Applesauce

Applesauce-in-a-dish

Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Levesque

Just the thought of a bowl of warm, homemade applesauce makes my mouth water.  I have a lot of fond memories of my kids when they were little, eating warm applesauce on cold mornings (think snow days).  It is very simple to make, plus you control how much sugar goes in.  Depending on the type of apples you use, you may not need to add any sugar at all.

Applesauce can also be used to cut the fat in baked goods by replacing as much as half the fat, but beware…replacing all the fat in baked goods can sometimes result in a rubbery texture. You can make a big batch of applesauce on the weekend and freeze it for later, and Applesauce Cake is delicious.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

Apples

water

sugar, optional

cinnamon, optional

*This is more a formula than a recipe.  Regardless of the number of apples used, the process remains the same.

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Directions

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  1. Start with a pot of water, make sure there is plenty of water to cover all the apples you want to cook.  Don’t worry about there being too much water because you will pour the extra off before you cook the apples.

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2. Peel, core and chop your apples into uniformly small pieces and place them in the water to keep them from turning brown.  When you have peeled, cored, and chopped as many apples as you want, pour off most of the water, leaving just enough to separate the apple pieces.

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3. Cook the apples on medium-high and at a low boil for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are very soft.  Remove from the heat.  At this point you can drain off a little more water, if necessary.

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4. Use a potato masher to break up the chunks of apple.  If you prefer a chunky applesauce, a potato masher may be all you need.

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5. If a smooth applesauce is what you prefer, pour the apples and liquid into a blender or food processor and whirl (it took 7 pulses to get mine as smooth as we like it).

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6. Taste the applesauce and add sugar if needed.  At this point, if I am making this just to eat, I add cinnamon.  If you are making it to use in a recipe, you might prefer it plain.  I did go a little overboard on the cinnamon, that’s why mine turned out so brown, but man is it good.

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Quick Cinnamon Buns

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Recipe adapted from Quick Cinnamon Buns with Buttermilk Icing by America’s Test Kitchen Television Show, 10th Anniversary Best Recipes

Founder and Editor- Christopher Kimball

This recipe intrigued me; the idea of making cinnamon rolls without yeast and in about one-quarter of the time of a traditional cinnamon roll was something that I wanted to investigate.  The dough is quickly mixed all in one bowl and it is patted out rather than rolled out.  The recipe is a sort of cream biscuit (according to the book), “with buttermilk used in place of the cream, baking soda balancing the acidity of the buttermilk and melted butter added to restore some of the richness lost by not using cream in the first place”.

The writers and testers of this recipe compared it to a homemade cinnamon roll and claimed that these were just as tasty as their yeasty cousin.  So I set out to see if it was true.   First of all, I love how fast and easy it was to put together, it takes about 10-15 minutes to mix, pat and roll.  The baking takes about 22 minutes, followed by about a 5 minute cooling and glazing session.  All in all, it takes about 35-45 minutes for the entire procedure, whereas making yeast bread cinnamon rolls takes hours from start to finish.

Then came the taste test.  I felt that the amount of sugar used to sprinkle on the dough was quite excessive.  Next time I make these, I will probably cut back about 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and a few tablespoons of the granulated sugar.  The glaze is quite sweet (and there is a lot of it, I had some left over) and will more than make up for the deleted sugar.

The buns hold together well, the dough bakes up nice and plump and is tender and moist.  However, this is a biscuit dough and like most biscuits, these rolls must be consumed almost immediately (not usually a problem here) because biscuit dough does not keep well.  I have to say that they were pretty damn good.  The yeasty flavor is lacking, but after a bite or two you will completely forget about that.  Enjoy!

Filling Ingredients

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon butter, melted (see note below)

Dough Ingredients

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the work surface

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk  (since I rarely have buttermilk in the house I substituted with vinegar, you can substitute for the buttermilk with 1 Tablespoon and 1/8 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice and enough milk to equal 1 1/4 cup)

6 Tablespoons butter, melted (see note below)

Icing Ingredients

2 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons buttermilk (I used 2 % milk)

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

**note** Melted butter is used in the dough, filling, and to grease the pan.  The total amount is 8 Tablespoons (1 stick), melt it ahead of time and measure it out as you need it.

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Directions

1. Move oven rack to the upper middle position in your oven, then preheat the oven to 425° F.

2. Pour 1 Tablespoon melted butter into a 9 inch cake pan and brush to coat the pan.

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3. For the filling; Combine the sugars, spices and salt.  Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand.

