APPLE RUM RAISIN CINNAMON ROLLS with CARAMEL ICING

These are inspired by and adapted from a secret family recipe for cinnamon rolls that my aunt made for many years.  Since I’ve been making these recipes I have adapted a good and easy to follow plan kinda like changing the batteries in your smoke detector at New Years.  At Christmas time I replace my yeast, baking powder and baking soda supply so they are always fresh.

APPLE RUM RAISIN CINNAMON ROLLS

DOUGH
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
4-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 package Active Dry Yeast
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
FILLING
4 large honey crisp** apples, finely diced
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup spiced rum
3/4 cup real butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla powder
CARAMEL ICING
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon Starbucks vanilla powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt


**Honey Crisp are my favorite apple full of flavor and coincidentally only available during Christmas time.

•In a small bowl pour the rum over the raisins and set side to allow the raisins to plump. The rum is the first secret ingredient and is only to plump the raisins.  Remember to pour off the rum before adding them to the apples.
•Combine the milk, canola oil, and sugar in a large saucepan or small pot.
•Heat it until is is just about to boil, but don’t allow it to boil. Turn off the heat and let it cool until warm…but not too warm!
•Add 4 cups of the flour and the yeast, and stir to combine. The dough will be very sticky at this point. 
•Cover the pot and let the dough rise for an hour.


While the dough is rising prep the filling. 

Saute’ the apples in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.  Pour apples into a colander to drain off excess moisture and set aside.
•In the same skillet over medium heat, add the butter and brown sugar continually stirring it until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.
•Add cream slowly constantly stirring until it bubbles and begins to thicken. •Lower the heat and add the apples back into the skillet. 
•Add the drained raisins.
•Sprinkle with the cinnamon and vanilla.   The vanilla is the second secret ingredient that make these rolls so yummy. Cook a few more minutes to allow thickening.
•Spoon it into a bowl to cool. (If mixture is too thin once again use the colander to remove excess moisture. Remember apples are full of water depending on their ripeness.)

•Add the remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to your pot of dough stirring to combine.
 

At this point you can make the rolls or
refrigerate the dough until you’re ready.

•Preheat the oven to 375˚.

•Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a rectangle about 10 x 30 inches.  I use Press-N-Seal to coat my counter – easy to roll out dough and easy to clean up that way.
•Spoon the apple raisin mixture all over the dough and spread it out evenly.
•Roll the dough toward you into a long, tight roll pinching the seam to seal the roll at the end. Roll it over so that the seam is on the bottom.
•Slice each roll 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick placing them into prepped cake pans.
•Set the rolls aside and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
•Bake rolls for 15 to 18 minutes or until they’re nice and golden.

While the rolls are baking, make the icing.
•Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.
•Add the brown sugar stirring to dissolve until it starts to bubble.
•Add the cream, cooking for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat.
•Whisk in 2 cups of powdered sugar until well blended. Add up to 2 more cups of powdered sugar to get to the consistency you want. Ice the rolls as soon as they come out of the oven.
•Serve warm or cool completely to freeze.  If freezing, wrap in several layers of saran, sealing all the edges well.
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CHRISTMAS AT THE GAS STATION – an email to share

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn’t hate Christmas, just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.

Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. “Thank you, but I don’t mean to intrude,” said the stranger. “I see you’re busy, I’ll just go.”

“Not without something hot in your belly.” George said.

He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. “It ain’t much, but it’s hot and tasty. Stew … Made it myself. When you’re done, there’s coffee and it’s fresh.”

Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell. “Excuse me, be right back,” George said. There in the driveway was an old ’53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front.. The driver was panicked. “Mister can you help me!” said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is broken.” George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead.

“You ain’t going in this thing,” George said as he turned away.

“But Mister, please help …” The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. “Here, take my truck,” he said. “She ain’t the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.”

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. “Glad I gave ’em the truck, their tires were shot too. That ‘ol truck has brand new .” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. “Well, at least he got something in his belly,” George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the the block hadn’t cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. “Well, shoot, I can fix this,” he said to himself. So he put a new one on.

“Those tires ain’t gonna get ’em through the winter either.” He took the snow treads off of his wife’s old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn’t going to drive the car anyway.

As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Please help me.”

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. “Pressure to stop the bleeding,” he thought. The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. “Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin’,” he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

“Something for pain,” George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. “These ought to work.” He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. “You hang in there, I’m going to get you an ambulance.”

The phone was dead. “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car.” He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. “Thanks,” said the officer. “You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area.”

George sat down beside him, “I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain’t gonna leave you.” George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. “Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through ‘ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain.”

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked.

“None for me,” said the officer..

“Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain’t got no donuts.” The officer laughed and winced at the same time.

