Christmas Cookie Countdown – Sour Cream Raisin Cookies

cookie, contest, newfoundlandWell, the Christmas music is playing, I’ve got a nice hot cup of tea by my side so I’m ready to start giving you some of my favourite holiday cookies.  I’m starting off with a drop cookie.  Drop cookies are one of the easiest cookie to make.  Cookies like my molasses drop cookie or chocolate chip are examples of a wonderfully easy cookie.  You just scoop out the batter onto a cookie sheet and bake.   You can be more precise with a cookie scoop so they all look the same and bake evenly.  I like using a scoop for that reason.  And it’s a little faster than using spoons.  Not to worry though, if you don’t have a cookie scoop, just use you tablespoons and you’ll be fine.

sour cream, raisin, cookie, christmas, newfoundland, dessert, brown sugar, holidayWhile most wouldn’t think about using sour cream in a cookie, it works really well.  It gives in a nice creamy texture with a hint of sourness.  And this cookie keeps well too.  You can make some and freeze them for the holidays and they’ll stay soft (after thawing, of course) and won’t crumble.  Perfect for your holiday get-togethers when you have to bring a housewarming gift.

First preheat your oven to 375F.  Now cream the butter.  You’ll want to get your butter nice and fluffy, so whip the butter for at least a minute.  Remember to have the butter at room temperature first.  It will make this step so much easier to do.  Add the sour cream to the mixture.  You’ll want to use full fat sour cream for this recipe.  It adds to the creaminess of the cookie.  Don’t worry about the fat content.  It’s not like you’re going to eat a dozen of them while watching a Christmas movie because you got home late and skipped supper.  No, nothing like that ever happened.  Ahem.

After you blended the sour cream and butter, add the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Put your mixer on low and slowly add the dry to the wet batter.  Mix until clear.  That means you shouldn’t see any specks of flour in the batter.  Fold in the raisins.

Scoop by the tablespoon onto parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheets leaving about an inch between each scoop.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  The cookies will have a slight colour so don’t be tempted to keep them in longer.  They will continue to cook as they sit on the cookie sheet.  Let them cool for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.sour cream, raisin, cookie, christmas, newfoundland, dessert, brown sugar, holiday

Sour Cream Raisin Cookies

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter unsalted if possible
  • 2/3 cup sour cream full fat
  • 2 cups brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups All purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup raisins Can substitute currants or Craisins if desired.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Cream butter on medium until fluffy. Add sour cream. Blend well.
  3. Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs to butter/sour cream mixture. Mix on medium until well combined.
  4. In separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Blend together with a wire whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients. Turn mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until clear.
  5. Slowly fold in raisins to batter.
  6. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, leaving about an inch between scoops. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until set.
  7. Let cool on pan for about 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Currants or Craisins can be substituted for the fruit.

Always have your ingredients at room temperature for baking unless specified.

Rum Spiced Banana Bread

rum, banana, bread, loaf, dessert, sugar, screech, newfoundlandSo if you have been following my blog, you would have realized that I made the lovely Portuguese orange cakes the last time and they were topped with sanding sugar.  And if you haven’t been following my blog, then sign up for updates so you don’t miss out on the fun and food.

Anyway, I bought the sanding sugar and, of course, had a little left over because I wasn’t sure how much I would need for the last recipe.  Needless to say, there may be a few more recipes coming your way which have sanding sugar in them.  Oopsee.

There were a few bananas which were going off and getting too soft to enjoy so they were placed in the freezer for later baking.  I don’t know how that happens.  It seems that the bananas go from green to overripe in days.  I have all the best intentions about eating them for breakfast, or throwing them in a lunch bag, but when I get around to it I just don’t feel like eating bananas that day.  So they ripen.

Banana bread has become such a common dessert and you’ll find millions of variations out there with a myriad of ingredients and extras.  I wanted something fairly simple (read: one bowl mixing) and a subtle nod to my home province of Newfoundland.  What would be easier than throwing in some Screech?  Booze is better in most things.  Right? Right? –crickets chirping–

The thing about banana bread is that your bananas have to be as ripe as you can stand it.  That’s the good thing about throwing them into the freezer when they reach the peak ripeness.  That way you can preserve all the sweetness of the sugars in the fruit, without all the peskiness of attracting fruit flies.

