Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Christmas and the holidays is without a doubt a very stressful time of the year. Christmas cards, church, shopping, parties, decorating, dusting, cleaning, cooking, presents, and more presents. I'm not going to talk about the religious aspect of the holidays, since it's different for everyone. What I will talk about is sharing the holidays with your loved ones, family, friends, and others.
I recently received an email from a friend who informed me that we would not be receiving a Christmas card this year. It wasn't personal, she said, it was just something that was not going to happen this year. Bummer, we always used Christmas cards that were sent to us to decorate for the holidays. I haven't purchased a card in years and prefer using photographs that I took personally to make my own cards.

Chicago Christkindlemarket 2009
To help you get through the stress of the holidays, why not dust off your holiday drink recipes as a starter? This recipe will fill your home with the wonderful aromas of the holidays, guaranteed to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling all over. Warm and fuzzy without any alcohol! The Holiday Wassail was something I learned in my younger years while bartending at a suburban restaurant. It is a drink that the senior clientele just loved. The recipe is simple and you won't believe the aroma. 
Holiday Wassail (non-alcoholic version) 

3          cans     frozen apple juice
1          can       frozen cranberry juice
4          cans     water
1/2       tsp.      cinnamon
1/8       tsp.       ground cloves
1          tsp.       allspice


In a piece of cheesecloth wrap the cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Drop the cheesecloth packet into a large pot. Empty the frozen juices into the pot and add the water. Mix well and heat the Wassail until hot. Remove the cheesecloth spice packet. When it smells and tastes just right ladle the hot Wassail into mugs. Put on some holiday music and serve.
Now I'm sure that one or two of you just might want something with a little more kick to it. Just add a little rum (plain or spiced) to your drink and enjoy!

© TMelle 1998-2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peppermint Bark

Ambrosia Milk Chocolate

Ambrosia Alabaster White Confectionery Coating
In 2007 my wife had some left over candy canes. She put them into the freezer and forgot about them. While shopping at a food co-op in Wisconsin we found that they were selling broken 1-1/4 lb. blocks of Ambrosia® Milk Chocolate and Alabaster White Confectionery coating. We made each separately although you can layer the two flavors and then top with crushed candy canes. The remaining candy canes were used for hot chocolate.

Broken Candy Canes
1.25 lbs. Milk Chocolate (broken into pieces)
1.25 lbs. White Chocolate (broken into pieces)
10 whole Candy canes (broken into small pieces)

Break the chocolate into smaller pieces and set to the side. Divide the candy canes into two plastic bags, five in each. Using a meat mallet or rolling pin crush the candy canes in each bag. Line a cookie sheet with sheet with parchment, or waxed paper. Break the dark and white chocolate into smaller pieces so that they melt quickly. Place the chocolate pieces into a double boiler that has been brought to a boil and then reduced to a simmer. As the chocolate melts, continue stirring until the chocolate is smooth.
Add crushed peppermint
Using a fine mesh strainer held over the melted chocolate, pour the crushed candy into the strainer, shaking to get incorporate the candy can dust into the milk chocolate. Stir until well blended. Set the larger crushed candy cane pieces to the side.
Sprinkle on candy canes
Pour the melted chocolate evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and smooth it out using a silicone spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate evenly with remaining crushed candy pieces. Let the peppermint bark stand about 1 hour or until it hardens. Clean up the double boiler and any spoons or spatulas’s that you have used. Repeat the process using the white chocolate and the remaining candy canes.
Ready for bagging or tins
Variation: After you pour out the milk chocolate on the sheet, do not add the candy cane pieces, Allow the milk chocolate to cool completely before melting the white chocolate. Once the milk chocolate is cool, melt the white chocolate. Pour the white chocolate over the milk chocolate and spread evenly. Sprinkle the white chocolate evenly with remaining crushed candy pieces. Let the peppermint bark stand until it hardens. When the bark is hard, break it into pieces and serve, or wrap in plastic bags or metal tins for gift giving. Enjoy
Peppermint Bark - Yield: 2-1/2 lbs.