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4. For the dough; Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk the buttermilk and 2 Tablespoons of the melted butter together in a measuring cup ( if you use the vinegar to make your buttermilk, you will notice that the butter clumps up once you add it to the measuring cup-it still works and tastes fine).

5. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until the liquid is absorbed.  The dough will be rough and ragged looking.

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6. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead just until smooth.  Do not overknead because it will make the dough tough.  I pushed and folded my dough only about 5 or 6 times.

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7. Pat the dough with your hands into a 9 inch by 12 inch rectangle.  Brush the dough with 2 Tablespoons of the melted butter.  Sprinkle with the filling, leaving a 1/2 inch wide border of plain dough around the edges.  Press the filling firmly into the dough.

8.  Starting at a long side, roll the dough, pressing lightly to form a tight log.  Pinch the seam to seal.  Place seam on bottom and slice the log into 8 pieces.

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9. With your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal the open edges and to keep the filling in place.  Place 1 roll in the center of the pan and the remaining 7 rolls around it.  Brush the last 2 Tablespoons of butter on the rolls.

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10. Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 22-25 minutes.  Using a small off-set spatula, transfer the buns from the cake pan to the serving platter.  Cool for 5 minutes.

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11. For the Icing; While the buns are cooling, whisk the cream cheese, vanilla and milk together until thick and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and whisk until a smooth glaze forms.  Spoon the glaze over the rolls and serve.

Old-Fashioned Crumb Coffeecake

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Recipe courtesy of Baking Illustrated by The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

published by America’s Test Kitchen

This morning I woke up poised and ready to make white linen napkins for Easter.  I purchased the fabric last fall with the intention of making the napkins for Christmas, but got too busy (all my sewing friends have this problem).  I made this coffeecake and started thinking about all the other special occasions on the horizon; Mother’s Day, baby showers, graduations, etc. This simple, buttery cake would be perfect served for brunch, with or without the linen napkins. Enjoy!

 

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Ingredients

1Tablespoon dry bread crumbs

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons, granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, softened but still cool

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup buttermilk or low-fat (not nonfat) plain yogurt, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cups walnuts or pecans, chopped fine

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

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1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F.  Generously grease the bottom and lightly grease the sides of a 10 inch springform pan.  Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with bread crumbs, then shake lightly to coat.  Tap out excess crumbs.

2. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl until blended.  Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Remove 1 cup of the flour mixture to a separate bowl and set aside (I found that much sugar topping to be excessive.  Next time I make this cake I will only use 1/2 cup of the flour mixture, 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and 1/2 cup nuts).

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3. Whisk the baking powder and baking soda into the flour mixture remaining in the bowl.  Add the buttermilk, egg and vanilla; whisk vigorously (or use an electric mixer) until the batter is thick, smooth, fluffy, and frosting-like, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

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4. Add the nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon to the reserved crumbs of flour, sugar and butter; toss with a fork or your hands until blended.  Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter, pressing lightly so that they adhere.  Bake the cake until the center is firm and a cake tester comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack; remove the sides of the pan.  Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours, before serving.  When completely cooled, the cake can be slid off the pan bottom and onto a serving plate.

Linzer Hearts

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Recipe is courtesy of Fox Run Craftsmen, Ivyland, Pa. 18974

These very pretty Linzer cookies are inspired by the Linzertorte, a famous Austrian dessert.  Linzer cookies are basically a sandwich cookie, with a decorative cut-out on the top cookie.  The bottom cookie is spread with jam, the top cookie is sprinkled with powdered sugar, and then carefully placed on top of the jam. You can find special cookie cutters to make these cookies at most kitchen stores.  They usually come with several inserts to choose from (star, heart, diamond, etc.) for cutting out the top cookie.  This recipe came with my Linzer cookie cutter set.  If you do not have these cutters at home, don’t fret, just use a medium-sized cutter (about 2 inches wide) for the top and bottom cookie (circle, square, heart, etc.), then any small cookie cutter for the decorative cut-out.

I used seedless raspberry jam, but you can substitute cherry, apricot, strawberry, black currant, whatever you prefer.  If you love chocolate (and who doesn’t), substitute a chocolate glaze or frosting for the jam.  If you prefer to use chocolate, substitute orange zest for the lemon zest. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup whole nuts, hazelnuts or almonds
1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
powdered sugar, for dusting cookie tops
1 cup jam, for spreading on the bottom cookies (I used seedless raspberry)

 

Directions

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1.Place nuts in a food processor and process until medium-fine in texture.

