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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

Posts tagged Desserts

Our friend was having a bake sale at her daughter’s school during the primaries, and asked me to make something. I decided since Maria is Nicaragua visiting family, I’d go ahead and post my bake sale contribution. My friend and I were going back and forth on what to bake – Should I make cupcakes? Scones? Cookies? Or coffee cake? – These amazing bars got all the votes!

Heavenly Cookie Bars are perfect for a low maintenance dessert, and are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. They’re one of my favorite go to cookie recipes because they are quick and delicious.

In the end, the bars SOLD OUT and were a big hit!

 

HEAVENLY COOKIE BARS – (AKA MAGIC COOKIE BARS)

Makes about 2 dozen bars

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 TBL flax meal
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecan, or walnuts are great)
  • 2 TBL chia seed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

13 x 9 inch baking pan

Pour the melted butter into the pan. In a medium sized bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the flax meal. Once combined, sprinkle evenly over the melted butter.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the graham cracker crumbs.

Layer the remaining ingredients as follows: chips, nuts, chia, and top with coconut flakes.

Press down firmly with your hands, or a fork.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown.

Let cool, and then cut into small squares.

 

Shoes. Sweaters. Pajamas. Toiletries. Check, check, check, and check. Your overnight bag is packed and you have your directions mapped out or your train or plane ticket printed, but The Gift for people hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Ugh. What to bring to your family’s or friends’ gathering? Booze is a given, and, now, you cannot be That Person Who Brings Salad. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. And, have you noticed? It’s never even an interesting salad, with say, kohlrabi and a horseradish dressing, but the worst offender: bagged and chopped romaine with tasteless out-of-season grape tomatoes and bottled LO-CAL dressing.

You can always choose to impress with a pricey present, but a thoughtful homemade addition to the meal can be even more noteworthy.These bite-sized treats travel well and can be tucked into the desserts table, or kept in their wrappings and enjoyed by the hosts once all the party and its stresses are over.

SPICED AND SALTED HONEY-CASHEW BRITTLE
Makes 1 sheet of brittle (approx. 9- by 11 inches)

Prep note: Brittle seems daunting, but its success relies more on having equipment ready than on being skilled. Be sure to have a candy thermometer (available at most supermarkets) and that your baking sheet is prepped.

For the Brittle
Cooking spray
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) roasted and salted cashews

For the Chocolate Drizzle
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Maldon salt
Aleppo pepper
Ground cardamom

– Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat it with baking spray. Set up a small bowl filled with water and a pastry brush next to the stovetop.

– Combine the sugar, honey, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and (with the damp brush) brush the sides of the pan where the sugar mixture makes contact with it to dissolve any granules of sugar.

– Cook the sugar mixture until it registers 300¨F on a candy thermometer (hard crack stage), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and with the spatula, stir in the butter, salt, and baking soda. Stir in the cashews and immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Quickly spread the brittle out to the thickness of 1 cashew and cool completely.

For the Chocolate Drizzle: Once the brittle has hardened, melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave (try 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between zaps) or in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the brittle and sprinkle it with salt, Aleppo, and cardamom. Chill for 10 minutes, then break up into shards.

– Brittle will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week. *Refrigerate if you live in a warm place to prevent the chocolate drizzle from melting.

MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES
Makes about 42 cookies

These snowy cookies are crumbly and nutty and not too sweet. You might want to make a double batch and save some for yourself.

1 cup roasted and salted pecans
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature (about 60°F)
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 cup for coating
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Orange zest for sprinkling (optional)

– Pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely ground.

– Beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat to mix.

– Stop the mixer and add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and ground pecans to the butter. Beat on low until the mixture is cohesive, scraping the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl as needed.  Beat just until a dough forms. If the dough seems too soft to handle, refrigerate it for 20 to 30 minutes.

– Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

– Using a 1-tablespoon (1/2-ounce) ice cream scoop or a 1-tablespoon measure, scoop out the dough, dividing it among the 2 prepared sheets. Bake the cookies until just golden on the sides, 15 to 20 minutes, alternating the sheets’ positions halfway through baking.

