Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day Six: Orange You Glad?

Knitting Contessa’s Orange Biscuits

We celebrate Christmas around my house. Thoroughly, completely, with mad abandon and then some, all because I said so! I love all of the faith traditions and enjoy weaving in bits and pieces to enrich my life most assuredly. But when it comes to Christmas Day I’m a bit of a traditionalist, okay, a stick in the mud. I sadly shake my head and tell you that my children will agree with that statement, 100%!

When I divorced in 2004 I was shaken a bit, nothing was the same and I had to rebuild my life from the ground up. The best (and the worst) thing was that I could pick and choose what to bring into my life and what to leave behind. Nights upon end of soul searching and an ocean of tears led me to question who I was, where I was going and what mark I wanted to make upon the world. My spirituality, which had always been an important part of my life, flourished and branched out in directions I would never have chosen. Yet, my growth has been steady and grounding.

One of the things I knew I had to keep in my life was celebrating tradition, keeping old ritual and building new into a rich fabric that would sustain me, give me hope and nourish others along their paths.

Orange Biscuits are one of those traditions. I received the recipe from a friend in 1994, she had come up with her recipe after trial and error to recreate biscuits she had loved as a teenager. Not being able to leave well enough alone, I gave the recipe a few tweaks of my own over the years and the result is a much loved classic, a Must Have on Christmas Day. When I still had kids at home the biscuits were made in the wee hours before stumbling off to bed for a few hours of sleep before being woken up by gleeful shrieks that I miss to this day. As the kids got older and actually wanted to sleep in on December 25th, I could make the biscuits early on Christmas morning while enjoying a tiny slice of quiet over my coffee. Today, I make them because I must. Because Christmas is a part of all of us who celebrate this special holiday and this tradition is one that warms my soul and brings with each bite a memory of warmth, and laughter and incredible love.

I bring to you my very special recipe and hope that no matter how you celebrate the holidays that you might give it a try and enjoy it. Perhaps it will become part of your own holiday tradition, that would be lovely!

  • ½ cup of softened butter (don’t mess around, use butter. It’s the holidays for pete’s sake!)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup of orange juice (fresh squeezed is delightful but you can definitely use a really good brand, with pulp)
  • 1 1/2 oranges zested (don’t get the bitter white pith. Orange zest is very important but especially if you are using prepared juice)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla

Prepare the 9 x 13 pan by buttering it well

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

In a saucepan combine the butter, orange juice, orange peel (reserve 1/3) and the orange juice. Bring it to a gentle bubble and stir it until the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and add the vanilla. Pour the orange syrup into the prepared 9x13 pan and set aside while you make the biscuits.

Biscuit Dough
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 tbs. shortening
  • 6 tsp. baking powder (make sure your baking powder is fresh! I always pick up a new can just for the occasion)
  • 1 ½ cups of whole milk (you can use skim or 2% but you’re already using butter, don’t skimp now!)
  • 1 orange, zested and very finely chopped

In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt, ½ of the orange zest and baking powder. Cut the shortening into blobs and use a pastry blender (or two knives if that is your way) until the flour looks crumbly. I use my fingers and rub the flour and shortening together, it’s messy but fun! Add the milk and stir with a fork until the dough begins to hold together. On a board or countertop, sprinkle generously with flour and turn out the dough. Give the dough a gentle kneading until the dough holds together. You need to get the dough to about ¼” thick so you can roll it or do as I do and give it a good pat until the dough is a flat disc of even thickness. Brush with the softened butter and sprinkle with the sugar and the cinnamon. Roll up the dough trying to keep it nice and tight. Pinch the last edge to close the roll. Using a piece of thread (or non-flavored dental floss), cut the roll into 1 inch slices. Carefully pick up the biscuits and plop them down into the orange syrup cut spirals facing up. Combine the last half of the orange zest and 3 tbs. sugar and sprinkle evenly over the biscuits.

Bake in the preheated 450 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

I hope you enjoy one of my cherished traditions! Cheers! Oh--- and make sure you have enough biscuits, nothing turns a crowd to cranky if there aren't enough of these babies, trust me!


