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Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

The February/March Cook the Books reading selection, Dinner with Edward, inspired my mini strawberry chocolate galettes.  Dinner with Edward, by Isabel Vincent, is a charmer.  It’s a quick read, filled to the brim with amazing food stories, menus, and inspiration.  But the heart of the book is the relationship between Edward, a retired gentleman whose wife recently died, and Isabel, a younger woman who goes through major life upheaval in the course of the book.  It’s a book about friendship and food, both of which cut across generations.  I really thought this one was, well, charming.

And so much food to choose from for inspiration (as you can see from my very sticky-noted copy)!  I initially couldn’t decide if I was going to try one of Edward’s potato recipes, or steak, or soup, or soufflé, or martinis, or chicken, or fish, or pork.  What I eventually landed on was being inspired by the apple galette that shows up around chapter three.  Strawberries are slowly making their way into season (as spring seems to finally be peaking around the corner here in the PNW).  I decided to aim for a version of the galette using butter instead of Edward’s recommended lard, and go for flavors that I love to share with friends.  Thus, I ended up with a dozen perfect mini strawberry chocolate galettes that my husband and I have been munching on all week long.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

These mini strawberry chocolate galettes would make a great Easter dessert.  They’d also be delightful as the final course for a picnic.  You can substitute other berries for sure – I’m definitely going to be making these again when raspberries are in season.  Galettes take all the loveliness of a pie and make it into a rustic, easy to make and bake treat.  They are completely free form, so all you have to do is make the pastry, roll it out, fill and bake.  I added a touch of dark chocolate and some sugar macerated strawberries and called it delightful.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Oh – and I’ll confess.  I did end up making a dry martini the way it was suggested in the book.  I think it may be the best martini I’ve ever had in my life.  If you are curious, check out either the book (which I highly recommend) or take a peek at my Instagram feed where there’s a photo of the martini and tips on how to make it.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Ingredients

    For the Pastry
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • For the Filling
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Make the pastry by combining the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour, using a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour. Add the water, a bit at a time and work into the flour/butter mix until it forms a ball. Refrigerate the pastry dough for 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, combine the sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside to macerate.
  4. Use parchment paper to line a baking sheet.
  5. Melt the dark chocolate chips. Roll the chilled pastry dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter or similar to cut the dough into small circles.
  6. Spoon a bit of the melted dark chocolate into the middle of each pastry dough circle. Arrange several slices of strawberries on top of each and gently fold and pinch the pastry dough up over the strawberries.
  7. Place each mini galette onto the parchment lined baking sheet. If you are using an egg to wash, combine the egg with a tablespoon of water and beat until frothy. Brush the egg wash over the pastry dough for each galette.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the galettes are light brown. Enjoy!
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This recipe is linked up to March’s Treat Petite, hosted by Cakeyboi.  Treat Petite is hosted alternative months at Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, so be sure to check out both awesome blogs!

And to Novel Foods #29

And to the March 2017 Foodie Reads

Macadamia Coconut Chocolate Mini Muffins

Macadamia Coconut Chocolate Mini Muffins

macadamia coconut chocolate mini muffins

Macadamia Coconut Chocolate Mini Muffins are my anecdote to winter weather, which I’ve had enough of to last me several years.  I know I’m not the only one feeling this way – it’s been a brutal winter across the US.  We do have tulips and daffodils poking their heads out of the ground finally.   I had a moment this morning where there was that elusive hint of spring in the air.  Still, I think real spring is about a month away still.  So for now, I’m going to spend lots of time fantasizing about tropical beaches and warm weather.

