vanilla quince jam

As of today, just one day until Christmas, I have made 2 pounds of granola, canned 18 jars of apple butter, and individually wrapped 64 salted caramels for the holidays. And it’s only just begun.

There are pies to be made. A playlist is in the works. Did I mention that I have yet to wrap a single gift?

The one thing I did manage to take care of in advance was preserving. I’ve decided that preserves are my gift of choice this year. I am 100% ready to distribute some jam. If you’re looking for last minute gift ideas, I’ve got just the thing for you.

Quince jam. Quince has become one of those things I’ve become obsessed with in recent years. It started with the quince paste, otherwise known as membrillo, that I used to buy from the cheese section at Bi-Rite market. It was such a great addition to any cheese plate; I was inspired me to make my own.

I’ll never forget the first time I bought quince. It was just days before Christmas and I had planned to make membrillo. I woke up Christmas Eve morning, ready to make quince paste only to discover that my bag of quince was nowhere to be found. Because someone, who shall remain unnamed, had mistaken my bruised quince for rotting fruit and threw them away. A tantrum ensued, followed by a begrudged trek out to Rainbow Grocery to buy more quince (for some reason, Berkeley Bowl had stopped carrying quince that Christmas). It was a rough scene that Christmas Eve morning. But the membrillo was a hit.

This year, instead of making membrillo, I thought I’d make quince jam since it’s easier to divvy up. As it cooks, the pale flesh of the quince becomes a gorgeous rosy color and fills your kitchen with the most incredible aroma – sweet, amazingly floral, a hint of citrus. As with most jams, this particular jam is really nice spread on toast, but it’s even better with a thin slice of manchego. And if you really feel like living on the edge this holiday season, you can slather it on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich. Merriest of holidays to you and yours!

vanilla quince jam

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes about 5 half pints

6 cups packed, grated quince, (discard cores, leave peel on), about 2 lbs of quince (about 5 quince)

4-1/4 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp lemon zest

1 vanilla bean, split

4 cups sugar

Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half. Working around the core, grate the quince flesh (including the peel) with a cheese grater, until you have about 6 cups of grated quince.

Put water in a large, wide, thick-bottomed saucepan (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add the grated quince, lemon juice and lemon. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully ladle the quince into a food mill to puree. Return the processed quince to the saucepan.

Add the sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a boil again. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.

Fill your your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars* and seal. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly.

To sterilize the jars, rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for at least 8 hours.

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rugelach

It’s about to be a factory of sweets up in this joint. I’m making my list and checking it twice. And I’m getting excited.

These rugelach are most definitely adding to the excitement. Whenever I go to New York, I make sure I get my fill of rugelach. And for whatever reason, I pretty much only eat them when I’m in New York. Until this past weekend.

The original plan was to make a chocolate babka. But I was reviewing recipes and they all involved several hours from start to finish, as most yeast doughs do. This usually is not a deterrent for me, but my hours are precious these days and I just couldn’t commit to such a lengthy project.

And then this rugelach recipe winked at me. And I just knew. I love it when a new recipe works out perfectly, no mishaps, no funny business.

If you’ve never had rugelach, you’re in for a treat. They’re sort of a cookie-pastry hybrid; tender, flaky cream cheese dough, filled with preserves and nuts and cinnamon-sugar and rolled into little cresents. As they bake, the sugar mixture melts into the preserves, which become a little bit sticky and caramelized and the dough puffs around it. And since they’re not terribly sweet, they are dangerously easy to eat.

rugelach

from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine

makes 36 cookies

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

8 ounces cream cheese, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raspberry or apricot preserves, or a mixture of the two

1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until evenly combined, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Beat in 2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Reduce the speed to low. Add 1-1/4 cups of the flour and mix just until incorporated, then repeat with the remaining 1 cup of flour. Do not overmix.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Flour your hands and gently knead to be sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed, about 10 seconds. Divide the dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 1-inch thick disk and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours.

To make the filling, combine the walnuts, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

Position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

Working with one disk of dough at a time, unwrap and place on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, and roll out into a 13-inch-diameter circle. Using a small offset metal spatula, spread with about 2 tablespoons of the preserves, leaving a 2-inch diameter space in the center of the dough, and a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the jam with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture. Using a sharp pizza wheel or large knife, cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 wedges, to give a total of 12 wedges. One at a time, starting at the wide end, fold the corners in about 1/4-inch and then roll up. Do not roll the rugelach too tightly or the filling will ooze out. Wipe your fingers clean after rolling each rugelach to avoid getting jam on the outside of the cookies. Place each rugelach on the pans about 1-inch apart, with the point of each facing down. Curve the ends of the rugelach slightly toward the center to make a crescent. Repeat this process with the other two disks of dough.

Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on the pans. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Just before serving, sift with confectioners’ sugar.

peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies

And so it begins. ‘Tis the season for goodies. Are you ready?

I’ve been obsessed with Concord grape jam since I made my first batch last month. And I’ve been wanting to do something with it other than just smother it on top of peanut butter and saltines.

And then I figured it out – peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies. How could you not love the idea of peanut butter cookies with a well of your favorite jam in the center?

These are peanut butter and jelly love. And if you’re more of a peanut butter and chocolate person, you could swap out the jam for a little ganache or chocolate frosting. Santa will approve either way.

peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies

from Martha Stewart Living

makes about 40 cookies

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup jam (grape or seedless raspberry are favorites)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat peanut butter and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add sugars, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

Using a small (1 tablespoon) ice cream scoop, scoop dough and form into balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar, and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake until cookies are puffy, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and make indentations in centers by pressing with the handle end of a wooden spoon. Return to oven, and bake until edges are golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Transfer sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.

Heat jam in a small saucepan, stirring, until loosened, about 30 seconds. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into each indentation. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container in a single layer for up to 1 week.