With the harvest season recently ended and produce picked and packaged, the frigid November temperatures have sent people indoors to gather family and friends around tables laden with delicious food or sipping drinks in front of a warming fireplace. Apples and cherries grown in the Door County summer are filling pies and tarts, plus savory chutneys, dressings and sauces. Celebrate the peninsula’s bounty and upcoming holiday season by visiting Fish Creek’s The Main Course located at The Top of the Hill Shops for fresh, entertaining ideas for baking and serving while using local Door County products.
Main Course owner Julia Frater was busily arranging new merchandise in the shop on a Monday afternoon, and the current copy of America’s Test Kitchens/Christmas Cookies ($7.95) was being stocked onto the shelves. Paging through the cookbook, Frater noted the Black Forest Cookies or Pistachio Cherry Chocolate Cookies dotted with dried cherries, Pumpkin Pecan cookies shaped into maple leaves, Lemon Lavender Stars that tasted of the culinary lavender grown on Washington Island, and Vanilla Bean Cherry Sandwich Cookies, laced with fresh cherry preserves.
When baking these delicacies for a holiday dinner or gift, use some Door County produce with flavorings from The Main Course: Smiling Dog Vanilla, Pure Vanilla Bean, Vanilla Salt. For the most intense flavor, try Vanilla Paste imported from a widely-favored Australian company. Or, select pure Nielson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, in either the liquid or paste form, a top brand raved about by national chefs. Either selection will ensure a quality-baked good. Then place one whole vanilla bean in three cups of sugar and cover in an air-tight container for a week or more. The result produces a delicately flavored sugar to sprinkle over cookies, toast or quick breads.
To make the Pumpkin Pecan cookies suggested in the specialty magazine, a maple leaf cutter is suggested, carried by The Main Course, of course. Buy the maple leaf or another design from numerous varieties of shapes hung on a wall next to the front door. Several sizes of snowflakes shaped as large, premium cutters, hand-crafted in copper, can be purchased and passed down to future generations. The different sizes would be perfect for making tree ornaments, gift tags or decorated with icing for personalized presents.
A beautiful cake might also adorn a holiday table…for that purpose, select the jelly roll pan, also available at The Main Course. The pan will bake batches of bar cookies for school parties, or can be used to create French Bouche de Noel or Pumpkin Roulade to set off your dessert bar. Try some recipes from Martha Stewart’s website, where white chocolate mousse substitutes for chocolate when layered inside mouth-watering genoise cake. Or Ina Garten’s version, of Barefoot Contessa fame, in a variation that rolls Pumpkin Cake with Ginger Buttercream. Libby’s, perhaps the most-used brand of pumpkin during the holidays, also features an easy pumpkin roll recipe online for the beginning baker.
Then brighten up a kitchen any time of the year with colorful cast iron Le Creuset bakeware, casseroles, fry pans and pottery, festive toys for the fashionable cook. Or purchase Le Creuset’s large six-quart stew pot and simmer a soup for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Chicken Noodle Dill Soup, a recipe revised from the iconic James Beard, has been a favorite in one family for years when served alongside fruit salad, tenderloin sandwiches, open face grilled cheese sandwiches and gingerbread cutout cookies. Six quarts makes plenty for a crowd of family or friends.
Stop by The Main Course on Saturday, November 30 for ideas to plan a cheese and wine tasting. The entire day will be dedicated to sampling Wisconsin Artisan cheeses and featuring ideas on how to serve them, while also offering an array of luxury cheese boards, buttons, and knives to accompany any special event. From 1:30-3:30 p.m. you can meet Terese Allen, author of “Wisconsin Local Food Journal 2014.” She will be signing her book while answering questions about artisan cheese and Wisconsin’s food legacy.
With so many favorite family recipes surrounding this festive season, a new cookie or baking pan could start another tradition to be handed down to future generations. To this day, families incorporate a Grandmother’s favorite dressing recipe, where bread, apples and raisins comingle with celery and onion in a sage mixture, or that sticky pecan pie that only lasts two days. Baking a cookie that everyone asks for again and again is a cookie that defines a holiday for years. The little packages of holiday delectation, wrapped as a personal gift or placed on a table, create timeless memories the kids can savor and treasure for years.
All cookie recipes taken from America’s Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies, 64 Foolproof Recipes, from Classics to New Favorites, available at The Main Course, Toys for Cooks, 9341 Spring Road, Fish Creek, Wisconsin, 54212; 920.868.2424; firstname.lastname@example.org.