I have some very happy associations with the flavors in these muffins: macadamia nuts, coconut, and chocolate.  I lived in Majuro in the Marshall Islands for two years,  fourteen years ago this year.  I will never forget my trip to get there.  For one, I had never flown by myself before and I was absolutely petrified of flying as it was.  I remember the fear I felt getting on the plane to Honolulu, which was my intermediary stop between the US and there.  But I also remember landing in Honolulu and being so overwhelmed by how beautiful it was.  I was exhausted that first night, so went to the corner ABC store and bought a tuna fish sandwich, Maui chips, a papaya salad, and chocolate covered macadamia nuts.  I flew back and forth through Honolulu during that two year time stretch, and that meal became my Honolulu ritual.

So anytime I’m feeling dreary here in the PNW, I’ll do my best to catch those flavors again.  Macadamia coconut chocolate mini muffins are a great way for me to lose myself to the sounds of the ocean and feel of that beautiful humid air in Hawaii.

Macadamia coconut chocolate mini muffins

 

Macadamia coconut chocolate mini muffins

Macadamia coconut chocolate mini muffins

Macadamia Coconut Chocolate Mini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt (plain or honey flavored)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts (unsalted)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks, chopped into smaller pieces)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl. Add the eggs, vanilla, and Greek yogurt and mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a bit at a time until all the dry ingredients are combined.
  4. Add the macadamia nuts, flaked coconut, and chocolate. Stir to combine.
  5. Butter or line each cup of a mini-muffin pan. Spoon a tablespoon of the muffin batter into each cup. If your pan only makes 24 mini-muffins, you'll need to make two batches as this recipe easily makes 36 - 48 mini-muffins.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until a knife or toothpick entered into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. Enjoy!
  8. Makes 36 - 48 mini-muffins
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This post is linked up to The Baking Explorer for February’s Treat Petite.  Check out both The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi, the hosts of Treat Petite.

Rainbow Marmalade Pop Tarts

Rainbow Marmalade Pop Tarts

Fandom Foodies #Nyanuary is the inspiration for my rainbow marmalade pop tarts.

via GIPHY

Ok – so not the original Nyan cat, but who doesn’t love Pusheen?  The whole Nyan cat thing got me down the road of homemade pop tarts, and I happened to have blood orange marmalade on hand, so decided to make rainbow marmalade pop tarts.  I couldn’t resist a cat-inspired challenge, since our much loved cats both inspire me daily (inspire me to take more naps, relax more, and enjoy my food with great relish).

I couldn’t resist – they are so adorable!

Ok – back to the food.  I’ve thought about making pop tarts for quite some time – they are pretty easy to make, since they are basically pie dough, filling, and frosting.  They make a great coffee treat first thing in the morning, as well as go well with afternoon tea.  I had so much fun playing around with these – who doesn’t enjoy decorating with rainbow sprinkles, after all?  Creating a good Nyan cat out of pop tarts, frosting, and sprinkles turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected.  Clay came in at one point and told me my creation was #nailedit.  Ok – that might be a fair assessment of the final product.  Still.  I did all my photos and then realized I needed at least one photo with my maneki-neko cats and a rainbow marmalade pop tart.

rainbow marmalade pop tart

Here’s the Nyan cat attempt:

rainbow marmalade pop tart

And here are some better photos of the actual pop tarts – both frosted and un-frosted:

rainbow marmalade pop tart

rainbow marmalade pop tart

Put it all together, and you definitely have #Nyanuary

rainbow marmalade pop tart

Hope you enjoy making these rainbow marmalade pop tarts as much as I did!

Rainbow Marmalade Pop Tarts

Ingredients

    For the dough
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 - 6 tablespoons cold water (or as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the filling
  • 1/2 jar of marmalade
  • For the frosting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk (or as needed)
  • Rainbow sprinkles to decorate

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl. Use a pastry cutter or knife to cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate into the flour until the butter/flour/vanilla mixture is the consistency of small peas. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to hold together. Knead a couple of times and then refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut the dough into rectangles that are 2 inches x 3 inches. I was able to get 16 rectangles out of the dough for a total of 8 pop tarts.
  3. Place half of the rectangles single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put 1 tablespoon of marmalade in the middle of each rectangle. Cover with the remaining dough and crimp the edges using a fork. Using the fork, poke three rows of holes on the top to reduce the amount of marmalade that spills out. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, combine the powdered sugar and milk and stir. Add more powdered sugar or more milk to get to the desired consistency. Frost and sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles. Enjoy!
  5. Makes 8 pop tarts
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This recipe is linked up to Fandom Foodies #Nyanuary, hosted this month by Pretty Cake Machine

