From the Kitchen Witch's Pantry:
Holiday Baking 2014
There are two types of people in the world: Those who eat to live and those who live to eat. As a kitchen witch I modify this idea: There are those who cook to live and those who live to cook. For me cooking is a reflection of my love and affection for friends and family. I put my heart, soul and intention into any dish I cook, be it toast or a seven course feast. Each dish is planned with care and the individual needs - physical, spiritual and emotional - of the person I am planning the meal around.
There is ego involved as well! It would be dishonest to deny that I love the praises that come to me when people eat my food. There is a rush to observe that look of ecstasy that crosses someone’s face when they are eating a food that their body craves. There is the crushing blow that can feel physical when someone does not like something I have made for them. I come from a long line of excellent home cooks and generational lines of women who show their love of family through their cooking. I hope then that you can understand the joy it brings to share recipes during this time of the year.
I want to pause just for a moment to consider April’s post from last month about how to choose what holidays are important to you this time of year and how you wish to celebrate the holidays with your family. The holidays we choose will inform our cooking, and the cooking traditions that we love will influence our holidays. Many Pagan traditions celebrate the solstice with different holidays – Yule and Saturnalia come immediately to mind. Take your family recipes, your holiday memories and run with them! Feasts are a human tradition. Don’t let anyone take them away from you. Turn the bright memories of food you love during the holidays into your own family tradition.
Cooking and food are symbol sets – different foods mean different things and possess different energies. Food is fuel for our bodies, food can help us find health or it can cause ill health. Food can help us to achieve spiritual health or to restore a tired spirit. Research your food! Know how the herbs you use in cooking will affect your body. Know the history of the grains used in your bread and the mythology of the fruits and nuts you put into your mouth.
I am sharing two recipes with you today. The first is a Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookie and the second is Orange Brioche Bread. I am going to walk you quickly though my thought process for picking these two items.
Chocolate Molasses Ginger Cookies
Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookie reminds me of the time my family spent in Germany when my husband was stationed there. Those memories of our children still small and full of wonder and awe at the world are joyful for me, and so they create a strong emotional boost when eating these cookies. Chocolate is a mood lifter, and studies have shown that chocolate can boost the serotonin levels in your brain as well as defend against the malaise that comes from Dementors. Molasses is an iron rich food full of micro and macro nutrients: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and copper just to name a few. It has a number of positive healthy effects such as calming the nervous system, building healthy red blood cells and boosting the immune system. Ginger warms the body and aids in digestion. I make these cookies for friends who are recovering from surgery and around the Winter Solstice Holidays not only because they taste amazing but because of the health benefits that can come from eating a cookie. The chocolate and the molasses with their dark earthiness hint to the underworld, Hades in his full power, while the ginger reminds us of the fire and warmth of the sun and its promise to return.
Chocolate Molasses Ginger Cookies
These cookies convert very easily into gluten free as well as vegan
1 stick unsalted butter (or vegan equivalent)
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 egg (optional - the egg can be omitted completely from this recipe, but if you omit the egg increase your fat by ¼ of a cup)
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (can use an AP Gluten free flour mix)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
8 to 10 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup granulated sugar (reserved)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter with brown sugar and egg if you are using until combined. Add in molasses and mix to combine. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, ground ginger, grated ginger, and chopped crystallized ginger, cinnamon, cloves, Chinese five spice powder and nutmeg. Slowly add to butter mixture, mixing until well combined.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Transfer to refrigerator. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. I like overnight for full flavor.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a 1/2 ounce ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto a plate with the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar; roll the dough into balls coating with the granulated sugar. Place on a baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart – gently press to flatten. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Will make around 2 dozen cookies
Orange Brioche Bread
The Orange Brioche Bread comes from the need to have something rich and extravagant to eat this time of year. If we look far back into the evolution of humanity as a species, sliding into winter was a perilous time. We were looking ahead to months of bland and boring preserved food or possibly no food at all. It was important to bulk up and to use as much of our perishable food as possible before it would spoil. Ah… thank the God/dess for electricity and refrigeration! Brioche is sweet, buttery, eggy bread common in Europe with roots in Greece and Turkey. I have added orange to this bread to bring in the solar aspect of the holiday celebrating the return of the sun. Brioche is the rich decadence that Marie Antoinette would have been speaking of had she truly said “Let them eat cake!” Brioche is a labor of love; the best recipes take two days to make. There is an art and science to making bread that takes practice and time. Yeast is a living thing and it can be finicky if too hot or too cold. Then there is the fine skill that comes from knowing how to knead the dough and when your dough has been kneaded properly to the right consistency. If this is your first time making bread from scratch I recommend watching a few YouTube videos or finding a friend who has made bread before to coach you through your first few loaves.
Orange Brioche Bread
Brioche does not translate well into gluten free or vegan. I am working on it so if anyone has ever tried and has a successful recipe please share.
2/3 cup warm milk (between 95 degrees and no hotter than 115 degrees )
3 tablespoons honey
1 package of yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
Mix well and let sit for 10 minutes until yeast starts to bubble.
1 stick melted unsalted butter
Zest of two oranges
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons honey
3 to 5 cups of flour – can be a mix of white and whole wheat suited to your flavor preference. (Flour is VERY susceptible to the moisture in the air; the more moisture in the air, say it’s raining out the day you make the Brioche, the more flour you will need for your baking).
1 egg & 1 teaspoon of water beaten together
In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of your stand mixer add the yeast mixture to your bowl. Add 1 cup of flour, 1 egg, the honey, salt, orange zest and melted butter. Stir to combine. Now slowly add second cup of flour and second egg, mixing to combine. Repeat with third egg and third cup of flour. Mix to combine. You will knead your bread for 10 to 20 minutes, 10 minutes in a stand mixer and 20 by hand. Good to have a friend help with it if you are making by hand. This is where you will play with the amount of flour you need for your bread. The dough should be sticky but not too sticky, meaning it will stick to the sides of the bowl or your hands but not too sticky to the point where it will not hold its shape or slid off your hands with ease. The dough will become shiny. Place your bread into a lightly buttered bowl and let sit covered for an hour or two until it has doubled in size. You will punch your bread down, say hello to the happy yeasts and return to your buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in your refrigerator overnight. After the 12 to 24 hour nap remove your dough from the fridge, punch it down again and let it warm slowly up to room temperature. Make your glaze if you are using, set it aside so it can cool to room temperature. Butter a spring form pan and divide your dough into seven balls around the same shape. Place the dough into the pan and let rise again for about an hour. At the 1/2 hour mark begin to preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once your brioche rolls have doubled in size, brush with an egg wash (1 egg + a tablespoon of water) place in your preheated oven for 22 to 30 minutes. Rolls should be lightly golden brown and read 200 degrees with an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven and drizzle glaze over the rolls while they are still hot. Let cool just enough so you do not burn your mouth and enjoy.
Juice of one orange
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup of honey
Bring all the ingredients to a boil and then cool to room temp.