Dessert

Buttery Pecan Pie + Announcements

DSC_0372

William and I have been away from the blog for several months now- but for good reason!

We have moved back to Alabama and into a new home. Going from a tiny, city apartment to a house with a yard is a wonderful lesson in time management! As anyone with a home of their own can attest to, there is always always always something that needs to be cleaned or fixed or mowed or paid for… this is what I get for wanting the ‘charm’ of an older home! While we absolutely love having our own home, we are perhaps missing our California maintenance man, Mario, a little too much! ūüôā

We are also just finishing a kitchen renovation (yay!). We spend so much time in our kitchen, we knew it would need a little makeover! For now, my vanity has been assuaged with the transition from dark oak cabinetry and yellow speckled counters to light greys and whites and a gorgeous, gigantic– errr, I mean functional– farmhouse sink!¬† Doesn’t the room look ten times larger??

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And last, but certainly not least, we recently welcomed our first child, a baby girl. Ava Marie is the most beautiful baby, the reason for many sleepless nights, and she is already brightening our days with her precious smile. She is the light of our lives, and we are so excited to one day share our joy of cooking with her!

fullsizerender-1

With so many changes it has been difficult to keep up with the blog. However, we are  cooking up a storm and have several new recipes to post.

Since moving back, for the first time in several years William and I had the pleasure of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family here in Alabama. We knew we had to bake something for the event, and because we have discovered a couple of prolific pecan trees in our backyard, we decided to gather, shell, toast them for a nice pecan pie.

DSC_0340

I found a recipe from one of my favorite cooking bloggers, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. This pie is amazing, but not the easiest dessert to put together. However, it was so much fun and, despite being time consuming, so delicious that we will definitely be making it again–perhaps for the upcoming winter holidays!

My biggest pet peeve about pecan pies is how cloyingly sweet they can be. It’s too much and often overwhelms the delicate, buttery flavor of the pecans themselves. There are several things about this recipe that I think make it better than the standard, toothache-inducing pecan pie.

First, the homemade crust. I always use salted butter and actually add a bit of extra salt in my homemade pie crusts. Perhaps this stems from my obsession with the play off of salty and sweet flavors. Perhaps it comes from my surefire belief that in the battle of salty vs sweet, salty always wins. Who knows! Regardless, the homemade crust provides the perfect salty and buttery complement to the sweetness of the filling, while also highlighting the buttery nuttiness of freshly toasted pecans!

DSC_0399

Second, the filling itself has two components: the typical gooey pecan pie filling as well as a layer of semisweet chocolate ganache. The filling is made with a British cane sugar syrup instead of super processed Caro syrup, and it develops a wonderful, burnt caramel flavor. The bitterness of the chocolate provides an additional foil, allowing relief from the sugar!

DSC_0389

Chocolate Pecan Pie
makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick salted butter
1/4 cup cold water

DSC_0266

for the filling
2 cups pecans
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup [can be found on Amazon, if not at Whole Foods]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon bourbon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs

DSC_0274

First, make the crust. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks. Use a pastry blender or food processor to combine the flour mixture with the butter until a mealy consistency is achieved. Add the water [about 60mL] and work the dough to form a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

DSC_0270

DSC_0271

After the dough is done refrigerating, roll it out into a 13″ circle. Place it in a 9″ pie pan. Trim the edges and shape to your liking, or use the extra dough to decorate it! [I’m still getting the hang of making pretty, homemade pie crusts, but it’s a creative experience, so don’t expect Martha Stewart results the first time and just have fun with it!] Freeze the raw pie crust for 20 minutes.

DSC_0285

DSC_0287

DSC_0289

While the crust is freezing, toast your pecans. Spread them out on a pan. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF and bake them for 12 minutes, stirring often. When the pecans are done being toasted, place them in a large bowl to cool off and increase the oven temperature to 400¬įF in preparation to par-bake your pie crust!

Take the crust out of the freezer and cover it with buttered tin foil (butter side down! ūüėČ ). Place rice or pie weights on top of the tin foil to keep the crust from shrinking and losing its shape. Bake at 400¬įF for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven.

DSC_0308

Freeze the partially baked crust for 15 minutes. While the par-baked crust is freezing again, prep the chocolate ganache. In a small pot, over medium heat, combine the chocolate and heavy whipping cream until a smooth texture is achieved. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the crust and freeze for another 20 minutes.