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

blood orange vanilla bean pound cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is my contribution to Cook the Books for January.  The December/January pick for Cook the Books was Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor.  Stir is a memoir that chronicles Jessica’s experience with having a sudden aneurysm while on a treadmill at a hotel at a conference and her subsequent surgeries, and slow recovery.  Throughout the memoir, memories of food abound and it is cooking and food that Jessica credits for helping her come back to her self after her trauma.   Jessica includes many recipes and food memories – so there was ample inspiration from the book.  I ended up with a full page of notes of all the various foods described.  But for whatever reason, the thing that stuck with me when I went back to my notes was vanilla bean pound cake.

I have to say that this wasn’t a book I particularly enjoyed reading.  It’s a well written memoir and there’s no doubt that Jessica Fechtor is an amazing woman who came through a traumatic experience and is inspirational because of her determination to get herself back on her feet, back in the kitchen, and back into life.  It’s just that her descriptions of her trauma were hard for me to read.  I don’t watch medical shows and I try to avoid books about medical anything.  So the book itself was something that definitely stretched my boundaries for what I would normally read.

Here’s the thing, though, and how this book came to be inspiration for this particular blood orange vanilla bean pound cake recipe.  I read the book over the holiday break and set it aside.  I got busy with other blogging work and other projects.  I had my notes and the general intention to make a vanilla bean pound cake and then got the idea to incorporate blood oranges in some way, as I had just received the tremendous gift of 40 pounds of blood oranges from a friend in Arizona.  I had everything planned out to make this recipe the weekend before last.  And then that Friday night, one of our much loved kitties, Grace, passed away, very unexpectedly.  She was just going on ten years old and had been with us since we found her in our garage in Tularosa, New Mexico.  When we found her, over nine years ago, she was only eight weeks old, weighed 2 ounces, and was incredibly dehydrated and sick.  I absolutely babied her – came home from work to bottle feed, kept her in a soft-sided carrier to sleep on the bed with me so I could watch her at night.  If you have pets, you know how this goes.  She wrapped her furry grey self around my heart.  Unfortunately, as a moderately feral stray, she was always tightly wound, and we are pretty sure she had either an aneurysm or a stroke.  It was positively devastating for us, our three other cats, and even for Daisy, our lab mix, who was accustomed to sharing under the bed space with Grace.

How do I tie this all to Stir and to pound cake?  Here’s how: by Sunday, I was back in the kitchen.  I don’t exactly remember what I cooked, but I know my first recipe turned out fine.  Then I decided I would try to make a blood orange vanilla bean pound cake.  I created a version of a recipe I’d found, adding in Greek yogurt and eggs and reducing the sugar and just generally trying to be my normal bad ass cooking self.  The pound cake cooked in an astonishing 30 minutes (should have taken an hour).  I knew something wasn’t quite right when one edge of it rose up to the side of the pan while the rest of it sunk low.  It was the perfect metaphor for how I was feeling.  I knew when I took it out of the oven it was an unmitigated cooking catastrophe.  I cried – but not for the pound cake.  I cried because that’s all you can do when you are on the edge of being broken, but know that healing is somewhere out there in that dark void.  I know enough about grief and trauma to know this – healing is like baking a cake.  Sometimes you look done around the edges, but the middle is still as soft as it can be.

