Nana’s Christmas Pudding

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As far back as I can remember, when we had Christmas dinner at my Nana and Pop’s (Dad’s side) one of many desserts would be a Christmas Pudding with White Sauce.  Nana liked her sweets as much or more than I did, if that is even possible!   Dad said growing up they always had dessert and he always found out what dessert was going to be before he ate dinner, as it would determine how much dinner he ate. haha!

A normal dinner at Nana and Pop’s there would be at least one, maybe 2 different desserts, but come holiday time I would not be exaggerating to say there would be at least 5 different desserts.  When I say desserts I mean a full on fancy cake or something to that extent not like just cookies and squares, though they were there as well.  So, I do get my sweet tooth honestly.

Nana died 14 years ago and we have not had a Christmas Pudding since.  For the past 3 years or so I have bought all the ingredients to make the Pudding and then threw them out in about April.  I would get busy for one reason or another and I just didn’t get made.

This year I was determined! I was going to make the Pudding!

I didn’t tell anyone I was making it, especially Dad.  I wanted it to be a surprise for Christmas.

I got this recipe from my Aunt who got all Nana’s recipes.  I don’t know where Nana got it from, it was just typed on a page.

This will be one of the few recipes I just show through pictures.  This recipe is special to me and I want to keep it a family secret.

Nana’s Christmas Pudding

The Pudding is not at all difficult to make, just time consuming.  It is cooked with steam.  If you do not have a steamer, you need a large pot that your bowl will fit into.   I did not have a rack to keep the bowl out of the water, so I made a tinfoil raiser.

 

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I got these bowls from Nana ass well.  This is what she made her puddings in.

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Prepare the bowl with shortening and flour

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The only instructions were ‘combine all ingredients’ so that is what I did

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Cover with parchment and tie with string

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I accidentally deleted the pictures of the putting in the steaming pot.

7 hours later…

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I made it a week before Christmas, because that is when I had the time.  I wasn’t sure how it would last so I froze it for the week.  I have since learned these things last for EVER, so in the fridge would have been fine.

White Sauce

I know no other name for this sauce only that Nana called it White Sauce.  It is amazing, well how I remember it when Nana made it at least.  It has a texture and taste of nothing I have had before. To be honest, I could just use a spoon to eat it, forget the cake!

I started to take pictures then there was a quick change in our plans.  Half was made at home and half at Gramma and Poppa’s.  The part at Gramma and Poppa’s I forgot to take pictures

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Annnnnd complete! haha

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When I was finished making the white sauce I had to try it.  There is a picture of me when I was about 6 with the whole bowl of sauce and me with a big spoon full in my mouth, I was caught!  That is how good it is!!  I just hoped it was as good as I remembered.

It was PERFECT!  I nailed it! It tasted just like Nana’s! I was thrilled.  At this point if the Pudding didn’t turn out at least we had bowls of sauce.  Into the fridge for a few hours until dessert.

Now time to re steam the Pudding. Yes, back in the pot (which I forgot to take pictures of again!) for 2 hours to heat and moisten.

We are full of an amazing turkey dinner – Gramma outdid herself.

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18 pound turkey for 7 people = lots of leftovers for me!!

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Dessert time!

I am very nervous about getting the Pudding out of the bowl. Even though I prepared my bowl, I fear it will stick.

It worked! A huge sigh of relief.

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Now to put it all together.

Mom, Dad, Gramma and Poppa had eaten Nana’s Pudding all those years ago, so they new what it was going to be compared to.  That’s a high standard!

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Look at that! It looks perfect

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One word- WOW

This WAS Nana’s Pudding! I could hardly believe it. It was perfect!

The looks on Mom, Dad, Gramma and Poppa’s faces said it all.  They loved it and said it tasted EXACTLY like Nana’s.

The warm moist Pudding combine with the cold creamy White sauce was amazing!

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Not everyone likes Pudding, but we love it. I am so glad it worked and I will definitely be making it again.  Poppa said, ‘we won’t have to wait til next Christmas for another one will we?’  I guess that means he liked it.

Most importantly, I am glad Dad liked it.  A wonderful way to carry on his tradition and keep Nana’s spirit alive at Christmas.

I will admit, just like when I was little, I sat down with a bowl of sauce and a spoon 😉

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Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

 

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When I was asked to bring dessert for Thanksgiving I had to come up with two, because it is near impossible to please everyone with just one.  The first choice was Ferrero Rochet Cheesecake, and this Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing, from Cooking Classy.

