Finally! Let the Christmas posts begin! I have several to churn out for you in the coming days. Most contain a blend of phone, purse and big girl camera photos. Basically I picked up whatever was near and now all three are caked with flour and smell of cinnamon.
I’ll start with our Christmas Eve:
I’ve let you in on my family’s biggest Christmas Eve tradition. The highlight of my day was when I got my grandma–on the phone! In the age of caller ID and texting and social media! I got her OLD SCHOOL! That never happens. Sorry, I just had to relish in the victory once again.
I feel like I could fill a novel with all of my family’s holiday food traditions. We’re sentimental fools when it comes to our dishes. Joe’s not really like that. In fact, when I asked him what were his “tastes of Christmas,” he could only name two things:
Pepperoni Rolls and Lemon Bars.
There is an old bakery in Southgate, Michigan that makes the most delicious pepperoni rolls. It’s tradition for his grandma to pick up several on Christmas Eve for the family to devour before her choir service downtown. Sweet traditions! I’m not sure where the lemon bars fit in, but I’m not one to question favorite foods.
We decided to blend some of our favorite holiday-ish things on Christmas Eve this year since we were spending the big day with friends. Here are my takes on Joe’s favorites:
I haven’t had much luck with yeast dough in this altitude–a point I will revisit in another post when I discuss another holiday tradition….cinnamon rolls. So knowing that, making my own pizza crust was out of the question for the time being. I found a bunch of ideas on Pinterest that I melded into my own for this delicious Pull-Apart Pizza Bread!
You start with canned pizza dough (for shame!). Unfold it (no rolling required) and cut into little squares.
The recipe I MacGyvered called for two cans of dough, so it was really easy to make a pepperoni version for Joe and a garlicky spinach and yellow pepper version for moi.
Mix it all together and spread in a bundt pan (sprayed REALLY well with non-stick spray), or be lazy like us and put in small casserole dishes.
Joe used a larger pan, so he only used half of the pan. You want the mixture to be tight so it forms a big, bubbly, rip-it-apart mass.
Yum. The smell alone would knock you out. And it makes a ton — we ate this for several meals afterward. Paired with a salad, even, this could take you far in your weekly meal planning.
Here’s my happy Christmas-tradition-filled camper:
We warmed up some jarred marinara for dipping and it was quite the perfect meal. Especially when paired with my Christmas tradition–National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Which, upon watching, Joe and Bella quickly fell into soft snores.
But guess who woke up pretty quickly for dessert? Really, you could say either name and you’d be right.
I have never made Lemon Bars. They aren’t my favorite dessert because they are typically cloyingly sweet and, often, completely overwhelmed with powdered sugar. But, tradition’s tradition. I knew Joy would be my go-to girl and, as expected, she didn’t let me down.
I actually made the bars the night before. My first item in a long list of baking adventures planned for the week. Just getting out the mixer that I knew would be sitting on my counter and responsible for four or five doughs gave me the giddies.
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with a salted shortbread dough. Salt + Butter = Happy #Marci
I think salt is one of the most important dessert ingredients. So many people overlook this! (<— Another rant for another post.)
In other news: Parchment Paper for President!
In other, other news: Don’t break your lemon reamer when making this. But do get every last drop of juice! I may speak from experience.
When you’re ready to serve, just pull on the overlapping parchment and make it
rain snow with that powdered sugar. I didn’t go too crazy, but obviously you can lay it on pretty thick if you want.
I don’t know why, but I thought the bars would be puffier or thicker. This just shows my lack of experience with these things. Joe assured me they only needed three components: thick crust, gelatinous (ew!) yellow center and the powdered sugar topping. Guess we nailed it.
It’s important to cut these small. They are SUPER sweet and SUPER DUPER tart, so a little goes a long way.
Spoiler Alert: These babies were the first to disappear from our cookie platter the next day. The ones people could not stop talking about. LEMON BARS! Who knew?! (Joe.)
Here are your recipes!
Pull-Apart Pizza Bread
2 cans pizza dough
2 c. mozzarella cheese
2 Tbs. Italian seasoning blend
1/3 c. olive oil
1 c. parmesean cheese
1/2 – 1 tsp. garlic powder
Toppings: chopped pepperoni, sauteed peppers and spinach, canadian bacon and (drained) pineapple slices — whatever your heart desires
Jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.
Remove dough from cans and cut into small squares. Mix well with the cheeses, spices, oil and whatever toppings you choose.
Spread into a small casserole dish or non-stick bundt pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Warm marinara sauce over low heat while cooking.
Eat immediately while warm and gooey.
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
Generous pinch of salt
2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350-degrees. Butter an 8×8 baking pan and line with parchment paper so that two strips overhand all sides. Butter the parchment paper while you’re at it.
For the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Scrape down sides of the bowl before adding flour and salt. Then beat on low speed until incorporated. Dump crust into prepared pan and, using your fingertips, press it into the bottom of the pan.
Bake crust until it is just browned around the edges (15-18 minutes). Let cool slightly.
For the filling: In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined and slightly thick. Add the flour, lemon juice, and zest and whisk well.
Pour filling over the warmed baked crust. Return pan to oven and bake until lightly browned on top and no longer jiggling in the center (18-20 minutes). Let cool completely in the pan.
When ready to eat, lift out the bars by the overhanging parchment tabs and slice into small squares. Dust with powdered sugar and keep in an airtight container (layers separated by wax paper) at room temperature for up to a week.