– Transfer the sheets to cooling racks, cool the cookies on the sheets for 10 minutes, then cool them completely on the racks.  Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

MINI NUT PIES
Makes 24

These are a dainty alternative to classic pecan pie — try them with pecans, walnuts, or even a mixture of cocktail nuts. You’ll need a mini-muffin tin and a biscuit cutter about 2 1/4 inches in diameter.

1 package puff pastry or pie dough, thawed
All-purpose flour for dusting surface
Baking spray
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped and toasted

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

– Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Stamp out 24 circles with a 2 1/4-inch in diameter biscuit cutter and press them into a mini-muffin tin. Lightly coat the whole thing with baking spray.

– Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in the sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, espresso powder, and salt. Divide the mixture evenly among the dough-lined muffin tin, and top with the nuts.

– Bake until set, about 30 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes, then, with a wooden skewer or paring knife, gently pop the mini-pies out of the tins and onto the cooling rack. Cool completely and store, refrigerated for up to one week. You can also freeze the pies for up to 1 month and reheat them in a 300°F oven.

GINGER CAKE
This cake is moist and really spiced, packing quite a bit of fresh ginger in addition to the usual allspice, ground ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.  It’s meant to be baked in a 9-inch springform pan, but you can divide the batter among smaller vessels, filling each with batter about halfway up the sides.  When using smaller vessels, arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet for easier handling.  Click HEREfor the recipe.

Strapped for time? Order your packaging supplies at Paper Presentation.

And, if you’re looking to get festive and giving your room a quick makeover, try  Tempaper, temporary wallpaper!  The luxe gold and peacock feathers pattern featured in this post is one of our favorites.

ThanksgivingOnce a year, we gather and give thanks. We had the chance to do that early, as a warm-up if you will, this year, when we got together to put this Thanksgiving spread together.

The cold had crept in, with rain and gusts of violent wind. Those weather conditions mirrored some of our emotional states as well. But, as we settled into the evening and into the kitchen, all was calm and warm and safe.

Let’s be thankful for the moments, little and big, that bring us together with the people we hold dear, be it a Tuesday night or a calendar holiday.

And, a special thanks to the talented Penelope Bouklas and Jessica O’Brien for making these images come to life.

ThanksgivingCRUCIFEROUS CRUDITES

Serves 4 to 6

I’m a word geek, and “cruciferous” gives me no end of pleasure. I like that it sounds like a description of a tree creature in a Tolkien novel, but also, that it sounds like a biting into something crunchy and spiky and nubby and slightly juicy. It’s perfect, because cruciferous vegetable (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi, to name a few) are just all those things.

Here is one of my favorite crucifers: Romanesco. Pale green and spiraled and spiky like an underwater sea creature, it’s a more robust yet more sophisticated version of cauliflower. And, did you know? The spirals in each funky floret follow the Fibonacci sequence. Look it up: mind-blowing.

This is a pretty and simple recipe that really ups the ante on the basic crudité platter. Romanesco florets get a blanch in boiling water and a shock in cold, while purple cauliflower, another cruciferous beauty, is quickly sautéed for warm, buttery contrast.

Make the dip first:
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup crema or crème fraîche
2 garlic cloves, miced or grated
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

– Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and store, covered, until ready to serve.

Prep the crudités: 
1 head Romanesco, cut until florets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head purple cauliflower, cut into florets
2 teaspoons lemon juice

– Line a large baking sheet with 3 layers paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Add enough cold water to fill bowl about three-quarters of the way. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons salt and Romanesco florets and cook for 1 minute. Drain and immediately add florets to prepared ice bath. When completely cooled, drain florets and spread them on prepared baking sheet.

– Cook butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until bubbling and beginning to brown. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing or stirring , until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice (Surprise! Did you see the color change?!).

– Arrange the Romanesco and cauliflower florets on a platter and serve with garlic dip.

Thanksgiving

ThanksgivingPUMPKIN SOUP

Makes about 7 cups

Equipment: paring knife, soup spoon or ice cream scoop, baking sheet, cooling rack, large mixing bowl, blender, large skillet, soup pot, slotted spoon, paper towels

There are numerous gourds for sale this time of year, from pie-friendly sugar ones to quick roasting ones like acorn. We opted for this large cheese pumpkin in order to make enough soup for a crowd.

