Cooks Exchange

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens: holiday cooking revs up

My granddaughter loves slides at the park, but only the fast ones. She likes the ones where she can barrel down and nearly hit the ground. That’s fun.

Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are like slides; activities are so fast and furious that the day arrives on the fast slide.

For those who enjoy baking, it is time to start the ovens for Christmas or Hanukkah cookies or sweet breads or even candies. A Houston friend bakes all her bosses loaves of pumpkin or banana nut bread and starts the gifts this week.

Others make friendship bread, and that needs to be started now. The fruit starter friendship bread is a favorite because not only does it make good-tasting cakes, but the starter can be sauced over ice cream or pound cake.

If making fruit cake or fruit cake cookies, the prices for candied pineapple, cherries and fruit mix have jumped since last year. I was shocked that candied pineapple was $7.99 a carton. I do love my fruitcake cookies. Real deal fruitcake, not so much.

My late husband’s grandmother always made her fruitcakes at Thanksgiving and wrapped them in cheesecloth and poured bourbon or brandy over them. She tucked them away in a closet and would add a bit more of the alcohol each week until Christmas. This from a teetotaler.

She also stashed her Christmas cookies and candy in that closet.

She was a delight, always telling her grandkids not to get in her Christmas baking closet and that she would know if anything was missing.

Marge Hix of Parrish, Florida, wants to get ahead of the holiday hustle. She sent two recipes, one for earthquake toffee bars and another for Sandra Lee’s toffee bars.

“The reason I sent the two recipes for the same result is because the quantities are so different,” Hix said. “This toffee bar recipe is a great one, and it is so easy and makes a lot of snacks.

“Please help me to know why the quantities are not the same,” she said.

The differences are in the amounts of brown sugar and chocolate morsels. One also uses toffee bits, the other chopped walnuts or pecans. The one with more brown sugar uses fewer chocolate chips and add the toffee chips for crunch. These may be a little softer because of the extra brown sugar. The earthquake bars use nuts for crunch and will be a little gooier with the extra chocolate chips.

Readers, see which one you prefer.

Wanted: ADHD book

“I am looking for a book that I remember using in the late ’70s or thereabouts. It was about getting children who had ADHD off sugar,” said Maureen Broussard of Biloxi. “I think it was something like ‘Sugar Blues’ or something like that. It was especially for kids with ADHD.

“If anyone remembers the name and if it is still available, I would appreciate any information on that book. I used it with my son when he was in grammar school,” Broussard said.

Readers, are you familiar with this book, if so please e-mail or mail me your replies.

Candy booklet wanted

“I am looking for the name of a candy booklet by the late Bertha Sadowski, who had a bakery, taught cake decorating classes at Biloxi High and taught candy classes,” a reader with the initials H.B. said. “She produced a cookbook and a candy booklet.

“Would anyone know the name of the candy booklet or where I might get one? Also, if someone has the booklet, would they be willing to share some of her candy recipes or any information on these recipes?” asked H.B.

Readers, do you have information about this booklet? If so, please let me know.

VINTAGE FRUIT STARTER

3/4 cup canned peaches in heavy syrup, drained and cut into pieces

3/4 cup canned pineapple chunks in heavy syrup, drained

6 maraschino cherries, cut in half

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 package Red Star Instant Blend Dry Yeast or Quick-Rise Yeast

Combine ingredients and place in a glass jar with a loose cover. An apothecary jar is perfect. Set in a warm place. Stir several times the first day, then stir once a day. At the end of two weeks the starter has fermented enough to make sauce.

NOTE: Share 1 cup of the starter with a friend. Doubling the recipe is not recommended.

VINTAGE FRUIT CROWN BREAD

Dough:

3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

2 packages Red Star Instant Blend Dry Yeast

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup shortening

1 egg

Filling:

1/4 cup fruit starter sauce syrup

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup drained fermented fruit

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In large mixer bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast, 1/3 cup sugar and salt; mix well. In saucepan, heat milk, water and shortening until warm (120-130 degrees; shortening does not need to melt.) Add to flour mixture. Add egg. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed.

By hand, gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a firm dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place until light and doubled, about 1 hour.

Prepare Filling: In medium sauce pan, combine the fruit syrup, brown sugar, 1/3 cup sugar and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and butter melts; keep warm. Spoon fermented fruit into bottom of greased 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over fruit.

Punch down dough. Divide into pieces the size of walnuts; shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place balls in layers in pan; pouring warm sauce over layers and top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until dark golden brown. Cool 10 minutes in pan; invert onto serving plate. Serve warm.

EARTHQUAKE TOFFEE BARS

35 saltine crackers (about 1 sleeve)

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 (16-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired. Some recipes use pecans.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan with foil; grease foil. Spread crackers evenly into prepared pan.

Place butter and sugar in saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce to low; boil 3 minutes (do not stir).

Immediately spread over crackers. Bake 7 minutes.

Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips; let stand 5 minutes (if the chocolate chips are not melting easily, put the whole tray with chocolate chips into oven with door open for 2 minutes, tops.) Spread melted chocolate over tops of crackers.

Sprinkle with walnuts or pecans if desired. Cool in fridge. Break into pieces. For added goodness, you can use half bag of chocolate chips and a half bag of butterscotch chips.

Submitted by Marge Hix

SANDRA LEE’S TOFFEE BARS

35 saltine crackers

1 cup butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 (6 ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1/2 cup toffee bits (Heath Bits O’Brickle)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Arrange crackers in a single layer in prepared pan.

In a small saucepan, place butter and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to low, and boil for 3 minutes (do not stir). Immediately spread butter mixture over crackers.

Bake for 5-7 minutes.

Immediately sprinkle chocolate morsels over top; let stand for 2 minutes or until melted.

Spread melted chocolate over tops of crackers.

Sprinkle with toffee bits.

Let cool completely (about 1 hour).

Break into pieces.

Submitted by Marge Hix

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