I am not a huge pumpkin fan.  When I was a kid, I used to really like pumpkin pie but now I can’t stand it.  This time of year EVERYTHING seems to be pumpkin!  Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and the list goes on, it might be a tad overkill.  I will admit I do quite enjoy the Pumpkin Chi Tea from David’s Tea (having a cup at the moment).  Anyways, I did not want to strike into pumpkin pies, I thought I would try something new.  This Pumpkin Cake looked delicious!

Pumpkin Cake

adapted from Cooking Classy

 

2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk

Directions:

 

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Prepare 3, 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

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2. In a mixing bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, set aside.

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3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugar, brown sugar and 3 Tbsp of the oil until pale and fluffy (occasionally scrape down sides and bottom of bowl).

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4. Mix in remaining 1/4 + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil. Blend in eggs one at a time, adding in vanilla with last egg.

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5. In a bowl, mix together pumpkin with milk.

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6. Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition. Batter will be thick

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7. Divide batter among three prepared cake pans and spread batter into an even layer.

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8. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in cake pans 15 minutes, remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

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Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

 

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
5+ cups icing sugar

Directions:

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy.

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2. Add cinnamon and vanilla

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3. Add icing sugar 1 cup at a time until desired consistency

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4. When Cake has cooled completely ice and decorate as desired

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I went a little rustic…

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This was a HUGE hit!  Everyone loved it!  I really wasn’t sure how it would go over.  Everyone is used to traditional pumpkin pie, but everyone was raving about it.  I did deceive people a tad…. I failed to mention in my description that it was Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing, I just called it Cinnamon or several people would not haven eaten it.  They don’t like cheesecake because there is cream cheese in it.  Though they have never tasted it.  They licked this up and loved it!

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I liked it as well, even though I don’t love pumpkin.  The pumpkin was not over powering, by any means.  The tang of the cream cheese really cut down on the sweetness and went perfectly with the pumpkin spice.  As I LOVE my sweet, I think I would like to try it with my regular butter cream and add the cinnamon.  I think that would be wonderful!

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As per many requests, this will be made again!

Thank you Jaclyn, of Cooking Classy, for a great recipe!

 

 

 

Chocolate Marshmallow Squares

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There are 2 things my Dad asks for, lemon cake with lemon filling for his birthday and Chocolate Marshmallow Squares for Christmas.  This is a recipe that my Nana always made at Christmas time.  It was one of many! She would make several big desserts as well as squares, perhaps this is where I inherited my sweet tooth.  This is a very simple recipes that requires no baking, but to be honest, not many people outside my family like it.  It kind of reminds me of a s’more, I am fairly certain I could eat the entire tray!

Nana’s Chocolate Marshmallow Squares

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24 large marshmallows or equivalent in small
2 oz of semi sweet baking chocolate
1 tsp butter
2 1/2 cups Graham Crumbs
1 can Eagle Brand Milk

Directions:

1. In a double boiler melt chocolate with butter

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2. While chocolate is melting prepare an 8×8 pan.  Coat with butter or Pam and sprinkle with extra graham crumbs.  You must do this or it will stick like glue to the pan!

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3. Prepare marshmallows.  I have never used the large marshmallows, I just can’t see cutting them up, it just wouldn’t look right.  I generally take 24 small handfuls (6-8)

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4. When chocolate has melted add Eagle Brand milk and stir

Don’t skimp, get the good stuff!

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5.  Pour chocolate mixture over marshmallows and add Graham crumbs

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6. Stir! as it starts to set quickly

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7.  Pour into prepared pan, cover and refrigerate over night

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8. The next day it is firm and ready to cut

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I love these!!  They are hard to describe.  They are kind of dry compared to most sweets and squares, but deliciously sweet! I think it might be the texture that turns people away, because the taste is amazing!

Our family loves them and I will continue making them each Christmas, give them a try, you might love them!

Snow Balls

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Snowballs!!!  They are so simple and yet so delicious!  I can remember making these with my Mom when I was little.   They are far from pretty but oh so yummy!  This is another one of those recipes that was only ever made around Christmas time.  I still really don’t understood why certain treats are only made at Christmas.  Can we not enjoy shortbread, macaroons, snowballs or marshmallow squares at Easter? or mid fall? It seems not!

This simple recipe only has 3 ingredients, that’s it!

