Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Archive for December 2009

This time of year, it’s very traditional for many Puerto Ricans to make a rich dessert called arroz con dulce. Basically, this is a kind of rice pudding, only with a lot more flavor.  Literally translated, arroz con dulce means rice with sweetness, but that’s only one factor in the layers of flavor involved in this dessert.  I remember my mom and my grandmother making this every year over Christmas eve and New Year’s eve.  For many years, this dessert has always had a place in the family festivities.  I hope to continue the tradition of making it and I tried to make it myself last night!  I encountered a few problems, however.  I forgot to soak the rice.  I didn’t know you had to cook the rice separately.  I also didn’t keep stirring, so the rice ended up all brown and crusted on the bottom of the pot.  This was very disappointing so my mom decided to make it so that I can know for sure how to get it right.  Here’s my family’s basic recipe for arroz con dulce.

Kitchen Experiment: Puerto Rican Arroz con Dulce

Yield:  12-16 6 ounce ramekins, or 1 large pan.  (This is usually served very informally!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup short grain rice (we use arroz sello rojo which is a very short grain, almost pearl grain rice)
  • 1 (13. 5 ounce)can coconut milk
  • 1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
  • 4 cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup dark raisins, soaked in dark rum for at least 1 hour
  • ground cinnamon, for sprinkling on top
  1. In a medium sized bowl, add rice and enough water to soak.  Leave soaking at least 1 hour.  In a large pot, add short grain rice and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, cooking until tender and most water has evaporated.
  2. Stir in coconut milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk.
  3. Add cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, cloves, salt and sugar.
  4. Continue stirring until mixture has become rich and thick.
  5. Stir in raisins and any leftover rum.
  6. Continue stirring until completely thickened.
  7. Ladle into ramekins or pour into a large pan to cool.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon.  Store in the refrigerator.

Note: Should this get very thick, beat 1 cup of heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into arroz con dulce to make a softer, richer mixture.

For me, nothing says holidays more than this dessert since it reminds me of days spent with my mom, grandma and family during Noche Buena and New year’s eve.  And of course, since there’s so much we’re still enjoying some of this dessert for Dia de los Reyes/Three Kings Day!

Arroz con Dulce

I’ve always thought gingerbread houses were adorable and festive.  However, that was never enough motivation for me to make them.  Nope, I’ve never even tried to make those no-bake gingerbread houses you see in the craft stores.  When I saw this was the challenge this month, I was rather excited about it! Finally, I had a reason to make one!

Well, just like everyone else, I was busy over the holidays, so I figured I’d just wait until Christmas Day itself, since my family festivities are mostly on Christmas Eve.  But on Christmas Day I woke up with a sore throat, fever and an awful cough.  Baking would have to wait since I wasn’t motivated to even get out of bed.  Finally, late on the 26th, after being in bed all that time, I got bored and decided if I’m going to be home nursing this cold, I might as well make use of my time.  I started by making the dough.
The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I used Anna’s Recipe since I had all the ingredients on hand and it looked very easy to do!

Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spicy-gingerbread-dough-157…

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

Directions

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

I have to admit, this turned out to be a LOT of dough!  I did divide my dough into four disks and found I only needed one! My icing turned out to be a bit too thick also, so I added some meringue powder as well as some more water to thin it out.  I did turn out a bit to drippy–I was hoping the meringue powder would counteract that, but no such luck.  It eventually did hold together quite nicely and I decorated it with a lot of icing and candy! This definitely helped me feel some Christmas cheer when I was just feeling sick!

Setting up House

Finally Standing!

Icing the Roof

Icing the Front

Font of House

Back of House

My holiday baking is gearing up and I’m getting more and more excited for Christmas.  Although I’m still unemployed, I’m already much happier than I was last year.  I don’t have a job that makes me miserable.  My family is reasonably healthy.  And I am still able to create some delicious holiday treats!  While I do miss baking for my students like I have done in recent years past, I am looking forward to having more treats to share with my family and friends.

