Thursday, December 30, 2021

Bourbon Glazed Ham

The holidays really rush by, don't they? One of our holiday meals had a centerpiece of Bourbon Glazed Ham, using a recipe from Martha Stewart. You begin with a fully-cooked half ham, so it's pretty easy, and towards the end of heating it fully, you brush on this aromatic bourbon-brown sugar-mustard glaze that you make while the ham does it's initial heating up. As the ham gets to the end of it's time in the oven, the glaze becomes shiny, browned and a bit sticky - altogether delicious. You don't even need to save this for a works to dress up a weeknight dinner just as well.

Bourbon Glazed Ham

Adapted from a recipe by Martha Steward, 2009

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1/4 cup bourbon (could also use brandy if preferred)
1 bone-in, fully cooked half ham, about 6 pounds

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Place ham in a roasting pan, cover tightly with foil (or put into a baking bag, like Reynolds Brown-In Bag, as I did, following directions for adding 1 tablespoon flour and cutting vent holes). Cook in preheated oven until thermometer registers 145 degrees F, about 1 1/2 hours.

While ham is in the oven, make the glaze. In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, molasses, mustard and bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes or until thickened and syrupy. Set aside until the ham has reached XX degrees F.

Remove the cover from the ham, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and brush the glaze generously on the ham, covering all exposed parts. Bake, uncovered, another 30-35 minutes until glaze is shiny and darkened. Serve warm, sliced, or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas! The Sweetest Season


Wishing you and yours a most happy holiday season...celebrate the coming of light and the love between family and friends.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A Syrian Pastry for Bread Baking Babes December Bake

The time before Christmas in December is always a busy time, but this month's Kitchen of the month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, gave us such a good recipe that I had to make time to bake it.

The bread is Ekmak, which are lovely bread boats filled with ricotta cheese filling and topped with some fruit mixed with jam. Karen told us, "This bread evidently has origins in Raqqa, Syria. It's a city that, before it became war-ravaged, was the home of 200,000 people and a vibrant agricultural center with wonderful food traditions." 

Ekmak means "sweet bread with cheese" in old Assyrian, according to the article in Bake from Scratch. This Syrian pastry, Ekmak, comes from Riyad Al-Kasem's grandmother, and it is a dessert. 

Riyad Al-Kasem is originally from Raqqa and is now a restaurant owner in Tennessee. His restaurant is CafĂ© Rakka in Hendersonville. The book, The Road from Raqqa by Jordan Ritter Conn, tells Riyad's story of his life in Raqqa and how he came to the United States, started as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant and came to own his own restaurant. 

His own recipe includes a sourdough starter, so feel free to substitute. This dough is kind of like pizza dough, only sweeter. 

I enjoyed the Ekmak quite a bit, but Sweetie was expecting a flakier pastry and said he would prefer that to the pizza dough type bread. I might have to make it again, using the same filling and topping and shaping, just using puff pastry for the dough...a totally different dessert of course, but that filling really is a delight.

Do make this pastry as written both to become a Buddy and to see if you like it as much as I do or if you agree with Sweetie. To be a Buddy, bake it by December 29th and send an email to Karen along with your post's URL and a photo, plus a short description of your bake.

Also, do visit the other Babes sites. The ones I have seen so far have been beautiful and they like this recipe very much just as it is (with the usual creative Babes variations).

I made this with fresh raspberries and raspberry jam. The tang of the fresh, unsweetened berries was a nice counterpoint to the mellow cheese filling and the warm bread. Other Babes used different fruits and flours. You can make this your own recipe fairly easily.


For the cheese filling:

20 ounces (567 grams) full fat ricotta cheese, preferably double cream. 

63 grams (1/2 cup) all purpose flour

2 large eggs

28 grams (4 teaspoons) honey

3/4 teaspoons (2.25 grams) kosher salt

If you want a sweeter filling, you can add some sugar to taste. 

