Sunday, December 21, 2014

Swedish Tea Ring

Swedish Tea Ring

When I was a girl, a week or so before Christmas a large box would arrive at our house.  It was from my paternal grandmother.  She was a woman I saw rarely because my parents divorced when I was a baby and I never knew my father.  Even though the circumstances of our relationship were less than ideal, the feeling of love I received from her was palpable.  

My grandmother was the best baker I have ever met.  Her rye bread would melt in your mouth and every Christmas she would make Swedish tea rings.  She was of Swedish decent and is now buried in a small Swedish cemetery.  Each year at Christmas she would send us a box of wonderful homemade goodies; some baked, some candies.  A Swedish tea ring was always among the gifts.  In addition to the extraordinary holiday treats, she would always send small gifts such as mittens, a scarf, a modest game, etc.  The gifts were not that memorable but the love and thought that went into that box have made a memory I will carry with me always.  

Each year I continue my grandmother's tradition.  I bake two tea rings--one for Christmas morning and the other to give to our daughter and her husband.  The exercise is a gift to myself more than anything else.  It binds me to a memory of a woman who I really didn't know all that well, but from whom I received love and Christmas joy.  Each Christmas I travel to my grandmother's grave to place greens (my own small gift in gratitude for her love).  As I bake the tea rings and smell them, I think of her and the timeless gift of love and memory she gave to me.  I hope you enjoy the recipe.  Perhaps you can make your own memories with it.  Olivia and I wish you a very Merry Christmas.  We hope you rejoice in the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Swedish Tea Ring (makes one ring)
Sweet Dough:
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105-155 degrees)
1/4 cup lukewarm milk, scalded then cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup shortening
2/1/4-2 1/2 cups flour
In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir in milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening, and half the flour.  Mix with spoon until smooth.  Add enough remaining flour to handle easily; mix with hand or spoon (you may also use a dough hook on a stand mixer but don't overwork the dough).  Turn onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Round up in greased bowl; turn once to bring greased side up.  Cover; let rise in warm place (85 degrees) until double, about 1 1/2 hours.  To test for rising, stick 2 fingers in dough.  If holes remain but top stays smooth, dough is ready.  Punch down.  Follow tea ring recipe and bake.
Tea Ring:
Sweet dough
2 T. soft butter or margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisins
Creamy White Glaze
Roll dough on lightly floured board into rectangle--about 15 by 9 inches; spread with butter.  Stir together sugar, cinnamon and raisins.  Sprinkle over the dough.  Beginning at the long side, roll up tightly as for a jelly roll.  Seal well by pinching edges of the roll together.  Stretch roll slightly to make it even.  Place sealed edge down in a ring on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Pinch ends together.  With scissors, make cuts 2/3 way through the ring at 1 inch intervals.  Turn each section on its side.  Let rise until double--about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes (less if your oven tends to be hot).  While warm frost with creamy white glaze.
Creamy White Glaze:
3 T. melted butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2-3 T orange juice (or until desired consistency)

After you frost the tea ring, decorate with nuts and cherries.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


I'm going to be honest with you, I haven't tried these.  This is a recipe Olivia came up with on her own.  When I read down through the list of ingredients, I told myself I have to make these at some point.  Olivia is really good at mixing sweet and savory flavors so that they  complement one another.  I'm pretty certain she has achieved this with these sweet potato fries.  The vinegar and lime juice blending with the maple syrup and chili powder just have to be a winning combination.  After the holiday rush is over and you feel yourself slipping back into a culinary rut, give these fries a try!


1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
dash of onion powder
dash of garlic powder
dash of ground ginger
dash of Ancho chili powder
4 medium sweet potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all of the ingredients together except for the sweet potatoes in a small bowl.  Scrub and wash the sweet potatoes and cut them lengthwise into sticks.  Place sweet potato sticks in a large bowl and pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes.  Toss to coat as well as possible.  Transfer the sticks to a foil lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Use a spatula to stir and flip the sticks.  Continue to bake for another 20 minutes or so until the sweet potatoes are gently caramelized and  soft to the touch.  Serve immediately!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cook Off

It is that festive time of the year when Olivia and I fire up the ovens and start the baking and candy making in preparation for sharing our efforts with friends.  This year we are each preparing items at our homes, packaging them and then getting together the "swap" so we enjoy some of the variety each of us has made and it makes our baskets and platters even more fun for the recipients.  Olivia borrowed the two recipes listed below to make this year.  She did a side by side taste test with her husband and her father (my husband) to see which cookie was enjoyed the most.  Olivia and her dad preferred the softbatch cookie.  Dan preferred the New York Times cookie.  I guess that means both were very good and both are recommended.  We really hope you enjoy holiday baking and giving homemade goodies as gifts as much as we do!

from The New York Times website
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Yield: about 28 medium-small cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 3+ hours, for dough chilling

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (use cream cheese in a block or spreadable, don't use fat-free, light or whipped)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 cup chips and 1 1/4 cups chunks)

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, cream cheese (measure it by smooshing it into a 1/4-cup measure), sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use an electric hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes).

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
Add chocolate chips and chunks, and beat momentarily to incorporate, or fold in by hand.

Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping mounds (I made 28). Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly with your palm, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat or spray with cooking spray and place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet). Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Do not bake longer than 10 minutes as cookies will firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked with dough that had been chilled overnight, allowed to come to room temp for 15 minutes, and were baked for 8 minutes, with trays rotated at the 4-minute mark. They have chewy edges with soft, pillowy centers). Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.