AND CHOCOLATE CHIP KUCHEN BUNDT
SWEET AND SIMPLE FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Another year rolls to an end, knee deep in the holiday season, time for a bit of sentimental reflexion. I look back over the past year with a bittersweet tenderness, tears in my eyes. I have suffered great loss, upheaval, life and death. I have welcomed old friends once thought long lost with open arms and 30 long years of confidences, secrets, and joy. I have watched my sons grow up, one find his calling in life, his confidence and his passion, the other just beginning his long road of discovery, still at a standstill, my child still.
I have plunged deep into the murky waters of food blogging, the waters hazy with doubt and circumspection, yet once I got used to the water, snapped the goggles of determination over my eyes and got to know the others splashing loudly or floating lazily along I realized how enjoyable it can be and I allowed myself to be carried along by the current. I have braved the challenges of yeast and French macarons, thrown caution to the wind, risking disgruntled comments and the evil eye by baking far too often, creating more baked goods than one family can reasonably consume, I have dragged my sister kicking and screaming into the realm of the baking addicted.
I have made new friends through food blogging and tightened bonds across the continents, we feel like sisters now. Sisters who have shared courage and secrets, given advice and encouragement, these sisters who have led me by the hand along the sometimes bumpy, occasionally gloomy path of discovery and self-realization towards the warming, comforting shelter of self-assurance and contentment, sharing virtual picnic lunches and laughs whenever needed. Where would I be without them?
We wend our way through life’s realities trying hard not to go all maudlin, balancing out the downs with the ups and shrugging our shoulders, letting a chuckle or a sigh escape momentarily from our lips, laughing out loud as often as we can. We turn our faces towards the future and dream of flying off to somewhere exotic, our own island where we can live out our dreams.
And meanwhile, we live each day as we must, as we can, and I drown myself in my family and friends, enjoy the little pleasures along with the grand, the exciting, pacing our lives from stepping stone to stepping stone. The loss of a beloved brother has, in its place, brought my sister and younger brother and I much closer together. The successes of one son bring comfort that the other will surely find his way. The utter thrill of finding long-lost friends outshines the few who have been lost along the way. The sisters and friends I have made in the world of food blogging have replaced much of the self-doubt and difficulties with challenge and fun.
I approach the end of a very difficult year, a time of emotional turmoil and grasp onto the best of what I have received. I may not celebrate traditional holidays as most of you do, but I try and find something to celebrate in every little thing, every little event. We create our own special occasions, treat ourselves to gifts and pleasures whenever we feel the urge or the need. I find joy in baking, writing, sharing with others and hope to continue sharing these things of the heart for many years to come. Chatting with friends, sending little surprise packages to each other or planning visits, laughing with my sister, curling up with Marty and JP in front of a rugby match or silly movie, enjoying a good book with a cup of steaming coffee and a slice of cake, a successful attempt at a new recipe, these are the little pleasures of my life, what makes each day worth celebrating.
Sometimes the simple things are always the best, and truly, sometimes we just want to kick back and enjoy time with the family, no time for fiddling or fuzz. I offer you two great recipes for the mad holiday season: a wonderfully flavorful Sweet & Sour Glazed Oven-Baked Chicken dish, easy and quick and prepared in advance, and a rather plain yeast Kuchen Bundt coffee cake studded with our favorite, chocolate chips, a warming and comforting treat for the morning after the crazy cooking and festive nights.
I would like to send this Kuchen Coffee Cake Bundt to Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting.
I would also like to send this bread to Cindystar who is hosting December’s Bread Baking Day #25. She chose the most appropriate theme of “Baking Under the Tree” and this Kuchen is perfect for that early morning snack while the family opens their presents.
SWEET & SOUR GLAZED OVEN-BAKED CHICKEN
Marinate overnight and all you have to do it pop it in the oven and prepare a side dish or two.
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 largish shallots, minced
½ tsp ground ginger
½ cup (125 ml) red wine vinegar
2/3 cups (160 ml) light soy sauce
1 cup or more (400 g) apricot preserves or jam
¼ tsp both salt and pepper
Chicken pieces for 4 – 8 people
In a small saucepan, heat the oil then cook the shallots over medium heat until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground ginger until dissolved, then stir in the red wine vinegar and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
Add the soy sauce and the apricot preserves, the salt and the pepper and stir until smooth and the jam is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer the marinade, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Place the cleaned chicken pieces (excess fat and skin removed) in a wide shallow bowl or even a large sealable plastic baggy or two. Pour the marinade over the pieces making sure the pieces are covered with marinade. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or seal the plastic bags tightly. Place in the refrigerator for several hours or, at best, overnight.
The next day; preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Prepare a large, shallow baking pan by lining it well with aluminum foil, even overlapping two extra strong pieces of fail and folding over two or three times. Lightly oil the foil (this is important).
Arrange the chicken in one layer on baking sheet then pour the marinade over the pieces. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until cooked through and beautifully glazed and browned.
I served the chicken with a wild rice risotto.
CHOCOLATE CHIP YEAST KUCHEN BUNDT
Adapted from the original Unusual Old World and American Recipes, the pamphlet that came with my dad’s original Bundt cake pan (@ 1965)
A homey, comforting cross between a bread, a brioche and a cake, perfect with a mug of hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows, of course) or a cup of café au lait on the morning after.
2 packages active dry yeast (4 ½ tsps, 15 g)
¼ cup (50 ml) warm water
¾ cup ( 200 ml) warm milk
½ cup (8 Tbs, 115 g) butter softened to room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 cup (150 g) flour
4 eggs (I use large)
2 ¼ cups ( 330 g) flour
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips or more if desired. You can also add 1 cup chopped pecans.
Grease your Bundt pan well with softened butter.
Warm the water and the milk together until just warm to touch, body temperature. Dissolve the yeast in the warm liquid in a large mixing bowl. Blend in the 1 cup of flour, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and let sit until doubled, about 20 minutes.
In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Add the creamed mixture into the yeast starter and stir well to blend. Stir the spices and salt into the remaining 2 ¼ cups flour then stir into the dough. Fold in the chocolate chips, stirring until the mixture is smooth and well blended.
Pour the batter into prepared Bundt pan, smoothing so it is evenly distributed. Once again, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour to 1 ½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Bake for 45-55 minutes, depending on the oven. Do not allow to brown too much on top or will be dry inside. The cake should be risen, set and golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before loosening from the sides of the pan and carefully turning out onto a wire cooling rack.
Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and a hot drink.