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Snow Balls

Ingredients

large marshmallows
Mackintosh Toffee
Rice Krispies Cereal

Directions:

1. Find Mackintosh Toffee! – this can be a bit of a chore, they no longer make the big bars but you can still buy bags of the candy size pieces (it does not work with caramels)

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2. Unwrap all the toffee and melt over a double boiler

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3. While you are waiting for the Toffee to melt put toothpicks in the end of each marshmallow and pour Rice Krispies into a large bowl (if you accidentally buy the Jumbo Marshmallows, like we did this time, I would suggest cutting them in half before sticking with toothpicks.  We found these ones to be a little large. The half sized ones were excellent, I don’t have photos of them)

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4. When Toffee is melted dip marshmallow

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Scrape off the exceess

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5.  Place in bowl of Rice Krispies and coat completely, pressing to make sure they stick!  It is important to work quickly, you must get the Rice Krispies to stick before the toffee sets

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6. Place on a cookie sheet and remove toothpick.  Allow to harden.  You can put them in the fridge or freezer to set faster

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Delicious!  Normally I am not a huge fan of marshmallows, I like them in things, but I can’t just eat them on their own.  There is something about the combination of the toffee and the Rice Krispies that make the marshmallow taste totally different. You would think that these would be really sweet, but they are not!  The 3 different textures work so well together.

The great thing about these is, you can make them well in advance and freeze them! It is surprising how well they freeze, just put them in a zip top baggie and take out as needed.

Word of warning, they are quite addicting!  Enjoy!

Whipped Shortbread

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A few post back I was talking about Shortbread Cookies.  I love Mom’s shortbread they are amazing!  Most shortbread I have had are usually thin and round or thin and cut into Christmas shapes, Mom’s are little round ones.  I was then introduced to Whipped Shortbread, they were delicious!  They were so light and fluffy but still had the same flavour and ‘short’ (as Mom would say) to them.  The person who made them said it was not a ‘sharing recipe’, which I completely understand and respect as I have a few of those myself.  I had to go on the hunt for one that I thought might work.  I found several on the internet but what one should I use?  I was looking through some old cookbooks (I can’t even remember who gave them to me) when I came across an old cut out from a newspaper of a Whipped Shortbread recipe! What are the chances, I had to try it.  The paper is quite old and does not appear to have any source on it, other then it was on page 13.

Whipped Shortbread

2 cups butter, softened1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups flour
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans or chocolate chips or cherries (all optional)

Directions

1. Cream butter and icing sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy

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2. Beat in cornstarch

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3. Gradually add flour, beat until mixture is very light and fluffy

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4. Stir in desired nuts, cherries or chocolates if desired, I skipped this step

5. Drop spoon fulls of dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet, I used parchment paper

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6. Top each with a cut cherry, this was my addtion (trying to make them like Mom’s)

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7. Bake at 325 F for 15 – 20 minutes or until very lightly golden

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8. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

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After my last shortbread post, I am not even sure I should be saying this, BUT these were quite good!  They had a wonderful texture, one I’m not even sure how to describe.  They held together but when you bite them they almost melt in your mouth (must be the 2 cups of butter!).  These shortbread are very delicate and ‘airy’, I know my description is not doing them justice, they are delicious.  They have a very similar taste to Mom’s shortbread but a totally different texture.  I would not say I like them better them Mom’s short bread I will say they are my favourite shortbread that I make :).  This one will definitely be made for many Christmas’s to come.

Chocolate Marshmallow Squares

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This recipe is a family favourite, but it seems to be just a family favourite.  I have not come across many people outside the family who really enjoy this square as much as we do.  This is my Dad’s favourite treat! He has always loved it, it is one his Mother (my Nana) made.  Each year when I start making my Christmas baking list I ask Mom and Dad what they would like me to make, Dad always says “I’d be happy with just that chocolate marshmallow square, that would be great” and of course every year I make it.  It like so many other recipes only seems to get made at Christmas.  It’s quite simple and we think quite delicious.

Chocolate Marshmallow Square

24 marshmallows or equivalent in mini 2 oz semi sweet chocolate dark
2 1/2 cups graham crumbs, plus extra for dusting
1 can Eagle Brand Milk
1 tsp butter, plus extra to grease pan

Directions

1. In a large bowl measure out graham crumbs and marshmallows and set aside.  I usually count out approx. 120 mini marshmallows

2. Liberally butter a 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle with graham crumbs, just as you would if flouring a cake pan

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3. In a double boiler melt chocolate and butter

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4. Add Eagle Brand Milk and stir until combined

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5. Pour over marshmallows and graham crumbs – stir , you will need to move quickly as it hardens quickly as the mixture cools

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6. When mixture is combined pour into your prepared baking dish and press into corners.  Mixture will not flow you will need to press it in with a fork

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7. Sprinkle the top with more graham crumbs, just a light coating, this is optional, but we like it (forgot to take a picture of this)

8. Cover and refrigerate to cool

9. Once cool and set, cut and enjoy!

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It does not win any awards for best in show, its kinda ugly, but oh so delicious!

