Making food ahead of time for Christmas is a great idea

Families everywhere are adapting their Christmas plans to keep everyone safe.

Have a big day, not a big crowd. Make it special. There won’t be meals with extended family and friends at a table for 20 people.

Christmas celebrations may be virtual gatherings or involve the sharing of food but not in the same home. Make a large batch and do a doorstep delivery to your close friends of your favourite Christmas side dish. Drop off dessert boxes.

I read about a candle lighting ritual with a candle for every person who would normally have been with you for Christmas. It brings a warm glow and thoughts of family into your home.

This collection of recipes can be made in advance so the big day or an impromptu night watching your favourite old Christmas movies is less work. And all of these foods make great holiday gifts.

Another idea for a casual meal in your household is a tapas platter. Make your own by buying a variety of cured and smoked meats, cheeses, crackers, pickles and fruits and vegetables. Or, if you can, buy a ready-made selection from a local deli.

Soft white buns

There is no nicer bread with turkey dinner than soft white buns. They make great bunwiches with leftover Christmas dinner, too.

Bake ahead and freeze for an easier turkey day.

This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

  • 2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast or active dry yeast 12 mL
  • 7/8 -1 1/8 c. lukewarm water 220–280 mL
  • 3 c. all purpose flour 750 mL
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt 6 mL
  • 3 tbsp. sugar 45 mL
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature 90 mL
  • 1/4 c. non-fat dry milk 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. instant mashed potato flakes 125 mL

Combine the all of the ingredients and mix and knead by hand, stand mixer with a dough hook or bread machine set on the dough cycle until you’ve made a smooth dough.

Start with the lowest amount of water and add more if needed to make a soft, not sticky dough. If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, it should take five to seven minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom.

In a bread machine or by hand, it should form a smooth ball.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk, about one hour. The rising time will be influenced by the room temperature. It may take longer and that’s OK.

While the dough is rising, lightly grease two 9-inch (22 cm) round cake pans, or a 9 x 13-inch (22 x 33 cm) pan.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into 14 to 16 pieces.

Shape each piece into a rough ball by pulling the dough into a very small knot at the bottom, then rolling it under the palm of your hand into a smooth ball.

Place half rolls in each of the round cake pans or all rolls in the 9 x 13-inch (22 x 33 cm) pan, spacing them evenly. They won’t touch one another.

Cover the pans with a clean kitchen towel and allow the rolls to rise until they are very puffy, and have reached out and touched one another, about one hour. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

Bake the rolls until they’re a deep golden brown on top, and lighter on the sides, about 25 minutes.

Remove the rolls from the oven, and after two or three minutes, carefully transfer them to a rack. They’ll be hot and delicate, so be careful.

Serve warm, or at room temperature. Brush hot-from-the-oven rolls with melted butter for a soft, buttery crust.

For snowflake rolls, gently shake flour from a sieve over top the warm rolls. Makes 14 to 16 buns.

Roasted cheddar herb almonds

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 c. unblanched almonds 500 mL
  • 3/4 c. finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese 175 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt-free herb seasoning blend 5 mL
  • 3/4 tsp. salt 3 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 2 mL

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). In a large bowl, whisk egg yolk and then stir in almonds. Sprinkle the seasonings over the nuts, then add the cheese.

Stir until nuts are completely coated.

Transfer to a greased baking sheet.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Cool completely.

Aged eggnog

Use any liquors or combination that you prefer or have on hand. I freeze the egg whites in a glass jar for a future use. Tie a nice ribbon around a jar for giving.

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 c. sugar 500 mL
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 5 mL
  • 2 c. whole milk 500 mL
  • 2 c. whipping cream 500 mL
  • 2 c. half and half 500 mL
  • 1 c. bourbon 250 mL
  • 1 c. Jamaican rum 250 mL
  • 1 c. brandy or cognac 250 mL

Separate the yolks and put them in a large bowl. Save the whites for another use. Add sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in colour and the mixture is very smooth.

Whisk in the remainder of the ingredients. Store in large jars in the refrigerator at least three weeks and up to three months before using.

Serve with lightly whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Baked brie en croûte

I slice the brie wheel in half to make two rounds and spoon the preserve mixture on top of one cut half and cover with the other half before wrapping in puff pastry. Be sure to purchase butter puff pastry and you can also find pre-rolled for an even easier assembly.

  • 1 – 9 x 9 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed 22 x 22 cm
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 – 8 oz. wheel firm brie cheese 250 g
  • 1/4 c. apricot preserves, hot pepper jelly or other fruit preserves or chutney 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. hazelnuts, pecans or almonds
  • crackers or bread, for serving

Roll the puff pastry into a 12-inch (30.5 cm) square on a lightly floured counter. Using a pie plate or other round guide, trim the pastry to a 9-inch (22 cm) circle with a paring knife. Brush the edges lightly with the beaten egg.

Place the bottom half of the brie in the centre of the pastry circle. Top with preserves, dried fruits and nuts. Place top of brie over and lift the pastry up and over the cheese, pleating it at even intervals and leaving an opening in the centre where the brie will be exposed. Don’t worry if your pleats aren’t perfect. Press the pleated edge of pastry up into a rim, which will later be filled with more preserves and nuts.

Brush the exterior of the pastry with beaten egg and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Freeze for 20 minutes. This chilling ensures the brie doesn’t melt too much during baking.

At this point, the pastry-covered brie can be wrapped in parchment and placed in a freezer bag and frozen up to one month and then bake directly from the freezer.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 F (220 C).

Bake the cheese until the exterior is a deep golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack. Spoon more preserves and nuts into the exposed centre of the brie. Let cool for about 30 minutes.

Serve with crackers or bread.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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