Monthly Archives: November 2010

Easier than Pie: Pecan Pie Bars

I’m so happy that I made the decision to make one pie for Thanksgiving and not two as I had originally intended. These Pecan Pie Bars taste just like the real thing, and they’re much easier to make!

Start with the shortbread base

While the base is baking, start on the topping

One word: Delicious

I think you should make these for Thanksgiving as well.

Very quick and easy

And so…so… delicious…

The good thing about making bars…

You get to taste test them before serving!

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine:

Shortbread Base
Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°F.Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes. While shortbread is baking, prepare topping

Pecan Pie Bars

Ingredients:  

8 ounces pecans (about 2 cups)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
hot shortbread base
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°F.In a food processor coarsely chop pecans. In a heavy saucepan melt butter and stir in brown sugar, honey, and cream. Simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, 1 minute and stir in pecans. Pour pecan mixture over hot shortbread and spread evenly. Bake in middle of oven until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars. Bar cookies keep, covered, 5 days at room temperature.
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Thanksgiving Classic: Pumpkin Pie

My friend Emily told me about a cooking show on channel 11 (PBS) called America’s Test Kitchen where they break down the science of cooking and baking to create perfect dishes. I recently saw an episode where they made the perfect pie crust. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I knew it was time to make a pie. The only appropriate pie for Thanksgiving is Pumpkin Pie of course. Even though no one at my Thanksgiving dinner will eat Pumpkin Pie but Marc and I- I still thought it was worth giving it a shot.

Note to self- next time I make a pie and crust from scratch- never do it the same day that I’m baking two other desserts! It got a little frustrating at times, and I did want to give up… but I’m glad I stuck with it.

Begin with the crust. Using my new food processor, I followed this recipe as closely as I could.

By the way, this recipe calls for vodka. It’s a good thing we had this in the freezer:

The dough was harder to work with than I expected. After seeing it rolled out so easily on the show, I expected to have the same experience… not so much. I just did the best I could with it.

Into the pie dish

Once I finished with the crust and it was baking away in the oven, I started working on the filling. The other interesting ingredient this recipe called for was yams. Don’t worry- there’s pumpkin puree in there too…

And after a long hard day… I ended up with a beautiful pumpkin pie

Maybe it was worth it? We won’t know for sure until we taste it on turkey-day!

Full recipe- From America’s Test Kitchen (It’s a long one!):

Pumpkin Pie

From the episode: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving

Makes one 9-inch pie

If candied yams are unavailable, regular canned yams can be substituted. The best way to judge doneness is with an instant-read thermometer. The center 2 inches of the pie should look firm but jiggle slightly. The pie finishes cooking with residual heat; to ensure that the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator. To ensure accurate cooking times and a crisp crust, the filling should be added to the prebaked crust when both the crust and filling are warm. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.

INGREDIENTS
CRUST
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening , cold, cut into two pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vodka , cold (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
FILLING
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (see note)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
INSTRUCTIONS
  • 1. For the Crust: Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  • 2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  • 3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  • 4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  • 5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.
  • 6. For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • 7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pieplate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Spice Up Your Life

Last winter my friend Megan and I bought a Groupon for a cooking class at Kendall College. Even though neither of us enjoyed the book or saw the movie, we chose a class called- Eat Pray Love, A menu inspired by the novel. Creating and eating Italian food sounded like fun so we signed up!

On the menu for the evening was stuffed artichokes, pasta carbonara, margarita pizza and triamisu. We worked in groups of 3 or 4. The class was very hands on which I really enjoyed. We did a lot in 3 short hours so I was glad that we were in a group and were able to take turns prepping and cooking.

I didn’t get to take as many photos as I had hoped to take, but I did photograph the end results. Unfortunately, by the time we were able to eat (at the very end of the class) we were so hungry that we ate most of what we made, and I took photographs after. Here is what we made from scratch:

Margarita Pizza- was much more appetizing than it looks!