DSC_0290

DSC_0291

DSC_0313

Now it is time to prepare the filling. Melt together the butter, dark brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt in a small pot (you’re welcome to re-use the one from the ganache). Let this mixture simmer for several minutes until it thins out and darkens in color. Next, add in the bourbon, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the toasted pecans and stir it all together! Let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring in the eggs. [You need the eggs to hold the filling together, but you don’t want them to curdle by stirring them into a mixture that’s too hot.] Once your filling is completed, remove the crust from the freezer and pour it over the chocolate layer of the pie.

DSC_0325

DSC_0327

DSC_0328

DSC_0335

DSC_0337

Bake the pie at 350¬įF for 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie should still look gooey, but it will set during cooling time.

DSC_0338

Pecan pie can be served at any temperature really, but this one is best served warmed or at room temperature so the chocolate is easy to eat. We were also able to refrigerate it and it was still delicious a week later! It needs no accompaniments, so you can skip the ice cream or whipped cream, if you like!

DSC_0370

DSC_0373

Enjoy!

DSC_0397

DSC_0398

Advertisements

Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites

DSC_0259

There are two things I love about this recipe:

1) It can sort of be made all in one pot so there are fewer dishes for all my fellow chocolate-craving, backache-ridden mommas-to-be.
2) If you get tired halfway through and decide to quit, you still have delicious homemade salted caramel to snack on. I won’t lie, I will probably make¬†just¬†the caramel part of this recipe at some point and eat all of it. It’s that good.

DSC_0225

I was originally working from a Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, but I decided to change all of the ratios of dry-to-wet ingredients (because we all know that’s a smart thing to do when baking) and I ended up making some awesome cake bites instead. I was careful to keep track of the exact measurements, but I will be testing¬†these again in the near future to be sure that I didn’t just get lucky with some magical baking chemistry the first time around!

DSC_0242

I will be the first to admit that there are times when you crave¬†the fudgy, richness of a brownie. I recently posted some caramel brownies that will do just the trick, but these aren’t going to satisfy that craving. These are for the¬†times when you want something a bit lighter. These cake bites aren’t too rich or sweet, so they are an awesome option when you’re looking for a less decadent, less heavy dessert. The only downside to this is that, if you’re anything like me, you and your household (… or mostly just you) will destroy an entire pan in a matter of days. ūüôā

DSC_0246

Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites
(makes one 8×8 pan– i.e. probably more than a single human should eat in two days, whoops)

Ingredients

for the caramel:
4 tablespoons salted butter [I used good, European-style butter for this to give the caramel the creamiest flavor possible]
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt [I used a local, vanilla-infused sea salt]

for the cake batter:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick salted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour [warning: I used White Lily AP flour, which can sometimes behave differently than other AP flours]

DSC_0173

Begin by making the caramel. This process is surprisingly simple, but it can get dangerous so be careful! Caramel is notorious for giving people serious burns. As long as you are conscientious of this and stay mindful of the splattering, you will be fine.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium-high heat. The butter and sugar will likely stay somewhat separated, but you want to get them as mixed as possible while the sugar is melting. Once the sugar is largely integrated and simmering, watch for color changes. You are looking for a golden color if you prefer a mild butter flavor, and a light brown color for a richer, nuttier flavor.

DSC_0176

DSC_0177

This process may take a few minutes. Just be sure not to let the butter get too dark. I like mine a bit burnt, but you don’t want it getting too brown in color, and when you begin to smell a nuttiness, you know you need to remove it from heat because it can quickly turn too burnt and become bitter. There is a sweet spot to butter-browning, and it can take some practice to know when that point comes. You’re better off leaving it a bit underdone rather than burning it. I mean- it’s butter and sugar, it’s going to taste great either way.

DSC_0179

While you’re waiting for the sugar to melt and the butter to darken, prepare a plate for the caramel. Cover it in parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

When the sugar is well integrated and the butter has changed colors, take the mixture off of the heat and add in the salt and milk. When you add in the milk, be careful. The mixture will sputter a bit, but quickly begin to look like a beautiful, traditional caramel! Stir everything together with a rubber spatula and return to medium heat.

DSC_0180

Let the mixture simmer for several minutes. Stir your caramel until the last bits of sugar are melted. [Note: if you are planning to eat the caramel straight and forego the cake part, I would recommend leaving some whole sugar because it will give a beautiful, crunchy texture to your finished caramel.] Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper covered plate and place it in the freezer.

DSC_0185

If your freezer is kept very cold, like mine (0¬įF), it will not take much time for the caramel to cool, and you can begin making the batter. If you have a warmer temp freezer, you may want to wait twenty minutes or so before starting up on the batter.

DSC_0189

To make the batter- cover an 8×8 pan in parchment paper and butter! Preheat your oven to¬†350¬įF.