For the raspberry topping:

115 grams (3/4 cup) fresh raspberries, cut in half, lengthwise

112 grams (1/3 cup) raspberry preserves

For the Dough:

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast

12 ounces warm water (95 to 100 degrees F), divided

500 to 575 grams all purpose flour

1/4 cup (57 grams) butter, room temperature (super soft)

1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

9 grams (1 tablespoon) kosher salt


For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water


 Make the Ekmak:

First, mix the cheese filling ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate at least three hours, while you are making the dough. 

 Make the raspberry mixture:

Mix the ingredients and set aside.


To Make the Ekmak:

1.             In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and one tablespoon of the sugar. Add 6 ounces of the warm water and let sit until foamy. 

2.             In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 500 grams of the flour, the remaining 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the butter and mix with the dough hook on low until the butter is evenly distributed, about a minute. Pour in the yeast mixture and the apple cider vinegar and mix on low while gradually adding the remaining 6 ounces of warm water. 

3.             Knead on medium-low until the dough comes together. Switch to medium and knead until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky. Add remaining flour, by tablespoons, until the dough is the right consistency. 

4.             Add the salt and knead for an additional minute on medium speed. 

5.             Turn the dough out onto your counter and form it into a ball. 

6.             Place it into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 45 min. to an hour. 

7.             Heat your oven to 425 degrees F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. 

8.             Line three baking sheets with parchment and lightly sprinkle each with flour. 

9.             Deflate the risen dough and let rest for 10 minutes. 

10.           Divide the dough into 9 pieces and cover the pieces with oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. 

11.           Roll each piece into a round and place each onto a lightly floured work surface. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. 

12.           Stretch each ball into a 6 inch round, re-cover with the plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. 

13.           Stretch each round into a 10 inch by 4 inch oval and spoon 1/3 cup of the cheese filling onto the dough. 

14.           Fold the dough as pictured to create "boats" and stretch the dough to about 12 inches long. Place the "boats" on the parchment lined baking sheets, 3 per sheet. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. 

15.           Spoon a tablespoon of the raspberry mixture in the middle of the cheese mixture. Brush the dough with the egg wash. 

16.           Bake the ekmak for 15 minutes once sheet at a time, turning the baking sheet half way through. 

17.           Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes on a rack.

18.           Serve warm. 

Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in a 325 degree oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

 Tip: Work with dough in stages so that you can prepare three ekmak at a time and continue to shape, fill, let rise, and bake, in stages. I worked in 5 minute intervals so that each 3rd of dough was about 5 minutes behind. 

 Either way, it's not a big deal. It's like using pizza dough. 

 This is an amazing breakfast or dessert. 


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Gingerbread French Toast

Sweetie really, really loves French Toast and he loves gingerbread. Now and again, even in the summer, we stop by Hardcore Coffee at Bloomfield Road and he orders a Gingerbread Latte. The Pumpkin Pie Spectacular that I made last month is a favorite because the inner crust is made from crushed ginger cookies. French toast and gingerbread could be an excellent combination for Sweetie.

Because we didn't use up all the crumb mixture for the inner crumb crust, I've had a container of it in the fridge for a while and it needed using up. I decided to try making French toast with a coating of the crumb mixture. I had no idea if it would work, but figured it was worth a try. I started some Pink Lady apple slices to simmering with a little pie spice and water before I began the French toast, so that was our topping, instead of pancake syrup or maple syrup.

Sweetie was quite taken with this version of French toast, although I had trouble cooking it enough without burning the coating...the extra sugar wanted to burn. You may have to experiment with how hot your burner is to get the right amount of heat to cook the egg in the batter while not burning the ginger crust.

It's a pretty easy recipe. You make the French toast as usual, soaking the slices in the milk/egg batter. The new part is that you place a layer of the ginger crumbs in a pie pan, place the soaked slice on top, then use your fingers to sprinkle some on the top and to press it in so that it sticks to the slice. Once you turn the slice over, it will have gotten some crumbs on the bottom side but you may want to add more and press it in. Then you cook it in a lightly greased skillet until the egg batter cooks and the ginger crumbs become dark golden brown and  crisper. Served with spiced apples, it's a great dish for a rainy morning like the one we had this morning.