The stuffed artichoke, pizza and the pasta, tiramisu on the side

Tiramisu

Our group- Martha, me and Megan

I’ve never made pasta before, but it was fun and it tasted wonderful. I would love to do it again at home. We combined flour and salt, then whisked in eggs and olive oil

Flattened out the dough in a pasta maker

The dough then became linguine!

We had a great time and I learned a lot. Can’t wait to recreate the pasta carbonara!

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Butterscotch Tassies

Holy yum! I may have found my new favorite dessert.

I picked up a Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine about a month ago when I was at the grocery store. After flipping through the magazine a number of times, one recipe always stuck with me- Butterscotch Tassies. I think it’s because I really loved the name- and they looked like they would taste good as well.

Combine butter, cream cheese & flour.

Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes, then shape it into 24 balls.

Press each ball into an ungreased mini-muffin tin

For filling- melt together  butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and butter

Whisk in an egg and sugar

Pour filling into each pastry-lined cup

Bake, and enjoy!

The recipe called for a butterscotch drizzle over the top.

I thought that these tassies tasted perfect without it.

The photos can’t even begin to describe how good these are.

I plan on making many, many more so everyone can try!

Full recipe:

Butterscotch Tassies

1/2 cup butter, softened

3-ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup butterscotch chips

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

Butterscotch Drizzle

1. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Add flour. Beat on low speed just until combined. Cover and chill for 30 to 60 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 325. Shape dough into 24 balls. Press each ball evenly onto the bottoms and up the sides of the 24 ungreased mini-muffin cups; set aside.

3. For filling, in a small saucepan, combine butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Whisk in egg and sugar. Spoon filling into pastry-lined cups.

4. Baked in the preheated over for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and filling is puffed. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes (filling will fall slightly as it cools). Carefully transfer tassies to wire rack; cool completely. Drizzle with Butterscotch Drizzle. Makes 24 tassies.

Butterscotch Drizzle: In small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup butterscotch chips and 2 teaspoons shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

To store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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Martha Stewart’s Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

I love cheesecake. I love Oreos. And I love Martha Stewart’s recipes. This was an easy, delicious combination of all three!

Start by lining cupcake tins, and place one Oreo in each (the Oreo is the crust).

Beat the cream cheese in a mixer

Add the sugar. Mix.

Add the vanilla. Mix again.

Slowly add in the eggs while mixing.

Add the sour cream. Mix again.

And a pinch of salt. Mix one last time!

Meanwhile, crush the rest of the Oreos.

And mix in by hand.

Evenly distribute the mixture into the tins.

Bake, and pull out of the oven! Don’t burn your finger like I did…

After refrigerating for at least 4 hours, enjoy!

Martha Stewart’s Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes Recipe
Makes 30

Ingredients:
42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.

4. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.

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Cinnamon & Nutmeg Rolls

When I first saw this recipe for Cardamom Sweet Rolls, I knew that I had to taste them. Two problems: I had no idea what Cardamom was and when I did find it at the grocery store, it was $15.00 for a small container. It wasn’t really worth the money to me. So I improvised and googled “substitute for cardamom”. I found that a combination of cinnamon and nutmeg would be a good substitute. Since I already had both in my kitchen, I decided to give the rolls a try.

I started with whole milk & yeast:

I mixed half a cup of milk with a packet of yeast:

And let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Into the mixer went the milk/yeast combo, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and an egg

After everything was combined, I added the flour and salt. My mixture went from looking like this:

To this:

When everything was combined, I transfered the dough to another bowl and let it rise for 2 hours.

I rolled it out (with this fantastic rolling pin, thanks Jan!):

I loved working with this dough because it wasn’t sticky at all

After the dough was nice and flat, I covered it in butter and a cinnamon sugar mixture

Rolled it up

And sliced it

Before the rolls went into the oven, they sat for 30 minutes and I brushed an egg wash over the top

Half way there

After 20 long wonderful smelling minutes, we were finally able to sample these delicious rolls

These rolls were extremely light and not too sweet. Not exactly what you think of when you think of a cinnamon roll. They were better.  These would make a great breakfast or snack because they won’t weigh you down.

Up next… Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes… stay tuned!

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