Set up a double boiler. I reused the caramel pot and filled a much larger pot with boiling water. Over the double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter- yes more butter! It helps to cut the butter and chocolate up beforehand. Stir with your rubber spatula until the mixture has melted completely.

DSC_0194

DSC_0201

Take it off of the heat and add in the sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

DSC_0206

Before you add in the eggs, you may want to crack them in a separate bowl and prepare yourself to quickly stir! The mixture won’t be boiling hot, but I’m always nervous about curdling eggs, so I try to add them in quickly. Finally, mix in the flour.

DSC_0207

DSC_0210

Pour the batter into the prepared dish.

DSC_0212

Take the salted caramel from the freezer and chop it into bits. Mine was like a soft caramel and I could NOT resist snacking on some of it, I highly recommend doing so! Again- if you get tired and don’t feel like making the cake batter, these homemade soft caramels alone are good enough to satisfy a sweet tooth!

DSC_0224

At this point you can really do whatever you want- toss the pieces on top of the¬†batter, mix them into the batter, do a little of both! It’s completely up to you. Next time I make these cake bites, I will probably mix the caramel in to make for prettier pictures, but it will be delicious either way. The caramel will melt in the oven and sink into the cake, so do be aware of that if you decide to put them all on top.

DSC_0220

DSC_0227

Bake the cake¬†at 350¬įF for 30 minutes.

DSC_0239

DSC_0248

DSC_0230

Enjoy!

DSC_0258

DSC_0257

Tangelo Sweet Rolls

DSC_0384

It has been a very long time since I lasted posted, and (unsurprisingly) a lot has happened. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October!! It is a very exciting time for us, and the first trimester was a roller coaster of nausea for me. Our cooking has been minimal the past few months, as I have been living off of my cravings for subways sandwiches and mashed potatoes!

I have also been craving  citrus fruits way more often than I ever did before! Perhaps I need the calcium? Either way, we found a way to make citrus fruits unhealthy and sugary and delicious- put them in sweet rolls! These are essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruity filling instead of the more traditional nut and spice filling.

DSC_0397

Typically these kinds of sweet rolls are made with oranges, but we made them with tangelos (the zest and juice). I preferred the tangelo flavor because it is tangier. Also, the rind is much brighter in color, which makes for great photos when you add in the zest!

You can serve these for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack! It does make a large batch, and they don’t stay moist for too long- so I recommend making these when you’ve got lots of hungry mouths to feed!

DSC_0355

The recipe was inspired by an orange roll post from Lemon-Sugar, who uses traditional citrus and no zest! It was super easy to make, even in our small kitchen with no mixer. It is rather time consuming, but these tasty treats make the wait worth it!

Enjoy!

DSC_0379

Tangelo Sweet Rolls

(makes roughly two dozen rolls)

Ingredients

for the dough
2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
5 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs


for the filling
1 tablespoon tangelo zest (from about 1 tangelo)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1/2 cup salted butter¬†at room temperature¬†[especially if you don’t have a mixer, it’s best to take this out as early as possible so that it can completely soften]
1 cup sugar

for the icing
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

DSC_0278

First, make your dough. Preheat the oven to 200¬į¬†F and after it has preheated, turn it off. Combine the warm water with the yeast to proof your yeast- you may even wish to add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to feed off of. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes. I usually proof yeast in the oven, but it was very reactive and I just left it on the counter this time around!

While the yeast is proofing, melt the butter in the microwave. I did probably one minute on 50% power, just enough to get it melted, but no more. Whisk the honey into the butter.

In a large bowl, measure out four cups of AP flour. Combine with the salt. Fold in the proofed yeast.

When the honey-butter mixture has cooled down a bit, whisk in the eggs. Then, add this to the larger flour mixture.

Fold it all together with a rubber spatula. In different environments dough will form in a unique way. My recommendation is to keep folding until it all comes together in one big heap. If you can stick your finger to it and pull away dough (meaning, it’s¬†super sticky), add a bit more flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time, and do not go over 6 cups! We needed about 5 1/2 for ours, thus we added 1 1/2 cups to the original dough. Work it as little as possible in between additions. You do not want your dough to get tough and you don’t need it to lose all stickiness. It¬†should be pretty sticky, but it should at least all stay together even when you put a finger on it.

DSC_0299

Butter the bowl well and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it somewhere warm- either your oven or maybe even a microwave! Let it rise for 1 hour.