The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. “Give me all your cash! Do it now!” the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

“That’s the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer.

“Son, why are you doing this?” asked George, “You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt.”

The young man was confused. “Shut up old man, or I’ll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!”

The cop was reaching for his gun. “Put that thing away,” George said to the cop, “we got one too many in here now.”

He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it’s Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain’t much but it’s all I got. Now put that pea shooter away.”

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. “I’m not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on. “I’ve lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week.”

George handed the gun to the cop. “Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can.”

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. “Sometimes we do stupid things.” George handed the young man a cup of coffee. “Bein’ stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin’ in here with a gun ain’t the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we’ll sort this thing out.”

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. “Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I’m sorry officer.”

“Shut up and drink your coffee ” the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. “Chuck! You ok?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

“Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?”

“GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, “I don’t know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran.”

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

“That guy work here?” the wounded cop continued.

“Yep,” George said, “just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job.”

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?”

Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas boy … and you too, George, and thanks for everything.”

“Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems.”

George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. “Here you go, something for the little woman. I don’t think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day.”

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. “I can’t take this,” said the young man. “It means something to you.”

“And now it means something to you,” replied George. “I got my memories. That’s all I need.”

George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. “Here’s something for that little man of yours.”

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.

“And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too,” George said. “Now git home to your family.”

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. “I’ll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.”

“Nope. I’m closed Christmas day,” George said. “See ya the day after.”

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. “Where’d you come from? I thought you left?”

“I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger. “You say you don’t celebrate Christmas. Why?”

“Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn’t see what all the bother was. Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin’ cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn’t the same by myself and besides I was gettin’ a little chubby.”

The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder. “But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. “That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.”

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. “And how do you know all this?” asked the old man.

“Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again.”

The stranger moved toward the door. “If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned.”

George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

“You see, George … it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.”

George fell to his knees and replied, “Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus”

This story is better than any greeting card.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND GOD BLESS!

Now clear the lump from your throat, blow your nose, and send this along to a friend of yours or someone who may need a reminder as to why we celebrate Christmas.

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Banket – Dutch Pastry with Almond Filling

This month I am bringing you a family recipe and digging into my heritage, a family recipe from my Dutch Grandmother.
This wonderful flaky almond filled pastry is something that I grew up eating every Christmas. As with most food and family recipes…it always brings back such good memories of family and holidays. In Grand Rapids and really most of west Michigan it seems every one who is Dutch (which is many) has their own version or recipe for banket (pronounced bahnKET) with a flaky buttery crust and almond paste (not marzipan) rolled throughout, not too sweet and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.


I have been wanting a chance to make it with my mother and document it for the blog, but she lives in Michigan and with me in Florida for the last 21 years it just never happened. When my parents visit in February she will bring me some almond paste and one year she did show me how to assemble it, but the filling and dough was already made.

I had my sister mail me grandma’s banket recipe (my mom could never find hers). I’ve had it for awhile but was always a bit timid to try making it on my own, besides it makes a lot and we don’t usually have many people around for Christmas any more down here in Florida. Not this year I decided to put on my big girl panties and try making it all by myself.

It is such a family tradition, my sister makes it with her daughters-in-law, and makes it her way. I never was interested in making it when my grandmother was alive…I just enjoyed eating all her wonderful baking. She was the best. My mom learned from my dad’s mom, both his parents are Dutch. My mom’s dad was Dutch, but her mom was Welsh, so she learned how to make it from my grandma Bouwman, my dad’s mom.
This was her actual recipe such as it was, like most of her recipes: my input is in blue after calling my mom several times while trying to make it.

Grandma Bouwman’s Banket
Crust:
1 pound butter/oleo, soften at room temp (I used cold butter, like you would making pie crust)
4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar (optional) I skipped the sugar
3/4 cup milk – make sure it’s cold
Mix well until crumbly, add milk. Form into dough using fork, divide into eight balls.
Roll out each ball to form rectangle, put almond filling on crust.

My take on this: I used a pastry cutter like you would when making pie crust, cutting in the butter until you get a crumbly oatmeal-like texture. Use cold butter and cold milk or water so it will be nice and flaky…form into dough try not to over-work the dough. After talking to my mother she said another old recipe she had has you refrigerate the dough and filling overnight. My personal tip would be to form it into the eight balls, and then flatten them first before refrigerating them.

Filling:
1 pound almond paste (2 cups)
2 cups sugar (you could probably use a little less, but I use a scant 2 cups)
3 eggs (I think next time I will us 2 eggs)
Mix well, put in fridge to harden. Add flour to make it less sticky when putting it on crust.
My take on this: I had a block of almond paste that mom brought down from Michigan. They can get it every where up there…if you can’t find almond paste, you can make your own almond paste try this one here
My mom told me to beat the eggs and sugar first then add the almond paste after breaking it into crumbles.