Orange Eggnog

Decadent and delightful to go with Orange Biscuits is a Christmas Morning Classic, orange eggnog. While not normally a ‘brown liquor’ aficionado, I do love me some bourbon in a nice eggnog! But for Christmas morning a lighter touch is usually in order. Unless you are with relatives that make your teeth itch, then medicinal toddies are required!

  • Good quality store-bought eggnog (don’t get those funky flavors, just good ole’ eggnog!)
  • Grand Marnier
  • Superfine sugar
  • Orange slices

Into each little shortie glass (like a highball) pour about ¾ full of eggnog. Don’t be stingy! Just in case you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas you will want a little creamy comfort! Pour in about a half shot of Grand Marnier (it is pretty much up to you) and dip the rim of the glass into a shallow dish of water and immediately into some superfine sugar. If you can find the pretty colored sugar, go for it! Garnish the rim of the glass with a slice of orange.

Have two, no one is looking and after all you are in the kitchen watching over the biscuits!


Yesterday afternoon my mailman left me a package from Jessica Knits! WOO HOO! The last ball of yarn I will need to finish what is going to be a fabulous scarf. I’m all about great customer service and in addition to Jessica Knits being one of the greatest knit shops of all time, the service shines as well. Thanks Deanna for the fast delivery of the yarn and for the sweet note! The yarn is “Byzanz” by Gedifra, 60% acrylic, 20% wool, 15% polyamide and 5% metallic.

It is so fabulous I can’t even begin to tell you. Two yummy very soft roving/very unspun looking yarns side by side and actually stitched together with a metallic zigzag and next to the zigzag on each side is a row of black. Delish! When I saw it I said the obligatory “I could DO that!!!!”, but of course I never would! (I admitted that just for you Kelley!) The color is taupey, mossy, mauvey and really soft and wonderful. The metallic joining is just right. It knits up super soft and is delightful. I’ll have a photo when it’s done, which should be very soon!


As I drove to lunch yesterday from the studio it started to snow! Not a pretty nice fluffy snow or anything, the very fine powdery snow that doesn’t stick to anything and it was snowing sideways due to the gale force wind out there. Sheesh. First flakes of the season and nothing to write home about! As much as I really don’t enjoy the cold a whole lot it makes me think once again that the holidays really are easier to get up for when the weather is that traditional North Pole thing. Cold. Snow. Y’know. Years of living in Hawaii (while delightfully decadent) as well as living in my hometown of Orlando Florida had made me struggle to really get into the ho ho thing in a tropical climate. It’s hard to shop and wrap and box and mail and bake and the like when it is 85 and Santa is wearing shorts on a surfboard! Remind me of this when I’m really cold and cranky and I’d love to be on the beach! For now, I'll enjoy the cold weather and even hope for snow up until Christmas Day. Then? I'm pretty much over it and ready for spring. Until spring however, there is the snow thing.

My last Christmas in Hawaii was miserable if the truth be told. My marriage had been pretty much over for quite some time and the only thing keeping me there was my last daughter who was still in high school. She was deeply entrenched in her rebellious phase (which pretty much lasted from age 2 to 21 and still raises its' ugly head from time to time) and she was no big thrill that year either. The weather was particularly warm and sticky and my holiday spirit had gone with the tradewinds. I can remember listening to endless rounds of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" sung by every singer who had ever recorded it and wishing for weather that represented the season. I wanted Santa to bring me happiness and knew down deep that such a gift is one we only give to ourselves, hard fought and almost always with a cost of some sort.

This year, while definitely colder and far away from Hawaii here in the Midwest U.S. is all about the happy. Or perhaps more accurately all about continually working toward the happy. This afternoon we're due for (as the weather man says) a 'quick hit'--- about an inch or so of accumulation. Ho Ho Ho? Sounds like it might be great incentive to wrap some gifts!

After all, it’s all about the journey and love is all that matters!!


See you tomorrow for an interview with the one and only Grumperina!


Virtuous said...

I luv eggnog!! But never tried it with orange!
LOL @ don't be stingy just in case...Haha!

Look forward to Grumps interview

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to bake this Christmas, but after reading your lovely intro about the season I feel compelled to make those biscuits (cookies, whatever).

Happy holidays!