Welcome to “Baking a Better Holiday” with California Olive Ranch and Bob’s Red Mill! They have teamed up to do a month-long promotion of healthier baking options for this holiday season. They even have a Facebook contest where you can win a wonderful prize, but more on that in a bit. Let’s talk holiday entertaining.
Happy December First! Today is the beginning of the crazed holiday baking and entertaining season for many of us. While some have visions of sugarplums dancing through their heads, we bakers dream of trays of decorated cookies, savory appetizers, and tables laden with everyone’s favorite foods. Often those dreams turn into nightmares of flour, sugar, and spices overflowing their containers and filling the kitchen as we try to fight our way to the oven before anything burns. But with a little planning this can be a stress-free holiday season.
I am always on the lookout for recipes that can be made wholly or partially ahead. I try to plan my menu with most of the items those that can be served cool or at room temperature. If I choose to include a hot item, I want something that can be held in a slow cooker or chafing dish (chafers are inexpensive to rent) and that doesn’t require last minute baking. If I do select a baked item for the buffet, I bake it early in the day and reheat as needed.
If you have the room, pre-load a couple of platters, bowls or trays of each item you are serving. Then when the first round starts to look “picked over” just do a swap out like they do on TV. You can take what is left from the first trays and consolidate them. Then when the second round is thinning, do another swap out. You will look like a pro with almost no effort!
To keep the buffet looking appetizing, keep an eye on things. Rearrange the food, stir the dips, consolidate items on plates, etc. Try to keep the food looking like it was just put out so that it will be every bit as appetizing for anyone arriving later as it was at the beginning of the evening.
When you are thinking about a dessert buffet, plan on the bulk of them to be easy to make and a few that are more challenging. Think about a selection of cookies, cakes, mini tarts, etc. Cakes like today’s gingerbread are wonderful when cut into thin slices, “fingers,” or smaller cubes. Remember that people love to graze. By cutting larger items into small pieces, they won’t feel as though they are eating as much and can easily try a little of everything.
Last month I was invited to tour California Olive Ranch in Northern California (see my tour write ups here and here).I was invited to create a recipe that includes their olive oil and Bob’s Red Mill products as part of their month-long healthy baking with olive oil promotion. I love the idea of being able to make something that is both delicious and healthy at the same time. And while olive oil may not be the first thing you think of when baking, it is definitely a wonderful ingredient that adds a beautiful nuance to the final products.
Baking with olive oil and whole grains is gaining in popularity in America along with an overall trend toward getting healthier. One way is substituting olive oil for butter in recipes. To help you do that, here is a conversion chart that I used when creating today’s recipe. It makes it so easy to be healthier!
Substituting Olive Oil for Butter
If an existing recipe uses butter, use this conversion chart to substitute healthier olive oil:
1 teaspoon 3/4 teaspoon
1 tablespoon 2-1/4 teaspoons
1/4 cup 3 tablespoons
1/3 cup 1/4 cup
1/2 cup 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
2/3 cup 1/2 cup
3/4 cup 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon
1 cup 3/4 cup
Conversion table courtesy of Carol Firenze, The Passionate Olive
I have to confess that I am particularly proud of this recipe. It is incredibly moist and tender with deeply rounded spiciness. A bit of black pepper adds a touch of heat that complements the other spices and is a nice surprise. I used Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour and hazelnut meal/flour. They add a lot of vitamins and a subtle nuttiness that I find very pleasing. The Arbequina olive oil lends a slight fruitiness that really makes it special.
Now, let’s talk about that Facebook contest, shall we. Starting today and running through Dec 8th, go to California Olive Ranch’s Facebook page and share your favorite pairing of their olive oil and one or more of Bob’s Red Mill products. You don’t have to create a recipe, they are just looking for ideas of combinations. For example, the use of Arbequina olive oil, whole wheat flour and hazelnut meal in my recipe. Winners will be announced Friday, Dec 9.
Post your idea(s) on their wall and the 3 with the most “likes” will win a $50 Bob’s Red Mill gift card and California Olive Ranch olive oil!! They will be posting recipes all through the month of December, so subscribe to their newsletter and never miss a recipe!
