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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

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Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

We know: it’s freezing. We’d offer to come over and snuggle, but, no way we’re leaving home today. Try our remedy instead!

 

SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE
A dark, rich, and perfectly seasoned elixir from our book,  Winter Cocktails

In this variation, sugar cooks down to an amber, bittersweet caramel that blends seamlessly into hot chocolate.
Cooking Tip: You will need a large saucepan for this recipe: the addition of cream to the caramel causes the mixture to bubble aggressively.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Maldon salt, plus additional for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 cups whole milk
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ingredient Tip: Maldon salt is a sea salt whose large flakes are ideal for seasoning: they melt slowly but easily into warm items, and also provide a nice crunch and textural contrast. See page 000 for resources.

- Stir sugar and water together in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar turns dark amber and just begins to smoke, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately add cream and salt, stepping away from pan while bubbling and sputtering subside. Reduce heat to medium and stir just until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and brown sugar and stir with whisk until a paste forms. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Whisk in caramel. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in chocolate and cook, stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Serve in warm cups and sprinkle with Maldon salt.

- Spike each serving with 1 1/2 ounces Amaretto per serving, if desired (trust us, you desire).

Serves 4

 

 

Thanksgiving Pies

The holidays are upon us! Again, they caught us by surprise, but there is no denying that in the city the streets are carpeted in thick layers of fallen leaves and the windows of shops are screaming out invitations to shop.

We had another early celebration, a dry run, so that we could share our Thanksgiving with you. Last year we honored the turkey and showed you how to roast and carve, but this year, we decided to go straight for what people most ogle at the table: PIE. Here you’ll find sweet and savory pies with classic flaky crusts, nut-based crusts, puff pastry berets, and crunchy layers of phyllo. We’ve included the standard but regal apple pie, and included a reimagined version of candied yams and marshmallows, as well as brown butter pear and cranberry, potato, and of course, turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

And a very special thank you to our friend and rock star prop stylist, Emily Rickard!

Thanksgiving Pies

Thanksgiving Pies

Thanksgiving Pies

INDIVIDUAL TURKEY POT PIES
Makes 8 to 10 pot pies

Notes: You can roast the turkey up to two days in advance.  
My rule of thumb for seasoning poultry is ¾ teaspoon salt per pound of meat.
- I prefer Dufour brand puff pastry; it is pricier, but well worth it for true butter flavor.
- Warming the milk makes it easier to incorporate into the roux.

For the Turkey
1 (6-pound) bone-in turkey breast
4 ½ teaspoons salt* and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup mixed herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Turkey: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F.  Set an oven-safe cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet.

- Gently separate the skin from the flesh of the turkey with your fingertips. Rub most of the salt and pepper directly on the flesh, then rub the remaining on the skin. Combine the butter with the herbs and smear the butter in between the skin and flesh.

- Drizzle the breast with the olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue cooking until the thickest part of the breast registers 150°F (usually it is 160°F, but there will be carryover cooking and the turkey will be cooked within the pot pies).  Cool turkey to room temperature, then carve and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces.

For the Filling and Topping
3 pounds red waxy potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter
12 ounces slender carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into ½-inch-thick slices
12 ounces mushrooms, such as maitake or shiitake
4 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting counter
4 cups whole milk, warmed*
2 sheets puff pastry*, thawed according to package instructions
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Filling and Topping: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

-Place the potatoes in medium saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer on medium heat until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in large skillet. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper, and sautée until golden about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

- Melt an additional 2 tablespoons of butter in now empty skillet. Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in sherry and cook an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with carrots.

- Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in now empty skillet. With a wooden stirring spoon, stir in the flour to make a paste (this is the roux). Cook, stirring, until beginning to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and slowly pour in milk while vigorously whisking. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 2 minutes until thickened; it should be like gravy. If too thick, add more warm milk.

- Pour sauce over vegetables in bowl and fold in potatoes and turkey.

- Divide the mixture evenly between (6- to 8-ounce-capacity) ramekins.

- Dust a clean, dry work surface with flour and rub a rolling pin with more. Roll out the puff pastry — this will depend on the size of your ramekins. Use a round cookie cutter to punch out “lids” for the ramekins, or cut it into squares. Cover the pot pies with pastry. Whisk the egg yolk and cream together in a small bowl and brush over pot pies.

- Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.

CLASSIC DOUBLE-CRUST APPLE PIE
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8

Notes: Granny Smiths are firm and tart and will retain their shape while they bake. Avoid softer-fleshed apples like Golden Delicious, which will blow out and turn mushy.

