July 24, 2024

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Food Notes: Whatever you bake, have a sweet, merry time

Food Notes: Whatever you bake, have a sweet, merry time

We all need some cheering up these days, so what better way than by making some holiday cookies?

Ever since a German baker created the first gingerbread man we have associated the winter holidays with cookies and the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

The number of cookie recipes available is overwhelming; whether you want traditional favorites such as gingerbread men, pinwheels, snickerdoodles, molasses or spritz, or something new and different for the season, there is something for pretty much every taste.

I like a mixture of at least five different kinds of cookies on a cookie plate or when gifted in a tin. I opt for familiar favorites such as frosted cutout sugar cookies, chocolate chip, molasses, thumbprints and meringues. Sometimes I mix it up with oatmeal, seven-layer bars, chocolate cookies with vanilla chips and snickerdoodles. And if I have time I like to try at least one new cookie each holiday season.

I love the way peppermint candy cane cookies taste and smell but never include them in a cookie tin because the flavor can carry over to other types of cookies. Molasses cookies with a hint of peppermint don’t taste quite right.

The same goes for adding peanut butter cookies to a mixed tin of cookies. The flavor carries over. Plus you never know who has an allergy to peanuts.

Whatever you bake, have a sweet, merry time.

Winter farm markets

Local winter farmers markets are back in business, operating in parking lots instead of indoors for safety precautions.

West Windsor Farmers Markets are held first and third Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Princeton Marketfair in West Windsor. The next market is Dec. 19; they continue through April.

Princeton Winter Farmers Market is held every other Thursday with the next market set for Dec. 17 in the Franklin Street Parking lot at Witherspoon and Franklin streets in Princeton. Those markets continue through April 29.

The Cook’s Market is held Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April at the Market Pavilion at Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick.

Offering pre-ordering only for pickup on Saturdays at Rosedale Mills is Chickadee Creek Farm. Sign up for the newsletter chickadeecreekfarm.us7.list-manage.com/subscribe/ to order by Thursdays for pick up on Saturdays. Pick ups also can be arranged at the farm in Hopewell Township.

All of the markets are following safety precautions during the pandemic.

In the farm markets

In addition to wreaths, garlands and Christmas trees, local farmers markets have plenty of hardy vegetables to make warm, sustaining dishes during the cold weather months.

Those include beets, hard winter squashes, cabbages, carrots, radishes, turnips, white and sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, kohlrabi, bok choy and lettuces. Seasonal local fruits are apples and cranberries. Availability depends on the market.

Port Release at Unionville

Complementary tastings of Unionville Vineyards’ newly released port wine Vat No. 25 are available this weekend at the Ringoes winery for those who order tasting wine flights.

All sips of port also come with a truffle pairing. Visit the website unionvillevineyards.com for more information.

Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies

This recipe from Goodhousekeeping.com gives a new twist to traditional gingerbread.

For the cookies:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Royal icing, for decorating
  • Sanding sugar and white pearl dragees, for decorating

For the frosting:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/3 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • Salt
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled to room temp

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, cloves and salt.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, molasses and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be soft).

3. Divide the dough in portions and roll each between 2 sheets parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using floured 3-inch hexagon cookie cutters, cut out cookies. Place on prepared sheets. Reroll, chill and cut scraps.

4. Bake, rotating positions of baking sheets halfway through, until cookies are light golden brown around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

5. Meanwhile, make chocolate frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and pinch salt on medium until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add melted chocolate, beating to combine.

6. Decorate half of the ginger cookies with royal icing, sanding sugar, and dragees, as desired. Spread chocolate frosting on remaining cookie halves and sandwich with decorated halves.

Fruitcake Cookies

This recipe from goodhousekeeping.com is nothing like much-maligned traditional fruitcake.

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied citrus (orange and lemon)
  • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. In another large bowl, using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and then vanilla.

3. Fold in candied citrus, pistachios, and dried cranberries.

4. Shape dough into two 2-inch-thick logs. Wrap and flatten slightly to create an oval; freeze 20 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice ½ inch thick and place on prepared sheets.

6. Bake, rotating positions of baking sheets halfway through, until cookies are light golden brown around edges, 10 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.