Brown Butter and Vanilla Loaf Cake

I’m currently engaged in a fierce (but friendly) food gift war with my next door neighbor.

It all started with a piping hot pan of homemade peach cobbler on the hottest Sunday of the Summer. She appeared from out of nowhere with a dessert that made my heart sing, as we’d recently run out of anything sweet, and the dessert-obsessed part of my brain was getting desperate. We bonded over our similar experiences of living in the Midwest, and our mutual addiction to cookbooks. This had the potential to be a beautiful friendship, so I scoured my archives for a divine recipe for brown-butter Madelines (It may just pop up here!). I brought them over, she was surprised and thrilled, and we chatted for 45 minutes as only people blessed with the gift of nonstop gab can do. I thought that would be the end of it.

The very next week, while in my all-star loungewear (which is what I call the clothing that is too good to donate, but too hideous for any human that does not live in this house to see), I heard the chipper double-ring of the doorbell only to find my dear sweet neighbor with a Danish kringle in-tow from my hometown that is now an 18-hour drive away. It was a delicious surprise, so I knew I had to return the favor quickly.

Here’s something important to remember when you’re caught in a gifting cycle: they don’t all have to be showstoppers. Really, the whole point of giving a gift is to show the person that you appreciate them and that you care. So, do the three-tier cake if you want, but don’t feel obligated. It’s sometimes the simple things that are the most remembered. So, bearing that in mind, this time around I decided to do something very simple indeed: a loaf cake. Super vanilla-y, super buttery, super, super simple. She can have a slice for breakfast. She can have a slice while reading the Sunday paper. She can even have it with tea with a friend. It’s super casual, and a gift that is right up both of our alleys.

Of course, this cake is also great for when you’re craving a sweet treat, but you don’t want to dirty every single bowl and pan in the house. It’s quite straight-forward to make, and takes about 60ish minutes or so to bake. It’s perfect for when you want to keep things really low-key. And did I mention how incredibly moist it is? So moist!

So, make this little cake as a gift, or keep it for yourself. The decision is yours. And it’s tasty.

I’ve been promised a container of homemade soup as soon as the air starts to turn chilly, so the warm and fuzzy food war rages on…

 

BROWN BUTTER AND VANILLA LOAF CAKE 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

Place a rack in the center of the oven, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Stack two baking sheets on top of each other, then line the top baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan (mine was slightly larger and everything turned out fine!) generously with butter, then coat generously with flour, then lightly tap out the excess. Set the loaf pan on top of the baking sheets and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat and let it come to a boil. The butter will bubble vigorously for about 5-10 minutes. When the bubbles have subsided, the butter should turn a golden brown color, and start emitting a nutty smell. Watch your butter carefully as it is really, really easy to burn it. Once it has reached the golden brown stage with little flecks floating all around, your brown butter is done. Immediately remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking poser, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the sugar, then whisk in each egg one at a time, whisking for about 1 minute each until they are all well incorporated. Next, whisk in the vanilla, then the heavy cream. Whisk until everything is fully combined.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until the batter is thick and smooth. Next, add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and smooth out the top so that it is evenly distributed.

Bake the cake for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly at the 30-minute mark, gently place a little aluminum foil on the top, then continue baking.

When your cake is done, transfer it to a wire rack to cool for five minutes, then take it out of the pan and let it cool completely.

To store: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap for up to a week.

 

SOURCE: Baking Chez Moi 

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Vanilla Chai Chocolate Truffles

On this episode of “Sydney Makes Easy Things That Impress Her Friends,” we’re talkin’ ’bout chocolate truffles. But not just any regular chocolate truffles, oh no, we’re throwing vanilla chai into the mix. Essentially, they’re chocolate balls, but doesn’t the word “truffle” just make it sound much fancier? Ya, I agree.

The bond that a woman of color has with her hairdresser is one that is sacred, and must be fostered and nurtured. I do this by surprising mine with edible treats at least once a month. And since the hot cross buns that I made a few weeks back were given to family and church members, I decided that my beloved beautician should get something specifically made JUST for her. And like many, many women that I know, she looooooooooves  chocolate. So, I thought, what better treat than just straight-up homemade truffles?

