This year, include holiday dishes with some whimsy

Jennifer Mastroianni

Culinary heroics are common this time of year, as cooks get serious about putting their best food forward for friends and family.

Fancy fare is no doubt appreciated, but don’t forget to include some dishes that are all about wonder and whimsy.

We’ve got four: Roasted potatoes that look like mushrooms, a Christmas tree made of tortilla bites, chocolate cakes that mimic a snowy forest, and bread that looks like Old Saint Nick.

Reach Repository Food Writer Jennifer Mastroianni at (330) 580-8304 or e-mail jennifer.mastroianni@cantonrep.com

MUSHROOM POTATOES

2 1/2 pounds red-skinned new potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley for garnish**

1-inch round cutter*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Insert the round cutter into one end of a

potato. With the cutter still in, cut up to the cutter with a small sharp

knife. Twist the knife around the potato, remove the cutter and the piece of potato from the cutter end. You’ll be left with a potato “mushroom” and the O-shaped piece of potato you’ve removed. Save the trimmings to use for another purpose or discard.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss prepared potatoes with olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 40 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

*Round nested cutters can be found where kitchen supplies are sold. An apple corer will also work.

**Option: Instead of parsley, you can use fresh rosemary or sage. Mince 3 tablespoons and add to pan 15 minutes before end of baking, stirring into the potatoes.

“Amy’s Table, Food for Family and Friends.”

HOLIDAY HAM AND TORTILLA TREE

1 pound ham, sliced thin

6 ounces cream cheese, whipped

1 cup (4 ounces) sliced sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

6 (6-inch) spinach flour tortillas (Makes approximately 36 pinwheels, or enough to build one small tree)

Slice ham into approximately 1/2-inch wide strips. Spread an even thin layer of cream cheese over the entire surface of the tortilla. Place two strips of ham side by side along the lower third of the tortilla, so that they extend from one end of the tortilla. Line both sides of the ham strips with two strips of red pepper, and then one slice of cheese each; six strips total.

Fold tortilla edge over entire contents and roll tightly. Cut into 1-inch pinwheels. Stack layers of pinwheels in rings one on top of another, decreasing the size of each ring until you reach the top of the tree.

Dress your tree with cranberries, or star-shaped cutouts of red or yellow pepper.

Cook’s Ham

MINT MOUNTAINS

Nordic Ware’s Holiday Tree Bundt Pan*

Shortening for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons flour, preferably Wondra

3/4 cup shortening

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, separated

1 (3.9 ounces) package instant white chocolate pudding mix

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (6 ounces)

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk, divided

4 ounces white chocolate chips or chunks

1/3 cup cocoa

1 (3.9 ounces) package chocolate fudge instant pudding mix

8 ounces chocolate chips

Garnish:

Confectioner’s sugar

Mint sprigs

Crushed peppermint candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare Holiday Tree Pan. Use pastry brush to thoroughly coat all parts of pan with shortening. Sprinkle flour evenly over top of shortening; invert pan and shake out excess.

Cream shortening and sugar in large mixing bowl until thoroughly blended. Separate eggs and reserve yolks. Add whites to shortening mixture and beat an additional two minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in white chocolate instant pudding mix, peppermint extract, yogurt or sour cream (mixture may look curdled).

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Slowly beat in about half of flour mixture, then 3/4 cup milk, then last of flour mixture, scraping bowl after each addition. Increase speed and beat until thoroughly combined, 2-3 minutes.

Remove two cups of batter, stir in white chocolate chips or chunks. Dollop white chocolate batter into pan. Do not try to make it smooth and even. Keep it unevenly distributed in peaks and on sides. Push gently up against sides.

Add reserved yolks, cocoa; fudge pudding mix and additional 1/4 cup milk to rest of batter in bowl. Beat until completely combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Layer chocolate batter over top of white batter; push gently up against sides. Gently tap the filled pan on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles and pockets.

To bake, preheat oven to 340 degrees. Place pan on cookie sheet. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean (do not use a metal skewer). Cool in pan 10 minutes, shake pan from side to side to check for thumping or loosening from sides of pan. If needed, use a plastic knife to carefully loosen the cake from center and sides, if stuck. Invert onto cooling rack.

When completely cooled, dust tops with confectioner’s sugar. Place on platter and arrange sprigs and crushed candies around edge of platter at bottom of cake.

*This pan is part of Nordic Ware’s platinum holiday bakeware collection, and is made of heavy cast aluminum. Suggested retail price is $35, and it comes with ornaments and a toy train. Available at Williams-Sonoma and where other specialty bakeware is sold.

Anne Kornow, Minneapolis, First place $10,000 grand prize winner in Nordic Ware’s 2007 Bundts Across America contest

SANTA BREAD

2 loaves purchased frozen bread dough, thawed according to package

directions

Red food coloring

1 egg yolk

Two raisins

Step 1: On a slightly floured surface, take a small portion of one loaf and add it to the other loaf, making it slightly larger. Using a roller or hands, flatten and shape larger portion of bread dough into an elongated triangle with rounded corners for Santa’s head and hat.

Step 2: Flatten and shape half of the smaller portion of dough into a beard. Using scissors or a pizza cutter, cut the beard into strips to within 1 inch to the top of the beard.

Step 3: Carefully pick up cut beard pieces with both hands and position beard on bottom of Santa’s face.

Step 4: Twist cut strips in the beard and slightly curl up the ends to shape the beard.

Step 5: Add red food coloring to 1 beaten egg yolk. Carefully brush tinted red yolk over the hat, nose and cheeks. Position raisins for eyes.

Place on lightly oiled cookie sheet. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 to 12 minutes longer. Cool on wire rack.

Country Woman