Jam Biscuits, Two Ways: Walnut Ribbon Sticks & Dusen Stars

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In the UK, there's a biscuit (cookie) called a Jammy Dodger. I don't know why it's called that, but it's the quaintest, cutest name for a biscuit that I know, so I've always liked them. When we got Holtzmann, her dogwalker gave her a squeaky Jammy Dodger toy which has remarkably remained unscathed over the past six months, and watching her chew on this oversized biscuit is possibly the cutest thing ever. Neither of these recipes are for Jammy Dodgers (which, in case you're curious, are made of a soft-ish shortbread sandwiching a cream and jam centre, with a wee heart cut in the top biscuit for a window onto the sparkling red jam below. Pretty much the most British of all foods).

These biscuits (cookies) are both made with jam (jelly, in American parlance), and though both recipes recommend 'red' jam for festive flair, I think the Dusen Stars in particular would be stellar sandwiched with apricot jam (or whatever other flavour tickles your fancy). When I started making the Walnut Ribbon Sticks, I thought I was in for a treat as the recipe was so easy I could hardly believe it: one recipe of pastry, rolled thin, spread with filling, folded and sliced? Nice. But then about halfway through making them, I realised with a sinking feeling that I had a) never had ribbon candy, b) wasn't so sure what it was and c) neglected to look it up to make sure it was shaped in the way I had assumed. It wasn't. So about half of my walnut ribbon sticks were made as twists, and the rest were (mostly) 'ribbon-candy-shaped,' until I got bored and did the last few as swirls.

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Here's one insanely simple recipe for you and one slightly more complicated though still totally worth it recipe. Make these decorative beauties for your next holiday party and you'll be the talk of the party.

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The verdict:
The Walnut Ribbon Sticks:

3 spoons out of five. If you like palmiers, pastry or pie crust, you'll love these. Unfortunately palmiers are probably my least favourite dessert of all times, so I found these too dry and crumbly for my taste. They got rave reviews from the people I served them to, though, so it's probably more that they're not my taste than that these are an inherently bad recipe.

The Dusen Stars:

5 spoons out of five. These cookies are amazing- not too distant from a linzer cookie but minus the faff of tiny cut-outs in every top layer, and with exactly enough jam to keep the fairly short biscuit from being too dry and bland. They're adorably festive, a cinch to assemble and since each finished one is actually made from two biscuits, they're also heartier than a normal biscuit- so perfect for bringing to your next booze-soaked holiday fête.

one year ago: Crazy Crust apple pie
two years ago: Pumpkin Gingerbread cupcakes

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The recipe:

Walnut Ribbon Sticks

the directions:

Preheat oven to 225C/450F and grease a cookie sheet.
Roll crust into approximate thickness of pie dough (about ¼ inch).
Spread half of dough with jam and sprinkle with walnuts.
Fold crust over filling and roll lightly again- the layers of dough should adhere to each other thanks to the jam, but you don't want the walnuts to break through the dough.
Using a very sharp knife and wiping it clean between cuts, slice into 1/4” wide strips.
Coil the strips like ribbon candy by folding them back and forth on themselves (as seen above), wind into spirals or twist into long ribbons (if you twist into ribbons, make sure you twist them quite tight or they'll unravel in the oven).
Bake 7-9 minutes until light golden brown.
Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before handling.

the ingredients:

1 recipe double-crust pie crust or 1 package puff pastry (use your favourite recipe- I used Julia Child's pie crust recipe)
¼ c raspberry jam
½ c walnuts, finely chopped (you'll want them finer than shown here so they stay in the dough better)

the recipe:

Dusen Stars

the directions:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Cream butter until light and fluffy.
Gradually add sugar, beating well until incorporated.
Add flour, vanilla and almonds, continuing to beat well.
Chill at least two hours or overnight.
Roll ¼-inch thick on a floured work surface.
Cut with 2-inch cookie cutter (ideally a star, as the name suggests, but as long as you're doing two of each shape you make, they could be whatever shape you want).
Place on cookie sheet 1-inch apart and bake for 10 minutes or until edges are just beginning to turn golden.
Allow to cool slightly, but while still just warm, slather the bottom of one cookie with jam and adhere the bottom of another cookie to it.
Once all cookies are finished, sprinkle with powdered sugar to complete the festive look.

the ingredients:

1 c butter
½ c sugar
2 c flour, sifted
½ tsp vanilla
4 oz ground almonds
Approximately 1 cup Raspberry, currant, or apricot jam
Powdered sugar for dusting

Chicken Casserole

Recently a friend asked me if there were any recipes I had discovered in the Recipe Box so far that I've made more than once. I thought hard about it- there aren't a lot of recipes I've made more than once (always new things to try, you know?), so it's not really a question of whether I've found any good recipes. After considering, I realised that yes, I now have a chocolate fudge cake I adore, a pound cake I've accidentally made twice (ha!) and a banana caramel cake I can't get enough of.

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And now I also have this chicken recipe, which I've already made three times (and haven't even told you about it until now! I know!). The first time, I made this for myself when Judson was out of town for work and loved it so much I re-made it the day he got back so he could enjoy it too. The third time was this week when, suffering from the jetlag that comes from visiting Southeast Asia and then returning to Europe, and the culture shock that comes from hanging out in 38 degree-Celsius weather drinking out of coconuts for two weeks and then returning to a city in the throes of Christmas preparations, I couldn't think of a better way to warm our freezing-cold flat up.