During the holiday season my television basically stays on Food Network and Cooking Channel, and I watched a special episode of Giada at Home in which she made chocolate truffles for some “guests” (more likely the production crew, but ya know, TV magic and all that) who were stopping by for a holiday party. She stepped it up by brewing a bunch of bags chai  in heavy cream, then taking it off the heat and pouring it over chocolate to melt it. Then she stirred it all together until it turned into chocolate ganache, refrigerated it for a few hours until it set, then scooped out the mixture by the tablespoon, rolled it into a ball, coated it in cocoa powder, and then wrapped a little gold leaf around each for a classy touch. They were so cute and elegant, so I logged the recipe away for an occasion when I would really, really want to make them. But when it came time to make these truffles, wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have any gold leaf on hand (I’m not workin’ with a Food Network budget here), and instead of brewing with classic chai, I decided to switch it up with my favorite bundling of vanilla chai tea bags. Was it a success? Oh yeah. She loved them!

These truffles are perfect for anyone who has a semi-sweet tooth. They’ve got a bit of an edge to them, with just the hint of sweetness to balance everything out. Basically, you get this intensely rich, deep chocolatey flavor, mixed with the warmth of spices that you find in classic chai, and finished off with the subtle hint of vanilla. The vanilla may just be a gentle whisper, but it definitely won’t let you ever forget that it’s there.

Best of all, they can be made wayyyy in advance, which works perfectly for me because I can enjoy leftover truffles that didn’t fit in the gifted container for weeks to come.

Vanilla Chai Chocolate Truffles: Good for friendship, good for random chocolate cravings.

 

VANILLA CHAI CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 7 bags vanilla chai tea (I like Bigelow)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder

 

DIRECTIONS

Before you begin, tie all of your tea bag strings together in a knot. This makes it much easier to fish them out when you’ve finished with them.

Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan, then add your tea bags. Place the pan over medium-low heat, warming the cream slowly; stir occasionally. You’ll know when your mixture is heated through when you see little bubbles start to form around the edges of the cream, about 5-7 minutes. Simmer for 3 minutes more, then remove from heat.

Remove the tea bags from the sauce pan. Place the finely chopped chocolate and salt in a medium bowl, then strain the cream mixture over it using a fine-mesh strainer. Let sit for 3 minutes so that the chocolate begins to melt on its own. Slowly whisk the melted chocolate into the cream starting in the center of the bowl, then slowly making your way outwards. Remember to do this slowly and carefully so that the chocolate doesn’t seize up! Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and completely blended. Place a piece of plastic wrap DIRECTLY on top of the ganache, and press down gently to make sure the surface is completely covered.  Let set in the  refrigerator for AT LEAST 3 hours, but the best is overnight. The mixture should be firm by that time, but still easy to work it.

Measure your coca powder, then place in a small, shallow bowl. With a tablespoon cookie scoop (or just a tablespoon measuring spoon), scoop even rounds of ganache into your palm, then very quickly but gently roll into a ball.  Next. roll the ball in the coca powder to coat; gently shake off any excess.. Repeat this process until you’ve run out of ganache. Place your truffles in an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Make Ahead: The truffles can be made several weeks ahead of time, kept refrigerated in an airtight container. On the day of serving, roll each in the cocoa powder.

 

 

SOURCE: Very, very slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentis 

 

 

Dark Chocolate and Anise Biscotti

There are two sides to me. One side has this need to bake things all the time. The other side is aware that if I bake all the time, then I will feel obligated to eat everything I’ve made in the event that I don’t have anyone to share the wealth with. It’s very complicated. That’s why I love, love, love biscotti. They’re crunchy, they’re sturdy, and they last for WEEKS at a time.  I have the freedom to nibble (or not nibble) at my leisure without the looming pressure to not waste a single crumb. It’s beautiful.

Biscotti are tough cookies in the best way. The longevity of them is fantastic, but they’re also the perfect option for care packages. As much as I love the Midwest (especially now that I can walk outside without a parka), most of the people I care about live in completely different parts of the country. You know that I am a big fan of sending and receiving gifts in the mail. but the edible options for packages are limited. Biscotti are PERFECT for this task.

This week I whipped up a quick batch of Buttery-Cayenne Pecans, then made these Dark Chocolate Anise Biscotti, wrapped everything in half a roll of bubble wrap, threw in a couple of heartfelt cards, then sent them on their way. Two days later, I got a “thank you” text, and a very warm heart. Care packages are my jam. And one of these days, you and I are going to make one together, step-by-step.