 

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2. Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high, until light and fluffy.

 

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3. Add eggs and beat until smooth.  Add vanilla and beat until combined.

 

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4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest.

 

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5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat to combine.  Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece with wax paper or plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, about 30-40 minutes.

 

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6.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or Silpat.  Dust a clean surface with flour, and roll out one piece of dough to approximately 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out about 36 cookies and transfer to the cookie sheets, leaving about an inch in between the cookies.  These will be the bottom pieces.

 

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7. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.  Keep in mind that the time may need to be adjusted if you use a different size cutter than 2 inches, you may also wind up with a different amount of cookies.

 

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8. Place cookies on a rack to cool.  Cut out the top cookies and using a small cutter, cut out a decorative piece.  Re-roll the small pieces and continue to cut until you have an equal number of tops and bottoms.  Bake the tops for about 8 minutes and allow them to cool on a rack.

 

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9. Spread about 1 teaspoon jam on the bottom cookie.  Sift powdered sugar over the top cookie and then place it gently on top of the jam of the bottom cookie.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

 

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A Linzer cookie cutter with decorative inserts

 

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other cookie cutter options

 

 

Chocolate Spice Sorbet with Chocolate Sauce

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Recipes courtesy of Crazy About Chocolate by Krystina Castella

Chocolate Spice Sorbet is a light and refreshing alternative to ice cream.  If you do not like cardamom ( or do not want to spend a lot of money on a spice that you will never use again), Krystina Castella recommends some flavor variations; you can replace the cinnamon and cardamom with mint, ginger, lavender, raspberry, or orange.  Sorbet does not freeze as hard as ice cream, so plan on placing the sorbet in the freezer overnight before serving.

The Chocolate Sauce is rich, velvety, and full of fat.  It is a great contrast to the sorbet, and would be delicious served with cakes or breads (gingerbread or banana bread would be awesome), or bottled and given as a gift with an ice cream scoop.  I dipped walnuts in the sauce and drizzled some sauce on the sorbet.  This book would also be a terrific gift for the chocolate lover on your list. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Spice Sorbet Ingredients
3 cups water
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70 % cacao), finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Chocolate Sauce Ingredients
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

 

Chocolate Spice Sorbet Directions

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1. Combine the water, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and sugar in a large saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until the mixture has reduced to about 2 1/4 cups ( the syrup will become thicker and will boil slightly, but don’t allow it to become a full rolling boil).  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean.

 

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2. Return the pan to the stove top and add the cocoa powder and salt.  Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.  Once it starts boiling, whisk constantly for an additional 30 seconds.

 

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3. Remove from the heat and stir in the bittersweet chocolate and cardamom.  Stir until the chocolate has melted.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until thick but still pourable ( I transferred the mixture to a heat-proof bowl before placing it in the fridge).

 

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4. Freeze the sorbet in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  The sorbet will be soft-frozen, so scoop into serving dishes immediately before serving. * Even after 30 minutes in the ice cream maker, my sorbet was too soft to hold its shape.  I put it in the freezer overnight before trying to dip it.

 

 Chocolate Sauce Directions

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1. Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water.

 

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2. Stir in the sugar and cream and lower the heat.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until thick.

Snickerdoodles

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Recipe courtesy of Tina Luther and the Detroit City School District

These are the cookies that some of us grew up eating in the school lunchroom.  In 1987, when I was expecting our son Bobby, my friend Tina Luther gave me this recipe. We were stationed together in Japan at the time and Tina was going home on leave to Detroit, Michigan.  Tina visited her elementary school and was surprised to see that the lunch lady from her childhood was still there.  Tina requested this recipe, which originally yielded 500 cookies, and her lunch lady obliged.  They broke down the recipe with a calculator (this was before computers) to the recipe listed below.  These are still Bobby’s favorite cookies.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

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1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together butter, shortening, and the 1 1/2 cups sugar. Do not overbeat. Mix in the eggs.  Blend in the flour,cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

 

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2. At this point you can either use a spoon to shape the dough into balls or a small scoop.   I prefer to use the scoop so that all the cookies are uniform in size and shape.  The scoop I used here holds exactly 2 teaspoons.

 

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3. Mix the 3 Tablespoons sugar and the 1 Tablespoon cinnamon together on a plate.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

 

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4. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and place on a rack to cool.  The perfect Snickerdoodle is crisp on the bottom, crinkly on the top and chewy in the middle.