DSC_0300

While the dough is rising you can make the filling, which takes like two minutes. With the remaining 58 minutes you could watch your favorite show or go to the gym to make up the the insane number of calories you will be consuming from these rolls. William and I chose the former. ūüôā

To make the filling, start by washing and zesting a tangelo. We got one tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of juice from a single tangelo. Juice the tangelo and strain the juice into a bowl. Combine 1/4 of the juice with all of the zest in a bowl. Add in the sugar and room temperature butter. Blend them together until a paste is formed.

DSC_0310

DSC_0313

DSC_0318

When the dough has finished rising, and is about doubled, prepare a large work surface by covering it in parchment paper and sprinkling it with flour. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl. This gets all of the added air out and allows for the rolls to cook more evenly. Spread the dough carefully into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.

DSC_0326

Take your filling and drop spoonfuls across the entire sheet of dough. You will then need to spread the filling with your hands. Your dough should be sticky and the filling is a bit granular from the sugar, so the process will take some time and patience. Spread the filling generously across the entire rectangle of dough.

DSC_0327

DSC_0331

DSC_0337

Next comes William’s favorite part! Rolling the dough. This is not an easy task, but it’s fun- don’t let yourself get frustrated with any mess you make, it will all be tasty and beautiful in the end! You need to roll the rectangle into a¬†very¬†long cylinder. Try to keep it as tight as possible, gently pressing down and squeezing the dough when necessary. If you need to stretch out the dough to help this process, you can, as long as you don’t poke too many holes in it!

DSC_0341

When all is said and done, hopefully you have a giant cylinder of dough snaking its way across your countertop!

DSC_0342

Butter several pans. [We really like using round glass or ceramic pans for rolls, it seems like they cook better in these and the heat more effectively reaches the center of the pan, fully baking all of the dough.] Using your sharpest knife, cut 2-inch slices and carefully place them in the pan. It helped having two people in the kitchen for this. When you move them, you do have to be pretty careful to keep them together and not let any filling fall out.

DSC_0343

When all of the rolls are cut and in their pans, let them rise for another half hour.

DSC_0344

Preheat your oven to 375¬įF. When you bake the rolls, be sure to bake them all on one rack, to insure even cooking. We did 20 minutes on the top rack, and 5 minutes on the bottom rack. During the last five minutes we also needed to cover them with tin foil so that the tops would not be too browned.

DSC_0345

DSC_0349

I will say, the baking is always a little stressful for me. We do not have the best oven, and it doesn’t seem to heat things very thoroughly. This can be especially problematic with breads, and sometimes the center goes uncooked. This technique of moving our pans around worked very well for us and they were all perfectly cooked!

DSC_0346

DSC_0351

While the rolls are baking, you can make the icing. It’s super easy! In a medium sized bow, whisk together another 1/4 cup of juice, and another tablespoon of zest, along with a bit of orange extract. We did need to zest one more tangelo for this, but if you have a really good plane grater, you might not find it necessary! Combine this with the powdered sugar and cream. You may need to add additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the consistency that you like.

DSC_0335

I prefer fairly thick icing, as it photographs better and coats the rolls a bit better.

DSC_0353

DSC_0356

When the rolls come out they are ready to be glazed and served! [Do not skimp on the glaze, yes, you have enough to cover them!!]

DSC_0358

DSC_0359

Enjoy!

DSC_0367

DSC_0371

DSC_0381

DSC_0398

DSC_0402

Caramel Fudge Brownies

DSC_0307

The term fudge in the title here is key. These are chewy brownies, not cakey brownies.

I don’t have any problems with boxed brownie mixes, I usually enjoy them. We didn’t have any boxed brownie mix around the house, but we did have the ingredients for these! To be completely honest, it didn’t take too much longer than boxed brownies, but the texture and flavor is much better!

DSC_0311

This makes one 9×9 pan, and for us that’s about 9 brownies (of course, many people cut them smaller, but we like big serving sizes ūüôā ).

DSC_0313

Caramel Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup sugar
11 tablespoons salted butter [yes, really. this is not a typo.]
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup caramels (we used Werther’s soft caramels)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Parchment paper

DSC_0240

First, melt the butter in the microwave for a minute or two. You want to get it fairly hot (we usually do 1:30- 2 minutes). Combine the sugar with the melted butter and stir. The sugar won’t dissolve completely, but it also shouldn’t separate out.

DSC_0243

DSC_0246

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

DSC_0257

Add the sugar-butter mixture to the flour mixture. Combine with the eggs and vanilla to create your batter base.

DSC_0262

If you are using larger caramels (like we did) chop them up. We also used a bittersweet chocolate bar and chopped that into chunks.

DSC_0251

DSC_0265

Stir the caramel and chocolate chunks into the batter.

DSC_0268

Preheat the oven to 325¬į F.

