Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hot Cross Buns

Though I love to make bread, rolls, and basically any yeast-based dough, I’ve somehow never gotten around to making hot cross buns, the sweet rolls you see in bakeries throughout Lent. Growing up, hot cross buns from the bakery were a staple in our house every Sunday in the weeks leading up to Easter. They are wonderful 

plain – after a short warm-up in the toaster oven — or split in half and toasted, topped with a good salted butter and a little marmalade or jam. There is a good deal of folklore and superstition associated with these little buns, which over the years have been said to bring the ill back to good health; protect against shipwreck on sea 

voyages; protect against fires when hung in the kitchen; and ensure friendship to recipients throughout the coming year. In 16th century England, the sale of hot cross buns was even outlawed except for burials and on Good Friday and Christmas. Nowadays you can enjoy them every day of the year, though they do require a bit of 

effort to make. To ensure tender buns, make sure not to over-knead the dough when adding the dried fruit and when rolling the buns into rounds.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup with Sausage and Red Swiss Chard

Even though I now reside in the Sunshine State, I spent most of my life in and around New York, and am abundantly familiar with the unrelenting harshness of winters in the Northeast. The past two winters have been particularly brutal, with snowstorm after snowstorm and record low temps offering little relief. I know it

 must be bad, because it’s also been cold in South Florida – when I have to turn on the heat, it means it’s pretty darned chilly out. When the temperature dips, there’s nothing better than homemade soup to nourish the soul (I know it’s not dessert, but an occasional savory recipe won’t kill you). This hearty soup is a meal in itself,

especially when served with a crusty country bread or homemade croutons. I love the combination of potato-leek-fennel-and-sausage, with slightly bitter Swiss chard and a dash of lemon juice serving as counterpoint to the rich ingredients. Feel free to substitute kale, spinach or sorrel (if you can find it) for the chard, and leave the sausage out for a lighter soup.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chocolate Heart Cookies with White Chocolate Orange Ganache Filling

Valentine’s Day, the holy grail of Hallmark holidays, is almost upon us. I'm basically a total cynic when it comes to the whole declaration-of-love-through-chocolate-and-flowers thing, and the thought of going out to a restaurant on the night of February 14 sends shivers down my spine (and not in a good way). I favor saying “I love you” 

in smaller, less conspicuous ways throughout the entire year. Baking cookies for my husband is one such way; he is easily pleased and always appreciates the time and effort put into my home-spun sweets. This heart-shaped chocolate sandwich cookie is an ideal way to convey romantic thoughts on Valentine’s Day or any other day of 

the year. The tender chocolate butter cookie sandwiches a delicate orange flavored white chocolate ganache; it’s a good match – the cookie part is not overly sweet, and the white chocolate ganache balances its deep cocoa flavor perfectly. If you’re not in love, that’s ok, too (not that you care what I think!). Bake a batch for yourself, and eat them all in one sitting while watching Wuthering Heights or Waterloo Bridge (two of my favorite old romances) on Netflix. Now that’s my idea of a good Valentine’s Day!
(Click "Read More" below for recipe.)