Abigail Johnson Dodge dropped by Saturday, Dec. 18, with ways to make holiday dishes when you don't have a lot of time. She is the author of "The Weekend Baker" cookbook. Here are the recipes she shared with us:
• No-Bake Graham Cracker Mini-House
(Makes 6 houses)
For the houses:
1 or 2 boxes (14.4 ounces/ 408 grams each) graham crackers (you'll use four crackers per house, unless there's breakage)
6 small (1/2 pint each and about 4 1/3 inches/11 cm high) milk or orange juice cartons, emptied, rinsed, dried, and stapled closed
Assorted candies, cereals, crackers, and cookies; the most popular items are gumdrops, Necco wafers (for roofs), mini marshmallows, frosted mini wheat cereal (for roofs or paths), Hershey's chocolate bars ( great for doors, paths, shutters), hard peppermint candies, whole almonds, Good & Plenty, M&Ms, red or black licorice sticks, Life Savers, 6 paper cups, 6 wooden Popsicle sticks, 12 paper plates, 6 foam board rectangles, about 5 by 8 inches (13 by 20 cm)
For the Icing:
2 tablespoons powdered egg whites and 6 tablespoons warm water Or 3 whites from large eggs (1/3 cup/ 3 fl ounces/87 mL)
4 cups (16 ounces 454 grams) confectioners sugar
1.Assemble all the items you need for the houses and decorating.
2. TO MAKE THE ICING:
In a large bowl, combine the egg white powder and warm water and let stand, whisking frequently, until the powder is dissolved, about 5 minutes. If using fresh egg whites, simply put them in the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer (stand mixer fitted with the whisked attachment or handheld mixer) on medium speed until frothy. Add the confectioners sugar and continue beating until blended. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick and shiny, about 5 minutes. Place a damp paper towel directly on the icing to keep a skin from forming. If not using within 2 hours, cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate.
3. TO ASSEMBLE THE HOUSES:
Position a graham cracker on a cutting board and set a milk carton on top, with the triangular top face down. Using a serrated knife and the carton as your guide, trim away the top corner triangles of the graham cracker. The cracker will form a point at the top. Next, cut the short sides (usually the label side) and roof panels. Using the serrated knife and a ruler as your guide, carefully saw away two-thirds of the cracker, leaving you with one rectangle 3 inches (7.75 cm) long (the side piece) and one rectangle 1 ¾ inches (4.5 cm) long (the roof piece). you'll need 2 of each of these sections for each house. Repeat with another 11 crackers. Pile the scraps and any broken crackers into a large plastic bag and save for graham cracker crusts. Carefully set the pieces aside.
4. Using a small metal spatula (an offset one is good), spread about two teaspoons of the icing on one side of a carton. Gently press the corresponding cracker piece onto the carton. Repeat with the other 3 sides. Stand the carton up, and dab about 2 teaspoons icing on each side of the stapled top. Gently press the roof pieces onto the icing. Repeat with the remaining houses. Set the houses aside to dry completely, about 12 hours.
5. TO DECORATE THE HOUSES:
Dab a bit of icing onto the foam board rectangle and position a house on top. Working on one section at a time, spread the icing and arrange decorations as you like. I recommend saving the roof and the yard decorations for last.
• Stovetop Apple Cranberry Crumble
(Makes 8 Servings)
Baking an apple pie takes some planning and time, about an hour for the baking alone. Express bakers need the great apple flavor of a pie, but in less than half the time. This crumble doesn't disappoint. For enhanced color and taste, I've added a few cranberries (another classic American ingredient) to the mix.
Heating the crumble topping in a skillet by itself releases the natural earthy flavors of the granola. A drizzle of maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon are all that are needed before the topping is ready to sprinkle over the cooked apples and cranberries.
For the filling:
3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces/43 grams) unsalted butter. cut into 3 pieces
2 pounds (907 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I like Golden Delicious, but any firm, medium tart apple will do.)
¾ cup (2 ½ ounces/71 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of table salt
For the topping:
3 table spoons (1 ½ ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into three pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more if needed
2 cups crunchy, lightly sweetened granola
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1. TO MAKE THE FILLING
Put the butter in 10to 11 inch (25 to 28cm) skillet with 2inch (5 cm) high sides and set over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Toss until well blended. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, shaking the pan or gently stirring the contents wit ha wooden spoon, until the sugar is melted and the apples just begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Cover the skillet with a tightfitting lid or a double layer of foil and reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer, shaking the pan often, until the apples are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 12 minutes longer.