Cut out a small, square piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the 9 x 9 pan.

Pour the batter into the pan. If necessary, you can use a rubber spatula to spread the batter out, allowing it to cook more evenly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean!

DSC_0281

If you can resist, let them cool for a good 30 minutes and then enjoy! The caramel especially needs to cool before you really want to eat it!

DSC_0276

DSC_0302

Almond Date Pinwheels

DSC_0381

Pinwheels are a classic winter cookie, in my mind- like thumbprints, gingerbread men, and cucidati- they usher in the Christmas season! This recipe was truly a shot in the dark when William and I created it. We had some extra dough while making cucidati this season, so we decided to put it to good use.

DSC_0383

These cookies are made with dates, almonds, and figs. We added no spices considering the impromptu nature of the experiment, and it actually turned out amazing! However, I think if you want to make it fancier or give it a more complex flavor, you could add similar spices: allspice, cloves, and even orange extract.

These are much easier to construct than the cucidati and that is convenient, but you will still need a food processor and large workspace to create the pinwheels.

DSC_0382

This recipe was basically made up on the fly, but it turned out so well, I thought I’d share it.

Ingredients

1/2 recipe cucidati dough
~1 ounce dried dates
2 ounces dried, mission figs
3/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup sliced almonds

We Sliced and de-stemmed about 10 dried dates, and 1-2 ounces of dried, mission figs. Then, we boiled them in the simple syrup and let them sit for half an hour. We then combined the sweetened date-fig mixture in a blender with 1 cup of sliced almonds.

Finally, we spread the mixture onto a long, flattened square of excess dough.

We rolled the dough up and sealed it with a bit of water. We then sliced it into little pinwheels with a sharp knife, and finally cooked it following the same process as with the cucidati.

DSC_0356

DSC_0358

DSC_0375

Slice carefully with your sharpest knife, and lay them onto parchment paper. Some of the date filling may squeeze out on one side if your knife is a bit dull. To keep your pinwheels pretty, lay them down on the parchment paper with the messy side down.

DSC_0378

Enjoy!

DSC_0380

Cucidati (Sicilian Fig Cookies)

DSC_0396

During the winter, right around Christmas, it‚Äôs a tradition amongst many Sicilian families to get together and make certain types of cookies. Perhaps my favorite of the cookies are the cucidati. These tiny cookies, jammed packed with flavor, always remind me of Christmastime. However, for such a small cookie the amount of effort involved in constructing them is very high. The prep process for these little guys is not something you can do casually in an hour or so for a late-night snack. It makes for a great afternoon activity and the more people you have, the more fun it can be- it‚Äôs the one time our idiom ‚Äútoo many cooks in the kitchen‚ÄĚ seems to be untrue on a very literal level!

DSC_0370

Cucidati are crescent-shaped cookies made with a light, white dough and filled with a spiced, fig-nut filling. In our family, we love to use the flavors of clove and allspice with a hint of orange extract. We also use pecans to add the nuttiness. Many families use walnuts, but I’m convinced that the south rubbed off on us and we switched to the less bitter, and less expensive pecan in many dishes! Some people also use dates in the mixture- I prefer 100% mission figs for the filling.

DSC_0371

Every family has their own recipe for cucidati. In my family there are two different methods for making these delicious cookies. I decided to blend the two and create my own recipe. This is partially due to necessity, most family recipes for cucidati make 100-200 cookies… which I do not need in my two-person household. This recipe makes about 50 cookies, with some extra dough to play around with. First-time cucidati makers will hopefully find this recipe useful because of the extra dough, it can be difficult to get the cookies looking pretty the first few times around. With this recipe though- you should be sure to be a little stingy with the filling. If you’re not prepared to be careful about doling out the filling- make double the filling recipe.

DSC_0407

We ended up making an impromptu date-almond jam and made pinwheels with our excess dough. I will¬†post that recipe later! (It’s here, it’s here! ūüôā

DSC_0380

A few additional notes: you’ll want a very large work space for these cookies, especially when constructing them. You’ll need a rolling pin as well as a sharp knife for cutting the characteristic slits in the top of the cookie. When I get together with my aunt, grandmother, great-aunt, cousins, and mother, we use a pack of razor blades. However, this most recent time making them I just used my pocket knife and it worked out fine! You will also need a food processor to make the filling.

DSC_0364

As with many Sicilian family recipes, it is assumed that you’ve had someone teach you how to make it so you know how the dish should progress in its look and feel. With the filling here, that’s a big part of it. I give a recipe for simple syrup to help break down and sweeten the figs- do not use all of the simple syrup, you will NOT need all of it. I will repeat this throughout the recipe, as a reminder.

