Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Introducing "Sweet Apple Temptations" and Helen's Holiday Cardamom Bread

Sweet Apple Temptations opens the gate to dessert heaven by offering over 200 apple dessert recipes. Biting into a crisp, juicy apple is a satisfying pleasure, but this book combines the queen-of-the-orchard with sweetness and baking spices to create apple desserts that taste as though they’ve been kissed by angels.

Apples are an amazingly versatile fruit, which is demonstrated in this unique apple dessert collection. At your next dinner party serve the decadence of Sinful Chocolate Applesauce Tiramisu or Swedish Applesauce Meringue Cake. When temperatures rise, cool your guests with Frozen Apple Cranberry Dessert or Pineapple Plantation Apple Crisp. And for kids of every age, there’s Snicker Apple Doodle Cookies and Tart Apple S’mores that’ll delight their lips with fruit-filled goodness.

Sweet Apple Temptations makes the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list who loves delicious apple desserts, which is nearly everyone!

Sweet Apple Temptations can now be purchased through PayPal
http://www.porkchopsandapplesauce.net/purchase.htm Or, send your order to: books@porkchopsandapplesauce.net along with shipping information, to whom you'd like your books personalized, and any other pertinent information. Mail your check or money order for $18.00 each book to:
Sweet Apple Temptations, P.O. Box 10394, Albuquerque, NM 87184-0394.

Helen's Holiday Cardamom Bread

Every year when we begin preparing for the busy holiday season, I think fondly of my late mother-in-law, Helen Robertson. I have Helen to thank for introducing me to the cardamom spice as well as the tradition of baking cardamom bread for each and every holiday season thereafter. Although she is greatly missed, her spirit remains with me every time I go into the kitchen to bake the aromatic bread with its light and distinctive flavor.

Helen would begin stocking up on Gold Medal Flour, Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast, and freshly ground cardamom with every approaching holiday. Cardamom was a spice that was foreign to me and I remember asking her, “What the heck is cardamom?”

“It’s a very expensive spice that's hard to find in the stores,” she’d whisper as she placed a finger on her pursed lips, indicating the spice and its exorbitant price should be kept a secret.

I don’t think Helen knew that cardamom is a tropical spice that’s grown mostly in Southern India and used commonly in the Middle Eastern countries for entrees, side dishes, and occasionally in desserts. Helen did know, however, that good quality cardamom is quite expensive but its high price is quickly justifiable when the sweet-smelling, exotic aroma of cardamom bread baking in the oven fills the house with its unique and alluring fragrance.

When I asked Helen for her cardamom bread recipe she flashed a proud smile at me and said, “Oh, you like it that much?”

Perfecting the craft of making cardamom bread did take practice. But, I knew I’d arrived in making the sweet, flowery bread when a young friend asked, “Will you make one of these and give it to me for my birthday next week? It’s yummy!” As she eagerly licked every bit of frosting from her fingers and reached for a third helping.

Many people have asked me for Helen’s cardamom bread recipe but fear strikes when they see it calls for yeast, so they tuck it away in their recipe box never to be seen again. Home bakers, especially newcomers to the kitchen, are sometimes intimidated by using yeast with its magical ability of making dough rise. Actually, raised breads are remarkably resilient as long as the water or milk that’s added to the yeast at the beginning of the process is kept at 110° or below.

I’d like to share my step-by-step instructions on how to make cardamom bread, which would basically apply to making any type of yeast bread.

For me, making bread becomes easier when I liken the process to being pregnant or to caring for a baby – it requires time and patience with a few rules to follow.

Rule-of-thumb is to under-do rather than over-do when making yeast breads. Use flour on the shy side, (otherwise your bread might be tough and heavy); liquid ingredients need to be at 110° or less when added to the yeast (liquid above 115° will ruin the yeast action and the bread will not rise). Finally, remember that you can’t hurry a good thing. It takes time and patience in caring for babies and in making bread, so relax and ring in the season with your own homemade cardamom bread.

Helen’s Holiday Cardamom Bread
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2/3 cup milk
1 package dry yeast (.25 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted, brush on bread before baking
2 tablespoons butter, melted, brush on bread after baking

1) Sift the flour, salt and ground cardamom together; set aside.
2) Heat the milk to 110° to 115° or slightly below (use a candy thermometer to check the temperature), if it gets too hot let it cool until the temperature drops.
3) Pour milk into a large mixing bowl if you intend to knead the dough by hand or into a heavy-duty electric mixer bowl such as a Kitchen Aid with dough hoops (a small electric hand mixer will not do the job of kneading bread).
4) Sprinkle the yeast over the milk; stir with a whisk until yeast softens (about 5 minutes). Stir in sugar, egg and flour using a heavy wooden spoon or heavy duty mixer.
5) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand for 8 minutes or knead dough for 4 minutes using a heavy-duty electric mixer (it’s okay to knead dough without additional flour as long as it doesn’t stick to the board). Butter or grease a large bowl and place dough in the bowl with the smooth side up. Cover dough with a piece of plastic wrap and if needed secure plastic wrap using a rubber band.
6) Allow dough to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
7) Once it’s risen for the first time, turn dough out onto a lightly floured board; punch down dough and cut it into 3 equal parts. Using your hands and a rolling pin, roll each section of dough into 24-inch long “ropes.” Pinch ropes together at one end and gently braid them without stretching or pulling. Form braid into a circle to create a wreath shape; pinch ends together and tuck uneven pieces to the underside.
8) Place wreath on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Brush with melted butter and cover with a clean dry dishtowel.
9) Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours or until doubled in bulk. Don’t let it rise too high or it’ll be too airy and may turn out dry.
10) Bake at 425° for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with remaining melted butter and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup blanched almonds, slivered
Candied red cherries, optional
Candied green pineapple, optional

Combine sugar, milk, vanilla and almonds in a medium bowl. Drizzle frosting over cardamom bread. Decorate with red cherries and green pineapple. Serves 8

Note: Make high-altitude adjustments to this recipe if your altitude is 2,500 feet or above.

For me, cardamom bread is one of my finest sweet bread accomplishments and it can be yours too. Happy Holidays!