Bake 10 minutes at 425° then 15 minutes at 350°
I found I had to bake this longer. If you want to bake it like a pie you can bake it high heat for 15 minutes then turn it down and bake another 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown. Make sure your dough is nice and cold. I would brush an egg wash on before baking next time, I didn’t on these and they came out fine, but sometimes my grand mother would.

This was the almond paste mixture after it was in the refrigerator overnight.

When I was trying to mix the almond paste my mom suggested to beat the eggs first with a hand mixer, so I did, I think I did it too much and it became a little frothy, then I added the crumbled almond paste and sugar. I think I should of added the sugar with the eggs, then added the almond paste. Mine turned out fine, but it was different from my mother’s. I think 2 eggs would work fine in it. I didn’t add any extra flour because it was very spreadable this way…maybe because of the three eggs. Maybe I should stick to it this way, my mom would spread it with her hands and flour her fingers, and place little pieces around all over the dough. It was sticky to work with!

I just used a rubber spatula to spread it on. My mom cautioned me not to have too much filling do it won’t ooze out on the baking pan. She said she added too much last year and she didn’t like the way it turned out.

You are supposed to roll the dough out into rectangles, but I got it as close as I could, and they still turned out even without smooth edges. You can cut and paste it, the dough seems to handle it well.

To keep it a family tradition I got my daughter involved…of course she asked to roll some of her own…so I had to stand back and let her do it!!
And she did great! Of course I have such a small area it’s so difficult to have two people in the kitchen at the same time. It was also 80° out and seemed very hot with to oven on, I know my grandma and mom didn’t have to deal with weather like that in Michigan at Christmas time! 🙂

The dough is rolled out thin sorta like a pie dough would be…dusting the work surface and rolling pin with flour as you go. After you roll up the filling inside the logs, seal it with water. Since I used a little more filling than my mother did I made sure it was sealed well and gave it a little pinch too.

I have baked the “logs” that my mom gave me (they freeze really well) at 350° or 375° for 30 – 35 minutes. I didn’t know the directions at that time, so I think you can do it that way without having to start out baking it at high heat and turning it down. Just keep any eye on it until its a nice golden brown.

If you don’t have a stoneware baking pan or pizza stone, line your cookie sheet with parchment paper so it browns up nicely. I didn’t use an egg-wash in this batch.

…so good and reminds me of my mom’s…

…they were nice and flaky, the almond filling didn’t ooze out (of course I like it oozing out a little when it caramelizes up a little) .

It is so good for breakfast the next morning, not too sweet, delicate flavor.


…I hope they enjoy it as much as we do…


…enjoy Cultural Connection!

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THE HOLIDAY SEASON

THE HOLIDAY SEASON…

Usually the holiday season is an endless list of tasks and errands.  Christmas Eve is usually at our house and then Christmas Day many times too.  The last several years though since we moved east, the holiday season has been quiet, many times too quiet.  This year in particular was way too quiet and lonely.
Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I’m a list writer and as a Virgo usually have my presents bought early and the Christmas cards ready to mail by Thanksgiving, many times they are even hand made.  Having all this done and ready made it possible for me to go to the malls, get a nice cup of coffee and just watch other people hustle and bustle.  Then I would go home and cook and bake and then bake some more!  I MISS that here!
I learned much of this from my folks.  My folks would have the majority of their shopping done before Thanksgiving and then because of their hectic schedules dad would sit me down with all the gifts, a card table, wrapping paper, tape, bows and tags on the day after Thanksgiving and that was where I would spend the Thanksgiving weekend watching Christmas movies, eating leftover turkey sandwhiches and wrapping gifts.  When the gifts were done, I would start on the Christmas cards.  Now this wasn’t an abuse of child labor laws, it was how I earned a chunk of money for my own Christmas shopping.  And dad was a generous employer.
Christmas Eve was spent at our house with the immediate extended family (grams and gramps, aunts, uncles and cousins and many times neighbors too). We would do a big buffet and then open all our gifts to each other and have a party.  We’d go to sleep happy and sated while waiting for Santa and then start Christmas day with stockings and brunch.  By afternoon the turkey and ham were smelling great and we were ready to start all over.  Oh it was the same bunch of people, but we would add a great aunt and uncle. Looney Louise, (okay we didn’t call her looney to her face, but it is what made her such fun) made us cornflake wreaths with red hots and fudge!  All us cousins would sit on the front porch waiting for them and for our wreaths!  It wouldn’t have been Christmas without them!
Looney Louise years before she made us our wreaths!
As always I’m looking forward to the next holiday season just after this one ends, but knowing that the next one will be spent around family makes it already more special.
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