As you’re well aware by now, I am a huge fan of deceptively easy recipes. Making biscotti? Wayyyy easier than you think. All you have to do is keep up with the time. The rest is a total breeze.

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s a lot like having a chocolate chip cookie, but with a hint of licorice. And if you aren’t a black licorice fan (I’m not,), have no fear, you’ll still love these The anise seeds bring a subtle flavor of licorice that does nothing but completely compliment the oodles of dark chocolate chunks throughout. And I will never turn down a crispy cookie that brings a little texture to the game. If a little softness is more of what you’re after, you totally have my permission to dunk a couple of these babies in a steaming cup of coffee.

Eat some biscotti.

Send some to your friends.

Do your thing.

 

 

DARK CHOCOLATE AND ANISE BISCOTTI 

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, slightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 oz chocolate, roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS

Place oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven, then preheat to 325 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, slightly crushed anise seeds, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, then set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer, or with a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 5 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low, then add one egg and the egg yolk, then beat until well combined; about 3 minutes.

Add the flour mixture all at once to the stand mixer, and beat on low until well combined. The dough may seem a bit crumbly. Next, add the chocolate chunks and make sure they are evenly distributed throughout.

Divide the dough in half, then place each half on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Gently knead the dough a few times, just to get it to come together a little more. Next, shape each dough into logs about 8 inches long, and 1 1/2 inches wide. Beat the remaining egg, then generously brush it over each log. Next, sprinkle sugar liberally over each log.

Bake the biscotti on both racks for 20 minutes, then swap racks and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the biscotti are golden brown and baked all the way through.

Take your cookie sheets out of the oven, and let the biscotti rest for a few minutes. Once the biscotti logs are cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch slices using a serrated knife, cutting in a swift motion.

Place the cookies cut side up onto the baking sheets, then put back in the oven for another 15-25 minutes, depending on how crisp you’d like your biscotti to be. (I prefer mine on the crispier side, so I kept an eye on mine for 25 minutes.)

For an even crispiness, flip your biscotti over and bake for another 2-5 minutes.

Let cool, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. 

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes 

Heart-Shaped Jammy Sammy Cookies

I know February 14th is long-gone, but I subscribe to Valentine’s Day-cutesienss 365 days out of the year.

By the way, how was your Valentine’s Day? Mine was surprisingly fun this year, which has freed me from the cycle of weird/awkward/disastrous scenes of Valentine’s Day past. I volunteered at the an annual Sweetheart Dinner (last year I made this French Silk Pie), and had a BLAST. There were several courses involved, and no time to take a breath as we were each cooking over our respective dishes (I was on dessert duty but got roped into making seafood Alfredo once we got there). Lots of “behind”-s, and “this is ready to go out!”-s, and “We need more ginger ale for the punch!”-s were thrown out, and it reminded me of how much I love being in a busy kitchen. I live for that hustle and bustle sometimes. I mean, I’ve never dried so many dishes, or continuously scrubbed the same countertops so many times in my entire life, but MAN was it worth it. It was a really classy affair.

Would you like to know the best bit? These cookies were a BIG HIT!

“Jammy Sammie Cookies” is just the name that I wrote to be cute/slightly annoying. You’re probably more familiar with the name “Linzer,” because of the filling and shape cut out of the center. I generally see Linzer cookies the most during the Holiday Season, but if you ask me, the cookie cutout + filling pairing should be a yearlong affair. And what goes better with a heart shape on Valentine’s Day than fresh strawberry jam? Red is like the official unofficial color of V-Day, so the filling of these cookies were required to match accordingly.

Quick question: how do you feel about homemade jam? Me? I’m all about it. I feel like there’s nothing that makes me feel cozier than when I’m making jam from scratch. Sure, it takes way less time to just pick a jar off the shelf at your local grocery store, but when you make it yourself you: A) Know exactly what has gone into it, and B) MADE. IT. YOURSELF. Helloooooooo! It’s (relatively) fast, (totally) easy, (unbelievably) fresh, and you know it’s always made with love.

Now pair that sweet, sweet jam with some deliciously soft shortbread plus a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar for good measure, and you’ve got the stuff of dreams, kids. What could be better?