QUESTION: What smells remind you of Christmas?

 More to follow

© TMelle 1998-2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


No Room For Vegetables
Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner and I can hardly wait. Just look at my plate. Traditionally turkey is served with all of the trimmings. In case you’re wondering, the trimmings consist of:
Oven Roasted Turkey
Stuffing (some call it dressing)
Plenty of Turkey Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Cauliflower Casserole

Corn Casserole
Stuffed Celery (Kraft brand Roka Blu & Cream Cheese)
Sour Cream Cucumbers
Black Pitted Olives
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Apple Pie
If We're Lucky... Christmas Cookies

This really is the one meal that I look forward to each and every year. Tell me about your Thanksgiving traditions and what you'll be serving this year. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.
PS. If you're looking for something different as a side dish, why not try making Kartoffelklösse! Turkey gravy is great on those as well.
Open Face Turkey Sandwich with Leftovers
Turkey Pot Pie

© TMelle 1998-2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pâte à Choux

Chocolate Eclair's
If you've ever eaten a chocolate eclair, a cream puff, or a profiterole, then you have already enjoyed the unique airy, flaky texture and flavor of Pâte à Choux. 
In the mid 90's, I worked at a gourmet restaurant and banquet facility in Chicago. One of the most often requested appetizers was a savory filling in a Pâte à Choux puff pastry. These pastry appetizers brought a higher price of $2.00 each instead of $1.00 or $1.50. This same dough was also used to make pastry swans. The body of the swan was filled with sour cream before being floated in a bowl of rich Polish mushroom soup. The swan took the dish to a whole new visual, and price point level as well. One day my daughter brought some profiteroles home from her culinary school baking class. We just had to make some for me so I could put together some special savory appetizers like the "lobster puffs" picture on the upper left side of this page. So my daughter taught me to make Pâte à Choux. 
Get out your scale
The difference between cooking and baking is that baking is much less forgiving than cooking. When a recipe is a baking one, a scale is often required to measure ingredients, whereas cooking requires less precise measurements. Often visual clues are required to tell if it is time to proceed to the next step. Pâte à Choux is one such recipe. 
Making Pâte à Choux dough is much like making a roux
You just have to sift
8 oz. water, or milk (1 cup), or half water half milk (4oz ea)
4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. all-purpose flour 
10 large eggs
Sifted flour

Beat some eggs
Bring water/milk and butter to a boil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Boil water, milk, and butter until melted. Add salt. Remove from heat and add flour. Work mixture together and return to heat. Continue working the mixture until all flour is incorporated and dough forms a ball. The mix will be ready when a light brown film forms on the bottom of the pan; Remember color is flavor! Transfer mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer. 

Add sifted flour to hot milk and butter
There should be a light brown film on bottom of pan
Place dough in mixer. Mix in the eggs
With mixer on medium speed add egg 1 at a time, making sure the first egg is completely incorporated before continuing. It is important to note that the mixture will separate and then come together again each time you add an egg; this should happen. Also, you may not need all the eggs. The Pate A Choux will be the right texture when you grab a piece between your thumb and index finger (pointer finger) and pull your finger and thumb apart. The dough should be  elastic, without breaking. Once all eggs have been added and the mixture is smooth put dough into piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe immediately into golf ball-size shapes, 2 inches apart onto parchment lined sheet pans. Wet your fingertip with water and push down slightly on the tip to keep these from burning. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Once they are removed from the oven pierce with a paring knife immediately to release steam.

 Eggs incorporated into the dough
Dough ready for piping

Fill pastry bag with dough
Pipe out 1-1/2" profiteroles 

Press down points with wet finger. Pâte à Choux  ready to bake
Pâte à Choux baked
Cut slit in side to allow steam to escape
Profiteroles ready to use or freezer
There are many pages, pictures, and video's on the internet about making Pâte à Choux and swans.      

© TMelle 1998-2011