Hot Cross Buns

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Recipes courtesy of A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz

and The Bread Book by Betsy Oppenneer

A traditional Lenten food, Hot Cross Buns are a spicy yeast bread with candied fruit and an icing cross on top. I bake them every year during Holy Week. The recipe that I’ve used for years comes from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz.

According to the author, Hot Cross Buns were originally eaten only on Good Friday. A monk, Father Rocliff, and the cook at St. Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire, England in 1361 made these special buns, marked with the sign of the cross, to give to the poor with a bowl of soup. The custom continued and they became very popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England. Good Friday bread was considered blessed, and people believed it provided protection against disease and danger.

The recipe calls for candied orange peel. We weren’t always stationed where I could find good candied peel so I learned how to make my own. It is somewhat time-consuming, but the flavor is fantastic. I’m including the instructions from Betsy Oppenneer’s book for making the candied peel in case you would like to try making your own, or you can simply use orange zest.  Enjoy!

Hot Cross Bun Ingredients 

2 1/2 teaspoons active-dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (about 100-110 degrees)

1 teaspoon white or light brown sugar

1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon ( I like these buns spicy, so I always double the amounts of cinnamon to 2 teaspoons, and cloves, nutmeg and ginger to 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2/3 cup dried currants (or raisins)

1/2 cup finely diced or julienned candied orange peel (or zest

 

Icing Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon lemon juice
water

Hot Cross Bun Directions

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1. Sprinkle the yeast into the lukewarm water.

 

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2. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar, let sit until foamy.

 

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3. Scald the milk. Add the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until blended. Cool until lukewarm.

 

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4. Beat the eggs until light, combine with the milk mixture, and add the yeast.

 

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5. Sift 3 1/2 cups of the flour with the spices into a mixing bowl. Make a well and pour in the yeast mixture. Beat for 5 minutes.

 

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6. Toss the raisins (currants), and orange peel, with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Mix into the dough.

 

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7. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be fairly firm, or else the cuts for the crosses will not hold up.

 

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8. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover the dough with a towel and put it to rise in a draft-free scene until it is doubled in volume, about 2 hours.  Punch down the dough and shape it into 2 dozen buns. Place them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on a well-greased cookie sheet, or in muffin pans. With a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of each bun. Allow the buns to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350°F.

 

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9. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before piping the icing cross on top.

 

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Icing Directions

1. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice. Add water, a drop at a time, until the icing is of a loose enough consistency to pipe on the buns. It should be quite thick, though, or else it will run off the buns instead of making a cross.

2. Pour icing into a disposable sandwich bag, clip the corner with a pair of scissors, and push the icing out onto the buns, forming a cross on each bun.

 

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Candied Fruit Peel Ingredients

4 large grapefruit (or 6 large navel oranges, or 10 tangerines, or 12 large lemons)

2 1/2 cups plus 1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups water

 

Candied Fruit Peel Directions

1. To remove any dirt or waxy preservative, wash the fruit with a dish cloth and mild detergent. Rinse well.

2. Remove the peel from the fruit. There are gadgets available that remove just the peel (and not the pith). If you don’t have one of these such gadgets; cut the fruit into fourths, separate the peel from the pulp and trim excess white pith. Peel should be about 1/4 inch thick. Chop the peel into 1/4 inch dice (If making this for a gift, or to snack on, do not cut the peel so small. Longer pieces look pretty in a jar). Rough-skinned citrus fruits have thicker peel and more white pith (very bitter-tasting) than smoother-skinned varieties. If there is too much white pith, trim the peel with a sharp knife so that the peel is only about 1/4 inch thick.

3. Put the peel into a heavy saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, simmer for 5 minutes, and strain through a sieve.

4. Return the peel to the saucepan and repeat step 3. Strain the peel.

5. Combine 2 1/2 cups sugar with the corn syrup in the saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. After the sugar dissolves, there is no need to stir.

6. Add the peel to the sugar mixture and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

7. Strain the mixture through a sieve (you can save the sugar mixture to use in tea, lemonade, etc.).

8. Pour the remaining 1 cup sugar into a plastic bag. Add the peel and shake the bag until the peel is completely coated with sugar. Separate the pieces of peel if they stick together.

9. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Spread the peel out on the paper to cool and air dry for 6 hours, or until it is completely dry. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

*You can skip the last step of coating the peel in sugar, and instead allow the peel to dry a bit before carefully separating the sticky peel and then allowing it to dry before using.*