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I, like Dad, love this square.  I have heard it described as ‘kinda like a smore’ I guess because of having a lot of the same ingredients, but I disagree.  The chocolate that surrounds the marshmallows is firm, but not rock hard and kind of dry.  The soft marshmallows complement the texture of the chocolate.  This treat is not overly sweet but definitely satisfies a sweet craving.  My description and pictures do not do the square justice.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just a ‘family thing’ we like it, you might too!

Shortbread ‘Bake Off’

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

I was thrilled to see that this months Daring Baker’s was Christmas baking!  I love Christmas baking!  It is the one time of the year where there is a ‘good excuse’ to make 15 different cookies and squares without feeling guilty!

Peta provided us with 12 different recipes to choose from, something for each of the “12 Days for Christmas’.  Our requirement was to pick at least one of the recipes provided and one of our own favourite Christmas treats.   Of the recipes provided I chose to make the Brown Butter Shortbread.  I chose the shortbread because I thought it would be fun to make a different version of shortbread then we are used to.  Around here it just isn’t Christmas without Mom’s Shortbread.  Regular readers are probably thinking, ‘your Mom’s shortbread?’ Yep! There are 2 things Mom bakes, her famous Rice Crispy Squares and her amazing Shortbread. She will generally make a Rice Crispy Square when ever the request is made, BUT will only make her shortbread at Christmas.  Thank goodness she makes A LOT, they freeze well and last well into the new year.

I will start with Mom’s Shortbread in this “Shortbread Bake Off”

Mom’s Christmas Shortbread

½ cup cornstarch
½ cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
¾ cup butter
red and green cherries

Directions:

1. Chop candied cherries into small pieces

2. In a large bowl measure your butter

3. Sift in remaining ingredients

4.  Blend until soft and smooth.  (Sidenote: you could use a spoon, Mom uses her hands to mush is all together.  She has never done it any other way and they are ALWAYS amazing, so why mess with perfection)

It will be crumbly, but keep going…

This is what you are looking for

5. Shape dough into small balls, place approximately 1 inch apart.

6. Press with a floured fork

7. Top with a chopped cherry

8. Bake at 300 F for 20-25 mins or until the edges start to turn golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Look at that! Amazing as always!

Mom’s shortbread are like none I have had before.  She refers to them as being ‘very short’.  They are not very sweet as you might assume from a cookie.  They have a much more dense texture then most shortbread I have tried, like the whipped ones and rolled varieties. Despite the ‘snap’ when you bite into it and the ‘dense’ texture they simply melt in your mouth, they are the best shortbread ever! Now, having said all that, I have yet to find someone who can duplicate this recipe and get it to taste like Mom’s.  It is not like she is withholding a secret ingredient because I watch her time and time again.  I have just come to accept that it is ‘Mom’s Love’ that makes them so darn good!

Now onto the Brown Butter Shortbread, they have a tough act to follow.  I had worked with brown butter once before, on another Daring Bakers Challenge, Baked Alaska.  The cake in the baked Alaska was a brown butter cake, it was delicious!  I was excited to try it in a shortbread.

Brown Butter Short Bread

1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons  pure vanilla bean paste
1-2/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons table salt

Browning Butter

1.Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a saucepan over a low heat.

2. Melt the butter and cook until it starts to brown and gives off a warm, nutty aroma.   Stir from time to time to make sure the butter browns evenly. As it gets close to being browned enough it will foam up and you will see little brown bits in the foam.

3. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof jug or bowl.   Set aside to cool slightly and then refrigerate until it starts to set again but is not too firm. It should be the consistency of softened butter. Don’t strain out the little brown bits they taste great.

Cookies

1.Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F/ 150°C/gas mark 2.

2. Line 2 large baking sheets with silicon baking paper.

3. Add the sugar and vanilla to the browned butter and beat until very light and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved.

4. Add the flour and salt and mix for at least 2 – 4 minutes to form a soft dough.

It seemed to go all crumbly

So, Mom resorted to her method of mixing

Much better

5. Roll into small balls and press with a fork

6. Bake at 300 F, until edges start to brown.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

These shortbread were ok.  I shouldn’t say that, as a shortbread they were ok, as a cookie they were pretty good.  They did not share any of the same qualities that I would associate with a shortbread.  They were very sweet and a little ‘grainy’ as though the sugar did not fully dissolve.  It kind of reminded me of the texture of graham cracker crust.  Once I turned my thinking around and thought of them just as a cookie, they were pretty good.  We did decide that we may, one day, try the browned butter in Mom’s recipe and see how it turns out.  All and all a good recipe.  It was fun to compare the two,  I think we will be sticking to our original shortbread recipe though.

Thank you Peta for a great challenge!!