Don’t get me started.  I left some bananas out to ripen once and within a couple of days I was finding little fruit flies everywhere.  It was like that scene in Amityville where the flies are covering the windows.  Freaky.   Needless to say, I throw them into the freezer before things get too out of hand.

Preheat your oven to 350F and put the ripe bananas in your stand mixer and mix on low.  You want the bananas to be mushy, almost liquid-like.  The softer the better.  You’ll get more banana flavour if they are really ripe.  Still mixing on low, add the melted butter, sugar, eggs, and rum.

Then mix your dry ingredients.  You can throw everything in the mixer, but I personally like to mix my dry ingredients first to make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add that slowly to the wet mixture and blend until clear.  That is, you don’t see any more flour in the batter.  Do not overmix as the bread will be too chewy.

Pour into a greased eight inch loaf pan and set aside.  In a small bowl combine a couple of tablespoons of sanding sugar and a little bit of the rum.  You want the sugar to absorb the rum, but not be soaking.  You don’t want the sugar to dissolve.  Sprinkle the sugar on top of batter and bake for 50 minutes on the middle rack.  Use the knife test to check for doneness.

Let the loaf cool in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the pan an let cool completely.  Serves 8-10.rum, banana, bread, loaf, dessert, sugar, screech, newfoundland

Rum Spiced Banana Bread

This light banana bread has the subtle flavour of rum and a pleasing sugary crust.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 10 slices

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas very ripe
  • 1/3 cup butter melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp Screech Dark rum
  • 1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp sanding sugar for topping the loaf

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In stand mixer on low with the paddle attachment, mash the bananas until soft. The bananas should be very well broken down. Add the melted butter, sugar, egg, and rum.
  3. In a separate bowl combing the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
  4. With the mixer still on low, add the dry ingredients. Mix until clear. Pour the batter in a greased 8 inch loaf pan.
  5. In a small bowl combine the sanding sugar and a few drops of rum. Mix until moistened. Sprinkled the flavoured sugar over the top of the batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick or until a inserted knife comes out clean.
  6. Let the loaf cool on a rack in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely. Serves 8-10 slices.

Buttermilk Banana Muffin

muffin, banana, buttermilk, sugar, dessert, cinnamonFor the longest time I thought everything my mother created in the kitchen was a Newfoundland invention.  When I was a youngster she would make cabbage rolls from scratch.  She would make the filling and boil the cabbage and spend the afternoon rolling them up and baking them for supper.  Same with Chinese food.  She would cut up pieces of chicken, dip them in batter and deep fry them.  Then she would make her own sweet and sour sauce and serve them with stir fried veggies and rice.  I thought both of those dishes were Newfoundland recipes.  Later, when I was older, I found out that those recipes weren’t authentic to just Newfoundland.  But that’s the great thing about food, it becomes authentic to the person making it.

As a baker I’ve learned how to do pastries and breads from around the world.  I’ve made baguettes from France, Victoria sponges from England, Swiss meringues, and countless others.  But when I try a recipe and I get comfortable with it, then I can experiment and make authentic to me.  I can add my ingredients and my take on the recipe.  So that’s what I’ve done with this basic banana muffin recipe.

I’ve added the richness of buttermilk and the sweet cinnamon sugar to just give it my spin on a classic muffin.  Yes, you can find many, many, many banana muffin recipes out there, but I haven’t found one that adds the cinnamon sugar on top.  And that’s the great thing about recipes.  You just tweak it a little and it becomes yours.

So, enjoy these wonderful buttermilk banana muffins with a nice cup of tea.  And who knows, maybe you’ll change it up to make it your own and it will be just as good, if not better.  Remember to invite me over so we can swap!

muffin, banana, buttermilk, sugar, cinnamon

Buttermilk Banana Muffin

A moist banana muffin with the slight tanginess of buttermilk and sweet sugar cinnamon topping.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 10 muffins

Ingredients

Muffin

  • 2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed banana about 3 bananas
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Topping

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Use a whisk to mix thoroughly.
  3. In a large bowl with your hand mixer combine the mashed bananas, buttermilk, egg, and vegetable oil. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Blend until you cannot see any flour. Do not overmix.
  4. Transfer the batter to greased or lined muffin tin. Using a scoop, fill each until 3/4 full. Bake on middle rack in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The muffins should be slightly brown around the edges.
  5. Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Meanwhile combine the remaining cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl for the topping.
  6. Once the muffins have cooled, take one and first dip in the melted butter, shaking off any excess. Then dip in cinnamon sugar.

