Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 23, 2013

Lee Ward: Betty Crocker observes, shares holiday food trends: 12/24/13

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — Betty Crocker has been the cook’s friend for a long time. Today, the company offers a few insights about what the trends are during this holiday cooking season and beyond.

“Whether you’re having a party or just enjoying time with loved ones, our red-hot trends and recipes make it easy for you to create memorable holidays at home this year,” said Kristen Olson, senior food editor for Betty Crocker Kitchens.

Here are some of Betty Crocker’s top holiday trends and recipes:

‰Sweet and savory cookies

A biscuit-shortbread hybrid from France, sablés have been named the cookie of the year in our test kitchens. For a salty-sweet flavor contrast, we added an unusual savory element—Kalamata olives! — and dark chocolate chips. The result? Mind-blowing, melt-in-your mouth goodness.

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED OLIVE SABLES

Cookies

3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened

1⁄4 cup sugar

2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup finely chopped kalamata olives, drained, patted dry with a paper towel

1⁄2 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

1⁄2 cup finely chopped dark chocolate chips

Topping

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1⁄2 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, stir 3⁄4 cup of the butter and the sugar until well mixed. Stir in flour (if dough is crumbly, mix in up to 2 additional tablespoons softened butter). Stir in remaining cookie ingredients.

On work surface lightly sprinkled with flour, roll dough 1⁄4 inch thick. Cut with 2-inch round cutter. On ungreased cookie sheets, place 1⁄2 inch apart.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave 1 cup chocolate chips and the oil uncovered on High 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate; wipe excess on edge of bowl. Sprinkle edge of dipped half with finely chopped pistachio nuts. Place on waxed paper to set, about 1 hour.

‰The new fruitcake

A modern take on a Christmastime classic, this luscious two-layer cake, studded with whiskey-soaked fruits and filled with sweetened mascarpone, will be the belle of any holiday ball.

UPSIDE-DOWN APPLE CAKE WITH

 WHISKEY-SOAKED FRUIT

1⁄2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1⁄2 cup chopped dried apricots

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

3 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon

3 red apples, unpeeled, quartered, cored, very thinly (1⁄4 inch) sliced

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix

1 cup water

3⁄4 cup slivered almonds, finely ground



1⁄3 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Toppings

1⁄4 cup apple jelly

2 ounces (from 8-ounce container) mascarpone cheese, softened

1⁄2 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

Fresh cranberries and orange slices, if desired

In medium bowl, mix dried cranberries, apricots, orange peel and bourbon. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Generously grease bottom and sides of two 8-inch round cake pans with shortening. Line bottom of each pan with cooking parchment paper. Grease parchment paper with shortening.

Line bottom and side of each pan with overlapping apple slices, cutting slices as necessary to line side of each pan.

In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, ground almonds, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in soaked dried fruit and ginger. Gently pour into pans over apple slices.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately turn pans upside down to release cakes onto cooling racks.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave apple jelly uncovered on High 15 to 30 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until hot. Brush over apples on top and side of each cake to make shiny. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat mascarpone cheese, whipping cream and sugar with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. On serving plate, place one cake, apple side up. Top with whipped cream mixture. Gently place remaining cake layer on top of cream, apple side up. Garnish with fresh cranberries and orange slices. Cut into slices with serrated knife. Cover and refrigerate any remaining cake.

‰Popcorn reinvented

From cupcake toppings to fro-yo mix-ins, bakers and bloggers have been adding popcorn to sweets in quite creative ways. This semi-homemade fudge features store-bought caramel corn, a thick layer of dulce de leche, a generous sprinkling of sea salt and — what else? — more crunchy caramel corn.

TRIPLE-CARAMEL 

POPCORN FUDGE

1 can (14 ounces) dulce de leche (caramelized sweetened condensed milk)

1  bag (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups caramel popcorn

Caramel layer

25 caramels, unwrapped

2 tablespoons whipping cream

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt

11⁄2 cups caramel popcorn

Line bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with foil, leaving edges of foil hanging over two sides of pan for easy removal later; spray foil with cooking spray.

In 2-quart saucepan, heat dulce de leche and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth (mixture will be very thick); remove from heat. Quickly stir in vanilla. Stir in 2 cups caramel popcorn. Spread in pan.

In medium microwavable bowl, microwave caramels and cream uncovered on High 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Very slowly pour caramel mixture over fudge layer, and gently spread to cover. Sprinkle with salt and 11⁄2 cups caramel popcorn; press gently so it sticks. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows). Store covered in refrigerator.

‰Communal food

To us, the best part about party food is enjoying it with loved ones. Ideal for holiday open houses and impromptu gatherings, these fully loaded spicy pull-aparts can be baked in batches as company (or hunger) arrives.

SPICY THREE-CHEESE BACON BITES

1 loaf (18 inch) baguette French bread, cut into 36 (1⁄2-inch) slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup crumbled crisply cooked bacon

1 cup shredded deli rotisserie chicken

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)

1 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese (4 ounces)

1⁄2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

2 to 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (from 7-ounce can), finely chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Place bread slices with sides touching in single layer on parchment paper. Brush with oil.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until bread is toasted. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, stir together remaining ingredients except 1 tablespoon of the chives.

Spoon mixture on toasted bread slices; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon chives.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Slide parchment and bread onto wooden cutting board or serving platter so guests can pull them apart. Serve warm.

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Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking; I’ll try to find the answers. If you’re looking for a specific recipe, send your request, or if you can offer a recipe to someone looking for something specific, please send email to lward@dailyindependent.com.