For the Double Crust
400 grams/14 ounces (about 2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting counter
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup sugar
200 grams/7 ounces (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Ice water, as needed

For the Filling
2 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples*, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Demerara or other coarse-granule sugar for decorating

For the Double Crust: See Brown Butter Pear and Cranberry Pie crust recipe above for method. The only difference will be that once you’ve kneaded the dough, you’ll divide it in 2 before wrapping in plastic and refrigerating.

- Once your pie has been filled, roll out the second disc of dough and cut out decorative pieces, if desired. For the design in this picture, I lopped off the top third of a green apple and placed it on the topping. I then used a cookie cutter to cut out an opening in the center of what would be the lid and placed it over the filling and green apple. Rather than trimming off the edges of the dough to make a classic fluted edge, I decided to go a more organic route and simply pinched the bottom and top doughs together, letting the rest ruffle.

For the Filling: In a large bowl, toss together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, and salt.  Pour mixture into prepared dough shell. Cover with second dough round, decorate as desired, and refrigerate for 20 minutes (this will allow the top dough round to rest and also allow the apples to release some of their juices).

- Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the egg yolk and cream together in small bowl and brush all over pie dough. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake until pie is deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before serving.

SWEET POTATO PIE WITH NUT CRUST AND FLUFF TOPPING
Makes one 8- by 8-inch pie, serving 8 to 12

For the Crust
Baking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into thin slices and chilled

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

- Lightly coat an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with baking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, laying down first one piece and allowing about 3 inches of excess to hang over the edges, then a second piece crosswise to create a sling. Coat with spray once more.

- In a food processor, pulse the flour, pecans, sugar, and salt until the pecans are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer dough to prepared baking pan and press into bottom of pan in an even layer.

- Bake until just set, about 20 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

For the Filling
½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 pounds garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup apple cider
Water
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sorghum syrup or molasses
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ an orange
2 large eggs

For the Filling: Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the allspice and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes, apple cider, and salt and bring to a simmer (if potatoes are not covered, add enough water to cover by about 1 inch). Cover and cook over low heat until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 12 minutes. If liquid remains in pot, remove lid, increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking until no liquid remains. Remove pan from heat, cool potatoes to room temperature, and transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

- Add the orange zest and juice and eggs to food processor and blend until mixture is completely smooth. Scrape mixture into prepared crust and smooth out into even layer. Prepare topping.

For the Topping
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch salt
1 (16-ounce) tub marshmallow fluff

- Beat egg whites and with wire whisk in large bowl until they hold soft peaks. Scrape fluff into a second large bowl. Stir in 1/3 of the egg whites, then fold in the rest using a rubber spatula.  Spread over sweet potato filling.

- Bake until marshmallow fluff is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Using the overhanging parchment paper, pull pie out onto a cutting board and cut into 8 to 12 pieces. Serve.

BROWN BUTTER PEAR AND CRANBERRY PIE
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8

Notes: In the images in this post, the pie was baked in several different-sized pie plates. Feel free to do the same.
- The measurements for the crust are provided in grams and ounces as I normally use a scale when preparing it.

For the Crust
200 grams/7 ounces (about 1 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting counter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
100 grams/3.5 ounces (7 ½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Ice water, as needed

For the Filling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds firm Bosc pears, peeked, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup brandy

For the Crust: Combine flour, sugar, and salt on a clean, dry, and cool work surface. With a bench scraper, cut in butter until it resembles wet sand. Alternatively, combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand, then transfer mixture to work surface.

- Form a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in beaten egg and 1 tablespoon ice water. Working quickly, use the bench scraper to combine the ingredients.  If the mixture appears very dry and crumbly, add ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until mixture is cohesive but not overly wet.

- Bring dough together with lightly floured hands. Pinch off small pieces of dough and, working quickly, with the heel of your hand extend on work surface to ensure even distribution of butter. Gather dough together into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

- Clean and dry off counter and sprinkle with flour. Rub flour on rolling pin. Roll dough out, starting in the center and working outwards (never roll back into center as it will just bring the dough back). Dough should be about 12-inches in diameter.  Roll dough lightly onto rolling pin, then transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Press into the bottom and sides, trim off edges and reserve them, then pinch the edges into a decorative pattern. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, during which time you can prepare the filling. (The dough may be prepared up to 1 week in advance to this stage and frozen).

For the Filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

- Melt the butter in large skillet over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it begins to foam. Once the foam subsides and small brown flecks can be seen in the butter (it will smell nutty, too), add the pears, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing and stirring, until pears are browned and beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.