Since you’ll definitely have jam left over after filling the cookies, might I make a few suggestions as to what to use it on?

  1. Biscuits
  2. Scones
  3. Toast
  4. Fingers dipped in
  5. By the spoonful
  6. etc. etc.

And let’s just quickly talk about the versatility of these cookies, shall we? Yes, they were made for February 14th, but they can go wayyy beyond that. We’re talkin’ tea parties, birthday parties, bridal showers, picnics, breakfasts, coffee breaks, dates, etc. etc. Cookie hearts filled with homemade jam never go out of season.

It’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

HEART-SHAPED JAMMY SAMMY COOKIES

What You’ll Need:

For the shortbread:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

For the jam:

32 oz (two 16 oz containers) strawberries

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon  brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Zest of 1 whole lemon + juice of half a lemon

 

DIRECTIONS:

First, let’s make the shortbread cookie dough:

 In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon), add the butter, sugar, and salt and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk one at a time, making sure each addition is well combined. Next, add the vanilla extract. Add the flour in three batches, making sure each addition is well combined (but don’t over-mix), before adding more flour. When necessary, scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula.

Once your dough has just come together, lay your dough out on a plastic sheet, then divide it in half. Wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap, then shape to form discs. Refrigerate the discs for at least one hour, but best is overnight.

Ok, dough’s done, now let’s make the jam:

Rinse strawberries before using, and let drain completely before getting started.

Once your strawberries have been washed, hull each strawberry, then cut into quarters. Place all of your cut up strawberries in a medium sauce pan. Next, add your brown sugar, pinch of salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Using a potato masher (or the back of a wooden spoon), muddle all of your ingredients together, making sure that the berries’ juices are starting to release, and your sugar and salt have started to dissolve.

Cook your fruit compote, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until your jam has thickened, and it passes the line test (a line can be drawn down the center of the spoon without the juices running); On my stove, that takes about 30-35 minutes. Along the way, make sure to give your jam a few taste tests, and adjust the flavors to your liking. The mixture will bubble quite a bit and juice may jump out of the pan occasionally, so watch out for that!

When your jam has come together, take it off the heat and let it cool completely before transferring it to a mason jar or tupperware container.

This jam will last for several weeks refrigerated.

VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT leave the stove whilst you’re making your jam. One minute it can still be too runny, then the next you’re cleaning burnt strawberry syrup out of the pan until your arms fall off. Trust me. Stay put. Keep stirring.

Ok, my dough has rested. Time to make some cookies!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove the first disc of dough and let sit on a counter for ten minutes; this allows it to come to room temperature, thus making it much easier to roll out.

Liberally flour a rolling pin and work surface.

Roll the cookie dough out to a 1/8 inch thickness, then, using a floured heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Transfer the hearts to the cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1-inch apart. Stamp a hole out of the center of half the cookies using the tip of a circle piping tip. Repeat the process with any remaining scraps, and with the second disc of dough.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven),  or until the cookies have started to lightly brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Transfer the cookies with the holes cut out of the center to one of the cool baking sheets (keep the parchment paper on). Sprinkle a generous amount of powdered sugar over them using a sifter, mesh strainer, or powdered sugar shaker. (Aren’t you glad you have the parchment paper now to catch the excess sugar?) Flip the bottom cookies (no holes in them) over so that the underside is facing you, then apply about a teaspoon of jam right in the center of each. Place the tops on, then lightly press down so that you create a sandwich. The jam should spread evenly to the edges and through the center hole without overflowing. Enjoy!

To Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

 

SOURCE: Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

Pumpkin Spice Scones

What to do when you have a ton of pumpkin puree leftover from making pumpkin pie? Make pumpkin spice scones, and have a happy breakfast-time for the rest of the week! Sounds like a plan.

We’re getting snow, guys. The first snowfall of the year is upon us, and I don’t actually think I’m ready for it. I mean, I’m a cold weather person for SURE, but you actually have to ease me into it! You can’t just spring potentially six inches of snow on me like it’s no big deal. First, a beautiful dusting. Then, an inch or two. Then, a beautiful blanket just in time for Christmas. THAT’S how it’s supposed to go. Ah,well. We’ll get it right next year.

At any rate, one of the nicer things about terrible weather is the comforting heat of the oven, and obviously the baked reward that emerges from it. And these scones? Great reward.