Gingerbread French Toast 
Serves 2

4-6 slices bread, French bread if possible

2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1 cup milk - 2% or above is recommended, although non-fat condensed (not sweetened) is fine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
For the gingerbread crumbs:
1 cup crushed gingersnaps (about 20 gingersnaps) 
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cup non-dairy butter, melted
oil, margarine, or butter if you skillet or griddle isn't non-stick

In a large pie plate or other flat dish scramble together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar over the mixture and whisk it in. Elle's note: I use a fork for all of this. Sprinkling the sugar on last helps bring that floating cinnamon down into the mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar until well blended. Add the melted butter and stir until crumbs are formed.

In another pie plate, place a thick layer of the gingersnap crumbs.

Heat a large skillet or a griddle over medium-high heat until a drop of water flicked on the surface sizzles. While griddle is heating, soak 2-3 slices of bread in the milk mixture for 1 minute, then turn and let soak another minute.

Place soaked bread slices on the layer of gingerbread crumbs, sprinkling some crumbs on and pressing in, then turning and adding more crumbs and pressing in. Place two of the prepared bread slices in the preheated skillet (which you oil while it is preheating if oiling is necessary) and cook until first sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook the second sides are dark golden brown and toast is heated through. Elle's note: While the first slices are cooking, soak the rest of the slices, turning them over in the batter when you turn the slices that are cooking and then adding the crumb mixture as directed. Adjust the heat under the pan as needed to keep the toasts from burning.

Repeat cooking the remaining slices as you did the first ones. Serve while hot with sauteed apples, maple or cider syrup or other garnish of your choice.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole

I'm not exactly sure where the first week of December went, but here we are on the 9th with no posts yet! Everything is fine around here, but all the preparations for the holidays take time. I remember that my Mom used to complain that every year it seemed to take longer to do the things that went faster the previous year. Not just holiday prep, but most things. Grocery shopping takes longer, laundry seems to take longer (although that might be because the washing machine and dryer are over thirty years old and so are the pipes...the cold water in particular seems to dribble into the machine. I suspect the pipes are filled up with minerals so less water gets through). Even cooking and baking seem to take longer, so I guess I haven't started as many baking sessions and only a minimum of cooking.

Anyway, time flies by and it's dinner time. What to make? Well, there are a couple of cooked turkey Italian sausages in the fridge, and it doesn't take long to boil water for pasta, nor to make a simple white sauce, nor to crisp up some bread crumbs in melted margarine. Put all that together and you have a cozy casserole, perfect for a chilly, damp night.

The white sauce recipe comes from a classic cook book; the Joy of Cooking. For the pasta I found a half pound of multi-color twisty pasta. Since this casserole only serves 2-3, you don't need any more pasta than that. I served the casserole with steamed green beans and Sweetie was very happy. Hope you will be too, if you try this recipe out. The pasta and sauce are fairly bland, but the sausage lifts the flavors and the crunch of the topping adds texture so that the whole is delightful.

Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole
Serves 2-3 (Double the recipe to serve 4-6)

For the Pasta: 1/2 pound rotini (I used multi-colored, but plain is fine, too)
salt (optional)

For the White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine), melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

For the Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine), melted
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 Italian sausages, cooked, and sliced in 1/4-inch slices

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt if desired. Once the water is boiling, stir in the pasta and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, make the white sauce: In a medium sauce pan, combine the melted butter and the flour. Cook, over low heat, stirring 3-4 minutes, until well blended and flour has had a chance to cook off the raw taste without browning. Slowly stir in the milk and simmer and stir the sauce with a wire Whisk until it has thickened and is smooth and hot. Whisk in the ricotta cheese until smooth again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to keep a skin from forming.

In a small non-stick skillet, combine the melted butter and the bread crumbs. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until the crumbs are slightly browned and a bit crispy. Don't allow to burn.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish. In the pot that the pasta was cooked in, combine the drained pasta, the white sauce and the slices of Italian sausage. Pour into the prepared casserole dish, use the back of a spoon to level the filling, then evenly top with the prepared bread crumb mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crumbs become golden brown. Serve at once while still hot.