On Christmas morning, the first present is glazed orange rolls

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On Christmas morning, the first present is glazed orange rolls

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the American-Statesman in 2011.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the American-Statesman in 2011.

Recipes

Cheese Ball

It seems like every family has a favorite cheese ball, and this is the one that makes an appearance at every holiday gathering my family has hosted for the past 20 years. The recipe calls for Roka, a shelf-stable blue cheese that used to be a lot more prevalent in grocery stores than it is today. Kraft still makes it, but because of limited and seasonal distribution, you might have to substitute 5 ounces of regular blue cheese in its place.

2 8-oz cream cheese packages, softened

1 5 oz. jar Kraft Roka blue cheese

1 5 oz. jar Kraft Old English

1 1/2 Tbsp. Worchershire sauce

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Parsley flakes or finely chopped parsley (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients with your clean hands. Form into one large or several small balls and roll in chopped pecans and parsley flakes, if using.

- Sis Ann Broyles

Orange Glazed Rolls

1 package (or 21/4 tsp.) dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

7 Tbsp. melted butter, divided

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

23/4 cup flour

For sugar mixture:

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup coconut

2 Tbsp. grated orange rind

For glaze:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate

1/4 cup butter

In a large bowl, stir yeast and warm water until dissolved. Stir in sugar, salt and 6 Tbsp. melted butter. Whisk in the eggs and sour cream. With a wooden spoon, gradually add flour until well combined. Cover with a towel and let rise for two hours. Meanwhile, combine sugar mixture ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

Pour the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead about 15 times. Divide dough in half and roll the first half in a circle that is about 12 inches in diameter. Brush with some of the leftover butter and sprinkle with half of sugar mixture. Cut dough into 12 wedges and roll, starting with the wide end, into rolls that look like small croissants. Place on a greased pan and repeat with remaining dough. Roll out the other half of the dough and repeat. Cover rolls with a towel and let rise for one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake rolls for 25 to 30 minutes.

While rolls are baking, combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boil for three minutes. Pour glaze over rolls after they are done while still hot. Makes 24 rolls.

- Carolyn Cook

Creamy Stone-Ground Grits

Grits are at their creamiest right after they are made but can be made up to 2 days ahead. Chill, uncovered, until cool, then cover. To reheat, break congealed grits into pieces and whisk in enough boiling water to loosen (up to about 1 cup). Heat over low heat, stirring constantly. If you can't find stone-ground grits, use regular grits but not quick-cooking. Regular grits will take less than half the time to cook. If you want to add a handful of shredded cheese to these grits, do so when you're stirring in the cream and salt or when reheating.

4 cups water

4 cups whole milk

2 cups white stone-ground grits

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 stick unsalted butter (optional), cut into pieces

2 tsp. kosher salt

Bring water and milk just to a simmer in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan. Meanwhile, cover grits with water in a large bowl and whisk vigorously. Let stand 30 seconds, then skim any chaff that has floated to surface with a fine-mesh sieve. Drain grits well in a fine-mesh sieve and whisk into simmering milk mixture.

Reduce heat to low and simmer grits, partially covered, stirring often with a heatproof rubber spatula, until grits are tender and thickened to the consistency of loose oatmeal, about 11/4 hours (stir more toward end of cooking to avoid scorching). If grits become too thick before they are tender and creamy, thin with hot water (about 1/2 cup).

Stir in cream, butter (if using), and salt. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered, up to 20 minutes. Serves 8.

- Scott Peacock, "Gourmet Holiday, " a special edition publication featuring recipes from Gourmet magazine

Breakfast Casserole

Carol Chapman's recipe makes for a very fine casserole, but when I made it, I reduced the chopped onion to 1/4 cup and added about 1/2 cup chopped kale. Feel free to add whatever vegetables suit you, such as broccoli, spinach or jalapeños, using between 1 and 2 cups total vegetables. You can also assemble and bake the casserole in muffin tins to make individual servings or replace some of the milk with cream, if you're feeling decadent.