First of all, anything with pumpkin in it gets a big ol’ stamp of approval from me no matter what. But to have it in a wedge, drizzled with deliciously-sweet spiced glaze, is extra special. Perfect for your coffee. Perfect for your life.

For those of us that love pumpkin bread, these scones will be right up your alley. Generally, scones are more on the biscuit side, but the moisture from the pumpkin puree actually shakes things up…in a good way. What you get with these is a crispy-on-the-edge, moist-in-the-middle combination that is totally divine. Just make sure to keep a close watch on these little guys— too long in the oven and they’ll dry out a little too much, losing what I think makes them so great.

If you’re looking for a quick and DELICIOUS way to 1) make breakfast 2) use up precious pumpkin, these are totally the way to go.

Now, go. Go make them.

PUMPKIN SPICE SCONES

What You’ll Need:

For the scones:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all the spices in a large bowl. Add your cubed butter into the bowl and, using either your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla extract until well combined. Fold your wet ingredients into the bowl with your dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Using a floured wooden spoon, or a floured bench scraper, scrape the mixture out onto a a lightly floured surface. Using floured fingers, carefully pat the dough into a roughly-8 inch circle. Then, using either a floured knife, or floured bench scraper, cut the circle into eight equal wedges. Once your wedges are formed, transfer each to your prepared baking sheet. If you’d like, use a dry pastry brush to brush off any excess dough.

Bake until golden, about 15-17 minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Once out of the oven, let cool for two minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

While They’re Cooling, Let’s Make the Glaze!

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, milk, butter, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

Final Step! Glaze Those Scones!

Place a baking sheet lined with wax paper under your wire cooling rack to catch any drippings. Add glaze to your scones in any design you’d like. Dip them in, or drizzle glaze over each top using a spoon. It’s totally up to you! Once glazed, let set for at least 20 minutes.

To store: If you’re not eating the scones the day you make them, store them unglazed in an airtight container for up to 2 days ahead of time, and  glaze just before you’re ready to serve.

 

SOURCE: Adapted slightly from Tutti Dolci 

Gluten Free Spiced Pumpkin Pie

K, we should probably start talking about Thanksgiving now, no? And what’s better to talk about when we talk about Thanksgiving, than the true table staple? Pumpkin Pie. My favorite.

There’s a debate every year in which the people in my family argue the importance of double P. Some people love it, some people hate it. Maybe it’s the texture? I’m not really sure. All I know is there better be a silky Pumpkin Pie with hand-whipped cream on the table on the last Thursday of every November, or someone’s in trouble. And if I have to be the one to make it, then so be it. At least I’ll sleep well knowing that I already have my dessert plate mapped out for maximum consumption. But lately I’ve been thinking about my gluten-intolerant friends: what do they do when a flaky all-butter crust (my go-to for every pie), or a sweet and buttery graham cracker crust is not an option?

Last weekend we attended a Ladies’ Day event in Milwaukee which my mother helped plan, and I volunteered to bake. Everything was going great, meal-plan wise until I was informed that there were gluten allergies and thus, the desserts must be completely gluten-free. I quickly assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem, but I’ll be honest: I was nervous. Despite the fact that I have a best friend who is gluten-intolerant, whenever food is involved, it’s usually someone else making it and I don’t have to worry about it. I made her flour-less chocolate cake once (it was DIVINE), but that was it.

Would I really have to buy new flours and ingredients that I probably would never use again? Or worse, use BOXED CAKE MIX?

I shudder to think. (Hi, I’m dramatic.)

Luckily, I was flipping through the pages of the November 2015 issue of Martha Stewart Living and came across the answer to all of my problems: Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie! I was ecstatic of course. One, because you know how much I love pie and use any excuse to make it. And two, because I could use ingredients I have on hand absolutely all the time! I ran it by the committee, was told that I would have to make three, and was sent on my way.

I may have spent seven hours in the kitchen, but there’s nothing I love more than making pie.

Now, what makes this pie GF you may ask? The CRUST! Three cups of Rice Chex (naturally and wonderfully GF), butter, brown sugar, and a little salt. Pulse those together in a food processor (I have a baby one that holds 4 cups), then spread into a pie plate, and bake it for 12 minutes to set. It’s SUPER EASY, and CRAZY DELICIOUS. That brown sugar caramelizes in the oven, making the crust buttery and sweet with a hint of a crunch still. And pair that with the sweet pumpkin-y custard that is the filling, plus  the homemade whipped cream that was carefully piped onto the top, and it’s just perfect.