- Stir in the brandy, sugar, and cranberries. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then, pour into prepared crust. Pinch off pieces of the reserved dough scraps and scatter over pie. Bake until bubbling and edges of pie are brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.

POTATO, LEEK, AND CHEESE TART
Makes 1 tart, serving 6 to 8

Notes: This is a great appetizer.
- I used a rectangular tart pan, about 7- by 11-inches. Any tart pan in that general size will work.
- Phyllo is a tissue paper-thin dough that dries out and breaks if exposed to air even for a few seconds. Set the pile of phyllo sheets on your counter, cover it with wax or parchment paper, then cover it with a damp towel. You will work with only one sheet of dough at a time.
- I used Cana de Cabra, a Spanish cheese with a chalky exterior and soft center. Avoid using the chalky logs of goat cheese here as it is lacking in flavor.
- A mandolin makes quick work of thinly slicing potatoes. While working, keep potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from oxidizing.

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and pale green parts thinly sliced (or 5 shallots, thinly sliced)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed out according to manufacturer’s instructions
6 ounces goat cheese or brie*
2 teaspoons thyme leaves plus additional for garnish
2 ½ pounds red or yellow waxy potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced*

- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks or shallots, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

- Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter. Brush a tart pan with butter, then press 1 phyllo sheet (see notes above about working phyllo) into the pan. Brush the sheet with more butter, then repeat layering and buttering process until you’ve used all the sheets. Crumble or break apart the cheese and scatter over the dough. Scatter the leeks or shallots over the cheese.

- Arrange the potatoes in a slight overlapping pattern over the leeks and cheese.  Brush the potatoes with butter, lightly season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with some of the thyme. Repeat the process until you’ve run out of potatoes. Trim off any excess pastry hanging over the edges of the tart mold.

- Bake until potatoes are tender and golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before serving.

*Leftovers are great reheated and served with a fried egg on top.

Fennel 101

Fennel 101

Working on photo sets is often a battle of the bulge: catering and craft services sometimes don’t offer enough healthy choices, or, tempt you with enough treats and goodies that you ignore the more healthful options. Opting for the iceberg salad (hold the dressing) over the gravy-smothered mashed potatoes requires an iron will, and sometimes ours is more feathery in composition.

On evenings at home and during the weekends, we try to go back to our smart eating ways and make food that is both good for our bodies and our palates. We’re both firm believers that eating a salad doesn’t have to be a punishment or a “diet” menu item, but rather an opportunity to take advantage of great fresh produce and put something in our bellies that won’t  make them expand.

This salad has quinoa, a grain that will satisfy your complex carb craving and deliver protein. It’s lightly toasted to enhance its naturally nutty flavor, then cooled down and tossed with crisp fennel, tart Granny smith apple, buttery avocado, fiery serranos, and a simple vinaigrette that ties it all together.

FENNEL, APPLE, QUINOA, AND AVOCADO SALAD

Serves 4

For the Quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove minced
1 cup red or white quinoa, or a combination of both
1 teaspoon salt
Water

- Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to small bowl.

- Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the quinoa, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and toasted, about 5 minutes. Return the shallot and garlic to the pot, add the salt, and add enough water to cover the quinoa by about 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain the quinoa, return it to the pot, cover it, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Cool completely. (To speed up the cooling process, spread the quinoa out onto a rimmed baking sheet.)

- The quinoa may be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container, refrigerated.

For the Dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from about 2 lemons
1 tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

- Whisk the mustard, lemon juice, honey, and garlic together in medium bowl. While constantly whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow dressing to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Whisk dressing to recombine prior to using.

For the Salad
Juice of 1 lemon
1 fennel bulb
1 Granny Smith apple
1 firm but ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1 to 2 serrano peppers (to taste), ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced

- Fill a medium bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Trim off and reserve the fennel fronds, thinly slice the stems, trim and discard the bottom of the bulb then cut it in half and thinly slice it. Place the fennel pieces and slices in the acidulated water to prevent it from oxidizing.

- Cut the apple in half, remove the cores (use a 1 teaspoon measure for easy coring) and thinly slice. Drain the fennel thoroughly, add the apple and avocado, and drizzle with come of the vinaigrette, gently tossing to combine. Add the peppers and quinoa and additional vinaigrette to taste. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with reserved fennel fronds.