I always make a lot of the same kinds of things.  I love chocolate chip and snickerdoodles, so of course, I make at least one batch of each of these.  I also make and decorate sugar cookies.  Even though the decorating takes a bit of time it’s super festive and lovely!  But I’ve decided to start trying out something different.  Recently, I assisted with a vegan baking class and it got me to thinking about alternative baking.  While I’m not great at coming up with vegan or gluten-free desserts, I think my most recent kitchen experiment definitely fits into the gluten-free category.  If you want to make it vegan, use vegan shortening and vegan marshmallows for the filling.  These cookies also capture some nice flavors of the season with ginger, cinnamon, clove and maple.

Gluten-Free Ginger Sandwich Cookies

Yield: 4 sandwich cookies

  • 200 grams almond meal/almond flour (I weighed this in grams because I wanted to try to be accurate while making these. It should be about 2 cups.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • pinch fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment.
  2. In large bowl, combine almond flour, ginger, cinnamon, clove, salt, and maple sugar.
  3. Add maple syrup and mix thoroughly until you form a dough.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a parchment lined surface.  Pat down the dough to form a disk.  Top with another piece of parchment and roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness.
  5. Use round pastry cutters to cut out cookie rounds and place them on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pan after half the time has elapsed.  Bake until light golden brown.
  7. Meanwhile,  make cookie filling by combining marshmallow fluff, shortening, maple sugar and maple syrup in bowl and whisking vigorously until combined.
  8. To assemble, spread about 1 teaspoon of filling onto a cookie and top with another.

When I first tried the cookie out of the oven, it didn’t have much flavor and I wasn’t a fan of the texture.  However, once I made the sandwiches, I really tasted the ginger, maple and cinnamon in the cookie.  It may not be the best gluten-free cookie out there, but I think it’s pretty good for a first try!

Gluten-Free Ginger Cookies

I regularly read the blog Not Eating Out in New York.  She’s got great tips, good information and of course lovely pictures.  So when I saw that the  Mad Hungry cookbook was up for grabs on Not Eating Out in New York, I decided I should try to submit one of my recent recipes.  I made this about two weeks ago, while I was cleaning up around the house.  I wanted to make something that was spicy, rich and that I didn’t have to keep too close an eye on.  I came up with this recipe for crazy mixed up chili because I made it using  a mixture of different meats I had as well as a variety of seasonings.  While I know there is a lot of debate on whether chili should have beans or not, or whether it should have tomatoes or not and of course, whether it should have any meat other than beef, I think this dish could definitely qualify as a chili since it was chock full of meaty goodness.  The result of all this mixing was a rich and spicy chili that I really liked!  My dad, who usually isn’t into anything spicy, did eat some and said it wasn’t bad.  I’ve yet to try it on my boyfriend, but I’m sure he’d definitely be a fan.  Serve this over a bed of rice for people who aren’t used to all the heat. If you aren’t a fan of all this heat, use fewer habañeros or use a jalapeño pepper instead.  Otherwise, a topping of cheddar cheese and some chips on the side serve as a nice accompaniment.

Crazy Mixed-Up Chili

Yield:  6  to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry beans
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 pork chops, center-cut, bone removed and sliced
  • 3 or 4 chorizo links, removed from casings
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 can beer, use a light colored beer, like Corona
  • 2 or 3 dried habañero peppers, seeds removed and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1/2 cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • tortilla chips (optional)
  1. In a large pot, add beans and boil until tender, about 30 minutes.  In a large dutch oven, or other heavy-bottomed pot, add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add sliced pork chops and chorizo, and cook until browned.
  2. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic.  Cook until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add beer and use wooden spoon to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pot.  Add habañero peppers, cumin, chili powder, bay leaf, and garlic paste. Cook until peppers have softened a bit about 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add chicken, canned tomatoes, and tomato juice.  Cover and allow to simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. To serve, ladle into a heated bowl and top with shredded cheddar cheese.  Serve tortilla chips on the side.