I tell ya, it was a total hit amongst the gluten-lovers and gluten-intolerant alike, for we could all stuff our faces with pie in harmony.

Make it for Thanksgiving, make it forever.

 

GLUTEN-FREE SPICED PUMPKIN PIE 

What You’ll Need:

Pie Crust:

  • 3 cups Rice Chex
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (I used coarse kosher salt)

Spiced Pumpkin Pie:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used coarse kosher salt)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup whole milk

DIRECTIONS

First, let’s make the pie crust:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Pulse together the cereal in a food processor until finely ground. Then add the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Pulse until well combined.

Press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake until golden brown about 12 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool completely.

OKAY, PIE TIME!

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and eggs.

In a smaller bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer the dry ingredients into the bowl with the pumpkin-egg mixture, and mix until well combined. Then, whisk in the milk.

Place your cooled pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet to reduce the chance of your filling spilling out on the way to the oven. CAREFULLY pour filling into the center of the crust for more even spreading. DO NOT OVERFILL. You may have some filling leftover, and that’s okay! You do not want an overflow in the oven, trust me.

Transfer your pie on the baking sheet to the oven and bake until filling is just set, ABOUT 50-55 minutes, but KEEP AN EYE ON IT. If a custard-based pie (like this one) is over-baked, it will crack, and no one wants that. (But if it does crack, you can always cover it with whipped cream, so don’t fret.)

Set on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, pipe or spread on some homemade whipped cream if you’re into it, and transfer pie to the fridge to chill before serving.

(MAKE AHEAD: This pie can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. KEEP REFRIGERATED.)

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Last-Minute Halloween: Easy Lady Fingers

If you’re trying to be kind of festive, but find yourself running out of time this Hallow’s Eve, you should TOTALLY make some lady fingys. It’s SUPER EASY: Just a basic sugar cookie recipe, a little food coloring, a paint brush, and some slivered almonds, and you’re done!

The movie marathon is starting in a few hours (I may be the only one that watches, but so be it), and I refused to celebrate one of the best holidays without at least SOMETHING kind of creepy and festive. And I love cookies. So here we are.

What’s super great about these (besides how simple they are to make) is that you really can’t mess up. Halloween isn’t about being perfect, in fact, the more imperfect the better! When you’re rolling out your fingers, it’s up to you how you want them to look. Do you want them to be bent and out of shape with brownish-yellow nails, or perfectly manicured with your favorite color like you’ve just brought them home from the salon? It’s totally up to you. Go all out!

Since I made these for my family, I figured I should keep things kind of tame (I’ve seen examples of lady fingers where the ends have been dipped in raspberry jelly to look like they’d just been severed off the hand!), but next year? Next year we’re upping the ante.

Until then, this is the perfect last-minute Halloween project for you and your friends, served however you’d like. Maybe all in a bowl? Or, you can be like me, and use it as a prop to point to things I want, but am too lazy to get myself. It’s whatever you choose!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, GUYS!! Be safe. Make sure all the kids that come to your door know how adorable they look, because they always do.

 

LADY FINGERS 

What You’ll Need:

  • Food-safe paintbrush
  • 1-2 tablespoons red food coloring (or your favorite color, OR leave them plain)
  • 30 blanched almond slivers
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

Place food coloring in a small bowl, and, using a small food-safe paintbrush, color one side of each almond. Set aside on a sheet of wax paper to dry.

Separate one egg. Set the egg white in the fridge; we’ll need it later. In a small bowl, whisk together the yolk, remaining egg, and vanilla extract until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon), combine the butter, both sugars, and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Next, add the egg mixture and mix until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the flour, then mix on low speed until JUST combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then chill in the fridge for 25-30 minutes to firm up.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Once your dough has chilled, divide the dough in half, working with one half at a time. Keep the remaining half in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap until you’re ready to use it. Lightly flour your work station.