I also knows that, at least for me (and for Jessica Fechtor as well), cooking is a great vehicle for healing.  Somehow, I felt better for that catastrophically gooey pound cake.  I could set aside the recipe, the planning, the blog calendar and just spend some time taking care of me, my husband, my other pets.  Holding those little wakes that we do for pets who have passed – remembering all the good times. In Grace’s case, the good times included dunking her favorite toy in the water dish when she was a kitten, getting super excited about Salmon Temptations, and spending lots of time at night snuggled up to my hair and kneading it.

This weekend, I tried again.  It’s a different week.  I’m better rested.  The other cats are filling in the spaces Grace left behind.  The Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is a different recipe (no Greek yogurt – that was just a bad idea – and this time I added salt – that might have made a difference).  I’m a little more healed around the edges.  So while I have mixed feelings about the book Stir I think it’s only because I’m sometimes not so thrilled by trauma and healing and all the work it entails.  I hate being reminded of what hard work it is to heal, but then again, maybe I needed to be reminded.

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup softened unsalted butter
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Seeds scraped out of a vanilla bean pod
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from a blood orange
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange marmalade (or regular marmalade)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a bread pan and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars in a medium sized bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until they are incorporated. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and vanilla beans and mix. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and zest and mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Pour half of the mixture into the prepared bread pan. Dollop the blood orange marmalade in a line down the middle of the mixture in the pan. Top with the rest of the mixture.
  4. Bake for an hour or until a skewer or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely and remove from the pan. Enjoy!
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cookthebooks

 This post has been linked to January 2017 Foodies Read.  Check out all the wonderful books about food and recipes inspired by those books!
Casa Costello
It’s also been linked to #BakeoftheWeek at Casa Costello.  Thanks to Helen (Casa Costello) and Jenny (Mummy Mishaps) for hosting.
Baguettes and French Kiss Sandwiches

Baguettes and French Kiss Sandwiches

This month’s Food ‘n Flix pick resulted in honeymoon nostalgia and these baguettes and French Kiss sandwiches.  French Kiss is a lighthearted comedy from 1995, starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline.  The basic plot of the movie is woman (Meg Ryan) loses boyfriend to another woman, goes to Paris to track him down, meets a jewel thief (Kevin Kline) along the way, and then falls in love with the jewel thief.  It’s a cute romantic comedy – the kind of thing that my husband plays video games through and mixes up with another cute romantic comedy (namely Runaway Bride) which we watched a few weeks after.

And maybe it’s because I’m equally a cynic, what I mostly thought about the movie after I finished watching it was – oh those simpler times in the 90s when a woman could safely run off with a man she barely knows after losing her passport and money to his family’s vineyard without fear of being murdered.  Just saying.  Still – what a vineyard!

My one challenge with watching movies for Food ‘n Flix is this – I watch them as a food blogger, which means I want them to slow down and focus on the food!  It’s Paris – it’s France – show me beautiful food!  There was beautiful food in this movie, just not enough of it that was up close and personal.  So my inspiration ended up being less of something in the actual movie and more of Paris itself.  What better way to celebrate Paris than with baguettes and French Kiss sandwiches?

A big part of my inspiration also came from all the memories that watching this movie brought up of Clay and my honeymoon nine years ago.  We did a two week Europe trip – starting in Paris, taking a train to Amsterdam, and then flying to Rome and then home.  My one regret, particularly from the Paris part of the trip, was that I was still a hard-core vegetarian, and even though I was drooling over every baguette with ham and cheese that Clay ate, I stuck to the baguettes with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.  No – I wasn’t suffering that much.  But still, these baguettes and French Kiss sandwich are my attempt to recapture the days we spent in Paris and the glorious smells of the bakeries and the beautiful slow food that was everywhere around us.