Wipe the exterior of the pumpkin clean with a damp rag, then carve it as you would a jack-o’-lantern (well, don’t carve out a face on it or the soup will ooze out): run a sharp paring knife around the pumpkin, about a quarter of the way below the stem, then remove the “hat” and scoop out the seeds and membrane. I like to use a sharp-edged ice cream scoop to do this. Now you’re ready to make the soup.

For the soup:
1 (6 to 7-pound) cheese or Cinderella pumpkin, prepared as instructed above
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth (*low-sodium if not homemade)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Place pumpkin on a large baking sheet. Rub inside of pumpkin with 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, Aleppo pepper, and butter. Rub the exterior of the pumpkin and its hat (place it beside the pumpkin on the sheet) with oil and roast until flesh is easily pierced with a skewer, 45 minutes to an hour.

– Transfer pumpkin on sheet to a cooling rack, and allow to cool about 10 minutes. With a large spoon, scoop out flesh and accumulated juices into a large mixing bowl. Leave about 1-inch of flesh all around the interior of the pumpkin so it doesn’t collapse. Scrape the flesh from the underside of the pumpkin’s hat, too.

– Puree the pumpkin in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Transfer each batch to a Dutch oven or soup pot. Heat the soup over medium heat, stirring, and adjust consistency with chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and lemon juice. When ready to serve, place pumpkin on a large serving tray or platter, and ladle in the soup. Serve with garnish (see below).

For the garnish:
4 slices slab bacon (about 1/2-inch thick slices), cut into ¼-inch thick batons
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, hen of the woods/maitake, and cremini, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 bunch sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Latin American crema or crème fraîche

– Line a plate with 2 layers paper towels. Place bacon in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to prepared plate.

– Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Taste mushrooms and season to taste. Transfer to plate with bacon.

– If skillet is dry, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add pumpkin seeds and sage and cook until crisp, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return bacon and mushrooms to skillet and toss to combine. Transfer to serving plate and pass at table along with crema.

ThanksgivingSPAGHETTI SQUASH IN ROASTED POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

Yield: 1 (3-pound) squash yields 4 cups, serving 6 to 8 as a side

Equipment: chef’s knife, mallet and metal bench scraper (if available), cutting board, kitchen towel, soup spoon, baking sheet, foil, fork, large skillet

We’re obviously not going to tell you to skip the mashed potatoes this year, but include this lush side in your menu: think creamy, spicy mac’n’cheese sauce over golden, sweet spaghetti squash.

Lickety split!
We hate splitting spaghetti squash, but, we’ve tried roasting the thing whole and even thought the skin softens, it takes forever it’s a big old mess inside afterwards. Microwave? Sure, but proceed with caution—explosions have been known to happen.

Here’s what we find is an easier approach to cracking that nut-hard skin: Place a damp kitchen towel on a *stabilized cutting board and place the squash on it. Tap a metal bench scraper into the squash with a meat mallet or hammer until it begins to crack. Pry it out, then, use a large knife to finish the job. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come apart in two completely even halves, as they rarely do.

Scoop the seeds and membranes out with a soup spoon or, better yet, with a metal ice cream disher.

Stabilizing cutting boards: Never chop on a board that’s slip-sliding all over your work surface. Set the board on a rubber grip mat, a damp paper towel, or a damp kitchen towel.

Roast the squash:
1 (3-pound) spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier cleanup).

– Season the cut sides of squash with salt and pepper and sugar, then brush with butter. Roast, cut-sides up, until fork tender, 45 minute to 1 hour.

– Transfer squash on sheet to a cooling rack and, when cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh with a fork. If immediately proceeding with recipe, leave flesh in the shell, cover, and keep warm. Otherwise, refrigerate flesh and shells separately until ready to use. When ready to use, drain any accumulated liquid and reheat flesh in a lightly oiled saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave.

Sauce it!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
2 jalapeño peppers, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced from pole to pole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
1 cups Latin American crema or crème fraîche
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 ounces cotija cheese or feta, crumbled

– Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the poblanos, jalapeños, and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is softened and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

– Add the flour and stir to coat. Cook 2 minutes to eliminate raw flavor in flour. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps from forming. Stir in crema and cook until heated through and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and adjust seasoning. If you prefer a soupier sauce, stir in milk as needed.