Using a knife or bench scraper, divide the first half into 15 pieces. Roll each piece back and forth with your palms into a finger shape (whether they be really thin fingers, or really short fingers, or really craggily fingers, it’s up to you!), about 3-4 inches long. Pinch the dough in two places on one end to create knuckles. Lightly score each finger with the back of the knife to create the natural lines we have in our fingers. Push down on the nail bed LIGHTLY to make it easier to attach the fingernails later. Transfer fingers to the cookie sheets, and repeat the process with the other half of dough. (Note: Make sure to work kind of quickly when making the fingers because the dough warms up really fast, making it harder to work with!)

Once all of your fingers have been formed, brush the egg white from earlier lightly over each finger to create a light browning once they’re in the oven. Position each almond nail, then push down to attach (Be careful not to push to0 hard so you don’t a. chip a nail or b. misshape the finger). If you find that the nail isn’t attaching, add a little more egg white to the area to create a sort of glue.

Bake in the oven until slightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Enjoy!

SOURCE: Adapted from Martha Stewart 

Double Apple + Pear Pie

So, I’ve given this a lot of thought and, in ten years time, I want to be referred to as The Pie Queen.  I know it’s a lofty goal, but we all need dreams, right? I’ve had visions lately of winning state fairs, and a beyond giant wedding pie. Or a cake disguised as a pie. I’m still working out the details.

There’s just something about pie that puts me in the best mood. More than anything else I bake, pie really makes me feel like I’ve actually put tangible love into something to give to others. Do you ever feel like that? And apple pie is just so classic. If we try hard enough, maybe making one will speed up Fall a little bit, for what is Fall without apple pie? Just a season when everything dies, that’s what.

Now, let’s talk about adding a pear to your apple pie. Never in a million trillion years would I have thought of doing it, and now I can’t believe that it isn’t the norm. It’s genius. Not only does adding a pear bring more complexity to an already pretty complex pie (due to the use of two different kinds of apples), but in the words of Pie School’s author, Kate Lebo, “Your guests won’t be able to tell where the flavor is coming from.” You get to have a secret, and isn’t that always fun? (Unless it’s peanuts. Nut allergies aren’t so fun. Best to let the cat out of the bag when it comes to peanuts.)

My suggestion with this pie is that you make it a hundred times before Fall and Winter are over. And if that seems like too many times, I don’t know why we’re friends in the first place.

Double Apple-Pear pie is at its best when served warm, and preferably with your favorite hot drink.    Throw in a scoop of freshly-made vanilla bean ice cream for good measure. Mmmm. Be right back, gonna go make one.

 

DOUBLE APPLE + PEAR PIE

What You’ll Need:

  • Super Flaky Pie Crust
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 Bartlett pear, peeled,cored, and thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 to 2 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons AP flour
  • 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Egg white wash (1 egg white, beaten, mixed with one teaspoon water)
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Make your pie crust. Chill overnight.

Roll out the bottom crust and place it in a 9 inch pie dish. Trim the edges, then refrigerate while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put your apple and pear slices in a bowl, and squeeze the lemon juice evenly on top to prevent browning. Stir in the granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. This would be a good time to taste and adjust your flavors as needed. Once you’ve got your filling just right, add the flour and set the filling aside.

Take your bottom crust out of the refrigerator, and set aside. Roll out your top crust.

Using a slotted spoon, place the apple-pear filling in the bottom crust, gently pressing down to make sure there’s enough room for all the filling. It may not look like it will all fit, but trust me it will. Pour the liquid from the filling evenly over the apples, then dot the filling with the cut up pieces of unsalted butter.

Carefully drape the top crust over your bottom crust, then trim and crimp the edges. Make sure to cut generous slits over the top crust so that there is plenty of space for steam to escape. Brush the crust with the egg white wash, then sprinkle generously with Demerara sugar.

Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is blond and blistered. Rotate the pie front to back, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, until the crust is deeply golden brown and the juices are bubbling.

Cool on a wire rack for at least two hours. Serve warm.

To store: Keep the pie loosely wrapped on the counter for up to 3 days.

 

SOURCE: Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter

Vanilla Bean Cake Doughnuts

You know what’s hard to make? Doughnuts. Seriously, I have so much more respect for the contestants on Donut Showdown now that I’ve tried it at home. And they’re under time constraints! Dough is sticky, flour goes everywhere, oil is HOT, and finding the perfect glaze consistency takes practice. It all takes practice. Is it worth it in the end? You bet. My life was filled with homemade fried dough for several days, and that’s all a girl could want.