The baguette recipe is adapted from a King Arthur recipe.  I reduced the rise time without any negative impact on the taste of the baguette.  I do use a starter, which I realize adds time and the need for advanced planning to make these, but I promise you, it’s worth it.  The actual hands on time with these is minimal – 15 minutes at the most.

baguettes and French Kiss sandwiches

baguettes and French Kiss sandwiches

baguettes and French Kiss sandwiches

Baguettes and French Kiss Sandwiches

Ingredients

    Starter
  • ¼ teaspoon active yeast
  • ½ cup warm water (around 115 degrees)
  • 1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
  • Dough
  • 1 cup warm water (115 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • All of the starter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 ¼ cups flour
  • For the French Kiss Sandwiches (for two sandwiches)
  • 4 – 6 slices of Jamon Serrano (or prosciutto or thinly sliced ham)
  • 8 thin slices of brie cheese

Instructions

  1. Start the starter the night before. Combine all the ingredients for the starter in a medium bowl and stir. This should form a sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight – about 14 hours will do it, though the starter is forgiving.
  2. To make the dough
  3. Combine the warm water, the yeast, and all of the starter. Mix until the starter is mostly incorporated. Add 3 cups of the flour and the salt. Combine to make a shaggy dough and then knead the dough for 6 minutes on a floured surface. Add a bit of the remaining flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to you. Shape the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl.
  4. First Rise
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.
  6. Second Rise
  7. After 45 minutes, punch the dough down (deflate it). Cover it again and let rise for 1 hour.
  8. Shaping the Dough and Preparing it for Baking
  9. After the second rise, deflate the dough again and cut it into four even sections. (You can also divide it into two sections or six sections – depending on how many baguettes you want to make). Roll the sections of dough into rectangles and fold them into baguette shapes, placing the seam-side down.
  10. Place the shaped baguettes on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  11. [The baguettes may spread a bit during the final rise– so if you want more classically shaped bread, you can place the baguettes on parchment paper or a clean dishtowel and pull up a bit of parchment paper or dishtowel between each baguette to help it keep its shape. If you do this, when it’s time to bake, you’ll need to gently roll the baguettes onto a greased baking sheet.]
  12. Cover the baguettes with plastic wrap and let rise for 50 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees 20 minutes before the end of the final rise. To get a nice crispy baguette, it helps to have a very hot oven.
  13. Once the baguettes have completed the final rise, transfer them to the baking sheet (if you need to) and then place them in the oven. If you have a spray bottle with water handy, gently spray the baguettes, being careful not to spray your oven’s element. Bake for 20 minutes or until the baguettes are a golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Turn the oven off, crack open the oven door, and let the baguettes sit in the oven for 10 minutes after they are done. This helps get an even crispier texture on the outside.
  14. Let the baguettes cool for at least 30 minutes. When they are cool, to assemble a sandwich, slice the baguette in half and place the brie and jamon on the baguette. Enjoy!
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This post is also linked to to #CookBlogShare at the Easy Peasy Foodie’s site.  Check out all the great recipes!

Hijacked By Twins

 

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins are one of the tastiest breakfast treats to make.  They take a bit of time, but are absolutely worth it.  With about two hours of your time, most of it hands off, you’ll have the fluffiest Homemade English Muffins.  Who wouldn’t want a homemade English muffin, smothered in butter and jam?

I’ve always had a fondness for English muffins.  Their craggy surface is just begging to be toasted and have a bit of butter drizzled over them.  For years, I’d eaten store bought English muffins and wondered if there was a particular secret or trick to making them.  English muffins were kind of like bagels in that regard – something made with yeast that was too complicated to make at home.  Ok, so I haven’t made bagels yet, but when I made homemade English muffins a few years ago around the holidays, I realized they weren’t that hard at all.

There is a two-step process to cooking the muffins. The first step is to brown them on both sides in a cast iron or non-stick pan.  Then, they bake in the oven for just a little while to bake all the way through.  I don’t see the need to use English muffin rings, as the dough holds its shape.

The one difference is that homemade English muffins aren’t quite as craggy – there aren’t as many air pockets in them.  Still, they toast up really well and have a nice, dense and chewy texture that goes so well with butter and jam, as well as holds up to various breakfast sandwich ingredients.  They also are absolutely heavenly as the base for Eggs Benedict.  These make a great weekend baking project, as well as a yummy treat.

