A drink to start the festivities

For  a Thanksgiving cocktail, I had in mind an autumnal aperitif that would  whet the apetite...a spirited libation that could take the edge off both  chilly air and holiday anxiety....yet something light enough in alcohol  not to floor us before our meal (and freely flowing wine and aquavit)  has even begun.

1 ½ oz bourbon or rye

¾ oz cider

½ Carpano Antica*

½ oz fresh lemon juice

⅓ oz Wood’s Boiled Cider**

dash angostura bitters

Pour  all the ingredients into a shaker. Fill it with ice. Shake it hard,  until it’s nearly too cold to touch. Strain the drink into a chilled  cocktail glass. Alternately: make a huge batch, ice it, and serve it as  punch.

*Carpano  Antica, an herbaceous Italian vermouth, isn’t available everywhere. If  you can’t easily find it, use another sweet vermouth and an extra dash of  bitters.

**Wood’s  Boiled Cider is a syrupy cider reduction. You could replace it with a  rich demerara syrup. Gently heat and stir 2 parts demerara (raw) sugar  with one part water until dissolved. Use what you need and keep the rest  in your refrigerator to make yourself an old fashioned when all the  guests are gone.

Toddy Time

It’s getting chilly here in New York. There’s no comfort like a toddy to take the chill from your bones before you nod off under a heap of blankets. And these are recipes that don’t require careful measuring: an important feature when you’re cold and tired.

Whiskey Toddy
This soothes a sore throat as well as cough syrup, and tastes a lot better.

big splash whiskey
half a lemon
generous spoonful honey
(herbal tea, optional)

Squeeze the lemon into a mug, straining the juice through your fingers to catch the seeds. Add the honey and whiskey. Top this with boiling water and stir. Use a teabag if you like. I like to throw the lemon rind right in. Taste it, and add more lemon or honey or whiskey if it needs it.

Variation: Breuckelen Gin makes a limited amount of aged gin, which I’ve been enjoying in my toddies. Ransom Old Tom would also be delicious.

Spiked Cider
Bitters are an easy way to add the flavor of mulling spices to a mug of cider. I favor Angostura, Bitter Truth Aromatic, or Fee’s Old Fashioned. Whiskey or rum could stand in for the apple brandy.

apple cider
apple brandy/applejack
bitters

Heat a mug of cider, douse it with booze, stir it, and dash a few drops of bitters on top.

Now cozy up!

Saturday Sweets: Halloween Cookies

Sleet was splattering against the windows and slush piling up in the street as we baked Halloween cookies this Saturday. With snow coming down and the smell of warm cider wafting from mugs, we may as well have been making Christmas cookies! This basic recipe can be cut into any shape you like, or made into logs and sliced before baking. Plan ahead: you can make this dough up to two days in advance, and you will need to chill it for at least two hours before baking. The most fun part, for children and adults alike, is decorating each cookie with colored icings and sprinkles!

 

for the cookies

4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon if using table salt)

(1 tsp cinnamon, optional)*

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature.

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

(zest of one lemon, optional)*

*use either lemon or cinnamon

 

for the icing

confectioner’s sugar

cream or milk

food coloring

 

1. Set out all your ingredients to allow them to reach room temperature. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and (if you’re using it) cinnamon.

2. Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar, beat until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the lemon zest last, if you’re using it.

3. Mix in the flour about a cup at a time, just until thoroughly combined.

4. Form the dough into 2 disks (or more if you don’t have much space to roll out the dough). Wrap them up. Refrigerate for at least two hours, and up to two days.

5. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees farenheit. Line a few baking sheets with baking parchment.

6. Sprinkle a little flour on each side of one of the disks. Place it between two pieces of wax paper or parchment and roll it out until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie cutters in flour to keep them from sticking, and cut out cookies. Place them about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. Save the scraps to roll out again. Repeat until you’ve used all your dough. If the cookies are really soft, put the tray in the refrigerator until they firm up.

7. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, rotating once so they cook evenly. They’re done when they turn golden brown around the edges.

8. Let the cookies cool before you ice them. To make icing, gradually stir cream or milk into a small bowl of confectioner’s sugar until it’s a smooth, spreadable texture, but not too runny. Add more cream or sugar as needed, and color however you like. Have fun applying icing and sprinkles!

 

hint #1: If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a wine bottle.

hint #2: Make a disposable pastry bag out of a Ziplock bag. Cut a tiny hole in one coner and fill the bag with icing. Twist the open end and squeeze to apply icing. To “flood” a cookie, outline the area you want iced, and then fill it in.

 

Saturday Sweets: Pumpkin Bread

 

I remember my dad's pumpkin muffins as a special childhood treat. He made them in a dinosaur mold! I crave them when the first fall chill blows in. For all I know he only made them a few times, but memory has made them a tradition. This recipe is for pumpkin bread, but could just as easily be made as [dinosaur shaped] muffins. With my baking class, I used tiny loaf pans (they're meant to be disposable, but I wash and reuse them). Adjust your baking time according to the pans you use: less time the smaller they are.

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 mini loaf pans, or two regular ones.

2) Whisk together in a large bowl:

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp ground allspice

2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3) In a separate bowl, whisk these together one at a time, until smooth:

4 large eggs

1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 can pumkin (15 oz)

1 2/3 cups buttermilk

4) Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just enough to moisten everything. Don’t stir too much! Lumps are ok.

5) Divide the batter amongst the pans.

6) Bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.