I’ve been thinking. I really want my life to look like that scene in Marie Antoinette where all the women do is sit around playing cards, drinking champagne out of coupe glasses, gorging themselves on the most beautiful, fresh-fresh-fresh pastries and candies you’ve ever seen. And they’re doing all this while wearing three pounds’ worth of silk, tulle, and ruffles. Oh, and mile-high hair. I’ve always been a fan of big hair. Ask my beautician. And when I would say “Let them eat cake,” no one would be upset with me because I would then immediately follow it up with actual cake. I’d be the most beloved queen in all the land.

Truth be told, it’ll be quite some time before I’m Versailles-level good at making doughnuts and other beautifully complicated pastries. I will say though, that for only my second time frying dough in the kitchen, things didn’t turn out badly at all. There could’ve been a little less rolling and re-rolling involved in the dough-cutting stage.. Oh, and I’m still working on my fear of hot oil, but baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day (and while we’re on the topic of Rome, neither is good pizza).

One of my favorite things to get at my local bakery is a classic cake doughnut. More than anything else, I adore a good cake doughnut. Especially when it’s Fall and tastes like pumpkins and apple cider and cinnamon sugar. In the summer, I prefer my doughnuts covered in rainbow nonpareils and vanilla glaze. Throw in the comforting speckling of fresh vanilla bean seeds, and you’ve got me. To be able to make my favorite treat in the comfort of my own home, curlers in hair, 40s Big Band blaring in the background, is such a splendid concept.

Now, I like you, so I won’t lie to you and say that it’s particularly easy, or that it isn’t time-consuming. But I mean, It’s REALLY worth it. Your reward is DOUGHNUTS at the end! That’s my incentive for everything, but in this scenario, doughnuts is the actual GUARENTEE. Yes, I do have a few new tiny burn marks from absent-mindedly plopping doughnut holes into 350 degree oil, but I just ran one hand under some very cold water, and popped two slightly-cooled doughnut holes in my mouth with the other. I felt exponentially better after that.

Bottom line: make your own doughnuts. Tell me how it goes.

Why don’t you try this Vanilla Bean Cake Doughnut recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Apt.2B Baking Co!

 

Meyer Lemon-Blueberry Hand Pies

 

Finally, FINALLY our local grocer has stepped up their produce game and brought me something I’ve been wanting for months: Meyer lemons. And, while we’re at it, the best blueberries I’ve seen all summer. Without hesitation, I plopped two of each into the cart with no immediate plan, but complete intent to make something spectacular with my purchases. I’ve learned my lesson too many times before; if you see it, get it, because you may never see it again. And that rings pretty true since I stopped by the store again, and those New Zealand Meyer lemons were nowhere to be seen. Maybe I didn’t look around enough. Or maybe they just disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared.

At any rate, it occurred to be that the possibilities were pretty endless for my blueberry-lemon pairing, but if I really wanted to get good at making pies then I ought to make one. For once though, I just wasn’t interested in a regular 9-inch pie. Instead, I wanted something with a lot more mobility, and something that could be picnic-ready if/when the occasion arose. So, I went with hand pies. I’m a gal on-the-go, and expect my pies to accommodate that!

If you’re wondering how my pie skills are coming along, the quick answer is: slowly, but surely. As simple as it seems to make a pie, no matter the form, it takes a lot of practice. I still struggle with gathering dough to form the disks, which should be so simple, but it gives me so much trouble. And sometimes I handle the dough wayyyy too much, but I’m working on it. I sense a lot of practice pies in my future, and what on earth could be better than that?

Meyer Lemons are a special fruit indeed. To me they’re sort of like, if a mandarin orange and the brightest lemon ever, had a baby. They’re slightly sweeter than your average lemon, and bring a very unique type of citrus note to any dish you make. And since citrus and blueberries go hand-in-hand. they make these flaky, buttery hand pies a wonderful treat for any time of the day. And the most beautiful part of it all is that you can serve them warm, or pack them up in a basket and serve at room temperature.

It’s always nice to have an any-time dessert literally in the palm of your hand.

You can find the recipe here at BonAppetit.com! <—— This recipe calls for a regular lemon, but a Meyer lemon works so beautifully!

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT’S AUGUST ALREADY??