Enjoy the cookies- and the experience of making them! ūüôā

Cucidati- Sicilian Fig Cookies
makes 50-60 cookies with extra dough

for the dough
4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup crisco
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

DSC_0200

for the filling
simple syrup (made with 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water) You will not use all of this syrup!
6oz dried mission figs
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 tsp each cloves and allspice
3 tsp orange extract

DSC_0237

for the icing (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
~2 tablespoons milk

First, make your dough. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

DSC_0204

DSC_0207

Cube the crisco and mix it into the dry ingredients by hand until combined. The mixture will be crumbly.

DSC_0213

DSC_0220

Add in the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, and vanilla). Fold until it comes together in a ball. Let it rest in a cool place for half an hour.

DSC_0227

DSC_0229

During these 30 minutes, you can make the filling! First, you will want to make a simple syrup. I use a recipe for a large amount of simple syrup, just in case. Plus, it’s useful for all sorts of other things like jams and fancy cocktails! Stir the sugar with a cup of water in a pot over medium-high heat. Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved (almost or just to boiling/simmering usually). Let this cool down. You can store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Remember, you will not be using all of this simple syrup for the cucidati recipe.

De-stem and quarter the dried figs.
Chop the pecans in half.

DSC_0245

DSC_0250

Combine the two in a food processor until it forms a very loose paste or crumble. You might need to stir it a bit in between pulses to jostle the figs around, they are very sticky.

DSC_0251

DSC_0262

In a bowl, combine the fig-pecan mixture with the spices and orange extract. Mix together.

DSC_0264

Next, add to your filling the simple syrup. You will probably be adding only around ¬ľ cup, but it takes a little bit of practice to get the consistency right. Add the simple syrup a tablespoon or two at a time until you‚Äôve got a fairly sticky paste that keeps together and could be spread. You do not want to add too much, otherwise it will leak out of the cookies. It should be about the consistency of a cheese spread (or a little thicker).

DSC_0270

DSC_0272

Now comes the construction. First, create your workspace. Lay down a large sheet of parchment paper and set up a small bowl of water, a pizza cutter, and your pocket knife/sharpest, smallest knife. Flour the surface of the parchment paper. Roll out half of the dough and trim the edges to form a large square.

DSC_0285

DSC_0282

Cut the square into 2″ strips using the pizza cutter.

DSC_0290

Taking one strip at a time, flatten it out and shape a thin line of filling down the center.

DSC_0291

DSC_0299

Fold one side of the dough over the filling. Lightly wet it with water. Fold the other side on top and press down to create a seal.

DSC_0300

Flip the roll “seal-side down” onto your floured surface. Using your kitchen knife, cut the log into 2-3″ pieces.

DSC_0302

DSC_0305

Finally, take your sharpest, smallest knife and cut 3 small slits in the top of the dough. You want to slice through the top layer of dough only.

DSC_0315

DSC_0319

Shape the cookie into a crescent and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

DSC_0326

Preheat the oven to 375¬įF. Bake¬†the cookies for 8-10 minutes on the bottom rack and 5-7 minutes on the top rack. When each batch is finished, take them out and allow them to cool completely. The filling will be¬†very¬†hot.

DSC_0330

If you like, you can then create a light glaze by mixing 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush the glaze over the cooled cookies. It hardens very quickly, so that you can enjoy your fig treats soon!

DSC_0341

DSC_0336

DSC_0363

DSC_0361

 

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

bourbon pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving 2015 was many things for me– for us (I’m getting more used to saying that now). It was my first Thanksgiving as a part of an engaged couple. This year, thinking about all of our family back in Alabama, Thanksgiving was especially difficult. I will admit that there were times when all of this cooking felt decidedly pointless. I had many thoughts:¬†why am I doing all of this for just the two of us?¬†who really cares? what are we doing? this is so much work and effort for a celebration with only two¬†people.

bourbon pumpkin pie

It was a real struggle. There were times when I almost quit cooking entirely, and I came close to calling off the meal.

