Katie Green's Food Blog: Holiday Baking
Diverting from the typical barrage of holiday baking treats, I ventured forth with marshmallows, lentil cookies, and then the more tame gingerbread cookies. I procrastinated on making marshmallows for maybe 2 years, as they seemed to intimidate me. How was something I made supposed to turn into marshmallow? But somehow it does, and quite easily. It was like food science. And when I followed up my marshmallow creations by reading my book on black holes, I started thinking, 'Who makes marshmallows and then reads about quantum mechanics?' Strangely, if I wasn't an athletic trainer, I'd probably be a cook/baker or a theoretical physicist. There's food for thought.
Except for trying to get friends and family to buy into the idea that lentil cookies actually taste good, my holidays were fairly tame. I did manage to get out skiing to Cypress and Stevens Pass to further enhance my snow bunny status, as well as hike Lake 22. The Lake 22 trail takes you up to a lake (makes sense), with mountains surrounding it.
However, what it's known for are its avalanches. While this isn't the best time of the year for them (spring), if you take a walk around the lake, carefully listen for the cracking sound of an avalanche, and then search around to see if you can find it. Seeing and hearing avalanches in person (at a safe distance), is something to experience.
Lentils are incredibly high in protein and thus serve as a staple of vegetarian diets. Each serving packs a hefty 26 grams of protein as well as fiber, folate, Vitamin B1 and iron. Canada exports the most lentils of any country in the world, and in particular, the province of Saskatchewan. In fact, I have relatives who are lentil farmers in Saskatchewan! Here in the United States, the Palouse actually accounts for the greatest lentil production.
Adapted from Alton Brown
To answer your first question: "Yes, you can make these at home!" And by "you" I actually mean you, not just me. They're even easier than making muffins. If you can read a thermometer and follow basic directions, you can make marshmallows. And while they have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever (yeah sugar!), they are easily customizable depending on your desired flavor.
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with ½ cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment ready.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining ½ cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes (do not stir). Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm (feel the bowl), approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping, prepare the pan as follows.
Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 9 by 13 inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan (if you're like me, you will make quite a mess). Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch (or larger if desired) squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the powdered sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
For Peppermint Marshmallows
Substitute ¾ tsp peppermint extract for the vanilla extract. Can also add 4-5 drops of red food coloring after spreading marshmallow into pan. Use a toothpick to swirl it into the marshmallows.
For Strawberry Marshmallows
Add ½ cup strawberry puree (Cook fresh or frozen strawberries in a saucepan until broken down and thickened and puree in a blender, food processor or magic bullet. Return to room temperature before using.) to marshmallow during the last 2 minutes of beating. Do not add the vanilla.
Adapted from Alton Brown
Lentils need a more exciting name. I think it's the boring word that's holding these back from shining in the majority of people's diets. They're not only cheap, but packed with protein, easy to cook, and highly versatile. The lentils in these cookies are cooked and pureed, so you would never know they're in there. However, it gives a tasty treat an extra protein punch and would make a good post workout snack. After having success with these, I'm now searching for further mediums in which to sneak them into foods. I've discovered that the best way to get people to try my "creations" is to detail the ingredients after they've tasted them.
Cook's Note: If desired, a quarter of the whole-wheat flour can be substituted with lentil flour for a denser, stronger flavored cookie.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.
In the bowl of a stand-mixer with a whisk attachment, cream together the sugar and butter on medium speed.
Add the egg and mix until just incorporated. Add the vanilla and lentil puree and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and blend on low speed until just combined.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the oats, dried fruit and coconut.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.
In a small pot over medium heat, combine the lentils and the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Remove from the heat and puree. If using immediately, let cool. The puree can be stored n the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
I made these to give out for the UW Women's Cross Country before their trip to Nationals. Somehow, I managed to lose this recipe between the car and the grocery store. Luckily I had already made the dough (but not baked it), but still was searching for a good icing recipe while I was in the store. Fatigue took hold and I have to admit that I bought the icing. It pains me to say that. And while I think I can hold my own in the kitchen, a cookie decorator I am not. These are alternate gingerbread and icing recipes that I found and look even better than the ones I used.
· 4 cups white whole wheat flour
· ¾ tsp baking soda
· 1 tsp salt
· 4 tsp ground ginger
· 1 tsp ground cloves
· 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
· ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
· 11 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
· 2/3 cup dark natural cane sugar (i.e. muscavado), or alternately use a dark brown sugar, packed
· 3 large eggs
· 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly 1/8-inch thick and cut into gingerbread men (or other desired shapes). Transfer to baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes (will depend on the size of your cookies.
Makes about 3 dozen four-inch gingerbread men.
Visit the Joy of Baking website for a great explanation of royal icing. There are some techniques for making it and getting the right consistency. Or you could be like me and just buy it pre-made. There are 2 ways to make it: With egg whites or meringue powder. While meringue powder is harder to locate, some people favor it due to the risks associated with using raw eggs. Here is the recipe if you use egg whites. Visit the website for the meringue version.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until combined. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. (The right consistency to cover or "flood" sugar cookies is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing. Another test is to take a cookie and place a small amount of icing in the center of the cookie. Using a small knife, push the icing to the edge of the cookie. If the icing runs off the edge, thicken the icing by adding a little more powdered sugar. Conversely, if the icing is too thick, add a little water.) The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
To make icing that is thicker and is good for creating the border of the cookie, one egg white and 2 cups of powdered sugar are used. See the Joy of Baking site for further directions.
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