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I really thought I was in for another 'chicken in chicken sauce' type of event when I started this (which is why I made it when poor Judson was out of town), but it hasn't let me down yet, and I daresay you'll have the same results.* This recipe lends itself to the simple: you can make it with only the three required ingredients and it will be amazing, or you can add in whatever you have to hand, like half an onion, a leek or two, a rib of celery, some chopped bacon lardons or even a handful of roasted chestnuts. I think you could even swap the rice for quinoa for a whole-grain improvement, but I haven't tried it yet.

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*Read the original recipe and you'll see why- it was written on a torn-off piece of receipt paper and it looks like a haiku written by someone who doesn't understand syllables:

cream celery or chicken SOUP
water & extra
brown on 1 sine
on top of rice
pipert 1 hr
salt

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. No matter how you make it, this is a cosy, one-pan dish that will warm up your kitchen and have your entire house smelling like a home in no time. The best part? The leftovers heat up like a dream, so you're off dinner duty tomorrow night, too. It's not a classy recipe, but when you're jetlagged, cold, or just ready for an easy, warming dinner, this will definitely do the trick.

One year ago: Crazy Crust Apple Pie
two years ago: Chocolate Chiffon Cake

 

the recipe:

Chicken Casserole

the directions:

Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
Add chicken thighs, face down, and brown for 5 minutes until golden (more browning will occur in oven).
Flip over and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Check one thigh for doneness by poking into thickest part and checking the colour of the juices. If juice is still red, continue browning for an additional 3-5 minutes (chicken should be JUST done when you remove it).
Remove chicken from pan, drain all but 1 tbsp of liquid and spoon rice evenly into the pan.
Pour soup over rice, then any additional ingredients you're adding, finishing by adding chicken to the pan last.
Pop into preheated oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through and well-browned.

the ingredients:

2 tbsp oil
1 package chicken thighs (as many as will fit in your pan)
3 cups rice, cooked
1 can or 2 cups homemade cream of chicken or cream of celery soup
optional: lardons, leeks, onion, chestnuts, celery, garlic cloves, or anything else in your fridge that needs to be used up.

Pumpkin Bread

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I KNOW, so many sweets in a row. I have a super-easy chicken recipe all ready for you and a killer meatball dish coming up, but in the meantime, it's almost Thanksgiving in the US which means the (not literal but mental) change from autumn to winter is fast approaching and I want to get this pumpkin recipe to you now because it's too good to miss. Plus, I'm going to be in Asia for the next two weeks so you'll be a bit on your own, and it wouldn't be the Recipe Box Project if we didn't overdo it on decadent breakfasts.

This recipe is an illustrated mimeograph made for kids (at least I assume it's for kids based on the instructions to 'have an adult turn on the oven'), so I'm not sure how it made it into the box. I was too young when Eleanor died to have been given something like this, so maybe it was given to my older (male) cousins and somehow wound up with Eleanor? Regardless, it's super adorable if a pain to try to cull together the ingredients since they're all listed by steps.

The downfall of loads of pumpkin recipes is that they take 2 tablespoons of pumpkin, or ¼ cup of pumpkin or whatever, but you've already had to buy a whole can of pumpkin that you're now stuck with. You'll leave it in the fridge for a week or so promising yourself you'll make another pumpkin recipe before it goes bad, but there's only so much pumpkin you can take, and inevitably it turns before you have a chance, so you end up tossing ¾ of a can of pumpkin. Not a huge deal when you're stateside and pumpkin costs next to nothing, but here in the UK where I can only find it at American grocery stores and it costs £3 a can... I refuse to waste a single spoonful. So it was great to see that this recipe calls for an entire can- no waste! Between all the pumpkin and the use of oil instead of butter, this recipe is incredibly moist and delicious; add a handful of pecans or walnuts and any dried fruit you have on hand (cherries are particularly stellar) and you've got an excellent fall treat. Easy to transport, scented with the smell of autumn, dairy-free and easy to make nut-free, this breakfast-y cake is perfect with a hot mug of coffee or tea and everyone is sure to love it. It makes a perfect hostess gift for the person whose Thanksgiving dinner you're attending, and you'll be the favourite guest when they get up on Black Friday morning and realise they don't have to make breakfast.

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The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. It's so easy a kid could make it, your whole house will smell like autumn, and it tastes even better with an extra sprinkle of brown sugar on top. Make this over the Thanksgiving holidays, especially if you're an expat missing the celebrations this time of year, and you'll be glad you did.

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One year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: Deluxe Pecan pie

the recipe:

Easy Pumpkin Bread

the directions:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F and grease 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.
Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and nuts/fruit if using.
Add water and stir gently to combine, then set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat together sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin, oil and eggs until well-combined.
Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix until smooth.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and top with extra brown sugar if using.
Bake for 1 hour until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate and cool completely before serving.

the ingredients:

2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ c water
1 c sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 can of pumpkin (425g)
½ c oil
2 eggs
Optional: a handful of coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts, a handful of dried fruit, and/or a generous sprinkle of brown sugar to create a crunchy 'lid.'