, breads, muffins, and fruit pies.  Rarely does the freezer have any impact on flavor within a month.  If you know you want to make an apple lattice pie for Christmas, make it 3 weeks early, wrap it up tight with plastic wrap and freeze it.  When you’re ready to serve it, pop it in the oven until the filling bubbles. 

There’s a whole list of savory foods that freeze well including soup, lasagna, pasta dishes, and creamy rice dishes.  For recipes that don’t freeze, shop for their ingredients now in the freezer section so you don’t have to compete with the grocery store crowds.  Frozen vegetables taste as good as fresh and buying meat in bulk saves you money. 

4.  Avoid using new recipes 
You’re flipping through a magazine and you see a gorgeous picture of potatoes and earmark it for Thanksgiving.  Fast forward to Thanksgiving and your potatoes don’t quite live up to the expectation of the picture – along with the other 5 new recipes you picked out. 

Julia Child always said that if something doesn’t come out right in the kitchen, just keep that to yourself.  Tell them it’s supposed to look that way!  Another story of hers I like is when she was entertaining and burnt the roast in the oven.  She decided to take everyone out for burgers instead.  Stay positive, be flexible, and don’t let tiny food mistakes ruin your day. 

That being said, entertaining isn’t a good excuse to try new recipes.  This is the time to bring out your tried-and-true reliable recipes that you can make while barely reading the recipe.  If you’re adamant about trying a new recipe try it at least 2 times before the big day.  If by the second time you haven’t nailed it – or at least the final tweak is very minor – it’s time to hang up the recipe.  Whether it’s the recipe or you is besides the point, you two aren’t getting along and the pressure of entertaining isn’t going to make it easier. 

5.  Downplay gift giving 
Gift giving can be especially stressful in the midst of entertaining.  Maybe somebody didn’t have a good year financially.  Maybe there’s a new face in your group.  Maybe you just obligated somebody to additional gifts they didn’t include in their holiday budget. 

Instead, you can make a steadfast rule of no gift giving.  If you must exchange gifts with one person tell them to come extra early and then stash the gifts until the end of the party.  You could try a Secret Santa policy where each guest draws the name of another guest from a hat.  It’s still a little stressful so make sure if you use a Secret Santa strategy that everybody is on board and set a price limit.  Finally, you can go the homemade gift route where each guest brings a homemade gift and then everybody can trade with one person.  The homemade gift idea is especially great because it can spark some really great conversations. 

As a trained baker, I always get asked by my friends and family to bring the desserts and I’m totally happy to oblige!  While my desserts may look like I slaved all day in the kitchen they are often – quite literally – easy as pie.  Try out some of these recipes this year.  They can all be made ahead of time and are show stoppers despite how easy they are. 

White Chocolate Mousse with Cranberry Compote 
The easiest dessert on this list is the white chocolate mousse.  What I love about this dessert is how elegant it looks despite how minimal it really is.  To make the desserts really pop serve them in your fanciest stemware - just make sure your spoons fit!  The low maintenance compote is just as easy to make.  I jazz mine up with freshly ground toasted cardamom.  Top these with a little freshly whipped cream for the finishing touch.  For extra crunch and flavor, serve these with gingersnaps. 

Pumpkin Mousse Pie with Vanilla Wafer Crust 
This recipe is barely more difficult than the white chocolate mousse, and it’s only because we have to make a cookie crust.  While all your friends and family are making graham cracker crusts make them believe you’re a culinary superstar with a cookie crust.  I prefer vanilla wafer cookies but any of your favorite dry cookies will work.  The mousse does require a little gelatin to set up so your vegetarian, vegan, and non-pork eating friends may object.  Other than that this mousse can be done in less than ten minutes.  Top with freshly whipped cream. 

Apple Lattice Pie 
The secret to making a good lattice pie is a cooked apple filling.  If your filling is precooked it won’t bubble up in the oven and deflate while cooling.  Both of these actions can distort your top crust.  Cooked apple fillings also bake faster (since you’re really only cooking the pie dough) and freeze amazingly well.  Raw pie dough freezes famously as well, but I can understand that working with pie dough can be a little tricky for those trying a pie shell for the first year.  If you really want to make a lattice pie this year but aren’t bold enough to try working with scratch pie dough I won’t say anything if you happen to go to the grocery store and pick up a couple sheets of pre-rolled pie dough. 