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Heat the milk until it is warm to the touch (110 degrees if you have a thermometer). In a medium sized bowl, combine the warm milk and the yeast and let sit for a few minutes.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in another bowl. Add the flour and salt mix, the softened butter, and the egg to the milk and yeast. Combine until you've made a shaggy dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for six to eight minutes. You may need to add a bit more flour to keep the dough from sticking. Once the dough has formed a smooth ball, return it to the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm spot for an hour.
  4. After the first rise, turn the dough out on a floured surface and divided it into 6 or 8 pieces (depending on the size you'd like your English muffins). Roll each segment into a ball and flatten slightly. Place the English muffins on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside and let rise for an hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Preheat a cast iron skillet or a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When your skillet is hot, add the English muffins, four muffins at a time (or more, if you have the room in your skillet). Cook the English muffins for 5 minutes per side (or until each side is golden brown).
  6. Place each browned English muffin on the baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled). When all English muffins are browned, bake in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes or until the muffins are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Let the English muffins cool slightly before splitting them open. Enjoy!
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Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

I’m pretty sure that this is the first year I’ve ever made gingerbread cookies, and certainly the first year I’ve ever made these mini gingerbread cookies.  I think it may be because growing up, we were a sugar cookie family rather than a gingerbread cookie family.  I remember decorating sugar cookies when I was quite young and then taking over making sugar cookies in my early teens.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I ever even made gingerbread: for several years in a row, I made Heidi Swanson’s black sticky gingerbread recipe instead of Christmas cookies for our Christmas dinner.

So what started my gingerbread cookie baking marathon this year?  It had everything to do with Food ‘n Flix and the December movie pick: Krampus.  After all, I had to have a gingerbread man to set on fire for this week’s Friday Happy Hour post.  Come back on Friday to see both the flaming gingerbread man, along with a flambe gingerbread cocktail.  Can I just say – setting booze on fire – best thing ever.  I digress.  In order to get a gingerbread man, I had to figure out how to make gingerbread cookies.  After some experimentation, I landed on this recipe.  It’s not a great construction gingerbread recipes (as I learned the hard way after an attempt to make a rudimentary gingerbread structures), but it does make an absolutely delightful cookie.

All the gingerbread shenanigans were also a great way to spend the first snow day I’ve experienced since moving to the Portland area.  My initial reaction last week was to scoff at the snow day without snow (which was how the morning began) and then later to realize that ice storms up here are no joke.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen my car encased in ice before.  I was glad to have these mini gingerbread cookies to enjoy with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.  These have also made great treats for lunch throughout the week.

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons gingerbread spice mix (below)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Gingerbread Spice
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Gingerbread Spice
  3. Combine all the spices for the gingerbread spice in a small jar. This makes sufficient gingerbread spice for several recipes. Set aside.
  4. Gingerbread Cookies
  5. Combine all the dry ingredients, from flour through the freshly grated ginger in a small bowl.
  6. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla. Combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Knead the dough a bit in the bowl to incorporate all the dry ingredients and to get the gingerbread to a smooth texture.
  7. Separate the gingerbread dough into four smaller balls. Roll out one ball at a time to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out using your desired cookie cutters. For mini gingerbread cookies, use small cookie cutters. Place the gingerbread cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cookies can be placed fairly close to one another without sticking.
  8. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes. Cookies are done when they are lightly browned on the bottom. Ice with your favorite icing. Enjoy!
  9. Makes anywhere between 36 - 48 cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter.
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Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe scones are my contribution to Food’n Flix this month.  Food’n Flix is a fun blogging opportunity to watch the same movie as other amazing food bloggers and be inspired.  This month’s movie, Burnt, was hosted by Caroline Makes. Burnt is an absolutely quintessential cooking movie about a burned out chef who makes a major come back and finds love and inspiration along the way.