However, we kept cooking and ended up having a good time and making a great meal!

bourbon pumpkin pie

For us, any great cooking adventure starts with an equally fabulous bottle of wine. We found a great bottle of red and opening it up as the rosemary-sage rolls were headed into the oven was a calming moment for me. Everything seemed to be coming together, and it began feeling much more like the cozy Thanksgivings I know and love!

thanksgiving 2015

There are a few dishes that I will always associate with Thanksgiving. I usually don’t eat them outside the context of the holiday and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t feel right without these sides. A vegetarian, sage dressing is one of those dishes. Green bean casserole with crispy onions on top perfectly pretends to be the vegetable of the table. We had all of these things ready to go into the oven and complete our meal, when I decided that candied, gelatinous cranberry and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes were not dessert-y enough.

thanksgiving 2015

So, we decided to make a¬†pie, because, why not? Pies are chill, right? And, as if we didn’t have enough to handle in our tiny kitchen, I had the bright idea to try a brand new kind of pie with special decorations on top. I’m not even a pie expert, but I suppose the wine had me feeling overzealous.

bourbon pumpkin pie

The above pie is the result of our adventure in Thanksgiving baking. While the filling did overrun the edges a bit, it is an absolutely delicious dessert and I highly recommend it. However, we spent an inordinate amount of time hand-making those tiny decorations. The acorn is mine and the holly leaves are William’s creation.

bourbon pumpkin pie

Let me just say- it is 100% not worth your precious Thanksgiving day to sit around building decorations to make your pumpkin pie look more like fall. Pumpkin itself is the essence of fall, and when you’re left with a tiny hunk of plain p√Ęte bris√©e, you won’t care that it looks like an acorn, just that it isn’t nearly as good without the delicious bourbon-pumpkin filling!

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

makes 1, 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons salted butter
~5 tablespoons ice water

for the filling
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons bourbon (your favorite- we used Bulleit, but Knobb Creek would work well too)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1 /2 teaspoons Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

for maple whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup

9″ pie pan and pie weights (or dried rice/beans)

bourbon pumpkin pie

Begin by making your crust. Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until it looks almost like butter flour or dry cheese curds.

bourbon pumpkin pie

You will need to shift the dough around in your food processor to let it come together. Add in a few tablespoons of ice water. Pulse the food processor. Continue adding a bit of water and pulsing just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap it in parchment paper and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the dough has chilled, carefully roll it out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into your pie pan and trim the edges. You can also crimp the edges, but I didn’t spend too much time on this. Prick the crust with a fork and put it in the refrigerator to chill for another half hour. All of this chilling time is very important to keep the butter solidified and it helps make for a flakier crust.

bourbon pumpkin pie

After the crust¬†has chilled again, place tin foil over¬†it¬†and fill it with pie weights. Bake it at 375¬įF for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for 5 more minutes.

While the crust is baking, combine all of the filling components in a large bowl.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let the crust cool to room temperature, then carefully pour the filling into the crust. You will have extra filling, be careful not to overfill the crust like I did! Bake at 325¬įF for an hour.

While the pie is baking, make the whipped cream. In a food processor, combine cold whipping cream and maple syrup. Beat together until stiff peaks form.

Cut the pie and serve immediately!

This pie is particularly good with the cold whipped cream spread on top of it!

 

 

Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

espresso cookie

These cookies are my new favorite. They are not very child-friendly or pregnant-person friendly, because they do in fact contain espresso powder. However, they are soft and chewy and sweet and salty and even a little bitter to the taste! They have a kick of caffeine and they stay nice and soft for at least a week or two after being made!!

espresso cookies

They are the answer to every craving (excepting, perhaps, the late-nite snack run). Truth be told, you also have the option of using decaf instant espresso for an all-day treat, accessible to anyone with a penchant for that delicious mocha flavor.

To top it all off, they are incredibly easy to make. The actual mixing time is about fifteen minutes, and baking time is ten to fifteen.¬†Be aware, though, you must let the batter chill for an hour or two after being made, otherwise, these cookies will melt all over your oven.¬†However, they stay so delicious and yummy even a week after being made, that you can always prep the dough ahead of time and bake ahead of time¬†or¬†prep the dough and let it chill for a day or two before you actually need to bake them! Either way- you’ve got plenty of options, and no excuse not to let yourself enjoy these fabulous cookies.

espresso cookies

 

Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

(makes about 18-20 cookies)

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon finely-ground sea salt

2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure, vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 ounces chocolate chips (any cocoa percentage is fine)
coarsely-ground sea salt for dusting

espresso cookies

 

First, mix the flour, baking powder, and finely-ground sea salt in a large bowl.

espresso cookies

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar.

Over a pot of boiling water, in a medium-sized metal bowl, melt together the bittersweet chocolate, butter, and espresso powder. Stir continuously. For faster melting, chop all of the ingredients before putting them together over heat.

espresso cookies

Let the melted chocolate mixture cool for about five minutes. Combine it with the egg mixture and whisk. Add in the dry ingredients and mix. Finally, add in the chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate) to create the dough!

Chill the dough for an hour or two at least. If you are making it ahead of time, you can chill it for up to two days.