Have a fun stress-free holiday season this year! 

Pumpkin Mousse Pie 
The recipe makes a little bit more than one pie so have a couple of glasses handy to fill. 
For Crust: 
6 ounces vanilla wafer crumbs (about half a box) 
2 ounces melted butter, cooled 
½ egg white 

For Filling: 
¼ ounce granulated gelatin  
1 ¾ cups heavy cream 
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk 
2 cups (about 14 ounces) pumpkin puree 
About 2 teaspoons Pumpkin pie spice (season to taste) 

For Topping: 
1 ½ cups heavy cream 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 ½ tablespoons powdered sugar 

  1. Process cookies in a food processor to turn them into fine crumbs. 
  1. Place the crumbs in the bowl with half the butter and the egg white and mix well getting all the crumbs moistened. They should be damp and when squeezed should form a ball that holds its shape. They should not be soggy or sticky. If they do not compact together add the remaining butter. 
  1. Pour crumbs into a 9” pie plate and working from the middle flatten them against the plate into a thin even layer all the way up the sides. 
  1. Bake crust at 375 degrees F for about 5-8 minutes or until crust feels solid to touch (it may stay feel soft but it will harden as it cools). It should not develop much color. 
  1. Cool completely before using. 

  1. Pour ¾ cup heavy cream in a small pot, then sprinkle the gelatin on top while whisking constantly.  Warm pot over a low heat stirring occasionally until gelatin is completely melted. Never boil the mixture as it can break down the gelatin. 
  1. Meanwhile, whip the remaining heavy cream until it reaches soft to medium peaks. 
  1. Combine the pumpkin puree, spice, and sweetened condensed milk and whisk until no longer streaky. 
  1. Pour the warmed gelatin mixture into the pumpkin puree mixture through a fine sieve (to sift out any chunks of gelatin) and whisk until thoroughly mixed. 
  1. Using your whisk, stir and fold the whipped cream in three additions.  Your filling should be fluffy but still pourable.  Make sure to run a spatula along the bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no unmixed parts hiding there. 
  1. Pour into the prepare crumb crust and chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours. 

  1. After the filling has set up and no longer jiggles when shook, combine the topping ingredients together and whip to soft to medium peaks. 
  1. Top or pipe the whipped cream on top of the filling. 
  1. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.   

Basic Pie Dough 

Makes 4 pie crusts 

3 cups all-purpose flour 
2 sticks + 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature cut into tablespoons 
1 teaspoon salt 
¾ cup ice cold water 
3 tablespoons granulated sugar 

  1. Begin to work the butter, by hand, into the flour.  This is done through a process called the Rubbing method or Biscuit method.  Take your hands and scoop up a handful of dry ingredients and butter.  Press your hands together, flattening the fat, and then rub one hand away from you.  Do not continuously rub back and forth – this will cause the fat to melt resulting in undesirable qualities.  Rotate the bowl 90 degrees in between each cut in. 
  1. Repeat until the pieces of butter are flat and are about ½” wide. 
  1. Drizzle in some of the water into the mixture and toss like a salad while adding.  Mix till mixture comes together.  Slowly add more water as you need it.  You may not need all the water depending on the humidity.  Look for the bits and pieces of fat and flour on the bottom of the bowl beginning to become less prevalent.  The dough should also become sticky and start to ball up, however it should not have a sloshy water sound.   
  1. Shape the dough into a log.  Divide into 4 equal pieces, weighing about 9 ounces each.   
  1. Wrap in plastic and flatten into a circular disc (this will help with rolling out later). 
  1. Store refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 6 months. 

Apple Lattice Pie 

1# 13 ounces whole apples (about 4 each) 
1 ¼ cups apple cider or water 
6 tablespoons granulated sugar 
Pinch of salt 
½ cup cornstarch 
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
18 ounces of pie dough (about 2 pieces) 
Egg wash, as needed 

