Thursday, December 22, 2011

mulled wine for winter cheer

Recently, a dear friend came into town for a visit. We had put the date on our calendars over a month ago, but hadn't yet decided how we were going to spend our evening together. On the day of our long-anticipated date, we got on the phone and decided to go shopping for snacks and bevvies together. After conferring with each other, we decided on mulled wine, cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese, and chili chocolate.

Using the recipe in Joy of Cooking as a rough guide, we had delicious mulled wine that evening, just the two of us. But then, I decided to revamp the recipe for a party I was hosting. And, I scaled it up from two servings to 20.

The mulled wine (and the party) were a hit! I added some white grape juice, because I found the taste of straight simmered wine a bit too potent and slightly bitter for my taste. This is eminently drinkable, and very warming. I hope you enjoy lifting a cup of this with some loved ones this Christmas season.

Mulled Wine (with props to Mama Rombauer)

1.5 litres of dry red wine (ask your wine merchant for a recommendation - they'll direct you straight to a "value" red wine, which gets dressed up beautifully for the occasion)
1 litre of white grape juice
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/3 cup Cointreau orange liqueur
3 - 4 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, sliced into 1/2" thick slices, and studded with whole cloves

Pour all ingredients into a pot. Stir to mix until sugar is dissolved. Bring up just to a simmer, and then keep warm to serve. You can also prep and serve this in a crock pot if you have time.

Makes about 20 servings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

In my last post,  I promised to share recipes I received via the recipe exchange I just sent out. Granted, this is NOT a recipe from a kind culinary stranger-cum-friend, but it was so fuss-less and easy I couldn't resist sharing it. In fact, it was so fuss-less to make that I started baking at 9 o'clock last night! 10 minutes later it was in the oven, and Jordan and I were curled up watching an old episode of The Sing-Off on PVR. The bread was baked before the show was over, and it smelled so delicious we had to try just one slice. Well, half a loaf later, and it had received Jordan's stamp of approval: after finishing his second slice, he flashed me a big grin and said nothing but "Mmm!"

This recipe has not changed since the 1970s, and once you taste it, you'll believe why. I am pretty sure that this recipe will quickly find its way into my memory, and will appear regularly whenever a surplus of pumpkin puree is lying around. The loaf is tender and moist, very fluffy, and the pecans add just the right amount of earthiness and crunch. It is nearly sweet enough to be considered cake, and makes an excellent accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. I halved the recipe, and still came out with two 8 inch loaves.


Pumpkin Bread
adapted from The Wednesday Chef
who adapted it from the Monastery of Angels

Heat your oven to 350˚ F. Butter and flour two 8-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk or sift together:
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour1 1/3 cups sugar1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg1/4 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon salt
Set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk together until well mixed:
2 large eggs1/2 cup vegetable oil1/3 cup water1 cup cooked and puréed pumpkin
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Add to the batter:
1/2 cup pecans, chopped if you like (I left mine whole)
and stir until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans, and bake for 50 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of the loaf. If it comes out clean, the loaf is done. Let rest for 5 minutes before removing from loaf pans, and set on a wire rack to cool. Use a sharp knife to cut the loaf, because it can crumble easily.