Celebrating Holiday Foods

My final podcast of the year is a conversation with my daughter, Christine Hack. She’s a young bride working on the balance of marriage, work, home, and everything else life throws our way. She has many personal interests and cooking and baking are among them. She often sends me pictures of her kitchen triumphs.

During the Christmas holiday season, Christine and I sat down to talk over some of our favorite holiday foods, traditions, and memories. Hear our conversation HERE.

We cover the gamut from the popularity of oyster dressing at Thanksgiving, to fruitcake (paying homage to Christine’s high school freshman English teacher, the late Shari Schap), to Christmas cookies, and the origin story of our family’s French Market Donuts.

Pour yourself a hot beverage, a glass of wine, or a “wee dram,” and join us at the kitchen table while we chat. I’m sharing recipes for French Market Donuts and Cranberry Noels for you to try over the holidays. Enjoy. And here’s to abundant holiday blessings and a happy new year to all. Cheers!

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French Market Donuts (Beignets)

Yields about 7 dozen small square donuts (Note: I make a half recipe to feed a family of four on Christmas morning.)

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • About 7 cups all purpose flour

Put shortening in large mixing bowl and pour hot water over shortening. Add sugar, salt, and milk. Give it a gentle stir. When mixture becomes lukewarm, add the yeast dissolved in water, eggs, and 4 cups flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add the remainder of flour, knead a few times just to get the dough cohesive and smooth. Put dough in a large bowl or plastic container (lightly oiled) and place in the refrigerator over night. 

When ready to fry, heat at least 4” of oil in a deep pot on the stove or deep fryer, to 350-375º. Have powdered sugar in a sifter or in a large zip-top bag standing by. Cut off chunks of dough and roll them out on a lightly floured surface. Roll thin (about 1/8”) and cut into squares. A pizza cutter works best. Carefully drop dough pieces into hot oil. They fry very quickly so watch them. When golden brown on both sides, remove to drain on paper towel lined baking sheet. When drained, put hot donuts on serving plate and sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over all. Or, put powdered sugar in a zip-top bag, drop in donuts and lightly shake to coat. Serve hot.

Note: When fried, this dough puffs up to make an airy, yet chewy donut. The dough will keep several days in the fridge, so you can have more than one morning of fresh hot donuts!

 

Cranberry Noels

Makes about 4 dozen

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp of orange zest
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans*
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut

Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, salt, and orange zest. Beat until just combined. Gradually add flour, cranberries, and pecans. Mix on low speed until fully combined. 

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 8-inch logs, about 2 inches diameter. Roll each log in coconut and then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. 

When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 375º. Using a sharp straight knife (not serrated), cut cold logs into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden. Transfer cookies to rack to cool.

*Toasting brings out the nutty flavor of pecans. Toast them whole ahead of time on a baking sheet or pan, at 350º for 8-10 minutes. I put them in a cold oven and let them begin toasting as the oven heats up. Check after 8 minutes. They’ll darken just a bit and become fragrant. Don’t over-bake. Allow to cool then chop fine for this recipe. (Tip: toast a whole bag of pecan halves at once and you’ll have a ready supply for baking, salads, etc.)

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Cranberry Noels and Christmas Cut-out Sugar Cookies

Caramel Corn in a Paper Bag

In this BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, my daughter, Christine, and I make a quick and easy sweet treat that will have everyone standing in the kitchen crunching and munching the moment it’s done. It’s my Caramel Corn cooked in a paper bag. Hear it HERE

My mom made this recipe many times when we were growing up. But I had not tried it in ages. When I ran across it in my recipe file a few years ago around Christmas time, I decided I would give it a try on Christmas Day. Something fun to do while celebrating the holiday.

I remembered the caramel corn tasting good when my mom made it, but I had forgotten how addictive it can be! It is very hard to stop eating it once you start. That’s why I hurry and package as much of it as I can to give as gifts. It’s perfect to pass out to neighbors, co-workers, or as stocking stuffers.

Give it a try while the kids are home on winter break. Or if you need a snack to take to a party. It will be time well spent. Very little time, at that.

Caramel Corn in a Paper Bag  

  • 8 quarts of popped popcorn (unseasoned)
  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • ½ C. butter
  • ¼ C. light corn syrup
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda (measure and set aside)
  • One paper grocery bag 

Note:   All microwave cooking instructions are for HIGH POWER, 1100 watts.

Put popped popcorn in paper grocery bag and set aside.

Have 2-3 large baking pans ready to cool caramel corn.

Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl.  (1 to 2 quart capacity)  Note:  caramel mixture will expand and bubble during cooking so make sure your cooking vessel is large enough. Set aside the baking soda. 

Microwave caramel ingredients together for 2 minutes.  Stir mixture, and then microwave for 2 more minutes.  Add baking soda and stir.  Mixture will become foamy.  

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn in paper bag.  Fold closed and shake bag to distribute caramel.  Keep bag closed at all times during cooking and shaking. Place bag in microwave oven. If your microwave does not have a turntable, pause a few times during cooking to move bag around.

  • Microwave for 1.5 minutes, then shake bag.  
  • Microwave for 1 minute, shake bag.
  • Microwave for 45 seconds, shake.
  • Microwave for 30 seconds, shake.

When done, open bag carefully away from your face. Pour caramel corn out onto cookie sheets to cool.  

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The first stir.
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After cooking the caramel, baking soda is added.
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The soda causes caramel to foam. It’s ready to pour over popcorn.
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It’s all in the bag. Shake to thoroughly mix.
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It’s a close fit in the microwave.
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This bag has done its duty.
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Ready to pour out and cool.