I recommend you also:
- Like Bob’s Red Mill’s Facebook page
- Check out Bob’s website for ideas
- Look through the dessert and appetizer recipes on California Olive Ranch’s website
- Subscribe to the California Olive Ranch newsletter
- Tell your family and friends to “Like” California Olive Ranch’s Facebook page so they can vote for your suggestion(s). The more the merrier!
I hope you try both California Olive Ranch oils and Bob’s Red Mill products. I believe in both companies wholeheartedly and use their products in my own kitchen.
Good luck with the contest!
Disclosure: I received products from both California Olive Ranch and Bob’s Red Mill to help me create the recipe. I was not otherwise compensated and all opinions, as always, are my own.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
While I love the blend of spices in this gingerbread, I understand how expensive they can be if you don’t bake often. The mace, cardamom, and coriander can be left out, but I encourage you to give them a try. All of them also do double-duty in savory dishes. For less than $12 at penzeys.com you can take your dishes to a whole new level!
Kitchen Skill: How to Get Perfectly “Dusted” Desserts
One of the hallmarks of professionally plated desserts are the finishing touches that turn an ordinary dessert into a special event. The most common addition is a sprig of mint. The pop of bright green is very pleasing to our eye. Another trick is to sprinkle dark colored desserts like chocolate cake and gingerbread with powdered sugar. It looks like a dusting of new snow on a winter’s morn.
Use a small, very fine wire sieve and fill it with a few tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar. Hold it over the cake and lightly tap it on the side of your hand. Try only dusting half of the cake for interest. For a more decorative look, set a doily on top of the cake and then dust with sugar. Remove the doily and you will have a beautiful lace design. You can also use a solid shape such as a heart, crescent moon, etc. that you have cut out of cardboard. Just like the doily, set it on the cake before dusting. Remove it and you will have a dark shape highlighted with the sugar.
- 3/4 cup California Olive Ranch© Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
- 1/2 cup molasses, preferably unsulphured
- 3/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Cane Syrup or dark corn syrup
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill© Whole Wheat Flour
- 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill© Hazelnut Meal/Flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2-1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- Optional Toppings
- Powdered sugar
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream
- Vanilla ice cream
- California Olive Ranch© Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with the top rack in the center of the oven. Lightly grease a non-stick bundt pan; set aside.
- In a saucepan, combine the olive oil, ginger root, molasses, Golden Syrup and brown sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is melted and all the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and sour cream. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, combine the flours, salt, baking soda and spices. Blend on low for 30 seconds to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the oil/sugar mixture and mix until the flour is incorporated. When batter gets thick and hard to stir, pour in egg/sour cream mixture. Beat until smooth; batter will be fairly thin.
- Pour into prepared baking pan. Place pan into center of preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and very carefully spin the pan so the back is facing the front of the oven. Continue baking until the top springs back when touched in the center and the sides pull away from the pan, about 20 more minutes.
- Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack and remove pan. Let cake cool to at least barely warm before slicing.
- Yield: 10 to 12 servingsMake Ahead: Wrapped tightly in plastic, this gingerbread will last about 4 days either at room temperature or refrigerated - unless you eat it all first! If you refrigerate it, it will be denser and slightly chewy. The cake is best served at room temperature so remove it from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before slicing.
- Serving Suggestions: I like to dust slices with powdered sugar and tope with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. Serve with a scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream drizzled with some of the California Olive Ranch© Arbequina Extra Virgin olive oil.
- And if you want an over-the-top dessert to thrill your guests, add these Port Poached Pears from Dorie Greenspan. You are guaranteed to get a well-deserved standing ovation!
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 8 large ripe (but firm) pears with stems intact
- 4 cups Ruby port
- 2 cups sugar
- 15 (1/8-inch thick) slices of peeled, fresh ginger
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Add the lemon juice to a large bowl of cold water. Peel the pears, leaving the stems intact, and use a melon baller to remove the core through the bottom end. Put the pears in the bowl of acidulated water.
- Bring the port, sugar, ginger, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean to a boil in a large heavy Dutch oven over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes.
- Drain the pears, add them to the syrup and simmer until tender, turning frequently, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a large, deep container and stand them upright.
- Boil the syrup until it is reduced to 1-3/4 cups, about 18 minutes, and then pour the syrup over the pears. Cover and chill. (The pears can be prepared 1 day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
- Yield: about 8 servings
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