  1. Prepare apples by peeling, dividing into quarters, coring, and then slicing.  
  1. Place ½ of the sugar in a pot with ¾ of the apple cider, cinnamon, and 2/3 of the sliced apples.  Bring to just a boil.  
  1. Take the remaining ½ of the sugar and place it in a bowl with the cornstarch and salt (combine well) and then add ¼ of the apple cider and whisk all the lumps away.  
  1. Whisk in cornstarch and bring to a second boil for 1-3 minutes, remove from heat and fold in the last 1/3 of the apple.  
  1. Pour onto the plastic wrap on the sheet pan and spread thinly and cover with another piece to avoid creating a skin while allowing it to cool to room temperature.  Place in fridge or freezer to help.  
  1. Roll two pieces of pie dough, one to line a 9” pie tin, and the second 9” in diameter.  
  1. Slice the 9” round pie dough into 10 strips of the dough ¾” thick   
  1. If the filling has reached room temperature fill the pie and create a slight mound with about a half inch of the side crust showing – this will help adhere the lattice.  
  1. Take the longest strip and lay it straight across the middle of the pie (12 to 6 o’clock).  Place the bands beside the longest strip ¾” away from the middle one and continue until 5 strips are placed.  Peel back strip 1, 3, and 5 past half the pie and lay a long strip across the equator of the pie (3 to 9 o’clock), place the peeled strips back how they were. Peel back strips 2 and 4 about 1/3 of the pie and place a strip along there as well.  Repeat to the opposite side of the equator strip.  Peel back strips 1, 3, and 5 about ¼ of the pie and lay a strip across, repeat on the opposite end of the pie.    
  1. Press the lattice and the crust of the pie together gently.  Spin the pie around pressing the dough against the rim to slice the excess dough.    
  1. Egg wash, sprinkle granulated sugar on top (to make a crisp top) and bake between 400-425 degrees F until crust is browned and filling is bubbling. 

Cranberry Compote 
2 cups granulated sugar 
2 cups water 
12 ounces cranberries 
1 bay leaf 
5 whole green cardamom pods 
¼ teaspoon salt 

  1. Toast the cardamom: Take the cardamom pods and place them in a dry pan and toast over medium to medium-high heat until lightly browned and fragrant (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove the pods from the heat and crush with a mortar and pestle.  Reserve the black seeds from the shells.  Discard the shells. 
  1. Combine the sugar, water, bay leaves, and cardamom seeds in a pot larger than you think you’ll need (the liquid rises while boiling) and make sure the sugar is loose in the water.  Any clumps of sugar against the bottom of the pot may burn. 
  1. Bring the sugar-water solution to a boil. 
  1. Once boiling add the cranberries and continue to boil.  You may wish to remove the cardamom seeds before adding the cranberries.  The cardamom flavor will continue to steep into the compote the longer they are in the sauce and when bitten into releases a powerful – but not overwhelming – burst of flavor.  It will be very difficult to separate the cardamom after adding the cranberries. 
  1. Boil the cranberries for about 10 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reaches 220 – 224 degrees F.  The higher you cook the sauce the thicker it will be.  Keep in mind the sauce will still be very thin when it is hot.  To test thickness, remove the sauce from heat, place a very tiny bit of the sauce on a plate, and allow the sample to cool to room temperature. 
  1. Once desired temperature is reached, remove from heat and discard the bay leaf.  Serve hot, room temperature, or chilled. 

White Chocolate Mousse 

½ cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk 
4 pasteurized egg yolks 
6 ounces white chocolate 
1 ¾ cup heavy cream 
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  1. Melt the white chocolate on a double boiler. 
  1. When the chocolate is almost melted, begin to boil the milk. 
  1. Combine the boiled milk with the white chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula or whisk.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to check for unmelted chocolate. 
  1. Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling the milk mixture while whisking the egg yolks. 
  1. Cool on an ice bath, stirring, until mixture feels cool to touch. 
  1. While the mixture cools, combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in an electric mixer bowl and whip until it makes medium-stiff peaks whipped cream. 
  1. When the white chocolate milk mixture is cool fold the whipped cream, using a whisk, into the milk mixture.   
  1. Pour into containers, using an 18” piping bag when necessary. 
  1. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for 1 – 2 hours or until ready to serve. 

Whipped Cream 

2 cups heavy cream 
¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted 
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract 

1.  Place all ingredients together in an electric mixer bowl. 

2.  Using the whip attachment, whip ingredients on medium to high speed (start on low speed so you don’t get powdered sugar everywhere) until the desired consistency is reached.   

Typically a soft smooth texture is preferred over a stiffer firmer texture.  Be careful not to overwhip heavy cream – which is very easy to do.  Once overwhipped it will have a rough texture and will be yellowish in color.  In fact, if you continue to whip it you will make butter. 

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