– Pour sauce over spaghetti squash and sprinkle with cheese. Serve.

MacGyver your leftovers!
Use leftovers to make grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas.

ThanksgivingBUTTERNUT SQUASH DRESSING 

Serves 6 to 8

Equipment: Peeler, chef’s knife, baking sheet, cooling rack, large skillet

Whether you’re having roast beast or fowl this Thanksgiving, dressing is a must. Why am I not calling stuffing? Because I’m not putting it into anything other than my mouth, and also, please only stuff your turkey with aromatics like onions, apples, lemons, and herbs. The bread mixture will only act as a sponge, soaking up turkey blood and juice and not really tasting like anything much at the end. The texture is a horror, too.

This dressing is crisp and multi-textured, with nubby bits of hot Italian sausage, good bread, and sweet pieces of butternut squash. Avoid prepackaged stuffing: crumbly bread and to many dry spices that taste like forgotten crouton crumbs at an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

You can roast the squash & toast the bread up to 2 days in advance!
1 large loaf sturdy bread, such as ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes to make 6 cups
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice to make 3 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons orange zest plus 1 tablespoon orange juice

And pick it up from here, on the stovetop before serving: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
4 fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed and crumbled
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
8 sage leaves, chopped

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange squash in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with zest and juice and use hands to evenly coat. Roast until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.

– Melt butter over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

– If the skillet is very dry, add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

– Add butternut cubes and sausage to the skillet and stir to combine. Taste and season. Add bread and stir to combine. Add broth, and once again stir to combine. Cover and keep warm.

– When ready to serve, adjust oven rack to upper third and heat broiler to high. Transfer dressing to an oven-safe serving dish, or, if going super casual, leave it in the skillet. Run the dish under the broiler until crisp and golden, 1 – 3 minutes. Serve.

ThanksgivingPUMPKIN HAND PIES 

Makes 6

Equipment: Dutch oven or 6- to 8-quart pot, slotted spoon or spider, blender, strainer, rolling pin, chef’s knife, baking sheet, parchment paper, cooling rack

A few months ago, I needed a pumpkin for a photo shoot, but they were nowhere near being in season. Enter ayote or zapayo, or what I call “Latin pumpkin” or calabaza. It’s just one more of the gourd family, with the unique exception that you can find it year-round at many grocery stores. I grew up eating ayote en miel: ayote cooked in dark brown sugar syrup until dark and tender. Usually, to offset the sweetness, it, along with other stewed fruits, are served with salty cheese.

We had a piepalooza last year and were reluctant to revisit, but this Pop Tarts-inspired dessert brought together some heritage, a departure from the usual pie, and a great option for sending your guests off with an edible gift. If you’re pressed for time, do use store-bought pie crust, otherwise, visit our 2013 “Pie-Faced” Thanksgiving post for our recipe and method. Prepare the recipe for a double-crust pie and divide the dough into 2 rounds for easier handling. You can make the dough a couple of days in advance.

For the ayote en miel: 
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
3 pounds ayote, zapayo, calabaza, or sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
Water
½ teaspoon salt
Peeled zest of 1 orange, plus its juice

– In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot of 6- to 8-quart capacity, toast peppercorns, allspice berries, and cinnamon over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

– Add the pumpkin cubes, sugar, salt, orange zest and juice, and enough water to cover the pumpkin by about ½ inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until completely tender, 1 to 2 hours.

– With a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin to a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature, then, purée in a blender until smooth. Strain cooking liquid and use it to sweeten and flavor anything from tea, to mulled wine, warm cider, and simple cocktails.

To assemble: 
All-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch salt

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Dust a clean, dry work surface with all-purpose flour and roll each dough circle out to about 12- by 13-inches. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons pumpkin purée on the lower half of the dough, leaving a “frame” of about 1 inch around each mound of filling. Fold the top half of the dough over, with a chef’s knife cut into 3 hand pies (each will be roughly 4- by 5-inches), and use a fork to crimp and seal the tarts.

– Whisk together the yolk and cream and brush evenly on each hand pie. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

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