6 English muffins, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup butter, melted

12 oz. sausage or bacon, cooked according to directions on the package

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

12 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Bacon bits for garnish (optional)

Place muffin pieces in a greased 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour melted butter over the muffin pieces. Chop sausage or bacon into small pieces, reserving some finely chopped bacon pieces for topping, if desired. Evenly distribute the meat, onion, pepper, kale and cheeses on top of muffin pieces. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over ingredients in the casserole and top with remaining bacon pieces or store-bought bacon bits. Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest for at least five minutes before serving. Serves eight.

- Carol Chapman

I blame my family's obsession with Christmas breakfast on my grandmother's orange glazed rolls.

The sticky sweet croissant-shaped rolls are not only her signature holiday baked good, they are also her favorite gift to give. Thankfully, she's still healthy enough to make dozens of them to give to friends, family, neighbors and members of her church, and she always makes sure to have a pan ready for our family's treasured holiday meal: Christmas breakfast.

Rather than repeat Thanksgiving dinner or try to come up with some equally elaborate and labor-intensive meal, my mom focused instead on breakfast, which is now as much a part of the Christmas holiday as the gift exchange itself.

It must have been a conscious or subconscious effort to stretch out that warm fuzzy feeling of family togetherness that Christmas morning inspires, plus, we just really like an excuse to eat copious amounts of bacon, the best coffee they could find and, of course, GaGa's orange glazed rolls.

It was the only meal of the year that my mom served cheese grits, and she usually made some kind of quiche or breakfast casserole the day before, when we were all hurry-up-and-waiting for Christmas to arrive. (Egg casseroles are better if you make them a day ahead of time, anyway. The flavors can meld and the bread has a chance to soak up the raw egg and milk mixture. If you're making a quiche, make and bake it a day ahead and then chill it. You can reheat it at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or serve at room temperature.)

Another holiday classic is my mom's cheese ball, a mass of cream cheese, a shelf-stable Kraft cheese called Old English and finely chopped onions rolled in pecans. I can't think of a year when we've actually finished one of these behemoths at a holiday party, but I've finally figured out a new way to eat it: Place spoonfuls onto baguette slices and then toast the slices in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

It seems like cheese and butter find their way into just about every dish on my family's Christmas breakfast table, and in an effort to have at least something relatively healthful on the table, consider adding extra vegetables in the quiche or casserole or simply roasting a batch of bright green Brussels sprouts to serve on the side. (Yes, you can prep those ahead of time by washing, cutting in half and refrigerating a pound of Brussels sprouts. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roast alongside the casserole.)

Bacon isn't exactly a diet food and it certainly is time-consuming to fry in a pan. One way to make it slightly healthier and more hands off to cook is to bake it in the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Lay strips of bacon on the rack and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes until it's nice and crispy. Most of the fat drips into the pan, and you can place to bacon on paper towels to blot even more of the fat.

Because breakfast is usually composed of relatively simple dishes, the better the ingredients, the better the meal. Splurge on the best butter you can find and a big package of thick-cut bacon. Christmas falls on a Sunday, which means you can hit the Saturday farmers markets to buy local eggs, coffee, freshly baked bread and other ingredients you'll need. Texas citrus is at its peak this time of year, so look for oranges and grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley for freshly squeezed juice that someone can make while the casseroles or other dishes are baking or reheating.

To make Christmas breakfast even more special, incorporate elements of the meal into the gift exchange. You can wrap up a nice bottle of Champagne or Prosecco for mimosas, a few pounds of high-quality coffee or fancy jam. (Bailey's Irish Cream or Kahlúa look nice under the tree with ribbons tied around their necks, too.)

Or you can go whole hog and give a giant flat-top griddle to the pancake-maker in the family and break it in with blueberry flapjacks. I'm giving my husband a toaster this year, and you can bet your burnt broiler toast that we'll be using it as soon as he unwraps it.

And finally, the best gift you can give the cook is the gift of not doing the dishes. Plan ahead: If you know that Dad is going to take the reins and make breakfast, empty the dishwasher after you've left cookies and milk out for Santa so it's easier to fill when breakfast is over and everyone heads off for a Christmas Day nap.

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