Molasses

Molasses has always been part of Newfoundland’s history.  Ever since we were a port of call for the English as they were trading in British West Indies, Newfoundland has had their fingers in molasses.

Molasses found it’s way in many homes and recipes.  Today you can find it in ‘lassy buns, pandowdy, and christmas pudding.  It’s also just used as a condiment in place of syrup.  It’s great for dipping your toutons or pouring over pancakes.  I used to make a sandwich of butter and molasses.  One slice of bread would get buttered while the other would get molasses.  It was a great snack after school when you couldn’t wait the two hours for dinner. Molasses also comes in different forms: fancy, cooking, and blackstrap.  The most common for cooking is fancy and blackstrap.

© Crosby's Molasses
© Crosby’s Molasses

Fancy molasses is the pure juice of the sugar cane, condensed, inverted and purified. It is 100% natural and contains no additives or preservatives. It is a bit lighter in colour than the other molasses products, and the flavour is tangy sweet.  Blackstrap Molasses is the highly-concentrated, final by-product of the refined sugar manufacturing process. As the sugar crystallizes, the residual cane juice thickens into a dark mass and is separated out through a centrifuge. The resulting molasses is very dark with a robust, somewhat bitter flavour. Like the fancy molasses, it is a pure product and contains no added sulphates or sulphites.

Molasses was big business in trade for Britain.  The colonial molasses trade occurred throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the British colonies of the Americas. Molasses was a major trading product.  It would shipped in large wooden barrels along with the rum and dried fish.  Back in the days of the general store, you could just go in a have them place a tap on the barrel and then pour out the amount you needed.  The ultimate in bulk shopping.

molasses-actMolasses was produced in sugar plantations in the Caribbean (also called the West Indies), in islands controlled by England (e.g., Jamaica and Barbados), Spain (e.g., Santo Domingo), and France (e.g., Martinique). The English colonies along the Atlantic (mainly the Thirteen Colonies) purchased molasses and used it to produce rum, primarily in distilleries in New England.  St. John’s, Newfoundland, was a port of call to and from England for supplies, so it would be natural for Newfoundlanders to sample the wares being shipped back to the motherland.

Newfoundland has its fair share of fish.  John Cabot has supposed said that he could walk on the waters in Newfoundland because it was so thick with cod.  For the better part of the last two hundred years, Newfoundlanders used to have cod as their main fish protein.  Cod was caught, filleted, salted, and dried.  This dried fish was sent to England and south to Jamaica.  In return Newfoundland got molasses and rum.  This is why Jamaica has plenty of salt fish in their diets and Newfoundlanders have molasses in theirs.

Then came the Molasses Act.  The Molasses Act of March 1733 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 6 Geo II. c. 13), which imposed a tax of six pence per gallon on imports of molasses from non-English colonies. Parliament created the act largely at the insistence of large plantation owners in the British West Indies. The Act was not passed for the purpose of raising revenue, but rather to regulate trade by making British products cheaper than those from the French West Indies. The Molasses Act greatly affected the significant colonial molasses trade. Molasses from the British West Indies, used in New England for making rum, was priced much higher than its competitors and they also had no need for the large quantities of lumber, fish, and other items offered by the colonies in exchange. The British West Indies in the first part of the 18th Century were the most important trading partner for Great Britain so Parliament was attentive to their requests. However, rather than acceding to the demands to prohibit the colonies from trading with the non-British islands, Parliament passed the prohibitively high tax on the colonies for the import of molasses from these islands.

Largely opposed by colonists, the tax was rarely paid, and smuggling to avoid it was prominent. If actually collected, the tax would have effectively closed that source to New England and destroyed much of the rum industry. Yet smuggling, bribery or intimidation of customs officials effectively nullified the law.  The growing corruption of local officials and disrespect for British Law caused by this act and others like it eventually led to the American Revolution in 1776. This Act was replaced by the Sugar Act in 1764.  This Act halved the tax rate, but was accompanied by British intent to actually collect the tax this time.

Who knew that the love of molasses (as well as fish and rum) would be part of the American Revolution?  Needless to say, our love of sugar hasn’t stopped and molasses has become one of the staples in the Newfoundland kitchen.