The first time I watched Burnt was on an airplane on my I-Pad on the way to Indianapolis a few weeks ago.  I thought that creating food inspired from this movie would be easy – it’s a movie about a chef and about food, after all, so how hard could it be?  After watching the movie through the first time, I realized it was going to be more challenging than I’d originally thought.  There are so many fast paced camera shots of all the food that the main character Adam, played by Bradley Cooper, plates, serves, and eats that I couldn’t quite figure out what was actually being cooked.  Then I was distracted by the plot line and found myself more engaged with the drama between the characters than the food.  So I watched the movie a second time this past week while I was in Chicago, pen and notebook in hand.  It provided a great distraction from all the real-world drama that was going on with the US election.  So much beautiful food: seared shrimp, bouillabaisse, summer vegetables on ricotta cheese, turbot, beets, oysters, omelettes, mushrooms, beef, lamb.  But my favorite food moment in the film is at the very start when Adam suggests adding chopped sage to a luscious looking bowl of cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta).  I got to thinking about the combination of cheese and black pepper and then even more about food and how it can bring such comfort – whether one is taking care of a chef who has gone on a binge by cooking a simple omelette or if one is just trying to recover from the election hangover.   I love cheese and black pepper and I love scones, so decided to see what would happen if I combined these elements.

I have to say that I’m very pleased with how these scones turned out.  I even went digging through the pantry to find a jar of tomato jam I made last year to see how it would taste on a scone (it’s delicious).  These are so creamy they are nearly biscuit like, so I’m pretty sure we are going to make some sausage gravy next weekend and warm up a few scones in lieu of biscuits.   I also think these would be great with a glass of a robust red wine as a holiday appetizer.

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Cacio e Pepe Scones
Makes 12 scones

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano or similar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper.  Cut the butter into slices.  Add the butter into the dry mixture and either use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter until it forms pea size chunks.  Add the cheese and mix it in.  Add the heavy cream and egg gently incorporating until all the flour/butter mixture is wet and sticks together in a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and form into a circle.  Cut the dough into twelve pieces that radiate out from the middle of the circle.  Gently separate each piece – you want just a bit of space between each scone so that they can rise.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Date Bread

Pumpkin Date Bread

The October/November pick for the Cook the Books Club was Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.

book

I had very mixed feelings about this book.  It was well written enough for me to stay engaged and read it to the end, largely because I connected to the main character, Lorca, though throughout the book, I really, really found myself disliking her mother and her absolutely blase disregard for her daughter’s desperate need for her love.  Full disclosure here – in another not too long ago life, I worked very closely with populations of both adults and young adults who were highly at-risk and often engaged in very risky behaviors, of which self-mutilation was often the least of it.  I think that’s why I struggled with this book so much – I know that it takes a lot of perseverance for someone to save themselves and few get so lucky to find a Victoria, the other main character and a former restaurant owner, to help them.

Ok – now that that’s out there…the book was a feast of good food.  After all, the entire focus is on how food can bring those who are desperately lonely together, and that particular theme resonates for me.  I left the book with the feeling that food could transform Lorca’s life and make her into a resilient adult and that made me happy.  It also made me happy to go flipping back through the book when I was done and think about what inspired me.  I finally landed on a variation of date bread, because of this line of Victoria’s: “‘Date bread,’ I said. ‘From my country.’ Oldest trick in the book: bake something to make guests feel at home.”  It is November, after all, and I’ve been in a baking mood.  My pumpkin date bread relies on the flavors of the season with a good dose of pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree.  The dates give it an extra punch of sweetness.  It’s dense and chewy and goes really well with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

This is also pretty easy to put together and makes a generous two loafs – perfect for having a loaf to eat now and one to freeze for later.  Last, but not least, this is a low-fat pumpkin date bread, which gets much of its moist texture from unsweetened apple sauce and Greek yogurt.