2. TO MAKE THE TOPPING
Meanwhile, put the butter in a separate medium skillet and set over medium heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the ½ teaspoon cinnamon and add the granola. Cook, stirring constantly, until the granola is hot and evenly coated with the butter and cinnamon. Taste the granola and add more cinnamon if needed. Drizzle the maple syrup over the granola and cook, stirring, until hot and well blended, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm until the filling is ready.
3. When the apples are tender, uncover the pan. If the apples have released a ton of juice (more than about 1 cup/8 fl ounces/233 ml), increase the heat to high and boil briefly to reduce the liquid. Slide the skillet from the heat and scatter the topping over the filling. Serve the crisp straight from the skillet hot, warm, or at room temperature. Accompany with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.
• Pumpkin Spice Halfmoon Pie Pockets
(Makes 18 pockets)
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, 9 ½ inches square each
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the pumpkin spice filling:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces/ 255 grams) canned solid pack pumpkin (not seasoned pumpkin pie filling)
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Remove both sheets of frozen puff pastry from the box, set them on a lightly floured surface, and cover with plastic wrap. Do not unfold at this point. Let the covered puff pastry sit on the countertop until thawed and just pliable, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, position the oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 425 degrees (220 c). Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment or a non stick liner (I like the Silpat). Have ready the beaten egg and the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, carefully unfold the puff pastry. Dust the top of the pastry with a little flour. Roll out each sheet, lightly dusting with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and work surface, into a 12inch (30.5cm) square. Using a 4-inch (10 cm) round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a 29ounce tomato can as a guide), cut into 18 circles. Peel away the scraps and cover the rounds with plastic wrap while preparing the filling.
4. For the pumpkin spice filling, combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well blended.
5. Place about 1 tablespoon filling on the center of the round. Brush the edge of the dough with the egg. Fold half of the dough over the filling to form a half-moon. Using the tines of the fork, press the curved edge to seal tightly. Repeat with the remaining rounds. (At this point, the pie pockets can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 8 hours or frozen for up to 1 month before proceeding with the recipe.)
6. Arrange the pockets on the prepared sheet pans, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Brush the tops with the remaining egg and sprinkle evenly with the granulated sugar. Bake until pastry is puffed and browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the sheet pans to racks to cool. Serve warm.
Storage: You can bake the pie pockets up to 6 hours ahead and reheat them in a 300 degree (150 C) oven until warm. About 15 minutes.
• 10-Minute Mocha Pots de Crème
(Makes four ½ cup servings)
Pot de crème is the French answer to American pudding. And this no-bake version whips up in minutes literally with the help of a trusty blender.
1 cup (8fl ounces/233 mL) heavy cream
2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla-extract
3 table spoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules (any type, even decaf will do)
Have ready 4 small ramekins or classic pot de crème pots (those are the little cups with the lids) just slightly larger than ½ cup each. (The vessels do not need to be ovenproof, as this is a no-bake recipe. You can even use teacups, so use your prettiest options.)
In a small saucepan or the microwave, heat the cream just until boiling. Meanwhile, dump the chopped chocolate, sugar and espresso powder or coffee granules into a blender. When the cream is just boiling, pour it into the blender. Pop the lid on and blend on medium-high speed until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is frothy and smooth. Add the liqueur and vanilla and process until blended, about 10 seconds.
Using a spoon, skim off the foam from the top of the custard and discard. Pour the chocolate cream into the cups or ramekins, dividing it evenly. Top with lids (if you're using proper porcelain pots de crème pots) or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a few chocolate shavings, if desired.
Storage: Cover the cups with plastic wrap (no need to press the plastic directly onto the pudding; they wont form a skin) or lids and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Flavor variations: Substitute any equal amount of bourbon or dark rum for the coffee liqueur. You can also substitute licorice-, orange-, or raspberry-flavored liqueur, but make sure to omit the instant espresso powder or coffee granules when you use these.
More recipes can be found on: www.theweekendbaker.com