Fennel 101

Homemade Granola & Yogurt

All the chubby-cheeked cupids, bows-and-arrows, and glittery cards screeching out love songs are a bit much for me…and don’t even get me started on heart-shaped bakeware. Perhaps years of being the only girl who didn’t get bouquets of flowers or “Be Mine”-inscribed sugar hearts made me wary of Valentine’s Day, but I’ll be a good sport this year, especially because it involves larger-than-life scones that are also cinnamon rolls (a genius recipe from Tate’s) and eating in bed.  Treat your better half — or yourself — on Valentine’s Day, or any other day for that matter.

Recipe note: Prepare the dough for the scones up to 1 day in advance and keep them refrigerated and wrapped in plastic. Bake the following day.

ORANGE-ROSEMARY GRANOLA

Makes about 5 cups

½ cup honey

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons finely grated zest plus 1/3 cup juice from 2 oranges

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups whole rolled oats

1 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped

¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup fresh rosemary, chopped

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Whisk together honey, oil, orange juice, and salt in liquid measuring cup. Using hands, combine oats, nuts, and coconut in rimmed baking sheet. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and use hands or rubber spatula to thoroughly combine. Spread out into even layer.

Bake 20 minutes, then stir in orange zest and rosemary. Continue baking until golden and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Transfer baking sheet to cooling rack and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Store granola in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month, or frozen for up to 2 months. Bring frozen granola to room temperature prior to serving, or quickly warm through by toasting desired amount in a dry skillet over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve atop yogurt.

QUICK BLACKBERRY JAM

Serves 4

This quick jam is a prefect complement to the Orange-Rosemary Granola. Prepare it up to 1 day in advance.

2 cups fresh blackberries

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

Pinch salt

Combine 1 cup blackberries, sugar, water, and salt in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring and smashing berries with wooden spoon, until mixture is thick and jam-like, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 cup blackberries. Cool to room temperature and serve with yogurt and granola.

Breakfast in Bed

We love Tate’s crunchy, buttery cookies, and when we got the opportunity to cook and shoot a few things from their inspired creator, we jumped at the chance. These Maple, Bacon, and Date Scones and extravagant Cinnamon Swirl Scones are perfect for spoiling your significant other – or yourself.

The following recipes are from Baking for Friends by Kathleen King, creator and owner of Tate’s Bake Shop

Maple, Bacon, and Date Scones

Makes 16 scones

1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) cold salted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 ½ cups pitted and chopped dates

12 ounces sliced bacon, cut into ½-inch-wide pieces, cooked until crisp, drained, and cooled

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Grade B pure maple syrup

1 large egg

1 tablespoons Demerara or other raw sugar

Position oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

To make the scones: In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Add the dates and toss to coat with the flour mixture. Repeat with the bacon. Whisk the buttermilk and 1/3 cup of maple syrup together in a measuring cup. Pour into the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Do not overmix.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. Roll out into a 1-inch-thick round. Using a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, pressing firmly to cut through the dates, cut out the scones as close together as possible to avoid excess scraps. Arrange at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Gently press the scraps together roll out again, and cut more scones.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup.  Brush the tops of the scones lightly with the egg mixture and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.

Bake, switching the positions of the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the scones are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool on the pans for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Cinnamon Swirl Buns

Cinnamon Swirl Scones

Makes 12 rolls

Filling

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Dough

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold salted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup dark raisins

1 ¾ cups half-and-half

Icing

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water

Position oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

To make the filling: In a small bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until smooth.

To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Do not overmix. Mix in the raisins. Stir in the half-and-half and mix just until the ingredients are moistened.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 17-by-12-inch rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Spread the cinnamon filling evenly over the top of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border on all four sides. Starting at the long side, tightly roll the dough up into a log. Cut the dough into 2-inch slices and arrange them, cut sides up, 4 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake, switching the positions of the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking, until the rolls are slightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the pans for 10 minutes.

To make the icing: In a small bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar and water with a fork until smooth. Drizzle over the buns. Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature.

Jolly Holidays

We are surely not the only ones baffled at how the holidays crept up on us, but really, here so soon? Again, no tree or twinkle lights, and many a holiday gift has turned into an IOU. At least in my case…Tara pulled it together in a much more civilized fashion.

What I have to offer: quick and festive recipes that will give you at least an air of hostess/host with the mostes’/most.

More importantly, Cookin’ and Shootin’ wishes you the warmest and jolliest of holidays, full of friends and family, gifts and goodwill.

Champagne Pomegranate Cocktail

PICKLED APPLE AND POMEGRANATE GRANITA

Champagne and prosecco bring sparkle to holiday festivities, but we also like to add color and punch to the bubbles. This granita is tart, sweet, and reddest red—it doesn’t get any more jolly than this.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 teaspoons cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons finely grated zest plus ¼ cup juice from 2 blood or regular oranges
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups pomegranate juice

Chilled champagne or prosecco, for serving

Combine apples, vinegar, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon in medium saucepan. Rub orange zest into sugar until sugar is damp and no zest strands remain. Stir sugar into apple mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce head to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes or until apples are completely soft.

