What I’m Cooking: New Year’s Eve

Many times, I find recipes just like everyone else – the Internet. I don’t always change anything, or fuss with them in any way. I wanted a way to share some of these recipes with you all, without attaching a full blog post to something that may not need it. Hence, “What I’m Cooking.”

I have no idea how often this feature will run, but hopefully it will be a glimpse into my life, and provide links to good food. Today’s post is about the food I made to bring to a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s. Normally I won’t bring this much, but there had been a couple of cookie recipes I’d been eyeing, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, I was rushing to get there, and didn’t make the time to take hardly any photographs, for which I apologize!

Jan Hagel Cookies – as soon as I saw this post on Food In Jars, I was instantly smitten and really wanted to make them. The party provided the perfect excuse! I made them largely as written. I did whip my egg whites first, then put them in a small bowl while I used the mixing bowl and beaters (without cleaning) to make the dough. There was a little unwhipped eggwhite at the bottom (not unexpected) but I still poured it on top and spread it with the beaten eggwhite, and it worked fine. I ended up adding a bit more sliced almond than specified, for more even coverage, but found that some of them got dislodged when I cut the bars, so not sure adding extra made a difference. I also used about 2 tablespoons of sugar with enough cinnamon to make a nice ratio as the topping (not 1 tablespoon as the recipe specified).

I did use a quarter sheet pan, since I have one, but otherwise would have used a 9×13 pan, which probably would have been fine. I always under-time recipes, especially the first time. I think I baked it for about 20 minutes before checking, and it seemed done, but pale. I put it in for another 5 minutes, and it came out with a nice golden color, but I wasn’t sure if it was a little crisp for my liking. When I make it again, I might try pulling it after 22-23 minutes, for a light color but slightly softer texture. All in all, though, a fabulous cookie and one I definitely recommend.

Chocolate Babka – I made the original babka on Smitten Kitchen’s site years ago, but hadn’t made it since. I was inspired to make this recipe, and I did for the first time at the Shul several weeks ago. The flavors were amazing, and it was an easy recipe, but I was frustrated at how messy it was to cut, and how many of the pieces fell apart. I wanted to try and make it again but with a different twisting technique, thinking that might make a difference. So I made another round at home for New Years, which was crazy. I have a very cheap stand mixer, which basically doesn’t do heavy doughs well, and I ended kneading this a lot by hand, and wasn’t sure it was going to turn out ok. Thankfully it did, which just goes to show that this is a very forgiving dough.

Chocolate Babka

However, my attempt to roll the log out thin to twist (like the technique on the original recipe) was pretty much a failure, and I went back to the recipe’s technique on the other two (I made the recipe as 3 medium loaves). Sure enough, had the same issue cutting them as I had had before. So, still searching for a swirling technique that makes me happy (it is possible that rolling it out thin, for more layers, is part of my problem – might need to investigate that next), but the recipe is definitely wonderful and worth making.

Eggnog Cookies – I first made a batch of these cookies earlier in the month for a Chanukah cookie exchange, and was pretty impressed. I wanted to make another batch and actually photograph it, so I could write about it here, and decided this was the perfect excuse! [I also needed to compare the difference of using regular and low-fat eggnog.] So, look for the recipe coming soon.

Eggnog Cookies out of the oven

Chocolate Cornmeal Cookies – There is a story behind these cookies, and it is definitely a recipe worth sharing, so this is another one where you’ll have to look for the recipe soon. [UPDATE: It’s only been a year, but finally the recipe is up!]

Chocolate Cornmeal Cookies out of the oven

Honey Cake Truffles – by request, I made more of these and brought them. Seriously, why haven’t you tried these yet!?!

Tarte Soleil – the pictures for this were so beautiful, I couldn’t resist making one. I definitely adapted a lot, but unfortunately didn’t manage a single picture, not even of the half-eaten product at the end of the night! Very silly me.

One of our friends was already bringing a tapenade to the party, so I wanted to make a different filling. I decided to make a pesto, but the host has a nut allergy, so I decided to use pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of nuts, so that she and her daughter could eat it. I also wanted to keep it dairy-free, so one of our other friends could eat it.

I used one package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (it’s kosher pareve, which means there’s no dairy), which comes in two sheets. The original recipe said to use one pound of puff pastry for the top and the bottom, but I opted to just use each sheet alone, and not roll them together and double up. I rolled each sheet out to about an 11″ square, worrying more about making sure both sheets were the same size than the exact dimensions. I stacked the two sheets together, and used an overturned pie plate to cut them into a circle.

I made a rustic fall pesto. I toasted a half cup pepitas, and added it to a packed cup parsley (maybe half a bundle fresh, I grabbed the top portion, so leaves and some stems), a packed cup sage (which was the leaves from one bundle fresh), a bundle of rosemary (didn’t measure, unfortunately – started with the leaves from about half the bundle, but needed more and ended up adding all the leaves), about a third of a bundle of thyme (make sure to just have the leaves, the few stems I missed did not blend in), and two cloves garlic already in the food processor. I started running the machine, then slowly drizzled in olive oil until the consistency looked good. I wanted it pretty smooth, but the herbs are hearty so it still had some texture to it.

I spread a nice layer on top of one of the pastry circles, maybe half of the mixture, and placed the other pastry on top. I used a half-pint canning jar in the center, and followed the instructions for cutting and twisting the rays. I found that I had to be careful twisting, because the two pieces of dough (top and bottom) weren’t really held together by the filling and they were trying to separate. As soon as I made the first twist, however, they held together just fine.

I also opted not to egg wash it at all – if you egg wash the cut side of puff pastry, it inhibits the layers in the pastry from puffing. I ended up getting a nice golden brown (although not shiny golden brown) color. I thought about egg washing it halfway through (after it had puffed enough that it wouldn’t make a difference) and might do it next time – I was just occupied with other things and didn’t get to it. It was also super forgiving – I left it in the oven and didn’t really time it, and it didn’t get too brown or dried out, which is good news for absentminded cooking.

I did make the whipped feta from the recipe as a dip, and it was pretty phenomenal. Both the tarte and the whipped feta were a hit, and weren’t super difficult to make. I will definitely be making a tarte soleil again, probably with different fillings, the next time I’m entertaining or bringing a potluck dish.

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