To bake- cover a pan in parchment paper and place the dough in rounded tablespoons. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 325¬į F. The cookies are done when the tops begin to crackle!

Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about five minutes.

 

Dust with coarse sea salt and enjoy!

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

olive oil cake

Let me just say that this is my favorite cake ever. A week after I made it and it had been sitting on the counter, I took another bite- still my favorite cake ever. Even two weeks later, when the last bite was taken- this cake was moist, dense, rich, and satisfying. I cannot recommend it enough!!

I based the recipe off of a Nigella Lawson creation, which you can find here. Mine is not vegan friendly, but it’s still delicious! It was fun and EASY! You do need a springform pan to bake it in, but other than that- nothing too fancy or special.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients
1 heaping cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup olive oil
1 heaping cup sugar (caster sugar, if you do not have a coffee grinder)
2 tablespoons almond flour
5 eggs
kosher salt
parchment paper

olive oil cake

 

Preheat the oven to 350¬įF. Prepare the springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the bottom and sides.

If you are using regular sugar, grind it down in a coffee grinder so that it looks almost like powdered sugar but not quite as compact. Measure out a heaping cup. [If you are using caster sugar, simply measure out a cup.]

Melt the chocolate in a pot over low heat, being really careful not to let it burn. If you are nervous about potentially burning it, just set up a double boiler and melt it over boiling water. Stir continuously until it is completely melted, then add in the olive oil.

Keep stirring the mixture over heat, and add in 2/3 cup of the ground sugar. Stir over heat until that sugar is dissolved.

Remove the chocolate mixture from heat and set it aside. Take a moment to separate the eggs into two, small bowls. Add the almond flour, egg yolks, and a few pinches of salt to the chocolate mixture. Stir it all together until it looks smooth and silky.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup ground sugar and the egg whites. This will take some time and having a partner to help you out is nice. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar fervently  until you see fairly stiff peaks.

Next, carefully fold the fluffed egg whites into the chocolate.

olive oil cake

Pour the batter into the greased springform pan.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes. The top will crack and a knife will come out clean when the cake is done.

Sprinkle with sugar and serve with whipped cream and fresh herbs!

olive oil cake

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Basbosa

basbosa

Basbosa (sometimes spelled basbousa) is an Egyptian dessert that is similar in many ways to pound cake. It is a thick, but moist cake. This recipe uses the flavors of coconut, rose water, and pistachios to give the basbosa a richer flavor. However, rose water and coconut are not always used in basbosa. As with most traditional foods, there are many variants of basbosa around the world. In many Middle Eastern countries there are desserts similar to this, sometimes orange flower water is used in place of rose water to give the cake a different flavor. It is delicious and rich, but leaves you feeling lighter than a typically rich chocolate dessert!

This variant was inspired by a recipe from the cookbook Share, which was sponsored by Women for Women International and explores cuisines from around the globe.

Egyptian Basbosa

makes 9 -12 large pieces 

Ingredients

for the cake
1 stick salted butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes

for the syrup
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2-1 teaspoon rose water (depending on your preference)

1/3 cup chopped pistachios for topping

basbosa

 

Preheat the oven to 350¬įF and grease a 9×9 pan with butter.

Melt the stick of salted butter in a microwave-safe container and let it cool off. Beat together the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, baking powder, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. When the butter has cooled off a bit, quickly beat it into the bowl, making sure not to cook the eggs. Add in the cornstarch and shaved coconut. Mix well until you have a batter.

basbosa

Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Next, make the syrup. Place the sugar and lemon juice in a small pot over medium heat along with 1/2 cup of water. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and then bring it to a simmer. Add in the rose water and let the syrup simmer for about three minutes.

I knew when I first decided to make this that I¬†really¬†wanted to include the flavor of rose water, and we did have some trouble finding it. We eventually found it at Whole Foods, but later saw that Lucky also carries it (and for a¬†much¬†lower price!). If you are near a Lucky supermarket or an area with a store that might just have an aisle for ethnic foods, I would recommend you check there first before making a special trip to the land of exorbitant prices at Whole Foods! Also, if you know that you can’t stand that perfume-y and floral taste of rose water, don’t add it in. You can use orange flower water, or even a floral honey if you want the depth of flavor without the strong floral notes.

basbosa

 

When the cake is done, it will be darker around the edges and golden on top, but fully cooked in the center. You can put a butter knife through it to test.

Let the cake cool for about  5 minutes. After it has cooled, cut it into slices and pour the syrup over the entire cake. Top with pistachios and toasted coconut.

basbosa

 

Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.