Strain mixture into a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan, pressing apple chunks through with a spoon. Discard solids. Whisk pomegranate juice into mixture and place pan in freezer. Freeze granita for at least 1 ½ hours, scraping every 30 minutes until a frozen, slushy consistency is reached.

Spoon granita into champagne glasses and pour in champagne. Toast!

Appetizers

SPICED CHEESE STRAWS

16 short straws

Aleppo pepper, za’atar spice, and sumac are available in the spice aisle of specialty markets or online. If you can’t find them, substitute with your favorite blend of spices and herbs such as oregano and rosemary.

1 1/2 cups (3 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped
2 teaspoons za’atar spice
1 teaspoon sumac
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
All-purpose flour for dusting work surface
2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed according to package directions
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Adjust 2 oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions and preheat to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine cheese, salt, pepper, marjoram, za’atar, sumac, and Aleppo pepper in medium bowl. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet to about 12- by 10-inches. Whisk egg and cream together in small bowl and brush over pastry. Sprinkle half of cheese mixture evenly over pastry and press in gently.

Cut the sheet in half lengthwise, then crosswise into eights to yield 16 rectangles. Carefully twist each rectangle to form a curl and arrange on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Repeat entire procedure with second puff pastry sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until puffed and golden. Using a spatula, turn the cheese straws over and bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer trays to cooling racks and cool about 5 minutes before serving.

HOLIDAY CHEESE BALLS

Makes about 6 2-inch cheese balls.

Cheese balls are a little bit funny and retro, but after the slightly raised eyebrows have returned to the horizontal position, everyone admits to loving them. The great thing about cheese ball recipes is that they’re simple to make and lend themselves to any number of additions. Here are some festively flavored and decorated ones, but do feel free to take the recipe and add your own personal touches to them—anything from chopped nuts and herbs to fancy preserves and caviar are fair game.

Serve the cheese balls with crackers, good bread, or crudités.

An ice cream scoop with spring release is a perfect tool for easy cheese ball shaping.

Master Mix
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely grated shallots
2 teaspoons dry mustard
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated or 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from about 2 lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Additions and Coatings
Finely chopped pitted green olives
Fresh marjoram, finely chopped
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Green peppercorns
Pink peppercorns
Aleppo pepper

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and dry mustard and  cook for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add cream cheese, cheddar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir together until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

To flavor cheese mixture, stir in green olives and/or herbs to taste. Shape into approximately 2-inch balls and roll in peppercorns or Aleppo pepper. Refrigerate cheese balls until ready to serve.

Though most of the shopping we did at the greenmarket was intended to be cooked later that morning, we experienced shoppers’ high and bought a few extra things because they looked and smelled so delightful.

These Thumbelina-sized nectarines were fuzzy and sweet, needing nothing but a rinse under cold water to make them ready to eat. Naturally, we had to capture their perfect ombré shades of orange and deep pink on film.

Fairy tale eggplant…We are helpless before perfectly patterned produce that flaunts its rich garnet hues. And that name? Irresistible.

Korean melons, yellow and cotton candy-fragrant; look for these sunny yellow, oblong alternatives to honeydews and cantaloupe

OK fine. Organic eggs from blissful chickens are fantastic, but in all honestly, we bought these because we loved the color of the carton.

We met at Peels in the Bowery in fall of 2011. Meetings between photographers and stylists always feel like first dates: you assess each other’s online portfolios the way you would someone’s profile photo on a dating site, exchange a few e-mails, set up a meeting, text each other when you’re at the restaurant door with perfunctory “I have curly dark hair,” and “I’m wearing a neon yellow scarf.” You take a deep breath, make small talk, arrange a test shoot.

The shoot is the real date, the one where you decide if you want to keep going. Our test went off without a hitch and it felt like we were on our way to a happy ending.

A few months and several mouthwatering food photos behind us, we decided to move in together, metaphorically speaking. So here we are, Cookin’ & Shootin’ on a very regular basis. Our shoots are carefully planned, with detailed attention paid to lighting and food and prop styling. And, because we’d like you to be able to eat and not just salivate over what we shoot, recipes are part of our schtick, too.

Whether it’s homemade pasta recipes, stacked cakes, or sloppy burgers, Cookin’ & Shootin’ is a reflection of our eye—and stomach—for food.

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