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pumpkin-date-bread

 

Pumpkin Date Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15 ounce can)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients, from the flour through the white sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Combine the wet ingredients, from the pumpkin puree through the eggs in a small bowl and mix to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing just enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients.  Add the dates.

Divide the batter between two bread pans that have either been buttered or that are lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy!

 

Many thanks to Cook the Books Club – I’ve had so much fun developing recipes based on the last two challenges.  I’m looking forward to more reading and cooking in the future!

cookthebooks

I’ve also linked up with this month’s tea time treat challenge, which is all about comfort food (and what’s more comforting that fresh bread?).  Check out the wonderful hosts of Tea Time Treats:  Lavender and Lovage, Travels for Taste and Jo’s Kitchen. Lavender and Lovage is hosting this month, so be sure to check out all the recipes for Tea Time Treats here.

Tea Time Treats
Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

I’m so delighted that fall is here!  I couldn’t resist baking a batch of pumpkin pie spice biscotti this weekend, just to celebrate the start of October.  These cookies make the entire house smell like the holidays – the pumpkin pie spice is so fragrant.  I’m pretty generous with ginger in my spice blend and it comes through in a nice subtle way in these cookies. 

I’ve been thinking some about the pumpkin pie spice craze – I’ll admit that as soon as it started raining, I was in line at Starbucks for my first Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte for the year, which really, honestly, tastes nothing like pumpkin or spice.  I’ve since been sampling similar lattes at other coffee shops and have found a few favorites to get me through the season.  I’ve also thought a lot about pumpkin pie spice – I don’t know when it became de rigueur to DIY pumpkin pie spice.  I remember buying the premixed spice and having it around as a staple in the spice pantry.  It’s so simple to mix up the spices yourself though, so I’m happy about this particular cooking trend. 

And since this post is all about starting fall off with pumpkin, I recently read an interesting article that most canned pumpkin isn’t actually pumpkin at all, but is generally a blend of other winter squashes, like butternut squash because other winter squashes are less stringy than pumpkin and make a smoother puree.  This was a bit of a revelation for me: I’ve been making my own pumpkin puree for years now and every time I open up a roasted pie pumpkin, I’ve thought – this thing looks more like an orange spaghetti squash than pumpkin puree, so what am I doing wrong?  Then I put the thought aside, mash it up some, and throw it in the freezer to be used in things like these pumpkin pie spice biscotti or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.   The stringiness isn’t noticeable when it’s cooked into a baked good or even when it’s blended into a smoothie, so I’ll keep on making my pumpkin puree with pumpkin. 

The bottom line here is that pumpkin and spice is a winning combination.  Enjoy these pumpkin pie spice biscotti with a cup of coffee (or a pumpkin spice latte) or a cup of tea and sit back and watch the leaves fall.

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Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti
Makes 2 dozen

½ cup pumpkin puree (recipe for DIY pumpkin puree here)
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see below to make your own)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
To dip or drizzle:
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix.  In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine until all the dry ingredients are mixed in. 

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Divide it into two sections and form each into a loaf.  Flatten each loaf out a bit on top. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Remove the biscotti loafs from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a serrated edged knife to slice the loafs into ½ slices – you’ll be able to get about 12 cookies from each loaf.  Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet in a single layer.  As they will not rise anymore at this point, they don’t need space between them, so you can fit all the biscotti on one baking sheet.

Bake the sliced biscotti at 325 for 25 minutes or until they are brown and crispy looking.  I usually flip them over about half way through to ensure even baking on both sides. 

When the biscotti are baked, open the oven door and let the cookies cool in the oven for 15 minutes for a very crisp biscotti.  Pull them out of the oven and finish cooling on a cooling rack. 

When the biscotti are cooled, melt the chocolate chips (in two separate saucepans) and use them to drizzle to decorate.  You can also dip the cookies in chocolate and nuts or just in chocolate.  Let the cookies air dry and then store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
2 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix all the spices together in an airtight container. 

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