Ah, December, when my reclusive side is not only tolerated, but exalted. When crackling fires, naps with kitties and piled blankets equal bliss and HBO loses to a Rankin-Bass animated holiday special – you know…Heat Miser, The Island of Misfit Toys, “Put one foot in front of the other.” Don’t pretend like you don’t still watch them.
December is also the month when this recluse can rationalize drinking a nightly mug of this decidedly decadent soul-warming beverage to abate the chill. I’ve been serving this spiked indulgence, which we’ve nicknamed “Hot Bubba,” for almost 30 years.
Hot Buttered Rum
1 pint gourmet Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (softened)
8 oz. Light Brown Sugar (by weight)
8 oz. Powdered Sugar (by weight)
8 oz. Salted Butter (softened)
½ teaspoon (generous) Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Nutmeg (freshly ground)
½ jigger Rum or Spiced Rum
½ jigger Brandy
Freshly ground nutmeg for garnish
Make Batter: Beat together ice cream, sugars, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg until butter is evenly distributed throughout ice cream. Store in freezer.
Place 2 or more Tablespoons of batter into a mug. Add rum and brandy and fill mug with boiling water. Stir until batter is fully dissolved. Sprinkle with nutmeg before serving.
For all of November, and most of October if I’m honest, I’ve had a terrible bout of writer’s block. It’s not lack of topics, the “what,” that has me flummoxed; there are plenty of topics – big topics, sensitive topics and juicy topics. However, approaching them, the “how,” has confounded me for weeks.
So, as we move into December, I find myself tardy on both this recipe’s relevancy and the announcement of my not-so-recent career resignation after 15 years. I’ve spent the majority of the last two and a half weeks in my bathrobe without any rush to return to the workforce (or post, obviously).
Kougelhopf is a classic yeasted dessert bread from the Alsace Lorraine region of France.
Today, a friend’s granddaughter was born. This morning, someone drove his baby boy to the hospital to remove a brain tumor. This afternoon, a friend’s faithful companion died. Today, someone celebrated being alive. I knew I’d spend the day entrenched in my kitchen bomb shelter, under the pretext of baking, but truly hiding from life’s bittersweet highs and lows. I reserved this weekend to unclutter my brain – sorting and classifying – following a week of heady realizations. However, by 10:00 a.m., I opted to linger with my messy meditations and concentrate instead on distraction through less-weighty things. So, rather than tackle life’s complexities, I delight in the simple phenomenon of dry yeast: inert-looking sand that vigorously bounds to life with the coaxing of a sprinkling of sugar and warm milk, transforming flour and water into bread. Yeast bread can’t be rushed; its requirement for patient tending diverts my brain’s workings for a while.
This specialty from Alsace can be served for breakfast or tea, and is not very sweet.
½ cup raisins
¼ cup kirsch or brandy
1 cup milk
¼ cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon
1 pkg. dry yeast
½ cup butter, softened + more for pan
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup almond flour
20 to 30 whole almonds
¼ cup candied orange peel, finely chopped**
Heat raisins in kirsch for 1 minute in microwave. Set aside.
Heat milk for 1 minute until milk is between 107 and 110 degrees. Stir in 1 T. of sugar and yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes.
In stand mixer, cream butter and remaining sugar. Add eggs, remaining milk, almond extract, and salt and mix well. Incorporate yeast mixture. Combine flour and almond flour and incorporate. Switch to a dough hook and mix for 5-7 minutes.
Cover dough with a dishcloth and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan. Place almonds at the bottom of the pan in a decorative pattern. I use a bit of butter to help them stay in place. Drain raisins and combine with orange peel. Work the raisins and peel into dough.
Spoon dough evenly into pan. Smooth dough, cover with dishcloth, and let rise again in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until dough is about an inch below the rim.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Bake in oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and it sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Invert, remove pan and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
I take my stroll at dusk, when the wild green parrots, squawking their loudest, flutter to an unknown destination through fuchsia skies. Over the subtle scent of dusty pavement cooling in the evening breeze, I detect distinct dinnertime repasts baking, bubbling, and broiling through open kitchen windows. My neighbors have arranged two card tables, end to end and draped in white linen, onto their driveway –al fresco dining in this part of town. I arrive back home as the crickets begin their serenade, filled with my own feasting expectations.
½ c. olives (I used Kalamata, but stuffed green would be good, too)
1.5 c. shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen thawed)
¼ c. milk
3 basil leaves, chiffonade
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish.
In a frying pan, sauté onion and garlic in oil until slightly transparent. Add beef, breaking up large pieces and sauté until meat begins to brown. Remove garlic. Stir in paprika, cumin, oregano, and salt. Spoon into prepared casserole.
Nestle eggs, yolk side down, into meat mixture. Scatter with raisins, olives and chicken.
Puree corn in a blender or food processor. Add to frying pan and simmer until beginning to dry. Add milk and continue cooking until dry and darker in color. Add basil. Spoon corn over mixture in casserole, spreading evenly and sprinkle with sugar to help crisp crust.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until top is golden brown. Finish under broiler, if needed.
I serve this dish with a salsa of chopped tomato and chiffonade basil.